Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Me & Nik & The Highwire

      My husband Vince and I go on a little jaunt to Niagara Falls. It’s a Travel Zoo deal that includes breakfast, $25 off dinner, 2 glasses of wine or beer, a night in the Marriott, shuttles to the casino, and 4 winery tours. A great price and everything we love! So, off we go, just the two of us, during the week, truly retired people.
     It’s a gorgeous, sunny day, warm but sans humidity. Perfect for walking and sightseeing. The hotel room is on the 29th floor, so we can see up the Niagara River, all across the Canadian Horseshoe Falls in front of us, and the American Falls to our left.
     The flow of the water is staggering. The currents pick up speed as they head for the canyon, ripple over rocks and eddies, then pitch themselves over the sides. From this height, the horseshoe is spread at our feet; it feels as though we are moving when we peer through the bottom glass. Waves and swirling pools are juxtaposed with the tidiness of artificial walls and dams that direct the water forward.
     This time of year, the vegetation is so lush! All the shades of green, lime and lettuce, frame the white and blue of the river. And today the added glory of a clear sky dotted with white and a view that extends for miles.
     We’re here, as it turns out, on an historic occasion, though in my point of view it’s a dubious one. Nik Wallenda will walk over the falls tomorrow night. A tight rope is strung across the water from the U.S. to Canada. Apparently Wallenda will take about 40 minutes to make the trip. ABC, CTV and Global trucks already line the street where he will alight.
I look up some stuff. The Wallenda Family started out working for the Ringling Brothers Circus in the 1920’s. Despite all kinds of death from the high wire (they seem to kill off in-laws in particular), the tradition continues. Nik started walking on tight ropes when he was four. His great grandfather died on a walk in Puerto Rico between two hotels. Nik and his mother have since completed that, stopping to pay the old man homage at the point where he fell. They show the clip a few times on television of the poor guy grasping at the wire and then flopping out of sight. They also show the family’s fall from their signature pyramid trick, which killed off those afore-mentioned in-laws.
     Nik’s ultimate goal is to cross the Grand Canyon, so maybe this Niagara trip is a test case. They expect 120,000 people to gather here tomorrow night, so I’m glad we’ll be leaving. Not to mention the audience who will tune in to see him on television.
     This feat is going to cost nearly a million and a half dollars. Wouldn’t that money be better spent on something worthwhile? Like a planeload of food for starving people? I dunno – saying this is historical when a guy is risking his life in front of us all – I’m just not a fan, I guess.
     I do get some interesting facts from the Internet. 184 feet is the height of the escarpment. 740,000 gallons of water per second go over it. It’s 12,000 years old. There will be 1800 feet of wire for Nik to cross.
     We take a walk in the warm but breezy day. Next door is the Loretto Christian Centre, which brings back a lot of very pleasant memories of retreats with Kitty and others.
     The walkways are still traversable, though there are lots of people around – can you imagine what it will be like tomorrow? We descend the hill, our skin sunshine warmed, so when we reach the falls, we welcome the mist. The roar of the water out-shouts the crowds and the vehicles cruising the roads.
I never tire of this sight. This natural wonder of the world, so close to where we live. The rush of the water is overwhelmingly inspiring. It makes me want to write! We stand and stare and let the sun and water spray us simultaneously.
     As we walk along, we get closer to the site of Wallenda’s stunt. Somehow we can’t help but get caught up in the excitement. Vince takes pictures of the enormous cranes and lights and film trucks crowding the area. It’s our love of the movie/television business that propels us, I think. Draws us into the sheer spectacle of this event. We figure out how the camera will follow Nik along the wire. Watch the crew set up. Try to guess what role the two young women atop the platform play.
     Always I return to thoughts of my books, my daughter’s producer/casting skills, my son’s scripts, my daughter-in-law’s acting career. Some day the cameras will be trained on them. Where they walk will be an event.
     We decide to take the incline train (though we call it the funicular, that word’s way more fun) up the hill. We have to go through the Welcome Centre to reach the overpass for the train. As we make our way through the crowded hallways, we notice a big crowd gathered and lots of “camera guys”. Turns out Nik Wallenda is here being interviewed and photographed. He is really trying hard to get my attention. We see him close up, but forget to take a picture until he’s on his way out. So all you can see is the back of his head.
     Finally at the incline train, we see a sign that says “Keep body parts inside”. I urge Vince to take a picture of it. He jokes about Luca Magnotta. See why he can be married to a crime writer? Here’s the picture he comes up with.
We are soon back in the hotel, lounging in the bar with our free drinks. We talk and laugh and comment on how lucky we are to be able to do this. In our room once more, we again marvel at the view. Too bad awesome is such an overused word, because this really is awesome.

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