Fishing on My Mind

It is nearly the end of April and I am deep into my angler magazines.  I’ve also been calling on my fishing friends to find out about their upcoming plans and to reminisce about fishing exploits past.  I called my buddy of many years, Dr. Jay, to talk about the early spring trips we took together with a gang of friends, now passed, to Pennsylvania – Big Spring Creek, Allegheny, Susquehanna and Penn’s Creek—for Walleye, Small and Large Mouth Bass, Pike, Muskee, Brown Trout and the occasional Rainbows.   I’ve also connected, via zoom, with my friend Paul, in Wales, who has filled me in on the fishing conditions at the River Wye, his local spot.  My latest issue of the British magazine, The Field, has the line on fishing throughout the UK, where it started April 1st.  The Brits have easy access to waterways throughout the countryside with endless fishing locations both private and public.  I truly enjoy the fishing experience in the UK, as much for the catching as for the environment and the company.  The outdoor spaces are exhilarating, walking through the ancient woods to a hidden fishing spot–it is as much fun as setting the fly.   And of course, the fellowship, not only with my buddies but with the guides, who make all the travel worthwhile. Characters they are, who harken back to another era, as some have been fishing the same waters for fifty years.  

I have my own fishing nest in Maine, and the daily reports still show ice in places on the lake.  There are no reports on the beaver ponds since their locations are secret, known only to me and Greg.  I will have to see if Greg has had a chance to check on them.  I am traveling north in a couple of weeks for a hearing and am planning a side trip to Bangor and from there to camp for an overnight on East Grand Lake.  Wheaton Lodge just opened and Sandy is encouraging me to come.  “The small mouth bass are plentiful,” she tells me.  Maybe a salmon on top of the water for my visit? I am hungry for my guide Andy’s grilled lake-side barbeque chicken and cowboy coffee.  The Woodie Wheaton Land Trust recently closed on a large tract of land on the East Grand Lake and St.Croix headwaters.  I am anxious to see it –and of course to go out on the lake with Andy.  I look forward to the early morning sun on my face and the quiet of the grand canoe gliding through the water.  The eagles soaring overhead.  No other fishermen in sight.  Andy knows I like to keep more or less to myself and rest the mouth and mind.   He is respectful of my need for the tranquility.  It is where I recharge my batteries for summer in the Hamptons and everything to come, and for as long as life has for me.

A Day at the Gun Range

In West Palm Beach, many local families partake in a leisurely Saturday afternoon activity shooting pistols at Gator Guns and Archery Center on Okeechobee Boulevard. My experience at this huge, indoor firing range and gun shop was limited to a visit last year with my friend Chris who introduced me to the place.  Chris is something of an expert with his cache of guns, pistols, and hunting rifles.  My grandson Billy was here this weekend and considering my need to keep a 12-year-old busy, I asked Chris to introduce Billy to the basics of gun safety and target shooting at Gators.  As anyone who reads or watches television knows, the gun control issue is an urgent matter after the many tragedies in Nashville and elsewhere, with semiautomatic weapons behind the worst of the massacres.  As a responsible grandfather I believe a youngster from New York City should know more than what he reads and hears about guns in the news, and indeed a trip to Gator’s gun range was an enlightening experience for Billy.  First, he saw the massive and exhaustive collection of armaments on display and for sale there, all legal under Florida law.  The pistols Chris taught him to handle were small arms typically used by law enforcement.  Billy was very surprised to see entire families there—mothers and fathers, grandparents, and young children –all out target shooting with their weapons. According to the rules at Gator’s, if a child is tall enough to see over the table and is accompanied by a parent, they are permitted to shoot in the range. For many of the participants it was not just a leisurely outing but a practice round to keep their skills honed for safe handling and to burnish their hunting skills.  Some were there for the fun of target practice.  It was clear that from an early age they are held accountable for the proper use of a gun.  It is the duty of parents, especially in a gun-friendly state like Florida, to instruct their children about gun safety and when it is appropriate to use such a deadly weapon.  Most people at the range on Saturday owned their guns and kept them in their homes.  It makes sense that the children learn how and when to use them.   There were instructors also working the range helping the newbies to the sport.  Others seemed to be professionals, possibly law enforcement. This is Florida—the wild west where the right to carry a concealed weapon is allowed without a permit.  It is a law that invites more gun use and gun education I suspect.  Billy left Gators clutching his paper target showing near perfect hand-eye coordination.  He came away from his time there with a new skill, and he was excited about wanting to go out target shooting again.  More importantly, he learned to respect the power of a gun in the hand and why safety and constraints are necessary for their use. 

All the Flags at the Bridge

Back in 2020, when Carl Butz and I first discussed the name of my future column, Carl immediately suggested “Here Back East.” “You live on the East coast,” he said, “–Florida, Long Island and Maine–so it is accurate and general enough that you can write about anything under that heading.” I was fine with it considering I did not fully grasp at the time how much I would enjoy sitting down each week in front of my old Olympia typewriter to tap out the 200 words or so that ultimately become a Messenger column. So here I am in Palm Beach a day after the historic news of the indictment of a former President – right in my backyard. Well not quite my backyard but a few miles south of it, at Mar-a-Lago, the permanent residence of our former President. After tennis yesterday morning, I hung the lanyard with my press pass around my neck and headed out. (Full disclosure – I am scheduled to be interviewed by the Secret Service for entry to the White House press conferences in the spring.)

The midday sun was high over the ocean as I drove past the historic wooden gates at the entrance of Mar-a-Lago. A few secret servicemen carried serious-looking weapons and stood talking amongst themselves as minimal lunch traffic went in and out of the club grounds. There was no former President greeting his club members that I could see. Unable to stop to query the guards about their morning routine now that the former President was preparing to travel north for his arraignment, I proceeded west over the Southern Bridge where Trump supporters routinely gather to catch a glimpse of him and cheer him in his motorcade on the way to his golf club in West Palm Beach, or perhaps to the airport.

Midway over the bridge a Palm Beach policeman idled on his motorcycle. Below him, partly under the bridge, were a group of a dozen or so supporters waving flags- mostly MAGA– so many flags they seemed to outnumber the people. People were milling about, some seated in beach chairs. The mood at the gathering seemed upbeat and the scene brought to mind the football tailgate parties outside of Shea Stadium in the 1970s. Parked beside the bridge was a smart, white BMW convertible with a mix of American and MAGA flags attached to the rear. Still, it appeared to be a weak turnout compared to the bridge rallies in years past, when the headlines drew out the fans. One such occasion was during the last impeachment trial. There were easily ten times the number of people then, barely contained in the permitted areas around the bridge entrance. The indictment of this former President has not seemed to arouse the same ire of his supporters, if the crowd count was any indication of their sentiment. It might have been the time of day—I was there during lunch hour. As the date for the arraignment grows near, I assume more supporters will be drawn to the Southern Bridge location to cheer on the former president. Or perhaps his supporters are awaiting his commands, as they did prior to the January 6 insurrection— the infamous day in history when the Capitol was stormed by American flag-bearing extremists. Here’s to the American flag, a symbol of our collective values and support of the Constitution. Yesterday on the bridge, the flag was made to appear symbolic of less than all we stand for in America.

A Winter Visit

Being in the Hamptons in late March—after a stay in Manhattan and a bit of work-related business –briefly reconnects me to the peace and quiet of our home in eastern Long Island. I wake early and take my new-old Mark II Jag out for a morning drive.  Only 100 miles from New York City are vast expanses of farmland and ocean vistas, long secured by the Town from developers.  The stress of work notwithstanding, the scenery helps me breathe easier–windows down, temperatures in the mid-40s, the sun reflecting off the polished burlwood. I consider how fortunate we are to have settled in East Hampton some 50 years ago.  The population has steadily increased perhaps ten-fold over the years and the prices of real estate even more. Winter months have not changed significantly, still quieter than summer.  The residential lanes are fully improved now- no more vacant lots– with a few classic shingle style houses, but modern architecture has crept in as new owners demolish and rebuild their houses, many in the oversized “McMansion” style.  The route down Montauk Highway is free of traffic going west. I pass the eastbound “trade parade” backed up at the light in Wainscott and find a parking spot in front of Bridgehampton’s Candy Kitchen diner.  Inside, the owner Marcello is at the counter bent over his morning coffee, awaiting the breakfast crowds.  He sees me and says, “haven’t seen you in a long while” –the usual greeting after I’ve spent several months in Florida.  I take the last booth though the restaurant is empty.  This is my usual hang-out.  I settle in with the New York Times and a large coffee in a paper cup.  Absorbed in yesterday’s news, I savor my caffeine fix.  I have my solitude here – no office, clients or fellow lawyers to query me about my time away.  Afterward, I take the backroads through Sagaponack.  The speedbumps intended to slow down the summer traffic are also a warning to me not to test the old Jag’s suspension. The sun glints off the windshield.  I try to turn on the old radio but no luck.  One more thing to add to my “fix” list.  I return home and park the Jag in its garage space.  The house is quiet and I start a fire in the library hearth.  I ask Alexa to play WQXR and I settle into my cozy chair with the view out on the open field.  The deer are not spooked by my return.  They feed away, in their usual routine.  They know.

Passing Through

It has been almost six months since I last walked the streets of New York City.  I am glad to be back to my old routine: early morning New York Times pick-up, visit Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, haircut and shave at York Barber, and then breakfast at Neil’s Coffee Shop.  Except Neil’s is gone, evicted for nonpayment of rent.  I read about its demise in The New York Post before I left Florida.   Apparently, the longtime owner filed for bankruptcy in 2022 and died in early 2023.  Now it is in the hands of the landlord. As Yogi Berra said, “In New York nothing changes but everything.”

I found an old interview with the late proprietor, who said ownership of Neil’s was handed over only once, in 1980, from the original owner to him, and he was determined to keep everything as it was, including the same 1951 cash register and 1954 milkshake blender which “still work just fine.”  The upholstery was updated and that was it. Neil’s first opened its doors in 1940, one of the many Greek diners that proliferated in mid-century Manhattan, serving coffee to go in the iconic Grecian-themed blue paper cups–a New York artifact once seen everywhere, but now a rarity since the invasion of Starbucks.   The original neon sign hung out front on day one was there for the next 83 years. I went myself to confirm and for once The Post got it right. Neil’s was closed, dark and locked.  I peered in the window.  Chairs upended on tables.  A lone can of spray cleaner on the counter.

I had been going to Neil’s since 1964, when I moved into the city from New Jersey after law school. It was my go-to diner after I got married and we bought an apartment on 71st Street. Our girls were small when we moved again to 68th Street—also an easy walking distance to Neil’s. We had countless family breakfasts and father-daughter lunches in those old booths, until we moved out of the city in 1972.    I returned to Neil’s periodically over the years since then, while visiting my grandchildren who live on the upper east side.  We meet at the Carlyle hotel, where I stay when I’m in town, only a few blocks from our favorite coffee shop.  They enjoyed it I like to think because they could see how much it meant to me to take them there. That and the ice cream sundaes.

Rough around the edges, I don’t think Neil’s had an indoor paint job in the 50-plus years I went there. The tables and booths were squeezed into space that should accommodate half the number. The fire code inspector must have been a regular and looked the other way.  Visiting the men’s room in the basement was like going down into the subway.  But the food was consistent –the oversized omelets and home fries were reliable breakfast comfort food.  Nothing like a toasted bagel and cream cheese from Neil’s.  Oh, how I miss those early morning wake up meals.

 There are other changes in the neighborhood.  The CVS on the corner of Third Avenue and 68th Street has shut its doors.  As I write this I see the windows at The Food Emporium across the street are filled with closing signs instead of the usual grocery store displays.  Things feel diminished.  Except for the New York Hospital workforce crowds coming up from the subway at 68th and Lexington, the pedestrian traffic seems to have abated.  It seems like there are even fewer dogs on the sidewalks.  Perhaps it is the weather.  It has been colder and people are staying indoors.  Could it be spring break time for schools, so everyone is away?  Restaurants seem quieter too.  Something is happening here in New York City.  People are leaving it.  Now that office attendance is not mandated, there has been a migration to more affordable places to work remotely.  I work in my own office in East Hampton no more than six months out of the year.  With Zoom and before that Skype, I connect remotely with my office and have been doing so for 15 years.  I met a young woman recently while playing tennis who works for Goldman Sachs.  She relocated from New York to work in West Palm Beach.  “A better environment,” she said. “More outdoor time and less expensive.”  Yes, New York may be shrinking a bit.

 I found one busy place on my walk around the neighborhood:  the local library on 68th street.  Drawn in by the comfortable seating and a change of scene from an apartment–as well as the fact that it is “free” –people are flocking to libraries, sanctuaries of calm and quiet, no matter what might be going on outside. I belong to one on 79th Street where I hang out and work when I am in town. The Starbucks across the street is also lively. New York may be slightly less populous, but it will never be totally abandoned.  As time passes however, with the loss of places like Neil’s, there may not be enough to keep some of us here in place or coming back.

Moose Lodge at Palm Beach Gardens

I walked into the Moose Lodge on RCA Boulevard feeling out of sorts.  The scheduled Celebration of Life for Nanci was due to end in 20 minutes. Otherwise, it had been a usual Sunday for me, with a busy morning—a Garden Tour in Palm Beach with Patti and then lunch with Caroline and Sam.  After dropping off Patti at her place I sped north on I-95.  I pulled into the parking lot mostly filled with pick-up trucks and a few motorcycles.  Outside were gathered a few smokers with beer bottles hanging loosely at their sides. The glances my way made me feel a bit uneasy.  I walked through the entrance into a reception area with pictures of past Moose members.  I then realized I didn’t really know why I was there.  Nanci was one of the regular counter gals at Greens, my local pharmacy and lunch place in Palm Beach.  Over the past 20 years I only knew her first name and that was from the nametag she wore.  Not one to talk much she was always short on words and did her job—take her order and return to gossip with the other counter ladies.  I was never successful in engaging her in a conversation.  In fact, I was cautious not to call out my order to her until she was ready and standing at my table with her pen out and a note pad in hand.  In hindsight I thought that perhaps by coming to her Celebration I might learn a bit more about her.  She always seemed a bit out of place at the counter.  She was tall and evidently had once been a “looker.”  Who was Nanci and did I miss something or offend her in some way over the years? I never observed her in real conversation with any customer though, so maybe it wasn’t me.  She was there to do her job and she did it well.  Nanci would not know I was there to pay my respects, but I wanted the other counter ladies to know I do care.  That was the point, I guess.  I roamed the room, furnished with round tables decorated with printed logos of the Washington Redskins -now called the Commanders.  Large photos affixed to the walls showed Nanci in various stages of her life: motherhood, partying in Key West, in a Redskins football jersey, and having fun with her many friends.  The music played, country and western.  The open bar had a line.  There were homemade cookies and brownies.  This was not an “eating” party.  The beer and desserts must have been what Nanci would want.  Someone had made a video of her life over the years and a few of us stood there watching it.  The counter women from Greens sat around a table and I went over to say hello.  I believe I was the only customer who showed during the Celebration.  I felt a bit awkward speaking to them.  I sensed they were looking at me and wondering “what is he doing here?”  I walked around the room once more and saw a table with condolence cards made out to Nanci’s family.  I thought perhaps I should have brought one.  I looked for a guestbook to sign, but then I don’t think anyone really cared that I was there.  I left as I came in, wondering why I had gone in the first place.  I guess sometimes we do things for a reason that only make sense some time after the event.  This was one of them.  I am glad I went.  I cared for Nanci. 

The Brightline

          For those who travel along the coastline in eastern Florida a train ride is usually Amtrack, which runs between northeast and southern Florida. I discovered a recent addition to this route: the Brightline, a new, modern short-run train between West Palm and Miami. Many of my friends recommended using this mode of transportation as a more comfortable means of travel than driving I-95, so when I had a business meeting last week in Coconut Grove, I decided to go by rail.
          Settling back into my seat I closed my eyes and thought back to my first train ride with my mother on the New York Central from Rochester to New York City in 1954 to attend my brother’s engagement party. I was 15 years old and mom had brought a picnic basket of food to hold me over during the 8-hour trip. My parents were kosher so there was no thought to ordering anything in the dining car except soda pop. I recall distinctly as the conductor came down the aisle to retrieve our tickets, Mom said to me “Lenny, you slink down and don’t show how tall you are” – my ticket was for ages 12 and under. Dad had warned her not to pay extra for an adult ticket for me. The conductor was none the wiser and I passed for 12 on that trip though I don’t think the charade would have worked for much longer. My father was an experienced train rider having traveled alone in 1918 at age 12 from his shtetl in Russia to Hamburg, Germany, to board a ship to Argentina. He had a singular train experience and it was certainly not a fun one, but that is a story for another column.
         There was no entertainment on the New York Central for a 15-year-old kid like me, but fortunately, I had a library copy of Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” to pass the time. When I tired of reading I ran up and down the aisles of the train cars. I was always a talker and I recall making friends with some of the other adult passengers in the general seating areas. The uniformed ticket collectors were entertained by me and gave me a tour of the various railcars. The kitchen car was the most fun. I watched the cooks in their sparkling white chef’s caps preparing delicious-looking meals of chicken, roast beef, crab salad, and strawberry shortcake–none of which I was allowed to have. The baggage car held an orderly assortment of luggage and boxes for delivery ala FedEx today. There was an open-top observation car that must have been First Class. I spent a lot of time peering out the windows at the miles of farm fields as we passed through central New York and then turned south at Albany towards New York City, finally arriving at the gigantic Grand Central terminal. Seeing the mighty panoramic Kodak “Colorama” in the lobby was thrilling to me. My brother Marty met us in the main concourse and hustled us through the underground tunnels to his parked car. It was my first, unforgettable train adventure to New York City.
          I commuted by train later during my college years, between upstate and Newark, but soon I had a car –a Morris Minor –and drove the New York Thruway and New Jersey Turnpike back and forth to law school. Ultimately train travel ended for me and I like most people, except commuters and train enthusiasts, travel by air. The Brightline trip to Miami brought all these memories back and I thank that someone out there who created such nostalgia for me.

Book Joy

A dream of mine has finally been realized:  Barnes and Noble is coming to the Hamptons.  Seems the new owner, an English bookstore entrepreneur, is building out some 35 new stores throughout the U.S. and one is scheduled to open this year in Bridgehampton, New York.  There are small, independent bookstores in Sag Harbor and East Hampton, but the scope and ambiance of Barnes and Noble will motivate me this summer to drive the backroads through Wainscott to the Kimco shopping center at Bridgehampton Commons. As you may know from my previous columns, I regularly roam bookstores in whichever city or town I may be in, such as Shakespeare & Co. on 68th and Lex in New York City and Classic Bookshop in Palm Beach. But Barnes and Noble is like a combination library-bookstore experience that reminds me of my early days when I first fell under the spell of books.

                So many of my Saturday afternoons in Rochester were spent curled up in the aisles at Scranton’s Books on Main Street, which was adjacent to Louis’s Parking–my dad’s lot.  I would pull down books at random and attempt to understand them despite my then undiagnosed dyslexia.  In college, I spent endless hours at the Rutgers library not just studying but stretched out on the floor between the stacks just reading for enjoyment. 

These days, in Palm Beach, I steal an hour between exercise and lunch to hide out on the second floor of the Four Arts Library with one of the several books that I am reading.  I always have more than one book going at a time, all of them stored for convenience on the back seat of my car.  I believe the book hoarding and reading multiple books simultaneously is a habit that I picked up from my brother Marty when we were growing up–this in spite of the fact that I never saw either of my parents pick up a book, nor did they encourage us to. My father only read the weekly Yiddish newspaper which was sold at a few of the kosher stores on Joseph Avenue and which, as a special delivery from New York City, was always a week out of date.  My mother read the local Times Union and when I was very young, I would try to read with her, by her side.  My brother’s visits home during his college years at Syracuse University were memorable for our outings together to Scranton’s, where he would fill up a shopping bag with books.  I recall in later years, when I saw him in Connecticut and at his New York apartment, he was always surrounded by books, including a vast collection of art books.  Yes, the younger generation of Ackermans would always have libraries in their homes–rooms dedicated to the pleasure of reading. 

I am now building another library for myself, this one at camp in Maine, in my new office cabin.  I shipped up at least a thousand books from my collection in East Hampton and shelving is being constructed now to house them.  I decided on the Maine library so the books would be more accessible to me, as I spend most of the summer at camp.  Also, the accumulation had grown beyond capacity in East Hampton.  With the books up north, I can look forward to the rainy, non-fishing days, when I will settle in my office cabin in front of the electric faux fireplace to reread some of my old favorites, the warmth in the room almost matching what I feel inside when I open up one of those old volumes, cherished as they are like old friends.

The Homeless

The weather in Florida dropped to mid-forties last week.  Out of storage came the heavy sweaters, socks, long pants, caps and fleece jackets, now the attire day and night.  Patti and I bundled up and went for brunch in West Palm at Howleys Diner on South Dixie, an active street much like Second Avenue in New York City–lots of restaurants, simple fare and shops offering everything from clock repair to fancy, out of date furniture consignments.  After a brief wait a table was available.  Seated next to the entrance we felt a cold breeze each time the door opened.  Our coffee had just been served when a disheveled young man wearing a dirty Santa hat entered.  Unkempt beard, loosely hanging, tattered clothes, he had the appearance of too much time on the streets and not enough time cleaning up.  He seated himself next to us and I instinctively pushed my chair away from him and closer to Patti.  Not a peep from Patti, casual and unnerved as she can be.  Anxious about his close proximity, I looked about and to my surprise there was the manager holding a large to-go cup of hot coffee.  He set it carefully in front of the young man, who picked it up with both hands and sipped cautiously, not wanting to spill a drop of the precious commodity.  The manager hovered over him and gently coaxed the visitor out the front door.  I was relieved, but ashamed that I reacted the way I had, so ill at ease by his presence.

I have encountered homeless people in New York for years; they are more prevalent now, since Covid. I walk around them sitting or lying on the sidewalk in front of CVS on the corner of 68th street and Third Avenue.  I fear many have burned bridges with family and friends and lack any support system.        Mental illness pervades the homeless population.  I have empathy and the desire to help and pressing some cash into an open hand temporarily assuages my guilt. I held out a sandwich once and was told “I don’t like turkey.”  I offered what I thought was needed, but it was not what was wanted.  Advocates for the homeless have a mantra: “We can’t take away their right to be homeless.” But what does “right to be homeless” mean? What about the right of the average person to feel unafraid when they pass a homeless person, given the number of recorded random attacks? Most homeless are not of sound mind, so are they capable of making decisions in their own best interest?  If not, is leaving them on the street and labelling it as their “choice” or “right” morally wrong?  Isn’t “homeless” a spectrum — from the single mom who has to live in a motel or in her car with her kids because she was evicted, to the violent, mental hospital patient released prematurely for lack of beds?  If they are not capable of helping themselves are our politicians doing enough? I am troubled by the “homeless” problem and all of its implications and questions.

The weather has returned to the usual 80 degrees.  I suspect the young man in the Santa cap found the shelter up the road on South Dixie.  The line for a meal and a place to sleep starts snaking mid-day in Florida.  I am going to seek out answers to some of my questions and do more to help.

Hard Stop

Hard Stop – English (plural hard stops); Noun

  1. A definite time when someone must end a task in order to meet another time commitment.
    1. I have a hard stop at 4pm, so please try to cover everything in the meeting before then.
  2. Making time for yourself to do what matters most- taking care of yourself to restore and reset the body, mind and soul; to make time to spend with family and/or friends.
    1. I have a hard stop at 2:00 – we’re going to a concert with the kids

The phrase “hard stop” became part of my vocabulary during Covid lockdown.  Working from my home offices in East Hampton, Florida and Maine during the period between March of 2020 throughout 2021, I felt strongly that I could not be fixed to a computer zoom screen 24/7.  My practice is not a 9 to 5 routine.  Client emails and calls come in from as far away as Malaysia and London and from all over the United States.  My responsiveness is key to my client relationships so I am constantly drawn to the phone and computer.  Hence, the need for regular mental health rest time. During lockdown, it was impossible to get away from the computer as it was never more than a few feet away.  Thus the term “hard stop” came into regular use and practice and continues to this day.  My office does not schedule calls before 9:00am or after 4pm.  There is still business activity outside of those hours, but not generated by me or my staff unless it is a matter of utmost urgency. 

                My friend and colleague Thom took it upon himself to incorporate the term into dictionary format –and enshrined the phrase on baseball caps for everyone as holiday gifts.  I think Thom’s definitions are good ones.  We all need time off.  Those of us in the service business – professionals, white collar, blue collar—are instantly accessible through cell phones and computers for work-related matters these days.  No more letter writing to inquire.  Just bang out a few words with “call me.”  I cherish my time off.  I now spend more leisure time playing tennis, swimming, painting and today– writing a column.  I am no longer driven by meeting billable hour goals.  I’m 83 years old – I can fairly say I am due some time off. Yes, I believe Thom really got the idea. Hard stop.