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Max Roytenberg

Max Roytenberg: Sunshine On My Shoulder

by Max Roytenberg, November 11, 2017


I’ve been around the block a time or two, so I’ve seen some of the great cities of the world. Except China, those massive cities that they have made almost uninhabitable with their pollution. Wonders to see, I am sure. And India’s metropolises, haven’t managed to reach those, and there are sights to see there. Travel is broadening, they say, so the more the better.


But the city dear to my heart is Winnipeg, at least the way it was when I was growing up. It was, and continues to be, small, but it had qualities that distinguished it during those years. Isolated, as it was during the forties and fifties, the city fathers managed to fill it with all those features that characterized much larger centers. It had ballet, theatre, a symphony orchestra, and retail initiatives that were tested there before they were duplicated far and wide. A newspaper published there was read by knowledgeable people around the world, the Winnipeg Free Press. They had metropolitan government long before it appeared elsewhere. Winnipeg had the multicultural life of much larger centers, the uniquely active Jewish community I belonged to, among them.


For me, one of the most important things Winnipeg had, and still has; it had sunshine for most of the days of the year. I am sure the weather statistics will bear me out. Winter or summer, Winnipeggers would likely experience a sunny day. There, passing the first twenty-one years of my life, the experience marked me. I know it is mainly known for its fierce winters, but, paradoxically, it is the sun that I remember most about the place. I am a sun-worshipper, bred into the bone. We did, from time to time run-off to Winnipeg Beach nearby in the summer, to dip our toes in the water, but it was all about Winnipeg all the same.


I have spent time in residence in Ottawa, in Montreal and in Toronto, living the Canadian experience in some variety. But it is to my growing up in Winnipeg that I ascribe my penchant for seeking sunny weather. It seems contrary, then, to acknowledge that I have, latterly, spent more than a decade in centers renowned for cloudy weather, indeed, those accompanied by generous quantities of rain, rain, rain. First in Dublin, Ireland, and most recently Vancouver, British Columbia, we have had our share of that particular kind of climate. 


I am whispering a secret to you now. I have, for many years since my departure from my birthplace, sought to absent myself from rainy and cold places of residence for at least a portion of the calendar year when there was less sun to shine on me.


During those years when I was gainfully employed, my pilgrimages to the sun were erratic and all too brief. Since I have been freed from such restraints, I have sought to have bright sun shining on my shoulder for three or even four months a year when otherwise it might have been cloudy. I have been among the privileged class, the “snowbirds”, winging our way to southern climes during Canada’s winter months. I know I am not unique. Our cohort is a well-known phenomenon of life in Canada and the northern United States. I continued to follow that practice when we were residents of Ireland.


All very interesting, you ask, but what is the point? The point is that this practice is, for me, not just a joyride, but a necessity. I am confessing to an addiction. I have realized that when the gloom descends during the winter months, my normally sunny disposition is swept away with the rain. I begin to be erratic in my behavior and thinking. I get “cabin fever” without the excuse of the cabin. I become a sight to behold, a sight that requires strong nerves.


It may be that I become a menace to myself and to the general public. We have avoided any serious incidents up to this point by engaging in rapid and determined action. We should probably have applied to the government for a grant to finance a getaway, and it should obviously have been granted as an act of public service. I have spared the public purse and avoided the bureaucratic maze up to now by financing my own departure from the areas of inclement weather. I know I am doing this for others, not at all for myself. I believe I am being altruistic. Don’t spread it around. I try to be modest about such things.


So far as I can tell, and in accordance with what I have been told by others about my syndrome, the generous application of sunny weather with which I have treated myself, has been just what the doctor ordered. At least, I am assuming that is what my doctor would have ordered if I had asked him. I find that I function perfectly well after I return from my medicinal trips. The feedback seems to be favorable.


I have a long history of self-medication, particularly with whisky. In this instance it seems to have worked wonders. It may be that same treatment would help some other people I meet on my rounds. I usually keep silent about my prescription since I do not have a medical license nor a line of credit from which to dispense funds to the general public. 


For myself, I just make sure my own passport is up to date.


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