Saturday, December 7, 2019

Winnipeg Blue Bombers 2019 Grey Cup Champions - And what's next?

Joy.

The players have had it the last number of games. And they had in the Grey Cup final in Calgary this past weekend. Play and play, they smiles, the laughter and sheer joy was seen on the faces of the players as well as the fans.

We've had teams with swagger, confidence. The Blue Bombers may not have won since 1990 but it had been to the show a number of times. They lost in 1992. They lost in 1993. They went a lot of years of bad football. They lost in 2001. They lost in 2007. They lost 2011.

They lost heartbreakers. They were outplayed. They blew it so many times that we almost expected to be kicked every year even when we looked like a good team. Even when we played like a good team. We were cursed.

Cursed.

Catastrophic injuries, penalties, missed plays, poor QBs, poor management, sometimes poor coaching and Bombers went year and year without winning and even missing play-offs.

In recent years, they added people here and there in coaching or players. A few free agents, a few good drafts, some development. Brought Winnipeg players on who really get what this is about in terms of commitment. Even with all that, the curse of injuries or encounters with teams that seemed unbeatable confounded the Blue Bombers. It is kind of crazy that 28 years just seemed to pile on.

As been mentioned, hard times have ebbed and flowed in Manitoba. By 1990, deep cuts were happening at all three levels of government. The early 1980s had been hard but we seemed to finish the decade a bit better. The 1990s hurt. People had been leaving in the 1980s. By the 1990s they were pouring out of the province. As bad as parts of Canada was cuts, Manitoba seemed to be worse.

And the football teams go to the show in the early part of the decade and then stopped. To top it off, the Jets left in 1996 and we were the arson/murder capital that was on its knees. In 1997, the whole province flooded and we nearly lost the city.

Slowly, we crawled out of recession, deficit and tried to find our economic footing. In 1999 we felt that pride again when we hosted the Pan Am Games and did a great job. We hosted World Junior Hockey and curling events but try as we might our football team couldn't win the big one nor could our AHL Moose team and we were a long way away from getting the Winnipeg Jets back in 2011.

In recent years the return of the Winnipeg Jets has stolen Bomber thunder. The Winnipeg Jets street parties showed just how much the city was craving to celebrate together. And boy did they ever with thousands upon thousands coming out.

This year's march to a Grey Cup was very much something that was won on the road. Signs across the city made the hashtag of For the W trend. Winnipeg fans almost feared to hope. Injured quarterback, young quarterback trying, a doping scandal, a record reflecting a good but hard to measure as great team.
The arrival of Collaros was promising but he too had suffered terrible injury and no one knew if he really was out of the woods. In the end, the team showed a level of collaboration and drive and joy of playing that wouldn't be denied.

We are already seeing some of the talented coaching staff being hired away. Some quarterbacks are likely to go as well and free agents. Still, the monkey is off the Bombers back, they had a great win and the resulting parade, social and family day showed just how much happiness the city felt for bringing home the Grey Cup.

It has been a tough number of years for Manitoba and not just in sports. For every bright spot we sometimes seem to be hit by setbacks. It isn't lost on anyone the desperate addiction and crime wave recently. And yet for a brief moment, we had joy and that brings out even the saltiest of us out to Portage and Main.

Sunday, November 17, 2019

Gord Leclerc Laid Off from CTV News Winnipeg

At one time CBC News in Winnipeg was number 1. CKY and later CKND and much later than that MTN were way behind in the ratings. Garth Dawley read the news from 1970 to 1983 and CBC was solidly in front. In 1983, CBC enhanced that success with the changes both nationally and locally. The National and The Journal had moved to 10 PM and the Winnipeg 24 Hours supertime broadcast had Sandra Lewis in 1985 and Kevin Evans in a solid combination that dominated the 1980s news. Often full length 24 Hours documentaries from Winnipeg would headline The Journal. The product being produced was that good.

CBC would tinker with the format nearly non-stop from 1990 to 2000 due to cutbacks or news format changes such as the Canada Now experiment that tried to place a national news broadcast at the supper hour. That experiment extended to the national news moving to 9 PM with poor results till it moved back to 10 PM.

Sandra Lewis would move on and the news in Winnipeg would be anchored by Diana Swain from 1995 to 2000 with some maternity leave breaks in there as well. It was around 2000 when Swain left that the local news in Winnipeg switched. It was no longer number 1 in the market. They stuck it long term with some familiar faces that were not headed off to Toronto like Lewis and Swain. It was a bit of a revolving door after that. Krista Erikison and Jennifer Rattray along with some fill in anchors for seven years with multiple format changes with Canada Now.

Meanwhile, CKY stuck to its knitting. They brought a reporter called Gord Leclerc in 1995 and in 2002 he became the news anchor. The one format remained intact and they allowed for community personalities to evolve. Sylvia Kuzyk in weather gave a sense of continuity. Janet Stewart as Leclerc's co-anchor and John Sauder would add to 6:00 PM lock on number 1 for CTV News.

In a uprising change though, Janet Stewart left CTV tin 2006 to anchor CBC News at Six in January of 2007. She would not make the move alone, John Sauder who had also been at CTV since 2000 would also join the CBC broadcast team in 2007. Sauder was a well known commodity for Winnipeg for being the pilot and traffic reporter for Winnipeg from 1984 and flying at "Captain John" for decades. Alas, Stewart and Sauder were not able to break the stranglehold CTV had on 6 PM news. However, you could say that a partnership was more solidly worked out with the radio division using TV news people that has helped CBC Radio One achieve number 1 status in Winnipeg and across the country.

Leclerc at CTV would be eventually joined by Maralee Caruso in 2007. Caruso was a veteran of the newsroom since 2001. Together, the two anchors continued CTV News at Six dominance despite the efforts of CBC to re-take lead with Stewart and Sauder.

In 2019, CTV News in Winnipeg unceremoniously dumped Gord Leclerc and wiped him from website. It was described purely a budgetary matter. All of the past years has seen CTV cutting staff. They're not the only ones. CBC across the country wielded the hatchet this week, mostly in Toronto.

After nearly 25 years, Leclerc was erased from the news. Were it not for his industry friends, it is likely no one would have known the day it happened. Not even an acknowledgement the broadcast took place. Maralee Caruso continues to be solo anchor but it must have caused a chill for all of CTV Winnipeg. The rumour has been that the network has been interested in maybe cutting even more.

The years of community engagement and charity work counted for nothing. And while it is a business, it is a pretty cruel one. The chasing of ratings and advertising money has meant people come and go. However, it is worth noting that Leclerc helped them achieve and maintain number 1 in the market. The very stability and consistency that made CTV number 1 might tip the tables back in favour of the CBC News at Six program.

Can a job offer from other media in Winnipeg for Leclerc be in the offing? Or will all those years of community engagement bring other job offers.

Still, if CBC really wanted to stick CTV in the high, they would hire Gord Leclerc.

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Paradise Restaurant Closed on Portage Avenue

After 40 years some things just seem permanent. Even if you never went into the place, Paradise restaurant at the split between Broadway and Portage Avenue felt like it was always going to be there. The Since 1978 written on their sign affirmed that it had outlasted many other restaurants of over year. So successful was the brand that they opened another Paradise on Leila in 1983 and it too stood its ground.

Alas, Paradise is no more. A sign in the window said that the restaurant was having staffing issues the last five or six years. Vince Magro and family that owned both locations retreated to their Leila location which they still run. At 100 dining seats and 50 lounge seats, Paradise was probably a beast to run, especially when it didn't have a breakfast menu.

It is a difficult thing to run a restaurant and do so successfully. The changes in demographics, neighbourhood changes and what people like to eat can vary. People who like this restaurant can take comfort in the fact that one will still exist in the city although it may be a longer ride for some.

As for the future of the restaurant site? Once the infrastructure is in place for a restaurant, the building often comes back as a restaurant. This will be a site to keep a close eye on.

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Wall Street Co-Op Store 1957

From 1957 to 1983, Red River Co-Op ran grocery and pharmacy stores in Winnipeg. The 20,000 square foot store on Wall Street was the first and last of the grocery stores to operate before the Co-Op got back into the business in 2014.

The Red River Co-Op got its start in 1937 as a fuel supply company and had a number of coal yards and gas and diesel supplied from the Federated Co-Op from mines and refineries in Alberta and Saskatchewan. By the 1940s the fuel yards added general stores.

In the post war boom, grocery stores were becoming bigger and Co-Op felt they had enough members and demand and built one of the larger grocery stores of the day on Wall Street for around $750.000. The store had more in common with a Walmart in that it had general merchandise and a pharmacy as well as appliances. There was also a credit union, gas station and farm supply building. At the time there was only 4000 members of the Red River Co-Op but this investment proved to be very successful.

Other stores followed and the Co-Op grew although slower than some other areas in the west. Still, by 1978 there were eight grocery stores in Winnipeg and surrounding area. In 1979, Red River Co-Op made a critical misstep when they built a $10 million Home Center that was around 5,600 square feet at McPhillips and Stardust.

One year later Winnipeg had one of the worst years since the Great Depression. It was in 1980 that Swift's, Canada Packers and Winnipeg Tribune collapsed and the province sunk to numbers of unemployment, stagnation and inflation all at the same time. Red River Co-Op was in debt and bleeding money as people left the province.

The grocery business collapsed and only the Wall Street location above managed to hang on till 1983 when it too closed.  Red River Co-Op held on as a fuel supplier and nursed itself back to health for decades after. At its worst, Co-Op was down to three gas stations and most didn't see a future for it.

However, each Co-op gas renovation would soon have a convenience store and after years of expanding to more location, they had become a confident retailer again. They got back into the grocery business when the merger of Sobeys with Safeway forced a sale of assets by the federal government.

It remains to be seen how Co-Op will look in the future. Winnipeg is far more diversified than it was in the 1980 recession. And this helps businesses like Co-Op stay viable and gives good returns to those that use it.

Thursday, October 31, 2019

Protest to Bring Back Central Canada Comic Con C4

The past weekend normally would be the host weekend for Central Canada Comic Con. It was the largest convention in Manitoba and probably had the most diverse age, culture, gender and family dynamic of most events hosted at RBC Winnipeg Convention Centre.

Alas, there will be no more C4 now and likely forever.

Still, tomorrow a group is going to peacefully protest at 11 AM, November 1st, Friday outside the facility for a saviour to re-start it.

They have a petition to sign as well.

https://www.change.org/p/mayor-brian-bowman-bring-back-central-canada-comic-con?recruiter=24870978&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=share_petition

Alas, the lack of corporate partners and a rise in prices at the Convention Centre and competition for the Halloween dates has made things tough.

Keycon and FanQuest don't even attempt to get into the Convention Centre because it is a monster to run. Heaven knows how Ai-Kon does it every year but they seems to have a number of women with unlimited energy.

Let's see how efforts to revive a comic con goes. Suffice to say there are investigations presently going on a new event. Some are by groups outside the province, some are within. It may be that such an event starts smaller and at another venue though unless some good sponsors are part of the picture.

Good luck to all.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

Manitoba Liquor Mart - The Old Days

If you have to ask what wine goes with fish, you are too young to be in here, son.

The Manitoba Liquor Control Commission didn't mess around. Prohibition might have ended but it didn't mean that Manitoba government had to like it. You could still be a dry town if you wanted.

If you did sale alcohol, it had to be a government store. And no alcohol where you could paw at it. You had to write your order down, show your ID where it was recorded and then you could buy. One of the white shirt, tie and bow-tie guys would get your order. And no funny business. Lots of veterans worked stores. They dealt with Hitler or Japanese or Koreans in the war and could certainly deal with you.

The regulations on alcohol were stringent and in no way was the retail experience supposed to be nice. Beer was sold by hotel vendours but there too, you didn't get past the front counter.

In light of alcohol thefts, lots of ideas are being bandied about. The Crown is being hostile to the media, the public and saying they are working on it or blaming society's ills. The police are telling the public to do nothing.

It is true that retail thefts are happening everywhere but we haven't heard it happening in cannabis and beer stores. For the beer stores, it is probably because steeling cans or bottles is heavy work and that $60 theft is likely to get your caught as you lug it down Portage Avenue. For cannabis, it is because is sold the way liquor was sold decades ago! You need ID and it is behind the counter, Good luck.

Liquor execs might get angry but they should fear a public that says: Toss it. What they might get is demands for online sales and delivery (which they'll get regardless) , privatization and end of the retail experience they get now.

No one likes watching criminal behaviour take place in front of them every day.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Bank of Montreal Portage and Main - The Future

The Bank of Montreal main branch closes soon. It is unlikely to branch will be torn down immediately for a parking lot. However, it is also unlikely that the Bank will pay taxes year after year on a building they don't own.

It is very likely the city or some non-profit will get it.

But what do they get? They get a bank set on an island with a decaying Concourse below it. Even above it has decrepit stairs and non-functioning elevators for wheelchairs.

The city voted no on opening the corner. But seemed to promise to fix the Concourse. That doesn't seem to be happening.

So the Bank of Montreal will close and will likely have to be boarded up and have 24 hour security lest squatters move in and begin removing everything they can. And before the city can pull its head out, we can see it burn down.

At that time we can get the surface lot we all want at Portage and Main.

Mike Tyson vs. Buster Douglas Japan 1990 - Trump Promoter

I arrived in Japan in August of 1989 and the Tokyo Dome was not even a year old. For my first week in the country, I was at all day orientation and seminars in Shinjuku at the Keio Plaza Intercontinental Hotel. Built in 1971 and was the tallest building in Japan for a time till other nearby towers surpassed it. While I was there, the immense Tokyo Metropolitan Government Headquarters were being constructed and were complete a year later and it became the tallest building for many years. The Keio Plaza had been rumoured to have a U.S spy station in the 1980s for the U.S. military. Even now there are bases all over such as the Hardy Barracks in Rappongi and naval stations, air stations near Yokohama and the Marine base near Mt. Fuji. Not to mention most of Okinawa.
The picture above is the Keio Plaza being built on what used to be city land for the water filtration plant in 1970. It now looks like Manhattan but it all started out with that hotel. Stayed there for a week in 1989 and was back for events in 1990, 1991 and 1992.

I arrived on a rainy, desperately hot and sticky night at rush hour. My first views of Tokyo were like that of Blade Runner. It was all neon and colour and umbrellas. Thousands of people everywhere. At Narita Airport, the Japanese English Teaching program participants packed the airport as people disembarked a few dozen 747s that had transported everyone from several countries. The Manitoba and Saskatchewan contingent numbered just under 50 people.

I befriended a Saskatchewan person and one afternoon and each evening ventured into Tokyo when work assignments were over. Well, not quite. One afternoon was skipped. It is why I was able to quickly learn the massive and sometimes befuddling Japanese subway, rail and transit system. Thankfully I inherited my mother's sense of direction rather than my dad's or I would have still been lost in Japan till today.

By the second day and with clearer weather I travelled up and down the Marunouchi Line and transfer points to get me to the Rappongi area where many foreigners went because it had many of the embassies nearby including the Canadian embassy. It also had western restaurants and bars including the Hard Rock Cafe which sat on the second floor over a Tony Roma Ribs. It was here that I met NFL players who were there to play the first American Bowl Japan game (although everyone I knew in Japan called it the Coca Cola Bowl) at the recently built Tokyo Dome Stadium. The 50,000 seat facility was like a sister to the 1986 built B.C. Place.
The NFL teams were the Los Angeles Rams and the San Francisco 49ers. Now this is not the story I want to tell at this time but meeting the players and see quarterback Joe Montana, I ended up with tickets to the August 5, 1989 game. The 49ers would in that season go on to win the Superbowl in a lopsided win against Denver Broncos televised on Japanese TV. The Hard Rock at the time had King Kong peaking in the window of the second floor. He is no longer there.

My familiarity with the Marunouchi Line helped me find the Tokyo Dome in the Bunkyo district. I give this background because as a new facility,  the stadium was attracting every major concert or event in the world and my living just 90 minutes outside the city gave me a unique opportunity to see sports and performances.

Once I settled in at my home and job outside, I subscribed to the Japan Times and got a number of magazines like Tokyo Journal and Tokyo Weekender. I wanted to to see as much as possible on semi-weekly trips into the city. I quickly learned that Paul McCartney would be performing for the first time in 10 years live and since his arrest by Japanese police for marijuana in 1980. There was to be 6 concerts at the Tokyo Dome from March 3 to 13, 1990!
I was determined to get tickets for the concert and was shocked that it was sold out before I finished working that day. This was prior to any Internet and I was not sure how scalping took place or it was even permissible.  I tried every source to see if I could latch on to tickets as I'd been successful in the past finding them but no dice. Paul McCartney was simply beyond me to get.

I was back in my hometown in Tsuru and often on a Friday after work had pizza at Popcorn restaurant down the street from the university campus where I lived at. I dejectedly told the bartender or owner (I can't remember which) about my Paul McCartney problem. It was a familiar story to many Japanese also denied tickets. It was at that time I was told there was another big event that he had an extra ticket for and would I be interested.
Popcorn in Tsuru city is still around 30 years later down the mountain alongside Tsuru University that my apartment looked over. Much of my street has changed including my old Yamura High School which was knocked down in the 2014 and re-built as a high school for more of the surrounding communities. A new train station was also built at the end of my street which I would have appreciated after so many 30 minutes walks up hill from the main city station.
My old high school Yamura above being re-built and my favorite Italian restaurant Pips still standing over 30 years later. Best baked spaghetti in the world until I went to Garwood Grill in Winnipeg

Anyways, that ticket I mentioned happened to be for the Mike Tyson versus Buster Douglas fight Sunday, February 11 at the Tokyo Dome. I had never seen a boxing match live so I was very interested. And Mike Tyson was the most famous fighter in the world at the time defeating challengers in seconds. I immediately said yes and was prepared to pay but was told I was a guest so not necessary. It was useless to argue so one did their best by buying drinks or doing what you could hospitality-wise. As an aside, I would be invited to many events in the years ahead including two Mt. Fuji Jazz Fests at Lake Yamanaka and another at Mr. Yatsugatake.

I had been in Japan less than a year and was fairly familiar with the commute to Tokyo and back as I did it every other weekend, it seemed. At this time I didn't have my Honda scooter so it was roughly a 30 minute walk from Tsuru University to one of two train stations. I chose Yamura Station in central Tsuru as it was a serviced ticket office. It was also the second most expensive private rail line called Fujikyuko off the main Chuo JR line at Otsuki station. The two hour commute had two train changes. Fujikyuko to Otsuki and Otsuki to Takao station and the rapid line to Shinjuku Tokyo.
Above is Shinjuku which was my go to for books, CDs and movies but I only stayed in hotels there when someone else was paying the bill. This is looking toward Shinjuku Station which is beyond the big towers. The twin towers were being built while I was there and completed in 1990. They are the Tokyo Metropolitan Government Headquarters. The Keio Plaza Intercontinental Hotel is immediately behind it. The three pointy towers are the Park Hyatt where Lost in Translation was filmed. It was under construction while I was there and completed in 1994.
The above picture shows that Shinjuku was wiped out in 1945 by American fire bombs in the last year of World War II. Illustrated is what came after.

Luckily for the journey to the Tokyo, our group was to take the Chuo Expressway from Tsuru to Tokyo. From my home into Tokyo on the highway usually took 90 or so minutes. All told it was probably just a 100 kilometers. From Shinjuku it was not much farther to the Bunkyo District where the Tokyo Dome was. This was the only time I ever travelled into the city in a car and used a parking lot. Likewise, I only did it once more on a holiday to Osaka, Kyoto to Kobe. It generally was expensive. Since it was not an overnight stay I think the day max was paid which might have been 8000 yen. With four people in the car, it wasn't a major hardship.
When I first came to Japan I was at the Keio Plaza Intercontinental Hotel in Shinjuku which had rates fit for execs. The picture above is the Keio Plaza, the original skyscraper in Tokyo. Thankfully I didn't have to pay for it. Stayed in a few others in Tokyo that were high as well before settling on the best priced hotel near Rappongi called the Asian Centre Hotel. Even my Japanese friends outside Tokyo regarded me as something of an expert in navigating Tokyo for the best prices and fun.
The Tokyo Dome was built on the site of the old velodrome beside Korakuen Stadium in the Bunkyo Ward and home of the Yomiuri Giants baseball team. Once the dome was complete in 1988 the main tenant became the Giants and the old stadium which had stood from 1937 was torn down and replaced with the Tokyo Dome Hotel. The entire surrounding area had been a military base that was destroyed in the Kanto Earthquake of 1927. And way before that it had been a home to a Japanese prince.

So there I was walking with our group into the area surrounding the Tokyo Dome and and was struck by how much international media was there along with the full phalanx of Japanese media. It was a full spectacle. In short, it was crazy! I had the Japan Times delivered to my home so I had brought that along with me but that day I went to Kinokuniya Bookstore in Shinjuku and bought all the Japanese English papers Mainichi Daily News, the Daily Yoimiuri, the Asahi News and the International-Herald Tribune all had articles and front page newspaper stories. All the TV networks from Japan and abroad were there.

The only thing to knock the fight build-up off the screen was Nelson Mandela being released from prison after 27 years locked up. On a cool day looking at the screens, a young Japanese asked me. "What does it mean?" I remember my reply was: "It depends what is in that man's heart. It could be good for South Africa."

It was getting increasingly crowded as we moved through the streets to the Tokyo Dome. I was the only gaigin (foreigner) in a group of Japanese headed in. There was so much promotional material up related to the fight. I wanted to take it all in. Typical of Japan there was large illustrated pictures of Mike Tyson and Buster Douglas everywhere. Any movie or concert would inevitably have giant pictures plastered a high as a few stories. It was very exciting.

We got to the entrance of the Tokyo Dome and there were so many staff and security there. I've seen heavy police presence but this was pretty big even against those standards. It took a while to get in. I had my ticket and it looked like good seating and I didn't realize how good till we were directed to the floor of the stadium. I've no idea why thought my seat was in the stands but I did. I did know that the price was pretty high. I had offered to pay but was told no, I was a guest. Had I known that I'd have that money, I'd have bought Rolling Stones tickets as they were slated to play 10 days in a row in the Big Egg three days after the fight.

We found our seats and I realized just how close to ringside I was. Row 8! In that close, there were tons of business people from Japan as well as the world all dressed in suits. So many print and television media who were distinguished by their clothing. All the TV people well dressed and the print people not so much. There were many women dressed elegantly in evening wear. Keep in mind it was February in Japan. There was a coat check somewhere but initially I found the cavernous 40,000 seat place cool. That soon ended as things heated up.

Eventually, as the main event neared people started filing to their seats, a guy sat right in front of me. I thought, swell. His stupid head with blond hair was standing up and blocking everything. I worried about my sightlines and looked to the ring to the person to his left where a blonde with plunging neckline was sitting next to him. Looking to the ring meant looking just past her boobs. Made me mad at the guy in front of me. I wondered: Who is this asshat?

He was chatting up the business people in front of me who I overheard had all come in private planes. It was when the man turned to in side profile that I realized was Donald Trump. And the woman? I knew it wasn't Ivanka Trump because I had see pictures of her with him. In the 1980s, he and his public life where fairly well known even outside of New York.

What I didn't know was that Trump was there because Buster Douglas was the guy he was promoting. The Japanese I was with were less impressed with Trump despite his fame and more alarmed at who he was with: Akio Kashiwagi, a billionaire with dubious ties. How dubious? Well, someone behind me took a picture and one of the security people for the businessman took the camera, a throwaway Fuji, and put in his pocket. He didn't speak English except for "no picture." As reached past me, his sleeve lifted up and I saw tattoos all the way up the wrist. One of my Japanese leaned over to me and very quietly clutched my arm and whispered: "Stay still."

He probably sensed my annoyance for Trump and his stupid party. Thankfully, they got up from what was a temporary seating and moved in closer to the ring. The woman rose and leaned over to pick up the program and right in my face were boobs. I had just had a close encounter with Marla Maples as I would learn much later.

I was elated they had left as they were replaced by much shorter and much more reasonable Japanese businessmen who did not have stupid floppy hair or big boobs blocking my view. My Japanese friends were visibly relieved. They told me that the men with Trump and his party were Yakuza. I thought they were being a little over dramatic although my prefecture had many gangsters as well as links to prominent local Liberal Democrat politicians.

As for Kashiwagi, he lived near my home in a palatial house by Mt. Fuji. The visit in 1990 led to many trips to Atlantic City where he gambled in the tens of millions. I had heard about Kashiwagi's legendary gambling. The man had won $20 million in Australia and lost nearly $6 million in Las Vegas. He would eventually be Trump's special guest in Atlantic City and be up on the house in the millions upon millions. Some say the fear was he could win near $50 million and bankrupt Trump.

The truth is somewhere in between. Tens of millions were lost on both sides maybe more. Many of Trump's casinos were bankrupt by 1992 and in January 1992, Akio Kashiwagi was stabbed 150 times in his home by a Samurai sword in a case that remains full of mystery. My Japanese friends were wise to tell me to keep my distance. Picture below of Trump Plaza Atlantic City being dismantled.
But back to the fight. Tyson had black trunks and Douglas had white trunks. The moment Tyson entered the stadium was pandemonium. The crowds was in on its feet and cheering. Douglas came in and some in the crowd near us booed. The ring was so bright that all I could focus was the red Toyota turnbuckles and blue Toyota apron. The light in the audience dimmed to very dark and the crowd took its seat as the intros were announced. The audience roars shook the building.

The Round 1 card was hoisted up and the bell rung and the fight was on! Some people had bet it wouldn't last thirty seconds. The response of Buster Douglas disabused them of that notion as he took punches and dished them out...hard. I'm not a boxing judge but I was thinking Douglas looked strong and Mike Tyson was more on the defensive. As the rounds went on, it looked to me like the left jab from Douglas was making Tyson's eye swell up.

Round after round went past and the crowd got more intense. Douglas had Tyson on the ropes in the Round 8 and the suddenly Pow! An uppercut came completely unexpected on the chin and spray from the hit flew into the crowd. Douglas fell back onto the canvas. A ten count began and Douglas got up and moved to stand and by eight was back on his feet. Some people said it was a slow count but that was not my impression.

He stood and then ding! It was end of the round. Any momentum Tyson hoped for was lost as Douglas went toe to toe with him again and had him on the ropes a lot in the Ninth. When Round 10 was rung in, Tyson's eye was closed up from repeated jabs. It was about to get worse when Douglas again had him on the ropes and jabbed and hit with a right cross and then one almighty jab and Tyson was out.

There was an audible whoa sound from the crowd. A ten count was started and Tyson was very slow to get up and when ten was counted, he stood and was caught before he fell again. It was over and three belt titles ended up going to Buster Douglas. The crowd was awed and also cheering. History was made.
There was some speeches after and then the boxers filed out and the house lights came up and there as a bit of gasp from the crowd as the 40,000 people present became visible.The crowd left shocked and exuberant. The last I saw Donald Trump, he was leaving with other celebrities out a entrance restricted to VIPs. I was so thankful he didn't sit in front of me with that hair in my face.

Monday, October 14, 2019

Oakland Raiders Versus Green Bay Packers August 11, 2019

There will always be controversy about this game in Winnipeg where Oakland Raiders played Green Packers in Week 3 of the Exhibition Season for ticket prices that even the more ardent fans in the U.S. would have rejected wholeheartedly.

Me above. This fall I'm working on no sugar drinks. I started earlier this year just to be overwhelmed by my mom's heart attack just as I had shed some weight in the four weeks before. This fall I am now having to re-locate my business after 12 years in the same spot. Wish me luck.

In any event, I enjoyed the game despite the 80 yard field that Green Bay insisted upon and the pulling of 33 of their players to sit out the game. I had free tickets with my brother and family as a result of work done last minute to assist the game getting done.

It seems no NFL teams should be criticizing Winnipeg's field when Oakland's has looked like below for years.
For the middle of August it was not a blazing hot day or even amazingly bright. IG Field can be a steamy sweatbox in August for Bombers game. I went to the game with my brother and his girlfriend. The road was not nearly as crowded as it would be for a sell-out game though. A lot of tickets went out the last day or two but no one knew what attendance would ultimately be. My brother below.
Despite the high ticket prices people were festive in various NFL jerseys with both lots of Green Bay and Raiders wear being worn.

Without first comment, the rest of the pics that day. I had a good time even no regular players played and the field was short and there was no additional NFL experience such as a tailgate party. But then, I didn't pay hundreds of dollars.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Forever 21 to Close All Stores in Canada

The first store opened in Winnipeg in 2011 at Polo Park. It was a massive 34,000 square feet and crowds lined up at 2 AM to go inside. It was joined by Forever 21 Red at Outlet Collection of Winnipeg at Seasons of Tuxedo in 2017. That store was 26,000 square feet.
Now all 44 stores in Canada will close as the U.S. struggles into bankruptcy. No word on how the Canadian stores were doing but it would not be the first times stores were closed in Canada to save the U.S. stores. Hello, Sears.

For Polo Park this represents a major blow. Both Kildonan Place and St. Vital Mall are going through multi-million developments to fill the Sears closures and re-fresh the malls. Garden City has already addressed their Sears problem and malls like Northgate have worked on the Zellers/Target closures.

Polo Park has done nothing yet and will go another Christmas without filling the spot of a major anchor. Now, another huge store is closing. Three malls in town have added fitness centers generally in the 30,000 square feet range. As far as Sears goes with its 300,000 square feet...who knows.

Retail as we know it is changing fast. Expect housing to go up in malls, on top of malls and on mall parking lots fast.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

A Little Pizza Heaven Coming to Regent and Day

A Little Pizza of Heaven was approved for Regent and Day at the Committee level for their new sign at the former location of Pizza Pizza and before that Pizza Hut. The local Councillor added that exterior colours (now orange) be changed to colours matching the sign.

This will be the fourth location for the pizza restaurant that will be trying to make it where an international Goliath was as well as top Winnipeg group. From humble beginning on Portage Avenue where University of Winnipeg students once munch on their fare, they have thrived in Osborne, St. James, St. Vital and Regent.
Regent and Day is a prominent corner in Transcona and hearkens back to a time when the street was the main commercial drive for a city. It still is although malls have made it more difficult. Still, it is places where you can hang your hat and take-out and have delivered that can thrive.

Look to see them open in the near future.

Bed Bath and Beyond in Grand Forks to Close Thanksgiving

Grand Forks and Fargo have to be wondering when it ends. One retailer after another is closing in their cities at a pace that is breathtaking. And now another has announced it will be closing in Grand Forks. Bed Bath and Beyond has given U.S. Thanksgiving in November as a timetable of its closure.

There will be 20 workers affected by the closure which has been blamed on a failure to renew a lease on land adjacent to Columbia Mall. Stores in Fargo and Bismarck will remain open. The store has been a fixture of Grand Forks and a favourite for Manitoba shopping for 18 years.

Trips by people to North Dakota and Minnesota the most recent long weekends have been greeted with shock at the devastating closures. They don't even come close to what has been happening in Canada.

It would appear that West Acres in Fargo and Columbia Mall in Grand Forks are trying to re-vitalize their malls with with so many store closures, it won't be retail that fills all the spaces.

Meanwhile in Winnipeg Grant Park, Northgate, Garden City and Kildonan Place have all gone through or are going through major upgrades that fill lost retail space from the last three years.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Kenaston Goodlife to Close and Relocate in 2020

Well, the news is officially out. Staff and members have been informed and now the public is being made aware. Kenaston Goodlife, the first co-ed for the company in Winnipeg is closing in 2020 and moving to their much larger location at Bishop Grandin. All staff will move to that club and present members will find the terms of the memberships continue in the new fitness centre. Obviously, every member of the gym should speak to managers to get details that are relevant to their own membership but it goes without saying that efforts are being made to make the process a smooth one.

Alas, the massage and athletic therapy clinic will not be making the move to the new club. Space at other clubs for Goodlife is also being re-purposed where at one time they all had massage therapy clinic rooms. Attempts were made to find me space but the nearly $30 million being spent means that every corner of the Goodlife clubs in the city is being examined to be competitive with the booming fitness in dusty. Where once there was several massage therapists working within Winnipeg clubs, I am the last along with my athletic therapy colleague. The last I heard I was the last in western Canada still working. Not sure about the country but could very well been the last one altogether.

I'm not bitter. At my club I worked with great colleague at the clinic such as Cherlaine and Jamie. For the most recent years I have been a colleague of Sue and now her husband Eric was also coming aboard. My new lease had just started at the beginning of the month. I knew that there was talk about the future of the club but also felt that the Kenaston area was still growing. IKEA is only six years old. The Outlet Collection at three years. Housing, hotels and further development happen every month now.

Still, there is a heavy duty amount of competition being built. Goodlife is building three new clubs. One of those clubs, Portage and Main, will be a re-location across the street. Expansion of their old club which took a full floor of the RBC tower was not permissible. St. Vital Mall's club will be a completely new club and so it seemed was the Bishop Grandin one.

Still, what to do with Kenaston? With all the new building taking place, Goodlife Kenaston had three choices: 1st was to spend a lot of money and upgrade the club within its footprint. 2nd was spend a lot of money and strip down the club to become discount sister company Fit 4 Less. 3rd was close the club and re-locate all staff to the new club and save a recruitment process and add to staff for the large location.

It is important to know that Goodlife does not own the Kenaston site. A new lease would have to be signed and the terms of which might not have been to meet profitability criteria after club investments. Goodlife Kenaston was built in spring of 2008 and was a giant in its day. People came from all over the city and even outside it to work-out in. Goodlife now has several clubs including  Grant Park. The heady days that lasted years was only going to continue if Goodlife Kenaston had a long term plan.

In the end supersized clubs like Bishop Grandin cost a lot of money and need a lot of staff. The re-location plan and opportunity to move jobs over and not go through a massive recruitment and training program as well as spend more money on Kenaston upgrades won out.

None of this will happen immediately. Construction being what it is will mean that sometime in early 2020 all this will take place. A grand opening will take place and the final days of operation at Kenaston will have a final deadline. As for myself, I will continue to operate for some time yet. However, the company has freed me to seek a new location either as an employee or as a business clinic. At least half my clients are Goodlife members but I've been operating as an independent business now for two years. Members will have to find a non-club option for their injury and maintenance therapy. The new club will have hydrotherapy for relaxation massage.

As for the old club, I guess that will be up to Terracon which owns it. It is in a business park that has been quite successful. It doesn't stand to reason that another fitness center would want to jump in there. It could be ideal for many uses. There have been a few companies bursting at the seams in the park that might be all over that building.

Before going further, I've identified the club as being Bishop Grandin but the district it is being built on is called Refinery. No, not an oil refinery but sugar. Or at least at one time it was part of Manitoba Sugar lands. I suggested Sugarland for the district but was shot down. Maybe not ideal for a fitness center.

In the days of supersized clubs arriving in 2020, they all have much more of everything and beyond. Unlike Kenaston, Refinery will hot yoga, a pool, a high intensity work out area and a ninja obstacle course. In addition, it will have boxing. Understandably, even with a transfer of experienced staff from Kenaston, it will have a layer of staffing needed for support of maintenance, group exercise and personal training.
It will be Winnipeg's largest Goodlife. Safe to say that a real battle is shaping up for Winnipeg for fitness centers. Millions are being spent and people will benefit as their work-out choices evolve and change.

Goodlife, Shapes and soon to arrive Altea will compete hard in southwest Winnipeg. I will miss Kenaston Goodlife when it closes. Many good people and members over the years and it was once the biggest and best. I might be the last Registered Massage Therapist left in the west and quite possibly the country when they turn out the lights at the club.

I'll be good. Leaving on good terms. I own my own business. I do other things as well with other business ventures. I have great colleagues and good friends and support from family. Got months left before I am out in the world but this is Winnipeg. In the city we make our own futures. And relationship are built forever.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Grant Park Plaza - The Early Days 1967

Grant Park started construction in 1962 and by 1964 it resembled more a big box strip mall than the enclosed mall today. By 1967 it looked like the store directory above. As seen, the mall had two groceries to start: Dominion and Safeway. It was also anchored by two department stores Woolco and Clark's.

But what is Clark's? This store seems to have slipped from the mists of memory for many. It wasn't the only Clark's in town either. There was one on Panet Road at Regent/Nairn.

The above was the Winnipeg location at Panet is 1962. The picture is commonly mistaken for Grant Park and I made it as well.

Clark's was the forerunner of Gambles and was owned by St. Louis-based Gamble-Skogmo which had a stable of stores under many brands. They also owned MacLeod's Hardware of Winnipeg.

Clark's actually went all the way to the Supreme Court and lost to prevent further expansion of Grant Park Plaza in 1967. It was to prevent becoming an enclosed mall as well as stopping Woolco from coming in. Their legal challenge didn't work and eventually the mall was enclosed and Clark's became Gambles.

Eventually Gambles was purchased by Zellers and the Clark's and Gambles names were gone forever from Winnipeg. It would take decades but the Zellers name itself would disappear as owner Hudson's Bay Company would sell it to Target. Some stores remained Zellers but in 2019, HBC will close the final two stores in Ontario.

Grant Park Shopping Centre as one of the oldest malls in Canada has seen tremendous change but was never allowed to simply deteriorate as some malls have in Canada. It was innovative in getting a movie theatre of substance even before places like Polo Park. It became home to the first big box book store in Winnipeg which remains strong today. And it was one of the first to have restaurants in its parking lot.

After its most recent makeover, that added Canadian Tire and Goodlife, it seems the mall has settled into a format that is working for it even where some of its competitors have undone their enclosed concept.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

The Purge, The Mist, Lost in Space Reviews

The Purge movies have always been just a little bit more than violence. The politics behind it seems vaguely what an out of control America might do. The movie series introduced the concept and went back and explained a bit how it all started. The TV series gives even more background but delves right into the action with a new Purge just about to happen.

The series from 2018 runs 10 episodes and in Canada was on Amazon Prime. The second season begins this October.

The series follow a number on people who are willing participants in The Purge to those that are the victims of it. No particular actor stands out though a few are known actors. The rest are carrying their first show. Any thought that a long form story would be more compelling is lost by the fact that the actors are not particularly likable. That isn't always a problem but if that is the case, the character has someone you love to hate instead. We don't get that either.

The Purge only take places for 12 hours once a year. Not sure what I was expecting but perhaps it was a better character arc. For example, The Walking Dead first episode really set up a good reason to follow the entire first season. The Purge really didn't do that for me.

By the way, one of the reasons I left The Walking Dead and stopped watching Fear The Walking Dead was that they were relentlessly downbeat. And increasingly they had unlikable characters. And I'm not talking about the villains. The Purge never caught me is that they didn't have characters I wanted to follow. Moreover, they had characters that struck me as too stupid to live. This is a worse crime in my book.

I won't be watching the second season.

The Mist which aired on the Spike Channel in the U.S. and Canada was based on the Stephen King story and the movie of 2007. The series ran an episode run in 2017 and can be caught on some streaming services now. It was cancelled by Spike.

The book, the movie and the series have various difference but the one consistency is that a fog descends on a town and traps people in their homes or for many, a supermarket/mall. Also consistent is that in the mists are creatures that are killing people.

The series started off promising and the ratings indicated a winner. However, somewhere along the show went off the rails. A major departure was that the mist did not only have creatures within it but mind altering visions. While this might have made for interesting back stories, it also raised serious questions.

There were hints that there were chosen people who were immune. This led to persecution or blindly following someone for messianic reasons. The book and the original movie were more clear that people took sides out of fear not and that religion took a part in dividing people. The series took the position that nature was judging humanity. To say the least it was a bit muddled.

What wasn't muddled was the same thing that The Purge was guilty of: no likable characters.

The book left things off somewhat hopefully that somewhere far off there was a place the mist had left alone. Our remaining characters head there. The movie had a Twilight Zone-like ending which I won't spoil. The TV series left things off that our major characters have escaped the mall and are now headed to where the mist all began.

We'll never know what that is cause the show was cancelled. Even if it had been renewed I would have not watched.
Lost in Space on Netflix, not be confused from the TV series of 1965-1969, is a 2018 releases series released on the streamer. Like the series before it, the show is based on the 1812 novel Swiss Family Robinson by Johann David Wyss about a family shipwrecked in the West Indies. It has been adapted countless times but putting the story into space was possibly the most innovative. There was also a movie in 1998 that had some seriously questionable special effects and wooden dialogue. The bad dialogue might have been forgivable for sci-fi but not terrible special effects.

A family caught up in extreme circumstances makes for a compelling story. Setting it in space sets the imagination running. The original series went through a number of phases including from black and white to colour and from more serious to whimsical. Some people loved part of the show but not all of it and that varied year to year. And eventually, the show fell into a trap of Dr. Smith, Robot and youngest boy Will Robinson as the central characters. That would be popular and also be its undoing. The robot's phrase of Danger Will Robinson Danger would live on long after the series.

It seems that the space version of Swiss Family Robinson falls into the same traps every time. There is nothing wrong with the initial premise that Earth is facing increasing pressures due to population or catastrophe or hostilities. Colonization and using families as a unit makes sense insofar as cohesion, especially if there is no return to Earth. However, it can make things boring too if you have no outsiders who may be friends, foes, romantic partners, competitors or any and all configurations.

It seems Lost in Space writers have considered this and the reasons previous versions of the show failed. However, ultimately the same Dr. Smith, boy and robot format appears to what is relied upon. In 10 episodes it is surprising how little character depth actually happens. Almost everyone is a cardboard cutout.

There are a few good actors on the show but they hardly seem to have enough that makes standout. The series has been renewed for another season. I'm prepared to see if the show breaks out. It is important to know that many of the best TV series of all time had at least 20 to 24 episodes to show their worth. Still, my patience is wearing with this show.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Fargo North Dakota K-Mart to Close in December

In 1962 Fargo was one of the first places to get a K-Mart. Prior to that the name was Kresge's, a name Winnipeggers were equally familiar with at Polo Park or Portage Avenue. Winnipeg's Kresge's was constructed in 1954 downtown and then another in 1959 in Polo Park. Kresge's ended in Winnipeg in the 1980s and K-Mart ended in Canada in 1994.

K-Mart has been a mismanaged company for decades after once numbering over 2000 stores. The Canadian stores, in a pattern we have seen from U.S. retailers, were bled dry to pay for missteps in the U.S.

In the U.S. we have seen two sinking ships K-Mart and Sears bound together in failure. Sears in Canada was sacrificed to keep the U.S operations afloat. It hasn't worked. Stores keep closing.

Fargo and Grand Fork, North Dakota have seen Sears and K-Marts shut down in their metros. Fargo-Moorhead lost the Moorhead K-Mart in 2016. Sears closed at West Acres in 2017, Sam's Club in Moorhead in 2018. Herberger's in Fargo West Acres in 2018.

Macys in Columbia Mall Grand Forks closed in 2017. Sears closed in the same mall in 2018. Pier 1 Imports at the parking lot there closed 2018 as well. Horbacher's Grocery store nearby closed in 2018.

In short, it is a disaster. Both major Grand Forks and North Dakota malls are looking to change things up. There is no such thing as an anchor store anymore.

And now in Fargo along University, south of North Dakota State University, the city loses their last K-Mart.

Too many stores, too much online shopping and and changes in what people like are the main culprit.

Winnipeg has not seen as deep a smackdown but even in this city, we are re-evaluating what a mall is known for. Polo Park is considering residential which may be the smartest dynamic for future success.

For Winnipeg's travelling to North Dakota, the question is: Will their shopping stop in Pembina, North Dakota just for pick-ups?