- by Alyson Shane
the province is starting to confirm cases and things are going on lockdown
shows and events are cancelled
the universities and colleges are cancelling classes and moving online
buses are empty which is great because apparently they're cesspools
the lines at the stores are nuts, several aisles long
and businesses are being encouraged to let people work from home.
John's office went remote so he's home and I'm home since this is where I work, and we're cancelling any social plans and not really going outside for the next while.
We stocked up tp and disinfecting wipes just like everyone else
but we went the extra step of buying lots of canned goods and dry goods and freezing extra produce as well
(because you need to eat in order to use all that tp, duh)
and as far as social distancing goes I'm feeling pretty good about it.
I worry about my Grandma, though.
And other people's grandmas.
And even John because he's 39 in a few weeks and apparently this thing takes down people in their 40's now and there's no way I'll risk losing that strange bird if I can help it.
In a few hours I have a Zoom call with the TEDxWinnipeg steering committee to talk about our event in June and whether we'll cancel it.
I'm not 100% sure but I have a feeling that I know how it will go. Who knows.
Everything changes so quickly these days.
It's hard not to be glued to Twitter and the news and all the damn articles and that guy on Joe Rogan and
then there's the debate on Sunday night which you know imma watch
and you know they'll be talking about it in that big, empty studio with no people in it because social distancing
but I'm gonna try and not obsess.
At least we just got a ton of alcohol delivered so if things turn pear-shaped I can drown my sorrows in chocolate porters and box'o wine.
Stay safe and don't forget to wash your hands!
- by Alyson Shane
One of the things about living in a relatively unknown place in the middle of the flat prairies is that stuff like this tends to skip you by or not matter as much
(SARS? What SARS?)
so while places like Calgary are freaking out and swarming Costco's at 10 AM to buy toilet paper in bulk
and events like SXSW and GDC and Facebook's F8 Developers Conference are all being cancelled amid fears that the virus will spread
and stock prices are crashing and the market is slowing
for the most part things here at home feel pretty normal.
Last week I took the bus multiple times every day
on Saturday I spoke on a panel at an event where about 100 people attended
and none of my clients seem all that concerned about the Coronavirus impacting their events and businesses all that much.
Last week we stocked up on cat litter and food and canned goods and Lysol wipes and toilet paper and paper towel and even bottles of water and cans of club soda and
I felt silly, honestly
I remember when people were stocking up during SARS and then that
and that's kinda how this feels.
Like we're preparing for something that might never happen.
A lockdown or a quarantine situation that
like the last pandemic
might just skip over my cold prairie province almost entirely.
But being prepared feels stupid until it isn't.
- by Alyson Shane
**I wrote this back on November 19, 2019 and thought "what the heck! Let's publish it."**
Okay, it's only moving up the street to a different location which doesn't seem like such a big deal
until you walk into the current Toad in the Hole Pub location and realize that there's no way to re-create the
of drinking here.
It looks like an old English pub and it's split between two levels. There are big, worn-out booths and beaten wooden chairs and what I've always suspected is a church pew along the front window that faces the street.
It's dingy and yellow, with green walls covered in wood panelling that looks dusty and sweaty at the same time; the result of hundreds (maybe thousands) of handprints and sweat and cigarette smoke from back when they allowed smoking indoors.
I love this dumpy old pub.
I've been coming here since I was 18, and had decided well before my eighteenth birthday that one of the first things I would do "when I was old enough" was start hanging out at The Toad.
I'd walk by when I was underage and stare at the people with tattoos, drinking hard alcohol out of small glass cups, smoking, hanging around a pub situated on top of a venue called The Cavern, and a bunch of tattoo parlours.
It was exactly the opposite of the boring, cookie-cutter neighbourhood I'd grown up in and I became obsessed with it.
When I finally moved downtown and was living in The Roslyn up the street I'd walk home from work, have a shower, and park myself at The Toad on one of the long wooden benches that overlook Osborne Street with a beer in my hand.
I hated sitting alone. It made me feel anxious, and I worried that the people around me would judge me for sitting by myself. But, inevitably, someone I knew would walk or skateboard by and stop to have a drink on the patio with me.
Because that's what happens when you sit outside at The Toad.
And if nobody showed up and you wound up having a beer alone?
That was okay too, because nobody gave a shit.
(In reality, nobody anywhere cares.
I know this now, but didn't then.)
Back then they only had one bathroom for women, and during the summer or late on a Friday or Saturday night you might as well have given up and peed outside instead of waiting in the line to use the single-stall women's bathroom
(or do what I did and go for a slice at Lil Pizza Heaven next door and use their bathroom while you wait.)
I've spent hours here in various states of inebriation. Last spring John and I hung out here after we went for a fancy anniversary dinner at Sous Sol up the street and met a man who ran a dog grooming business
(or was selling it, I forget)
and a magician who did tricks for us for free.
I haven't lived in The Village for the better part of a decade and I don't go to The Toad as often as I used to. It's just not as close as The Good Will or Handsome Daughter or even The Grove.
So I don't go here much anymore. But I'm trying to lately.
I want to soak up as much of this dingy, familiar, comforting
atmosphere before it's gone.
Which, honestly, is never something I'd thought I'd have to say about somewhere like The Toad.
It's the kind of place your parents know, and because they know it and you know it you kinda expected that it would always be there. It's the kind of place you take for granted until it's gone.
But I'm here now, drinking a shitty beer that cost $3.25 for old time's sake. Basking under the greasy light of the Victorian-style lamplight fixtures hanging over me and hammering away at my laptop while sitting on that big church pew seat I talked about above.
The only other patron is an old dude with a huge white beard who hasn't taken his jacket off and is drumming along to the El Michels Affair blasting on the speakers at an alarming pace.
It's 3:37 PM on a Tuesday and the bartenders are doing shots with their friends.
I'm going to miss this place when it's moved and the space gets subdivided into a bunch of smaller units and and leased to franchises like Jugo Juices and gyms.
Nothing stays the same, kids.
So cheers to The Toad in The Hole Pub, a Winnipeg staple for so many
and to the memories made
(and sometimes not remembered)
- by Alyson Shane
But then I hear songs like this one
about the importance of free, welcoming public spaces
how our downtown library should be a beacon for everyone
celebrating everyone who comes there
to learn or relax or just
read a book
and I feel so lucky to be from a city that
inspires such beauty in the face of ugliness.
- by Alyson Shane
The Seven Oaks Library, located on Jefferson Avenue in the heart of Garden City, might be closing as part of a sweeping round of cuts proposed by the Winnipeg city council.
Before I tell you why this matters, and why I'm angry, I want to tell you a story about the Seven Oaks Public Library:
I don't remember feeling happy very often growing up, but I was always happy when we went to the library.
When I was little my parents enrolled me in Story Time, and every Monday they'd take my two brothers and I to the library to borrow a big stack of books and VHS tapes. We didn't have a lot of money growing up, but the library gave us something to do, and look forward to.
As I got older and things got worse at home, my local library became somewhere I could go when I was upset, and where I could pass the time in a warm, quiet place.
I loved having a place where I could go and escape my life by diving into a good book.
I felt safe in the library, and accepted there.
I fell in love with reading, and became a writer, because of the Seven Oaks Public Library.
Without that library I wouldn't have this blog. Or my business. Or my sense of curiosity and eagerness to learn, both of which are the result of becoming an avid reader.
I wouldn't have any of that without my local library, and it might be closing.
But that's not why I'm angry.
I'm angry because our mayor and city council are lying to us about why they want to close it.
A few weeks ago the city released a budget proposal that says our city is so tight on cash that they need to make the following cuts:
- 5 pools closing
- 3 libraries closing
- 5 arenas closing
- funding cuts to all community centres
- all improvements to athletic fields cancelled
This is upsetting news on its own, but yesterday I read that even though all these cuts are coming, the city is quietly pushing through a $71 million dollar community centre called The South Winnipeg Recreation Campus in Waverley West.
What's included in this fancy new recreation campus being built on the very edge of our city?
- a lap tank and leisure pool
- a fitness space, walking/running track and gymnasium
- a community library
- community recreation program space with *multiple gyms* and multi-purpose spaces
- athletic fields and park space
- a twin arena
Our civic government is cutting and under-funding programs and community centres for inner-city residents, and literally building the same things in a brand-new, high-income neighbourhoods.
This is literally robbing from the poor to give to the rich.
Through this move, the Mayor Bowman and City Hall are saying that kids like me don't matter.
Kids like me, whose parents were strapped for cash and needed a way to keep their young kids busy by borrowing books and videos and signing us up for programs
whose home lives were negative and chaotic and stressful, and who needed a safe, calm space to be alone when things got tough
who found a sense of identity through reading and felt motivated to achieve more than we felt we were worth because of what we read
according to city hall, kids like me literally don't deserve these opportunities, because we need to make sure kids in wealthy suburbs get them instead.
It's no wonder we have a meth and violence crisis in this city. It's pretty easy to see which voters City Hall and the Mayor think are most important.
Oh, and if you're wondering why you didn't hear about this when the budget was made public?
It's because the city deliberately left the dollar amount out of the capital budget:
So not only is our city lying about not having money in the budget to fund these spaces and programs and pushing through a project to build literally the same thing in a rich suburb
they've also been hiding it from us and hoping we don't find out.
See why I'm angry?
I'd like to give a big shout-out to Dear Winnipeg for doing the deep-dive on the topic that inspired the post. You should read it.
- by Alyson Shane
I'm sitting at Espresso Junction in The Johnston Terminal, at The Forks. I've been coming to this coffee shop since I was 18, when my boyfriend Peter took me here on a date.
I'd never had a London Fog before, and he ordered one for me and told me "they're the best in the city" and I still agree.
After that I started coming here whenever I had time in-between jobs, or when I had a long wait to catch the 18 bus home to the suburbs. I've started, finished, and cried over lots of books here.
Boys, too, back in the days when relationships were volatile and immature.
I didn't come back here for a really long time because of something bad that happened
or rather, started, here
but enough time has passed that the wound I used to feel has become softer and less raw, to the point where it almost feels like a scar on someone else's body.
Memories that belong to a person who feels like a dream.
Coming here feels like looking through a yearbook, back through years of coffees and London Fogs, layered and blended over the years.
Winnipeg, through the virtue of being a Big Small Town, is full of these spaces.
Places you visited when you were a different version of yourself, that come to mean mean complicated and layered things just by the virtue of existing or staying in business long enough.
Places that look, sound, and smell the same; that are familiar in a way that almost feels like it's in your bones,
because maybe in some small way it is.
- by Alyson Shane
Image via the Prairie Theatre Exchange.
I met Ian Ross a lifetime ago. Or, rather, what feels like a lifetime ago.
We worked in the same building, and when we were introduced our colleague said something to the effect of:
"This is Ian. He's kind of a big deal" and the way he laughed it off and joked about it told me that
1. He was probably kind of a big deal*
2. We'd probably get along
I was in a really bad place at the time, and I leaned on Ian a lot to talk about what I was dealing with, and how frustrated and overwhelmed I often felt about the prospects of my future.
Ian, through the simple act of listening and asking questions (which no "adult" in my life had really done at that point) helped me work through my feelings as I tried to make sense of the world around me.
I was confused. I didn't understand how I'd gotten myself into the mess I found myself in, and I felt at a loss as to the best way forward.
So it was funny, and ironic in a way, that I found myself confronted with those same questions - "how did we get here?" and "what do we do now?" - through the lens of his most recent play The Third Color.
The play focuses on two spirits who have taken the shapes of Indigenous women: Head Full of Lice, played by Kathleen MacLean, and Agatu, played by Tracey Nepinak.
Through dialogue that manages to somehow be sharp, resonant, and often hilarious at the same time, the spirits explore Canada's history from pre-settlers to the present day.
Over and over again, the spirits butt heads (and, in some cases, got into physical skirmishes) over whether or not helping the settlers was, in fact, the right thing to do.
Agatu, who takes the form of an elderly woman, pities the settlers who are sick and need their help. She insists that, even if the outcome isn't what they expect, that it's the "right" thing to do.
Head Full of Lice, on the other hand, is furious. She sees the generational hurt and trauma inflicted upon Indigenous peoples and repeatedly states that she wants to "burn it all down," even going so far as to take out a Canadian flag and threaten to burn it out of rage.
"Where is the third color?" they both ask, looking at the Canadian flag.
Our Canadian flag is red and white. Red is symbolic of England and white of France... but where are the Indigenous peoples in our flag?
Where are their histories? Their stories? Their presence in the literal fabric of our country?
Through their dialogue, Head Full of Lice and Agatu represent opposing viewpoints in terms of reconciliation - should Indigenous peoples accept that "this is what we have" and try to move forward, or should they burn it all down and start again from scratch?
As a non-Indigenous person I have no real understanding of the feelings that Indigenous peoples must feel towards reconciliation in Canada. But through Head Full of Lice and Agatu's discussion I was able to get a glimpse of the complicated - and contradictory - feelings that Indigenous folks like Ian must be experiencing during this period in our history.
Which, I think, is what makes the play such an important contribution to the discussion surrounding the reconciliation attempts happening in Canada right now.
Through its comedy and drama and fierce bouts of emotion, The Third Color represents an important perspective that is timely, relevant, and challenging, while also leaving space for the audience to sit with their feelings, mixed and uncomfortable though they may be.
Art should challenge us to push the limits of our comfort zones, and that's exactly what Agatu and Head Full of Lice do throughout the play.
It made me think of the famous Duke Ellington quote that states: Art should be dangerous.
I couldn't agree more.
The Third Color is playing at the Prairie Theatre Exchange from October 2 - 20. I highly recommend checking it out.
**Big thanks to the PTE for the free tickets, and the chance to see and write about this important piece of art.**
- by Alyson Shane
Image of these badass ladies + the Wolseley Elm via the U of M
It's busy in Wolseley
kids are getting picked up from daycare and preschool
or walking home from
Balmoral Hall and Laura Secord
it smells like bread on Sherbrook and Wesminster
where people are waiting for the bus with their groceries
or tying their dogs up next to corner stores
next to houses with dragons on their lawns
next to houses with rainbow fences
along streets lined with
porches and sunrooms and front steps
covered in the shade
of old Dutch elms that haven't succumbed to disease
standing guard over busy streets
filled with Moms and Dads in SUVs
heading home to dinner or soccer practice or dance class
or cyclists on their bikes
in their helmets and backpacks and reflective gear
and I'm in the street on my bike
at a four-way intersection managed by a blinking red light
waving at each other and smiling
and I'm waiting my turn
breathing in deep
trying to remember
the smell of fresh produce from the co-op
mixing with incense from Prairie Sky Books
and how the haze of the early evening light
that filters through the budding leaves
turns everything to gold.
- by Alyson Shane
Last Tuesday Colin and I were having a beer at The Yellow Dog and we were talking about the recent uproar in the city over the new $5 charge to attend the hockey playoff street party.
100% of the proceeds from ticket sales are going to fund the United Way's homeless, mental illness, and addictions programs in the city
which, I dunno, seems like a pretty OK thing to do with the money if you ask me
especially considering that one of the major complaints suburbanites have about downtown is that it's filled with drunk homeless people messed up on drugs
People were posting about this new $5 charge all over the place, and we were talking about how most of them are forgetting that a downtown street party closes several major roads, impacts nearby businesses and services, and requires additional policing, among other things, and paying $5 to support our homeless population isn't really a big ask if you think about it.
It wasn't very crowded in the bar and as we were talking a dude kept looking over at us, and at first I thought he was agreeing with what we were saying because he just sat there and smiled and nodded along, but as we were getting up to pay he turned to me and said:
"Hey, I heard you guys talking about the Whiteout Party tickets. I think that's bullshit, man, that shit should be free!"
So I explained my points about the homeless and street closures and extra policing, and he got this funny look on his face which made me hope that he was going to give me a thoughtful response.
But then he said
"Fuck that, we don't need extra police. Do you know how many tickets you could pay for with a cop's salary?! What do they make, $100,000 a year? JUST FIRE A COP!"
Now generally I try to be considerate of other people's opinions, but that has to be one of the most profoundly stupid things I've ever heard
and I just stood there for a second with a blank look on my face. Then I said "OK cool, enjoy the game" and left, because what do you even say to that?
He clearly has no respect for people who put their lives on the line to keep us safe, and there's no point in trying to reason with someone who has such a loose grasp on how the world works.
Besides, that guy wasn't there to have a real discussion. He was there to wear his Jets jersey, go drink more beer with his buddies at the street party, and enjoy the benefits of a downtown that he clearly has no interest in supporting.
He just comes downtown to party, man.
Which makes him a lot like all the other people who voted 2-1 against allowing pedestrians to cross a street in our downtown
who are suddenly now OK with people getting wasted and stumbling around downtown near high-traffic intersections while disrupting the normal flow of traffic
as long as they're the ones doing it
and as long as they aren't forced to donate five bucks to help the homeless.
But hey, who knows.
Maybe that dude's onto something.
I bet we could fill a lot of potholes with those cop salaries.
- by Alyson Shane
If you're like me, or even like a lot of other people out there, then you probably have a somewhat complicated relationship with your parents.
These conflicts and complications happen because dynamics are difficult to navigate; it's hard to be emotionally connected and love someone who may be vastly different from you, or who hurts you, confuses you, or struggles to connect with you emotionally.
As children, it falls on our shoulders to try to understand and unpack our parents:
What decisions and life experiences led them to this place in life?
How did these experiences shape their personalities and parenting style?
What can we do to bridge the gap between their values and beliefs, and those of a new generation?
(I think about these things a lot, in case you haven't noticed.)
Someone else who clearly thinks about these things a lot is Tetsuro Shigematsu, the performer behind the play Empire of the Son, which is currently playing at the Prairie Theatre Exchange.
Image via the Prairie Theatre Exchange
Empire of the Son is a one-man show written and performed by Tetsuro Shigematsu (former host of CBC Radio One’s The Roundup) which employs a variety of mediums from monologues, to video, recorded audio, to live-action video using miniature sets, and more, to explore the complex relationship between himself and his father, also a CBC broadcaster.
Or, as the poster so aptly put it: Two Generations and the Silence Between Them (how perfect is this description, by the way?)
The play focuses on Shigematsu's emotionally distant father, Akira, and his struggle to reconcile his father's lasting impact through his work as a radio broadcaster for the BBC and CBC, and how emotionally distant and reserved he was with his family.
I'll be honest: I typically have a hard time getting into one-man shows as I tend to find the disconnect when an actor switches between characters to be rather jarring, but there was a distinct physical difference between when Shigematsu was "Tetsuro" and when he was acting as "Akira" that may have turned me into a one-man show convert:
Shigematsu's impressions of his father seemed to take over his whole body; his posture changed, his facial expressions changed, and his inflection and pronunciation were so dramatically different from the jovial person telling the story that it often felt like there was another person onstage, entirely.
At the same time, you could tell that these impressions, and his ability to deliver them so effectively, were crafted with the kind of love and intimate knowledge that only very close family members and friends tend to have with one another.
As Shigematsu led us through his father's life we came to understand the contradiction he felt about his father: for someone who broadcasted to the world and regularly talked to people across the globe, he struggled to open up to and connect emotionally with his own children.
It's revealed that though his father was an influential figure and led a storied life which included some astounding moments (having tea with the Queen, being present in the room when Marilyn Monroe serenaded JFK, and - most notably - being in Hiroshima when the atomic bomb was dropped) Shigematsu only began to 'real' conversations with his father when he began interviewing him towards the end of his life.
This contrast hit home, and served as a reminder that, often, the most we know of previous generations is what they choose to share, and unless we take the time to tease it out of them, their stories and experiences may be lost forever.
(As someone who studied oral history in university, I found this fascinating, by the way.)
Image via the Prairie Theatre Exchange
This intimate solo performance was enhanced by Shigematsu's larger-than-life stage presence and his interesting use of a camera and miniature props located on a long table onstage. A DSLR camera (I think) was strapped to it, and at times Shigematsu would move casually over to the table, arrange some of the tiny props, and stream the live video camera footage to the screen behind him.
If this sounds strange, it was - but that only enhanced how effective this method of adding an additional visual layer was to the overall story. Personally, I've never seen someone manage to imitate two different people and move around on a miniature skateboard with just their middle ad index fingers, have you?
At the outset of the performance Shigematsu shares that he hasn't cried since he was a child, and shared his hope that performing this story in front of an audience would help him do so.
Personally, I shed enough tears for both Shigematsu and myself.
This poignant, captivating and strikingly funny memoir is one that I highly recommend seeing.
Additionally, we were lucky enough to catch Empire of the Son on the night of the Prairie Theatre Exchange's Leap Series, a new event in partnership with Manitoba Music focusing on out-of-the-box plays and music from local artists. If you're looking for a date night, or an opportunity to dive into the world of independent theatre, make sure to check out their next Leap Series event happening in February (and say hi to me if you do!)
**Big thanks to the folks at the Prairie Theatre Exchange for giving me free tickets to see their 2018/2019 season in exchange for these posts. It's a wonderful treat to be able to support and promote Winnipeg's independent theatres.**