Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Love the Suburbs, not the suburbs

New downtown Winnipeg campagin: "It sucks in the suburbs!"

OK, it's not really a downtown Winnipeg campaign. I wrote it myself. Catchy, eh?

Whenever I hear people - let's call them "Winnipeggers" - bitching about downtown crime, I sit back and enjoy a lemon cordial as I wait for the next report about crime, any crime, in St. Vital, Charleswood, Linden Woods, or East Kildonan - oops, sorry, I believe it's "Fraser's Grove" now, according to someone I know who actually lives there and doesn't like the ring of "E.K."

It doesn't take long before you get something about vandalism, break-and-enters, and even the occasional murder-suicide.

Then, I go around to everyone I know and say, "Did you hear about the crime in Charleswood? Well what do you expect? It's the suburbs." It helps to whisper that last line with as much disdain in your voice as possible.

Of course, "downtown crime" is a Winnipeg media favorite - the bogeyman that jumps out whenever someone so much as says the word "downtown" or threatens to work or shop there.

At times, there's even some implied racism in the sentiment that "downtown is dangerous" - you know you've heard it around town as well as I have. Nick Cave summarized the sentiment perfectly in his song God is in the House:
"We have a pretty little square, we have a woman for a mayor, zero crime and no fear...we've bred our kittens white so that you can see them in the night."
Alienation's wasted on the young

I grew up in Charleswood, a kid with a dream and without a car, so I know from suburban alienation.

The Eels' magical three-speed (and a banana seat!) ride to Sev rings true:

Why don't you tell me what's going on?

As kids, we all wanted to get as far away from the suburbs as possible - and all it took was a three-hour wait at a bus stop at the end of Chalfont Road and a six-hour bus ride later, and we'd reach Nirvana: downtown Winnipeg.

That's where the cool people hung out at music stores and saw punk bands in the basements of scuzzy hotels.


Mad Men meet Arcade Fire

It's nice to see that the desire to escape the soulless sprawl is alive and well in Mad Men every week and in the songs of its new champion: Arcade Fire on its Metacritic- approved, "The Suburbs."

I picked up the great, Canadian band's CD yesterday and I've been playing it ever since: an awesome soundtrack to the long, hot dog days of summer.

My favorite song so far is "Suburban War," about...hmm....selling your soul to technology and progress? But it rocks!
"A dead star collapsing/we could see that something was ending/are you through pretending? We saw the signs in the suburbs."
The personal connection that Win Butler sings about could very well be the connection with our neighbors and each other on a global scale.

When he loses that connection, the suburbs is the perfect metaphor, because - as Spin magazine so eloquently puts it - "Sprawl is where everything is connected but nothing ever touches."

1 comment:

  1. Not to downplay safety issues downtown, but much of the crime that is reported in the media as occurring "downtown," is actually on streets west or north of downtown, ie, in the Spence or West Alexander neighborhoods.


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