Saturday, August 18, 2018

We're messed up and pickles won't save us

Okay, so with all the trouble in the world, with all the horror of war and imprisonment, slavery, hunger, lack of shelter, natural disasters and provoked wildfires, fish killing algae, corruption, pain, suffering, emotional torment, and all the rest of what is rotten in this world, we still have to get up and work. We still have to make our lives the best they can be. we have to treat our loved ones as truly loved ones. We contribute where we can, most of us try to help where we can, we alleviate suffering as we can, but in the end we cannot do it all. The saints among us regular humans did not have the power to stop the suffering of everyone. As a collective, of course, we could stop most physical suffering within hours if we put our hearts into it. Simply stop the wars and go take care of people. Send in builders to rebuild ruined cities. Send in food and water and doctors. Reduce the cost of medicines and provide free food and shelter to those who need it. We already have enough for all seven billion of us; it's simply not distributed evenly. And then there is the hatred that keeps us from coming together as a collective and rectifying all the physical problems the world faces. Yes, we all are still going to die and it ain't gonna be pleasant, but there is no reason kids in Yemen and elsewhere are getting their freaking legs blown off, losing their moms and dads. No reason we have kids sitting in what are essentially prisons here in the USA because their parents had the audacity to try to move away from war zones in Central America and seek asylum here.
I almost cannot go on some days when it all hits me hard and I realize how powerless I am. No superpowers, no special abilities to eliminate hate and prejudice in everyone. I am stunningly ill equipped to save this world.
I was going to write about making some pickles today. That was my meditation because I was being overwhelmed by the whole shebang that causes pain, that revels in pain, that is careless with other people's pain.
So yes, I made pickles and they're gonna be great. As a job it was a wonderful thing to do, and my friend Devon helped me. But as a meditation to forget the helpless feeling of rotten mess in this world, well, it failed miserably. I sincerely hope I did not put that vibe into the pickles! Yikes! I'd only be adding to the suffering when my friends and family eat them and start to puke. Ah, nuts. Momma said there would be days like this. I should have believed her.

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Note on Illegal Aliens

A friend posted a meme on fb about people here in the US illegally. Makes my skin crawl, these racist mothafukkas. Who gives a shit if someone doesn't have papers? Are they taking your job? No. Are they paying taxes and not getting the benefit? Yes. Are they paying into medicaid and medicare and social security and will never get the benefits? Yes. So leave them alone.
   In an effort to be polite, this is what I responded:
Illegal aliens have no status. They do not vote. They earn money and pay taxes and social security but will never see that social security money and cannot benefit from many of the things those taxes pay for. They do the grunt work that citizens refuse to do/cannot physically do/are too weak-willed to do. Without them we have no fruit and vegetable crop to speak of. Without them we have no one to wash dishes or cook your horrible fast food. Without them we have no nail salons, no roofing industry, no house building industry, no one to lay tar to build roads. Without illegals this country comes to a full stop in three months. I'm all for giving lots and lots of people temporary work permits, as is done in Alabama for the farming industry and in other states as well. If anyone remembers, when the Alabama governor cut off temporary work permits in the state a few years ago, he thought poor people on welfare could pick crops. They couldn't. He thought poor people who were not on welfare would pick crops. They couldn't. He had people in prisons given the option of working the fields rather than sitting behind bars: In less than one week every prisoner opted for jail over working the fields. $4 billion in crops rotted on the ground in Alabama that year. And yes, temporary work permits were given out the following year, and all the crops got picked and sold. You do not have to like them, but you have to admit we depend on illegals from central America and Mexico for many many things that will otherwise not get done.

This Year's Garden

So I was out at our garden yesterday, like I am every afternoon when here at home, and I was standing on the dry creek bridge looking out at the 16 rows of veggies and bemoaning the fact that it did not produce well, and is not going to produce well. The corn was a complete bust, as were the red peppers, the scallions, the onions, the green
beans, the radishes, and carrots. How do you botch radishes and carrots for goodness sake? The carrots simply never really came up, while the radish tops flourished but the radishes never materialized into anything more than gangly thin red roots. The hot peppers from Peru, the charapitas, looked great early on, but produced few peppers--simply too hot and dry for them. They may produce in September when the rains come.
This garden was put in with lots of energy by Devon, Valerie Van dePanne, and myself. The soil is good and enhanced with a dozen or more sacks of organic manure. It gets watered daily and was weeded wonderfully, first by Devon and I and then by my daughter Madeleina and her beau Adrian while Devon and I were in Peru. It should have produced wildly.
It didn't. We've had a dozen good cucumbers and there are another half dozen near ready on the four or five cuke plants plus a lot of babies on the way. We've had some wonderful zucchini and yellow squash, huge ones, and there are more to pick, but not many. We have had sweet cherry tomatoes and good beefsteaks, but again, we're talking in the dozens, not the hundreds. And the watermelon and cantaloupe are just starting to show up, while our friends melons are already being eaten. There is some spinach but it's growing in trailers, not bushes, and it's not really wonderful to the taste.
So I was drinking a glass of wine and snorting a bit of the Matses' snuff nü-nü and thinking what a bust the garden was when I unexpectedly found myself chuckling. Of course, I would have loved more produce, but when I've had gardens produce like they should, I have wound up with so much stuff--and at the same time that everyones' gardens are producing--that you can't even give it away to the local churches. I remember pickling more than 60 quarts of cucumbers and hating it. I remember having to carry 30-40 watermelons in the back of my pickup with a sign that said: Help Yourself, They're Free, just to get rid of them. I remember having tomato fights with my sons Marco and Italo because we simply had hundreds of tomatoes we couldn't use or give away.
And when I finished that rhapsody, I lapsed into thinking that the idea of the garden wasn't really all about making food. It was about being around the plants, getting quiet for an hour in the afternoon, enjoying watering them and watching the insects that came into the garden for a taste or three. I mean, I've still got more zucchini and yellow squash than I know what to do with--and yes, I've stuffed it, made a casserole, used it in veggie medleys and still am looking at 15 pounds on the kitchen table with 10 more pounds ready to pick. And we've had cucumbers with lime for dinner several times, had cucumber sandwiches, made cucumber soup and still have nearly a dozen on the kitchen table. And there are tomatoes too, with more on the plants to pick. And enough hot charapita peppers to burn several mouths.
So I decided I should not complain. The garden did its job. It produced enough of a few things to keep me going out there every afternoon to quiet myself. And next year it will probably produce so much that I will be back to cursing the okra and cukes and carrots and radishes as I stand in front of a hot stove in August in Texas, pickling them all.

Monday, August 06, 2018

Back from Peru again

Well, I'm; back from the Jungle. It's been nearly two weeks, but as my daughter, Madeleina, says, "Dad, you're no good for the first two weeks you're back." She's right. I'm too full of the jungle, the rivers, the medicine, the guests I had out there to integrate in just a few days. Which doesn't mean I do not do anything. Since I'm back I've got three cover stories for the Fort Worth Weekly lined up, the new incarnation of SKUNK magazine needs me to come up with a new column for them (I did exactly 100 columns of Drug War Follies in the first Skunk incarnation and now it's time to come up with a new idea, right?), and I have cleaned the house, cooked, trimmed my beard, etc.
Probably the main place I've been able to put energy is in cooking. Since I've been back we--that means my friend Devon, who has been staying here for a while, plus Madeleina, off from College, her boyfriend Adrian, and me, plus occasionally my wife/ex-wife Chepa, her two new babies Sierra and Alexa, my son Italo and his wife Sarah and their babies Taylor Rain and Teigan Gray, and my son Marco, plus a dozen friends who have stopped in--have had good hamburgers, stuffed manicotti, linguini with clams and shrimp in a clam sauce. We've had prime rib with sauteed potatoes and seared tomatoes with parmesan. We've had chicken cacciatore over angel hair. We've had hot roast beef sandwiches on organic sour dough bread with mayo, horseradish sauce, skinned red peppers (fresh, of course) with fresh coleslaw. We have had Spanish chopped beef with yellow rice, veggies and jalepenos. We have had Greek Moussaka with organic figs and olives on the side. We have had roast chicken thighs with yellow rice and stuffed zuccini from our garden. We have had four or five cucumber and lime salads with the cukes coming from our garden. We have had good ice cream, great coffee, and we have thanked the lord--insert any lord you believe in right here--for letting us eat so wonderfully and have sung, and prayed to make the same food available to everyone. There is enough to go around. I can invite 10 people and still have enough for 10 more.
And now our chickens are starting to lay eggs. Yikes! Do you guys see what we are eating? This is beyond fantastic. I hope you are all eating as well. And if you tell me who to cook for, I will cook for them too, okay. I do not mean to be selfish here.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Using Sapo/Kambo While Breastfeeding

Claims about Sapo/Kambo, the frog medicine that some indigenous apply to small burns in their skin to introduce it to the capillaries that carry it to the general blood stream are getting out of hand. People who use the medicine are shrouding it in nonsensical spirituality, and claiming it can cure damned near everything from rickets to rheumatoid arthritis. It is a miracle medicine, no doubt, based on the science of it--as first explored by the late great pharmacologist Vittorio Erspamer of the FIDIA Research Institute of the University of Rome--but it ain't gonna fix mom's bunions necessarily. One person recently told me they'd taken it to strengthen their umbilical cord as they were pregnant. She was in obvious pain and sure it would pass. I did not have the heart to tell  her it was an abortive and that she was having a slow miscarriage because of it. Yesterday someone claimed it was great to give to breastfeeding moms as it made their milk better. BULLSHIT! Who the hell would know that except a scientist who did a study and there have been no studies on that matter. I think it might be dangerous at the very least for a breastfeeding mom to use sapo. Here's what I wrote, being my political and politest best:
I do not think it is good for breast feeding women. The toxins that are released by the medicine are temporarily stored in fatty tissue until they can be eliminated and that includes breasts. Might some of those toxins make it into the milk and hurt the baby? Perhaps. And even if the toxins do not get into the milk (there have been no studies on this as yet) the medicine itself might. And while many of the peptides in sapo/kambo are bioactive, babies and small children do not have the developed receptor sites to receive them. So I would think a good practitioner would hold off on serving a breast feeding mom just as a precaution. If studies are done at a later date and show that I'm wrong, well, that would be a different matter, but without them I would not take the chance based on someone's personal claim.

Sunday, July 29, 2018

One more on the Matses and Nu-Nu use

Nu-Nu is a snuff the indigenous Matses use in conjunction, generally, with sapo, the frog sweat medicine burned into their arms. The nu-nu, as hunting tool, compliments the sapo in that the sapo fine tunes your vision and the nu-nu snuff brings out the hues and color values of the greenery of the jungle, so that instead of looking at a wall of green, it becomes very three-dimensional, allowing a hunger to look "through" the thick foliage to see animals they might want to hunt hiding in the greenery. It also makes you feel slightly drunk and after a failed hunt the hunters would often take copious amounts of it, and the more they did the more fantastic their stories--of the animals they almost got that day--became.
   Someone asked me if they could eat nu-nu and I had to say no, as the primary ingredient in it was wild tobacco, a very strong poison. Someone else responded that a Matses said they ate it for hunting. This was my reply, based on my experience:
Never heard of that. Now among the Bora and Aucaiño, they make an ibu coca that is activated with liquid extract of tobacco that is used like chewing tobacco and placed between the cheek and teeth. Some of that winds up being swallowed and they seem to survive just fine. But the tobacco content is small compared to the ibu-coca (jungle coca, not very strong) and is not nearly as high a dose as the Matses' nu-nu. And considering that when two hunters get together they might do 100 shots of it each, about 3-4 ounces per person over the course of a couple of hours, that would be, if eaten, like eating 3 or more ounces of pure tobacco, and you would be dead in certainly less than an hour. Unless you speak dialect, I would refrain from believing most of what the Matses say. The old ones who know things do not think in Spanish, so do not communicate very well in that language. The younger ones just try to tell you what you want to hear. Now the really old ones still communicate mostly telepathically, so language is not a barrier, but there are not 10 of those left in all of the nearly million hectares of Matses territory.

Friday, July 27, 2018

Someone asked me this question about sapo/kambo/the Matses

Someone asked me if the Matses used different parts of the body to elicit different effects from sapo, the frog medicine that's administered into small burns on your body. They were hoping I would say something like: Well, if your chacras were closed, they would.......bullshit. Here is how I responded, and it's only from my experience but I do have experience with them:
With the Matses back in 1985-2000, there was very little consideration of dot placement. Burns were universally on the upper left or right bicep for men, with the occasional exception of some young buck who insisted he get them across his chest, above the heart. That request was always met with laughter by the elders who thought it was ridiculous but would serve it that way on request. For small kids who were sick, it was given on the forearm, generally, to break a sweat. For women thought to be pregnant it was given on the inner wrist, just a touch. 
Later, during the first trimester, a very small amount was administered to the labia to provoke urination that the midwives would read to see if the embryo was male or female, healthy or not. And if it was a female they did not need, or if it was unhealthy, a second administration to the labia would produce an abortion. I was never invited to watch those female procedures, so I'm going on what I was told, not personal experience. 
There was absolutely no consideration as to where it would be stronger: ie, the chacras. The Matses used this as a utilitarian hunting medicine, sickness medicine, abortive. No ritual, no singing, no dancing, just apply and walk away and let the recipient deal with it while everyone else ate a tapir or boar or crocodilian. 
I still am with the Matses a full month a year and have never seen that differ. You are sick or lazy, need to abort, or are not hunting well, you are getting sapo, whether you want it or not. 
The best that can be said is that in true Pervian form, they laughed while you suffered. Same as if you broke a hip. They would just laugh and laugh and never for a minute consider your broken hip. 
Their world was a rough place. It's now gotten soft, what with having agriculture and iphones and electricity. In those days they were still stealing machetes, shotguns, women. Different world.

Saliva vs Water to Liquify Sapo/Kambo

People who use frog sweat medicine, known as kambo in Brazil and Sapo in Peru, have two distinct ways to moisten it for application. It needs moistening because after it is collected from the frog it is dried onto a small piece of hardwood until it has the consistency of varnish. To liquify it, Peruvian indigenous generally use saliva, while Brazilian indigenous are said to use water.
Someone has recently been challenging my position that the saliva helps break down the medicine so that it is more quickly absorbed into the subcutaneous layers of the skin (skin that has been burned with a piece of vine called tamishi), while using water to moisten it simply makes it wet. I used the example of putting a small piece of meat into a bit of saliva and waiting a few minutes: it begins to break down because of the enzymes in the saliva. The same little piece of meat (or veggie, or other things) in water just gets wet but does not begin to break down.
The person was having none of it, so I finally answered with this, which gets to a very good point but does so awkwardly, just because I didn't write it well. Anyway, he was my explanation:
The hard shell of  the medicine on the stickneeds to be broken down so that the medicine is moistened to the point where it can be absorbed. When you liquify it in water you wind up with little globules. Liquify in saliva and you wind up with a fully prepared paste that will get into the blood stream more quickly. Imagine if you just took a chunk of the medicine and put it on a burn: it would take forever for that to get absorbed. Now imagine good sea salt: put it on food and you have chunks of salt that take longer to break down than they do if you crush them. That's what I'm talking about. I have never seen the water method make the same quality paste as the saliva method, and in my book that makes it more quickly absorbed. The saliva does the same job on the medicine as it does with the food in your mouth: It begins breaking it into its component parts on contact for better absorbtion by your body.

Wednesday, June 06, 2018

Someone asked me and this is my answer

Someone asked me if I get excited about going to Peru twice a year. This is how I responded:
   You told me to ignore this, but now I see you asked a legit question. Do I get excited? I just finished a 1400 word piece yesterday for my newspaper, and I have a 4,000 word piece due Monday before I leave Monday night. Excited about Peru? While I am here I live here. I try to tighten up my life here--from garden to kids to animals and animal food and two months worth of bills paid, and then I go. And when I am in Peru I am not a dad, not an ex-husband,  not a grandpa. I'm Peter Gorman, Jungle guide and raconteur. They are two very separate worlds and it is a difficult crossing each time. I am expected to work magic both here and there and I know I cannot work magic  anywhere. No, I don't get excited, I get terrified that I will fail people who depend on me: While here I am terrified that I will fail my friends and family. While there I am terrified that I will fail people who come on the trips seeking healing that I might not be able to provide. YIKES!!!!!!!

Monday, June 04, 2018

Getting Ready to Leave, Lots to Do

Well, getting ready to head back down to Peru for 5 weeks or so. I've got two groups of seven and a couple of people in each group are friends who are returning, so they should be good allies for the trip. I think I've done just about everything I can think of: I've rented hotel rooms for the guests and got my old hotel, the Isabel, the oldest hotel in Iquitos, reserved for me. I've rented cabins on the riverboat, sent hundreds of dollars worth of goods up river, bought the supplies I need to bring, other than a couple of new shirts and sneakers for myself, and so I'm good to go.
   Where I'm falling short is here on the home front. I've got a story to finish today, then another one, a cover, to have done and edited by Monday, before I leave. I have more weeding to do in the garden, need to buy animal food for cats and dogs, birds and hummingbirds; need to get money to my family so that they'll have a little extra if they need it, need to pay my bills, two months each, and a host of other small things. So I'm feeling my blood pressure go up, but at the same time I know I got this if I just keep at it and do not falter. Plow ahead, Gorman. Chip away and the mountain will become a molehill. Of course, when that happens I'll notice there is another mountain behind the molehill, but I can chip away at that when I get there. Whew! Nervous, excited, cool.

Monday, May 28, 2018

The USA: Love it or Fix it

Somehow, my fb page had a conversation on it from some conservative types who were all touting that people complain about the USA but then enjoy its freedoms. They talked about how bad it is in other countries and if people don't like it here they should get the hell out. I had to respond, so I did. Here's what I wrote:
I don't know how this ended up on my page, but since it did, I have to tell you that there are dozens of countries that have the same and often more freedoms than we have here in the USA. And better economies, and better schools, better medical availability, and so forth. It's just a myth that we are the best. We're not any longer. And no, I'm not moving. My family is here an that makes this home. But the home, USA, could certainly use some improving in a lot of areas: How we treat immigrants--especially illegal immigrants--and asylum seekers; how we treat, mistreat, minorities; how we are in love with imprisoning people; how we like to make poor people grovel for the little bit of help we offer them in the way of food stamps or HUD housing; how we love to take from the middle class and give to the rich; how we care so little for the environment these days; how we deny science as a reality; how we love to bomb the shit out of other countries, and how we love to sell weapons to others so that they can do it too. The list of needed improvements is pretty extensive. Time to get to work on that.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Franks and Beans for Dinner

Franks and beans for dinner. Wanted something that would cook slowly and not take a lot of prep time because I have a garden to admire and some lawn to cut. So I decided on franks and beans. Started off with two nice short/fat slabs of salt pork in a bit of olive oil. Once that was good, tossed in more olive oil with lots of rough cut garlic, and a diced large red onion. Sizzling, I added 16 Ballpark beef franks, cut in half-inch pieces and browned them. Once that was good I diced four nice tomatoes; two from the vine, two Roma, and let them cook a while. Then I added a 32 ounce can of Bush's Original Baked Beans and a 32 ounce can of Texas' own Ranch Style Beans. Then a quart of organic vegetable stock.
Now I'm going out to do what I need in the yard and I've left the pot on at a "2", so it won't burn. When I come back I'll add some good mustard, cracked black pepper, sea salt if it needs it, some Heinz ketchup, Peruvian paprika, and then, when near done, a bunch of fresh cilantro, minced. If I need body I'll borrow half a beer from Devon and add that; if not, I'll just add more stock till it's spicy and rich.
I'll serve it topped with good smoked cheddar cheese over jasmine rice, and serve a side of broccoli and cauliflower florets in minced garlic and a bit of olive oil.
Papaya for dessert.
Nice Noble Vines 337 Cabernet on ice in an old pickle jar to help me get through the heat of the lawn mowing.
I hope you are all eating well tonight. I wish I could serve everyone in the world. Imagine if we had stoves that could feed 7 billion people, the cooks to do the cooking, the food to cook, the plates or leaves to serve it on, and the will to get it done. Wouldn't that be great? Have no one in the world going to be hungry because they had no food, or thirsty because they had no water. Ah, shit. This world sucks, but I got to keep trying to fix it, one post, one meal, one invite at a time. I don't know what else to do.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Shift of Perspective

Lately I've been indulging in self-pity. Pitiful. I'm too fat, my freaking back is locked up tight, I can't breathe well, I have too many stories to write before I leave town for two Jungle Jaunts in Peru. All that jazz. Fortunately, a friend started to straighten me out: he pointed out that with the wine I drink and the number of cigarettes I smoke, it's up to me to change or die.
So I cut back on both and will cut back further when I have the guts. For the back, I've been weeding the garden, painting, mowing lawn daily. Those things, coupled with a chiropractor every couple of weeks have loosened me up considerably. And helped me breathe better because I got to force myself to push that damned lawnmower over 5,000 feet of lawn daily in order to get the acre of grass cut every week.
And then this morning I woke up with lightning in my head. I had promised myself to get one of my stories in by tomorrow afternoon, but I've been slogging. Just no oomph! in the work. But this morning I woke with the idea that I should stop complaining. I got to change the way I'm looking at it: This isn't work. This is a chance, as an investigative reporter, to give voice to those who normally have no voices: In this case a huge population of women in Texas prisons and the treatment (lousy) they receive. What a gift to me to get to do that!
Ah, Gorman, what a self-indulgent old fart you are! Time to take the love, grab the gifts and kick some ass!

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Meant well, but going nuts

So I wanted to write a short and sassy piece about the left over food that's sitting on my counter as I prepare tonight's meal. I've got a bit of highly seasoned chopped meat that was used in an open burrito, something I think we used to call Nopalitas--feel free to correct me. That takes a heated tortilla. Put the well seasoned (cumin, garlic, onion, tomato, black beans) meat mix on the large tortilla. Grace with pico de gallo (diced onion, tomato, cilantro in fresh lime juice with a bit of salt and a touch of garlic oil), cover with cheese. Heat. When finished heating, adorn the open tortilla with sliced avocado--room temperature--sour cream, an lettuce or a Spring mix. Eat.
There is also a bowl of shrimp and clam pasta in a garlic clam/shrimp skin reduction. That, with good garlic bread, was fantastic.
Then there is the last piece of the Chicken Cordon Bleu--a half a chicken breast stuffed with good diced ham and swiss, breaded, sauteed, baked, and then covered with a mushroom Marsala sauce (basic white sauce with fresh mushrooms and Marsala wine). I was not happy with the quality of the Marsala wine but now I know better. Too thin, not what I would have used in the New York restaurants I ran. Still, that was a meal to drool over as the cheese oozed out with the ham into the sauce.
Then the barbeque: All that's left are some barbequed veggies: Broccoli, cauliflower, zuccini, yellow squash, corn on the cob, and onions that were par boiled (except for the onions), then soaked in an oil/white vinegar/teriyaki marinade that had lots of onions and garlic and black and red pepper in it. Then barbequed, of course. With the chicken, sausage, and the potato and egg salad (with mayo and a bit of white vinegar to give it a bite), it was a good barbeque.
So I wanted to write about that. But then I'm thinking about the damned Embassy in Jerusalem that Trump insisted on, and which lead to nearly 60 Palestinians being shot like fish in a barrel by the Israeli army--guys using sling shots are NOT a threat to the military, I don't care how scared you are!!!--and another 2400 wounded. And it continues today. Do not believe the lies. These poor Palestinians are being massacred say my friends on the ground over there.
Then we find that Trump decides to ignore the Chinese phone company's violation of the Iran and North Korea sanctions--which automatically disallows them from buying American parts they need--three days after the Chinese government backed a park that will bear the TRUMP name for $1/2 billion dollars, which will be matched with another $500 million from Chinese Banks. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Let's just (fill in the blank) the motherfucker or douse him in hot tar and feather his ass. How the freak am I supposed to write nice stories when so much horror is going on in the world, and so much of it is directly caused by the USA and Don Trump? Ivanka was doing a ribbon cutting ceremony while Palestinians were being slaughtered! Damnit.
I could go on but I'd probably have a heart attack, so I won't. Man, I cannot find anything worthwhile about this president. Everything is for him and his friends. That $20 a paycheck you got from the tax stuff was already eaten up by the highest gas prices in several years. We're at $2.66- to-$2.89 here in Joshua, Texas, generally the cheapest place to buy gas in the USA. When Trump came into office it was $1.89 and I was pissed off about that as it had been around $1.70 for most of the Obama administration and rarely went above $2.00.
Ah, I better stop. Sorry, my blood is just boiling with the greed and distain for life--from immigrants to pot smokers, to Palestinians, to Syrians, to people who need medicaid to pay for their old folks homes, people who need clean water and air, to damned near everybody who ain't fukkin' rich, that this administration shows.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

Sapo and food

Someone in a kambo page on FB recently noted that they were going to have their first encounter with frog medicine and they said they'd fasted for 12 hours, but wanted to know what else to do to prepare. I couldn't help be a wise guy and suggest two cups of coffee and an egg sandwich. Well, that threw some people off in a big way because in the Brazilian style of doing the medicine, which is called Kambo there, you normally drink a couple of liters of water after fasting, and then do the medicine with a concentration on vomiting and cleaning out the gut. Well, I had to explain myself, so I made an edit to my initial post suggesting that people look at a new post further down the page. Here is that post:
Explanation of gorman comment above: When I first used sapo and watched the Matses use sapo, it was still an epoch when few Matses had fields to speak of. They were serious hunters, aiming at bringing back about a kilo of meat per person per day. If a man had 4 wives and 20 children, that meant 25 kilos of meat, or about 60 kilos of animals hunted. That was not a monkey or a boar. It was 10 monkeys or two or three boars. Every day. So in my experience, the majority of sapo use occurred when a hunter's aim was a bit off. They would not have been able to explain it scientifically, but what they benefited most from in that regard was the combination of turning on the adrenal cortex and opening the arteries. The first allowed them an extra level of calm when hunting; the second provided more blood to their organs, sharpening their senses, including their eyesight, their sense of smell, their hearing,, all vital tools to hunting. Those elements also allowed them to run faster, longer, without tiring, and to stay out hunting longer without being thirsty or hungry. Vomiting when doing sapo was incidental at best. Yes, there was stomach cramping and a bit of bile might get eliminated, but no one in my experience ever did sapo for the purpose of stomach cleansing. That is apparently different among the Brazilian kambo users, where vomiting seems to be vital to the use of the medicine. So while I am being, or trying to be cute when I say to have "two cups of coffee, maybe an egg sandwich," what I really mean is that it never mattered to the Matses I knew. They simply did sapo when they wanted: Sometimes in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon, sometimes in the middle of a meal, sometimes after a meal. At a session in my home yesterday, one fellow had eaten some fruit, one fellow had had several cups of Yerba mate' and I had had two cups of coffee (half decaf) when we decided to do sapo. We did, no one threw up, all was fantastic cleansing, lots of sweating out toxins through the pores of the skin, and then afterwards we did several shots of nü-nü each to 1) finish up sharpening our eyesight to incredible levels, and 2) to eliminate any residual "drag" from the sapo toxin release. That style is just different from the kambo style with a focus on the gut. So sorry I was a wise guy, I guess I just wanted to draw attention to another way of approaching the medicine. And no, to be honest, I do not recommend a huge meal before sapo. That becomes very painful and is utterly pointless.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Remembering the Kent State Massacre

Unless I have my dates wrong, May 4, 1970 was the day that 4 unarmed college kids were gunned down by the Ohio State Guard at Kent State University for protesting the illegal bombing of Cambodia by the Nixon administration. Kids that were putting flowers in the rifle barrels of the National Guard. The Guard shot a total of 67 rounds, killing four, permanently paralyzing one and injuring, I think, 8 others. It is a day of infamy. A day of horror. Let us never forget or forgive. Let us stay ever vigilant against the powers that be lest they think they are actually the power, not we. Because we are the power that moves this country. WE are it. The corporations, the military, the administration, they are all just working for us at our disposal and whim. We can change them out in a heartbeat. They are our gardeners, nothing more. At Kent State, they thought they were the power and rained down on us. That must never happen again. That means Black Lives Matter, Kids' lives Matter, Your life Matters. Stay strong, stand tall, do not quiver.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Not for the Vegan-Hearted

Not for the Vegan-Hearted
The world is both a beautiful and terrible place. There is so much pain, so much unnecessary suffering, so much intentional infliction of suffering that it is overwhelming. I spend my days mostly doing investigative reporting in the Fort Worth area. That includes looking into private prisons and immigration--both intentional infliction of suffering on populations unable to protect themselves and having few rights by which to protect themselves. I also read about wars that I do not cover, and starvation caused by greed and all sorts of awful things.
By late afternoon I retreat to some red wine and then cooking food. I'm always willing to share the food with whomever shows up and I'm always happy when people show up for it. The wine is another matter: Better to bring your own if you want to have a glass.
The food here is always good, but sometimes there is a string of a few days when it's just mouth-watering. We just finished a couple of weeks of that. When a dozen friends came in from around the country two weeks ago I started with chicken parmesan and a side or two of veggies, after some nice homemade guacamole and good fruit. The next morning was baked eggs replete with lots of veggies and good bread. That evening we had a barbeque of marinated chicken thighs, marinated shrimp, sausage and tons of marinated barbequed veggies, including asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, onions, scallions, yellow squash and zuccini.
For a going away dinner for the crew my friend Mike made a crawfish boil with corn and potatoes, to which Chepa, my wife/ex-wife added a great ceviche and a mountain of yucca..
Next night, with only a few guest left, I made a baked bean dinner: garlic, onions, diced tomatoes, nicely seasoned; then some fat back bacon, then the really good beef franks cut into 1/2 inch slices. When all was sauteed to the right color, a couple of cans of good beans went in, to which was added mustard, some ketchup, cilantro. A lot of cheating in that recipe but it's the best darned franks and beans I know of, for real. Top it with a bit of cheddar when serving and you're in pig heaven.
Somewhere along the line I made an Uncle Clem's chicken--diced, sauteed chicken breast over a big bed of steamed broccoli florets, covered in a rich sauce then topped with mozzarella cheese and baked till the cheese is brown. Served over Jasmine rice.
We also snuck in lime chicken one night (chicken breaded with good crumbs mixed with parmesan cheese, sauteed, then baked with lots of fresh lime juice so that when you eat it your mouth squeals with delight), with spaghetti squash and sauteed spinach in garlic. Then we went light with hot roast beef sandwiches: fresh rosemary sourdough bread with a bit of mayonnaise popped into the oven till warm, then topped with rare roast beef, homemade coleslaw and swiss cheese. I think we served a side of a melange of broccoli, cauliflower, zuccini, tomatoes, and onions, all cooked in a bit of olive oil and lots of garlic.
Couple of days ago I was in the mood for lamb, so I made a variation on the Greek dish, pastitsio. Instead of using pasta, I covered the base of the baking dish with mashed new potatoes, topped that with lamb sauteed with onions, garlic and scallions and tomatoes, to which was added smoked paprika, cumin, a bit of curry, allspice, and a bit of this and that, which was topped with more mashed potatoes and then covered in a bechamel--a white sauce with parmesan cheese and nutmeg. The whole thing baked for about 30 minutes at 325, till the sauce was lightly browned. Man, that was good.
Last night was an old fashioned mac and cheese. I cooked fusilli cause I like the way the sauce sticks to the screw shaped rings of that pasta. For the cheese I used cheddar, swiss, some mozzarella I had laying around, some colby jack, parmesan. To that the yolks of three organic eggs was added to help keep it light. Also, to the cheese was added smoked diced ham sauteed in garlic and onions and tomatoes (I use that combo a LOT). It was topped with breadcrumbs and parmesan, then baked till brown.
I am sure I'm forgetting the roast pork dinner baked with potatoes and carroes on a bed of celery, onions, apples, and pears; the sauce espagnole I made over the course of two days (with no flour) that I added to several of the dishes; and plain old chicken wings.
I think there is plenty of good stuff left in the fridge, so don't hesitate. When you get here I'll be working on a new story that's due in two days. At least till late this afternoon, when it will be time to cut the grass, open a bottle of wine, and think about what I should make for dinner.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Sapo Note on Vaso Dilation

Someone was talking on a forum about the need to physically purge when doing sapo/kambo to get the desired effect of a good stomach and liver bile cleansing. To encourage that, a lot of practitioners have their clients drink a couple of liters of water half an hour before a sapo/kambo session. I disagreed. I said that among the indigenous Matses very few people purged and that in my experience forcing the medicine to work on one specific area might be to the detriment of it working on other areas. The example I gave was the clearing of plaque from arteries that would then allow more  oxygen to get to your vital organs, a very beneficial side of the sapo/kambo medicine.
    Someone liked that and asked which peptide in sapo specifically eliminated plaque. This was my response:
George: I'll have to refer to Vittorio Ersparmer's (late, great pharmacologist who worked with the Phyllomedusa bicolor frog that produces sapo/kambo) work to tell you which of the peptides acts as vasodilator. The example I use, and I hope it is a good one, is this: Let's say you are blowing up balloons for your kids and nieces and nephews and letting them fly around the room. Sooner or later one or two will drop behind the couch or what have you and no one retrieves it. A couple of months later someone cleans behind the couch and finds it and your kid asks you to blow it up for him/her again. Only problem is that the balloon is now all scrunched up and non-stretchy because the sugars and proteins in your breath when you were blowing it up previously have all dried and made that balloon no longer stretchable. So you stretch it by hand and those sugars slowly drop off--simply from the act of stretching--into the belly of the balloon and in a few minutes you've got a stretchy balloon again that you can blow up. The plaque in your arteries, or the feathering around your heart valves that can result in an irregular heart beat is a build up of things that eliminate the stretchyness of those arteries, or the smooth opening and closing of those heart valves. Introduce a high powered vaso dilator that blows those arteries open a bit and that plaque will simply fall off into the blood stream and later get eliminated. Same with the feathering of goop that can build up around heart valves. So while Ersparmer did not talk about a peptide that officially eliminated plaque he did talk about the burst of vaso dilation (leading to a temporary drop in blood pressure) that I think would be the equivalent of you stretching out that dried up balloon and causing the sugars to drop off the inside of the elastic skin. Make sense?

Friday, April 20, 2018

Visiting the Matses

Someone wrote on FB that they are in Iquitos and want to visit the indigenous Matses. I wrote this, then decided not to put it up, because while meant to deter people, it will probably only encourage them. But since you guys ain't going anywhere, I don't see the harm in posting it here.
Natasha: First, you need to get in touch with the military and see when their next plane is going to Angamos. Get on it. Get to Angamos, a military base, and there is a Matses camp nearby. Don't forget to get chacira, a couple of kilos. Those are Chezhoslovakian seed beads, made from glass. They love those. Rarely sold in Iquitos. Then, unless you want to stay in the dire community near Angamos, you'll need someone to rent you a peque-peque and someone else to sell you gasoline, which they don't always have there. When Angamos is dry, the few people who have some gas might charge you $30 a gallon, and you might need at least 50 gallons. Be prepared. Them the boat owner will take you up the river to a village of very westernized Matses. They will likely charge you to visit. Just a hundred or two for a day or so. You will probably need to bring your own food: They might have a little for you, they might not. Do not expect that by paying a hundred or two hundred and giving each member of the village some seed beads that you will be invited to stay overnight. Mostly they just want your gifts and then want you gone. I could go on. At least they won't shoot arrows at you as you approach anymore. But these are not tourist injuns. These are people who generally do not want outsiders in their camps. That becomes more true the further up either the Yakirana or Galvez you go. Some people have been lucky and made friends with village headmen, but not many. Outsiders are a drain on their communities for the most part, which is why they're not very welcome, or welcome for only a day or two at a camp, essentially while your presents for them last. And they will want presents every day or twice a day, so be sparing with those seed beads. Ruber Castillo and Jhonny Java can get you in for a few days but will cost you. Ask for them at El Noche restaurant on the boulevard. But this is expensive, no fooling, and is still only for a few days, tops.

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Tired of Stupid

A friend of mine, one who swears she is not either Dem or Repub, sometimes posts things on fb that blow my mind. When I call her on it she says she's just reposting interesting things. I tell her that spreading hateful things spreads hate, whether interesting or not. Yesterday, I told her I was done with her. She posted a meme that compared Hitler to Liberals. It said things like: Take away guns, and noted both groups wanted to; "pro Abortion" and both groups wanted to. And so forth. I went nuts emotionally. Today I reconsidered and thought that if I was speaking with her directly, I would explain that a man who ordered and controlled the systematic killing of 6 million Jews, another half million Catholics, half million gays, was not the same as a present day liberal who wants poor kids to have free breakfasts at school so that they can learn with a clear, not starving, brain. I would tell her that the use of pro abortion is a misnomer: People who are for a woman's right to choose when she has a baby are pro-life.They want a baby born at the right time to the right person. They do not want a baby born to parents who do not want it. And then, of course. the people who are anti-liberal are cutting funding for things like day care and school breakfasts, and after school programs, making it harder for the poorest people to maintain jobs and raise kids. So I was emotionally upset yesterday. Today I just want to say that if anyone I know thinks that liberals wanting kids to have breakfast and after-school programs, mental health availability, low cost day care, equal pay for women, good union jobs, health care for all and so forth, are the equivalent of Hitler, then please unfriend me. Cause you know what? I'm done with you and your stupidity. You're taking up too much of my precious life. I'll meet you again when you come around to being human.

Wednesday, April 04, 2018

The Secret Power of Nü-nü, the Matses' snuff

Nu-nu, a snuff used by the indigenous of the border area between Brazil and Peru near the Alto Yakirana, is a hunting tool that is used in conjunction with sapo, a frog medicine that is applied to the subcutaneous layers of a hunter's skin. Nu-nu adds a dimension of visual aid and calmness that improves hunting ability among people who depend on hunting to eat. Someone asked me about it and I responded from my experience, dating back to 1985 with the Matses, and 1986 with the Matses and nu-nu.
While other indigenous groups make several types of snuffs, the Matses generally only make nü-nü, which is made from the inner bark of the cacao tree (reduced to ash), mixed with nicotiana rustica (what was wild tobacco but is now grown). Part of its strength is that it is always made by two hunters, who each impart some of their spirit into the medicine. When administered traditionally--at least in my experience--among people who depend on hunting to eat, it is always the best hunters who administer it, so that the recipient is getting spirit from three separate hunters along with the actual snuff. (Unless the receiver is also one of the makers of the medicine, of course.) The hunters' spirits make for better hunters; the medicine makes for better eyesight, a sharpened sense of accuracy, a steadier hand on the bow and arrow. The cacao in the medicine relaxes the hunter so that he is not tense when hunting, which will affect the trajectory of the arrow. The visionary effects of the tobacco will allow--in large quantities, say 20 1/2 grams in each nostril over the course of half-an-hour, to have visionary prescience as to where animals can be best hunted the following day. Crazy, right? But real and real magic stuff.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Tired but good

Getting tired. In the last week or so, two bridges over the creek painted with three coats--some to go on the big one--10 foot by 18 foot--but looking good. Friends finished the chicken coop redo and bought 14 chicks and two ducks today. Three huge loads of junk off to the dump--including a broken foosball table and a broken air hockey table that were family christmas presents when I was really broke and couldn't buy the kids individual big things, along with a rat-eaten weight bench set that the kids bought me one year. Plus old chicken wire, empty bottles, unidentifiable pieces of waterlogged tables and chairs that sat too many winters outdoors. New small patio finished on the office out back, which over looks the garden we're putting in tomorrow, as well as the seasonal creek and the chicken coop up on the hill. Office spotless as well and outfitted with a new chair/couch. Hay bought for the coop; organic hummus for the garden; roto-tiller rented and ready to go; baby chick feed in a nice new container, rat poison under the flooring in the coop house. Lawn needs mowing. I've had a lot of help, but I am both tired and broke. Ah, ain't life grand!!!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Details of my Sapo Training Course

Someone asked me about my sapo course: Time, cost, what is involved in the training. Since I don't know that I've ever written it down, well, here it is.
Training is 10 days. Cost is $1500; if you stay at my house and I have to cook and clean, it's an extra $500. We eat well. Alternative, if you don't have a friend nearby, is a motel/rental car down the road two miles. Nice, clean rooms. My house is a relative steal if I have room available when you train. Details: First couple of days there are sort of long talks about the medicine, issues that come up with clients, the history, that sort of thing. By day 3 we're into more specifics and so some days there is an hour of talk; some days maybe not much.
In terms of medicine, there is a lot: Day one: One burn. Day two: two burns, first nu-nu if you want to learn that as well (no extra charge; no discount without it). Day 3: Three burns, and nu-nu. Day 4: 3 burns morning, 3 burns afternoon. You do your own afternoon burns, plus you burn me and whoever else is is the house, one burn each. Day 5: 3 morning, three afternoon, plus nu-nu, plus burn me, plus give me nu-nu. Day 6: repeat day 5, with more pain because you will be getting tired of being whipped by the medicine. Day 7: Kambo style application in the morning. Smaller burns, mixed with water, drinking water before medicine to facilitate vomiting. Day 8-9, I will call in several people each day for you to serve. I will supervise but let you run your show and quietly critique you. I will also act as your assistant on those two days.
You will also be serving nu-nu to those who want it, and will be expected to tell me what to buy to make certain that everyone has access to fast sugar (oranges), electrolytes (Limes/sea salt), and plenty of water for rehydration. I will buy the stuff or we can do it together, but I will expect that you will know what you need, top-to-bottom from your first week's experience.
You will be expected to know when people are allowed to leave--they've got to be fully back together--and if someone needs two extra hours, you will be expected to give them that. It's certainly something you will come up against regularly in your practice.
Day 10: A written exam. 25 questions, short essay answers. You can use my book or a computer or your class notes with me as much as you like: It is not a test to trick you but a test to make certain you have grasped enough to be able to answer the questions your clients will have. You are welcome to leave after day 9 and do the test at your leisure if you like.
If I left out anything, let me know.
Overall, you will be expected to do enough medicine that none of your clients will be able to BS you and tell you the big amounts they've done because you will have done 7 days, with three of those double days, more than most people have ever done in a month. You will be expected to know how to serve both sapo and nu-nu; sapo style and kambo style, and handle emergencies with aplomb. You will know who not to serve and why they can't be served. You will understand the need for an assistant for groups of three or more. You will be able to answer questions your clients have or know where to find the answers. Good?
And then , when you leave, you will get one fresh stick of sapo, and the remainder of the stick(s) you worked with. That will be more than enough medicine to repay the cost of the entire cost and then some--you will find you will get 25 or so (often more) people on a single stick. And you will have me to call when you run into things that throw you off. No limit to the help you can ask--I mean, reasonably ask. I want you out there helping people gloriously. That's what I am aiming for with this course.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Bordering on the Obscene. What my dog, Boots, the Wonderdog, is eating tonight, is crazy.

I'm tired of the leftovers in the fridge. None of them are more than three days old, but with just my friend Devon and me to eat them, they will be old soon--my daughter is away at college so she cannot help--and then they are garbage. So Boots has sliced chicken breast and shrimp (Under 15s, so they are huge) with some veggies. Then he has a half a prime rib that a guest brought on Sunday. Then he has about a pound of roast beef with potatoes, broccoli and pan gravy to mix it all together. Hell, cheapest meat on the table is the air cooled organic chicken breast at about $9 a pound. Dang if that boy doesn't eat well sometimes.
Me and Devon? We saved what was left of the corned beef and cabbage for tomorrow, and tonight I'm making thick cut pork chops stuffed with spinach sauteed with garlic and shallots, mixed with fresh smoked mozzarella and parmesan, breaded, seared, baked, and served with good saurkraut (always cook for an hour or two, add vinegar, good black pepper, pan juices) and small red potatoes: boiled then seared in the pork chop pan juices. Gravy will be made with those same juices and include sliced pears and apples just to blow our taste buds out of the water.
I hope you all are eating well tonight. I hope everyone in the world gets something good to eat tonight. That I know there are hundreds of millions who will not eat well, who do not even have drinking water, makes me want to lash out. I know that if people would just stop being afraid--afraid that they won't have enough, afraid that they won't seem important, afraid that no one will share with them, hell, afraid of everything, then we could/would all share and there would be enough for everyone. End of world strife in 10 freaking minutes.
Anybody who is hungry who reads this, I'm sure there is something good for you to eat if you stop by. Please do not stand on ceremony.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

Why Would Anyone Need Sapo/Kambo Training?

Someone on a social media platform asked me what I thought of people being trained in kambo --frog sweat -- medicine by an organization called IAKP which has been training people in the medicine use for several years now. They suggested that indigenous kids just get the medicine a couple of times and are good to use it on themselves and others. This was my response:

I do not have any direct experience with IAKP, but have met some of their practitioners and they appear well trained. I know that when I occasionally train people -- and I don't know where I get the right to do that other than wanting people to use the medicine in a careful and positive fashion -- it is not at all similar to someone being brought up in an indigenous culture that depends on the medicine for hunting, for eliminating the grippe, and so forth. Those kids are around the medicine from birth, just like they are around the jungle from birth and so are at home with it without any need for formal training. But then you take a kid from Whitestone, Queens, New York, like me and put me in the jungle and I need lots of training to be able to survive well out there. I think the same applies to sapo/kambo training. 
Yes, a person can just use it once or twice and then give it to other people, but what happens when something goes wrong? What happens when you allow a guest to walk, unattended, to a bathroom and they black out and hit their head on a counter top? Or wind up with their head in a bad position and start to vomit and then choke and panic? What do you do when someone absolutely freaks out on taking the medicine? There are so many things to learn to use the medicine in our cultures that it is impossible to compare the learning to indigenous culture learning. I have guests who need two or three hours to come together again after a session, and other guests who are good to go 20 minutes after initial application. How do you judge when to give them back their car keys and let them drive off? 
I am not a believer in shrouding the medicine in a whole lot of mysticism and pomp theatrics, but I do sing people into the first four or five minutes of the experience to help them go into it gently -- as you all know it's darned abrupt!!! So while I do not know the IAKP directly, I think that training people to the things to be aware of prior to serving others, is probably a good thing. And I do not know what they charge, but if they are giving you 10 days or two weeks' attention, well, someone has to get paid to do that. That is a lot of work.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

New -- Old -- Car. Get Lucky Sometimes

Get Lucky Sometimes. Couple of weeks ago a friend called to say she had a friend who had a sister who had a mother who was going to move into assisted living and she had an old car she wanted to sell for two hundred bucks. Would I want it? My first thought was "Of course not. I've got my truck with the beautiful new engine that my son Italo built, my second truck that's nearly back on the road, and no, I don't need no more stinking clunkers around here."
I didn't say that, of course, because the woman who was bringing the car to my attention is a really cool friend and I didn't want to offend. So I said I'd take a look.
Day came to take a look and I really didn't want to drive the 35 miles to the place where the car was, but I was committed, so I let my friend and her husband drive me there. We were nearly at Lake Granbury, where the car was, when my friend got a call from her friend that the car was not available to be seen because the sister and her husband were currently using it and were in town and wouldn't be back for an hour. Cool. I was ready to head home. My friend, however, insisted we go and wait it out to take a look.
We were visiting with my friend's friend when the car pulled up. It was so quiet that I did not hear it pull up behind me. When I turned to it I was fairly amazed: it was a 1999 Crown Vic, silver, high polish, not a mark on it. I took it for a ride: 83,000 miles, original owner, smooth as glass. Leather upholstery, faux wood highlights on the dash, AC and heat worked beautifully, radio was really good, and it had an opening to play casettes. Cigarette lighter worked. Spotless inside. I double checked the price: I mean, right off the bat it was worth $2 grand, easy. No, $200 was the price.
I said I'd buy it after I drove it for 30 minutes. It easily jumped to 55, then 75, and oops, 90 without anything more than a purr from the engine. Unreal. The sister and her husband needed it for a couple of days, and when I went back to pick it up I saw that they had changed the oil, filled the tank, included a few hundred bucks worth of tools and roadside reflective jackets and such.
I got it home, then took out my truck for shopping. I felt the clutch slip. It got worse quickly. So I got the car on the perfect day when I needed it. My son Italo will have a new clutch and a slave cylinder in place in my truck this week sometime. Meanwhile I'm driving a pimp car. Thanks to my friends, their friends, the mom, and the universe. I just get really lucky sometimes. I hope you all get lucky today too.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

Cooking Duck Breasts

Just something to make non-vegetarians drool. I bought three large duck breasts today. I've scored them into diamonds on the fat side, not touching the meat. Then I threw 6 small red potatoes, cut into quarters, into salted water to par boil them. They'll come out in two minutes; they will be drained, then go into a ceramic saute pan that my daughter just bought me with diced sweet red onions, diced fresh garlic and olive oil.
While they are cooking I will saute the duck breasts, fat side down, for 7 minutes or so, after salting them with good pink sea salt, and peppering them with good rough ground pepper, in plain olive oil. After seven minutes I'll turn them meat side down, add quartered scallions, long sliced red pepper, sliced--not diced--onion and garlic, and put them into the oven at 325 for another 7 minutes or so. Then I will pull all of that and put it on a plate. I will take some of the duck grease and add it to the quartered potatoes and onions to finish them, put on a pot to make nice steamed asparagus, and in the duck breast pan I will add balsamic vinegar, fresh basil and a pint of fresh, organic raspberries. I'll add organic vegetable stock as needed until the raspberries have become a sauce. Then I'll serve the duck breast over a bed of sauteed spinach, top it with the raspberry-basil-balsamic vinegar sauce, and serve the potatoes and asparagus on the side. Bon appetite! Worth the pain, for sure. We all deserve a treat once in a while. But while you're buying those expensive duck breasts, don't forget to give some money to the local food bank, because not everybody gets to eat duck breast. Some people just need tuna. So give what you can, but still enjoy an occasional luxurious meal. At least that's how I'm justifying it to myself!!!!!

Monday, January 15, 2018

Leaving for Peru

I LEAVE FOR PERU FOR 5 WEEKS, TWO TRIPS INTO THE JUNGLE WITH GUESTS, TOMORROW. SO TONIGHT WAS A NIGHT TO CLEan out the fridge. My wife/ex-wife Chepa is here with her two new beautiful kids, Alexa and Sierra. A friend, Corrina is here, My daughter in law Sarah is here with her two kids, Taylor Rain and Teigan Gray, and my two older sons, Italo and Marco will be here soon. My daughter Madeleina and her boyfriend Adrian are here as well. What that means is I had to cook to a lot of different palates and I was determined to do it with what I had, rather than buying more that would rot while I am in Peru. So the MenU:
Romaine salad with baby tomatoes and vinagrette;
Cucumber salad with lime
Then: Thick sliced pork chops baked with saurkraut. Topped with a fantastic homemade gravy.
White rice with garlic.
Yellow rice.
Manicotti with three cheeses and two sauces;
Burritos from last night with pulled pork, chicken, avacodo, spicy black beans, pico de gallo, sour cream, good cheddar and a couple of things I am forgetting;
Prime rib sauteed to medium rare with onions and mushrooms and a touch of red wine;
Roast chicken in Lemon sauce;
Everyone has eaten but me. There is nothing left of the seven pounds of meat and two pots of rice or manicotti or burritos.
I guess that leaves me with the rocky road ice cream.
I'm down with that.
The fridge is nearly cleaned. Time to go to Peru and have a fantastic adventure. See you all in 5 weeks. Stay strong.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Easiest Recipe in the World. HA!

Easiest recipe in the world. HA! So my daughter, Madeleina, and her friend Adrian brought home some fantastic soft tortillas.
"Dad, if you don't want to cook tonight, let's just have tortillas, okay?"
"Ok, Madeleina, no sweat."
I was lying, of course. While I had some of the ingredients, I needed a few, so hopped to the store for fresh cilantro, chicken thighs, a fat pork chop with the bone in. Came home, opened a can of good black beans, then put minced onion and garlic in olive oil in a small pot. When ready I added diced Roma tomatoes, then added the beans. 20 minutes later I added chopped cilantro, achiote, white vinegar. Turned down heat, let simmer for an hour.
While that started, I washed and dried the chicken thighs, rubbed them down in garlic and olive oil, then seasoned with cracked black pepper and pink sea salt. Put in to bake at 325 (last 20 minutes raise to 390 to get crisp skin).
Started rice with garlic and olive oil, added water when ready, and salt, then added Jasmine rice when all was boiling.
Put on a small fry pan, high heat. Washed the chop, dried it, floured it, seasoned it with a bit of olive oil and pepper, seared it, then tossed the pan into the oven next to the chicken pan.
Cooked ingredients on, I chopped tomato, onion, cilantro and then mixed in the juice of three good limes with a bit of salt and pepp and a touch of garlic to make my pico de gallo.
When that was done I set it aside, added achiote (to make yellow rice) and smoked paprika from Peru to the rice, then resealed.
I got a good avocado, cleaned and sliced it.
I opened a container of sour cream,
I shredded part of a bar of good sharp cheddar cheese, our preference around here.
An hour later, everything done and cooling, I turned one of the burners--electric stove, so flat glass top-- on high, and one by one heated the soft tortillas on it, turning them once or twice. Burned three fingers, but browned those tortillas just right. Was looking at 20 minutes of cleaning that glass top in the morning.
Set out a baking dish. In each tortilla I put either some chicken or pulled pork, a bit of black beans, a bit of rice, pico de gallo, sour cream, avocado, then shredded cheese.
Rolled them up, one by one. Tossed them into a 325 oven. While they were in there I made nice salad and plated it on the three plates.
Mdeleina came in from an apparent nap just as I was pulling out the tortillas.
"They look great, dad! All you need is a little sauce on top and they're done. Isn't it great not to have to cook sometimes?"
Ha. I didn't say a word. She'll be a mom some day and I will tap her on her shoulder from the great beyond and say: "Isn't it great not to have to cook sometimes?"

Friday, January 12, 2018

A primer on the self-applicatio of Sapo or Kambo

A primer on the self-application of Sapo. Same would apply for Kambo, except that you would drink water beforehand and mix the medicine with water and not saliva.
Prior to starting, get two grocery bags, double them up and line them with paper towels to use in case you vomit. A bucket will do as well.
Get a glass of room temperature water and keep it nearby.
Have a friend nearby to help you to the bathroom or to keep your head straight in case you black out. If you black out with your neck in a bad position and then suddenly vomit, you will find your self choking. Best to have a friend keep an eye on you.
Take the stick and put it on a hard, flat surface.
Wash your mouth out with water after cleaning with a tooth brush. We want clear saliva, not old spit.
Get a good knife with a hard blade--a steak knife will bend and cause you to lose sapo medicine, while a hard blade will all you to chip the medicine into the saliva cleanly
Pick a corner of the stick that is free from medicine. Put a bit of saliva on your finger and place it on that clear spot. If no clear spot, place it on the medicine, but not more than the size of your pinky nail.
Wait a moment, then begin to loosen up the medicine beneath the saliva. The medicine is deeper than it looks, so you can go deeper than you think.
Work the medicine into the saliva gently, chopping it up, making sure the material is bump/clump free. When done properly it should have the texture of moist wasabi mustard.
Take your tamishi vine and light one end of it. Hold the lighter to it until it is fully red at the tip. If need be you can suck the other end of the tamishi like smoking a cigarette to get it evenly hot, You do not want any uneven coloring on the tip.
When it is bright red, apply to your upper left or right bicep, or lower leg or ankle if that is your preference. Hold for about 1 second, then pull away.Until you know the strength of this particular stick you should start with one burn You can do more tomorrow, but you cannot undo it once you apply, so caution is the word, always.
Scrape off the burned skin to make it a clean wound.
Double check the medicine for moistness--dry is not good, so if you need a bit more saliva or water, add it.
Apply the medicine to the wound with the tip of your knife, covering the wound entirely.
Put the knife down and put the stick out of reach of anyone who might enter the room,
You will begin to flush after 15 seconds
At about one minute your head will heat up, your heart rate increase, your pulse will increase.
The increase will continue for 8-10 minutes.
If need be, get on your hands and knees.
If, at any point your head feels very hot, pour a bit of the water over it and gently rub it into your scalp and temples to lower your temperature.
At about the 8 minute mark you will feel your stomach cramping and might vomit or need to evacuate. If you need to go to the bathroom you should have a friend help you. You might think you can walk the few steps but a lot of people feint and fall and that can be dangerous.
At about the 11 or 12 minute mark you will have peaked and will feel your heart rate slowing.
At 14-17 minutes the acute period of the medicine is done.
Carefully wipe the medicine from your arm to prevent you from scratching it and then wiping your eye--which really hurts.
The ordeal over, you might need to rest for a little while--some people need an hour or two, some people are raring to go almost immediately--or you might need water for dehydration, or a lime for electrolytes, or an orange for quickly available sugar. Have all three on hand for each experience.
NOTE: Some people wind up with what we call a frog face: Soft tissue under the eyes and the lips swollen badly. This will vanish within an hour in most cases, though now and then it can last a day. It is nothing to be frightened of: it is an indication that so many toxins have been released for removal that your kidneys are backed up and the toxins take short term residence in soft tissue. It is generally the face, but can also be the genitals, under your arms, etc. It will disappear as those toxins get flushed.
In the aftermath of the experience, you might discover that your urine is orange or green or smells like you had two pounds of asparagus last night. Your bowel movement might be particularly black and different in consistency than normal. Again, do not worry about this: It's just the toxins being flushed, and things will soon return to normal.
Make certain that your stick is dry--no trace of the saliva left--before putting it away. Keep in cool dark place, wrapped in newspaper. Always keep out of the range of children, who might see the shiny medicine as something sugary and lick it,, or simply touch it and get some on their fingers which then might get transferred to their eyes.
Never serve to a pregnant woman as sapo/kambo can cause abortions.
Never serve to a lactating woman as the medicine OR the toxins being released by the medicine for elimination might end up in the milk used for breastfeeding.
Never serve to someone or take yourself when high on other drugs, though few prescription drugs present a problem.
Doing sapo when drunk will kick your ass in a huge way. Don't test it.
Always err on the side of caution. You can do more tomorrow. You cannot do less once it has been applied.

Friday, January 05, 2018

2018 Trips to the Jungle

Ladies and Gents, Adventurers of All Ages!
Okay all you people who want a bit of adventure in your lives: Here are the dates for my trips to the Amazon this year. I have a few slots open for January; several open for February, and have just started booking June and July. The trips are kept small, purposefully as I don't really like large groups. So 12 is the limit. Here is the pitch. Take a swing. Just might be an important event in your life.
January 2017
Saturday, Jan 20, through the morning of Monday, Jan 29
February 2017
Saturday Feb, 3, through the morning of Monday, Feb 12
June 2017
Saturday, June 16, through the morning of Monday, June 25
July 2017
Saturday, July 7, through the morning of Monday, July 16
Looking for a dozen intrepid seekers for each of the Jaunts. Looking for people who want to see and be in deep Amazon jungle; people who want to experience ayahuasca and the Matses’ medicines Sapo and Nu-nu in their natural settings; people who don’t mind dirt under their fingernails if they get it because they were walking in high canopy jungle or in a primordial swamp or collecting wild foods or even making clay pots. I’m looking for people who want to collect the medicines they’ll use and watch their preparation, people who would rather participate than observe and be served. I want a small group of curious people, humans interested in their personal growth, in the spirit world, in the Northwest Amazon as it is today but may not be tomorrow. I want people who see bathing in the beautiful Aucayacu river as an opportunity, not as a poor substitute for a hot shower; people who view the chance to eat a few local magic mushrooms while traveling overnight on a flat-bottomed river boat on the Amazon as a once in a lifetime thrill, and see night canoeing in dugouts while searching for medicine frogs a rare and wonderful opportunity. In other words, I want anyone who sees living as a bit of a risk but one worth taking.
And if you join, my team—which will outnumber the guests—and the medicines and the jungle and the rivers and I will all work our collective asses off to give you something you’ll hold onto for a very long time. The medicines will astound you, the people will thrill you, the jungle will amaze you. So what are you waiting for? Drop me a line at or head over to the website for more info, photos, and an idea of the trip itinerary and costs.