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Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

It's the cold of human companionship

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BABY, it's cold outside. That should hardly come as a surprise to any Winnipegger, but somehow it always does. The weather goes along nicely at least through September, but then, starting sometime in October, it gets a little shabby.

There's almost always snow before Halloween, but except in the worst of years, it goes away. Sometimes, even November can be nice, as it was this year, but we always know the snow and the cold will come as inevitably as death and taxes.

When I was at university, most of my friends were West Indians. One in particular, a Trinidadian named Ezekiel Mike, became one of my closest friends. We called ourselves brothers. He went on to become my dentist as well and he was as good a dentist as he was a friend. My teeth have never worked right since he died.

Trinidad is a stone's throw north of the equator, if you can throw a stone 15 kilometres or so, which makes it a warm place, maybe even uncomfortably warm at times, so you might think a Trinidadian experiencing his first Winnipeg winter could think he had come to some sort of Arctic version of hell.

But "Zic," as he was known to his friends, told me the first winter he was here he didn't really feel the cold and got through it wearing just a sweater and a tweed jacket (and, of course, some pants and some shoes and socks).

To Winnipeggers, that seems astonishing. We are bundled up against the cold from the time we are babies. When we get old, we bundle up even more. Cold is cold and it's brutal and bitter.

Zic quickly became acclimatized. He was soon wearing winter gear just like the rest of us and this week he would have been surprised by the arrival of winter and cursing the weather gods just like the rest of us. What can you say, what can you do, except to acknowledge that wherever we come from, whatever we do, winter makes us all Winnipeggers. Cold is our common denominator.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 10, 2011 J12

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