I had a few ideas for blog posts about my vacation, and if I would have been here longer, I would have developed each one into it's own post. As this is the last night of my vacation, I will condense all of these thoughts into one post.
(Note: I started writing this last night in Niagara Falls, but fell asleep in the middle and continued today when I got home.)
1) Niagara Falls is an interesting contrast:
I can't help but marvel at the commercialization of Niagara Falls. I mean, as I posted yesterday about the awesome NATURAL beauty of Niagara Falls. So, take a natural wonder, a gift to mankind from G-d, and what do we do? Of course! We milk it for all it's worth. Let's approach it from every direction. The first approach is from in the water, on the Maid of the Mist boat ride. Then, you can view Niagara Falls from above, in one of two towers or a giant Ferris wheel. You can walk right up to it, in the cave of the winds, and you can walk behind it, in the journey behind the falls. There are also helicopter rides, for the rich and daring. And that's only the attractions that center around the actual falls. I guess the IMAX can be considered a falls-related attraction too, if you stretch it.
I would think that is quite enough, but apparently, others thought differently. Some enterprising people must have said "hey, these falls attract millions of visitors each year, let me build up a tourist attraction around it!" So they did. Just one block away from the beauty and splendor of Niagara Falls, one of the world's most amazing natural wonders, we see Clifton Hill, one of the world's most commercialized streets. One would think that three wax museums and four haunted houses would be enough for one street, but apparently, people thought otherwise. I can't imagine the pull of a place that advertises itself as "the most frightening experience in Niagara" but then again, I don't understand the pull of a roller coaster turning a person upside down three times in a row either, so perhaps it's just me. Then I guess someone else said "hey! A major tourist attraction with no amusement park?" A quick snap of the fingers, and you have Marineland Amusement Park, where you can get splashed by killer whales multiple times per day. The number of lights in the town of Niagara Falls, just in the Clifton Hill area, is probably greater than the number of lights in the entire continent of Africa.
Something doesn't add up there, huh?
2) Its true what they say:
There's an old joke: "the town I grew up in was so small we only had one McDonalds, one Burger King, and three Starbucks." I don't think there is any better illustration of this than here. There is a Starbucks at the top and bottom of Clifton Hill. I don't know why that amazes me so much, but it really does.
3) I've written posts about signs of the times before, but this one just struck me. When I was little, and we'd vacation, nobody knew what wireless Internet is. Today, every hotel has wifi, it's almost unnecessary to advertise it. On the other hand, when I was a kid, the hotel rooms came with a free pad and pen, which we didn't get this time. Has wifi taken the place of pen and paper? Is this the next step in the total eradication of paper and the printed word?
4) I watched an IMAX about the topic, as well as a show in Ripley's, but I still can't get into the mindset of a person who would stuff themselves into a barrel and go over the falls. I mean, seriously, imagine the "goodbye dear" you would have to give your spouse on your way out of the house that morning?
5) As I wrote yesterday, looking at Niagara Falls is like looking at the signature G-d put onto his masterpiece: our world. Someone I know, who has a lot of doubts about G-d told me, upon hearing of my upcoming trip to Niagara Falls, "That place is what makes me believe there is a G-d in this world."
That's why I find it so utterly astonishing that people seem so determined to believe that it was created by ANYTHING but a Master Artist. The Niagara Falls IMAX starts out with an enormously long introduction to the creation of the falls. I don't know if they even mentioned a possibility of a G-d or not, because we were waiting outside, as one of my travel mates, who'd seen the show before, said it was pure apikorsus. And then there is the "Niagara's Fury," which we didn't go on (yet), but it also discussed the creation of Niagara Falls. They also tell you about the shifting rocks and currents, all of which happened millions of years ago. And they say it with such certainty that you would think that they were there to watch it. It seems to me that it's simply a way of covering their eyes and saying "I can't see You, I can't see You!" You CAN see Him buddies, sorry. You are just pretending.
(If you are interested in the reconciliation of scientific facts and the Torah's teachings, there is an incredible bunch of shiurim on aishaudio.com by Mr Harold Gans. I really recommend them.)
6) Be careful when you are listening to your music on shuffle:
I was really thrilled that the car we drove up to Niagara Falls had an auxiliary audio jack, so we were able to listen to anything and everything I had on my iPod. In short, we spent so much time flipping through the various albums to this song and that song that we never actually managed to listen to an entire album. In fact, I'd say it was impressive if we even listened to an entire song. So, as time went by and we became more and more bored of the music we had, we started to listen on shuffle. It was interesting, as it brought up some interesting songs that I'd never choose willingly.
Picture this scene; a bunch of females loading their bunch of luggage into the car. It's a job that requires someone with the skill of a master architect. So as we fiddled and pushed, we turned on the car for some music. (Don't call the shadchan yet! It wasn't very loud, just audible as you passed by our car.) So the song ends, and we listen for the next song in the shuffle. I hadn't realized this was still on my iPod, but Cholent, by Country Yossi came on. So it's playing, and I hear the words "drop it on the Arabs they'll be gone in a day!" and decide to shut it off, as we are in public. I go towards the drivers seat to skip the song, and I see a group of people passing our car. Yep! You guessed it. It was a group of angry-faced Arabs.
7) I don't get the psychology behind souvenirs:
So here is the deal- we are going to take some random junk, pretty similar to that which you just tossed while you were cleaning for pesach, print "Niagara Falls", "Maid of the Mist", or some similar name on it, and suddenly we are charging four times what the item is worth, for something you don't want or need in the first place. What am I missing here?
8) Carry a mini bottle of Lysol spray when you go on vacation:
I am by no means an expert vacationer. My life is fairly boring, as these things go. But there is one thing I know, and that is, that a four day trip means four days of public restrooms, or washrooms as they say back in Canada. I'm not a germ freak, but I am the I-don't-use-public-restrooms type of person. All I can say is thank heavens for the little purse-sized bottle of Lysol spray I picked up before I left.
9) Praise for Goldy:
I want to tell you about one quirk of Goldy's. When I drive with her, I notice that she shaves a minute off the estimated arrival time every so often. But for some odd reason, when it was someone else's turn to drive she put that minute back on! Weird, huh?
Now a compliment for Goldy. She told us to take the ramp on the right, at exit 18. Problem is, exit 18 was closed. Situations like these throw mapquest-printout-clutching drivers into a state of panic. Now what???? But not Goldy. She remained cool and collected, helped us off the next exit and back around to an alternate route.
10) When a bunch of females go on vacation, male receptionists are a pleasure to deal with:
The female who worked the morning shift at the front desk of our hotel was sweet. She was friendly and helpful, and didn't give us any problems. But the guy who worked the late afternoon shift was just awesome. I'm guessing the job is pretty tedious, and that a number of females parading up to the desk with questions or requests, it brightens things up for him. I mean, seriously. He let us into the employee only picnic area, then opened up some employee only doors for us, and gave us some employee only information. Poor guy didn't realize that we are highly aidel girls and his efforts for attention were completely in vain. (Well, not completely. He did get mentioned in a blog post.)