Friday, November 21, 2003


Ah, the Friday before Thanksgiving. Since taking my current job, I've taken the week of Thanksgiving off each year. The first year, we went to St. Louis and then Hannibal, Mo., which is a town that lives off Twain. But most of the tourists were gone by then: so it was a ghost tourist trap. In 2001, we drove half-way across the continent and visited Jay, Deb and nephews in Dallas, and my mother and brother Jim came up from San Antonio too. Last year, anticipating Ann, we didn't go anywhere. This year, we're staying home for needed rest.

Plus a rest for this self-published, rolling letter. No blogging till after Thanksgiving Day. Best wishes to all for the holiday. Eat, drink and be indolent.

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Christmas creep blog.

Not much of a blog today, since the day was long for various reasons, and sleep the night before was short, for various other reasons. It was almost warm today. Almost. The recent rains have made the grass green, too, for the moment. Hardly seemed like November, except that Christmas creep is under way. Decorations are creeping into stores; ambient Christmas music is creeping into the downtown air; there's even a radio station in town that has already converted into a Christmas music format.

The commercial decorations may have a merchandising rationalization, for what that’s worth. But I've even seen Christmas trees in the windows of a few houses. No excuse for that.

While I was blathering about Al Stewart this week, Lilly's sixth birthday came and went. For the day itself, she got a doll, a book and a toy railroad crossing signal -- a better toy than you might think. Also, cupcakes in advance of the real cake, which will be served this weekend at her party. It will be a simple occasion. Five or six girls, some games, cake and balloons, here at our house. Not bad, having your birthday close to Christmas but -- advertising notwithstanding -- not too close.

Wednesday, November 19, 2003

A small cult blog.

A small cult following -- now that’s the thing to have. Small enough that the odds of one of them being a dangerous loony are fairly low, but large enough for a modicum of adulation sometimes. Small enough so that you can wander around unrecognized just about anywhere, but large enough so that at certain times and places, people cheer for you.

As far as I can tell, Al Stewart has achieved this. His worldwide fan base may not be any larger numerically than a popular TV weatherman in a second-tier American market, but his fans come out for his shows. According to Schuba's Web site, demand was strong enough to justify two Stewart shows in Chicago, the one that Yuriko and I attended, and one the next night.

The audience was a homogenous-looking group. They looked... something like Stewart: unremarkably middle aged, casually dressed, solidly white bourgeoisie. In fact, I'd hazard a guess that almost everyone in that room was over 35, with the majority between 40 and 60. (The few younger women might have been dates. "You want to see Al who?" she might have asked her divorced-father-of-two boyfriend.) Chronologically, this audience demographic makes perfect sense -- the height of Stewart's popularity was from about 1976 to ’78.

At this point, though it should be clear by now, I might as acknowledge that I'm an enthusiast myself, and certainly I belonged in that crowd. But there are degrees of enthusiasm, and I'm not in the top rank of fans, since my interest in Stewart's music has waxed and waned over the years, and I haven't bothered to buy (or copy) very many of his albums -- none since 1989, in fact.

So calling the crowd "they" is merely a style convention. It was really a "we." The crowd, already friendly, laughed at Stewart’s jests, cheered when he started a familiar song, and really grew vocal when he said, "I'll take requests. I may not play them, but I'll take them." A man directly behind me really, really wanted to hear "The End of the Day." Other requests rang out around the room, and not merely for the better-known of his '70s output. I put in a word myself for "Roads to Moscow," an eight-minute ballad about a doomed Russian foot soldier in the Great Patriotic War. (I think I startled Yuriko. He didn’t sing it.)

At times, Stewart was coy. He would call an upcoming song "obscure" -- an apt description in the wider world, but not in that room. Before he sang "The Coldest Winter in Memory," he said: "This is a long historical song, about Russia. But it’s not the one you think." Introducing "Year of the Cat," he noted, "Now I want to play something that has some chance of being recognized," as if nearly every soul in that room hadn't heard his most famous song numerous times -- even Yuriko had heard it growing up in Japan.

Tuesday, November 18, 2003

Stewart blog.

Rain, rain, rain. If it were snow, the radio told me this morning, it would be a foot deep at least. But it peaked at about 60 F today -- unusually warm for November. So we get rain.

Al Stewart on stage comes across as amiable, bookish and late middle-aged (which he is, at 58, complete with receding hairline) -- and as someone who just happens to have a remarkable talent for the guitar, with a penchant for lyricism. He was dressed so unremarkably that I can't remember anything about it, and his guitar wasn't anything to look at either, though he said at one point that he owns a number of them, but none as good as "this second-hand one with a crack in it."

Obviously he was in his element, a small venue. Almost without warning he wandered on to the stage, and started noodling with the guitar, getting it ready to play. "I would do this backstage, normally, but there’s no backstage here." His speaking voice, squeaky and almost unnaturally high for a man, took a few moments to get used to, and didn't betray too much of his native Glasgow (I don’t know for sure, but I think he's lived in California for a long time now). In any case, after however many countless stage shows, he's quite at ease on stage, smiling, bantering with the small audience, telling an anecdote or two, and then breaking into song. After which, if the song needed some explanation, he offered it.

Some of his stories involved the London of the late 1960s, which I'm sure he's fully aware that his audiences consider a Time and a Place worth hearing about. He dropped some names, too. Almost so lightly that you didn't realize what he was doing. One London 1967 story involved meeting Yoko Ono, who talked him into investing £100 in one of her worthless avant-garde films. "The next year, she went on to marry a more famous guitar player than me. [Laughter from the audience.] Haven’t seen her since."

All together, the show was just shy of two hours, and it was just Stewart and his guitar. His playlist ranged broadly across the 30-odd years he's been recording. It was a different kind of show than the only other time I've seen him live, at a somewhat larger venue called Park West in Chicago in early 1989. He was touring with a band at that time -- including a terrific saxophonist whose name I don't know -- and promoting his then-new album The Last Days of the Century. That was a good show, but with more of a standard musician-on-tour feeling than Saturday’s gig. This time around he didn't have a new record out, and I got the sense that he plays live because he feels like it.

And who wouldn't, with an audience of enthusiasts? More on that tomorrow.

Monday, November 17, 2003

Southport blog.

Amazingly foggy this morning. So much that I didn't want to risk being a pedestrian in the suburbs, and drove the mile to the train station. Quintessential November, I'd say. One gray day blending into another, not exactly cold, or warm either, and all the leaves stripped from the trees and into the rain gutters of my house.

On Saturday Yuriko and I went on a rare date in the city, with our small children safely parked at a friendly and capable babysitter in a condo just off Lake Shore Drive. The weather was much as a November evening ought to be (see above, minus the fog). We were able to park about three blocks from our destination -- that's still possible even in some popular parts of the North Side, though overly fashionable districts like Lincoln Park are parking nightmares.

Around 6 p.m. we walked a bit along Southport, a north-sough street I used to know fairly well because some old friends of mine lived at a flat in the 3000 North block in the late 1980s. Since then, some retail development has occurred along the street; I spotted the mandatory Starbuck's on a corner that I'm certain never had one before 1990.

But that part of Southport still has most of its understated neighborhood charms. Three- and six-flats, corner bars, small shops, a church or two. We were some blocks south of the Music Box, a fine '20s-style moviehouse that succeeds as a revival and art house, and wandered past an establishment that I've read has the only hand-set bowling lanes left in the city. Looking in, we could see the three or four lanes, but no one was playing at that moment. It's really a place to sit around and drink.

At the intersection of Belmont and Southport is Schuba's Tavern, a place I've passed many times, but never ventured inside. It's very much a Chicago corner bar, a solid brick building dating from before World War I probably. The long, narrow bar is in front, with a room in back sporting cramped seating for 150 or so, for small musical acts. That’s what we came for -- Al Stewart at 7 p.m. The song I mentioned yesterday -- "The Coldest Winter in Memory" -- I heard for the first time when I heard him sing it on Saturday. He gave a fine show, more about which tomorrow.

Sunday, November 16, 2003

Poltava blog.

Usually I don't quote anything at length by someone I don't know, but I heard a remarkable song for the first time last night, and finding the lyrics was only a minor Google away, so I will. The song's by an old favorite of mine, Al Stewart. When his songs are good, they're very good, with themes that virtually no one else takes up. And he plays a fine electric guitar.

"The Coldest Winter in Memory."

The coldest winter in memory was 1709
The sea froze off the coast of France all along the Neptune line
By the lost town of Dunwich the shore was washed away
They say you hear the church bells still as they toll beneath the waves.
Come all you earthly princes, wheresoever you may be
From the Sun King in the court of France to the Czar in Muscovy
Take heed of Charles of Sweden, the Lion of the North,
On the cracked earth of summer with his army he goes forth.

Guardian angels wherever you may be, reach down and keep my soul for me
I was there amongst that number, I heard the trumpets strain
I saw the host of banners spread across the Polish plain
Those who stood against us, they soon were swept away
They may have the numbers but it's Charles shall have the day.
We cut our way through forests, crossed on frozen streams
They fell away before us like a murmur in a dream
And they burned the land around us as snow was closing in
And the arms of winter took us as we fired against the wind.

Guardian angels wherever you may be, reach down and keep my soul for me
Through all the courts of Europe there's a rumor from the East
The kings have come to battle and it's Charles who's known defeat
They'll shake their heads and wonder at how this came to be
But it's nights without a shelter that have made an end for me.
Now Charles is fled to Turkey, left his men afar
And they'll be marched through Moscow now as prisoners of the Czar
And had I but known last summer what I now understand
I'd have never set my foot inside this bleak and bitter land.

Guardian angels wherever you may be, reach down and keep my soul for me
The coldest winter in memory was 1709
The sea froze off the coast of France all along the Neptune line
By the lost town of Dunwich the shore was washed away
They say you hear the church bells still as they toll beneath the waves.

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Just a rainy Saturday's blog.

I returned from Indianapolis last night. Third visit to that city this year, and while I saw a few new places, mostly it was a retread of a business trip.

For today, more on my grandfather and World War I, which I naturally had an inclination to take up on November 11. Jay sends this: "There were at one time two group photos from the First World War around the house, one genuinely panoramic. One photo, I believe, was of the company in which Grandpa was a lieutenant. I believe it was referred to as the something like the 112th Engineer Train. I don't recall the exact name.

"It had apparently been an Illinois National Guard detachment. My understanding is that he was working as an engineer along the Illinois portion of the Mississippi River when the war began. He joined the first unit he could find rather than going back to Texas. I believe only one or two other men out of a hundred or so were from outside of Illinois.

"The other, smaller photo was of a group of officers, all those in whatever Regiment or Battalion he was attached to. He was in France at the time of the Armistice, moving towards the front. How close, I couldn't say. Uncle Dick Henderson was in the Army in the First World War, as well as his brother, Ralph. I understand he was driving an army truck in one of the French ports when the war ended.

"You may have heard that Grandpa tried to enlist in the Second World War, too. He turned 48 in October 1941 and I believe he had already lost a certain amount of his hearing. What mother says is that he thought he ought to get a colonel's commission, given his prior military experience and training, and his twenty-five years as a civil engineer. Allegedly, the authorities were unwilling to offer him more than a major's commission. In any case, he didn't join the Army but he did spend much of the war on war-related construction projects, notably the Naval Ordinance facility in McAlester, Oklahoma. He had wanted to work on the Al-Can highway to Alaska, too, but apparently was refused because of his age."

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Armistice blog.

No more entries till Friday at the earliest, though Saturday is more likely, considering my schedule over the next few days.

In my mother’s home, there's a framed panoramic photo of my grandfather's army company, or maybe it's several companies because there are row upon row of men, all in the Army Corps of Engineers. (It was no accident: he was a graduate of Texas A&M, class of 1916.) The panorama is dated 1918 and I believe it was taken near Louisville, where they trained. I don't know exactly when grandpa shipped out that year, or where he was at the Armistice, but my mother always said that he spend 1919 doing engineer's work in parts of France shattered by the war. Dangerous work at times, I'm sure, because of unexploded ordnance.

But he survived to be a civil engineer building roads in Texas for many years, and now has 13 living descendants, aged 9 months to 78 years.

Uncle Ralph was in the Great War, too. My great uncle, actually, my mother's mother's brother. I have a picture of him, his father, his uncle and a family friend after they'd sold some cattle in Ft. Worth in 1909, all dandied up for the portrait. What I heard about him in the war was that he served in a tank company, and was all ready to go to the front at the time of the Armistice. So he too survived, and lived long enough so that I can remember visiting him in a nursing home. He never married, however, and has no known descendents.

I was pretty young when I learned that Veterans Day was originally Armistice Day, and it has always struck me that it would be better to call it that, even now. Somehow, and I'm not sure how someone (me) born in the early 1960s picked up an idea like this, but it seems that "Armistice Day" has more gravitas. It contains the idea of honoring veterans every bit as much as Veteran’s Day, but there's more to it. An armistice is when war stops, after all, so the notion of the peace after the fighting is rolled into it. Not only that, Armistice Day is moored to a specific point in history, when the worst war the world had ever known finally ended. That's worth remembering, especially now, after 85 years, the Great War is virtually gone from living memory.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Metro Detroit blog.

From Minneapolis I made my way to greater Detroit, for another conference last week -- the University of Michigan Real Estate Forum. For me, the high point of this to-do, and I'd to-done it once before in 1999, was the bus tour. Four years ago, the buses snaked through that part of metro Detroit known as Down River, south of Detroit proper along the Detroit River. A declining industrial region with some redevelopment promise.

It even involved a boat ride to Gross Ile, an island-town with its own houses, streets, an airstrip and a yacht club, where we had lunch and listened to a businessman give a speech (I've forgotten his name). A real immigrant success story, since he had come from Germany as a young man; and auto-related, since he had made his pile making sun- and moonroofs. Real estate-related because he owned a fair amount of it Down River. Less than a year later, not quite 60, he committed suicide. I would guess that it had nothing to do with his engagement at the yacht club. Otherwise, I haven't a clue. It was just one of those things you see in the newspaper, with a small flash of recognition.

This year, we toured the suburban downtowns of Oakland County, Michigan. Oakland County is essentially where the middle class fled to in the 1960s and '70s from the city of Detroit. In focusing on the downtowns -- Ferndale, Royal Oak, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills -- we looked at places along or near Woodward Avenue, a storied road that goes all the way from the heart of downtown Detroit to Pontiac, Michigan. Suburban downtown redevelopment involves mostly retail and multifamily development clustered closer than usual in a suburb, and is a fairly new thing in the urban planning and development world. Especially in metro Detroit, because a downtown assumes that people will, occasionally, get out of their cars and walk. And like it. A strange notion for some parts of the country, such as suburban Detroit.

Sunday, November 09, 2003

Murray's blog.

Besides the Mall of America, I didn't have much time for a Minneapolis walkabout, what with professional duties a-calling. That may have been just as well, since I came to town in time for the first snow of the 03-04 Snow Season in the Frozen Northcountry. As the plane came in close to the ground, I could see that the ground had been dusted white. But the roads and even the sidewalks were clear. That indicates snow of a non-serious variety, just enough to look interesting. The sort of thing we got in South Texas ever decade or so.

But it was cold enough. Around freezing the whole time. This seemed to astonish the New Yorkers in my party, as if winter-like temps are an impossibility in Minneapolis in November because, well, it never gets this cold in New York in November. Chicago doesn't either, for the most part, but we've all heard of the long Minnesota winters in Chicago. Minneapolis is the place Chicagoans think of as too cold to live.

Had a fine dinner on Monday evening at a place called Murray’s on 6th Street, just north of the bus-only quasi-pedestrian shopping street known as the Nicolett Mall. For such a mainstream place, I refer to the line in Fodor's, that most mainstream of guides: "This third-generation steak house, with its pink linen-covered tables, has been in business since 1946. Silver Butter Knife steaks, hickory-smoked shrimp, and Murray's signature garlic toast are served in a plush atmosphere with piano and violin accompaniment. AE, D, DC, MC, V."

The pianist and violinist probably had Monday off, and I noted that its famed -- according to the restaurant famed -- Silver Butter Knife steaks came in Montana-sized portions for two or three people, at Manhattan prices. No one at my table was game for that, even though most of them worked in Manhattan. I didn't order steak at all, but only because I saw walleye on the menu. Hey, this was Minnesota. I can get a steak in Omaha, next time I go there.

As for the garlic toast, it was certainly memorable. As if someone at Murray's had the sole job of pressing raw garlic into toast-shaped pieces. It was intensely garlicky, that toast. Vampires the world over must speak of it with dread.

Finally, as I was leaving the establishment, I noticed an enlarged, framed comic strip on the wall next to the coat room. It was a Zippy strip, featuring Zippy and Griffy discussing the merits, in true surreal Zippy fashion, of the Silver Butter Knife steak at Murray's. That steak must have caught Bill Griffith's fancy. Can't be many steak houses that can say that Zippy the Pinhead is a fan.

Saturday, November 08, 2003

More on the Blog of America.

These days, there's a legal dispute about the ownership of the Mall of America. The shops open, the shops close, people come to the mall and business goes on -- a quarrel about who actually owns the place is as distant as a succession crisis in Togo, as far as the ordinary shopper is concerned.

The opposing parties in the spat are the mall's original development partners, Indianapolis-based Simon Properties (owned by the Simon family) and the Ghermezian brothers of Alberta, Canada. Both families control enormous retail real estate empires, so this is something like the Romans and the Persians fighting over Mesopotamia. I won't bore blog readers with the details, or offer any opinions about the case, but I will say that the Ghermezians won the first round. More litigation is likely, though. In the Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal in September, an article about the ruling in favor of the four Iranian-Canadian Ghermezian brothers in U.S. District Court said the following:

"In his ruling, Judge Magnuson criticized both parties for behavior that he called 'boorish' and 'behavior one might expect to see on a playground but not in dealings between sophisticated business partners.' " The judge might have been surprised, but I'm not.

I brought a Mall of America Map & Directory back from my trip, and I've consulted it to see what I missed during my hour-long flyby in the mall. Because I must have missed more than I saw. The mall is so large that the directory lists a good many stores twice -- that is, there are two locations in the mall. Two Claire's Boutiques, two Sunglass Huts, two Eddie Bauers, two Victoria’s Secrets, and four Mall of America Gift Stores, one for each compass point. Just to name some of the doubles, and not to mention permutations like Gap, Gap Body, Gap Baby and Gap Kids, all of which are represented.

And as much as I know about retail real estate, there are also chains I’ve never heard of, such as Zutopia (children's apparel); Torrid (women's “specialty apparel” -- all your dominatrix needs, perhaps); Bow Wow Meow, Dapy, Department 56, Dry Ice, Razz and Spirit of the Red Horse, all listed as gift shops; and Underground Station (shoes). The mall also has a full-service post office, an AARP office, classes at National American University (mall, mill), a dental clinic and a wedding chapel. The mall Web site claims that more than 4,000 couples have been married there. When I got back to my office, I told our assistant editor Angie about that. She's getting married next spring. "Why have a church wedding in Iowa," I asked, "when the Mall of America is available?"

Friday, November 07, 2003

Blog of America.

Notes on the Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota.

I'm taking the easy way out today, since my recent travels to Minnesota and then Michigan have worn me out. So I'm starting with some Mall of America stats, lifted from the media relations section of the mall's Web site (with some of the hyperbolic adjectives edited out, though I believe their "largest" claims):

"Mall of America is the nation's largest retail and entertainment complex. It's home to more than 520 shops; Camp Snoopy, the nation's largest indoor family theme park; Underwater Adventures, a 1.2 million-gallon walk-through aquarium; a 14-screen movie theater and more. The Mall opened in August of 1992 and is just minutes from downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul. [That last one is a stretcher. It makes it sound like the downtowns -- both of them -- are on the other side of the parking garage.]

• Cost to build: $650 million
• Gross leasable area: 2.5 million square feet [in the real estate world, the GLA is probably the most meaningful measure of size. That figure sounds big and it is.]
• Gross building area: 4.2 million square feet [an even bigger figure. Enough, I've read elsewhere, to hold seven Yankee Stadiums. I've never been to Yankee Stadium, but that does sound big.]
• Employees: 11,000 year-round, 13,000 during summers and holidays
• Parking spaces: 12,550 on-site
• Walking distance around one level: 0.57 miles
• Total store front footage: 4.3 miles."

I entered the Mall of America on Monday evening, just as the sun was about to set, but I went in through the back door. Or more aptly, the servants' entrance. I'd arrived at the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport not long before, and decided that I would see the retail leviathan. But not any kind of in-depth look. I didn't particularly want to do any shopping, and I didn't have any children to entertain.

I took a municipal bus from the airport to the mall, which is only about a 10-minute ride. Best, I believe, to take a ride or two on a city's train or bus system if you can, to taste the full flavor of the place. Or maybe to get giddy on diesel fumes. Anyway, the bus deposited me at the Mall of America Transit Center, where a good number of bus lines meet and which had that tired look of a small bus station in a small town -- and I suppose the mall qualifies as a small town. It had hard plastic seats in a waiting area, some vending machines, and a milling crowd. More mall workers in the crowd than mall shoppers, it seemed.

Structurally, the Mall of America is a square doughnut. Three levels of stores surrounding, on four sides, a gooey amusement park filling. I took a walk through Camp Snoopy, the amusement park, which on a late Monday afternoon wasn't very crowded. It looked moderately interesting. Then I did an ambit all the way around the half-mile of the mall proper, taking time to note the defunct Cereal World -- a story-tall Lucky Charms leprechaun does get your attention, if nothing else. The store that amused me most, and one that I hadn’t seen before but which I know isn’t unique, was "As Seen on TV." Your infomercial products emporium.

I didn't go in. In fact, the extend of my shopping was to buy some Minnesota postcards in a Minnesota-themed store.

Sunday, November 02, 2003

One more Halloween blog.

No more blogging until Friday the 7th. If only that were because of a vacation.

Lilly made quite a haul on Halloween, she did. She went out collecting candy from some households near a friend of hers, where there was a late afternoon party on Friday. Then, when she got home at about 7, I took her around our new block. So her orange plastic pumpkin filled up nicely.

Including, inter alia: M&Ms regular and mini, Snickers bars, Milky Ways, Reese's peanut butter cups, 3 Musketeers, Nestle's Crunch, a Dolley Madison Zinger, a bag of Teddy Grahams, an unpopped bag of Act II microwave popcorn, Wonka Bottle Caps and Laffy Taffy, Kit Kats, Air Heads, Smarties, Spree, Tootsie Rolls and Pops, Sweetarts, Mini Oreos, Starbursts, Jolly Ranchers, Goetze's Caramel Creams, Russell Stover chocolates, a large variety of hard candy, and some pencils. I marvel at the fecundity of the confection industry.

We gave out hard candy to the 25 or so kids who came by our house -- and I use the word "kids" broadly, since the later it got, the older the visitors got. One girl in a group of about five high schoolers had on a witch's costume that showed... uh, just how grown up she was. Our give-away candy was Costco candy -- Kirkland, they call all their generics, for reasons invisible to this consumer. Since it was from Costco, we had several pounds of it, and despite our best efforts to give it away, about half of the bag remains.

Halloween itself was warmish and pleasant. Been downhill since then. Today was the picture of a drizzly, November day, with clouds hanging around the whole day, and puddles left over from the heavy rain that must have fallen in the middle of last night. If I had to assign November a color, it would be gray, of course. The yellow and orange of October have just about petered out.

Saturday, November 01, 2003

Froggy bloggy.

The Day of the Dead. Now that's a festival that would be worth importing from Mexico. It's getting more play in the English-language media up here in North America than it used to, so I guess the importation is already under way. But what it really needs to get things going is a sponsor, like Cinco de Mayo has Corona Beer. But who would want to sponsor death?

Rec'd an e-mail from Kevin D. not long ago: "I was in Wal-Mart the other day and they had for sale on DVD two Hammer flicks for $5.88 each. I was amazed because these retail for $19.99. Anyway I picked up for my Halloween viewing Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell and Captain Kronos: Vampire Hunter. Two fine, fine movies.

"Anyway, (this is the part that you might find interesting), I kept digging through the stack and found, for the same price, the ecological disaster classic Frogs. So of course I just HAD to buy it. I remember we talked about this flick once, thought you might find it interesting."

Wow, Frogs. Now that takes me back... to a noisy, crowded theater in those pre-VCR, pre-Internet, prepubescent days of yore. Saw it at age 11 or so on a triple bill with Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster and The Incredible Two-Headed Thing (Monster?). The latter was the story of a white bigot's head transplanted to a black body, with the original head intact. Or vice versa. But Frogs. The image of an old man in a wheelchair being smothered by piles of frogs is something that just stays with you.