On the third night of the year I got into the backseat of my parents’ Mazda next to my aunt and uncle. My dad drove and my mom fretted over whether she’d fit in. We were headed to a chilly Exchange District studio, where my cousin and her friends hosted a hip hop dance battle.
When we got there the place was packed and even though it wasn’t my typical scene and certainly not that of my parents, I felt welcome - with my family and a new sort of family I’d just met.
Strangers smiled and shook my hand, drinks were poured and passed around. Pretty soon the room was electric as dancers squared off against each other and the crowd cheered. It was the coldest night in some time, but if I may use a particularly cheesy turn of phrase - the passion in that room was warming.
A couple weeks later I spent four out of seven nights at the Good Will Social Club, my new favourite haunt and a fitting proxy for the bygone Lo Pub. On Sunday night they projected the hockey game on the big screen and I watched Teemu tearfully retire with a roomful of sports fans. A couple nights later I boozefully belted out a Backstreet Boys song at karaoke night. On Thursday I took in some jazz at the Big dig! Band concert series, along with a packed room of people young and old, hip and less so, college kids and old groove daddies.
Two nights later I returned to the Good Will yet again for the sort of show I’d been going to since I could go to shows. Three great local bands played to a sizable room; I saw friends, exes, and people whose faces I knew but names I didn’t. I drank Standards and ate pizza. It was quite possibly the most Winnipeg night of my life.
This city is weird but I love it. Even in the coldest part of the year, we bundle up and find things to do and fun people to do them with. How lucky are we? Winnipeg has such diverse creative scenes, each with its own thriving support system. And these scenes always seem hungry for more - more talent, more support. While society continues to value conformity over creativity, it’s important for creative types - whether or not they belong in the same genre - to look out for each other.
Part of Winnipeg’s appeal is its weird connections. It’s a tired cliché, but it’s true - we all know each other somehow. It’s not worth it to hold a grudge. Rather than resenting a former lover or friend, we acknowledge them and move on when we see them out and about. It’s the nature of this city that we’ll bump into each other, so if it’s going to be awkward, it might as well be pleasantly so. And if we all know each other in these bizarre ways - as friends or even competitors - we should recognize each other’s talent, celebrate it and scratch each other’s backs so those deserving of it get their due.
Winnipeg is cold and odd and can drive us to be hard. Let’s be conscientious about our roles here. We can be kinder, gentler to each other. We can’t choose our families but we can embrace them. Something about a new year makes everything seem possible.
Laina Hughes is a writer from Winnipeg. Pick up a copy of her book Wolseley Stories at McNally Robinson.
Published in Volume 69, Number 18 of The Uniter (January 28, 2015)