Sunday, October 22, 2017

Sending Manuscripts to the Editor

By Fred Owens

I mailed a check to the new editor. Then I will send her several manuscripts, short ones and long ones. She will read what I send her and then we will have a discussion as to their worth and ultimate destiny....... this could be fun..... One manuscript is a memoir of 30,000 words called the Falcon Journal. I wrote this in 2005 in two weeks at a campsite in Falcon State Park, located in Starr County, Texas, on the banks of the Rio Grande River.... My girlfriend Laurie read the Falcon Journal and said she liked it a lot........ Another manuscript is a novel of 41,000 words called Push the Bus which I wrote in 2007 but did not complete until last year. The novel takes place in the same campground where I wrote the Falcon Journal, so we have a connection -- a short novel and a short memoir, both set on the banks of the Rio Grande River in Texas.

Mabel, the old woman who lives across the street, likes to read every thing I send her. I print out a manuscript and walk across the street and give it to her and she reads it. She likes me, but she doesn't like me that much, so her opinion has a degree of detachment..... Well she liked Push the Bus quite a bit and she told me so two times. I had been concerned that she would be offended by the salty language. There is one character in the novel who is named Tucson and he cusses a blue streak from morning until night. You get used to it after a while.

Mabel grew up on a ranch on Montana and she said she had heard that kind of language before, so it was no account to her.

Talking with Stuart Welch, former owner of the Rexville Store near LaConner

Stuart Welch, my good friend, is an expert on everything. The words "I don't know" never pass his lips. If I ask him a question, he will have a ready answer and he is often right. We discussed the upcoming World Series. In a previous conversation, more than one month ago, Stuart stated that the World Series would be between the Houston Astros and the Los Angeles Dodgers. "Stuart, you were right about that!"

Stuart and I discussed the World Series because it is "normal." Normal is getting to be important because the world is getting very weird -- fires and hurricanes and the fury of potential wars. The weirdest thing of all is that man in the White House. You can say a lot of things about Donald Trump, but nobody thinks he's normal.

I miss normal. I need normal. I'm a Democrat but I wish Dwight Eisenhower was President. He wasn't the greatest President of all time, but he was normal and he had a good smile.

Some of the world is still normal, like the Santa Barbara Kiwanis Club. The Santa Barbara Kiwanis Club has been meeting every week for lunch since 1922. It used to be all men, now it's about half women. The club has evolved over the years, but it is quite normal. I belong to the club and all the members are more normal than me and I like that.

And my girlfriend Laurie is having new vinyl windows installed in her home. Six new windows and two sliding doors. Getting the whole house done. Using a local contractor. Installing new vinyl windows is a good thing and very normal.

So maybe the world isn't going crazy, although Ireland got struck by a hurricane and the woods are on fire in Santa Rosa in northern California....... Santa Barbara is safe so far, and has been spared the wildfires, but it is bad luck to even say that, so erase that thought.

You can drive only two miles from Laurie's house and see the charred black scars on the old palm trees where the Painted Cave wildfire leapt the freeway in the high winds and destroyed 427 buildings. That was in 1990, but you don't forget something like that.

And we are not lucky in Santa Barbara because the fire could strike anytime and everywhere you look  it is dry and combustible.

Unfortunately, wild fires in October are normal, although many people would dispute that and declare a connection with increased drought as a result of climate change. I'm not getting into that discussion.

To repeat:

The World Series is normal.

The Santa Barbara Kiwanis Club is normal.

Wildfires in  October in California are normal.

Donald Trump is not normal. Definitely not normal.

Blowing Hot and Cold

I'm blowing hot and cold on this manuscript. It's a memoir I wrote in 2005 called the Falcon Journal, because I wrote it at Falcon Dam on the Rio Grande River in South Texas. I had a winter camp site right on the banks of the river. I could see Mexico on the other side of the water. I could see the twinkling lights of the little village in Mexico.

I wrote about the birds, because South Texas is a big winter attraction for birdwatching folk. The tropical birds come this far north. The northern birds come this far south. There are more species of birds in South Texas than any other place in the country, and the birds congregate along the banks of the river.

I didn't even have binoculars or a guide book. I just liked camping there under the acacia tree. I left out crackers for the road runners.

I wrote the journal -- about my second grade teacher, Sister Virgina. I had a crush on her. I wrote about the Roman philosopher Marcus Aurelius. I wrote about my girl friend Gail Murphy and the trip we took to Mexico in 1970.

The journal is spare and strong and rooted in a place -- Falcon Dam -- that made me whole. That's why Laurie and Mabel liked  reading it.

I said I was blowing hot and cold on this manuscript while I am reviewing it. I always feel that way. Why would anybody want to read it? I ask myself that question.

I prefer the living room

I sit on the couch in the living room with my laptop. I keep it plugged in because my battery is iffy. I set the laptop down on the coffee table when I need to stand up and do something.The coffee table was custom made by Laurie's grandfather, made from maple or ash -- she's not sure about that -- but it is a very sturdy coffee table and not cluttered with magazines and old fishing reels and ceramic what-nots. A very uncluttered coffee table, I would say. A very tranquil, un-busy coffee table.

I have imagined writing in a proper writer's study, with a desk and a lamp and a bookshelf lined with treasured volumes. A window to look out of, or an aquarium. A radio. An easy chair. A door that closes and shuts out the world so that I might focus on my writing.

But the truth is that I don't really like to work in a quiet, austere environment. I prefer the living room, which has a front door, so I can leave. I prefer the living room because my three housemates are coming and going and I might say hello and have a brief chat. I prefer the living room because it has the TV and the radio. And it's near the kitchen where there is food and coffee.

I like the sound of traffic, so I keep the front door open. I can hear the crows cawing this time of year, they are busy feeding on the pecan tree in the back yard.

In short I prefer working in a sea of distractions. I had ADD before it was cool. I have the attention span of a gnat in heat.

thank you for reading this,


Tuesday, October 17, 2017

too much news

By Fred Owens

Too Much News!  Northern California is in flames.  Las Vegas is grieving. Puerto Rico is starving. Houston is struggling. And Hollywood is the heart of a deadly scandal.

The scariest thing is  having Trump in the White House. He is not a steady hand. He does not have the voice of assurance.  He does not give the impression of calm strength. He is doing an awful job of it.

But the kids see their own terrors. They don't watch the network news. They don't read newspapers. They seem to be uninformed. But I'm wrong to say that.  It's more like they know differently and the world looks different to them. They don't see the same dangers. They don't seek the same solutions.

Kids meaning people under 40. They have apps. Apps are OK. I don't use any myself, but they don't scare me. I did use Lyft the other day -- it was easy.

I want to thank Harvey Weinstein for making life difficult for all the men in America. You can't tell a joke these days. It's like going through security at the airport and making a bomb joke -- you can't do that. So, thanks to Harvey, any statement about your relations with the women in your life must be made with complete sobriety.  No jokes, especially no smirks. Premature apologies might be rejected. Saying nothing might work, unless they notice you're saying nothing. ..... Thanks, Harvey, you really screwed things up for the rest of us.

No Proof Reader. Jim Bertolino, creative writer, esteemed poet, frog pond watcher, and good friend, said I need a proofreader. Well, I sure do.

I write this newsletter. I read it over at least three times, and then I send it out. Some errors always escape detection because, as everybody knows, you cannot proof your own work.

The solution is for me to get my column connected to a larger organization. Send it in to the Acme News and Weather Report, 750 words every week, for payment of $85, and they can proof it. You get almost zero errors that way. But there is no Acme  News and Weather Report and there is no $85, there is only me.

Pam Smith used to proof my copy at the Wilson County News and she was bulletproof, having served as an English teacher for many years before coming to work at this newspaper.

That was more than ten years ago. Since that time I have been stuck on my own, broke, lonely, and poorly spelled.

(journalistically lonely  -- I have a fabulous girl friend)

Some day it will get better.

I called Stuart Welch, formerly of  Rexville. Stuart ran the Rexville Store outside of LaConner for more than 15 years. Seven days a a week, 12 hours a day, he rarely took any time off, except for golf.

I called him from Santa Barbara because Stuart is an expert on everything. The words "I don't know" are simply not in his vocabulary.  I asked him who will win the NLCS, either the Cubs or the Dodgers. Then I asked him if it was a good deal to order Milgard windows from Home Depot and have the Home Depot crew install them. The windows are for Laurie's home in Santa Barbara -- six windows and two sliding doors. The existing aluminum frame windows are more than forty years old and single pane.

Stuart did not answer when I phoned this afternoon. I left a voicemail with the two questions and said I would call back in the morning.

#Me Too and the Republican Rebuttal

#MeToo is flooding my feed on Facebook. A cascade, a deluge. I read them with fascination and sympathy -- highly credible statements of harassment and assault, hundreds of them.

But what I noticed was that none of these statements came from Republican women. They have not jumped on the bandwagon. They don't seem to agree with the thrust of this movement that was sparked by the dismal record of Harvey Weinstein's very bad behavior.

These Republican women might have a different take on the problem and they might say something like the following -- "This kind of disgusting behavior is a problem in California. The Hollywood crowd has always been depraved and corrupt. But here in Missouri our men respect us. And we respect them.  You can't trust these Hollywood people. they do not project the honest moral qualities that make America a good country. What Harvey Weinstein did is typical of how people behave in the movie business, but it doesn't happen here in Missouri."

#MeToo and the NRA

The NRA rebuttal to #MeToo is easy to imagine. It goes like this:

"Are you scared? Are you vulnerable? The smart thing to do, the way to become truly empowered, is to put a handgun in your handbag. Put a pistol in your purse, because when you're packing heat, men will respect you, or else."

#Me Too and the White Nationalists

This is a sad and ugly thing -- white nationalists have inserted themselves into the dialog and here is what they have to say:

"Everybody knows the Jews run Hollywood, so you can expect beasts like Harvey Weinstein to do their evil deeds. He is typical of that crowd. But we respect our women and protect their honor."

The reactions depicted here, from the Republican women, from the NRA and from White Nationalists groups will be deployed in the coming days.

It will be quite a battle. Be prepared to rebuke these rebuttals.

Thank you,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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

Monday, October 09, 2017

Having Coffee with Billy Frank

By Fred Owens

Goodby Columbus! It's not your holiday anymore and your day is done. We call it Indigenous Peoples Day now. So I will tell the story about how I had coffee with Billy Frank in 1985.
I used to live in LaConner right near the Swinomish Reservation. My kids went to Head Start on the Reservation when Toni Ann Rust was the teacher. So the kids got to know each other, town kids and reservation kids.
At that time, in the early 1980s, Rosie and Earl James lived across the street from us in town, with their two girls, April and Ginger. I do not know why they didn't live on Res itself, but that doesn't matter  -- they lived across the street from us, and their two girls often baby sat for our two children, and sometimes we would come over to their house for a meal.
I also got to know Roger and Matilda Cayou, Rosie's mother and father. They had a house on the Res so we would go over their for meals sometimes or just to watch TV.
Earl James, Rosie's husband, came from a tribe in Canada, the Lillooet people.
He married Rosie, and his younger sister Gail married Rosie's younger brother Vincent. To repeat, the brother and sister from Lillooet married the sister and brother from Swinomish. Too confusing for me. I just figured they were all related. And the Cayous weren't Swinomish, they were Samish. Also confusing, but they were just good friends to us, so it didn't matter.
The Wilburs were another family on the Res. I got the feeling that the Wilburs were a big deal, but I never asked too many questions. I knew Jimmy Wilbur when he was a deacon at St. Paul's, the little Catholic church on the Res.
Jimmy also had a sweat lodge out on the sand spit, right there at the foot of McGlinn Island. There was a ranch house he lived in and the sweat lodge was in the back, built of branches and covered with old  blankets and canvas tarps.
I said to Jimmy one day, "You ought to invite me to your sweat lodge sometime," and he said, "Sure, why don't you come this Sunday afternoon. Bring a pair of shorts. We'll have the sweat and then we'll have a salmon dinner afterward."
That sounded good to me. Jimmy was working with troubled Native American young men who had drug and alcohol problems, in trouble with the law and often not welcome on the Reservation.
The sweat lodge was for their healing. I could use some healing myself, so I showed up and the fire outside the sweat lodge was roaring hot and the stones were glowing red.
Jimmy said, "Go inside and take the farthest seat in the back, that's the seat of honor. That's because you're the oldest man here today."
So I went inside and it was dark and I would much rather be sitting near the door because it was going to get very hot in there.
They brought in the glowing stones, red like fire, and then closed the door and it got dark black, not like the kind of dark where you get used to it after ten minutes. This was black, dark like the sun don't ever shine again. And it got hot in there with the steam. I practically could not breath. It was ferocious. Hot. I sweated a lot.
Jimmy invited me to say some words,  we went around the lodge each in turn -- there were maybe six young men and they all said their words, and gradually it became a little less hot.
Then it was over and they opened the door and the light came back in. Whew!
Time for salmon dinner in the house. I sure felt good.
This was maybe 15 years ago. I don't know where Jimmy is now, but I thank him for the sweat lodge experience.
Now we are going back further in time to when I had coffee with Billy Frank in 1985.
At that time I represented sport fishing interests in the Pacific Northwest and Billy Frank was the chairman of the Nisqually Tribe and most people considered Billy to be the chief spokesman and leader of tribal fishermen in the region. He was the man.
I couldn't make an appointment to talk with Billy, but I could drive the ninety minutes down to Nisqually and hope he wasn't busy.  Billy often occupied a booth at the coffee shop right off the Res and right next to the freeway. That's where he met people and Billy Frank knew everybody from the Governor on down to the local hot dog salesman. He was a friendly and open-hearted man.
I got there and saw him in the booth with one other man. I came up to the booth and introduced myself. "Hi Billy, I'm Fred Owens with the Northwest Fishing Forecast."  I gave him a copy of the little newspaper. He looked at the paper and swept his arm and said, "Have a seat, let's talk."
I told him my father taught me how to fish, and he said it was the same with him.  I said I liked fishing on a river, but a lake was pretty good and he said same with me.
I said I came from the Midwest and they didn't have tides or saltwater back there, or salmon. It was all very different. Billy said he had never fished in the Midwest nor ever been there. So that brought things to a pause.
We didn't have a lot in common. His education and mine. Not the same. But there was plenty of time -- Billy was never too busy to talk to a friend and we were already friends.  We looked out the window and talked about birds, then football teams, then children, then TV shows.
I represented sports fishing interests at that time. Interests that were opposed to his tribal views. I did not come down to Nisqually to debate him or negotiate anything. Just human contact. Start from there. Billy knew that.
I was in his territory, in his booth, at the coffee shop next to the Nisqually Reservation, at the south end of Puget Sound, near to Olympia, the state Capital. Billy made me feel welcome. I admired his courage and friendly nature. He smiled. We shook hands and I left.

Billy Frank Junior was born in 1931  ..... This is the link to his entry on Wikipedia ..... He was 15 years older than me. He passed away a few years ago. He was well known in Washington state. He had many friends from the Governor on down to the local hot dog salesman. And he was a great fisherman.
Happy Indigenous Peoples Day!
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,



Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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

Monday, October 02, 2017

The Joys of Being a Grandparent

The Joys of Being a Grandparent

By Fred Owens
My daughter Eva and her wife Lara went through a lot of trouble having this baby. Nine months of pregnancy for one thing, and then they had to buy baby gear and go to classes and read books. Also they had to get good jobs, get married and buy a house in the Ballard neighborhood of Seattle.
(These infants should just be delivered by Amazon Prime. Just call them up, order a baby, and have it delivered in two days. I'm sure Amazon is working on just that.)
Then after the delivery, which is quite an effort in and of itself,  they have to take care of the little fellow for the next 18 years, day and night.
All that and I get to have a grandson. It was easy for me and it's much better than Christmas.
Walter Finnegan Chatterjee Owens was born July 29 right after midnight. He was born with a full head of hair and a serious expression on his face. He will become a man of substance and good character, and we will have a lot of fun together. We expect to take him to the zoo soon enough. I wonder what his favorite animal will be -- the giraffe, slow and tall? the golden monkey scampering?
His parents call him Finn. He will part of the generation that builds Stage Three Zoos. Stage One were the kind where animals were kept in cages and they paced back and forth and often went mentally off range from that unnatural confinement.
Stage Two Zoos, what we have now, are for more natural and far less confining.... but still I think we can do better than that. Finn will be part of that progress, building Stage Three Zoos, if they are even called zoos at that point, viewing animals free from harm.
Of course, mimicking nature is a limiting concept. At our zoo in Santa Barbara the lions are caged right next to the giraffes. Set them all free, set the lions free, set the giraffes free and see what happens -- the lions will stalk and kill and eat the newborn baby giraffes.
I told Finn when I first held him in my arms, "It's a good world you were born into, but we need your help because some problems we could not solve and we're hoping you might make it right."
Finn brings hope. Walter Finnegan Chatterjee is his name. Walter for strength, Finnegan for the singing  and Chatterjee for his great-great grandfather who came from India.
Puerto Rico and Texas
The national media has little imagination. They pick a dominant narrative and stick with that story.  Take Texas, please. Take it.
Seriously, I mean consider the Texas hurricane, Harvey drenching Houston in endless flooding rain. The narrative, adopted by right and left, is that of people helping each other and volunteers coming to the rescue, taking matters into their own hands. Self-reliance at work, the way it should be. The Cajun Navy makes a good story.
But that story got old, so the national media came up with another narrative for Puerto Rico when Maria struck -- the story was people crying and begging for help, waiting for the government to come and fix things.
Well, Puerto Rico got the short end of this. In fact, this isle was blessed with many redeeming acts of courage, compassion, and generosity. Folks with a roof still intact invited unknown neighbors to bed down in their shelter. People with only ten gallons of gas shared half of that  fuel with the people across the street. Injured children were dug out of fallen buildings by passing strangers.

The Puerto Ricans fed stray dogs and hugged their children. They propped up one board on top of another and began rebuilding their homes. They are rebuilding right now and not waiting for instructions from FEMA.

But these many miracles did not fit the dominant narrative. Instead we saw videos of people crying with their hands out.
Puerto Rico deserves better. Puerto Ricans are strong and self-reliant. If they got nothing -- nothing! -- from the mainland, they would still recover and survive. They will rebuild their island. It was a paradise and it will be again.

The national media needs to get this right and tell the whole story.

(This is not to excuse Trump's behavior in dissing the mayor of San Juan. You can count on Trump to take a bad problem and make it worse.)

The Trump Scenario. Trump's strategy is simple: a determined and cohesive white minority can dominate a diffuse and disorganized multi-cultural majority.
He needs the support of his base, but does not need the Puerto Rican vote, or my vote, or yours. We can see that strategy at work in Trump's lazy response to Hurricane Maria.

Gardening News. No news this week.
Writing News. I might be working with a writing coach/editor to get help on my memoir of childhood.  I don't need any help. I know exactly what I'm doing, but I got challenged by my son Eugene. He said I was too stubborn to ask for any help with the writing. Well, I can't pass up the dare, so I sent the manuscript to a woman who works at the University of Southern California. . She will read what I have written and I will listen to what she has to say about it. Furthermore I will actually make the changes that she suggests. So there!

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,

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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