Down Under 2: Auckland

After the baggage ordeal, I staggered through the customs exit where I was met by Embry, who had been patiently for almost two hours as the bag switch was being resolved. We were met by one of the smiling, peppy Viking greeters and escorted to one of their vans, which drove us, along with a dozen other jet-lagged Viking passengers, to a large downtown hotel. Our plane had landed around five a.m., and we stumbled into the lobby at eight, mercifully unable to figure out what time our biological clock thought it was. Besides not yet reunited with my luggage, there was one more problem: hotel rooms would not be ready before three in  the afternoon.

(We had opted for a two-day pre cruise stay in Auckland before boarding.)

So what to do? I had no idea of how many hours I had slept but certainly not many. Yet the day was drop-dead gorgeous with Carolina blue skies, occasional white cloud puffs, low humidity, and temperatures in the mid 60s, forecast to top out at 70—normal for the summertime. Would anyone regardless of how tired and disoriented, want to stay indoors? We get days like this in Washington two or three times a year.

So off we went to explore the city of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest at 1.5  million.(Total population is only 4.8million on a land mass that is about the size of Colorado.)

Now to be honest I had not done a lot of preparation beforehand. The sum total of my knowledge about the country boiled down to seeing one of the Lord of the Rings movies (during which I had no idea what was happening but bowled over by the landscapes) and hearing enthusiastic accounts by the few people I knew (including my son-in-law, Peter), who had visited the country. Embry reads everything she can get her hands on before we leave on a trip. I like to be surprised.

We took a free shuttle from the hotel to the harbor area and then got on a hop on-hop off bus that took us to something like 20 locations. We stopped at maybe a half dozen spots including the city’s major historical museum, a couple of parks, and the Anglican Cathedral. At the end of the day I was astonished to discover that the pedometer showed that on this “bus tour” we had actually walked four miles. Here is what stands out:

  • The city is considered by many to be the undisputed sailing capital of the world. Two recent Americas Cup trophies are displayed in the yacht club, and the next up will take place here in 2021. On this beautiful Saturday the bay was dotted with white sails of every size and variety including some very tall white sails on the 1995 Cup boats, which now cater to tourists.
  • If you want a parallel in the US, San Francisco and Charleston both come to mind. San Francisco because the city is busy and full of energy and it rises on steep hills providing stunning views of the bay, and Charleston because in the older sections, the houses show the best of 18thCentury charm, with lots of gingerbread , wide front porches and built on tiny lots.
  • There is no evidence in the various neighborhoods we drove through of any rundown or troubled communities, very little trash, and no graffiti. I kept thinking what is wrong with these people. The second day when we drove out into the country we did see some more modest communities but still nothing like what you see in the U.S.
  • The city ranks very high on virtually all quality of life scales and is the most ethnically diverse city in the country with about 15% of the population being Maori (whose ancestors were the first humans to discover these isolated islands) and the largest concentration of Polynesians of any city on the planet. Anglos (“New Zealanders” or “Kiwis”) still dominate with over 72%, and you can’t help thinking how ironic it is that in two countries—New Zealand and Australia—that are the farthest away from the US, the two cultures, at least on the surface, are so similar. Same language, same religions, similar lifestyles.
  • There is also very little crime, a strong educational system, and less disparity in incomes compared to the US. Voter turnout averages close to 80%. (Parliamentary system,  totally independent of the UK since the 1940s despite the fact that the Queen remains the titular head of state).
  • While there is a lot of variation in climate depending on where you live in New Zealand, in most places you are in the Goldilocks’ zone. Summertime highs are in the low 70s, wintertime highs in the low 50s, and at sea level it rarely freezes. Rainfall is generally heavy on the western coast and mountainous areas with 50 or more inches a year on average, about half that on the east coast where all the major cities are and over 75% of the people live.
  • Surely there are issues, but first impression: not a bad place to live.

One key to understanding New Zealand is that it is the last land area on the planet earth to be inhabited by humans. The Polynesians did not arrive until the mid 13thCentury and while a Dutch explorer was the first European to discover the island in 1642 (Captain Cook visited in 1769.), the British migration did not really pick up until the early 19thCentury. The reason behind this, of course, is the island’s remoteness. The closest Polynesian islands are over 600 miles to the north and Australia about 1,000 miles to the west. Talk about isolation. 

But people do not visit New Zealand because of its political system but rather its unparalleled natural beauty. We got a taste of that on our trip to the West Coast the second day of our visit and that will be the subject of the next blog.





Down Under 1: Getting There

I am looking out  the window of our cabin aboard the brand new “Viking Orion,” a 750 foot, “mini” cruise ship  in port at Auckland, New Zealand, accommodating 900 passengers served by 3,000 eager crew members always at your beck and call. Ok, there are probably not that many eager crew, but it seems like it. The lap of luxury. The life style of royalty. At last, I confess to myself, we’ve earned it. We deserve it.

Well, not exactly. In fact for a life-long, committed Presbyterian, cum-vestry member at All Souls Episcopal Church, (Embry), luxury is a negative rather than a positive term. Not so much, however, for us cradle Episcopalians.

(For those who followed us around the world, you may recall  our only two other ocean  cruises, the first on a Holland America ship from Ft. Lauderdale to Spain, and the second on a Hanjin container ship from Shanghai to Seattle.)

 In any event we are here on this splendid, state of the art vessel because Embry could not resist a half price deal if you signed up in a year in advance, and she took the bait. New Zealand had long  been on our bucket list, and what could be a better way to see this astonishing country–with Australia and Tasmania thrown in as a bonus– than aboard a cruise ship? No need to pack and repack your bags every day, and you get free room and board for over two weeks. Now I realize that room and board are not exactly free, but once you finally clear the arduous boarding procedure, you get a plastic card and that is it. Your ticket to paradise. Cash is not allowed, and at the end of the voyage, you settle up. But, hey, that is two weeks away. It sure feels  free now.

Of course, the challenge with going to New Zealand is that you can’t get there. Well, you can now, thanks to jets that speed along at 500 miles an hour, but it still takes at least 20 hours including layovers and usually involves changing planes. If your goal is to go to the farthest place from Washington, DC (we actually departed from Newark) where there are permanent settlements of homo sapiens, New Zealand is your destination. If you are going to blow a fortune (even at half price) on a cruise ship, you might as well blow the blow the whole shebang and fly business class. So that is what we did, realizing that our chances of surviving 18 hours in steerage would be at best  50-50 .

The two flights (plane change in San Francisco) were fine. The airlines have now really figured out how to do business class with seats that fold down into beds, which allows for the exhausted passenger to get two or three hours of sleep instead of zero. When we stumbled out of the plane in Auckland at 5:00 am, we had crossed six time zones and it was already the day after tomorrow. One day had just disappeared. Poof! I am told we will get it back on the return trip, but it does feel a bit weird watching a live NFL football game on TV on a Monday morning  rather than a Sunday afternoon.

The only glitch at the airport was due to Lynn Johnson. When I grabbed my bag off the luggage conveyor belt, I did the unusual act (for me) of actually checking the name tag, which turned out not to be me but “Lynn Johnson.” No problem, I said, as I strained to lug the suitcase back onto the belt. I will be patient until mine comes around. Twenty minutes later I was still waiting, and there was only one bag left: Linda Johnson’s. Now I will admit that the bags were identical. It could have easily been me who took her bag.  The kind and courteous baggage lady told me that this is called a “bag switch,” and happens on average nine times a day at their airport. Welcome to the club! Two hours later the issue was resolved, and several hours after that  in our hotel,  I received an identical suitcase, this time with my name on it. (The luggage police were able to get Lynn her bag before she left the airport.) I later received a contrite message on hotel voice mail  from Lynn’s husband, Victor, apologizing profusely. If I happen to bump into them on the cruise, I will insist on their buying me a drink, which is not such an outlandish request since all drinks are free.

Paradise, baby.

More to follow on my first impressions of this green jewel, far, far away, down under….



Following Your Nose

I find as I get older at times I reflect back on experiences that at the time did not seem particularly significant but on hindsight appear remarkable. The Angel Story is one of them. Here is another.

In the early spring of 1970 Embry and I were living in the Clay Street neighborhood outside Washington where I was doing “participant observation” work, which a couple of years later resulted in the publication of Hard Living on Clay Street. Part  of the assignment involved belonging to a fishing club. (Yes, the research contract paid for the dues along with the weekly fees for the bowling league we belonged to.) I loved fishing and being part of this club even though at times I  felt that I did not really fit in. This was the big spring trip, and I was really looking forward to it.  The club was going  to the Chester River to fish for perch. I had no idea where the Chester River was, but everyone–usually around 20-25 guys, all part of the “white working class” I was studying — was supposed to meet in the parking lot behind city hall and drive out together caravan style. The departure time was 6:00 am.

An eager beaver with a new fishing rod and all sorts of fancy new equipment, I arrived at the designated spot at 6:01. The lot was empty. They had left me. My immediate reaction was, those bastards, they knew I was coming. They did not wait for me. My next reaction was, I am going to catch up with them.

So here was the challenge. I had only two pieces of information to work with. The first was the name of the river. The second was that I remembered hearing that the drive there would take about an hour and a half. That was it. What would you consider the odds of my finding them before they set off in their fishing boats?

My first task was to locate the Chester River. This was well before GPS days, and people used maps to find their way from point A to point B. I immediately drove to a gas station and purchased road maps of Maryland, Virginia and Pennsylvania. (Since I knew of a town called Chester, Pennsylvania, I figured the town could well be on “the Chester River.”) I spread the maps out on the hood of my old Volkswagen bug and poured over them with feverish intensity. Every minute lost was precious time. No luck in Pennsylvania. On to the Virginia map. I first looked at the map showing  the western part of the state with all the mountain streams and rivers. Many rivers but none named Chester. More precious time lost. The last shot was Maryland, but I was not aware of any big rivers or streams in Maryland; and as my eyes scanned the map showing  the western part of the state, my fears were confirmed. Just as I was about to give up, my eyes wandered to the eastern part of the state and the Chesapeake Bay. Resigned to defeat, with a sigh I glanced at the various  tributaries emptying into the bay—the Severn, the South River, West River, Rhode River,  Patuxent, Patapsco , Choptank, Miles, Tred Avon…. So many rivers.

Then I saw it, “The Chester River.” Bingo! There it was, a massive estuary on the eastern shore of the bay, with a width of a mile or two where it emptied into the bay just north of the Bay  Bridge. My eyes  followed the river on the map to its source about 30 or 40 miles  to the north, originating somewhere near the Delaware border. I now knew where they were: somewhere along the banks of a river at least 30 miles long. And they could be on either side.

I glanced at my watch. It was  6:30. I also estimated the distance to the closest part of the Chester River to the Washington area. It was about 60 miles or about an hour’s drive. What to do?

Here was my plan: I would drive as fast as I could toward the Chester River. Route 50, a major highway, was only minutes away from where I was parked and lead directly toward the Chesapeake Bay, passing by Annapolis  and then over the Bay Bridge. Since I remembered the entire drive was supposed to take an hour and a half, I would drive for approximately one hour and 15 minutes and then take the first road intersecting with the major highway and that lead in the direction of the Chester River. Bound and determined, I revved up the motor and screeched out of the parking lot.

At exactly 7:45 –one hour and 15 minutes of frantically driving like a mad man –I started looking for roads on the left side of the highway and at 7:50 spotted one, an unpretentious, narrow, dirt road with a name I could not even read because the sign was so rusted. Could this be it? My heart started to pound as I turned off. The old VW lurched along, dodging big puddles and huge mud bumps in the road. The bumpy ride seemed to take hours, but the actual time was probably more like 15 or 20 minutes. The road got narrower and narrower, but there was one sign of hope. Ruts were in the mud, and they looked fresh. Could this really be it? My heart was racing even faster. Something inside me said yes, you got it, and you are going to catch them.Suddenly the mud-splattered car reached a small meadow, then I drove down a steep decline leading to a stream.

And there they were!  Yes, yes! I did it! There were about six or seven boats with outboard motors with three men to a boat, and the boats had just cast off, motoring down a small creek. One boat was left, tied up at the small dock, and in it was the owner/guide of the fishing camp. “Come on. Hop in. I am just casting off. I was about to give up on you.” I had made it with less than a minute to spare.

 I waved at the guys in the other boats, and  a couple of them waved back. I gave them a big smile and mumbled under my breath, you bastards.

We fished for several hours; and since I was with the owner, a real pro, the two of us caught more perch than any of the other boats —around 25 for him and 15 or so for me.

When everyone returned to the dock for the traditional beer together, I beamed when several guys came over and marveled at how many fish I had caught. One guy even wanted to shake my hand. It was pretty clear that the reason for my success was my being with the guide, but the guys seemed impressed anyway. One person pulled me aside and whispered in my ear, asking how with no directions I found this god-forsaken location in the first place. I told him I had no idea.

“Well, next time,” he said, “You should try to get to the rendezvous spot at least 15 minutes early. Club tradition. We always leave on time. No exceptions.”

I ended up giving most of my fish away, saving only a few for the dinner meal with Embry when I returned home. Several of the guys had caught only a few, and one who came away empty handed was especially grateful.

“You know,” he said, “If I had come home with no fish to fry tonight, my wife would have killed me. Got laid off a couple of weeks ago, and you know, you gotta eat.”

The departure home was very different from the dismal start of the day. A couple of people said they hoped I would make it on the next big trip, which would be to fish for flounder off the barrier islands in Virginia. This day had been my fourth trip with the fishing club, and for the first time I felt like I was beginning to fit in. It felt a little like a rite of passage.

The drive back was uneventful, and I recall smiling the whole time.

And as I think back on it now, I can’t help asking, what were the odds. How could I have found this place? How could I have found it with less than one minute to spare? You hear the term “following your nose” every now and then. Do we humans have some of the instincts that birds have as they migrate thousands of miles from Alaska to South America or as turtles or salmon have who return hundreds or even thousands of miles to the area where they were born?  Our first cat was lost on the streets of New York for over a week and somehow found her way back to our apartment. The most amazing thing is that deep down as I sped along the highway and then crept along the dirt road,  I felt I was on the right track, like a dog following a scent.

This particular event was trivial and by most standards insignificant. But then again on another level it was not. As important as science and reason and technology are, occasionally we are reminded of the mystery of life and that there still remains so much that is unexplained.

 Someone once observed that “Luck and coincidence are God’s way of remaining anonymous.” I think that pretty much sums it up.

Post Script: I did make it to the Virginia barrier islands where the club participated in an annual flounder fishing derby with several hundred serious anglers. On the second day I landed a 12-pound flounder, which missed winning the first place trophy by only 3 ounces. One of the great thrills of my life. But by this time my work on Clay Street was winding down, and the flounder trip turned out to be my last event with the guys.



The Angel

I remember an experience I had in the fall of 1960 some 58 years ago. Yet it is as fresh in my mind now as it was then. I remember where I was sitting when it happened and what the people around me looked like.

The scene was the Annual Freshman Cake Race at Davidson College. This was a tradition at the school where during Freshman Orientation all freshman were required to participate in a cross country race of about 2.5 miles.  The tradition supposedly was started at the request of one of the early cross county coaches to allow him to identify prospects since cross country running was not a sport in most of the high schools that freshman boys had attended at the time. (Davidson was all male then.) The first fifty finishers out of a total 250 freshmen got to choose cakes made mainly by faculty wives (no female teachers at the time either), and Embry’s mother (wife of the college president) always took great pride in making a special cake. Rumor had it that one of the major status symbols among the Davidson village women  was making the cake that was  chosen by the winner.

The event had special meaning for me. I had been a polio victim in the mid 50s, having had to miss two years of school and never being allowed to participate in athletics. Now as a freshman and away from Nashville, except for my classmates from Nashville, no one knew that I had had polio, and I wanted to keep it that way. My doctor said I could try to do athletics “in moderation” and “within reason.” This was my opportunity to turnover a new leaf and reinvent myself. The paralysis that I had was mainly in my right hand, arm, and stomach, not so much in my legs. I had the fantasy that maybe I might have innate talent as a runner. The night before the race I dreamed that  I charged ahead at the front of the pack and came in first in a moment of spectacular glory.

The  challenge was that I had never run a long distance before. In fact I doubt if I had ever run more that 200 yards at one time. But still, you never know. You would think that at least I would have given it a practice try beforehand and perhaps even train for the event. My excuse was the timing. The Freshman Cake Race occurred on something like day two or three of orientation. In any event, nothing ventured, nothing gained. Maybe this would be my moment.

As we lined up at the start of the race I was impressed with how many upper classmen were present to watch the race. This was a pretty big deal.  I stood on the starting line with my heart beating at twice its normal rate anticipating the sound of the gun. Boom! Off off we charged! I was one of the first across the starting line. The first 100 yards or so were across a practice field before the racers reached an opening leading to a path that would wind through pine woods with their fallen needles providing a cushion  for another two miles. I knew that if I stood any chance of doing well, I had to be near the head of the pack before we entered the woods. My start had been perfect.

As one who at age 30 began a lifelong passion of long distance running, I look back on that moment now in disbelief that I could have been so naïve. What exactly could I have been thinking?

Whatever it was, by the time the pack reached the opening to the trail, my lungs were killing me. My legs felt like jelly, and I had already paused twice to catch my breath. I felt sick to my stomach.  It got worse from that point on. Before I reached the mile one marker, I had dropped back, way back. This was the moment when I modified my expectations of a strong finish and committed myself to a new goal of simply finishing. The hell with everyone else, I said to myself. Dammit, I am going to finish this race, and I am not going to come in last.

About a half hour later, I was edging closer to the finish line. By this time I had run as hard as I could, then walked, then tried running again. Most of the time I was out of breath and painfully aware that others were passing me by, even the stragglers. Keep going, just keep going, I told myself.

Finally, I emerged out of the woods, limping along trying to make as strong a finish as I could. I saw many upper classmen lined along the final 100 yards cheering,  but from where I was  I could see no runners ahead of  me. What had happened to everyone? I had no idea of what they were cheering about. As I approached the finish line,  stumbling, I saw  about a dozen or so guys laughing, guffawing, and pointing at me. Then in a singsong they started yelling, “Dead last, dead last, dead last!” Others chimed in, “Wimp, wussie, war baby…” I looked over my shoulder briefly. No one was behind me. As I staggered across the finish line, the race officials were beginning to remove chairs and barricades, and the top finishers were choosing the last cakes.

At that point I collapsed. I did not hit the ground but fell into an empty bleacher seat, placing my head in my hands and staring down at the dirt. The cat calls continued for a couple of minutes, and then the group dwindled to about six and then dispersed, laughing and pointing their fingers at me, giving each other high fives. I wanted to crawl into a hole.

I just sat there, staring at the ground, totally exhausted and completely alone since the few remaining spectators had moved over to the awards ceremony.

Then I felt someone squeeze my shoulder and gently pat me on the back.
“Nice going, fella, you gave it everything you had.” His voice was soft and gentle. “Way to go!”

I was too embarrassed and astonished to say or do anything, but I managed a weak smile and turned my head to say thanks to this kind and gentle person.

But there was no one there. Not a soul. It could not have been more than a few seconds before I managed the courage to turn and look him in the eye, but where could he have gone? Poof! How could he have disappeared so fast? I thought about it for a moment and realized what I wanted to tell him was that he had transformed one of the worst nightmares in my life to a strange kind of a glory, not unlike what I had imagined in my dream. I wanted to thank him for this act of kindness. I wanted to thank him for making a difference. But where was he?


When I told this story to a friend many years later, I noted that what I was sad about was that I never had a chance to let this mysterious person know how much this kind gesture meant to me.

“Are you absolutely sure he appeared out of nowhere?” my friend asked.

“Well, more or less. I certainly thought everyone had left for the awards ceremony.”

“And that when you turned around, there was no one to be seen anywhere near you?”

“That is correct.”

“Oh, well then, he was an angel.” He seemed dead serious.

I protested, “No, You don’t understand. He was absolutely real. I know he was real. This really happened. I did not imagine this in my mind!”

“Of course not,” he replied, “ He was real alright. Angels are like that.”







Advent 2018

In the secular world we inhabit in  the U.S. in 2018 it is easy to forget that the season which ushers in “The Holidays” is called Advent, and it is the first season in the Christian calendar. Traditionally this has been a time of reflection and anticipation in preparation for the Christmas season, which actually starts on Christmas day, not at the ending of the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. I plead guilty to being a secularist myself despite my loyal, active participation in our neighborhood Episcopal Church. Being both a secularist and a “churchman,” however, I often find myself asking the question this time of year: what is going on here.

The irony is that if Advent is supposed to be a time of contemplation and slowing down, for many it is the exact opposite. Office holiday parties, holiday get-togethers, open houses, Christmas shopping, meal preparations—all this adds up to a lot of stress. On the other hand, for many the holiday season often reinforces and reminds people of their loneliness and isolation.  It turns out that this is a pretty stressful and difficult time for many.

So what am I going to do about it?  Here are my Advent resolutions:

One: Try to think less about Trump and avoid watching Morning Joe. Put Faux News on hold.

Two: Try to think more about family, friends and loved ones.

Three: Appreciate the many blessings in my life.

Four: Try to be kind and considerate of others—especially those less fortunate.

Five: Try to remember what this season is really all about in the first place: It is about hope. It is assurance that days will start to get longer again and the world will not end in darkness. It is a reminder that there is a higher purpose in this life and that life on the planet Earth has profound meaning. Christmas is ultimately about God’s love for us humans. While I confess to being a universalist theologically (“one destination, many pathways”), that does not mean that God was not present in the person of Jesus or that the birth of Jesus is not a special and holy event to be honored and celebrated.

Now whether I succeed in my resolutions is another matter. Putting aside the sordid stories about “Individual-1” will be particularly challenging. If matters get really dicey, I may sneak in a Faux News Special. But I will try not to.

Best wishes and many thanks to you, my loyal blog followers. I do not know who you all are but do know a bunch of you and am deeply grateful. May your “Holiday Season” be contemplative and without excess stress and may the mystery of its meaning not be lost.






My Close Encounter With George H. W. Bush

There are few times in life when one gets the chance for a close encounter with a high level official. For me this occurred in 1983 with the then Vice President of the United States, George H.W. Bush. I was not a big fan of the vice president at the time, finding him too patrician, noblesse oblige, and out of touch with the common man. Plus he was an old school, conservative Republican.

 On this day my once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to humble the man and put him in his rightful place was staring me in the face.  It happened on a dreary, cold, fall day in early November on the running track at St. Albans School. Bush lived in the vice president’s mansion only a few blocks from the school and was known to run around the track at Saint Alban’s along with his secret service bodyguards. I had seen him running myself a couple of times before and did not think much about it, but this time as I came running down the hill from the National Cathedral, there he was, chugging along at a pretty slow pace. I, on the other hand, was at the top of my running game. I was routinely logging in 20-25 miles a week, had clocked a 10-miler at 72 minutes and was riding high. I was signed up to run in the Marine Corps Marathon in a couple of weeks.

The idea popped into my head seconds before I reached the gate leading into the playing field: I am going to dust the guy. “Dusting” is a runner’s term which refers to an action when a faster runner approaches a slower runner from behind, then slows up to run along side him for a brief moment, followed by a stunning acceleration, leaving him “in the dust.” It is an act of bold superiority designed to humiliate the slower runner, to show him who is boss. What more could I ask for? This was my moment.

Instead of passing by the track as I usually did, I turned into the gate and charged onto the track about 25 yards behind the Bush team. He was  guarded by three secret service companions, one in front and two jogging behind him. Two additional guards were at the gate to the track, and I heard one of the guard’s hand held radio sputter out, “Watch the guy in the red jacket.”

I was wearing a red jacket.

It did not take me long to catch up. I could feel my heart throbbing not from running too fast  but from anxiety.  I was about to pull off a stunning victory. The guards were far enough behind that I could swing in toward the vice president, just for a second, run near him, and then turn on the afterburner, streaking ahead in a moment of glory.

It all worked perfectly. Until I started my acceleration. Down I went with a thud, stumbling into a mud puddle, landing face down in a pool of wet cinders. Ooops!

The whole world seem to stop. The guards surrounded  and frisked me, probably wondering what kind of idiot I might be. It is a miracle that I wasn’t shot.

Then an outstretched hand met mine and pulled me up.

 “Are you, ok?” someone asked.

“Er, yes, Mr. Vice President.”

“Well, be careful, especially when the track is wet.” And off they chugged as if nothing had happened.

I stood alone on the track for a couple of minutes, dejected, wondering how on earth this disaster could have  happened. I had never stumbled or fallen when running before.  I then turned around and started to jog home. As I looked over my shoulder, I saw the team coming around the track and a smiling vice president waving goodbye. Grinning sheepishly, I returned the wave and could not help muttering, “Serves me right, serves me right.”

So from that day on, while I never agreed with his politics or voted for him, I became a closet fan. Maybe he was a patrician, but he also was the real deal. And from the perspective of where we are today, oh my goodness!  May he rest in peace.