Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Merry Christmas/New Year's Wish for Everyone

Hello all: I would love it if every one of you, and all your friends and family, and their friends and family and the people we don't know, and the people we hate because we don't understand them, and every poor person, and everyone who's heart or soul is broken and bashed, and the kids without parents, or kids with lousy parents, and even the lousy parents....and anybody I might have forgotten because they are forgotten, well, I hope, wish, pray that you all and all of the rest of us that make up humanity, the abused, the used, the hurt, the angry, the pained, the suffering, the sick, the lonely, the crazies, the frightened, the utterly disenfranchised wealthy who are hungry ghosts, I hope and pray that all of you find something worth believing in during the coming year. I hope you find solace, hope, food, shelter, doctors, caregivers, caring neighbors, decent friends, something to laugh about, something that allows you to toss off your fear and realize your place in this human soup--another alphabet letter, another bit of spice--something that makes you whole and enriches you. If that could happen, then we would have a chance at Peace on Earth--and that's all the Earth has ever wanted from us. Happy New Year, Everyone!

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Ah, the First Joys of Christmas

Well, we had a lovely night last night, taking the whole family plus a couple of friends of Madeleina's to the Cleburne Park where there were a million light everywhere, a real fairy land, unless you know that the prisoners at the county jail are the ones who risked their neck climbing high into the trees to put those lights up in exchange for getting a couple of days out of county. Still, the lights are beautiful and having the whole family enjoying something together, no arguments, nothing but laughter for a couple of hours, was great. Followed up by my twice a year pizza--four large pies, eat all you can, and then Madeleina's friends stayed over for a slumber party so the world is good.
   Today, friends went home took Madeleina out to get a tree and some stocking stuffers and food. I was thinking of shrimp or fish, something light. At the same time I wanted something warm because it's been chilly and damp out here. Got a few hundred bucks of stuff that will be fun for a couple of days, got a tree Madeleina said was way too small but one that looks like a beauty to me, dealt with the lines, made it home.
  For food I picked out a half-loin roast of pork. Gonna make it by tying it up, searing it, putting a couple of orange slices--without the skin, too acidic--on it after it's been well peppered, and sit it on a bed of celery stalks, sliced onion, and granny smith apples. Gonna put that in the oven at 325. Gonna par boil baby carrots and red potatoes, then put those into the baking dish to absorb some juice during the last 45 minutes of the 90 minute cooking time. At the same time I do that I'm going to put in a generous portion of sauerkraut with the juice to bake along with the potatoes, carrots and the rest.
    Gonna make a nice pan gravy and augment it with good organic vegetable stock if need be.
    I'm looking forward most to the sauerkraut.
    I asked Madeleina to cut me two heads--about 24 teeth--of garlic. She's refusing. "I'm putting my foot down, dad. I'm not doing garlic tonight. I already have to go through the stocking gifts for the girls and I'm exhausted from the sleepover..."
    Doesn't matter. It's Christmas and everybody is allowed to be tired--except dad. And since I'm dad, I'm gonna make her a great dinner and she'll be laughing before long. If I forget to tell you all, I hope you have a Merry Christmas, no matter how you express that. Great Solstice, whatever. I hope you get to have a nice night with friends and family, I hope you're all safe and warm and well fed and I hope that if you have left overs you remember to invite someone who's not warm or well fed. Love to all.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Someone Just Quit the Upcoming January 2015 Jungle Jaunt

So I've got my regular January trip coming up. And one person managed to secure some others, making my job--considering that I don't advertise other than to mention the trips here or on Facebook now and then--considerably easier.
   But when I sent out my second of three missives I send prior to the trip--regarding everything from how to get good airfare to what to bring, to trip rules and such--I had one of the guests write. He said he was disappointed that there were names on the email that he didn't recognize. He though the trip would only involve his friend, who'd organized some guests. And since I'd added people, he thought the trip would be too much of a group thing and so he decided to cancel--but in his cancelation he asked me what I thought made my trip special. This is what I wrote:

Hello, Gorman here. Yes, if K. had been able to put together a group that would have paid for itself, that would have been ideal. As it was, including you and your son, and K., there were six. Six people means a $7,000-$8,000 loss for me on a trip. I already lost $4800 in June and July and simply cannot pay for people to come on the trips by borrowing money. So yes, several people have been added. Two have been on previous trips and will act as assistants as much as guests. Two others are friends of mine. Another is a doctor--and I almost never turn down doctors, despite having a great med kit. They come in handy. Two others are friends of the friends who are coming and it's hard to say no to them.
   So at the extreme--though it will not happen--there might be 14. In real life, figure 11 or maybe 12. Without you and your son, figure 9-10.
    What's on offer traveling with me is the jungle, something no one else in Iquitos can offer. There used to be Carlos Grande and Moises Torres Vienna who could offer the real jungle but neither is working any longer. If people want a retreat with tiled bathrooms and showers, I'm certainly not the right guy. I'm the dirt under your fingernails guy. I might have suffered a few setbacks in the last couple of years--my intestines ruptured, for instance, and then last year I lost a large piece of my right calf to some nasty flesh eating bacteria--but I can still do what I need to do, and my team can certainly do what they need to do. My team includes 9-11 members of my late teacher Julio's family as well as some indigenous Matses. I've already told you about the private hike to the colpe that's available for you and your son. And sapo and nu-nu, the Matses medicines, are very special and served directly by the Matses to my guests. Nobody else can do that and they both work fantastically with the medicine. 
    I don't really know what to say. I don't want to sell you on something you don't want. I do think that the way I do things makes everyone feel like they're the only one, and there are enough options to be alone that no one is stuck with a group. And the crowd that's planning on coming, though only 7 have actually paid so far, are K.'s friends, former clients, friends and two friends of friends. It's the same sort of circumstance in which I initiated my kids to the medicine. 
    If it's any comfort, we don't sit in circle the day after ceremony and discuss things. We never wrap our arms together for group hugs. We don't have a talking stick. I was never good at those sort of group things and they never came up when I drank medicine, so I don't use them. Someone wants to talk to me at 3 AM, I'm available. Just them and me and a cup of coffee or tea. That's how most guests interact with me: one on one.
    What options do you have to go it alone? You could come early or late and connect with my team. They speak enough English to get by and could take you on a good trip. What you would miss are some of the things that I do that they can't: Organizing night canoeing in search of frogs or majas: Frogs for medicine, majas for food. You'd miss wild food collecting with Julio's daughter Lady: An hour with her and the jungle will come alive with a cornucopia of things to eat. You might miss the wama swamp, a very frightening place were black caiman, anaconda and jaguar live-and no one will go there unless I insist.
    So that's that. If you're already feeling claustrophobic, no sweat. I do have to tell you that I've already spent $1,000 for each person who sent a $400 deposit, figuring they'd come, so there is not much I can do to make you whole on that count. I've got hotel rooms, riverboat cabins, stuff sent upriver and so forth. I've bought my plane tickets and booked my room in Iquitos and hired the staff based on a dozen people. So I'm stuck on that one. But I will certainly help you find what you're looking for if I can. I want people happy/thrilled. This is never done for money, it's done because I'm obligated to the spirits and that's the damned deal, whether I like it or not. 

Saturday, December 13, 2014

I Might Be Going to Hell for This....OR, If I Choke on Dinner, I Won't Be Surprised...

So I was at the store, looking for a nice piece of chuck steak. I like to cook them like regular steaks if they're properly marbled, and chuck cuts generally are wonderfully marbled. But there were none to be had. Darn, I was in the mood for meat. I bought a rack of ribs in case the girls came over tonight; I bought hamburger meat and buns in case they came over without warning and I still had to serve them. I bought a beef heart to marinate to make heart on a stick--grilled heart, slices thin, marinated in garlic, a bit of oil and white vinegar--for tomorrow because I'm writing a new story and that came up in the story recently. I also bought Boots, the blind wonderdog, a package of chicken necks and backs--currently in the oven at 330 degrees, lightly sea-salted and crack-black-peppered. But then I noticed some rib eyes in the meat case. Gorgeous rib eyes. They were $7.99 a pound, just a couple of bucks more than the chopped meat, and they were grassfed, organic, free range. I couldn't believe it. I had to ask the meat counter guy if that was the right price. That's normally $21 buck a pound meat and I've never had it. (When I was chef'ing restaurants in New York there was no such label as organic, grass fed, free range beef.) 
       The meat guy said "yup, that's the price. I didn't believe it myself but they told me to put it out for that so get 'em while you can because someone's gonna realize they made a big mistake in the morning."
       I ordered three and he cut them for me. Full inch or better thick. Gorgeous, if you eat meat. I'm hoping, of course, that the cows all had fantastic lives and volunteered to die--something along the lines of knowing they were getting old and their knees were giving out and rather than suffer for a year and then die naturally, volunteered to take themselves out while they were still relatively healthy....Oh shit, I'm going hell just for that. But it gets worse.
      When I went to pay the woman said "$38,92". 
      I said, "That can't be right. It should be more than that."
      "You think I made a mistake? I didn't miss anything."
      "I'm sorry, I'm not saying you did, it just seems awfully low considering how much meat I bought..."
      "Yes, $3 for a beef heart; $1.81 for chicken necks; $4.59 for ribs on sale, couple of mushrooms, spinach, a tomato..."
      "But then the prime was expensive..."
      "You want me to check it, I will but I didn't miss anything..."
      And then she gave me the receipt and I walked out and didn't look at the receipt till I got to my truck and put the groceries away. Sure enough, no prime ribs. I thought about going back inside but rethought--or simply justified not going back inside--by thinking that if I went in there with a pack of ribs and demanded I get charged for it, she might get in trouble. So I didn't. So if I choke on the ribs it's because I killed a cow and didn't even pay for it to clear my conscience. 
      Karma will have me pay, probably 10-fold. I'm not looking forward to it.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Obamacare Woes and Foes

Don't know why, but there seems to be a lot of complaining about Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, on facebook in the last few days. Must be the time of year when renewal notices go out from the insurance companies and everybody sees that their policies have gone up--just like they have for the past 25 years, annually. But people apparently have this notion that they're not supposed to go up anymore.
    I can't really get through to a lot of people that those raises are often in large part due to their bosses' greed. If everyone in a company has insurance and that insurance goes up $25 bucks a head per month and the boss chooses to pass that whole thing along, well, he can blame it on Obamacare but the real reason might be that he/she just felt like passing the whole thing along.
   Then there are some policies that phase in or out or change their structure and that can cause them to rise pretty markedly. If that happens, people ought to see what new services are included and if they don't want them, change policies.
   Then there are states where only the federal system is set up--as in about 27, I believe--and those states don't have the same robust competition among insurance companies that a lot of the states with state insurance exchanges do, so those policies will go up more than normal.
   But overall, what a lot of people are not seeing is that until the advent of Obamacare, unless you were paying for the best of the best policies--$30 grand a year, more or less--you had annual caps on the amount of insurance a company would pay toward your medical bill. And when you hit that cap you were on your own. Which means you pay from that point on. That makes medical bills the number one reason for personal bankruptcy in the US.
   But if your medical problem is long term, the hospital might just toss you out--then you're broke and dead.
   And once you lose that first policy because of your illness, you can't get another because of that pesky pre-existing condition. So when you need it most, you don't have the insurance to cover those needs.
   Under Obamacare, there are no annual caps, so you won't go bankrupt and lose your home if you have insurance and get sick. You won't get tossed from the hospital and die because you have no care.
   Under Obamacare you can't be turned down for a policy because of a preexisting condition. They got to take you.
   Under Obamacare, your insurance company has to be able to prove that it is spending an actual 80 percent of the monies they take in on actual medical care. Prior to Obamacare I think--could be wrong but close--it was often less than 50 percent.
   So I'm trying to get these people who are complaining about the cost to see the benefit. It's like that half-empty glass thing. The negative ninnies are seeing the glass half-empty, rather than seeing how much more champagne they have left to drink. Mazeltov! Down the hatch!

Monday, December 08, 2014

Calling in the Spirit of My Dad

So Madeleina's growing up. 17 going on 56. She's cut a couple of classes she doesn't like--she swears there is no bullying or sexual innuendo from the teacher, whom I've met--lately and is shooting herself in the foot over a math class that's over her head. I've got her transferred out of that class in Jan, but she's still got to pass the first semester.
   So I called in the big gun. First time ever. That's Tom Gorman, my dad. I made his chicken cacciatore, or something close to it and it smells like him. When Madeleina eats those green and red and yellow bell peppers, when she sucks down those tomatoes, the onion and garlic, when she smells that white wine, well, Tom will work his magic. He was a great dad. He died long before she was born. I've been waiting for the right time to introduce him to Madeleina. Tonight is the night.
   The cacciatore is his spell. His magic comes through the garlic and peppers. She's in for a sweet ride and will wake up tomorrow more clear-headed about things. Thanks dad.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

What to Cook??????

Hello, everybody, I'm sorry I've been away. I've just been swamped with work, finishing up the Sapo book and starting a new book project with an actual company. It feels a little strange after doing the first and nearly finishing the second with my hand-picked teams, but I'll give it a shot this time so that my kids will be able to refute anyone who ever says "Your dad sucked so much he had to print his own books..." which will probably happen a zillion times.
    Anyway, that's why I have not written: Just pooped and idealess.
    But today I was at the store, getting garlic and, I thought, some shrimp, maybe for a quick shrimp stir fry. Madeleina and I had grilled, marinated chicken and veggies on Sunday, then a nice steak--chuck, cooked like a steak and then sliced--on Monday, and then salmon with sesame seeds/sesame oil, scallions, garlic/olive oil/red pepper and chinese cabbage last night, with a side of spinach and a salad. So tonight I was thinking maybe shrimp. Then I got to the store: HEB. On the way to the fish counter I ran into a 2" thick chuck steak that was marbled by an Italian, I swear. I was changing my mind to steak again, but then saw the shrimp: Gorgeous Gulf Shrimp, wild caught, 16-25s, deveigned for $7.95. I got 1.2 pounds, just in case someone like Chepa or Italo or Marco came over. But then, I remembered that we had all that salmon left over from last night: I cooked 7 oz each and we probably ate half of that each. Damn it was good, so good, but so darned filling. So there I am: Steak, shrimp, left-over salmon. I've got good veggies: Spinach, zucchini, yellow squash, scallions, red onions, red and yellow peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, Chinese cabbage, bok choy, shiitaki shrooms, garlic, shallots and then cilantro and curly parsley and I'm not sure what else.
   What to do? What to do?
   Then I got it: How about a nice white clam sauce on thin spaghetti with a few shrimp and the diced-up left-over salmon. Toss in the bok-choy and Chinese cabbage, the scallions, red pepper, garlic, spinach? Yeah, that's the ticket. So I bought a couple of dozen fresh clams and the spaghetti water is on. Salads are ready, just waiting on the shallot vinagrette.
   So that's where we're going tonight. In the neighborhood? We've got enough to share, always.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Okay, so this is what happens, sometimes....

Okay. So I finished the primary writing for the Sapo book and had several great editors move things around. Then I moved things around. Then, since it's my name on it, I did the best I could and passed it on to the art director and we should have a book pretty soon.
   But then, today, I had to finish an article that was freelance. That means money for Christmas present and you know I was thrilled to get the assignment. I hope I did a good job. But while I was finishing that this morning, an editor who wants a new book--secret project so do not even ask--called to see how it was coming. I had nothing to offer because I've written 17 pieces for publication since Aug 7--an incredible amount of hot air except that I did my homework and some people are going to pay for their lousy ways because of what I dug up with the help fo whistle blowers and so forth.
   So I'm finishing the article and talking with the publisher and then Madeleina called to say that Chepa and I had to be at her school to give her away in some marching band fest. Which was fine except that several people are coming in to my house tonight for three days of feasting and medicine. Which means feast tonight, no food tomorrow. So what to make? What if they're vegetarians, vegans, carnivores? What if nobody comes?
   Doesn't matter. I bought and prepared a spaghetti squash with garlic/red pepper for the vegans, with couscous and a zuccini, yellow squash, tomato, garlic, onion, broccoli and cauliflower medley. For the vegetarians I made a potato and egg salad, homemade hummus, flat bread. For the fish eaters I have salmon with sesame seeds, sesame oil, scallions, ginger, garlic and sliced red pepper with daicon radish. For the carnivores I have chicken, beef ribs and steak with rice, broccoli/spinach.
   How the heck did it come to having six people over for dinner and you have to make four or five different meals? I have no idea. I'm just glad I can still think on my feet.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Property Forfeiture

In the very early 1990s I wrote a series of articles on property forfeiture for High Times magazine. It was a vital issue at the time. Now it seems to be rearing its ugly head again, despite Henry Hyde having spearheaded a number of things into law to curb the abuses being perpetrated on pretty decent people. His office, I am proud to say, got in touch with me back in 1992 or 1993 to get background on the issue. I'm sure he got it from several major newspapers who were writing fantastic series on the topic as well. Still, it was nice to be included. By about 2000, give or take, Hyde finally put some brakes on property forfeiture. But it's going wild again.
    My older brother, Mike--a former Lieutenant with the New York PD, a lawyer, and now a part time judge, sent me a story recently from the New York Times on the topic. The following is the exchange--and though it's old, it will give people who do not understand property forfeiture a thumbnail sketch of what it is and what it isn't.
From me:
Mike: Most forfeitures of property involve property that is fully or nearly paid off. Cash is even better because there is no property to sell. I'm sure you remember when airport drug dogs were smelling people's pockets and the police/DEA were seizing the cash the dog's located as drug money. It was a fantastic way to raise funds until --I forget which paper, might have been St. Louis Post Dispatch or the Miami Herald--had random money tested for drugs and it turned out that something on the order of 94 percent of all the bills in circulation in the US had traces of cocaine on them. Property forfeiture would end tomorrow, for all practical purposes, if the authorities had to prove they had a right to seize it--a la a bad check was used to buy a car. I really thought Henry Hyde took a lot of the incentive out of forfeiture back in 2001 or so. I guess some policing forces and now the IRS have discovered new ways around the Hyde forfeiture limitations. This is bad news for good people.

From My Brother:
Michael Gorman Good points, Pete. I like the selectivity of choosing forfeiting property that is nearly paid off -- like making sure the victim is the little guy who will lose everything.

From me:
One of the best stories I got on this in trying to prove the point that it was selective forfeiture based on financial gain rather than on getting rid of bad guys happened years ago while I was doing the Forfeiture work with High Times. I was in regular correspondence with several DEA spokespeople at the time and asked one of them once: Let's say there are four houses on four corners of the same block. One house belongs to a heroin dealer and has mob guys going in and out all day but the house has a $400,000 mortgage. The second house is a place where human trafficking goes on and is known, but has a $400,000 mortgage. The third house is a bordello with naked women in the windows all times of day and night and drunken customers driving up every few minutes, but has a mortgage of $400,000. The fourth house belongs to a grandma who is being supplied marijuana for her glaucoma by her son. Her house is paid off. Which house would the DEA go after first? The answer was: "The grandma, of course. Then we would use the proceeds of the sale of that house to continue funding our investigations of the other three houses." That's about as clear as it gets, eh?

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Investigative Reporting: My boy Marco Asked me Something...

Marco came over today and realized I'd written another cover story on truancy in Texas for the Fort Worth Weekly. He shook his head and asked if I remembered when he'd gone to truancy court--I let him sleep in during a free period for 10 days running while the school team he was on was playing for a slot in the county finals--and we both were slapped with Class C misdemeanors.
    Anyway, that talk led to Marco asking me why I fought so hard for so many years with High Times to end the war on drugs. I told him there were the obvious reasons--that kids/adults shouldn't go to jail for non-violent offenses; that junkies should not go to jail for years when most junkies voluntarily quit their heroin addiction in about two years; that crack cocaine should not get people sentenced differently than regular cocaine: At the time 5 grams of crack got you sentenced the same as 500 grams of cocaine. Yes, you read that right. 5 grams of crack--cocaine with baking soda--got the same five-year mandatory minimum as half-a-kilo of cocaine. Turned out, of course, that black kids did crack while white kids did cocaine.
    But beyond those obvious abuses of the war on drugs were subtle ones that most people didn't know about and they were things we kept trying to get out there so that other reporters would get schooled and get the story out nationally. Most people thought of property forfeiture as happening when a drug kingpin got caught with a million bucks worth of drugs in a house he bought with drug dealing proceeds. That wasn't exactly true: Most property forfeiture occurred when people had a joint or two in their fully-paid-off homes, or two plants at the back end of their paid-off-farm, or were busted in a police prostitution sting when they were lured by a cop posing as a prostitute and stopped to negotiate and after a quick check that the car was paid off, lost their vehicle. The key was that the goods/property were paid off. No one wanted to seize a house worth $300,000 if the owner, even if he had tens of thousands of dollars of heroin in it, owed nearly the whole $300,000. Why? Because the local police force shared in the profits from that seizure, and you couldn't give yourselves guaranteed overtime pay with a house that couldn't be sold for a profit.
    I told Marco that most people also didn't know about the "LSD carrier-weight" issue. That was one where a person caught with LSD was charged with the entire weight of the LSD including the packaging. So, for instance, someone caught with 500 drops--hits-- of LSD in liquid form would be sentenced to that 1/4 gram or so. Someone else put one hit in a watermelon and they would be charged with the weight of the watermelon--which would have been a lifetime sentence.
   A team I used to play softball with occasionally had a jug of magic juice show up before games. It was good fruit juice with maybe three or four hits of LSD in it. Shared among 20 people it was just a nice, tiny buzz to help make the game more interesting when you didn't know which of the three or five balls coming at you was the real one. But if the cops had ever arrested us, whomever was holding the jug would have been charged with the weight of the juice and the jug, not the three or four hits of LSD.
   Most people didn't know that half the police in the country--give or take, my number, not an official one--never bothered to check an informant's story before getting a search warrant if their snitch said drug dealing was going on at a particular place. They just busted in and that led to lots of people being killed, thousands injured.
   Those were the sorts of things that were the underpinning of the drug war and they were some of what we were trying to get the public and other reporters to see and understand so that they could write about them and put them into the spotlight of awareness, which we knew would kill them.
   This all relates to truancy in Texas in this way: Truancy typically ends with a Class C misdemeanor and a fine and court costs. What people don't realize, even the principals in the schools and the guidance counselors at the schools sending the kids to truancy court is that the Class C misdemeanor, in nearly all the cases, will stay on that student's record for his/her entire life. It will keep you out of the US Military, kill your chances for a scholarship at most universities, come up as you having a criminal record at every traffic stop. It is not a small thing. It is a criminal record.
   Worse, most people, even those working to change truancy law here in Texas, don't know that a lot of judges here are ordering the kids found guilty of truancy to turn over all their user names and passwords for their email, their Facebook page, their twitter and whatever else they are on, to the court. That is a huge invasion and has nothing to do with stopping truancy. An immediate downside is stifling free speech, but another downside angle is that anyone of the several people who has access to that information can post things that might affect that kid. And by kid, in Texas, we're talking 12-17 years old, inclusive.
   Those are the things investigative reporters try to find. The things hidden in the dark that most people don't know, don't care to know, refuse to believe. It's like poor people saying they've been beaten and routinely abused by policing agencies around the county. Us white folk with an education have never seen that, so it sounds like poor whites, blacks, Mexicans and Puerto Ricans crying bull spit. And then comes the age of digital cameras in phones and we are routinely getting 5-10 instances of unbelievable police brutality on our Facebook pages weekly. We're watching people who have not been convicted of any crime, not been charged with a crime, get shot 3-5-45 times. We're watching policemen kicking the heads of suspects who are on the ground on their stomachs in handcuffs. We're watching a system that is out of control and now we cannot deny what those poor whites, African-Americans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans--hell, all Latinos--have been saying for decades.
   It only stops when it's brought into the light.
   Bring it all, all the injustice, into the light. Let us look at it and see if it really is the reflection of ourselves that we want to see when we look into the mirror.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

A nice early fall pumpkin soup

So I took a nice pumpkin, cut the top, cleaned out the seeds. I diced a medium red onion, three stalks of celery, half-a-dozen scallions, and put them in the empty pumpkin. I tossed in a couple of spoonfuls of chopped fresh garlic in oil, a bit of sea salt and good cracked black pepper. Added three quarts of organic veggie stock, closed the pumpkin with it's top, set it in a baking dish and put it in a 350 degree oven for about an hour and a half. 
When it cooled, I poured out the liquid and veggies into a soup pot, then cut the pumpkin in pieces and scraped off the good inside meat and added that to the soup pot. Simmered it all for about 30 minutes and forgot about it till this morning.
This morning I put it all in a blender--it took a couple of blends to get it all.
Smooth now, it's on the stove over a very low heat. I've just added more black pepper and some really good Madras curry powder and a bit of nutmeg. So far it's tasting great. The spices will take a little while to marry with each other and the rest of the soup. In another hour or two, that's gonna be one fantastic soup. Bring your bowls if you're nearby and hungry.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

What a Party We Had

It was Sunday morning around 10 when Chepa, the wife/ex-wife, called to say that she'd be coming around to pick up Madeleina and a few bucks to go pumpkin shopping. I should have something ready for lunch because the pumpkins were going to be carved at my house.
   Sounded good. I started cleaning up a bit. I still hadn't gotten all the watercolor paint off the bathroom walls and floor from the painting party just a couple of days earlier.
   Italo showed up unexpectedly with Taylor Rain. We talked about work while I finished cleaning up kitchen, bathroom, my office/the small living room.
   Chepa showed with Alexa and Sierra and Madeleina, who would have preferred to sleep, reluctantly agreed to go get pumpkins. I gave Chepa $30--figuring that pumpkins were running about $4 at the supermarkets and she might want four or five. In short order they all left, including Italo and Taylor Rain and I raced to the store to get something for lunch/dinner.
   I picked up a couple of packs of Nathan's all beef franks, some Ballpark buns--best around that I know of--some sour kraut, three packs of chicken wings and celery and organic ranch dressing and BBQ sauce.
   By the time I got back, everyone was there, including Marco. Chepa made some juice while I made the kids eggs, then Italo decided to work on the riding lawn mower. Marco asked me for some knives as he planned on doing the pumpkin carving with the girls. Chepa told me to sit down and watch football while she went out to mow the lawn behind the house--the one that's full of stickers--and Madeleina walked behind her pushing the lawn sweeper to collect the stickers.
   The girls got hungry half an hour after eggs and so I started the franks. The girls wanted them simple, just a bit of ketchup. Chepa and Marco and Italo wanted whole hog: mustard, sauerkraut, relish, onions and ketchup. They all had a couple each. I put the wings in the oven to bake--just a little salt and pepper and olive oil with garlic on a bed of celery to keep them from sticking to the baking dishes.
   And then, I don't know what happened. Everything started going fast. Chepa started a fire in one of the fire pits to burn the stickers. The girls decided they needed to paint and dress up the pumpkins. Italo got the mower fixed and began running around the big yards, cutting everything. Madeleina decided she ought to do a few loads of laundry, but thought it ought to be separated on the kitchen floor. The girls came in with handfuls of pumpkin seeds and mash, Chepa called for more firewood, Italo demanded seltzer water, Marco wanted more knives and some candles. The wings got done, I missed the game but who cared? Things sound pretty normal but they were really wild. Energy was running everywhere.
   And then, like a swarm, they picked up their pumpkins, announced that everything was done, gave me a bunch of hugs and they left. Somehow it had gone from 10 AM to  7 PM and not one brittle word was spoken--I even managed to hold my tongue when I found out the pumpkins cost $147. and that I'd have to come up with at least $100 more for my share. That was crazy but A-OK.
   Everybody was happy all day long. It was thrilling.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Summer time, and the living is easy....

So I was finishing up a 1400 word piece for the Fort Worth Weekly that comes out tomorrow, working on a 5000 word cover story for next week, due Thursday, two days from now for the same paper, and writing a 500 word short piece for tomorrow's paper. Then there is the freelance article due next Friday that will either make or break Christmas for my kids.
    In other words, I was busy. And Madeleina wasn't getting out of school till 6 PM, so I didn't go to the store till 4 PM, late for me. So I decided to make a simple roast chicken, mashed potatoes, salad, good beans from scratch.
   While I was doing that, Chepa, the wife/ex-wife, came with Sierra, Alexa and my grand daughter Taylor Rain. Plus my son Italo who just turned 29 the other day. Plus Madeleina.
    And instead of dropping Madeleina off, the kids decided to paint, so I got out the new watercolors and gave them paper and then Chepa, Italo and I went to the front porch to talk. Two minutes later, the girls said they were bored with paper and began using the three of us as their canvasses. I'm now covered head to toe in paint, as was Chepa when she left, and Italo, who made a mistake of sleeping on the front porch swing while the girls had paint.
   So we're covered and the porch is a mess and the bathroom where the girls showered is a rainbow and this was one fantastic night. You can clean paint, I can clean paint. But neither you nor I can make the paint happen like it happened tonight. That was art. Crazy art, yes, but real art.

Monday, October 20, 2014

This is Life with Lisa Ling

Just a quick note to let you know that Lisa Ling is doing a show on the ayahuasca boom in Peru. It is part of her show This is Life with Lisa Ling--which is now on CNN on Sunday Nights at either 9 or 10 PM Eastern Standard Time. I'm going to be in it for at least a few seconds--a question or two culled from the couple of hours of filming we did in the Belen market in Iquitos, Peru in July. She's a damned good journalist and though I have not seen the show, I'll bet she gets down to the quick of it. I do know she extensively interviewed my friend, the curandero Ron Wheelock. I can't say more because I don't know any more. But I'll be it will be worth taping/seeing. Her questions to me were sharp and on the money. That's it. That's this Sunday, October 26.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

House Mortgage

House Mortgage
Well, as of today my remaining mortgage is under 10 grand. It's $9,937.78 to be exact, which means, if I can keep putting an extra $500 a month into it, I'm done next August 1. 
That will be a fast payoff for a guy who was losing his house three months after moving from New York to Texas. Nothing I planned came through, editors who hired me got fired before my stories went to print, magazines lost their freelance budget after I signed contracts but before my stories came out. Gosh, it was tough. I borrowed from friends, family, put my little green truck in hock to a money lending outfit. Did not think I'd make it and was terrified of the idea of having put my kids in a position where they might have to live at cousins' houses while I lived in a flophouse.
The ship got righted a bit, then better. The first three years, my $73,800 mortgage dropped about $5-$50 a month and I don't think I dipped below $70,000 for at least those three years, maybe more. But I got lucky, got some pretty good gigs like working for the Fort Worth Weekly and having a regular column in Skunk Magazine out of Canada. Then someone who's become a friend called and asked if I'd write occasional articles for a magazine he was editing. The stories were fine, the pay was a good bump twice or three times a year. The trips to Peru, while not making much money, did pay the mortgage while I was gone, so that was good. Then I published my book and that was another little got to where if I didn't buy myself anything I didn't need I was able to put an extra couple of hundred into the mortgage monthly. That grew to nearly $600 extra a month--that meant no dining in restaurants, no new sneaks until it was time for a Peru trip, no Sunday afternoon at the bar with my friend Dave. Those little things, and a million others added up.
And now, after 12 years and 9 months, I'm under $10 grand. Wow. THANKS UNIVERSE!!!! I APPRECIATE IT A LOT!!!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

A Meal You Should Never Have Before Drinking Ayahuasca

Okay, so while I'm the heretic of the newish ayahuasca diet--no oil, hot peppers, pork, salt--I'm not crazy. Some things just don't go well together, as in can cause a hypertensive issue--which means potential heart attack.
    The meal I intended to make tonight, because it's chilly, was Uncle Clem's Chicken. He won a national award for it and he was my godfather. For that you lightly steam three bunches of broccoli flowers (tops). While you're doing that you cut two whole or four half chicken breasts into 3/4 inch squares, flower them, season with good sea salt and cracked black pepper, then saute them in a hot pan with garlic and olive oil till browned on the outside but still basically raw on the inside. When they're done you put them aside for a moment. You drain the broccoli, slightly undercooked even from al dente, and put that in a baking dish. Add the chicken with garlic, reserve pan juices.
    Make a sauce of a large can of organic mushroom soup put into a pan with a big spoon of whatever mayo you like, heat, add the bit of olive oil and garlic left from the sauteed chicken. When it's a good sauce, pour it over the broccoli and chicken. Top with sliced mozzarella cheese, then bake till the cheese is browning and the sauce is bubbling. Serve over rice. Man, that's one hell of a freaking meal. Fattening, of course, despite the broccoli, because of the mayo and cheese. Worth the pain twice a year.
    But while I was at the store getting the ingredients for Uncle Clem's, I suddenly imagined making good macaroni and cheese. So I picked up the ingredients for that as well, imagining it later in the week. But plans changed and I'm making the mac and cheese tonight.
    First I'm cooking a pound of elbow macaroni in salted water till it's al dente or slightly less than that. When ready I'm draining that and getting it under cold water quickly to keep it from continuing to cool.
    Then I'm gonna cut a nice ham steak into tiny cubes and saute them with garlic in olive oil and diced red onion. I'm gonna pepper it, but no salt. Ham's got enough salt to kill you. At the last second I'm going to toss in some minced red pepper and half-a-dozen organic scallions, sliced so we have a bit of color and extra veg.
    While I do that I'm gonna take a good heavy stainless steel pot--I'd use copper if I could afford it--and make the sauce: 12 ounces of aged Swiss cheese. One and one-half pounds of aged cheddar. One cup of organic whole milk to keep it from simply scalding to death. When the cheeses start to melt into the milk I'm going to add 6 ounces of aged parmesan, freshly grated, and 8 ounces of fresh, smoked mozzarella. If I need more swiss or cheddar, I'll add it, but in the end it ought to be perfect. Only spice will be that gorgeous cracked black pepper I love so much.
   Then I'll pull the ham bits and toss a couple of bundles of organic spinach into the pan till it's seared and savory and sassy.
   I'm going to put the elbow macaroni into a slightly greased baking dish. I'm going to put some really good breadcrumbs on the macaroni. Not too much, just for a crunchy touch. Then I'm going to put the spinach and the ham bits with the garlic, red pepper, and scallions, and any left over pan juices into the sauce and then pour that sauce all over that macaroni and make sure it gets everywhere. I'm gonna top that with a bit of breadcrumbs sauteed in just a touch of butter--I mean one tablespoon, okay?--and then add a nice finishing touch of more parmesan. I'll bake it at 330 till the cheese on top and the bread crumbs are brown and the sauce is bubbling in the baking dish, about 20 minutes. Let it sit 15 minutes, then serve in a bowl surrounded by broccoli florets with a side salad.
    Okay, so that's two zillion calories. Forget that. The reason you can't have it before ayahuasca is that all of the cheeses except the mozzarella are fermented. And the mozzarella is smoked. Fermented cheeses, while not on the official ayahuasca diet, are verboten when drinking ayahuasca because of potential hypertensive problems. Smoked things are not recommended either for a similar reason. You do not want to be serving ayahuasca, or allow anyone you know to serve ayahuasca if the people drinking have had aged/fermented things. Or nuts. Keep the nuts till later. Keep the wine on the shelf. Keep the cheeses, other than farmer's cheese and the like, out of your system. I may be a dieta heretic, but I'm not going to allow any of my guests to freak out or have a heart attack that was very preventable.
    So yeah, this meal will probably kill you with calories even if you're not drinking ayahuasca. But it will definitely increase the chances if you are. Be careful out there, okay?

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Proud of My Whole Damned Family

Just want to go on the record here: I'm very proud and privileged to be part of my family. Madeleina went to a flute competition today knowing that her flute fell three days ago and needs repairs and two notes will not respond. She's playing anyway. Marco, the kid who spent his formative years taking everything electronic in the world apart has figured out how to put it together and gets his associates degree in January, I think. This from a kid who barely made it through high school but who has discovered he loves studying. Italo has repaired two mini-vans, an eight cylinder truck and two cars in the last month, working out of my driveway--including dropping a transmission. And he fixed my riding mower somewhere in there as well. Chepa has become the mom all Peruvian women from the Amazon become when they hit grandma age--since motherhood skips a generation there, traditionally--making costumes for Sierra and Alexa and even Madeleina weekly, depending on the school's theme. She can take a cardboard box and turn it into two cowgirl hats in minutes, and she's learned to make something of a living painting faces at parties--and they are fantastic.
    So I am just going to go on the record and say that I'm glad/proud/enthusiastically privileged to know this gang, to be part of this gang. They are surprising me in wonderful ways almost daily. And I don't think a pop can ask for more than that.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Here's a Story About a Turkey

So, Not That You Asked, but Did I Tell You About the Turkey?
Well, couple of days ago, weekday, maybe Tuesday, Chepa, my wife/ex-wife, calls and says she needs a favor. She didn't say that but she called me Petercito, a Peruvian suffix that indicates affection, which meant she was going to ask for a favor.
The favor was "can you cook a turkey for me?"
The answer was "sure."
The problem was she wanted the turkey cooked right then, and right then I was headed out to a meeting at my newspaper. She asked how long it would take to cook a turkey. I told her 3-6 hours depending on the size. I was imagining she had a nice little 12-pounder she wanted me to cook for her sisters, who were all in town that day.
Well, I ran my errands and didn't think of the turkey again until I returned home at about 3 PM to find Italo, my handsome son--and I have another handsome son as well in Marco--working on his truck and he casually mentioned: "Mom left something for you to cook...." in the kitchen, on the table, was my huge ayahuasca pot, a stainless steel beauty, that she'd borrowed last month to make juane, Peruvian rice balls with a bit of egg, chicken and black olive, covered in the black of the residue of cooking over an open fire. Damn, she's supposed to wash it before she returns it, but when I mentioned that to her she reminded me that I ate two of the juanes, one of which paid for borrowing the pot, one of which paid for me spending two hours cleaning it.
Anyway, inside the pot was a 21+ pound turkey. It was 3 PM and she needed it done by 6 PM. Impossible. That was a 5 hour bird.
Nonetheless, and despite not getting a single kiss from that girl for maybe 8 years--but still working at it--I ripped open a bag of organic celery and laced an aluminum baking dish with it. Then I cut two onions, thickly, and laid them between and on top of the celery. Then I washed the turkey, rubbed it down with sea salt, garlic in olive oil and cracked black pepper. I stuffed it with 3 oranges cut into 4 pieces each and a good organic granny smith apple.
I tossed the bird into a 350 degree oven fvor an hour, then reduced it to 330. WHile it was cooking I made stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, mashed red potatoes and heated up two cans of peas and corn. When the bird was near done I drained the juice into a saucepan and made homemade gravy.
By 7 PM that baby and all the fixin's were ready.
Chepa came by at 7:30 to ask where the dog food was. I said I had no idea what she was talking about. She said, "The turkey was for the dogs. Did you make it or not?"
I held my tongue, sliced enough turkey for Italo, Madeleina and myself, and then gave Chepa the rest. We had a feast. The dogs had a feast. I shouldn't complain, right?
Life is never quite the way you imagine it, eh? Love that lady, even though we're miles apart on so many things. Her dog food is my family treat.

Response to a response to a cover story I had last week....

Well, I had the cover story in the Fort Worth Weekly last week and posted it here. It dealt, largely, with a Fort Worth park and homes right next to a huge gas compressor station. I visited there on a recent Saturday morning and in short order my throat itched, my eyes were watering and after two hours my breath was short. Someone, possibly from the gas industry, said he copied my movements and while he detected a foul smell, did not suffer from what I suffered. He said I was either a liar or a wuss. Anyone who knows my journalism knows I am not a liar, which leaves me being a wuss. Damnit! I don't generally respond but needed to this afternoon. Without going into this persons several letters on the subject, I still think you will get the gist of what he said and how I--as a journalist, with no rats in the race--feel. Here's what I wrote:
Well, I had the cover story in the Fort Worth Weekly last week

and posted it on facebook. It dealt, largely, with a Fort Worth park and homes right next to a huge gas compressor station. I visited there on a recent Saturday morning and in short order my throat itched, my eyes were watering and after two hours my breath was short. Someone, possibly from the gas industry, said he copied my movements and while he detected a foul smell, did not suffer from what I suffered. He said I was either a liar or a wuss. Anyone who knows my journalism knows I am not a liar, which leaves me being a wuss. Damnit! I don't generally respond but needed to this afternoon. Without going into this persons several letters on the subject, I still think you will get the gist of what he said and how I--as a journalist, with no rats in the race--feel. Here's what I wrote:

X: I think you miss the point. There are less than a dozen families living in nice little houses that abut the park. One woman can no longer work because of constant rashes and nausea that started after the compressor stations came in. One woman has leukemia, which occurred after the compressor stations came in. One woman has a child who is losing his hair, a condition that began after the compressor stations came in. All of these conditions occur with exposure to the chemicals found in the “air grabs” taken at the site in the latest air quality study. That’s three out of 10-11. Is that acceptable to you, or anyone? Is is acceptable when you can fix it so that there is no gas escaping at nearly no cost? Is it acceptable if you were a shareholder or a lease owner to know that 25 percent of the gas coming from the wells is escaping into the air, poisoning people and costing you 25 percent of your royalty? I don’t know. I don’t think, like either you or the person who posted prior to you, that anyone at the FW Weekly is against energy. I think that everyone who knows the score is against bad business practices that hurt people/sometimes kill people. Of course the gas industry resists change that would fix the problems: Most of us resist change because we’re comfortable with the way we do things and change suggests that we’ll have to, well, change….and that is not attractive. It’s downright scary. But it is very doable. It doesn’t cost a lot of money, just a small infusion that quickly pays for itself and subsequently makes a profit for everyone and prevents more leukemia/hair falling out/rash problems and so forth. And yes, I drive a car: A Ranger, actually, and I heat my house with electricity which is possibly powered by coal or gas or oil. The problem isn’t always the product, the problem is sometimes the hands in which the product lies. If the gas companies wanted to be good neighbors, gas drilling would quickly disappear from our pages–which are actually read by tens of thousand of people and make changes in places like New York, which banned drilling because of our stories, among others. But if energy companies insist on doing the shoddiest work, cutting corners, ignoring and then denying illnesses they cause, well, as good citizens, we’ll probably keep calling them out on it.
And yes, I’m a 63-year-old cigarette smoker. I still walk several miles a day, take four groups a year out into the deep Amazon jungle and can certainly out push-up most men my age. And no, I’m not a liar regarding what happened that day in Delga Park. Which leaves me, I guess, just a wuss. Darn it!

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Sometimes I wish I were not a Peacenik!!!

Okay, so I announced the new book's near release yesterday. I needed several hundred bucks to make that happen and several people bought copies and will get them in 5-6 weeks. When the next 20 order copies, I'll be able to get it done.
    Now, I admit that the subject, the Matses' medicine sapo, which is now also called Kambo among a number of tribes--along with Kampo, Campu and other variations--is a very niche market. Yes, there are a lot of good stories in the book. But if you don't know what the hell sapo is, and don't care, then it would not be for you. And that's fine.
    But one of the things about sapo is that, whether people like it or not, the first recorded human use of the substance under any name, was my record of using it among the Matses in 1986. I did not know it was a big deal at the time but it turned out to be because Western science turned to amphibian skins looking for new medicines with a vengeance once they could say there was recorded human use. Personally, I know it was luck and all that, but I did happen to be in the right place at the right time and allowed it to be used on me and happened to be a journalist who wrote down that sort of thing--and happened to be in contact with the American Museum of Natural History at the time, which is the place that got my initial notes. All luck, but there was a pattern of luck there.
    So I announced the book yesterday, and it might be a limited edition, I don't know, and then today someone writes this in response to what I wrote--which, I'll admit, included a reference to me being the person who brought it to the outside world, or "the world outside the Matses".
   "total bullshit Gorman, indulging your ego like that, many tribes use it and have NOTHING TO DO WITH YOU; take contol of yourself."
      Okay. So that came from a guy from the US who has given himself an indigenous name, refers to himself as a "shaman" and a "Tribal artist". He is helping to run a camp in a town I put on the map 25 years ago. He had pictures of himself wearing headdresses made of macaw feathers--which kill the macaws--and he's coming down on me for taking a little credit for something I earned the credit on. 
      Heck, I've done some lousy things in my life. I was emotionally abusive to Clare. I didn't know how to handle Chepa and the kids early on and messed that up. There are times when I drank too much for years on end. I don't always listen to my kids all the way through before responding. Lots of sins in my corner. 
     And then there are some things I did that I stand behind. At Steve Hager"s request, I made medical marijuana a national issue. Hager was my editor at High Times. At Hager's request, I helped make hemp a national issue. I helped make forfeiture law and mandatory minimum sentences part of the national dialogue. I brought out sapo, and got the Matses the rights to the air, water, land and mineral rights to a permanently demarked huge swath of land--and they are the only Peruvian Indigenous who have that. I think I have been instrumental in getting gas well fracking and the tar sands into the national debate.
     Those are maybe minor accomplishments, but they are things I've worked at 20 hours a day for years at a time to accomplish. Not to claim them, but to bring them up, get them out. I'm the journalist, not the activist. The activists are the ones who do the work: The journalist chronicles that work and gets it out there to activate more activists, who in turn activate more journalists until there is a groundswell of information and intention and then things begin to change. 
     And I am a reasonably humble person--with fits of grandeur, of course, I'll admit--but when some freaking asshole wearing bird-killing feathers moves to Peru and a couple of years later touts himself as a "shaman" and "tribal artist" and suddenly has an indigenous name comes down on me for something that's not in question by anyone in the scientific world, well, I feel like going Ishinru Karate on the boy. Shades of Don Nagle! Shades of Dennis Bootle! Malachi Lee! Dennis Bell! Al Wilder! (I was never in their circles, not for one instant. I'm just conjuring their power despite the lousy karate-ka that I was 45 years ago!!!!!) 
     I did not respond badly to the man. I bit my tongue. My tongue is sore. Ow. 

Wednesday, October 08, 2014

New Book, Please Order it So I Can Pay the Editors!!!! Or, Because it's a good book to have on your shelf

Dear All: In the most self serving of ways, here is an announcement of my new book, Sapo in My Soul, due out from Gorman Bench Press by Nov. 15. The book discusses the Matses' medicine Sapo, frog sweat, now called Kambo in some quarters. It touches on how the Matses gave it to me, how it was brought to Western Science, the actual science of it, the way to collect it properly, traditional uses, it's sister medicine, nu-nu, it's positive interaction with ayahuasca and a host of other topics. It's not gonna be a page burner all the way through. Some of it is. But even in the dryer parts It is going to be an important book because, for better or worse, I was the one who brought this medicine to the world outside of the indigenous Matses. I'm not sure what it will cost to print it, but I'm going to offer it, pre-publication, for $25 for a signed copy. If you live in Europe or Australia, I'm gonna have to say $35, because shipping is about $14 from the US. But if having a signed copy of a book in pre-publication by Peter Gorman, designed by Morgan Maher, with lots of pictures of the Matses and the frog and collecting the sapo and so forth, edited by a slew of the best darned editors in town means anything, well, buy it. You can send the money via paypal to my email address: peterg9 at
Thanks for listening to this totally self-serving announcement. I hope that those who invest their money wind up feeling that they got a bargain. I worked hard to make this a good book. Thanks. PG

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Then Along Came Meat Loaf

And then came Meatloaf
Not the singer, the food. I was dying for the second piece of swordfish I've got in the fridge. Bought it a few days ago, it's still cold and fresh. Got capers, organic scallions, organic red peppers and plain old onions and garlic in olive oil to go with it. Was thinking of having it on a bed of spinach, no starch.
    Then I got to the store and happened to see some ground pork. Yes, pretty horrible, but I got to thinking about meatloaf. Not the singer, the food. Though I did start singing Two out of Three Ain't Bad in the supermarket. It's okay, they already stare at me for my half-gone right calf, so I don't care.
    Okay, so with Madeleina getting off at 8 tonight, I thought she won't be in the mood for fish. She will not have eaten anything but an apple and an orange all day and she'll be starving. So I went with the meatloaf instinct: "I want you, I need you, but there ain't no way I'm ever gonna love you, but don't be sad, cause two out of three ain't bad..."
    So I guess I was crying while picking up the chopped chuck to go with the minced pork. No veal. I have my limits. And no bacon today because Chepa had me make breakfast for the family Sunday and it included bacon, sausage, biscuits, sausage gravy, pancakes with blueberries and bananas, eggs, home fries, potato latkas--all of it made from scratch except the bacon and sausage.
    Forget that. Let's get me back to crying about the meatloaf song. So I came home, put 2 pounds of pork and two pounds of chuck into a saute pan on high heat to brown it and get rid of as much grease as possible. Then I drained that. While that was draining I put three tablespoons of freshly minced garlic in olive oil into the saute pan with a diced red onion. Followed that with six stalks of celery, each cut into six lengths and then diced. Followed by several minced, fresh, roma tomatoes. Followed by those magic organic scallions--six of them minced. Why six of everything? I don't know. Maybe six is two times three and two out of three ain't bad? Damn that Meat Loaf!!!! He's gotten into the kitchen in my brain!!!!!
     Okay, calm down. Have a sip of wine--vintage 2014 Cabernet....raw junk.
     Anyway, put some breadcrumbs into the drained meat. Added vinegar to the veggies to make a sort of ketchup and added them to the meat. Added actual ketchup, sea salt, butcher ground black pepper. Chopped some good curly parsley finely and put that in. Let it cool. Added four eggs, raw. Mushed it with my hands--washed better than in a hospital--and then put the damned stuff into two baking dishes lined with a bit of olive oil to keep things from sticking, and put the baking dishes on silver foil in the oven at 330. That will give me an hour. I'll raise the temp to 400 for the last 15 minutes to crisp the top--and yes, on Madeleina's orders I'll spread a bit of ketchup on the top...but NO BACON, OKAY Madeleina? I'm fat enough!!!!
    That will be done by 6:15. It will settle by 6:45 and be ready to serve by 7. Madeleina will get here at 8 and it will be perfect. We'll have it with a salad and broccoli. Dessert is gonna be ice cold fresh watermelon.
    Bon Appetit! I hope you all are loving your food, your bodies, yourselves in some way that's similarly wonderful. (I'm sorry pig, cow, celery, garlic, scallions, olives for the olive oil, onion, tomatoes, grapes to make the vinegar, salt, peppercorns. Even the wheat to make the breadcrumbs, and the parsley. I'm not sure if I'm sorry about the eggs since they were never gonna be chickens. Doesn't mean they weren't having a great life. I'm just not sure about that... .)
    And if you can't love yourself the whole way, remember that two out of three ain't bad... .

Monday, October 06, 2014

Again with the Ayahuasca Dieta

Okay, so I'm the heretic of the ayahuasca dieta. I just don't believe that there was a universal regimen around the Amazon for the last couple of millenia that said to become an ayahuasca curandero you had to go through periods of abstinence from salt, sugar, oil, pork, hot peppers and sex. Given that a couple of hundred years ago those things didn't exist in current form, and that even now they are costly and require real intention to get hold of--considering salt doesn't grow on trees, and while peppers do grow on bushes, very little of the Amazon will support them--I just don't see where abstaining from things you never have constitutes a diet.
    Of course people challenge me on that. Lots of people are making their living pushing that abstinence. Lots of restaurants in a place like Iquitos make a lot of money touting meals that don't include those things--HA!. But I got into a controversy and someone responded and the person who responded deserves respect so I thought about what I'd said and thought about it some more and came up with this as a response.
    This is what I wrote.
    And I'm still a heretic.
On the dieta: I cannot see a better reason for abstaining from something than what you put forward, Sachahambi: The ancestors didn't have it so we will refrain from using it. If that is the case, that's fantastic. 
And yes, I agree that getting quiet enough to hear plant spirits takes being alone, quieting yourself, not being restive, figety and so forth. I've only ever ever challenged the current dieta that people quote as a rite of passage: No sugar, no salt, no oil, no pork, no hot peppers, no sex. I've never thought--and if I did, I've changed my mind--that there was nothing to becoming a curandero or learning plant and river and animal songs--which means, really, learning how to be in communication with those things. Heck, you can't learn to play the piano or be a writer unless you're willing to spend enormous blocks of time alone for years on end, just you with your instrument or your blank paper. 
So I certainly agree on getting alone. But the way Julio and the Matses men Pablo and Roberto taught me to learn plants--and I'm a lousy student but don't hold that against them--was to go sleep with them. Just physically go out into the forest and put your arms around them all night long. I don't want to bore people because I've written this before, I think, but what you quickly learn when you sleep with the plant are that it's got lots of protectors who don't really want you near their plant. I remember one tree I was trying to learn: First night were thousands of ant bites; second night an entirely different set of ants--black, not white like the first night--bit me thousands of more times. Third day came a hoard of different insects; fourth day came a coupe of vampire bats; finally tree snakes. And it was only after living with all of that poison in my system that I finally got past those guardians and got to the tree itself--which was very generous. But she, the tree, was not going to share her spirit without me proving I really wanted it by getting past those guardians. 
The word dieta was never used, but in hindsight that was certainly a rough diet. Just hang out in the woods alone, eat some leaves you find and sleep with a tree whose allies are going to try to run you off. I could not have done that for dozens of trees and plants. I just didn't have the mettle. 
So I guess I was taught that as a dieta, rather than the no oil, no sugar, no salt thing. Of course there was none of that: I was just in the woods alone, eating leaves for several days and taking water from a shallow stream bed protected by lots of mosquitos. There also wasn't fish, wasn't plantain, wasn't decoctions of the tree bark, wasn't anything but mapachos.
In the end, I don't think we really disagree on intent, I think we disagree on the specifics. 

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Here I Am, Bare-Assed Soul

I will not get maudlin and I won't keep you long. But there is a tinge of sadness everytime there is a family event. Why? Because when it's over, I head in one direction and Chepa and the babies and Marco and Italo/Sarah and Taylor Rain head in another.
    Today, on a whim, I decided it was time to see Madeleina's marching band. She's with Joshua's Fighting Owls and she's the leader of the 21-member flute brigade of the band. She has a solo. That's a big step up from freshman year when they let her move props for the band on the field. She's earned the promotion. She's very good, very adult, and knows how to lead. The band put on one hellofa show today. I only stayed for a couple of the other bands--I think there were probably 30 from the local counties--but they were a cut above. No missteps, crisp, beautifully played difficult music, lots of moves, a change of uniform mid-stream that was pretty flawless. I will bet they win something at this competition.
    Well, about an hour before I was going to go, Chepa called to say hello. I mentioned I was going and she asked the details. I thought it was free; it turned out to be $14 a head, and she came with Italo, Marco, her babies Sierra and Alexa. I came separately. So they made good money on the Gorman's today.
    We sat together. When Sierra was cold I held her. When Alexa said her feet were cold I warmed them in my hands. Marco took photos and Italo cheered.
    And then, when the band was finished, we all left together. That was the sad part. Italo took his truck and went to his house. Marco took Chepa, Sierra and Alexa back to her place--Marco lives in a house behind Chepa's house. I went to a different part of the parking lot and came home to get food ready for Madeleina. Good food: Short ribs in an orange sauce on a bed of spinach with a nice side salad, no carbos.
    But there was that moment in the parking lot when we were separating, when I remembered that it was me who screwed things up, caused the rift in the family, when my heart strings got a good tug. We all love each other but we'll never be a family again in that we won't ever all go in the same direction when the party is over. And that's sad. I'm sorry I messed up.
    And that's it. It just sucks a little. And it sucks a little more knowing I was the one primarily responsible.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Change in Dinner Plans

Well, the dinner plan last night was to saute small portions of good salmon for Madeleina and I. I was planning to saute them with crushed garlic in olive oil, add organic shallots and scallions and diced red pepper, then toss in some beautiful Peruvian bay scallops and a dozen smallish shrimp near the finish of the salmon. I'd pull the seafood, add a bit of toasted sesame seeds and a touch of sesame oil, a bit of good soy. Sear spinach in a separate pan with garlic and a light balsamic vinegar, then plate the spinach, arrange the seafood on the spinach with salmon in the center, scallops and shrimp around it, then top with the sauce. It was going to be pretty, and, apart from a bit of a high salt content due to the soy, healthy and light. Small portions of delectable food.
    Then Madeleina came home from a band competition. She was disconsolate. She'd blown her flute solo by a few notes and was not happy with herself at all. When Italo dropped her off she came onto the porch where I was sitting on the swing, her eyes filled with tears, and then she lay down on the concrete floor of the front porch. I didn't know about the flute solo at that minute but I knew I had to do something radical.
    So I changed dinner plans. I jumped into the trusty Ford Ranger, raced to the store, picked up supplies, and returned home to see that she'd moved to the big living room couch.
    The dinner we wound up having: Two cups each of vanilla and chocolate ice cream with dark chocolate syrup. Not nearly as light as the seafood would have been, but there are times when dinner plans need to change and this was one of them.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Another Meal People would Kill for to Get to Eat

Well: I'm going with another recipe since all my efforts to change the world today have not worked. I need something to work my way. So here it is. I'm making short ribs with asparagus and salad, with an appetizer of good brie and lump crabmeat in tomatoes, baked.
    I've browned the short ribs, salted/peppered them and put some olive oil with garlic on them. They're in a 350 degree oven.
    I have asparagus I'll cook at the last minute: parboil then saute with a touch of olive oil and vinegar. I'm going with raspberry vinegar tonight on a whim.
    I have a small round of good brie and some good crackers/bread crust to grab it with.
    I have a nice organic spring mix salad ready to go with the best balsamic dressing in the world plus a bit of blue cheese.
    When it's nearly time, I'm gonna cut the organic beefsteak tomatoes in half and scoop them out. I'm gonna put on a good skillet and put olive oil and garlic and shallots and scallions and diced mushrooms and the inside of the tomatoes in there and scald those babies along with the crab meat. When it's really hot I'll pull it all, mix it, add the butcher ground black pepper, a tablespoon or two of prepared horse radish mix it all up and stuff those tomatoes. Top them with a bit of good parmesan drizzled with  a fantastic organic Spanish olive oil someone just sent me, then bake them for about 15-20 minutes with the short ribs.
    Then my friends and I are gonna sit down, drink wine, maybe take a toke, eat a bit of brie, snack on the baked tomatoes, then have a short rib with asparagus and salad.
    NOTE: Please note there is no starch beyond a bit of bread crust and no dessert. If there was this meal would kill you. As it is, we're taking chances and will need to walk a mile after dinner just to get through it.

Unbelievable Stuff Has Shown Up Unexpectedly at My Door

In the last six months, some packages containing unbelievable stuff have shown up at my front door. They're totally unexpected presents and when they come it feels like heaven's raining on me. When my leg was bad people sent all sorts of things, from fabulous honey to colloidal silver to homemade creams and lotions. Those were all very thoughtful.
    This latest round of gifts, however, sort of came out of thin air. One person dropped off a bottle of Chipotle Extra Virgin Olive Oil and a bottle of Aged Raspberry Balsamic Vinegar. An old friend sent down a health body package that included New Earth Organics Black Mountain Ants, Raw Organic Schizandra, Shizandra Berries and a large bag of Goji Berries. Someone recently presented us with a jar of Mulungu Bark, used in a tea to relieve tension and strengthen the heart. Last month someone gave Madeleina and I an Ipad Air.
    Yesterday a box arrived with steaks and hot dogs and cheese cake and apple fritters and such. Then another box came and it had a bottle of Spanish Organic Extra Virgin Garlic flavored Olive Oil and an aged bottle of Balsamic Vinagrette; wild raw honey with the come was in the box too, as was a box of raw organic peanuts from the Amazon and a bag of mesquite powder and exotic soaps and more exotic olive oil and vinegar and good chocolate.
    Someone's coming over tomorrow who asked me if I'd like a bottle--or part of a bottle--of 10 month-aged Jim Beam bourbon that was bottled in 1961 along with a Hohner 4 octave chromatic harmonica...
     All of you: Thank you. I am stunned by your kindness and generosity. Wow and thanks are what I feel.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Can Ayahuasca Permanently Cure Cancer or AIDS?

Someone on a board I occasionally visit asked the question of whether ayahuasca, the jungle medicine from the Amazon, could permanently cure cancer or AIDS or other killing diseases. I thought that was the wrong question to ask. Took me a bit of background to get to it, but I think I did finally answer the question--or what I think was the right question for the person to have asked.
    Here's what I wrote:
Traditionally, illnesses in Northwest Amazonia were seen as the symptoms of an imbalance on another plane of reality. Fix the imbalance and the symptom could be cured or would disappear on its own. With that in mind, until quite recently only the curandero would drink the medicine, not the patient. The curandero would be told what ailed someone and he/she would drink ayahuasca to access other levels of reality where he/she could communicate with spirits--whether that be plant or animal spirits, or other types--to try to discern what the imbalance was in the patient that was causing the ailment on the physical level. Once that was discovered, the spirits might also recommend specific diets or plant decoctions or other things to help expedite the elimination of the physical illness.
    In other words, I don't think--except for stomach ailments--that ayahuasca was ever thought of as a curative until curious Westerners decided to stand the paradigm on its head and drink the medicine themselves. That is a pretty modern development; one that was certainly not widespread until the 1990s or so.
    The curative properties of the ayahuasca came from what the curandero learned while communicating with his genios/spirit allies when under the influence of ayahuasca. Some of those have become pretty standard medications for certain ailments. Drinking large amounts of water from the chawki paujil (or paujil chawki) vine will do wonders for cirrhosis of the liver--the drawback being that the mineral water is unstable and has to be drunk almost immediately or it loses much of it's value.
    For bolstering immune system, and eliminating excess water--as in bursitis, arthritis--Una de Gato will generally do the trick.
    For diminishing the size of tumors, fresh Sacha Jergon is the ticket--or at least one of them. In combination with Una de Gato, Sacha Jergon can do wonders for people with cancer or immune deficiencies. My late teacher loved adding essence of Medio Renako (spelling?) tree bark to the Una de Gato and Sacha Jergon when working with someone with cancer.
    All of the old timers knew the plants and their benefits in the region where they lived. And if they needed more information, the spirits would give it to them when they asked.
    So I think the answer to your question of whether ayahuasca can permanently cure cancers or AIDS and other wretched diseases is not the right question. I think the question should be: Can a good curandero really access a spirit world that can aid him/her in finding imbalances in a patient that, if corrected, will help eliminate physical illnesses on this plane of reality? And if extra work is needed, can that curandero really come back from his/her ayahuasca dream armed with the information about plants and diets for the patient to use to eliminate those illnesses? And if that's the question or two, then the answer is yes.