Friday, June 26, 2015

Off to Peru

Off to Peru, see you in a month. Leaving four tough dogs to guard the house.
Have a great July, everybody.
PG

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Happy about a Change in a Texas Law

Gonna say I'm really happy this second. Immensely happy. I started writing about the truancy laws in Texas a couple of years ago. The laws allowed kids to get Class C misdemeanors which followed them their entire lives. I know, it kept my kid Marco from the armed forces when he wanted to join. But the associated fines were so high that it cost families in which brothers took care of their siblings and were 20 minutes late 10 times a semester to be forced to quit high school rather than rack up more fines ($500 a pop, plus court costs) that they would wind up serving jail time for when they couldn't pay. It was very bad and affected 100,000 kids in Texas annually.
But on Friday, Texas' Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that makes truancy a civil offense from here on out. No more criminalizing kids for being late, or even cutting class. There will be civil repercussions but not criminalization. And my editor, Gayle Reaves, and I, worked hard to help get that word out and I think out work was in the mix of things that tipped the scale here in favor of the new law. Cheers to State Sen. Whitmire and his associates for having the courage to challenge the law and get it fixed. A tip of the hat to everyone--and Texas Appleseed knows how big a part they played--in getting this junk off the books. Cheers to all of us! It's nice to be on the winning side now and then!

Always happens, and always burns

Well, first off, the good news: Madeleina, my baby, is growing up. She just graduated from high school and is headed to Tarleton State University in the Fall. The bad news: She wants a car. And I just got out from under the mortgage. And she does not want the little Lincoln sportster that used to belong to Italo, even though it's a great car. Oh, boy.
    But then there is this: I leave for Peru in four days to take a group out to the deep green for a Jungle Jaunt. It's going to be great. But these things are always tight. Guests don't understand what goes into them, from taking care of emergencies for my team whether I'm in Peru or not, to repairing buildings, buying new small boats and motors so that we have what we need out there. Heck, I had to buy four new sponge mats at $80 each for this trip because a few were getting a bit ratty-looking. Then I've got to rent rooms, hire the team, rent river boat cabins, send gasoline, motor oil, drinking water and a host of other things up river. I've got to put in and pay for orders of magic mushrooms, sapo, nu-nu. I've got to pay for my own hotel room for a month in advance, buy my airline tickets, pay the bills while I'm gone. All of this, plus the money we use on the ground--for taxis, food, boat food, jungle food, staff, a couple of new pots and pans, maybe a few new hammocks to keep things fresh, shotgun shells, re-upping the med kit, just a million things go into a jungle trip. The only monies not already committed are the money I'll spend on fresh food and dry goods.
    So whatever people pay me, I'm lucky to come out of a successful trip with $2000 in my pocket for all the work to get it organized and then a month down there setting up, doing the trip, decompressing from the trip. That's what I was looking at for this trip, provided everything went as planned.
    Nonetheless, at the last second, someone almost always gets cold feet or has a legit life emergency that needs taking care of. I got that call this morning. One of the guests has an emergency. I hope she was lying because I don't wish an emergency on her. But I have to take her at her word.
    AND she needs the money for the trip back. I can keep the deposit plus $100 she said. She meant to be generous. I get it. But what she doesn't understand is that if she paid $1800--I already gave her $100 off the trip price--and I return all but the deposit, I will stand to make a maximum of $700 on this trip. I immediately sent her $500, but I know we're going to have an issue later. I have already spent well over $1000 of her money, and hired an extra staff member to take care of the women on the trip. That staff member has to get paid, whether I need her or not. I can't just say, "oh, I had a cancellation, I don't need you anymore." And now, of course, I have a hotel room that will be used by one when I paid for a double; a boat cabin used by one, when I paid for a double. A new roof on a hut that cost $340 (leaf roof, plus work to put it up) that I no longer need for this trip. And on and on.
     Madeleina said I should not give her anything with the trip starting in less than two weeks. But then I don't like to be hard-nosed and had already sent the woman $500, knowing Madeleina would say something like that. She's right, of course. Nobody should get anything back when it's less than 30 days from the trip starting. I just don't have it in me to be that cold.
    But damnit, I spent several phone calls talking with this woman. I ordered some special jungle medicine for her that was paid up front by me. Ah, nuts.
    I really hope she has no family emergency. But I sure feel burned.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

One Bit from My New Drug War Follies Column for Skunk Magazine

So here's one bit from my new Drug War Follies column for Skunk magazine. It's off topic, which is generally, well, drug war idiocy, but then the good folk at Skunk have always allowed me to run off the rails a bit.
Here it is:

In the “Freaking Unbelievable But True” category, this note: In June Texas’ Governor Greg Abbott signed into law two bills that will enhance the good citizens of Texas’ Second Amendment rights. Those rights refer to the second amendment of the U.S. Constitution that calls for a “well regulated Militia” which has the right to bear arms and notes that that right cannot be infringed upon. Over the years that’s come to mean that any flipping nut can walk into a gun shop in Texas and purchase as many guns as they want, up to and including .50 calibre rifles so long as they don’t have outstanding warrants or a criminal history that prohibits them from having a gun. For those people we have what’s called the “Gun Show Loophole”. The gun show loophole allows any private seller to bring his or her guns, including semi-automatics, to a gun show and sell them to anyone without even that cursory phone call to see if they’ve got a criminal history. Just pony up the cash and buy your weapons.
    In all, we’ve got more than 300 million guns here in the U.S., and Texas had a huge percentage of them.
    But Texans don’t like restrictions and regulations. And up till now—at least for the last 20 years or so— one restriction people in Texas hated was that they couldn’t walk around with their six gun in the open. Yes, they could walk around with AR15s on their shoulders, or 30.06 rifles hanging around their neck in public, but not handguns. So in June, the good governor of Texas got rid of that bit of fluff, signing into law a bill that now allows people to wear their holsters proudly in any and all public places. Kids soccer games, city parks and so forth.
   That still wasn’t enough for the gun loving nuts. So Gov. Abbott also signed into law a bill that will allow people to carry their hand guns visibly on all public college campuses—formerly places where guns were prohibited altogether, even licensed concealed weapons.
   Now I’m all for protecting yourself from the bad guys, but that’s rarely how it works. If the bad guy has his gun on you, well, you’re not gonna have time to draw before he kills you. And since your now-visible gun is gonna make that bad guy nervous, I’m picturing a lot more people carrying their weapons proudly will get blown away by bad guys. Or at the very least, have their guns taken by the bad guys.
   And a lot of college professors are going to be very nervous about handing out “F’s” to people. Who wants to give an “F” to a student with such low self-esteem that he/she needs to carry a visible weapon? “Hey professor! You gave me an F in Classic Literature? F yourself!” Boom!
    Unfortunately, those things are not the worst of these new laws. The worst part of these laws is that in reality they will only apply to white people. You get six black 18-year-olds walking into Walmart carrying guns—even water pistols—and you’re gonna get six dead black kids being carried out. The U.S. and particularly Texas, is very frightened of black men. They get killed with amazing frequency just for being black. Now imagine they’re standing on a known drug corner, just shooting the shit while waving a semi-automatic rifle around or practicing their quick-draw? It is not a pretty picture. It’s a freaking pool of blood with the kid asking “What about my second amendment rights?” as he lays dying, dropped by half-a-dozen cops.
    It’s going to get messy.
    Still, Gov. Abbott felt so good about expanding that second amendment that he went target shooting immediately after signing those bills into law.

It would all be funny if people weren’t dying and the prisons weren’t full.

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Called a Winner but Feeling Like a Loser

As I frantically struggle with a cover story for the Fort Worth Weekly that's due tomorrow--and I mean frantically, as in I'm not getting it, I have written nothing worthwhile on it and it stinks so far--I just got the news that the Houston Press Club, the foremost press organization in Texas, has awarded me 2nd place as the Texas' print journalist of the year. Several stories, including two on criminalizing middle and high school truancy here in Texas and the long-lasting effect that has on students and their families, another on gas companies ripping off royalty payments to homeowners, and one more on former Texas Governor Rick Perry leaving millions uninsured because he refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act made up the package that was judged.
So why can't I get a handle on the new piece????? I don't know. I guess I'm just a loser. Got to keep working. Have a great day, everybody!

Friday, June 05, 2015

Dinner at the Gormans, Friday Night, June 5

You know, when you've been a chef and a dad and had to feed a room full of people--maybe 150 at the restaurants, though i preferred the New York joints which had about 46-60 seats--or a family full of 8 including sons' girlfriends and so on, you get used to cooking a bunch. And you get used to cooking several things at the same time. Simple as they might be, you've got your eye on two/three/seventeen different dishes at the same time. 
      Well, I don't cook in restaurants anymore and my kids have grown up and moved out and I never know whether I'm eating with just Madeleina or if Chepa, my wife/ex-wife is coming over with the kids and whether my son Italo will show up with his baby, Taylor Rain and his wife Sara, or if my other son, Marco will show and bring a friend or three. Or if Madeleina will bring two friends or not show up for dinner at all.
Then there are the dogs: Boots, the guard dog; Blackie, a big dog that only answers to that name who showed up 8 weeks or so ago and adopted us, and the two new border collies, Keys and Beautiful. Plus the cats, of course, and the birds ......
      So I cook chicken--big chicken for Boots and Blackie every day. Way cheaper and better than dog food in a bag or can. Nothing fancy and no, they do not sit at the dinner table. Just two, three pounds of chicken with some veggies and rice mixed in for each of them. The border collies get a pound of chicken livers mixed with rice and puppy food, or chicken gizzards or hearts--again, way, way cheaper than anything I can buy at the store. Livers, gizzards and heart are all bout $1.50 a pound. Mix that with left over rice or beans and such and they get the three pounds of food they need daily for about $2. each, rather than if I bought 6 cans at $1.50 each.
      But the family is unpredictable. Today I bought smoked virginia ham from the HEB deli, paper thin, with some slightly thicker baby swiss and a loaf of sesame seeded french bread for hot sandwiches for Madeleina and I. Then I made some homemade coleslaw and a potato/egg salad to go with it. Enough vinegar in each to cut the need for mayo to a minimum.
      But then I had to buy and make chicken wings in case Chepa and the girls came over, or Italo and my granddaughter and his wife, or Marco and his girlfriend.
And then I made pico de gallo—diced red onion, tomatoes and cilantro in fresh lime juice with good cracked black pepperin case everyone came over and I came up short and needed to make some fat burritos with left over chicken, black beans, avocado, sour cream and cheese--along with the pico de gallo.
      So I've got about 4 meals ready. The liver and rice for the dogs smells really good. I hate liver but I might go for that and give them my chicken burrito or hot ham and baby swiss sandwich.
Either way, I'm keeping the cole slaw and potato/egg salad for me. Don't even think of taking that.
Dinner at the Gormans. More complex than might initially appear.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Madeleina Dancing All the Way....

Well, she's not looking at things properly but from my perspective, this is a good week for my Madeleina. She's graduating from high school. Just graduated an hour ago, actually. And she's slated to go to Tarleton State U in the fall, with at least a good portion of her way paid for by grants and awards and the rest by dear old dad's check book. Her best friend is going there, so she's got something to start with. And one of the people I worked with, Dan Malone, a writer for the Fort Worth Weekly up until about 2005 or 2006, is teaching there. He's won a Pulitzer for her reporting, so if you're planning to study journalism, you can't do much better. Anywhere. For any price.
    More: Two days ago at a senior function, she won a beautiful trophy for "best supporting actress" in a play she recently did. She was fantastic. Not the lead, but a great supporting player. One trophy given. She got it.
    On Sunday she went with me to the Union Pacific Rail Yard in Fort Worth, one of the biggest rail yards in the US. We had to breach security to get in--at several different places--but we did and I had her take photos. She's got a keen eye and takes good, rock-steady pics. The art director today asked if he could buy a few from her for my cover story next week. She's non-plussed by the idea, but I can tell you, it takes years to get your first photos published for money. And here she's got it on during her second or third shoot. That's several hundred bucks out of the blue! That's a credit! Yikes!
   Somehow, this is not ringing in as a good week for her. She's sad about high school ending though she's detested most of high school. Just a little afraid of change, I reckon. But if she saw things the way I'm seeing them for her, well, she'd see a very different picture than what she's seeing.

Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Someone Asked about Chikungunya virus

Someone Asked about Chikungunya virus. It's in a class of viruses known as alphaviruses, which he/she said were epidemic in some parts of the Caribbean, Columbia, and Venezuela. He/she said that "macrophages infected by 
the virus persist in the synovial (joint) tissue long (sometimes years) 
after the infection has been defeated by the body's immune system, 
leaving no traces in the blood."
    He/she then said they'd had sapo, which relieved symptoms for three months, but that after three months a neck ache began that spurred on an entire systemic polyarthritis. He/she wanted to know if the Sapo/Kambo could have been responsible for the serious relapse, and what could he/she do to eliminate the chronic pain caused by the polyarthritis. I'm not a doc, as you all know. But stil, I had to try to help. This is what I wrote:

X: Well, you've acquired one of the few diseases in South America that I have not had the pleasure of having. There are not many that have missed me over the years. So you need to understand that the comments I'm about to make deal with the general polyarthritis, or rheumatoid arthritis and not your specific type of arthritis. These are general comments. And I'm not a doc but will put the question to a friend of mine who is and has dealt with a great deal of illness in Central and South America. I will pass along his comments when I get them in a day or two.
     My feelings: the single best natural medicine I know for boosting the immune system and alleviating the pain of rheumatoid arthritis, arthritis, bursitis and so on is Una de Gato, cat's claw. Having spent six months in a hospital and a couple of additional years very, very sick with juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis as a youngster--which periodically attacks me as an adult--I can vouch for the medicine. Three/four sticks of good Una de Gato in three liters of water, steeped just to the point of steaming--way below boiling--for about 12 hours, will yield 1 to 1 1/2 liters of the dark, sour medicine. One gulp in the morning and one at night and your T-cell count bounces 20-50 points per day. For those suffering from severe auto-immune problems--AIDS, for instance--that bounce of several hundred T-cells in just a couple of weeks can make the difference in living or dying. 
     So for any arthritis issues, or any auto-immune issues, I suggest Una de Gato as a first line of defense.
     But Sapo/Kambo cleans at a much deeper level. It is a restart button on your entire system. Because it is bioactive--better stated: Because the peptides in Sapo/Kambo are bioactive--it does no harm. What it does is sweep the garbage out of your system. I'm sure you know that. It eliminates toxins from organs, veins, arteries. I do not think it would have, or could have, been the spark that caused the pain in your neck. Rather, I think the stiffness in your neck, which led to the polyarthritic condition, was simply the disease fighting to stay alive. Diseases, like the rest of us, do not like being killed. 
     So if you were my patient--and I know you are not, and that my comments are general in nature--what I would probably recommend is regular use of Una de Gato--three weeks on, three weeks off--along with a Sapo/kambo regimen of TWICE daily use for three-five days, then a week off, then another three-five days of twice daily use, then a week off and then a third round of three-to-five days of twice daily use. I think that would eliminate the problem for good. I do understand that the Yaminawa suggest doing it every other day. But I was taught by the Matses, who did it differently. Either way would do your body good, but I can only recommend the way I was taught.
    And there is no issue with taking the Una de Gato and Sapo/Kambo simultaneously.
I hope that helps.
Peter G