Thursday, September 30, 2010

Biology Class--Freshman Year

I've been in touch with one of the former Catholic Brothers, now a layman, who taught math at my high school, Bishop Reilly in Queens, New York. I mentioned how tough the biology class was and that biology simply escaped me. I might have done better if I'd ever opened the book, but I always thought I was smart enough to just listen in class and never read any of the books at home except for my geometry book--cause I loved geometry--the novels and plays in English--cause I loved English--and an occasional look through Mary Dolciani's horrible nightmare-fueling algebra books. And as if her books weren't bad enough, when I got to Hunter College, guess who I got for my first Algebra 101 class? MARY DOLCIANI HERSELF!!!!! God, she was awful. First day she announced that there would be no eating, drinking or smoking cigarettes in class. What? We were always allowed to do those things. Worse, as soon as the announcement was made, she opened a cup of coffee, unwrapped a muffin, and lit a smoke.
I objected.
"The reason I can do these things and you can't," she said, "is that I know when I am going to speak. You, however, never know when you'll be called on to answer something I ask and I don't want to waste the class' time while you finish chewing or put down your coffee."
Point well made but it only made me hate her more.
Back to biology. I told my former teacher this story about biology class.

Once, in the biology class, we had to get an animal and dissect it at home as a project. Well, I got an alligator from the pet store and Brother Walter gave me a syringe and a bottle of formaldehyde, but no directions. The formaldehyde opened on the Q-44 bus going home, and I lost the syringe, but I didn't think that was important as I didn't know what I was to do with it anyway. So I got home, put my little alligator into a pot and filled it with the remaining formaldehyde. Man did that little critter jump!
I put a lid on the pot, and then a cinderblock and waited him out. He took about an hour to die, it seemed at the time. And then I cut his head open with a chisel and hammer to take a look at his brain, which was supposed to have two distinct lobes. Of course I crushed the brain with the hammer and chisel, so I didn't wind up with much of an experiment.
BUTTTT.....what I learned, crazily, from that experience, was that I never ever wanted to kill anything I didn't have to from that day on. And even now, this morning, when a waterbug came into my kitchen I went to kill it, then decided to give it a pass, so long as he left quickly. He did.
I don't know that the experiment was meant to impart the sanctity of life, but it did. Funny world, eh?

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Upcoming Trip Info

My son Italo wrote a response to my "January--Fantastic News" post of a week or so ago that I'd forgotten to give any info on the trips.
So here's the deal: On Sat, Jan 8, I'm taking a small group of people into the jungle in Peru, which will be followed by a trip to the Andes mountains to visit Machu Picchu.
It's a 21-day trip. The jungle portion is 12 1/2 days; the mountain portion is 8 1/2 days.
There will be lots of indigenous medicines/ceremonies during our time together. In the jungle there will also be riverboat travel under the Amazon sky and on the Amazon itself; there will be hikes in the most fantastic swamp I know. There will be some walking in first growth jungle, under the high trees, learning about plant medicines, collecting wild foods, canoeing in the dark, swimming in a lake that's home to pink and grey river dolphins, and anything else we can squeeze in. And we can usually find some other things to squeeze in.
In the mountains, there will be more medicine ceremonies, with two of the finest curanderos I know. And there will be clambering around breathtaking ruins, and visits to an extraordinary market, and two days at Machu Picchu and again, anything else I can squeeze in.
People are welcome to sign up for either portion of the trip or the entire trip.

Then in February, beginning on the first saturday, I've got a 9 1/2 day jungle intensive. It's similar to the 12 1/2 day jungle trip but not quite the same because no two trips are the same. My team and I always try to do at least a couple of things with each group that we've not done before.

Note on my team: My jungle team is the best team in the world. We're like the Chicago Bulls when Michael J was in his prime and Rodman was vacuuming up every rebound in sight. They will take care of you--in terms of protecting you, looking out for you and making sure you're entertained and taught well--wonderfully. And they'll do that without coddling you or getting in the way of you having your experiences.

Note on the trips: We don't go to no stinkin' lodges. Ain't no television at night. We go to deep jungle and you will get dirt under your findernails and you will bathe in the river and you will love and come out of the trip a changed person. If you currently suck, you will suck less. If you are already a diamond, we'll polish you up. These are no fooling intense trips, but they are not physically difficult. I've had some guests who were sure they couldn't do things but darn if they didn't surprise themselves.

For something of a pretty good itinerary--though note that each trip is a little different and that I've already added a second medicine ceremony to the mountain portion of the first trip--please go to and then go to the TOURS page.
The basics are there, including a pretty good day-to-day, a list of what's included and what is not, and the prices.
If anyone thinks that a few hundred dollars off a price would help make a trip possible, please ask and I'll see what I can do.
Now get that check book out and sign up for one of them. Your next change won't be till June.
These are really pretty special trips.
Thanks for listening.
Hope my son is happy now.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cute Little Story

Might have posted something like this once before but it's short so if I did, just bear with me.
Someone on a forum I occasionally post on was discussing Tom Robbins the other day. It was slightly off topic but reminded me of this story. Here is what i wrote.

I've been a fan of Robbins for a long time. And I have a funny Tom Robbins story to tell. About 10-12 years ago, I got a call. I answered. "Hello, this is Tom Robbins. I hope you don't mind but Terence McKenna gave me your phone number and said you were the expert on frog hallucinogens. I'm writing a book about them and wonder if you could talk to me about them..."
Well, I worked with Phylomedusa bicolor, the Matses' sapo medicine, and Robbins was talking about the Bufo Alvarious, which I knew but certainly was not an expert on. And what I did know was from the Bufo Amazonas. So I couldn't help him much. I think I gave him Tom Lyttle's number, and for those of you who know, Tom Lyttle was a crazy genius who died way too young. The book Robbins finally wrote was Half Asleep in Frog Pajamas, a terrific piece.
But while I couldn't help him out, I was thrilled to get the call. "This is Tom Robbins...Terence McKenna gave me your phone number..." Man, I thought I made it right there. It was so cool that I was probably shining for a week.
Of course, still struggling to pay the mortgage and keep shoes on my kids's feet, I know I'm not there yet, but for a minute a decade ago, well, I was sky high.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Man, Does Life Slip by or What?

Man, does life slip by or what? Last thing I knew I had my horrible big toenails--infected by some strange, still unidentified Amazon poison--cut by Chepa because the poison triples the depth and cannot be cut by me. And now they're completely painful again. So four months went by that quick. Last thing I knew, Chepa cut my hair before the June trip to Peru and now I look like a damned old hippie--which I am proud to be--who doesn't groom himself. And last thing I knew my Madeleina was just a little girl and today I found blood in the toilet. And Sierra, Chepa's 4-year old, was asking me things and now, just since June, she's reminding me to hold hands and pray before breakfast. And Alexa, Chepa's youngest at 2, now talks and tells me all the animals that have died since she last saw them. "Goat mom, died. Blue bird in kitchen, died. Bad cats died. A lot animals died."
And last thing I knew the grass in the hill space over the creek was cut but now it's 2 feet tall and all weeds with stickers. And I was out cutting it and I've got hundreds of fire ant bites and dozens of really painful-to-remove stickers on my shorts and legs and ankles and sneakers.
And the damned mortgage is due again.
Can't we slow things down just a trace? I mean, come on folks. Let's work together. If your life is changing as fast as mine, and I'm running as fast as I can, then you're all in the same boat, and we seem to be swimming up current. Which is not the right direction.
Hold on, it's probably gonna get tougher from here. Got a trip coming up in January and another in February and by the time those are both done, Madeleina will probably be asking me to buy her a car...
Lots of love to get through it to all of you. From a deep good place in my heart.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Friday Morning at the Gorman Spread

Well, it's Friday morning, 7:12. I'm drinking my coffee and reading my newspapers on the internet. I've read that there was a horrible storm that raged through New York City yesterday and wrote to a friend who lives there to see if she's okay.
When I got up in the middle of the night to take my middle of the night too-much-liquid-for-my-kidneys-to-handle break, I noticed an empty box of curlers on the bathroom sink.
When I got up at 5:30 for good, I went to Madeleina's room door and called to her to ask her if she needed to get up early. She said she needed a smidge more sleep. Normally that would mean I'd be trying to wake her every 15 minutes for the next hour-and-a-half, but this time she was up on her own in a flash. She came bounding into the living room, some of her hair in long bouncing curls.
"Hey dad, check it out. Today's picture day so I thought I'd put curlers in to give myself a different look."
"You look gorgeous, baby."
"Yeah, except that this zit came out right here," she said, pointing to something I couldn't even see. "It's so ugly. And from a distance it makes it look like my nose is bleading. Plus I have such tiny eyelashes. Why don't I have your eyelashes? Why do you have such long beautiful lashes and I'm stuck with mom's?"
"They'll grow, don't worry."
"Not in time for picture day."
"Well, not by 10 this morning, no..."
"So, dad, what would you say if I--I mean, you know I don't use makeup because that's such a girly thing, but what if I used just a little today to cover up this zit?"
"Cool. Anything you like."
"Thanks, dad. You're the best."
Five minutes later she came back into my office/the front living room, this time with about 12 bracelets on each arm.
"Do you know that I have a lot of beautiful things? I mean, these are great. I just never wear them because I'm afraid I'll break them. Maybe I'll just wear the pink ones today. Because they go with the pink earrings and they're the hardest to break because they're plastic, not stone or silver or anything...."
"You rock, Macaroni."
"Thanks, dad!" And off she went.
Fifteen minutes passed. From the bathroom I hear, "You get off. Right now. And you, you get back into place and stay there. You hear me?"
"Who are you talking with, Madeleina? Yourself or you have company I don't know about?"
"Just these stupid curlers, dad. They're not staying in place. And the mascara is going in the wrong place."
"Excellent. Everything likes a little personal attention."
Five more minutes passed and out she came. "Can you come here, dad? I think I just poked myself in the eye with makeup and now I can't see."
I took a look and got the tiny bit of dabbing cream out of her eye.
"Thanks, dad. I guess I'm just not good at these girly things..."
"I don't think make up skills are something you're born with, darlin. I think that's a practiced skill."
"I should probably ask mom....but I don't really need to because I don't like things like makeup yet..."
No, I thought. But you're starting to lean in that direction.
My baby's growing up, I guess.
Good for her.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

January Peru Trip: This is Fanatastic!

Dear All: Just a quick note to say that several people who said they were going to sign up for the January 21 day trip to Peru--Mountains and Jungle courses in magic, medicines and peoples, are copping out and asking for later trips. Money is the issue and I understand.
BUTTTTTTTT....the trip is on anyway, and I should say trips, because the Jan trip is followed by a February trip which is shorter, but costs considerably less, everyone should join. These are fantastic trips.
The Fantastic News is that my teacher Victor Estrada, as well as my other teacher, Kucho, will be doing San Pedro Healing work during the mountain portion of the January trip. This is unprecedented. To have two of my teachers, two of the people who can heal illness, sadness, anything for goodness sake, is unbelieveable. So if anyone here is considering getting healed, I am telling you, no lie, that now is the time to get that healing. These two men are extraordinary and I don't use that word lightly. I'm a recipient of their work and I am just not fooling here.
So if you want to sign up, this is a good time to do it. And if you're short on bucks, talk to me about scholarships. I'll do my best. This is something fantastic.

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Alexa Running at Me

Today was a sad day. I was working on a cover story for my local alternative that's going to press next Tuesday. I was having a tough time with it because it has not percolated enough in my head. My work is done, essentially, and this is the time when I try to think of the right way to present it to make it its strongest. Many false starts.
That wasn't the sad part. The sad part was that I needed to go to the hospital where Chepa's baby Alexa was born and sign a paper swearing i was not her father and that I had no parental responsibility for her. That probably sounds pretty odd to be something to feel sad about because I'm not her father, but still, it felt--and felt with Sierra before her--like I was signing a paper swearing to abandon her. Like she was nothing to me. And that's just not right. She and Sierra are Madeleina's sisters, they're Italo and Marco's sisters. They're my granddaughter's aunts. That is a lot to me. Not counting that I've helped raise them both, that this is the house they want to come visit daily, that they think of the chickens and goats and the cat and birds and Boots as their animals. So yeah, it was sad to sign a paper swearing I will have no responsibility for Alexa.
And on the heels of that unexpected sadness, Chepa came over just as I got home from the hospital and there was Alexa jumping out the car, bounding in my direction, arms raised high above her head and a welcome smile on her face while she screamed "I'm here!!!!" And I swept her up in my arms and held her tightly and swore that no matter what paper I signed, neither she nor Sierra would ever be abandoned by me.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Thoughts on the Age of Ayahuasca

Someone on a forum I post to occasionally has been pushing the idea that Ayahuasca has been in use for 10,000 years. I put up with about a dozen posts on the subject before I thought I had to weigh in. And this is what I weighed in with:

Thoughts on the Age of Ayahuasca
Another $0.02 from Gorman. There is no stone in northwestern Amazonia. There is stone along the Andes and there is stone along the upper reaches of the Amazon from west to east, but not in the Amazon basin. So no stone, nothing lasts. No written language in the Amazon, plus no stone, means the only early records we have of the entire basin come from Jesuit and Franciscans who traveled with the Conquistadores. And they wrote history like any conquering people--from their perspective. So to demand solid information from an area of the world where there was nothing concrete to carve into, paint on, draw on or build with and which didn't have a written language is a silly question. We know that early Spanish records talk about some indigenous using a substance that we can be pretty sure was ayahuasca, but that's it. Further than that is accepted speculation but that's all it is.
And this is true for a lot of things. Sapo, frog sweat--also, recently used by tribes that call it kambo--was only first mentioned in the literature by Bob Carniero, in his work with the Amahuaca--though he never saw it used despite living with the Amahuaca for a full year or more (he is currently the Director of South American Ethnology at the American Museum of Natural History in NYC). And he didn't have a name for the material, just relayed a myth in a 26 page pamphlet he published in 1972 or so. When I brought out sapo and wrote about it, it was the first time it was written about, ever, as something seen and experienced. And that wasn't until 1986. So while it might have been in use for thousands of years, all we can go on is that it's been in use since 1986. Kambo doesn't appear in the literature until about 2002 or so, so if those tribes were using it before then--highly unlikely, as it appears the Matses are the only people who perfected collecting, and using, the material and that others copied it when word spread in the last 20 years--there is no record. And as there is no stone in most of the Amazon, there are no petro glyphs we can go back to see what might have happened.
The reality is that what happens in the Amazon is lost within 20 years, when the trees in the building decay. That's just life. In the mountains and desert you can have records going back thousands of years, but not in the rainforest, where there is no permanence. I know that Ecuador is a bit different in places from most of Peru's jungle, and Colombia has its foot in the northern stone mountain crest, but nothing has been found in those places to indicate early ayahuasca use.
Which doesn't mean it wasn't used 10,000 years ago. Just that you're gonna have a hard time proving it.

The Girls Are Back, Finally

Well, Sierra and Alexa were over for a while today. Fantastic. Just holding them, just singing their songs to them, just having Sierra ask, "Did you get the donuts, Mr. P Garman?" and my heart was off and running. Chepa brought them over and while they didn't stay long--their dad came into town with them for a few days--they didn't want to leave. "Stay, mom. Stay," said Alexa, who can apparently talk now. See what happens when I miss three months with them? Chepa assured them and me they'd be over all the time now, until I got tired of them. I reminded her that I've never gotten tired of the kids. None of them. Wanted to kill Marco, occasionally, and any baby can drive you to frustration's limit now and again, especially if you work from home and they just won't let you, but I've never gotten tired of them. And if I had five more, that would be swell too. My three are great, but add in Chepa's new two and man, I'm just sitting around mostly in heaven.
So good. That's just great.

Saturday, September 04, 2010

Yeah, Well, Things Goin' Good Here

Yeah, well, things going good at the Gorman house. Marco, who's been told that he's welcome anytime to come to dinner or work or sleep over, but not just to show up at midnight and raid the fridge because that makes me feel used, has been a gentleman of late, coming over in time for dinner, doing dishes, etc. Partly probably because he can't find a job here. He's in a tough spot: Nobody at the local burger joints will hire him because he's too smart, and the regular jobs don't want him because he got into a spat with his last boss and wound up getting fired. I've offered to go there and fix things as only a journalist/dad can but he won't hear of it.
Still, last night, start of a 3 1/2 day weekend, Marco ate, borrowed my newer truck and said he'd be back to go to sleep here.
Then Italo came over to say hello.
And Madeleina was in rare form, victimizing them with her acerbic tongue and I won't go into specifics.
THis morning Madeleina and I used our third ball of string, polished hemp, to complete the spiderweb over the chicken coop that ought to keep the red tailed hawks out--Ha, I'm thinking. They're predators for a reason and the reason is that they're slicker than their prey. And I'd be their prey if they were big enough--and then went and bought half a dozen new chicks. Just as we got back, here came Italo and Marco, looking for breakfast and promising to clean the rug in the big living room after they got through with their mom, Chepa's rug. Turns out, unbeknownst to me, she's left Indiana and is due back tomorrow with the babies. HOORAY!!!!! I can't wait to see the babies! I'll only have a day or two because I guess their dad is due in on Wednesday for a couple of days. Forget that, who cares. Chepa will bring the babies over daily anyway. She's pretty hard-headed when it comes to her men either towing the line or being cut from it.
So I tossed in $30 to the rug cleaning pot and Italo eventually came here while I was visiting with my friend Lynn and then he and Marco cleaned not just the big living room rug but the old Persian imitation I've had for 30 years and then my office rug and man, do we smell like a clean house! And now they're coming for dinner so I'm making hot sausage with onions and peppers--a mix of green and red bell, plus the finest in-season Hatch peppers, with garlic and finely diced tomato, over rice. I already made a good corn and red pepper and onion salad in white vinegar (salt/Pepper and a touch of garlic in olive oil). And Then I put in a rack of ribs at a low temp. I'll make a good barbeque sauce in a few minutes--start with a bit of salt pork, lots of garlic and onion and tomatoes and peppers, then good dark brown sugar and fresh hot red peppers and go from there--for those in an hour, and then I guess I'll make up some veggies to go with the works. I was gonna do shrimp and salmon but I'll hold that till tomorrow.
The gist of this is that there was a lot of noise, all my kids, good work done (I painted the new fencing on the porch again and am now officially freaking done with that), food prep (They shared an 8 egg omelet for breakfast which include freshly pan seared chicken breast, spinach, garlic, tomatoes, onion and good cheddar) along with "Smashed potatoes"--roasted potatoes put in a heavy fry pan, smashed to near flat, salt and peppered and cooked in garlic and oil and a bit of chicken stock till really crispy on the outside and pure white potato meat on the inside. The omelet and potatoes were accompanied by a thick slice of perfect cantaloupe.
And then I sold 3 more books today, and if I can do that all month I'll have sold 90. And I know I'll get a couple of wholesale orders for 10 each, so that would be great.
So things are good here. How nice. It really doesn't take a lot to make me happy. My kids, noise, cooking, a little work, a few new chickens, what else? That's plenty, eh? Don't be greedy, Gorman. That's already a real good day.

Friday, September 03, 2010

Friday Night, Ain't it Great?

So Madeleina just walked in at 7:01 and announced that the sun is too high. "Way too high. I mean, way too too high!".
And then she walked to the living room and announced she'd just found the bandaids we've been looking for the last couple of weeks and which have already been replaced.
And just before this she has been out in the front yard, herding the goats, Boots, the cat and the chickens, none of whom have been fed yet, with a broken metal broom pole and singing to them. "I am the wizard! I have made you all what you are! I can change you if I want but I don't want to! You are all fine---get over there, you stupid goat! Don't you know I'm talking to you?"
Life is so so sweet and precious. To hear her making up songs out there and hitting notes I couldn't hit before my whatever's fell some near 50 years ago is just fantastic. Her voice soars like magic. If I could bottle it and listen to it daily, I would. She shatters the crystal of my heart effortlessly.
I'm just so lucky, and happy to be alive.
Thanks white light.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Ah, My Madeleina....

Ah, my Madeleina: It is about 6:34 PM on Wednesday afternoon. Madeleina and I just had a talk about people covering up. She brought it up by asking why she was 15 pounds overweight. I explained that that happened when her mom and I broke up and she was stuck listening to lots of screaming and acrimony and decided, though she didn't realize it, to put a layer of protection between herself and her heart.
She asked why I was also 15-20 pounds overweight. I explained that while in New York I had friends, people I played handball with, people I played softball with, people I threw a football with, and that I also rode my bike 10 miles per day through New York traffic. But here in Texas, I have only one friend who is an adult, and he and I only see one another every two or three months. And I can't ride my bike--too many dogs--can't play handball, can't throw a football, and there are no handball walls. So I get bored to death and drink a little at night. Not stupidly, but enough to numb the night and let me sleep. And that's my extra weight.
She laughed at that explanation.
AND then it started to get windy and she suddenly took out her best kite and now she's running all over the yard, chased by the goats, by Boots, by the cat and by the chickens that she decided should be let loose, and the lightning is pouring down. There is no getting her inside, and as there is no key at the end of her kite string, I wont' try any further. But she is the real deal And she makes me laugh and calls me on it when I'm short. She's a real New Yorker is what I'm saying, could have been a mob moll if she stayed there and would have been a good one.
"Dad: If you lose another 10 pounds, even the 60 year old women at walmart will be looking at you!
Thanks, baby. Now go get into a cold shower and stay there for a year or two.
No, she's out in the rain and thunder.
On another note, my book, Ayahuasca in My Blood--25 Years of Medicine Dreaming was just made book of the month for the website. It's a research place for all things shamanic. And no, It is not the same as winning an AAN national award for writing or two, and not the same as being the Texas Print Journalist of the Year, but it is still a nice thing. It means somebody who doesn't know me thought the book was good, informative, or even fantastic.
So thanks, God. White Light. Being-ness. Is-ness. Thanks for giving me Madeleina, my health, my crazy family, my goats and Boots.
Hope your rainstorm is as good as mine, everybody.