Sunday, November 29, 2009

Love and Real Estate

"A large income is the best recipe for happiness I ever heard of. It certainly may secure all the myrtle and turkey part of it." --- Jane Austen

In times of trouble and emotional tribulation, we turn to the calm outlook of Jane Austen. Love may come and love may go, but real estate lasts forever -- or nearly so.

And when Jane Austen talks about income, she means the income from the securest investment of all -- property, land.

With great sympathy to those underwater or facing foreclosure, a good home with the mortgage paid is a wonderful blessing.

A dear relative called me this weekend with news of a love affair gone bad. There were so many tears and such pain. But later, as things calmed down, we began to discuss her property -- the home she owns, what it might be worth on today's market, whether it might be a good time to sell. This was such a soothing topic.

Keeping the house is probably her best option, but prices in her neighborhood are still pretty good, and selling could be a good alternative.

But if you sell, then you have money. Money makes me nervous. It sloshes around and other people want to take it from you. It's better to take your money and put it back into land.

Therapists say we need to be grounded. I take that literally. A good fixed-rate 30-year mortgage is the ticket.

THANKSGIVING. I had Thanksgiving with very good friends in Anacortes. One of them, the one who sat next to me during the meal, insisted on talking about politics. I did not enjoy the meal.

But afterward, over pie, the hostess brought out her advertising inserts, listing all the special sales and bargains on Black Friday. She and her husband were going to make the 4 a.m. show at Wal-Mart, Kohls, Best Buy, and so on. I hate shopping and I am a life-long critic of American consumerism, yet their sheer enthusiasm and dedication won me over. With elbows sharpened, the two of them plunged into the crowd and fought their way to the best bragging deal in town.

They were buying things they could easily do without, but I'm not going to be a party pooper.

WHO'S HAVING THE MOST FUN? This might be the first weekend this year, when I had more fun than Tiger Woods. He's a wonderful man and a superb athlete. Did his wife really try to brain him with a golf club? It's none of my business, really.

FOUR POLICEMEN KILLED NEAR TACOMA. The execution-style slaying of four cops happened this morning in a suburb near Tacoma. This is awful and frightening. A Seattle cop was killed in this manner last month.

I have to think about this. I was going to write about how we all have blessings and so many things to be grateful for, but now I can't. I have to think about these four cops who were killed. What can I do about it?

BARBARA CRAM DIED. Barbara Cram died in the early hours of Thanksgiving morning, at her home in Seattle. I had a chance to say goodbye to her on Wednesday. She was calm and receiving very good care from her family and the hospice nurses. Barbara had so very many good friends in LaConner. For those who didn't know her, she was the founder of Friendship House in Mount Vernon, a homeless shelter.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Flight of the Owl

I got up before dawn this morning and drove four miles to the Conway Store because I was out of coffee, and on the way back to the farmhouse, an owl flew over the road, going home after a night’s hunt.

Owls fly so quietly in the darkness. But I am fairly glad to be a human being who gets his groceries at the store. If I had to fly around at night looking for mice to eat, I would starve. Then you have to eat the mice raw, fur, bones and all. I wouldn’t like it.

Speaking of groceries, I will be interviewing a local potato farmer on Monday for a story in the LaConner Weekly News. Skagit Red potatoes are the number one cash crop in these parts -- some 13,500 acres planted this year. We have a warehouse near our old farmhouse (one of several in the valley) which holds countless tons of red potatoes in a huge pile.

That’s why I live here. Sure the people are friendly and the scenery is beautiful, but I’m here because I’m close to the food. It’s the old Scarlett O’Hara instinct in me. “As God as my witness, I’ll never go hungry again.” Not with all those spuds just down the road.

That reminds me of one of the most important functions of the federal government, the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Conservatives object so strenuously to “government interference” and burdensome regulations and taxation and so forth.

I have seen some very conservative ranchers and farmers go on at length about this, like it was a matter of principle, and why can’t we just get the government off our backs?

But they change their tune when the farm bill comes up for a vote. All of a sudden agriculture becomes an essential industry that can’t be allowed to fail. Government money is not wasted on their livelihood.

I agree with that. Government support of agriculture has been highly effective over all. The evidence is our fertile fields and the abundance of low-cost food at our grocery stores. It works.

Now, these same conservative farmers and ranchers might consider that the government can provide some useful assistance to other occupations and other problems, don’t you think?

OFF THE ISLAND. I will be moving off Fir Island in a few weeks. I have been living in this beautiful old farmhouse for two years. The view from my window, across the fields to Mount Baker, is a daily inspiration, watching flocks of snow geese in the winter, and flocks of sparrows in the summer.

But it gets cold living in a house with wood heat, and I’m ready for a move into town, to civilization and central heating, where you just twist the dial on the thermostat and pay the bill every month.

Besides that, I feel like being more sociable. In a compact town like LaConner, you just walk to the grocery store or the post office and you see people you know, and there’s always someone to talk to, and generally we talk about the other people we live with -- not that I’m a gossip.

I will be engaged in a three-month house-sitting situation, which is a great opportunity to concentrate on the book I am writing. Having this low-cost housing plus an advance from the publisher will make it possible.

Speaking of the manuscript -- the working title is “Best of Frog Hospital” -- it will be edited. The publisher and I have agreed to find a good editor and get that thing done just right. This is very re-assuring, because a writer can look at a page of his own words and stare at that page for an hour and know that something just isn’t right, but he can’t quite put his finger on it.

But when a good editor comes along, he or she reads the page, identifies the problem, gets out the old red pencil, and tells you what to do. It’s a wonderful process, although it can be testy at times, because the writer often feels that his own formulations are almost sacred and perfect. When that happens a discussion may ensue between the writer and the editor and things get worked out. For the best, I hope.

LONG-TERM LEAVE FROM THE HOSPITAL. Besides moving off the island, I am taking a long-term leave from the hospital where I have worked the past two years. It is very stressful working on the medical unit in the midst of pain, suffering and death, and I’m not being dramatic in describing it that way because that’s just what goes on at the medical unit.

It’s stressful. Most of the full-time nurses and nursing aides are well under the age of fifty. When nurses get past fifty, they tend to work part-time or to find less stressful assignments

I’m 63, so I need a break. I had a talk about this with a retired doctor and he recommended a long-term break, until mid-January at the earliest. He said to take some long walks and spend time playing with children, and that is what I am doing.

I wish you and your family peace and prosperity and the very best of Thanksgiving.

GARBLED TRANSMISSION. Several readers reported receiving a garbled transmission of the text last time. Thank you for telling me this. I may have identified the problem.

SUBSCRIPTIONS. It's all right to buy a subscription any time of the year. Like right now. For $25 you can become one of the honored subscribers to Frog Hospital. Subscribers have no special influence over what gets written, yet they are held in the highest esteem by this writer. You can mail a check for $25, made out to Fred Owens, and mail it to Box 1292, LaConner, WA 98257. Or go to my Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button and pay that way.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

If You Feel Guilty You Are

In LaConner you're a local if you were born here, or if you went to high school here, or if you no longer give a shit whether anybody thinks you're a local.

This is where I used to live, but I am moving into town:

Room to rent in a lovely old farmhouse on Fir Island. $400 includes utilities. Spacious room with a view to die for facing east across the fields to Mt. Baker. Nice quiet house, good people. Available December 9. Call Patty Detzer 360-445-6281.

This is from Old Frog Hospital -- the kind of thing that will be included in the book I am writing:

If You Feel Guilty You Are

Why do people say “I feel guilty”? Why don’t they say “I am guilty”? If you feel guilty because you are guilty, that means you are doing something you shouldn’t do, and you should stop doing it. If you feel guilty, but you are not guilty, then you need to visit the Head Doctor, or take some Clarification Pills, because you cannot actually feel guilty unless you are guilty.

Do you feel guilty because of what somebody else did? Then you have your emotions on backward. You might feel sad because of what somebody else did, or disappointed, or angry, but you cannot actually feel guilty about what somebody else did.

Ah, but what about collective responsibility? There is a group, a social unit, that you identify with, that you belong to, and this group has done something wrong. Now this is the right way to talk – we say, “We are guilty,” not “We feel guilty,” certainly not “I feel guilty.” To say that “I feel guilty” because of what the group has done is to give yourself an unwarranted importance.

But, in most instances, people say “I feel guilty” because they don’t actually want to take any responsibility – it’s a clever way to avoid saying “I am guilty.” It’s a clever way to avoid making a judgment – either you are guilty or you are not, being fully contextual and using your very own standards, not someone else’s, not what you were taught, but what you actually know – Did you or did you not do this thing? And was doing this thing right or wrong?

Come, come, it’s not that hard. We have the well-known grey area of course. Does everything fall into the grey area? Actually, not.

So let’s say, having gone through this exercise, you reach the conclusion of “I am not guilty” and “I didn’t actually do anything wrong.” Then it’s not your fault – this harm. Either it was not a harm, or else someone else did it.

But if you reach the conclusion of “I am guilty” then you better stop doing it. That is the point of the exercise – to stop doing it. Making amends and apologizing does not serve much purpose, but to reach a decision and then to change behavior, that is character development.

Guilt is not a feeling, it is a state or condition. Feelings, famously, just are, and we accept them–we do nothing. Guilt is the result of a decision or judgment, by ourselves or by others, which points to an imperative--to do something about it.

I could edit this essay, written in 2004, and stop it right here, because the point is well-made, in a general sense. But I wanted to put this exposition on guilt in a context, so I went on to describe this meeting I attended in the town of Langley on Whidbey Island.

I recently attended a meeting of the Peace & Reconciliation Network in the town of Langley on Whidbey Island, at Neil’s Clover Patch Café. The invitation said:

“The Whidbey Peace and Reconciliation Network invites you to a relaxing evening of conversation with your neighbors. We believe that community spirit can be nurtured through good conversation – and great pie and coffee! All points of view are most welcome as we discuss the question: Given the world situation, what do you regard as beautiful and worth preserving on Whidbey Island and, what are you willing to do to preserve it? We will use a process called the Conversation Café…”
I especially like the Conversation Café format of small group (6-8 people) discussion, because I feel awkward speaking to larger groups, and I get very bored. With the smaller group, I get more chances to talk, and because I know I will get a chance to talk I am more likely to listen. The facilitator urged us to listen to each other and not rehearse our own speech – well taken.

Langley is a small town on south Whidbey Island – even cuter than LaConner. Lots of arts & crafts, many long-distance commuters to Seattle via the ferry at Mukilteo – no farmers, no Indians, no Hispanics – it is a liberal town, Democratic.

And I didn’t go there to make fun of these people, or to characterize them – I drove
there, and it takes more than one hour, to join with them and to see if they finally got their act together and their heads on straight. But I was disappointed – they still feel guilty.

But guilty of what? A competent group with mastery of social and technical skills that assures a high standard of living, yet in the context of this group discussion they expressed doubt, uncertainty, and insecurity. George Bush runs they country and they do not. Bush spearheaded the war on Iraq, which they opposed. They’ve lost money in the stock market, and they have lost environmental battles with developers on Whidbey Island.

Given the question about preserving the beauty of Whidbey Island, they felt unworthy even to live there. They said that right-wing fundamentalism was the bane of America. Yet they provided the opposite and contrary attitude of excessive doubt, confusion and inaction – stalling, feeling guilty, avoiding decision.

In conclusion ( a formulation rarely used in Frog Hospital ), the prime directive is “Do the Right Thing,” citing the Spike Lee version of that phrase.

This essay is good, but it needs a better ending. I’ll work on that.

A rare Frog Hospital poem follows, from July 2003:


Mercy for Slobodan Milosovic,

Mercy for War Criminals,

Mercy for Cop Killers,

Mercy for Drunk Drivers and Deadbeat Dads,

Mercy for Wife Beaters,

Mercy for Tyrants and Manipulators,

Mercy for Drug Addicts and Winos.

Well, it’s easy to be merciful to people you like.

SUBSCRIPTIONS. It's all right to buy a subscription any time of the year. Like right now. For $25 you can become one of the honored subscribers to Frog Hospital. Subscribers have no special influence over what gets written, yet they are held in the highest esteem by this writer. You can mail a check for $25, made out to Fred Owens, and mail it to Box 1292, LaConner, WA 98257. Or go to my Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button and pay that way.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

why men don't go to yoga class

dunja, the yoga teacher asked me one day, “Why don’t men come to yoga class?” I said to her, “Let me think about that.”

It’s true that most of her students are women, with the odd guy here and there, and dunja correctly chose me as the odd guy who could explain masculine psychology to her.

I came back with the answer the next week, “dunja, men don’t go to yoga class because there’s no equipment and you don’t keep score.”

Which is obvious, once you thinks about it. There’s no gear. I mean, if they had a yoga launcher or yoga stimulator or something like that, than I could buy one. But then one of the other guys would buy a yoga launcher with chrome bushings and a genuine leather handle, and then he would have bragging rights in yoga class, until I bought a four-point turbocharged yoga massicator with a built-in electronic monitor.

Yoga would be more exciting, instead of all this “breath in, breath out, keep your center, be mindful” stuff.

Then we need to have teams, like five-man squads -- the Yoga Bears versus the Dharma Dudes and cheerleaders going “Down Dog! Down Dog!”

We’ll give dunja a whistle, and she could put people in the penalty box for e Egocentric Manipulation and Past Lives Interference. They would put this on ESPN and all the guys would show up for yoga class.

YOGA WITH DUNJA. Sunday at 9:30 a.m., Tuesday at 8 a.m., Wednesday at 7 p.m., Thursday at 8 a.m. and Friday at 9:30 a.m. Classes are $15 for drop-in or $108 for eight classes. Held at Keystone Center, 619 Commercial Ave, Anacortes. Call 360-770-7891, if you have any questions. Classes have been cancelled for Nov. 18 and Nov. 19, but will be held as scheduled for the Thanksgiving holiday.

RUMANIAN WOMEN. An Anacortes resident and world traveler returned from a long journey to Rumania, the Eastern European country with one of the most corrupt governments on earth, its stream fouled with pollution from Stalin-era factories, it’s economy in shatters. It seems to be such a mess.

“The women are too beautiful,” the world traveler said. “Rumanian women are the most beautiful women I have ever seen. And the men are all crazy. There’s no one left to run the government. I was in a daze myself the whole time I was there. The women are so beautiful that I couldn’t think straight.”

An interesting comment, but not confirmed by other sources.

THE MUSIC MAN. Meredith Wilson’s wonderful musical, The Music Man, opens at the LaConner School Auditorium Thursday, Nov. 19. I have sat through several rehearsals and the singing is wonderful. Watch your friends and neighbors as they transform themselves by the magic of theatrical drama and become the characters they portray.

You will really enjoy this show. And Meredith Wilson is a genius. Anybody who can write a song about Gary, Indiana, deserves the highest praise.

FROG HOSPITAL SIGNS A BOOK DEAL. Fred Owens, referred to as “Author,” has signed a two-book contract with an independent publishing firm. The contract involves a cash advance from the Publisher, and an obligation from the Author to produce one manuscript on May 15, 2010, and another manuscript September 15, 2010.

The first manuscript will be a collection of essays. The working title is “Best of Frog Hospital.” The second manuscript will be a story or collection of stories written by the Author.

The contract has all kinds of neat bells and whistles with clauses about royalties and clauses about good faith, etc., etc.

This is such a good deal. The cash advance makes all the difference in the world. It will give me the chance to concentrate on the work, which is necessary for a good completion. Plus, the publisher has on obligation to publish same.

So it makes you think it’s really going to happen.

The publishing firm will be making its own announcement at a later date, so this is all I can tell you right now.

The Best of Frog Hospital. We really have to have a better title than that, but I am going through the old stuff and picking out what I am not tired of. If you have a favorite, please let me know.

Here’s one from last year, kind of serious, called “Poverty is a Misfortune.”

POVERTY IS A MISFORTUNE. Poverty is a misfortune, it does not provoke nobility or generosity. It must be accepted, endured, fought, and overcome.

Poverty is no blessing, except in the larger sense that all life is a blessing, or pancreatic cancer is a blessing.

Certainly one can learn from the experience. One can exhibit grace.

But to say, Wouldn't it be fun to be poor, is like saying, Wouldn't it fun to be sick.

One does chose the state of poverty as better than a dishonorable life, but one does not seek it for its own sake.

Poverty is not simple living. In fact, it can be both immensely complicated and continuously boring.

But simple living is a happy state. Defined as this: You are living simply if your income is greater than your expenses. Poverty is the reverse of that condition.

AND, a bit of political satire

we’re not like that here (written Nov. 2008)

I was reading about the scandal in Illinois and how Governor Blagojevich
was arrested for selling favors. Like many Washingtonians I was shocked at the depth of corruption coming out of Chicago. I am so glad that we're not like that here.

Take our Governor, Christian Gregoire -- she is an angel of the highest ethical standards. It's true that the tribal casinos made substantial contributions to her campaign fund, but does that grant them any special access? Of course not, Gregoire doesn't even return their phone calls.

Bud Norris, the mayor of Mount Vernon, is so careful not to do any favors for his friends that he doesn't even HAVE friends.

Our Skagit County Commissioners are utterly beyond any attempt at influence. It's true that they sometimes play golf with local business leaders. And it's true that those same business leaders might benefit from zoning changes, but of course those subjects are not discussed. Our commissioners simply cannot be bought.

No, we're not like those crooks in Chicago and thank goodness for that. We can trust our local leaders. In Skagit County, we pay our property taxes with the complete assurance that every penny will be honestly allocated.


"It's a routine surgery."


"Well, it's a fairly common procedure, and the outcome is almost always positive."


"Of course, in a very small number of cases, it's possible that..."

That's what I thought, I'm gonna die.

"Look, it'll be over before you know it, and you won't feel a thing.... I mean, again, there is the slight possibility of some discomfort, but that's not likely, and we have very good pain medication."

I'm gonna die. You're going to put me unconscious and cut me open with a knife. I can see my guts spilling all over the place and there's blood everywhere.

The patient screams. The surgeon makes a wordless, reassuring gesture. The patient shakes his head, looks out the window for a moment and says, "Okay, whatever, give me the form, I'll sign it."

Thus concludes the world's shortest medical drama.

SUBSCRIPTIONS. It's all right to buy a subscription any time of the year. Like right now. For $25 you can become one of the honored subscribers to Frog Hospital. Subscribers have no special influence over what gets written, yet they are held in the highest esteem by this writer. You can mail a check for $25, made out to Fred Owens, and mail it to Box 1292, LaConner, WA 98257. Or go to my Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button and pay that way.

Monday, November 09, 2009

What Is A Lie?

EDITORIAL: A jobless recovery is not a recovery. The recovery has not yet begun. It doesn’t begin until the rate of unemployment goes down.

WHAT IS A LIE? If I tell you a lie and you don’t believe it, then I didn’t tell a lie, I just attempted it. It takes two people -- one to tell the lie, and one to believe it.

Most of the time when someone tells you a lie, you know it’s a lie, and you let it go. That makes you a co-conspirator. I’m not being too hard about this. The average human being can’t get through the day without telling one or two small lies. Except for my first ex-wife -- she was the most honest woman I ever met, but sometimes the truth hurt too much, and I wish she had told a few lies.

Jesus began preaching at the age of 30. He didn’t tell a single lie for three years straight and it made everybody so mad they crucified him. His record still stands, by the way. The rest of us tell lies now and then. Although I wouldn’t say I was a liar, or that you are a liar. To me, a liar is someone who is in the habit of telling lies all the time, and has no regret or conscience about it, whereas most of us feel a bit squirmy when we tell a lie because we know it isn’t right. Most of us try not to tell lies.

Unless it’s a story, of course. Like here at Frog Hospital, which is almost always the truth, except when I make things up. I have standards, I don’t bend the truth, not ever, but sometimes I make the whole thing up from scratch, like this summer when I wrote about Sheila the Tarot card reader on Beaver Marsh Road. There is no Sheila, she was a complete fabrication, but it kind of ruins the story if I say that.

In the past year, I have only told ten or twelve lie that I know of, which is as good as anybody in the business.

WRITING A BOOK. I am finishing a book I started two years ago. I half-wrote it, but I began to have doubts about whether it was good or not. That’s foolishness, I now realize. I’m not in charge of deciding whether it’s good or not, I’m just supposed to write it. So I think I can finish it now.
What’s hard is living with these characters who are traveling through South Texas in 1973 and then going into Mexico -- that’s the story I’m telling, but after a few hours of concentration in this world I have created, I start to feel like I’m in outer space and it's time to come back to earth -- like a transition.

I wrote two hours early this morning on the book, and then went to Rexville for coffee, but the transition made me feel shaky. This is real work, this book-writing, and I am making this place and this story for readers. You’ll like going there if you read it, you’ll enjoy the ride. I want the book to be enjoyable and exciting. I don’t care for a rough story or anything bizarre. And I want to work as hard as I can to make it look like I wasn’t trying at all. When you read this book, you won’t see me sweat. You won’t even think about me, but you will just be in the story. That’s my goal.

But I need to learn this in-and-out business and make it smooth, so that I can work on the book with focus and concentration, like nothing else is happening -- but it’s just me and this gang of thieves in South Texas in 1973 and I’m finding out what happens next just like I’m in a movie.

I keep expecting to run into Marlon Brando playing Emiliano Zapata. Zapata was never in South Texas, but I can put him there, because it’s story. In fact, they filmed Viva Zapata in South Texas, in a little town called Roma, which is near where things happen in the book.

That’s the fun part of book-writing -- finding out if Brando or Zapata wants to be in it or not. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

But after writing for a few hours, living in this other world, I need to have some breathing exercises, as a way to get back to Planet Earth, and be here this November 9, 2009, on Fir Island, Skagit County, Washington state, USA.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Easy Street

Hot cocoa and a warm fire. Good friends and lively music. A lake of stew and candy for the children. Robust health and money in the bank.

Man, that sounds like easy street. Just thinking about it makes me feel better -- my destination, my goal, my well-deserved reward. And I know I’ll get there someday, but first I need to shake off this gloom.

I feel the gloom when November comes, and the fear of winter creeps over the land.
November brings the Day of the Dead. And if you’re in rightness, you will feel no dread, and laugh at the skeletons and bones.

But if you’re not in rightness, you will tremble and your dreams will be disturbed by dark visions of winter -- because the landlord is cruel, he wants his coin. Heat isn’t free but hoarded and sold.

Now, gather in closer and hear my words. You can’t act on the fear, if it’s the fear of winter or any other demon. When you act on the fear, the winter-bully keeps coming back. You pay him off today, and he comes back tomorrow and wants more. He will never go away and you will always be afraid.

But we have learned to prepare for the winter months. This is not acting on fear, but simply being prudent. We learned that in the old hippie days Up River, when we lived in camps and learned how to cook over a fire and grow a garden.

In November of 1970, this conversation between Honcho and Rico may have taken place:

“Well, dude, it sure has been raining a lot. It’s cold all the time now. Man, it’s not that much fun. I was thinking we could, like, get some firewood or something, get a big a pile, you know, stay warm. We were working on that forest fire this summer -- I saw this big slash pile up by Kindy Creek.”

Okay, Honcho, you’re talking a major effort, like you have a plan. Far out, we don’t just go out and find some sticks, but like serious stuff -- a big pile of wood.

“Yeah, Rico, dig it, we stay warm all winter. We could use your truck and go to tomorrow. I’ll come by in the morning. You roust up Toothless Tom and Bobby and we’ll make it a gang. I’ll come by about nine o’clock.”

Uh, nine? Like on the clock nine? Dude, we threw the clock away. We’re just not into that time thing. You know, the rat race, the pressure, buy a new car….

“Okay, forget nine o’clock. I’ll just come by in the morning and we’ll get going.”

But the truck don’t work. The battery’s no good. I mean, we could jump start it, but then it will just die again.

“All right. I got a plan. I come by in the morning. We take the battery out of my car, put it in your truck, and we’re good to go.”

Yeah, that’ll work, but we gotta get the chainsaw from Glenn, swing by his place.

“That’s a problem, you know. It’s not like it’s his chainsaw, like he owns it. I mean, it’s our chain saw. I mean, we’re all in this together, right?”

Yeah, but Glenn kind of figures he’s in charge of the chainsaw. He’s on this like power trip.

“All right, I need to tell him the truth.”

That was the conversation between Honcho and Rico, huddled by a smoky November fire in a tepee up by Marblemount in 1970.

The chain saw in question had been liberated from the Forest Service that summer. It was Glenn and his sidekick Andy who stuck it in their duffel bag and brought it back from the fire.

The August forest fire over on the Eastside was a big burn, thousands of acres in flame, hundreds of fire fighters -- loggers, winos, Mexicans, hippies. We lived in a big fire camp with hot showers and free food, all the steak and mashed potatoes you could eat, and getting paid to work 16 hours a day.

And all that government equipment just laying around like it didn’t belong to anybody -- which is why Glenn and Andy liberated the chainsaw.

This was discussed in council while passing the pipe. “Like it’s ours now. I mean, this is America, and we’re Americans, so this is like our chain saw.”

Everybody saw that was righteous. It was ours, but it always seemed to be sort of more Glenn’s chainsaw than just anybody’s.

Anyway, he cut loose of it when Honcho and Rico and came by the next morning. They had swapped the batteries and brought some food, and picked up Toothless Tom and Bobby.

They found the slash pile on Kindy Creek, cut wood for a few hours, and drove back to camp.

Sure, they had a big pile now, but the wood was green and wet. You spent half the morning on your knees blowing into a smoking fire, you could hear the water sizzle in the wood. Yeah, it burned, if you kept puffing on it, but it didn’t keep you warm at all.
All winter it was cold and wet. No easy street. No lakes of stew. Half the hippies bailed and went back to California, or drifted down to Seattle or got food stamps, or borrowed money from their parents.

It took the hippies two or three years to learn what was easy to see and plain as day. You only had to look at the long, dry, nicely stacked woodpiles alongside the old timer’s place.

Like at Old Jim Clark’s cabin. Old Jim was on easy street. He lived in a small cabin with a wood cook stove, and it was almost hot in there -- so much wood -- but dry wood, and he was cooking beans on the stove all winter, laughing and telling lies.
“You damn fools, I cut this wood in the summer when you were all skinny dipping at the pond. Now you’re freezing your ass off and coming by my place to get warm. That’ll learn you.”

Some of the hippies did learn and they stuck it out and they still live Up River with lots of dry wood stacked outside the door, wood they cut in the early summer, and laid by.

Now, that’s easy street. And the fear of winter -- be gone!