As a Niagara Falls bellman I find myself answering a variety of queries from travelers but one always makes me smile – and no it doesn’t have anything to do with where a tourist can find a case of Cool Whip, a car battery and an escort who’ll literally do anything for money.
One question puzzles travelers more than any other:
“What’s it really like to live in Niagara Falls?”
My response (assuming the traveler in question tips me) is always the same:
“You want the real skinny on this city? Spend some time in our true ‘city hall’, the one place where the people who keep the lights on in Niagara Falls share tales from the trenches and network over double-doubles. In Niagara, the truth isn’t out there, it’s freely shared at booths and tables.”
And so I send people here…
Yes, the real story of Niagara Falls – and for that matter, any Canadian city – can be found at any of our six hundred Tim Hortons outlets. (It feels like we have that many anyway.) This week, for example, only one topic is one the public’s lips, in-between sips of java, that is. Four individuals have created a video which, according to them, tells the “true story” of my hometown.
I’d like you to watch it and then return here for my response.
Wow, right? Every politician in the city of Niagara Falls is no doubt reeling from the crudest virtual colonoscopy they’ll ever receive. The young men behind this short documentary have already been informed by their school, Ryerson University, that the faculty does not endorse the spirit behind As Niagara Falls. And while the video was created as a school project, the school itself has already demanded its logo be removed from the end credits. Additionally, Ryerson’s president has apologized to the city for any “any negative feeling generated by their work.”
Niagara Falls mayor, Jim Diodati is far from impressed by As Niagara Falls, obviously. Then again, when your entire job is to be a city’s champion, you’re not exactly going to endorse a video that depicts said metropolis as a hellhole, are you?
But what do I think, you ask? (Okay, so maybe you’re really thinking, “When are you going to get back to interviewing hot Canadian actresses, adult film stars or writing about crazy travelers, Hook? But this is my blog, so we’ll stick to my feelings, thank you very much.) As for my feelings, they’re slightly more complicated but you have a life to get back to, so I’ll get right to the point.
The filmmakers behind As Niagara Falls claim the film reveals “what truly lies within the city” while highlighting the wide divide between tourism and the rest of Niagara.
I say that’s bull to the shit.
I have no doubt Christian Bunea, Taylor Ness, Valentin Bacalu and Justin Diezmo are decent guys but if they truly cared about this city they’d be trying to do more than simply showing one side of the story. And as for that side: I dare Christian Bunea, Taylor Ness, Valentin Bacalu and Justin Diezmo to visit any city anywhere on the face of the earth that doesn’t have dilapidated houses and boarded-up buildings.
Sure Niagara has some serious problems, what city doesn’t? Ryerson, for example, is based in Toronto, one of the most vibrant, economically-powerful cities in Canada – that has some areas that would turn your shit white.
What strikes me most about As Niagara Falls is the fact one of the producers actually works in the hotel biz, just like me. Unlike me, though, this guy doesn’t see that Niagara’s greatest strength is its people, not it’s economic value.
I don’t blame Mayor Diodati and city council for all the rundown, abandoned properties. I blame the city’s slumlords and delinquent owners. (Though I do wish Mayor Jim and council would do a little more to hold such individual’s feet to the fire, but part of that responsibility lies with the province and federal governments.)
I don’t blame Mayor Diodati and city council for all the homes in this city that look like God threw up all over them. I blame city residents who refuse to clean up their property. Yes, some people genuinely can’t afford to fix up their homes fully, but trust me on this, a coat of paint isn’t that expensive and it costs nothing but time and energy to keep weeds and garbage off your lawn.
I don’t blame Mayor Diodati or city council for the divide between tourism and the rest of the city. Niagara residents have always had a complicated relationship with the tourism industry. At one time people like Christian Bunea, Taylor Ness, Valentin Bacalu and Justin Diezmo would have called me a loser for working in tourism instead of the industrial core.
Then the industrial core vanished because some owners moved their businesses like a bunch of greedy cowards who refused to stay firm and weather the storm. Now tourism is all that remains. And yes, for the most part a tourism wage isn’t a living wage. And yes, I wish Niagara’s business/tourism operators would pay their employees better…
But that problem is a world-wide one.
“Things are tough all over” isn’t just a saying, Christian Bunea, Taylor Ness, Valentin Bacalu and Justin Diezmo, it’s a reality.
I applaud your effort, guys, but now you need to film a second edition that takes the effort further and adds more balance.
Mayor Diodati and council are on the right track. Niagara’s business people are doing all they can. As for the rest of us, my fellow Niagara residents, what are we going to do now? Are we going to make our collective voice, our suggestions, our ideas, heard by our leaders or are we just going to bitch over a double-double?
See you in the lobby, friends…