In the words of the General Douglas MacArthur, I have returned. Not to the Philippines, but to St. Catharines. I was impressed with what I saw during my exploratory so-called “business trip” last year and now I’m back to stay.
Welcome to my city.
As promised, here are the details of the move two years in the planning that, at times, I never thought was actually going to happen. Time seemed to stand still over the past year, yet as moving day approached, it sped up so fast that hours seemed like seconds. As you can imagine, so much was happening that the task of moving became overwhelming. Over the past few days and weeks, I was often reminded of the line I heard on a documentary describing the home front in the U.S. during the conflict in Vietnam, “America lived through more history than it could digest.” I think this line might apply to anyone who attempts a major move such as this.
After moving out of our old house, one that we had occupied for 15 years, we spent two nights at the Hilton near the airport before flying out on Friday.
I took note that they had a meeting room named for a former USFL player. Ironically, Bruce Laird of the Arizona Wranglers played in the 1984 Championship Game opposite Ken Dunek of the Philadelphia Stars, who is one of my Twitter followers.
For the most part, it was an enjoyable stay. There was a barking dog in an adjacent room, but they moved us and there were no further problems. The room was spacious and clean, the restaurant was surprisingly good, but the petty charges for parking your car and making local calls left a bad taste in our mouths. I left comments to that effect when asked by the Hilton for a review and also posted a review to tripadvisor.ca. In retrospect, we should not have been surprised by the nickel and diming. It is, after all, Winnipeg.
I needed no more evidence of that fact after spotting this classic sight across from the hotel. This shot might very well end up as the cover image of the book I am currently working on. Take pride, Winnipeg, indeed.
Interestingly, the tow truck driver who picked up our car for shipping couldn’t stop gushing about St. Catharines when he heard we were moving there. He had recently moved to Winnipeg from the Center of the Universe and offered yet another glowing recommendation of the area. When offered the keys to the club for the steering wheel, he declined and said, “You won’t need that in St. Catharines.” Quite the change from the auto theft capital of the Western world.
Bright and early Friday morning, we couldn’t wait to make a run for the airport. We were so anxious that we left some stuff behind in the fridge, but I guess that’s to be expected. It was again ironic that the shuttle driver who took us from the Hilton to the airport was also was looking to move to St. Catharines and had been trying to get a transfer. In the words of the late Richard Dawson, I detect a trend developing.
We breezed through security and had plenty of time to make a stop at Tim Hortons and check some e-mail. My Twitter followers can easily guess which post I made from the airport.
In a way, I was envious of this poor soul. Understandably, I didn’t sleep very well in my last night in the SPRM.
I checked the boards to see what gate we were leaving from, but I should have known better and just gone directly to Gate 5. You may understand. You may not.
During the wait, I noticed the seeds of a pair of future human rights complaints. First, in the airport chapel, the only brochures there were for Christian denominations. Later, I noticed only male and female washrooms.
There were no gender-neutral washrooms for people who identify with a different gender than the one they were assigned at birth. Where’s this spirit of inclusion that socialists are so fond of trumpeting? Shameful, indeed. Or not.
A battalion of paramedics came rushing to meet a teenage girl who was being wheeled off an incoming flight. After they attended to her, she seemed to be all right. Perhaps she just had a panic attack once she realized that she was about to touch down in the degenerate capital of the SPRM.
I noted with interest that a QuebAir pilot asked to visit his brother, who was flying the WestJet plane we were taking. After they let him pass, the WestJet staffers remarked how odd it was that the brother of a WestJet pilot was flying for the “reds.”
At last, it was time to board. After all the passengers of the sold-out flight were seated, the flight attendant undoubtedly set a personal best for the time taken to read the canned speech about safety. This just in. There is no point to making the speech if no one can understand you.
Just before the plane began taxiing out to the runway, an ad for Smarties popped up on the screen in front of my seat. Once again, I knew I wasn’t flying alone. You may understand. You may not.
Tears of joy filled my eyes as I caught a glimpse of the Winnipeg skyline for the last time. This is the only city that I had ever lived in during the many decades I have walked the face of the Earth and as much as I will miss the dear friends I was leaving behind, I will not miss the city. I thought back to my Grade 12 English class when the teacher asked for a show of hands as to who planned to stay in Winnipeg. I was only one of three or four who put up their hands. Now, so many years later, I was among those who were leaving.
We took off down the newly refurbished runway to the north and I got what would be my last shot of a Manitoba highway. If you don’t recognize it, this is PTH 190, Winnipeg’s newest “expressway,” complete with traffic lights and a railway crossing just before a railway overpass.
Soon after leaving Greg Selinger’s sovereign airspace and crossing into my new home province, I set my watch one hour ahead from Central Daylight Time to Central Universe Time.
It was cloudy much of the way, but I got this shot of King’s Highway 17 somewhere between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie.
As we approached the Center of the Universe, my heart nearly skipped a beat when the flight attendant announced that we were making our descent into Winnipeg. Egad! I don’t want to go back. Ever. I think she quickly realized her mistake, but she didn’t bother to correct herself.
Once the plane reached the terminal, we had an excruciatingly long wait as the people in front of us were in no hurry to get off. These were many of the same people in Winnipeg who were tripping over each other in a big hurry to get on. I swear we spent longer waiting to get off the plane than we did in the air. Normally, I wouldn’t have been bothered by the delay, but we were pressed for time since we had to pick up the keys at the lawyer’s office by 5:00. Furthermore, there had been a crash on the QEW that had shut down the C.U.-bound lanes on the Burlington Skyway. Even though we were going in the opposite direction, I figured that the Niagara Airbus schedules would be thrown way off kilter.
Fortunately, we got on a bus within 15 minutes of our arrival at the desk and traffic was moving smoothly.
The only exception was on the skyway when motorists slowed down to get a glimpse of the crash scene.
On the way home.
Entering the Greenbelt.
Welcome to the Regional Municipality of Niagara.
En route, I had a nice little chat with our driver, Paul, while snapping pictures soon to appear on a Web site near you. He told me an interesting story about how accident rates plummeted after the former NDP government introduced photo radar, then rose again once the Liberals removed it. I told him how photo radar in Winnipeg was simply used a cash grab and a substitute for law enforcement instead of part of an effective road safety strategy.
Paul had someone else to pick up, so he dropped most of us off at the Vineland car pool location and Fran took us the rest of the way to St. Catharines. When heading down the 406, she went one exit too far and had to double back because she was listening to the signals from her GPS instead of the signals from her brain. Of course, I noticed that she didn’t get off at the proper exit, but I didn’t say anything because I thought she was dropping off the other group before us. She candidly admitted her mistake and told me the other group was headed for “Nig Falls.” That awkward abbreviation for Niagara is far too close to a word not terribly high on the political correctness scale and I hope she has the good sense to simply use “The Falls” in future instead.
Almost immediately after touching down at the Avis car rental office on St. Paul Street, a “642” license plate passed by.
I would later spot this truck from New Brunswick a block away from our house.
Also nearby, this pet store was offering Siberian Huskies for sale.
Once again, I knew I was not alone and that I had a dear friend with me in my new home city. You may understand. You may not.
At the car rental place, I also noticed this sign alerting passers-by that you won’t need to be “empting” your wallet. I was hoping St. Cathariners would be able to spell better than Winnipeggers. On this point, early returns would not be positive. During my first four days in St. Catharines, I would spot a total of five such signs. Among them are as follows:
School “unforms” are “availble.”
For all your car “maintenence” needs.
Too bad the insect “controll” products are not included.
As they were getting the car ready, a young woman passed by sporting a skimpy halter top that might have fit her properly prior to her recent surgery that augmented a pair of body parts. Emblazoned on the fabric stretched so tightly that any sudden movement would undoubtedly cause it to rip was “Guess?” Ah, such class. For the record, the answer is silicone. Or saline. Admittedly, I’m not familiar with the material they use in implants these days. She could have been strapping a couple of bottles of Elmer’s glue to her chest for all I know.
Fortunately, the rest of my early experiences in the Garden City would be much more positive.
We got the keys from the lawyer and walked into our new house. It was spotless inside and the previous owner left us with a nice card.
Toto, we’re not in the SPRM anymore.
Our agent, Diane Walker (no relation), came by the next day and also gave us a nice card along with a big fruit basket to welcome us to St. Catharines. She was very helpful during the entire process and I would like to publicly thank her for all her efforts. For my friends who have expressed an interest in joining me in relocating to the Garden City, I can offer a strong endorsement.
Touring the rest of the house for the first time, I couldn’t help but notice this:
There indeed was a “satalite” dish atop the house and, fittingly, it was a DirecTV dish. Many readers who I had the pleasure of working with at the Division for DirecTV Viewing Locally will understand the significance.
The previous owner also left us with a religious pamphlet. Apparently she is one of group of people who have witnessed something. I think most readers can figure out the rest.
The house is at the end of a cul-de-sac and the neighborhood is deathly quiet. There were no drug transactions, no booming noise coming from a nearby park and no one was outside pissing on the street. Everyone in the area seems quite friendly. I could get used to this.
Not that it’s right to let down your guard, but I feel so much safer here, not just because of the neighbourhood, but because of the community itself. It won’t be perfect here and I don’t expect it to be, but all indications continue to point to everything being much better than they were in Winnipeg. I know many of my friends in Winnipeg were jealous of my move and I’m happy to make you even more green with envy.
The view outside my room. The previous owner once had frogs in there, but the neighbor complained of the noise, so she got rid of them.
Unfortunately, we’re still waiting for most of our stuff to arrive from the SPRM, but in the meantime, I’ve had a little chance to do some exploring.
Fairview Mall, one of the two major malls in St. Catharines, informally doubles as the city’s largest nursing home. The food court is often filled cliques of seniors gathered together over cups of coffee from McDonald’s or Java Joe’s. It sure beats sharing the mall with marauding gangs of hoodlums or teenage princesses looking to add some more poundage to their wardrobe.
The Wal-Mart there was open at 7:00 am. On a Sunday. On a long weekend. Any merchant who dared to try such a thing in the SPRM would probably be locked up.
Not that I’ve checked at Winnipeg Wal-Marts, but I doubt they would leave such large quantities of torch fuel on the shelves there. Being an arsonist ranks in the top 10 of Winnipeg’s most popular occupations. Maybe even top five.
At the other end of the mall is a nice Zehr’s supermarket. When I was in line, the clerk was breaking open a roll of coins and dropped some on the floor. When he got back up, he joked that he had just thrown some money away. I replied, “You’ve got a career in politics ahead of you.” Kathleen Wynne has probably already personally invited him to join the Liberal Party of Ontario.
Monarch Park, one of the spots I covered last year.
This shot is for one friend in particular.
The sign at the head of the Welland Canals Trail. Rules are posted for General Trail Users, but none are posted for fans of other USFL teams.
A ribbon with “Love” imprinted on it. It sure beats a bottle of piss accompanied by an “F-you” from a passer-by.
It’s nice to see them honor the greatest goaltender in Winnipeg Jets history.
A scooter on the sidewalk, not the road. This is a sight you would not see in the SPRM.
For the benefit of one reader, a monument to the Polish pioneers. Evidently, I am unknowingly acting as my friend’s agent in following them around. But I’m sure it’s OK. It’s not a big deal. Sniff, sniff. Boo hoo. He will understand. The rest of you won’t.
Designated for what?
Most people don’t have as much in their car as this guy is balancing on his bike. I see an accident waiting to happen.
There’s still a long ways to go before I’m settled, but for now, I can at least take comfort in the knowledge that, at last, I am truly at home.