Wednesday, December 23, 2009


This is a story of friendships forged and lives shaped by a little ski mountain called Butternut. Let me start at the best place to begin, the beginning.

I grew up a devout non-believer. Winter held no magic for me. It was a time to put away the baseball glove and the golf clubs, and hibernate. It was an unnecessary interruption in my life. Skiing was on someone else's radar screen. Cold weather and I had an uncomfortable truce, but there was clearly no love lost in our relationship.

One day I got married. With marriage, come a number of unexpected twists and turns (that is a tale for another day). Inherited relationships are a by product of the 'I do's.' My wife had remained friendly with a couple, Mark and Judy, she had met in college. They had married shortly thereafter. As I was introduced into the mix, I found I enjoyed spending time with these friends. Many interests were shared. One was not: Mark's love of skiing.

Several months into our friendship, I found myself up very early one morning. I was in the car, in the rain, traveling to ski for the day at a local mountain. I was ill equipped, both literally and figuratively, for the events that lay ahead. The rain continued through our journey, but did not dampen the spirits of my friend.

Eventually, I found myself at the top of the mountain, unable to see clearly due to the rain, and unable to figure how to navigate my way down the hill. I was in rain gear (basically a plastic bag on top of my clothing) and started my descent certain only that I wanted to get to the bottom. Many minutes later, having crashed and tumbled too many times to count, I came to rest at the base, my plastic covering now shredded and in tatters.

I stumbled into the bar and spent the remainder of the day licking my wounds and counting my blessings that I had survived. Through all the torture and the failure I had somehow come to the decision that this was something I could enjoy. I determined that skiing, not today and not tomorrow, but someday, would be a positive experience.

I spent the next few years, before the invention of children, making periodic attempts to improve the equation between my skis and my brain. Eventually, I could see the beginning of perception. I was no longer at risk with each and every turn, but only a few of them. Skiing was making its way into my life, but was still definitely on the periphery.

Oh yes, the children. A perfect set, a boy and later a girl, were delivered to my wife and me, about 5 years apart. As tiny turned into little, talk turned to contemplations of the slopes.

Mark, who with Judy had his first child about 2 years before us, spoke of finding a mountain where we could share this sport with the little people. It had to be close enough for us to get to on a regular basis. And it had to be gentle enough in temperament, physically and emotionally, to deal with all our frailties. Enter Butternut.

We began by time-sharing a part of a house in Stockbridge. We then moved on to a 2 bedroom house where 4 little ones and 4 not so little ones shared food, gameboys (sometimes), and tight quarters. As the years passed, each family eventually found its own place in which to spread out the boots, skis, gloves, hats, helmets, goggles and concerns of the moment.

Butternut became a staple of our winter. Our son, definitely not a competitive person, in athletics or elsewhere, did not enter the world of lessons and ski racing. He moved along at his own pace and, as he grew older, to my pleasant surprise, showed great aptitude and grace. Our daughter was a young phenom, happily soaking up the days on the trails. While she loved her time outside on the snow, she was equally as comfortable with the crayons, coloring books, and slippers we brought along for those moments when the cold, or exhaustion, brought her inside.

Soon enough, friendships were formed. Our daughter, by the age of 5, was joyfully finding her way around the mountain with her equally young friend as her only companion. While these girls could ski almost as well as the best of the adults, they had one major shortcoming. Neither of them was tall enough to reach and pull down the bar which would protect them from sliding out of their seats on the way up the hill. Fortunately, those whose job was to watch and protect skiers on their rides to their top of the mountain destinations, were diligent in their duties and happy to be substitute mother or father for a moment.

Not even into their teens, our children began creating those bonds that would have an impact on their future and on ours. One day our son met a young girl and soon enough the two became fast friends. An alliance between parents evolved out of necessity and because we found we enjoyed each others' company . In the early days, the 2 preteens used to share an over-sized chair in our friend's house. They fought for rights to the best part of the seat, like an old quarreling couple. Today, almost 20 years later, they remain friends who still find reasons to fight with one another. They have shared ski trips together, and even traveled to Spain for two weeks that was filled with memorable and strange moments.

As for those of us brought together by the circumstance of our children, our relationship blossomed. We lived in New Jersey. They lived in Brooklyn. We rented in Egremont. They owned in Hillsdale. Today, we live in side by side apartments in New Jersey, and directly across the street from one another in Great Barrington. It is difficult, in many ways, to conceive of us being any closer.

One of our son's friends became an extended family member at the mountain for several winters. A novice initially, he became more and more adept, and equally as enamored with everything skiing related. From his early days at Butternut, he eventually graduated to teaching skiing at a mountain in Pennsylvania during college. After school finished, the allure of the snow brought him to a decision to move to Colorado, where he still lives. Periodically, we get stories of his time on the slopes and an invitation to return the favor we had long ago extended to him.

Meanwhile, as our daughter grew, she became first a ski racer, and later a ski teacher (following the lead of her older brother who taught skiing at Butternut, in New Hampshire during college, and finally in Colorado). When our daughter began teaching at Butternut, she immediately became fast friends with a young red- headed girl. Through the years, their mutual love of the mountain brought them back during vacations from college. Any excuse would suffice. The red-head became a regular in our house, and on our ski vacations out west.

Once our daughter finished college, she decided she needed time on the slopes before life's other obligations interceded. Given her background in ski racing and teaching skiing at Butternut, she was a natural fit for a job out West. During her season working as a ski supervisor at Deer Valley, she met a young man who she has now been dating for 2 years. As I write this piece, our daughter is at the house of this young man, spending the holiday week with his family. His love of our daughter, I believe, is nearly matched by his love of the slopes.This dual devotion is an absolute necessity for my daughter in finding a mate for life.

My wife has been a long time member of the ski patrol at Butternut. She remains in Great Barrington this week, while I have come back to New Jersey (theoretically to be working, not writing this piece). While my wife was supposed to be alone at our house, she has had visitors the last 2 evenings. Our son's friend, the one who fought him for the best position on the over-sized chair, found her own chair in our den last evening as she settled in for an evening of watching television at our house. Tonight, the little red-headed girl was leaving work and coming to spend a few days of quality time with my wife. While neither of my children are at the house, those who have become integral parts of our world have taken up residence in their stead.

As for Mark, he is now one of the racing coaches at Butternut. Judy occupies a position of import with the mountain, and her beautiful head of gray hair marks her as a person of great distinction.

So, if you wonder what a little mountain in Massachusetts can offer you, look no farther than my story. While I am always a bit envious of those whose ski life involves big moguls and long runs, I know that what I have gotten from my years on these slopes goes far beyond the trails that lay before me. I understand that big tales can come from small places.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The Poker Game

It all began about a quarter of a century ago. We were young, many still with a full head of hair. Our bellies were firm and our lives paths were just beginning. Our days were consumed with work and our nights and weekends consumed with our families. We began the poker game as our weekly retreat to the world of male bonding. It was a time for men to be boys.

Through the years it became a part of the fabric of our life. As important as the events of the rest of the week were, so did the game take on great significance. It was not the money, it was never the money. We never increased the stakes even as wealth multiplied for some (I was not among that chosen group). I always found it particularly amusing when one of the players became almost agitated at the thought of putting down a dollar (in a chip of course) that might be an unwise bet. Set against the backdrop of that person's life, the consternation had no rational basis. But, this undue concern just helped the game, and the night, take on an added import. Each dollar lost here had a meaning far beyond the reach of the rest of the world.

I took on the role of organizer. It was something that came naturally to me, as I have always liked to be front and center in social gatherings. There is always one in every crowd, and I was the one. For many years, before computers made mass communication the accepted way of doing business, this meant weekly phone calls to every potential participant. I would call all those in our entourage (at times numbering a dozen or more) and get a tentative response from some (I will have to see what is happening during the week), a hypothetical reply from others (if you are short a player or 2 I think I can make it) and a definitive answer from just a few. I would have to take notes in the yes, maybe, and no categories, and then start another round of discussions as the time of the game grew closer. The truth is that I loved this 'responsibility' as it kept me in constant contact with everyone. While the reason for the call was nominally to do the math on the numbers for poker, the involvement in what was going in with the lives of those I spoke to, was really what is was all about.

Eventually, as with almost everything else in life, things changed over the course of time. First, our children grew up. No longer did we all feel the need to be tied to the community where most of us had resided. Many of the group worked in New York. Some left their homes as their children left the nest, and resettled (at least part time) in the city. Joanne and I moved 5 years ago. Further, while some of the core group remained in the game, others did not, as life's events interceded. The fit of the personalities of some of the 'replacements' was not always perfect.

About 4 years ago, I stopped organizing the games. Shortly thereafter, the game disbanded. Many of the people whom I had seen regularly over the course of 2 decades, I suddenly had almost no contact with. The game, and many of the people in it, became just a fond memory.

But none of us really escaped from its clutches. I have periodically gotten calls from at least a half dozen of the participants asking when we were getting back together. I would always agree that this was something we must do, and then do nothing.

Several weeks ago I got an email from 2 of the original group, setting a specific date and place for the rebirth of the game. It turned out, that given the way in which some middle aged men handle internet responsibilities, the message never got out to the intended recipients. But, this oversight has now been corrected, and we are set to start anew in early January.

We are now mostly out of shape and fighting the ravages of time. Some are already retired and all of us are thinking now not about raising children, but of present or future grandchildren. Our lives have taken us to places unexpected, good and bad. But no matter the years, I believe all of us are genuinely excited about the prospect of spending moments worried about whether to raise a dollar or fold. It is a bond among all of us, that neither time nor distance has broken. And so, come January, I look forward to a new tradition among old friends. It is long overdue.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Step by step and inch by inch

Gail Collins suggests that the health care reform bill, in its beaten down version, is still worth passing (The New Perils of Pauline, December 19, 2009). I believe she is right. But did right have to feel so very wrong?

President Obama is now returning from Copenhagen, where an ambitious 2 year journey into universal climate reform has dissolved into something just north of nothing. With the heart of any environmental accord ripped out, what remained was but a faint heartbeat of progress. The Times called it a "messy compromise (that) mirrored the chaotic nature of the conference which all participants said had been badly organized and run". Does this sound familiar?

In the end, the most that could be said of the climate talks was that the informal pact was a beginning. It is painfully clear, that we live in a world where competing voices on both the national and international front make any movement forward slow and difficult. Our belief that there is enough gravitas in our leader to force his vision on our country or on our world is naive and unrealistic.

We have to modify our goals. The soaring rhetoric of the President can only get us a little way down the path and the hard work has to be done step by step, as distasteful as it sometimes seems. We have to accept this diminished reality or we are doomed to a continuation of failure. To cling to the notion of perfect, or even very good, is neither appropriate nor productive. Some health care reform, is in the final analysis, better than none at all.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009



Bill Cosby once told a story of a karate expert who tried to break too many bricks at one time. All he ended up with was a very badly broken hand. After that, he used to perform karate on marshmallows. It was only the illusion of power that remained.

When Barack Obama took office on January 20, 2009 there was the feeling that he could break through more bricks than you could possibly put before him. He had received a mandate from the people. The House and the Senate were aligned. Everything was in place. We would see a system perform on all cylinders. All the wrongs committed that had helped diminish this country would be eradicated.

Yet now, as the year comes to a close, we are astonished at how little we understood. We sit and wonder how an 'independent' Senator from Connecticut can wield such power to further emasculate an already watered down version of a health care bill. We cringe as we watch the leaders of those banks whose very life is owed to government intervention, act with such impunity. They return our money with not a thank you, but with a 'sorry I can't be there to be lectured by you on my responsibilities'. While the President talks to them by phone and almost begs these titans to do what is right, Rome continues to burn, and the Wall Street bonuses continue to escalate.

With each passing day, we see the obstructionists, the lobbyists and the ones whose actions led to our financial undoing all continue to game the system. How could the government always be on the defensive?

We may well get a health reform package. However, with the public option stripped, the medicare buy-in gone, the abortion coverage on life support, and so many other pieces of the puzzle being eaten away, we are left with a hollow shell. Some in the Democratic party are already suggesting this legislation be scrapped, and that the Democrats use a procedural maneuver to be able to pass truly effective legislation with only 51 votes. I wouldn't stay awake at night waiting for that to happen.

We may also get financial reforms, intended to reign in the excesses of the last decade, but we know the legislation will be more window dressing than substance.Those in the financial markets have already escaped from the clutches of government control and will maneuver around any future attempts to limit their greed.

It is with sadness,frustration and anger that we look at opportunities wasted. I am looking for even one brick to break but all I see around me are marshmallows.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Closed Doors

When I was growing up in the late 1950's and early 1960's, I looked up to JFK and Mickey Mantle. All I saw in Mantle was a courageous athlete, hobbled but great despite his injuries. Kennedy was Camelot. With his 2 young children so adored by him, and a beautiful wife, he seemed to embody everything vibrant and magnificent. Both these men could do no wrong, as far as I was concerned. Only, as it turned out, they could and did do much wrong, sometimes behind closed doors and sometimes out in the open. Yet,a wall of silence protected their actions from public scrutiny and ridicule.

I thought those times were long gone. Tiger's tale proved me wrong. How did he get away with bedding everybody but your next door neighbor and none of us knew anything about it?

I understand that he is a billionaire and could probably cover his tracks better than any of us could imagine. But from all the stories that are now emerging, he was sloppy in his arrogance. Like many of the politicians, and other public figures, who have been exposed in recent years, he believed himself immune from the world of crime and punishment for transgressions. So he appeared to leave a trail of crumbs for all of us to follow.

In today's world, TMZ and a horde of other similar star gazers is often seemingly at disasters before they happen. The magazines provide endless glimpses into the private lives of those in the public eye. We are in an age where cameras are in our phones and everyone wants 15 minutes to tell their tale. If Tiger seemed prolific on the golf course, it now seems he was equally a master off it. Yet it wasn't until the tiny bump of the car that everything came crashing down. How?

Is it that we all wanted the world to believe in Mickey Mantle and JFK rolled into one? Here was someone who, from the age of 3 on, was the best at what he did. He never disappointed us in his chosen field. Was it that no one wanted to be the one who would reveal that Mantle was an alcoholic and a womanizer, or that Kennedy's perfect facade was merely that? Did we all need Tiger to be Tiger, always a bright light, and not just another success at his career but a failure in life? Is that why this story has never been told? Did no one want to be the grinch who stole Christmas?

I don't have the answers. This is a new millenium and the secrets of a Mantle or a JFK are no longer supposed to exist. Just ask Bill Clinton.


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Retaining Memories


"Yes mom, I am in Utah with Robin and Steve, our friends from Philadelphia. We are visiting Alex, who is working at a mountain and will be starting graduate school in New York in the fall. We will be home Wednesday morning."

With that, I get off the phone and shake my head. This must be at least 500 times in the past 6 months that I have had the same conversation with my mom about her granddaughter. My mom is 90 years old and her short term memory is nothing but a distant memory for her.

It is hard watching a parent grow old. If we are lucky, we have a fixed image in our minds of our parents in the prime of their lives. My dad passed away almost 30 years ago. I try to remember all the things that made my dad who he was to me. Every once in a while this offending thought of how he looked the last time I saw him, ravaged by the effects of his cancer, creeps into my brain. I try to disgorge this thought from my cerebrum and replace it with the images of him that I treasure.

I grew up in the 'Leave it to Beaver' household. My mom adored my father, and made my sister and myself feel like we walked on water. My dad was the man who graduated first in his class from NYU law at 21 years of age, was an all- American fencer, a successful attorney and utterly devoted to our family. My sister, from the time she was little until this day, attempted to protect me and make sure my life was filled only with good thoughts.

I want to make my mom whole again. I want her to wake up this morning with a clarity of mind and purpose. I want her to be able to pick up the phone and discuss new matters of import and interest. I want her to be able to drive her car again, like she loved to do. I want her to be able to live independent and strong. I want the mom I remember and still see in my dreams.

But reality does not deal in sentiment. It can be a cruel and unforgiving foe. It does not let us rewind, or cherry pick those moments we get to retain. It takes us where it wants to take us. If we don't like it, that is tough on us.

My calls with my sister now always begin with, "I just spoke to Mom and she is ok , but". I never wanted to have a conversation like this with her. If one thinks that if we wish hard enough , we can make the effects of time disappear in our loved ones, I have learned that no matter the strength of your desires, it is no match for the ravages inflicted. Acceptance of what is, and not what should be, is not an easy task.

My son has a wonderful capacity of being able to look past the images he sees and hears of his grandmother and deal with her in a gentle effective manner. While he sometimes has to deal with 5 or more calls in an hour on the same topic, with my mom asking him virtually the same questions over and over, he never seems to lose his patience. We learn much about ourselves and others in times like this.

I know my mom struggles to cope with what is happening to her. She wants to say she is fine, and always asks what she can do for us, but she comprehends that her difficulties are our difficulties. She knows she can no longer remain 39, as she tried to do for almost 50 years. She knows that her role as matriarch of the family has been replaced by her taking on a new and unintended position. She can recall the glory days but she has a hard time remembering what she ate for lunch.

I start every morning by picking up the phone to tell her we are all doing well, and asking her how she is feeling. I know she will try to do the best she can to be positive, so that I can begin my day without having to call my sister and start the cycle of concern again. I know she wants us to retain the images of her as vibrant and independent, and carry that around with us each and every day.

It is now almost 9 AM in New Jersey. I am sitting in Utah, at the computer, knowing that when I finish my thoughts, I must pick up the phone. I hope it will be a good day for her. I hope she will be my mother again. I hope that there will be one day be a cure for dementia so that the next person sitting at the computer does not have to remember the good times past, but can live in the moment. I hope today is the day that the present comes back into focus for my mom. I hope.

Piece of Mind

We just got lectured in a very public forum. In his editorial in today's New York Times ('How to Mend Fences with Pakistan'), President Zadari of Pakistan gives us a piece of his mind.

First, Zadari defends his country's actions in chasing after the bad guys (Taliban and Al Qaeda) and chastises us for questioning the strength of their resolve to address what they consider a joint war against a common enemy.Then he really laces into us, reminding us of our recent actions in both Pakistan and Afghanistan that left both of these countries in dire straits. Zadari contends that we were the instrument in the past that in large part allowed the present to occur.

And this is what are friends think of us. When we wonder if we will ever be able to escape the quagmire of the middle east let the words of Zadari resonate in our minds. We have shown ourselves not to be a reliable ally. There is a level of distrust for our country and our level of commitment that will never go away, no matter how many dollars we pour into a country or how many of our soldiers we put in harm's way. We will always be disliked and we will always be asked to leave on the next train.

Zadari does soften his rhetoric and ends his piece in a conciliatory tone. He speaks of a partnership with our country, one in which he seeks our assistance in making sure that there is a 'robust democratic Pakistan' that will serve as the best hope for a secure future. However, while he admits to needing us, Zadari clearly doesn't want us getting in the way.

When our battle with those who are on our side is this hard, there would seem no realistic possibility of achieving long term goals in this region of the world. We have been incapable of recognizing this harsh and inescapable truth. It is time we learned.


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Shell Game

It has the feeling of a 'shell game'. The hidden, moving parts that we seem to chase forever. When we finally turn over the shell, we learn our eye has been fooled and our mind has played tricks on us. As President Obama announced his intentions of our coming and going in Afghanistan I could only wonder, isn't Al Qaeda in Pakistan?

We were told once more last night that this fiasco commenced as a reaction to 9/11. We did not move forward in Afghanistan until our request for that government to turn over Bin Laden was rejected. We went in, made progress, and then dropped the ball as we let a cornered Bin Laden escape. Instead, we turned our attention for years to a country where weapons of mass destruction did not exist and Al Qaeda had no stronghold. In the meantime, Bin Laden moved on.

Now we are advised that the Taliban, dispersed and defeated in those early days in the Afghanistan war, has reconstituted.We are told that we must renew our efforts to destroy their will and their capacity to hurt us. But, the real epicenter for our sworn enemy, Al Qaeda, lies across the border. It is estimated that less than 100 of Bin Laden's legion reside within Afghanistan. And yet, we are not and will not be committing our troops to finding and destroying those in Pakistan who daily plan our undoing. President Obama made vague reference to shoring up Afghanistan so there is one less potential safe haven for Bin Laden's crew. Is that the point of escalating a war?

It feels like there is always another reason to stay, always another reason to fight. As we put out fires in Iraq and now Afghanistan, Al Qaeda sits in Pakistan and hides under a shell we can't even locate. While we try to clean up a second mess, I can't help but wonder where will we next turn our attention. Pakistan, while not our enemy, is home to over 65 nuclear weapons at last count. It is the from here that the terrorists plot our demise. If the situation there destabilizes, don't we owe it to our country to head to that country to fight our actual enemy? And what about North Korea and Iran who hate us and move ever forward in their efforts to obtain nuclear powers? It seems like a never-ending dilemma.

I believe that President Obama is trying to clean up the mess he inherited in Afghanistan. But I think his task there is next to impossible, and even should he somehow declare mission accomplished in the future, I will not be certain what that mission was, and where we go from there.

We have become a nation addicted to the notion that we must not only face down actual threats, but we must act pre-emptively so that these threats do not materialize. It is the worst of many bad ideas that former President Bush left behind.

We are fighting today in Afghanistan to keep them from becoming a future haven for terrorists. There will always be a perceived possibility of lurking danger as we gaze around the globe. Until we change our thought process, and limit our actions to a response to imminent threats to our national security, we will keep looking under the wrong shells and coming up empty handed.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Jerk

Sometimes I can be a real jerk. I am one of the legion of drivers, mostly men I would suggest, who suffer from 'road anger'. It is not quite road rage but it is still very ugly and very unnecessary. Last night, my poor daughter was on the receiving end of one of these breakdowns in my capacity to reason. It left her in tears and left me embarrassed and ashamed.

It all started innocently, as these things almost always do. I had volunteered to drive Alex back to New York City after she had made a quick visit to us in New Jersey. She had a 6 PM class and we started our journey at 5 PM. Big mistake.

From the first, there were signs that this was going to be less than easy. As we struggled to cross the bridge and get to the East side, I decided to take the 178th Street exit, and make my approach to the Harlem River Drive through the streets of New York. You see, one of the lessons learned from years of driving certain routes, is that there is always a short-cut. While traffic may be at a standstill all around, you alone know a way to get to your destination on time.

I did manage this part of the trip relatively well and was on the Drive in short order. But, it was clear that I needed no further delays. I could tolerate no more deviations from the plan, or Alex would be late for class. Thus, internally at least, I began to escalate.

At 132nd Street, the bottleneck appeared. It was a crawl in front of me. I would now pull out another trick from my bag, exit the highway, take the side roads for about a mile, and emerge, unscathed, below all the traffic. Only I didn't. The streets of the city were tied up. Every turn I made only brought a different set of problems. I seemed always to be heading into another disaster.

As my ability to extricate myself from the mess was proven to be ineffective, my attitude and demeanor declined dramatically. My daughter was reading a book in the car that she was thoroughly enjoying. She was frantically trying to finish it on the way to her class, so she could pass it on to me to deliver to her mother. Alex was animated in her discussion concerning the premise of the story and how interesting it had been to follow the journey of the main characters. With my outbursts, cursing the decisions I had made in the car, I had created a stink in the vehicle. Alex put down the book and stopped talking.

When my tirade continued, not directed at Alex, but clearly implying some fault on her part, my daughter began to cry. It jolted me back to reality. What was I doing? What was I saying? What could possibly be so important that I had created this scene?

Alex told me she would never ask me to drive her into the city again. She was right. I wouldn't want to be in an enclosed area with this idiot if there was any other choice.

I have been a repeat offender of this type of behavior for many years. I have always 'gone off' for no purpose and to no end other than to hear myself rant. I have made those around me uncomfortable and unhappy. Yet once the moment passes, I brush off the incident and even take offense if someone questions my attitude.

After I dropped Alex off at her destination, I felt terrible. I wanted to continue the apology to her that I started the moment she began to cry. She had gotten out of the car without tears or anger, but my penance felt far from over. I knew she was going into class and would not emerge for at least 2 hours. The entire trip back to NJ was one marked with guilt. I felt like turning the car around, heading to her class, and bursting in to continue my mea culpa.

As soon as I got home, I asked Jo and Richie to 'text' Alex (yes, I am that limited), to announce my arrival at home and advise that my stupidity had no bounds. Soon thereafter the phone rang. Alex had gotten a break in the middle of her class. She was fine, all was forgiven. I told her that I would be right back to pick her up at the end of class to drive her home. She laughed in a way conveying that everything was ok, that she still loved me, and that I could have the privilege of being her father again tomorrow.

I hope I can learn a lesson. I want to take the worst parts of me and discard them, but this baggage is not so easy to unload. However, the next time I am in a traffic jam and about to dissolve, I will try my best to remember the events of last evening. If that doesn't stop me in my tracks, then I think you will have to consider me a lost cause.