The Hook is a real bellman at a busy hotel in Niagara Falls. He will take us behind the scenes regularly with tales of some of the millions of visitors to the city. The stories are true. He couldn’t possibly make this stuff up.
THE HOOK/Special to Bullet News
1. If I ever develop difficulty urinating, the greatest source of inspiration is only a few minutes away… Trust me on this: 50 per cent of everyone reading this will have to visit the bathroom soon, guaranteed.
2. A stranger’s eyes will light up when I tell them where I live. It’s true, people love this city. For some, it inspires images of tacky tourist traps and rundown “Mom and Pop” restaurants, while others recall a treasured childhood memory of a family trip many years ago. Either way, mention Niagara Falls to someone and they’ll smile. I love that.
3. My geographic location rocks. My base of operations is an hour-and-a-half away from Toronto, forty-five minutes from Hamilton and less than an hour from Buffalo. We’re close enough to the action to make the trip worthwhile and far enough away to avoid the hustle and bustle of the “Big City” – and all its negative aspects. Like crime and rancid street meat. By street meat, I mean sidewalk vendors selling edible wares of questionable quality, of course, not young ladies standing on corners shouting “Hey, honey, you want a date?” to unsuspecting tourists. And yes, I said “hustle and bustle.”Live with it.
4. This city has begun to come into its own. We’re attracting Grade-A talent and events these days. Red Bull Crashed Ice. Nelly Furtado. Skywalker Jay Cochrane (I refuse to mention that other guy who gets enough press on his own, thank you.) And it occurs to me that referring to Cochrane as a Skywalker rather than a sky walker, may earn me the wrath of Disney. To which I say bring it on, Mouseketeers…
5. I met my wife here. What else do I have to say?
6. We have our own Comic Con. Finally! The Soup Nazi. Flash Gordon. You can’t beat fandom, in all its pop culture glory. Comic book conventions attract more than the usual suspects these days (although you’ll still be able to spot those souls who are having trouble adjusting to the harsh light of day beyond their parents’ basement) and now my hometown has entered the big leagues. Good work, Paul Tappay and Christopher Dabrowski. You’re doing the Lord’s work, boys…
7. Both the famous – and infamous – visit this city on a regular basis. Self-proclaimed bad girl pop singer Pink. Sly Stallone. Al Pacino. O.J. Simpson. We get the best and worst pop culture has to offer. I wake up every day knowing that this may be the day I come to work and see Gene Simmons’ tour bus on the valet deck or maybe I’ll walk by Pink as she struts down the hall in all her rock star glory. And I have.
8. There is never a dull moment living here. Ever. Even the quiet days hold the promise of encounters with: Hookers who prefer to be called “escorts specializing in the girlfriend experience.” Rugrats hopped up on sugar and Red Bull who literally bounce off walls. Out of control hockey dads who reek of beer and unrealized ambition. Hordes of cougars hopped up on Fifty Shades of Grey.
9. You can breathe the air and green grass is plentiful. I love big cities, but industrial cores wreak havoc with ecosystems. And an overabundance of housing developments mean you have as much chance of spotting lush green fields as you do of spotting Kim Kardashian and Kanye West at parenting classes… You can take a deep breath in my hometown without having to suppress the urge to vomit and we have a governing body that protects our green spaces with a military-like fervor.
10. Could I be The Hook anywhere else? Niagara Falls has provided me with love, a family, kick-ass friends – real and virtual – and above all, living here has allowed me to cut loose creatively.
I can’t comment on other cities, but this one plays host to some of the most fascinating individuals to ever lay their dysfunctional heads on over-priced hotel pillows. We get them all: the gamblers, the forbidden lovers, the corporate moguls and drones. Hockey families and Cheer clans gather here and spread their unique energies across our lands. We’re on the bucket list of those who find their time on this earth cut short by mortal frailties.
I’ve met them all and I could spend every waking moment of whatever remains of my life documenting these encounters and still never scratch the surface. When my parents’ marriage crumbled in 1982 and my mother packed us up and moved us out here, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I was a quiet, withdrawn kid whose world had been reduced to ash, and all I wanted to do was bury my nose in comic books and forget the outside world ever existed.
But this place drew me out of my shell. I got on my bike early one morning and I didn’t return until supper – if you were a parent, you could allow your kids to do that in those days and be assured they’d actually return. And in the hours in-between? I rode to one end of the city and back. I journeyed to one of God’s most magnificent creations, Niagara-on-the-Lake. I was an explorer.
I was anything I wanted to be.
I knew I was finally home.
The Hook’s first book (Yes, rhyming is awesome!) is available for the Kindle or in print at amazon.com or amazon.ca. You’ll also find it at Pulp Comics, 4413 Queen St., Niagara Falls. Its a great read, even if you’re sober.