Saturday, December 31, 2011

New Year's Eve, Last Week of Food for the Year Plus a Little Sadness

Good evening, everybody. It's New Year's Eve, about 7 PM Texas time. I hope all of you are with loved ones and I hope all of you are setting up for a fantastic celebration to bring in the new year. 2012. I was riding in the car with Madeleina today and we were headed to get a steak--which we have not had in weeks--and then fireworks and it suddenly occurred to me that she has been with me more than a decade. A decade! That's a long time. And her decade was up April 9, 2007, so she's closing in on a decade-and-a-half. Wow! I have loved her a long time, if you include loving her spirit 40 years before I actually got to meet her.
I am very glad she's my daughter.
She just laughed and said that she remembers me when my hair was brown and my beard was dark brown with a bit of red, rather than gray hair and white beard. Ah, so while my older brother is dragging me up in age after him, my youngest baby is pushing me up from the bottom. Damn. Couldn't they just have left me alone at 41?
So this week we ate well. I don't remember all the meals but I do remember that the day before Christmas we had a vegetarian lasagna packed with garlic and onions and broccoli and spinach and yellow and green squash. Plus tomatoes, of course, and good ricotta and good parmesan and good mozzarella. That was a good meal.
Christmas we had corned beef and cabbage with boiled potatoes and good mustard. That was freaking divine.
Day after Christmas we had my version of fajita: Garlic/onion/scallions in good olive oil. When the onions are see-through I added the marinated skirt steak sliced thin and browned that with lots of butcher cut black pepper. When that was near cooked I added half-moons of roma tomatoes, sliced red and green pepper and onion slices. Plus good spices, many of them from Peru: Achote, a little cumino, paprica. Then some good white vinegar for bite, and then finished off with chicken stock for a juice--mixed with pan juices--and plenty of fresh cilantro. Served over rice. WOW!
Next day, Seafood Soup. I got a pound of shrimp, peeled them, and cooked the peels, dry, in a thick sauce pan, till they were bright red. Added onion and celery ends and water and pepper. Cooked that down for a couple of hours, replenishing water as need be, till I had about 2 cups of shrimp shell essence.
In the big pot I cooked diced garlic and onion and celery in olive oil, added the shrimp, then diced tomatoes, then a couple of ounces of a decent Hennessey I keep just for those occasions but otherwise never never touch. When that burned off I added the shrimp shell essence, a nice dash of very hot Crab Boil and then (TOTAL CHEATING) two cans of Campbell's cream of tomato soup, a cup of milk and half a stick of butter.
When it was rolling I added fresh calamari, cut small, and scungilli, cut small, some mussels, fresh, half-a-pound of crayfish. Let that cook for a minute, then added a big handful of fresh cilantro. Let that cook for two minutes, then added nice angel hair pasta, not too much, and served the soup with a very very good rye bread that Emily brought in--and has been kept in the freezer--a few weeks ago. Apple slices were served on the side to cool the stomach. MAN, THAT WAS GOOD!!!!!
Next day, hamburgers: Just good old fashioned hamburgers on hot buns with sauteed onions, tomatoes, dill pickles, mustard and ketchup--Heinz, of course. Served that with mixed veggies.
Next day, Thursday, I was going to make a rice mash--ground beef, garlic and onions and diced tomato--but changed my mind and made Cuban beef with yellow rice. Colored the garlic rice with achote, and to the well cooked and grease drained beef I added garlic, diced onions, diced tomatoes, a can of good black beans, a can of good pinto beans, more diced tomatoes, a can of chicken stock. When it was the texture of a good beefy tomato sauce with a Spanish flavor, I added dried culantro from Peru, fresh cilantro from Mexico, a bit of white vinegar, a couple dozen small hot charapita peppers from Peru--substitute good fresh jalepeno slices if you don't have charapitas--and you won't--though they are a poor substitute. Served over the yellow rice. That was served with sliced cucumber with lime just to keep the stomach cool and the ulcers at bay. MAN, THAT WAS GOOD!
Yesterday it was sauteed salmon with roasted sesame seeds and garlic served with a slice of left over veggie lasagna. MAN, that was GOOD!
And tonight it's a sauteed chuck steak with garlic and sliced onions. Served with sliced new potatoes simmered in chicken stock. With steamed broccoli and sauteed organic beefsteak tomatoes topped with sauteed garlic in olive oil and shredded parmesan cheese. With good black pepper, hold the salt.
And in the oven, because we're pigs and it's New Year's Eve, is a fresh loaf of semi-sweet chocolate bit/walnut studded banana bread. If there is any room. I'm full just talking about the meals we had this week.
The good part was that Chepa visited a couple of times, and so did Marco and Italo came for dinner and a movie a couple of times.
The excellent part is that Madeleina is better at the piano after 6 days than I was after three years.
The sad part is that Chepa and her boyfriend--who came to town for the occasion--and the babies, went to Chepa's sister's house. And Italo and Sara and my grandbaby Taylor Rain went to a friends' home.And Marco is staying in his den. So Madeleina and I have this wonderful food and a table worth of fireworks and nobody to share it with. And that's just freaking sad. How the hell did I break this family up so badly? Dammit! Note for next life: Don't f. with your family. They're important.
So we'll eat well and set off some fireworks and call in the new year and hope it's the best year. But in our hearts there is a little hole because both Madeleina and I know I messed it all up a long time ago. And most of the time you don't see the tears, the rent in the cloth, but on special days it seems there's a microscope blowing up everything.
So we're sad but we're good and we're strong and we'll go blast those fireworks anyway. And then eat a couple of bites of steak and broccoli, making sure we leave enough room for a bit of chocolate/walnut banana bread.
Happy New Year, everyone. Be safe/be loved.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Damn if the Gods Don't Have a Sense of Humor

I'm sure anyone reading this blog knows how I feel about rats. The big rodents, the Amazon Majas and their like, I eat because they're the best darned meat out there, the only meat with any fat on them, and when you're walking a hundred kilometers or more you need a bit of fat.
But I really hate house rats. More than that, I'm terrified of them. They are my one real phobia. So a couple of months ago when one got into my roof, I was able to deal with it. But when the 600 pound monster ran across my feet I went out and got two cats to get it gone. And the cats, while they eat pounds of food daily and utterly distain using their boxes to poop in--giving me a 20 minute chore daily of cleaning up their leavings from the back room/laundry room floor--are worth their pain.
But then there is god. Give the big spirits any name you want and that's the one I'm talking about. The universal laughing stick that makes you deal with things you don't want to deal with. Know what he/she/it did? Had Marco break the back window of my Ford Ranger when he was loading garbage. And now, a rat has moved into my truck. He hides under the dashboard and sometimes drops his lanky tail on my shin while I'm driving. That's all. Nothing horrible, except that I've got to drive with the little sucker terrifying me, hiding, being nearby.
I know I must have done something to have earned this. And I could have sealed up the broken rear window even if I couldn't have afforded to have it repaired. But those of you who saw Talladega Nights know that you have to learn to drive with your fear if you want to overcome it. And while my driving with a freaking rat in the car is not the same as Will Ferrel driving with a cougar in the car, to me, I'd take the cougar anytime.
So I've been driving with this freaking rat in my car for a month. And I'm about to end it. Maybe tomorrow. I've driven with my fear long enough. And I'm still scared. But I've done it. And I'm gonna put the two cats in the car and leave them there for a couple of hours. I'm sure I'll have to clean up their damned poop, but that will be a small price to pay if they can get that freaking rodent out of my car and life.
But you know, I got to love this universe of ours. Only on this level are things like fear of rats so richly challenged. Which is, I guess, one of the reasons the spirits so want to taste our sensations. My palpable fear of the little creature dropping it's tail on my shin has got to be worth a fortune of knowingness without sensation.
I'm very glad I have this time here to enjoy/love/suffer these wonderful feelings of vitality, frailty, love, love lost, lonliness, joy, the whole damned human package. Thanks, Universe! You're the Bees Knees of emotional exposure.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

First Running Steps

I've probably already misled you with that title. I've got my granddaughter Taylor Rain Gorman and she's 4 months or so shy of two and "First Running Steps" might well apply to her: She's at that age where her body pushes with its strength to run, but at the same time her upper body isn't so connected to her lower body to allow that without a lot of stumbling. So the title doesn't refer to her. And it certainly doesn't refer to Alexa, just turned 4 last week and a girl with a twitch muscle everybody should be envious of: She can run like the wind, endlessly and joyfully and almost disappears from view because she runs so fast and furiously that you're still looking at where she was long after she's no longer anywhere within the parameters of that line of sight.
No, the reference was to me. It's been four years since an ulcer on my intestine exploded and 3 liters of very poisonous material burst into my system, burning my organs and nearly killing me. It didn't and that was great. A subsequent operation was necessary to put my insides back in after I tore open the stitching and staples a few weeks after the initial operation and then the third operation, completely open, was necessary to drain me again then sew me up with stretch bandages inside that were meant to keep me together.
No sweat. I kept acting like I was normal, but I knew I'd ruptured the thing three months after they sewed it into me. And last year my doc confirmed it. No situps, no heavy lifting. Just be content to be a fat old man was his advice.
Good advice if I were an old man, but I'm just me so naturally I kept taking my tours out, kept carrying 100 boxes of veggies when necessary, kept mowing and raking lawns, kept lifting babies and when given the opportunity, kept making love.
Last summer, while with my baby Madeleina, who'd just turned 14, I got depressed that my upper and lower body were not talking to one another. I started walking in Iquitos. Maybe 3 miles a day, incrementally: I'd walk from the hotel to the market and then to my friend Miriam's, maybe 2 miles altogether. Then I'd walk back to the hotel and then back to Miriams.
When I got home, Madeleina wanted me to chase her one day and I couldn't and she asked me if I would ever run again. I laughed and told her that at my very best I was a slow runner and that these days it was a question yet to be answered.
But I did start walking. Fast walking. I would walk around Walmart before going in to buy my dog's chicken and test my blood pressure. I'd walk around Central Market before going in to buy organic veggies and good fish (Sorry veggies and fish. I wish I didn't have to kill you to eat, but it's either you or smashing beans....damn!)
AND THEN I discovered the new little park they built in Joshua, about half a mile from Chepa's house and its 1/2 mile walk. And I began to do 1 turn on that, then 2, then three, plus the Walmart, Central Market, HEB walks. And it was good. And it's been good.
Running was not something I was thinking of. But then today, six or seven months since I began fast walking and trying to make my upper body and lower body know each other again, Madeleina decided to chase me out of the house. And when she did, my body, without me thinking about it, started to run. I'd like to tell you I ran like the wind. I wish I told you I ran 400 yards in a breakneck 46 seconds. I won't. I ran all of 80-100 feet, but I ran. And while I ran I started to laugh. My body knew itself. Maybe out of sorts but it knew itself. It has not known itself for years. And today, in a moment of joy a exhileration--and I know I'm spelling that wrong, darn it--my body just decided to run. Not fast, not cool, but real running: up on my toes, torso forward, legs pumping in unison with arms. And I didn't have to think it. It just happened.
So while I probably misled you with the title of this entry, I didn't mean to. Because for me, these were wonderful, fantastic, joyful, first running steps. And I was happy.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Being Dad at Christmas

So someone asked me yesterday how I was doing. He was a fellow about my age, with grandkids in tow.
"Same as you! We're dad's and granddads at Christmas....we're broke but happy!"
He laughed and that was that.
But it's true. Seems to me it doesn't matter how old your kids are, if you're one of those people raised on Santa, well, when it's Santa time you give it all up. Doesn't even matter if 80 percent of what you buy isn't going to be used, or will be sold in a garage sale in six months, you still beg, borrow and steal to make it happen.
Okay, I admit that having written that, I feel like a fool for having just spent money I don't have on things people don't need. But they're not just people, they're my family and I think that makes a difference.
So what are they getting? Well, they all get something big, something medium, a few little things and then stocking full of things they need, like deodorant, body wash, new razors, whoopie cushions, salt water taffy, that sort of thing.
Italo's big thing this year is a good quality metal detector. Both Chepa and Italo's wife Sara said he'd been talking about one for months. He'll probably use it for a week, but who cares? I've always wanted one and if he doesn't use it, I'll use it in Peru some day.
Marco's big thing is I made his car--a recent present--legal. That means paid the taxes, inspection, registration and change in title. And his insurance for a year.
Madeleina's big thing: A lovely spinnet piano. Used of course, but only 40-years-old. Just had it delivered. I think she'll be wild and play all the time. If not, I'll sell the thing to the next dad.
Of course Chepa, Sara, Sierra, Alexa and Taylor Rain Gorman got good stuff too. And Madeleina was a dream: She spent parts of two days wrapping everything except her stuff, occasionally letting me know that one stocking or another was thin, or that "Italo really needs another present, dad. I mean, who the hell really wants a metal detector? Nobody. So don't forget to spend a lot on at least one other thing he won't use, okay?"
Her comments cost me about $200 in extra stocking gifts alone, and I still have not bought the next future-junk for Italo.
On the other hand, I waited so long to buy a Christmas tree that I can't find one. I'll give it another shot, of course, but if all else fails, I told Madeleina we'd just put some lights and candy cane on the upright vacuum and pretend. That got me a half-dozen good THWACKs! to my arm, and she's big enough now that her punches hurt.
Anyway, I had a good time shopping and taking care of it all, and I think Madeleina had a good time getting her first real taste of what it's like to wrap 60 things. So I don't have any money to pay the bills next month and I'm a grand in the hole to a cash advance. What the heck. It's Christmas, eh?
I hope your stockings are all filled with love and dreams come true and that this coming year is fantastic in every way for all of you who read this--and even all of you who don't.
Merry Christmas, everyone!

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Did You Hear the One About the Medical Marijuana Patient...

I write a column for Skunk magazine out of Montreal. It's a pot magazine and I get to write a column about the politics/insanity of the drug war. It's called Drug War Follies. I love writing that column. I hate passing on the news that I do, but love the freedom of a column.
This is the opening piece--there are generally three or four--for an upcoming column. This is the world we live in, for real.

You know, one of these days I’d like to be writing a column about how my local pot store just bonus’d me out with a quarter-pound of good outdoor, organic California Orange, or how cool it is to attend a rave in one of the hundreds of empty prisons around the country—empty because no one is being arrested for non-violent drug crimes anymore because drugs had been legalized. Yes, one of these days I’d like to start out a column talking about loading up a pipe and having a moment of bliss celebrating the end to the madness.
But it’s not time for that yet, you little maggots! It’s not nearly time for that because the insanity continues and the horror keeps happening. Yes, your brothers, your sisters, people who might have been your friends had you met them in this life are getting fucked this very minute by a rigged system. They’re losing their freedom, they’re losing their homes to forfeiture, they’re losing their medicine to a federal government that can’t relinquish its control over marijuana to the states. Right this second there are probably hundreds of people around the US and Canada who are frightened to death because they’ve just been busted or because they see a narc squad coming to their door. So keep your daydreams in your head and get out there and do something, anything to help bring awareness to the point where those freaking daydreams can become our reality. Occupy the Madness! End this fucking war on drugs!
You’re probably wondering why I’m lashing out today. Well, I’ll tell you. Couple of things are stuck in my craw. Name one? Okay, how about the medical marijuana patient in California being turned down for a kidney transplant because he failed a pre-transplant drug test?
Did you get that? Those who are not choking on whatever you’re eating this minute should go back and read that again. Or I’ll just write it again: Did you hear about the medical marijuana patient in California who was turned down for a kidney transplant because he failed a pre-transplant drug test for medical marijuana?
No, that’s not a joke. And I wish I’d heard about it sooner because it’s a story that happened months ago, but it’s still worth puking over. It seems that 63-year-old Norman B. Smith was “diagnosed with inoperable liver cancer” in 2009, according to a November, 17 press release from Americans for Safe Access, and was put on the eligible list for a liver transplant at Cedars-Saini Medical Center in Los Angeles. Smith’s oncologist at Cedars-Saini personally approved his cannabis use to help deal with the awful side effects of chemotherapy.
Last February, Smith was screened for drug use and cannabis was detected, leading the medical center to take him off their transplant list two months before he was to receive his transplant.
To get back on the list, if he’s permitted at all, Smith will have to test negative for cannabis for at least six months. And then he’ll wait for a liver transplant. Whether he can live through that extra time is unknown.
So you get that, right? Guy has inoperable liver cancer. His cancer doc, who works at Cedars-Saini puts him on medical marijuana at the same time he gets him on the list for a liver transplant. Then the guy is screened for drugs, tests positive for his medical marijuana and is kicked off the transplant list. What the….!!!!!
“Denying necessary transplants to medical marijuana patients is the worst kind of discrimination” said ASA chief counsel Joe Elford, who noted that the medical center would not be breaking any laws, federal or otherwise, if it allowed Smith to get the transplant.
Keeping things dismal, the ASA press release noted that there were at least two other cases, one in Washington State in 2008 and another in Hawaii in 2009 where medical marijuana recipients were denied liver transplants and died.
I am not making this shit up. This is the world we live in and if we don’t change it, no one will.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Stuffed Mushrooms

So I had friends in, which was delightful, for most of the past two weeks. One came, one went, just passing through, dropping a little stardust into my life.
But one night this week I had one friend who is mostly vegetarian, glucose intolerant, won't eat eggs, no milk.
Another was vegan, can't eat eggs, no milk.
Okay, so what to make?
Both would eat a little cheese.
Okay, so I started with my basic basmati rice. Cook garlic in a little olive oil till the garlic is ready. Add water with a touch of sea salt. When water is boiling, add rice. Stir rice on high flame till 80 percent of the water is absorbed, about 7=8 minutes. Turn down to very low, cover tightly and let it cook for another half hour or so, stirring to fluff once or twice during that time.
Then I made a nice spaghetti squash: cut squash in half, eliminate seeds, score lightly both length and width, put both halves in a roasting pan. Put thin slices of butter, maybe five or six, atop each side, bent in so that it will drip into the center. Cook at 350 for about an hour. Take that out, use a large spoon to remove all the gorgeous squash.
Heat a little garlic and olive oil. Toss in diced red pepper. When pepper is nearly done, put in the squash and stir till well mixed and smelling scrumptious. Top with some fresh minced scallions or parsley or cilantro.
I made a veggie nice stir fry to put atop the rice.
And ten I decided to make stuffed mushrooms. I bought mid-sized baby portabellas. Stem them, chop stems (no bread, remember?) Sautee finely chopped stems in garlic and olive oil. I did it in two separate pans. In one pan I added finely diced walnuts; in the other I added raisins.
To the walnut stuffing I added good crumbled blue cheese and stuffed half the shrooms with that mix.
To the raisin stuffing I added good swiss (a nice home-shreded Ementhaler). I stuffed the other mushrooms with that.
A couple of mushrooms got both the raisins and walnuts.
I heated the shrooms for a minute in the hot saute pans, transfered to a baking dish and baked till the shroom meat was tender and juicy.
They were really rich. No fooling.
I will refine those stuffings a bit next time, but for a first-time invention, they were darned tasty.
So make them.

Sunday, December 11, 2011

My Madeleina, Growing Up

My Madeleina keeps growing up. Yesterday, while I was doing all those manly things, like collecting and then dumping garbage bags, and raking collecting leaves, Madeleina was not helping a lot. When she helped she sat next to one of the seven piles of leaves and talked with them before she put them in the bag. Good for spirit communication, bad for getting work done.
This morning, with just a couple of piles left to collect, she said she couldn't help. "I can't be the one who puts them in a bag and curtails their freedom by making them 'fence mulch', dad. It just isn't in my blood."
Half-an-hour later, while I was in the middle of a pod cast interview to the Ukraine about ayahuasca, she found it in her heart to pass me a note that read: "As Queen of this Empire, I declare that you have to go to the corner store and buy me the biggest chocolate ice cream cone they sell. NOW....or ELSE...."
Well, that put me in my place and I read the note over the radio and Madeleina said that since I'd made the pronouncement to all who would hear the podcast, I definitely owed her the cone.
I got it as soon as I finished the radio show.
Tomorrow a guest is coming in to stay for a week or so. So I told Madeleina that we needed to clean the house, and in particular, one room, the room the guest will stay in. She looked at me quizzically. "Dad. Let's face it. If they're your friend, they're already impressed with you. And so you can't do any wrong. So I don't need to clean to impress anyone. And if they're not your friend, you have to ask why the hell you invited them here into our home? I mean, if you need to impress them with cleanliness, then what's the point, eh?"
She's a clever little demon, isn't she?
But then she's also a kid. After we fast walked a couple of miles and were at the store buying lots and lots of vegetables and fruit, she met me at the truck. "Dad, I saw so many of my friends today it was unbelievable!"
She ran down the people she knows whom she'd run into. Then she changed tac.
"I was getting some acne sponges and in the aisle was a girl, probably 13, who looked like she was dealing with pimples for the first time. She was reaching for things but when she saw me looking at her she put them back. I finally walked up to her and told her, 'Don't worry. We all have a few pimples when we're thirteen. You'll get over it.' "
I just looked at her for a moment. This is a girl who was just getting her first pimples six or nine months ago. Now she's the expert, helping a newcomer through the ordeal.
Well, all I can do is smile. That's my baby. And I'm keeping her. She's the best. Crazy, perfect in the same breath, without a comma.
Thanks for being my baby, baby. My world wouldn't be at all as rich if I didn't know you, Madeleina.

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Manly Day, Ending Badly

Well, it started off as a manly day, but it's not ending in a pretty way.
I was up at 4:30 AM, fresh coffee in hand at 4:40 and read through four newspapers and the Huffington Post by 8. Put my clothes on, brushed my teeth, combed my hair, took my blood pressure medicine, fed the cats and began tossing the bags of trash into the back of my pickup by 9:30. By 10:30 I'd brought the trash to the dump and emptied my truck, had walked a mildly-manly but fast 1/2 mile around the track fast and come home and made Madeleina a good breakfast. I cleaned the kitchen, in a manly way, then took a manly nap. At 1 I got up and saw that I'd sold 10 copies of my book today--a lot--and then went out and raked all those beautiful leaves that fell like snow, like rain, the other day in the cold. Seven manly piles of about three large garbage bags each and I collected 4 of them, Madeleina collected one and we put them by the front fence. Emptied them on the front fence, outside, and told Madeleina it was fence mulch, to keep the weeds from growing there next summer.
"Nice try, dad, but I think you're just being too lazy to carry the leaves all the way back to the corner where we have all the mulch from the last 10 years. You know, the perpetually steaming pile of grass cuttings and leaves that will one day burst into flames and consume us all?"
Of course, she was right. I just didn't feel like doing those extra manly steps to way back there, particularly since the goats were in their own manly moods and bucking me every time they had a chance.
Getting on 3:30 PM, I decided to mow the lawn that had sprung up underneath the freshly fallen leaves--it looked like me, ready for a haircut--but discovered I was out of manly gas. So I strode mightily around the grounds until I found a plastic gasoline container and brought it to the truck for fueling. Then I told Madeleina to make haste and we were off to Walmart. I wish I could tell you that we were off to the local produce store, but it was closed, being Saturday. En route, I did another manly half-mile walk around the park, then walked a full mile around the Walmart Supercenter before entering.
I checked my blood pressure in a manly way while Madeleina looked for girly bluejeans. She's a girl so that was appropriate.
"Dad!!!!" she would exclaim later, "I'm down two sizes!!!! I am the blast, daddy-o!!!" and all I could do was smile in a simple dadly--not particularly manly but nicely dadly--way. Good for her. She's working hard and beginning to lose her baby fat and is so beautiful that when she smiles the whole world gets a little better.
And while she shopped for the jeans--we are going to the athletic store tomorrow for new sneakers for both of us--I shopped for spinach, chicken thighs, red onions--all manly things--plus a little fairly manly sharp cheddar cheese and sweetened condensed milk for the pretty manly banana bread I'm going to bake in a manly way tonight.
And so all that was manly and rigorous, more or less.
But all of it took all my manly prowess and when I came home and discovered that the little kittens had shit 12 times out of the box and on the floor, I lost my manliness and began crying like a Boehner. I really had a hissy-Gingrich fit and nearly sent snot up my Palin nose. Nonetheless I did a Pelosi, held my nose and cleaned up everybody else's shit, then did an Obama and washed it down with cleansing bleach so it wouldn't stink so bad, even if it was caused by my sworn enemies.
And then I washed my hands like Lyndon Johnson after he put his dick on the table in public view and dared the leaders of the Viet Cong to measure theirs to his, and began dinner. The dinner is a manly salmon filet in nice garlic'd olive oil, with a side of giant manly scallops, just four of them. All will be put on a bed of manly sauteed spinach--garlic olive oil and very manly balsamic vinegar with lots of good manly rough ground black pepper--and topped with a sauce I have not invented yet but which might include some ginger/diced onions/scallions/roasted sesame seeds, and which might just include some good shaved cheddar tonight just to check it out. I've got good and manly basmati rice left over from last night that's on low, and I have a small pot full of fresh green beans, yellow squash and broccoli that might work well as a veggie menage a trois if I can infuse a bit of fresh garlic and a videographer of olive oil and minced onion.
So it was all still going good till Madeleina, who presented me with a bill for her band for $244 this morning and the urgent, "Dad, I need this Monday. I don't know why you haven't paid it yet," plea, and then needed new jeans and now needs new sneakers tomorrow and then needs a real piano in January and refused to feed the goats, suddenly announced: "Dad, the Norton Anti-Virus program ran out today on my new computer. You better buy one now," and then suddenly, all the manly was gone from me. All the decency, all the strength. I have not paid the mortgage this month, or the water bill, or the electricity, or two of the three credit cards. Christmas is here and I don't know what the freak I'm supposed to do to fill those seven stockings or buy presents and I am doing as many manly things as possible but I cannot come up with another two hundred bucks for the Norton anti-virus. At least not on Saturday night.
So I screamed and yelled and in a very very un-manly manner tried to make Madeleina wish she'd never asked about that last straw.
But I know it wasn't manly on my part. It was just the little kid in me, afraid that I can't pay the bills this month and wondering if I'll be able to pay them next month. And I can do all the manly things in the world to puff myself up, but if I can't pay the bills, I'm not a hunter and if I'm not a hunter, I'm nothing. Not very manly at all.
But human.
Sorry I yelled, Madeleina.
I'll try to figure out something tomorrow. I'll do my best.

Friday, December 09, 2011

Christmas Shopping Book Special

Alright, ladies and gents. After a series of nice posts, it's time to lay this on you. It's getting on the holidays. I have this book, Ayahuasca in My Blood--25 Years of Medicine Dreaming. Put the lines together: Yes, you want this book for all your friends, so that they can understand what the heck it is you're doing when down in Peru drinking medicine. So here's the deal: If you write me directly at peterg9 at and send $20 (if you're in the US only; outside the US it's $27) I'll have a book sent to you and it will include shipping. I think that's a $10 off holiday spirit thing. So what should you do? Order 30-40 copies? That way you'll be set for two years of holidays and marriage gifts! Or 100 copies just to make me smile? Yes, it would do that.
On the other hand, if you're gonna buy the book with money you would otherwise give to the Salvation Army or the local food bank, well, the hell with the stupid book. Go feed somebody, okay? That's way more important. I'm just giving you the option in case you've already fed people and still have family who expect real presents under the Holiday Bush or Tree, or wherever it is you put your presents.
So that's the deal and I'll stick with it till Christmas time--though if you don't order in the next few days I'm not gonna guarantee the books will get there by the holidays.

Thursday, December 08, 2011

Here's a Little Poem Madeleina Found

So years ago, I had friends in college who came out gay. I loved the female, so I didn't think I was, but I still supported them. And when the New York City Gay Rights marches began, I want to say 1970 or 1971, I was on the sidelines cheering. The first year there were five of us cheering on one of us as he proudly walked up 5th Avenue. Next year there were four of us cheering on the two of us proudly walking up 5th Avenue. Next year there was me, cheering on the 5 of us proudly marching up 5th Avenue.
Did I wonder if I was gay too? Yes. I still do. And if I am, I hope I will have the courage my friends had. But at the same time, I still get a freaking hard on thinking about the women I've loved, from K'O to Diane Z to Gail R to Gail B to Cl to AH, to Chepa to Gasd... to all of them. And I don't get the same reaction thinking about the boys or men in my life. I love them. I love seeing them. I just never had the urge to tongue kiss them. Unless I'm hiding it.
So two nights ago my friend Vic came in unexpectedly. I have not seen him since maybe 2001 in NYC. But he's gold in my book and if he wanted to stay a month that would be cool by me.
I've got a bookcase in the room I was going to put him in that has a shelf that's fallen and the day he was coming--he told me at noon, maybe, that he'd be here by 4, I bought those little plastic things you put in book cases to keep the shelves up. And when I picked Madeleina up I gave her a box of them and told her to fix the book case.
Now this book case holds a lot of the international magazines I've been published in, from Geo to Setta to German Playboy. In all, maybe 100. And the next shelf holds a lot of the tear sheets from the feature stories I've written in the last 10- years. And the other shelf has maybe 50 of my notebooks.
So while Madeleina was trying to fix the shelf that had fallen on one side, one of my spiral notebooks fell off the shelf and opened itself up to a little poem I'd written maybe 40 years ago, while my friends were marching up 5th Avenue.
I didn't know that until today, when she came into the living room just a few minutes ago and said:
Ideal Love
Created Above
Is not Enough
To Keep Us Here
From Going Queer
And I said: Man, that sounds like something I wrote a long time ago. Where did you find that?
"It's my new favorite poem, and you are my new favorite poet. Except that when I look at you I see just you and not a poet..."
"I'm the poet when I was in the moment. I'm the healer now when I'm in the healing moment. The rest of the time I'm just the me you know, fully flawed, absolutely dispensable and pretty worthless."
"Okay," she said. "I can deal with that. So you're generally a bum but then you have these moments..."
"You got it."
"Well, then I won't thank you but I will thank the poet moment in you who came up with
'Ideal Love,
Created above
Is not Enough
To Keep us Here
From Going Queer.'
"That's the cooliest, dad. It's just hard to imagine that you were that cool, even for a moment."
You just smile at that. Because that's your baby seeing a side of you trying to explain something very difficult to people in an era when it took extraordinary courage to take that walk up the middle of 5th Avenue in New York City. I'm not saying it takes less today, but I can tell you my friends thought long and hard about what it was to come out. They lost so much. Job opportunities, friendships, sometimes family members or even whole families. I salute their courage even today.

Raining Leaves

Well, Texas suffered through just about the worst summer heat and wildfire season in memory this year, and then about a week ago it started raining and it rained for 3-4 days where I am, in bucolic Joshua, 25 miles south of Fort Worth. Each day it rained the weather grew colder, until yesterday, when it was 23 degrees F when I went to take Madeleina to school. But it was clear and bright and beautiful and that was a welcome sight, since I love a good blue sky and we had a deep blue yesterday morning.
And when I came back from taking Madeleina to school I turned into my driveway and was floored by what I saw. The big tree in my front yard, the one that hadn't even begun to turn colors yet, was raining leaves. Not wind driven leaves falling, but just hundreds, thousand of leaves raining down on the yard. I stood there in awe for maybe five minutes, went inside and poured a cup of coffee and then looked out the window for ten minutes more. Green leaves just raining down so beautifully. In no time they covered a thirty foot diameter circle on the ground. Half an hour later they were two inches deep. Another hour and there were maybe 100 leaves left on the tree. Boots the Wonderdog just ran around and around the tree as fast as he could, slipping and sliding and falling onto his side on the beautiful leaves. Over and over he ran around that tree.
It was simply gorgeous to watch the leaves raining down under that beautiful blue sky in the crisp late autumn air. I wish you all could have been here to see it.

Monday, December 05, 2011

Went to Sleep with a Bitter Taste on My Tongue

Well, sometimes things are perfect and sometimes not. On the home front, in the last couple of weeks, Chepa's boyfriend has come into town a little more often than normally, both Halloween and Thanksgiving, and stayed several days, so I didn't get to see Chepa's little girls, Sierra and Alexa as often as normally do. And since my daughter-in-law Sara is strapped to Chepa's hip, it meant I didn't get to see my grandbaby Taylor as much either. And since my boys Marco and Italo are at odds, well, if one came over the other didn't. In other words, I'm not getting my two or three dinners with the family every week lately. And I really like those. I just like them being around.
Well, life happens, so it is what it is and rather than grouse, I've made a point of going over to Chepa's in the morning to see the girls before Sierra goes to school. That way I get to hug all the little ones and get to see Italo and Sara before they go to work, and get to take Madeleina to school if she stayed over at her mom's, or to have her with the family for breakfast if she stayed with me.
So all good. Well, Chepa surprised me and came over for dinner with everybody on Friday night and I whipped up some vegetarian tomato sauce and breaded some chicken cutlets and made chicken parmesan and in no time we all had a feast. And during dinner I suggested to Chepa that I'd like to take Madeleina and the babies to Fort Worth to go to Miss Mollies Candy and Toy Store on Saturday morning. It's the best best best toy store in town and even while I suggested it I knew I was gonna be in for hell once Sierra and Alexa got their eyes on those toys.
The next morning I got a call saying they were ready, so I told Madeleina to get some sneakers on, we were going to the toy store. When I went to pick up the girls, I made it clear that we were going to look at stuff they might need for Christmas, but we weren't buying stuff today. Sierra broke into tears. She didn't burst into tears, she just sort of started sobbing quietly, which I put an end to by tickling her, which caused her to break into laughter. I know that fake tear act of hers.
"But I just want to buy a toy for one dollar. Just one dollar, Mr. P Garman."
"No problem. You find something you like for a dollar and I'll buy you three of them. Or one toy for three dollars. Or one toy for two dollar and one for one dollar. Or 12 toys for twenty-five cents each!!!!!"
The girls were great at the store. No crying, no shoving stuff into my hands and insisting I buy it. They just had a blast playing in life-sized doll houses and with cars on a long and intricate wooden track, and then letting me know what Santa might bring them out of all those glorious things in there.
That was a beautiful morning.
And then last night. I'd finished scrubbing the kitchen--the job I started last week--and the laundry room and was watching football and when it was time for dinner I decided to make some stuffed shells and roasted chicken thighs. Chepa had Madeleina on Saturday night for a family party at one of her sister's homes--I stopped by briefly--and so was bringing her over for dinner with the girls and Marco as well. The stuffed shells were because it was cold and raining for the third day and night in a row and it felt like we needed something substantial.
So I cooked down fresh garlic in olive oil and a couple of tablespoons of finely diced salt pork, then added 8 ounces of fresh spinach and five leaves of fresh basil. When it was cooked down, I tossed that in a blender and added an egg. That resultant mash was poured into a bowl with 16 ounces of part skim milk ricotta cheese, stirred till beautifully married, added a touch of pepper and some good parmesan, then stuffed the large shells I'd made at the same time. I topped the shells with a light tomato sauce I also made at the same time--though it got an extra hour head start--and then some mozerella and baked them at 350.
They were done just as the chicken thighs were done. Perfect.
And then Chepa called. "You know, I'm not going there for dinner."
"Why not?"
"Because of those cats you have. I just want to throw up thinking about cat hair everywhere in the food."
"Chep, there's no cat hair in the food. There's no cat hair anywhere. It's coming on winter and cats and dogs don't shed till Spring. And even so, my house is so clean you could eat off the kitchen floor."
"You say. But not me. I don't like the cats in the house and making everything dirty. And the girls are allergic. You should get rid of them."
"The girls are not allergic. They love the cats."
"You are never going to have us for dinner till you get rid of those cats."
"What are you talking about? You just ate dinner here on Friday night."
"And I almost got sick with all that filthy cat hair...."
"You were hand feeding one of the cats while you ate. What are you talking about?"
"You are never going to change my mind. Just eat alone with your cats..."
It really was only going to go downhill, so I quietly hung up. But I was angry. I was hurt. I don't know what the heck is going on but it's as if the whole freaking family is pulling away and I don't think I'm doing anything wrong. But the cats as an excuse? The two baby kittens that the girls cart around like babies? The cats Chepa hand feeds?
Marco and Madeleina came and had a feast, topped with the nice banana bread I made for dessert, then went back to Chepas.
And I went to bed and had a million dreams but the one I woke up to was one wherein I was being forbidden to see my family. l kept asking why and couldn't get an answer.
And so I went to sleep with a bitter taste on my tongue and woke the same way. I'll figure it out, I guess, but right this moment, early on Monday morning, I don't like the taste at all.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Sorry, but Another Person Asked Something About Ayahuasca

Sorry to all the people who want just family stuff and recipes. I get people who ask about ayahuasca and I think it's important to answer them as best as possible and today was one of those days when several people got in touch. I only wrote once about sapo, so here's something about Ayahuasca. This fellow D., wrote to say he'd read my book, appreciated it, but wondered about doing ayahuasca. Wondered whether his demons might not come out. Wondered whether Ayahuasca would just beat the shit out of him for no reason. Here's what I wrote in response:

Dear D.:Thanks for writing. Thanks for reading the book. Thanks for the good feedback.
Ayahuasca can be tough. You have to be soft and tough back. If she's the equivalent of a 100 foot impossible to climb mountain, you become a 2000 foot glacier to earn her respect.
I've never know Ayahuasca to pick on people. Will she go to dark places to root them out? Yes. Will she push you to change? Yes. Will she bully you for no reason other than that she can? No. She, like life, will give you opportunities to grow. Some of them are very freaking difficult. But none are beyond what you can handle, even if, at some given moments, you panic when dealing with them.
That's where, in my mind, a good curandero comes into play. He/She sees what you are going through and when they think you've had enough, they use their icaros, songs, to pull you out of the pain, the panic, the spiral. They are the ones who invited the spirits; they are the ones who can tell the spirits that the party is over and it's time to go. At least the good ones can.
So don't be afraid. Wary, yes.
Ridiculous, but I've a February trip coming up that includes some people who have some experience and a few people in your boat. All will come out better for it. All will be taken care of. And if one or two of them have demons come out, well, with a little spiritual help, my team and I will get those to either reconsider their positions or we'll dump them into the red room for a bit of a makeover. We don't like bully spirits on my trip.
If it is time for you, then join. It ain't cheap, but it's the real deal and I'm giving you the chance/choice. If not now, then you'll find something when you're ripe for it. You'll be fine. We're all scared to enter those realms. We'd be foolish not to be. But knowing you have someone who will get you through, the curandero, allows you to get through it much more easily.
Hope that helps.

A Note About Sapo

Someone wrote to say that they heard that a Brazilian tribe's sapo--the frog secretions burned into your skin that clean you up, eliminate toxins, and sharpen your senses (great great liver/kidney flush)--was stronger than the Matses' sapo. I thought it worth addressing, so here's what I wrote:

Hello. I've never done any sapo except from the Matses, who are the first people known to have used it. The other groups that use it now got it from my writing about the Matses using it and from word of mouth, indigenous group to indigenous group. That's just a point of record in case someone else is claiming the distinction of being first.
Could the same frog in a different part of the Amazon have a stronger secretion? I guess they could, since it would depend on what they are eating which is what is turned into the sapo. I frogs in one area are eating more of the bug, or leaves that become sapo, then they'd have stronger secretions. It's like when you buy a phyllomedusa bicolor frog in an aquarium store in the USA, it has no sapo whatsoever. You can still get it to give off secretions, but there is no medicine in them. None. And that's because their diet is different in captivity than when free.
On the other hand, mostly what I've seen is that the power is in how the frog is collected. If it is touched at all it gives off it's secretions, and the most powerful secretions are in that first burst. After that, the more you collect, the weaker it gets. So while anyone can collect sapo frogs without too much difficulty, only a real hunter who depends on those secretions as medicines and to give him better aim when hunting knows not to disturb that frog: You don't collect the frog, you cut the branch on which it sits. You bring the branch to the ground and prepare your four sticks and the little vine-strings with which to fix the frog into the "green trampoline" position, stretched between those sticks. Only then do you handle the frog, putting it into position and then scraping the sapo onto your stick.
Real Matses hunters generally only take the first secretions from the frog. People in the business of trying to sell sapo sticks will continue to get more and more secretions from the frog but it simply gets weaker and weaker--just imagine taking not just the first, but all of the eggs in a hen's huevera: Only one egg is ready at a time: The rest are not fully formed yet. So with the sapo: Only the first secretions are capable of warding off a snake. If they don't do the job, well, the frog is dead. The frog certainly has more secretion, but it's not ready.
So yes, if the frogs eat more of what helps them produce sapo, their sapo secretions would be stronger. But even then, if not collected properly, the material would be weak.
Make sense?

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Getting Old and Things Change

You know, I feel like i'm 27. I'm young, handsome, long-haired. I've got three or four ounces of good pot in the drawer and four or five Thai Sticks I can smoke. A girl I know is going to come over with nothing under her raincoat and she is going to make love with me. We're gonna laugh a lot and I'm not going to know how to say it, but in my heart I'll be screaming: Thank you for coming here to me and treating me like I"m special. WOW!
Only now I'm 60 and living in Texas. And even if I feel like I'm 27 that's not the case. I'm still strong but my hair is grey. My beard is old-man white, and WARNING!!!!!, the hair on my balls is white too, so I shave it so nobody can see.
But you know what? Nobody wants to see. Nobody is interested. Damn.
Maybe if I still had that pot....
Or maybe if I was still 27 and a young buck.
But I'm not.
Now I'm not religious, but I am pretty spiritual.
I was raised Catholic and was an alter boy and helped serve food and keep company with shut-ins for a long time ago as part of being an alter boy. ASIDE: All you Christians are Failed Catholics, in case you don't know it. I'm not talking about you nice people, I'm talking about all the Republican candidates for president. Failed Catholics That's what Mormons, Baptists, Presbyterians, Lutherans, and all the other churches are---so there!
Lapsed would be a generous exaggeration for me. It's been 50 years.
That doesn't mean I'm not spiritual, like any other failed Catholic.
So yes, I pray. I know I'm not at the top of the food chain by a long shot.
But when I was a kid, I prayed not to get caught with 5 kilos of pot or an ounce of cocaine. I prayed to get laid. I prayed for a really good kiss or inspiration for a play I was writing.
Know what I pray for these days? To wake up in the morning.
Simple as that.
I love waking up in the morning and know that one day I won't. So I pray that tomorrow morning is not the day I don't wake up. I pray that tomorrow I wake up and fight the inequities of the world again. I love the fight. I wish I could win. I won't. Maybe I'll inspire two or three others to take up or continue the fight.
But I definitely pray that I'll wake up in the morning. With enough strength to fight the good fight again. To see my Madeleina. To hug Italo and Marco. To laugh with Sierra and Alexa, Chepa's daughters, and to hold my grandbaby Taylor close for just a minute.
So now that I'm getting older, my prayers are for different things.
I hope I keep getting what I pray for.
And I hope you all get what it is you need too.

Friday, November 25, 2011


Well, I hope you all had a wonderful time yesterday. I hope you were with your pals and loved ones and that whatever you ate was just what your body and soul needed.
Here at the Gormans, I didn't plan much. Chepa's boyfriend came into town, so she and her babies and he were headed over to one of the sister's homes. Italo's wife Sara has been a little sour on my lately and was headed over to Chepa's sister as well, and I figured she'd take Italo and their baby. And Marco is a wild card. He might show or not.
I did not feel badly. It's just life and making demands on a day when everybody is under stress doesn't do any one any good. Neither does force feeding people their third or fourth meal just to say they came over.
Still, I bought a small turkey--about 15 pounds, made mashed potatoes and gravy, cooked some nice organic baby carrots and peas, and made a nice stuffing. Plus good cranberry sauce with whole cranberries.
Madeleina joked that the turkey was for Boots and the rest of the food for the raccoon who gets into our garbage. I laughed with her and said they both deserved treats, so what the heck.
And then at about 3, just as the Cowboy's football game was starting and the food was nearly done, Italo surprised me and came over. "Where else would I be? I want to watch the game with you, dad," he said.
And he and Madeleina put the big table in the living room and set it in front of the television. He turned the game on. In all these years in Texas that table has never been there before, so it was a nice treat.
And then Marco showed up. That was surprising because he and Italo had a fight a couple of weeks ago and have not been talking. They didn't talk yesterday, not much anyway, but they got along well enough.
And so there it was: Just me and my kids. And that was the greatest Thanksgiving in a long time.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Amazon Logging

A friend of mine recently saw a documentary about gold miners tearing up a chunk of the rainforest--probably in the cloud forest on the eastern slopes of the Andes--in Peru and wondered why that couldn't be stopped.
I responded with this short but salient note about the illegal logging in the jungle as a sort of comparison. Here is what I had to say:
Well, no, the Peruvian government, just like the rest of the governments all over the world, can't keep people from either legal or illegal plundering. We just do it more formally here in the Western World by giving people contracts to ravage the land. In poor countries it's generally every man/woman for him/herself. Why can't it be stopped? Because there are just too many who want to work and need the dough and from everybody's point of view the jungle goes on endlessly. They have no idea how finite it really is. Even on the river I use for my trips there is illegal logging. And the loggers, who go upriver from where we go, cut down 10 trees, maybe 60 feet of good 5'-7' thick trunk each, and make rafts to float back to Iquitos where the wood is made into the cheapest plywood you've ever seen. And the men who do the work will make about 8 dollars a day, and the guy who organizes the trips will sell those 10 tree trunks--cut into 12 foot lengths for transport-- for a total of a thousand dollars and earn maybe $300-$500 when he's paid off his people and for the gas to put in the boats to move that raft of trunks.
Here's the kicker: There are trees out there--lots and lots of them--that are worth tens of thousands of dollars for a single trunk for use in fine veneers, fine furniture, fine flooring and for woodworkers. One of my friends, Jim K, has control of vast reserves of forest and he has his people, the people who live out there in those reserves, make very occasional and selective cuts. A tree here, a tree there. And he then has those trunks cut into blocks to sell to wood workers in stores in the northern US and Canada. And it's beautiful wood shipped out by the occasional container load. And his people get well paid and they don't need to cut the forest for cheap plywood. They protect the forest.
But how to educate everybody that they could make a lot more with a lot less cutting if they sold the right trees to the right buyers? And even if you could educate those illegal loggers, the price would fall if suddenly there was a lot more wood sold for veneers and furniture, and then the locals would go back to cutting everything.
So yes, it stinks.
And no, I don't have a solution.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Well, That's How Love is if You Mishandle It

I don't go on facebook very often. But I still get notices from "friends" sometimes and those draw me in if I've got a moment. And, of course, once in a while I look for old loves. Why? Cause I'm a maudlin creep, I guess. Or sometimes just want to peek and see how some women I loved a long time ago are doing.
Well, today, there were notices that drew me to two women I loved. And in pictures, both of those women were being held by other men. I had my chance to hold them. I guess I didn't hold them tight enough. I always ran away. And when I stopped running away it was with a woman who ran away.
And so, as I was down with the flu and couldn't write worth a dime, I took a nap. And when I awoke from that all I could think of was All of my women are being held by other men.
Man, that was lousy.
I'm glad they got the right holding.
I hope they get more.
But it still shot through me that I'd failed those women, probably hurt them. They were willing to love and I was not. Selfish. Scared.
All of the women I loved love or loved other men.
Now if it only starts raining, I'll probably melt in a pile of self pity/hatred.
I miss them all, terribly.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Da Marvelous Trips

Well, it's been a nice week. Weather has been chilly and perfect here in bucolic Joshua, the whole family is fairly stoned on cough syrup cause we've all got thick colds and the attendant coughs, and I'm getting out there and doing my walking daily--which is good because otherwise I'm tethered to this computer. And now that my friend Martin hooked up a second screen for me last week, well, hell, I'm double-tethered.
Plus, I've been doing a lot of stories and still have two to go: One for the business magazine is due tomorrow--Yikes!--and a cover for the alternative weekly is due...well, tomorrow too, though only a draft of it due then. Problem? Yes. Seems that what I thought was cover story material is, after weeks of rooting around, sending in Freedom of Information Requests and calling eminent domain attorneys and a whole lot of other people, not a story at all. Ah well. I'm in proverbial hole, you might say, and I'm wracking my brain trying to come up with a way to salvage it and thus save my job. Oy vey! I'm verklempt!
But there is a bright side: The book is selling well this month.
And better still: Six people have signed on for the February jungle trip. Which is going to be 12 days instead of 9 1/2 for the same price, because I need my jungle fix. And a couple more, two just today, have asked if there is space. Yes, but I'm really hoping that the interest stays and I can fill it up. Cause the trip is just fantastic when we've got a pretty good sized group of 10-12 guests. That keeps my team hopping and when they're working they're having a blast. Me too. It's still small and intimate, but there are generally enough different personalities to keep things interesting.
Okay, so that's all I had to tell you.
I hope you all have some good things happening in your lives as well.
Oh, and if any of you have a good story idea that I can write in less than 24-hours, well, by all means pass it along. I'll owe ya.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Okay, You Shmoeblies, I'm Feeling Cantankerous

Okay, you shmoeblies--that's a word I just made up to describe you, my dear readers--what's up? I just gave you three world freaking class recipes and nobody has written back that they've tried them and gotten laid, saved a marriage, ended a feud....what the hell is good food for except to change people and their attitudes? You think I'm giving you these recipes because I'm bored? These are shamanic tools that will allow you to change your whole world! Food is one of the three basics, okay? We have air--we need that for real. Then we have water--we have to have that. Then there is food. That's the third biggie. After that come shelter, safety, comfort and all the rest. But the first three we need even if we're on the run from dinosaurs.
And while good clay dirt and grubs will get you by, the reality is that in this world, the better the food--not the most costly because much of the best food is nearly free (see shmaltz or potatoes)--the better the communication, the better the healing. So I give out these recipes with the hopes that lives are changed. I mean, for goodness sakes! Strawberries in a bit of blue-cheese, garlic butter over sea scallops on a bed of sauteed spinach?????? Who makes that stuff up? That's magic in your hands.
So please, my little shmoeblies, try the freaking recipes and tell me how they changed your life. Maybe you made my basic and cheating bar-be-que sauce for a school affair that got you accepted or got your kid to stop being bullied. Maybe you tried my macaroni and cheese and realized you still loved your husband/wife, so long as they'd let you eat that stuff. Maybe you tried my lentils or canary beans and decided it wouldn't be so bad to be a vegetarian after all. Or maybe you tried my mussels maniere and realized that no champagne will ever go to waste again.
So here's one more, while it's raining ferociously here in bucolic Joshua, Texas and while I'm behind on two stories due Friday, which I have pretty much zero chance of completing because I'm a lazy motha.
Here's your basic, fantastic, roast chicken.
Buy half a dozen russet potatoes (red). Medium size. Cut them in half and put them, unpeeled, in a pot of cold water placed on maybe 8 out of 10. High but not max.
Wait 10 minutes, but before the water boils, add 30 baby organic peeled carrots.
Cut a large organic chicken in half. Wash it well, but not with soap.
Place the two chicken halves, skin down, in a dish lined with clean/trimmed celery stalks and thick half-onion rounds. Red onion preferred. Like cut an onion in half, turn it face down, make three slices and put those pretty thick slices on the celery stalks.
Put a couple of table spoons of chopped fresh garlic that's been sitting in olive oil for a day or so--at least a couple of hours--onto the chicken body. Rub it in with your hands. Include hand sweat, so long as it's clean. Put a little good butcher-ground black pepper and some very good sea salt (about $10 a pound but you get to use it in special places so it's worth it) on the chicken and rub it in.
Turn the chicken over.
Turn the oven on to 350 degrees.
Do the same thing to the skin side of the chicken as you did to the insides: Garlic, olive oil, good black pepper, good salt.
Go out to your yard or your neighbors yard or the local park and get two sprigs of cedar. Not logs, just sprigs.
Put them under the chicken, between the chicken and the celery/onions.
Put chicken in the oven.
Wait 20 minutes till the potatoes and carrots are halfway done.
Strain potatoes and carrots.
Put potatoes and carrots into the pot with the chicken. Spoon a little chicken grease from the pan over them to keep them moist.
Cook till chicken is brown. By that time the celery and onions will almost be caramelized, and the potatoes and carrots will be ready.
Take the chicken and veggies out and put aside.
Into the chicken pan put a couple of table spoons of flour and a can of chicken stock, or fresh chicken stock if you have some in your fridge.
Bring to a boil, solidify to a gravy.
Take a bit of chicken, a couple of potato halves, a few carrots, a stalk or two of celery and some of the onions and put them on your plate. Put some gravy on them. Make a good, tasty and healthy salad. Sit down. Eat. Get better.
Once better, become a shaman and pass secrets like this along. Keep the good things going.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Three Quick and Great Recipes

Okay, so a couple of friends came over for the weekend. There was ceremony on Friday, then a bridge over the creek got rebuilt Saturday morning and I got a second computer monitor--very che che!--on Saturday afternoon. I'm high tech, baby.
So no food on Friday, but on Saturday morning I made a nice omelet of sauteed ham, garlic, onion, spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and good cheddar cheese.
Madeleina one-upped me by making everyone a delicious smoothie of fresh cantaloupe, strawberries, banana, and tangerine in an organic vanilla yogurt with good water and a little orange juice. With just a little sugar. Damn, that was good.
Saturday night, after one of my friends had gone home, I made lime chicken--you know the one where I cut half a chicken breast in half (making four pieces of chicken out of one breast), then flour, egg and bread them in a mix of half-good breadcrumbs and half-good quality, grated parmesan cheese. Saute, turn, top with a little more parmesan, butcher ground black pepper and then squeeze lime juice onto them. Enough lime juice, like four full ripe limes for four pieces of chicken. Then bake for a few minutes at 350, till the cheese is a light brown and the chicken is cooked through.
But I also had a couple of beautiful, large, fresh sea scallops and couldn't resist making a little side dish with them.
So I sauteed fresh spinach in a bit of olive oil and garlic and used that as a bed. While that was cooking I floured the the scallops then put them in a hot pan with a bit more of that garlic and olive oil. A little butcher black pepper on them. Browned on one side, I turned them over, added a tablespoon of butter--that's all you need for four large scallops--and an ounce or so of good bleu cheese. When those married, I tossed three strawberries I'd sliced into the pan, pulled the scallops and put them on the little bed of spinach. Then I squeezed two limes into the garlic/ bleu cheese/strawberry butter, brought it to heat, and topped the scallops with that. The strawberries were over the top but I've been experimenting with using them now and then and they add a decadently sweet snarl to the lime and bleu cheese butter.
Then last night, Madeleina had friends over to make a video commercial for their drama class. The project was supposed to run about two hours long, but by six or so, and not nearly done, Madeleina asked me to make them dinner.
So I took a pound of good hot sausages from the freezer and ran them under hot water for a few minutes, then put them in a pot of water and brought that to a boil to get them cooked.
In another pot I brought salted water to a boil and cooked a pound of fucilli.
In a third pot I put small pieces of fresh broccoli, cauliflower, zuccini and yellow squash to start them cooking. When they were al dente I took them off and cooled them in a colander, then put two big handfuls of spinach in the still hot water for a minute. Then I took that off.
I put a big sauce pan on the stove, loaded in three heaping tablespoons of that garlic in olive oil I always have on hand and added a diced red onion to it. When that was going good I added four diced Roma tomatoes and six cleaned and diced scallions. Then I took the sausages off the fire and sliced them, then tossed them into the pan with the garlic/onions/tomatoes/scallions. When the sausage slices browned, I added the veggies, a can of good chicken stock and--okay, I'm cheating here--a family-sized can of cream of chicken soup.
I let things get married in the pan, then tossed in some parmesan cheese for a bit of bite.
When the sauce was ready I mixed it with the pasta and voila! A nice dish.
Okay, you have permission to try those at home. They're freaking fabulous.
Bon appetit! everyone.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

What a Coward Does

So, in response to the 600 pound rat that ran across my feet, I put four huge glue traps in the attic crawl space. Damned thing fought three of them, won the cheese from all, left me enough hair on the glue to make three wigs and walked away full. So I did the next best thing: I got two little female cats from the pound. The damned rat outweighs them by hundreds of pounds, but I'm hoping the smell of the cats will make the rat run away. And if that doesn't work, at least I can sleep again, knowing that the rat, no matter how big and bold, isn't going to walk into a room where two kittens of about 12-weeks old each are sleeping on me.
So there. That's the cowards way out. And I'm not ashamed. Well, I am. But who cares. I had to do something and feeding two felines for the next 15 years at a cost of about $2 a day is nothing compared to having a rat free ceiling. Or something.
Have a good night everyone. I know I will.
Ahhhhh....the sweet smell of rat-killing cats... .

Saturday, November 05, 2011

So A Rat Just Ran Across My Feet...

Okay, so a huge rat, maybe 600 pounds, just ran across my freaking feet while I was getting nails to shore up a small hole in the ceiling. So, as I'm a freaking baby around rats--and I thought I got over it when I woke once and a rat was biting my hand and I flung it against a wall (thought I'd killed it but no such luck, they're very tough little guys)--I immediately called Italo, whom I met on the highway this afternoon at 70 MPH when he pulled up on me suddenly and gave me a great big "YEAH!" fist--but he was too tired. So he sent Marco, who took a plunger to trap the poor thing--swear to god the thing was way way way bigger than a plunger, length wise, though I know I'm exaggerating. Marco couldn't find him. Damn.
So now the thing is back in the attic--or there are more than one, which generally happens--and Marco just put up a board on the hole in the ceiling which will prevent the damned thing from falling on me, at least temporarily. So Marco, who is the bravest guy around rats you ever saw, was laughing at me: "Dad, you're not afraid of caiman or anacondas or vipers. You're not afraid to give people ayahuasca and you can handle it when they go temporarily nuts. You wipe their rear ends when they shit themselves. You take on patients that you don't even know and try to help them. But you're a freaking sissy around rats. Why is that?"
What the heck am I going to tell him? He's right. I'm just afraid because I got afraid as a kid, and when it comes to rats, I'm like 6-years old. I just can't handle it. I've thought of it as Catholic devil images--I was raised pretty good Catholic and a lot of images of the devil had rats around his feet--and I've thought of it a million other ways. No helping it: I'm a coward in the face of six ounce rats. Clare and I were in Seville, Spain, one night 28 years ago and a rat ran across the street in front of us and I swear it had three mid-sections, big enough to have 75 babies, and if you don't believe me ask Clare--and that was the end of Seville for me, even in front of my woman I didn't have courage.
Damn. Wish I was braver. Wish I had guts. But sometimes I just don't. And rats are one, many, of those times.
And Marco won't even stay for dinner, which I was hoping he would so he could kill the rat when it exposes itself. And he won't sleep here because his sometimes girlfriend might just put a little grace on him.
So I'm alone.
If Madeleina was here I'd be the big guy, protecting her. But she's not. She slept at Mom's last night and is getting her hair cut right now so I have no one to show off to. In which case I revert to being the freaking chicken that I am.
Damn. More than you wanted to know, right? I mean, P Gorman is supposed to have some spine.
Most of the time I'm the best. Bring rats in to walk across my feet and you'll find out the weak points for sure.
Ah, life, you have a way of undressing me that I find uncomfortable. But then, that's my weakness to work on. Thanks for the opportunity, though I hate getting it.

Follow Up Questions about Ayahuasca from a Stranger

So the stranger from the previous post has asked a few more questions about ayahuasca. I've told him that this should be the last of them because it takes a long time to answer. Actually, I like being asked once I'm through answering, because sometimes strangers can ask questions that nobody has asked before and it's fun to try to come up with a legitimate response from my experience.
So here are his newest questions. My answers follow each.

1.) Let us say that one has developed certain abilities of extrasensory perception through Ayahuasca (e.g. clearly seeing the spirit world, seeing the internal organs of a human body, etc.) and a long apprenticeship with a qualified, traditional shaman. And then it happens that for a numbers of year one cannot return back to the Amazon and stays in Europe not being able to consume ayahuasca.

Do then these abilities of extrasensory perception remain completely intact or must one always consume ayahuasca to keep them active?

ANSWER: I don't know that you, or I, or any other curandero, develops any special abilities. I believe the spirits give you the juice, the ability to have those "powers" temporarily, as you need them. Therefore, so long as you and the spirits were friends, I think you would be able to access those "powers" when you need them. Even without returning to the Amazon or drinking more ayahuasca. But if you abuse your spirit friends, if you use their juice, their power, selfishly, I believe you'll stop being able to get those powers when you need them. I think people who fall into the brujeria trap find this out: They may have strong powers of negativity for a while but eventually lose all their juice and boy, isn't there hell to pay when that happens!
In terms of the kinds of "powers" I've been lent, here are a couple of examples: Once, when Italo badly dislocated his ankle and some foot bones, Chepa, my ex, told me to fix it. I said I couldn't. She said the spirits would help and that she knew I could do it. So I looked at Italo's ankle and foot and for just a second it seemed like I had X-ray vision. And I saw what was wrong and how to fix it. Of course I was terrified that I'd just break his bones but something let me try and I twisted, pushed, popped and pulled and by luck everything went back into place. He was up and playing again in no time.
Now I don't have the power of X-ray vision and I don't know how to set bones so complicated that have been dislocated. But in that moment of emergency, I was lent that juice.
However, if I ever hung a shingle outside that read: Bone Setter I'm sure I'd never have that juice or power again. Remember the key words, or at least the key words I was given: Use it, don't abuse it, or lose it.
Then there was the time, not long after the spirits told me that I would always have enough work so long as I did the work well, when we were broke. The electric company was sending a man out to cut off the electricity. Madeleina, then maybe 6-years old or 7-years old, was incensed. "The spirits told you they'd take care of us. They have to!"
I told her the spirits had said I'd have the work--and I had gotten a lot--but they never promised to make editors pay on time.
She didn't buy it.
So the electric guy came to shut us down and Madeleina was wild. I finally asked the guy if it would be possible to wait 15 minutes just to appease her. And then when a miracle didn't happen in 15 minutes, he could shut us down. He began talking about some shrubs along my property line--his way of stalling a few minutes.
And then, out of the blue, I mean out of the blue, a Fed Ex or some other special delivery truck roars past our house; in two minutes he's coming back our way and pulls into the driveway. He hands me an envelope. In it was a check for a story I'd done and been paid for probably a year earlier. And it wasn't just a check, it was a freaking bank check. It was truly a miracle. And I never saw that driver before or after. I don't even know if it was a real person or just a spirit visit.
But I then asked the electric guy if he could come back in a little while and I'd go cash it and pay him in cash. He said okay and Madeleina just screamed with joy, thanking the spirits for coming through.
Could I make that happen again? Was it my power? Not a chance. I was lent that extraordinary moment by spirits.
Back to your quesiton: I don't believe people get extraordinary abilities--abilities like you're imagining. But I believe that the spirits help us out sometimes. So remain friends with them, however you can do that, if you ever get the chance to meet one or more of them. I think they help everybody all the time, even if they didn't drink ayahuasca. Just imagine how many times you might have been just about to step into the street when something simply stopped you and in that second a car you had not seen roars by. And if you had not been stopped, bam, you'd be dead.
So I think they help us a lot. I just think it's neat to get to meet them and be able to communicate with them a little.

2.) You wrote:
"And then there is Hector, a Q'ero from high in the Andes. I've never had San Pedro with him but I have seen is impossible powers."

I don't want to sound like a miracle monger, but may I ask what are these impossible powers and in what way do they manifest?

ANSWER: Hector changes me just by giving me a hug. Sometimes I break out crying, other times I just beam with joy. He's one of the special ones. Impossible powers? Well, in ceremony one night, a San Pedro ceremony that he was not running but he had done the offrenda, the offering to PachaMama prior to the ceremony, at the Temple of the Moon outside of Cuzco, three people tried to interrupt the ceremony. They were loud, vulgar. They'd driven a car right up to the place, burned rubber. Two women and a man, I think. Drunk. Actually, under the influence of the medicine I thought they were just mean spirits upset that so many people were drinking good medicine.
They kept their distance at first, just yelling, cursing, asking what kind of sex we were having, farting loudly, burping very loudly. Just crude all the way. But the man was huge. Huge. I was wondering how I was going to take him down. It was my group, after all, and so my job.
And then suddenly, the three of them were at the entrance to the cave in the Temple of the Moon and about to enter. Hector was sitting next to me, outside on a rock, maybe 30 feet from the door. I got up to stop them from entering the Temple, where an alter had been set up and some guests were still receiving medicine. But as I got up, I turned to Hector: He wasn't there. He was standing directly in front of the Temple entrance. He had one hand up, palm open, like a universal stop sign. How he had gotten there I don't know. Either amazing aikido or magic, because he'd been sitting next to me a split-second earlier.
And the man looked like he was going to crush Hector--who's pretty good sized himself. And the women were loudly egging him on. Hector didn't say a word. But his hand was an impossible force for the man and the women. They couldn't cross it and finally slunk away silently.
That was an amazing display.
Later that night, as we all sat around a fire burning the offrenda, the offering to PachaMama, he asked me for a cigarette. I got it and was going to give him my lighter, but before I could he reached into the fire and picked up a red hot stone and lit his cigarette with that. Then lit a cigarette for me with the same stone. And he didn't burn his hands. And the hair on his arm didn't burn despite having been in the fire.
When he saw my consternation he simply said that as a baby his mother had given him the gifts of fire and ice and so those spirits were his friends and wouldn't hurt him. I believe him.
So that's the sort of thing Hector can do. And if you go to Cuzco and are supposed to meet him, you will. He will be where he is supposed to be. Have confidence.

2B) You spoke about many San Pedro curanderos you know. What about powerful Ayahuasca curanderos? Are there still any living curanderos of Don Julion Llerena (Jerena)'s calibre around? Really powerful and knowledgeable Banca Ayahuasqeros?
Further you said:
"Julio, Pablo and Bertha have all passed."
What about Pablo's friend, Manuel? Is he still alive? I believe he was also of the Matses tribe.
Are there still Matses around who would have such power and knowledge in spiritual matters as Pablo had? I mean, being able talking to animals, insects, plants, etc. and doing all other extraordinary things.

ANSWER: I'm sure there are wonderful curanderos around. Julio was my teacher and so he is whom I spent most of my time with. But there are many good curanderos. I can't evaluate calibre. For the worse have great days when the spirits really help them, and even the best generally have a rotten day now and then and the spirits don't seem to be around to help them at all. When it's time to find one you will.
One of Pablo's sons was named Manuel. His best friend, Alberto, is also extraordinary, but much less accessable than Pablo.
I think the Matses are losing their special abilities. I think that when they depended on them to stay alive, many had an uncanny, to say the least, understanding of the forest and the creatures that live there. But as modern times and things are incorporated into their lifestyle they depend less on those powers and so they lose them--or they stop communicating with those spirits and become estranged.
Don't get me wrong: They are still magic in the forest compared to most everybody else. But I don't think anyone who doesn't fully depend on hunting will be as good a hunter as one who does depend on hunting to stay alive. And the same with needing to communicate with the spirits of the jungle.

3.) Is it possible to acquire through ayahuasca (OR ANY OTHER MASTER TEACHER PLANT) perfect command of any human language one desires? EXAMPLE: Let us say that I want to study Tibetan, but there is no possibility of doing so in my country. Can ayahuasca (OR ANY OTHER MASTER TEACHER PLANT) teach and grant full command of Tibetan (classical and modern, spoken and written)? Or can the plant lead you to spirit teachers who can do so?

ANSWER: I don't know. I was never given that gift. And the only time I was given a book in an ayahuasca dream--a huge metal book with metal pages into which the words/images had been etched--I couldn't read it at all. So maybe, but not in my experience. Heck, they haven't even let me get my Spanish up to speed after all these years!

4.) Can ayahuasca (OR ANY OTHER MASTER TEACHER PLANT) reveal and teach about the healing properties of plants, which exist for instance only in India or Japan and nowhere else in the world? Can ayahuasca (OR ANY OTHER MASTER TEACHER PLANT) help you find a plant with specific effects such as extending human life?

ANSWER: Again, going from my experience, and knowing I'm not a curandero, I can only tell you what my experience has been: When I was shown a huge market with spirit plants in it, I wondered what the heck I was supposed to learn there. I mean, I don't know that much about plants and this spirit plant market was full of boxes of live and dried plant material. I had no idea what the purpose was in bringing me there. The guardian who had brought me heard my unasked question and told me just to shout out a disease or disorder. I did, and immediately a couple of plants jumped up and shouted what they were. I think at least one of them had a sign with its name written in English as well. So that's how I was to use that plant market.
Now, here in the US, once in a while someone asks me to go there to try to find a solution to a problem they're having. And on those occasions where it was possible to visit, nearly all the plants that respond are plants you can get here in the United States. Someone with a serious immune deficiency asked for help. I sent them una de gato, which I knew would work, but they refused to drink it. So I went back to the market and this time the shout that came up was Collard Greens! Half a cup a day!
Which was ridiculous, of course, until I looked up collard greens and discovered that they have amazing powers for bolstering immune deficiencies.
If I was in Peru and that question was asked, I'm sure a Peruvian plant would have been the one shouting its name. But what would be the point of being told of a plant that could have helped that person that they couldn't get hold of?
I imagine Julio, however he got his plant knowledge, was pretty much always given plants to heal that he could reasonably easily go out and collect. And if you moved Julio to Japan, I think he'd come up with Japanese plants, even if he had no prior knowledge of them.
But if you are asking whether I ever met anyone who could just go into a dream and study plants in another locale, no, I never heard of that. Doesn't mean it's not possible, just something I never heard of.
As to plants that extend human life, I don't know of any, other than a good diet full of garlic and onions and spinach and carrots and broccoli and all sorts of good veggies and fruits. Those things will keep you healthy a long time. But something specific like a fountain of youth for real, like in a novel? No, don't know of it, and I don't think Julio or Bertha or Pablo had either, as they've all passed.

Have a great day, everybody!

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

Answers to Three Questions Raised by a Stranger

Yesterday, someone I never met wrote to tell me they thought my website had good information about ayahuasca. The person followed that up with these questions:

"I am greatly interested in ayahauasca as a tool for obtaining knowledge regarding healing plants and animals, the spirit-world existing parallel to ours and cleansing and healing generally - all conducted in a traditional way. I am not interested in any ayahuasca tourism or "feel-good trips" or curiosity mongering.

"But let me come straight to the point or I should rather say questions.

"1.) Let us say that a person has through apprenticeship become an ayahuasqero or curandero. Then he leaves the Amazon and moves to a place outside of South America, where neither ayahuasca nor other "teacher plants" are available. Let us further presume that he does not ingest ayahuasca nor any other psychoactive plants for 10 years.

"Will this man still retain his healing abilities, extrasensory perception, the ability to commune with the spirit-world, etc. or will he gradually loose all those abilities acquired through the years of his training as a curandero until nothing is left anymore?

"The point I am trying to make here is the following one: does ayahuasca awaken these abilities for good and then they remain with the curandero, even if he never again takes ayahuasca or will he forever remain dependent on ayahuasca as a mean to exercise his power?

"2.) Who was the most powerful and knowledgeable shaman or curandero that you ever met in your life (be it mestizo or a full-blood native one)? Is this person still alive?

"3.) The following question may sound odd, but can ayahuasca (or any other teacher plant, like san pedro, etc.) awaken the ability of seeing into the near-term future (about 10 or 14 days in advance) with perfect accuracy? EXAMPLE: Let us say that you want to know what will happen at a such-and-such place in Cuzco on November 20th this year."

Me Responding:
I waited a day to answer because I didn't want to go off half-cocked. Tonight I answered him. Tomorrow I might revise my answers but this is what came to me when I thought about the questions for a while. Mulled them over, so to say.
Thanks for writing. Here's my take: When you make friends with the spirits, individual spirits that can help us in this realm because they are not constrained by freaking bodies--but at the same time are allured by our bodies--they are like any other friends: If you don't communicate for 10 years there will be an estrangement. That's just life.
The way it was taught to me, by those spirits, was that they would help me, but the deal was:
"Use it, don't abuse it, or lose it." That meant, they would supply a little extra power when needed, but I couldn't use it selfishly, or ignore it, or I would lose it. They would stop supplying it.
Spirits are beings too. They like attention as much as any other being. So if you abuse them or ignore them, they'll leave. They had full lives before they met you and will have full lives after you are gone from their lives.
Now, your question was, if you didn't drink ayahuasca in 10 years would you lose the gifts those spirits give. Not a good question, I don't think. I think that if you did not talk with those spirits--and you don't need the ayahuasca once you know them and they know you--for 10-years--it would be like any other friend: You no longer know each other. But if you didn't drink ayahuasca but remained in contact with those spirits through prayer/song/contemplation/meditation or however you did it, well, I think they'd still be your friends and offer you the gifts they initially gave you. Make sense?
Second question: Who was the most powerful shaman or curandero I ever met? My answer is my teacher, Julion Llerena (Jerena). He was a wonderful fisherman who raised his family properly and healed people daily. He never asked for anything that I know of, For all his strength he was tiny, had been shot twice in wars while with the Peruvian army, and was so so decent.
But then Bertha Grove, whom I wrote about in a series of articles for High Times in the late 1980s about the Native American Church, was brilliant. And then Pablo, the Matses headman who never heard the word curandero or shaman, well, he could probably talk with insects and have them talk back to him. He knew every plant in his part of the rainforest, had named them all, and could utilize them all.
Julio, Pablo and Bertha have all passed.
And then there is Victor Estrada and Kucho both of whom are very much alive. They are San Pedro curanderos. Kucho is young but learning well and very strong. Victor is my age, about 60, and though he's become very famous of late because of appearing in dozens of documentaries about San Pedro curing, he remains a force of nature once he enters ceremony. He is just a luminous shape-shifter and healer.
And then there is Hector, a Q'ero from high in the Andes. I've never had San Pedro with him but I have seen his impossible powers. He's my pal, in the best sense of the word, and in 10 more years might be the strongest curandero of them all.
And there are others. But this is a short list to help answer your question.
As to your third question: Can ayahuasca or San Pedro or other teacher plants open you up to know what will happen within say a two-week period?
I hesitate to answer that. Why? Because the answer is yes, but at the same time to call on those teachers to do that generally indicates a selfish desire, which is where we head into the turf of brujeria---the selfish end of curing. While it might be alright to wish that a friend gets through a difficult time in two weeks, for instance, it would be very selfish and probably very wrong to push the universe to do that. Or to allow you to see an outcome, thereby making it a done deal before it happens. I would suggest staying away from anything like that. To me, looking into the future would violate the "use it, don't abuse it, or lose it" dictum I was given. Maybe one day the spirits will change that dictum but until then, I certainly would not think of trying to ask a spirit to give me a hint of what will happen in the future other than maybe a direction to head in for the next layer of work.
And that's what I'm thinking about in terms of those three questions this Wednesday night, just before a thunderstorm hits us here in bucolic Joshua, Texas.
Have a great night, everybody.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

One of the Things the OWS Crowd is Protesting

People often ask, on various forums I visit, what the hell the Occupy Wall Street crowd actually wants? Those people are used to specific demands: Better pay, less hours, no more sexual advances from bosses and so forth. And the Wall Street occupiers are not always vocally adept at explaining what the problem is. But I'll tell you what the problem is, at least in small part. It was about banks, being told they were making too much off credit card and debit card swipes that stores had to give up to them, deciding to charge people for using debit cards to access their own money. These are banks that are not paying a penny on the billions of dollars in checking accounts they regularly loan for good interest. So they make money on your interest, and then they decided to charge people for using their cards to get their money. Well, with enough of a spot light on them, Bank of America, and a couple of others, decided to table that fee at this time. Let's be honest: They won't lose sleep over losing a couple of billion in lost fees to stores for the right to use debit cards. Because there would be many many more billions lost if people didn't shop with debit cards--and go overdraft at $35-$39 per.
Then some people ask "Show me a banker who committed fraud. You guys want to put bankers and Wall Street bigwigs in jail, but for what? Show me the crime!"
And the easiest answer is Wachovia, recently eaten by Wells Fargo. Between 2003 or 2004 (and I will look it up if you challenge me because I've written about this in 10 freaking places) and 2007 or 2008, Wachovia admitted not putting anti-money-laundering processes in place. Which means what? It means that in those four years, whenever they started and ended, Wachovia accepted, from Mexico, $374 or so BILLION dollars into the United States. Now, let's be honest: Does anybody think that the poor farmers and malquiladora workers in Mexico were sending more than 1/3 TRILLION dollars into the US to help support their illegal relatives who made it here?
I didn't think so.
So what was that money?
Well, it turned out that that money, $374 or so BILLION dollars, about One Hundred Billion dollars a year, was being sent by mom and pop money senders in Mexico to Wachovia--which charged a fee to accept it, of course.
That was all drug money. ALL OF IT. Not one penny has ever been sent from Mexico to the US from family to family legally. Money gets sent from Mexican workers in the US to Mexico, not the other way around.
And Wachovia admitted they ignored the anti-money-laundering rules to make a profit. And then they paid a total of $178 or so Million for the transgression, without anyone going to jail for the $374 billion in laundered money.
That's the kind of greed the OWS and me and a lot of you are protesting. If I sold five books on paypal and customers didn't get them I'd go to jail for interstate fraud. Launder, and admit you laundered, $374 BILLION dollars for the drug cartels and get fined $178 or so million.
That's corporate greed. That's tactile. That money would have fed everyone in the world for 10 freaking years.
And then there's the hot story on Huffington Post today, explaining that since the US govt decided to give people on unemployment and other worker or government subsidized programs (I say that because I hate when people refer to Social Security or Medicaid or unemployment as a government hand out when we pay weekly for those) their due monies on debit cards that are recharged monthly, banks are charging people to use them. Which means if say, you work for $500 a week, and then get laid off and then get maybe $250 a week in unemployment insurance that you paid for--along with your boss, nothing from government--and you make more than 4 transactions per month (Mortgage, car, electric, water, insurance, is five, and most people have double that), the bank might take $1.50 to $3 per additional use. The bank already is earning interest on the money put into your account which earns no interest. They got theirs. And nobody is gonna begrudge them that.
But charging you to access that money--which costs nothing, effectively, and which has already earned them interest--is a freaking rip off. And anybody who denies that is a liar.
So that's what OWS and ME are angry about. I'm angry about banks that put through the largest bills first and then tell you your 8 small charges were overdrawn, and it's gonna cost you $39 each. That's not banking. That's not loan sharking. That's beyond the pale of human decency.
So the next time somebody asks you: What the hell are the freaking Occupy Wall Street scum after, give them a copy of this post for a start. Cause this is the very basic root: Greed beyond the ken. Greed beyond belief.

A Little Help from My Friends, Please

Okay, so here's the deal. As noted a few pieces back, I just discovered the "stats" button on this blog. I guess it's been staring me in the face for four years, but I still didn't see it. What's that saying: "None are so blind as those who refuse to see?" Something like that.
So now I realize that somehow, Magic Mushrooms in India is the all-time favorite piece of people who read my blog. About 10 percent of all hits have been to that piece. But how? How the hell do you find it? I mean, you could query the right key words but what the hell would they be: Magic Mushrooms in India...maybe. But I wouldn't guess that so many people would figure that out. More consternating is that the second most read post of all time is Swim Team 101, about my single misadventure on my high school swim team--at a competition at which one of the opposing teams was buck naked with shaved balls. Who shaved their balls? Someone at a catholic high school had that as his or her job description? No wonder there are occasional problems with adults taking advantage of kids.
"No sir, I didn't abuse Jonny. I did pick up his penis and carefully shave his scrotum--very carefully--but that was my job description..."
Who applies for that job?
Okay, after that, most of the most read blogs are about ayahuasca, which is connected to my book, which you all should have read and be quoting by now, copiously, in all manner of circumstances. For instance, if someone asks "How are you?" you might answer, "I thought my head would explode if I didn't get those snakes out!"
They won't know what you mean but they'll still be impressed.
So here is the question: I have long wanted to write a book called The Dad Blog Book. It would have a nice intro to set the stage, and then be a collection of cleaned up pieces from the blog about being a dad in Texas. A single dad with an estranged wife/ex-wife, living with his kids on an acre and a half in bucolic Joshua, Texas. It would have farm animals, crazy kids, live-in 16-year-old girlfriends for 17-year old boys--my sons--and that pesky ex-wife's new babies.
I'd clean up the pieces a bit, then have an editor go over them--or four editors, as in Ayahuasca in My Blood--and I might put in a few new pieces, but it would basically be the story of a single dad trying to raise kids in the era of the blog. And a lot of those pieces have recipes in them, which I know are fantastic recipes. So that would be a plus for those people who like to cook.
Would anybody buy that?
If you answered yes, then would you sponsor it? Counting designer, art, editors it's at least $8,000 which I don't happen to have.
Okay, so no sponsors. Just trying. Let me know.
Or, should I do a book with funny stories like Swim Team 101 and Ganja on the Ganges and Lengua and Magic Mushrooms in India, What Gringos Expect from a Trip to the Amazon, Cooking a Jungle Feast and The Feast of San Gennaro?
Let me know, okay? I'm just trying to figure out where to put the energy, and since you're my most loyal readers, I thought I'd give you the option.