Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day

Today is Memorial Day. It's a day to remember those who have fallen in the line of duty. A day to show respect and honor those who served the armed forces with courage and decency.

How many have fallen? How many have been wounded? How many have lost their minds or fight terrible demons because of war? How many have not been received well when they came home?
I was never in the service. My time for availability began in 1969, when the Vietnam War had already been exposed as a political ploy and not the honorable cause it was said to be. So I didn't go. A part of me will always feel the coward for that. It's not like I ran away, I just didn't volunteer and my number was only called once in those several years between 1969 and the end of the war. At the physical at Fort Hamilton Army Base in Brooklyn, a doctor who called me a wretched hippie whom he wouldn't want to see on a battlefield told me I had something like a brain tumor that was going to kill me and pronounced me 4F, unfit for duty, before sending me home.
He sent a lot of longhairs home that day. None of us were actually sick, we all found out later.
So I could have tried to enlist but didn't.
Others at Fort Hamilton that day passed the physical, went to basic, were shipped to Vietnam and never came home again. Or came home as damaged humans. I bow my head in respect for them. As I do for those who served in any war.
I only wish the wars didn't happen. Most of them don't need to happen. They are foisted upon a patriotic public as necessary by a handful of people who stand to profit greatly: In Vietnam it was people looking for oil, cheap labor and a whole new region of the world which might start buying their products.
In Iraq it was pushed on us by people who claimed Saddam Hussein might be helping al Qaeda and had weapons of mass destruction. We knew beforehand there were no WMD's. And those who follow politics knew that if Osama bin Laden ever set foot in Iraq, Hussein would have had him drawn and quartered. But still, there was the prospect of all that oil, and there was money to be made by people selling parts for the war machine, and a president who wanted to look good to his dad. And in the end they held sway.
Like Vietnam, those looking to profit in Iraq sold out thousands and thousands of very brave young men and women for their own personal greed or need. That does not diminish the depth of the bravery of those men and women. I haven't the courage to do what they did.
If I had the right, I'd salute them. I haven't that right. I will still honor them.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Another Gorman Complaint About Business

Okay, so it all seems trivial to a lot of people. But to me, raising Madeleina, paying a mortgage and all the rest, trying to help pay for my wife/ex-wife's new kids and my first grandbaby, well, it's not trivial. I make $32,000 a year. Before write offs. That's from a 9 month full time job as a writer, a 10-time a year columnist for another mag, a free-lance writer for other mags and an Amazon guide three-four months a year.

I used to make $60 g's a year, plus health care insurance ($14,500 per annum for my family) when I was exec editor at High Times, and used to make about the same as a chef, from 1975-1988.
Then I got the kids, moved to Texas, helped my mother-in-law with the cancer that killed her and now make a gross of $32,000.
And I'm not complaining. My daughter came home from 9th grade today to eat a big slice of cold cantaloupe. We're having sliced steak with yellow rice and broccoli and spinach in balsamic vinegar and garlic. We're doing fine.
But I don't always like business practices. A couple of months ago I railed about the fact that my bank, First Convenience Bank of Texas, simply decided to raise the rate of a bank transfer from $5 to $10. A couple of months earlier I railed about the fact that they raised the rate of taking $200 from a Peruvian bank ATM from $3.50 to $8.50. Why? I spend $25,000 a year in Peru on my guests via the ATM and that changes my charges from about $375 to over $1000. That could be my whole profit from a trip. So I asked the bank big shots why that happened, what happened to cost them so much they had to pass it on to me and they laughed and said: "We wanted to make more money," basically.
If I sound cynical, it's because I am.
Last month, I got a notice from ATT that I was nearing the end of my proscribed time on the internet and that I'd be charged $10 incrementally over that. When I got my bill it turned out that I was charged $30 more than normal.
I called. I complained. I signed a contract that said that for as long as I held the account my internet would cost X per month. Then last month they changed that. Now it's X Plus $10 incrementally if I use the internet.
So I'm complaining again. I didn't default on the contract. I held up my end and gave them the money. They have had no rate increases that they might need to pass along to me. The only thing I can imagine is that two of those bank big shots were out drinking and one said: "Hey, why don't we raise the rate for internet?"
And the second one said: "Great idea. Why?"
"So we get more money, stupid. Want another?"
And that was that. So now you, me and the kitchen sink are sunk. You think I have the money to sue ATT? Not a chance. I don't even think I have enough money to switch accounts right now, and I'm sure they have already had a money man look at the potential loss of business compared to the additional revenue and figured they'd come out ahead.
This is what I'm freaking pissed off about. I signed a contract. Some months, like the four months when I'm not even in the US, I don't use the internet or the phone. But I promised to pay monthly and so I do. But when they decide to break the contract and raise the rates, they do. Who gave them permission to do that? Not me, for one. And I'm the one they should be beholding to. They're the ones who offered me the contract, in perpetuity, after all. They didn't offer me a contract that could change. They offered me a firm price that would hold forever, till I freaking die, and then they change it.
So this is why we need Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts. We need someone who will fight for those of us wronged just because a couple of drunks got together and said: Hey, if we can get 30 million people to pay $20-$30 a month more by changing their contracts, we'll be up $600 milllion-$900 million a month. That would be cool, right?
I'm gonna be mean here but I hope they choked just a little bit on their Tanqueray and tonics.
Any of you feel the same? Let's start screaming from the rooftops. Cause this ain't right.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Well, What Do You Know?

Well, what do you know? The review on that I was so pissed off about--not cause the person hated the book, but because they cooly claimed that I was "known around town for questionable habits"--has been removed from Amazon. And that is cool. They could have just removed the offensive claim by someone who has never met me and left the bad review up--the guy really didn't like the book and couldn't even finish it--but went ahead and dropped it all.

Thanks for your support, everybody. I've never been a saint, but my sins are pretty darned public.

Friday, May 18, 2012

I Am Slighly Pissed Off

Hello All: I'm slightly pissed off. Not your fault, but I'm gonna share with you because I've been here for years and this is the first time I feel wronged. Not that I have not been wrong before. I'm sure I have and I'm pretty sure someone has put me in my place now and then. But here is the deal: I've got my book, Ayahuasca in My Blood--25 Years of Medicine Dreaming out there. I think it's a pretty honest book. It's a good adventure book but it's also a book about a regular guy who wound up drinking aya for 25 years and learning something. Not enough. I think my book talks about a weak point--my drinking alcohol--a lot. I think I'm very honest about that and very honest about everything else. Now my book is sold on and people can put up reviews. So today a person put up a review that was not good. It's not the first. But I never responded to the other few bad reviews. I've been a writer long enough to know that while three people may love you, someone else hates you. So that's not my issue today. My issue today, and I am really livid about it, is that there is a new, anonymous, reviewer on, suggests that "Having a wide range of experience in Iquitos over a few year personally I know this book is completely made up.. could not even finish it.. the author is trying to come across as some enlightened guru yet In REALITY he is known around town for very questionable habits.. the book is 3rd rate fiction at best.." I have spent three-four months annually in Iquitos for 29 years. I married there. I had kids there. I had a bar there. I know my fuckups. I acknowledge them in the book in big BIG letters. So what I'm objecting to, publicly, is that this person suggests "he he known around town for very questionable habits..." I don't think I have any "questionable habits." Do I sometimes drink too much? Yes. Do I sometimes dance on the boulevard? Yes. Do I love living and all that? Absolutely. But this reviewer is suggesting more than that. And I don't know what he/she is suggesting. IF you were on my trip and wanted cocaine, you would lose the trip, pronto, as has happened. IF you were on my trip and wound up with a boy/girl/dog/chicken or whatever sex partner under 18 years old in human years, you would lose the trip. So I am very very upset that there is an anonymous person out there who suggests I have "questionable habits." I'm just me, with all my faults. But my faults are open for public discussion. To hint there are other faults bothers me, cause I think I've been honest with my book and my life without a hint of hiding anything. And I'm printing this here because some of you might know me, know my flaws, know my really bad imperfections. But I trust you also know I own up to them. Which doesn't forgive them, but does make this person's attack mean. Just trying to make the record clear. And if you agree with this person, by all means tell me. I just think the words "questionable habits" is very very loaded and I think it's unfair, considering who I am and who I have been for this life. Sorry to lay this on you. I'm just angry right now. I don't care if this person hates my book, that's fine. But suggestive allegations about my character are not something I'll put up with. Thanks for listening. I apologize for taking your time.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Food and Poverty

So a Rev friend of mine wrote me today about poverty in the area in which he lives. Not far from me. His impoverished people, it turns out, make more than I do. So I wrote him. And here's what I wrote. And sorry for posting twice in an hour but I'm on freaking fire here. And the wine hasn't even kicked in yet.

Dear Rev K: You know I have 4 jobs that pay money and it's been tough to keep it all going ever since we hit Texas 10 years ago, so I know a thing or two about being working poor. I have not eaten out in a restaurant in several years--though I did order chicken wings to go a few years ago. I cook every meal. I limit my spending on clothes to about $200 a year, though my lovely daughter-in-law, the beautiful Sara, generally buys me two or three $40 shirts for Christmas. I drive two old Ford Rangers, a 1994 with 300,000 miles and a 1998 with 210,000 miles. My foundation broke in my $79,000 house and I live with it buckled slightly, right through the middle. I have a rain-collector over my desk where the roof leaks because I cannot afford to fix it. Despite those four jobs.
And I've always had jobs. My first job with a social security number was at age 6 at Louie's Candy Store in Whitestone, where I got $0.25 an hour for making malteds, egg creams, dishing pints of ice cream. I still have that social security card, so I'm not lying about that. I ain't stopped working since. I went from Louie's to paper route at age 7 to inserting papers at age 9, to inserting papers plus delivering two-three nights a week at Frankel's Pharmacy at age 10, to two paper routes at age 11 (and they were number 39 and 43, if I remember correctly, which meant that when it was my turn to get hazed by the other paperboys I got 82 nucks from each guy in the place, including rings, while I was held down on a table. There were about 20 guys there that day and my stomach was bleeding so bad I could hardly deliver the papers. But then I was the idiot who accepted those routes!!!! Damn! I didn't know the punishment that came with them.) I then worked for Chresthaven Country Club, a local boat place and wedding hall in Whitestone that my family could never begin to think of joining. I probably worked there from age 14-16, maybe 3 nights a week. In college I drove a taxi in New York, worked at art galleries,at a liquor store, built loft beds, helped a little building some fancy places like helping on Jimi Hendrix' Electric Ladyland, the Kennedy's place on East 64rd st or Oscar De La Renta's or the Schlesinger place or the Island Records place in Carnegie Hall, then cooked, then chef'd for years and years before I could begin to get paid for writing. So I know about work too.
But I also like solutions. So if someday you find a kitchen and know some people who don't know how to cook, how to make great freaking meals for $10 for 5 people, well, I'll volunteer to teach some of them. I used to do that in New York. With some people you have to teach them how to shop, how to cook, how to save, how to use left overs. Food at fast food joints costs so much and is so worthless and very expensive. Learning how to cook and learning how to love cooking and eating good food is very empowering.
Tonight, for instance, with the help of 2 large cans of Campbell's Tomato soup ($4 total), four stalks of celery (Celery total is $0.59) a red onion ($0.68), garlic ($0.40), a pound of frozen shrimp ($3.99), a pound of frozen mixed seafood ($2.40), salt and pepper and a little cilantro ($0.29 for the whole bunch), and 8 ounces of very thin spaghettini ($0.99) I'm gonna serve 8 people. And there will be plenty of left overs.
So that's $13.44 for eight people, a very healthy meal full of vitamins and minerals. About $1.70 each, with left overs for breakfast or lunch. That's probably 75 percent less than a fast food meal per person. That's where you start with poverty. Empower the people.
A good sized roast chicken costs $5.00 and feeds 4-6 adults. With rice and broccoli: Maybe $8.00 total. Again: $1.25 per person. Maybe $1.50 if they like sliced cucumber with lime and salt as a side dish.
We can beat this, Rev. We just have to be smart.

I Gotta Do This Once--GO OBAMA!

So a friend of mine, a childhood friend whom I adore and was really thankful he got in touch a few months ago after 40 years--last year was big on that--passed along a nonsensical bullshit piece on how bad Obama is doing. It starts in early 2008 and charts the economy, the debt and so forth. It does not recognize that Bush was president through 2008 into Jan, 2009, or that the expenditures for most of 2009 went on the books in Sept, 2008 THROUGH Sept 2009 (sorry for shouting). It does not note that Bush kept his two wars off the books, or Medicaid Part D or that the jobs lost for at least the first six months of 2009 were already in the process of being lost by January, 2009, while Bush was still the big boss. So I had to respond to my friend and here's what I wrote.
Dear B: This is where we're gonna disagree. The budget until Sept, 2009 belongs to Bush because that's put in place before Obama took office. Then Obama added $2 trillion in debt from the two Bush wars, plus nearly $1 trillion in debt from Medicaid Part D, which Bush just left off the national debt. Then, half a trillion more comes from the continuation/curtailing/ending of the two bush wars. And another near half trillion comes from the continuation of Medicaid Part D. So at least $4 Trillion of Obama's $5.7 Trillion debt go directly to Bush, who simply kept that stuff off the official record.
Then Obama has added 2.4 million private sector jobs when he inherited an economy that was hemmorraging 700,000 a month, and no one can attribute the first several months of Obama's term to him, as those companies were already in process of losing those jobs when he took office.
So to be fair, Obama has been freaking brilliant, despite the most opposition from a filibustering Senate and a completely unresponsive, and ridiculous and morally sinful group of idiots in the House. Now despite that he's added jobs for 23 straight months. He pretty much personally risked his career on saving the auto industry. He ordered, went along with, however you want to say it, the taking out of Bin Ladin in a country where he risked an ally in doing so without their permission. He severely curtailed pirating in the Straits of Hormuz when he gave the okay for our sharpshooters to take out the pirates there.
He passed the very watered down but very very essential Affordable Health Care act which basically just limits how much useless insurance companies can scam out of the system.
He eliminated banks from the federal college loan program--banks that were taking our tax money and lending it to students with a pretty decent loan rate just for being the middle man between the feds and the kids.
He let Liz Warren come up with a plan that says that it's illegal for banks to automatically give people overdraft protection and now has to ask them if they want it. That seems small but it has saved people billions of dollars in the last couple of years. And I should know because my ex and my kids were paying two-three hundred bucks monthly for using that without understanding how it worked--that the money they deposited might not be credited for two or three days, during which each purchace was costing $39 in overdraft while the bank just held their money and didn't consider it deposited.
He also allowed Liz Warren to make credit card companies put a little note on their statements that lets people know that if they pay a little extra each month they'll save years off paying the card off--rather than having people think that paying the minimum will pay the card off.
Obama repealed Dont Ask Don't Tell, which allows gay people to serve in the military. And nobody in the military says it's falling apart because of it. The military supports it.
Obama came out for gay marriage. Not being gay, I might not care, but because my wife/ex still get to enjoy tax benefits from raising our kids/her new kids, well, I guess everybody should get those benefits.
Obama has fought to protect Social Security from being mercilessly slaughtered. For guys like me, who have paid into it since I was six years old--and I'm 61--well, that's not an entitlement, that's a forced savings account and I don't want anybody putting that out into the hands of the stock market.
And on and on and on. The guy has been too cooperative with a non-cooperative bunch that make up lie after charted lie. So, you got to not send me stuff I consider nonsense. Cause I love you, but if you let me know that you think like this, well, I may not respect you in the morning.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Getting Ready for the Medicine

Someone I don't know has been writing me. He's taken ayahuasca at the camp of famous curandero previously and is now going to go to the curandero's home for another group of sessions with the same curandero. But the first time he was at camp, he drank with 35-40 other people. At the curandero's home he will be with three or four others, no more.

So he asked me what to do to prepare. Should he be fasting? Should he be meditating? Should he be doing this or that?
This was my answer. And though it's not directly an answer to his question, I think it gets to the heart of it to me.
Dear X: Well, I don't know what to say here. People in my groups, I figure they had their regular lives, plus stress, before they arrived in Iquitos. I have 4 1/2 days from the moment they land till they have medicine. I don't ask them to do anything before hand, but when they arrive I take them to a breakfast of fruit and yogurt, let them shower and shave, then take them to the local prison in Iquitos. From there I take them to the oddest, scariest graveyard in the world where we have a ceremony over Julio's grave. From there I take them to a place where they see fantastic animals. From there we go eat grub worms, then dinner of fish and chicken, eaten with fingers. That night, still their first night in Iquitos, they are taken to a dance hall where 2000 people are dancing to an 18-piece band.
So my style is to blow them so freaking out of their own world with a combination of horrible stuff and beauty that they don't know/remember their own names. And the second day is as bad and hard as the first. Then comes 15 hours on a riverboat, after the armpit tour of Iquitos' poorest, most dangerous neighborhoods. Then comes sitting in Herrera for 8 hours in the pitch black with no food/water, waiting for sun up and breakfast. Then transfer to a small oversized canoe for two hours on the Amazon (called the Ucayali up there) with no life jackets and the boat needing to be cleaned of water continually. Then, that third night, after we get to camp, I send them out, without me, into the river with my team in genuine dugout canoes for several hours. No flashlights, no talking, just listening to the jungle.
Next morning I get them up at 6 AM and have them hiking to collect the medicine by 7 AM, and after breakfast send them out on a 4 hour hike in the high jungle.
By the time that's all done and they've come back and washed in the river--no showers allowed--they are pretty clean and ready for the medicine. It's a bit brutal but fantastic. Cause no one in the world was ever open enough for the spirits--who often whisper--while they are still remembering their lives in another country, or whether they left enough dog food out or remembered to alert the television company to suspend service while they are out of town. My trip is designed to make you forget all that in a serious freaking hurry.
The result? People can hear the whispering and it changes their life. That's what I'm after. To allow them a moment when they are unsaddled from their normal concerns and open to the changes being offered them.

Sunday, May 06, 2012

Dinner Tonight...

Okay, so I'm writing this to avoid mowing the lawn I complained about yesterday. But I'll still wind up doing some of it, just like I did yesterday, old, tired, weak and a pansy crybaby that I sometimes am.
    Lynn came over the other night on the way to his Mom's place in the Hill Country of Texas. I forced him to eat marinated shrimp from the grill, along with marinated asparagus, cauliflower and broccoli, plus good rice. Then I forced him to take a half-chicken, roasted with new potatoes, baby carrots and onions down to his mom for a surprise treat.
   Tonight he's coming back through and his mom, hearing Lynn tell the story of how everybody at the Fort Worth Weekly, the fantastic alternative weekly for which I work, was laughing at me for all the stains on my shirts and me trying to explain to them that if you cook, you get grease stains. They insisted I probably just dropped food onto myself because they don't actually cook--and microwaving Dinty Moore doesn't count--and so have no idea of what it's like to saute swordfish, chicken, salmon, good steak or veggies in olive oil. And I will never remember to change my shirt before cooking.
   In the restaurant you just put on a chef coat with an apron daily and when that gets full of grease and blood and you're asked to come to the dining room to accept accolades you just change your coat and apron and nobody is the wiser. At home it's different.
   So Lynn's mom, who is 89 now, I think, told me today she'd bought me an apron and Lynn is bringing it back on his way into town. Excellent. Great present for me. No more ruined shirts so long as I remember to wear it.
   So tonight, I'm gonna cook, even though Chepa is not talking to me and won't come over and will not bring the kids over or even Madeleina. Which means my daughter-in-law won't come over. Which means I won't see her baby or Chepa's babies or my kids and so it sucks. Why is she mad? Because I didn't pay for her car repair the other day. I took her to the mechanic, but didn't have cash on hand and he only takes cash. So I'm a monster. Oy vey!
    But just in case they come, I cooked some ribs last night. 90% done. Nice and plain, in the oven. And I've got chicken thighs and shrimp and good and hot sausages.
    So I'm gonna marinate the chicken in the sauce--oil, garlic, onion, good white vinegar, teriyaki sauce, cilantro and a handful of Peruvian spices--then roast them mostly through. When I put them in the oven I'll put the shrimp in the same marinade for an hour. When they are ready, I'll put them on skewers and put the veggies that I'll have par-boiled in that juice.
    The sausages will get stuck with a fork--to give the fat a way out of the skin--about 6 times each, then boiled, then baked. When they're nearly done, they, with the chicken, ribs and shrimp will go on the grill. The grill is fired with charcoal and pieces of the trees that lightning has brought down: Oak, cedar, pecan. Nice combo.
    If anyone more than Lynn shows up I might marinate a piece of salmon as well and put that on too.
    And when that's done, I'll put on the par-boiled veggies. They only take two minutes.
   And while all that is going on the rice will be cooking with that good garlic and the spaghetti squash will have been baked and then sauteed with garlic, red pepper, parsley and a bit of butter.
    And for a sixth or seventh veggie (let's count: garlic, onion, spaghetti squash, red pepper, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus), I might toss spinach in a pan and when it's been reduced in its own sweat I might add a touch of balsamic vinegar and some blue cheese to simmer through it. Now that is sweet. And that is a lot of veggies, even if you only have two bites of each.
   And if nobody shows up, well, Lynn is gonna have a lot to take home. Cause I don't eat much when I'm alone. Couple of shrimp and the squash will do me.
   But you know that I love cooking. And I do firmly believe that if you keep cooking well, well, the people will eventually come.
   Notwithstanding a wife/ex-wife who currently isn't talking with me.
   I hope all of your plates are as full as mine and that you have plenty to share with whomever passes by your door. And the desire to share that goes along with that.
   Have a great night, everybody.
   Damn. Still light out. Time to mow that lawn. Ahhhhh, nuts.....

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Sometimes I Am So Old and Weak

Sometimes I am so old and weak. Today, I was cutting lawn. Not normal lawn. This is lawn that has not been cut since last July, Italo's wedding. Much of it is two feet tall, or at least the weeds are. And the push mower bag gets full after about 12 feet of going back and forth across those weeds. And it weighs about 40 pounds, mostly dirt, because I have the mower set low.
   And I did maybe 12 by 30 and then watered the lawn and then quit. It's just hard. Now I don't know if it's just because I'm a pansy or if I'm just old or what the heck, but I had emptied probably 20 forty pound bags in doing that and just got so damned frustrated I decided I'm gonna call in a lawn service, just once, to get the thing done. Parts of the lawn, just 1.5 acres or so, are more than two feet tall!!! If I knew how to sell hay I could sell three or four 300 pound bails! I mean, I'm overwhelmed.
   Why? Because I'm lazy, number one. Also because I've written the hell out of stories in the seven weeks since I've been back from Peru: Working on my third cover story, two inside features and another due in two days, four 400-word pieces, two columns for SKUNK and another due in three weeks, trying to organize 3 Peru trips in June and July....raising kids, feeding dogs, changing cat litter boxes, washing clothes....same as you.
   But today, doing that lawn and wanting to not have that lawn, I decided that I might break down and ask what it costs to have it done professionally, which, in Texas, means by illegals we hate in public but hire in private. Personally, I love them, so I have no problem with them being here illegally. And if the lawn costs $200, I'll probably tip them 24 cold beers and $100 on top of that. And no, I won't pay taxes on that. People who make $30 grand a year while holding 4 jobs don't have to pay federal taxes. The 27% TAKEN  from my gas money, for medicare/ssi, local taxes is plenty.  I also don't take deductions on the $3000-$4000 I give in charity every year because I think that's sort of cheating. I mean, if you want to do a good dead, do it, but don't ask for a tax break to prompt it. FULL DISCLOSURE: Last year I only gave $2,765 in charity that I wrote down. It was not declared.
   Anyway, I'm thinking I might hire a lawn service for one day. I can't afford it, but hope they'll take a bad check. Cause I'm really gonna have a hard time pushing a lawn mower through some of what is growing out there!!!!!
   Which might mean I'm getting old and weak.
   Which I would rather not address.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Happy Birthday, Cl

Just wishing a happy birthday to you.

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

My Son, Marco

First, I'm gonna say that since I discovered the button that tells me what keywords bring people to the site by the day/week/month/year, I am amazed to discover how many people ask about magic mushrooms in India on the net. I mean, I wrote a very funny story about that topic  years ago and posted it here. But I had no idea until pretty recently that maybe four in ten people coming to my blog have used some variance of that phrase to find me.
    They'll punch in Magic shrooms, India; psilocybin, India; Cubensis, India; shrooms in Kodaikanal and 50 other variations and subsequently see my story pop up on google and wind up at the site.
    That's weird because there are not that many people going to India looking for magic mushrooms, I wouldn't think. I mean I get hit 10 times daily from those google queries. And if I get hit 10 times, maybe people punched those phrases 1,000 times!
    BUTTTTTTT.......if you think that strange, how about the number of hits I get a day from people using keywords: naked swim meets; swim meet naked; no trunk swim meets; Catholic school naked boys swimming and dozens and dozens of variations of that? I am not kidding. I wrote a funny piece on the blog called Swim Team 101, about my utterly and famously failed attempt to learn how to swim by joining the swim team as a supposed non-participant in swim meets in high school and while attending my first swim meet discovered that one of the teams was naked. AND PUBICALY SHAVED. And that was another catholic school, like mine. You can read it for yourselves. I still wonder who did the damned shaving for those boys. I found it sort of gross and unbelievable at the time. Funny story.
    But who in the hell are the more than 2,000 people who have punched keywords about naked boys swimming that eventually directed them to my blog story in the last five years? Are there that many perverts out there or are they just people who hit the keyboard by accident? All former catholic school kids in the late 1960s who want verification that they were at such a meet because their families now say they must have imagined or fantasized it? I don't know. But it gives me the freaking heebie-jeebies, I'll tell you that.
    Okay, glad to get done with that information part of the piece here.
    Now, why I'm really writing. I'm sad. I'm sad because Chepa's boyfriend is moving here in a week or so. I'm happy for his babies, Sierra and Alexa, and if Chepa wants that, then I'm happy for her. But for me it changes the game: I won't get to take Sierra to school much anymore; they won't show up for dinner a couple of times a week. More: It just changes the family in a big way. Having him show up once a month or two for a few days is very different than him living here.
   So I was feeling glum at that news, despite knowing it was coming some day, and that my job has been to love those baby girls as hard as I could even knowing I would have to give them up to their dad and that that's the best thing for them. Still. I was glum. And I was in post-cover story-parnum to boot. Plus, I've been trying to get some friendly spirits to help fix some people up who need real help and that always takes it out of me.
   Plus, Chepa picked up Madeleina yesterday from school and did it again today--perfectly fine cause she's the mom--but with the rest of it, well, I was double glum and thinking how odd that 10-15 people a week who never met me, don't know me, get in touch for one reason or another. To help them with a trip to Peru they're planning, even though it will not coincide with one of mine. Or someone with a sick dad who wants me to pray for him. Or people who think the justice system is doing them wrong and want me to help.
   All those people, in desperate straits, call or write me. Hell, people even look up "naked swim meets" to find me. And here my family lives down the street and I don't hardly get to see them. I guess it's easier to have faith in me if you don't actually know me.
   SO I was feeling that way and went out to buy some food and gas and smokes and my four minis of whiskey and when I came home, I was surprised to find my son Marco's car in the driveway. As I got out with the groceries he stood behind me. I turned into him and he put his arms around me.
   "Dad, did you ever lose faith in us, Italo and me?"
   I held him tightly. "Not a chance. Not for one second."
   "Thanks, dad. That's what I needed to know," he said.
   "What's wrong?"
   "Nothing. Something. Just today someone reminded me of something you taught me--an important lesson--that I would never do and this person did it and I'm fine. I just wanted to check if you really believed in Italo and me."
    "Always. From the minute I met you."
    "Thanks, dad. I gotta go."
     "Call if you want to explain any of this."
     "I will. Thanks for being my dad."
     "I love you. You know that. Drive safely."
     And then he was gone. I hope he's okay. I mean, I know he is, I just hope whatever happened didn't break his heart too much.
      And I've been writing this with tears coming down my face since he left. Guess they just needed an excuse to come out.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Ah, Madeleina...15 going on 9

Well, yesterday, my daughter Madeleina, who turned 15 on April 9, discovered that it was National Lupus Awareness Month, and so she and some friends approached their school principal and asked if an announcement about it could be made on the school intercom system. The girls also asked the principal to ask all students in the 9th grade campus to wear something purple each Tuesday of the month as a reminder of the awful disease and the search for a cure.
   The principal evidently thought it all a splendid idea and made the announcements, both about the month and about Purple Tuesdays.
   Madeleina was understandably thrilled.
   Until she remembered that she has no purple clothes. Then she was distraught. Then she was angry. Then she wondered who would do something so stupid as make everybody in school wear purple on each Tuesday in May anyway?
   By this morning she'd calmed down a little. She refused the dark red shirts I offered to lend her which, if seen through the right pair of blue sunglasses lenses might look purple. She refused to wear the purple witch hat left over from some ancient Halloween as well. Instead, as she got into the car for me to take her to school I watched as she took an old piece of a purple sheet or something and pinned it onto her tee-shirt. It will be flapping from that single pin all day.
   When she was finished and I complimented her on her complete insanity, she grew serious.
   "Dad," she started, "just what is lupus anyway? I mean, I know it's horrible and it's Lupus Awareness month and all, but what does it do exactly?"
   That's my girl: Jump in head first then ask if there's any water in pool.
   15, going on six some days and going on 35 on other days.
   Thanks for being my baby, baby.