Sunday, September 13, 2015

Sun 'n Surf in Santa Barbara

FROG HOSPITAL -- Sept. 13, 2015 -- unsubscribe anytime
By Fred Owens

I work part-time gardening in Santa Barbara, but this time of year is always slow, so we spend more time at the beach -- we went almost every day this week. I mean, it was brutally hot. We could walk in the park and watch trees die or go to the beach.
Four years now the drought and half the rain, and the hope of El Nino in November. The sign of El Nino is the warming ocean waters, getting to 70 degrees on Santa Barbara beaches and very welcome for swimmers and surfers.
And sharks. More sharks than we've had in the past. You know the old saying  -- Sometimes you eat the shark, and sometimes the shark eats you.
I am not sentimental. I feel equally predatory and would sooner eat the shark than have it eat me. So I think we ought to hire the captain from Jaws and have him go out and hunt sharks.
There being an environmental concern, of course. Shark populations are in decline worldwide thanks to confiscatory fishing practices. Too few globally.
But locally too many sharks and they bite people. So let's arrange to have not too many sharks, not where I'm swimming.
We often go to Hendrys Beachj, about one mile from the house. Hendrys is what people call it because the Hendrys family had a homestead here long back. On the map it says Arroyo Burro Beach.
Arroyo Burro has a small creek that flows -- trickles these days -- out of the dry, dry, bone-dry, crispy-dry hillsides -- trickling into a small lagoon.
We see ducks and herons in the lagoon, and kingfishers. Lots of birds.
The water is brackish.
The lagoon is next to the parking lot which is free. God Bless America! In America, especially in California, we have a constitutional right to park at the beach for free. And we are proud in Santa Barbara to maintain that tradition of free parking.
Park the car, grab the gear -- towel, sun screen, book, ice water, snacks, umbrella, beach chair and boogie board.
Find a place on the beach to put your towel, not too close to other people, not near loud people. These days young people don't bring loud radios to the beach. They stay glued to their smart phones and go into a silent trance with ear buds roaring musical groups I've never heard of . But parking near old people reading books is still the wiser choice. Correct towel placement is the key to a successful beach outing.
Hear the sound of the surf. Magical, soothing and timeless.

Discuss the tide with your beach buddy. Is it rising or falling? Can you see the islands out there through the mist? On a very sparkling clear day you can see all four islands -- Anacapa, Santa Cruz, Santa Rosa and San Miguel.
Observe beds of seaweed and kelp washed up on the sand. Santa Barbara channel has always had an abundance of kelp, which breaks lose in stormy weather and washes up on the beach, sometimes in big piles. Not slimy, not smelly, but a bit awkward to be wading through bits of seaweed in the shallow water -- like swimming in a salad.
Count pelicans. There's two, flying low, just barely skimming the waves, rumbling like World War II bombers over the English Channel.
Sea gulls flock together but they don't seem to actually like each other, a kind of mutual disdain. They simply do not share food. Mr. Big Boss Seagull eats first as the lesser birds watch and leap in for a quick grab. No manners whatsoever.
Stilted  shorebirds are tirelessly stalking. Grabbing little pecks of grubs and snails and morsels of sea cucumbers. Very skinny birds.
Dogs chase Frisbees into the surf.  People walk along the beach in pairs, or solo, with dogs, lost in thought or lost at sea.
The beach faces south, so the sun declines to the right. The surf changes every quarter of an hour -- getting bigger, fiercer, choppier, then getting smaller, quieter, slower, smoother.
Surfers have their own magic network. They appear out of nowhere when the surf rises and they catch those waves. We make a running commentary on the surfers as we watch from the shore. Good wave there! or Oh, too bad, nice try.

I Got Mooshed.  I hope you can see this photo of me on the beach with my broken boogie board. I tried to get on this wave. It was too big, but I had this sense of exhilaration. I launched into the wave on the boogie board, then dove head first into the sand. Fortunately the board caught the sand before my head clunked, The board broke in half. A lesson in respect. The ocean is not my friend. Not my enemy, but not my friend. The wave does what it does, not what I want it to do. I can get another boogie board. I can't get another head.
Passion. Someone was telling me about their passion. "My passion is environmental restoration." Great. Now I need to have a passion. Up until now I've just been working for a living.
Explaining the War in Syria. The war in Syria was caused by the previous war which was caused by the war before that......and so on....

Presidential Looks. Presidential candidates -- how they look matters. I am planning to vote for Hillary Clinton. She looks all right to me, about halfway between Pretty and Plain...... I mean, there's lots of issues about character and substance, and those issues are far more important than looks. But looks do matter. And sometimes they work for you and sometimes they work against you. In Hillary's case, she looks just right. Anyhow, this had come up in the conversation when He Who Will Not Be Named criticized Carly Fiorina.
Surf's Up,

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cell: 360-739-0214

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Monday, September 07, 2015

Fat Tom

FROG HOSPITAL -- September 2, 2015 -- unsubscribe anytime
Fat Tom
By Fred Owens
Fat Tom was the father of Seth Anderson. Seth was driving the car that night when his half-brother Eben Berriault leaned out the window with his gun and shot Scott Kinkele in the back of the head. That was in July of 2000 on Highway 20 in Skagit County, Washington.
You can't blame Fat Tom for what Seth did that night, but if you knew him and you knew Seth, you could see some traits that were passed on from father to son...
Ballistics. I am not telling this story in any orderly fashion, but as it comes to me. I made an inquiry to Lane Dexter of Newhalem, a village way up the Skagit Valley. Lane works on the Skagit River dams that send hydroelectric power to the great cities of the Pacific Northwest.
Lane takes after his father Ralph Dexter who also worked on the dams and kept a small ranch with horses near the village of Marblemount, also near the Skagit River dams.
Lane, like his father, is a skilled marksman and well-versed in ballistics, which is why I asked him about the crime on Highway 20.

Lane has been my friend since I met him in 1970 when we were both quite young. He was careful about how he answered my questions about the shooting. That's why I asked him. Lane is a steady fellow with a good heart. He helped me to examine this tragic crime in a calm manner.
Seth was driving drunk at highway speed that night. Eben Berriault was also drunk and shooting at signs and cars as they wove along the road near midnight. They pulled up behind Scott Kinkele's car. Eben leaned out the window and fired his shotgun at Kinkele, killing him instantly. Kinkele's car made a sickening slow spin across the grass meridian and came to a halt against the fence on the other side of the road. Seth and Eben kept going at high speed back to their home in Anacortes.
Eben was no experienced marksman. He was a convicted felon with no right to even possess a weapon. He was drunk and he was leaning out the window of Seth's car and firing at a moving target. Why didn't he miss? How many times did people say that or think that -- why didn't he miss? It was a bad luck shot if ever there was one.
Lane disavowed expertise or particular knowledge of the case. He only said that such an unlucky shot was possible, and could be fatal. It was more than likely that Eben would have missed, but  he didn't miss and the tragedy unfolded.

Over and Over Again

How many times has that scene played in Eben's head as he watched Kinkele's car make its sickening spin across the grass meridian? Why didn't he miss? Eben is serving a life sentence in Monroe Prison.
Seth was driving the car, and that made him culpable. He could have stopped it but he didn't. But Seth doesn't replay the scene in his mind like Eben does, over and over again. Seth left his prison cell at Walla Walla Prison as he left this world. He was found in his cell near to death in January of 2001, some six months after the murder. But I will tell that later. Now for Fat Tom, who was Seth Anderson's father.
Fat Tom. Tom Anderson grew up in East Los Angeles, of dubious parentage and casual circumstances. He was a mimic of
Cheech and Chong and seemed to know their life story personally. He served time in the Chino Correction Center for Juvenile Delinquents, although he did not say what crime brought him there. He told prison stories the way some men tell war stories or college stories.
The tragic thing about Tom was that he was so damn smart. He was seriously intelligent. He read books with complete understanding, and he was verbally adept. But he never had the chance, or never took the chance, to develop his mind.
He was a very big man. Not tall,  five foot ten inches at most. But wide. A massive chest, legs like tree trunks, arms strong as marble. He was not fat, but we called him Fat Tom because of his large big-boned frame.
He had light-brown curly hair that hung down straggly around his face and to the back of his neck. He had sparkling blue eyes and a tawny complexion. He was Irish with a dash of Hawaiian.

Fat Tom was a provider and hunter. He would dive into a dumpster and come up with ten pounds of cheese past its due date. Once he came into camp with a burlap sack full of wild honey and honey combs. He had ripped apart a rotten log with his bare hands and scooped out the honey. Many bee stings he got for that, like it was nothing. Once driving late at night, he struck and killed a deer. He stopped the bus, dressed and butchered the deer on the spot, working by flashlight. The bus riders made a camp outside of Carrizo Springs, which is a small town in South Texas near Uvalde, and ate venison for two days, inviting people from town to join them. "We're having a feast," Fat Tom said. "Plenty of venison for every one, come and join us -- and bring beer."
Another time, Fat Tom went to a farmer's field outside of Rio Grande City to harvest the honey dew melons. Maybe he asked permission, or may he didn't, but he brought a pile back to camp, a hundred melons in a heap. Everybody ate melons.
Fat Tom was a big man and like a shark -- he had to keep eating every day. His life was chaotic, he had no plan, but he took care of himself, and honestly, he didn't always ask.

He drank beer, smoked pot, smoked tobacco, liked to talk, talking all the time, telling jokes, he never got in fights.

If some guy would give him a hard time, Fat Tom would laugh it off and talk him down. Not to fight, just to have his bowl of beans and a bedroll by the campfire, that's what he wanted.
This was in 1973. Eva Sue had been married to the father of Eben Berriault. They were living in Berkley, California, but they divorced. Eva Sue went back to the logging country near Mount Shasta, bringing Eben and his younger brother Jesse with her, settling in Fall River Mills, a small town. She soon got restless and got some wild ideas, to live like a gypsy and go from place to place, to live from day to day. She made a pack and a bedroll for herself and those two kids and hitched a ride down to Arizona, right down near the Mexican border, near a town called Arivaca, going to a hippie camp called California Gulch.
These border camps like California Gulch never seemed to belong to anybody back then, good for maniacs, free spirits, mystics and criminals, and hard to tell the saints from the sinners, but you took your chances, and if you wanted to be somebody else, you could be somebody else. Nobody would ask questions, or expect an answer.
Eva Sue met Fat Tom at California Gulch, but they did not become a couple right off. Instead they set off on a hippie bus for South Texas to make the peyote ritual, which is a cactus type of hallucinogenic, guaranteed, upon consumption, to make loopy people even loopier.
Lots of things happened on that hippie bus. They all ended up in Michoucan way down in Mexico and hardly knew how they got there. The bus broke down. So they all left the bus and went their separate ways. Fat Tom got arrested by the Mexican Police for being an illegal immigrant. He had no papers and no money, and no visible means of support. They deported him back to America. Years later Fat Tom made a funny story out of  that. "I was a wetback in Mexico and they threw me out, ha ha!"
Fat Tom caught up with Eva Sue again, plus Eben and Jesse -- remember those boys, 8 and 10 years of age, were riding on this bus along with the gang -- but Fat Tom and Eva Sue wanted to get off the road and end the migrant life, so they moved to Montana and got a cabin and lived there for several years.
Fat Tom did farm and ranch work, steady enough. Eva took his last name and became Eva Anderson. They had two children, Seth, born in 1977 and  Grace Anderson, born several years later. You know about Seth and his crime and that is why I am writing this story.
But let me finish Fat Tom's story. Fat Tom did not take too well to settled life with a family. Life is very hard in Montana, especially in the wintertime. He began to drink a lot more than ever and became less reliable and may have been abusive -- I'm not sure about that last part and I hope it's not true, but I can see Fat Tom just kind of giving up on things, like he was never going to make it in the real world, and Eva Sue got tired of pretending that he would make it, so she packed up the kids, five of them by now, and two of them with Fat Tom. She packed up her things and her children and moved to Wenatchee in Washington state.
I lost track of Fat Tom after Eva Sue left him. He must have drifted around. Once he came up to Washington to see Eva Sue and the kids and that's where I saw him for the last time. He was still trying to make a joke out of everything, but I was tired of the joke and did not enjoy his company.
He went back to  the old streets of East Los Angeles, down and out, sleeping in his car, drunk every day and they found him in his car, dead.
Tom Anderson was a good man in his way and he meant well. He deserves a Requiem.

Like Father, Like Son. Seth Anderson was like his dad, and I mean that in a good way. Seth was a provider and a hunter and he wanted to take care of people. He wanted to love somebody. He wanted to do things that would make his mother proud. He almost made it, but I will tell how Seth's life ended at age 23 in the next and last part of this story, coming soon.

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Wednesday, September 02, 2015

it could be worse

FROG HOSPITAL -- Sept. 2, 2015 -- unsubscribe anytime
It Could Be Worse
By Fred Owens
I support Hillary Clinton for President. She is competent if uninspiring. She'll do, as they say. She needs a nickname, so let's call her Old Bones. She needs a slogan, so we can say "It could be worse." She gets my vote if the election were held today.

Hillary is the safe, moderate, middle of the road choice. Who needs excitement? I can watch excitement on TV.

Naming Names
The symbols of the season are changing. First the confederate flag went down and the junior high school that was named after Robert E. Lee goes by Harriet Tubman now. Next, Mount McKinley becomes Denali, as many Alaskans prefer.
Andrew Jackson will not last long on the twenty dollar bill. If it has to be changed, I would pick Eleanor Roosevelt.

Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence and negotiated the Louisiana Purchase, buying the territory from the Emperor Napolean without consulting the inhabitants. He will be criticized for that land grab, and apologies will be made. Jefferson's reputation will be downgraded a notch, but he will remain in the pantheon of American heroes.

The Washington Redskins are privately owned. The team will change it's name when it loses fan support and corporate revenue.

That leaves Columbus Day, a looming target. It gets personal here. Christopher Columbus is one of my heroes. Columbus is the Great Navigator, he is an inspiration to all who are lost. He discovered the New World, although the people who got discovered did not know who the hell he was. October 12, 1492 is one of the most important dates in human history. On that day the world changed and the human race became united. I celebrate that day, although many do not.
Few people care about Columbus anymore, so look for his holiday to disappear or change, under pressure from native American groups who are on a winning streak now.
Climate Change is a Business Opportunity. It's as simple as spreading mulch instead of planting grass if you are in the landscaping business. Or if you have a plant nursery, you discontinue azaleas and stock up on succulents.
If you're in the building trades and the prediction is for warmer winters and hot summers, then the heating-cooling systems need to be changed and there's money to be made doing this. Invest in air conditioning.
The prediction is for rising seas. If you're in real estate, invest in higher ground.

On a bigger scale, if the Arctic ice cap keeps receding, then you plan on new shipping routes on the Northern Way.
My advice to young men and women starting out in life is this -- every change in the weather creates new jobs. When the flood comes, sell hip boots.
Fat Tom.  In the next issue I will continue the story about the Murder on Highway 20. This happened July 28 of 2000 in Skagit County around midnight. Naval officer Scott Kinkele was returning from a day's hike on Mt. Rainier. Eben Berriault and his half-brother Seth Anderson were on a spree of reckless abandon, speeding down the highway, driving drunk and shooting at signs and other vehicles. They pulled up behind Kinkele's car. Eben leaned out the window and shot Kinkele in the back of the head, killing him instantly. Kinkele slumped over the wheel and his car lurched sickeningly across the grass median strip and came to a halt on the other side of the highway. Eben and Seth kept going, back to their home in Anacortes. It was a shocking crime.
The story for next week is about Fat Tom. He was Seth Anderson's father.  Fat Tom was a good man, in his way .... but ..... but you will hear about him next week.
Frog Hospital Grows. We received a $50 subscription from a good friend in Boston. That brings us to $400 for the year. Our goal is $4,000, so we have a long way to go. -- notice the editorial "we."  Actually it's just me. Frog Hospital is honest work. Your check or PayPal donation will be greatly appreciated.
Take the money you were going to send to PBS. I need it more than they do. Sure, you like Bernie Sanders. Give him $20 and give me $20. Hillary Clinton has millions, she should be sending me money, for
Pete's sake.
Who's Pete?

Frog Hospital Subscriptions
Go to the Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button for $25, or
Send a check for $25 to
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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