The Secret Service

It’s a holiday weekend here in the States, so I’m glad to rest a bit — short introduction, you see — and simply present our smart weekly Sunday guest column from my Canadian friend, Paul Curran.

Your Barrista -- Paul Curran

Your Barrista — Paul Curran

Welcome to the weekly coffee and tea garden. My name is Paul, I’ll be your barista today, and I’m happy to be here at Mark Bialczak’s Little Bitty in Syracuse, New York. Please come in and go through to the living room. Mark, his wife Karen and their pooch Ellie B, have prepared a nice, cool, comfy place for us so I can tend to your needs for a cuppa, and sweets. The weather this morning is rainy with a high just over 85 F. As usual, I’d be pleased to bring a pot of whatever beverage you prefer – we have a wide range of teas and coffees to satisfy our worldwide readership and adult beverages for those who wish something stronger. We can relax with a cuppa in the air conditioning while we discuss the affairs of the week both personal and/or worldwide. Ellie likes to be patted, so please indulge her when she greets you. How has your week been? Have a piece of cake (or any of the sweets on the next table) – electronic sweets are all calorie-free!

Yum! Yum!

This week I’d like to write another chapter in our “Front Porch” series – this one is quite amusing and actually took place on my back porch.

Last month one of the locals – we’ll call him John – came to visit at my back door in the last week of the month. John is about 55 and around 6 foot tall. He keeps himself clean and he is an astounding cook. He has made meals that would put 4-star restaurants to shame. He is on Ontario Disability and receives his cheque in the last two days of the month and I am on Canada Pension and receive my check five business days before the end of the month. He knew I had gotten my check and wanted to know if I could front him some cigarettes until his cheque came in. I had gotten my supply for the month so I loaned him a carton (I get them on the “gray” market very cheap) and told him I expected it back when his cheque arrived – we had done similar transactions in the past and he was very good at repaying as soon as he was able.

Native Cigarettes

A few days later as I was getting into a cab to go to dialysis John came up and gave me the money for the cigarettes he had borrowed. I frowned and informed him that I wanted the cigarettes – what I had given him – not the money. I bought in bulk so it would be much more expensive for me to replace one carton. He said that he had switched to tobacco and was rolling his own so he didn’t have the cigarettes. I told him that I was disappointed and that was not the agreement we had made. He seemed to think that it was settled as he just repeated that he no longer bought cigarettes. He refused to take back the money and get cigarettes so I left.

He normally showed up at my back porch a few times a week but I hadn’t seen him all month. John is a bit eccentric and he had a very rough past. He used to do steroids and drugs and now he has a difficult time thinking – much puzzles him. He declares himself to be a Christian and yet he seldom engages in any activity that doesn’t benefit himself in the end. Whenever he offers anything you can be assured that he will show up to borrow something else in short order. For that reason he has few friends in the area – in fact my other friend and I are about his only two. But he is quite soft-spoken and has never done me any harm so I used to invite him in and chat whenever he appeared.

Illegal Anabolic Steroids

Would you like another cuppa? Perhaps a sweet? I was checking blogs this morning about 7:15 a.m. and had my back door ajar with a fan running to cool off when there was a knock on the door frame. John asked if he could talk to me. I told him to come in but he would only stand in the doorway and talk. He wanted to know if I was angry with him as he hadn’t seen me around. I didn’t point out that he always came to see me and that I didn’t even know where he lived. I just explained again that I was disappointed that he had not returned the cigarettes last month. (In all honesty I would never loan him what I couldn’t afford to lose.) John then launched into the most farfetched story I had ever heard – and it started off with the fact that he was trying to protect my health. As a smoker I had heard many stories start that way.

According to John the last carton of cigarettes he had bought was poisoned. He said that was so because there was a hit ordered on him and they were closing in. I asked why they would poison his cigarettes rather than, say, shoot him. He explained that they didn’t want any evidence left that led to them. John said that the last carton he bought made him sick and he spent all night throwing up and sitting on the toilet – as well as having a nose bleed. I told him there was a flu bug going around and pointed out that vomiting upped the blood pressure and could easily cause nose bleeds if there was a weak vessel.

CSIS Headquarters

John was convinced the cigarettes had been poisoned (even though we all use the same supplier) and said that he had given samples to the Secret Service to have analyzed. I told him there was no Secret Service in Canada and he told me there was a Secret Service in every country. I assumed he meant our Canadian Security Intelligence Service – CSIS – and explained that they only dealt with international matters. John told me that the hit was originally on his family and his mother was from the U.K., so it was the Secret Service who had to be involved.

I expressed an interest in the “Secret Service” report and asked that he bring me a copy of the results – even if it was negative. He assured me that he would do that and said he wouldn’t bother me any more – although he has three more days before his cheque so I am sure he will be back before the weekend is out. Later in the day I heard that John was explaining to everyone that we were friends and he had saved me from being poisoned. Ha!

Analytic Laboratory

That’s about all we have room for this week folks, so it’s time to settle in with another cuppa and pat Ellie B. Sweets anyone? Please join me in thanking Mark, Karen and Ellie B for their invitation to tea. We are all honored that you dropped by today to visit. I hope you’ve enjoyed yourself and the conversation and please look around at Mark’s other posts while you’re here. Have a great week.

Ahhhhh!

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64 thoughts on “The Secret Service

    • They should enjoy this post very much, Paul. Your “Front Porch” series takes a nice turn today, my friend. I’m glad you were saved from the “smoking gun” poison.

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  1. Hi Paul (and ‘morning Marky mark)- I had to Laugh at the secret service part – and each photo in this post was in perfect sync with the text and made for nice flow! Also – this is what I love about blogging – seeing different things – I had no idea they sold cigarettes in bulk like that so that picture was extra interesting! And it makes sense to offer this – I mean – why not?!
    Happy Memorial Day !

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much for dropping by Prior. I am pleased that you got a giggle out of the post – John’s visit injected some levity into my day. Each of those bags of smokes contains the same as a carton of cigarettes. The federal tax is paid on them but they are sold by First Nations and no provincial tax is paid. They are only supposed to go to First Nations but in Canada even 1/8 blood line is considered native – so it is hard to tell who is and who isn’t. The police will occasionally clamp down on the distributors but new ones just start up. We are positioned geographically such that one does not have to go far in any direction to hit a Native Reservation, so the smokes are available from multiple sources. Unless someone complains or a distributor gets too big, the police don’t bother them.

      Thanks again for the visit Prior – great to see you here. Please come again.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Thanks for the reply P!
        And for the info! My family that lives in western New York drives to native Indian reservations to buy smokes – but they are in the carton and nothing like this! My dad had seasons of rolling his own – which was fun to watch – he had a little machine that could even add a filter –
        Oh and quick question – do you know why “John” did steroids? Was he a former athlete?

        Liked by 1 person

      • He says he was weight lifter in his younger days and he seems to have the frame for it so I imagine there is some truth to it. The part I can’t figure out is how he learned to cook like he does. It is amazing. He brought me over Christmas dinner and it was a delicious lasagna, perfect turkey (white meat), lobster and fresh rolls and cookies. And he did all that in a toaster oven. He flattened the turkey somehow to cook it in sections. Astounding. But he will buy steak and lobster and share it but won’t have enough food money for the last half of the month. I pointed that out to him but he does not seem able to grasp the fact that he has to budget.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Wow – that is some skill with cooking – and mmmmm to what you described (and now I really am ready for breakfast) and hope John can find that budget balance – but it seems so many people wrestle with imbalance in this area – ya know?

        Liked by 1 person

    • That is my intention Barb. Thank you very much for the read and the compliment. it is especially treasured given that you write for a living. I’m pleased that you enjoyed the post and hope you’ll drop by again.

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  2. Good Morning Paul I’ll take a cuppa black if you will. Thank you. Sounds like quite the character alright? I was disappointed for you he had not returned exactly what he borrowed from you. Since it was after all the agreement?! Here in Florida several years ago they added a $1.00 a pack surcharge (as I understand it) to each brand of cigarettes. The tax was applicable to all tobacco products and people were outraged. I imagine it is an expensive habit?! When the “Secret Service” attacks his food you better watch out from his meals-LOL…Poor chap, mind is in left field I am afraid. Have a grand Day! Gatorette.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One cuppa black coming up Gatorette! Thanks so much for dropping by. Phew – you slept in to almost 7 am Gatorette usually up by 5 am – no guests today to cook for? I’m pleased you enjoyed today’s post. John is a character all right – slightly paranoid but always with a surprise announcement. Ha! He seems harmless. Thanks again for the visit – please come again.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Paul-I actually have a house full (My BFF and family are visiting for the Memorial Day weekend), I was up just cooking and baking and could not get to the computer until 7-LOL. Your friend seems harmless-I know you are careful with whom you spend time with or share. Soon you’ll be on a new adventure! Have a wonderful Day! Gatorette.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Ha! Good story, Paul. My first thought is, what’s with all the air conditioning and fans?? Turn the darn heat on for goodness sakes! Is everyone living in the tropics but me?? It’s pouring down rain there and I start to get excited when it hits 50 degrees. I have no idea what that temp is in Canadian, but it’s cold out!

    You too get to meet some interesting characters, I see! A bit amusing, but last year I had a couple of guys convinced I was from the CIA. Secret government plant, working undercover. At the food bank! “Don’t talk around her, she’s wired and records everything.” Then they proceeded to reveal all their secrets to me…..an act I thought was a bit irrational since I was allegedly the fuzz. Also a bit funny, because I doubt there is anyone more paranoid than me. I was waiting for the ladies room the other day with no less than 8 cameras pointed right at me. Like what the heck do you people think I’m going to do here, steal an extra mint off the table?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Bwahaha! 8 cameras to go to the can? – man they are worried about you IB. Ha! Yeah, I know what you mean – I’ve been accused of being FBI, CIA, CSIS, a preacher, a professor, a radio DJ, and numerous others.

      it’s supposed to get close to 100F here today. There is a yearly 42 K marathon that is scheduled for today that they close much of the downtown for – and they are considering cancelling it because of the heat . This heat just started this week- and it’s been getting hotter each day. It is supposed to cool down to the 80’s next week.

      Thanks so much for dropping by IB. I am honored. I’m pleased that you enjoyed the story – please come visit again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! Thanks Elyse. I really appreciate the compliment and the read – especially from someone like yourself who works with the written word for a living. I’m pleased that you enjoyed this week’s offering. please come again.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Paul, what if he is right. What if the Secret Service is after him for some reason. Maybe he was a spy, in Paris at some point, and he went under the guise of a student Chef at a fancy cooking school (I mean, don’t you find it curious that a former bodybuilder can cook so amazingly well?), and now the Secret Service realizes he has bits of information that could be damaging to someone. Sounds like a fascinating guy – whatever the real story is.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! There could definitely be a story there SD. The thing is that his brain is fried and I have considered asking how his set of circumstances came to be,but I am sure he would only remember bits and pieces. Mind you it could have been the Secret Service who deliberately fried his brain to keep him from spilling Ultra Top Secret info. He admits to having cracked and holding his family at gunpoint over some stupid little thing – when he was shooting roids. He spent some \time incarcerated for mental issues and is currently on medication – which he clings to and carries it around with him every where he goes.

      Thanks for the visit SD – please come again.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Paul, great story; you have so many interesting neighbors. The best part about all this is how you personalize everyone and make us all neighbors, too. BTW, I think the photo of the CSIS building is quite amusing; looks like an arrow. Wonder why they did that!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Susan! Thanks so much for the read and compliment. The CSIS building is buried on the trees ans can only be glimpsed from the road. Until I did this piece I had never seen an elevated shot of it before and was also surprised at its shape. Spooks being spooks, I am sure there is some reason for the shape that has to do with security. Or maybe the Feng shui was wrong = ha!

      Liked by 2 people

  6. I grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 60’s and 70’s, so I have a LOT of personal experience with people like this guy. We know so little about how the brain works… I might be working on a little project on my blog about the human brain, and how much access we have to it… but I can’t talk about it… because the Secret Service and the NSA is monitoring my brain through the new electronic cigarettes I now smoke… so I could quit smoking the poisonous variety sold in this country by the FBI… which does handle domestic government sanctioned hits…
    (A friendly note to the NSA agents who are seeing this comment pop up on their screens due to my clever usage of ‘key words); Get a real job!

    Liked by 3 people

    • He is a bit odd Berlinda. Thanks so much for dropping by. I trust all is well in Berlin. He told me he was writing a cook book but had never operated a computer and he wanted to know if i would type and edit his cook book – I politely declined by pointing out he could pick up a word processor for a few bucks and do it himself the way he wanted. He also has hearing problems and he fills in what he doesn’t hear with what he thinks people are saying – and has become a bit paranoid, assuming everyone is talking about him. Ha! That’s a joy.

      Anyway, thanks so much for the visit Linda, I am honored. Please drop in again – P.S. I apologize for the multiple comments about visiting, I got carried away. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so very much Hook! I pride myself on a good cuppa – no better way to relax visitors. I appreciate you dropping by for a read.

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  7. Assam or Darjeeling please, and I would lime a nice vegetarian sandwich. And I mean vegetarian.

    But onto the topic. Cigarettes? Smuggling. Tell me about it. I live in a rather niche smuggling centre. Hey, not my business though. Each to their own.

    Liked by 1 person

    • One cuppa Darjeeling and one REAL vegetarian sandwich coming up! Thanks so much roughseas for dropping by. I live about 50 miles from the American border and there are easy 4 Native reservations (who don’t pay tax on purchases) within 100 miles – a few straddling the Canadian / American border. Canadians have socialized health care, disability, welfare, unemployment and many more government funded programs. This is good for the users but all taxes in, we pay about 50% of our income to taxes. Americans are more privatized so their tax rate is way lower.Plus they have 10 times the population in a smaller country which reduces their production and distribution costs and increases competitiveness. All in all that means that if we can smuggle products we can get them for 1/2 the cost. And so it goes.

      Smuggling has been a force around here as long as Canada has existed. Thanks again for the visit roughseas, please come again.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Robyn! Thanks so much for dropping by for a read. It’s great to have you visit. Thank you for the compliment. I’m pleased that you enjoyed the story.

      Liked by 1 person

      • The seas have been a little rougher on my end as of late… just trying to catch up with some of my faves and regs… I still have some comments to get to on my page, but I know my peeps… they’ll forgive me. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks so much Beth for dropping by – I am honored. I’m not feeling any effects from poisoning yet – but what if it’s a really, really, really slow poison? Ha! They are quite a crew aren’t they?

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    • NBC! Great to see you here. Glad you enjoyed your cuppa and sweets. It is almost impossible to poison cigarettes because there are so many and the bags are sealed. No way to know who will get which bags. it is like a whole town drinking from a common water source and you just want to poison one person – a bit problematic. Please do come visit us again – Ellie loves being patted. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  8. That guy reminds me of some of the regulars we got when I worked at the public library. There were 4 libraries in the city where I worked, and he rotated through all of them, so all the staff knew him. His name was Terry Cherry (or so he said) and he had an open head wound and the government was tracking him through some metal plate or something. They had killed his wife and he was on the run. Etc. Even weirder, one lady always interlibrary loaned dozens of books on painting rocks. You get all kinds.

    This guy in question, though – is he mentally ill, on drugs, or just a Tea Partier? Or all of the above?

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  9. Reminds me of that movie, “Conspiracy Theory.” Everyone thought that guy was nuts, too, but it turned out the bad guys really were after him! As for me, my sole experience with drugs was in the early 1970s, when I was 18 or 19. I went to a party on a hot summer night. We were all sitting outside when someone passed me a joint – I was so naïve I thought it was just a cigarette, so I replied, “I’m sorry, I don’t smoke.” and passed it on to the next person. I didn’t figure it out until someone shouted, “The cops are coming!” and everyone ran back inside.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hi CM! Great to have you visit – I hope all works out for you. Yeah there is a lot of weed and other drugs around at parties. Good for you that you don’t partake.

      I could suspend disbelief if John seemed like he might have a clue but when the TV is on and he asks who ISIS is and he has never heard of Donald Trump, then I seriously doubt he knows or has seen anything that would justify his assassination. And he presents way too easy a target, wandering the neighborhood alone during the night when he can’t sleep. There are a lot of dark areas under old growth trees and between buildings.

      Thanks again for the visit CM – I am honored. Please come by again.

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  10. He sounds very “black helicopter theory” and paranoid. It would be a hard way to live. You are gentler than I; if someone did not make good on our clear and understood cigarette transaction, I might end all contact altogether. When someone breaks their word, it is frustrating.

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    • Indeed Kerbey, it would twist me up inside to live that way. If he would just get hearing aids half the mystery in his life would disappear. Since he is on disability the hearing aids are free but he won`t go in to get them- no clue why, unless he is afraid there will be listening devices in them – Ha!

      Thanks so much for dropping by for a read Kerbey. I am honored. I try to take the best that people have to offer and forgive the bad – sometimes I succeed but not always. Please come by again.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. John obviously values your friendship and your life to go to such strides to protect your life. There’s value in that. I love the porch stories Paul. Each of us walking this earth are a story. It’s nice to see some of these stories.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Colleen! Awesome to have you drop by – thank you. ha! yes, it’s nice to have someone looking out for my health. HA! I’m pleased that you enjoyed the story = indeed everyone has a story. Have a great week Colleen and thanks again for the visit.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. CSIS is just up the street and ’round the corner… surprised he didn’t think the Mounties were after him! 😉 I’m amazed at the shape of the building too! It looks square from the road. Great article, Paul. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Linda! Awesome to have you drop by. I trust all is well in the Hill house. Glad you enjoyed the piece – Ottawa is crawling with everything from spooks to cops – just the nature of a country capital. Before amalgamation I had a colleague who lived on the grey side of the law and he was constantly complaining that there were 11 uniformed police forces that could arrest him in Ottawa. Ha! and that didn’t include the plainclothes like CSIS. You know I thought that building was square too until one day when I was driving I had a delivery there. I got lost. Ha! I went around three corners and couldn’t figure out how I got back to where I started. Thanks again for the visit Linda – please drop by again.

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  13. Oh, tiny sandwiches – lovely!
    So nice to see reference to “Algernon”. A wonderful piece.
    What? Tax rate lower? We pay at least 50% and we are frugal, not rich. ( and if I work contracts, it pushes tax rate even higher – if I work harder and end up with less…quite discouraging. Our “new” healthcare costs to us have trippled) We’d like to save so we could take care of ourselves – and not have to depend on anyone, but it seems the govenment wants everyone to be dependent on them.
    My daughter pays even more and is working herself to death – she paid off all her student loans and tries to live debt free, but with prices of things going up and the govenment taking more and more she can’t save for the future, it’s defeating. Backwards world.
    But let’s pet the pup and enjoy the refreshments.
    Another great character sketch. I laughed when you gave him the cigarettes thinking you being kind and not going to be upset if he didn’t return. Fried brains – so sad. Watched college kids and later some adults disappear into mindless fog. You’re a kind soul, Paul – providing proof to John that he’s still part of society-ish. Maybe John feels so small order of being normal when he cooks – might be worth the end of the month struggle waiting for the next check.
    If science discovered a way to program all brains to function “normally” would it be a good idea? What would be lost vs gained. The worry comes in the details, right? Who would determine what “normal” would be? Don’t want to attract attention from CSIS or Secret Service, so…tiptoeing quietly away and back into the shadows…..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Greetings Phil! Wonderful to see you here for a visit. You make some good points. Yeah, Flowers for Algernon was one of my favorites as well. So true. You know when your skill set is at its peak and then you stop for a while, skills degrade. Many times in life I have come back to a skill set and found it was not the way I left it. When I left university math was a very strong skill set for me. When I wrote my Master’s entrance exams, I did all right but my language, logic and comprehension skills were all way better than my math skills – I was grumbly with myself.

      Even that small amount of degradation is troubling – to have a major IQ loss would be problematic. Excellent to have you come by Phil – I am honored. Please drop in again.

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Love your stories Paul! I think how boring life would be without these little interactions 😉 Like Yvette – I was surprised at how the cigarettes were packaged. One of the many things I love about blogging – I learn about different parts of my country & the world, from real people – the way they live life – love that ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Sadie! Truly a joy to have you visit, thank you. I’m pleased that you enjoyed the story. I hope that all is well with you – as well as can be. Awesome to see your gorgeous smile again. Take care Sadie and please drop by again.

      Liked by 1 person

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