Monthly Archives: October 2018

You can’t give up hope when you have none to give up

Looks like this will be my last post, literally the “last post”. It has been the most difficult week of my life. Last week at this time I was so depressed and ready to give up. My only question was how to kill myself?

My dear friend, Christine Philipson, was so worried about me last Monday night that she sent a Doctor Lupita and her colleagues to my apartment late at night to talk to me. I was crying uncontrollably at the thought of losing my dog, Rollie, and I only had twenty-eight dollars in my bank for food for the rest of the month. I was out of many of my important medications for my diabetes and could not afford more. My website business, primarily AjijicToday.com.mx, that I had worked so hard on for over a year was in shambles because I did not have the money for my hosting and other things I desperately needed to keep it going. I had other medical issues like my urgent dental work to replace a crown, but I did not have the two thousand pesos to finish it. I did not see any way to go on and urgently needed help to survive.

Dr. Lupita held my hand, got me to stop crying and told me not to give up hope. She told me she would not let them take my dog, Rollie. She offered money to buy food. She said she would help me to get my medications. She even offered me some work to earn some money. That did not solve everything, but it gave me some small glimmer of hope.

The next day, first thing in the morning, without warning, they came and took Rollie, which broke my heart. Dr. Lupita said she would tell them that it would be the very worst time to take him from me, but they didn’t care. Their only concern was the dog but he was in no danger. I had food for him and I loved him to death. It was like losing a child. Again I could not stop crying and only wished that I had a gun to end this pain.

Then I got a call from John Kelly, the President of the Canadian Legion here. He scolded me for refusing the help I needed and went on to suggest that the Legion would help me. He said they would give me a small loan to keep me going, saying that they had just helped a lady to buy a car. I felt that my needs were far more justified and more modest than buying a car. He said there was a meeting on Wednesday to discuss it and he would call me around noon on Thursday. I followed this up with a detailed explanation of how much I needed and why. I requested the modest sum of forty thousand pesos, repayable at two thousand pesos a month and allowing me to pay it off early once the business started earning money. He said he would let me know after their meeting, which was now planned a day later.

Initially Dr. Lupita was angry about what happened with the dog, so she said she was fighting to get him back to me. She came back telling me that they would “consider” giving him back to me, in THREE MONTHS! They also said I could “visit” him, as though that would make everything just fine. I told Dr. Lupita to give up on getting him back to me because it was pointless and I had equally big problems that I needed help with, like food and medications.

For some unknown reason she then disappeared. No one could find her, not even her nurse or John Kelly, who understood that she was looking after getting my medications. He told me that he had spent the day running back and forth between Ajijic and Chapala trying to get my medications. He said that there was an organization called Secours Populaire that would provide my medications free of charge. When I asked him about the loan he said he would now let me know on Monday. Luckily I had received a small tax rebate from the Canadian government that allowed me to buy some much needed food. That made me feel a little better. At least I wouldn’t starve to death.

If you wonder if Dr. Lupita knew the terrible state I was in, I had messaged her asking if an insulin overdose would work? I told her I did not have the courage to swim out in the lake far enough that I could not make it back. I told her I did not want to hang myself here because of the trauma that would cause to the children who lived here. My research about an insulin overdose was inconclusive about whether that would work and I did not want to just end up in hospital instead because I could not afford that either. Her reaction to my pathetic mental state was simply to just ignore me. Very strange for a doctor.

Then John Kelly sent me a short message that the Legion could not help me with a loan because they “didn’t have that kind of money”. Considering that they did have the money for a car loan for someone else I figured that was just a way of saying we don’t want to help you and we don’t care what that might do to you.

On top of everything I was going through I was also the victim of vicious attacks after my honest post about what happened with Rollie. Regardless of whether people gave a damn about me I knew they cared for Rollie and I just felt I should let them know why I suddenly had no more photos or stories about our wonderful lives together. First I was threatened and told to delete the post which I refused to do because I felt people needed to know the truth. Then I got truly vile messages saying things like “suck it up”, “stop feeling sorry for yourself”and worse. Although these hurt, I realized just how these people were really showing how little they understood mental health and how dangerous their comments could be to someone already on the edge.

It is said that true friends are there in both good times and bad, especially bad, when you need their nonjudgmental support the most. During my year here I thought I had some of those kinds of friends. I could not have been more wrong. Someone I thought was a real friend since before I even came here to Mexico, Francis Dryden, ignored my request for help and instead picked this time to dump on me about the mistakes he felt I had made with my websites. He said my sites were “just a bunch of worthless code” and nothing more. He said if I had listened to him and done the things he had suggested I would not be in this mess. This despite the fact that I had been in this city portal business for thirty years and done the exact same project before in both Panama and Ecuador. He knows little about designing websites or the business, but somehow he knew better than me? I even sent him an email transferring ownership of my website business to him and hoping that he didn’t mind looking after getting rid of my stuff because my executor is back in London, Ontario. No response even to that very clear message.

Shortly after arriving here I met Jack Irish when he moved into the house in La Floresta. We became instant friends and spent many an hour over coffee in the mornings or drinks at night talking about a host of topics. He shared his hard to believe story about some money thing he had been involved in for some six years already, one that was going to make him a multi-millionaire soon. We spent hours talking about all the good projects he planned to do here in Mexico and how I could be involved. He would buy a house for my fiancee, Elba and I to live in, rent free. We declined saying we would pay whatever rent we could afford. He offered to just give me money for my website business, but, again, I said I would only consider an investment and partnership. He said we would “talk” after his millions came in, soon.That was months ago.

Then I went through the devastating experience of Elba, breaking up with me by text message with no explanation. I loved her unconditionally, more than I had ever loved anyone in my life. We had just returned from Canada where I applied for my visa to return to Mexico and get marry her. I was not only in love with her but also her amazing family who all loved me and wanted us to hurry up and get married. Of course I had lost my own kids when they wanted nothing to do with me, so now having her sons, Jonathan and Kevin, tell me they loved me being their new Dad was just awesome. Suddenly, without warning, I had lost that all in a simple text message and had no idea why.

Instead of being a good friend when I needed him the most, Jack chose instead to blame me for everything, regardless of the fact that he knew nothing about what had actually happened. That really hurt. When I told him I had enough of his arrogance telling me what I could and could not do, and blaming me for being “so stupid”, he ended our friendship. Although later more by accident at Arnie and Barbs, we got back together again, but he ended our friendship again and hasn’t spoken to me in weeks.

I sent him a heartfelt message saying I was sorry he had ended what I thought was a close friendship and just letting him know what a mess I had found myself in. I didn’t ask for financial help because I knew he had none to give. He didn’t respond and today I learn that he has apparently sent out what has been referred to as a very “vitriolic” message about Elba and I. After six months I thought our break-up was ancient history so I have no idea why he did that, but maybe he just wants to finish me off and take credit for it.

You earn some friendships literally over a lifetime. Regardless of not getting any response from those I naively considered to be friends here in Mexico I did get some very warm and encouraging messages from people back in BC, Canada and from Ecuador. They all expressed sadness at how things had turned out for me and encouraged me to go on in spite of the problems I faced. They gave me words of encouragement, telling me that I wasn’t worthless and hoping I would get through this very difficult time. They are good friends who clearly understand how a few words of support can make a huge difference and I thank them sincerely.

When someone gives up and takes their own life it is always sad, but there is also that feeling of guilt by people who feel that they should have known, recognized the cries for help, and done something. Anything. Although there are a lot of folks here who should feel that shame because they not only refused to help, but also thought this was a good time to criticize and insult me, I know and accept that for them it will be like that old adage – if you want to know how much you’ll be missed, stick your finger in a bucket of water then remove it and you will see just how much you will be missed.

Certainly I have a very long list of regrets, all of which I take full responsibility for. There is no one else to blame for my dreams crashing into pieces except me. I know all too well the mistakes I have made, what I deserve to be punished for and what I don’t. I can only say that I have always tried to do my best. I have treated people with the respect I hoped to earn from them. I have never knowingly tried to hurt anyone.

My biggest regret in my life is what happened with my children and I go to my demise having never understood why they cut me out of their lives. My daughter chose to have nothing more to do with me over twenty-five years ago and this has hurt me immensely every single day since. We always had a wonderful father-daughter relationship and she was the one who encouraged me to leave my terrible marriage and move out West. I couldn’t leave her then, but I did years later when my mother had cancer and was given less than a five percent chance of surviving more than six months (she lasted nineteen years). I had to be with her. It killed me to leave Heather but I thought we would be together again soon when she came out to visit. After she said that she actually wanted to see me I drove down from BC in the dead of winter to see her, but my ex and her new husband hid her away from me. I have never understood why. Despite being married for twenty-three years he wouldn’t even let me have coffee with my ex-wife.

My daughter has two sons I have never met. My son and his girlfriend had three daughters, only one I had met when she was just a baby, Danielle. Although it is yet another long and complicated story from my youth I also have another son, Andrew, who had decided he wanted nothing to do with me either, regardless of how hard I tried to connect with him. Andrew has actually met my son and daughter, a most complicated situation to say the least. He and my son, Chris, look like twins. Two years ago I reconnected with my granddaughter, Mackenzie, on Facebook. She was very angry that her parents had told her I was dead. She felt that it was her decision whether she connected with me or not. I was overjoyed that we had found each other at long last. She was now fourteen years old and totally gorgeous. She told me that she was coming to Mexico next May for a wedding and that she would let me know where so we could meet. Nothing in the world had ever given me more hope in the future than meeting her and I couldn’t wait. Of course, that was then and this is now. I honestly don’t know if she is going to be angry with me now or just disappointed a little. Forgive me, darling. Someday you will understand better.

Not that I am in any position to give advice to anyone, but I did want to share one aspect of my life that had a truly devastating effect on my entire life and one I hope others can avoid. I want to be very clear that there was nothing criminal about what I did, which even the Crown Attorney who prosecuted me agreed with, and no one lost a penny. Although the exact circumstances of what happened were only ever of concern to the RCMP, who apparently spent over two million dollars on a wild goose chase, it involved the disposition of forklifts that had been damaged by sea water on their trip overseas from Japan. The shipment was fully insured so there was no loss to the company I worked for at the time, American Hoist. After I arranged for the insurance settlement I was given clear instructions that the forklifts were to be destroyed, which was my plan.

Shortly after one of our dealers from Nova Scotia, Sam Osmond, came to our location in Brampton. He met with Terry, our warehouse manager, and they had a conversation about the fact that there were numerous forklifts in the shipment that would still be good for parts. They agreed that is was a shame that they would all be ground up and destroyed. Sam came to talk to me and suggested that he was willing to take the shipment off our hands as we had been instructed to do, but he wanted to offer us some “compensation”. I told him that the company had already been paid the insurance settlement so there was no way we could “sell” the goods to anyone. He said he understood but would talk to our General manager, Gerry Waterhouse. Later that day I was summoned to a meeting with Sam, Gerry and Terry. They had apparently agreed to “sell” the shipment to Sam for thirty thousand dollars in cash. All I was asked to do was to issue an invoice to Sam for zero dollars, clearly marked “sold as is, where is, with no warranty expressed or implied”. I didn’t see any problem with that because it showed that we had disposed of the goods as directed, so I had done my job.

Later, Gerry, who remember was my boss, said that I had been elected to fly down to Dartmouth to pickup the money. In exchange the thirty thousand dollars would be split equally, three ways, me, Gerry and Terry. Ten thousand each. To this day I remember wondering if I was just being played, especially by Terry who I never got along with, but at the time I was struggling financially and ten thousand dollars was sure attractive. I agonized over whether I had done my job properly or if there was something dangerous about doing this. I realized that I had done my job totally and the company had not lost a dime. It all made sense to me at the time.

Unfortunately at this exact same time Gerry and I had been approached to take on another line of forklifts from Japan by a company called NYK. For several other reasons, all of them the fault of management at American Hoist, we knew that it was a house of cards that would soon collapse, leaving us out of a job. Because of the contract between TCM in Japan and American Hoist we were not allowed to take on another line, even though the products from NYK, electric forklifts, were not competitive to TCM. It looked like a golden opportunity too good to miss. On our way flying down to Chicago to meet with the executives from NYK we formed our company, Canada Lift, at least that’s what we would tell the Japanese.

Soon after landing the distribution for Canada from NYK I organized a floor plan financing program with the Bank of Nova Scotia and we held a dealer meeting at the Millcroft Inn in Caledon. The dealers, many of whom were TCM dealers, were most impressed and they placed orders for over a quarter of a million dollars worth of NYK products. We had the Letter of Credit in place with the bank so we were off and placed our much welcomed order with NYK.

Not long after, both of us were escorted off the premises of American Hoist’s TCM division and duly fired. Shortly after that we were given the opportunity to turn ourselves in to police voluntarily. We learned that we were being charged with several offenses, mostly conspiracy to commit fraud. From our previous employees we learned that the RCMP had turned the place upside down looking for evidence to support these charges. Of course, there was none because there never was any conspiracy.

At our later trial I was most unlucky to have the dumbest Legal Aid lawyer ever. I wrote out the questions to ask that would have clearly disclosed to the jury that there was no conspiracy and not a penny had been lost by American Hoist, but he completely ignored me. Sam Osmond, the dealer, took the stand and basically played dumb Newfie, saying that he knew nothing. Joe Barone, the President of American Hoist, took the stand and basically said he knew nothing about nothing. Even my poor assistant, Betty White (not that Betty), took the stand and admitted she had no clue what anybody was talking about. It was all a total farce, but, boy, did I pay the price!

Mostly because the actual “facts” never came out in the trial I think that the jury was totally confused, but they thought that if the RCMP had spent millions on this investigation there must be something illegal here. They dropped most of the conspiracy charges but found us guilty of fraud. I still have no idea who was defrauded out of anything, but it was what it was. Outside the courtroom even the Crown Attorney said that the only reason I had been convicted was because of my stupid lawyer. When it came time for sentencing he was one of my best witnesses, admitting to the judge that he had failed to see any evidence of any fraud or any loss. Jon Leheup, the President of the company I worked for at the time, Indal Products, also gave a glowing description of how valuable I was to the company and that he would regret losing me if I went to jail. Given the severity of the charges, but the total lack of any evidence, the judge sentenced us both to ninety days to be served on weekends. As much as I may have dodged a bullet at the time, I had no idea how disastrous this was going to be for the rest of my life.

After losing our jobs earlier and despite being charged and facing a trial Gerry and I had to continue on with life. We both felt that we would never be convicted because there was nothing to be convicted of. I had some serious regrets about being the one who had gone to collect the money because the RCMP had my flight records and my hotel bills, so they had me on that, but, so what? It proved I went to Dartmouth to visit one of our dealers but what else did it prove? Nothing. Even Sam wasn’t stupid enough to admit to paying the thirty thousand dollars that he gave me on the trip.

We had rented an office and warehouse in Oakville, getting ready to receive our first shipment from NYK, all of which was pre-sold and we were working on our next order. That all came crashing down when we got a call from the Bank of Nova Scotia saying they wanted to see us at their Head Office in Toronto. When we got there we learned that our floor plan financing had been cancelled. Our Letter of Credit which gave us six months of free financing had been pulled. We suddenly had no way to pay for the NYK order that was on a ship heading to us and no way to ship the trucks to our dealers. Regardless of how hard we pushed to understand why they refused to give us any answers. One of the people in the meeting with the bank was their lawyer who just kept shaking his head no every time we asked a question.

On the way down from the bank’s penthouse office we stopped into a very famous lawyer’s office to see what we could do. After a lengthy conversation with him he said we would unquestionably win. The bank was clearly at fault. Good news, until he then said the bank would drag us through the courts for probably ten years and he would need a retainer of fifty thousand dollars! I still remember his fateful words. In Canada it’s not how much justice you have. It’s how much you can afford. We knew at that exact moment that we were done.

So everything I had worked so hard for was gone. No choice but to accept that we had been defeated and lost our business and all the profits that would have come in the future. Our weekends at the Metro West Detention Center were a lesson in humility. Yes, we called the guards Boss and we were stripped of any dignity we ever had. After a while we were sent out on charitable works like peeling potatoes and cleanup in various group kitchens where we were always treated like child molesters. Some people may well feel that the punishment did not fit the crime, but I can tell you it was horrible. My one saving grace was that my son had a hockey tournament in Lake Placid. A really big deal. They actually let me go which shocked the hell out of my son.

After my three months were finally done I tried to get back to a semblance of a normal life. I applied for a really good job and was within minutes of getting it when they called and said I lost it because I had a criminal record. That was the case for the rest of my life. I tried on numerous occasions to apply for a pardon. I wrote to every single Minister in the government but got nowhere. Eventually I learned from my local MP that I had a twelve hundred dollar fine that I never knew about. Then the Minister at the time, Vic Toews, changed the entire pardon system and I was told that after I paid the fine I could apply for a record suspension, as it was now called, in just TEN YEARS! I gave up hope of ever being cleared or that I would ever get a job again. At one point I was going to be hired for two weeks at Christmas at a call centre, but the day before I was to start they called and said that their client couldn’t accept anyone who had a criminal record.

Facing the fact that I would never be pardoned and never get a job I planned to move to Panama, which I had been researching for months,  hoping to put all this behind me. No sooner had I got to the border then they told me to pull over. The midget, failed police officer with Homeland Security asked me about my criminal record. What followed was three hours of questioning like I was a convicted child molester, fingerprinting, and telling me it didn’t matter if I ever got a pardon in Canada because that meant nothing to them, and then barring me from even flying through a US airport. I quickly drove back to West Kelowna, stopping into BCAA to get a direct flight from Vancouver to Panama City that night. Panama sure didn’t work out for me, getting arrested when the girl who worked for me, Verushka Valenzuela, lied about me being a drug smuggler, in the country illegally and accusing me of raping her. After stealing my rings, my phone, my new camera and ripping me off for every cent I had she forced me to return to Canada.

Some years later, facing the same dilemma in Canada because of my criminal record, I moved to Ecuador. That proved to be just as disastrous, especially when I nearly died from carbon monoxide poisoning because of the fireplace with no ventilation in my cabin. I was also ripped off by my landlords, my driver and the private hospital they took me to, who charged me fourteen hundred dollars US for four days of pathetic care, when they could have taken me to a public, free hospital. It didn’t help that Service Canada, who had told me there would be no problem receiving my GIS, instead denied payment for more than six months until I contacted the Minister responsible. I had been left penniless, borrowing money from friends back in Canada to eat plus being ripped off for three hundred and fifty dollars US by the person handling my residency application. She also refused to return my passport which nearly stopped me from flying back to Canada.

There. All the bad news and my total confession. When I read it back to myself I can’t believe the bad luck I’ve had and wonder why I didn’t give up long ago.

Right now I know that with the legalization of marijuana in Canada a lot of people are hoping that the government will just expunge their criminal records for simple possession. With what I have been through my entire life I hope they agree to do that.

So long mi amigos.

 

 

A startling discovery today. A Facebook page dedicated to the memory of the Club Bluenote.

Posted on the club’s Facebook page today. 

UPDATE: It came as quite the surprise that Pat objected so strongly to being included in the story. She threatened to report me to Facebook if I didn’t remove her from the post. I contacted the pages’s admin and asked them to delete the post, which only they can do and takes about two seconds. Their response was to criticize me for including her in the comment and said how difficult it was to delete the comment. Not true. I have followed this up with numerous messages requesting the deletion but they have done nothing. I told them she had threatened to report me to Facebook which I don’t want, of course, having been on Facebook since it started. My last message to the admin is that I will report them to Facebook, who may well overreact and take down the page, which I will very much regret. I do not understand why they are being so difficult. 

Wow! A whole lot of memories come flooding back. I was the drummer in the house band at the club for nine months way back in 1967, 1968, I think. Zak Marshall was on keyboard. Nolan Yearwood was our lead guitarist and Allan McQuillan was our rhythm guitarist and resident nutcase. Among our various names over ten years of playing I don’t recall what we were at the club. Either The Bow Street Runners, The Clyde Valley Showband, although I doubt that in a blues club, or maybe even HappyFace, when I painted my bass drum with the bright yellow logo.

Boy did I ever get some lessons in life at the club. Smoked my first joint thanks to Eric Mercury. That was a total disaster when our next set opened with You Keep Me Hanging On by Vanilla Fudge, at about half speed because I was so stoned and groovin on the sound of my kit. Never again!

We played every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, backing the floor show from about 1:00 til 4:00 in the morning, which was quite the challenge because we all had full time jobs during the day. By Sunday morning I don’t remember driving home to Streetsville because I was beyond tired. I worked at the bank at the time so who knows who I gave too much money to on a Friday?

Our gig was no doubt the same as for any other house band there. Top name entertainers like The Platters, The Ink Spots and many more would do their shows at other venues in town, then head over to the club for the floor show. I met so many talented people as well as a lot of rising local talent. Among my friends were Shawn Jackson, who I loved to death. I still remember having a long talk with her at a party at Al’s house. So many more who would go on to become famous, especially for Canadian artists at the time.

We became better known because of the club and got invited to go places with other musicians. I still remember going down Yonge St for a rehearsal for Grant Smith and The Power. Stony thrilled the heck out of me.

It was during this time that I first met George Olliver. Pretty sure they became the Mandala during this time period. A really cool guy. We were playing on the second floor of some club in Toronto and Domenic Troiano came down to ask if they could use my kit because theirs’ went missing. I was happy to help. I think Whitey Glan was with him then. Sorry to learn he’s gone.

Reading everyone’s comments I had a few laughs and a few tears. Those all too short months playing at the club changed my life forever. Haven’t had so much fun since.

Cheers from Mexico. Shameless self promo – check out my website at AjijicToday.com.mx.

Mary Jane, or maybe now it’s Kanni Bas? Only in Canada, you say?

Now that Tricky Trudeau has made good on his election promise to legalize marijuana, mostly to get votes from young people, the roll-out was so typically Canadian.

Justin made the promise in the “federal” election, committing to legalize recreational use of pot by the “federal” government, which, okay, he actually did, but as is so typically Canadian he left it to the provinces to decide the logistics. Who can grow it? Who can sell it? Who can buy it? Who can and will still be charged for illegally selling it? Who will enforce the law? And, the big one, who is going to buy it?

As usual Canadians couldn’t agree on anything. In some provinces it’s sold by the government, through existing liquor control boards (vice control?), or new government run stores (can you say Brewers Retail?). In other provinces it’s run by retail private enterprise, although it was a nightmare for them trying to decide to stay open before the law was passed, which meant being shut down and denied a license after the law came into effect. Go figure.

The stated goal was not to encourage the use of pot, especially by young people, despite the fact that they were already the largest group of users. No. It was to eliminate the “black market”, particularly organized crime. How? By making the legal price lower than you paid your local pot guy. Seriously? No. It was to collect all the new tax revenues from legal sellers, something they had never got a dime from before. Not only sales tax, but what drug dealer, big or small, ever paid income tax on the huge amount of money they made. That’s why so many seniors who were not able to afford to live on their meagre pensions started to grow pot. All that money and no tax! Cool!

Our feds have no problem laying down the law for pipelines or carbon tax. Not up to the provinces and not even any real consultation with all the native bands who manage their land. But, marijuana? No way, Jose. Other than signing it into law they wanted nothing to do with the very idea of having a national law that would cover every aspect of the business, plus things like policing, medical use and the expulsion of some half a million criminal records for simple possession. That would be far too simple.

For me personally I grew up in an era of some limited pot use, mostly because I was in a band and, well, there was always temptation everywhere. My one experience with pot was when I was the drummer for the house band at the old Club Bluenote in Toronto. One of the star entertainers we backed, Eric Mercury, offered me a joint in our dressing room. Of course I was in awe of this guy and felt stupid to say no. Peer pressure at its best.

The first song of our next set is a song only known to old guys like me, You Keep Me Hanging On, by Vanilla Fudge. Maybe you can’t stand the song but check out the tempo.

It’s pretty funky enough, but when I hit my snare in the warm-up I realized just how stoned I was. It sounded incredible! I counted in most of our songs so I started. Next thing I knew our lead guitarist, Nolan Yearwood, was turning around shouting at me to speed up! Apparently I was so stoned that I was playing it about half speed just grooving on this whole new sound from my kit. That was the last time I ever toked before playing, in fact, it pretty well scared me off pot forever.

Okay, I tried it a couple of other times in my life, but that’s a different story. Life’s cruelty caught up with me when I started to suffer terribly from a complication of my newly discovered diabetes. I got what’s called peripheral neuropathy in my feet. People have often asked me to describe what it’s like and the best description I’ve come up with is it’s like someone is holding a lighter under your feet. Excruciatingly painful and you are never without pain.

When I lived in London, Ontario a neighbor in the building asked me if I had ever tried marijuana for the pain? I hadn’t, so he said there was a nice senior on our floor that sold pot to the residents. I think it was ten dollars for three joints. I hid them in the freezer. Don’t forget it was very illegal and I figured the police had nothing better to do than bust a bunch of seniors.

So, one night I thought I would give it a try. Can’t hurt, right? It was the first time in years that my pain was gone! It only lasted a couple of hours but those were the best hours ever. I knew that medical marijuana was available so I thought I could get some that way. No sooner was I thinking that I might have some relief from my pain than I learned it would only cost SIX HUNDRED DOLLARS to apply! So much for that idea.

How has this personal experience formed my personal opinion about the possible benefits of marijuana?

Well, I believe that study after study has proven the medical benefits of pot for mitigating pain. No question. Recreational use? Well, a whole lot of folks like marijuana more than smoking or drinking, both of which have well documented perils. Not sure there has ever been a driver who has ever killed anyone under the influence of pot instead of being drunk. How many people have died of cancer from years of smoking cigarettes? How many innocent lives have been lost because of drunk driving? How many families have been destroyed by alcohol? Pot? Sure sounds a lot less dangerous to me.

Many people were dead set against legalizing recreational use of marijuana. I don’t agree that we should necessarily be promoting it, but I do believe one hundred percent that it needed to be decriminalized. Not long ago there was a case where a father was denied access to his flight from Canada to Disneyland with his four kids because he had a forty year old conviction for simple possession. It that fair? No way!

If legalization had been handled properly at the federal level there are tons of existing laws about the sale of cigarettes and alcohol. Why not just add pot as another controlled substance? That takes away the profit motive for all these huge companies jumping into growing and selling it. A twelve year old can’t go into a liquor store and buy beer, so what’s different with pot?

What the government could have done, in my mind far more responsibly, was allow people to grow their own for their own use. After all, it’s a weed! Someone like me could grow enough for pain management, something I still can’t do. Expunge the half a million criminal records for people charged with simple possession, which has grossly affected their lives, like not being able to get a job because they have a criminal record. Truly stupid.

What’s done is done, of course. Far too late to bring any common sense to the whole issue. I consider myself liberal, not in the political sense, open-minded and progressive, but I think Canada is going to regret this move. It’s already started off with huge challenges, like stockouts across the country. The whole issue of edibles has been delayed at least a year so there’s more trouble to come.

Just one man’s humble opinion. What’s yours?

A question for you my dear readers.

Having lived in Panama, Ecuador and now Mexico and visited Costa Rica many times, my question is about basic services – electricity, water and internet.

These counties in Central and South America (some consider Mexico part of North America) and quite possibly others, have been referred to as “third-world countries” when it comes to many things, such as hospitals are concerned. The shifting winds of governments over the years, together with the influx of Expats to these countries has brought on many improvements to healthcare, highways and sewage treatment, for example in Panama City where 40,000 metric tons of raw sewage were previously dumped into the Bay of Panama daily. This was the primary reason that all the big hotels on the bay, built to launder drug money, sat empty.

In the countries I have lived in or visited the most frequent occurrence was no water, no electricity or no internet, often for days on end. My question is if this is a result of inadequate infrastructure to support these services, corruption either in private companies or the governments, a lack of funding, incompetence or maybe just a lack of intent?

Each of these countries have at one point made International Living’s Best Places To Retire list. First it was Costa Rica, then Panama, then Ecuador and now Mexico. Those who have been part of the Age Wave, the baby boomer generation, are shocked when they move to these countries only to learn that the basic services that they have been accustomed to in their home counties are often not available. Electricity (power) in particular is an exception because people have experienced a loss of power as a result of thunderstorms, ice storms and high winds taking down power poles, but, except in extreme situations, such as the recent tornados in Canada, power is usually restored fairly quickly.

That is not the case in the countries mentioned because weather is seldom a contributing factor. Instead, the power just goes off for no apparent reason at any time of day or night. In some situations I understand that it is because of the electrical grid not being designed to allow localized outages for work to be done. The entire system must be brought down.

Water supply can be just as problematic. Unlike in more developed countries where water supply is a public utility, in Panama, for example, water is supplied by private companies which are often underfunded and ill-equipped to deal with problems that arise. Again, in Panama, a pipe broke in the system supplying my water and I had no water for over a week. Not so great to not be able to flush the toilets for a week. Here in Mexico it’s the well known don’t drink the water. Bottled water is the norm, although I for one don’t know what the problem is with the water supply. I can only assume that it is a lack of purification that is a normal part of water supply everywhere else.

Internet is a whole other issue, although improvements are being made gradually. A common complaint here in Lakeside will soon be solved when iLox brings 50 Mbps service here soon. Telmex is also introducing fiber-optic service. no doubt in response to iLox coming. That being said, Telmex service is completely unreliable. Many areas get less than 2 Mbps, if at all. And just yesterday the service from Telmex was out all day here in Riberas. The question is why?

The new President has pledged to bring WIFI to everyone in the country. A very lofty goal. He has also pledged to stop Guadalajara from drawing a foot of water out of Lake Chapala every year, although there is no indication how that might affect the local water supply.

Obviously I can only speak to these issues as an immigrant to the countries I have lived in, but I wonder how the locals feel. Do they just accept that this is the way it has always been or are they just as annoyed at the constant failure of these services? If so, why aren’t there loud protests to clean up the mess that is, for example, CFE? Are Mexicans just used to no water or no power? Don’t Mexican businesses suffer the same consequences when they can’t operate their equipment? It costs businesses a lot when they must close because they can’t function without power. Their employees must be sent home with no pay, which hurts everyone. Food spoils in restaurants when there is no refrigeration. They can’t open at night with no lights. Bands can’t play music without power.

Please don’t get me wrong. I love Lakeside and I do everything possible to promote the area on my website. I simply want to believe that these issues can actually be solved to make life here even better.

Ode to my boy

The last time I had a dog was way back in 2000 when I lived with Tracy and the kids. Somehow we learned about a lab being put up for adoption because the little girl had become allergic to him. They brought him over to meet us and, although it was very sad to see the little girl crying, we said she could come and visit him anytime.

His name was Spade and he was sure something. He was a mix, part pit-bull and part lab. We were a little concerned about how much pit-bull he was, even way back then, because the kids were small. Before we took him we made sure the kids understood they had to take him for walks and clean up his poop in the yard. They agreed, probably just because they instantly loved him.

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I digress, but maybe a little personal history here. When I was knee high to a grasshopper I had horrible eczema. I scratched and scratched so badly that the skin on my hands was pretty well gone. My mother sewed me little bags to put over my hands so I wouldn’t gross out the other kids at school. They had to tie my hands to the crib, and later to my bed, to stop me scratching. My poor parents spent a fortune on creams and medications but nothing worked.

Along with the delights of the eczema, and I don’t pretend to understand the relationship, I was also deathly allergic to anything that had fur, feathers or just about anything else that contains dander. The only animals I could ever be close to were fish. It was so bad that we could go visiting to someone’s house and my eyes would swell up and I’d start sneezing and coughing uncontrollably. We would ask if they had a dog or cat and they would say no, but then they would tell us they had a dog ten years ago. That was enough. I had to go and sit in the car.

Then by some accident, of course long before the internet, my Dad learned about chiropractors, who, back then were considered quacks by most people. We lived in Streetsville and the nearest chiropractor was in Oakville, quite a ways away. We met with him and he took a bunch of x-rays. We learned from those x-rays that there was a bone out of place in my neck that was pressing on a nerve and apparently causing

both my eczema and my allergies. He said he would do the now famous neck crack thing to move it back into place and take the pressure off. Given how chiropractors were thought of back then I had no idea why my Dad was willing to believe all this, especially when the chiropractor told him it would take weekly visits for more than a year. Even considering the cost of gas back then, that was asking a lot of my Dad. I think my parents were just so desperate to find a solution and had been spending so much on failed creams and meds that they took a chance.

To this day I still remember meeting a charming patient at his office, who was basically a paraplegic in a wheelchair, but he was such a nice guy. He told me he was twenty-one, but the amazing part was when he was born the doctors gave him little chance of survival. His poor parents were told he wouldn’t make it to two years old. Well, here he was now twenty-one and it was only thanks to the chiropractor. That sure gave me confidence that this might actually work. The treatments were kind of brutal because he would massage my head back and forth and then, without warning, give me the crack. Sometimes I thought my head was going to come off.

Sure enough he was right. My eczema cleared up and I felt my allergies were gone. At least we hadn’t been anywhere that I had any troubles. Even my aunt and uncles in Toronto for the annual family Christmas party who had four dogs. I didn’t take any chances with them by playing with them and by now my aunt and uncle were used to locking them in a room when we came.

At long last I figured I might just be able to have a pet. My Dad wasn’t keen on a dog yet but he let me get a cat, Bootsy. We became inseparable because I was so thrilled I could finally have a pet after all those years.

Well, life can certainly be cruel, even at that tender young age. I was coming home on the school bus and as we got close to my laneway someone said something about a dead animal in the road. Sure enough it was my Bootsy. She had been hit and killed by a car. It broke my heart, especially after waiting all those years to have a pet.

Not long after that my Uncle Earl asked my Dad to take their dog. They were moving to Vancouver or something and couldn’t keep him. My Dad agreed and we got Hobie, who was part boxer and part hound. He became an instant member of the family and proved to be a great guard dog even though he wouldn’t hurt a fly. During the first thunderstorm we had we couldn’t find him. Eventually we found him shivering and shaking under my parent’s bed. The funny part was that once the storm was over he couldn’t get out from under the bed. We had to all lift up their big, heavy, four-poster bed to let him out. I often wondered if the people who visited us and Hobie would come charging at them barking away ever saw him under the bed would still be afraid of him.

He was with us for years, but, again, life’s cruelty struck. My Dad had taken him to the vet in Streetsville. It turned out he had cancer and I think it was going to cost something like eight hundred dollars, a fortune back then, to keep him alive. My Dad said the vet told him it would only give him a few more months and he would be in pain, so my Dad made the difficult decision to put him down. I still remember his funeral when we buried him on the side of the hill where he loved to play with us. We all cried and cried, surprisingly even my tough Dad, who I had never seen cry.

We did have another dog very briefly, Champ, after that but he was a nutcase who attacked and bit anyone who moved. He was gone soon. I remember my in-laws had a small dog. Jiggzy, I think was his name, but we never had a family dog. I honestly don’t know why. My kids would have probably loved to have one. I think it might have been that we were so busy traveling all over the country for their sports that owning a dog would have been a challenge.

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So, back to my story. Flash forward many years to 2000 and Spade. He was the most patient dog in the world. The kids would use him as a pillow while they watched TV. They would maul him to death playing with him and he never complained. I think one time Brayden got a little rough and he let out a little growl to let him know that was too much. He was a pooping machine though and, you guessed it, I got to clean up after him. I never minded though because he was such a great dog. Every time I came home he went nuts as soon as he heard me at the door and he would greet me like a long lost friend every time.

There’s a theme here. Yup. Life’s cruelty struck again and this one was much worse. Tracy was the love of my life and so were the kids. We were twenty-two years apart in age but that was never an issue. I think she was older than her years and I was younger. When we were doing something like hiking or rollerblading she always had trouble keeping up with me.

One fateful weekend she went to Kamloops to spend some time with her friends from school. The minute she walked through the door Sunday night I knew something was wrong. I think her friends had got to her about the age difference, asking her what she was going to do when I was maybe seventy. She admitted that it might be the mistake of her life but she asked me to leave. I fell apart. The night we told the kids was one of the very worst of my life.

I found a place to live and moved out, leaving my family behind, including Spade. A few months later Tracy called and asked me if I could take Spade. Apparently he had started shitting all over the house and she couldn’t handle him anymore. I took him gladly but then at the time I was living with Ans, who had another dog, a three-legged dog, Skipper, who was not my favorite dog. Spade was okay for a while but then he started shitting in her house. After coming home I put him out after discovering a pile of shit in her living room. It was raining and she wanted to let him in. I told her that if she did that would be the last she would see of him. I guess she didn’t believe me because she let him in. The next day I took him back to Tracy. Ans was not happy and that pretty well ended that relationship, whatever it ever was.

A little while later Tracy called and asked me to come and get him again. When I started to explain that we had been down this road before she stopped me and said it was much worse. I rushed over and as soon as I knocked on the door he started barking. When I opened the door and he saw it was me he was at the top of the stairs. He came bounding down to me. I say “bounding” because I don’t know how else to describe it. He had completely lost the use of his hind legs so basically bounded down on only his front legs. Something was very wrong. Tracy then told me the news. She had taken him to the vet and been told he had to be put down, but she said she just couldn’t handle that, so she had called me to do it. Nice.

This was all going to be traumatic enough for me but my darling little Madison, who I believe was five at the time, insisted on coming with me to the vet. Here I was on the verge of falling apart and now I had to be strong for her. Looking back into the vet’s office at Spade for the last time is one of those traumatic life moments you will never ever forget.

So other than the fact that I’ve lived in BC, Panama, Ontario (twice), Ecuador and now Mexico, I haven’t even thought about having a dog again, until Rollie came along. Although I had been thinking about maybe getting a dog, mostly because of my failed relationships with women, I hadn’t done anything more. Then I saw Paola in a video walking Rollie along the malecon. Something clicked and I wanted to meet him. That was about a month ago. Let’s just say it was love at first sight on both parts. He was a riot and so affectionate. I truly wish I had been able to video me trying to put my shoes on in the morning to take him for a walk. He wanted to eat my socks, my shoes and my clothes as I tried to get dressed, laughing my ass off at this antics.

Being a rescue and a puppy he was pretty undisciplined but soon I had him sitting to put his leash on. He understood “no”, like not getting on my bed. The only problem was he wanted to eat everything in sight. He quickly devoured the chew toys they brought with him. He ate his leash. He desperately wanted to eat my slippers but got a “no” when he went near them. He started off peeing and pooping all over my apartment but soon understood that Daddy wasn’t happy with that so he started going on the terrace instead. A small improvement but still something.

Then I had to go out shopping and I wondered how he would handle our first separation. I was only gone for a couple of hours and when I came back he was thrilled to see me and hadn’t done anything bad. While I was out I had bought him a new and expensive bed and he took to that immediately. I went out at night and it was the same. No problem.

Then I was out at night working at the Spotlight Club. When I came home I guess you would call it severe separation anxiety. He had destroyed everything he could get his teeth on. His bed was in pieces. My slippers were toast. He had started eating the blanket he loved. It was a mess. He got put outside on the terrace while I fumed and cleaned up. I was not happy and he knew it.

The plan then became putting him out on the terrace when I was gone. I had always left the patio screen open all day to encourage him to go out there, but he had this strange timid reaction to venturing out there so I didn’t want to make it any worse. When I returned he was happy to see me and danger had been averted. It appeared to be a solution, although if I wasn’t watching him while I worked he was trying to eat something else. He destroyed my very expensive lifts in my shoes.

All that bad stuff being said he was still the love of my life. He brought such joy into my life at a time I really needed it. At first I had been hesitant to let him off the leash when we went for our walks, fearing that he would take off and not come back when I called him, but soon I was letting him off more and more. He never failed to come when I called him. About the only time I used the leash was when we walked to the store and I put it on him to wrap it around a tree while I was in the store. No big deal.

One thing that always amazed me, and I never understood, was how he told time. If I wasn’t up yet he would come at 8:15 every morning and start kissing me on the face, like “time to get up, Daddy”. It was exactly the same if I laid down for a quick nap in the late afternoon. An hour later, at most, he’s kissing me awake again. “Time for our walk, Dad”.

We sure had no shortage of things happen on our walks, some good, some not so good. When he did his business, which was usually at a vacant weed-filled lot just down the street, he got his treat and “good boys”. He rarely failed to do his pooping there. I always carried a poop bag with me but rarely needed to use it.

Then the little smart ass tried to get the better of me. When I had first got him he squatted like a girl to pee. Why he didn’t lift his leg like every other male confused me. I was told by others that he would eventually lift his leg. As though he understood the conversation that very day he lifted his leg to pee. Then a few days later, usually when he was not close to me and even after he had done his pooping in the lot, I would see him squatting to pee again. Then I realized that as soon as he peed he came running for his treat. Aha! Trying to fool me. No way, Buddy. Nice try.

As we came back to San Diego one day I heard someone calling his name. Sure enough it was Normis, who Rollie was nuts about. He took off to her in an instant. We ended up walking her home, mostly because she’s gorgeous and I really liked her. When we got to her place their pit-bull was safely behind the gate, going nuts. Her roomie came home with the other dog and the minute she opened the gate the pit-bull went for Rollie pinning him down with just an unbelievably strong grip on him. I tried to pull her off but that proved impossible. Finally her owner managed to get her off. I was panicking because I thought the next bite was going to be to Rollie’s very exposed throat and he would be gone.

Another day we were walking down a new road I had not been on before. We came around a corner and there was a big neighborhood fiesta going on. About ten dogs came running out to check out Rollie. The look on his face as he looked up at me was just priceless.

The last one with him was for me the funniest. Ramone Corona, the street we normally come back on was flooded by some burst pipe somewhere so we headed down to the road we had come back on before, the one with the fiesta. There was a car parked with a beautiful girl sitting on her boyfriend’s lap in the back seat with the door open. Before I could stop him he jumped up on her lap and started madly kissing her. She was squealing with laughter. I told her that Rollie’s problem was that he loved beautiful women. She liked that one. I finally got him to leave her and get out of the car.

Right before this walk, on what turned out to be our last day together, the people who gave him to me had been threatening to pick him up and take him from me. After I stopped laughing at this thing with the girl I started crying again realizing it might just be my last time with him. It was.

It’s another story, but things had basically been falling apart on me. I had just learned that I only had twenty-eight dollars to my name and a whole lot of month left and had no idea how I was going to survive. Worrying about Rollie on top of this was killing me. I did have a big bag of food left for him so I knew he was in no danger. I was. That night, having not eaten a thing all day and drinking way more than normal for me, I started losing it, believing that there was no point in going on. I just couldn’t handle all the crap coming my way all at once. It got so bad that my friend, Christine, sent over a doctor and her colleagues to talk to me. She offered to help me with food, medications and Rollie. I told her they were going to take him on Thursday but she said she would talk to them and explain that taking him from me was the worst thing they could do to me.

It didn’t matter. The next morning, without warning, they came and took him. It just broke my heart. When I told the doctor what happened she was mortified and said she would get him back. Then she called and told me they would “consider” giving him back to me, in THREE MONTHS! How stupid! Then they said I could “visit” him, as though that would make everything okay. I posted all this on Facebook. Big mistake!

First, people I honestly thought were friends started attacking me, without a clue what I was going through. They told me to “suck it up”, “stop feeling sorry for myself” and it was “all in my head”. Just brutal and the very last thing I needed. It’s no wonder that mental health is such an issue when so many people are so clueless about it.

I was deeply upset about losing Rollie, my best friend, but I had equally important things to deal with, like no food, no money, no medications and no future. Fighting over getting Rollie back was more than I could handle. I knew that the bitch who gave him to me was not going to “consider” anything. She was going to make sure he never came back to me again. I knew she would do her very best to get him adopted by someone else as quickly as she could so he could never be with me again. She showed her stripes when she took him from me in the first place knowing I was suicidal. What kind of person does that?

At this point all I can hope now is that he finds someone who loves him as much as I did and makes him happy. Daddy misses you, Buddy.

Good-bye.

Good Boy.

Here’s my thoughts on voting for governments

The process starts with getting your voter ID card when you turn legal age to vote in whatever country you live in or whatever country you are eligible to vote in based on your citizenship. This could be done at places like passport offices or driver license offices. Wherever they can take a photo and verify your other ID, ideally with a passport or any recognized photo ID. You would also need a valid credit card because you are going to be charged a fee for your voter ID just like you are with a passport. Also just like a passport it is good for five years.

After applying in person and providing all the required ID you would be sent a photo voter ID card along with instructions on how you register online, just like with a credit card activation. You would be provided an ID number and allowed to select a password which needs to be updated at least annually. You will receive a reminder email or text message to update your password. Because the card is a permanent voter ID information such as address, marital status and anything else that could change frequently would not be required although you can update your registration online at any time. For anyone whose marital status changes their legal name, they would need to go to the appropriate office to update their information and receive a new card with the proper legal name. Their new card would be valid for five years from the date of the changes.

Qualification for a voter ID card would not be automatic. Each country would develop a test based on their accepted values. The application would have conditions similar to filing an income tax return with the same sort of penalties. Basically, you could be fined or charged if you lie. So, a question such as are you now a member of a recognized terrorist organization would automatically disqualify you. Do you have a criminal record could also disqualify you conditional upon the type of conviction. Other questions would deal with the specific values of the specific country and the responses would be rated on a scale of importance. No questions related to sex, discrimination or politics would be allowed.

On voting day you simply log in on your computer or smartphone and vote. Although your vote is duly recorded it is anonymous so there is no record kept of how you voted. It also does away with voter lists. A related system could be added so that you can use your voter ID to donate to a specific party. These donations are recorded both for income tax purposes and to ensure that your donation meets the legal standards for making donations. A corporation would not be allowed to donate if the chief executive does not have a voter ID.

You would still be allowed to vote in person on election day as long as you show your ID card. Those overseas, such as military personnel serving outside the country would also vote online.

Would this totally eliminate voter fraud? Probably not but it sure would make it a lot harder. Once you have voted online that is recorded for your voter ID and the system does not allow you to vote again. If you make a mistake you would be allowed to void or change your vote until you make a final submission. It would be very difficult to fraudulently come up with all the ID documents required for your voter ID, but nothing is impossible. Regardless, producing documents such as a birth certificate, social insurance card, passport, government photo ID card or driver’s license would need a lot of effort for a simple voter ID card.

Is this big brother? It’s a question of the ends justifying the means. In most countries, the voter turnout is pathetic, often less than fifty percent. Does the elected government truly reflect the will of the people? No. In some countries it is a legal requirement that you vote. If this system were adopted there is no valid reason why every single citizen could not vote. Although maybe a bit heavy-handed, your credit card could be charged a fine for not voting.

With the rapid advances in technology, things like fingerprint ID and taking a photo when you vote could be added. The voting process could also allow clicking on a candidate’s name and getting a brief summary of their positions on the issues before recording your vote. By voting online you can take all the time you want to be informed before voting.

Also, in some countries, employers are required to allow their employees paid time off to vote. This cost would be eliminated completely.

Just one man’s opinion.

My last bitchin’, whining, angry, post, but necessary

After some ten years today my long lost brother, Kevin James Jones, surfaced on Facebook Messenger under his new wife’s name, Kikiandkyle Siallagan, because he doesn’t have Facebook. They live in Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. The reason for this venting post is because in his short message he had the unbelievable gall to say “I forgive you”. I saw red. For what? So this is going to be a little history on my dear brother to see if anyone agrees that I needed to be forgiven for anything. My opinion? Fat chance.

Let’s start way back years ago when he came to Ontario and was living in a room in our basement, for free. He connived me into believing that he needed a motorcycle for his new job and he couldn’t get credit so he asked me to cosign for him, which stupidly I did, much against my wife’s objections. Sure enough, he took off with the bike and left me holding the loan. We had just bought the house and still had bridge financing on our old house, so things were tough enough. Now I had to pay off his loan or my triple-A credit rating would be toast. Luckily we had a great manager at BMO at the time and he let me pay it off over time. I don’t think my wife ever forgave me for trusting him though.

Didn’t hear from him for years again, I guess because he didn’t need me for money. Then at one o’clock in the morning, we get a phone call from him telling me he’s been detained by customs at the airport in Toronto after returning from Jamaica. To be blunt and a little gross, they’re basically waiting for him to shit because they suspect he’s swallowed bags of cocaine. He had. How stupid can you get? I had to post bail for him and find him a lawyer. He was facing ten years in maximum security prison for trafficking. Luckily I had a very good lawyer who managed to get him off with an unbelievable six months in a minimum security facility in Milton, Ontario.

If swallowing cocaine isn’t stupid enough he was a registered nurse at a facility in Red Deer. Of course the minute he was convicted he could no longer handle any drugs at the facility, basically ending his career. We visited him pretty well every weekend unless my son or daughter had sports. All he did was bitch about the cost of the lawyer, never once being thankful that my lawyer saved him from ten years in the slammer. I can’t remember but I think we also got stuck with the bill.

I believe it was on our first trip out west to go dirt-biking that I met his dream girl, Joanne. She was the sweetest thing I’d ever met and he was so lucky to have her. He crashed his bike and nearly killed her, leaving her disabled and barely able to walk. After about eight years together he had worked on a small mobile home park, adding some decks and fixing up the place. I still remember going up to Revelstoke to help him with the decks and him screaming at me for using two screws to fasten the deck boards. He wanted me to just put one in the middle. I warned him that the boards would warp with only one screw but he insisted. When I went up the next spring, sure enough, all the boards were warped. He’s the cheapest person I’ve ever met.

Next thing he shows up at my parent’s place while they were south for the winter. He’s crying. Joanne had given him a choice, either the drugs or her and he chose the drugs. Such a dumb move! They weren’t married so we start talking about their split and what each of them will get as far as the house and the mobile home park. This is when I learn he hasn’t got a thing in writing and he doesn’t even have a chequing account! Joanne handled all of their business, of course. Knowing her father I knew he was going to transfer ownership of the house and the park immediately so Kevin wouldn’t get a dime. I made arrangements with a good lawyer I knew and she managed to get an injunction on the park within twenty-four hours, just because she knew the judge, stopping any transfer of ownership.

My lawyer did an incredible job and managed to get him over a hundred thousand dollars, every dollar of which he would not have gotten without her. Instead of kissing the ground she walked on all he did was bitch about how much she charged. You just can’t win with him.

Now that he’s basically moved in with me, while I pay the rent, of course, he does everything possible to make my life miserable. Every night of the week he brings some floozy home with him to screw and I get to meet them in the morning. I did get some payback though because the day my parents were coming back I didn’t tell him. My Mum and Dad get home only to meet that night’s floozy. They weren’t impressed and Kevin was gone. My mother was horrified that he had left Joanne.

So now he turns to what to do with all that money. Naturally, he asks me. He had his eye on a daycare in Kelowna and wanted me to check it out with him. Of course, he didn’t have a clue how to negotiate a deal, how to get a mortgage and how to get a license to operate the daycare when he had a criminal record. I worked my butt off to get him the daycare. He had such bad credit that I had to cosign for the mortgage. Big mistake!

The daycare was in pretty rough shape, physically and financially. Most of the clients were single mothers whose fees were paid by welfare. The records were in such a mess, with many mothers months overdue in paying or months late in even applying for assistance. It took me hours to sort it all out and I had to be tough telling delinquent mothers that they had until next month or their kids were out. Every single one of them did what they needed to do long ago and we didn’t lose a single child. No thanks to Kevin. I had to fire some staff and hire new and we ended up with a good caring crew. I reorganized every procedure and got the financials sorted out. I also dealt with a new bank and got everything in place for things like payroll. It was a ton of work.

Sometimes his stupidity knows no bounds. I needed him one day and asked where he was. One of the girls said she saw him go outside and around the side of the building. I went looking for him and just before getting to the storage shed I smelled the odor I knew too well. I burst open the door and here he is toking in the storage shed! I lost it on him asking him what would happen if one parent smelled the weed? He would lose his license in a heartbeat. Stupid.

He was heading back overseas for his import business so I put together a very fair proposal for us to run the daycare together. Don’t forget I had already put in a ton of hours over six months getting the books sorted out, the payments coming in and doing renovations to the house, all without a dime. I told him we needed to discuss the deal and he had to sign before he left. Not only did he not sign the deal but he offered the same deal to my girlfriend at the time, Tracy, totally bypassing me! Around this time she had started working with me as the Manager and was doing a great job, especially with the staff and the parents, not to mention the kids who all adored her. What he did drove a wedge in our relationship and we ended up splitting up. More Kevin damage.

Financially things were always tight. Sometimes we just barely managed to pay for something critical, such as food for the kids. Payroll was always a huge concern because you have to pay your staff or they will leave. Coming up to payday I watched every penny in the bank account to make sure we had enough. The day before payday I check the bank as usual and I’m shocked to see a five thousand dollar withdrawal by Kevin in Thailand! There goes payroll. Panic phone calls to Kevin about why the hell he would do that, the result of which he just agreed we needed to shut down the daycare. Throw the staff out without their pay and leave all our clients with no daycare on Monday. And guess who got to give the staff the news and stand at the closed door Monday morning to face all these very angry women. It was not fun. The fallout was obvious. I spent the morning trying to find everyone other daycare which was tough, mostly because a lot of our clients were on welfare. It was pure hell, all of which Kevin totally avoided.

The whole time I worked so hard trying to build the daycare I faced guilt by association with everyone I dealt with because of what Kevin had done to them. He burned the bank. He burned our private mortgage holder. He burned the mortgage company. Every person I spoke with said they better not catch him walking down the street or they would kill him. It was so enjoyable trying to get them to calm down and deal with me instead. Not.

Over the years I hadn’t spent much time with his then-wife, Susan. She was very quiet but seemed sharp when it came to their import business, which Kevin always just referred to as “junk”. Then came the pièce de résistance. He had got a girl pregnant in Thailand, which was bad enough, but he expected he could bring her and the baby to Canada and Susan would look after them! How stupid can you get? Her reaction? She immediately seized all their inventory and got an injunction against him, basically kicking him out of the business. I doubt she ever spoke to him again. Don’t blame her.

Wait! There’s more. After my Dad had passed away and he was back in Thailand he called me to say he needed money right away or these thugs were going to kill him. I explained that my father’s estate was my Mum’s money now and, although I was the executor, there would be no inheritance until my mother also died. That wasn’t good enough for him. He had to have money NOW! Much against my better judgment, partly because my Mum was too far gone, thanks to my sister, to have a clue what he was asking, I sent him ten thousand dollars. I admit I was so tempted to refuse the money so they would kill him.

If you’ve read this far, good for you. Now that you know the history do you think I need forgiveness for anything?

Turning Sixty-Nine

If you had asked me at any point in my early life, like when I was just a kid or even a teenager, what my life would be like at almost seventy I would have been honest and told you I never thought about it. I just muddled through every day with no real plan or thoughts for the future. As John Lennon famously said back when I was a teenager, “life is what happens while you’re making other plans”. So very true.

I guess my thoughts of my own demise started when my Dad died in my arms back in 2005 and then when my mother died in 2007. My Dad was 81 and my Mum was 84. I wondered if that was a sign of my future. Would I make it into my eighties and, more importantly, would I want to? My Dad smoked. So did I. My Dad had terrible asthma which is what killed him. My mother was much worse because she suffered from the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s and I moved in with her to care for her until I could find proper facilities for her. Watching her waste away was just brutal. I wondered if that was in my future too, which I knew I couldn’t deal with after watching my Mum. I would rather be dead.

Okay, somehow I managed to make it this far. I’ve certainly had my share of near-death experiences in my life. My first was when I was just a kid at a camp in Algonquin Park. A bunch of us were playing on a raft, tipping it over and jumping off. At one point I came up and banged my head on the overturned raft. I was laughing and panicked. I started swimming like a mad fool and came up about twenty feet from the raft. Scared the crap out of me.

Flash forward to when I was in a band playing at Chez Monique, a club in Yorkville. It was a three-story house and I didn’t know that the third floor was a brothel. Our guitarist’s, Don Thurston, sister, Pat came with us this night. While we were playing I noticed this guy in an overcoat bothering her. The minute our set finished I went over to them and told him she was with the band and to leave her alone. He turned and pulled a gun on me! Hell. I was only sixteen at the time and I was going to die getting shot. Luckily he just put the gun away and left. You need to remember that I was a scrawny hundred and twenty pounds back then and certainly not threatening.

The next time I remember was dirt biking with my son, Chris. He was new to biking and I was worried he was getting too cocky and could get in trouble. We were racing down a mountain in Revelstoke which had what’s called switchback after switchback, basically a hairpin turn that you needed to be cautious going through. Chris was behind me and we were really booting it. I kept looking back to make sure he was okay, not paying attention to what was in front of me. I was in third gear and going fast when I looked forward and realized that I was going way too fast for the switchback ahead. Too late to apply the brakes so I just geared down, very quickly. I saw the gravel on the side of the roadway too close, with the drop off at least a few hundred feet. It took every bit of riding knowledge to somehow get around the hairpin without going over. My heart was racing. From then on Chris was on his own.

I had a ball in my fourteen years in the Okanagan. I had a much better life balance not working the crazy hours I had been working back in Ontario. I had my toys. I had three different boats. I had several different dirt-bikes. I had a snowmobile. I had both downhill skis and cross-country skis. It was quite the life. In all those years I only had one near-death experience.

Wade and I had found a gorgeous little-sheltered bay on the Okanagan Mountain side of the lake. There was room for several tents and there was a stone berm protecting our boats. Once we got all our friends there we decided to go down to the bar in Penticton. Late that night I guy comes running into the bar and hollers whoever owns those boats on the dock needs to go now! As is typical of the lake a huge storm had come in and our boats were smashing on the dock. Two of my bumpers were smashed to bits. On the way down I had several women with me but as soon as they saw the height of the waves they all went in Wade’s much bigger boat. Only my buddy, Greg, offered to come with me. At the back of the dock was a huge wall of rocks meaning that if I didn’t time it right getting out of there that’s where my boat would end up. Literally holding my breath I timed the incoming wave and accelerated. I made it but immediately porpoised into the next wave and the water flooded my boat. If it hadn’t been for Wade’s vital counseling I would have ended up on the bottom of the lake. He got us back to our campsite and got me into the bay. I wanted to kiss the ground.

The next one is in Ecuador and the closest I’ve ever come to buying the farm. I was staying in a cabin high on the mountain just outside Otavalo. It was freezing so I had to keep a fire going all the time. Funny and nearly tragic that my landlord and I had discussed putting a fan in the cabin to exhaust the gases from the fire. As usual, I was working and suddenly felt very tired so I laid down on my bed for a quick nap. My landlady brought my dinner down earlier but it’s important to understand that she valued my privacy and never once came down later in the evening. For some unknown reason this night she did.

Apparently, she tried to rouse me awake but couldn’t. She knew something was very wrong and thankfully called the ambulance. All I remember was waking up in the hospital just in time to hear the emergency doctor say that I was ten minutes from death! I had carbon monoxide poisoning from the fire. If my landlady had not come down to check on me I would be gone. Far too close for comfort.

Now that I’ve described the times I almost didn’t make it I wanted to turn to a more cheery subject and talk about my birthdays. With exception of one I honestly can’t remember any of them. I racked my brain trying to remember turning 21, 40 or even 60. Nothing. I guess they weren’t very memorable.

My fifthtiest would have to be the celebration of my life. My girlfriend at the time, Karen Falloon, had done an amazing job organizing a surprise birthday party for me. It was the first surprise party of my life and boy did she do a great job. We lived together and I don’t know how she managed to keep it a secret. The plan was we were going to meet some friends at a local restaurant. After we got seated she asked me to come with her to the back where they had meeting rooms. I was confused. When we got there the doors to the meeting room swung open and the first thing I saw were my parents. Then as I entered the room I realized that there were tons of people there. Friends, not only from Kelowna but from far-off places like Pete. Karen had organized the whole thing and kept it a secret from me. It was a really special birthday.

Last year was nice too because my friend Francis arranged for a small cake at La Sima. I had only just arrived here in Mexico so it was a nice touch.

This year was not shaping up to be anything other than sitting at home with my dog. I was a little down about that until Norma said she would join me at the plaza for what I thought was a night of the fiesta. There was nothing going on but we went down to the Malecon for a bit and then walked to El BarCo where I thought a great band was playing. We got there just in time to see the bass player, Sergio, leaving because they had five power outages and decided to quit. Norma and I went up on the rooftop area and had a nice chat. Not exactly a night of excitement but better than sitting at home alone.

Hopefully, I get to write something about turning SEVENTY. Never thought I would make it that far.

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