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The lights are much brighter there

Call me crazy if you want, but I love living downtown.

by David Connors,
R:ED member
as published in the Winnipeg Free Press, Aug 1, 2010

I am a downtowner.

There, I said it. And what a feeling of release it gives me to finally admit it.

Yes, I am one of those crazy people some of our blessed commentators love to diss on the Free Press website. As in “you’ve got to be insane to live downtown,” or “if I have to go downtown, I get in and out as quickly as possible,” or “the downtown is dirty, dangerous and disgusting.Who in their right mind spends anymore time there than they need to?”

Well, meet me.  Married white male of an age when I guess I should know better.

So, what’s my excuse? I don’t have any. But let me tell you about the Neil Young concert my wife and I attended last week. It was great, of course. Neil somehow survived downtown long enough to deliver a totally satisfying retrospective on his legendary career. When it was over, we slipped out of the side door of the concert hall, walked home, shook up a couple of martinis and from our patio we watched the rest of you walk to your cars for your 25-minute commute to the suburbs. It was very pleasant.

Congratulations on finding parking, by the way. On the rare days when we can’t make it to whatever is on at the concert hall, MTC, or the Pantages Playhouse Theatre, it’s almost as pleasant to sit on the patio and watch you drive around and around looking for parking.

The Goldeyes games are pleasant, too — except we don’t have to endure nine innings of baseball in order to enjoy the fireworks show (yep, on our balcony with martinis) afterwards.

But forgive me. That sounds like I am being smug, doesn’t it? I don’t mean to be. It’s just that when people call me crazy, I get a little defensive.

Anyway, as I was saying … we walk everywhere now. The other day,my son and I walked to the West Exchange to buy shoes at Great Canadian Footwear, detoured through the downtown Red River College campus to see the amazing bank vault doors in the historic buildings the college has preserved, then took a break from our dangerous day for mussels and a few pints of Stella on the Oui Bistro patio.

Not once did we have to step over a puddle of vomit, fend off a mugger or make a contribution to a panhandler’s college fund.

Of course, it was broad daylight. Night is much different… it’s dark then. You can sit in Stephen Juba Park and gaze at the lights of the downtown skyscrapers — all four of them—or admire the sweep of the Esplanade Riel and the red glow of the Salisbury House logo in the middle.When the Canadian Museum for Human Rights is finished, the view is going to be even more spectacular.

OK, I admit it. I have encountered a few homeless people during my nightly walks. Are they scary? Hardly. They’re my neighbours — just like neighbours in suburbia, except they usually have a bit more time to chat. Some of the conversations I have had with them make me wonder why I am the guy lucky enough to be living in a downtown condo while they are living on a downtown bench. But that is a story for another time.

At no time have I ever felt threatened by anyone I have met downtown, but once a rough-looking guy carrying a stick confided, after we had chatted for a while, that he had felt a bit threatened when he saw me walking down a darkened sidewalk toward him. That’s why he had picked up the stick.

I admit it. I am hooked on downtown. I am addicted to the Bannatyne inside-out maki roll at the Blufish (a three-minute walk away). I crave the Brazilian ribeye at Hermanos (a two-minute walk away). And the agnello scottadito at Tre Visi (a four minute walk away) is the stuff dreams are made of.

I’m not taking any 12-step program to give all of that up. Let’s face it. I haven’t come to this meeting to deal with my addiction. I’ve come here to boast about it — and to make a bargain with you. If you promise not to call me an insane person with a death wish for living downtown, I promise not to call you a paranoid fool for cowering in the suburbs.


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