The Big Question

Old industry ruins in Niagara Falls
Old industry ruins in Niagara Falls

We spent the night in Buffalo after spending most of the day in the new Albright Knox. We stopped by Big Ditch after the gallery and then had dinner on the rooftop of an Italian place downtown. We didn’t have to checkout til eleven so we took a walk up to Allentown and wandered around. Buffalo is such a cool city. It’s bigger than Rochester, at least it used to be, and it has more history. We walked by the Buffalo Club. The sign out front said Millard Fillmore was president before becoming President and Glover Cleveland was a member. And when President McKinley was assassinated (in Buffalo) the club was used as headquarters by his cabinet and Vice President Theodore Roosevelt.

We checked out and drove across Grand Island to where my uncle lives in Niagara Falls. He’s 96, living alone in his house and still driving. My cousin lives next door and was working from home that day so all met for lunch. My uncle has lived in Niagara Falls his whole life. He show me a picture of his old girlfriend and told me she had recently died.

I showed him the picture above that I had taken just a few blocks from his house and I asked what the industry was that used to be there. It attracted our attention because their railroad track lining both sides of the street. He struggled to recognize the place. My cousin couldn’t either. We told them what route we had taken and they put it together. There are industrial leftovers scattered all through this area.

I had come prepared to ask the big question. I had asked my father the question shortly before he passed and his response stuck with me. “Would you say that in your lifetime things are getting better or worse?” My uncle paused for quite a while before saying he was worried that people want to bring the government down. So I rephrased my question. “Would say in general that the world is better place today than it was when you were born?” His response was very pragmatic. “For some people it is a lot better. For many it is worse. This area was hit particularly hard when the manufacturing industries moved out.”

My father, an engineer for Kodak, was always excited about the next big thing. He jumped onto computers before we did and welcomed every new innovation. When I asked him this question he said the world was a better place now but then he started reminiscing about how when he was growing up the parish priest knew what every kid was up to. He kept you in line and there is nothing like that anymore. If I let him go on I’m pretty sure he would have come down on the side of “this place is going down the tubes.”

Everybody thinks the music from their time was better than it is now but I guess I always assumed that the advance of civilization was moving in a positive direction. I assumed it and now I’m looking for proof. I wondering where I got this notion in the first place.

1 Comment

One Reply to “The Big Question”

  1. Great post/great question. I read someone recently who said human beings tended to wait until the pain was great before changing tacks. But once they decided to change, they got real inventive fast. Which I found cheering vis a vis the state of the world. Also, one year at the UN school our general assembly topic was war and the next year it was overpopulation. The question 🙋‍♂️ of how to handle overpopulation seemed somewhat rhetorical. 😞 Sadly. Bad planning on that one UN School.

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