“A crop of concrete and glass pops out of the prairies in an area fertile with history and culture. Winnipeg’s isolation, self-sufficiency and outside ignorance have allowed it to evolve into one of Canada’s most honest and composed metropolitan cities that can handle being the butt of the Simpsons gag, ‘That’s it! We’re all going back to Winnipeg!’ The result is Canada’s cultural cradle without pretense, with world-class ballet, world flavors and world-famous sites.”
–Lonely Planet website, January 11, 2011
We are isolated and often during the harsh winters many a 2nd-generation immigrants are likely to ask, “Why, grandfather/Дідo/할아버지, why did you stop here?” To which grandfather typically responds, “We arrived in the summer.” Such is Winnipeg’s marketing ploy to immigrants. What else is there to do in the winter except hump to keep warm? With such marketing and humping, Winnipeg remains home to many cultures.
And so I think back to my youth, short years long ago, and the memories I’ve had in this cold cold city.
The Exchange District. The heart of the arts and business communities, though not necessarily together. Politicians work to rejuvenate the Downtown area, with some success. Here I find the Cinematheque, the movie venue at which I so much want my film work to screen. There I find the Pantages Playhouse, where for so many years I participated in a Ukrainian dance concert every year. Here I see the King’s Head Tavern, a place where I’ve drank so much. There I see the music palace known as The Royal Albert. Not far away is my first music store, Into the Music, moved from its original location in Osborne Village.
Downtown. Walking Downtown I spot the Millennium Library, my new favourite hang. Across the street I see our new arena, the MTS Centre, host to so many great concerts and a hockey team called the Manitoba Moose. Just a glance over the street brings mine eyes to Portage Place mall, a mall which I trawled for so many years while working for an undisclosed company. And what’s this? I spy with my little eye the only man, made of gold, who can withstand the harsh Prairie winter completely naked. I recall, too, the three wise men who join the man of gold in winter, sponsored by a local company.
The Forks. An old historic site that I hardly ever visited. The old meeting place between the Europeans and the natives of this land, this is the place that the Assiniboine and Red Rivers meet, dirty water both of them. It is in this park that I’ve attended Canada Day concerts featuring The Tragically Hip, that great and proud Canadian band. It is in this park that I’ve often strolled the walkways, pondering philosophical wonderings.
Osborne Village. Ah, my alternative bretheren, goths and punks. Whereforth have thee gone? How I, too, pine for the long lost Collective Cabaret, replaced by an American Apparel. Fear not! There is The Zoo, home to the monsters of rock. And then movies movies movies in Movie Village, and music music music in its musical brother, Music Trader. Here I see my watering hole, The Toad. But as I cast mine eyes skyward, a thought, only one, crosses my mind, who lives in all those pretty condos? Where did they come from? What do they do? Do they know the history and culture of this wondrous street they overlook? Do I?
Corydon Avenue. Previously owned and operated by Italians, now the Koreans. Condos condos everywhere, where is one place I can find a beer? A coffee I can find at the Second Cup, the Starbucks, or even the Fresh Cafe. Ginormous fatty burgers at the Daly Burger. Gelati at Nucci’s Gelati. How much you’ve changed over the years! What will you be like when I return? Who will be there then?
Wellington Crescent. My running path for so many years. Running not only for fitness, but to impress that hot blonde who went running at 6:45 am. Five minutes too early or late, and I’d miss my chance to impress that gorgeous example of the female species. Failing the morning run, I could make up for it during an evening run when I could catch a glimpse of the office workers running off their frustrations for Corporate Canada.
Assiniboine Park. Moo baa, eee ya ya ya go the little furry animals in the Zoo. Silent observers are the sculptures in Leo Mol’s garden. Behold! Winnie the Pooh! And lo! Green grassy fields on which I, as a young aspiring soccer player, played soccer. Ah, to drive the pathways at night again, bottle of wine in hand, woman in the passenger’s seat, riding along.
Winnipeg. Here I was educated, here I was born, here I ran the streets as a child on sunny days, racing against my siblings, laughing, joyful, ignorant of the world around me. Perhaps it was better, how can I know? Do I desire to capture that playfulness in the greater world? There we played street hockey, on these streets we delivered newspapers, there lived my best friend, there was parked my Datsun before the accident, there we played on the stages, there was my first love. Such memories lived, such memories alive! How far, how far have I gone? Can I ever come home?
And so I leave you, Winnipeg, bid you adieu, Pegtown, until we meet again, my Love Eternal. A tear slips mine right eye, falling softly to the World below.