Monday, April 28, 2014

A Little about Julio

Someone heard a tape of my friend and teacher, Julio, singing during an ayahuasca session. It was from 1996, and the ceremony was just Julio and I. I asked him for the ceremony because my son Marco, then probably 7, was in his third week in the hospital in Lima because his kidneys had failed. Steroids were bringing him back and after he was stable--and more or less the doctor and my wife, now my wife/ex-wife, Chepa--threw me out of the hospital for being so demanding regarding Marco--I went to Iquitos and from there to see Julio.
    So the person asked me Julio's lineage when they heard the songs. I told her the rough outline.

Julio was a mestizo who sort of did the work on his own for much of his life. His family was probably from Contamana or thereabouts, in the area of Pucallpa. He was shot in the war, went to a vegetalista to have his leg healed, realized the man was poisoning him and left. Reentered the war, was shot again, heard about a curandero in Iquitos and went to him. The man worked well. Julio left and finished his mililtary stint, went to return to study but the curandero was no longer in Iquitos. So Julio went out into the woods near his brother's place on a small river and began to work with the plants, trying to figure out what the man made the medicine with. Julio got it, got songs from the plants and started to work. He did later spend some time learning from someone in Requena, which was a small river town when he was there.
    So some songs he learned from others, some were his own--now copied by a lot of people who want to claim they were students of Julio's. He always changed his ceremony by adding or deleting different songs; a lot of that depended on what work he needed to do, which directed him to use different admixture plants when making the medicine, which then each had their own songs.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

This is where I started, and it's still perfect

It's 6:31 AM on a Tuesday morning. I've got a story to put to bed by 10 AM, so I've been up since 5, working at it. Half-an-hour ago, Madeleina got up to use the bathroom and I called to ask her if she'd washed any clothes last night that she wanted put into the dryer. She said no.
    A few moments later she called to ask if I was up. I said I was. She said, "then I'm coming in there to sleep with you." Which meant that she wanted to sleep on the couch I sleep on while I sit at the computer.
   "Dad, this is the second night in a row that it took at least an hour to get to sleep. I don't know what's wrong. And I wake up every hour it seems."
   Then she plumped down on the couch, pulled the comforter around her, and fell asleep instantly.
   When she was younger, I loved her sleeping behind me while I wrote. Just having her nearby made my heart soar. And now, at 17, while it doesn't happen often, I still love it. I love hearing my daughter breathing that calm breath of sleep. My daughter sleeping. Have a good dream, Madeleina.

Monday, April 21, 2014

New Book in the Offing

I've been away for a couple of weeks. Partly due to the immense pain that has accompanied a pinched or something sciatic nerve. It's kept me from appreciating life while I wince continually. Somehow, I've managed to get several stories and the lawn done. More stories on the way.
    But I'm also putting together a book of some of my blog pieces. You guys already read them, in all probability. I've picked about 80 out of the near-800 entries and in the last week have tossed 10 of those in favor of 10 others. It's a bit of a buffet, rather than a specific entree: There is stuff from New York, from my bar in Peru, from the family, from the Amazon, from Ayahuasca, from politics. It goes without saying that except for the best 24,374 books written in the English language, this is the best book ever. You'll laugh, you'll cry,  you'll want to ring my neck. Don't do that last thing, okay? That would hurt.
    The tentative title is Observations from a Peculiar Perch. I've got Johan  Fremin designing it; Morgan Maher illustrating it--this time with wild art rather than sketches--and all four of my hateful but fantastic editors lined up to tar and feather me. So it's the same team that did my last book.
    The pieces here will be polished up some when they need it, though I don't want to get away from the simple urgency of the feel of blog pieces.
    We all think this can be done by early July.
    So if you want a signed copy, send me $25 bucks via paypal to and include an address and I'll put you on the list. You'll get the first copies from the printer. If you're in Europe or Australia, that's $30 because shipping alone is about $10 or more.
    Monies sent will go to feeding the kids, my Madeleina, Boots the Blind Wonderdog, the cats and those damned editors. One dollar of every 20 will be reserved for cheap wine.
    Actually, I've been working on this project little by little for about a year and then intensified wildly when I returned from Peru in early March. So now we're on the way. I think I've got a good team and I think it really will be a good book, no fooling. Just yesterday, Easter, Madeleina went over the table of contents and came up with four stories I had to include and five she said were boring. So it's coming along.
    Thanks for listening.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Can't Sleep for Panic, Not Happy

It's 4:45 AM. I've been up since 3:15. Before that I was up at 2 and then earlier, at midnight. It's been this way for several weeks now--it's been a little like this for a couple of years but only this bad since I came back from Peru. I've had apnea for a while--my nose gets stuffed up and I stop breathing and wake in a panic. My friend Claudia told me to put the bed on a slant, raise one end, and that would help. It did. It was perfect for more than two years. Slept good three and four hour chunks twice a night, just getting up to use the restroom and check the house once or twice.
    But now, now is different. It's like my lungs are full of water an I'm drowning all the time. I drink wine and so can go to sleep early for a few hours--maybe 9:30 till midnight. Then another hour and another. And then it's done. So I'm exhausted every day. My ankles and feet are swollen from not laying down for a long enough time. I start to panic just thinking about going back to bed.
    I try to embrace the fear: I see myself entering a tunnel that gets smaller and smaller and I want to turn and run but force myself to come to the end and start digging my way out. And sometimes I dig right into open sunlight and think, 'good, now I'll sleep' but that's not how that works. I still wake in a panic, not breathing.
    I sometimes put a pillow on the desk and sit back in the chair and put my feet up on the pillow and sometimes that works but not tonight. Tonight I just feel like I'm drowning and I'm not happy. I want this to stop. I want my own body back, my own ankles, my own sleep patterns, my own alertness during the day, my joy of living every moment. I am tired of being tired and grumpy.
    I'm going to do some sapo, frog sweat, on Saturday morning to see if I can't get this body to do a reset. I've got too many calls for a new story tomorrow to fit it in during the morning. I don't know what else to do. I can't sleep for panic and I'm not happy.