Ed Rosenthal: Grow Like a Pro
Ed Rosenthal: Grow Like a Pro

Peter Gorman's Fantastic Tales: Mushrooms in India, Hash in Morocco, Beers in Peru

Peter Gorman’s latest book and on a boat in the Amazon.

The adventures of Peter Gorman are chronicled in this quasi-memoir, Magic Mushrooms in India and Other Fantastic Tales. Gorman's best known for his work in the Amazon, where he's spent the good part of the last three decades hunting for rare flora and connecting with shaman who turned him on to ayahuasca and other exotic hallucinogens.

Gorman first wrote about Peru in High Times, where he was a staff writer and editor in the '80s and '90s. (We met there in the late '80s.) Several of these stories first appeared in High Times - his visits to India seeking mushrooms and bhang and to Morocco on the kif trail.

You have to know who Gorman is to try to understand how he got here. I recommend starting mid-book with the "New York" chapter, continue to the end and then read the the first half.

Gorman's New York stories are a hoot - when his trunks fell down during a swim meet and a big brawl he once got into in Greenwich Village. Gorman grew up in a large Irish-American family that includes artists and cops. He went to Woodstock, but didn't have a good time so he only devotes a few sentences to that experience.

Two gringos in the Katama hash region are pretty much marks for narcs, but Gorman somehow manages to inflitrate the heavily protected area. 

In the hilarious title story, Gorman eats a dozen shrooms as his ganja-puffing guide takes him to a tourist trap before they finally wind up in the jungle. "We were walking on a scrub path littered with paper and beer cans, not 50 feet from a rainforest at nearly 9,000 feet, but he wasn't going in," Gorman writes about the guide to Pillar Rocks in Kodaikanal. "Talking no more, I dashed into the shoala despite his protests. I filled my lungs and ran through the thick underbrush, catching my clothes and hair on vines and branches, then tumbled on a tangle of roots and came to rest at the foot of a small shrine to one of the people who had investigated the crevices without a rope."

Gorman and a photographer barely survive a trip to the Rif Mountains in Morocco where most of the world's hash is grown and made. Two gringos in the Katama region are pretty much marks for narcs, but Gorman somehow manages to inflitrate the heavily protected area. They make it out by the skin of their teeth.

While those stories are somewhat dated, they're still great reads. The last three chapters on Peru bring readers more up-to-date. Gorman lived in New York when he started going to the Amazon on a regular basis in the early '90s. He met his wife Chepa there and raised two of her children and one of their own in New York before they separately moved to Texas and ultimately divorced. Over the last two decades, Gorman has led ayahuasca tours to Iquitos and beyond. The book doesn't tell of his many bites and skin-eating infections (his ayahuasca stories are told in Ayahuasca in My Blood), though he does go on at length about a jungle feast (Gorman's also a chef) he once supervised. It's like a story out of Fitzcarraldo.

When the heavily stocked boat gets stuck in the middle of the Amazon on tree trucks, Gorman dives in. "Of course, nobody likes to jump into the Amazon, and we took our time trying to come up with other solutions," he admits. "There was none and finally Hector and I shed our pants and shoes and clambered over the side into the river. I wrapped my hands around the top of the aluminum boat's hull and clung on for dear life."

Now 71, it's been a long, strange trip for Peter Gorman, author of three fascinating books and subject of the 2019 documentary, More Joy Less Pain

 

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Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of CelebStoner.com, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.