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[ akabill ] Sunday Run!!!
Running in Hawaii with akabill.....


"Conflicted and Getting Started"

It was about 0600 dark when I saw the Koolau Mountains outlined by very rare lightning as I drove out of Waikiki. I knew my body needed to run but wasn't really in the mood. As usual the top of my Spyder was down and going up Kapahulu I dithered about where I would put the top up if it really was raining hard while I kind of liked the idea of a thunderstorm keeping me inside for the day. Almost three years of minimal training cause my L5 is impinging on the S1 nerve has cut drastically into my endurance and my stamina is non-existent. Army born and raised I learned wili-nili that whatever happens you adjust. Good things come your way, go for it. Entropy happens, modify. The big picture is out of your control, don't let the small stuff get in your way. So the mist hit the window and the wipers were on variable auto and the air was cool and every light was green as I drove much more mellow than usual across the Pali to the Windward side wondering what the day would bring.

Do I really want to run? Not really but I've got to run! Only you can stop the downward slide. The only way to get well is to GET OUT THERE where you really do like being. Yes it is hard. Yes it really is embarrassing. You yank the cord and the motor won't start. You yank and yank and yank and all you get is sputters cause the spark plug is fouled from inactivity. Climbing out of the hole is not pleasant. Sometimes its hard to have the faith that you can ever get out.

You arrive at the Nalo end of the Mauanawili Trail and dare someone to break into your convertible by leaving the windows down and the doors unlocked. From town you have been looking for the source of the lightning, all the way you have been expecting heavy rain, all the way you know that the only way to get your body ready for hard work is by doing hard work and wondering if hard work will work anymore. Finally (I hope) you can walk (barefoot, in slippers, or shoes) without feeling like there is a balled up set of socks under your foot. L5 impinging on S1 is probably still there but not so you notice. So you are at the trailhead with no excuse not to run. No lightning, no thunderstorm, the body's way rested cause you bailed out of the cross country team training on Thursday. The Maunawili trail was carved specifically for easy hiking. Its just that first mile plus up is overgrown old plantation road It is so overgrown that it looks like a trail and you can't let it get you down as you try mightily to push while you can't. You don't dare try to run while quick hiking and you don't really don't want to be there. You are quick walking uphill with full on camelback and two hand holds and all the necessaries and you are thinking about where you can get away with turning around and calling it a day.

Its 0700+ and your mind is looking for excuses and your body is doing just fine. Every time your mind says I'd rather be doing something else your body is saying what's the problem? "Hey mind, everything works, breathing is under control, hearts good, eyes want to see what they love to see, when we get where they want we'll stop and let them gather it all in. Meanwhile shut the blank up." Used to be I got "warmed up" in almost no time. Go out the door and everything was smooth. Later it was fifteen minutes then longer. "Warmed up" to me means being in a groove. I'm running and there is nothing else going on in my life. Used to be seems a long time ago. Going up Maunawili I 'know' that I won't really be committed to being out there for an hour or more and, even knowing that, I'm thinking about turning around and doing something else. The body says "what's the problem aka? It's cool, breezy, misty, the trail is in great shape, you are rested, and if you are ever going to be any good again you got to push so push you blanker."

So I set time goals. If I can't get to Martha's Vineyard faster than the last time I turn around. If I can't beat the big picture "blank it" adjust and do something else. But I breeze on Martha's and think: "O.K. you are carrying enough juice to be able to turn around at the five mile marker without discomfort." Mean- while the gentle mist has turned into a full on tropical rain storm. Normally I stop and take care of business at Martha's but the big drops are so loud and my body has temporarily taken over my other mood and my legs just keep on moving towards the pali. I'm only a half hour into this run and there is a huge fight for control of aka. I adjust and my legs keep moving forward while my ears glory in the sound of rain on the forest and my body is way cool from the wind on the wet, and my eyes are remembering the changes to every root and every rock and every rock slide and fallen tree and I compose an email to Na Ala Hele and slowly the effort slips away and glorying about being really alive once again almost takes over.

The big thing about the L5 impinging on the S1 is that I've lost my UP. I used to look forward to my Tuesday runs with a five mile up after a three mile warm. Can't do that up any more. Or at least can't do it like I want to. That translates to doing ups on trails and there is this UP a semi-mile past Martha's that I used to not even notice but now makes my heart pound. The S1 seriously affects my stride and doesn't let me get a full push on an uphill. Its impossible to get my quads to their limit. My cardio-vascular can get stronger but my muscles don't do their part. So I'm "fast hiking" up this hill thinking I'll turn around at about 4 miles out. Its forty some minutes from the start and even the intermittent storm isn't enough to keep me moving. Finally I get to this wonderful knob with a great sweeping view of the ocean and the cliffs behind and I'm thinking soon I can turn around and as I look back I see two white hats moving strongly along a switchback three minutes behind me. I'm wearing a black hat! It's movie time. 54 minutes into the run and I'm thinking Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Warm up is over.

I have no idea who is wearing the white hats but I know for sure that I don't want to be seen running towards them this early in the run. That's the wonderful thing and terrible thing about having been who you used to be. The part of me that wants to make the most of who I am seized the opportunity and asked: "How long can you stay ahead of them, aka?" Whatever else had been going on for me got lost immediately. In self-talk I've bullshitted myself about being "non-competitive" but in the real world I let the white hats get my black hat juices flowing.

And the run was on. There isn't really a lot to the rest of the first part of this story. The huge drop rain backed off. It stayed cool, I was so busy running or fast hiking that I neglected to drink hand bottles or camelback. Big Mistake. It became a very beautiful day, and every time I wanted to slow down I wondered why the "white hats" hadn't caught up to me. On this run I normally have places along the way where I stop, drink, eat, take electrolytes, and rest. Not today. I felt the tip of the spear of the white hats and adopted a new life and just ran. This trail really does require a lot of small motor control if you want to survive and this day I had it. My subconscious tried to tell me that I needed to drink and take electrolytes and I kept on saying "its wet, its cool, I'm hardly sweating, lets just stay ahead of the white hats, blank you." And so feeling the tip of the spear of the white hats I ran as hard as I could towards the tank where I could replenish with runoff water and win the race that only I knew was happening.


"The Hunter"

The other thing that was going on during this run was I was always looking for sign of pig. Our feral pigs are an environmental and ecological disaster. Their wallows provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes that carry avian malaria. They kill off endemic plants and provide fertile ground for invasive species. And then they also dig up the sides of trails while looking for protein in the form of worms. From my point of view they are a scourge. For Hawaiians they are food that provide a means to bond and a reason to get out there, and much more that I may never really get close to.

During the last year while fast hiking this trail I came upon a pig hunter, or should I say I came upon a pig hunters dogs. Over the years whenever I see hunters I always give my alohas and tell them when and where I'd seen sign of pig. Sometimes I am well received and sometimes I'd catch "tude." I knew I'd like this hunter as soon as I met his dogs. I could tell they were really well cared for, really into the hunt, and had their tails (such as they are) way up. When you come upon dogs hunting you slow way down to a walk, you smile and say softly "aloha." If they show signs of fear you call softly but keep on moving. If they get aggressive (rarely) you look for a big stick and pray there is only one to "worry" you. These dogs were happy, confident, and led me back to their hunter. He was a very large full on Hawaiian with camaflouge pants, ancient worn t-shirt, boots, huge mop of hair under his oversized cap, and a length of garden hose in his right hand. There was somebody with him but clearly he was the man. When he heard my "aloha" his eyes quickly changed. I volunteered that I had seen sign back towards the tank. He asked if it was fresh. I wasn't sure. Then we each went our way.

The next week I ran into his dogs again. When we meet I introduced Mark who was running with me but I caught some "tude" from the woman who was hunting with him. After aloha's he throws this big smile and says: "Got a big one fifteen minutes after seeing you." I say: "mahalo." He says: "See any sign?" I say: "No, but I smelled them on the connector trail." Something good was happening. Next run we met and he was with someone else and smiled as I approached. "Got another one after seeing you." "On the connector?" "No before then." He smiled and asked me about what I had seen on this day. His question was phrased so I knew I had to look closer at the aina (land) if I was going to be able to answer correctly the next time. And so the process began. I told him what I saw and he'd ask me about what I hadn't seen and the next time I'd be looking even closer and he'd then show me the next thing to look for by asking very gentle but very direct questions. Over a matter of months he had me noticing size, number, direction, groups, and how long had it been since they had been there. He had me paying attention to fruiting of trees, rainfall, and trail conditions. Our meetings were very brief, I was on a run and he was on a hunt, so his lessons were very quick, very gentle, almost like he wasn't being kupuna to the haole runner.

Around early November I realized that I was being honored. I'd run the trail in one direction and not see him or his dogs and coming back there they were. Happened more than once. Mid December I wanted to show my aloha by giving him one of my finer Kukini amulets so I carried it with me from Nalo to the Pali. I didn't see him on the way out and was afraid he wouldn't be there on the way back and knew he hiked up to the trail from the valley floor. So I guessed that he would climb this tiny unmaintained side trail I knew and so I climbed down it and found a branch across the trail and hung Kukini there. The first person on the trail would be gifted. I hoped it would be him. I made it back to the main trail headed home and soon enough there was a puppy that had to be his dog. The puppy wasn't sure about me and ran away but soon I ran into his pack that were in full on hunting mode. All but the puppy ignored me until I was greeted by the hunter. This time he told me he had watched me go by. He got two pigs on my last trip, one two hundred pounds. His smile was my mahalos. I asked him if he'd come up the ridge pig trail. But he hadn't. I told him about the Kukini and where I had left it and was not ready for the bottom of the heart full on beautiful smile that came at me. It was so warm it made my Christmas right there.

Then he froze. He was hearing his dogs. My ears are kaput but by watching his body and face move and his finger pointing I could catch glimpses of his dogs racing after pig in the tropical rain forest. He was totally into hearing his dogs run through the forest. They didn't bark but he knew where they were. I'm watching this and for the first time in my life I wanted hearing aids. I want to know what he knows and I have to be able to hear to get there. That moment passed quick enough and soon I leave him to hunt so I can run. Life is Good in the Church of the Holy Trail.




"Getting to the Tank"

Its been six weeks since I've been on the Maunawili Trail and whatever else is going on in my life the travel on the trail has been enhanced by the unexpected and unasked learning process the hunter has offered me. So this Sunday, six weeks later, I'm hoping to run into him and am looking for something new to tell him about sign. The monster rain was big drop warm and it smoothed out all signs of traffic. For all intents and purposes the trail was virgin for my feet. I was the only being leaving sign with three others knowing I was ahead or just oblivious to the race that was going on in my head. I looked for sign at the "Run Bob Run" site and later at "Jeff's Death Ditch" but no luck. By the time I got to the "no trespassing sign" three miles from the tank I was beginning to wonder if the white hats were serious runners or maybe they just were doing a short out and back like I almost did. Didn't matter anymore, the way my body processes liquid through my skin I had to get to the tank to reload or I'd be dead.

Effort? No, I still didn't want to be caught so I pushed it a bit all the while looking for sign. Got to the connector leading down to Maunawili Falls and knew the "gotta pay full on attention all the time to where your feet are going" part of the run was over. At the same time I realized my hands were heavy with nearly full bottles and the camelback wasn't all that light either. Danger! Normally by the time I get to the tank my camelback is sucked dry and I may have one handbottle left to get me to the Pali if the tank isn't overflowing. Even then I may not have drank enough to stave off cramps later. Danger! But for me when I'm out there it isn't all that complex. All those lessons I'm supposed to have learned get smoothed over in the moment. Survival instinct does have its value and now every time my path is a bit smooth I'm sucking on the bite valve while searching the path for sign and taking chance catching view of cliffs, ocean, green, whatevers, that let me know I'm very much alive this very moment really right now. This is it! I'm in a flow. I know where I am, I know what I'm doing, I know what I can do, and its all totally irrevelent to the now. In the Platonic/Socratic dialogue I come down firmly on the side of Socrates and yet I think even he, if he was of such a body, could understand and support this moment.

Life is good! Then, Drink aka Drink no Run aka Run the white hats are coming. By the time I get to the monster blow down that we have to climb over I'm beginnng to notice that my body has been putting out some effort and its going to be a long way home once I turn around at the tank. Run aka run! Conserve aka conserve! I'm out of the zone and am looking for the hunter. By the time I get to the ironwood trees a mile from the tank I'm thinking I'm not going to have a chance to give aloha this whole trip. When I get to the unmarked side pig trail I've still seen nobody and my body slows drinking and thinking about the process at the tank. Its a solo trip, a solo run, I have the trail all to myself, enthusiasm that comes from sharing wanes and BAM there she is coming right at me with this yellowish vesty thing that spells "running in the snow in Minnesota" to me. Its blanking 70+ degrees. But my autopilot spurts out "aloha, how are you?" and I get a grimmace/smile that I recently have come to interpret as a fear response and the words "fine, how are you." With my eyes on the trail I say: "Life is good!" and we go our respective ways. Drinking and getting to the tank should be on my mind but I start thinking about that smile. I start to worry about a world where meeting a fellow runner on a beautiful trail provokes a response completely out of place with where we are. I've lost it. I'm trying to concentrate on my running and the glory of where I am but I slip into thoughts about this world we live in and I'm back into running knowing the tank is only a couple of hundred yards ahead and I hear the sound of footsteps that are not in synch with mine.

DAMN! For ten yards I push my pace and think to go into Christal's "run aka run" mode and soon realize "that's stupid" and pull aside and watch two women running really strong go by followed by a guy. The guy looks back at me and I know I've seen his face but can't place the name and he says: "Hi aka" and turns to catch up. The women's style is very fluid and strong. They remind me of Jackie. The guy in an attempt to make up the momentary slow caught one of the toe trippers but didn't go down. I was impressed when he got both hands down and kept the legs moving so he was soon upright and they slowly pulled away. Life is good! So the white hats caught the black hat and the yellow vest ran the other way and it all happened in nine miles. Time to reload at the tank and head back to my MR2.


"The Church of the Holy Trail"

When I get to the tank I thank the gods of the Church of the Holy Trail that the overflow pipe is pumping out water. On the side of the tank is an old sign that says something like "the quality of this water is undetermined." I've been drinking this water for many many years and I think: "Damn straight, this water could be good for you." I take off my camelback vest thinking to reload it and realize that it is heavy. I take the top off of one handheld and it is full. The other handheld is half full. Uh Oh! On a successfull day nearly everthing I'm carrying would be gone by now. I lie to myself. "I'm OK." I chug the one handheld and refill it and drink that. I start to take out the camelback bladder and then don't. I heft the bladder and say "that's plenty." I look at the two handhelds and say "that's enough".

I check my watch and see that it took me 2:17 to do the nine miles. Used to be I could do the run to the Pali (10.5 miles) that fast but that's ok this is the fastest in a long time. The endorphins are still doing their job. In a concession to reality I take two of Karl King's Kaps and begin to think about the run back to my car. No chance I'm going to see the white hats again, they didn't look like they were up for an out and back. Yellow vest? The only question is where am I going to find her coming back at me.

The Hunter? He's here for food and for his dogs. He'll be where the pigs are. Maybe next week. Negative splits? That's the ticket. If you haven't completely blanked up your body by not drinkng go for negative splits. So instead of my usual walking away from the tank and even though I have nothing to tell him besides I haven't seen sign I hope to see the hunter. I get into a trot and within a mile I realize I'm hitting the dehydration endline. I'm very sensitive to the signals and pretty quick my camelback doesn't feel so heavy. One mile out and I'm sucking on the bite valve. I'm still looking for sign and when I climb over the huge blowdown I start thinking about yellow vest. Out and back on this trail are very very different. The footing may be the same but what you experience, if you are alive, is unreal. Negative splits, catch yellow vest, look for new sign, be real, make the most of the moment, small muscle motor control, don't catch a toe tripper, run where you can run, dance where that's better than walking, duck under the branches of the small branched tree, climb over the roots of the huge blowdown, STOP and suck and thank the gods of the Church of the Holy Trail and thank yourself for not quitting when you get to a OH WOW site and you can see a cleft in the cliff where a wall of water is flowing thousands of feet down. Yes, for each of you it could be something just like that. But I'm alone and starting to accept that I didn't take as good a care of myself on the way out as would be best on the way back. By the time I got to the three mile "no trespassing" sign I knew that I was carrying less liquid than I would need for an optimal run back. That was reality but the disappointment was not running into the hunters dogs on the way back. I was carrying a special Kukini amulet just in case. I kept on expecting yellow vest to be coming back at me but my goal was negative splits.

Ultralisters I don't have the command of language to fully describe what Oahu trails are like. I've run on California, Oregon, Washington, and Utah "trails" and to me they are mostly unmaintained roads. I don't want to give offense but if the Western States 100 is on "trails" we need another word to describe Maunawili which is way easier than Honolulu Mauka where we run our hundred miler. I guess the concept that makes the difference is "mentally challenging." Its going to be another story some time from now where I write about the huge difference between "not road" and "where am I going to land my foot next?" Maunawili is considered "runnable" yet all but the elite wonder "where am I going to land my foot next" for most of the miles. Hawaiian trails are mentally challenging. How well you do depends on how physically strong you are and how long you can be nimble and (mostly) on your ability to concentrate for long periods.

So I headed back somewhat aware that I was redlining the running/processing fluids barrier but still trying to stay ahead of the (imaginary) white hats turn around race and looking to see how soon I would meet yellow vest on her way back. Negative splits, live the trail, look for the hunter, look for yellow vest foot prints, don't trip and fall down, make the most of where you are and who you are, life is good. Got to the Ironwood tree and no sign, got to the Mauanwili connector trail and no sign, got to "no trespassing" and no sign, and no sign and all the while intimitely aware of how many miles to go and how much liquid I was carrying.

As I ran in and out of the pali clefts I realized that I was on the downward side of being fully healthy. I'd been here before and I wasn't taking care of my full being. I was carrying Karl's kaps, Tums with Magnesium and an analgesic. I took two of the first two and saved the rest for later. As I rounded the corner just before Jeff's Death Ditch there she was, standing right in the middle of the trail with a slightly perplexed look and the yellow vest tied around her waist. "Aloha, beautiful day." "Yes it is, I was thinking about turning around." "You are almost at the 4 mile point." "Yes, I saw the sign. I was going to go both ways. How long does it take to run this trail?" "For me about 2:20 on the way in and about 2:30 on the way back." "Why longer on the way back?" "I'm older, out of shape, get tired." "I'm thinking of going a little bit more and then turning around." "Do you have liquid?" "I've got plenty but I don't like this camelback, it bounces. Does yours bounce?" "No, its got lots of adjustable straps." "What kind is it?" "I don't know," so I turn around so she can see the label. "Maybe I'll go a little ways more. I'm wondering about my car." "Where did you leave it?" "At the hairpin turn, is that safe?" "Its not the best place. I avoid problems by leaving my doors unlocked and the windows down. I don't care, its only so much steel, plastic and rubber. Have you run this trail before." "No." "Its pretty nice. The guy who designed it knew what he was doing. You have one up and one down and most of the rest is in and out with some really great views." "Yes, I've been enjoying the views. I stop my watch for the views." "Me too. I love them, thats really what keeps on bringing me back." "Well maybe I'll go a way before I turn back." "I think you'll like it. Except for the last mile its an outstanding run." "What's with the last mile?' "Its an overgrown old plantation road. On the continent they would call it a trail. Good thing its all downhill." "Yes, my friend told me about that."

And so I head on out going back to my car not feeling particularly nimble but glad to get chance to share trail. Passing Jeff's Death Ditch I replay the tape of him hanging over the chasm held up by the very vines that caught his throat and tossed him into the abyss. Shortly we are at the "Run Bob Run" site and I replay that tape too. Life is good. Soon I'm at the huge blow down that is both across and down the trail and I go to grab a vine and haul myself up on the trunk and I get that unmistakeable tremor in my legs that portends great pain from cramps. "Careful aka."

Getting from here to there is never simple but now just getting my legs to work requires a measured expenditure of energy. I'm up on the first trunk. Get my legs over the cross piece with ripples having me thinking "which way is best to fall if my legs don't work any more?" Move slowly, carefully, "can I get down from the trunk to the trail without impact cramps?" Don't know. Somehow I make it back to the trail and take inventory. I'm standing there thinking salt?, tums? liquid? what? and she comes around the corner, jumps up onto the deadfall and says: "I'd thought you would be way gone by now." "I'm dealing with incipient cramps." "What causes cramps?" "Dehydration. Arrogance."

We chuckle and I remember that I really hadn't been paying attention. A half mile back. I really wasn't listening. So now I say, "Mycar is at the end of this trail, its the white thing. If you want I can give you a ride back to your car. If you get there before me and don't want to do the whole round trip I'll be along." "I may not go all the way so don't wait too long." "OK." We were blessed with a great mid-morning. It was cool (low 70's) breezy, with overcast on a trail as runnable as it is ever going to be.

But then there was the hydration issue with its incumbent moderation of effort issue. How do I work just hard enough so I can drink just enough so I don't run out and can make it to the car with the physical ability of pushing in a clutch two times? Get it from reverse to first and I can fake the rest. Lightening my load was having someone behind me (for a little while anyway) catching the joy and wonder of Maunawili for the first time. We hit the Oh Wow spots and I'd stop so she could drink it all in while I sipped just enough to keep me ahead of the curve. There wasn't a whole lot of talking. I was much too intent on survival mode. Fortuneately her voice was in a decible range that my ears can hear so when something was said I needed only one "huh" to get it right. There was this long down about a mile out from Martha's Vineyard that I warned her about. There are some very slippery rocks on a very narrow trail where friends of mine had gone over the side more than once. But by this point I was so concerned about impact cramps that anyone behind me would be slowed to the point of no worry. At the bottom of the hill, three miles from home, I thought I'd had it made until I found that I'd sucked my bladder dry, one bottle was nearly empty and the other on 3/4 full. Bad word. On the run, as it were, I chewed a couple of tums, swallowed a couple of Karl's Kaps, and paid careful attention to moderation of effort.

When we got to Martha's Vineyard there was this momentary sigh of relief thinking it was all good from here but on the climb out my left leg told me a different story. I don't know about other people but when I'm riding the razor's edge and pushing down just a bit too hard I get these electrically charged ripples that run from hip to heel. If I had been alone I probably would have just walked it on home. But I wasn't alone. From Martha's to the end is really good trail. Runnable. Pick up your feet and you are going to be ok. The problem was picking up my left leg. My right worked just fine. My left couldn't handle the impact of going straight ahead. Reality is closing in on me and I get a vision and a question: "which would I rather be, Chester from Gunsmoke or the dieing horse from Picasso's Guernica?" Having no shame at this point (well at least I wasn't walking) I chose "Chester."

You are going to have to use your imagination for the rest of it. When we got to the old overgrown plantation road my bottle had been dry for a couple of miles but I could still fake it while cutting weeds with my left leg. It wasn't as hot as I expected and I actually got my mind wrapped around the idea that this narrow swath through weeds was really a "trail" and I could come back next week older and wiser(?) and really have fun. When I hit the end of the trail I checked my watch and couldn't believe (YIPEE) negative splits. Not by much but still.

I couldn't rip my vest off fast enough to get at my keys so I could get inside and find the no longer frozen bottles so I could suck liquid as quickly as I could get it out of the bottles. While desperately trying to get my body back towards some kind of balance I look up and catch this wonder whether she has been following a madman. At this very moment, yes. I offer her some liquid and she declines. I find the bottle of Hershey's chocolate blah blah I'd stashed and shake it mightedly. I rip off the metal cover and suck it down like a Princeton pledge and say: "for recovery this is better than a 5% saline solution IV." She laughs and I feel good about that.

I'm opening doors, getting the top down on my car, grabbing towels stashed behind seats, ripping off singlet and hat while rubbing mud off my body with a hotel towel and transforming back to "not trail" by wrapping muddy towel around my waist just before attacking my shoe laces and praying every moment that I've got enough liquid back into my veins so that I can depress my clutch without huge negative feedback. Meanwhile she stands there, I guess, drinking it all in and finally asks if she can get a ride back to her car.

"Yes." And thinking back on that moment I'm guessing that there are a whole lot of people in our world who are used to people who don't really mean what they say and who make offers in bad faith. Finally we are in our bucket seats with towels wrapped around our waists and mud firmly ground into my floor and I realize we've moved to a civilized situation without a civilized foundation and so I extend my hand and say "aloha, I'm aka." I hear: "I'm Ann." but my ears don't work and it really doesn't matter so after two attempts I can get the car from reverse to first without my left leg going into spasms and we head on out. The first topic of conversation is how she can find herself back to where I parked so she can run from there, the second is about Jackson Chameleons's, and then we get into running ultra's. She's done some, I've done some. She wants to do some. I don't dare say someday I want to be able to do another. Nada, nada, nada. It was a nice ride back to her car and life is good.

Life is good!
and getting better all the time.

akabill