September 2014

Learning about shrooms; fighting the DMV

By Art Goodtimes

SHROOMFEST … If you missed the Telluride Mushroom Festival last month, you didn’t get to experience a wonderful mycological conference of ground-breaking national import in several respects, and a marvelous fungal celebration that culminated in the zany annual mushroom parade. Miss Stinkhorn won the top costume prize (including over $500 in product from Aloha Medicinals), while Team Chaga took the group costume prize. And there were many wild and weird costumes beyond that … As for the lectures, let me touch on one highlight.

THE TALKING GOURD

Entheogens:
What Takes You to God

What’s to wait for?
McRedeye tells
the Red Monk

Sit
like you might never
get up again

Start that
singing inside
some call prayer

& others Ayahuasca
Psilocybe
Cannabis sativa

Every chair
in death’s waiting room
attaches to a sacred ground

Be still as dirt
& let the mind become
Gaia’s quantum flowering

Beings pulsing
with the lyric electricity
of everything

ALOHA MEDICINALS … John Holliday of Aloha Medicinals gave a fascinating lecture on Cordyceps spp – the fungi that infects insects of many kinds and has proven medicinal effects. Shroomfest Director Rebecca Fyffe called Holliday the “pre-eminent mycologist in the West on medicinal fungi.” Cordyceps is an anti-viral compound that in much of the world is used for the treatment of cancer and HIV, Holliday explained. But in the U.S. it’s used as a dietary supplement. Many have used Cordyceps as a performance enhancer. And not just people. Holliday said that the racehorses that have won derbies in the last 10 years have all used Cordyceps … But perhaps his most interesting claim involved studies of feedlot cattle. Most are given antibiotics to increase bulk and to prevent disease. But feedlot cattle in the studies he cited showed comparable increased bulk when given a blend of Cordyceps, which controlled disease better and resulted in no deaths, while antibiotics killed a significant percentage of the cattle treated. Plus, the Cordyceps blend was cheaper than the antibiotics … But that wasn’t his only amazing factoid. He had one more “wow” moment for all of us when he started talking about stinkhorns, a group of fungal fruiting bodies famous for their bad smell.

DICHTYOPHORA … The indusiata species of this stinkhorn genus is known in Hawaii as the Veiled Lady and according to a paper that Holliday, a specialist in tropical fungi, co-authored in 2001 in the International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 6 of 20 women exposed to the smell of this edible stinkhorn experienced immediate orgasms, and the 10 others had verifiable physiological symptoms, including higher heart rates. The 20 men in the study merely thought the odor “disgusting”. While some mycologists have dismissed this unusual effect, Holliday sticks to his guns. “It happens,” he explained on the Palm Stage … Not altogether surprisingly, a number of local women have expressed a desire to do further research. I’m looking forward to hearing all I can learn about this amazing hypothesis … The more common stinkhorn, Phallus indusiatus, which grows in many places around the world, was served up in a meal to Henry Kissinger when he first visited China.

COURTNEY WHITE … For years I’ve been following my former Sierra Club friend Courtney as he’s pulled together savvy ranchers, range innovators, environmental crusaders, biological wizards, and a host of disparate rural leaders to form one of the nation’s most unusual forums for New Ag talkers and doers – the Quivira Coalition. His 2008 book, “Revolution on the Range: The Rise of a New Ranch in the American West” (Island Press) was a series of informative case studies of ranches where conflict had given way to collaboration. Examples where solutions had been found in the Radical Middle. Durango’s own David James, who sells his products at the Telluride Farmer’s Market and has pasture in San Miguel County, was one of the featured vignettes in that book … White’s latest book is co-authored with Michael Pollan, “Grass, Soil, Hope: A Journey Through Carbon Country” (2014) … Because San Miguel County is studying a Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES) project involving carbon ranching, we’ve invited Courtney up to discuss the concept – as in perhaps offsetting the carbon footprint of East End industrial tourism by supporting carbon-sequestering ranch practices in the West End with direct financial payments. As White responded in a recent interview in the June issue of Resilience magazine, “Everybody loves a good story, and in a good story there’s almost always a bad guy. Climate change is a complex, difficult story to tell and it helps a lot if there’s a clear bad guy to target, in this case carbon dioxide and the corporations and industrial activities that produce it. It’s an effective strategy – and one that makes a great deal of sense – but it has the unfortunate side effect of tarring all carbon with a negative image. In reality, as I say over and over in the book, carbon is a good guy – the essential element of life, in fact. By stigmatizing carbon, however, we overlook its vast potential to do good – and not just in the climate context. Increasing the carbon content of our soils can sustainably increase our capacity to produce more food, retain more water in the ground, and sequester carbon dioxide” … Courtney spoke three times in San Miguel County. Interested parties ought to consider attending the Quivira Coalition’s annual meeting this coming November in Albuquerque. Check their website for details.

DMV DEBACLE You have to love the chutzpah of the state of Colorado. First, our friend Gov. Ritter ups the automobile registration fees and makes us pay more for the same service. And then Gov. Hickenlooper pulls the plug on staffers, so that service at the state Dept. of Motor Vehicles is severely affected ... I don’t need to go into every detail of my own personal nightmare trying to get my son a driver’s test and license last week. But I discovered a few things … In order to make an appointment at the Cortez or Montrose DMV office, I had to call Denver. I couldn’t make an appointment in Cortez in person (though I tried) … As it happened, I had to call Denver three times. First, I got put on hold for 15 minutes and then the office closed at 5 p.m. and my phone went dead. The second time I got put on hold for 30 minutes and had a nice person explain there were only two operators for the entire state (clearly state registration-fee hikes didn’t go to this office). The third time I waited 45 minutes and a very nice person explained that there was only one operator on duty for the whole state. By that time the soonest my boy could take a driving test in Montrose or Delta was Sept. 9 … The upshot of Denver appointments and the long wait for service was that no one ever calls back to cancel an appointment and so lots of dropped appointments mean employees twiddling their thumbs. A crazy system … However, the kindly woman/ lone operator told me that I didn’t have to use the state driving testers to take a driving test. I could use private testers? That was news to me … Luckily, my son Gorio and I did just that.

DEBBIE LEVERETT … So, after getting refused a driving test by a completely idle DMV employee in Cortez who was earlier precluded from making an appointment with me face to face, Gorio and I ended up in Montrose that same afternoon at the offices of Western Slope Driving Institute where Debbie was manager. She was most helpful. Did the paperwork carefully. Took Gorio for a quick test. And what was going to take the state several weeks, interminable phone calls, and another appointment to get done, got done by the private sector in a speedy half-hour. Plenty of time to make it over to the Montrose DMV office before they closed, and Gorio got his license … If you want to avoid one of the state’s most underfunded programs at its worst, consider booking your driving test through Debbie. 970-254-1294 … You’ll be glad you did.

PROOF OF RESIDENCE Here’s another wonderful catch-22. The state’s DMV now requires proof of residence. And mail to your post-office box doesn’t count. Even though, in Norwood, a post-office box is your only official resident address, since the Postal Service doesn’t deliver to street addresses, nor will it deliver mail to street addresses. According to the Feds, your post-office box is your official residential address … But Colorado doesn’t recognize that. So, before you head to the driver’s license office, be sure to find some official paper that lists your street address, or you won’t get serviced.

Art Goodtimes is a five-term county commissioner in San Miguel County, Colo.