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Reblog — “Neal’s Neverending New York PhotoNotes Post”

Because I was asked about some of the places I visited while in New York recently, I decided to reblog the post, with hyperlink additions.

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[Warning:  If you’re going to read this one, you might want to go get a snack.  And maybe a cushion.  Wear loose-fitting clothes, comfortable shoes.]

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I traveled with daughter Amy, son-in-law Orte and grandsons Daniel and Gabriel to Manhattan last Thursday, returning yesterday.  This trip has become our annual spring rite of passage.  Except spring didn’t cooperate this year–cold!  Brrr!  Even a little snow.  But what a Grand Time as our Vagabond Shoes left Savannah and headed to the Big Apple.

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Easy, FUN flight, even with five- and three-year-olds.  No, BECAUSE of five- and three-year-olds.

Cool suite on Park Avenue:

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And of course, the first thing the boys want to do upon our arrival in New York?   Watch Gravity Falls on TV.

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(Okay, maybe it was pretty interesting, all about Dipper’s sister Mabel having a crazy-about-boys summer–at one point she sees a young fella holding a turtle, runs up to him and exclaims, “You like turtles?!  I LIKE TURTLES!  What’s happening here?!” as she moves her hands back and forth between her and the boy.  Finally Mabel sorta falls for a trenchcoated pyramid of Gnomes who want to marry her and make her their Gnome Queen.  I had no idea Gnomes could be so pushy.)

Gabriel looking out on the NY skyline from our 27th floor:

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The Children’s Museum of Manhattan (on the Upper West Side):

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A walk in Central Park, playing with dirty snow.  (But we’re from the south–we’ll take what we can get.)

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Delicious Waldorf Salad lunch for me–at the Waldorf:

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Touring = Tiring:

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Dinner at Victor’s, our favorite Cuban restaurant in Manhattan:

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Neat day, after Gabriel’s “breakfast” …

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… we taxied to another great museum: the Children’s Museum of the Arts in SoHo.  What an interactive place!

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My work:

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(Now do you see why I teach part-time at an art school?!  I call it Morning Glory and Green-Haired Cory.  Bids start in the upper thousands.  Thank you.)

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Daniel’s Dragon:

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(Those aren’t my blue fingernails.)

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First of two Broadway plays: Newsies.  Just incredible energy!  Google it.

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Newsies ticket

And here’s a pic of the stage/curtain thingy, right before I got yelled at for taking pictures inside the theatre.  (I’m sure they didn’t realize they were talking to a world-famous blogger and all.)

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I’m thinking about becoming a Broadway star.  All that’s holding me back is that you have to sing and dance and memorize lines and get up in front of people and not stutter because you’re so nervous.  AND not fall off the stage when you have to walk close to the edge.  That part TERRIFIES me.  But still.

The most incredible coincidence happened next.  Walking back to our hotel to join the fam, I saw Andaz.  No not a person, a very cool hotel.  We have an Andaz on Ellis Square in Savannah where they give you the MOST delicious Candied Bacon I’ve ever tasted.  (Okay, it’s the only candied bacon I’ve ever tasted but SO good.)  Of course I had to shashay in to compare Andazes (plural?).  This sign greeted me when I walked into the lobby:

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Hooting Hyenas!  SCAD is where I teach as an adjunct.  So I hopped on the elevator to the second floor!  Wouldn’t you?  Why?  Well, duh, a reception, and receptions mean one thing … free food.  The first person I saw was Joseph; he’s in a writer’s group I sometimes attend:

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(I’m not sure why I look so huge and bloated in that picture.)

(Does anyone know how to Photoshop me standing about two feet behind Joseph so I don’t look so very big?)

I chatted with other SCAD folks and even a few newly accepted students and their parents.  A fun NY surprise.

Next morning, Grand Central Terminal …

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… and waiting for Kidding Around (a very cool toy store) to open–we did F. A. O. Schwarz the day before:

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Street vendor hot dogs, of course:

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Second Broadway play: Cinderella (with a new spin, including lots of humor and an evil stepsister who turns good).

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Orchestra pit (we had second-row seats!):

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Afterwards off to Ellen’s Stardust Diner where the wait staff … SINGS!.  So cool:

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Snack on the walk back to the hotel:

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The Apple Store in Grand Central Terminal for a new case for my iPhone:

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Last morning.  Daniel and Gabriel reennacting the final scene from Gravity Falls (we watched the same episode three times over our stay) when Dipper rescues Mabel from the Gnomes, and the brother/sister engage in an “awkward sibling hug” with “pat, pat.”  (Hulu it.  I think the episode is called “Tourist Trap.”)

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Blustery/snowy/rainy weather on the way to LaGuardia.

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For some reason, less-than-ideal weather always makes me feel better when it comes at the end of a trip.  (Reminder to self: therapist talking point.)

While we were waiting at the gate for our flight, a Big Red Heart sauntered up.  No clue why.  But D is never one to miss a photo op.

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Oh, if you were that Big Red Heart, looking where he seems to be looking, you would see this:

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It’s an iPad cafe–you order your food right from the iPad.  (“Hip” should be my middle name.)

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A wonderfully joyful New York trip.

As we waited on the runway, while an animal-like machine de-iced the wings, Daniel looked at me fiddling with my phone and yelled (loud enough for his dad and the rather stern flight attendant to hear), “Abu is not turning off his electronic device!”

Great memories to think about.

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Reblog: The Viewing & The Circle of Life

In preparation for tomorrow’s keynote address at the Student Success in Writing Conference here in Savannah, I am reblogging this pertinent and moving post.  We learn, we teach, we learn.  Then we teach, we learn, we teach – indeed a Circle of Life, my readers.

 

As I mentioned in a previous post, my father-in-law passed away earlier this week. Death, of course, is difficult for anyone to cope with, but perhaps especially so for young children. Because they are still so close to birth, little beings of the morning, and because their life experience has been with newness and fresh discovery, with joy and giggles, death must seem unfathomable, foreign, outside of understanding.

But like most kids, my four-year-old grandson Daniel likes to understand: “Abu, why can’t I sit on top of your car? I could see a whole lot better.” “Abu, my teacher won’t let me bring my sword to school and fight like the blue Power Ranger. Why not?” “Why can’t I say potty words?” “Why do we have to wear clothes when it’s hot?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”

When his parents arrived at the funeral home north of Atlanta the other evening, they told me that Daniel had, as usual, been plying them with questions about the current subject which went beyond his grasp–his great-grandfather’s death. “But if Papa is in heaven, why will everyone be sad?” “Where IS Papa?”

I played with Daniel and his little brother Gabriel in the large kitchen area of the funeral home, where friends had brought mounds of food. Their mom and dad, Amy and Orte, walked through large white windowed doors and down a narrow hall that eventually led to a sitting room where the family received guests who came to pay their respect and offer condolences. Papa looked pre-cancerous in a striking gray suit, snow-white shirt, and brown and gray tie patterned with tiny crosses. He had been a Methodist minister in the North Georgia Conference. A large United States flag, achingly resplendent in red, white and blue liveliness, lay across the unopened lower half of the coffin. Papa was retired Air Force.

Every few minutes, Daniel ran over to tiptoe and peer through the windows of the white doors, gazing down that long hallway which twisted and turned but allowed no view of Papa. “Where are Mama and Daddy? I want to go too.” A few minutes later: “Why can’t I go in?” “Is Papa in there? Where?” “Let’s go in there, Abu.”

A while later, when we were eating lasagna in the kitchen, Daniel was still asking, asking. I made a decision, a decision you may not have made. I asked Daniel’s mom and dad if I could take him in to see Papa. They agreed, mainly (I think) because they trust me, and they know how much I love D.

I picked Daniel up and asked him if he knew what had happened to Papa. “He died,” came the quick answer. I told him that yes Papa had died. “And he’s in heaven,” Daniel added. His confusion centered on who or what was down that hall that everyone kept traversing. He wanted understanding, answers. He wanted to walk down that hall.

So we did.

The kitchen had been noisy with visitors loudly talking, eating, reminiscing, and occasionally laughing at the past. Its tiled floor amplified the clicks of my boot heels as we walked, Daniel in my arms, toward those doors, dividing doors which in my grandson’s mind led to answers. As we passed through them, my heels, like everything and everyone on that other side, grew quieter on the deep carpet.

We entered the viewing room, and walked past adults talking in hushed tones. Daniel kissed his Nana (Donna is the oldest of the four daughters of Papa), then his Great-Grandma, who sat regally next to the coffin. But his eyes were looking, searching.

Not expecting Papa to be lying down (why didn’t I think to tell him that detail?), Daniel finally found his great-grandfather.

He looked for a while, and finally asked quietly (Daniel doesn’t usually do “quiet” very well), “Is Papa sleeping?”

“No, not really sleeping. He died, remember?”

We stood there for about a minute, Daniel getting heavy in my arms.

“Are you ready to go, baby?”

“No.”

Other folks waited patiently for their turn behind us. Daniel started to lean over toward the coffin, paused and looked at me for permission (and like “quiet,” D doesn’t always do “permission” well). I nodded, and Daniel touched the white satin edges of the liner and then Papa’s right arm.

Giggling just a bit, Daniel said, “It tickles.” I smiled.

“You ready now?”

“Yes.”

We walked back through the hall, toward the kitchen. When we got to the doors, I saw through the windows my daughter Amy and Orte, waiting. I put Daniel down, and he pushed open the door. His dad asked him, “Are you okay, Daniel?”

But he was already off, running on the noisy tile, chasing his little brother. Doing “loud” once again.

Posted in Uncategorized

A Dollar Holler

Today I arrived in Statesboro a little early for the first day of Term A Summer classes at Georgia Southern.  Since at the end of the week I’m flying to Manhattan for a long Memorial Day weekend, I decided to run by the grocery store to pick up a few of those travel size products.  (Did you know they sell Gold Bond Powder in teeny tiny containers?!  Remind me to add that to my Five Friday Happy Bringers this week.)

Waiting in a long line (very patiently I might add), I came out of my daydreaming (about, upon my retirement, the possibility at my age of becoming either a tug boat operator on the Savannah River or a Broadway star) when I heard the following exchange between the Friendly Store Clerk and the Girl with the Puppy Tattoo in front of me.

Friendly Store Clerk:  “That’ll be $5.74, ma’am.”

Girl with the Puppy Tattoo:  “Oh gosh.”  (Fumbling frantically in purse.)  “I only have $5.00.”

[Long silence]

Friendly Store Clerk:  “Uh.  Hmm.  Well.”

At this point, it hit me that I could get us all out of this thickening and beginning-to-get embarrassing plot very simply.  But the following thoughts flew through My Mind first:

My Mind:  “If I take out my billfold, open it and don’t have a dollar, will I turn red?”

My Mind:  “What if she thinks I’m a dirty old man?”

My Mind:  “What if Friendly Store Clerk gets unfriendly and belligerent?”

My Mind:  “I’m too shy to do this.”

My Mind:  “Which would bring in more money, Tugboat operator or Broadway star?”

(Okay, kidding about that last one.)

Well, I looked at my shoes, and decided to Just Do It.  I opened my wallet, breathed a sigh of relief that I had a one dollar bill and (feeling like an adult child of Mother Theresa and Donald Trump), handed GWPT the dollar.  Her eyes increased in wattage as she took it and presented it to the SMILING Friendly Store Clerk.

“Have a blessed day, sir,” the Girl with the Puppy Tattoo said.

And that was that.  I walked out with my teensy powder,  having answered a dollar holler.

Posted in Affirmations, Uncategorized

Our Natural State

I LOVE this quote and believe it to be SO true:

“Our natural state of being is joy, and it takes so much energy to think negative thoughts, to speak negative words, and to feel miserable. The easy path is good thoughts, good words, and good deeds.  Take the easy path.”                                              — Rhonda Byrne

Do you accept the premise that our most natural (and most transformationally powerful) way to live our lives is in Joy?  And that it is actually easier to think happy thoughts as opposed to unhappy ones?  And that it FEELS better to be happy than to be sad, or angry, or frustrated?  I do … 92% of the time.

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Eating with Pirates

Writing a blog has made me bolder.  I’m basically a shy person, sometimes painfully so.  For example, even after decades, I still get nervous speaking in departmental faculty meetings, unlike many colleagues who will drone on for tens of minutes about the controversial placement of a comma in a new department policy document….  Wait!  Stop!  Did I just write that??  Slap self hard!  Or take Toilet Tissue Purchasing as another example.  For some reason I get SO embarrassed buying it.  I can’t look the checkout clerk directly in the eyes.  I tried buying a single roll at a time for a while because I could hide it in the shopping cart between the rutabaga and the large bag of epsom salts.  But all that shopping got old in a hurry.  So now I just buy the small, anemic-looking four-pack.  At midnight.  DO NOT even suggest to me those super twenty-four roll jumbo packages or the insanely large mega-rolls.  Everybody would be staring.  Wait!  Stop!  That’s not really shyness, is it?  It’s mental.

Anyway, recently I was minding my own business, walking through a hotel lobby restaurant in Orlando, when out of the corner of my left eye (my good one), I saw some pirates at a table.  A decision had to be made: either keep walking and embrace a worldview which accepts pirates–or go ahoy them and take their picture for my blog.

Talk about friendly pirates!  I didn’t fear for my life a single moment during our little connection time.  Come to find out, they were a pirate family.  Here’s mom and dad.  Married 50 years!

And here’s their daughter, a very happy family practice doc, as well as a pirate!

They were joyful mates to meet. 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

The Viewing & The Circle of Life

As I mentioned in a previous post, my father-in-law passed away earlier this week. Death, of course, is difficult for anyone to cope with, but perhaps especially so for young children. Because they are still so close to birth, little beings of the morning, and because their life experience has been with newness and fresh discovery, with joy and giggles, death must seem unfathomable, foreign, outside of understanding.

But like most kids, my four-year-old grandson Daniel likes to understand: “Abu, why can’t I sit on top of your car? I could see a whole lot better.” “Abu, my teacher won’t let me bring my sword to school and fight like the blue Power Ranger. Why not?” “Why can’t I say potty words?” “Why do we have to wear clothes when it’s hot?” “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”

When his parents arrived at the funeral home north of Atlanta the other evening, they told me that Daniel had, as usual, been plying them with questions about the current subject which went beyond his grasp–his great-grandfather’s death. “But if Papa is in heaven, why will everyone be sad?” “Where IS Papa?”

I played with Daniel and his little brother Gabriel in the large kitchen area of the funeral home, where friends had brought mounds of food. Their mom and dad, Amy and Orte, walked through large white windowed doors and down a narrow hall that eventually led to a sitting room where the family received guests who came to pay their respect and offer condolences. Papa looked pre-cancerous in a striking gray suit, snow-white shirt, and brown and gray tie patterned with tiny crosses. He had been a Methodist minister in the North Georgia Conference. A large United States flag, achingly resplendent in red, white and blue liveliness, lay across the unopened lower half of the coffin. Papa was retired Air Force.

Every few minutes, Daniel ran over to tiptoe and peer through the windows of the white doors, gazing down that long hallway which twisted and turned but allowed no view of Papa. “Where are Mama and Daddy? I want to go too.” A few minutes later: “Why can’t I go in?” “Is Papa in there? Where?” “Let’s go in there, Abu.”

A while later, when we were eating lasagna in the kitchen, Daniel was still asking, asking. I made a decision, a decision you may not have made. I asked Daniel’s mom and dad if I could take him in to see Papa. They agreed, mainly (I think) because they trust me, and they know how much I love D.

I picked Daniel up and asked him if he knew what had happened to Papa. “He died,” came the quick answer. I told him that yes Papa had died. “And he’s in heaven,” Daniel added. His confusion centered on who or what was down that hall that everyone kept traversing. He wanted understanding, answers. He wanted to walk down that hall.

So we did.

The kitchen had been noisy with visitors loudly talking, eating, reminiscing, and occasionally laughing at the past. Its tiled floor amplified the clicks of my boot heels as we walked, Daniel in my arms, toward those doors, dividing doors which in my grandson’s mind led to answers. As we passed through them, my heels, like everything and everyone on that other side, grew quieter on the deep carpet.

We entered the viewing room, and walked past adults talking in hushed tones. Daniel kissed his Nana (Donna is the oldest of the four daughters of Papa), then his Great-Grandma, who sat regally next to the coffin. But his eyes were looking, searching.

Not expecting Papa to be lying down (why didn’t I think to tell him that detail?), Daniel finally found his great-grandfather.

He looked for a while, and finally asked quietly (Daniel doesn’t usually do “quiet” very well), “Is Papa sleeping?”

“No, not really sleeping. He died, remember?”

We stood there for about a minute, Daniel getting heavy in my arms.

“Are you ready to go, baby?”

“No.”

Other folks waited patiently for their turn behind us. Daniel started to lean over toward the coffin, paused and looked at me for permission (and like “quiet,” D doesn’t always do “permission” well). I nodded, and Daniel touched the white satin edges of the liner and then Papa’s right arm.

Giggling just a bit, Daniel said, “It tickles.” I smiled.

“You ready now?”

“Yes.”

We walked back through the hall, toward the kitchen. When we got to the doors, I saw through the windows my daughter Amy and Orte, waiting. I put Daniel down, and he pushed open the door. His dad asked him, “Are you okay, Daniel?”

But he was already off, running on the noisy tile, chasing his little brother. Doing “loud” once again.

Posted in Uncategorized

StereoStopping

My father, Harold Saye Sr., 87 now, taught me the single most important lesson of my life when I was a child.  He taught it primarily through living the lesson out day by day, year by year–through a lifetime.  He also imparted the lesson to me in simple words: “Neal, treat every person you come in contact with as if they are the most important person in the world.  Because when you are with them, they are.”

I learned from my dad, for example, that old people should be respected, revered even, for the years they have lived and learned.  For the truth they know.  He showed me how to love his mother, my Mama Saye, by just listening to her talk as she neared her death.

My father taught me to smile kindly at Joe Junior Watkins, the man/boy in ever-present overalls who wasn’t quite right, who grew older but remained a child.  “Don’t ever make fun of people, Neal.  They’re doing the best they can.”

I learned from my daddy that if you allow yourself to hate somebody because he or she is different from you, the next step comes easy: you can ignore them or fight them or kill them even.  “Don’t let that happen to you, Neal.”

He taught me that different is not bad.  It’s just different.

I grew up in the tiny North Georgia town of Ball Ground, where there were no blacks.  Not one.  But my father had black co-workers in his job as a machinist in nearby Canton, and he would invite his black buddy and his family to our house.  I learned early on that skin color is … skin color.

My father taught me to do whatever I can in my life to …

I certainly have not been 100% successful in this endeavor (probably not even 50%), but I am SO glad that I had such a wonderful model.

Now I try to teach my students that college should be an opportunity for them to embrace a diverse mix of people: different ethnicities and cultures, sexual orientations different from their own, different age groups, faiths, sizes, personalities, etc.

I want to ask you to do something.  Watch the video below.  Its a bit hard because it’s fairly long (about ten minutes) and it’s difficult to understand all the words of the speaker (but in a way, that difficulty is part of the lesson of today’s post).

(Monologue for the play Running Upstream, performed by Jordon Bala at my church a couple of weeks ago.)

I challenge you to develop a mother’s eyes to see, to see, to see.

I challenge you to join the crusade to Stop Stereotypes!

You and I– and the world–will be happier with the stopping.  Below are a few of my buddies who want to join in on the StereoStopping:


Will you join us in the fight?

   

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Four Things I Pretend to Like; Four Things I Like but Pretend Not To

Here are four things I pretend to like:

1.  Baked Lays.  I really want to like them because they are supposedly better for you, but to me they taste a little like very thin cardboard.  The next time I’m at Subway, I’m thinking about buying a bag of Baked Lays and a bag of regular Lays, switching the contents, and from then on keeping the regular bag with me as my cover.

2.  Wal-Mart Greeters.  I know, this is so mean of me, but REALLY, come on.

3.  Green Tea.  I drink it, but I don’t like it.

4.  Elves.  I don’t care if they’re from the North Pole or not, elves are creepy.  I know I’m a fine one to talk, with my ears and all, but still.

And here are four things I like but pretend not to:

1.  Susan Boyle.  She’s the best thing that’s come along since The Beatles.  I love this song:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bSnPqKZEFw8

(Maybe the outfits are a bit much for the English countryside.)

2.  Gold Bond Powder.  You don’t want me to get started.  Let’s just say that if I can’t find my GB, everything this blog stands for disappears.  EVERYTHING!

 

 

 

 

 

 

3.  Pork Rinds.   Barbequed, the kind they peddle at the Statesboro Fair in that little back alley where all the locally made food items are sold.  I buy one BIG bag for immediate consumption and another for a midnight snack.  The barbequed variety are really pretty hot, and I can’t feel my mouth for a day or two after the gorging, but they are worth the temporary inconvenience.

4.  The Greeters at Moe’s.  Like everyone else, I make fun of them: “Welcome to Moe’s!” I jokingly yell occasionally.  But when I rush in for the Ruprict Nachos at lunchtime, and the workers behind the sneeze guard greet me with such enthusiastic passion, I get a little choked up, like they really care, and that I’m, well, “home.”  (Now, if the Wal-Mart greeters did the same thing, the first list might just have three instead of four items.)

Now you know.  And you’re smarter because of the knowing.