Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Erev Thanksgiving

It is the day before Thanksgiving, gunmetal grey, chilly, harbinger of winter.

Though I haven't called to check up on her, Middle Babe should be en route to her 8:20 Acela from Baltimore's Penn Station and Little Babe left 10 minutes ago for his half-day at school.

This year -- with Big Babe in Berlin and HOBB in the Holy Land, it is the three of us for the holiday, plus FOBB and MOBB -- Father and Mother of Bungalow Babe. Whether our Thanksgiving feast will be at their home in Great Neck, a local restaurant or the hospital is up for grabs. Yesterday, FOBB underwent surgery for kidney stones and had an overnight stay in the hospital. While he was in good spirits when I left him at midnight, the doctor will determine whether he can go home today.

Though my dad is itching to get out of the hospital, Thanksgiving will be wherever he and my mom are. In my childhood home, Thanksgiving was celebrated with enthusiasm and great emotion. My dad recited the special Hallel prayer. It was, and still is, considered a Yom Tov of sorts.

Among the recent extremist developments in Jewish life, the one that has bothered me no end is the decision not to celebrate Thanksgiving, because somehow it is "goyish" and in conflict with Judaism.

This notion -- small-minded, based in ignorance and generally silly -- is especially galling because America, of all countries, has been especially hospitable to the Jews. The very notion of giving thanks draws on Jewish tradition, obviously, and there is no denominational claim on gratitude.

"Thank God," my father sighed last night when the Percoset began to take effect. He sat in the straight-backed chair in his paisley hospital gown, looking somehow regal, reminiscent of the pulpit rabbi he had been. We had been talking for hours and I was reminded of the silver lining of these hospital stays and visits -- the extra time we take with friends and loved ones in the aftermath of surgery or illness. Some of my sweetest memories of being with my parents have taken place in hospital rooms; some of our deepest conversations have occured during these times. As the eldest daughter, it is my privilege and honor to be with them in this way.

The hour approached midnight and my father looked concerned for my trip homeward. Though it had taken me two hours to get to the hospital because of the holiday traffic out to Long Island, I knew my trip back to Manhattan would be a breeze, likely under half an hour. I asked my father if I could help him to bed and he dismissed the notion; he was now doing just fine.

I love you so much, he said to me as I kissed him on his forehead.

I love you back, Aba, I said, tears of gratitude springing to my eyes for my father, our conversation, the memories we share, this moment, this good recovery, Thanksgiving looming.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pink Dress from New Orleans

Nala the Pomeranian has found herself a comfy perch beneath the pink dress from New Orleans that hangs in my closet, the one with the cabbage roses and slim fifties waistline.

I wore this dress last night to a Swing Dance party at the JCC in Manhattan, hoping that the charms of my outfit would compensate for my inability to do the fancy footwork I would surely see on the dance floor.

To complete the look, I added a silk flower to my hair. My dress-for-success strategy both worked and back-fired, prompting compliments, yet also making me highly conspicuous as the klutzy girl in the back of the room, turning the wrong way, knocking into people and generally dancing with two left feet. (Shout out to everyone who saw the ultra-hilarious film, Best in Show)

Thankfully, there were lessons given in this method of dance and as the evening wore on, it became immaterial whether I officially knew the moves or not. I danced happily if hazardously, found people I knew, made new friends and thrilled to the sight of the pros on the dance floor. Had I not been famished, I would have stayed even past midnight.

As HOBB is in Israel, I went stag, only slightly concerned about being taken for a single woman. From previous experience, I knew that the chances of my actually dancing with a man my age were slim; more typically, I have danced with 80-year-old men, women or boys the age of Big Babe at the JCC.

And that's basically what happened last night...with the exception of the boyfriend of a friend or the guy in his sixties who was insistent upon teaching me the moves and spun me perilously on the dance floor, then pulled me in so hard he almost cracked my ribs.

When I wasn't dancing or talking to people, I tried to focus on the feeling of being alone at a dance party, aspired to recollect the experience of singledom, of being unpaired, of waiting to be asked or chosen or courted.

It was odd for sure, standing on the periphery as a married woman without her mate, having to tell a few eager guys that I was indeed married -- just to put it out there – then finding myself in the middle of a rather hilarious conversation with a guy in his early 30's, the kind of funny, flowing conversation that's only possible once the boundaries have been established.

With HOBB out of town this time, I set up a whirlwind social schedule, to echo the rather frenetic extra-curricular life we've been pursuing over the past month, a kind of jumpstart empty-nest reaction, though we still do have one chick in residence -- 14-year-old Little Babe.

Not that he minds being left long as there is Gan Asia to deliver chicken lo mein or Cafe Viva to bring the pizza or Fine and Shapiro to send up the cold cuts. And friends for the weekend. And the ability to text or call me.

Still, total child-neglect is not a good thing and I found myself hanging around till mid-day today, taking care of work, finishing a press release I had started previously, walking Alfie and Nala, being on hand during his cello and Japanese lessons, making phone calls.

It was sweet to be able to get bagels for my young adolescent and his friends this morning, grab a hug or two from him after they left, hear him pick out the notes to a Coldplay song on the piano, listen together to Elton John's Pinball Wizard, live, from his Captain Fantastic tour, play my favorite George Harrison song for him, note his darkening moustache as I said Shma with him on the mattress that is yet on our dining room floor, a vestige from his frat-house weekend with his buddies.

"This would make a sick dorm," he said sleepily as I kissed him on the forehead.

I was reminded, in that moment, of the incredibly sweet times the two of us have shared when HOBB has taken to the road, our sleepover parties, Sunday adventures, film-going, shared meals – in and out – travels and museum-hopping. Over 25 years of being a mom, I especially treasure the times I have solo-parented my children because of the magic bond of intimacy, the little world of Mom 'n Me that we created, our little clubhouse, just the two -- or three or four -- of us, Bonnie and Clyde, co-conspirators in the pursuit of fun.

But now Little Babe is a teen. "Do you mind if I go out?" I asked on Friday night before heading over to the Shabbat prayer, potluck dinner and Open Mike Night hosted by Romemu at the church on 105th and Amsterdam.

The boys were in the middle of a poker game. There was a moment of silence and then they burst out laughing. What a lame question, I thought as Little Babe assured me in his deep baritone that the boys would be great and the house will not have burned down in my absence.

It is now Sunday night, technically Monday morning. The house did not burn down but it is a huge frat-house mess. Though I threw out all the empty cans of soda, bags of popcorn, pizza boxes, cups and random plastic bags that littered the living room, the place is still in shocking condition.

I sit on my bed in running shorts, writing on my laptop well past the hour of midnight. Inside my closet, Nala has vanished but my pink dress from New Orleans still hangs pretty, reminding me of my adventures last night, of the store on Decatur street where I bought it, of times yet to come when I shall wear it and it will make me conspicuous, a grown-up girl in a flowered dress with a slim fifties waistline and pleats so plentiful that when I twirl around, it blossoms around me like a ballerina's tutu.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Steep Price of a Certain Education

Saving u a seat, texted Ellen from inside Theatre 2 of the Lincoln Plaza Cinema.

I checked the time on my BlackBerry while climbing frantically out of the cab I had caught on Columbus Avenue ten minutes earlier. Somehow, I was always rushing. Not that I didn't have a good reason, having just driven down from a business meeting in Westchester, stopped in Riverdale to pick up Little Babe from choir practice, made a pit stop at our Morningside Heights apartment to drop him off (and then ran upstairs after him to place an order for pizza only to dash downstairs before the car got ticketed), drove like I was on crack to find a parking spot that was good for Friday, which turned out to be right off of Columbus, where I grabbed the cab that brought me to the theatre.

It wasn't that I was actually late; the film would start in twelve minutes. In Manhattan, however, failing to get to a movie early can result in that most severe form of film-goer's agony -- sitting in the front row.

Though I had to squelch the desire to strangle the two ultra-slow patrons in the line ahead of me, I needn't have worried in the least. But I didn't know that yet, so I fled down the escalator like a fugitive, ripped through the ticket-holder's line like a marathon runner breaking through the finish line and stomped into Theatre 2 like Godzilla on a rampage, whereupon I came to a complete standstill. Smack dab in the center of the empty theatre sat my friends and their adult daughter. Aside from them, about 10 other people had shown up for the 8:15 show of An Education.

Of course, the film had been out already for over a month and evidently every other person in the city had already seen it.

This film came with the highest of recommendations from HOBB and Big Babe, who had gone to see it together when it first opened. "You will LOVE An Education," my husband enthused when they returned home. "The girl will remind you of yourself."

"Yeah," chimed in Big Babe. "Especially her obsession with Paris. And her relationship with an older man."

"Hey," I said. "I was not exactly SIXTEEN when I met dad."

"Mhhmmm. Twenty-two is really old," observed my son sarcastically. "Of course, not quite as old as thirty-three." I rolled my eyes, having heard this drill before. Since my two older children entered their twenties, they became fixated on the fact that, by the tender age of twenty-two (almost twenty-three!! I keep insisting) I had married their dad, who was thirty-three (actually a couple of weeks away from thirty-four) at the time.

This fact always constituted a unique selling point of my marriage yet as my children have approached (and surpassed) the age at which I got married, I have become outraged at the notion of the cradle-robbing that took place twenty-six years ago... involving me. Who supported this idea? Why did my parents hand me over at such a tender age? And wasn't HOBB uneasy at the prospect of marrying such a young girl? Not that I remotely thought of myself as a child or little girl at that time. By moving in with an older guy, I felt myself to be on the cutting edge of rebellious sophistication, jump-starting my adulthood, skipping over all the awkward and unnecessary stuff. And it was not wifedom that I sought but adventure; intrigue, dinner parties, travel, ideas, witty conversation, a passport to the grown-up world where I could charm one and all by being perpetually younger.

Some 26 years after hooking up with an older man -- the oldest in a series of older men, in fact -- I found myself in a darkened theatre with friends watching a young British schoolgirl pursue an affair with her older man (Peter Sarsgaard unconvincingly playing a Jew named David Goldman.) Allow me to skip over my chief objections to the film – too predictable, too obvious, too glib, too unrealistic for such a smart girl to fall in with such a rake, too That Girl in its wide-eyed depiction of how the world opens up to Jenny through her association with David (the cliched weekend in Paris scenes actually made me want to slash the movie screen) – and simply state that I watched this film mostly without pleasure. As I was really hoping to love An Education (and afterwards call son and husband to gush and reminisce about our favorite scenes), I felt tremendously let down.

Over the past day, I've tried to analyze the situation and concluded that what ruined the film ultimately for me was the certain knowledge that Jenny, not David, would end up with the broken heart. There is a sad and unspoken truth in most situations involving older men and younger women (excluding Lolita, but perhaps not really) and that is that the romance is never equal to the reality, the younger partner never properly "catches up" to the older one and that there is a steep price to be paid by those who seek premature access to the adult world.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Who's the Slut?

I was having a conversation the other day with a dear friend about marital protocol -- what we could and could not properly do within the bonds of wedlock -- and the talk turned to the case of a man we knew who was the very picture of propriety. Cultivated and somewhat reserved, he was the last person whom one would suspect of promiscuity.

"You wouldn't guess it from looking at him, but the guy is a slut," I told my astonished friend. "Not in the conventional sense. He doesn't sleep with other women. What is sluttish about him is how he cultivates relationships with young women, flirting and pursuing them, keeping them in his orbit. As he hits his middle years, he seems to have stepped up his courtship more aggressively."

My friend fell silent, looked stricken, really. This conversation had taken her to an unexpected -- and unpleasant -- place. We had been talking about the rules that spouses abide by, the degree of flexibility in these rules, the boundaries we set for ourselves and those we break. We were talking about testing limits...not trespassing them. We talked about acceptable and unacceptable forms of flirtation. Sipping Starbucks early in the morning, we traded tales of our own marital situations, testing out stories against the other in an effort to gain insight into our own actions and reactions. Our mood was lighthearted. And then our conversation turned to this matter.

Obviously, someone who is promiscuous with his attention does not deserve the same designation as a true Don Juan, still it is useful to examine the question of how much we are allowed to share of ourselves when we are in a committed relationship. Being married requires a certain degree of tzimtzum, contracting the essence of oneself, bestowing it only upon one's beloved...or an inner circle of loved ones. Flirting is a part of life but fidelity is not just a matter of NOT sleeping around. Giving too freely of your time and attention -- or pursuing emotionally intimate relationships -- is a breach of exclusivity, I believe.
Do you think I'm judging this man too harshly, I demanded of my friend? Do you see what I see when I look at this situation? I see a married man trying to have it both ways...getting the wife, yet setting up a lifestyle where he is able to essentially court young women. Don't you think that makes him a slut?

My friend looked pained. She was deep in thought. Finally she said, "Maybe no more than most men. But I guess it comes down to how his wife feels about his behavior. What does she think?"

Suddenly, I felt depressed by the whole conversation. "I was merely borrowing the word she used when she talked to me a couple of days ago," I replied. "Frankly, she's pretty disgusted because he figured out a way to be married and single at the same time. So, yeah, she thinks her husband is a slut."

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Music. Prayer.

It's just past midnight. Little Babe is lying on the couch watching the Black-Eyed Peas perform on SNL, HOBB is camped out in our bedroom on his laptop and I'm writing at the dining room table, listening to Leonard Cohen's live recording of "Gypsy Wife" from the 1979 Field Commander Cohen concert tour through headphones for possibly the hundredth time this week.

Earlier tonight, the three of us went to see Pirate Radio, the most joyous, entertaining and rock-saturated film I've ever seen. For those who HATED such films as Across the Universe and Moulin Rouge as much as I did -- not just for the thin plot line but for the torturous experience of hearing great songs performed by mediocre singers -- Pirate Radio is a thrill-fest, offering a flash flood of the best rock music of the late sixties alongside a kick-ass cast and creative storyline.

Even as the credits rolled at the end of the film, the audience was loathe to leave the scene of so much musical defiance and transcendence.

This week was a music-saturated adventure, which included a Monday evening performance by Mimi Cohen of a show based on the life and music of Laura Nyro; my second singing lesson with the legendary Mary Rodgers where I worked on Leonard Cohen's "Halleluyah;" an obsessive infatuation with a recording of Elton John and Mary J. Blige singing "I Guess That's Why They Call it the Blues," from the One Night Only concert (which I love so much that I sang it at the top of my lungs several times in a row while driving around the Upper West Side on Thursday morning trying to find a parking spot); a similar fixation with "Higher and Higher," the title cut from Neshama Carlebach's newest CD (which caused me to spontaneously choreograph -- and then perform -- a dance in my kitchen late one night); a half-hour spent listening to George Harrison's "Cheer Down" over and over while pumping my way through two miles on the elliptical trainer at the JCC; a visit to the Metropolitan Room on Thursday night to hear Karen Oberlin perform caberet songs...and finally the good-spirited fun of rock 'n roll captured in Pirate Radio.

Like my focused fiction reading, I listen to songs intently, delving deep into the world of a particular artist through one or a select few songs. I sometimes feel as if I am stuck eternally in adolescent fascination with music, especially rock music, which is my medium, going as far as to ponder the lyrics of a given song and the weird coincidence of their relevance in my life at that particular moment in time.

In Mimi Cohen's impressive one-woman show-in-progress at the Cherry Pit Theatre in the West Village, she brings Laura Nyro to life in all her obstinate artistry and integrity. I openly admit that prior to this past week, I had no idea that this young, quirky, awkward woman with unruly dark hair had written so many of the iconic songs of her era, had indeed been clueless about the extent of her legacy and incalculable contribution to music from the sixties through the present day. Mimi's Laura is a fragile yet stubborn hippie girl-woman, refusing to lose weight or prettify her ethnic features, understanding her destiny as a singer-songwriter and ideological purist, speaking in synesthetic imagery about the colors of particular musical phrases, insisting that her music be played a certain way, refusing to compromise.

My crash course in the life of Laura Nyro comes at exactly the right time for me - b'sha'ah tova. She and the other artists who are my current faves are my rebbes, imparting wisdom, guidance and truth couched sometimes in riddles. As I score my life with songs that speak to my soul, I take their lessons to heart. I am empowered by Laura Nyro to insist that things of importance be done a certain way. I am inspired by Elton John, who sought out Mary J. Blige to bring soul to his sixties-inflected song. I am uplifted by Neshama Carlebach who opened up the music of her father, Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, to brand-new interpretation through the portal of a gospel choir, I am gladdened by the Beatlesque essence and sweet playfulness of George Harrison's message, I am endlessly moved by the prayerful songs of Leonard Cohen.

It is the quiet essence of prayer that I am aiming for when I sing "Halleluyah," I explained to Mary Rodgers by way of asking if I could sing the chorus an octave lower instead of reaching for the higher notes, which sounded to my ears like a preteen auditioning for High School Musical.

Ever flexible, Mary complied, and we took the song from the top. I sang about King David's secret chord and when I reached the first Halleluyah, it poured from my soul -- mournful and elegant, respectful and sad -- just as I had intended.

Meeting my eyes in the mirror above the piano, Mary nodded, almost imperceptively. I continued crooning Halleluyah, my voice a searchlight, my brokenness revealed. Halleluyah morphed and bloomed, unfolded, contracted, expanded and took flight; God's word, His song, my song, my prayer, my name, my destiny.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Sharing a Bed with Alberto Moravia

Alberto Moravia shares my pillow tonight, in the form of a paperback edition of Boredom, published by the New York Review of Books in 1999.

Having finished Contempt mid-Saturday, I took a one-day hiatus to recover from the perfect devastation I felt at the book's conclusion only to plunge into Boredom...a novel whose dense and suffocating atmosphere rises up from the very first paragraph.

On the floor next to my king-size bed is more Moravia -- The Conformist and The Woman of Rome. The groaning shelves in our dining room bear others of his work, but it is so late that I cannot recall their titles and I am too tired to leave my cozy bed to check.

Over the past few months I burned through Clarice Lispector and before her Junichiro Tanizaki and before him Richard Yates. The most heartbreaking encounter I had was with Oscar Wilde, two winters ago, begun with The Picture of Dorian Gray on a trip to Dublin, concluded on a bitter cold afternoon in New York with the reading of De Profundis. The most ill-fated affair I had was with Elfriede Jelinek, whom I had to ditch in the midst of Lust, begun in good faith after The Piano Teacher shattered me. The most epic authorfest I've ever had was with the novels of Nabokov, read in their entirety over one glorious summer, on the Shortline Bus traveling from my country bungalow to my then-job in Manhattan. The most fun? The works of Daniel Handler, aka Lemony Snicket, begun with an avid and conspiratorial reading of A Series of Unfortunate Events with Little Babe and concluded on my own, with his uneven adult works.

This is my preferred way of reading -- an intense and exclusive audience with a writer's entire body of work, best accomplished when the writer has ceased writing, that is to say, when he is dead, though I will make exceptions for exceptional living authors, reading them in real time.

The hour has crept past midnight and it is time to close this instrument of a century that Moravia did not live to see. After all, he is my date tonight and for probably many nights to come. I lay back on my pillow and wait for him to overtake me.

Reservoir Walk

About a million hours ago it was Sunday morning and HOBB and I fled the urban bungalow at an hour we normally dedicate to coffee, tea and a sleepy perusal of the New York Times.

The sunshine was abundant and the forecast was for a day of unseasonable warmth. Pulling on shorts, t-shirts, sweatshirts and sneakers, plunking his 'n her baseball caps on our heads, we left our home in record time, leaving a sleeping teen and perplexed Pomeranians, who could not recall the last time they saw their masters so alert at this hour on a Sunday morning.

The Central Park Reservoir Walk has been a cherished feature of our marriage, an approximately 75-minute opportunity for information sharing, gossip, negotiation, political debate, dream analysis, complaining, calendar coordination, strategic planning, child and household maintenance, problem solving, arguing, advice-gathering, current event discussion and philosophical musings about matters important and trivial alike.

It is around a five-mile journey from the urban bungalow to the reservoir, once around and back home. We are creatures of habit, walking pretty much the exact same way each and every time -- heading east on W116th street, turning right on Morningside Drive, heading down until W110th Street, turning left until we hit Manhattan Avenue, walking along the avenue until 108th Street, crossing the street until Central Park West and entering at the transverse -- closed for cars on Sunday -- joining up with the reservoir at the tennis courts, stopping first at the bathrooms.

For variety's sake, we might walk through Morningside Park or take the stone bridge directly onto the reservoir. What is important to state is that HOBB and I walk. And not in a particularly speedy fashion, either. There is no heavy breathing, no rhythmic running for us. While others whizz past us on blades, bikes or the power of their own feet, we amble happily, neither fast nor slow -- just right. As the season changes, so does the scenery, but a reservoir walk is a reservoir walk is a reservoir walk.

It is now a million hours later. The day was busy -- I barely got to read the New York Times, nor did I lose myself in the Sunday morning spate of television shows featuring pundits and talking heads. Aside from the briefest perusal of internet news (;; and the Huffington Post), I have no idea what's going on in the world...aside from the tragedy at Fort Hood and the anniversary of the collapse of the Berlin Wall. The day took me to other places, both on foot and by car, actual and conceptual. Some of the destinations were shared by HOBB and Little Babe, our only child at home right now. Others were mine alone. There were adventures of the spirit and of the body. There was good food and delicious drinks. There was the opportunity for creative expression.

I think about the essence of Sunday -- a handbasket to be filled sparsely or generously with experiences, a day dramatically different from Saturday, if you are a Sabbath observer. I ponder the lifesaving quality of the weekend for all people, but especially those who are deprived of unstructured time, oppressed by the commitments of work during the week. I regret the melancholy I have experienced on so many Sunday evenings, the threat of Monday encroaching, muttering in my ear, breathing down my collar. The marked absence of that dreaded feeling -- Monday as a bully -- is a gift, recently acquired. A great tikkun is underway.

My focus is fading. It is time, finally, for dreams. I think about this particular, inimitable Sunday and recall that it began with a reservoir walk with my husband of 26 years, early in the uncomplicated morning.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009


Between proofreading Middle Babe's essay for her college class in Biomedical Ethics (which defends the sale of human organs) and catching up on correspondence with the press for a conference on female clergy last night, I managed to snack my way through half a candy necklace, left over from Halloween.

The necklace was classic, featuring pastel-colored powdery disks strung on a elastic string, exactly as I remembered from my own childhood. To get each candy bead off, it was necessary to bite down, breaking it in half. Though my internal health nut looked on in horror (tooth decay!!! simple carbohydrates! empty calories!!!) primal instinct kicked in.

A joyous munching of flavored sugar ensued...until the powdered confection melted and it was time to snap off a new bead.

Those who know me would surely be shocked to hear that I was eating candy close to midnight and frankly, I'm not sure how the candy necklace came to be between my teeth. Perhaps slicing the new Macoun apples on my kitchen counter seemed too taxing and wasn't the necklace -- discovered draped suggestively on a desk in Middle Babe's room -- begging to be bitten?

As I ponder this puzzle by the light of day, I think about yesterday -- a manic Monday framed by two separate phone conversations with loved ones on a similar theme: their sadness, even despondency in the face of disappointment from friends. And while my morning caller vented her feelings of rage and betrayal in the face of unrequited loyalty from a long-term friendship, my evening caller sounded emotionally depleted by his realization that a more recent friend lacked the most basic sense of personal responsibility towards him.

Dealing with heartache is draining; indeed, I've done my share of venting to the point where I was sick of hearing my own voice. As someone who loves and lives by language, I am nevertheless struck by the human need to use words to quantify, examine, contain and ultimately transcend our pain. Clinging to words, working in words, trading in words, dreaming in words, I am still continually surprised that tears alone do not suffice when they are such a spontaneous expression of our grief. Proponents of psychotherapy talk about the talking cure where words become the rungs of a ladder we construct for our emotional and spiritual redemption or the beads of a candy necklace that we string for our comfort, to be eaten in case of emergency.

We use words to rationalize our actions, to construct our arguments. The problem with sanctioning the sale of human organs rests in the notion of the slippery slope, admitted Middle Babe in her Biomedical Ethics paper. While the case can be made for the sale of kidneys from living donors, imagine the possibility that a poor family might consider selling a vital organ -- the heart, for instance -- of one of their members in a desperate and sacrificial bid to keep the entire group from starving.

Such an act of obscene indifference to human life arouses horror in all people of conscience and the ghoulishness of this scenario is obviously extreme. But in truth, human hearts are sold all the time, ripped out of their living hosts, traded for something that masquerades as salvation.

By the light of day, I note a half-eaten candy necklace next to my computer. Nothing has changed and everything has changed. The world remains full of heartache yet it is also true that creation has renewed itself through the dawning of a new day. The blank slate of the new day poses a tantalizing opportunity.

I drop the limp candy necklace in the trash.