Niagara Falls has always held a special place in my family’s collective heart. Just over an hour drive away, it had always been the go to destination for family outings, and weekend getaways.
The other night, all of my kids and their significant others were over for dinner. As the conversation turned to our family trips to Niagara Falls, the day trips and the weekends, my wife asked if I remembered the first time that I took her there. There are many things that my aging memory has lost somewhere in that time and space that seems to swallow up my keys and eye glasses, but that first weekend in The Falls, is forever tattooed in my brain, and on my right forearm.
We were still dating then, in that place between let’s live together and what the hell is going on with you? We went for a weekend, and now my wife was questioning my ability to remember that trip.
“Well”, I said, “Let’s just go back a lifetime or two. Pay attention boys and girls, this will both shock and amaze you.”
“Its not going to be about sex again, is it?”, one of them asked.
“No.”, I said, “Its been so long, I don’t remember any of that stuff.”
“You’re such an ass.”, my wife said, as she hit me in the arm.
I began my tale of the most expensive weekend in Niagara Falls history. “We left on Friday afternoon and, before heading out on a mere one hour drive, we stopped and had a late lunch, as your mother was hungry. Back on the road, after her cheeseburger and fries, I took her to Niagara-On-The-Lake. We parked and walked down the main street, filled with artisan boutiques and shops. Your mother had ice cream. We dove on to The Falls, and checked into our Hotel, a quaint little establishment complete with a heart shaped Jacuzzi, and water bed, nestled between a Wedding Chapel, and a liquor store. To this day, I am still not sure if the trip to the liquor store is to be made before or after the stop at the Wedding Chapel.
After settling in, we headed out to wander around the falls. As we walked along Ferry Street, she spotted a Taqueria, and decided that she was in the mood for a snack. Two tacos and a white wine later, we were off to see The Falls. We walked along the pedestrian pathway that edged the gorge, and marveled at the international tourists who ‘ooohed’ and ‘aaahed’ at the wonder of it all. By now, it was rapidly approaching feeding time, and when she spotted the sign in front of The Love Boat advertising Prime Rib, our dinner plans were secured. Your mother had the prime rib, complete with a baked potato, and some green vegetable thing. I had mussels in garlic and wine sauce. We left the restaurant, satiated, and headed back to the room. As we neared our hotel, your mother spotted a 7-11, and determining that we should have emergency rations in the event of a sudden global shortage of prefabricated junk food, stopped to purchase a bag of potato chips, a bottle of ginger ale, several chocolate bars, and a pack of beef jerky.”
“And you had to pay for all of that?”, one of my daughters asked.
“Oh,”, I said. “In her defense, she always offered to pay. I wouldn’t let her. I figured that she was bound to make herself sick long before I ran out of money.I was however, wrong. I had to make several trips to the ATM just to keep her fed. I mean, she only weighed 100 pounds. How much food could she eat?
Anyway, we spent the night in the room where she finished off the chocolate bars, half a bag of potato chips, some ginger ale, and most of the beef jerky. I was starting to feel sick just watching her eat.”
“You should have dumped her, right there.”, one of them blurted out.
“I thought about.”, I said, “but she was so damn cute. The next morning, we went to Perkins for breakfast. Your mother had an order of pancakes, an order of bacon, and order of sausages, toast and coffee. I kept asking myself where all of this food was going, and hoped that it wasn’t some sort of gastrointestinal parasite. We spent the morning horseback riding along a secluded spot on the shores of Lake Erie. On our way back to Niagara Falls, we stopped at a farmer’s roadside pie stand, and purchased a fresh, home made apple pie, although I have no idea how it was made fresh in the back of his pick up truck. On the way back to the hotel, we had to stop at the 7-11 because, as it was explained to me in the car, no one should have to eat apple pie without ice cream!
Lunch was McDonald’s, and there was fudge from a dessert shop that was being saved for later. After visiting several tourist attractions, and The Harley-Davidson store, I took her across the border to one of the best Italian Restaurants known to man, Como’s in Niagara Falls, New York. We both had veal parmigiana, served with pasta, salad, and a basket of bread big enough to feed a small orchestra. After dinner, there was fudge at the hotel.
Sunday came, and it began with breakfast at a local greasy spoon, after which we checked out of the hotel, and headed back to Niagara-On-The-Lake, to wander through Fort George. We left Niagara, and headed back to the big city. We spent the afternoon at my place, and went out to Swiss Chalet for lunch. It was time to call it a weekend, and I was taking her home, when we passed The Towne & Country Buffet.”
“I think you’re making a lot of this up.”, my wife said.
“Really?’, I asked. “You don’t remember going back 3 times for the prime rib? You also had apple cobbler with chocolate ice cream for desert. Remember now?”
“No.”, she said. “I do not!”
“Well, that’s pretty much how it was, give or take a few meals and snacks. After dropping you off, I went straight to the hospital to donate a kidney. I needed the money for the rent, and a car payment or two.”
“That’s a lie.”, she exclaimed.
“Yes”, I said, “that’s a lie.
“I can’t believe you went out with her again.”, one of them stated. I looked at my wife, and saw in her eyes what I had seen so many years ago.
“She’s was worth it.”, I told them. “Still is. But now you know why I can’t afford to retire. I’m still paying off a restaurant tab from 1995.”