Sunday, June 30, 2019

Leaving for Peru Tomorrow, and a Little Frightened

Hello all. I leave for Peru for 3 weeks tomorrow, for a Jungle Jaunt with seven guests, three of whom are old friends, and the four others friends I'll make. The trip has been planned meticulously. Hotels have been paid for, a shipment of bottled water, gasoline, petroleum, toilet paper and a host of other things has been sent upriver. My team is ready to kick ass out in the jungle, and I have a feeling the deep jungle is ready to kick ass as well. I'm getting strong and will do my share to make this trip special for everyone.
But I'm a little scared as well. As my daughter Madeleina has pointed out, I've come back from most trips in the last several years quite ill. Some of that is my fault because I always ask the universe to give me the pain if there is pain that has to be suffered for our incursion into the jungle, as light-footed as we are. And the universe seems to go along with that: My guests come out fine. I come out with anaconda bites that have left one hand nearly senseless, dengue fever, new bouts of old malaria, and in February, I came back with my second case of flesh eating bacteria. Three days after I returned home I visited a doc who put me in the hospital. The hospital put me in intensive care and eight doctors worked on me for three days before I was transferred to a regular room for five more days. I did 74 days of antibiotics, was off for three weeks, then started another round of 60 days. I'm nearly halfway through that and dry heave daily from them, cannot taste food--which sucks for a chef--and have some general malaise from the 3,000 mgs daily of the two antibiotics I'm taking to keep the bacteria, which have evidently cultivated me I'm told--at bay.
I am not really worried about that sort of stuff, even though it could be worrisome. What I am scared to death of is a repeat of my last flight from Lima to Dallas. I was really sick. The people at the airport said I was too ill to fly. I did not realize it, and they finally let me on the international flight. But during the 7 hour flight, I started to hallucinate. I mean, really hallucinate. I watched my leg, which was well wrapped but leaking a little liquid, begin to leak a lot. I had not had a drink or smoked a joint or done anything to provoke the hallucinations: They just arrived, full force. I watched my leg leak so much that it began to flood the airplane floor until the whole plane was knee deep in watery fluid. All of the people in the seats in front of me turned around and glared at me and some people asked what I was going to do about it. Their seats rose like theater seats so that they could all see me clearly. I spoke to a few of them, which woke the real people up and they told me to shut the hell up. It was one hell of a show caused by the malaria relapse I had, combined with the flesh eating bacteria, and the 103 temp I did not realize I had until we landed and they had a wheel chair and a nurse waiting for me.
It was frightening to be in an alternate reality while on a plane with the lights off. At one point I went back to the kitchen area and told one of the flight attendants that I was feeling lousy and asked if she might give me water and talk with me for a few minutes. She said "no. Go back to your seat." I thought that was harsh.
I made it through. But if there is a chance the powers that be can make sure that does not happen again tomorrow, I would be really, really happy. Oh, and if I can ask for one more thing: Please do not make me dry heave several times during the flight for a couple of minutes each time. Nobody liked that and nobody bought a ticket for that show.
Ah well, life's an adventure, eh?

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Magicks Again

I will probably sound like a broken record here, but in light of the near shots of war with Iran and the very disturbing situation with the youngsters in prison camps in Texas and elsewhere, I feel I have to repeat this. Among some traditions in the Amazon region of Northeast Peru, different colors are evoked as magics. Red magic is the magic of blood, of the life force that moves through all living things and can be invoked by healers to assist in locating a physical issue and curing it as well. White magic is the illuminating spark that keeps all things alive and can be invoked to bring illumination to problems, such as exposing fear, which festers, and is arguably the cause of all of humanity's self-made ills. Black magic is the molten core of all things that holds everything together. It is the magnetic force the keeps us from falling apart and keeps the universe spinning. It can be invoked to suck out negativity, like fear, and transform it to fearlessness in its molten fires. Or cowardice to courage. Green magic is the magic of all of the natural world, all of the rivers and waters and the things that water helps produce: All of our food, our trees, flowers, weeds, everything, and it keeps us alive as well.
I often dwell on Green magic because of all the magics I've been exposed to, it is the one that seems simplest to understand, and the one that should bind all of us together, regardless of our differences. I wish I could get the world to understand that the urine I pee today will wind up the water growing food to feed your family next week or next month, halfway around the world. As theirs will one day soon water my garden. That's pretty simple, right? If we could just get people to realize how interdependent we are we would not treat those youngsters in the border cages like we do; we would stop wars in an instant. We would fight for each other, not with each other.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Dinner on a Very Hot Day

The air conditioner went down yesterday and the house went up to 92. It was hot. So hot that I did not want to cook much of anything because that would bring the heat up even more. And I was already steeping three liters of Una de Gato, a Peruvian medicinal tea that is a general tonic and also does wonders for your immune system.
So when I went to the store I opted for fresh sea scallops and shrimp. I picked up 6 scallops and 10 good-sized wild caught shrimp, a bag of spinach, couple of bands of scallions, and not much else.
Hope, I cleaned the shrimp and put the shells into a small, heavy saucepan at high heat till they were bright red. Turned the heat down, added the scallion ends, two celery stalks, chopped, the tomato ends, and the onion ends, then filled it with water and let it rip. An hour later, at a lowish temp, I had a good cup of shrimp stock.
Floured the scallops and put them in a saute pan that was scalding hot and into which I'd already put garlic soaked in olive oil, the rough chopped scallions and onions, and diced tomatoes. When the scallops were browned on one side I added the shrimp and three minutes later took everything out of the pan, then sauteed the spinach in the pan juice.
Removed the spinach, added the shrimp stock, reduced it further, added two table spoons of butter--could not resist--the juice of three fresh limes, and made the sauce. I arranged the spinach as a bed on dinner plates, put the shrimp and scallops on top of it, tossed the veggies into the sauce to heat them up and then topped off the dish with all that.
I didn't have to actually be in the kitchen for 10 minutes total--just cutting, cleaning, quick cooking--and man, we still ate like kings around here. That was good, and perfect for such a hot freaking day.
Then my kid came over and fixed the air conditioner. Cool.

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

Couple of Comments for Preparing for First Ayahuasca

Someone wrote me asking if I had any off-hand tips for a person going to Peru soon to do their first ayahuasca. I thought about it and a day later wrote this:
My primary tip would be to not listen to many people. Everyone will have an opinion, but let them go.
Next, forget most of the imperatives with regard to fasting, doing X days of meditation, having an intention for the medicine. Just don't eat after breakfast on the days of the medicine, and keep your food light and healthy. The reason for that is that with the medicine you might get an opportunity to vomit up some of the bile of your life--things that caused you pain, pain you caused other people. And if your belly is full of protein bars or Chinese food or pizza, well, that's what you will be vomiting, not the junk that's cluttered your life and subconscious.
The reason I suggest going in with no intention--other than being open to whatever the medicine shares with you--is that if you're concentrating on getting the money to buy that car you want, or concentrating on how to get your last love back, you might miss it if/when the spirits whisper something important to you. Less junk in the brain is better for medicine.
Lastly, remember that this takes two or three hours, and that you could do two or three hours standing on your head if you had to. You can remind yourself of that when you are in the dream if you come on a difficult spot. It will be over and you will be you again soon. Listen to the icaros, the songs the curandero will sing--they will guide you to safety if need be, or release you to explore whatever it is you need to explore. They are the kite strings that send you up and pull you back.
Have a great time.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Fathers' Day Post

It's crazy storming outside now. I was sitting on the porch, my ass wet from the rain that was coming in sideways and the hail, and I started to think about my father, Tom Gorman. Thomas Bryce Gorman, to be precise. He left too early, when I was just about 20 and he was just 63, I think. But I was thinking that he taught me about reading, about loving the Brooklyn Dodgers and allowing yourself to have an hour or two a couple of times a week to watch a game without feeling like you were cheating. He taught me how to deal with the local mobsters, and Broadway--He was a Broadway actor--and how he never yelled at me when, at 12-14, I'd grab a bus, then the train, and go to where his shows were playing. He never said it was dangerous. He just said, be careful. And then he would do outlandish things, like tell punks to get off the train at the next stop, and they would do it, afraid of what that crazy man might do. He taught me to be strong beyond my physical limits, to keep at things till you got them right, to know that hugging your girl, my mom in his case, in public was a good thing. He believed in me. I have no idea why.
Of course, I've been a dad now for 27 years, and I know what he was doing. He was teaching. He was going to die one day and wanted me to know how to do it. I try. I sometimes succeed. I sometimes fail. But I keep getting up of the mat of my own making and try harder. And my kids are grown up and good, despite my failings.
So I've been a little bit sobbing to the rain out there that I don't have a father anymore. And I've been a little bit sobbing over my own failures. And I am forever thankful that my kids seem to have graduated from my school of whatever with freaking good degrees.
Thanks, Tom.

Saturday, June 15, 2019

A Note on Sapo and Nü-nü

Someone wrote me a wonderful letter about how much she liked my Sapo book. And she asked why I described using the medicines with the indigenous Matses appears much more intense than videos she's seen of people using the same, or similar, medicines. Here's my response:

Dear X: Thank you for writing, and thanks for liking my book!
   I've found that every darned medidine from the jungle is hard. You have to really want to do them, and they don't make it easy on you.
    Sapo is the version of the frog sweat that I use. That is mixed with saliva and generally applied through skin burned with a fairly large stick, while Kambo, the Brazilian version, is generally mixed with water and applied through very small burns. I find the sapo version considerably more intense.
    The first time Pablo gave me sapo it was very intense. I had no reference point for it at all. And it remains intense hundreds of times, maybe thousands, of times later. But knowing that the peak will be passed after 13 or so minutes, at the most (with rare exceptions) in 18, well, that allows a person to panic a lot less than if they had no idea how long the intense part of the experience would last. Most people these days are prepped before hand, have people taking care of them, etc, so for most people it's difficult but not impossibly hard.
     As for nu-nu, well, again, most people doing snuffs are doing different mixtures than what the Matses utilized. And very few people are doing the amounts of snuff the Matses used: I'd be served 15 half-gram hits in each nostril in a matter of two minutes. They still serve me 5-7 half-gram hits in a minute these days. That accounts for the difference in experience. Most people I know are taking two or three small hits in each nostril, which don't add up to a half-gram altogether. Which is fine, it's still good medicine, but it won't produce the hunting visions the Matses needed.
     I hope that helps. And again, thank you for writing.
Peter G

Monday, June 10, 2019

What about fighting for people's rights as humans?

So tonight, with Madeleina with me and maybe her friend Patrick, but no boyfriend, no other kids or grandkids, I wasn't in the mood to cook. I cook my Uncle Clem's Chicken last night, a broccoli, chicken, mushroom sauce dish topped with good mozzarella cheese and baked till brown--then served over good rice--last night, and I did bar-be-que the two previous nights. So I had the idea of either making a nice chicken/celery salad with the left over grilled chicken, or using up the left over cheese I had in the fridge: Cheddar, Swiss, parmesan, and making a cheese sauce for the left over chicken and serving it with left over rice.
I opted for the latter. I had minced garlic in good olive oil, put in diced onion and a good organic tomato--diced--plus Peruvian pink sea salt and good cracked black pepper, and then the cheeses, plus a bit of organic vegetable stock. The grilled chicken has been deboned (the bones are going to Bootsie, the blind wonder dog) and is heating up in a 27-year-old saute pan with garlic and cilantro; the sauce is done and ready to add to the chicken, which will be served over nice basmati rice.
I'll make a cucumber/onion salad with lime. I think we're gonna eat well tonight. And I hope all of you and everyone in the world does as well. I know that can't happen. We are too cruel a species. But I will still root and fight for it, okay? And I expect everyone who ate well to fight for the people who did not, too. Deal?

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Warning!!! Food Porn Ahead!!!

Warning! Food Porn Ahead!!!!
So after 74 days of sometimes six, sometimes two antibiotics a day to defeat my damned flesh eating bacteria and save my legs and life, I finally got off them on May 6 or so. Two weeks later, my taste buds began to come back. For some people their loss would go unnoticed. For a former NYC chef, it hurt a lot that I could not taste anything and that I knew I was making second rate food.
By 10 days ago, or so, I started feeling my cooking oats, even though I only cook one meal a day these days, as the kids are grown and live their own lives, and I am no longer cooking in restaurants. So my son Italo brought over all the kids and his wife and my daughter was back from school and I made simple burgers with good cheese and a potato/egg salad with our own fresh duck eggs, with a dash of vinegar, and steamed broccoli on the side. That was good. High quality cheeses: Bleu, fresh mozzarella, block cheddar, swiss to go along. Plus really good pickles, bacon, avocado, sauteed onions, and shitaki shrooms for those who wanted them.
Then I was in the mood for a good NYC sausage sandwich. So I bought good quality hot sausage, pierced and boiled them to get rid of excess fat, then baked them for 45 minutes to turn them into genuinely wonderful morsels of cow and pig snout. Cooked them in a homemade tomato sauce, then put them, sliced open lengthwise, on fresh bread from HEB (no, they do not pay me to advertise, but it's pretty good rolls and they can substitute for East Coast hero bread), topped them with more tomato sauce, then mozzarella and baked till brown. Served with asparagus steamed then sauteed in balsamic vinegar.
Then I was in the mood for a good roasted chicken, so I made one, cooked on a bed of celery and onions, and rubbed down inside and out with garlic in olive oil and a few sprigs of rosemary, and roasted till brown, brown, brown, but still juicy, and served that with red potato mashed potatoes in gravy made from pan juices, with a side of sauteed spinach in garlic and olive oil with cracked black pepper.
Then I got in the mood for something Greek, so I made Pastitisio, a dish that calls for short noodles topped with well seasoned sweet beef and lamb (cinnamon, allspice, garlic, scallions) in tomato sauce, topped with a good Mornay (white sauce infused with good parmesan, and seasoned with nutmeg) and eggs, then baked till the sauce is an inch thick and the juice from the meat has dripped through the noodles (in my case, penne pasta). Man, that was good.
We moved on to franks and beans: garlic and olive oil, fat back bacon, scallions, onions, good beef franks cut in 1/2 inch slices, sauteed till brown, then add lots of fresh tomtoes, diced, then a red pepper, diced, then two or three kinds of beans, then good mustard and sweet ketchup, and cracked pepper and sea salt, served over Jasmine rice. Man, that was fine.
And am getting hungry just thinking about this stuff, cause all of it waS good, cooked from the heart, and with the thrill of my taste buds back on fire!
So then I cooked a sort of beef fajita stew: onions, garlic, olive oil, diced red, green, yellow, and orange peppers, into which I put two pounds of flank steak I'd sliced thin, like fajita, and seasoned with garlic, achote, cumin, cilantro, white vinegar and a couple of other things and let sit for several hours to absorb the flavors. Let it cook down, adding organic vegetable stock, and then thickening with a bit of organic tomato paste as needed. Served over yellow rice. Scrumptious.
Last night I didn't feel like cooking. So I put chopped meat into a saute pan with garlic, olive oil and diced onions. Browned it, skimmed the fat, added lots of achote, then two cans of organic black beans, five diced tomatoes, a six ounce portion of cilantro diced, white vinegar, then mixed in the left over yellow rice, topped with good shredded cheddar and sour cream. Served with a side of steamed asparagus.
Tonight? I have two pounds of large shrimp. I'll peel them and make a quick stock of the shells with onion. scallion, and tomato ends, then put chopped clams into garlic and olive oil with diced onions, scallions, tomatoes, spinach and minced shallots, add a bottle of clam juice, my homemade stock, a bit of butter, and some minced, fresh cilantro to give it a little bite.
Now I'm telling you all this because on Friday I had the last blood test for my flesh eating bacteria and yesterday I saw the fantastic infectious disease doc who said I was perfect and should absolutely take a group into the deep Amazon in July (I already have eight slots filled). But then she said, as a precaution, I would be going back on a 60 day new regimen of antibiotics, starting tomorrow, and ending in early August. I will be dry heaving three times a day, I will itch, and I will not be able to taste anything. So I am glad I got a few days to make some wonderful food. And I hope you all get to eat wonderful food tonight, tomorrow and every day. And I wish for that every day of my life. Starting tomorrow, I'm back to freaking peanut butter, dammit.