Sunday, May 31, 2015

rain, sweet rain

The quality of mercy is not strained (I won't put quote marks because I'm not going to look it up and I don't trust my memory!) it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the plain beneath. It falls on the just and the unjust....Like that.

The rain finally came, around 6 p.m., though it had threatened all day. A hard rain and then a soaking rain, just what we needed.

The 'dry' of Connecticut pales by the 'dry' of California. And the rain of Connecticut is nothing  to speak about compared to the damaging, troubling rains in Texas and Oklahoma.

But it has been dry and then we got the best rain, just like we needed.

God looks out after Connecticut, the bluest of blue states.

Bern things the floods in Texas (and now the mosquito problem--most likely with West Nile disease) are just the beginning of a Biblical 7 Plagues of Egypt on Texas for, well...being Texas and spawning Rick Perry and Ted Cruz and ass-hole laws.

Not bad, I almost wish it were true. But most likely, if God is involved, it's because there are more 'Science Deny-ers' in Texas than Connecticut. I think a large majority of Connecticut citizens believe in evolution and climate change...a much larger percentage than in Texas. Pretty sure of that.

I'll take my chances in bluest of Blue Connecticut rather than redest of Red Texas--for a lot more reasons than the weather.

But the rain tonight was wondrous--the temperature dropped from 72 to 52 in just over an hour. Good sleeping tonight. No need for AC in sight--next week will be cooler than this week here in the Democrat dominated Nutmeg state.

Maybe, just maybe, some things actually turn out as they should, in the grand scheme of things.

Nowhere I'd rather live, unless there is somewhere where the temperature is always, always between 50 and 70.

Probably not.

Saturday, May 30, 2015


Mimi's with us for a night. She came around four. Bern grilled shrimp and radicchio and other strange stuff to grill and we ate on the deck.

After that, Mimi and I drank some wine--hers from a bottle, mine from a box--and read until it became too dark to read.

Here's the great thing about Mimi as a daughter--you can sit for an hour reading side by side and not feel compelled to fill the air with small talk.

Bern and Mimi are in our TV room now, watching a movie ("Big Eyes"). I've seen it so I came to write about how wondrous it always is to have Mimi around. Tim is in upstate New York recording some music. He may break out someday as a musician. Now, he works for Linked-In (whatever that's about!)

Anyhow, having Mimi, and Tim too, around is like living the way we always do except with some encounters with two people we love like a rock.

Comfortable. That's the word that works.

Having Mimi around is just comfortable. Comfortable and absolutely right.

How many people in your life can you say that about?

Something to ponder.

Friday, May 29, 2015

A big ponder

First of all, let me apologize for yesterday's post. I was feeling old. Sorry.

Today I saw Tomorrowland and I'm 38 again, so don't worry.

Lots of reviewers hated it, but I loved it--just the kind of optimistic, hopeful, glass half full kind of stuff that my 38 year old self (in my heart and mind) loves.

Anyway, in the movie, George Clooney asks Brit Robertson (who along with Raffey Cassidy are remarkable, remarkable--never saw a movie with two young women--a teen and an adolescent, were so amazing) "If I could tell you," George (Frank in the movie) asks Brit (Cassy in the movie) "the moment you were going to die, would you want to know?"

It's a brilliant exchange in the movie, but I came away with the question haunting me.

Take a moment (or an afternoon!) and ponder that question.

If someone could tell you the moment you would die, would you want to know?

There's a rational side that says, 'yes', so you could be prepared and 'get things in order' and look bravely into that good night.

But there is an emotional side that says, 'no', because you would be haunted by the knowledge and be counting down the years, months, weeks, days, hours and not paying attention to the 'now'.

It is a fascinating question.

Something to ponder long and hard and look at all the sides and corners of.

That's what I think I'm going to do. I'll let you know in a few days what I decided.

I'd recommend you ponder the question as well. Peel away the skins of the onion of the question and see what all you discover.


Thursday, May 28, 2015

old, old, old...

I am 68 years old. I've reached the point that I am hoping I'll live as long as my father--83--which means I'd see my granddaughters graduated from college, that, at least.

So, I am felling old.

But I'm also feeling ageless. Sure, there are things that have slown down and been rearranged, but in my mind, I am ageless. I still have most of my mind--a blank about names, but mostly all there. And though things ache that didn't used to, my body is pretty much my own.

And if 60 is the new 40, 68 is the new 48--in those terms I'm not yet 50, give me a break...I'm almost two decades past 50!

My hands don't work as well as they have for all these years and my knees act up after I've been sitting or driving a car for a couple of hours.

But in my mind--in the part of me I think of as ME--most everything is mostly as it's been for the last three decades or so. In my head, I'm forever 38, a good place to be in your head.

But that's 40 years from True.

Being older is a remarkable experience. You feel all over the map about age. At least I do.

"You're only as old as you feel" is bullshit. You are as old as  you are.

And I'm felling old today.

Tomorrow I might buy into 38. But not tonight.

Tonight I'm 68 and living into that.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

A shadow of himself

This time of year, Bern cuts on our dog's hair.

Mostly she does it outside on the deck, but some of it happens on 'the little bed' in our TV room upstairs.

She cuts him and cuts him and he ends up a shadow of himself.

He still weighs a sturdy 50 some pounds, but in his summer cut he looks much smaller.

Pulis really have a lot of hair. If we let it grow it would cord and he'd look like the dog in the wonderful Dr. Pepper commercial--I hope you've seen it.

We let him cord once and all of us--Bern, Bela and Me--hated it,

There is enough Puli hair swept off our porch and deck to make another Puli.

But he likes it. Summer is hard on a dog that would, if we let him, lay in the snow for hours.

They come, finally from Mongolia. Attila the Hun brought them as he raped and pillaged his way all the way to Hungary--where one half (her mother's side) of Bern's family came from. The Baccho's would have loved our dog...the national dog of Hungary, all the way from Asia and now in Connecticut.

What a journey. We had a Puli when we were much younger and Bern's parents would keep him (his name was Templomkerti Palac Suba and he was born in Hungary and we called him Finney. Bern's parents, her mother especially, being Hungarian, loved him so.

Bela, our current Puli, was born in Syracuse and is not as smart as Finney and more aggressive to strangers.

He is a bad dog.

Someone recently, when I was walking him, asked me if he was a Portuguese Water dog--smaller and shorter, he is--and I said, "no, he's a BAD dog."

And we love him so.

Go figure.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Dead, all dead....

It just occurred to me today, for no reason, really, that all my grade school teachers are surely dead.

Mrs. Bingham, first grade; Mrs. Santi, second grade (one of only two Roman Catholic families in our town of 500); Mrs. Short, third grade; Miss Hawkins (worst, worst, worst teacher ever and a horrible person) fourth grade; Mrs. Baldwin, 5th grade; Mrs. Martin, sixth grade.

Dead, all dead. The Dead are legion.

Miss Hawkins was the daughter of Dr. Hawkins who ran the pharmacy in Anawalt, though I'm sure he didn't have a doctorate, he was a pharmacist and wore a white coat, so we called him "Dr.". I think her given name was Grace, but it didn't matter, we called her "Miss Hawkins". She had a form of epilepsy and we had been briefed on what to do if she had a seizure. David Jordan was picked to run to the office and alert Principal Ramsey.

Then one day, it happened, she fell down after finding a pouch of chewing tobacco in Charlie Harmon's desk--Charlie was 3 years older than the rest of us and was just waiting to be 16 in the sixth grade to quit school. She was writhing on the floor, foaming at the mouth, making strange, inhuman sounds and David--always a good boy--jumped up to go to the office. But Billy Bridgeman and Donnie Davis stopped him at the classroom door.

"Let's ;just watch a while," Billy said.

And we did. She was an awful person and should have never been let loose near young children--smacking and hitting and humiliating all of us.

So we watched her jerk around for a few minutes and then David went to the office.

I'd never seen anyone have, what we, politically incorrect back then, called a 'fit'.

It was something.

And couldn't have happened to a more deserving person.

I know she's dead, she died when I was in high school, hopefully painfully, in agony. And all the others, people I admired, sometimes loved. All of them are surely dead as well since they were my parents' age and my parents have been dead for decades.

What an odd thought--that all my grade school teachers are dead. And how enlightening it is to realize much of my past (at 68) is dead. I won't even think about Junior High and High School teacher, though I'd bet only one or two are still alive and probably non compos mentus. 

The past peels away after us, doesn't it?

The dead behind us are legion, aren't they? As we will be for those ahead of us.

Something to ponder and be bewildered by.

The way of life, I suppose. To shed the skin of the past and then be shed....


Monday, May 25, 2015

6 things you can rely on me not doing....

I read an article on The Huffington Post tonight about the "six most ridiculous stunts" pulled by Christian ministers.

1. Pastor Lawrence Bishop of the Solid Rock Church in Monroe, Ohio, built a bull riding ring in the sacturary and rode a bull for three seconds before being bucked off and then preached a sermon. 300 people answered the altar call and were baptized that day.

2. The Kentucky Baptist Convention, led by Chuck McAllister, had a series of "Second Amendment Celebrations" serving a steak dinner with guns as door prizes. McAllister called it 'affinity evangelism'--identifying with what he called 'Red Necks'. In 2013 1300 men made 'affirmations of faith' after the events.

3. There have been lots of MMA fights in churches (whatever the hell MMA means!). Some with professionals and others with members of the church. David and Samson are used in sermons about the fights. "Turn the other cheek" doesn't show up. One pastor explained it by saying, "It's a couple of God-fearing men punching each other in the face."

4. Back in 1972, Pastor Herb Shreve bought his son a motorcycle to try to bridge the gap between them. Then he went to a motorcycle rally and decided there were lots of folks there who need to hear the gospel. There are now 1200 Christian Motorcyclists Associations in the US.

5. Ed Young, pastor of the North Texas Fellowship Church, gave an Easter sermon with  a real lion and a real lamb to proclaim that Jesus was both the Lamb of God and the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Hey, I've used bunny ears and Easter eggs and once ate an Easter Lilly--but a real lion and a real lamb!!! The local humane society brought suit against him.

6. Pastor Troy Grambling of Florida's Potential Church (who names these things?) made an "Action Movie Move". With the help of stunt man, Mike Buse (stage name "Mr. Dizzy") Pastor Grambling sat in a car which was blown up and emerged unscathed. There was a video. Impressive. I don't know whose car it was but it said 'Potential Church' on the side before it was engulfed in flames.

On the same page were some humorous church signs. My favorite was from The Madison Avenue Baptist Church (obviously American Baptist) that said, GOD WANTS SPIRITUAL FRUITS/ NOT RELIGIOUS NUTS.


Sunday, May 24, 2015

Two recommendations

I have a novel and a movie to recommend.

The novel is A god in ruins by Kate Atkinson. No surprise here--her last novel Life after Life is one of 5 best novels I ever read and may have to move over for A god in ruins, which I'm only half through but already feel competent to recommend to the skies! To the stars, in fact.

The heroine of the last Atkinson book was Ursula Todd, who, as the title suggests, kept getting born over and over to live out very different lives. The main character of this one (I couldn't call him a hero because he wasn't though he was in WWII) is Ursula's younger brother, Teddy Todd.

Atkinson goes back and forth over the many decades of his life (he lives into his 90's) and often does so in the same paragraph! But it is seamless and never confusing. I've never read a novel written like this one. Get it! (I always have library books but I don't think I'd mind if you read this one on a tablet!)

This unsurprising recommendation (she's written 6 or 7 books--all very different but remarkably good) is followed by something I would never imagined in a hundred years that I would like so much that I would highly, highly recommend it: Mad Max: Fury Road!

I would have never seen it, but Bern wanted to (for reasons beyond my comprehension) and we went yesterday.

I would try to give a synopsis but I couldn't, not ever. I may have seen one of the Mad Max movies from the past, but it really made no impression on me. This one blew my mind! I usually don't like distopian books or movies and I usually don't like loud and excessively violent movies. But I loved this one--which is all of that.

It's two hours of almost constant chase scenes. Would that get old? Weird vehicles racing across an endless desert with unrelenting violence--how could that work?

It just does. I'm astonished that I loved it.

Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron, I believe, both deserve Oscar nominations even though they probably don't have a hundred words of dialog each. Their physicality and ability to remain so in character (as really hard-ass good guys!) is mesmerizing.

The special effects and the stunts are mind altering--how can people do that over and again? Filming was miraculous considering how many closeups there are of moving vehicles belching fire and exploding.

I know, I know...all that stuff probably makes you ask, "what has Jim been smoking?"

But it was remarkable. I would compare it to something but I don't have anything to compare it to.

Bottom like, as odd and strange as it was, it was completely 'believable' and totally engrossing.


Don't believe me? Go see it.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

shooting hoops as the light fails

I just took Bela for a walk at 8:30 p.m. The light is failing.

And two kids--one from our neighbor on the right and one from our neighbor on the left--were shooting baskets as the light failed.

I remember doing that over and over and over, when I was a kid.

My Dad had put a pipe in the ground that held a basket and back board, in the yard beside our apartment, 6 feet down from street level.

I shot baskets endlessly as the light failed all through three seasons of the year.

If I didn't have Bela with me I would have gone over and asked to take a shot.

I can shoot basketballs through a hoop with the best of them--even now, at my age.

I would have impressed those kids with a couple or three 17 footers.

They yanked me back to when I was their age--10, 11, 12, 13, 14, on and on--shooting hoops as the light fails.

I thank them for those memories. Really.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Ultimate embarressment

Embarrassment is a natural human emotion. We shouldn't fell ashamed, or anything really, about being embarrassed--it's just something humans feel. Yet, don't we all regret our embarrassment? It's akin to regretting the 'love' and 'compassion' we feel--all of them being emotions--but somehow embarrassment is off the scale of shame and...well embarrassment--to feel.

So, today I had my annual urologist visit.

(Woman can think gynecologist and sympathize with my plight.)

Back in 2005, I was diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was out of the blue and I really handled it well. I got an appointment with Sloan Kettering's top diagnostician--a woman, by the way--and asked her what to do after she reviewed all my medical records.

(First I asked her why she was so interested in the prostate and she said: "it's a nasty little gland and I don't have one, so I can be totally objective.")

Then I said, "if I were your brother or father, what would you tell me to do?"

She answered, "jerk that thing out as soon as possible."

She gave me the name of a surgeon in Greenwich who she said was one of the 'best of the best' and I had my prostate 'jerked out'. Then radiation for a month. Then, for some reason, the urologist in Greenwich no longer took my insurance so I found one in Meriden-- my GP's urologist.

My blood work showed a problem and he gave me hormone injections for a year. Since then all has been well.

But my urologist had back surgery and my annual appointment had to be shifted to his partner, Dr. Wong.

Dr. Wong is (obviously) Asian and a woman. And she looks a lot like my daughter-in-law, Cathy Chen.

Once I realized the likeness, I got very nervous and started talking non-stop. I almost told her my life story before she did what urologists always do to men (women, think gynecological exam).

Having a young Asian woman who looked a lot like my daughter in law stick her finger up my butt was, I tell you, the ultimate embarrassment....

No kidding....

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Get a bigger 'clown car'!

OK, Lindsey Graham, Senator from South Carolina, said there was a 91% chance he'll run for President. Senator Graham is at least a Republican I can recognize (no taxes, big defense) but he is joining a field that gets weirder by the day. And what does '91%'mean, anyway? I'm at least 91% sure I'll wake up tomorrow. I'm 91% sure I won't eat squid tomorrow. And 91% sure I won't leave the continental United States in the next month. Which means--I can assure you (except for the 'waking up part') means I'm a hundred % sure of the other two. So, Lindsey, 'fish or cut bait', or, more crudely, "S*** or get off the pot!"

There's a debate in Ohio, I think, that will only allow 10 Republican candidates based on poll numbers. That, according to Chris Matthews (I know, a baby killing, gay loving, socialist, anti-American) leaves out at least 10 more potential candidates along with one who has declared.

Put 20 Republicans on a stage and it would better than the Rockettes in Radio City Music Hall, I assure you, all of them kicking at the ever-more conservative and libertarian  base. What a blast.

Weird thing is, I am probably a libertarian left-wing guy. We used to call them 'socialist', but the S word, like the L word somehow disappeared from public conversation. I want government out of my life but totally committed to the life of the poor and marginalized. That used to be called a 'tax and spend' Democrat--but the labels have been in constant motion lately.

The best I can cling to is "Progressive", which I can't for the life of me imagine why everyone wouldn't want to be one. Who on God's green earth can be opposed to 'progress'?

Lots of folks it seems.

I want the old language back: left-wing, tax and spend, socialist.

That I could understand, but like the rainbow of different ilks of  'conservatives' these days, we liberals are confused and a bit distracted.

So, get a bigger car for all the clowns to crowd into. This is going to be more fun than anything you can do with all your clothes on. Bring on the 2016 Republican primaries....

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"doing the wrong thing for the right reason"

I've been observing and being a part of a conflict for over a year and a half and only today did I realize what was going on. I still don't understand why the conflict is such a 'big deal' to people on either side--but I know this: at every step of the way, people 'did the wrong thing for the right reason'.

That may sound counter intuitive or even a bit crazy, but believe me, it is true.

In this conflict, both sides bent over backwards and sideways to try to be compassionate and understanding of the other side. Every thing any of them did was 'for the right reason'--a concern for the 'other' and a longing to hold the tribe together.

And almost every decision was the 'wrong thing' to do...but done for the 'right reason'.

Isn't that remarkable? People trying to do things for the 'right reason' consistently did 'the wrong thing'.

In a situation like this one--where everyone had each other in mind and were caring for 'the other side'--things went from bad to worse.

No wonder adversaries who don't give a fig about 'the opposition' make such a mess of things.....

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Oh, nevermind....

So I googled it and found this:

Mother May I?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Not to be confused with Mother Mae-Eye.
Mother May I is a children's game, also known as "Captain May I" and "Father May I".

Objective, Rules, and General Gameplay

One player plays the "mother", "father" or "captain". The other players are the "children" or "crewmembers". To begin the game, the mother or father stands at one end of a room and turns around facing away, while all the children line up at the other end. The children take turns asking "Mother/Father, may I ____?" and makes a movement suggestion. For example, one might ask, "Mother/Father, may I take five steps forward?" The mother/father either replies "Yes, you may" or "No, you may not do that, but you may _____ instead" and inserts his/her own suggestion. The players usually move closer to the mother/father but are sometimes led farther away. Even if the mother/father makes an unfavorable suggestion, the child must still perform it. The first of the children to reach the location of the mother/father wins the game. That child then becomes the mother/father himself, the original mother/father becomes a child, and a new round begins.
Some suggestions that fill in the "Mother/Father/Captain, may I ____?" blank include:
  • Take (#) steps forward
  • Take (#) giant steps forward (usually a small number, due to large step size)
  • Take (#) baby steps forward (usually a large number, due to tiny step size)
  • Take (#) umbrella steps forward
  • Hop forward like a frog, (#) times
  • Run forward for (#) seconds
  • Crabwalk forward for (#) seconds
  • Take (#) Cinderella steps - Twirl forward with index finger touching the top of the head
  • Open-and-shut the book (#) times - jump forwards with feet apart then again bringing the feet together
  • Lamppost - lie face down and stretch arms forwards, bring your feet to the point reached by the fingertips
If the "children" are reaching the "mother" or "father" too quickly, the "mother"/"father" may reject the child's suggestion by replacing it with "No, you may not do that, but you may ____ instead." They may reduce the child's original suggestion (for example, reducing five giant steps to three giant steps), or make a different suggestion, such as:
  • Take (#) steps backward
  • Run backward for (#) seconds
  • Walk backward until I (mother/father) say "stop"
  • Return to the starting line (in rare cases)
A common alternative gameplay is for "mother" or "father" (who can be facing the children) to begin each child's turn by issuing the instruction to be carried out. The child must reply, "Mother/Father, may I?" before carrying out the order, to which Mother/Father always consents. However, if the child omits to ask permission he or she is required to go back to the start. Children who have advanced a long way towards the goal are thus brought to ruin; instructions to go backwards must also be asked for lest a worse fate awaits. The art to being a good mother or father is to bring everyone as equally as possible.
Other variations of this kind of crossing-over game are "What's the Time, Mr Wolf?" (sometimes called "Old Mrs. Fox, What Time is It?", although this version is slightly different), "Grandmother's Footsteps" and "Bulldog", played in Britain. In the first of these, gameplay is similar: Mr Wolf faces away from the children (or Mrs. Fox faces the children), the children together chant in a well-known fashion "What's the time, Mr Wolf?" (or "Old Mrs. Fox, what time is it?"), and if he or she replies with 9 o'clock, the children move 9 steps forward. Should anyone reach Mr Wolf, he or she becomes the new Mr Wolf. Alternatively, however, should Mr Wolf reply to the question by saying "Dinner Time!" (or in the Mrs. Fox version, "Midnight!") he turns and chases the children back towards the start. If he catches one before he or she reaches safety, that child is the new Mr Wolf.

References in fiction

See also

Life was much more interesting before you could look it up on line. I'd still be wondering. "Knowing" isn't all it's cracked up to be. "Wondering" is better....

"Mother, may I...."

I was sitting on the deck with Bern, just now, in the Adirondack chairs she made years ago with Hank Fotter, I'd finished my book and she was reading hers.

(One of the keys of a successful marriage, it seems to me, is 'marry another reader'. We spend hours each week together, both reading. You might, from time to time, tell the other what just happened in your book. But mostly not. But just that, being together reading, without conversation, teaches you that you don't have to talk to 'be together', a valuable lesson for a couple.)

Anyway, I asked her, "May I have that ashtray," since I was smoking and she wouldn't.

And then, the way the cracks in my mind work, I fell into a crack to my early years and a game called, "Mother, may I...."

That's all I remembered. Nothing else. Anyone out there who knows about the "Mother, may I" game?

Email me at, if you do. Thanks.

"Mother, may I ask them to do that?"

Monday, May 18, 2015

What a joy....

Bern and I took the Puli to Holiday Pet Lodge in Wallingford on Saturday morning (if you need a kennel go there--like really!) and then headed, with lots of time, to Baltimore. We had 7 hours to do what we usually do in under five.

We were on our way to Cathy Chen's surprise birthday party. Cathy is our daughter-in-law and mother of the three best grand-daughters in creation.

Josh, our son, had been planning this night for months. One of Cathy's brothers from California and his daughter had flown east for it. People came from Chicago, DC, NYC and other places. He gathered Cathy's friends from high school, college, law school and current life--26 of them. A remarkable group: a judge she appears before, lawyers of course, Tegan's M.D. godfather, educators, parents of kids their kids go to school with, next door neighbors,friends, loved ones, her parents and us. Remarkable! He worked so hard and took grief from Cathy because her birthday would just be dinner with her parents.

Josh went with Cathy, disappointed at the lack of pomp and circumstance for her 40th, and our grandchildren to Cathy's parents' house to pick them up. There she met her brother and doubtless thought that was her surprise.

Meanwhile, we stopped in Delaware at the Delaware Welcome Center (stop there if you ever drive south on I-95) and read for an hour, Bern and I (both great readers) so we wouldn't arrive at the restaurant too early.

Then, however, we hit a monsoon 35 miles outside of Baltimore that slowed traffic to 20 mph, if that. The GPS on Bern's smart phone guided us unerringly to 1500 Union Avenue. Fortunately, the storm had ended. Unfortunately, 1500 Union Avenue was a huge former factory that has been recreated into offices of non-profits, apartments and a restaurant that was about half a mile from the where we were to the entrance to the restaurant! We found lots of locked doors and Cathy's friend, Kim, also confused. I thought it wad a great practical joke Josh had played on us on. But finally, after 20 minutes or so, I found the restaurant exactly 180 degrees from where the GPS landed us.

The night was wondrous. Cathy was totally surprised, totally and absolutely. The people were fascinating and engaging, the food was perfect (served family style) and it was a joy. Josh had pulled off a remarkable event and Cathy had not a frigging clue!

Our granddaughters (who Josh hadn't told about the party--good call that!) also had no clue that we were in town. One of Cathy's friends from DC, Judy, had her car not start after the party and had to come home with Josh, Cathy and the girls, at about midnight, to spend the night.

The girls were astonished to find us there. Except for Tegan, who was too sleepy to realize what was up.

But they were no more astonished to find us there than Laura, Josh and Cathy's sweet-sweet-beyond sweet rescue Pit Bull where we showed up about 10:30 p.m. having been given a garage opener by Josh so we could leave and go to their town house. She was sweet, sweet, beyond sweet but obviously wondering where 'her people' were and 'who we were' and why we were there instead?

(More later on a wondrous weekend). I'm sleepy from two nights not in my own bed and dealing with a birthday party and the 3 most amazing granddaughters in the universe....

Friday, May 15, 2015

My hair

My hair is a fright!

Bern cut it a month or so ago and it was fine, wavy and curly in places. And in another week or so it will be long enough to behave itself.

But right now--in between the wavy, curly stage and the long, manageable stage--is the 'fright' stage.

It won't do anything I want it to do--like lay down and behave itself.

No one has cut my hair for years except Bern. I used to go to a hair salon over in a strip mall in town, but Bern does it better. But she doesn't wash it like the hair cutters did, one of the most sensuous things one person can do for another. I always half-fell-in-love with the hair cutters who washed my hair. I even wrote a poem about that. If I can find it, I'll include it at the end of this.

Many men my age would kill for my hair--still full and healthy (though completely white). Pictures of me as a younger man show hair to die for. Brown and thick and just a tad wavy.

When I was in my 20's I had it so long I had a pony tail. I always liked that. I like long hair or newly cut hair--but this in between is a fright.

I use some oil from Morocco to try to control it, but it just doesn't. I have three brushes in the house and one in the car, but when it's this length, nothing works.

A fright. That's what it is.

OK, I found the poem. Having read it I want to warn you that if you think of me as a paragon of virtue and someone who never has impure thoughts (who would think that of me, after all?) don't read this poem. Really.


I invariably fall a bit in love
with whatever woman
cuts my hair.

I get the shampoo first,
and her fingers in the soap
and the warm to hot rinse
going through my hair
is like foreplay to me.

It's like a stolen kiss
from a stranger in a bar,
or on a street corner,
or on a park bench as dusk is falling.
Just a kiss--a hint of what's to come--
and a touch--lingering and longing.

The walk, wet-headed and amorous,
to her chair is like being invited up
to 'her place' for the night.

I usually stagger a bit from my emotions
and she steadies me with her hand on my arm.
She had me from the time I leaned back--
vunerable and exposed--
and she showered me with warm water
and began to massage my head,
around my ears,
leaning against me,
her taunt breast against my shoulder.

She's always much younger than I am,
which intensifies my love.
And usually--for some reason--
women who cut my hair
have tops that show their cleavage
(a faint dampness between their breasts,
most likely from the shampoo spray,
but never mind, I see it as sweat....)\

Then, imagining myself tied to their chair
(I always have a little bondage in my fantasies)
she begins to move around me,
cutting my hair with scissors so sharp
she could cleanly excise the juggler vein
from my neck
if she so desired....

(OK, I know I'm a little sick,
a tad perverted, 
but I fall in love with this woman,
whoever she is,
circling my body with a deadly weapon,
leaning against me,
her lips slightly parted and moist as she cuts my hair.)

I close miy eyes and imagine we're both naked:
me tied to a chair, she leaning
her young body against me,
growing aroused,
her breath shortening,
because my hair is so long and so thick.

(They always tell me how much joy
they get from cutting such wavy, long, thick hair--
white though it is;
and I gasp at that revelation,
my fantasy almost complete....)

They never drop their scissors,
clattering on the tile floor,
and mount me seated,
as they do in my mind.

We are, after all, fully clothed,
in a hair cutting place
in a strip mall
between a Subway
and a Hallmark Card store
in the middle of the town where I live,
and I'm reading the latest copy
of Sports Illustrated
the store buys for men.

But I fall in love with them anyway:
those young women with nose rings
and eyebrow rings,
(one had a lip piercing that almost sent me reeling....)
rings on their fingers and bells on their toes
and scents of fresh melons and working bodies,
both of which entrance me,
and hair the color of nothing that exists in nature,
these young women who wash and cut my hair.

Luckily, I only get my hair cut
every four months.
So nothing ever comes of my love for them.
Or ever could.
Though I enjoy it so.



The sentence of Dzhokar Tsarnaev conflicts me greatly.

I am firmly against the death penalty. I don't the idea of my government killing people--in war or by lethal injection.

But this case was so violent and terrorist driven that I am conflicted.

Part of the conflict is the descriptions of how seemingly inscrutable, indifferent and disinterested he was during the trial. No regret, apparently, has entered his heart.

(The only crimes I would have no problem supporting the death penalty--and might be willing to impose it myself--are against the helpless: animals and children.

So, given that, the bombing at the Marathon was against people who were helpless to know they were in danger....)

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Where I've lived

I was the only child of parents old enough to be my grand-parents, in their 40's and me just a child.

I slept in a bed in their bedroom until I was 6 or so because Pat Lafon, my first cousin and my father's nephew slept in the only other bed room in our apartment. I'm not sure when Pat left, but I know this, from when he did until I left, I slept in "Pat's room", which is what my parents called it though he was long gone and it was my room.

I've pondered what it means to grow up in someone else's room until you leave for college.

My room was "Pat's room". How odd. How strange. How disconcerting.

After I left for college, my parents moved to Princeton, West Virginia, into a three bedroom house in a town of 15,000 instead of the town of 500 where I grew up in 'Pat's room'.

The first time I came home from college, they showed me a bedroom that was 'mine'. It wasn't 'Pat's room' but, in a lot of ways, it wasn't 'mine' either. I'd never slept there, not once, not ever.

They paid cash for the house in Princeton--my parents were fugal folks and had $25,000 in the bank back then in 1965. I remember my father saying the real estate agent had some problems with a cash payment. Who knew why that was?

My parents only lived two places--the apartment in Anawalt and the house in Princeton.

I lived in those two places and in a dorm, an apartment, a house, another dorm--all in Morgantown, West Virginia, a dorm at Harvard, an apartment in Cambridge, an apartment in Morgantown (again), an apartment in Alexandria, a house (the first home I owned) in Charleston, WV, a Rectory in New Haven, an apartment in New Haven and then a house in Cheshire, ever since. I lived in that apartment in Anawalt for 18 years. Then all those other places (12 in all)  for 24 years and now I've lived for 26 years in the same place--95 Cornwall Avenue, Cheshire CT.

I've lived here longer than I lived anywhere. And I love it, this house, this place, this home.

Our children grew to adults and left from here.

Bern and I intend to grow old here and hang on as long as we can--avoiding 'the home' however we can and, I devoutly hope, die here.

I don't know, it might be an exercise of memory worth doing, to write down all the places you've lived and for 'how long', just to ponder the locations of your life.

Maybe worth pondering. I'm not sure.

But I think so. It was gratifying and centering for me.

Give it a try. Where you've lived matters in all matter of ways.

being 'toughed up'

When I was 7 or 8, my cousin, Marlon Pugh, decided I need to be 'toughed up'.

It all had to do with Ricky, my Aunt Gladys' nephew who showed up every summer and 'ran over me', as Marlon put it.

Aunt Gladys was Uncle Russel's wife. Russel was my father's older brother who lived right behind us in Anawalt, West Virginia.

I grew up in an apartment that was over a grocery store until the grocery store went out of business and then we lived over a vacant storefront. Uncle Russel lived in a house behind our apartment. Russel and Gladys never had children. My father's other two brothers--Del and Sidney--had one and two children respectively. My father's sister, who died before I was born, had one child, Pat Lafon. The Bradley clan were not great pro creators.

On the other hand, I had 14 Jones clan older first cousins. And then Aunt Elise, my mother's sister, adopted a 7 year old when I was 12 or so and I became the second youngest of all my first cousins--Jones and Bradley alike. I was the baby on both sides of my family until Denise came along.

Interesting enough, the two sides of my family had little in common. The Bradley's, were, for the most pare, not religious and the Jones' were super-religious, except for my Aunt Georgia and her children Mejol and Bradley (named after my father--but using his last name since 'Virgil' and 'Hoyt' were the other two choices. Bradley folk drank and smoked but not the Jones'. All of my Bradley cousins were college educated and some beyond undergraduate school. Many of my Jones cousins were not. Two different breeds, in may ways.

But this is about Ricky, my cousin in law and how he ran rough shod over me until Marlon 'roughed me up'.

Marlon, who was at least a dozen years older than me, came to our apartment and took my toys, which I gladly let him have. Then he started pushing me around, not unkindly but with purpose.

Finally, in tears, I started hitting him back and he told me this: "Good, Jimmy! This is good! Just right! Don't let Ricky take your toys...."

The next time Ricky came and took a toy I was playing with, I punched him in the face. He never did it again and all was well.

I never had another fight in my life (amazing, right, growing up in West Virginia?) Though I did, in 8th grade, stare down Donnie Davis, who threatened to beat me up, with a cup sized rock in both my hands. I think I would have used them if he hadn't, as becomes a bully, backed down.

I've never had any other use for my being 'roughed up'. Not once.

I'm not sure I needed being 'roughed up' in a physical way. But, when I ponder that over half a decade ago experience, I think it served me well.

I seldom, in my life, have 'backed down' in moments of conflict--be they physical or mental or philosophical or emotional. 

Not bad, I think, for enduring a half-hour of torment from a much older first cousin.

It was a lesson that one needed to learn from someone who loved them and wished them only 'good', not harm.

Many others, I imagine, have learned to be 'tough' in much worse and destructive ways.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

My neighbor, Mark

Our next door neighbors are Mark and Naomi and their 4 children--17 to 8. They are great neighbors.

Mark has a graduate degree in Forestry from Yale and does something to do with wetlands and forests and the environment.

He is also my moral compass.

Mark grew up in Cheshire and I believe he knows everything about Cheshire.

I took out our garbage last night and noticed that at least half of our neighbors had brought out their recycling bin as well. I knew good and well that recycling had been last week and only every other week, so I felt superior, knowing that I was right and they were wrong.

But when I woke up this morning, I noticed Mark had put out his recycling too.

And Mark couldn't be wrong. So, even though I remembered putting it out last week and even though our recycling bin was only half-full, and we always fill it to the top and running over every two weeks, I thought to myself, "Mark must be right", and pulled my recycling to the curb.

By four p.m., it was obvious I'd been correct all along and Mark, my compass is all things had been wrong.

He was mowing his yard and I was having a glass of wine on the deck.

"Mark," I called to him, "I have a bone to pick with  you." And I had told him how he made me doubt myself and had failed me as my moral compass.

"I had the walk of shame," he said, "pulling the bin back in."

"I'm waiting until after dark," I told him. And I did. I just brought it back and it's 10:30 p.m. or so.

What a burden it must be to be someone's compass--someone that can make another person doubt what they know is right.

Are you the moral compass for anyone? (I know recycling isn't necessarily a moral issue--well, maybe it is....) But are those people who believe you are 'right' even when they know better, deep down?

I hope you know the weight of that burden well. I really do.

How annoying...

I was sitting here wondering what to write about when an car alarm started sounding in our driveway.

We share the driveway with Mark and Naomi and their oldest daughter who has a car.

I sat for a long time wondering when they'd get around to stopping it. During that time about five dogs--including ours--started barking. Must hurt their ears, that sound. Bela barks when large trucks back up.

I sat so long, in fact, that I checked my pockets just to make sure I didn't have car keys and had inadvertently set off the alarm by moving. But no, no car keys on me.

I endured it a little longer--all the ideas I had for writing being beep-beep-beeped our of my head.

I went down stairs to see if I could tell which car it was, and it WAS MINE!!!

Bern was yelling at me to make it stop and I was frantically looking for my keys, found them, ran to the widow and stopped it.

The neighborhood children might have bumped it or maybe there's a short somewhere electrical or maybe my car just got annoyed at something.

Anyway, the end result is that all the lyrical and profound and amusing things I intended to write here got replaced by this complaint.

Maybe later I can be brilliant and clever and enlightening. But not now, Bela is still barking as is Finn next door.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Getting older

So, as I'm getting older, I leave notes to myself on my computer, so I don't forget things I should do.

Today, a Monday, I got up and didn't turn on my computer until after 2 p.m. I went to the gym and the store and read the end of one book (One Kick--I recommend it, though it is disturbing on may levels) and started another (Grave the characters am not ready to give a recommendation yet...only 100 pages in) and started my weekly wash.

Well, since I didn't turn on my computer in the a.m., I totally forgot a lunch engagement!

I felt like a total aging, senile idiot.

The person I was supposed to eat with had (of course!!!) already emailed and made it sound like it was a good thing I hadn't showed up anyway.

What a generous response to an aging Hippie whose memory isn't what it once was. (Of course, all us Baby Boomers know the line--"if you remember the 60's you weren't really having fun....")

So, we rescheduled lunch. But I feel like an idiot.

But then, I feel like an idiot a lot of the time.

It keeps me humble.

And I'm proud of my humility.

Ponder that.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Stuff you learn over time

I realized a few minutes ago it is 8:04 p.m. on May 10 and there is still enough light to sit outside and read.

For years, when I children were young, we put them to bed at 7 p.m., no matter what time of year it was. Eventually they were both old enough to read until it was dark. But not in the beginning.

We convinced ourselves if was for their 'well-being'--so they'd be rested and ready to face the next day.

Truth be known, if was for 'our' well-being, so we could have several uninterrupted hours of adult time, free of Josh and Mimi.

June, July and August must have been horror stories for them--in bed hours before it was dark! Yet we pulled it off until they were 10 and 7 or so. Amazing!

Josh is much less strict about bedtime for our grand-daughters than we were for him.

I wonder why?

But it kept us sane, and, I believe, made our children the wondrous adults they are today.

Early to bed...and all that....

Saturday, May 9, 2015


Nature is beyond amazing.

A couple of years ago Bern brought home this cactus, that should have lived in a desert, but thrived in Connecticut. It kept having babies on the big frons and kept reproducing. This winter, when it was inside, the damn cat knocked it over and it broke into dozens of pieces. I thought it was done for.

But after only a few weeks outside again, little babies are hatching on the pieces that are left and it is thriving like nothing I could ever have believed. In Cheshire, not Phoenix.

Nature is always beyond amazing. After the brutal winter, Bern's lawns are back with a vengeance, bringing outrageous color and beauty to my life.

Nature is so beyond amazing that it is hard to imagine we human beings are killing it.

Maybe that's the problem with the 'climate change deniers', they see how amazing Nature is and can't believe we are killing it.

I get that. But I also get that we are, you and I, killing the natural way of our fragile planet, our island home.

And we have to get 'real' about that right now. Really.

Summer too quick

I was looking forward to several weeks of daytime 60's and nighttime mid-40's. But we've been near 80 a couple of times already and tomorrow for sure.

A tropical storm is a few weeks too early in the Carolinas.

The Midwest is having tornadoes already.

The Rockies are expecting heavy snow tonight.

California is in a 4 year drought.

But there's no such thing as 'climate change', right, Republicans?

When will everyone be able to admit something is amiss in the air?

Oh, and the percentage of carbon dioxide in the air is the highest last year for, I kid you not, millions of years.

We need to take a deep breath and admit to ourselves that we are killing our planet--and then, if possible, put our heads together to figure out what, if anything, we can do right now.

(We live in the historic district of Cheshire. I met a guy in Stop and Shop pushing solar power. We have a lot of roof and live on a street that goes East to West and would have major sunshine. When I told him where we lived he shook his head. "No chance," he said, "the historic commission would never allow it."

History is more important than the Future.

Odd. Strange. Wrong.)

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

A post you ought to read

OK, I was just streaming through past posts and found this one that has been so ignored. So, if I can figure out how to copy it here, I will. And you should read it.


Tuesday, September 15, 2009


I love pelicans about as much as I love anything...well, probably there are a couple of dozen people I love more and oysters on the half-shell and a good Pino Grigio and dogs...most of them, but not the little ones people carry in a bag and who seem so unhappy. But pelicans are up there in my hierarchy of things I love.

Oak Island is one of the most prolific breeding grounds of Brown Pelicans on the face of the earth. There are literally hundreds of them there--flying down the beach, diving into the water, floating like ducks on the ocean. I spend a lot of time on Oak Island watching the pelicans do all that. I really love them. And I spend a lot of time on Oak Island telling the people in the house with me about my insights and speculations and imaginings about pelicans.

I happened to say out loud that I'd like to be a pelican for a day. My wife waited the kind of interval you always wait at the beach just because everything slows down there before saying, 'no, you wouldn't like that....' After about 4 minutes, the normal time for a response when you are facing south on the Atlantic, hardly thinking and drinking a little Pino Grigio and watching another couple of dozen pelicans glide down the beach, I responded, 'you're probably right....' I've sometimes thought I'd like to be my dog for a day, but I know for certain I wouldn't want to be one of our cats for a day, or even a minute. I could, I imagine, extricate myself from my dog's mind with little trouble. Dogs are not deep or profound. But being in a cat would seduce me to stay there because they are so inscrutable and complex.

Another time, when I was waxing eloquent about pelicans--how graceful and also clumsy they are and how much I love them--my friend John said, in a random thought, "they don't know how much you love them...."

Astonishingly, I realized how true--like TRUE--that was. And, since I am given to pondering stuff, I pondered it for a while. Does anyone, any creature--besides your dog, who certainly understands--really KNOW how much you love them?

While we were away, my wife, Bern, and I celebrated our 39th wedding anniversary. I sometimes ponder how much of that time we have truely 'been married'. That's a lot of years and stuff happens and the bond is, from time to time broken. I estimate that we have been 'truly married' for about 30 of those 39 years, give or take a year. But that's a hell of a long time to be loving someone. And I wonder if she really KNOWS how deeply and wonderously I love her.

Probably not.

We are all pelicans gliding down the beach, not aware of how deeply and profoundly we are loved.

You are welcomed to ponder that about yourself and God's love. I invite you to do that. And I would write about it except I am still, in my mind, sitting on that wondrous deck, watching pelicans that I adore and knowing they don't know. I'll leave the God's love thing for you to consider.

OK, it can only get better...

A female ex-CEO, a Black neurosurgeon, a Baptist preacher--all the Republican field for President needs is a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker. A few more Senators and Governors and Donald Trump will make this the most interesting field ever for the nomination.

How boring the Democrats seem by comparison: a former first-Lady/Senator/Secretary of State and Bernie Sanders.

Truth be known (and why not?) Bernie Sanders is the first candidate for the Presidential nomination in my life-time that I actually agree with almost completely. I am a socialist (as is Bernie and a good number of people in Vermont). Last year our income was the largest it's ever been. Between my (God love the Church Pension Fund) pension, Bern and my Social Security and my part time job, we had an income of well over $100,000. (Both my children make much, much more than that--as it should be in the old days.) And Bern and I paid NO TAXES because of the IRS rules about ordained clergy and housing allowances and such things.

I would gladly pay 33% of my income in taxes if health care and higher education were free and every family in the country was guaranteed an income of $45,000 a year.

That makes me a socialist. And proud to be one.

If Bernie had a snowball's chance in hell of being the Democratic candidate, I'd gladly give that 33% I'll never pay in taxes to his campaign. But he doesn't have even an ice-cube's chance in hell of winning.

And I am (in spite of what people might tell you about me) ultimately a Pragmatist.

So, when the smoke clears I'll support Hillary, or whoever (beyond all reason) defeats her in the primaries for President.

I am a socialist by ideology. Practically and pragmatically, I am a Democrat.

The Democrats don't, by any stretch of the imagination, come down where I am politically and socially. But they actually have a change to win, so I'm with them as my best bad bet.

Why shouldn't someone like Bernie run for President? His ideas are closer to mine than any candidate I've ever know.

Why not?

Well, unfortunately, we all know. Given how much people hate Obamacare, the best thing the haters can say about it is this: "at least it's not socialized medicine."

Too bad, I say.

But it's not going to change in my lifetime.

That makes me a yellow-dog Democrat (a Democrat who would vote for a yellow dog even if Mother Teresa was the Republican candidate.)


And so be it.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

I love my 'job'

I don't really have a real 'job'--I'm the very part-time Interim Missioner of the Middlesex Area Cluster Ministry (three small churches in Killingworth, Higganum and Northford.

But my 'job' (12 hours a week) is so refreshing and life-giving.

I had dinner tonight with the chair and vice-chair of the Cluster Council. (The treasurer was sick and couldn't make it. We were there, at Cozy Corner in Durham, CT (where the World's Greatest Waitress works). It's a sort-of Italian place with Pizza and hors devours that are really Italian but things like Gyros as well, which are, well, not Italian.

The purpose of the monthly dinner is to prepare the agenda for the 2nd Tues of the month Cluster Council meeting.

But really what we do is enjoy each others' company and enjoy a meal together.

I really love those three people and time spent with them is precious time.

Same as with the three congregations I serve, with two other priests who are Sunday only.

I love these people and these people are my 'job'--ergo, I love my job.

I sometimes talk to people who hate their jobs and feel robbed by them.

I love my job and am given life by it.

How lucky and blessed am I?

More than I deserve, certainly, and even more than that.

Breaking bread with Garnet and Nancy (and usually our poor, sick Ann) is sacrament to me.

That's how much I love my 'job', such as it is and not hard work....

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Like "The Wizard of OZ"

Remember how, in that movie, the world switched from Black and White to technicolor?

That's how the outside of my life has seemed.

After month after month of gray and white, white and gray, I step out on either porch and the world is 'in color'.

We've lived at 95 Cornwall Avenue since 1989--that's 26 years for Bern to make our yards be awash in color for all of spring and summer. We must have tulips in over a half a dozen colors and jonquils aplenty plus early blooming shrubs and ground cover with early blooms. And the Forsythia is at it's height. Plus the trees are beginning to have leaves again. At least a dozen shades of green.

Who couldn't love the Spring?

The world has returned to color.

Saturday, May 2, 2015

my mother

I must admit, and regret, that I seldom think of my mother.

Her name was Marion Cleo Jones Bradley. Everyone called her Cleo.

Her name should have been Marion Cleo O'Connor Bradley, but her grandfather came over from Ireland with two brothers and they got into such a fight on the boat they all gave false names at Ellis Island so they'd never be able to find each other in this new land. My great-grandfather gave the name "Jones", a double insult to his brothers since 'Jones' is Welsh. Don't tell me the Irish don't know about grudges....

She died when I was just 25.

The only thing I could do for her as she was dying was feed her vanilla ice cream with a little wooden spoon. Her stroke altered brain didn't allow her to know who I was, but she loved the ice cream and I fed it to her whenever I could.

I'm sorry I don't think of her more. But I don't. I'm 6 years older than she was when she died. I'm 15 years younger than my father was when he died.

Maybe I'll be lucky and live like him.

I'd like to live 15 more years--to see my older two granddaughters graduate from college. That would be a treat...unless I'm drooling and don't know where I am.

But there's time to think of all that.

What I want to do tonight is remember my mother, since I so seldom do.

So, that's what I'll be up to after I click on 'publish' for this post.

Maybe you'd like to remember your mother for a while when you read this. Even if she's still alive, a little remembering can go a long way.

Check it out.

Friday, May 1, 2015


My son and his family live in Baltimore.

Cathy Chen, my daughter-in-law is even a prosecutor for the city of Baltimore.

So the events there in the last week have riveted me to the developing news.

And, for the first time in the seemingly endless confrontations between the police and young black men, response was rapid, decisive and, I believe, just.

The response in North Charleston, South Carolina, was encouraging. This Baltimore action is full of hope for a long delayed need to redefine 'policing' in the United States.

I'm not sure the severity of the charges will all survive the Byzantine configurations of the justice system, but the decision to charge all 6 officers sets the bar high in any future confrontations.

(I told Bern this afternoon, when we were talking about the Baltimore situation, that I once wrote a story for a college creative writing class where a West Virginia State Policeman assaulted a man in a bar for no reasonable reason. My professor didn't buy it. Truth was, it was the only thing in the short story that was 'real'. I witnessed that assault myself!

So, I never look a policeman in the eye--the way Freddie Gray did. I lower my eyes whenever I talk to the police, which I seldom do.)

If a middle-class, aging white man who is an Episcopal priest has some reservations about the police, God help a 20 something Black man in Baltimore--which feels, in the numerous times I've been there--a lot further south than Maryland.

(By the way, I read a study on line about racism and discovered that the most racist area of the country is not the deep South, but the states of my upbringing--Appalachia. Kentucky, Tennessee, West Virginia, eastern Pennsylvania, South western Virginia, Western North Carolina. At first I was shocked, having grown up there. But then, it began to make sense. western Maryland is part of Appalachia, as is part of western New York. I did go to segregated schools in a county with a 50/50 black/white population--a dozen years after Brown vs. the Board of Education.....)

I heard a speech on radio by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. recently when he asked "How long? Not long..." Over and over he said that. And 50 years later we deal with Ferguson and Baltimore.

How long?  Who can say, alas?

Blog Archive

About Me

some ponderings by an aging white man who is an Episcopal priest in Connecticut. Now retired but still working and still wondering what it all means...all of it.