Supporting Local Business

Two Christmases ago, my mom gave me a book called The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. At the time I didn’t realize it was a pop culture phenomenon. I thought it was a gag gift or maybe a last ditch effort on my mom’s part to help me finally overcome my messy tendencies.  Being tidy has been a personal struggle of mine for a long time. Not for lack of trying. I’ve tried every strategy that is recommended for people like me. The 1 minute rule. The 15 minute rule. Making lists. Weekly routines. Not even Loonette on the Big Comfy Couch could solve my messy problem. A few months after Christmas, I decided to give kondo-ing a try, partly because I was to move out shortly thereafter. I was hesitant because the first step is to gather all your belongings and dump them into a pile. I was envisioning myself becoming fatigued by the gathering and not actually moving onto the next step: sorting. Memories of previous moves that had ended in me sobbing late at night, overwhelmed by a small sea of unpacked belongings pushed me to start the process. In the end I did get rid of a lot of items that I had no use for anymore. And once they were out of the house, I didn’t miss them.

Since then I’ve still struggled to stay tidy, but cleaning up doesn’t take nearly as long because there is so much less to put away. As a direct result of this, my shopping habits have changed substantially. I’ve always loved shopping and spending money, but lately I am much more interested in quality v.s. quantity. Instead of impulse shopping, I think about what I really want and what I really need in my life. I haven’t been taken in by things just because they’re a good deal. In fact, I’m finding that I would prefer to not spend my money until I find something that is worth spending the money on. And beyond that I’ve also been thinking about the impact that my money has when I spend it which is why I continue to become more invested in supporting independent shops.

I’ve always been in favour of spending money at local businesses and it seems like I’m not alone because there has been a renaissance of locally-made high quality goods.  I don’t remember Winnipeg ever being so full of entrepreneurs. Local brew pubs and coffee shops are scattered throughout the city. Gourmet doughnut shops and local clothing designers with their own boutiques are highlights in the downtown area. An even broader variety of artisans are on Instagram and although they don’t have their own brick and mortar stores, they can be found at wildly popular pop up markets. Even the food truck variety is staggering when compared with what was available a few years ago. Often the products being sold isn’t the cheapest option. However, for a few more dollars, there are tangible rewards like meeting the creator of your goods, detailed information about how and your product is made and pride in the service provided. At the same time, when our money is kept in our own community, we boost our local economy. Even if you buy less and spend more, consider the overall benefits of supporting local. It’s worth it.

 

 

The Importance of Neighbours

Last year I found out that once you move into a house, a question a lot of people will ask is “How are your neighbours?” Which makes sense because there is the close proximity within which you will both be living your lives. Neighbours are important. If you’re away for a few days, there is comfort with knowing that the good people next door will be keeping an eye out. Even if you have family or a friend checking on your house, it’s the neighbours who will recognize behaviour or events that might be out of the ordinary.

These are the folks who will warn you about events happening on your street, like car break-ins, vandalism, or suspicious ‘furnace inspectors’ knocking on doors. It’s only your neighbours who are equally concerned about local services, like schools, libraries, or community centres. Only the residents on your street or in your area face the same daily gripes that you do.

Like most communities, it is the unfortunate case that it’s usually difficult circumstances that unite us. All it takes is a drive down Henderson Highway these days to see how the impending loss of the urgent care facility at Concordia is uniting the 27km stretch of road. Back to our neighbourhood, River Heights is regularly united by car break-ins, and a deeply held belief in NIMBY-ism. Google ‘River Heights Residents Angry’ and you can see a lengthy and varied search return. The majority of residents obviously value the status quo. If you zoom out a bit, there is a clear difference in the level of community between neighbourhoods with different demographics.  As anyone that has lived in the North End will tell you, the sense of community is palpable. Everyone places a much higher value on community and make a huge effort to be friendly with each other. In contrast, talk to anyone who lives in Tuxedo. Many of them don’t even know what their neighbours look like, let alone their names. It might be the money that makes the difference. After all, how many of us end up chatting with the neighbour over the fence while mowing the lawn or gardening. If that work is done by a contractor, that opportunity is gone. Home and neighbourhood design have changed as well over the years. With big attached garages, you can avoid contact with people altogether by driving in and out. When my parents moved to the city, I could match each SUV to the corresponding house, but I don’t think I could have placed a single driver in a police lineup.

Currently, we have great neighbours. They’re friendly, and although slightly eccentric, none of them appear to sell drugs, belong to gangs, or live a pesticide-free lifestyle (hippies: everyone’s least favorite suburban neighbour). We are familiar enough to know the names of their pets and their general lifestyle. Even better, is that we have neighbour-friends that we alternate hosting dinners with and they’re a really wonderful couple. It didn’t happen by accident though. They put in conscious effort to welcome us to the area when we moved in. They extended an invitation to get together and gave us their phone number. If it weren’t for those gestures, we would likely have lived for years next to a great couple without getting to know them. Transcona has a great festival called the Hi Neighbourfestival which I first thought was kind of a cheesy idea. And maybe it is a little bit, but I think it really underscores the value of getting to know the people around you. Social media fascinates us because it shows the exotic, the exciting, the everything else. Meanwhile we’ve stopped valuing our own reality because it seems less interesting in comparison. Until that difficult circumstance comes along, we don’t need the people who live nearby. Instead of waiting for that day to come, we should make the effort now. Being a neighbour is more than just living next to each other, it’s also finding value in the sense of community that that closeness provides. And in order to do that, we have to cultivate those relationships, like our neighbour friends did, by making the effort.

Thinking about this made me revisit Mr. Rogers and his timeless invitation:

“Since we’re together, we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won’t you be my neighbour?”

 

Building Up

One of my favorite things in recent years has been watching the changing Winnipeg skyline. For so long it seemed like it was the same as it ever was. But in the last ten years, it’s been steadily evolving. My two favorite ways to see it are approaching downtown from the Disraeli Bridge and driving along Tache across the river. CMHR, The MB Hydro Building, 300 Assiniboine Avenue and The Glasshouse have all gone up in  a short period of time. The Artis REIT Building is getting a makeover. I read a while ago that Richardson International has a new building in the works. When our economy is more of a tortoise than a hare, it’s nice to see tangible progress to remind ourselves that we aren’t stagnant. This slow change is interesting because it seems like that part of our economy is reflected in our culture. Or maybe vice versa.

As a whole, in Winnipeg and Manitoba, the reign of the status quo can be almost suffocating. Aggressively suspicious of change, we refused to entertain the idea of renaming our hockey team. Had Mark Chipman defiantly stuck with the Manitoba Polar Bears, you can be sure that merchandise sales would have suffered and a strongly-worded petition would have circulated. While we happily complain about how things are (terrible! Thanks for asking), when we are presented with an alternative, 9 times out of 10 we still pick the devil we know. In a municipal election, given the choice between a property tax raise and a ethically-challenged mayor, we confidently supported a broad range of conflicts of interest. Three separate times. An incumbent can literally kick a child in the face (albeit unintentionally) and be re-elected. Provincially, we waited until our previous government wore out their welcome, only to reelect a familiar face from about twenty years ago. The devil you know, right?

The underlying thought is if we stick to the same course, we can reasonably anticipate what will come next. This mentality makes it so easy to take what we have for granted. Generally speaking, we assume there is some stability to how things are in the current era unless a major event happens. Individually, if your life has any sort of routine to it, the days start to blur together. Occasionally there is a break in the monotony, whether it’s planned (like a trip) or something unexpected, like getting a promotion at work. Or on a sadder note, like losing someone you care about. These events remind you that you have no idea what is going to happen on any given day. In the middle of a routine, we stop remembering that things tomorrow won’t always be like yesterday. For each minute, day, month, year, there is a before and an after. These changes are so small, we don’t acknowledge them. Instead we spend our time thinking about the future or reacting to events, that we are perpetually surprised by time passing. And as time slips by like a renegade ninja, change happens always.

Accepting change as a part of life is often the best way to cope with it. It’s difficult to move on, if we can’t move forward. Usually, I’m a big advocate for change and progress because I want to get better. I want us to improve. Maybe though, our reluctance to move forward could be a positive thing. Growing up in Canada, at this time in human history, has reasonably assured me of my safety and my right for existence. I acknowledge that this isn’t the case for everyone in Canada, and Indigenous peoples especially, are faced with issues that need to be addressed. In a general sense though, the daily security that we take for granted is not the status quo. And this current reality, that we accept as the norm, is a gift that many people paid dearly for. Lately though, it seems that globally, a change is happening, but it’s a return to earlier attitudes. We are sliding back into our human tendencies to be prejudiced and fearful of anyone who isn’t like ourselves. The mosque shooting in Quebec was perpetrated by a university-educated white Canadian man who should feel at ease and secure in Canada. Instead he killed 6 men who were peacefully practicing their religion. He’s ruined countless lives, including his own, and all out of misplaced fear.

Locally, antisemitism has been making itself known. A family in Wolseley had a rock full of anti-semitic messages placed on their doorstep. Someone sketched a swastika in St. Vital Park. Reading about these incidents in the news, has me realizing how much hatred our fellow Canadians have been harbouring. Now it seems, they feel emboldened to express their hatefulness. As a community, we have a responsibility to actively condemn these acts. After the mosque shooting,  Last Saturday, I went to the Forks and took part in the Walk for Human Rights. It was the first time I have taken part in a public march. I wanted to experience an affirmation that Canada is a multicultural country and we aren’t going to be tricked into being afraid all the time. There are so many more things that as human beings, we have in common than not. The average person wants a right to safety and prosperity for themselves and their families. In the spirit of this, I would like to feature another local charity that does a lot of good work in our community: The Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council Inc.

If you worry about refugees settling into Canada and adjusting to Canadian practices, this is an excellent organization to support. The charity takes a comprehensive approach to assisting refugees with their move to Canada, including setting them up with a temporary residence, reaching out to them in their own language, helping them make a refugee claim, explaining how to manage finances, and to help them learn skills that will enable them to thrive in Canada. These services are essential to helping people who might otherwise feel alienated or alone. If  this is an issue that concerns you, I encourage you to donate to The Manitoba Interfaith Immigration Council. Please help us maintain our tradition of being a welcoming multicultural society.

One last thing, if you feel uncertain about Islam and associate the religion with negative news stories, please take a moment to explore some local resources where you can learn a little more about our local Muslim community:

Winnipeg Central Mosque

Canadian Muslim Women’s Institute

The Why

The last few Christmases I’ve been approaching the holiday with a theme in mind which streamlines my search process. This year my theme has been books. Nearly everyone on my list will be receiving a book of some kind. During one of my many trips to the bookstore, I was flipping through a cooking/lifestyle hybrid (one of the many variations of Goop) where the author was encouraging the reader to treat suppertime as a ritual. It sounded so great when I was reading it, like cooking would be this warm and relaxing activity to look forward to at the end of every day. Unfortunately during the weekdays, by the time I get home, knock all the snow off my boots, and let my glasses defog, I’m relieved to be home and exceptionally unmotivated. When I am preparing food, it doesn’t feel soothing and affirming. Instead my back hurts and my eyes burn from chopping an onion while I use as little dishes possible to minimize cleanup.  I always thought of it more as the weekday routine which is a very different perspective. After thinking about it some more, I think it comes down to mindfulness. While preparing a meal, if you consider the ingredients, the method, and ultimately the reason you’re making yourself food, it gives the task a greater purpose. When we actually take the time to think that we are nourishing ourselves, it takes on a greater purpose. And it is important. At this time of year, we aren’t getting much sun, it’s cold, and the holiday season can be emotionally difficult for some people. It’s at these times it becomes so important to actively take part in self-care and that includes diet. It really is surprising how a change of perspective can impact your approach to daily things.

Once I started thinking about rituals, I started thinking about how important they are during the holidays. Before Christmas, I watch the same three movies. I decorate a real tree, which this year, the cat knocked over. Another big one is that usually our family has a meatless Christmas Eve. On a community level, Winnipeg has a ton of holiday rituals. The Santa Claus Parade is what typically kicks the season off in Winnipeg. I’ve never actually attended, but I have gotten stuck in the resulting traffic more than once which is all part of the experience. The Nutcracker at the RWB is wonderful and  what makes it so special (to me) is how its set in a house on Wellington Crescent. The Canad Inns Winter Wonderland has a beautiful display. The nice thing about that one is that you can enjoy it from the car if it’s frigid out, which happens. This year I want to go for a drive through the Linden Woods neighbourhood because a co-worker told me that certain streets will create a theme and go all out in decorating their houses. And of course, everyone’s favorite: the first snowfall. Although not holiday-themed, the first snowfall is a classic Winnipeg ritual where everyone grumbles about everybody else forgetting how to drive in the snow. No matter what, it’s always a disaster. On the bright side, for office workers, it also ends up being a pretty relaxed workday because half the office doesn’t show up, and the other half shows up late and leaves early. Possibly not so much for health care workers (as people slip and hurt themselves) and the snow clearing crew. No matter what though, we all know what we’re in for.

No matter what your rituals are, it’s important to not just go through the motions. At this time of year especially, it’s important to stop and remember the why.

 

Driven

One distinct difference between 2006 Winnipeg and 2016 Winnipeg is the number of cyclists on the road. In 2006 you would see one or two cyclists on your route. And they would piss you off just for being there. “Get a real car, loser.” was the general attitude. Most drivers had no concept of slowing down to pass a cyclist, let alone changing lanes to pass them. Critical Mass was a Big Thing every month generating endless news coverage followed by intensely negative reactions. Like any change or sign of progress, Winnipeg fought bitterly against accepting a new reality where cars might have to share with non-motorized vehicles. Back in 2006, 5 Critical Mass participants were actually arrested by the Winnipeg Police Service. How things have changed.

I myself do not bike. I hate biking. It’s just not a thing that I enjoy doing. Nonetheless I have to admire those that do. It takes an awful lot of commitment to pack up your gear every night, leave early, cycle in cold morning weather all while hoping that drivers will shoulder check before changing into your lane. Judging by the number of Winnipeg drivers that treat signal lights as optional, I personally wouldn’t have a lot of faith in the folks on the road. Since 2009 designated bike paths have started to make cycling to work a little less like Russian roulette. It seems like it has been a case of build it and they will come because there are a ton of cyclists. Mike and I have been hitting construction on our way to work so we’ve been trying out a few different routes. Every way we go there is actual bike traffic. It’s amazing.

See, as much as Winnipeg has developed as a car city, there is something that is so nice to see the presence of people, actual human people. It turns Winnipeg from aggravating gridlock into an interesting dynamic city. I get to see all the different types of people who are on their bikes. Much like having pedestrians, cycling humanizes the city. We are a social animal so when we see others walking and cycling, it naturally makes us want to be a part of it too. Dehumanizing cars are part of the reason that road rage is so common. We forget that it is a human being driving in their car. All you see is that they are in your way. We don’t see them as someone like ourselves that is tired, sick, sad, or who simply made a mistake. I think it’s great that Winnipeg has (reluctantly) accepted that we can be a cycling city too.

 

How About That Local Sports Team

This is that magical time of year where  sports seasons overlap. The Blue Bombers season is picking up. The Goldeyes are starting a playoff run. The Jets are back in just over a month. These teams have the ability to bring us together as a community. After weather, the biggest small talk starter has to be that local sports team. Our teams incorporate local historical and cultural elements. They want us to identify with them and be proud of what they represent. What this boils down to is that ultimately our teams are a reflection of ourselves.

We embed these teams as part of our identity. They allow us to connect with each other, unite behind a goal and give us a reason to get together. The actual experience of a live sports game is exciting. Having a stadium full of the energy and noise of thousands of other fans is an amazing energy. This energy needs to be fed. It needs momentum and it needs to be able to pull people in. Beyond that, you have to get them to buy in to the team to begin with.

So how do you get people to buy in?   While there are a lot of hardcore fans out there (one of my own family members has held season tickets for over 40 years), typically it takes a strong performance and/or the Banjo Bowl for the stadium to start selling out. Which it has. Today is the Banjo Bowl. Kickoff is at 3:00 pm. I was offered the opportunity to be a part of the action. I will be down there selling Bomber merch all game. It should be a great time. There is something so fun about a friendly rivalry. It takes the atmosphere up a notch. One of the reasons I’m glad our rivalry is with Saskatchewan is that they are great fans. A few years ago I was in Saskatoon and their transit buses were driving by with Go Riders on the Destination Sign. I asked a cashier what time the game was at and she said that the team wasn’t playing until the next day. Rider Nation is all in on their team. As much as I like to make fun of them, that kind of attitude is exactly what makes games fun. That enthusiasm and support is what brings us together in a positive way. And it’s true, Saskatchewan isn’t big enough or concentrated enough to be able to support (at this time) any team bigger than CFL. I think this makes them appreciate what they have instead of wishing for something better.

I’ve heard so many people trash the CFL because it’s not the NFL. Hate to break it to you, but we are not an NFL city. Also the football may be better, but the people sure as hell aren’t. I spent a good amount of time researching NFL teams last year, trying to find a single one that didn’t have problematic coaches or players. That league will sweep everything under the rug – domestic assault, murder, rapes. They can’t even get their own cheating under control. As a fan, I can’t get behind any of that. The CFL has created a comprehensive domestic violence policy. This year the CFL announced new player health and safety measures. Any cheating that has been reported in the CFL has ended up with fines (roster violations) or are relatively minor (allegedly watering the grass a little extra ahead of a game). I will take that over deflating footballs for a championship game. Winnipeg is not a moneyed city. Our population sits well below one million. We will never have an NFL team nor do I want one. We should take a page out of Saskatchewan’s book and go all in on our football. We didn’t build that stadium for nothing.

 

 

The Pokelure

Have you visited Assiniboine Park or The Forks lately? If you haven’t, you should. Wander through the Leo Mol garden in the evening or walk over the Esplanade Riel. The amount of people is shocking. On July 17th, Nintendo released the Pokemon Go app in Canada and it changed our environment. Kids, families, even seniors are all out searching for porygons and pikachus.

When I came back to Winnipeg from Europe a few years ago, I was struck by one thing; how few people were visible. Winnipeg isn’t comparable to European cities in terms of population or tourism, but it’s a city nonetheless. It was eerie going from consistently busy streets to walking down every road alone. Post-Pokemon, there are people everywhere. It makes me sad that I haven’t seen this before.  As a city, we regularly fail at tempting people to come out of their homes. Sure there are festivals, sports games and other special events but those tend to target a certain section of the population. Those same events often cost money and have crowd limitations which limits accessibility further, especially for families. There are some fun events put on regularly in the summer like Downtown Drive-In Movies or the Summer Entertainment Series at the Lyric Theatre. Those are great and from what I have seen, moderately popular. There isn’t any hype around them though. I have casually thought about going to an outdoor movie, but I think, why not just watch the movie at home? It’s easier. No pants or driving required. What Pokemon does is get people excited to go out.

It reminds me of when I first moved to the city. I would designate some days to be adventure days. I’d drive to a different part of town. I would check out a new business that I hadn’t been to before. Eventually though I stopped adventuring. I found favorite places and stopped leaving the neighbourhood. That’s really too bad because although I stopped adventuring, the city hasn’t stopped changing. It’s really inspiring to see people adventure around for the entire day. They bring backpacks and chargers for their phones. They frequent local businesses which in turn have seen an increase in foot traffic. Ultimately Pokemon Go has shown us that we can be lured out from our suburban homes. We can come together to experience the city we live in. Before the summer ends, I would like to spend a day in the city with my backpack, exploring all the new places that I haven’t seen yet. I hope that once the Pokemon Go craze dies down, that the players will continue to come out to explore their city. Or at least that they have found some new favorite places to enjoy.

I would love to hear about your recent Winnipeg adventures, Pokemon or otherwise. You can tweet me at @winnipegishere  tag me on Instagram @winnipegishere. Thanks for reading!

Winnipeg Renaissance

Why are transitions so painful? Within the past 6-8 months, I had some fresh starts. I went from renting an apartment to owning a home. I began sharing my life with someone. I moved to a new employer. I created this blog. As each new thing began, I didn’t stop to tie things off with my previous life. It was more of a cut-and-run approach leaving a trail of loose ends behind me. Sometimes that is how reality plays out. Sometimes things don’t work out exactly as you hope. There are a lot more grey areas than black and white. This is the place where things are messy.

In my case, my endings,the apartment, the old job, my prior hobbies, as a result of these new beginnings continued around me. Mentally, I quit my job last October, but couldn’t find a new job until June. I moved into our house in December, leaving most of my belongings in my old apartment until July. Life isn’t nearly as neat and tidy as we would like. If you are in one place today and another tomorrow, you can deal with that. It gets a lot more complicated when your right foot is in one place and your left is in another. It’s exhausting trying to care when you just don’t anymore. I settled into complete apathy regarding all of the things that I had ‘moved past.’ Those past reminders sat there waiting to be dealt with. July turned out to be a month of reckoning. I had to deal with every single ending which was painful and difficult. I’m emotionally tapped out, but I’m also a little lighter. Now I can go forward. I can embrace the future with all that I have. This experience is not unique to me. Nor is it particularly awful. Relatively speaking, these are minor challenges that fall under the category of Normal Life Shit. While I was feeling the anxieties and stresses that accompanied the entire experience, I thought about what that could mean for a community.

Cities experience their own periods of change. Leaders in our community push for change all the time. Of course with civic changes, the pace is slower. New developments have to be reviewed and approved. Designs have to be drawn. Funds allocated. And yet there are clear periods of time where there is a momentum shift. Downtown is a prime example. The way my grandparents spoke of it, downtown was a thriving destination. In their time residents would dress up, catch the bus and go downtown. To catch a show, to get a coffee, whatever. As the years went by, circumstances changed. The pendulum swung. Portage and Main became a place for work with most spending their time inside office buildings. Downtown was only a destination in that we drove in, only to drive back out at the end of the day.We built outwards, expanding city limits as we pushed to be away from downtown. Public transport became unfashionable as we found the convenience of strip malls and big box stores. Downtown continued to decline. Slowly as a city we acknowledged that something had to be done.  In 2003 Eaton’s was torn down to be replaced by the True North Arena. The momentum shifted. In true Manitoba fashion, our progress has crawled along, slowly, persistently.  We built a modern green home for Manitoba Hydro, the building itself reflecting the thought process that an office building doesn’t have to be only for work. Office building by day, beautiful venue for social functions at night.We bridge the gap between today and my grandparent’s time by ripping the guts out of old Exchange District warehouses while honouring their memory by preserving stylish beams and bricks. 

Once you achieve a level of distance, it is easier to accept and honour the past with a feeling of nostalgia. With recent history, it’s tempting to erase it because we don’t see it as heritage. It’s a reminder of a previous time including the failures. Currently the Public Safety Building is slated for demolition. This fortress-like building doesn’t fit with our current beginning. It serves as a stark reminder against the lightness and beauty of places like the Manitoba Hydro building. If the PBS building is razed, we are left with one less building in our collection of Brutalist archicture that fits together with the Manitoba Museum and Manitoba Theatre Centre. If we can hang on to the PBS building to honour its memory and repurpose it, we can take the opportunity to share another piece of our past with future generations. In our zeal for a Winnipeg Renaissance, it’s easy to get carried away in the new beginnings and not take a moment to accept that the past is a part of us. We shouldn’t give that away in an attempt to forget.

Get What You Give

Whenever I read articles that discuss charitable giving or volunteering, I often notice that Manitoba and Winnipeg are brought up as heavy hitters, comparatively speaking. There is something about the people in our province that makes us dig deep in our wallets and try to make a difference in other peoples’ lives. What is it about us that allows us to do that? My guess is that it may have something to do with a relatively stable economy and fairly affordable living expenses. There may be more money in Toronto or Vancouver, but the average person has to put a lot more into expenses, especially housing. Regardless of the reason, it’s nice to see those articles where Manitoba is shown as a leader in a positive way.

On a personal note, many people in my life are actively involved in the community. Whether it’s coaching sports, managing a community centre, working with United Way, or volunteering on a charitable board, I regularly see the positive impact made by these people. Meanwhile, I am ashamed to say that I have never regularly volunteered anywhere. It’s not for lack of empathy or time. I honestly get overwhelmed. I’ve visited the Volunteer MB website so many times, and every time I can’t seem to figure out where I would be the most helpful. I want to get involved and I have a pretty lengthy list of causes that I feel very passionate about. It’s a matter of getting to the point of taking action.

My new employer is very active in the community. They make substantial donations, run volunteer campaigns and reward employees who are active members in the community. I’m excited to say that through work and Habitat for Humanity, I will be volunteering to help build a home for a family in need. I’m a little nervous about it because I’ve never helped to build anything before, but I’m excited to learn and help out as much as I can. I want this opportunity to push me into making a commitment to community involvement. Specifically, I’m interested in exploring the area of literacy perhaps with BookMates. If anyone has had any positive experiences with any local charitable organizations, I would love to hear about it.

Where Nobody Knows Your Name

Sometimes the best way to understand your own city is by going somewhere else. After visiting other (larger) cities in the past few years, it’s an adjustment returning home. Over pineapple mojitos at The List last week, I was chatting with a close friend about why we love to travel. One of the biggest reasons is to have a break from the small town vibes of Winnipeg. In a large city you could call yourself Tatiana, develop an accent  and pretend to be a Russian mafia princess. There is so much money, people and business in other cities that you can virtually be anyone and provided you can drop some dollar, dollar bills, you could get away with it. In Winnipeg the wealthy subset is so small that locals can match the Ferrari to the owner.

Last summer a co-worker was at the Rum Hut watching a Bomber game when a young guy came in,  and started buying rounds of drinks for people. My co-worker was puzzling over who this guy was. We assumed drug dealer (typical Winnipeg assumption. Someone has money? They must have made it without the government knowing). A few weeks later, the very same guy showed up in an industry newsletter. Turns out, he inherited a local business. Suddenly we knew who he was, where he was from and how he had all this cash. This fishbowl mentality is brought up regularly in articles about Jets players. The players’ performances are analyzed and picked apart every single day. On top of the professional pressure, the players’ off-ice behaviour is gossiped and shared by everyone. If you’re a Teemu, it’s a wonderful atmosphere that celebrates your very existence. For the Evanders of the world, Winnipeg is less than ideal.

On a lesser scale, the average person deals with the same issues. Every personal change invites comment from someone. Over time as you develop more connections in the city, the less freedom there is to get outside of your persona. If you do alter your style, hangouts, habits, be prepared to answer to multiple people that want to know why. It can be both exhausting and frustrating to maintain or change expectations. This is why it’s so mentally and emotionally refreshing to try new things in a new place. Not all destinations are equal. My friend is going to be spending the summer in Europe while I am heading down south for a shopping trip. But hey, a break is a break is a break.