Sunday, September 30, 2012

Marco's 24th Birthday

Well, my boy Marco is celebrating his birthday today. Or, I should say, I am. He was born on September 17th, 1988. He finished coming out of Chepa on September 18th, 1988, according to my late mother-in-law, who apparently was there and doing the pulling. But they didn't get him to the registry of births until October 1, 1988, so that's his official birthday. You got to remember, this is the Peruvian Amazon, long before cell phones or internet cafes.
    So for years we celebrated two birthdays for him--either September 17 or 18, then again on Oct 1. Until Italo and Madeleina pointed out that Marco getting two rounds of presents was slightly unfair to them.
    Since then I generally give him a long hug in September and then have a party on October 1. So tonight's the night. And while everyone said they'd come at about 7 PM, I'm not sure if they will. Both Italo and Sara work today, and Sunday is Chepa's boyfriend's day off, so they like to spend it together. And Marco has to work tonight at 9:30.
   With that in mind, I made a simple menu: Sauteed asparagus (par boiled, then sauteed with a bit of salt pork and garlic and Julienned red pepper in a balsamic vinegar with a touch of butter. TRUTH: I have not made that yet. That's the last thing I'll do.
    Made good standard Gorman rice: Basmati rice with garlic and olive oil.
    Made a new potato (little red ones) and egg salad with sea salt, cracked black pepper, Hellmann's mayonaise a touch of white vinegar. Totally fattening but fantastic comfort food.
   Made Cuban Beef, Marco's favorite. (Lots of garlic, onion, sauteed chopped beef, diced  Roma tomatoes, a Latin seasoning of half a dozen Peruvian spices I have on hand, cooked like a tomato sauce. After an hour or so, I add vinegar, a fresh bunch of cilantro, chopped, and a nice can of black beans--store bought). I simmer that for another half hour, grace it with lots of cracked black pepper and a bit of a Peruvian hot pepper sauce I make (taught to make it by Chepa in Peru), then serve it over rice.
    Made a rack of baby back ribs (Just cut the rack in half, wash, lightly coat with olive oil and garlic, then pepper them, both sides. Put in a 320 degree oven with a diced onion for 90 minutes or so, add a good brushing of your best tangy barbeque sauce, let cook for another 30 minutes and done--or toss on the grill for five minutes at the end if you want a good smoked flavor. That is, if you're not like me and too lazy to start a fire in the grill tonight).
    I've also got lots of shrimp and broccoli that I was going to marinate and do on the grill, but not knowing how many people are coming, well, I hate just tossing too much Boots' way in the next couple of days.
    Oh, and there is a store bought birthday cake in the fridge. Madeleina and I could not resist getting him the one with the framed picture of Justin Bieber on it. Ohhhh, that could cause a cake fight in the kitchen. I hope it does.
    Happy birthday, Marco. Thanks for being my kid.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Five Cheap Recipes to Feed a Big Family

Okay. So I'm trying to get the vim back together with my vinegar. I'm trying to get the Zip back with my edy-do-da; my Roll back with my Punches. Been a slogging couple of weeks. Worked hard but had no idea what direction to go. Have four stories to work on and a great friend coming in for a few days at end of next week and so need at least one of them done. So I drove nearly 400 miles to a story site yesterday and nobody came to meet me. Wasted 10 hours, unless you appreciate that I contributed $50 in gas to the economy and environment. Going back out tomorrow.
    Saw Chepa's babies, fed them well. Argued with Madeleina, who suddenly thinks the world sucks and is a far cry from the little girl who used to ask me, "Dad, when I grow up will you marry me?" Now she wonders who the heck I am and why I think I have the right to ask about homework.
    Marco just had a birthday and I want to have a party for him Sunday but don't want Chepa's boyfriend to come. No offence, but I'll have a better time with just my family. On the other hand, he's the dad of her two new babies, so I guess he is family. Not in my book, but at the same time..... Still, I think he should just make himself scarce while my family and I have the kind of birthdays we are used to, which generally involves throwing a lot of food around the kitchen at some point and people putting a lot of cake in each other's hair and making a royal, hilarious mess, while the kids run around picking up and eating the food from the floor screaming things like: "Alexa! Look! There's cake here!" or "The potatoes are always better when you mash them on the floor!"  I think everyone will be reserved around him. Too reserved for that, anyway.
    And then last night, after all my driving--which is not a ton but not what I'm used to--I was tired and then Italo called to say he was bringing me the new puppy they got last month. "Dad. He just shit on everything, including the rug you bought me. And Taylor's blanket. If you don't take him, well, you have to take him." So I did. And all night the puppy, on a leash tied to the front porch, cried. So I brought a blanket and then had to sleep with him outside so he wouldn't be afraid. Which meant that today I spent half the day making Boots, the blind wonderdog, feel just as loved. Which means I am freaking covered with fleas and not a happy camper at all!
    That said, I was poor this week. I already told you about someone sending a present out of the blue. That was great. But for me there is never enough for the food I like to cook. If I have money, I'll buy swordfish at $23 a pound. I'll buy sea scallops or Chilean bass at $21 a pound. And I'll match it with organic asparagus and so forth. So I can easily spend $50 on a meal for just a few of us.
    But when I'm poor--which means I sent $20 to the local soup kitchen and have just $30 to feed Madeleina and I and Boots and now and then Chepa and the babies for a couple of days, I can still do it. Here are a couple of great starvation recipes that don't take time or money but do take a little work.
1) Roast Chicken: Take a whole chicken ($3.79). Wash it, cut it in half. Salt and pepper both sides, and drip a few drops of olive oil infused with fresh garlic on it as well. Bake for about an hour at 350 degrees. Toss a sliced red onion ($.59) near the end.
    Cook rice in garlic and olive oil. Start with three tablespoons of good garlic in oil. When the garlic starts to brown, add water and a bit of salt. When the water is boiling, add good basmati rice ($6.69 for 5 lbs, or  $.20 a portion). Cook on high heat and stirring until most of the water is absorbed, then turn down to low, cover with a plastic bag to seal the rice and then put a lid on it. Let it cook for about 45 minutes, or until the chicken is done.
    Broccoli: When chicken and rice are near done, boil a little water with a touch of salt (good sea salt is better if you can afford it) and toss in 5 florets of broccoli per person. Steam for 7 minutes.
    When chicken is done, if you want gravy, remove chicken from pan, add a bit of flour, stir, add chicken stock ($.59-$.82 a can depending on quality) whisk pan drippings/flour/chicken stock and you have fantastic gravy for the chicken and rice.
    Cut the chicken into as many as 10 portions if you need to feed a big family (One chicken leg, or one chicken thigh, or half a breast, or two wings should be plenty of meat for any person, unless they're freaking pigs (sorry) so a regular chicken should feed 10 people. (That's two drumsticks, two people; two thighs, two people; two breasts, four people; two wings, one person; one back, one person.)
   So your $4 chicken and $2 rice, plus $1 in garlic and olive oil, plus $1.75 of broccoli, plus $.59 in chicken stock, plus $.59 in onion, plus $1 in salt, pepper and soap to clean pots and pans comes to $11 to feed a family of 10 a great freaking meal with great nutrition. That's a buck ten a plate. Good deal. Good meal. Enough bones left over to feed your 70 lb dog.
2) Chicken Thighs: Same technique, but use chicken thighs and serve with sauteed red potatoes. One thigh per person. $5.58 for a 5.5 lb pack of 10 pieces. Cut in quarters and boil eight nice red potatoes ($4,00), then saute them in the garlic infused chicken pan drippings till golden brown. Serve with steamed asparagus ($1.50-$2.75 a pound, enough for everyone to have 5 pieces each).  Cost for 10 people? About $1.30 per person. Enough bones left over to feed the dog.
3) Broke but want a change up? Roast 5 chicken thighs ($2.77) with salt, pepper, garlic in olive oil. Buy large tortillas ($2.88 for a package of 10). On each tortilla, put the meat of 1/2 chicken thigh, including the diced skin. Add good beans ($.1.09 a can for good tart black beans, for instance), plus 2 table spoons of  no-fat sour cream ($1.79 a pound, enough for 10), plus two spoons of pico de gallo (Diced red onion, scallions, roma tomatoes and cilantro in good lime juice: 10 portions costs about $2 to make). Put two slices of reasonably good cheddar cheese ($4 for 20 slices)on that, fold and bake for 10 minutes at 325 degrees. If you don't have an oven, put them, two by two, in a microwave for 57 seconds.
    Wrap them in paper towels so you don't scorch yourself. 10 large stuffed burritos (you can always add left over broccoli, spinach, etc) will cost you about $14.40. Maybe $15 with salt and pepper. But your family will love you. You need to supplement your dog tonight as he has only five thigh bones. Give him leftovers with the bones.
4) Chicken de luxe: Roast a chicken ($3.80) with salt, pepper and garlic. Rosemary or whatever else hits your funny bone. Clean the meat from the bones. Serve the bones to the dog. He'll be happy. Chop  the chicken meat roughly and put it aside. Now, to the pan you cooked the chicken in, add garlic, one diced head with a bit of olive oil ($.50), one diced red onion, large ($.89), one green pepper, diced and cleaned ($.79), a diced head of cilantro ($.33-$.39). Stir. Add a can of chicken broth ($.59-$.89). Reduce. Add a little bit of decent barbeque sauce (couple of tablespoons of even the best on the market does not cost more than $1.00). Serve over good rice ($.20 a person) with fresh cantaloupe or watermelon ($.35 per person).
    Total cost for 10 people? $12 tops.
     There are a million recipes for chicken. Getting good chicken is the first thing. Being smart and investing in 10 heads of garlic weekly, plus 1 ping of good olive oil is also key. Dice the garlic and put it in the olive oil. If you can afford a gallon of olive oil and 30-40 heads of good garlic, all the better. It will sit for a month making the garlic and the olive oil more and more yummy as they steep together. That's important to keep your blood clean.
   Try to always add good broccoli or spinach or asparagus or collard greens or whatever you want but something green/organic is better, but something green. Always add good onions. I don't care if they are yellor or red or tiny or big. Onions are, like garlic, just good for you. Now and then add fresh beets, mango, papaya, quinoa, potatoes (good red ones, with skin).
    Last recipe for the night: Good mashed potatoes.
   For 10 people. Get yourself 10 nice sized red potatoes. Organic if possible. Expensive at $1.29 a pound and you're looking at 5 lbs, or $6.45.
   Clean then cut the potatoes in half. Put them in lightly salted, cold water, with skin. Turn water on high. Bring to boil, then boil about 15 minutes, until potatoes are done but still solid. Pour off water; drain.
   When potatoes are drained, take potato masher and mash. When good and mashed, with skin, add 1 cup of 2 percent fat milk. Mash more. Then add 1 stick of good non-salted, sweet butter. Mash more. Add a bit of salt and pepper. The potatoes should fluff and get light and very nice. If not, add a bit more butter or milk. Be careful: Too much of either make soggy potatoes.
   That should serve 10 people a really good potato dish. Add gravy if you have it.
Now, I'm tired. I hope this was cool.
Just trying to feed a big family, and even though I don't have one this second most days, I still remember how to do it if there is not a lot of money around for prime angus beef rib eyes or shrimp...

Ayahuasca and San Pedro Simultaneously?

Someone brought up the subject of taking ayahuasca and San Pedro simultaneously and whether they might hurt, kill or injure someone. This was my response to the person.
Dear X: I can't really imagine aya or San Pedro permanently hurting people, either together, or alone. At the same time, I can't imagine doing both together: That would be like taking out two different girls with different wants and needs, at the same time--it could minimally lead to confusion and more likely a full-fledged fight! I say that because San Pedro is such a wonderful shape-shifter: It changes the speed of the vibrations of your body and spirit so that you can see things normally hidden to us. Ayahuasca, on the other hand, is a door opener: She opens the door to allow us to see and experience things normally not open to us. So while they both allow us to expand the broadband of our senses to see more of what is actually going on all around us than we are normally seeing/experiencing in daily life, they do it in very different ways. And because those new experiences are often difficult for us to understand, I can't see a reason for making them more confusing--by doing both medicines simultaneously--than they already are. I would imagine one would do better by being simpler, more clear, more quiet, more silent.
    And I imagine that the proud spirits of these medicines would want to be appreciated fully, as well. And I think that would be more easily done by doing them separately.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Out of the Blue

This is just a quick note to say Thank You to whomever it was who anonymously sent me $200 yesterday. Here's what happened: I went to the mailbox and there was an envelope with my name and address printed in very stiff lettering on it. No return address. I opened it: There was a blank sheet of loose leaf paper with two hundred dollar bills inside. Talk about making my day! I was feeling the crunch because a check has been late coming in and Boom!
    Whomever you are, thanks. That was just a great great treat. I appreciate it.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Ayahuasca and Gullible People

There as a young fellow who died at an ayahuasca retreat last month. We are still awaiting autopsy report but evidently the curandero panicked and buried the body until the parents and police came, at which point he showed where it was.
   Now I don't believe he died of ayahuasca. I know of no deaths attributable to that medicine. But he might have died of snake bite, or drug interactions, or spider bites, or choking on his own puke. The topic has raised a lot of hair in the aya community. I've tried to stay out until the autopsy is in. But on one thread there was enough vim and vinegar that I responded. Here is my response, crude as it is:

There is a huge problem, I think, with people going to the Amazon and having a vision that they think they must act on immediately. Often this vision is to open a center for an ayahuasquero with whom they had medicine. They wind up cutting down several hectares of primary jungle to set up a camp for someone they hardly know, imposing their vision on a people who don't need it.
     Problem here is that Rob, with a really good heart, had a vision that he should open a center for a teacher that provided those visions. But Rob didn't live in Peru for 20-35 years. Rob didn't know anything about how Peru operates. Rob brought cement to make a permanent place in a place that lives on being turned over every 12-15 years. He has no idea that marrying a Peruvian girl involves 6-8 wedding parties, starting with the first party given to the people who hate you and will send brujo's to kill the marriage. He had no idea that giving a poor man millions of dollars of property would put that man in a position he had no way and no experience of dealing with. The road to hell is paved with good intentions and this is just a single example. If I could give advice, I would say that when you get a vision to open a center or build a pyramid in the river or make a hotel or whatever, that you wait 10-20 years and learn about the culture before trying to implement that vision with no knowledge of the culture.

      I railed against Chimbre before it was open because no one there had any idea of what the impact would be. No one involved knew Peruvian culture. And even if Mancoluto knew Andean culture, he had no experience in the jungle. Who was he to impose anything? Who was Rob? And I give Rob all the credit in the world for having a good heart and giving all his money to the point where he is now poor. But it was wasted. He simply did not know the culture, did not know anything more than what a vision--which might have been true but might also have been something to do 20 years hence--told him. I always remember this story: There was a person who went to a famous retreat outside of Iquitos a few years ago. The curandero was not there. THe assistant was not there. The guy who brought the water to fill the pot was there. He saw the gringo couple and when they offered $50 each for the ceremony, he found some aya and served them. The woman had an extraordinary experience and decided to open a center for the curandero. And she did. And he became famous as the curandero who did not sing icaros. Those of us who knew the man knew why he did not sing icaros: He's never been in a ceremony in his life. He didn't know that icaors were sung. But he made his $100 that night and the woman opened the center for him and he made a good living for several years--without ever having tasted ayahuasca. Rob was as fresh as this woman. He meant well but had no idea what the heck he was doing. He was warned by hundreds of us with experience that this was not okay but he was blinded by his vision. Rob wasn't a bad guy. He meant the very best and having spoken with him several times I know that, or feel that. Still, Would everybody please stop acting on their freaking visions? That doesn't help anybody. Mull the vision over 10-20 years, and figure out what it really means. Then act. Otherwise, well, the otherwise stinks.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Funny Week, Hope I Get Another

Well, it was a funny week, and if I was the one handing out new weeks to people, well, I'm not sure I'd give me another. Not that I'm fixing to die, just saying that I don't know that I did enough to earn another week here on this glorious planet. Did I actually do anything? Yes, did the rewrite on the new cover story that's up at about the possibility of a Texas mental hospital for the criminally insane and for those incompetent to stand trial being privatized. Wrote a couple of two hundred word short pieces for the paper as well. Got a good freelance assignment. Drove all over Joshua one day taking care of the local bills--water, electric, auto insurance and the traffic tickets I picked up for the missing car seat and the expired inspection sticker. Paid other bills via phone. Did some yard work, cooked a couple of very good meals, got Madeleina to school on time, cleaned house, saw Italo and Marco and the babies, made new medicine...but you know, I wasted a lot of hours. I spent a lot of time just reading newspapers on the internet. Felt like nothing was accomplished or even worked for that will advance this world a little.
   So I've got to climb out of that hole and get moving. Not exactly sure what direction, but something and something hard. It feels good to push myself and I guess I have not been doing that. So if I was the fella or gal reading the reports and wondering who was gonna get another week down here and who was going to be recalled, well, I might be on the recall list right not.
   I'm hoping I'm not. I'm hoping I get another week and this time I'll add more to the mix, or try. It's early Sunday morning. I think I'll start with a crisp mile walk and see what goes from there.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


I wrote something about taxed today, something to the effect that poor people who work pay roughly 30 percent of their earnings into one form of tax or another. That means school tax, property tax, gasoline tax, stuff you buy tax, cigarette tax, liquor tax, car registration, tax on water, electric, gas, telephone and television bills and social security and medicare. Even if you don't pay a penny of federal income tax. So I'm pissed off that people are allowed to get away with the "47 percent don't pay income tax" nonsense, when most of those are retirees on pensions or social security, or veterans with physical/mental problems, or the working poor. And yes, there are a few freeloaders, but that's a very small percentage. Probably a lot more millionaires with tax havens don't pay federal income tax than poor people.
   So then some person writes and says that just imagine if I was not only paying the 30 percent I currently pay in general/property/gasoline taxes but was also paying 30 percent in federal income tax. And this is what I told the nitwit. And I am being generous here, calling this person a nitwit.

As someone who has paid 25 percent federal taxes most of my life, I not only understand, but have lived it. And when that salary drops--in my case because the internet took the money out of magazine journalism--well, you pay what you can. But having paid those taxes, I can say with certainty that it felt so so so so so good to have to pay them. It meant I was making $75 grand a year as a chef who was single; it meant I was making $100 grand as a writer! I would give anything to be asked to pay those taxes again because it would mean I was not only solvent, I was freaking rich! And that's the part the rich/wealthy/upper middle class miss. When you're paying those taxes--and I don't believe you or anyone else in the world has paid 30 percent federal in the last 30 years--it means you are well to do. It means you go out to dinner where and when you want. It means you buy a car in three days and not six months. It means you get to pay your bills on time and have a good credit rating and pay less interest on everything! It means that when your kid wants a new pair of sneaks you don't have to save for three weeks to do it! So YEAH! Bring me back the money and I'll pay those taxes in a heartbeat!!!!!!!!! I love paying taxes because it means I'm rich! And having been there, yeah, I miss it.

Response to a Thread on Ayahuasca...

Okay, so my friend Bill Grimes has a blog on He lives in Iquitos, Peru and has a good restaurant there.

Recently someone posted on it about ayahuasca and how ayahuasca has no medical value, is just a placebo, is surrounded by stories about people living thousands of years, etc. It was a naive post by someone who had never done ayahuasca. Nonetheless, it generated a lot of responses, some in agreement, others not, many calling for regulation of the medicine even down in Peru's Amazon.
Someone then wrote asking me to comment. So I did. So here it is. And I think I was asked to comment in light of the apparent death of a young American fellow who went to the jungle to drink ayahuasca. His body was allegedly buried by the curandero and not located until the police were called and he confessed. In his confession he supposedly said the fellow died from drinking ayahuasca. Personally I'm waiting for the autopsy. But I send deep condolences out to the fellow's family and hope they can get through their grief. Losing a child must be the most wretched thing in the world.

This was what I wrote:
Hello: I've been asked to comment here. Not sure what to say. The initial article was essentially a somewhat naive blog post--as evidenced by the longevity claim that in 30 years I've never heard and I get to hear an awful lot down in that part of the world. But somehow that little piece of fluff and fun has taken a serious turn--I think because of the suggestions that a number of people are dying from ayahuasca use. Which does tend to give a conversation a serious turn.
I think ayahuasca is very serious medicine, and I've always treated it that way--well, I'm sure I fell down on the job a few times, but mostly treated it that way. And I think it's wonderful medicine. Anyone who has ever purged know you are not vomiting food; you're vomiting the wretched things in your life that you no longer need to carry around with you. Things we all carry, but can't always explain or even know we carry: Nearly all of us were breastfed, but one day your mother took that away, and left you feeling, though you couldn't put it into words because you had none, abandoned. In truth it may have been that you'd gotten a tooth and it hurt her. Nonetheless, you felt cut off. And you've carried that pain around from that day forward. Now imagine reliving that and throwing it away--how much freer you would be! Or the lies you told your girlfriends or boyfriends over the course of your life: You don't need them. Throw them up and out. Not the memory: Retain that and remember not to do those rotten things to people you say you love anymore. But throw the pain and guilt away.
That's just the beginning of the purge.
Now I think it's a very good medicine for a lot of things. I don't think anyone would make the claim that it cures this or that malady or illness. The curative is when the curandero--if he/she is a real plant doctor--sees what is wrong with you and comes up with a plant decoction that will treat that ailment. That "seeing" is what occurs to the curandero during the session; his or her knowledge of plants that can treat those things are what is key to the healing.
Is everyone who serves ayahuasca a genuine medicinal plant doctor? Absolutely not. Are some? Absolutely. The trick, in a place like Iquitos, is finding someone who really knows the local plants, knows physical illnesses, understands emotional imbalance and such. And the further trick is getting to drink with them on one of their good days--because even wonderful doctors have bad days.
But any discussion of ayahuasca must include this: These people, the curanderos, were the healers in their tribes, and later, they were the healers on the rivers on which they lived. People's lives depended on them. A healer whose patients died of the grippe or snakebite wouldn't last too long.
So these men and women had extraordinary understanding of their part of the jungle and of the medicinal plants therein. And their access, according to them, to the spirits of those plants, was through their ayahuasca use. And that's vital: anybody can boil a carrot, but not everybody can get the best out of it. That best is, just to name it, what curanderos call the "spirit" of that plant.
I'm getting on too deeply here. Just to stay focused, because I could go on, lord knows, the curanderos are healers who traditionally have attributed a great deal of their plant medicine knowledge to what they have learned while under the influence of ayahuasca. That not everyone serving ayahuasca has that knowledge is a given. That no one does is a genuine disrespect for many of the people who have kept the people of the Amazon alive and healthy for hundreds, perhaps thousands of years.
As to the deaths: I have never heard of a case that was authenticated as being from an overdose of ayahuasca. I've heard of people dying who were bitten by snakes after they drank ayahuasca, and I can imagine someone choking on his/her vomit if there were not a good curandero with helpers looking after people; and I can imagine a hypertensive crisis resulting from the bad mix of SSRI's with ayahuasca. Or someone drowning, or climbing a tree and falling. But I've certainly never heard of anyone just dying from ayahuasca by the time the autopsy was done.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Odds and Ends...All Pretty Cool

So I'm feeling great. I'm broke, as always, but happy because I just paid my water and electric bills, my insurance, and the tickets I got a couple of weeks ago for having an outdated inspection sticker and for having Alexa in the back of the truck in a seat, not a baby seat. Never mind that in my little truck the back seats are sideways and won't fit a booster chair (though someone just told me where to get a booster seat made just for those little side seats, so I'll investigate). Boy, paying those off was great.

Then, I had an editor call and ask if I could do a freelance story. I don't have a contract yet, so I won't count my chickens, but if it comes through, that will be great because it will cover December's bills. As a journalist making ends meet, you've always got to figure what might be coming in a couple of months from now that can take care of the mortgage. So that would be swell.
I've also just sold four books today, and any day when I sell three or more is a nice day. And then a friend wrote that he felt like playing hooky from work one day this week, and since my cover story will go to bed tomorrow night, I told him any day after that would be great. He should just come ready to paint the creek bridge. Be cool to get that darned thing done as it really could use a fresh coat of barn red paint.
Doesn't take a lot to make me happy, eh? Just a nice day, a couple of cool little things.
Oh, and the internet is still surprising me. Since I first began taking note of what countries are reading this blog--I wrote about it a few weeks ago, I've added a bunch of countries in which people are reading this. I find that amazing. To the list I already had, in the last couple of weeks these countries have been added:











Saudi Arabia



Costa Rica



Dominican Republic

Trinidad and Tobago

Now, if we can get people in these far flung places to all read this blog, can't we get people to decide to make peace not war? That would something, eh?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Busy Week, Pretty Fantastic!

Well, as noted, the last of the guests left Tuesday afternoon. Which left me to do a rewrite on my next cover story Wednesday and Thursday before I got my next assignment Friday--though I won't finish rewrite on my 4,200 word cover story till next Tuesday. (As my kids note: Dad, that's your life! You always have a story due or a draft due or a rewrite due or an interview or 20 to do! You just work every day! Why ain't you rich???)

But Tuesday night I got it into my head to call Cl and I had wine and was exhausted and though I thought it was a fantastic 3 hours--not without glitches, but then I'm never without glitches. I make Joe Biden look like he's never misspoken!!!--and I loved every minute of it, I woke up Wednesday thinking she probably will never want to speak with me again. And that made writing on Wednesday very very difficult.
But I had a good time on Wednesday evening with Madeleina, just watching television and shooting the breeze over an easy dinner of steak and Jasmine rice with broccoli and organic cherub tomatoes.
Thursday was definitely knuckle-down day for the rewrite and just as I was getting knuckeled-down, Italo showed up to try to fix the truck he's been working on so it will pass the damned inspection. We've changed sensors, wires, valves, cleaned injectors, taped tubes....still couldn't pass. And with him came his baby Taylor Rain and Chepa's youngest, Alexa. So what's a granddad to do? You got to play with the kids, get them paints, feed them, get them to the toilet, get paint off the floor and generally entertain them WHILE at the same time making calls, doing rewrite of a difficult story. And in between, Italo needed me to help move the bed off the pickup and generally pitch in to get the work done.
Know what? It was easy. I don't just multi-task, I move like the wind when I need to. And so I flew around the house with the kids, carrying the phone, talking with state officials and the like and worked the stove like a pro while I was taking a break from the truck and phone.
And when Italo thought he'd fixed the last problem with the truck, he went and took it for a full hour drive and then brought it to the inspection place and in exchange for that I made him beef hotdogs with left over sliced steak, smashed potatoes with garlic and three eggs over easy.
AND THE TRUCK PASSED!!! I'm street legal again! I cannot believe it but I am! And when I took it out to shop late that afternoon, two cops spotted me and questioned me--they knew I was way past inspection prior to that--and they just shook their heads and said "Way to go," and "Good for you, Mr. Gorman," and I was flying high on the joy of not having to avoid the local gendarmerie. And I wrote Italo emails and left phone messages praising him to the freaking heavens for being able to figure it out and keep at it till it got fixed. I LOVE MY KIDS!!!!
And now, waiting for my boss to get back to me with the new revisions she wants, I've spent the day cleaning house, cleaning rugs, putting on corned beef and cabbage for dinner and paying bills and I am one happy guy.
I also got the first deposits for the January trip for the mountains in Peru and sold a few copies of my book. And I picked up my trophy for garnering 3rd in Journalist of the Year for Texas from the Houston Press Club.
So things have been tough, but great.
And I hope they are great with all of you as well. Because it's a beautiful night here in bucolic Joshua, Texas.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Great Medicine Weekend!

Well, the guests are gone, and I'm not sharing names, but half-a-dozen people, nearly all from former trips, came to my house to get a little seasoning. Which meant sapo, nu-nu, San Pedro for a couple and Ayahuasca for nearly all. And Madeleina had already told me not to "be an a-hole and ruin everything for everybody," or something very very close to that, and though I didn't like her tone or delivery, I deferred to her and stayed okay for the weekend. Now I don't normally stay up past about 9 PM because I get up at 5 AM or so and am awake two hours during the night, generally. But with guests arriving as late as 10 PM on Friday, I stayed awake, though slightly sudsy with exhaustion and a half-pint of Jim Beam. I think I was okay though, as there was no more alcohol in the house so I couldn't keep getting high.

And then Saturday was a medicine day--that's a fast day and though I was only recooking some medicine I had, I still fasted with the rest of them: They ate breakfast then fasted, while I took a couple of bites of the vegetarian souffle I made and skipped the roasted, smashed potato (You will have to ask me how to make that one, since it's fantastic but I'm not sharing until you ask), and all fruit.
There was sapo and nu-nu in the morning, just to get everyone lined up properly, then a day of cleaning out the garage, cooking down medicine, and one person with San Pedro. In the evening, several had aya: I could not, for the life of me, find my freaking voice, but I still was graced with a couple of new songs and the next thing I knew it was 12:45 and I was done. I mean done.
I stayed awake and yakked with one guest till nearly 4 AM while we watched the others to make certain all were okay before I tipped off to sleep, then got up at 8 to clean the kitchen--you'd be amazed at some of the creative places people vomited--and make breakfast. I made great burritos for those with the stomach for them (diced chicken thigh meat from chicken I'd made, beans, sour cream, pico de gallo I'd made a day earlier, plus real good cheddar) followed by fantastic watermelon.
There was more sapo after breakfast for the few who wanted it.
Monday was airport runs, with the few remaining behind having sapo and then San Pedro; Tuesday was the last of the airport runs after a bit of sapo for the last of the guests and then I simply was freaking bushed. I'd cooked, cleaned, made and served good medicine, and had no more to give. And since they've gone I've cleaned some more, done several loads of laundry, scrubbed the kitchen floor. Dang! No wonder I'm tired.
Still, I'm the one grateful that those people came. No, there was no money involved. Not a cent. I spent a fortune. But I got a weekend with some very special people, and that was/is priceless.
Thanks, universe.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

The Falsetto is Singing!

Madeleina and I have this argument going since she first came to Peru with me three years ago to help run my jungle trips. See, I only bring a couple of cassettes or tapes these days. On the boat on which I fell in love with Chepa, Madeleina's mom, I had Tom Waits' The Early Years and a Dylan album. On the next trip, without Chepa, I had...well, I forget. But when Madeleina came the first time I had The Best of Cream; the double album Best of Bob Dylan, the Gypsy Kinds, a Santana Album--a mix my kid made--the Blues Project, Best of Bruce Springsteen and Best of Neil Young.

Now on that trip I realized that Young only sang in a falsetto. I don't know how tall he really is, but I imagine him to be Bill Walton size or at least 6'7" and to imagine that giant singing in falsetto his whole life--and I saw a program where he was talking about coming up with the falsetto as his signature--well, Jesus Freaking Christ. I don't care if he's gay/transvestite/transsexual, but NOBOBY chooses to sing in a falsetto unless they want to be part of the Papal Choir.
So I still love Neil Young, but every time Madeleina or I put him on I make jokes about that freaking silly voice. She punches me. I take the pain and keep talking. Because it's just silly that a man is singing about Kent State and the killings there in a falsetto that he's had to produce by working at it because he was too afraid of his own voice--by his own admission.
And I feel similarly about Stevie Ray Vaughn when I hear him talk about modeling his singing technique around someone else's. What's wrong with your own voice? What's wrong with your own truth?
I will always poke fun of people who don't trust their own truth. I won't do anything or say anything really bad; I just wish they had the courage. Imagine if Young and Vaughn sang in their own voices! How much stronger would they have been than trying to come up with a voice they thought would have been acceptable?

Follow Up to Yesterday's Empty Nest Post

Okay, so I was feeling blue yesterday, first day of a long weekend, no kids around and realizing that none were going to be coming over. So what was I to do? Get drunk? Could have; didn't. Instead, I made myself a fantastic--if slightly cheating--sopa de mariscos, then went out and mowed some lawn. Then came back in and watched some replay NFL football while I had my soup. Went to bed and then this morning had more soup and went out to mow more lawn. I'm sweating like a pig, and that's good. In a couple of hours I'm gonna go take a long walk, then go see my friend Dave and have my once-a-week glass of beer with a double of Jim Beam and then come home and mow more lawn. And then I'm gonna get to that shrimp scampi I was talking about yesterday.

And you know what? While I'm working the kids will show up. If they don't, well, I hope they're having a great weekend. Cause so am I. Not what I'd wish for, but not bad at all.
Here's the soup recipe:
8 cloves of garlic, chopped but not too fine, in 2 ounces of olive oil. Let it steep an hour or all day
6 diced Roma tomatoes
6 scallions, chopped
1 diced medium sized red onion
8 large shelled fresh shrimp--chopped
1 lb frozen bag of mariscos (mussels, clams, squid and octopus cooked and chopped)
2 family-sized cans of Campbells' Tomato soup
1 can chicken stock
12 ounces of water
4 ounces capellini or angel hair pasta
1 bunch of cilantro, washed and chopped
salt and pepper
Heat up your soup pot, put in the garlic/oil/tomatoes/onions/scallions. When they're good--onions slightly see through and the tomatoes are giving off their juice, add the 8 large chopped shrimp. In one minute or so, add the tomato soup, the water and chicken stock. When that gets to near boiling, let's say rolling but not burning, add the mariscos. If they're still frozen don't sweat it, they'll break up in the hot soup.
Cook till mariscos are done, about three minutes, then add the capellini.
Cook another minute or two till the pasta is done, add chopped cilantro and salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat down very low, cook a couple of minutes, turn it off, then serve.
Serve with a hunk of good bread if you've got it. If not, no need. The soup is filling enough.
Serves about 6-8 good portions.

Saturday, September 01, 2012

Empty Nest or Stolen Eggs?????

Yeah, I know you've heard this complaint before. But still, it's irking me today. Particularly today, since this is the first three-day weekend that's happened since Chepa's boyfriend moved from Indiana to Chepa's house. Now I'm a reasonable guy. For the Yiddish among you, I'm probably a reasonable goy. Whatever. "In your face, dad!" as Madeleina's phone message says. But this is Labor Day weekend. I have a cover story due on Friday, and then I have several guests coming in for jungle medicines on the same Friday-next-who will need my attention for several days. And I will give it to them. That's my work. Just as, when Madeleina told me about someone she knows who's losing feeling in their fingers--and she's an adult musician--I told Madeleina I'd work with the woman with the best medicines I know. No charge. Ever.

So I've got to get some work done but no one is available to talk with me until Tuesday except for the activists, who, like me, don't make enough money to go away on these fabulous weekends. But activists can only take a story so far. You have to get the other side, as that's the side that people trust--even if sometimes they're not trustworthy. That's where the story is.
Which leaves me with mowing lawn, done, cleaning house, done, buying food for my upcoming guests, mostly done and doing laundry, done. So what am I supposed to do? I think I'm supposed to be with my family this weekend. I've got these two great mid-20's boys, one married, and a grandchild. Then I've got Madeleina and then I've got Sierra and Alexa, Chepa's two youngsters with her boyfriend but who spent the first couple of years partly at my house almost daily, and still have a tough time correcting themselves--though I've always corrected them--from calling me "daddy".
Now no offense to Chepa's boyfriend. He's probably a great guy. Probably better than I ever was at a million things. And I'm being serious. Hell, she dyed his hair pink and he seems to love it, where I would have probably screamed: "My freaking hair is PINK!!!! Fix it!!!" Which may not be the best thing a boyfriend/husband can say to the woman who was trying to save you from thinning grey.
But still, this is a holiday weekend and normally I would be serving a barbeque to 30-40 family and friends. I'm not. He is. I'm sitting at home--after working hard--and thinking about making some shrimp scampi and forgetting about the rest of it. Which means I am sort of feeling sorry for myself. And wondering where the fuck my kids are and why they are there instead of here?
I'm probably to blame. Not sure how, but I am probably to blame.
Still, I miss my kids. I miss the party. I miss the volleyball game and the soccer and the darts and the pool and foosball and whatever else goes into a 16 hour party on a three-day weekend. I miss cooking all that food. I miss being part of it.
That said, Madeleina had her first day on the field as a band member last night. She got off really late so Chepa picked her up. She slept most of the day but I caught her at 5 PM and she said it was the scariest but best thing she ever did. I was glad. Because yesterday I had to pick her up from school at 11:11 because she was puking so much. Seriously angry butterflies in her belly. I let her sleep for three hours, then told her to get back to school. I think the rule is that if you're not in school at end of day you can't be in the band that night. And I was not going to let her miss her chance. So I got her back for last period, and it worked. She marched, she played, she said she wasn't perfect but that she was good and it can only get better. Good for her.
Way to play through your fear, Madeleina. That's how winners are born.