By DON GLYNN
Niagara Gazette — EDITOR'S NOTE: Falls Street Louie, a fixture for decades on the street that bears his name, made a surprise visit to the Cataract City during the holidays, after a long absence. Louie has witnessed the rise and fall of the South End — several times.
You could have spotted him nearly a block away. It's hard to miss such a colorful character: That bright yellow slicker and hood with the big black "Cave of the Winds" letters on the back. He kept the raincoat after a free trip on the attraction in the 1990s.
Louie! What in the world brings you back to town?
"What was you expecting, some medicine man with another quick fix for development? Heard about all the big changes and wanted to see for myself."
So, what do you think?
"Shocked at first. When I seen some guys running around in white coats. I thought maybe the hospital had moved part of its operations over here. Then I seen that new cooking school (the culinary institute) and that's really great. You gotta wonder though where all them cooks are going to work when they graduate. Let's face it, there's no family restaurant on this street, kind of dumb planning, if you ask me."
Bet you'll have a different impression when you see that casino at the other end of the street.
"That's nothing compared to Vegas. Remember I'm a gambler from way back and I used to enjoy them bookies here. They had that personal touch. If you was hurting for a few dollars, they'd cover you. The casino don't look out for nobody. You start getting low on cash and they point you to an ATM."
I'm sure you know, Louie, that New York didn't legalize casino gambling — it couldn't pass the Legislature — so we ended up with three Indian-run casinos in Western New York.
"I don't wanna hear it. The way I see it, this city was really taken on that whole deal. Maybe now it's just payback time.
What in the world do you mean by that?
“Go figure. The Dutch took Manhattan island from the Indians for $24 and a few trinkets.The Senecas got your casino for a single dollar and, as part of that sweetheart contract, they're still sitting on about $60 million (the city's 6.25 percent of the state's share from the casino slot machine revenues.) Some compact!"
Okay, quit being such a downer, Louie. Can't we talk about some brighter days ahead?
"What, like that high-speed railroad that supposed to zip across the state. That could reach 110 miles-per-hour and if they don't build some kind of wall near the gorge, that thing could end in St. Catharines. Or even Hamilton before it stops. My guess is the Border Patrol will use that new train station as a holding center for illegals or Canadian shoppers trying to smuggle stuff back home."
I can see you haven't lost your reputation for being cynical. Let's be serious for a minute. You were always a staunch Bills' fan. Think Buffalo will win a Super Bowl some day?
"Not if they keep trading good players. And if they hire any more guys like 'Super Mario,' they'll have to file for Chapter 11. Look at that (Marshawn) Lynch and how well he's doing with them Seahawks."
I have to admit you're right about that, Louie. The Bills trade a guy and he often turns out a star with his new team. That Marshawn has been real hard to stop. With the Seahawks, he seems to run all over anyone who gets in his way.
"That's no surprise, He used to run over everybody on Chippawa Street too (in the Buffalo) before he took off to Seattle.
I knew you'd put a positive spin on his brushes with the law. By the way, Louie, before I forget, I keep getting phone messages every now and then from some angry woman who wants to know how to reach you.
What's she want me for?
Claims you still owe her for six months rent from the 1950s.Contact reporter Don Glynn at 282-2311, ext. 2246.