Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Down time #2: Into the woods and on the waterfront

In our last episode, our humble narrator found himself with a rare day off and a burning desire to freeze his ass off in the wilderness, or a reasonable equivalent thereof, so he set off for Woodlawn Beach and the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens, both located in or near Lackawanna, N.Y., not far from the ruins of Bethlehem Steel and the shores of Lake Erie. We join him at the precise moment when any sane person would have called it a day. But not our hero!

The Botanical Gardens closed at 4, and it would still be light out for almost two more hours (thank you, sun-orbiting planet) so I decided to advance to Plan C and check out Tifft Nature Preserve on the way home. There's a good chance I visited Tifft at some point more than 20 years ago, but the memory is so fuzzy as to be nearly nonexistent. Here was a golden opportunity to take in more chilly scenes of winter:

Here, too, was precisely the kind of place I'd been looking for since I took a trip to the Muir Woods outside San Francisco back in the early 1980s: somewhere relatively near my home with manageable trails suitable for a non-hiker like me to explore on a whim. But not today: By this point, the temperature was dropping into the teens, and the thin gloves I was wearing did little to shield my shutter-clicking fingers from the bitter cold. I walked just far enough along the nearest muddy path to conclude this would be much more fun in warmer weather, then get nervous that one or more heavy gates would be locked before I could escape. Besides, I wasn't really feeling up to the challenge of subsisting on nuts and berries overnight. Even so, I appreciated yet another opportunity to place myself far from the madding crowd (of orchid lovers). Too bad there's no way I can include the sound of this babbling brook; the photo looks grim, but the actual site was more Currier & Ives.

This shot reminds me of those early Soviet films singing the praise of the village's new tractor:

Behold, comrades: three different kinds of compost pile!

Finally--to make up for the spartan nature of those other images up there--here's one I really find quite lovely:

Another wrong turn, this one more or less on purpose--I love taking the "wrong" road and then seeing where it will take me, although I harbor an irrational fear of South Buffalo and related areas--and I gradually made my way through the part of Buffalo that once held the notorious "Infected District," site of yet another video shoot. (I collaborate on a regular basis with a deeply demented man with a fondness for shooting footage in rustic sites on extremely cold days.) I realized it had been quite a while since I'd driven along the waterfront near the Erie Basin Marina, so I thought, what the hell? I even stayed in the car for the most part.

Thus, one final frosty vista ...

... and I was on my way back home at last--home to a new week which thus far has included dentistry, a wake, family politics, and other fun. Thank heavens for down time!

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