Thursday, May 28, 2015

Marco Was a Big Help Today

Every now and then, my younger son, Marco, comes through when you least expect it. And when he does, it's a treat, because he's very focused.

    He came by yesterday to talk about a game he's designing and the challenges it presents. He talked about how he no longer looks at computer games the same way, instead of enjoying playing, he now sees the work that was done to make the game. For instance, one example that wasn't over my head, was that the computer always knows where your player is and will kill it every time--unless you build in a certain number of misses to give the human player a chance. "So it's up to me, the designer, to say that the robot can only hit the human once in four or five or ten times. Otherwise, the robot would always kill the character moved by the human," he said.
    When it was my turn to talk I complained about the house. We've lost shingles, the dogs have eaten through a couple of pipes so that gray water, which we run out of the kitchen sink into the back yard, not just sits under the house. And the dogs are under the house and muddy and I won't let them in wet, and with all the rain we've had on top of the pipes--they also tore the pipe from the washer and dryer that goes into the septic tank so that water just pools up--it's a flipping mess out there. Then the dogs uncovered the septic tank--dug down to it and somehow broke the top so that it's been filling with mud from the rain. And the rain has prevented mowing the lawn. Should I go on? I know other people have it one million times worse than me, but it still sucks to have paid off a house this week that's in such shambles. And it was overwhelming me, because there is all the regular work to keep a house going and the work to pay for everything that has to get done. So yeah, I was feeling sorry for myself. Even though I know most of the people in the world have it harder than me. So I was hating myself for being such a wimp as well.
    And it wasn't a lot of work to fix it. But with my leg and the open wounds, even covered, I can't go anywhere near septic water. 
    Marco to the rescue. Yesterday, after we talked, he said he'd come over today to help. And he did. I told him first thing needed was to cut the grass in the near back yard, so that we could properly lay out new pipes for the gray water. That meant fixing the riding mower, which froze during the last several weeks of rain. He got that done while I cleaned up the near back yard of firework paper, things the new dogs had chewed to pieces--wood, sox, a couple of brushes, grill utensils, a couple of old hoses now filled with holes. Then I rode the thing and did the near back yard while Marco nailed a piece of commercial corrugated plastic over the 6 foot hole in the skirt of our house. Then he installed a new pipe section to the washer/dryer outlet and got that in place. By that time I'd gotten one of the three large far back yards (outside the inner fencing, but inside the outer fencing) cut. Then he laid the pipe in a ditch he dug--a 50-foot ditch just six inches deep to keep the new dogs from tearing it apart again--so that the gray water will now run out past the near back yard. On Monday I've hired people to clean out the septic tank. I bought a new lid. Once that's done, I think the plumbing around here will be back in working order.
    You know, I needed help on this one. I'm very glad Marco volunteered. He came ready to work and worked well. And my leg didn't get exposed to junk that could make it worse. I always love my sons and daughter, Madeleina. But sometimes they really, really come through, and then I love them the same, but add an extra dash of proud to it.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Fridge Cleaning Time

Well, after weeks of rainy days--almost Seattle like, down here bucolic Joshua, TX--I've run out of things to do in the house. Laundry? Done and redone. Vacuum? Done and redone and will get redone again if the damned border collies, playing in the mud under the house get in here again! Bathroom? Scrubbed and rescrubbed. What was left? Oh, yeah, the fridge. Did it last on the day I came home from Peru about 3 months ago. How bad could it be?
      Well, the sacred medicines were fine. Most of the cheeses were fine. But those five nearly-full containers of sour cream? They'd turned into a science experiment. That stick of butter I lost last month? Found it. Somehow worked its way into the organic strawberries I forgot about and the mold took over everything. And while I've been buying zucchini and yellow squash twice a week, turns out there were a few that were lost in the veggie drawers that were turning into a puddle of goop.
     Nothing appeared to have opened, yet there was some dried, sticky brown stuff on the back wall of the fridge--I mean, probably 4 ounces of sticky stuff, which probably came from a quart of something that someone spilled and decided not to tell me about.
     It's all clean now, and I've thrown out enough garbage to fill an entire kitchen bag. Who knew the jar of sauerkraut was empty, or that there were three open jars of dill pickle spears or 7 mustards in the back?
     So I'm taking a break, assessing it all, tossing what needs tossing, having a glass of wine to get through it, and I swear, just like I've done for the last 45 years since I've been on my own, that I'm never gonna let that fridge happen again. Only this time I mean it.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Money Oh's!, Money Woes!

Okay, so I'm not complaining about anything here. That's first off. But I am going to think out loud for a minute and for some reason, I think that might be of interest to some of you. Of course, I might be completely nuts and all of you break your computers once I start....please don't do that, just skip this blog piece.
    Why skip? Because this is about my personal finances, which no one might think is of any interest. I got it.
     Here's the deal. I now owe $2200 on my mortgage. It wasn't large to begin with, about $72,000, but now it's within reach to close it next month. After that, I'll be responsible for about $4000 a year in home insurance and local home taxes. Very doable.
     But I owe about $14,000 on 3 credit cards. Not a ton, but more than I would like. Some of it was picked up in small quantities--getting groceries when I had no cash, for instance--but most of it was picked up with some medical stuff, a couple of trips to Peru with guests where I lost a couple/few grand and had to cover it with credit cards. So no big deal, but finishing the house won't finish the debt.
     Then I owe Madeleina $2200 that I've borrowed since I began--and she as well--getting social security a couple of years ago. Again, no big deal, but I got to get it taken care of.
     Then I owe my son Italo $2000 for the Lincoln sports car that he owned, got wrecked, fixed and wanted to sell. I had to buy it because he was proud of the work he'd done in getting it all fixed. Still, there is a $2 grand note that needs to be paid.
     Then there is about $10,000 worth of work that needs to be done here at the house: New front fence, 200' long; new roof, new living room flooring; $1,000 to get my little green truck with 300,000 miles to pass inspection and give me another 5 years, and a host of small stuff that everybody who owns a home has to take care of routinely.
     So while I'm very glad that I might be out from under the mortgage--which has been getting a $600 additional monthly payment for a few years, which is why I'll be finished in 13 years and not 30--I will still need $18,000 to clear all debt, then another $10,000 to fix the house/grounds.  
     So I need to come up with about $30 grand.
     Guess I better start working harder/faster.
     That's all. Wasn't so bad, was it? Just listening to a dreamer...
Peter G

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

That Time of Year in Texas

Well, it's that time of year in Texas. We've had probably 20 days of rain in the last 25 days, making lawn mowing impossible but keeping the grasses--which will be brown in August after no rain in 50 days--growing wildly. We've had so much water the septic tank flood plain won't hardly accept any more, meaning we're running all water out of the house via hoses except the toilet, just to keep it at a functioning level. And it's also that time of year when every goddamned sip of coffee finds a new bug in my mouth. I just pulled out the cutest little thing--about 1/4 inch long, narrow. It wasn't in there when I poured the coffee two minutes ago, so it must have made its way in unnoticed while I put my sneakers on. But then there are moths, the crazy long-legged mosquitos that don't harm anyone so I don't kill them, lady bugs, small bees, fruit flies. Heck, have a glass of wine and you have enough fruit flies in it in two minutes to do a high school science fair experiment.
    Funny: I don't remember this in New York, and I don't remember anything this thick in Peru or even India.
    Just Texas. This time of year when the windows are open and the rain pours down.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

July 2 Amazon Trip Coming Up Soon

Good morning, everybody. Just a reminder that I've got a few slots still open for my July 2-July11 Amazon Jungle Jaunt. Real jungle, dirt under your fingernails, lots of good medicine, including ayahuasca, Sapo, nu-nu and probably some local magic mushrooms--all offered at the right time, of course, and under the right guidance. And you don't have to take any of them. The trip is still a blast because we go night canoeing, swamp walking, high jungle medicine collecting, ride on fantastic riverboats overnight on the Amazon, collect wild foods, swim in a lake that's home to several families of pink river dolphins, bathe in the glorious Aucayacu. Trip cost: $1900. Does not include your airfare to Iquitos or back home, and does not include your walking around money--for presents for your friends and families--but does include everything else. We pick you up at the airport and drop you back off when it's time to leave. It's a very cool trip and only a few slots open because I keep the trips small at a maximum of 12 guests. To join, just send me an email at peterg9 at Do not forget that 9 at the end of the peterg, okay?
It's gonna be good.
Thanks for listening,
Peter G

Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Column for Skunk I'm Working On

So this is raw and needs to be reworked, but I am pissed at the Texas State Legislature. So that's what column #86 for Skunk Magazine, the only mag that ever gave me a column, is going to start with. Here's what I'm thinking...


Rights? You ain’t got no stinking rights! Just ask Texas or the Feds: if they get away with what they’re trying, it’s gonna be more of a freaking mess than it already is.

Ah, Texas! You’re dry, mostly flat, largely desert, regularly attacked by monster hurricanes and gigantic, killing tornadoes, and you’re run by a handful of good old boy families that keep most of the money to themselves and then make most of the laws the rest of us live with. And the U.S. Congress isn’t much better, though it represents a considerably more beautiful land mass.
   Why mention Texas in a column? Because if you don’t live here you cannot imagine what the politicians propose. They want to make it illegal to video police officers beating or killing people. They are trying to revive a bill that would force women to look at pictures of their fetuses prior to abortions, forbid women to have abortions after 20 weeks, even if the woman’s life is in danger. Hell, a few of the pukes tried to pass a bill that would force a mother to carry a fetus to term even if it was declared dead. You see why I’m pissed off? I don’t have to love the democrats to hate the extreme republicans. And down here in Texas we have what’s called home rule. That means that any city or municipality with a population over 5,000 can make rules they like. It mostly applies to traffic speeds, whether or not you can have an old mobile home on your property, what local sales taxes will be. That sort of thing. Not always nice, but pretty regular stuff. But they’re on the brink of making a state law—which always supersedes local law—that cities and municipalities cannot make rules regarding gas drilling--a bane down here in natural-gas-rich Texas--that are considered unreasonable. What that means is that if a town votes to not allow gas wells within 1,000 feet of homes, hospitals or schools, and the state says 300 feet is reasonable, the local law will be abrogated. Towns that have banned hydraulic fracking of gas wells have already been put on notice that those bans are unreasonable. They want the gas, they’ll get it and the hell with what the local city wants. This is the same group that criminalizes truancy for kids as young as 12, and is demanding federal monies for schools with the right to use the money as they see fit rather than having it earmarked for schools. This is the same group that insists that Creationism be taught as history alongside—and as equally possible—as evolution, that the world is 6,000 years old, that Jesus rode dinosaurs, and that religion belongs in public schools.  The same group that listens to TransCanada say that the Keystone Pipeline will produce about 46 permanent jobs and then claims it will produce 250,000 jobs. This is the same group that is insisting that Jade Helm 15 is not a military exercise but a military operation that will imprison or kill several million Texans this summer.  Oh, and two bills that will kill anti-LGBT-discrimination laws are making their way through the Texas legislature as well. Ain’t these legislators special? As in ‘specially fucked humans’ of course.
     I’m a balancer. I’m here to balance the insane rhetoric of this group of politicians who know nothing with some sense and sensibility. But I am way fucking outnumbered here in Texas.
    And the Feds ain’t much better. A caucus of the U.S. House of Representatives just voted to make it a law that doctors who perform abortions should be arrested and face five years in jail, despite abortions being legal.

    Wake up and smell the shit, everybody. You’re probably facing similar repressive nonsense in Canada from people who call themselves Conservatives and who claim to want less government involvement in their lives. They are all lying through their teeth. I’m upset and I hope you motherfuckers know it. We need to say that roses are roses and shit is shit. And yes, you can video those cops who kill unarmed people who are already in cuffs.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

A little earthquake at my house

So it was about 6 PM. I'd just come home from a meeting at the Fort Worth Weekly, shopped for dinner—double cut pork chops I'm gonna stuff with fresh veggies and fresh mozzarella and top with a nice au jus, then served with a good salad—and sat down at my desk to see what was what with the afternoon email. Suddenly the whole house shifted, like a wave went under it, pushing me first left, then right. I thought maybe one of the big dogs had jumped into the house through the front window behind me. No. So I called out to my daughter, Madeleina--who was sitting in the huge living room, a converted garage that has a cement flooring under the needs-to-be-replaced carpeting--"Honey? Did you feel anything?"
"Dad! What the freak was that? Everything shook. I thought the roof was gonna fall in!"
"That was an earthquake, darling."
"That was so cool!"
And it was. So long as the next one isn't stronger. And that was the first one we've had in the 13 years we've lived here in Joshua.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Single person, feeding themselves, little money

So someone I know is in dire straights. They want to know what to do for food as a single person with little money. Here's my initial response:
      Roasting a whole chicken costs about $5. That's four huge portions. Good basmati rice, about $6 for a five pound bag--enough to feed 40 people. So roast a whole chicken, cook rice, about 17th of the bag. Both will last for several days in the fridge. Mangos are going for $.50 each right now, so you can add a mango a day for half-a-buck. Lettuce, good romaine, is going for $1 a head and a head will last 3-4 days. Broccoli is about $1.60 a head and that will last 5 days for a single person. So for $8.50 you've got a main meal for 4-5 days. Add a quart of oil for a month, which comes to $.65 per week. Add salt and pepper: $.10 a week. Breakfast: Three eggs with toast: Eggs, free range, are $3.00 a dozen or less. Bread by the loaf, good quality, is $3. a loaf. Both of those are good for several days. Add organic yogurt, 6 ounces for lunch, at $4 a quart, and you're up to about $10 for four-five days. Large naval oranges are currently $.50 each. Add one. That's breakfast, lunch, dinner. Meat, eggs, fruit, veggies, yoghurt, salad. Dressing might bring you up to $10.50 for four days, or $75 a month. I can give you recipes that will make all of that fantastic, give you variation with beans and veggies and so forth. Money left over for inexpensive ice cream and a few apples a couple of times a week and you still come in at less than $20 a week. Substitute lentils for meat and wow! You're on your way. 

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Step Up for Al Giordano and if You Can

Time to step up for a friend of mine. Dear all. My friend, Al Giordano, moved to Mexico in the late 1990s to watch the revolution in the south play out down there. He quickly wound up realizing that the key issues involved drugs/money/corruption. To lend his hand in getting the word out, he started, a website devoted to uncovering the drugs/money/corruption. With few resources, few helpers, he got the website up. And he got people like me to report on nefarious goings on in Peru when I had the Cold Beer Blues Bar there. I'd write; he'd print, and over the course of a couple of years we stopped at least three U.S. black-ops from happening; I got/he printed/Shoemaker took the proof photos of what really happened with the missionary plane shootdown in Peru. And Al brought a lot to the table himself: Enough that he was brought to court in New York in a landmark lawsuit that he won against a corrupt banking operation. Good Latin American drug war writers wrote incisive stories. He was the only English language site reporting on the goings on, not just in Mexico but throughout Latin America, the Islands, South America. He got Bill Conroy aboard and boy, did that reporter open some cans of worms. And then he started a School of Authentic Journalism, a once a year shot at bringing in young reporters/videographers to meet with experienced drug war journalists. And to make it available to those young journalists, he offered as many scholarships as he could. I was invited a couple of times as a teacher but since he'd given all his money to the students, there was no money to fly me down there, and since journalists are notoriously underpaid, I never attended. I regret it because I'd love to have that credential on my resumé.
    Over the years, Al's gotten by with the help of a donor or two who made ends meet. That means getting Al enough money to make his food--which, if you read his stuff on Facebook looks pretty darned good--keep a roof over his head, keep the website running and pay for the annual School of Authentic Journalism.
    Well, this year he's stuck. He's a proud man who is asking for help who would not ask unless it was for a good cause. The school has produced a lot of good journalists who have not been co-opted by corporations, a lot of journalists who break stories nobody else has.
     So here's the deal. Go to the kickstarter campaign below and give him $5-$5000 bucks--yeah, most of you can only afford $5 but I had a moment of wishful thinking--and let's keep the school and operating.
     And if it matters, when my leg was being eaten away by bacteria two years ago, Al found $1000 for me. All I had in the bank for him today was $20. Not a fair exchange at all, but proof that he's one of the good guys.
    Here's the donation site:

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Oy vey! More food stuff!

Sunday Afternoon: Italo and Taylor Rain came over this morning and I took them out for tacos at a place in Godley, TX, (Del Norte Tacos) that's got such a name for itself that people drive from Fort Worth just to get them. It's really good. I mean, really good. About $4 a taco but each has 1/4 pound of meat that's been smoked over hickory and something else I can't put my finger on.
     We bought an extra two for Madeleina, then Italo took his daughter and me on a back road ride that was just glorious.
      Perfect morning. We returned to find Madeleina had re-cleaned the house we just cleaned yesterday, including her room--first time in months!--and the scented candles were on, the place smelled fantastically and all was good with the world. I went shopping early, thinking that since no one had called/written, we were eating alone. And since Madeleina brought up chicken cacciatore yesterday, I bought peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms and a chicken. Enough for six people.
     But Madeleina's friend Patrick--who worked with me yesterday--came over, so now were are three. Then Michael and Dian--whom we freaking adore--decided to come. Now we're five. Plenty of cacciatore for all.
    Then Chepa called. She's sick. She needs my lime-chicken. That's chicken breast breaded with breadcrumbs mixed with good parmesan cheese, sauteed.  Once it's sauteed on both sides for color, I squeeze lime juice, fresh, onto it, and sprinkle with more parmesan cheese. Then I bake it till done. It is my invention and spectacular. I cooked it restaurants as a special for years and probably sold out every night it appeared.
    But Chepa's new kids, Sierra and Alexa, don't like that. And the cacciatore will be too much. So I'm gonna make some drumsticks for them, then feed the rest to the dogs for dinner. Except the new pups, who are not great with bones yet, so I'll mix their food with some chicken livers I have and will cook.
    Okay, so we went from two to 8, and maybe 9 if Marco comes over or we send a plate back with Chepa for him--cause we love him--and I've got a feeling that Italo and Taylor might show up as well. Dinner for 11. Four separate meals, including dogs. Time to get to work, I guess. I've only got 1 hour and 20 minutes to get this done.
     I love living, and I love a bit of pressure. Gonna be great! You're in the neighborhood, stop by. We'll have plenty!

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Still Doing Manly Deeds

Sometimes I feel so freaking old. My back hurts, my sciatica hurts, my fleshless right foreleg hurts. Damn. Can't walk for not breathing.
    And then I defy it all. Today that meant hiring one of Madeleina's friends, strapping young Patrick and asking him to help me finish the little fence around the back porch. I'd done three sections, about 16 feet, but the last section was 10 feet long and tough to keep square while I was holding the 90 pound weight and simultaneously measuring, hammering, leveling and so forth. So I offered $20 an hour for 3-4 hours and he showed up and within 45 minutes we were in sync. Fence section got done, then we moved onto the bigger yard fence and after an hour that was repaired. Then we moved on to painting the fence we built--plus the part I built alone--and then, while I washed the brushes, he swept and I cooked him a burger for lunch.
    Then I paid him $70 for 3 1/2 hours.
     He got more than that, of course. He learned how to handle a hammer from someone who hits nails straight and hard and buries them in three, four shots. He learned how to level a section of fence and clean a work area. He learned how to fix a larger fence. And I got a lot too: I was stalling on the last piece of fence because it was too ungainly to work with alone. So I got my work done. He got paid. Well.
     I think everybody's happy and a bunch of manly work got done around here. That's something.