“Wow, the sky is really pretty”.
That’s the thought I’m having as I stare up at the Winnipeg sky just before dusk. You know, that time of day where the colour of the sky is a dark, deep, blue and a few of the brighter celestial objects start to shine through, beside the sliver of a crescent moon.
I had a similar experience, staring up at the sky in Haridwar, Uttarakhand, India one year ago, except that sky was a hazy, humid, fog filled sky with hundreds of eagles, swooping and diving in a gorgeous ballet in the sky.
I could have stared at it for hours, except that I had just slipped and fell on the red bricks of the ghats at Har Ki Pauri and I needed to tend to my bruised ego and backside. My shoes had hydroplaned and I ended up on my back staring at the eagles in the sky.
What’s different, is that this blue sky is devoid of life, but full of pretty ice crystals, and the fog of my breath, in the -700°C air of our Canadian prairie city.
What is the same, is that I have just slipped and fallen and I’m laying, flat on my back, on the sidewalk… and my backside and ego are bruised again…. with an addition of a bump on the head.
But… the sky is really pretty.
I turn to look beside me at the woman who has joined me on the downtown sidewalk, and smile.
“Pretty sky huh?”
“SHUT UP YOU FREAK!”
“Would you like some help?”
“TOUCH ME AND I’LL CALL THE POLICE!”
She scrambles to stand up, and runs away, as I haul my aching body upright. Nothing broken, but I’m freezing now.
I look down at the patch of ice I lost traction on… and I notice a pattern.
Where the concrete of the sidewalk was, it was dry and bare, full of lovely cement traction. A splendid quality in a sidewalk. However, there was a pattern of sheer flat ice, smack dab in the middle of the downtown path… and under that ice… is red brick.
In fact, all of the decorative red brick on the ground was covered with ice… ALL OF IT.
Now, I’m all for making our urban jungle attractive. Winnipeg’s downtown has some beautiful architecture in some places, and many of the buildings are made of brick. But when we sacrifice functionality for aesthetics, I have a bit of a problem (I’m looking at you, Old Market Square Cube).
This addition of red brick to our sidewalks and streets is a recent thing, and I’m beginning to think it’s a bad idea. Creating an urban path for bipedal locomotion that covers itself in slick solid water every winter is a hazard and not beneficial to the city’s population.
Unless the plan was to repopulate the desolate orthopaedic wings of our hospitals and creating a booming artificial hip industry. If that was the plan, then bravo Mr. sidewalk city planner man.
Otherwise, I plead with the civic government to stop the madness. Your downtown is becoming a death trap of sliding pedestrians. Maybe save the brick for building a new stage in the square.
Now… if you’ll excuse me, the end of the world is due in a few days, and lying down on the sidewalk seems like as good as any place to view it.