Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Summer time, and the living is easy....

So I was finishing up a 1400 word piece for the Fort Worth Weekly that comes out tomorrow, working on a 5000 word cover story for next week, due Thursday, two days from now for the same paper, and writing a 500 word short piece for tomorrow's paper. Then there is the freelance article due next Friday that will either make or break Christmas for my kids.
    In other words, I was busy. And Madeleina wasn't getting out of school till 6 PM, so I didn't go to the store till 4 PM, late for me. So I decided to make a simple roast chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, good beans from scratch.
   While I was doing that, Chepa, the wife/ex-wife, came with Sierra, Alexa and my grand daughter Taylor Rain. Plus my son Italo who just turned 29 the other day. Plus Madeleina.
    And instead of dropping Madeleina off, the kids decided to paint, so I got out the new watercolors and gave them paper and then Chepa, Italo and I went to the front porch to talk. Two minutes later, the girls said they were bored with paper and began using the three of us as their canvasses. I'm now covered head to toe in paint, as was Chepa when she left, and Italo, who made a mistake of sleeping on the front porch swing while the girls had paint.
   So we're covered and the porch is a mess and the bathroom where the girls showered is a rainbow and this was one fantastic night. You can clean paint, I can clean paint. But neither you nor I can make the paint happen like it happened tonight. That was art. Crazy art, yes, but real art.

Monday, October 20, 2014

This is Life with Lisa Ling

Just a quick note to let you know that Lisa Ling is doing a show on the ayahuasca boom in Peru. It is part of her show This is Life with Lisa Ling--which is now on CNN on Sunday Nights at either 9 or 10 PM Eastern Standard Time. I'm going to be in it for at least a few seconds--a question or two culled from the couple of hours of filming we did in the Belen market in Iquitos, Peru in July. She's a damned good journalist and though I have not seen the show, I'll bet she gets down to the quick of it. I do know she extensively interviewed my friend, the curandero Ron Wheelock. I can't say more because I don't know any more. But I'll be it will be worth taping/seeing. Her questions to me were sharp and on the money. That's it. That's this Sunday, October 26.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

House Mortgage

House Mortgage
Well, as of today my remaining mortgage is under 10 grand. It's $9,937.78 to be exact, which means, if I can keep putting an extra $500 a month into it, I'm done next August 1. 
That will be a fast payoff for a guy who was losing his house three months after moving from New York to Texas. Nothing I planned came through, editors who hired me got fired before my stories went to print, magazines lost their freelance budget after I signed contracts but before my stories came out. Gosh, it was tough. I borrowed from friends, family, put my little green truck in hock to a money lending outfit. Did not think I'd make it and was terrified of the idea of having put my kids in a position where they might have to live at cousins' houses while I lived in a flophouse.
The ship got righted a bit, then better. The first three years, my $73,800 mortgage dropped about $5-$50 a month and I don't think I dipped below $70,000 for at least those three years, maybe more. But I got lucky, got some pretty good gigs like working for the Fort Worth Weekly and having a regular column in Skunk Magazine out of Canada. Then someone who's become a friend called and asked if I'd write occasional articles for a magazine he was editing. The stories were fine, the pay was a good bump twice or three times a year. The trips to Peru, while not making much money, did pay the mortgage while I was gone, so that was good. Then I published my book and that was another little stream...it got to where if I didn't buy myself anything I didn't need I was able to put an extra couple of hundred into the mortgage monthly. That grew to nearly $600 extra a month--that meant no dining in restaurants, no new sneaks until it was time for a Peru trip, no Sunday afternoon at the bar with my friend Dave. Those little things, and a million others added up.
And now, after 12 years and 9 months, I'm under $10 grand. Wow. THANKS UNIVERSE!!!! I APPRECIATE IT A LOT!!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Meal You Should Never Have Before Drinking Ayahuasca

Okay, so while I'm the heretic of the newish ayahuasca diet--no oil, hot peppers, pork, salt--I'm not crazy. Some things just don't go well together, as in can cause a hypertensive issue--which means potential heart attack.
    The meal I intended to make tonight, because it's chilly, was Uncle Clem's Chicken. He won a national award for it and he was my godfather. For that you lightly steam three bunches of broccoli flowers (tops). While you're doing that you cut two whole or four half chicken breasts into 3/4 inch squares, flower them, season with good sea salt and cracked black pepper, then saute them in a hot pan with garlic and olive oil till browned on the outside but still basically raw on the inside. When they're done you put them aside for a moment. You drain the broccoli, slightly undercooked even from al dente, and put that in a baking dish. Add the chicken with garlic, reserve pan juices.
    Make a sauce of a large can of organic mushroom soup put into a pan with a big spoon of whatever mayo you like, heat, add the bit of olive oil and garlic left from the sauteed chicken. When it's a good sauce, pour it over the broccoli and chicken. Top with sliced mozzarella cheese, then bake till the cheese is browning and the sauce is bubbling. Serve over rice. Man, that's one hell of a freaking meal. Fattening, of course, despite the broccoli, because of the mayo and cheese. Worth the pain twice a year.
    But while I was at the store getting the ingredients for Uncle Clem's, I suddenly imagined making good macaroni and cheese. So I picked up the ingredients for that as well, imagining it later in the week. But plans changed and I'm making the mac and cheese tonight.
    First I'm cooking a pound of elbow macaroni in salted water till it's al dente or slightly less than that. When ready I'm draining that and getting it under cold water quickly to keep it from continuing to cool.
    Then I'm gonna cut a nice ham steak into tiny cubes and saute them with garlic in olive oil and diced red onion. I'm gonna pepper it, but no salt. Ham's got enough salt to kill you. At the last second I'm going to toss in some minced red pepper and half-a-dozen organic scallions, sliced so we have a bit of color and extra veg.
    While I do that I'm gonna take a good heavy stainless steel pot--I'd use copper if I could afford it--and make the sauce: 12 ounces of aged Swiss cheese. One and one-half pounds of aged cheddar. One cup of organic whole milk to keep it from simply scalding to death. When the cheeses start to melt into the milk I'm going to add 6 ounces of aged parmesan, freshly grated, and 8 ounces of fresh, smoked mozzarella. If I need more swiss or cheddar, I'll add it, but in the end it ought to be perfect. Only spice will be that gorgeous cracked black pepper I love so much.
   Then I'll pull the ham bits and toss a couple of bundles of organic spinach into the pan till it's seared and savory and sassy.
   I'm going to put the elbow macaroni into a slightly greased baking dish. I'm going to put some really good breadcrumbs on the macaroni. Not too much, just for a crunchy touch. Then I'm going to put the spinach and the ham bits with the garlic, red pepper, and scallions, and any left over pan juices into the sauce and then pour that sauce all over that macaroni and make sure it gets everywhere. I'm gonna top that with a bit of breadcrumbs sauteed in just a touch of butter--I mean one tablespoon, okay?--and then add a nice finishing touch of more parmesan. I'll bake it at 330 till the cheese on top and the bread crumbs are brown and the sauce is bubbling in the baking dish, about 20 minutes. Let it sit 15 minutes, then serve in a bowl surrounded by broccoli florets with a side salad.
    Okay, so that's two zillion calories. Forget that. The reason you can't have it before ayahuasca is that all of the cheeses except the mozzarella are fermented. And the mozzarella is smoked. Fermented cheeses, while not on the official ayahuasca diet, are verboten when drinking ayahuasca because of potential hypertensive problems. Smoked things are not recommended either for a similar reason. You do not want to be serving ayahuasca, or allow anyone you know to serve ayahuasca if the people drinking have had aged/fermented things. Or nuts. Keep the nuts till later. Keep the wine on the shelf. Keep the cheeses, other than farmer's cheese and the like, out of your system. I may be a dieta heretic, but I'm not going to allow any of my guests to freak out or have a heart attack that was very preventable.
    So yeah, this meal will probably kill you with calories even if you're not drinking ayahuasca. But it will definitely increase the chances if you are. Be careful out there, okay?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Proud of My Whole Damned Family

Just want to go on the record here: I'm very proud and privileged to be part of my family. Madeleina went to a flute competition today knowing that her flute fell three days ago and needs repairs and two notes will not respond. She's playing anyway. Marco, the kid who spent his formative years taking everything electronic in the world apart has figured out how to put it together and gets his associates degree in January, I think. This from a kid who barely made it through high school but who has discovered he loves studying. Italo has repaired two mini-vans, an eight cylinder truck and two cars in the last month, working out of my driveway--including dropping a transmission. And he fixed my riding mower somewhere in there as well. Chepa has become the mom all Peruvian women from the Amazon become when they hit grandma age--since motherhood skips a generation there, traditionally--making costumes for Sierra and Alexa and even Madeleina weekly, depending on the school's theme. She can take a cardboard box and turn it into two cowgirl hats in minutes, and she's learned to make something of a living painting faces at parties--and they are fantastic.
    So I am just going to go on the record and say that I'm glad/proud/enthusiastically privileged to know this gang, to be part of this gang. They are surprising me in wonderful ways almost daily. And I don't think a pop can ask for more than that.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Here's a Story About a Turkey

So, Not That You Asked, but Did I Tell You About the Turkey?
Well, couple of days ago, weekday, maybe Tuesday, Chepa, my wife/ex-wife, calls and says she needs a favor. She didn't say that but she called me Petercito, a Peruvian suffix that indicates affection, which meant she was going to ask for a favor.
The favor was "can you cook a turkey for me?"
The answer was "sure."
The problem was she wanted the turkey cooked right then, and right then I was headed out to a meeting at my newspaper. She asked how long it would take to cook a turkey. I told her 3-6 hours depending on the size. I was imagining she had a nice little 12-pounder she wanted me to cook for her sisters, who were all in town that day.
Well, I ran my errands and didn't think of the turkey again until I returned home at about 3 PM to find Italo, my handsome son--and I have another handsome son as well in Marco--working on his truck and he casually mentioned: "Mom left something for you to cook...." in the kitchen, on the table, was my huge ayahuasca pot, a stainless steel beauty, that she'd borrowed last month to make juane, Peruvian rice balls with a bit of egg, chicken and black olive, covered in the black of the residue of cooking over an open fire. Damn, she's supposed to wash it before she returns it, but when I mentioned that to her she reminded me that I ate two of the juanes, one of which paid for borrowing the pot, one of which paid for me spending two hours cleaning it.
Anyway, inside the pot was a 21+ pound turkey. It was 3 PM and she needed it done by 6 PM. Impossible. That was a 5 hour bird.
Nonetheless, and despite not getting a single kiss from that girl for maybe 8 years--but still working at it--I ripped open a bag of organic celery and laced an aluminum baking dish with it. Then I cut two onions, thickly, and laid them between and on top of the celery. Then I washed the turkey, rubbed it down with sea salt, garlic in olive oil and cracked black pepper. I stuffed it with 3 oranges cut into 4 pieces each and a good organic granny smith apple.
I tossed the bird into a 350 degree oven fvor an hour, then reduced it to 330. WHile it was cooking I made stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, mashed red potatoes and heated up two cans of peas and corn. When the bird was near done I drained the juice into a saucepan and made homemade gravy.
By 7 PM that baby and all the fixin's were ready.
Chepa came by at 7:30 to ask where the dog food was. I said I had no idea what she was talking about. She said, "The turkey was for the dogs. Did you make it or not?"
I held my tongue, sliced enough turkey for Italo, Madeleina and myself, and then gave Chepa the rest. We had a feast. The dogs had a feast. I shouldn't complain, right?
Life is never quite the way you imagine it, eh? Love that lady, even though we're miles apart on so many things. Her dog food is my family treat.

Response to a response to a cover story I had last week....

Well, I had the cover story in the Fort Worth Weekly last week and posted it here. It dealt, largely, with a Fort Worth park and homes right next to a huge gas compressor station. I visited there on a recent Saturday morning and in short order my throat itched, my eyes were watering and after two hours my breath was short. Someone, possibly from the gas industry, said he copied my movements and while he detected a foul smell, did not suffer from what I suffered. He said I was either a liar or a wuss. Anyone who knows my journalism knows I am not a liar, which leaves me being a wuss. Damnit! I don't generally respond but needed to this afternoon. Without going into this persons several letters on the subject, I still think you will get the gist of what he said and how I--as a journalist, with no rats in the race--feel. Here's what I wrote:
Well, I had the cover story in the Fort Worth Weekly last week

and posted it on facebook. It dealt, largely, with a Fort Worth park and homes right next to a huge gas compressor station. I visited there on a recent Saturday morning and in short order my throat itched, my eyes were watering and after two hours my breath was short. Someone, possibly from the gas industry, said he copied my movements and while he detected a foul smell, did not suffer from what I suffered. He said I was either a liar or a wuss. Anyone who knows my journalism knows I am not a liar, which leaves me being a wuss. Damnit! I don't generally respond but needed to this afternoon. Without going into this persons several letters on the subject, I still think you will get the gist of what he said and how I--as a journalist, with no rats in the race--feel. Here's what I wrote:

X: I think you miss the point. There are less than a dozen families living in nice little houses that abut the park. One woman can no longer work because of constant rashes and nausea that started after the compressor stations came in. One woman has leukemia, which occurred after the compressor stations came in. One woman has a child who is losing his hair, a condition that began after the compressor stations came in. All of these conditions occur with exposure to the chemicals found in the “air grabs” taken at the site in the latest air quality study. That’s three out of 10-11. Is that acceptable to you, or anyone? Is is acceptable when you can fix it so that there is no gas escaping at nearly no cost? Is it acceptable if you were a shareholder or a lease owner to know that 25 percent of the gas coming from the wells is escaping into the air, poisoning people and costing you 25 percent of your royalty? I don’t know. I don’t think, like either you or the person who posted prior to you, that anyone at the FW Weekly is against energy. I think that everyone who knows the score is against bad business practices that hurt people/sometimes kill people. Of course the gas industry resists change that would fix the problems: Most of us resist change because we’re comfortable with the way we do things and change suggests that we’ll have to, well, change….and that is not attractive. It’s downright scary. But it is very doable. It doesn’t cost a lot of money, just a small infusion that quickly pays for itself and subsequently makes a profit for everyone and prevents more leukemia/hair falling out/rash problems and so forth. And yes, I drive a car: A Ranger, actually, and I heat my house with electricity which is possibly powered by coal or gas or oil. The problem isn’t always the product, the problem is sometimes the hands in which the product lies. If the gas companies wanted to be good neighbors, gas drilling would quickly disappear from our pages–which are actually read by tens of thousand of people and make changes in places like New York, which banned drilling because of our stories, among others. But if energy companies insist on doing the shoddiest work, cutting corners, ignoring and then denying illnesses they cause, well, as good citizens, we’ll probably keep calling them out on it.
And yes, I’m a 63-year-old cigarette smoker. I still walk several miles a day, take four groups a year out into the deep Amazon jungle and can certainly out push-up most men my age. And no, I’m not a liar regarding what happened that day in Delga Park. Which leaves me, I guess, just a wuss. Darn it!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Sometimes I wish I were not a Peacenik!!!

Okay, so I announced the new book's near release yesterday. I needed several hundred bucks to make that happen and several people bought copies and will get them in 5-6 weeks. When the next 20 order copies, I'll be able to get it done.
    Now, I admit that the subject, the Matses' medicine sapo, which is now also called Kambo among a number of tribes--along with Kampo, Campu and other variations--is a very niche market. Yes, there are a lot of good stories in the book. But if you don't know what the hell sapo is, and don't care, then it would not be for you. And that's fine.
    But one of the things about sapo is that, whether people like it or not, the first recorded human use of the substance under any name, was my record of using it among the Matses in 1986. I did not know it was a big deal at the time but it turned out to be because Western science turned to amphibian skins looking for new medicines with a vengeance once they could say there was recorded human use. Personally, I know it was luck and all that, but I did happen to be in the right place at the right time and allowed it to be used on me and happened to be a journalist who wrote down that sort of thing--and happened to be in contact with the American Museum of Natural History at the time, which is the place that got my initial notes. All luck, but there was a pattern of luck there.
    So I announced the book yesterday, and it might be a limited edition, I don't know, and then today someone writes this in response to what I wrote--which, I'll admit, included a reference to me being the person who brought it to the outside world, or "the world outside the Matses".
   "total bullshit Gorman, indulging your ego like that, many tribes use it and have NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU; take contol of yourself."
      Okay. So that came from a guy from the US who has given himself an indigenous name, refers to himself as a "shaman" and a "Tribal artist". He is helping to run a camp in a town I put on the map 25 years ago. He had pictures of himself wearing headdresses made of macaw feathers--which kill the macaws--and he's coming down on me for taking a little credit for something I earned the credit on. 
      Heck, I've done some lousy things in my life. I was emotionally abusive to Clare. I didn't know how to handle Chepa and the kids early on and messed that up. There are times when I drank too much for years on end. I don't always listen to my kids all the way through before responding. Lots of sins in my corner. 
     And then there are some things I did that I stand behind. At Steve Hager"s request, I made medical marijuana a national issue. Hager was my editor at High Times. At Hager's request, I helped make hemp a national issue. I helped make forfeiture law and mandatory minimum sentences part of the national dialogue. I brought out sapo, and got the Matses the rights to the air, water, land and mineral rights to a permanently demarked huge swath of land--and they are the only Peruvian Indigenous who have that. I think I have been instrumental in getting gas well fracking and the tar sands into the national debate.
     Those are maybe minor accomplishments, but they are things I've worked at 20 hours a day for years at a time to accomplish. Not to claim them, but to bring them up, get them out. I'm the journalist, not the activist. The activists are the ones who do the work: The journalist chronicles that work and gets it out there to activate more activists, who in turn activate more journalists until there is a groundswell of information and intention and then things begin to change. 
     And I am a reasonably humble person--with fits of grandeur, of course, I'll admit--but when some freaking asshole wearing bird-killing feathers moves to Peru and a couple of years later touts himself as a "shaman" and "tribal artist" and suddenly has an indigenous name comes down on me for something that's not in question by anyone in the scientific world, well, I feel like going Ishinru Karate on the boy. Shades of Don Nagle! Shades of Dennis Bootle! Malachi Lee! Dennis Bell! Al Wilder! (I was never in their circles, not for one instant. I'm just conjuring their power despite the lousy karate-ka that I was 45 years ago!!!!!) 
     I did not respond badly to the man. I bit my tongue. My tongue is sore. Ow.