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I’m a fan of facebook.  I’m not proud of the fact that I’ve been called an “active facebooker” by more than one person (though never to my face), but I find it a handy means of communication for a number of reasons:

  1. I hate talking on the phone.  I rarely call people because I feel like I’m bothering them and what I have to say just isn’t important enough half the time, and though I feel special when people call me, most of the time I’m doing something that I don’t want to stop doing.  Plus, most of the people I’m closest to don’t live anywhere near me, so I spend a lot of time on the phone just because of that.
  2. I’m a writer, not a talker.  See above.  I’m a fan of the email, the text, the chat (though that feels like the phone at times, and I avoid it a bit) etc.  I like thinking through what I’m going to say and organizing my thoughts.  I like commenting on other peoples’ thoughts without having to have a long, drawn-out conversation about it.
  3. I like a lot of people.  There are plenty of people who I genuinely like and like having in my life, but whom I would never call.  I used to get little dribs and drabs (what’s she up to these days?) from other people, but asking about other people all the time seems rude and a bit stalkerish.

Facebook solves all those problems, but creates a whole batch of new ones that plenty of other people have elaborated on, so I’m not going to.

Recently, facebook suggested I add a friend from Jr. High.  This is not shocking news, that’s all facebook seems to do these days.  Facebook was particularly aggressive in suggesting this person.  His face was always in my sidebar under “people you may know” and all my other friends from high school were connecting with him seemingly hourly. I barely know this guy. He was a classmate in 7th grade, and then went somewhere else to school, but I thought I’d see what was up.  I looked through his profile, remembered some things he had said that one year we went to school together that I didn’t care for (also recalled that I don’t think we’ve ever actually spoken to each other), and decided not to add him to my arsenal of friends.

As soon as I made the conscious decision to not friend this guy, another person posts on her page, “praying for the family of x.”  I did a little sleuthing, and it seems that the same day I rejected him, he died.

He was hit by a car while on a bicycle, and died a few hours later at the hospital.  I haven’t thought about this person for 15 years, then for two weeks I see his face every day, then he dies suddenly and tragically.  It was the most surreal turn of events possible, and now I almost feel like I should feel guilty that I’m not more upset.  Also, every time I search for another of my blogs in facebook, his regular profile, and memorial page show up second in the list.

I was telling Jewish Friend about this the other day, and it seems mere hours before I mentioned it, a friend had sent her a New York Times article about that same situation.

So many of Facebook’s early users were young, and death was rare and unduly tragic,” Mr. Katz said.

Now, people over 65 are adopting Facebook at a faster pace than any other age group, with 6.5 million signing up in May alone, three times as many as in May 2009, according to the research firm comScore. People over 65, of course, also have the country’s highest mortality rate, so the problem is only going to get worse.

Tamu Townsend, a 37-year-old technical writer in Montreal, said she regularly received prompts to connect with acquaintances and friends who had died.”

I guess I should get used to stuff like this as I get older, and certainly this is not the first person I went to school with who has died, but I’ve never felt so involved before. In terms of connecting people, facebook has officially succeeded.  It would be insincere for me to be more upset about his dying than I would be about anyone my age who is suddenly killed, but I’m glad I got to know that he had a good life and was loved.

Niagara Falls_bannerThis past January, I drove from Providence to Toronto to visit friends.  We were having dinner one night with some of my friend’s family, and they mentioned that they had spent the day at Niagara Falls.  I was intrigued since I remember hearing a lot about Niagara Falls when I was a kid, but completely forgot about it as I got older.

“What do you do there?” I asked.

“We spent most of the day in the casino.” They told me.  “You should stop there on your way back, at the falls, not the casino.”

So I figured that since I was driving by it anyway, I might as well stretch my legs and take in the sight of this magnificent natural marvel.  What I didn’t count on was the fact that parking cost $14 (should have figured), and I was simply unwilling to pay that.  Instead, I drove a couple laps along the “Fallsview road” snapping pictures out the car window.  Eventually, I stopped the car, put the flashers on, and ran up to the protective barrier to snap another couple pictures before heading back to the states.

Despite the short amount of time I spent at the falls, I liked it, and got the notion that I should go back sometime and spend more than fifteen minutes there.  Then I got back home, and promptly forgot that notion.

About three weeks ago, the power of facebook advertising reminded me.  Since I put the pictures that I took of Niagara Falls on facebook, facebook decided that I am a Niagara Falls enthusiast, and told me that hotels might just be cheap there right now, seeing as the summer travel season is winding down.

It is after Labor Day, I thought, still temperate, but probably less crowded and cheaper.  So I hopped on Priceline, found a cheap hotel, read some reviews, and popped my head out into the living room to ask Gentleman Scholar, “Do you want to go to Niagara Falls next weekend?”

He thought for a beat, and said, “Sure.”

misc3 027I booked the hotel, and a few days later, started wondering what the hell one does at Niagara Falls for the entire weekend.  Surely you can’t spend the whole time riding the Maid of the Mist and staring at the water.  So I found a few Niagara Falls themed adventures, but not much else.  The best sites were run by the Niagara Parks Board, and were all water all the time.  The Lonely Planet Guide, didn’t have much more in it either except a snarky quote from Oscar Wilde: “The Niagara Falls is simply a vast amount of water going the wrong way over some unnecessary rocks; the sight of that waterfall must be one of the earliest and keenest disappointments in American married life.”, and the information that Niagara Falls used to be a major tourist destination.

Thankfully, spending the night in a hotel is often adventure enough in the short term, so we figured that if we maxed out Falls adventures early, we could just hang out and watch cable for a while–our hotel was even rumored to have HBO!  What a coup!

Turns out that the area around the falls looks a tiny and less impressive Las Vegas.  It feels like it should have a lot of options for things to do, but kind of doesn’t, except the casino.  It’s pretty, but looks sterile and modern, and was really not what I expected.  I was hoping for a 1950’s honeymoon destination feel–cheesy romantic stuff, buildings that looked like they had been there for more than five years.  I don’t know if Niagara Falls got a facelift recently, but everything felt strangely new.

Until we went looking for a liquor store and stumbled upon Niagara Falls downtown.  We had seen all of these brochures in the hotel lobby for wax museums, haunted houses, Dave and Busters etc., but had no idea where this stuff was. It was in downtown Niagara Falls, which is a roadside attraction promenade on par with the Wisconsin Dells.  Two Haunted Houses, a headshop, Louis Toussaud’s Wax Museum (with a terrifying Tiger Woods waving a golf ball at you from the front entrance), a Hard Rock Cafe, dinner theatres, and more tacky souvenir shops than you can shake a stick at.  It was amazing.

My parents took us on a lot of vacations as I grew up.  That’s one thing I’m really glad of, and we usually did them on the cheap.  This meant a lot of driving vacations like the one to the Wisconsin Dells, or Mount Rushmore, etc. We went to the roadside attractions that included streets of tacky crap, disappointing wax museums– though I’ve still never been in a wax museum–olde tymey picture shops, topiary gardens etc.  So if I couldn’t have my 1950’s chic Niagara Falls experience, this was the next best thing.marilyn_monroe_niagara_lancastria

Overall, I feel like Niagara Falls just doesn’t know quite what to do with itself.  The falls are rad, and even though we scoffed initially and said “It’s not like we’re just going to spend a whole bunch of time staring at the water.” we kind of just wanted to stare at the water, rushing back at different times of day to see how blue it was, or watch the fireworks –which they send up from the bottom of the gorge, so when they explode, they’re pretty much right in your face.  Obviously, if you want to lure people in these days, and keep them there, you need more than just a waterfall–even if it’s a good one.

It feels like Niagara Falls wants to re-evolve from being just a roadside attraction, into the destination it used to be, but maybe I’m just being a jaded asshole.  There were tons of people there for whom English was not a first language.  We stood in line next to a dozen Japanese businessmen, rode the Maid of the Mist with a lovely German couple, and had our photo taken by a group of French students (who may have been French-Canadian, but the point stands).  These people have either made Niagara Falls their destination, or at least a stop–I’m really curious which it is.

Strangely, I want to go back.

My Scrabble playing may have gotten out of hand.  Not because I’m putting it before scrabble tilesschoolwork, or starting games with every person I can think of, or finding myself supremely annoyed that I have no vowels so much so that I think about it when I’m actually going about my day– those are all things I can deal with gracefully; the real problem is that I think it’s affecting my vocabulary.  Logically, it should be improving my vocabulary, but I try to make words that are not actually words so often that I think I’ve started to convince myself that these words are real.

Surely I can add an a or an e to the end of livid, why is ie not a word when aa is? Why is ew not a word when I say it all the time? Why doesn’t the game include more than 1 ‘z’?etc. etc. etc. (also not a valid word).  These are the burning questions bouncing around in my atrophying brain.

It’s amazing how far I can take this procrastinating.  Anyone up for a game?