Saturday, October 15, 2016

Let Your Hippie Out

 I have always been a Hippie as long as I can remember. Through out my life I have tried to suppress the hippie in me at various stages and times when it wasn't convenient for a job, life or whatever. It never worked the hippie always came back. For me I think the the hippie surged in eleventh grade in high school with my English teacher Mr. Cocker. I wore these really sharp leather moccasins, made by Quoddy Moccasins on upstate New York, and jeans and flannel shirts. I sat on top of my desk in the back of the class with my legs crossed Indian style and wrote poems instead of my assignments. The great thing about the teacher is that he graded us on our writing and encouraged us to continue. He actually celebrated our individuality. Rare for 1970 Public School where conformity was the general rule. He would often bring in his guitar and play music for us. It seemed so counter culture.

   My hippiedom only increased the more I pursued skiing in my youth. I became more anti-societal and way more earthy. Rejecting the norms of my time and being fortunate to be the first year in the draft lottery and drawing a high number insured my freedom to pursue my dreams, mountain dreams. It seemed perfectly normal to me to take a year off from college to pursue my ski bumming dream. What I did not for see at the time is that I would find myself 40 years later living in Western Colorado getting ready to retire and pursuing my writing dreams after a lifetime of sunsets, snowflakes and mountain sides.

   Has it been a rough an rocky road? Yes. Would I wish to change it and have become and Industrial Engineer and have developed Industry in third world countries as was my young man business goals. Nope not really. The life of the open road was my calling. I think that it still may be. I am not sure that I will not always wonder what lies just beyond the horizon and over the hill. Even now that I have a wonderful home, with a great work shop and am assured of a decent retirement, I think of the ocean and walking on the beach with my wife and best friend, and talking about my stories and their plots and of sunsets and ocean tides. Instead of white powder and steep slopes I think of ebooks and stealing little children from secure careers as doctors and lawyers and setting their feet upon the road.
Let your inner hippie out!

Today's Song

Monday, July 4, 2016


   I look into the steely eyes of the Oncologist as he is saying, " Usually the cancer follows down the nerve. So we are going to have to run the radiation down along the nerve. It will go deeper than normal. Which means that you will probably have burning and blistering in your throat as well as losing about 2 1/2 inches of hair around your ear, including your beard that may not grow back. You may get your salivary gland back on your right side after 4 or 5 months."

   I look closely at the Doctor and smile. Trying not to laugh as I am reminded of a co worker of mine from Albany New York when I was growing up. I sold gas at a gas station that was full service. My co worker was Bob Hornsby a crusty old middle aged man. His favorite saying was. "Ya Cock- Knocker Ya!" I want to say to the Doctor, "Ya Cock Knocker Ya!" It's funny what runs through your mind at very crucial times of your life. I was a goofy sheltered 16 year old when I met Bob Hornsby and was pumping gas when it was 33.9 cents a gallon. Women wore mini skirts and Bob taught me all about beaver shots when you were cleaning car windows and that some women knew exactly what was going on and liked it.

   I walk through the vault door of the radiation and lay down on the cold steel table covered with a blanket. I lay my head into the cradle while they snap the molded mask over my face and snap it in place, securing my head to the table so I can't move. They tape the bolis to the right side of my head. The table slides into place under the multi heads of the radiation machine. There is a green centering light that crosses the mask to give them true center. The table stops and the green light outlines my entire face like a computer image and disappears from the reflection of the main head. The machine clicks and whirs and all the attendants leave the room and close the vault door. The machine goes silent. They say you can't feel the radiation but every time the radiation starts I have a tingling sensation just below my right ear. I begin my mantra to pass the time. "Om Mani Padmi Hum. Om Mani Padmi Hum."

   "Wumpf, Wumpf, Wumpf," the sound of the rotors of the flight to life echo from the roof of St. Mary's Trauma Center. It is across the street of St. Mary's Pavillon where I get my treatment. It's strange because I instantly recognize the sound of the Flight to Life from my Ski Bumming days. I always watched the birds take off from the top of Snowbird Ski Area in Little Cottonwood Canyon of Utah. I knew that seriously injured skiers where transported to critical care hospitals in Salt Lake City. I never thought about the birds delivering the injured skiers to the hospitals. Maybe it was because I never ever thought about my mortality. We literally skied places where if you missed a turn you would fall and die. We never let that into our minds. No time for the fear!

   I have fear these day's. Will I be O.K. ? Will I be cured? Will this reoccur? "Om Mani Padmi Hum!" I bring my mind back to center as the table shakes and I know the session has ended. The attendants appear as the heads spin and whir above me and I am let out of my medical bondage.
I will return tomorrow as today marks half completion. Just as I know I will complete my writing projects, each and every one and find joy and satisfaction in the challenge,

   I head home to my loving family who welcomes me with open arms and love and it does not escape me that I am the luckiest man in America!

   Today's Songs

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Only The Beginning

To steal a phrase, who knows what jogs your creativity or your mind. My notebooks are filled with great one liners that never went anywhere. They were the beginnings of the great American Novel that everyone aspires to write, or at least I hope they do. The work that will move the world.

   I am freaking out! If I had to have a favorite perhaps that would be mine. It is perfect for my early youth, and my life well into to mid life. Another good line I like was a title from a work by the rock band Supertramp. Crisis, What Crisis? They came out of London in 1969 and took America by storm in the late 70's. Are you you getting a theme here? I think I am as I am writing this.

   It always seemed to me that when my life appeared to be falling apart, or I was freaking out over something. I turned to putting words on paper. Old habits are hard to let go of. Almost all of my poetry and even most of my short stories began with a line, not a word, always a line. They sat there deep in brain and waited for me to revisit them.  The best analogy I think I have come across is that of an oyster with a grain of sand. The oyster of course gets the grain of sand and carefully rubs and polishes and rubs and polishes and voila comes the pearl.

 Writers are not much different, you write a line. Have a thought, or angst over some injustice in the world. You go back and visit it. You expand it stretch it out, coat it with words. Sooth it with a little pain and suffering and one day it plays itself out in a poem or short story. If you are lucky it may be something that can only be expressed in a great long form and then comes your Great American Novel. Sometimes you put off the process, it isn't time yet, I don't have enough time to write it, I am too busy at work, all the reasons of why not to finish.

   Then one day the Armageddon of your life arrives and you address the issue. I guess you will know your own personnel Armageddon when it shows itself. Mine has come to knock on my door in the form of my brush with skin cancer. Just enough to turn those wheels of fate in your mind. I will survive mine as I have the past two surgeries. The last being particularly nasty and invasive. Then comes the threat of the radiation to cure the final stage. You are told all will be well and you will be good as new as soon as you are irradiated. O.K. then sounds good to me. No wait a minute, what is this all about? I thought or I had always said I will live to be a Centurion. I had planned on that. I need the time in retirement to write. Now some thing is threatening my great procrastination plan. What about all the times I could have written and didn't? What about all the times that I wanted the next very last powder run? Is this going to be my last powder run here?

   Could have, should have, thought I had more time, if only I had when. All idle threats gone with the melting snows of winter. The Ides of March have turned into the green grasses of June. Now is the time. As you let the first rays of the radiation that is killing and curing you wash over your being for the next six weeks, find the courage and the strength to put all of the projects you are working on to bed. Before you go to bed for the last time.

   Sometimes in life you need to remember that that the thing that you are running, from the injustice that you moves you, the mistake that you made, that forever changed your life, is the very thing that brought you your greatest reward or triumph in life. I was a lonely ski bum who didn't need anything from anyone. Who by the Grace of God found a soul mate to share life with. I have always maintained that I am the Luckiest Man in America. I guess as I go forward on this next journey. What ever the final outcome will be. I need to realize it truly is the beginning. You must begin at the beginning to come to the final end.

A Song for Tomorrow

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Relativity of Time

The phrase that time is relative has never escaped me. I always knew that as a young man that time was the here and now. The book for my generation that was the rage was "Be Here Now," by Ram Dass. It reverberated with the message of the times. You know all the Sha-la-la-la live for todayer's. I was one of them. You guessed it a hippie. Of course I had long hair and a beard. My little sister was kind enough to put my hair into tight braids, so that when I took them out it made my hair frizz out and it looked good with my big gold ring in my ear. Yep! That was me the cool cat, or at least I thought I was in my mind. After all, I watched Doby Gillis and thought Maynard G. Grebbs was cool. I may have even bought a set of bongo's. However I learned early in my life that I have no rhythm and I can't carry a tune. Except for my brief try at chorus in eighth grade. (My friend Michael Metti convinced me to try out. I actually made chorus, but my sisters laughed at me and I decided to quit. Just like my engagement to Mary Corona, when I was five years old. I bought her a ring, gave it to her because she was the absolute love of my life. Again my sister's made fun of me, so I remember asking her for the ring back. God Rest her soul as she has passed away.) The Hippie movement was right on time for my friends and I. The signs were all there and it was exciting. Looking back on the times I am still amazed and surprised about how unaware our parents and the police were concerning the times and the drug scene. I remember a hippie jeweler in town who had a small three bedroom house and he painted it the color of the rainbow, and put large bubble windows in place of the traditional ones. When you walked into the store he had completely covered the inside walls with broken pieces of mirrors in every room and had large display cases with all his wares. He burned incense and had black lights everywhere with brightly colored T-shirts for sale. Even I thought it was slightly bizarre for 1968. However, neither the police, nor our parents ever voiced any concern about the house, even though it was a major source of marijuana and hashish. Good times, where you could charge your purchases on your credit card and be styling. I suppose that it was a real sign of the times. Every one I am sure has many stories like that. People just didn't catch on or if they did they really did not care.

    Fortunately for me, I was the first year of the draft lottery for the Vietnam war. They were taking everyone with numbers 210 and lower. My number was 242. Free bird! I am sorry for all the young men who went to Vietnam, many did not come back or they did in body but not mind and spirit. It was my good fortune to go skiing and not to war. I remember thinking what a very lucky group of men my friends and I were. We all worked in our family business's or in local jobs and were free to take long ski vacations, In my case, and Captain Zooms, Touloose, and Creme-Kings we all were able to go and live in ski town's like Aspen, Vail, in Colorado, Brighton in Utah, Jackson Hole in Wyoming. It started out by skiing weekends, then week days, until we realized we could ski every day if we became bona-fide ski bum's. Every mother's night mare, a son or daughter with out a real career, drifting through life like the snows of winter. I remember my first winter at Arapahoe Basin, as beautiful as it was every one was talking about Grand Targhee, in Wyoming that was the first and last mountain to get snow. It was addicting, the freedom I mean. Get up every day and turn your boards until you were exhausted. Work where ever and when ever you could. It was a freedom that captured my heart and soul and I guess that is why I have always wanted to write about it. To explain why we all ran way, we were in a way a lost generation. I believe that I found myself in the running away. Subsequently each and every one of us did. I really want to follow the lives of the people I knew at Arapahoe Basin, and where they went and what they did with their lives after leaving.

   The mountain changed us all and touched us all in it's own way and we all found our individual truths that we were searching for. All in a winter's tale. We all moved on but we shared a special time in a special place with a group full of searchers. Sometimes I think I almost know what it is I want to say. These day's it is more pressing and wanting to come more as my time has been put into perspective. I always thought I had all the time in the world to write what I needed to write. Having been diagnosed with Cancer, (a non lethal form of skin cancer, that will require another unpleasant surgery, and six weeks of radiation therapy,) has put my time into perspective. Write, hell yeah, as often and as long as I am able. I suppose that when I look back at my life in my old age to come and Thank God! for the wake up call and the time that I was able to spend writing in my future life, I will say it was my singular greatest turning point and inspiration to pursue the dream I have always held so close to my heart. Time is relative! I'm sure that even Prince would love to have a little more time. No one ever thinks they are going to run out of it. Guess what? I have had my moment with time the past few weeks. My future is a little less certain. Time a little more relevant than it ever has been in my life. The future is mine to create..

   Thank you for your love and support Katarina.

   I would often listen to this first song when I was working out at the Athletic Club in Colonie and taking writing classes at Union College. It would help me to focus on my dreams of writing and forget the reality of living in a city. I remember how very unhappy I was in the city. I just couldn't get my act together there.

   The second song I would listen to with the artist Evelyn Wilson, we were kindred spirits in the city longing for new horizon's and distant frontiers. She liked Prince, I was not so enthusiastic. I hope she found her horizons. I found mine and a beautiful woman to share them with.

Today's Songs

"Never Surrender," Corey Heart

"Purple Rain," Prince

My little nurse and angel who has helped through my ordeal and I am sure will continue to lift my spirits through the coming battles! I can't forget her good friend "Boney".

Saturday, April 9, 2016

The Ever Changing World in Which We Live In.

 Maybe you can't understand the ever changing world if you have never had and inner Vagabond. A traveler, possessing a wayward soul. Perhaps it came from the 1960's the personal freedoms that we all dreamed about. The freedoms that were expressed in the writing and the music. I have always appeased my inner Vagabond by wandering. Never really ever settling down. Oh for a few years my wife and I have lived happily in certain areas. I think I have been the happiest in my soul with Kathleen because she is a traveling hippie also. In her youth living in a commune in Oregon, and traveling on grants with her hippie friends in renovated buses have made her exploits dear to my wandering heart and soul. Our lives have spanned Ski Towns, to Ocean Beaches, and the Boom and recently the Bust Towns of Colorado. Our current Home in Grand Junction, Colorado is certainly one to have pride in. It has a lovely healing massage room that is completely separate from our living space where we can listen to beautiful healing music while working on one another. It has kept us young and vibrant. I suppose as young and vibrant as 60 year olds can be who get regular body work.

   This home, we agreed after bringing the last remaining member of our Equine Massage School Ranch, our baby Golden, Gracie to rest here, was to be the one. The big retirement one. It wasn't at the beach, yet it was affordable for our retirement purposes. Blessed with a lovely dining room for entertaining and a wonderful separate office space for each of us and a ( I deplore the term, )Man Cave Garage for me, this house has it all. Well not exactly, you see or rather don't see the sea. I overheard Kathy talking to her girlfriend this evening saying, "All I really want to do is walk on the beach!" I guess I would like to add to that sentiment, "Walk on the beach with Kathy, and Piper our poodle, and write." We have recently renewed our interest in her novel Appaloosa Lake that stalled out at the love scene in the Lake. The healing waters of Appaloosa Lake where for generations the young Appaloosa's have been taken to be trained in the healing sulphur water of the Lake, Ah what to do about Abbey in the Lake and the arrival of Joseph, Flora's dark gorgeous son. Yes Vagabonds all of us.

   Life does change. I will survive my minor battle with skin cancer and some invasive surgery and come out relatively unscathed on the other side. Although I really seem to care more about completing the novel of Appaloosa Lake and the ensuing screen play and walking on the Beach with Kathleen and my little Pi than I do to finish out my career in my beautiful home nestled in the Grand Valley of Colorado.

   I suppose if I were writing the scenes of our lives, I might write in Capitals, Beach Scene: Enter Happy Travelers! The thing about Vagabonds. You never know what they will decide to do next. Both Kathy and I have revived our Motor Home/ Bus Beach dream and one never knows what a True Vagabond will do. By the way, Appaloosa Lake is a Great Story!

Today's Song; "Over The Hills And Far Away," Led Zeppellin

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

I"m on Fire

Did you ever have periods of time where you could feel yourself glowing? You were resonating so well with the universe that you almost thought that you were on fire! What were you doing? What were you thinking? Where were you living? No matter where you are now remember back to that time, clear your mind and allow yourself to rekindle that flame. It is hard to look past your daily sorrows or suffering to find that place where you are free and alive. Allow yourself time in the mornings to clear your mind and give praise to all the good things you have. Learn to meditate and to calm you inner dialogue and negative self talk. Read positive literature and listen to uplifting music and songs.

   Once you were a child and laid on the ground and looked at the clouds and dreamed of all the great things you were going to accomplish in your life. Rekindle that friendship with your inner child and again dream great dreams. The key is not to stay where you are. Move forward, become a part of something greater than yourself. Write a love poem. Start a short story! Finally begin that great American Novel you were always going to write. Make the pieces of April into a Tapestry for May!


Seven Chakras Activation & Healing Meditation Music

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Uncle Albert's Mountain

 Just yesterday I received a blog from Al's Blog at Arapahoe Basin Ski Area. It was this picture of the East Wall of the Basin that reaches an elevation of 13,050 ft.  We always called it the wall. It is accessed from the Lenawee Mountain Lift and is a heart pounding climb through the North Pole Hiking Gate. The terrain is Expert skiing and opens up to some of the steepest and deepest mountain snows I have skied in Colorado. Endless turns of the incredible White Gold that one searches for in the ultimate quest for deep powder turns. It is incredible in the spring with the late spring storms of that precious soft white stuff. We have had some nice late storms and the skiing must be outrageous there now. I couldn't help but repost this picture of The East Wall and The Tree Chutes, Willy's Wide, and North Pole Staircases. Hope you enjoy the moment. Have and enjoyable full moon Wednesday.

   Here are a couple of good songs to put you on your way.

Simon and Garfunkel, "The Sounds of Silence"

Paul Mc Cartney and Wings "Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Deep Mid Winter Blues

 So My Friend Captain Zooms has been sending me pictures on Messenger. He works as a lift-op for Canon Mountain in New Hampshire. The last of the old time hold outs. I admire his tenacity. He recently sent a picture of himself with his 205 Skis. They are probably the longest on the mountain. These days the move has been for shorter shaped skis. Have never skied on them but I'm sure the technology is great and they are excellent. We grew up in the times where you raised your arm in the air as high as you could and that was the length of ski you used. We were daring, we went further, I owned a pair of 215 Rossignol Stratto 105's. They were my steel beams to hell as I referred to them. We rarely skied in mogul fields because they were too long. Your tips would bridge the mogul in front while your tail would still be on the one in back. They were very difficult to turn sharply. It wasn't what they were for. They were for long Giant GS turns. You know, right after a snow cat has rolled a big steep trail and there is about two to three inches of thick vanilla ice cream on the trail. You would carve long Arcing turns and scream down the hill at break neck speeds.
   Younger day's my friends. Captain Zooms sent me a message last evening. He took those big babies out for a few turns and had fun. Walking back to the Lift he fell on his long ass skis and bruised three of his ribs. Just walking. Needless to say those boards are in the retirement rack. Yes it does suck getting old. Who ever said that your elder years would be spent trying to recapture your youth was correct. In our minds we are all still kids. I guess some more than others.

   It's hard coming on to spring. March was always the time that, Touloose, Captain Zooms, Creme-King, and Fast Eddy and I made our big trips to the fine powder in Utah. Only in our minds these days boys.

   Life is good, take up meditating or practice Kiya Yoga. It soothes the savage soul!

   I will leave you with a couple of old rock tunes.

"Dear Mr. Fantasy," Eric Clapton and Steve Winwood

"Low Spark of High Heeled Boys," Traffic, On The Road

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Twenty Years A Horse Virgin

   Where do I begin? I had always liked horses. I grew up in New York State near Saratoga and always made the summer sojourn to the track in August. I learned from Touloose's Dad that a crisp one hundred dollar bill would get you a table in the Clubhouse when you where told there weren't any. Another Benjamin Franklin slipped to the Bartender would insure you would always be recognized and a wet gin and tonic would promptly appear. A trip to the Paddock to eyeball my choice for the next race and a sprint to the windows to place my bet. This was my exposure to the Ponies as we called them.

   Flash forward a half of a lifetime to Lake Tahoe, California on February 14, 1996 the afternoon of my wedding day. An elevated wooden boardwalk with a string of pleasure horses alongside the boardwalk, and my beautiful Bride smiling and saying, "Surprise, I booked a toy trot for us, and we get to ride across the Truckee River." I remember looking down at the horses backs and mumbling something like, " I didn't realize that they were this big." Second mistake, the first was acting like a landlocked Eastern man and not wanting to take my socks and shoes off at the beach in Encinitas. After all my wife was Western, so western they filmed all the western horse movies next to where she grew up. All the movies I grew up watching and wished I was out West were at her finger tips, places like Vasquez Rocks, and the Western Town of Calico. The ride was a real experience and we rode our horses almost belly deep in water across the Truckee River. Years later, after gaining much horse experience I would marvel at the audacity of the outfitters to take a pack string of inexperienced riders across a major river.

   It was the very beginning of my horse career. I would later work with hundreds if not thousands of horses through our Massage School and gain invaluable knowledge and have incredible adventures. I learned very important lessons.

    Lesson # 1. Never tie a horse or horses to a movable object. I tied three horses that I was grooming for the school to an empty round bale feeder. Everything thing was O.K. until I tried spraying them with fly spray. When one of the horses spooked, I suddenly had a whirling dervish of horses spinning across the field like a top. Lucky for me, Kathy and the students showed up on cue to help rescue me from this predicament.

   Lesson # 2. Never bring more than one Stallion into a enclosed pen with lead ropes. I accompanied three young stallions into a small pen. Once the gate closed behind them they decided to play lets all stand on our hind legs and paw at each other and the air while this dumb cowboy stands in the middle with no where to go.

   Lesson # 3. If you are going to work with show animals you need to ask if they have any special cue movements they respond to. While a group of students were massaging several brood mares in a row of stalls. I was in the pasture in front of the stalls with Bo, The Buckskin Stallion. He was being a pest and stalking the mares. I immediately rushed toward him and began shooing him away from the mares. Unbeknownst to this cowboy, I was giving him the cue to rear up and to strike at the sky. Not a pretty picture of safety.

   I could fill the pages here with inexperienced horse virgin stories. I choose to remember all the wonderful miracles of the horses lives we touched and helped through the years. I am working on a collection of horse stories about our years on our ranch and work with Horse Rescue and Teaching Equine Massage. They are stories of joy, triumph, tragedy, and sorrow. I wouldn't have traded one moment on the ski slopes for a second of wonderment of my time with horses.

Today's Song
"Wild Horses," Gram Parsons and The Flying Burrito Brothers

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Ski Colorado!

   So I am biased, I do believe that the order of ski adventure is rated, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, and New Mexico. Many people would dispute my opinion but after thousands of hours and runs on the mountains of America I feel qualified to make that statement. I love them all each and every one, each and every state, each and every mountain, slopes and runs not to mention the quality of the high mountain snow. They all vary in size shape and technical difficulty. Unfortunately in Ski Area Management the designation of the difficulty of the runs vary tremendously. A Blue Run in Utah might be considered a Double Black Diamond in Colorado. They have the need to sell the experience to the consumer. I have learned to live with it. It is O.K. each and every mountain has their unique experience as well as the quality of snow. Some are groomed to perfection, the brush is removed on the sides of the trails and in places like Deer Valley in Utah and Beaver Creek in Colorado the tracks of the snow cats are sidestepped by the Ski Patrol so that the area is impeccable. No ridges left in the trails. It is all good. You learn to glean and appreciate each and every area for it's unique claim to fame.

   It brings me back to my reason for wanting you to Ski Colorado. This evening I was browsing through Facebook and I saw a post from someone who worked at the chain stores called The Ski Market. They were stores I grew up with in the East. The majority of my friends were managers or employees. They were a discount store for quality ski apparel and equipment. If you were a serious Ski Bum, you bought your gear there. Any way, they were posting to other former employees about a Ski Reunion in Aspen, Colorado, during the 2016 U.S. Ski and Snowboard Hall of Fame Induction & Skiing History Week, April 5-10. Aspen is a good mountain and it would be great to see the former managers and ski friends from this great chain and to maybe make future contacts to research the History of Arapahoe Basin. It has become a former hobby turned serious pursuit for my upcoming retirement years. I personally haven't skied in over twenty years. Retiring my sticks for saddles and spurs in my married life. Colorado has been getting very good snow and if you have never turned a ski downhill here you need to.

   The coming full moon has reminded me of my youth and climbing in the back country on Loveland Pass to Ski the abandoned mine dumps by the light of the full moon. Wow! is all I can say and remember about it. A kid from the East climbing mountain sides and skiing the wilderness by the light of the moon. Talk about gut wrenching and heart pounding stuff, these days a brisk walk with our toy poodle is my heart pounding endeavor. Don't feel sorry for me, I had my turns when I was young and could climb and ski these places. I have no regrets. I look forward to the work. In my future, I have researching and completing my Historical Novel. My motto is Retyre 2018. Then full pursuit of my writing dreams. All good things come to those who plan and prepare.  Hope you enjoy the pics of A-Basin and of skiing on Monarch Pass. Love the Verticals. While I miss the thrill of skiing, I find just as much joy from a well written piece. I have a lot to write about and a long future, I pray, in which to pursue it.
A Song for Colorado
"Colorado," Flying Burrito Brothers

My buddy Piper with her good friends.