I suppose, as Canadian cities go, Regina is the target of more derisive jokes than some. And, regrettably, the Canadian pronunciation invites a witless rhyme that might be amusing to a 14-year-old. But I will always have a bit of a soft spot for this town.
The day I cycled here from Indian Head I faced a pretty fierce headwind. Had it been a tailwind I would have had little reason to pedal. As it was, I decided not to fight it. I simply chose lowers gears that allowed my usual cadence and offered a comfortable degree of resistance. A little slower, for sure, but I made it.
I checked into an inexpensive motel on the outskirts of town but (fortuitously for me) within walking distance of a walk-in medical clinic with evening hours. For much of my journey I have had some troubling (sometimes embarrassing) symptoms that I, initially, attributed to being in the saddle for long hours. Possibly but...
Bladder infections are relatively uncommon in men, yet the kind doctor and intern at the clinic both agreed that my symptoms amounted to a slam dunk as far as confident diagnoses go.
Anyway, I got a week’s worth of antibiotics, a caution to avoid exposure to sunlight, and instructions to drink plenty of fluids. There was no requirement to stay the next day in bed. But I was feeling a little discouraged and reasoned that a little rest and privacy would do me some good. So I stayed put for a second night.
I was fortunate that my friend Mavourneen, in Spence’s Bridge BC, has family living in Regina. Her brother Kerry and his spouse, Kathy, graciously allowed me to stay in their guest room for three consecutive nights. Time to recuperate and a place to secure my gear while I replaced some of my worn apparel — new gloves, two new cycling chamois (padded shorts).
Generally favourable winds and easy terrain had put me a little ahead of schedule. So the hospitality of my kind hosts gave me refuge while I waited for today — Sunday 24 July and my scheduled appearance at The Penny University Bookstore.
My affection for Regina goes back to my association with The Globe Theatre which styles itself Canada’s only permanent theatre-in-the-round. In the early 80’s I spent the better part of a year touring with The Globe — performing three different shows daily for school children throughout Saskatchewan. I later returned to participate in play development workshops and a couple of main stage productions.
My own character flaws, back then, were more numerous and more in evidence than they are, I hope, now. Upon reflection, my time with The Globe was not entirely without some rueful memories. (And a few painful ones.) But I learned a great deal and my own Drama students will attest that, over the years, our intimate studio theatre productions experimented with a lot of different audience configurations. I would attribute that to my experience working in-the-round with The Globe.
Moreover, the experience of touring schools in Saskatchewan ultimately led me to think of theatre and acting in terms of storytelling rather than as... let’s say... performance. I spent more than a decade of my youth focussed on me-me-me as an actor. (And I don’t think that kind of self-absorption is uncommon). Finding a new career as a teacher was, ultimately, one of the drivers of my personal and artistic growth.
For three lovely mornings, while staying with Kerry and Kathy, I cycling through the park around Regina’s Wascana Lake. Leisurely riding. And almost without fail, I was greeted with sincere smiles and sincere greetings of: good morning or how’s it going? Folks in Saskatchewan are renowned for their friendliness and Regina is no exception. A city with a real small town feel.
I’m not saying Saskatchewan is without its faults. I think it likely that my experience might not have been so universally positive were I an Indigenous person. Bigotry is not absent. Indeed, I know it has sometimes resulted in cruel and even fatal encounters. Reconciliation is a frustratingly slow process. But halting and painful progress is being made.
Of course I visited the Globe Theatre. I was both encouraged and disappointed that the heritage building that houses the theatre was locked and surrounded by tall fencing. Encouraged because the theatre was in the midst of extensive renovations — a promise of continued contributions to the community. Disappointed that the entire interior had been utterly gutted in the process. And with it, a little piece of the young man I once was.
My afternoon at The Penny University Bookstore, today, was a fairly quiet affair. Owner (and author) Annabelle Townsend remarked that she’d forgotten that the Saskatchewan Roughriders had a home game. Regina loves its football. Of the folks who visited the bookstore, in typical Regina fashion, all were kind and encouraging.
For much of the afternoon Nicole Mae (poet and book lover) was in charge and it was worth the visit just to enjoy her insightful conversation.
Four lovely, sunny days spent resting and recovering in Regina. Tomorrow I set off for Moose Jaw — before dawn. That’s the plan. Trying to get some distance in before the wind picks up. More rain is on the menu.