Friday, December 30, 2016

Got through Christmas

I'm still pooped from it all but we made it through Christmas. The 'we' includes Madeleina, my glorious partner in slime and 19-year-old daughter who helped shop with me, did all the wrapping--except of her presents--and kept me sane. We were coming off that heavy load of guests, desperately needed to get shopping for nine people done in three days, had those same three days, plus the day after Christmas, to write a cover story for the Fort Worth Weekly, and we had to do it with no car, while we were taking care of Sierra, Alexa and Taylor during the day. We had them because everyone was working and we were the only place for them to hang out during Christmas/New Year's school closing. And I loved having them. As Madeleina says, "Dad, I think you still love being dad, I mean dad of everybody, a few hours now and then. You just seem to relish it." I assured her I do. It's one of the sadnedses in a dad's life when his kids grow up, move out, and you no longer are needed as "dad".
    So it was hectic, impossible, and yet we did it! Hooray, Madeleina!
   And now I've got a new client for my 10-day sapo (indigenous Matses frog sweat) course, have to find some fireworks for New Year's Eve, need to finish up a Drug War Follies column, then get ready for my January and February Amazon Jungle Jaunts. Boy, I could use a couple more people, but I'll let the universe sort that out. It's a great trip, someone will join at the last minute, I think.
   And even better, Italo brought my repaired truck back yesterday. He built a new engine a couple of months ago, from the block up; then I had a specialist put in a new clutch, then one of the new cylinders stopped firing--so he took a week and finally figured out what old parts needed to be upgraded to work with the new engine. And he did it. That man is a monster with a motor! Makes me very proud.
   So I'm gonna celebrate and take some of the garbage that's been accumulating here for two weeks out to the dump this morning. Why? Cause it's stinking up the place mainly, but also because I need to do a manly job today. Too much shopping and preparing food and other manly things like that, and not enough manly things like lawn mowing and garbage dumping lately.
   Y'all have a good one. And, of course, a very Happy New Year!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Whew! I'm gonna sleep good tonight!

Whew! I'm gonna sleep good tonight. I'm also going to miss several friends and a new friend. The last 15 days at the Gorman's have been hectic, to say the least. I had a fellow come in about 2 weeks ago who wanted to do a 3-day sapo--frog sweat--treatment. No problem. I applied the medicine daily, took care of him, and he'd disappear until the next day. He was strong, took a lot of medicine. The day after he left, another person came to start my 10-day Sapo Course. That is a brutal thing, with the student doing larger and larger amounts of the medicine and then doing it twice a day, then serving me, then serving others. She was great and got her diploma. But while she was here, Two friends came in, one from New York, one from England, to do ayahuasca. They were joined by two other friends and the person taking the course. That meant a lot of house cleaning, while simultaneously cooking for everyone, washing dishes, shopping for food, etc. During that time Madeleina came home from school and was able to help out. But we also had charge of Sierra and Alexa and my granddaughter Taylor Rain, which meant picking them up after school and making dinner for them as well as my guests.
   Somehow, Madeleina and I pulled it all off. The last person, the student of Sapo, left this afternoon. I'm about ready to collapase. Now it's just Madeleina, Sierra, Alexa and me for the next few hours, till Chepa picks up the girls.
   I loved having my friends in. I loved having the 3-day sapo guy and the 10-day sapo student. I loved shopping, cooking, cleaning, shopping for Christmas and trying to finish a cover story at the same time. But I am wiped out. I mean, genuinely wiped out. Gonna have a couple of glasses of wine, make dinner for the girls, eat a little something myself, then sleep good tonight. Whew!

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Getting on Christmas Time

Well, it's December 20, so it's getting on Christmas time. Part of that is getting quiet, thinking over the last year and mulling what needs doing for the next. Part of that is taking a few extra minutes to think about family, friends, and for those of us who have been around a while, friends who left this plane this year. Part of that is wishing good things for everyone on the planet:
For those who are starving, a wish for good food daily;
For those who have no clean water, a wish for fresh rain daily;
For those who suffer physical ills, a wish that they get healed;
For those with broken hearts, a wish that a glimmer of new love reawakens their hearts;
For those who suffer from being alone, a wish that they might meet a new friend;
For those who are homeless and cold; a wish that they have a warm bed to stay in tonight;
For those suffering emotional problems; a wish for balance in their lives;
For those suffering from mental problems; a wish for a magic reboot to their brains;
For those suffering spiritually, a wish that they will take a moment to see the spirit in everything;
For those suffering the effects of war; a wish to end all wars today, this minute.
For those and the rest of us: A wish that we could recognize that we could do anything if we got together to do it, and it would only take a moment to make that decision.
    I just realized that I made the same wishes for you all on Thanksgiving. I apologize for repeating my prayers, but I stand by them, at least twice.
    But this is about Christmas and beyond friends, family, the whole world, is the job of being dad. And that means presents. That means foraging in store aisles I'd normally avoid trying to imagine one of my kids with this or that. It means spending $500 just on stocking stuffers that no one needs but everyone wants to open. It means going to hell daily for three or five days to get something that someone will cherish. In my family, that means Chepa, Italo, Sarah, Marco, Madeleina, Taylor Rain, Sierra and Alexa. But the nightmare of shopping is quickly forgotten when all arrive at the house and light up at the scene of all those presents. Most of them small: we were generally into one big thing--like a ping pong table, or a foosball table--for the family, then several small things each. It's dad's work, but it's really effortless because we love them all. Among the small things Italo and Marco always get are large bags of Twizzler red and black licorish. Both hate the stuff and won't bother to take it home. Fortunately, I love it, so willingly pick up their leavings.
   And now, out shopping again. Thank God I have Madeleina helping me. Have a good one everyone.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

INDIEGOGO Call for Cash: Pass the Word, Please

So a client of mine who has become a great friend has been following me around with a camera for a year or so, both here in Texas and in Peru. Turns out he's making a film about me called "More Joy, Less Pain: The Life of Peter Gorman
   Mostly it will deal with the jungle medicines, but it will also deal with my family, friends, the river, the jungle. There is a two minute trailer that I think is worth watching. And if you watch and you see the potential for something interesting, well, by all means share it with friends and send Mike a couple of bucks. There's lots of good stuff he has me giving away to contributors so please take a minute and look at my friend Mike's work. Thanks very much.
Here is the link. I think you have to cut and paste, and if you forget it, I think you can just go to and punch in More Joy, Less Pain to get to it.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Wow! I didn't expect that to hurt so much!

One of those days. They somehow sneak up on me when I least expect them. I've got a person coming to work with Sapo next week, and later in the week I've got a friend flying in from England, one from Chicago and one from New York coming to stay for a few days. Right now I'm in the midst of treating someone with three days of sapo--the Indigenous Peruvian Matses frog medicine--and he's having a blast. So I've got more company than I know what to do with. But then Madeleina called this morning to say she's going to be busy till at least Thursday, so won't be home from college till then. And man, that just about blew me out of the water. I just felt it like a knife. You know, I want her to be grown up and independent, just like I did with Marco and Italo, but now that Marco and Italo are grown up and independent, I don't get to see them enough. Don't get to toss a football, or clean out the garage with them. Or just watch a movie with them often enough. And Madeleina? Well, she's been my sidekick for 19 years and when she's not here, I'm freaking lost. Yes, I am thrilled she's growing up, but I guess the sap part of me still wants her around. How can I do proper medicine and keep the house clean, and get ready for a guest who will be here for a week and get the cats and dogs fed and get the garbage out and make great food if I'm not showing off to her? So yeah, it snuck up on me and I wasn't ready for it. I'm dealing with it, I'll be fine. But it still hit me like a Joe Frazier body shot. BANG! Ow. Okay, I'll be better in a minute. Just let me catch my breath here...
And that's my sob story for today. Hope all of you are doing fantastically and are surrounded by lots of love. And I mean that.

Calling All Intrepid Travelers

Ladies and Gentlemen! Adventurers of all Ages!

Announcing the 2017 Tour Dates for the Gorman Jungle Jaunts!

January 2017
Saturday, Jan 21, through the morning of Monday, Jan 30

February 2017
Saturday Feb, 4, through the morning of Monday, Feb 13

June 2017
Saturday, June 17, through the morning of Monday, June 26

July 2017
Saturday, July 1, through the morning of Monday, July 10

Looking for a dozen intrepid seekers for each of the Jaunts. Looking for people who want to see and be in deep Amazon jungle; people who want to experience ayahuasca and the Matses’ medicines Sapo and Nu-nu in their natural settings; people who don’t mind dirt under their fingernails if they get it because they were walking in high canopy jungle or in a primordial swamp or collecting wild foods or even making clay pots. I’m looking for people who want to collect the medicines they’ll use and watch their preparation, people who would rather participate than observe and be served. I want a small group of curious people, humans interested in their personal growth, in the spirit world, in the Northwest Amazon as it is today but may not be tomorrow. I want people who see bathing in the beautiful Aucayacu river as an opportunity, not as a poor substitute for a hot shower; people who view the chance to eat a few local magic mushrooms while traveling overnight on a flat-bottomed river boat on the Amazon as a once in a lifetime thrill, and see night canoeing in dugouts while searching for medicine frogs a rare and wonderful opportunity. In other words, I want anyone who sees living as a bit of a risk but one worth taking.
   And if you join, my team—which will outnumber the guests—and the medicines and the jungle and the rivers and I will all work our collective asses off to give you something you’ll hold onto for a very long time. The medicines will astound you, the people will thrill you, the jungle will amaze you. So what are you waiting for? Drop me a line at or head over to the website for more info, photos, and an idea of the trip itinerary and costs.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

A Tree Swing in the Yard

This is a story I wrote for a magazine about 12 years ago. I don't think I ever put it here, and I saw it for the first time in yeas and thought it worth sharing:

A Tree Swing in the Yard


Sometimes the simplest changes in our lives make the most difference. I was reminded of that about a year ago, not long after I’d moved with my kids from Manhattan to Joshua, Texas.
         It was a difficult time for my family. My wife and I had separated, and she’d moved to the Fort Worth area to be near her sisters. She left with Madeleina, our 5-year old girl, and I stayed back in New York with our boys, Italo, 16, and Marco, 13.
We’d initially thought the separation would be short-term, but after some months my boys told me they thought otherwise, and that if I wanted the three kids back together we’d have to move to Texas. It would mean giving up the closeness of my family, my job as a magazine editor, my friends and the familiarity of my home.
            I decided that having the boys back with their sister and near their mom was the most important consideration, so after a three day trial trip to look for homes—my boys picked one just south of Ft. Worth—we set off in a rental truck with our world packed in boxes.
         We arrived and entered a period of adjustment: I was suddenly an out-of-work freelance writer at 50, the owner of a small house on an acre-and-a-half of yard dotted with lovely old sycamores, cedars, gnarly oaks and hackberrys, in a rural area where small ranches and farms dominated the landscape. It was bucolic but everything was new to us: I’d never even started an electric lawnmower, much less owned one, the neighbors didn’t know what to make of us Yankees, and we had to work on turning our new house into a home. We hung our pictures and unpacked our books, found out where the local supermarket was and got the boys enrolled in the local high school. It was all made easier by having Madeleina nearby and with us a few days a week, but none of it quite did the trick.
         And then one day, maybe two months after we moved in, Madeleina asked, “Dad, are we going to have any tree swings?”
         I’d never thought about it but after a moment said, “Sure, if you want one we’ll make one.”
         “Can we do it when I come back on Saturday?”
         “You got it, kiddo.”
         It seemed like a simple enough request, but never having made a tree-swing before, I wasn’t sure how to do it. I asked Italo and Marco what kind of swing we should make and they decided that a tire wouldn’t do, that we should have a board-seat swing.
         We’d been replacing rotting boards on a foot-bridge over a seasonal creek and that ran through our property, using water-resistant, heat treated 2” X 10” pine, so as we had that around we decided to go with that for a seat. For the length, we had Madeleina sit and open her arms as if she was holding on to the swing’s ropes: 30 inches was a generous fit.
         For stability we decided to go with a four-corner design: two ropes, each thrown over a tree branch, passed through holes we’d drill near the corners of the board and tied-off underneath. For rope, I though nylon would be the strongest and most weather resistant, but when we told the attendant at the local ranch store what we were going to do with it he said that the nylon would stretch and that our swing would be sitting on the ground in no time. Instead, he suggested a 3/4 inch rolled cotton rope. “That will last, won’t stretch, water won’t hurt it, the bugs won’t like it and it’ll be soft to hold onto,” he said. “Plus, it’ll hold about 600 pounds, so you won’t need to worry about it snapping any time soon.”
         By Saturday, when Madeleina arrived, we were ready. We asked her which tree we ought to put it on. “The chain tree, of course,” she said without hesitation. The tree she’d picked was an old hackberry, maybe 40 feet tall. It had been hit by lightning at some point years earlier and the stout trunk had been split. The previous owner had double-wrapped a thick chain around the trunk about five feet above the split to keep it from falling, and the chain was now embedded deep with the trunk and the tree remained healthy and strong. It wasn’t far from the house and because of that chain, was our favorite tree. Best of all, it had a good thick branch growing horizontally out from the trunk about 15 feet from the ground, perfect for a tree swing.
         We drilled half-inch holes an inch inside each corner of the swing seat, then Italo scrambled up the tree and threw the ropes over the branch. Marco and Madeleina and I pulled as hard as we could to test the branch’s strength: the branch hardly moved.
         Confident it would hold him, Italo climbed out on the branch and notched the places where the rope would sit. He eliminated the bark without cutting into the wood, giving the ropes a good smooth surface to ride on, as well as a place to sit so that they wouldn’t slide sideways.
         While he did that, Marco and I taped the ends of the ropes tightly and forced them through the holes in the seat. We set the height so that a grownup could sit on the swing with their feet flat on the ground: for Madeleina it meant boosting herself up a bit, but she was growing fast.
         We leveled the seat and tied large triple knots just beneath it, then stepped back: The 13’ foot white cotton ropes almost glistened in the afternoon sun. The swing looked like it had been there forever.
         Italo and I got on the seat to test the rope: perfect.
         Then it was Madeleina’s turn. We put her on and she grabbed the two ropes on either side of the swing, her little hands clutching them tightly as we gave her her first push. The swing began to mark an arc that grew greater with each ensuing push. Madeleina began to laugh, her laughter trailing all the way from here to there and back again. “Higher! Higher!” she giggled, swinging back and forth, her long hair flying, until it seemed she might just take off. “That’s enough! That’s high enough!” she laughed, and we slowed her down.
         “Well,” I asked when she got off. “Does it work?”
         “That’s the greatest swing ever, dad!” she beamed. “Thanks for buying this house with that chain tree.”
         And that was it: our house was our home. And that swing has been used Madeleina and her friends, the boys and their friends, and even dad once in a while, ever since.

Saturday, December 03, 2016

Immediate follow up to Sapo Collection Post

On that forum where I occasionally post, someone questioned whether it was right to collect the frog medicine (Sapo or Kambo, depending whether you're in Peru or Brazil), given that it caused fear in the frog. The question was really about whether we could justify using the frog medicine given that to get it we had to stress out the frog. I felt the need to respond. Here's what I wrote:

 I think you've got to imagine what the spirit of the frog is thinking, or sensing: I'll bet they don't like the 5 minutes of inconvenience/torture, but that they would prefer that to being boiled in soup. The indigenous who live in the Amazon, at least in the old days when there was not much agriculture, depended on harvesting wild foods, some tree barks for starch, fishing for those who knew how to do it, and hunting. There were not a lot of alternatives. Yes, they knew that if they ate a pineapple and tossed the top on the ground that when they returned there months later there would be a plant with harvestable pineapples, but those would be eaten by the first people who came on them.
To have a medicine that would steady their hand, stave off hunger/thirst/need for sleep, and eliminate the killing grippe had to have been a godsend. And the frogs are not dumb: They, like all of us, would choose inconvenience and some short-term fear over death.
In terms of us, now, yes, I think there is over-harvesting, bad harvesting, people who don't know what the heck they're doing and so shouldn't be doing it (you can buy egg yolk dried on sticks being sold as sapo or kambo in Iquitos; you can buy candle wax being sold as sapo or kambo in Iquitos; you can buy the medicine from frogs who are kept in a camp and harvested over and over--which will produce really lousy medicine; and a host of other icky or bad things). But harvested correctly, used as real medicine with good intention, I suspect the frogs go along with that. It's a very brief process of a couple of minutes from top to bottom, they are then released and put on their tree of preference, and if they have an obvious mate, they're put near that mate.
In terms of humans needing this, well, if you're 20-years old you might not. But if you're 50 or 60 or 70, the idea that you can eliminate the plaque from your arteries, trim the fur off you heart valves to eliminate an irregular heart beat, and cleanse your liver and kidneys in 15 minutes--or in 15 minutes a day for 5-10 days in a row--well that's pretty good and necessary medicine. If eliminating plaque from your arteries provides you with the space in those arteries to deliver just 3-4 percent more blood to your organs, that's 3-4 percent more oxygen getting to where it's supposed to go. That extra oxygen will improve your eyesight, your hearing, your balance, your heart rate, your pulse, your ability to assimilate and eliminate foods....that's pretty important. And if you maintain doing the medicine a time or two a month, well, you'll keep those arteries clear, you'll keep your heart beating regularly, you'll improve your kidney and liver functions. And most of us, at least us old timers, even if we eat organically and live in the country, are suffering from chemical waste inhalation (cars/coal/oil/shale drilling/cement factories) and so we really do need this boost. So yes, it is a very necessary medicine for a lot of people. And the frog is just doing its part--a bit cruel and insensitive, yes, but beats being soup meat.

Sapo/Kambo Frog Medicine Collecting

So on a forum to which I occasionally post, one thread has been discussing sapo/kambo, the medicine extracted from the Phylomedusa Bicolor tree frog that is such a great body cleanser. And one person wrote a long entry on the pain the frogs must suffer when they are tied up and stretched out between four little posts and sticks are rubbed along their bodies to collect the secretions which are the medicine. She wondered if the fear caused by the collecting process meant it was something we humans ought not to do--the fear creating an imbalance in the general universal harmony.
    Well, given that this is a topic I deal with a great deal, I weighed in with my two cents. Here's what I wrote:
Hello. In my experience, which is tons with this medicine, certainly the frogs are inconvenienced and probably scared to death for a few minutes while the medicine collecting is done. But then they are released. While they are tied up like green trampolines, the chambira fibers generally used to hold them leave marks around their wrists and ankles. The frogs are not collected again until there is no trace of those markings--which can be up to two weeks. In areas where there are large numbers of the P Bicolor frogs, some frogs are probably never caught.
   According to the Matses/Mayoruna who introduced me to the medicine in 1986, the story goes that they were going to eat the frogs but that the frogs suggested that their medicine would be better for the hunters than eating them would be. So they began to collect the medicine. And yes, it was much more valuable than the two ounces of meat (or so) they would have gotten in a soup would have been.
   In all likelihood, the Matses and other indigenous groups who utilize sapo or kambo collected the frog to eat when there was no bigger game around and the frightened frogs gave off their "venom" which went into cuts the hunters had on their hands and they quickly learned about the medicine that way. It's about 15 seconds from application (intentional or not) to effect, so the indigenous would have no trouble identifying what caused their initial sickness and subsequent strength and clarity. (As a result, all good collectors of the P Bicolor collect the frog by cutting off a section of the branch the frog is on and bringing that, with the frog, back to camp so that the frog is not disturbed and does not give off its initial, and most powerful medicine in the collection process.)
   While the medicine has a diminished value for indigenous groups that no longer depend on hunting, it remains valuable for breaking a fever, general well-being, and several other things. In my experience among people who depended heavily on the frog medicine for an extra edge while hunting daily, the frog was always held in high esteem. I never saw one injured, hurt, or abused beyond the abuse of the collecting of the secretions. I imagine that holds true among all groups that utilize the medicine.
   And I'll bet if the frogs could talk they would say that while they hate being caught and tied up, they much prefer it to being boiled in soup.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Suddenly lots of people reading this blog...

Suddenly, lots of people are reading this blog. Not lots of people like the big blogs get, but instead of 100 people a day, for the last couple of weeks it's been 300 a day. And they are coming from the USA, though I don't know where in the USA. I'm still getting 40 a day or 50 a day from countries all over the globe, but the majority of the additional 200 daily reads are coming from the USA.
     Now a few years ago, I had one day where I chanced to look at the numbers to see who was reading what, and it was a day when there were 6,000 views from Germany. That blew my mind. It was as if the students at a small university was given the assignment to read one of my blog pieces. This sort of feels like someone has given high school students the task of reading my blog daily for a couple of weeks. Why? To see the range of topics a writer might post on; to see the style of writing in my blog, who knows why?
    If these new numbers are from that sort of assignment, please let me know. I'm curious. On the other hand, if there is some wild and crazy speed freak out there reading and re-reading my posts all day long during a two-week binge, I'd like to know that too. Don't hesitate. Thanks.