My picture

My picture

Welcome to my mind

Here's the deal. I can be "opinionated". If you like what you see, please come back from time to time. If you don't like what you see, you can come back too.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Maid of the Mouse?

I’ve been very interested in the news out of Niagara Falls this week concerning the Maid of the Mist.  The latest is that there’s a new deal on the Canadian side.  Starting in 2014, a new company will run the boat ride at the base of the falls.  And in true Niagara Falls fashion, the deal on the Canadian side leaves the American side in limbo…..and could leave the American side up a creek (or a river, in this case).
I’m sure they’ll work something out…..can you imagine no Maid of the Mist on the American side?  However, we are talking about Niagara Falls, so anything is possible.
But that’s not the reason for this post.  When I heard the news, it reminded me that two years ago there was an interesting rumor making the rounds….that Disney was trying to get the Canadian boat lease.  At first, I thought that would be awful for the American side….but then it hit me.  Disney could be the solution for Niagara Falls, NY.  So I posted this commentary on Skunkpost.  And you know what?  Buried in the sarcasm is a pretty good idea.  Are you listening, Niagara Falls? 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Happy Presidents Day, Grover Cleveland!

I was driving down Transit Road this afternoon and when I passed Grover’s, it was mobbed.  Which makes sense.  After all, it's Presidents Day…and what better way to honor the only president who came from Buffalo than with burgers and beer.  In a bar named after him.  Where he probably did his share of drinking when it was his hunting lodge.
So let’s talk about Grover Cleveland.   In just three years he went from mayor of Buffalo to governor of New York to president of the United States.
He’s not considered a bad president.  But not considered a particularly good one either.  Most surveys have him pretty much middle of the pack.  But there are some interesting things about him.
I know, you’re expecting me to write about the sex scandal.  And I won’t ignore it….after all, he was elected president despite the fact that he had fathered an illegitimate child.  Then there was the child bride thing….while president, the 49-year-old Cleveland married the 21-year-old daughter of his late friend.  (when Bill Clinton was president, everyone talked about how he idolized JFK….clearly Cleveland was his role model)
But there’s more to Grover Cleveland than his hormones.
For one thing, he was the kind of guy who got things done.  Before he was mayor of Buffalo, he was Erie County Sheriff.  Back then, the sheriff was responsible for carrying out executions or paying a deputy $10 to do it.  So Cleveland did it himself.  Twice.  Hangings, both times.  Imagine if Rick Perry could say he did that….think of the applause he’d have gotten in those debates.
Then there’s Cleveland’s reputation as a reformer.  When he became mayor, Buffalo’s government had a reputation for corruption.  (who says history doesn’t repeat itself?)  But Cleveland cleaned things up.  And as his reputation grew, they took notice in Albany.  Which led to his election as governor.  Which led to reforms in state government.  Which led to the presidential election of 1884.  Which he won.
Which led to reforms in Washington.  Even though Cleveland was a Democrat, he kept Republicans in their jobs if he thought they were doing those jobs well.  He was actually an anti-patronage politician.
But in 1888, he lost his bid for re-election.  Even though he won.  Huh?  Let me explain.  Cleveland actually won the popular vote against Benjamin Harrison, but narrow victories in several key states gave Harrison enough Electoral College votes.  (So not only was he the 19th century version of Bill Clinton, he was Al Gore without the hanging chad)
But when he left the White House, Cleveland said “I’ll be back”.   Okay, before you think Arnold Schwarzenegger in Terminator, he didn’t really say that.  But the First Lady actually told a staff member to keep the furniture the way it was, because they’d be back in four years. 
And they were.  Making Cleveland the only president ever to serve two non-consecutive terms.   But his second term wasn’t as effective as his first.  He also made many enemies in his own party, so he wasn’t nominated as the Democratic candidate in 1896.  The Republican candidate won that year’s election.  His name was William McKinley.  Who…as we all know….came to Buffalo for the Pan American Exposition in 2001.  And we know how that turned out.
Which is actually another interesting tidbit.  The former mayor of Buffalo, replaced as president by the man who would be assassinated in Buffalo.
One last tidbit…..when Cleveland died in 1908, his last words were “I have tried so hard to do right”.  When it comes to last words, those are pretty good.
So happy Presidents Day, Grover Cleveland.  Buffalo’s gift to the White House.  You’re welcome, America.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Money talks, so Wallenda walks

I don’t know about you, but I’m glad that Canada has come to its senses. Not all of Canada, mind you….it’s not like the entire country has gotten together and decided to apologize to the world for Celine Dion.
No, just the Niagara Parks Commission, which has come down from its high horse concerning Nik Wallenda’s high wire act.
They finally wised up and agreed to let Wallenda walk from the U.S. to Canada on an 1,800-foot tightrope high above Niagara Falls and the Niagara Gorge.
Originally, they said no after New York State had given its approval. And think about that one…when’s the last time folks on the American side of the Falls made the right decision?
So once all the details are worked out, a final agreement will be signed and sometime this summer, Wallenda will join the Great Blondin and all the other daredevils who have challenged the Falls.
What led to the change of heart? What do you think? Money, of course. They realized what a goldmine this is.
And that’s what it’s all about.
When the Parks Commission said no to Wallenda last year, they cited safety concerns….but also said the daredevil act just didn’t fit their “mandate, priorities, and long-term goals”. They said those goals were to “promote the Falls as a world-class, natural attraction with unmatched scenery and beauty”.
In other words, everything that Niagara Falls Ontario ISN’T! What’s the image of the city? Schlock. Pure Schlock. If there’s a cheesy, sleazy tourist trap it’s on Clifton Hall. It’s the Jersey Shore, only less classy.
Not that there’s anything wrong with that. Look, we’re talking about tourism. For years now, Niagara Falls Ontario has made every right decision and Niagara Falls New York has made every wrong one. There’s a reason the Canadian side is jammed with people all summer long and the American side is a ghost town.
Last week when the Parks Commission did its about-face, its chairperson admitted they changed their minds after reviewing not just Walenda’s safety proposal, but also his economic one. Millions of dollars spent by tourists, pumped into the local economy. Priceless publicity.  Wouldn't it be nice if some of those dollars ended up on the American side?
Think about it….we’re months away from Wallenda’s walk. Months of news coverage. Months of feature stories on networks, websites, in newspapers and magazines. And think of the hype when it gets closer.
It’s going to be interesting to see what date they set for the walk. Personally, I think it should be June 30th. That’s the anniversary of the Great Blondin’s first tightrope walk at the Falls. (here’s a link to my story about him and some of the other Falls daredevils)
And actually, speaking of money, June does make more sense than July or August. Those are the peak tourist season months, so anything that would get more people to come here in June would make sense.
But whatever the date, at least it’s going to happen. At least Canada came to its senses.
Now if we can just do something about Celine.

Monday, February 13, 2012

The crash of Flight 3407

Has it really been three years?
Three years ago last night, Flight 3407 crashed in Clarence.  50 lives were lost, thousands of lives were changed forever.
If you're like most Western New Yorkers, you didn't watch the 11:00 news that night, so you first heard about it three years ago this morning.
Two years ago, on the first anniversary of the crash, I did this video for Skunkpost.  It may be the only serious thing I ever wrote for the site.  I think it holds up pretty well.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Thank you, Giants!

I can’t believe I’m saying this…..for the second time in four years.
Thank you, Giants!
Thank you for making the worst week of the year for Bills fans end on a happy note.
Wouldn’t it have been awful if the Patriots had won?  The team we hate, led by the coach we despise and the quarterback we loathe, winning the big game.  Again.  For the fourth time.  Matching the number of times we lost.
How sad is it that we actually have to root for the Giants.  The team that won the one Super Bowl we actually had a chance of winning.  Before the cosmic forces lined up against us, and began the process of turning Bills fans from hopeful to hopeless.
That’s why I hate Super Bowl week so much.  Whatever sports network we watch, whatever sports website we’re on, we can’t avoid the memories.
How many times did we see Wide Right?  Leon Lett?  Thurman Thomas’ fumble?  Thurman Thomas’ helmet?  Jimmy Johnson’s hair being mussed up?  And the list goes on.  It’s a week-long trip down the memory lane of hell.
I know what you’re thinking.  Now that all those years have passed, the fact that the Bills made it to four straight Super Bowls is recognized as a real accomplishment.  That team is more respected now than it was when it was getting its butt kicked in the big game.  No other team will ever get there four years in a row.  Even if that means no other team will ever lose four in a row.  Okay, I’ll give you that….those Bills teams do get some respect.  But they’re also featured in every ESPN & NFL Network special about the 10 worst Super Bowls.  And the 10 worst Super Bowl quarterback performances.  And the 10 biggest Super Bowl goats.  And so on.  And so on.  God, I hate Super Bowl week.
Every once in a while, it throws us a bone.  After all, it’s also when we find out who’s going into the Hall of Fame.  So we were able to celebrate Marv.  And Jim.  And Thurman.  And Bruce.  And Joe D.  Even Ralph.
But this year….once again….another reason to hate Super Bowl week.  Our hopes for Andre Reed joining his teammates in Canton were dashed again.  The only good news is that Bill Parcells didn’t get in.  Wouldn’t that have rubbed salt in it?  At least the committee spared us that.
And this year….as if looking back on all our Super Bowl nightmares wasn’t enough….we had our Brady bashing.  Come on, did the Golden Boy really have to slam Buffalo hotels on the biggest sports stage of the year?
I know, downtown Buffalo is no Manhattan.  Or even Cleveland.  But Tom Brady’s little slam became the hotel shot heard round the world.  Bills fans were outraged.  Our civic pride was hurt.
But wait a minute.
You know those cosmic forces?  The ones that have kicked us in the teeth so many times?  Remember how they shifted when the Bills played the Patriots back in September?  And snapped that 15-game losing streak to New England?  Remember the four interceptions Brady threw?  Remember how the Bills took advantage of the kinds of breaks that usually go the Patriots’ way?
Maybe….just maybe…..the cosmic forces are beginning to abandon Brady.  Think about this….his whole playoff legacy began with “the tuck rule”.  Last night, Tuck ruled.  When Justin Tuck’s pressure led to the safety on Brady’s first play, that had cosmic forces written all over it.  Okay….I still hate Super Bowl week.  And I will until the Bills are back in the big game.  If that ever happens again.   And if they ever actually win.
But at least this year, our week from hell had a happy ending.  So a big thank you to the New York Giants.  And a bigger one to the cosmic forces.