Sunday, May 15, 2011

My Winnipeg Pictures

We first came to Winnipeg when I was 5.  We stayed near Corydon a block from the Trinity Baptist Church for a year.Crazy corners wasn't always there. There was a school where I attended kinderrgarden and Ron, my brother, attended elementray. I think Dad and Mom were looking for a house.  I think also they weren't certain they would stay. I know it was hard for Mom. She was a Toronto girl through and through so it was hard for her to move from the big city back to a small town.  I know she missed her family, friends, church and the eastern city lights.  She loved her "man", her children and her home but I know she missed her sisters. It was better when her mother came to live with us.  Toronto still was a road not travelled for the family. Our life as a family changed and a what could have been wasn't. What was, was.  On our visits back to Toronto  Mom shone.  When her sister came to visit she laughed like a little girl.
For Dad it was a matter of going where the work was. Granddad had built his farm and ranch where the water and pasture were. So Dad took the promotions and stayed in the West .A year later we moved to Fort Garry.  Mom and Dad raised us there, staying on North Drive till their mid 80's.  It was a good home. Mom loved the community club and Fort Garry Lance.  Dad love his family, work and neighbourhood. He was a Manitoba boy from the north.  Being in Winnipeg put him close to the duck hunting in Netley Marsh and the fishing in Blue Lake. It was a good place to raise his boys.
Winnipeg was for me as a child only a block or so of walking around the area of the Fort Rouge Apartment. Then in Fort Garry Winnipeg became so much bigger as I ranged out to know the block we lived on, the route to Viscount Alexander and even the trails along the Red River. There were a lot of kids in the neighbourhood.  Soon we'd be ranging as kids all the way up to Pembina. Sometimes I even crossed the tracks. Before long all of Fort Garry, but mostly the south side, became "my' Winnipeg.  As a teen ager we'd begin taking the bus on our own to the YMCA downtown. That would make the whole of Pembina ours and then the Bay and the Bay basement where we got those marvellous chocolate smoothies.  As a kid I knew places like Lyon and Pembina because the old theater was there. We'd watch black and white movies there on Saturday morning.   We'd walk down a street and know it because it was the route to somewhere but might never ever go to the next street over.  I don't think I knew any street where there weren't dogs and kids. .  There are still some streets in Fort Garry I have never been on and parts of Winnipeg that are strange to me. It's not like New York where New Yorkers can't possibly know very much of New York at all. The arrogance of New Yorkers rests in the confidence of the ignorance. . As a kid with a bicycle I explored everything and thought I knew everything.  I especially loved riding south to the perimeter. That was forever. The wheat fields in summer , endless highways and skyways, to a boy on a bicycle were endless opportunities.  Summer days would disappear in the endless turning of those bicycle wheels. No surprise I'd one day bicycle across Europe and be amazed at the density and detail of every mile of that cultivated civilization. .
As an adult I added bits of Winnipeg first by having girlfriends outside of Fort Garry.  I joined the Manitoba Theater School and met Nina who was attending University of Winnipeg Collegiate so I was suddenly always in the  Portage and Main  area or down around the University of Winnipeg. Coffeehouse days would take me into Osbourne Village where I had my first apartment.  A marriage to a girl from Grant Sreet area would open that region that had once just been along the route to the Airport.  One day I'd live across from the army base. I even worked in Tuxedo for a while..  I don't thinik I know what's beyond Tuxedo and hardly spent any time in Charleswood.  Work added more of downtown to my picture of Winnipeg.  Looking back it was like watching the pieces of a puzzle take shape with intense details in some parts and others still a mystery.  St. Vital was added because of the church and coffeeshop and later a bar and still later an AA meeting. A church friend in St. James added that bit to the overall picture. That and the park and zoo with the polar bears. University of Manitoba extended the Pembina Highway detail in the other direction.  The Health Science Center and Medical School opened that area up but not more than a block around the campus and hospital.  Other hospitals were added to the picture. Though I might seem to live in them doing 24 hour call and weekends I'd rarely venture more than a block outside of them.  Always the Parliament Buildings were central.  I can't remember how many times I walked past the Great West Life building. I later loved lunch at the Art Gallery. Those city places, the Bay and Eatons and the shops between were central to my picture of the city outside Fort Garry, Fort Rouge and Riverheights where I'd live.   Later a decade or so after I moved to the west coas,t travelling home to visit Mom and Dad, I'd add the Forks.  Dad liked to go there for lunch.
Each time I return to Winnipeg I don't find myself looking for new places though friends have added bits of the north end. I drive out to some place because they're there and next I know I 've got a few more landmarks.  Mostly though I 'm retracing my steps looking at what has changed.  I remember pushing my Toronto Aunt's wheelchair along Youge street when she was in her 80's and hadn't been able to walk there by herself.  My visits and those walks filled in the way her world had changed while she'd been shut in.  She was excited by what remained.
That's the way I am with Winnipeg. I'm nostalgic and excited by what remains, hardly seeing the new.  Fascinated by the old.  When I was a kid all I wanted to see was what was over the horizon.  I remember when Basil's opened and we had this new coffeehouse to go to.  New restaurants, Winnipeg is a place for fine and diverse dining, were so exciting. On my bicycle I ranged further and further away looking for more and more that was new and different. One day I'd drive away in a baha bug . It would be years before I'd drive through again. Mostly I'd come by plane with a safe return ticket.  Winnipeg has a way of capturing people.  It's known that the women steal men's hearts. Some men would even say the same. .  Something changed the year I drove away. . Now there's not so much time any more in some ways. I used to have so much time for Winnipeg giving half my life to Fort Garry alone. Now  my visits are so brief, too brief really..  I have so many committments and responsibilities.  It's a pleasure to get a passing glimpse of a place that once meant so much.  Driving by a cafe I remember a dinner party, the women so beautiful and the men young and vital with laugher and conversations that seem brilliant even today.  I pass a park and see us as kids tobogganing. At another park I remember my brother and sister in law with  their little ones  tobogganning.
But there's so much of Winnipeg that's a mystery.  I notice these great gaps now when I return.  New places and old places I just never  happened to visit. Endless urban spaces I never explored but somehow back then  I thought I knew Winnipeg.  It was my home. I knew my home and the trails I made around it to the important places I needed to go.  That's where I return to. The old haunts and trails.  Driving I snap pictures out a window. Glimpses in passing.  Memories in motion.  Snapshots from a Ford Focus rental.IMG 1858
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