Well, That Went Sideways Quickly.

I would like to state at the beginning, that a part of this is satire. You get to decide what. It will keep me from being sued. Parts of this are definitely fabricated for comedic value.

This past weekend I enjoyed the Florida sun a bit much. Not the “Dude, you need to go to the hospital” bad, but I turned a nice pink. Bald heads burn quickly. I didn’t get any blisters, and it was more of a pink than a red, but it was clear that I had been outside working in the yard and lost a few fluids as a result of basking in the April and May sunshine that you get this close to the equator.

Sunday afternoon, after church and a lovely lunch with my best friend and wife (the same person) I packed an overnight bag and drove for three hours to do a sleep study at a major hospital.

Why a sleep study?  I have sleep apnea. I know, I’ve mentioned it before, and thus you wonder why another sleep study. It’s because of COVID. I swear, that’s the only reason.

I did my first sleep study in the 1996-97 time frame. It was an absolute joy (no sarcasm, it saved my life.) The technicians were very nice, the room was like a hotel room, and they served breakfast the next morning. More importantly, they saved my life and put me on a CPAP that night. I got my first good night’s sleep since basic training once they put me on the machine. It was bad enough, as sleep apnea goes, that they sent a technician out to my house with a CPAP for me to use on the Fourth of July. Yup, they figured it was serious. 

I blundered along with that CPAP for about 15 years until my employer changed and I had new health insurance. They, for some strange reason, wanted me to prove that I would die from breathing problems if I didn’t have a CPAP. How do you do that? You make the poor schmuck (me) come in for a sleep study and force him to try and sleep without his CPAP. It’s frightening. But I did it, and once they caved in and put the thing on my face (about an hour in) I was good to go for the night. It was a nice room, the nurse was a little crabby, but not too bad. I did, however, hate the testing process as it is frightening to someone with sleep apnea. Nobody needs that extra anxiety.

Fast forward to November 2020. My spiffy (but now elderly) CPAP failed to power up right around Thanksgiving. Thankfully I had an older unit which worked, and was the one I travelled with to distant places. Why lug around the old one which weighs twice as much?  Because it has fewer computer functions, was far more physically robust, and less likely to gork out when the power bounced in Third-World nations. 

I put it to use that night, and the very next business day I started trying to get a replacement unit from my health care provider. They, bless their souls, wanted me to provide a new prescription for the thing. Uh, okay. Call my pulmonologist. Nope. The clinic wouldn’t do that because they were closed for non-emergency cases. I personally consider breathing to be an urgent matter, but not the insurance group.

I finally wrangled them into agreeing to just replace the thing, and then worked on the supplier. They wouldn’t let me just drop by the shop and pick a new one up. No. They were closed and working remotely, and I’d have to wait. 

So I waited. One week. Again, breathing is good, I am in favor of it. I called them back. Evidently there was much more to this and I needed to wait and make an appointment with a clinic that was closed for an indefinite period so that I could order a device from a company that was indefinitely working from home and unable to give me a CPAP.

I called the medical team at the VA. I had someone on the line asking for my address to ship me a new CPAP within 3 hours. They, strangely, considered breathing important. I didn’t even have a prescription on file with them, but my records showed that I needed the machine and had been diagnosed by someone somewhere with sleep apnea.

It arrived, it worked well. It does the job. Unfortunately, my new doctor team when I moved to Florida spotted the fact that I was being treated without a diagnosis or a prescription by their organization. 

Thus I was offered the option of driving about 5 hours total to pick up a testing machine, bring it home, do the test, bring it back, and then go back home. Or, and I chose this one, drive 6 hours and get the full sleep study.

Sunday afternoon was lovely. I drove in the sunshine with the tunes basting in my ears. I arrived an hour early and read a book. I checked in to the clinic and was directed to my room for the study.

All was well until I was asked to produce my Ambien so I could take it and get ready to sleep. Can’t sleep well without the stuff. Too many years of night shift. 

I searched the bag. I found everything I needed for the study – except the 1 centimeter long pill that it all hinged on. Mind you, I’m in a gigantic hospital which has a pharmacy. Nope. I was supposed to bring that pill.

It was at that exact moment that I learned why the Germans loved having surrogate guards from Belrus and the Ukraine in their camps. I met “Ludmilla” the woman who was in charge of monitoring me. 

“You forget pill?  How you forget pill? Study will fail because you did not the one thing you need bring to hospital.”

She stormed out. I had a brief chat with God, and asked Him to let me sleep enough to do the study. I think He agreed. I trust Him. He also knows I’m very twisted and all I could think of was the Wendy’s commercial about Soviet fashion shows when she angrily chastised me. 

When she came back, it was another five minutes on how I was a “Durock” (stupid person – she didn’t say it, but it was pretty clear) for forgetting pill. Finally I simply agreed that I was a deviant, perhaps even a criminal, for missing out on a 1 centimeter long white oblong in packing my CPAP, other meds, inhalers, etc.

I figured I’d calmed her down enough to move forward. I asked, very nicely, where she was originally from. It was the biggest mistake I could have made. My attempt at charming her led to a rather lengthy lecture on why the Soviet Union was right in oppressing the satellite nations and republics. 

“They needed firm hand to deal with stupid people. Now stupid people have divorced from Russia. How can you be real country if ends you cannot meet make? They need Russia, but stupid pride gets in way. They will never get territory back. Russian people in those places a vote held.”

Okay… Wow. How could this get worse?

I found out in the next breath. “Stalin did many good things for those people. In 1954… And even Lenin helped them improve…”

That’s how it could get worse. 

I was then instructed to strip and climb into a tub full of ice water and hydrogen peroxide. Shrinkage. Bubbling of raw tissue… well, not really. But I was then told to “Get ready for test. Take off shirt. Sit on chair and do not move. I will be back.”

About 45 minutes later she returned. My feet were turning blue from the cold. I was then wired for sound. Evidently I was not only too stupid to remember pill, but too hairy for sensors. I detected a certain amount of glee as she stuck extra sticky pads to me on my back and sides, and never connected wires that I could see. I felt like Krusty the Clown when he was trying to quit smoking.

via GIPHY

The razor came out and I was promptly shaved to make things work. Let me tell you, the beard is sacred territory. But it got trimmed under the mass so my neck would take the wires. Lots of wires. Wires on my back, chest, legs, and arms. All of it with the same adhesive that the woman used to plaster her hair down and got a shell. I knew hair was leaving in the Ukrainian equivalent of a Brazilian wax the next morning. Thank Bog (Russian for God) I’d shaved my head that morning.

The bed was produced: it was a Murphy bed that folded up against the wall. I was told to lay down and not move. At this point I’m looking for the cattle prod to make an appearance if I keep up being bad. I don’t move. It’s cold in the room. I normally sleep in a cold room with a lump of blankets, usually 5 layers and a pair of comforters. There is a blanket on the bed that I’d missed. Honest, it was about the thickness of two Handiwipes

I was then told not to sleep on my back. Mind you, there are so many wires on me that I couldn’t not sleep on my back. I rolled to my side toward the wire tether and tried to sleep. It was a challenge. First, the room is well lit with emergency lighting. You know, the little lights along the floor in big buildings. Not exactly conducive to sleep studies, but there they were. 

I think it was actually the “pilot” led on a wall panel that first disturbed me. Intercom unless I’m mistaken. Glad it had power. But it was green spectrum and annoying. 

I tried rolling the other way and discovered that the hand-sanitizer dispenser flashed Morse code for YOU WILL NEVER SLEEP every 27 seconds. Not a little led, a big one indicating power would not go away in the event of an emergency. 

There I am, no sleep drug, blinking lights, tethered like a falcon on a Saudi’s forearm, and wondering if hypothermia is a common issue under the tissue paper blanket.

I finally fell asleep some great time later. On my back. I awoke to the door admitting brilliant corridor light and Ludmilla saying, “I was specific! Not sleep on back.”

I’m on the edge of lucid and say, “Did I sleep?  I was afraid to doze off and quit breathing.”

Wrong answer. “You sleep but on back. What size mask?”

I remembered being told I was out of my mind using nasal pillow masks and told her I’d try the full face mask she preferred. Picture a funnel being strapped over your nose and mouth, with bungee cords going behind your head. You then cinch down the cords and wait until the patient moans in agony. The full face mask is now ready.

“Sleep on side.” Bang. Door shut. 

I tried. I really did. But the thing kept hitting the pillow and pushing into the bridge of my nose. I must have grabbed at it because out of the dark, just as I fall asleep, I hear “What is with mask you are doing?”

I’m done with being nice. “I have no idea, I was asleep.”

Speaker clicks off and now I am working through every problem in life. What is the name of the neighbor’s toddler? I know it starts with a “C” but can’t remember. This goes on until I switch topics and review every rotten thing I’ve ever done and apologize to God once again. If it was more than five years ago, I have to remember all the context as well.

I finally dropped off to sleep. I must have run out of sins to apologize for, because I clearly started a new list of them to repent for. I base this on my next conscious thought being “A bear is killing me.” 

It wasn’t a bear. It was Ludmilla thrashing my head around by yanking on the full face mask.

“Mask is leaking! What you do to mask to make it leak.”

We’d hit 5-g’s with the head swinging, and the mask must have quit leaking, for she left me alone until 0500 when the lights went on and she said, “Study over. Do not move. You are leaving.”

Yes I was. No doubt about it. She couldn’t wait to get rid of me, and the anticipated Ukrainian version of the wax job was in full swing. I swear there were more patches on my back than she applied. Perhaps she was just grabbing hair and pulling out of spite. 

In any event, I was out of the door by 0530. At that time of day, the only thing open was “Submerging Fried Pastry Circles.” I was really hungry and ordered a breakfast sandwich and a coffee. The coffee was excellent. The breakfast sandwich required Imodium later that afternoon. Other details are without merit.

I drove down I-75 with the traffic flow at 80 mph in the predawn and pounded on the search button to find a station that didn’t make we want to swerve into a swamp. It didn’t matter if it was country, rock, oldies – all of them had 2-3 “on air personalities” trying to be cute and clever. Live radio is a tough gig. Filling dead air is hard work. None of them were up to it. 

At 0705 I was punching around and heard what sounded like a station signing on the air. The next thing I heard was “The Star Spangled Banner” booming out of the dash. I turned it up. Truly my favorite song. 

Only in Florida, have I experienced this on the radio. Having come from a blue state, ain’t no way they would do it. But as I buzzed along I realized how blessed I am to live in this country, especially in Florida. I realized that I was very proud of my service, and the fact that my wife and most of my friends are vets as well.

It made the drive worth it. The torture chamber with blinking lights, the Ukrainian dominatrix, and the inedible fast food all faded from my concerns. 

I was an American. And that made it all good. 

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This One Is Important.

I wrote the funniest blog post in years on Monday. Out on my lanai (back porch) in the afternoon.

I also deleted the funniest blog post in years when my sweaty palm swiped the pad on the laptop and deleted 1/2 of the post.

I may, or may not finish it for next week. 

But, in the meantime, I was looking at the sales charts for my audio books and novels. Ouch. It seems that I have been handing out free downloads and getting no mileage out of them.

So, here’s my request:  If you’ve read a book I’ve published, or listened to any of the audio books I’ve recorded, please go to to Amazon and review them right now.

Seriously, your review (and be honest, I’m not asking for charity here) impacts my sales figures directly.  The more reviews, the higher the work is in the search engines. 

Two reviews is sad and pathetic when we’ve given out 20 free downloads. I really need you, my customers and fans, to take that time to write a review. Now, if you aren’t an Amazon or Audible customer, you may not be able to review. But if you’ve used a free download you had to open an account and have no excuse. 

In the immortal words of Ricky Ricardo, “You got some ‘splainin’ to do…”

Pretty please?  I don’t often beg, but this would help me a great deal.

Thanks.

 

 

Moving In: Part 67B

If you had shown me the curve of work versus time to get a new house in order 6 months ago, I would have just burned all of my stuff and gotten a furnished place in a high-rise. Thankfully that wasn’t the case, but there are days that I wish …. well, I just wish.

I am sitting on the lanai (expensive word for back patio) enjoying the roar of gunfire and ATV chases across the canal. Seriously: sounds of freedom. The sun is up, there’s a steady breeze, just enough clouds to keep it tolerable in the direct light, and a hint of stuff growing in the scent.

Inside my house the medicine cabinets and ceiling fans are finally done. The electrician came back this last week and fixed the “oops” wiring in a couple of rooms. I have learned that three levels of electrician come in and do the work. The first level just string wire from point to point and don’t connect much at all. The second level put in the boxes and switches. The third group put in the light fixtures themselves and test the power. Group one and two may/may not ever test the circuit. They work to plan – or habit. The third wave only tests the circuits they put bulbs/appliances on, and don’t check every outlet. This includes the ceiling fan holes that were preinstalled. Stout fixtures, but in modern homes you are on your own for putting in the fans. 

This also applies to towel racks, medicine cabinets, and anything beyond a minimal amount of shelving. We’re still working on the shelving, but most of the other stuff is done. Once the shelving is complete (we’re using the high ceilings and putting in two additional rows of shelves for a total of three) we will be able to empty the last containers. No point dumping out the contents until there’s a place to put them. 

At this point I’d like to offer my services as a decorator to new home builders. I know you leave things undone so the owner can customize the house. More importantly, it saves you labor and parts. I think I can reliably speak for over 90% of the people in the United States who are buying brand new homes: I don’t want to customize it. 

I’d like you, the builder, to put in an insane amount of shelving. (I can always take down a shelf if I need a taller space.) I want you to install the ceiling fans and test them: older people hate ladders and fiddling with wiring. It’s a pain in the rump to do the work. When you get to the last ceiling fan you’re good at it. The first two are tough. If you have a guy who does this all day, he can knock out 3 homes a day. I can’t. You can pick nice things and if they want an upgrade, they will do it. But you buy the stuff for 5K, install it, and charge 10K?  That’s a good deal.

Same thing with towel bars. Just put up brushed nickel and be done with it. I like a place to hang my towel (and do the shower rods while you’re at it) the first day when I’m taking a shower at the end of a filthy day of opening boxes. 

Now that I’m on a rant, let’s talk about some other high-end stuff. In remote areas (like mine) just install a whole-house Reverse Osmosis system at construction. Everyone here has one, the water softener you installed was doomed starting 1 year after install. RO is the only logical option. Again, if people are forking over 300-500K for a home, adding on 5K for good water isn’t a big deal. 

In Florida, offer a solar option. This is the only one that’s marginal, but hear me out on the logic. If you build the house to use solar, and you build a lot of houses, you get good at it. You make money, people like it, and it saves them from putting it in later. Make it a feature. Again, it’s lots cheaper if you put it in versus the owner. 

If you have made it this far, you will understand what I’ve been doing for the last two months. Today is the anniversary. We’re not done yet, but close. I am sure, however, that both of us would have been glad to pay 50K more for the house with it all done before we got here. 

So, builders, I’m available to consult with you and help you up the game. I’m cheap (relatively) and I know what people want in that new home. Give me a call. 

Later, my friends. I have to go install a shelf.

Batten Down The Hatches

I get to say that as an old sailor. As an old guy who has lived long enough to see stupid almost hit its zenith, I am saying it today in regard to the trial in Minneapolis. It’s about to hit the fan.

If you’re sporting a bumper sticker that identifies you as a charter member of Antifa or BLM, or you feel deep in your heart that roving bands of white cops are executing black toddlers for fun, you aren’t going to like this blog today. But if you’re doing the above, and have any gateway in your head that allows in discussion for evaluation, take a few minutes to read along: you might come out the other side better adjusted to reality.

The two most prominent deaths at the hands of police in Minnesota over the last year were both tragic for the families. But both made me think of the response I would anticipate if I died in a drunken car crash. Now, this is not me anymore, but once-upon-a-time, I drove intoxicated more than a little. Not since the early 80s have I done so, but let’s travel back to that time. 

If I smashed my car into a bridge abutment after a chase by a police officer, would you have blamed the cop? He didn’t mean for me to die, but if he hadn’t tried to stop me after seeing me weave all over the road, it probably wouldn’t have happened that evening. 

My actions, much like those of the two in question above, and the associated life-style choices, led to the interaction with the police. Once you open that Pandora-styled box by using drugs, passing counterfeit bills, drunk driving, or abusing your dog, you have now invited the police into your life. It’s all against the law, and you have two options: you can engage an armed officer in battle and take your chances (including their making mistakes that take your life) or you can submit peacefully and deal with it in court. 

There are no other options. It really is that simple. Because the minute you flip open the box, anything can happen – and it probably will.

It wouldn’t have helped me, or changed a thing, if my family and friends had all protested my death while drunk driving: I would have still caused my own death by being drunk behind the wheel. There would have been no murals, no monuments, no “Joe’s Law” passed that made police let drunk drivers continue onward and end the pursuit the instant I tried to flee. Nope. Just a box in the ground in a cemetery somewhere in Dakota County.

Making martyrs of people who die in resisting the police is wrong. I’m talking about the ones who keep shouting, claiming they can’t breathe when they can (there’s a long history to this particular camera grabber), and struggling against being cuffed. Making martyrs of people who do everything right and die at the hands of the police is a good idea. That’s because they did their part and something failed along the way. Now, there will be the occasional heart attack or stroke that happens due to the increase in stress, and that’s not what I mean. I’m talking about the person who was physically targeted and abused by the officers.

That’s rare. Really rare. I work with cops in my retirement job in a position where they’re pretty open. I know a lot of cops who are my friends. If you don’t think that I’m on the inside for the good stories, you’re wrong. Good stories, if you have a dark mind, include the bad things that happen on the street, or in the jail. 

It is my experience that there are almost no cops out there who are targeting any kind of minority based on their race or bedpartners. There are very few cops who enjoy hurting others. There are a very small number of cops who are stupid and shouldn’t be doing the job.

In other words, I’m wagering that 95% plus of all cops are doing their level best in a tough job. The other 5% are more likely lazy or indifferent versus malicious. 

But there are a few bad cops out there. Nobody is denying it. And that’s why we have trials. Like the one about to conclude this week.

Mind you, I think that Derek Chauvin is more guilty of bad optics than anything else. He followed protocol, he didn’t asphyxiate Floyd by placing his knee on his neck for 9 minutes – it looked like it from one camera angle, but wasn’t the case.  George Floyd was dying of a drug overdose when this all started and that was a contributing factor in his death. The stress of the incident may have been the key that kicked his heart into the next life, but that’s for the jury to decide. The evidence presented by both sides is contradictory. 

There were multiple charges placed that Chauvin is on trial for in this case. The fact is that he was over charged to placate the public. The elements of the crime were not present to convict on at least two of the charges. It’s not my opinion alone, Alan Dershowitz opined in a similar fashion recently. When you charge someone with murder for backing over a guy in the supermarket parking lot and crushing him, you will lose the case. Why?  Because not seeing them in the side mirror does not show mens rea – criminal intent. You might be negligent for not checking the other mirrors, or even reckless, but you weren’t intending to murder them. They walked behind a moving vehicle and got crushed. They bear some of the blame for taking the risk of scooting behind the car. But the driver did not commit murder. 

Thus, when the charges were brought to trial, the fuse was lit for the next wave of rioting. Because unless the jury is completely terrified by the influence of people like Maxine Waters, they can’t rationally convict on the higher charges. The evidence is not there beyond a reasonable doubt. (Nope, didn’t watch the whole thing. Yes, read several pieces by lawyers who did watch it every day. I’m going with those reliable sources.)

When the verdict comes back in, the riots, looting, arson, shootings, and general mayhem will commence short of a blizzard or torrential rains. I’m hoping God has that on His weather outlook for this week. If Chauvin is convicted, in the absence of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, there will be celebration riots (like when the Gophers won the hockey title a few years back and the morons trashed Dinkytown near the campus). If he’s found not guilty, there will be instant chaos on every level.

But even then, it’s not over, because there will be an appeal if he’s convicted on the charges. There are solid grounds for a mistrial given that the jury was not sequestered during the trial and there was so much going on in the community threatening violence. There will undoubtedly be civil suits. Or, worst of all, the Biden administration can rush in with some kind of civil rights case and arrest him as he leaves the courtroom. 

No matter what happens this week, it’s just the beginning of a long hot summer. And a summer filled with hate and recriminations. 

What can be done to prevent this?  Let’s all try to understand that not every death is a murder. That there are consequences to life style choices. And that sometimes bad things happen. 

It’s not all about race. Or gender. Or any of the other triggers people have for their outrage. Is it fun, easy to accept, positive, or sought? No. 

But that’s a part of adult life. You get up off the dime and try to make it better the next time. You look to see if training needs to improve. Is what we have here a detainable offense (not the cop’s choice in many cases)? What was the root cause of this incident? Why did things go the way they did, and to return to the top, can we train to avoid this?

Most of all, try to be decent to others. Don’t loot, don’t burn, don’t shoot up neighborhoods. Protest if you desire to voice your opinion, but don’t bring it to the court reporter’s house and trap them inside. Pick a public venue and protest. 

Be safe, my friends. Pray for the National Guard, police, fire, EMS people in that area this week. They are truly peacekeepers and they need your prayers and support to get us on our way to recovery.

Pray.

Heaven Can Wait. I’ve Still Got Research To Do

Some of you have managed to make it through life as the members of the same church for your entire lives. If not the same building, the same denomination or sect. Me?  I’ve been around just a bit.

I started the journey as  a little boy in the Latin Church known as Roman Catholic to the rest of you. I don’t remember much of the pre Vatican II  church but I do remember the Latin a bit. Hey, that’s just because I’m a linguist and can’t help it.

My youth, until college, was spent in a variety of parishes around Saint Paul, Minnesota. It wasn’t that we were gadflies, because we did have a home parish, but because life intrudes and devout Catholics are obligated to attend mass each week. So, in the era before the internet (yes, I am that old) we had a collection of weekly bulletins/mass schedules from a dozen churches around the metro. If I remember correctly, some of the bigger churches had Yellow Pages ads with the schedule. So, if Sunday we were going to be on the road, or a big snow storm was coming, we’d hit Saturday night mass at another church if we were too late for our home parish. Same for Sunday: we missed church because of whatever, so we’d go somewhere that had an evening mass. (I have to confess, nothing is more depressing to a kid than Sunday night mass: you missed Disney and all the good stuff on Sunday night television. It is also when I learned to loathe “The Guitar Mass.”)

I walked away from God, and the church, at least part time when I went to college, and didn’t go back until I was in my forties. I guess I was too smart for all that nonsense. But I was wrong: it’s not nonsense. I discovered that God did love me and I needed to be there to talk to him.

So, where did I go?  I went back to God via a COGIC church. Man, about as far from Catholicism as you can get!  God really pulled me in to his arms there, we both got baptized again, and it was a big change being in a small predominantly black church after white city/suburban churches as a kid. Stayed there a few years until it just didn’t feel right anymore. It was a very small church, just 40 people on a busy Sunday.

Then we went shopping. 

After a year of bouncing around, we settled on Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Missionary Baptists, think of the church scene in The Blues Brothers. Yeah, that kind of kinetic, Motown meets Jesus each week. (Warning: a bit of mild profanity in this clip.)

But, when we left Saint Paul to move to Florida, we left behind a big congregation of people we loved. It still hurts a bit, but we have great memories. (Yes, things do get that wild/good on occasion. That ecstatic form of worship is know as “Falling out” by the congregants. And, lest you think I’m making it up, I’d like you to watch a movie called “A Man Called Jon” – it happens to white guys as well!)

Thus the question: what kind of church now?

Well, this is what I wore for sunrise service on Easter:

Yes, I have a cowboy hat. I’ve had one for 40 years. I love them, and they keep my bald head from baking.

Here’s our choir on Easter:

There is a small, Independent Baptist church less than 2 miles from my house. As a matter of fact, when I roar past the church on the way home, I know it’s almost time to put on my blinkers for the turn.

Now, before I say the next bit, I want to emphasize that it is with love and great affection for the pastor and the congregation. I mean no disrespect in any way. 

This church is more like what you would see in a movie about a congregation in 1947 in the rural south than the big urban church we just left. One piano, one guitar, and occasionally a teenage girl learning the dulcimer. The choir is about 40% of the congregation, and the hymnal was printed before I was born. 

It is God’s house. And they loved us from the minute we walked in the door. I like the piano, but do miss the bass, drums, and 40 person choir in robes at Shiloh. I sing louder now, because they need my voice. Now that I’ve retired, I’m able to go to Bible study each week. We all had breakfast on Easter after the service in the school room next door. 

We will know everyone’s name very soon. 

The pastor preaches well. It’s a good message. I pray hard when we bow our heads for sick members of the congregation. 

Have I come full circle in worship? Nah. There’s probably an obscure chapter left for me. But for right now these folks are family and it’s a blessing to be 2 minutes away from the church.

What a road I’ve travelled. I hope it’s the Highway to Heaven. I liked that show.