Down the Hall on Your Left

This site is a blog about what has been coasting through my consciousness lately. The things I post will be reflections that I see of the world around me. You may not agree with me or like what I say. In either case – you’ll get over it and I can live with it if it makes you unhappy. Please feel free to leave comments if you wish . All postings are: copyright 2014 – 2019

Archive for the category “Stories”

Reblog – From David Kanigan Live and Learn – “Flight AA2632 to DFA”

Flight AA2632 to DFW. And Dreamin’ of Just One Time.

 

 

Flight AA2632 to DFW. And Dreamin’ of Just One Time.

Flight AA2632 to DFW. And Dreamin’ of Just One Time.

Photo: Alex maclean – on roll (via The Cosmic Inspiro-Cloud)

5:15 A.M. Monday Morning.

Terminal B LaGuardia Airport. Not America’s finest example of its greatness or its Might. Dark. Dingy. Beyond Stale. Earning its status as the Worst Airport in the Country. Dead last in surveys. Sad, really.

Lines are backing up at Security, including TSA pre-check.

One hour and 5 minutes to boarding: Flight AA2632 to DFW.

I clear security.

And I walk.

  • AA2126. Boston. 6:00 a.m. Sit in the stands at a Red Sox game.
  • AA4752. Washington. 6:00 a.m. Sit on the steps at Lincoln Memorial.
  • AA4527. Atlanta. 6:05 a.m. Lounge in the Georgia Aquarium.

What if. Just what if. Just one time. You call it in sick. A Sick Day. What’s that? You walk back out of the terminal, stroll up to the American Airlines ticket counter, pull out your credit card, pay full price for a ticket and…take off…to…anywhere else. Like take a day trip. By yourself. To anywhere else. Turn off your cellphone(s). And disappear, for one day. Off Grid. Just one time.

  • AA3803. Raleigh Durham. 6:29 a.m. Sit in a diner and read Murakami’s new book, uninterrupted.
  • AA3549. Portland, Maine. 6:29 a.m. Sit on a bench and watch the leaves turn.
  • AA349. Chicago. 6:29 a.m. Walk Michigan Avenue. 
  • AA2510. Miami. 6:50 a.m. I pause here. South Beach. Beach chair. Cool drink delivered. Long Nap.

I approach my gate.

  • AA2632. Dallas. 6:59 a.m.

And here it comes.

To Do’s. Commitments. Responsibilities.

I walk up to the Gate attendant. “Good morning Mr. Kanigan. You are seated in an Exit row. Are you willing and able to assist in an Emergency?”

Exit. Now. Do it. This is your last chance.

I smile. “Yes. Yes I am.”

I walk down the jet bridge. And I note that the heaviness lifts. Peace.

I get comfortable in my seat, 24E Exit.

You Need This. Murakami’s ’emotional morphine.’ 

You just couldn’t have it any other way.

All You Really Have…

 

“All you really have, in the end, are your stories.”

– – Burt Reynolds on the TV drama “Burn Notice” 2010

We are born; we live our lives, and as we see the final curtain beginning to come down our material things become meaningless. Most of the people we have in our life become exasperating as they can’t understand where we are and where we are going.

What is left?

We have our memories and even those begin to fade away. What can we do? We take our memories and we speak them aloud or write them down. We tell our stories. We move them from the fragile causeways of our brain to a place outside ourselves.

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Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Conclusion

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Conclusion

Conclusion

“Some Monks pray while farming, some while cooking, or writing. I walk. I walk without a physical destination. Today I am here. I think I am here to talk with you.”

“And with the fish?”

“Yes – And with the fish. Walking is my way of praying. Each step is a prayer – a prayer for understanding and for thanks.”

I was getting confused with all of this.

“’Thanks? For what?” The Monk smiled at me and I relaxed.

“I give thanks for each step because I know that a time will come when I can no longer walk and the steps will have to be taken by someone else. Aren’t you thankful for something – your life? For your mother and father, for your home, your friends, and for this lovely spot by the river?”

“I guess so. I never thought about it before. Now that you put it all that way though I guess I do have a bunch of stuff to be thankful for.”

“Good. Now let’s be quiet so this fish and I can talk things out.”

The Monk and the fish might have been talking, but I didn’t hear anything. I stayed quiet because I know that you are supposed to be quiet while fishing and I didn’t want to scare the Monk’s fish.

It seemed to me like we were going to be there all day when the Monk broke the silence.

“That fish,” he said, “Makes a very good case for himself. Much better than me. Tonight I go hungry. My young friend I might as well be on my way.”

“You’re leaving? Where are you going to go?”

“Like I said earlier, I m going nowhere and everywhere as well, but I think I will start by going through your village. How far is it from here?

“The village is around that bend in the path and then an hour – less for you – you take bigger steps than me.” While I spoke he gathered together his things. He pulled his empty hook from the river, dried it and the twine on his red sash before carefully folding it and wrapping it around his body and over his shoulder. I wondered how many times he had done this before when a fish out talked him. When everything was in its place he stood up and bowed to me.

“It has been a pleasure to have spent this time with you and I wish you wisdom and happiness as you grow.”

He started across the grass toward the path. I hurried after him.

“Mr. Monk, can I walk with you awhile? My house is that way too, around the bend.”

“Of course, my friend. Let us both pray with each step we take.”

He was taller than me and I had to take more steps to keep up with him. He saw me trying to keep up and he slowed down to make it easier for me.

“What will you do when you get to the village?”

“I will beg. I am sure that some kind person will feed me and give me a place to sleep tonight. There is almost always someone in each village I visit. People are good.”

We walked on.

“This path goes on all the way to The Great Ocean they say. What will you do when you get to the end of the path?”

“I will turn around and walk back to the Monastery high up in the mountains. It is my home.”

“How long have you been walking?” He looked down at me.

“I began my prayer when I was no bigger than you. It is my entire life, my prayer.”

I was amazed. I could not imagine leaving everything behind and walking for such a long time. He was an old man compared to me – older than my father.

“I’m sorry that I ask you so many questions, but I’ve never really talked with a Monk before.”

“There is no need to apologize. How else can you learn? I ask questions all the time.”

We rounded the bend in the path and up ahead I could see where the path split. One part went on to the village. The other led to our farm.

“This looks like where we part ways. I go on to the village and you to your home. Again, I thank you for our time together.”

I had an idea. I had one more question.

“Do you have to go to the village tonight, a rule or something? I’m asking because my mother and father are kind people and I’m sure that they would be happy to give you something to eat and a warm and dry place to sleep. Would you come with me? I’m sure they won’t be upset.”

“Even your father who thinks we Monks are all wealthy?”

“Yes, I’m sure. He likes to go fishing too. You two could talk about that. But I don’t think he talks with the fish. He uses bits of bread as bait. Please come there with me.” The Monk paused. He looked at me and at the path into the village.

“Young man, every road that I walk splits, and I have often wondered where my life would be if I chose to take that other pathway. My prayer is in my step, not in the road beneath my feet. All roads go somewhere. This road,” he said, pointing off down the path, “It goes to your village and eventually to The Great Ocean. But this other path would take us to your farm and your family. The village and the ocean will be there tomorrow, but if I go that way today I will miss the gift of seeing your family. That chance is only mine for today, never to return.”

He sat down in the dust and looked at both paths.

“I need to think and pray. Give me a moment.”

I watched him close his eyes. He folded his legs like I had seen him do when he first came and sat by the riverbank. I said a prayer of my own that he would come with me.

After a couple of minutes the Monk opened his eyes. He smiled at me.

“My young friend, you prayed. I could feel it. It was a very good prayer. You prayed and I listened for the Wisdom to tell me what to do.”

“What did you hear?” I could feel my heart pounding in my chest.

I heard that you are an honest and truthful boy and that I am blessed by having this time with you today. Today is not done and there is more time to share.”

“Does that mean you’ll come back to my home with me?”

The Monk held out his hand to me.

“It does. Now help me up and let me get this dust off my robe. I don’t want your father to think that I am there to beg.”

And so we walked together to my home and with each step I learned more of the power of prayer.

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Part Two

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Part Two

Staying up in the tree once he knew that I was up there seemed silly to me. I climbed down. The Monk had moved back to his spot – my spot – by the riverbank. He didn’t pay any attention to me. I stayed by the tree trunk not knowing what to do next. He told me.

“Come and sit down. It’s a beautiful riverbank you have here.”

I went and sat down next to him by the water’s edge. He ignored me.

“You’re a Monk aren’t you?” As soon as I said that I knew it was a silly question.

“Yes, I am. Are you a farm boy?”

“Yes, I am,” I said, but being here in the middle of all the farms around here and with me looking like I do, his was a silly question too.

“What does a Monk do, Sir?”

“There is no need to call me ‘Sir.’ And as to what a Monk does it is really very simple – we pray.”

“What do you pray for?” I thought that was a reasonable question.

“We pray to understand.”

“To understand what?”

“To understand why we are here and what we should do to be worthy of this life, this river, this conversation we are having.”

“You must pray a lot,” I said to him.

He began to fiddle with his red sash. He took out the twine and the fishing hook.

“Yes, I pray all the time.”

“You don’t look like you’re praying now. You look like you’re going to try to catch a fish.”

He tied the hook to the frayed end of the twine.

“Fishing calls for a lot of praying, my young friend.”

He dipped the hook into the water and sat quietly. At least he got that part right. After a few minutes I had to say something.

“You really are going to need to pray. You don’t have any bait on that hook. You won’t catch any fish that way.” For a man who looked so smart he seemed pretty dumb when it came to fishing.

He looked at me and smiled.

“I’m not trying to catch a fish. I am waiting for the fish to put himself on my hook. It has to be his decision. It is his life and I cannot take it. He must offer it up.”

I couldn’t help but laugh.

“That’s asking a lot of a fish, Mr. Monk.”

“Very true. I have a life and so does the fish. Our lives are of equal value. They both came from the same place – from The Creator. I want to eat to stay alive and so does the fish. My hook has no bait because that would be cheating, tricking the fish.

“The fish and I must negotiate and debate about whose need is more important today. If we agree that the fish is more important today – who knows what lies just downstream for him, then I will go hungry today. If what lies down this path is more important for me, then the fish will take the hook and I will eat. Do you understand?”

He turned back to focus on his empty fish hook and I looked at him and then down into the water. There was a fish looking at the hook, but he didn’t look convinced.

“That must be why my father says you Monks are always begging for food. You can’t talk a fish into biting on an empty hook.”

“Your father is a wise man,”

We sat there, silently, for quite awhile. It was a nice day and I was enjoying my time with the Monk even though I really didn’t understand him a lot. Before he came down the path I was just sitting here daydreaming. Now I am, thinking. I’m not used to that. He had me thinking and climbing a tree.

“I saw you coming down the path for a long time. Where are you going?

“Nowhere. Here.”

“What does that mean?”

To Be Continued…

Fiction Saturday – “A Conversation By The River” – Part One

A Conversation By The River

The banks of the river are my favorite places in the whole world. In the afternoon after my chores have been done and I’ve finished my studies too I go to the river.

The river is not very big, but it has come a long way. From high in the mountains the river has wandered down through forests and the hill country, by the city where the Emperor lives, and then to us and our farms. I have been told that, eventually, the river ends as it flows into the Great Ocean. Someday, when I am grown, I would like to make a boat and sail it down the river all the way to the sea. But now I just go to the river and sit by the water and dream.

Yesterday I was sitting on the grass by the river. I was watching the fish swim around in the water. The sun was still hot and I had found a spot underneath one of the big trees. Its leafy branches kept me from the heat of the sun and made it the perfect place to be.

From my place under the tree I could see down the dusty path from our village and, in the other direction, I could almost see the hazy shape of the mountains to the west.

As I looked up the path I could see someone, a man, walking slowly in my direction. As he got closer I could see the little clouds of dust that his sandals kicked up with each step he took. In the bright sunlight it looked like he was dressed in a golden robe. When he got closer I could tell that he was dressed in yellow with a red sash around his waist and over one shoulder.

I have seen men dressed like him before. My parents said that men dressed like that were Monks, holy men, who travel throughout the country. My mother said that they bring good luck. My father said that they were pests, always begging and wanting food for free.

The Monk was coming toward me down the dusty path. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t have anything to give him, so I decided that the best thing for me to do was to hide. I climbed the tree and hid myself in the branches.

I could see the Monk clearly as he got close and, instead of passing by and going toward the village, he stopped and sat down under my tree in the very same spot where I had been. I watched him. He didn’t make a sound. He sat there with his eyes closed.

The Monk was bald. There was not one hair on his head and he was clean shaven like my father. He sat with his legs folded up underneath him and his hands rested in his lap/ I didn’t move either. I didn’t want to make any noise that would tell him where I was hiding.

After a few minutes the Monk opened his eyes and stretched out his legs. He took off his sandals and dipped his dusty feet into the water of the river. He sighed and smiled. He had a kind face.

He undid his red sash and unfolded it on the grass next to him. He had several things, but not a lot, that he carried with him.

I saw a spool of twine and a fishing hook, a small knife – not big enough to scare anyone, a book not much bigger than my hand, a flint, and a cup. That was all he had. He was not a rich Monk like my father said that they all were.

He took his cup and bent over to get himself a drink of water. Even though it was a hot day the water in the river was always cool having come down from the mountains.

He drank his cupful of water and then he did something most strange. He bent over again very close to the water. It looked like he was talking to the water, but I couldn’t hear what he was saying. When he finished talking he put his hand onto the surface of the water, like he was petting an obedient dog. That made no sense to me. It was like he was thanking the river for the water he had taken,

The Monk sat quietly by the water for a few minutes and then dried his feet, put his sandals back on, and stood up. I thought that he was going to leave and continue walking down the path. Instead he walked over to the trunk of the tree and, without looking up, he spoke.

“Why don’t you come down? I won’t bite.”

That startled me and I almost fell from my place in the branches.

“Come down and we can talk.”

To Be Continued…

Beware Of The Gaboon Viper

I LOVE TO TRAVEL. I JUST DON’T LIKE GOING PLACES ALL THE TIME. A luxury trip to see the Taj Mahal is one thing. Going to the Dollar Store is something else.

That I can do without.

We are down in Texas, home of the Alamo, the Houston Space Flight Center, and lots of good Barbeque, but am I penciled in for a trip to any of these places? No. I’m being scheduled to be a Bearer on a safari to the Dollar Store.

This whole thing is being presented to me as something special, something once in a lifetime. Really? Yes – because this is the BIGGEST Dollar Tree Store in existence. That must mean that it has Two Aisles with Party Favors and Unknown Brands of Chili Con Carne. That’s my first thought anyway.

Let me compare and contrast my options.

  1. I could go out in the 97°/94% humidity and walk around the largest Dollar Store on Earth – or
  2. I can stay inside with a cool beverage and either get some writing done – or
  3. Sleep

The jury has returned with a verdict!

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The Early Worm

THE TIME BETWEEN 6 AM AND 8:30 AM IS MY MOST PRODUCTIVE time of day. Before 6 AM I am asleep and after 8:30 the rest of the day intrudes and calls the shots. Those 2 ½ hours are when I get 90% of my writing accomplished. The other 10% comes when I type it up and try to have it all make some sort of sense.

Quite a chore, that last part.

I try to get my writing time every morning. It’s important to me. I can knock out this daily blog in that time and maybe get some work in on my longer fiction pieces – the things that nag at me to finish them off.

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Back To The Future

 

THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT I DON’T NEED RIGHT NOW. I may be wrong, but given the fact that I feel like crap right now, I think that I have a bit of a cold. My nose is running more than the Olympic track team, my head hurts, and my stomach is upset to the point of making me want to skip eating until further notice.

I’m hoping that I can shake this quickly because I have to be flying in a few days and I don’t think anyone on the airplane will want to see me galumphing down the aisle with a handkerchief pressed over my nose and mouth. I know that I wouldn’t want to see someone like me coming in my direction.

Oh, well.

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Fiction Saturday – “Boxer”  – Part One 

 

Boxer

by John Kraft

 

“Our words and deeds, Good or Evil, are the dishes we put before the Lord.” 

—  Pope Severinus – 640 AD

The light shining in Doc’s kitchen was the only light on in the neighborhood. It would do. It always has before. In a couple of hours things on the street will begin to percolate, but now? Nothing good happens at three in the morning.

“I think your hand is broken, Terry.”

“No, it’s not, Doc. It’s just scraped up a little. I’ve broken it before. I know what that feels like.”

“Uh huh.”

Every knuckle on Terry’s right hand looked like he’d tried to knock down a brick wall.

“I just need you to clean it up, Doc, and tape it to keep the swelling down.” He held out his hand like it was a sledgehammer that needed repair.

 “Uh huh. What was it this time, a bar fight or what?”

“Business. Just business, Doc.”

“I swear, Terry, you get busted up more now than you ever did in The Ring.”

“Yeah, well, I gotta earn a living, right? In The Ring there were rules. Now, not so much. Different rules. I tell you, it gets hard for me sometimes to understand what the rules are.”

The peroxide washed over the scraped and bloody knuckles, stinging like hell. Nobody winced.

“What you need is a tetanus shot. You should go to the clinic for that.”

“They ask too many questions. This’ll do, Doc. This’ll do fine.”

He wiggled his fingers, testing for flexibility, and could he make a fist?

“You know, Terry, that I’m not a real doctor.”

“Yeah, I know. You went to medical school for a year or two. I heard you tell it all to Dutch, my old corner man. I remember.”

“Two years. I had two years of medical school, Terry. That’s all.”

Doc was a tall and sickly looking thin man. Skinny was more like it. His kitchen was his office and, on occasion, his surgery. This morning it was a little of both. He didn’t have a license to practice medicine. That dream died after two years and a weakness for gin. He drained away until all that was left was enough knowledge to pretend. Knowing enough to earn the nickname “Doc” that stung every time he heard it.

The gin introduced him to a different level of the culture and he got himself hired on as a “cut man’ for prize fighters. His job was to stop the bleeding and make things look not so bad when the referee came to their corner to assess the damage.

Doc knows only to blame himself. One night when he can’t hide in a haze he will open a vein and leave the mess for someone else to clean up.

“I can patch you up, Terry, but Jesus, I can’t keep putting you back together forever.”

“I don’t need forever, Doc. I just need tonight. Now tape me up and I’ll go.”

“Boxing is real easy, Life is much harder.” —  Floyd Mayweather Jr.

 

Terry Jarosz, 36 years old and at one time a boxer. Middle-Weight Champion for about five minutes, a punching bag the rest of the time. A guy who struggled with the world of rules and laws.

After too many fights the damage to his body didn’t want to heal up fast enough and he couldn’t get any more matches. Permits were denied and that was that.

A guy who played by the rules in The Ring was thrown out of work by the rules from outside The Ring. He had to make a living.

Terry had to work, but it’s hard for an ex-fighter to find any work that doesn’t call on his only skills – hitting and hurting other people. At that he proved to be better than most.

He took work where he could find it. “Lift this.” “Carry that,” and more and more frequently, “Hit him. Break that.”

When he was in The Ring it was nothing personal. It was two men beating each other for the purse, or a part of the purse, after “expenses” were taken out by half a dozen men who called the shots.

Whatever else he was, Terry Jarosz was known as a hard guy who never took a dive when maybe he should have to save himself. He learned too late that in his world being an honest man paid a lot less than the other kind.

People who knew his name assumed, that because he had been a “Champ,” that he was set financially. But people who knew Boxing knew that money had a way of walking out of the door faster than a Ten Count from a crooked Referee. When Terry “retired” he had less than eight hundred dollars to his name. At least he had his name.

That got him some free meals and a few jobs, but after a year or two he became “Terry who?” Fans moved on and real friends, like always, were few and far between.

Now, working as muscle, collecting debts, it always ended up being personal. Sometimes he knew the men that he was leaning on – again for just a cut of the money. He got 5% of whatever he brought in.

It didn’t take long for word to get around that Terry Jarosz would get rough if you tried to snow him. When he first started working as a collector he was easy to fool. A good sob story and he’d end up buying you a drink or slipping you a few bucks. A couple of weeks having to sleep on a sidewalk heating vent fixed that. He learned that in his new world there was no “Loser’s Purse.” He changed. He didn’t listen to the sob stories any more. He didn’t care if your mother was in the hospital. It was either pay up or tell Momma to move over.

“A man’s gotta eat.” That became his motto.

It’s Not About Cats

MEMORIES? WHERE DO THEY GO TO HIDE? Why do they pop back into your conscious mind after a lifetime stored in the folds and wrinkles of your brain?

I had such a memory bob back to the surface the other day and, when it did, all of the details were as fresh as if it had just happened yesterday.

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What’s Next ?

book1I’M GETTING TO BE A REALLY ANNOYING PERSON when I have to deal with myself. Nag. Nag. Nag. I just don’t give myself a moment’s peace. Would it hurt if I cut myself some slack?

Yes.

What is behind all of this? Lemme tell ya.

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And The Answer Is…

best6NOT LONG AGO SOMEONE ASKED ME who I thought was the best writer. Of course, that is an impossible question to answer – even if you are going for just one man’s opinion. A question like that is like asking who is the prettiest woman, or what is the best tasting thing to have for dinner.

Talk about your subjective questions. Sheesh!

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The Early Bird Gets The Coffee 

write1I LIKE THIS TIME OF DAY. The sun is not up yet. The only sounds I hear as I step outside are a few birds that are bothered by my presence as I bustle about opening and closing doors and starting the car. I try to be quiet. We do have neighbors after all. 

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I Think The Dragon’s Name Is “Norman.”

gameAIS THERE NO END TO THE “GAME OF THRONES?”

I think it has been going on since before the invention of Television.

My wife, the lovely and Plotline Coordinating, Dawn, and I have been periodically binge watching “Game of Thrones” for years and I have come to realize something:

It doesn’t matter if I miss some episodes, fall asleep, or leave the room while it is on because there is absolutely no continuity to the story – or stories. Plots start, develop, and then disappear in a puff of Dragon fire, never to be seen again.

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Fiction Saturday – The Henway Chronicles – Part Four

The Henway Chronicles – Continued – Part Four

noir detective officeSitting in that booth I was face to face with Lech Ontario – one of the Greats – if you listened to him and I was going to have to to find out why my old friend and tutor, Hank O’Hare, was looking for him.

“Tell me, Ontario, why is Hank so anxious to find you? Did you stiff him on a debt, did you cheat him at cards, or did you try to steal his woman?”

When I said that the dockside doxie sitting next to him spoke up.

“You better not be two-timing me, Lechie Baby, or I’ll make you very un-Lechie. If you catch my drift?”

That gal had a way with words. I touched the brim of my imported Fedora and started to introduce myself. She cut me off, but not in the way she’d threatened to with her “Lechie Baby.”

“I know who you are, Henway. My name is Daisy Cutter. I’m Lechie’s moll – and I am also this year’s ‘Miss Straight Razor – Emeritus,’ if you catch my drift.”

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The Benefits Of Travel

1I HAVE ALWAYS BEEN A GYPSY AT HEART. All the clichés are true when it comes to me. “The lure of the open road,” “The grass is always greener…yada, yada, yada,” “On the Road Again.” There must be a hundred or more that call out about the sound of the train whistle in the night and the hum of the tires on the pavement. A gypsy, a nomad, and wanderer, even terms that carry a negative aura – hobo and drifter. All of them pick at the deep seated strings of my being

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It Was A Dark And Stormy Night

 

Shell game.gifI FEEL LIKE I’M BEING SUCKER PUNCHED. It is early February , barely 1/3 of the way through winter, and the temperature is approaching 60 degrees. It’s like somebody is holding up a shiny object to get my attention while their other hand is curled into a fist and closing in on my blind side.

I’m not naming names or pointing in any specific direction, but, while this kind of weather in January is not unheard of, it has been a while since I’ve noticed it. Maybe it happens more frequently than I’m thinking and I’m just preoccupied with other stuff and don’t pick up on it.

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