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.
|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!