Sunday, April 28, 2013

Do participants drink ayahuasca in traditional Mestizo ceremonies?

On a board on which I occasionally post, there has been some talk of how traditional ayahuasca was utilized. Did everyone at a ceremony drink it? Did only the curandero drink it? Well, someone brought up my name and something I posted--and subsequently took down--so I sort of had to chime in. I've covered this before but I think this is a better version of what I have seen and experienced.
   It starts with me responding to someone noting that there seems to be a variation in the way different indigenous groups utilize ayahuasca.
Certainly it's an astute point that there is plenty of variation in how ayahuasca has traditionally been imbibed--the extent of which we can't really know since the Panoan language group was not a written language and only began to be one with the SIL--Sullivan Language Institute, the notorious U.S. CIA front, and before that the Office of Strategic Services front -- coming into northwestern Amazonia and writing it down.
What I was talking about was more mestizo shamanism, and even then, from my experience. With 25 or so different curanderos that I drank with in the 1980s/early 1990s, there were always locals there for healing and it was unusual for a guest to drink. With my mother-in-law and father-in-law, who both had different curanderos in Iquitos who've never served a gringo--and still haven't--it was rare for them to drink with the curandero. Ma drank at onset of puberty, then just prior to marriage and that was it, until I took her to Airport Juan Tangoa and later Francisco Montes and finally Julio to drink--but that was to help deal with very advanced cancer and she wanted guidance that she thought the plant spirit alone could give her. My father-in-law, he drank on a boast as a teen, then later when his father told him to drink at 21, and then never again (he said) until he had his legs amputated due to diabetes and he was scared to death and wanted to talk directly to the spirit.
I think Marlene Dobkin de Rios saw a similar pattern among the people who visited her father-in-law for healing as well. 
None of that goes back to pre-rubber boom time, when the indigenous still lived a much more traditional tribal life than they have at any time since. So no telling how they did it or how it varied from village to village and group to group.
And yes, Westerners are very hands-on people, so we want to know. We want to touch, taste, feel and deal with it. So we have turned the mestizo paradigm on its head. That's just what it is, and the fallout--good and bad--won't really be tallied for some time, I don't think.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sometimes I Don't Know if I Have Kids at All

Totally self-serving post:
Sometimes I don't know if I have kids at all,
They're all grown up and never here,
They don't come by, they don't show themselves,
Sometimes I don't know if I have kids at all.

I raised them to be independent
And I'm proud that they can get by on their own
But I never imagined that I taught them that
They never need to come home.

To see how the house they were raised in is,
To see if dad needs a hand,
To ask for eggs over easy and rice for breakfast]
Or just to tell me how they are.

Sometimes I don't know if I have kids at all,
Did I really raise them since they were that small?
Did I teach them independence in a way that was wrong
Sometimes I don't know if I have kids at all.

I just want to see them grow.
I just want to see them know,
I just want to see them being fantastic,
I just want them to learn to be elastic
To deal with this difficult world
I don't know if I have kids at all.

I never meant they shouldn't come by the house,
I never thought they should avoid me,
I always thought they would take care of this place
Where they were grown, where they were grown.

Sometimes I don't know if I have kids at all,
I always thought we'd do something together,
I guess I was slow and they moved on,
But still I thought we would be together.

This is a bad imitation of the song I was just singing on the front porch swing. I love my kids, but sometimes I don't see them for a couple of weeks, not until they need a college paper tweaked or a car payment made. And that's probably my fault. I probably trained them to be very self-dependent. But I never meant they shouldn't come by a few minutes every day to tell me what is going on in their lives or how they're doing. That's what's making me sad tonight: That I pushed independence too far and now they want to prove they don't need me. And that's sad for me. Period.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Sad Day

I have a column in a good dope magazine, Skunk. You should all go out and buy it just to show support. They use my old cohorts at High Times, Steve Wishnia and Bill Weinberg, two of the best drug war journalists ever, plus let me have the column, so I'm a fan.
   Today I turned in my new column. It won't show up for six weeks, but we're intimate friends, here, right? So I'm gonna share it with you and if it's over the top, stupid, whatever, well, then I'm over the top and stupid. But this was what I was thinking about today, two days after the Boston Marathon Bombing.


The Boston Marathon Bombings and the Puppet Masters

By Peter Gorman

Well, the world is suffering today. As this is being written, the FBI, bomb squads and a host of other law enforcement groups are working their asses off to try to find who blew up the people at the Boston Marathon. The death toll as of this writing is three, though by the time you read it that number may be higher. It was a vile, horrific thing visited down from hell on innocent people out celebrating the human body and its fantastic abilities. And yes, we have seen similar scenes all over the world. The United States has been responsible for thousands of them. Crazy people have been responsible for many of them. Military leaders, would-be martyrs on suicide missions for their gods regularly blow up innocents at markets all over the Middle East, sending body parts and burned flesh to nestle among the fruits and vegetables for sale.
   All of it is wretched beyond imagination. If people who committed these actions had only taken a moment to realize that the innocents who are maimed, who die, who leave their families with holes in them that will never be healed, that those people they are going to kill are not the problem. The puppet masters are the problem. The people who take not just a larger share of the cake then they should but take millions of shares of the cake, leaving the rest of us to fight it out over the crumbs—and leaving people angry and frustrated and starving and crazy because there really isn’t enough if someone takes almost all of it.
    The puppet masters can then rile those people into a frenzy, pointing fingers of blame at anyone different, claiming those are the people who have taken all the cake. Those are the enemies. Those are the people starving your children. And they back their positions up with books they claim were written by the hand of their gods to justify the vilification and slaughter of those enemies.
    Hundreds of blacks were hung from trees and lampposts by poor people convinced that those blacks were taking what should have properly been theirs. The genocide in Rwanda in 1994 saw the poor Hutu people convinced that the Tutsi people intended to enslave them and once riled enough, the Hutu’s slaughtered more than 500,000 Tutsis in just about 100 days. In truth, it was just the puppet masters controlling the strings out of desperation for power, control and wealth. It’s always the puppet masters taking too much, leaving too little for the poor to share and then pointing fingers. If they didn’t take so much there would be more than enough to go around. We can grow enough rice and wheat for everyone to eat. We can grow tomatoes and garlic and potatoes and spinach and share fish and apples and melons—if only some people weren’t taking the lion’s share for themselves.
   I don’t want to get all religious on you here, but I was raised Catholic—altar boy and everything, and no, I never met a priest who was out of line sexually. One of the stories I liked best was the loaves and fishes. In that one, Jesus of Nazareth finds himself on a hill with thousands of people there to listen to him and whoever else was on the bill. But nobody hired any vendors and so people got hungry and angry then, as the story goes, Jesus of Nazareth got hold of a couple loaves of bread and a few fish and began distributing them and he never ran out. It was called a miracle, that he could multiply food like that.
   I never really believed that was a miracle. If he had superpowers then it was an easy thing for him to do. But I did think a miracle occurred. In my little kid’s mind I pictured that when people got hungry and started to get antsy and angry, that Jesus of Nazareth, without superpowers, simply looked out over the large crowd and probably told them that if everyone shared all the food they had with no holding back, then there would be plenty for everyone. And I always pictured people slowly bringing out their stash—some with enough food for 20, others with just a couple of figs—and beginning to share until it got contagious and all the food came out and then yes, there was plenty for everyone. Because there always is if people share.
    But there are those who don’t share, people who never have enough. Who would rather let the bread go stale and the fish rot before they’d give it up to the next hungry guy. And those are the people who point the finger at someone a little different and tell the hungry person that that other person is responsible for their hunger. And then, well, someone decides they ought to blow up strangers watching a marathon.
   It’s a sad day. It’s a sad day every day because every day someone is pointlessly killing someone else at the urging of the puppet masters who need to deflect their responsibility before they are seen for what they really are.
   I was thinking about the bombings at the Boston Marathon—just two days old at this minute—and wondering who had convinced someone, the person or persons responsible that by hurting, maiming, killing strangers the scales would be in better balance. It wasn’t necessarily a particular person personally convincing someone to do the deed, it just needed to be a seed implanted that grew to the point where the horror looked like the best solution to the person making the bombs.
   I was also thinking about how many people were frightened so badly by the puppet masters when people started smoking a lot of marijuana and dropping copious amounts of LSD that they allowed and even encouraged laws to be enacted that criminalized a huge swath of the population. The politicians couldn’t act on their own, so they needed to convince the non-pot smokers that the pot smokers were bad. More than that, evil. More than that: Evil and they were going to get your son and daughter to join in their evil and be like Charles Manson and so they needed to be locked up. And to lock up all those people a couple of million new prison beds were going to need to be built. And the non-pot smokers believed it and went along with it and so millions of people wound up in the criminal justice system—emotionally maimed, scarred, sometimes forever.
    They are the same puppet masters. It wasn’t done with bombs or machetes or drone strikes, but it tore a nation apart and allowed those puppet masters to deflect from the real horror of what they were doing, from raping the environment to starting wars for oil. Taking not just a bigger portion, but nearly the whole damned cake.
    People of Boston: Peace
    To those who died there and who die needlessly every day: Rest in Peace. Maybe the rest of us can work to see that less killing, less hurting takes place tomorrow.

My Daughter Insists I'm in the Closet

Madeleina insists I'm in the closet and should come out openly gay. She may be right, but as long as I get erections looking at my ex-wife and other women, and don't when I look at my man pals, well, I'll probably stay inside. Still, today she was talking about having to present a poem to class. Not one she wrote but a poem by someone else. I reminded her that we have a small collection of maybe 60 books of poetry that include some of the very best poets--not all well known at all--of the late 20th Century, as well as a number of other books and collections from different eras.
   Then she surprised me and said her all-time favorite poem was one I wrote. I couldn't remember it--I used to write a lot of poetry--and asked her which one it was. She laughed and said it was one that I'd told her I wrote for a friend in college who came out of the closet and asked my friend Phil and I--along with a couple of others--to watch and march with him in the annual 5th Avenue Gay Pride Parade, probably in 1970 or 1971.
   Then I remembered it. Here it is, and the only reason I'm sharing it is because my baby loves it. And that makes me proud.

Ideal love
Created above,
Is not enough
To keep us here
From going queer.

Let's get the marriage thing done, people. Equality works. Inequality never works.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Hard choosing a good dinner....

Okay, so we've got a very very ill person staying with us for the last two months. We're doing the best we can but even good medicine and prayer will only get you so far. Nonetheless, people have to eat. So today our guest asked for a toasted english muffin with cream cheese and stawberry jam, with coffee and half-and-half (organic) and her jungle medicine and American meds.
   Then she wanted left over lamb stew with Mediterranean spices--lots of organic carrots/potatoes and just a tiny bit of grass fed organic, expensive lamb.
   Today, I was finishing a story, going back and forth with my editor who was questioning everything I wrote, and I was trying to figure out what would be the best dinner. I have some really good swordfish and was thinking of that. But then I imagined that maybe Italo, who was off today, might come over today. And since I didn't have enough swordfish, I thought I might make that and then also make some hot sausages with sweet red and green peppers, onions and tomatoes over rice--cooked with garlic in olive oil, of course.
   But then Madeleina had asked for Sushi, so I bought her what they call a San Antonio roll around here and I bought a salmon roll for me. Which the guest ate. And then, since the kids are coming, I threw on some chicken legs and rice.
   So now we've got swordfish with peppers and capers on a bed of spinach, some sushi, chicken with rice and sausage with peppers and onions. Plus we've got left over lamb stew.
   Who'd hungry? Come on over. That's way too much to eat if my kids don't show up.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

There's Something Wrong with Me, Dad

So I was facing and getting through a huge pile of dishes and pots this morning. A huge skillet in which I'd cooked three days worth of chicken legs for Boots the Blind Wonderdog and little Stella, a cute pup who came with my friend Yelena, seriously ill with cancer, to stay at my house last month. Then there were the pots in which I'd cooked elements of last night's stuffed manicotti (the spinach and garlic pan, the sausage pot, the zuccini pot, the pyrex dish in which the manicotti went, the pot in which I'd made the tomato sauce and so forth. Then the actual dishes, glasses and silverware attendant to that meal. Then there were Yelena's extra things--maybe eight glasses and cups and a couple bowls of left overs. Madeleina had threatened to wash it all this morning but didn't. Still, as she walked out of Yelena's room with the cups, glasses and bowls (which were in addition to her plate from the manicotti which she had while we all watched Seinfeld reruns), Madeleina noted: "Dad, I'm sorry I didn't do the dishes. I really should have."
   "You're not sorry, Madeleina. You had no intention of doing the dishes."
   "You're right. And it's the easiest thing to do. You're going right through them...but still, what's wrong with me that I just won't do housework?"
   "I think it's called teenage-itis..."
   "No, I'm serial, daddy-o. Something is just wrong with me. Of course, if something is wrong with the child you can bet it's the parent's fault. So way to go, dad. You messed me up. Why'd you do that? And look what you get for doing it: You have to clean the whole house and do the laundry and cut the lawn--karma, dad. It's a beotch, isn't it? If you ever have more kids, try not to screw up so badly, okay?"

Friday, April 05, 2013

Calling All Togoans!

Okay, so Madeleina is impressed that my blog has been read--according to the stats the blog keepers keep--by people in more than 100 countries around the world, some of them pretty tiny, like Kuwait and Curacao, others pretty large, like Russia, Brazil, Cameroon. And she likes the sound of Mauritius, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, Trinidad and Tobago, Gabon, Oman and Bosnia and Herzegovina. But she says this blog will never be anything, "won't count for jack, dad, until you have Togo! That's what will count! That's when you know you've made it. Until then, you're a loser, dad. Just face it, loser."
   Well, given that her 16th birthday is coming up on April 9, I'm gonna cheat here and send out the word to all my fans in Togo to start reading this blog. Let's bury the little bit.....would I actually call my beautiful daughter that? HA! So if you're out there in Togo-land, which is a West African country about the size and shape of a piece of spaghetti, well, start reading and make my daughter proud of me, okay? That's what this is about, making my daughter proud of me.
  P.S: Don't tell her about this blog entry or she'll say it doesn't count. She's a stickler that way...

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Women curanderas? Why not more of them?

Someone wrote to ask if there were any female curanderas. I wrote that yes, there are, but then gave a very brief and abbreviated history of why there are not more of them. This is what I wrote:

Dear X: Certainly there are female curanderas. I work with Adela Nevas sometimes, and the indigenous Shipibo women rule the roost at a number of lodges. And there are others. 

   What you need to understand is this: The whole concept of curandero comes from someone in a given indigenous village--often the headman at a small village, sometimes someone else at a larger village--who know the plants and animals and can communicate with them to learn when and where and what to plant, when to go to war with the neighbors, where to hunt, how to heal, etc. That role generally went to a male because the males were the hunters who were out in the bush, while the women tended camp, gathered food, raised babies, cooked and so forth. It was pretty set, duty wise, in most of the villages I knew back in the 1980s and early 1990s before they had so much outside influence and more modern tools which changed the lifestyle from hunter/gatherer with a bit of agriculture to primarily agriculture with a bit of hunting/gathering. 
   And when I say "raising babies" what I really mean is that often a first wife of a curaka--headman at camp or hunter with multiple wives--would be the wife who went hunting with him. She carried/carries the animal back from a hunt, leaving the hunter free to continue hunting if he finds more game.
   The second wife--frequently the first wife's sister--ran the village (if it was small) or oversaw a large section of it if it were large. The third wife generally had the responsibility for gathering, sometime with a fourth wife, and the last wife breast fed and was responsible for primarily raising all of the wives' children.
   Now I only knew a couple of men who had that many wives--Papa Viejo and Pablo--though I know a great many with two or three. It's basically the same set up but with duties that overlap when there are fewer wives.
   Given that as an anthropological point of view, it would generally fall on the curaka to be the one in communication with plants and animals--though often his first wife, out hunting with him daily for the whole family--could do it as well. But the job of curandero fell to the man.
   My late teacher Julio's daughter Lady knows more about healing and plants than almost anyone I ever met. Why? Because Julio used to have her go get the plants he needed for curing--and she learned very well. She could do ceremony in a heartbeat if she would allow herself to imagine she could. But I don't think she ever would, as that falls to the males and Lady is pretty traditional that way.
   Don't misconstrue however: In my eyes most of northwestern Amazonia is a matriarcal society, and the curaka, while he looks like the boss, is really beholding to the several wives and couple of dozen kids he has. If he stops hunting sufficiently, the women will just make him poison soup and be done with him. Then they'll head off in search of a new man who is willing to hunt for everyone.
   Lady, for instance, allows my friend Juan, her husband, to be the boss--in public. But get them alone and she is in charge.
    Given all that, the women I've known who were willing to take the mantle of curandera were very very strong.
More than you needed?

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Ayahuasca Bitch-Slap Explanation, sort of..,.

Someone wrote to ask me what the heck I meant when I said ayahuasca--the jungle medicine--needed to be bitch-slapped a little. I used a coarse term--I apologize--but went on to explain that what I meant was that the spirit of ayahuasca had gotten a little too big for her britches lately and just needed to be reminded that like all of us, she's a component of the universe, not the universe.
   Interestingly, the guy wrote back that similarly to when I had been ordered by the spirit of ayahuasca to "bring me fresh meat"--which included me bringing myself to the medicine in a "fresh meat" state, with no alcohol, no over-tiredness, no cutting corners in my personal preparation--he had recently been asked by what appeared to be the spirit of ayahuasca to spread the word about her, to get more people to drink her. So I thought on that a little while and then wrote him back. And I think it's worth sharing, at least in this intimate blog way.
    This is what I wrote:
Well, it's interesting: since I first wrote about ayahuasca asking me to bring her "fresh meat" in my book I've taken a lot of heat. Some people think that's just insane, or that I just made that up--but you cannot make this stuff up, it just happens, and what happens is more outlandish than anything I might make up.
   But then there were notes from others as well, like yours just now, telling me that similar queries or demands were made on them too. To bring more people, to spread the word and so forth. And I think a lot of the people who have opened lodges have done so because they had a "vision" that they were supposed to bring more people to the medicine.
   Now, whether it's sinister or not becomes the question. I actually think the medicine is very generous, very decent. On the other hand, I also think that ayahuasca is sentient--which would include having a will, desires, intention. And I think anyone/any sentient thing can get priorities mixed up if they suddenly find themselves pushed into the glare of the spotlight. How many actors go crazy after they become stars--when they were apparently quite normal prior to stardom? How many curanderos come to work for lodges and get big heads about their personal powers and so forth, when prior to the lodge work they were humble people living the very plain life of a local curandero on a river or in a shanty town in Iquitos?
    So why couldn't ayahuasca get swell-headed as well? After all, for hundreds--perhaps thousands--of years she's been working in obscurity among indigenous and later mestizo farmers and fishermen. Suddenly, in the last 15 years, she's all the rage, not just in Iquitos, but in Europe, the US, Canada, Australia. Could that tweak an ego a bit? I think it could. And I think so many people being asked or told to bring more people, more fresh meat, to her is an indication of that. 
     I do think that because she's basically so good that her instincts will win out fairly quickly and she will become humble again. I think the deaths, mostly by suicide, but a couple sort of inexplicably at different lodges, by people associated with Ayahuasca--though its doubtful that ayahuasca had anything to do with them--has shown her that along with superstardom comes unfillable expectation. You want to be the star? Then you take the heat. And I think she's aware of that and would not want the association with negativity, and so will reel herself in a bit.
    I also think that when someone/some spirit becomes a superstar, lots of other people/spirits are going to cling to that person's coattails. And so it may not be ayahuasca herself who's asking  you/me to bring more people. It may be the hangers-on that are doing that, who enjoy the superstardom charge and want more of it. If that's the case, then she will have to shuck them--they're probably not her real spirit friends anyway.
    This making sense?

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Drug War Follies Column That's Not Going to Run

Well, I got my Drug War Follies in late to Skunk Magazine in February and so it didn't run. Darn it. But I am not going to have wasted all my time, so here it is for you. Enjoy.

Drug War Follies

U.S. Customs, drug dogs and the High Court; the DEA pats itself on the back despite remarkably uneven sentencing and the GEO Group flashes its cash and arrogance. Ah, ain’t life in the drug war a bitch?

By Peter Gorman

So it’s Springtime. You got your gardens in yet? Well, what are you waiting for, me to come up there with a plow? Get them in now so that I’ve got good smoke the next time I come back from Peru in July, okay? That’s right. Think of Peter Gorman and his need of good smoke and get yer asses out there and plant those outdoor babies cause I don’t like that indoor tea. Not one bit. I mean, think about a nice outdoor Blueberry or Purple Haze sitting there in the sunlight in your back yard. Or an old fashioned California Orange, smells so good you think you can squeeze orange juice out of the leaves. Now you’re thinking.
    Speaking of just coming back from Peru, well, I just came back. Took a nice small group out into the deep jungle where I had them walking in swamps, eating shrooms on an overnight riverboat ride on the Amazon, teaching them about jungle medicines, serving them ayahuasca and having some indigenous Matses friends of mine provide them with the Matses’ medicines sapo and nu-nu. Then up to the mountains and more shrooms and finally to Machu Picchu where they all drank the magic elixir San Pedro—a cousin of the Southwestern peyote.
   It was a great trip, at least till I got back to the U.S. Customs station in Miami. Normally I get there and I’ve got my luggage packed with my medical supplies, a few clothes and lots of food: Things my ex-wife and my kids, all born and partially raised in Peru, love to have, and things you can’t get here. There are certain types of peppers we don’t have in the northern hemisphere, and the limes are very different, and there are dried yucca bits called farina and spices and herbs and salt fish and all sorts of things I have to bring back or my family wouldn’t let me come home.
    Typically I spend an hour at Customs arguing over the legality of what I’ve brought back, whether it’s magic shrooms or regular shrooms, hand rolled cigarettes, whatever. “What’s this?” I’m asked, and then I tell the agent and they go look in their book to see if it’s legal and either let me have it or throw it away. Last July they got me good: A newbie who was probably on his first month on the job and he was tossing every thing I had, from jungle medicines, to dried fish to cigarettes—all legal, but you can’t really argue the case with a federal agent. When they’re done, you go.
    Things were different this time out. I filled out my form—How much money you bringing? Where have you been? And so forth, and I circled the item asking if I was bringing in any food. So I’m on line waiting to get my passport stamped so I could go get my things and get ripped off by Customs when this little beagle comes and sits down next to me. “You have food, Mr. Gorman?”
    “Yes, I wrote that I did. I also have jellybeans in my shoulder bag. I guess that’s what the beagle is smelling.”
    “Follow me.”
    “Where and why?”
    “Shut up and follow me.”
     He had the gun, I followed. I wasn’t brought to my luggage like I thought would happen. No. Instead I was brought through two heavy doors to a room filled with maybe 60 people—some of whom I recognized from my flight—and told to sit down and be quiet. I asked what was going on and was told to be quiet and wait. So I waited maybe two hours, missed a connecting flight home and still no one called my name. All the agents there, including a female who had tossed a lot of my stuff a few years ago, looked like they played middle linebacker for their high school football teams. All buff, no fluff, loaded pistols at their sides. No one would talk to anyone. All of us, or most of us, had just come in from Peru or Bolivia and we’d all been traveling nearly 24 hours, so this was an uncomfortable wait.
    Finally someone at the back of the room called my name. I went out into a hall where two agents, one behind a desk at a computer, the other near the exit door in case I decided to bolt, stared at me.
   The one behind the desk says: “You brought food again? You’ve been busted before. Several times.”
   “I know. But that’s because you keep changing the rules. One year I can bring in limes, the next year I’m fined for bringing in Limes. This time I checked. I put the lime juice in bottles with the hot peppers—the pepper seeds are killed by the lime juice, my ex gets her hot pepper sauce, I’m legal. What’s the problem?”
   “You brought food again?”
   “Yes. I wrote it on the Customs’ form.”
   “What food?”
   “The hot pepper sauce. Kitchen spices. Something called farina that’s made from yucca…”
    “What’s yucca?”
    “It’s like a Peruvian potato. It’s a tuber.”
    “So why don’t you say potatoes?”
    “They’re not potatoes. If I tell you potatoes and the farina doesn’t taste like potatoes you’re gonna say I was lying.”
    “What else?”
     I went down the list.
    Absolutely certain I was lying, we went to get my bags and they had me put them through the X-Ray machine. Then they had me open them. All four of them, including my shoulder bag with the jellybeans. Guy puts on rubber gloves and sticks his finger into the open jellybeans to see if they’re really jellybeans. “Well that’s ruined,” I note to myself.
    One by one he goes through everything. “Those are mushrooms?”
    “Yes. My wife likes to cook with them.”
    “We don’t have mushrooms here?”
    “Not like these we don’t,” I said, and smiled when he dropped them back into the kitchen spice bag.
    Half-an-hour we play back and forth with my shit until the agent declares it all legal and lets me pack up.
    “Will we be doing this same dance next time I come through or can you write a note on the computer that I was clean?”
    “Have a nice day, Peter.”
    I walked out thinking that if a person notes that they’re bringing food into the country on their Customs form there ought to be a better way to handle it. I mean, you can assume they’re being honest and do it the old way: Just check the luggage. Damn, we make it easy to dislike the U.S. government, I thought, just as Neil Young’s line from Rockin’ in the Free World came to mind: “We got a kinder gentler machine gun hand”.
    Okay, okay. There was a point to that story. It started with a beagle, right? So here’s the segue: On February 19, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a 2011 Florida Supreme Court decision that ruled that law enforcement agents had to do more than claim a drug sniffing dog had been properly trained before that dog’s hit on a vehicle would permit a full search.
    The Florida Supreme Court ruling held that simply training a dog in a controlled environment did not prove that the dog would be capable of sniffing drugs in a vehicle in the field. Which is reasonable: Lots of ball players look great in practice but can’t hit for dink during the games. But the Supremes, in all their wisdom, saw it differently, condemning all of us who travel anywhere in the U.S. to be subject to a search of everything we have in our vehicles at the whim of a dog, who might just be excited about a ham sandwich he’s sniffed.
   Damn, we make it easy to dislike the intrusive U.S. government, don’t we? “We got a kinder gentler machine gun hand.”
Over on the DEA’s official website,, they always tout their latest and biggest busts. Over there this morning, among other things, was the story of a Canadian smuggler convicted in a California court who was sentenced to 81 months in a federal lockup. He’d been busted with 66-pounds of methamphetamine and more than $125,000 in cash while in the process of buying six kilos of cocaine. He was also convicted of conspiracy to move Ecstasy, working with drug trafficking organizations and so forth. And he got 81 months.
    But then the very next story on the DEA site dealt with several people indicted for growing pot in seven  homes in Elk Grove and Sacramento, CA. Yeah, they had nearly 3,000 plants and 100 pounds of clean pot but they are each facing possible life in prison.
   Now, I don’t want anybody going to prison for non-violent drug offences, even if it involves meth. But given the state of the world, wouldn’t you think someone would notice that something is wrong when 66 pounds of meth, six kilos of coke and involvement with cross-border smuggling over a long period of time is gonna get you under seven years and fucking pot growing is gonna get several people possible life? Goddamn I am so sick of this bullshit where pot growers are getting hit harder than other drug dealers. And then I think of Dana Beal and all the time he lost sitting in a cell for a little pot, and Mark Emery paying his pound of flesh and all the rest of us who have suffered and suffer so freaking pointlessly just so the man can keep the prisons full and the GEO Group investors happy. The GEO Group—the private prison giant—which just recently bought the rights—for $6 million—to have the Florida Atlantic University football stadium named after the company.
    You get that? A private prison company specializing in detaining non-violent illegal immigrants and non-violent drug dealers gets the Federal and state governments to pay them billions to incarcerate people, then uses $6 million its got hanging around to have a football stadium named after itself.
Only in the good old USA, boys and girls. Only in the USA.
It would all be funny if people weren’t dying and the prisons weren’t full.