Don’t worry; it’s just the Lions


I was watching my Detroit Lions play the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night with my friend Bruce. I mentioned to him that I happen to be an intensely loyal person. It’s one of my biggest defects as a human being, I admitted.

“That’s not a defect. That’s a good thing,” Bruce answered.

“Not if you’re a Lions fan,” I said.

You can’t really know what it’s like to be a Lions fan unless you actually are one. During the NFL season, it’s kind of like having to walk around every day with a “kick me” sign on your back.

On this particular night the winless Lions were huge underdogs again in Seattle, but the impossible happened. Late in the fourth quarter they managed to trail by only three points, and quarterback Matthew Stafford marched them on a long drive right to the verge of scoring what probably would have been the game-winning touchdown. Alas, his pass to the Lions’ best player, wide receiver Calvin Johnson — just as it appeared Johnson was going to cross the goal line with it — was punched out of his grasp only inches from paydirt. It bounced into the end zone and then out of it as a Seahawks player purposely batted it across the back line.

The referees called it a touchback and awarded the ball to the Seahawks. Game over.

Except the refs blew the call. By NFL rule, the Lions were supposed to get the ball back a half-yard away from the end zone.

So, essentially, what happened was this: The Lions were robbed of their first victory of the season, a potential game-changer of a victory against one of the best teams in the NFL, in arguably the hardest place for a road team to win in the NFL, solely because of a blown referee’s call. Instead of being 1-3 with a chance to turn their poor start around, they’re 0-4 and essentially done for the season.

Lions head coach Jim Caldwell, bless his heart, insisted the next day that the Lions should just forget about what happened on Monday night and plan for the next game. It doesn’t do any good to complain about the refs, he said.

Maybe he’s right. If you’re an NFL head coach, you’ve got to be calm and responsible. And Caldwell is about the calmest and most responsible coach that there is. In fact, he doesn’t even have a pulse.

But I wish he would go ballistic. I mean, at this point, what else can the NFL do to us, anyway?

The thing is, the Lions have a history of being jobbed. It’s like this: Most of the time the Lions — the NFL’s sorriest franchise — blow games on their own. Once in a while, however, they actually play good enough to win. Then, far more often than the statistical likelihood of such things, some ref comes along and blows it for them. It happened as recently as last year, when a blown call (yes, admitted the next day by the NFL) cost them a playoff win (the Lions own only one playoff victory since 1957) against the Dallas Cowboys.

If it happens once or twice, I can understand a coach’s desire to let it rest. But when you’re the Lions, it’s routine, and if you ask me, it’s high time someone like Caldwell blew his stack.

OK, I’ll be fair. I’m not going to say that the officials purposely fleeced the Lions Monday night of a win, although I’d like to. I think the more likely explanation is that they know they’re the Lions, they know they’re not supposed to win, they know they’re the NFL’s version of the Washington Generals, and they just don’t care. With the Lions, it’s kind of like the way the Supreme Court treats the Constitution: Sure, it exists. But it’s irrelevant.

I’m not asking for much, am I? I mean, it’s bad enough I’m a Lions fan (and I know it’s my own darned fault), but on those rare occasions when they actually win a game, can’t the refs — for once — just let them keep it?

Slow on the uptake


On the occasion of my wife’s September birthday, I gave her a card that on the front flap said, “Honey, I’d be lost without you”, and on the inside flap said, “Not to mention cold, hungry, dressed badly, inconsiderate, cranky, smelly … Thanks for all you do, and happy birthday.”

She thinks birthday cards, when it’s just the two of us exchanging them, are a waste of money. But she laughed at the joke, and since I told her the card only cost five bucks, she seemed to like the sentiments even more.

I like funny cards on special occasions. And this one got me to thinking: How bad am I, really? And how many other American husbands can identify with that same self-realization?

When you’ve been married for as long as I have (36 years, if I remember right), many of us husbands tend to rely on our wives for things that we used to figure out by ourselves. My dad was older when he married — he waited until he returned home from his World War II service — so I suppose it could’ve been harder for him to adjust to married life after he’d been a bachelor for so long. But what’s my excuse? Sandy and I married right after we graduated from college. I was still 22. All my bad habits should’ve been purged by now.

I have a theory, however. And it’s that when boys become married men, they all-too-quickly assume that they don’t have to think for themselves any more.

For instance: When I was single (in college), I chose my own shirts to wear, and I knew that if I chose something ridiculous, I had no one else to set me straight. But when I became a married man, I began to choose them with less insight, figuring (correctly, it turns out) that if the shirt was wrong for the occasion, my wife would make me change out of it. The implication, then, is that with a wife present to make these decisions for me, I didn’t have to think at all.

The theory works for other issues, as well. If I procrastinate when I should be mowing the lawn, I can trust that Sandy will mention it before the grass grows to my kneecaps. Therefore, I don’t have to worry about it; I’m married to an alarm clock.

And so on, and so on. The examples are endless.

Yes, you may think I’m a buffoon for being so slow to recognize things. But it isn’t my fault. I’ve been programmed … by marriage.

Now as for those other things, like my crankiness, smelliness, etc., I’m certainly grateful for having a good wife to smooth all those rough edges. I guess that’s why they call them “the better half.”

Cheap books, and other peculiarities

So I was at my own book signing event a couple of weeks ago at the public library in Spirit Lake, Iowa. My publisher set this up for me, and although I hardly know anybody in Spirit Lake, I went ahead with it.
While I was there I had lots of time to contemplate my navel, if I had so desired.
No, I didn’t sell very many books that day in Spirit Lake. That’s OK, however. The librarians there were very friendly, and while I waited for the trickle of book lovers I was able to peruse a shelf of used books they’d made available to the public for purchase.
It’s a funny thing about books, and I still haven’t quite made sense of it. I had two books for sale at Spirit Lake, “The Genuine One,” and “The Old Man in Section 129.” Both sold for the author’s discount price of $12, and for free I threw in a book mark and my signature. It seems like a bargain. Many readers certainly do consider it a bargain. But is it?
While I waited there, I was able to browse a fine selection of old books. There were several books that caught my eye — books by famous authors. I set aside a collection of Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I found “The Sun Also Rises” by Ernest Hemingway. I also found a James Bond story by Ian Fleming. And another book by John Updike. I picked up a short novel by Julian Barnes, a more recent award-winning author.
In all, I brought seven books home for the grand total of $4.
How is it, I wondered to myself, that someone like me can sell books for $12 a pop when I can get books by famous authors for less than a dollar apiece?
It’s weird. What would Hemingway think about it?
In any case, I’m finding already that on my books are being sold at discount rates. Originally priced at $15.99, they’re selling “used” for much less than that, and I suppose I should be honored. I still don’t understand how it all works, but I’m going to assume that if the prices continue to plunge they may yet become as cheap as Hemingway’s. I’ll never get rich that way, of course, but I guess I’d at least be in grand company.
Before I sign off, I want to tell you all about the latest book I’ve written that should be released in a month or so. It’s a collection of 10 short stories on a variety of subjects, some serious, some tongue-in-cheek, some humorous. I’ll share with you the titles now:
Absolute Summer … Couch Potatoes … PEF Rancourt’s World … The Echo of Perfection … Mya on the Fountain Plaza … The Magnificent Marble … The Global Athletic Legitimacy League … Elishama … Shootout at Gold Crick … Light Beams.
I’m not going to tell you what each one of them is about, but I’m sure you’re already intrigued by the titles. And, to be frank, I hope you’ll consider buying your copy before the price drops to Hemingway levels.

Who should think for you?

(UPDATE: Kim Davis was released from jail on Tuesday with the judge’s warning that she must not attempt to influence her co-workers who agreed to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples. This blog was posted prior to Tuesday’s ruling)

It cannot be expected that national Democratic leaders, given their politics, might be inclined to feel sympathy for Kentucky County Clerk Kim Davis, who was jailed several days ago for her refusal to issue licenses for same-sex marriages. More telling, however, are the mixed responses of Republican presidential candidates, who one might suspect would be more sensitive to freedom of religion issues.

Strong stands in favor of Davis’ religious liberty rights were taken by Ted Cruz, Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Marco Rubio and Bobby Jindal. Others, most notably Jeb Bush, Chris Christie, Carly Fiorina, Lindsey Graham and John Kasich, took the easy way out, either appearing to dismiss the seriousness of the question by appealing to settled law or by talking from both sides of their mouths. The Supreme Court has ruled (5 to 4) for same-sex marriage, they stressed. What the Supreme Court says is … wait for it … “the law of the land.”

I always find it disappointing when politicians punt on important divisive issues, and religious liberty issues are as important as they get. This country was founded on the principle that courts should attempt to find accommodation for individuals with sincerely-held religious convictions, and there is no doubt that the judge who sentenced Davis to jail time could have found accommodation had he chosen to do so. As for those politicians who find religious liberty too troublesome to confront squarely, their mealy-mouthed statements should be duly noted by those of us who believe this country sorely needs a man or woman of courage and conviction to become the next president.

Law of the land? What does that mean? Is the “law of the land” now just a convenient excuse to crawl into an intellectual foxhole? Would those same Republican presidential candidates, had they lived 160 years ago, have deferred on the slavery question because the Supreme Court had upheld it as the “law of the land?”

The point is not, of course, that slavery and same-sex marriage are comparable issues. But no one can suggest that the Supreme Court is infallible.

Those presidential wannabes who fear mixing it up in the arena of public opinion might do well to hear the words of Rev. Martin Luther King, who once said, “I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law … if today I lived in a Communist country where certain principles dear to the Christian faith are suppressed, I would openly advocate disobeying that country’s antireligious laws.”

Kim Davis has willingly accepted a punishment that many argue should not have been demanded of her. Her only encouragement now might be that her incarceration may come to be seen as so unreasonable that her cause will become more appreciated.

But not, obviously, by everyone.

I wonder if I were to approach one of those weak-kneed presidential candidates and asked them how important, really, is religious liberty to them, if they would respond by saying, “I don’t know. Let me go ask the Supreme Court.”



Dangerous times



As I explained in one of my recent columns, I’m trying to limit my intake of cable-TV news because it gets my blood to boil. The less I know the better company I’ll be.

But I’m still too well informed for my own good, I think. After church on Sunday, the wife and I went out for lunch with two of our closest friends. Mike, who probably should have known better, asked me what I thought of the continued success of Donald Trump as a presidential candidate.

Well, he asked, so I opined that it’s really only because of conservatives’ contempt for their own party leadership that a guy like Trump gets so much support. Regular voters are so fed up with the wimps in the Republican party that they naturally gravitate toward blowhards like Trump — a guy that projects confidence and can-do spirit in a party that has been dominated for years with “cowards” and “hypocrites.”

I must have been a little too energetic in my commentary, because I got a couple of stares from the table next to us. Trump fans, apparently. I quickly surmised that my friend — a prominent Democrat in Osceola County — would not want to be seen in a public restaurant in the company of a lunatic, so I was happy when my wife changed the subject to our grandchildren.

This incident occurred just a couple of days after I held forth on the same subject in the Daily Globe newsroom. Robin, one of our intrepid news reporters, said she was impressed. But as I looked into her widening eyes as I made my speech, I suddenly became convinced that if she had been near a net, she would have thrown it over me.

So now I’m renewing my vow to spend the remainder of the election cycle in silence (I’m sure you’re wishing me success), but I must admit I’ve made similar determinations in the past. I just can’t help but smile to consider the real possibility that Donald Trump, who once advocated the impeachment of the last Republican president, might actually become the 2016 Republican presidential nominee.

Time will tell. But to be honest, I actually don’t think Trump will make it all the way. I’m more inclined to suggest that Hillary Clinton will be able to — against all odds — withstand all the accusations leveled against her (and Joe Biden, too) and limp to victory.

My only question is this: Will she get out of prison in time for the inauguration?

What do my dreams say, and do I want to know?


I had another sports-inspired dream last night, and this time it was about baseball.

I was standing in the batter’s box against a hard-throwing right-hander and I stepped out to regain my focus after getting behind in the count 0-2. I stepped back in, wondering to myself whether he’d “waste one” or try to sneak one past me on the third pitch.

He threw a fastball high, around my shoulders. I swung anyway, striking out. For a brief moment, I wondered if this was real or if it was another one of my dreams. I hoped it was a dream.

Yes. Yes, it was only a dream. I became sufficiently awake at that moment, and got out of bed to face the day.

Over the years, I’ve revealed some of these dreams to my wife, Sandy, and asked her for a diagnosis as to why so much of my sleeping hours are spent dreaming of sports. Most often, they center upon fast-pitch softball, which I played passionately for more than 35 years of my life. But other sports have been front-and-center as well.

Baseball is another popular dream subject. Basketball probably ranks a close third on my dream list. I don’t know why. I never played organized basketball, although I chalked up quite a few years of it during noontime at the Worthington Area YMCA. Football ranks right up there, too.

Sandy, being no Sigmund Freud, says she has no idea why I dream about sports all the time. Me, I can only wonder. Is my mind so wired to sports that that’s all I can think about when my brain should be shutting down for the night? I mean, I’m interested in a lot of things besides sports.

I have to confess, though, that my sports dreams are unpredictable. One night, I might strike out on three pitches. Another night, I might hit a three-run homer to win the game. You just never know. Sometimes in my dreams, I’m just a run-of-the-mill amateur. Other times, I might be attempting to dribble past LeBron James for a layup. Or I might be quarterbacking an NFL team.

It’s fun to see what happens. Ironically, it’s usually when I fail that I wake up right away — perhaps it’s the disappointment that jolts me into wakefulness.

I did a little research about why we dream what we dream, and it seems that the famous psychologist Carl Jung proposed that as we dream, the unconscious mind is providing solutions to problems faced by the dreamer in his/her waking state.

If this is true, my dream about striking out on a high fastball might be related to that time, at the fast-pitch nationals about 20 years ago, that I struck out with the bases loaded against a powerful Kansas team when we desperately needed something good to happen. Perhaps my unconscious mind was graciously giving me the opportunity to reverse the result.

Well, if that’s true, then thanks for nothing. It’s a little too late for that now.

Roger Maris still a fascinating case study

The authors of a book I’ve just finished on Roger Maris, former MLB home run king and favorite son of Fargo, N.D., argue that his statistics don’t adequately measure his greatness.

Tom Clavin and Danny Peary, in “Roger Maris: Baseball’s Reluctant Hero,” come out as big fans of the former New York Yankee, who slugged 61 homers in 1961 to surpass the immortal Babe Ruth’s most cherished record. To the authors, Maris’ outstanding defensive abilities and his many clutch performances have been ignored by those who might otherwise have installed him in the Hall of Fame.

The legacy of Maris, who died in 1985 from cancer at the relatively young age of 51, is still debated today. In 1961 in what some say is the greatest single feat ever accomplished by a major league ballplayer, Maris erased Ruth’s record of 60 home runs slugged in a single season (although Maris did it in a 162-game season whereas Ruth did it in 154). I still don’t know if I would place Maris in the Hall, but I’m tending to agree with the idea that no other baseball feat compares with what Maris did.

Why? Because no other ballplayer had to endure the kind of intense pressure that Maris endured throughout his quest.

Clavin and Peary very eloquently describe the harsh treatment Maris endured in ’61. He was hounded mercilessly by the press — especially the New York press, which despised him because he refused to behave like they thought a superstar should behave. They hated him because he didn’t act like his more charismatic teammate, Mickey Mantle, and they hated him even more because he wasn’t Babe Ruth. They wrote scathing stories about him that ignorant fans tended to believe, which contributed to an anti-Maris sentiment that spread throughout the country.

Maris brought his small-town Midwestern sensibilities with him to the big city. He was naturally shy and reserved. He shunned the spotlight. As the hounding increased, he refused to become the kind of superstar others wanted him to be. He remained true to himself. He was a great teammate, always a hard worker, and a true professional.

But the hounding persisted. In today’s major leagues, teams protect their stars from the kind of hazing Maris was subjected to on a daily basis — not only at the ballpark, but in hotel rooms, and even at home. In 1961, Maris was left to deal with the jackals all by himself.

I always knew Maris was abused while chasing Ruth’s record. I knew about the fact that, as he neared the record, his hair began falling out in clumps. But I never fully realized just how bravely Maris withstood the barrage — with dignity and grace, and (yes, finally) with a new major league home run record.

Happily, before Maris passed on, his understandable bitterness at the way he was treated was soothed as the Yankees, and baseball fans everywhere, began to appreciate his unique story. Even so, he remains short of the Hall of Fame.

His career statistics would seem to justify his critics. He was a two-time MVP and his teams won seven pennants, but in 12 major league seasons he batted just .260. He never reached .300. He hit 275 home runs, and only three times did he hit as many as 30 in a single season.

But something Hall of Famer Hank Greenberg once said got me to re-thinking the issue. Greenberg, reacting to those who complained that Maris’ 61-homer season was “all he ever did,” said that that was like saying all Jonas Salk ever did was develop the polio vaccine, or all Columbus ever did was discover America, or all John Glenn ever did was orbit the earth more than another other American in history.

Makes you think.


The need to be offended

I must be hopelessly insensitive, as clueless as I am undeservingly comfortable to be a privileged member of American society. I need to look at things in a new way — the way Supreme Court justices look at the Constitution, for instance, discovering things in it that linger for centuries hidden from plain view.
But I need help.
Perhaps I need to listen to people like Judith Harrington, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, who, in considering the recent July 4th holiday, favored us with the news that the Minnesota state flag is racist.
Well, why not? Just about everything in American culture is racist these days, if you ask the right people. And if you really want to know what’s racist, what better place to go than to an American university?
Now, I admit that upon reading Professor Harrington’s findings my first instinct was to question her status as an unbiased observer. I mean, she teaches in Wisconsin, and historically (especially during football season) The Badger State hasn’t always had Minnesota’s best interests at heart. But perhaps this was just my own bias showing. I must bury my Minnesota sensibilities in order to see the world as others see it.
Harrington says the Minnesota flag creates a racist contrast between white society and the American Indian. So I looked at the flag once again, and sure enough, it depicts a white settler plowing a field in the foreground while an Indian rides a horse on the horizon.
“The contrast in the images of the figures is interesting,” Harrington writes. “The image of the pioneer, a peaceful man who has laid down his gun and is plowing his field, is juxtaposed with the image of the Indian, who may still want to fight (his spear is at the ready) but who seems to be riding away.”
The contrast, Harrington explains to us less intelligent Minnesotans, speaks of a white man who is a “doer” who is entitled to the land, contrasted with the Indian depicted as a “vacating tenant.” Worst of all, she says, is the depiction of a racist, stereotyped Indian, who wears “only a loin cloth and a feather.”
Wow. I’m sure you’re like me, and you’d rather not be associated with a racist state symbol. So I looked more closely at the flag. And yes, the Indian carries a spear. But another person might consider the spear to be symbolic of a proud Native American heritage. Regarding Harrington’s contention that the Indian may still want to fight, how does she know? Perhaps showing a spear in the figure’s hand is the artist’s way of celebrating that proud Indian heritage.
And let me say just one thing about the loin cloth reference: I looked closely at the depiction and could not make out a loin cloth no matter how hard I tried to see it. And are loin cloths racist, too?
Where one person might see racism, another might see an attempt to honor. For every person who believes the depiction of the American Indian on a state flag is racist, another believes it to be an expression of respect. Who is right?
I grant you: For many of us, it’s hard to tell. We live in a culture where is applauded for banning sales of the Confederate flag but continues to sell Nazi and communist paraphernalia. But why stop with the Confederate flag? Many of the same people who celebrate the banning of it now want the U.S. flag banned, too.
If you ask me (and I realize you probably aren’t), this flag issue seems just one more example of a growing American desire to manufacture offense. It seems everyone wants to be offended these days, and by being offended they hope to force a kind of political correctness on everybody else that forces them to think and behave a certain way. But, trust me, there is no constitutional right never to be offended (although I’m sure our Supreme Court might be able to find one somewhere).

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.