Fire Cloud...
An irregular marking on the exterior of Native American pottery: usually resulting from burning fuel coming in direct contact with the vessel during firing

Friday, 7 September 2007

American Beauty

Niagara Falls, New York

My nephew’s wedding is a couple of days away, so we kick back and go into the tourist mode, waiting to attend.


I drink coffee before dawn and notice that I’m surrounded in the RV kitchen by six clocks. They all have wildly different times. I synchronize all the clocks and consider the irresistible, invisible river of time. If you could see your entire life all at once, it would appear to be a long tube of meat oscillating wildly over the face of the Earth, sometimes underwater, sometimes 40,000 feet over the ocean. After conception, my tube spent a lot of time at abdomen level in a munitions factory as my mother’s tube inspected artillery shell fuses. Often the tube hits a weird data point like Bangkok, the Pinacate Desert, Santorini, Saigon or Cebu City.

The now over-weight meat tube is presently camped in Southwest New York, in the Allegheny State Park. New York State Parks are unique. They are beautifully manicured, with old stone buildings, built during the Depression. This one has mountains, lovely lakes and tennis courts (I lose again, but only by 6-3).


This morning, Mrs. Phred soaps up in the shower, just as the fresh water tank runs dry. Her composure is impressive. We drive our home to a water faucet, fill up, rinse her off and get ready for the trek to Niagara Falls, 100 miles away.

The journey winds though farmland and quaint old New York towns. We see Earl’s restaurant after 50 miles and both sense something special about it so we swing about in a fast u-turn for breakfast. They have a collection of autographed white Stetson hats, 78 RPM records and autographed photos from people like Tex Ritter, Hank Snow and Hank Williams. I put a quarter in the jukebox and play “High Noon”.

We decide to see the Falls from the American side. Mrs. Phred has never seen the Falls. The main falls dumps 675,000 gallons a second. We watch that for awhile. The sun and mist kick up strong rainbows. The “Maid of the Mist” boat runs tourists in blue raincoats right up to the Falls on the Niagara River.


The entrance to the Niagara State Park has a seated statue of American immigrant genius Nicola Tesla. The 200 foot drop between Lake Eire and Lake Ontario drew him here for the electric possibilities. Nicola died in New York on January 7, 1943, exactly nine months before I was born in New York.


Something about the falls wants to make you hold hands and watch in awe. A lady asks if we want our picture taken together. We do.


We take the Cave of the Winds elevator tour. I pay with the $25 dollars Canadian that I found in my blue shirt after Dawson and get $3.75 US in change. The Bridal Veil Falls only pumps 70,000 gallons a minute, but you can get right up and rub them in your face. The water feels good, very swimable. We think about the difference in the lake water levels and the inevitability of the Eire Canal as a trade route in a new way. On the drive back home we sing the song several times.

I've got a mule,
Her name is Sal,
Fifteen years on the Erie Canal.
She's a good old worker
And a good old pal,
Fifteen years on the Erie Canal.


If you want to see raw American Beauty, don’t skip this one.

Here is a Niagara Falls slideshow. There are a couple of inadverently funny videos in here.

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