Friday, September 21, 2007

Our Niagara Falls-Hamilton-Toronto Trip, Part I

Note: Personal pics not included, as they haven't been developed yet. Stay tuned. I haven't decided whether I'll put them in here or make them their own post.

Part 1: The U.S. (Wedding) Segment

Friday, September 7: Slowly, I Turn! . . .

Ladycub and I took the 45-minute Southwest flight from Baltimore to Buffalo (spending twice as much time in the airport than the flight), and I can safely say that I did not go to the bathroom ONCE before the flight, as I used to out of nerves! I think tooling around in the Cessna has cured me of my fear of flying. But at security, I did have to be wanded separately for my arm/elbow brace, a.k.a. my Instant Conversation Piece (ICP).

We collected our rental Chevy Cobalt from a nice lady at Enterprise and shuffled off from Buffalo to Viagra Niagara Falls, where we stayed at the Crowne Plaza. It didn't take us long to find all my siblings and their offspring, where applicable; they were all with us on the fourth floor of the hotel, and like us, they were in town for my brother's wedding. It had been a couple years since we saw our nieceseses; they're turning into lovely young ladies. Also, all of my aunts and uncles on my mom's side were there, as were a few of my aunts on my dad's.

Across the street from the hotel was the Seneca Niagara Casino, so we strolled through there and had lunch in one of the restaurants. We were by far one of the youngest couples there; most of the patrons were retirees. One couple next to us wanted to know about my ICP, and then they went on to complain about the service they were getting, proclaiming they wouldn't leave a tip. They must be regulars. LC tried a Roast Beef on Weck sandwich--a native delicacy-- and she liked it. I didn't like the Weck bun so much (too much rye), so I had a nice quesadilla instead.

After lunch, I picked up $25 in the casino on The Price Is Right and a couple other slot machines.

We then chilled out, or tried to. But we weren't all that successful napping because the Seneca Niagara was having a sound check for its evening "Dynomite Disco Party" outdoor concert. The lineup included Tavares ("Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel"), Gloria Gaynor, Jimmie "JJ" Walker (who, I understand, is not the toothpick he once was), and the Village People. Good thing it was free.

We headed back to Buffalo for the rehearsal dinner that evening on the third floor of the Pearl Street Grill and Brewery, which is located in a building in downtown only steps from the HSBC Arena (where the Buffalo Sabres play hockey) and the Buffalo Bisons' minor league ballpark. It seemed to be one of the few things open in downtown Buffalo. Anyway, we had fun talking with the soon-to-be in-laws and listening to my nieces play piano and other instruments. My youngest brother taught my nieces how to make party hats from the napkins, a tradition started at my older sister's rehearsal dinner back just a few months before we got married.

Sadly, we got back to the hotel too late to see the Friday night fireworks show at the Falls.

Saturday, September 8: Always Remember, You Chose To Be Part Of This Family

I started the morning with a walk through the Niagara Falls neighborhood heading away from the falls. At least the portion of the city that I saw was extremely blighted. The houses were older, but they had character. Unfortunately, most were boarded up, overgrown, and/or had busted windows. All sorts of storefronts had been abandoned. It was depressing. I guess that's the Niagara Falls that the Tourism Bureau doesn't want visitors to know about.

One of the reasons I was walking was that I wanted to find a store that had a 1/8" cable for my minidisc player. I was unable to find one. Not a big deal, though; we had plenty of CDs to listen to.

Returning to the hotel, I collected LC and we decided to go to a Denny's right around the corner for breakfast. Neither of us recommend Denny's for lunch or dinner, but it ranks right behind Cracker Barrel for breakfast as far as we're concerned. Oh, we also had to check out of our room and check back in again; we originally made the reservation for three nights, but wound up only needing two, so the possibility existed that we could have had to move to a different room.

I could have sworn that I packed undershirts for the wedding, but I searched my luggage and found none. So I headed off into town to find those, as well as a pair of beige socks for my uncle. I dropped him and my aunt off at Donatello's, a local sandwich joint . . . which didn't open until 4 PM Saturdays, so they had to walk back to the hotel. It took searching two Family Dollar stores and a Dollar General to find what I needed. Never did find the Nieman-Marcus. Oh, a little kid loudly asked his mom what was wrong with my arm after seeing the ICP. The center of town further south on Pine Street was a bit nicer than the neighborhood I'd walked through; much of it was in fact Little Italy.

The wedding took place early in the afternoon in the chapel of St. Francis Catholic Church to the south in Tonawanda. I was surprised to see my brother Thom (the groom) standing with my youngest brother Phil (his best man) in the back of the church, but that's where the sacristy was. I poked my head in and, in my best Leslie Nielsen voice, said, "I just wanted to say . . . good luck. We're all counting on you." He laughed. If he was as nervous as I was before my wedding, I'm sure he appreciated it.

Colleen looked lovely in a simple but elegant wedding dress. I like the fact that, just as at our wedding, she and Thom either stood or knelt through the whole Mass. They used the same first reading as we did for our wedding Mass (Tobit 8: 4-8). The music was very nicely done, with a string quartet providing accompaniment in addition to the organ. I swallowed my pride and helped our family belt out "On Eagles' Wings," about which David Haas says Michael Joncas just wanted to write a song that began with "yoo-hoo."

For the post-wedding pictures, I wondered how wide-angle a lens the photographer had to get our family. But he seemed to do fine. After the photo shoot, we returned to the hotel, as the reception wasn't going to start for a few hours. A number of us retired to the sports bar for a late lunch and to take in some college football, including a group of Colleen's friends and relatives. Others went to Mass -- again -- for the Sunday requirement, which the wedding Mass didn't meet.

I can think of worse places for a wedding reception than Top of the Falls Restaurant, just a short walk from the American side of the Horseshoe Falls on Goat Island. It looks almost like a rotating restaurant (which there's one of in Canada), and has a couple balconies and multitudinous windows. It actually doesn't have that much of a view of the falls because the dropoff is below the sight line. Still, I could hear the Falls and see all the people trapsing over there, such as the entire population of India.

The dinner was better than your standard wedding-reception rubber chicken fare. I liked how my brother and sister-in-law dispensed with most of the formalities right at the beginning: their first dance, the dance with the respective parents, and the cake. And I give them credit; they did NOT have a bouquet/garter ceremony! (We did, but we simply had the couple dance with each other.)

It was my brother-in-law Jerry who had the idea of getting Colleen a sympathy card for entering into our family. We all signed it with various quips about her wanting to join our crazy bunch. I'm not sure how her family took it.

The dancing started with familiar fare such as "New York, New York," "Shout," and the Chicken Dance. But it didn't take long for more modern stuff to take over, much to the delight of the younger crowd. One young lady was busy teaching one of my nieces how to do some dances, but some of them she didn't need to know yet (she's only 12). The rest of the younger crowd enjoyed songs like Def Leppard's "Pour Some Sugar On Me," which I don't recall ever hearing at a wedding reception. Most of us hit the floor for the Electric Slide, the Macarena, and "Play That Funky Music." Even the kitchen staff got into the act, although I was wondering if they just wanted to laugh at all these white folks trying to dance.

LC and I took a break and wandered down to the Horseshoe Falls. Even though lots of tourists were still there after dark, the falls remain an impressive and hypnotizing sight; we just couldn't take our eyes off them. Wonder how many pictures have ever been snapped there? Probably billions. The multicolored lights from the Canadian side romanticized the mood all the more. Oh, the wedding and reception took place there because Colleen is originally from Buffalo; she and Thom actually didn't honeymoon there, but in Aruba instead.

We went back to the hotel and retired for the night, while the young ones (with my brother Phil and one of my cousins) continued the party in the sports bar. Eeesh, I sound old.

Next: A maid, two peeps, a tower, a corner, and an idol!


bigbro said...

Not only do you sound old, you are old, in the eyes of the young'uns. You forgot to mention that it looked like a Secret Service convention with everyone wearing sunglasses at the reception due to the setting sun pouring its light in through the 15 ft. windows. All in all it was a good time.

Cygnus said...

bb: I did like seeing you dancing with your lovely daughters, and it was great for me to see them -- and you and bigSiL -- again.

Now, back to my hideous fantasy football team.