A class reunion, 41 years later

 

I’d decided against attending Sunday’s class reunion at Sibley High School until my best high school chum, Mark Hawkins, showed up at the Daily Globe last week and talked me into it. He didn’t really have to talk me into it, actually. The moment I saw him, I knew I had to go.

I have not returned any of the letters or replied to any of the emails I’ve gotten regarding the reunion, though there have been several over the past several months. When I told my wife, Sandy, I didn’t want to go, she naturally wondered why. It was hard for me to explain.

Sunday’s reunion will mark the 41st year since I graduated in 1974.

Sandy and I were a newly-married couple having recently graduated Mankato State University together on the occasion of my fifth-year reunion in 1979. We went, and had a good time. It was fun to catch up on my friends, but after it was over I was satisfied that that should be the end of it. I was anxious to go on with my life and put the past behind me. I never attended another class reunion since.

So now that the Class of ’74 has beckoned again after more than 40 years, I thought, Why bother? I don’t want to go back to high school and revisit those strange, uneven growing-up years. Sure, I had a lot of good times there. But I remember the embarrassing times, too — like the time I was an 88-pound member of the wrestling team (yes, 88 pounds!!!) and broke my arm in my very first varsity tournament, or the time I angrily quit the baseball team out of the paranoid belief that my head coach woke up every morning dreaming up new ways to ruin my life.

I could be pretty immature back then. Boy, I hope I’ve changed.

What I don’t like about high school reunions is the politics involved. I don’t want to be one of those guys who feels compelled to talk about how wonderful his life is now, and I don’t want to listen to people who do. Deep down, I’m predicting that Sunday’s reunion won’t be like that. Instead of it being an excuse to show off, I really feel it will be a simple occasion to greet old friends and swap old stories.

So why am I nervous? I’ve got a wonderful wife, I enjoy my job, my book-writing hobby is paying off, and I’ve got three terrific daughters and six beautiful grandchildren. I should be able to go to the reunion, let my hair down, and enjoy. Right?

Right. Except I can’t let my hair down any more.

Keeping up with the little ballplayers

 

This is the time of year when grandfathers agonize over the fact that they sometimes have to miss their grandchildren’s summer activities.

Grandpas need to see their grandkids play. My 4-year-old grandson Tyson is about to begin his first year of T-ball in Lakefield, and I think I’ll be able to watch a few of his games. Another grandson of mine, 5-year-old Jake, is living in Jordan until the new home his parents are building in North Mankato is ready, and since his games are in the middle of the week and so far away, I’m likely to miss them all.

It is a sad fact of life that grandpas can’t be everywhere they want to be.

My daughter Kari and her husband, Mike, are doing what they can to ease papa’s pain. They are sending me videos of Jake’s T-ball exploits via email. I told them to please do it; it’s the next best thing to being there.

One day last week, in fact, I received six such clips. The first one was Jake standing in his red uniform in front of mom’s cell phone, waving, smiling, and saying, “Hi, Papa.” A couple of minutes later another clip came in of Jake playing catch prior to game-time and throwing the ball repeatedly over the head of his partner.

“My, what an arm that kid has!” I thought.

The third clip was of Jake standing at the pitcher’s position and fielding ground balls hit off a tee. I liked the fact that, although Jake doesn’t catch the ball very well yet (nobody does at that age), he ran aggressively to everything hit near him, and even to things not hit near him, in hopes of being the one to pick it up and throw it to first base. Aggressiveness is good, I replied to Kari and Mike in an email. It shows he likes to play ball.

The fourth clip was of Jake getting into a shoving match with a kid who took offense that Jake ran into his territory to field a ball. Well, at least Jakey defended himself.

The fifth clip was of Jake sliding into home plate. His slide needs a little work. Well, a lot of work, actually.

The sixth clip was another one of Jake fielding his position (and a few other positions). You can never get enough video of your grandson running after a batted ball.

I thanked Kari and Mike for sending the clips, and I anxiously await the next batch. This is true. I get a little knot in the pit of my stomach knowing I can’t always see my grandsons learning and enjoying a sport that I absolutely lived for, even as a toddler.

I don’t know if Jake and Tyson will love baseball for very long. But it doesn’t really matter. Whatever they’re doing that they get pleasure from, grandpas are wired to want to be a part of it. The enjoyment we get from watching is probably only surpassed by the joy that our grandkids get from knowing we’re watching.

Jake knows that grandpa will see his T-ball games one way or another. That’ll have to be enough, for now.

Final thought:

Just a note before I go. My Daily Globe book signing for my new fictional story, “The Old Man in Section 129,” is Friday (June 19) from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. It’s a story about baseball, fathers and sons, and I think you’ll enjoy it even if you’re not a baseball fan.

Thanks to everyone who purchased my previous book, “The Genuine One.” Everyone who buys a copy of “The Old Man in Section 129” (for $12, $4 off the retail price) will receive a free book mark, and I’ll personally sign their copy. Hope to see you there, and thanks again.

 

 

New book, new book signing June 19 at the Daily Globe

 

The marvelous thing about fiction writing, I think, is the idea that you can escape from the real world and create your own. I find myself increasingly ill at ease with the real life that I see on the cable news networks, and the escapism available on television is so mindlessly numbing I’d rather do almost anything else than turn to it for entertainment. Books? There are lots of good books out there, but I’ve been finding it a hit-and-miss proposition. For every enjoyable story I’ve read, there is a disappointment.

So I write stories, out of my own head, that I attempt to make as entertaining and meaningful as the stories I hope to find when I go searching for reading material. You may have read the first story I wrote that got a national release, “The Genuine One,” and I sincerely hope you enjoyed it. I’ve got another one that is scheduled for national release on June 29 called “The Old Man in Section 129.”

Without going into great detail, it’s a fictional story about baseball, fathers and sons. But my hope is that beyond the fantasy that unfolds throughout the story, there is something real in it that fathers, sons and everyone, really — whether you’re a baseball fan or not — can identify with on a personal level.

The story centers upon a family man who is struggling through a personal crisis. He feels trapped in an unhappy job, he feels he is losing the closeness he once had with his wife, he feels that he is becoming more distant from his daughter and grandson, and the only thing he’s got that gives him comfort is his love of baseball. He’s a daydreamer, and he loses himself in his baseball daydreams, making it more difficult for him to adjust to his very troubling situation. He attends baseball games at Target Field in Minneapolis. He begins seeing visions of old-time deceased major league baseball greats that appear to be sent to him for his benefit.

Are they real? Is he dreaming these things? The ballplayers speak to him of their manager, who will come to see him next. When the “manager” finally arrives, the real drama unfolds — a life-changing drama for Austin Stoddard, his wife, and his family.

I won’t tell you anything more. You’ll have to read the story. And please, do. My wife, Sandy, tells her friends “The Old Man in Section 129” is her favorite book that her husband has written. She says that when she read it, she couldn’t wait to turn the page to see what happens next.

Sandy’s generally my toughest critic. So I’m impressed.

Please come to the Daily Globe book signing scheduled for Friday, June 19 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. I’ll be there. And so will Sandy. For every copy of “The Old Man in Section 129” that you buy for $12, (a $4 discount), I’ll sign your copy.

If you can’t make it, please consider another upcoming signing, June 27 (1-3 p.m.) at the Left Bank Café in Slayton. I’m not predicting that my autograph will be worth much 20 or 30 years down the road, but it’s the best I can do.

Angry birds

 

It started as a gentle rapping, rapping, rapping at my window.

I ignored it at first, thinking that perhaps a neighbor was beginning a roofing job next door.

But the pounding continued, a rhythmic tapping. A repeated banging. As if some visitor entreating entrance through my window to explore. It was clearly not my neighbor, nor the wind that I’d been fearing. It was a robin — a robin beating wings and talons against my window, thereby making me really sore.

I jumped from my computer desk to the window and angrily called out to the unmerciful red-breasted bore: “Nevermore!”

It is springtime in Worthington, and birds of all sorts are settling into their favored nesting areas. Robins are highly territorial, and because they’ve got bird brains they tend to fly into a tizzy when they see their reflections in windows. It was obvious to me that such a robin had come to terrorize me from the vantage point of the little single-pane window bringing light into our computer room.

I scared it away, but it kept coming back. Moments later it was there again. It’s plan was to use a tiny tree branch opposite the window as its base of operations. It attacked from there, repeating the process over and over again, every three seconds or so.

I went to the garage for my trusty little hand saw, and I sawed off the branch — thinking that if the robin had to sit somewhere else, it wouldn’t see its reflection and would allow my wife and I some peace.

Again, no luck. It simply perched on the spot where the branch used to be, then continued to fly into the window.

By this time, I’d gotten really mad. I grabbed a big black trash bag and some duct tape and blackened the upper half of the window from which the reflection showed. Again, no luck, My robin had simply begun to attack the bottom half.

I pulled out another trash bag and obliterated the entire window, eliminating all the sunshine from my little computer room. But it was worth it to get rid of that infernal bird.

I went to work. When I came back for supper a few hours later, Sandy was sitting in the family room with a grim look upon her face. Moments later, I heard that sound again.

It was the robin, pounding against our huge picture window. I had only transferred its attacks from one window to another one, except this time it was against a window far too large to obscure with trash bags.

“I’m going out to buy a BB gun,” I said. “I’m going to kill that crazy bird forevermore!!!”

Sandy put an end to that idea immediately. But neither one of us knew what else do to.

We had the same problem at our previous home in North Mankato. A crazed robin attacked the narrow window at our front entrance for weeks, making it impossible for anyone to visit us without having to worry about starring in a remake of “The Birds,” Hitchcock style.

Back in Worthington, Sandy and I tried to make do with our robin situation. Then one day last week the bird stopped; it bombarded our window no more.

Until Monday. On Monday it was back again to torture us.

It still haunts our premises, and I feel just as Edgar Allen Poe must have felt when he penned his immortal poem, “The Raven.”

Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,

Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted —

On this home by Horror haunted — tell me truly, I implore —

Is there — is there balm in Gilead? Tell me, tell me, I implore!

Quoth the Robin, “Nevermore.”

Celebrate new records? It all depends

 

Records are made to be broken, so out of graciousness we are told to happily congratulate all who break them. Barry Bonds obviously believes in this mantra, and so he has gone public to tell us we should all be proud of Alex Rodriguez when he pulls even with Willie Mays for fourth place on the all-time home run list.

My response to Mr. Bonds is that he can go ahead and do cartwheels when A-Rod (who is just five homers behind Mays at the moment) hits his 660th round-tripper. But don’t tell me what to think about it.

I’m old enough to have seen (via television) the home run Hank Aaron hit to surpass the mighty Babe Ruth’s “untouchable” 714 home run record. Hammerin’ Hank got hate mail for that achievement, but I celebrated the new record and was proud to have witnessed it — albeit only through the miracle of electronics.

I wasn’t happy to see career singles hitter Pete Rose surpass Ty Cobb’s career hit record because, frankly, I don’t think Rose was ever in Cobb’s league as a ballplayer.

I’m hoping that no one ever breaks Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak, but I may change my mind. I only hope that if someone does do the deed, he will be the kind of ballplayer who will be humbled at what he has done — and that he knows enough about baseball history to have even heard of the Yankee Clipper’s name.

Do I want A-Rod to surpass Mays — one of the greatest hitters of all-time — on the home run list? No, frankly. I’m not an A-Rod fan. I don’t think he’s a terrific human being, and that doesn’t even take into account his past steroid use.

And yes, I find it ironic that Bonds — who I’m certain used steroids, himself — would be the first to jump on Rodriguez’ bandwagon. Bonds, of course, is technically the career home run leader now, but if baseball put an asterisk on his record, I’d be OK with that.

Records do mean something. When they are broken, we shouldn’t have to apologize for preferring that they be broken by someone worthy of breaking them.

What the Indiana law really meant

When entering into a debate, it is beneficial to begin with the proposition that you are entitled to your own opinions but you are not entitled to your own facts.
In 2015, however, this proposition has been turned on its head. In 2015, you are entitled to your own facts, but you are not entitled to an opinion.
The most egregious example of this popular trend, I believe, suggests itself in the hysterical reaction to Indiana’s attempt to pass a law providing its citizens with a legal defense for exercising religious objections to other laws they believe violate their First Amendment rights. Indiana’s law didn’t give people the right to discriminate; it merely modeled itself on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) passed near-unanimously by Congress in 1993 and signed into law by Bill Clinton. Without going into detail, the Indiana law would have followed already-accepted practices. It would have stated that government cannot enforce a statute requiring people to violate their sincere religious convictions unless it can also demonstrate a compelling interest, and that in applying the test it must do so in the least-restrictive means possible.
This is why, traditionally, America has exempted Quakers from military service. It is also why (one would suppose) the test might easily be applied to religious small business owners who would rather not cater same-sex weddings. I would assume a catering business would still be required, under the law, to provide cakes over the counter (thankfully). Catering the ceremony, however, constitutes participation, and therein lies the rub.
In a world populated with rational adults, accommodation can usually be easily maintained. In most cases, there are other means available for acquiring same-sex wedding cakes so that the wedding can go forward as planned and religious objections can also be honored.
It would greatly benefit this country, I think, to have a rational debate about the First Amendment and corresponding liberty of conscience principles. We need to consider more carefully how far government should go in compelling contractual agreements. Should the price of protecting our consciences really be the loss of our businesses?
If this is still a free society, the public square should remain a place for ideas to flourish. What good is having an opinion if you’re forced to keep it to yourself?
When the Indiana law originally hit, there ensued a great rush to judgment with very little knowledge about what the law actually said. Just as importantly, the law’s long-term implications seemed to mean very little to its critics, who characterized it vociferously as a mere attempt by bigots to discriminate against homosexuals.
The larger points of the legislation were incredibly missed, and I would say in many cases purposely so. The saddest thing of all, for me personally, were the misinformation campaigns waged by many in the media who knew better but buried the lede in order to promote a cause. This is not what I was taught in my college journalism classes; I was taught that it’s OK to have a point of view, but our primary job is to get the story right.
I get it. Right now it is politically incorrect for business owners to opt out of same-sex wedding participation. But beware of unintended consequences. If we can force religious Americans to go against their consciences for that, the tyranny of the majority is here. Who will we subjugate next?

The offers keep rolling in

I must say, it was quite a surprise to hear that Clint Eastwood wants to make a movie out of my book, “The Genuine One.” I never expected Hollywood to come calling, but you just never know these days, I guess.
It’s been a couple of months now since my fictional novel was released to the general public, and it’s taking off, apparently. I’m told by my agent, Biff Shaboom, that the book is surpassing all expectations through the Amazon and Barnes & Noble websites, and it must be true because in a couple of weeks I’m scheduled to talk about it on national public television with Charlie Rose, and after that I’ll be appearing on “The Today Show.”

So it’s off to New York for me. I’ll be sure to pack a big suitcase, because Mr. Shaboom wants to show me the town, which, of course, will include a tour of The New York Times.
The Times has been on my back for weeks, in fact, asking that I agree to write a weekly column in its book section. I told them, however, that it’s out of the question because in spite of my success I prefer staying here in Worthington and writing for the Daily Globe. I don’t think Sandy and I can be happy in the big city, frankly; we’re humble, small-town people, you know. But the editors at The Times have been so kind, I finally agreed to at least listen to them one more time.

It’s still hard to believe, looking back, that when I started writing stories I never assumed any of them would go national, let alone be on the fiction bestseller list. But that just goes to show you that dreams do come true.

I’m really looking forward to the Charlie Rose show because he’s going to introduce me to Stephen King and Salman Rushdie. I’m not a big fan of Mr. King (his books scare me), but I’m really anxious to converse with Mr. Rushdie and congratulate him for managing to stay alive since that fatwa thing, and all. I’m sure there will be a lot of happy talk on “The Today Show,” but I’m OK with that. We writers — even those of us who are serious writers — have to put up with those kinds of things in order to keep our image in front of the public. And at least I’ll get to ride in a limousine.

I ordered a black one, with a high definition TV.

Well, before I go, I suppose I’ll have to say something about the Clint Eastwood thing. Yeah, he managed to see “The Genuine One” on the Amazon site, bought it, read it, and loved it. He called me recently and said it was the most entertaining, humorous and meaningful story he has seen in years, and that when he makes his movie it will smash all the box-office records. “It’ll make ‘American Sniper’ seem like child’s play,” he actually told me.

Just who will star in the movie, I don’t know. I’ll be involved in the casting, of course, since I’m the author, but I don’t plan on being fussy about it. I’m just not that kind of guy, you know.

Anyway, before I go I should tell you about another of my books that will be coming out soon. It’s entitled, “The Old Man in Section 129,” and it’s about baseball, fathers and sons. I recently received a phone call from nationally syndicated political columnist George Will, who said he received an advance copy and plans to write a column to coincide with its official release. Mr. Will, as you may be aware, is a huge baseball fan and has written a few books on the subject.

I suppose when George’s column comes out, “The Old Man in Section 129” will cause a sensation in its own right.

But I think at this point — April 1, 2015 — everybody should relax. As I said before, I don’t plan on accepting any of the lucrative offers that are sure to come. Sandy and I love it in Worthington and plan on retiring here.

A little richer, and a little more famous, of course. But like I said, we’re humble people and intend on remaining that way.

The impossible dream — in 2015?

Public television is in the midst of a pledge drive, and in order to increase donations they’re replaying old classic television clips.

I found myself wondering how many living souls who’ve come across the offerings really appreciate them. I saw Richard Kiley performing “The Impossible Dream” from Man of La Mancha. And I saw a young Dick Van Dyke singing “Put on a Happy Face” from the old musical, “Bye Bye Birdie.” Another snippet showed the cast of “Oklahoma” singing the title song.

On another day, a retrospective of Bing Crosby’s career taught me things I never knew about the famous crooner. Last night PBS showed a documentary on Peter, Paul and Mary.

I was too young, or wasn’t even born yet, when some of these classic films, musicals and performers hit their stride. I grew up in a rock-n-roll world, and craftsmen like Crosby were beyond my scope. I am reminded that Frank Sinatra, himself, is reported to have called rock music — during a time when Elvis Presley was in ascendance — “the most brutal, ugly, desperate, vicious form of expression it has been my misfortune to hear.”

I don’t blame Sinatra for saying it. Rock and roll was designed to appeal to the young, and its’ contrasts with Sinatra’s style was as jarring then as it still seems to some today. But as I watched those PBS shows, I became just a little bit disappointed that the styles of the past (along with the spirit) seems so hopelessly outdated in 2015. When I listened to Kiley sing “The Impossible Dream” I was impressed with the optimism of it, the way it gives voice to lofty human desires all of us innately feel in our hearts. Van Dyke’s version of “Put on a Happy Face” might embarrass us today for the sheer sappiness of it. But I was impressed, once again, with the innocence that emerged from the performance.

Optimism and innocence are largely lost in popular entertainments today. Back then, the great performances encouraged and uplifted us. Too many entertainments today — songs, movies, books — seem intended not to uplift or inspire, but to shock and to tear down. There are many exceptions to this, of course. But it seems, sometimes, that the old way, which sought to point the audience toward what is best in the human spirit, is being discarded for what leads to pessimism and negativity.

The world today is saturated with entertainment options. You can still find Bing Crosby recordings if you look hard enough, but why bother? We’re always on to the next thing; most of us have little time or inclination to consider our grandparents’ favorites. I understand that, of course. I still prefer Neil Young to Bing, the Beatles to Frank.

But after watching those PBS episodes, I found myself wishing that young people today could stop for a moment to learn, to watch, to listen and appreciate a different era and try to plumb what were simpler, more optimistic times.

And I wonder: If they did step back into the past, would they even be able to understand it?

 

Car trunk cleanup time

One of these days, and maybe soon, I’m going to clean out all that stuff from the trunk of my car.

It’s going to happen because it has no business taking up space in there. None whatsoever. Not any more, that’s for sure.

I should have done it three years ago, to be honest. But I tend to hang onto things a little bit longer than I need to, and … well, for crying out loud … for a while there in the back of my mind I thought that maybe — just maybe — I might get the call.

That call didn’t come, of course. And with each passing year, that big old black duffle bag filled with my old softball pants, three or four my softball shirts, some long-sleeved T-shirts for those cold days, two of my favorite ball gloves, three balls, sliding shorts, etc., just seems to scream out at me to admit to reality. My ball playing days are long gone. And they aint never comin’ back.

I went in my trunk the other day to pore through the contents, and everything was there. Everything I would need in the coming spring if my old teammates called me back into action, explaining how it’s just not the same any more without me. And could I please return for one last tournament so I could stroke one of those line drives between the centerfielder and rightfielder and motor all the way to third base while the ball makes its way toward the fence.

Truth is, I’ve been retired for three years. I’m 58 years old now and probably couldn’t make it to second base even if I did get ahold of one and drill it into the gap. And I probably can’t hit the ball that far any more, anyway.

No matter. So three years after I retired from my fast-pitch softball days my trusty duffle bag, with the broken zipper and torn corners, still sits in my car trunk waiting for action. Begging for action, in fact. I have sincerely retired. But the tools of my trade — from my bats to my gloves, from my long white socks to my half-used tube of Icy Hot (which is now as runny as water) — awaits the call. The call that will never come.

For most of my adult life, the trunk of my personal vehicle has been the reservoir of my softball tools. Always ready for me, so that all I had to do was hop in and drive to tournaments near and far. I’d open the trunk and everything I’d ever need for my own little heaven on Earth ballplaying experiences were right there at hand. I was like a turtle who carried his indispensable items right there on his back — except that mine were always there in the trunk of my car.

I’ve never been very good at letting go of the things I love. I’ve still got more than a couple of old shirts hanging in my closet that my wife, Sandy, has tried to get me to toss for years. But I like ‘em. They’re still comfortable to wear. I don’t want to let them go without a fight.

But I’ve gotta grow up. Face the music.

So one of these days I’ll climb into my trunk, pull out the old equipment, dig a hole in the back yard, and resign it to the ages. Maybe I’ll invite a few friends and family for the occasion. And play taps.

Farm genes spring to life, sort of

What I know about farming I can write on a kernel of corn. But I’m reading a book called “A Good Day’s Work: An Iowa Farm in the Great Depression” and a little bit of knowledge is beginning to sink in.
You would have thought I’d know much more about farming than I do, but like they say, you just can’t figure out some people.
I come from farm stock on both my Wolter and DeBoer sides, and the history goes way back. My father actively raised crops for many years, though he retired from active farming when I was still little. Even so, I remember sitting on his lap as he drove his tractor, and I remember him bringing me along when he checked his fields in the summertime. We had chickens and pigeons on our place on the western edge of Allendorf pretty much throughout my childhood, and I remember feeding them. I remember the old red barn and the smaller sheds where dad kept his tools and his antique barbed wire fencing.
But I never cared for farming. And dad never pushed it on me. He loved sports way more than farming — baseball especially — and I was every bit my father’s son.
I actually remember the moment I made up my mind that the farmer’s life was not for me. It was one summer as I was baling hay for my uncle Floyd, dad’s oldest brother. It was an extremely hot and muggy day and I spent all of it trying to maintain my balance on a bouncing rack as my uncle sped through his bumpy field. After a while, the bales seemed to get heavier. The twine that held them together dug into my fingers. Worst of all, as my sweat fell in big drops, fibers from the hay worked their way underneath my clothing in ways I cannot begin to describe. It was a new definition of uncomfortable.
That was the day I decided I’d get a desk job someday. If not a desk job, at least something apart from farming.
Truthfully, however, though I never came close to being one, I’ve always admired the American farmer and the rugged individualism that defined him. I saw it in my uncle Floyd, in his brothers, and in my cousins who continued to pursue the profession despite all the uncertainties and hardships that threatened success. Perhaps that’s why I picked up “A Good Day’s Work” in the first place — to unlock the memories that lay dormant for so many years.
In reading the book, I re-learned a lot of things about corn and bean fields, cattle and hog care and the proper maintenance of equipment. And I discovered things I’d never known about Midwestern farms in the days between the great wars.
But I think the memories of the author, Dwight W. Hoover, about baling is what I appreciate most. Here’s an excerpt that, thankfully, I never had to worry about when Uncle Floyd drove us all so mercilessly:
… If keeping your footing on the hayrack was not treacherous enough, you also had to dodge your workmate’s fork as he swung it around in preparation to move a bunch of hay. When I was in college, my uncle hired me and a one-eyed man who was an itinerant minister to load hay for a day while he drove a tractor pulling the hayrack and loader. The hired man was a frenetic worker who went after the hay with a vengeance, waving his fork wildly. Trying to keep my footing proved to be extremely tough; I feared being stabbed when I was on his blind side or falling off in an effort to avoid impalement….
Suddenly, a little hay stubble down my pants doesn’t seem so bad after all.