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.