Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Guests coming

My friend, Al Giordano, has been posting wonderful food that he has been making. As a chef, I pay attention. He posted the ingredients to a sandwich that were so complicated today that I had to respond to him. This is what I wrote:
You make me out to be a pauper. I have 13 guests coming in for three days this weekend and all I got is: Friday afternoon: Hummus, meats, good cheeses, jungle guacamole, fruit, tomatoes with fresh basil, garlic, and mozzarella. For dinner stuffed shells with ricotta, mozzarella, asiago cheese, garden basil, spinach, shallots, eggs from my chickens, and green onions, with homemade tomato sauce, and mozzarella, served with chicken parmesan, spaghetti squash and a vegetable mix with garlic bread. Sat morning: Pancakes with fresh picked blueberries and Canadian maple syrup, double cut bacon, home fried potatoes, NYC bagels with Philadelphia Cream Cheese, three cheese bread and butter, baked, and fruit. Sunday: Baked eggs with ham and swiss and veggies, papas Huancaina from peru, papaya with lime. Sunday night: Barbeque of marinated chicken thighs, shrimp, beef sausage, grilled asparagus, broccoli, cauliflower, scallions. With potato and egg salad, fusilli salad with red peppers, balsamic vinegar, and shallots, three beans with jowel bacon, garlic, and onions. Your cooking is way, way more complex for the taste buds than mine. So am jealous, all the way.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Curanderos falling off the path

Someone asked why a curandero with a good reputation might suddenly be acting very selfishly. This is how I responded:
There are several things at work here that I think are very important to remember. The first is to remember that the curandero is human. Knowing plants, having plant and other spirit allies does not change that. They get tempted by the same things that tempt the rest of us, and sometimes fall off the path because of that. Secondly: there is such a call for curanderos at the 100 plus centers around Iquitos alone — never mind the hundreds of other centers in Peru, Colombia, the USA, Europe, Central America, etc, who are serving ayahuasca, that some people serving have never even done ayahuasca. I know several camps around Iquitos where people I knew years ago are now serving and have never had the medicine, never seen a ceremony before stepping in as a curandero. Third, and this one is perhaps the most important, is that many curanderos work with the four magics (and there may be many more, but I will keep to the four that Julio LLerena, my teacher, and later my friend, used). Red magic is the magic of blood. It is the healing magic of the human and animal body. Green Magic, is the magic of nature. It is the magic that binds all of us together: The piss you take today will evaporate and be carried as rain to feed my children as spring water tomorrow. The piss I take, the spit I spit, will be the water that feeds your garden. White magic is the spark of life, the illuminating force of the universe, from the tiniest sub-atomic particle to the brightness of the stars. Black Magic is the molten, magnetic core of everything, the force that keeps things from spinning off helter-skelter, from the smallest sub-atomic particles to the earth, the sun, the entire universe. Now many real curanderos will wind up working with those magics and those magics will become allies. They will learn to heal with red magic, often utilizing the green magic of the plants and roots. They will bring light to darkness to illuminate problems, to expose fears, and so forth. They will utilize black magic to bring things together, to transform fear into fearlessness, cowardice into courage. BUTT there is an issue with black magic: It's magnetic force is so strong that in working with it, some of that magnetism will get on your fingers. You will be able to call things to you that you want. You will have that magnetic power to some extent. But the rule with black magic is that you may never call anything to yourself for selfish purposes. You can't choose to win a lottery ticket, you can't choose to get a girl or boy with that power. If you do, you lose all your allies and genios. But it is difficult to resist that temptation, and many good curanderos eventually fall under it's spell, and in so doing, fall off the path. So someone might be fantastic and loving and giving one day, and the next week they are out for themselves. It is a very difficult temptation to resist. And once you've fallen off the path, it is a very long and trying time to get back on it. I think that is why a lot of curanderos who work hard for years and decades, go through periods where they are not curanderos at all, but essentially leeches.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Poltical Insanity

Had a short piece to write today. Just 1,400 words about the kids on the border, which really irks me, because treating kids as sub human allows us to see them as non-human and that allows us to see their parents as monsters, and we don't care how horribly we treat monsters, do we? This administration is fukked with hurting the most vulnerable. Like treating a 3 year old badly--and the government just went to court and claimed that is nothing in the federal Agreement for treating immigrants with soap or toilet paper--despite the government's rule that all kids must be treated safely and in a sanitary manner, with decency.
So I finished that, hit my head on the wall 20 times because a concussion was better than thinking about the freaking Trump Administration's purposeful infliction of pain on the most vulnerable among us. Hell, last week they took a breastfeeding baby from his mother while he was feeding. This is stuff us Catholics register as real sin. And all you protestants out there, remember this: You are failed Catholics. And you evangelicals? You are failed protestants, you freaking losers. You are so far from a holy base of judaism/Islam that you are out of your minds.
Okay, but the thing is this. Despite my anger, righteous anger at the world, I made two dozen chicken wings, asparagus and sweet summer corn. So I am going to replenish with that and watermelon, and Madeleina just brought in half-a-dozen eggs from the chicken coop, and Bootsie, the Wonder Dog just ate four stuffed poblano peppers and Madelena painted our front door a light shade of purple and I cleaned the damned kitchen top to bottom.
Here is the thing: Politics can twist you into knots, and particularly people like me, who watch things. But you still have to grab a moment or two to be free, cook good food, take a walk in the woods, smell some flowers, so that you can come back strong and centered. Does any of this make any sense? I hope so. You have to be strong enough to fight good, worthy fights. And fighting this administration at every turn is a worthy fight.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

The Back Story with Peru's National Soda, Inca Cola

Here is the story on Inca Cola, which is bubblegum in a bottle. In every country in the world where Coca-Cola has products, it's the number one seller. It's a point of pride with the company. But Inca Cola is the national soda of Peru and Coca-Cola didn't like that. Sometime during the 1990s or early 2000s when I was living in Iquitos and running my Cold Beer Blues Bar on the Puerto Mastranza in the toughest part of town, Coca-Cola started spending millions and millions to unseat Inca Cola as the nation's top drink. They had billboards and sponsored live music shows and placed television advertisements all over the country for several years. And they still could not beat Inca Cola. So they decided to buy Inca Cola. But Inca Cola's family--the people who ran it, knew that Coca-Cola was just going to buy it and kill it. So they said, basically, we'll sell it on these conditions: You cannot kill it. You cannot come into the factories where we make it, bottle it, or distribute it. You cannot touch the formula for 50 years, long enough for our children and their children to run this company. The only thing they allowed Coca-Cola to do was to add a tiny "Product of Coca-Cola" to the traditional Inca Cola bottle design--although I don't have a bottle in front of me this second so the phrasing might be a bit different. But that's it. And Coca-Cola had to go along with that list of demands in order to say they were #1 in Peru. It was fantastic to watch that go down.

A Special Rock 'n Roll Moment for Me

One of my best rock and roll moments--and I helped build Jimi Hendrix' Ladyland on 8th street in New York, and built Island records studio on Grove Street and in the Carnegie Building for Bob Marley and Peter Tosh (and smoked joints with them while I was painting) was when Carlos Santana "Yes". 
 "This is Carlos Santana. I am going to Chlle for the first time and I need two things: I need to know how it is, and I need a lot of pot for my crew and band. I was told you could handle that." 
Now, as of yet I am not gay, but I almost creamed my pants. I mean, this was one of my freaking gods asking me for a favor. It was unbelievable. Just like when Catherine Deneuve called me because I had Woody Alan's last phone number and we wound up having phone sex. So Carlos called me and I hooked him up with pot in Chile and I thought that was a good thing.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

I'm Angry

You think life sucks? I'm gonna tell you another thing. The kids in cages at the border, the kids with no toothbrushes, no soap, no towels, no beds, no showers, no soccer or basketballs? The private prison industry that is housing those kids is charging $740 or so per night per kid. 1,000 kids: three-quarter of a million dollars nightly. Federal prisoner in a privately owned penitentiary cost $73 bucks a night. So who the fuck is taking 10 times that amount and telling kids a $12 buck soccer ball is too much, or a $0.15 toothbrush is too much when they are getting $740 a night per kid. Who the fuck is watching the hen house?
I will always reserve my right to be a fair and honest investigative reporter while still having feelings for human beings, whether housed for two-plus decades for nonviolent crimes, losing their property for a single pot plant on a 1,000 acre farm, or being a child who is brown. If I didn't have those feelings, I wouldn't waste my time being an investigative reporter. But yes, I am fair to both sides. If both sides are fair to the people involved.

It's Freaking Hot Here in Texas

Well, after five or so days, we will be dipping down below 100 degrees tomorrow. With the AC on, we are hitting 86 in the house for most of the day when it's that hot outside. Unfortunately, it's a cheap house with no insulation. I tend to fall asleep at my desk twice a day, just from the heat. And I wake up sort of sweaty and in a mean mood, ready to lash out because I'm so damned uncomfortable. I'm sorry, universe.
On the other hand, I've finished my story on the guys and women who were doing life in prison for first time nonviolent drug offenses, and I hope it gets the attention of some people who will work to get some people out of that hell. The people I wrote about got sentences commuted via clemency from Obama, and are all doing well on the outside.
So many people suffered from the stupid war on drugs. As one of my guys said: "All of the drugs they got in the conspiracy (crack cocaine, 1992) from FBI buys and what we had when they rounded us up, did not come to one kilo of crack cocaine (basically 1 1/2 ounces of cocaine cooked with baking soda to make crack). They charged us as kingpins with 15 kilos. Because crack was sentenced as 100-to-one of powder cocaine, we were all sentenced for 1,500 kilos of cocaine, automatic life in prison. Then they said we were kingpins, which meant life without parole. We weren't kingpins. Kingpins had ships and airplanes to bring in tons of cocaine. We had less than a kilo among all 31 of us. We still got life without parole for ghost cocaine that never existed."
Thank god for Obama's (late but better than nothing) 2014 Clemency Initiative, which released 1,794 people, 500 of whom were serving life without parole for first, nonviolent, drug offenses.

Saturday, August 10, 2019

Little Things

Little things: I'm working a good cover story for Fort Worth Weekly about several people from Fort Worth who had their sentences commuted by President Obama. All of them got life without parole for first time, non-violent drug offenses. One wound up doing 10+ years, two others 17+, two others 24 and 26. All are now out, finally, and productive members of society. It is this societies shame that we would do that to people. All were scheduled to die in prison if not for the commutations, and thousands more remain inside, hoping for similar breaks.
Today was a photo shoot with a couple of them. One I already knew, the other I knew from phone interviews but just met today. Very nice people who got into street dealing as late teens. Damn, those sentences were cruelly excessive.
We had to drive 90 minutes each way for the shoot, and this is our second. My daughter Madeleina was taking the photos. She's already had two cover shots and done inside-the-paper shots another 15 or so times. She's got a great eye.
While we were out--with her boyfriend Adrian driving us--the dogs went a little crazy in the house: They pulled blankets and throw pillows from couches, tore up paper towels, and generally made a mess. Not typical for my dog Boots, or Madeleina and Adrian's dogs, Samson and Clementine.
I went about putting up groceries that we'd picked up on the way home, then sat at the computer to see if friends who were due over had left a message. They hadn't.
Suddenly Madeleina came into the room, crying. "Dad, I'm really sorry. I'm so sorry, but I think the dogs ate your caiman (South American crocodilian) skin. I'm so sorry, dad..."
She thought I'd get angry. I didn't. I explained for the millionth time that life happens, and accidents are part of it. I get angry at deliberate stupidity or not caring about other people. I don't get angry over legit accidents.
She was inconsolable.
I thought about it a minute, trying to remember when I'd gotten the skin. I told her I'd always have the memory of eating the caiman's tail, roasted with lime and garlic over an open fire in the Amazon. It was a pretty small caiman. Then I laughed and told her I think I got that back in 1986 or 1988. I told her I'd had it for more than 30 years, and that was a long enough time to hold onto it.
She finally started laughing. "You had that eight years before I was born!"
And then my mind went back to the story I'm writing and I thought of the people who have been in prison for more than 30 years for non-violent drug offenses. I think we've held on to them for long enough as well.