Sunday, February 26, 2017

No Special Right of Access

By Fred Owens
The New York Times has no special right of access to the White House. They are not entitled to a front row seat in the press room. There are hundreds of small weeklies and small dailies around the country that deserve a chance at the Big Show.

Yet the New York Times has over 2 million paid subscribers. Are we all "enemies of the people?" I thought that was extremely harsh language coming from Trump.

You can see that I am of two minds here. I don't know any big time journalists. I only know people, like myself, who have toiled in the small towns at the weekly papers. The closest I ever came to a big urban daily was an interview with the Boston Globe in 1991.

I also had some correspondence with Alex MacLeod when he was managing editor of the Seattle Times in the 1990s. Alex loved reading my stuff, but he said it was not the kind of thing for his newspaper, so I never got published there.

And here is the resentment..... those big time news outfits never gave me a break, so why should I stick up for them now? I want a better deal.

I just don't know any of these people in the major media. They seem to inhabit a different world. The people I know are like Sandy Stokes, the editor of the LaConner Weekly News, and Elaine Kolodziej, the publisher of the Wilson County News. I would stick up for them. They are the power and strength of American journalism -- they are much closer to the ground and harder to knock over. Those are the people I can count on.

Born to Kvetch. I am on page 236 of this book by Michael Wex. The book teaches us how to complain in Yiddish, how to state your personal misery, how to resent the success of others, how to blame everybody but yourself  -- and how to do this with style. The book is very helpful.
Taking a Long Time. A friend from Dubuque  -- you know, Dubuque, in Iowa -- was thinking that the line was too long to get into the ladies room. It takes them a long time. Some people say that we should build the ladies room twice as big and then it wouldn't take so long.
This is wishful thinking. Women take longer than men and we are programmed to wait. I have not had a problem with this.
It starts early. Girls of 8 and 9 lick their ice cream cones slowly, while little boys gobble them down in seconds. When girls become women they take longer to get dressed. Would you even think of telling them to hurry up? And sex. Women take longer to get ready for sex, men are often ready sooner.
Even dying. Women take longer to die. Usually we say it the other way, that women live longer. But at a certain point a man says I guess that's all she wrote, whereas the old woman is still fussing with her hair and so lives a few years longer.
This is not a problem, that women take longer than men, so don't try to fix it.
I would welcome anyone with an urgent need into the Men's Room, but I prefer peeing in an atmosphere of masculine splendor,..... The trouble comes when women become more frequent visitors and then standards will be raised. Men are terribly sloppy at peeing, they often miss the mark. In the new gender-free regime, we can expect polite signage stating the need for accuracy and cleanliness. I am not looking forward to this.
Wash Your Hands.  Did you ever stop to think why they have the sign that says employees must wash their hands? They have the sign up because employees very often don't wash their hands. It's not like a siren goes off if they just sail out of the bathroom. The sign is a useful reminder, but the best defense against poor hygiene is a robust immune system  -- which is why we encourage small children to play in the dirt, to get them accustomed to a planet full of germs.

thank you, have a nice week,

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Calling Moshe Waldoks

By Fred Owens
I met Moshe Waldoks 25 years ago. He was not a real rabbi -- they said. But he could substitute for Rabbi Holcer at the Purimspiel. This was at Temple Beth Shalom in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1992.
A raucous crowd was at that event, with Moshe Waldoks astride the Bimah, leading the chants in Hebrew and wearing a yellow hard hat with a propeller on top. You had to be there. It was fun.
One thing led to another and I became his gardener, where he lived in Brookline. Moshe was just doing me a favor. He didn't care about plants. If I pulled out a few weeds, that was enough.
We stood and talked in the yard when I gave him my strong pitch that I was just the fellow to trim his yew hedge. You really need to trim these yews before they get too overgrown, I told him.
Moshe didn't care. Shrubbery was not part of his world. I was only hoping.
So he invited me in for lunch and that's when he served me the gefilte fish. I told you about that last week. I didn't like it. It didn't taste good.
So I wrote about that and three Jewish people wrote back to me and explained that I had not been served really good and proper gefilte fish. That you need beet horseradish to bring the gefilte fish alive and you need matzoh crackers.
Maybe I should try it again. But who has gefilte fish in Santa Barbara? I don't know the Jews around here. I could go to the Jewish Community Center and introduce myself and state my request. That I write a blog called Frog Hospital and that one time, 25 years ago in Brookline, Massachusetts, a man named Moshe Waldoks -- not yet a real rabbi -- had offered me some gefilte fish for lunch and I didn't like it.
But I think maybe I should try it again, I would say to the receptionist. So maybe you can help me find a local Jew who can serve me a nice batch of it. Give me a do over.
I'm explaining this to the receptionist at the Jewish Community Center in Santa Barbara. "Another gefilte fish goy," she utters under her breath and she presses the hidden security button.
But I want to tell her -- I have people, real people, who can help me -- like Peter Goldfarb in Mount Vernon, Washington, and like Harvey Blume in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Both real Jews and they will vouch for me. I can give you their contact information.
They would say, "This man is okay. Strange, but okay. Let him try the gefilte fish one more time. He has his reasons."
So maybe I should call Moshe Waldoks. He's a real rabbi now and he has own congregation in Brookline, Temple Beth Zion.

 Kwami Taha Died

I spent a lot of time with Kwami Taha before I moved away from LaConner. We used to hang out at Cafe Culture and then drive to Popeye's chicken for lunch. Then back to his townhouse on Maple Street. He used to tell stories, like the time he was in the army in Korea and he refused to work on his birthday so he got arrested for that. Then he refused to work on his mother's birthday. He told the story differently every time.
Kwami was maybe ten years older than me. He was a tall man, broad shouldered and rangy. He grew up in Harlem. His parents owned the premier barbershop in Harlem with 12 chairs. All the stars and jazz players went there and Kwami said his parents once took him to the Cotton Club to hear Duke Ellington. Did you know Thelonius Monk? Sure I knew him. Dinah Washington?
Yeah, sure. I knew her.
After the army Kwami  became involved and became  a lieutenant of Malcolm X in the Black Power Movement. After the assassination of Malcolm X Kwami was cast adrift and forsaken by the established civil rights movement.
With nowhere else to go he became a Republican. This is a long story. I will keep it short. Kwami was a teacher. He had a lovely wife and fine children. He moved to LaConner for his retirement years and told his stories. Many stories he told and never the same way twice. He used to say he had the franchise, being the only black man in LaConner.
One crisis stands out, the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Kwami had never voted for a Democrat in his life until 2008. But his family and children wanted him to vote for Obama. I, a younger man with a very different experience, was called on by him to help make this difficult decision.
I said brother you're going to be sleeping on the couch for a long time unless you vote for Obama, so he did vote for Obama.
Otherwise what I have written here is based entirely on conversations I had with him and my memory may be faulty.

Anita Dominocielo-Ho is the President of our Kiwanis Club in Santa Barbara. The photo shows her giving an award or scholarship to a young woman. That's one of the things we do at Kiwanis.
I asked her to tell her life, and here it is:
  I was born in Colon, Pan

​ama, my father's name was Ho Chi Pui, who was born in Canton China. I became an American as a child and grew up as an Army brat with my stepfather and family. I moved every 4 years until I was 24 years old,  I came to Santa Barbara in 1968, found my home town and have never moved since. I came as a widow when my first husband was killed in Vietnam, his last wish was that I come here. Santa Barbara has been good to me. I have had an amazing life here, loving my career working with people, now happily married for 32 years and have the best son one could ever ask for. My life as a Kiwanian is central to my life.  As a Kiwanian, I achieve things most people find valuable in life like friends, family and a sense of community.

So That's It
I seem to know a variety of people -- a rabbi from Massachusetts, a teacher form Harlem and a community leader with roots in Panama.
These are important people. It's people like Moshe and Kwami and Anita that make our country great and good.

It's still raining in Santa Barbara. I can't do any garden work, and besides that my right leg is giving me troubles.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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

Friday, February 17, 2017

Born to Kvetch

By Fred Owens
I am reading "Born to Kvetch" by Michael Vex. It teaches me how to complain in Yiddish. I have a problem that I can't solve, so I have to live with it. But to complain in English is dreary and painful. So we learn to kvetch, which is to complain in Yiddish, a language that takes the complaint to a higher level.
I have this problem and there is no end to it. But if there was an end to it, I would just have another problem. What's the use!
I actually have a Yiddish coach who volunteered  to help me. This kid, under forty anyway, studied Yiddish in college, being a part of the revival of that language. My goal is limited -- to pick up some of the attitude.
Zolst onkumen tsu mayn mazl. You should have my luck.
This is why I am learning to kvetch. Four years of this clown. How can I keep a sense of humor?

What a Failed Trump Administration Looks Like

David Brooks at the New York Times call it a failed administration and points out that when you push really hard, other people push back.
"And when you declare war on the establishment, it declares war on you. The Civil Service has a thousand ways to ignore or sit on any presidential order. The court system has given itself carte blanche to overturn any Trump initiative, even on the flimsiest legal grounds. The intelligence community has only just begun to undermine this president." ----- said David Brooks
But Trump Has His People This story in Politico tells of Trump's supporters in South Carolina.
Trump is flying to South Carolina this weekend to be with people who really like him. I guess 35 per cent of the American people think Trump is top notch. Another 15 to 20 percent can endure him.
Trump has his people. I expect he can fill a stadium in South Carolina, and he can put on his red gimme cap and just have a good old time, away from all those blowhards in Washington and those pointy-headed liberals in New Yawk City.
The Balance. David Brooks says that Trump has already failed. Is Brooks right? Ask the people in South Carolina.
I Don't Understand Gefilte Fish
I will keep this short, but it seems relevant to our opening discussion of kvetching.
I ate gefilte fish, but only once. I didn't get the point. I was doing some garden work for Moshe Waldoks in Brookline, which is part of Boston.
How I got to Boston and how I got to know famed Jewish humorist Moshe Waldoks -- that is a long story. He wrote the Big Book of Jewish Humor.
When I knew him, in 1992, he was large boisterous man with a booming voice and a big smile. Always energetic. He lived in a big white house in Brookline, a leafy Boston suburb. I came one day to trim his shrubbery. This was not a happy job because Moshe, a man of wild ambitions and rambunctious enthusiasm, had no interest in his yard.
Even today I can picture his back yard -- scrawny trees and overgrown shrubs.
But he invited me in for lunch, to his warm, friendly kitchen. He was spoon feeding his young son lumps of gefilte fish out of a glass jar, and cooing like a love bird, such lovely food.
He offered me some. I tasted it. That's the  wrong word. Gefilte fish has no taste. What is the point?
The point is I never saw Moshe Waldoks again, but I remember that lunch time moment. Forget the gefilte fish, I said to myself, but remember his smile.
See, I said I would keep it short. The long version is much better, but this is email.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Planting Fruit Trees

By Fred Owens
I worked in the Italian Garden yesterday morning planting fruit trees. The garden has tree roses in large pots, and a formal boxwood hedge, plus good tile work and a small fountain. I maintain it for a woman who teaches medieval history at the University of California in Santa Barbara.
I started working there last year. It was  very overgrown. Her old gardener had wandered off to who knows where and nothing got done for months until she hired me.
I had a great time whipping it back into shape. I cut and cut and hacked and trimmed until it all came back to where things were right. She hired a man with a truck to haul away all the branches and sticks. I don't have a truck myself, just hand tools in the trunk of my car. I charge by the hour, cash or check.
I have a motto that I use to advertise my services on Craigslist. My ad says, "I only work for nice people."  For some reason people like that slogan and they call me up and testify that they are indeed nice people and then I say well you betcha, I'm nice too, so let's work.
That was last year, I got the garden into shape. And this summer I came every week for the easy work -- watering the roses and trimming here and there, planting a few vegetables for her table.
Today I planted the new fruit trees. She had gone up by Paso Robles last weekend and she stopped by the nursery, which is well known for good bare root stock. She bought two peaches, an apricot, and a fig, $28 a piece.
The roots were wrapped in shredded damp newspaper and they looked like very fine little trees.
The garden is getting crowded. I'm about tell her that. Let's not buy any more trees or shrubs for now. Let's maintain what we have.
But leaving that aside, and trusting her judgment  -- I mean, I figure it's her property and her money, so maybe I ought to do it the way she wants. And she likes it a bit more crowded than I would choose.
The soil is rich and crumbly and all soft and wet, perfect for planting. I dug the holes and it was so easy. I pruned each little tree, cutting off some skinny branches that were too crowded and nipping the ends of the roots to wake them up.
I guessed at the depth of the planting, keeping the crown above the soil.,,, the soil will settle, so I might scoop in some extra soil next week.
I forgot to add fertilizer. I was going to stop at Agri-Turf and pick up five pounds of tree food, or something in the way of an amendment. But I forgot to stop at the store and there was no going back. It was Monday. It was time to plant trees -- those babies were going in the ground.
Besides, I had my Tillinghast Nursery experience to fall back on. I worked there when Ed Dalan owned it -- a long time ago. We sold bare root trees and Ed did not believe in adding fertilizer the first year. He said it was best if the newly planted trees grew slowly the first year, giving them time to become established.
I planted the fig tree next to the cottage  -- there is a cottage in the back of this garden. I planted the fig tree right up against the wall. She said she would make it an espalier.

Me, I don't trust a fig tree. They grow too fast. They seem friendly when they are little, but watch out! Pretty soon they will be so big as to smother your house and crack the foundation. But that's where she wants the fig, so in she goes.

The soil right next to the cottage was poor and rocky, so I replaced it with potting soil. I could have used the poor soil  -- fig trees thrive on abuse.
So that was the work yesterday. Now I have other things to do.
Trump Free.
We are having a Trump Free issue this week.
Water.  Lots of rain in California. I hope the Oroville Dam is still there by the time you get this message.
Valentines Day...... Happy loving to all you lovers out there.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Trump is Winning

By Fred Owens
Trump is Winning
I am listening to my Republican contacts. So far they are thrilled with Trump's dramatic takeover of government. They are willing to forgive and overlook his tirades. Ignore his nonsense, they say, and look for his substance.
Trump supporters are 62 million strong -- the number of people who voted for him -- and they hold the White House.
The opposition is 65 million strong -- the number of people who voted for Clinton. The opposition is in the street, which is another way of saying they are not in power.
So far, as of Super Bowl Sunday, Trump is winning, and it's all about winning, as Trump said himself.
Trump supporters are steadfast in support for his action. I look for signs of weakening or doubt, but I do not see it. Not yet. I look for Trump supporters who are changing their minds about him, but I do not see it. Not yet.
New York Senator Chuck Schumer leads the opposition. He's got Michael Moore and Meryl Streep on his side. Otherwise he's sputtering to an empty house.
Oh, it's not over, not by a long shot. The Democrats will be back, but for now I see no strength. Calling it a Resistance amounts to a confession of impotence.
Update. The so-called President is having trouble with the so-called judges who have been ruling against his immigration ban. Imagine Trump's wrath when little judges who nobody ever heard give HIM orders! This is intolerable.
Trump will seek inspiration from President Andrew Jackson who once defied the court. Jackson said, ""John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it"
Now doubt Trump is planning a similar move.
Again, I am looking at Trump supporters to see if they go along with him in his defiance of the court.
The new narrative is that Andrew Jackson was a bloodthirsty tyrant. But Trump and his supporters still go by the old story of Jackson, the hero, who earned his portrait on the $20 bill.
Touch. Nobody read the story I posted in last week's issue. At least I didn't hear from anybody.
Well, it was too long -- 6,000 words  -- and contained language that some women found offensive.

But I think it was the subject matter that turned people away  -- what it's like to be a nursing aide working at a hospital..... Nursing aides, some 1.5 million working in the United States, get no respect. Nobody ever said, "When I grow up I want to be a nursing aide."

You see TV shows about nurses and doctors -- the nursing aides are the silent women and men working in the background. The entire hospital would come grinding to a halt without these aides. Doctors are almost helpless in this area. Once I asked a doctor to help me hoist up a patient in the bed. He looked at me with horror -- he had never done it.

Nurses get respect, and they deserve it They have unions, associations, and web pages dedicated to their various specialties. But nursing aides get no respect, except an occasional nod from higher up about how we couldn't get along without them.

Nursing aides are losers -- a single mother with an abusive boyfriend, a stout Christian woman with a donut habit, a pimply guy with a strange haircut --  you don't want to know their stories.

I did that work myself for five years, so I earned the story I wrote about that life.

Here's where most people stopped reading:

 “You would be amazed at the amount and variety of bodily fluids that patients emit, “ he said to  Stuart and Jim one morning, and they really didn’t want to hear this, “Urine, sweat, blood, both menstrual and regular, saliva, mucus, crap, ear wax, nose boogers, flaky skin, sperm, the putrefaction of wounds, phlegm….” Jim covered his ears.

Phlegm gets 'em every time. But it's necessary work. That's the important thing to remember. That's what kept me going for five years. Because it needed to be done, so I might as well be the one to do it. But we don't get our own TV show and nobody knows the story.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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