Monthly Archives: October 2014

Late Night Double Feature Picture Show

In a manic rush of the changing seasons, coming holidays and work overload this week has been and incredible challenge of stamina, sanity and amusement!

There is so much to do here in Niagara that a person can go crazy narrowing down the choices.  I had to sacrifice some of the great events this week but in the end I had a great time.

This month marks the one year point since we made the winning bid on a city auction for a lovely craftsman duplex in a strong neighborhood. Our purchase and renovation has been featured in Circa, on online magazine for old house lovers.

Since that time, we’ve waited out a winter and begun work to the graceful old girl and continue to push ahead. We toiled in the summer heat with demo and endless drywall and painting projects. Our goal of moving into the house by this Thanksgiving has had to be postponed but we are persevering with a loving renovation.

I found a photo of a beautiful arts and crafts era decoration on the web early in the project and struggled for a way to somehow fit it into our home. I decided to replicate that design for our address numbers.

house numbers

(Inspiration, Left / New House Numbers, Right)


In the middle of the week I was lucky enough to be invited to a kirtan in nearby North Tonawanda.  Just a 15 minute drive found me and a few good friends at a small historic Strand Theater in the city. We were greeted by welcoming people in a warm and friendly cozy building. At the bar was a buffet of food that folks brought in to share along with smiling faces and warm greetings. The kirtan was lead by a group of talented and glowing people.  The best way I can describe a kirtan for those who have never attended is that it is a singing, chanting meditation of the Hindu tradition- but open to everyone. You don’t need to know what the words mean. Just the rhythm, harmony and repetition of the sounds and the syllables slows your breath and clears your mind so that you can connect to a place that soothes your spirit. The theater is informal- and homespun. We sat on cushions on the floor and soft comfortable sofas that took the place of theater seating. The walls and ceiling were illuminated by tiny green dots of light- stars that slowly moved around and above us during the enchanting experience.


The night was so healing for me that I will be sure to watch for upcoming events thanks to the facebook group Buffalo Kirtan. Yet another great way to connect with my fellow Western New Yorkers who are leading an eclectic life.

From spiritual highness to experiential strangeness the week ended on a note of sheer abandon at the Rocky Horror Picture Show hosted in the beautiful Riviera Theater. Come as you are or come as you want to be; this Rocky Horror Picture Party is hands-down the best one I have been to since 1988. The Riviera doesn’t “tolerate” Rocky Horror, it CELEBRATES it! Prop bags were for sale (sold out!) and we were allowed ALL of the props from rice to water guns from toast to playing cards and all the toilet paper we could throw!

rocky horror 01

The theater was packed with revelers and the mood was all for one. Suddenly buddies with the people in the rows behind and in front of us, we tossed inflated condoms like beach balls across the crowds. We shared toilet paper rolls to relaunch and covered each other during the rain storm. Before the picture show began we were surely treated to amazing drag performances and the slow burning sizzling tease of Burlesque.  By the time the midnight showing of Rocky Horror ended, the theater looked like a shipwreck and we were all so thankful to know that volunteers were staying for an all-night cleanup and that the Riviera was not going to be stuck with 5200 playing cards and 2800 pieces of dry toast.

rocky horror

This week ends back where it started; lovingly working away on this old craftsman house. Promising her we’d be there before the winter is over and that she has already suffered her last year without heat. Today we work on more brick repointing, interior painting and prep for refinishing the beautiful hard wood front door.

What a whirlwind of a week! What a great place to call home.

Bowling Alleys, Soup and Change

A week that started off with an 80 degree high temp ended in the 30’s and I have finally accepted that it is again Fall. Walking through the crunching leaves scattered over the sidewalks I feel time ticking down to the winter. This means it’s time for indoor entertainment, cooking and change.

We were invited by some friends to meet up at a local bowling alley (Rapids Bowling Center)  for Karaoke Night last weekend. I stepped out of the car and walked into a bizarre independent film scene. The bowling alley was flooded with a mellow blue glow from the night time games on the lanes. The welcoming and roomy lounge was filled with people from every walk of life laughing and singing and dancing.

bowling alley


The bar went wild for Rob Z of Z-Licious Karaoke who lead Karaoke with so much glee- dancing and singing that his happy spirit was contagious! Soon we were cheering on everybody who came up to sing- and there were some amazing singers. The most unlikely choices of song for each person. A man who came in looking like a clergyman calmly strode to the mic- and the burst out “BABY GOT BACK”! A tough guy with tattoos and a backwards baseball hat sang Love Ballads from the 70’s.

Rapids is like an outpost of strangers in a strange land. Even the most misfit shy and awkward person can make friends and bond with the group of former high school glory girls who are all there to just have a good time. People at the edge of 22 are high fiving 70 year old ladies. No judgements.

Saturday night Karaoke at the Rapids turns out to be a hell of a good time!  If you’re into bar food this is also the place to be. We snacked on a huge platter of french fries smothered in golden cheddar cheese, bacon and ranch dressing. Now I have a plan for some indoor winter fun.

My other cold weather coping mechanism is cooking. And this nearly 50 degree drop in temperature week brought out a taste for some soup. What’s better to warm up a chilly old house than a simmering pot on the stove?

I found a very simple quick soup that was done in less than an hour start to finish! Not a gourmet-artisanal-hand-crafted-everything-from-scratch kind of thing but a good old modern America comfort soup. It popped up on social media last week and I thought steamy soup in my kitchen was just the thing to chase away the Fall chill. It’s called “Lasagna Soup” and though it contains not all the ingredients of a great lasagna, it does deliver on it’s promise of tomato-ey goodness with savory Italian spices and belly warming ground beef and noodles. You can find the recipe HERE at Taste of Home.

We people of Western New York state are great at adapting to changes. It’s in our blood to transform from shorts at the beginning of the week to jeans and sweaters by the end of the week. Viva La Niagara!




Home, She Said

It was time for me to come home.

For years I was out there, in “Normal America”, among the people who were judging me, suspicious of me, doubtful of me, wondering what part of New York City contained Buffalo and Niagara Falls. In Normal America the people didn’t swear out loud. They didn’t tell you when they were mad at you- they just told everyone else. In Normal America people don’t understand why they “serve wine” at church. In Normal America- everything was so very clean, so very vanilla, so very muted. In Normal America people avoided eating onions or garlic. In Normal America people can’t pronounce your last name.

The stuff this city is made of is in my DNA.  I was made from the grandchildren of immigrants, fed by the work of union members, raised by musicians and scholars alike. Here I grew up in an urban village with a hundred parents. My mother knew what I was up to before I could go home and tell her.

I think it’s just right here. This city sustains me. I feel the people and the places are like cushiony springs in a mattress that support me when I need to rest. They’ll hold me up when my bones are tired. They’ll keep watch when my eyes are closed. The waves of summer and winter rise and I ride these waves sometimes softly, sometimes swiftly. The economy is a river on which the raft that is my livelihood floats.

The thing about Niagara Falls is that I am not riding all these tides alone. Above all else- Niagara Falls is a family. How else can I describe it? Love, brotherhood, compassion, reliance.  Resentment, frustration, pity, and codependence.  All of us here move between emotions, between activity or inactivity- apathy and passion… but we are all moving within the same circle.

I know when something goes wrong- there are people here that have my back. There are people who are going to care- that are going to be outraged if I’m wronged, they’re going to be sorry if I am hurt, they are going to fight for me if I am down.

I almost walked away again. But then I was told, “Don’t go. You belong here. You are home. We need you here.” How many of us get the chance to hear that in our lives? It’s the place that tolerates my temper tantrums and keeps loving me even though I’ve been like a bad child.

How many of us could leave a place that finally, totally, completely accepts you even with your eccentricities and your faults and makes you want to be better? Niagara Falls makes you want to stick with it.

It’s not a dream place. Here in Western New York we came of age amongst cigarette smoke and factory smells. People worked hard all day but they also drank hard all night. We suffered thousands of layoffs and lost people following work to Vanilla Places in Normal America. Now we stand at the edge of a new time for Western New York. The sights of our leaders are turned toward art, culture and architecture.

We stick with it. Because it sticks with us. It offers us Polish restaurants, Italian bakeries and Indian markets. We offer it our creativity, our hope and our love.

This is not a political blog. It’s not a tourism blog. I’ve been accused of being a foolish optimist and a cynical pessimist in the same conversation. This is none of that. It’s just my experiences, offered to you in a weekly journal of this city, Niagara.