Tuesday, June 25, 2019

I am interested in collecting the Hippie Classic Shelf of Books.

By Fred Owens

But first the golf news:

As I said in a previous issue, I used to caddy at the Indian Hill Golf Club in Winnetka, Illinois, but ! never took up the game.... Lately I've been thinking why don't I give golf a try, just hit the ball around and go for a walk on that long, long green lawn. So yesterday, for the first time, I went to the Santa Barbara Golf Club and used the driving range for some practice swings. They loaned me three clubs and a $4 bucket of balls. Of course I called Stuart in LaConner for advice on the game and he said just keep your head down, and, he added, you'll never get good at it.

With those kind words in mind I took some swings. I tried a full swing but it was too wild, so I ramped down to a 2/3 swing and managed to hit a few balls straight and true. This was satisfying and enjoyable. I expect to go back to the driving range and keep practicing until I am good for nine holes on the course.

Okay, enough golf, onwards to Hippie Culture:

I am interested in collecting the Hippie Classic Shelf of Books. It would have the following volumes:

The I Ching -- which I already have, in the famous Yellow Binding, all 64 hexagrams
The Tarot deck -- which I already have somewhere in storage, the Rider-Waite edition
Be Here Now, by Baba Ram Dass, who was the reincarnation of Harvard teacher Richard Alpert. He went to India and came back in an orange robe. Strange times they were.
Black Elk Speaks, a work of haunting visions. You read it and you wished all the freeways and shopping centers would just disappear so that you could hear the wind blow.
The Teachings of Don Juan, by Carlos Castenada, an introduction to the Peyote Ritual. Don't try this at home.
Back to Eden, by Jethro Kloss, a book of herb lore, utter nonsense, but somehow compelling
Soul on Ice, by Eldridge Cleaver, an angry and poorly written book, not anywhere near the stature of works by James Baldwin, but still highly accessible.

All self-respecting hippies consulted these volumes during the Sixties. They seem ridiculous and dated now, but I would still like to own them.

In addition to this group, readers have suggested

Dune, suggested by my sister Carolyn Rios
Stranger in a Strange Land, suggested by my girl friend Laurie Moon
the Moosewood Cookbook , suggested by Annie Bussiere, famous pizza maker in the Upper Skagit town of Concrete
the Whole Earth Catalog, suggested by Felicia Value, attorney and LaConner resident. I loved the catalog and its format. I poured over every fine print description of useful post-Apocalypse items. I may have bought the hand-driven grain grinder.,
Trout Fishing in America, I read this book of poems, but even back then I found it a little too mushy
the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, I didn't read this book, but I met Ken Kesey in 1967 and spent an afternoon riding on his Magic Bus
Our Bodies Ourselves, suggested by Kathy Shoop, retired LaConner school teacher. This was a feminist health manual. I didn't read it, but flipped through it on occasion. My own observation, surely made by others before me, is that women bleed differently than men. Men bleed from injury and violence and fear the sight of blood and seek to prevent such events. Women of a certain age bleed monthly, and not as a result of a trauma, and not as a source of fear and something to be prevented. Just different.

Considered but classified as marginal

Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, published in 1974, and somewhat post-Hippie, submitted by Tricia Crowley of Montgomery Alabama, retired French teacher.
Against Interpretation by Susan Sontag, I read it, but it was far too serious, submitted by Peter Goldfarb, retired innkeeper from LaConner and Mount Vernon
On the Road by Jack Kerouac, suggested by Gretchen Sellen. This is a pre-hippie book. I never read it but I spent a lot of time on the road, hitchhiking.
The Lord of the Rings by Tolkien, suggested by Harvey Blume. This three-volume work is a timeless classic. I have read it three times. Harvey also suggested Gurdjieff, who seems to have something to say, but he was less prominent than other Shamans of the Sixties.

Mary Lambert, a retired nurse, college classmate of mine, and resident of the Hollywood Hills, made this suggestion, from her email response:

"I like many of your choices, and may I add  a few to the 60s-70s group: the totally crazy and yet strangely timely Ecotopia by Callenbach? A fantasy but...Could this serve as a partial blueprint for 21st century California? Also a lovely little New Mexico book called The House at Otowi Bridge by Peggy Pond Church.  This is a sweet little memoir of a remarkable woman who was close to both the scientists of Los Alamos and the local Native Americans.  We spent four summers in Santa Fe (rented a house) before we had our Tahoe place and cherished every minute. I don’t know how well you know the area but it is still a very magical place."

Further contributions are still welcome, so please send in your suggestions, but we are wrapping it up just for now,

have a great day,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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

Friday, June 21, 2019



By Fred Owens

I used to caddy at Indian Hill Golf Club in Winnetka, Illinois -- I started when I was 12, carrying heavy leather bags for stupid old men, or "stupid old men" was what I thought of them. I was the Holden Caufield of caddies. Nobody told me it was a networking opportunity. All I knew was that if I carried the bags for 18 holes, I would get paid for the work, so I didn't complain. But I never took an interest in the game of golf itself or the men who played it,, even though I spent hours walking the greens and admiring the leafy trees on the sides of the fairways. That's too bad because the course was closed for maintenance on Mondays and the caddies could play for free on that day.

I did like hanging around the caddy shack, associating with characters that my parents would not have approved. I learned to cuss, smoke cigarettes and pitch pennies. I never picked up any card-playing skills which is just as well.

But lately, I drive by the green lawns of the Santa Barbara Golf Club, and I hear this soft voice calling to me -- "you can play now, it's all right."

So I contacted Ed Murray. Ed is the oldest of the Murray brothers, including brother Bill Murray the actor. The Murrays are a famous golfing family.
I knew them in Wilmette where I grew up. They lived six blocks away. We went to school together and we caddied at Indian Hill. Ed, his brothers and the Caddy Shack served as inspiration for the movie of that name.

Ed is a retired investment banker. He lives and golfs an hour's drive from here in Santa Maria, so I sent him an email -- like, how do I get into this game, where do I start?

That's my personal news. Assuming most readers are not interested in golf, we shall move on to the next topic.

Weather. In Santa Barbara, overcast is common in June, a morning fog that burns off by 2 p.m., but we have had more of this than usual this year. We have had overcast all day, with no sunshine at all, for the whole month so far. This is part of the weird weather reported globally. Things are not what they used to be and we must be adaptable  -- that is our strength as human beings. We are the supreme opportunists on the planet. Make do!

My Health. I went to the doctor several times this month. Today I visit the dermatologist to show him the rash on my back. You really don't want to know anymore about all this -- these various aches and pains. I am grateful to the medical professionals that I deal with. They are not just caring persons, they are also intellectually curious about the human body. I do not expect doctors to know what the problem is, and if they know what the problem is, I don't expect them to know the remedy. All they can do is make an educated guess in many cases. But as long as they give it a try, that is all I ask. People expect miracles, but I don't. I'll settle for a good parking space.

My Brother Tom. My brother turned 77 on his birthday this month. He teaches history full-time at Santee High School in Los Angeles. Imagine doing that -- every morning, facing a room full of cheeky teenagers and attempting to teach them history. Tom says there are usually a handful of his students who are actually interested in history and are eager to learn more. These students are a treasure. There is a larger middle group of students who are not especially interested in history but will go along with it and learn what they must in order to complete the course and ultimately graduate. Then there are, thank goodness, a much smaller group of students who hardly belong in a classroom, having no interest in anything, but are disruptive and worse..... Tom is careful not to make disparaging remarks about his students.

So I called him on his 77th birthday with good wishes, and than I began to rag on him. I said Bernie Sanders is 77, like you, but he is running for President, what about you? Tom took that jibe in his stride, but then I thought about what I had just said and realized I had gotten it wrong. Teaching high school history in a public school in Los Angeles is a lot harder than running for President and Tom does it every day. Bernie Sanders has the easier job, Tom is the hero.

It is true, during my college years, that I did borrow his Buddy Holly record and never returned it. I might have borrowed his Chuck Berry and Bo Didley records too. I apologize for that.

Singing. I am taking voice lessons from YouTube and learning how to sing. My voice has improved in range and depth, and  I enjoy the vocal practice. Just the breathing alone has a decided health benefit. Memorizing the lyrics occupies the mind and keeps dismal thoughts at bay. Come sing with me if you are in town.

I have learned three songs so far.

"I've Grown Accustomed to her Face"

"I Can't Give You Anything but Love"

and the Jiminy Cricket Song, "When You Wish upon a Star."

Politics. I pay attention to the 2020 campaign. I read extensively about current events. I do not have a Democratic candidate, not yet. I like California Senator Kamala Harris. Now, I was going to say something about her, but my comment was admittedly Bidenesque, or out of touch as they say.  We should give awards to people like me who have the good sense to keep their mouths shut at times when they actually have nothing to say.

take care,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Baseball Talk

Dear Boston friends,

I was going to put this little piece in the Frog Hospital newsletter, but I realized most readers wouldn't get it or be interested. I thought that maybe some friends of mine in Boston would get it, and I am lucky to have nine Boston friends on my mailing list. Please read it and let me know what you  think. It's too short I know, but this is the Internet and it has to be short, as I have learned. The challenge is to explain death and baseball in under 500 words. I could go to 1,000 words or more -- maybe.

The 1986 World Series

Buckner bobbled the ball on this key play in the 1986 World Series. The Mets won the game because of that error. It was the 6th game. The Mets went on to win the seventh game and became the champions. I had only to mention this to my Bostonian classmate John Moore when I saw him at the reunion last year. His face winced with pain. "Don't tell me about 1986, don't say it."

It was the choke of all time. The choke of all chokes. It was one of the most tragic moments in my life. And I wasn't even in Boston. In fact, I was driving an old Buick across the country from Texas to Washington State during that October, passing through Los Angeles, listening to the World Series on the radio when this happened -- when Buckner let the ball roll between his legs and the Mets won the game because of that error. For some reason I identified with the Red Sox that year and hated the Mets. That's just what happened. I loved the Red Sox. I wanted them to win. And they were only one out away from victory when the doom of New England came knocking on the door.

I realized later that the fateful moment of 1986 was tied to my age. I had turned 40 that year. I turned 40 and I saw Bill Buckner bobble the ball and I knew I was going to die. Death. It was going to happen with a certainty. When didn't matter. But I could no longer kid myself. All through my childhood and youth, I thought I might be the exception and live forever. No more. In 1986 I came to know that my doom was foretold. I want to thank the Boston Red Sox for helping me to realize that tragic necessity.

From John

Thanks Fred.  That was a lovely anecdote.  That event seemed to be  the distillation of the Curse of the Bambino  .My long-suffering father, who was born the year after the Red Sox last World Series triumph in 1918, finally saw another in 2004 at age 85.  Thanks for the memories.

From Harvey

I understand the urge to connect sports to existential things, but feel this is too short, needs some filling out.

Also, for what it's worth, though I was living in Boston I was doing so as a New Yorker — in short, a Yankee fan. I would say the Red Sox had two great things over the course of their career — Ted Williams and The Curse. One is gone forever, not necessarily the other.

From Fred

You understand! And it needs to be longer. I was not a Red Sox fan at the time. I was living near Houston in the autumn of 1986 and the Astros were hot that year, so I joined in the enthusiasm. The Astros were up against the Mets for the playoffs. I spent a very pleasant all-night vigil in the Astrodome parking lot in order to get tickets to the playoff games. The Mets came to town for the games and I hated them, I couldn't help it. Especially the catcher Gary Carter. His joyful grin drove me nuts. But I couldn't hate Darryl Strawberry, he was too beautiful......... So if I tell the whole story, it comes to thousands of words...... But I would be  breaking a long-standing rule at Frog Hospital -- no baseball stories, not ever, not even once....... too sentimental and long-winded, like the time I saw a game at Busch Stadium in 1983. They have a statue of Stan Musial at the entrance in his famous stance ..... well thanks for your interest, take care ..

From Ted
We are all doomed I agree yet sometimes its ugly and sometimes it quite & peaceful. He got the ugly side.
My Mom passed in April at 99 3/4's after dementia eat her body away over 3 1/2 years. That was ugly too yet not nationally known like Bruckner.
Cheers Fred. Glad all goes well 4 u.
From Fred

Sorry to hear about your mom. You had good times with her in Palm Springs.

From Dan

Nice piece, but... a little confusing...you heard it on radio, and then you say you saw it... I guess on the eternal  TV replays? I loved the point that it gave you the sense of mortality. I assume it was more than sheer dread... but also a modicum of mature wisdom.

I was a die-hard Mets fan growing up. It warped my whole life, making me so afraid of losing I didn't play the game of life with enough courage.

I remember crying in 1962, when I was 12, in my backyard tool shed... when the Mets were inches away from finally winning a game only to lose in the bottom of the 9th with a multi-run gopherball.. STILL EASILY THE WORST RECORD IN BASEBALL HISTORY that year, at 40-120. (The next year they only managed 51 wins against 111 loses.) Then, after the pennant win of 1973, I wasn't a baseball fan at all. I guess I had more exciting things on my mind in the sensational sexy tumultuous and cinema and  music-rich 1970s. But in 1986, suddenly, I realized, that I was officially  a Red Sox fan. I had become a Bostonian. I just found myself rooting for the Sox! I saw game 6 from a Boston bar, after reviewing a jazz show for the Herald at Jordan Hall. When Buckner missed the grounder, all of a sudden there were  a few wild cheers erupting from a few college kids at the center of the bar!  I was rather astonished these young Mets fans from NY had the nerve to exhibit wild joy at this tragic moment in a Boston bar. But... I was very impressed no fights erupted that night. I don't even remember any jeering and hissing. (I think we Sox fans might've been too shocked to exhibit any vituperative brio. But it also seemed like good sportsmanship. )

From Fred

Thanks for your comments and your memories. I grew up in Chicago with a complicated relation to the Cubs and the White Sox.

From Dan
I did not mean to say the Mets alone made me a less than courageous and adventurous person. Parents not getting me prepared for the competition of society and career was a bigger part. There were other factors, too. But you're mentioning the Buckner influence on your feelings of death made me ponder the Mets' possible influence on my childhood. I quit being a Yankee fan to go with the Mets at age 12 because the Mets were the return of National League baseball in NY, My father's favorite team was the National league  NY Giants. So being a Mets fan and a baseball fanatic for a while was an obvious attempt to get closer to my father. And baseball did give us something to talk fluidly about.

From Fred

Baseball is an important metaphor. My youth was troubled by losing. I could be a Cubs fan and enjoy finishing in last place because we were the nice guys. Or I could be a White Sox fan and come in second place, year after year, to the Yankees.

Monday, June 03, 2019

By Fred Owens

By Fred Owens, June 3, 2019

"Frog Hospital" got taken down from the masthead. We're putting it in the shop for an overhaul. We need new goals, new objectives and new readers, so we have to brainstorm all that. Or maybe Frog Hospital just needs a rest after twenty years. Your ideas and suggestions are welcome.

At our house in Santa Barbara, we had a new septic system installed -- no, that's too boring to talk about. Let's just say that Laurie spent a lot of money for a big hole in the ground so all of us can take an honest shit.

My younger sister Katy in Denver has serious health issues. My older sister Carolyn has gone to Denver to help her deal with the situation.

I have a rash on my back and it itches. No, you don't want to hear that either. But this gives you a sample of what we don't share with the world at large. This is because of our innate good taste.

I just wrote and deleted three different sentences because they had too much bite. What happens when you bite is that someone always bites back with equal ferocity. So we try to find a kinder way to say it and often we end up not saying it at all, at least not this week.

I've been reading a biography of Walt Disney by Bob Thomas. Disney was a master story teller. I'm learning a lot from this book. Disney kept it clear and straight with an utter lack of confusion in his tales. You always knew where the story was going. You got lost, you got scared, then you got found because somebody cared.  See, that last sentence rhymes. Scared rhymes with cared. Rhymes resonate and reinforce the plot.

Laurie and I often take a walk in Shoreline Park in the late afternoon. It's 45 minutes up and back, walking a nicely graded path along the edge of the cliff. We love the sound of the waves and the sight of the birds. Dog walkers abound. One man has three nicely groomed collies. He is paired up with a woman who walks two small white poodles. The dogs and the owners are the royalty of the park. They seem very dignified.

We can see the weather as we walk, the vista is broad going south across miles of ocean to the Channel Islands. We can see the fog come in on the west wind and see the islands disappear. The west wind is the good weather wind, bringing rain, and we have had a lot of good rain this year. The east wind comes off the hot land in the interior. It's the wrong wind, gusty and harsh, sparking fires in fire season and there is no end to fire season these days.

We've encountered Lita Singer  on our walks. You can find her on Amazon because she writes books. One is titled Cancel the Pity Party. Lita Singer is a foul-mouthed immigrant from Brooklyn, a good seventy-five years old with a combative attitude. I asked her if she was related to Isaac Singer, the famed Yiddish author. She declined to answer that question. Like who's Isaac, and maybe he should be related to me. That's Brooklyn for you.

Last Thought. Consider the Queen of England, now being visited by our President. Queen Elizabeth II is 93 years old. She has been the Queen of England since 1952, or almost my entire life. It's not that I love her or that I admire the British monarchy, it's just that she has always been there and I am completely used to her being there. Such stability is uncommon and to be treasured.

That's all for now,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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