One Hundred Real Reasons To Love Winnipeg
In September 2007, I began a list of a hundred real reasons to love Winnipeg (as opposed to the manufactured and
slightly cheesy reasons that ad agencies come up with). This is the final list. Many of them are now dated as they referred
to things that happened that week, or This Week at Aqua Books in-jokes. (If you'd like to subject yourself to my weekly reign of error, click here to receive This Week at Aqua Books in your inbox.)
My cheeky (or lame, depending on your mood) take on these hundred was based on the 100 Great Reasons To Love Winnipeg campaign dreamed up by my brother Brad Hughes in the '90s.
By the time I had completed my version in July 2008, Brad had succumbed to cancer. This list is dedicated to him.
100. All the pretentious people have already moved to Vancouver
99. Hit any number on your phone seven times, get a pizza
98. Gunn's applejacks
97. Your mortgage payment is smaller than your paycheque
96. Not one, but two homoerotic icons, The Golden Boy and L'Esplanade Riel
95. Choose from any one of four official languages: English, Franglais, Tagalog, or Hoser
94. Edmonton is now the murder capital of Canada
93. Your chances of seeing Sylvia Kuzyk at Saucers Cafe are almost as good as seeing Burton Cummings at Pollock Hardware
92. Save The Jets even more entertaining than having an actual NHL team
91. Enjoy three flavours of Mennonite: Original Farm Fresh, Crunchy Granola Urban, or new 'Fallen' Flavour, Rocky Road (available at nightclubs and house parties only)
90. Who wants to garden 12 whole months of the year? That's an awful lot of bending over.
89. We've been sticking it to The Man since 1919
88. 79% less Empty Suits than Calgary
87. No 'Mr. Katz' for our mayor. Call him 'Hef'
86. The chance of seeing a scuffle between Dancing Gabe and Corydon's Bug Man (with files from Marjo)
85. Saving money by not replacing your car's burnt out turn signal lights. You won't need them here (thanks to Lois)
84. 14 years of freedom from that albatross around our necks, Headingley
83. Sunday nights in Winnipeg are now wanker-free (Portage Avenue excluded from this offer)
82. 6000 years of ripping off tourists at The Forks
81. It's not Regina
80. Winnipeg's own APTN, home of Tipi Tales and the creepiest puppets since The Friendly Giant's chicken-in-a-bag
79. Universal free daycare (this offer only available if your mother still lives here)
78. We'll never get attacked by terrorists. They don't even know we're here.
77. There's an arts group here for every 23 people, and if you don't like any of them, start your own!
76. Okay, Uncle Bob, Archie Wood and Marvin the Mouse were pretty creepy too
75. Central location perfect for plans of world domination, plus inexpensive start-up costs
74. Purple City: Just as much fun sober
73. We all really, really want you here
72. The World's Largest Collection of Louis Riel statues
71. Clifford's may be gone, but we'll always have Every Sha-la-la-la, Every Wo-o-wo-o
70. We're the real Paris of the Prairies, not Saskatoon
69. Only in Winnipeg would you see this: Winnipeg house crashes into neighbouring home
68. Brad Roberts doesn't live here anymore
67. Ben Mulroney has never lived here. (Look at 75% of the books Ben has already read: Hope he runs for PM)
66. What we do have is our own Henry Rollins/Renaissance Man John K. Samson (who actually knows how to read: John K.)
65. Hoarding: Winnipeg's National Sport. Check out Chester Cuthbert: (A million dollar tax receipt comes in pretty handy when you're 95. Oh well, I think you can only carry over a personal tax write-off for five years anyway.)
64. Only city in Canada with deputy police chief named Menno
63. The Blue Bombers: Snatching Defeat from the Jaws of Victory since 1936
62. Since Tasty Byte Pizza on Sherbrook burned down, pint-sized thugs are all conveniently located in one place: The Forks Skate Park
61. The Weakerthans finally have a new album out. Listen to samples here: The Weakerthans
60. The City of Winnipeg has decided to go toe-to-toe with bad boy landlord Ken Reiss. The City will put a million dollars into the historic and crumbling King Building/Ryan Block, and then add it to Kenny's tax bill! See why it was one of Canada's top ten endangered buildings in 2007 (it was #5 in the 2007 report)
59. We have our very own Donald Trump
58. The crazy old guy whose parents left him the broom factory on Notre Dame. The only place in town to get a 20 year-old, brand-new push broom.
57. Three distinct seasons - Festival
56. Construction: Happens concurrently with #57
55. And The Rest of the Time
54. The Manitoba Leg: Built by masons and Masons (can you still be a secret society if you have a website?)
53. Duff's Ditch: One of only four man-made structures that can be seen from space. The others are the Suez Canal, the Great Wall of China, and Donald Trump's hair. (this is actually a myth. Trump's hair is his own, misguidedly styled like candy floss in a heat wave.)
52. We're generous: Manitoba consistently ranks as Canada's most generous province. (excluding me, because I'm a jerk)
51. We're parsimonious: Can these two be harmonious?
50. Our sense of humour. When you live in a city with a name "like a bad contest for pirates" (Emo Phillips), you need to larf at yourself, eh? Studies show that Winnipeggers take themselves 59% less seriously than Torontonians. (Present company excluded, Rae, David and Priyanka.) Someone has even created a running list of local loons. Check out these nuts
49. As a filming location, US productions have been coming to Winnipeg for the value. But even though the Canadian dollar now makes the US dollar look like rubles, I predict we'll still see some action here. They keep coming back because Winnipeg is a great stand-in for almost anywhere (except the mountains. Unless you count Garbage Hill).
48. Garbage Hill: We don't have hills in Winnipeg, so we made our own. Out of garbage! How ingenious. Great for tobogganing in the winter, Garbage Hill is also fun in the summer. Can Calgarians play frisbee on their hills while dodging old Fiesta Ware shards working their way up to freedom?
47. The French Quarter (the new Provencher Blvd): Seriously, isn't it great to walk into a wonderful independent jeweller like Bijou Treasures and get service in French or English? It's just like being in Europe. (Without the people urinating in the street.)
46. In response to concerns about downtown safety, the City has announced more beat cops walking up and down Portage between Main and the U of W. (More beat cops patrol downtown Winnipeg streets) In an unrelated story, Tim Horton's has announced they will be opening a dozen new donut shops on Portage between Main and the U of W.
45. Speaking of movies that make Winnipeg look good, the Brad Pitt movie that made Aqua Books famous has finally come out. Last week, I did a bit for Global TV News about my relationship with Brad Pitt. The interview went so well that I appear in the clip, say about eleven words, and disappear forever. It was very disappointing for a media hog like me. So I didn't put it up on our site. I decided to waste YouTube's bandwidth instead. Watch it here
44. Winnipeg is not in Minnesota
43. Our yearly spell of cold weather keeps us safe from cockroaches, book-eating insects, and those foot-long slugs that lived on my street in Vancouver
42. We now have our own February holiday. And we didn't end up with a lame name for it like Alberta got. Family Day sounds like it was coined by some moral watchdog group trying to overturn Bill C-38. Instead, we got a typically ironic Manitoba name. We named our holiday Louis Riel Day. That's right, we named it after our Founding Father. Who we killed! Well, this won't make up for that, but at least he has a day off now. (And apparently Burton Cummings Day is being reserved for another date.)
41. Speaking of Burton, Winnipeg poet Ariel Gordon has suggested a new slogan for Winnipeg: Stand Tall. Hey, it's better than our current slogan: Ego teneo vos es tamen quis sum ego? (I know you are, but what am I?)
40. NAfro Dance: One of Canada's best African dance companies is based right here. And at the end of each show, the audience is invited up to dance. (If you don't want to see a bunch of 50 year-old white women shaking it, you'll need to leave during the clapping.)
39. What happens in Wolseley, stays in Wolseley
38. Cross the street wherever you like: You will never get a ticket for jaywalking in Winnipeg, unless you are also carrying a gun
37. The Bombers (depending on when you're reading this)
36. Local transplants like author Anita Daher. Born in PEI, Anita makes her home in Winnipeg, because she likes it. (And she got so sick of Anne of Green Gables.) Anita won this year's John Hirsch Award for Most Promising Manitoba Writer. (I was on the jury.) Anita's new book, Two Foot Punch, came out two weeks ago, and is a very fun and zippy read. It's a young adult thriller about a couple of kids who do parkour (look it up) all over Winnipeg's Exchange District. Aqua Books makes a cameo in the book under our old name, Aslan and Frodo's Used Books. (Bribing the jury?) Two Foot Punch is available at McNally Robinson, but not at Aqua because it's not used yet.
35. Winnipeg's New(ish) Millennium Library: Just kidding. Borrowing books is for losers. Buy books. Used books. Plus that one I just told you about.
34. Veteran actor Richard Hurst and his annual reading of Dickens' Christmas Carol at Dalnavert Museum. CD now available at Aqua Books for $10. (Did I mention this was an advertorial?)
33. It must be safe here: We have more police per capita than any other city in the country. (Can't we all just get along?)
32. In 1936, Louise Staples, a teacher at Winnipeg's Greenwood Elementary, was the first Canadian to organize a school safety crossing patrol. Later that year, little Willie Colburn was the first Canadian patrol to shout at a jaywalking student: "I'm going to report you!"
31. We're Tough: Where else could you see a woman walking down the street in -20, wearing sockless crocs?
30. Sushi: There are now more Japanese restaurants in Winnipeg than Japanese people.
29. It will be ages before we're actually affected by Global Warming: We're still a virginal cold-weather utopia.
28. Our high and low temps are also matched by our high- and low-brow: Not only is Winnipeg Canada's Cultural Capital, we're also the Slurpee Capital of the World.
27. Ron Robinson: The velvet-voiced, vest-vestmented veteran is back. Readin' Ronnie's all-books, all-the-time radio show is Thursdays at 5pm on CKUW 95.9 FM.
26. Just when you think you're out, they pull you back in.
25. Unlike NYC, when it's sunny in Winnipeg, you can actually see past the buildings to the sun.
24. Birks is coming back downtown after 15 years away. They've announced they're moving to Lombard and Main to be closer to the new Aqua Books.
23. The super cool art deco elevator at 250 McDermot. Sometimes I ride it up and down until they throw me out.
22. No matter how much you doll it up, Christmas isn't really Christmas without snow. And we've got snow...
21. The Order of Manitoba. If Sam Katz can get one, you can too!
20. Uncle Bob, Archie Wood and Marvin the Mouse: Weren't these guys #76 too?
19. Fresh Air: This is something to boast about. Go to New York and sniff around a bit.
18. The Wagon Wheel on Hargrave: My Dad used to take me there. How is it still open?
17. The Paddlewheel at The Bay: As long as there are old ladies, there will be a Paddlewheel restaurant and those little Jellos.
16. MTC: Manitoba Theatre Centre is celebrating 50 years. MTC may not be edgy enough for everyone, but it's a stable arts group that provides jobs for a lot a creative Winnipeggers. In this issue of Ovation, Artistic Director Steven Schipper says, "Those of us who come to Manitoba dream of...taking only what we need and giving back all we can. That's our Manitoba. That's our community." I guess that's what Philip Seymour Hoffman meant about the communists. (If you don't get that PSH reference, it's because you didn't read the NYC thing.)
15. We're finally on the map for the amazing Cirque du Soleil again. Last year's scaled-down Delirium tour was such a success here, that this year we're getting one of the big top shows. Before August 2007, Cirque du Soleil last played Winnipeg in the early '90's at the Pantages Playhouse.
14. The Forks: I've slagged the Forks as much as much as any other self-respecting Winnipegger, but their new Arctic Glacier Winter Park is a smart idea. The Forks has the same tourist trap-py failings as most of the other public markets in Canada (Eau Claire in Calgary, Granville Island in Vancouver, etc.). But it really is one of the few true public spaces in Winnipeg, in a civic landscape dominated by shopping malls impersonating public spaces.
13. Union Station: Offices now occupy the space where a (failed) public market was attempted (fifteen years ago?), but Union Station is still an architectural gem. Let's be thankful that train visitors to Winnipeg land in our own scaled-down version of Grand Central instead of Kildonan Place.
12. The Bears on Broadway: Should we call them the Ursines on Assiniboine? How about the PoBears of SoBro? I just discovered the other day (on my way home from #13 and #14) that many of the big statues now live behind the Leg. It would be more interesting if the bears were from more than just one mold, but it's okay. Public art is public art.
11. You know it's Spring when all of Fall's garbage starts popping through the melting snow like malformed crocuses (croci?)
10. A concerned group of citizens is working on a plan to trade our Sam Katz for this one: Sam Katz
9. Pollock Hardware IS BACK! 'Little hardware store that could' closer to reopening
8. Assiniboine Park: Can't get enough of old people in running shorts? Visit one of Canada's largest urban forests on a Sunday morning.
7. MTS Centre: Don't cry for Eaton's. The Phone Booth is one of North America's busiest venues. Do you think that Cirque de Soleil would have come if they had to do their shows in the old Winnipeg Urena?
6. Guy Maddin: Local filmmaker Guy Maddin is a civic treasure and should be awarded the Order of the Buffalo. His new film, My Winnipeg, has been acclaimed all over the world, and not just by ex-Winnipeggers. Roger Ebert gave it 4 out of 4 stars. A must-see if you love or want to love Winnipeg.
5. The Writers' Studios at 274 Garry Street: As you walk around downstairs shopping or eating, someone upstairs is likely sweating away on a new novel. When these books come out, I'll let you know. We'll make a Written at Aqua Books section.
4. Winnipeg's Cultural City Hall at 274 Garry Street: Our own Stone Angel presides over shows, lectures and readings. (Watch for
3. Aqua Books at 274 Garry Street (you see where this is going, no?)
2. EAT! bistro at 274 Garry Street: Truly SoPo's hottest lunch spot. (We're open until 9pm, but it's lunch that's usually a zoo.) Virtually everything is made from scratch, from sauces to dressings to soups (but no nuts). If you can resist having one of the awesome desserts, call the morgue, you're already dead.
1. [insert your reason here] Yes, it's a cop-out, but there are way more than a hundred reasons, and you must have your own. (If you still live here, and you can't think of any reason why, let me know. I'll buy you a Greyhound ticket.)
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