Saturday, August 20, 2016

Saying Goodbye

 
 
by Fred Owens
Saying Goodbye
A lot of things have happened and mostly good since I got this old flip phone four years ago.  I have Verizon service  -- always Verizon for me. No contract, $30 a month. I use it to make phone calls.
Sometimes I text. I often used the camera, but my pocket gets too dirty from garden work and the camera lens on the cell phone got scratched, so no more photos.
It's time to let the old flip phone go and move on. I went out to the Cosco store with my girl friend and shopped for an Apple iPhone SE. The salesman was a young fellow who talked a lot.
A lot of salesmen think they have to keep talking to make the sale. But they are wrong, they actually have to shut up long enough to hear the customer say yes .... but I digress.

What inspires me to finely make the switch to the smart phone is a new app called WeChat which is popular in China with over 700 million daily users. WeChat does messaging, video conferencing, bill paying, retail purchases and you can schedule dumpling deliveries too (dumplings being delivered in China).
A lot of Chinese people have never owned a laptop of conventional PC, they all just skipped right ahead into mobile phone usage and that is what they are used to.

I will get the smart phone, download WeChat and begin commerce and friendship with Chinese people. I already have one Chinese friend  -- she has agreed to show me the ropes.
The history of China is very interesting -- the great wall and all those old clay pots, stuff like that -- but I realize that the future of China is what really amazes me. I want to stay in touch with that energy. Our country has a strong and intensely competitive relationship with China. That is a good thing.
But I still have a few more weeks with my old flip phone -- boy, we got through it all together.
The emperor plants rice and Donald Trump unloads a truck. I am not being ironic. I was actually touched by videos of Donald Trump helping to unload a truck in Louisiana, to bring supplies to flood victims.
Good on you, Donald. If we all pitch in, we can get it done.
Trump's gesture reminded me of the annual custom in Japan. Every spring time the emperor of Japan plants rice seedlings in his family plot in the imperial garden. Many Japanese farmers believe that the emperor's participation is spiritually necessary for a good rice crop. And maybe they just like to see the old man doing a little work just like everybody else.
Likewise Trump is doing his bit to unload the truck. He was sneered at for only working less than one minute, but hey, he showed up, didn't he?
Did you help to unload the truck?  Did you help to plant the rice? We all have to pitch in.
Election forecast. Donald Trump is getting friendly advice and stern warnings from elder media statesman Roger Ailes. Ailes said shut up and make nice, and Donald is doing that. I think it has to do with age. Trump is 70 and feels seniority to younger people, but Ailes is 76, and Trump listens to this older man.
Be quiet, express regrets, do acts of kindness, go unload the truck -- right there Trump gets headlines and a bump in the poles.
Trump is way behind, but he is going to pull even by the time of the first debate scheduled for Sept. 26  -- that is my forecast.
No pity for Trump. No pity for Hillary Clinton.
I'm voting for Hillary and I expect she will win.

Fire and flood. Flood in Louisiana and fires in California. We have a 10,000 acre fire burning near Santa Barbara this Saturday morning. It was 3,000 acres yesterday, but it exploded over night and seems to be racing to the east -- away from habitation.
If you go to the park near our house and walk up to the top of the hill, you can get a view of the fire -- a towering, awesome column of smoke rising over the foot hills. Too far away to make anybody nervous. It's bad luck to be nervous, better to just go about your business.
Frog Hospital Subscription Drive. Your check or PayPal donation for $25 helps to keep Frog Hospital going. We serve the nation and the world by staying detached during this rough election season, but we cannot remain detached and clear-headed without your cash contribution. 
Go the Frog Hospital blog. Hit the PayPal button and put in $25.
or make out a check to Fred Owens and mail it to:
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105
thanks a bunch,
Fred






--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

I am born

Frog Hospital by Fred Owens
 
When does life begin? When did my life begin?

I was born on a Tuesday in June of 1946. I get this from the birth certificate. I was born in Evanston, Illinois, at Evanston Hospital. My parents checked into the hospital at 5:45 a.m. and I was born at 7:58 a.m. -- two hours later. I was my mother's fourth child. It didn't take long. I was going to write "an easy delivery," but I am not qualified to say that.
I imagine Fred and Marie waking up late that night and knowing it was time to go to the hospital -- the fourth time, with less drama. Mary Elizabeth, Tommy and Carolyn were all asleep. My parents must have arranged a babysitter for them. Some relative who was easily reached by telephone, I don't know.
Fred and Marie rented a three-bedroom stucco bungalow at 2646 Prairie Avenue, hardly a five-minute drive to the hospital. Fred commuted downtown to work. It was a short walk to the Northwestern station on Central Street. My birth certificate describes him as "salesman, magazine" -- he sold ads for the Sporting Goods Dealer. Dad was typical of a salesman in that he dressed very well and was very sociable, quick to pick up a check. He was an untypical salesman in that he didn't talk very much. Maybe that's why everybody liked him -- he was a good listener.
He was 41 at the time of my birth, born in St. Louis, Missouri. Full name: Frederic Edward Owens. Mother was 31. Full maiden name: Marie Roselyn Cuny. Occupation: housewife. She was born in Chicago.
It was her folks they probably called early in the morning to come and watch the kids. They lived maybe twenty minutes away, an easy drive at 5 o'clock in the morning. It would have been Aunt Carolyn. She had a job downtown on LaSalle Street, a legal secretary. She kept that job for more than forty years, but that day, June 25, 1946, she woke up to hear the phone ring at 5 a.m. and she knew right away why the phone was ringing. And she knew that meant skipping work, to baby sit my older siblings, Mary Elizabeth, 7, Thomas Joseph, 4, and Carolyn Therese, 2.
I was born at 7:58 a.m. The birth certificate does not say how much I weighed, although I remember mom telling me I was a nine-pounder. I was named Frederic Edward Owens Jr. after my father. I was born a male, after nine months of pregnancy. In the box marked legitimate, it was checked off yes. I was legitimate.
My parents were both white. They were also both Roman Catholic, but it doesn't say that on the birth certificate.
My eyes were treated with Argyrol 20 % which is silver nitrate, commonly used to prevent some kind of eye disease.
I was a healthy baby. Mom stayed in the hospital several days, as was the practice in those days. Tuesday, the day of my birth, Dad would have taken the day off, but he likely went back to work on Wednesday.
Then who watched the three kids at home while Mom was resting at the hospital? I don't know. Aunt Carolyn had to get back to work too.
Having four kids now and needing more room, and Dad doing well on the job, my parents bought a house at 1612 Forest Ave. in Wilmette, about one mile north of the Prairie Avenue rental. Both houses are still there, made of stucco and not changed very much. My Dad died in 1974. My sister Mary Elizabeth also died that year. My mother lived until 1996, making fifty years in that Wilmette house.
Henry Zettelman, M.D. delivered the baby -- I aImost forgot that.
Paris Moon. Paris Moon is a lovely song sung by our own Holly Gwinn Graham.
Creative Content. Jennifer Newell can fix you a nice web-page and give you social media impact. Get all the buzzwords. Stay connected. I'm working with her now to give Frog Hospital a do-over. And she might help you too.
Frog Hospital Subscription Drive. The subscription drive starts next week.
enjoy yourself,
Fred

--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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



Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Darkness

 
 By Fred Owens
This small town in Colorado believes in the darkness of night. They say, "Let's turn all the lights down low so we can see the stars at night, even the Milky Way."

And we say, "Let us all welcome the night in our own way and not fear it, as these gentle folk have done."
Cubs in First Place. America is a beautiful place -- the Cubs are in first place with 75 wins and the best record in baseball. I grew up in the North Shore suburbs of Chicago, being born in Cubs territory. When I was a kid the Cubs always came in last place, year after year. Last place! I remember asking my Dad, "Do we ever get to win?"   And he said some day my son, some day.
Contact Information.  I keep names in my cell phone. One friend has advanced Alzheimers and wouldn't know a flea from a giraffe. I can't call him  -- what would be the point?  Another friend -- Barbara Cram -- has been dead since November, 2009, so I can't call her either. Maybe I could leave a message.
A third friend doesn't have a phone. He resides in an institution for the criminally insane and has been held there for thirty years  -- thirty years!  I cannot argue with the judgment against him -- that he did a very bad thing in 1986 and they should not let him be free unless he can display some adult responsibility. But still -- thirty years is a long time and he is my friend. He will always be my friend.
Some people who read this newsletter will know who I am talking about.
Election Forecast. Trump is going down for the count  -- so saith the New York Times, so it must be true. Or it might be true. However.....
If a Trump loss becomes inevitable, the voters will face the reality of Mrs. Clinton and her very talented husband moving back into the White House. Yes, we want Trump to lose, but we don't want Mrs. Clinton to win...... We can expect swing voters to do a lot of swinging back and forth on this.
Also, the media is highly invested in the Trump narrative. He is an interesting fellow, to put it mildly. He's one of those guys -- if you're looking for a story -- where you don't have to make things up. With Trump, he talks and all the writers have to do is write it down and compose appropriate headlines. An Outrage! Followed by another Outrage!  The media does not want the race to be over until November, so look for him to bounce back in the polls.
And think about it from Mrs. Clinton's point of view. Being ahead in August means nothing, winning in November means everything. You don't want to peak early.
Trump as Medieval King. I have an impeccable academic source -- a professor of Medieval Studies at the University of Santa Barbara in California. She agrees with my assessment  -- that Trump would make a fine medieval monarch -- illiterate, violent, hot-tempered, and inclined to pageantry. Trump would fit right in those distant times. Except he was born in the 20th century and we do not need a king, we need a President, sober and serious.
I Give Up.  I never could get anybody to see it my way, so after many years of trying I have given up on the project. It was my idea that we all ought to share in the chores -- the house work, the farm work, the yard work, the hospital work. There was to be no privilege, no exception. We should all take turns and pitch in. So that's what I did  -- five years at the hospital, three years on the farm, ten years in the yard, five years in the kitchen  -- all the time expecting to be joined by eager converts to this new persuasion  -- the belief that Americans ought to pick their own fruit.... the belief that there is no work beneath our dignity.
Mrs. Clinton wants to raise the minimum wage for those who do the chores, and I agree with that proposal. But wouldn't it dignify this necessary labor if she did a few chores herself? "Tote that barge, lift that bale."  Yes! But I give up. It will never happen.
Farewell for now,
Fred

--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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



Thursday, August 11, 2016

Dog Days of Summer


Dog Days of Summer
By Fred Owens
Dog Day Afternoon, the 1975 crime drama starring Al Pacino, is one of my favorite movies.
These are the dog days of summer, hot and humid. The leaves are tattered and the children are getting bored. President Barack Obama is flying off to Martha's Vineyard for a vacation. Hillary and Bill Clinton will be there too. Maybe they should have a barbecue together and talk about old times. Or get lobster rolls for takeout and eat them on the deck with a chilled glass of white wine.
Out here in Santa Barbara, in Southern California, we don't get the humidity. We get the drought, five years now, and the Lake Cachuma Reservoir is down to 11 percent capacity, down to what they call the Black Pool, the lowest water in the lake and you don't want to ask why they call it the Black Pool.
Venezuela is on the brink of starvation. This story has received scarce attention. It's incredible. It cannot be happening but it is. The fate of Venezuela does not fit our election narrative, but it should, so I mention it here.
The smart people -- the ones with a ticket to Martha's Vineyard -- are aghast at the menacing words of Donald Trump and his veiled threat against Hillary Clinton. Thomas Friedman tries to explain how dangerous Trump is.
Friedman says he has seen this before -- the menacing words, the ambiguous phrases. And we all know the lines from our college text. If we're over fifty we know the lines..... I don't know what the kids read in school these days....
But here are the lines....."Will no one rid me of this troublesome priest?"
said by King Henry II  -- who was a much classier guy than Donald Trump -- said by him to anyone who happened to be listening. The troublesome priest was Thomas Becket and the lines are from TS Eliot's masterpiece, Murder in the Cathedral.
So four knights of exalted degree rode off to Canterbury and killed the priest. They were not following orders because orders were not given, but hoping to please the king and relieve him of his burden.
Years later Thomas Becket became a sainted martyr and King Henry did public penance for his crime -- appearing barefoot in rags on the steps of the cathedral, covered with ashes, beating his chest, begging forgiveness.
But you remember reading that in school if you're over fifty. So you can form a judgment about Trump and his menacing words.
How do the young people form their judgment?
Hillary Clinton read Murder in the Cathedral in her school days. We all did, those of us that age. She's 68. Donald Trump did not read it. He never read anything, But he plays the part of the king very well. King Henry, the protagonist, was not literate. In those days kings did not read or write -- they had people do that for them. Effete, elitist clerics kept documents for the king. But the kings of yore fought battles. Donald Trump is does not read or write, but presumes to be a king and he will become an historic figure in our American epic, Trump is one for the ages, the Man Who Would Be King.
But it is the dog days of summer and the lucky people are on vacation islands. The Obamas and the Clintons are enjoying their lobster rolls served with chilled white wine, and the cool breezes of Martha's Vineyard.
You may think the election is bad now, but the real battle begins in September. Trump is down but I would not count him out. This will be a fight to the finish. Trump is wild. Hillary is tough. I love a good fight. Who do you think will win?
The Future of Frog Hospital. We are trying a shorter format, under 750 words, and publishing twice a week. There is so much interesting news right now that I think it will be easy. The Trump versus Clinton battle is the most interesting and fateful contest of my lifetime and I don't want to miss a single day. But I remain resolutely detached, and I will give you my most assuring language, plus useful references to such important works as Dog Day Afternoon and Murder in the Cathedral.
Pruning the Mailing List. We need to delete the names of folks who are no longer interested, so please unsubscribe if you wish. After pruning the mailing list, we will launch an early fall subscription drive.
Meanwhile, I hope you have time to enjoy the beach. I'm headed there right now,
 

--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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



Monday, August 08, 2016

The Last Pancake Breakfast


The Last Pancake Breakfast

By Fred Owens

We had the Kiwanis Pancake Breakfast this Saturday in Alameda Park. We have it every year, for 65 years now, on the last day of the Santa Barbara Fiesta  -- 3,000 people eating, each plate with three pancakes and two small sausages, plus syrup and butter. Then they could have orange juice, coffee or milk and sit down on one of fifty long folding tables and some hundreds of folding chairs -- or sit on the grass as many chose to do, while watching the flamenco fiesta dancers dancing in brilliant costumes.
All this for $7 a ticket, or $5 if you bought them ahead of time. I sold fifty $5 tickets in the days before the event and handed in the envelope to Anita who keeps the money, and I said, here's my $250.... she smiled.
It's a big job setting up for the event in the park, bringing in an entire kitchen under tents with 16 cast-iron pancake griddles, each weighing more than 100 pounds. The griddles have to be connected to the city gas supply with pipe constructed for the purpose. Then setting up the flash-hotwater heater on the gas line and the hoses that will pump the hot water to the three-sink dishwasher. Then cover the whole cooking show with ten popup tents and screens to keep the health department happy.
Personally, since we're only in the park for one day, I don't see how the flies will find us and so we don't need the tents and screens, but it's the health department law, so that is that.
It is a thrill and warm feeling to serve a fresh, hot breakfast to 3,000 friendly people. For a small moment it's one big happy family in Santa Barbara with everybody enjoying the fresh air and good food.
All the politicians come to eat pancakes. Congresswoman Lois Capps was there and I spoke a few words with her. She's retiring this year and the two rivals for her seat were also at the breakfast to work the crowd.

So that's what we did over the weekend -- set all that up on Friday, then cook and serve all the people on Saturday morning, then take it all down again and put it back in the trailer until next year.
The Kiwanis Club has been serving pancakes in the park for 65 years, as a part of the Fiesta. But there will be no pancake breakfast next year. The members decided it was too much work, for too little gain as a fundraiser, and the health department was driving us batty.
So this year when we took down all the tents and tables and grills, we sold most of the equipment and hauled the rest of it off to the dump and that made if official -- it was goodbye to old men cooking pancakes in the park.
A sad moment for the club, but a hopeful moment as well. I said to my fellow members -- we still have all the friendship and energy, we're just going to do it some other way. After 65 years of pancakes, we put that away, and now we face the challenge of the future. Onward!
Election Forecast. Good people are spending their time at the beach in August. The obsessive political maniacs are out campaigning and taking polls, but the intelligent folks are resting their minds, as we do or should do every August. It is time for baseball and the Olympics, time for long paperback novels in back yard hammocks.
The disturbing thing about both these candidates -- both! -- is that they are so consumed with ambition. They have no hobbies, they take no pleasure, they have no time for friendship. They never take a day off. Clinton and Trump are burning enemies. And they are doing this country a disservice.
I urge Mrs. Clinton, because she is my candidate, to grab a book and a towel and head for the hot sands of  Cape Cod or Montauk Point. Do something normal. Give yourself a break.
The August polls show Trump in a nosedive. But August polls are not accurate because the good people are at the beach and scarcely paying attention. My forecast still stands -- it will be a tight race until the finish and Mrs. Clinton will win by a nose.
Keep Watering Those Trees. This bonsai tree has lived for 390 years and what that means to me as a gardener is a history of constant care. This tree has been continuously tended for 390 years. They never forgot to water! This pine tree was never neglected! Always kept in mind for 390 years!

Jim Bertolino writes good short stories on the Internet. The key to writing a good short story on the Internet is to keep it short. You start at the beginning, you work through the middle, and then you come to the end -- in less than 500 words. Anybody can write a long story. it takes a master like Bertolino to keep it short.
thank you,
Fred

--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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



Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Grumpy Old Men


Grumpy Old Men
By Fred Owens
I heard from two grumpy old men who are reliable Republican voters. They won't vote for Trump and they're not gonna vote for Hillary. They will leave the space blank and vote down the ticket. A third grumpy old man is dabbling with the Libertarians. He will not commit at this point, except he said Never Hillary.
I had an hour-long conversation with Stuart Welch, former owner of the Rexville Store near LaConner. Stuart is an expert on everything so the first thing I said when he answered the phone was who is going to win the election. He said it would be a close race, but Hillary would win it. Trump is too much of a wing-nut and voters will pull up short before putting him in office.

That's what Stuart said and it makes sense. Except that 2016 is not a year that makes sense. It's wild and crazy and it's Donald Trump that makes it so. He has managed to get the entire country mad at him for his mockery of the Gold Star Muslim mother and father.
Not one voter in 500 could recall the term "Gold Star mother" before last week. I could barely remember it myself. My Aunt Bee was a Gold Star mother because her son Donald died in the World War II. She was very sad about that, Uncle Ted too, but in recent years, even with 58,000 American soldiers killed in Vietnam, you rarely heard the term Gold Star mother. Not until this year.
Do we thank Trump for making the Khan family a media sensation? It's kind of weird that his mockery catapulted two unknown people into sudden fame.
I'm writing about Trump because has been all over the front page for days. Trump is all over the NYTimes and the Washington Post and CNN and MSNBC.
Hillary is buried in the background, she cannot get a word in sideways. Being the first woman is a milestone, but she doesn't get much press for that. She has good programs, and she would be glad to discuss them, but nobody is listening. They're not talking about her program, her pantsuit, her husband..... nothing.
Instead everybody is mad at Trump. I am kind of negatively impressed. The ENTIRE country is mad at him, but he gets up every morning without a care in the world,  with no plan and no strategy. The Trump Jet is idling on the runway and Donald is wondering -- where should I go today?
We are Luke Warm for Hillary here at Frog Hospital. Last week, we considered third party options -- the Libertarian or Green parties. Nah! I just like being a Democrat too much. Gonna vote for Hillary.
Meanwhile, on the home front

Tomatoes. Don't ask me about tomatoes. I haven't got a clue. If I even look at a tomato plant it starts to wither and dry up. Or there are little white bugs eating the leaves, or gophers killing it from the ground up. I am not your tomato man. Do not come to me for advice.
Roses. I am doing much better with roses. This morning I gave a light pruning for a new customer. Twelve roses. I cut a little here, a little there -- it was like poetry, I am that good.
The Santa Barbara Kiwanis Club. I never joined anything in my life. I didn't play Little League ball because there were too many grownups watching and too many rules. I always liked playground baseball better. I never joined in extra-curricular activities at high school, not in college either.
I never joined anything. All I ever had in my wallet was a library card, a Social Security card and a driver's license. No dues, no meetings, no bylaws. None of that.
So I made it through life that way and never joined anything. I proved my point.  That's why I joined the Kiwanis Club. Now I go to meetings every week, even board meetings, and I take notes and pay attention. I am developing administrative skills, no longer fighting the Overhead, but being a part of it.
At the Kiwanis Club we raise money and give scholarships to worthy high school students. It's not complicated. We do not allow political debate or religious recruitment at meetings, so members will not get blindsided.
I will be telling you more about Kiwanis in coming editions of the Frog Hospital newsletter, but for today I am wishing you the best of health, peace, love and prosperity.





 

 

 



--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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



Sunday, July 31, 2016

Old Stewball Was a Race Horse

By Fred Owens

It's one of my favorite songs, this version by Peter Paul and Mary.
Old Stewball was a race horse,
And I wish he were mine.
He never drank water,
He always drank wine.
His bridle was silver,
His mane it was gold,
And the worth of his saddle,
Has never been told.
I should have bet on Old Stewball. I'd be a free man today.
You spend a moment dreaming about what might have been  -- that cabin you could have built, that girl you could have kiseed -- and then you smile through the tears and move on.
Who is Most Qualified to be President. I would pick Michael Bloomberg, twelve years as mayor of New York City and also a very successful businessman. To succeed that well in both politics and finance is quite exceptional. But he's too level-headed to run for President -- our loss.
Memo to Hillary.  Yes, you are highly qualified but nobody cares. Whenever you say that you are the most qualified candidate, the voters read "she's old and she's been around forever." Voters are not grateful and they do not care about the past. What can you do for us today?

Speaking Tips. Hillary, never apologize for not being a great public speaker. You're only reminding us of what we already know. You don't have the gift and we'll get over it.
Sex Appeal. She doesn't have any sex appeal, but she can send out Katy Perry as a surrogate. That works.

Victory Lap. Hillary gets a victory lap after clinching the nomination. We're waiting to hear from the polls. She's probably getting a short-term convention bounce.
Kevin Sunrise. Kevin Sunrise is a gardener living in LaConner. He is married to Amy, the famed Buddhist nun and former librarian. Kevin calls me on Thursday mornings at 9 a.m. Not every Thursday, but that is our agreed upon time. This week Kevin said he was worried about Donald Trump. Do you think he can win, Kevin asked. I said yes, I think he can win..... i mean it's possible, but not likely. And I urged him to not be worried about it. I'm not worried. Worrying about Donald Trump disturbs my thinking. Trump is selling fear, Hillary is selling fear of Trump. And I am not buying. I get messages from fellow Democrats saying we all gotta vote for her or the world faces utter ruin and disaster. Well, do not pressure me! Bernie Sanders' people are also being threatened. They face demands for compliance. And woe betide the voter who contemplates a third party vote.
Not me. I am free of all strategy. I encourage all voters to vote their conscience. Vote for the man or woman who will make a good President. That's still Hillary in my book. I am president of the Santa Barbara chapter of Luke Warm for Hillary. We don't get excited. You could do worse than Hillary. She probably won't screw it up too badly. That's our way of thinking.
I'm With Her. Maybe. But why should I be with her? She plays political hardball. If I pledge my vote today, she simply puts it in her pocket and I never hear from her again. Call me undecided and sitting on the fence, but call me.
Here at Luke Warm for Hillary we are in touch with the Never Trumpers, the Sandernistas, the Libertarians, the Greens, and all wandering independent minds. Let everyone speak and be heard. Don't give in to any pressure. Hillary's people are telling me the train is leaving the station and I better get on board.....Maybe, but I want a good seat in a private cabin.

Thank you,
Fred

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
What follows is a chapter from the Fishtown Blues called the Turkish Terror.
 
The Turkish Terror Part Nine. Introducing Layla, the Turkish Terror -- she lives out in Fishtown. Keith Brown is still up on the roof of the Lighthouse Inn in LaConner, threatening to blow up the bomb in his backpack, but the standoff is coming to a head.
It begins ....
Jimmy pulled himself up through the hatch. “Hey Keith, I saw you on the roof, thought I’d come up and enjoy the view with you. You got your boat tied up here someplace?”
“No, it’s back in Fishtown. I walked into town.”
“Say what’s up? It looks like you got this thing goin’ on. All these people looking at you.”
“I need to find Lisa.”
“She isn’t here. Nobody seen her.”
“Jimmy, don’t go against me. Are you one of them now?”
“No way. I’m with you, that’s why I came up here. Ernie Benson is downstairs behind the bar, he isn’t against you. And you see all these people watching you – there’s Cindy and Tom, and there’s Barb and Amy. We’re all your friends. You’re one of us. Nobody is going against you, but they’re getting worried. You want a smoke? I’ll roll you one.”
“Sure.”
Jimmy sat down, not too close, and pulled a bag of rolling tobacco from his jeans. He began to roll a smoke for Keith and one for himself. Keith was sitting down, clutching his backpack with the bomb inside, veins pulsing on the sides of this face, all tensed up, smelling un-bathed much worse than usual. But living by himself in a cabin by the river in Fishtown, he had not much need for soap and hot water.
The Turkish Terror lived with her husband in a stout cabin just downstream of Keith. She said, “If Keith Brown ever took a bath, I would show him a good time,” but she was a bold woman, given to experiment. All the way from Turkey she came to live in Fishtown. “I know the wonders of tulips and roses,” she said. “The tulip was first cultivated in my country. It is Turkish. My name is Layla, which means tulip in Turkish. I am very fond of the fragrances of different flowers and different men. Some men have an intriguing musky odor or a manly sweat about them. However Keith Brown is merely disgusting. I like him anyway. I watch his grimaces and twitches. He would come to our cabin at sundown hoping for a meal, and I would make him a bowl of beans. Back then he heard the voices of angels and demons. But the angels have left him and now he is just mad. I wish he would take a bath.”
It was the freedom of Fishtown that attracted her. “My husband has money, so I can afford to go to Nordstrom’s and buy shoes. I am extremely fond of expensive high-heeled shoes. You might wonder why this is such a contradiction – to live in a cabin by the river in Fishtown, to chop wood and carry water and cook over a primitive stove and sit by kerosene light reading books, listening to the wind, hearing the call of birds and the murmur of the river flowing at our feet. The river is so wonderful to me.
“And yet I sometimes make a trip to downtown Seattle to shop for shoes at Nordstroms. It’s a way to abuse my husband who gets mad at me for spending his money. You see I despise this man. I also love him. I am not the least bit crazy like Keith Brown however. I see the world with total clarity. I have no ideals. I only see the reality and the reality of human life is a complete contradiction. So I am not faithful to my husband, instead I spend his money and laugh at him. He is such a good man.
“I am come here from Istanbul in Turkey, where the East meets the West. My father was an influential man in commercial banking. He sent me away because I am a free spirit. He is an understanding man, but the way I live, he could not have me in his home to be an embarrassment, to lose his social standing and his money. It was better for everyone for me to come to America. And you wonder how a young Turkish woman found this place. Because it was bashert – that is not a Turkish word, but we use it to mean the fate of your life. Bashert means what is meant to be, and I was meant to be in Fishtown – that is how I found it, me sitting by the fire, and dreaming of alligator pumps with high heels.
“And jewelry, expensive jewelry,” she added. “So we are a community of hermits in Fishtown, out of the world, in nature. Keith Brown is our brother. It is the fault of your culture that you need everything to make sense, to fit together in a neat pattern, to make progress and good legislation. That is not the Turkish way. We are a cruel and violent people with a passionate love for roses and tulips. I am a Muslim which means to have complete submission and surrender to Allah, but I laugh at God and defy him. I do not try to resolve these contradictions, because that is the way of reality.
“But you drove Keith Brown crazy here in America. You make him fit where he cannot fit. He is an electronic genius with a pornographic mind. He has no ability to seduce a woman, yet his heart aches with tenderness for all living things. Little birds nest in the eaves of his cabin -- he would die for those little birds, yet he built a bomb, truly he did, because you drove him crazy.
“But this is not my fault. I love him as a man and as a brother, for the way he is -- like me.
“My nipples are large and beautiful. I will remove my blouse and become more comfortable. Good. I can breathe more easily. I will tell you about the fishing. We have the five kinds of salmon that come by our cabin in Fishtown and making their way up the river into the mountains to lay their eggs on gravel beds in cold ice water, and they die. It is so tragic. They make love and they die. Of the five kinds, we have pineapple salmon in the spring which are large and fat, we have burnt-sugar salmon in the summer which have the reddest meat, we have the pink carnation salmon which come every two years – no, I get confused – the humpies and the dogs are coming. But the very best of the salmon are the silver bullets. These fish are not found in my native country, but I am not particular. To me a fish is a fish. I am like one of these birds – the heron stalking in the shallow water. I eat fish because I live on the river. My husband writes poetry and I catch fish. I carry this knife with a 5-inch blade. I use it to filet and clean the salmon. It is not a weapon despite what people say.”
She said this and one more thing. “I live in town now, in this apartment. Fishtown is empty. It’s only Keith and Art Jorgenson. Crazy Peter lives over by Barge Island. Black Dog Allen lives downstream a ways. It’s lonely out there now.”
Keith Brown smelled of old socks, wood smoke and cans of Prince Albert tobacco which he bought because it lasted longer. Art Jorgensen would give him the leaf from his marijuana plants and he grew a few plants himself, back in the woods, someplace where the ground was not too soggy, with enough sunlight, not conspicuous, you could walk right by his plants and not see them. The cabin had a wood cook stove, used for heat or making meals. Keith had a float outside his cabin, and an old rowboat tied up to the float, half-sunk, because Keith just let it rain and didn’t bail out the boat. It could have been a fine vessel for river jaunts.
Crazy Peter came by offering strong drink for Keith, which he accepted, but then Crazy Peter said let’s bail out your boat and take her out. Let me have it for a week or so, I could sand it down really good inside and out, make it clean and pretty with fresh linseed oil, keep that wood shining, make it glide through the water, just touch the oars and let them breath strong strokes, and you could row up the river in a storm like it was a Sunday picnic.
Crazy Peter made this offer while they sipped his home-made rice wine, which was a grade or two superior to prison hooch, a pale green color made with white rice and white sugar fermented and mixed with Mountain Dew. Most people said Crazy Peter was crazy before he started drinking, so it didn’t matter what he drank, but he was one of Keith’s friends on the river.
The point is, everybody liked Keith. He never hurt anybody, until that summer when he started hearing the voices.
Fishtown was at a bend on the North Fork of the Skagit River. They called it Fishtown because it was a good place to catch fish. The river made a nice bend and the water was deep. It was all fresh water, but only a couple of miles to the mouth at Skagit Bay. The tide came in twice a day. The water rose and the river stopped moving. It became as still as the time before the world began, and if there was no wind the surface was as smooth as glass.
The Swinomish always had a camp there. The pioneers came and used drift nets in their time and set their nets on the drift, and built small cabins on pilings to get out of the weather, cabins built outside the dike, you couldn’t get there except by boat, or a slim boardwalk with loose boards which ran underneath low willow bushes, going over the mudflat near to the river itself – a no man’s land, because the Chamberlains owned the land inside the dike, but the wetland, some fifty-feet wide between the dike and the river, had no owner. Out there you were off the map and off the money too. No deeds, no mortgage, no taxes and no rent. If that isn’t freedom, what is?
Jimmy knew all this. He wanted to talk Keith out of it, get him to let go, come down, take his medicine, do his time.
“Keith, this is upsetting. People could get hurt.”
“They’re torturing Lisa,” Keith said.
“Look, if you come down off the roof, you could head over to the Frog Hospital with me and Hitch. We could get some beer, some fried chicken, some Fritos, head out to the Sand Spit, hook up with Joy and Jellybean, bring out the drums and have us an old-time U-Bang-Em. C’mon. There’s nothing but trouble for you here. Leave that package alone – we can come back later for that.
“Okay, I’m lying. Cops are going to be asking you a lot of questions. You’re going to jail when you come down, but it will be easy for you if you just don’t hurt anybody now. Leave that package and come down. But forget the cops, don’t you see Barbara Cram down there. She will chew your ass out in a big hurry if you don’t come down. You don’t want to get on her wrong side, it will be hell for all of us. “
“It’s only four o’clock,” Keith said. “What about dinner? I’m hungry. Have Ernie send up one of those roast beef au jus sandwiches with French fries. I’m really tired.”
“Whatever you want, Keith.”
Don Coyote stirred in the bushes in back of the Garden Club. It was a good perch, being on the edge of the hill, higher up than the roof of the Lighthouse, where he could look down on Jimmy and Keith talking. He could see the others – Larry Yonally and Fred Martin standing in the middle of the street, Aurora Jellybean twirling her skirt, Barbara Cram having another smoke with Amy Hahn, Tom Robbins and Cindy Sibanda noodling on the bench on the landing of the Benton Street stairs, Roger Cayou and Chico Narkowitz telling lies in front of the LaConner Tavern, and Brian Healey pacing back and forth in front of the Pier Seven building when Lane Dexter showed up from Marblemount bearing arms.
“He’s up there,” Brian said.
Lane said nothing, looking around, then, “What about the hill?”
“If you were a hawk…”
“I see a perch up there. You stay here.”
Lane Dexter drove up Second Street, parked in front of the Garden Club, and walked around to the back, quietly, as he knew how to do that, came up to Don Coyote crouching in the bushes, tapped him on the shoulder and said nothing, bearing arms as he was. Don Coyote knew he was bested but saw Lane to be his ally not his foe. “This is just in case,” Lane said, patting his rifle.
The End.

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Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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