Wednesday, September 11, 2013

What Has Influenced You As An Artist? #4

 The first wildly inaccurate depiction.

Niagara Falls. 
One of the strangest places on earth. Home to bizarre histories involving giant industries, daredevils, suicides, war, disasters, weird structures, toxic waste dumps, manicured gardens, holiday suites, and scores and scores of marriages in suites with heart-shaped hot tubs. I grew up just a forty-minute drive away from this bizarre carnival of artificial and natural sublimity. Where to begin?


a) Old Power Plants.




Old power plants are off-the-scale creepy - not unllike abandoned mental institutions or hospitals. It's not just the Frankenstein's Laboratory associations that wigs you out - I think it has something to do with being close to that much raw power, barely contained. There's a sense of electricity's primeval, fluidic malice at that scale - plus all the rusted bones of dead engineering - something like the uncanny juju now being inherited by viral biotechnology labs. A suprahuman channelling of inhuman, primitive force.

Giant tunnels were built under the cities of Niagara Falls on both sides of the river, to divert water from above the Falls to the great resevoirs that feed the Hydroelectric plants downriver. That alone wigs me out - huge black underground rivers, vast roarings in darkness that will never see the light of day. Future sinkholes.




b) Problematic Industries




The true un-touristy history of the Falls area is one of industrialization. The area has been a magnet for them from the earliest - at first for water power, then cheap electricity.
The ominous shells of factories and their machines dot the area for miles. At first this was primarily visual pollution, but it later became toxicological. Love Canal, anyone?


c) Towers


Photo by Brian LeBlanc

When I first started going to Niagara Falls, there were three main towers there: The Oneida (later, the Maple Leaf Village Tower, then The Casino Niagara Tower), The Minolta (formerly the Seagram and the Panasonic), and The Skylon. They were all rivalrous, and in dire competition with each other. The brochures printed heights that were measured from not just the base of the tower, but eventually from the top of the Niagara River (adding an extra one hundred and fifty feet!), and even from the bottom of the river! By the time I lost interest, I think they were measuring from sea level. I was shocked to find this behaviour in the gay community, as well, many years later.
The towers fascinated me, but parents would never take me up them, "Too expensive!", they declared, as a threw a sulking fit. Much later I would find out what the term 'Tourist Trap' meant, but until those wild later years, I had to admire them from a non-ticketed distance. The Seagram tower had a great Belgian Waffle Stand at the base, which did soothe one.
The skyline has filled in now on the Canadian side, with the great late hotel boom going on. Scientists were surprised to find that this three-hundred to five-hundred foot tall, Falls-diminishing wall of greed has actually engendered wind resistance near the Falls themselves, sucking spray towards the Canadian side, in a giant man-made vortice.








With not a pyroclastic flow, but merely the Waltzing Waters at it's base.

d) Is for Death!



Photo from Edsen Breyer's Postcard Museum

Suicides, accidents, war and bad engineering and daredevilry - all have taken their toll at the Falls. Some of the deaths were from badly considered social merriment,too.
The Niagara River used to freeze over in the winter, and although the Falls fell onward and continuously, people used to venture out on the (mostly) horizontal parts to toboggan, play, socialize and cross the river. Unfortunately the ice used to crack, as ice on top of a vast, powerful, swirling deep river shot through with terrible currents is wont to do.
On February 4th, 1912, people were out enjoying the Ice Bridge, when it began to crack. Bob Kostoff reported, "Vendors and tourists alike made a mad dash for shore when they heard the thunderous crunching of the ice and felt the movement." In the aftermath, three people were killed.
In 1938, Ice tore the Honeymoon Bridge from it's foundations:
"The Falls View Bridge, popularly known as the Honeymoon Bridge, was built 500 feet north of the America Falls by the Pencoyd Bridge Company of Philadelphia...Subject to high winds, many cars and pedestrians were blown off the Honeymoon Bridge. A motorcyclist applied his brakes when the bridge was wet; he unfortunately plunged to his death over the side of the bridge.
On January 23, 1938, Lake Erie dumped an enormous amount of ice down the falls. The force of the ice was great enough this time to cause severe structural damage. The bridge was closed because of the inevitable collapse. At 4:20 PM on January 27, 1938, the Falls View Bridge, Honeymoon Bridge, collapsed forming a “W” shape on top of the ice." It soon sank to the bottom. 

Some Honeymoon!




e) Clifton Hill.Wax Museums. The Space Spiral. Head Shops. The Blondin Statue. Overpriced food. Tourists. Sore legs.


f)The Spanish Aero Car.

AIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!


g) Laura Secord

Well-known C.E.O of Canada's first chain of Candy Stores. In the war of 1812, fearing a hostile takeover by the Yankees, she braved the woods in the dead of night to alert investors to the immediate necessity of inflationary stock buying, thus avoiding the absorption of her company into competitive conglomerates from the south. She cemented her position as a fearsome confection inventress, patenter and magnate by systematically blackmailing, then murdering opposition. This culminated in the famous Table Rock Massacre of 1825 which saw eight rival candy-makers blindfolded, hog-tied and dropped into the raging Niagara River under her direct aegis.By 1827, she ran a small gulag of child-labour fueled stone factories under the guise of orphanges, the profits from which she utilized to strike down the primitive labour movement in Upper Canada. Taking advantage of the Fall's shadier side, and it's easily corruptible police force, she used a small army of local muscle to kidnap children from local tourist traps, enslaving them into a harsh lifetime of gruelling treat-making.When enough children could not be found locally, she was known to set out herself, in the dark of night, in her terrible flying steam-powered company 'Night Car' which allowed her to hover outside children's bedroom windows and seize them with mechanical claws.Rumours of her evil spread, though nothing could be proved. It took a petty shoplifting charge at a local butcher shop to finally bring her to court.Brought to trial and found guilty, she endured imprisononment from 1836-1838 in nearby York. She managed to avoid her full sentence through both publicly pious behaviour and carnally seducing Colonel Brock, after flashing him her tits through a barred window. She returned to her still-productive empire, gradually replacing her child army with uneducated migrants to the new world, keeping several exotic lesbian mistresses at a time, until her death in 1868.

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