Thursday, December 30, 2010

Touring Weakerthans' Landmarks wih the CBC

At CBC Studios

So, the morning after I got to Winnipeg the lovely Rosanna Deerchild from CBC Radio One took me on a tour of Weakerthans lyrical landmarks and recorded the entire escapade. It was so much fun! 
(At the time, my camera hijacked photos we took and I could not get them free until now!  
So, sorry for the late post.)

First of all Rosanna and I headed to "the underground" and Winnipeg Square. This is referenced in the song "One Great City."  Of course I wanted to see the place where there were "a thousand sharpened elbows."   The Underground is located underneath the corner of Portage and Main.  It's a series of halls which basically form an underground mall that attaches downtown buildings together so that you do not have to deal with the weather.  It is the counterpart to the Skywalk (which I call "Hamster Tubes").  So not only do you have these alternate ways of getting around but what is also strange is that you can not cross at Portage and Main streets on foot at street level. It is baracaded off - so you must go into the underground if you want to do anything other than turn right at any of the corners.

Also, if I understand this correctly, Winnipeg Square is actually underground.  Is that right?  If so, that would be strange - but beleivable. 

And per an adequate lyrical description - the floor was polished which cause people's shoes make a distinctive sound - and get this -- there was even a dollar store right there smack dab in the middle of the underground.  

Map of Portage and Main

Photo of Portage and Main (Above the Underground)

We walked around the underground, through the skywalks and over to the library where we picked up a bus over to Osborne Village to see "Confusion Corner".  This area reminds me of my neighborhood, Little Five Points, in Atlanta  and right in the middle is a place that made me very grateful that I was not driving.  

Confusion Corner is a reference in the song Civil Twlight and it is an actual place in Winnipeg. Before I started this blog I had no idea that this was an actual place I could visit.  This in fact is why I started the blog in the first place, to gather just that kind of information.  So Confusion Corner is like a street level version of what we call "Spegetti Junction" except for it is a huge hub for the buses as well which kind of makes it look even more... well, confusing.  It is where many commuters pick up the bus or transfer from bus to bus.  One wonderful thing that I discovered is that many of Winnipeg's inclosed bus stops have heated seats!  I can say from personal experience that this is a luxury when you are waiting for a bus at 10pm in 5F degree weather!  Good job, Winnipeg!

Next, we ventured back across the river towards the "Golden Business Boy."   Did you know that rivers can freeze?  I didn't.  This may make me sound completely niaeve but I thought that the definition of a river was that it was moving water!  Well, in Winnipeg, the river freezes.  In fact, it was mid-December and it was already half-frozen over.  Apparently by late-January this river becomes the longest ice skating river rink in the world... and on the other side of the river is the Golden Business Boy.

The Golden Business Boy is another reference from "One Great City" and is the golden male figure on top of the Legistlature Building who is holding a torch and wheat while wearing a loin cloth.  He has a nice toned body but in my opinion looks a little naked in a Winnipeg winter.  You would think they would at least give him a scarf when winter comes.  Indeed he does look towards the North End.  Leaving Osborne Village the view of his golden butt.   

On the way back I saw my first Winnipeg winter "stroller".  It is not a stroller at all, apparently in winter in Winnipeg people just pull their kids around in sleds.  I asked Roseanna how they got the kids to stay in the sled and then I took a second look.  This kid was wrapped up like that kid in A Christmas Story... there is no way she could have wiggled her way out.  It would have just taken too much energy and dexterity. 

Rosanna and I headed back to CBC headquarters where we finnished our interview.  She went to work editing our conversation.  I went home and took a nap.  Good job Rosanna.  You can hear the CBC piece below.

Listen to the final piece here:

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One Great City Lyrics - The Weakerthans
Late afternoon, another day is nearly done. A darker gray is breaking through a lighter one. A thousand sharpened elbows in the underground. That hollow hurried sound of feet on polished floor, and in the Dollar Store the clerk is closing up, and counting Loonies, trying not to say, "I hate Winnipeg." The driver checks the mirror, seven minutes late. The crowded riders' restlessness enunciates that the Guess Who suck, the Jets were lousy anyway. The same route every day. And in the turning lane, someone's stalled again. He's talking to himself, and hears the price of gas repeat his phrase: "I hate Winnipeg." And up above us all, leaning into sky, our Golden Business Boy will watch the North End die, and sing "I love this town," then let his arcing wrecking ball proclaim, "I hate Winnipeg." 


  1. Actually, most Winnipeggers refer to the statue on top of the Legislative Building as simply the Golden Boy, and he doesn't wear a loin cloth, he's completely butt naked.

  2. The "Golden Business Boy" is a reference to former mayor Glen Murray (1998-2004)

    I read that somewhere, perhaps in Uptown Magazine (though my memory is hazy) around when Reconstruction Site was released. He basically was like a white knight to the left/progressive crowd when he was first elected mayor, then disappointed them with actions perceived as "selling out" to big business. Towards the end of his reign, he was often derided as narcissistic, out of touch and with vision that could be called mile wide and inch deep.

    I won't bore you of all the details of his rise and demise, though I am sure I easily could.
    This article is a little more telling and revealing of our former mayor:

  3. I guess that much like the Golden Boy atop the Legislature, Glen Murray stood aloof and oblivious (up above us all) to what was happening at ground level. Also, the Golden Boy faced northwards to represent the promise of development and prosperity in the north of the province (now it is neither developed nor prosperous) and instead gets a view of the North End dying... this ties in somewhat to the disappointment and feeling of promise lost in Glen Murray's mayoralty, particularly among left leaning types (such as Mr. Samson).

    That linked article alludes to the landmark heritage building demolished with a lot of controversy to build a new hockey arena, which Murray had a huge hand in (let his arcing ball proclaim...) On a side note, if rumour is to be believed, this arena might become home to the NHL's Atlanta Thrashers next season. (photo not mine:

    I knew what the 'underground' was as soon as I heard One Great City.. people from elsewhere will likely think it means a subway, which we don't have.

    Portage and Main is also referred to in the Randy Bachman/Neil Young song "Prairie Town" with the line "Portage and Main, 50 below" (yes, it can get that cold with the wind chill)