Thursday, December 06, 2007

Better than tequila? Better than Prozac? Survivor Puerto Vallarta, Episode 2

December 6, 10 am: On my second day in Puerto Vallarta, I met an American ex-pat named Rick. "I raise exotic plants," he told me. Hmmm.... Is that a code word for drugs? "Come and see my nursery. I have carnivorous plants, spices, mutant cactuses..." And drugs? I gotta go check this out. His nursery was all tropical and green and growing and full of all that stuff that you can make plants do if you have a green thumb -- which I do NOT have. I was all jealous.

"But Jane," said my friend Melinda, "You can grow stuff too. I just heard about a new plant food that will revolutionize plant growth and the growing season. August Franklin developed it and it provides a full spectrum of minerals that plants used to have access to but that are now stripped out of the soil by our current methods of growing and harvesting crops. After five years of testing -- with astonishing results including growing strawberries in Maine in October and helping with the ongoing reforestation of Haiti -- Franklin is going to sell his formula to the general public. It's called Wow! And I want you to experiment with it and write about it."

So after all these years of watching the houseplants in my window die one by one, suddenly I know two (2) plant gurus and am about to BECOME a plant guru myself? Life works in mysterious ways. "All the plants I grow here are perfectly legal," Rick continued as we toured his mini-farm. "Here is a plant used to make ayahuasua, a hallucinogenic drug originating in the Amazon basin and used by shamans to induce religious visions." I want to try some of that!

"But even though we grow the plant and it's legal, we still can't ingest it because we don't know how to brew the tea or how big the dose should be. There are actually two plants that go into brewing ayahuasua and you use the vines from the one and the leaves from the other. I grow both plants here -- but I'm not exactly sure what the correct ratio should be." Is anyone out there a medicine man from the Amazon who knows how to brew this stuff up? If you do, then e-mail me, okay?

"And over here we have a Mexican dream plant. It makes a very bitter tea but if you can force it down, it allows you to remember all your dreams -- and in Technicolor too." I wanna remember all my dreams. Sign me up!

"But what kind of dreams will I have?" I asked. "Good ones? Bad ones? And what if I have a nightmare?"

"You will just have the kind of dreams that you would normally have -- only more life-like -- plus you remember them all. And if you have a nightmare? Just get a friend to stand by with a bucket of cold water." Oh.

"And this dream-producing plant over here will supply you with a guide to help you through your dreams. And you can ask the guide questions. I asked my guide what to do about a certain person that I was having trouble with in my life and he replied, 'This person is like an invisible revolving door.' And that answer made the situation very clear -- that I could never get everything straight between me and this person no matter how hard I tried and so I'd better just cut my losses while I still could." That's deep.

So tonight I'm going to try some of the dream tea. How will it go? Please stay tuned.

3 pm: The plant doctor also told me that in Vallarta you can walk into almost any pharmacy here and buy mind-altering drugs without a prescription. Then we discussed the merits of anti-depressants and their ilk such as Wellbutrin, which Dr. Gary Kohls describes as being just a legalized pharmaceutical-grade version of Speed. "Wellbutrin is a dangerous, potentially-addicting amphetamine, so naturally people who take it will feel energized (ie, falsely 'high') at first because it 'gooses' their dopamine and norepinephrine (only temporarily, of course) and then depletes those natural neurotransmitters just like most of the synthetic, neurotoxic so-called antidepressants do." But you can get these types of drugs right over the counter here in Puerto Vallarta. Shhh. Don't tell that to all those poor misinformed teenagers in the US who are prescribed anti-depressants and then go shoot up their schools and their malls.

Then I walked down through the non-tourist part of Vallarta. "If you go up this street half a block," said my host, "the cobblestones end and you are on a dirt road in a village like one you would find anywhere else in Mexico." Interesting. I'll save that treat for tomorrow. But on my way down to the main tourist beach, I passed by a whole bunch of wonderful little shops, small family restaurants and street vendors that did not cater to the tourists.

OMG! There's an Optica! An eye doctor. A glasses store!

I love glasses -- glasses as accessories. I have 18 pairs of them -- including some wire frames left over from the 1960s and those gigantic frames they used to have in the 1970s that now only our grandmothers wear. This optica carried a Buddy-Holly-type frame design, only in white. I was tempted... But no. I'm on a mission. I gotta go find my daughter Ashley a soccer shirt. I promised her.

Then I arrived at the ocean. Wow! There's the ocean!

Maybe I shouldn't fool around with any of those weird dream drugs. Do I really have enough of a brain left to waste it like that? Probably not.

But then I started rationalizing. "What if I was able to use my new powers for good? What if I asked the dream guide to help me find some way to help all those poor Iraq war vets to get over their nightmares?"

And what if the dream guide replied, "But Jane, their nightmares aren't caused by what happened to them over in Iraq. Their nightmares are caused by them returning home and being forced to fit into a meaningless consumer society that revolves around credit card debt, the boob tube and the media's false worship of George W. Bush." That lying scum? Hmmm.....

I need to consult with some of my Marine friends on that one. Yahoo News hinted strongly recently that young people join the Marines to be able to kill people legally. I don't think that's true of the Marines. They're pretty good guys. But I do believe that being able to kill people legally is the real reason that Cheney and Bush stole the White House. But I digress.

Then I talked with my plant guru again. "I'm not going to do this dream stuff if it isn't meaningful. I'm no going to ask for anything for myself."

"Who says that asking for something for yourself can't be meaningful?" he replied. Today I went down and toured a new condo high-rise by the beach. The three-bedroom, three-bathroom upper-story units were selling for 1.2 million dollars apiece. But my goodness they were nice. I could ask the dream guide how to score one of those ones for me. That would be helping out humanity, right? But then someone just e-mailed me a video about how meaningless consumption was BAD ( Did you know that of the world's top 100 economies, 51 of them are corporations? That 100 billion pounds of toxic chemicals are released into the air each year? That 30% of the world's resources are gone and that only 1% of everything bought in the USA would not be thrown in the trash within SIX MONTHS after purchase? And that America's national happiness level PEAKED in the 1950s when planned obsolescence was invented -- and has been going downhill ever since? I was so shocked and appalled that I decided to go back to Plan A -- other people's nightmares. No condo for me.

Okay. I'm gonna do it. I'll take the darn drug. I'll do it for God and country. But don't expect me to have a good time.

11 pm: Rick brewed up some green leaves of a plant called heimia salicifolia. The Axtecs called it "Sun Opener". It tasted like wheat grass juice. "You can tell if you've overdosed if you start seeing purple," he warned me. "Oh, and sometimes it doesn't work." Am I brave enough to finish this whole cup? Nah. I'm lying here in bed reading Alex Farr's book Undertow and the pages are starting to look purple to me!

December 7: I may have chickened out on finishing drinking the dream guide brew, but at least I got a good sleep.

And as to how to help Iraq war vets to overcome nightmares? That's easy. I don't need to take drugs to figure out that -- or maybe the dream guide DID whisper the correct answer into my ear while I was asleep. In any case, here it is: "Let's just get these vets involved in the War at Home -- the War on Greed. We still need fighters over here."

"You have been taught discipline by the military, guys," the dream guide may or may not have said. "You know how to get things done. You're not just a bunch of mindless former grunts. You've got skills. Use them to organize politically. Motivate people. Run for office." Live simply. Save the freaking planet. There is your real war.

So. What should I do today in Puerto Vallarta? Visit the local health clinic? Check out the education system? Buy Baby New Year one of those frilly pink Mexican dresses? BNY, my new granddaughter, is due in just 25 days!

And speaking of BNY, I just thought of something else that the freaking vets could do to avoid nighmares. They could go back to school. Become teachers. Help children. The fate of the world lies in the hands of our next generation of kids.


Link to Rick's website: