Rickter Scale: A step ahead of the great abyss

The Rickter Scale is a weekly column that runs in the Goldstream Gazette

Rick Stiebel/Columnist

If fentanyl had scourged the streets when I was in my teens, the odds of probable cause dictate that I wouldn’t have lived long enough to write this.

The topic came up during a recent discussion with a close friend, one of a group of us who made the exodus from Montreal to the West Coast in 1974. The fearful foursome of friendships that continues to endure finds us all alive in the Capital Region. We are a builder of homes, a renovator of houses, a successful salesman and a semi-retired journalist whose writings and rants continues to confuse and dismay readers and editors alike.

We all survived countless nights of ingesting whatever we could scrounge up or stumble upon on any given weekend, and agreed that one or all of us wouldn’t have made it if fentanyl had been around back then.

Second chances are fewer and further between since that opioid of mass destruction found its way into the buffet of today’s drugs of choice.

There was no science to fall back on during the days of our psychedelic hazing; we were mobile testing clinics haphazardly gathering research on the fly with every trip. The only rule was if there were doubts on the effects of whatever we were dropping, we let someone else try it first. If they were okay after the first hour, that was enough for us to hop on board for the ride.

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In hindsight, it’s hard to fathom how often we plunged off a cliff to wherever the tablet, capsule, gelatin piece of window pane or barrel of sunshine half the size of a match head would take us.

Those are experiences I will never forget, where laughter, music and the company of the best of friends blended together in extended stretches of electrified euphoria, the depth and pleasures of which I will never experience again.

Almost 50 years later, moments triggered by a song or circumstances unlock the dusty vaults in my memory bank long enough to reinforce that I don’t regret those midnight journeys wrapped in magic and mystery. That’s despite the occasional night I spent trapped in the Asylum Hotel, promising the good Lord that I would never do it again if he would only dial me back to normal. Broken promises to higher powers rarely outweighed the urge to let the good times roll again.

Fortunately, we all managed to grow up within the lines, put away our psychedelic playthings and help raise children we’re extremely proud of, thanks in large part to our good fortune in choosing brides. Somehow, we dodged the bullets, pitfalls and collateral damage the collection of chemical-soaked voyages may have wreaked.

The consensus is that despite our common, senseless approach, we managed to work our way onto the path that leads to happy endings. Whether we deserve that or not will remain for someone else to decide or form the fodder for a future column.

Rick Stiebel is a semi-retired local journalist.


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