In like a Lion

After 5 months of hockey, and 3 months of basketball, the winter sports season has mercifully come to an end. This weekend saw the last of the games and practices. Now there is just the CAA Swim meeting coming up at the end of this month, and a handful of swim practices. I have absolutely no idea what we are going to do with our free time. Write a book I guess.

After all the encouragement I received from the seven of you that read this blog, I have decided to press on and turn this story into a book. (This is my way of saying, it’s all your fault) So the weekend was spent researching both the real life events, and what life in the 1880’s was like in Batavia. I never cease to be amazed at the amount of information that a person can obtain via the internet. Who knows if any of it is true, but it’s still impressive.

Looking East down Main Street, unknown date in horse and buggy days.

Here’s some of the interesting things I discovered…

A website with thousands of scanned copies of Newpapers from all over New York State dating from the early 1800’s, up through the 1970’s.

Batavia had a hell of a lot of Newpapers come and go during the 1800’s, but the grand old “Daily News” has managed to last over 150 years. That’s pretty damn impressive. I hope they live for another 150 so that biographers in 2100 can do adequate research on the hoopla surrounding the release of my first book.

in the 1880’s the bustle began to go out of style, as women rose up and started a sensible dress movement. Hoops disappeared from dresses, and tight laced corsets went out of style. With transportation becoming more accessible, clothes changed to accommodate a more mobile populace. Comfort suddenly began to be a concern. So I guess in a way, we can blame the 1880’s for the Pajama Jean.

Horse drawn taxis were called “Hackney Carriages” or “Hacks” for short. Although Hansom cabs would eventually become the norm, in the 1880’s only England, and the larger east coast cities had adopted them.

I know that this must be boring you all to tears, so I’ll stop now. Suffice to say, I am endlessly fascinated by what I am learning. I hope to continue to marinate in the 1880’s until I have such a clear vision of the place, and events, that writing about it is nothing more than committing to print what I can already “see.”

Perhaps I missed my calling as a historian. I’ve always been a lover of history, and the obscure. From what I have already found out about the history of Batavia I should be able to craft a whole series of novels fictionalizing it’s history, and probably sell about 30 copies.

I realize that I may never get published, and in the end this may all turn out for naught, but if nothing else all this research should make me an even more formidable opponent at Trivial Pursuit.

So if posting seems a little light in the coming months, please understand that I am probably furiously typing away at another windmill. Maybe I’ll even slip in a few excerpts if it goes well.

Batavia 1882

This post is a scene from a book that I am writing. The characters are based on real life people from a scandalous major event in the history of my hometown. Oddly, this story has never been novelized, or turned into a Hallmark Movie, so I am rushing to fill the void. I may, or may not, post further excerpts in the future depending on how good they are.

The noon day sun glints off of the steel rails, and shimmers on the horizon until the tracks disappear in an illusive pool. The smokestacks of the Johnston Harvester factory spew out lazy black plumes into the cloudless sky. On the loading platforms along the tracks, Irish laborers are loading harvesters into the box cars. Rowell stands waiting on the platform. The station is quiet, save for a few wagons waiting to meet the train. Passengers sit in the shade of the platform, fanning themselves. There is no sound but the buzzing of flies around the swishing tails of the horses. He pulls his watch out of the pocket of his vest and checks the time. The train is late, but he has waited this long to see his family a few more minutes seem hardly to matter.

In the distance the bells of St. Joseph’s ring out the Angelus. He wonders if the Irish will stop their work to pray, but they keep to their task. Perhaps he should mention this to Palmer the next time they discuss hiring one. For 6 months he has been renting a room as they have been getting the factory running. The transfer of the equipment from Utica has gone smoothly, and production has been picking up. The inventory has gone quicker than their calculations, and he is glad of it. He has been working long hours keeping the books, while Palmer has been tending to the manufacturing. Rowell puts his watch back into his pocket, and removes a handkerchief. Lifting his hat, he wipes the sweat from his brow.

He has only seen Jennie and the girls twice in that time. This time they are coming to stay. Just a few finishing touches and the house will be complete. It is larger, and more spacious than the one they have been renting in Utica. He has been busy setting up the furnishings as they have arrived, and just this morning has placed a large bouquet of lilies in a vase in the front parlor. He hopes that Jennie will be pleasantly surprised. This is a chance for them both to have a fresh start, away from the scandals, away from the worries, away from the temptation of that man.

Across the tracks on Ellicott Street, people hurry between the storefront awnings to escape the sun. The population is already over 10,000 souls and seems to grow by the day as immigrants arrive, and move into the tenements of the South Side. Labor has proven cheap compared to the wages in the Mohawk Valley, and land is plentiful. This move may prove more profitable than he had hoped.

Looking up he sees the train emerge from the mirage, slowing as it crosses the switch yard near the factories, and approaches the station. The people on the platform stir to life. Reaching into his coat pocket, he pulls out the paper bag with the peppermint sticks that he bought on the way to the station. They will be sticky and soft from the heat, but the girls will be thrilled to have them. In his heart he feels the ache of their absence from his life. He has had nothing but work, and the fellowship of Palmer and the others in the Eagle tavern. How good it will be to have their vivacious company to fill the hallways and rooms of the new house with laughter. How good it will feel to hold Jennie in his arms.

The black iron beast steams from every opening. Rowell can feel the heat of the engine on his face as it rolls past the platform. He scans the windows of the coaches as they pass looking for their faces. The conductor steps down onto the platform, as the train rolls to a stop in a long sigh of steam.

Searching the crowd of passengers stepping off of the train he hears the girls scream “Daddy!”. Turning he sees them running towards him across the platform. He kneels down, and catches them in his arms.

“Oh Daddy, Daddy, Daddy!”. Clara says, “We missed you so much! We didn’t think we would ever get here.”

“You will have to tell me all about the journey.” Rowell says, holding out the candy, “Look here, I brought you something.”

The girls squeal with delight, as Rowell turns his gaze toward the train to see Jennie stepping from the coach onto the platform, her long blond hair tucked up under a wide brimmed white hat. Even in this infernal heat she seems a center of calm, untouched, and unfazed by the commotion around her. She smooths the folds of her dress and looks down the platform at Rowell and the girls, huddled together in the crowd. Despite all that has happened, and all the troubles that have come before, he has never felt more in love with her. Meeting his gaze, she smiles and looks upward and to the side in that way of hers that says “You are the most absurd thing I have ever seen”. Rowell feels a laugh swelling in his chest, and in that instant he knows that this place will do them good.

Mother Jones would be furious

I made a conscious decision when I started this blog, that 20 Prospect would be a place for memories, and laughs, and not a political / social commentary style blog. Just like the real life 20 Prospect was for me. Not that there’s anything wrong with political blogs, just that I’m not a real political person, although I have some very strong feelings about certain things…

(wait for it… here it comes)

But today I am going to deviate from the norm and link to something that I feel hits the NAIL ON THE HEAD.

This article in Mother Jones sums up what has gone wrong with America in a few graphs, more succinctly than pages and pages of Od Ed pieces in the NY Times or Wall Street Journal.

Perhaps it resonates with me because I am a visual learner. I have to “see” something to really comprehend it, much in the same way I need to “see” a story when I am writing it. (Hence the comments about painting word pictures).

So, without wasting a whole lot of digital ink, here are a few of the key charts that get the point across on the growing disparity between the rich and the poor in America. As for Mother Jones, I’m not a regular reader. Well not since “Lou Cosmic’s” subscription ran out sometime in the early 80’s. (Lou is a story that Big Bruddah should tell someday…)

All hail the Dark Corporate Overlords

and their bobo's...

because "externalities" do feckin' matter

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prospect

Tonight, as we sat around the dinner table, I crossed the Rubicon to irrelevance. It happened suddenly, and without warning, but there is no doubt about it. I passed a point from which there is no return. Let me set the scene…

We sit around the table at dinner, passing food, and filling our plates and talking. 20 Prospect Jr. begins telling us the story of his trip to a local water park as part of a friends birthday party this weekend.

20 Prospect Jr. – “You’ve got to see it, they have made a lot of changes since we last went there.”

Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect – “What kind of changes?”

20 Prospect – “Well, lots of them. It’s all different now. Even the kiddie pool”

Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect – “Is the pirate ship slide still there?”

20 Prospect Jr. – “Yeah, but the yellow thing that sprays water is all different now. It looks like a big palm tree”

Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect – “Cool. What else?”

20 Prospect Jr. – “They have all new floaty things in the big pool, and the water slide has lights inside of it.”

Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect – “What kind of lights?”

20 Prospect Jr. – “They’re like Christmas lights but they flash to the music, and when you get on the slide, there’s this screen where you can pick out a song to play while you slide.”

Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect – “Awesome! What song did you pick?”

20 Prospect Jr. – “California Girls!”

Me – “I didn’t know you liked the Beach Boys.”

20 Prospect Jr. & Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect in unison – *snicker*

Me – “What? That’s who sings it!”

20 Prospect Jr. – “Um… no Dad. Kate Perry sings it.”

Lil’ Miss 20 Prospect – “Yeah.”

Mrs. 20 Prospect – “Who’s Kate Perry?”

and so it begins. We have passed from being the source of all knowledge to being an outdated, irrelevant source of embarrassment for our children. It only took 11 years, 5 months, and 22 days.

I knew this day would come, but I have to admit, it still caught me by surprise. But I have come to terms with it. In fact, I am looking forward to being able to wear black socks with my sandals this summer. My toes always get so cold.

Jet Lag

I woke in the long dead hours of the night, and lay staring at the clock, watching the red numbers click past like so many sheep, but sleep would not return. So I slipped quietly out of bed, and sat on the living room couch watching the snow fall outside, and the wind whip off of the roof. There in the dark of the night, crescents of snow formed around the edges of the roof, like sleep on the eyes of a giant, and the flakes glittered like falling diamonds in the streetlight. And so the hours slipped slowly by, as I sat watching the snow pile deeper on the lawn.

There is something unholy about being able to cross the world in a day. Sitting there in the dark, my bones ached with the hollowness of an exoskeleton, and my heart whistled like an empty shell, waiting for my soul to catch up to my body. Somewhere out there, in the swirls of snow, it was moving still across the cold wide ocean searching for its home.

I have been through this too many times to name. I will move through the days in a fog, and struggle through the nights in feverish thoughts, as I wait for my body and soul to reunite, and move back into phase like a generator as it searches for polarity, before electrons of life begin flowing like current through the circuits of my body and it comes back to life. Until then, I will sleep the days in semi-consciousness like Frankenstein’s creation stretched out upon the table waiting for lightning to bring me to life.

And so the snow swirls in curlicues of white outside my window, and I pull the blanket up around my chin, and lay my head against the pillow, and wait for morning.

Urban Renewal

134 West Main

I was born at the end of the season of lilacs, on the doorstep of that tumultuous summer when cities across America burned. In Prague the students still basked in the warmth of a false spring, and half a world away soldiers weathered the Tet Offensive, but to Batavia these events were just grainy images on the television like a rumble of far off thunder.

The nation lost Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy, and somewhere deep within our hearts a seed of doubt took root, and began to grow, watered by the tears like rain. The skies above Batavia had already begun to darken. One by one the buildings of the old city began to fall as the wrecking balls cleared away the past for the great urban renewal. Piles of bricks lined Main Street , wooden beams poking out of them like crosses. In the parking lot of Star Market the women felt the first drops, reached into their purses, and took out their little plastic rain bonnets.

At Trojan Industries, the presses still thumped, and the weld sparks still scattered across the floor like diamonds. Business was strong in the factories that remained. At night the crowds at Dwyer Stadium, still cheered their ballplayers knowing that the game is never over until the final out. New plazas went up at both ends of the town, their asphalt lots sparkling with Detroit steel.

On July 4th the marching bands marched from City Hall down the length of Main Street to the burned out shell of old St. Joseph’s Church, whose charred rafters stuck out like the ribs on a rotting animal. Next door a windowless rectangular bunker arose to protect us from an enemy that we couldn’t see. Elm trees fell all over town, as the city worked to keep up with Dutch Elm disease. New trees were planted, and staked, the cracked bluestone sidewalks replaced with white cement. After the work crews left, kids scratched their names into them like stars on Hollywood Boulevard.

Ellicott Avenue

Year by year the empty lots and vacant buildings multiplied. In their place rose an image of the concrete future that only made the rain feel colder. In the weedy lots on Washington Avenue, the outlines of sidewalks, and basements remained like footprints left behind by a city that had moved on. Yet we stayed behind, the great bulk of the new Mall whispering promises of better things to come, promises that we are still waiting to be fulfilled.

This was why I clung to the past, and refused to surrender anything as I grew. Even at that young age I knew that something was slipping away from us, never to return. What else can explain the melancholy that haunts me still, and leads me to sift through the dust of memory like an archaeologist? Surely there is something left behind that we have forgotten, something that will show us the way back.

134 West Main - today

Over and out!

The Canyons of Bundang

In less than 12 hours I will be on a plane heading home. So forgive me in I phone this post in. I need to finish packing and get to bed early tonight.

Good bye Korea! Good bye Japan!

Hello Minnesota! I’m coming home!

If you are bored and looking for something to read, here’s a link to a post about my last trip to Korea. Enjoy!

Seoul Foods

There comes a point in every journey, where your energy starts to wane, and sleep becomes more important than experience. That time arrived on the bus from Incheon Airport to Seoul. Crossing the long causeway and bridge over the tidal flats, I started to fade. Headphones on, and mind blank, I leaned against the window and watched the landscape roll by. Wooded hillsides, covered in a fresh coat of snow, the trees like brown brushstrokes on a sheet of white, I was reminded that Korea is a hilly country. They have mountains here, but nothing of the size and grandeur of the Alps. No, these hills seem much older, like the Berkshires, or the Ozarks. Worn and weathered by centuries, until they roll like folds of a blanket, leaving little sanctuaries in the valleys and dells.

Seoul is a deceivingly large city. You can drive for over an hour, and never feel like you leave it, and yet the you feel like you were never able to get a good look at it. Mile after mile of high rise apartment blocks, line the valleys, and cling to the hill sides, so numerous, and uniform that they paint huge numbers on the sides of them to help people find their way home. Try to do the math to figure out the population, and you are left unbelieving. How can there be this many people? Where are they hiding? Like the city itself, they find a way to hide in plain sight.

Korea is an ancient land, but you would never know it by the look of Seoul. It seems hard to find a building over 30 years old. They have risen so fast during the last 50 years that it is hard to imagine what the country looked like in the 1950’s, until you look across the border at the North. Less than 60 miles away across the DMZ, North Korea remains frozen in amber. A country locked in a time capsule, where people still starve for lack of food. Seeing the South, it is hard to reconcile in your mind that these are the same country, divided only by a half century. The contrast could not be more stark.

We arrive at our hotel near Seohyeon Station. A bizarre, solid granite edifice that seems built like a bunker or the home of a Pharaoh. Unlike our time in Japan, this is not a Western Hotel chain, but an Eastern one. The interior is decorated in gold fixtures, and dark polished granite. To my foreign eye, it seems less like a hotel, and more like the lair of a James Bond villain; the furnishings, an odd mixture of Asian style, and modernism.

We head out to dinner with our Korean colleagues, to the adjacent neighborhood of Bundang. We could as easily be in San Diego, Shanghai, Toronto, or Singapore. Glittering glass high rises, and wide boulevards, lined with ornamental trees, ooze wealth and privilege. The streets are full of the latest cars from all over Asia and Europe, gleaming in the night. We find a Japanese-Korean fusion restaurant, and fill ourselves with delectably spicy foods, and chilled Korean wine. The restaurant is filled with conversation, and laughter, and I am reminded that Koreans are not as reluctant to let their hair down as the Japanese. Korea is a fascinating and unique culture of its own, squeezed between two overpowering giants of China and Japan.

The next morning, we head out into a morning rush hour as chaotic as any. We spend the morning at our local office, before heading out to visit with a customer. We drive for over an hour, and never seem to leave the city, down 8 lane streets, and onto wide expressways, through tunnels, and over bridges, until I have become so turned around, I give up trying to keep track of where we are, and decide that Seoul is too large for my human brain to comprehend.

Pale winter sunlight filters through the clouds, and the cold winds sweeping down out of Siberia, chill us to the bone. It is barely below freezing, but the air is so damp and chill, that I shiver on our walk from the parking lot into the offices. Like the economic differences between the North and the South, Korean weather is a study in extremes.

Our meetings end early, and we spend an hour sitting in a coffee shop across from our hotel, sipping Cappuccino, and waiting for dinner time to arrive. After a day and a half of driving around this town, it is nice to just sit still, and share a laugh with some friendly faces. It takes an edge off of the homesickness that has begun to sneak up on me.

Dinner tonight is in a restaurant on a hillside across from Bundang, without a doubt one of the strangest cultural fusions I have ever seen. The restaurant is modeled on a Swiss chalet, and the interior would not look out of place in any German-American grandmother’s house. Crocheted doilies, and ceramic statues of angels, and chickens adorn the curio cabinets. The light wood paneling glows in the bright white light of the restaurant. Cuckoo clocks tick on the wall, and I have a hard time remembering I am in Korea. There are times when I travel when I am struck by the incredible stretch of globalization, and this is one of them. This building may be more Germanic than any German restaurant in the Twin Cities, but the food is classic Korean cuisine. The significance of the Swiss décor is lost on me, but I enjoy it for the unexpected eye candy that it is.

A full moon is rising above the hillside as we leave the restaurant. Out across the river, the red neon crosses of the churches glow in the night. Korea is a Christian country, and the churches are as numerous as the apartment buildings, each one topped with a neon cross. They burn in the night like signs advertising drive through salvation, and stick in my head as the one iconic image I will take home with me. An ancient symbol painted on a modern city, in the electric glow of prosperity. A country of paradoxes challenging all our assumptions. A country cleaved down the middle like Solomon’s child.

In the Aeroplane over the Sea

Another day of planes, trains and automobiles.

And buses.

Can’t forget the buses.

We took the express train to Narita, to catch our flight to Seoul. It was our lucky day as we were upgraded to business class aboard Korean Airlines. It’s a shame it’s only a 2 hour flight, I would really appreciate it if we could sit in the lap of luxury for the flight back to the US. Hell, I’d appreciate just leaning or rubbing up against luxury. A lap dance from Luxury is not necessary.

It’s only noon, or I’d probably be taking advantage of the free drinks, but to be honest, after the train ride, and the McDonald’s Double Quarter Pounder I ate in the airport I’m feeling a little green. The older I get the easier I get motion sickness. So of course, I’m typing on my laptop now because THAT will make me feel better.

When we land at Incheon, we still have over a hour bus ride through Seoul traffic to get to our hotel. This trip will end up eating the better part of the day, but I do appreciate the downtime. No customers to bow and exchange cards with today, just pretty Korean Airlines flight attendants to smile at me. Not to sound like the stereotypical western male who lusts after Asian women. No, I’m not like that. I lust after ALL types of women. I’d hate for any race, or nationality to feel under appreciated.

I’m KIDDING! I’m happily married with a daughter that is closer in age to these women, than I am. Holy crap, that’s a really disturbing thought. Excuse me while I mourn the loss of my youth and virility…

OK, all better now. Let’s change the subject shall we?

As whirlwind as these one week trips to Asia can be, I still prefer to get in and get the work over with, so I can get home again. Business travel lost its luster years ago. For someone that was practically raised in the back seat of a car, I never thought the day would come when I would say I was tired of traveling. Now I have trouble being gone more than one or two days. It tears me up to see the kids crying when I leave for these long trips. I know I shouldn’t complain, many people would love to travel to such exotic places as I have been lucky enough to visit. I’m just ready to hang it up and let someone else enjoy the experiences now. I can be content sitting on my front porch rocking, and writing. Just as soon as I win the lottery or land that huge book deal I’m going to give it up. After that, it’ll just be family vacations, and the occasional book signing to lure me away from home.

So I will sign off as we start our descent into Seoul. I’ll try to paint some word pictures for you in the next few days to give you a sense of place. I’ve passed the halfway point on this trip and the days will start to speed up. I’ll be getting on the plane to head home before I know it.


Postcards from Japan

Shinjuku at Night

Out of the Night Sky

The bus sways as we pull away from the curb, this long journey still hours from completion. It was a long flight over. It’s always a long flight over. Even with sleeping pills, and electronic gadgetry to distract you, twelve hours is a long time to be cooped up on a plane. We left Minneapolis on a bright, cloudy day, and as we descended out of the Japanese sky the lights of Tokyo twinkled in the distance. In another hour we will be there.

I can see my reflection in the window of the bus, as I look out into the darkness. I look cadaverous in the florescent white glow of the cabin, and before we have gone five miles, my eyes have closed, and I have slumped against the window. This sleep is not a peaceful sleep, but the sleep of the soul in purgatory; waiting semiconsciously for the bus to stop, and to be born again.

I awake as we exit the freeway, and find myself in the glass and steel canyons of Shinjuku. The bus drops us in front of our hotel, and we make our way to the lobby with bleary eyes. It is 9 o’clock in the evening, and the call of a warm bed, and a soft pillow is irresistible. First though, there is dinner, and greeting’s to be had. We drop our bags in our rooms, and freshen up before meeting our Japanese colleagues. Hand shakes, and smiles, and then we are out into the brisk night air, to find a restaurant.

Rustic Japanese wood, and low ceilings, as we gather around the honey glow of a table lamp. Cold mugs of beer to wash down our food, as we re-educate our hands in the art of eating with sticks. It has been 15 years since my first visit to this island, and it continues to fascinate me with it’s mixture of the familiar and the foreign. It is a world behind the looking glass, where Western fashion, meets idiosyncratic island culture. Japan will always be the England of Asia. The Japanese go out of their way to point out their differences with their neighbors in a way that is at times endearing, and at times off putting. For a country with such a collective mentality, they pride themselves on their cultural differences. If you want to flatter a Japanese patriot, tell them how unique their country is.

After numerous plates have come and gone, and the beers have been drained twice over, it is finally time to retire. We make our way sleepily back through the narrow walking streets of Shinjuku to our glittery, expensive hotel. Our colleagues take such good care of us, I feel guilty. We sleep and dine like kings here, while at home we’d be content with a bug free bed in a Holiday Inn.

Across the Landscape

Outside the window of the train, Japan goes by in a whirl of Lego block buildings as we head south along the edge of the bay. Squeezed between the mountains and the sea the buildings huddle in squat, uneven rows, like broken teeth. They must not believe in architects here, or they have a real affinity for the square. The countryside is mostly mountains, and hills, with the few flat areas crammed with people, houses, farm fields, and strung with a forest of electrical towers. Cedars cling to the hillsides at impossible slopes.

In this pale winter light, the clouds and the sea blur together at the horizon. The train sways gently as we blast by at 270 km/hr. Inside our car hundreds sit in organized silence. Such discipline, such order, it seems a sin to whisper, so I move my lips and form the words of the passing scene in silence. The squat ugly buildings, the disorder of the passing streets are a paradox with the conformity I find inside of the train car.

Two hours to Nagoya, as we follow the coast southwards. The pale sky darkens as we get closer. Low gray clouds scudding in from the sea, the mountains disappear behind them, and already the first flakes are beginning to fall.

Snow Falling on Nagoya

Later that evening, walking the streets of Nagoya, the snow swirls down in flakes the size of fifty cent pieces, turning blue in the glittering neon of the shop windows. They stick like wet kisses upon my cheek. I open my clear vinyl umbrella, and the lights of the city distort themselves into a kaleidoscope of color. We walk the streets in silence, past the hustling crowds on their way home. Past the blinding fluorescent glare of the Pachinko parlors, ringing metallically in the night.

Slow spiral of the snowflakes, as we walk through the wet streets, the city lights like a pinball machine around us. I am lost in the moment, walking these winter streets without a coat or scarf, smiling idiotically, and whispering “beautiful” over and over to myself like a madman. How many before me have fallen prey to its charms?

Late that night on the 55th floor lounge of our hotel, we sip Whiskey in the mahogany surroundings and watch the snow wave like curtains before the window. The high rises across the street fading in and out of the clouds. Surely there is more beauty here, hidden in the interspaces between moments, than we could ever expect. Japan is like that. The sublime springs out of the squat, rectilinear urban landscape where you least expect it; the stockinged legs of a woman climbing the steps of the underground, the glow of a lantern above the door of a restaurant, the echo of a train clacking down a distant track. It can haunt you, and intoxicate you like few places I know.

Tomorrow will be more trains, and more travel, as we criss-cross this island. But tonight we sit in peace above the clouds, enjoying such wealth as we could never deserve. The sky outside the window glows white with the falling snow. I set my glass down upon the table, and turn back towards my room. Laying there in the darkness, I close my eyes, and wait for sleep to fold me in its warm embrace