Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This is where I started, and it's still perfect

It's 6:31 AM on a Tuesday morning. I've got a story to put to bed by 10 AM, so I've been up since 5, working at it. Half-an-hour ago, Madeleina got up to use the bathroom and I called to ask her if she'd washed any clothes last night that she wanted put into the dryer. She said no.
    A few moments later she called to ask if I was up. I said I was. She said, "then I'm coming in there to sleep with you." Which meant that she wanted to sleep on the couch I sleep on while I sit at the computer.
   "Dad, this is the second night in a row that it took at least an hour to get to sleep. I don't know what's wrong. And I wake up every hour it seems."
   Then she plumped down on the couch, pulled the comforter around her, and fell asleep instantly.
   When she was younger, I loved her sleeping behind me while I wrote. Just having her nearby made my heart soar. And now, at 17, while it doesn't happen often, I still love it. I love hearing my daughter breathing that calm breath of sleep. My daughter sleeping. Have a good dream, Madeleina.

Monday, April 21, 2014

New Book in the Offing

I've been away for a couple of weeks. Partly due to the immense pain that has accompanied a pinched or something sciatic nerve. It's kept me from appreciating life while I wince continually. Somehow, I've managed to get several stories and the lawn done. More stories on the way.
    But I'm also putting together a book of some of my blog pieces. You guys already read them, in all probability. I've picked about 80 out of the near-800 entries and in the last week have tossed 10 of those in favor of 10 others. It's a bit of a buffet, rather than a specific entree: There is stuff from New York, from my bar in Peru, from the family, from the Amazon, from Ayahuasca, from politics. It goes without saying that except for the best 24,374 books written in the English language, this is the best book ever. You'll laugh, you'll cry,  you'll want to ring my neck. Don't do that last thing, okay? That would hurt.
    The tentative title is Observations from a Peculiar Perch. I've got Johan  Fremin designing it; Morgan Maher illustrating it--this time with wild art rather than sketches--and all four of my hateful but fantastic editors lined up to tar and feather me. So it's the same team that did my last book.
    The pieces here will be polished up some when they need it, though I don't want to get away from the simple urgency of the feel of blog pieces.
    We all think this can be done by early July.
    So if you want a signed copy, send me $25 bucks via paypal to peterg9@yahoo.com and include an address and I'll put you on the list. You'll get the first copies from the printer. If you're in Europe or Australia, that's $30 because shipping alone is about $10 or more.
    Monies sent will go to feeding the kids, my Madeleina, Boots the Blind Wonderdog, the cats and those damned editors. One dollar of every 20 will be reserved for cheap wine.
    Actually, I've been working on this project little by little for about a year and then intensified wildly when I returned from Peru in early March. So now we're on the way. I think I've got a good team and I think it really will be a good book, no fooling. Just yesterday, Easter, Madeleina went over the table of contents and came up with four stories I had to include and five she said were boring. So it's coming along.
    Thanks for listening.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Can't Sleep for Panic, Not Happy

It's 4:45 AM. I've been up since 3:15. Before that I was up at 2 and then earlier, at midnight. It's been this way for several weeks now--it's been a little like this for a couple of years but only this bad since I came back from Peru. I've had apnea for a while--my nose gets stuffed up and I stop breathing and wake in a panic. My friend Claudia told me to put the bed on a slant, raise one end, and that would help. It did. It was perfect for more than two years. Slept good three and four hour chunks twice a night, just getting up to use the restroom and check the house once or twice.
    But now, now is different. It's like my lungs are full of water an I'm drowning all the time. I drink wine and so can go to sleep early for a few hours--maybe 9:30 till midnight. Then another hour and another. And then it's done. So I'm exhausted every day. My ankles and feet are swollen from not laying down for a long enough time. I start to panic just thinking about going back to bed.
    I try to embrace the fear: I see myself entering a tunnel that gets smaller and smaller and I want to turn and run but force myself to come to the end and start digging my way out. And sometimes I dig right into open sunlight and think, 'good, now I'll sleep' but that's not how that works. I still wake in a panic, not breathing.
    I sometimes put a pillow on the desk and sit back in the chair and put my feet up on the pillow and sometimes that works but not tonight. Tonight I just feel like I'm drowning and I'm not happy. I want this to stop. I want my own body back, my own ankles, my own sleep patterns, my own alertness during the day, my joy of living every moment. I am tired of being tired and grumpy.
    I'm going to do some sapo, frog sweat, on Saturday morning to see if I can't get this body to do a reset. I've got too many calls for a new story tomorrow to fit it in during the morning. I don't know what else to do. I can't sleep for panic and I'm not happy.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Learning to Win and Lose

Well, Madeleina came home from the regionals in extemporaneous debate yesterday and boy was she pissed off. The job was to take three or four poems, weave parts of them into one piece, read it and then be able to debate about the value of the pieces, the reason for your selections and so forth. Well, she went with the Beat Poets, which was a good choice because I have some of their books around. And she came up with a great piece which she could read very well.
    So she got picked to head to what I think are the regionals--kids were coming in from a few different counties, it looked like, and if it all went well she would have moved on to State--which is apparently a big deal here in Texas, though I don't remember even having it in New York when I was a kid in the last century.
    Evidenty she did fantastically at the reading and was held over to debate her choices. She didn't fare well there and did not make State. She said that her debate judges included a school bus driver and someone else not involved in teaching, and then one debate teacher. I think that's what she said. And the three of them, while saying they loved her reading, said the Beat poets had no value, no impact, and so were a very bad choice on her part.
   She took umbrage at that.
   They were lucky that's all she took.
   "Dad, excuse me but they were out of their flipping minds. Not important? Howl by Ginsberg is not important? Kerouac is not important? Dad! They were the social voice of the day! They were the white counter part of the civil rights movement! Ginsberg declared war on those who put down gays! They demanded the right to speak their minds in public and were willing to go to jail, like Lenny Bruce, for that! Not important! God, this is the worst day of my life!"
    They were wrong and she was right, of course. The Beats were very important. But maybe not out here in bucolic Joshua, Texas. Maybe out here they're considered as valueless as hippies and the Occupy Wall Streeters and the like.
    I tried to console her with the thought that she's still going to State as a solo flutist and as part of an ensemble. Not bad.
    She wasn't buying it. "Dad, they took some kid who read Christian poetry over me! God, I hate them!"
    She's got a point. But then, this is Texas. And learning to lose with grace, even if you're cheated sometimes, is an important lesson in life. Learning to lose isn't a good lesson by itself, of course, but learning how some people will cheat you out of what is rightfully yours--and figuring out how to make that not happen next time, how to keep standing up for yourself--well, that's important. Winning is great, but losing is where the real lessons are.

Monday, March 24, 2014

This House is Fallng Apart....

Pretty much my favorite song is "This house is falling apart" and I have no idea who does it. But the singer talks of the house where he/she lived/loved/rattled this town. What a freaking house! They're gonna rattle this ghost town even though their house is falling apart. Now that's something special.
    And my house is falling apart. The damned water pipe is leaking again, as I've noted, and today I went and bought rope to make the tree swings work again but I can no longer climb the tree to put it in place so I had to call Italo to ask for help. And then I had to call Marco to help with the damned leaking water pipe since I don't really want to put my leg in that shit. I felt like a sissy but justified it by putting a lot of hot sausage/peppers/onions/garlic on the stove to go with a nice marinara and mozzarella on hot Italian sandwiches and made several pounds of good chicken thighs to take home to their places.
   Then they both showed up, like the freaking mafia, sunglasses, radiant shirts, tough guys and I was just about crying because  I'm such a sissy and it was so nice that they came to fix things and they're at the store now buying parts and I'm sitting here just sobbing from loving them and how cool they have turned out. You guys are fantastic! Thanks for being my kids, kids. We fight, you two fight, but right now, right this minute, you have more love coming your way than you can imagine. Share it. I love you guys.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Abundance of Ayahuasca and Admixture Plants

Someone has been writing me private notes saying they want to move to the Amazon to study ayahuasca. Their enthusiasm outreaches their experience, so I suggested spending a month or two in the jungle--they want to live away from people, alone in the jungle--before they sell everything they have and move there. I was being nice, because the jungle doesn't accept everyone. The bugs are difficult to deal with. The work, so easy for people who were born to it, is nearly impossible for Westerners to learn to do. Simple things like carrying water, making a dugout canoe, building a house when you don't know what kind of trees will stay strong and not rot in six months; weaving leaf-roof sections and all that jazz. Sure, if you go in with lots of money you can get it done--and people do, though most discover they didn't even know how to hire the right people and so everything falls apart the first time or two. Like a lot of things, experience counts. Imagination is wonderful when grounded in a bit of reality.
    So the most recent letter from this person thanked me for explaining that you can't just grow a garden in the jungle. Some jungle will grow plantains and yucca; the neighbors' land, just 500 feet away, might grow wonderful peppers and cilantro but won't grow a plantain at all. The next neighbor over might be able to grow corn and papaya but nothing else. Depends the nutrients in the soil and a host of other things and those might well depend on the high water season of rushing river depositing topsoil on your property.
   But the fellow also suggested that at least ayahuasca and chacruna--the two key ingredients for making the jungle medicine--grow in abundance, as did the admixture plants. I was forced to respond and here it is:
Dear X: Actually, no, ayahuasca and chacruna and the admixture plants do not grow in abundance everywhere. And they take a long time to grow and they have been way, way over harvested in the last several years. Used to be, a curandero on a river might have five mature vines; when he cut some from one, he or she always left the roots, sang to it, smoked mapacho to thank it, then planted one or two sections of what he or she had cut to insure that more would grow--even if that growth was going to take several years.
    These days, some camps are indiscriminately asking people like the members of my team to go get them 100 sacks of vine--and that might have been every vine including roots, of every ayahuasca plant on an entire river. So no, things are not good that way.
    Over the years I've planted hundreds; most have been stolen by people collecting for the big camps or internet sellers. They are the only ones looking for that volume.
    Remember that traditionally, only the curandero drank, not the people at the ceremony, so a few good vines could be used for years. Once you have 30 people drinking nightly at each of 100 camps, plus 10 times that many drinking in the US alone every night--well, you're cutting very deeply into the supply of something that takes years and special conditions to grow. And since typical admixture barks, lupuna negro and catawa, for instance, are trees coveted by lumber men, well, they are getting in short supply as well.
   It's not a disaster yet, but in five years if things continue as they are, it certainly could be. In 10 years, it will be. Where we used to routinely use vines that were 1 1/2 inches or two inches thick, many people are now using vines that are 1/2 inch thick. Those are too young to have learned very much. They need more seasoning to be great medicines. But the demand is there and people who dream of having an Ipod will cut every specimen down if they think they'll earn enough money to buy one. That's just the way it is, not just in the Amazon, but everywhere. In the Amazon, though, the balance tends to be a little more delicate and so needs more care and attention to keep it from becoming something awful.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Our House

I stumbled on a beautiful website today--maybe while reading Huffington Post--devoted to beautiful homes. Some of the 57 homes pictured were on ocean coasts; some were on rivers; some were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. A couple were built as replicas of small castles; one was a really gorgeous log cabin on a river. A lot of them had fantastic pools or moats; some had bowling alleys or two-story libraries. These were beautiful homes. Look at any one of them and you could picture yourself living there in bliss forever. Just fantastic architecture, fantastic settings, thrilling designs.
    My house sprung a new leak in the water pipe last night. It's the second leak in three months. The first came about when the crew building the new road in front of my house moved the water meter in the ground with a Bobcat, breaking the line. I have not figured out why the new leak happened, but it left us with filling up a couple of 5 gallon pots with water for cooking/dish washing, and filling the tub with water to flush the toilet. I'll fix it tomorrow, but today I had to work on a story so couldn't.
    A few years ago a leak in our hot water heater went unnoticed for a week or 10 days and that put so much water under the house that the cinderblock foundation re-settled which sort of bent the beams which threw the whole house out of whack. That caused cracks in the roof and the kitchen floor, which led to rain coming in and dripping on my desk on heavy rain days and led to spaces between the kitchen floor tiles. It also almost dropped the pantry--where we have the washer/dryer/tools/junk--right off the house. That's now held onto the main structure by duct tape and a couple of well-placed beams to keep it from falling. The bend in the beam also caused the bathroom to move on angle. Not pretty.
   So I was looking at those houses and they were fantastic. And I remembered being invited to a house in Connecticut some years ago that was owned by the wife of the Russian media magnate--in prison at the time--which was a real castle and worth something like $40 million with another $10-$20 million in paintings and furnishings. And they were gorgeous. I'd like one.
   But you know what? I'll take my broken down house with the drip on my desk from heavy rains over all of them. Know why? Cause this is where my family laughs. And yeah, you all know my family is as broken as my house, but still, they all come over sometimes and we laugh and dance and paint and watch tv and eat like pigs and I just don't think there's a better house in the whole world than mine. Even though, I realize, nobody's ever gonna put me on a website devoted to gorgeous houses.