MH17

Even though this blog is a collection of life stories, the madness in the Ukraine and in the Gaza Strip has me upset enough to deviate, slightly, this week.

The Gaza and Hamas are active missions that require no further comment at this time.

My focus today is Russia and the Ukraine. How in heavens name can either country allow an indignity of abuse to the dead as these countries have?

After 3 days in a field, they toss the recovered bodies into refrigerated cars but they don’t claim that the refrigeration is working.

The rebels continue to collect body parts including the odd body that has been laying in the sun for days. What kind of people are they?

I would call them animals. Finally, the recovered black boxes have been turned over to the Malaysia authorities. Meanwhile, the hunt for bodies continues not for dignity, but for credit cards, valuables, and whatever else those animals can grab. This has become a treasure hunt. The inspectors, meanwhile, wait for the all clear to begin the investigation and the train has left with the bodies.

No international country has rushed to the assistance of Malaysia. The world’s power has only rhetoric to offer. A LOT of talk. No action.

Now let me make it clear: Most international airlines do not fly that route. The Captain’s have the final say and will never fly a passenger jet over a war zone at any altitude. Malaysia followed the ICAO directives that do not include that war zone. ICAO has changed since then.

One had to wonder why Putin claims no responsibility even though his military supplied the rebels with a missile launcher. No matter who shot it down – Ukraine or Russia – it’s their responsibility to seal the crash scene and safely admit the inspectors and recovery staff. Both countries have acted like animals and irresponsible children. The world watches in horror turns of the TV and goes to a protest about Gaza and Israel. The world powers hold another news conference.

 

Pic: Mashable

Pic: Mashable

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Out of the Bush

When you drive a taxi, every fare can turn into an adventure. This is a true story of a taxi fare with a sense of adventure.

Back in October of 1994 I was driving a night shift. At about 7pm, I was sent into the Winnipeg Airport to pick up a customer. This was a flight from northern Manitoba. At the terminal, I found my fare….. ayoung couple of aboriginal decent.

The man was dressed in jeans and a USA Secret Service baseball hat. His wife was also decked out in denim. They had flown in from Gods Lake which is a Cree Indian reserve.

They were extremely friendly and happy to be out of the bush. They were fishing and hunting guides and the season was ending for them. They had just guided a group of American fishing enthusiasts.

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He immediately handed me $100. I was asked if I could be their driver for the night. I said, “Sure”. He then handed me another $100. Okay, this was wonderful but u needed to know why he was so generous.

He said that the Secret Service hat was a gift from his last group. George H Bush. Yep, that one. The older Bush that was President of the USA until January 1994. The hat was from one of his security detail. Apparently, he paid big money for the best guide and although he never revealed his fee, my fare had a few thousand dollars in his pocket.

The first stop was for supper at the Ming Court. He asked me to join him and his wife. Okay, I like Chinese food. For that he called me a nice guy and offered me another $100. So, we went and dined and he told me stories about George W Bush. After dinner he thanked me for joining them and offered me another $100.

The next stop was to be the Bar at the St. Regis Hotel. The man had been drinking quite a bit during dinner and he fell down the 4 stairs from the restaurant to the lobby. I had to pick him up because he had messed up his foot. I put him Into the car and suggested a hospital visit to check hit foot. He was in pain, but still in a good mood. He thanked me for my assistance and hands me another $100.

I took them to the hospital emergency and pushed him into the room to check in. They told us that it would be a few hours wait for treatment. I asked my customers if I should wait and they said it could be a while so I could leave.

I thanked them for their generosity and his wife told me that they left some money in the back seat. He said that would be my TIP. His wife agreed.

So, back in the taxi I looked into the back seat and sure enough a small wad of $100’s. Only $600 for the tip. It was only 11pm and I had just earned $1100 for about 4 hours work, courtesy of President George H Bush Sr.

George

George

 

A Taxi Story

Several years ago, when I drove a taxi on the night shift, I came upon many unbelievable fares with weird requests. One of the stories that has never left me was so out of character, this week I want to share it with you.

It was a rainy night in Winnipeg, and about 4am, I came up to a red light at a major intersection. Clinging to the light standard was a gentleman who was dressed shabby and looked homeless. I was concerned about his mobility, so I put on my hazard lights and approached this fellow.
I asked him if he was alright and able to walk. He indicated that he was having trouble because of his arthritis. Now imagine a hobo, with a matted beard, rotten teeth, and dirty damp clothes with no jacket.

I felt empathy for him and asked if I could drop him off somewhere dry and indoors. He replied in a southern Texas drawl that he would appreciate a taxi since no one would stop for him. Oh really! This guy has money?

I helped him into the taxi and began my questions, “First, do you have money for the cab fare?” He digs into his pocket and pulled out a wad of US dollars exceeding $5000. I counted it for him.

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This was the request of my hobo friend. He wanted to pick up a girl at one of the massage parlours and then I would return him to his Private Jet. I would wait for him to finish with the girl and then return her to the parlour. That was the trip.

He immediately paid me $500 US for the fare. He explained that he owned lots of oil wells in Texas and had no idea where he was. At his insistence I put the money away, turned on the meter and pulled up to the massage parlour. I went inside and asked for a volunteer, and found him a cute brunette.

She jumped into the taxi and couldn’t believe her eye’s what I brought her. That was until he gave her a $500US deposit. Now we’re off to the airport.

I pull into the private jet parking and he points out a Gulfstream jet. I approached the plane, honked the horn and out comes a young lady to assist my fare. Before he leaves he asked me to take another $500US for following his instructions and reminds me to wait for the girl.

I asked his attendant if he was for real. She explained that he was one of the wealthiest Texans she new, and he heard about Winnipeg and wanted to see it first hand. She also explained that the hobo look is real. He likes to look penniless.

About an hour later the girl returned to the taxi ,very happy with her payment and I returned her to the workplace.

Forest Gump said, ” taxi driving is like a box of chocolates. You never know what your going to get.”

 

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The Wild Ride Home

….continues from last week’s blog.

So, now the time comes to say goodbye to Vancouver.  I load up the Toyota Prius and try to make it back to Winnipeg.

With white smoke billowing from the tailpipe for the first 5 minutes, I started out on the highway with no challenges. After a couple of hours the engine was over heating, and so I pulled off the highway to top up my fluids. I carry on for another hour and again, overheating engine.

Somehow I made it to Golden, BC. At that point the gas engine blew. So, I could run the gas engine with one only cylinder and that was enough to charge the battery for the electric motor. The engine would only charge the battery 33%. That would allow me to drive 1 kilometer. Then I would repeat the process, and the next destination was Field, BC. That was a 4 hour journey of 55 kilometers. Field  is close to the Alberta border.

I pulled into a gift shop and Alberta Tourism office and attempted to revive the engine. Turns out a fan belt snapped and the overheating blew out a head gasket so the oil and coolant were mixed. That car was toast.

The gift shop allowed me to park the car on their lot. It was now evening. With nothing left I could do on June 30, 2010. I settled in for a frigid night of sleep in the mountains. That was the coldest and longest night of sleepless sleep that I ever had.

The morning came and the gift shop opened so I could grab some munchies and figure out how I was going to get back to Winnipeg. The lady in the gift shop made arrangements for me to catch a Greyhound bus back home. Luckily, her daughter worked at Greyhound in Golden. She told me to be on the highway at 4pm and the bus would stop and pick me up.

With a whole day ahead of me, I was invited to the Alberta tourist office July 1st Canada day party. Big barbecue and lots of fun and games. Good people.

The bus arrived on time and I jumped the Gerthound to Calgary with a stop in Banff, Alberta. In Calgary I had to transfer to another bus to Winnipeg. Only a 6 hour wait.

I had dinner in Calgary and at about 11pm caught the bus for the last leg of my trip home. The bus was almost empty. I slept most of the way home and wondered what would become of the Prius. I think the ride from Calgary was about 16 hours and I was back in time for supper in Winnipeg. What a wild ride home!

Welcome to Field (this is not me)

Welcome to Field (this is not me)

 

Vancouver: The Amazing

…..continued from last week.

I woke up In the motel, took back my $200 key deposit, and fired up the Prius so I could begin my adventure in Vancouver. The first task was to drive downtown and pick up my daughter from work.

Once I figured out where she was, I had some time to look around and get a feel for the city. If you have ever been in a park and in the center of a city at the same time, that would describe downtown Vancouver. Nobody is in a rush. Traffic is not heavy (Blair says it is heave). Cycling or walking is preferred. Storefronts are a full block with upper floors of condos or office’s. The downtown has hundreds of towers complied of mostly apartments, condos and offices. You can taste the ocean air from a kilometer away. The center of the city is a haven for buskers and you see no crime at all.

Touring around we walked around the beach front with it’s bars and restaurants. From the balcony of Blairs downtown apartment we could listen to the buskers at the Vancouver Art Gallery. That week it featured Spandy Andy. The nights never end and there is always action anytime of day. Once a week (on Fridays) they have a bike parade that lasts for at least 1 hour. Occasionally they ride through the downtown in the buff. No city like it.

I learned how to drink wine and coke a cola. Beats smoking coke. Every building has underground parking so the streets aren’t congested with cars. They have a super transit system both LRT and conventional. Taxis are always at the ready if needed.

Blair and I took side trips for groceries and walked around the neighborhood. Vancouver is one of the destination cities in the world. You can be in the ocean and across town take a ride up to snow covered Grouse mountain. All in one day. WOW!

With my visit with Blair complete, I started my journey be Coquitlam to visit my brother and his family. The town is one of the bedroom suburbs to access you travel cluttered freeways or if you wish the LRT. The short visit was very nice. The town is self contained and includes lots of green space and wetlands. Shopping centers, parks, and exotic oceanfront gated communities are a short ride away. That was relaxing. So suddenly the time had come to leave my family and begin.the journey home.

The Prius was not running well and even though the coolant and oil were mixing the car’s owner refused the repairs. The adventure back to Winnipeg was about to begin. What an adventure it would be. That is next week’s story. See you then.

Pic: HelloBC.com

Pic: HelloBC.com

The Trip of Trips

So, here we are in February of 2010, and I completed my final trip on crack cocaine. After over 20 years of tripping with drugs, finally the time came to plan a real trip.

Now that I deleted the daily cost of cocaine, I figured that I could save $2000 in 3 months. I planned a trip foe late June, with about $3000 of drug savings. I would be going to Vancouver to visit with my daughter Blair, my brother, Alan, and other family.

I always wanted to drive through the Canadian Rocky Mountains, but I didn’t own a car. In discussions with my employer it was decided that I would be able to rent a newer Toyota Prius. Yes, a hybrid car to drive through the mountains- to Vancouver and back. The plan was to leave in the middle of June and return on or about July 2.

It was about midnight in the middle of June that I tossed a few bags into the car, and pulled out of Winnipeg for the Trip of Trips. I started to drive with the intended 1st stop in the mountains at Banff, Alberta.

So, I drove non stop to Banff. Snuggled in the mountains, I took a 3 hour nap and then it was back on the road. Or so I thought. Just up the highway the traffic was stopped. Turns out that the closure was due to controlled landslides via dynamite. After a couple hours of blasting we were off to Vancouver.

The next stop would be Golden, BC. After that we would include stretch stops in the Okanogan valley. After 30 hours of highway #1, the end was near. I was entering Vancouver, exhausted and happy.

I did have one issue. During the drive , my back broke into what seemed like chickenpox. Open itchy sores were driving me crazy. I figured I would find a hotel room to rest and have a look at my back. I stopped at a police roadblock and got directions to a hotel on the way downtown. I found a nice $80 room on the east side of Vancouver. The key deposit was only $200. Wow! This was Vancouver.

Turns out that I had picked up “Shingles”, an adult form of chicken pox. I had a good sleep after a hot shower and it was time to find my daughter, Blair.

The fun and adventure was only beginning……

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eastVancouver

 

Scared Straight

So, the old saying that you hear about the illicit drug abuse world is that you have three choices: You quit, die, or go to jail. It was time for me to choose.

The challenge is, what enables you to actually decide to buy into that old saying? In my case it was two fold. I had a couple daughters that left or would be leaving Winnipeg and I had to be able to finance my occasional visits. I was over 50 years old and getting older AND tired of the same daily routine of work then drugs and then sleep.

Although I had never had any medical problems, sickness or emergency issues because of smoking crack, I did notice one important change:  I was increasingly becoming paranoid after just a couple puffs of crack. The room would go quiet. I froze in position and listened for any signs of my room being invaded by police, gangsters, or stranger’s.

I always got high by myself. Only one or two people could say that they saw me smoke crack. Nobody had ever seen me actually purchase the cocaine. I was just growing tired of the routine.

I slowly cut back on my consumption until my daily use was costing only $20 per day. That allowed me two puffs on the pipe but that was still too much to hide the paranoia. Finally, one day in early 2010, I woke up after a night of terror over nothing and decided that I would never ever again use cocaine AGAIN, in any form.

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By June of 2010 I had saved a couple thousand dollars for a visit to Vancouver to see my daughter Blair, and younger brother Alan and family. That was my first real vacation since 1992.

Next post we’ll talk about my adventures driving to Vancouver in a Toyota Prius, and the wonderful time that I had. I’ll also discuss the nightmare of a drive home when the Prius blew up in Field, BC.

The next story is hilarious!

 

The Enabler

Warning! Don’t even consider smoking free base cocaine. That is the most pure form of cocaine that exists. One inhaled puff……as soon as it vaporizes and hits your brain you will cross into a hell that has no return.

We used to call that “crossing over to the other side” since you no longer feel that you are in the same room you were seconds ago. Everything around you looks the same but the feeling is very different. You will have trouble communicating. You will freeze into a position of someone listening for the slightest noise. You will posture for an invasion of strangers from every corner of the room and this paranoid feeling will continue for about 15 minutes.

As you crash back into reality you crave another puff and repeat the process again and again. New crackheads can’t stop and the paranoid feelings are not intense. You can still be social to a limit but that quickly disappears and you are suddenly alone in your own world.

Free base crack cocaine is used more by adults in the 35 to 70 year range. Many users would never go from sober to crack. They need an enabler.

The enabler is usually alcohol. After a few drinks the urge for crack increases. Usually, the user who is enabled by alcohol is in a Drunken Stupor before he will smoke crack. The feeling is different and unfortunately more crack smokers are alcoholics that become enabled. They will always deny that they have a drug problem and call themselves alcoholics. 
This is your neighbor. Maybe they are a plumber, accountant or a blue or white collar worker with a family in the suburbs. Rehabilitation is the only cure for this type of user. Rob Ford, mayor of Toronto fits into this demographic. He needs to be in a drunken stupor because he wants crack. Alcohol is the enabler. Rehab doesn’t always work for this case. Especially if you need alcohol before crack.

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Next week I’ll tell you about what enabled me to free base smoke crack and how I was finally able to quit in 2010. See you next Monday!

What? Crack this!

So, here it is 2001 and the terrorists just flew a fleet of jets into the World Trade Center and The Pentagon. What was the USA coming to? A friend had just purchased a taxi cab and suggested I drive it part time. So, being a good friend I said, “Sure”. The owner of the cab company needed a dispatcher for 3 days a week so being a nice guy I said, “Sure, I can dispatch.”

I now had jobs galore to replace my former jewelry appraisal business. I was: a dispatcher, taxi driver, property manager, caretaker, and supervised at Convergys. Those 5 jobs put enough pressure on me to search for relief.

Someone asked me if I ever smoked crack. “What? Crack this!” was my response. Seriously, I had heard the term used in the American project’s, but I needed to know what this crack thing was all about.

This is what I learned:

Cocaine is a hydrochloride. Crack or “Free Base” (as it’s really called) is a chloride. In simple terms, if you remove the hydrogen from cocaine, you now have crack. Cocaine Hydrochloride or Cocaine Chloride. Simple chemistry. Home cooked and a very simple process. Not only are you removing the Hydrogen from the coke but also anything else that may be mixed into the powder will be left behind. The end product is cocaine in it’s purest form, which is why we call it Free Base.

There is a slow cook process that was developed to allow the free base to keep the various cuts present in the cocaine and that I will call “rock”. Unless the crack is mostly cut, when smoked it will have a crackling sound as it vaporizes. If it’s rock the crackling noise will be faded or missing.

To process cocaine into Free Base is simple and being a Gemologist I understand chemistry.  I’ll use a 1 gram formula as an example (and to help you understand).

  • Pour 1 gram of powder cocaine into a tablespoon.
  • Add 1/3 gram of baking soda and add water to just below the top of the tablespoon.
  • The powder cocaine will dissolve in the water and the baking soda will remain at the bottom of the spoon.
  • With a lighter heat the bottom of the spoon to just before a boil and keep the temperature steady for a couple minutes. You will hear the chemical reaction as a snap crackle and pop as the hydrogen is removed.
  • When the popping sound stops your left with an oil floating on the top of the water. As you cool the water the oil will solidify.  So, you will need to use a pin to gather the solidifying oil together.
  • The end result will be your rock of pure free base cocaine. If you weigh the rock you should have about .85 of a gram. This you can break into 8 smokeable pieces.

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This is what I was taught and rarely did I use a gram. I did not want to kill myself and I almost always smoked alone. I have never condoned the use of any drug and feel the same to this day. Don’t even try this because next week I will describe what happened to me after only 1 puff of a small piece of pure cocaine.

Next week it will be a wild ride to the other side.