Category Archives: Fayette County

Like Going to Walmart in the Rain

I heard from someone the other day about travel writing.  And they said that most travel writers begin by writing about their home area as people who live elsewhere would want to get away and vacation there. My response to that?  Yeah, right.  But I’m nothing if not open-minded…

Now I’m not trying to rip on this area (after all, I have a number of readers from this area and I’d like to stay on their good side).  But, vacationing in Fayette County seems to me about as wise as going on a nice shopping trip and choosing to go to Walmart to find your shiny new cocktail dress.  There are better options.

Sure, we have a 5-Star resort you can find if you head up into the mountains a little ways. But most vacations lie somewhere in the middle between having lunch prepared by a Michelin-star winning chef and picking up a hotdog at Sam’s Club.  Sure, we’re closer to the hot dog end of that comparison, but we do have many of the things that you’re looking for in a vacation destiny.

For example, when you travel, you want to meet people from different cultures…

You want to find entertainment options that you don’t see at home…

You want to experience celebrations you haven’t experienced before…

I know I pick on Walmart and Fayette County a lot, but it’s just that I see so much in common.  It’s like every time I drive from one area to another, it’s like I’m living in a Walmart and simply moving from aisle to aisle.

When I’m outside and hear gunfire, it’s the sporting goods section.  When I pass through a bad neighborhood and wonder which household is currently cooking meth, it’s the pharmacy.  And of course, when I have to pay my local taxes, it’s the registers (two lanes open, forty carts waiting).

But Walmart makes approximately $36 million in sales every hour.  So obviously people like it.  And if that’s the case, I can sell this area to road weary travelers as an excellent vacation spot.  I mean, how hard could that be?  We already have everything they’re looking for, even if they don’t know it yet…

Jury Duty

First of all, let me just say this – I wanted to do it.  Sure, it’s not like it was on my bucket list, but I made no effort to get out of it when I received the notice in the mail.  So no comments about me not being intelligent enough to get out of jury duty, okay?

I was curious.  That’s what it was.  I wondered what it would be like and I figured that if I ever wrote a character who had to deal with jury duty, I’d better get my details right.  So…there I was, waiting in the gentle rain outside the courthouse while they slowly passed everyone through the metal detector wondering just what I had gotten myself into.  Then, I found my way to Courtroom #1, had a seat, and found out exactly what I’d gotten myself into…

Forget scaring kids straight by showing them a jail, show them a room of potential jurors.  Once they see how their fate could be placed in the hands of a group of these people, they’ll be helping elderly women across the street and attending church on a regular basis, just to cover their tookis.

Camoflauge shorts and flip flops, a ‘Slayer’ t-shirt, skin-tight shorts, an NRA t-shirt, more flip flops, beer logo baseball caps, jeans with more holes than material, pajama bottoms, leopard print everything…  I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.  It looked like a Wal-Mart in there.  Yeah, I didn’t exactly wear a suit myself,  but I think I came across a bit less scary to the defendants there behind the tables.

Throughout the next two days, I was called into a few of the other courtrooms, given information on cases, “introduced” to the attorneys and defendants, asked incredibly  simple questions, and forced to wait as the attorneys scratched their way through the list of prospective juror names.  And…each time, my name was one of the ones crossed off the list.  I won’t tell you my secret, but let’s just say that I wasn’t surprised at all each time I was dismissed with a “thank you for your service, you’re free to go”.

The only drawback to escaping from service was that there wasn’t a juror room in that entire building.  And, because every courtroom was active through both days (is that bad?  Too much crime in the area?) there was no place for us to sit and wait for the day’s next opportunity.  So, those of us who weren’t selected simply sat in the hallways watching officers walk orange-suited prisoners from room to room, listening to attorneys on break complain about their days together, and playing on our cell phones.  It was the justice system hard at work.

After running my phone’s battery down for two straight days searching the Internet, emailing everyone I knew and playing solitaire, I was finally, officially dismissed.  And I thought back through my days of service and realized that I hadn’t done or learned a thing.  But I know that if one of the characters in my novels misbehaves and isn’t working well with me, I just may send him or her off to jury duty.  Let them be warned.

But it wasn’t all bad.  Eventually, arriving in the mail was a check from the county to reimburse me for all of my time and service.  And, when I stopped to figure it out, I realized that I’d made a whopping $1.29/hour for my time.  Wow.  If I’m called for jury duty again, everyone’s guilty!

The Music of the Neighborhood

I love music.  I do.  And I like all kinds of styles and listen to all types, depending on my mood at the time.  So my complaint this afternoon isn’t really about music, but being forced to listen to something when you don’t want it.  That’s what got me today…

So…here’s the story.  My neighbor across the street is retired and is outside almost constantly.  Based on his daily routines, I think his wife locks him out of the house at 8:00am and doesn’t let him back in until at least 4:00.  If he’s doing yard work (which he does at some point every day) you have to listen to his riding lawnmower, his gas powered weed wackier, his leaf blower, etc.  Those, you can pretty much tone out.  But, when he washes his car, you have to listen to his car radio cranked up as loud as it will go.  Seriously loud.  Loud enough where you think the speakers will blow out at any second.  I seriously think the guy is mostly deaf since it’s loud enough to be practically painful from 200 yards away.  And…it’s always (always) classic rock.

Seriously, when you’re hearing “I’ve been driving all night, my hand’s wet on the wheel”, and the bass is causing the ground of your yard to bounce?  Whew, that’s too much.  And Hotel California just doesn’t seem like a sunny, afternoon kind of song, let alone one to share with the neighborhood at that time.  And when The Who yells out that they’ll “take a bow for the new resolution” loud enough that Graham won’t even go outside and all the birds have flown away for a day trip to the other side of the county?  That’s just too much…

I was incredibly tempted to start washing my car (which it honestly needs, even if I would have been washing it for all the wrong – and petty – reasons) and cranking up some music myself to get his attention.  I’ve been addicted to Halestorm’s Here’s to Us lately and probably would have played that one at 10 (or 11) on the volume meter but that song has a few choice words sprinkled through it and the neighbor on the other side has a baby who I’m sure wouldn’t have appreciated it.  So…my good hearted nature won out (though Graham and I listened to the song inside at least a few times while waiting for the neighbor to finish waxing his 1970-something multi-colored pickup truck (it’s grey, green and red with some rust thrown in.  Definitely a thing of beauty, can you just picture it?).

But, things can change quickly, old men move on to,other (quieter) projects, and here we are (Graham and I), sitting outside, listening to the newly returned birds and watching minivans occasional pass down our now quiet street, wondering how many dandelions have sprouted (and wondering how they might taste – Graham not me).  All while I softly hum Here’s to Us because it just won’t get out of my head…

I Keep Going Back For More…

Sure, sometimes it snows in April.  Not often, but it happens…  But how many times do you have it snow all day long on a spring day in April day and then you find yourself going to Sam’s Club and Walmart?!?  That was my Friday to start the weekend,  Well…those and Target too if you’re counting, but Target’s not as bad as the first two locations.  And…when I got home from all those trips…?  There wasn’t a single drop of alcohol in the house.  That’s just not right.

I’m thinking of starting a video blog “Drew goes to Walmart” documenting each and every one of my Fayette County Walmart experiences, but I don’t know how I’d be able to sneak the camera in and shoot that classic footage without getting caught.  Though, when I think about it, who would notice when everyone is lost in their own world around there?

When I was in Sam’s Club this time, I thought I kept seeing the same guy in multiple aisles throughout the store.  But later, I finally realized that it was four different guys, who just happens to all be wearing the exact same camouflage cap and jacket, the same dirty brown beard, the same carpenter jeans and muddy boots.  Each time he had a different wife though, so I probably should have noticed quicker.  And there I was, wearing dress pants at the time.  I so didn’t fit in.

Then in Walmart, I couldn’t help but notice that almost every woman in there was wearing yoga pants.  Sure, that in itself isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  But…  If they’re too big, you look like you’re wearing a diaper.  And, if you’re too big…?  Well…I’ll let you figure that one out yourself,  And there I was clicking my way down the aisles in dress shoes.  So completely not fitting in.

And I get it.  Sometimes when you’re not feeling well, you still have to go to the store.  It happens.  But…if you’re going to cough or sneeze, why can’t you do it well before or well after passing me in the aisle?  Three times, I had someone do that in the exact moment that they passed me by.  Like in that actual moment when they’re within two feet of my personal space (or even closer).  Sure, two of the three people coughed or sneezed into their hand, but two out of the three also turned toward me rather than away when they did it too.  I think I need to look into teaching etiquette lessons at the local ‘Y’ or something.  Sheesh…

I actually do consider myself to be a people person, but Walmart (or Walmart-owned) places do scare me off of people for a while.  Maybe that’s why I’m writing this outside, just keeping company with Graham the cat as he watches dozens of birds scavenge in the yard.  It’s so much more quiet and peaceful, especially when that freak snow has melted and all of the dandelions are no longer hidden beneath it.  I guess that means that I need to do yard work tomorrow.  But that’s still better than even a five minute trip to Walmart…

 

Let it Fly…

I don’t remember the last time that it wasn’t spring here in Fayette County.  We didn’t have a winter at all (seriously, I didn’t pick up a snow shovel once this winter and I don’t even know where that thing might be hidden in the garage right now…).  So we basically went right from fall to spring and I’ve even been weeding out dandelions since January.

One drawback to this is that we’ve had a lot of the spring-type storms all year long.  And that has included strong winds that have really done a number on the area.  The light on the lamppost out front blew completely off (glass, metal housing and all) and, since I’ve never been able to figure out what light switch – or breaker switch – in the house controls that lamppost, I haven’t been willing to touch it and deal with the wiring involved.

Then, out behind the house, the slats of the fence that divides my place from the neighbor’s keep blowing out, no matter how many times I force them back in place.  And, because each time the wind has blown them in the direction of my yard, the neighbor never notices and never takes the initiative to fix it himself.  Oh well…  I can pretend like it’s complicated and that I’m being handy in fixing it.  Over and over again…

But now, after this last windstorm, my neighbor across the street has a new sign that has entered his yard, advertising Yuengling beer, $17.99 a case.  This sign blew over from the liquor store located a block up and a half mile down the road.  And that’s some incredibly impressive traveling if you ask me.  For some reason, this neighbor either hasn’t noticed the sign, or has managed to just ignore it for now.  And I guess I could have walked over and thrown it out for him but I find it kind of humorous whenever I go out and see it, having completely forgotten about it from the day before.

It’s actually working out to be some good advertising.  Most days I never drive by the liquor store because I turn the other way.  But now here I am, thinking that I need to go buy a case each day when I see that sign.  It’s just starting to sound good.  But now that I think about it, I wonder how “accidental” it is that it arrived there…  Because, when you think about it…was that wind really that strong?  And what are the odds it would end up right there where I would see it every day?

I think when I go in to that store to buy a case of Yuengling ($17.99 plus tax), I’ll ask them if I can get paid to put a sign up in my yard.  Maybe for something a little more expensive.  And right where my neighbor can see it each and every day…

Just Not Ready…

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I’m not ready for Christmas.  There, I said it.

I’m not ready for Christmas because…well, do I need to have a reason?  I’m sure that most of you feel that way too, even if you refuse to admit it.  It comes around every 10 months like clockwork (at least it feels that way).  Is there a support group that I don’t know about out there…?

But the thing is, I’m not ready for winter either.  I’ve pretty much reached the point where I’m ready for fall, but that’s about it.  And that doesn’t help.  Sure, things were supposed to happen this summer that didn’t, and June through August flew by far too uneventfully, but I’ve made my peace with that.  But I don’t remember giving fall permission to pull up to the curb, drop off a few overflowing bags of colorful leaves and drive away without even shutting off the engine for a few minutes to come up to the porch to share a beer or two with me.

And, next thing you know, there’s snow on the ground, Christmas carols are playing absolutely everywhere you go, and commercials are showing bright, shiny luxury cars with holiday bows trying to convince you that spending $50,000+ is more than acceptable for your friends and family.  And…where do you even get a giant red bow?  Do the dealerships have them in the back to tape on the roof for a nifty surcharge?

I got Chinese food for dinner last week from a local place that, while their food is good, has the cheapest fortune cookies.  Maybe they have the right lucky numbers for the lottery, I don’t know.  But I know that their fortunes need help.  This one told me – It’s fun being a kid.  Seriously…?

Sure, as Christmas stalks closer and closer, and we feel its peppermint tinged breath on the back of our necks, who of us wouldn’t gladly go back in time and live through it as a kid again?  Heck, going back even ten years’ worth of Christmases sounds pretty attractive, doesn’t it?

You know…  I haven’t actually put my Christmas list together yet.  Think that’s a fair one to put on there?

Oh who am I kidding…?  I’ll be lucky to have a list put together by Christmas 2017.  Ahh…maybe that’s the year I catch up.  Here we go…  2017 has to be my year. 😀

Once a Northern Boy…

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Here in good ‘ol Fayette County the seasons are getting a bit confused.  We finally had our first snow of the season (if you count a dusting that was gone just about as quickly as it arrived) and there’s frost on the ground to start each day.  But then the leaves are still in the process of changing colors throughout the area.  On top of that, if you take into account the dandelions still trying to grow throughout the yard for some sick and twisted reason, you have three of the seasons represented just by stepping outside the door first thing in the morning.   It’s a crazy place to be these days.

I’m not ready for fall to be over.  And that’s not just because I should have mowed the lawn one more time before the temperatures started to drop.  And not just because I have no desire to shovel snow yet.  I’ve always been a northern boy and cold and snow are something to be expected and enjoyed in their own way each year.  I’d never be able to move too far south.  I’d miss having all four of the seasons to enjoy and experience as they all have their finer points.  But winter can wait just a bit…

There’s something too inspiring about fall to let it go too soon.  There’s a change you can see in the trees, a smell in the air, the feel of the cooler temperatures, the tastes you don’t get through the rest of the year, etc.  It feels like the chance to re-start.  And it’s invigorating.

That being said, I’m thinking about winter as I’m writing today.  All because of an email I received earlier this week. To let me know about some opportunities.  There are some upcoming writers conferences that will be going on and I’m actually thinking about traveling to attend one.  And how about this for extremes…?  This winter, there’s a writer’s cruise in Florida and a convention in Minnesota in February.  And the one that jumps out to me…?  Yep, Minnesota.  I never claimed to be normal…

Sure, there are more agents that will be attending that one so it will be better for mingling and making connections.  But there’s more to it than that.  Sure, packing more layers and trying to fit it all into limited luggage can be a pain, but Minneapolis/St. Paul is an artistic area.  There’s something inspiring about it.

Okay, so I used to actually live there and Graham is a Minnesota original (born and raised there before coming to Fayette County) so there are plenty of additional reasons to consider that convention location over ones in warmer climates.  And heck, I can’t even swim so why would I want to meet with agents on a boat off of Miami when even the lakes in Minnesota would be frozen over in February?  That area just fits me better.

So I’m going over the application and starting to study up on the agents who will be there.  Maybe one of them is looking for just the right new writer to mold into the next best seller.  And then, when I take off on my book signing tours, I can see some other parts of the country.  And maybe occasionally escape a cold, northern winter…

What Just Happened?

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I thought I was in the majority…

Not according to race, or religion or gender or anything unimportant like that. In the one way that matters.  Common sense.

I grew up in a country that used to make sense.  People grew up from children into adults who – while never perfect – at least never went so far against their own common sense as to be dangerous to themselves (and others). Not until November 8, 2016.

The United States used to be a leader.  Yes, that’s the correct wording – it used to be.  No matter your level of patriotism and pride, you can’t deny that the U.S. has fallen behind numerous other countries in education, healthcare, equality, infant mortality rates, etc.  The list where we’re not first (or even top 10 or top 20 anymore) has become staggering.

Now we’re like the big brother who was cool in high school but then, when his “music career” never took off, got hooked on meth, made a lot of incredibly poor decisions, embarrassed his family and now is but a shadow of his former self.  The other countries have grown up, found success and made a name for themselves, while we just took a massive hit of our latest drug of choice, flopped down on the couch, turned the tv to something pointless that may or may not be a comedy – something that we won’t even watch – and settled in for a four year nap.  And the world will grow and develop around us while we’re snoring and drooling into our sleeve, occasionally moving enough to shove a handful of junk food into our craw and think back to the days when we were really something.  When we were cool.

It’s humiliating.

We’re a shell of our former self and we’re not going to get better until we admit we have a problem.  And on November 8th, when everyone came over for the party and we were so wasted that we wandered into the living room telling sexist jokes and soiling the backside of our last clean pair of ripped up jeans as everyone awkwardly watched and felt completely mortified and humiliated for us….?  Yeah, that should be our wake up moment.  Our “I’ve completely shamed myself and need to make changes before it’s too late” moment.  We’ve hit rock bottom.

Now here I am living in Fayette County – a county that voted over 64% for ignorance and hate.  And I’ve never felt so alone.  But I was kind of prepared for that.  After all, I voted behind a guy who had a Trump sticker covering one half of his truck’s rear window and a confederate flag sticker covering the other half (both not-so-subtle racism and complete driving ignorance wrapped up together in one 99-cent purchase).

I know someone who voted for ‘that guy’ because he was scared the democrats were coming to take away all of his guns (regardless of any rational attempt to explain the fallacy of that logic).  And his wife used her individual vote to choose the same guy because her husband was scared that the democrats were coming to take away all of his guns.  And there’s the woman who voted for him because “he’ll get rid of partial birth abortion” even though that was something banned in a previous decade and doesn’t actually exist.  Or the person who made their decision based on Benghazi without knowing either A) what happened in Benghazi or B) what continent Benghazi is located on.  Ahh, democracy in action…

And please don’t get me started on the “Christians” who simply voted straight down the Republican ticket because that’s the party of “Christian” morals and values…  When did “Christians” lose the ability to think (and read, and research and reason…?)  And, most importantly, when did they lose the ability to feel love and compassion for anyone the slightest bit different than themselves…?

So sure…I knew I wasn’t living in an intellectual Mecca around here (pun intended – if you get it, you probably voted on my side).  But I thought I could temporarily escape from my little county of crazy whenever I wanted to, simply by going out into the rest of the United States occasionally once the election was over.  Someplace that wasn’t fueled by rage and fear and complete and total ignorant self-interest.  But apparently not.  It obviously stretches far beyond the borders of what I thought it would.

So who wants to get in the car with me, or hop on that train, or board a plane with me and take off to someplace better?  At least for the next four years or so.  By then, maybe the majority of people will have learned their lesson, grown up and shown that they can once again be entrusted with making intelligent adult decisions.

It’s either that or I’ll have to see if it’s too late to volunteer for a mission to Mars. At least we haven’t had the opportunity to mess that place up. Yet…

The ‘Mart

SACRAMENTO USA - SEPTEMBER 13: Walmart shopping cart on September 13 2013 in Sacramento California. Walmart is an American multinational retail corporation that runs chains of large discount department stores

If I ever lose my mind, I know just where it will be. Rescuers will find me curled up in a fetal position in Walmart, laying between a palate of —– and a bin full of ——–. Okay, the exact product placement may end up be Inc slightly different, but there’s a pretty good chance overall that it will be somewhere in Walmart.

Whenever I’m forced to enter the black hole of disappointment and depression that is that place, I think that I’m completely mentally prepared. I really do. I think up all of the worst case scenarios I can come up with, only to find that it’s much much worse. Or maybe I just go in with the wrong attitude.  Is that a possibility?

As I rush down the main aisle to get through with my visit as quickly as possible, there’s an obese man with a 3-day beard that’s holding half a slice of pizza within its whiskers carrying an extra large selection of pink lingerie, and I avoid eye contact because if would feel wrong on every level.  Then there’s the older woman literally screaming at the top of her lungs (right at the moment when she walked behind me, causing me to physically jump into the air) into her phone at ‘gramma’, the guy with the massively stained baseball cap that stated to the world ‘Don’t ask me shit’, and the woman I assume is attempting to shoplift toilet bowl cleaner by stuffing it down her Scooby Doo t-shirt.  And that’s just in the first 50 yards of this visit.

See…It doesn’t take much to come up with plenty of examples and specific reasons why the place drives me straight-jacket level crazy. Especially when you look back and consider that I even worked for that place twice. Yep, you read that correctly. Twice.  Not in this local store, but they’re all the same, right?

The first time was when I was just a 16-year old kid in high school – just old enough to drive there myself. They offered me a better(?) job than the one I had held at Wendy’s for the past three days (don’t ever ask me about their chili if you don’t actually want to know the truth…) and I jumped at the chance. That summer either wasn’t very memorable, or I managed to completely blot out all of the memories.  But…the second time working there, when I was right out of school and needed something/anything to pay the oncoming bills, I took on the challenge of working at a brand new Walmart.  One that wasn’t even finished yet.  So, without any construction background at all, I was put to work with a few other guys pouring cement floors, building huge storage bins and putting up hundreds and hundreds of shelving units.

And, believe it or not, we all survived. Sure, one blew himself off a 30 foot ladder when attempting to use a nail gun for the first time, and a 60-year old man dropped a 27″ television on my head (no comment about how that “explains” things please) when I rushed over to help him as he was struggling to put it up onto a huge shelving unit.

But what I remember most fondly is when we all tried following the boss’ instructions for building the mounts for all of the shelves to hold into the wall.  And…when we were finished, those brackets that were supposed to look perfectly straight all looked like the letter “C”.  Even though I’m still certain to this day that we did them exactly as we were instructed to.

So…I don’t trust anything in Walmart. I still feel like everything is going to collapse if I touch it, though I also feel like anything I touch might contaminate me anyway so care needs to be taken.  And I’m not sure if I’d rather bump into one of the sticky shelves or into the couple who’s coming down the chip aisle with a hungry, crazed look in their eyes, wearing matching socks, Crocs, camouflage shorts and nearly identical t-shirt pit stains.

I don’t scare easily, but you might end up find me hiding out in the middle of the place where it not as busy (and there’s carpeting), curled up and rocking back and forth.  All if I can’t escape this place within 10 minutes or less.

Fortunately for me, everything you could ever need is within a few feet of the checkout lanes.  See…there’s a box of Crispie Creams and a dvd copy of Anchorman right over there.  Wait…now what did I ever come into this place for anyway…???

Free Bigfoot Books

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Okay, I didn’t mean that I’m giving away free Bigfoot books, so don’t get the wrong idea and start requesting them,  What I’m saying is that I’ve gotten a couple of them in the mail recently with the expectation that I’ll read them and provide glowing reviews of them.  But…before you get too jealous of my new reading opportunities, let me tell you that both of the books look homemade.  Completely homemade.  Like, when the authors finished writing them and glued the pages together, they pulled out a box of crayons to draw the covers all by themselves and struggled to stay within the lines.  I shouldn’t laugh, but…well…everybody needs a good laugh every now and then, don’t they?

I’ve been tempted to wander up into the mountain woods to see how ‘correct’ these books might be about our possibly imaginary furry neighbor, but…

1)  Its been really hot out lately

2)  Then it rained

3)  I haven’t actually read the books (and don’t really plan to)

So I settled for mowing the lawn and gazing longingly up into the hills and just let my imagination wander.  It’ll have to suffice for now.  And, as my mind wanders, I wonder what agents are thinking about the first chapter of my novel.  Yes…that’s my way of saying that I sent my query letter and the first chapter novel to agents to read and…well, my imagination bounces between them loving it and getting it published and hating it and laughing about it over drinks with roving gangs of other agents.  Ahh, vivid imaginations can be troubling sometimes…

Do you remember when you were a kid and sent in your allowance money to order some amazing plastic product that was announced on the back of a cereal box or shown in the back of a comic book?  And you were told to wait 6-8 weeks for it to arrive?  Time dragged on sooooooo slow…

Then, when you become an adult, time never goes that slowly again.  Heck, autumn – the greatest of the seasons – never seems to last longer than 36 hours once you’re an adult. But now that I’m forced to wait a couple of months to hear back from the agents I’ve reached out to, I’m a kid again.  But, instead of checking the mailbox 8 times a day, I’m checking my email every quarter hour.  I guess we never actually grow up.

And, when that first response comes in, I know that I’ll excitedly not open it for a few minutes, just in case it’s bad news.  Because, while I have confidence, what are the odds that the first person I send my manuscript to will be the one who becomes my all-time best friend for making my writing dream come true…  It just might be the second person instead.  Okay, maybe the 43rd.  But he or she is out there somewhere.

Searching for that elusive agent is like like looking for Bigfoot.  You need plenty ofpatience (and a bit of craziness).  And maybe a couple of tranquilizer darts…