Sunday, May 31, 2009

Gone Fishin'--In the Amazon

Everybody: Well, I'm off again in the morning. Heading to Iquitos and then up the Amazon to the Aucayacu, my home away from home and a place several of you know. So I'll be out of touch for six weeks or so. No offence. I would love to be in touch but I am in a different world when there and only at an internet 2 or 3 times in the next 3 weeks. If something exceptional happens I'll try to get to you all, but otherwise know that I look forward to writing to you all again when I return in mid-July.
Until then, have a great summer. Make love a lot, laugh a ton, forgive everything, forget the bad parts and love as hard as you can.
If you and I both do that, the worod will be better in no time.
Thanks for reading, you guys/gals.
Peter G

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Pig's Gone

Well, this morning was the morning. Nearly nine months to the day since Marco found a little 12 pounder running in the road and came home with a beautiful little pig asking: "Dad, do you know how hard it is to catch a pig that's running around in the street?" we put her down. I didn't want to, but she'd grown to over 300 lbs and I'm leaving town for Peru on Monday and my kids, god bless them, would not do what I have done for the last nine months. And they didn't do it for January and half of February while I was in Peru, so I know they wouldn't do it now. What I did was feed her half a head of celery, half a large cabbage, two or three apples, a few bananas, some oranges, a full loaf of bread, half a pot of rice, a pound or two of carrots, and all the ends of whatever we ate: Broccoli, spinach, cheese, leftover toast, corn cobs, tomato ends or whole tomatoes when they went two scoops, about 10 pounds, of corn, daily.
Unfortunately, today was her day. My friend Lynn came over. He brought his .22 pistol. We had garbage bags for her entrails, a hunting knife...and lots of prayers that it would be painless.
Lynn smoked a cigar; I smoked a cigarette. We fed the pig good food, then branches of her favorite tree. And then Lynn took out his .22 and shot her between the eyes. She dropped like a cayman in the Amazon when you hit them right with a shotgun. Straight down.
"Want to do it?" he asked.
No, I didn't but I took the knife and cut her throat from ear to ear to bleed her. If you don't do that while the animal's heart is pumping you can ruin the meat.
SHe flopped for a few seconds till I got the throat cut. SHe stopped moving except for involuntary muscle movements in her legs.
Blood was coming out. We put her on an angle and I gut her from neck to tail. I didn't even nick the intestines, so there was no smell at all.
I turned the knife over to Lynn when I was getting frustrated and knew I was about to cut the intestines to get them out.
Lynn was marvelous: With Italo's help we got her cleaned and all her insides into a black garbage bag, then hauled her 300 Lb carcass to my truck, then brought it to the processing place.
They tell us we'll get 120 pounds of meat off her.
I know we did the right thing since I could not find anyone nearby who wanted her as a pet. She died pretty painlessly. I hope I die as painlessly, with a bullet through my head that drops me.
It was still very viceral, very in the moment, with steam coming out of the stomach cavity as I cut it open....
I think the pig will taste good. She was fed good food with lots of love. Killing her was not fun, not joyeus, not satisfying. I wish god set up a different system.
But today it was clean.
I hope whomever finally kills me is as clean.
Send me on to the next life.
Then go grab 120 lbs of bacon, ribs, roasts and sausage.
I guess that's the way to go.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Babies Coming Back

I've got to tell you all, I'm pretty excited. I leave for Peru in one week and am hoping that one fence-sitting woman who's applied for a scholarship rate of $900 for the normal $1,200 trip, as well as one fence-sitting guy who's not applied for the scholarship rate, actually materialize. If they do I might earn a grand from the jungle intensive course in July. Fantastic course: People will learn more about the Amazon basin, her peoples, river living, medicines, magic, swamps and bugs than they could in 10 college courses. But it would be fantastic to actually earn a couple of bucks.
But that's not what I'm excited about. What I'm excited about is that Chepa just returned and with her brought Sierra and Alexa. And while I might not see them tonight,
I will get to see them this week before I leave. And so my skin is jumping so much I'm having a sneezing fit. This is what life is about. This is glory. This is seeing the kids who are not mine but whom I've been helping to raise a little. I'm crazy about seeing them. I'm insane for that.
Yeah, God! I'm gonna see the girls before I go to Peru. Fantastic.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Just Loving My Kids Again

Friday morning. My new feature, to be published next week, due at the office yesterday and still not done. Worse, I'm taking a moment to celebrate my kids. I told you last week about Italo's alternator and my great mechanic upping the price from $400 to near $500, in which case I bowed out and told Italo to handle it himself. Well, he did. Ordered a rebuilt for $165 and while I was out yesterday it arrived. By the time I returned from shopping, about two hours, bingo! he'd had it replaced. Excellent. No whining, no moaning, just put the thing in.
Of course, two hours later his car overheated while he was who knows where, and I'm hoping he didn't drive it and throw a rod or do any damage. But it was Marco whom he called and without hesitation, Marco, exhausted from some very long and very wierd hours at his job--a couple of 4AMs to 2AMs followed the same evenings with 10 PMs to 4 AM--jumped in his car and drove off to help Italo. They hadn't arrived by the time dinner was ready and in fact hadn't arrived before I went to bed. So I guess they worked a long time on it. Much longer than adding antifreeze would have required.
So good for the boys becoming men.
And I also told you about Madeleina and her Phantom of the Opera book project. Well, it's due today and she's been tweaking it all week from when she got it done last Saturday at my insistence.
Well, she also had a costume she had to come up with to go with the report, and while we'd normally make it somehow (with Sarah or Chepa doing the helping), neither of them were around and so it fell to me. And I cheated: I went out and rented her an opera cape and a black fedora with two beautiful feathers in it, then bought her a white face mask she could cut to make the Phantom's mask. She had only asked me for material--plain black--to make the cape, and I'd bought that before deciding to rent the cape.
So I asked her to help me with the groceries and when she went to the truck and saw the hat she nearly feinted. "Dad! You got me a costume!!! That's cheating but I'll take it, baby!!!" and on for quite some time.
To make it less like cheating--I always thought that of kids in school whose parents did what I had done--Madeleina blew my mind and used the black material to cover her blue jeans. Held in place with gaffer tape she turned the jeans into black dress pants, and her sneakers into black evening shoes. Good for her.
And then this morning I was to go over her report and make some corrections. I got to it about 6 AM. It turned out not to be a report at all, but a retelling of the 1910 book from the Phantom's point of view. I read it and howled, cried, and sort of jumped for joy. That is one pretty smart cookie, and that was one heck of a report. There were regular kid mistakes, but I didn't change a word.
So I'm just sitting here thinking how happy I am that these wonderful beings are willing to associate with me. I'm just flat thrilled to be part of their family.
Go, kids, you rule.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Pure Joy Products

A friend of mine wrote a private response to my Banana Bread entry. It seems he's gone vegan and sent me what looks to be an excellent vegan banana bread recipe, with soy milk and some other vegan thing substituted for eggs and butter. Now in my book all food is good if prepared with attention, good products, and a dollop of love and joy. But his recipe reminded me of a story. I hope he doesn't mind that after I wrote him back I copied what I wrote and put it here. Here goes:

Vegan's good. And I will make this recipe at some point. I'm not a big fan of soy milk, though, but I'll do it anyway. If they just wouldn't call it milk my tastebuds wouldn't object so much. Soy juice would be better.
I remember when I lived in LA for a while in 1980-81, I went to this pizza parlor and grabbed Clare and I a pie. It was and still is pretty rare for me to eat something like pizza but neither of us felt like cooking.
So I got it home, and we dug in: it not only wasn't very good, it was truly bad that I brought it back and got another.
That one was equally bad and I called the joint asking them how on earth they could muck up something as clearcut as pizza?
The manager on the phone was at a loss. "Everybody loves our pizza. I don't know why you don't..."
"Because even the tomato sauce doesn't taste like it has any tomatoes in it!"
"Well, of course it doesn't."
"What are you talking about? What do you mean it doesn't have tomatoes?"
"Because we're a soy based restaurant."
"A what?"
"All of our ingredients are made from soy: The crust is made from soy, the tomato sauce is soy, the cheese is soy, the oregano is soy....You didn't know that?"
"Of course not! The restaurant calls itself a Pizza Parlor!"
"We are a pizza parlor. Just very strictly vegan without vegetables. It says so right on our sign: Pure soy products!"
Well, that's what happened there. Why on earth anyone would try to live on a diet of pure soy--which I guarantee we will one day discover will kill you faster than raw red meat--is still beyond me. And the pizza was so bad I still remember it. And of course I still laugh at myself when I think of looking at that neon sign in the window that read "Pizza Parlor. Pure Soy Products," and remember reading it as "Pure Joy Products."

Monday, May 18, 2009

Well, Here You Go...

After weeks, and I mean five or six weeks of working three or four hours a day, I finally have all the hotels for the guests on the two upcoming Peru trips. That's 3 hotels for each in Iquitos, Riverboat cabins, Spaces at Sachamama for ceremony, my team in place, restaurants scheduled, Airline tickets (Saved everybody doing the whole tour more than $450 each but man was that a lot of work), and then airport transport paid for Lima, and a hotel in Lima, then in Cuzco, then a bus to the Sacred Valley, then a hotel in Ollantaytambo, then a train to Aguas Calientes, at the foot of Machu Picchu, then a curandero who will make a magic ceremony for my guests in that holy ground, then more trains, and private buses and then another hotel in Cuzco, and arranged horseback riding, and box lunches, and BOY AM I TIRED!!!! This is not like calling your travel agent! This is maybe 400 hours of work, at 2 AM, AT 5 AM, AT 10 AM, AT 3 PM, AT 6 PM, AT 11 PM....IT IS endless, these lousy details that exist. But if I don't do them, no one can or will. I pay people to take care of it and they're the best but it still takes 15-20 emails to get a single plane reservation done. I finally made all the hotel reservations, train reservations, several ceremonial reservations by myself and the agent is still looking for their cut on it all. NEWS: There is no cut if I do the work.
Still, as of tonight, I think I've taken care of every detail possible from up here. I've sent down the river water, kerosene, gasoline, new sponge mats for guests to sleep on, toilet paper, oil for the boat motors and cartridges for the shotgun. I've ordered breakfasts at 9 hotels, gotten permission to put chocolate and fruit and water into all the rooms the day before the guests arrive; I've made sure the plane tickets in Peru match the international tickets for arrival and departure, have written more than 5,000 words in three long missives explaining the trip to the guests....And now? Now I'm gonna call it a day. I Have only one plane ticket not accounted for--for a guest who joined yesterday--and then it's done. Done as much as can be done before I arrive in Peru on June 2 and begin paying my staff their thousands of aggregate dollars for doing the next 100 things that need to be done.
And when the guests arrive they'll think it is all so smooth. HAHAHAHA! It's like putting on a Broadway show: Nobody saw the out of town tryouts or the 4 weeks of intense rehearsals that make it look smooth.
So now I rest and enjoy a nice glass of wine.
Cheers everybody. Workday's done for me. Hope it's done for you as well.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Banana Bread

Well, been raining all day today and everyone is a bit on edge. Texas needs the rain but we've had an awful lot in the last few weeks. Maybe 5 nice days and 14 rainy days, or at least that's what it feels like.
So tonight, what with having had about 6 or 7 tough meals to cook this week, meals that included shrimp, marinated meats, caseroles with 10 ingredients, sausage pasta in white sauce with a slew of veggies, and then sides that ranged from spagetti squash to fresh corn to potatoes au gratin to rice to a light spinach/basil pasta and then more; and veggies that ran from spinach, garlic, corn nibs off the cobb, diced red pepper and fresh cut culantro to a melange of broccoli, cauliflower, baby carrots, bok choy in garlic, fresh ginger and rice vinegar, to sliced tomatoes sauteed thick and doused with fresh-grated parmesan cheese.....well, we needed something simple tonight.
So we're having roasted chicken thighs marinated in a gorman secret (Touch of oil, sesame oil, teriyaki sauce, garlic, onion, cilantro and achote, with salt and coarse ground pepper), beans from a can with a touch of garlic and some fresh diced tomatoes and onions to get the pan ready; fresh spinach and diced asparagus with yellow squash in garlic olive oil that's been sitting a couple of days, and then basmati rice with garlic that we'll let a touch of that chicken fat make moise.....
Well, what can I say. I broke down and made some banana bread as well. It's in the oven now. The bananas were hidden from the kids for a week while they rotted full black and super sugary. And then add a bit of genuine vanilla, some flour, couple of eggs, a little butter, good brown cane sugar, walnuts and pecans....and all the rest, and you know we've got a sweet sweet coming after dinner.
Now I've promised myself to lose five pounds for my June guests. And I am exercising and have started eating a healthy breakfast and am catching goats daily and running a bit with Boots the Blind Wonderdog and have even wrestled, and lost, with Meat, the pig--as well as having caught the birds who chewed through their beautiful wooden cage pegs two nights ago--but I'm going for the banana bread tonight. I won't put extra butter on it when it's still hot, okay? And I won't put a bit of rich cream with strawberries on it, and I refused Madeleina and Italo's request to put chocolate bits into it, but I'm still going for the bread.
I guess I'm gonna have to hope the goats escape three more times tomorrow to take that little indulgence off. Ah, well, You'd think if God was nice he'd just give me little liposuction while I'm sleeping. But no...He/She never does that...Leaves it up to me. Putting the fox in charge of the hen house if you know what I mean.
Still, while I anticipate hating myself tomorrow, that bread is starting to smell real real good from where I'm sitting.
Hope your lives are as filled with challenges as mine is.

Madeleina in the Morning

Saturday morning and Madeleina just woke up. Comes into my office living room and announces that the day sucks and it's my fault. "What's wrong with it?" I ask her.
"It's raining and that means no tie-dyeing with Sarah and that's your fault."
"Why can't you tie-die?"
"Because it's raining and you do tie-dye outside, that's why."
"Sorry, didn't know that. Never did tie-dyeing."
"Yes and it's your fault because you know how to make it stop raining and you're not going to do it. Just like when it's hot and your father knew the rain dance and could make it rain and you won't do that for me either."
"Darling, the rain is good. You don't just ask the clouds for favors because you want to tie-dye. That would be pretty selfish, wouldn't it? I mean, what about the land that needs the rain?"
She plunked herself down on the couch where I sleep and pulled my blanked up to her neck. "And I can't watch Saturday morning cartoons, either."
"Why not?"
"Because you won't let me."
"Baby, what on earth are you talking about?"
"You know. I have to work on my report..."
She's got a report due in a few days on The Phantom of the Opera, her last school project of the year and I told her I wanted it done last weekend, then put my foot down that it was to be done this weekend.
"Honey, I told you you couldn't go to the new Sam Moon with Sarah tomorrow if the report wasn't done. I never said anything about Saturday morning cartoons, or jumping on the trampoline or having a nice breakfast. I never said you couldn't come out of your room till the report was done. I never said you couldn't eat till the report was done, or that I was going to smash guitars over your head and make you glue them back together. I just said I want the report done before you go to Sam Moon and buy a new wig and stuff to freak the teachers out at school. And I said that because I know you will promise to do the report after Sam Moon, but I know that will never happen. So sometime today, spend 20 minutes writing the 300 word report on the book you've read about 11 times and then relax."
"Sure dad, like you'll let me enjoy myself."
"You bet, baby."
"And I had a dream you were spanking me, except you were hitting me with nunchuckas. Jerk."
"In your whole life have you ever been spanked?"
"I ever whack you with nunchuckas?"
"That's not the point. In my dream you did so that counts."
"I'm so glad we're having this little chat, darling. I really am."
"And you wouldn't even let me stay up to watch The Nanny last night."
"Madeleina, it was after midnight! You were exhausted. It would have been criminal to let you stay up."
"I just don't get why you can't be like my friends' dads. They spank their kids all the time and then let them do what they want. You have to have rules. Like I said, you're a jerk. And this conversation is over."
And then she walked off to go watch the Saturday morning cartoons. And Bob Dylan started running through my head: "They stone you when you try to be so good....They stone you just like they said they would...But I would not be so all alone...Every daddy must get stoned.."
Have a wonderful Saturday morning, everybody.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

I'm Getting Creamed Today

Hoo boy! I'm getting creamed today. I mean murdalized, slaughtered, squashed like road kill. Woke up this morning at 4:45. Head too full of buying plane tickets and arranging hotel rooms and making sure it all goes right for my upcoming Amazon/Lima/Machu Picchu guests that I decided to stay up. Read the NY Times, the NY Post, the NY Daily News and the Ft. Worth Star-Telegram and there was very little worth reading. Was done in an hour. Got a laundry going, woke Madeleina--who wanted to wake up early--and she screamed at me. No big deal. Finished that load, did another, started the actual writing on a story that's due in a few days. I've been doing homework forever, so getting down to the writing and thinking I've got a good lede led me to believe I was in for a good day. HA!
On the way to Madeleina's school she reminded me that we had to buy 50lb bags of goat food and corn for the pig. No big deal, just $20 bucks.
Came back to find Italo awake and explaining that the mechanic said his alternator was shot--despite the light not being on--and that he'd need $400 to have them fix it or $320 and he could do it himself. He's currently out of work, so it falls on me--unless I want him using my little truck forever. I went for the $400 and the guarantee.
Then Marco came home and announced he couldn't possibly pay his car insurance this month. "You know how it is, dad...I took Carly to Six Flags."
"I know. I gave you $20 towards your food, remember...?"
"Yeah. So keep it going with that generous thing, old man. Give your kid a break. I'm really broke after buying that new phone."
Then I took a look at my four tiny stocks. Having made good dough on the first two, these seem like no brainers to me. Heck, one of them cost under half-a-penny a share so I bought 50,000 shares for a couple of hundred bucks. Every penny it goes up will get me $500. Problem was today it's down to about $0.10 a share.
And my others are bleeding too. I'm still even or ahead on all of them but last week I was up $700 and today I'm up like $30.
And then I went to send a Western Union to pay a hotel in Lima for my next group and the woman who made the reservations turned out to have given me the one day cost, not the two day cost...there goes another $400.
That's a lot of karmic body shots for someone who's barely hanging on.
But you know what? I got to talk to Sierra on the phone a few minutes ago, and then I get to take a drive to fix the Western Union with Madeleina in half an hour, and then Marco will at some point wrestle with me and Italo will do something really cool, so I'm gonna keep thinking it's a pretty good day, despite some bumps, if that's alright with everybody.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Happy Mother's Day

Hello All: To all of you who have borne children, or wanted to, or cared for other people's children, Happy Mother's Day! I hope you find a moment to celebrate yourselves for the work, the intention, the love, the perspiration, the times you sublimated your anger, the joy, the whole damned pickle. And I hope that others around you recognize your work, your effort, your giving up so many things, your determination to make those babies, whether yours or your nephews and nieces or those you babysat for or whatever, be better people because of your contact with them. This is your day to celebrate and you ought to take it. If you have a man or a partner or a grown child, ask to be treated like a Queen for a Day (though I'm giving up my age with a reference to that TV show, ain't I?). And expect it. You've done the work, you've earned it. Enjoy it. And let yourselves enjoy it.
And for the rest of you, you mutha fukkas, well, I guess it's your day too. So I hope you also enjoy it.
Me? I've got an acre and a half of lawn to cut, reservations to complete for a trip to Peru that's coming up soon, friends I'm missing, people I'm loving and my kids whom are crazy, difficult and still the most wonderful light beings in the world, even when I can't see it.
Happy Mother's day all!

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Heres and Theres

Wednesday, early afternoon. We've just sent the septic tank cleaning guy away with a $165 check and learned that we've got a crack in the pipe that runs into the tank. So I'm paying Italo--who is doing his college work and soccer but has no job at the moment--to dig it up and let's find out what's what. So he'll make money, I'll save no a plumber, have the fun of going to buy and then install a new pipe. So I guess everybody's happy.
But I'll tell you, I'm getting tired of these plumbing problems: I paid to have every pipe in the house but that one changed out in December, along with a septic cleaning and here we're doing it again. But with all water in the house turned off, it's still coming into the tank--which means a tree root or large gopher cracked a hole in it and with the rain we've had, a lot lot lot of rain, well, I guess it's too much for our little tank to deal with. I'll be happy when it's done.
Last years pipe leaks, the ones that pushed me to get a new hot water heater and change all the pipes, were so bad they shifted the cinderblocks under the house and sort of make the floor tilt a bit on either side of the upheaval. Ah well, it's only a house and not meant to be perfect.
Then lately, because some people who owe me can't pay me, I took a gamble in the stock market, something I've only done once before at the urging of a friend who promptly lost me nearly all of my small investment. That was 7 years ago. This time I decided to go with Ford and bought it at $2.12 then sold it at $4.35. I looked into Pier One, a store I buy Christmas gifts from, and then bought that for $0.45 cents a share and sold it at $2.12. So I got lucky and earned a very quick $4 grand and shouldn't have sold when I did (I would be up another $2gs if I held on another week, till today, but needed the mortgage and couldn't risk losing anything.
Now I've got 20,000 shares of stock in a company that makes industrial strength cleaning products that are environmentally positive and quickly biodegradable. At least that's what they tout. I paid $0.0045 each, so the 20,000 only cost $90. If it goes up one penny I make $200 and I'm hoping it takes off and goes to a buck a share. That would be completely unfair of me to make that much money but the fantasy has that $20grand going to a fine expedition in Peru. And I've got two auto parts makers (guys who do those interior lights and switches that last for years) that cost six and 17 cents a share. I mean, having taken out the two stocks I actually bet the mortgage on, I'm not selling these babies that cost a total of less than $300.
So I got very lucky. Thank you, universe. I appreciate it a lot.
And you know what else? I finally know what those guys who buy and sell stocks do. I mean, I've spent a lot of time since I bought the Ford and Pier One stocks three weeks ago looking at how this is done and realize that for people who play the market, a lot is based on hunch and then a lot is based on being willing to watch the stock go up and down and picking a spot on either side that you're going to quit at. Like I bought the ford for $2.12. I said I'd sell it if it went below $2 and wouldn't sell it till it hit $5. Of course I panicked when it went over $4 and then sold it, but still more than doubled my investment.
Anyway, it's been one heck of a learning experience and hopefully has broadened my understanding of economics, at least on that level. But now that the bills are paid it's time to get back to a couple of writing contracts, so I don't think I'll do this anymore. Except for those penny stocks....wouldn't that be nice to watch a 1/2 cent investment in an environmentally positive product zoom to a buck or two...20,000 times.
Now, back to the backed up (pardon me) shit hole we call a septic system.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Well, There You Have It

Well, Marco's lovely girlfriend, Carly, was raised in a house where the words "yes, sir" and "yes, mam" followed anything addressed to an adult. My friend Lynn's kids also were taught that. It's nice, but maybe old-timey in my book, so I never asked my kids to go that route. Nonetheless, Madeleina has begun answering me with that "sir" word to nearly everything in the last couple of days, along with starting most sentences with "Father,..."
But it was bound to happen, given my openness to having the kids punch me in the arm between the elbow and shoulder whenever they think I've done something to wrong them. It was a solution to them needing to vent--and my Irish upbringing in which physical fighting was not a bad thing so long as didn't actually try to hurt anyone badly. And I think it worked: Both Marco and Italo gave me my share of shots over the years, and they generally got my attention so that I'd listen to what I'd done that they were sore about and then try to avoid doing it again.
Madeleina, as those who read this blog will know, has taken advantage of the rule and often uses my arms as simple punching bags. When she's excited, it's Whack! Whack! Whack! When she's angry it's Whack! Whack! Whack! When she's just in the mood, the Whacking can go on for three or four dozen shots. And she's getting pretty good at focusing so the Whacks are starting to take their toll and leave purple bruises.
This morning's session took the cake. "Father," she began, "I'm not happy that you yelled at me to go to bed at midnight last night, sir. I think it was really mean, sir. And so, father, this is for you sir..." Whack! "And this, sir." Whack! "And I've only just begun, father, sir." Whack! Whack! Whack!
It's a kind of respect that I suspect doesn't really carry a lot of sincerity. I'll muse on it while my arms heal.