Saturday, June 18, 2011

Other People's Property


By Fred Owens

"Owens confesses to Pruning Atrocity"

I have to get it off my chest. I can't die with this burden on my soul. In the spring of 1991, I rented a three-bedroom apartment at 42 Blakeslee Street in the very best neighborhood of Cambridge, Massachusetts. Mr. Magestrelli, my landlord, was a kind old man and the rental income from this property was added to his pension as a retired civil service employee.

It was a nice place, with a small driveway providing off-street parking -- no small benefit in that urban setting. Next to the driveway was a huge and fiery pyrocanthus bush -- famed for its bright green foliage and dazzling scarlet berries. But it comes with thorns, and every time I got out of my car my jacket would get hooked on the thorns, and I got annoyed.

And more annoyed and then one day, without so much as a by-your-leave to the man who actually owned the bush, I took out my pruning saw and cut it down, flush to the ground.... Glad to get rid of it, I was .... Mr. Magestrelli came by a few weeks later and found the bush gone and he was really mad, and dumbfounded too -- "How could you possibly think it was your right to cut down that bush?" he asked.

To make the crime worse, I took a smart aleck attitude and replied, "It will grow back, don't worry, I just trimmed it." He went off in disgust and never mentioned it again.

Okay Mr. Magestrelli, I apologize.

Another Pruning Atrocity. I also butchered a glorious pieris in West Seattle in 2007, but at least my intentions were good. I meant to trim it just a little bit, but I just kept going and I couldn't figure out where to stop. I cut too much on one side, and for balance, I cut too much on the other side -- it was a disaster. I meant well, but I am sorry this happened.

Another Point. I could go a long way with this, and in several directions. First, because this newsletter is about farming, we re-state the primacy of private property in agricultural abundance. Bushes belong to people -- that's good and important. And farms belong to people. There is no society on earth that has produced a surplus of food using collective methods -- although the kibbutzes in early Israel may have come close.

State-run agriculture was the ultimate failure of communism in Russia -- the people finally got tired of not having enough to eat. Sorry, but Ronald Reagan doesn't get the credit -- it was empty shelves at the grocery store that ended the Iron Curtain.

Now Russia, as it did in czarist days, produces a surplus of wheat.

In contrast, the government seizure of farm land in Zimbabwe has produced widespread hunger and starvation.

So, I guess my point is that a bush, or a field of wheat, does better when it belongs to someone who takes care of it.

It's funny, because I don't feel that's true when it comes to health care. Food is a basic need, and health care is a basic need. But health care can thrive under collective responsibility -- at least I believe so.

Rant Warning! Rant Warning!

More Apologies. So, the pyrocanthus and pieris both belonged to someone, and my "crimes and misdemeanors" were against property, but I have apologized and the matter should be laid to what brought this up?

What brought this up was sight of yet another Congressman issuing a public apology for his private deeds. I mean, I'm a Democrat and I try to be a good liberal, so I figure I better apologize for something. You gotta be guilty of something or you're nobody on the left wing.

Well, we are a mangy bunch of idiots. Our leaders in Congress are Nancy Pelosi and Debbie Wasserman. Those two couldn't lead us to victory in a foot race across a tennis court. They are profoundly inept.

Weiner was a fighter -- with poor social skills, to be sure, but he was on our side. I know that Barney Frank got away with all kinds of trouble because he's a warm and friendly guy. Everybody likes Barney. Nobody likes Weiner.

But you don't get rid of people like that. I have friends who are highly competitive and driven, often very earnest in their efforts -- but damned clumsy in terms of social skills. I mean, they act like people who crashed their own party..... They are just a type of person in our human galaxy. They are attack dogs -- you point them at the enemy and say "git 'im."

What Weiner did was break the Over 35 Rule -- He forgot that things get a bit stricter when you pass that barrier. A buff 28-year-old can get away with sending photos of himself in his underwear -- naughty, of course, but he can get away with it.

But Weiner was at least ten years too old for that prank.

I mean, what is the standard here? Social conservatives have the benefit of a simple, but not simplified, belief -- that there are two good states, traditional monogamy and abstinence. Everything else is sinful. That's their standard.

But over on the left, it is a murky sea of confusion. Can you even say there are any standards? Roughly speaking, the rule is consenting adults -- not with children, and not by force -- but otherwise, do what you will.

This is so broad and so open that some guys simply do not know how to behave, because they don't know what the rules are. The rules keep changing. For instance, some propose the notion that No means No. If it does, a lot of people need to be informed about this.

Maybe the old definition of a gentleman still applies at the crudest level -- keep your fly zipped and keep your hands to yourself.

I don't know the rules, but I would like to pre-emptively apologize. I am deeply sorry. I profoundly regret ...

Mangy Democrats and True Conservatives. I'm a mangy Democrat. I listen to conservatives because they say interesting things -- but then you hear them talk about who is and who is not a "true conservative." Whew! That's scary..... David Mamet, the wonderfully talented playwright, has made a "conversion to conservatism" and is making the rounds of the right wing talk shows with his new friends. I wish I had five percent of his skills as a dramatist, but in politics Mamet is peanuts. Good grief.

Back at the Farm.... I do my farming chores, but I feel like I could write and write and write some more. And it's not a feeling -- it's a fact -- that I have a lot of things to say and these things are worse saying, and now is the time to say them..... Take writing itself .... I heard this from Ernest Hemingway, and not even from Hemingway, but from the actor who was pretending to be Hemingway in Woody Allen's new movie, "Midnight in Paris." What Hemingway said is that writing takes courage.

Courage. Yes, writing takes courage and I have always known this, because writing is only good if it's true. If it's not true, then it's not any good, and it always takes courage to tell the truth. Forget the minor distinction between fact and fiction. If you want to be a good writer, you have to tell the truth.

"Too Many Mornings" is the title of my memoir now being serialized on the Frog Hospital blog and on Facebook. It is the story of "21 places I have lived since 1976." I have moved around a lot, so it is a tale of "landscape and memory" to steal a march from Simon Schama ..... I have been writing 500 words each day and then posting it. You are invited to lean over my shoulder to watch the work unfold -- you are also invited to post comments as you read it -- kind of fun and kind of interesting.

Farm News...... It was a great rant that I wrote about these tiresome apologies, but my firm intention is to write some straight-up farm news in subsequent issues -- the latest dope on what is growing in these fields in Ventura County and around the world.

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Fred Owens
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