HampoLand

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Goggles

Goggles

A short story

Steve jumped out of the car in front of Kroger. He was going to get a buggy and start working over the produce section while I found a parking spot. It was raining so I thought I’d be nice and let him avoid the run through the parking lot puddles. He was dressed for work, khakis, a red polo and good shoes. I’d been at the pool all day and wasn’t worried about my crocs.

It took me a few minutes to find a spot. Then I tried to sprit through the rain. Once inside Kroger, I dried my face and glasses with the inside of my tee shirt. It took me a moment to spot him. He had a buggy and was standing in front of the bananas and plantains. He was laughing with someone, a woman. I realized it was our neighbor, at least she lived on the same street. Heather Meyers. She’d obviously avoided the rain.

Heather stood in front of Steve’s buggy wearing navy leggings, a cute off white sweater and boots with cute heels. She looked like all the real estate agents I’d ever known. Perfect hair and lip stick, killer eye brows. My legs were longer and stronger, just because I’m a swimmer, but all her other stuff was way better than mine.

I don’t like the “real estate” look with the big lips and hair extensions. I wouldn’t want to look like that. But I understand why middle age men seem drawn to that look.

I took a breath when I realized Heather was touching Steve’s buggy. Actually it was more than touching, she was holding his buggy, as they laughed.

I tried to smile as I approached them, suddenly aware of how wet I was. Steve said, “Hey honey, you really got soaked. I’m sorry. You remember Heather?”

“Of course.” One of her hands moved off the buggy but the other still had a grip.

“We were just talking about this crazy old man at an open house today.”

I nodded and smiled. I wish I had my contacts in instead of my utilitarian glasses.

Finally Heather said, “Well, I’ll let you two get to shopping. See you tomorrow Steve.” And she touched him on the arm as she walked away. Four fingers, four perfect French nails, on his brown arm.

I couldn’t really speak. We shopped, got the things on our list and paid. I responded appropriately I think when Steve said something to me. But I didn’t have the words to talk to him.

We had decided earlier in the day that we would swim laps after the shopping so I headed toward the YMCA. Steve and I met and fell in love while we were both swimming the crawl and butterfly in college.

Steve  joked that our love was chlorinated. When we got married we were both still coaching and living like college kids. Then I got pregnant and we realized one of us had to get a better job. We literally flipped a coin and decided the loser would go into real estate. The market was booming and we both liked people.

Steve lost and had to take off his speedo. Things have been pretty good for the past seven years but we live in different worlds. I live at the pool, I work with kids and talk to parents, I wear my hair in a ponytail every day.

Steve has to dress like a grown up, make appointment, talk to clients and slogs through the paper work.

But every night we sit down for dinner with our son, Sam. Everything is good. We all laugh and tell stories about the day. We listen to Sam talk about teachers and friends and bugs. Then Steve goes into his study to work for another couple of hours and Sam and I get ready for bed.

I park in front of the Y. Steve takes my hand, squeezes it and says. “I’ll change and meet you by the pool. Did you bring my goggles?”

I nod and smile and once again he’s out of the car.

Because I’m already wearing my swim suit under my clothes I walk straight to the indoor pool. I can’t stop seeing Heather laughing, holding onto Steve’s buggy. She tossed her perfect blonde mane as she smiled at him. I remember doing that years ago.

Deliberately, I put our towels and goggles on the wooden bench, then stripped down to my one piece, took off my glasses then tightened my pony tail. Slowly, I sat down on the edge of the pool, lane two, and waited for Steve to emerge.

I was squinting in the direction of the men’s locker room when he stepped out. He still had a swimmers body, long and lean. But he’d given up the tiny speedos he swam in during college. Now he wore longer tight swim shorts that made his thighs and butt look amazing, even after years in the office.

He sat down in the lane next to mine and smiled. “You ready to do this.”

“Absolutely.”

“Well come on Coach.” He slid into the pool then started stretching his neck, shoulders and arms. For the first time I noticed he was unusually tan, considering it was November. Had he been tanning without telling me?

We both pulled on our goggles then agreed on twenty five laps and both kicked off.

After four decent crawl laps I stopped and pushed the goggles up on my forehead. I could see Steve’s minimal splash at the far end of the pool. I could see his elbows rise out of the water but from this distance, without my glasses, I really couldn’t tell if he was coming to me or swimming away.

When He Couldn’t Say “I Love You”

We met twenty five years before this picture was taken.

Long before this picture was taken, when Alex and I met, I was thirty and he was a couple years older. At first, I didn’t want to go out with him cause he was such a player in Hot Springs. It seemed been with half the hot waitresses in town.

But once we got over the weirdness and were actually “dating” it was obvious we were so different. He was and still is, a very stoic man. He doesn’t talk unless he has something to say and back then he definitely didn’t say “I love you.”

On the other side of the universe there was Diana. I come from a verbose, storytelling, over-hugging, “I love you so much man,” family.

I was young and misread Alex’s lack of words or outward emotion. He rarely complimented me or said “I love you” so I was on the verge or writing him off as a cold, emotionless, hot guy.

But there was still something…..We’d been dating for a few weeks. He was working on a construction project at his house, out in the country.  I decided I’d surprise him with lunch. Because he was a chef ,I thought I better go fancy if I wanted to impress him. I took him two cups of Gazpacho, a cold Spanish tomato and cucumber soup along with fresh tomatoes stuffed with chicken salad and topped with paprika.

When I delivered the lunch I was super proud of my thoughtful self.  We sat on the floor in his living room and he ate every bite.  Nodding as he ate, which I took to be a good sign. And he said “thank you.”

A month later, I watched him , with surgeon like precision, remove every sliver of tomato from three tacos at a Mexican restaurant called Acapulco’s.

“Don’t like tomatoes, huh?” I asked cautiously.

“I hate them, they’re gross. If they’re cooked I can tolerate a little, but I can’t do raw tomatoes.”

I just smiled. Maybe this man had other ways of communicating.

Not long after ‘the tomato incident,” Mary, Jack and I went to visit this quiet man. We were all watching Aladdin when Mary, who was three, went to the bathroom. Then I heard her panicked voice , “Momma Momma Momma.” When she was excited it was always three Mommas.

I bounded across the house and found her crying as the toilet overflowed. Waterfalls filled the bathroom and she was standing on a red towel….her only Island.

Alex came in, silently turned off the water behind the toilet, then extracted a stuffed Princess Jasmine from the toilet.

I was horrified and so embarrassed, we’d only been dating three months and look what my child had done. “I’m so, so, so sorry, oh my gosh, I’m  sorry. I don’t know why she….”

But he interrupted me with a shrug, as though it was nothing. He left then reappeared with a mop. “It’s just a little Mary pee.”

That was one of the hundreds of moments that told me how he felt.

“It’s just a little Mary pee.”

There were other times he told me he loved me, long before he could say he loved me. He literally stole my car while I was working lunches at Rocky’s Corner so he could have new brakes installed.

Sometimes, my effusive words don’t seem to mean much compared to his silence.  Talking is easy. Listening when people don’t talk, that’s where the magic is.

My Version of Eco-Terrosm

It Spring time and that means the turtles are on the move.  I don’t know why they feel the need to cross the street in order to woe a another sexy turtle mate successfully.  I don’t know why they can’t date a turtle from their side of the road. But they can’t, so  they must cross the street.

And every Spring I see the thing that absolutely enrages me.  People run over turtles. It’s horrendous and completely avoidable. If you can’t avoid hitting a turtle you should not have a drivers license.  If you do it on purpose, you’re going to Hell.

This was my frame of mind last Spring when I came up with a new plan to save the turtles.  Alex didn’t know what was going on when several boxes of plastic turtles arrived via Amazon Prime.  The first box had 100 tiny turtles in a plastic bag. They were adorable, buy only the size of a quarter.  They were too small for my plan.

I hit pay dirt with the next delivery, six perfect, life like plastic turtles, hand painted from Germany.

At first Alex was fascinated by my plan to save the turtles. Then, as he watched me carefully insert a big fat nail into the beautiful plastic turtles his fascination turned into fear…for me.

“I’m gonna put this on the side of the highway. If people run over a turtle they’ll get a flat tire,” I announced.

Alex laughed, then realized I was serious. Really, really serious. “I’m pretty sure that’s against the law.”

“Who’s gonna know?” I shrugged.  “I won’t put them near out house.”

“Seriously, this is a bad idea, Diana.”

“We’ll see,” I said in my best “casual I’m not gonna do it voice”. I didn’t want him to be arrested as an accomplice.

Eco-terrorism suits me. So, this Spring, if you see a turtle looking for a hot date. I suggest you do everything you can to avoid him.

Poor Kids Are Awesome

Crawdad Hunters

A few days ago my son, Jack, said “growing up poor was awesome.”

I pressed him to explain what the hell he was talking about.  As far as I’m concerned being poor is not awesome, it’s not even kind-of-cool. Being poor sucks and ranks right up there with having the chicken pox.

First, I want to state, we have never been poor.  When Jack and Mary were little, we were clinging to the lower end of middle class but we were never poor.  Jack and Mary however, love telling stories about their glorious, impoverished, redneck childhood.

When they were little, we never went on vacations. Instead, we spent almost every weekend in the summer playing in the creek not far from the house. I would pack up their friends, Bryce and Kay, some cheap red sodas and crackers.  They would slide around on the little rock water fall for hours and we would catch army’s of crawdads, then then turn them all loose.

One winter we couldn’t afford to go to the skating rink in Little Rock so we tried to make one in the yard with a giant piece of plastic and the garden hose. It didn’t work but we laughed a lot.

All their clothes came from Wal-Mart. Until Jack was in 6th grade. The whole family was ridiculously  proud of his first “expensive” pair of  shoes.  Alex paid $80 for a pair of And One basketball shoes. The entire team was impressed. Back then, it was a really big deal when anyone at Fountain Lake got a new pair of Nikes much less And Ones.

Ok, we were pretty broke most of the time. The kids never qualified for free lunches but I do remember, after church we would roll through the Burger King drive through and get one happy meal. One child got the burger and one got the fries and they split the drink.  A two happy meal day was a really big deal.

At least once a year Alex had to pawn his 9 mm hand gun so we could buy school supplies (those cost 120 for both kids) or buy Christmas presents.  But we always paid off the loan and  got his gun back. Good news now Alex has an arsenal and he hasn’t pawned anything in years.

But all their  friends were in the same shabby economic party barge so they didn’t realize just how broke we were. We had food, electricity and a lot of fun. I grew up wealthy so at least once a week I had a meltdown but the truth is the kids were really, really happy and well adjusted.

The really great thing about kids who grow up on a shoe string….they are  very easy to impress. Great big malls, elaborate Christmas lights, concerts and nice shoes make them so happy.

Kids who grow up with money, in big cities, are rarely in awe…of anything. They’ve already seen better. But poor kids are pretty excited about everything, they’re amazed, the recognize the beauty, they marvel and smile.

My youngest son, Sandor, still says, “Oh my goodness” when we walk into the Hot Springs Mall at Christmas time.  And our Mall is tiny, but Sandor who is nine, thinks its magical. (And yes, he really says “oh my goodness”, he also plays football so don’t make fun of him.) Imagine how he’ll react when he sees Rockefeller Center or Big Ben.

Maybe Jack and Dolly Parton are right. There is a noble magic to growing up almost poor.  I just hope that sense of wonder and awe  stay with my kids for the rest of their lives.

This is a repost for a few years ago cause I love it.  Let me know what you think.  I live for your feedback. And if you really like it share it please. Thanks!

Poor Kids Are Awesome

Crawdad Hunters

A few days ago my son, Jack, said “growing up poor was awesome.”

I pressed him to explain what the hell he was talking about.  As far as I’m concerned being poor is not awesome, it’s not even kind-of-cool. Being poor sucks and ranks right up there with having the chicken pox.

First, I want to state, we have never been poor.  When Jack and Mary were little, we were clinging to the lower end of middle class but we were never poor.  Jack and Mary however, love telling stories about their glorious, impoverished, redneck childhood.

When they were little, we never went on vacations. Instead, we spent almost every weekend in the summer playing in the creek not far from the house. I would pack up their friends, Bryce and Kay, some cheap red sodas and crackers.  They would slide around on the little rock water fall for hours and we would catch army’s of crawdads, then then turn them all loose.

One winter we couldn’t afford to go to the skating rink in Little Rock so we tried to make one in the yard with a giant piece of plastic and the garden hose. It didn’t work but we laughed a lot.

All their clothes came from Wal-Mart. Until Jack was in 6th grade. The whole family was ridiculously  proud of his first “expensive” pair of  shoes.  Alex paid $80 for a pair of And One basketball shoes. The entire team was impressed. Back then, it was a really big deal when anyone at Fountain Lake got a new pair of Nikes much less And Ones.

Ok, we were pretty broke most of the time. The kids never qualified for free lunches but I do remember, after church we would roll through the Burger King drive through and get one happy meal. One child got the burger and one got the fries and they split the drink.  A two happy meal day was a really big deal.

At least once a year Alex had to pawn his 9 mm hand gun so we could buy school supplies (those cost 120 for both kids) or buy Christmas presents.  But we always paid off the loan and  got his gun back. Good news now Alex has an arsenal and he hasn’t pawned anything in years.

But all their  friends were in the same shabby economic party barge so they didn’t realize just how broke we were. We had food, electricity and a lot of fun. I grew up wealthy so at least once a week I had a meltdown but the truth is the kids were really, really happy and well adjusted.

The really great thing about kids who grow up on a shoe string….they are  very easy to impress. Great big malls, elaborate Christmas lights, concerts and nice shoes make them so happy.

Kids who grow up with money, in big cities, are rarely in awe…of anything. They’ve already seen better. But poor kids are pretty excited about everything, they’re amazed, the recognize the beauty, they marvel and smile.

My youngest son, Sandor, still says, “Oh my goodness” when we walk into the Hot Springs Mall at Christmas time.  And our Mall is tiny, but Sandor who is nine, thinks its magical. (And yes, he really says “oh my goodness”, he also plays football so don’t make fun of him.) Imagine how he’ll react when he sees Rockefeller Center or Big Ben.

Maybe Jack and Dolly Parton are right. There is a noble magic to growing up almost poor.  I just hope that sense of wonder and awe  stay with my kids for the rest of their lives.

 

This is a repost for a few years ago cause I love it.  Let me know what you think.  I live for your feedback. And if you really like it share it please. Thanks!

The Refugee Crisis and My Husband’s Sock Basket

We have two sock baskets. One for white socks, one for black socks. All the white socks belong to my husband Alex. Most of the black socks are my son’s.  This system has worked perfectly for years. Until yesterday. Alex appeared in the living room with his sock basket. It was nearly full.

“Half these socks aren’t even mine,” he said and dropped the basket.  His are plain white Haynes calf high.He started sorting the socks.  There were “his socks”, socks with holes that got thrown out and the “others.”

The “other socks” were the white socks with pink or blue around the top. White socks that were ankle high and made by New Balance or Polo, tube socks and girl socks.  “They don’t belong in here with mine, they’re different.  This basket is just for my socks.”

“You’re being super prejudiced .” I teased him.

“Yes I am, I only like my kind of socks. Sorry.” But he wasn’t really.

When he finished there were three piles. His, those to throw away and “the others.”

He took his basket and left the room. And I was left wondering what to do with the poor “others”. Most of them were still perfectly good socks. First, I matched up the ones I could, there would be a home for them.  But what about the rest?

They’d been kicked out of their home and now had no where to go. No one would accept them simply because they were “different.” I felt guilty throwing them away, but boy, there were a lot of them. They were refugee socks, without a basket.

This behavior doesn’t surprise me from Alex. He’s Hungarian and Hungary typically doesn’t want refugees. They build concentration camps, surrounded with barbed wire and dogs. Refugees can stay there or leave the country and go somewhere more welcoming. Hungarians are all about taking care of Hungarians. Screw the rest of the world. They forget in the late 1950’s they were the refugees, running from Russia and seeking asylam in America.  Alex is a very good man but that sentiment runs deep in his blood.

So, what do I do with the remaining 27 refugee socks? I’ll probably end up throwing them away because there’s no basket or drawer that wants them. They are the lost “other socks.”

As President Trump said last week. “Who knew this stuff was so complicated.”

*Please let me know what you think.  Your feedback means everything.

When a Couple Crosses the Line and Turns…..OLD!!

Saturday morning, I have to drive 14 year old Sandor to his job at 10:30 am.  He’s a busboy and a crazy popular pizza restaurant.  But today is different, I’ve convinced my husband, Alex, the sometimes curmudgeon, to drive with me and stop by the wonderful Hot Springs Farmers Market afterwards.

The top is down, I have a convertible, the morning is beautiful and our son, Sandor is in the back seat.

Alex looks over at me. ” I can’t believe you made me wear this sweatshirt.”

“Come on, it’s soft and nice and new, what’s the problem?”

“I like my old red sweatshirt. I don’t care what people think.”

“”You look really nice, though,” I pleaded.

“Sandor, she’s being mean to me.”

I rolled my eyes, looked at him and smiled, “What? I’m making you go to the Farmer’s Market on a beautiful Saturday morning. That’s so awful?  I’m sounding like a Jewish Grandmother, right?”

“What ever, the Elite Eight, NCAA,  first game starts in three hours.”

I playfully smacked him. “What ever, I’ll have you home two hours before tip off. Just enjoy the morning.”

And then were were silent for a moment.  I looked in the rear view mirror and locked eyes with Sandor. He smiled at me. “What? What are you grinning about?” I asked him.

He just shook his head, “You guys are adorable.”

We got Sandor to his job on time.  I stopped the car and looked at Alex, “Adorable. He called us adorable. You know what that means?”

Alex pulled a cigarette out, waiting to get out of the car so he could smoke it. “Hell yeah, he’s calling us old.”

“Exactly!” I said.

“It’s ok, we still got it,” Alex said to me, trying to dismiss the fact Sandor called us “adorable.”

Alex and I now comfortably fall into old people grumbling, bickering, bitching.

I looked at him. “We still got it?”

“Hell yeah,” he replied ruefully, like a dude from The Outsiders.

“Well ok then. Let’s tear up the Farmer’s Market.”

*Apparently I will never ever, ever get back on Google Adsense, cause nine years ago I messed up.  That means I’ll probably never make money from this blog.  So….you comments and support mean everything…otherwise why would I write.  Let me know what you think. Please.

 

 

 

Men Are Afraid of Me….I Think

Every week day, I get up, get dressed, do make up, hair, perfume, pick out jewelry and head off to work. And here’s what I’ve noticed in the past few years.  On the rare occasion  someone says “you look nice” ,”that’s cute” or “you smell good” it’s never ever a man.  Ever.  The only people who say anything remotely positive are young women. Yesterday, it was my friend Tasha…she’s 28 or 29 I think. The day before it was my daughter Lex (you can always count on daughters).

Now, here’s the part of this story that really gets me, and I promise, I’m not looking for compliments. I hear men compliment younger women (20-38) all the time. I understand at that age they are simply more attractive. I was fairly hot when I was twenty eight and living in the Keys. But men, you could find something nice to say if your tried, I really believe that.

I think the problem is men are scared to say anything nice to a woman 40 and older.  I think they are afraid we’ll think they are creepy, misogynistic, sexist or slimy.  Guys, if you say something like “hey baby you look smokin’ hot this Monday morning” you’re right, I’ll think ugly thoughts about you and I’ll work hard not to punch you in the throat.

If instead you say, “good morning, Diana, you look nice today,” you will absolutely make my day. I promise. I really need the compliment now.

When I was 28 or 30 I didn’t really need your compliments. I knew I had it going on. Men, when you tell a beautiful 32 year old how amazing she looks it’s kind of like putting sugar in the Cool-aid. Young women who post a lot of selfies probably already know how hot they are.

But when you say something nice to a 50, 70 or 80 year old woman it’s different, every kind word is like a lovely salve on the wound of time. When you say something nice to a grown woman, I promise you ninety nine percent of the time…you’ll make her day.

Wait, I’m going to revise my stand.  You don’t have to stop compliment the pretty young girls, you just need to include us too.  (I don’t want to sound old and bitter and jealous. Too late? Damn It.

I tell random men they look nice all the time. I tell strangers they smell good at the grocery store (if they are wearing smell good stuff they want to smell nice) , I tell bank tellers I like their Picasso ties, I told a dude at the Dollar Store yesterday that his high tops were cool looking.  A compliment makes people smile, it makes people happy, so who am I to deny other people joy.

So men, fear not! It would be wonderful  if you said something nice to a woman over 40 today. Don’t be afraid. If she misunderstands…she’s an idiot.

 

PS: My husband is excluded from this blog. He said something nice as I left the house this morning.

Sometimes The Kid Is Right……I Guess

This week at work I had  a yellow legal pad page half filled with deals to close and projects to finish for clients.  I realized for the second time there were literally too many to get finished in four days so I did what Sandor, my 14 year old, told me to do. I “put first things first.” That’s right I prioritized my list. It’s not rocket science but it made my week a lot more productive and financially rewarding…in a big way.

Sandor, who is in 8th grade, is part of a public charter school.  And much of the schools new focus has been Stephan Covey book the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.  Sandor and I debate the seven habit some times. Number seven is “Sharpen Your Saw,” meaning keep balance in your life. do the things you love like yoga or yodeling instead of working all the time.  Any time Sandor wants to lie in bed and watch stupid videos on youtube he tells me he’s “sharpening his saw.”  And I call BS.

“Putting first things first” is one of the rules we agree on. We talk about it every now and then, usually when I’m driving him to school and he’s got a lot of projects going on.  But this time, he was the one who reminded me on Monday night when I was griping  and complaining about all the stuff I had to get done, in just a few days.

Maybe I should listen to that kid more often. Except when he tells me one shower in three days is plenty.

If you want to read the book you’ll find it on Amazon for less than five dollars, if your lazy and want to check out the seven habits in less than five minutes here’s the Wikipedia link. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_7_Habits_of_Highly_Effective_People

 

Let me know what you think and as always you are welcome to share this post.

 

 

Is He Too Young For A Job?

Sandor is 14 and this weekend he started his first job. He’s a busboy at a local pizza joint. Saturday and Sunday’s during the day. That’s what we agreed on.

As soon as he found out he had the job, Sandor started calling his buddies to tell them what was up.  He was so proud and excited, and so was I.

My first job was closer to home.  I ran blue prints for my dad’s architectural office on the weekends.  The blue print machine ran on ammonia and the smell was so terrible nobody could work while the blue print machine was being used.  I made  ten cents a sheet.  On a busy day I could make eight or ten dollars. Big money.

But Sandor has a real job, with strangers. He has stuff he wants to buy now, things for his dirt bike, a double base for his drum kit. Expensive stuff.  So I told him to get a job.

Folks have had all kinds of different reactions to this news. I didn’t think it would be such a big deal but I was wrong.  Several people said he’s too young, that he should be enjoying himself and have fun while he’s a kid. I agree.

The most surprising response came from his dad, Alex.  He’s generally the “hard ass” in the family. He started working five nights a week when he was fifteen and never looked back.  His first fear was Sandor would follow in his foot steps and go into the food service world.  Trust me, there’s no chance of that. Sandor knows his dad worked 70 hours a week and it nearly killed him.

Alex was one of those who said he should “enjoy his childhood.”

On his first day, he dressed carefully. Collared shirt, lots of deodorant, hair perfect.

My feeling….. he’s fourteen.  He’s not a child. Not an adult, but somewhere in between, so he needs to step up his manly duties.

Most men over fifty have heard that he’s “working” and have been really pleased, even strangers. They shook his hand, gave him the thumbs up and slapped him on the back. They seemed to be relieved that a boy in his generation wants to work, manually.  Sandor’s friends are seriously  jealous. Apparently, they wish they could work too but their parents won’t let them.

So parents, why aren’t we letting our young adults work eight hours a week, on the weekend when it doesn’t interfere with school?  Some of our kids want to work, and that should make us proud. Why don’t we let them except some responsibility?

Are we trying to baby them or are we just too lazy to drive them back and forth?

After his first six hour shift busing tables Sandor was absolutely wiped out. His legs and feet were spent. He was exhausted but soooooo happy. When I picked him up he went on and on about buckets of ice, silverware and dirty dishes.  He told me about waitresses who told him he did a good job and Hispanic ladies who bossed him around. Lord he was proud of himself and that’s a wonderful thing. He was proud of what he did, without me. And about the money he earned.

Of course child labor laws are a good thing. But maybe it’s time we stop coddling our kids.  I think we’ve gone overboard. Sandor will go to college, he will be educated.  But a job seems to give him a sense of pride and purpose, one that hanging out with his buddies, playing video games and jumping on the trampoline, doesn’t. He’s proud of himself.

Sandor is soaking in a hot tub now, hoping it will help his legs and feet. But this weekend he made $72 dollars and he’s got big plans!