Winnipeg's Jazz Magazine


A Little Piece of Heaven

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An artist-in-residence who was here last winter talked with me about moving to Winnipeg with his family. For me this was huge. In fact, he’s huge. At about 6’7” and 270 lbs, this guy can hunt bear with a switch. Fortunately he’s not likely to participate in such an action. He’s a warm and friendly person, an amazingly empathetic educator, a loving and devoted family man, and an organizational wizard. This guy’s a real jewel.

When he stood before a class of students and spoke about moving to Winnipeg, one of them stepped forth and chided him for making a terrible mistake. That student went on to register a litany of inadequacies about this city. That guy was lucky that I was out of town when he did that. I had just enough time to cool off before I got back.

I experienced the same type of rebuke repeatedly six years ago when I arrived. Also the question, “What’s it like to move to such a small town?” Can you imagine that a city with 700,000 people can still be called a small town? I checked—the 700,000 doesn’t include Saint Norbert, Transcona, the Kildonans…

Many people take pride in their disdain for Winnipeg, but I’ve really come to enjoy living in this city of Biblical plagues. There’s some new marvel to behold every year. For example, I live on the Red River across from St. Vital Park and I’m astonished by how the rising flood water is slowly devouring a park bench that normally perches on a bluff about 25 feet above the water. My 8-year-old daughter has aptly named that bench “the smoochy bench.” No doubt it has acted as a brokerage point for many a fine and upstanding Winnipeg family over the decades. I hate to see it go.

Likewise, I’m gonna miss the Northern Lights. I hear they’re picking up and moving to Russia. Now if the mosquitoes find a way to pack up and leave, I’m all for it; however, I suspect there’s no such luck.

Granted, there’s a certain amount of disenchantment with every place. I’m certain people in Jamaica get tired of all that ganja and those yearly hurricanes. People in Hawaii no doubt have some kinda complaint as well although I can’t for the life of me imagine what it is.

Every place has its challenges. How people address those challenges is what makes a city great. A city is only as beautiful and cultured as the people in it. It’s an old and cheap trick to complain just to appear important. It’s much more helpful to contribute something and be important.

The fact that I live in the largest most culturally diverse city within a thousand-mile radius has me brimming with pride all by itself. When people like Jimmy Cobb or Al Green or Branford Marsalis come to this city, I want them to go away wishing they had a little piece of this place to keep with them all the time.

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