"In this sticky web that we're all in, behaving decently is no small task." -- Novelist Stacey D'Erasmo

Saturday, August 9, 2014

A Fall Girl

     When I was in junior high school, my parents bundled us four kids into the Buick, and the family started off on vacation. We were planning to make the long drive -- because everyone has to see this place once in their life -- while making a few stops along the way. But two days into the trip my dad called in to check at his office, and he was told that his boss, his long-time mentor, had suffered a heart attack (and died shortly after). So my dad cancelled our vacation, and we turned around and went home.

     It's taken me half a century to complete the trip. But I finally made it.

     Where am I? Do you know your coordinates? I'm at approx. 43 degrees N and 79 degrees W.

     The place is almost a cliche, the butt of many jokes. 

     It's called the Queen City. Also, a city of water, with a lake, a river and a canal. They're doing some revitalization along the waterfront of Lake Erie. A new Blue Cross/Blue Shield building recently opened up downtown, along with a modern-looking Federal courthouse. Next to our big old hotel, which has been mostly renovated, is a hip-looking building that houses NPR and the local PBS affiliate. A huge new hockey complex is going up. And there are a few funky neighborhoods where 20-something hipsters live -- people connected to the university, or the expanding medical complex, or who work in some aspect of computer technology.
View from downtown hotel

One of the city's nicer streets, in the Elmwood neighborhood

     But for the most part, this is still an old manufacturing, rustbelt city:  Buffalo, NY.

     But when you get here, a few miles north of town, no matter how much you've heard about it -- the honeymoon jokes, the over-the-falls-in-a-barrel jokes -- there's a truly awesome site. It's absolutely mind boggling.

Something's coming


Niagara Falls!

The American viewing platform

The Canadian side

See the rainbow?

     By the way, the first person ever to go over the falls in a barrel and survive was an American woman, Annie Edson Taylor, who did it on her 63rd birthday, Oct. 21, 1901. She readily admitted it was a stunt to make money, but while she did get her 15 minutes of fame, she never was able to cash in on the feat. She spent the rest of her life posing for pictures and talking about taking another plunge. She died in 1921 at age 82 and is buried in the town of Niagara Falls.

     So, take my advice ... don't try it!


DJan said...

Okay, Tom, you've convinced me not to go over Niagara Falls in a barrel. And just when I was looking for a new sport! :-)

Jono said...

I made the pilgrimage when I was 19 with a couple of European hitchhikers I had picked up west of Toronto. We toured the falls together and parted ways at the end of the day. That was 1970 and the first and last time I got to see it.

Anonymous said...

The Niagra Escarpment is an interesting land form. My dad was born at the other end ...Fon du Lac WI.

Anonymous said...

I hear the Canadian side is better than the American side.

stephen Hayes said...

I've always wanted to see the Falls and hope to make the trip one day. I hope you're having a terrific weekend.

Tom said...

DJan, I wouldn't doubt that you'd do it, too! And Gigi, I'd heard the same thing. But the American side has a nice grassy park, while the Canadian side is all built up with casinos and other commercial stuff. So I'll take the American side.

Olga said...

I am glad you finally made it. I am told I was there, but since I was a baby at the time, I really don't remember.

Laura Lee Carter said...

Awesome! I've got to get there someday... Maybe I'll come visit you too!

Gabbygeezer said...

A trip to the Falls was on my beautiful wife's bucket list for almost a half century. We finally got there two years ago to celebrate our 51st anniversary. It's a great place to visit; good that you finally made it.

Anonymous said...

Like minds think alike. Just got back from Niagara Falls also! Fab place. If you are over the age of 62 and a NYS resident, admittance to the American park is free. Hope you knew that!