Tag Archives: Winnipeg

31 Jul

A Little Perspective on Transit “Disconnect”

This morning, an interesting blog entry came across my Twitter feed. In it, the author bemoans the disconnect between Hamilton and Niagara from a public transit perspective. I can appreciate his point of view as someone who remembers when Megabus offered a more direct connection. But he lost me when he described the Stoney Creek/Barton connection, one I have used and by and large, find quite acceptable, as one of those options “not worthy of consideration.”

By way of comparison, consider the case of Winnipeg, the city I defected from three years to the day tomorrow.

Decades ago, you used to be able to take the train to Minneapolis. Not anymore.

There was also a train to Winnipeg Beach and Gimli. Stuff of legend in that part of the world. Long since gone by the wayside.

The trains were replaced by buses. A late as a decade ago, there was still regular bus service south of the border. Unfortunately, that too is gone. As is the service to the Interlake. Even the iconic Winnipeg to Selkirk route so capably handled by Beaver Bus Lines for so many years is hanging by a thread.

Things aren’t any better when trying to get to points east and west. Trains only come through the city two or three times a week and cross-Canada bus routes have been decreasing in frequency.

Even if there was some decent inter-city bus service available, simply getting to the bus terminal nowadays has become a Herculean challenge following the puzzling decision to relocate the bus terminal out by the airport. Though the airport is technically served by Winnipeg Transit, service there can be best described as abominable.

As someone who used to live on a flight path close to the airport, I would have had to have taken three buses to get there, two of which were low-frequency routes. The hour-long walk would have been faster, though hardly an option if you’re carrying suitcases. The old bus terminal was Ground Zero for indigents and a place where you had good reason to fear for your safety, but being centrally located in the heart of downtown , it was at least easily accessible from most points within the city.

The city could readily remedy the situation with a high-frequency shuttle service to the airport from nearby Polo Park, a popular transit hub. But they choose not to. Instead, they continue to shovel hundreds of millions of dollars into the so-called Rapid Transit project to shave a few minutes off a ride from downtown to the U of M.

Insert sound of a toilet flushing.

As much as people in this part of the world complain about public transit, consider the alternative.

You could be living in Winnipeg.

14 Jun

Random Thoughts – Fake News, QEW Crash, Downtown Streetscaping and More

1. Paul Wiecek churned out another piece of drivel in yesterday’s edition of Socialism Illustrated. This time, he railed on how many Southern teams are losing money hand over fist while again proclaiming the Chipman franchise as a model of success.

He did have a valid point in regard to the Weasels, née Jets, but he conveniently failed to mention that the Chipman franchise would be in the same boat without all those government handouts. As I’ve said before, people who live in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. But as is normally the case at Socialism Illustrated, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good narrative.

1a. In that same article, Wiecek claimed that the only reason the Predators have been able to draw crowds recently was because they were winning. Once again, he conveniently overlooked how well they had been drawing for years despite the fact that the Predators had never won much of anything and hadn’t advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs prior to this past season. And that the franchise, led by quality ownership, has worked hard to build a strong, loyal fan base in a non-traditional hockey market like Nashville. But again, don’t let the facts get in the way of a good narrative.

2. Right here in St. Catharines, a truck hauling hazardous materials crashed on the QEW, forcing an evacuation and shelter in place order within a 2 km radius of the crash site. To the credit of everyone involved, the chemicals were promptly contained and the highway was reopened to traffic within 12 hours.

In Winnipeg, police would have taken great pleasure in shutting down a major artery for 12 days or more if such a thing had happened there. Just because they could. Yet another reason I’m happy to be out of that part of the world.

3. Speaking of Winnipeg, I couldn’t help but think of my former home when I spotted these gardens outside the downtown library last night:

As I said to my friend, if something had been planted outside the downtown library there, it would only have been a matter of hours before it was torn up and/or used as a toilet. Not to mention that whoever did the planting might have ended up with a knife in his gut. Again, it’s yet another reason I’m happy to be out of that part of the world.

4. Placing a sign at a major construction site explaining the work being done and giving the estimated time of completion is important. But it does not need to be as tall as the Jolly Green Giant and it is not necessary for our mayor to include what amounts to a re-election campaign slogan at the bottom.

5. I knew the city was doing “streetscaping” on St. Paul Street. I wasn’t aware that they were tearing up the whole street.

5a. Was this project really necessary?

5b. I sure wish there was a conservative voice on council. You know, someone who isn’t afraid to say “no.”

02 May

CPC Leadership Ballot, Co-op Boards, Shooting in Winnipeg

This week, I finally got my Conservative Party leadership ballot, which I promptly filled out and put in the mail.

Though I don’t think either one has a realistic chance of winning, I voted with my conscience and ranked Pierre Lemieux and Brad Trost one and two, respectively, on my ballot. Their views most closely resemble mine, and as Lemieux said when I saw him here in St. Catharines, ranking them highly sends a message to the party. There are millions who agree with us and it’s time we spoke up and had our voices heard rather than just go with the traffic.

Beyond that, my next two choices, in order, were Maxime Bernier and Andrew Scheer. I liked a lot of what I heard from both of them and I think both would make a good prime minister. But I had to put one ahead of the other and chose Bernier. It was nice, however, to have a choice between two excellent candidates rather than having to choose the least undesirable option, which was the case with almost every mayoral election in Winnipeg I voted in.

Now without the threat of Kevin O’Leary, I could have simply stopped there and not marked any more names, but I used all 10 of my choices to do what I could ward off any possibility of Liberal-lite Michael Chong becoming leader. In order, I chose Steven Blaney, Erin O’Toole, Andrew Saxton, Rick Peterson, Chris Alexander and finally, Lisa Raitt.

Based on Raitt’s disastrous performance in Jordan a few weeks ago, which I detailed in a recent posting, it hurt to even mark her as my 10th choice, but if it came down to it, I would still rather see her as the leader than Chong, Kellie Leitch or Deepak Obhrai, a man with a lower profile than most members of the Witness Protection Program.

I do agree with some of her views, but Leitch earned her way completely off my ballot thanks to a mean-spirited campaign she was waging against Bernier. Other candidates were certainly engaged in spirited debate with each other, but by and large, they handled it all in a much more professional manner. Throughout the leadership campaign, Leitch impressed me as a conservative’s answer to Monica Lewinsky’s ex-boyfriend’s wife.

I was pleased to see that the ballot itself was simply listed in alphabetical order without any comments or endorsements from Party executives, unlike the case with the brochure for the MEC board of directors election I got in the mail this week. MEC, along with many other co-operatives and credit unions, have been taking it upon themselves to endorse or recommend candidates who best fit their values.

The board’s values, that is. Not yours.

What amounts to a shift from a member-focused to a board-focused entity was a point I made on social media this week, to which MEC responded, “We strongly encourage members to vote for whoever they want. But here’s why we recommend candidates …” In other words, we really want you to vote for our preferred candidates, but we really can’t stop you from considering the others. Much as we’d like to.

Seriously, imagine the outrage if any sitting government at the federal or provincial level moved it’s party’s candidate to the top of the ballot above the caption, “The Government of Canada recommends you vote for this candidate.” There would be rioting in the streets if any governing party even as much as proposed such a thing. Yet this practice is growing like a mushroom cloud among co-operatives and credit unions whose boards either think we’re too stupid to pick a candidate on our own without their “help” or just want to solidify their own positions by bringing in as many like-minded people as possible.

This is exactly why federal legislation is needed to put a stop this detestable practice from coast to coast. But I’m not exactly holding my breath.

Finally, I read about the recent shooting in the skywalk in downtown Winnipeg, a place that has seen my shadow a lot more than once. Far from being in an isolated dark alley in the middle of the night, this confrontation between an officer and an allegedly armed thug took place in the middle of the lunch hour, when the skywalk is always packed. As a library employee said in the Socialism Illustrated article, “It’s too close to home.”

Indeed.

When I lived there, I could just have easily been the thug’s target, and just like the incident when a Winnipeg Transit driver was fatally stabbed, the only real surprise is that such a thing hasn’t happened before now. Winnipeg has been a city in serious decline for many years, long before I left, and I was far from alone in referring to it as Canada’s toilet bowl.

Yet another reason why I’m relieved to be away from that part of the world.

07 Jan

Random Thoughts – Our Mayor, Donald Trump, the Old Country Library and More

1. After hearing his remarks at the New Years Day Levee, I continue to grow disillusioned with Mayor Sendzik. He remains an outstanding booster for our city, but he’s seemingly trying too hard to curry favor with his fellow Liberals. The endless droning about First Nations, his tired vision of a “compassionate city” and the oft-repeated story about Frank, the homeless man, would have been better suited for a Liberal party meeting.

1a. If he had spent any length of time living in the SPRM as I have, I dare say Mayor Sendzik would not have mentioned the First Nations in his speech.

2. I think Mayor Sendzik is also growing increasingly disillusioned with the job. He appeared visibly frustrated at the first dual-duty councillor forum, and though he tries to hide it, the petty minutiae appear to be getting to him.

3. I will not be surprised if Mayor Sendzik seeks a federal or provincial seat under the Liberal banner within the next decade.

4. As the federal Conservative leadership race heats up, Lisa Raitt sent out a divisive email attacking her opponents who allegedly have divisive policies. Strike her off my list.

4a. As things stand now, my vote goes to either Maxime Bernier or Andrew Scheer.

5. As Donald Trump prepares to assume the awesome duties of the presidency, with his outspoken nature, I expect his time in office will be most noted for empowering the people to speak out and reclaim their country from the liberal elitists rather than for anything he does in the Oval Office.

6. During my countless hours at the downtown library back in the Old Country doing research for my Jets, Fighting Moose and Generals books, I saw many so many oddities there that people in this part of the world can’t possibly appreciate. None, however, topped what happened this week, when a would-be Geronimo tumbled four floors to his eventual death.

6a. More noteworthy is that the Winnipeg Police Service appeared to treat the man’s death as a reportable offense.

7. Former Jet Scott Campbell penned another article in Socialism Illustrated this week, highlighting how the improving Leafs could teach the Chipman franchise a few things. Not surprisingly, he conveniently failed to mention the underlying reason why the Leafs are doing better than the Chipman franchise. The Leafs are run by skilled and respected hockey men. The Chipman franchise is run by a used car salesman and a professional tax collector.

7a. I respect all that Campbell did as a player, but his naïveté is palpable.

8. Speaking of Socialism Illustrated, isn’t it interesting how they’re hammering Brian Pallister for being in Costa Rica, yet they remain silent as our adolescent prime minister/ex-drama teacher travels the world on our dime? But the media isn’t biased, right?

14 Nov

Random Thoughts – Bombers Collapse, Another Flag, Facebook Quirks

1. This crusty old ex-Manitoba taxpayer is still grinning from ear-to-ear over the Bombers’ collapse in B.C. yesterday. As I’ve said before, old grudges die hard.

1a. Based on the reactions coming out of the Old Country, you’d think it was the first time a Winnipeg-based sports team has let down the faithful. You know what they say about those who do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result.

2. Mayor Sendzik was at City Hall today raising another flag, this time for transgenders. As I’ve said before, everyone should be allowed to live their life as they see fit free of discrimination, but enough already.

2a. The rampant and uncontrolled growth of the disease known as political correctness is a significant factor why Donald Trump will become the 45th president of the United States. By pushing the envelope so far, liberals have become their own worst enemy.

2b. If you want to know the difference between liberals and conservatives, consider the number of riots after Trudeau was elected and the number after Trump was elected.

3. Despite my decades-old disdain for Trump in leading the USFL to its eventual downfall, count me in as one of his supporters. The free world will be much better off with him in charge than with Crooked Hillary back in the White House for a third term. Not that that’s saying much.

3a. Make America Great Again! I just wanted to say that.

4. For the Facebook users out there, previously unknown to me was a “filtered message requests” tab. It turns out a number of people over the past year and a half have found yet another obscure way to try and contact me. For the life of me, I cannot possibly understand why people look so hard to avoid the obvious.

4a. When you send a friend request to a perfect stranger who has nothing in common with you, do not be surprised when he/she does not accept it.

4b. When you send a friend request to a perfect stranger who has nothing in common with you, do not be mortally offended when he/she does not accept it.

5. I have another book coming out soon. This one is called The Contented Cows: A Bad IT Job Becomes a Financial Services Horror Story. It is officially a work of fiction, but largely based on a true story. It will be of particular interest to anyone in IT or in the financial services industry.

30 May

Book Release: Shattered Dreams

Hot on the heels of my fourth book, View from Section 26, I am pleased to announce the release of my fifth – Shattered Dreams: Diary and Downfall of a Utopian Socialist in the Heart of the Canadian Prairies. Very different than any of my previous books, this is a heavily sarcastic tale featuring idealistic social worker Gavin York, who sets foot in Winnipeg to begin his career, convinced of his opportunity to change the world. After enduring many trials and tribulations in Canada’s toilet bowl, Gavin eventually sours on his insufferable adopted home city and opens his eyes to the harsh reality of socialism and its disastrous long-term consequences once the unsustainable welfare state in Manitoba comes crashing down on him.

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Although this is a work of fiction, it is based on many factual incidents I’ve encountered over the course of many decades in Winnipeg. The reader is free to judge as to its similarity to real life.

Click here for the paperback edition and here for the electronic edition.

04 Aug

A Triumphant Return to St. Catharines

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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In a way, I was envious of this poor soul. Understandably, I didn’t sleep very well in my last night in the SPRM.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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It was cloudy much of the way, but I got this shot of King’s Highway 17 somewhere between Wawa and Sault Ste. Marie.

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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.

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Fortunately, we got on a bus within 15 minutes of our arrival at the desk and traffic was moving smoothly.

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The only exception was on the skyway when motorists slowed down to get a glimpse of the crash scene.

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On the way home.

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Entering the Greenbelt.

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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.

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Almost immediately after touching down at the Avis car rental office on St. Paul Street, a “642” license plate passed by.

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I would later spot this truck from New Brunswick a block away from our house.

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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.

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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:

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School “unforms” are “availble.”

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For all your car “maintenence” needs.

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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.

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Toto, we’re not in the SPRM anymore.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Monarch Park, one of the spots I covered last year.

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This shot is for one friend in particular.

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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.

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A ribbon with “Love” imprinted on it. It sure beats a bottle of piss accompanied by an “F-you” from a passer-by.

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It’s nice to see them honor the greatest goaltender in Winnipeg Jets history.

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A scooter on the sidewalk, not the road. This is a sight you would not see in the SPRM.

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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.

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Designated for what?

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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.