Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Drug War Thing....

A great friend of mine, currently living in Mexico, sent me a note today with a link to a piece from the Christian Science Monitor on the failure of the war on drugs in Mexico. I see things like that and shake my head. I guess the reporter is just young and new to it all. Still, we need voices if we're ever going to end this thing.
But this was my response:
X: Yeah. I won three awards for my story on this a couple of years ago but it didn't stop the damned bloodshed. I worked for 16 years for High Times writing about the horrors produced by prohibition, but it didn't stop the bloodshed. I write a monthly column now for Skunk magazine and I still have not stopped the bloodshed. Why the power boys won't admit that ending prohibition eliminates the violence overnight and brings things down from a boil to a simmer or less, is beyond me. Well, not really. Too many people make their living off prosthelyzing prohibition, off building and filling prisons, off being lawyers or parole officers or running drug treatment houses, or supplying guns and ammo, or building bulletproof cars or a million other things. They'd all lose their positions, their importance and their money if we went the way of rational thinkers. Imagine: In the last 4 years in Mexico, more than 18,000 people have died as a direct result of the war on drugs. During that same time, in the US, we have not lost 18,000 people to all the overdoses, suicides and drug-related medical deaths together. But we're willing to give that many up in Mexico, and another couple of ten thousands in the US, to the war on drugs in that period, to stop.....what? To stop what? Nothing has been stopped. Not one person who wanted to get high last night could not find his or her drug of choice within half-an-hour of looking. Hell, it takes me an hour to go buy a whiskey here in Joshua in the middle of dry Johnson County. I could find drugs--any freaking drug I want, in half the time--and I don't know a single dealer. So the drug war exists to...what, exactly?
Oh, right. To be righteous and make money for some people who live off prohibition and for some others who thrive in the black market.
Now that makes sense, eh?

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Madeleina Growing Up

Kids grow up so quick. One minute you're checking the temperature on their bottle of milk and the next you're seeing if the martini is cold enough. What happened to hanging around for a couple of years? It feels like "now that you're old enough to actually make conversation you don't want to talk to me?"
I mean, my Italo has a baby for goodness sake! A Baby? He IS a baby!!!!! He's the kid I take to ballgames. He's the little leaguer who can't speak English but can play the hell out of shortstop as long as someone tells him in Spanish what the play is. He's got a baby? Did he steal it? I mean, comon, the kid can't be 14...what the hell is he doing making me a grandpa?????
Truth is he's 24 and already acts like me as a dad.
But Madeleina is a different story. I already talked about her attitude on bad days in my last post. Her attitude on good days is brilliant. Her school moved, for instance, about two weeks ago, and the new school is only a mile or so from our house. So she's decided to walk home most days. I had to send a note to school saying that was okay, that I didn't believe there were dogs on that patch of road, etc, and finally the school is letting her.
And she's discovering all sorts of things, including today when she took a shortcut through a bunch of tree branches only to come on those thorn weeds we have in Texas, so her legs are all cut up.
I check on her, even when she's walking. I'm the guy in the pickup who stops near the 12 year old girl and waves. She waves me off and I drive off alone. Just letting her know I'm there. Living in Johnson County, however, you can bet I expect the police to come knocking one day soon to ask if I'm the man trying to lure a little girl into my car.
"That's my daughter, Madeleina. I'm just making sure she's okay on her walk home..."
"Yeah, sure. Guy behind you phoned us saying you were waving a little girl into your car..."
"Only my Madeleina...."
"So you know her name, do you? You filthy...."
Or something like that. Somehow I know this doesn't end well.
Today she surprised me and asked for some of Meat, the pig we grew and then killed last June.
"I don't really want to eat her but it's better than going to waste in that freezer."
I feel the same, so tonight we're having ribs. Kind of gross, of course, but that's what having farm animals comes to and why you don't name them. You just can't have more than a certain number of pets and pig, when she hit about 350-370 pounds, well, she had to go.
So good for Madeleina to realize it.
She's way far ahead of Italo, who won't even eat one of our chicken eggs yet.
Of course, I made a whole lot of veggies: Asparagus in balsamic vinegar, the cucumber/red onion/garlic/vinegar salad, stuffed zuccini (with good parmesan cheese) and broccoli with a light curry sauce to make up for when Madeleina actually looks at the ribs and decides they'd be better off with Boots, the blind wonderdog.
Have a good evening, everybody. I know I will.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Madeleina Got Me

So I picked up Madeleina today, after promising her we'd go to the feed store to see if they had any hens for sale. Or ducks. Unfortunately, I was 15 minutes early and passed the feed store so went in to get the goat meal before I picked her up. There were only 3 day old chicks for sale, and we already know we have to buy 3 dozen of those tho wind up with half a dozen real hens. Red-Tailed hawks just eat them for snacks. So I passed.
Which pissed Madeleina off no end. "But you promised you'd buy some ducks or chickens, dad..."
"But they didn't have any today, baby. I'll buy some when they have them..."
"What did they have?"
"Just rabbits."
"Why didn't you buy rabbits?"
"Because I was buying chickens or ducks or both. Rabbits are a whole nother ball game."
"Well pardon me if I hate you because I hate you. You are the worst father. YOu never buy me rabbits..."
"And I never will. Honey, rabbits can't just be put into the chicken coop. It's not what they do. Heck, rabbits lick their fur but then can't burp so they choke to death. You don't want that, do you?"
"If they all choke to death in one day how do they make babies?"
"They don't all choke to death, but if you don't brush them daily there is a good chance they will. That's a pretty brutal death. Now if they were selling jack rabbits, well, I'd buy those guys because you can't kill them with a shotgun..."
"Then buy those rabbits. But you didn't buy anything..."
"I bought goat food, which is what I went for. I looked for hens and ducks but he didn't have any. Rabbits are not a substitute for hens and ducks. Rabbits don't lay eggs."
"You and your eggs. I hate eggs."
"I love your attitude. You're 12. Keep it up till you're 24 and your attitude is twice as bad and you'll be in jail. Keep it up till you're 36 and your attitude is three times as bad and I'm just lucky I'll be dead by then and not have to see you burned at the stake. Or burned as a steak, whichever comes first."
"Not even funny, dad. Stupid."
And then we came home, and she kept up the attitude while I got tomorrow morning's coffee ready and invited Sara and Italo and Marco over for burgers--MEDIUM RARE WITH LOTS OF BLOOD, which is currently outlawed in this state--with homemade coleslaw, good beans, broccoli, rice and an onion/cucumber/vinegar salad. I'll skip the rice but Italo and Marco will eat a pound apiece.
And then the phone rang and I asked Madeleina to get it because I was busy with chopping the garlic for the beans, and she said she couldnt' but handed it to me a moment after it stopped ringing.
I was waiting for several calls related to investigations so I called my call back and heard there was a call, punched in my code and was told there was one call. I pressed "1" and the call began: "Mr. Gorman....I'm a reader of yours, and I'm...forgive me, I need to cough...Oh, my, that's blood...that's not good...Mr. Gorman? Are you still there?"
The woman was maybe 80 and either had Tuburculosis or an autoimmune disease that was on the brink of killing her, or maybe she'd been gunshot in the belly. Her voice was tortured and I hoped she'd give me an address.
"I'm sorry, Mr. Gorman....I'm not feeling well....I need help and don't know where to turn...I'm turning to you...excuse me...I'm coughing up blood...I don't think I've ever felt this badly Mr. Gorman...I don't know where to turn...I'm sorry to bother you...I wish I had friends but I'm alone and I read your blog...I pay look like a caring man...and I'm alone and....oh my god, I'm sorry, what I must sound like, coughing like this...please forgive me..."
And then the phone went dead.
I sat there for three seconds.
I pressed the number to see the most recent numbers that had called. Her's was there but it was blocked.
How could i help, how could I call an ambulance if the number was blocked?
I tried redial but only got my daughter-in-law, who'd called prior to this woman.
I felt lousy.
I'm public. I may not be able to help but I'm supposed to try.
"Yes, dad?"
"I have a problem. I need help."
"Be there at the commercial."
"Okay, okay," she said, stomping into the room. "What's your problem?"
"A woman just called. She's sick. She's coughing up blood. She might be dying. She blocked her phone. How the freak am I supposed to get her number to call an ambulance?"
"Did she say, 'pardon me...I'm coughing up blood...I've never done that before...'"
And then Madeleina burst out laughing. Burst out and spit came flying from her laughter all over me. "I got you!!! I got the great Mr. Peter Gorman. The famous Mr. Peter GOrman!.....'I need help...I have no friends...I have no one to turn to....'"
Ah, Madeleina....You just uped the ante girl....You have no idea what short-sheeting is, or blood letters, or worms on your pillow, do you????? I'm gonna get you girl...It's only fair,....I am gonna get you.....

Sunday, March 28, 2010

So Many Things to Say

You know, I don't know about your lives but my life is very full. Fuller than I can stand a lot of the time. My book was due out a month ago. Illustrations weren't finished, the designer was headed to Peru and I'd just given it to my third editor to get some input. So I'm late. Today I spent 2 hours on the phone after several hours of going through the last editor's changes. She's good. She's been in the business for 30-40 years and still probably looks like I remember her as an occasional visitor to my apartment with her boyfriend in 1970-73 while we were in college. For those curious she was beautiful.
She is afraid I'll expose myself too much with this, or expose myself in ways that are not good: Talking about my kids drinking ayahuasca at 14 might go against me if there's ever a battle for Madeleina, for instance. She's right. But I'm not afraid of those challenges. Those are things that were part of my kids' lives. They were born in the Amazon and whether I ever met them or not they would have had ayahuasca by 14 anyway. So to me that's not the thing.
But there is a part of me that tells me publishing this book puts my ego way out there as someone who knows stuff. And the truth is that after 25 years straddling the US world and the Peruvian world, which includes shamanism on an every day level, I am still just a kid from Whitestone, New York. But I know this book will be the muscle to put me in the ranks of people who get paid a couple of grand to speak at seminars. I will be "the man". And I am. But I'm also just me, and I've wondered a million times whether I'm raising my kids properly, why my marriage fell apart, why I ain't perfect yet by a longshot.
And while I've given talks and seminars in the past, I was always just me. It wasn't me with a definitive book about my experiences that people can call me on. So now the ante gets upped. And that's nerveracking. Who the hell am I? Nobody. But the story is important because not many people have written about an active involvement with shamanism over the course of their adult lives. So it needs to be out there--not as something to prosthelityze (spelling? I dare you!!!)--but at the same time is likely to make some people want more of me than I know.
How am I gonna handle that?
I'm gonna try to just be me, full of flaws, full of fun, full of nonsense and not taking it too seriously. I think that's the most honest approach. Cause I don't know anything. I have no idea what all the work has taught me after all these years, or whether I wouldnt' have come to the same answers if I just watched a lot of television. Damn....this stuff is complicated. I wish I could say "I Learned THIS!" but I didn't. Or if I did, I don't know I did.
But I'm from New York. I'm still putting the book out. I guess I'll just have to wait and see where the damned chips fall.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Kuchinta, Where Are You?

There's going to be a note here that's semi-private at the bottom of this. Only Kuchinta needs to look at that.
For the rest of you, let me say that I got a note yesterday from a fellow I only knew once he got federal time for growing or possessing pot. It was maybe 1995 or 1996 and this guy, like a million others, wrote because he had a problem and was either going into prison or was in prison for pot. Well, I was the executive editor of High Times magazine at that time and I ran a column called Prisoner of War, and I'd run a profile on someone very unjustly in prison for non-violent pot growing/possession/sales, which to this day I can't believe we put people in prison for--though I understand that without marijuana there would be no legs for the war on drugs to stand on and the whole thing would collapse, putting GEO, Corrections Corp of America, CEC and all the other private prison operators out of business, spiraling our economy into a severe downturn.
So yesterday I get up at 5 AM and there's a letter from someone with the last name Prinze. Now I work with a fellow with that name, and then there was Freddy Prinze, but something struck me about the name. It was familiar without being familiar enough to recall.
I opened the email.
It was a letter from this guy who had been in touch with me 15 years ago at High Times. He'd written me, he said, to discuss the case of a fellow prisoner, a former mililtary guy, who got 6 months for a roach--the tail end of a joint. He didn't write to complain about his situation. He wrote to complain about this brave soldier getting half-a-year for a roach.
From his note, I guess I made the military guy a Prisoner of War profile. I forget. That's a long time ago to remember an 800 word piece.
But this guy was writing now, in 2010, to say that the story I did kept him and other pot prisoners in good spirits for years. He said it gave them a feeling that someone was watching them from the outside, and that was something special.
I read his letter and almost cried. We write anonoumosly, and we rarely hear back. Especially from guys in prison. So to have a guy or gal, once in a while--and there have been 10-20 over the year--say we kept their spirits up is very very satisfying.
Anyway, I thought that was a good thing. This guy who was doing years was looking out for someone doing 6 months. I salute that guy.
Now: Kuchinta: Your email is not working and I'm trying to invite you to a weekend here at the Gorman homestead for April 16. Pay attention and send me an email with an address that works, okay?

Been Gone So Long

Been gone so long it feels like forever. No excuses except these: I had a couple of stories to write, and did, had my computer decide I didn't need any form of internet, and so didn't--and don't still--and then took some time to figure out how to use my daughter Madeleina's. And then I got sick. For no excuses, that's quite a list, eh? But then it's me, right? And who the heck knows what's going on in my brain, or even if I have one...
Lots of good stories happened that would have made the blog if I was up and running these last 12 days. Like Madeleina walking home from school and coming on a dead raccoon that she says smelled so bad I had to wash her clothes. Or a gorgeous gorgeous ballet of a fight between Boots, the blind wonderdog and the Goat Guy. The goat guy would rear up on his hind legs, turn his body sideways and try to come down with his horns on Boots. Boots would rear up on his hind legs just in time to miss the blow, bare his fangs and make an inside move to to goat guy's belly while he was setting for another blow. They twisted, twirled, charged, retreated, danced and made the most beautiful music out of some imaginary turf war. Neither got hurt in the least and they remain friends, but what a sight to witness!
And that's all I got to report. But now that I'm up and running again, I'll be back soon.
And if anybody knows a few more people who want to join my June trip--either for the jungle, the mountains or both, that would be swell.
And if anybody knows anybody who still hasn't bought the book that's late but getting closer daily, well, tell em to fork over the $25 bucks on paypal on the site and let's keep that cooking.
Me? I'm headed to the dump with a load of garbage. Man, I was sick. It feels good to be better.
Hope all of you are feeling great!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

What's Cooking?

You guys don't know it but sometimes I sit down to write a piece four or five times and turn away without doing it. Wouldn't matter, wouldn't enhance your life or mine, would just be a waste of my time and an extraordinary waste of yours.
I've been wanting to write for a week but haven't. I was caught up in that cover story I told you about, and got that done Tuesday night about 8 PM, and we went to press and came out Wednesday and since then I've been going through my post-partum couple of days. If you want to see the story that was such a bear, look at and go to the cover story, Private Prisons, Public Pain. I think it may win an award or two next year, and I've noticed it's already been stolen by half dozen or more websites. It's a good story, worth reading to understand a little more about the America we live in today, as opposed to the America we studied in grammer school 30-40-50 years ago. Eisenhower had something to say about times like this in the late 1950s, when I was still a kid with sort of sandy blond hair and dimples.
I have forced myself to start a new story on the heels of that one: I've got a certain amount of cover stories and then inside features and then shorter pieces to deliver annually for my pay and as I'm going to be gone June and most of July to Peru, I need to accumulate enough that I don't lose my staff job. And the story I started on yesterday, a homeless story, is so freaking fantastic, so fraught with politics and NIMBY (Not In My Back Yard) feelings that it drips with cynicism. I am just the man for that sort of cow dung digging. I'll have that done in a week--of 14 hour days.
But money, money is an issue. I'm working as well as I ever have but I've lost a couple of publishers this year and that's left me with half a keel, meaning my financial boat be sinking. Doesn't matter what awards you win. Doesn't matter how many people are coming on trips to Peru in June and July, you can't touch that money. But my stinking bills--and they're probably less than yours--come to $2200 a month and it's a bitch to make that, without gas, cigarettes, whiskey, food, animal food, house repair or any treats for the kids or I, on a base salary of $880 monthly. Which is what I've got. It's like I'm the world's greatest juggler of nearly overdue bills.
Okay, forget that. Enough moaning.
But here's what I'm feeding the animals: Boots, the blind wonderdog, gets three huge, freshly roasted--I roast twice a week--chicken legs and half-a-pound of ribs daily. The goat gets goat food and 3 pounds of fresh herbs--picked up at the feed store--weekly. The chickens and ducks get a loaf of bread, half-dozen fresh tomatoes, three rotten bananas, chicken scratch (dried corn) and all left over veggies and veggie ends daily. The birds just get bird food and bird treats. The cats get chicken livers and cat food twice a day. I sautee about 5 pounds of chicken livers weekly.
Now, you have never tasted eggs like my few chickens produce. I don't care where you get them. If you are not feeding them garlic and onions and tomatoes and zuccini and corn and cauliflower and broccoli and all the don't even need to salt those babies when you boil them. WOW~
On the other hand, the other animals don't produce anything. Sometimes I just want to stick a fork into Boots to see what he tastes like after all that good meat. Or eat a cat to see what those livers have done to marbling their insides.
I won't. Promise. But I will admit to curiousity.
Given that, what am I eating tonight? I have always believed that dignified humans should have a good meal daily. One that takes time and care to prepare. I don't care if it's breakfast or a midnight snack, alone or with the family, but once a day, pay homage to the food that keeps you alive.
Tonight, my kids and Chepa, the wife/ex-wife, are all at a party for Danica, a 3 year old neice. Not my style of party, so I skipped. So I'm eating alone.
So I cooked some penne pasta, made a sauce of fresh garlic--lots--, olive oil, diced red onions--lots, diced tomatoes--lots, and salt and pepper. When it's near done I'll add fresh grated parmesan cheese--lots, and good butcher ground pepper, and when I mix it with the pasta I'll add diced mozzarella cheese.
To the sauce I'm going to add--already cooked and ready to go--fresh cauliflower, broccoli florets, zuccini, yellow squash and spinach. So it's gonna be a vegetarian pasta with tons of veggies.
And then I've got a 5 ounce piece of salmon. I'm gonna saute that with olive oil and garlic--not much garlic as the salmon, though skinless, still has a lot of fat.
And when it's about 3/4 done, I'm gonna take it out of the pan, dredge it in a chicken egg and bread it with roasted sesame seeds. Then I'm gonna put that fish in the oven for 5 minutes to let those seeds marry that fish flavor. And when I take it from the pan I'm gonna add a touch of sesame oil and teriyaki sauce, some fresh ginger and minced scallions I've got sitting in white vinegar, and I'm gonna pour that sauce over that fish and it's gonna be great.
A little Italian with a little Chinese/Japanese. Hope I don't get heartburn.
Now that's what I'm gonna have.
What would I really love to have? A fifth of good whiskey and a quart of high quality vanilla fudge ice cream. With freaking good nuts and real whipped cream.
Ah, well. The pasta and salmon will have to do.
I did not intend to write this post at all. I meant to write about Chepa plucking a chicken one of the hawks got but didn't kill and doing it in the kitchen sink and how fantastic she looked doing it--just like when I met her 18 years ago--but that post didn't come out, this one did. Hope you forgive me.
Have a good night, everybody.
Thanks for taking a look.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

Hard Work

Once in a while, I run into a story that I just can't tackle. Once in a while it feels like I'm back playing little league football and the coach puts me in at offensive tackle--whatever that meant--and tells me to block the biggest, fastest, strongest, meanest guy in Whitestone, New York, someone who outweighs me by 90 pounds, is three years older, a foot taller and a million times stronger. Plus, he knows what his position's name means.
And that's what I've been dealing with on my current story for a month. I can't tell you what it is until after we go to print, but boy, this has been a freaking bear. Why? Because partly, it's been told. And after some was told and printed, all the principals clammed up and won't talk to journalists anymore. Oh. But I am going to wrestle this thing to the ground. I am slowly crawling out from under, found sources, connected dots no one else connected and I am, by Tuesday night, when we got to press, going to kick ass on this beast.
Hard work, but that's what makes me strong. And my editor, freaking brilliant, is telling me I don't have it yet. I don't have anything worth printing. She's pushing me and pushing me and I've written and rewritten and made more phone calls and spent hours and hours finding, unearthing, and reading hundreds of pages of documents connected to this after I thought it was done. She's a very good editor and she wants the best stories. And I'm proud to work for her, even though I hate getting emails that tell me "We are in serious trouble here..." because I take them seriously. With other mags you would just laugh it off. With this editor, with the respect she commands and deserves, you're forced to put in another 60 hours.
And that generally pays off.
I think I caught the tiger today.
I'll find out tomorrow when I double check what I found. And If I'm right, I'll make the changes and send it off and she'll tell me I'm closer but not there, and then I'll do another 30 hours on it, till Tuesday at 8 PM when it either goes to press or we print blank pages. And I have never let a magazine down with blank pages. Do that once and you are out of the business.
So thanks boss, for kicking ass. Thanks for pushing. Thanks for the whip. I don't like any of it but know I sometimes need it.
I'm gonna take a good piece tomorrow morning at 5 AM and do some freaking magic. And then the whip will stop.
I love the pressure to be good. Makes me feel alive.

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

On the Other Hand....

Well, I had one of those days where I had a bout of wishing my ex would still love me and shine her light on me-which ain't really gonna happen--when in came Madeleina, announcing that the door on the chicken coop is breaking and where are some nails she can use? I point her to the nails and a hammer and the next thing I see is her trying to carry 50 lbs of chicken scratch--dried corn--from my truck to the big pail it belongs in on the porch. She was struggling so I took it and tossed it on my right shoulder.
"But dad! You've had a hernia and a busted intestine and three major stomach operations! You should let me do that..."
"When I'm dead, girl. Just get the knife and cut the bag while I hold it over the barrel."
"So, you're missing mom again, aren't you?"
She can read me like a book.
"So you have to show me how strong you are...I am not going to tell mom you are strong. You got that?"
If she wasn't so smart, so right, so freaking perfect, you'd want her to disappear, right? But she is, on all counts...
"Baby. I'm just feeding the freaking chickens. That's all."
"Sure dad."
And all I could do was laugh at myself. What a crazy mixed up guy I am. So smart, so dumb, so enlightened, if only I could find the light switch....yup, that's me...the guy with no batteries in his flashlight...
So okay, I'm busted. I busted myself in the last entry, and Madeleina busted me in this one.
But then I heard the sound of hammering. She was really trying to fix the chicken coop door where it's been cracked and is weakening to the weather.
What a fine sound to hear one of your kids taking care of business.
I'll check tomorrow to see if she did it properly. But whether she did or not doesn't matter. She took the bull by the horns and tried to fix it. And that's the definition of a kid doing well. I think.
Okay, so I'm in love with my kid, my ex, my goat, my dog, the chickens--we're using their eggs to make chocolate mousse tonight, which we will have after the salmon and mussels--and I'm in love with my grandbaby and my boys and Sarah.....hell, except for feeling sorry for myself I'm pretty much in love with everything.