Second Chances

25 years ago on this day, the impact two special friends had on my life was solidified. I send my love to all who knew them and felt the same. This is a reprise of something I published a few years ago…

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There was an article in 1998 that warned young reporters were getting their careers turned around by getting too involved with their stories, sometimes even making up details.  I know it seems like a simple case of common sense to just not do either, but if you’re in touch with emotions and recording certain events, that’s not always do-able.

When I wrote as a correspondent in the wilds of northwestern Ontario 25 yrs ago, I experienced something similar. Despite the seemingly tranquil setting of an aurora borealis framed mini mecca of 600, called Pickle Lake, I actually wrote quite a variety of stories around events that would rival any city. To be fair, there were another 600 or so around the town.

My ‘beat’ covered a collection of assaults, robberies, and murder, and my community profiles provided just as much color.  All of this belies the fact that despite that record, most people in the area couldn’t be a stronger, kinder, and more generous humankind sample.

I want to recount one story that I wrote then, that I wish I could re-write now.

One of my favorite “P.L.” adventures, which took even me by surprise, was joining the town’s volunteer ambulance service.  I studied the necessary courses until I qualified, completed by also getting the license to drive the ambulance aka the ‘bus, which incidentally also qualifies you to drive an actual bus.

One of the senior attendants was a fellow by the name of Dave Halteman.  Dave was one of those friendly folksy type that make a name for themselves by being ready to help anyone, any time. He owned the local auto repair and service station, which also served as the base for all kind of local rescue.  I think one of his favorites was pulling my car out of a few snowbanks and ditches on those bitter winter roads, and for the record, local jeer-ers, I was not the only one.

Dave was up for anything, which he was called to do often, but most of his town volunteering was devoted to the fire and ambulance departments. He did a fantastic job assisting the oversight of those critical services.  Of course, it goes without saying those jobs take some bravery, and it turned out his personal bar was set at -quite high-.

He willingly took on the job to train a skinny, completely citified, 115 lb. greenhorn. Think about what it would take to teach that winning combo how to hoist a 95 lb. stretcher holding a 200 lb. patient into the back of an ambulance and then drive back to the clinic without skidding off the icy roads, and without breaking a nail.  Yeah, he was cool with priorities like that.

Dave’s easygoing nature didn’t mean easy; he made for darn sure I knew we were working for lives, for real.  Luckily, his patience level was set at -infinite-, because I definitely tested that bar too.  When I bungled, I got a stare that I would answer with my own mortified gape. Then this laugh would ring out.  Anyone who ever heard it, would agree – one of a kind.  Infectious. Unforgettable.

Whoever was treated to that laugh was also served by his decency.  He made a friend out of pretty much everyone who crossed his path because of his honest belief in ‘do unto others’.  Despite all the heroics of his emergency work, this was probably what earned him the most and deepest regard overall.  To say he was beloved to many is not an overstatement, his personality filled a town.

So on that December day, when the news came that his plane went down on the way home from a hunting trip, shock reverberated throughout the region.  No one could believe it and no one wanted to. Many of us held hope that there’d been a mistake. We would learn that the crash took not only Dave, but also his endearing and respected son-in-law, Everett Moore.  Ev was soft-spoken, tall, handsome, filled with kindness, and so young.

The town became still in the days that lead up to the funeral service. As everyone struggled to comprehend that what happened was real, the two caskets at the front of the community hall laid down all hope for good.

Those of us who served with Dave were privileged to stand in observance as his Honour Guard. The hall seats filled quickly, and everyone else stood outside on a bright, but frigid day listening through speakers.  There were several hundred who stood in that biting cold for the entire service and the interment.  I’m sure desire for relief from that cold was strong, but it couldn’t overcome the desire to pay those deeply felt respects.

The town took a while to rev back to some kind of normal. We learned there was a lot of navigating to figure out how to carry on without the steady assurances and answers of Dave.  We did though, because in many ways, the footprints he laid down were clear enough for us to follow, and so he still shaped worthwhile aspects of our own capabilities.

I wish I could have written all this in that memoriam story years ago, but I was too involved in my own grief. I couldn’t get myself to the place that does justice to the role of reporting, and in service to people who knew he deserved so much more.

I hope what I can put down now, this little bit more, will add to the legacy of how well Dave and Ev impacted people.

One last thing still bears saying too.  For a long time, many of us would often say how we’d give anything to hear that Dave laugh again.  The truth is, when I think of him I still do, and I believe that whenever we think of him, most of us still do.

RL

PostScript: I also owe a debt of gratitude to former Managing Editor, Thunder Bay Chronicle, Nick Hirst, for helping me cobble together the part of the story I did then.

Hello to my old friends in Pickle Lake and Mishkeegogamang First Nation who stood out in the cold with us that day.

Shut Up; Inspiration’s Tapping

Road blocks, creativity blocks, block heads…It’s a mindbender how often we stumble into the crevices of mental-logjam hell. Where you can’t get past step: what the hell is wrong with me? We’ve all encountered it and I have a theory about why. I think it’s a kind of, forgot who we are blockage.

I don’t mean traumatic amnesia or movement away from some great metaphysical understanding, not that those couldn’t be the issue. I mean by forgetting the simplest of our own self-connection, barring an osis attached to our psyches. I’m sure this isn’t new thought, but I landed on it while catching a breather.

I’ve had a few years of weaving around so many traumas that at times, I wasn’t sure I was still in the realm of general reality. It was hard work to get through that and one of my key coping tools was writing. I wrote out everything. I put it into journals, onto my blog, worked it into comments for online stories, into letters to friends. I wrote as though I was being chased by some spade-tailed catastrophic, disaster-delivering satan ready to fork me the minute I put my pen down.

Clearly, I wasn’t suffering from any blockage throughout all that. But – it was within this flurry of activity that I realized something. So much of what I was writing really didn’t have to do with the actual events that had occurred as much as what they activated in the storage room of my life.

One single lived moment can trigger a cascading torrent of imagination. A few incredible moments that shake us up to levels unknown can offer years of material. They needn’t have been traumatic, just the kind that opens up something, a doorway to that kaleidoscopic onion of infinite colors that is our subconscious.

We’ve all had them, these events, but we can’t really know how they will affect us when they occur. Sometimes, despite even our best efforts to forget them, memory will continue to haunt as though a living character in some perverse corner of the universe stuck on auto-replay. Relentless input, a consciousness stalker and its flying monkeys.

As a writer, any of these flashy inspirations can initiate a series of songs, poems, stories, or a simple chronicle of the event detailing what, why and how we were affected. They can induce flow for anyone – a photographer hits on a fantastic series of scenes to shoot. A politician may find that ideal answer to policy, the cure for cancer will attach to a researcher, the anybody who may unlock a talent long ignored, maybe bogged in banal duty or years of focused yakking about exes or bad bosses.

Conversely, there is another inspiration reality that’s just as effective, but seems to be less courted. Remember Newton, relativity, equal action/reaction? As much as huge events of any type can inspire, so can a simple minute of letting go and shutting up.

I suppose I’ve been learning that we really don’t have to search for inspiration; not when there are literally thousands of moments already in storage ready for excavating. Every one of our memories are multi-faceted jewels and each face has absorbed a song, a smell, a sound, a texture. Each is available and waiting. The only key to their door is closing the gate to absolutely everything else for a matter of mere minutes.

It’s a bit of practice initially, just letting thoughts float around, then up, then away… and wait. There will be no sudden heraldic choir announcement that it’s time to get your ass to the grindstone & forge the greatest creation ever. At least not typically, but if we wait a few minutes, the creation is there, ready. It will seep out timidly or flood our receptors, but either way, we’ll have achieved a nice BM, as in blockage movement. Yes, just as satisfying as any other.

Bottom line: rest is a requirement of the creative process, not a death sentence. So, shut up and let your muses get through to you. Or so they tell me… Mine mince no words. Ever.

RL

19 Women and A Guy Had a Chat In 27 Sentences and 50 Shades of Black & White…

19-suckers-44

A couple of years ago I wrote about a voracious online predator who tracked vulnerable blogging women and the aftermath of his being found out.  I cautioned then about the need to use extra care when interacting with people we really do not know.

A group I encountered recently schooled me in how easy it can be for people of any openness to be used by someone online.  It doesn’t matter how street-savvy or educated one is, if someone is trawling for someone to fill whatever needs, they will find a way to the heart of your matters.

They will find the route to your trust. They work only to find the one(s) who will say yes to their invitations in trust that will further win your heart and other supplemental prizes like boob pics or even Skype sex. Not every friend of this friend went so far, but the fact of the matter is, betrayal on any level, as these women experienced is bitterly painful.

The methods and motives of these people vary, but I believe the one for the man I write about here, while a person of many sides & talents, is a social predator and unable to build a real life of any meaning.

They couldn’t have found a more sincere and kind supporter.  Why would they think otherwise?  His words were so soft, so deeply kind, and so well designed to flatter and draw in comradery as quickly as possible.

He spoke to their vulnerabilities and oh, how vulnerabilities long for understanding and care. Without a doubt, you’ll never find a more tender and understanding soul.

They’d all heard them…those loving words of admiration he’d wrapped their hearts in; verbal ribbons of plush velvet, colored with 50 light hues of shady.  27 interchangeable lines for each woman of the hour:

I am in love with your mind.
I  love your heart.
Love yer shit! You’re brilliant!
I just fell in love with you.
You really are a talented funny intelligent inspirational bugga, arentcha!
Oooh, you’ve got them legs eyes smiles.
Do you have an email address?
Do you Skype?
Would you like to chat privately sometime?

Of course, he told them it was just to share ideas and thoughts about life in general… not anything inappropriate… after all, he is a married man.

Still, it won’t be long before he initiates chat about the sad state of affairs in his relationship(s), and then soon after he will seek commiseration along with their sympathy and most certainly, will want details of any distress within their own worlds. He’d say, as a former counselor, he’d be happy to work through that with you.

If I could do anything, I’d be there.
I’d do anything to save you.
*wipes away a tear*
Six feet whatever & 2 hundred blah pounds of protective love & hugs comin’ to you.
What’s his name?  Send me his address, I’ll have a word with him for you.
You deserve so much more…
You’re so strong, I so admire that …
You seem to know me so well…You’re the only one who really gets me.
You’re a hottie! Spunk rat!

Oh, how he does seek and then loves the protective sympathy that he so easily sweet-talks out of his followers. He only has to mirror it back and the game is sealed for this made-to-order knight.

You are a ‘chooser of the slain’,  the long awaited savior of we depleted warriors,
(Specific to those with surgical scarring)
You are beautiful…an artist,  a muse…
You are so wise & sweet…I love that.
You’re not a blogger! You are a writer!
I love you, < insert 19 or more women’s names >

I miss you, < insert 19 or more women’s names >
You’re such a special lady – legend!
You ‘have to’ come visit me; we’ll show you the time of your life, & I’ll even pay for your ticket.

Say yes to all that or similar and you’re in for an absolute full-time, hours per day, obsession –  unless you question him. Then that charm blows up at nuke level and you’re yesterday’s news before it’s even printed.

Interestingly, no man received the same level of support or invitations.  No variation of those statements was made to any male writer he followed.  Just a lot of, “Hey man, good stuff”.

I suppose one mind can come up with only so many lines for the same sorts of honeyed support, hence the repetition. That’s the least these women could concede, when they learned how, out in the real world, they weren’t so special after all.

Oh sure, he could say in his defense, which he did, that it was their own replies that gave him permission to carry on to where they went. That he did mean those things, just to different degrees.  Of course, one has to wonder who got which degree, and they did.

Well, he had to play it safe. It’s a delicate balancing act isn’t it?  Even if his hands were currently full with one or more, he’d still have to endeavor to hold onto the others at a safe distance. Just in case any of those in hand should drop off.

The feminine power he relies on to exist isn’t much different from how a car needs petrol to run, so a re-filling station is necessity. Note that he didn’t approve of his closest also having their own male variety servicing centres. Wonder what that was about?

Of the known 19, only a small few will stick around, insistent that they can heal his twisted heart because their own hearts are just that much deeper than the others.  They really are the real saviors of this poor, beleaguered, wannabe Norse seafarer.

After all… he said so.

True story.

RL

Shortly after this story was published, a group confronted this man and wanted to share his replies, which were decidedly less heroic than what he normally hailed to the public. More in line with the type of men he’d claimed to want to protect them from.  I chose not to publish the copies.
30 RED Flags of Manipulative People
http://www.elephantjournal.com/2016/03/the-secret-language-of-narcissists-how-abusers-manipulate-their-victims/
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For the average personality, here’s a great guide to supplement your gut checks on whether or not your online convos are appropriate:  When Does Flirting Become Cheating? 9 Red Flags

That’d be right, Babe

Gili Copy

He was a little less oblivious than she believed.  He’d feel it now, without seeing anymore, how her expression would change from the melancholic stare out at the water while she washed dishes or while they were out on the sand and she casually sifted it through her fingers to pick out shells or sea glass for photo projects or perhaps something poetic. Yes, he knew she was already gone across oceans.

He’d known for some time, watching as she drifted into her dreamscapes within the screen, feeling the sweet release of understanding from him – the other hims.

He knew all about her yearning explorations, racing off from the edge of her keyboard to faraway places of sand-groping windstorms.  He knew that she whispered with them all about his limitations, searching for commiseration and to be desired at the same time.  Daring and challenging any of them to be her answer.  She loves him, but…

Yes, Davis knew all about her whole other world and he knew it would only be a matter of time before he told her he knew. It was only a matter of time.  He loved her, but…

RL

The Daily Post Prompt Challenge to write about the experience of being outside, looking in – short story form.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/the-outsiders/

 

Posting Fireworks That Burn

Actions Prove who people areI’ve been flummoxed for a while by how some writers, especially those married or committed, seem to get away with amazing levels of sexual flirtation in their communications seemingly without consequence.  I’m not talking about defined sex blogs, I’m referring to those based on life in general, photography, poetry, travel, etc.

Of course, I only assumed no misunderstandings because we can‘t be sure what happens behind closed post doors, so I decided to chat with some bloggers about it. This was no kind of social, scientific, double blind testing to come up with any definitive delineation of appropriateness. I just wanted to check out what’s behind it.

What started out as group speculation about lines of propriety in public comments quickly escalated into a near bloodbath on fidelity beliefs.

The varying opinions on ease with sexual overtones or statements blew us all away to an unexpected level of discomfort, hence the heat – decidedly non-sexual.   The vehemence in favor of free-for-all comments by three of my conversationalists made me question my convictions somewhat.

I need to note that only one blogger agreed to let me quote him publicly. The rest didn’t want to drive this particular conversation to their own blogs.  Fair enough.  I guess.

I also state upfront that in the end, this is really all about personal heart stuff and we all have our own idea of what’s acceptable, but what’s reasonable or not for the average commitment?

We read through various post’s reader comments that included compliments on general beauty, the sexiness of physical traits to outright statements of being turned on by one another.

Some posts were deliberately provocative – selfies of semi-nudes, bathing/shower shots, etc., so we couldn’t really be surprised when comments outside of “nice pic” came in. However, some writers pointedly invited that attention, by baiting replies with: “Do I turn you on”? or “Does this invite squeals of delight or make you think squeaky bed springs”? Even so, in all cases, there’s no actual requirement to reply with one’s level of arousal, right?

To my mind, if you’re both single and clear about the play, enjoy, but if not is that really cool?   Would I want to read my guy either answering in the affirmative or drawing out that chat in any way?  Not in this lifetime, nor the last five or the five to come.

That opinion wasn’t unanimous though.  One of us was adamant that because it was a public comment, it clearly wasn’t meant to be a reflection of any deception or cheating.  Interesting, but would his love interest get that point?

Another concurred, saying that as long as it was all in the open, it’s just harmless flirtation that required no further input, end of story, and this was where the emotional temperatures started to rise a little.  (Full-disclosure, one of these opinions is from an ex).

I wondered if that sense of freedom included publishing a post of intimate or suggestive admiration to or by a married/committed person. Interestingly, we had unanimity in declaring that was over the line and merited cautious stepping off.

Next, we moved onto our definitely non-single writers who admitted they shared more than writing tips in email and Skype conversations with their online flirtations. They easily engaged in detailing various intimate aspects of their relationship’s communication, emotional, and sexual issues.  I know it wasn’t only my jaw that dropped.

Maybe it’s because I’m old(ish), but I can’t quite see how physical distance really justifies these behaviors.  Has the ‘new reach out and touch someone’ technology made it OK to share this kind of intimacy because you’re not really touching?  Apparently it does for some. 

A writer who doesn’t agree with that, but did agree to let me name him and air his views is Ned HIckson,  a popular humorist & journalist and a resoundingly committed married man.  Ned has a wide readership that includes many admiring women that he responds to daily in comments.

He says it’s always possible to mess up, but he follows some personal guidelines to sort it out. To start, he avoids complimenting or zeroing in on any woman’s specific or intimate physical attributes and he “would never, ever comment on how ‘hot’ a woman is, or that she ‘turns me on’ or even jokingly suggest sleeping together”.

He said, “Whenever I leave a comment, I ask myself two simple questions: How would this make my wife feel and if my wife wrote this to someone, how would it make ME feel?  If the buzzer sounds with either one, it’s deleted. I generally never need to get that far, but there have certainly been some situations when I was caught up in a comment stream that I had to gut-check myself simply because, though I have a “naughty” side and am a sexual person, I feel it’s something that needs to be saved for my wife”.

You have to think if any behavior is hurtful to your significant other, there better be a pretty significant reason for doing it.  If not, why would you even be with someone apparently that incompatible?

These contentions in the world of writing sort of flung me all over the emotional grid about my own expectations, but I didn’t come away with any new beliefs and I can’t say anyone else’s views were changed about their own approaches either.

I do know though, that publicly or privately, I’ll remain damned clear about respecting my relationships and of others; most definitely, I’d expect the same from my partner.

RL

Here’s a great guide to supplement your gut checks on whether or not your online convos are appropriate:  When Does Flirting Become Cheating? 9 Red Flags

Related post:

Love you, Miss you… Not Really…   …“Readers are not just recipients of thoughts, they are real people who believe in words, who respect words, and yes, mostly they realize the power of words. They know words matter”.

Love you, Miss you… Not Really…

Speaking softly with a false stick really effing hurts.

“Love you, miss you, I care, I’m listening, you matter”.

You matter, until what?

How is it that the very people who labor to use the power of words to sear their literary brilliance into the soul of another, often quite successfully, easily turn around in utter ignorance that their works of off-handed effort can also be taken to heart by anyone?

I love you; I miss you; I care about you; I’m listening; you are so special to me; I’d do anything for you; you matter.

I see these words used regularly, ‘normally’, by many in the world of blogs, story comments, Facebook notes, Twitter love,  in reply to their readers – certainly not all writers, but enough to see the consequences often enough.

I see how these words and phrases are used and it has come to drive me up the literary wall of frustration – and beyond the heart-break indignation sometimes expressed. It’s especially galling where the users are writers by profession or regularity in pastime. They should know about ‘the power of words’ better than anyone. They should be the ones defending the power of language.

Those who explain away those usages as just throw-away lines in the heat of their emotions or from the pinnacle of whatever uncontrolled enthusiasm have somehow managed to become some of the most clueless centers of their earth(ly selves).

Those sort of throw-away lines are not harmless whether they are tossed around in obliviousness or deliberately lobbed. To the uninitiated, they are bombs of hope or heartache. Some might say it’s one’s own choice in how to react, but I wonder…. who gets to decide that they get to be the testers of merit?

Readers are not just recipients of thoughts, they are real people who believe in words, who respect words, and yes, mostly they realize the power of words. They know words matter.

Our words are not just for titillation, or for creating magnetism to draw appreciation, adoration and viewing hits. The power of words is always about touching views, inner sight, hearts, and souls.

The irresponsible use them to assuage their ego-based itches and cuts. This level of self-service is fucking mind boggling (pardon my French, it’s Canadian, eh). (Sorry, France).

I have to ask, where is the honest to God respect for the power of words? Unless being a charlatan is the norm, since when should anyone, that you really don’t know, take for granted that words such as ‘I love you’ or ‘you matter’ or even ‘fuck off’ are a throw-away line of the most minimal meaning possible

Where’s the awareness of why one is doing whatever it is one is doing? It doesn’t take a great deal of effort to sit for a minute to ask, why am I going to do this or why does this matter?

Say what you mean and mean what you say – learned by many and usually the hard way, but oh, so worth the earn.

I know I reflected when I finished this post. My answer was, I do not understand why there is such emptiness coming from people who work so hard to carve out some attention to their views, and damn it all, I really enjoy a good rant now and then too.

RL

Pathetic and Dense; You HAVE To Be an Indian

There comes those moments when you sit back and assess why you do what you do.  I’ve done this recently in response to the reactions on my posts and comments about Indigenous Peoples based issues.

I originally started writing to throw out my views on general life events.  I worked around what I might write and I settled on the concept that my son would know his mother as a multi-dimensional being.  For the day that he realizes I am an actual person, I want him to know what I stood for outside of “dinner’s ready and is your homework done”?  I want him to know what I learned about the entire human experience.

I wanted to fill in as much of his background for him, in order to spare him and other children in our family, any moment of the emptiness I felt while growing up. There was little knowledge of my family history beyond the shame of what we experienced and what was said to define us.  A number of those experiences were based in the fact that I was born an Indigenous person.

I’ve written about some of my childhood and what it was like to grow up facing some of the ugliness of people who had no desire to hide their disdain for Indigenous anything.  I was called names that I knew were about disparagement of my culture before I had any idea about the concept of racism.  I was only about four or five years old when I first recall being called some of those names:  savage, squaw, filthy redskin, whatever it was, I knew enough to know it wasn’t good.

That was far from the last time I’d be called those sorts of names and treated with equal disdain.  Those overt efforts to denigrate me didn’t end until I was in my teens.  It was most likely the fact that public awareness was growing around the concepts of political awareness and correctness.

It would be three decades before the same kind of voices and sneers would come at me again.  I suppose I could count my last posted column to be the first instance of the return events – which caused a loss of some followers of my blog and my Twitter account. The most recent occasion was this past weekend.   I wasn’t called a savage, dirty redskin or a filthy Indian this time; they went for my intelligence and mental stability levels before they finished off with a reference to my ancestry.

This foray back into the dark happened while I was engaged in an online conversation.  It was within the comments of a national newspaper about the current call for an inquiry into Canada’s missing and murdered Aboriginal women.  The comments began mostly as denials for any need for inquiry, because the recently published RCMP report seemed to have all the answers already, despite the many calls showing the disproportionate numbers of Aboriginal women as victims overall.

The reasons for denying an inquiry have been solidly reported already, so I won’t repeat them, but it didn’t take long for the conversation to move from that topic to how it was about time for First Nations to take control of their own lives, to get over the past, and to get off the backs of taxpayers.

In defense, I began in earnest to answer the questions and reply to the statements of derision as quickly as they were being posted.  With each question, I would get another question or asked about something completely unrelated – the old, deflect to another point to avoid having to admit first point trumped – tactic.

With every answer I gave came the demand for proof, and when I provided reference links to support my statements, I was hit with personal aspersions.  Four people at various points each let me know that I was unaware of what planet I lived on, that I was “dense”,  “dumb”, “pathetic”, a “nutter”, and finally in  summation:  “You HAVE to be an Indian”.

National Post  Missing Women Sept 18 2014-3aNow, I don’t have a problem with being “an Indian”, even the sort that man was insinuating; I don’t deny my moments of mental densities, but I survived the years four, ten, twelve and the three plus decades with heart and soul intact.

While, I mostly repelled the sting of those arrows, they did make me question whether or not I was subjecting myself and possibly my son to potential harm down the road. Was I going to lose more people within my friendship and supporter circles?

I am prepared for any lack of interest or opposition to my views, but I can still be surprised by who those contradictions may come from.  It is painful to find out that people you thought gave a damn about you actually didn’t.  It is saddening to learn that people you counted on didn’t really have a backbone of their own, let alone your back, and that even people you admired can walk away with each step feeling like a slap to the face.

Here’s the thing about that stronger constitution I now own – it takes a lot less time to get over the hurt of crossing paths with those sorts of people.  Now I realize I am losing nothing except future moments of wasted time.  Whatever our purpose was to that point, it was served and now, time to move on, God bless.

I wrote a while ago that this was my tap dance, and part of the song is my ancestry.  The fact that my ancestry happens to be tied to very real and important issues for my country matters.

I will continue to write of human experiences, of my own triumphs and failures; I will write about what I find humorous, and I will continue to write about affairs Indigenous.

In fact, my next post is going to be about the answers I gave that caused those biting heads to explode in that online discussion. The part about how taxpayers do not support First Nations people and in fact, why taxpayers should be saying a hell of a lot of thanks instead.

I hope you’ll stay tuned.

RL