Lodged someplace within our psyche is the notion that society must become extremely safe and sanitary.
As boys, we dirtied our faces with the mud pies that the cute little girls once made for us to eat, and we now have grown into fearing the greater dangers that our children now face: bullets flying over their heads and them seeking other people’s pharmaceuticals to synthesize the highs that nature once freely gave us. I write so that others will know about the childhood natural wet, wild and wonderful Niagara high that can now wash away the new mud in on our faces.
Sam Hoyt, Empire State Development’s regional president, is the man charged with exploring the placement of lodges in our local state-owned parks. His group runs USA Niagara Development Corp. We Niagarans feel that such lodges, if any at all, should be stretched out along the developing downtown streets where they generate local revenue streams, keeping the parks more in line with the dreams of naturalist architect Frederick Law Olmsted and most Niagarans.
Personally, I have always liked the affable Hoyt and I have known him since his days as a state assemblyman. But, in the disagreement between Hoyt and local moviemaker Ken Cosentino, my own fence-sitting feet fall on the greener side with Cosentino.
In small part, it might be the bold and hard-working Ken’s first name. Like me, I believe that both Sam and he really love Niagara. But two or more people can see the same things in radically different ways — especially due to political, social and other experiences that may not be familiar to the others. My deeper agreement with Cosentino’s view is indeed that of our youthful shared values of a once “wet, wild and wonderful Niagara.” Other people share our experiences and memories as well; values that Hoyt may not have experienced.
Cosentino recently and sadly spoke of his disappointment in walking over some very tame stone pavers in his approach to the now fenced off third island of the Three Sisters Islands chain at the waterfalls at the Niagara Reservation Park.
Like him, as a boy, I remember those summery days of being able to go to the end of that third island and — just above and beyond the mighty Horseshoe Falls — take off my sneakers, roll up my pant legs and take in the gasps of tourists and some locals alike before sitting on a stone with my feet dipped and dangling in the off-stream of the roaring rapids, feeling the cooling and roaring river rushing through my toes. The amazing feeling of being so small, and yet so successful at challenging something as big as that fast-flowing river, is still one of the sanitized memories that is locked away in my mind.
More sad than Cosentino’s words is that today, ever-present, are the number of Narcan calls to which our police and firefighters respond, proving that our river produced a far better and safer high than any recreational drug that’s now available on the asphalt, pot-holed, Venetian-like car canals that are the streets that run through our cities.
I suppose that like the boy that I once was, Cosentino would also have later found his way down to the place in the Niagara River Gorge that is near the great whirlpool and behind the breakwater of massive, naturally placed stones. There, he would have stripped down to his underwear, as we boys once did, and swam in the large cool eddy that the thousands-of-years-old rapids have made. It’s feeling is similar to the one once found at the third of the Three Sisters Islands, just a few miles up-river – a feeling now surprisingly denied to kids today.
A wet, wild and wonderful Niagara isn’t just about memories that are exclusive to Cosentino and me. Hundreds of thousands of those like us have done so over the years. And there is a way to make all of those lodge-free areas safe enough for the experiences that we once had in our better Niagara, making for an even better Niagara of tomorrow and offering tourists and locals alike the type of Ganges River experience that can only be had here.
My friend Sam Hoyt would understand that if only he would go into the gorge and baptize himself as a true Niagaran by stripping down to his underwear and taking that chilling and refreshing swim in that big, natural high-producing fountain of youth near the whirlpool.
It would likely take him back into a time that he once knew, and to a childhood he never had, lodging memories within his mind of a safer and better high than ever are any of the bullets, blunts and abused pills that are on the streets above.
Contact Ken Hamilton at firstname.lastname@example.org.