Thursday, October 30, 2014

Investigative Reporting: My boy Marco Asked me Something...

Marco came over today and realized I'd written another cover story on truancy in Texas for the Fort Worth Weekly. He shook his head and asked if I remembered when he'd gone to truancy court--I let him sleep in during a free period for 10 days running while the school team he was on was playing for a slot in the county finals--and we both were slapped with Class C misdemeanors.
    Anyway, that talk led to Marco asking me why I fought so hard for so many years with High Times to end the war on drugs. I told him there were the obvious reasons--that kids/adults shouldn't go to jail for non-violent offenses; that junkies should not go to jail for years when most junkies voluntarily quit their heroin addiction in about two years; that crack cocaine should not get people sentenced differently than regular cocaine: At the time 5 grams of crack got you sentenced the same as 500 grams of cocaine. Yes, you read that right. 5 grams of crack--cocaine with baking soda--got the same five-year mandatory minimum as half-a-kilo of cocaine. Turned out, of course, that black kids did crack while white kids did cocaine.
    But beyond those obvious abuses of the war on drugs were subtle ones that most people didn't know about and they were things we kept trying to get out there so that other reporters would get schooled and get the story out nationally. Most people thought of property forfeiture as happening when a drug kingpin got caught with a million bucks worth of drugs in a house he bought with drug dealing proceeds. That wasn't exactly true: Most property forfeiture occurred when people had a joint or two in their fully-paid-off homes, or two plants at the back end of their paid-off-farm, or were busted in a police prostitution sting when they were lured by a cop posing as a prostitute and stopped to negotiate and after a quick check that the car was paid off, lost their vehicle. The key was that the goods/property were paid off. No one wanted to seize a house worth $300,000 if the owner, even if he had tens of thousands of dollars of heroin in it, owed nearly the whole $300,000. Why? Because the local police force shared in the profits from that seizure, and you couldn't give yourselves guaranteed overtime pay with a house that couldn't be sold for a profit.
    I told Marco that most people also didn't know about the "LSD carrier-weight" issue. That was one where a person caught with LSD was charged with the entire weight of the LSD including the packaging. So, for instance, someone caught with 500 drops--hits-- of LSD in liquid form would be sentenced to that 1/4 gram or so. Someone else put one hit in a watermelon and they would be charged with the weight of the watermelon--which would have been a lifetime sentence.
   A team I used to play softball with occasionally had a jug of magic juice show up before games. It was good fruit juice with maybe three or four hits of LSD in it. Shared among 20 people it was just a nice, tiny buzz to help make the game more interesting when you didn't know which of the three or five balls coming at you was the real one. But if the cops had ever arrested us, whomever was holding the jug would have been charged with the weight of the juice and the jug, not the three or four hits of LSD.
   Most people didn't know that half the police in the country--give or take, my number, not an official one--never bothered to check an informant's story before getting a search warrant if their snitch said drug dealing was going on at a particular place. They just busted in and that led to lots of people being killed, thousands injured.
   Those were the sorts of things that were the underpinning of the drug war and they were some of what we were trying to get the public and other reporters to see and understand so that they could write about them and put them into the spotlight of awareness, which we knew would kill them.
   This all relates to truancy in Texas in this way: Truancy typically ends with a Class C misdemeanor and a fine and court costs. What people don't realize, even the principals in the schools and the guidance counselors at the schools sending the kids to truancy court is that the Class C misdemeanor, in nearly all the cases, will stay on that student's record for his/her entire life. It will keep you out of the US Military, kill your chances for a scholarship at most universities, come up as you having a criminal record at every traffic stop. It is not a small thing. It is a criminal record.
   Worse, most people, even those working to change truancy law here in Texas, don't know that a lot of judges here are ordering the kids found guilty of truancy to turn over all their user names and passwords for their email, their Facebook page, their twitter and whatever else they are on, to the court. That is a huge invasion and has nothing to do with stopping truancy. An immediate downside is stifling free speech, but another downside angle is that anyone of the several people who has access to that information can post things that might affect that kid. And by kid, in Texas, we're talking 12-17 years old, inclusive.
   Those are the things investigative reporters try to find. The things hidden in the dark that most people don't know, don't care to know, refuse to believe. It's like poor people saying they've been beaten and routinely abused by policing agencies around the county. Us white folk with an education have never seen that, so it sounds like poor whites, blacks, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans crying bull spit. And then comes the age of digital cameras in phones and we are routinely getting 5-10 instances of unbelievable police brutality on our Facebook pages weekly. We're watching people who have not been convicted of any crime, not been charged with a crime, get shot 3-5-45 times. We're watching policemen kicking the heads of suspects who are on the ground on their stomachs in handcuffs. We're watching a system that is out of control and now we cannot deny what those poor whites, African-Americans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans--hell, all Latinos--have been saying for decades.
   It only stops when it's brought into the light.
   Bring it all, all the injustice, into the light. Let us look at it and see if it really is the reflection of ourselves that we want to see when we look into the mirror.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A nice early fall pumpkin soup

So I took a nice pumpkin, cut the top, cleaned out the seeds. I diced a medium red onion, three stalks of celery, half-a-dozen scallions, and put them in the empty pumpkin. I tossed in a couple of spoonfuls of chopped fresh garlic in oil, a bit of sea salt and good cracked black pepper. Added three quarts of organic veggie stock, closed the pumpkin with it's top, set it in a baking dish and put it in a 350 degree oven for about an hour and a half. 
When it cooled, I poured out the liquid and veggies into a soup pot, then cut the pumpkin in pieces and scraped off the good inside meat and added that to the soup pot. Simmered it all for about 30 minutes and forgot about it till this morning.
This morning I put it all in a blender--it took a couple of blends to get it all.
Smooth now, it's on the stove over a very low heat. I've just added more black pepper and some really good Madras curry powder and a bit of nutmeg. So far it's tasting great. The spices will take a little while to marry with each other and the rest of the soup. In another hour or two, that's gonna be one fantastic soup. Bring your bowls if you're nearby and hungry.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What a Party We Had

It was Sunday morning around 10 when Chepa, the wife/ex-wife, called to say that she'd be coming around to pick up Madeleina and a few bucks to go pumpkin shopping. I should have something ready for lunch because the pumpkins were going to be carved at my house.
   Sounded good. I started cleaning up a bit. I still hadn't gotten all the watercolor paint off the bathroom walls and floor from the painting party just a couple of days earlier.
   Italo showed up unexpectedly with Taylor Rain. We talked about work while I finished cleaning up kitchen, bathroom, my office/the small living room.
   Chepa showed with Alexa and Sierra and Madeleina, who would have preferred to sleep, reluctantly agreed to go get pumpkins. I gave Chepa $30--figuring that pumpkins were running about $4 at the supermarkets and she might want four or five. In short order they all left, including Italo and Taylor Rain and I raced to the store to get something for lunch/dinner.
   I picked up a couple of packs of Nathan's all beef franks, some Ballpark buns--best around that I know of--some sour kraut, three packs of chicken wings and celery and organic ranch dressing and BBQ sauce.
   By the time I got back, everyone was there, including Marco. Chepa made some juice while I made the kids eggs, then Italo decided to work on the riding lawn mower. Marco asked me for some knives as he planned on doing the pumpkin carving with the girls. Chepa told me to sit down and watch football while she went out to mow the lawn behind the house--the one that's full of stickers--and Madeleina walked behind her pushing the lawn sweeper to collect the stickers.
   The girls got hungry half an hour after eggs and so I started the franks. The girls wanted them simple, just a bit of ketchup. Chepa and Marco and Italo wanted whole hog: mustard, sauerkraut, relish, onions and ketchup. They all had a couple each. I put the wings in the oven to bake--just a little salt and pepper and olive oil with garlic on a bed of celery to keep them from sticking to the baking dishes.
   And then, I don't know what happened. Everything started going fast. Chepa started a fire in one of the fire pits to burn the stickers. The girls decided they needed to paint and dress up the pumpkins. Italo got the mower fixed and began running around the big yards, cutting everything. Madeleina decided she ought to do a few loads of laundry, but thought it ought to be separated on the kitchen floor. The girls came in with handfuls of pumpkin seeds and mash, Chepa called for more firewood, Italo demanded seltzer water, Marco wanted more knives and some candles. The wings got done, I missed the game but who cared? Things sound pretty normal but they were really wild. Energy was running everywhere.
   And then, like a swarm, they picked up their pumpkins, announced that everything was done, gave me a bunch of hugs and they left. Somehow it had gone from 10 AM to  7 PM and not one brittle word was spoken--I even managed to hold my tongue when I found out the pumpkins cost $147. and that I'd have to come up with at least $100 more for my share. That was crazy but A-OK.
   Everybody was happy all day long. It was thrilling.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Summer time, and the living is easy....

So I was finishing up a 1400 word piece for the Fort Worth Weekly that comes out tomorrow, working on a 5000 word cover story for next week, due Thursday, two days from now for the same paper, and writing a 500 word short piece for tomorrow's paper. Then there is the freelance article due next Friday that will either make or break Christmas for my kids.
    In other words, I was busy. And Madeleina wasn't getting out of school till 6 PM, so I didn't go to the store till 4 PM, late for me. So I decided to make a simple roast chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, good beans from scratch.
   While I was doing that, Chepa, the wife/ex-wife, came with Sierra, Alexa and my grand daughter Taylor Rain. Plus my son Italo who just turned 29 the other day. Plus Madeleina.
    And instead of dropping Madeleina off, the kids decided to paint, so I got out the new watercolors and gave them paper and then Chepa, Italo and I went to the front porch to talk. Two minutes later, the girls said they were bored with paper and began using the three of us as their canvasses. I'm now covered head to toe in paint, as was Chepa when she left, and Italo, who made a mistake of sleeping on the front porch swing while the girls had paint.
   So we're covered and the porch is a mess and the bathroom where the girls showered is a rainbow and this was one fantastic night. You can clean paint, I can clean paint. But neither you nor I can make the paint happen like it happened tonight. That was art. Crazy art, yes, but real art.

Monday, October 20, 2014

This is Life with Lisa Ling

Just a quick note to let you know that Lisa Ling is doing a show on the ayahuasca boom in Peru. It is part of her show This is Life with Lisa Ling--which is now on CNN on Sunday Nights at either 9 or 10 PM Eastern Standard Time. I'm going to be in it for at least a few seconds--a question or two culled from the couple of hours of filming we did in the Belen market in Iquitos, Peru in July. She's a damned good journalist and though I have not seen the show, I'll bet she gets down to the quick of it. I do know she extensively interviewed my friend, the curandero Ron Wheelock. I can't say more because I don't know any more. But I'll be it will be worth taping/seeing. Her questions to me were sharp and on the money. That's it. That's this Sunday, October 26.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

House Mortgage

House Mortgage
Well, as of today my remaining mortgage is under 10 grand. It's $9,937.78 to be exact, which means, if I can keep putting an extra $500 a month into it, I'm done next August 1. 
That will be a fast payoff for a guy who was losing his house three months after moving from New York to Texas. Nothing I planned came through, editors who hired me got fired before my stories went to print, magazines lost their freelance budget after I signed contracts but before my stories came out. Gosh, it was tough. I borrowed from friends, family, put my little green truck in hock to a money lending outfit. Did not think I'd make it and was terrified of the idea of having put my kids in a position where they might have to live at cousins' houses while I lived in a flophouse.
The ship got righted a bit, then better. The first three years, my $73,800 mortgage dropped about $5-$50 a month and I don't think I dipped below $70,000 for at least those three years, maybe more. But I got lucky, got some pretty good gigs like working for the Fort Worth Weekly and having a regular column in Skunk Magazine out of Canada. Then someone who's become a friend called and asked if I'd write occasional articles for a magazine he was editing. The stories were fine, the pay was a good bump twice or three times a year. The trips to Peru, while not making much money, did pay the mortgage while I was gone, so that was good. Then I published my book and that was another little got to where if I didn't buy myself anything I didn't need I was able to put an extra couple of hundred into the mortgage monthly. That grew to nearly $600 extra a month--that meant no dining in restaurants, no new sneaks until it was time for a Peru trip, no Sunday afternoon at the bar with my friend Dave. Those little things, and a million others added up.
And now, after 12 years and 9 months, I'm under $10 grand. Wow. THANKS UNIVERSE!!!! I APPRECIATE IT A LOT!!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Meal You Should Never Have Before Drinking Ayahuasca

Okay, so while I'm the heretic of the newish ayahuasca diet--no oil, hot peppers, pork, salt--I'm not crazy. Some things just don't go well together, as in can cause a hypertensive issue--which means potential heart attack.
    The meal I intended to make tonight, because it's chilly, was Uncle Clem's Chicken. He won a national award for it and he was my godfather. For that you lightly steam three bunches of broccoli flowers (tops). While you're doing that you cut two whole or four half chicken breasts into 3/4 inch squares, flower them, season with good sea salt and cracked black pepper, then saute them in a hot pan with garlic and olive oil till browned on the outside but still basically raw on the inside. When they're done you put them aside for a moment. You drain the broccoli, slightly undercooked even from al dente, and put that in a baking dish. Add the chicken with garlic, reserve pan juices.
    Make a sauce of a large can of organic mushroom soup put into a pan with a big spoon of whatever mayo you like, heat, add the bit of olive oil and garlic left from the sauteed chicken. When it's a good sauce, pour it over the broccoli and chicken. Top with sliced mozzarella cheese, then bake till the cheese is browning and the sauce is bubbling. Serve over rice. Man, that's one hell of a freaking meal. Fattening, of course, despite the broccoli, because of the mayo and cheese. Worth the pain twice a year.
    But while I was at the store getting the ingredients for Uncle Clem's, I suddenly imagined making good macaroni and cheese. So I picked up the ingredients for that as well, imagining it later in the week. But plans changed and I'm making the mac and cheese tonight.
    First I'm cooking a pound of elbow macaroni in salted water till it's al dente or slightly less than that. When ready I'm draining that and getting it under cold water quickly to keep it from continuing to cool.
    Then I'm gonna cut a nice ham steak into tiny cubes and saute them with garlic in olive oil and diced red onion. I'm gonna pepper it, but no salt. Ham's got enough salt to kill you. At the last second I'm going to toss in some minced red pepper and half-a-dozen organic scallions, sliced so we have a bit of color and extra veg.
    While I do that I'm gonna take a good heavy stainless steel pot--I'd use copper if I could afford it--and make the sauce: 12 ounces of aged Swiss cheese. One and one-half pounds of aged cheddar. One cup of organic whole milk to keep it from simply scalding to death. When the cheeses start to melt into the milk I'm going to add 6 ounces of aged parmesan, freshly grated, and 8 ounces of fresh, smoked mozzarella. If I need more swiss or cheddar, I'll add it, but in the end it ought to be perfect. Only spice will be that gorgeous cracked black pepper I love so much.
   Then I'll pull the ham bits and toss a couple of bundles of organic spinach into the pan till it's seared and savory and sassy.
   I'm going to put the elbow macaroni into a slightly greased baking dish. I'm going to put some really good breadcrumbs on the macaroni. Not too much, just for a crunchy touch. Then I'm going to put the spinach and the ham bits with the garlic, red pepper, and scallions, and any left over pan juices into the sauce and then pour that sauce all over that macaroni and make sure it gets everywhere. I'm gonna top that with a bit of breadcrumbs sauteed in just a touch of butter--I mean one tablespoon, okay?--and then add a nice finishing touch of more parmesan. I'll bake it at 330 till the cheese on top and the bread crumbs are brown and the sauce is bubbling in the baking dish, about 20 minutes. Let it sit 15 minutes, then serve in a bowl surrounded by broccoli florets with a side salad.
    Okay, so that's two zillion calories. Forget that. The reason you can't have it before ayahuasca is that all of the cheeses except the mozzarella are fermented. And the mozzarella is smoked. Fermented cheeses, while not on the official ayahuasca diet, are verboten when drinking ayahuasca because of potential hypertensive problems. Smoked things are not recommended either for a similar reason. You do not want to be serving ayahuasca, or allow anyone you know to serve ayahuasca if the people drinking have had aged/fermented things. Or nuts. Keep the nuts till later. Keep the wine on the shelf. Keep the cheeses, other than farmer's cheese and the like, out of your system. I may be a dieta heretic, but I'm not going to allow any of my guests to freak out or have a heart attack that was very preventable.
    So yeah, this meal will probably kill you with calories even if you're not drinking ayahuasca. But it will definitely increase the chances if you are. Be careful out there, okay?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Proud of My Whole Damned Family

Just want to go on the record here: I'm very proud and privileged to be part of my family. Madeleina went to a flute competition today knowing that her flute fell three days ago and needs repairs and two notes will not respond. She's playing anyway. Marco, the kid who spent his formative years taking everything electronic in the world apart has figured out how to put it together and gets his associates degree in January, I think. This from a kid who barely made it through high school but who has discovered he loves studying. Italo has repaired two mini-vans, an eight cylinder truck and two cars in the last month, working out of my driveway--including dropping a transmission. And he fixed my riding mower somewhere in there as well. Chepa has become the mom all Peruvian women from the Amazon become when they hit grandma age--since motherhood skips a generation there, traditionally--making costumes for Sierra and Alexa and even Madeleina weekly, depending on the school's theme. She can take a cardboard box and turn it into two cowgirl hats in minutes, and she's learned to make something of a living painting faces at parties--and they are fantastic.
    So I am just going to go on the record and say that I'm glad/proud/enthusiastically privileged to know this gang, to be part of this gang. They are surprising me in wonderful ways almost daily. And I don't think a pop can ask for more than that.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Here's a Story About a Turkey

So, Not That You Asked, but Did I Tell You About the Turkey?
Well, couple of days ago, weekday, maybe Tuesday, Chepa, my wife/ex-wife, calls and says she needs a favor. She didn't say that but she called me Petercito, a Peruvian suffix that indicates affection, which meant she was going to ask for a favor.
The favor was "can you cook a turkey for me?"
The answer was "sure."
The problem was she wanted the turkey cooked right then, and right then I was headed out to a meeting at my newspaper. She asked how long it would take to cook a turkey. I told her 3-6 hours depending on the size. I was imagining she had a nice little 12-pounder she wanted me to cook for her sisters, who were all in town that day.
Well, I ran my errands and didn't think of the turkey again until I returned home at about 3 PM to find Italo, my handsome son--and I have another handsome son as well in Marco--working on his truck and he casually mentioned: "Mom left something for you to cook...." in the kitchen, on the table, was my huge ayahuasca pot, a stainless steel beauty, that she'd borrowed last month to make juane, Peruvian rice balls with a bit of egg, chicken and black olive, covered in the black of the residue of cooking over an open fire. Damn, she's supposed to wash it before she returns it, but when I mentioned that to her she reminded me that I ate two of the juanes, one of which paid for borrowing the pot, one of which paid for me spending two hours cleaning it.
Anyway, inside the pot was a 21+ pound turkey. It was 3 PM and she needed it done by 6 PM. Impossible. That was a 5 hour bird.
Nonetheless, and despite not getting a single kiss from that girl for maybe 8 years--but still working at it--I ripped open a bag of organic celery and laced an aluminum baking dish with it. Then I cut two onions, thickly, and laid them between and on top of the celery. Then I washed the turkey, rubbed it down with sea salt, garlic in olive oil and cracked black pepper. I stuffed it with 3 oranges cut into 4 pieces each and a good organic granny smith apple.
I tossed the bird into a 350 degree oven fvor an hour, then reduced it to 330. WHile it was cooking I made stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, mashed red potatoes and heated up two cans of peas and corn. When the bird was near done I drained the juice into a saucepan and made homemade gravy.
By 7 PM that baby and all the fixin's were ready.
Chepa came by at 7:30 to ask where the dog food was. I said I had no idea what she was talking about. She said, "The turkey was for the dogs. Did you make it or not?"
I held my tongue, sliced enough turkey for Italo, Madeleina and myself, and then gave Chepa the rest. We had a feast. The dogs had a feast. I shouldn't complain, right?
Life is never quite the way you imagine it, eh? Love that lady, even though we're miles apart on so many things. Her dog food is my family treat.

Response to a response to a cover story I had last week....

Well, I had the cover story in the Fort Worth Weekly last week and posted it here. It dealt, largely, with a Fort Worth park and homes right next to a huge gas compressor station. I visited there on a recent Saturday morning and in short order my throat itched, my eyes were watering and after two hours my breath was short. Someone, possibly from the gas industry, said he copied my movements and while he detected a foul smell, did not suffer from what I suffered. He said I was either a liar or a wuss. Anyone who knows my journalism knows I am not a liar, which leaves me being a wuss. Damnit! I don't generally respond but needed to this afternoon. Without going into this persons several letters on the subject, I still think you will get the gist of what he said and how I--as a journalist, with no rats in the race--feel. Here's what I wrote:
Well, I had the cover story in the Fort Worth Weekly last week

and posted it on facebook. It dealt, largely, with a Fort Worth park and homes right next to a huge gas compressor station. I visited there on a recent Saturday morning and in short order my throat itched, my eyes were watering and after two hours my breath was short. Someone, possibly from the gas industry, said he copied my movements and while he detected a foul smell, did not suffer from what I suffered. He said I was either a liar or a wuss. Anyone who knows my journalism knows I am not a liar, which leaves me being a wuss. Damnit! I don't generally respond but needed to this afternoon. Without going into this persons several letters on the subject, I still think you will get the gist of what he said and how I--as a journalist, with no rats in the race--feel. Here's what I wrote:

X: I think you miss the point. There are less than a dozen families living in nice little houses that abut the park. One woman can no longer work because of constant rashes and nausea that started after the compressor stations came in. One woman has leukemia, which occurred after the compressor stations came in. One woman has a child who is losing his hair, a condition that began after the compressor stations came in. All of these conditions occur with exposure to the chemicals found in the “air grabs” taken at the site in the latest air quality study. That’s three out of 10-11. Is that acceptable to you, or anyone? Is is acceptable when you can fix it so that there is no gas escaping at nearly no cost? Is it acceptable if you were a shareholder or a lease owner to know that 25 percent of the gas coming from the wells is escaping into the air, poisoning people and costing you 25 percent of your royalty? I don’t know. I don’t think, like either you or the person who posted prior to you, that anyone at the FW Weekly is against energy. I think that everyone who knows the score is against bad business practices that hurt people/sometimes kill people. Of course the gas industry resists change that would fix the problems: Most of us resist change because we’re comfortable with the way we do things and change suggests that we’ll have to, well, change….and that is not attractive. It’s downright scary. But it is very doable. It doesn’t cost a lot of money, just a small infusion that quickly pays for itself and subsequently makes a profit for everyone and prevents more leukemia/hair falling out/rash problems and so forth. And yes, I drive a car: A Ranger, actually, and I heat my house with electricity which is possibly powered by coal or gas or oil. The problem isn’t always the product, the problem is sometimes the hands in which the product lies. If the gas companies wanted to be good neighbors, gas drilling would quickly disappear from our pages–which are actually read by tens of thousand of people and make changes in places like New York, which banned drilling because of our stories, among others. But if energy companies insist on doing the shoddiest work, cutting corners, ignoring and then denying illnesses they cause, well, as good citizens, we’ll probably keep calling them out on it.
And yes, I’m a 63-year-old cigarette smoker. I still walk several miles a day, take four groups a year out into the deep Amazon jungle and can certainly out push-up most men my age. And no, I’m not a liar regarding what happened that day in Delga Park. Which leaves me, I guess, just a wuss. Darn it!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Sometimes I wish I were not a Peacenik!!!

Okay, so I announced the new book's near release yesterday. I needed several hundred bucks to make that happen and several people bought copies and will get them in 5-6 weeks. When the next 20 order copies, I'll be able to get it done.
    Now, I admit that the subject, the Matses' medicine sapo, which is now also called Kambo among a number of tribes--along with Kampo, Campu and other variations--is a very niche market. Yes, there are a lot of good stories in the book. But if you don't know what the hell sapo is, and don't care, then it would not be for you. And that's fine.
    But one of the things about sapo is that, whether people like it or not, the first recorded human use of the substance under any name, was my record of using it among the Matses in 1986. I did not know it was a big deal at the time but it turned out to be because Western science turned to amphibian skins looking for new medicines with a vengeance once they could say there was recorded human use. Personally, I know it was luck and all that, but I did happen to be in the right place at the right time and allowed it to be used on me and happened to be a journalist who wrote down that sort of thing--and happened to be in contact with the American Museum of Natural History at the time, which is the place that got my initial notes. All luck, but there was a pattern of luck there.
    So I announced the book yesterday, and it might be a limited edition, I don't know, and then today someone writes this in response to what I wrote--which, I'll admit, included a reference to me being the person who brought it to the outside world, or "the world outside the Matses".
   "total bullshit Gorman, indulging your ego like that, many tribes use it and have NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU; take contol of yourself."
      Okay. So that came from a guy from the US who has given himself an indigenous name, refers to himself as a "shaman" and a "Tribal artist". He is helping to run a camp in a town I put on the map 25 years ago. He had pictures of himself wearing headdresses made of macaw feathers--which kill the macaws--and he's coming down on me for taking a little credit for something I earned the credit on. 
      Heck, I've done some lousy things in my life. I was emotionally abusive to Clare. I didn't know how to handle Chepa and the kids early on and messed that up. There are times when I drank too much for years on end. I don't always listen to my kids all the way through before responding. Lots of sins in my corner. 
     And then there are some things I did that I stand behind. At Steve Hager"s request, I made medical marijuana a national issue. Hager was my editor at High Times. At Hager's request, I helped make hemp a national issue. I helped make forfeiture law and mandatory minimum sentences part of the national dialogue. I brought out sapo, and got the Matses the rights to the air, water, land and mineral rights to a permanently demarked huge swath of land--and they are the only Peruvian Indigenous who have that. I think I have been instrumental in getting gas well fracking and the tar sands into the national debate.
     Those are maybe minor accomplishments, but they are things I've worked at 20 hours a day for years at a time to accomplish. Not to claim them, but to bring them up, get them out. I'm the journalist, not the activist. The activists are the ones who do the work: The journalist chronicles that work and gets it out there to activate more activists, who in turn activate more journalists until there is a groundswell of information and intention and then things begin to change. 
     And I am a reasonably humble person--with fits of grandeur, of course, I'll admit--but when some freaking asshole wearing bird-killing feathers moves to Peru and a couple of years later touts himself as a "shaman" and "tribal artist" and suddenly has an indigenous name comes down on me for something that's not in question by anyone in the scientific world, well, I feel like going Ishinru Karate on the boy. Shades of Don Nagle! Shades of Dennis Bootle! Malachi Lee! Dennis Bell! Al Wilder! (I was never in their circles, not for one instant. I'm just conjuring their power despite the lousy karate-ka that I was 45 years ago!!!!!) 
     I did not respond badly to the man. I bit my tongue. My tongue is sore. Ow. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

New Book, Please Order it So I Can Pay the Editors!!!! Or, Because it's a good book to have on your shelf

Dear All: In the most self serving of ways, here is an announcement of my new book, Sapo in My Soul, due out from Gorman Bench Press by Nov. 15. The book discusses the Matses' medicine Sapo, frog sweat, now called Kambo in some quarters. It touches on how the Matses gave it to me, how it was brought to Western Science, the actual science of it, the way to collect it properly, traditional uses, it's sister medicine, nu-nu, it's positive interaction with ayahuasca and a host of other topics. It's not gonna be a page burner all the way through. Some of it is. But even in the dryer parts It is going to be an important book because, for better or worse, I was the one who brought this medicine to the world outside of the indigenous Matses. I'm not sure what it will cost to print it, but I'm going to offer it, pre-publication, for $25 for a signed copy. If you live in Europe or Australia, I'm gonna have to say $35, because shipping is about $14 from the US. But if having a signed copy of a book in pre-publication by Peter Gorman, designed by Morgan Maher, with lots of pictures of the Matses and the frog and collecting the sapo and so forth, edited by a slew of the best darned editors in town means anything, well, buy it. You can send the money via paypal to my email address: peterg9 at
Thanks for listening to this totally self-serving announcement. I hope that those who invest their money wind up feeling that they got a bargain. I worked hard to make this a good book. Thanks. PG

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Then Along Came Meat Loaf

And then came Meatloaf
Not the singer, the food. I was dying for the second piece of swordfish I've got in the fridge. Bought it a few days ago, it's still cold and fresh. Got capers, organic scallions, organic red peppers and plain old onions and garlic in olive oil to go with it. Was thinking of having it on a bed of spinach, no starch.
    Then I got to the store and happened to see some ground pork. Yes, pretty horrible, but I got to thinking about meatloaf. Not the singer, the food. Though I did start singing Two out of Three Ain't Bad in the supermarket. It's okay, they already stare at me for my half-gone right calf, so I don't care.
    Okay, so with Madeleina getting off at 8 tonight, I thought she won't be in the mood for fish. She will not have eaten anything but an apple and an orange all day and she'll be starving. So I went with the meatloaf instinct: "I want you, I need you, but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you, but don't be sad, cause two out of three ain't bad..."
    So I guess I was crying while picking up the chopped chuck to go with the minced pork. No veal. I have my limits. And no bacon today because Chepa had me make breakfast for the family Sunday and it included bacon, sausage, biscuits, sausage gravy, pancakes with blueberries and bananas, eggs, home fries, potato latkas--all of it made from scratch except the bacon and sausage.
    Forget that. Let's get me back to crying about the meatloaf song. So I came home, put 2 pounds of pork and two pounds of chuck into a saute pan on high heat to brown it and get rid of as much grease as possible. Then I drained that. While that was draining I put three tablespoons of freshly minced garlic in olive oil into the saute pan with a diced red onion. Followed that with six stalks of celery, each cut into six lengths and then diced. Followed by several minced, fresh, roma tomatoes. Followed by those magic organic scallions--six of them minced. Why six of everything? I don't know. Maybe six is two times three and two out of three ain't bad? Damn that Meat Loaf!!!! He's gotten into the kitchen in my brain!!!!!
     Okay, calm down. Have a sip of wine--vintage 2014 Cabernet....raw junk.
     Anyway, put some breadcrumbs into the drained meat. Added vinegar to the veggies to make a sort of ketchup and added them to the meat. Added actual ketchup, sea salt, butcher ground black pepper. Chopped some good curly parsley finely and put that in. Let it cool. Added four eggs, raw. Mushed it with my hands--washed better than in a hospital--and then put the damned stuff into two baking dishes lined with a bit of olive oil to keep things from sticking, and put the baking dishes on silver foil in the oven at 330. That will give me an hour. I'll raise the temp to 400 for the last 15 minutes to crisp the top--and yes, on Madeleina's orders I'll spread a bit of ketchup on the top...but NO BACON, OKAY Madeleina? I'm fat enough!!!!
    That will be done by 6:15. It will settle by 6:45 and be ready to serve by 7. Madeleina will get here at 8 and it will be perfect. We'll have it with a salad and broccoli. Dessert is gonna be ice cold fresh watermelon.
    Bon Appetit! I hope you all are loving your food, your bodies, yourselves in some way that's similarly wonderful. (I'm sorry pig, cow, celery, garlic, scallions, olives for the olive oil, onion, tomatoes, grapes to make the vinegar, salt, peppercorns. Even the wheat to make the breadcrumbs, and the parsley. I'm not sure if I'm sorry about the eggs since they were never gonna be chickens. Doesn't mean they weren't having a great life. I'm just not sure about that... .)
    And if you can't love yourself the whole way, remember that two out of three ain't bad... .

Monday, October 06, 2014

Again with the Ayahuasca Dieta

Okay, so I'm the heretic of the ayahuasca dieta. I just don't believe that there was a universal regimen around the Amazon for the last couple of millenia that said to become an ayahuasca curandero you had to go through periods of abstinence from salt, sugar, oil, pork, hot peppers and sex. Given that a couple of hundred years ago those things didn't exist in current form, and that even now they are costly and require real intention to get hold of--considering salt doesn't grow on trees, and while peppers do grow on bushes, very little of the Amazon will support them--I just don't see where abstaining from things you never have constitutes a diet.
    Of course people challenge me on that. Lots of people are making their living pushing that abstinence. Lots of restaurants in a place like Iquitos make a lot of money touting meals that don't include those things--HA!. But I got into a controversy and someone responded and the person who responded deserves respect so I thought about what I'd said and thought about it some more and came up with this as a response.
    This is what I wrote.
    And I'm still a heretic.
On the dieta: I cannot see a better reason for abstaining from something than what you put forward, Sachahambi: The ancestors didn't have it so we will refrain from using it. If that is the case, that's fantastic. 
And yes, I agree that getting quiet enough to hear plant spirits takes being alone, quieting yourself, not being restive, figety and so forth. I've only ever ever challenged the current dieta that people quote as a rite of passage: No sugar, no salt, no oil, no pork, no hot peppers, no sex. I've never thought--and if I did, I've changed my mind--that there was nothing to becoming a curandero or learning plant and river and animal songs--which means, really, learning how to be in communication with those things. Heck, you can't learn to play the piano or be a writer unless you're willing to spend enormous blocks of time alone for years on end, just you with your instrument or your blank paper. 
So I certainly agree on getting alone. But the way Julio and the Matses men Pablo and Roberto taught me to learn plants--and I'm a lousy student but don't hold that against them--was to go sleep with them. Just physically go out into the forest and put your arms around them all night long. I don't want to bore people because I've written this before, I think, but what you quickly learn when you sleep with the plant are that it's got lots of protectors who don't really want you near their plant. I remember one tree I was trying to learn: First night were thousands of ant bites; second night an entirely different set of ants--black, not white like the first night--bit me thousands of more times. Third day came a hoard of different insects; fourth day came a coupe of vampire bats; finally tree snakes. And it was only after living with all of that poison in my system that I finally got past those guardians and got to the tree itself--which was very generous. But she, the tree, was not going to share her spirit without me proving I really wanted it by getting past those guardians. 
The word dieta was never used, but in hindsight that was certainly a rough diet. Just hang out in the woods alone, eat some leaves you find and sleep with a tree whose allies are going to try to run you off. I could not have done that for dozens of trees and plants. I just didn't have the mettle. 
So I guess I was taught that as a dieta, rather than the no oil, no sugar, no salt thing. Of course there was none of that: I was just in the woods alone, eating leaves for several days and taking water from a shallow stream bed protected by lots of mosquitos. There also wasn't fish, wasn't plantain, wasn't decoctions of the tree bark, wasn't anything but mapachos.
In the end, I don't think we really disagree on intent, I think we disagree on the specifics. 

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Here I Am, Bare-Assed Soul

I will not get maudlin and I won't keep you long. But there is a tinge of sadness everytime there is a family event. Why? Because when it's over, I head in one direction and Chepa and the babies and Marco and Italo/Sarah and Taylor Rain head in another.
    Today, on a whim, I decided it was time to see Madeleina's marching band. She's with Joshua's Fighting Owls and she's the leader of the 21-member flute brigade of the band. She has a solo. That's a big step up from freshman year when they let her move props for the band on the field. She's earned the promotion. She's very good, very adult, and knows how to lead. The band put on one hellofa show today. I only stayed for a couple of the other bands--I think there were probably 30 from the local counties--but they were a cut above. No missteps, crisp, beautifully played difficult music, lots of moves, a change of uniform mid-stream that was pretty flawless. I will bet they win something at this competition.
    Well, about an hour before I was going to go, Chepa called to say hello. I mentioned I was going and she asked the details. I thought it was free; it turned out to be $14 a head, and she came with Italo, Marco, her babies Sierra and Alexa. I came separately. So they made good money on the Gorman's today.
    We sat together. When Sierra was cold I held her. When Alexa said her feet were cold I warmed them in my hands. Marco took photos and Italo cheered.
    And then, when the band was finished, we all left together. That was the sad part. Italo took his truck and went to his house. Marco took Chepa, Sierra and Alexa back to her place--Marco lives in a house behind Chepa's house. I went to a different part of the parking lot and came home to get food ready for Madeleina. Good food: Short ribs in an orange sauce on a bed of spinach with a nice side salad, no carbos.
    But there was that moment in the parking lot when we were separating, when I remembered that it was me who screwed things up, caused the rift in the family, when my heart strings got a good tug. We all love each other but we'll never be a family again in that we won't ever all go in the same direction when the party is over. And that's sad. I'm sorry I messed up.
    And that's it. It just sucks a little. And it sucks a little more knowing I was the one primarily responsible.