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
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!
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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

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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