Mean Streets.

I used to live in Winnipeg. Then I got sick of it, and move to Toronto. Three months ago I moved back to Winnipeg, so that my girlfriend could get her degree in Education. The plan is we’re gonna move to Spain once she graduates.

You know what I hate about Winnipeg? Crime. There’s tons of it. “Murder Capital of Canada” is one of the many not-so-nice nicknames that Winnipeg has. A couple of years ago, it was the Arson capital of Canada - yet another somber sobriquet, earned after many, many buildings (including one in the my favorite area, Osborne Village) were burnt down.

The reason I’m feeling cranky about home these days is because our apartment block was broken into last night. Our building is this gorgeous, turn-of-the-century block built in 1905; the magical word then was wood, and lots of it. Apartments in Winnipeg tend to be pretty well kept, and this one is no exception.

Well, some idiot ripped the gorgeous, maple door of the apartment block open, went downstairs and broke into the laundry room. They must have gotten 10 bucks in quarters, which gives you an idea to the desperation some thieves have here. Back in 1995 (before I moved to Toronto), my apartment was broken into. My old apartment was not more than two blocks from where I am now. I had thousands of dollars in musical and recording equipment lying around, plus my VCR, TV, etc. - and all they took were all of my CD’s, and some frozen chicken from my freezer. I came home from work, and there was a big puddle in the middle of the kitchen, and no more Miles Davis or Bad Brains.

I had French class last night at the Collège Universitaire de Saint-Boniface, which is in a neighbourhood that boasts the largest concentration of francophones in Canada outside of Quebec. It’s a gorgeous, quiet area, which always stirs up memories of Montréal and walking down Rue de Saint-Denis, on the Plateau. Walking home last night, I came to the realization that one thing I really, really miss about Toronto is the fact that I could walk almost anywhere and not feel uneasy. I used to never think twice about walking home from a show at the Horseshoe Tavern, or Mockingbird’s on King, or even Parkdale.

suburbsWinnipeg is a donut. The downtown area has, over the years, fallen into a sad, decrepit state. This is partially due to idiotic zoning laws passed in the 70’s, and partially due to the construction of indoor walkways connecting all of the major buildings in the area. Why? Because winters here are a fierce, unflagging beast; warmth and shelter are a precious commodity. With all of the foot traffic regulated indoors, and the rise of the big suburban box stores like Wal-Mart, Future Shop, and others, no one shopped at the small downtown street-level independents. Without the traffic, the small stores withered, and with it, downtown. Winnipeg has been rotting from the inside out… and downtown plays the empty hole to an increasingly expanding donut. Suburbia.

In Winnipeg, there’s always the threat of being jumped if you’re downtown at night. Now that I’m here, I need to turn my spidey sense back on… and that makes me sad.

Have you ever been broken into? Is your street, neighbourhood, city safe? I’d like to know: Tell me about your city or story. Thanks for sharing.

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