Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Snowing in Texas

Yeah, well it's not East Coast snow but it's snow nonetheless. It's glorious. But being Texas the weather changes quickly. The saying down here is "If you don't like the weather in Texas, wait 10 minutes."
The snow on Christmas eve was just three inches deep but that was good enough for Italo, Marco, Madeleina, Sierra and Alexa to make a snowman 4' tall. With baby organic carrots for hair, volcanic rocks for eyes and mouth and a banana for his nose.
Today's snow might top that here in Joshua. It's nearly two inches now and the ceiling is still just a couple of hundred feet from the ground. I'm glad I'm not flying. I hate flying in ice and snow with zero visibility. Hell, on the road the visibility was just 50 feet or so; at 500 MPH that's a split second.
Still, I'm hoping and praying everybody's plane gets off and lands safely.
On the home front, all is good. Italo's gonna have dinner with me while Mom has Sarah, Marco, Madeleina and the babies. They've all got a bit of residue food poisining from NOT eating here on Christmas Eve, but what can I say? I invited them; they went to Chepa's sister's home for a pot luck, Peruvian style. I didn't go because Chepa's boyfriend was in town and I didn't want to get depressed or crimp his style. But somebody's pot luck was a little older than the date on the can and damned near the whole bunch got sick.
Not till after presents on Christmas morning, of course.
As for me, I'm pretty proud that in 18 years cooking in restaurants and in the three years I had my own joint in Peru and in all the meals I've ever cooked and served at home, in the jungle for guests, at parties, at catered events--we're talking one million meals give or take--and no one ever said they got sick on my food.
That is a cool thing to be able to say with honesty.
Not that everybody like them. That's a horse of a different color.
But they didn't get sick.
Anyway, I'm working my butt off and the last chapter of the book is nearly done. After that it's the Afterward and that's it.
Thank you guys for your faith in me. I really hope to hell it ain't misplaced.

BUY THE BOOK NOW!!! It won't be available till February. But think of all those friends you shorted at Christmas you cheap people. How many people should have gotten presents but didn't? My list is about 80 people. Yours is probably that long. So why not buy those 80 people MY BOOK???? Who cares if it's no good. At least it gets you off the hook and is a whole lot more personal than sending them a 25 buck gift card. OR, you can send them access to the audio version which my friend Lynn and I will record next week!!!!!! Think about it! All the people you don't like being forced to listen to my gravely voice for 8 hours! That's punishment! You already hate them, but you owe them a present. It's mid-winter, it's freezing outside, they have nothing else to do, so give them my audio book to paralyze them! Freak them out with tales of talking to spirits that just happen to be true!
Just go to pgorman.com and push the button that says "New book" or whatever on the top of the first page and send me money. I'll give you something you will never forget two months down the line! I'll sign it anyway you like! I'll blow smoke on it! I'll sopla with agua florida! You'll have your first Perfumed Book!
I'm trying to sell 1000 of these before I publish this and I'm not there by a long shot. So tell your friends. Better yet, FORCE your friends to buy it! It can't ruin their already ruined lives, but it might help make sense of the whole shebang!
Sorry if this all sounds pushy. I just had a moment. You've had moments, haven't you? No? Well, GET SOME MOMENTS and know what it feels to BE ALIVE!!!!
My book will not provide them. Still, it's a pretty good read. And when you're done you can sell the signed copies on Ebay for $8-$10 bucks, so you will only lose $15.
You've done worse. Admit it. Don't cower.
Peter G

Good Morning! Let's Turn That Page!

Well, good morning everybody. That last blog piece has been at the front of the line long enough, don'cha think? But it was a good experiment. I pre-sold a couple of dozen books so far and have promises on a couple dozen more checks supposed to arrive shortly, and I've been pushed to jump into the final section, which I've done with complete fear of having to relive all that stuff again and again, plus the fear of utter failure if the book sucks.
Ah, so what? I'm doing the best I can and I think that is the measuring stick. I'm going to take heat from some quarters; some people are going to say I made some of the stuff in the book up; others will say I used creative license. Fact is, it's straight from journals, then cleaned up, or from simple experience. Still, talking silently with spirits and then writing down the conversation will throw some people off.
Nuff on that except to say that the next several pieces I write on this will continue to have a "Buy NOW" not at the bottom of them.
Christmas? Kwanza? Holidays? All good for all of you, I hope. Here at the Gormans' it was good. Santa was a little short this year but still he managed to produce some fantastic stockings and good toys. Madeleina is so grown up but still likes odd things like Straw Glasses that allow you to drink through a 36-inch tube that doubles as a pair of glasses, freezing your face if you drink something cold. And Italo, well, that poor kid wound up with a can of paint among other things under the tree. He'd started doing his room and ran out. And now he realizes what happens if you say things like "I'm out of paint. I need another can," during Christmas shopping week. Winds up as a gift.
And the year is winding down.
And I'm writing before the coffee is done and don't have anything interesting to say, even though it's been an interesting week. For instance: We lost three of the chickens. But there's no blood, not a single feather, and as we had snow, there was not a single chicken footprint outside the coop if they'd managed to fly it.
Which leaves an owl or a good sized hawk just dipping down and plucking them into thin air. It's a horrible thought but still that would be cool if we had an owl around here.
Okay, I'm gonna get some coffee so I can begin to think clearly.

NOTE: Buy the book! Go to pgorman.com and on the front page of that site there's a think to hit that will take you to where you can. So DO IT! Yes, you all know the stories. Yes, some of them are 25 freaking years old. So WHAT?????
And for people who really want to suffer, my friend Lynn and I are going to read it into an audio file next week. HA! The Gorman CDs! The Gorman MP3s! Now I can bore you even while driving to work!!!!

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Book Announcement: The Time to Buy is Now

And now, with a completely selfish attitude, I'm going to tell you all that my book, Ayahuasca in My Blood: 25 Years of Medicine Dreaming, is being finished up and edited at the moment. I'm publishing it myself via Lulu because no big publishers have come to me and I just don't have the time to go to them.
I think the book is a great read. And if you've followed me for 25 years, you've already read a great deal--though by no means all--of the material, from the first time I went into the Peruvian Amazon and drank Ayahuasca through my marriage, its breakup, my healing, and finally my beginning to learn to heal others. It's running between 260-280 pages and will be a good sized paperback. It's been designed by Johan Fremin, a former guest of mine in the jungle who's become, like some of you, a good friend. He's done a fantastic job with it.
So here's the pitch: Go to pgorman.com, find the paypal button and send me $25 (that includes shipping), and when I have the copies in hand at the end of February--a perfect time for a great read--I'll get it out to you. Don't forget to write me at peterg9@yahoo with your address so that there are no mistakes. The site is being updated with a button just for the book, but that's not done quite yet, so just go to paypal and send the darned money. That way I'll have the money to print the darned thing. Get it? That's what this pre-publication sale is about! And I'll sign it if you like however you would like it signed. Hell, I'll even blow mapacho smoke on it for you.
So get to it and get me that money and I promise I'll get you a great read about that fantastic medicine, the jungle, and my 25 years of medicine dreaming.
If you prefer to send a check or money order, send it to
Peter Gorman
2133 W FM 917
Joshua, Texas 76058

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Christianity and Ayahuasca

So a person who reads about Ayahuasca and has some experience with it wanted to know how to fit it into his basic Christian beliefs. I believe his beliefs were of the good Christian spehere--credo--rather than of the politics. So this was my answer.

X: Thanks for writing. You speak of Christian roots; I was a catholic alter boy for 6 years, rebuilding homes for the poor, bringing meals to the infirm and reading to the elderly every week. Ayahuasca fits in wonderfully to that tradition I think: God is God: God made some good shit. Ayahuasca is one of the good shit things God made to help Man get a glimpse of what God is capable of. And a tool to help man.
So no sweat there. I was listening to a tape of my teacher, Julio (now dead) today. It was riveting, despite, or because, of the vomiting, the jokes Julio made, the little children laughing in the background. Riveting. My eldest, who only drank once (full dose) with Julio, and subsequently with me a few times, could not stop listening. Julio changed the world when he sang and healed wonderfully with his ability to shift and balance energy.
Ayahuasca is very sacred in the right hands. It's a way to link communication with the spirit of man to the spirit of things we normally call inanimate: rocks, planets, space, as well as the animate, but normally unavailable world of animals, insects, rivers, trees, all flora and fauna and blood and deep secrets and love and fear and all the rest of the muck that makes up this universe. And the Christian God--and Hindu God and whatever God you believe in or just the plain old spirit that's huge, whatever you call that Spirit--made it all and so must love it all. So there is no conflict. Loving a child is loving God. Loving a tree is loving God. I'm sure you understand.
So I'll try to answer a couple of things for you, even though you didn't spell out what you want answered. So ask away and I will try my best to help. Know beforehand that I'm woefully inadequate to the task.
Peter G

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Christmas Concert

It's 7:50 PM on Tuesday, December 15. I'm elated. I've just come from the Christmas concert that Madeleina's 7th grade band put on. WOW!!!!!! There were 86 kids playing instruments and it was sweeping and grand and flawless and uplifting and joyeus and goddamned near the sound of angels. This group has been together for 5 months and sounded like they've been playing for 5 years. What an abundance of music they made! I sat in my seat laughing, applauding, simply in wonderment. That's my baby among them? I guess it was. But she wasn't my baby at all, not my baby who left this house wearing a pair of Chepa's black slacks and Chepa's 4 inch heel boots. My baby was one with the group, insignificant alone, irreplaceable in the whole.
There is a teacher I will find tomorrow to congratulate. She deserves accolades for pulling all those walking hormones together into a unified and fantastic group of one.
I was so envious watching her work. Good envious. Proud of her. Glad that Madeleina has run into someone like her.
There's steak and rice and spinach with garlic on the stove. There's my Madeleina at her computer. I'm here at mine. She has no idea how her music lifted my spirit tonight, despite me telling her. That's something she won't know till she has children of her own and they come out of the blue, roaring like lions, making everything perfect.

Friday, December 11, 2009

I Admit It, We're Just Pigs Here

Okay, I have not done a cooking blog in months or more. So here is one on the last week of Dinner at My House, okay? If you are on a diet, are vegetarian, or are a pig, please don't read this. That's fair warning.
Just thinking back to last Saturday, as it's now Friday again, making it a week.. Here's what I made for dinner. Now remember, this was Chepa's week to have Madeleina, so I just made what I felt like, even though most days Chepa either brought all the kids over to eat or came early in the morning to raid the left-overs.

Saturday: Corned beef and cabbage with boiled potatoes.
Typical corned beef: Bought the square, rather than the point, because it has more meat. Then bought a point piece and tossed it in to add enough fat. Two heads of cabbage, small this time of year, were quartered and tossed in after the meat had been simmering 3 hours. Added not only the little package they give you but lots of pickling spices and lots of black peppercorns for flavor. Tossed in 10 skinned potatoes, cut in half, 30 minutes before serving.
The shit felt like cum on your chin and I ain't even gay. Great great cold night meal.

Sunday: Lime Chicken. That's taking half large chicken breasts, then cutting them into two by slicing against grain (four pieces per whole breast), then flowering/egging/breading and sauteing/roasting them. Sounds complicated: isn't Bread the filets, making sure the flour has sufficient salt and good pepper and the breading has sufficient (about half) good parmesan cheese. Heat the saute pan to very hot, saute breaded chicken, remove after one side done and place in pyrex oven flat. Top chicken with parmesan and crack at least one good half-lime per chicken piece to make good good juice. Bake for 15 minutes or so at 350 till golden brown. Serve with rice and a vegetable strong enough to carry it's own weight.

Monday: Fajita over rice. Bought 3 pounds of fajita-seasoned skirt steak. Sliced it into 1/2 inch by 3 inch pieces. Marinated (though it was already marinated at the carneceria) in oil, soy, garlic, onion, salt, pepper and Peruvian spices. Substitute Goya Sazon with Garlic and Cilantro if you don't have fresh Peruvian spices.
Saute lots of garlic and diced onions, add meat, cook. In 15 minutes add 3 good sized or 7 Roma tomatoes (thin half-rounds, rather than diced), and one whole red onion (again, thin half-round slices),saute for five minues more. Add two finely sliced sweet red bell peppers and two greed bell peppers, Saute five more minutes. Add 8-12 ounces of chicken stock, preferably homemade, but you can use what you have, and then slow simmer for 30 minutes or so. Serve over rice with a good veg on the side. In our case I steamed broccoli and cauliflower till al diente, then saute'd the veggies in a bit of oil with garlic, then added 3 ounces of good cheddar and a short dollop of milk: fantastic creamy veggies to go with the main dish.

Tuesday: Roast Chicken: Just cut a whole chicken in half. Wash thoroughly. Place on a bed of cleaned celery and sliced red onion. On the underside wipe with freshly cut garlic soaked in olive oil, then sprinkle with sea salt and coarse black pepper. Turn over, do the same for topside. Bake for 52 minutes at 350, occasionally basting.
Cut potatoes in half, put in cold water, bring to boil and cook for 10 minutes. At same time cook organic baby carrots with potatoes. When that's done, put everything under cold water and when cold add potatoes and carrots to the chicken pan, making sure to baste with chicken fat. Potatoes and carrots should be cooking with chicken for the last 25-30 minutes.
Remove from heat. Cut chicken and serve with celery, onions, potatoes and carrots. Man, that's good.

Wednesday: I was alone and so opted for my big sandwich of the week. That meant buying a loaf of French bread, 1/3 pound of the rarest roast beef I can find in this place called Texas, where they have no idea what rare means (I want that Cow Mooing!) and 4 slices (.20 pound) of good pepperjack or horseradish cheese.
Cut 1/4 of the French bread, slice that open, remove excess breading from inside.
Put sufficient mayonaise or Miracle Whip onto bread and place in 350 degree oven for a few minutes, till warm.
Cover bread with paper thin roast beef, salt and peppered and return to oven.
While you're doing all this, cut a nice red pepper into quarters, eliminate seeds and white ffft, and saute in garlic and oil, along with three or four thin slices of sweet red onion. Eliminate black skin from pepper when done (eat separately as this is the best stuff in the world, even though it's tough).
Place cooked skinless red pepper and sweet onions on roast beef--both sides of French bread--and cover with pepperjack or horseradish cheese. If pepperjack, add a table spoon of good horse radish under the peppers.
Cook 10 minutes or until the cheese is starting to drip onto your oven floor.
Serve with cantaloupe or apple. Granny Smith, preferred.

Thursday: Shrimp, Mussels, Calamari....Yesterday was fantastic. I bought a pound of 21-25 shrimp (farm raised) and a pound of mussels, plus half-a-pound each of squid tubes and tentacles (there was no octopus or I would have bought that too).
I made a tartar sauce (mayo, diced sweet onions, sweet pickles, pepper, white vinegar and lime from fresh fresh limes), and then an easy red sauce: garlic and onions, diced, in olive oil, saute till done, then add a can of fire-bred diced tomatoes, a shot of white wine. Cook the mussels for 5 minutes in that, then take left over sauce, add more tomatoes and serve as sauce for calamari and shrimp.
Shrimp and Calamari: Shed shrimp skin, cut calamari into 1/2 inch pieces, flour, then fry in good oil. Drain well so you won't get a heart attack.
Saute half the shrimp in garlic, onion and tomatoes with fresh parsley for Sarah, your pregnant daughter in law.
Let Chepa make a cilantro, oil, onion/garlic cheese sauce that will give you a hard on for a month, and then serve everything with fresh broccoli crowns and a melange of cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes and spaghetti squash in garlic and oil.

Friday: Tonight: Baked beans and franks. Italo might or might not return tonight, but he requested franks and beans. So here it is: Saute a whole head of minced garlic and a diced sweet red onion. Add 15 (1 1/2 pounds) Hebrew National Beef Franks (Remember that I'm an Irish kid but growing up in New York we had the most respect for Hebrew foods. Nobody can beat their franks/corned beef/Motzoas/Chicken soup/Pastrami/Shmaltz/a million other things) cut into 1/2 inch slices. Saute till light brown. Add 8 Roma or 2 large regular tomatoes, diced. Cook 10 minutes.
Add two 28 ounce cans of Bush's original beans and one 28 ounce can of Ranch Beans plus one 16 ounce can of chicken stock for liquid. Cook for an hour slowly. Near the end, add 3 or 4 ounces of good mustard and freshly cracked black pepper to taste and at the very end add a bunch of fresh cilantro, finely chopped. Serve over Basmati rice cooked in oil/garlic and then water.
Also, to aid digestion, serve fresh spinach parboiled in water and then saute'd in garlic and a bit of cider vinegar with black pepper.

That was this week's ServeEmUp stuff.
All of it's good, all reasonably priced, nothing difficult to make but every night is a different taste bud adventure. Next week, I'm making Lamb Vindaloo might do a nice cous cous if there's any left over lamb. And I'm thinking about a paella. We'll see.
We ain't the food channel, but we'll still get your mouth watering...

Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Out of the Mouth of Madeleina

By now you all know I love my kids. I recognize them for their faults and good traits and think they have more of the latter than the former. And each have their own fantastic abilities: Italo has the genuine gift of a brilliant athlete and the take charge personality of a leader who leads by example, rather than force. Marco, when he wants to do something--as being pushed makes him as stubborn as a mule--has more stick-to-it-iveness than anyone I know.
And then there is Madeleina and her uncanny word sense. Just something that has amazed me several times. The first occurred while she was early in second grade. She'd had a friend, a boy, at whose house she played several times during first grade. He'd been here as well. But early on in second grade he stopped including her. In anything. He didn't eat lunch at her table in school, he wouldn't play with her at recess or after school; didn't invote her to his house and wouldn't even answer her calls to come here.
She said it didn't matter but I knew it broke her heart: she learned what abandoned meant.
Well, Madeleina has always gone outside when she's angry or sad and she just starts singing. Just makes up songs. I don't get to hear many, even now, but one day while she was thinking of this kid, I think, she was wandering around the front yard just singing her head off. And the lines that stuck me were:
"I don't know why you treat me like a disaster;
You treat me like I was a tornado,
You treat me like I was a car wreck,
I don't know why you treat me like a disaster."
I was nearly paralyzed by that. In all my life, in all my reading, in all my suffering my own being occasionally abandoned, I'd never heard, read or thought anything that explained that emotion so clearly, so succinctly, so perfectly. "I'm hurt; I feel empty without you" and so forth are miles away from what Madeleina had hit on: When people leave you they don't just leave, they get as far away as they can. Just like when a tornado is coming, or when there is a car wreck. We don't want anything at all--except from a voyeur's joy--to do with a disaster. We want to be as far away as possible.
And Madeleina, well, she just hit the nail on the freaking head with that one.
She did it again in a story she wrote last week. She'll be in trouble because she wrote it for school, and it's a hard boiled short story set in the 1950s about a gangster who is breaking up with his girl, a whore, who had sex with a couple of dozen
men while he was out of town for a week. The woman threatens to expose a secret of his, that he'd killed his best friend in a drunken barfight years ago, and the man then strangles her. Fortunately, while he left her for dead she actually survived, and then the man, reliving that bar fight and unable to live with remembering it, drives off a bridge to a watery death.
Not a perfect story but pretty damned good.
But what made it special was her use of language. From the man's point of view, she wrote that the woman was known as Ms. Elegant because even though she wore dresses so short they left nothing to the imagination, they always looked as though "they'd been cut from evening gowns with the bottoms of the gowns tossed away."
She--again, from the man's point of view--described the woman as having "breasts so large they should have had their own zip code."
And she described the woman's legs as "so long they looked like they could wrap themselves around you so fast they'd knock the breath right out of a man."
She may have gotten some of that stuff subliminally, but with several moves between 1995 and 2002 I got rid of all my Mickey Spillane's and other pot boilers, so she didn't read that stuff here. She might have gotten something from movies she's seen.
Still, those are amazing images for a 12 year old.
I am a wonderful writer, but I am also a jealous one. I've never come up with stuff like that, so perfect, so pictorial.
And I'm also very very proud of her.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

A Little Ghost Story

Madeleina and I were driving on a country road today. It's a beautiful road that I discovered yesterday when I was alone, and today, with Madeleina with me, I wanted her to see it. What was so beautiful was that it looked like nobody built that road using eminent domain. It looked instead like it was built around everyone's country properties. It is one of the curviest roads I've ever seen, with hairpin turns about every 200 feet.
It was late afternoon while we were driving along it, just before dusk, when the moment hit when everything is electric: that eerie minute or so when the world looks as if touching a single leaf hanging from a tree might just electrocute you.
"Yeah, dad," Madeleina said when I noted the moment, "It's like the world is being stabbed, pierced by the electricity, but at the same time the world is not suffering, the world is bleeding happily."
I nearly drove the car off the road at that; didn't, and added, "This is when the ghosts can come out. This is the moment when this world is not solid enough to keep them from coming in."
A moment later, after we'd taken the moment in as deeply as we could and were touched as much as we could deal with, Madeleina said: "What would you say if I told you I saw a ghost?"
"Why not?"
"Because spirits are everywhere, and some people can see them, hear them, not quite touch them but darned close. And if you are one of those, what would I say? Okay, you saw a ghost. That's fine."
"Well, I didn't really see a ghost. But I want to. Are you sure I'm too young to drink ayahuasca?"
"Getting near time girl, but still a little early."
"Well, I didn't see a ghost this week, but three times, after you went to bed and I was trying to go to sleep, the radio came on."
"I know. I heard it once or maybe twice."
"Dad, the radio can't just turn on. Maybe once or twice, but three times?"
"It can't turn on once by itself. There's no connection. That's a ghost, baby. A spirit announcing presence."
"I know. But I thought you'd laugh at me if I said that."
"You're talking to a guy whose best friends are mostly spirits, baby. I don't laught at that stuff, but I didn't want to mention it until you did because I didn't want to scare you."
"I'm not scared, dad. I'm curious."
"Well, then let me tell you about last Sunday, when you were at Mom's. I went to bed about 9:30 or so. And then I woke up about 3 AM to take a pee..."
"Like always, dad..."
"Like always. But when I tried to go back to sleep my nose was too stuffed and the damned apnia started and I leapt from the couch and said the heck with hit and sat at the computer for a while."
"Like always, dad..."
"You are being a know-it-all, young lady. Let me tell my story..."
"Okay, tell your story. I'm corn. I'm all ears..."
"Wise guy. Anyway, I was sitting at the computer playing Simpson's Gunshy and hoping I'd get tired again. And then I heard somebody walking to the kitchen and opening the ice box..."
"REFRIGERATOR, dad!!! How many times do I have to tell you??? There are no ice boxes and I don't believe you even had them when you were kids..."
"Okay, the fridge. But since I was alone I thought Italo must have come in while I slept, or Marco, so I said, 'Hello? Italo? Marco?'
"And then Italo said, "It's just me, dad."
"Alright. Have a good dream, buddy...Glad you're here."
And then, I told Madeleina, I was able to go back to sleep, happy that Italo had come home in the middle of the night.
"But then," I said, "I woke up again at about 5 AM and started the coffee and brushed my teeth and looked outside. And I didn't see Italo's car. Or Sarah's car. Or any other car other than my truck. So I went to Italo's room and opened the door. I couldn't feel him so I turned on the light: No Italo.
"So, baby, that was just a ghost."
"You weren't dreaming?"
"Not a chance. Totally awake, hoping I could get sleepy and go back to sleep."
"Not hallucinating?"
"Not a chance. Totally normal. Not drunk, no pot, no nothing. Just a regular answer to my question, until I checked the front door in the morning and realized it was still locked from the inside and that nobody had come in after I went to bed. So just a ghost, girl. So when you tell me what would I think if you said you saw a ghost, what should I say? They're here all the time."
"But your's was nice. It made itself sound like Italo so that you wouldn't be afraid after you heard it walking in the kitchen and opening the fridge. That's a very nice ghost. It didn't want you afraid of it's presence."
"Girl, what are you? Like a thousand years old, or what? I could think this out for a year and never realize that you're absolutely right, that the ghost, once discovered, decided it didn't want to freak me out so disguised him/herself as Italo, knowing that if I thought Italo had come in in the middle of the night I'd be happy and able to sleep again.
"How the heck did you figure that one out?"
"I'm smart dad. And I'm you're daughter. And I had a dream explaining it to me. I didn't know what the dream meant until just now when you told me that story. Now I get it.
"So who the heck are these ghosts who are turning on the radio, pretending to be Italo and all that?"
"I have no idea. I guess we'll have to ask them."
"You got it, dad."

Thursday, December 03, 2009

A Radio Show with Yours Truly

Okay, I don't generally do this but what the heck. For those of you who want to hear what I actually sound like, here are links to two radio shows (one is a two-parter) I recently did. They're mostly on ayahuasca and there is probably repeat between the two shows.
I'm told they're interesting, but I have not heard them--yikes! I get enough of me--yet. And won't for some time, if ever.

The newest show was done by DJ Zart and is up on Radiohuasca.
Part One: https://www.yousendit.com/download/TzY1MFhxa0RqV0FLSkE9PQ

Part Two: https://www.yousendit.com/download/MVNkTXRRTXZRR2NLSkE9PQ

The blog for Radiohuasca, which has this ready to download if these links take too long, is: http://radiohuasca.blogspot.com/

The second interview was done by Rhonda at the Awakening Center

The interview is here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Awake/2009/08/02/Meet-Peter-Gorman-Journalist-Amazon-Explorer

I think it's also downloaded at theawakeningcenter.com

Okay, I hope they're worth the time. And if you do listen, thanks for listening.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Not Liking This At All

I used to play handball, one wall, New York City handball, for two hours two or three times a week. Not when I was a kid, but when I was 40 years old. And 45. And 48. My partner was Earl the Pearl, and he beat me annually 3-2, or 600 to 385 or so. Earl is a New York City school teacher. He was one hell of a partner at handball. He had an insatiable appetite for it. So did I. I used to ride my bike to a playground on Cherokee Place, more or less 78th Street and the East River, to play, mostly by myself. I'd practice shots for an hour, then hit the ball to myself and not go home until I could make 100 shots in a row....not hard unless you are trying to outwit yourself. I'd get up to 25, make a killer shot, then have to start again. And again 42 shots later. My practices were often 3 hours.
And I rode my bike in those days: I rode my bike from 90th street to 17th street to the High Times' office daily. On weekends I'd take two spins around Central Park in Manhattan, each spin being about 6 1/2 miles, and then an additional mile to and from the park for a total of 14-15 miles.
And then I did sit-ups (about 800 daily) and pushups (about 200 daily), and then used light weights for 10-20 minutes daily.
And for maybe 7 years I threw a football to my friend Malcolm in Central Park three times a week for a couple of hours. He'd come to my house and we'd grab the ball and start tossing it and jog while we talked from 3rd Avenue across Lexington, across Park, Madison, and Fifth Avenue and enter the park at 90th, then toss the ball down to 82nd' street, warming up, and then we'd run routes for an hour or two. He'd toss to me; I'd toss to him.
Malcolm was 6'4" and could leap, so he always made me look good. I was small and slow but good with routes, so I made him look good. What a time we had. I was in freaking heaven.
So I love doing sports. I could do sports 10 hours a day and never feel sated.
I once told Malcolm, when we were both stars on the High Times Bong Hitters Championship softball team (me at shortstop; him in centerfield), that I could die happy doing sports all day. ON the day in question I'd ridden my bike 4 1/2 miles through New York City traffic to High Times, worked, met Earl the Pearl for handball at the courts on 14th street and 1st Ave for two hours, then biked to the ball field in Central Park at 90th just off 5th avenue and played two games of softball. The last two games were under the wonderful influence of a light dose of lsd, which mysteriously appeared at some of the Bonghitter games, and which made catching line drives hit by ringers very difficult at my shortstop position. But I remember telling Malcolm: "A day like this makes me the happiest I can ever be. Just moving, moving, playing, playing all day. And later, I'm gonna go home and play with Chepa and the kids. I'm so freaking alive!!!!"
And I was.
And here in Texas I have none of that. No roads to ride a bike on, no handball courts, or walls I can convert to handball courts, no one to toss a football to, no fastwalking, nothing physically familiar.
And it's been nearly 8 years now and I'm still at a loss. Yes, I do pushups. And I've done at least a million sit ups since I got here, but without a partner, without a game, it ain't the same.
And today it came home as I walked outside to look at the water pipe Italo and I laid--all 120-140 feet of it--and had to fill the trench up because it might freeze tonight and that could bust the new pipe.
What a freaking daunting task. What a thankless task. I was just out there with a 120 length of 2 foot high dirt that had become mud because of the rain and had to move the mud into the trench to cover the pipe.
I did it. And in a few minutes I'm going to take a few ibuprofin, maybe 4 with a codeine for a kick, to easy my back, but I'm gonna say that work sucked. No one was there with me, no one helped, no one will even ever notice it got done. That is not the same as throwing a football 65 yards--about my best--to Malcolm in front of 100 people in Central Park who all stand up and cheer. And it's not the same as Earl the Pearl and I beating two former New York City handball champs at their own game on their own court in doubles. And it's certainly not the same as playing shortstop for High Times and winning the New York City Journalism League softball title over The New Republic, Money, Fortune and a half-dozen other teams who couldn't believe us stoners could kick their butts, regardless of how many professional ringers they brought to the game.
So there I was, looking at that dirt today, that soaking wet, heavy clay, and thinking, God, maybe I'm getting old. Maybe I'm just a weak link now. Ah, shit...
And then I move that two-three tons of mud clay and filled that trench and said, "Fuck you, god. I ain't done yet."
And while I ain't as strong as I used to be, and while I've smoked way too many cigarettes to be good for me, I still felt good when that last lump of mud made it's way into the trench.
That was for Malcolm and Earl the Pearl and the Bonghitters and my bicycle and everybody else who ever made me learn to never quit, even when you want to.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Investigative Journalism Story

A friend of mine recently sent me the URL of a story in Wired Magazine. I think it's the current issue. The story deals with writer Evan Ratliff, who decided to see how difficult it would be to start a new life with people looking for you. His premise was to have Wired's publisher set up a website giving hints of where Ratliff had been as he moved around the country. It was a great read, but Ratliff didn't really try to disappear. He tried to play hide and seed with electronics and the web and that is difficult, particularly if people are posting your info on the web.
Disappearing is another thing altogether. Years ago it involved going to the place where they have death certificates. You would find one or 10 babies who were your age, and who had social security numbers and who had died shortly after birth. New York is best for this because of the number of people/babies/infant deaths.
You would then take those names and go to the hall of birth records. Find the birth records for all those dead babies. Then you would apply as a grown up for copies of the various birth certificates in those names. You'ld be given originals without question, then use those to acquire 3,5,10,20 driver's licenses in different states and with those, acquire 3,5, 10,20 passports in different, legitimate names.
It used to work because birth and death records were not coordinated, so no one would be the wiser and you would avoid the possible problem of simply picking a name and asking for a birth certificate--only to later find that the person whose birth certificate you have is wanted on murder charges in five countries.
The plan used to work; these days I don't know since I haven't tried it in decades. But that's disappearing. Of course you could never contact anyone you knew when you had your old name; you had to really do it.
So while I loved the Wired story, I didn't think Ratliff was really trying to disappear. No question he's a good and fun writer, but finally, he was only playing cat and mouse and not really trying to disappear.
But it did remind me of the moment when I realized I was, or could be, an investigative reporter. If I've told you this story before, forgive me.
In the 1980's, the US govt was waging a small war with the Earth First! a loosely knit group of monkey wrenchers, as Edward Abbey named them. They were defenders of the great forests of the northwest, people who threw a monkey wrench into the loggers' plans by putting nails in old growth trees that would wreck the loggers' chainsaw blades; put sugar in the gas tanks of great bulldozers, etc. Non-violent but very active in protesting the loss of the great West to logging and mineral interests.
Well, when Earth First! kept getting the upper hand, the US federal government finally put Dave Foreman, the group's co-founder, and some others, on their Most Wanted List. Foreman went underground. Simply disappeared.
At that time, 1987 or so I'd published maybe 10 non-fiction pieces in my life, including two for High Times magazine: Ayahuasca and a Matses Indian story.
Nonetheless, Steve Hager, the editor, and John Howell, the publisher, called me into their offices days after a big story on Earth First! broke in one of the major mags: I think it was Esquire.
They asked me to read it.
I did.
They asked me if I was impressed.
I was: Great story, great writer.
They said my new assignment was to track down Dave Foreman and get an interview.
I said, "Impossible. If the FBI can't find him or anyone connected to him"--which the story made clear--"how am I supposed to be able to do that?"
Editor Hager said: "You're a good writer. But if you want to be a journalist or an investigative reporter you have to be a whole lot smarter than the FBI. You want the gig or not? We'll pay you $400 plus expenses. But clear the expenses first, we're not paying for a wild goose chase."
I was stunned. I said "Okay" of course but had no hope.
I probably spent three weeks avoiding the story till Hager called and asked how I was progressing. I said I was working on it but hopes were dim.
And then, sometime after I got off the phone, I began, for the first time, to actually think about the story. To think about Earth First! and Dave Foreman and where he might be. He might be anywhere. How the heck was I supposed to find him?
I went to the original story and reread it. Maybe three times. Maybe five times. A whole football game worth of time I kept reading it.
Then I got an idea. There were references to Foreman's either having been born or gone to school in both Wyoming and Montana. His Earth First! work was mostly in Cali, Oregon and Washington, but none of those were his home. I hoped.
And the only photos I had of him made him out to be a big guy. He looked like a bear of a man, with a heavy beard, long hair.
What occurred to me was that a guy that size growing up in either Wyoming or Montana must have been a high school football player. And if he was, he was probably a guy who liked watching college or pro-football. Which meant he drank beer and watched football games in bars.
I hoped he was either in Montana or Wyoming, both tiny populated states. I decided to start with Wyoming, on a hunch. I called telephone information and got the number of every bar in the state. Not counting chain restaurants that had bars--I didn't think an Earth First! founder would drink at those--there were only about 143 bars in the whole state, if I remember correctly. Each call would only get me three numbers, so there were nearly 50 calls asking for the next three bar numbers. Being lazy and pretty sure my idea was flat-out dumb, it took me probably a week to get all the numbers.
Once I had those numbers I started calling. At each I said who I was, and that I was trying to reach Dave Foreman of Earth First!, and that if anyone at the bar knew him could they call me at xxx.
Every bartended who answered my call professed ignorance and many were pissed off at the strange request: "Is there a guy named Dave Foreman, who is with the environmental group, Earth First! there? If not, does he ever have a beer there? Don't answer. Just know that this is Peter Gorman from High Times and we salute him for his work and want to talk with him. It might benefit him with the FBI if he gets his story out. If you know him, here's my number. Have him call me."
That sounds crazily professional, but in reality I probably stammered through it.
And then, maybe a week after I began making the calls, maybe longer--it's been a long time--I was watching a Sunday afternoon NFL game and got a call:
"Is this Peter Gorman?"
"Yes. Who's this?"
There was no caller ID in those days, so I had no idea who it was.
Next day, same thing happened.
Next day, same thing.
It went on for a week or so.
I had no idea what it was about, but it was annoying.
And then, maybe on the seventh, eighth, or ninth day, the same call came.
"Is this Peter Gorman?"
"Yes. Who's this?"
"This is Dave Foreman from Earth First! I heard you wanted to talk with me. About what?"
And I nailed that interview.
And as I did, I realized that I had what it took to be an investigative reporter: Heart, guts, patience. I was thrilled.
The FBI had this guy on their most wanted list, were actively looking for him and hadn't come up with the plan I'd come up with.
So yes, I was an investigator.
I have not looked back.

The wonderful story in Wired reminded me of this story. The difference was that Ratliff was playing cat and mouse; Foreman was avoiding life in prison. Foreman didn't use any credit cards, didn't use any atms or cell phones, didn't boast on facebook--there were few of those things then but I don't think he'd do it now, either.
And if you don't do those things, I don't believe it's hard to disappear.

Water Back On

This post is a couple of days late, but last Sunday, Italo and I laid new pipe in the ditch we'd dug, hooked up the new pipe to the old pipe just short of where the pipes connected to both the water meter and to enter the house, and voila! Water again. And what a good feeling! I never worked with PVC pipe before, so Italo had to tell me what to buy--there's a purple juice that goes on the end of the pipe first; when that dries the glue goes on, and then you've got about 2 seconds to put the pipe connector on that before the glue dries. Once he told me, it was a dream job. We put together about 125 feet of pipe in about 4 hours, digging out the ditch here and there to make it even or to allow the pipe to make the bends around the back porch without strain.
Felt good. And the cost wasn't bad. Someone quoted me "about $1,500, if there are no problems" to do it, and as I don't have that money right now, doing it myself--and then with the fantastic help of Italo--was the only option. Either that or spend my life turning on the water at the water meter for a half an hour twice a day. But not only did it feel good, the cost was about $100 for parts. That's it.
I just began burying it last night; I wanted to give it a few days to see if there were any leaks. I'll finish that today while the turkey is in the oven.
Speaking of which: I hope every one of you has a wonderful Thanksgiving day, whether you celebrate it or not. I hope your bellies are full when you go to bed and hope that there's a little extra to give to someone who has less than you. I hope you share laughter and get to see family and friends, or if alone, that that's what you chose.
In any event, here there will be turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, peas, yams, cranberry sauce and maybe I'll get a chance to whip up a couple of pumpkin pies.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Got to Say I Do Love Working

Ha! And if they'd only pay me for it! Got my water bill last week, about 10 days late, and bang, it was nearly $500. Much more than normal. So I spent this week turning the water on for half an hour in the morning, showering, washing dishes, cleaning the kitchen and filling gallon jugs of water, then going to the front of the property, at the water meter, and turning it off. Same routine at night when it's time to water the animals and time for Madeleina's shower.
Not bad, being I was either alone or with Madeleina. She rolls with the punches pretty well for a 12-year-old.
I was trying to figure out where the leak in the pipe was. I wasn't actually working, just thinking.
And dealing with the water company, who acknowledged that they sent out the bills late this month--the billing person was out for nine days, and so they'll adjust the bill for me. Better than that, they said they have a special water leak program. So I think they'll come through. (I love semi-rural Joshua for that neighborlyness.)
Last night I had a brainstorm: Why dig up the old pipe to find a leak? Why not just dig a new ditch from the water meter around the back of the house and lay a new line?
It did sound like a lot of shoveling given that I can't afford a ditch witch, but what the heck.
This morning I broke ground. Started at the water meter, under the red-tips that stand about 12 bushy feel tall, then switched to the back of the house. I dug a ditch about 40 feet long around the back porch and along a few feet of house side, then returned to the red-tips, set my sites 75 feet to the corner of the house, and started digging. Very heavy and muddy dirt, thoroughly soaked from all the recent rains, and thick with vegetative cover--weeds--that made it a pain in the neck. I decided to get half of it done before I quit for the day, and was nearly there when Italo, who didn't come home from school last week, came over and insisted on taking over after I finished my planned ending for the day.
What a treat to have a sidekick who's working while I'm now typing! The ditch will be done today, and then I'll go buy the pipe and couplings and set it up later this evening or tomorrow morning. The other work has been lonesome here: The painting of the house and porch, maintaining the animals when Madeleina's not here, and no one except Madeleina to even get excited about the work itself.
So while I love it, and while I told my back to back off from hurting till I finished, it is still glorious that my kid is gonna get the second half of the damned ditch dug today. Maybe not as deeply as I, so I might have to go out and dig it up another few inches, but so what? It's manly work again and that's just a good good feeling.
Now, if I just had a girl to admire the manliness of it all, eh?
Maybe next week I'll meet one.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Four Magics of Julio

I have never heard curanderos remark on or call out the four Magics, except for my late teacher Julio Llerena (Jerena), and his students, of course. Which doesn't mean they don't, only that I'm not aware of it.
At the start of every ayahuasca ceremony, Julio, while making his arcana, the protective shell around those participating in the ceremony, he always called out to Red Magic, Green Magic, White Magic and Black Magic to help protect and guide us. Over the years I came to understand that the Red Magic was the blood force that flows in all warm blooded creatures; that the Green Magic was the magic of the rivers and seas and all the firmament; that the White Magic was the magic of the sun and stars, the light of the universe, both the one we know and the other universes we can only occasionally glimpse. Black Magic is the profound magic of the molting core of our our planet earth and of all planets and stars and moons and even the whole universe, the grounding force at the center of everything.
I understood the concept rationally: if you could be aligned with Green Magic, then you could travel in an instant through the firmament to wherever you want to go. You could understand plants and seas, how they grow, how they feel, how they think. With White Magic as an ally, there is no universe you cannot traverse, nothing you cannot penetrate where light will go. With Black Magic, you can get to the very heart of things, the deepest, lightless places where people hide, and the centers of all things. With Red Magic you can travel through the life force of things, the life-delivering blood of things, and you can heal the ill.
Julio and I never talked a great deal. He didn't understand my Spanish and I didn't understand his. Except on occasion, when he thought something was important. Suddenly, in those moments, he spoke in a way that let me understand every word, every nuance. He also, suddenly and for a few minutes at a time, understood my Spanish wonderfully.
I spent a lot of time with him over the course of 25 years. There were a million things I could have asked him. And had I ever thought I was traveling a path that would lead me to become a curandero, I probably would have. But as I didn't see myself that way, regardless of how often I drank the medicine ayahuasca with him, I didn't. Of course now that he's gone I wish I had.
On the other hand, I also think Julio knew what he was doing when he didn't understand my Spanish. Learning from his words might have complicated things, while learning from experience, while leaving me frequently in the dark for long periods, allowed me to be receptive to what happened, rather than what I was expecting to happen.
I learned that lesson very early on: During my first ayahuasca experience, for a few moments I associated with a bird, flying high over the earth, and wound up diving down down, impossibly fast, into a stream to pluck a fish and in the same moment change direction to soar upwards. It might have been a dream until the bird bit the fish in two and swallowed it and I nearly choked trying to get it down my throat.
That experience was with a curandero named Alphonse. The following year I met Julio and drank with him and his late apprentice Salis Navarro. The whole evening I waited for that bird to come to take me soaring again; she never did. And at the end of the ceremony I felt--though some wonderful things happened during it--disappointed.
It was then that my jungle teacher, the naturalist Moises Torres Vienna, came up with the now-famous line: "Ayahuasca gives you what you need, not what you want."
I almost never again set out with something locked in my mind during ceremony. Because I knew I'd lost much of what Julio and Salis had done that night, waiting for something else that never happened.
I did, over the years, get the chance to glimpse the four Magics. And I spent a great deal of time, probably three years, working with Red Magic as it tried to heal me with regard to relationships, particularly my failed marriage and broken family. During that time I was also shown, by the medicine, how to do a little healing, and how negative energy can be transformed into something positive. They were all great lessons and I've written about them more extensively elsewhere, so I won't go into them here.
Now the other day, a fellow wrote me a letter, saying he wanted to do a 30-day dieta and could I put him in touch with a particular curandero who might do it for him. A dieta is a time when an apprentice goes off by themselves in the jungle to reflect on things. It is a time of strict limits on food intake, on interaction with other humans, on sex. It is also a time of intense drinking of ayahuasca; often three or four times a week. The solitude, the time spent in the jungle alone, the medicine, is meant to bring a person into personal awareness of the spirits of the plants whose extracts they are drinking. Not everyone comes out of a dieta a novice curandero, but nearly everyone who has done one comes out a better person for it.
The fellow who wrote me followed up with a question about the Magics. He asked if the curandero I might steer him toward would be able to teach him those Magics during his dieta.
I wrote back a long and probably confusing letter. I explained that Julio never said he was going to show me Red Magic, that that came about through the spirit of the medicine. I explained my limited conversation with Julio and that I may never have even told him about those years being healed and taught about Red Magic, though on more than one occasion during that time, Julio would mention Red Magic after the ceremony, just to let me know he had seen what I was going through, to let me know he saw what I saw.
The only thing Julio ever really said about the Magics that I can remember was that he warned against falling in love with one or the other. He saw the trap in that; where a student can get greedy for the power of one, which would throw him out of balance. It's the sort of trap that can lead one to become a sorcerer--in the Peruvian meaning of the word--rather than a healer. For Julio, healing people on the river where he lived was the calling of Ayahuasca; being someone who had the power to lure money, women and other selfish desires to themselves was the path of the sorcerer.
So, I wrote the fellow, "can the Magics be taught? I don't know. But then I was not a typical student. If I had been smarter, I might have asked Julio a lot more questions. But I didn't. It was only near the end that he began telling me things. He knew he was getting old and would soon die, so he asked two of his helpers to be my helpers, without telling me of course, and so when I met the first I was scared to death. He was upset with me for that. At the end he wanted me to learn. He asked me to take a virote--a negative energy dart sent by someone who wanted to hurt him--out of his leg once, and several out of him just days before he died. He wanted me to know I could do it and he let himself be the test patient.
"He could have taught me so much more, but that wasn't really his thing. He wanted me to let the medicine teach me, to have me become friends with the plants themselves, so that I could learn from them, rather than from what he said.
"I guess the point of this rambling response is that even if he had told me about the Magics, it would still have been up to me to drink or not drink when that flower leaned over me and said: 'Drink this', and let her nectar fall into my mouth.
"So he could of readied me for that and other things, but would I have been able to take that leap when the time came? Or would he just have cluttered me up in waiting for something to happen, in which case I might have missed what was really actually happening.
"So if you do your dieta asking someone to teach you the Magics, it might be possible that you'll miss what's being offered because you've got your eye somewhere else.
"If Julio had told me about the Red Magic and that a flower might one day come and offer me nectar that would change my life, would I have accepted the Red Magic if instead it came in the form of stinging red ants? Or in someone cutting themselves and asking me to drink the blood? Probably not. I would have been waiting for that flower--and maybe that would have never come."
I do wish I had not spoiled the chance to talk with Julio more about some of these things. But I also cherish the idea that he knew everything I was experiencing and only thought to comment or explain things when he thought I wasn't already capable of grasping them.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Madeleina Didn't Make It; Journalist Comes Through

Well, someone from Madeleina's school called yesterday to tell me that Madeleina didn't make the all regional band. I was not surprised, given that she thought she played awfully, but I was still sorry. She was okay with it, and that's good. So long as she loves playing and practicing, she'll be able to work with music her whole life. And that is a gift. My dad played piano by ear and played wonderfully. And it allowed him to get through rotten days. One of his favorites:
"Better be ready when the taxi gets there,
Better be ready by a quarter past eight,
I want to be there when the band starts playing..."
And I'm no good on the guitar, but every now and then, just making up a new blues song keeps me going. Or running a riff on a marine band harmonica.
So she's not all regional but that's okay by me. She tried and that was fantastic. She worked hard in the week between the mock tryouts and the real one. That too was fantastic. And she took losing in stride. I guess she comes out a winner on this one.
And more news: The fellow who cribbed my work--I've railed about him in a couple of posts recently--has come through. He admitted he probably used some of my work in his and asked me where to put an attribution. I had two paragraphs, his essence, that were mine, but had him put it on the key graph. "As journalist Peter Gorman wrote..."
So that guy goes from being a scumbag to a stand up guy. He took the hit, tried to wiggle for a while, then fixed things. So good for him. I appreciated it.
Bad news: Got a water bill for about $500 a couple of days ago. Normally, when the house is full, it runs about $125, and with me being alone most of this month--except for when Madeleina's here--I expected it to come in at about $80 or so. So $500 blew me away.
Turns out I've got a leak somewhere between the water meter and the house. Not under the house, because it's dry there after I had all the piping changed last Spring. The problem is that that line is buried, so I've no idea where the leak is. Worse, there is no wet spot, no muddy spot anywhere. But since 80,000 gallons of water leaked out of that pipe last month, it's got to be somewhere. And my suspicion is that it's beneath the 20-foot-wide concrete driveway, where the pipe crosses to come in under the house.
And that means???? It means I probably need to tear up the driveway. Hell, I can't afford to tear it up, much less pay to have it fixed. So this sucks.
I gave myself half-an-hour of water yesterday for a shower and to wash dishes and so forth; then last night have us another half-hour for Madeleina to take a shower.
Man, I'm not looking forward to what I see coming. And naturally, the insurance on the house doesn't pay for water damage...Ah, I love insurance companies.
Oh well, I'll start the digging today and just pray I stumble on it at the edge of the driveway. If that happens you will all hear me screaming for joy. I will promise you that.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Working Hard, Hardly Working...

The title for this piece comes from Tom Waits, just about my favorite all time songwriter. "Working hard, hardly working, if you know what I mean..." goes the whole line.
Now that's attribution. Use someone's words, credit them and credit them joyfully.
That scumbag writer who lifted nearly two or three whole paragraphs--his key graphs--from my 2001 story of the missionary plane shootdown in Peru and didn't mention my name when he used them, responded to a note I sent him, calling him out on it.
He wrote that the story happened a long time ago and that he was the editor of an international journal back then and that there was a lot of buzz about the US involvement in that plane shootdown at the time. He says he might have gotten his information from me but that he can't remember. If he did get his information from me he thinks he would have credited me but that someone else must have dropped the attribution.
A friend of mine who knows us both and has been in the loop on this--from my end--calls that the last bastion of self-defense in plagarism cases. "Attribution dropped, my ass," he says. "But how can you prove it didn't happen?"
There is no place for this to go. I'm not going to write his editor or start a lawsuit. Still, I wrote the bum another note, calling him out again, saying that was a very weak excuse, given that he'd claimed, in his new story rehashing his old one, that he'd done such a great investigative job in the original one. HA! He investigated my story, culled the key investigative work and claimed it for his own.
I sent that response on to my friend as well, who responded that he was enjoying schadenfreude at the fellow's expense.
I've heard that word but didn't know what it meant so I looked it up: it's a guilty pleasure at someone else's misfortune, according to wikipedia.
I told Madeleina, who like me, was up early this fine Sunday morning, the word and what it meant and how it was used by my friend and she immediately said, "Dad, I think I get schadenfreude a lot. I mean, not when someone breaks an elbow, but when someone at school is acting like a big shot or showing off and then they fall. I can't help it. I just get a bit of the schadenfreude. Or shadenfreudeitis. Know what I mean?"
The girl is just flat out scary smart.
Which brings us to her regional flute tryouts. If you remember, last Saturday she had mock tryouts. She almost didn't go, after voluntarily signing up for them, and finally did. This week was the real thing: She had to play in front of three different panels of judges in three different rooms. All of them were behind black curtains, in theory so that the kids wouldn't be intimidated by actually seeing the judges. I suspect the real reason for the curtains was to keep the identity of the judges secret from parents who might be outraged when their little darlings don't make the All-Regional Band.
I dropped her off at 7:30 AM and picked her up at 4. I asked how it went. "It was awful. Just absolutely horrible. I wasn't nervous, I know the scales and the songs but I still was so bad. Know how bad I was?"
"No. How bad?"
"Dad, in the middle of one song I had to make up a new note. I mean, I got stuck and my only way out was to make up an entirely new note that doesn't even exist on the flute. Don't ask me how I did it, but I did. I stunk."
"Sorry you went?"
"No way. It was great, even if I didn't make the regionals. At least I had the guts to try."
And try she did. She practiced fanatically all week long, and she already practices at least a little while every day. But this week she was up at 5:30 AM daily, at it for an hour or more each morning, and then again in the evening.
"Well, did you hear anybody else who blew your socks off?"
"Everybody sucked that I heard."
And she said it with a glint in her eye. If she'd have known the word she probably would have said she had a little schadenfreudeitis. But she didn't get that word till this morning.
And me? Where does the "Working hard, hardly working..." come into this?
Ah, that's the painting I've been doing. Yesterday afternoon I finished the kitchen. Day before, the bathroom. Two rooms, a bathroom, a hallway with four doors and the back porch down. Two living rooms and two bedrooms to go.
Plus one tiny leak in the roof.
Better get some writing work soon or I'll have this whole place spiffed up.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sometimes, Chepa and I are in sync; sometimes not

Today was a day when Chepa and I were not in sync.
It started out well, with a morning phone call that ended with my asking if she was really naked under her clothes and she laughed and repeated a Peruvian river proverb that basically says "Give an Indian an inch and he'll be climbing up your back."
And then things changed somehow, though I didn't know it.
We have no set dates for having Madeleina. She's with me when she's with me; she's with mom when mom wants her. It comes out pretty even at month's end, and generally doesn't cause much friction between us and works out pretty well for Madeleina as well.
Well, as Chepa had had Madeleina for a few days I thought I'd bring her here last night. So I made a leaf pile about four feet high and 8 feet wide in the afternoon, something Madeleina and Sierra had asked me to do. When I was finished raking it looked like a good jumping-pile: No sticks, no rocks, no half-bricks, just leaves.
And then I called Chepa to say I'd be picking up Madeleina from school because I had a nice surprise, and discovered that her phone had just been disconnected. Damn her boyfriend who can't afford anything! So I just went and picked up Madeleina and we started taking a country road back to our house. She likes the country roads and it gives me a few extra minutes to talk with her, listen to her sing, etc.
Suddenly Madeleina screamed.
"What's wrong, Macaroni?" I asked.
"Oh, my god, that's mom behind us!" she answered.
I looked in the rear view and sure enough, there was Chepa, coming up on us at 60 in a 40 MPH zone in my second truck. She's been using it until her car can get repaired.
"Dad, this is like a scary movie. Why is she following us? Is she stalking us? Oh, my god. Mom's crazy!"
"Nah. She's just playing. She'll follow us home."
Twenty seconds later, Chepa waved and I waved back.
Ten seconds later, Madeleina screamed again. "God dad, where's mom? She's disappeared. Maybe the aliens got her!"
I looked in the rear view and saw Chepa making a three-point U-turn.
"She's just turning around, baby. No problem."
As we drove the next few miles Madeleina made a bunch of good stalking jokes. I assured her that because mom's telephone was down there was just simple miscommunication.
Until we turned onto our street and there was my green truck, Chepa at the helm.
"Oh, shit!" I said. "This is getting pretty wierd..."
I pulled into the driveway and Chepa pulled in behind me. She flung open the door and demanded furiously that Madeleina go with her. Sierra followed her out onto the driveway, a doll in her arms. From the sound of what she was saying, she evidently hadn't thought we were playing out on the road. I wanted to say no, that Madeleina would stay with me but I didn't. I learned years ago not to argue with that voice--yelling louder doesn't accomplish anything and screaming at each other in front of the kids is not a real positive thing to do. So I let a very crying Madeleina go with mom. And Sierra, with mom, was crying too. "I see you made a big pile of leaves but mom's not going to let us jump in them, Mr. P Gorman," she said astutely. And then they were gone.
Tell you what. I sure do like it better when we're on the same wavelength. Which we weren't today. Not by a longshot.

Ego and Ayahuasca and Journalism

I am sometimes one conflicted fellow. Today, someone sent me a link to an article that's just been published in a good journal. It dealt with the 2001 downing of a missionary plane over Pevas in the Peruvian Amazon by a Peruvian fighter jet working with a US CIA drug-interdiction jet. A missionary and her baby were killed.
I wrote about that about a week after it happened. I nailed it because I lived there. I had seen the missionaries passing my bar and the pilot had stopped in occasionally for a soda.
The article I saw today referenced an earlier article the same writer had written in August, 2001, about 3-4 months after the April 20 tragedy. When I read it I thought he certainly would credit me as a couple of paragraphs, the key elements of his story--and the same key parts of his 2001 story--were cribbed from my work. I referred to planes I'd ridden in that could have been shot down because they were "puddle-jumpers with no instrumentation or radios" which didn't file flight plans, and so we would never have heard a call to identify ourselves if taken for a drug plane. The fellow's story used near identical wording in explaining how some innocent planes were shot down. I quoted Celerino Castillo, who had worked the drug interdiction program in Peru in the 1990s for the US DEA, and this fellow quoted him--a different quote--as well. I wrote about the timing of the shootdown as being one day prior to George Bush's attendance at a Summit of the Americas, at which Uruguay's President Ibanez was going to call for an end to the war on drugs and would be seconded by both Venezuela and Mexico. The writer made the same connection. There were other overlapping points as well that were eerily similar to my phrasing, and yet the writer never credited my work.
So I'm feeling ripped off. My story created a lot of stir at the time, helping cause the US to stop (publicly) the drug-plane interdiction program as it was then being run. It was picked up by dozens of websites, and even landed on the desk of the editors at the Colombia Journalism Review, who wound up calling me a "conspiracy journalist," though that has never been the case.
I know, though I can't prove it, that the writer ripped me off and credited himself with discovering the truth of the story. And I don't like that. All he would have needed to do, and it's not hard, is to note "as investigative reporter Peter Gorman wrote..." and that would have been that.
But then I realize that it doesn't really matter. The story got out, the whole event is now being scrutinized by a Congressional panel, and it remains an important issue. So why is my ego feeling bruised? Yes, I was used, but can't I get past my ego? Why is it still so there in me?
A worse example of my ego has to do with ayahuasca. I get upset when people who have only been in Peru a month or two decide to open up "ayahuasca retreat centers". I get upset because I don't think they know enough to do that. I also get upset because I want the clients that might go to them. Just selfish. The good part of me thinks that I've been taught the proper approach to the medicine and that's why I want the clients. The selfish part gets upset because these people often wind up getting credit that I think ought to go to me.
Now one of my former clients has built a center at exactly the spot where my late teacher Don Julio lived. She's built it for his son, Jairo, who now runs ceremonies for my guests, and Jairo's wife Asteria. The woman, a wonderful lady, doesn't do the program I do, but I still find myself caught up in ego over her even being there. Again, the selfless part of me is glad that she's spreading word of the medicine Ayahuasca--which I think is vital to get into the hands of a lot of people so that we can begin shifting things in this out of whack world we live in. And I'm thrilled that she's giving Jairo and Asteria and some other members of my fantastic team work and a payday, which translates to options in Peru.
But the selfish part of me still rears its head now and then and wants that little river, the river I've spent parts of 25 years on, all to myself and my guests.
I know she's doing important work, and I'll try to get my ego back in check. I don't like feeling that conflict. I wish I didn't. I'm working at it, and at my age I ought to be done with that work, damnit.
Until I do, however, it's still a bummer to deal with.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Madeleina's Flute

For the last several years, Madeleina has been in the choir. She's got a wonderful voice, but I remember when she first came home after her initial tryout and was told she didn't make the choir. I encouraged her to try again next year.
She didn't wait that long. She got hold of her second or third grade teacher, the choir master, and pulled her aside in the hallway and made her listen a second time. This time the choir master called and said, "You're daughter has a beautiful voice. Not only that, she insisted I listen, against my will. But she's made the choir. Be proud, not only of her voice, but of her knowing when she's right and the grownup is wrong." Or something close to that.
Now in middle school, she could only pick band or choir. She picked band because she wants to learn more about the flute and playing instruments. "I can sing anytime, but I can only have a music teacher at school because we're too poor to afford one, dad. So I picked band."
She must be reading my blog to know we're poor, because I try not to let it show. Though she's bright and probably takes a clue from my two trucks, 15 and 11 years old, and my complaining about things like the price of paint. Sorry, Madeleina.
In any event, today there were mock tryouts for the regional band. That's the band that will represent all of Johnson County, I think, in some contest down the road. All you had to do to be in the mock tryouts, and next week's real tryouts, was sign up. But to sign up you had to have a certain amount of confidence. In her class alone, since "Band" is a subject, there are seven flutests--if that's the right word. And Madeleina was the only one of the seven--though she admits she's not the best--who signed up. Good for her.
Till last night.
I'd had her all week and then Chepa picked her up yesterday. But Madeleina called me at about 8 PM--a wonder I wasn't sleeping already--and tearfully told me she didn't think she could go to the tryouts because she sucked. "I can't play a note, Dad. I stink. I know what to do and I'm not nervous but I just suck. So I might skip the mock tryouts. That's okay, right?"
I thought a moment, and in that moment remembered my one and only swim meet. If you have not read the story, look for an entry called Swim Team 101 or some such. It was a genuine embarrassment, what with me not knowing how to swim, my trunks falling off when I jumped into the water, me faking choking and subsequently costing my high school swim team a spot in the city playoffs.
"You shouldn't skip this, Madeleina. This is just a mock playoff. You go in, do your best and whether you are the best flute player or not, who cares? You had the courage to sign up for it, now is the time to follow through, whether or not you are good enough to actually make the regionals."
"Okay dad. So it will be like your swimming meet where your suit came off and you were naked, right? That's what you think is good for me?" She paused. "Are you crazy? I'm a girl! I'm only 12 years old! I"m not supposed to be traumatized by failing so badly the whole school laughs at me all year. WHAT KIND OF DAD ARE YOU????"
"Well, I was just thinking that you should put your money where your mouth is."
"If I do that I'll get germs that will make me sick and then need a doctor and you can't afford one."
"Figuratively. You didn't have to sign up for this. But you did. For one moment you must have imagined that if everything worked, if your fingers were in the right place at the exact time your breath was moving down the barrel of that flute, you would sound fine. You imagined that even if everyone else was good, if it all went well, you would have a sweeter sound, a higher note, a richer tone, than all of them. So I'm thinking that you ought to go there and see if that happens. You know, it might. You also know you're not the best. But on any given day, any team can win. And you work hard enough and are good enough to be one of the people there. Just trust yourself."
"When you put it that way, dad, I'm thinking I should at least try."
"Good girl. I'll pick you up at ten to nine and get you to school on time. Cool?"
"Thanks, dad."
So this morning I picked her up, dropped her off and came home to paint some more. The painting is coming along wonderfully. Anybody wants to hire me I charge $450 a day and my day is as long as I say it is. I should have some cache for painting Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland back in the old days.
At noon I picked up Madeleina.
"So? How did it go?"
"I sucked dad. I couldn't do anything. I was horrible. And not just compared to the other kids. I was just plain horrible. I don't belong on all region, I belong in the chicken coop."
I paused. She wasn't crying but she was serious. "That bad?"
"Sorry you went?"
She paused. "Nope."
"Know why?"
"Cause next week is the real tryouts. And I suck. But the other kids did their best and if that's all they have and I have a good day, then I might just make it. So today was horrible and I hate you for convincing me to go, but next week I might freaking rule! AND IF I DON'T, WHO CARES? I'm going for regional! I have the guts! I have the guts!"
"Pretty wild, child."
"I am your freaking daughter! We are GORMANS! We don't care if we suck! We do it anyway!!!!!!!!"
I paused, then turned on the radio. No way I could top that.
Hours later, I'm still thinking, Good for you, my beautiful Madeleina. If you can keep that thought in your heart forever, you will always have the courage to face the failures. And you will also have the courage to accept the successes. I don't know who taught you that, but whomever it was, I'm glad they did. And I'm glad and proud that you had the courage today to play when you knew you were in over your head. That's the only way to find out what the best are doing.
Ain't life fantastic? Here I was, stuck in pointless painting but doing the best best best I can just to prove a point to God and man, and then my angel takes a leap of faith, lands on her head, and comes up seeing the positive while acknowledging her own failure. Wow. Now do you all know why I love my kids? It's because they were given to me to care for, but at the same time to give me the courage to keep putting one foot in front of the other.
Thanks, universe.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Ayahuasca as a Love Potion

ON a board I sometimes post on, someone recently asked whether Ayahuasca could be used as a love potion. The poster evidently just lost the love of his life and wants her back. There were a lot of responses.
This was mine:

All of us, or I think all of us, have lost at least one or two or three loves of our lives. They had their own lives and we were not part of it, at least at that time.
Utilizing Ayahuasca or any other medicine, and there are hundreds, thousands, as a love potion, can certainly work, but beware that once utilized for selfish purposes, the medicine becomes an element of brujeria. The person under the influence will one day wake up, in a year, three years, seven years, and realize that they've been the victim of brujeria and take their toll.
Or worse, the brujeria works very well and the person you desire cannot stand to be without you, to the point where you can't take a pee without them wanting to be with you.
Moyabamba, the prison in Iquitos, has dozens of inmates who finally killed the people they used brujeria on who desired them so much under that negative and selfish influence, that the only way to get any separation was to kill them.
So be very very cautious when asking a medicine to work for you selfishly. It rarely comes out right in the end. Especially if love is what you seek.
Just a caution.

Monday, November 02, 2009

Ah, My Wonderful Kids

Well, Halloween weekend is over. I missed seeing Madeleina, Sierra and Alexis dressed up because Chepa's fellow came in for the weekend and took them out trick or treating. But I did have Madeleina carve a pumpkin for me--and it was a beaut, with bats for eyebrows. Just great.
And then yesterday, Italo and Sarah came over--she's now due in exactly 4 months with my granddaughter and announced they'd be moving back here once Italo's soccer season is over at school in a few weeks. But Sarah suggested I change the rugs and paint the house to make it brighter. A great idea if only I had the couple of grand to do it. Not that she volunteered to help paint the back porch fence or anything, which I was doing when she suggested a full house makeover. I'm sure I'll get to a few rooms at least before the baby gets here.
When I took a break, Italo sat next to me and put his hand on my neck. "Dad, if you ever grow up, don't have babies until you're older and have a good job or career, okay? Promise me that."
"Your baby is going to be fine. She's already got more love coming her way than you can imagine."
"Just don't do what I'm doing, okay?"
"Okay. No more babies till I grow up."
"That's what I'm talking about, dad."
And then Marco came over, with Madeleina, from Chepa's and sat me down and reiterated that he'd be leaving for the Air Force soon. He's just one signature away from boot camp. I asked him if he was sure and he said he was. "Time for me to be a man, dad, and start working toward what I always wanted: To work on jet engines."
I reminded him that up until a year ago he'd actually said he wanted to be a mechanic in a little shop somewhere. "Same thing, dad. But why not work on the best? And why not work in the biggest shop in the world?"
Good point.
Then he asked for food and I fed him an over-sized Gorman burger. Madeleina got some of the corned beef and cabbage with boiled potatoes she'd missed out on on Halloween and was in heaven.
And me? I just conked at about 6 PM with Madeleina's voice in my head: "Are you turning old? Or do old people go to bed even earlier?"
"There is no earlier than 6 PM cutie."
She woke me around 10 PM to ask me to move to the floor while she took the couch I sleep on in my office living room. "Of course, baby."
"Don't worry, dad, I bought you a couple of pillows."
"Can't sleep?"
"Worse than that. Just can't sleep in the big living room but I'll explain tomorrow."
Like me she's taken to sleeping on couches rather than in beds. I started because we were short one bedroom around here. She does it just cause she's copying me.
In the morning, and it's not yet 7 AM, she got up to shower and announced: "Thanks for letting me sleep on your couch, dad. You know why I came in here? Because there were about six really weird sounds coming into my ear in the big living room. So I turned over and they stopped. But then when I turned back they were there again. Might just have been some ghosts having a party, but I still couldn't take the racket. I don't know why people call them dead. They have more energy than all of us put together."
Ah, I love my kids, yes indeed.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

More Painting at the Homestead

So a couple of the eaves on the back porch are really rotten. I've bought new ones and painted them and when Italo gets here to help we can throw them up. While I was waiting I decided to paint the old eaves to give them a fresh look, then plan on painting the porch railing and posts, and finally the cement porch floor. No big deal, a few three hour days and it should be done.
But while I was painting it seemed to me I've been painting my whole life. It was something I did sometimes in college, along with working the art gallery, driving a cab, working the liquor store and building loft beds. As well as selling a little weed now and then. Rent wasn't high but what with text books, phone and electric bills and food and taking girls out I needed a lot of work.
Painting wasn't steady. That was generally the gift job that I'd get from Dan Blumenau, an artist who got remodeling and painting work sometimes to keep things going between art work jobs. I think some of you are old enough to remember two of his most notable collages: The inside of the two record Taurus album by Stevie Wonder, and the bathroom wall collage at Jimi Hendrix's Electric Ladyland studios.
Dan would call his brother, my roommate and great friend Phil, and we'd be given an address and a time. We wound up doing work at some amazing places: We worked the Arthur Schlesinger Jr. townhouse on east 63rd street, for instance, and the Oscar De La Renta home across the street, as well as the Kennedy townhouse on the same block. I'm forgetting the name of the banker the Kennedy gal was married to, but I won't forget a photo on one of the kids' rooms that I worked on. It was from Ted to the boy, and dated about the time of Bobby Kennedy's assassination. It read: "We Kennedys are all broad in the beam," or something close to that.
Then we got to work Electric Ladyland, just before Hendrix died. And then the Carnegie Hall offices of Island Records and later their Grove Street townhouse. Mostly Phil and I were brought in when the real work had been done. Dan's team was tired and had their money but there were still 100 things to do to finish the work. That's when we came on the job, to do the final coats of paint, the touch up work, tighten doornobs and lay outdoor carpet on rooftops. We got paid well and got to sneak a peek into the lives of those whose places we worked on for a couple of weeks. They were the sorts of jobs I don't think you could really get anywhere outside of New York and a couple of other places. It was the same working Falcor Framing down in the village one year. I got to handle original Matisse's, Picasso's, even a Van Gogh or two. I got to watch Jim Arsenaut, the owner when I worked there, hammer out gold into the thinnest of sheets and lay it on frames he'd carve for exceptional customers who could afford it.
That's a lot of name dropping, I know. But it was more than that. It was an education to get to interact, even just a little, with those people. And the best of them treated us like equals. When Marley came up to the Island offices, he passed the joint without hesitation. When Jimi did a line, everybody in the room did a line along with him. The Kennedy clan included us in lunch once. De La Renta wasn't home while we worked there.
So there I was painting again and thinking about working for Dan with Phil and missing them both. That was New York for me. All at your fingertips, even if it was almost always at the end of a hammer or paintbrush.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Feeling Lousy, Looking for Company

Flat out feeling lousy today. And yesterday. Been raining down in Texas, all of the telephone lines are down...goes the song, or something like it. Well, been raining here and while we needed some, we probably didn't need the near two feet we've gotten in the last 7 weeks.
And I've been working hard. Got 3 covers and three inside features as well as half a dozen short news stories and parts of two group cover stories done since I returned from Peru three months ago. Also did a couple of columns for my Canadian mag, Skunk (the column is called Drug War Follies); and a cover story for a very major business mag. But that all ended Tuesday and today is Thursday. Where's my work? What's next? Want to finish my ayahuasca book, just a couple of chapters to go as I'm already at near 300 pages and have 50 pages of things to insert between chapters--some of which you've seen here, like the recent piece on Ayahuasca Healing and the one on Icaros and so forth--but don't have the oomph for that right now. That work is so damned hard, so willing-to-go-into-my-soul that I really have to have at least a little energy stored up to start it. Though I might start it in the morning just because I am Peter Gorman, son of Thomas and Madeleine Gorman and when things are down we head up. So that might happen.
And there are fantastic plans in place for a dream expedition in the summer.
But reality is that I've no money coming in from outside sources. And one of my editors is headed to prison and can't pay what he owes. And the woman who ripped me off for $10-12 grand two years ago isn't going to pay up any time soon. So I'm getting broke. And no juicy freelance work in the picture at the moment.
And then Chepa's boyfriend is coming in tomorrow so she is getting all ready for that three day appearance, which means I don't get to see the babies for a few days and she's got Madeleina there too to make her Halloween costume, so I'm alone in this freaking rainy house. And I can't figure out how to turn the TV on with the damned complicated remote to watch the World Series game tonight.
There's chicken in the oven, and fantastic left-over chicken soup on the stove, but no one to eat it. I've got a wonderful spaghetti squash I wanted to make but that's probably too fattening to eat now, at near 6 PM, so I'll hold off on that because I'm such an old, fat, ugly man that I can't risk doing further damage. Hell, I'm already breaking cameras when they take my pic. Whatever happened to that young good looking Gorman guy? When did they trade him in for me? And why didn't I see it coming????????
There's more, but that's enough. Heck, my house isn't tall enough to break an ankle jumping off the roof, much less doing enough damage to earn a little sympathy, so I don't dare look at the rest of the bleak horizon.
Oh, except for the fact that no one else but two have signed up for the January trip, so I might have to cancel, in which case two people are probably going to ask not only for their money back--including what I've already spent--but to pay for their non-refundable airline tickets as well. And then three members of my Peruvian team wrote today to say they had emergencies and needed an aggregate $800, and I only have $7000 in the whole world and can't give it to them. Ah, shit. See? I told you I didn't want to look at any more of that horizon....
But you know what? Just cause I'm without my kids, any love, sex, money, prospects or work, and just because I looked at myself in the mirror the other day and thought I had a halloween mask on--and I've been working out so I can't blame anyone but me for the freaking triple chin--HA!
That's right. HA! I have been here before and I will climb out of these blues and this stinking hole. Something will break because I'll break something if it doesn't happen first. I am, after all, Peter Thomas John Gorman, Son of Thomas and Madeleine Gorman, Brother of Michael, Pat, Peg, Barbara and Regina; Father of Italo, Marco and Madeleina, And soon to be grandfather of baby girl Gorman. As well as being integral in the lives of my ex, Chepa, and her two babies, Sierra and Alexa.
And that is one hell of a pedigree.
So join my mysery tonight, but know that we will be kicking out the fugging jams come morning. I will be there, present and accounted for. Somehow. Some way. But tonight really sucks.
Nonetheless, this is the last of it for now. End of sorry for my sorry self.
Time to feed the chickens, ducks, goat, dogs, cats, birds.
I'm still needed by them, at least.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Life Changes

Well, fast as can be, things change. Marco, engaged a week ago, has (for now) broken up with his girl, or vice-versa, and he's broken-hearted and inconsolable. So he's signed up for the Air Force. And Italo didn't bother to drive the 40 miles from his school to see me or his ma, or his three sisters, or even his pregnant girlfriend, this weekend.
I might be getting vaklempt here. Too much drama and not enough Shakespeare.
Has anyone got a jar of shmaltz--skimmed and frozen chicken fat from roasting chickens--that I might shmear on a piece of rye bread to calm me down?
PS: Gritter: I'm not really eating shmaltz tonight. I'm eating along and making the left over shrimp from last night with Gritter Black. I'm hoping it's gonna be sort of fat free and fantastic. Just letting you know I'm thinking of you and your push to push Gritter Black to market. Plus, thinking about that new hunting lodge you're building. Hope it's beautiful, but that nobody ever actually kills anything. Am I allowed to root for that?
Meanwhile, Chepa and I are dreaming of the wonderful soups we're gonna be making with the chickens I'm growing. Is that hypocracy or what? I mean, just a few days ago one of the goats died. Because it died by choking to death, I didn't butcher it. But wouldn't it have been better to simply kill it and eat it, or at least feed it to Boots, the blind Wonderdog?
So who am I kidding.
So I'll revise: Build the lodge, and then kill only those animals who were going to die that day anyway. How's that.
Man, I'm just confused, I guess.
Where the heck is that shmaltz? I could use some comfort food.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009


So a couple of weeks ago I wrote a story for the local alternative here in Fort Worth about a wonderful place called the Art Station. It's the only place in all of North Texas that offers art therapy--which is a fantastic therapy for kids/grownups who do not do well with traditional verbal therapy.
And one of the issues that came up in the story were people called "cutters", people who harm themselves as a way of pain transference. I know all about them as I have maybe 100 cigarette burns on my left forearm. I always tell people I'm making my own tattoo of a snake with them, but the reality is that I generally held a lit cigarette to my arm for at least 30 seconds as a way of forgetting the pain of losing my wife/destroying my family. The intense pain of the burn took all of my concentration and allowed me to forget the real pain for a little while. I'm using past tense because it's been a while since I've done it.
So I've got an arm that people look at and ask: What happened to your arm?
I make a joke or two about my making my own tattoo but I'm not fooling anyone but myself.
But it wasn't until I talked to the people at the Art Station that I discovered there was a whole subculture called "cutters" by therapists.
And today, Marco, my son who moved into his Mom's small house behind hers two weeks ago, came over. He said he was having problems with his fiance, Carly. They both want to go on my January trip to the jungle--at family rates, which means I'll pay all but the airfare, and I'll probably lend them that--but then she's decided she wants to stay in South America for six months or a year doing volunteer work after the trip.
I assured Marco that I would steer her to good people doing legitimate work, not just some Western group imposing its will on Peruvians, and he said that wasn't the issue. He'd go with her. He'd stay with her. He'd protect her. But they still had issues.
I asked him what they were and he took off his shirt. On his left arm/chest/shoulder there were perhaps 50 razor cuts. "She's mad about these," he said. "But that's just my way of dealing with my pain."
I laughed and showed him my left forearm. "We're both cutters, buddy. We would rather have real pain than emotional pain, because we're either lost with emotional pain or terrified of it. But real pain, you slicing and dicing and me burning holes, hell, that's easy for us. That's just a question of sucking it up and dealing with it for a few minutes. We're chickens, Marco. We're afraid of dealing with the real thing."
Marco's not buying that. He just thinks he's making cool skin marks, just like my cigarette burn snake tattoo.
I'm not buying that.
We'll talk in the next couple of days. Cutting ain't pretty. And only serves to obfuscate the real issue.
I know.
I'm a cutter.
Time to face it, Marco, however hard that is.


Icaros, The Songs the Curanderos Use to Heal

On a forum I occasionally visit, someone asked a question about Icaros, the songs sung by curanderos, generally during ayahuasca sessions, but sometimes used without ayahuasca to heal, that seem to have healing power. The person then went further and asked why a given song--which are often just tones hummed or whistled--can cure illness when sung by a curandero, but are powerless when copied by someone else.
I put my two cents into the mix, and as I realize I've never discussed icaros here before, I'm putting my answer here as well.
Here's what I wrote:

At the risk of sounding like a know-it-all, and knowing that I know nothing, icaros rarely have words. They are vibrational songs, they are the ropes on which human spirits can glide out and be pulled back to earth. They are the sounds that allow a good curandero to know what every participant in an ayahuasca ceremony is knowing/seeing/feeling at every moment of the ceremony. They are also the tool the curandero uses to send people/souls to where he/she thinks they ought to be. He/She lifts one up, pulls one back, sits one in the corner,and sends one to another world, all with the same song. The songs come from the universal organ which runs this universe, seen and unseen, the sounds that make planets move, the sounds that create gravity, dimension. light.
To have someone copy those sounds will always be useless. It would be like a cover band doing a great guitarist's work--and that's probably too weak an analogy. Singing notes you've heard is generally meaningless. That's why most curanderos develop their own sounds, their own icaros. When they finally are treated to hearing the music that moves the universe, the sounds that make the machine move, they understand there are only two or three notes necessary. All the others are just pretty sounds.
And the same two or three or four notes that move the machine of the universe, on all its levels, are notes that realign bodies and spirit and so cure through that realignment.
So icaros copied have no value. Unless someone has heard that organ--or however your body/spirit quantifies it--the vibrations are just that. But once you know that sound, once that sound is your sound, once that sound is owned by a curandero, there is almost nothing on this measly plane of human existence he/she can't do with it.
The right vibration, the right tones are it. They can't be guessed. They are taught by spirits. Until someone has them they don't have them.
The songs with words are generally takeoff's on those genuine icaros, but I never met a curandero who thought they were particularly valuable except to center people under the influence who needed a bit of sound to get centered.
Of course, I'm just me and totally fallible, so I could be dead wrong on this.