Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Winter gives proud, old Winnipeg a really bad hair day

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Her name is Winnipeg... and she is mad. For all the years I have known her, and I met her when she was still a very young fort, I have never seen her as angry as this. She is one fired-up puppy, and you can't blame her really. I mean, Winnipeg, in her own mind, is and has always been the centre of the New World, the heart of the continent, the queen of the Red and the diva of The Social. Now, after all these years, they invited the entire Western Hemisphere to focus on her at her absolute worst. You can't blame her really. I mean, isn't it rather like being surprised with a grand party at your own home when all your pipes are frozen, and there you are, no makeup and in your PJs with a smile slapped on your face.

All the grand cities of the world -- Paris, London, New York, Rome -- alive with commerce, powered by industry, adorned with art and spirited by sport. Each one of these giants pulsates with life. The rush of traffic circulates along their paved arteries and veins. The push of the crowds beat with the ebb and flow of daily life and commerce flexes its muscles with seasonal change. They are her wanna-be's! Her childhood dreams come true are filled with their adventures, and here she is, laid-out, no, more like exposed to them as she never dreamed possible.

Now, let me talk a bit about Winnipeg, the friendly city. She is miserable. Her heart is shrinking. Her symphony and theatre, ballet and, well, hockey, reflect perhaps one-sixth of her former glory. Her one remaining great store of yore has lost its lustre. Reduced to a couple of floors you could shoot a cannon through at any given hour of the day in quiet assurance no one would be hurt. Golly, it would probably go unnoticed! Her waist line, however, is expanding at an exponential rate. Urban sprawl is freckled with huge box stores, wonderful additions to any city, south of the Mason Dixon line. Winnipeg, however, spends three quarters of her time covered in snow and at 40 below. And to top it all off, her feet are killing her. Potholes like bunions and plow-gorged ankles have left her streets and curbs in dire need of urban maintenance. Now, given all this, I ask you, who wouldn't be grumpy?

Jumpin' Junos, she is upset... I haven't seen her this mad since they gave her that bypass and then so laughingly referred to it as Duff's Ditch. Then there was the bridge connecting to her little pet St. Boniface. But I will get to that.

They broke her heart, you know. Her downtown core is no longer the hustling, bustling centre for shops and boutiques and department stores it once was. She complains of a constant and ever-present migraine. Her grey matter, in their grey suits, often at odds with each other and with her, have become a constant irritant. Between fire halls, police stations, football arenas and baseball parking lots, her synapses are all one big crooked mess.

She is having major problem with her arteries. Traffic flow is inconsistent and not only her arteries and veins are breaking down but the problem is going right to her capillaries. This winter was particularly hard, forcing her into extra doses of vitamin P, (that's vitamin Plow, just to be clear). She usually takes the C vitamins and minerals during the summer months. We all know that sometimes you can overdose, even, with the healthy supplements, and all that extra plowing took its toll on her. Her veins are slowly breaking down, and after this particularly bad year lesions have sprung up throughout her system. One particularly hard-hit site took place in her Grosvenor area where a 100-year-old gated fence succumbed to a vitamin P overdose.

Between instances like this and constant trouble with her continence, water-main breaks becoming more and more frequent, is it not understandable she is in such a state?

We all know about the major surgeries she requires, but her grey matter seems set on facelifts and Band-aids. Are those grey suits filling her head with grand ideas about stadiums and arenas and museums giving any thought to her circulatory problems, her foot rot or her angina?

Maybe what she really needs is a lobotomy.

Barbara Linklater is a retired Winnipeg teacher who loves to write.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition April 9, 2014 A9

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