Sunday, February 22, 2015

10 Years with Skunk Magazine

Well, some of you know, other's don't, that one of my regular gigs for the past 10 years or so has been writing a lengthy column for Skunk Magazine called Drug War Follies. It's been a joy: I get to put my two cents out there related to the failed war on drugs, to politics or whatever the hell else I want to write about. They actually let me do that and pay me for it! I find the days I'm working on that column--there is a lot of fact checking to do to make it seem like it's off the cuff--are some of the best days of each month. And just a moment ago, someone wrote something very nice about that column to me: She wrote something to the effect that when I make her throw the magazine down in disgust, she loves it even more when she picks it back up. That was cool. 
In any event, this was a recent column--it may still be on the stands.

Drug War Follies#82

Afghan poppy production at all time high, again; Gov pardon’s son; and why bother to report on the drug war anyway?

By Peter Gorman

Well, well, well….it’s probably obvious to all of you dear readers out there, but once again, the U.S. war on drugs strategy failed. What is that, about 10 million times in a row? What is it they say about being crazy? Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result? Well, there you have it, that’s U.S. drug policy. The failure in this discussion is Afghani poppy production--and no, not the .00001 percent that goes to making floral arrangements, but the other 99.99999 percent that goes into making heroin. It turns out that in 2014 poppy production in Afghanistan is higher than it’s ever been. Which is saying a lot, because in 2013 it was also higher than it had ever been. Ain’t that something? Give people $7.6 billion over the course of a decade or so to eradicate and replace the poppies and what do they do? The people who get the money keep it and the farmers keep growing poppies. Gosh, they’re beautiful flowers, a sea of white or purple or red flowers just brimming with joy juice to take your pain away. And here we go, the big WE, the U.S. foreign policy people, deciding we’re gonna get rid of those fields once and for all. And we fail. And we fail. And we pour more money into it and we fail again. Crazy? Hell, no! We just didn’t try hard enough. Let’s do that again and maybe it’ll be different this time. And if it isn’t, well, we’ll just have to try harder.
    And all that trying has led to stronger, cleaner, cheaper and much more abundant heroin all over the world. Heck, it’s almost like we’re just pretending we want to get rid of it when what we really want to do is make as many junkies as we can because junkies, while they might steal from their friends, won’t cause social unrest as a rule. And they won’t even steal from their friends if you make it cheap enough. Sounds like what the Bush family did in the old days when super grandpappy Bush controlled the opium trade out of China to keep the Chinese workers in the U.S. pleasantly stoned and subsequently pliant when they were brought over in droves to build our rail lines and such.
   So maybe the U.S. drug policy isn’t failing at all. Maybe it’s working just the way some people want it to work. Maybe what we have is just a failure to communicate what the actual goal of the drug policy really is. That’s probably it.
    I’m glad I was able to fix that up so you understand what’s really going on.
Small but significant: Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe, who is leaving office in January, 2015, has announced that he will be pardoning his son for a marijuana possession with intent to distribute felony before he’s gone. If he was my father and he had the power to do that I’d want him to do it. If I was the governor and had that power and one of my family could be pardoned with a wave of my magic pardoning-pen, I’d do it too. What seems odd here and is significant is that Governor Beebe has not said that he will do the same for everyone else in his state who is in jail or prison or has done time for the same crime. Why not? It’s a goddamned magic pardoning-pen, isn’t it? His son’s crime was youthful mistake. Those other fellas and gals, their crimes were youthful mistakes as well, I’ll bet. The mistake being the getting caught part.
    You got the pen, Governor, and you’re leaving office. You got nothing to lose. Why not wave it big and set hundreds or thousands doing time free? Release thousands more from the weight of parole, give them back their right to vote. Surely your son deserves it, but then all those other people are someone else’s son or daughter and they deserve it as well. So just grab your balls and do it!
My youngest son, Marco, came over the other day and saw me working on this column. He asked why I’d spent so many years at the other pot magazine and now nearly 10 years at Skunk writing about the war on drugs working hard to stop it when all the work wasn’t working.
    I told him there were obvious reasons--that kids/adults shouldn’t go to jail for non-violent drug offences; that nobody should be in jail for pot; that junkies should not go to jail for years when most junkies voluntarily quit their addiction in about two or three years; that crack cocaine should not get black people more jail time than white people get for powder cocaine.
    But beyond those obvious abuses of the war on drugs were subtle ones that most people didn't know about back in the old days and a lot of people still don’t. An awful lot of people, for instance, when they think of property forfeiture, picture it happening when a drug kingpin or big Mafioso gets caught with a million bucks worth of drugs or gambling receipts in a house he bought with the same dirty money. Unfortunately, that’s not true: Most property forfeiture occurs when people have a joint or two in their fully-paid-off homes, or two plants at the back end of their paid-off-farm, or get busted in a police prostitution sting when they’re lured by a cop posing as a prostitute and stop to negotiate and after a quick check that the car is paid off, lose their vehicle. The key is that the goods/property are paid off. No one wants to seize a house worth $300,000 if the owner, even if he has tens of thousands of dollars of heroin in it, owes nearly the whole $300,000. Why? Because the local police forces share in the profits from that seizure, and you can't give yourselves guaranteed overtime pay with a house that can't be sold for a profit.
    I told Marco that most people also don’t realize that half the police in the country--give or take, my number, not an official one--never bother to check an informant's story before getting a search warrant if their snitch says drug dealing is going on at a particular place. They just bust in and that’s led to lots of people being killed, thousands injured.
   Those are the sorts of things that are the underpinning of the drug war and they are some of what us drug war reporters were and are trying to get the public and other reporters to see and understand so that they can write about them and put them into the spotlight of awareness, which we know will kill them.
    An awful lot of people don’t know these and a hundred other things related to the drug war that are hidden in the dark. And if they know them, they refuse to believe them. Which is what the politicians depend on: blissful ignorance--until it hits someone you know, of course. It's like poor people saying they've been beaten and routinely abused by policing agencies around the country forever. 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 phone cameras and we are all 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 three or four or 20 times by rogue police. 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.

It would all be funny if people weren’t dying and the prisons weren’t full.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

I hate tossing out good food...

Most of you probably know that cooking food is my meditation. It's the silence between the work day and the relaxation of the coming evening. I love shopping for food, I love planning a meal, I love improvising and I love cooking. In the restaurants it was a fantastic electrical charge to come up with interesting specials, from appetizers to entrees, to side dishes, daily. Once I stopped that work, I began to cook at home, and when I had Italo, Marco, Madeleina, Italo's girl Sarah and most of the time Chepa around for dinner, well, I could make a lot and know it would get finished sometime during the night or by next breakfast. When all but Madeleina got homes of their own, well, it took a while but I cut down on the amount I was preparing. So most of the time Madeleina and I can eat half of what we make, knowing that someone in the family is going to stop by the next day and grab the rest.
    But that doesn't always happen. And when it doesn't, I sometimes have to toss perfectly good food. And I hate that. But it's cooked, it's a couple of days old--refrigerated, of course, but still not the freshest--and no local church is going to take it to give to a hungry person.
    I just went through the fridge. I am tossing a few shrimp with veggies. No big deal, right? BUT, the veggies included garlic in olive oil, ginger, scallions, shallots, red and yellow Bell peppers, bok choy, Napa cabbage, spinach, and snow peas, all cooked in a bit of olive oil, a touch of sesame oil, some teriyaki sauce, freshly squeezed orange juice. Even draining the liquid to throw the food away it was fantastic. But we no longer have a pig or goats and the dogs and cats won't eat veggies or shrimp. So out it went.
   Then, two days ago, I made pastitsio and it was fantastic. I was going to have it again last night with Madeleina, but Italo's Sarah called to say she wanted me to make burgers for their baby Taylor Rain's birthday. So I made burgers, hot dogs, beef kielbasa, saurkraut (spelling???), potato and egg salad, cole slaw, asparagus in a vinagrette, broccoli and cauliflower, steamed. That was good. But it means that the pastitsio is now two days old and getting dry and I can't really serve it for dinner. So it's going to be part of Boots' dinner.
   I just feel awful watching beautiful foods grow old and useless and become something for the landfill. Darn it, we need more guests at dinner time. Where the hell are you all?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

This is what the heck happens with dinner around here...

So this is what happens with dinner around here. I woke up a little pooped from all the meds I'm on and didn't feel like doing much. For dinner I was considering hot ham and cheese sandwiches on good sesame French bread with salad.
    So on the way back from my doctor appointment I stopped in a a good supermarket to buy some good ham and good cheese and good bread. As I entered the store, I thought maybe I should change that to vermicelli with a white clam sauce. After all, I have whole fresh clams, chopped clams, maybe 15 fresh shrimp, some clam juice and crab boil and onions and garlic in the I sort of switched to that on the way to buy the ham and cheese.
     But then, while I was there, I wound up with a pint each of organic blackberries, blueberries and raspberries, plus a beautiful quarter of bright pink watermelon, then happened to glance at the meat section. Yeah, there were gorgeous grass fed, no hormone, no antibiotic ribs of lamb and so I switched my idea to couscous with lamb tajine: Just some potatoes, carrots, a turnip, organic garbanzos, some spices,  a few I got all that stuff and was content with the idea of that. See, Madeleina asked me yesterday what a gyro was: She said she always loved that huge meat on the slowly spinning spit but never had one. Heck, I couldn't believe it! I'm certainly going to dad hell for having lived with her in New York City and never having introduced her to a gyro!
    So I'd already looked up "Gyros in Fort Worth" and written a food critic--fantastic writer of in-depth investigative pieces who also does some food reviews--and both the internet and he said there was a place called Paul's in Fort Worth that might have the gyro I was looking for. That being on my mind, that's probably why I peeked at the meat and grabbed the lamb ribs.
    But when I got home and responded to the email from my food critic friend, I said I couldn't believe I had never given Madeleina a gyro. I said I'd given her tajine, moussaka, raita, hummus, lentils, pastitsio and a number of other Mediterranean--Moroccan/Greek--dishes, but not the darned gyro.
    Which, of course, got me thinking of patstitsio: That divine blend of well seasoned ziti at the base of the baking dish, very well seasoned, almost sweet, chopped meat with garlic, onions, tomatoes, wine on top of the pasta, and then another layer of pasta--all covered in a Bechemel (white sauce with parmesan and nutmeg and eggs) sauce, then baked till golden brown.
   As it happened, I had 1 1/2 pounds of good chopped chuck in the house, lots of good parmesan, organic milk, organic nutmeg, fusilli, garlic, onions, tomatoes, tomato paste, red wine and butter and organic flour (I'm up to organic flour for goodness sake! Don't I get a boyscout badge for this sort of shopping?????).
   Right now, the pastitsio is in the oven. We somehow evolved from a hot ham and cheese sandwich on good sesame french bread--one of my favorites--to white shrimp and clam sauce on vermicelli, to lamb tajine on couscous to pastitsio.
   And that's how dinner gets made around here!

Another dumb leg post

Okay, another dumb leg post. Just went back to my leg surgeon and he debrided the rotten stuff from my infected legs in his office. With a scalpel, no pain killers. It hurt. I've got JimmyLegs right now from the pain. It will pass. Finally breaking down and having a couple of pain killers--been avoiding them, but not now--and bought a $13 bottle of Cabernet S. to help ease the pain. Never do that. Should have given the money to a poor person, but was selfishly thinking of myself. Yikes! This hurts!!!!!!!
Toughen up, Gorman, you darned sissy! Get over yourself!
Okay, boss. Will do that now, best I can.
PS: He's a freaking genius in my book. You need surgery in Fort Worth or Johnson County or Dallas, Dr. Ford is the man. Cannot speak highly enough of him--except for the occasionally cruel days, like today. Still, he's the best.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Damn these legs of mine!

Okay, back from the jungle. The legs started acting up down there: Lots of swelling, bacteria. Then the skin started coming off in pieces. Got onto antibiotics, came home, showed pics to my great doc, Gritter, in Alabama. He got me on different, stronger antibiotics. Was getting ugly again. Not as bad as last year, but after the wound and the skin graft, to see half of the grafted area suddenly open and weeping again was frightening. And when I say weeping: Lets say I took a shower--cold water buckets over my head in my room--then dressed and went for morning coffee at the Cafe Express, the old man's coffee place (with fantastic, cheap street food items). By the time I was done a single coffee, there was a puddle the size of a good-sized pee under and around my sneakers. The poison was in there and my body was making holes to get it out. But how the heck did I get it this time? I know last time how it happened. I know there was an element of jealousy/magic involved. And that was harrowing. But how the heck did it happen this time? The entire time I was in the jungle I had my leg slathered in triple antibiotic ointment and wrapped. And I wore military pants that tied at the ankle. (I could not wear them in Iquitos out of respect for the soldiers who earned the right to wear them. As I was never in the military--something I'm proud of as the Vietnam war was a brutal waste of life meant only to open up southeast Asia to Nike factories--I have not earned the right to wear them.)
     So where did this stuff come from?
     The first few days home I ignored the pain: I answered dozens of emails, did radio interviews, cleaned the house, did taxes, paid bills. But about three/four days ago I could no longer do anything because the constant pain was not allowing me to think straight.
     So I made an appointment with my fantastic, brilliant surgeon, Dr. Ronny Ford, chief of surgery at Huguley Memorial Hospital in Burleson, TX, and saw him yesterday. Turns out he decided to debride me in the office. That meant basically taking a tiny cup with a razor edge and skimming off all infected skin--of course to do that you have to hit the good skin, which is without epidermis. People probably heard me scream from Austin, Texas, 200 miles away. Man, it was like being back in the hospital 18 months ago when atrocities were performed on my body in the name of healing. Yes, they healed me. Yes, I let him do it again. Yes, the pain was just as bad.
     And now, having taken pain pills he gave me, and drinking a glass of wine, I can finally relate to you all. I'm sorry it's such a wimpy tale. I'd rather be talking about the beauty of the jungle, the magic of the trip and all that jazz. I just can't really get past the pain though, so I apologize.
    My office looks like a semi-hospital room again. Bags of leg wraps, silver leg linings, Ace bandages on the table next to the desk. The desk cluttered with the wraps I just changed. Medicines everywhere.
    I am not falling in love with my disease. I don't like this one freaking bit. And I will be a very, very happy person once the pain is gone and I can get back to work with a clear head.
    I hope that all of you are doing way better than I am. I ain't dying, but it sure isn't a place I'd want anyone else to visit.

Wednesday, February 04, 2015

Home Again, Alone Again

Well, hello everyone. just came in from Peru late yesterday, Feb. 3. Boy, to hear my family talk it when I occasionally called from Peru they were dying for me to get here. And Chepa, the wife/ex-wife, met me at the airport dressed to the nines. Brought my grandbaby Taylor Rain with her. Treated me like a king, insisting that she wanted to stop at the liquor store because I should have a bottle of wine. So we did. And later in the day Madeleina and Italo, with Taylor Rain in tow, came over and while I'd cooked some chicken breasts--sliced open, seared, garlicked with a bit of olive oil, cracked black pepper and coarse sea salt then baked--and made good Jasmine rice, to be had with salads--Taylor Rain insisted on pizza. So Italo and Madeleina went out for pizza and they all ate some of each while we watch the fabulous The Whole Nine Yards--a small but well made comedy. Italo and I laughed through it while Taylor Rain and Madeleina slept.
    Then this morning: Madeleina still has all of her stuff at Chepa's and Italo's, so she woke me at 5 AM to tell me I had to take her to Italo's to get showered. As she got out she let me know she'd made plans for after school and not to bother picking her up. Okay, she's 17, I get it.
     This afternoon Marco came over to talk about dark nights of the soul and that was deep and fantastic. Then he split.
     Just now, at about 6:30, Chepa's Sierra came over to say hello with Italo and Taylor Rain, bringing with her some great new drawings. Three minutes later, after Italo found some natural cold remedy I have, they split. Then Madeleina called to say that, by the way, she won't be coming home tonight. So forget the shrimp dinner I was gonna make, cause I ain't gonna eat alone. And Chepa, who asked for more than 40 pounds of Peruvian foods, said she won't be coming over to get any of it either.
    And now I'm just shaking my head. What the heck? I guess the IDEA of Peter Gorman is a lot better than the reality of me. So I think I'd better improve myself. Cause I'd rather that no one care about me when I am gone, but definitely care about me when I'm here. I think it's part of the problem of being the anchor for a family or a business or anything else: Everybody really does love you, but their real concern is that the anchor is there, alive and functioning and in control. Once that's in place, not everybody needs anything more from that anchor. They've all seen me, I'm alive, they're happy. But they ain't over here playing darts, or eating dinner, darn it!