Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Late, Late, Late at night

If it was late at night, would I still see it this way? Would I still want to call her up, wake her from sleep, and plead with her, or scream at her?

I don't know. I don't know anything. I hardly know..... I was going to say, "I hardly know who I am," but I do know who I am.

I know myself. There has never been a small moment of doubt, ever since I was a small boy.

But it's true, that when I was a small boy, when I first realized who I was, at that time I became very angry. I was angry because other people could not see me for what I truly was. They kept asking me, so stupidly, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"Want to be?" I felt inside so much contempt for this stupid question. "Why would I want to be anything, when I was already a golden magnificence?" And I knew this when I was seven. But I was very angry, because all the grownup were so stupid.

I remained angry about this until three weeks ago when I sat in prayer in the lobby of the Church of Christ in Stockdale, and I felt, miraculously, that all the anger was leaving me forever. It just popped out of my skin, like little balls of fire, while I was in that church. Although I wasn't really inside with the congregation, but beyond the glass doors, where I could see inside, at the preacher, but also see outside to the blue sky and fresh air. That's where I sat, when the anger left, that
I had held inside of me since I was seven-years-old.

It was the power of the spirit that took the anger from me, but there was a reason as well -- because now people around me finally realize that I am something, and they no longer look at me with their stupid questions. And I have forgiven them.

Monday, February 27, 2006

The Future

I am facing the FUTURE and listening to the music of Leonard Cohen. Some of his words are in French.

I heard the voice of Chinua Achebe, the Nigerian novelist. He said that things fall apart.

Ellen Bynum sends me emails every day, about her friends in the Skagit Valley. It's easy for me to read her mind.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Lunch with Marvin and Alene

Sunday. I got up. I drank coffee. I read news on the Internet. I forgot to eat breakfast -- this was not good. I left the apartment for church at 9:35. When I got to the Highway, I saw two cops speeding by with sirens, so I turned around to follow -- maybe I could get a photo.

But I couldn't keep up. Then I saw the giant truck hauling the huge tank down the highway with front and back flag trucks. Curious indeed. This was the same tank they were hauling several weeks ago. I got pictures. I asked one of the fellows what it was.

Surprisingly, the tank was on a long trip, from Odessa to Houston, more than 500 miles, but all on side roads to avoid overpasses and busy intersections.

The man said that four of these tanks, manufactured in Odessa, were being delivered to Houston.

I got the photos, but I would be late for church. That didn't concern me at all, but the fact is, I was getting jittery and distracted. That was the part I didn't like.

I got to the church, over in Stockdale. I sat in the back. My mind was very jumpy. I was thinking about the newspaper too much. Usually I don't think about it all on Sundays.

The preacher talked about Ishmael and Abraham. I love that story. Ishmael got such a raw deal, and he did nothing wrong. This was 3,000 years ago, but we still need to make this right. That's not what the preacher said, but that's what I think.

But I was reading the Book of Ruth during the sermon, it's very short. Ruth leaves her home and people to go with her mother-in-law Naomi and become an Israelite. Then she married Boaz. It's a very touching story.

Still, the problem was food -- I just didn't realize it at the time.

After the service, Marvin and Alene invited me to lunch at the OK Corral outside of Stockdale a few miles down the road. I enjoyed eating with them very much, although I didn't think the food was very good.

They are a sweet couple. Sometimes I think Alene is the brains of the outfit, but it just might be that she talks a lot more than Marvin. Well, she is pretty, and vivacious and charming, and Marvin is just a classic gentleman and easygoing country fellow -- with plenty of backbone, if the situation calls for it. He said, speaking of his 20 years as a state trooper, "I always tried to treat people as nice as they would let me."

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Rebecca -- a story I wrote in 1989

Rebecca -- Sunday, November 27, 1989

A day at the Farm and an evening at Barkley’s Pub, rather ordinary -- as the world turns, and things happening in Eastern Europe are changing our lives in more ways than anything that has happened here lately.

I worked all morning on the farm, cutting and splitting wood, pulling weeds, raking up debris and re-planting daffodil bulbs. Martin had the hardest work, he was crawling underneath the house to put insulation on the plumbing and did not come up for hours. Paul slept until 11:30, by permission. When he got up he stacked all the new wood on the front porch.

I was going to cut the wood with the handsaw when I got up that morning because we do not yet have a chainsaw. But caution and past experience was guiding me and telling me to approach this arduous task very slowly.

As I approached the pile of 6-foot limbs which we had snaked out of the woods, a man drove into the yard with a pickup truck. His name was Kelly; he lives in Avon. He asked me about the old boat in the barn, and he said that a friend of his wanted to buy it, to plant in his front yard, filled with flowers.

The boat had been in the front yard for two years. It was 17-feet long, built of wood, with a stout keel and mounting for an inboard engine. It had been recovered at with fiberglass and was painted red. The boat had been stored in a shed at Fishtown for many years. Bo Miller was the nominal owner. During the Fishtown Woods Massacre, we decided to have a fundraising auction, so Bo and Jack Hubbard somehow manhandled the old boat on to a truck and brought it over to the farm.

The auction fizzled out due to a lack of planning and interest and there the boat sat. Six months later I moved off the farm into an office-cum-lodging facility in LaConner -- but I was rudely evicted from that spot when the landlord sold the building to a new owner who simple didn’t want me around. After a three-moth odyssey of temporary quarters, I moved back to the farm, which is at 3325 Martin Road in Mount Vernon, under the auspices of Friendship House. The boat was still there.

And Kelly wanted to buy, but I didn’t really want to sell it -- I like old boats. I was planning to drag it out of the barn someday and turn it upside down on blocks and just let it set there for decades, so I could admire its beautiful lines.

So I said “$50”, hoping to discourage him. Then he said he really didn’t want it, that it was for a friend, it wasn’t really worth much...

Obviously he preferred to pay nothing, and I began to think that he was lying, that he wanted the boat for himself, because he told me he was a fisherman and had three other boats. His little lie did not disturb me because I felt that if he really wanted the boat, he might give it a good home.

I was thinking this as I stood by the woodpile with my handsaw trying to avoid brute labor. Then I got a flash, I asked “Do you have a chainsaw?” Kelly said yes, he was cutting cords of wood for spare money at the time. “How about if you cut up this wood, and help us cut up some more wood in the forest by the road, and we’ll give you theboat?” Deal.

And I thought, thanks, Dad, for sending me to college -- so I can use my brain because my back is not that brawny.

The wood was cut, the boat was hauled out of the barn and on to Kelly’s truck, and we have not seen him since.

Later in the day, about 3 o’clock, Paul and I took a walk around the farm. The farm is 40 acres -- about 15 acres of overgrown unfenced pasture, and 25 acres of woods. It lies on top of a hill just to the north of Skagit Valley College. On the south and east sides of the farm, it is abutted by new housing developments, but the north side joins other farmland, and the eastside is just up the hill from Barney Lake, where the trumpeter swans line in the winter. Rainwater from the farm drains into the Nookachamps River. And although our farm is located with the city limits of Mount Vernon, we consider ourselves to be Nookachampions just lie the folks in Big Lake and Clear Lake.

The farm forest is primarily alder interspersed with towering cottonwood trees, vine maple, wild cherry, and here and there a heavenly-scented grove of young cedar trees. A small herd of deer inhabit the woods and have left well-marked trails.

Paul and I call our walks “surveying the property.” We found a lovely fern garden, and I discovered red berries growing on a small tree, of a kind which I have never seen before. We picked small branches of the red berries plus some ferns to put in the cookie jar (we use it as a vase) on the dining room table. Martin got the cookie jar at the Salvation Army thrift store where he works. It looks like a pig sitting up on his hind legs and wearing overalls and a straw hat -- we call him Farmer Pig.

The Friendship House Farm is probably the last low-rent old farmhouse in the valley. The property is owned by a logging company which owns extensive acreage throughout the area. The owners plan to log off the woods and then sell the property to a developer who will build more housing. In the meantime it has been offered for our use free of charge. The house needs a lot of work, especially the plumbing and insulation. So we make improvements in lieu of rent. The farm is ideally suited for additional housing because of its flat hill top location. We don’t object to the plan, but only hope that some of the trees are spared, especially the cedar groves. We also hope that the farmhouse and barn plus a few acres around it could be sold to Friendship House at a reasonable price -- we have plans to do some serious gardening and chicken-raising.

Oh, we also have a cat with two tails.

Oh, we also have a cat with two tails. Her name is Twig, she’s a calico, about five months old. It’s really a split tail, about four inches long; one part has the bone and it doesn’t move, the other part has the muscle and it wiggles around.

At four o’clock I took a bath; I was very tired. I put on nice clothes and went to visit Susan and the kids. The kids were playing upstairs. Susan had laryngitis and was talking in a whisper. She had made a beautiful quilted wall-hanging with warm, rich winter colors. She invited me to dinner and heated up some turkey, gravy and dressing.

At Barkley’s Pub

I left Susan’s house, got into the car and didn’t want to go back to the farm. I tried to think of anyplace to go besides Barkley’s Pub in LaConner. I had not been to Barkley’s for a week because I had drunk too many brandies on the Saturday night previous and felt stupid about that.

But I went there and had only one. I sat with Rebecca and artist Richard Gilkey of Fir Island. I sat with them in the booth and listened mostly because I was too tired to talk. Steve was sitting on a barstool with his back to us. He turned and asked Rebecca if Amy had come back for Thanksgiving. Amy is Rebecca’s daughter. She is a freshman at Smith College in Massachusetts.

“No, she’s not,” Rebecca answered, and she said that Amy had been a bit homesick, but she has a boyfriend now. The boyfriend drove Amy down to Baltimore to stay with friends for the holiday and then continued on to South Carolina.

Steve remarked that it had been snowing back East. Steve is from Massachusetts and travels frequently on business, going from one big city to the next, although he rarely has time or energy to look around these distant places -- just the airport and the hotel. He lives with Sue Dental in Bonnie McDade’s old house on Snee Oosh Road.
Steve has a round head and face. A rim of black hair surrounds his evenly bald head and is balanced by a neatly trimmed beard of the same proportions. He is both cheerful and quiet.

He mentioned that he had a frequent flier discount coupon good for a roundtrip to the east coast for only $175 and offered it to Rebecca, who said she was interested.
Then Rebecca began talking about what she calls “mama drama” and she as able to embarrass her 18-year-old daughter at a distance of 3,000 miles. Amy had been calling home more frequently in the past week because she was homesick. So Rebecca wrote a note to the senior student in Amy’s dormitory, telling her that it would soon be Amy’s birthday and asking her to give Amy a birthday hug from Rebecca. Apparently the senior student made a big production of this at dinnertime in front of all the other students.

Rebecca and Amy are a two-person family. They moved here to LaConner from Mukilteo about seven years ago. Rebecca works as a waitress at the Lighthouse Inn and has rented several house and apartments in LaConner since then. She does not like waitress work although she has no complaints about her employers at the Lighthouse, who provide Scandinavian security and stability to their employees, who, in return, do not leave to work elsewhere. Both mother and daughter are gifted with a fine intelligence and a yearning to do and be more than what they are.

Richard Gilkey, the artist, sat across the both from Becky and me. He is over sixty. He has short, grey hair, rugged wrinkles and dark, sparkling eyes. He was wearing a logger’s hickory shirt and drinking Cutty Sark and water. He had a car accident about five year’s ago which messed up his shoulder. It has pained him ever since. Two months ago he had an operation which repaired the rotator cuff and “cleaned up the debris”, as he put it. The operation had been successful and Richard praised the doctors. But he talked about how awful it was for him to be running down to Seattle for treatment. Truck drivers splashed mud on his car as they passed him.

Rebecca agreed that truck drivers drove much too fast, were string out on amphetamines -- how they tail-gated at 65 mph, etc. This was said without any animosity, but more to continue the conversation which seemed to want another topic altogether. I supplied one. I mentioned that Lloyd Trafton commuted down that same freeway everyday to his job in downtown Seattle.

That reminded Richard that he and Lloyd had been high school classmates years ago at Ballard High School. Lloyd is in middle management at IBM and has a 25-year pin. “I don’t know how he does it,” Richard said. Lloyd frequents Barkley’s and provides an interface between the corporate world and the rest of us.

Rebecca sat next to me in the booth with her knees up, relaxed as if she had her shoes off. She told me two times, first when I entered, and second when I left, how much she liked my red shirt. I replied, “Yes, I took a bath”, and she laughed.
What I meant was that I looked good because I felt good, and I felt good because I had done some good outdoor work and got cleaned and got dressed afterwards. But I was tired and I could only manage that short phrase. I would also have said that I bought the shirt one day when I was feeling low. I had driven over to Clear Lake to visit Helen Farias. She was wearing a red dress which I found very cheerful. She and talked about how different colors create different moods. I left Helen’s house and drove directly to J.C. Penney’s where I bought the reddest flannel shirt I could find for $30. It does tend to cheer people up.

No one else was in the bar except Ben, the cook, who fills in as bartender on Sunday night. Ben was wearing his special paisley vest which everyone admires. He has a long and rather interesting story about how he acquired it in exchange for a painting. I have offered to rent the vest from him by the week, but he declines. He lives in Burlington and is devoted to his work at Barkley’s and to his employer, Michael Hood.
Michael came in just then, stood behind me and talked to Richard. Michael and I do not get along well. We ought to get along well, but we don’t.

He talked to Richard about the opening of the Kaleidos Gallery on December 1. Susan, the owner of the gallery, had mailed out over 2,000 invitations to God-knows-who. Michael was wondering how many people would actually show up, since he was catering the event. Richard said, “Put out a lot of peanuts”.

Richard talked about Janet Huston’s gallery. She is Richard’s dear friend and show his paintings. She has been collecting names for her mailing list for 15 years, he said. She is very sharp and professional about this. The artists approve of Janet because she shows many of them and brings in buyers with big bucks.

Michael has been a bit short lately, not his usual gracious, humorous self -- most likely because he lost the election for town council to Jerry Hedbom by only three votes. Ben had turned the radio to KPLU in order to hear the jazz and blues program which starts at 7 p.m. and which everyone likes. The problem is that it was only 6:45, so we were listening to “Car Talk” with Click and Clack from Massachusetts -- two guys bantering about mechanical problems and fielding call from the listeners. Michael wanted the station changed. Ben registered a mildly strained expression on his face and then switched to classical music for the remaining 15 minutes.

During a lull in the conversation between Rebecca and Richard, I decided to talk about recent events in Czechoslovakia. I said that I enjoyed watching the huge crowds on television -- so full of life and hope. They both nodded with approval and looked like they were ready for me to continue on that subject and all the big changes in eastern Europe, but I was too tired to elaborate.

The conversation drifted on, but slowly my mind came into focus, and I said, “Can you imagine the conversations and the people talking about things they never could talk about before, and people talking to complete strangers, pouring their hearts out -- endless exciting talk?”

Again they nodded with genuine sympathy. And I wanted to say more, even loudly something like this, Look, I read the newspapers every day and often watch the TV news. Every little story they cover, they smother, they frame it up tight and interpret it; they make it clear that this little bit of news has been “brought to you by CBS” and Dan Rather is spoonfeeding this little slice of life to you from the network government.

But what is happening in Eastern Europe is so alive and incredible that the media cannot interpret or filter or “present” this torrent of life and awakening. The wall has been torn down, the East Germans are flooding across, real life is cascading through the airwaves and into our newspapers and living rooms -- real life, direct, live, unedited. It’s wonderful.

But I didn’t say it, I was happy just to sit and listen. I left after one brandy and drove back to the farm. I stopped at Safeway to buy cornflakes, milk and sugar, which Paul had earnestly requested. I also bought ten Medjool dates at $2.98 per pound and three golden delicious apples.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Maybe I should keep a journal again. My old journal is about 4-feet thick, counting multiple volumes over many years. No one has ever seen it. It is a vast sea of self-pity and great dreariness. I think if someone were to read it, they might find a few passages of some value, but they would have to wade through a lot of repetitive nonsense.

Well, it was private. I just now attempted three blogs postings, which I quickly discarded -- because it's none of your business, and you might discover what a creep I am, and what a sordid mess I have made of my life.

Why should I tell you? And furthermore, in this ultra-confessional Oprah world, why would you want to know?

Go read Aurielle's blog. Hers is better.


It feels like spring out there. Last evening, I saw a woman working in her garden. She had just planted two rose bushes. She showed me some teeny, tiny leaves that were going to be flowers. This little garden patch is just down the street from my apartment, on the corner, behind a wrought-iron fence. I can watch this garden grow.

I live above the store and I look out over a roof -- nowhere near any dirt. I'm thinking I might root some rosemary and grow that in a pot.

Lots of people around here grow rosemary, but I never see any lavender.

Lavender is just as easy to grow as rosemary. Both of these plants thrive on abuse -- perfect for the Texas climate. I had several dozen lavender plants where I used to live. I had some of it trimmed into a hedge.

Lavender smells great. I would just pick a few leaves, crush them, and smell them. Sometimes I would rub leaves on my forehead and arms in lieu of cologne. Or make lavender tea -- it's very mild in taste, good with honey, and naturally relaxing. But mainly it was just to easy to grow, and I was simply glad to have it around.

If I get a small lavender and small rosemary, I can grow them in pots on my kitchen window sill -- that might be enough garden for me.

Winter Olypmpics

I caught the fever late into the games. Those weird new sports put me off. Half-pipe, short-track, ice-dancing, freestyle -- whoever heard of that? No gimmicks, please. I don't care for curling either.

What I like -- downhill skiing, and the slaloms, x-country skiing, the ski jumps of 90 meters and 120 meters, the biathlon, hockey -- all the classic stuff.

I saw Sasha Cohen Tuesday night in her short program. She was very good.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Bible class

After dinner, I drove to Stockdale to attend Bible study at the Church of Christ. I was their last week and sat with Marvin and Alene, but they didn't come this week. I didn't mind. I sat with some other folks.

The lesson was about Romans, Chapter 14. I started to read that, and then I checked a footnote which referred to the second Book of Samuel Chapter 22, so I looked that up, and it was about King David, and the book of Samuel is soooo much more interesting than the Epistles.

Okay, the Epistles are just a lot of boring advice, and St. Paul is a pill -- there I've said it.

I sure didn't say that in Bible class, but this is why we have blogs.

I read the book of Samuel, where David is old and dying and about to formally select Solomon, his son by Bathsheba, to be his successor. Meanwhile Wayne, the preacher and leader of the Bible class, is explaining what Paul meant in Chapter 14 of Romans, and I'm kind of half-listening, when we got to the part about how I shouldn't do something and be a stumbling block to my brother.

I shot up my hand, and Wayne recognized me. I said, "That's kind of complicated."
He said that I asked a good question, and he went on to explain it all over again, but he did agree that a lot of preachers never preach Romans, because, in fact, it is a bit complicated.

Afterwards, when the class ended, I spoke with the woman who sat next to me. She said she was a nurse at the nursing home in Stockdale, that she was the director of nursing service -- the DNS, the boss, I knew that term -- but she was a very sweet lady and said she had been a nurse there for 40 years -- what a good life!

I drove home, stopping to buy a pint of Blue Bell ice cream.


Thousands of people across the globe are wondering what I had for dinner tonight. I will tell you. I combinied and re-heated some leftovers.

For vegetables, I had some carrots and cauliflower that I had steamed with a sprig of rosemary. For a main course, I had some spaghetti with meat sauce -- a very simple dish, Newman's own sauce percolated along with some ground chuck, chopped onions and garlic, mixed with cooked pasta, and left in oven to get better acquainted -- but that was yesterday. Today I just took a scoop of the pasta, along with the steamed vegetables, and put them in a saute pan with a scoop of lentils -- also already cooked.

Now, these are those cute little French lentils. They are smaller, darker, and creamier. They cook quicker, and they only cost a little bit more, and lentils don't cost much anyways, but you have to go to Whole Foods in San Antonio to get them, because they don't have them at the H-E-B.

That was the hot part. The salad part was a half avocado slice, and a kiwi sliced, not mixed together, but each in their own little pile, of which I put salt on the avocado and some hot sauce, but plunked the kiwi down straight and sweet into my mouth. In fact I ate the kiwi first, because everything else was hot.

Now, this may surprise you, but I believe this is the very first time that I had bought and eaten a kiwi.

Oh, I eat them all the time at other people houses, but I never did them myself until tonight.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Too much on TV

I watch TV. Tonight there is too much on. NBC has the Olympics -- the bobsled and women's figure skating. CBS has the San Antonio Spurs versus the Seattle Supersonics -- like my favorite teams. ABC has Commander in Chief, followed by Boston Legal.

Boston Legal is now my favorite show. Too much. Plus Trish sent me an email. She said she was not chickening out or losing interest in me, but that life had caught up with her and she was too busy. She said to call after 7:30 p.m. I did. No answer. I left a message. I know all about what's keeping her busy. I approve. I understand. But still, taking care of Fred needs to be on the schedule.

The blog wakes up

My coffee maker broke, my Mr. Coffee, Joe DiMaggio is dead. I had to make coffee on the stove. I used to make hobo cowboy coffee all the time, until I moved here, and Elaine got me a coffee maker. Then it broke -- it was my fault. I left it on all day, and it burned out.

Now I am scraping until the next pay day, so I don't know if I can buy another one.

I need a more comfortable chair, a classical guitar, some running shoes.
I might need a new muffler for my car.

I'm not actually worried about money right now. I refuse to complain, as some do, about the low pay of journalism. It's clear to me that the pay is commensurate --- it is simply too damn much fun being a reporter. If I walked off this job, I would be quickly replaced.

Plus the dignity -- My job has TONS of dignity.

I just wish I had some friends. I will never have friends in this little town. I've been here three months now -- three months is long enough to know that there will be no friends. Yet, there is so much about this place that I love, and especially I like my job. Okay, I can't figure that out today -- off to work.

Monday, February 20, 2006

It's been a long time

I haven't written here in some time. I've been sending the newsletter out again instead of doing this blog. You can get the newsletter if you email me at froghospital911@gmail.com

It's always good to read Aurielle's blog when I'm not writing. Just go to the link to her blog on the lower left side of the page.

She and her husband are divorcing. It has been awful. They have two small children. They sold the house and Aurielle will be moving out in a few days, to a little cottage nearby.

Her soon-to-be ex-husband comes from a very wealthy and powerful family -- she has been cruelly treated by them. Her husband's family has heaped lawyers against her, and she seems to be penniless now.

I'll tell you about myself the next time.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Seahawks lose

The Seahawks lost yesterday against the Stealers. Such a good team, but they lost. They screwed up and they had bad luck. I think the referees were guided by the gods of football, because all their calls went against the Seahawks.

No point here -- except that I remember times in my life when I was close to winning and I threw it away. I know that feeling, looking at the ashes of my life and envying the winners. I'm so glad those demons have left me. I don't think I really did anything to get rid of the loser demons, but they surely went away, and now they dwell in the Seattle Seahawks. I am most sympathetic.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Girl Power, Boy Loser

I saw the girls basketball game last night at the gym. I took photos for the newspapers and made notes for story I'll write Monday morning.

What I really noticed was the pep, enthusiasm, style, grace, power, confidence, grit, beauty, and strength of these two girl teams, with sound athletic skills -- shooting, dribbling, passing, rebounding, working together, reading the court -- they had everything. Girl Power.

Boy Loser. Did you see the cover of Newsweek about how badly boys are doing in school these days, and they form a solid minority in colleges and graduate schools too. Boys are bums. You look at them and you know they're prison-bound, pathetic, guaranteed to be homeless, under-employed, ignorant, unhealthy dullards.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Girls were supposed to get more confidence and self-esteem, which they did and we can see it. But some of us, not me, predicted that the boys would fall. They have fallen. Boys are losers.

So, we can congratulate the people who were right about this and said it would happen. And we can blame the people who trashed the boys and built up the girls. I recommend neither choice. I recommend, at least for today, accepting the reality of what has happened. The girls are up and the boys are down. And that is the plain truth.

Friday, February 03, 2006

laparoscopic surgery

I was invited to observe laparoscopic surgery today at the local hospital. It was for a colon resection, where they snip out a piece of the lower intestine and staple the good parts back together. They do this by making several small incisions -- one for the light and camera, the other openings for the tools of the trade.

This is a lot easier on the patient than opening up a big cut and going in by hand -- minimally invasive. I interviewed the surgeons afterwards -- the big shot from San Antonio who teaches the other doctors how to do this procedure, plus the local docs who were learning the technique. They were pumped. Patient doing nicely and going home tomorrow.