Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hell breaks loose on schedule

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It's easy to point out all the things that are wrong with Winnipeg. For the most part, our city's faults tend to jump out at a person, whether one chooses to focus on the long winters or the terrible condition of our streets or the mosquitoes or the lost souls who languish on downtown sidewalks and remind of us of what mental illness, addiction and abject poverty can do to a human being.

Even if our shortcomings weren't glaringly obvious, I'm confident we'd have no problem explaining them in great detail to anyone who could actually stand to listen to us. Complaining is what we do in Winnipeg and we do it with gusto.

And still, despite all the moaning, we stay -- not out of laziness or fear (although I suppose there are those who would like to move but have resigned themselves to the devil they know), but because we recognize, somewhat paradoxically, that there's lots to love about the city we love to hate.

This is, I think, especially true in the summertime.

Year after year, as the temperature rises, so too does the number of violent crimes, as if the heat brings out the worst in people. Here we are once again, thrust into the season after a few false starts and a spring that never really was, and already the weekends are filling up with shootings, we have a doctor accused of sexually assaulting a patient and a police officer charged with aggravated assault while on duty.

All hell is breaking loose, right on schedule -- and yet, at the very same time, the return of summer to Winnipeg has also brought with it a lot of great things; the kinds of things that make this city a great place in which to live.

Patios have come alive and are bustling with activity. People are out riding bikes. The ice-cream truck that plays Camptown Races on a never-ending loop has begun its nightly patrol through the streets of my neighbourhood.

I attended last weekend's Pride rally and marched in the parade alongside thousands of other Winnipeggers in support of our city's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered community. Collectively, we were quite the spectacle -- but far more important than how we looked was the way it felt to be surrounded by a sea of strangers who had come together to celebrate diversity, cheer on love and demonstrate the meaning of solidarity. It's the kind of feeling that warms the heart and lingers inside a person.

The very next day, I watched Coldplay perform in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the MTS Centre. If I lived in Vancouver, I likely couldn't have afforded to go -- but I live here, where I can keep a roof over my head and maintain a standard of living that allows me the occasional luxury, like an awesome concert and the spontaneous singalong that broke out in the lobby afterwards as satisfied fans filed out into the downtown streets.

In mere weeks, the Winnipeg Folk Festival will descend on Birds Hill Park and the Exchange District will be transformed by the Fringe -- two of my all-time favourite Winnipeg summer activities. I can't wait.

Certainly, there are plenty of valid criticisms to be made about Winnipeg. We have problems -- some like any other city, some uniquely our own -- and when they seem to come at us all at once, as they seem to do every summer, it's tempting to fixate on them.

Acknowledging Winnipeg's failings, however, doesn't mean we can't also appreciate all that we have to be thankful for. There are many reasons why we love this city we love to hate. They're worth remembering, too.

Marlo Campbell writes for Uptown Magazine.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 22, 2009 A14

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