A Travellerspoint blog


Who Says Buffalos can't fly...

Wings, Baby!

sunny 6 °C

On a Friday night back in 1964, a gang of friends arrived at the Anchor Bar at 1047 Main Street in Buffalo, New York. The gang was friends of the owners, and they were hungry. Dominic Bellissimo, the owner, asked his mother Teressa to fix them something to snack on. Teressa was about to make some chicken stock, and had a plate of chicken wings she was about to toss into the pot. Instead, she threw the wings into the fryer, and then put some hot sauce on the wings to flavour them. The group agreed the wings were very good, and soon the word spread about the new snack.

Dominic and Teressa had invented the Buffalo wing.


After leaving Belize behind, I headed up to Toronto to visit family and friends. This included a impromptu bachelor party in Niagara Falls, Ontario - site of casinos, bars and ... ummm... other things that men might do on a bachelor night.

The next day, after a good nights rest at the Sheraton On The Falls hotel, we decided to head over to Buffalo to get some of the Anchor Bar's Buffalo wings.

The Anchor Bar is now famous for its wings, and the place is often jammed. We arrived just before the restaurant opened, and there was a 30 person line up. The line moved quickly, though, and we were soon inside and ordering a bucket and a double order of wings.


It was my first time at the Anchor Bar, and I must say it was excellent. The food over here in London is very good, but there are a few foodie things that I miss from back in North America - Harvey's Hamburgers, Swiss Chalet chicken sauce and Buffalo wings. There are chicken wings available here in London, but mostly they are Chinese golden fried style, rather than Buffalo style. There are a few American chain restaurants that make Buffalo wings, but they aren't as good as they could be.

When heading to Toronto, I knew once of the things I wanted to get was Buffalo wings. And to get them at the Anchor Bar was an extra special treat.


Wings, Baby!

Posted by GregW 07:14 Archived in USA Tagged food Comments (0)

Vengeful Birds, or Why I Duck a Lot

Just more proof from the good researchers that I am not crazy.

sunny 23 °C
View Work Trips 1997 - 2004 on GregW's travel map.

Sometime in 2001, when I was working in San Antonio, Texas, I was viciously attacked on the streets. It was around 6:30 in the evening. After finishing work, I had head back to my hotel, had a quick shower. I was feeling particularly dapper that evening, so I put on a nice collared shirt of a light material, a pair of light khaki trousers and I slicked my hair back with a generous dab of hair gel.

Around 6:30 I headed out to go and get some dinner. I left my hotel, the Westin on West Market Street, and was heading east on Market when the first attack happened. I didn't see it coming. But suddenly, *SWOOSH*, something had grazed the top of my head.

I looked up to see a medium-sized bird swooping up into the air. It landed on a lamp post, looked down at me and squawked twice. "Did that bird just dive bomb me?" I asked myself, looking around quizzically. Everyone else on the street went about their business, oblivious to what had just happened. I looked back up at the lamp post. The bird looked down and squawked again.

I continued on my way. About 20 feet later, the damn bird came swooping down again and dragged his claws across the top of my head. Luckily back then (almost eight years ago now), I had a more robust head of hair, and the birds tiny (but no doubt razor sharp) claws failed to cut my skin.

The bird again flew up into the air and found a perch, where it looked down at me and screeched loudly. I looked at a couple of passerbys. "Did you see that," I asked. "That bird just attacked me, AGAIN. That bird is stalking me!" They nodded politely with strained smiles on their faces, then quickly looked away and hurried down the street.

I started to quicken my pace down the street, looking over my shoulder. The bird launched another sortie. I ducked, my hands above my head swinging wildly as the bird flew down, and buzzed above my head. "Damn bird, leave me alone," I shouted. A couple walking towards me on the sidewalk, quickly cast their eyes down and crossed the street. "That bird is attacking me, REPEATEDLY!" I shouted after them by way of an explanation.

I broke into a run, sprinting down Market Street. The bird came after me again, flying so close to my head that the combed-back hair on my head was brushed up and forwards over my forehead. I turned the corner and sprinted up Presa Street, screaming "leave me alone, stupid bird!" I think a woman might have shrieked in horror and children clung wide-eyed to their mothers' legs, but I was for the most part keeping my head down in an all-out run up the street.

The bird, wings spread and talons pointed menacingly forward, made another plunge at the soft skin my scalp. I stumbled and fell onto one knee. "Please stop! Please stop!" I pleaded with a voice-cracking yelp. The bird flew up and perched on a lamp post, I broke into a run across the street, looking over my shoulder.

I stumbled on the curb, and staggered helpless into the wall of the building across from me. I looked back. The bird remained perched atop the lamp post. He looked at me, and squawked triumphantly. I just stared at my nemesis, chest heaving, face streaked with sweat, shirt plastered to my back and a dirty scuff mark on my left knee.

"What do you want? Why are you doing this to me?" I cried out. A man and his girlfriend who had been walking towards me turned and headed the other way.

The bird had no answer except for "Caaawww!"

I retreated, slowly, inching my way along the wall, keeping my front turned towards the bird, my eyes on him. He made no more moves, just silently watched me from his perch on the lamp post high above the street. I reached Commerce Street, and broke into a run, not stopping until I was inside the air conditioned safety of the Rivercenter Mall.

I bring this story up today, because I saw on the News this morning that apparently birds single people out for attack. According to research done on mockingbirds by the University of Florida, "Research has shown that mockingbirds can remember the faces of people who venture too close to their nests and single them out for attack. Targeted individuals are dive-bombed and even have their heads grazed by the screeching birds, while nearby onlookers are left alone."

This is good news for me, because I think most people think I am crazy when I mention this story. Now I can point to this story and say, "see, the bird did stalk me!" I don't remember going close to the birds nest, but I might have accidentally. At the time, I was inclined to think that it had a problem with my hair gel. I stopped using that brand right after, and since then have kept my hair short and tried to use only lightly scented products on my hair, in case the more robust scents drive birds into a frenzy.

Of course, the story doesn't explain why it is since that time I have been repeatedly stalked by birds. I haven't been so blatantly attacked since that day in San Antonio, but often pigeons and other foul winged things seem to be flying directly for me. I often find myself having to duck and start moving in a (hopefully) defensive zig-zag pattern. Others I am with often point to the fact that pigeons just in general like to fly low to the ground and aren't necessarily targeting me, but I think they are wrong. I'm pretty sure the birds still have it out for me. I'm am sure that the birds have not forgiven me yet.

I know, I know. Know you think I'm crazy again. I think I need to contact those researchers in Florida and get them to do a follow up study on how a mockingbird in Texas will communicate transcontinentally to birds in England to continue to carry out his mission. I'm pretty sure they'll find that's true too!

Posted by GregW 00:55 Archived in USA Tagged health_and_medicine Comments (0)

My Shirt is Pucked.

Goodbye to a favourite travel souvenir

View Work Trips 1997 - 2004 & Mexico February 2001 on GregW's travel map.

One week ago, I was putting on a t-shirt to go to bed, and heard the sound of ripping. I pulled the shirt off, and saw that the small tear on the back had torn across the entire shirt.

"Damn," I said. "That was my favourite t-shirt."

Not only was it comfortable, and had a big hockey puck on the back, but it was one of my favourite travel souvenirs.


I don't often bother with souvenirs, and very rarely come back with anything I have purchased. Occasionally, though, there is something that captures the essence of my travels. Generally, it is something that I had with me throughout my travels rather than something that I picked up. When those things break or wear out, they desire a more fitting send-off than just being thrown out with the day's trash. For example the poem to my broken roller bag or a post about my shoes.

I never travelled much before I headed down to Denver in 2000 for work. I'd been to a few places in Canada and the USA, but really didn't understand the big deal about travelling, or living abroad. I had liked Toronto, and didn't see much point in leaving it.

1999 through the mid-part of 2001 wasn't a great couple of years for me, though, and I had frankly become quite depressed living in Toronto. As I talked about in a blog entry on New Jersey from 2006, Denver seemed fresh and new...

I had just left a job that I didn’t like so much that I was pretty sure it was making my physically ill. My stress level certainly was quite high. I was still dealing with the death of my mother less than a year earlier, and my family was in transition as they learnt to interact in “the new normal.” I was out of shape. I was having trouble with relationships – both with women (which hasn’t changed) and also with my friends. I was angry a lot of the time.

All very different problems, but all connected in a very important way. They all took place in Toronto. The air was heavy with the ghosts of my recent past. I felt trapped in the city. I felt like I wanted to change, that I wanted to be a different person than I was, but it was too hard. It’s much easier to just fall into familiar roles when confronted with familiar people and places then it is to try and change. It’s too confusing for the people you deal with and it’s too confusing for you.

I was asked to get on a plane and fly to Denver for a short project. I stepped off that plane and felt like a heavy weight was lifted off my shoulders. Denver was geographically and architectural different than Toronto, with it’s mountain backdrop, lack of significant bodies of water, wide streets and shining sunshine. Nothing looked the same, and I didn’t know a soul. I was free to act however I wanted to, not to just fall into the familiar roles of the past. It allowed me to re-invent myself completely.

Denver, sunny and warm in the summer, was the perfect remedy for my aliment. Sometimes, as they say, a change is as good a rest. I would argue that a change could be better than rest. Not only was it just that Denver was new to me, it was also just new in general. That's not to say that Denver doesn't have much in the way of history, because it does, but architecturally most of it is recently built, or at least recently renovated.

I lived in the area called LoDo (lower downtown), which was a mix of new buildings and renovated warehouses. I had an apartment that looked west, over Mile High stadium and at the Rocky Mountains, which shone bright in the morning as they reflected the rising sun, and provided a dark, jagged-toothed grin as the sun set in the evening.

Two blocks from my apartment, in one of those reclaimed warehouses, was a sports bar called the Sports Column. I would usually find my way down there a couple times a week where I would pull up a stool at the bar, watch baseball, football (American, of course) or hockey on the big screens while eating they really tasty chicken wings. It was the start of what would become my bizarre focus on Superbowls Around the World and was the first bar that I had that felt like a "local" to me.

I'm not alone in this feeling, by the way. The Sports Column has been named as one of the best sports bars in America numerous times, including being one of the top 10 Baseball Bar & Grills (as per ESPN.com) and one of the top 20 Sports Bars In America by Sports Illustrated Magazine.

The t-shirt I won one night during a hockey broadcast, exactly how or why I no longer remember, but I wore it proudly. Over the years, as it ripped and tore, it was relegated to the being worn only to bed and on lazy days hanging around watching TV, until its garment-ending tear that occurred last Sunday.

It made me sad, not because I don't have a number of other partially moth-eaten t-shirts to take its place, but rather because it was always a reminder of the start of what would become my desire to live abroad.


I'm sad to see the t-shirt be turned into rags, but at least it got to live long enough to see me fulfil the dream to live abroad that was incubated into life in Denver.

...And, of course, all that means is that some point in the future, I will have to make sure to make it back to Denver to get a new t-shirt from one of the best sports bars in America. Save a seat at the bar, flip to the Colorado Avs' game on the big screen and put in an order of hot wings for me.

I'll be there... eventually.

Posted by GregW 04:00 Archived in USA Tagged shopping Comments (0)

The End of My Forty Days In the Desert (more or less)

Reflections on my last days in Phoenix, Arizona, as it slides out of view from the porthole of an Air Canada Airbus 321.

overcast 15 °C
View Phoenix Rising From The Flame on GregW's travel map.

With my trip to the ghost town of Swansea behind me, I only had four days left in Phoenix. Three and a half, really, as my flight on December 24th was leaving at 1 PM. Not much occurred, as my Sunday was spent shopping for Christmas presents, flat and unbreakable, to pack in my luggage and take home to Toronto, and Monday through Wednesday was spent completing any and every thing that needed to get done at work.

With that, however, I have a few reflections on my time here in the desert.


Another Kind of Ghost Town

The office I am working in is surrounded by desert. There are two large buildings and a third under construction, a parking lot for all the workers' cars, and then desert in all directions. I was on the phone with my father last week, sitting in my car after a long day at work, and a coyote came strolling into the parking lot, poking around for any scraps left from the careless humans. I chatted with my father and watched as the coyote weaved in and out of the fence and sniffed at the curb.


It's not all planned to be wilderness forever, though. In fact, a lot of it was planned to be developed in the next few years. However, with the economy hitting a wall, a lot of those developments have been put on hold, awaiting an upturn. On my way to work in the morning, I pass numerous signs advertising homes for sale, with nothing but vacant desert, or perhaps a few phantom roads marking them.


With the economy the way it is now, though, there is no guarantee that any of these developments will ever happen. Like Swansea disappeared with the great depression, so to these planned communities may never exist because of a downturn in the economy and a rethinking of building in a waterless desert at a time when fresh water becomes harder to get.

It's a different kind of ghost town, the one that never gets built. Planned, but never executed desert communities, swept over by the same sand that took Swansea.


Of course, we are all probably living in ghost towns. Unless you happen to live in Jericho in the West Bank, or one of the similarly old cities in the middle east, most of us are living in a place that is relatively new. And there are a lot more places that have disappeared off the map than are still on it.

My house in London is situation in a reclaimed marsh in a time or rising sea levels. That's not exactly a recipe for longevity. I was watching a TV show on the Travel Channel last week that said Niagara Falls would soon (i.e. within a period of time measured in thousands, not millions of years) disappear completely due to rising land mass at it's downstream end. With it, who knows what will happen to any of the Great Lakes cities - Toronto, Buffalo, Cleveland or Chicago. Of course, some of those could disappear much sooner - victims of offshoring of jobs - both manufacturing and white collar. The job I do, as a business analyst, seemed a secure choice to go into once all the programmer jobs disappeared overseas back in the late 90s. Now, not so much. Chinese and Indian Business Analysts are on the verge of being able to do what I do at a fraction of the price. Time for me to start looking for a new path, perhaps.

Who can say what the future holds. Hopefully if it is disaster, it at least holds off until we've all had a chance to live our lives. Sorry to all of you in the future reading this who may have suffered from my wish for things to hold off until I was dead and you were living, but the late 1900s / early 2000s were nothing if not a time for selfishness.


Feeding the Multitude: Fish In the Desert

Speaking of selfishness, my last night in Phoenix I went to a really good Sushi restaurant called Ra. As one might imagine, there isn't much of a fishing industry in Phoenix, so the fish is all flown in from around the globe that day to be cut up into thin, pricey slices just for my benefit that evening. I'd feel a lot worse about it if the Sushi hadn't tasted so good.

Of course, if you've ever eaten... well, really anything that wasn't slaughtered in the room next to the kitchen in which your meal was prepared, you have probably had the same experience. It is just that it is so obvious when you are eating fish in the desert that everything is flown in from far away. Our greenhouse gas meal. We got free water too, which there isn't much of in the desert either.


It was, though, really good fish.


Forty Days in the Desert... Okay, Thirty-Eight Days... But that is close

I bid adieu to the South-West.


On Wednesday, December 24th at 1:50 pm on a sunny day in Phoenix, my flight to Toronto left fifty minutes delayed thanks to weather in everywhere else in North America other than Phoenix. In fact, for the first time in 40-something years, every area in Canada had a white Christmas. That did, however, mean lengthy (i.e. days) delays, especially for those out west. Vancouver and snow do not mix well.

With my flight living the end of the runway in Phoenix and launching out into the blue skies, my 38 days in the desert ends. I may be back, though it seems doubtful. However, you never can tell with the economy nowadays. Anything past January 2nd at this point is unclear, and really even that isn't set in stone, as I might try and travel somewhere over the New Year's period. Cross my fingers for good last minute deals on hotels, train tickets and/or flights!

It has been an interesting five-and-a-half weeks for me out in Phoenix. I made a little coin, replenished the bank account, and rebuilt a little bit of my bruised ego (at least when it comes to thinking people don't want me to work for them). I had some excellent adventures and did some great hiking in Sedona, the Grand Canyon, Tombstone, Phoenix and Swansea. I even got to drive across London Bridge.

Mostly, though, I learnt about the desert, and gained an appreciation for why people come here. It is a beautiful place, but also a deadly place.


While I always had a good supply of water, granola bars and never was really too far away from my car, it is easy to see how, without food or water (especially water), one could succumb to elements quickly. The desert is definitely a place to respect, even when going out for a day hike. For that reason, it is a humbling place. Much like being out in the brutal cold of winter, being out in the desert makes you realize how frail you, as a human being, are. It reminds us, and connects us to our humanity, and the fragility of that state.


That being said, my 38 days in the desert has taught me one thing for sure. I really want to make my time in the U.K. work. I want to live abroad - truly abroad - and I really want to see this through to some sort of logically conclusion.

So, prepare yourself for more blog entires from the east-side of the Atlantic.. After a short stint at home in Toronto, I'll be at home in London, and hopefully back to immersing myself into a life European.

Posted by GregW 14:54 Archived in USA Tagged business_travel Comments (0)

Will You Still Love Me Once the Copper Is Gone?

Walking through the ghostly remains of the abandoned town of Swansea, Arizona

sunny 12 °C
View Phoenix Rising From The Flame on GregW's travel map.

In the late 1800s, some prospectors working in western Arizona came across a silver deposit. They worked the land until the silver was gone, and then abandoned it, leaving a "worthless" deposit of copper. As the century turned, copper became more valuable and T.J. Carrigan, noticing the nearby railway line, bought up the claims to the land and launched the Clara Consolidated Gold and Copper Mining. Soon after copper mining and milling was taking place in this little piece of desert. They named the place after the town in England where most of the copper ended up, Swansea.


The town carried on successfully for years, until The Great Depression of the 1930s. With the declining copper market, the fortunes of Swansea faded and by the late 1940s the town was completely abandoned.


Today, Swansea is mostly a crumbling collection of buildings in the desert, about 4 hours from Phoenix, or an hour north-west of Bouse, Arizona, along a gravel road that despite the warning sign, isn't too bad to drive, assuming it is dry.


Despite having a population of almost 1,000 people, there is little left but flat desert. The huge piles of slag that still exist from the mining operation are the most lasting monument to the town of Swansea.


Anything made of brick and cement is crumbling, anything made of metal is rusting.




In 1908 the railway came to town. Today, you can still see the railway beds, the ties mostly buried under the sand and rock. The station house is falling down, today supported by trusses made of 2x4s so they don't fall over on the few folks hiking around the town.




The worker's cottages were shocking small and close together, and that's coming from a guy who is now living in Europe!




As you can see from the last photo, someone is working on restoring the worker's cottages. They have applied a new layer of stucco on the buildings and are putting up a corrugated tin roof. Why, of all the buildings, these are being restored, I don't know. They are some of the few buildings on the site now that have more than just the foundation and a few feet of half-ruined walls standing.



Hundreds of people lived here for a period of 50 years. Today, nothing. A ghost town, they call it. Abandoned by living humans, but still haunted by the memories of its past inhabitants. Perhaps haunted by more than just memories.


...wait, did you hear something?


The crumbling state of Swansea is a reminder that you can try and keep it at bay through organization and maintenance, but eventually time and the desert will intrude.



Posted by GregW 17:00 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 60) Page [1] 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 .. » Next