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.


The Grudge said...

Welcome back Peter. I am glad the stomach held it together and you came back safe.

phoenix said...

welcome back Peter. I like to hear the stories. Reminds me of the time I went to Peru with you. Your kids will one day love the fact that their dad used to go run off to the amazon. You're one entertaining dad. Too bad for them they can't see it yet and you're just dad. One day they'll realize what a great Dad you are.


daisyduke said...

It seems like forever since you left! Seriously, I have been checking back almost daily, anticipating your return.
Here's what I have to say about your Daddom...You do the best you can with what you've got, when and where you've got it.
All you can do is make sure you are honest with them, and love them like crazy; and really, the rest is up to them. They WILL figure it out. They do love you. and you are allowed to be happy and work--even when you're away from them.