Tuesday, December 31, 2013

How Magic Mushrooms Came to Iquitos

Someone wrote me to say they were going on a trip to Cuzco and the Sacred Valley in Peru in April. They'd read that my guests were sometimes offered magic mushrooms on my trips and wondered if I could turn them on to someone who might do a mushroom ceremony for them. I responded with the story of how magic mushrooms came to be used in the Iquitos area. This is it:

Dear X: Thanks for writing. There might be someone up in the Cuzco/Sacred Valley area, but I wouldn't know who that was. The whole mushroom thing was sort of funny: 20 years ago Alan Shoemaker turned me on to a small cow field near the airport in Iqiutos--very undeveloped then--and I looked for shrooms, got hit by a bull, broke a couple of ribs, did not find shrooms.
    A year later, someone else turned me on to a cow field out past the airport and I asked the owner if I could look for mushrooms and they laughed and said go ahead, but beware of the two bulls he had. Found the shrooms, had a wonderful time.
    Some time after that, I went to some large cow fields a couple of hundred kilometers upriver from Iquitos. I sent locals out to look for shrooms there. I paid for batch after batch that were worthless because they were either too wet or too dry. I patiently taught them how to collect and dry them properly (not on a tin roof in the sun, for instance!!!!!)  Once they got it down, I was able to offer them to guests on my trips: A lot of those guests had never done any plant medicines, or hadn't done them in 20-30 years, so I thought giving them several pairs of the Little Sisters would be a good, gentle opening for the often harsh ayahuasca they would have a few days later. 
    It worked. And naturally, Iquitos being a small city, word slowly got out that I was making them available to guests--and the next thing you know, people are running around the center of Iquitos, offering mushrooms to gringos. And naturally, my own team--seeing the opportunity to make money when I was not around--were among them. But at least my team had the real goods. The others, not so much. 
    That's the basic story of how people began using mushrooms in Iquitos. Whether it's yet spread to Cuzco, I don't know. So no, I can't tell you anyone to contact up there. Sorry I can't be of more use.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Holiday Food

Well, well, well. I have not written about food in a while, so I thought I'd put one up there for the fun of it. I was going through the left overs in the fridge earlier today and realized we've been eating pretty well lately. First, Madeleina and I have cut out rice and potatoes and pasta most nights. Maybe two nights a week. Bread we have once every couple of weeks in the form of a hamburger bun or a burrito or if I make a nice hot roast beef sandwich with freshly roasted sweet red peppers and a slice of good pepperjack cheese. Otherwise, no bread--except for November, when a friend sent us a dozen bagels from Zabars in NYC. We had three bagels each in a week; the remainder are in the freezer.
   So we're not doing much carbo from bread, pasta, potatoes or rice. We have substituted a nice salad nightly. It's a mix of organic romaine and organic spring mix greens, topped with organic cherry or other small tomatoes, a bit of feta on Madeleina's salad; I take a bit of good blue cheese. She takes Ken's Steakhouse light ranch dressing; I take a homemade olive oil/balsamic vinegar/minced shallot/bit of seared garlic. And if you're making a nice vinagrette, forget the 3-1 or 2-1 oil to vinegar ratio: If you have good vinegar, whatever type you like, hit it at about 1-1 with your olive oil and that vinegar will come on strong.
   Then we have a veggie or two and a main thing. So, in no particular order, what we have had in the last week or so was:
--Thick piece of chuck steak, seared black, sliced thinly and sauteed with muchrooms/onions with juice from a fresh orange and a bit of Lee and Perrins' Worcestershire sauce. Served with steamed broccoli and cauliflower florets and a thick slice of organic beefsteak tomato sauteed in pan juices and topped with parmesan cheese.
--Swordfish, sauteed in garlic infused olive oil. When near done, add diced red pepper, chopped red onion, diced scallions, coarse sea salt and coarse black pepper. When near finished, add capers with liquid, served over steamed asparagus.
--Chopped meat sauteed with spinach, garlic, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, diced tomato, diced zuccini and yellow squash. Saute the meat, pour off fat. Steam zuccini, broccoli, cauliflower and yellow squash, then add to pan with chopped meat. Add tomatoes, onion, garlic. Add good white vinegar to a bite. Add minced habaneros from my friend Lynn's garden. Stir in a couple of packets of Goya's Achiote con Culantro, a couple of slices of good cheddar and top with fresh cilantro. Serve over good brown or, in our case, garliced-basmati rice.
--Sopa de Mariscos--Three sticks of celery and a diced red onion sauteed in garlic and olive oil till transparent. Add a dozen fresh, cleaned shrimp, a dozen fresh mussels, a few fresh bay scallops, some fresh calamari and scungilli, cut small. When half-way cooked, add a couple of diced Roma tomatoes, a can of organic veggie broth, a can of good quality tomato soup (I know, but I was running late and needed a quick meal) and a good dash of Crab Boil. Don't overdue that last one: Crab boil is HOT.
    Stir that all around for 5 minutes, toss in a bit of vermicelli for a few minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, add minced cilantro to bottom of soup bowl and serve the zupa over that. Good stuff.
--Corned Beef and Cabbage: That was Christmas. Good old 5 hour corned beef with fresh cabbage wedgies and potatoes added in the last hour of cooking. Add pickling spice, lots of coarse ground pepper and good white vinegar as you're cooking. And don't forget a good stone-ground mustard.
--Salmon filets sauteed high and hot in olive oil. Keep them clean except for coarse sea salt and coarse black pepper. Start on meat side when pan is scalding hot. When you turn them onto the skin side you keep the skin burning/drying until it's nearly candied, then add a good dash of teriyaki sauce to finish the candifying of the skin. When done to a pink inside, remove from heat. Add a bit more olive oil with garlic, diced onions/a couple of gorgeous scallions, a bit of white vinegar, minced fresh ginger and a diced tomato or red pepper. Served over a bed of steamed spinach.
--Chicken Wings--buy em, cut em, line a pan with celery stalks or onion, and after washing them, put the wings on the veggie bed. A little salt and pepper, garlic olive oil and then bake at 325 until done. Remove from heat. Put whatever dressings you like in bowls and stir in a few of the wings. One bowl might have barbeque sauce, another hot wing sauce, another garlic and teriyaki with orange zest. Whatever you like. Serve with salad and fresh organic celery.
   I guess we're killing a lot of veggies and fish and meat. And in the mornings we've been making smoothies from banana, yoghurt, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and black berries. No sugar necessary. We alternate that with juice of celery, spinach, beets, green apple and carrots--no need to add anything to that baby.
   Anyway, any of these that you try will be expensive but fantastically delicious. And you'll wind up only eating a few ounces of the meat or fish because it's all so good you'll spend your time just drooling while you eat.
   And I haven't said anything about stuffed pork chops, babyback ribs, burritos from left over anything, an occasional whole baked chicken with gravy or a million other things.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Chrirstmas, Everyone

Everyone: I hope this holiday season, however you celebrate it, is something special for you, your family, your friend. I hope the new year brings unimaginably wonderful surprises that upend your world and leave you gasping for breath for the glory of it all. I hope all of you get to feel the spirit of the plants, the spirit of your ancestors', the love of your parents and children and friends.
    If we could each feel that love, accept it, digest it, serve it back up to someone else, well, the world would have a lot more love in it than it currently has. So take it, hold it, share it. You and I are family and you and your friends are family to me. It might be distant but we are all one family. Let's make this family rock. Let's make this family sing in harmony. We don't need no stinking hegemony, we just need harmony. And you have the spirit. You have the courage. Start it, spread it. If we could ever get  7 Billion people singing the same song at the same time all over this world, the healing would begin. And it would begin ferociously. Happy new year, everyone. Let's start a song that brings us all together because we are just a family. Broken a lot, but still a family.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

New Spirit, New Furniture...

So someone in deep depression has written me again asking where I go to drink ayahuasca and whether he/she will ever be able to feel whole again. This is what I wrote:

I sing a lot here at home. I sometimes do ceremonies here. I go to the jungle a couple of times a year and spend some days being very quiet while my guests drink the medicine and sometimes I have a little too. Can you feel good again? Yes. Will you? That is up to you. If you fall in love with feeling badly, then you will have a hard time letting that go. And if you don't let that go, there won't be room for the good feelings to come into you. You are going to have to make some space for feeling like you used to feel--or better. And right now a lot of your space is taken up with negativity--at least that's what I think you're telling me. So you have to get rid of some of that negativity to make space for positivity. Hard, I know, but not very different than wanting to put new furniture in a room. If the room is already filled with old furniture, there is no room for the new furniture. So you have to let go of that old stuff, just pick it up and throw it out, then clean the room, maybe paint it, and then there will be room for the new furniture.
Good luck,
Peter G

Friday, December 13, 2013

A Dream I Had About Rich Rich Rich People

I wonder sometimes, what makes rich people tick. Madeleina, my beautiful daughter, asked me the other day why Napolean wasn't content with owning/ruling half the world and risked and lost everything going after Russia as well. I wonder why the Walton family, owners of Walmart, can't be content with 20 billion each and a couple of billion more coming in every year. Why do they have to put their workers in a position to make you and I pay for their food stamps, Section 8 housing and such when they could just raise the wages and still make hundreds of millions each per annum?
    These are serious questions in an age where the internet allows us regular people a glimpse of how much the truly rich really make--in terms of money--and really contribute, in terms of society.
    The best answer I know came to me while on an Amazon riverboat between Iquitos, Peru and Jenero Herrera, Peru. It's a flat-bottomed riverboat, same type--though with stronger engines--that's plied the Amazon river basin and other parts of the globe since internal combustion engines came to be. Hundreds of people bring hammocks and set them up anywhere they want on the boat's two or three floors; goods fill the bodega--the hull--and most of the bottom floor: coming to Iquitos that means thousands of sacks of cement and rice and toilets and school desks and fresh fish and plantains and such; going from Iquitos that means thousands of bricks, tons of soda, beer, three-wheeled tuc-tuc motorcars and such.
    Hammocks are hung everywhere: It's a spiderweb of them on every boat, and along with them, people from the jungle bring almost everything they own, as leaving your home in the jungle unattended allows anyone who wants to take your things to take them legally, claiming you've abandoned them. It's an old tradition but one that still has people packing up their pots and pans and clothes and such before they head to the big city to get a pension check or new government papers for their kids.
    So the boat is damned crowded. I always traveled that way until I began to take guests out to the jungle. I discovered that too many were losing cameras and clothes and decided, years ago, to get cabins for them in which they could stash their stuff. The cabins are very simple: Light, bed, fan, tiny table. They're not comfortable but they allow you to protect your stuff while you go up to the bow to take photos of the sunset or night sky.
    The boat I use has an area that is closed to the public. People cannot walk from the rear of the boat to the bow: There is a closed wooden slat fence/gate that keeps the hammock people away from the three cabins--as well as the captain's cabin, where the money is kept--and a fence at the bow to keep people from coming in that way. I pay good money for that little space for my guests: We might rent 6-7 cabins altogether, with most downstairs, where everyone can walk through the cabin space, but upstairs, behind the riverboat's pilot, no one not with the captain or the people who have those three cabins are allowed to enter. So my guests have this 30' by 9' space to themselves. We line up the chairs on the starboard side going upriver and my guests can put their cameras down on the boat deck, go downstairs to buy a beer or just look around, or go to the small private bathroom and not worry that their things will be gone when they come back. It's the only real private space on a riverboat in all of Western Peruvian Amazonia. And I take it, because my guests just might be offered local magic mushrooms and I don't want their dream interfered with by having to think: Where did I put my camera? Did I put a couple of pieces of fruit somewhere? Where was that?
   No. Our space is private. People sneak in, of course, but I'm a good watchdog and take a seat by the bow and when people come in I let them use our bathroom/our toilet paper/our soap but when they decide they want to put a hammock up in our space, I just don't allow it. And that only takes a word or three from me to get them to realize that I've paid for the space and my guests and no one else is allowed. So my guests come up from the cabins on the lower floor and are free to roam, leaving their stuff, for the duration of the 14-15 hour ride, from bright afternoon sunshine through 3 AM stars.
   The dream I mentioned at the start of this, the one that connects this boat to the Koch Brothers, the Waltons and some of the other rich rich rich people, is this:
    I had served magic mushrooms, with prayers, to 9-12 people. I was ripped out of my head from inhaling them. I drank a little ayahuasca to say hello to the river--with full private ceremony--and when all was said and done, I started to fall asleep. Serving medicine always makes me fall asleep. Or fall into a dream.
   In my dream, I was leaning against the wooden slat fence/gate in a sitting position. People on the other side of that slat fence/gate, in the hammock free-for-all section, were reaching through the wooden slats and touching my hair, my face, my clothes. I brushed them away. I brushed them away as cloying hands that were dirty, filthy, trying to touch me, trying to infect me, trying to get what I had, trying to steal from me. But in the dream I could not move away from the fence. I was stuck to it and so I couldn't move away: The best I could do was slap them away. But there were so many hands, so many dirty hands trying to touch me that I desperately tried to move away. I did not want their filth near me. I did not want their infection, their sores, their open wounds, on my hair, my face, my neck, my clothes, my being. They were filthy. They would tear me down to their level, down to the level of the hammock people in a second. They would have me as dirty as they were. They would infect me just by being alive and near me!
    I awoke with a start. I realized I'd fallen asleep sitting up against the wooden fence/gate. I felt a hand on my hair and another on my infected leg. I turned: Two small children were touching me: One touching my gray locks; the other my wounded, sorely infected leg. Other children were there as well, pointing to my leg, some of them suggesting remedies--though the leg had already started to gangrene and would need four operations with skin graft to heal--to help me. They were beautiful. They were in the hammock space so they had to crawl under hammocks to get anywhere so they were all dirty from crawling on the boat's oxidizing steel deck. Really, they were beautiful. They were curious. They were magic incarnate.
   In the same moment I saw those angels, I remembered/felt/relived the terror I had in the dream, the terror of not being able to get away from those dirty people, those people who wanted to infect me, to touch me and slime me and bring me down to where they lived in shit-rotten hovels. And in that moment, that moment between loving those beautiful kids and remembering the dream of dreading them, I had a glimpse of how some of the rich rich rich people see us: We are filthy. We carry infections, disease, and any contact with us will make them dirty, rotten, reduce them.
    And so, for those people--and it is not all the rich people by any means, but certainly some--the need to accumulate more, build bigger walls, stronger fences to keep us from getting near them, from putting our filthy hands on them, is a real need. And for those people, a billion dollars is not enough separation. 10 Billion is not enough. 20, 30, 40 billion, with private islands that only they can access, is not enough to satisfy the urge, the need to be separated from the rest of us.
   And in that same moment, it suddenly became easy to forgive them. They are afraid. They are terribly afraid that interaction with us, with regular people, with poor people, with even middle class people, will leave them infected/wounded/hurt/diminished. They have no control over that fear. They suffer from it but don't realize it's a disease: We are the beautiful ones. We are clean with dirty clothes because we work. We are the angels that could save them and would never hurt them. They can't see that. Their insular world cannot allow that. They suffer and the way they deal with that suffering causes unimaginable suffering for everyone else. I pity them. I pity the Waltons and the Koch's and others for whom 20 billion dollars, the biggest yachts in the world, more pairs of $2500 shoes, more $10,000 suits are not enough to insulate them from our hands sticking through the post fence to touch their hair or feel their gabardine.

Traveling South America Tip

Friend of a friend is headed to South America. Asked some light advice on the section between Iquitos and Manaus. I riffed. Here it is.
Dear X: Iquitos to Manaus can be done by riverboat or speedboat: Riverboat is better. You get to stop at the San Luis Leprosy village--there are three in Peru, I think--as well as at several other ports that are pretty interesting, including one where Hassid's grow tons and tons of marijuana. That riverboat will take you to Santa Rosa, the Peruvian town just across the river from Colombia's Leticia--or Leticia itself--which is connected to Brazil's town of Tabatinga--as in across the street. That used to be a wild area, a place where International crooks hung out because if, for instance, the DEA had a warrant for your arrest in Colombia, you'd cross the street and be in Brazil and they'd need a new warrant. Or canoe 200 yards and be in Peru. First time I was there I must have met 10 guys I'd worked with at the Feast of San Gennaro in New York--all wise guys on the lam, living high. It's still pretty cool.
From Leticia you take a boat to Manaus--it's about 6-8 days, depending on the boat/the river. Again, if you have the time, much better than a plane. Not expensive. Rent a cabin if you can swing it. It will be simple, not some fancy-dan cruise ship cabin, but it will mean that you get a couple of chairs to sit in and a place to stash your stuff without having to worry about it. If you just get hammock space you're sort of anchored to that because there will he a couple of hundred people around and the moment you leave to go to the bathroom or take photos or get a beer, someone will be taking your stuff. So yes, cabin is good for the couple of hundred bucks it will cost, even if it's simple. 
You get time in Manaus, head up the Rio Negro to where it's not developed and you'll have a grand time.
Key to South America: Outside of Colombia, and eastern Brazil, much of the continent is a matriarchy. It may look like the man is the boss but if it does that's only because the women allow that. In truth, mothering skips a generation, so that 16 year old daughters have babies, the grandma takes care of them. Grandma, 32-35 years old by now, is finally ready to quit her dancing days and raise kids. So she raises the grandkids in a way she never raised her own. 
That relates to you in this way: Make friends with grandma, any grandma you run into and since she is the center of her family's universe, all will be well with you in regards to that family. That's important, particularly when your sister--who will be traveling with you part of the trip--is involved: You're a gringo and might not read signals right, so you might over react to a man and if he loses face he'll have to challenge you. But if you've made friends with his mother, she'll intervene and solve everything with a couple of beers instead of blood. 
Most of where you're telling me you're headed is not very macho. People won't stab you or anything. Bets off in Lima/Bogata/Santiago, of course: Those are international towns peopled by a huge cross-section of population. But outside of the big cities, nobody is going to hassle you. I can't speak for Argentina because I've never been there--some politician 12 years ago filed something against me as editor in chief of High Times mag and I wound up getting 22-years in absentia, so I won't be visiting there anytime soon. Seems his kid was reading one of the issues on the internet where I was editor and he laid a charge that I was, as editor, pandering drugs to underage kids. Crazy but real, and while the US refused the request for extradition, Argentina went ahead with the trial and it turned out I lost. 
When you get closer to leaving, push. I've got some good info and am more than willing to share it with a friend of Phil's. 
You're gonna have a great time.
Peter G

Saturday, December 07, 2013

Another Ayahuasca Letter I Answered for a Stranger

Dear All: Another stranger wrote me a couple of days ago. He/she said that they'd done ayahuasca four times in a short period they now experience, apparently pretty regularly, intense fear at night. The writer said that when he/she goes to bed he has trouble with spirits and shadows. "Once darkness comes, and I\'m usually laying in bed, I leave my body and shadows take me toward a deeper darkness. The feeling I have is one of intense fear. I also have a sense of an intense presence in the room with me..."

I spent a couple of days thinking about it, then wrote this. I hope it helps this person.

Dear X: Well, yeah, I sort of know what you're talking about. First, there is a huge presence in the room. It may be one spirit, may be many. Fact is, they were always there. We share this space in different dimensions with a whole lot of spirits--as children we could feel them, didn't know what they were and called them ghosts. We thought that they only came out at night. But they're always here. Your experience with ayahuasca has probably changed your vibration just enough to now sense them much more than most people would.

   I understand the leaving of your body and the presence--shadows-- wanting to take you to a deeper darkness is frightening. I couldn't agree more. BUTTTT, remember this: No spirit can cross the plane of their existence into ours, just as we can't physically cross the plane into theirs. So nothing can harm your body. And nothing can harm your spirit. 
    That doesn't mean it's not scary as heck.
    I think you might try asking them if they have something to teach you the next time the shadows want to carry you away. Say it silently, say it out loud, it doesn't matter. What matters is that if they say they are your teachers and have something to teach you, ask them what it is they want to teach you: It might be something that is fantastic and if you're resisting them, they'll quit sooner or later and you might have missed a great chance to learn something very important.
     As a rule--and this is only generally speaking--if the spirits want to interact with you, or your spirit, and you ask them if they are your teachers and have something to teach you, they will go away if they are not your teachers. They just sort of dissolve or dissipate.
    But, if they are your teachers, you may not have a long time to decide to allow them to take you into the deeper darkness. And that deeper darkness may be a test--to see if you have the necessary courage to be shown the teaching they're about to show or teach you. In that moment of doubt, that is the moment to remember that they cannot physically hurt you. They can't actually do anything to you. It's tough to remember that when you're sort of scared out of your wits, but try. 
   I lost a lot of chances through fear. And then I also got a lot of fantastic things when I--as my late teacher Julio said--grabbed my balls and remembered who I was, and who my parents were and who their parents were and what we came from and how strong our clan was. In those cases I went through the fear and found it disappearing and then was taught wonderful things. That's something to think about--and something you can prepare for by repeating it before going to bed: Just remember who you are, remember that spirits are everywhere all the time, remember that some are teachers and that teachers often test you to see if you've earned it. Ever study karate or something like that? My sensi would put me through hell before he'd teach me a new kata or give me a new belt rank. He wanted to be sure I'd earned it and was ready to carry the new weight he was giving me, the new responsibility. And the teacher spirits are often the same: They'll put you through enormous fear--often your own worst fears--before they will give up the secrets they are protecting--because giving them to the wrong people, people who were/are not ready, would do no one any good.
    Am I making sense to you?
    Write back and let me know how you are doing, okay?

Friday, December 06, 2013

Old/Good Piece on Plan Colombia Coca Spraying

There was a time while I worked and lived in Peru, where I had a pretty good pulse on some political things. I just stumbled on this old piece about Colombian cocaine and Plan Colombia--from about 2003--and with the continued spraying of poisons on Colombia's coca crop, I thought I'd post this. It's old but still telling.
    There is a follow up to it below this--and in real life I probably wrote 15-20 follow up pieces for High Times, NarcoNews.com, WW4report.com and so forth.

WHERE’S THE COCAINE COMING FROM? OR The Coca Bush Cutting Conga Line

By Peter Gorman

Because the coca plant is very slow growing, the questions that come to mind when thinking about all the plants the US has paid to have eradicated in Colombia are: where do the new plants come from and when do they have time to mature? 
     According to US State Department documents, the Bolivian coca plant, the world standard for making cocaine until the mid-1990s, takes three years from seed to first harvest. Colombian coca, which replaced Bolivian coca as the world’s standard in the late-1990s, grows considerably faster because it is planted from cuttings, not seed. A 2002 CIA bulletin titled “Coca Fact Sheet: A Primer” suggests it can be harvested in as little as 6-8 months. 
     The same CIA Fact Sheet suggests there are between 14,000 and 45,000 plants per hectare (about 2.5 acres) of coca. If we average that out to 20,000 plants per hectare, there would be 8,000 plants per acre.
     Last year, under the aegis of Plan Colombia, more than 250,000 acres of coca were destroyed in Colombia. This year that number will increase to nearly 400,000, or almost every acre of coca under cultivation in Colombia. At 8,000 plants per, that comes to 3,200,000,000 plants. That’s three billion, two hundred million plants. 
     Where are the cuttings for next year’s crop going to come from if we’ve wiped out their entire crop this year? Where did this year’s three billion cuttings come from if we wiped out most of the crop last year?
Cuttings come from mother plants. If we assumed that a mother plant was capable of producing a startlingly high 1,000 cuttings per annum, there would still need to be 3,200,000 mother plants somewhere. Where are that many mother plants being kept? Has anyone bothered to look for such a large greenhouse? 
     Of course, even if there were such a greenhouse in Colombia, there would still be the question of distribution: How on earth would anyone distribute three billion cuttings without being noticed? 
Those questions were posed to the State Department, which had no real answer. “I’ve never thought of that before,” said Rebecca Brown-Thompson, spokesperson for Rand Beers, the Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. “Why don’t you ask the Drug Enforcement Administration?”
     A DEA spokesman responded with: “I get what you’re getting at, the numbers don’t add up. But Plan Colombia has nothing to do with the DEA. That’s State Department all the way.”
The reason there is no answer is that there are no cuttings. There might be some, of course, but not three billion, not three million. Colombian coca growing, on the scale it’s grown to during the last decade, is now done like it is done in Bolivia and Peru, from seed. Which means it takes three years to grow. And since we’ve been wiping out more and more of the crop annually, there are fewer and fewer mature plants to harvest. Next year, if we’re being told the truth, there won’t be any. Which means there won’t be a harvest in Colombia. 
     That should wipe out the world’s coca supply for at least three years, at a minimum, by which time any stored cocaine will have hit the streets and been used up. The world ought to be coca dry.
It won’t be. The prices probably won’t even fluctuate. And if they don’t it will mean only one thing: that the elimination of coca from southern Colombia has no effect on world supply. Which will suggest that it never did, that the coca that produces the world supply is grown elsewhere, maybe in unsprayed, protected valleys, or that Peru and Bolivia are still producing sufficient supplies, despite a reduction in their crops. 
     Of course, that would suggest that Plan Colombia is a sham. That the spraying of southern Colombia and the collateral damage it’s causing—displacement of thousands of people, loss of legal crops and animals and rainforest defoliation—are being done for other ends. 
    What are those ends? Oil is an obvious answer. There may be others. We won’t find out for a while, but keep your eyes on it. It’ll become apparent soon enough.—Peter Gorman

Someone read this and asked about the oil suggestion I made. I wrote back--and might be off a little as I didn't refer to notes but only memory. Still, the point is well made, I hope.
DEAR X: The Colombia-coca-bush-cutting-conga-line piece--which I always thought, by itself, exposed the entire Plan Colombia in its simplicity, never garnered attention. Either people didn't really care about Colombia or didn't see the implications that I thought I was making very very clearly.

    In truth, yes, its oil and other natural resources: If you live in the jungle and move out of your village/area, you lose the property you were living on. Very little is titled by more than "possession title" and once you stop possessing, you have no claim.
    If you follow the line from the eastern side of the rockies from way up in Canada, you have tar sands, then good oil then better oil and by the time you're in texas you have sweet crude and that runs down into the Gulf of Mexico hinches east into Venezuela--which has both heavy and sweet crude. That mountainous crown of South America produces oil all the way West to the Andes and then all along the eastern shoulder of those Andes down to Chile. It has been explored and exploited everywhere on that 12,000 mile chain except for Colombia (it's been explored and exploited there but not to the same extent as Peru or Venezuela, for instance). 
    That partly has to do with the physical jungle in Colombia: Very hilly in a lot of places, very difficult to work.
    But in the early 1990s with the price of oil high, the oilmen wanted a better look see. And you cannot "see"--tell the difference--with sonar through dense canopy which wet areas are underground water chambers and which are oil. So you've got to get rid of enough of that canopy to be able to get a closer look. Hence Plan Colombia and the invented storyline that Colombia was no longer just finishing Peruvian and Bolivian coca base, it was now (then) the major grower as well. That story allowed the glyphosate spraying, which both displaced the people and killed the jungle canopy, providing the proper sonar visuals for the oil men. 
    They now know what is there: All that's left is to finish off the civil war and the serious exploitation will begin: instability is not a good thing in a place where you're going to have all those men/expensive equipment/pipelines.
    Interestingly, the U.S. does not allow any satellite photos of the coca sprayed areas to be released--or hadn't the last time I checked, probably seven or eight years ago. If they released them all I think environmentalists would go nuts over how much jungle, particularly along the eastern line of the mountains, has disappeared.
    Back in the day at High Times  wrote maybe 20 stories about this stuff. I had contacts at Langley, the State Department, the DEA, the companies that do the sonar exploration and so forth. When I opened my bar in Peru in 1998 I suddenly also had contact with the pilots of those spray planes and the oil men who were waiting to start the drilling. They told me unbelievable stories about displacing whole villages by spraying and respraying them day in an day out until the people just fled and other horror stories. A lot of that got published on NarcoNews.com, which was a fledgling web presence at the time but the best source of news about the drug war from Central to South America. Al Giordano, who came up with it after years at the Boston Phoenix, had cojones of steel to print what he printed--and man, did he--and I--get lambasted as conspiracy nuts. 
    We weren't. We just had sources that people couldn't imagine we had. Best source in the world is a guy far from home, sitting in your bar, getting drunk and feeling lonesome. They spill everything, even if they know you're a reporter.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Talking Tea Party Dopes...

So a friend asked me what TPP meant. I thought they meant what it meant on Text, so I looked it up and it meant Third Party Position, or something like that. Later, I was told it meant Tea Party Patriots--what an idiot I am. So then I wrote a private letter to my friend, sort of insane, but here are my feelings on the freaking Tea Party:
T: I'm not sure what you were asking me this morning, which is why I didn't reply. You asked what I thought about freedom, monopoly, self-reliance and so forth. Later you asked what TPP meant. I thought you were asking, in general, what that meant in slang, and in slang it generally means Third Party Perspective.
   It could also mean Tea Party Patriots, of course.
I have a real real real problem with the Tea Party. They are owned outright by the Koch brothers, the single dirtiest/most immoral privately owned company in the world. The individuals in the Tea Party swear they are for smaller government, more self-reliance and so forth, but they are owned, politically by two brothers--there are three in all--who are 1) philanthropists; 2) Killers; 3) union busters; 4) people who spend billions to get around clean air and clean coal/oil regulations. They own the single biggest amount of Canadian Tar Sands, for instance, which will kill tens of thousands of people here if the Keystone pipeline is allowed to be built while not producing a single, NOT ONE, new job to the USA. They run coal plants that they don't want to bring into the 21st century: Coal plants that are killing tens of thousands of people every year to keep their profits high to the detriment of tens of thousands; they want to clear cut national forests; they run ALEC, the right-wing group that writes legislation for Republicans that benefits the companies that support ALEC, which include the Koch Brothers. And they INVENTED the TEA PARTY! There would not be a single person running for office, or who ran for office in 2008 or 2010 or 2012 who was a Tea Party type--meaning very very stupid, very very selfish, very very stupid again--without the blessing and money of the Koch Brothers. They are the evil among us. They are the freaking devil and the Tea Party is their spawn. The people in the tea party cannot see this, of course. They are blind, dumb, out of touch with reality. They want less government but don't want medicaid  or social security touched. Those, along with the fire department, the police department, the people who maintain streets, lights, the post office, are all socialism. True socialism. So the Koch brothers have the TPP completely fooled into thinking they want individualism while backing socialism. Oy vey, I'm nearly Verklempt!
    I have never heard a tea party politician or member say a coherent sentence. They are terrified of the nigga in the white house, while not understanding that that man is not the servant, the whites are his servants. He's brilliant, whether you like him or not. He's fantastic, whether you agree with him or not. There has not been a taint of scandal--and I mean real scandal--with this administration: Reagan had 173 people in his administration indicted for felony offenses!!!!!
     Nobody in the Tea Party recognizes that they are pigs with rings through their noses being led by some of the most evil people who every lived on this earth--think a real live devil and you'll be close. I'm sorry for them because they cannot think. They watch FOX news and don't realize that it is incorporated as a comedy channel that is forbidden to produce news because it is incapable. They listen to the drug/drink addled Limbaugh and think he makes sense just because he talks fast enough so that you don't hear what he says--which is twaddle. They think Jerry Falwell is a preacher even after the blowjobs in the limo caught on tape and the story of talking to the 700-foot- tall Jesus.
    These are people who do not rely on themselves. They have no valuable opinions, they are not self-made but mass produced.
    You asked me what I thought and I'm telling you. I got my first job at 5  years old, taking in the neighbors' trash cans. I worked at Louies' candy store making egg creams at 9. I had a double paper route at 10, and the numbers of my routes were 37 and 43, which meant that the bigger kids got to put me on a table, take my shirt off and hit me in the abdomen 80 times each, hard as they wanted, as my initiation. I took a lot of hits, some with rings. I bled for days. I was 10-years old. A couple of years later I was inserting 2500 New York Times and other Sunday newspapers each weekend, meaning I was moving 20- 40 tons of paper in 12 hours.
    I know work. I know the Tea Party. They are not workers. They wouldn't have the guts to clean dishes at 175 degrees for 16 hours in a New York restaurant--which also means moving about 30 tons in that time--without a break.
   Me? I'll take a dishwasher as the most important person in the universe. When he/she earns more than the Waltons, we'll have a level playing field, finally. Because the dishwashers and guys who move sofas could always be brain surgeons--but I never met a brain surgeon who could be a dishwasher.
   Just flying a few thoughts out there. Sorry if I sound ruffled, but the TPP are the stupidest group of misguided dopes I've ever seen, and that includes a lot LOT of dopes. They're being dragged around by two of the richest men in the world and don't even recognize that they are enslaved. That's bad. That's dangerous.
    Not sure if I answered your question. I probably just needed to blow off steam. No offense meant at all: These are just general thoughts about what TPP might mean, which is what you asked me, which is where this all started.
    I love you and B and you are welcome at my house any time, day or night, no political talk. I promise.
Peter G

My Take on the Walmart Situation

Yup, I'm a socialist at heart. I don't think anyone's work is very different than anyone else's work in terms of value. Yes, a heart surgeon is vital and should be compensated for the schooling costs and so forth. But then a dishwasher in a New York restaurant keeps a couple of hundred people a night from getting ill by keeping that water really hot and standing in place for hours. Seems important to me.
    And no, I don't think everyone should make the same money. But I do think there ought to be limits. How to do that? I don't know. But the current example is the Walton family, six of whom own 49 percent of the Walmart chain and whose combined wealth of about $100 billion (give or take, depending on who you talk with) is equal to the combined wealth of the bottom 40 percent or so of all the families in the U.S.
    Fairly obscene to me. Particularly when you realize they pay their workers an average of $8.81 per hour nationwide. Those workers, doing fairly menial stuff that's done in stores may not seem to be worth more than that to some people. But what the heck, the stores are open 24 hours a day, most stocking is done at night, so a lot of those people are not with their families at night. That means something to me. And then a lot of those people are unloading those big trucks of heavy material; others are working in near freezing conditions in the refrigerator rooms and so forth. And all the check out people are standing on their feet all day. All of that makes those jobs pretty hard, and so, given that there is a good profit from the business, you'd think they might share in it. At least I would. (My team of 12 who work with me on my trips to the jungle get triple the basic Peruvian wage, plus food and walking around money--even on trips where paying that will mean I will go home having lost two or three thousand dollars.)
      Okay, but here are the figures: Walmart has 1 million hourly workers in the US. Those workers cost an average of $2,100 per person in government services, which comes to $2.1 billion dollars annually. That's a lot of cheese you and I are picking up to keep the Walton's wealthy, don't you think?
      What if the Waltons, starting on January 1, gave every one of those million hourly workers a $100 per week raise? That would come to $100 million a week. Or $5.2 billion a year. Whoa! That's a lot of dough!!! Where would that come from?
      Well, it would come from the better than $16 billion profit the company makes. Which would still leave the Waltons and the other Walmart owners a $10.8 billion pie to cut. Remember that the Waltons get half of that so each of the six of them would still earn close to a billion a year.
      But you and I wouldn't have to foot nearly the bill for government services for those million hourly workers if they were each making $5,200 per year more. And those workers would probably love getting off food stamps and such--because nobody likes to be on food stamps and such.
      So yeah, I'm sort of a socialist that way. I definitely think the Waltons make too much given how their workers are paid.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Kids are Kids Sometimes, No Matter Their Age

It's Monday morning, first day of school after a 9-day break for Madeleina, a junior in high school this year. She didn't want to go to school and had a variety of reasons: a 101 degree temperature, she felt sick, hadn't done her work over the break, needed to finish a song that will make her millions and she'll give me some if I just give her the day off to finish it.
    Madeleina is 16 going on 40 sometimes and other times she's 16 going on six. On the day after any three or more day weekend, and even moreso on the first day after an extended break, she typically gets ill. She swears it's legit. I swear she's been doing it since school got to be school in the 6th grade or so.
    So I insisted, won, brought her to school and told her I loved her as she left the car. She didn't say a word, just stormed off.
    I knew I'd get a call sooner or later, but didn't expect it so quickly: I'd hardly gotten home before the phone rang and it was the school nurse telling me that my beautiful daughter, Madeleina, was throwing up and I needed to come get her. I laughed, the nurse laughed. "Only happens to be the day after a holiday week, eh?" I asked. "Oh, don't worry, I've got several in here now, all sick and needing to go home. Post holiday sick day," she said.
    I picked Madeleina up and as she got into the car I told her there would be no television, no computer, no kindle and no music--unless she was practicing flute or piano--until 4 PM, when school normally lets out. "I wasn't even thinking that..." she began to protest. I told her I was glad to hear it. What she could do, I said, was clean the house, rake the front yard of leaves again--I just did it Friday but it's pretty full again after a couple of windy nights--read real books, study, finish cleaning her room--a three week project that's nearly done--or sleep. I know one thing she will not be doing: She will not throw up. She never throws up unless it's just before school or at school. She's got the technique down to a science.
    On the way home I picked up the mail. Two checks for about $400, good. Dropped off some mail: Sent out mapacho (Amazonian) cigarettes to a friend who needs some and paid a bill for Chepa, the wife/ex-wife who's broke right now.
    Got home, came inside. Madeleina didn't. She's sitting in the front seat of the truck, moping. Why bother to come in if you can't do anything you wanted to do with the extra day off? I'll let her sit as long as she likes. It's warm outside. But what I'm guessing she'll do is call her mom to come pick her up because she feels so sick. Chepa will arrive, scold me for being so cold to our daughter, then take Madeleina to her house where she'll get to watch television and listen to comedians on the computer all day.
    Madeleina does not know that I was 16 once too. I know every trick in the book. The difference was that I just walked out of school if I felt like cutting. I never tried to drag my parents into it. Different world today, but the same. And yes, I'd rather her cut by playing sick than cut to go to a friend's house and have sex and drugs. But that doesn't mean she can look me in the eye and ask me to believe her nonsense, either.
    Then there is Marco. He's 25-years-old now, going on 60 sometimes and going on 12 at other times. He hasn't worked in a couple of months because he lost his permanent resident card, and these days if you look hispanic, potential employers ask for that. Then his license expired. Then he lost his social security card. All essentially a valiant effort to prevent himself from getting a job.
    A few weeks ago he was desperate enough that he took on in a gas station that pays illegals to work off the books. Marco worked a week and the boss told him he always held onto the first paycheck to cover any employee theft. Okay. So Marco worked another week and asked for his money. They guy said he'd pay cash, $7 an hour, then told Marco he was owed for 40 hours. Marco said no, he'd worked 54 hours the second week and 31 the first week, so he was owed for 84 hours and the rate was $7.25 an hour, minimum wage at least. Marco was fired for speaking back. Then Marco unleashed a torrent on the gas station owner. The owner said that given Marco's attitude, he'd have to put Marco's money in escrow with the "committee" and that Marco could get it when he had all his papers in order.
    Marco called, told me the story, then asked about the committee. I said there was no such thing, that the boss probably figured he was an illegal and would be happy with the $280 he was offered, rather than the $616 he was owed.
    Marco asked me to help. I said I would. He called back in a few minutes, telling me to do nothing because his girlfriend works at the same station and he didn't want me to do anything that might jeopardize her job. I said okay.
    Couple of days later he called again and said he was going to collect his money on Saturday, a cople of days ago, and would I come with him. I said sure.
    We went, were steered to an overcrowded office and met the boss. I shook his hand, told him how great it was that his business was doing so well, and that I hoped we could clear things up quickly. The man started to talk about not trusting Marco because of what Marco had said during his torrent on the day he asked for his money. I said yup, he's got quite an angry streak, but that once he got paid, the man would never need to see him again and wouldn't that be a relief. The owner agreed. Then he had him write a paper saying he'd been paid in full and was owed nothing by the owner. Marco wrote what the man said and was about to sign it when I said: Okay, before he signs, and I'll sign on as a witness and let you copy my driver's license, he's got to get paid.
    The man grumbled, took out the time sheets did the calculations, came up with $616. He put it on the table. Marco signed. I signed, then let the man copy my driver's license and I signed that paper too. Then we picked up the money. It was good. I thanked him and we left.
    Outside, Marco said he wanted to scream at the guy, hit the guy, etc. I told him I'd learned a long time ago that you focus on getting what you need to get, then leave while you're ahead. No point in getting paid, then hitting the guy, then getting arrested for assault. Marco reluctantly said he understood.
    Kids are kids forever. I don't know if they ever really grow up all the way until their parents die and they have no choice. I hope I stay alive another 20 years because I don't really mind them being kids once in a while. I'm not always happy with them but I do always love them.

Sunday, December 01, 2013

First Missive, February Group, Amazon Trip

I think I did this a couple of years ago and if so I apologize for boring you a second time. I've just finished the first missive for my upcoming February Amazon group. I'm not sure it's what people expect, though most of the guests have had time to talk with me on the phone and so it's not too too out of the blue when they get this. Still, I'll bet some of this material surprises people and makes them wonder: What the freak did I sign up for anyway?
Here's what I just wrote and sent out:

Dear All: Well, hope you had a wonderful holiday if you were here in the states where we had a holiday, and hope you had a great weekend if you're elsewhere.
     Time for this, the first of two or three missives about our upcoming trip. We are, at the moment, a small but hopefully spectacular, group. I suspect three or four more will join us by end of December but I don't want to put this off any longer. So here goes.
      Any idea what you signed up for? You signed up for a very intense, very earthy, very deep jungle trip that will teach you loads while having a great deal of fun. But there are some things you need to know.
      First off, I am no one's guru. I don't wear flowing robes, and I'm far from perfect or even a role model. I'm 62, getting over a really really nasty flesh eating infection and will be in good shape when you meet me. I curse, I like to drink now and then--and I will do that on my own time and if I do, I don't want to hear about it, okay?--and I will work very very hard for you. I know the jungle, the rivers, the river people very well and will share everything I've got with you. But I still ain't no freaking guru and if you think I am, even for one second, you will be sorely disappointed.
      Then there are rules, and these are important.
      No cocaine on this trip. None. If you do it, look for it, ask too many question about it, you will be dropped from the trip. I've lost too many friends to the drug war in Peru and will not contribute to that and will not allow any of my guests, while the trip is on, to contribute to it either. No excuses. I've dropped two people over it and can tell you they were very surprised. The reason I bring it up is because Peru floats on the stuff and every shoeshine boy is liable to ask you if you want any. Say a polite no, okay?
      No sex with anyone or anything under 18 years old. Peru is hot. Iquitos is steaming. Courtship takes about the time you need to drink half a beer. During the first two days in Iquitos--which will be full of fantastic things to do to get ready for the jungle--I don't really care if you want to have sex with a man/woman/dog/chicken. But I will not contribute to the rife underground of pedophelia and probably--though I can't prove it--chickenphelia as well. So go with your urges but make sure they're 18. Telling me you thought the 13-year-old was 18 will not cut it. Punishment? See punishment for cocaine. Off the trip. No refund.
      Third: No complaining. No complaining that I'm not younger, that it's raining, that it's too hot, that you're tired, that you were bitten by mosquitos. Complaining in a small group is like a poison: It only takes a little to poison everything, and I will not put up with it. YOU MAY, however, punch me as hard as you want in either arm, between the shoulder and the elbow. You don't need to warn me. Just do it, and as I get up off the ground, you will have my full attention. And while you have my attention, you can tell me what I should be doing that I am not doing, or tell me what I am doing that I should not be doing. And I will do my best to accommodate. I'd rather be punched than listen to complaining. And I can solve the problem more quickly if you just punch me and explain what needs to happen. 
     Fourth and last: If you are someone who absolutely cannot live without marijuana, do not try to find it. You will find it, but then whoever sold it to you will go to the police and say that Peter Gorman's group is buying pot and I will go to jail. And I am not doing that. If you have to have it, come to me, I'll try to get it for you--on your dime--and generally will be able to. But go through me, okay?
     Those are done. Good. Please please take them seriously because your trip depends on those rules being followed. 
     That out of the way, lets get to this: I will need you all to email me your passport numbers, name as it appears on the passport, country of origin of passport. I will not share them, keep them, remember them. But I will need them to finish paying for the hotel and riverboat cabins I've gotten with your deposits. Peruvian bureaucracy likes to know what foreigners are where. (I've already paid for those things and some other things, but we will not be allowed to use the rooms and might lose the riverboat cabins if I don't provide the info. If you are nervous, change a couple of numbers in the passport number and it will still be good, no sweat). 
    Our trip begins on Saturday, Feb. 1. We end after we return to Iquitos on the morning of Feb. 10. If you are staying in Iquitos the night of the 10th, you'll need to pay your hotel that night. But we won't abandon you: We'll get you to rooms that morning and such. We'll also--by we I mean my team and I--be around all of that day and most of the next to help anyone who is staying on for a few days to decompress (a good idea if you have the time and money). We'll get you to the market for the medicines you want, to the post office, to something cool you want to do. So while the trip will officially be over, I'll pay my guys an extra day to make sure you have what you need, okay?
     My team: With one or two exceptions, my team is made up of my late teacher Julio's kids, grand-kids and in-laws. They grew up where we are going and know it fantastically. The other members of the team are indigenous Matses who are my friends and have been friends for years and years. We will outnumber you, so that if one day one of you doesn't want to do a hike we're doing, you won't have to come along: I'll just leave a member or two of my team with you and they'll get you somewhere else: You might want to sketch or take photos; you might want to get up at 5 AM for birding--no sweat, we'll make it happen. 
     Airlines: You'll all need to come into Lima and then get a flight to Iquitos (there is one exception: Copa Airlines flies directly into Iquitos but last I looked it was very expensive). Most of you will arrive around midnight and be stuck--like all of us-in the airport until the morning flights start. Don't sweat it: The airport has restaurants and shops open all night on the second floor and is pretty safe. I wouldn't leave my camera on a table unattended while I went for coffee, but no one will try to grab your camera from your hands, okay?
     The airlines that fly into Iquitos are lan.com; star.com; peruvian airlines. Star is the least expensive while still being good. Peruvian is cheap but sketchy. Lan is the best but expensive. Email me and I will show you how to get good tickets, okay?
     Vaccinations: I'm not a big fan of them. We will not be in typhoid or yellow fever country so you won't need those. There is no vaccination for dengue fever, so you won't get that. Malaria is the big one but we'll be on moving rivers with little to no malaria on them. If you want to take malaria prophylactics, go ahead. They will not interfere with the medicine at all. For hepatitis, you can take a shot at home if you like, but please be aware that we'll be drinking bottled water the entire time, so it's not really an issue.
    What is an issue is if you are on any mood-altering SSRI drugs. They can seriously interact with ayahuasca. I need you all to each send me a list of any meds you are on so that I can check them for interactions, and I'll need you to be honest. Again, I won't keep the info, don't personally care about it, but do want you safe, so please be honest on this issue.
     For things to bring: I will send out another missive in a week or so. Just know that you already own everything you need. I will outfit for the jungle from boots to mosquito nets to sleeping mats to hammocks and blankets and towels and even a flashlight if you need it. I will also make and give you each Gorman's Jungle Juice--the best after-sting I know. It is antibacterial, will cool, stop itching and all that jazz. You will need to bring strong repellant, but even then, I will have enough even if you all forget to bring it.
     I will be arriving in Iquitos several days before the trip begins and if anyone wants to come a day early, you're welcome to: you pay for the room and food that day but you can shake your jet lag, hang out with my team, have a nice time before the work begins. Just letting you know that before you buy your international tickets. 
     And when it's time to buy your Lima-Iquitos ticket, if you're coming in on the day we start, I recommend you take a very early flight because by noon on Saturday, we'll start doing things and I don't want any of you to miss any of what we do. Oh, and we will be picking you up from the airport in Iquitos, no matter wen you come in, okay?
     If you have any questions about anything in this missive, or want help with tickets, don't hesitate to ask.
     Remainder of funds are do no later than Jan 1, 2014, though you're all welcome to get them to me as soon as you like. Remember, if using paypal, you need to add $4 US dollars per hundred, because that's what paypal charges me to receive it. If they don't charge me for some reason, I'll refund the extra, no sweat.
     Okay, that's plenty for now.
      Thanks for joining. It's gonna be a great trip.
Peter G
Capt'n of the Stinkin', Sinkin' Ship

Friday, November 29, 2013

Sort of Heartbreaking,,,Drug War Trails

Well, it's sort of heartbreaking to me, that for all the years I worked at High Times on the hard side of drug war news, I couldn't do what I wanted. I had successes for sure, though some took a long time: Steve Hager told me to make medical marijuana a national issue and I did. A lot of others were involved for sure, but I pushed that and pushed that and at Steve's suggestion made Dennis Peron the face of the medical marijuana legalization movement and Kenny and Barbra Jenks, two people who died from AIDS after he got a tainted blood transfusion (he was a hemophiliac) the poster kids for medical marijuana.
    I had luck when I wrote about the wildly unfair forfeiture reform laws--you know, the ones where the police could confiscate your home for having a single marijuana plant in the back yard--even if the neighbor kids admitting planting it. Oh, and the police got to keep the proceeds from the auctioned off confiscated goods. After a 1992 series on that, Henry Hyde's office got in touch with me and Hyde spent 10 years getting those laws reformed to some extent. Now St. Louis Post-Dispatch and other papers wrote about those abuses as well, so I wasn't alone, but yes, I was one of those whose work finally got those laws changed.
   I had luck with hemp, when Steve Hager told me to go do some editing on a crazy California guy's book. That book was Jack Herer's Emperor Wears No Clothes, and High Times made Herer the face of the hemp movement in the U.S., while our stories on Ben Dronkers made him the face of the hemp movement in Europe.
   Again, would be ridiculous to claim all the credit: Herer was already Herer when I met him. The Girls of the Cannabis Movement traveled all over the country in a tour arranged by Steve Bloom, HT's music editor and a great writer and friend. And then a million other people got schooled and then there was that movement and it will not be long before hemp is not just a specialty item but a big time crop I believe.
   So I take a good amount of credit  for being the journalist who hammered away at these issues until people like Peter Jensen and 60 Minutes and The Atlantic picked up the ball. But there were also the activists who taught us at High Times and whom we taught with real facts and good information and who then went out there and began schooling other people. There is a lot that goes into social and political change but I'm happy for the work I did on those three things yet understand I was not working in a vacuum and wouldn't have done the hundreds of aggregate stories I did over the years on those topics if Steve Hager hadn't pushed me and pushed me in the right direction.
   But this piece is about the heartbreak of other things, the heartbreak of the failures I had. Hundreds of people would call me every year during the height of forfeiture abuse and say something like: "My kid was busted for selling pot and the police just raided my home and found an ounce in his room and now they're saying they're going to forfeit my house. Can they do that?" And the answer was, yes they can. And they're encouraged to do it because once they sell your house at auction they will have enough money to buy 15 new police cars, which will allow them to save the money they were going to put into those cars and use it for guaranteed overtime and a police gymnasium instead.
    They would ask what I could do to stop it and the answer was nothing. There was nothing I could do. I was sorry for them. Sometimes I knew a lawyer who might give me a pro bono because I'd put his/her picture in the magazine at some earlier time, but generally there was nothing I could do but be angry at the laws, angry at the police, sad for the family.
     People would call saying they were busted with pot and were going to lose their children and what could I do? Nothing.
    They would call and say they had their money sniffed by a drug dog and subsequently confiscated because it was tainted with cocaine and what could I do? Nothing. And that was even after some great newspaper--I think it was Miami Herald--tested bills in 1985 and found that 96% of all bills they tested had traces of cocaine on them during the late 1980s and early 1990s--meaning confiscating money was shooting ducks in a barrel.
    Sister Somayah called several times at my house, screaming and cursing before she hung up. After about a year of that every month, she called once and was calm enough to explain that she and every other sickle sell anemia patient was generally given morphine for pain, which made millions of people simple junkies getting morph every two days for years at a time. She accused me, a white guy whose people don't suffer from sickle cell anemia, of ignoring this enormous problem. How could I help? I asked. Check out my story, she said. See what they're giving patients in New York, and then you'll know why so many black people are nodding out on their stoops there. They're government junkies! Again, I asked, what could I do?
    Tell people marijuana dilates the blood vessels so that the sickle cells can pass around the joints painlessly, she said. I did. It took years to get people to get it but they finally are starting to and there are fewer sickle cell patients on morphine these days.
    But other who called collect from prisons begging for help, couldn't get help. What the hell could I do?
     I'm writing all this because a guy named Bobby V. called recently. He'd been in touch from prison maybe 16 years ago. He was serving 30 years at Missouri State Prison, maximum, called The Walls, often referred to as "the bloodiest 47 (or so) acres in the U.S." What was he serving for? For being a habitual offender. At 20 or so he'd taken a 17 year old across state line for purpose of prostitution. He was later guilty in a couple of small time burglaries. He served time, got out, helped a friend score a $40 bag of pot and then discovered the friend was now a snitch. I think he was offered 15 years but turned it down, went to trial and got 30-40. I made him my first Prisoner of War in a column I occasionally wrote for High Times (the column started with "Bobby V is no saint...") and it gave him some breathing room at prison, he said. It also helped in some way get some people motivated to lobby on his behalf that 17 years was enough time. So he got out.
    He married, got a job, had two kids. He recently called from jail. He committed some sort of parole violation and they want him back at the state pen (The Walls closed in 2004, so it would be a different penitentiary) to serve out the remainder of his original sentence. He wants me to help. How? I called a lawyer I know in Missouri and hope that helps. But who knows if that attorney will have the time or if Bobby will have the money to pay him? And even if Bobby has the money, who knows if it will work?
     Yeah, he was a habitual criminal: Caught once at 20 years old; caught again at 25; arranges for a pal to buy $40 bucks worth of pot when he's about 30. That's three things in 10 years. Oh, not that it excuses things but the young woman crossing state lines was already a prostitute with a long line of arrests, so it wasn't like Bob was forcing her into anything. And $40 pounds of pot is just that: Not even illegal beyond a ticket for $100 in most states. And now, after about 10 years free, no issues, he's got a parole violation and they want him back. That happens when the locals just have it in for you.
     So there's probably nothing I can do for Bobby. And nothing I could do for the hundreds and hundreds of others who got in touch. Once in a while the work made a difference; most of the time I failed.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Someone Asked Me About Colombia, 1999

So a friend wrote and asked what might have been happening in Colombia that would have sent a person involved with the U.S. military down there in 1999 on 20 different occasions. I scratched my head. I had my bar in Iquitos there then, remember, and a lot of what the U.S. military was doing in Colombia included nearby Peru. So this is what I wrote as possible explanation for a U.S. government agent of some sort being sent to Colombia 20 times in 1999.
Dear X: Plan Colombia, the suspected-drug-plane-shootdown-program, the imminent election of Uribe to the Colombian presidency that we were arranging for at the time (elected, I believe, in 2002). So lots of things. We also had sent down Green Berets to guard pipelines for private companies in Colombia at about that time. 

    If you recall, that was the same time that the U.S. kept five houses for Special Forces and one for the DEA in Iquitos. Very very high visibility in the region. 
    Now that I'm thinking of it, it was about that time that we were training two battalions of Colombian jungle forces with our Jungle Special Forces. Those battalions were going to use a pincer movement to force the FARC rebels from their "military free zone" once that zone was eliminated in the early 2000s. They were going to be forced to the Putumayo river, where that team of former Navy Seals that came into my bar and told me what they were hired to do--they were going to slaughter any and all people trying to cross the Putumayo looking for safety in Peru as a result of that pincer movement. Yours truly stopped that one in its tracks in 2002, I believe, and that's when my CIA friend was given the job of eliminating me. He spent two weeks at Langley explaining that if idiots got drunk in my bar and--knowing I was a journalist--told me what they were going to do, it was my obligation to print it. First Amendment and such. Fortunately, he talked them out of the kill and that's why I can tell the story today.
    So, very active time in Colombia and region--the first major effort to secure Colombian oil which was about to explode on the market in a big way. Setbacks, like a failed Plan Colombia, have held it in abeyance, but it's still a gold ring and we still plan to get it.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Big Game Hunters

Now I know that animals need to be culled from a herd to keep it healthy. But during the last several months I've seen photos of US Olympic Champion Cory Cogdell and young hunter Regis Giles and
Melissa Bachman posing with trophy animals: Zebras, lions, boars, elephants. Now I'm gonna say right now that I think nature has its own methods of culling a herd. And I think it's a good, if cruel, system. And while I'm not against hunting to eat--hell, I had a duck yesterday and am having a sausage/veggie pasta tonight and I didn't even kill the damned duck or sausage or pasta but let someone else do that dirty work for me--and I respect people who respect the animals, I've got a wrong feeling about people who hire someone to fly out in a helicopter to find you a herd, and once found, report to your driver/professional spotter, who drives to the herd's spot and then points out which animal would be the best trophy for you to kill. Then they drive you close enough and you shoot and down goes the animal--unless of course you're Sarah Palin and have to shoot at a moose that's tied down six times before you can hit the thing.
     Old lions get culled when they starve to death because they're not strong enough to hunt any longer. Old zebras get eaten by young lions. Old elephants are left to wander by themselves to die. But these hunters are not going after that gimpy old elephant or that rhino who can hardly carry themselves. They're going after prime males, the ones that keep the herd strong. And I just see that as something terribly wrong, terribly cowardly. Those are the same people who jump into a fight as kids after the kid has been beaten up by five people and is prone on the ground and then hits him a few times and brags he beat up so and so.
     I'll put my position in perspective. I've had people ask me to take them jaguar hunting in the Amazon. I've always put this condition on it: We outfit your gun barrel with a mounted camera and  eliminate the firing pin. Then, you shoot a picture of the jaguar and leave the jaguar for another day. Not one of the people willing to pay $10,000 to actually kill a jaguar ever had the balls to get close enough to "fire" a photo without having a gun backup.
    Now the person who finally does hire me to do that, well, that's someone with balls, whether a man or a woman. Because getting within 20 yards of a jaguar without a weapon to stop it if it attacks is a very very frightening thing. And doing that on purpose takes a great great deal of courage. Which the guys/gals with the fancy rifles, fancy scopes, helicopter spotters and hunting advisors in the cars either don't have or don't need to use. Cause there is nothing courageous about blowing three ducks away with a shotgun. Or shooting a lion or tiger or elephant or rhino at 200 yards with the protection of a jeep to run away if need be.
    The PS Is that while some people might eat an elephant or rhino, no one eats a lion or tiger.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Best Psychedelic Contact Sheet in the History of the World

The Best Psychedelic Contact Sheet in the History of the World
While working at High Times for a long time from 1986 through 1997, and then again in 2001 and 2002, I needed to make contact with a lot of people from the underground/the psychedelic movement/the marijuana legalization and hemp movements/the medical marijuana movement. Getting contacts for those people was not always easy. There is a story that goes with almost every name in my rolodex.
    Today, someone asked me to get in touch with Jonathan Ott and so I spent some time looking for my old--and I mean 21 year old--psychedelic contact sheet and unforgivably, Ott was not on it. If you read this, Mr. Ott, please get in touch because someone is trying to reach you.
    But in looking over the sheet, it's pretty amazing. I'm sure others have even better ones, but my contact sheet--and that means I spoke with each of these people and recorded them and have those recordings, reads like this. A lot of these names were culled when Bill Weinberg and I--Bill was my partner in writing the Highwitness News section of High Times for several years--were putting together a special called LSD at 50! which celebrated the 50th anniversary of Albert H. discovering it and taking his famed bicycle ride.
   Here's the amazing list--without contacts, of course, and in no particular order, just the order in which I reached them.
Howard Lotsof--the man who discovered the heroin interruptive properties of Ibogaine.
John Perry Barlow--Songwriter for the Grateful Dead
Mickey Hart--Dead Drummer and participant in the Acid Tests
Wavy Gravy--The clown from Woodstock who told us all to hug the 30-50 mean motorcyclists who crashed Woodstock and tried to force their way to the front of the stage.
Ken Kesey--Author of One Flew Over the Cookoo's Nest and the original Merry Prankster who ran the school bus FURTHER across America doling out LSD.
Albert Hoffman--the man who discovered LSD by accident and the very straight-laced father of the Psychedelic movement.
Nina Graboi--Writer and early participant in LSD sessions
Terence McKenna--Psychedelic Pioneer on a lot of levels
Oscar Janigar: The man who turned on Cary Grant to LSD
John Beresford: A psychologist who got one of the "magic grams" from Sandoz laboratories and treated a lot of Hollywood people with it.
Stan Grof--LSD phychotherapist who worked at Spring Grove, New York and later developed the famous Grof breath work.
Sasha Shulgin--Chemist/researcher/writer who has brought a lot lot lot of material to the attention of the world. While he didn't invent Extasy, he was the one who reinvented it and spread the word.
Peter Stafford--Writer of the Psychedlic Encyclopedia
Marty Lee--Co-Author of Acid Dreams, the book that exposed the US government's work with the material on unsuspecting hippies and others
Rabbi Salman Schacter--Took LSD at Spring Grove with other healers and spiritual people in the early 1960s.
Allen Ginsberg--Poet/author of HOWL, the book that announced the Beat movement and an early user of LSD and Ayahuasca.
Hunter Thompson--Out of his mind drug abuser who invented Gonzo journalism--and was very freaking good at it.
Laura Huxley--Wife of Aldous, and a writer and psychedelic explorer in her own right.
Stanley Krivner--headed the Dream Lab at Maimonides Hospital.
Cat McKenna--wife of Terence and a brilliant researcher on her own.
Mountain Girl--Jerry Garcia's wife and a famed psychedelic explorer.
Ram Das--Richard Alpert, Leary's associate, the man who wrote Be Here Now, and a spiritual/psychedelic leader for 50 years.
Rick Doblin--Founder of the Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies.
Claudio Naranjo--Writer, makes the ayahuasca connection with LSD with ayahuasqueros.
David Smith--The man who ran the Haight-Ashbury Clinic during the halcyon years in San Francisco.
Ronald Sandison--British psychitrist who used LAD with patients from 1952 through 1964
Humphrey Osmond--The man who invented the word "psychedelic" and a researcher with LSD
Ken Babbs--One of the original Merry Pranksters
Tim Leary--The man who passed the word.
Ron Bivert--Photographer for the Merry Pranksters
And then there are a dozen others who, because they could be vulnerable, I'm not mentioning. And I've eliminated their old contacts from my page for precisely that reason.
    But is that a freaking all star line up or what?????? AND I GOT TO TALK WITH ALL OF THEM! You have any idea what a treat that was? I'm glad someone was looking for Mr. Ott today to remind me of that list. My head has been buzzing with their ideas all freaking day. Thanks Universe for letting me be alive!