Friday, November 26, 2010

"I'm glad it's your birthday/Happy birthday to you."

The Song: The Beatles, "Birthday." Words & music by John Lennon & Paul McCartney. Track 1, side 2 of The Beatles (the White Album), 1968.
How/when acquired: Gift LP, c. 1980.
Watch/listen here.

Officially I do not believe in astrology (though I can tell you that I am a double Scorpio with Gemini rising, and explain what that's supposed to mean). However, I do wonder about the coincidence that so many of the most important people in my life share this birthday: my sisters Peggy and Susan, my brother Ed, my son Christopher, and my dear friend Doyle. Happy birthday one and all, and let the celebration extend from one end of the eastern seaboard to the other.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

"And I think to myself, what a wonderful world."

The Song: "What a Wonderful World," Joey Ramone. Words & music by Bob Thiele (as George Douglas) and George David Weiss. Track 1 of Don't Worry About Me, 2002.
How/when acquired: Downloaded MP3, c. 2005

Spending the next few days with the people who matter most. Some days I feel so overwhelmed by the extravagant, ridiculous blessings of my life I don't know whether to laugh or cry. Thank you all.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"I'm on my way/I'm on my way/I'm on my way/I'm on my way again."

The Song: "Song for a Girl Who Has One," Too Much Joy. Words & music by Too Much Joy (Jay Blumenfield, Tim Quirk, Sandy Smallens, Tommy Vinton). Track 2 of Son of Sam I Am, 1988.
How/when acquired: Purchased CD, c. 1992
Can't find it online, but you should already own this album. If you don't, buy it here.

Fog and the need to finish a couple of things delayed my departure from Maine yesterday, and I did not get to Pennsauken, NJ until sometime around 11:00 p.m. No two ways about it: that drive is miserable, despite the company of some saved-up Kermode and Mayo's Film Review podcasts. Dizzy and I are about to get back into the car for the next leg of the trip, which if all goes well — and it won't — should take about six hours.

There must be a better way to do this.

Major takeaway from yesterday's drive: I-95 from New Haven to the New York state line is one massive shopping mall. Where do people get all that money to spend? Why does anyone need that much stuff? The entire state of Maine has two malls. Two: one in South Portland, one in Bangor. Augusta has an outdoor shopping center, but I'm never there, except to go to the movies. Crossing that bridge into New Hampshire feels like entering another country.

Monday, November 22, 2010

"Here I am/I'm playin' daydreamin' fool again."

The Song: "You're My Favorite Waste of Time," Marshall Crenshaw. Words & music by Marshall Crenshaw. Track 6 of This is Easy: The Best of Marshall Crenshaw, 2000.
How/when acquired: Purchased CD, 2000.
Listen/watch here.

Among the many mysteries of American popular music is why Marshall Crenshaw was never a huge, huge star. Oh, he's had a decent career; he's been able to support himself as a musician, which is as much as most professional musicians can hope for. He's a recognizable name, and his 1982 debut, Marshall Crenshaw, has never been out of print. He's a musician's musician, with the respect of his peers, and that's no small thing.

But his is the kind of excellence it's easy to take for granted. I loved Marshall Crenshaw from the first notes of "Someday, Someway" (which this song was the B-side for), but never spent any money on him until Rhino Records released this greatest hits collection in 2000. Fortunately, lots of artists have paid Crenshaw to cover this song, and his work is a favorite choice for movie soundtracks.

I'd originally planned to drive south today, but bad weather this morning pushed all my plans back a day. What we got was mostly rain, but I've heard enough reports of black ice and crashes on I-95 to make me glad I stayed home. I have a lot of work to do, and was just as happy to have some extra hours to get it done — paradoxically, though, I've spent much of the day dithering, and haven't been anywhere near as productive as I needed to be. Why does it always seem to work that way?

Saturday, November 20, 2010

"Can't pretend that growing older never hurts."

The Song: "Slit Skirts," Pete Townshend. Music & lyrics by Pete Townshend. Track 11 of All the Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes, 1982.
How/when acquired: Gift bootleg cassette, 1982.
Watch/listen here. That's a remix with a cool harmonica riff that isn't on the album version; the album version is here.

In honor of my 45th birthday — and my twin sister Kathy's — the closing track of the one album I'd need on the desert island, if I could only keep one. My friend Gary gave me my first copy of this record, taped from his LP. I still consider it Townshend's finest work, which is saying a lot, and this song has turned out to be more important to me than I could have imagined, when I first heard it at the age of 16.

Townshend was only in his mid-30s when he wrote this song, which is all about that realization that you can't pretend to be young forever. It gets harder to take risks, to be willing to be seen as foolish, to absorb losses and start over. As Pete says, we have to be so drunk to try a new dance . . . and yet, once in a while, we still do.

"My Three Angels" closes tonight at Hallowell City Hall, so if you're in the area, you've got one last chance to see it. 8:00 p.m., $12, reservations shouldn't be necessary.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Hey you with the pretty face,/Welcome to the human race."

The Song: "Mr. Blue Sky," Electric Light Orchestra. Words & music by Jeff Lynne. Track 3 of Strange Magic: The Best of Electric Light Orchestra, 1995.
How/when acquired: Purchased CD, c. 2003
Listen/watch here.

This song originally appeared on the 1977 album Out of the Blue, as the last of a four-song suite called "Concerto for a Rainy Day," side three of a 2-LP set. (I've never owned Out of the Blue, a mystery since I have coveted it from the first time I listened to it, at my friend Adrienne's house sometime in 1978. Did I mention I have a birthday coming up?) The Delgados made a great cover of this song, which you can listen to here.

Anyway, this song is a like an emotional "Get out of jail free" card for me, to be rationed carefully during the winter months when things get a little dark around here. It's never failed yet, but I don't want to overuse it, in case it wears out. It always reminds me, when I need reminding, that the world is pretty great and people can be both kind and funny if you just let yourself see them.

Tuesday night was the 10th annual Brewer's Dinner at The Liberal Cup, central Maine's finest (well, only) brewpub and my hangout of choice. The Brewer's Dinner is a six-course meal that pairs food with beers brewed at the Cup, introduced by brewmaster/owner Geoff Houghton. I'd never been able to go before, so was especially grateful when my friend Richard included me when buying tickets for this year.

It was a magic evening, and exactly the sort of thing I hoped for/fantasized about when I made the move from big city to small town. The Liberal Cup seats about 80 people. Of those 80 on Tuesday night, I knew at least ten, and my dinner companions knew most of the other 70. The food was ridiculously good: beer-cheese soup, chicken-pistachio pate with sauce verte over microgreens, wort-braised pork belly on a bed of toasted barley, roast duck with smoked mashed potatoes, and a coffee/stout float with chocolate creme brulee in a brioche for dessert. (There was also a fish course. I don't eat fish, but people seemed to like it.) I did not drink all of the six half-pints I was served; I had to drive home, and there was a limit to how much I could consume. But it was a true feast, in great company, and that's about the best life offers.

The great danger of depression — and I say this not because I am depressed (at the moment, I'm not), but because the latest posts have all seemed to deal with this subject — is the cycle of isolation. Humans are inconvenient and annoying and loud and kind of gross sometimes, but they can also be loving and kind and endlessly amusing. Sometimes all you need is just to get out there and meet some. Paradoxically, sometimes it's easier to do that in a small town.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Whatever it is, we are all the same."

The Song: "Secret World," Peter Gabriel. Words & music by Peter Gabriel. Track 10 of Us, 1992.
How/when acquired: Purchased cassette, 1992.
Listen/watch here.

I might not have bought this tape the day it came out, but it wasn't long after. It was the fall of 1992. I was living in a low-rent apartment complex near Baileys Crossroads, Virginia, and dating a man I suspected didn't even like me much. I bought my first new car — a Saturn XL — and it had a tape deck, which seemed an extraordinary luxury. This tape spent a lot of time in that deck.

As the title suggests, Us is all about finding connections with the people we love, and this is the last song on the album. Depending on one's mood, the song is either a celebration of or a eulogy for the world two people create when they're in love with each other. It's a fragile place, and for many (most?) people it doesn't last; the real world intrudes too sharply. But, bitter spinster that I am, I do believe that people who work at it can keep that secret world going, at least for moments here and there, at least enough to want to spend a life with that one other person. It seems to be the goal, anyway.

I've been a little startled by the venom and ugliness I've seen online in response to the announcement of Prince William's engagement to Kate Middleton. In her place I would not want to wear William's mother's engagement ring — if ever a piece of jewelry carried a curse, it would be that one — but I understand why he wanted her to have it. And for us Americans, it's really none of our business. We're not paying for any of it, and they're never going to be our heads of state. We settled all that 234 years ago. But any young couple deciding to make that leap deserves support; it's a hard road ahead for any set of newlyweds, and likely to be harder for them.

Monday, November 15, 2010

"Long ago it must be;/I have a photograph./Preserve your memories/They're all that's left you."

The Song: "Bookends," Simon & Garfunkel. Words & music by Paul Simon. Track 7 of Bookends, 1968.
When/how acquired: Purchased cassette tape, c. 1987.
Listen/watch here.

Bookends is a wonderful example of how form dictates content, and why the disappearance of the LP really is a loss. This lovely song closes out the album's first side, a suite of songs about the phases of life and aging — written by a man who was 26 when the album was released. The second side, which isn't as good even though it includes at least two songs I'll probably quote here later, is a collection written for the soundtrack to The Graduate (a movie I've always considered overrated, but that's a post for a different day).

I got to see Simon & Garfunkel live on my last birthday in Los Angeles, as a gift from Gary, one of my oldest friends. It meant so much to me to see the two of them on stage, having managed to save their friendship after so many years, so many public squabbles and private injuries.

I don't take photographs. I don't even really keep photos that other people give me, and I rarely look at the pictures I have. Something about photographs feels like cheating, as if a photo somehow absolves me of having to do my own work of remembering.

As the next birthday approaches, though, I can imagine a time when I'll need the pictures. That scares me more than almost any other piece of aging, the idea of losing those memories. I think that's at least part of what this blog is for.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

"Take me out tonight/Because I want to see people and I/Want to see life."

The Song: "There is a Light That Never Goes Out," The Smiths. Words & music by Johnny Marr and Morrissey. Track 9 of The Queen is Dead, 1986.
How/when acquired: Illegal cassette copy, c. 1987; legal MP3 download, 2004
Listen/watch here.

It's a little disorienting, as I begin the last week of my 45th year, to think that this song is 24 years old — as distant from today's generation as "Hound Dog" was from my college-age self. But I am not ashamed of still liking the things I liked when I was 20, even if my middle-aged self thinks that this song teeters dangerously on the verge of self-parody. Violent emotion of any kind does. It can't help but do so, because that kind of passion and despair can't be self-conscious or regulated. The minute you step out to look at it, to hold it up to the light to question or even celebrate, you're not in the moment any more.

Part of adulthood, maybe, is realizing that this isn't necessarily a bad thing. This blog has a widget that keeps track of visitors, and in the past couple of weeks I have noticed a disturbing spike in visits to last year's post on Five Practical Reasons Not to Kill Yourself. An anonymous commenter who visited the post from Davidson College (yes, the site meter gives me that much information) earlier this week called that post cold and callous. I think I meant it to be. The whole point of that post was to dispel any ideas someone might have gotten (from songs like this one) that anything about suicide is romantic.

Because these lines, in the song's second verse, tell us what the singer really wants. He doesn't want to die, not really; he wants to see people, he wants to see life, and he wants not to feel separate from those things. He wants to be part of that light that never goes out, but he doesn't know how.

Here's a tip: the double-decker bus in this song's third verse is not the answer. To the people who come to this blog looking for reasons not to kill themselves, and to that unhappy Davidson student in particular, I say: You already know the most important reason not to kill yourself. You don't really want to. If you did, you wouldn't be asking the universe (in the form of the cold and anonymous Internet) to talk you out of it.

What you really want is to see people and to see life. Everybody else wants that, too.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

"This ain't no party/This ain't no disco/This ain't no fooling around."

The Song: "Life During Wartime," Talking Heads. Words & music by David Byrne. Track 7 of Stop Making Sense, 1984.
How/when acquired: Gift LP, c. 1984.
Listen/watch here.

No holiday for me today; I am scrambling on a number of fronts, and will be through the weekend. But it is Veterans Day, so I wanted to take a moment to thank my dad and all the men and women who have served in this country's armed forces — including one of its newest members, my nephew, Airman Patrick Miller. Patrick graduated from basic training last week, and we're all very proud of him.

It's too easy for most Americans to forget that we're still at war, and will be for the foreseeable future. But almost every man or woman serving abroad leaves family behind, and they're all serving, too. If you know a wife or husband whose spouse is serving overseas, offer them some help: a meal, some babysitting time, a night out with friends. It will mean more than you can imagine.

This song originally appeared on 1979's Fear of Music. I never owned that, though I think my friend Adrienne did. A group of about a dozen of us went to see this movie the night it opened, sometime in the fall of 1984. Something went wrong with the projector or the sound system, and the movie ran without sound, which made the whole thing kind of pointless. We booed and hissed and might — I say might — have thrown things at the screen. They gave us our money back, and while I know that I did eventually see the movie in the theater, I have no memory of the event. The night we didn't see it was more fun, and is etched in my memory. There's a moral in there somewhere.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

"But just for a moment I wanna be free/To dream how I used to dream we could be."

The Song: "Let's Be Kids Again," Howling Bells. Words & Music by Howling Bells (Glenn Moule, Brendan Picchio, Joel Stein, Juanita Stein). Track 5 of Radio Wars, 2008.
How/when acquired: Gift CD, 2009
Listen here.

This CD was part of a birthday present last year; Howling Bells are an Australian band that should be better known in the United States.

A lot's going on this week, and I'm dealing with anxieties both real and imaginary. In the absence of a more thoughtful post, it's been almost two months since I posted a reading list.

Good Books I've Read This Fall

Peter Quinn, THE MAN WHO NEVER RETURNED. Peter Quinn wrote one of my all-time favorite books, a novel about the New York conscription riots called BANISHED CHILDREN OF EVE. This book, a sequel to his detective novel THE HOUR OF THE CAT (which I haven't read), is nowhere near as ambitious. Twenty-five years after the disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater, a magazine publisher hires PI Fintan Dunne to reopen the investigation. Quinn does a great job of recreating 1950s New York, and lays out the history in fascinating detail. But the Crater case is only one of the book's mysteries, and its solution is more satisfying than the book's larger puzzle, which felt a little far-fetched.

Clare O'Donohue, THE DOUBLE CROSS: A Someday Quilts Mystery. An above-average amateur sleuth mystery that manages to avoid most of the genre's usual pitfalls: the crime is taken seriously, and the sleuth has a plausible reason to be involved. Quilt-shop owner Nell Fitzgerald and her customer/friends go upstate to a bed-and-breakfast owned by a couple with an old connection to one of the quilters; Bernadette had once been engaged to George, but he married her best friend, Rita. Good characters and strong plotting, though one important figure undergoes a radical character change for no apparent reason about 2/3 of the way through the book.

Cammie McGovern, NEIGHBORHOOD WATCH. Librarian Betsy Treading gets out of prison after 12 years, when new evidence clears her of a neighbor's murder. She needs to figure out what really happened, and her search uncovers not only secrets she didn't know but things she had deliberately forgotten. Compelling but ultimately unsatisfying, maybe because of the narrowness of the narrator's point of view. What's here is great, but I wanted MORE; it all feels undeveloped, and the book ends with too many questions unanswered.

Graham Moore, THE SHERLOCKIAN. An impressive debut that moves back and forth between the present-day story of a hunt for Arthur Conan Doyle's legendary missing journal and the story of the months in Doyle's life that journal covered. Bram Stoker plays a key role, and the ghost of Oscar Wilde hangs low. The novel's ambitions exceed the author's skills, but Moore announces himself as a writer to watch.

Robert Love, THE GREAT OOM: The Improbable Birth of Yoga in America. Fascinating material about the compelling figure of Pierre Bernard, who more than anyone else brought yoga to middle-class America, and reinvented himself half-a-dozen times as spiritual guru, sports promoter, animal trainer and country gentleman. Bernard is part of a great American tradition of spiritual showmen, but the author never seems completely clear on what he believed or what he wanted.

Tom Franklin, CROOKED LETTER, CROOKED LETTER. A teenaged girl disappears without a trace, and the prime suspect is her shy classmate Larry Ott, who was the last person known to have seen her. Twenty-five years later, Larry is a recluse, permanently suspected of a crime that may not even have happened, and another girl goes missing. The town constable, Silas Jones, has secrets of his own, not least of which is an old, strange friendship with Larry. A gripping, heartbreaking, ultimately redemptive story about the power of old secrets. One painful revelation follows another in a way that feels not just right but inexorable, and Franklin manages a complex structure like a master. One of the best books I've read this year.

Spencer Quinn, TO FETCH A THIEF: A Chet and Bernie Mystery. Another great entry in this truly unique series, hardboiled detective novels narrated by Chet the Dog. This time out, Chet and his human partner, Bernie, investigate the disappearance of a circus elephant and her trainer. I always learn things about my own dog from these books, and they are genuinely suspenseful crime novels, with a real edge.

Monday, November 08, 2010

"Those romantic young boys/All they ever want to do is fight."

The Song: "Incident on 57th Street," Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band. Words & music by Bruce Springsteen. Track 5 (Track 1, Side 2) of The Wild, The Innocent, & the E Street Shuffle, 1973.
How/when acquired: Gift LP, c. 1981.
Listen to a clip here.

This album is too often overlooked in discussions of Bruce Springsteen's music, even though it includes the essential "Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)" and the classic "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)." It's one of my favorites, an album that's like a collection of short stories. The band played the whole thing in concert in New York last year, and I wish I'd seen it.

A topic left undiscussed at last week's NoirCon was noir in popular music. This song certainly pays homage to classics of the genre, books and films like The Friends of Eddie Coyle — which, coincidentally or not, came out as a movie in 1973.

The question "What is noir?" has been so rehashed that by the second day of the conference, author/editor Anthony Neil Smith had a two-word answer that was not "Happy Birthday." But for people who don't spend their lives talking about it, I'll say that noir is romantic outsider fiction taken to its violent extreme. A lone individual, outside the mainstream, embarks on a course of action fueled by nothing but desire, although the nature of that desire may be obscure to the protagonist. Things don't end well. Noir requires that outsider protagonist, that overpowering desire, and that inexorable doom. At least, that's what I say.

But it is, for obvious reasons, a genre that appeals to young men. It might be an unforgivable generalization, but I'll say it anyway: for the most part, young women want to believe in romantic compulsions that end happily ever after. A certain breed of young man prefers romantic compulsions that end in flames. (Calling to mind another excellent example of modern noir, the David Cronenberg movie Crash.)

It was a good conference and a great chance to spend quality time with some people I hadn't seen much of at Bouchercon. It is dangerous to drop names, because I'll leave someone out — but highlights included Laura Lippman's interview of George Pelecanos, a discussion of Patricia Highsmith in film by Rich Edwards and Thomas Kaufman, a conversation between Megan Abbott and the aforementioned Anthony Neil Smith about the relationship of history and noir, and a tribute to the late David Thompson from Patti Abbott, Scott Cupp, Christa Faust, Scott Phillips, S.J. Rozan and Reed Farrel Coleman. Wallace Stroby and David Corbett told great stories about their personal encounters with the dark side, and I spent quality bar time with Judy Bobalik, Sarah Weinman, Rosanne Coleman, Kieran Shea, Sarah Cortez, Larry Light and Meredith Anthony. I even got to meet the legendary (and lovely) Bride of Swierczynski, also named Meredith, although I feel as if I barely talked to Duane.

As usual, I came away with lists of books I need to read and movies I need to watch. I shouldn't admit this, but I've never actually read The Friends of Eddie Coyle.

Friday, November 05, 2010

"I might be great tomorrow, but hopeless yesterday."

The Song: "Don't Get Me Wrong," The Pretenders. Words & music by Chrissie Hynde. Track 13 of The Singles, 1987 (also Track 6 of Get Close, 1986, but I don't own that).
How/when acquired: MP3 download, 2007.
Watch/listen here.

In Philadelphia for NoirCon until Sunday. Normal service will resume on Monday.

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

"I had no reason to be over-optimistic/But somehow when you smiled, I could brave bad weather."

The Song: "1921," The Who. Words & music by Pete Townshend. Track 2 of Tommy, 1969.
How/when acquired: Downloaded MP3, 2006
Listen/watch here.

I always loved The Who, but didn't love Tommy. My first exposure to it was the Ken Russell film version, which frightened and confused me (as it was meant to). Tommy was one of the very first films I saw on HBO, when HBO came to Hampton Roads in 1981 or 1982. I was an unusually sheltered 15-year-old, but I've seen the film since and felt justified: there's no excuse for that movie. The stage show might be better, but I haven't seen it and probably won't.

That said, the music cannot be denied. This song works for me out of context; I don't want to think about the story being told, I just like the words and music. I like this couplet in particular, as it perfectly captures the feeling not of being in love, exactly, but of hoping/suspecting that someone might love us. Which would make us lovable, and thus resilient.

I'm rambling. The point I want to make this morning is that elections are all about this feeling of wanting to be loved, but not in the way we usually think about that. Of course politicians — or at least, a lot of politicians (Bill Clinton) — run for office because they want voters to love them. But I think voters elect politicians, particularly in "reaction" years like this one, because we want the politicians to love us.

Every love affair begins, or should, with that period of fascination, when we want to know everything about the object of our affections: What do you eat for breakfast? When did you lose your first tooth? Were you a Boy Scout? What was your confirmation name? It can't last, at least not at that level of intensity, and people start taking each other for granted until eventually — in bad relationships — they stop paying attention to each other at all. At which point, very often, they meet someone new who finds them fascinating.

That's all that happened yesterday. It was shocking to see some longtime veterans lose their seats; Rick Boucher (D-VA) has represented southwestern Virginia since I was a freshman in college. I don't even know if he was a good Congressman or a bad one, but it probably didn't matter. The Ninth District's voters just wanted to be wooed again.

This morning, as Maine continues to count its gubernatorial ballots, I feel cautiously optimistic. Last weekend's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear reminded us that if we smile, we can brave bad weather.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

"Mr. President, have pity on the working man."

The Song: "Mr. President (Have Pity on the Working Man)," Randy Newman. Words & music by Randy Newman. Track 4 of Good Old Boys, 1974.
How/when acquired: Purchased LP, 1988.
Listen to a clip here.

This might be the last vinyl album I ever bought. The turntable wasn't mine; it belonged to my then-fiance, and I haven't owned one since. I still own the LP, though. It lives in a cedar chest in my bedroom, and I wonder how badly the years have warped it.

Good Old Boys is a concept album that became the soundtrack for a musical version of All the King's Men produced at Washington's Arena Stage in 1988. The show blew me away, and it's still one of the best live performances I've ever seen; I don't know why it never went anywhere. But I needed the music, so I bought the album.

I voted for President Barack Obama. I still believe in him. I still like him. It still makes me happy that we elected him President; I was never prouder of my country than I was on Election Night 2008. But I have to admit that he seems a little out of touch.

It's not so unusual in Washington, a city full of people who grew up being the smartest kids in class. It takes a while to figure out that "smart" is not always what the situation calls for. Some people never do. Today's election might deliver that lesson in some painful ways, and I hope we all learn the right things from it.

Monday, November 01, 2010

"Get up, stand up/Stand up for your rights."

The Song: "Get Up, Stand Up," Bob Marley & the Wailers. Words & music by Bob Marley and Peter Tosh. Track 6 of Legend, 1984
How/when acquired: Gift cassette, 1989; gift CD, c. 2002.
Listen/watch here.

Yes, reggae purists, I know that "Get Up, Stand Up" was originally Track 1 of Burnin' (1973). Legend is what I own. In fact, I'd be surprised if any college-educated, 40-something white person in America doesn't own a copy of Legend. It is the best-selling reggae album of all time, and was essential to the cultural enlightenment of my whole generation.

It was not, however, my first exposure to reggae. That would have been Jimmy Cliff's movie The Harder They Come (1972), which my friend Adrienne and I saw at the Naro Expanded Cinema in 1980 or 1981. I don't remember much about the movie, but the music was thrilling. Our friend Melissa had grown up in Jamaica, and had all these records; she played them for us, and did not make fun of me, as would have been justified.

Tomorrow is Election Day. Maine's choices aren't great this year, but I'm voting anyway. If you can vote and don't, please leave a comment to remind me why we're friends.