|Fish for dinner!
Trout fully cooked —
his assertions about "pachanots" and "Backberg clones"
were his petty nonsense. They are the real San Pedro after all...
of the context within which I wrote this review
I was a student at the
School of Visual Arts (NYC) in 1970. One of the
writers for Goodson-Todman Productions asked me to
be a contestant on their TV show "To Tell The
Truth." The person we were pretending to be was
[...he graduated from the university in 1970 with a
Bachelor of Arts in Magic, becoming the first
and only person to have ever received any kind of
academic degree in Magic from an accredited
The contestants get
together for an afternoon meeting to learn about the
person they will pretend to be. Isaac gave me and
the other guy, an attorney from New Jersey, copies
of his thesis with which the University of
California granted him a Masters Degree in Magic.
You have to remember that after Woodstock and the
turbulent 1960's things were very liberal and
experimental. So UC Berkeley let Isaac write his own
ticket; he created a degree program in Neosatanism.
getting to the point. We took his "Magic Masters
Thesis" home with us to study —in order to help us
fake out the panel by knowing details about Isaac.
The next day I saw the lawyer backstage before we
went out in front of the audience. He was outraged
at the "piece of crap" thesis Bonewits had
written. I had to agree it was a strange,
disorganized mess of different colors of copy paper
badly stapled into a pile. I never forgot the
attorney looking at me in disbelief saying "This
is crap! How did a University give him a
Masters Degree for this? If I had turned in anything
like this at my college I'd have been
is how I felt when I first obtained the Trout
on San Pedro. The work was as undisciplined and
messy as the Bonewits papers. When I wrote this
review I had finished a career as a technical writer
in Silicon Valley to retire away from the crowded
madness of the Bay Area. I immediately saw that the
book was one of those "self published" arrangements
where the printer does not change anything the
author submits. There was an obvious lack of any
professional level copy editing.
give you a context for appreciating the need for an
editor. In James Michener's biography he mentioned
working with his editor at Random House for a year on a finished
manuscript. That is the process by which you
transform raw manuscripts into well organized,
highly readable books. No such effort was made with
San Pedro. The
writing is dreadful.
The photos were similarly
a great disappointment. As a visual artists I used
to edit peoples Kodak pictures in those long gone
days when you were handed a thick stack when
visiting someone's home. "Here! Look at our
vacation photos! Look at our baby photos!" And I would start dealing them
out in piles "What are you doing!?"
I'd explain that one
pile was duplicates, another contained the
underexposed, blurred, or totally uninteresting
ones, etc. Now here is the interesting thing—the
reaction to my sorting out the "good pictures" from
the trash was never well received. "Oh no! Don't
get them out of order!" they'd complain.
To me it
was better to save 10% of the most interesting
photos than to inflict that huge stack of bad ones
on visitors. But I learned that non-professionals
don't edit their writing or their images. They think
everything they do is perfect. When I was hired as a
contract writer for corporations I had to rewrite
some very difficult medical and scientific
procedures. I still remember Boston Scientific
giving me the authority to do so without having a
particular cardiologist fight to leave his words
alone. To him you could not touch anything he wrote.
But in the end I edited his coronary catheter
calibration procedure into one any technician in the
EU could follow without ambiguity.
The last aspect of
the context in which I found Trout's San Pedro so
miserable to wade through came from my friend Tom,
who was once a writer for Atlanta Monthly. He
was a wild guy! Bored with life as a Ph.D. he
went back to college at age 40 to take pre-med at
Brown. After medical school and his internship he
became a fun loving psychiatrist. And to think I
picked him up one night hitch hiking in Berkeley
trying to get back to UCLA. Anyway, Tom was loved by
his readers but hated by the venues, directors, and actors he
reviewed. Tom used to say that it was his job to
expose charlatans and bimbos.
of all this is to make the point that in all things quality
matters. Doing a quality job on this subject
was not achieved. It is as poorly written as the
Bonewits thesis. The photos remind me of those thick
stacks of baby pictures—badly composed, redundant,
uninteresting, etc. San Pedro was a subject that could have
become a book worthy of the spirit of the plant
itself. They say the Jesuits taught the Indians
about St. Peter who held the keys to Heaven. They
told the Jesuits there was a plant that also
held the keys to Heaven. My
point is that Trout's San
Pedro lost those keys.
with that attorney back in 1970. If I'd turned in
work like this in college I'd have flunked out.
Trout's Notes on San Pedro & Related Trichocereus species
A Guide to assist in their visual
recognition; with notes on Botany, Chemistry & History
Written, compiled & / or edited by Keeper of the
Trout & friends
(Sacred Cacti 3rd Ed. Part B) © 2005 Mydriatic
productions; a division of Better Days Publishing
[no ISBN located on cover]
pompous1 notes more like a sink full of
• Characterized by excessive self-esteem or exaggerated
dignity; pretentious: pompous officials who enjoy giving
• Full of high-sounding phrases; bombastic: a pompous
notes on the Tomato?
|What if Trout wrote a tomato book?
Imagine 900 B&W photos of sickly plants in 6" pots; cross pollinated by unknown parents.
|I think Bob Ressler's color images are far
more useful than anything I found in Trout's book.
|Different species or different
variety? Neither--both are pure San Pedro. Left one a young
column grown in shade; right is more mature column grown in full
|San Pedro do not branch above
|One person angrily emailed to ask how I grafted
branches onto my San Pedro.
He should stop
eating them long enough to allow the plant to mature into
something larger than flowerpot size.
|A book that endeavors to
make its subject confusing
First of all you need to realize that the author is using the
pseudonym "Trout" or "Keeper of the Trout".
The sample of Trout's text (below) from the introduction is typical of
the author's paragraph length sentences. His or her (No gender is
associated with "Trout") poor writing style is
reminiscent of pompous academia. He or she admits
to being confused and then proceeds to prove why you, too, should be
confused. Trout's approach is so messy
I find it useless. This is a book to throw out,
not to study.
President Roosevelt once said "There is nothing to
fear but fear itself" in this case "There is no confusion but
What is there to be confused over? The picture on the cover is a San
Pedro. Unfortunately everything inside the book cover is
Trout's effort to spread confusion. To quote Trout:
Typical pompous Trout
"The following work should not be viewed as any sort of authoritative
declaration concerning the taxonomy of the pachanoid-peruvianoid
Trichocereus species, but rather it should be seen as a overview of
what readers may encounter in horticulture accompanied by some
verbal and visual guideposts that MIGHT be of value to the reader
who, like myself, is foolhardy enough to attempt navigating through
this section of what often seems to resemble a taxonomic analog of
the Sargasso Sea." [Trout,
Take the Trout out
The book needed a professional editor to prune Trout's weedy prose, a professional photography
to replace the collage of amateur snap shots,
and a graphic artist
to lay out the book as a
professional level work. Lacking these essential elements it
may be regarded as a huge kitchen sink full of
If you enjoying viewing hundreds of poorly photographed, small backyard
or flowerpot sized specimens, grown in bonsai conditions; if you
don't mind tiny text that lectures
in the manner of the sample
above, well—then this
may be the book for you.
Mongrel dogs and other cross breeds
Hundreds of neglected or cross bred Trichocereus suspected of having
a drug content fill the pages. Reminds me of the mongrel dogs one finds at the SPCA.
The only color photo in the book—on the cover—is a true San Pedro!
have to do is take cuttings (clone) that plant and you will
have an endless
supply of ones with identical properties. But
growing from seed introduces unknown parents that may have mixed.
Making a metaphor with the tomato; seed catalogs list
hundreds of favorite tomato varieties. These have been developed
by selective breeding over many generations. Some types are known to
be over 100 years old. Plants are specifically grown to produce next
years seed supplies. Yet, despite well known characteristics, growing conditions can make
even the huge beefsteak mature at the size of a walnut
when water in withheld (a technique called "dry
conditions dramatically change the appearance of a plant as any
bonsai practitioner knows. How else do they fit a tree into a table
top sized miniature?
Seed obtained from hand pollinated plants
When a professional farmer buys seed of known varieties, then
under proper farming conditions the end product is highly
predictable. This requires purity of the seed; which is why the
flowers are covered with paper
bags to prevent stray pollination and
are hand pollinated. Contrast this with Trout's approach;
where are these people getting their seed from?
Cuttings bypass the problems of seed
It would be of no value to anyone to publish a book with 900 black &
white photos of tomato plants grown in back yard flowerpots that had
been cross bred with unknown varieties. Cross breeding cactus, and
buying unlabeled cuttings from Europeans who cross bred them, etc.
is an exercise in confusion compounded by cramming what should be
tree sized plants into flowerpots. Only cuttings from plants that
are "true specimens" will result in a perfect propagation of the
true type. Trout seems to think that every flowerpot grown cacti
that look "different" must be a unique variety. Where are the
outdoor grown mature specimens? These are columnar cacti that grow
naturally to be over 12 feet high—so why is the book dominated by
flowerpot specimens? What would an apple tree look like if it spent
its life trying to grow in a flowerpot?
Perhaps the "Trout problem" is caused by the behavior of mescaline
eaters who snap off every column to consume it for the drug content.
These are people who cannot allow a specimen to mature without
eating it. Thus they constantly seek catalog sources for anything
that might provide more biomass to sustain their activity. After a
while they are photographing small budding tips that form on their numerous
root bound stumps in flowerpots. Trout may spend the majority of
his time focusing on flowerpot specimens because his circle of
friends do not have mature plants growing outdoors.
Back in 1987-89
I started my San Pedro farm from cuttings of "true to type" plants
imported decades previously by a botanist directly from Peru. See
the cover of Trout's book? That is the true San Pedro and that is
what I have propagated for 17 years. Mine have never been crossed
with any other variety.
I know the location of several mature San Pedro specimens in large
outdoor stands growing around San
Jose, Watsonville, and Ripon California. Separated by a distance of
100 miles, but in similar climate and of similar age (decades old), it is
easy to see these are all the classic San Pedro. They are identical
I can spot them as readily as most people can identify a
robin or a bluebird.
From these identical
stands I have cuttings that may grow slowly, have a yellow
tint, and bear
long spines. Or they can grow tall, thin, with short spines, and
have a darker/bluish shade. The difference? Full sun versus partial shade.
The difference is all in the growing. Whether it is in shade
or full sun, in a flowerpot of in the earth—its all in how you grow
Shopping at Target, ebay & Europe
may be obsessed with imported seeds and cuttings; obtaining
from catalogs what would
be called in statistics "convenience samples". In other words he or
she is taking whatever is for sale instead of obtaining a cutting
from a mother
plant that is "true to type". But when one has obtained a "true to
cutting then one simply grows it by taking additional cuttings...a
process of cloning it to produce thousands of identical
plants. From 5 tips in 1987 I have produced many tons of San Pedro.
In Trout's case hundreds of rogue samples of "biomass" as he calls
it are purchased from any available source. My favorite in the Trout
book is a photo marked "Purchased from Target, unmarked." (Not in
Trout's book is my favorite ebay scam— a guy selling cuttings of a
non-trichocereus cactus by calling them "San Pedro Peruvianus" and
the fooled buyers leaving positive feedback.)
People who buy from ebay sellers who falsely identify the species,
or buy European seeds & cuttings without documentation of the
mother plant deserve
the confusion they inflict upon themselves. If you collect
garbage then you end up with a collection of garbage; and Trout has
produced a 900 black & white picture version of that collection.
||No confusion here
What is Trout so confused about? This is San Pedro.
But Trout confuses himself — read his quote —
"There are layers of
confusion including correctly labeled, mislabeled
and unlabeled plants,... through
an indeterminate number of university-funded cactus
collection expeditions ... from commercial outlets
and a myriad of private Trichocereus collectors ..."
|(below) Cuttings from the same plant growing
only 150 feet
apart. Trout might call these separate "subspecies".
Hopefully this image proves the point that growing conditions
greatly determine the appearance of the plant.
|What could be...if you wrote
a professional level book on Trichocereus?
|What if someone traveled to the home of the
Trichocereus in South America?
They could create a book based
upon standardized field photography:
1) only mature,
"in the earth", specimens would be photographed with a person
standing next to it for scale, plus a color calibration card,
close ups of limbs & tips with scale object/color calibration
3) detailed photos of each specimen's flowers,
of areoles, spines measured with a ruler, etc.
5) overview shot
of area to show percentage of full sun the specimen receives,
notes on the elevation where each photographed specimen is
growing, explanation of climate with annual rainfall, soil
A chapter on each main variety such as: T.
Peruvianus, T. Pachanoi, T. Bridgesii, T. Cuzcoensis, etc.
Standardized close up photos of each variety's cross section,
areoles, spines, side view, tip view, spine color, flower
details, seed, etc.
This is what you
would expect to find in a text book or
professional field identification guide.