Friday, October 31, 2014

the difference between nasty and medieval

I am in Carpinteria, having a coffee at the Llama Cafe, across from the library. Many costumed people. I disapprove of this frivolity. People expressing themselves! How dreadful.

I came to Carpinteria to check out the library, to check out Season One of Boston Legal, which was broadcast in 2006.

I am tired of nasty, violent shows....... Breaking Bad, Orange and Black ..... Just  too nasty.

But I like Game of Thrones ...... We watched the whole series on HBO. Lots of slicing and stabbing and an abundance of gratuitous nudity...... What fun!

You see , Game of Thrones is from the Middle Ages, so it's okay...... Get it? I do not like nasty shows, but medieval shows are okay.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

I spent some time in this cafe in 1997. Rose was the waitress, she was tall and sporting, a colored woman --- coloured as they spell it in South Africa. I am so glad that I didn't connect with her. She would have been enormous trouble.

Cafe Matisse is in Kalk Bay, a sea-girted suburb of Capetown. I booked a bed and breakfast down the street, an establishment run by an Indian couple, Mia and Fatima Laher.
Figo, aka "El Rey Misterio"  -- the King of Mystery

We don't know very much about him. He appears. He works. He leaves for lunch.
That's all we know. He is the King of Mystery.

Freddie, El Primero. He is the first among equals, a man who works, a man who is generous to his many friends.

Painting the walls

I was down in Venice last week, painting the walls. I like to paint green, blue, black, red and yellow. I like the really big letters. I can go left to write, or I can go from right to left. It depends on my feelings. I can start at the top and go down, or not do that, or do spots here and there.

At the beach I get lots of lockers, but I do not look back, only painting. There is sand and wind, this is part of it. I paint life and I paint sand and wind with all the rest.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014



The thing is that I do not write as freely as some other people do. The thing is that my mother reads this and I would not wish to offend her. The thing is my mother died in 1996, but I still think she might read this and she might be offended and I would not like to write anything that would bother her.

Writers are supposed to be wild and free and uninhibited. I have never believez do that, but I have heard other people say things like that, to be free and wild. Not me, I am quite careful. I do not like to strike out st people because invariably they strike back, and that hurts. And if they do not strike back, then I start to feel guilty because I might have been picking on them.

So better it is to be nice and to have a care for how the other fellow might react to what I say.

This could be wisdom, or it could be that I am simply afraid, or it could be that I am too old and have not got the energy to start a fight or sustain an argument.

I am working for Marshall today. We are going to plant favs beans. Marshall sent an email to me and the rest of the crew saying he was feeling a bit poorly and fluish. He said he would come to the garden at nine to give instructions and inspiration and then retire to his abode for a day of rest.

I am excited about Game Seven tonight. It could be quite a free for all. The World Series used to be such a big deal. Everybody talked about it. Everybody watched the game. Not so now. Now it is just another show. Oh well, things are not what they used to be, but I have not got the time for nostalgia, so play ball!

I would be happy about the new tires I bought for my car, new treads! Except then my laptop blew a fuse. Honestly, I want to pitch that infernal machine into a ditch. I would buy another laptop but my extra funds are too diminished. Right now I am using my daughter's I-pad, a long term loan. The iPad is tolerable for my usages.

what else? I am so glad to be done with Facebook. It is like getting out of jail, all those smiling faces grinning! I cannot stand it anymore. I feel so free and being myself on this blog, finding my own way.

PAYPAL. And I have a PayPal button. That means you can pitch in, dear reader, just pound on the button and put in the cash. If I make a dollar on this blog it will be more than I ever made on Facebook.

SPELLING. I will do better on spelling as soon as I learn to correct mistakes on this iPad.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Laptop broke

I got all excited about writing on this blog and then my laptop broke.

I am writing this with one finger on my iPad.

I'm going to bed in ten minutes. It has been a busy day, a good day, a satisfying day.

I got my tires fixed. I mean, I bought two new tires for $192 and that too care of my tread situation. Now I have plenty of tread.

So I don't care about my stupid broken laptop.

I saw Antonio this morning. He is moving to Hawaii with his girlfriend and he needs to sell his truck, a white Ford 150 from 1997, he wants $3,000.

Beginning with a Burst of Enthusiasm

Blogs typically begin with a burst of enthusiasm and then peter out after a month or two -- the daily grind gets to be too much work for too little compensation.

This blog is no exception. We will let nature run it's course.......But I still have the Frog Hospital newsletter, which has proved to be sustainable, having lasted 15 years now.

Who Needs Jobs Anyway

Who needs jobs? Not me, I don't need your stinkin' job. Why don't you cut your workforce down to ten, then you can really make money?

Amgen to lay off 4,000 -- because the hedge fund barons kinda suggested it might improve the profit picture.

Africa is a Kind of Hell

Africa is a Kind of Hell

I was in Africa in 1997 and 1998. I saw violence, disease, corruption, suffering and poverty. I was often frightened for my own safety.

It takes a great deal of courage for health workers to make the journey to West Africa and confront this dangerous disease.


What Pat Paul Ate For Breakfast


If I was Pat Paul I would take a photo of my breakfast cereal and post it.

I'm kidding. Pat is a wonderful friend. She has been cooking up a storm and sharing the results with us on Facebook.

And she shares the goodness from her abundant Swinomish garden -- shown here

Good Morning from France

Jeanne Moreau sings in the 1962 film Jules et Jim

Monday, October 27, 2014

"God Must Hate Me," Oil Can Boyd

“God Must Hate Me”

It seems a long time ago, but there is no time in baseball, and there are no new stories.

In 1986, the Boston Red Sox lost the World Series to the New York Mets. In the dramatic sixth game, the Red Sox were one out away from becoming world champion, but they choked, and blew the game. It was the most incredible choke in sports history. I almost died.

I didn’t die, but my whole life changed after that game. I mean, it’s only a game, but I really got wrapped up in it.

In 1992, when this story took place, the memory of 1986 was raw and the pain was still real. I was still a Red Sox fan, but I could barely stand the torture of it.

In 2004, the Red Sox finally won the World Series, but I no longer cared -- I had moved on.

BOSTON, MASS., 1992. Pete Rose is not a part of this story, but that doesn’t matter, because I have to say this: I always hated Pete Rose, right from the beginning back in the early seventies. I used to watch the World Series, and when they showed him on third base I would start screaming and gnashing my teeth. I always hated him. When he got caught for gambling the whole world of sports condemned his moral depravity. But that didn’t matter to me. You don’t hate someone for a reason, you just do.

Good, I got that off my chest, now let me tell you the story.

It was July 30, an overcast day and so not too hot, when this gang of underemployed lawyers, real estate developers and civil servants came up from New York on the shuttle to watch the Red Sox play the Texas Rangers. They were out for a good time. Some of the guys made phone calls between innings but that was just for effect and out of habit --
“Anything going on at the office?”
“No, nothing going on here.”
“Fine, well, I’ll get back to you later.”

I know Jim Gardella really well. Jim and his cadre of cronies got ousted in a political coup last year when Mayor Dinkins took over the city government. He still occupies his office at Brooklyn City Hall, but he fills his melancholy days doing crossword puzzles and waiting for the phone to ring. It never does. He eats lunch in empty restaurants. “Where did everybody go?” he says to the maitre’d, who smiles back at him politely.
But at least he has time for baseball. Jim told me that the group was coming up to Boston for the game, and he mailed me a ticket so I could meet him at the Park. We had seats in the centerfield bleachers. It was an afternoon game on a Tuesday, and the house was packed --children, idlers, the unemployed, and the usual riffraff.
The Red Sox were a disaster in July, they were in fourth place, nine games behind Toronto. I was very pessimistic.

I hated Jack Clark, he was the new Designated Hitter. He had 89 strikeouts so far this year. The pitcher threw the ball -- I looked, Jack Clark looked -- only I couldn’t swing because I didn’t have a bat. But I thought, reasonably enough, that since Jack Clark did have a bat, his job required more than mere observation. The bum! I wanted to take his gold chain and choke him.

I sat next to Jim at the game and he introduced me to his friends. Shelley, the lawyer, had arranged to buy the tickets, so everybody was giving him a hard time about being in the bleachers. They said, “Next year let’s make it a rule that we get seats in the same city that they’re playing the game in.”

But the women in the group liked the bleacher seats because it gave them a view of nine sets of powerful athletic buns. On a serious note, the bleacher seats are good because it’s like being on the field, being a part of the defense. It gives a wide view of the whole field, not the details, but the sweep of the play. And it gives the pleasure of being a common man, no better or worse than his fellows. Privilege is exhilarating, but the humbler seats can be more relaxing.

Ed Burke came in during the third inning. He said the seats were lousy but so were the Red Sox and they weren’t worth more than $6 to see anyway. Ed’s a funny guy -- he was wearing a white cap, and he had a gum massager sticking out of his shirt pocket. Ed’s a State Senator; he’s been representing Framingham for twenty years. Then he did his political thing, updating his file by asking Jim and me about our families, children, schools, wives, etc. He left a few innings later. Jim asked me how come Ed doesn’t have any clout? How come he couldn’t get us better seats?

The Red Sox won the game 11 to 6. They sent 14 batters to the plate in the third inning and scored 10 runs. Six of those runs were from the hot bat of Carlos Quintana, my favorite player. He got a grand slam for four runs, and a double for two. That’s my man. Carlos is a different kind of guy than Jack Clark. The proper psychology with a guy like Clark is to heap abuse on him when he’s playing badly. He likes the attention and it gets him mad. Eventually he will take out his aggression on the ball and hit it over the fence, which happened the very next day.

But the “Q” is a gentler soul, a man who responds better to approval and kindness. Later in the season, he began to play badly because he had been treated badly by Joe Morgan, the Red Sox manager. Carlos’ feelings were hurt. He had been playing first base well and hitting over .300 when Mo Vaughan got called up from Pawtucket. Mo was the new hero that everybody was excited about. They made T-shirts about him, they splashed him all over the sports page. He was black and would be a credit to his race in Boston. (They hadn’t advanced much further than this in the Old Towne.)

Morgan put Vaughan on first base and sent Quintana to right field. Quintana immediately went into a hitting slump and made careless errors in the field. It was Morgan’s mistake, not mine.

“God Must Hate Me”

Before leaving the game and joining the New York gang for dinner, we need to talk about Oil Can Boyd. He was pitching for the Rangers. You know a lot of these guys up from New York are Mets fans -- may they all burn in hell. Mets fans are the worst people in the world. They have no class whatever.

You remember 1986 as well as I do, when Oil Can was pitching for the Red Sox and they lost the Series to the Mets. You remember where you were that day like you remember Kennedy’s assassination.
The Can is one of the games truly existential players, a man with a mind as well as a heart, a human being of tragic proportions. He’s the “Natural”, the one they wrote the book about.

Michael Madden, Boston Globe reporter, wrote about Boyd’s loss to the Sox on the day we were there in the bleachers:

Other men might have lied and said it was just another day. Just another game. Other men might have tried to put the best face, the phony face, on a bad situation gone worse. But not the Can, because the Can knows how to speak only from his heart:

“For me to be traded to the Rangers, and for me to pitch my first two games against the Boston Red Sox means that God must hate me.

“It’s the worst game I ever pitched in my life. And for a lot of reasons. First of all, I never wanted to pitch in Fenway Park again.....I’ve never walked the bases full before, and I’ve never given up a grand slam homer, and it all happened in one day, shit, it all happened in one inning. I just look at it and say it was meant to be.

“I don’t have anything to cherish about Boston. You talk about the ‘86 World Series, but I don’t care about any of that. That year a lot of things happened to me that probably will go to the grave with me, and still don’t let me get no peace of mind. So I don’t have anything to feel good about at all and especially today. Today just poured gas on it. Just made the flame bigger.”

We stayed until the end of the game because it was nice in the Park. Many of the New Yorkers had never seen Fenway Park before. It was a treat for them, and they could even make charitable comments about it.

We piled into three taxis and headed for Anthony’s Pier Four Restaurant. There was a lot of hoo-hooing in our car about going to Anthony’s. Shelley said, “They fill that place with old ladies on tour buses, why don’t we go to a real restaurant?” Shelley lived in Boston once, on Beacon Street -- he showed us the apartment when we drove by. He made some cryptic remarks about Boston being a cold town, a mean town. He didn’t say what kind of trouble he had, but I bet it was some kind of bad luck with a woman.

Anthony Athanas owns Pier Four and the surrounding 36 acres of very valuable waterfront property. He’s Albanian. He’s an old man and very well connected. He had just sold the property surrounding the restaurant to the federal government for a fabulous profit. The feds will build a courthouse on the land. The guys in our group would have killed to get in on this deal, but they don’t really know anybody. I could tell that, because they were with me. It’s like Grouch Marx’s rule about clubs, the ones he wouldn’t join if they were willing to accept him as a member. Power brokers don’t have dinner with me unless they’re on the skids.

Still we were a merry crew. They gave us a table for twelve outside on the deck, and we made a lot of noise. Now I was bluffing just like the rest of these guys do on a real estate deal. I had twenty dollars in my pocket and an overdrawn checking account. Naturally I flourished a ten spot and paid for the cab ride when we got there. That didn’t leave me with money for dinner, but I was hoping for the Greater Fool -- that one of these guys was so desperate to put on a show and he would pick up the tab -- and I could get off with pretending I wanted to pay.

I hedged my bets -- I ordered way down the menu, choosing the striped bass special for $9.95. Jim Gardella ordered it too, mainly because he’s a cheapskate. The others guys were going for the gold -- three pound lobsters, steamer clams for appetizers, nice wine from the list and Grand Marnier after dinner. The wine was good. Jim -- the other Jim, the one who looks like the Great Gatsby -- ordered the wine. He wore his blazer and tie all through the meal and never unbuttoned his collar. Then he had this sophisticated conversation with the wine steward, and, for God’s sakes, the rest of the table took him seriously. They say New Yorkers are street smart, but they fell for this game.

Jim -- the real Jim -- was making a complete fool of himself over Amy, the 30-year-old beauty who was making her first trip with this group. He kept hitting on her and wanted to sit next to her at dinner. She asked me if I would please sit between Jim and her, which I did. Jim was being no worse than usual. You have to remember that his friends go with him to out of town ball games because they know they won’t be seen.

The bill came to $600 including tip, to be divided up 12 ways. I guess my bluff didn’t work because nobody wanted to make a $600 impression and pick up the tab. I was forced to ask Jim for a loan of fifty to pay my share, and I wrote him a hot check to cover it.

Boy, it was a lot of fun. Now the sun was going down, and some of us walked to the railing and looked at the water and the boats going by. Jim and I talked quietly for a little bit. Jim’s a good guy, and I really like him. These New Yorkers have a sense of humor and style. Boston is a good town, but it can get a little too serious here without some outside help.

Facebook is not adequate

Facebook is not adequate, not for me. It's a swamp of shallow emotion. It's about liking. Your whole life becomes like and not like. becomes life-like! Argh!
The Beach.

We went to the beach -- took a walk, down to our favorite rock. Nice to know it's still there -- everything else moves, the air, the birds, the sand and the waves, but the rock never moves ---- except how did it get there? A big round rock in the middle of the beach -- it must have rolled off the cliff and come crashing down -- but when?

Rock doesn't say much, we tap it and stroke it, all smooth and round on one side, all jagged on the other side like a giant dinosaur egg broke in two

hotel dragon

I walked by this hotel dragon in Madrid. I was on my way to the Prado. It was Monday, October 13, 2014. The dragon was looming over the ancient narrow street, but it is not a real dragon. It is made up of CDs and DVDs, all blank and silvery and kind of cute.

The hotel lobby looked very expensive. I did not enter. I kept going to the Prado. When I arrived at the wide avenue in front of the museum, I watched the crew dismantling the bleachers -- bleachers erected for the big parade the day before -- Columbus Day, celebrating his discovery of America on October 12, 1492. It's a holiday in Spain. You can blame them -- they would be glad to take credit.

I watched the baseball game last night, game five of the World Series. Bum Garner pitched a shutout and worked all nine innings. I do not favor the Giants, but I had to admit that Bum Garner was the master of all baseball on that night.

Today, as on most Mondays, I worked for Oscar at his greenhouse in Goleta.I worked, as always, the four hours from 8 a.m. until noon. I spent the first two hours sifting soil, running it through a grater to remove rocks and roots, making it finer and softer. Then I mixed that with compost, also sifted, plus perlite and peat moss -- using Oscar's secret recipe -- plus a few organic compounds in 50-pound bags from Island Feed & Seed.

That's the job -- the first half... The next two hours I used the soil to re-plant vegetable seedlings into larger pots. Taking sage and tomato plants in one-gallon pots, and re-potting them into 2-gallon pots.

That's the job> There is much more to tell, so stick around.--

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Back to the Blog

Back to th Blog and off of Facebook.

We ate breakfast at the garden market cafe in Summerland. The garden was beautiful, the food was so-so.

We walked on the Summerland beach. The tide was so high that we almost got our feet wet in splashing waves.

Then we went to Elwood Mesa to wait for the monarch butterflies. We saw about ten or twelve.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

At the Café Alemana

By Fred Owens

Madrid. I had a nice talk with the waiters at the Cafe Alemana in the Plaza Santa Ana. It was a reunion of sorts, because it was in this same cafe that I spent five miserable days in November, 1969. I was running out of money, and the weather was bad. I had a girl friend back in California and I was wondering what the hell I was doing in Spain. I just sat there day after day, passing the time, nursing a café con leche.

And then 45 years later, I came back -- I stumbled upon it. I wandered into the Plaza Santa Ana -- and I said yes, that was the place. So I went inside and it was just the same, the same white marble tables -- even the same waiters in white jackets.

I talked with the waiters. I told them the story. I was young then, and broke. And now I am not broke, but I am not young either. Salud!

The Cafe Alemana opened in 1904. In the 1930s it was frequented by Fascists because of the German name. With time it has managed to shake off that reputation, except for some older people who do not forget. Whatever -- in the 1960s it was a hangout for poor travelers like me.

I found the Cafe Alemana on Sunday, October 12, while I was on a walking tour with a group, but we only passed it by. I returned to the cafe on Monday, October 13, for a glass of wine and a visit with the staff. I came again on Tuesday, but it was closed -- the cafe closes on Tuesday, according to the sign posted in front.

That was just as well – finding the café closed. I had no need to go back there a second time. I had closed a chapter on my youth. I was done. So, to look for what comes next, I walked across the Plaza Santa Ana, to another café. In Madrid there is always another café. This one was the Café Cinco Jotas. The Café of the Five Js. There is a story behind the name, but I had little curiosity about that. Why did you name your horse Jack? Why did you name your first child Sebastian – who cares? It’s only a name.

A name is everything and nothing. On Tuesday, for me, the name was nothing. I sat for a long time before the waiter came out. It was early, I ordered coffee. He was a young man, not wearing a white coat, not of the tribe of the waiters at the Café Alemana who serve with distinction for centuries. This young man might be gone tomorrow. I would be gone tomorrow. Tuesday, October 14, 2014, was my last day in Madrid.

I looked at the trees in the plaza. It was sprinkling rain. There were few people walking. I was glad to be there. The buildings on the square were clean and white. The air was fresh from the rain. I was on my way to the Thyssen Museum – after I finished my café con leche.

I like to think about things and imagine things, because I am reflective and philosophical, but I must be watching for a trap, for obsessions, for blind alleys of thought that lead nowhere, but only cause pain. You need to keep moving, so it was good that the Café Alemana was closed , because that part of my life is finished. I was young then and broke, limpio y soplado, as they say in Spanish, “clean and blown.” Now I am not broke, and I am not young either.

The Spanish Language

España, un tierra de idioma racional

The language of Spain is rational, intelligent and given to philosophy. One can make statements that are at one time easy to say and also profound to a great depth.

Que es más importante, la verdad o la cortesía? This is a question of philosophy. “What is more important, the truth or courtesy,” it asks. A simple sentence, but it sounds better in Spanish, less brutal, and more conducive to intelligent discussion.

Old Cows and Ancient People

Vacas Viejas y Ancianos

In Spanish, we say personas mayores to mean senior citizens. I quickly learned this because it would get me a half-price ticket at the museum. But I played with it. Soy anciano, I would say, I am ancient. And the cashier would reply, su documento? your document?

I would remove my cap and say, mi pelo blanco, my white hair. A silly joke, but you need to play with a language in order to learn it. You must not be afraid to be a little silly or you will never learn it.

The Situation at Frog Hospital

Frog Hospital, this email newsletter, has been published for 15 years. Subscription income peaked in 2004, at $2,000. Revenue has been going down every year since then, to pretty much zero now....... There's too much stuff you can get for free, I figure. Another explanation is that I have lost my snap.....

Either way, the question is, What Do I Do Now? To write on Facebook or social media, to write for free, makes me a fool and a crank. Writing for free is suitable for amateurs and those who serve a cause. I serve no cause and I require an income.

I am not making an appeal for subscription income at this time. I am stating this situation, as it exists on October 25, 2014.

President Obama might say, “We are exploring all the options,” meaning that he doesn’t know what he’s going to do. I will say the same thing – I am exploring various options. I do not know how to monetize social media. People say look to the cloud for funding. So I look to the sky and there are no clouds. I see nothing but blue sky.

Where is the Rain? Who is the Rain Maker?

Thank you for your kind attention,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

My gardening blog is Fred Owens

My writing blog is Frog Hospital

send mail to:

Fred Owens
35 West Main St Suite B #391
Ventura CA 93001

Friday, October 17, 2014

Ten Days in Madrid

Ten Days in Madrid

I was fortunate to get a plane ticket to Madrid for ten days, in the company of my daughter who works for Boeing.

My daughter left from Seattle and I left from Los Angeles. We arranged to meet in Madrid at the B & B at 5 Calle Los Estudios, only a few blocks from the La Latina subway station.

I took the subway from the airport, rather than a cab. A cab would have been 25 to 30 Euros. The subway was only 5 Euros.

I navigated successfully, making two changes, finally getting on the Green Line to La Latina, which is a sort of Left Bank neighborhood, site of the famed La Rastra flea market.

I greeted my daughter, entered the B & B, cleaned up from the journey, and then we headed to the street for a coffee, café con leche.

I enjoyed being in Spain. I spoke Spanish to everyone. They were glad to hear me say it. I was very glad to understand them. There is something about the Castilian dialect that is music to my ears.

La Latina is a densely crowded district. There was a constant stream of local people walking in every direction past the café. Walking and talking.

I observed the man sitting in the lottery booth, hardly bigger than an old phone booth. It is the world’s dullest job, I thought.

I introduced myself by name to waiter, which is not the custom, but it is my custom, and we struck up a conversation. He was a handsome young man and muy agradable.

He welcomed us to Madrid and we felt relaxed and grateful to be there.

More about Madrid

I have so much more to say about my journey, but pressing financial obligations require my presence at work this week, so I will have to postpone this composition.

I can add this small piece about the Iberian people -----

Local Iberian shaman hosts American visitor at the Plaza Mayor in Madrid.

A bit of history. It was the Phoenicians and ancient Greeks who discovered and settled Iberia many centuries before the time of Christ. Ready to greet these visitors when they came ashore were the Neolithic Iberian tribes with their druids and masks.

Later the Romans came to conquer, to build roads and viaducts and cities, to unify this vast province, and to impose the Latin language on the local people.

Over time the Iberians became assimilated to Roman culture, and the Latin language developed a local dialect which became the precursor to Spanish.

The Roman Empire crumbled and the Visigoths invaded and took over and founded a Christian kingdom which ruled Iberia for some centuries.

In the 700s, the Arab/Moslems crossed over from Africa and swept the Visigothic rulers aside, ruling Iberia, or parts of it, for 700 years. They did not enforce a conversion to Islam, but it helped you get ahead in the world, if you crossed over from being Christian.

Then Isabella and Ferdinand drove the Moslems out of Spain and back to Africa. Many people found it convenient to convert back to Jesus -- "convenient" in quotes.

Then these monarchs, our beloved Isabella and Ferdinand, funded the expeditions of Christopher Columbus to the New World.

No matter what you think of the Admiral and his voyages, it is good to place him in a historical context. It is good to remember that the Iberian people have always lived in Spain, having been invaded and conquered more than once.

But this old fool still dances in the Plaza.

More News.

I am back in Santa Barbara. The punishing drought continues and the garden is suffering. We pray and hope for rain.

Reading Dickens.

I am reading Bleak House. I am halfway through this masterpiece, but the plot is eluding my understanding. I must stop the reading and consult an Internet source, some sort of Wikipedia cheat sheet on the story. Normally I let Dickens write as he pleases, but this time I need a crutch.

All is Well

All is well on the home front. Good health, good family, good friends. We’re beginning to make Thanksgiving and Christmas plans.

Until Next Time,