Close Up: Niagara Falls

“So, you are going to Niagara Falls. Are you going to go over in a barrel?” was the question posed by almost everyone I told of my upcoming adventure.  Annie Edson Taylor, a 63-year-old Michigan school teacher, was the first to do it in 1901, but only after testing the waters (and the barrel) by sending her cat over first. Both survived and since then 14 more people have gone barreling over the rim.

Niagara Falls was never on my barrel list, but I found myself flying into Buffalo, New York so, why not? And yes, the two falls, American and Horsehoe, are massive and impressive. But they are also also mesmerizing. Staring into their thundering and flowing waters and the mists that rise from them is trance-inducing, like staring at a lava lamp. I allowed my video camera to stare.

Our visit was brief, an overnight on the Canadian side, but we did plan our trip to take advantage of the view, first a late lunch at Elements on The Falls, directly across from The Falls, then dinner at Watermark, high atop the Hilton, overlooking the late night light and fireworks display. Both were quite good and our US dollars made both quite affordable.

Celebrating Arthur C. Clarke 100th Birthday

Today would have been the 100th birthday of futurist, science fiction author Sir Arthur C. Clarke, best known for his screenplay (with director Stanley Kubrick), “2001: A Space Odyssey”, inventing the concept of the communications satellite, and shedding tears on TV (with US commentator Walter Cronkite) when the Apollo 11 crew landed on the moon. He earned the title “Prophet of the Space Age”.

 

I spent a day with Clarke in his home in Colombo, Sri Lanka in 1994, watching him redesign the surface of Mars on a primitive computer, having long chats about everything under the sun, and interviewing him for a documentary I was producing on the future of travel. Following are excerpts from my upcoming book “Tales of the Radio Traveler” and a video memorial I put together upon his death in 2008. 

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Laffing Sal, San Francisco’s Creepiest Tourist Attraction

I moved to San Francisco, way out near the ocean, in 1972. Just a short walk from my house was a rubble strewn, abandoned theme park called Playland at the Beach. I wandered through just before the wrecking ball smashed it to smithereens. Playland had a roller coaster, a fun house, a replica of Noah’s Ark, a diving bell. Its creepy ambience costarred in Orson Welles’ “Lady From Shanghai,” “The Princess Diaries,” and many others, some of dubious distinction such Roger Corman’s “X: The Man with the X-ray Eyes.”

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