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Niagara Falls
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Ross’s Ramblings: Solitary sights on a Sunday morning sidewalk in NOTL
The parks and streets of Niagara-on-the-Lake were uncharacteristically deserted this past Sunday morning, writes columnist Ross Robinson. Which brought to mind a song made famous by Johnny Cash. SUPPLIED

As the Man in Black sang, “There’s something in a Sunday that makes a body feel alone.”

It was an early-morning catch-up breakfast with my daughter at Butler’s Sports Bar last Sunday morning, the day after an incredibly busy day in downtown Niagara-on-the-Lake. The sidewalks had been jammed and the multitudes of ice cream lickers were ever so happy.

On the way home from The Sporty, I decided to wander around town on my bicycle, just observing and feeling lucky to live here. The weather was perfect for a ride and Niagara-on-the-Lake showed well. Town and residential flowers were beautiful and the sky was a cloudy blue.

But where was everybody? Between 9:30 and 11 a.m., I rode through the Chautauqua Circle, exchanging pleasantries with a few dog walkers. Ryerson Park was empty and nobody was swimming or hanging out on the beach that the winds of Mother Nature have kindly provided this year.

I sat on the beach and listened to Johnny Cash sing Kris Kristofferson’s lyrics: “There’s something in a Sunday that makes a body feel alone.”

And, perhaps the most wonderful metaphor ever, “Then I fumbled in my closet, through my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt.” Haven’t we all been there at some distant time in our past?

Just picture it and admit it. “My cleanest dirty shirt.” It’s so perfect and relatable, eh?

Then down Niagara Boulevard to the fourth green of the golf course and a pedal along the long pathway on the shore of Lake Ontario. Well-constructed a few years ago and only two dog walkers enjoying the peace and quiet and views this morning.

Up and over the solidly overbuilt boardwalk near Fort Mississauga, and tentatively across the second fairway and past the ninth green. No one was putting.

Where were the golfers?  Only three women were waiting on the ninth tee, down by the Charles Inn. No one on the first green or fairway. It was almost eerie, on a day like this.

Queen’s Royal Park and the historic gazebo and the flat area where tennis used to be played, still quiet but anticipating another day welcoming visitors from all over the world.

Families spending time together, enjoying the peace and freedom that Canada provides. We have made some terrible blunders during our history in North America, but our acceptance of other people’s and their beliefs is rightly admired around the world.

During my peripatetic lifetime, I have spent considerable time alone, but the lyrics of Johnny Cash singing about lonely Sunday morning sidewalks hauntingly continued to fill my head.

A few Sharks were sailing on the lake, getting ready to compete in the Shark World Championships, but the lack of people out and about was odd and unsettling. Was I missing something?

Several NOTLers pulling weeds or trimming their hedges, but where was everybody? Ah, a couple of dog walkers in Simcoe Park, and a dad and daughter on the swings. Some earlybirds for church at St. Vincent de Paul and St. Mark’s.

Still enjoying this perfect day, I rode up to Veteran’s Memorial Park and its perfectly groomed baseball diamond, but not one kid or adult with a glove or a bat.

Six perfect tennis courts, but only seven players. The outdoor pool was empty.

Now, the big and glaring sadness. Municipalities across North America waste their money maintaining and grooming sports fields and kids just don’t play any more. Sure, if there is an organized match or clinic or tournament, kids and parents are there.

But to just go out and play alone or with some friends? Perceived safety issues and keyboards and screens combine to keep people sedentary. A looming health crisis in our futures.

So what are we to do?  We live in a country where “perfect weather” days are limited. Not like San Diego and Honolulu or perhaps Victoria and North Carolina. As summer turns subtly to autumn then winter, it will be me you see outside enjoying the fresh air.

Perhaps I benefit from the long ago memories of my mother sending my older sister Pat and I out to play in Kirkland Lake and Winnipeg, on the cold, coldest days of January and February.

There was nothing to do inside, before television and other screens. “Get warm clothes on, get outside and play, and I don’t want a weather report. I know it’s cold.”

How Canadian, eh?

Happily, long gone are the Sunday mornings when I occasionally woke up “with no way to hold my head that didn’t hurt.”

For the next few Sunday mornings, if the weather is fine, let’s make the effort to join Johnny Cash “on a Sunday morning sidewalk.”

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