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labor daze

I have friends who’ve lost their jobs during the past year, and it’s shocking to see how their lives have deteriorated. Where before they were by no means rich, now they struggle to keep food on the table for their kids, have slipped deeply into debt, and may lose what little they have left. They’ve always been hard working, so it’s hard to watch. They’ve been on job interviews, but it seems that the moment something might line up, something falls apart. They wind up having to sell something. Or they take on some sort of hard labor for quick cash that saps their time and energy away from finding the kind of work their educations have prepared them for.

And they’re not alone. I know several other people who are “in between” jobs. Some have landed sort of on their feet, others are still on their knees. I’m grateful to have work at present, but I know how expendable everyone is in this employment climate, and I brace myself for an outcome beyond my control.

In other words, for millions of out of work Americans, this year’s Labor Day—the worker’s holiday—is going to be especially poignant. I’ve been invited to a picnic barbecue by some of my laid-off friends on Monday, and my question is this: Should I bring spicy honey glazed duck skewers, caramelized Gulf shrimp on grilled focaccia bread, South Carolina farm-raised clams with a chive butter cream sauce, or something simple like a decent Iranian caviar, live Maine lobsters, and a case of cold champagne?

—Picky Nick

The Piano Man says: Dear Al...Legory, everyone knows that the tang of the glazed duck might over power Aunt Bea’s deviled eggs, the caramelized shrimp doesn’t travel well, and even Old MacDonald wouldn’t farm clams in South Carolina! Eat all the “good” stuff on Sunday, bring the green bean casserole or the extremely large Restaurant Nacho chips (with no dip!) and a bag of ice for the brews your host was supposed to provide. Pretend you’ve also fallen on hard times and ask for all the left-overs. Then, as you (and your entire extended family) leave, shout “Same time, next week?” And, if they fall for it , and you have the stones to maintain this charade, sit back and enjoy the ride you so richly deserve.

south of the border

I’ve had a few friends from out of state come to visit Buffalo this summer, and one of the things they want to do is see Niagara Falls. The problem is that none of them came with passports, so we couldn’t cross into Canada to do the whole tour. How do I make Buffalo-Niagara seem like a cool place to live when I drive them past smelly chemical factories to a dying city with an Indian Casino and under-used and under-funded State Park with a great view of the thriving scene just across an international border that they are not allowed to cross?

Bored in the USA

The Practical Cogitator says: Well, Schmucko, your friends came to visit you, in your city. How’s about taking them to the Albright Knox? The new Burchfield-Penney? or to your own Waterfront, it’s been rehabbed, looks great, too. The Marina is lovely, We have Falls on the American side, also; one of the seven natural wonders of the world is in fact located right here in the US! Beaver Island State Park is amazing. Take a drive to Griffiss Sculpture Park. There is loads to do here. Too bad for Canadian Tourism that the Peace Bridge has been taken over by the Homeland Security scare. You can thank George W. for that.

Ruthless says: Aren’t you somewhat relieved your out of town guests forgot their passports? Niagara Falls, Canada’s facade may look bright and promising like Emerald City, but after you cross through the border traffic it’s really just a commercialized version of Disney World meets Sin City with a giant natural water fall cascading over some bedrock. The American side may look less glitzy but there’s plenty to do. If I were you, I’d start your touristy Saturday early with a visit to the Tonawanda Farmers Market and pick up some picnic fare. Next, I’d head off to Niagara Falls USA and show your friends a grand old time on ‘The Maid of the Mist.’ Then I’d set up an afternoon picnic somewhere in the Park and organize a nature photography walk. Afterward, I’d find the nearest happy hour with live music and make a night of it! After all, it is one of the 7 wonders of the world and your friends aren’t going to visit the “All America City” very often. Just show your friends the real Niagara Falls...USA style.

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