Tuesday 29 June 2010

January 2001 - Plastic People

Milan Hlavsa died last week. Milan who? You might ask. Well, he was from
Czechoslovakia - and no he wasn't related to Gerty. He was bass player and writer for the band
Pulnoc and the founder member of the the legendary Plastic People of the Universe. It might sound
a corny name now - redolent of the 60's. But make no mistake about it, Milan was the ultimate rock & roll
rebel. He even went to jail for his right to make music! For his troubles, he lost his right to make a living
and was under constant pressure from the Stalinist Czech authorities. Now line up your idea of the
rockin' rebel, Lou Reed, Iggy Pop, Jim Morrison, Joe Strummer, Ronan Keating?......Forget about it!

I had heard of the Plastic People in the 80's. There was a strong contingent of Czechs and Poles in
the East Village but I never imagined I would ever get to play with them. But fate has strange ways
about her. Hammy, Fred and I had played the downtown scene with the poet,
Copernicus, since God knows when. We were amongst a loose association of musicians who would
get up on stage and perform free form music behind his various rants. Sometimes, when we hit our stride and
the substance mix was kind, such music could be majestic, on other occasions it was ragged to the

Nonetheless, it came to pass that Copernicus organized a tour of the
Germanys, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Lithuania and other parts of the USSR which ended up in
Moscow on July 4th , 1989. He contacted various dissident groups in these countries and somehow or other got
visas, etc together.

Fred didn't make the trip but Hammy, Dave Conrad, Mike Fazio (two other
Black 47 alumni) and I set out with the Poet. As you might imagine, the adventures were mighty but
eventually we hit the sacred soil of Czechoslovakia and got promptly lost. It was the middle of the
night, out in the wilds of the country, pitch black (the comrades didn't believe in lighting the roads), no
legible signs and we're thirsty as all hell and looking for Prague when, lo and behold, we came upon
what looked like a 17th century inn. Aha, where there's inns, there's liquor! The scene inside was like something
out of the Van Gogh painting of the Potato Eaters. An old crone dominating a wooden table laden
down with black beer bottles surrounded by some simian-like rubes. No notice was taken of us until I produced
that universal passport to earthly paradise, the great American ten-spot. This had a magical effect.
The crone was instantly in my arms offering herself and all the customers but we settled for some cases
of beer and the reassurance that, yes, we were on the right road to Praha (Prague).

When we finally made the wondrous city of Prague around dawn we were
informed that the location of our gig had been changed from a boys club to the Ice Hockey Stadium
and that we would be the headliners with the newly formed Pulnoc (containing the remains of the
Plastics). The promoters also casually observed that this would be the first unofficial concert, that
we would be challenging the Stalinist Government and that all the freaks in Czechoslovakia would be
there to support us.

Whatever! We were well used to the bullshit of promoters. But this was
our first time dealing with the obduracy, commitment and sheer dogged spirituality of the Czech
dissident movement. The next day we arrived at the equivalent of Madison Square Garden in the
middle of downtown Prague and realised that these guys weren't kidding. 13,000 people were gathered inside
and as many surrounded the stadium. But, ominously, the top tiers were occupied by the Czech Militia with
guns drawn and pointed at the stage. I naively inquired of Ivo Pospisil (one of the organizers)
whether we might be in any danger - to which he replied with that Central European swagger and
broken English - "no probalem, bastards vill not kill us all!" With that stolid reassurance, we played before the best
audience of my life - so appreciative, so altogether, so happy that their American brothers were there
to support them. The Gods smiled on us (the substances too) and we played a blinder. Follow that, I
thought as we left the stage.

Then I watched Pulnoc and my jaw dropped. The music was dense,
dissonant, melodic, strident, totally unselfconscious and oddly romantic. It was like The Velvet
Underground meets Schonberg on acid. I didn't understand a word of it but I knew everything they were saying.
It was the soul of Czechoslovakia being hammered off the anvil of pure unfettered rock & roll. And
yet it had none of the ridiculous characteristics that rock music has come to personify. No preening, no
attitude, just pure idealized music uncontaminated by any false excess; and yet, it was as excessive,
in itself, as a volcano. I had to get on stage with these guys. I couldn't let this moment pass me by. So,
with a pint of Armenian Brandy in me, (at least that's what they said it was) I took over one of the mikes
and added my own howling harmonies. I was sure they would throw me off but instead they just smiled
and welcomed me. It may have been the only time I saw any of them smiling.

I couldn't get enough of these guys and after the show we got in serious
conversation. I was also fascinated by their accents. There was something so familiar about them.
And then it hit me - they all sounded like Lou Reed. In fact, they had all learned their English from
Velvet Underground records, so there was a lot of valkin' on the vild side vith sveet Jane. I told them

I was a big fan of the playwright Vaclav Havel and they offered to take me to his apartment. Just
like that? But Tony (the lead singer) was a theatre designer and said it would be no problem. So, off we
went. Milan, Tony, their wives or girlfriends and yours truly. Everyone knew them. It was their town.
Still, occasionally, we would be stopped by the militia and our papers demanded. This was a constant
irritant to them. But to me it was no different than the streets of the North.

Being a thirsty lot, they suggested we stop in a bar. Now this place was like something out of Dracula movie.
It must have been there for four or five hundred years. It was amazing. At any moment, you expected Mario Lanza
to come trotting out and sing The Student Prince.

We were having a great old time. Czech beer is magnificent. But after
about an hour a hush came over the crowd, a television set was turned on and I'm expecting to see
some dark Czech masterpiece. But to my horror, it's a special broadcast from MTV Out pops Michael Jackson,
Duran Duran and whatever else drivel that was popular in 1989. There was a glow in the eyes of the
watchers. I looked nervously at Milan and Tony. Were these two great musicians actually being
taken in by this shite? To this day I don't know. Perhaps, MTV was banned (for once, the comrades might
have got something right) and this was Pulnoc's dazed and silent protest.

I often think of that night. We never got to see Havel. We lingered too long in that wonderful pub
talking about life and music that was far divorced from reality as I then knew it (oh by the way, they did turn
off the tv after an hour or so). The Berlin Wall came down some months later
and Czechoslovakia and all the other soviet satellites have been transformed into modern western
democracies. And what of Milan, Tony, Pulnoc and the Plastics? I don't know. Pulnoc got a deal
with Arista Records and were dropped almost instantly - I guess, they weren't radio friendly. Look for their
magnificent cd, City of Hysteria. I'm sure you can get Plastic People's songs to download.

I often wonder about Milan and Tony. They weren't essentially political
people but they personified the soul of Czechoslovakia in a way that I've never seen another group of
musicians do. They refused to give up their right to play music the way they heard it and thus
confronted the power of Stalinist Communism and its banality of evil. How then did they face up to the terrible
deluge of advertising, fast buck entrepreneurs, MTV and the awful evil of banality that permeates
our modern western life? Hopefully, Milan didn't die disillusioned and kept on fighting to the end. And if
you ever read this, Tony, I'm still trying to keep that promise I made to you. Milan Hlavsa died last
week - a true rock & roll rebel.

Larry Kirwan

This is a short extract from Vaclav Havel's lengthy and incisive observations on the Plastics written in 1984:

"I have often wondered about the remarkable "trick" the Plastics used to achieve their unsettling magic.
It can't be explained simply by their unusual combination of instruments (that unnerving buzz of viola and violin
is typical of their music). Nor is it merely the god-given originality of Milan Hlavsa's musical talent. Nor the
long years of working together that created and shaped the group's style, as a whole that is greater than the sum
of the musical parts brought by each member.....they are unique, and faithful to themselves, and if their music
speaks to young people today more than ever, it's because they've refused to make concessions to taste, because they
have remained themselves, still expressing, after all those years, feelings and experiences which are now felt and
expressed generally."

Wednesday 23 June 2010

Big Government vs Big Business

So you’re sick of big government and want to throw out all “dah bums?” Well just be careful you don’t turf the baby out with the bathwater.
There are megalomaniacs galore sniffing the wind and only dying to run against Washington. Question is, what’s their plan when they and their lobbyists get elected, and will it be good for you – or the country?
Shock tactics to reduce the deficit could send the economy hurtling into a depression. The time for such measures was in the mid years of the Bush administration when property and stock values were booming. Of course, few of the current guardians of fiscal probity gave much thought to deficits when rushing to an unnecessary war in Iraq or squandering the Clinton surplus.
“Big” government did not get us into the current financial crisis nor cause the Gulf oil spill. Loosening of regulation, at the behest of “big” business, did – which begs the question: which of these “bigs” do you trust more?
Ever hear about the Irish Famine of 1781-83? Probably not – since the British Government of the time banned the export of surplus crops from Ireland thereby ameliorating the suffering.
In a somewhat similar situation in 1845, however, mercantile forces argued that another such ban would damage the British economy.
A pity about that, because active government intervention could have prevented a million or more Irish dying during the great Potato Famine even as bounteous harvests of wheat and corn were exported.
Now there’s no denying that government regulations can impede commerce –but what’s the alternative? In 1933, during the height of the Depression, the Glass-Steagall Act was passed to save the country from the speculative excesses of the banks.
Over sixty years later, President Clinton, to his much later chagrin, took the advice of Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and other Wall Streeters, and allowed vital parts of that bill to be scrapped – leading to the recent financial crisis.
Mr. Rubin and Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Fed were convinced that the markets would regulate themselves - that the financial masters of the universe would walk away from excess profit rather than risk destroying the whole economic system.
That sentiment and $2.25 will get either of those gentlemen on the subway should their corporate limos ever break down.
Most anti-Washington phobia stems from a fear that government is unresponsive and inefficient. But big government is akin to Mother Teresa when compared to big business where profit is the only bottom-line.
The truth is we need both biggies - one to make the bucks, the other to ensure that the rest of us don’t get trampled in the stampede. For when the tough get going, the going most certaintly gets tough.
Government has been forced to bail out many the tough guy of late, with notable success. Most of the big casino culture banks are making money hand over fist again, not to mention that the Treasury has been repaid – with interest.
I’m no apologist for the American motor industry but the government bailout did prevent the collapse of Michigan and neighboring states. 18 months later Ford, GM and Chrysler have either repaid their loans or are close to doing so, all at a decent profit to the Treasury.
The one remaining black eye is the still unregulated insurance giant, AIG, to whom President Bush was forced to fork out over a hundred billion. But given time and a rejuvenated economy even this gigantic slot merchant may refund the house.
We’re coming through a huge crisis, most of it caused by unregulated greed. It’s galling that we were forced to bail out any of these business behemoths, but with stock markets plunging and employment lines lengthening, what was the alternative? Government was the last bulwark and it did its job when business failed us.
Perhaps some stimulus money was spent unwisely, although thousands of teachers, cops, and other civil servants whose jobs were saved would disagree.
The boom times will not return soon, perhaps just as well, for in our roller-coaster economy boom is invariably followed by bust.
So turn off your televisions - there are no simple solutions, particularly from blustery sound-biting commentators whose real job is to fill the spaces between ads for BP and Viagra. And when the new megalomaniacs come soliciting your vote, ask them what they’re for – not what their lobbyists are against.

Tuesday 15 June 2010


“I got laid on James Joyce’s grave
I was hoping his genius would rub off on me
But all I got was a kick in the head
From the caretaker who discovered me
The Swiss lady jumped up in alarm
Put her clothes on instantly
I got laid on James Joyce’s grave
I’ve never been the same, Lord have mercy on me…”
Oh well, each of us comes to Joyce in their own peculiar way. I can’t even remember my own introduction. The Christian Brothers wouldn’t stray within an ass’s roar of him though they often quoted Yeats and other Anglo-Irish literati.
And yet, Sunny Jim is the true Irish writer. Yeats may light our way with his blinding insights; Joyce merrily heaves us into a Saragossa Sea of fetid uproarious humanity, forcing us to confront not only who we are but who we might wish to be.
And so every June 16th we celebrate Bloomsday – because on this date in 1904 James Joyce met Norah Barnacle, the woman who “made a man of him.”
Joyce was a debonair penniless student, Norah a Galway girl, sure of herself and her sexuality. Soon after they eloped to Europe to live a peripatetic life brimful of poverty, debt, illness, tragedy, love, obsession, innovation, brilliance and eventual international recognition. In so doing, they changed the very way we think of ourselves.
Make no mistake, without Norah there would have been no Molly Bloom, and without Molly’s earthy lucidity Ulysses might be just another dazzling academic exercise.
Molly Bloom is way too much woman for most men and yet, ladies, before you go wasting your life on some pompous, insensate male, let him first read you aloud her final Ulysses soliloquy. If he gets through a couple of pages without fainting you may have a keeper; more than likely, though, he’ll hightail it to the pub, where you may expect to find him in the wintry days that afflict every marriage.
Joyce himself was hardly the easiest to live with. Sensitive and brittle, there was still the cut of a Roy Keane about him. Despite every conceivable hardship he never lost faith in his own genius.
He was a fine tenor; indeed Norah often lamented that he didn’t pursue the concert stage rather than bury himself in “them auld books.” What a break that he ignored her.
Yet he studied Norah’s every move, probed her innermost thoughts and desires, and in Molly Bloom delivered a portrait of a woman, unnerving as it is insightful.
Joyce’s character was probably shaped by the fall of Charles Stewart Parnell - a great man torn apart by lesser mortals. In that cataclysmic event the sensitive and highly intelligent boy experienced first hand a perfect national storm of jealousy, xenophobia, sexual repression, and meanness as much a part of the Irish national psyche as our legendary generosity. Joyce battled these traits for the rest of his life; his triumphs and failures are easily measured in his books.
Perhaps his greatest gift was to teach us that if words sound right, then they probably are; with that he shook off the dust of Victorian intellectualism allowing the English language to breathe again and give voice to modern consciousness.
Everyone should read him for he’s at once chatty and profound, spiritual yet steeped in life’s larval minutiae. But for God’s sake, don’t try reading Ulysses cover to cover, just dive in - you’ll soon find your own level.
Publicly, I always read the Gerty McDowell’s section on Sandymount Strand.
Maybe someday I’ll aspire to Molly herself, but why bother when Aedín Moloney will bring her startlingly to life outside Ulysses on Stone Street today. She may be the best Molly I’ve ever heard.
Pete Hamill’s rendering of The Dead is another seasonal delight. Joyce wrote this meditation on marriage when he was scarcely twenty-five. With the passing of time and old friends, Pete’s interpretation deepens and grows ever more thoughtful. That’s the genius of Joyce; yearly, we discover new layers of humanity in the writing and ourselves.
And as midnight approaches and Molly’s earthy shadow slips away, I’ll hum these lines on the passing of another Bloomsday.
“Don’t go, Molly, don’t go darlin’ we can make it if we try
Don’t disappear back into him, don’t say goodbye…”

Thursday 10 June 2010

Memorial Weekend in E. Durham

The little falls are a quarter of a mile from the Blackthorn, almost within hearing range of the outlying camping sites. Yet few visit this secluded spot where the gurgling river splashes down into a pool before streaming on towards the main road.
I’ve been walking for more than an hour on a muggy Memorial Saturday afternoon - killing time until Black 47 plays at the East Durham Irish Festival.
I bathe my feet in the frigid water and study the sunbeams sparkling through the dancing, foaming waves. It’s been a long time since I’ve gazed at anything – who has time for it anymore? Life is always a bustle; if it’s not one thing, it’s another.
My grandfather seemed to be always staring, either lost in thought or actively pondering the shape and size of some church or statue; then again he was monumental sculptor, as he called himself, or a headstone maker as others more prosaically described him.
But there’s something that won’t let me be. I’ve been trying to ignore it now for over an hour but it sits like a turnip in my breast pocket, far more nagging and compulsive than any addiction - my bloody blackberry!
Why did I bring it with me at all? It’s a hot holiday Saturday – who in their right mind would be calling or emailing me? And even if they were, how important could it be?
There was a time I used to exult in being ensconced in the silence of the Catskills. From Friday afternoon to Monday night, no one could track me down.
I spent one of my first summers in America at the Leeds Irish Center - lost to the outside world. The O’Sheas from Kerry presided over this isolated domain. Not a man to take guff from anyone, old Gerry - a former pugilist - had once stretched an off-duty state trooper who was throwing his weight around.
The O’Sheas loved the mountains as did so many immigrant Irish who spent their vacations up there. Although the countryside was wilder and more wooded, I think it was the unhurried pace of life that reminded them of the rural Ireland that they would never return to.
Those hardy people had no blackberries or iPhones but they had deep plangent memories that they could summon for those who took the time to listen. They didn’t have to be instantly abreast of the latest news or rumor, they didn’t blog, they didn’t tweet; instead they listened attentively then carefully sifted the chaff from the wheat. They valued substance and didn’t double-task; when you talked to them you had their undivided attention.
Can we say the same for ourselves – forever checking texts, emails and phone messages, and to what end? Does 99% of it matter a tinker’s curse in the long run? Many of us boast thousands of friends but they only add to the loneliness when you’ve need of an arm around your shoulders?
And our children, will they ever stare at anything beyond a television screen, a computer or a cell phone? Will they ever predict the weather as our parents did by looking at the evening sky or sniffing the morning wind?
Will they ever take the time to gaze at the sunlight streaking across the frigid water of a Catskill pond? Will they store the memory of such a moment without the aid of a digital camera or cell phone?
Does it make any difference? They will inherit their world regardless.
And yet, I think it does matter because my grandfather once told me that, as a boy, he saw Charles Stewart Parnell being heckled in Carlow town during the bitter by-election of 1891. And I can summon the memory of the frock-coated, “uncrowned king” as if I’d been there, because I saw his image reflected in an old man’s eyes and felt his hurt and pain as he strove to comprehend how Parnell could sacrifice Home Rule for the love of a married woman.
Then the turnip in my breast pocket intrudes with a cheery digital tune and I’m summoned back to my blackberry present by some infinitesimal problem that I need never have been troubled with; and when I look back at the dancing waves the sunlight doesn’t sparkle as brightly anymore.
But it hardly matters for I had taken the time to gaze and that moment of magic next to a Catskill pond will remain with me forever.

Sunday 6 June 2010

When You're Strange

Did anyone watch When You’re Strange, the recent documentary about The Doors, on PBS?
An odd question, you might think, especially from someone who rarely watches television, particularly anything to do with rock music.
I’m not even sure why I took the time except that the pre-publicity promised the show would consist mostly of previously unseen footage of the band.
As it turned out every musician I canvassed had tuned in, and all - from pub performer to superstar - agreed it was riveting.
What the creators of When You’re Strange managed to do was place the audience in the midst of the band - both onstage and off - thereby allowing the non-musician to experience the hyper-charged blood, sweat, laughs, tears, drama and boredom of a great band during its rise and eventual demise.
And what a great band The Doors were. One has become used to - and even fatigued with - the polished intensity of the various FM staples such as Light My Fire, Love Her Madly, and LA Woman. But to hear these songs, along with the chilling Riders of the Storm and The End, live and under challenging stage and technical conditions, was a revelation.
And the players! Robbie Krieger will never be ranked with Hendrix, Clapton or Rory but his style takes one’s breath away – a dizzying original melange of finger-picking blues, flamenco, power chords and electric slide.
Drummer John Densmore's jazz influences are more obvious live and yet with all his fluidity he anchored the band much as Keith Moon did The Who.
I’ve had some dealings with Ray Manzarek and found him to be gracious and kind, but what a keyboard player, always willing to stretch and, more importantly, take chances without apparent fear of falling on his face.
But then that’s what the Doors were all about – living on a tightrope like some tipsy ballerina, forever graceful but mere millimeters away from disaster. Not a bass player in sight, none missed either. Jim Morrison's voice filled that aural space with a naked intensity that’s only been hinted at since.
It’s hard to watch rock musicians nowadays without a sense that we’ve seen it all before – even Jagger seems a parody of himself. And then you marvel at this unedited footage of the young Morrison prowling the stage, oftentimes wearing around cops and security, the eyes of his band-mates tracking him, unsure of his next move, charismatic, dangerous and unaware of the chaos he leaves in his wake.
However the documentary also shows the flip side of this life - the drudgery and fatigue of traveling, the sense that little is within your control, and in Morrison's case, the sheer fright when it dawns on him that he may spend years in a Southern jail as a showcase example of Nixon’s new law and order America.
Were drugs and drink involved in the Doors story? Of course, and in accelerated abandon - in fact you get to see Morrison’s handsomeness wilt before your eyes. Raging alcoholism is never pretty.
And yet you can tell that creativity was the be-all and end-all for these four musicians. In fact, Morrison’s alcoholism may have stemmed from the feeling that his poetry was being overlooked in the tidal wave of vacuous celebrity that surrounded him.
But not by Francis Ford Coppola. Was there any other song but The End that could have summed up the American Vietnam experience in Apocalypse Now?
Norman Mailer spent a thousand pages seeking union with the criminal mind of Gary Gilmore in Executioner’s Song. He would have been better employed listening to The Doors. In seven spine-tingling minutes the band had already mined that vein, so much so that it’s a rare person who will not glance uneasily over their shoulder while listening alone to Riders of the Storm.
Despite all the optimism and dynamism in our country, there’s a darkness at the heart of America; Jim Morrison mainlined directly into its main artery. It’s hard to imagine him growing old gracefully, even growing old at all. He was a man of his time – a particular moment when authoritarianism was on the verge of collapse even as creativity peaked.
The genius of When You’re Strange is that it not only exposes us to the raw nerve of human imagination, it allows us an unruly and thoroughly unedited glimpse of what might have been.

Thursday 3 June 2010

Yoga and the common man - or woman!

Have you ever tried yoga?
“Dear God in heaven,” says your man up in Pearl River. “What’s he on about now? The clergy are not going to stand for this!”
Not to worry. I’m well in with the nuns. One informed me recently that the whole convent thinks I’m “right gas.”
If that’s not enough, I’m a nephew of a Columban father who spent most of his life in the “Far East.” Did I ever tell you about the speech he gave at my sister’s wedding?
Back then the priest’s oration usually lasted a good 10 minutes - and you with the tongue hanging out for want of a drink.
Well, Father Jim slowly rose to his feet, raised his glass (he was more than partial to a drop of the other). Silence descended on the Talbot Hotel as, at a glacial speed, he addressed the bride and groom. “You will meet many mountains in life. Don’t climb all of them, walk around a few.”
With that, he took a big slug out of his Jameson’s, slid back down into his chair and blew a series of intricate smoke rings across the table
“Best bloody sermon I ever heard.” My atheist father punctured the pregnant silence.
But I digress. Very gingerly now, bend over and see if you can touch your toes. If you can’t, yoga’s your man.
I got turned on to it by my ex-partner in crime, Pierce Turner, still a hard-core devotee. Back in the Turner & Kirwan of Wexford days, at the height of our 20 minute dizzying deconstruction of The Foggy Dew, Pierce would jam a piece of cardboard into the keys of his Moog Synthesizer thereby looping a thunderous, electronic caterwauling; he would then kick off his biker boots, and do a headstand against the stage wall, the occasional toe protruding through a holey sock. I’m tellin’ you, boy, those were the days when rockers feared neither critics nor gravity!
I’m a much more hit and miss yoga practitioner myself: two or three times a week and for no more than 30 minutes a shot. Nor am I a big one for chanting OM or staring at the cracks in the wall, although a minute or two of banishing various misfortunes through meditation is not to be sneered at.
Basically yoga is all about having a good stretch – much in the way a dog or cat does after a nap. And you don’t see too many overweight, undersexed, neurotic dogs or cats making the rounds, do you?
I’ve a friend who swears that if everyone did the exercise known as the Sun Salutation, we could cut national health costs by 10%. He has a point. I’ve never known a regular sun saluter to have any kind of back problem.
Toss in the Shoulder Stand; for some reason this asana activates the thyroid gland which seems to lessen the craving for food – kind of like being on a diet without dieting.
Having any trouble in the sex department?
“Oh now, there he goes,” nods Pearl River. “My mother reads this paper and she doesn’t want to be confronted with this class of nonsense.”
Are you kidding me? As soon as you’ve snuck off to Flemings for a pint she’ll be locked into the Cobra Pose like there was no tomorrow. Have a go yourself, won’t cost you a penny and you can dose the greyhound with your unused Viagra.
All joking aside, yoga – like everything else – provides different strokes for different folks; and it’s never too late to start. My only warning is hasten slowly – you’ve got the rest of your life, and overdoing it or competing with anyone else – or yourself – can lead to strained muscles and aching joints.
You don’t like attending classes? Not my cup of tea either, but I usually enjoy them when I’m there.
Not to worry - there are hundreds of books on the subject – my favorite is the most basic: Richard Hittleman’s Yoga – 28 Day Exercise Plan. Take four months rather than four weeks and it will restore pep to your step. Or ask a friend to show you the ropes: you’ll be surprised at how many can twist their ankles around the backs of their necks - they just don’t let on.
And while you’re at it, say a prayer for Fr. Jim, and watch out for those mountains. They’re as steep as ever, so make sure you walk around a couple.