Wednesday, September 20, 2017

What makes me smile

Will and Kate are expecting Royal Baby #3. I told you that I was obsessed. 

A new character in my novel insists on speaking out. How dare him.

Of all my empty nesting friends, one couple saw the humor and went ahead and posted a picture of their front doorway without the kids on the first day of school.

My Florida and Texas friends are unscathed, and have a healthy respect for hurricanes. I can hear the relief in their voices.

The missing sock has no longer gone AWOL from the dryer and is found two days later clinging as if its life depends upon it to a t-shirt folded in the drawer. It’s found its sock mate.

My daughter is one year older, and I still feel like I am the youngest mother on the block.

After calling and calling to no avail, I discover the cat is hiding in the back of the closet watching over my shoes without a worry in the world.

Yesterday waking up to gentle rain on the metal roof invites me to stay in bed a few moments longer absorbing the peacefulness.

The best of show winner in the fall autumn tree category is an elderly maple down the road around the curve. It never lets me down. Now the walk back up the hill is another story.

My Tweet is retweeted twice. I don’t understand how virtual people find me. #Hastags I am told. I still don’t get it.

A neighborly cow photobombs me in a selfie on my walk past the pasture while all his cohorts lie on the ground “mooing” him on. The nerve of that herd.

Poking fun of my own writing like what I am doing here provides me with my morning grin. If I can stretch it out to a complete column, my sides will convulse in laughter.  I think I can like The Little Engine That Could.

The Bills win a home opener and all my dyed-in-the-wool friends who are fans revive their hopes for this year’s playoffs. Faith is an admirable quality in all circumstances.

I receive a handwritten note in my mailbox from a reader of AND ONE MORE THING… that loved the column, “A Fight With the Mailbox.” I chuckle and send her a reply to brighten her day.

SNL impersonations are a HUGE hit, and I mean Melissa McCarthy’s are the best of the bunch. She’s got style.

Repurposing for yard decorations

A third-grader in Florida has his dad video him doing live weather forecasts like an expert meteorologist and post to Facebook – a few professionals on the Weather Channel are pretty stupid hanging on in driving wind and rain - after Irma passes them by.

Sisters are notorious for one-upping their brothers with their quips, and it never stops no matter how old they get. It’s one of those things you come to expect in family life.

I am snickering while observing a middle-aged woman arriving at the town landfill dressed to kill. She deposits her two small plastic bags of recyclables before taking off to her social engagement. I stand there looking like a slob.

Just the thought of a chicken barbeque dinner makes me smile, and the aroma lingers long after, too. You know what’s for dinner at my house tonight.

A friend says that when she takes off her outfit and her clothes are not clean enough for going back into the closet, and yet not dirty for the hamper, she puts them on a bedroom chair. Yes, I have The Chair, too.

A toddler learns the art of language through his conversations about everyday things, and I hear a smidgen of it in the supermarket while he discusses the merits of fruits over veggies with his dad. Sweetness.

My car passes inspection. It is relatively new and has many more miles of work ahead.

A Danish author of mysteries, Jussi Adler-Olsen, scares me to sleep every night and the subsequent dreams are over the top. And that makes me smile, how?

Finding that I can speed down the highway listening on Sirius to a CBC station with chansons in French, and pick up on every six or seventh word after all that time away from the textbook, lets me sing like a lark.

I am able to wear short-sleeve shirts for a whole weekend of sunshine while sipping pumpkin spice coffee on the porch. My plan to bring in the houseplants can drop to the bottom of my chore list.

The headline on Twitter forces me to read it twice: “Call it an accidentally white wedding: A couple's nuptials at Burning Man, Nevada's experimental art festival, were left covered in dust and joy.” Apparently, a dust storm came up during the ceremony and the subsequent photos ware not your typical selection. Cheers to the flexible photographer who is able to go with the flow.

How many of you know that The U.S. Constitution was signed on September 17, 1787? If you are of a certain age, you may smile along with me. You learned that fact in history class along with your geography without a doubt.

I’ve often wonder when I am in a different time zone how many, many people in my home locale are up way into the wee hours of the morning on Facebook. Then again, what am I doing looking at FB and not out seeing the sights?

Life is made up of the little things. Let your smile beam brightly.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

More wanderings on country roads

A sunny afternoon, 80 degree temperatures, a hat, water bottle and a camera is all that's needed for a hike down the steep hill to see what's around me.  And I even got photobombed by a cow, too. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Looking back over the summer

     Asking a child to tell you what he did over his summer vacation is a vague question, and ranks second only on the dumbness meter to “what do you want to be when you grow up?”
      A youngster mentally freezes. Thanks to you, he’s put on the spot. Most likely he will reply, “nothing much.”
     That’s more than sufficient for Twitter, but not a face-to-face discussion of any substance. You repeatedly grumble about children doomed in the 21st century, and this is what you receive in return. Everyone stands in awkward silence and there will be not a single thing gained except possibly a bruised ego.
     On the other hand, if a kid is the least bit verbal and has learned the game of playing adults, he will tell you what he thinks you want to hear back. That’s the nature of a child.

     A well-brought up child will dare not answer, “I don’t want to be you when I grow up.”
     As adults you and I respond in a similar fashion.
     Ask me what I have been up to, and nothing, and I mean nothing, comes to the top of my mind. It sounds lame. Or, I might tell you stuff that is not the least bit of importance in my books and keep the big things tucked away.
     With children, learn to be more skilled in your questioning and work up to it gradually. Besides, a kid will connect much faster with an adult who is curious about him as a person, or at least he will look away from his gadget for a mere second pretending to be on the same planet as you.
     Then again, you and I have big plans for the summer months, and half of those ideas never work out probably for the best, too. One or two surprises take up your time and set you off in different directions. I look at that as a win-win and go with the flow summer. It all balances in the end scheme anyhow.

     I never did get the back shed straightened out. That had been on my books as a summer item for months. On frigid days stuck in the house, I would dream of sorting and tossing in my short sleeves. Instead, I did a miraculous job of keeping the two gardens weeded. Boy, am I proud of my efforts, too. A little backbreaking work is good for keeping me limber.
     The trip to Stratford, Ontario never materialized and somehow a trip to New York City took its place. I got to visit with my daughter and the timing was perfect for a mother-daughter bonding.
     I did connect with a couple close friends living in other parts of the country thanks to them reaching out, and we had chances for skipping down memory lane. Both occasions were spur of the moment, too, and I dropped everything I perceived might be more important and ran with the fun.
     My husband did orchestrate the completion of our front patio with the landscaper as planned instead of pruning the trees. There’s a more appropriate time for that chore in the fall.
     When I was growing up, the first day of a new grade the teacher would write the question on the blackboard in proper handwriting and expect students to write a composition of a specific number of words while the clock ticked away. I remember resisting. First of all I thought to myself, it is none of a teacher’s business what I did over my summer vacation, and secondly, what I did in my free time shouldn’t be evaluated by anyone else’s standards.

      My stock answer when a grown up would ask me what I did over my summer vacation would be to say that I was reading through the alphabet in the public library and collecting sea glass on the beach. That seemed to satisfy them that I was being productive.
     Adults feel kids have to account for activities and any thing less than that is laziness. I totally disagree.

     I wonder if I said that I spent hours on the beach daydreaming what they would think of me? Truthfully, that was what I did a lot of the time. It was my way of stirring up the creative juices. I didn’t understand its purpose then. There was no way I was sharing that with others, though, and at the time I didn’t know any fulltime writers other than the elderly gentleman down the street who passed the hours scribbling sci-fi stories in a notebook that had complicated interwoven plots leading nowhere for my taste. Apparently, neither did any publisher.
     Believe it or not, when it came my turn to start teaching, it was still a popular opening day activity, and let me add, an easy out.

     I refused to acquiesce. I would ask instead for students to write in their journals:  Tell me what you want me to know about you so I will be able to help you have a successful year.
     Perhaps, I was fighting off something that held me back myself in the classroom and I wasn’t going to subject another generation to the torture. Oh, I could write as a kid. I kept those diaries filled at home and the neighborhood newspaper, too.  It wasn’t in school under the watchful eye of a grammatical perfectionist, though, that I ever would shine.
     Looking back over the summer, despite the rain and clouds more frequently than not, it was a fine season. Let’ leave it at that.

Friday, September 8, 2017

Wandering the roads near Penn Yan

It's not often that you see a classic Greek revival style home on a country backroad, and when I came upon this one in the Finger Lakes, I had to stop for a longer look. Someone is keeping up the yard, and I noticed there were other more traditional houses quite nearby. Oh, there are stories behind those windows. 

Saturday, September 2, 2017

A personal reflection

This silhouette  "happened" by accident when I was at the Friday night  launch at the NYS Festival of Balloons, Dansville, NY.  

All my shots were less than ordinary, and I was grumbling to myself about how many uninspiring photos one needed in life of balloons in the sky, when I stopped to look around me. There is my photograph, I thought to myself.

The picture speaks to me of the childlike hope we all have in us at the start of fall school activities and cooler weather.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

A fight with the mailbox

    One exceptionally humid afternoon while I am in the side yard weeding the garden minding my own business, the substitute postal carrier makes quite the G-rated scene across the street delivering our mail. There is contorting of bodily parts and gnashing of teeth as if readying for a significant siege. In this case, it’s our mailbox, the adversary, posted firmly reporting for duty.
     I saw a little bit of humor in a commonplace week and I want to put a stamp on my thoughts.

     Day in and day out it’s a weighty process returning from the mailbox. I go over empty-handed eagerly anticipating at least one surprise. Usually I am disappointed. Seldom is there a handwritten letter. Those days have vanished into thin air like fountain pens, engraved stationary and wax seals.
     I barely can hold in two hands the oversized pile neatly wrapped with a rubber band that the postal carrier has left for me. Some days I should bring over a wheelbarrow. Sadly, it is all junk mail and after sorting through, it goes right into the circular file. In other words, there is an increase in my carbon footprint on earth in one mail run.
     Life is too short to be filled with junk.
     Of course, it is a good idea to open each envelope, in case there is a check for a million dollars from your long lost uncle in the pile. If that is indeed so, then I hope that you will close the newspaper – I won’t get my feelings hurt - and go figure out a new plan for living life to the fullest on your very own private Caribbean Island.
     Periodically it is a gilded certificate - a hoax - telling you if you call a toll free number, you will win a vacation to a superior resort on a golf course overlooking the ocean. Nice try. Don’t bait. You’ll be on a mailing list long past your due date has expired on earth.

     Now before I write any further, you must know that I do appreciate the US postal service.  Each employee is ready to help me at my local place, and they are a terrific energetic crew.
     The mail person pulled up to our mailbox in a pick-up truck and I would presume that he didn’t get close enough to the edge of the road to reach into the box. Our regular mail person has the routine down pat, and she literally streaks off with one foot on the gas slowing down just enough to hurl the mail into the slot like a championship ring toss pro.
     Our mailbox rests on the edge of a slope beside a gully, and I have had my share of slipping down into the muck without anything to reach out to catch my fall except the post. If anyone driving by were to see my face coming up out of the mire like I am part of the Game of Thrones’ Night Walkers, it would frighten them to pieces.
     Sometimes it is a dangerous life living in the woods and not having your mail comes right to your doorstep. I envy all you town folks, especially in the dead of winter when it takes a lot of effort to fight the wind and snow safely back and forth across the road before hyperthermia sets in and you are on the verge of loosing fingers and toes to frostbite.
     I feel for the temp guy and watch him get out of the truck, go to the other side of it and struggle maneuvering his body slowly to the edge to put the mail inside the black box. He slithers like a snake no doubt getting his clothes dusty, too, brushing up against his truck. Right then and there, I know he isn’t a happy camper and that he  realizes that there is more to this job than meets the eye. Unfortunately, I observe our mailbox swaying from side to side while he is trying to shove what I presume is a package inside. Sure, there is a little give to the mailbox on purpose. Not this much, though. He tries and tries to my amazement.
     Hold on. Shouldn’t I be a good citizen and go out there and give him a hand, collect my mail and save him the grief? Shame on me for not showing compassion. Whatever possessed me to stand there like a frozen statue, I have no clue. I’ve bungled numerous things myself, and have appreciated a bit of help.
     On the other hand, I bet that he is hoping nobody is spying on him. Meanwhile, I presume sweat comes dripping down his face and his clammy hands smear the address labels. Possibly he is assessing the situation for making changes in tomorrow’s delivery, if he does come back.
    Before I can make a move, he pulls into our driveway, steps out with the mail – there are two packages and no way they would have fit into the box by their sheer size – and deposits them on the porch with a ring of the doorbell. He drives back of our driveway like a teenager sneaking out on his parents, and once on the pavement, he roars off to the next house down the road. I don’t think he ever spots me.
     The sub postal worker comes by the next couple days and his routine improves immensely and his delivery flows like a syncopated beat in no time flat.

     Life is a learning curve. I rest my case and breath a sigh of relief.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Don't blame me for bringing up the subject

     There is a superabundance of colorful images rushing at me like an avalanche of M&M’s rolling out of a jar right into my lap. No fooling.
     It’s delightful and at the same time disturbing.
    Something starts weighing heavily on me, though, the minute I step over the threshold into a Korean nail salon on Third Avenue. I can’t quite put my finger on. It will come clearer shortly.
     After I am greeted profusely, the astute manager pushes me gently toward the shelves of nail colors stacked like toy soldiers, and leaves me to examine the choices. You’ve heard what they say about a New York minute, and that is about all the time I’m allotted to come up with a color scheme.  
     My daughter is with me, and she has the drill down this being her regular place. It’s going to be another one of our weekend bonding activities.
     Decision time. The clock is ticking.
     I am going bold. It will be the lime green with an overlay of sparkles.  Don’t blame me. I’m erasing guilt out of my vocabulary and going with a frivolous choice. Nails grow quickly and in three weeks, it will be time for a do over.

     Walking into a narrow rectangular room, a wall of young career age women are lounging in leather recliners with their feet draped into swirling baths and their hands glued to their cell phones deep in conversation somewhere else. A woman in a black uniform is carefully pampering each, and the majority only speak Korean to each other and nod to their clients — if anyone bothers to acknowledge them.
     I am annoyed at how many patrons actually look beyond their faces as if they are invisible servants.  We are all human beings with the same wants and desires from life.  I engage with others. Don’t blame me. It might be the case that younger generations with their “me first” mentality don’t talk to people on purpose.
    It’s a hot scorching six o’clock evening in the city that never sleeps, and date night is fast approaching. That’s the magical hour where the rest of us older folks are tucked in our beds rejuvenating our bodies for tackling another day. Well, this is the Big Apple, and all rules are suspended for this one weekend. Don’t blame me. I am embracing it.
     I notice the woman who is giving me the green tea footbath. She places a timer discreetly by her side on the floor.  I told you the salon operates on a frantic pace. Her manager keeps tabs on her employees while walking back and forth, and mine is no exception. That’s how the business makes money. It generates a quantity of clients, and in this case, quality, too, is part of the package deal.
     All in all for appearances sake it is a clean and bright space with splashes of chrome fixtures throughout. There is a wine bar with chrome bar stools arranged near the front for those who are in a major hurry to get a quick touch-up. There are other nail salons up and down the avenue and competition is brisk.
    My pedicurist giggles when the attendant next to her says that I am the mother of her regular client. Respect for older women is something Asians are good at as it is ingrained in their culture from an early age. She bows.
     Who is she? What’s her story? Perhaps that is none of my business as our brief encounter is professional.  I appreciate anyone who helps me, and although we can only communicate without words, we are polite.
     My daughter has a regular lady and they have developed a relationship.  Call it synchronicity or not, once for months she was no longer there, and every time my daughter walked by she looked for her. She even glanced in the windows of other nearby nail salons hoping to see her manicurist’s face. My daughter gave up and went to another salon in a different part of the city. One day she was walking along Third Avenue and she saw her manicurist. She ran in crying and hugged her. She doesn’t know the circumstances. Regardless, I have raised her to appreciate each person coming into her life and treating everyone as an equal.
     After she finishes my lady rushes to the back, grabs her tote bag and leaves with another employee for her salon workday is over. I hear her point to my nails and say, “sparkle” to her manager. Somehow that amuses her. Off she goes to her family and more responsibilities.  
     It dawns on me what has brought a cloud over my experience. Don’t blame me for bring it up.      
     Salaries are a pittance and if it isn’t for the generous tips slipped to these ladies, they are the new immigrant slave labor work force. You wonder how many are working illegally, too, under the radar in and around the city.
     Shouldn’t we as a society take the blame for this atrocity? It is a bad mark on our democracy to be exploiting workers. Occasionally I will hear a little buzz in the media. Not much, though. Immigrants found our country and this new generation is no different in their aspirations.
     In one respect my daughter and I walk out the door with a lighter step sporting matching toes and nails. Our hearts are painted a bit heavier, however, having faced a reality we are shielded from too often.



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Lessons to be learned from the beach

     People that live along a shoreline in a hot climate have a special rhythm to their daily beat. I recognized that when I spent a couple weeks along the Pacific Coast in Costa Rica.
     The tempo to a great extent is slower, and culturally “manyana” has its own delightful ring in your ears. Sometimes that’s not a bad idea anywhere in the world, except if you are waiting on the plumber.
     With the March mega blizzard and windstorm in our Livingston county area, I celebrated a chance to be away.

     Like a true beach girl, I sprung out of bed by 6 am, donned my bathing suit, cover-up and flip flops, rinsed off my face, put on my cap and headed out before anyone else in the complex noticed one missing resident. For me, it was reminiscent of growing up on Long Island Sound where I could go for days in such simple attire, sans make up and requiring only the basic of needs.
     Around Tamarindo, you see surfers and beach bums on spring break, or perhaps, living the life semi-permanently in this eco-friendly country. Yes, children of all ages will hop out of bed at the crack of dawn if they are motivated. I saw it with my own eyes watching their surfing lessons.
     The early morning people off to work or school make way for the vacationers ambling to the shore for walks before the sun gets too high in the sky and sun protection must be amply applied being so near the Equator. I passed several scooters driven by youth with surfboards attached going to ride the waves. They know the tide schedules and live and sleep accordingly.
     The sand is a perfect runway for joggers, strollers and shell collectors in assorted beach attire moving in and out of the surf to cool off.

    It reminds me of the two older joggers in my age bracket slow running along side of me. Obviously, the wife was faster, and the husband admirably was trying to maintain stride. “Hurry up,” she yelled back over her shoulder. “The doctor says it is good for your health.” She pounded on ahead looking neither to the left or right. I’m glad I am not in her racing club, or anything else she organizes. Life’s too short. I want to pause and look at the water, put my feet in and take in the smells of pure air without being tied to a stop watch.
     You wonder why the younger set stay plugged in to their music while jogging in such a remarkable environment. Are they capturing the cool breezes and the tropical ambiance, or is achieving their miles more important? Sure, most are in training for the spring racing sseason somewhere, and they can’t let up. North Americans are like that with frantic schedules and time sheets.

     The fishing boats and bird watchers have long left on their quests, and a few local employees are raking beachfronts or cleaning pools for later in the day’s appearance of serious sun worshippers.
    I passed an instructor giving a crash course on rowing to tourists renting a canoe, and I laughed as they repeatedly queried which way to pull the oars through the water. Oh, boy. On my return walk west I saw that the boat was out there with the rest of the fishing boats bobbing on the choppy waters. Hopefully, they were warned about the rip tide in the area, too.
     Picking up and putting back a piece of stone or a seashell – nature stays in CR where it belongs and is not for the taking – gives testimony that what is of the world stays here in its purest form. Costa Ricans appreciate their space in the world and are conscious of not ruining it for future generations.
     Ten years ago when I was last in Costa Rica, the two biggest fears of the citizens were the rapid settlement of the Pacific Coast by North Americans buying up property at cheap prices and the resulting pollution levels. Due to the slowing of their economy and the dip in the real estate market, I don’t believe those worries have come to fruition.
     A kindly man cautioned me as I came upon a black snake with yellow markings in the surf, and I moved on quickly. Learning to live in harmony with one’s surroundings is a recipe for contentment.

     The big deal here is the sunsets in the evening, and everything revolves around the grand finale. I make my last lap in the pool by 5 pm, shower and lounge on our deck or at a nearby restaurant affording a view and watch the giant golden ball slip away for another twelve hours.   It’s a free gift that you shouldn’t take for granted no matter where your location.
     Once the air cools down to the 70s, the streets become alive with folks out strolling.  If you are lucky, you might spot a couple howler monkeys up in a tree making their presence known. Seafood is fresh daily, and the offerings of seared ahi tuna, sea bass and tilapia are guaranteed menu options. Soft jazz music and blues tunes hum back and forth between one venue or another where flickering strings of miniature lights cast elongated dancing shadows on the sand.
     As dependable as clockwork, the day faithfully bids you adios. Never forget to give thanks and be grateful for life. The beach tells me so.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

Excitement on an ordinary day

     My mother made a frantic phone call home from a telephone booth — that dates the story — and our family’s daily routine changed in an instant.
     There are those moments when you must jolt into action if you want to turn things around. That’s just what my dad did, and the rest of us followed his lead like he was the Piped Piper. We didn’t disappear and possibly end up in a cave implied by a version of the legend; however, we did drive frantically into unfamiliar territory and lived to tell the story.
     It’s good for the soul to shuffle-up ‒ that dates me, too ‒ the   humdrum of daily life.
      Back when I was a know-it-all-kid in the sixth grade, my mom went on the Long Island Railroad to Brooklyn for a routine doctor’s appointment, and my younger sister and I went down to dad’s store after school. It was a short half-mile walk to the main business district, and we were accompanied by plenty of other kids going home. Life was much simpler, and we walked everywhere as long as we didn’t miss meals. Our freedom was for the taking.
     Dad was going to take us home when he closed the store and attempt cooking supper. Truthfully, Dad wasn’t a very capable chef, but we helped him out. I don’t recall that we ever starved, and I am sure mom had left a Jell-O mold in the refrigerator along with an apple pie on the counter.
    Actually, I looked forward to those late afternoons when I had extra time with dad. My artistic sister kept occupied coloring on her latest project, and I meandered up and down the aisles straightening boxes of linen hankies while watching the traffic go by heading for the Hamptons.
      While I was setting the table for dinner, we got mom’s S.O.S. She accidently had gotten on the wrong train when she changed trains at Jamaica. It doesn’t sound like a big deal, except all the trains on the tracks make it confusing if you are not sure of your directions and train routes. Jamaica can be a nightmare for the uninitiated or tentative person even today.
      Somehow mom stopped in Ronkonkoma (Town of Islip) at the end of the line about half way from home with 30 or so miles left. The conductor told her there were no alternatives unless she took the train back to Jamaica, and tried once again.
     Dad calmed her down, and in the meantime we all hustled into the Plymouth sedan with dad driving full speed west. We left supper on the kitchen counter. That was before the fast Long Island Expressway had come out to the end of the Island, so it was stop and go at every traffic light in every town all the way.
     I thought that this was great fun, and I loved the thought of getting out of homework, as well as leaving town. Anything to get my wanderlust soul all stirred up didn’t take much. I wondered about the town with the Native American sounding name where we were heading.

     From an early age I loved maps and I would spend hours studying them planning imaginary trips. The neighborhood gas station gave them out free, and the owner would hand me the latest ones when I stopped in on my walk home from school checking on his supply. He knew about my obsession and kept it quiet.
     The closer we got to the train station off the main highway and onto side roads, the more I realized that dad was lost. There didn’t appear to be any signs, and it looked more like a residential area near water.
     “We’re going around this lake in circles,” I proudly informed dad. “We need to stop and ask someone.”
     As if he hadn’t made that discovery himself, I needed to needle him more. That was Lake Ronkonkoma (Long Island’s largest freshwater lake) I was pointing to and verifying on the map in my hands.
     I hadn’t learned yet that dads, or men for a fact, don’t stop and ask for directions. It’s not in their genes. They keep muddling along convinced that they can figure it out.

     The last thing dad wanted was my backtalk. I could see him perspiring a bit and his hands were clutching the wheel tighter. I slumped in my seat and watched the sun going down as we circled the lake for the fourth or fifth time.
    Finally, we got to the train station, collected mom and managed to wind our way back to Route 58. The return seemed easier, and there was less stress in the car.
     For a surprise we got to eat out at Howard Johnson’s, which made me ecstatic. I didn’t have to look at the menu before ordering my usual heaping plate of fried clams that I wolfed down with gusto. We never got to eat fried foods like that at home, and seafood was becoming my new food of choice.
     Years later we would still joke in front of mom that if a day got boring she could go get lost at a train station and we would come and rescue her. She would raise her shoulders and not get the humor like the rest of us. I guess she hadn’t let that scare go.   
     Today, with texting, cell phones, Uber and GPS this wouldn’t be much of a story at all.