The best way to explore a city is with a partner. Today is a very special day because it is the fifth anniversary of when Mike and I first started dating. Since then we have been through a lot together. We have travelled, changed jobs, lost family members, made new friends, decided we like cats, and learned a lot in the process. We have also moved in together and I’ve never been as happy as I am now.
With Mike I went to my first Winnipeg Jets game. He took me to my first concert at the MTS Centre. Most of my favorite restaurants are places we discovered together. He has enthusiastically come along with me on every urban adventure that I’ve asked him to. We have done outdoor festivals, shows at nearly all the local music venues, hipster coffee shops, Nuit Blanche, art galleries, independent bookstores, video game bars, pubs.
Mike is the reason I created this blog. Without his encouragement and support, I never would have gotten back into creative writing. He has proofread so many of my posts late at night and has helped me become a better writer. He has also listened patiently as I outline my post ideas and helps me to figure out direction. Mike has supplied pictures for the blog and refused to take credit for them.
This isn’t a typical blog post, but without Mike, the blog wouldn’t be here. So on that note, happy anniversary babe, I love you. Thank you for everything that you do.
When I was 18 and newly moved to Winnipeg, I had the opportunity to go up in one of the swanky Wellington Crescent high rises.Not in like a glamorous, invited to a party way. Nope, I was out deal-hunting at garage sales on a Saturday morning. I came across an estate sale sign and went in without a second thought. The doorman was probably so horrified at seeing random riff-raff coming into his beautiful, pristine building. I, in turn, was surprised to find out that anyone in Winnipeg actually had a doorman. I think I assumed all the rich people moved to Toronto and the doormen industry with them. Or maybe I thought doormen were a prevalent Hollywood myth like waking up casually beautiful.
Naturally, I couldn’t afford a single item at that estate sale. I did casually look around pretending to contemplate buying a piece of abstract sculpture to add to my nonexistent yet theoretically extensive collection. While I was up in the suite, I let myself out onto one of the two balconies. I think I was expecting to see if not a bustling metropolis, at least a cityscape. Concrete and buildings and people. It was not like that at all. All I could see was trees! I knew the city was there, but it was tucked away under a lot of vivid colour. To this day, I can’t believe how green our city is. I work in Charleswood and it’s normal to see a deer crunching on someone’s lilac shrub. At lunch I go to the park and watch the prairie dogs communicating with each other like “Who is this total weirdo that sits on top of my entry way every day for an hour?” I actually think I have a reputation among them now. Like I’m still parking my car and they’re already shouting out their warning chirps like “Clear a 15 ft perimeter from the park bench to the tree. She’s coming.” All this nature has a presence in the city and in our lives. Some days it can be a little too close. I was at a wedding at Fort Whyte and I was chased off by a feisty goose at one point. Not the most dignified moment in my life, but a healthy amount of respect is the best way to interact with any wildlife anyway. And I didn’t run away. It was more of a brisk walk.
At home, I am very excited about my latest project which is creating a critter-friendly backyard. Humans have a tendency to take over their living areas in a way that interrupts natural ecosystems. Bee and butterfly populations specifically have been negatively impacted. To help in a tiny way, I’m planning on developing a micro prairie ecosystem with tall grasses and native prairie flowers. Some of the gardening guides that I’ve come across have helpfully suggested marking the area with a decorative stone or defining the borders with brick since apparently neighbours may mistake a prairie garden for overgrown weeds. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder (or gardener) apparently. To attract migratory birds, I had been dumping birdseed on the ground until my mum helpfully pointed out that what attracts birds may also attract mice. Then both Mike and I saw a mouse in the backyard. It was amazing how quickly the bird feeders went up after that.
This city version of nature is a good fit for me. I’ll stay inside and watch the creature dramas from the safety of the window. And if that yard mouse tries to invite himself in, I’ve got Rocky on red alert.
Two close friends are moving away. Aside from the same general direction (west) their situations are completely different. It’s an unfortunate reality of Winnipeg that friends and family leave all the time. Often the reason is for greater opportunity, whether its real or imagined. Sometimes it’s a change of scene. Every time someone I know moves away, I get that sense of not wanting to be left behind. And I second guess my reasons for staying. Every Winnipegger must have experienced this crisis. It’s a fundamental part of our identity as anything else. I don’t know anyone that hasn’t seriously thought about moving and/or has tried living somewhere else. In our city there is an ever present sense that there is something more. Something different, better, bigger, somewhere else. Maybe this is a human thing and it happens everywhere, but staying is as much of a decision as leaving is. People ask “Are you going to stay in Winnipeg?” the same way they ask “What do you want to be when you grow up?” with the expectation that it’s an inevitable decision. Do people do that in Vancouver or Toronto? Torontonians are always vaguely aware of other cities, but in a way where they haven’t thought about it much. They know they have everything so what does somewhere else have to offer? Winnipeg so often seems like a stop on the road to somewhere else. A great place to come from, but always a place to leave behind.
This stepping stone aspect of Winnipeg seems to make it have a long reach for somewhere so small. I’ve heard stories of people traveling all over the world; Australia, Asia, Europe and almost inevitably, you bump into someone that has lived in Winnipeg. Every away Jets game has a healthy number of Jets jerseys and an obnoxiously loud TRUE NORTH shout in the national anthem. Sometimes even in games where the Jets aren’t playing. And the great thing is that all the expats from Winnipeg have a soft spot for it. We get shout outs all the time in pop culture, from actors who have filmed here, professional athletes, all kinds of people in every field. Even though we can’t be all things to all people, our people are all things. They expand our community so that across the world, no matter where you are, you can be sure you aren’t the only Winipegger living there.
I am chronically forgetful. I will leave anything anywhere. Leather jackets in restaurants, sunglasses in cars, passports in strange countries. “Is this yours?” is standard farewell when I’m leaving anyone’s house. You name it, I’ve forgotten it. Last week while having a drink at Stella’s Grant, I had a classic “I forgot my wallet” moment. My friend Jess graciously covered the bill and eventually I recovered my wallet from a grocery store. Crisis averted. I was thinking about how this forgetfulness goes beyond material items. Now that we’re well into March, we’ve been getting a sneak peek of spring. Spring makes me remember all kinds of things I forget every year. How warm the sun feels on my face. The lightness of being without parkas, mitts and boots. The simplicity of getting out the door without layering up. The absence of these experiences makes the first days of spring so exciting.
I’ve never lived somewhere that didn’t have 4 seasons and the very concept is strange. Our seasonal shift forces us into re-evaluating our everyday life. Activities, clothing, diet, what we drive, where and how we eat are affected. As a result, our lifestyle is never the same for long. The constant change not only keeps us from sinking into dull routine, but also forces us to appreciate every minute because we know how temporary it is. Beyond ourselves, our entire city transforms before us. Perhaps in a less treed city, it would be less striking. In our city, spring starts out as a brown and puddle-filled mess. Once the snow is gone and the water dries up, we are suddenly blessed with a new reality of colour, noise, and freshness. Now all we have to do is stay dry until we get there.
I have a problem. It’s called food. It is a wonderful, delicious, expensive blessing that Winnipeg has such a high number of restaurants per capita. The choices are almost overwhelming when it comes to dining out. Except to me, it’s more like the gauntlet has been thrown and the challenge accepted. I’m going to be totally honest here, I work to eat.
After weeping over my last bank account statement, I read a CBC article about Canadians continually spending more on dining out. My masochistic tendencies led me to click the devil button unleashing the predictable torrent of comments. If these folks are to be believed (they’re not), your friendly neighbourhood commenter casually whips up gourmet yet affordable meals, while entertaining a steady stream of people in and out of their houses which also happen to have a nicer ambiance than any “professional establishment.”
I reflected over the previous 7 days and the tally added up pretty quickly. Ok so Infernos, Massawa, Stella’s, The Grove (that was drinks and appetizers, does that count?), Sabbai Thai. Oh and I had a coffee at Little Sister. Yep, I went out for dinner 5 times in a 7 day period. I’m afraid to say the week before was more of the same. The truth is food is the basis of my social life. It introduces interest in my daily life. There is always a new restaurant or pub opening. The chefs and restaurateurs creating these places are limitless in their creativity. And I love dining out for the simple reason that when you sit down with someone, the focus is on the food and the company. Provided you can put your phone down, it can be a very present and humanizing experience.
I feel lucky that we live in such a vibrant foodie community. No matter your budget or taste, there is a culinary adventure around every corner. I refuse to feel badly about partaking in something that gives me so much joy. And as for all those CBC commenters, the next time you recreate the sushi masterpieces of Wasabi Sabi, cook Massawa’s delicious injera and yellow split pea curry, or make an apricot vanilla crème brulee, please invite me over. Until then I’ll be sipping my Manitoba Apple Whiskey at the Grove.
There’s nothing like having a hot cup of coffee on a cold day – so we paid Forth a visit yesterday. Located at 171 McDermot Avenue, Forth is technically not fully open, but (bless their hearts) they are still serving the public as part of a soft opening.
Their space encompasses everything great about the Exchange district; exposed beams, big windows and a lot of personality. Along with being a functioning cafe, Forth also has their own roaster and sells interesting local merchandise. We were informed that in the near future they will be adding some food options to their menu such as sandwiches and soups including some veggie-friendly options. I’m afraid I didn’t try espresso or coffee by hand, but their flat white was excellent.
Forth is currently open Monday through Friday 7 am to 4 pm and Saturdays from 9 am to 4 pm.
Resolution 2016 – I resolve to become reacquainted with my city
2016 has arrived, bringing the annual resolution debate with it. Most people seem to fall onto one side or the other; making a resolution or being a non-believer who scoffs at resolutions. Embarrassingly enough, I make resolutions every year only to completely forget what they are by mid-January.
In the spirit of this blog and knowing that Winnipeg is in a state of constant change and growth, my 2016 resolution is to try a new Winnipeg activity and a new Winnipeg venue each month. The end goal being biweekly blog posts to discuss my Winnipeg adventures. When I first moved to the city, I adventured around the city to different neighbourhoods for the sake of exploration. Like most people, over time I find myself in a comfort zone with my favorite restaurants, pubs, activities, most of which are conveniently located close to home. Throughout the year I would like to check out new places in different neighbourhoods. 2016 will be the year I find my new Winnipeg.