Sunday, 6 July 2008


Not seen many enormous breathtaking, and famous, examples of American scenery on this trip although the country has mostly been very pretty. At last, out of Michigan and into New York State. I headed for the Niagara Falls. The weather was so vile it occurred to me that maybe more water was falling from the skies than was pouring over the falls.

They straddle the US/Canadian border with the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side and American are ahead of me. As with tourist attractions all over the world this majestic sight is afloat in a sea of Tat. Horrible souvenirs and hotels and casinos abound. How this place can be described as romantic I have no idea. Maybe I’d feel better about it if a) The weather was fine, b) It was night when they are illuminated with coloured lights and c) I was with a woman rather than being a bloke by himself.

Decided it would be a good idea to go to the Canadian side to get a better view. In order to do that you have to cross the ‘Rainbow Bridge’. I can only assume it’s called that because of the sun shining through the spray. On a day like today it’s just a grey metal thing with cars and pedestrians on it. I trudged across it in the sleet and, when I arrived at the Canadian side, I was met by a smiling and efficient Immigration officer who took my passport and stamped it. Spent about 20 minutes taking a few pics and then headed back, having decided against going on the ‘Maid of the Mist’ boat ride which takes you up close to the Horseshoe Falls. I squelched back to the Rainbow bridge and made my way into the Control Building only to discover that to get back to the US I had to put a quarter in a turnstile! So it’s free to go to Canada but 25 cents to go to the US.

When I entered the US immigration building wringing wet, I was subject to the full force of "Homeland security". An unsmiling officer barked questions at me asking where I’d been - "Erm…. Canada for 20 minutes". “Had I bought anything? Where was I going?” At least they didn't take my photo and fingerprint me like they do on initial entry to America. As I left the building I noticed they were searching a bag belonging to an elderly Muslim. I suspect some racial profiling was going on there.

It was then into the car and off in the direction of the Adirondack Mountains. Like Michigan and Minnesota before it there are a lot of lakes and so I eventually found myself in Sylvan Beach by Oneida Lake and booked into a small Motel. I got the last room and was told that as it was a resort and it being July 4th the next day, everywhere was fully booked.

I decided to saunter around and have something to eat. There were lots of nice wooden buildings as the place is a mass of rather grand chalets and you could say everyone’s doing jolly boating related stuff and lots of fishing. Went into ‘Captain Johns’ and ordered a rather fine Salmon stuffed with Crab meat. After Alex was stuffed with Salmon stuffed with Crab meat, I headed for a bar. I heard music and went into a place called ‘Harpoon Eddie's’. As I ordered a drink, a couple of drunken women accosted me and asked if I was Australian. This happens 9 out of 10 times. As I made to sit down they said I couldn't - not out of blind prejudice but because their husbands were about to come back from having a cigarette outside.

So I stood and struck up a conversation with the bloke next to me who correctly guessed I was English. Despite my protestation, he paid for my drink and he said his name was ‘Wrencher’ so-called because as a child he’d hoiked out one of his milk teeth with a pair of pliers. He’d obviously been there for some time and, as well as his beer in front of him, he had a small plastic cup with a tissue folded inside. Every so often he would spit a load of tobacco juice into it. Because of the proximity of the cup to his mouth, and the fact it had a tissue inside it didn't make the "ptui.......tang" noise you associate with this practice, which was a slight disappointment.

He was very affable showing me a picture of his Harley Davidson and also a near naked photo of his ex-wife on his mobile phone. He was also a mass of prejudices.

Rather like the redneck I met last year he hated the French. It seemed churlish of me to point out that as it was nearly July 4th surely he should recognise the aid France gave to the US in the War of Independence? He also hated fat people and admitted to never having watched Al-Jazeera TV but said that everyone on it should be killed. He also made some rather disparaging remarks about Arab headgear.

His job was as an insurance agent - insuring churches. He insured all denominations except Catholics. They have their own insurance agent he explained. He also hated born again Christians as they’d obviously made a mess of their lives and hadn't gotten it right the first time. I didn't ask him if he insured Mosques.

I bought him a drink and made my excuses. As I left I noticed he was wearing a ‘Stars and Stripes’ sweater. Tsk…. now surely everyone knows about US "Flag etiquette: The flag should only be worn as a patch on the uniform of military personnel. Firemen, Policemen and members of Patriotic organisations. Oh, he did like Jeremy Clarkson though!

1 comment:

Frances said...

Hi Alex, I can't help solve a) or b) but on the grounds of comparative quality assurance I'd always be willing to help out with c) next year !