Sunday, January 26, 2014

Poverty is not a joke, right? And it's solvable...

My friend and former teacher Chris Halpin, who used to be Brother Francis and was the basketball coach at Bishop Reilly HS in the late 1960s, commented on poor people today. I had to concur. Here's what I wrote:
We are so out of kilter with what's important in this world and in this society. Simple things like aqueducts that would take excessive water from one part of our country to a parched area are not being considered--and imagine what that would do to the parched areas of Africa! We are frowning on raising the minimum wage and say those workers are not worth more when we put our health in their hands--and pay about 1 million Walmart workers with government subsidies to ensure that the Walton family make their $10 billion each, annually. We look at starving people in various places of the world and know that with a few billion, maybe 10-20 billion we could feed them all--and give them strength to work--but we would rather throw that food into landfills because it costs a few bucks to do the real work. We are simply out of alignment on so many things that it's difficult to see where to focus as an individual without a lot of means. But everything the world and its people and animals and insects need is already here, if we would just generously share. I'm a bleeding heart, I guess, but I often wonder how it is that others are not bleeding hearts? Shouldn't we all be bleeding for the poor, the displaced, the weary, the downtrodden, the abused, the victims of horror and genocide? I think we should. So I am with you on this.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Disappointment Whores

So Madeleina and I had a fantastic Martin Luther King day. We prayed some, did some exercise, ate a good breakfast, she practiced the flute and piano, I was finishing a story. Then shopped for the veggies we need for the fresh Atlantic salmon and salad we're having tonight--no rice, potatoes, bread, we've pretty much been off those for a couple of months. Then I gave her $40 to buy me some books for my upcoming Peru trip while I went on to Two Bucks to buy my two minis of whiskey. She bought me two Elmore Leonard's, an Agatha Christie, and two others. Good choices for relaxing in Iquitos after the trip.
    While on the trip, I forget which part, we were talking about new cars and everything they can do--which stemmed from the story of a refrigerator which sent out 750,000 malware emails today, which it apparently could do because it was hooked up to the internet. She opined that while she loved technology--refrigerators over ice boxes, for instance--she didn't like the gas pump telling us: "Your transaction has been authorized, please begin to pump" at all. I agree. I don't like being told what to do by machines. After pumping gas she asked me why rich people had such huge refrigerators and I told her it was just status: The same person who would never touch tap water has tap water running into their $6,800 fridge to make their ice, for instance. And we laughed and she asked me why people bought fridges like that unless they were going to have 50 people every night. I said it was just the status of it: The interior designer said it added value to the home--even though anyone buying that multi-million dollar home would not keep the fridge owned by the last rich person who owned the home. "Nobody, even if they think Beyonce is the most beautiful woman in the world, is going to pay $10-$20 million for her home and keep the fridge," I said. "I mean, can you imagine the conversation with the wife? 'Honey, this fridge is great. Beyonce had it, and there's a little mold behind the veggie drawer, but we can get that out with a little peroxide and a toothbrush!'"
   No. Not happening.
   So we decided to call people who needed all the bells and whistles on fridges, in their cars, wherever, 'Knob snobs'. They're snobs for the number of knobs their stuff has. Our Ford Rangers, on the other hand, have a light switch, a standard clutch, a windshield wiper knob, a radio knob, a heater/air conditioner knob and a horn. That's it. You can't be a knob snob with seven knobs.
   Home, Madeleina began to talk about people wallowing in self-pity. "I call them disappointment whores, dad. It's like they're looking for something to be disappointed in, they depend on it."
   That's my Madeleina. Smarter than I'll ever be. Thanks for being my kid, kiddo.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Minimum Wage Take

Someone wrote that  they thought President Barack Obama was going to step over the fiat line by increasing the minimum wage by presidential elective. They wondered if he knew what he was going to step into if he did.
    I nearly had my head explode. Then I had some wine, thought about it, and instead of cursing the stupid motherfucker, I wrote this reasonable answer to his freaking idiotic comment. This is what I wrote--and I'm sorry if I'm boring you with being a decent person on this blog. It's just who I am.
Forgetting Obama for a moment, I was thinking today of how Costco compares with Sams Club. Both offer the same items. Both have the same business model. Both are winners. Yet Costco pays $15 an hour and pretty much zero off the public dole, while Sams Club pays minimum wage and depends on the public dole to pay for their workers. Why is it that both companies are successful but one has to pay half of what the other pays? The answer is in the word "greed". It's that simple. And so, in real life, there will be no repercussions if the minimum wage is doubled. Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, your pizza might go up by a quarter; your burger by a dime. But in all honesty, any thinking person who thinks $7 plus an hour is a living wage--even for a freaking toadstool--is not a thinking person. Companies have to align themselves with the idea that they should not make what they want. It's not their money. They can't do it without workers, which make workers part of the paradigm. And workers are not replaceable pieces of trash. They are people, they have families. They work as hard as a CEO, and if a CEO wants to make two or three or 10 times what a low level worker makes, fine, that's capitalism. IF the CEO wants to make 1,000 times what the lowest worker makes that's NOT capitalism, that's sharkism, and those CEOs should be put out of their misery and mIsery--they have no right--and being in the position does not give them the right. There has never been a brain surgeon who could work a dish washing machine in a restaurant. But there have been thousands of dishwashers who went on to become brain surgeons. If anything, the CEO ought to live at the level of the lowest paid worker for at least several months a year just to know what it's like. And if they did, they'd raise minimum wage in a heartbeat--because dumpster diving to fill out your family's food is not nice and it ain't right. And That's where I am and I'm saying it out loud, way out loud. Cause I'm right on this one and anyone who disagrees is an ass. And I'm right on that too.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Not All Fan Mail Comes from Fans

So Saturday morning I picked up my mail at the post office and among the bills and offers was a hand-addressed letter. Those are generally nice: Someone sending a check to buy a book, someone sending a note to say they liked something I wrote, things like that. Home, I opened it. This is what the writer wrote:
"Please pardon me for not shaking your hand the next time we meet, if we do meet again.

"Your smug smirking egotistical presence has invaded my space again. You are a self-righteous arrogant motherfucker. But I can live with that. Because you think you are the new Hemingway.

"We have many mutual friends from the old days. Back when we knew each other we did not realize how so much less than six degrees separated us.

"I am very glad you and I are not in the same part of the world any longer.

"Though I am not a stranger to violence, I would never lay hands on you. I have only harmed people in self-defense or in service to this country. Or to protect the ones I love.

"Stay where you are and I will be happy. Watch what you say and I will be happy.

"I know you don't give a shit. But I had to get this off my chest.

"Put this on your blog you spineless self centered narcissistic award winning bullshit artist.

"I must stay underground for many reasons. And remain anonymous. So please don't fuck with me or my family."

Well, that wasn't nice and it forced me to do some inventory: I've never slept with another man's wife. I've never snitched on anyone. I've never done harm to anyone's family. So I don't really know what this is about. But to the writer, if you read this: If I harmed you and have forgotten, I'm sorry. Whoever you are, please accept my apology. And if you give me a hint of what it was I did, I can learn to not do that anymore.
Peter Gorman

Someone Asked About the Need for Curanderos in Ayahuasca Ceremonies

Someone on a forum on which I post occasionally questioned the need for a curandero in ceremony. The curandero is generally the person who makes and serves the ayahuasca and then runs the ceremony--which are generally very simple affairs. There were several responses to that person's question, most of which had to do with "you are your own healer" and the like. I put my two cents in and this is what I wrote:
The more one would tout themselves as being this or that type of curandero, the faster I'd run away from them. A banco (bench) curandero, for instance, is simply a curandero whose teachers have passed on but who are still available to help him/her--either through the memory of their teaching or through the gifts they gave him/her while alive or through some etheric trail they've left as a way to get in touch with their spirits once their bodies are gone. So that curandero, like a baseball manager, has a good bench to call on in the clutch.
    But I've always felt that the chemicals in ayahuasca have very little to do with anything. Oh, yes, you need to drink the medicine a few times to open up your invisible 'ayahuasca receptor sites', but after that, what really counts is your relationship to the spirit of those plants. Because it's the generosity of those spirits that can do the healing, not the chemicals. And someone who has been working at it for a long time, a curandero on a river somewhere who is that river's doctor for physical, emotional, spiritual ailments, might have made friends with a lot of different plant spirits who can help him/her diagnose what is wrong with the patient--and it's often very different from that the patient thinks is wrong--and then steer that curandero to the right plants or actions needed by the ill person to help with their cure.
    And the icaros, the songs the curanderos sing, are most frequently calling out to different spirits to come and help the work. They're not much if learned by rote, but very powerful if learned by sleeping with the plants or dieting them.
     I think the real question here is not whether a person drinking without a curandero, or drinking with a facilitator rather than a curandero will get some benefit: yes, they will. But if you add a curandero who has dozens of friendly plant spirits who can communicate with him/her, well, I think you would likely wind up with much more than you might otherwise. And that would be a real plus, and a reason to drink with a curandero if you had the chance.

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Continuing the Thought to the New Ayahuasca Center

I guess what I'm getting at is this: There are names for each of the types of rain in Iquitos and surrounding area. When you've lived there a while, someone will teach you those names: Warme lluvia, llubia loca, borracho, tempesto and so forth. If you have not been there long enough to know even the names of the rains, then you probably don't understand the culture. And if someone doesn't understand the basic culture, it's hard to fathom them understanding the medicine or where it came from. I'm nobody's boss. I'm nobody. But when I talk about a "dansa", fast or slow, do you know what that means? Do you understand that it is the most critical component of all of the culture? Probably not, because you/anyone will never be invited to a "dansa". But if someone doesn't know that, what can they know about the culture that created and embraced ayahuasca? That's what I'm concerned with. And I've got 100 more things like those that you only learn from living there a long long time and living there immersed in their culture, not living as an outsider. Believe me, I learned the hard way and I'm a lousy student. I'm no one's elder. I'm the baby at the knee trying to learn. But I've seen a lot of crazy stuff: One person went to a center where the curandero was gone. The waterboy for the curandero made the ceremony and the person opened a center for him and he became famous as the ayahuasquero who didn't sing icaros. Truth was, he'd never been in a ceremony and so didn't know that icaros were sung. Yet he became a spiritual leader. I know 40 "curanderos" who never heard of cuma langa, Doing a ceremony without it risks a lot of negative spirits showing up. All the old timers have it. They all make their own. The old timers make arcanas, umbrellas that keep uninvited spirits out of ceremony. That's very important. A lot of people I've been with in the last several years don't know anything about that. People buy ayahuasca from other people to use at ceremony. That's just wrong. Make your own and serve it yourself. If someone else makes it it is not necessarily your spirit you are serving. And if it's not, you have no control over that spirit. Why would someone subject a guest to that possibility? These are just a few things to be wary of, and if I'm harsh, I apologize. But I think I speak from experience, and though I'm nobody, I know some of the basic tenets of making the ceremony meaningful and I'm not sure that some of the other people do. I wish they would ask to learn. I am not happy that they jump out in front as if knowledge will be picked up along the way, when that's not the best way. 
    I'm just talking, I know. And what the hell do I know? Nothing. 

Someone asked me to "like" their new Ayahuasca healing center...

So on facebook someone asked me to "like" their new healing center. I'm not with that. I think most of those centers are not good places, because most of the people running them don't know shit from shinola about the medicine, the process, the river, the jungle, the people, the history, the ailments or anything else. Hell, I've got more than 30 years expericnce and that's not nearly enough to open my own center.
   So I was asked and I responded. It wasn't nice, I know. But I think it was fair. Here's what I wrote:
So someone I don't know asked me to "like" their new ayahuasca center outside of Iquitos. I'm harsh. This is what I told them. I'm feeling lousy to have said it, but I know it needs to be said. Needs to be shouted from the rooftops. Why? Because good intentions have done more harm in the third world than all the bad men combined. That's why. Here's what I wrote, better or worse:
     I have to be a killjoy here. Have you 20-30-40 years experience with the medicine? If not, why are you serving medicine? I'm old school; this takes a lifetime, not a moment of infatuation. If you've earned the chops, good for you. If your company is in the infatuation phase that nearly every Ayayhuasca outpost in Iquitos/Near Iquitos is in, well, then I object. I object because without 10-20 years experience you cannot know a real curandero from a fake. Without 10-20 years experience you cannot know what wood to build with or how to maintain a place, so that when it needs to be replaced in two or three years,  you'll be cutting trees that wouldn't/shouldn't have to be cut to make up for errors--a well built house covered in layers of used motor oil will last 15-20 years. Without the experience you will not know how to handle a psychotic episode--and they happen frequently--or how to handle someone on SSRI's who lied to you and said they were not on that sort of med.
   So I don't know you. And maybe you have the chops. If you do, fantastic, I'm in your corner. If you don't, quit now, before people get hurt. Enthusiasm cannot replace 10-20-40 years of experience.
   I don't know you but you asked me to comment on the space. My general comment is that all gringos should go the hell home and leave the healing to curanderos on small rivers that take weeks/months to find. Making the medicine available means making phony people into curanderos: Fast talkers who can con the public. Again, if you've got the chops, I'm wrong and wlll sing your praises forever. If you are like the idiot Andrew O. or dozens like him who drank for a month and opened a center, well, please leave because you can only do harm.
    Just my two cents and they're probably only worth one half a cent by now. Peter Gorman

Monday, January 06, 2014

Quick Sapo Note and then Another

Someone asked me this question about sapo and I answered. Here is the brief exchange.

Sapo question: Have you heard of people having reactions involving itching of the skin, particularly in the arms and neck? I was told to ask you. Thanks.
DEAR X: Not if the sapo was collected properly and dried properly. If it gets moise between initial drying and use, it can pick up a bacteria that is a sort of mottled bluish in color. I tend to toss any stick with that in the trash because it can cause rashes. So that might be the problem. In the jungle, sticks are generally placed in bags tied shut and placed on a cross beam or split bamboo sheath a few feet above the fire to keep them dry--and out of the reach of cockroaches, who can devour several sticks-worth of sapo in a few hours. Hope that helps.
Peter G

The fellow wrote back asking about the strength of Kambo, which is sapo by a different name, used by a couple of indigenous groups in Brazil. It's my belief that their use of the medicine is very recent, within the last 10-15 years at best; gringos who have done the medicine with those groups swear that the've used it for hundreds of years. Remember though, that the first written account of anyone using sapo by any name was my 1986 report. And since the quite acculturated groups now using Kambo are alleged to have used it for a long time, it would be a surprise to me that no one who spent time with them would have mentioned it in the literature.
   In any event, this was the follow up question and my follow up response:

Peter: Thanks for your expertise! Precisely what I wanted to know. The sapo was from someone in Iquitos I know somewhat well who said he got it from the Matses. I didn't see any blue coloring on it but sounds like there still may have been some bacterial growth. I noticed they sell sapo sticks online from a well known online store. Any idea if they are any good or trustworthy? Also, I've been told the Matses have the most powerful venom and the other tribes who call it by other names (kambo etc) use a more watered down version thus more points are used. Any truth to that?

Dear X: I have never done or seen a stick of Kambo. I know it's sapo, and I've met a lot of people who've done it, but I've never seen a stick of it to personally compare strength. I will say that the people I've spoken with who have used it say they moisten it with water, not spit. That would prevent an awful lot of the peptides from becoming accessible in the blood stream and essentially leave them just sitting on the subcutaneous layer of skin rather than getting into the blood. It's literally "watering it down." And  coincidentally to that, I've never met one of those people who have done kambo in a dozen or more "dots" at a sitting who could take more than two of my sapo burns. Nearly every one of those people to whom I've administered sapo in small doses of two burns, has asked "what did you give me? What is that?" so there is clearly a difference. One is the watering down, rather than spitting; the second might well be in the way the material is collected.  But I wouldn't know that until I saw some kambo sticks and tested them for strength. They might be fantastasic but just watered down; they might be weak from over collection of the frog's material--a Matses hunter who depends on sapo will rarely fill a single stick with a frog's material; those who sell sticks for a living tend to collect as much material as they can, sometimes two or even three sticks worth, from a single frog. Most of that material would be worthless--like snake venom beyond the initial venom released to kill its prey: The snake has more, but it's not yet at near full strength. Or it could be a combination of both: Watering down the frog's material and over-collecting it. But certainly no one could take 10 sapo burns--I saw one very experienced Mestizo person try it and we had to wipe it off within maybe 10 seconds. With sapo, three nice burns is a good cleansing; four is a bit piggish; more than that is just showing off unless you're a Matses hunter. My opinion, of course, nothing more.