Friday, December 21, 2007

Just the traditional stuff -- pot and tequila: Survivor Puerto Vallarta, Episode 8

(This photo was taken by Sarah Hepting at my talk on Iraq).

In 1776, America set an example for the whole world. THIS is what a Republic was like..."but only if you can keep it," added Benjamin Franklin. Well, we lost our Republic to a bunch of cattle rustlers claiming to be patriots. Oh well. But now America has a bigger and better chance to set an even bigger and better example for the world. Hey, guys, let's clean house and show the other six billion people on the planet how it's done.

What will the new American Republic be like? Evolved? Humanitarian? Honest? How about dreaming up something that will make me want to come home to the USA instead of just longing to stay down here forever because the people in Puerto Vallarta are so interesting, friendly and nice?

Maybe we can follow the example of the friendly Huitchol Indians and give everyone in America a ritual dose of peyote to wake them all up. The mall isn't everything, you know. Human ideals and aspirations to higher things need to come first on our shopping list. And making America completely self-sufficient should be second on said shopping list. That's COMPLETELY self-sufficient -- down to the last job and the last steel mill and the last basket of strawberries and the last product-not-made-in-China. To hell with Globalization. But I digress. This report from Vallarta is supposed to be about the drug-and-alcohol scene here and about a talk I just gave to Puerto Vallarta's ex-pat community. Let's get on with that.

"IS there a big drug scene down here?" I asked my friend Rick, a botanist who specializes in exotic plants (

"There are two types of drug users here as far as I can tell -- the locals and the tourists. The tourists seem to want to try everything but the locals are more traditional -- they stick to tequila and pot." Apparently tourists come down here to let everything hang out and boy do they. "Not that I'm saying that the tourists aren't traditionalists too. Pot and alcohol is just fine with them. But they ARE also willing to experiment and branch out." Tourists who are willing to sacrifice their vacations to research? It doesn't get more heroic than that!

From what I have heard, many types of US prescription drugs such as Valium, Quaaludes, anti-depressants, uppers and downers are available over the counter at the local farmacia. "No, Jane, they don't sell Quaaludes any more. They don't even MAKE Quaaludes any more." I'm that far out of the drug loop these days? Oh.

According to my local sources, Ecstasy, marijuana, speed, crack and hashish are also available down on the beach. Apparently, however, there isn't as much heroin available down here as there is back in the States. Bush and Cheney's Afghanistan pipeline hasn't gotten down here quite yet -- but give it time.
And also you can make or buy tinctures of medical marijuana that are good for joint pain. Hey, I got joint pain! I could use some of that. "You soak the leaves in oil and then just rub it in," said one of my ex-pat friends.

"But how long do you soak it? A day? A week?"

"Sure, but a month would be better."

For the more adventurous tourists, there are also several more esoteric drugs around if one wants to expand one's consciousness, but they are harder to find. Salvia divinorium is legal here. It was originally grown by the Mazatec indians in Oaxaca and used to induce trances. Apparently you ingest its leaves and it knocks you unconscious for about five minutes. But couldn't you just do that with a baseball bat?

"No, Jane, you've got that wrong too. Used traditionally in shamanic ways for divination, etc., salvia is an introspective and visual experience but if used in concentrated forms in modern (US) methods, it knocks you into a five-minute extreme hallucinogenic state where you lose consciousness. But when the effects wear off, you do remember what happened. Sorry, Jane. No complete loss of consciousness. No baseball bat effect."

What other drug variations can one find down here? Hmmm.... There's peyote, a cactus grown in the Sierra Madres and also used to produce hallucinations. And mescaline and psilocybin aka magic mushrooms. And there's Baby Hawaiian Woodrose seeds which, when ingested, act sort of like LSD. Florists used to sell them in the States in the 1960s but not any more.

Ayahuasca, the shamanic drink from the Amazon? Check. And we finally found a recipe on how to brew it: You take the bark of a one-foot length of the vine which gives you a MAO inhibitor that lets the leaves of another plant into your brain. Then you boil the whole thing all day; down into a brown sludge. Then you drink it. I could do that!

"But Jane, you need to fast for two days first before you drink the brew." Forget it. Two whole days without food? Not going to happen.

And then there are the sugar addicts like me. A slice or two of coconut cream pie can give you a very nice high. But unfortunately it wears off -- as does all of this stuff. Be it drugs, alcohol or sugar, eventually you gotta come back to reality. So why not just fix reality instead?

"The locals just stick to pot and tequila." But wait. Is marijuana LEGAL in Mexico? Nope. But the cops don't enforce the minor use of pot in most cases. You get something like a parking ticket for possession -- if the cops even bother to go that far -- and it doesn't go on your permanent record either. And this keeps Mexican taxpayers from having to spend billions and billions of dollars each year keeping all those traditionalist hombres in jail.

As for alcohol, I just got a flier shoved under my door for a local AA meeting. Here's a rough translation of what it said: "Are you living your life in the shadows? Do you want to stop drinking? Come to an AA meeting and we can help." Good. Half of Puerto Vallarta probably needs to show up! This entire town is awash with margaritas, kahlua, tequila, pineapple daquris, Presidente brandy, cerveza Corona and rum-and-Coke. And up in the mountains behind PV, they make a killer bootleg tequila moonshine called Raicilla. Hold onto your hat!

December 19: "We just loved your talk," said an American ex-pat after I had gotten done giving my audience a verbal tour of the US military bases of Iraq, describing to a rather large audience (50 people!) what the life of an embedded reporter was like from beginning to end -- from arriving all jet-lagged at the Kuwait City airport to riding a Rhino into the Green Zone to living in a "can" at Al Asad airbase to riding in a Humvee convoy out to a forward operating base in Ambar -- and then doing the whole thing over again only in reverse. My speech was a bit hit! Plus I got free guacamole on the house.

My audience (at the "Que? Pasa" restaurant and bar was composed mostly of American, British and Canadian ex-pats. There was a retired architect from St. Louis, a British writer from London, a Canadian former career military officer, etc. And one man was an expert on geothermal energy production. Geothermal energy? Never heard of it.

"They use it in Iceland and Israel," he said. "You tap into the earth's endless heat supply." It's apparently cheaper than coal and doesn't have the life-threatening side-effects of nuclear energy. "Currently the US government subsidizes the nuclear and coal industries." He said that these industries were subsidized for billions of dollars worth of taxpayers' money which the industries then gave to their lobbyists so they could bribe Congress to give them even MORE of our money for dirty energy that costs an arm and a leg. I forgot the exact amounts that he said were wasted by pollutors and special-interest groups in these two industires every year, but it wasn't my fault. I got distracted by the guacamole. "If the government starts to invest the same amount of money into geothermal energy that they have already poured into coal and nuclear energy, we'd have all the clean energy we need."

You meet the most interesting people in ex-pat communities.

And while I was giving my speech on Iraq, I also harangued the audience about my book-publishing woes. "You have no idea how hard I've worked to publicize my book in the past month and then somebody who had actually TRIED to buy an actual copy just e-mailed me that it was no longer available on either Amazon or Barnes & Noble online. What! All that work for nothing! I almost broke down and cried.

It seems that the company that printed my book had stopped printing it for one whole freaking month while they inserted my revision into their computer (a process which takes approximately five minutes) but had neglected to notify me that the book was no longer available. Sigh. And what's worse, it won't even be back online for purchase until January 2008! So I passed around my one sole remaining copy of "Bring Your Own Flak Jacket" and everyone said that it looked like a very interesting book. Hell yeah.

Then someone asked me what I thought America should do about Iraq. "I'm not really sure about the details," I replied, "but the very important first step cleaning up that whole mess is to put Bush and Cheney in jail." That answer got a lot of applause.