Friday, December 17, 2010

Day Three: Could This Get Any Better?

Thursday was spent catching up on sleep and trying desperately to write, but the words just weren't coming.  So I headed over to The Wagon Wheel per one of the blog reader's suggestions.  I was pleasantly surprised that this tiny diner tucked away in the folds of Portage Ave. had such local character. It's been around for at least 50 years and I doubt the decor has changed much in those 5 decades.  Recently the owner had passed away, but the place was still bustling, an homage to it's late owner.

I sat at the counter next to a man who said he had been coming there for 40 years and that his favorite dish (a hot Roast Beef Sandwich covered in gravy) had not changed in all that time.  We had a long chat about Winnipeg and what it meant to him.  He detested the downtown area and again warned me of walking around at night alone.  He much preferred Vancouver or Las Vegas, but he has spent his whole life here,  cursing every winter.

The main waitress reminded me of my Aunt Peggy who worked in truck stop diners during most of my childhood.  She fit in perfectly with her quick wit and her ability to talk to anyone about anything.  I got a simple grilled cheese and potato soup.  

Thanks for the suggestion.  I am going back before I leave.

For the record, downtown does not seem scary whatsoever at night.  I have never felt unsafe here and I have been on foot every night on these streets.  Perhaps, I have just been lucky.  Or I am just used to it.  I have lived in the middle of big cities all my life and finding drunk people peeing in your front yard, or passed in your bushes is kinda a regular thing living in Little Five Points in Atlanta.  But thanks for the warning folks.  As a city girl, my guards are usually up, paying attention.  I think that is half the battle.

For dinner I met with Jen Zoratti and Nick Friesen, who are both delightful people and talented journalist.  We chatted about the Canadian indie rock scene.  Who's cool, who is full of themselves.  It's interesting from my perspective because I only get to see these bands if they do extensive US tours or play festivals.  So, getting an insiders perspective of where all these bands originally came from is interesting.  There definitely seems to be a theme of moving to Toronto and forgetting where you came from.  This happens in the US as well.  Pretty much most bands that say they are from Austin, TX actually came from some un-sexy town or far away suburb.

We then headed to the West End Cultural Center to watch what turned out to be my favorite Weakerthans show ever.  We got there right before the opening band started and again I noticed that no one was standing at the front of the stage.  There were plenty of people there but they were either sitting in the balcony or mulling around the back of the room.  Is it not cool to wander up close to the stage and steak your place? Would that say that you were too egar?  The only people hanging out at the front were a group of middle or highschoolers.  But I was not ashamed (obviously), so I dragged Jen up to the front with me.  I could tell by her slight reluctance that we were kinda breaking some unspoken rule.  But I flew 1,600 miles to see this band.  Screw the rules!  Jen was a sport of course.

Out of respect for JKS's proposal of concert etiquette,  I have been refraining from taking photos at shows.  Do you know hard that is?  It is really amazingly difficult.  Last night was especially a struggle because it was such a special show to me.  So, what I am being forced to do is explain with words, what I saw with my eyes.  The thing is - it does make you pay more attention.  It makes you be more present in the moment.  So, with words I will try to describe what was so special about this night through my eyes.

The first thing I noticed is that they seemed to be enjoying themselves much more than the night before.  They were playful, relaxed and just seemed to enjoy playing.  But the reason why this show will always sick out my head is that there were some really inventive renditions of album tracks that I doubt they have ever played before live.

(Hospital Vespers) in particular was so unique and so special.  They did an amazing job at turning that into a live song.  I can't wait to see it again on Saturday.  Without Mythologies was another treat.  To see JKS put down his guitar and and grasp the microphone.  There was a modesty in his hands with a little dash of confidence.  I can say that as a musician who is also a lead singer, there is a huge difference in singing behind the safety of a guitar.  Putting down that instrument and grabbing the mic makes you so much more vulnerable, naked.   Also, Slips and Tangles has never been my favorite song.  I mean, I really do love every Weakerthans song, but its just not one I ever seek out to listen to.  But tonight, I got to see it through different eyes somehow.  It was quite and gentle and so loving.  All a sudden it grew on me.

Of course, Left and Leaving being my favorite song is always so special to see live and to hear everyone singing it is so comforting.  This song always puts my head a place of reflection.  Last night, it made me think of Atlanta:  My home.  My streets.  My bars.  My friends.  It made me wish that Molly, Susan and John were here with me, seeing all this beside me.  And though Winnipeg has been courting me like I have never been courted, this song made me miss my home.

After the set on this upcoming Saturday, I doubt that I will ever get a chance to see many of these songs performed like this again and feel so amazingly lucky to have been here to experience it.  If you are going on Saturday at the Burton Cummings, make sure you see these particular songs and maybe you will understand what I am trying to describe with words.

I was in kinda a daze after the show, so much so that I almost wandered out into this Winnipeg winter without my coat.  Seriously.  This week has all been a lot to take in at once.  Luckily, Jen stopped me and gave me this look like I was a crazy lady about to wander out coat less, falling into a snow bank and just lay there melting the ice.  Thanks for having my back, girl.

I can't wait to see Reconstruction Site performed tonight.  That's a really fun album.  I can't believe the shows are half over already!


  1. Glad you liked the Wagon Wheel.
    After I suggested it I read elsewhere in your blog that you ate veg, so I was a bit worried you wouldn't find anything you could eat.

  2. Good recommendation. Loved it. Thanks!!

  3. If you go back to the wagonwheel, you have to have the club sandwich.

  4. This city is not dangerous. There may be a few streets that you shouldn't be on late at night, but ONLY a few. I've lived here for 37 years, and I know first-hand that this place is safe. You have nothing to worry about. Seriously, the people who freak out about how dangerous the downtown area is have anxiety issues (my opinion) and really have a knack for imagining themselves in bad situations that just don't happen. I was asked for my wallet once, and I politely declined and kept walking. I wasn't afraid, and the guy left me alone. Killings here happen because you're in a rival gang, or because you've done something to someone else. There are a few murders by people who are not sane, but these are so unlikely to happen to you that they're almost a mathematical immpossibility. Some people happen to like drama, and they've bought into the scary stories. We had a female news anchor write an email about how extremely terrified she was walking downtown. I wonder if all the other people walking downtown after sunset shared her crippling fear? When everyone gets home safely...who's right?...and who's wrong?