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Life in the Peg May 7, 2006

I’m a friend of TJ’s living here in Winnipeg (poor life decisions, more about that below…) and he’s asked me to post something about life here. I’m not entirely sure why, seeing as the blog seems to be mostly about tech or basketball, and if you have enough money to start up a tech company, you’re probably smart enough to do it somewhere other than Winnipeg.and if you’re into basketball, why not move to Minnesota where at least you have the Timberwolves.

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But in case you are an ardent basketball fan starting up your own tech company and you’re still undecided, I thought I’d add my piece for the greater good of humanity on why you should get your ass somewhere else.

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TJ says that the main prerequisite for being a grad student is a high boredom tolerance level and an aversion to money.

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Actually, in my case it was just lousy memory.

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I’d forgotten just how much school sucks. And how much Winnipeg sucks. The first time I came to Winnipeg, I arrived about one am and was looking for Sean at some bar, when a guy came up to me with blood dripping down his shirt wailing “You have to help me”. I offered to call the police. He frantically refused. I offered to call the ambulance. “No, please don’t.” I don’t know what this guy expected, was I supposed to apply a tourniquet using my conference badge? I went into a nearby restaurant, and called the police. By the time I got back outside, he was nowhere in sight. The Cree have an ancient legend about a wailing priestess occasionally encountered in the wilderness. If you encounter the woman, it’s a sign you should get out of town and stay out. The legend wasn’t lost on me at the time, and I avoided Winnipeg for a good four years. Unfortunately, like I said, I have lousy memory.inflatable air dancer

I first arrived here this year after a two-day busride from Ottawa during which the temperature inside the bus hit thirty-five Celsius and there was an obnoxious fat person sitting next to me for the better part of 20 hours. I was kicked off in Wawa, Ontario because the bird carcasses I was carrying with me stunk up the bus and they finally figured out it was me. After over 48 hours without sleep, I arrived in Winnipeg to find a place to live, and grabbed the first available place.

Now the first thing anyone will tell you about Winnipeg, is that the people are friendly. What people really mean is that the people are crack addicts and whores. At first I bought the “friendly” line too. The landlord was really friendly; he offered to take my stuff to the apartment and give me a tour around town. It wasn’t until I’d paid up (in cash—he insisted on cash) and signed a lease that I discovered that the place was actually a bordello. My first clue: the “tour” involved him showing me the various hooker hangouts, and commenting on the quality of each. Maybe he gets a cut, I don’t know, but while I may be a single guy in a new town, that’s really not my scene. Really. I spent the next four months listening to his sister shout “you’re my daddy” in various languages in the room next door (he kept suggesting I visit her. **Shudder**), watching crack takedowns in front of my house (I didn’t realize people really do carry several kilos of crack in plastic bags), being mugged by very large black guys outside my apartment, being unable to enter my apartment one day because the area was cordoned off after they found a body in the dumpster, and having random people run off with my pizza at two am (then trip and fall on top of it—the pizza guy just brushed it off and handed it to me, and asked me to pay). Oh yeah, and the doorknob didn’t work, so I had to open the door by putting my fingers through the hole where the doorknob should have been. You can imagine what it was like when it started snowing. In September. If you do decide to start up a basketball team/tech business in Winnipeg, at least avoid the North End. It’s like North Van. Except it rains crack, seediness and sixteen year old prostitutes that look like they’re thirty.

Come Christmastime, my lease was out and I went to collect my deposit. After a good half an hour of banging on his door, my landlord comes out shirtless, with some woman wearing hardly anything swearing at him behind. He ushers me into his “office” (I was supposed to be impressed by his Ph.D. in Law on the wall, except it was from “Pacific University” and I think there were still rice krispies stuck to it). He always insisted on me paying in cash, and now he tells me he has no money, and tries to sign over his welfare cheque to me (doesn’t pimping pay enough these days to not risk defrauding welfare? Or at least enough to pay back deposits to the poor students you conned into your apartment?) Eventually, he postdates a cheque by ten days. I was absolutely amazed when it went through.east inflatables

The second thing everyone will tell you about Winnipeg is the great art scene it has. So when I first arrived I was pretty keen to try out the different art venues. I went to a modern dance solo that involved a disturbingly flexible cross between lizard impressionism and yoga, an art exhibit of spiders glued onto a wall and a group of Germans do really bad Christian ska. The latest one involved a remake of Prometheus Bound. The only live actor, a guy wrapped in nothing but a towel, which kept falling down, kept forgetting his lines. Usually, you might not notice, but in this case there was a video screening on the wall behind, with characters talking to him. He kept remembering his lines just as the video character started talking, making a huge cacophonic mess. Aeschylus must have rolled over in his grave. I haven’t been out that much lately, so Winnipeg may still have a great art scene somewhere. Then again, it may only be great compared to whatever other scene it has.

The other thing everyone tells me in Winnipeg, is that the Jets are coming back. It is a religion. They say it with this desperate, pleading look in their eyes….

Since Christmas I live close to school, in a rather benign part of town, with a Mennonite girl whose grandmother is also her aunt. You figure that one out. I got a ride with her one day and found myself delivering a horse by caesarian section. Under the encouragement of one of the other grad students, who is the pastor, I have joined the Power Mind Fuck International Church. Apart from myself, they are all Nigerian, tall, very serious, and break out every so often in wailings about the devil and the Word of God. We have a synthesizer and sing such as classics as “Abba Father” (a combo of 70s disco music with the words “God’s so mean” inserted instead of “dancing queen”) and Mariah Carey’s “Hero” with “Lord” entered after each mention of the word “hero” (google “hero mariah lyrics” and read it with Christian overtones and imagine twenty large black men belting it out)… But all in all, things are much quieter.

The moral of the story: stay out of Winnipeg. There’s no basketball. There are better places to start a tech company. And you could end up delivering a horse.

But, hey, sometimes friends take pity on you and send you $70 worth of samosas. Mmm samosas….


1. anya - July 14, 2006

This is hysterical! I enjoyed the reading so much that i had to look again to be sure it actually stated the facts as such. Extrapolated or not,i am still laughing with sheer delight at this adventurers life……..

2. Anthony - January 4, 2007


Many a zero thinks it is the ellipse on which the Earth travels