(or, ‘Niagara in October,’ 1999)
Back in the '90s, I traveled a lot by myself, it made life easier, no contemplation on what side of the clouds I needed to stand on to please the woman or whomever I may have been with. I mean I had many travel companions in my life, nothing intended bad to say about them, but there has only been two people on this earth I can travel with without friction, and no need to mention them here, they're not in this story, although at the end I may.
Niagara, autumn in Niagara, I thought about that before I went there, laid down on my bed while the morning sun crept through my window, saw the autumn leaves in Minnesota floating off the trees onto the ground in my backyard on Albemarle Street, thin, and tanned they were, as if in a stage of old age, so they seemed.
I am always surprised to see autumn, but this autumn I told myself would be nice to fly up to Buffalo, New York, and rent a car, drive from there to Niagara, and see the falls. I was in Buffalo once, back in '72, when I went for my second hitch in the United States Army. I suppose you could say, I was mentally already established in Army life, I was in Erie at the time, and got bored with my job, had been to the war in Vietnam, in '71, and now here I was in Erie, Pennsovainia, in '73, and back in the Army in '74. Missed the sites—Niagara Falls, although I would not spend any time in Buffalo anyhow, on this forth coming trip, I would simply rent the car I was talking about renting, and I'd drive right on through to Niagara.
I was very devout in those days to my mission, like an old soldier, if I decided to go to a place, see a certain thing, that was that, and thereafter, who cares, anything goes.
I liked traveling on the moment, thus, I grabbed some money, this one weekend, a four day weekend, holiday, my holiday, and became what my friend Jack Kerouac called part of "The Dharma Bums" understanding I would be by myself.
I talked not much more than the average person to myself on these one man excursions, and always told myself: "Dennis you can meet—if you want to meet someone: anyone, anyplace, at anytime, anywhere," and how true that belief was, and it always worked, if I wanted to talk, I simple talked, if wanted to be with someone, it was not hard to arrange—the world is split in half, that is to say, there are pert near as many women on earth as men, if I wanted a girlfriend for the night, it usually wasn't a problem either: although in 1999, those were not the things I was thinking of, but I knew it from prior experiences, plus wherever I went, someone would usually tell me: "If you're looking for a good time, I suggest you go here... (or there)."
I learned one main thing in life, and I kept it deep in my soul, that being: if you count or wait for someone else to travel with you, you may never go, and if you count on them on a trip to make you happy, you will be disappointed, thus, it is better to travel alone, than to travel with someone who is going to cut the guts out of your trip. And if I could, I would, amplify that to the height of the Empire State Building.
Well, I travel light, real light, a small suitcase, and what did not fit in it, that I wanted, I purchased when I got to my destination, I had to carry the suitcase onto the plane, if not it didn't come alone with me, that was a rule I made for myself. Too much waiting in the lines to pick you luggage, I could be at the hotel by that time, too much carrying and tipping, and so forth, not worth the effort. By the time one got to the hotel going through all this, from past experiences, I was tired; too warn out to even take a shower, a day of the trip missed, gone, and you pay for it—what's it worth?
So here I was, at Niagara Falls, in October, my birth month: I bade farewell to Minnesota, and all the little bums back there, and I washed my face, on a freshly looking towel in my room, and I was out walking alongside Niagara Falls, picking up the autumn leaves along its stream that led to the falls, they looked like firewood, heated to a bright red-hot and yellow, orange, cheese like color. Most pleasant to the eyes, I told myself.
"What is going to happen to this leaf?" I asked myself, as I picked it up, along with a few large ones; inside their veins was a splendorous twilight of colors, of God's personal touch. Happy I was, and no one to say: you silly boy. No, I was sober, or drunk on life, that's the way to live; all alone and free in the soft leaves of autumn.
Oh, the only other two people I could have enjoyed Niagara with, would have been my mother, and she was back home, and my wife Rosa, whom I would not meet until my next trip, which would be to Peru, in December of 1999, of that same year, nine weeks away.
Note: Written while in Lima, Peru, 5-29-2008. Written with the intentions to let the reader know that traveling can be as much fun, if not more, alone, than with someone needy, it is of course a matter of choice, but one needs to count the cost, for when you take someone with you, with different expectations, disappointment is usually not far away; reedited 2-2011.