Monday, December 31, 2007

Just Thinkin About New Year's Eve

Hello all. Just thinking about New Year's Eve. Here in bucolic Joshua, Texas--just 12 miles south of south Fort Worth and 23 miles from the nearest place where you can buy a drink of whiskey--it's 6:16 Pm. Long past Australia's New Year's celebration but long before New York's.
And wouldn't it be fun to be in New York tonight. I used to take the kids and Chepa to Central Park around 10:30 PM and we'd make our way to 96th street or so for the 10K midnight champagne run and Fireworks's display. I could never do the run but I sure did enjoy the champagne. Then we'd come home, wintery cold, and I'd make cocoa and Toll House cookies. And we'd watch a movie and that was one great night.
Here in Joshua, I've gotten into the habit of buying fireworks. Not cherry bombs or ash cans--just loud and dangerous and their six-second fuses were often enough only 4 seconds, leaving a lot of friends of mine with half-fingers where they used to have whole ones--but lots of roman candles and rockets and artillery shells: the beautiful shells that explode 200 feet overhead in multi-colors and noise and make your neighbors call up to say "You woke me up, you son of a bitch. Nice one!"
And we blew a couple of bucks on the same this year. Gonna be fun if nobody gets hurt.
And I'm making a steak in the next hour. Big steak. Felt like being a pig and I am already apologizing to god and the cow. This is a four pound chuck steak, Angus, that I'm slicing in half and cooking like a t-bone. And while the T-bone has a certain magic from it's buttery-ness, the good chuck has a flavor that cannot be beaten in a pan sear. It's just that well-marbled. To go with it there is spinach, carrots, sliced potatoes, fresh beans, sliced tomatoes sauteed in a bit of olive oil and then topped with grated parmesan, fresh black pepper and a touch of fresh basil, and the de rigeur Peruvian asparagus steamed then cooked lightly in a mix of olive oil, a touch of butter and balsamic vinegar.
It's mostly veggies but I'll still gain a pound. Oh, well.
So what happened this year? Anything worthwhile? I think so. I'll stay out of politics, as I make my living discussing that. and I get tired of it--mostly because I'm not enough of an Alpha Male to change the world. But on personal notes? I've had a new niece born, who is beautiful. And healthy. My son Italo is playing on a soccer team as good as you get before signing with the pros. My second son, Marco, graduated high school and has a job and a girlfriend. And while we occasionally step on his used condoms, she's not pregnant. My baby Madeleina reached 10 and thinks like a 30-year old.
Sierra, my ex-wife Chepa's baby, is nearly two-years-old and fantastic. More than that, I'm in love with her and get to spend a bunch of time with her. And while that can only end in disaster for my heart, I'll live with it. A few years ago Ayahuasca finally taught me that you must take the love when it's offered. So I'll take this beautiful baby's love and when it's gone, when mom is gone with the baby, she and I will have had a good time together, rather than me running away in fear that my heart would be broken. Thanks for that lesson, Ayahuasca.
(Ayahuasca is a medicine from the jungle that I've been using to learn things from for two-and-a-half decades. You'd think, if life were fair, that after 25-years I'd be a master. Turns out that after 25-years of study they're finally letting me into the first grade!!!!!)
And this year too I got a lot of love from my baby Madeleina, now 10. More than I deserve but I'll take it all. Thanks white light or god or spirits or all of you. And thank you, Madeleina.
And thank you Skunk Magazine for giving me a column, Drug War Follies, that allows me to spout off on the wrongheadedness of the Drug War. And thank you Marc Emery, owner/publisher of Cannabis Culture, for having the bravery to face extradition to the US for selling cannabis seeds to US undercovers who entrapped you illegally with all of the elegance and decency with which you are facing that extradition and possible life-sentence here in the criminally wrong US. You are a lesson to us all.
And thank you Fort Worth Weekly to allow me to ply my trade of investigative journalism week after week. I hope I have helped settle a few scores, stopped a few bad men, overturned a few bad decisions and made some people rethink their political positions on a few issues.
On the other hand, for those of you I've hurt, forgive me. I'll try to do better. For those of you who have cheated me this year of more than $50.000, money I for once thought I had earned, I forgive you. But don't do it again, guys, cause I'm not going to be so forgiving the second time. Take that to the bank.
For you, Gasdalia, who wanted me despite being an old fat white guy with a completely broken stomach, thank you. I was embarrassed to shower for my appearance and yet you made me feel like I wasn't repulsive. You made me feel loved. Thanks.
For all my workers who put up with being cheated by me when I was cheated by others and couldn't do the trips I promised, thank you for remaining loyal. We'll do better this year.
And for all of you readers who have taken the time to read this blog--time you could have surely spent better elsewhere--thank you for allowing me to feel like I was part of your family.
Thanks for letting me saddle up to the bar and have my say.
I hope that all of you, and all of the people and animals and vegetation of this world, somehow manage to have a wonderful, wonderful New Year.
Thanks, everybody. I'd much rather be alive than not. Thank you from my heart.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Ayahuasca Plant Spirits

On a board I occasionally post on, a new member recently asked about adding things like ginger, St. John's Wort and maple syrup to ayahuasca while he was brewing it. Reactions from the board members who responded were pretty harsh. First off, St. John's Wort is not a good thing to utilize with ayahuasca because of possible serious physical complications from the chemical combination of the substances. But more than that, the board members were slightly upset with a new member simply tossing things out there: the question seemed filled with arrogance.
I posted a long and arrogant answer of my own, then immediately deleted it.
The new member then started a new and self-centered thread asking whether his questions would be answered by other members of the board or simply ignored. Two hours later he decided his questions wouldn't be answered and was feeling sorry for himself.
So I answered him. This is the answer I gave, and re-reading it, I think it might have enough merit to post it here. I hope you don't mind.

Have you got a question to ask?
In your first post, at least the first I read, you asked about admixtures that might be included when making ayahuasca. I wrote a good, long post, and then deleted it. Who am I, after all, to give advice? (My advice was to take one kilo of caapi; 1/4 kilo of chariponga or chacruna; an ounce or so each of the bark of the catawa, lupuna negro and chiri caspi trees, crush and separate all bark, put in 5 gallons of water, simmer or boil for five hours while chanting over it and blowing smoke from black tobacco into it; strain, save, repeat with same material; strain. Add both strains, reduce to 2 ounces and drink.)
But others answered your question well: St. John's is not good as a rule with ayahuasca. If you're a curandero and discover good ad mix plants--which will generally be good for specific things--then fine. But if you or anyone is just trying to make a strong brew, make the brew I just suggested. It's pretty standard per person in the amazon, out on the river. 20 People? 20 kilos of caapi.
On the other hand, that's generally strong enough that I recommend you have a real curandero there overseeing things. It is not something most people could handle at home alone.
I think the answers to your question came to this: Don't play with this stuff. Don't think you should make it stronger until you've a teacher who knows who tells you so. The spirits, the souls, the life force, of these plants are very very powerful. You've got to know that. And to imagine that you might add a little of this or a little of that before you've met the spirits or this and that, well, you won't know who you are inviting to your party, will you? And if they come, what sort of guests will they be?
You've got to be realistic here. We are not discussing chemicals. Chemicals are zero in this equation. We're discussing the invitation of spirits who can have an important impact on our lives. The meditation and smoking of black tobacco during cooking is probably much more important than any chemical that can be extracted from the plants. Because that 8-10 hour meditation is what invites the spirit of the plants. The plants themselves are not worth much. Their spirits are worth a great deal. And if you are going to invite living beings, beings with intent, will and desires into your physical/emotional/spiritual/soul space, then you'd better be sure you know who they are and how to treat them as guests.
In my world, this is serious stuff, and your initial question wasn't serious.You might have thought it was but it was silly. You're talking about adding a bunch of stuff to ayahuasca that has never been traditionally added. And you didn't say that you're a curandero who's met those spirits. Ginger certainly has a spirit. Maple syrup probably has a phenomenally strong spirit. Have you met her? I haven't but can imagine that any spirit strong enough to keep trees alive for 200 years in the cold north must be very very powerful.
So to hear someone toss off the idea of adding a bit to ayahuasca, without them telling me they know the spirit and what she's like, sounds like someone playing, not someone who is learning to interact with spirits.
Again, who am I? Nobody. Maybe you don't believe in spirits and maybe my idea, taught to me by some pretty good curanderos, is all wet. What do they know anyway?
My guess is a lot.
I spent days preparing before I put a sprig of cedar (who had been begging me to be included) into a mix some years ago. And the cedar was good. But I would never recommend her to anyone not prepared to deal with such an ancient soul once she arrives.
So if you've got real questions, I think there are many on the board who will answer them. If you are here to tell us things, then do it. But the people on the board who consider questions seriously have lives to live and limited time and I'm guessing that many of them won't take the time to answer questions they find frivolous, regardless of how serious you claim to be.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Jingle Bells

Jingle Bells, everybody. It's 8:02 PM Central time and in most places that means the stores are closed and you've either got your shopping done or you're buying gifts at the 24-hour gas station. Me? I got caught up on all but two writing assignments by Friday and figure no editor is going to care over the holiday so for once I got shopping done on time. Not early, but done by today at 4 PM. Hell, I even got some wrapping done yesterday and finished that an hour ago. What that tells you is that I haven't got a life, but this blog has already made that clear over the last year.
I came in from wrapping and opened a bottle of Old Grand Dad. Good Bourbon. The fellows at the liquor store saw me looking at the bottles (I never buy anything but a few minis at a time as a rule, which keeps me pretty sober since the store is a 23 mile drive each way) and asked what was up. I told them I was looking to treat myself like a king tonight and was going to buy a bottle of bourbon. They told me to pick one out and they'd give it to me. Hey, I was tempted to switch to a good private reserve Scotch for $300 but kept my cool and took the Old Grand Dad. Thanks, fellas.
Anyway, took a sip and asked who was going to be here for dinner. Got resounding "yesses" from everyone. Put on rice and a nice chicken. Two minutes later Italo, Marco and Madeleina were in the fridge looking for leftovers. I told them I'd just started dinner. They said they were going out to Chepa's and didn't want dinner.
"You just told me to make it," I said.
"Yeah. Make it for you, dad, not for us," deadpanned Marco, glomming some chicken wings I'd made last night.
Fortunately I was still sipping my first sip of Old Grand Dad and so was able to take it in stride. I told them there would be fresh rice and chicken--with beans and veggies--when they got back.
It's good they're going, actually, or Santa wouldn't have the time and space to do the santa stuff. Stockings, special presents, those things that I need to bring from the little outbuilding I use as an office into the house. I've done it at 3 AM but even in Texas waking up to start walking around outside at 3 AM on Christmas is cold.
So they're off for a couple of hours. The party on Christmas eve is a Peruvian thing. The sisters--with Chepa there are four in the Fort Worth area--get together and have a ball on Christmas Eve. When I first brought her to the states in 1994 she was very surprised that our party happened on Christmas morning, to the smell of sizzling bacon and fresh banana bread in the oven.
This time around there's something special to celebrate. Chepa's new baby, Alexis, was born Saturday morning near noon. Over 7 lbs, a bit of a scare because she stopped breathing a couple of times, but the docs, I'm told, are now satisfied she'll breathe on her own and will be allowed to go home to Chepa on Wednesday. Chepa's been sick with worry but we all rooted for her baby and I hope she turns out as fantastic as the other babies Chepa has made.
There was a funny moment or two involved here. Remember that this isn't my baby, though Chepa and I never divorced. So her boyfriend came into town just a few hours before she want into labor. And Madeleina and Italo and Italo's girl Sarah were in the delivery room with the boyfriend and Chepa and the doctor and the nurse and from what Sarah said, Madeleina, probably in an effort to deal with the graphic situation of a birth--what with mom pooping while she's pushing and the water spilling out and the blood and the purple/yellow umbilical cord and so forth--decided to pretend she was newscasting the event.
"So, doctor, is it normal that this room would smell this bad while a baby is being born?" was one question Sarah remembered Madeleina asking as she interviewed the doc while he was prompting Alexis out of the womb and into the world. And then to Chepa: "So, while you're screaming, does it really hurt or are you acting a little?"
The worst, unfortunately, was my fault. Entirely. When little Alexis came out and joy was all around, I guess the boyfriend said something like "Our beautiful little Alexis" or something like that, to which Madeleina evidently responded that she would never call her baby sister that name because "That's a stripper's name."
You see, even though the baby isn't mine I felt slighted at not being asked, at least in a cursory way, my opinion as to a name. It was just announced to me a couple of weeks ago and in my ego/hurt/awareness that I'm not even in the equasion anymore, I blurted out: "Alexis? Who the fuck names their baby Alexis? That's a stripper name. That's probably the most popular stripper name in the world."
Of course it's a beautiful name, but I just felt left out--Clue to Gorman: When she starts having babies with other people, you're no longer the center of her universe, okay?--and so said that stupid and hurtful thing and then there, in the delivery room, my beautiful Madeleina evidently repeated it. Sorry god. Sorry universe, sorry Chepa and the boyfriend, My fault 100 percent.
I hope Alexis is a joy.
And me, I'm good with it all. I've got wonderful--if occasionally difficult-- kids, I've got work. I've got presents for everybody. I've got a bunch of sisters and a brother and neices and nephews and me and the kids got a tree that's dressed to the nine's and though I don't have many friends her in Texas, I do have one very good one and lots of friends all over the place, and I didn't die this year despite coming close a few times and none of my close friends did either and Alexis looks like she's going to be alright and Chepa came out of it all healthy so my kids have their mom and what the heck, it ain't perfect by a long shot but there are more good days than bad by a mile so mostly I'm smiling and I hope you all are too.
Merry Christmas to all,
And to all a good night!

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Tree, The Lights, The Santa Thing

Ahhh, Christmastime at the Gorman's. Peace, joy, laughter. Ha! I was raised in a family that celebrated Christmas, and I've maintained that tradition. When I got married it was a great kick to go out with Marco and Italo, then 4 and 7, to shop for a tree in Manhattan from the tree man on Second Ave and haul it up to Third, then climb the old tenement stairs to our apartment, strong the lights and get out those ornaments. And in a few years, when Madeleina was born, it was even better because of the wonder she had just oozing from her spirit on seeing those lights and tearing open, as best she could, the packages that were for her.
The move to Texas made Christmas--while snowless and without my brothers and sisters coming over for dinner--almost a little better for its intimacy. It was just us. Not only did we have the added fun of putting lights up around the house, but it was one day of the year when we knew Chepa would be there in the most family sense of the way. She would bolt out of bed as quickly as Marco and Italo and Madeleina to go see if there was a stocking for her and joyfully tear it apart, then urge on breakfast so that we could get to the good stuff, the presents under the tree.
Now there wasn't ever as much money as we'd have liked to have to buy the best presents on everyone's list, but somehow there was always enough to keep the kids happy. And as a dad, that's an important thing. It's one of the secret men's rituals that we judge ourselves on: Can you make Christmas as fun as your own dad made it? It's an important part of the dad image.
The last couple of years, with the boys older, have even been better. They've been able to go shopping for presents with their own money, and they've taken to putting up the outside lights without my help. And getting a tree has been a Peter, Italo, Marco, Maceleina enterprise, driving all over town to get a great tree at a great price, and stopping at the Cleburne Park, where the Johnson County jail lets trustees spend a week or more putting up a million lights that simply dazzle you. Madeleina would get into that park and never want to leave. And then we'd go home and put the tree up and somehow Chepa would materialize and make it a great great party.
And this year, with baby Sierra nearly two, I thought it might be even more fun getting the tree and putting up the outdoor lights and especially going to the Cleburne Park where Madeleina, now 10, could show her sister the wonder of it all.
So I told the kids Monday would be a good day for that. The plan was to have Sarah, Italo's girl, go to Chepa's and get Sierra. I would have done it myself but Chepa's boyfriend's parents and his sister and brother-in-law came into town and and are staying with her and I didn't want them to think I'm too forward or intimate with Chepa and Sierra. From what I understand they think I'm a sort of monster and wouldn't want Sierra hanging around me too much. I don't think they've been told that for most of her life I've been her adult male influence.
Monday came and there were excuses all around. Sarah worked late, Marco had his own girlfriend issues to deal with, and Italo had to buy presents. So Madeleina, who was looking forward to it, was disappointed but I pointed out that we'd do it the next night. Of course I was forgetting that Italo's semi-pro soccer team practices on Tuesday nights and so we got postponed again. Which is when I pulled a Dad directive and told everybody that Wednesday was going to be the night. No ifs, ands or buts.
Madeleina was excited: I don't give a lot of whole-family orders and she thought that was about the manliest thing she'd ever seen, I think. But when Wednesday night came, Sarah announced that she definitely didn't want house lights this year because I always have a trip in early January "and then we're left to take them all down." I pointed out that I only tok down last year's lights in October, so I didn't get her point. Then I asked her to go get Sierra and and she looked at me and said "Why should you get to go with Sierra? She's not your baby."
I told her that I knew that, but that Sierra was my kids' sister and so for better or worse, the same way that Chepa's boyfriend has become part of my extended family, Sierra is part of it as well.
Sarah didn't go for that and went into her room .closed the door and pouted or wrapped presents.
Marco and Italo gave me the same resistance to the point where I finally said the hell with it and told Madeleina we'd do the whole damned thing ourselves. But I made sure to let the boys know that if they were too old for a little joyful Christmas spirit that they should be giving it up for Madeleina at least. So Madeleina and I jumped into my truck and went tree shopping. Italo and Marco got into Italo's car and followed us and were there when we picked out a tree, but then left abruptly, making it the sourist tree-moment in Gorman history.
When we got home Marco was putting lights up around the porch, but he wasn't a happy camper doing it. Sarah, who normally does the roof, wouldn't come out of the room, and Italo was utterly disinterested. So me and Madeleina attacked the roof lights and got em up and looking pretty, but when we came down and discovered that Marco had quit halfway through the railing I fairly exploded.
I went inside and announced that I'd called a demand for that day. I reminded everybody that nobody pays any bills or is responsible for food. They're allowed to earn, keep and spend their money any way they like but if in return I couldn't even get a good tree night for Madeleina then they could all just get the heck out.
Tell you what: that went over like a lead balloon, and me and Madeleina wound up eating dinner alone. Italo did come in just to put the tree in the stand but that was it.
And then I had all night to run through things. And I started out justifiably angry, then realized that it was stupid of me to think that my explosion was actually going to put anybody in a mood to put up lights and decorate the tree. Then came remorse for sounding like the kind of father I sometimes am but don't want to be. And by 4 AM all I wanted was forgiveness.
Sarah didn't speak to me in the morning before she went to work. No good morning, no 'you suck', nothing. I did speak with Italo and apologized and then gently went over the fact that I felt ignored and that I felt he and Marco and Sarah were abusing Madeleina: "She's just 10, Italo. And if you're too old for Christmas, that's fine. But you should be doing it for her."
He countered that he was all for Christmas and had bought the presents to prove it. I told him I thought the presents were the least of Christmas. What was important was doing one little night with his brother and sisters and his dad. And I left it at that. I had to. Because even while I was saying it I realized that what was probably really going on was that mom isn't in the Christmas picture this year. She's going on 42-weeks pregnant if the docs are right and isn't going anywhere but the hospital. So she wasn't going to appear like usual like magic to make the putting up of the lights a party like only she can. And she's not going to be here Christmas morning. And that's probably taken all the joy out of the broken-family but family traditions.
And that's just the way it is. So the boys didn't want to get revved up, even for a night, but they didn't know how to say it. And I didn't know it either until it hit me.
And so me and Madeleina decided we'd take Sierra to the park ourselves. So I called Chepa and told her I wanted to kidnap Sierra for a couple of hours and she said sure, and then Italo went to pick her up and then when Me and Madeleina were getting ready to take her and go to Cleburne Park, suddenly Sarah decided she wanted to come and then Italo decided to join, and I'll bet Marco would have come too if he hadn't been at his girl's house.
When we got to the park, Madeleina went wild, just like a 10-year-old is supposed to. And Sierra just looked at all those lights and said "Wow. Wow. Wow." Over and over, and then started running after Italo, who was being chased by Sarah, who was giggling like a teenager in first love and Madeleina joined in the chase and even I jumped into the fray and the next thing you know everybody was laughing and playing on the park slides and spinner rides and they were all beautiful and it almost couldn't have felt more like Christmas.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fun to Be Alive

You guys have no idea how fun it is to be me. I hope you're having as much fun/craziness in your skin as I am in mine.
Here's the deal: Thanks god, white lighte, angels, devils, dreams or karma or whomever kept me alive though these three recent and live-threatening surgeries in the last six months. I'm not 100% but I am 100% back to my cynical self and I'm a raging New Yorker transplanted to bucolic Joshua, Texas, in the middle of Johnson County, where the local jailers think it's okay if you put a middle aged woman in a restraining chair naked during her period. Get the picture? I live about 6000 years ago in a cave man place. Still, it's gorgeous, with horses and cows everywhere, me with goats and a rooster and dogs and cats and Marco's rat and hundreds of birds we have to feed by the pound daily. Not counting my kids, the two boys' girlfriends and the pesky reccoon who thinks every garbage bag we put out is meant as a feast for him.
I recount those pleasures because they each come with a price: the goat with the testes thinks I'm competition and is always out-manning me to be king of the yard. The new pup has learned that if we don't find his poop he won't get his nose rubbed in it, so he's taken to hiding it behind the couches and the television and under my desk. And so forth.
This morning was a wonder: sun broke clear and crisp. Madeleina, who slept on cushions on the floor next to my couch, and I woke early. She started the day by getting me to admit that the hadn't "lolligagged" with her work last night. She'd actually done a nice art project that was due days ago, but that was at the expense of last night's homework. So the Lolligag admission led into a request for a note explaining why none of the math was done. I suggested she get the math done. She countered that she'd forgotten that the choir was singing today and that she needed her choir shirt, which happened to be at her mom Chepa's my extremely pregnant wife/ex-wife. Additionally, she had no slippers and today turned out to be slipper day at school, so would I mind driving to WalMart, just 10 miles away, to buy her some. This before coffee.
Then Sarah and Italo woke and she needed lunch-fixing. Fortunately I had a great stewish thing left over from last night. She also needed the goats fed and had no time. I realized why she had no time when I went outside to see that Charlie, the new pup, had torn apart a 50 pound bag of corn intended to feed the rooster and that it was spread out all over the front porch. To get to the goat food Sarah would have had to acknowledge the 2 million corn kernels on floor display so it was apparently easier to rush out the door claiming no time to feed the goats.
As I was picking up the corn, Madeleina rushed out of the house, screaming that we were going to be late. I started toward the car just as Madeleina stepped into one of Charlie's soft poops, leading to ear-splitting screaming and the need to wash sneakers lest she be kicked out of class for smelling too earthy. As I washed she stepped into the bathroom and when she came out she smelled like a whore on New Year's Eve. "Decided to put some of your Old Spice cologne on in case there's any dog poop smell left, dad" she smiled.
"That's a lot of 'some', baby."
"That's okay, everybody thinks I'm a little crazy anyway. And look who I get it from?"
So we raced back out to the truck, raced to Mom's house, got the shirt she needed and she borrowed a pair of slippers, raced off to school, got her there just 10 minutes after the late bell, still smelling like she'd fallen into a vat of cologne.
I got home with the phone ringing. "Dad, don't be mad, okay?"
"Don't know if I can promise that, girl. Are they sending you home to wash off my after shave?
"Sure dad. Everybody says I smell great. But the problem is...the project is at home. Please get it here now."
I still hadn't had coffee and was about to grumble but life fantastically intervened when Marco called me on the phonefrom his bedroom just as I hung up with Madeleina and suggested that if I was any sort of decent dad at all I could prove it by making him three eggs over easy with fresh rice and several strips of hot bacon.
"Well, Marco. I can either take Madeleina's project to her school or make you breakfast..."
"That's bribery, dad!"
"Yes it is. Which shall I do?"
Thirty seconds later he was out the door with the project in hand. As he left he called over his shoulder, "Dad, just tell the truth. How long have you been gay?"'s already a beautiful day, eh?

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Madeleina in the Morning

So I've got a 12 day jungle trip coming up at the end of January. I'm running this one so there won't be any glitches with the money. It's a small trip, though and won't make me much. I could use two more people to bring us up to eight guests, and then I would make a few grand and be able to pay my people in Peru real well and so forth.
So this morning, I get a letter from one guy who's been on the fence for some time. Turns out he's a writer and a magazine just offered to front his expenses. It's a good magazine and if he liked the trip it would be a good ego stroke for me and maybe more than that.
Years ago a similar thing happened but got aborted. George Magazine had arranged for an excellent writer and photographer to join a trip of mine. George was huge at the time. But the horrible plane crash of John Kennedy Jr. happened on the day the reporter and photographer were flying to Peru and a day or two later the magazine, which had been run by John Kennedy Jr. was shut down and their trip with me canceled.
So this could be a nice one for the scrapbook.
On the other hand, my trips have a large element of personal growth built into them via the shamanic medicines and the Matses' Indian medicines we use as well as the jungle itself, which for many brings up childhood dreams and fears. They're very intimate in a lot of ways (none of them sexual). I mean, we bath in the river. Sometimes people make emotional breakthroughs that leave them vulnerable. So maybe not everybody wants a writer around, even if he'll promise not to use names or photo images that could identify anyone who doesn't want to be identified.
But I sure would love to make a couple of bucks on this trip and unless I mess up I sure would like a bit of publicity.
Still, I've got clients I have to consider.
So I read this letter this morning while Madeleina was taking a shower and Marco was getting ready to take his girl to school. And I was wondering what exactly I should do. Hate to turn away a client. I'm a journalist, after all, and I might write about a given trip...I have never used a client's name or photograph or exposed anyone to any possible embarrassment. My rule is that we're a closed circle. It has to be that way or people won't be open to the changes the trip is meant to trigger.
I decided to present the issue to Madeleina. I did and without hesitation she said, "You have to ask everybody on the trip if it's okay."
"That's what I was afraid you'd say."
"Because it's the only fair thing to do. You got it right on the money, girl. On the other hand, I hope they say yes because I could use the extra passenger."
"You could use the extra passenger, yes, but more importantly, you can't afford to have any more people hating you."
So there you have it. The letter is going out to the other guests in a few minutes. They'll decide.
Thanks Madeleina.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Quick Bitch

Okay, it's Monday morning and I hope it's a good one. I'm wearing my heart on my sleeve a little today. Woke up in the middle of the night with the gosh-darned awareness that I am so utterly useless, that every time I open my mouth nothing but bullshit comes out, that I can't get people out of jail with my writing, that I can't end the drug war, that I'm old and drink too much, smoke too much, have rotten teeth (great brusher, but lost three caps last year when I bit into wild boar that still had shotgun pellets in it and have two others that are discolored from cigarettes no matter how much I clean them), am a poor substitute for a great father and that everything I do is worthless. I ought to be put up on a billboard for everyone to see: Here I am folks! What a sorry excuse for a spirit!
Not sure where that came from and know it will pass, but it kept me up for a couple of hours going over everything I've said and done in the last couple of weeks. Where's a good psychiatrist when you need one.
I think some of it is because the kids have been spending so much time with Chepa and that her boyfriend was in last week, so I'm sort of not in my family right now. And Chepa still hasn't given birth but will, shortly.
Then this morning at about 5 AM, Italo and Sarah came in. I was sleeping on the floor in the living room as Madeleina had comandeered my couch when she couldn't fall asleep in her room.
I got up feeling better about myself than I had a couple of hours earlier and was told that Italo was headed to the airport. Seems Chepa's boyfriend, who left to return home to another state last night, had changed his mind and caught a flight back so he could be her when Chepa has their baby. And I thought, that's cool. Guy is doing something right. Then I thought Who the hell am I to have an opinion of whether he's doing something right or not?
And then I let myself think about that a moment. And you know what? I realized I'm jealous. I don't want him to come back today. I haven't been with Sierra, their first, but whom I've helped raise for two years, for a week now. And that means I haven't seen Madeleina teach her to dance for a week. And while I shouldn't be attached to Sierra, she really is my kids' sister and she's part of this family that I'm part of, through extention. Same way that the boyfriend, better or worse, is part of the family too. He hasn't been around much but when he's in town he's having an effect on my kids, on my family. He's probably okay but I don't remember inviting him to join us. He's still part of it.
And so I realized I'm jealous that he can just decide to turn around and come back to town and my kids have to pick him up at the airport and his being here cuts me out of seeing my daughter and my kids with their sister. I'm also jealous, though I'll never admit it, that Chepa's in love with him and was probably thrilled when he said he was coming right back, where she wouldn't care anymore if it was me. I'm glad for her and him, but I'm still stinking jealous.
Which brings me back to being useless, worthless and full of bs.
Sorry to lay this on you all but if I don't write what's real, then I don't have anything.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Couple of Thoughts on Ayahuasca in Peru

On a board I occasionally post on, someone recently started a thread to try to make a list of reputable ayahuasca curanderos one might visit in Iquitos and Pulcalpa, Peru. In short order someone put the idea down and someone else quickly came to the idea's defense by noting that there were stories of people being served datura, rather than ayahuasca during ceremonies--and datura, while one of the 7 Master Plant Teachers is much more risky because of the length of it's effect on the human body/mind and because of the depth of its teachings. Someone also brought up the notion that a disreputable curandero might rape an unsuspecting foreign client during ceremony.
I thought both ideas were nonsense and wound up writing a couple of responses in the thread. Here they are:
In my experience, the people who get ripped off in Iquitos are those who listen to cabbies and street urchins and such who claim to have an uncle or a brother or a dad who is a curandero. There were a couple of jungle guides a few years ago who would take people to a camp, then, the next day, while they were hiking their stuff would be taken and when the gringos got back to camp they discovered their backpacks missing. Which of course ended the trip for them.
Well, those guys eventually got caught.
But the gringos who went with them simply were not being clear-headed. There are plenty of gringos in Iquitos or Pulcalpa at any given time who have been in town a while and know the ropes. Take the time, if you come in cold and don't speak Spanish, to ask them who's on the level and who's not. And don't just go with the first person they mention, check with several. Then you'll have a starting point.
But be realistic: having your stuff stolen in a set up that ruins your trip might be a negative but romantic story to tell your friends at home but it will surely put a damper on your trip.
On the other hand, the Amazon is adventurous, so if you're going to jump in head first, then don't leave an unguarded backpack someplace for a day.
As for the sexual stuff with ayahuasca: I've heard of it happening but in all my years of experience, never actually met anyone it happened to. Not a woman, not a man. I have had ayahuasca with several curanderos who use hands on healing, and that can be seen as a sexual advance by the recipient--and it might be, but is probably more often just a healing. I'll bet most women out there can tell the difference between a healer pulling something from your heart and a someone who's grabbing your breasts.
You might ask people who have had ayahuasca with a given healer whether he's hands on or hands off, and then make your decision accordingly. If hands on is uncomfortable, particularly when under the influence and in an altered state, an ayahuasquero who is going to heal that way will probably not be someone you'd be comfortable drinking with.
I think though, that there are enough people with varied experiences in Iquitos or Pulcalpa these days that when you're thinking of drinking with someone, or going out to the jungle on a riverboat with someone, you should not find it hard to find others who have been with that person or those people and be able to do a little double-checking.
MY SECOND RESPONSE, later in the thread:
Just to add two more cents: Curanderos who work with datura as a primary substance are very very rare and very very proud of their tradition. Many ayahuasqueros, on the other hand, will add a couple of leaves of brugmansia or the similar chiric sanango as ad mixes to their ayahuasca. This is not unusual. And it's no one trying to fool you. It's fairly typical in the Amazon, depending on where the client wants/needs to go. All ad mixes open additional spaces and the curandero, if experienced, sees what needs opening.
But I've never heard of a curandero serving real datura when asked to prepare ayahuasca: he/she'd normally tell you: I don't work with ayahuasca, I work with datura. Or Vice versa. Or in combination. Same with curanderos who work with tree saps or root barks primarily: All are very proud traditions and only overlap a little with most curanderos.
Heck, why would an alleged ayahuasca curandero make you datura, and then sit up with you for 24-72 hours when he could have made you ayahuasca and had you sleeping in 3-4 hours? It's just not a logical proposition. It actually doesn't happen. It's a made up, invented situation. Like saying: What if a New York City cab driver takes me to California instead of 31st Street?
Could happen but won't. Ever.
Same with the rape nonsense: Curanderos work with their families nearby. Almost none work without other people there. It's just negatively fanciful to imagine that a man, in front of his wife and kids and assistants and other participants, would suddenly rape someone--who would presumably be screaming--in the middle of a ceremony. Forget it. Doesn't happen.
Now, if you get met at the airport in Iquitos, don't speak spanish and decide that the taxi driver, who asked "ayahuasca? ayahuasca? Mi Padre!" is your guiding light, well, then you're on your own. But if you've looked around, found out who's who and what's what by talking to people who have been there, then things will generally be pretty kosher. A curandero/curandera who has 4 people drinking ayahuasca simply cannot take time off from singing icaros to rape someone. Next day make a come on? Next day suggest that the person has a problem with intimacy that they can help with? Certainly possible. But that's a far far cry from being raped in a ceremony.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Dog Poop Ads Never Saw So Much Traffic

Well, until further notice or maybe forever, the ad people on my pages are gone. You know, the ads at the top and side of this blog that you punched once in a while and which made me a couple of bucks. The way it works, I guess, is that advertisers agree to pay a dime or a quarter for each time someone visits their ads. Well, a friend of mine, Alan Shoemaker, decided that with the financial setbacks we've had around here with the trips lately that he wanted to help to make sure my kids had a great Christmas. So he went and posted a little note on a bulletin board suggesting that people ought to come here and read those ads and make me some Christmas money. I didn't know of it till after it was done, and by that time I'd earned $32 bucks in one day. The next day that hit $64, which was double my best month.
The operation was stopped after that, and the third day we only hit $12, still a great day but not impossible without prompting.
Anyway, in my last post I'd written about Madeleina calling the new dog a poop machine and so the ad spider, looking for key words, thought "Poop" was very key and changed all the ads from debt-reorganizers to ads for "super scoopers," "doggie fresh" rug cleaners, cat liter and such.
And those guys must of thought they were in heaven. They probably never got so many hits from a non-dog site in their lives.
Unfortunately, google, which runs the ads, decided things weren't kosher here and wrote me a nice note to let me know I'd been yanked. Benched. Fired. And they let me know that they weren't just taking back the money from Alan's two day prank, but were taking back the money from the last couple of months as well. Madeleina went wild. "They can't steal our money! Let's go and beat them up, dad! Let's whack and smack them, let's nick and nack them! Let's show them who we are!"
I explained that the head of google was right this moment organizing an extravagant island wedding and probably hadn't meant anything personal by eliminating me.
She still isn't happy about it because one of her favorite things is to click on that account to see if we've made a dollar or two on a given day. "Plus, dad, let's be honest. Without those ads, why are people going to go to your blog. You just write crazy stuff that nobody cares about. I mean it's just about our family or ayahuasca. No offense dad."
None taken darling.
So a good intention has once again resulted in a crash landing. Thanks for trying Alan.
And me and Madeleina? We know Santa's coming anyway, he always does. And we're figuring he's probably gonna have a couple of express packages from the "super scooper" and the "doggie fresh" rug cleaning people as a token of gratitude for getting them so many doggone hits.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Goats, A Dog and the Empty Nest Syndrome

It's clear and cold in Joshua this morning. Clear like you've had your eyes cleaned, with every remaining unfallen leaf cut against crisp air and a blue sky. But cold too, when I had to warm up the car before taking Madeleina to school and the heat didn't kick in for five minutes. But what a beautiful ride it was: it seemed like she and I could almost count the hairs on horses' tails as we drove past the horse farms on the way to Staples Elementary.
But oddly, something happened when I dropped her off. I just welled up inside and started crying. It just felt sort of painful that I only drop off one baby now at school. Just a couple of years ago it was a dash to get Italo, Marco and Madeleina all ready and then all off to different schools at the same time. I'm sure that's just silly of me but I guess that lately, with Marco staying at his girlfriend's house some nights, and going to work at 3:30 AM, I don't see him much. And Italo and Sarah have been staying at Chepa's for the last couple of weeks since she's not able to move much and needs help and company around the house during her last weeks of pregnancy. And then Chepa's boyfriend came back into town Sunday night, so I won't get to see Sierra much the next couple of weeks till after Christmas. And so I guess I got a glimpse of what's called--and what I always laughed at--as the Empty nest syndrome.
Heck, what am I doing? I had to ask myself. But then Madeleina just asked me the other day: Dad, since you're basically living in this house by yourself these days, are you going to keep it?
I told her yes, that this is a temporary situation, but it may not be. Italo and Sarah are ready for their own place. Rumor has it Marco is ready to marry his girl Brooke and move into her family's home until they can get a place.
Where the heck did the years go?
So what could I do? I came home and picked up dog poop that Charlie the Bassett hound left in several places. As Madeleina noted this morning: "Man, that dog's a machine dad. A poop machine."
Then I went out to see to the goats: If you ever get goats let me suggest you have them neutered. One of ours somehow slipped through the cracks and still has his sack. He weighs about 70 pounds and would look great on a barbeque spit, but Madeleina and Sarah won't have that. He sees me and he goes wild: His long ears go from floppy to standing straight out from his head. His pupils dilate and go horizontal. He begins to spit in short rapid fire bursts and he sticks his tongue out in a very vulgar way. And then he lowers his head, charges me and tries to hump my leg. Madeleina says it's because I've got a "man smell" about me. That my very existence challenges his domination of the yard. She's probably right.
But it may just be that he looks at me and realizes I'm just measuring how long of a spit I'd need and wondering what sort of sides I'd serve.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Scrub Down Day

Saturday morning, still raining here in Joshua. Had a story put off, giving me a couple of days to get caught up on stuff. You know: Get the mortgage and electric bills covered, drive over and get the car insurance and water bills paid, look in the mirror and realize I haven't shaved this week or cut my nails. Got my truck back without--for now--needing the clutch I thought I needed (just added fluid to the clutch reservoir. Bought my tickets to Peru and into Iquitos, signed up a new person for the late January jungle jaunt--we're at break-even now, baby! And cleaned up a lot of dog poop from the puppy. Funny how the kids keep wanting to feed him but cut and run when he leaves 10 signature poops around the house.
But then...then it was time to face the laundry room. I've been putting it off for six years, and during those six years since it needed to be cleaned--starting about a month after we moved in here--I'm amazed at what we've been able to stuff in there. I mean besides the laundry and the washer and dryer.
It's not a big room, maybe eight-foot by twelve-foot. It hangs off the back of the house. I covered the spaces where it doesn't meet the house with duct tape a couple of years ago and that seems to be holding. Whew.
But then there are the four built in, deep shelves and the little closet next to them. In theory, one shelf has painting supplies, one has electrical supplies, one has tool boxes and one has the various fluids we use to keep the cars running. But somehow there are also 15 canvasses and a small easel stuffed in them. Dozens of boxes of screws and nails with an average of maybe one screw or nail each. Then there was the used condom (MARCO!!!!), the bird food the family of mice have been feasting on, used Christmas lights that never worked but were apparently worth saving. Bookends, two broken kites, dried sponges, tiles from the bathroom two tilings ago and I haven't even gotten to the bottom shelf yet. Six years and counting on that one.
Ah but there is more to the room. There's the fantastic black-walnut table I always loved but which fell out of favor with my kids years ago, and the New York City fold down school desk circa 1900 that Gail Roscetta stole from an empty school house for me in Manhattan so many Christmases ago. On top of it are my cookbooks, the shaved ice machine, the instant noodle soup cases, the extra rolls of paper towels, broken frames, the bottles of drinking water and back up large diet soda bottles. And the sox. The poor sox whose friends ran away months an years ago and who have no one to fold up with now. Dozens of them, lonely souls now relegated to the big black garbage bag that also holds the old stereo two deck tape player I'm finally willing to admit I probably will never have fixed, and all the mouse droppings I've swept up and the strands of holiday lights I'd rather buy again than try to repair.
And under the table: the still filled liter box from Prince the cat that no one ever changed, which is probably why Prince now lives outside. And there are still 36 quarts of the pickles I made in 2002--fabulous garlic dills that we ate so many of we haven't been able to look at them since then. There are also three large garbage bags and I haven't the courage to look to see what's in them yet. One is a bag of Madeleinae's stuffed animals: She cried when we reduced her menagerie from about 60 to a reasonable 40 a few years ago but wouldn't let us give them away, so they--along with the mystery-treat bags, sit among the bits of cat litter beneath that beautiful table. And then there are the several fishing poles which no one in this family has ever used, and the large stand-up painter's easel: The moment I bought it was the last time anyone put paint to palate around here. And there are science projects like the aunt farm pieces, and last month's sea monkey experiment (yes, you can kill them if you don't feed them) which sits among the numerous dark mold projects growing out of old coffee cans that I wasn't even aware any of the kids were working on.
Ah, I'm thinking maybe I should just loosen that duct tape and let that entire room fall right off the side of the house and into the back yard. We could build another, start again, couldn't we? We could collect new stuff that we don't want but won't get rid of. And I could have another six year time frame before I'd be forced to look into it very deeply.