Niagara Gazette — The last time I saw him, he was standing in front of Dave Perrigo’s WHY Restaurant across from the library at the point where Main Street, Pierce Avenue and Portage Road converge with Niagara Falls’ cold, hard reality.
The WHY, a wonderful down home, gritty respite from the brutal winds of crippling poverty is a short stroll from the Oakwood Cemetery, a few steps north of the local bus terminal, and a long way from the fancy place across town near the Falls where I had arranged to dine with him “where the elite meet to eat” in hopes of impressing him with my success by treating him to anything on the menu his heart desired. Anything!
He ordered soup and crackers, that was it, nothing else.
Following his lead, I ordered the same thing though neither of us finished before it was finally time to leave more than three hours later; we were too busy reminiscing about the past, lamenting the present, and wondering about the future to actually eat anything. Besides, he made it pretty clear that he was not impressed by fancy restaurants.
I passed right by the WHY almost every morning on my way into my office, and more than a few times I thought I spotted him walking in, or on the way out, sometimes standing outside near the door with a small collection of people around him.
I decided that one day, I’d stop in and catch him there so we could continue our conversation.
We had a lot to talk about; I had known of him for years, though it became quite clear that I did not know him as well as he knew me; in fact, it seemed that he knew more about me than I knew about myself. I wanted to change that, to know more about him and how he had managed to have so much positive influence over things that impact so many people here.