FROG HOSPITAL -- March 30, 2019
By Fred Owens
Too much news. Asylum seekers from Central America are lodged under a bridge in El Paso. We have to do better than this. Mueller filed his report and there were no new indictments. Brexit got even more confusing. I made myself read and study an entire in-depth story about Brexit. That didn't help. Wiser people from England wrote me and said you're confused? What about us? We've gone bonkers. I do wish our English friends the best. We have our own problem and his name is Trump. I wrote to a right-wing friend and said his conservative agenda was at least arguable, but the guy in charge of your program -- Trump -- is completely unacceptable. So I suggested what others have said -- some how get Trump to be satisfied with one term of disruption and put former South Carolina Governor Nikki Hilton as their presidential candidate. I would like to see Nikki in charge of the conservative agenda. She is not crazy and ill-tempered. She speaks in grammatical English. She fights but does not feud. I hate to use this word, but Nikki Hilton is normal and that is what I like about her. I would still vote for the Democratic candidate, but I would at least listen to Nikki Hilton.
Roses and Poppies. We are making plans to drive out to the country side on Monday and view the riot of orange poppies. Southern California is ablaze with wildflowers this spring because of the abundant rain. We deserve this pleasure after suffering seven years of drought and vast scorching forest fires. These flowers shower us with hope. This is why we live here,
The Santa Barbara Mission Rose Garden has maybe 500 or 700 or 800 rose bushes in countless varieties. Laurie and I have volunteered to work on these roses for the past few years. The park management assigns us part of a bed with 24 rose bushes of four varieties -- Sweet Surrender, Falling in Love, Duet and a Touch of Class. We go to this beautiful garden once a week in the summer months to deadhead and prune. We usually go in the evening from 5 to 6 pm. The mission church bells sing out the hour at 6 and we all kneel and pray the Angelus -- no, that's Catholic trivia. Instead people are tossing the frisbee, walking the dog and spreading blankets for a picnic. There is often a yoga class and sometimes a wedding. This is why we live here.
Family. Laurie's daughter Shannon has just started nursing school in Santa Cruz. She is a smart and dedicated women and she will surely succeed in the nursing profession. Laurie's other daughter Mariah finished several years of work booking and organizing bands at local music venues. She is hoping to invest, with some friends as partners, in some ranch land outside of Santa Barbara. She is a smart and dedicated woman and she will surely succeed in whatever she chooses to do.
My daughter Eva lives in Seattle with her wife Lara. They have one almost-toddler named Walter Finnegan. He is our darling grandson. Eva is also expecting another child in mid-August. What a wonderful family they will have. We are going to visit them in mid-April. My son Eugene is making a good living as a librarian at the Los Angeles public library. He enjoys his work and I see the benefit he offers his community in service to literacy. We had dinner with him on Tuesday night. I'm so proud of him.
A Story about Sage, Part Four. Sage comes home and joins the group at the dinner table. We learn a little about what she is like and how she looks. Read on ......
Sage did what she wanted. She wasn’t born doing what she wanted. I believe that self-awareness came to her some time after she turned twenty and gave birth to her son Eric. She married Eric’s father and became dependent on him. Well, she didn’t like that and somehow, over a period of time or maybe all at once she burst out of her cage and strode forth a free woman, albeit one burdened with an infant son and no visible means of support. She left Eric’s father and resolved to ignore him.
Stumbling her way along the freedom trail she managed to get pregnant again --- it can be that easy – and gave birth to another son, Sean, whose father basically never showed up at all. Two kids and no money. Move back in with her parents in San Jose? Why not just lie down in the freeway and get run over by a truck.
I never heard her describe any saving angel who came along to steer her forward. She found her own way. Got on welfare and food stamps. Enrolled in San Jose Community College. She wasn’t really a feminist, she never read the manual, or followed the program or went to the meeting. She just did what she wanted. Not reckless or careless or selfish, but with a sense of responsibility --- she did pay her bills.
But she had this joy in her that was her most telling attribute. She lived with joy and it filled the room.
The house where she lived in Piedmont, this group of hippies and her two kids, the furniture and the polished wood floor, the kitchen that could have been cleaner, it was a place of quiet joy and affection and Sage did that. Sage was a hugger. I was one of many huggees. She went round the evening table hugging and touching and then sat down across from me and filled her plate.
“That’s Fred,” someone said. “He’s staying on the couch.” Sage nodded and smiled. I felt a little awkward. We were not being presented to each other, unless we were and didn’t know it.
John, the soft-spoken man from rural Iowa, began to speak. He sounded like me when he talked, but slower. He had an easy sound on his vowels. Maybe it was the mustache hanging over his upper lip that benefited his acoustics. One of the few mustaches I ever liked. On his head brown hair like a mop, but combed and clean. My height, somewhat slighter in figure.
“I was in the Peace Corps for two years, in Afghanistan. Of course I didn’t know what to expect when I got there, except I was bursting with the best intentions to do right and save the people. Peace Corps training was minimal, they just wanted to see if you could tolerate a strange life in a faraway country and live in primitive circumstances.
“I could do that, and I could introduce progressive farming practices like we had on some farms back in Iowa, with soil conservation and crop rotation. Afghanistan was a paradise when the apricot trees bloomed. All the people were friendly. I had a little house with a kerosene lamp. I had a shaded front porch with a comfortable rattan chair. That was enough. The Peace Corps just left me there and I loved it.
“I would have loved it without the hashish, but it was better with the hashish. I had never smoked pot or anything until I got to Afghanistan and they offered me a toke on the pipe one evening. The hash brought me into a state of bliss, I guess you could say. And it was the end of all my Peace Corps intentions, the program part anyway.
Basically I got my own pipe and my own stash and there went the next two years, stoned, sitting on the porch, greeting the neighbors as they paced by, and representing the best of America --- peacefully. No war, no bombs, no troops, no invasion, no napalm, just me on the porch leaning back on the rattan chair,” John said.
“You made good use of your time, “ I said.
“I have friends who mail me hashish from Afghanistan. If you like we can clean up the kitchen and then smoke a bowl in the living room,” John said.
Sage agreed. She said, “I need to round up these children and get them started toward bedtime, so I’ll join you guys later.”
Sage stood up from her plate at the table and for the first time I got a good look at her. The evening light was soft. The dining surface was sweetly strewn with brown rice crumbles and tamari soy sauce drips over bits of chopped celery. John started clearing plates. Sage stretched her arms wide as if to hug the world, but she was looking at me.
She was looking at me and that flattered my ego, but I didn’t want to be a show off and make antics. And I didn’t want to rub my eyes with a closed fist like a small baby.
“I like your house here, “ I said.
“We like it too,” she said.
No chit-chat. The moment felt important, except important wasn’t the right word.
She had fine light brown silky hair, curly and down past her hears but not down to her shoulders. Combed easily. No makeup. Small earrings, pretty blue eyes under light-brown eye brows. She wasn’t a looker, but her face was expressive and unguarded. Smiles came easily, sorrow showed with blotchy red flushes on her cheeks, and tears jut as easy as her smile.
It’s hard to describe what she looked like, and much easier to describe how I felt when I looked at her – and I felt good.
She was my size, maybe an inch shorter, square in the shoulder, firm breasts, wide hips. Untucked flannel shirt and jeans, often barefoot.
She looked at me too and made her own description in her memory bank. No, no. She didn’t have a memory bank like me. She didn’t hold on to the image and file it away under broad categories to be sorted and treasured like a collection of coins. She was no mental hoarder like me.
But she looked at me and then turned away, saying “I’ve got to read my kids a story and sing them to sleep. I won’t be long.”
So I went to the living room and sat on the couch. John was there and Nick, the astrologer, was there too. Listening to a Cat Stevens record and waiting for her to join us.
“Did you say were a Cancer?” Nick said.
Sage came in at this and said quickly, “Gemini. I’m Gemini.”
“Gemini and quick as a flash, for you Sage,” Nick said. “But Cancer is deep water for you, Fred. Now let us pursue the dangerous course of making comparisons. Think Gemini. Feel Cancer…..Shall I continue?”