Monday, January 21, 2008

Leaving Tomorrow and Family is Insane

So I'm leaving for Peru Tomorrow for 20 days and my family is fantastically insane. At the moment I've got Uncle Clem's Chicken in the oven. Uncle clem, my mom's brother, who used to draw Farmer Grey cartoons, once won a national food contest with a chicken/asparagus dish. topped with mushroom sauce and cheddar cheese. My first and great love Clare Waugh, with whom I live 14 years and probably abused from self-centeredness that many years--I didn't know what love was, and I certainly didn't know how to receive it, though she sure knew how to give it (sorry Clare. I was so stupid and selfish)--misinterpreted the published winning entry--which got my uncle Clem a $5 grand prize. Her interpretation was sauteed chicken breast--diced--over broccoli, cooked with a mayonnaise/chicken stock/mushroom soup sauce and topped with mozarella cheese. Hers was better than Clem's. It was one of the dishes of the century and if you don't believe me ask for specifics. It was and is amazing.
So tonight I was making Clare's Clem's Chicken. And Chepa is not coming over to cut my hair and fix my toe nails. That's her job--by her say-so--whether we're still in love or not. I guess she's mad because I'm leaving. And Marco is tickling Madeleina to the death, and Italo is punching Marco and daring him to do a cool kind of pushup where you do a pushup on one hand off a soccer ball, then bounce up and change hands on the soccer ball. Italo did 100. Marco fell off the soccer ball on the first try. Which led Marco to re-tickle Madeleina, which led her to throw the soccer ball at me and to Italo screaming "Hey Dad! I can run the 40 in 2 seconds." He knows I timed him yesterday and with a slight incline on soft turf at 4.2 seconds. World class but not near 2 seconds.
Anyway, I guess people here are acting out a little. Dad's leaving. I'll be back in 20 days, hardly a hiccup, but that still means 20 days when they are answerable to themselves, not to me. And Marco is scared Italo will hold him to a higher standard than I do, and Italo's Sarah, Italo's live-in girl--is swearing that she'll cook for every one every night if I will only leave her recipes. I've already put 14 days worth of meat in the freezer, and enough juice/soda/milk to last till I return in the fridge--and more rice/potatoes/Quacker oats to last a year.
"Dad, I'm trying to think and I'm trying to watch TV. Stop asking me to find your backpack. If you don't know where it is, too bad. Don't go." That's Madeleina.
I'm going. I got people who expect me to be there. I'm not abandoning you guys. I love you more than you know. But I'm a dad. If this will pay the mortgage, this is our work. And I am going to do it with a great deal of love. I'll still miss you crazy guys. You're my family. But I got faith you can hold it together without me for a while.
Have a good time, okay? Don't hurt each other. Love each other. It's your chance to grow. So grow my beautiful flowers. I'm not far away.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Do Gooders in the Amazon

A friend of mine recently brought up the issue of do-gooders in the Third World. I forget exactly what she said but I responded--and it's not my line--that do-gooders have done more harm in the Third World than all the bad men combined. She sort of asked me to explain myself. I'm not qualified to speak about the whole world, but I have spend time in India, north Africa, Mexico, Central America and lots of time in South America, particularly Peru. So my response is only from my experience but I think it's worth noting. Here was my response:
Girl, you killing me. This is a serious question/series of questions that man has spent thousands of years trying to answer. And I am nowhere near capable.
So here goes. When I say the do-gooders have done more harm than all the bad men combined, it's because the bad men are identifiable. A thief takes what he wants. If he comes back you kill him or try to kill him. A catholic missionary comes and explains to you that having four wives is bad, you believe them and lose three wives, and then those three wives die without the protection of a man in the jungle, and all their children suffer and your children with your first wife suffer because she cannot help hunt and take care of children and go to the fields and clean the camp at the same time. Do the missionaries know that? Maybe yes, maybe no. But there is a reason that men in the jungle have multiple wives: In the region of Iquitos women are born at a rate of more than 6 to one female to male. Up until 30 years ago, male mortality was 40% for men before 40, because of war/snakebite, and so forth. So with so few men, the women invited their sisters to join them. One sister might be first wife: She went hunting with the husband and controlled the camp. Second wife breast fed all the children, hers or otherwise. Third wife went to the fields to collect food. Fourth wife kept the camp clean. So missionaries coming in, thinking they had or have a corner on decency, tell the women they are being used/abused and convince the women to object to their positions and the man finally gives up the three extra wives, but then what? Who hunts for them? They can't hunt and take care of children and tend fields and protect the village. So they wind up hurt by the whole deal.
That's just an example and I know you already thought about that. But what about do-gooders who come in and tell the indigenous in the Third World not to kill a big cat because jaguars are precious. And then they don't and the big cat kills all the wild boars in the region and the indigenous have no more meat? What about the do-gooders who tell the indigenous that they should only harvest trees at certain times of the year but those times don't coincide with when the indigenous have traditionally harvested, leaving them to harvest trees during the same time it is time to hunt?
What about do-gooders who bring clothes to the indigenous? They might mean well but they don't understand that when the indigenous are naked they each pick at each other's skin to eliminate any bug/infection/larvae that's been laid on their skin that day. When people wear clothes they don't do that. And when people wear shirts in the jungle the mosquito bites infect from human sweat through shirts rubbing against them. So the do gooders kill them all by giving them clothes, which prevents the natural "monkey-clean" instinct.
Here in the US, Chepa, my wife/ex-wife, still comes over to clean me whenever I return from the jungle. She removes anything she doesn't like. She doesn't like me but knows that if I have an infection from a mite or a spider I might die and then the kids have no father. So that remains her job: Clean Peter, head to toe. And she's just like a monkey. And I have learned to do that to my kids and they do it to each other. And when do gooders come into a camp and explain that you shouldn't do that, people believe them and then it doesn't happen and then people die.
Those do-gooders are maybe not living in the swamps of the Amazon where there are 1,000 bugs that lay their eggs on you and which will eat through your skin, ears, eyes, hair, head, feet, and so forth if not taken care of.
So they don't mean badly. They simply don't understand the reality of the place. A large caiman may kill you in a moment. A boa can kill you in a minute. But there are thousands of species of insects that lay larvae under you skin that won't even leave the egg for years. So once you've been there you need looking after for years.
And those are just a couple of examples of the most apparent harm good people do.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Getting Time to Get to Peru

I've got a trip coming up. I leave on Tuesday, January 22. My first guest arrives in Iquitos on January 25. The remaining eight come the following morning. I'm getting jittery. One of my guests, with whom I've had a lot of email contact, wrote me a note today; for some reason I told him the truth. I usually do but the subject of jitters has ever come up before. Here's what I wrote him:

You know, the prep time, the three or four days before you all arrive, is when I'm at my best. Just me and my team, running errands, checking things, figuring things. We sit in my hotel room, have a bottle of Jim Beam and maybe a bottle or 7 Raises (7 roots extracted into cane liquor, sweet but deadly), and Inca Cola and snacks like stuffed potatoes and rice balls, and count hammocks, check mosquito nets
for holes, inspect the medical kit to look for holes, check the
shotgun, count blankets, towels, pairs of good jungle boots, flashlights, batteries, spare bulbs, and a thousand other things that need checking. Get drunk, have a party, and work from 6 AM till Midnight making sure we've not forgotten anything. Those three days when I am there with them before you all arrive is like getting set for a rock and roll concert: Sound check, material check and party. And no partying till the check is Okay'd by me. And then all hell cuts loose. We've fit 35 people into my
hotel room sometimes when things get smoking. I live for that vibe.
It's so freaking scary to have you all coming down, the adrenalin rush is
awesome. What if we fuck up? What if we're not on our game? What if one of the women on the team has a new boyfriend and doesn't come? What if Mauricio, our 68-year-old wood cutter hurt his arm? What if there is a strike and there are no riverboats leaving when we have to leave? What if they hate us? What if they hate the jungle? What if they all die when they drink ayahuasca? What if we don't see an electric eel and one of them drowns? What if one of the guests grabs a snake he/she is sure is a constrictor but is actually a venomous bushmaster? What if what if what if???
We go through it like a football team: and then, suddenly, it's
game day and we're supposed to look all smooth and composed when we meet you at the airport at 6 AM a week from Saturday. "Hi, I'm Peter Gorman....", I say and we're all just scared to death and we hope you don't know that's bullshit.
So here's to looking smooth and you're the only one who knows we're
more scared of you than you are of us....

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Science Fair Pay Back

I spent my entire school life avoiding science fairs. Avoid is a weak word here. I skipped them to the point where I can't remember ever doing any. Except one. But I remember my friend Bruno Valle, an otherwise awful student, going wild for them. In the 6th grade he made, from scrap metal in those days, not a kit, a robot that worked via remote control and had ball and socket arms and working fingers--basic working fingers--that could pick up and throw a ball. I was very impressed but could never imagine doing anything like that. And I wasn't one of the kids who did fruit fly experiments or any of the other standards either.
I did get juiced up for one science fair as a freshman in high school. My biology teacher had said that alligators had a heart and brain that was configured differently than ours, and that fascinated me. Or rather, what fascinated me was the opportunity to go to the pet store and buy an alligator. And I loved it until I realized that to do my esperiment I'd have to kill it. I wasn't much for killing animals, tell you the truth. I'd been hoping that I could just bring the thing into the class and then have Brother Stern tell me where to get photos of the different heart and brain sections. No chance. Instead of photos I was given a jar of formaldehyde, a syringe and instructions to carefully cut the heart and brain into their natural sections.
Well, the obvious happened and the formaldehyde opened on the way home from school and the other bus patrons--it was a public bus in Queens, New York, taking me from Bishop Reilly HS to my Whitestone home--made a scene over the chemical odor and I got tossed from the bus and walked the last three miles.
Home, I did something with the syringe but I forget what. It was probably something fun, like putting liquor into oranges or something but I forget. What I remember is that I had no idea of the syringe's connection to the experiment I had do to so I made some other use of it.
And that evening, I went to the basement with one of my mom's small pots, put my pet gator into it, filled it with the remaining formaldehyde, covered the pot and waited. I thought it would take a few moments and then I'd somehow have a dead and stiff as a board alligator on my hands to work with but instead, in just a few seconds the little guy pushed the lid off the pot and gasped for air. I was surprised and re-lidded him, this time with a weight on it. He thrashed, his tail slapping the sides of the pot and splashing the liquid. I didn't like that he was suffering and thought this was a stupid and selfish experiment and should have never been done, but I had to do it. So I went out to the backyard and then to the street: Nobody was around except for my friend Danny McGurran's little brother Jimmy. So I called him over and into the basement and asked what I should do. He had no idea but was as squeamish about the death throes as I was, and after uncovering the pot just long enough to show h im I really did have a small alligator we closed the pot again and went upstairs and snuck a cigarette out by the evergreen in front of the house. We waited an appropriate time, returned to the basement and checked: Sure enough the fumes had gotten to the gator and he was dead.
I put him on a table and tried to cut his head open with a knife. Didn't work. So I took a hammer and chisel and that did the trick but also cut the brain in half, crushing most of it. I had better luck with the heart, but it was so small it was difficult to see the sections without cutting it open, so I did, ruining any chance of identifying the sections.
So the experiment was a total loss, and worse, I'd killed a perfectly good alligator at the same time.
And now I'm dad. Somehow I managed to have Italo and Marco skip every science fair that ever came along--except one in which Marco made a rocket that flew pretty good and started a small grass fire here in Joshua. But times have changed and Madeleina has been forced to enter the science fair the last couple of years. I've already discussed the disastrous ant farm in a previous post so won't go into that here: Suffice to say that when all ants are dead the experiment is too.
This year she's doing the "which candle will burn the longest" experiment. That's one in which you have your dad scour the city to find several different companies that make identically sized candles--and remember that Johnson County is not exactly a hot bed of romance, so that's no easy task. Then you ignore them until the experiment is due, which is Monday, then you cry a lot and say you've been working very hard at thinking of the experiment. Not doing anything, but thinking.
The next step of this particular experiment is to have dad come up with a way to make this little worthless experiment turn into something that looks like science. Dad suggests you take pictures of the candles--along with height length and weight measurements, then burn them for an hour and take new measurements. Then burn them for another two hours and remeasure. As one of the candles promises--thank god--to burn out completely in 4 hours (a simple 'white linen scented $8.95 baby acquired from the hobby lobby), one additional hour should bring the experiment to a merciful end. And if the companies are not lying, one of the other candles should still have half it's weight, another three-fourths of its wright and the last, a 60-hour Sterno beaut, should almost still be new after the four hours.
My daughter not having fallen far from the tree, however, this experiment, which should have taken about 10 minutes to set up and start the fires burning--and let's fact it, not much to do but watch movies while the candles are burning--is nowhere near ready to start yet. Heck, it's only been about 5 hours today. "I think I should put the height and length before the wright on the cards, don't you, dad?" took a full half-hour. "Do we have lined cards to write on dad?" led to another half-hour search--fruitless, of course. So the experiment is derailed until I go to Walmart, and I can't go to Walmart for the cards until Marco comes back tonight from his girlfriend's so I have a vehicle to go in.
And yes, I just raised my voice when she stopped measuring and I asked her what the heck she was doing--standing in front of the television, natch--and with a straight face said "I'm looking for the ruler." "You can't be looking for the ruler. You are using the ruler. You were not to step away from that table until you had finished with the ruler. How the hell did you lose the ruler?"
"That's what I'm trying to figure out...something happened..."
"Yes! Something happened. You walked away from the freaking table with the ruler in your hand! You have eight measurements to take. If each takes you 3 seconds the whole damned thing would take 24 seconds. Now get it done!"
And then she looked at me and very calmly noted--and correctly so, I suppose--"Well, dad, I don't really see what's the hurry. I mean I can't really finish it until you get the cards for me to write on and you don't look like you're in any big hurry to do that. And if you're not going to take this seriously, why should I?"
Ah well, the science fair waited a long time to get me. I should have known it was gonna happen someday.

Friday, January 11, 2008

A Question on Ayahuasca Apprenticeships

I was recently contacted by someone in Europe who has been drinking ayahuasca, the visionary vine of the Amazon, for a year. The person is now ready to embark on an ayahuasca apprenticeship and wrote me to say they were nervous about simply landing in a place like Iquitos, Peru and looking for a curandero to study with because there seems to be a sort of "shaman supermarket" in places like that, and this person would prefer something more authentic. They would, in fact, be willing to go live in a village somewhere and study with the local curandero there.
Which is admirable, but not necessarily a genuine possibility. Anyway, here was my answer to the person and I hope it makes sense to a few of you as well.

Dear XXX: Thanks for writing. I'm not really sure what to tell you though. In my experience with Julio, there really wasn't anything like an apprenticeship. He did have an apprentice in Salis Navarro, but Salis died. And he did have several students, called alumni, of which I am considered by the others to be one--though perhaps the most novice of the group.
And in my experience with other curanderos I'd say pretty much the same thing: There really were not apprentices.
What there was were fathers who taught their children, mothers who taught their children or neices, friends who lived on the same river who became interested in the healing plants and ayahuasca and who then hung around the curandero--just like friends--until something or other occurred to make them needed in the ceremony, to assist in some way, and I guess at that point they were considered apprentices. And people who work at it long enough learn how to make the ayahuasca and learn some admixture plant spirits that are friendly to them and learn how to make an arcana that will keep out the "lookie lou" spirits that always come around when it's ceremony time, and learn how to sing people to different places and how to see where those people are and whether they need to be sung home or sung further out than they are. And of course, they have to learn how to get the spirit of ayahuasca on their side, and how to tame--though that's a pretty arrogant word--spirit helpers and so forth.
And when those sons of curanderos, or friends of curanderos finally learn a lot of that, well, then luck will put them in a position to utilize that knowledge--either by helping the curandero or being needed to heal or being needed to retrieve a soul or whatnot.
But I personally don't know of any curanderos who had a sort of regular apprenticeship available to anyone until white guys/gals began askng for that. And I believe it seemed odd to curanderos when people did. I mean, how do you even explain an apprenticeship to someone who has no idea what that means? How would someone have told Julio that they wanted to build a little house near his and become a fisherman like him, and have a little field like his and learn to find lost souls or eliminate a baby's earache pain? I believe Julio would have just laughed and said: There's not enough fish in this river for another fisherman. And if you want to learn plants, just go in the forest and sleep with them. Ask them to let their spirits come to you and tell you about them, how to use them and how to prepare them to heal things.
Heck, even if someone had volunteered to do all of Julio's work in exchange for him teaching them what he knew I doubt he would have accepted. I mean, then what would Julio do all day? Can't just sit around in the jungle. It gets quite boring. And how would he teach someone when the art of learning what needs learning is to simply be around before during and after ceremony to see and feel what goes on. When the art of learning is different for each person? When the genuinely recommended method of learning is to go sit in the forest, or walk around the forest, and sleep in the forest and ask the plants to reveal their spirits to you. If they don't what good would knowing the icaro's, the songs curandero's sing, be? You would just be copying someone else's songs.
But how do you teach someone to be open to learning their own songs? Not to making up songs, but to be open to trust what when a generous spirit says one day: When you need a song, open your mouth. Don't be afraid. There will always be a song there when you need one?
How quiet do you have to be to even hear that spirit or how crazy to you have to be to believe it?
With all of that, if I were you, I wouldn't be afraid of the "shaman supermarket" that you mention. There are many good curanderos in both Iquitos and Pulcalpa. Their camps are a modification of their former river lives. But while on the river they might do one ayahuasca ceremony a month, or two, along with a dozen cures for everything from a foot infection to the evil eye, the contact with gringos has them doing ceremonies much more frequently than that. And to accomodate those requests for ceremonies, these curanderos have opened little places in the jungle where that can be done. There is really nothing more sinister to it than that, I don't believe. And while some of the curanderos have probably lost their way a bit with the extra money and acclaim they now have, most will re-center themselves because at heart they are generous people and good healers.
I know some places where there are not many tourists and you probably could, after you've gotten acclimated to living near and in the jungle for a few weeks, you could probably go to these towns and be allowed to pitch a tent, so to speak, or help build yourself a little hut. But what would you do all day? The curandero, your teacher, would be out fishing or hunting, or tending his fields or off with the other men on the river cleaning the village's footpath of brush nearly every day. He or she wouldn't be there to sit and teach you. You would just have to become part of the community and what could you--no offence here, just reality--offer that community? To canoe to town weekly to pick up the supplies they need? They can already do that. To help with their fields? What help could a newcomer be to something they've been doing for generations.
So I don't have much in the way of recommendation. I can say that the conference on Shamanism really does bring together a dozen or more curanderos, some of whom don't live in ayahuasca camps but simply out on the river, and if you were there you might meet one or three who might present an opening for you to go live in their villages. But even then, remember that there is not much to do in the jungle. The days are very long for an outsider. It takes a while to slow down enough that it won't seem very dull.
Or you could just go to Iquitos or Pulcalpa and talk to others who have similar interests to yourself. Perhaps you would meet someone who has done a long dieta or two who might be able to get you to a good place to work for a while. You needn't spend a lot doing that, but I don't think I should make any particular recommendations as I've never done that so would just be repeating what I've been told.
I'm sorry that for all these words you don't yet have your answer. This is really one of those: Dive in and see for yourself sort of quests.
And I'll be surprised if you don't find something pretty good on the journey.
Peter G

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Another Day at the Gormans

So my son Marco is working at the local Brookshire's grocery store and he must be doing a pretty good job. He just got a raise last week from $7.50 an hour to $8.65. Nice one. I was real pleased. Kid is also loved by his girlfriend's parents who think the world of him. And rightly: He apparently pitches in a lot, gets the younger sisters to girl scouts and so forth. And I love him.
But he's still Marco, and in a single day can do a dozen things that infuriate. Like right this second he's borrowing my truck to go get his new glasses. But he needs my keys because he can't find the set he uses. And he wants to know if I want to chip in. I told him I was gonna ask him to get the truck inspected as his share of the cost of using it. Not a chance. And I'm a bum for not chipping in on the glasses--which are replacing the glasses I did buy him but that were lost.
Last night I nearly murdalized him when he got uopup in the middle of the night. I was sleeping on the living room floor--Madeleina having come in and commandeered the couch I sleep on because she wasn't sleeping well--and here strides Marco, past me and out the front door, leaving the door and the glass wind-break door open while he took a leak off the porch and into the bushes. The striding woke me; the freezing blast of air destroyed any chance of going back to sleep for an hour or two.
I didn't say anything. Dad's have to pick their spots.
This morning I was fixing lunch for Madeleina when he said he was leaving to take his girlfriend to school. Madeleina's school is on the way. She was ready. I would think that most people would suggest "I'm going past your school, I'll take you." Not my beautiful Marco. He somehow got out of the house and into Italo's car before I could ask him to take Madeleina.
And on his return he asked for breakfast--which I love making for the kids--but I had to tell him that his dishes were his responsibility. "See dad, how you can ruin everything?"
That last came from a conversation we had yesterday. I'd given pretty good orders that I expected his room cleaned, and I meant spotless. Which he did. Cleaned the rat's cage and everything. And then he called me in to look. And I told him it looked great and that I wish he could get it through his head that if he would just maintain things it wouldn't need to become a fire hazard and mouse resort in two more days.
On the way out of the room I nearly stumbled over a host of candy wrappers, pieces of sandwiches and so forth that he'd put near but not into the kitchen garbage can. So I said: Job will be done once you get this cleaned up.
And out of the blue he answered: "Nothing's ever good enough for you."
I stopped in my tracks. I told him I'd change from that second on. He seemed to accept it. But I've been thinking about that. It never occurred to me that he still needs my approval. But I guess he does. Heck, I moved out within a couple of weeks of my 18th birthday, and my dad died when I was just 20 and though I know we all deal with approval issues forever, it never occurred to me that Marco was dealing with them on this level. On the level of "Look! I cleaned my room! Aren't I good?"
And I'm so terribly sorry that I've been so blind. I've been trying to treat him like a grown up and pushing him into responsibility--he's 19 after all--and in fact he's been living up to the responsibility on most levels very well. I mean he's getting up a 3 and 4 AM to get to work, he's pitching in with the girlfriend and so forth. But here at home he's still a kid looking for approval. And to have missed that, for me to not realize how much my criticism of things like not taking care of dishes or being sloppy apparently hurts him is something I'm going to have to fix.
I know some will say be tough with him, and that might get the results, but I'd like to get more than a clean dish or a tidy room. I'd like him to grow emotionally to where he doesn't need my approval, to where he realizes that the only approval he needs is his own. If I can enncourage that by changing my behavior somehow, then he'll wind up holding himself to his own standard and that's when he'll be free of me as a dad and have me as a friend.
Yesterday afternoon, driving him to his girl's house, I told him I was calling a dad moment. And I told him that I loved him and that he would always have my love. I also told him that he didn't need my approval, that he needed his own approval. I also reiterated that I would change the criticism thing of mine.
He said that even if he didn't want my approval he was stuck looking for it.
I guess that was the first step.
You'll always drive me batty, but I love you, kiddo.

Friday, January 04, 2008

My Son Italo and Athletic Intent

First off, Happy New Year Everyone. I hope it's grand for you all.
I've been thinking about my son, Italo, a lot lately. I'm a dad, so I always do, but lately more than ever. I was telling him the other day that he might be the best natural athlete I've ever seen.
When I met him in Peru he was 7 years old. He was already playing soccer with the 12 year olds and asking me for money to bet on his own team to win. They often did.
When I married his mom and adopted him--along with his younger brother Marco-we came back to my apartment in New York. I bought them gloves and a basketball, and while Marco enjoyed playing, Italo was sort of fanatic. My sister Regina steered us to the baseball and basketball leagues that her son Tommy was playing in at the time and we got them signed up. Italo had never touched a basketball before coming to the states, but worked out for hours with Tommy, became the team's point guard and made the all-star team that year. Not speaking English.
In baseball, I'd taught him how to throw--he'd never really thrown a ball in Peru--and catch, but his coach put him in right field, the place where non-athletes go to die in little league. First play to right he misjudged it and a kid got a triple. Next play he made and I yelled for him to throw it to second in Spanish, as the kid was trying to stretch a single. He nailed him. Two weeks later he was moved to second base. He made the all-star team that year. The following year his coach moved his own son off shortstop to third to make room for Italo to play short. Italo was MVP of the league that year.
This isn't bragging so much as just admiring his athletic prowess. He continued to do the same things when we moved back to Peru and when we returned again to New Yorik. When we moved to Texas he was a sophmore in high school and quickly made and started for his high school soccer team. He played baseball as well, but not at the level he had played earlier: he started, but wasn't choosy about his pitches and so often looked uncomfortable at the plate. Rather than get down, he had me take him to the batting cage regularly, went to the fast pitch machine for a couple of hundred pitches at a time until he was back in a hitting groove.
His dream is to be a pro-soccer player. He's been playing in several leagues the last couple of years since high school, and for last year and this has been playing on the area's semi-pro club. He started this year on his new semi-pro club on the practice squad; now he's playing regularly. In a month he'll be starting. And these are good players, he says, most with college soccer under their belts, a handful with time in the big leagues, either here in the US, or in Mexico or South America.
So Madeleina, who played her first league soccer this year and began to learn the game a little, has been asking about Italo's chances of making the pros. I let her know that his size is a detriment: soccer players have gotten big since Pele's time, and Italo is only 5'8" and weighs about 150. So I don't know. He also has to be seen by the right scout on the right day and all of that, but he's doing his part toward that by playing in semi-pro.
Now none of that really matters. He was just born athletically gifted and has utilized that gift well. But it's the rest that counts. It's freezing here in Joshua the last few weeks, and when it's not freezing it's been raining mostly. Still, he's upped his workout regime to at least three or four hours daily, plus games 4 times or so a week and then a couple of nights practice on top of that. He does about an hour of situps, pushups, light weights and balancing work daily (his balancing work has him stand on one ceramic cup, then switch feet without touching the ground. He can do that for days and mostly likes to do that while we're talking so that he can't look at his feet while he's doing it.
Then he heads outside with a weighted chest vest and begins his daily run: a run around the front yard, past the barn, over one creek-bridge, up the slope and around the fire pit, across the garden, down the slope and over the second bridge, down into the creek bed and then up a slope into the front yard. He'll do that for about 30 minutes, faster and faster, so that his last lap is at breakneck speed.
Then he begins his sets of running around the paint cans, set up in a row that he dashes in and out of like a barrel horse racer, to improve his cutting speed. After 20 or thirty sets of that he does it backwards. Then he does his quick step workout between a series of pipes he's set up, forward and backward, just like the paint can routine, to sharpen his backward mobility. When he trips he lands flat on his back, gets up and starts again. He changes the distance between the pipes every couple of days so that he can't get used to their placement. "Keeps me sharp, dad," he explained.
Then it's time to kick, and he kicks those 8 soccer balls at the tiniest of targets from every concieveable angle and distance and speed for probably 45-minutes daily.
Couple of hours later and he'd off to practice or a game.
I've explained to Madeleina that even with all his natural talent, if you want to be a pro at something, that's the sort of dedication it takes. And then, even if you don't make it, you've given it, really given it, your best shot. Same goes with writing or dancing or being a good cop.
And if Italo makes it, it will be all Italo. If he doesn't I don't believe he'll have regrets. He knows the odds.
But I sure am proud of his work ethic.