Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Trimming the Bougainvillea

SANTA BARBARA. Another day at work -- a few hours trimming the bougainvillya (sp?) -- which drapes down the hillside and sprawls over the fence. The problem is that this lovely shrub is infested with morning glory vines which are choking in profusion. It is necessary to trim the bougainviller quite a bit in order to get at the roots of the morning glory. Fortunately, the boogervillain loves a good whacking and will sprout abundantly after I am done with it...... Such is my plan for today.

A Short Poem is a Good Poem -- this one takes place at the LaConner Tavern

A Baptist and a Buddhist walked into a bar,
But I haven't gotten very far,

In writing this poem
In yellow and chrome
In pale-green sea foam.

The Buddhist said Save Me,
I'm scared half to death.
The Baptist laughed and said
Save Your Breath,

Cause I'm going to visit the Dalai Lama,
And tell him that it's time to stop this drama.

This is an old story, it might not be true,
Of a Baptist, a Buddhist, a Catholic, a Jew

In the LaConner Tavern in 1982,
Sonia was making crab-burgers for a select few.

That was back in the day when you could run a tab.
You could get drunk and walk home, you didn't need a cab.

Dirty Biter was scrounging,
Clyde Sanborn was lounging,

Robert Sund was sponging,
While he chalked up his cue.
And tourists came in for the view

Of Swinomish Channel,
The log rafts, the sea gulls,
The herons, the eagles,
And derelict hulls.

(Dirty Biter was a well-known dog-about-town at that time)

The next poem happens on the East Coast -- it's also very short

The Lion of Cambridge

I saw Harvey Blume
Arise from his tomb.

I am not dead, he lamented,
Only pickled and somewhat demented.

Dill pickled? I asked.
No, bone-weary, bare naked, un-masked.

That was in Cambridge in Harvard Square
Where Harvey played chess with devils and bears,

Bears of uncertainty, wild and free,
While the Red Line rumbled underneath on its way to the sea.

Does a bear shit in the woods? Harvey joked.
No, the bear took the Red Line to Quincy and croaked.

Meanwhile back in LaConner

Charlie Berg lived on South Fourth Street in LaConner. He had a constant view of Mount Baker from his front yard.

“Yes,” Charlie said. “We live under a volcano and we’re all going to die. That’s why I keep these lawn chairs in the front yard. This is how I figure it – when she blows, the mud and ice come racing down the valley, first Concrete, then Lyman, Hamilton, Sedro-Woolley, one town after another all swallowed up, cows flung about like matchsticks, sirens blasting, people racing around, but not me – when I see that mud flow coming at LaConner I just sets me down in this lawn chair and watch the show. The End. We go out with a bang. It will be like the last surfer riding the biggest wave.”

And from Nebraska, we have

Retirement Plans

Got a phone call from a friend in Nebraska, he said, "Retirement is like being unemployed until you're dead."

The guy got retired by his firm of long-standing -- shown the door.

"It really hit me last week. I had my tires rotated. I never did that before, never had the time. And I don't have hobbies. I hate hobbies."

You could travel.

"I might travel. My wife wants to go to India. I want to go someplace with good plumbing."

What are you going to do otherwise?

"I'm going to start feeding stray cats until I get 2 or 3 dozen crawling all over the place. Then I'm going to sit on the front porch and glare at people walking by."

Sounds like you have a vision.

"Just a way to pass the time. I enjoy pissing people off."

And, for the last time, back in LaConner

Ben Munsey Leaped Over the Fence -- with apologies to Ben Munsey who would just as soon forget this story.

Ben Munsey leaped over the fence that June day in 2002. He crashed the party at the Museum of Northwest Art in LaConner, the annual fundraising auction fueled by high-ticket prices. Munsey didn’t have the money and he didn’t believe he should have paid anyway.

Docents guarded the front gates of the museum that fine summer evening, smiling at the ticket holders, but glaring at street urchins like Munsey.

“I’m too told to be an urchin, I’m past fifty years now. I teach English at Skagit Valley College, but I’ll be damned if I’ll pay $150 to eat shrimp off an ice sculpture and speak nonsense with nobodies from Seattle who come to the valley to ride their bikes past fields full of sweating Mexicans picking strawberries. I live here. I’ve been here a long time, before they built this museum. There was an apple tree right here, the tree was here for years, in a field of tall grass, before they built the museum, which I call a mausoleum, a burial place for the living art which once graced this little town, before the swells came and bought it up, and the before the docents came to keep out the riff-raff. But I am talking to myself,” Munsey said.

He spotted Singin’ Dan, who used to live on the river, a former river rat like himself, a denizen of Fishtown and Shit Creek, a slum dog drummer on Bald Island summer nights. “Dan, I thought you didn’t live here any more,” Munsey said.

“Well, I don’t live here anymore,” Singin’ Dan said, “I sort of got married and I sort of live in Olympia now.”

“Okay, so maybe we can sort of get a beer or something,” Munsey said.

And they stood there on the sidewalk, watching the patrons ensconce from polished vehicles. “Pretty soon they’ll have valet parking,” Singin’ Dan said.

Then it was like – not a plan, no, without any intention, or desire, or any voice of complaint or rebellion, but as natural as the tide rising that Munsey and Singin’ Dan drifted around to the back entrance of the museum, where the busboys unloaded the catered dishes, where the portable fence was installed to guard the premises on this special fund-raising evening -- a fence that looked like a double dare to two old hippies.

Munsey and Singin’ Dan – years later they both said “I thought it was your idea” – but it wasn’t anyone’s idea, more like the purest of action, despite being much too old for such a stunt – they leaped over the fence, Singin’ Dan easily and thinner, but Munsey with a beer-filled paunch dragging over the top rail.

It felt like robbing a bank, Munsey said later, you might spend twenty years in prison, but for a few seconds you feel more freedom than you ever felt in your life – like a vision of ecstasy, like breaking the law is even breaking the law of gravity and you’re flying.

They dashed right into the main gallery of the museum, to the fountain of ice festooned with dainty bowls of shrimp and smoked salmon and real wine glasses for the white wine, people talking in summer dresses and heels and linen sport coats, juggling napkins, and some idiot playing the guitar in the corner to give it that lah-di-dah flavor.

Munsey and Singin’ Dan filled up their dainty plates, but the matron came barreling down – it was Kathleen Willens in a stern, very stern voice who came bearing down with the brunt of the law, because she had been told by the bus boys that two old hippies had crashed the gate and leaped over the fence.

In truth, Munsey and Singin’ Dan stood out from the crowd and, besides that, Willens knew them for who they were, knew that Munsey and Singin’ Dan needed to be watched and suspected. She marched up to them and asked to see their tickets, knowing as well as the skies above that they did not have any tickets

Willens could have let them stay, if only for a hoot. How did all that art get to the musuem if it wasn’t for a hoot?

But the hoot was over, there was no more drinking sake at Fishtown. No, by the summer of 2002 it was all in the can, under lock and key at the museum, and creatures like Munsey and Singin’ Dan may as well move on down the road. If you don’t have a ticket that’s just too damn bad.

Fishtown Woods. I wrote 3,000 words on this topic in the last issue. Three people read the whole thing and they thought it was really great. I have quite a few more thousand words to go, but in the mean time I give you these little poems and vignettes for your amusement.

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