Sunday, June 12, 2016

dead poets


By Fred Owens

In my life, writing is work and other arts are self-expression, like playing the piano. I am not very good at the piano but it makes me happy. And drawing. I enjoy drawing and painting and if I pin the drawing to the wall for a while, then I enjoy looking at it.

That used to be called domestic art, but now I would call it self-expression.

I remember a painting in Aunt Jean's living room, hung over the couch, a still life with flowers. Aunt Jean did it herself and it looked just about perfect in that spot, in her home.

The trouble is if you put Aunt Jean's painting on public display in a gallery, I think it would be an insult to her memory. It just wouldn't look good in public.....

So the distinction for me is between public and private. I really want the whole world to read my writing, but I play the piano for my own pleasure.
dead poets
Robert Sund, the poet of Ish River, died in September of 2001, only a few weeks after the twin towers were attacked in New York City on September 11. I remember all the TVs were on at the hospital, except in Robert's room. I was glad he did not have to watch that terrible news, he was dying and beyond all that.
Robert died of lung cancer at age 71. Hundreds of people knew him and loved him and came to visit him in the hospital. But Jeff Langlow and I were the only two of his friends that came to his wake.
The way it worked out, Robert knew he was dying and he calmly made plans for friends to create a trust to keep and publish his poems. That was done. And for his body to be cremated and celebrated with Buddhist ritual on a propitious date. There was to be no wake, just cremation and then Arthur Greeno was to keep his ashes for the time being.

Except Jeff Langlow and I didn't know that. Jeff was a carpenter who lived in his home-made cabin up by Blanchard, deep in the alder woods.  He and I both went to the funeral parlor the day after Robert died. We both showed up at the door at the same time that evening and we asked the undertaker for the viewing.
The undertaker took  us past the carpeted parlor in a hushed voice and showed us to a small empty room in the back. And there was Robert deceased and lying on a hospital gurney, just as plain as pumpkins.
Robert was all cleaned and washed the way a dead person is treated in that special manner, but he was only wearing a hospital gown that barely covered his knees.
His hands were folded reverently over his stomach and wrapped with Buddhist prayer beads. His bare feet draped over the edge of the gurney.
His feet are bare, I said to Jeff. Then I said maybe they should put a blanket over his feet, his feet will get cold. But Jeff said, he's dead and where he's going he won't need shoes and he won't ever get cold.

That was the wake of Robert Sund. No one else came and we weren't supposed to be there either.
You come into this life barefooted and you leave it that way too.
A New Book about Robert Sund
There is a new book about Robert Sund. It is a collection of his unpublished poems and journal entries, plus memories from friends of times with Robert, and interesting black and white photos. It is the very best Robert Sund book, because Robert was more than a poet. He was a creation of his own community, and his community -- his friends -- speak for him now.
The book is called a flutter of birds passing through heaven

Where are you from?
Dear Reader, Where are you from?  What do you call yourself?

Everybody is from somewhere and maybe you want to ask them. I ask people all the time, where are you from, although lately that can get too political, so I changed it. Now I ask people, "Where did you grow up?" The funny thing is people smile when I ask them where they grew up. Try it yourself and see what happens.
Trump News. I wrote something about Trump but it was too weird, so I deleted it. I tried again, it was still too weird. Maybe Trump is contagious, arrrgh!

Memory. I challenged my girlfriend to a recitation of the names of Jane Austen's six novels from memory. She declined the contest, and then I began to recite, but I only came up with five titles. We were out on a walk. I have a dumb phone. Her phone is only half-smart. We did not have access to Google  -- how primitive! I wracked my brain but could not remember the sixth title.
Of course when we got back to the house and the domestic wi-fi we found the answer instantly on Google. It was Emma. I had forgotten Emma. But looking this up on Google seems like cheating.
Events. We can get instant news from the atrocity in Orlando, but there in no need to declare an instant reaction. Do not act or speak in haste. do not jump to conclusions....... Go outside, take a walk, read a book..... let the media and the police do their job..... then react and say your words.

Subscriptions. Frog Hospital is free and hundreds of readers have enjoyed reading 25 issues every year since 1998. but if you really insist on paying for a subscription, then you will be remembered in the editor's bedtime prayers. To subscribe, you must go to the Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button with your contribution of $25 or $50. Or mail a check for $25 or $50 to

Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
thank you very much




Thursday, June 02, 2016

You Can't Write

by Fred Owens

A quote from Somerset Maugham in Of Human Bondage....."There is nothing so terrible as the pursuit of art by those who have no talent."

Maugham certainly had talent, so he must have been referring to some other writers he knew. This is something I have wanted to say upon reading a snatch of someone's effort. I look up from the page in my hands and say to the would-be writer, "You can't write.... maybe you can surf or cook, but you can't write."

I've even thought that about myself. It's comforting in a way, to say I don't have the talent. I know I have the effort and dedication and discipline and determination, but I might just lack the talent.

I'm sure I have some talent, at least a little..... but isn't it a little like baseball? "Son, I know you love the game, but you can't hit a fast ball and you're never going to make it to the major leagues."

In Maugham's book, Philip, the main character, studies art in Paris for two years, making great effort, but he has doubts about his ability and asks -- insists -- that a renowned artist judge his work with complete honesty.

The artist reviews Philip's work and declares that Philip is destined for mediocrity. Philip took that for truth and abandoned his quest to become an artist ..... he went on to become a doctor and he seemed (but I haven't finished the book ) to have found success in that career.

So if you have this nagging fear that you can't write, it could be true.
Is Death Funny?
Is death funny? Everything else is funny, so I made inquiries about death, to see if it was funny too. My friend died of a heart attack, what they call a massive heart attack. His wife told me it happened in the bathroom at his house. He was standing in front of the mirror brushing his teeth when the heart attack struck. He dropped like a stone, falling so heavily that his head banged against the sheet rock wall and left a dent.

His wife rushed to his aid and called 911, but he was dead instantly.

I called her a few weeks and I asked her if I could write a story about her husband, and it would be a funny story.... you know, "funny as a heart attack."

She became upset and angry at me for suggesting such a thing. I quickly backed up and apologized.

Some months later she forgave me. She said, "You're a writer and you thought you had a good story. I'm sorry I could not help."

I was glad she forgave me, so instead I wrote this story..

A Buddhist Walked into a Bar

Rick Epting walked into the LaConner Tavern one night in the late spring of 2002. He had been in town for the poetry festival. His poet friends were gathering at Nell Thorn’s pub, but Rick decided to go down market and have a Rainier on tap at the LCT as the locals called it.

Gordy Bell occupied a stool midway and he gave out a Hey to Rick, so they joined company and began to drink the beer, paunch and paunch, side by side. Gordy was a hands-on working man of a liberal persuasion. He ran LaConner’s public works crew, fixing potholes and such. There were two men on his crew, Lynn Berry, wide and squat, an expert with the weed-whacker and twice as smart as he looked, and that other younger guy Brian who looked good but wasn’t really that smart.

Anyway, Gordy had but public works aside for the day and was enjoying the view – although sitting on a bar stool all he saw was the bartender and all those bowls of lottery tickets – meaning he enjoyed the view in his mind, maybe thinking of some good day he had out on Skagit Bay on his boat, and secret places near Hope Island where he could trap the best crabs.

It was that far-away look that grabbed Rick’s attention, and the reason he grabbed a stool next to Gordy, Rick being a word guy, and Rick being a guy who had spent most of last two days listening to poets who were all gathering at Nell Thorn’s to detox from the word-fest with plenteous booze.

“So, Gordy, how does it look?” Rick asked. Gordy raised his glass in response. “I just finished the poetry festival,” Rick began, “I got all these thoughts buzzing in my brain. I got that feeling like a balloon head. I’ve been a musician, you remember Future Pastures? That was my group. Then I helped with the Ducks when they played at Rexville Grange, or you can go back all the way to the beginning of hippie world at Toad Hall in Bellingham, I was there. Then I worked at the newspaper. I interviewed various Berentsons serving in public office. I visited Bud Norris in his county commissioner some-time-Democrat, sometime-Republican office with his feet up on the desk. I convinced Norris to deny the nuclear power plants proposed for Sedro-Woolley, although I can only a take a little credit for that one – but I was part of it. And the Food Co-op, I helped get that going when all they had was 25-pound sacks of brown rice and a cup full of brewers yeast, when the broken down hippies – I mean the hippies in their broken down cars – came in from Walker Valley to spend their food stamps and one of them always needed a jump start to get back to camp. I helped that to go. And I prayed, or I should say I learned not to pray. I learned to be a Buddhist, which means I learned to be the Buddha, I learned we’re all the same inside, what do you think, Gordy?” Rick was very earnest.

Gordy smiled beatifically and said, “Let’s move over by the window, we can watch the tide come in, it’s a 12-foot tide today.”

The LaConner Tavern sits on Swinomish Channel and the back part of the tavern, past the bar and the pool tables, opened to picture windows of the ever-changing current of the channel – four movements of the water, and those four being in, out, up and down, meaning the tide comes in and then it goes out, the water rises and then descends, in a rhythm that only the stars can truly understand, those four movements joined by the sublime non-movement, slack tide, when the surface of the water takes on a mirror finish on a windless day and stillness reigns.

So Gordy steered Rick over to a table by the window and the waitress brought them two more flagons. The sunset burnished the sky over the Swinomish Reservation across the channel. “There be Indians,” Gordy intoned, pointing across the channel.

“No, I can’t see them,” Rick replied. “You can’t see them with your eyes wide open,” Gordy said.

Rick closed his eyes and began chanting, “Om, Om, Om.”

“Now, see the salmon,” Gordy said. “They come up from Padilla Bay in flocks and herds and schools, splashing and leaping, mad with sex and desire, salty and driven by wind, they come into the channel and then down the channel, and past the tavern right here, and they go around to Hole-in-the-Wall and then up the river.”

“I can’t see any fish,” Rick cried now in anguish.

“Close your eyes,” Gordy said. “Forget about now. Time goes forward and backward just like the tide. There was lots of salmon back then. Turn your head back one hundred years. Can you see the salmon now?”

“Yes,” Rick said, “I see them leaping!”

Jimmy Schermerhorn walked in to the bar, saw Gordy and Rick and came by to say Hey. Jimmy didn’t drink anymore, he just came in to use the men’s room, but he pulled up a chair for the moment. “Hey, Rick, how did you like the poetry festival?”

Rick said, “It was awesome. The poets chanted and we could see the salmon leaping.”

Later, Rick drove back to his home in Mount Vernon and Gordy went back to his bar stool. He asked the waitress, "Who was that guy I was talking to?”


Subscriptions. Frog Hospital is free and hundred of readers have enjoyed reading 25 issues every year since 1998. but if you really insist on paying for a subscription, then you will be remembered in the editor's bedtime prayers.
To subscribe, you must go to the Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button with your contribution of $25 or $50. Or mail a check for $25 or $50 to
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
thank you very much





--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Who Was That Guy?


Donald Trump reminds me of some New York Mets fans that I encountered in 1986 at the AstroDome. The Mets were playing the Astros in the playoffs that year. It was a sellout crowd, all Astros fans, except for five drunk guys from Queens who were sitting in front of me. These guys were loud, vulgar and shameless.

But what really impressed about these nasty Mets fans from Queens was their courage, because we were in Houston, Texas, in the presence of over 50,000 screaming Texan baseball fans. Five against 50,000 -- the Mets fans screamed like donkeys anyway..

So you think you don't want anything to do with guys like this, but what if it was 1942 and you were in Casablanca sitting with Rick at his cafe and the Nazis swagger in. Then you want the nasty Mets fans to be there, to be on our side.

The Mets beat Boston in the World Series that year. I still hate them.

Rick, as you all know, came from Brooklyn. He had a borderline contempt for Queens folk.
Secretary. I had a good meeting with Anita, the outgoing secretary of the Santa Barbara Kiwanis Club. We worked our way through the procedures. She explained them one by one. Then I repeated the explanation back to her to indicate that I understood. By this process we worked through all the steps, and that took one hour. She said she was impressed that I had learned so quickly, but I reminded her that we would have to do this all over again.....that repetition was necessary.
She expects to become President of the club, but she cannot serve well unless a competent person takes over as secretary, and that would be me. It seems that we work well together.

Somerset Maugham. Somerset Maugham was an intelligent and entertaining author. I am on page 209 of his great work Of Human Bondage. Philip, the main character, has come to Paris as a young man to live his life and study art. He falls under the sway of Cronshaw, an old drunken poet, who gives him this bit of advice --
Philip asks, "Have you ever done anything you regret?"
"How can I regret when what I did was inevitable," asked Cronshaw in return.
"But that is fatalism."
"The illusion which man has that his will is free is so deeply rooted that I am ready to accept it. I act as though I were a free agent. But when an action is performed it is clear that all the forces of the universe from all eternity conspired to cause it, and nothing I could do could have prevented it. If it was good I can claim no merit; if it was bad I can accept no censure."
"My brain reels," said Philip.
"Have some whiskey," returned Cronshaw.
Reading this I realized that Cronshow, the drunken poet, got this nugget from Baruch Spinoza, the Jewish-Dutch philosopher -- that much is obvious. Spinoza believed that God did no favors, that prayer was useless, but to understand God and Nature through the use of reason led to clarity and happiness.
Anyway, the book is plot-driven and far from philosophical except in the truth of this -- that a young man away from home, living his life, studying art in Paris, will seriously ponder deep questions that hardly concern the rest of us.
Hollywood Dumps Trump. It's not like I know a lot of people in the business, but it would not surprise anyone that they all dump on Trump. This cinematic mogul -- you could look her up on imdb.com if I gave you her name -- said:
"God, I can't stand Donald Trump....It doesn't matter what magazine I pick up, what paper I read, or what station I switch to, he's always staring at me, yammering on and on about something or someone. I have read everything he says and everything that's written about him, and still, I have never felt this much disdain for a candidate before. It hurts my head and my heart and it's only May."
Outtakes
The Internet was the solution to a problem we did not have.
The most important domestic problem is student loan debt. It should be forgiven and restructured. We should do this for our young people.
The least important domestic issue is bathroom access. Let's kick that can down the road and talk about it after we get a new President in 2017.
If Donald Trump wins I am going to Mexico. Everybody else is going to Canada and I don't run with that crowd.
Mrs. Clinton says she is not good at politics. I agree. So why is she running for President? I mean, it is a job that requires political talent, which she does not have, as she admits.
Yet I remain a Clinton voter by default.
Thank you.

Frog Hospital is Free. Frog Hospital is free and hundred of readers have enjoyed reading 25 issues every year since 1998. but if you really insist on paying for a subscription, then you will be remembered in the editor's bedtime prayers.
To subscribe, you must go to the Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button with your contribution of $25 or $50. Or mail a check for $25 or $50 to Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs
RD Santa Barbara, CA 93105
thank you very much

Saturday, May 14, 2016

Of Human Bondage

But first the news:

Politics. Donald Trump and I have a lot in common, except I'm not rich, or mean, or crazy. Trump will be 70 on June 14, I will be 70 on June 25, so we are just the same age. But in other ways we are a lot different. I like to read books. He likes to build golf courses.... I wonder if he actually plays golf?
He says he only sleeps three hours a day. Good for him. I sleep eight hours plus an afternoon nap.
Otherwise, he's a human being like me and we live in the same country.
Headlines. Trump can get a headline anytime he wants. I was half-listening to his interview on Good Morning America with George Stephanopoulos who was pressing him to reveal his income taxes. Trump said, "It's None of Your Business." I heard him say that -- it's none of your business -- and I knew that  bingo! he had just gotten himself another headline.
The New York Times dutifully wrote the front-page headline that Trump said, "It's None of Your Business."
So Trump marches on and I heard that recent polls show him ahead of Hillary Clinton in Ohio.
I have to check up on this. I have some friends in Columbus, Ohio, all ardent Democrats, and they read this newsletter. Hey fellas, is Trump gonna take Ohio?
Of Human Bondage. I'm on page 23 of this great novel by Somerset Maugham. He is a plot-driven writer. That's how he can get away with poor sentences like "It was a week later."

A lot of writers would try to smooth that out. But Maugham doesn't. He has a story to tell, so he just wrote that it was a week later  -- why try to be stylish?
I read a volume of his short stories this winter. Then I read the Painted Veil which was made into a 2006 movie starring Edward Norton and Naomi Watts.  Another good movie, The Razor's Edge, starred Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney in 1946, also based on a Maugham novel.

Next Book. Hannah Arendt is best known for her book Eichmann in Jerusalem. Her point was that Eichmann was quite an ordinary man and still capable of great evil.
But she has written on philosophy as well, so I checked out her two-volume work titled Thinking.  It's about thinking. I do a lot of thinking so I decided to read it.
Here's one sentence: "Aristotle's De Anima is full of tantalizing hints at psychic phenomena and their close interconnection with the body in contrast with the relation or, rather, non-relation between body and mind."
I don't understand what Arendt is saying in this book. I have made it to page 44 and it just keeps going, getting thicker and denser. The thing is -- I trust her and I believe she is not wasting my time, so I'm sticking it out.
Next Book. The next book is Consilience by E.O. Wilson. Wilson is the famous ant doctor. He knows from ants. That is his life's work. Isn't that the coolest thing in the world -- to be a bug doctor? He writes with authority on the social life of ants and humans. He explains the path of evolution, and he is so much easier to understand than Hannah Arendt.
Next Book. The next book has a very long title but it is quite an easy book to understand. It is called the Theological-Political Treatise  written in 1670 by Baruch Spinoza, the Dutch-Jewish philosopher.
You need to understand Spinoza because he was the foundation of Enlightenment thinking. Spinoza was the man who inspired the very non-religious thinking of our Founding Fathers. From Spinoza you get Thomas Jefferson.
God is Nature. Nature is God. Moses did not part the Red Sea, that is just a story. Jesus was a wise teacher but he did not rise from the dead.
Spinoza's thinking was very radical for the time, 1670, but he was fortunate to live in Holland, which tolerated this free thinker.
"Men should never be superstitious."  --- That is the opening sentence in the Preface to this work.
Next and Last Book. President Andrew Jackson got Zinn-ified and downgraded off the $20 bill  (Zinnified is where you get found out. Howard Zinn finds out that you were a bum and a tyrant and no hero whatsoever.)
Another statue gets torn down and so the mighty have been humbled. But I know so little about Andrew Jackson. He won the Battle of New Orleans after the war was over, and he drove the Indians out of the Old Dixie and over to Oklahoma.
There's to more to it, so I must read his history. I found a heavy 500-page volume with his stern visage on the cover. This would not be a good book to take to the beach. But next to it was a sweet and slender volume titled A Being So Gentle: the Frontier Love Story of Rachel and Andrew Jackson.
This slim volume lies before me on the coffee table. It seems he had a wife.  I have not read it yet. It might be good.

With that I wish you a restful and pleasant weekend.


Spring Subscription Drive.  In a response to overwhelming demand, I have decided to keep Frog Hospital going for another year. I believe I have goods worthy of your reception. I do not write when the mood strikes me, I only write when I have something to say that you might find interesting.
This is quite a political year, so we will have lots of that.  And be ready for surprises. Can you learn? It doesn’t matter how smart you are, or how experienced you are, it only matters if you can learn. Frog Hospital will be making many regrettable errors in the coming year -- because we are learning as we go.
Stay with us and please help us out with subscription dollars. This income keeps the editor from endorsing a cause or a movement. This income keeps the editor from getting preachy or self-righteous.
Go to the Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button with your contribution of $25 or $50.
Or mail a check for $25 or $50 to
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105








--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital



Wednesday, May 04, 2016

Spending Time With Your Dog



We have a great story about spending time with your dog, but first we have to brush up on our Latin.
Numquam se plus agere quam nihil cum ageret, numquam minus solum esse quam cum solus esset. Cato wrote that 2,000 years ago. It means "Never is a man more active than when he does nothing, never is he less alone than when he is by himself."
You remember Cato. Cato was the old Roman statesman who was most famous for saying Carthago delenda est which means "Carthage must be destroyed." This saying was a successful bit of propaganda that Cato endlessly repeated until it caught on and became the chant of a mob and sure enough, the Romans destroyed Carthage.
Carthage is gone, or to be precise, it is now only a small village on the railroad line in Tunisia. But Rome is eternal and still with us -- thanks to Cato.
But the saying at the top here starts with NUMQUAM meaning never and you're never more active than when you are doing nothing -- what the heck does that mean? It's a bit of a puzzle, a puzzle that Hannah Arendt tackled in her volume of philosophy published in 1971 and titled "Thinking." Arendt is best remembered for her writing of "Eichmann in Jerusalem," but I found her thinking volume on the philosophy shelf at the library and I am checking it out.
Just keep this mind -- if you are sitting around the house all day in your pajamas and just thinking about stuff, you are making a valuable contribution to our culture and prosperity.
The Next Story Is About A Dog
Good, there is no more Latin in this week’s issue of Frog Hospital. The next story is by Bill Skubi, a friend of mine who lives in Coupeville, Washington. The story was originally published in the Puget Sound Mail in 1989 if you remember that obscure, quirky newspaper that I once published. The Puget Sound Mail promised “News of Lasting Value” and we kept that promise because this story about a man and his dog is not aged or dated.

Spending Time With Your Dog
By Bill Skubi

The frantic pace of modern life was catching up with me. I was taking a good hard look at the strange kind of person I had let myself become. This began a few weeks ago when Jan told me there was something wrong with Jackson’s ear. I was hearing what she said, but to my utter horror I realized that I didn’t care. Jackson is a lumbering old Yellow Lab. He has been my dog almost eleven years, slightly longer than I have been married to Jan. Just the week before I had caught myself actually trying to give him away to a friend who had moved his family into the country.
The excuse I gave myself was that Jackson was no longer happy living with us, since Jan insisted he be tied. The truth was that he was not happy because I had become too pre-occupied to spend any time with him. He was just this big, sad, obligatory maintenance retriever at the end of his tether. And so was I. That reminded me that it was I who had consciously fled the academic world fifteen years ago. At that point I realized that twenty years of schooling had trained me to read and write obscure sentences about “contingencies and non-linear variables.” At that rate I knew I would probably never live long enough to figure out what I wanted to say, and if I did figure that out, nobody would want to read it.
The writer in me wanted to git back home, do some plain talkin’, leave the footnotes, spend some evenings rocking on the front porch with a big ol’ hound-dog curled up at my feet. And I did it too, but the years brought marriage, a mortgage, and a child, along with career changes, and I let a whole new set of pressures come between me and my humanity. Or to put it another way, part of me woke up and was shocked to be sharing a body with someone who would offer to give away his dog. I really didn’t like the person I had become. I know I am basically an incurably selfish person. I attend church and take my marriage vows seriously knowing they are twin anchors on a spirit I know can be dangerously free, but I had forgotten that Jackson, too, was utterly dedicated to protecting me, and I owed him the same.
So I went to see what was ailing Jack’s ear. It was pretty sore all right, he was awful dirty and so was his house. I gave him a bath, and he was so proud to ride in my new truck and he didn’t even care he was going to the veterinarian. The vet had to keep him awhile to remove foxtail grass seeds from his ears. I went home, cleaned out his house and built him a new run in a place where he would have a good view of things. He was still a little wobbly on his hind legs from the medication when I brought him home. I showed him around his new digs and told him we would have to spend more time together. Then I noticed he was shaking uncontrollably.  At first I could not tell whether he was sick or reacting to the medication. Then I got down to where I could stroke him and discovered he was shaking from pure joy.
Philosophers and theologians will forever debate the highest possible achievement of man on Earth, and I would submit to them that being the object of such perfect love might be right up there.
Anyway, I bought a blanket at the thrift store for Jack to lie on in the truck. I can still be too busy to take him along, but we do have an understanding. And my young son asks a question that I remember asking, “Do dogs go to heaven when they die?” His mother isn’t sure how to answer. As for me, there have been times in my life when I have doubted whether or not heaven really exists, but I have never doubted that dogs would be there if it did.
Politics:  Can You Learn?
Trump is learning. He's getting better, not better-better just better at what he has been doing. That's the sign of a winner. Stephen Curry is not just the world's best basketball player, he's getting better. That's a good example. A bad example is an antibiotic resisting microbe in your local hospital. This microbe is evolving rapidly -- it is learning. How you fought it last week will not work today.
So the question goes to Hillary. Yes, she is smart. Everybody knows that, but is she learning?
Stay loose on your feet. Be ready for surprises. It doesn't matter how good you are. It only matters if you can learn.
Spring Subscription Drive.  In a response to overwhelming demand, I have decided to keep Frog Hospital going for another year. I believe I have goods worthy of your reception. I do not write when the mood strikes me, I only write when I have something to say that you might find interesting.
This is quite a political year, so we will have lots of that.  And be ready for surprises. Can you learn? It doesn’t matter how smart you are, or how experienced you are, it only matters if you can learn. Frog Hospital will be making many regrettable errors in the coming year -- because we are learning as we go.
Stay with us and please help us out with subscription dollars. This income keeps the editor from endorsing a cause or a movement. This income keeps the editor from getting preachy or self-righteous.
Go to the Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button with your contribution of $25 or $50.
Or mail a check for $25 or $50 to
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105


Sunday, April 03, 2016

Fr. Beall didn't think it was funny.


I found this letter in the archives. It speaks for itself.

Loyola Academy, Wilmette, Illinois
March 21, 1962

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Owens:

I regret to inform you that your son has been referred to my office for failure to conform to a very significant school regulation. He has been guilty of levity during the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which is offered for the boys each day at noon. Needless to say, the school administration can, on occasion, look lightly upon levity in the classroom but it will never tolerate such carelessness in Chapel during the Sacrifice of the Mass.

Such an offense is considered quite serious. The only thing that saves your son from a suspension from school on this occasion is his ignorance and immaturity. Please impress upon him the seriousness of such an act of disrespect to the Blessed Sacrament.

Should there be any further occurrence of such childishness, a suspension will follow immediately.

Sincerely yours,
(Rev.) John P. Beall, S.J.
Assistant Principal

Attachment. This is the original letter, as typed by Mrs. Serwich. She was Fr. Beall's secretary. I always liked her.

The Letter.  The letter itself is a model of composition. It is concise and coherent, explaining a situation and leading to a conclusion.

It is curious to read that the student was saved by his immaturity and ignorance. This might seem like an accusation, but it is merely the statement of a fact. The young man was a sophomore in high school, age 15. Therefore, like most of the students in his class, he was immature and ignorant.

It was the task of the Jesuit order to solve that problem. It was expected that after four years of their training the student would be mature and a bit wiser.

There is a lack of moral judgment in the conclusion. The student will  be suspended for his behavior if it happens again, but not punished by God. The state of his soul is not brought into question, only his behavior. What the student thinks or believes is between him and God. How he behaves in chapel is the concern of the Jesuits.

They were good at making these distinctions.

I was thinking -- we have a new Pope and Francis is a Jesuiit, just like Fr. Beall, only with a brighter smile. I should apply for a pardon  -- and a plenary indulgence, why not?

As I said, this letter is a model of composition with no wasted words. It was the Jesuits who taught me how to write. I was not a model student. I was a frequent visitor to Fr. Beall's office. Mrs. Serwich was at her desk in the outer office and she had a big smile for me, kind of a gallows humor, as she escorted me to the inner office for a continued dialog with the man himself. And I always liked him  -- that's the funny thing. It was other faculty members whom I hated or resented.

This was Loyola Academy in Wilmette,  Illinois, a leafy suburb of Chicago. The all male school had 1,600 students, 400 in each class. I was 15 and a sophomore.

I can't for the life of me remember what it was that I did to generate this letter, but it was like the student's medal of honor to show my mom and dad, and to keep in my archives.  It was personal.  It was soulful.

Other news. Spring is here in southern California and the wildflower blossoms are incredible. The book I wrote might have a publisher  -- but it's not good to talk about this right now. Laurie and I are driving to Arizona in a few days, to visit friends and have fun for a few days. Gardening work has been steady. I have five steady customers with choice gardens, so that is good. My daughter Eva sent me a smiling photo of herself with a friend on the Bainbridge Island ferry in Seattle.  My son Eugene works as a librarian in Los Angeles. He was a twenty-minute walk home from the bus after work, and that is when he is liable to call me and we catch up on things.

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Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara CA 93105








--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is  Fred Owens
My writing blog is Frog Hospital