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400 Day LETS Odyssey
Copyright � James Taris

JAMES TARIS around the World- (2003-4)

Wearing the infamous Turmel The Engineer hard hat.

CANADA - Kitchener (Wk.5 of 16 weeks)
Week 38 of World Tour

1. Surviving Two Days With John Turmel

Last week I got a phone call from John Turmel, “”Can you come and stay at my place for a couple of days? I’ve got a few ideas I’d like to share with you.”

So Kit drove me there on Tuesday night, and we all had dinner together. John has always been a bachelor, so he’s learnt how to cook. Unlike me, who’s only been on his own for the last 5 years, and ‘learning to cook’ is still very low on my List Of Priorities.

Turmel, as you must know by now, is very passionate about a few things, including the legalisation of marijuana, politics and his UNILETS system, which he uses to promote the abolition of interest rates.

John was the only marijuana smoker amongst us, so we didn’t give that subject much attention. And UNILETS was something I wanted to discuss in detail over the next couple of days, so the evening was taken up almost entirely with talk about politics and political parties.

Canada will be going to the polls again soon, and Turmel is keen on running for Prime Minister. Does he have any hope at all of winning? No. (so what’s new?) But that’s never been an issue with Turmel. He just loves using the electoral platform to promote his radical policies to the entire Canadian population.

And he was eager to recruit us into his new political party, which he still hasn’t named yet. Although he felt that something like ‘The Paupers Party’ may attract the support of the general public. We didn’t take him up on his offer to join his party, but I’m sure he won’t have any problems getting party representatives. Some years ago he ran for Prime Minister with a party of 80 representatives. So I’m sure he’ll be able to do it again.

And, did you know that John Turmel wrote the Millennium Declaration Section C6 to Governments on restructuring the global financial architecture with a UNILETS interest-free time-based currency?

6. To make serious commitments to restructure the global financial architecture based on principles of equity, transparency, accountability and democracy, and to balance, with the participation of civil society organizations, the monetary means to favour human endeavour and ecology, such as an alternative time-based currency. To give particular attention to eradication of unequal taxation, tax havens, and money-laundering operations, and to impose new forms of taxation, such as the Tobin tax, and regional and national capital controls. To direct the international financial institutions to eliminate the negative conditionalities of structural adjustment programmes.

Well, that sure impressed me!

So how would Turmel be able to implement UNILETS all over the globe? I had 2 days, of his undivided attention, to find out.

Well, when Turmel gets passionate about something, he gets ‘vehement’ (as he calls it). I just thought he was going crazy. Screaming, challenging, ridiculing. I could imagine him in the political arena. I wouldn’t want to be debating against him, that’s for sure. But I was his guest! And I was on his side! My questions and doubts were simply being aired in order to understand this incredible international UNILETS concept he had.

Fortunately, from time-to-time he’d notice that I’d be looking a little concerned (not quite terrified), and he’d break out in a warm smile and say, “James, I’m not angry. I’m just having a vehement discussion with you.” Then he’d go straight back into his antics without even missing a beat.

Actually, what he was trying to get through to me was, “James, the UNILETS concept is so simple and such a just cause, why can’t you understand it? Or even if you can’t understand it, why don’t you just accept it?”

So we spent those two days mostly frustrating each other. But by the end of it, Turmel had gleaned a few more ideas which he confessed would be very helpful in promoting and implementing UNILETS.

John had also arranged for us to meet with a local ISP (Internet Service Provider) to discuss to mechanics of transferring UNILETS points from one account to another by email. Unfortunately, the computer programmer suggested this would be impractical because it would be too difficult for 99.9% of computer users to be able to do it. But he assured us that using a central operating system would work superbly, and Turmel could set up as many ‘mirror-systems’ as he liked (50-100) in order to protect his system and keep it functioning in case of some breakdown.

Turmel believes that the UNILETS accounts should be operated solely by the individuals, and without a centrally based system. And I don’t blame him. Can you imagine the amount of work necessary if an office was responsible for managing 6 billion accounts?

But after this exhausting 2 day interaction, Turmel finally confessed that he would even be happy to restrict his role to setting up UNILETS accounts for everyone on the planet and then let the public decide on how they’d use it. After all, as long as he’s given the world an interest-free means of trading, then he’s content with that achievement.

And you know what? I’m sure if anyone can do it, John Turmel can do it.

Filling the skidoo with petrol (or 'gas' as it's called in North America).

2. Riding a Skidoo

From November to March, all motorcycles are banned from being used on Canada’s icy and dangerous roads. And that’s when the skidoos come out. Well, as long as there’s enough snow.

A skidoo is like a cross between a motor cycle and a jet-ski. It’s a 1-2 rider vehicle, specifically designed for traveling on snow, with a rear wheel which looks like it would be more at home on a tank.

From my first week in Canada, I had wanted to get a ride on one of these snow-travelling machines. But I never imagined it would happen the way it did.

We were on our way back from John Turmel’s, when I saw a skidoo stopped at a petrol station. It looked so out-of-place that I asked Kit to turn back so I could take a photo of it.

Kit went up to the rider and asked if he’d mind being photographed with his skidoo and a curious Aussie traveller. Richard, as he introduced himself, was flattered with the proposal, but he insisted on turning the skidoo around because the other side didn’t have any scratches on it. Watching Richard rev the throttle, and scrape the concrete mercilessly as he took his skidoo off the property and onto the snow, where he finally was able to maneuver his vehicle around, motivated me to ask if he’d mind taking me for a short ‘spin’ as his pinion passenger.

Well, he took off his helmet, handed it to me and said, “You can ride it yourself.”

I was startled. I didn’t expect that, and I wasn’t sure I could handle it. What if I crashed it?

“You’ve got a drivers licence, don’t you?” he asked.

And when I told him that I did, he insisted that I’d be OK.

“There’s no gears”, he said, “and the handbrakes are really good, so you don’t have to worry. Just give it lots of throttle to get it started.”

He could see I was still looking a little tentative, so he offered to ride the skidoo out of the petrol station and onto the snow. He dropped a wheelie with his metal rear track wheel and tore a straight groove out of the concrete station floor. He spun it around and took it to the top of a 4 foot mound of snow, balancing on top for a couple of seconds before shifting weight forward and launching it down the other side and onto the barren block of land below.

Getting ready to take a solo spin on the skidoo.

I couldn’t believe it was happening, but soon I had the helmet on and began revving slowly.

“Rev it hard”, Richard shouted.

So I did, and off it went. I immediately slammed on the brakes so I could get an indication of how quickly it would stop, and the skidoo stopped dead, motionless. This was great, so I revved hard again and this time I was away! I took it straight to the end of the field, weaving in and out and doing a figure 8. Then I rushed at a 3 metre (10 foot) snow hill and sailed over the other end, with a perfect 3-point landing on the other side. And when I finally came back to my starting point, I came to an abrupt stop after doing a broady which scattered snow all over Kit and Richard. (And if you believe all that, I’ve got a nice block of swampland I’d like to sell you).

But I did ride it alone, and I did bring it back in one piece. And, of course, I’ve got photos to prove it!

Up close and personal in a tightly contested hockey competition.

3. Ice-Hockey Fight

On Friday night I went to see an ice-hockey fight and a game broke out. This a popular Canadian saying, and watching my first ice-hockey game made me realize just how accurate this saying was. And this was the Junior Hockey League with all the players aged 16-19.

I must’ve been quite a sight. During the entire game I kept jotting notes down for the story that would eventually follow. So if you’re curious about the things I write, then here’s my notes … word-for-word.


Ice-Hockey: @ Kitchener Aud(itorium) or stadium

40 mins. Warm-up. 2x zambonies (like street sweepers) water the ice to smooth it out. 19 players on team (practicing). High clear plastic walls (3 metres) to protect crowd from stray pucks. Goal replaced. Holes cleared of water/ice to insert plastic pegs.

OK. I know. It’s not making much sense. So I’ll elaborate.

Kit had got 2 free tickets from work and luckily we arrived at the Kitchener Stadium (more fondly known as Kitchener Aud) about 90 minutes before the game was due to start. It was cold, wet and snowy outside, so getting a parking space near the entry was very welcomed. I noticed the tickets were for a Senior/Student. But I was assured this wouldn’t be a problem. In fact, we showed the tickets to 2 different ticket officials while asking for directions to our seats, and neither of them seemed fussed that we were obviously not Seniors or Students.

We sat next to some friends of Kit’s boss, so I was able to have all of my questions answered quite happily.

The ice-hockey rink was maybe 50m long and 20m wide, with each end in a semi-circle. And at each end was a goal net, about 1.5m wide and 1m high. And they were set about 2.5m from the curved back walls. Around the perimeter was a 3m plastic wall which protected the supporters from stray pucks, and for added protection at the scoring ends, another 4m of netting was tacked above the plastic walls.

Forty minutes before the match, both teams came out and began practicing. Each keeping to one end of the ice-hockey rink. I counted 19 players in each team. Only 5 players and a goalie are allowed on the field at any one time, but because it’s a very tiring game, each team is made up of 3 lines (5 in each line), 2 goalies and 2 reserves.

Directly above the center of the ice-hockey rink was a 4-sided T V screen and digital clock. It also displayed time penalties for players who were sent off for fighting or dangerous play. And for the entire duration of the game, there was hardly a moment when this feature was unused.

After the practice session, 2 zambonies (like street-weepers) came out to water the field. The water soon froze, smoothing out the icy surface in preparation for the forthcoming game. And they did this after each of the three 20 minute sessions.

We were supporting the home team, Kitchener Rangers (KR), who were playing Owen Sound Attack (OSA).

Only the KR had their mascot in the auditorium. He was like a giant cartoon character. A Texas Ranger with a massive foam head featuring long grey sideburns, drooping grey moustache and a huge cleft chin about the size and shape of a baby’s butt. He wore a bright blue hat with a sheriffs badge on it. And he also wore a KR shirt with Tex written on the front, and the number 00 on the back.

But let’s get on with the game …

The teams got onto the ice again accompanied by loud rock music in the background. This music only stopped when the game was in progress, and came on again immediately play was stopped for any reason. After just 20 seconds of play, the first player was sent off for ‘roughing’ (although this seemed very tame compared to our Aussie Rules football tackles). He was a KR, and would be out of the game for 2 minutes, reducing his side to only 4 field players.

A minute later an OSA was sent off for ‘obstruction tripping’. Then 2 minutes further on, an OSA targeted a KR but missed, slamming into the hard plastic wall. There wasn’t going to be a dull moment in this game!

Every 3 minutes or so, the teams made changes to their lines, often changing all the players in order to give them a rest.

At the 15 minute mark, 2 players took their gloves off and began punching each other’s face. The supporters cheered them on, and all 3 referees stood back until they saw an opportunity to sneak in and pull them apart. In Aussie Rules Footy, this would usually mean an instant suspension of 4-6 games for each player, for striking, but this was ice-hockey, and this was Canada, and they were both taken off the field instantly, for only 5 minutes!

So at the end of the first session, KR was losing to OSA, 0:2.

After a 15 minute break, Session 2 began. Three minutes into the session and 2 separate fights broke out, with all 4 players penalized the mandatory 5 minutes each. It was looking like soon there wouldn’t be any players left to play if they kept that up!

In the meantime, Kit and I sat in amusement and ate warm beer nuts (sugar-candy coated peanuts). Drinking beer is banned in the auditorium, so most of the supporters just drank bottled water, like us.

Several hockey sticks were broken that night. Fortunately, none were broken over anyone’s head, although this has been known to happen. And when a hockey stick is broken, the player must immediately drop it on the ice, otherwise he gets penalized for carrying a dangerous weapon. Those broken sticks can be used like spears when a player is intimidated.

Other penalties imposed during the game were for ‘slashing’, ‘high sticking’ and ‘holding puck in clenched fist’. And whenever things got a little quiet in the stands, and play had been stopped by the referees, the TV screens would rev up the crowd with a series of signs saying, ‘make some noise’ then ‘louder’ and ‘LOUDER’.

At the end of the second session KR was further behind at 0:3.

During the final break, 2 teams of toddlers took to the ice-rink. They were all about 5-7 years old, and falling over just as much as they were standing up. It looked like it would be impossible to see a score during the match as there were about 12 kids on each side, and it was a very cluttered field. But one bright spark managed to break away from the pack as his opponents tripped over themselves trying to catch him, and shot the only goal of their short game.

The last session started. At the 3:52 mark of the final period, the OSA shot their 4th goal for the night, and the last score for the entire match. This was too much for the local side’s supporters, and they began to leave the stadium. By the end of the game, half of the supporters had gone, which must’ve been very depressing for the Kitchener Rangers. Especially after having another huge defeat in their previous game, 2:5.

I asked to stay back and just soak in the atmosphere after the game. So while the zambonies came out for their final watering of the ice-rink, and the stands cleared from all human life, I thought about my experience which resembled more like a coliseum rather than a sport stadium.

This article is taken from the ebook,
400-Day LETS Odyssey

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