Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Obama, bama, fo fama, bonana fana fo fama, mi my mo mama, fe fi...

A very nice friend of mine passed along one of those made up letters spelling the end of the world today. This one involved Obama's team secretly passing legislation that would require people to list all the guns they own on their income tax return. It was stupid on the face of it, but I still took the time to look up everything in the letter in the Congressional records to see if there was an ounce of truth or if it was just crazy hate-baiting talk. It proved to be crazy hate-baiting talk with no validity. Which didn't stop six other people from sending me the same letter later in the day.
I'm so tired of people being mad at Obama after freaking 8 months in office. Jeez, Louise, you can't even make a baby in that time, so how the freak does anyone think you can correct a blown-up economy, two illegal major wars, a corrupt system, education, poverty and all the rest? Heck, I'm hoping that in the next 8 months I'll get around to cleaning my house, for goodness sake.
I wanted to respond when I was hot. But she's a really smart lady and a very nice one and I don't want her to hate me, so I waited a few hours, and then wrote this in response to her letter and her comment (privately) that she hates the idea of socialism, particularly as envisioned in the health care reform bills being bandied about.

Dear XXXXXX: Peter G here. You know, I'm thinking that this isn't the first time you've sent one of these to me, and I'm thinking that you're such a smart gal that I don't quite understand why you're taken in by this sort of nonsense. I don't want to be rude--I love ya and think you're the best, so go with me here--but I'm constantly surprised by what's going around on the radio and on Fox network--owned by Murdoch, a conspiracy guy who demands that all of his people buy into his conspiracies--and in emails like this.
Obama hasn't really done or even offered anything offensive yet. In the health bill, he's basically offering to extend medicaid and telling families they'll be obligated to enroll in it or something. But he didn't write the bill, and I promise he's as surprised and upset with it as most of us are. I'm a journalist, but as a free-lancer, I can't get health insurance for my family. I can, but it will cost me over $20,000 a year right now. I only make $29,000 a year and have to support two households and five children plus Chepa on that. When I needed my last operation I had to fly to Peru to get it, because the hospitals here wanted $45,000, to start, and in Peru it was just $4000, including living 8 days at my surgeon's house.
So offering a government option--essentially medicare--on top of what's already available, doesn't seem to me to be socialism or anything else. Unless people don't like the whole idea of medicaid and medicare. And if socialism is the thing, let's get rid of public schools, public libraries, public parks, public police and fire and sanitation departments, public works, public roads....heck, our country's number one employer is already the federal and state governments. So maybe I'm wrong, but to offer me an insurance option as a self-employed person doesn't sound bad to me. The alternative is to do what I now do: Go to the emergency room, and never pay the hospital anything but $20 a week. Which means tax payers, including myself, pay for me. And my mother-in-law's $500,000 cancer bill, and Chepa's two new babies, and Italo's coming baby and all the rest. And we work. And we pay taxes. I've been paying them since I was six years old and reached the limit for social security--another socialist thing--more than ten years ago. So I'm not going to apologize for using hospitals now and then. Heck, the gov has been collecting from me for 52 of my 58 years. Still, I'd rather be able to pay $300 a month and feel square about it, and I could, if there was a public option to cover me and the millions more like me somewhere. (When I worked at High Times and got married and got Marco and Italo and then made Madeleina, I paid $1600 a month; $18,800 a year for our medical insurance for five years and never used a dime of it.) So I'm not frightened by the Rush Limbaugh idiots or the fruit case O'Reillys talking nonsense. The plan, at best, would be an extension of medicaid/medicare that people would pay into. Everything else would stay the same. No doctors would be asked to work for the plan if they didn't want to, no nurses, no hospitals conscripted. That's simply not in anybody's plan. You have insurance? Cool. No? Here's a couple of options, but you must be responsible and pay into one of the options. Personal responsibility. I've always liked that.
I'm not saying I'm with Obama on everything. I thought he'd be a lot stronger than he's showing. Hell, Clinton sent missiles into the middle east about every two weeks (pretty much every time the press bashed him or he got an erection), just for the fun of killing civilians. I didn't like that. But I thought Obama would have released all the non-violent federal drug criminals already and shut most of the prisons in the federal prison system. I thought he'd have gotten us out of at least one of Bush's illegal wars by now. But then an old lefty like me lived through the Bush administration--the most corrupt (other than Reagan) administration in the modern history of the US. An administration that took the largest budget surplus in the history of the US ($3 trillion) and in 8 years turned it into the largest budget deficit ($3 trillion) in US history. An administration that gutted the Bill of Rights, allowing wiretaps at will, searches without warrants, even suggesting personal national identification cards that we would all have to show whenever a cop asked us (even the republican congress and senate turned that one down), and tried to do away with the Posse Comatatus act that forbids US soldiers from fighting US citizens on US soil. An administration that blustered against illegal aliens but let more illegal aliens into the US in 8 years than any other administration in the history of the US. An administration that lied, knowingly, about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction to start a completely illegal and stupid war that's cost 10,000 American lives, 100,000 Iraqi civilian lives, and tens of thousands of US servicemen and women crippled just to let that boy W try to prove to his dad he had a dick. An administration that created the No Child Left Behind act for schools which has set schools back 100 years because the only learning done from the first day of school to the last is studying for the tests--for which teachers get bonuses for good performance--rather than letting teachers actually teach. An administration that let Iran build the nuclear weapons it is now on the verge of having because it didn't have the guts to stop them. An administration that helped orchestrate the complete collapse of the world economy, and more particularly, the US economy, leaving such a shambles that Obama was forced to authorize more than a trillion dollars to keep it floating rather than sinking into another great depression.
But you know what?
Us old lefties like me survived that asshole. Just like we survived Reagan and Bush the dad. And you know what else? People on the right will survive our asshole, Obama. We are America. We are strong. We are jerks, we allow these people to get away with things that would have the rest of us rotting in prison for our lifetimes and more, but we will survive. We all got here by running away from horrid circumstances. You may have liked Bush. I think he ought to be strung up and slowly killed by some marine's dad. I think Cheney and Libby ought to have it worse. I liked Clinton. You may think he should have had his dick chopped off. Maybe. (Insiders tell me it's huge and freaking hard as a rock!). I like Obama. I hope he has the balls for the job. He's got more smarts than anybody in recent history except Clinton--a freaking Fullbright scholar whether you liked him or not--and he knows the Constitution better than anyone alive (Part of the job of being editor in chief of the Harvard Law Review. Those who talk affirmative action can't spell the word, and it certainly doesn't apply to a brainiac like Obama). I'm just afraid he will back down to public pressure rather than telling people to go fuck themselves, like Reagan (who allowed the orchestration of all those coups in Latin and South America so we would have cheap factory workers and slave laborers making our shit), or Clinton or either of the Bush's.
Carter I loved. Not a great president but a great great human. Ford I liked. Also a well meaning, decent man.
I guess my point is the lefties survived the antics of Bush. The righties will probably survive the antics of Obama. Like David Byrne sang: "And the day goes on, still water runs deep; once in a lifetime, water flowing underground..."
I love you, gal. Sorry to go on so long.
Peter G

Monday, September 28, 2009

Last One (for now), Marco and I

Marco came in Sunday afternoon, after not having been here Saturday after our talk, and announced he was moving into a small building behind Chepa's house. I said okay and asked if he needed help. He said no, that he and Carly could handle it.
After he took his first load out, Madeleina came into the office/living room where I was working while listening to the Eagles play football.
"Dad, how could you let him go?"
"Well, baby, he's 21 and he ought to go and be on his own..."
"That's not what I mean, you blubberhead. I mean how could you let him go and move into mom's? Just because he'll have to pay rent doesn't mean he's grown up. He's just running away to mom! That's nothing! And when he gets mad at mom he'll come running back to dad! Don't you see?"
"Sort of, baby, but he's a grown man and can move where he wants."
"No he's not. He's a baby and you should have beat him half to death for not getting a real apartment. He's only leaving because you told him he was a liar about the television box and he won't own up to it like a man! That's not moving out, that's running away."
She was fairly livid, and I thought that at lease some of her anger might have to do with her anticipating missing him, so I reminded her that he'd still be there to torture here, he'd just do it from mom's, not our house. And since Madeleina splits time between our houses, what was the difference?
"You will never understand. It's called coddling, dad, and you're being a wimp."
I let her win. She was right, but then I would really have to interfere in his life if I went about beating him or chasing him out of his mom's house. Plus, Chepa can use the extra rent.
In any event, he's settling in there. It'll last a couple of months, maybe forever this time. It is really time for him to be on his own since my insistence on pitching in around here is more than he can take most of the time.
Still, after all of us except Marco went to Italo's college to watch him play a soccer game (they lost; he played hard), and after we drove back and I'd taken them to dinner, and Madeleina went to Chepa's to sleep, it was a very empty house that greeted me. Ah, well.
As Bruce Springsteen once wailed: "Oooohhhhh, oooohhhhh, growing up...."

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More Marco and I

Well, things ain't getting better with Marco. After avoiding me for nearly a week--by bringing his lovely fiance Carly over daily or by showing up with Chepa and the babies--we finally talked yesterday. I asked him if he wanted to go first. He didn't. So I asked, in what I think was a regular voice, if he understood that I'd gotten angry because he'd lied to me about the stupid television box. Not once, but almost daily for 10 days. And then I'd gotten even more angry at him because he lied when he said there was no control that would work the box, and then that very box control was found on his bed.
He responded that basically I'd never asked about the box. That the box had always been in Italo's room for 5 months, and that if I'd asked about it he would have told me.
I said that didn't jibe with the fact that the box had actually always been in my office and that he'd just put it there when Italo went to school three weeks ago.
He said I was crazy. I asked if we should bring Italo into the conversation. He said no, that was pointless. But he insisted that the box had been in Italo's room for 5 months and that he had just bought the remote I was holding in my hand.
I pointed out that while I loved him, the remote had a "Dish Network" stamp on it and wasn't available in stores. Then I asked him why he was continuing to lie? Why not just say "I was mad about so and so and decided to take the box and hide the remote to get even with you."
He reiterated that I was crazy, never asked about the box at all, that my television doesn't even need a box to function, that he had indeed bought a Dish Network remote at Walmart and that he was out of here if I was going to keep saying he lied about any of it.
So he left. Then Italo and Sarah and Chepa and the babies joined Madeleina and I for a great soup dinner and Marco has not been home since.
I'm afraid this rift is going to take some time to heal. He has somehow convinced himself that what he's saying is true, and that I'm a bum for thinking otherwise. Not just a bum but a bad person. I probably am both a bum and a bad person, but I'm right here. And while I don't, finally, care about the TV box, I do care about my kid being able to own up to something he did and then lying about it. That's an important one. I'll give all the slack in the world: He might hate me because he's missing his grandma--who died in this house 5 years ago and who had been such an important part of his life--or because he hates his work, or because he resents me still being his dad now that he's turned 21, or that he resents himself for living at home at 21 and needs something like this to get him to move out. I would understand any of it. And I hope he comes in today and tells me what it is. I'll miss him if he moves out, but then 21 is grown and time not to have to listen to your father's rules anymore. Which means moving out and getting and supporting your own place.
But I really really don't like the lying. I don't like it from little kids and I don't like it from him. None of us like to own up to our errors--and I make a lot of them--but you got to try. You got to swallow your pride and admit you were a jerk and try to make sure it doesn't happen again. That's part of growing up.
I love you Marco. I always will. I know you're responsible at work and with Carly's family. I also know you're a kid when around me. I live with you not doing a lot of chores. I don't like it but I live with it because I'm a pushover for you and Chepa and Italo and Madeleina and the babies. You guys bring me that much joy that I overlook a lot.
But I expect you to handle this like a man, or move out.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Marco and I

Well, my son Marco and I are at loggerheads again. Happened three nights ago and we ain't fixed it yet, though I suspect we will...until the next time.
This time it was over a television set. I don't watch much tv, but over the years we've wound up with several. There's one in the big living room; an old floor console in my office/small living room; one in Italo's room that he bought for himself, and then one in Marco's room. Now to get reception where we are we need a provider, and the one we use sent two boxes, each good for two sets. The one in my office served for me and for Italo's room; the one in the big room served for that and Marco's room. Don't ask me how that works, but it somehow seems to.
Anyway, about two weeks ago, after I was not connected for a while, I asked Italo to hook me up so that I could peek at football games on Sunday afternoon while I work on stories. He did. Then he went of to his dorm at school.
Two days later, the black box/dvd player in my office disappeared and an old vcr was in its place. I tried to use the television; wouldn't work. So I called Marco and asked him if he'd changed anything. He told me no. I asked him to hook it up so that the tv would work and he tried for a few minutes, then told me he couldn't then but would do it later.
Next day I asked again; this time he said the tv had never worked and that I was crazy to remember a black bod/dvd player.
Next day I asked him if maybe he'd given the box to his girlfriend and was afraid to tell me. He told me he'd done nothing and that again, I was crazy.
This went on for about 10 days. Then one day Italo showed up and I asked him if he could hook my tv up like he had before he'd gone to school a couple of weeks earlier. He said he couldn't because the box I'd had had been taken by Marco and put into his room after Marco had taken his specially bought TIVO box, whatever that was.
So when Marco came home that day I asked him to get my box from Italo's room and hook it up for me. And while he was hooking it up I asked him how the heck he had lied to me nearly every day for two weeks? How had he not said he'd taken the box? Why had he lied?
He didn't want to discuss it. Just said: "I'm not talking about it, okay? And don't ask me to do any more for this box because it's not going to work anyway since Italo lost the remote."
Then he sort of stormed out. I wasn't in the mood for a heavy confrontation and figured he'd come in later and explain himself, most likely beg forgiveness and that would be that.
But of course, while he was gone I went looking for the remote Italo lost, and found it on Marco's bed. Now it doesn't work for anything in Marco's room, so he was just sort of hiding it. Which set my blood boiling.
And when he came home I got in his face and demanded answers. He said, "I'm out of here," and stormed off.
I shouted "Fuck you, you punk liar," out the window at him.
He responded with a "Fuck you," back to me.
I responded in kind, adding that he'd better go because if he came back into the house I would kick him into the next world. And then I added that I knew he wouldn't come back in because he was a chicken-shit motherfucking lying asshole.
He didn't come back in. Instead he went to Chepa's (my wife/ex-wife) place and told her I was acting irrationally. Which I was, but just to him. As soon as he left I served Madeleina dinner and she got us juice to drink and we sat down in the big living room to watch a movie.
Two minutes later Chepa called, demanding to know how Madeleina was. I said fine and passed her the phone. Madeleina's end of the conversation went something like: "Hi mom....yes, we're eating dinner...roast chicken and rice with spinach...no, dad is not crazy...I'm fine, mom...what are you talking about? We're just having dinner..."
And so forth. Evidently the picture Marco painted had Chepa thinking I was out of control from the answers Madeleina was giving, and despite never having been out of control she still needed to check on things.
I didn't see Marco that night. I did the following day, when he brought his girlfriend in as a shield. She came over to give me a hug while he sort of raced to his room and closed the door. I was still to angry to start a rational discussion at that point so I let him get away with hiding.
The next morning he left for work while I was sleeping and last night showed up again with Carly, but this time also with Chepa, the babies and Italo's girl Sarah for protection. I let it slide again.
But this morning I caught him on the way to work and told him we're gonna talk today when he comes home, Carly or no Carly.
I'll try to be rational. But there's a part of me that doesn't get it. Why would you lie to someone about a television box, and then about a remote that's useless to you?
Answer: You wouldn't. So this is about something else. I must have done something really awful, or he thinks I did, to elicit this sort of passive-aggressive response. So after I do my share of the talking I'll try to do my share of listening. Cause in the end, while he's just a little kid around me and Chepa, he's a pretty good young man and I would rather him learn from this than simply put a layer of armor around himself. That won't benefit anyone.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Stock Market Curiousity

What I don't know about the stock market would fill a library. What I do know was that about six months ago I was very broke and put nearly the family's last $2 grand (the bill money) into Ford stock. I'd only done stocks once before, at the urging of a friend, and lost. But I was reading about Ford having come to an agreement with the UAW union, and how it didn't need bailout money, and out of curiousity looked up the stock price. It was under two bucks a share. So I asked my son Italo if we should bet the bank on it and he said yes. So I did and two weeks later it was at $4 a share and I sold it.
Sometime later I took half the winnings and looked at GM. There was all sorts of good news about GM trucks for sale in China and such and the stock price was at about $0.70 a share. So I bought 1,500. When I did another symbol, not GM, came up. I didn't think anything of it. Heck, the market was easy and I was going to earn another couple of grand real quick.
And the stock did indeed go up. Up to about $1.40 a share, nearly doubling my money. But I figured I'd keep it till it tripled my money.
And then I read an article that said there was no GM stock. That the stock being sold under the name GM (with that new symbol), didn't have any assets. It was just a company formed to sell off the former GM's toxic assets and clean up GM's debt. And when that's done there won't be anything to that new company. Which meant that despite the news services providing all GM information on the stock market pages--about how GM was selling off parts of its European holdings, how truck sales were booming, how well it was doing with the cash for clunkers program and so forth--the stock I held represented nothing. Certainly not GM. So I sold it as fast as I could.
Now I know it's my fault for being a newbie, but I am still wondering how old GM stocks, renamed with a new symbol, can legally be traded. If GM comes out of bankruptcy tomorrow the stocks still will be worthless. Yet they're allowed to be traded on the stock market. Sort of like a legal ponzi scheme, and when one day people holding that stock realize it can never produce a divident, doesn't make anything,and that the company itself will go out of business once all the old GM toxic assets are sold, there will be no more trading of the stock, and whomever has it will lose all their money.
I don't know how that's legal.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Marco's 21st

Well, my son Marco hit 21 today. Wow. Who would have guessed? I'm proud of him, even if I am perpetually angry with him. He won't do dishes, he needs to be fed, his mom tried to kiss him this morning and he pushed her away...But he just got his second award from his place of employment this year, he's entered in a statewide award for his company next month, and he's perfect, except at home. So I'm wondering if we did it right or not and hoping we made a good man out of him. How he relates to us is different: He'll always be 6 years old. But in real life he's not a bad young man.
Congrats, Marco. You're my son and I'm proud to be your father. I love you.
Peter G

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Not to Bore You; a Little More on Pyramids

A friend of mine recently wrote to ask why I was so darned keen on going to do some preliminary study of the pyramid shapes in the jungle in Peru, particularly given the general consensus that they are geologically formed rather than man made. This was the gist of my answer.

The pyramid shaped formations may well be a geological anomaly. BUTTTTT.....who ever heard of rivers, or wind, cutting what look to be perfect pyramidal shapes down to the earth level? And why two parallel rows of six each, all of them roughly the size of the great pyramid of Egypt? Why no other pyramidal shaped formations in the area? So yes, maybe geologic but did man pitch in and help shape them?
Also, if they are wind/water formed in limestone or sandstone, then there will be caves and tunnels and such running through them as well--the wind and rivers could not have carved perfectly straight exterior walls on all four sides of the pyramid shapes. And if there are caves, then animals would have used those caves, and man would have used those caves and there will be traces of both in those caves--once the plant life is removed from their surfaces.
So they might still be very very important even if natural structures. They might open a window on ancient peoples of the region. Petroglyphs are nearby that I don't believe have been dated yet. So I'd imagine that if there were caves with human traces there might be undiscovered petroglyphs inside them as well. And we know there are pot shards in the area. Question is: Are they from a recently broken pot or one that was 300 years old? We won't know those things until they are studied. The first trip would just be a 10 day cursory on site to get some basic info; hopefully that would lead to a real investigation if the preliminary proved fruitful at all.
For staff, first, there's my friend Richard, a great naturalist who has been to the pyramids. Then, I'd bring a wonderful curandero from the mountains, a botanist, so that we didn't cut the plant life that might turn out to be the most important thing at the site; a geologist to collect earth and stone samples, and an archaeologist or anthropologist to assess what we might find in and around the site. Then there would be a couple of members of my team because they speak the Panoan dialect and could probably get by even in a different area of the jungle than they live in, and finally several locals who could help run camp and clear enough of the jungle at the formations' bases to be able to take accurate measurements, to look for caves and such.
Which is what makes it somewhat expensive. That's a lot of people and food to move. But me going there and touching them wouldn't mean anything. That's been done. What hasn't been done is any study of them or the area. So they've been reached but never breached. And I'd like to be on the crew to do the breaching.

Friday, September 11, 2009

What I love about being a journalist

What I love about being a journalist is learning. For every story I do I've got to learn new things. First I've got to figure out what a story might look like, then I've got to figure out who might teach me--or where I can learn--enough to make sense of what I'm writing about to readers. And I generally have to learn a whole lot more than I'll ever write to make the communication look easy. Sort of like taking crash Master's courses in things.
For instance, I'm working on a story about art therapy now. Heck, when I started it I didn't know much about it at all more than it's name: People need therapy and get it by being encouraged to make art to free themselves up, right? Well, yes, but it's also a million other things. And last month, working a Hemp cover story--something I knew so much about from having worked that bailiwick for years at High Times--I had to not only relearn all I knew but learn all the new developments and new players in several countries to bring it up to speed.
You often know nothing about a story before you start. What do I know about iron workers? The high steel guys. Not much more than those old photos of the men having lunch on a beam on the 70th floor of the Chrysler building in New York City. So I started a story about some old graffiti on the highest beam in Fort Worth's old courthouse. I thought I'd track down the grandchildren of the men who signed their name to the beam in 1882. But first I had to find out why they signed their names. Juvenile delinquints? Former judges? Who knew?
It turned out, after I went to the Ironworker's union hall, that the guys who build a building, do the high beam work, always sign their name to the highest beam. That way, I was told, when someone comes to rip it down sometime in the future, they'll remember the guys who put it up in the first place.
Well, it turned out, for that story, that the graffiti wasn't really old at all. The building had been rebuilt in 1992, but the men signed 1882 because they had to rebuild it the way it was originally built: Carrying all those beams, old style riveting and such. "We built it like it was 1882, so that's how we signed it," I was told. Which, of course, left me with no story. Unless I was willing to dig into the men who are rebuilding Fort Worth today. Which I knew nothing about. But I asked questions, found 20 guys to talk with and learned a lot. I also got to ride in a basket lifted by a crane over 300 feet off the floor at the new Cowboy's stadium here in Texas so that the photographer could take photos looking down at the ironworkers building the roof.
And by the time I finished that story I knew enough to write a book.
And it's that way with most of my stories--at least the investigative stories. You got to figure out what the story is, figure out where to get info on it in sufficient quantity that you can make sense asking people questions, figure out what the right questions are and then go ask. And every time I do that I'm like a sponge. I'm back in school all over again, only this time I'm paying attention.
Which is something my friend Chuck still can't believe. "Pete, you spent your entire college career just making up papers about books and topics you knew nothing about. And now you make a living actually learning things, reading things. I can't believe it."
Neither can I, but I do love this job. Thanks for letting me have it, Universe.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

More on the Obama School Drama

Well, here in bucolic Joshua, Texas, things are not good. Even after the text of Obama's school speech was released to the media, more than half the school districts in Texas, and probably all in Johnson County, decided not to offer the president's "stay in school, take responsibility for yourself" address. Unfreaking unbelievable. More unbelievable was that our own Joshua school district was among those cowed by the loud voices of fear.
I spent the Labor Day weekend--or a little of it, anyway--trying to call my Madeleina's school to make certain they were going to show the address. The phone lines did not answer, so I couldn't even leave a voicemail. Unusual, to say the least.
When Madeleina came home from school yesterday I asked her if she'd seen the speech. She said no, that the school was afraid there would be fights among the students and "my president is better than your president" arguments between Dubya fans and Obama fans, so they just junked the whole thing.
I wrote a letter to the school principal asking him to explain how he'd come to the decision not to have the pres address the kids. He responded honestly that "As you may know, there was a tremendous outcry from certain quarters to
have students stay home from school that day so that they did not hear
the speech. There were many other parents who wanted the opportunity to
view the speech before their children viewed the speech. There were some
parents who wanted their children to have an alternative assignment and
not view the speech at all. So, in weighing all of the options and in
discussing this with our social studies teachers, I made the decision to
have our media specialist record the speech. In that way, any social
studies teacher who wishes to show the speech could do so for every
class rather than just the classes that were in session during the live
airing which did not fit our bell schedule."
I thanked him for his honesty--what he was saying was he'd have been shit-canned if he played it and was not going to lose his job over this--and asked him to make certain that Madeleina got to see it today while it was still a fresh thing, rather than in a couple of weeks when it will be yesterday's news.
He wrote back to say that he was sorry but that the school recording equipment broke down athis morning and the speech could not be recorded. But, he added, he'd have the school's media person take Madeleina out of class and have her watch it privately on the internet.
I'm just flabbergasted. I would be vaklempt but I've been vaklempt too often lately for my own good, so I'm flabbergasted this time. The school recording equipment broke down just when the school media person was going to record the speech? Not impossible but not damned likely either. So now what? The school is going to make the internet available so kids can see a four inch video of the president? That is not really okay. They should have seen the president on a large screen, working his oratory magic on them. They should have seen the president being presidential, not a youtube figure.
But then this is Texas and this is bucolic Joshua. I still like the principal, but he's got less guts than I would have given him. And this county sucks in a lot of ways.

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Family Update, Jungle Thinking

Well, Sunday night. Chepa and the babies just left, with Madeleina, 12 going on 40 and when did that happen?, in tow. Italo and Sarah, who's beginning to show with my grandbaby, left a little earlier to go Chepa's as well. Sarah has rented a large room at Chepa's house and outfitted it into a lovely nest. I'm a little sad about it because it means that Italo, even when back from school, spends most of his time there, and nearly all his nights. Heck, if they had their own apartment I'd be sad too. I mean I'm glad, but it gets lonely around here sometimes. Marco is still hanging out but he's had the door to his room closed since he was about 12, so it's not like he's great company most of the time. He just likes being alone, puttering around with electronics and such. Someday he'll probably come up with something fantastic, so I'm all for it, but again, the selfish part of me likes to see and hear and smell my kids around, not just see their laundry and dishes they've hidden for days and weeks.
On the animal count, we lost one of the dogs to a truck Friday. Kairy had somehow gotten out of the fenced in back yard and into the side yard, then got through that fence as well into the unfenced front yard. She was playing with Boots, the blind wonder dog when I went off to Chepa's to get Madeleina for school. By the time I got back, maybe 20 minutes, there she was, middle of the road, neck broken. Dumb dog. We tried to teach her, but she, like 10 or so others over the years, just never learned. The only ones who understood it were Spike--who simply walked off a couple of years ago while I was away in Peru--Spike's daughter Roxy, who'd been hit but survived and learned her lesson; and Boots, who had his hips broken, recovered and has stayed out of the road since.
Marco buried Kairy, and Boots has dug her up a couple of times already. So we'll rebury her and keep putting more clorox in there till he finally gives up.
The cats are doing well though, as are the birds and goats. And the chickens and ducks are doing great. Haven't lost one of those in nearly two weeks. I will say I had no idea how much they could eat: They're nearly through their second 50 pound bag of food, and lately we've been giving them a cantaloupe--it's not expensive here now--some bread and a pot of cooked rice most days. They went through a pot of rice that weighed about 7 pounds today in maybe 10 minutes. They're going to make nice eggs one of these days. I am surprised the hawks haven't gone after them: Maybe they're too big for hawks now or maybe the fence is not attractive to them. But I'm glad they have not.
So kids are good, animals are good--with a tip of the hat to Kairy--and I'm working my butt off. I could use some more tourists for January so that I can make a trip, but I'm figuring they might come along after Labor Day. If they don't, well, maybe it's time I do one of my explorations down there in the deep green of the Amazon. There are a few I've put off for lack of funds for years, but these days I'm feeling strong and feeling like if I've got to put a few grand of my own money into one of them, well, somehow I'll get it back. Maybe sell a story about it, maybe wind up with a grant for further exploration, who knows. But I've been feeling that sort of inner strength that let's you do things with confidence and I don't think one of those trips would be hard at all. It's been a while, so maybe it's time to push myself in that direction again, rather than wait for someone to back me. In truth, no one has ever backed me much. I always got nice letters from the American Museum of Natural History but the funds were always mine and the pieces I've got in their permanent collection of South American Ethnology were given freely. Shaman Pharmaceuticals backed me for part of the two trips I made for them but I always wound up spending a few thousand of my own on top of what I got. Same with the Fidia Research Institute of the University of Rome: They gave me money for the frog/frog sweat I brought out, but it was less than a dime on the dollar to what I spent. Trip to the pyramid shaped hills I want to do? Probably a minimum of $12,000 to actually be able to get enough scientific research out of it to interest people in more extensive expeditions. And that's more than my life savings. But I could probably do something for half of that, about $6,000, that might produce enough pot shards, earth and stone samples, pressed plants, gps readings and so forth to generate at least a little interest. So that's what I'm thinking about doing.
Sorry to have you all just reading my musing, but I needed someone to talk with and you're it right now.
Thanks for listening.
I will say that it feels good to be over, or nearly over, all the physical junk of the last few years. The ankle I broke in January still hurts sometimes; the flesh eating spiderbite still itches like mad occasionally; the stomach still cramps now and then in an uncontrollable way, but those things are pretty minor compared to how things were there for a while. So now might just be the exact right time to head out to the jungle for a deep exploration. Or in January if a trip with guests doesn't materialize. It'd be fun fun fun after all the physical difficulty. Ah, hell, it's just hiking, really. And probably just what I need to go do.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Nice Saturday Morning

Well, it's about 2 pm, so morning is wrong, but it still feels like morning. Sun shining, not too hot, Italo home from school for the weekend, his girl Sarah here with him; Marco off and so Carly's here as well, and so are Madeleina, Sierra and Alexa. During the week it gets quiet sometimes during the school year, what with Italo gone, and hence Sarah not here; Marco at work and so Carly not here, the babies with Chepa and sometimes Madeleina too. Still find myself making dinner for 6 or 8 most nights, and then mornings like today, when they all show up, it's breakfast for all of them. Just nice. Frantic when Madeleina's coffee kicked in and she was buzzing around like a crazy lady for half an hour, and wild when the babies first arrived.
I think we'll head out to the lake later.
Just a wonderful sort of day. Stories I'm working on are coming along just right, I think, couple of people inquired about January's Amazon trip, I've got a great book called Play---How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination and Invigorates the Soul by Stuart Brown, MD.
So not much to report in terms of zaniness, just a beatiful morning here in Joshua.
Hope you're all having nice days too.
We'll get back to the real world later, eh?

Friday, September 04, 2009

Obama's School Talk Brouhaha

President Obama is going to be giving school kids across the country a talk next week via television. It’s going to be about staying in school, working hard and achieving your dreams. Sounds good and inspirational, right?
Not everybody is seeing it that way. An awful lot of wingnut radio and television personalities are calling it a politically motivated propaganda move. Some are calling it something out of the Third Reich. Blogs are ablaze with parents, particularly here in Texas, saying they’ll be keeping their children out of school that day, or writing petitions asking that schools not show the speech. Personally, I can’t imagine anything wrong with a sitting president giving a “strive and achieve your dreams” speech to kids when our dropout rate is so high. After all, other presidents have done it and nobody seems to have suffered for it.
But that’s not how an awful lot of people are seeing it with this president. And I’m thinking that those people who are going to keep their kids from school are probably people who cannot bear the thought that their kids are going to be inspired by a black president, by a true African-American. They probably cannot stomach the idea that their kids might come home from school and blurt out something like “I want to be just like Obama!”
Because he is going to inspire some kids to stay in school. And he is going to make them feel special by directing a speech at them.
And I hope my daughter is one of the inspired ones, though just this morning, in discussing the issue she said she hated Obama. I asked her why. “Because he’s going to tell us to work hard and I hate to work hard!”
At least she’s got a legit reason to not want to hear it.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Disgusting Truth: Toenails and Sebaceous Cysts

Okay, so if you had a wife/ex-wife--which means someone you married but didn't divorce after she had two kids with another guy because you didn't want to go to court and have to toss dirty laundry to get parental control of your kids--and she was short about $500 a month, what would her jobs be. I know. Sex would be great because I still think she's about the most beautiful woman/flower/anything I've ever seen, but that ain't gonna happen. Repaying the money would be great, but that ain't gonna happen. Ignoring her when her water is about to be turned off--not because boyfriend, who lives in another state, doesn't want to pay it, but he's already got alimony and child support and is doing the best he can but comes up short--is not an option because when I married her I promised for better or worse, and if this is worse, so what? I still promised to take care of her, regardless of circumstances. Add to that that her new babies, Sierra and Alexa, are my children's sisters, and you know I will come up with that water/electric/house payment money. Every month till I die. And I won't resent it.
Still, there has to be some sort of quid pro quo. Someone has to scratch your back a little if you keep being asked to scratch theirs.
So here is the disgusting truth. Chepa has a job or two she has to do now and then. And they're rotten jobs and she does them laughing out loud, almost. The first is to cut my toenails. Sounds like something I ought to do but after I got a wierd toenail infection in the Amazon years ago, the two big townails grow very very thick and I have never found anything I can cut them with from the "bending-over" angle. Worse, they've become ingrown, so if they're not cut about every month, I pretend I can walk and walk fast but I am in pain immensely.
Her second job is to clean a sebaceous cyst I've got on my back that I can feel with my hand but not clean out. Now that is a disgusting job. She does it with relish, sticking a knife straight into the thing right next to my spine that I can stand up and walk around with a steak knife (used only for this, not for eating) sticking out of my back, to the ever delightful glee of the kids, who run around screaming, "Mom, you stabbed dad in the back again! How could you?" and such, while at the same time screaming, "Get the air freshener! This stinks!"
And, of course it does. It's a fatty deposit that's rotting.
Now I don't know that I couldn't get those two jobs done once a month for less than the $500 she always needs, but then I have to get at least something in return for the work it takes to make that $500. And those jobs allow her to remind me how disgusting a human I am while delighting in doing them, her indigenous instincts coming to the fore as if she were burning off a live monkey's hair before cooking him or her.
Today, both jobs were done. I'm always clean, but today I'm super super clean and delicious. And Chepa got to stab me in the back and watch me scream as she took poisoned toenails out of my toes, leaving me bleeding. And Marco and Madeleina got to laugh for an hour at the disgusting and painful scene.
Funny how if you look at things just a bit wide-sided, you can enjoy the life and laughter they provide.