This seemed a good time to flee the country; I headed north to Canada. The border agent asked how, when, why. I felt a little nervous explaining that it was aimless and unplanned. I was last in Niagara Falls, Ontario 19 years ago with Roy and the kids. We did all the things that I had done with my parents when we visited in the 1960’s.
My drive took longer than expected when I hit a white-out along I-90 heading to Buffalo. I told the kids I would switch directions if I hit snow; I lied. I just kept going following the lights and tracks of the cars leading the way. One time I almost followed the row of red teeth on the cop car in front of me hitting the rumble strip on the edge of the road. I passed in and out of snow until reaching Buffalo. I arrived at Niagara Falls at 11 PM.
It was early, and I was restless. I walked along the river walk. As I got closer to the falls, the mist froze instantly to the railings, stone wall and sidewalk pavers making my walk treacherous. I wished I would have worn my snow boots instead of the Dr. Marten’s. The younger kids were slip sliding and laughingly fell. Falling might not be a laughing matter for me, so I tread lightly sliding my gloved hand along the frozen railing. The icicles hung from the trees on the edge of the hills beyond the wall. The lights slowly flashed colors on the roaring water. In fact, it was like a Christmas winter wonderland with the lighted shapes of animals and trees and geometric shapes lining the walk on the other side of the road. On one side you have a great natural wonder of the Niagara Falls dropping forcefully 165 feet to the river below, and in opposition, there are the artificial wonders of lights and glitz. On the streets above are the tall hotels built to give the guests views of the falls from their balconies and casinos to spend their money in pursuit of wealth or poverty. I walked along the streets of restaurants and cheap thrills past the casino and back to the hotel. I drove a little looking for a convenience store or gas station to buy washer fluid. I got back to the hotel and headed to the casino to get something to eat. It was after 2 AM by then, and I was beginning to think a room was a waste. This casino only had some snack food in a café. I had thought of the casinos of Vegas in hotels with 24-hour everything. I changed some money and wandered around the slot machines. In the lower level were table games. There were machines with 1¢ and 2¢ and 25¢ bets but with minimums. Soon I was left with 18¢, and less considering the exchange rate. I should have left with my first $3.00 gain. This place was depressing with its cheap carpeting and the machines that took my money. It was 4 AM, and I did need that bed.
The next morning I walked again along the falls in daylight. It was freezing cold. I met a woman with a sign protesting the inhumane treatment of animals in the fur trade. She said, “There’s so much fur on this street. They just don’t know.” She was an independent just doing her part. Along the wall, tourists had their selfie sticks extended to get their families and friends into the pictures proving they had been there.
After the Falls, I drove on the parkway along the river past the cable cars we had ridden with the kids, past the climbing cables that looked like fun despite my slight fear of heights, past the botanical gardens and to the power plant. Then I turned around to drive through the town that was as interesting to me as those casinos and wax museums. I left Canada having seen this natural wonder in winter.
By 3 PM I was heading into the United States. The camera snapped a picture of me as I drove toward the guard gate. He asked me fewer questions than that guard in Canada. I’m not a refugee, so “Welcome.”