Friday, April 29, 2011

It's all relative

*Reminder! Tomorrow, Saturday April 30th, 1 to 4pm, is the Community Clean-up in the West End. There are numerous starting points, the old Library (Ellice at Arlington) being one, see you there!*

So today I had occasion to spend a lot of time in one of Winnipeg's more marginalized neighbourhoods. But Winnipeg Girl, don't you live in a neighbourhood just like that? Good memory dear reader, why yes I do! However, I was in a neighbouring area and a few streets in that particular area made me feel an erroneous sense of superiority if even for a brief minute.

People are like that. In general we have ideas (right or wrong) in our heads as to what a particular neighbourhood is like and we make assumptions based on that. As I was on my very very long tour of said area I scolded myself for being a touch snobby, and I realized it's all relative. When I grew up in my extremely socially acceptable postal code and went to my sufficiently snobby high school I lived in the house that was the bane of the neighbour's existence. The grass didn't get mowed, the garbage cans didn't get taken in after garbage day, and at one point we had a goat in the backyard. No really, we did. For the record, I am adopted and am mortified to this day over the actions of my parents, but I digress.

Now, otherwise the house was in good repair, the eavestroughs were up and functional, the paint wasn't peeling and we didn't have any broken windows, nor did we run drugs out the back door (of course in the suburbs that would be tough without the back lanes), these are all pretty common things in my current area. I recently had a friend over from London, England - you know the place you are all PVRing to watch the nuptials of Kate and William (oh the Royal Wedding! How exciting! What an obvious attempt at tricking random googling folks into reading my blog!) and she was completely surprised that I live in the worst* part of town. Had I not informed her she would have thought I lived in a fairly average area. Why? Because dropped in London, my street would be pretty close to average. Some houses need repair, some look cute and tidy, garbage everywhere... If you've never been to London it's baffling how dirty it is - in EVERY part of town.

So now that I live in a not so great part of town (or so the media tells me), my perceptions have changed a bit. However, to a person from the suburbs the subtle differences between where I live and a "worse" part may not be so obvious. But Winnipeg Girl, what is with your hate-on for "the suburbs"?? Nothing really, but it's easier than singling out one particular neighbourhood, and hey, I know it'll take at least a 1/2 hour to get here if any of them want to come after me. Ba dum dum ching!

Now that being said, just because you live in a not so great place is not an excuse to treat it poorly, two wrongs don't make a right. I saw some absolutely great looking rooming houses today and they looked that way in part because the tenants chose to care. I also saw some very scary looking houses that were probably owner occupied.

So I will finally bring myself around to a genuine point of sorts. Yes, Winnipeg has some absolutely deplorable housing and people live in it, for any number of reasons. Maybe they came from a place that had no indoor plumbing and a housing stock that is even worse and that house you call a slum is an improvement. Maybe they were homeless. If you think about it, it's all relative.

*to be fair, I usually say I live in the medium worst part of the worst part of town, I don't deserve the street cred for living in the totally worst part of town.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rising costs - my world has changed

Now, before you all think this is just another boring post about the rising costs of fuel and food, let me tell you, it is far more dire than that.

They have not only raised the price of Slurpee's YET AGAIN but they have also changed their policy on what cups you can use to get refills of the sweet sugary nectar. Which means my happy little collection of original Slurpee cups that I have in the cupboard has instantly become obsolete. Why do I have more than one if I refill them you ask? Well, sometimes the craving would hit and I wouldn't have a cup handy so I'd need to get a new one - but it worked out because it turns out you can only put those suckers through the dishwasher a number of times before they disintegrate.

Now, unlike gas prices which traditionally spike for summer and then go back down again this is permanent. Sigh. I remember the good old days when I could refill my Slurpee for $1.01 including tax and a new big Slurpee was only $1.25 and I'm pretty sure it was bigger than the biggest one now that costs a whopping $2.23!

Okay, you may all now return to your regularly scheduled blogs that contain information that may be of importance to other people besides those with impending Slurpee-induced diabetes - I hear there's an election or something coming up. Hmmm.... election, maybe it'll be like high school and one of the candidates will have a promise of getting a Slurpee machine in the cafeteria my living room - I'll vote for that one!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

In the name of research

Firstly, apologies to all the eager fans following the Winnipeg Jets/Phoenix Coyotes will they or won't they move saga who have ended up on my blog thanks to Google. My little blog was clearly not what you were looking for but hey, I hope I suckered you into reading a post or two. Since I may have suckered a few more in today with my sneaky choice words, take the time to read Spring Cleaning and Laughter, the best medicine (the video is pretty great).

Ok, enough of my shameless self-promotion and on to all things Winnipeg. Bargains. What does everyone think of all these new deal websites (Groupon, SwarmJam, Kijiji Daily Deals etc.) that have popping up? Now these sites are certainly not exclusive to Winnipeg and I have absolutely zero way of knowing if the population here purchases more than the average or not, but Winnipeggers do love a bargain. I came across a link somewhere for OneSprout which is a really handy service that will email you the deals from ALL of the various sites daily, and you can choose to have just new deals sent or have them remind you of all the current deals.

Believe it or not this leads me to a point. A North End point (I do that a lot). One of the deals available for about another day or so is 50% off an $80 voucher for Ideal Electric on Selkirk Ave.
Image borrowed from West End Dumplings
 So, in the name of journalistic integrity, and because quite frankly it has been on my to-do list for ages, I popped in there this afternoon to take a look. Ideal Electric's website tells me that they have been in business since 1924 and although their showroom isn't the flashiest in town they apparently do quite the brisk business including a lot of large orders for hotels and the like.  My favourites were some of the large art-deco inspired glass shades that they had hanging up. The SwarmJam offer is for a custom shade and apparently they can make one with most fabrics that you might bring in to them, or you can select from what they have - so head on down to Mitchell's and hunt through their retro fabrics for an extra unique shade!

Should you be looking for something a little more cultured, Groupon also has 46% off tickets to the upcoming Royal Winnipeg Ballet show "Bright Lights, Big City" with tickets starting at $44. What is kind of neat with many of these sites is that you can purchase discounts for online offers - so sometimes you don't actually have to live in the city something is offered in to take advantage. I bought a $100 credit for an online photo book from Picaboo for only $35 through the Chicago Groupon site. Should you decide to buy something from Groupon, do Winnipeg Girl a favour and get to the Groupon site from  here as I will get a $20 credit for the next thing I buy from Groupon (if you buy something by May 2nd, otherwise I get a $10 credit which is still awesome!).  Did I mention that the RWB tickets are through Groupon????

So far I think I'm a fan of these sites - I've just got the emails coming from OneSprout - I opt out of all the emails from the individual companies to reduce clutter in the inbox. My deals so far include: $0.10 for a Jr. Bacon Cheeseburger from Wendy's (yup, ten cents), $20 for $40 of food at the Peasant Bakery, $15 for $30 worth of food at Ellice Cafe, $35 for $100 worth of Photobooks at Picaboo and the one I'm really excited to use: $39 for 4 hours worth of Eco-Friendly cleaning.

Winnipeg Love Hate Book
A suggestion for anyone thinking of buying the wonderful Winnipeg Love Hate book - keep an eye out and Google for Blurb Groupons (you can buy from any city) - you could save yourself quite a few bucks on the book.

Well, that's it for now, hoping that I react a little faster to the next coupon for a $0.30 ice cream cone (from Spotted Cow) as I will also have no problem researching that. I'm good like that.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

The unasked question...

There is a lot of talk lately about the Phoenix Coyotes Jets coming back to Winnipeg but no one seems to be thinking about the negative effect that this will have on the Arizona economy. Now before you all throw statistics at me about how few people go to the games and that the Coyotes aren't helping the economy in the first place (and certainly not if the City of Glendale has to bail them out), think about this: what about all the Canadians that will sell their homes in Arizona and either stay in Winnipeg for the winter so they can get their hockey fix or move to another southern US city to support a different failing hockey team.

Arizona has already suffered quite badly from the housing market crash, will the Coyotes leaving be the final nail in the coffin?

Okay, who am I kidding, I don't really care either way. I personally don't fully grasp why it's such a big deal to have to pay twice as much (or more) to go see a hockey game than we do right now. Clearly I am not the biggest hockey fan in the city. Although, that being said, I like to take in a Moose game every now and again and I'm cautiously optimistic that all of these Jets fanatics will pay the high ticket prices year in and year out like they say they will.  I also feel a little bad for the Moose; it's like your boyfriend telling you that they like you and all, but hey, if the head cheerleader ever asks him out he'll forget your name before the words are out of her mouth.  Are all these supposed hockey fans really just sitting at home pouting that we don't have the NHL instead of coming to watch the Moose?  Shouldn't the arena be sold out for every game right now?

 Never mind what happens if they aren't allowed to be called the Jets again...

Okay. That's it. I just felt obligated to comment on it because it's such a hot topic around the water cooler these days. Eventually I'll do a post about Ikea and the Stadium to complete my bandwagon jumping.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Bad hippie, go back to your VW! Aka, bike auction this weekend

It's that time of year again - you can buy back your stolen bike (or someone else's!) The 2011 Bike auction is this weekend and with any luck, it will be warm enough in a few months to actually use your new bike.  Haul your butt on down to the far reaches of Charleswood for some un-godly hour on a weekend and get yourself a shiny (probably not) new (probably not) toy. If you're too lazy to click the link, Google 4230 Ridgewood Ave for directions - and bring $2.00 for parking (or be a cheapskate and park on one of the nearby streets and walk - just don't fall into one of the famous ditches!)

I hear bikes are a popular way to get around, this is one of the ways that I score a giant "F" in the ways of the modern hippie. No, it's not because I don't think that we have adequate infrastructure for bikes or a lack of bike lanes, it's because for the most part I like to get places in warmth and comfort in a timely manner. I admire those who are tenacious enough traverse our streets and climate in the name of Mother Earth. I prefer to use cloth bags to put my groceries in the trunk of my car. With heated seats. I also work two jobs and on the days that the weather might be acceptable to bike, I'm sure as heck not going to peddle my ass all over town (oh look, and amusing typo/pun) and arrive at job #2 all hot and sweaty. On those days, I take the convertible.  I do however, do my very best to respect the cyclists out there and try to always do a proper lane change to go around them rather than forcing them into the potholes curb. Of course, if at the next red light they zoom up along the curb and I have to pass them again.....

I do enjoy other such stereotypical hippie activities as traipsing about the planet with a backpack and flip-flops, driving old VW's (see, hippies don't hate all vehicles!), wearing vintage/used clothing, eating ethnic food and spending days loafing about at parks and festivals.

I do have a bike, a super sweet 1964 Eaton's Glider in minty mint mint condition (and not just because I don't use it everyday) with whitewall tires and original leather bag under the seat and I didn't realize I could register for a mere $5 - which means that the Police will give it back to me if they ever find it. Email 311 for more information. A slurpee fits nicely in its basket.

Monday, April 11, 2011

I made a smaller difference this time, but it still counts!

Fresh off the high of seeing a house transform from derelict to delightful, I got to come face to face with Uncle Murphy.  Yup, him of "Murphy's Law" fame (not to be confused with Murphy Brown, a fine television show from the 80's/90's). See, after my Geography post I've been trying to keep an eye out for crime being mislabeled as having happened in the North End and of course it hasn't happened.  But then today it did.

Barry Burns, if you're out there, sorry for the rushed semi-irate phone call that you got this afternoon - I was in the process of running from one job to the other and didn't have time for pleasantries - I just needed to get the word out.  During the 4:30 news update I was shocked to hear that the triple homicide that happened on  Alexander Avenue in March 2008, was located in the North End.  I know that Alexander Avenue is a pretty long street, but at no point does it cross the CPR tracks and venture into the North End.

Now, I never saw what CJOB had up on their website earlier in the day, it sure does say Weston now,as did a news update at 11:00pm (it may well have changed by the 5 o'clock update, but I was at work so I have no way of knowing).  Was it just a slip of the tongue? I don't think so, because when I first stated that Alexander is not in the North End his response was "it's not?" or something to that effect, as opposed to agreeing with me. So my smaller success of the day is that I've hopefully scared a suburbanite away from a different neighbourhood instead of the North End (sorry Weston!) and that I got a media outlet to polish their reporting just a touch.  Okay, not that I actually want suburbanites to be scared, but it couldn't hurt for them to hear the word murder followed by something else besides North End.

Sorry for the multiple posts in one day - I would have stored them up but they all just had to be shared - must be the warm weather thawing out my brain!

I made a difference and I can prove it!

You know that warm feeling you get when you accomplish something big? I've got it right now. Now, I certainly didn't accomplish this singlehandedly, but if I hadn't have been a squeaky wheel (a little like my post about the blue roof - with update here) then it's entirely possible that nothing would have changed.

Picture it. Winnipeg, 2010. (Golden Girls reference purely for my own amusement). In my early days of Dear 311, I came across this little gem of a house.

Just for fun, lets do a little test on what violations we can see from this side alone. If you answered, peeling paint, missing soffits and eavestroughs, partial (improper) boarding of the front door, missing address and unsafe front stairs missing a handrail (required if there are more than 3 steps) well then you have an incredible eye for detail (and the ability to see past the edge of the photo since the sins of the stairs aren't really visible!)

Initially my complaint was brushed off, but I persisted.  This is what the house looks like today:

No really, it's the same house!

I'm not gonna lie, I'm pretty much over the moon. I'm the little grain of sand that made the City oyster produce a pearl, see, a little irritation isn't always a bad thing!  Person by person, house by house we can create change. Okay, enough patting myself on the back, see you on May 7th!

Procrastinators of the world

I think they might kick me out of the procrastinators club.  I actually got a bunch of stuff done off my "to do" list this weekend.  The garage door now locks (probably should've done that one a bit sooner!), frosted the glass on the bathroom door (why it was clear in the first place I'm not sure, house came that way - that one has been on the list for, ahem, 5 years), took some pictures of stuff and put it on kijiji, put an owl on the roof so that the freaking pigeons might actually stay away, watched a movie that I had borrowed from a friend.... there were other things I'm sure but it was such a busy weekend I don't even remember them all now!

Example of what gets left by bins
Moving day
I suppose one other thing that I usually do in bits and pieces but I decided to do a blitz on (as inspired by A Day in the Hood) was to report some by-law infractions. I went down two back lanes in my neighbourhood (about six blocks worth of each) and came up with THIRTY FIVE separate addresses to report to 311, many with multiple items/violations. Now, this wasn't me getting all picky and looking for the most minor of infractions, this was mostly bulky garbage in back lanes or piled up in back yards. A total of 15 couches/loveseats, 36 mattresses and about 8 extremely derelict cars (broken windows, up on blocks, sunken into ground etc).  All of that from just two back lanes (about 12 blocks total). Can you imagine if I was looking for dangling eavestroughs and peeling paint?!

Since I think I may have invited folks over for a BBQ when I visited the Winnipeg Internet Pundits show last week, let me revise that invite slightly - I will be taking part in the St. John's Community Clean-up on Saturday May 7th and I would like to ask you to come.  The clean-up starts at 10am (varying start points, TBA) and will have a wind-up at noon at Ralph Brown Community Centre (corner of McGregor and Machray) that will have a BBQ or some other sort of food goodness.  How does this tie in to my post you ask? Simple. Do not procrastinate and think "oh that sounds good, I should do that, I'll remember this" or "neat, what a great idea to get to see the North End and meet Winnipeg Girl, it's so important I know I won't forget". Stop. Take out your phone and go to the little calendar function. I'll wait. Okay, now put in an event or whatever you call it with your phone and put in an alarm for 9am on Saturday May 7. It should say this: Get butt out of bed, explore Winnipeg and help clean it up - go to North End to help Winnipeg Girl and her community. Now.

See how easy that will be? For those of you who don't use a mobile phone (?!) get out your pen and write it on the calendar on your wall that you got from your insurance place or wherever it is that people still get wall calendars. DON'T PROCRASTINATE!!  If you're good and show up maybe next time I'll have the BBQ at my place (and my place has steaks and beer and Bailey's, mmm.... Bailey's)

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Dear National Retailers...

Hi there giant corporation, I live in Winnipeg, you may have heard of us before; Winterpeg, Manisnowba?  While I appreciate you and your glossy weekly circulars (actually, those are bad unless you're using paper from sustainable forests or recycled paper or whatever the current greener trend is) and your spam informative emails that you send me (I'm a points and deal junkie - there are some good things in your emails. SOME. Let's strive for quality not quantity please), I would like to tell you a little about our climate.

We still have snow.

Oh, and... we still have snow.  So, while I may be in need of a grass trimmer and grass seed in the future, I don't really need it now.  Canadian Tire, I'm tempted by your sale on Chest Waders, as we have an impending flood, however I am unlikely to need home car wash supplies until it stops going below zero at night. I think that maybe you may have meant those Chest Waders for fishing, which if I tried to stand in a lake or river now I would freeze to death, or be swept away to it.

Replacing my patio furniture seems like a great idea, however we will have to wait until I can get the old stuff out of the ice in the back yard.  For this I will grant you the advertisement of outdoor heaters - those I could really use.  Maybe if I stand close enough to those heaters I might need the sunscreen that Rexall has a special on. Sunscreen. In April.

While I'm at it, please do not try to sell me Christmas decorations before Halloween and Valentine hearts and chocolates should not be seen starting on boxing day. Of course, if you understood the Winnipeg market at all you would know that we all bought our new patio furniture last fall when it was on clearance and we can buy seasonal chocolates and candies at *Leader's anytime for about half the price.

Winnipeg Girl

*That link will take you to a good forum that tells you a bit about Leader's, however if you're too lazy busy to check it out, the short version is this: CHEAP. CHOCOLATE. CANDY. CASH (as in bring it, they don't take cards). 279 Sutherland, almost unmarked door, use secret code words "North End Gem" to gain access.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Updates! - because you want to know more

Well, I know you've all been sitting on the edge of your seats waiting for this post to finally come along.  First, let me say, would the snow just hurry up and melt?!  I can almost feel spring coming, it's peeking its head out, the city feels lighter, people were out without jackets on the weekend. As much as I know that we don't really need any more precipitation, I'm looking forward to rain to wash the dirt off.  I also have a bunch of outdoor projects I want to get started on, by the time I'm done this summer I'm going to need the folks at Google to send their little Street View car back so they capture a new shot!

So, first update - in my attempt to provide some sort of journalistic integrity to my little blog I have been waiting to pounce on the media for inappropriately labeling crime as having happened in the North End and cite specific examples.  Of course it I haven't managed to catch it since my Geography post, which is probably a case of Uncle Murphy interfering. However, as a glass half-full sort of person, I've decided that the Winnipeg media was just so ashamed of their previous villanization of the North End that they have corrected their ways. Oh, and a shout out to all the criminals for spreading it around a bit as well - multiple stabbings in one day and only one was in my neighbourhood!

I know you've all been dying to know what happened with my roof - well, it seems as though they are going to fix it and they came and shoveled the snow off. I'm also getting the plaster repaired inside, which is particularly long overdue in my house (and that will finally enable me to finish my sunroom off as it will not be missing half a wall as it is now).

What happened with the blue roof from that other house? Glad you asked!  It seems as though By-law enforcement has decided to revisit the issue and maybe, just maybe, it does violate the Neighbourhood Liveability By-law after all. Neat. Who would have guessed? *cheeky eye roll*

Some good news for the Inner City neighbourhoods - City Council decided not to adopt the motion that was made to cut the funding by $500,000.  It is still very interesting that less than 0.1% of the the City budget goes to Housing and I hope that this wasn't Council testing the waters for how the community would react if the funding was to be cut permanently.  Our aging housing stock needs more help not less.  While we're at it, MB Hydro really needs to expand their Lower Income Energy Efficiency Program (LIEEP)to include renters as they are likely the demographic that is hit hardest by high heating bills.  It's not an impossible thing for Hydro to do, it would just require an agreement similar to when landlords get funding for creating/maintaining affordable housing to continue to rent to families that meet the LIEEP criteria (which in disadvantaged neighbourhoods happens pretty much by default anyway).

That's it, that's all I've got folks. I spent most of the weekend pissing around with artfully tiling with mini mosaic tiles so I didn't really see or do any of the fabulous things that Winnipeg may have had to offer up.  I did however, consume 3 of the big clear cup Slurpee's - Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper at the Sev on Henderson at Harbison if anyone is looking for it - to be honest not much different than a regular Dr. Pepper Slurpee (nectar of the gods) Did you start your Spring Cleaning yet?

**Oh, and still looking for my picture of the ladies urinal**