Thursday, October 6, 2011

Green Tomato lobby poker

Click the pointer to see the green tomatoes fry to the tune of Eddie Condon

(recipe is at bottom)

Gregg's game has built now so that we pack the table every week. This week we had: Ed, Jim, Peter, Bill, Slink, Ezzy, Gregg, Ron, Phil, Bruce, Dewey.
Chuckmonk was out harvesting before the frost.  It takes him a while to harvest accompanied with his full growler of home brew.
Blowers was out making his movie, now called Pirates on Full Tilt.
Karp and Rice were still invisible.

Elbow to Elbow poker.

Having so many at the table changes the nature of the game. It is not the five person game we once played, but something more like what is played in a casino, only looser.  It is a hard game to beat with most big wins decided on the river, and all that action makes for a good deal of fun.

Win or lose, these games are great practice for my coming 22 nights in Vegas.  Except for the loose part.

I came early.  Having worked hard over the past weeks to organize a PAC and lobby the Congress of Millett for green tomatoes, I was determined to arrive in time to pick some if my Green
Tomato bill passed. Bobbie Court is really no different than Congress.  The strong lobbies control the outcome of all decisions.  It was once nearly a dictatorship when Silver was still in office, but he is hiding out with the rebel forces in the South so there is ruleless chaos and hardly any time to go to the bathroom.

My tomatoe bill passes. Good things too as it is just before the frost.   Gregg, against all habitual practice, has work to do on the computer and would just as soon not start the head to head early.  Unbelievable!!  What are the odds.

So I'm a winner before we start. Just like the big banks who are still as unregulated as they ever were, I am sent out on my own to gather in the tomatoes.
Gregg never sees what I then put in my car: his shed by the water, his gazebo, most of the water in the Lisha Kill, all the garden top soil and finally a bag of green tomatoes to fry up like they do in the South.  On the way up the hill I also waved my flag because I'm proud to be an Greggorian.

Then Gregg and I play some head to head and this week. I get some cards and oddly I win. I feel like I am Greek and just figured out how to balance a budget.

Bruce arrives next and brings me another Dewey cartoon.  He looks great, and the word is the cancer is clear.  Nice!  I almost can't wait to get my nuts seeded too.  It is sort of what old guys do, the way the young get tattoos.

I am up $14 when we cash and rebuy to  begin the real game.

Pots builds quickly.
These games are always aggressive in the beginning.

I get sucked into one huge hand with J-Q of clubs.  Preflop the betting is pretty good.  I get two clubs on the flop and if I remember right, my cards are over cards.  Then it is one of those hands where there is a bet, a few callers, me, a raise, more callers, me, an all-in, and I'm pot committed.  It is early in the session and most of us have under $30.  I don't expect to win.  I am thinking there are lots of trips out there and maybe even an Ace of clubs.
Slink has been pushing the betting because he has pocket kings.
On the river he gets his third king.
Unfortunately for him, it is a club.
Ron shows his straight.

I take in a $127 pot.  My score when I leave will be the $14 head to head win from Gregg, this $127 pot and just $12 more of winnings over the entire afternoon of play.  That shows how volatile one hand can be.  And it was not well played.  My overcards were already beat.  I just caught a lucky river.

What.............. I say............... WHAT ARE the ODDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Over the course of the afternoon I lost two other river draw hands in which I had many more outs.  In an earlier one I had J-J, Peter had A-Q, Bruce had 8-8 and we were all-in on a rainbow flop, giving me a good advantage.  Bruce drew one of his two outs, one 8 on the turn for a win.  In another, I had flush and straight draws and Gregg beat me with a pair of sevens.

Bill had a similar draw to the river, club flush, and I took him down and sent him home with my trip 8's, (after he missed his read of me and bluffed all-in to me on the river to try to steal the pot.)

Those who chase flushes are condemned to ride buses.  Well, unless they are me with J-Q.

Peter was the shortest lived this week.  He came late and left early. He seemed perplexed. It may be that his style of play is better for smaller numbers at the table.

Gregg used to be the one who was hard to beat, but he is off his game.  This week neighbor Ron and I combined strategies against which Gregg has no defense.  Ron brought Gentleman Jack and I brought Harwood Canadian . Just a bit in small flasks, but it was enough.  That and Gregg's love of the blind straddle is enough to beat him as long as he will not bet and sometimes will fold the winning hand just to be a pleasant poker comrade.

For me I brought coffee.
And I drank it.
Well, I drank what I did not spill on the floor.
(I don't know what that is about.  In every other way I am gracefully poised.)
It perked me up for the second half of the game, and I slept a great 8 hours last night as well.  Go figure that!

Playing three handed at the end, Gregg did have that 10-7 and flopped two pair. Slink rivered  a ten of diamonds, bet, was called on the river and announced his diamond flush.  Gregg turned over his cards to show what he thought was two pair, and quickly started to mix the cards to pick them up, when I stopped him, moved  the cards back into position , and said, "Just look at your hand one more time."
Gregg was very happy with his back from the dead full house, and thanked me.
Well, Gregg, without the green tomatoes that would never have happened.  It is amazing what we can accomplish when we cooperate across the table.

Slink waited for me outside, so he could kick my ass to the Lisa Kill and back.  I avoided him, but I think that as I write, the entire Slingerlands nuclear arsenal is being redirected toward Burden Lake.

Another time early in the game Gregg held quads.  It was the only quads I saw all afternoon. As last to act, some would say that Gregg could raised on the river.
He refused to raise on principle.  He did not want to be greedy.
"I've taken enough off this table over the years.  Time to give some back, "  he remarked, "Now, where is the rest of that Harwood Canadian?"

So it was a tough game for the old Poker Master and a great game for me.  As well as my winnings, I got the green tomatoes, a new Dewey cartoon from Bruce, and a whole set of Dixieland CD's from Jim, who like me enjoys that old jazz from our parents' generation when actual music was popular.  Thanks so much Bruce and Jim and Gregg and everyone who was in that $127 dollar pot and Bill, "Thanks for the bet, buddy."

And last week's new rule for buy-ins seems to be very comfortable for everyone.

Which means it is time to change it.

The new buy-in rule Gregg suggests for next week will work well too. The first time someone tries to double up by giving a bribe to the house, most of the table will cash out and go home and the game will end.
I'll get to eat supper.
See how much poker at Gregg's is like politics at Congress?

Green tomatoes follow

See you all next week.


  • 4 large green tomatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 teaspoons coarse kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 quart vegetable oil for frying


  1. Slice tomatoes 1/2 inch thick. Discard the ends.
  2. Whisk eggs and milk together in a medium-size bowl. Scoop flour onto a plate. Mix cornmeal, bread crumbs and salt and pepper on another plate. Dip tomatoes into flour to coat. Then dip the tomatoes into milk and egg mixture. Dredge in breadcrumbs to completely coat.
  3. In a large skillet, pour vegetable oil (enough so that there is 1/2 inch of oil in the pan) and heat over a medium heat. Place tomatoes into the frying pan in batches of 4 or 5, depending on the size of your skillet. Do not crowd the tomatoes, they should not touch each other. When the tomatoes are browned, flip and fry them on the other side. Drain them on paper towels.

  Canola works just great.  Olive is hard to use.  

The trick to this cooking is not to have the oil too hot.  You want to brown and not burn the coating yet leave time for the tomatoes to cook soft.  Elizabeth actually likes them a bit crunchy, but they are sweeter when cooked soft inside and crunchy outside.  I add Frank's hot sauce and some fresh grated parmigiana.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Poker at Seneca Niagara

I dropped Elizabeth at her friend's house in Rochester and went up to Seneca Niagara to play some poker.  I have so many relatives and friends in Buffalo that I had not seen the Falls in many years.  This time I was determined to gamble there for longer than a few hours.  My nephew Chris said he could meet me and play as well.  That was just great.

I had played there before and liked it, so I know I would like it this time.
It had taken me a while to find a hotel that was not reviewed with great negatives and talk of grime, bed bugs, unwashed sheets, naked women found waiting in the room after returning from supper.  No kidding.  I discuss the details of that booking here:
Settled in at the Swiss cottage Inn it was an easy drive to the casino, just under 4 miles.  the only odd thing was that the GPS took me there via the Robert Moses highway, a major highway, but back on a winding path through Niagara Falls that might be a bit sketchy early in the morning but proved no problem.
On one of those rides home, I stopped at a Dairy Queen for a late night treat.  We have no DQ at home, so I like to enjoy a blizzard when I am in any DQ neighborhood.  I missed the drive through and went into the parking lot, so I parked, thinking I might go inside.  That was closed.  Only the drive-thru was open. I walked up to the window where I saw another fellow get food and asked if I could walk thru the drive- thru.  The fellow said he would have to ask the manager.  I thought that was pretty funny as I had mostly been joking.  When the manager came back, he told me that some of the girls were a bit unsure of serving people at that window and I realized I had missed the ordering window.  He apologized.  I just thought it was funny.   However, it did clue me into the fact that as quiet as this neighborhood was at ten thirty at night, it too might be a bit sketchy.
The girl asked me if I wanted a bag, but I said no, that I was just going to eat it here.  She gave me a look that was the second clue this might not be a bad idea. Still, it was an absolutely pleasant evening and there were little tables and I did not want to get ice cream in Elizabeth's car.  So I was weighing all that against the neighborhood when I glanced across the street in a school parking lot and saw two police cars pulled up the way they do when they don't want to work but just want to visit a while, and then I knew I was fine eating right with my own protective force there across the street.
It was good too.  French silk with bits of heath bar crunch.

But on to the gambling.
I loved this room. I only had one odd experience when both folks on the floor insisted that the they had not broken a 3-6 game that night when I had just come from a broken game.  I was trying to lobby them to put me first in a 2-4 seat, but they said that since I moved from a 3-6, I had to go on the list.  Of course, there was no 3-6 at 2 AM.  It did not take long and I was seated.
Everyone else was just great.  Some remembered my name after my first visit.

I played with my nephew on Friday into Saturday morning(4am) and Saturday into Friday morning(5:30 am).  Games went all night.  On Sunday the 2-4 broke early.  There was still a 3-6 but one of the girls on that table was snotty to me, and I was just to tired to deal with her attitude, so I moved to the 2-4.

That 3-6  table had filled with all 30 somethings who were regulars and friends, so it was not a great game for me to be in anyway.  One woman, Ophelia, I had played with at the Flamingo in Vegas. They were all very friendly except the smart mouth.

The 3-6 is played with a kill that pushes it to a 5-10.  The kill is triggered by any hand that is $60 or more.  The winner of the $60 plus hand  puts $5 on the red kill button, but acts in normal position.
I liked it.   At no time would I be pushing money from a small pot I won into a large pot I would not win. That happens in the Golden Nugget kill which is triggered by someone winning two in a row.  Also, many of the players who sat down to play were not ready for this game.  They would join thinking it was 3-6 and not much different than 2-4.  They would get killed.  At a 5-10 the players know what they are about to play.  Here it was a surprise.  So they were at a disadvantage and often playing the 5-10 with scared money.
I had a fine time playing the game.  I played some on the 2-4 and did not do as well there.  Also, I did not like that 2-4 game because a $3 rake is taken after the flop, no matter how much money is in the pot.  If the players are tight and the pots are small, then the house wins.  No one can overcome a 33% rake.
My nephew Chris, however, did very well on this 2-4 game.  He did not do well on the 3-6.  He tried it when his bankroll was up, partly at my urging, but he did not do well, and I was sorry I encouraged him.

Chris and I took one walk through the casino; however, I find that I am less interested in being in the slots and the smoke now and just like finding the poker room.  I did check a few VP pay tables and they were unplayable  7-5  Bonus Poker.   9-6 Double Bonus poker.
Added to the low pay tables is the lack of the kind of comps Vegas offers me.  Why would I play DEB 9-6 DB when in a few weeks I can play DB 10-7 at the Four Queens in downtown Vegas?  The Four Queens has given me three free nights, $50 in food, and $60 in freeplay on top of cashback.  So playing there is good odds and an investment.
It was a mistake for us to make this casino business a monopoly of government and reduce competition.  The Russians and East Germany taught us that products produced by companies with a special dispensation from the government do not allow for competition to sort out the better product.  We follow that path in casinos.  When the government gets its Tony Soprano taste of the action, there is no need to give the gambler an even break.

In the end I lost big.  Most of it was trying no-limit for a few hours when I first arrived and just getting bled of my bankroll.  I am not doing that again.  I just can't play that game in casinos.
At home I can win against the regulars.  I did two days after my Niagara Falls trip.  I won $144.
And I don't like the often abrasive and even abusive talk in no limit.  I go to engage strangers in a pleasant interaction, not to listen to the arrogance of small minded and emotionally unstable people who act out in ways that would put them in a principal's office were they in high school, or perhaps more appropriately would put them in time out were they children.
I played a hand or two of junk after a long time of tossing.  One was 5-8 of hearts, and I even foolishly saw a raise to play it.
It rivered a flush.
I felt  my opponent was not very strong, so I just bet $25 on the river. Well, he hemmed and hawed and talked and wondered and watched me.  Finally, in his arrogant way, he announced he knew I had the pair of Aces, but he would, "Pay me off."
I never saw his cards.
I showed the flush, and I could see he was surprised it was even an option, and he stood up to see the hearts were really there.

Then he went ballistic.   I suppose that he did not have much money to play with, and he'd lost a good bit of it with my playing junk. I suppose that he was also embarrassed that his reading of the situation was so far off the mark.
Three hands later I had K-10 (two pair) and he called me with 9-6 diamonds until the river gave him a flush.
Rather than having a bit of chagrin for playing parallel junk to mine, he yelled at and about me again, justifying his choice by my earlier choice.
Having said nothing the first time, I had had enough and I went right back in his face, and not in a friendly way.
"What I think you are doing is trying to manipulate my play, so I don't play junk.  I can tell you that ain't gonna happen."
"And while I understood your surprise and upset at losing to me, I don't understand how you can yell at me when I play junk, and then yell at me again when you play junk."
"And I'm tired of you being in my face about all of it."
And it toned him down a bit.

Soon he was out of money and left.
The rest of the table had a good time with all of it.
They liked the argument. And that is one of the draws of no limit poker, the constant bickering.
I don't care for it.

I better liked the old Greek from Cyprus I met at the 2-4 who was not a very good player but told me great stories.  One was of being in a Bahamas casino playing blackjack when bandits came in with AK-47 rifles and robbed all the tables of chips.  He said he was not scared because he knew they were not after him and he described the entire scene, told of people rolling along the floor and of all the chips left on the floor after the quick robbery. They escaped by boat and were never caught.
He should have been scarred.  Recently that happened in Mexico and a lot of people died.

At that table also was Tony, a Polish fellow who was taciturn most of the time, but had a good time when he played with players he knew.  I liked him.  He beat me just by a hair often.
On Friday, I played with mostly Canadians who came over because limit games were not played in the Canadian Niagara Falls casinos.
I sat between a husband and wife, Brian and Janice, and they bantered the way I do with Elizabeth, laughing and having a fine time.  I also sat next to a cute blond girl, so attractive in a plain and fresh sort of way, with a girl next door look.  She was very personable to me and it felt just great.
She and her sister also bantered with the table and it was all like Vegas.   Her sister looked like a famous comedian named Amy something, and once Janice remarked on it, we all would tell the girl  to write down almost every bantering joke, for her act.  She had been quiet along side her super friendly sister, but with this new attention, she got into the game of it.
They told me about Brantford, Canada.  Everyone agreed that was the place to look for limit games. All kinds.  One dealer said it was the best in a circumference of 300 miles.  I am reading some mixed reviews, but the games look interesting.  There are lots of high stakes limit games, but there is  a 2-5 game that was reported on the internet as very loose.

They even have a pineapple game.
There are some camping areas there too.  So now I have another sort of trip to plan.

The Seneca Niagara casino serves some drinks free.  I had some whiskey.  I had Captain Jack rum. But not much of anything as I was driving.  I wanted Sambuca on the rocks in my coffee, but I would had to pay for the Sambucca.  However,  Irish Cream was free.  It was fine.
Water came in those three swallow bottles, but if I remembered I would ask for two.  Next trip I'll bring my own water bottle and fill it at the cold fountain near the bathroom.  I'll have plenty then and not be thirsty a minute after the waitress leaves.
There was one obnoxious woman named Kathy, drunk, who kept asking the same questions and telling the same stories over and over. She drove us crazy. She was really sort of hitting on a young Pakistani young man who had such a beautiful face.  She would not let him alone, and he was too polite to back her off.  Once she offered him a high five but took his hand when he returned the gesture.  There is always one.
On a prior table where my nephew played, she had driven them crazy as well.  Then she had gone out for a smoke and come back a half hour later to find a broken table and her chips locked up.  Well, she had no idea what to do.  She told us that story at least six times, each time almost outraged that such a thing could happen.
Kathy played very bad poker but caught on the river.

At one point they gave away a jacket per table and then gave away hats to anyone who wanted one.  I was happy to have one.  I could have swapped my card protectors for the jacket the fellow at my table won, but he did not hear me offer and later he only talked to Chris and not to me.

I don't remember hands the way I once could, but here are a few:

3-6   A woman has 10-J and so do I, but mine are suited spades.
The turn card gives us both a straight but two of those cards are spades.
We start to bet and raise. Soon I am sure she has 10-J and I keep tossing out $12 quickly until she gets it and quits.
But no spade comes.  The nine would have given me a straight flush.  As it is, we split the pot.

2-4    My K-K flops K-Q-Q.  I slow play and a fellow bets into me. I call.  I raise the turn and he stays with me and calls my river bet.  Tony, the Polish guy who has taken three pots from me by just a hair, laughs out loud, "I bet you wish that I was in that hand?" I agree.

3-6    I am the blind holding 9-6.  Flop is 6, I bet and am called.  Turn is 9.  I bet and am called.  River is another 9. I bet.  No callers.  Too bad.

2-4    A-A - I did not get this hand very much.  I had only one opponent, but I lost to a flopped set of nines.

So, I'll be back to Niagara Falls casino whenever it works that Elizabeth visits her friend again, and I can go on the same gas.  Next time I'll make a profit.

Niagara Falls - Swiss Cottage Inn

The hardest part of this trip was finding a cheap place to stay.  There are dozens of motels along the old Niagara Falls Boulevard, but the reviews on Trip Advisor are terrible.  Stressed is grime, dirt, unchanged linen, surly desk persons and even bed bugs.  I read one from a woman who ended up with a house infestation.  A young man reported that he and a buddy went to supper and came back to find a naked woman in his room.
At first I thought I would not book ahead.  I thought I'd take the Roomsaver coupon book and go from hotel to hotel and look at rooms.  However, I realized I could be there a day doing that as there are so many places.  I did not want to shop for rooms;  I wanted to play poker.
That was when I found this place. And it was a great find!
The strategy for finding it is worth exploring.
Often on Trip Advisor and other such collections of reviews, the bad reviews outnumber the good.  People with complaints are more likely to want to vent them; while folks who have had a fine time are less moved to report it.
However, bad reviews can be the way to find the better places.
 If the bad reviews stress that the place was small and other minor inconveniences, then that writer must have experienced a clean and bug free room.  When small annoyances are reported, real problems must have been nonexistant.
One other tip was a reviewer who said that the Swiss Cottage Inn was full, so he went to the other spot. The second spot is what he vented about.  That told me he goes often and stays at Swiss Cottage Inn.  He must like the Swiss Cottage Inn, because he is a person who complains when he does not like something.
I found good reviews on different boards.
And finally, I booked on at a great rate and got all three nights for $155 plus tax- f, Sat, Sun.  These were the better rooms too, the slightly larger rooms with a queen bed.  And when I booked there was just one of these rooms left.  That told me it was popular.

I booked knowing I could cancel and kept looking for a few more days, but finally I decided to just go there.
From the first, my conversation with the desk person convinced me it was a good pick.   I told her that the medicine I take reduces my immune system, so a bed bug bite might make me sick.  She said she did not have them and then she said, "I hope you are not bringing them with you."  Her anxiety convinced me.  Many of the reports told of clerks who just brushed off the issue.
My room inspection proved not only the absence of bed bugs, but overall cleanliness.  In Vegas, when I check behind beds and tables, I usually find these places have not been cleaned.  Everything here had been cleaned and the painted walls and ceiling were fresh and without blemish.
The water pressure was good.  Everything drained.  The refrigerator and the microwave worked; I used both for leftovers and to chill my favorite seltzers.  The air conditioner was not noisy.
So the place exceeded my expectations for a small, inexpensive room .  I always wonder why the owners of other places don't avoid all the hassle by keeping their places clean and repaired as this was kept.  These are small motels with small rooms, and they have been around a while.  Some people will be disappointed because they expect the Holiday Inn, but most people know what they are getting and only hope that the owners work hard to make it comfortable and safe.
These owners do that.
While I was there, they were out doing a bit of digging in the daytime to make a mulch area around some trees they had recently planted. One day the trees  will add shade to the pool area.
The weather was so hot I almost swam, but the time in the casino precluded those issues.
I liked it that they had two internet networks, so if one was busy or not strong in signal, I could try the other.  The internet worked great while I was there.  In fact, it was better than it usually is at home.
I also liked the area.  Along this route were plenty of places to eat, including the Mom's place I wrote about.
My bank was there.  A Tops food market  was there if I wanted food for the room.  Everything was handy and the casino was just 4 miles away, an easy journey even early in the morning when I was tired.
Parking was whereever because there were no assigned spots, but I generally parked close to my room.
It was fairly quiet.  If I slept late, I could hear the maids in the late mornings talking or wheeling their carts, or someone would talk outside or on the phone.  Generally that bothers me, but it did not this trip.  I slept fine in the few hours I allowed myself to sleep.

This was my first overnight gambling trip to Niagara Falls.  I'll be back and I'll book this place.

Niagara- Places to eat

As well as getting a good Polish meal on Sunday (see other post) I bought three meals while at the Falls.  One other night the casino fed me beef on weck with macaroni and potato salad. It was for the tournament players, but they invited us afterwards.  It was very good.

Nephew Chris and I went to a pizza place and I used a coupon.  We got a huge pizza with everything they had on it and anchovies on the side, and 50 chicken wings.  Much more than we could ever eat.  Chris took the pizza home, and I have eaten wings three times since then and Elizabeth once.  So I think I got my $40 worth.  It was not a great place to eat.  Outside it was too sunny for the picnic tables so we ate inside and it was hot.  Still, we managed quite well.

When eating solo I sought out a couple places I had read about both on the American side.  Murphy's Pub is in walking distance of the casino.  I liked it.  There were large comfortable chairs and a pleasant young girl as a waitress.  She was a bit confusing or confused but very friendly and helpful.  I asked for napkins and she answered by asking me if I wanted a paper, which I took to be paper napkins but was an offer of the days paper.  Then she gave me directions to find free parking near the Turtle building, even writing them down in detail, but the street she sent me down was closed and there was nothing free I saw around the turtle building.  I had a pannini and coffee.  Both were good, but it all cost me $10.  The coffee I would go back for.  There were three kinds and I had the dark roast.  It was very good.
A better breakfast I had at Mom's Family Restaurant.
Tucked up in plaza not far from my motel, this place would have been invisible to me as a rambling tourist, but I had read very good reviews and with the GPS I found it.  It was just great.

The eggs sort of blend into the table in this shot, but they were there.

The eggs were large eggs and cooked right although just a tad under the hot eggs I like best.  The bacon was crisp as ordered.  The coffee was not as fine as Murphy's, but good standard coffee.  Check out the little on reading the menu.

 In the same plaza was this bargain store I had not heard of before. It is a chain coming to various sites across the country.   I had no time for it this trip.  Maybe next time.

NIagara Falls- Polish Platter

I grew up in a working class neighborhood on Buffalo's East Side.  It was a largely Polish neighborhood, filled with families supported by men who worked in factories that made steel or cars or other commodities.  My father worked at Westinghouse.  It was the kind of neighborhood where at 5PM you could see the men coming home from work swinging there black lunch boxes.  Many took the bus or car pooled so their wives might have the use of the family car during the day.
The houses were for the most part built in the early part of the twentieth century on small lots with small patches of grass in the front and small gardens and garages in the back.  They were well maintained, and the neighbors were friendly.  We were not Polish, but many thought we were because my Dad had played baseball on the Polish International Team, in his youth, before playing professionally with the Bisons and other minor league teams followed with the House of David traveling team.
My old neighborhood has been decimated by unemployment, poverty, dysfunction, drugs.  My old house must have burned down, as the last time I visited my block the lot was leveled.

So some of my visit to Niagara Falls was to drive through similar neighborhoods that have suffered the same sort of terrible decay or threat of decay.   In an odd way, I am comfortable in those neighborhoods.

I read about two places in an old Polish neighborhood where I could get a Polish meal. The first place is an old restaurant called Gadawski's.  I visited this spot a couple times.  It is in a section that may have lost much of its houses and still has some boarded up, next to a closed Polish Catholic church and school that is now preserved as a landmark and could have easily been built in my old neighborhood in Buffalo.,_New_York)

Gadawski's was to elude me this trip.  It was closed on Sunday.

So I went up the street a mile or so to Koban's because on Sundays they served a Polish platter special.  The neighborhood improved dramatically in just this short ride.

At first it looked like this was closed as well. the street was quiet except for some folks cheering the Bills in their game against the New England Patriots at a tavern across the street.  There was no sign on the building indicating hours, and it was very quiet all around.  However, someone was inside as the back kitchen door was open.
I wandered around to the rear of the restaurant.  Here, one of those very narrow roads gave the locals access to their tiny garages and in the one directly behind Koban's  some young men were working on bits of motors spread out in disarray. They told me that they thought the restaurant would open twnety minutes later at 4 PM and by the time I got back around to the front, a waitress, Mary,  was there at the door and she let me in to use the bathroom.
It was a hot day and I asked if I could wait at the bar and drink a beer until the cooking began.  And I was treated like family.
What followed was a long interview with the waitress who like to talk about the history of Koban's and who let me wander in the still deserted restaurant and take some photographs.  It was really a stoke of luck to arrive when I did.

The restaurant had been in the family for 33 years.  Ron Koban had established it.  He worked as a Social Studies teacher and played the organ in the  I visited when it was open and thriving.  Now his daughter and other family members ran the place. Mary, who talked to me, had worked there for 32 years.  She had been friends with one of the daughters since she was 16 and she felt like the restaurant was in her family as well.
She told me there had been a fine wedding there and the couple from Pennsylvania had written it up in praising tones.

Just as it was odd to a reviewer of Gadawski's to find it decorated with fighting Irish memorabilia, it was a surprise to me to see this place decorated with boats.  Ron had a couple sailboats and customers and family started to give him paintings and wall hangings as gifts until the entire restaurant was decorated with them.

 These next four are actually made of small parts of wood, finished and arranged to depict sailboats.  They came from a vendor at the Allentown Arts festival who did this sort of work.

 It was a comfortable bar and the Molson's was a tasty way to wash out the heat of the day.  I had spent a good bit of time walking around the Canadian Falls and the cool was comforting.  I happened to be there just at the end of the exciting Bill's game as the score went from one broken tie to another.  Finally, just as the clock was running down, Fred Jackson was so close to a touchdown that it required a review where it was declared just inches too short.  Buffalo ran the clock down to 3 seconds and 4th down right on the goal line, and then kicked the field goal for the victory of 34-31 over the undefeated Patriots.  I am not a football fan, but this was a classic game and it certainly was cool to be watching it in a Polish bar and in a neighborhood that very much reminded me of my old Buffalo neighborhood.

Finally my meal came, a huge platter with one breaded veal cutlet, one link of kielbasa, one large meatball with cabbage (what they called inside out glomki) ,sauerkraut and a few good chunks of boiled potato.  It was all good.  Salad and a nice slice of rye bread came with it.  All for about $15.

While I ate at the bar, I talked to Ron's grandaughter Christy who was just finishing her studies to become a special education teacher.   We talked about how hard it is now to find a teaching job, of how much being a substitute might set her up in a school, and about whether she was willing to travel for work or needed to stay home and be around the family.

Once the Bill's game was over, folks started to come in for Sunday dinner.  I talked to a fellow poker player at the bar for a while.  And then it was time for me to head back to the casino.

I guess this is the best tavern experience I have had this year.  I'll certainly return if I get the chance to make that trip again.

Niagara Falls- the Falls

Both sides of the Falls are interesting for different reasons.  Most visitors probably prefer the Canadian side.  It is much better developed, and because we can look across at the various sections of the Falls, rather than down at them from above, it is in some ways a better view.
However, I started my looking early one morning, finding a free 2 hour parking spot and an uncrowded park and viewing area.

I walked back to see the rapids.  There is a bridge to Green Island and I walked across, but did not have time to walk all the way to the point of the island where a viewing platform has been erected for better viewing.

Here is the bridge I crossed

It is one of those sad bridges.  It could be just wonderful, but for some reason the original structure was built over with this iron girders that block the view, and then an ugly wire fence in front of them.  So the view was obscured.  There were small peeks through the girders, but they were disappointing.
and taking a photo was impossible.  Here is my attempt with the camera held up above the girder.
I don't know if this is for structure or to stop people from falling off the bridge.  It does get slippery and they have a fine yellow rope strung as a railing, but perhaps they also wanted just to protect people.  I am against all this protection.  Too many fences; too many signs.

Look at how ugly warning signs have made this delightful little stone structure at the beginning of the bridge.

Here is the walkway along the rapids in the park area.  The guard rails are low and decorative.  Those along the Canadian walkway are nice to look at also and there are not  a hundred signs.
Does anyone coming to the Falls not understand that if they drop off the edge of land, they are most likely going to die?
I remember when the Japanese student recently sat up on a railing and for some reason fell.  Some folks then called for more signs.  I call for fewer people sitting on railings.  Rather than a sign, hire a few people to watch the crowds.

Within the park there is a very small garden that was pleasant and even contained blooming flowers this late in the year.

In the garden were some remembrance of Native Americans who were at the Falls long before white eye looked and decided to develop.  It must have been quite a wonder in those olden days.


I had thought of staying on this side as there is a casino there as well, but they only deal no limit poker, so I am happy I did not plan to do that. I'd have had to cross the border every day to play cards.   More development on this side makes it a better vacation destination, but not an easy place to have a quick look at the Falls away from crowds.  
I first drove along the shoreline as long as I was near the water.  Parking is very limited and expensive.  I turned right and wound my way up to Portage Street and was amazed to find some free parking with no limitation except not to park on the grass.  Views along the walkway were limited. Too bad as this would have made a great place to view from up high.  Trees blocked the view. 

 I suspect that no one wanted to clear a view in this area.  Here were hotels that had captured that view, so giving it away would not be profitable.  This is one of the strangest viewing buildings I have ever seen.  I am curious as to what is inside.
 A short distance away I found the for $2.50 each way I could be lowered and brought back up and get an interesting view along the way.  American money was accepted as far and American change given.

 In a sense it seemed a shame to put a building right in the line of sight here.  An underground visitor center might have made more sense. This building looks great from all angles except the incline.
From this angle only this part really reflects the architecture of the fine stone building.
Still it was fine to sit and wait for the incline to start and get an interesting look back behind the Falls while the cool mist coming up from the Falls cooled off the heat of the day.

I made the visitor just in time to practice my  retirement hobby.  In the bathroom I found the most unusual amenity I have ever seen.  Are these common in Canada?  I laughed because it seemed odd to have a place to wash your feet at the Falls.  There is no sandy beach and were you to go swimming, you would not come back to rinse sand off anyway.

 Along the large walkway there were many spectacular views.

 And here are the railings.  I liked these better than the more modern railings on the American side.  I saw one sign warning people not to climb on them.  Some did.  One young fellow was having his photo taken leaning out from the top.  Seemed risky to me.

It was rather cool to see the casino where I played poker across all this water and Falls and all.  

To take this photograph I am standing  in an elevated grassy section on this side of the road designed so that we can see views of the Falls over the heads of the streaming tourists. Here the great inventor Nikola Tesla is celebrated in the Les Drysdal sculpture  He was born in Serbia and some of the reason he is celebrated here is due to the work of Servians throughout Canada,; however Tesla himself was an American, a contemporary and outspoken critic of Thomas Edison. The artist Les Drysdal is Canadian.

He is an interesting character. He is not personable like Edison.  He is much more like the poker players at the no limit table that I wish to avoid.  He speaks critically often of his contemporaries.  Had he and Edison been friends instead of enemies together they might have achieved much more in their lifetimes.

On the other hand, he loved pigeons and so we have that in common.  And he and my favorite author Mark Twain were friends.

I did walk up to the Canadian casino and it was very nice inside.  I'd say it compares to a Vegas strip casino.  But they had not had any limit poker in a long while.

This greets us walking into the casino

And this is quite an interesting fountain that also reflects the development of electricity using water and honors Tesla.

In every way the Canadian side is much more upscale, better attended, much better planned. The American side still suffers from the decay of neighborhoods.   I am certain the reason for this is complicated.  For one thing, in the past the American dollar in comparison to the Canadian dollar had more value.  That has changed.  I think of the American side as similar to the downtown section of Vegas.  That is experiencing renovation in the face of Recession with just a promise of slow recovery in sight.  Perhaps that will happen to the American side of the Falls. 

On my way  back to the Rainbow Bridge I drove down the Falls view road and could see that up in that area parking could be had for $5 day, so I think I'd go up there on a future visit.  
Also I passed through a long street of tourist places where every inch along the street and up two stories was packed with colorful advertisement of decoration. The entire street was a collage of color.  It was really a fun view.
When I come again, I will consider parking on the American side and walking across the bridge, especially in a more busy season.  I have read it is easier to go through customs.  And if I found free all day parking close enough on the American side,  it would be a good bit cheaper and easier to walk it.
If I wanted a long hike, I did see places to park far back  along the rapids on the American side.  It would be a good long hike, but on a nice day it would be a way to make a day along water that is the opposite of serene, seeing first the American rapids and then the Falls from the top, then crossing the bridge for a panoramic view and a walk up tourist avenue.
On the Canadian side there are inexpensive hotels along Lundy's Lane, but I did not drive up there and look because I won't stay on that side when I go.  Now I'll be looking for good deals around Brantford Ontario.  My wife is saying that she and her friend might like to do Toronto and would not need a car to do it, so that would free me up to do a night or two in Brantford.