Tuesday, August 7, 2012

A recent article...

I had forgotten about this - I had been interviewed months ago by Chicago Parent magazine. And now I guess it's out! Lucky me. I'm still blessed to have an amazing son. I'll let the article speak to how I feel about Rafael....http://www.chicagoparent.com/magazines/special-parent/summer-2012/finding-support

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Chapter 14, Page 386

Midway through what I affectionately call the Lost Summer, I've come to a realization. The thing is, I can't share it - all I can do accept, internalize and move on.

After some time of transition, the dust has begun to clear and I stand at another crossroads. I don't know which direction I'll go nor where any of these dirt path leads. But, as I wrote a moment ago, I accept this. When my former life dissolved before my very eyes, I never saw some amazing, brilliant "tomorrow" around the corner. Not once.

A friend mentioned the other day, "Mikky, you need to get out of your comfort zone." Like learning a new instrument, I had no idea what he meant. Does that mean going to  more Yoga or switching to Scientology? I don't think so, nor could I relate to his suggestions. But it is one of the paths I can choose. Even a relative mentioned something I should try - it's a challenging and difficult idea, but it sounds intriguing nonetheless.

Being of a certain age, having taken inventory of my successes, failures and shortcomings in the past year, I see why many people have drifted away. Have you ever swallowed an aspirin without water and you have that pill stuck at the back of your throat? It's awkward, chalky and it just sits there bothering the sh** out of you. I've was doing that every day until I woke up and saw who I was, how I had become that person and why he wasn't very well liked. Then, it stopped.

That's enough for today - as this hot season wraps up and Autumn arrives anew within the next month, I've humbly learned where I stand with so many parts of my former life. I think it's time to take that new direction. Only I can give myself the OK to try.  I'll keep in touch.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Turning pages with sticky fingers

Terry took a nasty spill the other day. I watched from my second floor window. He'd been trying to carry one too many plastic bags of groceries up the stoop to his brownstone. Down chin-first into a concrete step. He didn't have time to break his fall with the bags entangled in his grasp. I watched in a guilty silence as oranges and cans of black beans rolled down the sidewalk. That's what divorce feels like. No one can break your fall, the pain hits suddenly, and you'd left to pick up the pieces in public while people sit around and watch.

Last week I went out on an early-morning bike ride. As I rode closer to Lake Michigan, the sun rising over the water was blinding. Going east until I hit the beach was getting more and more risky. I kept thinking to myself, "sunsets are never this intense." But I kept pedaling, following my normal path, favoring the side streets to the major arterials. When I hit sand, I took off my helmet and took a seat, letting my bike fall into the dunes. To my right was the Chicago skyline, to the left, miles of beaches leading to Wisconsin. I finally got it. And it's amazing.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Happy Sunday. May Thoughts of Little or No Concern

Interested in hearing first-hand what happened in the neighborhood overnight (or in my case, where the NATO encampments are located nearby), catch up with the cops when your local Starbuck's opens. You'll hear more about your neighbors than you thought you needed to know.

Have you ever taken a road, bus or train trip across the US? Remember when you'd fall off the face of the earth for a stretch of time, immersed in the beauty of the Great Plains, in the culture of a small-town diner and their amazing biscuits and gravy or watching the sun rise over the Arizona dessert in all it's magnificent glory? Traveling alone is a transcendent experience,  I wonder if I could do it again with mobile technology. I don't think so. I'll keep you updated when I find out.

I've loved Baseball for awhile. I don't know why nor remember who got me interested. We didn't play the game as children nor went to too many games. Somewhere, somehow it clicked. Was it the Big Red Machine, watching Charlie Hustle diving head-first into 3rd? By early adulthood, I'd written my college thesis on it's place in society, read every book I could get my hands on from Only the Ball Was White, The Boys of Summer, The Pitch that Killed and of course Ball Four.
Over the last decade, while living in Chicago, my interest has waned considerably. It took me awhile to finally get why - and there's two reasons. The first being radio. Imagine having dinner with, doing homework besides or completing chores with Joe NuxhallDave Niehaus or Ron Santo in the room, chatting away about anything and everything. They could whip a up story about some old player, instantaneously produce the most random statistic or crack a really bad joke - and then keep you informed of the baseball game in the background. I don't listen enough anymore, all of my friends have gone and died.
And here's the last reason - and one that is easily repairable. My ex, when I finally asked her, after enough feigned indifference to the sport, why she didn't care about baseball, said "women who like sports have low self-esteem and are only trying to please a guy." Try living with that perspective.

I've never thought of myself as that creative. Fortunately being self-aware means knowing my shortcomings and where I fit in the realm or artistic possibilities. When I experience a moving piece, I'm immediately in awe of their discipline, dedication to their passion and covet their talent. I too wish I could be that amazing singer, actor, chef, filmmaker, painter or even writer. On the other hand, when I have painted, sketched, written or even taken a photograph, I don't get that satisfaction that I wanted upon completion. Nor have I been internally encouraged to share this others. To me, it's not really art.
Or is it?
I view art as an ultimate form of narcissism - Expressing a point of view, an image, a perspective in the form of a medium or action (it could be personal, political, social, comical, etc.). Am I close? When you watch a movie, eat a meal at an amazing restaurant, attend an art opening, we are, with total free will letting the artist know we accept their form of narcissism and willing to pay for it.

Someday I too wish I could step out, let loose my inner narcissism.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The family's the key, I think.

My sister is hard to get on the phone. She's a single mother of three (one in college granted), works full time from home and never, Ever takes time for herself (besides the occasional reality show). When you do get her ahold of her, she tends to laugh at the right times, listens to your troubles, doesn't judge and rarely asks for anything in return.

Anyone's family, in the best-case scenario, has someone like my sister who can be selfless, empathetic and comforting. Again, I said best-case. I'm sad for those that aren't that lucky but instead have a bunch of self-serving siblings who crack insults about each other when the others yet hug them when they walk through the door.

I like my family a lot. I've got 2 parents, 3 siblings, 2 in-laws, 4 nieces & 7 nephews to-date. You add on my young children, you've for a party of 21 on any given holiday. If there was an award ceremony, every single one of us would get a trophy for one talent or another. We've got a VW car dealership owner, an Oscar-winner, a Fashion Design college professor, a Pastry Chef, Graphic Designer, a Doctor, an independent business owner and - and to save the best for last, one of the few people in the world that used to work on computers when they'd take up the size of football fields. That would be the Dad, the Grandfather, the Mr. Jerry. He can pretty much build, fix or repair anything (at least what from what I've seen). He's good for a bad joke, can get along with pretty much anyone, has a liberal streak 3,000 miles long and minimal tolerance for ignorance or uneducated bullshit comments (he lives in ultra-conservative OH, you can imagine the stupid shit he hears on a daily basis). Oops, sorry, "slippery path" alert...

Last summer, the lot of us got together in upstate NY for a week or dirt, grilling, swimming, biking, rafting and general familial camaraderie. Was there a fair share of drama mixed in with the good times? Without a doubt. I myself had a few stupid-assed moments related to personal duress (fortunately that emotionally draining, self-esteem wrecking weight has been removed) and it was apparent. But the greatness and love in this moment of time keeps me sane and grounded. My favorite memory, on maybe the 5th night was the twenty of us sitting down for dinner. For that one hour, in the middle of New York, protected from 3G service by red oak, black cherry and yellow birch trees and listening to an orchestra of chickadees, starlings and sparrows, my family was a unit of one - celebrating nothing, loving everything.

Twenty-five years ago, we were a unit of six. Many people had been added with a few subtractions over the years - but the core remains consistent. We may frustrate the hell out of each other from time to time with crackpot drama and selfish motives. But really, would we have it any other way?

If interested in being a full or part-time member, we usually accept applications in the fall. I'll forward you my sister's email, she reviews all candidates.

Friday, May 4, 2012

3 Lists - Work, School & Home

Professionally speaking, we tend to share our end-goals with our friends, family and co-workers pretty openly. "I want to be a Head Accountant," "Yeah Bob, I'm hoping to work my way up from hay shoveler to Head Groomer," or my favorite, "I'm a receptionist at a colonic therapeutic clinic. I can't wait to get my license and open up my own place."

In this day and age, can we look back and say we followed these dreams to fruition - and were they everything we thought they'd be? I mean when you're 16 and say, "I want to be a Doctor" - beyond the 12+ years of post-secondary education and residency, I know I didn't have the capability of understanding what else I was not  saying. "To be" something, to have that label, as we've all learned, doesn't define who we are. So as a child and young adult, we're sharing out dreams of being a boxer, a ninja turtle or security guard imaging  being that role, but never thinking that would only be 25% of our time!

Enough of that. When I was in high school, I wanted to be an artist or architect. How's that working out for me? Not even close. To make matters even more interesting, I recently decided to take inventory of my professional career. What inspired me to do this? I was in a meeting this last Tuesday and a VP of my firm said, "you've sure been busy" after I had mentioned a skill she didn't know I had. So I thought to myself, "have I been that busy? Do I have career ADHD, get bored to easily and need something new around every corner?" Then I took it a step further...if I've had that many jobs, how many of these other things have I had such as homes, schools I've attended....and so here's begins the lists.....

Let's take a look at the last few years of jobs and see...

High School (Madeira, OH)
Dishwasher - Nursing Home
Bus Boy - Red Lobster

Post-High School (DamNeck, VA & Sebana Seca, Puerto Rico)
US Navy - Master at Arms & Operations Specialist

College/Post College (Seattle & Olympia, WA) - Keep in mind I paid my own way through school. Most of the time I had 2 or 3 of these jobs at the same time to cover all my costs and not to incur much debt.
Bank Teller - Rainier Bank
Bank Teller - US Bank
Bank Teller - Seafirst Bank
Traffic Coordinator - Comcast Cable
Front Desk Clerk/Night Auditor - Best Western Lake Union
Set Design Assistant - Northern Exposure
Barista - Cafe Paradiso
Barista - Cafe Allegro
Barista - Dancing Goats Espresso
Bartender - Eastside Tavern
Club Promoter - Moe's Mo'Rock'N Cafe

Professional Career (Seattle, Portland, Chicago)
PR Specialist - Synchrovision
Market Manager - KBA Marketing
Field Marketing Manager - Odwalla
Tour Manager - Upshot Entertainment
Tour Manager - Ogilvy Marketing
Field Marketing Manager - SignCast
Senior Event Manager - Group III Promotions/Draftworldwide
Co-Owner - Alliance Bakery & Cafe
Co-Owner - Wicker Park Inn
Account Supervisor - Legacy Marketing Partners
Senior Account Manager - envisionit media
Senior Director, Development & Special Events

Yep. I've been around the block. I think a little more than I thought. I'm not going to make excuses for most of them - many were college gigs or promotional/temporary marketing engagements.

Taking the next step, I looked at education (pre-college, I was pretty darn focused there) - I attended 7 schools in 13 years. When I realized I wasn't like most kids - having to adjust to different social groups as early as 2nd grade, again in Los Angeles, again in 7th grade when we moved to NY- I can keep going.
How would you like to stand in front of classrooms of kids who could really give a sh** and be introduced every few years? I can say it effected me in some very positive ways - I can walk into a room and introduce myself to the biggest asshole and have a conversation. I also can adapt to change exceptionally well. But there have been side-effects, I think the list above and the last below will show even more clarity;

Kindergarten - Mt Washington Elementary (Cincinnati, OH)
1st - Wilson Elementary (Cincinnati, OH)
2nd - 7th - Immaculate Heart of Mary (Cincinnati, OH)
4th - Westlake Elementary (temporary transfer to LA)
7th - 8th - St Martin's de Porres (Poughkeepsie, NY)
9th - Spackenkill High School (Poughkeepsie, NY)
10th - 12th - Moeller High School (Cincinnati, OH)

And lastly, here's the list of every place I've ever lived. And I remember every one (expect for the Number 1).....

1. Danny Court - Louisville, KY
2. LeConte Ave - Cincinnati, OH
3. Whitehouse Lane - Cincinnati, OH
4. Westlake, CA
5. Miron Dr - Poughkeepsie, NY
6. Miami Ave - Madeira, OH

6. Great Lakes, IL
7. DamNeck, VA
8. Sebana Seca, PR

Adulthood (Seattle, Portland, Chicago)
9. Lake City Way NE
10. Fremont Ave N
11. Lakeview Blvd E
12. Summit Ave E
13. Republican Ave E
14. Rogers St NW (Olympia)
15. Franklin St SE (Olympia)
16. E. Pike St.
17. 9th Ave NE
18. 42nd Ave NE
19. 10th Ave E
20. Everett Ave E
21. 11th Ave E
22. NW Quimby (Portland)
23. SE Mills (Portland)
24. 1009 N Ashland (Chicago)
25. 1645 N Ashland (Chicago)
26. W Crystal (Chicago)
27. W. Rice (Chicago)
28. N. Wicker Park Ave (Chicago)
29. W. Race (Chicago)

There you go - 29 homes in 44 years. Incredibly embarrassing to tell you the truth. I didn't know it was that high. I've been exceptionally nomadic my whole life in the context of work and where I live. Okay, that's not true. I've lived in the last location for the last 8 years! So that means 28 locations in 36 years....that sounds worse, scratch that.

As I wrap this up, a few friends have come to mind that have watched, with out judgement or critique. I thank them for deep well of patience. I'll really, really try to slow down a little bit - tomorrow.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Dabbling in Screenwriting....again....






The hustle and bustle of the Casino floor is lost on BEN MATHER (early 30’s). He seems lifeless in posture leaning back, almost slumped in his chair after 12 hours of poker. He stares with an almost relaxed gaze at his opponent MARCUS (50’S) across the table from him.

Marcus looks at his cards for what seems to be the 20th time, lays them down, then pushes his whole stack chips into the pot.

(To BEN)
I really believe you are full of as much shit now as you were the first day your cunty mother brought you into this world. I’m all in.

He tosses his cards towards the flop. His hand with the table creates a Straight.

Ben leans forward and lays his hands on the table, gripping the ridge and shows a brief, half-smile on his tired face. He reaches down and throws his cards towards the flop. They make four 2’s.

(To Ben, angrily)
You…. Are a son of a bitch. No one should ever stay in on pocket twos.

The dealer pushes all the chips over to Ben, he begins to organize them. Marcus gets up and walks away.

(to the dealer)
Can I have a tray please? I’ve got a flight to catch.



As the sun rises in the east, the red-eye flight from Las Vegas lands in Chicago. Based on Ben’s disheveled appearance, he hasn’t gotten any sleep on the flight.

(over the intercom)
Thank you for choosing United. Whether you are just visiting or returning home, we hope your stay is a good one.

Ben scratches his unshaven face and mumbles to himself under his breath followed by a heavy sigh.

(to himself)
Back to the real world


The front door opens. A golden terrier (JAKE) yips and wags its tail excitedly as Terrance opens the front door.

(to Jake)
Hey partner, it’s good to see you. Yeah I missed you too.

Ben crouches down to give Jake a big body hug. He gets up, throws his keys without looking onto the kitchen table and plops himself down on the couch. He picks up the remote and turns on ESPN. Jake jumps up on the couch and places his head in Ben’s lap.

No sooner did Ben sit down, Jake lifts his head and looks to the front door and begins whine. Terrance turns around and see his wife of six months (CLAUDIA, mid-20’s) open the door. She’s wearing a Meat is Murder t-shirt, ripped jeans and a heavy golden cross around her neck. Claudia’s hair is put up in a bun with chopsticks holding it together.

(to Claudia, tired buy pleasantly surprised..turning his head towards the door)
You made it home. How’s the tour going?

Claudia doesn’t move from the door, instead leans against the frame, folds her arms and looks to the ground.

(with a heavy sigh)
Ben, we have to talk.









Devon (Black, slightly overweight), sitting next to Ben, leans over, pats him on the back.

(Still laughing, almost crying)
That is some bullshit. And this was last Thursday?

(With a wry smile, still looking at his cards)

Vick (balding with earrings and a Fu Manchu cut moustache) takes a drag on his cigarette and exhales towards the ceiling.
(Laughing also)
You mean we all flew out to Wine Country 3 months ago for this?

Jimmy (clean-cut brownish hair, medium built in great shape) stops laughing, wraps his knuckle on the poker table impatiently.

The bet’s fifty to you Ben.

Ben looks at the three turn cards at the center of the table, pauses, then picks two white chips and throws them into the pot.

Devon then throws his cards into the pile of chips.

Vick, Jimmy, Walt (white, brown hair, skinny) & Eric (white, slightly long grayish hair with an unshaven face and round glasses) all throw their cards to the middle of the table.



This hand blows.

Eddie (Asian, chunky) throws his cards into the pot. Ben reaches in and takes all the chips.

Dude, did she really fuck around on you already?

Everyone at the table moans over the comment.

(roaring in laughter)
What do you mean already? Jesus Jimmy, she just left him.

What? No! I didn’t mean it like that. I mean…I don’t know whatever. It’s your deal too Ben…shit….

Devon points a finger at Jimmy and winks.

You always know how to set the mood Jimmy. That’s why we love you.

(a little defeated)
You know, I guess I knew something was up. I mean I knew when we came back from Cancun that she would be on tour again. But when she came back the last time she had changed. She (with a heavy sigh), just wouldn’t be in the mood anymore.

And this is surprising how? You’re married dude.

Well she was always into it. And I mean all the time -before breakfast, in the bar bathroom and once in an alley behind Starbucks.

Yeah I remember that, you texted me. Tam would NEVER do that.

I mean really, do you think she was cheating or what?

Ben continues to shuffle the cards.

I don’t know. I mean I don’t even know how to begin.

We’re here for you. Now deal.

Ben offers the deck to Eric to cut. Eric declines so Ben begins to deal out two cards to each player. Eric stands up holding his empty glass and hold out his hand palm down.

(To Ben)
I’m out this hand, got to make a drink and hit the can. Anyone?

(handing his empty glass to Eric)
Jack and Coke.

I’m good.

The rest of table nods no or waves him off. Ben finishes dealing out the cards and lays 3 cards in the middle of the table.

Eric walks over and makes to drinks at the table in the far corner of the room. He mixes two Jack and cokes.

(to himself)
That blows.



The blue-painted room is filled to the brim with all the trapping’s a newly arrived baby. A 5-month old boy sleeps in the crib soundly. With a sudden slam of a door outside the room, ALVIN is jarred awake. His eyes pop open, he takes in his surroundings and begins to wail.

HEATHER (white, early thirties with long brown hair) rushes into the room and picks up Alvin and cuddles him in her arms.

(Rocking Alvin in her arms)
Oh honey, I am so sorry. It’s okay…it’s okay.

Heathers sits in the rocking chair opposite the crib and begins to hmm quietly, looking lovingly into Alvin’s face, calming him down easily.

Eric walks to the doorway and leans against the frame, arms crossed with a cross look on face.

Heather looks up from Alvin to see Eric in the doorway. Her loving expression turns to spite and contempt.

(To Eric, whispering intently)
We will talk about this later. I will not argue in front of him.

(whispering, angry and exasperated)
I don’t even know what we’re arguing about.

(still whispering but now angry)
Then that just sums us up, doesn’t it?

Eric raises his hands in defeat and walks away from the doorway.

Heather’s gaze returns to that of absolute love and adoration once it sets back on Alvin who is now snoring and asleep in her arms.


Eric is urinating in a stall. An unlit cigarette dangles from his mouth. He sighes with relief as he finishes up and zips up his pants.

He walks over to the sink, turns on the water, wets his hands, pushed the container for soap and lathers up. Noticeably, Eric won’t look in the mirror, he keeps his head down on his hands the whole time.

Once he’s done, Eric pulls out a paper towel, dries his hands then throws it in the corner trash bin.



Back to the poker game, everyone sits quietly. Eddie is hunched over his chips, moving a few between his fingers.

(To Vick)
Raising me five, right?

(calmly, with a pause)


Eric walks in from the rooms read door returning from the bathroom. He grabs the two drinks and brings them to the table placing one in from of Vick.

(to Eric)
Thanks bro.


Eddie leans back in his chair, puts his hands behind his head and looks to the ceiling.

(to Vick)
You are so full of shit – but I just don’t know how much.

Eddie leans forward suddenly and slightly slams his hands on the table, never looking at Vick then flips in a $5 chip.

Here’s your damn money. Let’s see ‘em.

With a half-wry smile this whole time, never taking his eyes of Eddie, Vick flips over his 2 cards.

Straight to the Queen. Eat it.

Eddie, with his hands still in the same position with his eyes down, slowly looks and matches Vick’s stare. He reaches over, turns his two cards over tosses then to the center of the table.


Eddie leans over and grabs Vick’s smokes and takes one.

That’s cold.

I’m glad I got out.


Jimmy pushes the chips towards Eddie then picks up all the cards and begins to shuffle. Eddie begins to stack the winnings.

You’re…..a dick. I swore I had you.

Well I didn’t think you were straight – I mean HAD a straight…

Walt picks up his phone and sees the time.

It’s 12:30 already. Say one more round?

One more round always works for me.

Devon’s phone vibrates on the table. He picks it up and let’s out a patented Devon grunt.

(To Devon)
Who is it?

My wife. The girl is out late again. Looks like sooner rather than later.

Jimmy begins to deal out the cards again.

(To Ben)
Did she move out or what. Tam’ll want to know.

You know, she packed everything and said we’d talk. I dunno (with a pause and a sigh), I just didn’t see this happening….ever…

Eric throws in a white chip. Vick follows along with Walt & Devon.

(throwing his cards)
I fold…..but here’s the thing. I booked a trip to New Orleans to meet up with her. Fuck. Do I still go?

Why the hell not?

I’ll go. I can take the time off.

Eddie & finally Jimmy each throw in their white chip. Jimmy then deals the three-card flop.

(to Walt)
You sure?

Why not? Barb and I aren’t seeing each other anymore.

What? Since when?

(looking at this cards)
Dunno…since now?

The table begins to laugh, Walt doesn’t. He looks surprised by the attention.



Walt is hiking alone along the path on a clear, sunny day. He’s wearing a white t-shirt, cut-off khakis, sunglasses and a small backpack. He’s got his headphones in and is nodding to the music as he continues down the path. Walt has a thin but well-defined built, he keeps his hair slightly disheveled and purposefully stays unshaven. Women are attracted to him and he knows it.

Along he path comes a group of five women on their dirt bikes. As they go buy they wave at Walt and he returns the favor.

(to himself)

After a few seconds of walking alone, one of the women rides back to Walt and stops in front of him. Walt stops and nods. BARB is a mid-twenties, shorter woman fair skin and striking deep, dark eyes. Wearing a bike helmet, it’s difficult for Walt to determine the length of her dark brown hair.

(to Walt)

Hey Yourself. You lost?

Nope. Are you?


Well then, we’re staying at a cabin about half hour up the Madison Trail for a week….you staying around here?

Actually I am. Our cabin that way (pointing from in the opposite direction) about an hour.

Barb pulls out her phone from her back pocket, pulls it open and presses a few buttons.

We’re having a bonfire tonight - maybe you want to stop by?

(with a coy tone)
I just might

What’s your number? I’ll text you later. That is if you’re interested? I mean all of my friends have their boyfriends and husbands coming up. I’m going to get bored.

I’d love to help you out. My number is…



The table is just laughing and rolling their eyes at Walt who still has his head down.

(to the whole table excitedly)
…then he disappears for three days and doesn’t tell us where the fuck he’s going!


(To Walt)
…not cool…
(Still a little surprised that this had happened)
You still owe me for that.

Walt looks up with a half-joking cocky and proud smile and throws his cards into the pile and lifts his arms up in a faux surrender.

They didn’t ask for anyone else. What was I supposed to do?

(To Walt)
Even I was surprised by your slutiness. But you’re good for New Orleans?

I’m in. I’ll make sure with work tomorrow.

(with disgust)
I swear, this whole table has been hunted and mounted on the wall of emotional trophies.

I fold....you have no idea how right you are…

(To Eric, quesitoningly)
…what does THAT mean?

I realized that I’d never heard one guy ever say that having a baby was “magical.” It has always been the mothers and grandmothers. What the FUCK was I thinking?

Everyone else just looks at each other and starts laughing…

(To Eric)
Your life is OVER as you know it. Accept it - move on.

(To Eric, a little snottingly)
Shut it. Kids are a pain in the ass now and Kate’s a bitch now with the whole postpartum. She’ll come back. Just wait.

Jimmy throws his cards into the pot, stands up and stretches.

Okay, I’m done. It’s 2 (beat) listen ladies, I like this game but can we stop about the chicks? Really…I get enough of this at work.

(Throws in his cards, standing up)
I second that. My teenager’s boyfriends are enough bullshit for me to deal with.


Everyone starts to get up from the table and starts to count chips. Vick brings over the tray so everyone can put their chips away.

Friends are hard to find and even harder to keep the older you get. And these are my friends.