The Strangest Accent…

In 1989 I was working as a scheduling analyst in the pilot planning department for America West airlines. They had sent me to Hawaii to help open a crew base there in preparation for flights to Japan.

With little for me to do there during my first few days, my workdays usually ended by 10 or 11 AM. My afternoons were spent walking the beaches, exploring shops and restaurants, but mostly surfing the gentle waves of Waikiki beach.

One afternoon, after paddling out, I sat mid-point on my surfboard taking in the peaceful scene. There were few people around and I remember feeling as though I had won the lottery. After a half-hour or so another man paddled out and sat beside me waiting for waves, but like me, was in no hurry to catch any. The man was quite tan, extremely lean, had blonde hair and blue eyes. He looked like he belonged in Southern California more than Hawaii.

While striking up a conversation and making small talk, I noticed he had a unique accent. I pride myself on being able to identify accents, even within regions, and I’m usually quite good at it. His, however, was distinct and I couldn’t figure it out. So I asked him leading questions in order to get him talking more. The more he spoke, the harder I had to work at identifying his accent, and the more lost I became in doing so.

I just couldn’t pinpoint his accident. The blonde hair and blue eyes lead me to believe he might be German, Scandinavian, or from somewhere in northern Europe. His accent though, sounded nothing like a European accent.

Eventually I just asked him…

You know, I’m pretty good at identifying accents, but yours is eluding me. Can I ask where you’re from…?

“I’m from Japan” he said through a small but noticeable chuckle.

Never saw that comin’…

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We talked for a few more minutes and explained that he gets that all the time. He was from a 3rd generation family of German immigrants who settled in Japan as missionaries before the turn of the last century. He told me he spoke no German whatsoever, and English was his second language. He had been raised and educated speaking Japanese, hence the accent.

Once he explained this to me, it was clear as a bell. He sounded Japanese. He was Japanese. He was just a blonde haired, blue eyed Japanese.

On one hand, I should get a pass for not being able to identify his accent. Blonde haired, blue eyed people rarely have Japanese accents. But the lesson learned that day was quite simple…

There is an explanation for everything, even for those things that are strange and unique. Sometimes though, those explanations are very well hidden and require a little digging…. Jhciacb

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Heat Wave…

In recent days, temperatures here in Fallbrook have reached into the mid-to-high 90s, and even into the 100s, though yesterday we entered a cooling trend. Seems like there’s a lot of hot going around beyond Fallbrook too. Everywhere that it’s summer right now, my friends, family, and acquaintances are talking about — complaining about an exceptionally warm summer.

It’s hot out. Rumor has it, the globe is getting warmer.

I’m about to complete the book The Devil’s Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea. It is among the most humbling books I’ve ever read or listened to.

Despite that it’s beautifully written — lyrical even, it’s a very hard book to take on. The Devil’s Highway is the detailed account of the Wellton 14 or the Yuma 26, depending on who you ask — the dozen or more men who died in May of 2001 attempting to cross the border from Mexico and United States.

Urrea’s descriptions in the accounting of this story are detailed and harsh. He was granted liberal access to personnel, records, and information involved with the tragedy, and uses that information to share what is probably the most accurate picture of what is both a tragedy and a modern mystery.

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So Wednesday, when I was riding my bike on a 100° day, exerting myself and exhausting myself, I was thinking quite a bit about the mid-day heat, though I wasn’t complaining about it. I was thinking about the walkers — those lost me walking in circles under the hot desert sun for several days trying to get into this country for a better life, and what they were willing to do to get here.

My life, with all its difficulties, stresses, and frustrations, is incredibly easy, if not too rewarding nor fulfilling. I kept thinking about that as I was pedaling through the heat and humidity — about how good I have it, and contemplating whether I really appreciate any of it in the ways that I should.

Yup, the world is getting hotter, in physical climate and in social climates.

This is the hottest early summer that I can remember here in Fallbrook, and of course the temptation is to complain about the heat — nature’s beat down, but I can’t and I won’t.

I have access to water, shade, air-conditioning, and ice. None of the 14 walkers who died in that tragedy had any of that as they roamed through the desert walking themselves to death in the heat in search of a better life. But the truth is, they didn’t have any of that before they left home.

I believe in border security. I believe in legal immigration. I believe in working hard to do things in the proper way.

However, when I see what people are willing to do — what they are willing to risk in order to get to a place where they think they might have a better life, I completely understand. I share this, not to discuss immigration, not at all. I share this, for everyone who’s complaining about the heat, to keep it all in perspective.

A little food for thought on a hot summer’s day… Jhciacb

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A Faith Of One…

I am resolute in my faith. I believe deeply, but don’t subscribe to any denomination or persuasion. I contemplate, but don’t fall into suit with any school of philosophy. I pray, but I won’t suggest I truly know who is receiving those thoughts. My life has a dogmatic structure, but it is self-designed, practiced with consistency, and always with gratitude.

Still, there are those will come to know these aspects of me and suggest that my faith isn’t real or outright false because it lacks a name, a well-defined deity, ancient decrees, or leadership from beyond my own mind.

That amuses me — the very idea that my faith is less legitimate, less sincere, or less worthy because it’s self-assembled, self-administered, and freelance.

My faith is my faith. It is just as real and just as sincere to me as anyone else’s is to them, though there is no way to accurately measure one’s faith in contrast to that of another — thank God. Or should I just say thank goodness…?

I’m proud of my faith. I’m proud in large part, because it’s MY faith, not anyone else’s. Over time, it has been customized to within a millimeter of my soul. It’s a well-tailored suit of spirituality that fits me like a glove. Along with my daughter, my business, and my most immediate personal relationships, my faith is the most important aspect of my being.

I just wanted to throw out there this morning as a reminder that, although actions can be measured, faith cannot. Criticize my actions, praise them, or ignore them altogether. To question my faith though, would be to take on a task that will fall well short of completion… Jhciacb

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Where To Let Them Age…

With coffee at my side and my dog on my lap this morning, I lightly run my hand over his graying head. I tell him that I love him and assure him that he’s safe in my home. This is the most important part of my morning routine. If there’s going to be any peace in my day, then holding my dog and reassuring him is the down payment for that peace.

At 13, I accept that he probably has just a few years left with me, so I do my best to make each day for him count and to ensure his comfort and safety.

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My house is not a veterinary hospital nor a kennel. I don’t have all the medicines at my disposal which he might need for the illnesses that come with age. I don’t have any technicians or assistants on staff checking on him throughout the day. In an emergency, I would have to get him to a hospital as quickly as possible. Despite this absence of medication, trained help, and facilities, nobody tells me that as he ages he should be living in a veterinary hospital or in a kennel.

People accept that this is his home, and that despite me not being set up with as a pet care facility, this is where he belongs. Still, rarely a week goes by that a well-intended client or friend doesn’t suggest that my mother might be better off in assisted-living.

On one hand, that may not be a fair comparison. As people age, their need for care can be more complex and more far-reaching and that of an aging pet.

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On a more visceral level though, I have to question why it is so easy to put older human beings in care facilities, yet this is never done with our pets. Is it strictly a matter of health, hygiene, or safety…? Or is it a matter of convenience…?

The answer to that, of course, is probably somewhere in the middle.

Though it’s true that my mother might be better off with trained professionals in her proximity in case of emergency, a little red knob she can push if she needs help, or a cafeteria, none of those people or facilities will hold her hand each day and thank her for all that she’s done. Nobody will be there to tell her that they love her and actually mean it.

She might be in a safe room, but she wouldn’t be in a home. From that perspective, I see a little difference between taking an aging pet and putting him in a cage 3 miles from here, and doing the same thing with my mother, despite that the cage might have a sofa, a TV, and bingo on Tuesday nights.

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What I am willing to do for my dog, at the very least, I should be willing to do for my mother, including putting a pill in a piece of cheese and throwing it quickly to the back of her throat, and rubbing her neck to ensure it goes down. That’s a joke, kind of…  Jhciacb

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Paul’s Left Foot…

Paul is my neighbor across the street. He’s a retired Hispanic man, probably in his late 50s. Paul is about my height with a large Buddha-like belly and skinny legs. He is a genuine person who’s always been gracious to me. We often stand in the middle of the road shooting the breeze when I’m in-between sessions. We make small talk about music, travel, and current politics.

Paul’s yard is mostly dirt due to regional drought conditions, but it’s lined with well planned shrubs, flowers, and has several trees in strategic places. Despite that it’s mostly dirt, the yard is well groomed and pleasing to look at. Paul spends a good portion of each morning walking around his yard raking the dirt, trimming the shrubs, occasionally bending down to pull weeds, but most often just surveying and inspecting his landscape.

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In the 3 years I have lived here, I’ve seen Paul in his front yard almost every day. Most days, even in winter, Paul is shirtless, seemingly proud of the belly that blazes the trail ahead of him.

A couple weeks went by recently and I hadn’t seen Paul. Because he’s not a supreme physical specimen and due to his age, I began to wonder if he had a stroke, a heart attack or worse. After the third week of not seeing him I walked across the street to speak with his wife one morning. She explained to me that Paul had lost his left foot due to diabetes and was hospitalized. She told me he would be coming home soon and would have nursing care coming to the house to help him with the transition.

“After he settles in” she told me, “you can come over and visit.” That made me smile. I then offered my sympathy, asked her to say hello to Paul when she visits him in the hospital, and made sure she knew I would be available for any help they might need once he returns home.

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A few days ago Paul came home. One morning his wife reached out and asked if I would help get Paul’s wheelchair out the front door and help him into the car for a medical appointment. This would be the first time I had seen Paul since his return home. When I stepped into the house he was in his wheelchair with this back to me. As soon as he knew I was in the house he began crying and said…

“I’m sorry Roy, I fucked up. I really fucked up. They told me what to do — I knew what to do and I didn’t do it. I’m really sorry Roy…“

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I couldn’t understand why he’s being apologetic to me, but he was clearly embarrassed, distressed, and regretful.

I assured him that I wasn’t being judgmental, that I was there to help, and I that I will continue to help whenever needed. I gently suggested to him that he look forward and think about the future and recovery now. I helped get the wheelchair out the front door and ease Paul into the car. During the process, he never quit crying and expressing his regret.

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Before they drove away, I told Paul I’d stop by in a few days and we could catch up a bit more. He looked down, mumbled something I couldn’t understand, and they drove away. I haven’t seen Paul since, though I plan to knock on his door in the next few days to visit with him.

I’ve been chewing on his words though, quite a bit over the last few days. It was one of the most human experiences I’ve had in recent years. Those words keeps resonating…

“They told me what to do — I knew what to do and I didn’t do it.”

It doesn’t get any more human than that, does it…? We all know what to do about so many things, yet so often we fail. We know what to do, and we just don’t do it.

When I think about this — really think about it, I am reminded of the importance of being forgiving and accepting of others as I hope they will do so with me.

I think about the human side of failure. I think about perfection being within anyone’s grasp, yet I look around and I see so little of it anywhere.  The idea of knowing the path to perfection yet never getting there was at the heart of most of Augustine‘s writings. There but for the grace… Jhciacb

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Step Back…

Step Back…

If you enjoy eating sausage, the old political cliché goes, you should never watch it being made.

We are approaching a time in the world when we should realize it’s more than politics that is sausage. That everything we touch, look at, enjoy, entertains us, and/or influences our lives is, in one way or another, sausage.

Culture itself, is sausage.

We are also approaching a time in the world when our primary form of entertainment seems to be staring into little reflective boxes to watch all of these sausages being made. Once we are disgusted with observing the process, we attempt to have our way with others in the form of oneway conversations about all that’s wrong with the sausage making process.

This is social insanity.

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I think we really have to wrap our heads around this, and that’s not easy. Not at all, but…

If our primary form of entertainment has become picking apart the very things that benefit us, and that we and others enjoy, and as we attempt to impose our curt thoughts on others with no intention of viewing things in their way or with any intentions of empathy, the making of the sausage is not the biggest problem we have.

Simply put, a problem larger and far more cancerous than sausage making, is the entertainment value we place on picking apart the things that we and others enjoy and that also benefit us. We’ve been in a state of social advancement for over 15,000 years.

If one is of color, transgender, missing both arms, developmentally disabled, or even a child in-tow approaching a border with the potential for a better life, right now — today is the best day on earth to be alive. Because right now — today, one’s chances of prosperity and far-reaching social support have never been greater than they are. That fact is inarguable, though you’re welcome to try.

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BREAKING…

The world isn’t going to be lifted from the potters wheel, trimmed, glazed, baked, and set on a shelf to be observed and admired in our lifetime. The world was not designed or Designed to be an end-product for any of us.

With the ebbs and flows of man and of social morality, we are well into the net-positive of flow. After more than 15,000 years of culture, ebb (toward the negative) today represents roughly 25% of moral movement, with flow (toward the positive) representing 75%. Those numbers, by the way, are my crude  interpretation of an approximation based on the cosmetologist George Ellis’s work on morality being built into the fiber of the universe. Slowly, and over time, ebb continues to decrease, while flow increases.   This is just where we are today.

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It takes a lot of work to take such a large step back and to see the world from this point of view, but it is a step worth taking, especially on a day like today…. Jhciacb

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On Food System Beliefs…

This debate, as to whether or not we should eat animals, and how they should be raised should we decide eating them is acceptable, is slowly turning from a simmer to a boil. That conversation, now in the periphery, is headed into the mainstream and it’s going to get loud.

I believe within a generation, maybe two, the question of whether or not we eat animals, and if we deem it proper to eat them, how they might be raised, will be as central to political discourse as abortion rights, energy policy, and international diplomacy. This debate will someday influence elections at local, national, and global levels.

Fundamentally, this will be a continuation and an expansion of the right to life movement. It’s just that in the future, human lives will be having to scoot over some, to make room for the hundreds of millions of non-human lives who are beginning to matter a little more to each new generation.

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As I have attempted to sort out my own thoughts on these, and to separate my feelings from the logic required to maintain a civil, environmentally aware, and properly nourished species, I have come to realize how complex and far-reaching this conversation is. I’ll suggest that these issues (and all those connected to them) are even more complicated than abortion, immigration, and threats of nuclear war.

I say more complicated, because the aforementioned all have the potential for unanimous conclusions. The question of whether or not animal lives matter as much as or even more than human life, can never be resolved — at least not until they begin to write and speak on their own behalf.

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I have strong feelings on these issues and I know where I stand — today. Have no idea though, where I might stand tomorrow. My feelings are malleable and have shifted as my explorations have gone deeper. The one thing I can say, beyond any doubt, is that my uncertainty about any of this is greater than my certainty.

Regardless of where one stands on veganism, vegetarianism, eating meat, or how to raise meat, there is one fact that is rooted in mathematics and is undeniable…

That when we eat more than we need to survive, and do so habitually, it has a negative impact on the environment — globally. That statement, has nothing to do with obesity levels, fitness, or anything related to health. Simply put and worth repeating, when we eat more than we need to survive, and do so habitually, it has a negative impact on the environment — globally.

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I feel for those who drown in this type of uncertainty. It’s no way to go through life. I pity though, those with absolute certainty relating to any of it, for they are likely responding from their emotional side and not a logical one. This does little to pave the way for an acceptable future…  Jhciacb

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On Normalcy And Eating…

It occurred to me recently that I don’t know how to eat normally. Don’t get me wrong, I know how to eat. I know how to for powerlifting. I know how to eat for bodybuilding. I know for cycling, for running, and for fat loss. I know how to eat vegetarian and vegan. I just don’t know how to eat normally.

Since the first time I stepped into the murky waters of physical culture when I was 13-years old, and as I have become involved with a variety of athletic tasks, I’ve eaten specific to those tasks, always. My edict has been that food is fuel, and to eat for function not for flavor.

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Of course I have a veered off that path thousands of times. I have enjoyed restaurant food, Thanksgiving dinners, cruise ships, hotels, parties, celebrations of every kind, and I have brought the managers of all-you-can-eat buffets to their knees on multiple occasions.

In the scope of my lifetime though, most every time I have eaten anything, I have weighed its content against the results and consequences of how it might impact my body’s aesthetic, my athletic performance, or both. Agenda has undermined any sense of normalcy in eating for my entire life.

On one hand, I can easily think about all I have gained from a lifetime of these behaviors. I’m on the backside of my 50s and can still wear the same jeans I wore in high school. I can ride a bike for an entire day, I can bench-press my weight 10 times in perfect form, and I can jump on a picnic table landing square on my feet.

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On the other hand, I’ve never wandered into a Baskin-Robbins for a couple scoops of ice cream without contemplating — without stressing over how I’m going to offset it. Those stresses by the way, throughout the course of my life, have been very real and have shaped my psyche in ways I wouldn’t wish on anyone. This is a sad, if not bleak, way to live.

Just imagine spending your whole life analyzing and stressing over everything that you eat. Thinking about the good of it all. Thinking about the bad of it all. And through it all, never just being — never just picking up a piece of food and eating it without giving it some thought. But that has been my life of eating.

Anything set on the dinner table before me has rarely been more than a cluster of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, and sugars to be analyzed, consumed or rejected. What has been separate from all of that, is the art, the joy, the spontaneity, and the creative intent behind food.

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Jazz Hands…

I don’t see this ever changing. It has minimized in recent years due to my increasing awareness of it, but living my entire life with this mind-set, those biological and behavioral synapses are in place and etched deeply into my psyche. For me, the idea of eating anything will always cause some level of anxiety. A little food for thought — so to say… Jhciacb

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Between Son And Father…

Six years ago this moment, I was staring out the window on a flight from Philadelphia to Athens. I was enroute to visit my daughter who was winding up her time studying archaeology in Greece. My father had died just 20-hours prior.

While his body was being transferred from the industrial refrigerator which housed him, to the factory where they burn bodies and  subsequently place them into fancy bags so people can keep place on their mantel or carry the ashes about to be spread into forests or over the sea, I stared out the window of an Airbus A3000 for 13-hours. Mostly, I looked down into the distant ocean.  Eventually day turned into night and I begin looking upward into the darkness, to the stars, and thinking about my dad when I finally broke down .

That would be the last time I would have to  feel the guilt that comes with  having to choose between being a son or being a father. On that occasion, I chose father and I would do it again.

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But it haunts me, ongoing, that as I landed in Athens full of excitement and enthusiasm to explore Mykonos, 3000-year-old ruins, and Greek culture with my daughter, that my father lay cold, stiff, and waiting to be burned, bagged, and buried after a life largely unfulfilled.

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It stops me in my tracks daily
The unfinished business of a son

And each time I look in the mirror
I see his plans unfinished and his life undone

And if I am the continuation
Of those intentions that he left behind

I try hard not to disappoint him
But in my darkest hours I feel so blind

Yet I wake to another moment
Another chance to break new ground

And the daughter whose eyes are upon me now
Is still unsure about her dad some how

But tomorrow holds more promise
And I’ll hope that I rise above

Fueled by fire and passion
And with the guiding light of my father’s love…

Jhciacb

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To Burst Or To Evaporate…

Ups And Downs…

A half-dozen times a day I step back, amazed and in wonder of just how rich my life is. I’m so full of stoke I could burst. But that doesn’t stop me from wishing I didn’t exist, at least a few times per day.

If that statement seems harsh and inconsistent, forgive me. That’s just what it’s like inside my head — all day long. Life is amazing — until I get overwhelmed, frustrated, and depressed —most often due to external circumstances, then I wish I wasn’t.

In those tense moments when the shelf over the clothes dryer collapses at the worst possible time, when somebody’s ignorance or hatred surfaces when I’m least expecting it, or when depression or sadness make unscheduled appearances, wishing I didn’t exist is the fantasy that gets me through them.

In-between those moments though, my life is flippin’ glorious. Any middle ground between the two, in case you are wondering, is scarce.

Yesterday morning, while many were sleeping in, I was happy to the point of tears. I had ridden my bike 20+ miles on a crisp but promising Southern California morning. I rode past a 100-year-old bridge, alongside picturesque vineyards, and up a couple of breathtaking vistas. I saw avocado groves, citrus orchards, and miles of tomato fields. Between the distant rising sun and my front tire, a beautiful coyote appeared then vanished in an instant.

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I wasn’t just in awe of my surroundings though, I was stoked at my ability to ride my bike through them — up steep hills  to subsequently glide down in joy while most around me still slept. When I got off my bike, I felt a high that could compare to no drug. It was the sum of freedom, accomplishment, and beauty, all rolled into a tidy moment. Ushering each week in this way is a ritual I would have a hard time giving up.

After my ride, and as I was prepping for the rest of the day, a growing series of disturbances began to get the better of me. Scrolling through the headlines didn’t help. Then a slew of unexpected and urgent emails paralyzed me, if only for a moment.  People say the darndest things when they think they can get away with it.  That was just after another crown on one of my teeth broke — just before a client was to walk in.

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Ebbs and flows…

Despite that there was so much wonder in my morning, so much beauty, and so much stoke, there were also those frustrations, fears, insecurities, apprehensions, and those all-too-often unexpected circumstances. When the contemplating gets tough, the tough just want to disappear — not to die, but evaporatng into the clouds sure would be nice some days.

If I were to tally it all up, in earnest, my life falls much more on the glorious and exhilarating side, than it does on the side of wishing I didn’t exist —that’s why I’m still here.

And please, make the distinction between being suicidal and not wanting to exist. When I don’t want to exist, it’s because I’m involved in a circumstance, emotion, or some combination of those that I just want out of. Not existing, seems so easy.

Some might suggest there’s a mood disorder at work here or something deeper. Maybe. Perhaps it’s just the Gemini in me. I dunno .

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I love my life and many times a day I just want to burst with joy and shower the world with my stoke. But there are times when I just want to disappear. Perhaps knowing both of these each and every day is what makes me human, and in some strange way confirms my existence…. Jhciacb

If  you have not already, please scroll up and subscribe. Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP  button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there is this from Lonnie Mack.  Enjoy…