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Sunday, December 20, 2009

Fantastic Trips That We Have Stumbled Into - Estes Park and Trail Ridge Road

As We have already bored you with the story of Jerome, Arizona and how Mr. Bobby and I were once young and somewhat adventurous, I'll tell you about what started us on being old folks that plan out trips to Kroger's which is very close to where we live. At the time of this adventure, we lived in Dallas, Texas. It was coming up on Labor day weekend ... 3 whole days for a road trip so we decided to try and make it to Colorado to see the Rockies, though they didn't start playing until some 15 years later. I really have no memory now of why we thought we could make it there and back in 3 days. So anyway, off we went ... I don't remember much of the first part of the trip but we drove up into Oklahoma through one of the Reservation towns and then over into Dorothy's Kansas. Kansas was different from what either of us had expected ... green with miles and miles of rolling hills ... and eventually I could see that we were approaching something off in the distant haze ... probably mountains. I asked Mr. Bobby if those could be the Rockies. He said "no", that they were the famous Grassy Knoll Mountains. I told him that there were no such things. He then treated me to hours of discourse on how famous those mountains were and their history. By the time Mr. Bobby was finally tired of talking, you could see that the little white cloud structures were the snow capped peaks of the Rockies. We were driving along to the Rocky Mountain National Park and went through Estes Park, Colorado, a really beautiful town at the foot of the Rockies. As we began to ascend, we saw the stately Stanley Hotel off to the right. Just then the car started to sound like it was having problems. Fairly young and very stupid, we kept going. We made it to the entrance to the park and the park ranger gave us some nice looking brochures and pointed out one that he said that we should read before we proceeded any further. We just kept driving. I saw a sign post that said Trail Ridge Road and, since it looked interesting, we turned off onto it. No shoulder and very narrow and steep. Soon we were above the tree line. Mr. Bobby was driving very slow now and there was a lot of traffic on the road, especially behind us. I looked over to see what was going on. He only had one hand on the wheel. His right hand was pressing down on his right leg and the accelerator was all the way to the floor board. We started sliding backward. I tried to help him press his leg down, we obviously had something very wrong with the car. He did manage to get into a scenic overlook and somehow he got that car "that only wanted to go backwards" over the continental divide. Once we were driving down the car started acting better. We did find a garage, they took a look at the car but didn't find anything wrong. We realized that we needed to turn around and get back to Dallas. I was very brave and stayed in the car, crying my eyes out as we crossed the continental divide again and the car acted up. We did make it to another garage, where they found nothing wrong. We made it back to Dallas before noon on Wednesday. We had no problems with the car the rest of the week. We decided to have some fun on the weekend by going to the horse races in Louisiana. We took off on Friday afternoon and as we were getting closer to Louisiana, I saw a sign saying Estes Park. Yes, the car started acting up and we decided to turn around and head back to Dallas. The car spent part of the following week in a garage being checked out and got a clean bill of health. The next weekend, we tried again. Sure enough, when we got to the sign Estes Park, the car acted up. Back to Dallas. Mr. Bobby took the car in and had them pull the engine out. This time they found it -- a cracked piston. Mystery solved. I learned a couple of things that have stayed with me all these years -- beware of any sign saying Estes Park and always read what the park ranger recommends that you read. Trail Ridge Road has the same type of warnings as does Space Mountain at Disney. - Miss Carol Well, that's her version ... pretty close to the truth, as far as it goes ... that is, as she knows or remembers. Indeed we had a long weekend for a road trip and at some point, before or after we started, I decided to try to visit the Rockies ... but she didn't know that! It was probably when visiting the trading post on the Reservation in Oklahoma ... a great disappointment when compared to my expectations based on previous visits to some in Arizona back in the 1960's. At the time I had already been in every State sans Alaska ... an oft planned trip that never materialized ... but, had never been in western Kansas or anything outside of the Denver Airport in Colorado ... so I headed the Yellow Monster west with Pike's Peak as my secret objective, having yearned to so do since first hearing of Pecos Bill's adventures in school! Kansas truly was a most pleasant surprise ... mostly flat I guess, but as we got into western Kansas, we were struck by the green grass in the fall no less, and the rolling hills ... a pleasant surprise and a pleasant drive too. As we topped the hills, you could see what appeared to be a range of mountains far in the distance ... Carol thought they might be the Rockies but I assured her that the Rockies were much further away ... that these were most probably the famous "Grassy Knoll" mountains. What triggered that response is something that only Mr. Cranston knows but her protestations not withstanding, she fell for it hook, line and sinker! They really looked like a wide weather front moving in, more than anything else, methinks! We could only see them as we crossed the hills and soon their image was momentarily forgotten, while I waxed on about their history during pioneer days ... and we concentrated mostly on the scenery to the north of us. Then, all of a sudden, out of the blue ... appeared these gigantic monsters right on top of us, or so it seemed ... the Rockies!! Agenda accomplished ... to plagiarize a friend of ours ... Unbelievable!! A sight to behold ... the "West" is full of 'em, all unique ... and that one takes back seat to none! We drove to Bolder City ... spent the night near the Air Force Academy ... had breakfast at MacDonalds and headed for the Rocky Mountain National Park, going through Estes Park ... as Carol said, a really beautiful little town. She knew of the Stanley Hotel, I did not ... but it looked like something out of a storybook ... a grand hotel, indeed! The brochure that we were admonished to read ... strongly suggested that expectant mothers and those with any type of heart problems might consider an alternate route and also indicated the common problems cars experienced, how to avoid them and what to do in case you didn't. Had we so done, there would be no story, methinks! Like Carol said Trail Ridge Road was very narrow and steep with no shoulders ... interesting indeed! To make things more interesting, the 5,100 pound Yellow Monster with its 460 Cubic Inch V-8 and Carter 4-Barrel didn't like Trail Ridge road and the higher we went, the shower it went ... with it floored, it was losing speed and power, down to under 6 mph in low when it locked up ... no fun navigating, going backwards without power ... and seeing the long drop off inches away ... Carol mentioned holding my leg down ... my knees were shaking so bad that we had to hold them down! I somehow made it to a small, empty scenic overlook area large enough to accommodate the car and rest. How we survived and the car's restarting can only be explained by Devine intervention ... any fool in his right mind knows that the thing to have done would have been to turn it around and go back down the mountain! Truth is, it would have been more than a little hard for me to turn that 19 foot vehicle around in the available space ... I grew up getting full service ... had her filled with Amoco unleaded "white gas" ... 'bout all I could do was point it in the desired direction and step on the pedal. Besides, a group on motorcycles passed by going toward Estes Park so surely I could make it to the top ... so it was to the top or bust ... proof positive that I was a fool, just not in my right mind. We somehow made it, crossed the Divide and the car did perform better going downhill ... we stopped at some nice tourist area ... at Grand Lake, methinks, rested and had lunch. The area was so beautiful ... it remains among my favorite places, one where I would have liked to live, at least much of the year. Given our experiences of the day, we decided to get off the mountain rather than stay ... but we experienced no further problems with the car. I said earlier "Agenda Accomplished" but not quite ... remember my dream to visit Pike's Peak ... it remains an unrealized ambition. No Pike's Peak for us ... we drove back the next day, avoiding elevations whenever possible ... even the rolling hills in Kansas were cause for concern! However the Monster was up to the task and we made it back to Dallas without incident. The next week we headed off on another "day trip" ... this time to Louisiana Downs,190 miles ... well, we thought it was going to be two days but turned out to be but one. Things went smoothly for the first 130 miles out ... when we saw a road exit sign ... which we both read aloud "Estes Park" ... causing the car to begin malfunctioning and performing as it had the previous weekend in the Rockies! We babied the car to the next exit and from there to a service station ... they too could find nothing, suggesting that we had perhaps gotten water in the tank but we had the oil changed, bought ice and cold cans of Coca Cola and headed back to Dallas, driving slow and pausing ... putting ice and cold Coca Cola on the carburetor whenever it seemed to be faltering ... basically uneventful, other than the smell. Back in Dallas, the car underwent a complete examination but all they could find was some white residue in the fuel line ... after fixing that, the car worked fine! Undaunted, we again departed for the races the next weekend! 130 miles out was again the sign and though we didn't say it aloud the car saw it ... and it was déjà vu, all over again. I know it's unbelievable but it really did happen! It turned out that we had a cracked piston. Evidently, the distance, all of which was Interstate, traveled at the same speed using automatic speed control, was what it took to heat things up and cause it to malfunction ... We eventually got to Louisiana Downs, but not in the Yellow Monster!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Why ... do we think the way we do?

Remember back in early 2008 ... the news was that in a poll of 3,000 British teenagers, almost one fourth thought Winston Churchill was a fictional character ... actually 23% ... same as Florence Nightingale. However, they both had to take back seats to King Richard I. Almost half ... 47% thought "Richard the Lionheart" to be a fictional character. Surely the estate of Conan Doyle designed and conducted the survey as almost 60% thought Sherlock Holmes real. Why do we think the way we do? I suspect that it has a bit to do with how we were taught ... at home and at school. For some time now, the emphasis in school seems to be split between making students feel good about themselves and passing some standardized tests to demonstrate they have a good grasp of the material. Sounds good, now don't it?! The focus we had in some of my classes in high school ... and most of my math and actuarial classes in college was somewhat different. We were graded "on the curve" subject to an arbitrary minimum "raw score" for passing. Additionally, the tests were designed so that achieving a perfect score (100%) under test conditions was impossible! The purpose being to allow the teachers to properly graduate the students. Of course, these days it's the kids who do the graduating. "I graduated High School" or "I graduated College" is what you hear from them ... and it shows! Winston Churchill was a fictional character ... bah humbug! At some time during my hour of strutting and fretting upon the stage, I reached the conclusion that we all share something in common other than being allotted but an hour ... not sure exactly when but probably somewhere in the first 10 minutes, for I remember it was a long time ago. Well, to be fair, it was more of a sudden awareness of what I then thought to be a simple truth than it was a conclusion ... that "we all believe that we're right!" Well, I'm no longer sure that it is a simple truth ... but I do still believe it to be a truth, sorta ... we all believe that we're right or that we don't know ... except on those rare occasions when we believe we're wrong. While I was in the process of trying to become semi-educated, I was frequently required to take tests ... many was the time when I believed that an answer I had given was wrong, and that belief was usually proven correct ... but not always. I remember once giving up in frustration and responding that I couldn't solve the problem ... to my surprise, I got full marks as the problem turned out to be a classical "unsolvable" that the professor included, for reasons never revealed. Better lucky than good, I took it! Sometimes you're wrong when you're right. On another of his tests, I remember getting my paper back with one problem having the notation "excellent approach, technique, execution - a perfect solution!" ... but receiving zero credit and "Read The Problem!!" written repeatedly in huge red letters across the entire two page solution. The test question had something to do with the problem, but wasn't asking for its solution. Believing that you're wrong gets kinda confusing for if you're right you're wrong and if you're wrong you're right! However, in usual context, we don't believe we're wrong ... to so do is nonsense and just doesn't compute. Indeed, if we conclude we're wrong, we change our minds and positions so as to believe that we're right. Another thing we all share in common is sometimes being wrong when we think we're right! All this may sound like nonsense too ... but that awareness served me rather well. I guess it was another way of telling me that if I knew "why" the other fellow believed as he did, I would have a better chance of changing his mind ... or mine. Frank and Winnie were like that, methinks ... oft was the time when they disagreed ... they didn't always think alike but they knew how the other thought.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Little 5 Points ...

Crowded StreetSome time back, a very young John Anderson went to town with his father ... the streets were crowded as they always were on Saturdays and John was more than just a bit excited ... something always unexpected happened when he went to town and he couldn't wait! Well this time nothing did, not unless you count the old beggar down on the corner shivering in his underwear ... he could have dropped dead or gone around totally naked and nobody would have noticed!
It reminds me of the reaction most of my posts get here in the Shop ... it makes a body wonder, not don't it?! We don't write for acceptance ... were we to so do, we would have long ago closed the closed the Shop! This here is just a look back ... maybe it'll bring a smile or three to some faces, wrinkled like mine and help some bright, shiny and young ones better understand those of us who aren't ... hope so anyways! On Thanksgiving, my favorite sister was surprised to see me in dungarees ... doubt she's seen me wearing them since school days ... they still fit too, imagine that! It really brought back the memories ... funny thing was that I didn't start wearing them in school until the eighth grade ... always Levi Strauss!
As most all barbershop regulars know, I grew up in Atlanta, Little 5 Points to be Bellbuckleexact ... but, my folks were foreigners ... Daddy from Draketown, Georgia and Mama from Bell Buckle, Tennessee ... both were but whistle stops. Temple TrainFor those unfamiliar and them what's forgot, Bell Buckle is in between Fosterville and Wartrace ... while Draketown is over in Haralson county, near Bremen and Temple. Time changes most everything and they both now have paved roads, electricity, hot and cold running water ... indoor toilets too ... not just the rich folks neither, most everybody does! Seems that even Little Five Points has changed ... ain't no more five and ten cent store, no Foster's Barbershop ... it's now described as "Cool Gay Little 5 Points, the five-avenue intersection that serves as upscale Inman Park's unofficial town square ... Bellbucklejust five minutes east of downtown by subway, Little Five Points has a bohemian sensibility that makes it a fun counterpoint to Inman's oak-lined placidity. You could easily spend a day and night exploring its shops and checking out the pedestrians: barefoot hippies peddling incense, dreadlocked moms carrying babies and thumping organic melons at the co-op, tattooed Harley riders propping up their bikes outside the Euclid Yacht Club bar" ... goodness!! Mama had a good job and made as much if not more money than Daddy ... that was before I was born. I never grew up ... still short too ... but, back when I was in the process, most all married women what had babies truly had the most important job of all ... staying at home and taking care of them babies ... meaning their children what lived with them, regardless of age, amd of course their husbands too ... my Mama was one. Time changes most everything ... not always for the best, methinks. Two of my best friends from before I can remember were Warner Overstreet and Buddy Edwards ... pictures show that we frequently shared playpens ... they attended my first birthday party ... and I theirs.
Warner's father was then assistant warden at "Atlanta" where he maintained a residence ... Warner and I sometimes played catch; baseball and football with the trustees that took care of their home. I was inside the "Big House" just once, maybe twice ... once that I remember, and once was enough. Work took them to Washington when Mr. Overstreet served as our top cop under Eisenhower, but they remained good friends over the years; Christmas and birthday cards, telephone calls, and always visiting when in Atlanta or Chattanooga.
Japanese FigureBuddy's Daddy was a career soldier, an army major seeing action in the Pacific and the family lived in Japan during the occupation following the war ... from them we received fantastic presents, including colorful outfits and fantastic puzzle boxes ... over 50 ivory, bone and jade figures too though none survived, that is to say I haven't seen them in over 50 years. Candy Stick However, the best part of being friends was that his grandfather owned a large candy company located in downtown Atlanta. We would sometimes visit the plant when it was closed and Mr. Edwards would turn on all the taffy, peppermint, and coconut candy making equipment ... his giant peppermint sticks and "all day" suckers were the biggest I've ever seen but the one I remember best and liked the most was the giant machine that rolled out big sheets of multicolored/multiflavored coconut that would be cut into "nickel bars" and packaged ... still a popular "dollar bar" candy, though smaller, and not nearly so good! I'm a product of Atlanta's public schools ... though I've yet to discern whether that's blessing or curse ... learning me letters and numbers at Moreland Avenue Elementary. It was there we heard wonderful tales of Alice, Mary Poppins, Tom Sawyer, David Copperfield and Uncle Remus ... made the Pledge of Allegiance each day ... prayed ... sang The Stars Spangled Banner ... Dixie and The Battle Hymn of The Republic ... and learned the songs of Stephen Foster ... Bach, Beethoven and Debussy too. It's said that the example set by your parents is the most visible part of your education, in more ways than one, methinks. Yes, there's more ways than one to say it but if you think nobody has, I'll take the credit ... it was visible in multiple ways too. Well, maybe not yours, but certainly that was true of mine! Seemed Mama was always at school ... checking up on me ... or bringing goodies for all the kids; making sure everyone had at least one present under the tree at the class Christmas parties ... Valentines for all in February ... dyeing Easter eggs for our hunts ... Krispy Kreme Truckhelping coordinate our paper, coathanger and Krispy Kreme drives ... and always going with us on field trips: to The Wren's Nest, The Coca Cola Company, The Symphony, Grant Park, Colonial Bakery, Public Library, Stone Mountain ... and attending all the PTA meetings! It may be hard to imagine or believe, but the first and second years that we sold Krispy Kremes, we charged fifteen cents a dozen ... the next, twenty ... and the school got a nickel for every box sold. MamaMama was certainly visible, all five foot two and 100 pounds!
Most of what few lessons I've sorta learned ... what values I may have ... what I am, and the wee bit of knowledge I acquired ... I owe to me folks and their folks too ... to those teachers what took an interest in me ... and, of course, Mrs. Osmosis. Most but not all ... I owe a lot to our neighbors, our preacher, our family doctor who routinely made house calls; sometimes in the wee hours, and the Little 5 Points' merchants ... seems we knew them all by name ... and they us; certainly all our neighbors and those along the route from home to school ... more than that, most were friends. They all seemed to take a genuine interest in us, and we in them ... they all had an influence ... without them, I wouldn't be me. I had some very good teachers, in school and out ... but I guess none were more important than my kindergarten teacher and mother's friend, Mrs. Freeman. Folks just don't realize the trauma experienced by a four year old being abandoned and left with strangers and a gazillion kids they don't know, not to mention the burden of their parents' expectations resting heavily on their young shoulders ... no, they just don't realize. Mama and Mrs. Freeman took it upon themselves to make going to school that first year something to which I looked forward ... and they succeeded ... it was fun ... and I carried it with me! Movie TheaterHowever, no influence was greater than that of the Euclid Theater ... double features on Saturday, including a serial, cartoon and newsreel ... all for a dime! It jumped to twenty cents when I became twelve ... or rather, shortly thereafter when one of my FRIENDS ratted on me. Well, none save one ... our radio!! Ours was a large multibanded model ... Multiband radiofeaturing both long and short wave ... over which we occasionally picked up broadcasts from Germany and Italy. I would scan for hours, listening mostly to static in search of Morse coded messages.Hitler, Mussolini and Winston Churchill right in our livingroom ... imagine that! There were also English and sometimes American broadcasts of German and Italian speeches so we had some idea of what was being said ... but, hearing them live was somehow different ... scary! ... exciting! No, I didn't know what was really going on ... cities being destroyed, millions being killed and such ... thank goodness for that! But, I was proud to be an American ... seemed like everybody was ... Our 39 FordWe had a good car that lasted 11 years ... one of Mr. Ford's finest ... a 1939 Ford for which Daddy paid $600 new ... got his $600 back when he traded it in on a new 1949 Ford. My biggest concern with the new car was that it had no "running board" ... but my fears were unfounded ... the Varsity's carhops seemed unfazed! Cars were nice but since Daddy used ours in his work, me and Mama mostly used the streetcar when we needed to go downtown ... Trolleyover time they changed; first to trolley cars and then to buses ... taxis were reserved for emergencies and special occasions like attending the GWTW premiere festivities. Daddy routinely went to bed at ten ... his offices were in 5 Points too ... Big 5 Points, downtown ... left for work at 6:30 each morning during the week, usually getting back home around six ... sometimes later. Stone MountainWe made frequent weekend visits to the airport ... to Stone Mountain ... Grant Park ... the original Old Hickory House out on the Old Bankhead Highway ... Piedmont Park ... the Atlanta Penitentiary ... the Farmer's Market, back before it went inside ... the Varsity, and the Atlanta Auditorium. Tucker Car All were special treats ... especially the Pen where we visited good friends ... and the Auditorium with it's special events ... all night singings, the circus, the Globetrotters, and where I sat in Mr. Tucker's car. The circus coming to town was always an eagerly awaited event as was the Southeastern Fair at Lakewood! The radio's impact was far greater than just suggested ... it was my conduit with the real world ... Jack Benny, Fred Allen, Amos and Andy, Fibber McGee, Glidersleeve, The Amazing Mister Keene, The Green Hornet, Gangbusters, The Lone Ranger and the Atlanta Crackers! Don't get me wrong, I like good pictures ... Phil Niekro, the Mona Lisa, and Driving Miss Daisy being among my favorites ... and I guess it's true that one is worth more than a word or three, but when radio is compared to TV ... for some reason my brain just works harder and better when I close my eyes and let it paint the pictures than when someone else does the work for me. My early school years were during the war . .. but that all the teachers at Moreland were women was for a different reason, or rather a collection of different reasons. Teaching was one of the few avenues then available to well educated women ... which was good for us, and while we each have our own view, good for them too methinks. We received a good solid educational foundation and they well served a function of far more importance and more rewarding than afforded most of either sex, before or since. Yes, I learned me reading, writing, spelling, penmanship and arithmetic in those early years ... but none were considered more important than proper deportment; not by my folks, not by my teachers, and after a while ... not by me ... being on a first name basis with a hickory switch ain't what it's cracked up to be. I learned all that as well as most of what I know of history, geography, general science, our Government, and the English language too ... I was nothing special, we all did! Our music teacher Mrs. Youngblood, had coerced me into joining the youth choir ... Guitarand convinced my parents that I should learn to play an instrument as well ... sounded good to me as I had always wanted to learn to play the guitar and sing on the Grand Old Opry. Unfortunately, Daddy had other ideas ... for some reason, he agreed to spend the money but wouldn't agree to the guitar ... his son was to learn to play the slide trombone ... Tromboneand an exquisite instrument was ordered ... big sucker! Fortunately for the neighbors and everyone involved, fate played a cruel hand ... oral surgery and protracted orthogonal work spoiled his plans and the instrument was returned unused ... but, he never budged on the guitar or its lessons and the world was denied another George Jones ... that too was probably a blessing in disguise. As an aside, I had taken tap dancing lessons some years before when I was still just a little kid ... expected behavior back then, I guess ... that included some recitals and though I survived, my agent thought it best that I continue at Moreland rather than going on tour. Undaunted, she enrolled me in formal dancing classes, the summer following sixth grade ... another disaster, though I did learn the Hokey-Pokey. Some folks equate my interest in the "why" more than the "what" to psychoanalyzing, but the reason why has nothing to do with anything like that ... it just comes from my years at Moreland. Our principal believed that if you knew and understood the "why" ... you'd automatically know and understand the "what" of things ... it's the way they tried to teach us. Even when we were sent to the principal's office for being bad, they were more interested in "why" we had misbehaved rather that "what" we had done.
Bass HighWhat I had learned at Moreland held me in good stead at Bass High School, at least most of the time ... and I was again lucky to have some very good teachers ... but this time, there were the other kind too. I can't really remember exactly why I started wearing Levis in the eight grade ... probably because I didn't want to be called no sissy ... the girls liked boys what wore them too ... as did Mama since they withstood the punishment I inflicted better than the rest! I never really learned how to study ... not at Moreland ... not in high school or college ... still don't know... so I'm much indebted to Mr. and Mrs. Osmosis for most of what I learned. However, I learned a lot and ... especially from my mentor, the brilliant Mary Ready, under whose guidance I'm told I excelled. She taught me to go "outside the box" in my thinking, and exposed me to material not covered by the school's regular curriculum. From her, I once received the grade of "C" on both of my quarterly reports ... which unexpectedly averaged out to an "A" for the semester ... part of her efforts to get me to be all I could. For my many references to the Bard's brilliance, especially MacBeth, the Danish Prince and his girlfriend's daddy, you can blame Miss Fulton ... Keats, Lord Byron, Shelly, Browning, and Bobby Burns too ... she was a scholar, studied at Cambridge, methinks ... her specialty was the Bard. However, like my sixth grade teacher, Miss Brewster, she taught that those who use four letter words do so mostly because they know no five or six letter words. She didn't really mind appropriate, effective use of the vulgar, for which old Sam had a penchant ... but boy did she hate inappropriate use and obscenity. In High School, I also learned that we should profit from the mistakes of others ... the "why" ... we won't live long enough to make them all ourselves.
In defining the true roles of government and education, our principal Mr. Scott used to say that if parents give their children the choice of vegetables and candy, the only people benefiting would be the dentists. I reverted to slacks in the eleventh grade and was later graduated without honors but with distinction. The distinction being that I was graduated! Hans Andersen What about young John ... what was all that about? Nothin' ... absolutely nothing! I made that up, but having a good nose for a story, it could have been the inspiration for an older John Anderson, aka Hans Andersen ... "The Emperor's New Clothes" ... a body just never knows. Lynda If you didn't enjoy this little excursion you can blame my sister Lynda, she's the one that triggered the memories! Some may think it shameful and/or gauche for me to have publicly proclaimed Lynda as my favorite ... well, I understand but truth is truth ... and the truth is that she's my one and only ...