(Mostly) Guilty Pleasures

All in all, Brandon is just a fine place to live. It’s not the coolest. It’s not the hippest. It does have some hipsters, which I talked about on the Winnipeg Internet Pundits show on December 5th (check ‘er out here!), and some other cool people and things. However, it can become a pretty predictable place most days. There aren’t that many night life options, there aren’t many small, cosy coffeeshops or different restaurants and your life can somehow so easily become driving up and down Victoria and 18th and popping into Superstore for some groceries. That’s it. Sometimes the mundane life is a nice break (I’m certainly not complaining!), but other times, it just becomes too comfortable. When I get to that point, I start noticing some guilty pleasures creeping in and having more of a forefront in my life. And I’m not going to lie, I kind of like it. There aren’t called guilty pleasures for no reason!

So I’ve decided to come clean. Talk about my (mostly) guilty pleasures from living in Brandon. Here goes.

1. eBrandon.ca discussions

This site may be one of the greatest sites of all times. Before I moved here, the online buy/sell/trade/find apt/find job stuff was all about Kijiji and Craigslist. But not here in Brandon, no. Brandon is so incredibly special that it has it’s very own version of Kijiji, but it’s even better, because hilarious and awkward discussions are had on such site. For a long time, I just wanted to start a separate blog where I would be recording monologues of eBrandon discussions because they were the most weird and hilarious things I’ve ever read. Some people truly do have too much time on their hands and enjoy complaining about anything and everything, while not using proper spelling or grammar of course!

If you’re not from Brandon, I suggest you check out the discussions on eBrandon occasionally. You will not regret it. It may even become a daily highlight if you check it out consistently!

2. The not-good-enough veggie burger at A&W

Yup, I went there. In fact, I totally just had one yesterday. As a vegetarian, I’m always on the hunt for a good veggie burger. Even as veggies, we still have cravings for junky vegetarian food because let’s face it, we all have those days! I used to only get the veggie burger from Harvey’s. Every time I would go to the mall in Hamilton, I would hit up Harvey’s religiously. I loved that veggie burger. It was the best. But now that I’m in Manitoba, I’ve had to change things up a little. Harvey’s barely exists in this province, but A&W is king here. So I’ve adapted because I’ve had to! The burger isn’t nearly as good, yet I think it’s more expensive. And whenever I go to A&W, there are, let’s just say…some interesting characters. But at the end of the day, it’s my veggie burger. But because it’s just not good enough, it’s my guilty pleasure one.

3. The Roadhouse

Admittedly, I haven’t been there in months. And when I moved here, it was all about Houston’s and people had horrible things to say about The Roadhouse. But I have a few personal qualms with Houston’s, although I have had some good times there. So when I was invited out to Roadhouse for the first time, I was kind of weary…but then, I somehow ended up having more fun there than ever! It was definitely a summer hotspot for me and my friends, and certainly some great memories were made there. So whoever tells you that Roadhouse is super shady and you should hit up Houston’s instead, just scoff at them and tell them to shoo!

4. The occasional country song

I think this one is the hardest to admit. I was definitely a country fan when I was very young, but that was partly due tot he fact that it was some of the only secular music I could listen to. Somehow country was better – they mentioned “the Lord” sometimes, but then followed with lyrics about going to the bar right after, so…yeah. Anyway, I digress.

Many of my friends love country here, but I have kept my stance of not liking country at all. I’m strong on this, but…but sometimes a catchy country song starts playing at a wedding. Or a social. And it’s so fun. It’s innocent enough, but then it gets ridiculous. I go home and secretly go on YouTube and listen to that song…at least a few times. And I like it. And any friend that is reading this who loves country is honestly probably rejoicing while reading these words. Others who similarly hate country are probably crying right now. This may be my most shameful guilty pleasure!

5. Winnipeg

The rural Brandonites worse nightmare. Winnipeg. Do you know how many times I have heard about how awful Winnipeg is since moving to Brandon? And about how lovely and nice and wonderful Brandon is? And how Brandon is such a great size and just the best place in the world to live and raise a family? Personally, I have a different taste, but whatever floats your boat. But I am a Brandonite, and I love Winnipeg. I love getting lost in Winnipeg. I love Osborne. I appreciate that there’s a two-tiered mall. I appreciate seeing the diversity. I love the size of the city. I love that there are old record shops, and nice little parks scattered everywhere. I love that there is a vibe there. A buzz. Energy! The city feeds my soul, and since living in Brandon, I have learned that I’m actually more of a city person than I thought. Something good to learn about yourself, right?!

So there you have it, 5 of my guilty pleasures of being a non-original Brandonite. Any guilty pleasures from anyone else who lives in Brandon or anywhere else for that matter? What are the “uncool” things that you just kind of (slightly) love in your own cities/towns?

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Department of Holidays

It’s that time of year again. The snow has gone (knock on wood!!!) and summer is arriving (ish). That means that the roads are, well, painfully awful. In lots of places anyway.

I was in Saskatchewan yesterday (obviously, just to get my hair done by my amazing friend who is a hair dresser – why else would I go to “The Gap”? Kidding!), going through Virden, then Melita (where the creepy banana man lives, who me and my friends affectionately call “Lester the Molester”) then onward to Carivale. The roads. Oh the roads. Especially near Melita, which is a notorious spot for flooding. There were “surface breaks” everywhere…thank you orange signs for telling us to go 40km/hr when the term “surface breaks” is so ambiguous anyway, as my friend pointed out.

My friend’s dad actually used to work for Manitoba Infrastructure and Transportation and she said that he liked to call that department the “Department of Holidays”. How incredibly true! Anyone who has spent even a little time in Manitoba knows how awful some of these roads are. I’ve spent the majority of my time in the South Westman area and the highways are certainly not impressive. The roads in Brandon are always needing improvements. Pot holes, pot holes, pot holes. I think Manitoba must be the pot hole capital of Canada. I whole heartedly agree about the joke of the “Department of Holidays”.

I understand Manitoba isn’t made of riches. There isn’t tons of money. But I think we can all agree that if more money was spent on Manitoba’s infrastructure, it would make all of our lives easier and more enjoyable. I’m certainly not trying to get political. It’s difficult trying to balance out what is needed for the province, but the infrastructure doesn’t only help us who live here – it gives an impression to those who don’t live here, but are driving across the province to their respective destinations. Don’t we want to make a good impression? Just a thought!

Recently, CAA told a poll to see what the worst roads in Manitoba were (totally coincidental with this post!), and apparently St. James Street in Winnipeg got the most votes, along with several other Winnipeg streets. Understandably, most votes came out of Winnipeg, and there are many bad roads in Winnipeg, but I can tell you, highways in the Westman area are crumbling and main roads in Brandon aren’t any better. When I went back to Ontario in February, I could really tell the difference between the roads there and here.

I hope that the CAA poll will make the government pay a little more attention to what the road conditions are like all across the province.

The Case For Underground Parking

It seems as though I’m finally experiencing a real Manitoba winter. The temperatures are finally as low as I thought they may be, but you know, it’s winter, so I wouldn’t expect anything less. So far, I’ve been surviving well. It’s really not that bad. My memory of Ontario winters are fading fast, and these temperatures are becoming a new norm for me. That being said, I had my first Manitoba winter mishap, and will always call for more underground parking in this province. It’s really a great invention, why doesn’t this place utilize it more?

The mishap: Well, as I walked out to my car to go to work in the morning on Thursday, what did I see? I saw that my extension cord and/or the plug in had stopped working overnight. I was slightly worried. I tried starting my car…a few times, and it just wouldn’t start for me. Yay for car trouble on my 4th day at my new job. Anyway, I got things plugged back in and a few hours later, the car started again. Of course, this was during lunch time, so there was no point in going to work at that point…so I waited a little while longer, and when I tried to start my car again that time, it once again wouldn’t start for me. I frantically got in touch with friends, and to say the least, they rock. Thank you friends for picking me up to and from work! It was greatly appreciated.

This mishap just let me know how things were going to be here. I know we’ve been spoiled in the west so far this year, but I get it. When it’s cold, it’s cold (and as I type this – it’s not cold anymore, we’re breaking records with the high temperatures!) So I ask the question again, why so little underground parking? I know we have wide open space (room to make our big mistakes), so maybe we feel the need to use it, but hey, what about trying something different? The winter wouldn’t nearly be as much of a hassle here if people could park their vehicles underground. Nice and dry. Nice and warm(er). No plugging vehicles in. No scraping ice or brushing snow off the car. Woooo that would be wonderful! I can’t wait until the day I have a garage! It’s funny how you just take the simple things in life for granted, like underground parking. Or not having to plug your car in. Although at this point, plugging the car in is second nature to me. I couldn’t picture life without it at this point!

So, thoughts on the underground parking debate? For the cold, cold winters of Manitoba? Is this going to be my get rich quick scheme? Starting a company that specializes in doing underground parking for buildings? Manitoban’s would be flocking, right, right? Or…does nobody in Manitoba really care, because they’re just used to the winter as it is…?

Things I Have Learned So Far

This is my month end report. I’ve been living in Manitoba for about a month and a half, and here you’ll find a compilation of things I have learned so far.

1. If there is any construction going on at the Superstore, the world stops.

2. Even if it’s not winter yet, many Manitoban’s will dress like it is.

3. People drive slow here.

4. People always think they have the right of way while crossing any street, anywhere.

5. No one says “dinner” in regards to supper. It’s more a lunch thing here, and it’s a little weird to me.

6. My health “card” won’t be a card. It will be a piece of paper. I was shocked when I learned this, but it will be okay. I’ve accepted it.

7. Laundry detergent is a lot more expensive here than in Ontario.

8. Gas is a lot cheaper here than in Ontario.

9. The weather is actually warmer to me than it appears. Less moisture in the air means that I am warmer in general. When it’s 8 degrees out, it actually feels like 13-14 degrees to me. It’s a wonderful thing.

10. Although I sometimes feel like I’m in in the middle of nowhere, and a little lost and lonely sometimes, I haven’t and will not regret my move to Brandon, Manitoba. Ever.

The Unlit Province

That should be Manitoba’s new slogan. Forget “Friendly Manitoba”, it’s all about “The Unlit Province”. Upon arriving to Brandon, I have continuously noticed how dark it is around the city come evening time. The street lights come on, but they aren’t particularly great, and they aren’t everywhere. It’s rare to see a street with street lights the whole way down, on both sides. Whenever I’m driving at night, I’m constantly squinting (and no, my eyes don’t need to be checked!) and I’m watching out for anything that could creep up on me. I don’t want to hit anything! Honestly, driving around Brandon at night is like driving in the boonies.

Another issue is the lack of highway lighting. For example, when I was coming home from Thanksgiving from Boissevain, 40 minutes south of Brandon, I couldn’t believe that the number 10 highway wasn’t lit. At all. Not a street light to be found. It was pitch black. For a high way that has a decent amount of traffic, I was confused as to why they haven’t invested in some street lights. I was totally paranoid that I was going to hit something…and guess what? I almost did! A coyote was right on the shoulder of the road when I drove by it, only seeing it right as I drove by – because it was so dark!

So Manitoba, I have a bone to pick with you. Why don’t you light up your streets and highways better? Bring the province into the light!

Convenience Stores? I think not.

A weird thing I have noticed about Brandon, MB is the lack of convenience stores. And by convenience stores, I don’t mean any stores that are attached to gas stations! They totally don’t count.

Since my time here, I have been to one. And let me tell you, it was no convenience. It was after midnight, and me and my friends wanted to get some late night munchies. I was like, oh no, where are we going to go? I looked up convenience store’s on my Blackberry, and guess what? Very few came up and closest one was a 20 minute walk. Yes, a 20 minute walk. How in the world is that convenient at all? In my Hamilton days (ohh…how it was less than a month ago), I could easily get to at least 5 convenience stores within very short walking distance (as in, 30 seconds to 4 minutes).

What is up with this city and not having convenience stores? Is it because people don’t believe in convenience here (probably), or that Conservatives would never set up convenience stores (probably), or the fact that immigrants come here and don’t open their own business, but work for Maple Leaf (probably).*

I guess Brandon really just hasn’t gotten on the bandwagon of convenience stores in residential areas. It’s too bad, because convenience stores totally rock. They rock so much that I’m starting to miss the Chinese patriarch of Webb’s Food right next to my building in Hamilton…he would always say hello!

So, here is my proclamation: Brandon needs more convenience stores! Come one, come all! Open a convenience store here and I will give you business. I pinky swear it!

*I apologize for any offense…both to Conservatives and immigrants.

ETA: I have been told that it’s a Western thing to have the convenience stores tied to the gas stations…I accept that, but I’m still not used to it!