Off to Peru, see you in a month. Leaving four tough dogs to guard the house.
Have a great July, everybody.
Friday, June 26, 2015
Off to Peru, see you in a month. Leaving four tough dogs to guard the house.
Sunday, June 21, 2015
Gonna say I'm really happy this second. Immensely happy. I started writing about the truancy laws in Texas a couple of years ago. The laws allowed kids to get Class C misdemeanors which followed them their entire lives. I know, it kept my kid Marco from the armed forces when he wanted to join. But the associated fines were so high that it cost families in which brothers took care of their siblings and were 20 minutes late 10 times a semester to be forced to quit high school rather than rack up more fines ($500 a pop, plus court costs) that they would wind up serving jail time for when they couldn't pay. It was very bad and affected 100,000 kids in Texas annually.
But on Friday, Texas' Governor Greg Abbott signed a bill into law that makes truancy a civil offense from here on out. No more criminalizing kids for being late, or even cutting class. There will be civil repercussions but not criminalization. And my editor, Gayle Reaves, and I, worked hard to help get that word out and I think out work was in the mix of things that tipped the scale here in favor of the new law. Cheers to State Sen. Whitmire and his associates for having the courage to challenge the law and get it fixed. A tip of the hat to everyone--and Texas Appleseed knows how big a part they played--in getting this junk off the books. Cheers to all of us! It's nice to be on the winning side now and then!
Posted by Peter Gorman at 3:29 PM
Well, first off, the good news: Madeleina, my baby, is growing up. She just graduated from high school and is headed to Tarleton State University in the Fall. The bad news: She wants a car. And I just got out from under the mortgage. And she does not want the little Lincoln sportster that used to belong to Italo, even though it's a great car. Oh, boy.
But then there is this: I leave for Peru in four days to take a group out to the deep green for a Jungle Jaunt. It's going to be great. But these things are always tight. Guests don't understand what goes into them, from taking care of emergencies for my team whether I'm in Peru or not, to repairing buildings, buying new small boats and motors so that we have what we need out there. Heck, I had to buy four new sponge mats at $80 each for this trip because a few were getting a bit ratty-looking. Then I've got to rent rooms, hire the team, rent river boat cabins, send gasoline, motor oil, drinking water and a host of other things up river. I've got to put in and pay for orders of magic mushrooms, sapo, nu-nu. I've got to pay for my own hotel room for a month in advance, buy my airline tickets, pay the bills while I'm gone. All of this, plus the money we use on the ground--for taxis, food, boat food, jungle food, staff, a couple of new pots and pans, maybe a few new hammocks to keep things fresh, shotgun shells, re-upping the med kit, just a million things go into a jungle trip. The only monies not already committed are the money I'll spend on fresh food and dry goods.
So whatever people pay me, I'm lucky to come out of a successful trip with $2000 in my pocket for all the work to get it organized and then a month down there setting up, doing the trip, decompressing from the trip. That's what I was looking at for this trip, provided everything went as planned.
Nonetheless, at the last second, someone almost always gets cold feet or has a legit life emergency that needs taking care of. I got that call this morning. One of the guests has an emergency. I hope she was lying because I don't wish an emergency on her. But I have to take her at her word.
AND she needs the money for the trip back. I can keep the deposit plus $100 she said. She meant to be generous. I get it. But what she doesn't understand is that if she paid $1800--I already gave her $100 off the trip price--and I return all but the deposit, I will stand to make a maximum of $700 on this trip. I immediately sent her $500, but I know we're going to have an issue later. I have already spent well over $1000 of her money, and hired an extra staff member to take care of the women on the trip. That staff member has to get paid, whether I need her or not. I can't just say, "oh, I had a cancellation, I don't need you anymore." And now, of course, I have a hotel room that will be used by one when I paid for a double; a boat cabin used by one, when I paid for a double. A new roof on a hut that cost $340 (leaf roof, plus work to put it up) that I no longer need for this trip. And on and on.
Madeleina said I should not give her anything with the trip starting in less than two weeks. But then I don't like to be hard-nosed and had already sent the woman $500, knowing Madeleina would say something like that. She's right, of course. Nobody should get anything back when it's less than 30 days from the trip starting. I just don't have it in me to be that cold.
But damnit, I spent several phone calls talking with this woman. I ordered some special jungle medicine for her that was paid up front by me. Ah, nuts.
I really hope she has no family emergency. But I sure feel burned.
Posted by Peter Gorman at 12:16 PM
Thursday, June 18, 2015
So here's one bit from my new Drug War Follies column for Skunk magazine. It's off topic, which is generally, well, drug war idiocy, but then the good folk at Skunk have always allowed me to run off the rails a bit.
Here it is:
Posted by Peter Gorman at 12:00 PM
Sunday, June 07, 2015
As I frantically struggle with a cover story for the Fort Worth Weekly that's due tomorrow--and I mean frantically, as in I'm not getting it, I have written nothing worthwhile on it and it stinks so far--I just got the news that the Houston Press Club, the foremost press organization in Texas, has awarded me 2nd place as the Texas' print journalist of the year. Several stories, including two on criminalizing middle and high school truancy here in Texas and the long-lasting effect that has on students and their families, another on gas companies ripping off royalty payments to homeowners, and one more on former Texas Governor Rick Perry leaving millions uninsured because he refused to expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act made up the package that was judged.
So why can't I get a handle on the new piece????? I don't know. I guess I'm just a loser. Got to keep working. Have a great day, everybody!
Posted by Peter Gorman at 9:28 AM
Friday, June 05, 2015
You know, when you've been a chef and a dad and had to feed a room full of people--maybe 150 at the restaurants, though i preferred the New York joints which had about 46-60 seats--or a family full of 8 including sons' girlfriends and so on, you get used to cooking a bunch. And you get used to cooking several things at the same time. Simple as they might be, you've got your eye on two/three/seventeen different dishes at the same time.
Well, I don't cook in restaurants anymore and my kids have grown up and moved out and I never know whether I'm eating with just Madeleina or if Chepa, my wife/ex-wife is coming over with the kids and whether my son Italo will show up with his baby, Taylor Rain and his wife Sara, or if my other son, Marco will show and bring a friend or three. Or if Madeleina will bring two friends or not show up for dinner at all.
Then there are the dogs: Boots, the guard dog; Blackie, a big dog that only answers to that name who showed up 8 weeks or so ago and adopted us, and the two new border collies, Keys and Beautiful. Plus the cats, of course, and the birds ......
So I cook chicken--big chicken for Boots and Blackie every day. Way cheaper and better than dog food in a bag or can. Nothing fancy and no, they do not sit at the dinner table. Just two, three pounds of chicken with some veggies and rice mixed in for each of them. The border collies get a pound of chicken livers mixed with rice and puppy food, or chicken gizzards or hearts--again, way, way cheaper than anything I can buy at the store. Livers, gizzards and heart are all bout $1.50 a pound. Mix that with left over rice or beans and such and they get the three pounds of food they need daily for about $2. each, rather than if I bought 6 cans at $1.50 each.
But the family is unpredictable. Today I bought smoked virginia ham from the HEB deli, paper thin, with some slightly thicker baby swiss and a loaf of sesame seeded french bread for hot sandwiches for Madeleina and I. Then I made some homemade coleslaw and a potato/egg salad to go with it. Enough vinegar in each to cut the need for mayo to a minimum.
But then I had to buy and make chicken wings in case Chepa and the girls came over, or Italo and my granddaughter and his wife, or Marco and his girlfriend.
And then I made pico de gallo—diced red onion, tomatoes and cilantro in fresh lime juice with good cracked black pepper—in case everyone came over and I came up short and needed to make some fat burritos with left over chicken, black beans, avocado, sour cream and cheese--along with the pico de gallo.
So I've got about 4 meals ready. The liver and rice for the dogs smells really good. I hate liver but I might go for that and give them my chicken burrito or hot ham and baby swiss sandwich.
Either way, I'm keeping the cole slaw and potato/egg salad for me. Don't even think of taking that.
Dinner at the Gormans. More complex than might initially appear.
Posted by Peter Gorman at 5:51 PM
Thursday, June 04, 2015
Well, she's not looking at things properly but from my perspective, this is a good week for my Madeleina. She's graduating from high school. Just graduated an hour ago, actually. And she's slated to go to Tarleton State U in the fall, with at least a good portion of her way paid for by grants and awards and the rest by dear old dad's check book. Her best friend is going there, so she's got something to start with. And one of the people I worked with, Dan Malone, a writer for the Fort Worth Weekly up until about 2005 or 2006, is teaching there. He's won a Pulitzer for her reporting, so if you're planning to study journalism, you can't do much better. Anywhere. For any price.
More: Two days ago at a senior function, she won a beautiful trophy for "best supporting actress" in a play she recently did. She was fantastic. Not the lead, but a great supporting player. One trophy given. She got it.
On Sunday she went with me to the Union Pacific Rail Yard in Fort Worth, one of the biggest rail yards in the US. We had to breach security to get in--at several different places--but we did and I had her take photos. She's got a keen eye and takes good, rock-steady pics. The art director today asked if he could buy a few from her for my cover story next week. She's non-plussed by the idea, but I can tell you, it takes years to get your first photos published for money. And here she's got it on during her second or third shoot. That's several hundred bucks out of the blue! That's a credit! Yikes!
Somehow, this is not ringing in as a good week for her. She's sad about high school ending though she's detested most of high school. Just a little afraid of change, I reckon. But if she saw things the way I'm seeing them for her, well, she'd see a very different picture than what she's seeing.
Posted by Peter Gorman at 7:57 PM
Wednesday, June 03, 2015
after the infection has been defeated by the body's immune system,
leaving no traces in the blood."
Posted by Peter Gorman at 4:44 PM
Tuesday, June 02, 2015
Well, that's it. The mortgage is done. Do not owe another penny on this house. Insurance and taxes paid through Jan 1, 2016. Made the last payment last week. Today I went to the bank site and there was my Chase credit card, but beneath it was nothing. It was as if the mortgage never existed. No note of congratulations, but also no note reminding me of the next payment. Started out with $73,800 on January 11, 2002. Finished in 13 years, 5 months. It wasn't easy, but it got done. Now it's time to pretend I still have that mortgage payment, plus the extra $600 a month I've been putting toward it for the last four or five years and use that to pay off credit cards, get Madeleina a good used car to use at college in the Fall, and all that jazz.
Unreal. And it doesn't really feel like anything yet because I made the last payment just a few days ago. I will be it will feel like something next month when I don't have to pay it. Then I'll be jumping for joy. Right now, I'm just thrilled that the universe allowed me to get 'er done. Better or worse, it's now ours all the way. Bank ain't got no papers on me. Hooray!
I'm gonna guess that Chase won't send me a congratulatory note because they bought my loan from Century 21 about 6 years ago, figuring I was gonna pay interest for 24 more years. I still owed about $65,000 then and the bank was drooling over the $90,000 in interest that was going to produce. Didn't happen. The bank can't be happy. Oh, well.
Posted by Peter Gorman at 12:16 PM
Monday, June 01, 2015
Well, it's been a really good hour. First off, I found out I'm a finalist for Journalist of the Year in Texas with the Houston Press Club, the premier press club in Texas. I don't know if I'm a finalist in the "Under 50,000" category or the "Over 50.000 category" but I'm in there somewhere. I've won it twice and came in second a couple of years ago. Winning it is a big deal because there are some very, very good journalists here in Dallas, Houston, Denton, Corpus Christi, San Antonio, Fort Worth, Austin, Amarillo, Lubbock, Odessa, El Paso and elsewhere. When I've lost in the past, I always look at the winning entries and the judges--generally a big time university program from another state--has always been right. The work that has beaten me has been exemplary! I try to keep upping my game to stay on top, but it's hard, hard, hard.
Then, I got notice that Shaman Portal--just plug in shamanportal.org--a great resource, named my book Sapo in My Soul, as their Book of the Month.
Then, I got word that I will have access to the fantastic Fort Worth Davidson rail yard in a couple of days--it's the heart of this city and I really want to climb into an engine and drive that baby a little ways.
Then a check I've been waiting for arrived.
Then, several sticks of sapo, which I thought were lost in the mail, arrived. And they are beautiful, filled with wonderful medicine.
And now I'm gonna start cooking dinner. And tomorrow someone comes to put in a new septic tank since the rain we've had crushed ours.
Is that a good hour or what?
Posted by Peter Gorman at 3:39 PM