Wednesday, January 11, 2012
You Can Always Go... Downtown
There are lots of reason why I love downtown.It ranges from the simple, to the complex. Downtown Winnipeg can be beautiful, soft and lovely. It can radiate a vibe that is completely natural and open. Other times, it's gritty and worn. It's old and tired.
Even in those moments, I still love downtown.
I can't express why. There is something about the darnkess of this city that gets under your skin and finds a home, like a tattoo.
I haven't had many bad experiences in downtown. Thinking about it now, I can only think of one moment recently where I didn't feel safe in my own back yard.
I was living on Assiniboine Avenue, about a block away from the Legeslative grounds. At the time, my heart had been broken and I was drunk. It was late spring and I decided that it might be a good idea to wander along the river walk, towards the Osborne bridge. It wasn't that late, probably close to 11 PM I think. I remember it was peaceful and enjoyable until I got close to the stairs leading up form the river walk to the Louis Riel statue. There was a group of young men, I believe about five or six. I don't believe any of them were older than 25. It was hard to tell. I didn't get close enough to them to get a good look.
As I walked up the stairs, I started to hear the laughs and jeers of these guys. I couldn't hear completely what they were saying but I could tell from the odd word I was able to pick up that they were talking about me. It was really the first time I felt uncomfortable in my own city. I quickly changed my path and got far away from them. I did my best not to make it look too obvious. My heart was racing as I walked briskly to the Osborne bridge. I stopped halfway on the bridge and watched them. Some of them had skateboards and were trying to grind the long rails on the stairs. Mostly they were laughing and drinking. From my advantage point I could see the bottle they were passing among each other, trying hard to conceal. I watched until they got bored of the river walk. Didn't take long as there was no foot traffic around the legislative grounds that late at night.
After they moved along, after I saw their shadows blend into the night, I started my trek back.
That was really the one and only time I felt that hightened sense of danger. The hairs on the back of my neck stood up and my heart rate jumped. My hands clenched and I felt my knuckles go white.
I've been living downtown since I was 24. Almost ten years and in that time, I've only had one experience where I didn't feel in control of the situation. I do believe that when you live downtown, you do have to exhibit some level of simple street smarts. Maybe that is why I haven't had more negative experiences. I assess the environment around me, I avoid places that are dark and empty late at night. I'm careful. I keep a very thin guard up all the time, I am always aware of what is around me. If you let that little guard down, even for a minute - well those are the moments you run into trouble.
I both live and work downtown. Part of the reason I love downtown so much is the fact that I can walk to work in about fifteen minutes. I'm lucky, I realize that. I wouldn't change any of that for the world, and I have a hard time thinking about moving out of downtown. I know I should think about getting a house, taking that next, logical step but I find it hard to consider doing that. I love the lights, the busy streets, the people and being so close to everything.
There is the downside of course. Parking is a bitch and often deters people from coming to see me if they have to drive here. Also it can be noisy but you soon learn how to tune out the loudness. It does suck that there are no real grocery stores in the downtown area and the few that are here are super expensive and don't have the greatest selection. And of course, there are the homeless. You can't avoid them, they are here and its a fact of downtown living. It's simple, dealing with them. Be polite, be honest and don't ignore them. Simple rules to live by that makes things a lot easier on everyone.
But even these negatives can't outweigh the positives for me. I love it here. I grew up in the country and can't see myself living back there. Nor can I see myself in the suburbs. The one way streets, the cracked sidewalks, the people - they all are in me and a part of me now. This is where I live and where I belong and I love it.