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.