Sunday, August 21, 2011

This just (not) in...

Well, Picnic in the Park seems to have been very well attended, I didn't hear visitor counts but the line for the free food (samosas, pork on a bun, sauerkraut perishke, apples and bannock) was as long indicating a good turn out. Locals were in luck because there was also an event just up the road at Mountain and McGregor hosted by the Manitoba Metis Federation (or so I believe) so they had their choice of family events.

Two events stand out from the time I spent at Picnic, neither of which made the news. The first, which actually happened later, is the type of even less likely to make the news, but was indicative of the aftermath of what was a very active "cheque day" here in the North End (I also wonder if cheque day played a role in the incident on Garfield). For those of you scratching your heads as to what cheque could possibly cause an entire neighbourhood to change dynamic, it's the same one you quite possibly got, the Child Tax Benefit (I think that's it's real name - I always think of it by its colloquial name, Baby Bonus Cheque). Unfortunately, when this cheque comes out in the North End, in particular in summer, the place actually resembles the place that suburbanites think exists all the time. Cheques that are intended to cover the extra costs associated with raising children all too frequently end up being spent on alcohol and other intoxicants. This is certainly not to say that this is the case with all North End families, however, like any stereotype, the roots stem from actual events, and a few bad apples definitely spoil the bunch.

Since this cheque day fell on a Friday, in summer, it was was bound to be more terrifying exciting eventful than some of the others. A friend who has been enumerating here in the neighbourhood stopped earlier in the day than usual because things were getting rowdy earlier than usual, the sirens more prolific throughout the night than usual, and the North End seems to have had more than its fair share of stories in the crime section. As a side note to that - this summer has been the most calm in years, or so it seems - even a glance at the headlines throughout this summer has had most of the crime happening in other places, refreshing for a change!

So back to my original story - there was an incident at Picnic involving a knife and a fight of some sort, which is a shame because it's a family event. I wasn't witness to the fight but I would be surprised if the participants didn't still have some of the effects from some imbibing from Friday night.  The other story, which I'm extremely surprised doesn't seem to have hit the news at all, was a dramatic river rescue. Okay, I've never seen another river rescue so I don't know if it was any more or less dramatic than usual but it seems that it should get the dramatic adjective.

Just around 830 Saturday morning, while we were setting things up for the Picnic, there was shouting coming from the direction of the Redwood Bridge. As we all know, shouting in these parts is fairly par for the course, so we didn't think too much of it. A few minutes later, sirens could be heard, ending at the bridge. Thinking that perhaps there was a fight or maybe someone threatening to jump, we continued about our business.  Next thing we knew, a guy came running down the river path with the police in hot pursuit. Then they passed him.  Confused as to what the situation was, we headed down to the river bank.  That's when we could see the head and waving arms and the guy we thought was being chased shouting to the river victim that help was on the way, to just hang on.

The police were nothing short of spectacular in their efforts to rescue the man, I was particularly impressed by the way they didn't hesitate to commandeer the rowboat attached to the docked MS River Rouge (man do my posts tie together nicely!) and attempt to row to save the man. As a spoiler (but a happy one), the man was rescued, so I can then comment on some of the amusing scenes that unfolded with the boys in blue. The officers that jumped in the rowboat looked nothing short of comical in their attempt to coordinate how exactly to row a boat and two of the officers who scrambled along the riverbank lost (and found) items off their belts and I couldn't help but think of those pesky taser cartridges. Another onlooker said that an officer fell in the water trying to get in the rowboat but I must've missed that.

So as the officers tried to row out to the man, who I was told by another man on scene who had run down the river path as well (and I believe was the person to call 911) that he had been in the water from at least Burrows, so didn't end up in the drink by the Redwood bridge after all. It was absolutely incredible how quickly the current moved and how far the man drifted in such a short amount of time.  Ultimately he was rescued (or at least certainly seemed to be - it was too far out at that point to see exactly what was going on) by a what looked like a police motorboat.

It strikes me as so odd that this didn't hit the news, not even as a blip; so here on my humble little blog I will give the shout out to the police officers involved for a job very well done, and despite my amusement at their attempt to row a boat (I'm thinking that the motorboat would have eventually had to "rescue" them as well, that's one heck of a strong current) they were nothing short of heroic in their attempts to save the life of a man who ended up in the river. I suppose we will all just have to guess at the rest of the details, like how and where he ended up in there in the first place.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Cheap river tour, Picnic in the Park

Well, we all know Winnipeg Girl is a fan of things that are cheap, or even better, free! I present you with both. Thanks to poor advertising done by the MS River Rouge (and people looking for the Paddlewheel Queen, which no longer exists) it seems from the stats that I am the go to place for information river tours. So, may I (not me of course) offer you - half price weekday river tours! I'm a generous sort. Click here to go to the Swarm Jam site. You might as well, you were looking for their hours anyway. Oh, coupons, how I love thee.

As for FREE! check out Picnic in the Park this Saturday at St. John's Park. It starts at 11 and there is entertainment throughout the afternoon, and even better, FREE food! Although, probably best not to get me started on the hundreds and hundreds of water and juice bottles that will be used. I will most certainly be at Picnic in the Park, since it's a hop skip and a jump from my place. I might actually walk there. Crazy talk, I know.

For my dear suburban readers, St. John's Park is the park on Main St. just north of Redwood Ave, and next to the Ukrainian-Orthodox Holy Trinity Cathedral. The park is way bigger than it looks from Main St. and actually quite a little treasure.

As a random coincidence note, this park is also roughly where you catch the River Rouge (but the coupon is only good for weekdays)
See you there!

Monday, August 15, 2011

Sensationalism in the media? No way!

The FreeP is doing a multi-part story on just how dangerous the streets of Winnipeg can be, "Walking and cycling can be deadly - as more of us hike and bike will the death toll rise?" While I don't disagree with the sentiments that there can be many deadly issues with cars and bikes and people (see a good blog post by One Man Committee here as well), my beef is with their stats.

Now, buried in the article in today's FreeP is the fact that "Other times, pedestrians are jaywalking, intoxicated or not paying attention." Now, the "death toll" (such an ominous sounding label) for this year stands at 4 people, and when I read their list of what these incidents were, two immediately rang bells for being unusual incidents. The most recent one, in June, was the unfortunate event of a presumed street person falling under the rear tires of a delivery truck, no charges were laid against the driver. In April, a man lying in the middle of Redwood Ave at 4am was hit by a fire truck when it did not have time to see the body because of a vehicle travelling in front of it. I was unable to find a news article to confirm it but it was believed that the man was heavily intoxicated. Now, those are two of the four deadly crashes with pedestrians on the roads of Winnipeg, and somehow their deaths don't make me fear being a pedestrian. The same goes for anytime someone is hit while playing Frogger to get across the road.

I absolutely think that Winnipeg drivers need to pay more attention while driving, and I have of course had my moments as well, although One Man Committee would be please to hear that I am generally awesome when it comes to pedestrians at yield lanes. Although equally important to drivers paying more attention is for cyclists and pedestrians themselves to pay more attention. It may be well and good that they were in the right and that it was totally the fault of the vehicle, but if you're dead your gloating opportunities are limited. Things that they need to remember:
  • Vehicles can't stop immediately just because you pushed the crosswalk button, make eye contact with the drivers before you start to cross the road, and pause to make sure that all lanes are clear as you cross each one.
  • Don't hang out at the crosswalk and talk with your friends by the sign, because the drivers that are courteous and slow down for you to cross will just get irritated that you aren't wanting to and may be less likely to slow down next time.
  • Cyclists using the sidewalk (which I personally am okay with, more on that in a second) should dismount to cross intersections or should bloody well keep an eye out for cars making turns - they may have looked to see if any pedestrians were coming but if you're still on your bike you are coming up faster than they were looking for obstacles.
  • When you're riding your bike on the sidewalk, remember that although cars are supposed to stop before the sidewalk, they rarely do. This is particularly true with cars exiting back lanes. Yes, they are supposed to stop, but see above for how if you're dead that it doesn't do you much good to be right.
  • Oh, and since being an idiot still gets you into the stats, don't pass out in the middle of the road, don't try to "fake out" drivers by pretending you're springing out in front of them (had that happen the other day), jaywalk with common sense understanding that you are doing something that the car cannot predict.
So, I think I've mentioned this before, but I really don't have a problem with bikes on the sidewalk, it generally seems like a safer option for them (especially if they follow my rules above). In general, I don't fear getting hit by car anymore than I fear getting shot here in the North End, although I would suspects it would actually be more likely to be hit. I am not in a gang so I will probably not get shot. I am a courteous pedestrian, yes there is such a thing, so I will probably not get hit by a car. Winnipeg's roadways were designed by someone who likely got their planning degree in a Crackerjack box, since we can't change them, we need to learn to all work together for the safety of all citizens.

*steps down from her soapbox*

Oh, and with the recent shootings in Transcona* does that make me more likely to get shot there or run over by a Firebird? ;) Just kidding Transcona, I love ya!

*I was very sourly informed by someone who feels the same way I do about how negative things get attributed to the North End and positive ones get their proper neighbourhood named, that this part of the city is NOT Transcona, but rather E.K., according to the assessment map it does seem to be classed as T-Cona, but I'm glad that other people have issues just like me!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Paddlewheel Queen, did you mean M.S. River Rouge?

It seems as though one of the highest traffic generating (besides of course h00kers) search terms to my blog is people looking to take a cruise down the Red and Assiniboine rivers on the Paddlewheel Queen and instead end up reading about the Paddlewheel restaurant at The Bay downtown.

So I decided to do some digging so I could give the people what they ask for. However, my internet sleuthing skills didn't turn up much more than what the others seem to have found. There is a facebook page that hasn't been updated in a long time with a no longer in use phone number and a dead website and an article from the FreeP that indicates they were to be no more. So I got to thinking, well, I know there is still one sightseeing boat in Winnipeg, perhaps they would be happy with that?

So here you are: you are no longer looking for the Paddlewheel Queen, you are looking for the M.S. River Rouge. You can find them here. It unfortunately also has a poorly update facebook page and poor customer service (when I emailed them to confirm their hours as their website gives off the impression that it's not up to date I was simply told to check their website, they didn't really give off a friendly helpful vibe, but I suppose that means the hours on the website are accurate?) but if you want to take Grandma on a cruise down the river then this is what you are probably looking for.

Since it docks near me in the North End, stop by and say hello and check out the Wolseley project!

Friday, August 5, 2011

A little ashamed to be a Winnipegger

I'm back, I know you have all been missing me! It's a total cliche but, how about this weather we've been having?? This Winnipeg Girl is in her absolute glory - it's like summer in the "olden days" (you know, when I was a teenager). I just can't get enough of this hot, sunny weather and I have been doing my best to get out and enjoy every minute of it, either in a park or just puttering in the yard. Which reminds me - the Wolseley Project suffered a few minor setbacks lately; one day I came out to find most of the heads popped off my orange marigolds and a few plants trampled on - so I replanted what I could with some replacements, including a new centerpiece giant white marigold. Well, I returned from the long weekend to find that someone has plucked the marigold and absconded with it, which is a bit of a shame. I hope they replanted it in their yard and didn't just toss it on the street somewhere.

The long weekend is actually where my story starts... I went down to the States for the long weekend, including a stop in Fargo on Friday and Saturday (beautiful downtown in Fargo if you've never been) and then back up to Grand Forks to spend Saturday and Sunday nights. The reason for Grand Forks vs. Fargo on the Saturday night, even though hotels in Fargo seem to be cheaper was that we wanted to head to Red Lake Falls on Sunday morning for a day of tubing down the river.
Downtown Fargo

If you have never been before, let me tell you, it is one heck of a good time. You could basically look up "quintessential perfect summer day" in the dictionary and get a picture of Voyageur's View in Red Lake Falls, MN. You rent tubes for people ($12 each) and for your cooler ($8) and then take one of their converted school buses up the road about 5 minutes where they drop you off at a riverside landing. Before you hit the water you lash yourselves together with the provided twine so that you can float en masse down the river. They are no slouches when it comes to trying to make sure that tubers don't use the river as their own personal garbage dump - drink containers are counted when you start the day and then again at the end when you return your tubes. You also can't bring any styrofoam or glass on the river - this includes styrofoam coolers - handy heads up, if you were as ill-prepared in the cooler department as we were, they rent coolers (we bought a styrofoam one on the way to the town, not knowing the rule) for $5. Also, if you plan to imbibe in adult beverages while floating down the river, note that Minnesota does not seem to sell liquor on Sunday so if you are heading from N. Dakota stock up there, although you will have to wait until noon for the liquor stores to open.

Ah, alcohol, this is where the situation get embarrassing for Winnipeg.

After speaking with two of the three siblings that now run Voyageur's View, I was told that the August long weekend is by far their busiest and rowdiest weekend. With all of the insanity and mayhem that was around, I give extreme kudos to them for being quite so gracious with regards to the hundreds of young Winnipeggers that were going out of their way to seemingly damage as much as possible while breaking every rule that was out there. Taking a walk through the campground you could be forgiven for thinking you were somewhere in Manitoba - probably 95% of the cars sported Manitoba plates.

I don't know if I can paint the picture accurately enough, but I'll try.  For those of you around my age (30's) who remember the sh*t-show that Oktoberfest turned into - the extreme drunkeness, the fights the everything - it's like that but half or more naked and involving a potentially dangerous body of water.  I would peg most of the campers to be middle class, university students, so certainly not a hopeless uneducated bunch in the ways of social norms, yet there they were, drunk and belligerent (and that was at lunch-time) swearing and throwing things.

Now, I am not at all against the idea of a few cold adult beverages, especially on a nice summer day, but I like to think that getting drunk while floating down a river, a river, not a swimming pool with a lifeguard that can save your sorry ass (not that that is the best idea either), is not the best plan of action. The level of drunkeness is by no means accidental, these kids (dear lord, I'm getting old) binge drink like they're seasoned alcoholics told that today is the last day that booze will ever exist. Basically, most of them seem to have crossed the line from having a good time over to the dark side.

Now, back to the two owners that I met (and before I realized they were the owners) - while in line for our first float down the river, the brother that I met took the time to ask our group if we had been down before, and since I suppose it was obvious that we weren't part of "that crowd" he even apologized for their behaviour.  His sister was our bus driver for our second departure of the day, and again, she took the time to ask us if we were familiar with the process. Voyageur's View had dozens of staff on, including security staff with a no-nonsense behaviour and yet these horrible over-privileged young adults from Winnipeg were doing everything they could to make their lives difficult. The end of the run down the river is at a landing just under a bridge that is next to the campground, and the bridge itself has more than your usual guardrail - it actually has about an 8ft. fence to keep stupid people from jumping off the bridge into the river below, yet while we were there, we witnessed one guy climb OVER the fence so he could possibly break his neck jumping into the shallow river.

Basically, the whole thing makes me so mad I can barely get my words to make sense. These stupid kids are who ruin things for the rest of society. People have been floating down that river for years and years (Voyageur's View has been around for 27 years) and most people are smart enough to remember that they are in a river, that has currents and rocks and whatever else might be unknown and they take appropriate precautions and follow the rules that have been outlined for their safety however I have a sneaky suspicion that drunk twenty-somethings are going to get this sort of idyllic summer activity outlawed. Apparently last year two friends drowned (drunk, of course) and the families have their knickers in a twist because they think Voyageur's View should be held responsible.  What ever happened to personal responsibility? It reminds me of the knee-jerk reaction of creating minimum pricing for liquor in Manitoba because some idiot drank too much and wandered into the river.

Ok, rant mostly over. So, I'm not sure how many of you are parents of people who went down to Red Lake Falls on the long weekend, and even though they are very likely an adult, in theory capable of making their own decisions, it might be a good idea to have a chat about what constitutes acceptable adult behaviour.  And if you haven't been to Red Lake Falls - go! It's such a great way to spend a day, and with this awesome summer we've been having it's pretty much a must-do.