Sometimes you Winnipeg! Whoa yeah. Here I present to you the second in a string of scatterbrained picture-heavy posts full of questionably informative text about a given provincial experience.
Most of the traveling I’ve done in my pre-2013 life was in the context of a musical tour. So the day that brought us to Manitoba for the first time also brought me an especially heavy dose of nostalgia. I basked in the familiarity of chasing city after city, day after day, racing against procrastination and the hangover from last night’s show. Eventually the Brood crew’s grey Dodge Sprinter rolled across the capital city limits and we all sang along to this fine example of finger-pickin’ and lyrical mastery.
It was a moment I’d anticipated ever since being introduced to the Weakerthans in Dylan’s van, carving out new life territory down the Eastern States during my first tour. Oh, the smallness and bigness of the world.
While they did their thing we explored the Skywalk and the capitol. Manitoba has an NDP majority in Parliament, a good thing as far as we can tell, and notable since only they and Nova Scotia have such a thing. And their governmental building has an epic fossil hunt along with gargantuan anatomically correct buffalo statues and ornate, hand-carved everything.
There’s also the golden boy chillin’ up top, helping me further realize the depth of genius embedded in the aforelinked song’s lyrics.
With bellies full of fresh focaccia and a handful of encouraging conversations with locals behind us, we met the dudes back at their hotel. I played them a song I think they might’ve liked. Then they played an absolutely kickass show. I even snapped this phat vid:
They made a spectacle of us and our travels again which left us blushing both from the attention and the subsequent steady stream of alcohol. We met some really great people there and hung out until way too late with the Times Change(d) crew laughin’ it up, scheming about a better world, reminiscing about yesteryear, speculating on our futures and contemplating what it’s like to raise kids and get old. We indulged in the High and Lonesome Club’s bathrobes and booze.
They gave us lifetime free-entry passes. It felt like coming home. It felt like the farthest from home we’d yet been. And both of those were true. By about 3:30 in the a.m. we were back at the hotel, wondering how the hell we got so lucky. Two nights in a row of reliving life on the road as a musician also led me to some pretty amusing diary diatribes (diariatribes?) including these sentiments amalgamated from Thunder Bay & Winnipeg:
They gave us multiple shoutouts during their set which were met with huge cheers and us being pointed out. Someone anonymously bought us IPAs and delivered them to the stage with a note in one of the bottlenecks saying “for the hitchhikers.” Lotsa booze. There was a pretty dancing girl in a striped shirt that reminded me of Tamar. She clearly loved the show and the guy she was there with. They alternated between singing and kissing as Elliott Brood’s set pressed on through ~20 songs. Eventually I made myself scan elsewhere in the crowd not wanting to dwell on people not actually there and slide into nostalgic loneliness. There was a very simply pretty girl in a green dress who spent the whole set standing and staring straight ahead smiling and singing along. Her red (or blonde?) hair was tied up in some fancy kinda way that’s probably simple but that I really liked. The stage lights glistened off her hair and face. After the band finished I found her near the back, tapped her on the shoulder, told her I thought she was gorgeous. Without seeing her reaction or waiting for one I promptly walked off, disappearing into the smoke machine misted crowd of show goers lingering and filing out as the club crowd flooded in, techno music pulsing, liquor and skin everywhere. Ack… women. Tamar on the brain and all these people I love and want to love but I don’t know them and I don’t see the ones I know so I gradually know them less. Investing in the community of humanity is invigorating but sometimes I miss Athens and Barre and these people I love so much and I want to hold someone and dance with them in a too-loud too-hot room and stare into their eyes when the lights come on and love and be loved in a simple, sedentary way as the world spins around us and people like the Adam and I of now pass by like the scenery out the window. But for now the film reel of Canada keeps blurring past and we make new intense connections with complete strangers. They lay their lives out for us, not worried about our ability to hurt them. Like therapists, like fleshy diaries, people etch their yearning and loving and cynicism and pain and racism and compassion into us and we get out of their car and disappear into the big big world as quickly as we came into theirs. Woe, My. I want Laura here. I want Becky here. I want Mark here. I want Tim here. I want Susan here. I want to share these moments, this growing with them. Thank all the gods I have Adam here. We’ll get through all this and come out the end better, wiser versions of ourselves and it’ll be hard to ever feel normal in a group of friends again. They won’t know what we know and we won’t know what they know. We’ll relearn what it means to be part of a community and they’ll tell us what we missed. And tornadoes in Arkansas and special attention and cheers from a big crowd in Thunder Bay will seem more interesting than perfecting a consensus process over Terrapins at Normal Bar or playing Settlers of Catan at Tim and Jenny’s new house, but in either situation we’re missing something. We sow many ideas across the continent and our minds are fertilized by others’ perspectives. We learn how to navigate unfamiliar downtowns and do our best to recycle and compost and pick up litter and all the other stuff that seems boring and routine about everyday life. But I can’t find comfort in the familiar smell of my neighborhood or the taste of carrots we grew in the leftovers of meals from six months ago. The endless string of new faces blend and I confuse them with my friends’ and I miss them like crazy even though I love this.
The next morning we enjoyed some breakfast, bid farewell to the band, and strolled west. On the way out of town, before catching a ride with some totally rad Yukon-bound Quebecers we’ll talk more about in our Saskatchewan entry, we stumbled upon the Save Our Science protest.
There were balloons popping. There were Raging Grannies. There were muzzled-scientist theatrics. There were awesome signs.
They really nailed it.
And so, despite its North end dying like 21st century Detroit, we had one great time in one great city.