Stuck on a Train

It’s been pouring in LA all week, with no plans to get back to NorCal on my journey I figured the best thing to do is have an adventure and take the train back.  I love trains, a friend of mine took 13 hours getting back over the Grapevine on I-5 – normally a 5 to 6 hour drive.

I scheduled an  Uber driver last night to pick me up, giving me plenty of time for rain and traffic to Union Station in downtown LA.  All went well, got to the station dry despite the rain.

My business class tix got me into the 1st class lounge where there were drinks and snacks before we got on…then the delay.  NBD, an hour for a new engine.  Now I’m sitting in Burbank while the new engine conked out, I would say for almost an hour now?  Well, I wanted adventure!!  We’ll see if that’s going to include a night in Burbank at a Motel 6 or something?

This is just a shame, I was really hoping it would be a rainy day train ride up the coast.  Now I have no idea what’s going to happen?

While I was in Manhattan Beach, I went to the new marine lab at the end of the pier for donor day.  My mom was involved with the original lab, it was nice they had a special day for the previous volunteers.  Got a few good shots when I was down there at least before the rain.

An update, we’re back at Union Station in LA awaiting????  Ugh.  Made a quick field trip to grab lunch & possibly a latte, the bathrooms at the station were full of homeless.  I went back to the 1st class lounge at the train station to use those bathrooms, then tried to hit Starbucks but the line was too long.  Grabbed a Wetzel Pretzel hot dog to come hang out on the train some more.  It’s actually more comfortable on the train than in the station.

At least I grabbed some food, I had made a 2p dining car appointment that of course didn’t happen.  If we ever get moving, I’ll keep writing.  Right now I’m just a tad worried I’ll be on this train for 2 days before I get back.  When the train took off the 1st time, I was like a little kid taking pictures.  Now I’m just kinda blah and over it.

2 Days later:  That turned out to be a 7 hour delay, we left at 5p instead of 10a – getting in at 5am to Martinez.  The coastline was totally dark, pitch black actually, didn’t get to see a thing past Van Nuys when it got dark.  I didn’t write the rest of the ride because I was like a zombie.  The good news is, when I finally got home and re-woke up to call Amtrak gave me a trip voucher.  When the train started rolling I grabbed dinner from the dining car then just vegged out the rest of the ride.  I didn’t even read or watch a movie, just tried to enjoy the ride.  I must have slept a little?  I kept waking myself up snoring 🙂  Sorry to the rest of my car-mates.

Planes, trains & automobiles January.  Drove to New Mexico, flew to LA then the train back – reverse order – also lengthy.

While in Manhattan Beach I got to spend the week with my mom for her birthday.   Got a few pics I’ll post from that and some others of my LA time.  It rained most of the time, I did get to have some much needed GF time.

I also had an interesting FB exchange (I gotta get off FB!!).  While it rained I was checking out Zillow in Carlsbad and noticed what I thought were vacation trailers close to the water.  I have a few FB friends in Carlsbad, did a shout out to see what those were?  When I looked into it more I saw it was a over 55 retirement community (which I qualify for but not ready to go there just yet).  The dirt rental was about $1,500 when I looked it up a little more.

In the meantime, a friend’s wife who just became a real estate agent started posting pictures of trailer homes on my FB page.  When I said I wasn’t ready for a retirement community, she started posting pics of a trailer park in Hermosa Beach.  So now my “friends” think I’m looking into trailer homes??  Haha, I’m sorry but I don’t see a $500k trailer in Hermosa Beach as a smart investment.  I don’t see anything down there as a smart investment right now, it’s crazy expensive.  She most likely thought I was trying to get my foot in the door down there, I can’t imagine inviting my childhood friends over to my trailer for dinner?

I’m leaving the post up though, for some reason I think it’s hysterical!!  We played golf with some guy about 20 years ago who lived in the tree section and I said, “I grew up in the tree section!”  He said, “It must be hard to not be able to afford to live where you grew up?”  My husband & I laughed on the way home, we don’t live there because we’d have A-holes like him for neighbors.  People spend so much time thinking others are jealous of them they don’t realize they’re coming off as pricks.

I had a good time down there with my mom and a few GF’s though, it was really nice.  I can always go “home” and spend the time with my mom.  I’m so glad Amtrak gave me a voucher, I really want to take that train trip during the day to see that coast route!!  Thought I’d spend a rainy day, clinking glasses in the dining car watching the sunset in someplace other than Van Nuys.

These are finally leaving Union Station, where the train was on the coast and my view from there 😦

& yeah, I’m still a little grouchy from my trip – I actually did have a great time despite the FB trailer park incident.

The Long Road to New Mexico

Which I haven’t even started yet, I’m still in bed drinking my 2nd cup of coffee before I rally to crank up the freezing car.  Driving my son and his dog back to Las Cruces, the super long trek that I’m going to take a few days to drive instead of powering through in a day…I can’t do that.

In the meantime, I stay at my mom’s then her brother’s house.  I’d stay one night in a hotel in maybe Phoenix if we didn’t have the dog with us, that slows us down a little.  There’s a nice dog friendly hotel in Phoenix we stayed at last year on the way back, it’s just that I don’t want to deal and my mom would freak if I drove anywhere near LA and didn’t stay with her.

So that’s the plan, braving the wild west in a Honda…

I have my keyboard packed for my mom’s house so I can still practice, have my camera & drone with me just in case something pops out.  One place I want to get some shots is White Sands, I keep going to the hot springs instead of that direction.  See if I have an extra hour drive in me when I get there?

The photography stuff is going to have to just be for me now, everyone’s a photographer. One little rant before I go, I posted my NY goals on my FB and someone new to FB – who I haven’t seen since 6th grade – started giving me “advice” on my little songwriting goal.  The link was helpful, it’s just really frustrating when someone googles stuff to give me “advice.”  With my drone business, I’d say some technology really wasn’t available yet and someone would send me a google link proving it was available.  Thank you.

I’ve been (badly) playing piano for over 10 years now, pretty sure I know at least a little about music??  2019 is going to be not listening to manspeak!!

And she’s off!!!

Happy New Year!!

Past Winter Solstice, made it through Christmas, now to look forward to longer days and a really long drive!!  Kicking the New Year off with a drive back to New Mexico, as soon as the car is fixed.  The NYE plan was to anchor by Treasure Island to watch the San Francisco fireworks until I saw the forecast of 50mph winds.  No thanks on being cold, miserable, then losing anchorage in the middle of the night.  Took a bath after dinner and woke up when the dogs started barking at the fireworks.

I’ll be on the road most of January, kind of like my MIA in May except for without my truck.  I’ll have my nice camera with me, try to get some shots in between driving all over the SouthWest again.

This is really the first time in my life I’ve had a lot of freedom… Last year I was still working with my drone business up until maybe March?  I never really feel like I can get away, something always comes up.  2018 was all about the engagement and wedding (which we still haven’t had, besides the quick courthouse wedding).  Then they moved back in, so I had to adjust to that and switch gears from new carpets to a Bissell pet stain remover for the dog.  December has been all about dog chaos at our house with 2 dogs here.

I’ll say one thing about the dogs, especially my son’s dog, she needs walks.  When I’m in New Mexico she knocks my second cup of coffee out of my hand for her walk and doesn’t back down until we’re out the door.  Her favorite walk here is the Lafayette reservoir, we’ve been trying to take her a few times a week.

Can’t complain though, even if I didn’t do much traveling I did a lot of sailing.  Was probably out on the boat twice a week with 30 knot plus winds all summer.  Have to do some calculations, but I should be pretty close to having my days in for my captains license.  Learned about fuel calculations, replacing a fuel sender, replacing an anchor line, filters, fuel leaks, what do do in a split second when there’s no rudder and the bow goes downwind in the marina, how to react in a split second when someone throws you the line attached to the boat while you’re tying up the other side on the dock, what to say to someone who insists you don’t have the sails trimmed and the boat is going backwards when it’s actually all good they just want to question your ability.  Lots of sailing lessons!!

Looking forward to more sailing, maybe to SoCal to spend time with my mom (and have a reprieve if I need it).  That I will need able crew for, don’t trust that I won’t be barfing the whole way.  Supposedly even if you don’t get sea sick, the swells will nail you.

Be off-line for about a week while I road trip…

Happy New Year!!!

New Years Goals

Every year I try and make some goals for the new year, sometimes I write them on paper and look at them from year to year to see if I accomplished anything.  One of the biggies from awhile ago was really learning how to sail and buying a boat – mission accomplished.  Some other things on my list (some wishes) was a house that was on the market in Bisbee, AZ for years, an original craftsman from 1906.  That’s been sold, not a dream I share with the rest of my family.

This year I’ve dialed it back a few notches, just to spending some time with my mom.  She’s gotta be lonely, she’s lost all of her friends.  She was talking about assisted living for years, in an effort to not be a pain to us.  The plan was to rent her house to pay for the difference, I just can’t see it though.  She has a few (surviving) friends close by and a few of our childhood friends are living in their childhood homes again after their parents have passed away, they check in on her all the time.  We have a full house or she could move in with us…as I type we’re waiting for the plumber, the house is falling apart!!

This past year I bought a keyboard and a bike for hanging out at her house for extended periods.  Right now they’re at our house, she forgets to close the garage door sometimes and I’m worried the bike will be stolen.  She’s pretty funny about keeping things at her house, I used to have a “vacation corner” of her garage with beach chairs, a bike, some surf boards.  She would mention it EVERY SINGLE TIME I talked to her, “When are you going to get this stuff out of here?”  I cleared it all out, except the beach chair.   I barely go in my kids rooms, I have no idea what they’ve left here when they move back & forth on their own journeys.

Other goals include keeping up with my piano, possibly writing a song that no one will ever hear.  I can’t tell if the lessons are helping or not?  I’m still practicing almost an hour a day, the pieces I play are hard so it’s hard to tell unless I play something easy.  My music theory is really rusty, when the piano teacher says what note am I playing it takes me a few seconds to even recall it.  I still start from C to go back & forth to figure it out like I did when I was 10yrs old.  In that regard, I’m not getting any better.

One thing after “retiring,” I no longer have career goals.  The pictures I take, my sewing projects, are all just for family now.  Writing, photography, sewing have always been things I’ve dabbled with off & on throughout my life thinking they’d lead to something career wise.  Now I don’t need to worry about it and can just kick back to enjoy it.

I actually do want to get my captains license for sailing.  My son & I took a group out yesterday for a BBQ on Angel Island, it would be fun for us to actually charge for events like that and Fleet Week.  He likes sailing, I like the name “Captain Heller.”  Last year was IFR rating that never happened…oops.  That was mostly due to flying below clouds to get somewhere for a really bumpy ride.  I don’t want to fly in bad weather…ever.

This years journey starts with the long drive back to New Mexico, then flying back to LA to spend some time with my mom.  I’ll be a bit of a nomad through January, something I never really get to do.  When I first got my pilot’s license, my plan was to buy a plane to be a nomad.  I thought I’d fly all over to see relatives and freeload, when they asked when I was going to leave I’d say, “I don’t know?”  I’ll have to take that off the list, my family doesn’t like small planes.

So not big goals, just getting through the year un-injured and spending time with my mom.  My surfing days may be numbered, I’m afraid to break my ribs again.  No sports goals for once, unless sailing counts as a sport.  Just keep on choog’lin.

Surfing

My absolute favorite thing to do when I was a kid growing up in Manhattan Beach was dive under those waves, I could spend all day in the water.  The best feeling for me was still having that salt and sand all over me when I got out, I never even rinsed off.  There was rarely a time I even brought a brush to the beach with me.  Having salt mixed with sand either walking or riding my bike home felt so good!  My grade school was right up the hill from the water, we had a pact to go in the water every single day one year.  That’s my memory of it, not sure if we did it or not?  I’d wait for my hair to dry at my friend’s house (my parents didn’t know), then run down Sand Dune park hill to get home.

I had a few water toys growing up, a styrofoam wave rider thingy and an itchy surf mat.   When I was really little, my mom would put us on the surf mat to get us across the hot sand and pull the rope.  Boogie boards came out when I was in middle school, they were actually kits you had to buy duct tape to put them together.  Then the boys starting surfing, girls not allowed.  This could be due to the fact that the boys weren’t very good yet and didn’t want the girls to actually know that.  Right before we made that puberty transition, I was still one of the boys with my boogie board.  We were all at the pier, two of my guy friends dared me to go in when the waves were big, so I went for it.  Of course I was pummeled, when I came in though they both said they never would have gone out!!  They both became pro surfers at some point in their lives.

What was unfortunate timing for me was short board popularity, long boards were not cool in the ’70’s, no one wants to be labeled a “kook.”  I was asked by the local surf shop to join the boogie board team…ummmm, no thanks.  That just sounded so wimpy compared to surfing.  I wanted to stand up!  I just couldn’t on a short board.

In my attempts to surf, I was lucky to hang out with a group of kids for a time with dads who were longboard surfers.  I did a lot of pearling, the timing of Manhattan Beach waves with a longboard is not the greatest either.  They’re quick waves, with a boogie board I could take off while the wave was curling.  On a longboard, you take off at the swell and paddle hard.  If there’s already a curl, it’s just going to push the nose straight down.  Since there was no formal instruction, besides a beginning book in the library (I’d put guys names in as if they checked it out as a joke), I did a whole lot of pearling.  I did have some success when my friend took the helm.  He’d be at the back of the board to take it so I could crawl up tandem.  It was a fun summer, before my BF dumped me and I had to switch steets.

I gave up until after I graduated from college, when I was working at a swimwear store in Santa Monica Canyon.  The local guys there adopted me as their own and came by with a board for me after work.  They put me on a 9′ board, I hopped up right away.  One thing I always knew how to do was paddle and wave motion.  The waves at State Beach were a lot easier than Manhattan Beach, plus I had the support of a bunch of Malibu surfers who were impressed I could even paddle.  I was hooked!!  I bought a board and tried to surf every day.  I made a mistake though, I went from a 9′ board with the intention of getting better to go back to a short board at some point.  Same fatal mistake I made from when I was younger.  I bought a shorter board and couldn’t even get up…because by that time I was 5’9″ with a really slow hop up.  I switched jobs too, I started working at Nordstrom getting me off the beach.

That Christmas, I went surfing with my brother and his friends.  I was able to get past the break, then they would take off and I heard our friend screaming down the wave.  I thought, “I have no business out here if he’s scared.”  I waited for the lull and went in.

That summer I met my husband, moved to NorCal and quit surfing.  I became a suburban mom and took up golf, a sport that doesn’t require speed or a quick hop up.

When our boys were grown, for my 50th my husband asked what have I always wanted to do?  I said, “I’ve always really wanted to learn how to surf.”  He found a women’s surf retreat for me, Kristy Murphy’s surf retreats.  The first one I went to was in Mexico, I’ve also been to the Costa Rica and Hawaii retreats.  She gave me this soft board that was about 11′??  I affectionally called it the “Beastie board,” I couldn’t carry it alone.  I could barely paddle it once it got a little water logged.  What I could do was get up on it right away, my first ride in 20 plus years was an audience of legendary women surfers paddling out hooting at me.  What a welcome!!  I didn’t know who they were at the time, I found out at a party afterward.  Before the party, I PM’d one of my surfer friends with the names to see who they were.

At the party, I talked mainly to this woman Zuef.  Zuef was married to Frosty of “Mavericks” fame.  She talked about what it was like to be a step-mom to girls who had lost their mom while they were young.  This was before the movie came out, I didn’t know much about Frosty or that his first wife had died.  Zuef was battling bone cancer herself, their girls trip to Mexico was in her honor while she was still alive.  A few years later, she lost her battle too.  One of the take aways from that was how she had told me she could tell I had a great heart, I’ll always remember that observation by her of me when I’m down.  Other attendee’s were Linda Benson and Heather Hudson of “Women and the Waves” movies.

I continued going to these retreats for a few years, posting shamelessly on FB.  A friend from MB finally asked to join me on a Costa Rica trip.  One thing about growing up in MB that was hard is that everyone’s super model thin plus a killer athlete.  I’m a half ass athlete, no comparison to the girls I grew up with.  She had surfed with her dad as a kid, played Div 1 volleyball in college, I knew I’d be a little jealous.  Sure enough, she out surfed me after 2 shaky waves.  I felt like chopped liver, that I sucked.

Since that first trip, we went on quite a few others.  Some of my best waves were at a ranch in Mexico we took a boat to, that was a fun day!  I surfed really well for me.  Another was a right I caught in Hawaii, it seemed so effortless and went on forever.  I out paddled my friend for a wave and Kristy told me about it later.  I can’t see without my glasses, I didn’t even know she was going for it?  I’m a wimp, I’ll let the “better surfer” get the wave.  Her attitude towards the whole thing was that she didn’t think I’d get it, so she went for it.  She said that to me a few times, “I knew you wouldn’t get it”  as her apology for cutting me off… What a friend.

The last 3 times I’ve gone have been mini-disasters for one reason or another.  Hawaii was a huge storm and WAY too big for me.  I won’t go out if it’s too big, I have a healthy fear of mother nature.  I surfed 2 days of that trip.

The next time was in Mexico where the biggest bitch on the face of the earth happened to be.  She was an emergency room Dr. who deemed me irrelevant.  She was also “off duty,” I got tourista and broke my ribs.  I don’t mean “off duty” as a Dr., I mean as a human being.  When I came down in the morning to say that I couldn’t surf, I crawled back to bed for a day of pain from my ribs and passing out.  The morning was the only time I was even able to make it downstairs, we were the only ones staying at the Casita.  She never knocked on my door to see if I needed water, or was alive.  Kristy finally saved me with some gatorade and crackers that night or I wouldn’t have woken up the next morning.  Less people in the line up for the Dr. I guess?  God I hated that woman!  If we went to HS together I would have put her name in that library book as a kook.  I don’t care if you went to med school, if you talk down to people as non-existant then brag about hook ups on Tinder, I’m not going to like you more than you don’t like me.

My last attempt was almost 2 years ago now.  I went to Costa Rica with my friend and her now wife.  It was a few months after the Mexico fiasco, I guess my ribs hadn’t healed?  All went well until I had a minor fall forward, like a belly flop.  That’s what happened the first time, I figured I must have hit the board to do that kind of damage?  I never went to the Dr. though for x-rays, wasn’t even sure if I broke them?  I was out for the rest of the trip, it was such a bummer.  Then, of all things, I lost my drone 😦  I brought it down to film Kristy when she caught a mile long wave.  I designated my friends W as a spotter, but she was spotting my friend and not the drone.  Not to blame her, just that it was super annoying when I saw the palm leaf come up when I backed it up to see where it went.  I would have just pressed the home button, but I didn’t have enough battery to pop it back up and she wanted some footage of A.  I was looking through the FPV, not paying attention to the drone at all.  Never found it, everyone was pissed at me and suddenly drone experts.  The rest of the trip was painful ribs and me being the 5th wheel who was useless because I lost my drone.

So my surfing life might end?  When I did get back, I got the X-rays and a bone density test.  I have Osteopenia, which wouldn’t matter much if I didn’t do an extreme sport.  I’ve always been so strong, that’s been the hardest part of aging for me.  Never fast, always strong.  It took me forever to realize my weak points as an athlete.

I might try again, I just can’t be a wimp about what board I should be riding or have others who think they’re better than me intimidate me.  A few waves and a smoothie, that’s what I love about surfing.  Kristy & Cat were great!!  For that reason alone I might give it another go.  Or I can just leave it to my friend and her now wife?

The thing about surfing, piano, sailing, whatever people want to try is that it doesn’t matter who is the best.  My favorite surfing quote is the best surfer out there is the one who is having the most fun.  That would always be me 🙂

This is from Costa Rica, the best wave for me with no crowds:

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I Choked

When is it that you just throw in the towel, admit defeat, decide that you truly suck at something?  A lot of cliche’s, they best describe how I’m feeling about my piano.

Every month I get together with some women, who could care less how I play, it’s just that I’d like them to not have to suffer through my piece either.  They’re really good, I won’t go unless I’ve had sufficient time to practice.  I can sight read, it’s not fluent like they’re able to do.  There’s no way I could just pick a piece of music up and play it in front of people.  The hardest part for me is to play in front of people, the first time I did it my fingers were shaking.

It just reminds me of my extreme stage fright as a kid and somehow powering through a recital.  My other stage fright was choir, I worked so hard one time to get the solo then choked during it.  It’s not just a matter of stage fright, no matter how much I practice someone else enters my body to render me frozen with a blank mind.  Even surfing, once that camera is on I can barely stand up!  The girls who run the camps told me that happens with the pro’s too during competition.  Some people come alive in the spotlight, I freak out.  Probably why I’m such a good friend to people who demand a spotlight?

My piece yesterday was Jazzy Jingle Bells, more advanced than my actual ability piece.  My new piano teacher thought I could pull it off.  I’ve been working on it all month, practicing every day.  Then when I played it in front of the group yesterday I really struggled.  At one point I almost got up and quit right there, the paper I printed out for the first page fell off the gorgeous Steinway (a piano made for a better player than I).  I sat down afterward to dig into the cookies.  I never eat the snacks before I play to avoid crumbs on the keys.

Afterwards we all chat about music, or anything that comes to mind.  The subject of how she got the Steinway grand came up.  Her husband’s friend is a Dr. who at one point decided to take up piano, bought the best, then got too frustrated and wanted to sell it.  Somehow that story made me feel a little better, the cookies didn’t hurt either.

Since I’ve experienced choking quite a few times in my life at this point, I’ve come to a few personal conclusions about it.

  1. No one cares
  2. Pick something that’s within my ability
  3. Give up on my dreams of being a senior rock star
  4. Keep playing, it’s supposed to be “fun.”

I tried to look up a youtube on someone playing this with no luck.  For copyright purposes, I can’t even put my pdf up of what I ordered.  The link to the sheet music site is here.  What I chose was the advanced version, part of my frustration even if I was playing it semi-decent at home.

My competitiveness is waning, the old Heller would just get pissed and become better.  This new version is ready to sell my piano.  Ahhh, but it’s raining and the only thing to do at home is either clean, play, or write?

Jump start my smokey brain

Been a rough week indoors with all the smoke, still not as rough as the people in Paradise.  I keep thinking it’s OK to go outside, then park to walk to lunch and can feel it in my throat.  My heart actually hurts?  Don’t know how to explain that besides it’s tight.

Overall, I’m pretty healthy and not too worried about the smoke besides not feeling well all week.  Rain is in the forecast, this should be over in a few days when my only worry will be cold and dark at 4pm.

Usually this time of year I go for a running start into the cold, dark days.  Kind of like riding your bike fast downhill to make it up the next hill with little effort.  I try to stay busy and outside because I know I’m going to be inside for months, I’m not a very productive indoors person.  This smoke is like putting the brakes on for that uphill climb through Winter and having to walk your bike up the hill with flat tires instead.

Yes, I try to gear myself up to avoid seasonal depression (SAD).  Not to be Debbie Downer, just that Christmas coincidentally is a few days after the shortest day of the year.  Sometimes I wonder if bright lights and gift giving isn’t a way to just get us out of the house to look forward to something?  A big party on New Years to get us out of the house with friends.

The short little ebooks (on drones & golf)  I wrote in Tahoe when I was stuck indoors, just to give me a project.  My drone work was weather permitting, that got me through a few Winters just because there used to be so much trouble shooting involved.  I’ve passed that all on to my husbands engineering firm, there are 2 drone pilots there now.

This is the first year I haven’t actually had a job, my time is my own.

I can do one of those cheesy “5 things to get you through seasonal depression.”

  1.  Stay outside as much as possible while the weather is still decent (I’ve already blown that one).
  2. Stock up on home projects, like cleaning the closet or drawers for 15 min a day.  Then write a to-do list to replace items like light bulbs, moth balls, stuff that forces you to get out and go to a store.  We’ve lived here for 20 years, it’s a Winter project.
  3. Organize all your photos for Christmas gifts – another huge project.  When was the last time you had prints made?  I have digital photos all over the place, on several computers/CD/USB/Cards.  Nothing is in one place, there’s no more room on this particular laptop I’m writing on.  Yesterday I made an attempt and uploaded my film cards to Shutterfly, which BTW has unlimited storage.  They also automatically suggest photo gifts.
  4. Plan a trip to look forward to, like surfing in Mexico in Jan.
  5. Get outside no matter once at least once a day, even if it’s pouring.  The gym, a coffee shop, anywhere!

This list is mostly for me, I’m excluding holiday shopping only because the parking and people out for the holidays makes me lose faith in humanity & doesn’t help the cause.  I’m just not a shopper.

Other things on my personal list is writing, either another mini ebook just to practice writing or continuing this blog.  Sometimes I get how Stephen King thought of the idea of “Misery.”  Maybe it takes being totally stuck doing nothing else but writing while you lay around getting limbs cut off?  Kidding, certainly being house bound is WAY too much free time!!  Free time is not my friend.