The HerbalBum, HerbAlbum, and Basilio Day

From the HerbAlbum:

Basilio Day

A memorable Basilio Day. Oct. 10, 2012, has come and gone. I already miss the warm feelings, on our first day of frost. Only a handful of my Amazonian friends will know what the blazes is Basilio Day. Basilio Day commemorates Basilio Sahuarico, one of the many excellent guides who has led thousands of American ecotourists thru the forests surrounding four remarkable camps near Iquitos Peru; Ceiba Tops, Explorama, Explornapo (where they have a labeled medicinal plants garden called the ReNuPeru Garden) and the most remote camp, near the very impressive Canopy Walkway.

Basilio in the Peruvian Amazon. Photo by Anna Wallis 2012

Since 1991, I have spent more that 50 weeks visiting these camps with somewhere between 7 and 108 tourists thirsty for knowledge about the flora and fauna of Amazonias. I was there to help them sort out identifications and uses, especially medicinal uses of the flora . Most of my tours specifically requested Basilio as our guide, not only because of his knowledge of the Flora and Fauna, but because of his musical and organizational talent, rounding up local musicians playing and singing various Andean and Amazonian and some North American tunes. His singing is phenomenal and brightened many of the nights at the remote camps, where some novice tourists may have felt a little homesickness. Not me. Since my first trip in 1991, when I discarded the cervical collar (for cervical problems, alias slipped disks), I have always felt at home on these camps, more so than anywhere else in the world, except my current home of 42 years, at the Green Farmacy Garden in Fulton.

Basilio in the Amazon at Explorama. Photo by Jess Holt. 2012.

Surely thousands of gringo tourists have thousands of photos and recordings of Basilio and his great tenor voice. Thanks to the generosity of Dr. Andrea Ottesen, now with the FDA, Basilio was able to come to the Green Farmacy Garden and reciprocate, filming the quaint culture of the gringos, their music, their flora and fauna. But thanks to my love for Mexican mariachi music, we got him to two excellent local Mexican restaurants. First we took him to La Palapa , only one mile from here as the crow flies. On the 5th of every month, they have a full fledged mariachi band to celebrate the famed cinco de Mayo festival, independence day of the Mexicans. They had the usual small Mexican guitar, a regular guitar, the overgrown guitarron (almost a hybrid between the upright bass and the guitar,) and the trumpet. Basilio filmed the whole show, concentrating on the guitarron. Years ago, Helen Lowe Metzman, director of the Green Farmacy Garden, had mailed Basilio with specification details of a guitarron. Basilio’s uncle in Lima fashioned and made a guitarron, which I played more than once on ecotours after Basilio’s uncle completed it. That guitarron on which the specifications were measured belonged to my good friend Bruce Casteel, a great classical artist himself. He plays every Sunday night at a local Tapas Restaurant, Rana Azul, like the famed blue frogs of Latin America. That puts Peggy and me in a quandary every Sunday night when we have to choose between dining tapas-style to Bruce’s classical guitar of going mariachi at La Azteca. But this Sunday with Basilio here, we opted for La Azteca, where Basilio not only filmed the mariachi duo, Los Trovadores (Salvador Rivas Najera from Salvador and Rogelio Valdes from Mexico). Yes, Sunday Oct. 7, Andrea and Peggy and I took Basilio to hear Los Trovadores.. They were as always good; but they benevolently and generously acceded to Basilio’s request. They let Basilio sing along with them as a group we jokingly called El Trio Los Panchos (suggestive of another long famous Latino trio). But the Trovadores, and patrons of the restaurant, specially with my table, the management and waiters and waitresses, were all delighted with the trio. The management agreed to cater food for 30 for Oct. 10, Basilio Day. Coincidentally, Helen Lowe and Eric Metzman, himself also a good guitarist, came from another room in the Restaurant, to listen to Basilio singing with the Trovadores. Helen and Eric were there with both their mothers and fathers, and Helen’s daughter, Elana, who flew to Thailand on Oct. 9. Also Helen’s niece Elise. We captured some of that Sunday Night mariachi music on film which Basilio can take back to Peru..

For Basilio Day, proper, we had Bruce Casteel playing classical guitar on the patio, all the while being filmed by the 3-person videographer team Stephen Dignan drove down from New York City. Stephen plans to publish on-demand with Apple applications a mini book we are working on, an illustrated booklet on wild flowers of Catoctin State Park. Turns out Peggy and I helped my son John Carl and his wife Sandy buy a home near the park about twenty years back.  John and his son, John James, came over to help clean up the garden for Basilio Day and to jam with Basilio when we moved into country music. Bruce played classical 8-string guitar from 3-4 PM. Beautiful and often tear jerking for me. Later I joined Bruce, me trying to play tremelo bass for my favorite of his songs, Recuerdos del Alhambra, always lachrymatory.

Bruce Casteel playing Recuerdos del Alhambra for Jim

I was pleased to see the Trovadores, the aforementioned mariachis from Restaurante La Azteca, arrive on time at 4:00 dressed up like mariachis and with Rogelio’s own camera. Helen was pleased to shoot material of their performance on Rogelio’s camera. I backed them up on the bass fiddle on about half of their more familiar numbers. (I have been listening to Salvador’s duo, in three or four pre-Rogelio versions, all good, for about five years. So I am pretty used to their repertoires and renditions. Towards the end they did my favorite mariachi song,  the Antonio Aguilar song Albur de Amor. As they filmed that, we had a Cuna Indian mola depicting Antonio Aguilar. I brought this very elegant mola from the Cuna Indians of Panama back in the 1960′s, more than 50 years ago.  The few times I looked at their screen (depicting what their cameras were seeing), I felt that they were getting some good video footage. Hope they the NY videographers and Rogelio will share some good clips with us for the website.

Jim playing bass, The Los Trovodores playing guitars, and Basilio (in all white) singing

By five o’clock, with Los Trovadores still playing great mariachi music, the new Howard County Dumpsters country musicians started dribbling in. Howard County Dump was a name we selected maybe 40 years ago when there was a bumper sticker out saying Dump the Howard County Dump. Mike Schenk, our usual regular banjo picker and his wife Ann and friendly dog Shadow, were here. Shadow posed well later when I howled with the SJW song. My son John Carl Duke, and my grandson, John James Duke had been here all along, enjoying the classical and mariachi music, but they were getting anxious to play themselves. Then young Jared Guilford, an excellent mandolinist, dropped in, making critical mass for country and bluegrass. Like my son John, Jared is a good upright bass player as well. And our intern Sara Saurus has picked up picking the bass pretty well herself this summer. She is more picturesque than I, and always happy to spare me on the bass fiddle. Last guest to arrive was Brian Dorothy , expert fiddler with whom I once played professionally, ca 3 decades ago. (You can see Brian, John, Mike and Sara backing me up on the Sogera song the following youtube site and read the words at the bottom of this blog.)

Jared, Yukon John, Mike, Little John, Jim and Victoria

You’ll even see a snippet of Anna Wallis, another of our garden interns playing guitar on the El Sogero song out by the ayahuasca vine in the garden. Anna was here for Basilio Day. So was Holly Chittum, another intern who replaced Anna. Holly brought one of my favorite foods, cornbread. Victoria Aurich, fresh back from a great diving trip to Bonaire, as always brought organic goodies and served as my music stand, holding up my words for me. A shame when I do not even know my own songs!. Victoria had been on a U. Md trip to the Amazon with Andrea and me about five year ago. Also in attendance was Dr. Gail Moreschi, MD, with the FDA. Gail had been on one of our Amazon trips and accompanied Helen and me to Cuba in March of 2012. That’s why I was pleased when the Trovadores plated Guantanamera for Basilio Day.

The filming crew

Basilio seemed to enjoy the catered Mexican foods, and the potluck items brought by his American friends and students, the wine and the beer in moderation, but most of all he enjoyed singing along with the eclectic Mexican music and North American bluegrass and country. He had taken a lot of pictures himself, a fair turnaround. Thousands of American visitors touring the Explorama lodges have taken thousands of pictures on Basilio, playing Amazon and Andean and North America music. On this trip Basilio took thousands of pics of mariachis and gringos playing Mexican and North American songs. Last Saturday, 6 Oct., an aromatherapist, Eileen Cristina, and her husband Eric, who had traveled to south France with Peggy and me on an aromatherapy symposium, took a lot of pictures of Basilio. They now plan to go to Explorama, having seen and heard Basilio.  But she forgot her camera when she left. We could mail her camera to her. But on the morning of Basilio’s  flight out of Dulles, Oct 12, I got a frantic call from Andrea at 6:50 AM. who had gotten himo to Dulles Airport for the first leg of his trip home to Panama, thence to Iquitos. But without his camera, full of his week’s footage. Basilio was devastated, he feared correctly that he had left his camera on our living room table. I verified. We cannot trust the mail to get his camera from here to Iquitos. Peggy just called down that someone in a red shirt had come by and picked up Basilio’s camera. That was probably Elmer, Andrea’s friend from Guatemala. I hope they got it to Dulles International before Basilio’s flight took off. He really treasured all the footage he himself had taken.  I hope they got it to Basilio by flight time If not, we may have to wait until we can get a reliable courier, someone we know and trust to handcarry it to Basilio. Or maybe Andrea can somehow open his camera, and copy on to something else what will be just as useful to Basilio. And hopefully with some of the shots Stephen’s crew took of Basilio Day and maybe even some of Rogelio’s footage from Basilio Day. Basilio had some of the travel problems that we elderly gringoes often experience. I hope he is waking up this AM in the warmth of Panama, where I have spent an aggregate of some 4 years. This morning, Oct 13 we had our first frost. I am glad Basilio missed the first frost, always depressing to me. And as I close this rant, my stomach still churns. It is 6:00 PM on our first day of frost. And I am not sure his camera caught up with Basilio. We all hope so and will somehow replace or overwhelm him with our own film of basilio Day. Basilio, thanks for enduring this; friends of Basilio, hope you treasured and enjoyed Basilo Day as much as I did.

Basilio at the White House. Photo by Andrea Ottesen 2012.

We will include some of the words to a few of my songs that we used below: I post my revised words to Guantamera, revised when I disappointingly realized that the real Guantanamera was a male peasant from Guantanamo, not a county girl from Guantanamo.

SOME PERTINENT DOGGEREL

GUANTANESPANTA (my parody on Guantanamera)
Yo soy un gringo sincero
Estudio hierbas entero
Y es claro que quiero
Vivo Guantanamero
Guantanamera, me busca Guantanamera,
Siempre creiendo, que es mujer, la Guantanamera.
Yo soy un gringo llorando;
No hay la Guantanamera
Mi miente mi engaño
Hay Guantanespanta

Paradise Lost
(Parodyzing Paradise)
words by jim duke

(Can be sung to the tune of John Prine’s paradise)

I praise you John Prine, and I hope you don’t mind,
If I mimic your song, to help the forest along.
Even while I am singing, the axeman is swinging,
Choppin’ down all that green, to plant corn, squash and bean.

Chorus(male): Daddy won’t you take me to the primary forest
By the Amazon river where Paradise lies?
I’m sorry my son, but the forest is gone!
I’ll show you some slides, that’ll have to suffice!

If you’ll not name me, there’s something I’ll mention
And where credit is due, I’ll quote Peter Jenson.
There may be stronger reasons, but I can’t think of any,
We may lose the forest “because we’re too many”!
Basilio would sing us a John Denver song
And the gringos enchanted would sing right along;
And two decades later still singing away
He will be singing for Basilio Day
Oh axeman unkind, you are blowing my mind!
Camu-camu and brazilnut, they can help fill your gut.
But year after year, once the forest is clear,
You’ll have less and less food, and you’ll run out of wood.
The Jason tv, caught the shaman and me;
The kids could all see, he could talk to a tree.
Must’a been quite a scare, for the mahuna there;
For them the tv’s, like a spaceship to me
Never thought ecotours, could be one of the cures;
Taking “green” bucks from gringos, getting mud on their toes.
If the ecotours thrive, indian cultures survive,
And the children will strive, to keep tradition alive.

Chorus (female) Momma won’t you take me to the primary forest
On the Amazon river where Paradise lies?
I’m sorry my daughter, but I don’t think I oughta‘
We’ve waited too long, now the forest is gone!

No place I’d rather go, than to cruise on the Napo;
Hoping some of my pleas, kinda’ help save the trees.
I’d rather you’d find me, sunnin’ with the tree huggers
Than back in DC, arunnin’ from muggers!

It’s quite element’ry, our praise for Al Gentry,
Whose conserving career really helped at ACEER.
The best botany brain, went down with Al’s plane,
And although he is gone, we must still carry on.
Cacao, camu camu, cat’s claw, and dragon’s blood
The forest’s the best, for your medicine chest.
Aware of these goods, you still chop down the woods.
You’d best spare that tree, cause it might help spare thee.
DNA helices, ayahuasca the species
It’s the true vine divine. and a good friend of mine
Wondrous visions are seen, thru its telepathine
Like I’ve been told, ‘tis the vine of the soul

Jim telling stories of La Soga, Banisteriopsis caapi.  2007

EL SOGERO

(Parody on The Pilgrim [aka Going Up was Worth the Coming Down]-Kris Kristopherson)

HE HAD TASTED GOOD AND EVIL IN BOTH BEDROOM AND BORDELLO
TRADING ALL OF HIS TOMORROWS FOR TODAYS
PONDERING WHERE TO GO, HE TRIPPED DOWN TO OLD LORETO
CONTEMPLATING THE AYAHUASCA WAYS.
IT WAS REALLY QUITE A FAR CRY FROM NEW YORK TO OLD NANAY
FROM THE ASPHALT THAT HE KNEW DOWN TO PERU
IN HIS SEARCH FOR THE DIVINE, HE DESIGNED TO MINE THE VINE
AND THE THROWING UP WAS WORTH THE COMIN’ DOWN
YES THE THROWING UP WAS WORTH THE COMIN’ DOWN
HE’S A POET, HE’S A PROPHET
HE’S A WALKING CONTRADICTION, KINDA LOW WHEN FLYING HIGH
HE’S A BRUJO, A SOGERO
VOLANDERO, CURANDERO;
WITH CELESTIAL CONNECTIONS, HE NOW NAVIGATES THE SKY.
AND THE THROWING UP WAS WORTH THE COMING DOWN;
AND THE GOING UP IS COMING BACK AROUND!
HANDSOME, TALL AND LANKY, NEVER CRASS OR CRANKY,
COOLEST GREENEST MAN I EVER SEEN.
HAD A BALL AND FRANKLY, LOTTA GRASS AND HANKY PANKY,
EATING AND SIPPING JUNGLE GREEN
MIXED UM ALL UP ONE DAY, SOGA AND YAGE
BOILED UM `MOST ‘AWAY, WITH SOME TO-E
ENTONCES EL TOME, AND HE SOFTLY FLEW AWAY,
WITH THE JAGUA AND THE BOA ALL AT PLAY
AND THE THROWING UP, WAS WORTH THE GOIN’ WAY
IT REALLY AIN’T MY THESIS, BUT PROPULSIVE EMESIS
CLEARS THE VIEW OF ENTHEISM
CLEARING ALL DECISIONS, CLEANSING ALL THE VISIONS,
TUNING TO THOSE NEW GODS DEEP WITHIN!
THE SIGHTS THEY STILL REMIND US, THAT THE PURGIN’ IS BEHIND US,
ARRANGING INSTEAD NEW VIEWS AHEAD.
GODS KEEP RECURRING, BLACK JAGUARS KEEP A’PURRING;
AS WE GO TO CLIMB THE ROYAL RAINBOW;

[[EXTRA LINES: JICAROS URGING, THE END OF THE PURGING

THE SHAMAN SHE NODS, WE’RE ONE WITH THE GODS.
AND THE BOAS, EVER WISE, CLIMB UP TO THE SKIES
AND THE THROWING UP WAS WORTH THE GOING UP
AND THE GOING UP IS COMING BACK AROUND]]

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2 Responses to The HerbalBum, HerbAlbum, and Basilio Day

  1. Rande Nezezon ND says:

    Dr. Duke : You are one of my Natural Medicine Heroes. Thanks for all you do to promote herbs and their healing powers. Rande Nezezon ND

  2. leigh Olshan says:

    Dr.Duke:
    Thank you for letting me into your world last year. I have enjoyed your books and your news letters. …., I hope the camera found it’s rightful owner by now and your guest has fine memories.

    Being able to see your wonderful garden last year has encouraged me to follow your path with
    my garden in the Northern Neck of Virginia. We will trade our “condo” for a garden when we move shortly from Reston,Viriginia. (same email) I would think that your own personal history must give you great satisfaction today and your newsletters encourage us to have our own love affair with our herbs and plants. Keep them coming!
    Leigh Olshan

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