Thursday, April 29, 2010

Trip's Coming Along

Well, the trip is coming along. I don't know why but it's always murder. Fer instance: I'm buying tickets for seven guests and my daughter and I on a train from Ollaltaytambo to Aguas Calientes, at the foot of Machu Picchu. You would think you go to Peru Rail and enter the pertinent info for each passenger and give them a credit card and it's done. Half-an-hour, tops.
HA! I've spent more than 30 hours (aggregate) trying to get those tickets and while I've given PeruRail over $1000, I still don't have tickets.
First, they have to tell you they can't process.
Then they do that again.
And again.
And again.
Each time is 30 minutes of inputting info.
Then they tell you okay.
The next day they write back that it's all rejected.
That happened maybe 6, 7 times.
Then they changed the numbers on the trains so I had to do it again.
Then they altered the times by 3 minutes so I had to do it again.
Then yesterday they said the computers lost all info, please input again, for 9 people.
Today they wrote that there may not be trains that day, at least from where I'm leaving with my group.
I'm gonna go New York and start punching people, right? Or at least saying: "What the fucK? You want me to get serious here?
I want you serious or I'm gonna get very serious and if I get fukkiin serious, your children are not gonna freakin eat till I get my fuggin tickets. Problem? Please. Cause I would love a freaking problem right about now...."
You wouldn't want me to get that far, cause that's where I'm past conversation.
But Peru can push you there.
I just purchased tickets, over the last month, for all the internal flights for my guests in June. Each on the first trip has four internal flights.
Today all the flights were canceled and I was called and told, "Your guests are being scattered around. Some will arrive back in Lima on the 17th of June, some on the 21. That's the way it is.
OY VEY! Three hours on the phone and a fairly sizeable bribe and all my guests, as well as Madeleina and I, are back on the same flights. Not good times, but at least we'll all stay together.
This has been going on for two, three hours a day for two months.
This is the first trip where I took some of the guests' money and said: "This is my pay for two months of pre-trip work." I've never done that before and felt like a thief at first, but now that I'm maybe 140 hours into it--securing my team, getting boat cabins, renting hotels in 3 cities, securing a good healer to work with us when we need him, arranging for the train and for 8 ceremonies, sending 2 tons of water and gasoline and kerosene up the river, paying for a breached birth by one of my crew's wives....well, I don't feel guilty anymore. I hired a lawyer today for a simple matter and he charges me $350 an hour. I took $20 an hour to do the pre trip work. Catholic I am, but I deserve it. I spent all day today just getting my med kit up to speed. That means paying doctors for 4 different antibiotics that I had no prescription for and so forth. You have any idea what buying a nice meal in Dallas for a doc and his wife, with wine, costs? But I need those antibiotics. Just like I need lip balm and bandaids. If something goes wrong, I need to solve it. I need to have good stitching equipment, I need a few good scalpels if I need to do an emergency appendectomy (looking forward to that, though slightly nervous), or so forth. And I have stitched up maybe 40 people in the jungle so far, including myself three times. So I need this stuff.
But the reality is that I've spent more than 40 hours a week for more than three weeks getting it done. And I will spend another 40 hours finishing it.
Leading the trip is fun. I get to talk, tell stories, show people marvelous things, have my team blow my guests' minds with their understanding of the jungle. That's 24/7 work, no doubt, and I should earn 10 X what I get. But that's fun. I love that part.
This part, dealing with Peru's trains and hotels and riverboats....that's hard.
Still...I'm almost done. And that means in two or three days I'm ready to go. My med kit is only missing three large rolls of gaffer tape. I got the rest.
So HA! We're moving! Sludge-like, but still moving.
For those of you who are coming, I'll see you in June or July. This is gonna be one hell of a trip, twice.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Feeling Bad for Marco

A year ago this time, my son Marco had just won his second award at Brookshires, a huge grocery store chain here in Texas and maybe elsewhere. He won "Bagger of the Year" at the Texas Motor Speedway, which is also very big here. He was grogery manager at his store, one of the real flagships of the company, was 22 and earning about $12 and change before overtime, with a 401k and medical/dental. I'd bought a 2002 KIA for him and he'd paid back the $4300 in less than a year so it was clear title that I kept only for insurance purposes, which they somehow allow in Texas. He was in love with Carly and going to get married. She wad entering the Marines and he was entering the Air Force.
That was never my dream but it was his. And I support him and will support his dreams forever.
Then Carly thought she was too young for marriage and left him. Then two months ago he called his boss the "n" word, and even though Marco is 1/4 black--his grandpa and grandma were both children of mixed marriages in the Amazon between indigenous and African slaves--he lost his job over it.
Two weeks ago he was leaving a music venue in Dallas when a "red pickup" smashed the front of his Kia then fled, leaving it useless.
Last week, after having scored 65 out of 70 the Air Force placement test--the top 3 percentile--it was discovered that his right ear has a probem. It can't hear the lower base register. I never knew that and no other hearing test ever showed it. Dammit. But they rejected him on the grounds that if there was a sonic blast, he might lose all hearing in the right hear. Which would render him useless for the Air Force.
So last year he was in love, gonna get married, join the Air Force and was a rising star at Brookshires.
In the last half-year he's lost all that.
I've talked to him and tried to explain that having the right tools doesn't translate to success. Or that losing you position translates to failure. Carly is still great but young. His choice for his white boss was a bad choice. His car getting hit by a drunk driver is luck of the draw, and who the heck ever thought the Air Force would say 90 percent hearing isn't good enough?
But he's depressed. He's not doing much but playing video games, borrowing one of my trucks, not going anywhere. I don't want to push. It takes time to reassess your life, a life that was going good but is now all fucked up and you don't think you did anything to precipitate the change.
I love him. I'm feeling for him. But I know that sooner or later you have to grab your balls to see if you have any. Like when we moved to Texas and I was out of work and finally went to the Day Labor Center. That was humiliating but kept me going somewhere at 6 AM. And while I didn't get much work in my five weeks there, at least I came away with an award winning story which found me a new regular place to print my stories.
So Marco, here's my prayer for you: Grab your balls, say hello to the world. They can take it all in a moment but you are strong enough to take your share back. Look for the angles. Look around the corners. Don't loll in defeat, look for the opening as if you were in a fight: The guy who covers his face leaves his gut open. Hit the gut. Win in a surprising fashion. I am your dad and I love you and believe in your strength and versatility and ability to come back from being down on points. You are my son and you have the guts to deal with a bad hand. You've been watching me do that for years. You've learned. You can do it. You are fantastic. Never doubt that.
Go out and start swinging. That way you've got a puncher's chance.
And punchers win a lot.

Well, Book's Done Again

Well, the book that was done, finished, complete, in early February or so, has since been through the hands of three editors. Each one had a few large suggestions and each one made a couple of hundred or more little changes. Colons to periods. Accents on Spanish words. Misspellings.
So in between regular work, I think it's been polished up a great deal in the last three months. And the illustrations are lovely.
Yesterday I turned it in to the Johan, the art director. Far as I'm concerned, it's a done deal. For the second time.
And now I'm excited.
We're figuring out where to place the illustrations.
We're figuring out which 8-10 photos might be nice for the back of the book. Just a tiny photo section.
We'll have that done today, I think.
Then we'll have a proof copy or two made, and I think that will happen by the end of next week.
We'll fix what needs to be fixed.
We'll do our best to get it as right as it can be.
And then I'll pull the trigger and get it out.
And we'll see if it was worth it by what the people who read it have to say.
I'm nervous.
I'm so nervous I'm writing this while the coffee is still brewing.
I hope people don't come demanding their money back. "Hey, Gorman! This sucks! This sucks so bad I'm gonna burn your house down with it!!!!"
Well, that would be a pretty radical view: Not a book burning but a burning by book.
You know what? I'm printing it. And I'm gonna do my best to get it out there. I think it's pretty good.
And if it ain't. Ah, well. Then I'm wrong. Won't be the first time.
Won't be the last.
Wish me luck.

Friday, April 23, 2010

The Most Wonderful Mess

Here I am, Friday night, 7:01 PM and I'm sitting in the most wonderful mess in the world. Chepa and Sierra and Alexa and Madeleina just left. And they left with enough food to feed Marco, Italo, Sara and by proxy, my granddaughter, Taylor.
They came over today to see the new ducks after Madeleina's school. it was Chepa's week with Madeleina but we bought three new ducks, just two days old, last Saturday, and Madeleina has had them in what used to be Marco's room. I went in there a couple of days ago and nearly killed myself stepping on chicken bones, wet bread, seeds and so forth that Madeleina had filled the room with for the baby ducks because, as she said, "They're too young to go out and stay with the big ones."
And then three days ago, with them having bonded to Madeleina as a mom, she was walking to feed the goat when the goat made something of a sudden move, making Madeleina change her path and she stepped on one of the baby ducks.
She came in screaming, in pain, begging me to kill it quickly to put it out of its misery.
I called on all the shaman helpers I know and asked the to breathe iife back into it if it had any left and damn if the baby duck, ostensibly dead, didn't sit up and start crying. We fed it water and food and Madeleina went home with Chepa that night with me saying there was no way I would kill the duck as it wasn't dead.
At three that morning, I looked in on it and she was fine, getting better, drinking water.
At five the same thing.
But at 6:30 AM I discovered that she'd turned herself over onto her crushed side and the weight was too much for her and she'd died. So I buried her and when Madeleina heard of it she cried for an hour publicly and is still crying now, a few days later. I tried to explain that infant mortality was why so many animals have 20-30-50 babies at a time--just hoping one can make it from the group--but that didn't reduce the pain she felt from stepping on one.
Today, Chepa came over with the kids so that Madeleina could play with the two remaining baby ducks and feed all the other animals. They'd planned on going to the movies at 6 PM but I bribed them with the thought of fried chicken and fresh cucumber, tomato and onion salad with good basmati rice and spinach in garlic--along with a promise to kick in $25 to the movie outing tomorrow--and they stayed.
And that was magical. The girls, Sierra and Alexa, have decided that my house is a library and each day give me 50 or so books to take out. They pile them up on the ground from my shelves and insist I read a little to them. There are classics, mysteries, how to books, shakespeare, sherlock holmes, childrens' books, books I've written essays for....maybe two thousand here and they can't ever bring me enough.
And then they played with the baby ducks in the pool of poisonous rainwater in the driveway and both Sierra and Alexa doffed their clothes after they were wet, and Madeleina changed into pajamas and Chepa took them home and now I'm alone and sad and looking at a kitchen that looks like Sierra, Madeleina, Chepa and Alexa just ran through it as an aggregate hurricaine and there are pots and plates and grease stains everywhere. And in the living room the rug has been turned into the covering of a clubhouse, the essential component of which is my old rocking chair. And all I can do is say THANKS, GOD, for bringing these crazy creatures into my life!!!!! What little price it is to pay to have to spend an hour cleaning up for every hour they are here? That's nothing!!!!
Not that I'll clean tonight. OR tomorrow morning. But I will get to it in the interest of cleanliness in the next day or so and until then I will simply be in love with those crazy girls. Absolutely in love with them and their stinking mess.
That's the way love is, I think. Who can think of a mess when you got hugged to your soul on the way out. And I got that, so I think I'm way ahead, eh?

Book Tease

Okay, someone asked me for a short bit from the book to publish in a series they're doing on ayahuasca. So, going through the changes made by the last editor---and getting thisclose to going to print--I selected this short bit. It's got a different opening on it than it does in the book, but I hope it will be a good tease for those who already bought the book and a good read for everybody. It's a chapter in the first section.

Magic Darts and the World of the Dead

By Peter Gorman

I started traveling to Peru and had my first ayahuasca experience in 1984. I returned in 1985 to begin jungle survival training with a former Peruvian military jungle specialist named Moises Torres Vienna, his son Junior and an associate, Mauro. Moises introduced me to the man who became my healer and great friend, Julio Jerena. Julio was an elderly curandero who lived on the Aucayacu River, about 200 kms upriver from Iquitos. At the time it was a pretty isolated place. For me it was worth the trouble to get there because spending time with Julio was always fascinating. His knowledge of jungle medicines, his compassion, his simple life as a fisherman never failed to impart important lessons to me. I simply loved being with him and his family.
This particular story took place in 1988. At the time, I hadn’t drunk ayahuasca since 1986, when I’d had a very powerful experience of associating with a large snake. In the year and a half since that experience, I made several trips to the Aucayacu during which I didn’t use ayahuasca. Not that part of me didn’t want to, it was simply too powerful to use unnecessarily. I still didn’t understand the concept of talking with plants or communicating with the spirit world, but I’d lost what remained of my skepticism and knew that it was not something to be played with. When the appropriate time came for me to use it again, I would know it.
That time came in the summer of 1988. I’d taken a long jungle trip—one that saw us walk across the Peruvian jungle to the Yivari River, the border between Brazil and Peru—with Moises that had ended with a three-day ferry ride from Leticia, Colombia, back to Iquitos. Among the people onboard was a Peruvian named Roberto whom I’d known off and on for years. As his game was bilking tourists for phony environmental causes and I was a tourist, we weren’t close. Still, we talked occasionally.
“Hello, Peter,” he said when we both found ourselves at the ferry’s refreshment stand. “Have you done any ayahuasca lately?”
“There’s a fantastic curandero now living in Pevas you should see. I’ve taken lots of tourists. What visions they have! Much better than that old man you see. Maybe I’ll take you.”
“Thanks, Roberto. No need.”
“Well, then, have you heard about the ayahuasquero fight?”
“You probably don’t know anything about them.” He went on to explain that many ayahuasqueros used their spirit connections to accumulate personal power or wealth, frequently by making bad things happen to people at the behest of their enemies—what is called brujeria. The brujeria needed to be countered by a curandero working for the good, which supposedly led to great battles between good and evil ayahuasqueros. Those battles were said to be fought with invisible arrows called virotés, which could inflict great physical harm or even death. I’d heard something about those battles somewhere but had never believed they were taken seriously. Not that the idea of witchcraft seemed improbable, it just seemed more complicated than necessary.
“Well,” Roberto said, drinking a beer I’d bought him in exchange for his story. “One ayahuasquero in Santa Clara has been slowly poisoning another in Iquitos. Very well done. By the time the man in Iquitos realized his illness came from virotés it was almost too late. Fortunately, one of his sons has been studying with him and now he too is in the fight. Everyone says that all three of them will be dead before long. Now that’s a story, eh?”
While I acted skeptical at the time, when we reached Iquitos I made plans to see Julio to ask him about this aspect of the medicine. I had no real intention of asking him to make ayahuasca for me, but while I was still in Iquitos I had a dream which changed my mind. It was about my father, Tom, who had been dead for nearly 16 years at that time. In the dream he told me that he could no longer see my mother—also dead several years—and asked me to find her and find out why. It was an eerie dream and I decided to use ayahuasca to try to discover what it meant. I don’t know what I expected, or whether it was just an excuse to use ayahuasca again, but it made sense to me that that was what I should do.
I brought along a friend from Iquitos who had never been to the Aucayacu, and at the last minute discovered that Moises had found four tourists who would also be going. Junior and Mauro would be accompanying them—Moises did not come—which made our party enormous. Worse, when Moises learned that my friend, Jarli, and I were planning to use ayahasca, he immediately sold the idea to his group.
Despite the size of our party, the time we spent on the little river was glorious. Mauro and Junior took care of Moises’ gang, while Jarli and I were left to our own devices. I was saddened to learn that Salis, Julio’s apprentice, had been killed in a dispute with a Matses man, one of Papa Viejo’s sons. It seems that Salis had been recruited by one of the big tour companies operating out of Iquitos to offer ayahuasca once a week to large groups at a camp just outside the city. It had evidently gone to his head that he was important and when back on the little Aucayacu he took advantage of his position and money to seduce some of the women there. Among them was a young Matses woman, the main wife of a Matses man named Antonio, who, like Salis, had been my friend for a couple of years. The seduction occurred while Antonio was out in the jungle hunting for a few days. When he returned and was told of it he’d put a shotgun to Salis’ belly and fired, then headed off with his wives and children to Brazil.

When I raised the subject of the invisible arrows with Julio he was at first reluctant to discuss it. And even when he finally agreed he prefaced his remarks with the comment that I wouldn’t really understand what he was talking about.
“This is not something for people to talk about,” he said, “so I won’t say too much. You ask if there are spirit arrows. Of course. When I was younger and still in Pucallpa there was a brujo there who hated me. At first he used them on my house and chickens. I would come home from fishing and find everything in disarray, or some chickens dead. Healthy chickens he killed with his invisible arrows.
“And then he began to use them on me. One day I could no longer walk. I stood at my table and just fell over.”
“What happened?” I asked.
“When I could walk again I went into the woods to talk with the plants. I didn’t know what else to do. I really thought he was going to kill me. There I found this.” He took out a small stone axe-head. It was very old and perfectly crafted. I’d seen it before but didn’t know anything about it. “This from the Incas, the ancients,” he said. “It has a lot of power. It saved me from that brujo.”
He stared at me to see if I understood. I didn’t.
“I said you wouldn’t understand. Look. Ayahuasca is a strong medicine. That is why we call the four colors in our song: red, green, white and black. Each represents a different kind of magic. Some people practice all of them. But if you concentrate only on one there is no balance and the magic can take you over. Some people fall in love with money, or power or women. All different things. But they do not control the magic that brings those things, the magic controls them. Entiendes? Understand?”
Again I shook my head.
“Ah, Pedrito…Everything has a spirit. This house, these trees, the river, the fish in the river. Ayahuasca helps you reach those spirits. But when people learn to work with those spirits there is a temptation to forget that they are only the doctor, not the medicine, and they lose their balance. They are they ones to watch out for. Muy peligroso. Very Dangerous. They are drunk with power.”
I’d never heard Julio speak so much, and though I knew I’d missed a great deal of detail with my weak translation, I was thrilled. I still didn’t really understand the concept of virotés, but I didn’t press him further.
Before I left I asked if he would make ayahuasca the following night. He asked for how many and then why. I told him about my dream.
“You’ll have to go to the world of the dead,” he said. “Muy lejos. Very far. I’ll make it strong.” He said it plainly, as though it wasn’t much different than taking the ferry to Iquitos.
By dawn we could hear the sound of Julio chopping wood for the ayahuasca fire and that evening at eight our whole group set off on the short walk from the small house to Julio’s. All but Junior and Mauro sat in the circle around the blue plastic sheeting on the porch. We sat quietly for an hour before Julio brought out the ayahuasca, began to chant, then passed the gourd.
I had spoken to the others about what they might expect but as they drank they were on their own. When the gourd reached me I almost choked getting the ayahuasca down. It was thick and still warm, burnt grapefruit and dank smoke. I knew I would vomit easily and soon.
Julio’s chanting was clear and strong, the tunes something I always forgot, until the moment I heard the first notes again. I suddenly leaned for the edge of the platform to retch. Violent empty bursts swelled and pulled deeply from within me. In the back of my head I could hear the words Julio sang, “Limpia, limpia, cuerpocito, cuerpocito…” urging my body to cleanse itself. Over and over my stomach contracted tumultuously. The sounds seemed to come from a far place, echoing from across the river, water cascading onto stone. I’d never felt that kind of power course through my body, and though I was utterly helpless I felt fantastically strong.
When my stomach settled I closed my eyes. All around me were insects, visions of marching insects crawling over me, alternately tickling and annoying. As in a movie, the insect wings became the scales on a boa so broad and long I could only see a small portion of it at one time. It was undulating gently, slowly. In the black pitch of its scales glinted a hundred hues of red and blue. I was mesmerized. It turned its head to me and flicked its tongue. Its eyes, almost as large as the scope of my vision, were a fine black and yellow. Its underbelly was strong and white.
In an instant it changed its size to normal dimensions and we moved underwater. Eels and boas swam gracefully amid rocks. I followed their motion and tried to swim with them. I was awkward and ungainly and they ignored me.
The sound of vomiting brought me back to the porch. One of the others, a British fellow named Mark, was leaning over the platform’s edge and retching violently. He tried to stand and I reached to calm him. He told me he was about to shit; I tried to help him but could hardly find my own footing and called to Junior to lend a hand. One of the others was beginning to get ill as well.
I closed my eyes again and thought about the dream I’d had. Suddenly I felt myself moving. I wasn’t with the snake and I wasn’t flying. I don’t know how to describe it except to say that perhaps I was still and the world was rushing past me. In moments I was surrounded by darkness. More than that I was hurtling through a kind of vacuum with no body, no sensations. I don’t know how long I continued but I suddenly found myself stopping abruptly at a sort of white wall. It wasn’t a solid wall, but it wasn’t passable either—like a wall of gauze or clouds. I sensed that it was the wall to the world of the dead. Even as I admitted that thought, it seemed preposterous and I began to scratch at it. It fell away like fog in my hands, but however much I tore at it I didn’t get through and suspected that I would never get through no matter how long I tried.
I began to call out to my mother while I worked. After some time had passed a figure began to appear on the other side of the wall, just out of reach. Not really on the other side of the wall, but coming together from the stuff of the wall itself, recognizable but as flimsy as the ether. It was my mother. I watched her for a long time, then said hello and told her why I’d come. I expected her to smile but she didn’t.
“Hello, Peter,” she said, finally. “It’s good to see you but you have to stop calling me like this. It’s hard to come together in a shape you can recognize as me.”
“Where are you?” I asked. “What are you doing?”
“It’s not something you could understand. Things are different here. I’m not your mother anymore, but you won’t understand until you get to this place.”
A feeling of abandonment like I’d never known washed over me. “What place? What do you mean you’re not my mother anymore?”
“I’m doing something else now.”
“But what about Tom? Why can’t he see you anymore?”
“Don’t worry about Tom. That was just a dream you had. When it’s time for us to be together we will be, but you needn’t worry about him. Or me either. Things are good here. Trust me.” Her voice began to grow heavy, as if talking was a strain. “Just know that I love you and the gang and I always will. But don’t call me. It’s just too difficult and I’m doing something else now. If you really need me I’ll come, but you can’t just call me like this or in your dreams anymore. I love you, kiddo.”
She began to disappear back into the gauze and I was back on the porch, crying, wondering whether I’d really seen what I’d seen. In all the reaches of my imagination I couldn’t have conceived of her saying what she’d said when she first appeared. But I knew it was crazy to think I’d gone to the world of the dead, if such a place even existed.
I sat on the porch, confused, angry, abandoned, unable to distinguish one reality from the other, the dreams from the visions. And then Julio’s song caught me, and I was a snake. I was not traveling with a snake. I didn’t see a snake. I simply knew I was a snake, or that the snakeness in me had come out for a time. It was fun, sensual. I invited the mosquitoes and other insects to land on me, watched them with flat eyes, then ate them. Mark began to trip up the notched ladder back to the porch, reeling in a spooky windmill motion, his great scarecrow arms and legs nearly disconnected from his body. I had to stop myself from grinning at him like easy prey.
Suddenly everyone was vomiting at once and there was moaning and groaning. It was not good vomiting, it was sick vomiting and I found out later that nearly everyone had ignored my request that they not eat past breakfast. One of the tourists kept saying he couldn’t breathe and was going to die. I tried to calm him down, to breathe with him. Two of us had to carry him back to the small house and sit up with him all night.
The next day I washed in the river early, and though I was weak and still upset from my encounter the night before, I knew I was well. I noted that I couldn’t find any bites from the insects, though I know I felt them all over me. Either I had just been hallucinating them or I ate more than I remembered.
Later that day I returned to Julio’s to thank him. I brought some presents of salt, sugar, batteries and money. He asked if everyone was alright. I assured him they were.

When we returned to Iquitos two days later, Moises was waiting for us at the top of the steep muddy hill that served as the ferry dock. After he got his group settled back in their hotel, he came to my room.
“The old curandera, Maria, asked me to give you these,” he said, handing me a packet of hand-sized, oval leaves wrapped in newspaper. They were datura leaves, used for making toé, a very powerful medicine, one that I knew a little about but had never used.
“She said to tell you to put one leaf behind your head and one leaf on your forehead just before sleeping. Then crumble a third leaf, make a cigarette and smoke it.”
“What for?”
“She says it will help you dream. You will be able to dream who has stolen your things and where they have hidden them.”
It was a surprising suggestion and one I didn’t give much thought to until I returned to New York some days later to find that my apartment had just been robbed. I called Moises and asked him what else Maria had told him.
“Nothing,” he said.
“But why did she give you the leaves for me?”
“I thought you’d asked her for them.”
I told him I hadn’t and he said he’d ask her when next they met. He called me two weeks later.
“She says she was thinking of you one night while using ayahuasca and saw a house in a big city that was a shambles. She thought it must have been yours and that’s why she gave you the leaves. Have you used them yet?”
“No,” I answered. I had thought about using them but didn’t know what was to be gained. The burglary had happened days earlier and my things had long since been sold. More importantly, the idea of datura frightened me, especially since its use would be unsupervised. It was sometimes the called “the wind that blows you over the edge of the world.”
“But thank Maria for me,” I said. “And tell her the vision was true. Tell her I still have them, in case it happens again.”
Thinking about Maria’s true vision, and unable to forget what my mother had told me, I began to make a mental list of the things I could have imagined my mom telling me if I met her this many years after she died.
No matter what I came up with, I could not imagine that she would have talked about it being difficult to come together in a shape I could recognize as her. It simply wasn’t a thought of mine and it wasn’t a thought I could imagine her having. It wasn’t something I’d seen in a movie or read in a book, and if I’d had endless paper and endless time and wrote down a list of 10,000 things my mother might say on my meeting her after she died, that would not have been on it. When I realized that I realized I knew the difference between a real vision and an hallucination. I had a workable way to think about it, anyway. If something wasn’t on a list of 10,000 possibilities, it was probably a vision.
---From Ayahuasca in My Blood—25 Years of Medicine Dreaming by Peter Gorman to be published in May, 2010. For more information, go to

Monday, April 19, 2010

Off and Running

So here it is, late mid-April and I'm temporarily caught up on work. Got stories due but not for another two or three weeks, so I'm off and running on putting the finishing touches on the book and then baby, it's out of my hands and out of here. I think I can decide on which changes suggested by the last editor to incorporate and which to ignore and get it all done by Sunday. Ain't that grand?
And wasn't it grand that a couple of former guests of mine in the jungle, now friends, popped in this weekend for ceremony. That was thick and rich and deep and wonderful, I think. Thanks for coming.
And isn't Madeleina wild about the new baby ducks we got? They were only two days old when we bought them and she was afraid to leave them in the chicken coop with the older ducks and chickens, so they're in here, in the house, in what was Marco's room--and will be again if he decides to move back. But for now it's the guest room and I guess Madeleina considers the ducks our new guests. They, on the other hand, consider her mom, and follow her everywhere and chirp like mad when she's not in the room. They've been going wild all day since she went to school, and won't quiet down till she gets back. Good for her. She's just more fantastic daily. I mean, it rained like crazy here and she was sure she had to teach them how to drink, so she got into the big puddle in the driveway, on her hands and knees, and bent over and lapped up the water: Moments later the ducks followed suit. I'm not sure they wouldn't have known what to do instinctively, but it sure is a blast to watch her at her unabashed best.
And Sierra and Alexa have been over. Sierra, in fact, called this morning at about 11 AM to say: "Mr. P Garman? It's time to bring the donuts. Alexa wants chocolate and I want vanilla. Don't be late because that donut store closes soon. So hurry up."
Which of course I did. And wasn't it worth it? Got to play with them, hug my kid Italo, hold my granddaughter and sing to her, got my truck back from Chepa--she'd borrowed it for an hour three days ago--and managed to get several of my bowls and a hammer that somehow magically disappeared from my house and rematerialized at hers over the last couple of weeks.
And tonight they're all coming over for mussels and Chepa, who's never cooked mussels, is insisting on cooking them. Okay by me. I love other people's cooking. Even better, I love other people's dishwashing, though that's not in the cards tonight, I'm sure.
And another of my June guests got their payment into me--not a new one, they'd already given me a deposit, but it's still nice when you get the whole fee, especially when you've laid out for hotels, trains, boat cabins and so forth.
So ain't this been a pretty fantastic couple of days! Now, if I can just get good and snarly drunk later and ruin everything, well, that will make it all perfect. HA! HOW ABOUT NOT? How about not being so freaked out that Chepa is here and close and probably grabbing my butt but I can't grab back that I have to get just a little too high to keep things cool. How bout you grow up on that one, Gorman? Hell, you're nearly 60 for chrissake!
Okay, okay, I'll try.
But damn, it's not easy. And lately, with how she's been looking and acting, it's been fairly unbearable. Ah, well, if she ever came back I'd probably be so freaked out I'd go right back to doing drugs to push her away. HA! Just what I need, eh?
Nuff of this psychiatry by blog. Let's get on with the day, shall we?
Yes, I mean both me and you. Or You and I. Or however you want to say it, back to work everybody...

Monday, April 12, 2010

Just Saying Thanks....

I'm sitting here, just come in from feeding the chickens and ducks and goat and Boots the blind wonderdog and the cats and the birds and I was just thinking, Thanks. Universe, you've been really good to me. So Thanks. Not that I'm flying high. I'm living on about $30 grand a year before expenses. I'm paying for my house, the kids when they need it, several thousand to Chepa, the wife/ex-wife when she runs short, Madeleina, and so forth. Last year it included Marco, Italo and Sara as well, but not so much now. Still, when I realized I was out of chicken feed, I went to the cupboard and got a large can of beans to add. And then, as strawberries were $1 buck a pint yesterday--perfect, even if genetically mutated--and I'd bought several pints I had no chance of using, I added a pint of strawberries to their food. Then a cheap loaf of bread ($0.94, I think) that they love, and a couple of quickly boiled potatoes and the left over macaroni salad from Madeleina's birthday party.
See what I'm getting at? I was just looking at the trees and run off creek and knew I had 5 pounds of chicken legs--$3.50--for Boots' food for today and tomorrow in the oven, had plenty of cat and bird food, and the goat just got a new 50lb bag. So I'm just thinking, thanks, god. Thanks white light. Thanks universe. Thanks big bang. I got nothing. I got plenty of nothing. But I got enough to keep the chickens giving me eggs. And I got 3/4 of a great meatloaf I made yesterday to feed anybody who comes over tonight. And I've got a red pepper in garlic on the stove and next to it draining fresh spinach, cauliflower, broccole and green beans. I've got hamburger meat in the fridge for emergency, and $50 in my pocket. It's not a whole lot, I know. But it was enough to give Madeleina a good birthday Friday. And it's enough to give a few out of town friends coming in this weekend a pretty good time. And it's enough to feed Marco if he sneaks in at 1 AM to raid the fridge, which he often does.
And at the same time I'm writing a story about kids whose parents need church handout for clothes, food, toiletries. And I'm glad the churches around here can do that. I hope I do my part, when I can. But I know I'm one of the lucky ones. My kids never have worried about eating. Not once. I mean, sometimes it wasn't great. Sometimes it was repetitive when we were making $5 grand a year, and $30 isn't a whole lot more than $5 in the real world. But still. my animals and kids and Chepa and her babies all eat.
So I just felt like saying Thanks.
And I hope you will all forgive me for making you spend your time listening to that.
But at the same time, I hope you get the same shot of fantastic yellow electricity running up your spine, through your hair and down your legs as I did when I realized: Oh, my goodness. Everybody is eating well again. THANKS UNIVERSE!!!!!!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Oy Vey! Verklempt Again Because of the Rambling of a Shmuck

You know, every person in New York knows 20-30-40 Yiddish words. Oy Vey--Oh, my...; Smaltz: chicken fat you save and then spread on bread. Shmata: Rags. Verklempt (Faklempt, farklempt) left speechless; meshugganer: crazy person; Shmuck: Idiot.
We sprinkle them into our daily routine, even us Irish Catholics. As do the African Americans, the Puerto Ricans and the Baptists. It gives us another level of expression. Just as we all know 20 words of French and Spanish and Greek. It's what lends New York speech such color.
Here in Texas, I've found some people who understand colorful speech. Who understand that there are better words at hand sometimes than what the English language offers, words that most people understand even if they can't define them.
Today, I was verklempt over the loudmouthed ear-bully shmuck at the next table. I was interviewing a woman who'd just had her house repossessed, less than $10 grand from finishing payments, and she was lost. I was interviewing her with a person from LULAC, the Latin American Citizens group out here that is trying to keep the playing field level for Latin Americn citizens who so often get the short straw.
Our conversation was primarily in Spanish, because that's what the woman was most comfortable with. She's been here 20 years, speaks English haltingly, but not well enough to express emotions. And when you're asking someone about having lost their home, it's 10% fact; 90% emotion. So Spanish it was.
We were in a little place called the Waffle House. It's a breakfast joint like a Denny's, where you can get pancakes and waffles all day, or fried chicken or chicken fried steak--which, after 8 years here in Texas I can't quite describe. Essentially a very cheap cut of steak, pounded by a meat hammer into submission, coated in 1/2 inch of batter, fried, then covered in sausage-seasoned white cream gravy. It's not a bad dish, other than that it will give you a heart attact at age 12 if you eat it often--it's just a strange one as the meat is the meaningless part of things.
Anyway.....I'm there and at the next booth there's this 6' 6" 400 pound white guy with the baby-est soft hands I've seen on a human since my granddaughters, He's about 55 and he had a walking cane like they give away at the public hospital.
And he talked. And talked. At first to someone sitting with him. Then shouted to the waiters and waitresses until they came to his booth, one by one, to get talked at. He was talking about Obamacare. And Obama. And more Obama. And talking about people who spoke Spanish who ought to go back to where they came from---what? I should go back to Whitestone? Fine, but my brother bought my mom's house and I can't live there anymore--and talked about illegal workers and talked about socialism, and talked about how Texas will secede so "us Texans don't have to worry about the federal government because it's illegal and we won't even be part of that mess in another year. We're out. We don't need no socialist Muslim telling us how to live...."
And he spoke loudly enough that I couldn't quite ignore him. He made a point of it.
And I wanted to say: If you gave half the food you eat to poor people there wouldn't be any poor people, you freaking pig!
And then he ordered 3 orders of the Grand Slam: Each order has 3 eggs, two pieces of bacon, two slices of ham, two sausages, home fries, toast, a short stack of pancakes and a waffle. THREE OF THEM! That's 9 eggs, 6 bacon, six sausage, six ham, 9 pancakes, 3 waffles, 3 orders of home fries and 6 pieces of toast.
And he told the waiter and waitresses that Obama would be taking their salary in new taxes this year, despite the biggest cuts for the middle class we've gotten in some time. And he told them about the debt they'd have to pay for Obama's spending and how the new insurance laws--though they won't apply in Texas and will be proven illegal--will prevent them from ever seeing a doctor because only illegal aliens will get to see doctors. And he told them that all the Mexicans were eating into Social Security so that they wouldn't have any, despite it being illegal Mexicans with copied Social Security cards who are paying into the system but will never collect, who are the only class of people propping up a system that's been ravaged by several former administrations.
I finally told my company I had to leave, abruptly.
"Why?" asked Lee, the spokesman for Lulac.
"Because I'm so fucking verklempt I might just have to knock that fat fuck on his ass."
I shook hands and left, shaking.
I do not mind living in an America where there are diverse opinions. I don't mind you not agreeing with me. And I hope you don't mind the same.
But listening to that fat fuck, whom I will bet my last buck is on the public dole (the cane being the only evidence I have, at least for medicare or medicaid, listening to that man I wanted to shout: You didn't mind that when Bush took over we had nearly $3 trillion in the federal coffers and when he left we were Trillions in the hole? You didn't mind the bailout of the banks but don't want citizens to get to see a doctor? You didn't mind the attempt to privatize social security into the hands of bankers who sent us into this recession? You didn't mind being lied to about Iraq--knowingly lied to--but object to middle class tax cuts?
I don't know why he got under my skin that way. But he did. And he still is there and in a minute I am going to bless myself with Agua Florida and Comalonga medicine to clean that up and get rid of it.
On the way home I thought of telling him, and wished I had, that I "wish I had a huge balloon."
He would have taken the bait, I'm sure, if given the attention.
And I would have said something like: "Because the hot air coming off the shit you're spewing would be enough to even lift your fat fuck body out of that booth and send you sailing up and up the more you talked. And when you stopped talking the balloon would fall and you would wind up fertilizer for a whole field somewhere."
But I didn't say that. Because I was verklempt.
And that was a mitzfah, because peace is always better than war.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Madeleina's Birthday!

It's my baby Madeleina's birthday, but she's hardly my baby anymore now that she's hit 13!!!!! Yikes! I can't be that long ago that I was helping pull her into this world and she looked up at me, eyes open and said "Hep...hep" and it sounded like "Help...Help..." to me but I couldn't help, couldn't put her back inside. No, she was angel turned human and the only help I could give her, and what I promised to give her was to be a good father, someone she could count on.
And then she got more and more solid as the weeks passed until she was completely human and so many times I've failed at what I promised: Yelled at her for things or stormed around the house, or made demands when I could have tried more cajoling. Other times I've been a good dad--caught myself before I yelled or came up with funny ways to get her to do what she needed to do. I guess it's all part of living but I often wish I could have been better, more often.
Today was a case in point. I got up at 5 but thought I could grab another half hour of sleep. I wound up getting up at 7:30 and woke her with a "Happy Birthday! We're gonna be late for school!"
She got up, saying she was refusing to be a teenager. "Teenagers are gnarly, dad. That's why I'm not one. And I'm never going to be one..."
Unfortunately, when I looked out the front window as I was dressing I realized the goat, the lovely goat, had gotten free and was eating the tulips. I went out, grabbed what was left of his rope and tied him to the gate, then came in and called for Madeleina. "Madeleina, the goat got free. You need to tie him back up..."
Note that I didn't offer to tie him back up. I was too busy needing my coffee and a couple of smokes and wanting to look at the email that had come in overnight.
Madeleina went outside, told the goat she felt like kicking him into the next county, then came in and asked where new rope would be. I told her and she went and got it. I doubled it, told her how to make it tie securely to the other rope and went back to my coffee.
By 8:10--when we're in danger of being later for school, I went outside to look for her. She was wearing the same clothes she had on yesterday at school and which she slept in, hadn't showered, hadn't opened her bookbag--she said she wanted to stay up to do homework and study when I went to bed--and suddenly I found my dad voice coming out.
"Madeleina. You going to wear those clothes to school again?"
"What's wrong with them?"
"You wore them yesterday. You slept in them. You look like a mess."
"Who cares. Nobody cares."
"I care. Your my kid and I like you to look nice..."
"If you cared you wouldn't have had me outside working with the goat for half an hour while you had coffee...."
"Touche. But what about your homework? What about studying. You didn't open that bookbag..."
"And your point is?"
"Darling, where's your brush? You have a rats' nest, not a head of hair right now...."
"Stop bugging me dad."
"You know why parents hate teenagers, don't you? Because of attitude. You know, attitude. Like wearing the same clothes and sleeping in them. Like not doing homework, like losing your flute again, like a million little things...."
"And you know why teenagers hate parents? Because they are all buttheads.:"
"Darling, did you make that little list of presents you'd like to get tonight?"
"No dad. If you forgot what I want you're not much of a dad, are you? So let's see what you remember. Or don't buy me anything. I don't care. I don't want anything..."
By then we were in the car and she was very very lazily brushing her hair.
"Madeleina! Get that stinking hair done. NOW!"
We didn't talk much on the way to school but managed to make up a little when one of the cops directing traffic was a dope and made her laugh. "Where do they get these guys? He's got everybody going at the same time!"
I remember most of what she wants and will take care of it. And I'll make a feast as well, though I'm not quite sure how many people are coming over, given that it's a friday, not a weekend. But there should be a few cousins, and Chepa and the babies are due back today and she'll bring some friends.
So somehow, while I've got a cover story on serious deadline and in need of 10 phone calls that people have not responded to as yet, I'll make a feast. I'm making a couple of racks of pork ribs, some hot sausage, some marinated grilled chicken, hamburgers and hot dogs. I'm gonna make a potato and egg salad, a macaroni salad with a balsamic bite, a thin sliced cucumber and red onion salad in white vinegar and black pepper, homemade coleslaw, and then grilled asparagus and broccoli. Oh, and rice and good beans too. I bought some beer, a couple of bottles of inexpensive Cook's champagne and some red wine. I've got plenty of water and apple juice.
Where is the time going to come from? I have no idea. I'm just praying the people I'll begin to call in the next few minutes are in their offices finally and will give me the info I need. If they are, I'll be okay. I can do the actual writing over the weekend. If they're not, I'm gonna keep calling them till they are.
And by tonight, I'm gonna forget it all and just wish my baby the very best 13th birthday and happiest year possible. And I'll silently vow to do a little better on keeping that dad voice in check.
Happy Birthday, Madeleina! I'm very very glad you let me be your dad.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

One More Note About the Ayahuasca Dieta

On a discussion board on which I occasionally post the question of the Dieta, diet, one should follow before and during a time of doing ayahuasca, the visionary healing medicine of the Amazon, frequently comes up. I know I've written about it here before but I thought I'd do it one more time and hope this finishes my foray into that question.
I've got two responses here. The first related to the strictures of the diet: No salt, no oil, no pork, no hot pepper condiments.
The second relates to responses from some astute members of the forum who discussed the issue of dropping external stimuli--like awakening your real tastebuds by refraining from salt for a period of time.
Here are my first comments:

I've written this before so if it bores people, forgive me. I've never met an ayahusquero who knew about dieta except through gringos. They may exist, but of the dozens I've know, none knew of it.
I'm guessing the whole dieta thing is invented by gringos trying to imitate Peruvians. And if so, here is the thing: The most comfort food in the Amazon is boiled river fish and plantains. Rice if no plantains are available. Yuca if no rice or plantains are available. That is not difficult, it's the diet of choice of a million people in Iquitos, Pucallpa and everywhere in between. It's the diet of choice of my wife and kids. It's just the favorite food of almost everyone in that part of the world.
When I'm out in the jungle, my team eats maybe 3-4 kilos of fish, if available, and 10-15 plantains daily, per person. That's large for kids under 10, but normal for the adult males.
Do they eat it with salt? No. Salt is for preserving food, not for fresh food.
Do they eat it with peppers? No, except for certain soups. Peppers are for selling (30 soles per kilo of hot peppers; nobody eats them if they can sell them).
Do they eat them with oil? No. Oil is expensive and generally at least a full day canoeing to get to a town that has oil.
Do they eat meat? No, except for wild meat they hunt. In that context, all meat is good. But pork is a store bought meat that no one in the jungle can afford, therefore it's considered bad for the dieta...
So gringos appear and suddenly the: No salt, no condiment, no oil, no pork become the "dieta". But really, that's hogwash--and if I'm stepping on toes, kick me back. But the whole concept of dieta only appeared about 10 years ago, as far as I can find, and it appears with gringos. Those gringos ask their curandreros, who naturally answer in the affirmative to please the people asking. Traditional problem with anthropology.
So certainly, there are some foods to be avoided: fermented wines, cheeses, some nuts....but those are things no one in the Amazon ever had so they never had to consider. Aguar Diente is drunk by nearly everybody in the Amazon every moment they can get their hands on it and by chance it isn't agains't any dieta rules--even on the day of drinking ayahuasca--though I would not recommend it. Aguaje, mamay, papaya and sweet banana are all found in the jungle and by chance they're not on the anti-dieta rules. Purple jungle potatoes are not on the diet either, nor is achiote, a wonderful condiment found all over the jungle--and which contains quite a bit of flavor.
Each of you needs to find what cleans you best so that you are fresh when you meet the spirit. If some things clutter you, by all means avoid them. If you're catholic--and I was raised catholic--and you think you need a fast that punishes you, by all means create one. But don't think for a second that any of that nonsense comes from the jungle. That's all white boy/girl imposition on tradition. You must remember that the real comfort food of the jungle is precisely the dish you're told to have during dieta: boiled fish and plantain or yuca or rice. That's not suffering. That's a feast for them. Same as saying Gorman is going to be stuck on a diet of corned beef, cabbage and boiled potatoes....HA! That's a feast for me but might cause suffering for a lot of you.
We know, as gringos, the problems with MAOIs mixed with ayahuasca--and I think corned beef would fall into that category, though I'm not completely sure. And there are a million foods to avoid to avoid those problems. But beyond that, I think it's all just made up junk to make people feel they're participating in some group collective. Which is fine if it works for you, but silly if it doesn't.

Here are my comments to the responses the initial comments brought:
X and Y: Could not agree more with the concept that the more quiet one is, the less internal noise one has, the better able one will be to pick up the energy around you and the energy of the medicine. I also find that a lot of the spirits just whisper, so that to hear them you need internal quietude. Of course some flat-out shout, but many just whisper.
My quibble isn't with cutting down, slowing down, getting quiet, eliminating the various "noises" in our lives. My only quibble is that I hear, repeatedly, how difficult the dieta--boiled fish and plantains--is for some people, and I just want to constantly remind them that it's not a difficult thing for people living out on the rivers in the jungle. It's the break in the day that makes things feel good. So I think people should not think that the dieta is something that comes from the vast almighty, whatever/whomever that might be. It's just eating simply, cleanly, wonderfully, skipping intimacy, spending time with the jungle and her forces, rather than staying busy with normal affairs.
That concept allows people to understand, gently, that they should by all means be slowing down, quieting down....but not feeling like they are breaking something written in stone if they squeeze a lime into their food. I've never known a curandero--though I'm sure there are some--who wouldn't squeeze a lime into fish broth if he/she had it. Or have a nice cup of lemongrass tea if it was a chilly night...and put a bit of milk into it if that was available.
I think, and it's just my opinion, is that to survive in the jungle and on the rivers, takes a very acute set of senses. Cluttered senses mean mistakes and as some of you know, a mistake when you're 10 hours from the nearest help can turn to catastrophe quite quickly. So anything that will distract from acute senses has the potential to cause you harm, or lessen your natural abilities.
In that sense, the dieta is fantastic.
In the sense that people believe they should be suffering, and then clutter their senses with that idea, well....that's just as cluttering as the fancy cake someone mentioned a few posts back.
In the end, however, even the finest curandero must be able to integrate ayahuasca into his/her life: That includes the occasional argument with the spouse, kids who won't do homework, neighbors who keep you up all night because they got batteries for the radio, going to work daily, dealing with traffic on the water or in the city, worrying about money, getting the kids to and from school, putting food on the table, rebuilding homes, taxes and all the rest. And you can't do that stuff while on a reclusive dieta. And if you can't do that, and do it all, straddle several worlds at once, well, then you're out of luck, finally.
The medicine has to fit into a full life. And I think the best curanderos/curanderas have very very full lives.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Death Walks Wherever the Hell She Wants To Walk

Last week, a kid at my daughter Madeleina's school hung himself. Good looking kid. They sent a picture home with each student, I'm not sure why, but looking at it he looks like a smart young guy. A 7th-grader with blond hair and good looks. What makes him kill himself? By hanging, no less? Why? He was just 12 years old. He had nothing behind him and everything in front.
The kids at the school say he was bullied, that it was a sort of copycat suicide like the girl in Massachusetts a couple of weeks ago. But if that was so, where were the teachers? Where was I? Why didn't I know some kid was being tormented?
I saw him on the line for getting into his parents' car to go home. He didn't look bullied or tortured. I didn't see anyone push him or beat him or hurl killing insults in his direction..
Still, something was up. Something was bothering him. A lot. Enough to think hanging himself would make it better. Bad choice.
Today an 18-wheeler crushed a small car about 300 feet from my house. I couldn't get information from the responding police. But I've got two kids and a daughter in law who drive small cars and I was praying it wasn't one of them.
Last night I woke and a cold air blew through. Not regular cold air. The cold air of someone who died who's making their last rounds. I've felt it before. It chills you to the bone and doesn't let you sleep and you just sit up waiting till someone calls you to tell you which of your close relatives has died. It's generally only a matter of minutes.
But last night the cold air wasn't followed by a phone call and I finally, after an hour or two, went back to sleep.
Then the accident up the street today.
I was on the way to Walmart when they wouldn't let me pass. An hour later, on the way back, the street was open again. And while I was on that street a tow truck hauling a crushed red car went by. I knew that was the death car. And I was relieved that none of my kids or Sara own a red car.
But if it wasn't my kid who died, it was someone else's kid. And that's horrible. Someone else is mourning today and I'm happy it's not me.
I'm a bum.
I'm not happy but relieved.
That's fair but not fair enough because some other parent lost their child today.
And that one kid committed suicide a couple of days ago and one kid was killed at about 3 PM on a country road today--well, this world was never fair, never has had compassion.
There is no reason. It's just what it is.
And there I was, happy it was not my kids dead.
I still feel like a schmuck.

Computer Heaven and Hell

Ahhhhh life....ain't it grand? Don't you love the way the universe puts little tests in front of us at the worst possible times? My test last week--other then checking my cojones before walking around with that pink beard--was one involving computers. I have an old G3 Mac. It's a stand up tower, large, and is an amazing workhorse. I got it when the fellow who worked the Dallas Morning News computers had to upgrade the newsroom and he was left with about 30 of these things. Well, he dolled it up for me and I've been using it for about 5 years. Any problems, he lived nearby and would stop over and for $65 would fix them. It was the perfect set up.
So maybe a week or so ago my computer dropped from the 10.3 system he'd installed to the 9.1 system the thing was built with and that made the internet impossibly slow. I mean a full minute or two to download a single page. So I decided to upgrade to a new version of firefox, which replaced the version I was using, and then turned out not to work on my old computer. And the Safari it came with never worked.
No problem, just a glitch.
I called my computer guy. He said I could no longer afford him to come over. I asked him why.
Turned out he'd moved to Denver some months ago and a house call to fix my Mac was gonna cost big time.
So I called around to some people he suggested and they all told me just to buy a new computer.
So I did. I went with Madeleina to the Apple store in Fort Worth--which has the strangest assortment of geniuses you've ever seen, very surreal, as the staff--and settled on something called the Mini-Mac. It's about as big as a.....well, I don't know, but it can't be more than 6 inches square and 2 inches tall. It doesn't come with a mouse or keyboard or screen, but since I prefer what I have to the new godawful little toys they're selling now--the Mac keyboard was always based on the old IBM Selectric keyboard, but gradually they've gotten it flatter and flatter till it's now basically a little flat thing that just oozes the word carpel tunnel. You can almost hear those keyboards: "Hey, wanna work with me? My cousin's a surgeon and you're gonna need one if you use me for more than 20 minutes a day...."
Well I use a keyboard maybe 10 hours a day, so I stayed with my own.
Now this thing comes with a million applications I will never use but it does not come with a word processing component. So I bought what was suggested, IWORK or something like that. I got it home, had Italo install it and told him to transfer all my old files to the new computer. But guess what? They were written on microsoft word--the standard in publishing--and so were not readable to the new computer.
But I'm in the middle of a cover story and needed that material. So I made a million frantic calls, was told I needed a different program--OfficeMac, I guess--and that I'd only be out another hundred and a half for that.
Well, I'm two, three days into the process, losing time on a deadline and what can I do? I head over to the Apple store--I checked that they'd be open beforehand--on Easter Sunday afternoon to discover they were not actually open. Didn't matter what the phone message said. There were several of us standing in front of the closed store, all of whom agreed that the message didn't say they would be closed on Easter.
So I lost Sunday.
Then Monday I went and got what I needed.
Of course it didn't work like they said it would so I spent three hours this morning on the phone trying to sort things out until one young man, probably in some far off place in the world, told me that actually, Apple couldn't help with the Microsoft component no matter how many times I called. "We are specifically excluded from knowing anything at all about that. They are our competitors and we are trained to think they simply don't exist."
"But you sold me the product..."
"Well yes, but not with knowing how to use it..."
"Well who does know?"
"You will have to be calling the competitors who don't exist. I have a number here somewhere....oh, I shudder to be sending you to the dark side...."
I took the number, spent another couple of hours on the phone, then spent two hours downloading everything on my old computer to a little stick you plug into the back of the computer, then put the little stick into the new computer and Voila! IT WOULDN"T READ HARDLY ANYTHING!!!!!
Not that someone trained in shamanic arts like myself would ever get faklempt, but I was headed in that direction when I called up "the dark side" again to say that simply following directions did not work.
This time I got a fellow from a different part of the world. In two seconds he asked me those items labeled ".doc" opened and if the ones not labeled ".doc" were the ones that didn't open.
Voila! "Yes. Yes, The ones not .doc'd don't open."
"Then put .doc on every one that doesn't have it and you're done."
"But there are 6,000 documents..."
"Get rid of them."
"It's my life freaking work! I can't just toss my life's work!"
"It's holding you back. Can't you feel the weight?"
"I don't want psychology. I want to open up the story I'm working on and that alone has more than 50 documents. And I want to open up the "Jungle Trips" folder so that I can see the emails for my June guests....."
"You will be doing a lot of .doc'ing in that case. Good luck."
And so I spent three hours adding .doc to hundreds of documents. Okay, I tried to be philosophical and reasoned it would just take an hour a day for a couple of weeks and I'll be up to speed.
And then I tried to open the docs I'd ".doc'd". And a good half of them open. The others? I suppose they were written on an older microsoft format because they're still not recognized.
But now it's 3:01 and time to go get food for dinner. So I'm gonna let it wait. And then I'm gonna call back and ask what can be done with the older documents, and whether there isn't a way to get the computer to do the .doc work.
And you know what? I'm positive they'll tell me that if I just do X or Y or Z that all the documents will open and all will have the right appendage at the end. I'm certain it will turn out that I just didn't ask for that specifically and so wasn't told, probably a little joke by the microsoft people on the mac people.
Ah, well, ain't life grand? Just another little pebble in my shoe...

Monday, April 05, 2010

Don't Ask Me How, Exactly....

Don't ask me how, exactly, things happen. But they do. A couple in South Korea was so addicted to playing a video game that involved saving a little girl that they forgot to feed their own child and the child starved to death. Don't ask me how.
And don't ask me how it was that we ended up having corned beef and cabbage for Easter dinner, but we did, or how it was that my kids--Italo, Italo's Sara, Marco and Madeleina, despite having looked for Easter eggs in the same living room for 8 years now were stumped by the easter bunny AGAIN this year when they came up two eggs short. HA!!!! And don't ask me how I wound up with a pink goatee, but that's what I have. Okay, that's explainable, sort of. See, the easter eggs were getting colored by Sara, Madeleina and Madeleina's friend, Dulce. What a job they did! Gorgeous. And then, when it was time to get rid of the left over coloring, dad, me, stepped in to clear the table. And someone, might have been Sara, said something like, "You should die your hair green, dad, or at least your goatee." And I, dad, having had a couple of mini Jim Beams, thought that was a dare. So I plunked my chin into a bowl with purple dye. And VOILA! A lovely pink beard. Of course they had to pay when it was time to go to Walmart. Sara wouldn't go. Dulce returned to her home. But poor Madeleina was stuck with the dad with the bright pink, slightly purplish beard.
Yup. I didn't wash it off. I took the stares and double takes. Madeleina tried to be strong but caved and fled to the opposite end of the store to buy bird food we didn't need, and didn't show up till I was being checked out. And when she did she just put the bird food on the counter and went outside. Yo! Madeleina! No guts, no glory!
Corned beef, cabbage, boiled potatoes, beat the kids on the egg hunt AND a pink beard. Not a bad little Easter at all.
Hope your holiday was good, too.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Here's the Deal...

Well, here's the deal. Someone I respect a lot, though I've never met them in person, has volunteered to spruce up my site. From the example he sent me, which was lovely, it would probably include images and different colors. But you guys are the readers. I always wanted the blog to simply be read. I hoped my words would fill in the image blanks and make images unnecessary. But you are the people reading this. Should I spruce this up or do you like the utter simplicity of a title and a story/entry?
Don't everybody answer at once, you lazy bunch of whatevers...You know you are, what with the one or two responses I've got to eek out of you. I suspect there are more than the eight people who occasionally respond reading this stuff. Or maybe I'm off my medication or should be on medication, or should at least be selling some medication...because if the eight or so of you are the total of who's reading, I'm in serious denial about who I am. I would have guessed at least 29 or 30 regular readers. Com'on, we're out of work, got time to kill, the blog is free to read...must be a couple of dozen at least.
So let me know. Doll this space up or leave it the heck alone and pray for more good stories that stand on their own, without adding images and bells and whistles?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Good Passover/Good Easter

I was raised Catholic and I was a good alter boy who could repeat the Latin responses in church when I was 10. Now I'm a grown up and a friend of mine just went to a Seder and told me what they had to eat. She made fruit salad but there were a lot of dishes and what I was particularly taken by were the lamb stuffed potatoes.
When I commented on those, she said I was crazy, that she'd talked about lamb stuffed tomatoes, not potatoes.
By then it was too late. I was already thinking of buying lamb and having it ground, sauteeing it in garlic, olive oil and onions, adding tomatoes, then other veggies and stuffing potatoes.
But I cheated. By the time I bought the lamb and had it ground, I had decided on making a caserole. So I made mashed potatoes, layered a pyrex pan with those, then put the sauteed lamb, garlic, onions, salt, coarse pepper, broccoli, baby carrots, cauliflower florets, diced zuccini and capers on top of that, then topped that with blue cheeze mashed potatoes, and topped that with a nice bechemel (parmesan cheese) sauce. I think it's gonna be good. A little more work than I intended but enough that Madeleina, Italo and Sara will try lamb without crying about it.
So what about that?
Cool, right?
Let me know, cause nobody is writing to me anymore and I hate writing in a vaccuum.