Monday, August 19, 2019

Poltical Insanity

Had a short piece to write today. Just 1,400 words about the kids on the border, which really irks me, because treating kids as sub human allows us to see them as non-human and that allows us to see their parents as monsters, and we don't care how horribly we treat monsters, do we? This administration is fukked with hurting the most vulnerable. Like treating a 3 year old badly--and the government just went to court and claimed that is nothing in the federal Agreement for treating immigrants with soap or toilet paper--despite the government's rule that all kids must be treated safely and in a sanitary manner, with decency.
So I finished that, hit my head on the wall 20 times because a concussion was better than thinking about the freaking Trump Administration's purposeful infliction of pain on the most vulnerable among us. Hell, last week they took a breastfeeding baby from his mother while he was feeding. This is stuff us Catholics register as real sin. And all you protestants out there, remember this: You are failed Catholics. And you evangelicals? You are failed protestants, you freaking losers. You are so far from a holy base of judaism/Islam that you are out of your minds.
Okay, but the thing is this. Despite my anger, righteous anger at the world, I made two dozen chicken wings, asparagus and sweet summer corn. So I am going to replenish with that and watermelon, and Madeleina just brought in half-a-dozen eggs from the chicken coop, and Bootsie, the Wonder Dog just ate four stuffed poblano peppers and Madelena painted our front door a light shade of purple and I cleaned the damned kitchen top to bottom.
Here is the thing: Politics can twist you into knots, and particularly people like me, who watch things. But you still have to grab a moment or two to be free, cook good food, take a walk in the woods, smell some flowers, so that you can come back strong and centered. Does any of this make any sense? I hope so. You have to be strong enough to fight good, worthy fights. And fighting this administration at every turn is a worthy fight.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Back Story with Peru's National Soda, Inca Cola

Here is the story on Inca Cola, which is bubblegum in a bottle. In every country in the world where Coca-Cola has products, it's the number one seller. It's a point of pride with the company. But Inca Cola is the national soda of Peru and Coca-Cola didn't like that. Sometime during the 1990s or early 2000s when I was living in Iquitos and running my Cold Beer Blues Bar on the Puerto Mastranza in the toughest part of town, Coca-Cola started spending millions and millions to unseat Inca Cola as the nation's top drink. They had billboards and sponsored live music shows and placed television advertisements all over the country for several years. And they still could not beat Inca Cola. So they decided to buy Inca Cola. But Inca Cola's family--the people who ran it, knew that Coca-Cola was just going to buy it and kill it. So they said, basically, we'll sell it on these conditions: You cannot kill it. You cannot come into the factories where we make it, bottle it, or distribute it. You cannot touch the formula for 50 years, long enough for our children and their children to run this company. The only thing they allowed Coca-Cola to do was to add a tiny "Product of Coca-Cola" to the traditional Inca Cola bottle design--although I don't have a bottle in front of me this second so the phrasing might be a bit different. But that's it. And Coca-Cola had to go along with that list of demands in order to say they were #1 in Peru. It was fantastic to watch that go down.

A Special Rock 'n Roll Moment for Me

One of my best rock and roll moments--and I helped build Jimi Hendrix' Ladyland on 8th street in New York, and built Island records studio on Grove Street and in the Carnegie Building for Bob Marley and Peter Tosh (and smoked joints with them while I was painting) was when Carlos Santana "Yes". 
 "This is Carlos Santana. I am going to Chlle for the first time and I need two things: I need to know how it is, and I need a lot of pot for my crew and band. I was told you could handle that." 
Now, as of yet I am not gay, but I almost creamed my pants. I mean, this was one of my freaking gods asking me for a favor. It was unbelievable. Just like when Catherine Deneuve called me because I had Woody Alan's last phone number and we wound up having phone sex. So Carlos called me and I hooked him up with pot in Chile and I thought that was a good thing.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

I'm Angry

You think life sucks? I'm gonna tell you another thing. The kids in cages at the border, the kids with no toothbrushes, no soap, no towels, no beds, no showers, no soccer or basketballs? The private prison industry that is housing those kids is charging $740 or so per night per kid. 1,000 kids: three-quarter of a million dollars nightly. Federal prisoner in a privately owned penitentiary cost $73 bucks a night. So who the fuck is taking 10 times that amount and telling kids a $12 buck soccer ball is too much, or a $0.15 toothbrush is too much when they are getting $740 a night per kid. Who the fuck is watching the hen house?
I will always reserve my right to be a fair and honest investigative reporter while still having feelings for human beings, whether housed for two-plus decades for nonviolent crimes, losing their property for a single pot plant on a 1,000 acre farm, or being a child who is brown. If I didn't have those feelings, I wouldn't waste my time being an investigative reporter. But yes, I am fair to both sides. If both sides are fair to the people involved.

It's Freaking Hot Here in Texas

Well, after five or so days, we will be dipping down below 100 degrees tomorrow. With the AC on, we are hitting 86 in the house for most of the day when it's that hot outside. Unfortunately, it's a cheap house with no insulation. I tend to fall asleep at my desk twice a day, just from the heat. And I wake up sort of sweaty and in a mean mood, ready to lash out because I'm so damned uncomfortable. I'm sorry, universe.
On the other hand, I've finished my story on the guys and women who were doing life in prison for first time nonviolent drug offenses, and I hope it gets the attention of some people who will work to get some people out of that hell. The people I wrote about got sentences commuted via clemency from Obama, and are all doing well on the outside.
So many people suffered from the stupid war on drugs. As one of my guys said: "All of the drugs they got in the conspiracy (crack cocaine, 1992) from FBI buys and what we had when they rounded us up, did not come to one kilo of crack cocaine (basically 1 1/2 ounces of cocaine cooked with baking soda to make crack). They charged us as kingpins with 15 kilos. Because crack was sentenced as 100-to-one of powder cocaine, we were all sentenced for 1,500 kilos of cocaine, automatic life in prison. Then they said we were kingpins, which meant life without parole. We weren't kingpins. Kingpins had ships and airplanes to bring in tons of cocaine. We had less than a kilo among all 31 of us. We still got life without parole for ghost cocaine that never existed."
Thank god for Obama's (late but better than nothing) 2014 Clemency Initiative, which released 1,794 people, 500 of whom were serving life without parole for first, nonviolent, drug offenses.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Little Things

Little things: I'm working a good cover story for Fort Worth Weekly about several people from Fort Worth who had their sentences commuted by President Obama. All of them got life without parole for first time, non-violent drug offenses. One wound up doing 10+ years, two others 17+, two others 24 and 26. All are now out, finally, and productive members of society. It is this societies shame that we would do that to people. All were scheduled to die in prison if not for the commutations, and thousands more remain inside, hoping for similar breaks.
Today was a photo shoot with a couple of them. One I already knew, the other I knew from phone interviews but just met today. Very nice people who got into street dealing as late teens. Damn, those sentences were cruelly excessive.
We had to drive 90 minutes each way for the shoot, and this is our second. My daughter Madeleina was taking the photos. She's already had two cover shots and done inside-the-paper shots another 15 or so times. She's got a great eye.
While we were out--with her boyfriend Adrian driving us--the dogs went a little crazy in the house: They pulled blankets and throw pillows from couches, tore up paper towels, and generally made a mess. Not typical for my dog Boots, or Madeleina and Adrian's dogs, Samson and Clementine.
I went about putting up groceries that we'd picked up on the way home, then sat at the computer to see if friends who were due over had left a message. They hadn't.
Suddenly Madeleina came into the room, crying. "Dad, I'm really sorry. I'm so sorry, but I think the dogs ate your caiman (South American crocodilian) skin. I'm so sorry, dad..."
She thought I'd get angry. I didn't. I explained for the millionth time that life happens, and accidents are part of it. I get angry at deliberate stupidity or not caring about other people. I don't get angry over legit accidents.
She was inconsolable.
I thought about it a minute, trying to remember when I'd gotten the skin. I told her I'd always have the memory of eating the caiman's tail, roasted with lime and garlic over an open fire in the Amazon. It was a pretty small caiman. Then I laughed and told her I think I got that back in 1986 or 1988. I told her I'd had it for more than 30 years, and that was a long enough time to hold onto it.
She finally started laughing. "You had that eight years before I was born!"
And then my mind went back to the story I'm writing and I thought of the people who have been in prison for more than 30 years for non-violent drug offenses. I think we've held on to them for long enough as well.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Leaving for Peru Tomorrow, and a Little Frightened

Hello all. I leave for Peru for 3 weeks tomorrow, for a Jungle Jaunt with seven guests, three of whom are old friends, and the four others friends I'll make. The trip has been planned meticulously. Hotels have been paid for, a shipment of bottled water, gasoline, petroleum, toilet paper and a host of other things has been sent upriver. My team is ready to kick ass out in the jungle, and I have a feeling the deep jungle is ready to kick ass as well. I'm getting strong and will do my share to make this trip special for everyone.
But I'm a little scared as well. As my daughter Madeleina has pointed out, I've come back from most trips in the last several years quite ill. Some of that is my fault because I always ask the universe to give me the pain if there is pain that has to be suffered for our incursion into the jungle, as light-footed as we are. And the universe seems to go along with that: My guests come out fine. I come out with anaconda bites that have left one hand nearly senseless, dengue fever, new bouts of old malaria, and in February, I came back with my second case of flesh eating bacteria. Three days after I returned home I visited a doc who put me in the hospital. The hospital put me in intensive care and eight doctors worked on me for three days before I was transferred to a regular room for five more days. I did 74 days of antibiotics, was off for three weeks, then started another round of 60 days. I'm nearly halfway through that and dry heave daily from them, cannot taste food--which sucks for a chef--and have some general malaise from the 3,000 mgs daily of the two antibiotics I'm taking to keep the bacteria, which have evidently cultivated me I'm told--at bay.
I am not really worried about that sort of stuff, even though it could be worrisome. What I am scared to death of is a repeat of my last flight from Lima to Dallas. I was really sick. The people at the airport said I was too ill to fly. I did not realize it, and they finally let me on the international flight. But during the 7 hour flight, I started to hallucinate. I mean, really hallucinate. I watched my leg, which was well wrapped but leaking a little liquid, begin to leak a lot. I had not had a drink or smoked a joint or done anything to provoke the hallucinations: They just arrived, full force. I watched my leg leak so much that it began to flood the airplane floor until the whole plane was knee deep in watery fluid. All of the people in the seats in front of me turned around and glared at me and some people asked what I was going to do about it. Their seats rose like theater seats so that they could all see me clearly. I spoke to a few of them, which woke the real people up and they told me to shut the hell up. It was one hell of a show caused by the malaria relapse I had, combined with the flesh eating bacteria, and the 103 temp I did not realize I had until we landed and they had a wheel chair and a nurse waiting for me.
It was frightening to be in an alternate reality while on a plane with the lights off. At one point I went back to the kitchen area and told one of the flight attendants that I was feeling lousy and asked if she might give me water and talk with me for a few minutes. She said "no. Go back to your seat." I thought that was harsh.
I made it through. But if there is a chance the powers that be can make sure that does not happen again tomorrow, I would be really, really happy. Oh, and if I can ask for one more thing: Please do not make me dry heave several times during the flight for a couple of minutes each time. Nobody liked that and nobody bought a ticket for that show.
Ah well, life's an adventure, eh?

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Magicks Again

I will probably sound like a broken record here, but in light of the near shots of war with Iran and the very disturbing situation with the youngsters in prison camps in Texas and elsewhere, I feel I have to repeat this. Among some traditions in the Amazon region of Northeast Peru, different colors are evoked as magics. Red magic is the magic of blood, of the life force that moves through all living things and can be invoked by healers to assist in locating a physical issue and curing it as well. White magic is the illuminating spark that keeps all things alive and can be invoked to bring illumination to problems, such as exposing fear, which festers, and is arguably the cause of all of humanity's self-made ills. Black magic is the molten core of all things that holds everything together. It is the magnetic force the keeps us from falling apart and keeps the universe spinning. It can be invoked to suck out negativity, like fear, and transform it to fearlessness in its molten fires. Or cowardice to courage. Green magic is the magic of all of the natural world, all of the rivers and waters and the things that water helps produce: All of our food, our trees, flowers, weeds, everything, and it keeps us alive as well.
I often dwell on Green magic because of all the magics I've been exposed to, it is the one that seems simplest to understand, and the one that should bind all of us together, regardless of our differences. I wish I could get the world to understand that the urine I pee today will wind up the water growing food to feed your family next week or next month, halfway around the world. As theirs will one day soon water my garden. That's pretty simple, right? If we could just get people to realize how interdependent we are we would not treat those youngsters in the border cages like we do; we would stop wars in an instant. We would fight for each other, not with each other.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Dinner on a Very Hot Day

The air conditioner went down yesterday and the house went up to 92. It was hot. So hot that I did not want to cook much of anything because that would bring the heat up even more. And I was already steeping three liters of Una de Gato, a Peruvian medicinal tea that is a general tonic and also does wonders for your immune system.
So when I went to the store I opted for fresh sea scallops and shrimp. I picked up 6 scallops and 10 good-sized wild caught shrimp, a bag of spinach, couple of bands of scallions, and not much else.
Hope, I cleaned the shrimp and put the shells into a small, heavy saucepan at high heat till they were bright red. Turned the heat down, added the scallion ends, two celery stalks, chopped, the tomato ends, and the onion ends, then filled it with water and let it rip. An hour later, at a lowish temp, I had a good cup of shrimp stock.
Floured the scallops and put them in a saute pan that was scalding hot and into which I'd already put garlic soaked in olive oil, the rough chopped scallions and onions, and diced tomatoes. When the scallops were browned on one side I added the shrimp and three minutes later took everything out of the pan, then sauteed the spinach in the pan juice.
Removed the spinach, added the shrimp stock, reduced it further, added two table spoons of butter--could not resist--the juice of three fresh limes, and made the sauce. I arranged the spinach as a bed on dinner plates, put the shrimp and scallops on top of it, tossed the veggies into the sauce to heat them up and then topped off the dish with all that.
I didn't have to actually be in the kitchen for 10 minutes total--just cutting, cleaning, quick cooking--and man, we still ate like kings around here. That was good, and perfect for such a hot freaking day.
Then my kid came over and fixed the air conditioner. Cool.