Thursday, February 7, 2019

About that Crummy Old Shit-Box. Louis Shalako.

Louis Shalako

If I bought a brand new minivan, it would cost me $33,000.00. If we assume that I would own the vehicle for ten years, that’s $3,300.00 per year, based on purchase price.

I bought a minivan for about $3,300.00. It is thirteen years old. The body was good and it had low mileage. If I own it and then dump it after one year, that’s $3,300.00 per year based on purchase price, and ignoring other costs.

I paid cash for the vehicle. The insurance is running about $65.00 per month. It used to be $85.00 per month, but bundled with tenant’s insurance, the price is twenty bucks or so lower. 

(Either that or the tenant’s insurance, to the tune of one million in liability, is essentially free.)

On the crummy old vehicle, the ‘replacement cost’ in the event of an accident would be $3,300.00, however, I don’t have collision on the vehicle. I don’t have fire, theft and vandalism on the vehicle. This represents a risk—a bet. A gamble.

As long as I’m covered for liabilities, that’s what is important. A shit vehicle is a couple or three grand. Liabilities can run into the millions—

On a brand-new vehicle, one that is on some payment schedule, a bank loan or other financing, one of the terms of the purchase or lease (certainly from my perspective) would be to have ‘comprehensive’ insurance. As a driver, I have forty plus years of experience, no at-fault accidents, no DUIs, and my last speeding ticket would have been about 1998. A perfect driving record, and yet the insurance on a brand-new machine would have to be at least double—say $1,200.00 per year, maybe even more. Maybe even a lot more. The replacement value is ten times higher, we must bear that in mind.

Now, when buying a new vehicle, the interest rates seem pretty favourable—zero percent for the first few years in some cases, from some manufacturers. Then there are bank rates and ‘alternative financing’. Some of those rates seem pretty high—five to seven percent is bad enough. I mean, we are talking $33,000.00 after all. With compounding on unpaid debt. And there is the warranty. A five, six, seven year warranty. My vehicle had no warranty whatsoever. There are times I wish I hadn’t bought it, but I can keep dumping anti-freeze down the hole and try and get my ‘one fucking year’ out of it—put a litre of oil in there once in a while, and just try and ignore the clunking of the stabilizer links and the chirp and squawk of the drive belts.

Am I saving any money, bearing in mind the gallon of anti-freeze going in there each and every month? A litre of oil, every month or two? And what about that halogen bulb I put in there for twelve bucks, or the new rad cap for ten bucks? (And it really didn’t fix the problem.)

There is such a thing as peace of mind. If I was really nuts, I’d put twelve or thirteen hundred into cylinder head gaskets. I’d have them throw a good used radiator in there from the scrapyard, and hell, I might even get another year out of it, unless she throws the belts (noisy fucking things as they are) or I get pulled over in a random safety check or something. But here’s the thing. What if they pull the heads and discover hairline cracks around the combustion chambers due to overheating? (I would still be paying for the cylinder head gasket job. Now, throw in a couple of good used cylinder heads?) I mean, what are the odds. 

The previous owner dumped the vehicle for a reason. And if they got caught out on the highway or something, their first clue that something was wrong would have been that temperature gauge. Either that or steam coming out from under the hood.

A big green puddle, maybe—that was my first indication.

So that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I don’t want to get into it in the first place. If I can keep it going for a year, and then maybe find something else, who knows—maybe I can still sell it to some other poor basterd, for a thousand or fifteen hundred or whatever. To the right buyer, it might make a good ‘winter-beater’ or a work truck, or just a spare or emergency ride or something. The thing only has about 150,000 km on it, and they are known to go to 300,000 or more with proper looking-after.

So, if we throw down $33,000.00 for a vehicle and another $12,000.00 over ten years for insurance, and then follow through with all scheduled maintenance, including tires, brake jobs, tune-ups, etc. on the new machine, we could easily be spending over $50,000.00 to drive what begins as a brand-new vehicle but ends up ten years old and worth about one-third (or less) of the purchase price.

Subtract $11,000.00 from over fifty thousand dollars, do something with depreciation, and this is the true cost of driving the vehicle. This is not taking into account fuel, mileage, or any special accessories or customizations.

Honestly, I wish my math was better sometimes.


You guys know I got some really great books and stories on Amazon, don't you?

(He's saving up for another shit vehicle, ladies and gentlemen. - ed.)

Thank you for reading.


Friday, January 18, 2019

Salvation Army Complicit In Deceit.

Louis Shalako

Okay. I was reading, and speaking with commenters on a Salvation Army post. I had a question. Why doesn’t the Salvation Army mention that social assistance rates are appallingly low. Why can’t they come out and say that the Ontario Disability Support Program benefits are thirty-five to forty percent below the poverty line? How come they don’t advocate for a higher minimum wage? Why is it that they seem to forget the landlords are taking anything up to seventy percent and beyond in terms of disability pensions?

Comments came thick and fast. I don’t think they were all that pleased with me, but then the bourgeoisie never questions their own assumptions. Food banks, and food drives, are ‘good news’ stories. Always have been, and always will—unless someone breaks their little fucking bubble.

So. They have their reasons not to get too specific. One person mentioned 'separation of church and state', another mentioned that any charity that can issue a tax receipt is barred from political activity. (Which has never stopped the Fraser Institute from making political statements.)

This is why the Salvation Army, St. Vincent de Paul, or St. Myles of Yappi over at the Inn of the Good Shepherd, cannot criticize social programs in the province and in this nation. It is a Catch-22.

You can feed the poor—you can accept donations—but you must never mention that the causes of poverty are structural, you must never say that social assistance rates are appallingly low, must never acknowledge that disability pensions are thirty-five to forty percent below the poverty line, or that the minimum wage should be raised, or that the landlord is taking seventy percent in rent.

In other words, if they want to keep their church's tax-exempt status, keep your mouths shut. 

So: in that sense, in the sense that this is an agreement, a bargain with the ruling classes, these entities are complicit in the deceit.

Yeah, it’s a fucking bargain all right.

Top of Form

Here's a journalism thing. Canadian journalists 'don't make the news'. If a statement is made, it must be attributed—it must be attributed to someone else.

And if that someone else feels constrained by laws and tax-exempt status, then those statements of fact never get made.

When I say the causes of poverty are structural, this is one of those structures.

Oh, and just for the record, David Chilton (The Wealthy Barber), is incapable of writing intelligently on this subject.



Thank you for reading, ladies and gentlemen.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Sea of Sand. Louis Shalako.

Louis Shalako

Thirst tormented me. My mouth was as dry as parchment. To swallow was to risk my tongue getting stuck in the back of my throat and blocking off my windpipe. My eyeballs felt like radishes in my head. The bridge of my nose burned from the sun and I couldn’t do anything about it.

Ahead stretched a sea of sand. The big yellow moon was rising. The smaller white one was high overhead, almost invisible in the creamy yellowing haze of late afternoon.

It was irony that had brought me here.

That and stubborn, foolish, miserable love.

It’s like you can’t go back sometimes.

Wave after undulating wave of glistening white silica shimmered off into the distance.

The shadows stretched longer now, the pale bluish pencil lines of dead weeds and long yellow bits of straw-grass, few as they were, marked the contours of the slopes.

Yes, if only she could see me now.

If only. If only. You and your damned kid. My initial thought was that he had done it on purpose, but the boy just didn’t have it in him. We’d been sniping back and forth quite a bit lately, but a sober assessment of the facts reminded me that the fuel gauge had never been that accurate, and lately it had definitely been going a bit squirrely as the level in the tank dropped.

It was an accident, nothing more…

The sun was impossible to look at. A couple more hours of daylight left, and it was still scorching.  There was no way to hide from it. The right side of my face and neck were painfully burned, the backs of my hands, everything. Tempted to tear off the sleeves off my shirt earlier, I resisted the impulse on seeing the sharp line between the red hands and the pale skin above the cuffs.

Many kilometres away loomed the grey shoulders of the mountains. They lined the horizon, barring the way home. Darkness was coming. There was relief in sight but also much danger in the darkness. Danger lay in the cold, the chance of falling or breaking a leg in an animal burrow or just tumbling down a gulley. Danger lay in the predators, of which the planet had a few. I had no choice but to walk on, for at the base of those hills lay water. My body only had so much to give.

I worked my mouth, trying to force the salivary glands to squirt out one last drop of precious liquid. Cracked lips shot barbs of pain into my consciousness. My mind was clear enough. It was surprising how strong my legs and hips turned out to be. I never would have thought it until I tried.

The irony, of course, was that I was just trying to be nice to the kid, who to be fair had really been trying to follow the rules of the household lately. Paxton, what a name, deserved some kind of reward, and it was best to show some parental love. Being a step-dad was surprisingly hard.

Lending the kid the skeeter last night was one thing, forgetting to check the fuel before leaving the house this morning was my own fault.

It might well be the death of me. Hot wind kicked sand in my face, but I just narrowed my eyes and kept trudging. I had never really trudged in my entire life. Not until now.

The real irony lay in the fact that I was thinking of checking the emergency water bottles just the other day. I guess I’d known they were empty for quite a while, but we haven’t been going far from the house lately. The harvest is too important. The tractor needed a new fuel pump, and I took off for Aurora on too much of an impulse. Hindsight is twenty-twenty, as they say.

Mary and her kid.

It was unbelievable, not that I wouldn’t like to be back there right now. Last night, she said something about making a roast today. Yeah, I got sucked into the whole instant family thing—and it was going to get me killed. I’m too nice a guy for this. There was the sick wrench of fear in my guts. I’d had a few moments like that out here already.

I stopped at the top of the dune, looking down into the darkening trough between it and the next ridge. The wind had died and dead silence reigned.

One thing is certain—if I ever get out of here, I’m going to take that kid out behind the woodpile and just whale the crap out of him with a piece of kindling.

Teenagers. Argh.
Paxton and Tony were cruising along, enjoying the music and the freedom. Tony flew,
showing off for Paxton. Tony was fifteen and a half, the junior of the pair.

He was just pulling up into a highly-unauthorized stall turn when Paxton grabbed his arm.

“There’s somebody out there!”

“Huh?” Tony didn’t believe it, it was probably just a shrub or a sand-doe or something.

“No, seriously. I saw him walking.”

Tony thought about it.

“There’s no way he can survive out here for long. Daytime temperature’s like forty, fifty degrees.” Paxton knew the dangers.

Tony looked back over his shoulder, and then at his friend.

“We’d better report it.” It was a deadly serious business to be alone out there.

All he had was a glimpse, an impression, and that’s when Tony started throwing her around.

“No.” Tony refused.

“What?” Paxton thought that was just nuts.

“I stole the skeeter.”


Then he got it. Tony’s dad was away in Aurora on some kind of business trip, and had taken his mom along for the weekend. Tony’s older brother had his own machine, and a girlfriend in nearby Bentpath. It was all so obvious.

“Turn around. We have to.”

It was better than making a report, which would be logged. It would be all over the airwaves. A rescue would be big news and gossip travels fast. Sooner or later word would get back. His thoughts were obvious enough.

Tony turned the skeeter around, looking at the recorded flight path. He put the amber caret on the blue dotted line and followed it back in the opposite direction.

They peered through the windshield, Tony looking for a bush or an animal to justify further disinterest.

Paxton’s arm stabbed out, pointing off to the right and down into a narrow trough between two of the wind-rippled dunes as a thread of sand blew off the top, momentarily obscuring the figure below.

“It’s a man.” Paxton turned to Tony.

Now Tony saw him too, and grimaced at the sight.


“We have to pick him up.” Holding his friends eyes, he shrugged. “We have no choice.”

“Shit.” Tony’s thoughts raced ahead through channels familiar and unfamiliar.

Maybe they could just drop the guy off somewhere and be back in time to clean the ship and zero the tell-tale flight logs.

“Damn.” Tony put the right wing up and circled around for another look.
Paxton handed me a can of sticky black fluid. The first drink of cold pop was a kind of religious experience. Sheer bliss. I couldn’t speak at all for a couple of minutes, just slumped there in the back seat. Tony was climbing out to cruising altitude when the radio crackled.

Tony stared at the unit and cursed in no uncertain terms.

Transfixed, he looked wildly at Paxton, and then made a quick and furtive glance over his shoulder at me.

“It’s his dad.” Paxton explained for my benefit. “He must have come home early.”

Neither one reached for it. The whole thing came to me in a flash.

“Heh-heh-heh.” The boy might be in a spot of trouble.

I sat there grinning, but then, my immediate troubles were over.

“Maybe I can help you gentlemen.” I beckoned for the microphone.

They looked at each other and then Tony looked fearfully back at me.


“Relax, I’ll take care of it.” Hell, I might even enjoy it.

It’s better than whaling away on someone who’s pretty much a grown man with a piece of kindling, isn’t it?

They looked at each other again, and then Tony nodded and Paxton sheepishly handed the thing over the back of the front seat.

“Hello, Mr. Williams. It’s Rick Jenkins.”

 The airways crackled for a second and then he came back.

“Ah, Rick. Hi. How’s it going?” He was puzzled but polite, me being an honest man and everything.

“Yeah, say, listen, I borrowed your son and your skeeter. I hope you don’t mind, I’ll put fuel in it and everything. It’s just that you weren’t home but your son said it would be all right.”

“Oh. Oh, ah, sure, no problem. What’s up?” Anything to help a neighbour, right?

It was a cynical thought.

“Yeah, it’s just that my skeeter went down in the Sand Sea, ran out of gas basically, and, ah, I need to go into Bentpath to get some fuel. The tractor needs a fuel pump and I was headed for Aurora. Tony said you were out of town on a business trip…” I let him hang a while on that.

“Oh. Okay.” It was the peak of harvest and he accepted the need calmly enough.

It wasn’t unheard of, in a land where people perpetually left their doors unlocked for the convenience of friends and neighbours. We weren’t that close, actually, as they lived twenty-five or thirty k’s away.

“Your son’s a good pilot, incidentally. We’ll be back in three or hours, if that’s okay.”

“Oh. Ah, sure, no problem.”

“All righty, then. And I owe you a quart of the good stuff.”

His son nodded mightily in agreement as Paxton grinned in the copilot’s seat.

“That sounds fine.” He wasn’t the talkative sort as I recalled, but then neither am I.

Williams and I broke the connection as Tony brought her around to a new heading and we headed for Bentpath to get some fuel for my skeeter.

“Please let me know how much that quart costs, Mister Jenkins.” Tony eyed me in the rearview mirror.



“Two quarts, Tony.”

“Yes, sir. Two quarts it is.” Sidelong glances were exchanged up front.

The young men looked at each other again, convulsed in some kind of silent glee that I don’t pretend to understand, but I was alive, Paxton wasn’t such a bad kid in his own way and the little buggers had just saved my life. For a while, I thought I was going to die out there, and now it looked like I was going to be home in time for dinner. Such is life.

I was so proud of them boys. It kind of brought a tear to my eye, that and the thought of that quart, patiently waiting just over the southeastern horizon.


Originally appeared in Perihelion.

Thank you for reading.