— I took a call in the news room last week that had me shaking my head.
It was the day after the big blizzard and a man called from Florida and said he wanted to fly in for a day to see the snow. Did I think he should come that weekend or the next.
I thought he was joking. Or looking to irk up my winter crankiness. But I put him on hold and consulted some colleagues in the newsroom. We advised him to come sooner rather than later because, despite what he'd heard, it was sunny in our little city and the snow was already starting to melt.
Just before I hung up I said, almost as an afterthought, "If you do decide to come, give me a call and let me know how it all works out."
And, apparently, the ice man did cometh. He hopped on a plane in 78-degree temperatures and flew to Buffalo/Niagara for 24 hours to visit an icy tundra where temperatures hit minus-11. He came, he saw, then he flew home and called me Monday morning to tell me how happy he was.
His name is Alan Geer and he is an accountant from Tampa who loves the cold. He opted to fly away from near 80-degree temperatures so he could see some snow. His adventure, on its own is such outrageous behavior for an accountant in tax season that he didn't want some of his friends and colleagues to know he did such a thing.
And while he did admit to working on tax returns on the plane, he had a really great micro-vacation in Niagara Falls. He stayed at the Comfort Inn. "I loved it," he told me. "They're refurbishing and had started with the top floors so I got a nice sixth floor room overlooking the Canadian falls."
He spent a half-hour Saturday night standing in the cold, looking at the falls. On Sunday, he stopped in for a church service at LaSalle Church of Christ, where an uncle of his once preached, and then walked right into an accounting office nearby to chat with the office staff who were hard at work on that Sunday morning, as accountants everywhere are more likely to be doing during tax season. Then he went back to the park to stare at the falls some more before he walked over to Canada and had lunch. He said he was impressed by how many other people were doing the same thing, especially on the Canadian side.
If I'm honest I called DiMarco Accounting to confirm at least a small part of Greer's adventure. Owner Vincent DiMarco said he got a kick out of the unexpected visitor and echoed my sentiments: "I'm not used to people saying they're coming here for the weather in the middle of winter."
I was talking to Mayor Dyster Wednesday about something else and mentioned Geer.The mayor that the Polar Vortex has resulted in some great publicity for the city, thanks to some "awesomely beautiful images" taken of the falls this winter that are circulating the Internet, some, he pointed out, taken by photographers at the Niagara Gazette.
The mayor told me he tries to get to the park a couple of times in the winter because it's a different type of experience than in summer. "When you see everything all covered with ice, it's gorgeous. It always reminds me of the ice palace in "Dr. Chivago."
As for me, I'm a fair weather fan. I love the falls. Hate the cold. But, after I talked to Dyster I drove over to the park and took a look at the winter version of our world famous water.
I got to see the ice bridge for the first time. It's the same bridge that people used to walk across to Canada in the old days. It cracked apart in 1912 and three visitors lost their lives. Onlookers watched in horror as the people on the ice chunk kneeled in prayer, before they fell into the icy water below. I've often stopped to read the front page from that day, depicting the horrible incident, which hangs in a Gazette hallway.
Yesterday, the whole park was thawing, for which I am admittedly grateful, but I finally got to see the ice bridge, thanks to Alan Geer.
I'm officially inspired by him. On a whim, he flew here during tax season, alone, because his wife, son and daughter and son-in-law couldn't make the trip. He didn't let anything stand in his way of creating an unforgettable 24-hours for himself. It makes me think about the New Year's resolutions I made to do more of such things — breaking out, chasing joy— all of which are thus far lying flat on my path.
As for Alan, he's coming back. "I'm thinking our family vacation this year might be to Niagara Falls instead of the coast of Maine," he told me. "Niagara Falls is obviously a world class attraction."
Contact Features Editor Michele DeLuca at 282-2311, ext. 2246.