Monday, February 28, 2011

Trouble On Returning Home

Oy vey! I got home 5 days ago. The soles of my feet are so cracked and bleeding that I can hardly walk. The flesh eating infection I had last year is rearing it's very ugly head on my calves--though not as strong as last year, it still makes being awake difficult.
And just before I left the IRS sent me a note saying I owed $6450 from 2009, a year in which I helped pay for Chepa's two babies, her mortgage, my mortgage and Madeleina on a gross income of $35,000.
I wrote them a letter saying they were wrong and they adjusted things down to $5,150. HA!
I came home to that adjusted figure and discovered that a warrant for my arrest has been put out in Tarrant County for a supposedly unpaid traffic ticket in 2004. I investigated and found out it was for not having my insurance card. The $10 fine is now $575. or so. So I went to my insurance guy and he said, "yup, you lapsed that in Nov. 2004".
He also said I renewed two days after the ticket, and then I went out to the garage to the tax boxes and found the receipt I paid to Tarrant county on the day I got my insurance reinstated. So I'm gonna beat that one.
Today I came home from food shopping to find a letter from Getty Images, a photography bank, saying I am illegally using an image on my website for a photo taken of a Matses woman with child in 1986 by Jeff Rotman. They say I owe them $600 for the use.
Whatttttt????? I got that image from Jeff, with permission to put on my website and to sell it as well (for him), when my website first went up in 2000. I had the permission for the image back in 1986, about 20 years before Getty Images came into the picture. Heck, I was the one who took Jeff out to the Matses, which is where he got the shot.
I called Getty and explained and said I'll try to remove it from the site if you don't want it there. No problem. They responded that they still wanted their money.
Or they wanted proof that I had permission from Jeff. I asked: "You want permission from 25 years ago? Are you insane? The IRS only asks you to keep records for 7 years and you want permission in writing from the photographer from 25 years ago?"
The answer was "Yes, or else just pay us...."

Well, folks, ain't gonna happen. I don't think I'm paying a penny. Jeff will explain things to them.
But ain't it rich? And wouldn't it be nice if I had all that money to give all these people?
Damn. I feel like Iodized salt: When it rains, it pours....."
Wish me luck. I'm gonna need it.

Dengue in Iquitos

Well, part of my job when I have a group in the Amazon is to talk with the Universe and ask that anything bad that is going to happen to any of my guests happen to me instead. And the universe, cool spirit that she is, obliges. While my guests generally go home without nary a scratch, I wind up with the flesh eating staph infection or the flesh eating spider bite. I get the broken ankle and the exploded intestine. Not that I like getting those things, but I've been a jungle rat long enough to know my body can handle them and I won't utterly panic. If my guests got those things it would be really awful. So I ask to get them if they have to come and then trust that my team, my fantastic team, can doctor me safely through the crisis. And with the exception of the intestinal ulcer explosion a few years ago, they have.
This year it was dengue fever. I've never had it before so it was an interesting learning experience. And of course, I was glad that none of the guests got it or anything else. Thanks, Universe...sort of.
What I had was called hemorrhagic dengue--but I didn't hemorrhage so that's the good news. There was an epidemic down there and here's what happened:
Every year, every house, tree, park, river bank, store and so forth get sprayed for mosquitos in Iquitos. The men just come and knock on your door on the designated day and they come into your house looking for any place where mosquitos could thrive. If they see you have piles of old clothes soaking wet in a corner or newspapers (leaky roof), they take them and burn them in the street. Everything else they spray.
They go from neighborhood to neighborhood for a couple of weeks till the whole city is done. It's a pain in the ass--you're not allowed to leave your house on the day it's your neighborhood's turn--but it keeps malaria and dengue at bay by eliminating mosquito larvae.
Last year the people in charge of the spraying money--millions of dollars--kept the money and claimed that Lima never sent it to Iquitos. They did the same this year and so an epidemic of each: malaria and dengue broke out. Thousands and thousands of people were sick. Hundreds died. People protested wildly, demanding blood from the thieves when they discovered that Lima had indeed sent the money for the spraying.
Finally, Lima sent more money and the spraying got done, but not before an awful lot of us were sick.
The malaria didn't bother me because I already have it and those parasites just live in my liver until I get sick, overworked and so forth, and then they come out and I have malaria for a few days. Rotten but I can deal with it.
The dengue is not nearly as severe for most people but the mosquitos that carry it put something in your blood that thins it. Thins it a lot, which is why people often hemorrhage. If you don't, you're better in a week. If you do, you have to get to a hospital quick to get blood coagulant or you just bleed to death. So a lot of people who live on the river died. And a lot of little kids and old people died. For me it was just 7-8 days of being real sore, puking unexpectedly, muscle aches, head throbbing, hilariously puffed face and other soft tissue and no ability to eat or sleep. Oh, and your body itches from the inside wildly, so that you have to scratch yourself all the time without getting any relief...
But I made it so that was good. A couple of neighbors didn't, which was bad, particularly considering that the whole epidemic was created by someone or a few someone's purposely keeping the funds meant to prevent it.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Back Again to Torment You All...

Hello, everyone. I'm back from Peru and I've been back 72 hours and though I have thought of you I have not been able to write.
I'm finishing a very nasty bout of hemorrhagic dengue and the stupid septic flesh eating bacteria are back on my calves and my feet are all cut deeply and so I can't walk without extreme pain...
What a sissy I'm turning into!
But then, it's to be expected, says my Madeleina.
"Dad, you turned 60 while you were away. Let's face it: You are old. I mean, you could just die sort of old. I mean, I don't want you to die but in another month I'll have to learn to cook so I can spoon feed you because you won't be able to take care of if you ever could..."
"I'll kill you, beautiful...."
"No, dad. You won't. Why? Because you're officially an old man and old men can't kill anyone. They can't even dream of it because they can't think straight. I'm sorry dad. If I had money I'd put you in a home where people would be paid to pretend they like you.
"Oh, and speaking of money, can we afford piano lessons now? Better now than later because I read that old people go deaf and what's the point of practicing for you if you can't hear me? So can I?
I love my kids. I didn't love coming home to a house without heat and water. To a house with dirty dishes and pots and pans piled up not only in the sink but on every surface in the kitchen and living room. Marco, my beautiful son, explained it this way: "Dad, let's face it. We always expect you to die in the jungle so why bother to clean up if you're never going to see the mess?"
My son Italo explained it this way: "I told Marco to clean up but he's a lazy son of a bitch. He didn't even fix the water pipes. Why can't you just beat some sense into him?"
They each blamed the broken rear window on one of my trucks on each other.
Good to be home. I missed you guys. I mean you, the readers. You're the only ones I can relate to and that's probably because you don't write to me to express your disappointment in me. Doesn't matter. I'll take that as love.
What else happened? Well, I had two trips with wonderful people who put up with me and more than that, loved the jungle, the medicines, the whole damned thing. Oh, and the IRS wants more than $6000 for 2009, when I was raising Madeleina and Chepa's two babies, plus Chepa, on $30,000. i don't like their math. And the City of Fort Worth claims I had a ticket I was never told about back in 2004 and that the $10 fine for not having my insurance card with me is now nearly $700. Which is about 25% of what I made doing two jungle trips.
And there is more to come, says Madeleina: "Except you don't want any more bad news right now, so I'll wait a few days and then, when you're calm, I'll tell you. Cause it's much worse than you can imagine..."
She wouldn't even give me a hint. So I checked everything I could check and didn't find what she's talking about. Which means it's something more serious than I can imagine. I can't wait.....
And then one of the most wonderful people in the world asked me to get involved in sharing recipes. Well, I didn't get the email till today as I don't do email well when I'm in Peru and it was dated Jan. 17 and had a 5-day window on it which I missed by several weeks.
I sent her three recipes anyway.
And here they are. And I would love to be cooking any one of them right now except that Chepa and Italo and Sara and Marco and the babies were all due for dinner so I made ribs and chicken instead of the fish I love (Cause I didn't have enough fish for everyone) but then Chepa called to say she was dying from a hangover from drinking Tequila last night at a club till 8 AM this morning and since she is not coming over, no one is, so now I'm not only not eating what I wanted and what my body craves, I'm stuck with five pounds of baby back ribs and a chicken and pasta salad that no one is going to eat.....
Not complaining, just noting how it is around here, hear?
So these are the three recipes I sent. I didn't double check them but I think they're pretty accurate considering that I never measure anything in teaspoons or tablespoons but prefer to use cook terms like "Two-finger bit" or "three finger dollop" to signify amounts. So take these with a grain of salt and check your seasoning. All three are strong recipes and you will love them if you make them with fantastic courage and the willingness to fail. Just take the step and you'll be fine.
And thanks for listening and I'm glad if you're still reading and all that jazz. I'm back, so I'll be back soon.
1) Swordfish and capers: Saute 8 ounces of swordfish steak per person in scalding olive oil. When you turn the swordfish, add one tablespoon of fresh, minced garlic to the pan per portion, and add 1/4 of a diced red onion per person at the same time. When the garlic and onion are cooked through, add 1/4 diced red bell pepper per person, and continue to saute.
When swordfish is done, remove from pan. To the garlic, onions and redpepper, add minced scallions and 1/2 of a small jar of capers per portion.
When boiling, add 1 tablespoon of sweet butter per portion.
Season with salt and pepper and lime (if necessary) to taste.
Pour sauce over fish.....excellent.
SIDES: Basmati rice with garlic
Spinach or asparagus (steamed) and then sauteed in a bit of olive oil with fresh minced garlic. Finish with a touch of balsamic vinegar.

2) Sesame Salmon: 7 ounces or so of salmon filet per person.
Heat a saute pan. When hot enough, put a little olive oil with freshly minced garlic in pan. When garlic is cooked, remove and save.
Place salmon filets in pan skin side up. Scald flesh in garlic infused olive oil. When black, or close to it on the meat side, turn over with skin side down. Place cooked garlic on meat side, toss 1/4 cup of diced red onions, 1/4 cup of diced roma tomatoes and another tablespoon of minced garlic into pan with fish.
Place roasted sesame seeds (one tablespoon per portion) in with the veggies cooking around the fish), and one tablespoon of sesame oil on top of each cooking portion of fish.
When fish is done, remove and place on plates.
To the veggies and oil in pan add 1/4 bunch of diced fresh cilantro and a dash of Teriyaki sauce per portion of fish. When sauce is done, pour over fish.
SIDES: Basmati rice with garlic OR roasted red potatoes with a dash of butter
Steamed broccoli/cauliflower/cut string bean melange with a touch of cilantro and teriyaki sauce.

3) Jungle Guacamole:
For 6:
Three large, ripe avocados.
Place avacado meat in bowl, mash thoroughly.
Dice 3 cloves of garlic per avacado and saute in pan with 3 tablespoons of good oil.
Add 1 diced red onion (about 5 ounces) to garlic in pan.
When garlic and onion are cooked, add one diced roma tomato per avocado to the garlic/onion mix and continue to saute.
Season garlic/onion/tomato mix with salt and cracked black pepper to taste (less is better here; you can add more later but you can't take it away.
When garlic/onions/tomato mix is thoroughly done, ADD to mashed avocado.
Wait 10 minutes until guacamole is no longer scalding. ADD juice of TWO limes.
Stir. Correct seasoning, serve with good crackers.