Mayor Pete for President
By Fred Owens
South Bend Mayor Pete Butigieg is leading the polls in Iowa. We really need a candidate from the Midwest in 2020. These old people from New England have seen better days. Warren, from Massachusetts is just another Harvard professor. We don't need the Ivy League this time. Sanders is from Vermont. I've already seen that movie, and I get tired of seeing him wave his hand when he talks. But Jewish. We could use a Jewish President. I'll have to think about that. Former NYC Mayor Mike Bloomberg is too old and too rich. He is a Democrat with a heartbeat and therefore superior to Trump in terms of character and intelligence. And the Trumpster himself is another New Yorker. Nope. Our next President will come from the Midwest. From Indiana like Mayor Pete. He is too young at 37 so we will suffer from his lack of maturity, but I'm ready to take a chance on this new kid and I prefer him to the old fogies, who have done an outstanding job I should say and carried us this far -- but speaking as a fellow boomer, let's give the kids a chance.
Except I wish Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar was doing better. Okay, for Veep? Sure. And California Senator Kamala Harris? She would destroy Trump in any debate. I would love to see that, but her prospects don't look good. Overall, the Democratic field is strong and diverse. We can win in 2020. I sure hope so.
I got up at 6 a.m. on Friday to watch Marie Yovanovitch give her talk. She was strong and clear. I knew she would kill it and she did. And I knew this would drive Trump over the edge which is what happened, with his bizarre Tweet. As we enter the second week of the hearings, we face the serious risk of a total Oval Office meltdown. Trump is capable of truly dangerous behavior and we must be strong and wary. Hang on, brothers and sisters.
Many Democrats that I have talked to think the impeachment process is a waste of time because it will not get past the Senate and we can't get rid of Trump until the election. I hear you, but I don't agree, because what do we do, just wait and twiddle our thumbs until November? This man is a criminal and he needs to face justice today. We don't let this one go. That's what I think.
The Subscription Appeal
We have received $275 so far. Our goals is $900. It sure makes me feel good to get checks in the mail. You give me strength. There's a lot that I can do to help the Democrats win in 2020. The Frog Hospital News is more than a quixotic venture. We're serious as sin. The details of the appeal are at the bottom of this issue, after this family story.
We Let The Boogie Man Out of the Closet in the Basement
The Owens Family bought a house in 1946 in Wilmette, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. This story takes place in 1956 when I was ten.
Our family was just right, the way I looked at it. Five kids was a good size. Six kids or four kids were all right. Eight kids were too many, like a zoo. Two kids, like the Giambalvos’ house, was empty and lonely.
With seven in the family – with five kids – there was always something going on. I could look around the house and find people doing things if I wanted, but it wasn’t crowded except at dinner in the kitchen.
When you came in our house, in the front door – the stairs came down in the middle of the living room with a banister. The maroon wool carpet ran up the stairs and into the small upstairs hall. I liked to race up two at a time. That’s why I know there was an odd number of risers, because I had one extra small step at the end, but usually I took the odd step at the beginning, and then I could just race. The upstairs hall had a small brass chandelier, just one bulb. It was very warm. You could see it from the bottom of the stairs. It was private and warm up there – a little bit quieter too.
The bathroom was at the top of the stairs. It had a white enamel floor in small hexagons and a large free standing enamel sink. The laundry chute was next to the toilet – we called it the “dirty clothes.” It was cool the way you just opened the “dirty clothes” and tossed things in and they just appeared like magic back in the dresser drawer.
I took baths with my little sister when I was small, and my Mom would come in to watch or help. Later I took baths by myself and locked the door. We locked the door when we went to the toilet, and with seven there was sometimes banging and “Don’t take too long.”
I liked watching Dad shave – the lather, the razor. Dad made some interesting contortions with his face getting it all clean, and then taking out his partial denture for tooth scrubbing. We used toothpaste, but Dad had his own tooth powder. It smelled nice, but it was his, and also a little icky for me to think of using it. He had hairy armpits too. He wore his undershirt and pajamas bottoms when he shaved.
There were two or three plastic water glasses on the sink for drinking water. We shared them. Drinking water out of those cups was special. If I was thirsty or drowsy from sleep, or even staying home because I was sick, I filled the cup, not even cold, and drank it all down.
There were four bedrooms upstairs, two on each side. Mom and Dad’s bedroom had a beautiful set of carved furniture, dark cherry like the dining room set, but even richer. A tall dresser for Dad. He had one whole drawer just for white shirts, all stacked up and folded nice from the dry cleaners. The top drawer had his socks, and a special sliding inner drawer where he kept a dozen pair of cuff links and a rosary. Then he had a tie rack in the closet and lots of ties. He taught me how to tie a tie when I was pretty young, because we dressed for church, and I wore a sport coat and tie and polished my shoes.
Mom’s dresser was wider and lower with a large ornate mirror above it. She had some lotions and perfume on the top of it. Her jewelry was in the top drawer, but I didn’t look in there more than a few times. A large extra thick rug did not quite cover the floor. It was a dark, rich Persian. The double bed was warm wood, not too elaborate. When I was small I could run into their bed during a thunderstorm. They would let me sleep between them. I woke up in my own bed. It was magic. My Dad must have carried me.
Mary was the oldest and she had her own bedroom. It was special with feminine things, souvenirs and bric-a-brac and a dainty bedside lamp. The symmetry was best for not being perfect, like in the order of children. Katy was four years younger than me. Carolyn was two years older. Tom was four years older than me, all marching and I always knew how old they were. But Mary was three years older than Tom, the oldest, a little odd in that three years difference. And her birthday was out of order too. Carolyn’s was May 2, Katy’s was May 5. Tom was June 5, and I was June 25. Symmetry. But Mary was born in November, and I never could remember when, or remember how old she was – I had to calculate, like remembering she was born in 1939 and then doing the math.
Mary had a lot of vitality and she was our leader. She was bony and strong. She had lots of friends – Jane Keenan, Carol Sue Reilly, Joyce McQueen, and others. They were all in the upper realm to me, telling their high school stories and talking about records and dresses.
Across the hall, Carolyn and Katy had the big bedroom in front. Tom and I had the small bedroom in back. It never mattered to me that Carolyn and Katy had a bigger bedroom. Why would I want to be in a girl’s room? They had decorations, which were not stupid, but just girl’s stuff. Dolls, tea sets and play jewelry. What did fascinate me was trading cards. These were like playing cards only they had a large box of them with many different kinds of pictures and decorations, like cards with horses, or cards with birds or houses. I might look through them under supervision. It was mysterious. I knew they traded them with other girls, but on what basis? And which ones were good? I didn’t know where they got them either. They were not equivalent to baseball cards – I knew that.
Carolyn was my closest sister, two years older. She had brown eyes and wore glasses and she was round – not chubby, just round. She was smart too and she could fight. She played canasta, and sometimes she would recruit me and Katy to play with her. The rules were elaborate, something about red threes, and natural canastas which gave more points. You played with two decks, you had so many cards in your hand you couldn’t even hold them. I liked the game. I didn’t exactly think Carolyn was cheating – maybe just not telling me all the rules. I usually didn’t win.
I could tease Carolyn really good, by messing with her stuff, or just saying something. It was easy to get her mad. But Katy was different. Katy was four years younger. It wasn’t her age so much as her disposition. If I teased her she started to cry. That wasn’t too much fun, but sometimes I did it just for something to do. Katy was sweet. She was the youngest, but we never called her the baby. Being four years the youngest, she had extra space, not physical space, just her own realm, somehow matching Mary’s upper realm. Carolyn and I were the ones on the middle, so we were the gang, the mob living in kid’s world.
Tom and I had twin beds in the small room. We had a nice tin lamp fixture on the wall. We shared a tall dresser. He had the top drawers and I had the bottom drawers, plus we shared a closet. I had a very small side table with drawers where I could keep models and toys. Mom put up some boys wall paper that like looked pine boards in a cabin – real outdoorsy, just for guys. Then we had matching tan bedspreads for our twin beds – nothing frilly like the girls. I could look out the window from my pillow on the bed. The second floor was up high, and I could look down on tree branches and squirrels racing through them. I could look down on the street lights, and see the beam of light streaking through the branches of the trees. I really liked it up there, looking out, and feeling so cozy in my bed.
Bedtime was 8 o’clock, and I could read in bed until 8:30. Usually I got a shout from Mom or Dad. They’d be downstairs leaning on the banister calling out, “Turn out the light.” I got up and turned out the light, but the hall light was left on and the door was open, so it wasn’t really dark. I guess my brother was doing something downstairs, because he never came in the bedroom until later and I was already asleep.
The scariest time for me was when I went to see the “War of the Worlds” when the Martians invaded the earth. The Martians had creepy, bloody red hands and they scared me to death, especially in this one scene where the man and woman are hiding out, and the creepy hand comes sneaking in to grab them. I was so scared in bed that night, and when they called to turn out the light, I almost trembled. Those creepy red hands were going to get me. I mentally prepared to turn off the light and run like lightning back to the bed and get my head way under the covers.
That worked, but I was still scared, and every night after that I was scared, but a little less. Otherwise I heard about the Boogey Man under the bed, but I discounted that story at an early age. I had a mild interest in who the Boogey Man was and what he looked like, but he didn’t scare me.
Tom was taller than me. He had a crew cut, sometimes a long crew cut that went straight up. He damaged one of his front teeth playing football and he had a silver cap on it that marked his grin. He had athlete’s foot and had to put this powder on it – that was creepy. He showed me how to clean out the dirt between my toes, that little black stuff. I liked that because it was like picking my nose.
He smelled. The girls didn’t smell at all. Mom smelled good. Dad had a fairly strong odor. Tom smelled like Dad only milder. He was quiet too and talked slowly like Dad did – at least with me. He didn’t pal with me too much, being four years older, and a lot of times I got these semi-paternal talks. Like the time Leroy Martinek and I were beating up Billy Brenner. Leroy lived out the alley and down the block, so their house was on Walnut Street. It was kind of a dirty place. Leroy was big for his age and a hoodlum.
Billy Brenner was a new kid who lived two blocks closer to school. He was fat and roly-poly and looked like a big white bunny, so we decided to beat him up, waiting for him on the sidewalk when he began walking to school. I told Tom about this because it was cool, but then I got surprised. I got a talking to instead. He told me it was wrong to beat up a kid who wasn’t doing anything, and it was dumb to get into fights anyway.
Tom hung out with some of the hoodlum kids himself – the Ridge Boys, but I got the understanding that we had standards and we didn’t do the things that they did. Mainly I knew my brother was cool, not just because he was older and got to do things, but he was just cool. Like the time guys were wearing pink shirts with black stitching – he had one.
The attic was really neat. You went into Mom and Dad’s bedroom, then into their closet, and the steep stairs went up to a closed trap door. I lived up there when I was fourteen, but when I was younger, I couldn’t go up there by myself. It was way up high and not insulated – cold in the winter, boiling hot in the summer. They kept things up there, but I didn’t get to look around by myself.
The basement was fun because we could play down there. Tom used to shoot his BB gun at a target on the wall, and the back of the wall was pockmarked with BB dents. He let me shoot it sometimes. This didn’t last too long – maybe the folks got worried. We had a ping-pong table and we played a lot in the big room. The side room was for storage – all the ice skates and roller skates in a cabinet. Lots of fishing tackle – rods and reels and nets and bait buckets. Dad got a lot of that free from the business, so he was pretty easy about me going through it.
There was one scary place in the laundry room. The door that was nailed shut, all dirty and flaky with old paint. Mom just kind of waved her hand and said, “Oh, there used to be a pantry back there.” Of course I didn’t exactly say I was scared, I was just asking. Katy was scared of it too. In 1996, after Mom died, when were cleaning the house and disposing of things, Katy and I finally went down to the basement together, and I said, “We’re going to open that door and look inside, and if the Boogey Man lives in there, we’re going to let him go.” I pried open the door with a crow bar. It was all cob-webbed inside with old mason jars. It had been used as a fruit cellar. We left the door open, like the ghost finally got let out. But after a few days, the ghost was still there, so we said fine, he can stay. He was a benign ghost, who scared little children, but only a little bit, and just to make them behave.
Frog Hospital used to make money, maybe $700 or $800 a year. That was when I sold subscriptions at $25, but somehow the readership fell off and people stopped paying for it and I kind of gave up. But now I think, well, I need the money. And all I have to do is put the solicitation at the bottom of the newsletter when it comes out. To write a check for $25 or more and mail it to Fred Owens, 1105 Veronica Springs RD, Santa Barbara, CA 93105...... or hit the PayPal button on my blog and do it that way.
That's the blog with the PayPal button on the side. The blog is simply the archive for the newsletter. Every issue of the newsletter becomes a post on the blog, so it stores some hundreds of back issues. Frog Hospital has been in business since 1998, so there is some longevity in it, although Facebook and other social media outlets seems to be overwhelming. Yes, overwhelming, but we ain't giving up and the Frog Will Roar Again.