Thursday, May 29, 2008

One Story About Last Trip

Because of the nature of the trips, the vulnerability people face, sometimes vulnerability they have not ever faced due to the medicines, our circles are closed. That's why I don't tell or relate many stories about the actual trips. I'm sworn to secrecy0--read that privacy--as much as my guests are.
But every now and then something very ugly or cool happens that's worth sharing. On this trip there were several moments, but one in particular. One of my guests had worked at a couple of death row prisons, working as a therapist for death row inmates. He was a wonderful guest, full of laughter and love, but he was also followed by a shadow. Now I'm the worst reader of auras in the world, but if I tell you I could see a shadow following this guy, then it was a 10th degree shadow that allowed even a horse's derriere (that's the last dismissive to you Ms. M) like me could see, then I'm not fooling. This was a heavyweight dark shadow.
Anyway, the fellow drank ayahuasca for the first time and for three, four hours it seemed to be so nice to him he didn't have much effect. Some colors, some faces, a few spirits visited him but nothing to change his life. Nothing so different than what he experienced in normal life that it would justify the expense of time and money for this trip.
I felt rotten that he hadn't 'gotten it' but what could I do? The medicine gives you what it feels you need, and almost never what you want.
I went to bed after all the guests were back in their hammocks.
I woke 20 minutes later to hear this violent retching from the guest house. I looked down. There was this fellow, puking his heart out. Sounded like a lion. Sounded like a waterfall in reverse. Wonderful, difficult, fantastic.
I stayed awake a few minutes: He was doing fine, so I went back to sleep. Fitless, I woke a few minutes later to listen again: Deep, deep marvelous retching from a soul the bottom of which I couldn't perceive. But wonderful and healthy. I tried to go back to sleep.
I couldn't. The retching continued for hours. I wanted to go down and talk with him but thought the medicine was already in deep conversation with him so what could I add? Nothing. Just Whitestone, New York bullspit. He was talking with freaking god or something like god--compared to humans--so I left him alone.
It went on way past dawn, maybe four or five hours after the ceremony.
In the morning he came for breakfast. All the other guests, or most of them, complained that they couldn't sleep for the racket. I asked if he was alright. He was.
"I nearly died of dehydration," he said. "I couldn't keep any water down at all. And I was losing all my water every time I vomited. But," he added, "it finally occurred to me after the first couple of hours, that I was vomiting up all the pain I'd absorbed from all the people on death row I'd helped with therapy. And once I realized that, that I was giving up pain I didn't even know I was carrying, well, I didn't care if I died. What was important was that I inadvertantly kept the pain those people had when I took it out of them. And this morning I feel light as a feather for the first time in 20 years. I'm done. I let it go. It almost killed me but I let it go."
And I sat there drinking coffee and started crying. I cry easy when it's legit. Ask my kids. This guest had been a sin eater for people who had done bad bad things to other people. And that night was his chance to have ayahuasca medicine eat his sins for absorbing theirs.
He may not be done yet, but it was a start to cleansing.
And that's why I do these trips.
I am still crying when I think about him.
My prayer when they are vomiting uncontrollably: Throw it, throw it, get rid of the things that wear you down. Get rid of the things you don't need to stand straight and tall. Botale, botale, toss toss the sickness you carry for yourself and others, Be free and fly little soul. Toss the things you don't need and let us catch them and get rid of them for you. Just release those things that are tying you down and fly fly fly little soul. Fly and be free.
Maybe this was a little more intimate than I meant. Ah, nuts.

The Goats are Gone

Well, one of the neat surprises awaiting me when I came home last week was that the goats are gone. And good riddance, I say. Not to the one with no nuts, who was a darned decent goat, but to the full-fledged male who made using the backyard such a chore, what with his constant head-down, ears up, full-bore charges at me. By the time you got to the garage to play a little pool you'd already have spent 15 minutes wrestling with the 140-pounder just to get him locked in the chicken coop. And speaking of chicken coops, the damned goats chased the rooster around so much he finally had a heart attack. We found his body in the runoff creek ditch.
I liked the rooster.
So the last few months haven't been real good for animals here. Marco released his rat into the neighbor's yard--he initially swore he gave it away--and it's now made a home in my office, tearing up three years worth of magazines and newspapers that have been kind enough to print my stories to make, I'm sure, a luxury condo in one of the little room's corners. Then we lost Sneakers to a high-speed water truc--just after he ate the fish Sarah bought out of the fish pond--and now the goats belong to the same neighbor we tried to lay the rat off on. Fortunately, she no longer lives next door, just uses it as a Rent-A-Movie and Tanning Salon. The goats are at her new house, about a mile away. But I know her husband Ty, and I'll bet dollars to donuts (of course now that donuts cost more than a buck each I probably should say donuts to dollars) that the big one winds up on a spit over a fire pit before June is over. Any takers? Takers over here?
Cause Ty ain't gonna put up with no goat bullspit. And his kids are going to jump the fence to get into the goat area and that goat is just too big for them. Ah, well, I told Italo that if Christy wanted to give them back she'd have to pay us. Or give us free movies for a couple of months, anyway.
Now we're not completely animal free, of course. There are at least three families of Cardinals and a couple of Blue Jays living here, and lots of squirrels. And we've still got Boots, the wonder guard dog, and Italo and Sarah found and brought home an abused black chihuahua (or some such football-sized mutt) that's now a house dog named Lady. Whomever had her scared the willies out of her because she is one frightened pup. We'll get her over that, and if we can keep her in the house, maybe get to keep her for a few years.
And then there's the horse....yeah, I know, what the heck do I know about horses other than that I'm frequently a horses derriere (that's in deference to you, Ms. M)? Well, not a lot. But one of the people I wrote about in a story about contaminated water wells recently has just had three foals. The one I asked for is a paint with beautiful brown and white colors and I don't think he's going to grow very large, or at least the owner promised he wouldn't. We won't get him till September because foals need mare's milk for about six months. So me and Italo are going to build him a barn when I come back from the next trip--which I leave for on Tuesday morning, yikes!--and that'll be fun.
I've already told the owner that I think we'll be great horse parents for about half a year, after which he's to find the colt a permanent home. He says no sweat, that his horses are always in demand. I just don't see Madeleina or Sarah up for brushing every day for longer than that, and when the job falls to me, well, maybe I'll love it. We'll see. But I promised Madeleina a pony when we moved to Texas and now I'm going to have my chance to give it to her. I actually promised a pink pony, so I'm going to have to do some watercolor work for a couple of days before I bring him home.
Back to the primaty tac: the goats are gone, the Gormans own their yard again. Hooray!

Monday, May 26, 2008

A Day at the Beach

Some days, it's almost like we're a family around here. Today, for instance, we went off to the beach. Sarah, Italo's-live-in girl, had asked me yesterday to pick up some meat for a barbeque and so I'd gotten chicken, hamburger meat, hot dogs, hot links and boudin--a creole rice sausage flavored with sage and pork--and then this morning Sarah showed up with chips, crackers, cookies, bottled water, soda, fruit drinks, watermelon, peaches, grapes and made a potato-and-egg salad and a whole lot more. And then she packed two coolers with all of it--Chepa had prepared the chicken, which showed up a bit later--on ice, and D-Ray, Italo's friend who comes around and is sort of part of the family, picked up some beer and everyone looked for every floatation device we own and off we went. Found a pretty spot at Benbrook lake, next to a stand of trees, hung a hammock for the baby and got the floatables blown up while Italo made a home made grill stand and lit a fire and put the grill on and half an hour later, after lots of splashing around, the meat went on.
Heck, I even took family photos for someone's album. Madeleina was wild, as she always is around water, and Sierra was frantically tossing as many rocks as she could. Little Alexa needed breast feeding about every ten minutes; and me, I stood back a bit, wondering how in all goodness I'd come to be part of such a lovely thing and then too, wondering how it had all fallen apart. But I tossed the last away: Today, like our best days, there was no broken anything, there was just what there was: some laughs, some good food, some horsing around and then another pocket full of laughs.
Hope your day went as well. Despite the reason for the holiday and the sadness it brings up--lot of good men and women have died in combat, mostly useless combat, but died bravely nonetheless--it's one of the holidays that, unlike Christmas, which can rent and tear at you, brings families together. And for a little while, for a morning and afternoon, it was nice to be part of a whole one again.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Back Briefly

Well, made it back from the most recent trip with an armful of new friends, no septic spider bites and sans exploding intestines. Despite the lack of drama, it was a pretty good trip, I think, and hope my guests feel the same.
I'm sorry I've been away from this blog so long. It's difficult for me to get on it when I'm with guests in Peru. My kids, and Chepa, in particular, have always felt my lack of contact--I only call about once a week and email the same--was cold. To her it signifies that I'm spending my time with lots of girls, having lots of parties, and too busy to care about what's happening at home. There are some nights of late night drinking with pals on the boulevard--heck, it's my only chance to do that all year--of course, but more than that what keeps me from more contact is that I'm nearly a different person. THe part of me that's dad wants the kids to be great the family to be getting on well; the part of me that is playing host to guests, and coordinating a thousand details from riverboat cabins to organizing 66 meals per day for 7 days and checking mosquito nets for holes is just very preoccupied with details.
This trip, for instance, I called home on the day I arrived. I had gotten off the airplane at 6 AM after a brutal 24 hours of flying and layover time, brought my things to the hotel Isabel (oldest extant hotel in Iquitos, built in 1916--no running water) that's been my home away from home for 25-years, then went out to the Belen market and bought several hundred dollars in dry goods. There was tomato sauce and laundry soap, instant coffee and evaporated milk, canned sardines and spam, cheeses, lentils, canary beans, dried yucca, spices, dried herbs, salt, flour, sugar and a hundred other things that go into feeding my team of 10 and the guests. Two of my team were with me as we hauled about 300 pounds of stuff in old wooden crates and thick plastic bags out of the market (my stomach held: Hooray!) and into three-wheeled motorkars a couple of blocks away.
At the hotel we re-packed everything, noting what was missed for later purchase, and began to assess what we'd need in the way of fruit and vegetables, though we wouldn't be buying those until the day we were leaving on the riverboat.
Me and the crew--they were joining one-by-one as word spread that I had hit town--then retrieved my jungle gear from its storage location and began sorting through it: How many mosquito nets/hammocks/blankets/towels we'd need, how many flashlights we have and how many work; whether to buy a new box of shotgun shells or go with what was already there; check jungle boots for sizes and complete pairs...and that was followed by checking the quality of each item.
Late afternoon was spent going over what had already been delivered to our jungle home earlier in the week by Juan, whose place we use: Gasoline, kerosene, sleeping mats, bottled water, toilet paper: Had he rented enough canoes? Where were my magic mushrooms? Was Hairo in town and ready to go? and all the rest.
And then, at about 6 PM, just before I intended to get good and drunk on a bottle of Jim Beam I'd bought at Duty Free with a couple of pals and raise a little hell to announce my arrival, I called home. Exhausted, but so missing my kids I was wondering why the hell I was even in Peru. I mean, I knew I was there because I had guests coming who wanted to see Iquitos and the jungle, to do medicines that would work wonders on their bodies and souls, then head up to the magical ruins at Sacsayhuaman and Machu Picchu, but despite that I wondered what the hell I was doing there. What kind of father leaves his kids for weeks at a time to go off on jaunts into the jungle. The answer was obvious: I need time away from being a journalist and I need to make a few supplemental bucks to keep the family going. But the last several trips had been disastrous financially: shorted of thousands by various organizers, three emergency operations, a city-wide strike that forced me to rent a private boat for $2 grand to get to where we were going....houses falling in the jungle that needed to be completely rebuilt. So if there was no financial gain for at least two years, then what the hell was I doing there? Just to party with my friends Alan and Richard and the other Richard? Just to say hello to Mad Mick and Bill? Just to get a new CD from Mr. Curtis? Just to meet a bunch of strangers who might or might not like what I had on offer for them? Who might make me feel wonderful about sharing what I had to share but who might also turn on me and, like at least one former client, continue to send hate mail a year after her trip?
So with exhaustion, a brain jammed with a thousand details and a heart full of doubt, I called home. And Italo answered.
"What's up?"
"Got here. I'm safe. Everything's good, buddy. I'm missing you guys already...."
"Dad, we have an emergency here..."
"What? Is anybody hurt? Did the house burn down?"
"No. It's an emergency with the college papers. If I don't have them filed by the morning I lose the scholarship and I'm not sure how to fill them out right. I need you here to read them..."
"Nobody's hurt?"
"No, dad. But it's still an emergency..."
"I can't help you with that, Italo. I'm in freaking Iquitos. What do you want me to do?"
"I don't know. Just fix it."
"I can't. I couldn't fix it even if the house burned down. Call uncle Bruce or Lynn or somebody, but I'm not there."
"I'm gonna lose the scholarshsip..."
I told him I loved him and hung up. What the hell could I do? I was so tired I could no longer even see straight, much less fill out forms 3,000 miles away.
Still, it made me feel rotten and reinforced the question of what the hell I was doing there when the kids needed me at home.
And then I thought: Italo, just do it. Dad is not there this time. You'll have to buck up and count your own hammocks, look for your own cracks in the rubber jungle boots. I love you but I'm just not able to help.
And then I grabbed Kay, my cab-driving member of my team, and had him take me to the hotel for the bottle of Jim Beam and then on to my friend Miriam's El Noche restaurant. I sat down, asked Tanya for a glass and some ice, and poured a long one.
Nothing I can do, Italo. Except miss you and everyone and send you love. I'm in another world now.
I took a drink. Alan Shoemaker and Richard 'Auckoo' Fowler appeared. I took another drink and tried to forget how rotten I felt about abandoning my family to be sitting there with pals on the boulevard. Half-a-bottle later, and four deliberate cigarette burns to my arm, I did.