Saturday, March 10, 2018

Why Would Anyone Need Sapo/Kambo Training?

Someone on a social media platform asked me what I thought of people being trained in kambo --frog sweat -- medicine by an organization called IAKP which has been training people in the medicine use for several years now. They suggested that indigenous kids just get the medicine a couple of times and are good to use it on themselves and others. This was my response:

I do not have any direct experience with IAKP, but have met some of their practitioners and they appear well trained. I know that when I occasionally train people -- and I don't know where I get the right to do that other than wanting people to use the medicine in a careful and positive fashion -- it is not at all similar to someone being brought up in an indigenous culture that depends on the medicine for hunting, for eliminating the grippe, and so forth. Those kids are around the medicine from birth, just like they are around the jungle from birth and so are at home with it without any need for formal training. But then you take a kid from Whitestone, Queens, New York, like me and put me in the jungle and I need lots of training to be able to survive well out there. I think the same applies to sapo/kambo training. 
Yes, a person can just use it once or twice and then give it to other people, but what happens when something goes wrong? What happens when you allow a guest to walk, unattended, to a bathroom and they black out and hit their head on a counter top? Or wind up with their head in a bad position and start to vomit and then choke and panic? What do you do when someone absolutely freaks out on taking the medicine? There are so many things to learn to use the medicine in our cultures that it is impossible to compare the learning to indigenous culture learning. I have guests who need two or three hours to come together again after a session, and other guests who are good to go 20 minutes after initial application. How do you judge when to give them back their car keys and let them drive off? 
I am not a believer in shrouding the medicine in a whole lot of mysticism and pomp theatrics, but I do sing people into the first four or five minutes of the experience to help them go into it gently -- as you all know it's darned abrupt!!! So while I do not know the IAKP directly, I think that training people to the things to be aware of prior to serving others, is probably a good thing. And I do not know what they charge, but if they are giving you 10 days or two weeks' attention, well, someone has to get paid to do that. That is a lot of work.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

New -- Old -- Car. Get Lucky Sometimes

Get Lucky Sometimes. Couple of weeks ago a friend called to say she had a friend who had a sister who had a mother who was going to move into assisted living and she had an old car she wanted to sell for two hundred bucks. Would I want it? My first thought was "Of course not. I've got my truck with the beautiful new engine that my son Italo built, my second truck that's nearly back on the road, and no, I don't need no more stinking clunkers around here."
I didn't say that, of course, because the woman who was bringing the car to my attention is a really cool friend and I didn't want to offend. So I said I'd take a look.
Day came to take a look and I really didn't want to drive the 35 miles to the place where the car was, but I was committed, so I let my friend and her husband drive me there. We were nearly at Lake Granbury, where the car was, when my friend got a call from her friend that the car was not available to be seen because the sister and her husband were currently using it and were in town and wouldn't be back for an hour. Cool. I was ready to head home. My friend, however, insisted we go and wait it out to take a look.
We were visiting with my friend's friend when the car pulled up. It was so quiet that I did not hear it pull up behind me. When I turned to it I was fairly amazed: it was a 1999 Crown Vic, silver, high polish, not a mark on it. I took it for a ride: 83,000 miles, original owner, smooth as glass. Leather upholstery, faux wood highlights on the dash, AC and heat worked beautifully, radio was really good, and it had an opening to play casettes. Cigarette lighter worked. Spotless inside. I double checked the price: I mean, right off the bat it was worth $2 grand, easy. No, $200 was the price.
I said I'd buy it after I drove it for 30 minutes. It easily jumped to 55, then 75, and oops, 90 without anything more than a purr from the engine. Unreal. The sister and her husband needed it for a couple of days, and when I went back to pick it up I saw that they had changed the oil, filled the tank, included a few hundred bucks worth of tools and roadside reflective jackets and such.
I got it home, then took out my truck for shopping. I felt the clutch slip. It got worse quickly. So I got the car on the perfect day when I needed it. My son Italo will have a new clutch and a slave cylinder in place in my truck this week sometime. Meanwhile I'm driving a pimp car. Thanks to my friends, their friends, the mom, and the universe. I just get really lucky sometimes. I hope you all get lucky today too.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Cooking Duck Breasts

Just something to make non-vegetarians drool. I bought three large duck breasts today. I've scored them into diamonds on the fat side, not touching the meat. Then I threw 6 small red potatoes, cut into quarters, into salted water to par boil them. They'll come out in two minutes; they will be drained, then go into a ceramic saute pan that my daughter just bought me with diced sweet red onions, diced fresh garlic and olive oil.
While they are cooking I will saute the duck breasts, fat side down, for 7 minutes or so, after salting them with good pink sea salt, and peppering them with good rough ground pepper, in plain olive oil. After seven minutes I'll turn them meat side down, add quartered scallions, long sliced red pepper, sliced--not diced--onion and garlic, and put them into the oven at 325 for another 7 minutes or so. Then I will pull all of that and put it on a plate. I will take some of the duck grease and add it to the quartered potatoes and onions to finish them, put on a pot to make nice steamed asparagus, and in the duck breast pan I will add balsamic vinegar, fresh basil and a pint of fresh, organic raspberries. I'll add organic vegetable stock as needed until the raspberries have become a sauce. Then I'll serve the duck breast over a bed of sauteed spinach, top it with the raspberry-basil-balsamic vinegar sauce, and serve the potatoes and asparagus on the side. Bon appetite! Worth the pain, for sure. We all deserve a treat once in a while. But while you're buying those expensive duck breasts, don't forget to give some money to the local food bank, because not everybody gets to eat duck breast. Some people just need tuna. So give what you can, but still enjoy an occasional luxurious meal. At least that's how I'm justifying it to myself!!!!!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Leaving for Peru

I LEAVE FOR PERU FOR 5 WEEKS, TWO TRIPS INTO THE JUNGLE WITH GUESTS, TOMORROW. SO TONIGHT WAS A NIGHT TO CLEan out the fridge. My wife/ex-wife Chepa is here with her two new beautiful kids, Alexa and Sierra. A friend, Corrina is here, My daughter in law Sarah is here with her two kids, Taylor Rain and Teigan Gray, and my two older sons, Italo and Marco will be here soon. My daughter Madeleina and her boyfriend Adrian are here as well. What that means is I had to cook to a lot of different palates and I was determined to do it with what I had, rather than buying more that would rot while I am in Peru. So the MenU:
Romaine salad with baby tomatoes and vinagrette;
Cucumber salad with lime
Then: Thick sliced pork chops baked with saurkraut. Topped with a fantastic homemade gravy.
White rice with garlic.
Yellow rice.
Manicotti with three cheeses and two sauces;
Burritos from last night with pulled pork, chicken, avacodo, spicy black beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, good cheddar and a couple of things I am forgetting;
Prime rib sauteed to medium rare with onions and mushrooms and a touch of red wine;
Roast chicken in Lemon sauce;
Everyone has eaten but me. There is nothing left of the seven pounds of meat and two pots of rice or manicotti or burritos.
I guess that leaves me with the rocky road ice cream.
I'm down with that.
The fridge is nearly cleaned. Time to go to Peru and have a fantastic adventure. See you all in 5 weeks. Stay strong.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Easiest Recipe in the World. HA!

Easiest recipe in the world. HA! So my daughter, Madeleina, and her friend Adrian brought home some fantastic soft tortillas.
"Dad, if you don't want to cook tonight, let's just have tortillas, okay?"
"Ok, Madeleina, no sweat."
I was lying, of course. While I had some of the ingredients, I needed a few, so hopped to the store for fresh cilantro, chicken thighs, a fat pork chop with the bone in. Came home, opened a can of good black beans, then put minced onion and garlic in olive oil in a small pot. When ready I added diced Roma tomatoes, then added the beans. 20 minutes later I added chopped cilantro, achiote, white vinegar. Turned down heat, let simmer for an hour.
While that started, I washed and dried the chicken thighs, rubbed them down in garlic and olive oil, then seasoned with cracked black pepper and pink sea salt. Put in to bake at 325 (last 20 minutes raise to 390 to get crisp skin).
Started rice with garlic and olive oil, added water when ready, and salt, then added Jasmine rice when all was boiling.
Put on a small fry pan, high heat. Washed the chop, dried it, floured it, seasoned it with a bit of olive oil and pepper, seared it, then tossed the pan into the oven next to the chicken pan.
Cooked ingredients on, I chopped tomato, onion, cilantro and then mixed in the juice of three good limes with a bit of salt and pepp and a touch of garlic to make my pico de gallo.
When that was done I set it aside, added achiote (to make yellow rice) and smoked paprika from Peru to the rice, then resealed.
I got a good avocado, cleaned and sliced it.
I opened a container of sour cream,
I shredded part of a bar of good sharp cheddar cheese, our preference around here.
An hour later, everything done and cooling, I turned one of the burners--electric stove, so flat glass top-- on high, and one by one heated the soft tortillas on it, turning them once or twice. Burned three fingers, but browned those tortillas just right. Was looking at 20 minutes of cleaning that glass top in the morning.
Set out a baking dish. In each tortilla I put either some chicken or pulled pork, a bit of black beans, a bit of rice, pico de gallo, sour cream, avocado, then shredded cheese.
Rolled them up, one by one. Tossed them into a 325 oven. While they were in there I made nice salad and plated it on the three plates.
Mdeleina came in from an apparent nap just as I was pulling out the tortillas.
"They look great, dad! All you need is a little sauce on top and they're done. Isn't it great not to have to cook sometimes?"
Ha. I didn't say a word. She'll be a mom some day and I will tap her on her shoulder from the great beyond and say: "Isn't it great not to have to cook sometimes?"

Friday, January 12, 2018

A primer on the self-applicatio of Sapo or Kambo

A primer on the self-application of Sapo. Same would apply for Kambo, except that you would drink water beforehand and mix the medicine with water and not saliva.
Prior to starting, get two grocery bags, double them up and line them with paper towels to use in case you vomit. A bucket will do as well.
Get a glass of room temperature water and keep it nearby.
Have a friend nearby to help you to the bathroom or to keep your head straight in case you black out. If you black out with your neck in a bad position and then suddenly vomit, you will find your self choking. Best to have a friend keep an eye on you.
Take the stick and put it on a hard, flat surface.
Wash your mouth out with water after cleaning with a tooth brush. We want clear saliva, not old spit.
Get a good knife with a hard blade--a steak knife will bend and cause you to lose sapo medicine, while a hard blade will all you to chip the medicine into the saliva cleanly
Pick a corner of the stick that is free from medicine. Put a bit of saliva on your finger and place it on that clear spot. If no clear spot, place it on the medicine, but not more than the size of your pinky nail.
Wait a moment, then begin to loosen up the medicine beneath the saliva. The medicine is deeper than it looks, so you can go deeper than you think.
Work the medicine into the saliva gently, chopping it up, making sure the material is bump/clump free. When done properly it should have the texture of moist wasabi mustard.
Take your tamishi vine and light one end of it. Hold the lighter to it until it is fully red at the tip. If need be you can suck the other end of the tamishi like smoking a cigarette to get it evenly hot, You do not want any uneven coloring on the tip.
When it is bright red, apply to your upper left or right bicep, or lower leg or ankle if that is your preference. Hold for about 1 second, then pull away.Until you know the strength of this particular stick you should start with one burn You can do more tomorrow, but you cannot undo it once you apply, so caution is the word, always.
Scrape off the burned skin to make it a clean wound.
Double check the medicine for moistness--dry is not good, so if you need a bit more saliva or water, add it.
Apply the medicine to the wound with the tip of your knife, covering the wound entirely.
Put the knife down and put the stick out of reach of anyone who might enter the room,
You will begin to flush after 15 seconds
At about one minute your head will heat up, your heart rate increase, your pulse will increase.
The increase will continue for 8-10 minutes.
If need be, get on your hands and knees.
If, at any point your head feels very hot, pour a bit of the water over it and gently rub it into your scalp and temples to lower your temperature.
At about the 8 minute mark you will feel your stomach cramping and might vomit or need to evacuate. If you need to go to the bathroom you should have a friend help you. You might think you can walk the few steps but a lot of people feint and fall and that can be dangerous.
At about the 11 or 12 minute mark you will have peaked and will feel your heart rate slowing.
At 14-17 minutes the acute period of the medicine is done.
Carefully wipe the medicine from your arm to prevent you from scratching it and then wiping your eye--which really hurts.
The ordeal over, you might need to rest for a little while--some people need an hour or two, some people are raring to go almost immediately--or you might need water for dehydration, or a lime for electrolytes, or an orange for quickly available sugar. Have all three on hand for each experience.
NOTE: Some people wind up with what we call a frog face: Soft tissue under the eyes and the lips swollen badly. This will vanish within an hour in most cases, though now and then it can last a day. It is nothing to be frightened of: it is an indication that so many toxins have been released for removal that your kidneys are backed up and the toxins take short term residence in soft tissue. It is generally the face, but can also be the genitals, under your arms, etc. It will disappear as those toxins get flushed.
In the aftermath of the experience, you might discover that your urine is orange or green or smells like you had two pounds of asparagus last night. Your bowel movement might be particularly black and different in consistency than normal. Again, do not worry about this: It's just the toxins being flushed, and things will soon return to normal.
Make certain that your stick is dry--no trace of the saliva left--before putting it away. Keep in cool dark place, wrapped in newspaper. Always keep out of the range of children, who might see the shiny medicine as something sugary and lick it,, or simply touch it and get some on their fingers which then might get transferred to their eyes.
Never serve to a pregnant woman as sapo/kambo can cause abortions.
Never serve to a lactating woman as the medicine OR the toxins being released by the medicine for elimination might end up in the milk used for breastfeeding.
Never serve to someone or take yourself when high on other drugs, though few prescription drugs present a problem.
Doing sapo when drunk will kick your ass in a huge way. Don't test it.
Always err on the side of caution. You can do more tomorrow. You cannot do less once it has been applied.

Friday, January 05, 2018

2018 Trips to the Jungle

Ladies and Gents, Adventurers of All Ages!
Okay all you people who want a bit of adventure in your lives: Here are the dates for my trips to the Amazon this year. I have a few slots open for January; several open for February, and have just started booking June and July. The trips are kept small, purposefully as I don't really like large groups. So 12 is the limit. Here is the pitch. Take a swing. Just might be an important event in your life.
January 2017
Saturday, Jan 20, through the morning of Monday, Jan 29
February 2017
Saturday Feb, 3, through the morning of Monday, Feb 12
June 2017
Saturday, June 16, through the morning of Monday, June 25
July 2017
Saturday, July 7, through the morning of Monday, July 16
Looking for a dozen intrepid seekers for each of the Jaunts. Looking for people who want to see and be in deep Amazon jungle; people who want to experience ayahuasca and the Matses’ medicines Sapo and Nu-nu in their natural settings; people who don’t mind dirt under their fingernails if they get it because they were walking in high canopy jungle or in a primordial swamp or collecting wild foods or even making clay pots. I’m looking for people who want to collect the medicines they’ll use and watch their preparation, people who would rather participate than observe and be served. I want a small group of curious people, humans interested in their personal growth, in the spirit world, in the Northwest Amazon as it is today but may not be tomorrow. I want people who see bathing in the beautiful Aucayacu river as an opportunity, not as a poor substitute for a hot shower; people who view the chance to eat a few local magic mushrooms while traveling overnight on a flat-bottomed river boat on the Amazon as a once in a lifetime thrill, and see night canoeing in dugouts while searching for medicine frogs a rare and wonderful opportunity. In other words, I want anyone who sees living as a bit of a risk but one worth taking.
And if you join, my team—which will outnumber the guests—and the medicines and the jungle and the rivers and I will all work our collective asses off to give you something you’ll hold onto for a very long time. The medicines will astound you, the people will thrill you, the jungle will amaze you. So what are you waiting for? Drop me a line at or head over to the website for more info, photos, and an idea of the trip itinerary and costs.