Friday, May 26, 2017

Push the Bus

 By Fred Owens
We pay careful attention to national and global affairs at Frog Hospital. If anything important happens, we will let you know.
I made a fairly polite joke  about our President and his visit to Saudi Arabia. My Facebook friend Albadr Alhazmi thought it was funny. He is a Saudi Arabian and has lived and studied in the United States. I cannot speak for him, but I would say his political views are conservative and his religion is orthodox Muslim.
Albadr and I are friends and I hope to meet him some day. I might go over there to his country -- that would be cool. Ride a camel. Sleep in a vast tent a way out in the desert. Arise before dawn and see the Morning Star in the sky....Some day.
Push the Bus
"You don’t know America ‘til you go to Texas and you don’t know Texas ‘til you go to Mexico, so that’s what we did."

I might make that the opening line of the book, if it makes any sense.

We say that the Revolution and the Civil War were the defining events of American history. But the case might be made for the battle of the Alamo and the victory in that war which defined the boundary.

The Roche Family was only dimly aware of those facts.

They were a group of hippie hooligans who camped along the Rio Grande River in 1973, physically contemplating the nature of boundaries. Like Rico, one of the main characters, said, "Wow, one side is Mexico and the other side is Texas ..... wow ..... I don't know.... it doesn't look like much of a river to me."

The book doesn't start in Texas however. It starts at a mental hospital near New York City.

"Tom Blethen sat at the edge of his bed reading a letter from his Aunt Mary. He lived in the men’s dormitory at Rockland State Hospital in New York. He was a psychiatric aide and they rented quarters to staff members who wanted to live on the grounds.Tom was about ready to give up this job."

Tom did quit the job, then he hitchhiked to Texas and joined the gang.

This story is hardly original. It seems like a remake of the Wild Bunch starring William Holden and Ernest Borgnine, where a gang of aging outlaws try to make one last big score, so they ride down to Mexico and get in a shoot out and they all get killed. Bang, Bang.
No Bang Bang in this short novel, Push the Bus. The gang made it down as far as Michoacan when they ....... but read the book and find out yourself.

High School
I contacted three old friends from high school. They weren't exactly friends, they were just guys in my class for four years and we got along well but otherwise we never hung out after school.
There was Mike and Jack -- they edited the school yearbook -- and there was Phil who edited the school newspaper.
We were all in double A, where they put the smartest kids. Mike and Jack and Phil  had school figured out and I didn't. I set the senior class record for consecutive days in detention, but they smiled and got honors and recognition.
The thing is they were never mean to me, they never rubbed it in or mocked me. They just kind of looked at me like  -- Dude, don't let all this bother you, you're just throwing up obstacles in your own path. But I ignored those signals. I fought. What for? I don't know.
That was in 1964. Now I'm thinking to write a story about high school, only all the high school movies are like Rebel Without a Cause because all the misfits drifted out to Hollywood and became screen writers. I didn't  want to write that story although it's true and it's what I did.
Instead I decided I wanted to write the story of Mike and Jack and Phil. Not just their high school years but their entire lives. Like how did it work out. This is a good idea, but there's a huge problem with this kind of story. Mike and Jack and Phil need to agree to some intensive interviewing, about their lives, their work, and their families. I kept dreaming up questions that I wanted to ask them.
Of course you know what happened. They did offer me cordial greetings when I contacted them and they wished me well with my life, but no, they did not care to become involved in my literary ambitions. They begged off. They declined.
No interviews. No questionnaires.  No phone calls. Just "nice to hear from you , Fred. Be well. Let's have lunch some time."
Well, I can hardly take this personally. they just didn't think it would be any fun.
So do I give up?
I looked up the school's alumni association. It's a private Catholic school -- actively raising funds from prosperous alumni. They never got a penny from me, but they keep trying.
I found this notice in the alumni news:
Let us know what's happening

Have you recently earned a degree? Won an award? Changed jobs? Written a book? Reached a milestone? Accomplished a dream? We want to hear about it. Keep your classmates and friends up-to-date on what's happening in your life by submitting a class note to 
LOYOLA magazine editor Robin Hunt at rhunt@loyola.org
.
Alumni news is all about bragging. But what if you just got divorced after 15 years? What if your dog died? What if your son just dropped out of college because of his drug addiction? These things happen to all of us. Why do we only share the good news at alumni affairs. It's like that at every school. "I can't go to the reunion unless I lose fifteen pounds and get rid of this beer gut. I've been stuck in the same crummy job for so long. My house has termites. My wife drinks in afternoon. Nothing worked out the way I had hoped...... except I'm good at bowling. I often bowl over 200 and some neighbors are impressed at my BBQ prowess. I can do most of the repairs on my car, and I've grown some impressive carrots in the back yard garden. Yeah, yeah, my life isn't a disaster, just a bumpy ride, just like most of the people I know. I'm all right. But screw the reunion. I'm not going. "
Thus saith a typical alumnus at a typical high school.

I should give details about the school I went to -- Loyola Academy, an all boys high school run by the Jesuits in Wilmette, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago.

When I went there, 1960 to 1964, there were 1,600 students, all boys. It was so grim -- all boys. The dress code was no jeans, no sneakers, no t-shirts -- had to be leather shoes, khaki pants or better, and a button shirt  -- had to wear a tie with the collar buttoned.
I used to get busted for that all the time because I had a fat neck --- left the collar unbuttoned and wore a sweater to conceal it, then Fr. Beall would reach out -- he had very long arms and he was very tall -- reach out, grab the sweater, pull it down and check to see if my top button was buttoned.
And Fr. Beall was one of the teachers I liked.
But that is not an unusual story. Lots of people had a hard time in high school. Instead, at least for balance, I need to hear from Mike and Jack and Phil about their happier experience.
Or I could contact Tom Graney. The new alumni directory is really slick -- you can look up anybody in seconds. I found Tom Graney and he lives in Florida. That's Colonel Tom Graney. I guess he made a career of the army. It might be interesting to hear about that.
We Called Him Billy

Ed Murray was a student at Loyola.  He was a year older than me. He's the older brother of Bill Murray the actor. Bill -- we called him Billy -- is our most famous alumnus. I have a story I'll save for next time about Bill Murray  and fast times at the caddy shack -- the real caddy shack that inspired the movie Caddy Shack.
High School. Getting tired of high school stories? I was just getting warmed up, but we are sensitive to the demands of our faithful readers. Our purpose is to inform, to stimulate and to entertain. Our commitment is to tell the truth and keep it interesting.
The End of the Spring Subscription Drive. Last Chance!
A $25 or $50 subscription to Frog Hospital comes with the promise that I will try my best. I have been writing this journal since1998. I have written some hundreds of issues of this journal, and some of it has been very good indeed and I would like to continue writing this, and I would like you to send me a check for $25 or $50 or punch the PayPal button.
You can find the PayPal button on the blog. Go to Frog Hospital.Or make out a check to Fred Owens and mail it to:
Fred Owens, 1105 Veronica Springs RD, Santa Barbara, CA 93105

thank you very
much,
        Fred

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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


Thursday, May 18, 2017

High School

FROG HOSPITAL -- May 18, 2017 -- By Fred Owens
with news from Chicago, Boston and South Texas
High School, Loyola Academy, Wilmette, Illinois, 1964

That horrible feeling when you wake up in the middle of the night and realize you will NEVER get over high school.
So don't try. ....don't try to get over high school, don't try to get over anything ....some memories fade, some memories don't ..... What surprised me about the high school dream I had the other night was the details I remembered, the faces and the names of classmates..... Where is all that data stored?

It was not the usual nightmare. It was a pleasant and friendly dream. We were the smartest kids in the school, in double A, some twenty of us and now I'm realizing that some of these fellows were just a bit more mature and sensible than me...... It wasn't them, it was the jocks who got voted to class office. They were the real jerks..... But Mike Plunkett, Jack Liess and Phil Rettig, the guys who put out the school newspaper and yearbook.... They had no animus toward me .... They could have been friends if I had only stopped sulking and lashing out.
Why forget? Why remember anything? Why assume you have control over what you remember and what you forget.
Meryl Streep said it well in this commencement address. "Real Life is actually a lot like high school." So you don't get over it, because you're living it now.
After the dream I contacted Mike Plunkett. He was glad to hear from me.

Marty Federman Passes....His Obituary Here
I sent him my Frog Hospital newsletter every week for the past 18 years. He rarely read it and he told me so, but I said Marty it just makes me feel better to keep your name on my email list. So I have kept this connection to him all this time because it was good to have him in my life even in this small way.
Marty Federman was the director of Hillel at Northeastern University in Boston when I first met him in 1992. In later years he took several positions of leadership in Jewish spirituality and politics. He had a warm and loving home in Brookline, right outside of Boston.
The Woman Who Burned Her Own House Down
People seem to find new ways to screw up their lives. A few years ago, on a day much like any other, Charlotte Anderson, age 39, was mad at her husband. The Andersons lived on a few acres under some post oak trees in a quiet neighborhood near La Vernia. He left for work about 8 a.m.
At about 9 a.m., Charlotte took a five-gallon can of gasoline, poured it all over their 1,800 square foot house, lit it on fire, and then stepped outside and called the sheriff on her cell phone to report what she had done. Meanwhile, the neighbors saw the smoke and called the La Vernia Volunteer Fire Department. I heard all this on the police scanner at work. Three fire departments came, but it was too late – the house was completely consumed.
The deputy came out and arrested Charlotte. She was charged with Arson. Her bail was set at $10,000. Investigator Rich Nichols interviewed her and I talked to him afterwards. He said that there had been marital difficulties, then he told me some more stuff off the record.
I never heard of anybody setting their own house on fire, have you? I got curious. Maybe her husband had done something to make her mad? I drove out that way, about 15 miles from Floresville, and pulled up slowly to the house, which was marked off with police tape. I just took a slow look around at the ashes. Then I noticed a man across the street shoveling gravel for his driveway, and I went over to say hello.
I asked him if he knew the Andersons. He seemed kind of nervous and wary, so I tried to put him at ease, but still I was a stranger asking questions – I had given him my card and said I was a reporter for the local paper, but I noticed he only told me his first name. Anyway, he said he had only moved to La Vernia two weeks ago from Des Moines, Iowa – and he looked like he wished he could just go back to Iowa and live around some normal people.
I decided to drop my investigation. It seemed more like a matter of private misery than public concern.
A True Story. "The Woman Who Burned Her Own House Down" is a true story. This happened in La Vernia, a small town in South Texas. At that time I was a reporter for the Wilson County News which covered that territory. I like this story because it is both funny and sad. And odd, and personal.
We laughed about it at the office, but then we stopped laughing. What a disaster for these people. Obviously the woman had mental health issues. And the poor husband. Did he deserve to lose his home? Maybe he did. We didn't know. We did know that the insurance would not cover a case of self-inflicted arson. So they were left with nothing but ashes.
We do know that after several days had passed, Charlotte Anderson was still in jail. Her husband apparently did not care to bail her out. Nor her family, nor her friends, if she had any.
But still, we worked at a newspaper that did not care to broadcast the pain and suffering of local people. She burned her house down, she went to jail, and on top of that she got her name in the paper for doing just that.
It was a public humiliation and an embarrassment to her family -- having her name in the newspaper, in print, in black and white, for all the world to see. The staff at the Wilson County News was always mindful of that. We only printed what was necessary and factual, and not to amuse the readers, but only to inform them.

Yes, it is a true story and Charlotte Johnson is her real name and it is a crime to set a building on fire even if it's your own home and you're mad at your husband.
And it's a little funny too. Maybe the husband deserved it. Don't mess with Charlotte.
Spring Subscription Drive. A $25 or $50 subscription to Frog Hospital comes with the promise that I will try my best. I have been writing this journal since1998. I have written some hundreds of issues of this journal, and some of it has been very good indeed and I would like to continue writing this, and I would like you to send me a check for $25 or $50 or punch the PayPal button.
You can find the PayPal button on the blog. Go to Frog Hospital.Or make out a check to Fred Owens and mail it to:
Fred Owens 1105 Veronica Springs RD Santa Barbara, CA 93105
thank you very
much,

Saturday, May 13, 2017

How can I help?

 By Fred Owens
How Can I Help?
I posted this on craigs list How can I help? How can I help you write a better essay? We can sit together at a coffee shop -- I prefer the Good Cup on the Mesa -- and go over your words. We can find the right words. My approach to tutoring is non-directive. I'm going to listen and pay attention. Tell me about your struggle. You're going to do most of the talking and all of the writing. I charge by the hour, $20 or $25. I can send you references and samples of my own writing.
But no takers, so far. No response to this notice. I have to admit something here. I have an incredibly high estimation of my ability as a tutor and writing coach. I expect to merely nod my head in that direction and then receive a flood of gold-plated offers. I expect to be recruited.
But the brutal reality is that I have landed in a swamp of over-educated pathetic creatures who are dumbfounded at the poor pay and lack of  respect in the occupation of tutoring. It is the very lowest rung on the academic ladder.
Geez, I'm not begging for work. I'm better off gardening, and I will take the tutoring only if it's worth my while.
Gardening is not exactly a high-status occupation either. I make $15 an hour. Some people say I should charge $20 or $25. Sure. But my actual customers prefer to pay me $15. My big selling point as a gardener is that I speak English. You can actually tell me what you want me to do, and then I will do it. I'm old and I don't work too hard in the hot sun, but I can follow instructions.
It's their property and their money, so I just do it their way, or I tell them, no I can't climb that tree, or no I can't fix your automated irrigation system either. They actually like it if you tell them what you cannot do -- better then pretending, better than bluffing.
I bring  that same work ethic to the task of tutoring. If you want to learn it, or if you want your child to learn it, then I will give it a go. It's like nature. In the garden, you step out of the way and let things grow. Growth is natural.
And human beings have a natural curiosity and desire to learn, especially children. I learned that in my high school Greek class. The first line of Aristotle's Metaphysics -- everybody knows that of course -- the first line reads thusly:
"All men by their nature desire to know."  Or
πάντες ἄνθρωποι τοῦ εἰδέναι ὀρέγονται φύσει.
That is one of the great opening lines of all philosophy and literature. Honestly, I never read the rest of Aristotle's book -- but I know the first line by memory.
It doesn't say anything about behavior. It says people have a natural desire to learn, not that they have a natural desire to behave well.
What this means is that you let children learn and you make them behave -- two different things.
But in my tutoring work, I do not enforce behavior. Not interested.  Don't hire me.
Gratitude. Thanks to Harvey Blume, a chess enthusiast and resident of Cambridge, Mass. but originally from Brooklyn, and a friend of mine since we met in the Tikkun group in 1992. I asked him to look at a manuscript, a memoir of 36,000 words. He read excerpts, he made useful comments -- just having his support made it easier. I cut out 6,000 words and now I have something pretty good. I can rest easy, for now. Thanks, Harvey. The memoir is called the Falcon Journal because I wrote it in 2005 when I was camped on the Rio Grande River at a place called Falcon Heights.
Here's an excerpt:
I am a very good camper. Other things I have not done so well at. I have always been ambitious, but I have never had any success. It is this writing. I am meant to write. I know that. When I am writing I feel that I am doing the best thing that I can possibly be doing. It’s when I stop writing that the trouble starts – because I expect something to come of it. Expect what? I ask myself. Fame and fortune – the usual thing. But that never happens. Then I feel let down. As I get older – this is a blessing – I go through this cycle very quickly, and then I get back to the writing. Because the words matter.

Onward. So that was the Falcon Journal, written in 2005, when Trump was not President, when nobody even heard his name. It was like a dream world back then. But this is 2017 and Trump is having temper tantrums in the White House...... I'd rather not think about it.

Spring Subscription Drive. A $25 or $50 subscription to Frog Hospital comes with the promise that I will try my best. I have been writing this journal since 1998.
I have written some hundreds of issues of this journal, and some of it has been very good indeed and I would like to continue writing this, and I would like you to send me a check for $25 or $50 or punch the PayPal button.
You can find the PayPal button on the blog. Go to Frog Hospital.
Or make out a check to Fred Owens and mail it to:
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

thank you very much,
Fred


--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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


Saturday, May 06, 2017

The Boardwalk at Fishtown

 By Fred Owens


The boardwalk was never in good repair. It was rickety, some of the boards were loose, and some were missing. The small branch of an alder tree grew across the boardwalk at one place. One had to push the branch down and step over it, or stoop and get under it – but no one ever cut it off. Two seconds with a lopper would have done the job, but the branch remained unharmed for years, and every day it was in the way – in the way of all visitors and all residents, going back and forth. So some visitors to Fishtown might have thought the residents were too lazy or too spaced out to “fix” the branch, or to nail down the rickety boards. They were welcome to that thought. Yet the branch was there because it was there, and things don’t need to be fixed because they are not broken. The branch was not “in the way” it was the Way – a concrete symbol.

Claire Swedberg is writing an art history of LaConner and Fishtown. This quote will be included in her text.

You can read a longer history of Fishtown on this link.
http://froghospital911.blogspot.com/2010/01/bit-of-fishtown-history.html

Foreign Travels

Trump is making his first trip to the Middle East. The itinerary is a patriarchal trifecta -- Saudi Arabia, the home of Islam, then Israel, the home of the Jews, and then Rome, the center of the Christian faith... Abraham will not be pleased. Trump gives patriarchy a bad odor. I would take Isaac from Old Testament as a role model. Or Saint Augustine of the new persuasion. But not this guy.
Is he flying directly from Saudi Arabia to Tel Aviv?  That actually would be a good thing. The Saudis and the Jews pretend that they don't talk to each other. But they do talk to each other, all the time. So why not fly from one capital to the other?
Then he finishes with Pope Francis in Rome. He will be handing out American treasures as he travels -- gift certificates to McDonalds, entitling the bearer to a Big Mac and fries.
Selling the Orchard
Last week I reported on the possible sale of the Mesa Harmony Garden Orchard, an almost one-acre plot with 100 fruit trees, located on property belonging to Holy Cross parish in the Mesa neighborhood of Santa Barbara.
The orchard was planted seven years ago and it is just now coming into full abundance. This winter's ample rain ensures a robust harvest of plums, peaches, apricots, figs, table grapes, citrus, and more -- some hundreds of pounds. All the harvest is donated to the Food Bank. That was the idea -- that lower income people might have access to fresh fruit.
But the parish is running a deficit of $10,000 a month, according to Father Rafael, the new pastor. The orchard needs to be sold, he said.
Bad news, you bet. Except that a likely use of the property would be several units of apartments to rent to lower income families. Yes, there is a scarcity of green land in these parts, so let's save the orchard. But yes there is an incredible scarcity of affordable housing as well, so lets build a few more apartments. It's complicated.
This possible development could take years, three years, five years. Those fruit trees aren't going anywhere, not for a while. And who can guarantee the future? If you plant a fruit tree, you can hope for the harvest, but there is no promise.

Spring Subscription Drive. A $25 or $50 subscription to Frog Hospital comes with the promise that I will try my best. I have been writing this journal since 1998.
I have written some hundreds of issues of this journal, and some of it has been very good indeed and I would like to continue writing this, and I would like you to send me a check for $25 or $50 or punch the PayPal button.
You can find the PayPal button on the blog. Go to Frog Hospital.
Or make out a check to Fred Owens and mail it 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


Sunday, April 30, 2017

Selling the Orchard

FROG HOSPITAL  -- April 29, 2017  -- By Fred Owens
I accidentally deleted last week's issue of Frog Hospital  -- a thousand words, several hours of work, gone in a flash, gone forever  -- those stirring words, those soul-enriching phrases  -- I was stunned -- but, as friends told me later, maybe it wasn't meant to be -- maybe no one really wants to hear about "Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyante" -- okay, that reference was a little obscure  -- anyway, it's over, and we start fresh today.
Selling the Orchard
I have to mention Trump by name in order to say that I have been ignoring him.... I looked at the front page of the NYTimes on the Internet this morning.... There was Trump news all over the place .... I scanned the headlines but skipped the stories.....
My strategy is to pay attention to local issues .... the new gas tax in California for instance .... Are they really going to use it to fix the roads?
In Santa Barbara we have disturbing news .... The Mesa Harmony Garden might be sold -- at least there have been inquiries if not offers. The Mesa Harmony Garden is almost one acre in size, with more than 100 fruit trees.... It has been labor of community love for seven years ... To build and grow what we hoped to be a long-term project on Holy Cross church property.  But the parish is losing $10,000 a month, according to Father Rafael, and the orchard property must be sold to cover the deficit.
There will be objections and organized opposition to the sale of the orchard. After all, this is Santa Barbara and nothing gets built here without a prolonged struggle.
Personally, I lack the stamina for this struggle.... I accept the loss of the fruit trees. I will plant new trees elsewhere. It always was a movable feast.
The sale, or the possibility of a sale ..... This could drag on for years... A good bet is that the orchard will still be here five years from now .... Maybe the church should start having Bingo Night to cover the deficit, whatever it takes to fill those pews..... instead of selling property.
But, no more of jesting. If you want to save the orchard, be ready to write a large check. The property is worth way more than $1 million. The real estate market in Santa Barbara is very hot. A savvy developer could put in one high-end residence, and several lower-income units. The savvy developer might even promise not to cut down all the fruit trees.
Honestly, I've stood in front of the bulldozer before. I've signed the petition. I've gone to the meetings. I have no stomach for this. I am not angry at Father Rafael and I do not envy his position. He will be unpopular no matter what he does. He is over 70 in age and looking to retirement which is mandatory at age 75. Being pastor of Holy Cross church is probably his last assignment. Selling property to cover operating expenses  -- he didn't study for years in the seminary for jobs like this. He's a good man.
Overall, to use a word that Trump uses, I'm a big fan of the Catholic Church. They operate countless schools, hospitals and universities throughout the world. They do more good than harm. The Church is the largest and oldest institution on earth without a military force. They can't start a war, although they can take sides once the war starts.
And let's hear it for Pope Francis. It took courage and daring to make a journey to Egypt. My heart goes out to him.
Back to the orchard  -- seven years of work, one hundred trees, a state of the art drip irrigation system, some thousands of hours of volunteer time spreading mulch, pruning, digging  -- all that work. You let people plant trees on your property and they get attached.
I know. I work as a gardener on other people's property. I plant trees for them  -- I plant their trees on their property. I don't get attached, but I get paid and that makes it fair. Okay, all right, I get a little attached to the trees I just planted. But you gotta let it go to let it grow.
Mesa Harmony Garden -- I stick with the promise of the word in the middle -- Harmony, which is our highest purpose. How can we maintain the harmony that makes the orchard so beautiful? We start harvesting peaches in two weeks.
thank you,
--

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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


Friday, April 14, 2017

Seven Spanish Angels

Frog Hospital  -- April 13 -- by Fred Owens
 I heard the Seven Spanish Angels -- the rendition by Willie Nelson and Ray Charles -- "there were Seven Spanish Angels at the altar of the sun," a very mythical song.
The Seven Gardens I worked in last week were not too mythical, but they were full of spring beauty and blossoms, bursting with color and soft breezes.
There are songs everywhere, because it is spring. A young woman came over to the house to see about renting the spare bedroom. Her name was Lily. I said to her, "Hi Lily," and instantly I thought of the song, sung by Leslie Caron in 1952. It was a favorite of my mother's. "A song of love is sad song, hi lily, hi lily, hi-lo." Do you remember it? It was so old-fashioned.
Lily looked at the spare bedroom, but said she will think about it. Usually that means it is not quite right for her needs. Selecting housemates is a crucial process at our house. Laurie is very good at picking the right people to rent the room.
Angelica is moving out, which is why the room is available. I would tell you all about Angelica, but that is a private matter and this is a newsletter, so I only write about people who welcome the attention.
But there is so much to say.... so many people that I have gotten to know here in Santa Barbara.
I could write about Pete Georgi. He wouldn't mind. He sells insurance and restores classic cars. He is also the manager of the Carriage Museum, where they keep the antique carriages and saddles on display.
But then I know personal stuff about Pete, nothing shocking or strange, nothing like that, but still I would need permission.
That's why we invented fiction. I could make up a story with a character named Pete, a gruff sixtiesh man, and his two daughters, Lily and Angelica. The two daughters are finding their way in the world and Pete is confronting mortality. The daughters are growing up too fast and Pete is getting old too fast.

Lily, the younger daughter by two years, works at the Equestrian Rescue Center. She loves the wounded horses, the abandoned ones. She is a vegan and she has become militant about that. She argues with her Dad. Pete told her, "You're living under my roof and you will keep your opinion to yourself when I have my pals over for a BBQ. I tolerate you and you can tolerate me. Maybe you think I'm a terrible old rascal, but I
am not."
Angelica, the elder girl, is not one to debate with Pete. She only wants to get away. She does HR work at some health care business. After hours she does hair extensions and eyebrow plucking and skin care, a bit of a cash business. "I'm getting away from here," she tells Rahin on her very smart phone. Rahin lives in Calabasas just outside of Los Angeles, and makes big dollars doing sales work for Pfizer Drugs. He comes from the Middle East. He's ten years older than Angelica, drives a New BMW. Pete doesn't even want to meet him. He is angry and scared. Angelica will go away, far away, and there is nothing he can do about it.

Well, I could make up a story like that.
So I write and I garden. 
Politics. Politics are happening too fast these days. Anything I read or write will expire by tomorrow. I could write that Trump embraces NATO until he doesn't. He disses Putin until he wants to be friends again. Why watch?
Today North Korea's fearless leader and our blessed President are staring at each other to see who blinks first.
I was talking with a close and trusted friend about this. I said our guy is not nearly as crazy as their guy. She agreed, "but that's not saying much. I would feel much better if Hillary Clinton was handling this."
Personal Business. I will soon be working as a tutor, working for a non-profit in an after-school program helping junior high and high school students -- helping those who are struggling and those who strive to excel. I will be doing a lot less gardening.

Spring Subscription Drive. A $25 or $50 subscription to Frog Hospital comes with the promise that I will try my best. I have been writing this journal since 1998.
I have written some hundreds of issues of this journal, and some of it has been very good indeed and I would like to continue writing this, and I would like you to send me a check for $25 or $50 or punch the PayPal button.
You can find the PayPal button on the blog. Go to Frog Hospital.
Or make out a check to Fred Owens and mail it to:
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

thank you very much,
Fred

Don't get me wrong. Paying attention to national and global issues is the duty of responsible adults. Pondering and discussing issues is a necessary part of public life. But you need strength to be effective. you need to hold your ground, and one way to gather your strength is to spend time in the garden, with your feet literally on the ground.







--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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


Sunday, April 02, 2017


The Barista is Always Right


By Fred Owens
The Barista is Always Right
I once worked as the substitute barista at Cafe Culture in LaConner. I had steady customers and got good tips, but I had a way of dealing with people. Like this -----
I wish I could discriminate. When I was the afternoon substitute barista at Cafe Culture, I served everybody equally. I fixed them a hot steaming foamy latte, one and all. But there was one group coming in the place, I wanted to shut the door when I saw them.
Decafs! You wouldn't believe this, we ran an honest coffee place, and these people came in and ordered decaf! I gave them the long stare, the long pause, thinking, but of course not saying, you want decaf? What is the point?
I never got used to it.
The soy latte people were not easy to like either, but after a while I got used to them. One day I even tasted a soy latte and it wasn't half bad.
I had no quarrel with the Chais. It wasn't my thing, but what the heck, they tipped as well as anybody.
Otherwise all were welcome, Democrats, Republicans, the employed and the idle, the rich and the poor, the religious and the scandalous, the happy and the depressed. It takes all kinds.
But the decafs, no.

Thanks for asking about my annual physical.


There has been a lot of talk about the merits of the Affordable Care Act and the Republican effort to repeal or replace it. I cannot present an opinion here with any authority. But I can report on my own success with health care  --- I just had my annual physical. I get Medicare. It works for me. Why not have it for everybody?

Santa Barbara is a great place for health care services because of all the affluent and educated people who demand it. Doctors want to work here. I go to the Sansum Clinic, which is the major clinic affiliated with Cottage Hospital, which is the major hospital.
Sansum Clinic is first class and friendly. My doctor is Bryce Holderness, from the University of Southern California medical school. He is a handsome young man right out of central casting.
I see him every March for a physical. Overall I did fine this year. My prostrate level is so low that I will not even need to be tested again, he said. My cholesterol is well within range, but I will be taking a new blood test in a few days. Hopefully it is still good. Same with sugar level, and other indicators from the blood test.
I have taken Lisinopril for the past ten years, a mild drug for hypertension. A lot of  people my age take this medication and it costs $8 for thirty pills. The drug slightly loosens the blood vessels and improves the flow.
I take Lorazepam, or Ativan, in a small dosage, as needed, for occasional anxiety. I have also had this same prescription for ten years.
The current problem is sciatica, a constant but not severe pain from my right hip to my ankle. Eight weeks now and not going away. X-ray reveals stenosis of the lumbar vertebrae. They took an MRI and will give me the results shortly.
Physical therapy is the preferred method. I do my exercises three times a day, and go to PT twice a week. Other options are to be avoided, the doctor said, unless absolutely necessary. Other options are more powerful pain medication, or surgery. Right now I take Alleve twice a day. I sleep well and the doctor told me to continue gardening work because the mobility is good for it.
Cataracts. I have them. They make night driving difficult. All the lights glow. Many people my age have them. A simple surgery some time next year will fix it. Next year because they wait for it to get worse so that they don't have to fix it twice.

Finally, there is a benign nodule or growth on my thyroid, the size of a walnut. It may have been there for years. If it gets any bigger it will be removed by surgery, but the doctors are not over-excited about this, having scheduled the next appointment for thyroid ultra sound in December.
Besides that, I told Dr. Holderness my life was good and I was not especially irritable or depressed. I sleep well, eat moderately, get exercise, have a nice girlfriend, etc.
I get Medicare and I pay $135 per month for Medicare supplement insurance. I do not have coverage for prescription medicine. In alternative medicine I have sometimes chosen acupuncture and hypnotherapy. I avoid the chiropracter, I think he promises too much.

Any questions?

Spring Subscription Drive. A $25 or $50 subscription to Frog Hospital comes with the promise that I will try my best. I have been writing this journal since 1998.
I have written some hundreds of issues of this journal, and some of it has been very good indeed and I would like to continue writing this, and I would like you to send me a check for $25 or $50 or punch the PayPal button.
You can find the PayPal button on the blog. Go to Frog Hospital.
Or make out a check to Fred Owens and mail it to:
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

thank you very much,
Fred


--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Egyptian Queen



By Fred Owens

I wrote this in 1996 when I lived in Boston. This is the last paragraph of a thirty-page chapter in a memoir. I called it the Egyptian Queen, simply because the journal had a drawing of Queen Nefertiti on the cover.

I was lonely last night. I’ll go to the shul, and then to the Boston Computer Society again. Visual Basic. Boards. Bread. Beards. Burrs. Bring me the proclamation. Hear ye, Hear ye. Come one, come all. Never mind. It was a joke. Keep your socks on. Wash everything thoroughly. Dilute the vinegar with water and gargle three times daily. To hell with your hegemony. Beware the wrath of Zeus. He awakes. Lichen on the rocks. Rocks tumbling down Mount Washington. The Muse has gone next door. I was in love once. THE INVISIBLE UNION OF ALL SOULS. The silken threads tying me to you and you to me.
Heavy rain -- wind from Africa.
THE END

So there I am, at the end of a long cold winter in Boston, writing in this journal titled the Egyptian Queen. This was in March of 1996, in a year that set a record for cumulative snowfall. The snow was three feet high out the front door.
What helped in the long cold winter were two galvanized tubs of papyrus plants blooming in brilliant green in the living room. The papyrus sat in these tubs right by the bay window and got the sunshine they needed to flourish -- saved my life, they did, that winter.
And somehow the journal planted a seed. It was the Egyptian Queen on the cover. It was Queen Nefertiti in a classic profile. She greeted me every morning as I sat down to write.
Her image inspired me in a mysterious way because not one year later I found myself in Africa -- in Zimbabwe, in Mozambique and Malawi.  I was looking for Queen Nefertiti. I even found her. I think it was her. It's hard to tell what is and what isn't when you're in Africa -- all kinds of wild tales and strange scenery in Africa. I should tell you that story some time.
Well, we can't spend the whole day dreaming about Egyptian queens and things I probably only imagined in Africa. Twenty years later, I can scarcely believe that I was even there.
I'm only trying to make a less than abrupt transition to the very local news about Dave Morrison and his new source of video stimulation. Dave lives near Pasadena.
Dave calls it Blue Collar Logic, because he wields a paint brush by day and dreams of a better world by night. Blue Collar Logic is a series of two-minute videos with political comments. Two minutes is long enough, I admire his effort. His presentation is clear. One can be brief and intelligent at the same time. In fact, brevity is a sure sign of intelligence.
But don't get too excited, good old Dave has swung over to the conservative side of things. You might not want to follow his train of thought.  Oh,  he's not such a bad fellow. And you know, if Dave Morrison was President, instead of the truly dangerous man we have now -- if it was Dave Morrison, or fellows like  him, calling the shots, I wouldn't mind too much.
There's one video Dave called Islam and Alabama which is kind of fun. Dave claims that a woman has more freedom living in Alabama than she would have living in Saudi Arabia.
I couldn't say. I was never in Alabama. I did spend a few months living in Mississippi right next store. I had a job working construction labor. That was in 1977. I did not like living in Mississippi, but I did mind my own business and I was not molested.

The Egyptian Queen
This all started 5,000 years ago in Egypt -- what we used to call civilization -- reading, writing and agriculture. Well, most folks used to agree that those three things defined civilization -- reading, writing and farming. But that leaves out all the wandering tribes and the oral traditions of long ago. So we have no definition of civilization. Having no definition, we cannot define courtesy and good manners. Not being able to define courtesy and good manners, we cannot effectively oppose Donald Trump, a man with no sense of courtesy or decency. I hope that makes sense.

Spring Subscription Drive. A $25 or $50 subscription to Frog Hospital comes with the promise that I will try my best. I have been writing this journal since 1998  -- curiously I began writing Frog Hospital shortly after I returned from Africa.
And I have written some hundreds of issues of this journal, and some of it has been very good indeed and I would like to continue writing this, and I would like you to send me a check for $25 or $50 or punch the PayPal button.
You can find the PayPal button on the blog. Go to Frog Hospital.
Or make out a check to Fred Owens and mail it to:
Fred Owens
1105 Veronica Springs RD
Santa Barbara, CA 93105

thank you very much,
Fred
--
Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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