Inner City Diary
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Winnipeg, warts 'n' all, wins with our visitors
July 21, 2002
If you’re wondering about last week’s heat wave, blame it on some of our guests from the States. I figure if us Canucks can get blamed for all their cold fronts, we can blame them for most of our heat waves.

Virginia and I took a short vacation to host her sister and family from Arkansas. In some ways this was like any other family visit. Late night talks, games, and eating. Walks, movies, barbeques, shopping and more eating. But it became more than just another visit. Since they don’t come up here often, I wanted them to see a Winnipeg that would encourage return visits.

I know things aren’t perfect in Winnipeg. But when you have guests, you want them to see and believe the best about your city and neighbourhood. That is, unless you don’t really want them to come back again.

I started to wonder if daily delivery of Winnipeg’s two daily papers was really a good idea. They were getting a little nervous about all the stuff they were reading about our fair city. Having a radio and TV didn’t really add much peace of mind. Come to think of it, having a window overlooking Ellice Avenue probably didn’t help either. But unless we canceled the papers, hid the TV and radio, and sealed up the view onto Ellice and our back lane, we couldn’t hide some of the truths about life in the big city.

They were shocked by the preponderance of prostitutes and the persistence of their clients. They were a bit concerned about the evidence of the higher octane Canadian beer, the occasional whiff of solvents, and the general arrogance of some of the dealers and gangsters. They came up with the obvious question, “Why doesn’t somebody do something about this?” I ran through some of the things we were doing. I explained our frustration with the judgments of the courts negating the work of the cops.

Having their son play outside was a bit of a stretch after some of the things they saw on the street and read in the paper. But within a couple of days their son joined his cousins and a bunch of neighbourhood kids playing baseball in the John M. King schoolyard. Next thing you know, they let him go to the beach with friends and spend a fair bit of time skateboarding late into the evening around the neighbourhood. No problems, and a whole lot of fun.

We started with a “Taste of Manitoba” last Sunday. They liked the idea and the food. A cornucopia of tastes from curried butter chicken, hot honeystung and sweet lemon chicken to buffalo burgers, banana and pastry desserts. They enjoyed their experience despite the killer plague of mosquitoes from the West Nile, and despite the lady who followed them for awhile loudly begging for money for food. I was a little worried about that one, but they seemed to take it pretty well. They weren’t scared or turned off by the persistent, guilt-tripping panhandler. When I asked them why, they commented, “That lady sure didn’t look like she’s suffering from a shortage of food.”

They were pretty impressed that the government runs most of the booze stores and gambling in this town. “Sure seems like a sweet deal for the government. I wonder how much money they skim off that monopoly?”

We had fun with some of the typical sight-seeing. We showed them the Legislative building and explained the case of the missing Golden Boy. There was the obligatory visit to the Forks. They enjoyed the shops and markets despite the flooded river walkways. We went for a snack in the revolving lounge atop the tower at Fort Garry Place. It’s a great view of the city after living all day at street level.

We toured some of the buildings under renovation through our Lazarus Housing project. “That’s a lot of house for the money. If I moved up here I would love one of those houses. There’s no way you get a house that nice for that cheap around us.”

They enjoyed the mini-golf, baseball and a couple of exciting go-cart rides. Five pin bowling was a novelty as well as a challenge. “Those pins look like they’re awful far apart. Only five pins and a ball about one-third the size of ours. This could be tough.” The young guys in our lane celebrated each isolated strike – until we looked at the lane next to us and noticed that the seniors in that lane had beat our final score by the fifth frame of their game. We started watching them for tips.

All in all, they enjoyed their visit, despite the heat and despite the mosquitoes. They went home without West Nile and with lots of good memories.
Copyright 2002
Rev. Harry Lehotsky
Rev. Harry Lehotsky is Director of New Life Ministries, a community ministry in the inner-city of Winnipeg, Manitoba.
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New Life Ministries
514 Maryland Street
Winnipeg, Mb R3G 1M5
(204) 775-4929