An Upstate New York Perspective
- by Bruce E. McKinney
Jenny and Bruce McKinney, partners in all things
By Bruce McKinney
In early July  Jenny and I spent eight days traversing New York State's northern tier in search of books, book dealers and information. We flew into Buffalo and home from Albany, spent a day in Canada and two at Worcester, Massachusetts, visited half a dozen dealers and had discussions with four. We saw and learned a great deal. I set out with the supposition that a significant portion of collectible material in the books, manuscripts, maps and ephemera categories is not on line and returned knowing much more about the relationship between the internet and retail business. I'll start by discussing the trip and then offer some perspective.
We arrived in Buffalo from San Francisco on Sunday evening July 9th and made straight for the Hyatt Regency Downtown, chosen because it is located in the old part of the city. We ate at the bar as the restaurant was closed and met Patricia, the first of many very open and helpful locals who were quick to answer questions and offer suggestions. On a bar stool we received an introduction to the city along with a handful of maps and guides.
On Monday we visited Niagara Falls, first the American and then the Canadian side. The American side is for those who wish to see the water disappear and the Canadian side for those who prefer to see it fall. We seemed to be about a century late for the American side that has a persistent worn feeling. This was probably once quite a place but urban renewal that has cleaned up decay in many cities hasn't made much of an impression here and it's an easy decision to cross into Canada for a view from the west. The Canadian side is Manhattan to the American side's Bronx and we may be the only ones in the area who didn't know it because the crowds on the Canadian side are Disneylandesque. This is a theme park and there are even rides. Maid of the Mist ferries carry a continuing stream of ready-to-get-wetters to their Niagara Falls baptism in the primal mist that is always rising from the crashing water. This is North America's Ganges. I make the requisite calculations about surviving the drop and conclude a turtle crossing an expressway at rush hour has a better chance.
Jenny and I have been married for 29 years but this is our first time here together so now we are officially married. Just in case at the gates of heaven they divide new arrivals by "all Niagara Falls visitors step to the right" we are covered. On the other hand my personal theory is that we don't die until we complete all assigned tasks so this visit may be a mistake as it shortens our personal lists of things yet to be done. As of this writing however nothing has changed. We move on looking for lunch time peace among the tourist pandemonium. We find it at Niagara-on-the-Lake, a beautiful old and upscale community a half hour into Canada. It's stunning how different the feeling is. It is clean and orderly. They don't need urban renewal here as the place is fresh and well maintained. We see an European outpost, the Prince of Wales Hotel and sit down to an excellent lunch, proof that Europe is an idea that flourishes three thousand miles west of Paris.