Sunday, March 25, 2018

We Live in a Ruthless World

By Fred Owens
We Live in a Ruthless World

We live in a ruthless world. We need Ruth to come back and make everything nice again.
Ha Ha --- a serious week so we could use a laugh

High School
I had a hard time in high school but I never got shot at, so I need to keep the perspective. The kids that marched and spoke yesterday were right to do so. They had a justification  -- a failure of the adults to protect younger folks.
"We are not safe."  That's the truth. That's a fact. And if people aren't looking after your safety you are best to do it yourself and speak up.
My brother teaches public high school in Los Angeles. He was at the march. "I didn't see any of my students, but there were hundreds of thousands of young people there, so some of my students might have been there."
My brother supports the effort. He spends most of his working day in the company of teenagers. He likes them and he gets along well with them. Sometimes they even listen to him.
A Story about Teen Life that seems Relevant to me
When I went to high school, 1960-1964, there was no possibility or thought of violence. Inconceivable. It was an all boys Catholic school.  Generous doses of prayer and corporal punishment kept the student body in line. To put it plainly we were afraid of the Jesuits in their black cossacks and swinging, sanctified fists. But nobody got killed. 
Years later when I had my own teenagers they went to public high school in Newton, Massachusetts -- not in a regime of prayer and corporal punishment. Amazingly, they still learned a lot and nobody got killed. This was 1991-1995.
Something happened since then and schools are no longer safe places for children. If we adults cannot ensure their safety, then we are not entitled to their respect. That's how it works.
One More Story
My Dad grew up in St. Louis, born in 1904. They were very poor -- his widowed mom and her five children. My Dad was the second oldest of these five and he had to leave school after only the 8th grade and take on a full-time job  -- to feed his family, he gave his pay to his mother.
My Dad didn't get to be a teenager. At age fourteen he became a man, because he had to become a man, because the adults in his life were not able to provide for him and his brother and three sisters.
So a kid can grow up in a hurry if he has to. Those kids in the high school in Florida had to grow up in a hurry too.
Let's listen to what they have to say.

When I Die... My story with this title about the passing of Stephen Hawking was taken up for the Op-Ed section of the Santa Barbara News-Press in Sunday's paper. They knew it was a good piece and worth a broader audience.
Gardening. It rained all last week, so there was no gardening work for me. But this week I am busy with seven customers and lots of weeds growing now, gotta get cracking first thing Monday morning.
Subscriptions. I would write Frog Hospital for free. The only reason I ask for subscription funds is because I need the money. I make $500 a month and more doing the garden work but it is hard work and I am getting too old for that. So my life plan is  to diminish the garden work and increase the writing income. You can help by pitching in.

 Send a check for $25 or $50 to Fred Owens, 1105 Veronica Springs RD, Santa Barbara CA 93105 or go to Frog Hospital blog and hit the PayPal button for $25 or $50

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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

Monday, March 19, 2018

When I Die....

By Fred Owens
When I Die...
When I die I'm going where Stephen Hawking went when he died.
I'm sure of that. I'm not sure where Stephen Hawking went when he died, but I'm going there too.
Hawking kept God out of his masterpiece of theoretical physics. There was simply no time for theological speculation. Religion encourages fuzzy thinking. You pick up the book, you read the book, and it's all explained. There is no need to figure it out yourself.
All of cosmology is explained in the first verse of the Bible. "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."
Done. That's all you need. All I need. I have other problems beside a need to ponder the origins of the universe. Like today, because of my gardening work, I am figuring out how to transplant and revitalize a woody, old hydrangea that blooms, but poorly, next to the mailbox at the Child's Play Pre-School on San Andres St. in Santa Barbara.
I felt a rosy cosmic glow when Hawking died. A comet swooped down from the heavens and picked him up for a wild ride. I didn't just imagine that. It's what happened.
You don't need to believe in God to get into heaven. This is a little known fact. That's where Hawking went, to heaven, I think. I'm really not sure about these things. Maybe there's an especially lovely place for atheistic physicists who are kind to cats.
I was taught about heaven in Catholic grade school. It was somewhere up in the sky, on puffy white clouds. I was not inspired. It didn't seem like any fun.
I gave up any thought of heaven when I got older. The only reward for being good is that it makes you feel good, but you don't rack up any credit for your good deeds, not in this world.
Ten years ago I came up with a renewed vision of heaven that had some appeal. Heaven is a place just like earth only less aggravating. This was heaven as designed by Fred Owens, because I like it here. I would rather live on earth than any place that I can imagine, so how could it be a reward if I had to leave. Die, yes, that can't be avoided, But leave, no, why leave? Earth is a  good place, although it can be aggravating.
That was the beauty of my vision of heaven. You still had to stand in line at the bank, but the line was shorter and the people in line were friendly. You still had to swat mosquitoes when you went camping, but not so many as to drive you crazy. You still got into arguments with friends and with foes, but the arguments were over consequential matters.
You still had suffering and death, but you had steadfast friends and family to get through it. You had meaning. It made sense. This earthly heaven was far better than the random cruelty in our lives, but it still hurt when you stubbed your toe.
That was my vision of the after life until earlier this week when Stephen Hawking died, when I decided that what I really, really want is to go wherever he went. And if he evaporated into nothing, then Me Too.
However that does not make me an atheist. God is too important to put aside -- for me, that is. Hawking could not permit God-thoughts to infiltrate his research.
But he was a scientist, I am a story teller. And this points out the weakness of science, which can explain almost everything, but cannot tell even the simplest story.
You gotta believe or there's no story. I spent most of January reading the Iliad, the ancient story of Achilles and the Trojan War. Achilles, the great warrior and hero of the story, was born of Thetis a Nymph of the Sea. She was a goddess who lived under the waves. Her father was Zeus who rattled thunderbolts from atop Mount Olympus.
That was real. Maybe not real to Stephen Hawking, but real to me.
I don't ponder the great theological questions, like if God exists and if He is good, why does He permit such great evil?
I don't spend time with that on my mind. I just don't know.
I salute Hawking's effort to find a scientific explanation for the origins of the universe. And he knew himself that his own life was a story. He was a legend in his time, if there is such a thing as time.
Send me your Manuscripts.
Send me your text files of memoirs and stories and poems. What are you writing? I want to see it. It might be very good. It might need a lot of work.
Two Frog Hospital readers sent me drafts of their memoirs. One was very good and only needed to be tightened up. The writer found my comments to be useful. The other text needs quite an overhaul, but I liked the story. The writer and I are discussing some kind of deal.
There will be a fee for this editorial review in the future, but right now it's free. I figure I need to get my chops before I start charging for the service.
But this could be fun......
take care,

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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

Sunday, March 11, 2018


By Fred Owens
1968 was a terrible year. I don't even like to remember it. I've done a good job of forgetting, except I don't forget, it just got buried in some cranial crevice.

Memories are woken up by the call for Reunion after fifty years. The war, the assassinations and riots .... laughing frantically at the disaster. It was terrible.  But I did have the good sense to stay from the Chicago riots late that summer, when the cops and kids went at it during the Democratic convention. I grew up in a suburb of Chicago, and those Chicago cops could tolerate carousing suburban youth, chasing us back home.
But when some of the anti-war protestors wanted to pick a fight with the cops, I just wasn't that crazy -- to go downtown and get in a cop's face and curse at him. Couldn't do it. I explained to my friends from out of town that it has nothing to do with the war. It's all about turf. Lincoln Park and the waterfront belong to the cops. The local boy scouts can camp overnight in the park, but you guys can't.
Or maybe it was just self-preservation. I didn't go to the demonstration because I didn't want to end up in the hospital with stitches and an angry story.
This was the class of 1968 now assembling for a reunion fifty years later. Like the Rolling Stones on their farewell tour we shall not pass this way again. Last chance. Last rodeo.
It has to be about forgiveness. I didn't mean it, I was wrong. I wasn't grateful. Things didn't work out the way I had hoped. The reality of life after school crushed me.
I told this to Virginia Smith. She's from Long Island. She lives in Toronto and might drop by the Reunion even though she is not in our class. We called her Ginny back then, but she prefers Virginia now.
She told me by email that I ought not get worked up about any of this. I ought not take it seriously. Just come to Toronto and hang out with some other old folks and talk about grandchildren and hip surgery, take walks, tell old stories, have some laughs. Nobody cares.
The campus will be beautiful and quiet in early June. The custodial staff takes pride in the flower beds. We can sit on the grass and on the benches.
Father Iversen taught us history freshman year. He was harmless. Mr. DiIanni taught us philosophy. He was tormented. He said he had read the Critique of Pure Reason by Immanual Kant three times and he still didn't understand it. I felt sorry for him. Fr. Madden taught English at 9 a.m. I fell asleep during his lectures and got Cs and Ds.
Nobody took attendance, so I skipped most of the lectures, but I read the material, took the tests, wrote the essays and got good grades. Made friends, partied, had girl friends, stayed up late.

It was nearly guilt-free going to college in Canada during the Vietnam war years. There was no conflict. Not just the students , but all the teachers, and bus drivers  -- everybody in Canada said it was a stupid war and to stay out of it. Canadian students didn't go home and argue with their parents about the war in Vietnam. No draft for them, no body count.
As an American I was against the war. Here we were at college drinking beer and chasing girls and we got exempted but the farm boys got drafted and killed. Too strange. It wasn't a national emergency...... this is such an old argument from fifty years ago. I would rather forget the whole thing.
By the time I was a senior I had read quite a few books. For some reason I now recall some authors not worth a second glance, but at the time I read and admired -- Norman O. Brown, Herbert Marcuse and Oswald Spengler. I poured over them with intensity. I finally realized they were bad writers with nothing to say. This is how we form literary judgment, by reading widely and having the confidence to form an opinion.
I read the Alexandria Quartet by Lawrence Durrell. It was so romantic and so exotic. I am embarrassed to say how much I dreamed on it.
Our senior year we lived a few blocks from campus at 55 St. Nicholas Street, in a decrepit red brick three-story apartment building.
Tom Orent and I and George Massey and Richard Smith occupied the second floor. Upstairs lived Paul Schulte, Jim Gardella and Brian Fredericks.  We were a merry crew. I was the instigator. They were the caution . It was wild times with the war in the background on the TV. Enough about that.
This was St. Michael's College, a Catholic school run by the Basilian Fathers and a part of the public University of Toronto.
A good school for all that. I am so thankful I got to spend my younger years there. That school experience gave me a reserve of quiet joy when things got tough later in life, when I was lonely and broke or just adrift.
But I don't understand the Critique of Pure Reason.
Marshall McLuhan gave a lecture on the Wasteland in the Elmsley Lounge one year. This great man was talking but it was the free sherry that got everybody to show up. It was the last time the college ever served sherry like that, too many drunk undergraduates. McLuhan didn't mind. Not that he liked us. He didn't. He just didn't care how much we drank. What he said was some people get the Wasteland and some people don't. Don't worry about it.

Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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