Saturday, February 28, 2009

A Hitchhiking Story

I used to hitch a lot when I was a kid. I think I've got about 50,000 miles under my belt. Just today a friend who hitched told me about the hardest working he ever did when he got picked up by a crazy lady who made him catch chickens all day and never paid him. I responded with the story of the most memorable hitch I ever got: From just outside Chicago to Los Angeles in 23 hours. Here's the story.
My hardest hitch, and also the most memorable--and there were a lot--came just outside of Chitown. I was headed to the coast to go swim in the Pacific and pick up summer work and this Ford LTD came screaming by at about 100 mph just after dusk. He stopped 500 yards ahead of where I was and peeled backwards at an insane pace on the shoulder. I determined I wouldn't ride with him. But when he stopped I saw a gun in one of the hugest hands belonging to one of the hugest drunk men I'd ever seen. "Get in. I'm headed to the coast." "No thanks...." "I said get in the car..." At the wheel was a smallish longhair, a bit older than me. "Better get in, man."
I got in the back and we took off. The man was drinking whiskey from a fifth-bottle. The hippie explained that he'd been coerced into the car the same way. The man, who held the gun on the driver and threatened to shoot him every time he dropped below 100, explained he was going home to LA and had been chased by the cops for speeding in every state since he left Florida. Why he was on the northern route I had no idea, and he wouldn't explain.
When we stopped he ordered us out of the car. I'd have to think it through but maybe it was Des Moines. He walked behind us into a bar, this 6'7" giant, stood in the doorway and demanded to know: "Who's the meanest, toughest son of a bitch in this place?"
Most of the men looked pretty tough to me and one finally stood. "I guess I am. Who the fuck wants to know?"
Our guy didn't break a sweat. "Well I am now and I want to drink. And if you don't think I am, then you are going to have to go through my friends here. And if you can make it through them, then you and I will decide who is the toughest son of a bitch here."
The man looked at us and dismissed us by looking through us and measuring the giant. He forced a little laugh and sat down.
"I knew it. You're all chickenshits. These hippie scumbags have you scared."
And then he had three or four doubles, paid and left, nudging us out in front of him. He sent the other hippie to a package store to buy another bottle of whiskey--I think he was drinking Old Grand Dad--had the tank filled and off we went, me at the wheel, the gun pointed easily at my stomach. "You're down to 90! I'll kill you if you don't keep that at 100 or more."
I'd never hit 80 in my life, so 100 felt like I had no control whatsoever. But the car was huge and heavy and smooth, even at that speed. The man explained that it had, I think, a 456 engine, which he said was the largest engine ever put into an assembly line car in the US. And he was proud of it. The 100 mark was to keep us from police notice. That sounds silly, I know, but he explained that at that speed we were through counties and into new police jurisdictions before the county cops realized we were there. And that being about 1971 or 72, there were no computers and most county cops didn't talk with cops from another county on their radios. So we'd be chased for a few miles but we'd hit the county line and the cops would stop. Thirty minutes later we'd see lights behind us and outrun them to the next county line and we did that all night. We only stopped for more liquor and drinks and gas and at each stop the giant did the same thing he'd done at the first. "Who's the meanest, toughest son of a bitch in here?" And at most places nobody even stood up. At the places where they did, they always sat after he told them they'd have to go through me and the other hippie before he'd even both to fight. He was just that big and that drunk that he wasn't worth it to anybody.
We clocked 100-plus on route 80 all the way, through Lincoln, Cheyenne, Salt Lake City, and then started south to LA on 15. By about 4 AM the guy finally fell asleep. I was in the back seat by then and he'd put the gun under the seat. I reached for it and removed the shells. It was a regular six-shooter, a huge thing that weighed about three pounds it seemed to me. I put the gun back in place, glad we were no longer in immediate danger of getting killed. At the same time that danger existed, of course, there was also a certain thrill in the whole thing. It was just so insane and dangerous that it was hard to resist enjoying it at least a little.
We were somewhere on the edge of the salt flats when the guy woke and ordered the other hippie to stop the car. "No worry about cops here; there's no fucking speed limit." And then he dozed off. So did we.
We woke a couple of hours later and the guy said he'd sobered up enough to take the wheel. And take the wheel he did: he had that car's speed guage a half-an-inch past the 140 mph mark. It seemed like the car was off the ground for a few seconds, touched down and then lifted off again. I'm not saying that happened, but that's what it felt like. What a rush. The only hitch was that there were two police cars blocking the road at the end of the desert crossing. "Sons of bitches. I'm way to close to home for this shit," he snarled, then slowed to about 80 as he approached, looking as if he was going to actually stop. And then, about 200 meters before the cop car barricade he simply swerved onto the desert floor--even with the highway, drove around them and gunned it up again. I looked back at the cops and they weren't even considering going after us. I guess we were out of their jurisdiction.
We hit Los Angeles 23 hours after leaving from maybe 100 miles west of Chicago. 1,900 miles or so in 23 hours, including a three hour nap. It was evening when we arrived, same time of day it had been when I first got picked up. The house he stopped at was fairly simple; in the front yard a heavy set woman was digging in the flowers in front of the place.
The guy got out and shouted "Mama! I'm home and I have guests for dinner! Get your ass in there and make us some food!"
The woman didn't even bother to turn. "If that's my husband, he'd better apologize this minute or I'm going to kick his ass. Who do you think you are ordering me to do anything?"
The giant slumped. He knew who the meanest, toughest son of a bitch in this place was, and it wasn't him. "I'm sorry baby. I'm just excited to be home."
"Well then why didn't you say that you stupid man?"
Then she got up and he walked over and they hugged like they were teenaged lovers.
She fed us, showed us a huge garage full of chinchilas and other small animals they raised for the fur industry, and then asked where we wanted to be taken. I told him just get me to the Pacific. So he did. And I stripped to my undies and jumped into the cool water before dressing and crashing for the night on the beach. The other hippie was being dropped off last so I've no idea where he went.
I've never seen or heard of either the hippie or the giant again. But for one day, we shared a hell of a ride.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Cooking up a Storm

Well, it's dinner time and I'm just ready to start a nice spaghetti with meat sauce. Or rather, I'm ready to finish the sauce: good garlic and onions, fresh tomatoes, chopped meat cooked separately and strained of most fat, fresh basil, oregano and parsley, good parmesan cooked into the sauce, lots of coarse ground black pepper, a little red wine to keep it loose enough, and then topped with fresh shaved parmesan. Coming with a good mixed greens salad and fresh garlic bread.
I've been home about two weeks and when I got here the kids said they missed my cooking. And with my ankle preventing me from doing much--it's getting better, thanks--my normal cooking had to be ratcheted up a notch. Not like we do fancy stuff here as this is not a NYC restaurant and those dishes often take a basic brown sauce just to start--and that takes 100 pounds of beef bones and 15-20 hours all told--but we still try to keep it interesting.
For breakfast the kids have eaten fried eggs, scrambled eggs, scrambled eggs with cheese, omlettes stuffed with all sorts of good things, eggs in a nest, French toast, a vegetable souffle. That's come with rice, baked potatoes mashed and fried in a bit of bacon grease, home fries, plantains, tacacho (plantains mashed with bacon grease and bacon bits) and bacon, sliced steak, fried ham wrapped around cheese and so forth.
For dinner we've had steaks, roasted chicken with rosemary or done Peruvian style, chicken thighs with vegetarian tomato sauce on fusilli, shrimp sauteed in olive oil and garlic with red peppers, scallions and fresh parsley; mussels posillipo and mussels in white wine; homemade Chinese stir-fry with chicken, chicken burritos with homemade beans, sour cream and rice; bar-be-que with hot links, sweet sausage and chicken; vegetarian lasagna with eggplant, spinach, garlic and three cheeses; lemon chicken (breasts dredged in flour, egg and breadcrumbs with lots of parmesan, then sauteed and covered with the juice of several great limes), fat hot roast beef sandwiches on good Italian bread with roast red peppers and pepperjack cheese, and a few things I'm forgetting.
Starches have included regular rice, basmati rice, yellow rice, plantains, boiled potatoes with saurkraut, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, potato and egg salad, potatoes au gratin,potato latkas with sour cream, spaghetti squash with red pepper, garlic and sweet onions, homemade macaroni and cheese.
Veggies have included steamed broccoli--almost nightly--broccoli, cauliflower and baby carrot melange with a sprinkling of fresh parsley or cilantro; sauteed spinach with garlic and balsamic vinegar, grilled asparagus, sauteed tomatoes sliced thickly and covered in parmesan cheese, homemade coleslaw, roasted red peppers, stuffed mushrooms, and so forth.
Man, I'm getting hungry. This is good food. About 1/4 of it organic.
And don't forget the breakfast juice: In a blender put a banana, half-a-pint of fresh strawberries, 2% fat milk, good water, orange juice and a bit of sugar in a blender. Add cantaulope as you wish. That will wake you up for sure.
Just passing it on. Keep the food good, simple, clean and your kids and you will stay healthy.
If they were just a little older I could do the rack of lamb en croute parsillade with sauce madiera on a wooden platter surrounded by flaming whiskey mashed potatoes but they're not, so that will have to wait.
Whatever you're eating tonight, I hope it's wonderful, makes you healthy and keeps you happy.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


When I was a kid I had wonderful teeth. A lot of cavities but they were still beautiful and gave me a great smile. Then, at about 27, I went to Europe with Clare and on the night of our return, drunk, I was in our loftbed, sleeping. I must have sat up to go to the john at some point, but forgetting I was in our loftbed rather than a bed in Europe--Portugal was our last stop--I stepped off the bed and fell to the floor. My head would have been about 9 feet from the bare hardwood as the platform was at 6'. I don't remember the fall but I do remember Clare handing me several teeth in the taxi that took us to Mt. Saini Hospital's emergency room. Turned out I'd fractured my jaw, my cheekbones, broken my nose, but the worst of it was that I'd lost allo the bone along the front upper portion of my mouth: The bone the teeth sit in. The best part was that for some odd reason there was an orthodontist at Mt. Saini when I arrived and she spent several hours reimplanting my teeth and wiring my mouth shut. To keep things in place she made a sort of cement football-player's mouthpiece that I couldn't remove for 6 weeks.
During those 6 weeks Clare was an angel, putting all my food into a blender as I couldn't chew. And after the six weeks were up, all but one of the five teeth that had been knocked out had grown new and deeper roots. So I went and had a Maryland Bridge made for that one (a new and very expensive proceedure at the time, and one that was so exotic that several years later, when I was not living with anyone or dating anyone, a dental hygienist treated me to wonderful intimacy simply on the strength of having that Maryland Bridge).
Unfortunately, during those six weeks of not being able to brush teeth, several otherwise healthy teeth rotted and I wound up needing half-a-dozen crowns. Fortunately, I was making great money as a chef at the time and so was able to pay the $5,000+ bill for it all.
But my teeth were no longer something I thought were good looking and my smile was no longer beautiful. Because of the lack of bone, I had sort of dinasaur teeth that went way up higher into the missing bone area than they had earlier. And then two of them, on the right and left sides of the bridged front tooth, began to discolor. In short, over 10 years time I was smiling while showing very little teeth.
And during the past five years or so I've become so embarrassed about my teeth that I stopped doing television interviews and even disliked having my picture taken.
Worse, a couple of years ago I was sitting in Iquitos, having a piece of wild boar when I felt a splintering sound as I took a bite and instantly knew something was wrong when I began to spit out pieces of teeth. The chef had forgotten to remove the shotgun pellets and in one bite I shattered four crowns, three on the bottom right, and one, very visible one on the upper left.
I truly felt like a freak. No photos with mouth even a little open.
And since I'm not a wealthy man, there was no way to fix it.
Until last month. Last month I was so disgusted with myself that I went to the best orthodontist in Iquitos, Peru and began a $3,000 US dollar repair job. I had the dark teeth bonded a lovely shade of off-white to match the one fake tooth in my mouth, then began work on the crowns. First crown was the upper left. And there was all sorts of other work to do as well: In that first week I spent 20 hours in the chair. In the second week I spent another 10 before saying we'll finish the rest of the crowns when I return to Iquitos in June.
I cannot tell you how different I feel. I can smile again. I've got middle aged man's teeth, and my dimples won't ever be what they were when I was 17, but I can smile again. I can let people take photos. I can laugh out loud, though I'm out of practice. I can beam for Madeleina and not have her ask me if I'm ever going to get my teeth fixed. It's just fantastic. I'm human again!
And because I look in the mirror more often I noticed how freaking fat I'd gotten and have started losing weight. Not enough, but at least the 34 pants are fitting (not perfectly but it beats the hell out of 36s) well enough to close the button. And the extra large shirts are starting to be baggy enough that I've taken to wearing the larges instead.
Why am I sharing this? Not sure. Just wanted to celebrate something cool with you all. And maybe wanted to let a few of you know that if you can't afford the $15,000 for teeth work here in the states, there are some wonderful orthodontists down in Peru where the work will run you $3000. With airfare and hotels and dining at good restaurants you can get it all done for 1/3 the cost of what it would take here. So don't let it stop you. I spent too many years hating my teeth and shunning smiling pointlessly. And I'm glad that those days are gone.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Blue Sunday Night

It's Sunday night. Chepa and the kids, including Madeleina, just left. Italo and Sarah are here, as is Marco, but they're involved with school and video games in their rooms so I'm alone. Which makes this something of a Blue Sunday.
I'd go to bed but the dogs aren't ready to sleep;
I'd lay with the chickens, but they don't need me....
So I'm thinking Tom Waits. What a hero he's been to me. My age, so not the right age for hero worship, but boy, not only can that man sing, he can write up a storm.
Tonight I'm thinking about his duet with Bette Midler: Perfect Strangers.
Midler: "It always takes one, to know one, stranger,
Who asked you to annoy me with your sad, sad repartie...
Waits: "You must be reading my mail, you're bitter since he left you
That's why you're sitting in this bar....
Midler and Waits: "But only suckers fall in love...
with perfect strangers...."

Or the song made famous by Bruce Springsteen:
"Got no time for the corner boys,
Out in the street making all that noise,
Don't want no whores on 8th Avenue,
Tonight I just want to be with you....
Tonight I want to take that ride,
Across the river to the other side,
Take my baby to the carnival,
And I'll put her on all the rides...
Sha-na-na-na, na na na,
Sha-na-na-na, na na na,
Sha na na, na na na, na-na
Sha na na I'm in Love with a Jersey Girl,
Sha na na na na, na na...

Or: "I woke up, in a Mexican whore house,
Across the street from a catholic church,
Well I wiped off my bandana
And tucked in my over-sized shirt...
The refrain of which goes something like:
You got to tell me, Mr. Seigel,
Why the devil is so strong,
Why the angels go to sleep
While the devil leaves his porch light on...."

Or, perhaps the most famous, best line ever written for a song:
"The piano has been drinking,
Not me....."
So I've been singing these and three dozen other Wait's bits and my kids are thinking dad's gone nuts again...and while I haven't they know the blues are on me when I start singing Waits' material:
"She took all my money
And she didn't leave me any....
Life was never this goooooouuuuddddddd
Life was never this bad..."
So here I am, making a racket and thank god the neighbors are not in earshot.
And I'm not even sure why I'm blue. Maybe I just wanted to salute Tom Waits. But I doubt it. My guests in the Amazon quickly learn that when I'm melancholy I tend to revert to song. And I sing loug and clear, even if slightly off-tune. And that's what I'm doing tonight. Singing Waits', loud and clear, and making up the lyrics when I forget the real ones.
And I hope you're all either enjoying this melancholy evening or helping someone through it. It might be the moon, it might be a long February winter night, but whatever it is, sing long and loud and deep and clean those cobwebs out. Because, if we're lucky enough to wake tomorrow morning, it will be time for a new set of songs, a set of work songs, a set of Thank's that I'm alive! songs....
So enjoy Waits while you can. He's brilliant.
And tomorrow will have more light than you can deal with.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Boots is Okay, Everything Else is Up in the Air

So Boots survived surgery. I was warned by his doctor, and then by a friend, that just taking his balls off would not mean he won't bite people. Darn, I though that would do it. So I'm crossing my fingers. Otherwise, he's a dead dog and I don't want that for him. He's a great guard dog and pal but I cannot have him chasing people into traffic anymore.
That said, everything else is up in the air. My sister R is mad at me, my son Marco was mad at me for demanding help for Chepa last night when she was cooking for her sisters here at the house and the babies were threatening to pour hot oil on their heads--Marco asked: Is this how you show love to me???? Is this how you love the babies? By demanding I take care of them?"
My answer was a simple, "yes."
Italo was just as angry: "I don't approve of mom of having these two babies, so I'm not going to take care of them."
Man, I was livid. "They are your sisters and they are going to get hurt here and I can't deal with it and cook at the same time. So Get your fucking asses out here and take these babies to your rooms and keep them out of the kitchen."
Which didn't go over very well.
Oh, well.
It was my sister Peg's birthday yesterday and so Happy Birthday, Peg.
And today I was interviewed by someone on video for three hours. Next year it will show up on PBS or Cable. Good for me. I have hesitated or denied this for years because of what my teeth look like. Now that my teeth have been worked on, I was willing and I did great. Welcome to the world, Mr. Gorman.
Thanks for listening to this short, personal rant.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Boots the Wonderdog

Well, today's the day. Today's the day that Boots, the blind wonderdog is going in to get fixed. And he knows it and hasn't been seen since 4 AM when he chased an early rising bicyclist down the street, terrifying him.
Boots was rescued from the local pound about two or three years ago. He's got a thick tan coat and white legs from the knee down, hence his name. He's a big, bold, handsome dog, all muscle and playfulness. About 90 pounds of muscle and playfulness. And he's a great great guard dog, something you need in rural Texas, what with lawn mowers and chainsaws in the garage, and recently repaired bicycles on the front porch. Thieves don't generally come and steal a television here, like they did in New York. Here they wait till there are no cars in the driveway and then bring in a truck and take the whole darned house. (Probably why so many people have at least one or two extra cars, often non-functional, in their drives.) So Boots is essential and fantastic.
He wasn't always. We got him at the same time we got another pup, Blue. Blue was a sort of weird midget doberman who got sick early and then got mange, then an awful flea infestation, then got his head bitten by a junkyard dog who used to hand around looking for scraps in our trash. The head bite left Blue unable to walk properly: his head bobbed up and down constantly, like a bobble-headed dog and when he'd put his right forepaw out to take a step it would stand straight out at a right angle to the ground for a few seconds, then it would bob up and down in time with his head for another few seconds and then he'd finally get it onto the ground and take that step. Then it would all be repeated again a couple of seconds later. He looked like some sort of strange military dog, always tipping his cap and saluting as he walked.
Blue and Boots were pals, with Boots always cleaning him, till he too began to get whatever horrid thing Blue had. And then one day Boots decided to see what the street in front of the house looked like from a position in the middle of it and got walloped by a passing car traveling 60 or so mph. I found him on the side of the road, his hips broken badly. So I carried him to the porch, put a blanket out for him and imagined he'd just die. I had no money for a vet for that sort of thing, and wasn't willing to put him down--I've never put an animal down--so I was just sort of waiting for him to die. So was Blue, who curled up next to him, bobbing his head and pointing his right foreleg at the space in front of him.
But Boots didn't die. And in a couple of days, when I realized I had to do something, I looked at him, prayed, then reset his hips. And I got lucky and they went back into place. One was still crushed pretty badly but I figured time would heal that. Months passed and Boots got a little better by the week while Blue got worse. And then just about the time Blue crawled under the house to die, Boots stood and instead of dragging his hind quarters, actually walked.
That was a wonderful sight. He even walked to the back of the yard behind the chicken coop where the pig now lives to watch us bury his pal Blue.
And then, several months later, he was all better one day. Just started running around like a 6-month old pup and hasn't stopped. And he also became this wonderful guard dog--though he's fairly blind from some infection he and Blue shared, and the Vet doesn't know what to do about it. I mean he went from this broken-hipped 50 pound dog to this 90-pound wonderdog overnight. And in the process decided to defend this place of ours with a gigantic heart and a ferocious attitude. Not toward us: To us he's like this big teddy bear who loves to have his nose kissed. But not to others.
We first found out about his guard dog tendencies when Italo got a frantic call one night. We were in my truck running an errand and Italo's friend Martin called to say that Boots was trying to attack him. Now Martin had been to the house 100 times and Boots knew him but still, Boots had become the Wonderdog overnight and we were not home and Martin was not getting into our house and that was that.
Then about a week later, maybe a year ago, Boots chased his first bicycle with a speed I couldn't have guessed he had in him even if he hadn't suffered broken hips. We tried to calm him down a little and explained who to go after and whom to leave alone but it didn't really sink in. And then last Summer he bit a teenager--I've written about that--and did a week in doggie jail/quarantine while awaiting the results of rabies tests. The teen deserved it for trespassing near midnight with two friends onto our property, but them's the rules: The dog is guilty here in Texas even if you were trespassing at midnight.
But lately it's gotten out of hand. In November he knocked a man off his bicycle and had him pinned to the ground under his bike until I came out (in about three seconds) and called him off. Then he bit the plumber who came to fix the pipes at about the same time. Then he nailed a DHL lady and the FedEx man and the neighbor and who knows how many others. Not big bites, just reminders that the next step you take will be very painful. Heck, he doesn't break skin in most cases, just tears jeans or leaves scratches.
But then while I was in Peru I had to pray to whatever God I believe in to make sure Boots didn't run someone into oncoming traffic while I was gone. And I swore I'd have him fixed as soon as I came home if he didn't.
And I came home to find Boots had behaved wonderfully while I was gone. And so I didn't immediately get him fixed: Somehow that fell down the list a few notches. Until yesterday when he bit the FedEx man for the second time. I wasn't home but I'm told he did and so that's that. Me and Italo are going to go round him up if we can and take him over to get him fixed. Not that he's broken, but he has to get that testosterone level cut back.
I told Madeleina on the way to school this morning and she hates me. "Now he's going to be a wimpy bum, not a guard dog, dad! How would you like it if someone cut your things off?"
"Don't even talk about that, baby. Men don't like to think about that."
"Well, I'm talking about it because that's what you're doing to our beautiful dog!"
That went on till she stepped out of the car. Whew!
But that's what we're doing. I hope he'll still be Boots the Wonderdog when it's done, but it's got to be done.
Assuming we can find him.

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Way Things Are Sometimes

So yesterday was my birthday and I turned 58. It wasn't so bad because until last week when I did the math I thought I was already 58. So this is a re-do year, though how I made that mistake is something of a mystery. Same thing happened when I was turning 30. I had spent the day in Central Park, alone, just thinking, and it occurred to me in going over things that I simply couldn't recall age 29. For some reason it seemed to be a blank. Not that I couldn't recall what I'd done that year, I just couldn't recall ever saying I was 29, and yet there I was, turning 30 the next day. And I finally went home and spoke with Clare, with whom I was living and let her know how darned frustrating it all was. She listened attentively, and when I finished, calmly noted:
"You're out of your mind, you know? You're turning 29 tomorrow, not 30."
So I did the math and sure enough, I was turning 29, not 30. And so this year I kept thinking I was turning 59 and thinking that I was missing something...and of course, I was.
Now being my birthday, that meant I was to do shopping, cleaning, cooking. Not counting the regular stuff. So I put in a wash, put my trip stuff away and got to collecting towels, as there were none to use if I took a shower.
How my boys and Sarah manage to stuff 19 used and damp towels into bookcases, under mattresses and so forth I will never quite understand, but knowing where to look I found them all in less than two hours. Moldy, stinky and wet and into the washer they went.
Italo, however, had snuck in a wash after my initial wash, and so when the towels were ready for the dryer I realized I had a huge load of his clothes--he'd snuck off somewhere to avoid the job, I'm sure--to fold. Which I did. Now aside from the usual brazzieres and thongs (Sarah's) and Italo's sports clothes and sox, what was unusual was how many of his underwear I kept coming on. And on. And on. Thirty-seven underpants of his in that one load. 37? What the hell is he doing with 37-underwear? And why did they all need washing at once? Heck, I don't own 37 pieces of clothing, much less 37 underwear. And all regular. Nothing to suggest a fetish or anything. Just 3 dozen underpants. I'm still gonna have to ask him about that.
Birthday dinner was great: Couple of nephews with their girls came over, couple of other friends of Italo and Marco's new girl as well as Chep and the babies. I made Peruvian chicken, hot links, sweet sausage, steak, hot potato and egg salad, asparagus, broccoli and beans. Everything was going great until it was cake time.
It was a huge cake covered in thick brightly-colored sugary junk and I blew out the candles and went to get a knife to cut it when Bam! Something hit me squarely on the back of the head. I turned to get another something right in my face. It was cake. And then all hell broke loose: Cake began flying everywhere. I mean 10 pounds of creamy junk started crossing the room in three ounce blobs. The fight was on. Sierra got nailed on her chin; Alexa took a glob to her stomach and began eating it contentedly. But Renzo and Marco and Chepa and Italo were down and dirty, lambasting each other mercilessly at very close range. Someone reached for the potato/egg salad and caught me on the neck; someone else got me with a piece of chicken. Beans made the kitchen floor slippery as ice....the fight went on until nobody could find any more cooked food and the canned stuff seemed too dangerous...
When it was all done but the laughter, I naturally picked up what I could salvage and stashed it in the stove, then served it to Marco and Italo for breakfast...the kitchen floor isn't such a dirty place, after all.
But times like that, times when that kind of spontaneous insanity breaks out makes me think it's a great great family to be part of. Nutty, not quite typical, totally broken but so freaking joyeous it's fantastic.
Heck of a birthday party.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Hello, all you guys. I'm back. Been gone better than six weeks and I missed you more than you missed me. But I have a very hard time splitting myself in two and when I'm with guests in the Amazon I find it impossibly difficult to just run to the computer and write a blog piece. Heck, I can't even run to the computer or phone to call my Madeleina. So forgive me. I am where I am generally 100 percent and to become the other part of me--an equally important and vital part but a very different part--is just too darned hard.
Which doesn't mean I didn't think about you. I don't even know who you are but I know I sent thoughts out many times telling you all what we were doing, how the trips were going and all that jazz. I just couldn't face going into the internet cafes and being squeezed into a seat next to a stranger reading 50 emails a day from parents whose children are in prison unjustifiably and who want help when I know I can rarely help them from Texas but certainly not from Iquitos, Peru, the heart of the Amazon. And that's how many people need help daily. Just the way it is.
Nuff of feeling sorry for myself. The trips were fantastic. Fantastic. Everything that you want to have happen: Boas and electric eels, magic medicine, monkeys, frogs bearing wonderful medicine, magic mushrooms, surprises galore, swimming with dolphins and all the rest happened as if on cue. Things that might take people 10 visits to see altogether my two groups saw in 12 days each. WOW!!! I mean, I spent hours thanking the spirits, the guardians and finally the White Light or God or whatever you want to name the big power for the gifts we were given. Could not have gone better, I don't believe.
Except for the slightly broken and very dislocated ankle. That hurt and still hurts and happened on day 11 of the first trip, which means I had to walk a couple of miles daily on an ankle/foot that had 13 bones dislocated--three hueseros, bone doctors, reset them viciously, ignoring my screaming--and one small bone crushed and one other broken. Still hurts. Man that hurt. But you know what? Because of the pain, I decided to stay sober and didn't even take any pain killers more than ibuprofin--and that sobriety helped make the trips great. I didn't indulge like I have so often, making a legend and fool of myself at the same time. And that allowed more trust between me and the guests and that worked in both of our favors. Hooray! Lesson appreciated and hopefully learned. Except that the thing still freaking hurts unbearably to walk on and the docs say it's too late to do anything but wait till it fixes itself. Oh well, there's always something in the Amazon. I pray that whatever it is comes to me and not the guests and it generally does, whether poisonous snake bite, murderous spider bite, broken head, exploded intestine or slightly fractured ankle.....give it to me Powers that Be, not to the guests.
Gonna stop praying, I guess.
And then a 30 hour flight home and instead of Italo, Chepa, the wife/ex-wife, picked me up with my Madeleina and her Sierra and Alexa and what a time we had. The little girls acted up a ton, then got to my house and I painted them in Indian paint, fresh achote, and Madeleina dressed up in leaf skirt and anklets and Sierra--who now calls me P Gorman! instead of Dad, at her birth father's insistance--was running around the house touching everything and screaming: "This is P gormans house! This is P gorman's desk! This is P Gorman's dog! This is P gorman's cigarettes...where's mine, P gorman? Where's my cigarette?"
And so on till despite being terribly stretched out and exhausted and sick and ankle hurt I was laughing till my eyes hurt. Oh, how I love kids! Amd little Alexa, just a year or so, was just spinning and spinning till she was drunk with it and Madeleina was trying to be a mother hen till she too broke down and spun till she got so drunk and dizzy she couldn't stand.
And of course the house was/is a mess: No toilet paper, paper towels, food, dog food, pig food, cat food, bird food, garbage bags, milk, soda, eggs....Italo! Marco! Sarah! How on earth did this happen???????
"I don know, dad....must be somebody's fault...not mine..."
That came from all three of the culprits...
So I limped to the car, drove to Walmart and bought $250 worth of basic staples and made them dinner and gave them hugs and let them know how much I missed them all.
And now it's the next day and I've a lot to say but have said enough, eh? So welcome back, everyone. Thanks for visiting. Life is freaking grand, eh? Couldn't be better.