Saturday, August 18, 2018

We're messed up and pickles won't save us

Okay, so with all the trouble in the world, with all the horror of war and imprisonment, slavery, hunger, lack of shelter, natural disasters and provoked wildfires, fish killing algae, corruption, pain, suffering, emotional torment, and all the rest of what is rotten in this world, we still have to get up and work. We still have to make our lives the best they can be. we have to treat our loved ones as truly loved ones. We contribute where we can, most of us try to help where we can, we alleviate suffering as we can, but in the end we cannot do it all. The saints among us regular humans did not have the power to stop the suffering of everyone. As a collective, of course, we could stop most physical suffering within hours if we put our hearts into it. Simply stop the wars and go take care of people. Send in builders to rebuild ruined cities. Send in food and water and doctors. Reduce the cost of medicines and provide free food and shelter to those who need it. We already have enough for all seven billion of us; it's simply not distributed evenly. And then there is the hatred that keeps us from coming together as a collective and rectifying all the physical problems the world faces. Yes, we all are still going to die and it ain't gonna be pleasant, but there is no reason kids in Yemen and elsewhere are getting their freaking legs blown off, losing their moms and dads. No reason we have kids sitting in what are essentially prisons here in the USA because their parents had the audacity to try to move away from war zones in Central America and seek asylum here.
I almost cannot go on some days when it all hits me hard and I realize how powerless I am. No superpowers, no special abilities to eliminate hate and prejudice in everyone. I am stunningly ill equipped to save this world.
I was going to write about making some pickles today. That was my meditation because I was being overwhelmed by the whole shebang that causes pain, that revels in pain, that is careless with other people's pain.
So yes, I made pickles and they're gonna be great. As a job it was a wonderful thing to do, and my friend Devon helped me. But as a meditation to forget the helpless feeling of rotten mess in this world, well, it failed miserably. I sincerely hope I did not put that vibe into the pickles! Yikes! I'd only be adding to the suffering when my friends and family eat them and start to puke. Ah, nuts. Momma said there would be days like this. I should have believed her.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Note on Illegal Aliens

A friend posted a meme on fb about people here in the US illegally. Makes my skin crawl, these racist mothafukkas. Who gives a shit if someone doesn't have papers? Are they taking your job? No. Are they paying taxes and not getting the benefit? Yes. Are they paying into medicaid and medicare and social security and will never get the benefits? Yes. So leave them alone.
   In an effort to be polite, this is what I responded:
Illegal aliens have no status. They do not vote. They earn money and pay taxes and social security but will never see that social security money and cannot benefit from many of the things those taxes pay for. They do the grunt work that citizens refuse to do/cannot physically do/are too weak-willed to do. Without them we have no fruit and vegetable crop to speak of. Without them we have no one to wash dishes or cook your horrible fast food. Without them we have no nail salons, no roofing industry, no house building industry, no one to lay tar to build roads. Without illegals this country comes to a full stop in three months. I'm all for giving lots and lots of people temporary work permits, as is done in Alabama for the farming industry and in other states as well. If anyone remembers, when the Alabama governor cut off temporary work permits in the state a few years ago, he thought poor people on welfare could pick crops. They couldn't. He thought poor people who were not on welfare would pick crops. They couldn't. He had people in prisons given the option of working the fields rather than sitting behind bars: In less than one week every prisoner opted for jail over working the fields. $4 billion in crops rotted on the ground in Alabama that year. And yes, temporary work permits were given out the following year, and all the crops got picked and sold. You do not have to like them, but you have to admit we depend on illegals from central America and Mexico for many many things that will otherwise not get done.

This Year's Garden

So I was out at our garden yesterday, like I am every afternoon when here at home, and I was standing on the dry creek bridge looking out at the 16 rows of veggies and bemoaning the fact that it did not produce well, and is not going to produce well. The corn was a complete bust, as were the red peppers, the scallions, the onions, the green
beans, the radishes, and carrots. How do you botch radishes and carrots for goodness sake? The carrots simply never really came up, while the radish tops flourished but the radishes never materialized into anything more than gangly thin red roots. The hot peppers from Peru, the charapitas, looked great early on, but produced few peppers--simply too hot and dry for them. They may produce in September when the rains come.
This garden was put in with lots of energy by Devon, Valerie Van dePanne, and myself. The soil is good and enhanced with a dozen or more sacks of organic manure. It gets watered daily and was weeded wonderfully, first by Devon and I and then by my daughter Madeleina and her beau Adrian while Devon and I were in Peru. It should have produced wildly.
It didn't. We've had a dozen good cucumbers and there are another half dozen near ready on the four or five cuke plants plus a lot of babies on the way. We've had some wonderful zucchini and yellow squash, huge ones, and there are more to pick, but not many. We have had sweet cherry tomatoes and good beefsteaks, but again, we're talking in the dozens, not the hundreds. And the watermelon and cantaloupe are just starting to show up, while our friends melons are already being eaten. There is some spinach but it's growing in trailers, not bushes, and it's not really wonderful to the taste.
So I was drinking a glass of wine and snorting a bit of the Matses' snuff nü-nü and thinking what a bust the garden was when I unexpectedly found myself chuckling. Of course, I would have loved more produce, but when I've had gardens produce like they should, I have wound up with so much stuff--and at the same time that everyones' gardens are producing--that you can't even give it away to the local churches. I remember pickling more than 60 quarts of cucumbers and hating it. I remember having to carry 30-40 watermelons in the back of my pickup with a sign that said: Help Yourself, They're Free, just to get rid of them. I remember having tomato fights with my sons Marco and Italo because we simply had hundreds of tomatoes we couldn't use or give away.
And when I finished that rhapsody, I lapsed into thinking that the idea of the garden wasn't really all about making food. It was about being around the plants, getting quiet for an hour in the afternoon, enjoying watering them and watching the insects that came into the garden for a taste or three. I mean, I've still got more zucchini and yellow squash than I know what to do with--and yes, I've stuffed it, made a casserole, used it in veggie medleys and still am looking at 15 pounds on the kitchen table with 10 more pounds ready to pick. And we've had cucumbers with lime for dinner several times, had cucumber sandwiches, made cucumber soup and still have nearly a dozen on the kitchen table. And there are tomatoes too, with more on the plants to pick. And enough hot charapita peppers to burn several mouths.
So I decided I should not complain. The garden did its job. It produced enough of a few things to keep me going out there every afternoon to quiet myself. And next year it will probably produce so much that I will be back to cursing the okra and cukes and carrots and radishes as I stand in front of a hot stove in August in Texas, pickling them all.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Back from Peru again

Well, I'm; back from the Jungle. It's been nearly two weeks, but as my daughter, Madeleina, says, "Dad, you're no good for the first two weeks you're back." She's right. I'm too full of the jungle, the rivers, the medicine, the guests I had out there to integrate in just a few days. Which doesn't mean I do not do anything. Since I'm back I've got three cover stories for the Fort Worth Weekly lined up, the new incarnation of SKUNK magazine needs me to come up with a new column for them (I did exactly 100 columns of Drug War Follies in the first Skunk incarnation and now it's time to come up with a new idea, right?), and I have cleaned the house, cooked, trimmed my beard, etc.
Probably the main place I've been able to put energy is in cooking. Since I've been back we--that means my friend Devon, who has been staying here for a while, plus Madeleina, off from College, her boyfriend Adrian, and me, plus occasionally my wife/ex-wife Chepa, her two new babies Sierra and Alexa, my son Italo and his wife Sarah and their babies Taylor Rain and Teigan Gray, and my son Marco, plus a dozen friends who have stopped in--have had good hamburgers, stuffed manicotti, linguini with clams and shrimp in a clam sauce. We've had prime rib with sauteed potatoes and seared tomatoes with parmesan. We've had chicken cacciatore over angel hair. We've had hot roast beef sandwiches on organic sour dough bread with mayo, horseradish sauce, skinned red peppers (fresh, of course) with fresh coleslaw. We have had Spanish chopped beef with yellow rice, veggies and jalepenos. We have had Greek Moussaka with organic figs and olives on the side. We have had roast chicken thighs with yellow rice and stuffed zuccini from our garden. We have had four or five cucumber and lime salads with the cukes coming from our garden. We have had good ice cream, great coffee, and we have thanked the lord--insert any lord you believe in right here--for letting us eat so wonderfully and have sung, and prayed to make the same food available to everyone. There is enough to go around. I can invite 10 people and still have enough for 10 more.
And now our chickens are starting to lay eggs. Yikes! Do you guys see what we are eating? This is beyond fantastic. I hope you are all eating as well. And if you tell me who to cook for, I will cook for them too, okay. I do not mean to be selfish here.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Using Sapo/Kambo While Breastfeeding

Claims about Sapo/Kambo, the frog medicine that some indigenous apply to small burns in their skin to introduce it to the capillaries that carry it to the general blood stream are getting out of hand. People who use the medicine are shrouding it in nonsensical spirituality, and claiming it can cure damned near everything from rickets to rheumatoid arthritis. It is a miracle medicine, no doubt, based on the science of it--as first explored by the late great pharmacologist Vittorio Erspamer of the FIDIA Research Institute of the University of Rome--but it ain't gonna fix mom's bunions necessarily. One person recently told me they'd taken it to strengthen their umbilical cord as they were pregnant. She was in obvious pain and sure it would pass. I did not have the heart to tell  her it was an abortive and that she was having a slow miscarriage because of it. Yesterday someone claimed it was great to give to breastfeeding moms as it made their milk better. BULLSHIT! Who the hell would know that except a scientist who did a study and there have been no studies on that matter. I think it might be dangerous at the very least for a breastfeeding mom to use sapo. Here's what I wrote, being my political and politest best:
I do not think it is good for breast feeding women. The toxins that are released by the medicine are temporarily stored in fatty tissue until they can be eliminated and that includes breasts. Might some of those toxins make it into the milk and hurt the baby? Perhaps. And even if the toxins do not get into the milk (there have been no studies on this as yet) the medicine itself might. And while many of the peptides in sapo/kambo are bioactive, babies and small children do not have the developed receptor sites to receive them. So I would think a good practitioner would hold off on serving a breast feeding mom just as a precaution. If studies are done at a later date and show that I'm wrong, well, that would be a different matter, but without them I would not take the chance based on someone's personal claim.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

One more on the Matses and Nu-Nu use

Nu-Nu is a snuff the indigenous Matses use in conjunction, generally, with sapo, the frog sweat medicine burned into their arms. The nu-nu, as hunting tool, compliments the sapo in that the sapo fine tunes your vision and the nu-nu snuff brings out the hues and color values of the greenery of the jungle, so that instead of looking at a wall of green, it becomes very three-dimensional, allowing a hunger to look "through" the thick foliage to see animals they might want to hunt hiding in the greenery. It also makes you feel slightly drunk and after a failed hunt the hunters would often take copious amounts of it, and the more they did the more fantastic their stories--of the animals they almost got that day--became.
   Someone asked me if they could eat nu-nu and I had to say no, as the primary ingredient in it was wild tobacco, a very strong poison. Someone else responded that a Matses said they ate it for hunting. This was my reply, based on my experience:
Never heard of that. Now among the Bora and Aucaiño, they make an ibu coca that is activated with liquid extract of tobacco that is used like chewing tobacco and placed between the cheek and teeth. Some of that winds up being swallowed and they seem to survive just fine. But the tobacco content is small compared to the ibu-coca (jungle coca, not very strong) and is not nearly as high a dose as the Matses' nu-nu. And considering that when two hunters get together they might do 100 shots of it each, about 3-4 ounces per person over the course of a couple of hours, that would be, if eaten, like eating 3 or more ounces of pure tobacco, and you would be dead in certainly less than an hour. Unless you speak dialect, I would refrain from believing most of what the Matses say. The old ones who know things do not think in Spanish, so do not communicate very well in that language. The younger ones just try to tell you what you want to hear. Now the really old ones still communicate mostly telepathically, so language is not a barrier, but there are not 10 of those left in all of the nearly million hectares of Matses territory.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Someone asked me this question about sapo/kambo/the Matses

Someone asked me if the Matses used different parts of the body to elicit different effects from sapo, the frog medicine that's administered into small burns on your body. They were hoping I would say something like: Well, if your chacras were closed, they would.......bullshit. Here is how I responded, and it's only from my experience but I do have experience with them:
With the Matses back in 1985-2000, there was very little consideration of dot placement. Burns were universally on the upper left or right bicep for men, with the occasional exception of some young buck who insisted he get them across his chest, above the heart. That request was always met with laughter by the elders who thought it was ridiculous but would serve it that way on request. For small kids who were sick, it was given on the forearm, generally, to break a sweat. For women thought to be pregnant it was given on the inner wrist, just a touch. 
Later, during the first trimester, a very small amount was administered to the labia to provoke urination that the midwives would read to see if the embryo was male or female, healthy or not. And if it was a female they did not need, or if it was unhealthy, a second administration to the labia would produce an abortion. I was never invited to watch those female procedures, so I'm going on what I was told, not personal experience. 
There was absolutely no consideration as to where it would be stronger: ie, the chacras. The Matses used this as a utilitarian hunting medicine, sickness medicine, abortive. No ritual, no singing, no dancing, just apply and walk away and let the recipient deal with it while everyone else ate a tapir or boar or crocodilian. 
I still am with the Matses a full month a year and have never seen that differ. You are sick or lazy, need to abort, or are not hunting well, you are getting sapo, whether you want it or not. 
The best that can be said is that in true Pervian form, they laughed while you suffered. Same as if you broke a hip. They would just laugh and laugh and never for a minute consider your broken hip. 
Their world was a rough place. It's now gotten soft, what with having agriculture and iphones and electricity. In those days they were still stealing machetes, shotguns, women. Different world.

Saliva vs Water to Liquify Sapo/Kambo

People who use frog sweat medicine, known as kambo in Brazil and Sapo in Peru, have two distinct ways to moisten it for application. It needs moistening because after it is collected from the frog it is dried onto a small piece of hardwood until it has the consistency of varnish. To liquify it, Peruvian indigenous generally use saliva, while Brazilian indigenous are said to use water.
Someone has recently been challenging my position that the saliva helps break down the medicine so that it is more quickly absorbed into the subcutaneous layers of the skin (skin that has been burned with a piece of vine called tamishi), while using water to moisten it simply makes it wet. I used the example of putting a small piece of meat into a bit of saliva and waiting a few minutes: it begins to break down because of the enzymes in the saliva. The same little piece of meat (or veggie, or other things) in water just gets wet but does not begin to break down.
The person was having none of it, so I finally answered with this, which gets to a very good point but does so awkwardly, just because I didn't write it well. Anyway, he was my explanation:
The hard shell of  the medicine on the stickneeds to be broken down so that the medicine is moistened to the point where it can be absorbed. When you liquify it in water you wind up with little globules. Liquify in saliva and you wind up with a fully prepared paste that will get into the blood stream more quickly. Imagine if you just took a chunk of the medicine and put it on a burn: it would take forever for that to get absorbed. Now imagine good sea salt: put it on food and you have chunks of salt that take longer to break down than they do if you crush them. That's what I'm talking about. I have never seen the water method make the same quality paste as the saliva method, and in my book that makes it more quickly absorbed. The saliva does the same job on the medicine as it does with the food in your mouth: It begins breaking it into its component parts on contact for better absorbtion by your body.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Someone asked me and this is my answer

Someone asked me if I get excited about going to Peru twice a year. This is how I responded:
   You told me to ignore this, but now I see you asked a legit question. Do I get excited? I just finished a 1400 word piece yesterday for my newspaper, and I have a 4,000 word piece due Monday before I leave Monday night. Excited about Peru? While I am here I live here. I try to tighten up my life here--from garden to kids to animals and animal food and two months worth of bills paid, and then I go. And when I am in Peru I am not a dad, not an ex-husband,  not a grandpa. I'm Peter Gorman, Jungle guide and raconteur. They are two very separate worlds and it is a difficult crossing each time. I am expected to work magic both here and there and I know I cannot work magic  anywhere. No, I don't get excited, I get terrified that I will fail people who depend on me: While here I am terrified that I will fail my friends and family. While there I am terrified that I will fail people who come on the trips seeking healing that I might not be able to provide. YIKES!!!!!!!