Monday, April 23, 2018

Sanibel Island

April 23, 2018
Dear Friends,
I called my brother Tom. Thomas Joseph Owens, almost 76, a high school teacher in Los Angeles, lives in Sierra Madre east of Pasadena with his girl friend Marti.
His daughter's dog Aviv, was ten years old and had to be put down for an inoperable stomach blockage. Tom said Jordana was devastated, her being an only child, the dog was like her brother for ten years. Aviv was a good dog and gone now. That's why I called.
Tom's girl friend Marti works in administration at the University of Southern California. She commutes by train and bus to the campus. Her job ends at five, Tom said. His job ends at three but than he has tests to grade and lessons to plan.

I called at dinner time and heard Marti ask Tom if he preferred Thai curry soup or tomato pasta. Tom said tomato.
Well, the dog was the big news. Tom doesn't live with his daughter Jordana, but he is over at the house very often to walk the dog and do other things. So this goes way back. Jordana is 20 and studies dance, especially ballet.
I called because the dog died. I would have called anyway because Tom is easy to talk to. I like to ask him small questions.
Do Marti and you watch TV in the evening? She watches TV, I correct papers.
The TV doesn't bother you? No. I teach high school. I do not get distracted by noises.
I have often admired my brother's ability to command respect in a classroom of teenagers at a high school in Los Angeles. He has two natural advantages. He is tall, over six feet, and he has a natural baritone voice.
But it's mostly skill and experience, quelling the daily riot of teenagers. I personally am terrified about teenagers. I could not teach them. They would howl and whoop and laugh me out of the classroom. I would hide in the closet or throw erasers at them. Do they still have erasers and chalkboards?
Tom is almost 76. He does not care to talk about that. I say to him, you must be one of the oldest teachers still working in Los Angeles.....Pause ..... There are some older than me .... But you keep going ..... Yeah, I like teaching ..... Are you going for the state record, oldest teacher? ... No comment.
In 1952 our dad quit his job after twenty years. He worked  for J.G. Taylor Spink at the Sporting News  in St. Louis.Dad ran the Chicago office for Mr. Spink and sold the advertising. He was good at it. He held this job all through the depression. But in 1952, after twenty years, with a pretty smart wife and five children, he quit his job -- Dad would never admit to the truth -- whether he quit or might have been fired. It didn't matter because he wasn't going back. Instead he mortgaged the house and started his own publication, a fishing magazine. My dad did not take too many risks, but this was a big one. And he bet the ranch on it.
To cap it off, to celebrate confidence in his eventual success, he took us on a three-week vacation to Florida.
That was 1952, in the summer, in an almost new green Buick, all the windows rolled down, going down two-lane highways, no air-conditioning, just the hot wind, all the way down to Florida, Mom, Dad, Mary, Tom, Carolyn and Freddy -- six of us. Katy, the baby, was left with Aunt Mary and Uncle Earl.
Sanibel Island is off the Gulf Coast of Florida -- the first time I had ever seen the ocean, the sky was so blue and vast. We took the short boat ride to the island and discovered the entire beach covered with white, white sea shells, hundreds, millions. It was a paradise, we picket a large bucket of shells to take home and make us wonder.
Mom said the sea shells didn't smell good, but we loved them and we kept a basket of shells in the house for the rest of my childhood, a reminder of far away places.
That trip to Florida was our first family vacation. When we came back to Wilmette, our home in the Chicago area, my mom and dad published the first issue of their fishing magazine. It was a success and continued to be a success for many years.
Correction. My older brother Tom and my older sister Carolyn both insisted that we made this trip to Florida in April, not August. Carolyn said, I remember because we celebrated my eighth birthday on May 2 at a Howard Johnson's.
This is astounding. If we took this Florida vacation in April that means my parents took all four of us children out of school . They never did things like that -- except they did this one time.
Aviv was a good dog. This story seems to have wandered off to my brother's teaching career and our family vacation to Florida, but this story is really about a dog. Aviv, ten years old. He was a good dog and we will never forget him.

The News. Looks like Trump is winning. The Cohen files were supposed to bring him down. Democrats said this time we really got him, only we ain't really got him and he's still winning, grinning, playing golf and going to North Korea..... Now Trump might lose big in November, that could happen. He could lose the Congress, possibly.

The Democrats have Nancy Pelosi, Stormy Daniels and the Teenagers for Gun Control .... and the Starbucks protestors and California Governor Jerry Brown .... Kind of a grab bag of people .... And the mainstream media .... All determined to bring Trump down .... Can they do it?
What the Democrats lack is a leader like Barack Obama. Sure, they can put a million people on the street on short notice, but what good does that do? I expect the Democrats can take back the Congress in November, even without a leader, even without a unifying theme, but with an intensely negative enthusiasm for Trump. That is not an inspiring vision, but it will increase turnout, and a high turnout will beat the Republicans and take over the Congress in November.
This is just my take on the situation and I am usually wrong. Personally I am tired of Trump. He exhausts me. I would rather watch TV news about Prince William and Kate having their third child. Call me an escapist, but I need a break.
Let's finish with some good news, about wind farms in Denmark as reported in the NYTimes. Do you think they made this all up? I don't. I think they sent one or two reporters to the area and those reporters made a lot of phone calls, and toured the facilities and researched their findings on the Internet and wrote an accurate account to the best of their knowledge.
Have a good week,

Spring Subscription Drive. I would write Frog Hospital for free, but your subscription money warms my heart and keeps me from getting cranky. I do not support a cause or represent any group or report to any institution. Your contribution maintains my independence.
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

Sunday, April 15, 2018

kevin sunrise

April 15, 2018
Dear Friends,
I called Kevin Sunrise last week. He lives in LaConner. Sunrise is his real last name. We talk on the phone every few weeks. He doesn't have email or Internet, so we just talk or sometimes mail each other something.
It is a good thing to keep those old channels open and running -- meaning the phone call and the written letter. You don't need to throw out your smart phone and swear off Facebook, but you just need to shut the damn thing off now and then.
Even watching network TV is an old-fashioned experience. That's what we especially like about the Roseanne reboot  -- it's on Tuesdays at 8 p.m. and everybody is watching it at the same time. You can stick your head out the window and look east and look west and imagine millions of Americans watching  Roseanne, sharing a common experience. I wouldn't want to go back to the old days with only three channels of network TV  -- the choice was too limited -- but we did have great shows like Mary Tyler Moore and All in the Family with Archie Bunker.
Kids today -- you can't get them on the phone, it has to be text. Maybe this will pass in a year or so, and some retro trend will bring back the phone call --- you know, the kind where you actually talk to someone.
I was in Zimbabwe in Africa in 1997, just when the world was making a transition from postal mail to email. I discovered that the postal service from Zimbabwe to anywhere in the US was quit efficient and reliable. You could mail a first-class one-ounce letter from Bulawayo to Boston for little more than the cost of a local stamp. The letter arrived in a week, sometimes ten days. Your American correspondent could write back and that would also take a week. This was actual communication. It worked very well. It just took longer..... much slower than a text.
But Zimbabwe at that time was coming around to email. I began writing my letters by hand, but taking them to an office called the Secretary Bird  -- so-called because secretary birds are a common heron-type of bird in Africa and they do have kind of a clerical look if you should ever be so lucky as to get to Africa and see a secretary bird in the field.
I took the handwritten letters to the Secretary Bird office. They re-typed the message on their email connection and charged me about one dollar for the service. This was the beginning of my email usage...... messages to my daughter Eva who was in her freshman year at Oberlin College in Ohio. I did not send email to my son Eugene because he was out of pocket at that time and fairly unreachable.
Eugene did have the phone number of our family attorney, Ed Burke of Framingham, Massachusetts. I had left some money with Ed as a retainer before I went to Africa. This was get out of jail money for my son, and get out of Africa money for me, just in case I needed a lawyer to act quickly.
I could tell stories about Ed Burke, stories that reflect well on his character, but another time for that, when I get around to writing the Boston Chronicles.

But I was talking about my phone call with Kevin Sunrise as opposed to using social media. It doesn't matter what method you use, fast or slow, the only thing that  matters is the effort you put into it. Communication requires effort, period. You have to reach the person. You have to connect and touch their hearts and touch their minds. Modern methods are good, I use social media all the time, but the universal law still applies -- communication requires effort.

West Texas, 1975.  I was thumbing a ride on this empty highway. Sheriff deputy stops and begins to question me. Then real sudden he throws me on the ground, puts his boot on my chest, draws his gun on me and says one false move and you're dead. So I didn't make a false move. He asked me a few more questions and he put his gun away and said I could get up. He goes back to his vehicle, makes a call on the radio, then walks back to me. He apologizes, said there had been a murder but I wasn't the guy who did it. I said OK.... It all happened so quick that I did not get scared. I was living a real cliche. He actually said one false move and you're dead.

I may have had some resemblance to the killer he was looking for. He said, after he questioned me, that they were looking for this guy and said maybe he was a little on edge for that reason. Not quite an apology but close enough for me. And the line about not making a false move. I had to think about that and I resolved to never make a false move anywhere or anytime. Make true moves as much as you can...... It was so empty out there. If I recall correctly, it was on Highway 90 just south of Van Horn in Culberson County, t
he sheriff and me and no one else for miles. No witnesses, except for the sky and the wind. After that, I figured West Texas was  a good place for me, just don't make any false moves.
Politics. The politics in Washington DC are too nasty. The whole situation makes me nervous and I have no constructive words..... The gardening work I do is constructive however. If we keep doing those good things and don't make any false moves, that is our best choice.

Spring Subscription Drive. I would write Frog Hospital for free, but your subscription money warms my heart and keeps me from getting cranky. I do not support a cause or represent any group or report to any institution. Your contribution maintains my independence.
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

Sunday, April 08, 2018

Dear Friends

April 3, 2018
Dear Friends,
This is Frog Hospital, but I am tinkering with the format right now, so today I address you as Dear Friends.
I am fortunate to have a wide variety of friends throughout the country. I have friends right here in Santa Barbara. Yesterday I had a stimulating conversation with Hugh Kelly. Hugh is our guiding spirit at the Mesa Harmony Garden. He is often present and usually engaged in some productive task. Someone left a half-dozen Bachelor Buttons in four-inch pots, to share with anybody who wanted one. Hugh encouraged me to take one because this was Crop Swap Day at the Mesa Garden.
Bachelor, bachelor, I mused to Hugh, it's an interesting word. My Uncle Ralph was a bachelor. Never married. He lived less than a mile from our house and he used to pop in for a quick visit. My dog loved Uncle Ralph. My dog's name was Mack and he used to squilp for joy when Uncle Ralph opened the front door and peeked his head in. Being a relative, he didn't knock.
But he was a bachelor. He lived with his sisters, my Aunt Carolyn and Aunt Tessie. My two aunts were spinsters and never married.
How extraordinary, Hugh exclaimed, never married, no children. The three of them formed a household. Actually Carolyn and Tessie and Ralph never left home. They took care of my Granpa and Granma for all their years.
Granma died in 1955 when I was nine. Granpa died in 1958 when he was 94. He used to chew tobacco, being the only person I knew who did that.
But back to the words. We don't say bachelor and spinster anymore. Bachelor acquired the highly inaccurate flavor of some gay blade out on the town -- hardly befitting of my Uncle Ralph who worked as a milk man for Glenora Farms Dairy in Evanston, Illinois -- a close by suburb of Chicago, just to give this account a setting.
Ralph was a bachelor and he lived quite modestly. My dog loved him and most other people did too.
Spinster acquired a negative flavor -- that of a dried-up unwanted lonely woman who pined for love and sat quietly in a dimly lit room.
My Aunt Tessie and Aunt Carolyn were hardly like that, especially Tessie. They went out on the town to concerts and museums and took vacations together in the summer. They seemed to have a fair amount of fun without the bother of seeking a man's company.
They did however look after Uncle Ralph to some degree. I am not aware of of their division of labor, but I expect he kept the yard and the garage, and they kept the kitchen.
Not having children under foot, they could afford to buy cute little ceramic figurines and perch them on the coffee table in the living room.
We visited often and no running and jumping around. Good manners. But the aunts weren't old stuffy things. They wore nicely floral perfume and they scolded us in the most generous manner. I actually wanted to be a gentleman when I grew up under their tutelage.
Anyway, I told Hugh, I thought that was normal. I thought everybody had old maid aunts. But it was just at our house and it was like having two extra moms.
Now we don't say bachelor or spinster. we say single. Single is a word without any flavor. It's accurate, but no more than that.  The language is impoverished.

Well, dear reader, I think that is enough for today. We can hear more about Uncle Ralph another time. And we can hear more about current affairs -- the culture and the politics  -- but now I am only tinkering with the format. And it might look different.
Thank you,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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