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.