Monday, December 29, 2008

Out The Door

Dear All: I'm leaving for the airport in about five minutes. I'm headed back to Peru where I've got two small groups lined up for trips into the deep green. I don't really know how to access this blog--in terms of writing on it--while I'm there, but if I can figure it out I'll put something down now and then when I'm not in the woods. Otherwise, I'll see you in some weeks and hope that your New Year starts off fantastically. And then gets better. Make a wish, have a dream, then work at making it happen.
For the groups, I hope I give them the chance to do the deep work the medicine will offer them. I hope to put them in the right place to let it happen. I would like for them all to have a wonderful experience, or a million wonderful experiences.
And now I'm gone.
See you later.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas to All...

I hope you all have had a wonderful Christmas morning! I hope Santa came and brought you each something special, and that your friends and family made you laugh and that there's something delicious in the oven getting ready to serve. I also hope that each and every one of you have the best New Year you've ever had. And I hope that everyone with anger in their hearts learns to let in a little love; that every person enmeshed in a war--any kind of war--comes out unscathed and that somehow, some miracle happens that allows people to put down weapons and pick up plowshares. With a little work we could even irrigate the Sahara and turn it into the breadbasket of Africa and beyond. That work would require the strength of every person now carrying weapons, but we could do it and I would love to be a part of that. If we did then every starving child could have enough to eat, every desperate mom could find a smile instead of uncertainty for her young. If men could stop, just for a second, just for a nano second and see what there is in this world, that there is enough for everyone if no one needs to have enough for a thousand or a million to themselves, then we could fix it all and start to work together as one big tribe rather than ten thousand small ones each protecting something they'll never own anyway.
And I hope that you all sleep well tonight, with full bellies and your hearts full of joy.
Merry Christmas/Happy Chanukah/Happy Kwanza/Happy any good goddamned thing you want, just so it's happy. And then, a wonderful, joyful, surpriseful and fantastic New Year too.
Thanks for being part of this world, and thanks for letting me take up a little space as well.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Warming Up

Well, that high school sweet heart of mine came to visit this weekend. There were a rough couple of days prior to her arrival because she asked me point blank if I was actually divorced and I answere 'no.' I explained that I couldn't because Chepa would have gotten the kids--all of them when the boys were younger, but even now she would get Madeleina and then fly off to her boyfriend with them and I just wouldn't have my family anymore. I already have experience from New York when I filed the custody papers on Madeleina in court there--after Chepa flew off with her to be with a boyfriend, who is long gone--that the papers don't mean much. Nobody seems to want to go after a woman who refuses to honor custody. And when I refiled those papers here in Texas after our move, well, just after they took the money and then took more for the actual delivery of them I was told they wouldn't be delivered. I said: "What? I just filed them and paid for their delivery..."
"Well, we don't deliver papers on a mother here in Texas. That's just not something we do. Kids belong with their mothers and unless you can show proof of physical abuse, we'll never deliver nor enforce those papers. That's how it is here."
Anyway, that's why I never pulled the trigger on the divorce.
And I let everyone know I'm divorced. And I feel divorced. But I'm not actually divorced. And it's never come up before. No one has ever asked me. Here I write "my wife/ex-wife" and feel that's good enough.
But I should have been clear with that prom queen. I just wasn't and she got very upset at being led on. And though she understood/stands the circumstances, she was very angry and up until she actually got on the plane to come visit I thought she'd throw me over.
And when I met her at the airport she was not real real receptive. I mean she was cold.
And that didn't get a lot better when I brought her to my house and she was forced to meet my kids and then I offered her a glass of wine from a bottle called Sweet Bitch. That didn't really go over as the ice-breaker I thought it might be.
But then I think she saw that I really don't have a wife lurking in the closet. That I obviously don't have any females helping out around the house (though Italo's Sarah helps sometimes) which is clear by the house condition and unmatched plates and silverware and probably 100 other things.
But what really began to warm her up was meeting the kids. They are just so nice, so warm and slightly crazy that she just melted for them--and they for her--and so we had a great weekend. Went to restaurants, did the Human Maze in the Ft. Worth Stockyards, made dinner one night. Just perfect.
She even got to get even with me when she and Madeleina picked out two bottles of wine for me: Old Geezer and Fat Bastard. Okay, I probably deserved that.
And then sometime early on Sunday evening, Madeleina, out of the blue, says: "Hey dad, should I go get the garbage bag and the machetes?"
And I ask "For what?"
And without batting an eye, Madeleina answered: "You know, for chopping her up and getting rid of the body."
Well, you can imagine the slightly stunned silence that followed. I knew it was a joke but my high school sweetheart, probably still thinking I need to get even with her for breaking my heart 40-years ago, went white. Not for long. But long enough.
And I didn't know what to say to that. I mean, I'm sure I stammered out something like "Madeleina, what the heck are you talking about? You don't put those kinds of thoughts into people's heads." And I'm sure Madeleina laughed and then my sweetheart laughed, but every now and then for the next day or so, when we were driving on a country road, she'd say: "Is this the part where you chop me to pieces?"
What a thing to put out there, eh? Yikes! I'm going to have to teach Madeleina to edit herself a bit I suspect. She's already got some of
the teachers at her school reading this blog, and I'm nervous enough about that, and then she brags to everyone that I used to be the editor at High Times and I'm definitely slightly nervous about that because of where I live and the stories I've written about local corruption and such...and now it's plastic bags and machetes....My, oh, my...
So that's what happened here the last couple of days. Fantastic, disturbing, wonderful and frightening.
Hope your days are as packed with excitement. And hope you're ahead of me in the prep for Christmas.
And hope you all get the chance to visit with someone you loved but haven't seen in a long time. It's a bit nervewracking but then that disappears and it's all good.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Divine Nutcracker

Okay, I'm gonna write a Ft. Worth centric piece here, but you've all got two weeks before Christmas to make it your own with your kids, loved ones, parents, dogs, whatever. And it doesn't have to be the Nutcracker, it could be the same with the Rockefeller Center tree, or a local Christmas Parade or whatever. Just do something you don't think you'll like and see what happens...
Okay, that said, I’m going to start this off with telling you that I’m not the best dad in the world. I know that because I never enrolled my kids in ballet. But my youngest, Madeleina, now 11, has been in soccer and cheerleading and band (with a flute) and choir for a few years. And she’s beginning to get music, in that she can transpose flute music to the piano. Good for her.
But two weeks ago she asked me to take her--me being a single dad--to the Texas Ballet Theater’s The Nutcracker. Well, being from New York, I’m not inclined to ballet. But having been raised on Broadway--where my dad made his living and raised six of us--I couldn’t say no. But still, I’m telling you, I had reservations. I even tried to get one of my quasi-daughter-in-laws (lived here with my son for years) to take my daughter. No luck.
So I shaved, put on long pants and a clean shirt and headed to Bass Hall on Thursday, Dec. 11. And you know what? The show was fantastic! Absolutely uplifting to the point of forgetting my own troubles and name for a few hours. What a treat. Canned music--the Texas Ballet is in financial straits--apart (but boy, it was GOOD canned music), this is something that everybody in Fort Worth ought to go see. No fooling. Just a great time. My daughter must have punched me 30 times during the show, which means she had 30 epiphanies. That’s how she shows them. Whack! Whack! Whack!
Is this the best ballet company in the world? No. But are they capable of making you laugh, roar, jump up and cheer? Absolutely. And the next time they’re near out of funds, Fort Worth ought to do whatever it can to make certain they stay afloat. This was a simply wonderful show. And it’s playing for several more days. And though I’m rarely a shill, I have no issue with saying: Take your wife, husband, kids, girlfriend, boyfriend...get gussied up, feel like a real cosmopolitan and get your butts over to The Nutcracker. You’ll have a freaking blast, as we might say in New York. Just a freakin’ blast.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Freezing and Getting Warm

Well, it's sort of freezing in the Gorman house today. I mean the thermostat reads 60 and I've put the heat up to 80 and turned on the stove but the number's not climbing. Everything seems to be working but my fingers are moving slow on the keyboard. I'm still wearing shorts but I do have a jacket on. Need something to keep me warm.
And a little of that might come soon: My high school sweetheart is come to visit Texas in a couple of days. Ain't that grand? Just in time with this cold front. I'm nervous, of course, and thinking about getting liposuction in the next 15 minutes or minimally buying a black wardrobe. Then there are the hair extensions and the colorant for my much to do and I'll still never be 17 again. Ah, but she's already seen me like I am. And didn't think I was all that bad. Problem is, that was first impression. This time I'm thinking she might scrutinize and notice the flaws. So I'm thinking wine for her, lots of it, and then maybe she won't see so clearly.
Ah well, I am what I am. And I'm freezing. But I'm sort of getting warmish at the same time. Cool. It's all pretty cool I guess.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The Repeal of Alcohol Prohibition

Well, 75-years ago today, the 21st amendment to the US Constitution was ratified, ending alcohol prohibition in the United States. That prohibition had been in place for less than 15 years before even a lot of the folks who hated alcohol came to realize that the cost of prohibition--the rise of alcohol cartels, the criminalizing of a huge portion of the population, turf wars, overcrowded prisons, people dying of adulterated booze, the loss of tax revenue--was too high. And it also wasn’t working: from what my folks and grandfolks told me, anyone who wanted alcohol could get any time of day or night in any city in the US.
Sound familiar?
I just got an email from an old friend of mine, Todd McCormick. He’s a guy who had cancer nine times before he was 10-years-old, a guy who has five vertebra fused, making it difficult to move without pain. He is also an outspoken proponent for legal medical marijuana--which he uses to relieve pain rather than prescription opioids--and helped get California’s medical pot bill passed in 1996. He was also the first person busted after that ballot measure became law in a famous case where he was found to be growing pot in a very ugly mansion in Bel Air, California.
Well, Todd did five years federal for that, got out a couple of years ago and for some reason looked me up today. It was good to hear he’s okay--the cancer has not returned. That’s always good news. And he managed to do his 5-year bit without coming out bitter.
On December 5, 1933, reasonable people everywhere agreed--for different reasons--that the prohibition of alcohol was a disastrous social experiment. Pot prohibition is the same. And the prohibition of medical pot, and the incarceration of medical pot users like Todd McCormick, is well past that.
For 75-years people have been having a legal beer after work. Legal beer has produced a lot of grief but less than what was being produced during its prohibition.
Me? I’m going to celebrate with a Jim Beam later today, and toast those who realized that the greater harm was prohibition, not booze.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Sister Somayah Kambui Has Passed

Sister Somayah Kambui has passed. Just about Thanksgiving time. Most of you never heard of her, I'm sure. But just as everyone else has a story of value, so did she. She was an extraordinarily courageous woman and the person who brought awareness of marijuana's medical help for sickle-cell to the world.
I'm sure most of you know that I used to work at High Times magazine. The bulk of my work there dealt with the hard news of the drug war--medical marijuana, mandatory sentencing, forfeiture, dirty cops/government agents, that sort of thing. There were also some fun travel stories, fascinating Peyote stories and so forth, but my real job was to work the hard news with a great team. It was Steve Hager, the visionary editor over there who put me on those things and let me run with them.
Well, you work troubled corners you run into troubled people. I'd get collect calls day and night from prisoners begging for intervention in their cases. I'd get crank calls from an occasional law enforcement officer who'd been found dirty and somehow blamed it on us. And then I had a series of calls with someone I later learned was Sister Somayah Kambui.
She first got in touch with me in the middle of the night nearly 20 years ago. The phone rang, I answered, and someone was screaming at me. I hung up.
Two weeks later or so it happened again.
And again.
I kept trying to find out who the person was and what they wanted, but all I got were names hurled at me. I had no idea what I'd done or to whom I'd done it. But someone was sure angry with me.
It probably took six months before I could get her to slow down and take a breath and tell me what as wrong, and why she had to keep waking me at 3 AM and 4 AM just to curse me until I hung up.
She said she called when the pain from her sickle-cell anemia got unbearable. If she was going to suffer, others were too. And as I was white and sickle-cell only affects African Americans, and also because I wrote for High Times on medical-marijuana, she took my not writing about sickle-cell as a racist thing. Therefore I had to pay with her tirades.
I told her I knew nothing about sickle-cell--didn't even know what it was, and so surely didn't know marijuana could help.
Then she schooled me. She had me look up articles, call hospitals to see how it was treated, that sort of thing. I forget most of what I learned, but the gist of it is that sickle-cell is a condition in which normally round or oblong red blood cells take on the shape of a sickle, and hook on to each other. When enough hook on they can clog up around the places where limbs meet, causing unbearable pain. The standard treatment most hospitals give is morphine three times a week. Or at least it was back then. People like Sister Somayah would go to her local hospital, get a small cup of morphine and drink it, then be told to come back in two days for another. And people like Sister Somayah, a military veteran who had spent I think 9 years in the army, became government junkies. "I couldn't do anything on the morph," she told me. "And neither can a million other people. That's why you see so many middle aged and older black folk sitting on stoops looking like junkies. They are junkies. They're US government junkies."
And that wasn't good enough for her. So she took her campaign to my stoop and despite being thick about it, I was able to investigate and discovered that she was right about the morphine at city hospitals. Of course, it didn't have to be that way. What was needed, aside from a cure, was a simple vasodilator. Like marijuana. Something that would simply open up the blood vessels and allow the hooked together cells to move on down the line. And so we began to print stories on that issue. And we discovered there were a lot of African Americans who'd already discovered that marijuana eased the symptoms and allowed them to hold jobs, and that that was much better than being a government junkie hooked on morphine.
And I hope some docs got it and that one day the Feds will get it too. If they do it's because of the work of Sister Somayah.
And that's the part of her story that I knew. I'm sure there was more, but it wasn't my business.
I'm guessing she's arguing with St. Pete right about now. And I'm going to bet she gets in as well. Good for you Sister. Good for you Sister Somayah Kambui.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ah, Madeleina

Sunday morning and almost time for football. Madeleina was learning about the Giant-Redskin rivalry, and the Jets-Patriots rivalry and she got it to the point where she said "It's like the Yankees and Boston; you want to beat everybody but it's a little more delicious when you beat Boston.
"But what about the Giants and the Jets? Oh, yeah, you said they only play each other about once every 3-years or something."
"Yeah," I responded. "But that's why this year could be special. Everybody from New York is hoping that they can both make it to the Superbowl and then have a subway Superbowl."
"That could happen?" she squealed. "But that would be terrible...who would you root for? We love them both..."
"That's why it would be so terribly delicious..."
"I mean, it would be like you're screaming: 'Kill him! Take him down!' and then at the same time you're saying: 'Don't hurt him. We love him...' Oh god, dad...that's so fantastic! It's like you: We love you but we want to strangle you. We need you but we need to kill you too," she said, putting her hands around my neck and shaking my head vigorously.
"Because you're dad. Sorry, but that's the way it is."
"I understand, baby..." I managed to croak when she allowed me a little air.
"Whooeeee! Go Giants! Go Jets! Superbowl torture coming right up!"

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Glorious Day, Animal Update, Time to Work

Well, good afternoon, everyone. This is me reporting from bucolic Joshua--pronounced locally as Joshuaa, with that hard "a" at the end--on a 50 degree sunny day after a week of thick grey glum skies. Bad glum. But not today. Today is so spectacular I found myself outside finishing the raking I started a week ago. And while I was doing that a delivery truck came carrying a fantastic piece of art that someone made for me that related to something I'd written about my late teacher Julio. Which was great, until Boots, the blind wonderdog, bit him. Not hard, just hard playing. But darn, that's the third bite this week--he got the DHL lady and Marco as well. Last week he got Madeleina and Bo while he was visiting. So I guess it's either time to get him neutered of buy him a pair of thick glasses.
Then there's the pig, who very cleverly has dug an 8-inch trough around the outside of the pen where the fence is buried, unburying the fence. And if she gets out I don't think we'll catch her that easily. Bribe her back in, maybe, but not catch her. When Marco initially caught her on the road she weighed maybe 20 lbs. Ten weeks later we're thinking she weighs 80 or better.
Then there's the new cat, a short-haired gray beauty brought in as my replacement at rat-catcher. Mostly because I'm not good at catching rats. Gonna be a great little rat catcher soon. Better yet, general rodent deterrent, the equivalent to my little nuclear weapon: You trespass here, boys, this little beauty will take you the f... out.
It's such a beautiful day that Italo's girl Sarah decided to spend a couple of hours on the pig's pen: Fresh water, more hay, a new feed bowl, the works. And while she did that Marco came home from his grocery store with maybe 50 pounds of vegetables they were tossing that will supplement the pig's food this week. I was going through it casually and had copped maybe six kiwis, a dozen good limes, some grapes and an excellent watermelon half when he busted me. "No dad. No. Don't even think about it. It's garbage, okay? Garbage. You're no feeding us that."
"Been a while since you've been hungry, eh? I must be babying you all..."
"Whatever, but you're still holding something inside your shirt...Give it up, old man..."
I reluctantly pulled out the bag of slightly soft kiwis.
"Oh, yeah! Busted my own dad, the trash diver! How could you do it?"
Easy, I thought, remembering times when going through the garbage behind restaurants on the road was the only way I was going to get something to eat. Or remembering eating handfuls of live termites with Pablo in the jungle. Or cooking a vulture with my brother-in-law Steve when we got lost out there in the deep green for four days with no food. I didn't bother to school my son on it. In his world there's always fish and rice no matter what. I hope, besides feeding him well all these years, he's ready for the lean times that always seem to come. Heck, I thought, again keeping it to myself, it was only 4-years ago that I was working the day labor center trying to get enough for smokes and a chicken to cook for us all. I think the lean times are okay, really. After they're done.
But on this beautiful day, none of that was enough for me. Exuberantly I went into the garage, the recent target of the rat invasion, where I had 15 or so boxes of books and magazines and old 33's. Marco first discovered the infestation about two weeks ago and we worked on it some, but today was the day to throw myself into the corners, scrub that shit down and get them gone. Fortunately, while Boots appears as afraid of rats as me, or at least equally creeped out by their very sudden and quick movements, Italo joined me. Now that was a messy job. And the sons of bitches had bitten into the sleeve of The Doors' Soft Parade. That really got me going. Heck, there were two boxes of tax returns going back maybe 15 years. Did they go after them? Not a chance. Not a single dropping in those boxes. But the extra silk scarves I brought back from India a while ago? Shredded. We cleaned, transferred it all to plastic boxes that ought to keep the rats out for a little while anyway, got rid of 5 old computer monitors and maybe 10 keyboards, tossed the pile of moving boxes we arrive in Texas with--we were merciless. Which means, of course, that the disgruntled rats will simply move into the cushions of the three couches we have out there for parties...Oh well...Pretty good day so far, I think.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Drug War Story

A featured news story in today's (Nov. 26,2008) New York Daily News has NY Giant kicker Lawrence Tynes asking George Bush to pardon his brother. His brother, locked up since 2004 in a Federal Pen in Arkansas, is doing 27-years as kingpin of a marijuana moving operation that was found to have moved 3,600 pounds of pot from Texas to Florida over an unspecified period of time.
He'd normally have gotten a max of 10-years, but had a prior drug felony. Then he refused to cooperate (snitch) and allegedly was involved in witness intimidation.
So he wound up with the 27-years.
And the comments from the readers of the Daily News on line--always a boisterous crowd--were chilling. "The drug dealer deserved more time," shouted one; "Do the crime, do the time," shouted another and others were equally cold.
And maybe the idea that he had a prior and the witness intimidation actually was what got the people riled up.
But looking at it from the outside--and I did not study this case, but hundreds of cases like this, here's how it goes.
Tynes and friends move a little Mexican brickweed and make a few bucks. It was being moved from Texas, which means Mexican brick. That sells for $200 a pound, tops, on the Mexican side of the border, $300 a pound on the US side. In Florida it would bring maybe $500 a pound wholesale. So 3,600 pounds represents a gross earnings for the 5 people in the conspiracy of Three quarters of a million to a million bucks, absolutely tops. Before expenses, which would have been fairly substantial over time. So maybe the five earned $175 g's over several years--$30,000 to $40,000 a year. Nice, but pocket change, not the stuff of drug kingpins.
They get busted and all are asked to talk. Tynes won't give up his 4 pals and he won't give up his Mexico connect. Absolutely stand up for his pals; absolutely life saving where the Mex connect is concerned, as the game these days has been taken over down there by people raging wars. And they do find families and so forth. So giving them up would have been suicide/murder: Suicide for himself and murder of his family.
The 4 guys he also stood up for, however, all turned on him and walked away scott free. The intimidation would have come from 1) anger that the people he protected ratted on him; or 2) the Mex connection. Tynes might very well have had nothing to do with it.
So this mid-level pot dealer running a little dope a couple/few times a year winds up this drug kingpin doing a mandatory 27-years.
Personally, I say drugs should be legal and if you go to hell in a handbasket for abusing them, so what? But even if I thought differently, I'd smell a small-time assistant DA out to make his/her mark with a case like this. Kingpin my ass.
That's what I'm thinking, anyway.

Twas the Day Before Thanksgiving

Going to take a moment here to say Thanks, Universe! I appreciate it all.
Right now, behind me on the couch, Marco, his girl Brook and Madeleina are sll sitting under my blanket watching Sponge Bob. They know I'm doing phone interviews this morning so have it on low. But just having them close is fantastic. And Italo's about to get up--he'll smell the bacon on the stove any second, and though he doesn't eat bacon ("That's just like drinking a cup of grease, dad") he'll know that smell means I've also made juice. And juice he likes: Fresh strawberries, banana, oranges, a little water a little milk, some sugar. Voila! Wonderful smoothie to start the day. His girl Sarah just left for work not long ago. I do miss Sierra and Alexa, still off with Chepa to the hinterlands and boyfriend, but they're probably where they best belong, so I'll say thanks for that as well.
And today we're going after cats. We've been to the pound twice this week already and today's the day to pull the trigger. I'm thinking two; Madeleina is thinking two and another dog; Marco wants six. Italo hasn't weighed in yet. Whatever we do, it's time to take a stand against the rats and that will do the trick. They've not yet breached the house, but next week, when everyone is gone and I'm alone for hours at a time here, I'll be thinking they have and investigating every little sound this old place makes.So we're preempting it. And I'm thanking the universe that the little rodents haven't come in yet too.
And I'm thanking the Universe that I've got work and two trips coming up in January, and that the bills are somehow getting paid and that everybody's healthy and that my sisters and bro are doing pretty good--at our age that means we survive surgeries--and that I'm still digging on that first girlfriend of mine and think she's thinking about me as well.
And I'm hoping that all of you are feeling as warm today. I hope you're just thinking that today is a wonderful day to be alive.
And if anybody knows where I live and is passing by tomorrow, stop by for some of the feast. You're welcome here.
Thanks, Universe!

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Delete Button

Good morning everyone: It's about 4 AM here in Joshua and I got up thinking about a piece I put up on the blog last night. It was about being busted by my son Marco for peeing in a cup because the plumber was working and there was no water. I just thought maybe it sucked. So I looked at it and sure enough, it wasn't funny and it wasn't insightful and so forth, so I took it off.
And then, interestingly, I opened my email and there was a letter from a friend who'd read the piece and questioned why I would need to put that out there in public. The answer, of course, is that when I wrote it I thought it was something many of us have done at one time or another and so I thought it would strike a chord, and more than that, I thought it was written very cleverly and would make you laugh.
Well, that's the problem with blogs. At least this blog. I have no editor. I just have to go to sleep and see how I feel about a piece in the morning. Thank god for the delete button.
In the past couple of months I've probably taken off half-a-dozen pieces--or been smart enough not to post them when written. There have been a couple written in anger that would have exposed that side of me to you--which is fine and honest--but would also have left you all splooched with my anger--which you don't deserve--even though it wasn't directed at you all. There was one long piece about my having helped build a NYC strip joint when I was about 23--good story told so badly it came off like pointless idiotic showing off. Delete.
And a couple of others that I can't remember exactly but do remember waking up in cold sweats thinking: Oh my goodness! Did I actually write that????? as I raced to the computer to delete them.
Point of this piece, I guess, is to let you know that if you've read something one day and it's gone the next, you're not crazy. They just got dumped.
Writers have editors for a reason. They catch us when we fall and polish us when we're good.
Bloggers have nobody. And that means that it's not always the cream that rises to the top.
Have a great great day. And thanks for reading.
Peter G

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

My Madeleina

Well, I've had my Madeleina for maybe three uninterrupted weeks now. Fantastic. She wakes up cursing me having been born--because she takes the wake up call as an insult to her soul--and then curses me again when it's time to got to Walmart/Two Bucks/Ft. Worth nearly daily to run errands. She doesn't get that daddy has to work for the first 9 hours he is awake, from 5:30 Am till 2:30 AM and that the time still doesn't allow him--me--to drive the two hours daily that need to be done to get veggies, buy a few minis of Jim Beam (we don't keep alcohol in the house because of my weakness for it), and then on into the city to take care of newspaper business.
So when I won a Katie award for best Investigative Reporter of the year for the Dallas Press Club on Saturday and said I wanted to pick up the trophy and download a contract with a business magazine for about $2 grand freelance work, Madeleina's response was: "Dad: Let's be honest. You won 13 awards in the last four years.You've been an important part in two national awards your paper won....Has it ever occurred to you that the various press clubs in the Southwest US simply had too many trophies made so they had to give them to someone, and that's why you got one? I mean, realistically, what are the chances of you winning these 15 awards in 4 years or less. None. Zero. So face it: You're a lucky hack. That's all there is to it.
She may be right. Still, today, when I picked up my Katie and she saw it in the car, she kissed it and kept yeling out The old Ranger's windows: "This is a trophy! We won! Ask us anything!!! We're the winners!!
And she was crazy but right and I was proud for her and proud that she was proud of my work.
Maudlin, ain't I?
Thanks for listening...
Peter G

Monday, November 17, 2008

Time to Bite the Bullet

Okay, we've been having a good time and a run of good luck around here. Madeleina played flute with the school band in front of a school assembly for the first time last week, and though she didn't invite me--"Oh, dad, you hate assemblys"--she came home very proud. Then she had a sleepover with a friend on the weekend and they had a great time jumping on the trampoline, feeding the pig and playing the 20 variations of ping-pong that she and Bo came up with last week--things like flipping a card each time you hit the ball, or having to catch the ball in a cup--which forced her to concentrate on the extra job and let her reflexes take care of the actually ping-pong. It improved her game phenomenally. Thanks, Bo.
Then Marco came home with another raise and nearly 100 pounds of vegetables his store was tossing, which were for the pig and which now are taking up most of the room in the fridge. He had to toss a lot of food to make that room, but as he noted: "Who eats horseradish and jalepenos anyway? And this mayonaise isn't good for anything but making you fat." And on down the list of everything I love. Somehow, his treats all managed to find a nook.
Then Italo came home for the weekend from school and said he expects to get all A's this semester, or at least close, and that a semi-pro team has asked him to join them for the indoor soccer season this winter, now that the college season is over.
Then I managed to snag a Katie Award from the Dallas Press Club for best investigative reporting (in mid-and-small paper category)in Texas this year.
And a new person joined each of the January trips to the jungle.
So you know with all that nice stuff some flit was going to hit the fan, didn't you?
And it did. The plumbing in this house is just out of hand. We've repaired, replaced, clamped, and taped nearly every plastic pipe under this house in the last year and the only one we didn't need to fix was a toilet pipe and that went yesterday, so I am giving up and gonna let a pro do it. In other words, I bit the bullet and just called a plumber. I'm tired of the drips that provide water to the rodents I hate. I want it dry under my house so my house stops breaking apart as it slowly sinks supinely in the mud. And that's what I'm gonna get. I hope.
And then we can get back on that winning streak, eh?

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Nice Visit

Well, Doc Bo Keely just left. I took him to the airport this morning. Nice visit. About a week long. We caught that one train early on, and then by Thursday, when we had Madeleina with us we thought we'd hop another with her, but it was late at the yard and we missed one that stopped for three minutes for a crew change--we were 100 yards off when the thing pulled out of the station--and another came through, slowed, but didn't stop. Bo could have caught it but no way I was going to let by baby hop a moving freight, even if it was moving very slowly. After that an hour went by without another so we called it a hobo day.
Which didn't prevent hijinks in the form of taking an old sign off the side of a building--nothing glamorous and nothing that's being used anymore as the building is undergoing renovation and the sign will go any day. Still, important for Madeleina to be involved in a caper, even if she kept saying "People go to jail for this sort of thing, dad. Why do we need the sign anyway?"
We didn't, of course, we were just being silly middle-aged men showing Madeleina how to be a cut up without hurting anyone/anything. Better she learns from us than from somebody in high school a couple of years down the road.
Actually, it was a great week and it's just not coming through in this piece. I guess I'm just exhausted and will need to recharge--and probably should have before sitting down to write. Sorry. I'll work at something better tomorrow.
Thanks for the visit, Bo. Great hopping a train with you.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Jumping a Train

Well, nice day today. Dropped Madeleina off at school, then came home to put the finishing touches on a 6,000 word story for a mag about how the US has completely co-opted Mexico and has them in near civil war over the drug trade, all to the benefit of us, the US. Everybody beware: It's freaking nasty and our government controls every single aspect of it, from training the killers to supplying the guns to setting the prices.
That finished, it was time to edit a couple of pieces for the local famous Weekly I am lucky enough to work for, and then time to spend time with my friend Doc Bo, who' been here several days. Bo's a veteranarian who's a five-time national paddle ball champ here in the US, a veteran of over 350 hobo train jumps and who now runs, a site devoted to alternative tourism for executives who have been missing something earthy in their rarified lives. He's good. We jumped a train today in Fort Worth and could have traveled to New York City if I didn't have my Madeleina to feed and my dog and pig and the birds that Italo and Marco would just as soon let starve. So we hopped off, made our way through a tough part of Fort Worth back to my grand old blue green Ford Ranger--which, for those keeping count now has more than 281,000 miles on it's original engine, nearly as much as I've got on my freaking 57-year-old heart--and drove back home to find Marco the brilliant had bought greasy pizza for us for dinner.
Not finished yet, Doc Bo, who really is a veteranarian (one who's also written several books on paddle ball, one of which sole 130,000 copies and who has been on Jonny Carson and in Sports Illustrated), insisted that I find some hay for the pig, who's currently living in the chicken coop and chicken house. So I took my trusty truck into the street and stole two bales of hay from a fresh load the roadbuilders have been laying down on the muddy bank in front of my house. Karma has it that I got stuck, of course, and had to pay some guy with a decent truck, unlike mine, to pull me out. Which cost about 4 times what the hay would have cost. Lesson learned: Next time simply steal the truck of the good Samaritan.
Along the way Bo and me put 10 coins under train tracks, took a couple of train spikes for protection from wild dogs, got some good pics, and basically had a good time.
Now, it's 10 PM and Bo and I are going to hop another train tomorrow. And we're thinking of taking Madeleina with us--a day off of school to try the life of a hobo would be a fair exchange as long as we put her on a non-moving train, unlike today when we hopped a moving train. And then we're going to eat lunch at the mission to find out how many guys are living hobo life here in Ft. Worth.
So all is good. And all Madeleina can think of to say is: Hey Dad! If the police catch you hopping a train they'll be happy because they'll put you in jail for five years and then they won't have to read what you write about them. So at least somebody will be happy."
That's my girl.
Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The President-Elect

Well, the astounding happened last night. In our lifetimes. Barak Obama was elected to be our 44th president. You all know that by now. But to be here, to feel a full measure of change in the air, is a wonderful thing. Senator McCain is a good man. I've liked his courage in several areas in the political arena. But we the people are in a very deep hole. The country, in totality, has gorged itself on the Third World and on our own poor for a long time. Fixing the financial problems the way we're trying can only be done by more gorging on the Third World. What we need is a fresh wind. What we need are not good fixes but entirely new ideas. We need fertile soil in which to plant the seeds of invention again. There are dozens of wonderful ideas and inventions that will serve our energy needs but without the encouragement to develop them on a commercial scale, those seeds will wither. We need new eyes to see things in ways we've not been seeing. We need to see the world as something other than our lunch box.
We need something completely different and we may have gotten that in a man who hasn't been around long enough to owe too many favors. I hope Obama is up to the task. I hope his rhetoric is backed by genuine vision. Not a specific vision for how to fix this or that area of our society--let's hope he surrounds himself with good people who can tend to those things. What we need from Obama is a vision of how the world might look 100 years from now, and we need that vision backed with the courage to take the first steps down that road toward a 100-year tomorrow.
I believe that many people feel that way, though they might articulate it differently. But I believe a larger purpose is needed now, a bigger picture of the world and our place in it, beyond our selves, beyond our house and car payments and our personal needs and wants. We need someone to draw back the curtain and say: "Look outside! Look at it all the way it could be if we had the courage to dream for others the way we dream for ourselves. Look at your unborn great great grandchildren and imagine them here in this world when we are long gone. This is the world we can give them."
Certainly, President-elect Obama is going to face monumental challenges when he takes office. There really are a number messes that are going to take a great deal of work and creativity to clean up.
But I think if he can inspire us, if he can get us off of our collective fannies and working at what needs fixing, then the work will happen and the fixing will get done. And if he can also articulate what kind of future we might choose for those unborn great great grandkids, then he will have awoken the fantastic beast that is the United States. And then we can collectively stride into the future.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Ah, Them Kids, Them Kids

Okay, so it's Monday night and Chepa went with the boyfriend to wherever it is they go for a month yesterday and so today I picked Madeleina up from school and told her we had to go to the store before we came home. Well, I was going to tell her that, actually, but she beat me to the punch and came into the car with: "If you tell me we have to go to the store I'm going to kill you." And I had to say, "well, it's worse than that. After the store we have to drive into Fort Worth to pick up my paycheck."
She looked at me blankly: "Dad, let's be honest. That check is so small we might as well just save the gas money and earn a couple of bucks..."
Touche, girl.
Stll, she was stuck with going and I treated her parakeets to a 5-pound box of deluxe parakeet food, which took the edge of her humor a bit. And I gave in and said we'd go for the check tomorrow.
So we get back home and in short order I toss on a chicken--fresh garlic, salt, pep on a bed of celery and onion with some beer for juice--nice rice with roasted garlic in olive oil as a base, broccoli and cauliflower to steam--later to be tossed with garlic, diced tomatoes and asparagus then dressed in balsamic vinager, and some kidney beans with black-eyed peas.
"So dad, I sort of recognize most of this but what's up with those beans? Are you being serious or is this an early April Fool's joke?"
"Just kidney beans with black eyed peas darling. Couple of strips of bacon to start, a little garlic and tomatoes for flavor, then let them simmer an hour while I do my email."
"Well, aren't you a little freaky-deaky?"
She actually used that term.
"Yes, you are," she continued, as if talking to her baby sister Alexa. "You're a little freaky-deaky, aren't you? Just a little freaky-deaky, deaky..."
I guess things have gotten unbelieveable out here because I could not believe she was using that term. I've never used it and she sounded so familiar with it that it was spooky. Does she walk around using it when I'm not listening? I wondered?
And I'll still wonder, because she's now swearing she doesn't even know the term. But then she's drinking 16 ounces of cold coffee with milk and seltzer and beginning to bounce off the walls so I don't know that I'll be able to speak to the real Madeleina for several hours.
And she's not the only one infected with insanity here. Marco found two mice in a drawer in his bureau the other day--we got em--and wondered why they were there. The only logical explanation was that the bureau was the only clean place in his room. Everything else is covered in clothes or fast food wrappers. And this morning I took a glass of something from his desk and found three separate types of mold growing in it: One green, one a spectacular sunburst yellow and red, and one just brown stuff. Still, enough primordial goop to start an earth, if not a universe.
When questioned about it his answer was that he was trying to duplicate a science experiment he'd seen on tv.
I'm not buying that.
I'm not using that glass again either.
And Madeleina just came in while I'm typing this and asked me if I could introduce her to some effeminate men. "They sound so cool. You if I could meet them I'd know how to try to sound if I was a grown woman or something..."
Oy, vey. Another day at the Gormans.
I'm very glad I'm allowed to be part of it all.

Friday, October 31, 2008

This is How I Try to Get Money from Publishers

Well, it may be unorthodox but this is a letter I sent to a publisher today. And I adore this guy. He's been the fastest paying publisher I ever knew: Generally within a week of me turning in a column or feature he's got the money in my bank, with the transfer charge on him.
But I called a couple of times this week and he wasn't there. So I sent this transparently non-threatening but still dangerously insane note to him a few minutes ago.
I won't reveal the mag, but I will tell you his nickname is the HUN. As in Atilla, not as in Honey....

Dear HUN: Hope this note finds you well. Hope we're selling 4 million copies per issue by now and that Canada has made it a law that every single person has to buy 19 copies monthly. And if they're not doing that, I will come up north and kick some hockey-mom butt! You understand? I'm on your side.
That said, I turned in a fairly brilliant piece called the Bad Law Enforcement Officer Awards to the lovely Mamaxxx a couple of weeks ago. And she offered the paltry sum of $400 for more than 3000 words put in such an order that readers will be compelled, compelled to read them all.
At the same time I'm brokus extremus due to my family insisting on eating every goddamned day, the pigs. So I wonder if you would be so kind as to send me $400 soon so that they don't eat the actual pig yet--and let me note that the pig insists on eating daily as well....
You see that there is an unfair dependency on me as dad, or in the dad role, don't you? But no one is claiming sexism there, are they? No, not a chance. That's just a given. Well, I'm thinking of having a sex change just so that they can't suck off my teats anymore....but maybe that's more than you needed to know....or maybe not, given that I suspect you too are a dad and a filthy beast. At best.
And you still have not sent any of the porno girls to my house. How can you be a good gumba and not take care of people like me who sweat blood for you?
Unfreakingbelieveavable, to tell you the truth.
Well, I was going to give you this on the phone but you weren't there. You were probably out with 5 dozen naked women and here I was freezing in the Texas Fall heat without a stinking one...
So let's get on the stick and take care of family here, okay?
I love you, bro. I know you love me too. But god forbid we ever actually meet: We'd probably be identical bums.
Peter G

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Best Part of a Writer's Week

I never worked daily newspapers, so I have no idea what that pressure is like. I imagine it's like cooking: Get as ready as you can and still all hell is going to break loose and the minute you open the doors people are complaining they've waited too long. And so with filing stories with a daily I'll bet. "Jones! Police scanner says there's a jumper on 19th street. Get there!"
And it wouldn't just be get there, it would be get there, talk to police, climb onto the bridge and try to interview the potential jumper, find his family, talk to them, call the guy's boss, describe the sight as he leapt and the sound as he landed, call it all into rewrite within five minutes and have it all accurate and whew! Get the follow up for the paper's internet site. That is amazing pressure and that is why so many news stories aren't great: We readers have the luxury to say: "Why didn't he interview the cabbie who brought the guy to the bridge?" when that would have taken hours or days just to locate the cabbie and poor Jones only had 45 minutes to get there, grab the interviews, put the puzzle together and put it out there. And hope he was right.
I, however, have spent my life at magazines. We publish once a month. True, a lot more is expected of my features than what's expected of Jones, but I do have the time-luxury of thinking about who to call and how to find their numbers, even if unlisted, to get what I want.
But since moving to Texas I've worked for a weekly. Not nearly the same as a daily, but still more pressure than a monthly that gives you a two month lead time. At the local alternative, we've got a Pulitzer Prize winning boss. We've got two reporters who have both been the southwest's Reporters of the Year a couple of times and are somewhat legend. We've got a former Newsweek Senior Editor, a theater critic who saw my father when he came through Texas in Gore Vidal's The Best Man 45-years ago, a culture editor who, if he wasn't a gumba, would be considered one of the best music/arts editors in the country, a Calendar editor guy who knows more about movies--and almost as much about sports--than anyone I've ever met, a guy working to become a Catholic priest who's smarter than half the bishops I've met, a young punk who might very well become very very famous one day if he'll start kissing my butt a little, and a young woman food reviewer who writes the best food reviews I've ever seen. It is simply a brilliant staff and an honor to be among them.
And the best part of the week is today. Today I turned a story in that's to run as a feature but not the cover story. That means about 1,500 words. I'd done 5 interviews and read nearly 150 pages of PDF studies to get the gist of what the hell I was talking about. But it was due Friday. And Friday there was nothing. So I worked the weekend and then yesterday five people called me back and let me interview them. And then I wrote my story, and finished it today--the day we go to press because the paper comes out tomorrow--and turned it in at about noon.
Then you sit. You sit at your computer and wait. You know your Pulitzer-winning and very astute boss is going to come back at you with questions and you can't go anywhere because you're going to have to answer them.
And then at 5 PM, just two hours to press time, she does. "Peter, there's a lot of good material here but you've got too much scientific jargon in there. Also, I need quotes from X, Y and Z. Oh, and don't forget Q. Get back to me in half-an-hour."
And of course that's impossible. But that's when the race is on and you've been given a directive and a direction that you didn't see as the writer and now you've got to find out cell phone numbers for people with whom you've never talked, you've got to find them in the field or on vacation, you've got to google your butt off to translate the science into language people will bother to read.....And at the same time the kids are saying: "Hey dad! Where the heck's the dinner? I'm starving!"
And so you're playing the phone and the computer and chopping garlic at the same time.
For the record, I had so many new calls to make in the last hour before the paper would have gone to press with a hole in it--and I'd be without a job in the business forever--that I just made Basmati rice, cooked off 2 pounds of chopped meat, strained it, then cooked a head of garlic, a sweet onion, diced, carrots, zuccini, fresh green beans, tomatoes, pulled peas, added salt, pepper, achote from the jungle that I happen to have for coloration and flavor, a pint of chicken stock I made last week and just hoped it would all come out alright.
At the same time I got the pig's food together: a zuccini, a banana, a head of lettuce, tomato ends, a cucumber, a quarter of a seedless watermelon, rice, left over home made fries from last night, half a head of celery, organic baby carrots, a couple of red peppers, a bag of chopped scallions, a bag of white bread, three pounds of grain, a granny smith apple, and a bag of chips.
So in the frantic moment, the pig eats well, the story got done and now our food is just simmering wonderfully.
AND I'M going to take a moment to call a particular gal who's got my attention.
That danger zone, that critical moment, man, I live for those. They're always scary, I'm never sure I can get it done, but man, I live for those moments. And they happen about once every couple of weeks.
And I am going to sleep very very well tonight. It's my best sleep till the next time I get put in the crosshairs.
"Yeah, baby," as Madeleina would say, "think you're tough? Try me."

Good Morning, Everyone!

Well, good morning, everyone! It's still pitch black outside at 7:20 AM on a balmy Tuesday morning here in bucolic Joshua. Spent another semi-sleepless night rewriting the story that's due today in my dreams and that was lousy: Heck, I've already done that half a dozen times in real life! But there's a new coffee pot and a new pot of coffee and it looks good. It was just time for the old one to go. So this is going to be swell.
First sip: ahhhhhh! That's good coffee.
And I hope your coffee is mighty fine as well.
And that's it from here till I actually can make sense. Have a great day, you guys and gals.
Gorman out

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Baby Splooch

I'm hanging around with Madeleina today and she was asking me about what she was like as a baby. She remembers all sorts of things that never happened and I remember all sorts of things that I wish had happened. Like I wish I wasn't so stinking stressed out all the time about money and had given her more time and piano lessons. I didn't. But in Iquitos we did play "One, two, three...twenty eight!" which was her signal to try to run past me at age two or three. In Spanish it makes more sense, but you get the point.
I adored her and still do, even though she tests me pretty often these days and today had the audacity to call me "the stupidest dad or semi-human ever created by the anti-Christ"--which was followed by a very bored sigh--which I thought was not only insightful but rude. I had to pause on that one.
But then she asked what she was like as a baby and I told her how perfect an angel she was, how many months she was see-through before she became solid. And I told her about how when she was still drinking Chepa's milk I'd burp her before I went to the High Times' office to work. And Chepa would always tell me to change my shirt because even if I cleaned-up the burped milk it left a stain and a bit of an odor.
And I always said 'no', because that was my baby's smell. And sometimes I'd be on the Lexington Avenue train, if it was a rainy day and I couldn't ride my bike and all the other dads and a few of the young moms who knew what that stain was would look at me and smile and I'd smile back: "Yes, mam, that's my baby's stain and I'm wearing it like a badge of honor. I wouldn't trade that smudge on my shirt for anything in the world." And they'd smile back because they had the same stains. And then me and a handful of people riding down from 86th street would become one: There is nothing in the world like having a baby and raising it and trying to be good for her or him and watching them grow, watching them laugh, watching them become flesh from angels and I've got friends, Tree and Mandala who have a new baby and I'm so wonderfully jealous. What a time they're in for! What a wonder, every day, they will get to witness.
Until, of course, they turn about 14 going on 60 and become all curmudgeonly and hate you but even then you know that's just the start of opening their own wings and they've got to do that if they're ever going to fly on their own.
I love my babies, even though they're growing and I'm missing my Italo, away at school, and my Marco, away at his girl's house much of the time, and even my Madeleina, away at Mom's a few days a week. I'd wear their burp stains any day, any time. Those are the stains that remind me that I'm dad, and I never loved anything as much as I loved being dad.
Maybe I'm feeling maudlin tonight because I can't be with the girl I want to be with. She lives far away. But I've still got my Madeleina and I am learning to take the love when it's offered.
I love you, my little Madeleina.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

An Andy Warhol Story

So someone was talking about Andy Warhol and I remembered this tidbit from a long time ago:
Back in the day I worked at a gallery called Multiples on Madison and 74th in NYC that sold Andy’s work, and then later I worked at Chrysalis Studios, where the work was made. I was the guy who pulled the squeegie across the silk screens for Warhol’s Marilyn’s, Mao’s and Flowers. We also did a lot of Oldenburg and Lichtenstein. But Warhol was fun because I also had the job of stamping his signature onto those silkscreens with a graphite stamp we had (you didn’t think he actually did that, did you?). And I don’t know who did the numbering because my job was just sign it.
But one day I got bored and maybe high, who can remember, dahling, and I stamped a fresh box of Oldenberg Soft something or others we’d just done with the Warhol stamp.
The boss went, naturally and correctly, crazy and fired me. As a last gesture of decency I offered to have the box destroyed. "Heavens, no!" she nearly screamed."That’s an Oldenburg box signed dozens of times by Andy Warhol! It’s going to be worth millions some day."
As far as I know that box has not gone on the market yet. But I’ll bet she’s right.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Loving my Madeleina

Well, while I was away for a couple of days on the weekend, I was so darned enamored with the company I was keeping that I'll admit I didn't spend a lot of time thinking of my kids. I did think of them, of course, but at the same time knew they were fine and so allowed myself to be away. I do the same thing when I'm on jungle trips: There's nothing I can do if something goes wrong so please god/spirit/universe don't let anything go wrong.
But it's a joy to be with her again as well, even though I'm still so damned enamored with the company I had I can't see straight, much less think.
Yesterday in the car I decided to teach her a little Latin--which is a lot more than I know--when she asked me why Latin America was named Latin America and then answered herself with: "Oh, yeah, because we're Latins. What are Latins anyway? I mean I am one but I don't know how to define it exactly."
"No, darling, you are not Latin. You're half-indigenous Amazon Indian and half-Irish mutt. Latin America comes from the language groups. In Rome the language was called Latin. Rome expanded and took over a lot of civilizations and the languages that grew out of that included Spanish, which has Latin roots. And so Latin America indicates that you are from an area where interlopers introduced languages that had Latin roots."
"That's impossible. You're an idiot, dad. Now tell me the real story."
So I quoted a few words from my Catholic alterboy past: Susipiat sacrafeliat sacramentum.... (Spelling is completely up in the air, okay?) and then riffed on that:
"Veni, vedi, vici means 'I came, I saw, I conquered', in Latin," I said, not sure if I had that right but close enough for government work--particularly these days.
"What about "Peni, pini, pichi?" she asked, sliding into vulgar Spanish.
"Way out of line Ms. Madeleina. I'm going to have to wash your mouth out."
"Okay. But it sounds almost the same...."
"And in about 40 years I'm going to explain what that is....but not now when you're eleven. Got it?"
"You are a downer, dad. When was the last time someone called you a nerd? Because you define the word with your presence."
"Okay, it was gonna be organic soap with mint flavor, but I think you just downgraded to detergent..."
"Oh, dad..."
"Oh, yourself."
And then we were laughing, laughing.
And then she whacked my arm and said I was lying when I claimed to have brown hair with some gray in it. "It's gray, dad. Face it. You're older than that McCain guy, and he looks like he's been dead for a couple of years."
"This is my blog. No politics..."
"You mean this is your blob..."
"I want to hear 800 notes on that flute in succession, Little Miss. Got me?"
"Yeah, dad. Like that's gonna happen."
And then today, just a moment ago, when I suggested she do homework or play the flute, but in either case just turn the television and stereo off so that she could concentrate, she responded with: "My leg...oh, my leg hurts...I can't do anything..."
And when I suggested that the thought of homework or music work was what was causing the sudden leg injury she responded: "Coincididdle, have no idea what kind of pain I'm in!"
And now I'm just sitting here loving her. What the heck. She's Irish like me and if there's anything we know how to do it's to fill in the blanks with a whole lot of cow manure. Where she got it is anybody's guess, I suppose, though some might point fingers right at me. Imagine!!!!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Into the Water...

Boom, I dove into the water and made my plane to visit my high school sweetheart and then it was a couple of hours later and I was being driven from the airport to her home in a Lincoln Towncar and I could hardly breathe. And when we arrived and she stepped to the screened window of her porch I will tell you she was a lovely as she ever was. She was breathtaking. Of course, since I was already short of breath I nearly hyperventilated and tripped walking up three steps and man, I was 17 all over again and having a hard time not just bursting out and making up stuff just to try to impress her so she'd like me.
The weekend was lovely, the weather perfect, the company wonderful. I'm sure I made my share of 17-year-old/57-year-old mistakes--talking too much, trying to impress her too much and others--but in between those we managed to talk and laugh and had a hayride and watched leaves turn colors and made a fire and grilled some steaks and way way way too fast I was back on a plane coming home this morning. I would teleport her here this instant if I could.
So it's nice to be home and I can't wait to see my Madeleina, and it was fantastic that Marco just came home from work to have me make lunch for him and I'm going to one of Italo's games tomorrow afternoon--but this minute, and for the last few hours, I'm sort of 17 and all taken by that girl again.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Here Goes a High Dive

Dear All: I know I've been lax lately. Haven't meant to be, just been fantastically busy. For my alternative weekly, the last month has seen me write a dozen or so short bits for the Best Of Fort Worth issue, a cover story, an inside news story, a short news piece and a food review. For my regular Skunk Mag gig I've written my column and a feature; for a business magazine I wrote a cover story and for Cannabis Culture I've been working on a feature that I'll turn in before the end of the month. I've also been working on a new cover and new news feature for the alternative. Plus, I rewrote several small stories as stand-alones for a new book, and then wrote that long piece Ayahuasca and the Glory that so many of you commented on. Thanks.
Whew! No wonder I have not had a lot of time to sit here and chat with you.
Well, that's all part of the story. There's another part.
About a month ago I got in touch with my high school sweetheart. She's single now, and so it was one of those serendipidous things. We began to write each other asking how the last 35-40 years have been. And we got along. And we got excited. And now tomorrow I'm headed out to visit her for the weekend. And if you don't think that's got me wound up like a New York City pretzel, then you have no idea who I am. I am as excited as if I were going to do a month of real exploration in the Amazon, but much less afraid of the snakes and caiman I might meet there than I am of meeting this woman. She was the absolute love of my life for a few years. And now she still sounds the same on the phone and has the same rapier wit in her emails that she used to have in person. But the thing is that I'm not 17 or 18 or 19 anymore. I'm 57-years old!!!! I'm heavier than I want to be to see her. I'm balder and grayer than I want to be. I'm OLDER than I want to be. I'm not some handsome kid anymore. I'm just me. I've beat up time a little bit; time's beaten me up a little bit, but all those scars show like pimples on a teen and my teeth are yellow and need fixing and while I'm trying my best I will probably still have some damned hair growing out of my ear and she'll still be so beautiful because no matter what she'll be beautiful to me.
And though necking was as far as I ever got with her you've got to know I'd love to try that again. What a kisser she was when I last kissed her. But it's been a long time since I kissed anybody and I don't even know if my lips work anymore, or if I'll know how to breathe if she even gives me the chance.
I think certain things freeze us in time. I'm a very responsible, decent man. I drink too much whiskey, but only after the work is done and after I've kissed the kids. I smoke too many cigarettes but that's my deal with the devil. I help whom I can, I try to be honest and giving and grown up and think I've been a good dad and hope I'm a better one tomorrow and all that jazz. But when it comes to visiting this girl--woman now--I'm just 17-years old again and full of nervousness that I won't be accepted, full of wondering if my face is going to break out, or if my pants are going to look too corny. Hell, I bought a damned jacket this week, just in case she wants me to have one. And I look like I weigh 400 pounds in it, with shoulders bigger than a football players. And I'm not that bad but that's how I'm seeing myself.
Now you know why I haven't been writing. I've been all caught up in work and this. And the work is hard but doable. This is freaking impossible. I hope my eyes don't pop from the pressure before I get on the plane.
So wish me luck and know that I know most of you are jealous, but probably in a good way. I'm very lucky to be able to see this woman again after all these years. I'm looking forward to it with short breaths. And as scary as it is, I wouldn't trade me tomorrow for anyone.
So wish me me luck. Personally, I'm hoping to get some good kissing in before I leave, though if she reads this I'll probably have blown any chance.
Thanks for listening.
PS: Madeleina thinks this woman did good by giving me the boot 40 years ago and thinks that this time around she ought to just beat me with a stick, "because you're acting like a teenager, dad. And we all know teenagers are idiots who should be smacked."
Then she hit me on the shoulder. Hard. About 10 times.
That's my Madeleina. That's my baby. You keep it all in perspective for me, girl.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Response to a Letter from a Stranger

Someone whom I don't know wrote me recently. She asked how to start traveling and then she asked how to be a free lance writer writing about traveling. (This is not to you Ms. Mollie T., this is in response to a total stranger.) It was a big question, and I answered the best way I knew how: In a confused, insane manner. Nonetheless, I'm gonna post what I wrote, just cause I feel I have short changed you all recently and don't mean to. So I hope this isn't too damned dumb or anything. It's just me responding to a stranger asking me how to start traveling, how to know where you want to travel, and how you might make a buck while doing it.
And thanks for reading, y'all.
Peter G

Hmmm. No, writing was not something I studied in school, though that's something I regret. I was just a New York city kid. I loved hitchhiking back and forth across the country, seeing new things. That was my schooling. At some point I took a trip, on my own, without speaking Spanish, to the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico and that hooked me. I loved the culture of Oaxaca, Merida, Palenque. I followed that up with a trip to Peru--again, lacking Spanish--and ran into a man who took me into the jungle, where I felt more alive than possible. I wanted to see Indians, but he said he wouldn't take me--not for lack of my begging him, but because they were several days walk and he couldn't risk it with a novice: If I got hurt he'd have to carry me and we'd both die.
So I returned the following year and spent a month doing some basic jungle training, then the following year got to go out to the deep deep jungle. I also traveled a lot to India--again, no language skills. But in India I never met a similar teacher, so I wasn't equally drawn back, though I did go several times for stories in magazines.
I suspect that if you are drawn to the exotic you will find your way to some place your heart is calling you. Take a tour--one like mine, though I don't mean that as a promo, I just mean a tour that will really give you the sense of a place and during which you'll meet interesting people. If a teacher appears you probably won't know it at the time, but when you return home you'll be unable to get rid of the gnawing feeling that you need to return.
And once you start to return somewhere, you will start to make sense of it in a way I can't really describe--you'll just sort of know it when it's there.
Some of it is just like diving off a high board for the first time: You're scared, unsure, and know you don't know what you're doing. Then you jump anyway and find yourself delighted to see that you've done it and survived.
I certainly can't suggest anything for your life other than to live the parts you really have to. Save some money, pick a place on the globe and head out. It won't kill you. It will enrich you. And once you have your feet wet it will be easier to make those life decisions you're talking about.
Oh, and when you're there, take lots of notes. Keep a journal and do the entire day each night before bed. Take photos. Listen to people. Listen more to locals than to other gringos. Watch a lot. Even if you're lost. Who cares? This kind of travel is very special and enriching. And if you come home and sell something--a photo, a story--that's great. If not, no sweat. Making a living as a free-lance writer is not so great. It's damned hard and I don't really recommend it as a career move. For years I supported my travel by being a chef in a restaurant 9 months a year, then traveling 3 months with my savings. I was 35 before I could make a living writing and I've never made as much writing as I did as a chef. But I'm sort of too far gone to revert to my old ways and like the challenge of coming up with new ideas for stories to sell to mags.
Peter G

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Didn't Forget You, Just Not Much to Say

Dear All: I didn't forget you, I just haven't had much to say. I've had a lot of work to do, and it's had me talking to myself rather than being out of my head, so I've been cluttered.
But I've just woken from a wonderful dream of playing baseball--just catch with my kids--and in a couple of hours I'm going to take Madeleina downtown and we're going to race each other in the crazy human maze they have in the Fort Worth Stockyards. Then we're going to have an ice cream from the Bull Ring and maybe try on cowboy hats.
The pig is fine, Boots the wonderdog is fine, all is okay.
I'm hoping you all have a wonderful Saturday morning as well.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Snake/Rat Story

So while I'm overwhelmed with work--one long news piece and one food review due Monday for my regular Alternative Weekly gig; my column and a feature due Oct 13 for Skunk Magazine, a cover story due Nov 1 for Cannabis Canada, the finish of my book project, the organization of an 8-day trip to Peru (14 days for me) starting on Oct 28, and preparations for two trips in Peru in Jan and Feb of '09, a friend wrote Thursday night asking if I had a few minutes. Seems he's got a friend who's written a lot of books and for one reason or another she needs short bits about adventure for her new book.
Well, I was flattered, as I always am when someone wants to include me in their books--happened twice last week, and though they pay little or nothing, it's generally a reprint so what the heck. Well, I'd had a bad dream Thursday night, one in which I was excellently prepared to take care of a dangerous situation in public, but subsequently found myself allowing my Madeleina to be in the presence of Hannibal Lecter--just like real life, I'm okay for everybody but worried I'm not capable of caring for my own family--and so I was awake at 2 AM when the first note arrived asking for a short jungle piece. I found one, cut and copied it, framed it to work as a stand-alone and sent it off. A couple of hours later, me still not sleeping, I was asked for another. I found another and did the rest. Then another note asking for more until I'd sent seven pieces out. Two, Lengua and Catering an Amazon Party I sent whole; the others, about the first time I met the Matses, about Sapo, the marvelous Matses' medicine, about the river pirates on the Yivari when I was plant collecting for Shaman Pharmaceuticals in the early 1990s all got worked on. And then there was this very short bit that I don't know if I've ever written. If I did I couldn't remember, so wrote it.
Which was a lot of work for a guy with three hours sleep who'd just woken from an awful nightmare. But it made yesterday sweet because I felt like I'd already done a full day's work by the time the sun rose. And even better, the author wrote to say she'd like to include a number of them. Cool.
So here's the bit I think is new:

I was interviewing the great herpetologist Rom Whitaker for a big magazine and so was spending a month at his compound in Tamil Nadu. One of the things Rom was doing was working with the Irula tribals, the famed snake catchers. As Rom had been instrumental in getting a ban on the snake skin trade--ban is a strong word in India, but at least in slowing it considerably--he felt a responsibility to the Irula whose stock in trade he'd cut back drastically. So he taught them to extract venom from snakes, and paid them well. That way they could still do what they loved--which was to catch snakes--but instead of killing them for their skins, they had begun collecting and selling venom, then releasing the snakes back into the wild.
One of the other things the Irula loved to do was catch rats. And in Tamil Nadu, where there are a lot of rice farms, there are a lot of rats. But the owners of those fields generally disliked the Irula just tromping through them. So Rom Whitaker began making deals with those owners: He explained that since the rats were capable of eating their own weight in grain daily, they ought to let teams of Irula come in periodically and eliminate all of the rats in a given paddy. Being organized like that, the owners went for the idea. Rom, in turn, bought the rats from the Irula to feed the several thousand crocodilians he was raising in a dozen huge pits on his property. The crocs were a gene pool and they were being studied by several university students. They were also a tourist draw and thousands of people would stop by in busses daily to gawk at them as well as to watch the Irula deftly handle poisonous snakes as they extracted their venom.
But if you wanted to be a student and work at Whitaker's place, he had one condition: You had to eat bar-be-cued rat. He'd make a big party of it when a new bunch of students came to study for a week or two, organizing a huge rat bar-be-cue. He also insisted that I eat if I wanted to finish the interview we'd started days earlier. Well, rats being the only thing at Whitaker's place that flat-out scared me--the crocs and the cobras were not nearly as frightening--I almost gave up the interview. And when three of the creatures were placed on a plate for me I nearly died. So I made a deal: If he'd eat his with a magic mushroom sauce I could make in minutes (I had wonderful mushrooms from the area) and I could do the same, I'd eat them. He said okay and I made the sauce and poured the magic over the monsters.
"Bon appetit," he said, tearing at the haunches of one of the rodents with verve.
I looked at the animal, bits of blackened fur still attached to the carcass showing from under the layer of 'shrooms, shut my eyes, picked one up and took a bite.
"Bon appetit yourself," I said, chewing the thing.

Have a great Saturday night everybody! Drive safe! And don't forget to hug the people you love and tell them you think they're swell, okay? Everybody likes to hear that sometimes.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Late Afternoon

Well, after a few days I've finally got my Madeleina back and we were laughing a lot in the car while we went shopping. She brings up the nuttiest topics and for some reason with her I'm loose enough to just have fun. Today she was asking about the size pigs get to and somehow that led her to ask about pigs mating and I went into Maurie and Geraldine, the 600 pound hog regularly slated to mate with the 350 pound pig and next thing you know we were laughing and laughing. I was still dad so I kept it clean, but I can't believe Geraldine would look forward to an intimate visit with Maurie--You put one hoof on me and I'll slap you silly--or that Maurie would find the excessively Geraldine his pig of choice either....somehow it was funny to us. As were a dozen other things, like how when you shoot a deer it's okay to eat but if you run one over and invite your friends they accuse you of serving them roadkill, or how garlic squeals when you pinch it...
So we're having a good meal tonight and Madeleina gets to go see her first symphony at Bass Hall Thursday and can't wait and that's all it really takes to get me out of a funk. Plus three new people signed on for the short January Jungle trip and so that puts us at least at break even and by January we'll probably get four more.
And the last two days I've been trying to answer Italo's challenge. He wants me to have a book published by March 20. He thinks I'm being too arrogant waiting on a big publishing house to come to me. I think I've earned it but I took him on and have spent the last two days--from 3:30 AM till about 6 P--organizing and rewriting my ayahuasca work into a linear read. That new piece you were all nice enough to read is chapter five and while I'm not sure who would want to read so much about experiential shamanism, I do think some of it's pretty compelling. And heck, I've got 280 pages or so of good material so I'm taking Italo's challenge and will go ahead and go to Lulu or somebody and have some books made.
So thanks for everybody's concern that I was blue, and that's going to keep happening for a while with Italo/Sarah gone most of the time and whatnot, but I won't sit around watching tv and sucking down beer. I'll get the work done and get strong and keep making great food even if it's smaller amounts.
Oh, and the pig/dog/birds are fine. No sign of rats in days....though I'm still moving real careful around the office...

PS: Madeleina just spent an hour making up a new song called "You Ain't Got Rhythm, You Just Can't Dance" about me. I have explained that Alan Shoemaker, Chuck DuDell and scores of others have said I'm the only white guy with real rhythm in the world--and I am a fantastic dancer!--and there goes my daughter Madeleina, spawn of my loins, shouting to the world that I can't dance!!!! She's 11-years-old! She doesn't remember the Bee-Hive, our local Disco where Mountain played weekends, or the Cafe Au Go Go where the Blues Project and Cream and Benny King and the double-drumming Paupers played. And where I grew up. And danced, though it was against the rules.
So I've got an 11-year-old making justice on my moves. I'm calling for a referee. I'm calling for a videotape replay. I'm calling on whatever god runs this universe to put my beautiful daughter in her place. Can't dance? Hell, John Travolta used to come to my house just to learn new moves! Yeah, baby. I can dance alright. I move to beats you haven't even heard yet...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Feeling Blue

I have not lied to you yet and I'm not about to start. I'm feeling about as blue as can be these last couple of weeks. Italo has gone to college, the local JC, where he's on scholarship for soccer. Fine, but that means he rooms there. And with Italo there, his girl Sarah, who's lived with us for the last three years or so, is not here except on days when he's here, which means one or two weekend days, no more.
And with Sarah gone, so is her dog Lady, a little mini=pooch who doesn't like me but was at least nice to have around.
And with them all gone, Marco, my second, is staying a lot more nights at his girl Brook's house, so those two are gone as well.
And with them all gone, Chepa, the wonderful ex/spawn of the devil is flexing her muscles and taking Madeleina a lot more on weekends.
Plus not bringing Sierra and Alexa over as much.
So I'm left on Saturdays and Sundays sort of alone. Which would be fine except that I miss the noise, the activity, the laughter, the joy, the fights.
So just letting you know that not all is joyville in Gormantown, at least from my point of view. I'm glad they're all growing up, but I'm not quite ready for it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Postscript to Ayahuasca and Stuff

Okay: A few people have asked me: so, in regards to the last entry, Ayahuasca and the Glory, are the presents real or were you just imagining them?
The answer is that they're more real than I can describe. But I don't have any control. So they're not mine. When I need to talk to a plant, I can; when I need a song for healing, I have it, but I can't remember it later. When I need to know what someone is thinking it's clear as a bell; otherwise, I'm as in the dark as the rest of us. And I imagine that if I gave myself fully to being a healer/curandero that I'd have these things available. But I don't. Right this second I can no more go to Saturn or Pluto--which is a lot less dense than people say--than the man in the moon. But if I needed that view, well, then the guardians, and particularly the sachavaca, seem to lend that to me for a few seconds. Which is probably more than I deserve, but I will take the love.
On the other hand, I've been called up short, and perhaps rightfully, for the prostitute incident in the story. Problem was, it was a real incident and I'm trying to write these things honestly and I didnt know how to leave it out. Same with the theft of my guests' funds: I stole them, hoped to repay them, couldn't. I'm very proud that I went there in person to let them wail on me. Or whale on me. And I'm very very happy that money got sent to me that I wasn't expecting and wasn't owed the very next day and which covered the trip....I think that came because I had the heart to face my theft. But I stole my guests' money to keep my house, nothing more, and the guardians took care of me for having the courage to face my fate because of it. I'll try to be a better person next time.
On better notes: Marco turned 20 on Wednesday and that's wonderful. He was slated to die when he was seven-years-old and his kidneys failed but he came through then and has been coming through ever since. I love you, Marco. Thanks for being my son.
On another better note: Someone I was in love with 40 years ago got in touch with me recently and I have spoken with her a few times on the phone. I wish I was not stuck in points in time because when I was talking with her last night I wouldnt' let her get off for fear I would never get the chance to talk with her again. Just like when it was time to go home when I was 17 and I wanted that kiss to last like 2 million years and couldnt' let it go. So she probably thinks I'm an idiot who kept talking endlessly about nonsense: Truth is I was just trying to keep her on the phone long enough to decide she was in love with me and would end the conversation with: "I
will be there in the morning. I've missed you for 40 years...."
Or some such.
Do you guys believe how much I open myself up for ridicule here? I can't believe it myself. Yikes!!!
Still, you deserve the truth.

Posted by Peter Gorman at 3:33 PM


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Ayahuasca and the Glory

Dear All: This is the fifth in a series of stories I began writing about in 1990 that involve my evolving ayahuasca experiences. For those who don't know what ayahuasca is, go back to the beginning of this blog, the oldest entries and work forward until you reach something called 25-Years of Shamanism. That will give you at least a little structure in which to read this piece.
And I'm going to tell you now that there are a couple of very raw places in this piece, and some of you are going to find out that I'm not nearly as advanced as you probably hope I am. Sorry. I'm just me.
But I think there's something to learn from this and I think it's honest and that's the best I know how to give you.
Nuff said. Here's a new ayahuasca piece. And if I get to it, I think I have two more to finish this series as of now, though it continues to evolve and after the next two, there will hopefully be others.
And thanks for reading.

Ayahuasca and the Glory

By Peter Gorman

It was probably nearly two years since I’d been splooched before I could return to Iquitos. I had moved to Texas to be with Madeleina and have her together her brothers Marco and Italo—Chepa, my ex was staying with her sisters in Fort Worth proper. But reinventing myself as a 52-year-old freelance journalist was nearly impossible and within months of buying our little house in Joshua I was two months behind in the mortgage and at risk of losing it. I managed to get lucky when the National Enquirer called out of the blue and gave me a few week’s work but that didn’t last long and I was soon behind again. Friends bailed me out and I pawned my guitar and my grandfather’s pocket watch and took a loan out on my 9-year-old 1994 Ford Ranger and even went to work at day labor for a month just to keep the house. After my breakup with Chepa and her moving to Texas with my daughter and then the move there myself to get the kids back together I was pretty much willing to do anything to keep that simple roof over their heads. And so when a couple contacted me out of the blue to ask if I had a trip coming up—though I hadn’t done one in some time—I told them I did. And when they sent the money I put it to the house, hoping against hope that I’d somehow be able to repay the theft before it was time for the trip.
Turned out I couldn’t and as the day of the trip came closer I thought of just not going at all. My friend Lynn, who’d been on an earlier trip with me, was already in Iquitos. He was taking care of some family business there as he’d married a Peruvian woman who had worked for me on my trips a couple of times—which is where he’d met her—and I thought that he might just be able to explain to the couple that I was sick and so the trip was cancelled. I would get their money back at some point in the future.
I didn’t do that. Instead I decided to tell the couple the truth face-to-face that I’d used their money to save my house and borrowed money for airfare. If they needed to kill me or hate me, well, they’d at least have me there in person. So I left Texas with $100 and arrived in Iquitos with about $15 after buying a ticket from Lima to Iquitos.
Lynn was generous enough to give me $100, which I used to get drunk my first night in town and then got robbed of the remainder. But in the morning, amazingly, Chepa got in touch to say a $1,000 check from a magazine for an article I’d written had arrived. I wasn’t expecting any check but thanked the heavens for it. Even more odd was that when she forged my name my bank cashed it for her and she was able to wire it the same day. So I had been saved from having to admit to my guests, who flew in that afternoon, that I’d embezzled their money.
The couple, young Russians who’d recently immigrated to New York, were lovely. Elona was a walking light stick, full of energy and joy. Pasha was smart and intense. He’d read a lot about ayahuasca and was full of questions about it, many I considered irrelevant. But he insisted on asking them so I did my best to answer. Lynn backed me up by noting that what was in the books was not necessarily connected to what actually happened in ceremony. I offered coffee, for instance, and Pasha asked about the caffeine-ayahuasca interaction. I told him to forget everything he’d read and just be with Lynn and myself and most of all, Julio.
Two days after Pasha and Elona arrived, they, with Lynn and Corrina and myself, boarded the riverboat to Herrera. Twenty-four hours later we arrived at Julio’s stilted, open-walled jungle hut on the Aucayacu river.
Julio was delighted to see us: he’d been my friend and teacher for nearly 20 years and had previously met Lynn and Corrina. And yes, he’d be delighted to make ayahuasca next day.

The ayahuasca Julio made looked magnificent. But by 8:30, when I took my seat near the little front gate of Julio's living room I was nervous. I didn't want anything, anything negative to attack us during the night like I'd been attacked two years earlier on the first night I drank with Lynn.
To that end, about 30 minutes earlier I'd walked slowly around Julio's house, soplaing—blowing Florida Water—to create a wall beyond which nothing with negativity was invited. All good spirits and angels, however, were welcome to come.
I'd made the ceremony up on the spot and it was simple and seemed almost silly, coming from me—with Lynn willingly walking behind me blowing sacred mapacho (Nicotiana rustica) tobacco smoke—but it also seemed like the right thing to do. So regardless of feeling silly I just made the wall and hoped it had power to work.
There were one or two moments when it seemed that while I was telling negative spirits to stay out that one of them was saying it was already there and would get me later. I brushed those aside as the properties of an over-active imagination and tried to forget them. Sure.
Julio began right-to-left with me first. Not long after I drank my panic set in, even sitting there near Julio, and not long after Julio said his prayer I was outside, knees knocking, feet tapping, hands shaking. "I can’t do this. I’m not ready for this!" I was shouting to myself as the buzzing in my ears began, disorienting me. I could feel things were going to be thick and deep, not playful at all. I was having a hard time preventing my nerves from jumping from my skin.
I could not, would not, close my eyes because I knew I would be taken away somewhere scary, somewhere where I had no control. Somewhere where my fear would paralyze me.
I did make an attempt to be brave: I told myself that if Phil Blumenau were here he’d calm me down and say: "Hey Peteball! You can do this," or something like that and instantly I would be confident I could get through anything. But Phil was not there and I could not muster the courage through the thick, disorienting sound and the grinding of the gears that move the blocks of the universe in slow motion. My legs were shaking, my feet tapping.
I stared open-eyed into space to keep a level of stability for fear of disappearing if I let go. Suddenly, colorful lights appeared in front of me. Colorful lights that were sort of like Christmas lights but compelling. They filled my vision and read a simple A.
A bright "A" and I heard myself saying something like "Oh, sure, and what does that stand for, Anaconda?"
And as I said that I moved from the ground to sit on one of the three cut log pieces that made up Julio’s steps and of course I realized the A stood for Ayahuasca.
As I realized that, the A pulled back and revealed that it was just a crest on a hat. A pointed black crushed-velvet hat which sat atop the head of a giant of a being dressed in a similarly made crushed-velvet cape that swept to the ground and reached to the heavens and was dotted with that looked like jewels. When I looked closer I realized they were jewels in the shapes of the planets, stars, the moon. They glistened fantastically. And then I realized they were not jewels or lights on the cape at all but that the cape was the entire universe and the glistening jewels were actually cut-outs in the material that allowed the universe light to come through the cape in the shape of the stars, planets, and moon. It was the cloak of the universe itself, and if it were removed the universe would be revealed to be all light.
The being was male and overwhelmingly terrifying, though he didn't threaten me. Just his enormity, his unknowableness itself was terrifying. This being was strong and stately and elegant and definitely a ‘he’.
He came down in size to the point where I could see his hat again, though he still appeared to be hundreds of feet tall, and asked if I was ready to follow him. I said I wasn’t, that I was too frightened.
He told me not to be frightened, just to follow, that it was time to work. The work, I knew, involved learning the next part of becoming a curandero.
I said I couldn’t. I was not ready for ayahuasca work that night.
He was disappointed but not angry. He wanted to know why I couldn’t work, why I was afraid. I told him I wasn’t ready to give myself up to being torn apart by ayahuasca and blown to bits by the universe.
Like the being in the previous dream two years ago, the man who asked me to follow and promised me the answer to the question of how to love Chepa—and which I got after the splooching—this being was not bad, not evil. If I could summon up the courage to follow him something immense would occur. But I still couldn't manage to let go—of my fear, my ego, myself, and allow myself to follow him.
I told him I had things to do before I could follow and become a curandero. I had to fix things with Chepa and with my work so that my kids could be taken care of. I had too much to do to follow yet and go through the world and change.
He turned and started to stride away, then turned back and said, "Go fix your problems. Come back when you’re ready to work."
He said it plainly, then turned and walked away. No rancor, no anger, no sadness. Just plainly.
And of course as he left I realized that Julio had probably sent him and that I’d just refused a great gift because of my cowardice. But I couldn’t do anything about it, paralyzed by fear in the face of it all.
I apologized silently to Julio but believed that what the man said was true: I should come back when ready to work, which meant follow him to wherever and through whatever hells I had to go through to get somewhere new.
Just after the man disappeared, I vomited. Good, strong and clean. Up came the ayahuasca and the cup of lemon water I’d had a couple of hours earlier, out onto the dirt in front of me.
I looked at the damp spot on the ground.
Suddenly a man dressed identically to the first but of a more normal size, was standing to my right.
"Go ahead and leap into it," he said.
"Put your intent into it and leap."
The vomit had become a Merlin mirror. The phrase I’d so often told people about, the vomit being a sort of magic mirror through which you could leap to travel anywhere in the universe, suddenly for the first time made honest, physical sense.
The spit was only 10-12 inches wide but the portal—clearly that was what it was—was as large as I needed and all I had to do was intend through it to be in it. I thought about it for a minute and then looked at it again and saw the caped man’s face looking up at me from it, grinning a devilish, dark grin, and of course I got scared and stepped away. But I knew the portal had been real, and was ashamed to be so afraid. All those years waiting for that door to materialize and when it did I was a small small man unable to jump into and through it. Ah, nuts. Julio had just been wasting his time with a chicken like me.

There is a gap after the Merlin mirror missed opportunity. I remember my shame and fear and then coming out of that space and listening to the other guests, seeing that they were alright—although Pasha seemed to be vomiting quite a bit—then finding a spot outside Julio’s hut but near the stairs where I could lie down and things calmed down. The doctors came and worked on me a little. Sort of a guest appearance and things got sexy for a while with cartoon sized sexy women prancing and preening and then the beautiful world of ayahuasca tickling me, making me laugh. Bittersweet because I knew I’d lost an opportunity but it was way, way over my head.
But then, out of the calm I found myself being walked up large stone steps by the same being who’d been with me at the portal. He brought me to a set of doors. Tall doors, Very tall. With rounded tops and a very high window: You would have to be a giant to look through that window, maybe 20 feet high. The doors were made of simple but strong oak and were reinforced with a cross-beam perhaps every six feet. I think there were three cross beams on them. They were like castle or church doors.
"This is where the wishes are," he said, indicating I should enter. "There is still time to do the work."
This is where the wishes are, I repeated to myself. Of course, just as I thought that it occurred to me that I hadn’t asked for wishes. I had wished for Chepa’s heart to be cleaned, of course, so that there would be a chance she would realize she loved me and didn’t need to be afraid of being in love, but I wanted to do the conquisting so it would be real.
What other wishes? For my family to be together, for us to have fun as a group again.
But behind those doors lay something bigger than that, I knew. The wishes. Maybe all the wishes in the universe lay there. How? Like Christmas presents? That made no sense.
And in the moment of thinking that a row of demons came through the doors—without opening them—and roared past us: They were human-like but tall, and all of them were eating furiously. But they had no fronts on their bodies so as soon as they ate the food fell to the ground. And in seeing them I realized that the wishes that were probably in that place were only base desires. Desires for wealth, power, fortune, fame. Desires for Cadillacs, for oil, to run the world. Or desires before they took shape. I shivered: I felt that behind those doors probably lay the very heart of man's desires. All the lurid evil imaginable. The willingness to trade in lies and lives, the deals with the devil himself.
The demons that had passed were creatures of unimaginable and unfulfillable hunger. Desires in creature shapes that could never be satisfied, creatures who could eat a universe and never be full.
I might have those base desires but I didn’t want to be one of those every hungry creatures. No, I did not want to go through those doors at all.
The man did not urge me. He had brought me there but did not insist I enter. When he understood I would not pass through those doors he grew sad.
"There is still enough time to do the work tonight," he said again. Then he walked me down the stair and into a system of a kind of living computer.
We moved through living wiring and tubes at the speed of light. "Would you like to see the cell of your soul?" he asked.
And into the heart of the living machine we flew until we came to a tiny tiny box. He made it start to turn one side toward me. "That’s the cell that runs your soul. Would you like to see your soul that runs that cell?"
A tiny speck in the box began to glow. The tiniest speck. It began to throw off light until in a moment it began to blind me, engulf me. The power was way too much to witness and again I grew afraid and opened my eyes and lay on the ground near Julio's home.
A little while later the man told me he could have given me so much that night. He was sad when he said it. I asked: "Why don't you come in a form that doesn’t always terrify me? Like the doctors years ago, why not present as a nurse and tickle me as they did at the end? Why do you always play to my fear?"
The man didn't answer my question. He instead took me to a place where something was gleaming. It was something golden and red and green and it was like a crown as wide as my sight and taller than my sight.
"I could have shown you the corona," he said.
I looked at the crown presented to me. It was so golden it radiated light and life. I realized it was moving. It looked like a crown in the shape of an impossibly huge pipe organ so large you couldn't see the sides or top or bottom of it.
Closer, the pipes were each alive and pulsing. Some were like serpents, others stars and planets, or winding DNA stairways 100 feet wide and infinitely tall. Millions of dots of light made up others; growing flowers on long orchid like strands made up others.
It was the most glorious isness I'd ever seen. I was in absolute awe. This was life at a level normally impossible to perceive, what our eyes are not programmed to receive. I was speechless, in speechless awe of this life force, this universe center, this pulsing core of isness.
And I knew that though I was seeing it, what the man meant when he said he could have shown it to me was that had I had the courage I would have been in it. Would have felt it pulsing through me, would have known all things knowable and unknowable, felt all things feelable and unfeelable, been all things be-able and un-beable.
The man left me with a glance and disappeared. With him the crown pulled back and disappeared as well, until it was a single star that rolled it’s edges into itself , became a cluster of interlocking gleaming rings, then disappeared and left all darkness.
I stayed on the ground and laughed and cried. I had gotten more than I could have imagined, yet knew I’d missed something unimaginable.

The sound of vomiting suddenly took my attention and I stood and walked up the log steps to the hut platform. Elona was sitting peacefully, as were Lynn and Corrina, but Pasha lay on the floor, writhing, still vomiting. I checked on him. He was fine, just having a difficult time with the cleansing. But it didn’t stop. For perhaps two more hours, as Julio chanted, Pasha suffered through what was the most physically difficult time I’d ever seen someone have under ayahuasca’s influence. And he wouldn’t get up and let me take him outside. He just rolled around in his own vomit—I put towels under his head so that he’d at least be reasonably clean, and Corrina, who had not taken the medicine, tended him wonderfully, wiping him down with moist towels and wetting his lips but not otherwise interfering with him.
Julio chuckled at one point and said: "I don’t understand a man who vomits in a living room." He laughed again, "Well, maybe it’s just impossible to do anything else." And then he began to chant again.

The next morning occurred one of the only, and certainly the longest, conversation I ever had with Julio.
Pasha and Elona, wanted to ask questions about what they’d seen. I explained that Julio and I didn’t often communicate with words and that while I would ask their questions they would most likely get no response. Julio simply didn’t understand my Spanish or pretended not to understand it.
They insisted and I said alright, so after the morning bath to put everyone back together and after Julio had sweet, light coffee with several dried bread rounds, we gathered around him on the floor of his living space where the night earlier we’d drunk ayahuasca.
Elona said she'd seen herself, no, had been herself riding on a horse…
I translated her first phrase and was surprised when Julio interrupted.
"What color was the horse?"
I was amazed. He'd never done that before in 20 years and 100 visits.
I asked Elona what color the horse was and she told me it was blue and white. I translated for Julio. He looked at me, impossibly deep eyes gleaming and said that was good. Blue and white was a good color for a horse to be riding.
Elona continued: She had ridden into a Greek temple, through vast columns, but she had arrived nowhere as the columns continued endlessly.
I translated the vision and Julio thought for a moment. I imagined he was going to do what he always did when I spoke: Listen attentively and then ask what I'd said. He didn't. He said the riding of a blue and white horse into a columned building signified success, but as there were no walls to the building, no rear and no place arrived at it signified that she hadn't chosen what to do yet. He assured her that ayahuasca had said she would succeed at whatever she chose but told her to choose soon as Pasha had two enemies at his work who might cost him his job.
Pasha interrupted to say that was true but that he had not told anyone.
Julio just laughed when I told him what Pasha said; he told me to tell Pasha to watch his back; one of the enemies had already put something negative into him.
He urged Elona to pick something, anything, to do as things were very auspicious for her. He echoed the fact that she might have to carry Pasha for a while if his enemies succeeded in unseating him.
As for Pasha, he said he had not seen much of anything because he'd been vomiting for so many hours and demanded to know how it was that he’d had such an awful time while his wife was having wonderful visions.
Julio explained that he’d wanted to paint Pasha with the colors of ayahuasca but that when he got inside he saw that Pasha was like a room filled with broken old furniture and peeling paint and garbage in the corners. "Who could paint in a room like that?" he chuckled. So instead of painting Pasha, he’d spent the night preparing him. "And there was a lot to clean out. But tell your friend that now he’s ready."
I have forgotten what Lynn saw, perhaps because I was so blown away by Julio's conversation about both Elona and Pasha.
Though I rarely even tried to tell Julio what the medicine had shown me, that morning I needed to, so I showed Julio the pictures I'd drawn: the the hat with the letter "A", the man in the cape, the doors, the hungry creatures.
Julio said the man with the cape was one of his guardians and that he'd sent him to me. He asked me what I’d done when I met him. I said I'd sent him away in fear. Julio shook his head in dismay for a few moments, then asked if the man had said anything before he left.
I told him the man said to come back when I was ready to work. Julio said that was both good and lucky. He said I should stop being so frozen with fear, that I should be fearless.
I told him about Merlin's mirror and how I was to afraid to go into it and he repeated that I should stop being afraid. I must be fearless.
I told him about the gears and the slow motion blocks that form when the sound begins to hum in my ears and that it makes me afraid and makes me feel overwhelmed. He said the sound was the sound of the gears of the universe, the mechanics of the whole shebang (he used a phrase that I didn’t get) and that again I shouldn’t be afraid. These were all good things ayahuasca was sharing with me.
I then told him about the doors and the wishes and how I knew there were perpetually hungry creatures inside that would come out and overwhelm me, consuming me over and over with base desire if I opened the doors.
Julio was ready to explode, partly with laughter, partly with frustration. He said that it was rare to go to the doors, but that if I'd had the courage to enter I would have met three men at a table. I could have asked them for anything I wanted and they would have given it to me.
"Whatever you want. They can give it to you. Just ask them and you get your wishes."
"But what about the creatures I saw there?"
"Yes, they were there. Forget them. Forget your fear. All of these spirits are bravo, aggressive. They like bravo. If they are bravo, you be more bravo. If they are 100-feet tall, make yourself 200-feet tall. Then they will respect you and you will not be afraid. They will only scare you if you are afraid of them."
He laughed, then told a story of himself as a younger man studying ayahuasca. "There was a man, a fierce spirit, blocking my path. He wouldn’t let me pass and said he was going to kill me. I was afraid too, but I was determined to pass him. So I told him to kill me. And the man stabbed me three times. But each time he turned the knife around at the last second and stabbed me with the butt of the knife. And then he let me pass."
Julio laughed. "You must do the same."
I thought of the Matses Indians and how, in the old days, when you met them on the river they held weapons and yelled at you and tried to get you to leave, threatening to kill you if you came out of your boat and into their village. Of course if you had left they might have killed you for being a coward. I don’t know for sure because Moises, my jungle teacher taught me during my first visit to a Matses camp that you had to face them. It was probably 15-years earlier and we’d followed a young Matses man with a tattooed face from our jungle camp to his. It was the then-new camp of Papa Viejo—an old and fierce warrior who’d fought against Peruvian troops and conducted raids on Peruvian villages and towns. When we arrived at the camp Papa Viejo came running at us, holding a shotgun. He stopped maybe 20 feet away and pointed the gun at Moises and began yelling in his own language. I wanted to flee but since Moises didn’t budge, neither did I. So I stood with Moises who held our gun on Papa Viejo and screamed even louder than he had. I thought sure we would all be killed, but instead, after a face off, the men put down their weapons and said hello.
I told Julio I would try to be more brave. He said I was doing all this work and not getting what I could, even when he was helping by sending his guardian to assist me. "Agarra tu cojones," he laughed, seriously. "Grab your balls."

Two days later I got the chance.
During those two days I came up with the phrase: "I am Peter Gorman, son of Thomas and Madeleine Gorman, father of Italo, Marco and Madeleina Gorman, spouse of Chepa and I have business here. I have been invited here by Julio Jerena."
I must have repeated that phrase a thousand times between Thursday morning and Friday night, determined to implant it to the point that even if I was disoriented I could say it. I hoped it got my gumption strong because I was determined to do my best not to be so afraid of all and everything on the other side of ayahuasca.
Which didn't mean I was confident I could pull it off, of course. In fact I was sure I would crumble like a sissy in a fight if it came to it. But still I practiced that phrase and concentrated on the feeling of loss and how awful it was each time I refused something ayahuasca offered out of fear and then later realized it was a gift.
The night we were to drink, only Lynn and I were going to participate. Elona had gone to bed. Pasha and Corrina sat with us, though, although neither wanted to drink.
Julio began the ceremony with his prayers and we had him pour a huge portion for Lynn: after all his drinking and his successful but short visions he'd never really gone to the other side and needed to. I took a regular portion. Julio took just enough to keep us company.
I wasn’t long before my world began to shift: the sound of the gears began to grate in their slow, metallic fashion and I realized I was on the boat again.
Instantly I was afraid but found the courage to repeat my mantra: I am Peter, son of Thomas and Madeleine, father of Italo, Marco and Madeleina, husband of Gilma, and I have business here.
I was spinning upside down when I tried to say that to maintain order and instantly on saying it I found myself in a dark void. Pitch black, empty. Nothing.
I got my bearings—that is to say I felt myself stand in that vacuum, and began to walk across it, thinking there must be something if I kept walking. I wasn’t walking toward anything but more nothing, but still, I’d never been in a space that didn’t go somewhere sooner or later, so walking seemed like a reasonable thing to do.
Going was slow and frustrating since nothing appeared on the horizon, so I decided to make myself 40-feet tall to make my strides longer. I did and began walking with giant steps across that void and in no time found myself in a forest.
I had no idea what forest or where it was but kept on walking through the trees on a kind of path.
In moments I nearly stepped on a tapir, s small white sachavaca with yellow stripes on its fore-quarters and back. Nice bright yellow.
"Are you ready to work tonight?" she asked in a lovely, friendly voice.
I said yes and added the mantra that I am Peter, son of Thomas and Madeleine, father of Italo, Marco and Madeleina, and I have business here.
I almost felt silly saying it to the lovely tapir but she just laughed and told me that in that case I should follow her.
I knew it was a trick, of course. I knew the moment I stepped behind her on the jungle trail she would turn into a giant tapir or monster and kick me into hell so I left a little space between us and silently repeated my mantra.
She was so sweet and didn’t do what I thought she would. Didn’t do anything mean.
In a few steps she came to a black hole in the ground and hopped over it. Then she turned--the sachavaca was definitely a she--and said: "Why don't you jump into that?"
And surprisingly but good, I did.
In the hole was a thick clear sort of gelatinous goop--or should I say the hole was made up of the viscous goop. It wasn't wretched or slimy or constricting or something that prevented me from breathing. It was just goopish, but so clear that it was black.
Down I went into the thick stuff, afraid but excited. Down I went in and through until I reached a sort of bottom where the sachavaca was waiting for me.
"Come," she said, and I followed her down a hallway of some sort into a room where I saw planets and the stars. Like a 3-D projection of a mini-universe. The sachavaca asked if I would like that. I didn’t understand. She asked if I would like the power of the planets and I said okay, but still didn’t know what she meant.
"Okay," she said, and started to leave the room.
"What do you mean?" I asked, or something like that.
"From now on all you have to do is want to be on a planet and you will be," she explained.
I thought I would try and thought of Saturn: Instantly I was a giant, standing on the rings of the planet, looking out at the universe. Some of the rings were narrow and some were thick. Some were made of gray dust while others were smooth like glass. I stepped from one to another and nearly fell because they moved at different speeds.
I jumped onto a reddish ring and was nearly knocked down because it was made in part of huge stones that moved beneath my feet.
It was glorious.
I tried the moon and got to a cold, dark place and looked down at earth, so close, so huge.
Then the sun and felt the heat of its fires roar around me, though I don’t remember hearing them.
"Just want to be there and you will be," she said, bringing me out of my reverie.
She walked out of the room and into another chamber filled with plants.
"Would you like this?" she asked.
"I would like to know how to heal with plants," I said.
"Okay," she said.
"You mean I can do it now? You just say okay and I can do it?"
"Yes. I just gave it to you."
"But how do I do it?"
"You just have to talk to them and they will tell you how to use them."
I don’t remember if I said anything, but do remember her saying: "The problem is most people don’t know how to talk to plants. They ask: ‘What good are you?’ to the plants. And of course the plants, being perfectly themselves, are already good, so that is not a question they can answer. They don’t have to justify themselves to anyone or anything, so they won't even answer that.
"But if you ask them, ‘Excuse me, I need help. What use might you be to man?’ then they will tell you. Some are good for food or beauty or firewood, others are medicines and all sorts of things. You just have to remember the right question."
"And I can do that now?"
"Yes. I gave you that present. Of course you won’t do it so well yet. You will have to practice to get good. You should touch them and feel them and then ask them. You can sleep with them or near them too. They will tell you how to use them. You should start with the trees in your back yard. Ask them what use they might be to man."
We left that room and I wondered if any of it was real. I mean, I know it was beyond my imagination to invent all of this and I had never read it, but still, I wondered if I were really being given things, if I might ask for X-Ray vision or mind reading and such.
The sachavaca answered my silent thoughts. "You are being given gifts but you can’t use them selfishly. That doesn't mean you cannot benefit, but that’s not the reason you have them. You can’t see through girls’ clothes. I won’t give you that. It’s not important. You can have mind-reading but only in limited fashion. If it is important that you get something from someone’s mind, not something selfish but something important, then you will have the ability. But circumstances will dictate.
"What’s important to remember is that we are lending you these powers. They are not yours. You must use them or we will give them to someone else. You must not abuse them or we will take them away. At the most inopportune time. Use them, don’t abuse them. Don’t lose them."
She took me to a room with animals and serpents and said I could talk with them if I wanted. I said okay and we were leaving the room when a fish appeared underwater and told me not to forget him and talking with fish, too.
I asked her why I was getting these presents. She said they’d been watching me for a long time.
"Everyone gets watched. We've been taking care of you for a long time."
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Like guardian angels. Why do you think you have always managed to escape harm when you invite it with drugs and drinking?"
"I don't know."
"Because we're watching. Do you remember the other night in your room? At the hotel?"
I cringed. I’d arrived in Iquitos after being away two years and hadn’t had a drink in 13 months and then immediately got drunk and had taken a fat prostitute to my room. I asked her for a blow job then passed out. When I awoke my money—about $60—was gone, but nothing else was touched. Not my passport, camera, tape recorder, nothing. It was just a stupid drunk thing to do.
"I remember," I said.
"Well," said the sachavaca, "you have no idea how close you came to having your penis cut off by her."
"What? Why?" I said, shivering at the image.
"You were just one too many fat, middle-aged white guys who made her suck your smelly, unwashed dick. You were the last straw. So she took out her nail file and was about to cut you when we intervened and told her spirit that it would be better just to put the file away, take your money and go. She almost didn’t. And then she was going to take your camera and medicines and we reminded her that if she just left with the money you would live with it and your own stupidity. But that taking your things would make you go after her. She rethought and took the money and left."
"Buy why are you protecting me?" I asked, secretly hoping that there was something special about me or my reason for living that would be explained.
"When you were a little kid with rheumatoid arthritis and you were so fat and sick, well, we felt sorry for you and decided you needed looking after. So we did and do."
I was a little crushed with the idea of a sympathy guardian angel. Not what I was hoping for at all.
"You're not a bad guy. You just don't do some things so well. Like money. How many times you’ve got to the end of it with no way out and something saves you? That was us."
"What about when I get home?" I asked, knowing I was two weeks away from losing the house again. "Can I have more work?"
"The work will be there when you get back. Have confidence. You are a good worker. It will be waiting."
For some reason, I believed her.
"What about songs? Can you teach me icaros?"
"When you need a song you will have one. If you use them enough you will learn a lot. Have faith. We’re taking care of you."
"Can you fix my family?"
"Do you want Chepa to be back and in love with you?"
"Yes! No! I mean, I do, but I want to do that. I don’t what you to do that. But if you could wipe us both clean of some of the bad things we’ve done over the years so that I could have a chance of conquisting her, that would be great."
"Are you sure you don't want me to do it?"
"Yes. That's my work. I may fail but if I succeed I will know she really loves me again."
"Do I have a chance?"
"Keep not drinking. That’s very important. Don’t clutter yourself."
"Can I have more children with her?"
"We might help to have two more but what good would it be to give you two more angels if you are going to keep smoking and die before they get the good from you?"
"But it’s hard to quit."
"We’ll help. Your cigarettes are going to start tasting bad. Over time you will hate them. But you will still have to finally quit if you want to live and have more babies. And of course you have to decide if you really want Chepa. She may take some time to be free for you and you could already have Gina."
Gina was a woman I’d met and begun an affair with in Iquitos during the several days I was there before we left for the jungle.
"She’d be great for you."
"I know," I said. "But I would rather Chepa and my family get better."
"Then don’t confuse things with Gina. Don’t try to have both or you won’t have any."
Gina was lovely. Chepa was my heart.
I wanted to get up and go out to pee and have a cigarette.
"You could do that," she said. "But I might not be here when you get back. If I were you and you were giving me all these presents I think I would wait on the cigarette rather than risk losing you."
She was right and I didn’t go anywhere.
"Good choice," she grinned.
We began walking again and suddenly we were out of that world in Merlin’s mirror and in a more familiar ayahuasca space.
"I'm going now," she said. "But I will be there when you need me."
She started moving away and the man from two nights earlier, the man with the moon and stars and planets in his hat and cape, appeared.
"I am Peter, son of Thomas and Madeleine, father of Italo and Marco and Madeleina, spouse of Gilma and I have business here. I want to go to the room where the wishes are."
I don’t know that the man laughed at me for my carrying on, but I don’t remember him being impressed, especially as he was one of Julio’s guardians and he’d come to help me at Julio’s request.
I moved with the man until we were on a long narrow sort of walkway. Devils and horrid creatures lined the sides of the walk but I kept repeating my mantra and they never really formed. Except for one of them who leapt onto the walk blocking the path. He was big and scary and had two heads and then bodies formed from his left and right side, completely blocking the path. He would not let me go.
"I am Peter, son of Thomas and Madeleine, father of Italo and Marco and Madeleina, husband of Chepa and I have business beyond you."
And then I was beyond him, like Julio said I would be, and at the doors.
I knew the creatures would be in there but for some reason had courage in the mantra and willed myself through the doors.
The creatures were indeed there, but they were only a foot tall that night and they rushed by me easily. They did not frighten me that night.
I looked around the hall for the table Julio said I would find. It was just around a bend in another room. At it sat three men, thick and strong, all with broad hats like sombreros and scarves pulled up across their faces so only their eyes shone.
They greeted me and shook hands. The middle one, though imposing, shook softly and I wondered why. Just then he put out his hand again and took mine and squeezed hard.
"Is that better?" he asked.
I laughed at myself.
"What do you want?" he asked.
"Julio said to ask you for anything I want," I said.
"We already gave you everything. You want more already?"
"I want to be a curandero. I want to talk to plants," I said.
"You already can. The sachavaca gave you that and a lot of other things."
"But Julio said to ask you," I protested.
"You did. She is one of us. When you asked us to come in a shape that wouldn’t terrify you we sent her. The only problem is that she will be your guardian forever and she’s not very macho."
The men all burst into laughter.
"But she is one of us, don’t fool yourself. And do as she said: Use the gifts. Don't abuse them or you will lose them. And if you need more gifts, now that you know where we are, you may come back when you need to. We will be watching you."
"And my kids?" I added.
"They are being cared for too. So is Chepa. The sachavaca is very good. Don’t let her fool you. She is very powerful. She just doesn’t look as macho as the first guardians we sent. But they were too much for you."
The men laughed again.
And then I was outside the doors and the sachavaca was waiting and said she would be watching and that was the end of that and I was just back at Julio’s, lying on the floor of his living room, listening to him sing.
The next morning I tried to talk to Julio about what happened, but ran into the same problem I did most of the time: I spoke, he nodded and asked what I had said. I repeated, he nodded and asked "What was that? I don’t understand." I finally gave up and began breaking camp for the return to Iquitos.
When we were set to go I went to Julio to give him a hug. He took me by both arms and looked into my eyes. "Yah, Pedro. You did alright." Then he chuckled. "You guardian is muy bonita, very pretty."