Health care. Because dying is not that great.

23 11 2009

Now that I’ve addressed the media, education and childhood, I figure it’s time to whomp something out regarding health care. Conveniently, I have some recent, relevant experience with the current state of health care that might inform the debate a little. Or not. But I’m going to discuss it anyway.

Early in 2006, Massachusetts hammered out a state law requiring every resident – even college students – to have some form of health insurance. At the time, proponents declared it would save taxpayers huge amounts of money in the long run and provide everyone with access to quality, needed health care. Opponents retorted it would increase government control, add to the ugly spectre of socialism, and stifle innovation and enterprise. Largely, these are the same views echoed in the debate over health care reform on a national scale.

It’s really too soon to tell, with any certainty, who was right or wrong about what, and how right or wrong they were. I don’t pretend to have data of that scale or focus. What I can offer is some good, old-fashioned anecdotal evidence, and a dash of what us Yankees like to call “common sense.”

I have completed a journey through the new, statewide, universal health care system, knuckling under to the law that threatens to swipe my tax refunds if I don’t. Not that I expect to see much refund, but I try to land on the friendly side of the law wherever possible, so I dutifully showed up at appointed dates and times, confirmed my lack of private insurance, my lack of access to private insurance, and offered up some pretty basic evidence. I gave my name and address, shared my DOB and SSN (all information the state already has,) and submitted the necessary paperwork. In this case, all they were after was a proof of income (easy enough, and also already known to the IRS) and proof of citizenship (birth certificate. Again, freely available from the town where I was born).

I went to my doctor’s appointments, had my maladies treated and tests examined, all without demand for payment or promise of payment. I filled out my forms and waited. A few weeks later I received a notice in the mail. I did not, in fact, qualify for the state’s standard, top-tier insurance plan because as, wretched as I am in the grand scheme of things, I actually needed a great deal more wretchedness to qualify. This was both disappointing, to know that I was not close enough to the bottom to  qualify for something, and heartening, to know that things could be worse.

I did, the letter informed me, qualify for a different program for people truly wretched, but not quite on their last legs (I’m on my second-to-last legs). The plan provided me with a full range of health care options, access to many doctors at hospitals and health clinics, a prescription plan, access to specialists, even extras like discounts on health club memberships, classes about diabetes, help to quit smoking, etc. All of this provided at a cost, not that most people can afford, but that I can afford. Actually taking into account my real-world ability to pay. I’ll stay covered under this plan until my income places me out of it, or until I get access to other insurance (like through an employer).

As a result, I will see my doctor if I get sick and it doesn’t go away on it’s own. I will continue to get medications and tests I need to stay healthy. I will not need to wait until a problem becomes a costly emergency. Apart from my own welfare and well-being, I will actually cost society less and contribute more.

So far, the system works. For people unable to pay for the plan I’m enrolled in, there is another tier that is available at zero cost. That’s right. Free. No premiums, no-copays, no costs for medications, no bills at all. Granted, the criteria for that plan requires a dire situation, and the bill is footed completely by we, the general, tax-paying public. But I can’t imagine there are many people who would WANT to be the situation it calls for. Even fewer who are able to scam the system very well for very long. And compared with the number of people this helps? This is a no-brainer.

I can’t see how expanding this to a national system is anything less than a no-brainer. Sure there will be problems. And sure, there will be costs. But what else are we going to spend it on? Another war? More subsidies and tax breaks to grow and build things we don’t need? Another pittance refund check in the spring? I’m not saying I don’t care about the (enormous) cost of this effort. But I do wonder aloud “how much more will it cost us, in dollars and in quality of life, if we don’t do this?” “What do we have to spend it on that’s better?”

Keep people healthy, keep people safe, give them enough to eat, and you’ll find they’re willing to do quite a lot for you. Educate them well, and they’ll go one step further and start doing things for themselves AND for you. Food, health, education, safety. This is one of the four cornerstones, and I see no reason to ignore it because it’s going to cost something.

I’m open to suggestions. Anyone who can show me a viable way to get everyone insurance, cut down on the costs, and realistically pay for it has got my attention. Two caveats, though: Please do not suggest tax cuts and incentives to private providers.

Incentives are like pouring water into a sinking boat, in the hopes that the weight of the water will squeeze it out the holes in the bottom. Health care and insurance cost too much, partly because of the providers themselves, and paying the people who are overcharging us so they’ll overcharge us less is an obviously stupid idea to anyone old enough to count with both hands. So forget “incentives.” The system has no desire to cut costs because that also cuts profits. If the system was willing to reign itself in, it would have done so long ago of its own accord.

Tax cuts are like using Tylenol to treat a broken leg. It will make us feel a little better, but the leg is still broken and we’re still gonna die if it’s not treated. I’m all for cutting taxes, to a point. I like my money, and I’d like to keep more of it. But, dear elected officials, you don’t charge me enough in taxes to pay for the care I need and everything else you’re supposed to provide. Give me back $12,000 a year in taxes and I can pay for my own health care. Mind you, then the fire department will have to take a credit card number before saving my house, the police will need an account in good standing to patrol my street, and you’ll pester me about joining the state militia to protect our borders. Pointless. But I’ll have total control over my private health care, for which I will pay not what’s fair, not what I can afford, but “what the market will bear.”

Take, for example, a $200 stimulus refund check. Do I like getting my money back? Sure. Would I enjoy an extra $200? Yes. Did it make any lasting difference at all in the economy? Not a bit. Because $200 will not fix my problems. $200 will not get me a month ahead on my bills, fix the brakes on my car, pay for my uninsured ER visit (easily a few thousand dollars without tests) or pay my credit card bills down (average outstanding credit card debt for American households that have a credit card was $10,679 at the end of 2008). And as our elected officials learned, when faced with disappearing jobs, shrinking income, rising housing costs, rising food costs, soaring fuel costs, soaring health care costs and rising credit and bank fees, if we get $200—or even $600—we’re going to save it, not go buy a new purse or a digital camera. Even $600 each, while a big help, is useful mostly for our personal economies. While reducing debt and increasing savings are good long-term strategies, neither will kick start the largest economy on earth, and the money is not enough to make a lasting difference, even individually. I liked the $600, but in the end the projected $152 billion cost for 2008 of the whole plan might have been better spent.

Health care costs too much. We all have a personal responsibility to help provide for ourselves, but much like credit, the current system is stacked in favor of those who already have it, and against those who need to get it. Communism and socialism are not the only alternatives. We do not all have the right to champagne, luxury cars and 4,000 oil-heated square feet. We do all have the right to food, shelter, safety, education and having injuries and illnesses treated and—where reasonably possible—prevented. We can do a lot to level the playing field without privatizing business and without redistributing wealth. Making health insurance, and as a result, health care, accessible and affordable—actually affordable, not just slightly cheaper—is a great way to start.


We need smarter people.

20 11 2009

I am allergic to stupidity. There’s an awful lot of it around these days, which makes going out and engaging with the world a hazardous thing to do for me. Nevertheless, I keep trying. At the moment, the greatest threat to my personal health, with regard to this allergy, is Sarah Palin. In the world of public stupidity, Sarah Palin is Ebola.

Reviews of her book have been consistently unfavorable, including this one from NPR. For the record, I don’t have a problem with Sarah Palin because she’s a Republican, because she’s conservative, because she likes guns or hockey, or because she says things I don’t like. As a moderate, I tend to agree with some of almost everyone’s views. I do have a problem with her because she is after jobs for which she has demonstrated near total incompetency, and because she seems to believe that we are all as utterly stupid as she’d like to think we are (Re: Winking during a vice presidential debate. This is not a Nancy Drew mystery, Sarah. Get some Visine and knock-off the sideshow act). But I’m actually grateful she’s around. See, here’s the great thing about Sarah Palin: She shows conservatives, liberals and moderates how much we all have in common, and she helps us find the fringe element, because they’re the angry ones who scream about what an awesome leader she is. She’s like a portable nutball detector.

Ultimately, though, the power to do much of anything rests not with politicians but with the people, right where it belongs. Sarah Palin is not important. The people who rave about her are. And this is where things get scary: Many of the people are too stupid to understand either the choices before them or the stakes.

In the last few months, even Republicans who once favored Palin have begun to distance themselves from her increasingly erratic behavior and ever-narrowing viewpoint. So why is she still around? Who are the people still howling about the rest of the world “drinking the Kool-Aid” and following the “liberal media” and running from the power of Sarah Palin’s righteous message? Well, to be honest, it’s mostly the dumb ones. I allow that there are some thoughtful, intelligent people flocking to her banner, but I’m going to chalk those people up to them sharing some of her exclusive attitudes (unequal rights, codifying her personal beliefs as law, etc). They know she’s nuts, but they like where she’s driving, so they’re content to ride along. For now.

But how about the rest of them? Most often I think you’ll find these people are the under-educated, over-worked “average” American looking up to her. Note, now, that I’m not taking a cheap shot at people without a college education. This is not a put-down of blue-collar life. There are loads of very smart working class people. But more education leads to a more powerful, less easily-led population, and that’s not the group that likes Palin. She seems, on the surface, to be so plain-spoken and up front about everything, they can’t help but look up to her and feel like finally, here is someone who looks, speaks and thinks like us, despite what everyone else says. If someone like her (read that “unqualified”) can rise to take a shot at the vice presidency, than surely someone ringing the register can become store manager some day, so goes the thought process.

The sad part is one skill our schools (and society) have failed to teach or value over the last 30+ years is critical thinking. It appears that many Americans just don’t know how to think critically. They accept what they’re handed, and the only time they are critical is when someone tells them to feel critical. They love to latch onto to large, simple, brightly-colored phrases like “the liberal media” and “Washington insiders” and “keep drinking the Kool-Aid” (which is historically inaccurate, by the way. It was Flavor-Aid). Not that there aren’t real examples of liberal media bias or insider politics. But not ALL politics are inside, not ALL politicians are corrupt,  and not ALL media lean left. Kind of like infants, they look at whoever jumps up and down the most and screams the loudest. So tantrum-throwers like Rush Limbaugh or Glenn Beck get the spotlight and adoration of these people. And Palin.

And while we’re on that topic:

Fox News is an oxymoron of the first order. Fox news presents largely conservative political and social views in all of its programming, often to extremes. Witness Glenn Beck, Bill O’ Reilly, etc. As a moderate with persistently open and accepting views of things, I tend to disagree with, on average, 99%+ of the conclusions drawn on Fox. But differing opinions are allowed in my world. Moreover, as a trained journalist, they’re necessary. Without differing opinions there can be no open, robust public debate, and without that debate, there can be no democracy. This is not my problem with Fox.

My problem is that they do a shoddy job. The main focus of Fox News is pundit-based shows like Glenn Beck and his ilk. Beck, O’Reilly, CNN’s Nancy Grace, et al., are entertainers, nothing more. They are Howard Stern without nudity. Their popularity is based on two least-common denominator principles. First, take extreme points of view that upset most people and juice up the fringe element. Second, scream. A lot. All the time. That’s it. That’s their only contribution to the discussion.

In another shining example of how the media continue to tarnish their own image, and simultaneously showcasing Fox as the reigning “Worst of the Worst”, here’s a nice piece on them using year-old footage to suggest millions of people lining up for a Palin book event.

So what’s the solution here? The same solution to drug use, teen pregnancy, overcrowded prisons, much crime, and more. It’s also the one thing we are least likely to use public funds to pay for and the same thing we are most likely to pay most dearly for in the private market.


Smarter people see through statistics, ignore sound bites, listen carefully, and think critically. They take things seriously when they understand the stakes, and they take time to find out what the stakes are. Smarter people are not necessarily people who go to college, either. There are plenty of people in colleges right now who don’t belong there. They lack the motivation, the interest, the ability, to make use of the opportunity. Smarter people can happen without everyone going to college. Schools should be fully funded, teachers better paid, and attending and excelling in school should be the priority of every parent in every family everywhere in our country. High school coursework could, should and once upon a time was equivalent to the sort of thing people learn in their first two semesters of college. Most important, though, is an individual commitment to think, act, and be smarter. With all the information available to us in American in 2009, the greatest obstacle to us becoming a smarter society is our own internal lack of motivation.

If we returned to that commitment to quality and attention, we would make smarter people. Smarter people would have and raise smarter children. And smarter children would think critically, ask questions, do rigorous mental work, and put entertainers on news networks out of business, send Sarah Palin back to her seat, and make better choices. Like teaching their children to be smart.

On Future Memories

10 11 2009

I spend a good deal of time driving in the dark, lately. I’ve been doing the driving for months, but the switch back to standard time added the dark element. It hadn’t occurred to me until tonight, but I was doing the very same sort of thing at this time four years ago. Then, as now, I stepped out into the dark, after dinner, and started up The Venerable Subaru (yes, she’s still alive and kicking). Then, as now, I packed the girls in the back, though now they handle their own seatbelts and bags. And then, as now, I plugged in the iPod, fired up a playlist, and we struck out for the other side of the mountain.

Back then, when we three merry travelers made our trip, it was REALLY dark. There’s very little south of Acadia National Park that compares to the Northeast Kingdom for winter dark. It’s not quite so dark now, and unlike those drives, we don’t usually have the road to ourselves. And instead of me firing up my white iPod, either I plug in my Touch, or one of the girls snaps their Shuffle into place.

Something interesting happened tonight that brought it all back as though we’d never stopped our trips. The playlist, loaded up from a bright pink Shuffle, contained a half-dozen or so songs that used to be on our old playlist. And then, as now, they both began singing along (and so did I) to each of those songs. I was particularly proud when, with one too young for school yet, they both knew all the words and timing to Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis Jr.’s duet of “Fly With Me.”

And they still do.

We covered that one and a few other favorites, and I think we all shared the sensation that we were on an old familiar path, and it’s one where we belong.

I couldn’t help but zone out for a few minutes, as I tend to do regularly, and see a few things that have not yet been. This moment, repeated anew after years of being just a memory, spanned many more years ahead. I wondered where these songs might find us all in the future, and what else they’ll recall to us. I snapped out of it after being implored to keep up my end (“Dad! Keep singing! C’mon! Sing!”)

The experience of songs holding the key to moments in our past is pretty nearly universal. If you are reading this, and there is not one song, not one melody, that transports you back to another place and time, you’re missing a key part of the human experience. Humans are built to reminisce. It’s one of our most charming features. Personally, I have such a deep catalog of songs that call up a moment, a face, a feeling, a smell, for me, it’s literally impossible for me to recall them all without some kind of help. Letting iTunes shuffle the songs in the library could quite seriously turn into the soundtrack to my life.

At a table in the Cock and Bull, during an evening in which I would forget to close out my tab and suffer the “convenience fee,” a friend of mine, Brian Hughes, asked an excellent question to those present. He wondered if we still made strong connections to songs like we did when we were younger. Linking songs to other events seems to peak in the teenage years—after all, nothing aids poignancy like hormones and bad skin (I know something about both). I replied at the time that I do still form such bonds with songs, but not quite as frequently as I once did.

I stick by the answer, but tonight I discovered a whole new aspect to that process. Tonight, I discovered that it’s possible to form a bond with a song without accessing that until some time later. Call if forming future memories, if you like (I do, that’s why I named the post this way). I didn’t realize at the time, but that duet of “Fly With Me” was going to pop back up four years later. I have a feeling that many more years from now, that song will arise again in our lives.

There are plenty of things that I can’t share with my traveling companions yet. I’m looking forward to it all quite a bit. It took several years to reach the point we’re at now, and we’ll get to more good stuff as time goes on. As I drove, and sang, and listened, in the dark tonight, I thought of another song that they’re not ready for just yet. But it’s one that’s stuck in my mind since 1998 when it first arrived for me. For me, those are halcyon days, sepia tone memories tinged with golden halos, music and laughter echoing throughout, with nothing to see but the faces of some of the finest people I will ever know, places with memories so thick they litter the ground like autumn leaves, moments and stories when all sang the chorus on key and every glass was forever full. One day I’ll share that with my traveling companions. That too, is a future memory. But for now, I’ll share it with you. Courtesy of Grooveshark, and dedicated to all those who raised a glass, told a story, and scratched on the eight ball at 855 Ostrom, and to all who would have been welcome (which is all of you). To Future Memories, my friends.

A circle, in more ways than one.

On words.

6 11 2009

Words are my subject tonight. Words, and perhaps moreover the feeling of words. So many thoughts, fleeting, come to me this time of year. It’s hard to separate them all, moving together the way they do, going everywhere and nowhere at the same time. Tonight, in the relative dark of a room lit only by the fire, I heard Pablo Neruda’s words.

This is unusual.

Long ago, someone brought Pablo Neruda to me, assuring me that these were great words and were worth my attention. I had little ear for poetry then and even less use for it, though I hardly realized the latter at the time. I read them without seeing, heard them without listening. It wasn’t intentional. It was all I could do at the time. Still, I think I was grateful then for a gift I knew was meaningful, even if I didn’t know why.

Tonight I know why. Somewhere between the heartache of never having loved, and the scars of having lost, I gained an ear for poetry. I’m not sure just when or where, but a few years ago reading the words of Robert Frost became an incredibly important ritual to me. Somewhere in the rambling depths of my own annals, I wrote the words “I think today calls for a little Frost” and I have not found a day since that does not match those words. Not long ago, having misplaced my now-treasured collection of Frost, I picked up a beautifully bound edition of Leaves of Grass. If you don’t know, the similarities between Frost and Whitman are as follows: Both are American poets. That’s it. The free verse was too free for my taste at the time, and I read a handful pages without ever absorbing a word.

Not so the second time I opened the book. With each small blade I picked, a new, richly illustrated picture opened before me, and I found that though I had never read them before, the words all felt familiar. Leaves of Grass has taken its place beside the Complete Works of Robert Frost. Neither is a substitute for the other, but they make glorious companions.

Tonight, reaching across years and worlds so broad and vast that my own memories of them seem alien, 7 words spoke themselves in my head.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

I knew them before their echo died in my head, though I did not know what came next, and had to look.

Write, for example, the night is shattered and the stars are blue and shiver in the distance.

The night wind resolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

I loved her and sometimes she loved me too.

It’s worth pointing out that I’m not sad. But the closeness of Neruda’s words matches the closeness I felt in the moment. Something hushed, like dimly lit rooms on a bitter cold night, and quiet music. Like the sound of a library, late in the afternoon, on a rainy day. Like a big building with many doors and few people. A closeness with no echoes, no distractions, where the space of an eternity might pass between breaths or between your face and a page. Or very blue eyes you seem to recognize from out of time.

In those moments do we remember something missed from our past? Or do we remember something lost of ourselves?

Reprinted below without permission of any kind, is Pablo Neruda’s “Tonight I Can Write the Saddest Lines.” I post it to everyone, and to myself.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.

Write, for example,’The night is shattered
and the blue stars shiver in the distance.’

The night wind revolves in the sky and sings.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
I loved her, and sometimes she loved me too.

Through nights like this one I held her in my arms
I kissed her again and again under the endless sky.

She loved me sometimes, and I loved her too.
How could one not have loved her great still eyes.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines.
To think that I do not have her. To feel that I have lost her.

To hear the immense night, still more immense without her.
And the verse falls to the soul like dew to the pasture.

What does it matter that my love could not keep her.
The night is shattered and she is not with me.

This is all. In the distance someone is singing. In the distance.
My soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

My sight searches for her as though to go to her.
My heart looks for her, and she is not with me.

The same night whitening the same trees.
We, of that time, are no longer the same.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the wind to touch her hearing.

Another’s. She will be another’s. Like my kisses before.
Her voice. Her bright body. Her infinite eyes.

I no longer love her, that’s certain, but maybe I love her.
Love is so short, forgetting is so long.

Because through nights like this one I held her in my arms
my soul is not satisfied that it has lost her.

Though this be the last pain that she makes me suffer
and these the last verses that I write for her.

It’s good to be here

3 11 2009


At the behest of others, I’ve shelved the scheduled post for tonight, and I’ll take a shot at something I mentioned earlier.

Willem Lang, one of my two all-time favorite NPR commentators, once wrote “it is decadent to live where it’s warm all the time” and I couldn’t agree more. As I drove back up Route 5 from Northampton today, I was struck again and again by the astonishing and unassuming beauty of New England. Each stretch of road revealed a new and changing palette of colors and contrasts. The reds of fall have faded now, but there are still plenty of deep, burnt oranges and yellows of every hue to be feasted upon. Plenty of branches are bare now, lending the treelines a slight melancholy air that all fans of fall here have surely grown up loving.

Warm days keep the grass green and growing, and this time of year the afternoon sun changes in temper, somehow growing golden and giving a deep burnished tone to the lawns and planted fields lying fallow with winter groundcover. The evergreens stand a little taller now, and their unchanging backdrop will carry us through the grays and purples of winter. But for now they only serve to deepen the reverie of color on display from their leaf-bearing brethren.

Perhaps my favorite part of this time of year is the sky. While there is still plenty of clear air, the bright blue skies of summer have given way to sombre and sometimes threatening mottled grays of slate, lead and cold steel. With the shifting rays of the sun at the end of the day, the clouds carry tones of deep blue as though they are cooling from the inside out, preparing to make snow instead of rain.

Taken together, the colors are dizzying, though they be more subdued than the riot of early fall. Combined with the crisp air that carries a bite of woodsmoke in it, the farmhouses and Colonials buttoned up and settled in for their 75th, or 100th, or 200th winter, and the low, rolling hill country that seems to have stood here since before there was an earth around it, and I’m left with one impression above all others.

It’s good to be here.

Wondering out loud.

2 11 2009

Over the last few days the posts, real and virtual, of various friends has left me thinking. From many different backgrounds and widely varying circumstances we come, but one thread connects us all. We all are divorced. We all have children we happily devote our lives to. And to a person, not one of us has found the new relationship that we have sought and expected since taking our first new steps out into the world, newly single.

I’m not pessimistic by nature, but after almost as many years divorced as I was married, my perspective has evolved somewhat. My own experience has showed me that either the person I’m with may have trouble understanding their role (or lack thereof) in my children’s lives, or I may not be willing to give enough of myself to them. See, to give yourself to another person, another adult, at least in my mind, means you have to hold something in reserve from your children. They can’t have everything you have to give if you’re giving it to someone else. I’m not referring to some kind of codependent relationship between parents and children, either. All of the people I know—myself included—have healthy, well-developed personalities and independent aspects to the self, separate from their role and self-image as parents and caregivers to their children (don’t try the Dr. Phil junk here, I’ve got a degree in this—literally).

Sometimes it’s not you, though. Sometimes it’s them. In that case I find friends with partners (and I use that term loosely, in some cases) who are unwilling or unable to act in an adult manner becoming of a parent. It’s not always their fault. Being a parent is no easy task, and many people (most?) are ill-equipped for it. If you happen to be in a relationship with a partner who has children, you even lack the benefit of having been there from the beginning. It’s a hard road to walk. Of course, some of you just make crappy choices in partners and it is their fault. But let’s not cast aspersions.

What does all this boil down to? Well, apart from my rambling and inability to structure a clear thought here, it leaves me with the question “is it possible?” Is it possible to start again? Really? I want to believe it is, I really do. I think deep down I do believe it. But I can’t believe it is as easy or as natural or—let’s be honest—as likely as conventional wisdom would have us believe. The Brady Bunch gave everyone of my generation some thoroughly silly ideas about marrying families, and the only time it becomes really clear just how silly that was, is when you look at how twisted all the cast members were and are.

Disclaimer: I never really liked The Brady Bunch much, nor do I have many clear memories of watching it, including the Marsha-Football episode. But it’s part of my collective childhood consciousness, like molded plastic chairs and the color Harvest Orange. For those of you born after 1980, skip this part. You had to be there.

I still believe in the fantasy of starting over (at least in my personal relationships) with someone new, reaping the benefit of my knowledge, perspective and experience gleaned from years of work, triumph and failure. At least I want to. But more and more I find myself asking questions about what else I will have to give up, what more sacrifice will be needed to keep the ship afloat and on course. Is there really another chance on the horizon? Or has that opportunity passed me by? Has it passed us all by? I don’t envision a life of solitude and melancholy, and I’m not preparing myself to start a new career as a hermit (right now). I am, however, questioning the dream I have been sold about how second chances will largely resemble first chances but with fewer painful lessons to learn this time around.

With any luck, time and fate will prove my fears largely unfounded, and we’ll all find ourselves standing around a lavishly appointed kitchen in expensive clothing, a perfect ethnically diverse group reflecting the precise demographics of the nation, sipping wine and trading bon mots as we cook dinner for our trendy adults-night-in, drowning in our own witty reparté, just like a wine commercial. But at the moment I’m having a little trouble seeing how we’re all supposed to get there.