Sunday, June 25, 2006

O Canada

What can I say about Niagara Falls? The actual Falls are lovely, yes... something between the Grand Canyon and an overflowing sink. The entire area around the Falls, on the other hand, is like Disney World and Vegas got drunk and coked up and right before they got arrested for selling heroin to kindergarteners, they gave birth to a half-monkey crack-addicted demon child.

It started a couple weeks ago... the weather got nice and I wanted to go on a road trip once school got out. Steve, as usual, was up for anything, and conveniently had a little vacation time. I was thinking of going south (Virginia! the Carolinas!) but we ended up going north because you can never have too many useless Canadian coins. So we left on Thursday, and the trip itself was all that and then some; you can't not have fun with Steve, and I spent the entire weekend laughing until my stomach hurt. We eventually made it to our destination by (accidental) way of lovely Lake George and (purposeful, if you can believe that) way of Rochester.

I should've known what I was in for when I was looking through the tourist information in our B&B and saw an ad for a haunted house, boasting comments from previous visitors like, "I was so scared I nearly pissed myself!" I was thrilled: Haunted house? Marketing copy with the words "pissed myself"? Then I read on and saw another satisfied customer quote: "This one is the best; go here before you bother with all the others!" The others? What others? Yeah, it turns out that life in Niagara Falls is a strip of haunted houses, wax museums, indoor water parks, Planet Hollywoods, and casinos. And let's not forget the neon lights they blast onto the Falls at night. I figured it'd be a little cheesy but I had no idea what I was in for. But when in Rome...

So we decided to embrace the kitsch and do everything. We did all the raincoat activities with the dramatic names: the Maid of the Mist, the Journey Behind the Falls, the White Water Walk, and even the butterfly conservatory, where we were sternly told not to even consider touching the butterflies with our contaminated, diseased hands; unfortunately, when bugs fly at your face, it can be difficult to deflect your swatting reflex in favor of just ducking and admiring their unspoiled beauty. (What, I know they're butterflies! But when they're swarming you they feel suspiciously like moths.)

We were forced into having our picture taken over and over in front of countless green screens and then later, offered the opportunity to purchase a smiling image of ourselves superimposed over the Falls. Steve intercepted me when I was thisclose to acquiring a heart-shaped 8x11. (They were free if you were on your honeymoon, which I was, at that moment.)

We went to a haunted house called Nightmares that took place in complete darkness; it was actually absurdly terrifying and I clung to Steve like a human backpack, which really didn't make me feel less scared and probably set the women's movement back a few hundred years. Nightmares actually had a safe word that you could use if you got too terrified and wanted to be ushered out; this safe word turned out to not be "HOLY F'ING MOTHER OF SHIT."

We bar hopped and made the delightful discovery that the drinking age in Canada is 18, which means that if you're 15 and have a fake ID, come on in, what're you drinking, Molson or Labatt Blue?

We did some crazy maze activity where you have to run around and find a bunch of hidden stuff before your friend. At first I was like, "Oh, what's this? We can't do it together?" but then I found out I was competing against Steve and I took off like a bat out of hell and proceeded to kick his ass. When he couldn't find his way out, I stood on the platform above, taunting him with the Super Mario Brothers theme song, completely forgetting that just moments before he'd protected me from being killed in a haunted house.

Bottom line: I ate up every freakin' second of it.

And as for where we stayed... honestly, if I'd known what Niagara Falls was really like, I would've just embraced the cheesiness of it all, booked us at a Sheraton and called it a day. But instead I had us stay at what turned out to be the most ridiculous B&B on the planet. Witness the various moments of weirdness:

-The woman who runs the place goes by, well, without giving her actual name, let's just say that it isn't like her real name is Elizabeth and she asks to be called Liz; that would be an actual nickname. We're talking a real name like Rachel and asking people who have just met her to call her Rach. So we spent the weekend calling her Rach like we were all BFFs. (I did not invite her to call me by my first syllable.)

-When we were on our way, we called from the only highway that goes from New York to Ontario and asked how to get to their place; essentially, we were asking the question, "Can you tell us how to get to your home from America?" Rach reacted like it was the most obscure thing we could've asked her. She didn't know and had to confer with someone else, and when she got back on the phone she asked, "Well, hmm, let's see... are you familiar with the area?"

-When Rach showed us to our room, she assured us a few times that we should stay out as late as we want and that we shouldn't feel like we have a curfew. Oh, okay. Thanks? Then she told us that if we do come in late that we'll probably feel like we're being really loud and waking everyone up because the floors are kind of creaky, but really, don't let that keep you from staying out late, you really shouldn't feel like you have a curfew.

-There was a full-length window in the bathroom wall. This means that if you're in the bedroom and someone is in the bathroom, you're an inadvertent part of that experience as well. We tried to think of all the reasons a giant window would be built into a bathroom wall, why you'd want to watch the person you're with while they're peeing. Lots of dirty theories, but no real answers. If you guys have any theories, please share, because I'm at a loss.

-We signed up for a lunch and tour of a winery, because what else is Canada known for but hockey, Michael J. Fox and vineyards, but Rach neglected to tell us that the lunch was at a different place than the tour, and when we talked to the people at the winery, they were like, "HUH? You want FOOD?" like we were homeless people. Then we called Rach and she told us that the lunch place was down the road and was called, say, Sugarhill Restaurant. Okay then. We drove up and down the road for miles looking for Sugarhill Restaurant. There was a Sugarhill Farm but it was all tractors and big piles of dirt. So we called her back and she said, "Oh, no, the restaurant is right next to the winery." Dear God, are you kidding me? Even Steve was starting to get pissed, and he never gets mad. We gave up, went to a farm stand, bought some still-warm strawberry rhubarb pie and a pint of cherries and had a makeshift picnic next to the Niagara River. It was actually really fun, but Rach officially became the bitch that took away my wine.

-I was talking to some guy from Ohio who was staying down the hall from us, and he was saying how he and his wife just spent their weekend doing the winery stuff, not "all that other garbage." He assumed I'd done the same. I told him how much other garbage we'd happily participated in. He was clearly amused by my tacky, dollar store self. Whatever, Ohio; if you're such a wino, why didn't you go to Napa Valley?

Oh, one more thing. Because of the winery mishap, Rach is giving us a free night at their B&B. I'm going back to Niagara Falls, um, never, so if you're ever going or if you live around there, let me know and it's all yours. If you survive Nightmares and beat my time at the maze (which you NEVER COULD), I'll even buy you dinner at the 24 hour Burger King.

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