Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The hell you say?

Rob Lowe's tweet divided Winnipeg into two solitudes. Which one are you in?

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Two summers ago, a cave-in at Chile's San José Mine left 33 men stranded 700 metres below the surface of the Atacama Desert.

Initially assumed dead, the miners were discovered alive and well in the hot and humid bowels of the copper and gold mine. They spent a total of 69 days underground. Their rescue was televised around the world.

If any of those miners had access to the Internet and a Twitter account during the ordeal, they could justifiably have told the world they were trapped in a hellhole.

Given their experience, it's easy to see how Rob Lowe would feel the same way.

Yeah, I know it's been a few days since the dude who spent four years playing Sam Seaborn on The West Wing gave Winnipeggers something to focus on besides an incomplete football stadium for a couple of hours.

By tweeting he was "trapped in a hellhole" while attempting to watch an NBA broadcast in some unnamed sports bar, Lowe managed to enrage overly sensitive types who take offence every time Winnipeg's allegedly good name is besmirched.

At the very same time, other Winnipeggers appeared to be just as annoyed by the reaction to the Lowe tweet rather than the comment itself. To this crowd, if you complain when your city is compared to the opening to the gates of hell, then you probably belong in such a place.

In other words, the now-tiresome #TrappedInAHellhole meme divided Winnipeg into two unsavoury camps: A) Easily offended small-town yokels; and B) Humourless, disaffected hipsters.

If you merely found the entire episode amusing, well, too freaking bad. You must choose between being morally outraged by the random musings of some wraith-like Dorian Gray figure, or being mortally offended by the lack of sophistication of your fellow citizens, who serve as a constant source of embarrassment to you.

Yes, these are the two solitudes of life in Winnipeg, at least for the next 15 minutes. Not rich versus poor, urban versus suburban or aboriginal versus white, but outraged versus outraged by the outraged.

If you're not sure how you fit into this extremely narrow dichotomy, I've devised a test to discern how detestable you are:

How Lowe can you go?

When it's time for a little pick me up, where do you get your caffeine?

1. Tim Hortons. The drive-thru lineup moves really quickly and it's cheap, you know.

2. Starbucks. The staff is so friendly and they're really not that expensive, you know.

3. Parlour. They have the best beans and it's really not that expensive, you know.

4. I only drink yerba maté from a gourd I bought in Peru.


What goes through your mind when the MTS Centre crowd chants "True North!" during the national anthem?

1. "I love Mark Chipman so much, I would gladly conceive his child or undergo gender-transition surgery in order to make that happen."

2. "Whooooo! Go Jets!"

3. "Man, this beer is expensive."

4. "The magnetic-north reference in the Winnipeg Jets logo is just another intolerable corporate intrusion into everyday culture and that would upset me greatly if it wasn't for the more egregious fact the logo is a symbol of military might and, wait, have people already forgotten what happened in Libya or never mind, that one turned out OK for NATO so I should have probably said Afghanistan because that one is a real mess, although I am conflicted because it's not like the Taliban share my values, either, and oh, look -- it's the second period already."

What's your favourite summer festival?

1. Folklorama. I love the food. I mean, where else can you get, like, perogies and spring rolls? That's just crazy. They also have really interesting beer. I had something called a "Heineken" at the Dutch pavilion. It's not even from here. Crazy!

2. The Red River Exhibition. I am so stoked to see Tom Cochrane. You know that part in Life Is A Highway when he says, "Sometimes you stand and sometimes you bend?" That really speaks to me, man.

3. The Winnipeg Folk Festival. Ozomatli is playing Thursday on the main stage. I saw them in Kathmandu in 2007. You've never really heard Spanish hip-hop until you've heard it performed in the Himalayas.

4. It's a really small festival. You probably haven't heard of it.

What is your favourite all-time TV comedy?

1. Everybody Loves Raymond. I really miss that show.

2. Big Bang Theory. They're like, geeks, and they're living next to a hot chick. That never gets old.

3. Robot Chicken. I would have said Family Guy, but the writing has fallen off in recent years.

4. Game of Thrones. If you watched it really closely, you would know it's actually a comedy.

OK, so you just got your municipal property-tax bill. The first thing you do is ...

1. Complain about it to your neighbour.

2. Complain about it in the comments section of .

3. Complain about it on Twitter.

4. Tell your neighbour, online commenters and everyone on Twitter they are wrong to feel the way they do about their property taxes.


How did you do?

Give yourself one point if you picked answer No. 1, two points if you picked No. 2... you get it. (If you don't get it, subtract 10 points from your score.)

If you scored 4-7: You are detestable. You were so offended by Rob Lowe, you attempted to visit the set of the Casey Anthony bopic in an effort to cause him physical harm. He now has a restraining order against you. You own at least one ATV and one snowmobile. The only American cities you've ever visited are Grand Forks and Fargo. You know a lot about lawn mowers. You have a very large television. One day, you will watch the Casey Anthony bopic on this TV and you will not notice the wraith-like Rob Lowe.

If you scored 17-20: You are detestable. You believe Winnipeg is a hellhole. You also wear suspenders, have a very long beard and make your own cocktails from scratch, using syrup you distil yourself from juniper bushes and very rare orchids. You want to move to Williamsburg, Brooklyn or Portland, Ore., but you can't afford to do so because you still haven't finished that master's degree in urban studies. You know a lot about charcuterie. You stopped listening to Metric after their first album.

If you scored 8-16: You are not detestable. You laughed when Rob Lowe compared Winnipeg to a hellhole. Then you got on with your life.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition June 17, 2012 ??65535

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About Bartley Kives

Bartley Kives wants you to know his last name rhymes with Beavis, as in Beavis and Butthead. He aspires to match the wit, grace and intelligence of the 1990s cartoon series.

Bartley joined the Free Press in 1998 as a music critic. He spent the ensuing 7.5 years interviewing the likes of Neil Young and David Bowie and trying to stay out of trouble at the Winnipeg Folk Festival before deciding it was far more exciting to sit through zoning-variance appeals at city hall.

In 2006, Bartley followed Winnipeg Mayor Sam Katz from the music business into civic politics. He spent seven years covering city hall from a windowless basement office.

He is now reporter-at-large for the Free Press and also writes an outdoor-recreation column called Offroad for the Outdoors page.

A canoeist, backpacker and food geek, Bartley is fond of conventional and wilderness travel. He is the author of A Daytripper’s Guide to Manitoba: Exploring Canada’s Undiscovered Province, the only comprehensive travel guidebook for Manitoba – and a Canadian bestseller, to boot. He is also co-author of Stuck In The Middle: Dissenting Views of Winnipeg, a collaboration with photographer Bryan Scott.

Bartley appears every second Wednesday on CityTV’s Breakfast Television. His work has also appeared on CBC Radio and in publications such as National Geographic Traveler, explore magazine and Western Living.

Born in Winnipeg, he has an arts degree from the University of Winnipeg and a master’s degree in journalism from Ottawa’s Carleton University. He is the proud owner of a blender.

On Twitter: @bkives


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