Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Arm in arm with my fair city

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Winnipeg is a courtesan, a beautiful lady of the night, a lover of people, surprisingly warm in a sometimes Arctic climate. She can be coy and seductive, playful and sinful, childlike and innocent and available.

Take her hand, embrace her and fall in love with her, if only for an evening. Stroll with her arm in arm across the Osborne Street Bridge, stopping to gaze down at the Assiniboine River, meandering through the magnificent park that bears its name, sweeping along Wellington Crescent and winding its way through historical neighbourhoods towards its sister, the Red.

In winter, she breathes hoarfrost on our trees and turns rivers into skating trails.

We play on the winter wonderland she provides, falling on her hills only to stand again and wait for her new visitors to arrive when the ice melts and her rivers welcome kayaks, canoes, riverboats and fishermen.

Walk with her to Osborne Village, where paupers meet princes and poets meet kings and where buskers offer a song for a coin and proffer a smile even if for just a passing nod. Women in designer boots, beggars in blue jeans, seniors and children -- they know the lady well, from her icy stare to her warm summer breath to the fall colours she wears. Vendors with makeshift carts selling jewelry or Polish sausage bow as she passes. They all take her in just as they welcome each other, always without judgment.

She offers you food and wine in intimate bars and restaurants and touches your hand as you toast her beauty, her rawness and her daring. She's sexy and she knows it. You laugh with her, and at her, and either way is good with her. She bends to your wishes and whims.

The evening is young as she beckons you to the Village. From the bars and shops to bakeries, bookshops and tattoo parlors, she opens new doors and new perspectives and introduces you to new friends.

For a gentle kiss she'll show you the stage of the Gas Station Theatre on which her lovers perform. From drama to comedy spaces and to the music and rhythms of local performers, our lady can make us cry, laugh, think and dance.

Helmeted students with backpacks and laptop cases pass her on bikes and turn their heads in a kind of reverence of the lady who provides them with a place to rest. They lay sprawled on her benches in Osborne Village Square or occupy coffee-stained tables that surround it. Readers with books, writers with eyes that are blackened from sleepless nights and young girls pushing strollers all feel safe under her gaze.

Troubled faces, each line telling a story, push shopping carts filled with a lifetime of memories or today's meal. She offers her ear for their troubles, listening to their hearts as they sit on her stone ledges, emptying their souls from a flowerpot filled with stone.

Her buses empty, as she welcomes her passengers, a different crowd matching every different hour of her day. She places no limits on the time you spend with her, timeless moments in the spell of a mysterious woman.

The man in the wheelchair is her friend, a sign on his lap, a cup in his hand. He is one of her regulars, they say. He arrives each spring, a perennial thriving in the garden she has provided for years of loyalty.

Something about her costumed patrons speaks to us of the melting pot she has become, an ever-changing and vibrant face on this platform of cobblestone. Cyclists in full cycling garb, bikers in leather, dyed hair and shaved heads, the well-heeled and high-heeled, well-rehearsed actors in an unscripted play.

The sounds of a well-tuned guitar competes against the blowing horn of an irate driver just as the gentle words of a folk song have always been juxtaposed with the crueler realities of life. The music reaches upward, carrying with it the hopes of small children and aging hippies and a wise woman.


Village resident, aspiring romantic and loving grandfather Myles Rothman enjoys a single martini to greet his evenings, listening to Dylan, and the company of good friends.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 25, 2014 A8

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