Wednesday, July 29, 2020

hey dude

FROG HOSPITAL  -- August 1, 2020

Hey Dude!

By Fred Owens

I don't know about that exclamation point in the title, but hey Dude, I'm the Dude, a slovenly white man who takes advantage of his dwindling privilege to go to the liquor store in his pajamas. He can get away with stuff like that. I was thinking of myself, reviewing crazy, stupid things I've gotten away with over the years. Like why didn't I get arrested, or scolded, or kicked out? Because I 'm smart and good-looking? So I thought. Actually it was just privilege.

Or this nice neighborhood where I live with Laurie in Santa Barbara near the beach. Having few funds amd fewer marketable skills, how did I get included here? Because I fit in. Because I feel comfortable and people don't wonder what I'm doing here. I belong here. That's privilege. Privilege doesn't explain everything. The term is currently being over-used. I'm using it now but I am usually at the tail end of these trends.

The leaders in language reform are way ahead of me. Like Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, or AOC. She is a definer. She gives new meaning to current vocabulary. Her judgment is impeccable, in my view. I liked very much the way she handled Congressman Bloho. And you know he said it sideways, not to her face, but going away, close enough so she could hear it, but far enough away that he could deny saying it. Trump is the master of this sideways slur. What me? I didn't mean it.

Her speech in defense of good conduct was very good. Every word and every phrase held my attention. Not rehearsed, but prepared. The Congressman gave her the set up she was waiting for and she hit it out of the park. The wrong man said the wrong words to the wrong woman at the wrong time. And the world changed. You could feel it. I'll use that word again -- impeccable.

He used the b-word. The vocabulary of nasty pejoratives aimed at women is extensive. That's the low ball. Matched by an often phony high range -- the lady madonna phrases. Her purity of spirit! Her angelic beauty! Good grief.

What is missing is the mid range, the tone of equality. Men have neutral words like dude, buddy, fellow and guys. Some of these words could cross over and become gender-free. Gals doesn't work. Not Babes. Not Dolls. Woman is always right and it is the safe choice. Young man works better than young lady as a term of address. I use Sir or Ma'am a lot. You won't get in any trouble saying those words. All I'm saying is that I deserve to have a place on the committee. AOC can be the chairperson for new usage. I just want to have a say in it.  Race is also getting the overhaul, but I am not talking about that today. Like Thug, being ruled racist. I go along with this, but reluctanly.

I forgot Dame. Dame is  just right, informal but not pejorative. It was common usage back in the day. Let's bring it back. Like in a detective novel, this dame says to me.....

Batchelor cannot be salvaged. Spionster is much too sad. But we are stuck with Single, a word devoid of color. Are you single? I hate it. Let's come up with something better than Single. 

What's wrong with old? Like Old Man, that sounds okay to me. Old Lady  doesn't work however. See the problem? But in  any case old is good, in my view. I'm old. I was young once, then I got old. Does that bother you? Kiss my grits. 

Good Morning America.
Watching Good Morning America with George Stephenopoulis -- it's my favorite TV show. I made the effort to learn how to spell Stephenopoulis. This is a good way to start the day. The news, the weather, a bit of cooking, fashion, sports, adventure. Not too cheerful. They smile, but not too much. And the ads are good too, mostly local businesses in Santa Barbara -- arborists, garage door installers, carpet salesmen --- businesses I support.

Massive quarantined boredom is creeping across the land. I called my brother last night -- we had nothing to discuss. Folding laundry and stuff like that. We're going to need a pandemic pep rally, because people are down, with the serious matter of knowing this will last until Christmas easily, and knowing we might likely lose family and friends.

Cheerful news will happen. Biden will win. We will begin to smile again and have a little zest. Let's get through this.

That's all for this week. Remember, Precious and her family are still in Chembe Village in Malawi. They are communing with their ancestors, so let's give them some quiet. We will hear from them later.

Bye for now,


Fred Owens
cell: 360-739-0214

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

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

FROG HOSPITAL  -- July 24, 2020

Amina Was the Younger Sister of Mataka

By Fred Owens

Amina was the younger sister of Mataka. She had lived her entire life in Chembe Village. She was the happiest person I have ever known and she had such pretty feet. I doubt she ever wore shoes. I would encounter her as she walked the 200 feet from her cook shack to the small mountain stream that provided water for the village. She pittered and pattered in light steps carrying a clay jug for the water. She would stop to set down the jug and talk to me. Her smile dazzled me and she told me many stories and gave me much courage in my endeavors and said she hoped we had come to Chembe to make it our home. She spoke to me in her language called Chewa, which I did not understand, not a word she said, except for the smile and the wonderful life-affirming energy.

But  she put her smile away for the camera when I took this photo. It was at a village wedding and hence I had permission to take photos and it was expected. We see Mataka on the left with his Muslim hat. We see Precious in her pretty dress which I had bought for her in Pretoria. We see Amina looking down, wearing her festive wrap skirt. And finally we see Lysson Rashid, a young man of the village, looking quite at ease.

Chembe was a quiet place. It was a Muslim village and hence had no dogs, no barking or growling at night. In the first light of dawn, the imam would sing the first call to prayer. To hear this prayer as it was intended, without electric amplifying, in a village without electricity was a haunting experience. The  melody is so peaceful. The mosque was a simple adobe-brick structure, and the imam carried his tattered scriptures under his arm. The women did not cover their heads as they would in more religious environs. Here it was simple Islam, as it should be, taken lightly.

Mataka and the two aunties bedded down in Amina's cook shack, warmed by the last coals of the cooking fire. Precious and I were given the more honored position, to sleep on a hard, dirt floor in one room across  from the mosque and the chief's house.

Chembe was the chief. It was his village, He was most at ease, treating me as an honored guest and quite his equal. Although I was more than a guest, being married to Precious, I had pledged my life to the village and Chembe, the chief, might show me a plot of land where I might build my home, if I chose to do that. But an equal to Chembe in the sense that he admired me but did not envy me. I had my college education and world travels, he had two wives. He quietly brought out and served a bottle of rum. Of course there is no open consumption of alcohol in a Moslem village, but a quiet drink now and then never hurt anybody. So Chembe and I talked into the evening, seated on chairs, what I suspected were the only two chairs in the village. Hard-wooden chairs. I got tired of that and we went to bed early, to sleep on the hard earthen floor of the hut. I could begin to see that I was not built for long-term occupation of such environs, to live without modern facilities entirely, to grow your own food entirely or not eat. And do this by hand for there were no tractors or other machines. No, not for me.

We stayed one week. Any longer and they would have put us to work. As it was, we had brought many pounds of groceries with us to spread around as guests. And they killed a goat for us. Goat meat has never done much for me, but I appreciated the gesture.

Fathers and Sons. My father published a  fishing magazine and he was moved to get one of his two sons involved in the business and to eventually take it over. I can understand that desire. I feel a special thrill knowing that my son Eugene is helping me out. My Dad was quite disappointed that neither my brother nor I want to get involved in his business. We simply had other interests. The funny thing is that my Dad never thought to ask one of my three sisters if they wanted to take over. His bad.

Back in Zimbabwe. One reader's  request to input stuff about the culture and politics of Zimbabwe is reasonable. But that is not what I can do.. I stick with what I actually saw and heard plus my immediate reaction to that. But I can make a short exploration of that topic. I noticed the utter lack of political talk when I was there in 1997. Robert Mugabe was the unchallenged president for life at that point, and people kept their mouths shut about his rule. You were free to come and go and go about your business. But to wear a political slogan on a t-shirt was ill-advised. Better to talk about the football game or the weather. Mugabe's rule was authoritarian and that was understood. And still is today, even though Mugabe himself is gone.

Back ground. Zimbabwe used to be Rhodesia. From Wikipedia. Cecil Rhodes invaded the Shona kingdom with his private army, took over all the territory, and founded a colony named after himself. Rhodesia, which became Zimbabwe. When I lived in Bulawayo I often visited Rhodes's unmarked grave, high on a granite outcropping in Matopos Park. They tore down all his statues, but it was too much trouble to dig up his grave.

Cecil John Rhodes PC (5 July 1853 – 26 March 1902) was a British mining magnate, and politician in southern Africa who served as Prime Minister of the Cape Colony from 1890 to 1896. An ardent believer in British imperialism, Rhodes and his British South Africa Company founded the southern African territory of Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe and Zambia), which the company named after him in 1895. South Africa's Rhodes University is also named after him. Rhodes set up the provisions of the Rhodes Scholarship, which is funded by his estate.

One of Rhodes's primary motivations in politics and business was his professed belief that the Anglo-Saxon race was, to quote a letter of 1877, "the first race in the world". Under the reasoning that "the more of the world we inhabit the better it is for the human race", he advocated vigorous settler colonialism and ultimately a reformation of the British Empire so that each component would be self-governing and represented in a single parliament in London.

There you have it, baldly stated. The English folks who settled in what is now Zimbabwe, believed they were doing the local people a big favor by demonstrating the superiority of their own way of life, what was called Commerce and Christianity. 

Back in the USA. As I said on Facebook this morning, the pandemic and quarantine is getting to be a solid drag, like it will never end. We are in the endurance phase, being tempted to cut corners and ignore basic commands. But we must not slack off. It will end, some day.

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Back to Chembe Village. This week's issue is long enough. We will be back next week with more photos from Chembe Village, and more stories from Amina,  the wise woman.

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

grace's music

FROG HOSPITAL -- July 15, 2020

Grace's Music

By Fred Owens

Bulawayo, Zimbabwe. Grace Sibanda is the cousin of Precious Mataka. She lives in Bulawayo in a modest neighborhood named Nketa Nine. In 1997, when we lived in Bulawayo, we often took the 20-minute walk to Grace's house. Smiley Sibanda was her father. Smiley was uncle to Precious. To me, he was "baba-zala" or uncle by marriage. I liked him. We had many reasonable discussions while drinking tea in his cozy living room. I once helped Smiley plant a fig tree and an orange tree in his yard, Grace tells me the trees are still living and producing great amounts of fruit 23 years later. I asked Grace to describe her taste in music. People younger than me will recognize many of the names. 

Grace's Music. I love reggae, Rnb, a bit of south african hip hop, and gospel music. My all time favourite artists are luther vandross, joe thomas, westlife, ron kenoly, adele, brandy, mariah carey, christopher martin, ub40, bob marley, lucky dube, the gentleman, hillsongs, don moen, don mcclurkin, kirk franklin, black diamond. Local musicians of my country are legendary... Oliver mtukudzi, JAH prayzer, ammara brown.

Rugby. Watching a 2017 Rugby match between New Zealand and South Africa. Rugby is like playing football without any rules and no helmets. It is very popular in South Africa. Cricket is also important.  I watched a cricket match once. It is a very silly game I thought. It has that British silly quality that this mother nation spread to all her colonies. The British also built good roads and train tracks. But it became time  for them to move on, so the people took over the governance of Zimbabwe in 1980. They are not doing too well at independence in my opinion. But, being independent, they never asked for my opinion. Good on that. I only write about what I see, and very little about what it should be.

God Bless Africa. God Bless Africa is the South  African National Anthem. Nkosi sikelele Africa goes the lyrics. Such a lovely stirring song.

Back in the USA. The African story, as told in Frog Hospital, was interrupted last month by personal business. That is, I had back surgery on June 15 to relieve the chronic pain of sciatica, followed by three weeks of intense physical therapy.  This procedure worked. I am now pain free although the surgeon carefully advised me that nothing lasts forever.

Three weeks in rehabilitation at the hospital. No visitors. No wandering the hall, no communal dining. I was isolated except for the nursing aides who quickly became my new bosom companions. We talked in Spanish. I called Laurie on the phone and several times she came to the window of my room and we talked across this barrier. It was hard at times. I read a lot of books. I watched Good Morning America for national news. The aides made wonderful friends but the food was terrible. How could you ruin macaroni salad?

All this put Africa way in the background, but one or several determined readers reminded me that
I had not yet finished the story and they were patiently waiting for the next installment. That is why we have my picture this week with my lush Covid hair and beard. Next week the photo will be of African life.

I also remind everybody that this story serves as a pleasant diversion from the current double disaster of Pandemic and Trump.

So without further ado, let us return to Zimbobwe where a warm September evening at our rented house might find us lounging on the couch while watching re-runs of Fresh Prince of Bel Air. It is 1997.  The newly weds are getting ready to go to Malawi.

"We can bring Mataka. He is the grandfather of all to us, and Chembe village in Malawi is where he was born," I told this to Precious."We can buy a train ticket for first-class treatment. We will have our own suite for the journey. Mataka will like that, to have his own bed." Precious agreed, but she added, "What about Aunt Marji and Aunt Winnie?"

"Marji and Winnie can come. I will buy them a second-class ticket. They can sleep in their seats. They are used to that." I said.

to be continued