Tuesday, July 29, 2008

What's On TV?

I always knew what was on TV. I studied the schedules in TV Guide; I could picture them in my mind. Studying and reading TV Guide was a ritual that I looked forward to every week. It was just as important as Life Magazine and Childrens' Digest. I planned my evenings according to my favorite programs. Like a lot of kids my age I grew up staring at the Tube. I was born the year I Love Lucy premiered. The Golden Age of Television unfolded before me and my classmates, and we saw every trend, every type of program that came along, and we relished every minute of it.
Of course at first my favorite shows were the cowboys and Robin Hood. Zorro and cartoons of every type. The cowboy show was king in the 50's, and here in 1961 the top three most watched shows were westerns: Wagon Train, Bonanza and Gunsmoke. Up until '61 Gunsmoke had been my favorite program of all time. The adventures of the classic good guy Marshal Dillon in Dodge City. Did he love Miss Kitty or not? Gruffy old Doc and Chester, the good-natured deputy who limped and brewed a mean cup of coffee. I had to-I mean absolutely had to see Gunsmoke every Saturday night. It was tradition!
There were lots of situation comedies, mostly about families with kids, or about kids going to school. There were plenty of wise parents giving out advice; little morality tales designed to show us all how to behave and to do the right thing. We never really knew what most of the fathers on those shows did for a living, though.
We might see Ward Cleaver in the office, but we were never too sure what he did there, and Ozzie Nelson was always home puttering around the house. What did he do to support his family anyway?
Jerry Mathers was getting older, and Leave It To Beaver was losing its charm. Opie Taylor was the cute kid on TV now, learning about life from his Pa Andy Taylor, Sheriff of Mayberry, and his surrogate mother, Aunt Bea. We knew what Andy Taylor did for a living. He kept the peace on the streets of Mayberry while keeping an eye on his ever frantic deputy Barney Fife, played to manic perfection by Don Knotts.
We knew what Rob Petrie did too. We watched him and Buddy and Sally create a TV show. We got a glimpse of what it was like to be in on the creative process as writers tried out their ideas on one another. The Dick Van Dyke show was the first "sophisticated", more adult-oriented sitcom, and it helped to change the look of American comedy on TV.
Things were changing on the Tube here in 1961. The westerns were still on top, but they were slowly losing their grip. The staples of the 1950s were fading and in their place were young detectives in exotic locations. 77 Sunset Strip, Hawaiian Eye and Adventures In Paradise involved hip, swinging private eyes and lots of young and beautiful girls. Kookie, Kookie, lend me your comb!
We watched Tod and Buz search for America in their Corvette on Route 66, and women everywhere were entranced by young and handsome Dr. Kildare.
Animated shows cropped up in 1961. The Flintstones and Bugs Bunny were joined by Bullwinkle, Top Cat, The Alvin Show, Calvin and the Colonel and Matty's Funday Funnies, which would become Beany and Cecil the following year. Cartoons in prime time! Yeah, it would be a great year for TV. A lot harder to schedule, more difficult to choose. Which to watch now and which to watch in summer reruns?
Saturday nights would change. NBC made a deal that would bring recent movies to the small screen. Up till then the movie studios didn't want any part of the television business. They didn't want to help the competition, so most movies on television were low budget affairs that weren't very good. NBC's Saturday Night At The Movies would change all that, and if a really great picture was being shown that night, I'd even forsake watching my beloved Gunsmoke.
But for me, that television season brought us the funniest show ever seen. The actors were plain-looking every day people. They were New York's finest. The crazy, wacky antics of Gunther Toody and Francis Muldoon as they patrolled the Bronx in Car 54, Where Are You?
Car 54 was different. It was funny and crazy, and its characters gave us the full spectrum of America. It was one of the few ethnic shows in which everyone was equal. There were black policemen who were sergeants and dispatchers and regular patrolmen. There was Jewish humor and Irish humor, and it was all just plain hilarious. The patrolmen of the 53rd Precinct were regular guys just doing their jobs until things got complicated by the bumbling, ever confused Gunther Toody. The Precinct was run by Captain Block, who was always trying to control things without losing his temper.
Leo Schnauzer and his wife Sylvia, the Costanzas of their day. Gunther's wife Lucille would stick her head out of their apartment window and exclaim: "My husband's a nut! Did you hear me world? My husband's a nut!"
Whenever Gunther Toody would have an idea, he'd say, "Ooh-ooh," and you knew there would be something outlandish brewing.
There were so many crazy episodes that it's difficult to pick a favorite, but the one in which Gunther baby sits Captain Block's parrot Be-Be is one of its most memorable. The bird can't talk, and it's a source of embarrassment for the poor captain. Gunther decides to surprise the captain by teaching her to talk by the time he gets back from vacation. He attempts to teach Be-Be how to say "I love Captain Block," but gets so frustrated that he blurts out "I hate Captain Block!" Of course, this is what Be-Be learns how to say. Great characters, imaginative scripts and a wonderful cast had me looking forward to every Sunday night at 8:30. It was only on for two years, but it was two years of great TV.
TV was changing. It was looking for something new, searching for a younger audience. Soon Father wouldn't know best and Beaver would just leave. For whatever reason, Ozzie and Harriet would keep on having adventures, and the Douglas family would have more than three sons. More movies would be shown, and next summer I'd get to stay up and watch The Late Show and sometimes even The Late Late Show, watching Tarzan and the Marx Brothers and W.C. Fields.
Most of the prime time cartoons would go back to day time programming, but we'd get The Jetsons in '62.
There was a lot to like on TV. Only three channels meant the competition was strong, so there was always something good on at least one of the Big Three.
Yeah, there was a lot to like, and most people still loved Lucy.
But me, "I love Captain Block!"

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Family Matters

Dad had a stroke the other day. 3AM Tuesday morning to be exact. Scared the living you-know -what out of all of us and him.
Good news! He's recovering nicely and will be released from Thomas Jefferson Hospital today. 5 days that felt like a year.
Another close call for the man who keeps on ticking.
Thanks to the police, EMT's, the emergency room at Underwood-Memorial Hospital in Woodbury, and the staff at Thomas Jefferson.
Excuse me while I pause and take a deep breath. I'll be away for a few days.
Stay tuned-1961 isn't over yet. Three months to go. What will those pesky Commies do next? What's lurking in my bedroom closet? What Goes Up Must Come Down, and a new age of comic books! Whee-Zee and Carl and Christmas.
We'll be back.
Stay tuned.
Hang in there, Dad!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

When Parents Are Sick

Measles. Chicken Pox. Whooping Cough. The Flu. All the childhood illnesses we all went through, and there they were, looking after you. They smiled down giving you their love, reassuring, letting you know that everything was all right. They gave you strength and washed away the fear, and you felt safe knowing they were there to protect you.
How helpless they really felt, looking down, holding back the worry with a smile, a comforting word or two. How small and how frail we looked, in our fevered state, wishing the hurt would go away, feeling better just knowing they were there.
How scared and how troubled we felt when Mom or Dad were sick. Our towers of strength laid low and there was nothing we could do. Sleep was difficult, and we couldn't hide our worry as we looked down upon them.
It's even harder when you're the adult, and you're looking down with a reassuring smile; searching for words of comfort.
Is this the man, is this the woman who towered above me so, who seemed so strong and so powerful so many years ago?
Looking down you notice how small, how frail they are.
You feel so helpless, holding back the worry with a smile.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Rounding The Corner

It's October in 1961. Roger Maris hits his 61st homer on the last day of the season, breaking the record set by Babe Ruth. They put an asterisk next to it, because Roger gets 8 more games to do it in. Hardly seems fair, a season's a season after all.
In 2 months I'll be 10 years old, a lot of miles on this ride.
I'm a South Jersey boy, not southern New Jersey mind you. Yeah we live in the southern part of the state and all, but it's South Jersey if you please. We say "wooder", not "wahter", when we talk of H2O. It's a hoagie, not a hero, maybe a sub, but no grinders here. We've got lots of creeks, but for many of us it's a "crick", and we don't go to the beach, we go "down the shore".
When someone says they're going to the city- well, it's Philly they mean, not the Big Apple up north.
Our boundaries are the Delaware River and its bay, and the Atlantic ocean: sorry, the shore. Our northern boundary is kind of flexible depending on who you are. It could include all of Burlington County and parts of Ocean County too, but that's for you to decide, there's no fixed rule.
We drive past farms and small towns. Mullica Hill, Centerton, Swedesboro, Elmer. There are the sleepy counties of Salem and Cumberland, mostly rural and smelling of manure.
Take a walk through the pine barrens where wild orchids grow and cedar water flows in streams the color of freshly brewed tea.
The urban decay of Atlantic City down the shore and Camden on the Delaware; places that have seen much better days.
We will argue that no one grows tomatoes better than us; we can't wait for the taste of sweet white corn in the dog days of August.
Take a look back to see where we've been, take a guess about where we're going.
We'll take a break now, you and I. We'll sit in the shade with Whee-Zee by our side.
We'll hunt for soda bottles and take them over to the 7-11 for the deposit money and buy a candy bar or two.
Let's skip stones on the lake and soar down Chestnut Hill, and walk that same old trail to school.
Let's leave my red Rixe at the base of Freund's Cliff and we'll climb to the top to sit on the moss beneath the trees and ponder.
Stick with me as I catch my breath.
Then we'll hop on my bike and continue the ride....

Friday, July 11, 2008


I got along pretty well with most of my classmates. I preferred getting along with everybody; I didn't like fighting. Fighting with your brother was different, it was the way of things, but even then you got over it. I'd had enough of getting smacked in the nose by the older kids in my neighborhood, and since they had all moved on or moved out my life was pretty much free of any major confrontations.
As fate and the alphabet would have it, that would all change here in this Fourth Grade year.
I stood behind Bradley Lloyd whenever we had to line up for anything at school. I stood behind him in Third Grade as well, so it was a routine I had become accustomed to, part of the natural order.
But wait- was it my imagination, or had Bradley taken a disliking to me for some reason? It was subtle at first. He would "accidentally" step on my feet, or "lose his balance" and back into me. A lot of shoving and bumping. Had he gotten clumsy over the summer, I wondered?
Soon he made his intentions quite clear. He wanted to fight me, he said, and it was going to happen. He told me every day. The day was coming when he and I would have to square off and duke it out, and he was going to mop the playground with me.
I didn't understand. I thought and thought, but I couldn't come up with any reason why Bradley should dislike me so. Maybe it was the sound of my voice: maybe to him I sounded like nails on a blackboard every time I talked and he just couldn't take it anymore. I guess I was just the type of person he couldn't stand. Linda Hankin was like that to me. I tried as hard as I could to like her, but there was something in her personality that rubbed me the wrong way. I didn't want to punch her out, though. I just wished she would go away-far away- from me.
Every day there was tension. Every day a new challenge, with Bradley all in my face demanding satisfaction. What would be the point of all this, I thought? We'd still be in the same class every day, and I'd still have to stand in line behind him. What's with this guy, anyway?
I didn't want to go to school. I didn't want to fight. I didn't want to get into trouble, and I certainly didn't want another bloody nose.
I began to try and get out of going to school. My excuses were legion, but Mom was wise to the ruse, so off to school I would go, dreading every step. Maybe I should bring Whee-Zee with me and scare Bradley off, but that was no good. Whee-Zee was getting older now and didn't leave the yard too much. What was I going to do?
I couldn't take it anymore. I had to tell my mother, I had to get it all off of my chest. I couldn't sleep and I didn't want to go to school, and I didn't want to fight Bradley Lloyd.
Finally I told her. It all came pouring out.
Mom looked me square in the eye.
"Stand up for yourself," she said.
"If he hits you, hit him back."
"If he starts a fight, fight him back."
And that was that.
Wow, now I was more nervous than ever. I had permission to fight back, I was expected to stand up for myself, but I really didn't want to. The final reckoning was at hand, but it would be up to Bradley Lloyd, I wasn't going to be the one to start something.
It didn't take long.
Bradley was there, still in my face, issuing the challenge, proposing to fight if I dared.
What day it was, I'll never remember. Was it the playground or the front lawn of Sheila McLaughlin's house? I can't say for sure.
All I know is that I accepted Bradley's challenge one day. I was reluctant and I was scared, but it had to be done. I had to get this guy off of my back once and for all.
Was there a big crowd to witness the main event? I don't think so.
Who threw the first punch? Who knows?
Was it a bloodbath, a Rocky Balboa-like punch-a-thon, with Bradley and I barely able to stand?
Fists flew and punches landed. A lot of flailing about, and what seemed like an hour was probably all of five minutes. Bradley landed a punch to my nose, and all the rage in me came out, all the smacks from the older kids came to the fore, and I gave as good as I got, hitting back harder each time.
We sort of just - stopped.
And then we walked away.
Nobody won. Nobody lost. The only person who could give a reason for it all was Bradley, I still didn't know why.
I felt a little better about myself.
I got home and proudly told Mom that I stood up to him; I didn't back down.
I washed the blood from my nose and wondered what would happen when I went back to school. Would I have to prove myself over and over again, locked in perpetual combat with Bradley Lloyd, like the Titans of long ago?
Next day I stood in my usual place, the first M behind the last L. Bradley was in front of me not saying a word.
We didn't fight anymore.
I guess even Bradley couldn't see the point.
I could breathe a sigh of relief.
Fourth Grade could go on now.
I would go to school and take my place in line.
As fate and the alphabet would have it.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


A man named Sam Zemurray would die in 1961. I never heard of him. They wouldn't mention this in school. What's that got to do with bananas, you ask?
I like bananas. I would put them on my cereal in the morning before going to school to make stuff like Cheerios and Rice Krispies a little more palatable, a little sweeter on the tongue. I was learning about bananas in school. I didn't know how much bananas cost, but they must have been inexpensive, because we could have all the bananas we could eat. Bananas came from Central America, that group of small countries between Mexico and South America. They were our Latin American neighbors to the south, a land of happy people who wore colorful clothes while they danced and sang rousing folk songs in Spanish in the warmth of a tropical sun. Central Americans had thrown off their Spanish rulers just like we had gotten rid of the British, and now everyone down there was happy and free.
The people of Central America grew bananas and sugar and chocolate. Hardwood forests provided lumber and their mines gave the world metals it so desperately needed. The people of Central America must have been especially proud of their bananas; they were even referred to as Banana Republics, so they must have been proud indeed.
I and my classmates had no idea how much a banana cost. We just peeled them and ate them and put them on cereal along with sugar to make those oats and corn flakes and crispy rice taste a little sweeter.
As we studied the countries of Honduras, Nicaragua, Guatemala and all the rest, they seemed like such tranquil places, filled with jungles and exotic animals and the rich heritage of the Mayas. Truly, our happy Latin-American neighbors to the south.
We never really learned much about what happened there; who the leaders were or how the governments worked. Not much in our schoolbooks, really.
No one would tell us about Honduras. How an American, Sam Zemurray, hired gangs of mercenaries in 1910 and overthrew the government so he could get his way, so his reputation as "Sam the Banana Man" could grow and prosper. Fruit was big business, and American companies owned most of the land and the railroads and the telephone companies, and they didn't like governments that tried to tell them what to do. Hondurans would be free to do what the "Banana Man" told their new government what they could do. Sam Zemurray and his Cuyamel Fruit Company and its rival The United Fruit Company would vie for control of the bananas and the governments of Central America. Later on Sam Zemurray would control United Fruit, becoming one of the most powerful men in all of Latin America. American businessmen owned almost all of the land, and they controlled the economic lives of the people. The wealthy American companies could squash labor unions, set the wages and tell the governments how to function. The jungles would be destroyed, the exotic animals would die off so more and more bananas could be planted, and people like Sam Zemurray could reap more and more profits.
The American businessmen could set up dictators in these small nations to do as they pleased as long as "American Interests" were left undisturbed. Reformers were frowned upon, and when one popped up, they were quickly put down. It would happen in Nicaragua, and again in 1954 in Guatemala. The CIA-here they are again-would be involved in Guatemala. They would help get rid of President Jacobo Arbenz, another nationalist reformer who was trying to wrest control of his country from the hands of the American fruit companies. He would be labeled a Communist, and eventually his government would come tumbling down, paving the way for more dictators willing to listen to the demands of the United States and United Fruit. The people of Central America would writhe in an endless cycle of poverty, unrest and revolutions as they danced in colorful costumes singing rousing folk songs in Spanish in the warmth of a tropical sun.
So I sliced my bananas in the morning to eat with Cheerios and milk, to make it all a bit more palatable, a little sweeter on the tongue.
I knew where bananas came from.
I didn't know how much they cost.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Fourth Grade

1961: A few of us will be 10 this year, the rest will catch up in '62. Getting close to being "older" kids now, so this year our lessons will be tougher.
My teacher is Mrs. Schoener. She's blond and kind of reminds me of Donna Reed. All adults seem old to us, but Mrs. Schoener is somewhere in between old and not so old looking. Mrs. Schoener will be tough on us like Mrs. Lamson in Second Grade, but she will temper that by having a better sense of humor. She's got a bit of Mrs. Lee tossed in, so I kind of like her. She's pretty, too. Not as pretty as Miss Pedrick from my Kindergarden days though. Nobody will ever be as pretty as Miss Pedrick.
We have to write more like adults this year, so it's mostly cursive; we hardly ever print. This year we use white lined paper all of the time; the crude yellow stuff of our early years is forgotten. I practice my handwriting. I try as hard as I can to match the examples in our lesson books. Handwriting has always been one of the low marks on my report cards, so I'm determined that this year will be different.
The boys in my class seem to be in on things that I'm not. I'm from the other side of town, so I don't grow up with most of them, and I'm left out of their secrets. I notice a lot of them giggle when we're reading and words like bird and Dick are read aloud. I don't get it. What's so funny about words like bird? It takes me a while to learn the penis connection.
I am naive. When I'm out on the playground during lunch period, Mrs. Stewart, the Vice Principal tells me my barn door is open. Barn door? I don't live on a farm, and if I did how would she know the barn door was open? When one of my classmates tells me my zipper is down, I figure it out for my self. I could be quite the pea brain at times.
This is the year I get tired of the same thing for lunch every day. I loved Lebanon baloney. Just loved the stuff. I had Mom make me Lebanon baloney sandwiches every day. Lebanon baloney on white bread with yellow mustard. I had been eating that stuff for lunch every day for about two years, and one day I realized I'd had it, I could never eat Lebanon baloney again. Not even if I was starving to death. It was a giant leap forward. Ham and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, even tuna fish would now be on the menu. I was weird about the tuna, though. I hated mayonnaise, so I had Mom make it with mustard. It was horrid, but I ate it anyway. My palate was not that of a gourmet.
Music appreciation would reach a new level this Fourth Grade year. We had a music teacher come in. Mr. Lotstein was his name. Mr. Lotstein would show us the scales and try to get us to understand notes and beats and rhythm. We beat drumsticks on blocks of wood and listened to classical music. He explained to us that the music to The Lone Ranger was part of The William Tell Overture, and we learned the sounds of an orchestra by listening to Peter and the Wolf.
Mr. Lotstein's biggest challenge for us all was the flutophone. The flutophone was a plastic wind instrument that was kind of like a recorder. We all had to learn how to play it, and Mrs. Schoener had everyone learn the same solo piece. One by one we'd stand, awkward fingers on the plastic flute, trying to cover all the right holes. It was agony listening to the same song over and over, but it was much worse when it came your turn to play, and a blessed relief when it was over. At least when we all played a song together you could relax and enjoy it a little more. Twenty flutophones all at once-teachers had to have nerves of steel.
Social studies would be more complex, and we'd learn about all of the countries of Central and South America. We'd know which countries grew chocolate and which ones mined tin. Colorful costumes and their revolutions against Spain. They all were democracies just like the United States and everyone was free just like us; or so we were told.
Mrs. Schoener had us make three dimensional maps of geographical formations. It was some sort of paste made of flour, salt and water, I think. It looked like soap. We made mountains and valleys, the odd isthmus and the occasional peninsula. Mine was a mountain rising up from a cove. We painted our projects with water colors; our classroom decorated with landmarks from around the globe.
I worked hard that first marking period, harder than I ever had before. It was tough and the lessons were difficult, and I had to be a musician on top of it all. I rose to the challenge, and lo and behold, when our report cards came out, I had done the impossible. Straight A's! I had achieved perfection for the very first time. I guess I wasn't so dumb after all. Maybe this Fourth Grade wouldn't be as hard as I first thought it would be.
I guess I'd learned to keep the barn door closed.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Last Call

The end of August and I face the inevitable. I march over to the school to read the class rosters posted on the doors . I'm pleased to see I'll still be with most of my old classmates; we've been together a long time now. My teacher will be a Mrs. Schoener, and I know absolutely nothing about her. Schoener? Sounds German:shay-ner, and I imagine she's an ex-Nazi working undercover for the CIA, testing small children to see if they're loyal Americans. Just a few days and I'll know for sure.
Like everyone else we go shopping for school clothes, and Mom picks out corduroy pants and flannel shirts. Every year our parents send us off to school dressed for fall but it's really still summer, so we sweat like pigs as we walk along. We sweat even more in our old schoolrooms; there's no air-conditioning; opening those big old windows doesn't help much at all. We spend most of our first days of the new school year sweltering in the heat of summer, barely able to concentrate.
Like everyone else we go to Ernie's Shoe Post. I like plain black Oxfords with heavy soles. "Policemen's shoes" they call them. I need something sturdy for my march on the trail, shoes that will hold up against the daily grind on the sidewalk.
I'll have to use white paper all of the time now. No more yellow paper for writing, no more printing. I will be ten years old in December, and my cursive skills must be honed. Fourth Grade is serious stuff, you know. Mom takes us to Kresge's in Woodbury where we stock up on pencils and paper. We get erasers and pencil boxes, and I try to decide which lunch box I want. Cartoons or cowboys? I think I'll go with Gunsmoke this year, and a Flintstones for Carl.
I'm older now, so I begin to resent having to go to school, my freedom curtailed. So much good weather still left, but we'll spend it indoors, our lives controlled by teachers and the ring of a bell.
I'd prefer not to go back for air-raid drills. I don't want to think about nuclear war, knowing that the last thing I'll see on earth will be the tops of my shoes.
For us the summer is played out, except for the Labor Day holiday. It's a cruel joke on us kids, this holiday before school. Big cookouts and family fun. Swimming and badminton and Wiffle ball games. We stand around the barbecue grill after dark, toasting marshmallows on the heat of the dying coals. Such joy, such fun, what freedom! There's still hope; maybe summer really won't end.
Our reverie is broken.
Familiar voices cut through the evening air.
Our mothers call: "Come in now. Time to get ready for tomorrow. Time to get ready for school."

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Flight Of Fancy

Some days I decided not to go to school. I'd decide to fly instead. Yes. I could fly. Really, I could fly. I would finish my Rice Krispies or Cheerios, or whatever cereal of the day it was I was trying to enjoy, go out the kitchen door to the end of the driveway and begin my journey through the sky. I stood with arms outstretched at my sides, slowly rising, rising till I was just above the trees. I'd lie parallel to the ground, my body an airplane now, and off I'd go, gliding gently over my neighborhood.
Just above the trees and telephone lines it was-remember I still don't like heights, you know, but I'm in control, I'm the pilot on this flight. Past the Olsens', past Mrs. Price in her witches' suit. She looks up but she cannot reach me. I turn my head looking back towards home and it begins to fade away, but there's Whee-Zee running below, keeping pace, ever faithful, looking up to make sure I'm OK.
I glide on over all my neighbors homes and they disappear. The lake stretches out before me, and then it's gone. I sail past the school and all my classmates look up to wave, but I'm too fast for them, and in an instant I'm over them and out of town.
I'm long gone now; the fields of Aunt Bette's farm pass below and now I'm all alone except for Whee-Zee keeping pace, barking now and then just to let me know she's still there. The sky is the bluest blue and bright without clouds, and I sail over oceans that glow like crystal. The air is calm and warm, and I glide with the birds, skimming the ocean; just touching the waves. I can dive and soar or stop in mid air, and my joy is without bounds. The earth below glows, and Whee-Zee is still there to protect me, that powerful chest propelling her along. The birds sing and I whistle their songs, and I sail on and on and on.
It is bliss, this trip of mine, and I try to fly more and more, whenever I can. The journey has no end, and I glide forever to the end of the world and beyond that, and even Whee-Zee can't quite keep up, but I hear her in the distance, and I feel safe.
This is joy this flying, this well-kept secret power of mine, and no one can take it away, and I set my sights on the moon and the stars, shining brightly in the distance.
And then a voice, softly at first, then louder, even louder assaults my ears, and my flight begins to end.
"Time to get up," it says. "You'll be late for school."
"OK Mom, just give me another minute."
Give me time to hit the ground.