In the explorative spirit of Columbus, the Plate family heads west on the Pike. The official observation of Yom Kippur is tomorrow, but I am fasting today instead. I am famished. Religion is treated too much as a perscription: do X in a certain way at a specific time. Being generally un-religious I’m free to pick and choose the customs as I see fit, and fasting/soul searching for YK seems worth doing. Six years ago I almost applied early to Colgate University. Perhaps I might've been a Turning Stone regular but now there’s a restaurant where I thought there was a poker room. The casino, which seemed gaudy large when I was 19, is underwhelming at 24. The new poker room at TStone is large and has faux-ornate decorations that can’t cover its listlisness. The recent economic hardships resonate in NY and fill the room. Only half the tables are running and most people are buying in for the minimum.
Travel 101-The drive from Turning Stone to Niagara goes by quickly when you put Joshua Radin on your iPod and nap for 80% of the ride. The American Falls are a rocky and jagged, the Horseshoe falls calmly surround. We ride the “Maid of the Mist” though bubbly white water.
We are soaking wet but is record heat for October. We cross the border and head to our hotel which has a view of the falls. The US side is “I heart Niagara” t-shirts, Canada is hotels and bird sanctuary.
Note to self- you can call your name in to avoid the one hour wait at the Casino Niagara poker room. Instead of waiting I walk back to the US and play at Seneca for a short session during which I befriend a few Buffalonians. Ray (a bartender at the Fridays across the street) tells me that Niagara is a holy place for Indians so they’re supposed to visit during their lives. Makes sense, they were everywhere. The poker is very passive. One very obnoxious person at the table says he’s going to the ATM and we all independently decide not to hear him. His seat gets filled and he throws a fit at having to put his name back on the list. #peoplemaketheirownkarma
I meet my parents at the Hard Rock Cafe 40th aniversary concert. A bus full of Hard Rock’s most famous memrobelia is touring the country to benefit breast cancer research: Handwritten lyrics of Imagine, Elvis’ guitar, Beiber’s skateboard (wish I was kidding) Steven Page from the Barenaked ladies plays an acoustic set. His lyrics are funny and his voice doesn’t match his look.
I call in a reservation to the Niagara poker room and re-cross the border. The Casino Niagara poker-room has a modern, amusement park vibe. The dealers are friendly and jovial. I go up big quickly, but then proceed to not win a hand for 3 hours and book a small loss. The table is uproarious. A 34 year old 300lb man named Teddy keeps bluffing and telling people that if they are call him he will take of his shirt and rub his nipples. He has ~$750 in red and white chips that he fashions into a (direct quote) “weiner”. A woman at our table asks him if it is as big as he claims. He says that he hasn’t seen it in years but that she can check. We lose our minds laughing. Canadiens are funny.
Sunday AM: Had I not studied abroad, NF may have been the most interesting place I’ve ever gone for a run. The “wow thats cool” appeal of the falls doesn’t pass. The enormity and constant lulling sound didn’t ever become usual or ordinary. I ran upstream until the water wasn’t rushing, paused to stretch and thought you have no idea whats ahead. I think I was talking to the water.
Sunday PM: The Sunday afternoon game at Casino Niagara is full of regulars. The dealers knowing everyone else’s name is a dead give away that they play all the time. Nonetheless, they are terrible- making stacksize relative mistakes and lightly calling three/four bets out of position. I lose a few big hands and never get the cards to take advantage of some spots but turn a small profit on the day nonetheless. The entire casino seems to have money on the Bills and they erupt as Vick sinks my fantasy matchup with Febo Brenton. Sigh.
Sunday Evening: On a recommendation from my friend Swati, we head to Edgewater Tap and Grill. As the name implies, there were some very decent views. We eat then head to Clifton Hills, which was evidently dreamed up by a 9 year about to OD on speed and gushers. It’s an adult playground: museums (Ripleys Believe it or Not, the Famous Criminals Wax Hall of Fame), fine dining (fudge and candy and pizza), classy hotels (travelodge), entertainment (lazer tag, night clubs.)
Mama Plate conquers her fear of heights on the ferris wheel and we roll to cash out our winning football bet. Only one thing left to do: teach my parents how to play sic bo. Good way to end a trip. At one point we bet $1 on double 3’s, $1 on 3/4, and $1 on the under. It came 3-3-4, Ship it.
Niagara Falls is strange and beautiful and full of Indians. Plate family 1, Sic Bo 0. Good mini adventure, easy ride home, back to work, full of introspective thoughts. Sorry Nick, no big buck...yet.