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THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 10–Key Chains

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 10: KEY CHAINS

Who isn’t guilty of having more key chains than keys? I mean, at least once in your life? I think at one time, we could all get away with not just one key chain, but a few. After all, your keys, like the wallet you use, bag you carry, or clothes you wear, say something about you—your hobbies, likes/dislikes, habits (I know many people who carry nail clippers or wine/bottle openers on their key chains).

Since the relatively recent invention of store savings cards that conveniently clip on your key ring, though, having more than one decorative item on your keys can make them heavy and difficult to carry or even use. I’d use one or two key chains for awhile, but then remove them because someone gave me a new one or I wanted something different. So the chains from key rings past ended up in a shoebox—because each one said something about me or reminded me of a specific time or era in my life.

Today, out they go.

Charles got me this in 2000, when we were on our Hunter Thompson kick—we were in the process of reading all of his books, and we loved the film Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. What was neat about these “wallet” type key carriers was that, if you had standard keys, (they certainly wouldn’t work well now with the huge electronic things that pass for “keys” for today’s cars), they stayed neat and didn’t stab you in your pocket or tear the lining of your purse.

This was taken when I was using the Las Vegas key book. Here’s me on February 1, 2001, at a hotel in Mystic, Connecticut. Charles and I celebrated my birthday by having a “Fear & Loathing at Foxwoods” weekend (notice the red IBM typewriter in the background? Larger model than HT’s, but the same year). We went to the casinos, obviously!

This was when I was wearing a lot of Asian-inspired clothing, especially for going out, so I’d use this on my keys (it was also handy for change). This was back when I first started dating Nathan. I used this for most of the year 2004.

December, 2005, at Pencils! Writing Workshop’s India Dinner at a popular Indian restaurant in Darien, Connecticut. This was when I was using this keychain. I still own—and wear—this jacket!

I got this keychain in 1998 in the Amity section at Universal Studios Theme Park in Florida, which back then was awesome (it’s awful now—they took the whole Amity flavor away from it and now it has nothing to do with anything). The reason I bought it was not necessarily because I loved Jaws, but because when I was 12 and really into Jaws, a childhood friend of mine, Michael Shepherd, gave me a pair of real baby Tiger Shark Jaws. I had those things for years—they were truly a treasured possession. But during one of my moves—it might have been the one to Charles’ in 1996—they got broken. This was the closest thing I could find to the shape and size of those jaws (although this is a Great White, not a Tiger Shark). I had this on my keychain for the rest of 1998 and into 1999. It was made of durable plastic.

That’s me, at left, as Bloody Mary in New Milford High School’s 1989 production of South Pacific. Look at the set piece to the right, the one with the signs that read “Shlunk Edz.” I remember working on that set (the handwriting on those signs is definitely mine), and I used a few of my personal items to decorate the outside of the shack. If you look below the “Edz” sign, you will see, just to the left of a tiki-esque mask, my beloved real baby tiger shark jaws. Oddly enough, this isn’t where they were broken. Somehow, they survived the whole run of the show.

The Jaws kiosk at Universal Studios in 1998, where I bought the plastic shark jaws key chain to replace my real shark jaws.*

* I haven’t been to Universal in many years, so I don’t know if its still there—there were, at one point, rumors of Universal Orlando closing its Jaws attraction (you can read about that here: http://www.examiner.com/orlando-resort-in-orlando/jaws-rumored-to-close-at-universal-orlando) If you’ve never been on the Jaws ride and want to read reviews, you can check that out at Theme Park Critic: http://www.themeparkcritic.com/ride/96/jaws.aspx. If you are a fan of Universal’s Jaws ride, you can hook up with it via a Facebook page for fans here: www.facebook.com/pages/Ten-minutes…/143535942366213

I always loved Viewmasters when I was a kid—we even had the old projector (but as was typical in the dark hole of a house I grew up in, no white walls on which to project the images)—and I never quite grew out of it. In 1997, I was re-acquiring many things from childhood (things I’m getting rid of now, strangely enough), and one of them was not only Viewmaster reels, but also various Viewmasters themselves. This was the keychain I was using that year. It actually did work—you could look in it and see little pictures of astronauts and planets. It was a pretty cool keychain, actually.

This is one side of a double-sided key chain I was using in 2004 and 2005, when I was attending Burlington College and spending many, many weekends out in Newport, RI, with friends from my days at the University of Rhode Island back in the early 1990s. This is the side that depicts my friends from URI—from left, poet Heather Sullivan, me, and Kaitlyn—in the summer of 2004.

Heather, Kaitlyn, and I met in Dr. Pearlman’s Creative Writing class at URI in January, 1993, and I drafted them into being in a play I was working on. This photo was taken three months after we met. The Cast of Stranded on 93, from left: Kaitlyn, Dave, me, Pam, and Heather.

Me and poet friends Tara (middle) and Tifani (right) in November, 2004 at RiRa on Church Street in Burlington are on the flip side of this key chain. We were tight for the three years we were together at Burlington College. I had an awesome time with Tara up at Burlington just a few weeks ago in May.

This is me my first day of class at Burlington College in Burlington, Vermont, November 2004.

THE DISNEY PIXAR KEY CHAIN SET

 The following was a set: one clear key chain with five double-sided mini movie posters. Each depicted one of the Disney Pixar films up through 2003. This key chain came with a set of books, and I used this, changing out the cards, for a few years between 2007 and 2009.

Whenever I think of Monsters, Inc., I think of all the time I spent at the Bronx Zoo. I was going there a lot during that time.

Boo was, by far, my favorite character in Monsters, Inc…who could resist “Kitty!”? And that scene in which Sully has to say goodbye just about ripped my heart out.

That’s me with frosting in my hair, December, 2001. This was right around the time I saw, and fell in love with, Monsters, Inc.

I had never seen the original Toy Story until I got the 10th Anniversary edition on DVD for Christmas in 2005.

I absolutely could not wait for this movie to come out—that was right around the time I’d spent two years working at Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk and one year working at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, so needless to say, I was really into fish. In addition, both aquariums at which I volunteered added "Finding Nemo" fishtanks to their exhibit floors. This movie was also a tear-jerker, though. I’m constantly amazed by the depth of Pixar’s stories.

In June of 2003 we had to drive down to North Carolina for my brother Chuck’s wedding. The Nemo toys that came in the Happy Meals—collecting them all—became part of the goal of the trip for most of that month. Nemo was our travel mascot. Here he is on the car hood outside a hotel in Virginia.

I did “Birthday Sleepovers” a few years in a row, and 2004’s theme was Finding Nemo. Here’s what the cake looked like (next photo is a close-up of the cake, since the scan is really bad).

Nathan’s nickname has always been Clownfish. Here he is posing with a stuffed one after the Oyster Festival, September, 2004.

I didn’t see A Bug’s Life, which came out in 1998, until 2007, after Nathan and I went to Disney World. Nathan got it on DVD.

I posed with A Bug’s Life’s Flik at Animal Kingdom in 2006 even though I hadn’t seen the film yet. At left, my niece Andi.

I didn’t see Toy Story 2 until just recently, actually, but the major association I make with this film is Christmas 1999, because that’s when Sara McLaughlin’s song “When She Loved Me”—the movie’s theme song—came out.

The scene when Jessie is abandoned in the box was the saddest thing I’ve ever seen.

I don’t remember where I got this, but I loved Lilo & Stitch when it came out in 2002 (up at a movie theatre in Lake Placid, in case anyone wants to know). Again, another film that really spoke to me, especially about loneliness. I think my favorite line in the film—okay, my favorite line backed by my favorite piece of scoring in that film—is “This is my family…it’s little, and broken, but still good. Yes, still good.” I had that clip as the outgoing greeting on my answering machine (yes, an old answering machine) for awhile. I used to associate this movie with sad memories, but Nathan’s a big Stitch fan (he’s really into the whole “badness level” idea), so now those sad memories have been replaced with happy ones.

In the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland, August 2008, clowning around with Stitch and my friend Meghan.

Nathan’s Mom gave me this one year for my birthday, and I really loved it because it smelled like island flowers. Unfortunately, the perfume that was inside it rotted the inside out, and little flakes started falling out all over everything. I kept it in a plastic bag for awhile, but it just keeps disintegrating, so sadly, it has to go. I used it for about three years, though.

So the question is: what’s on my keys now? Aside from a bunch of store cards (some for specific Northeastern stores, which I’ll toss when I get to Florida probably to make room for some from Southeastern stores), I’ve got a Sea World Key chain that my sister sent me up from Texas (it has a shark on it—no surprise there) years ago—now that I’m going to Florida, it’s appropriate. And one very special silver heart that was from my friends Lisa, Linda, and Janet at my office. It has my name on it, and I’ve carried it for about ten years now. If I ever decide not to use it anymore, it’ll go in my special keepsake box.

Oh, yeah—and a nail clipper from Catskill Game Farm, which I bought on the last day that beloved park from my childhood was open (more on this in a future episode). Because I can’t stand it when I have an uneven nail.

See what I mean?

My keys as they look today.

The key chain my sister got me when she visited Sea World San Antonio.

Me at Sea World Orlando in September, 1998. It was the first time I’d ever touched a sting ray. Little did I know that three years later, touching sting rays would become a regular part of my day as an aquarium volunteer.

The nail clipper I bought at Catskill Game Farm on its last day of operation in October 2006. There wasn’t much left in the gift shop at that point, but they had plenty of these, and besides, it was useful.

Me petting the animals at Catskill Game Farm, summer, 1975. The woman to the left is my grandmother (Grandma).

Me, making friends with a goat at Catskill Game Farm on the last day it was open, October 9, 2006.

It was awesome to take Nathan, who grew up on a farm, to Catskill Game Farm in New York on the last day it was open, October 9, 2006. Here it looks like he’s having a conversation with an alpaca.

A close-up of the heart keychain some dear friends of mine gave me several years ago.

 

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 9–The Jacques Cousteau Book

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 9: THE JACQUES COUSTEAU BOOK

The book that started my obsession with wanting to work with fish.

While I plan on a few episodes about several books and what they mean to me, this one—like Episode 7, about the penguins—merited a separate episode.

I don’t remember how old I was—probably 11 or 12, which would set this story in 1982 or 1983, but we still had the small yellow Subaru, and my parents took me to Mystic Marinelife Aquarium (it’s now called Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration) in Mystic, Connecticut for the day.

It was the first time I had ever been to an aquarium, and I remember plunging through the double-doors (the place looks completely different now) and into the cool darkness that smelled to me like swimming pools and aluminum—a smell I never forgot. I was immersed in a new world—around me, the creatures of the sea, which I’d previously only seen in books. It was the first time I saw a jellyfish, which had stung me in Daytona Beach when I was six. It was the first time I saw a shark up close. It was the first time I saw crabs, sea stars, and dolphins (at the time, Mystic had dolphins). I was awash in magic, and I looked down at the blue carpet under my feet and said to myself, ‘someday, I am going to work here.’

At that time, the way in which you exited the aquarium was through the gift shop. Our parents were not the best in terms of getting us the souvenirs we wanted, but they always got us something small. On that day, though, I just couldn’t be talked into one of those felt pennants or a hat. I wanted pictures of all these wonderful, incredible animals. I wanted something from which I could learn more. I saw this book on the shelf and had to have it.

I’m sure there was some kind of argument in the gift shop, because the book was expensive, but eventually, Dad caved—then gave me the silent treatment all the way home. It was one of those uncomfortable childhood moments when you can feel the tension, when you are terrified to say anything because it might invoke something worse.

You can tell I took this book very seriously—I never wrote my name in any of my books when I was that age.

Finally, Dad said something to the effect that I was selfish. He was always telling me that as a kid: I was selfish, just like his brother Marty. I do remember, though, at one point, my mother had had enough. She said: “That isn’t your older brother in the back seat, you know. That is your daughter. And she wanted a book instead of a piece of junk that’s going to be tossed aside in a couple of hours, so I suggest you stop, because you’re going to scare her out of learning anything new.”

My mother rarely spoke up in defense of me, but when she did, she meant business—there was no mistaking that or else tone in her voice. Dad clammed up.

I read that book cover to cover several times, and it inspired me to once again dive into Dad’s National Geographic collection (see Episode 5 of The Goodbye Project here: http://wp.me/pIXRs-Ec ). One of the issues had a few articles on the ocean written by Cousteau. I do remember being surprised to see his name (remember, I was 12 at the time).

If you’ve read Episode 5, then you know that certain issues of National Geographic have affected my life. This issue was one of them, mostly because of the double-sided map which featured the ocean floor topography and the article on “Blue-Water Life by Night.” What’s really interesting is that this issue also contained an article called “Mount Saint Helens Aftermath.” This is one of the issues that I had culled from my collection years ago. As for the map? I still have it. I found it tucked into one of my “research” notebooks from 1982.

I was so inspired by Cousteau’s writing I wrote a letter to the National Geographic Society. I’m not even sure what I said—I didn’t keep a copy of the letter, as back then all I had was one of my Dad’s old typewriters and no way to keep a copy unless I typed a duplicate—but I did get a response, and I can infer from its content that I probably gave a compliment on how much I enjoyed the articles.

I was so excited to get this in the mail! As much as I’ve adapted well to e-mail, there was nothing like getting real letters in the mailbox. I found this in one of my journal boxes tucked in a file labeled “special letters.” Apparently I was gutsy enough to write tons of letters to all kinds of people—I found responses from Oceanus magazine, Adirondack Life magazine, and even one from the producer of The Twilight Zone (the 1985 series). It’s safe to say I probably became addicted to getting interesting mail. Hey, I was 12, and what, back then, used to come in the mail for a 12-year-old except birthday cards once a year?

This was totally cool. I was impressed not only by the personal response from Lee Smith, but the hand-typed thorough listing of other articles by Cousteau. I don’t know if the Society does this kind of personal correspondence anymore, but back then it looks like it was common practice—notice the letterhead here is already pre-printed with “Selected National Geographic articles containing information on,” and then the rest of the page is blank. Lee Smith, or, more likely, Smith’s assistant/secretary (you can tell by the notation at the bottom of the cover letter) typed this just for me.

I did, apparently, take Smith’s advice and wrote to the Cousteau Society. Again, I don’t have a copy of the original letter, but here’s the response. Obviously I asked for an autograph.

Somewhere along the line I discovered that this was a double volume of Cousteau’s series of books, and in 1997, I was lucky enough to find the whole set at a tag sale (which I later cast off—it just didn’t have the pull that this one volume had, so I never read any of them).

As for going to work at Mystic? You bet I did. Despite the two hour and fifteen minute haul, I became an aquarium volunteer for the Fishes & Inverts department (sharks, crabs, etc.) in March of 2002 and logged over a hundred hours up through the middle of 2004. My duties included feeding the octopus (I hated that job—you had to knee yourself over the tank on a 2×6 and watch the beast rise up from the bottom), feeding everybody else, cleaning tanks, water changes, preparing food, monitoring ozone levels, and more. I taught a class in lobster dissection, I got the tip of my finger clipped by a puffer fish (they have sharp beaks, man!), I felt the hum of electricity when I plugged in a wet vac while standing in a pool of water (according to one of the guys there, my initiation to full aquarist included getting bitten, getting electrocuted, and falling in a tank. Well, two out of three ain’t bad, right?), I tripped with a full tray of food. I helped clean out the mort freezer (DO NOT ASK) and I also participated in the stranding unit (you can read more about this in my science paper for Burlington College here: BCScienceEssay2005). Every other Sunday I got up at 5 a.m. so I could make it to work by 7:30 a.m., and every other Sunday I came home sticky with fish guts.

They were some of the most glorious days of my life.

This is the book that started it all. Although I have to say goodbye, I photographed the pages or photos that fascinated me the most.

For more information about volunteering at the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, visit here: http://www.mysticaquarium.org/get-involved/volunteer

I’m not quite sure what it was about this picture that fascinated me, but when I played school I would trace these figures onto paper and make a “choose the correct answer” problem to try to memorize them.

The whale in the middle looked mean. I had a thing about mean-looking whale drawings for two reasons: the drawing on the cover of my father’s copy of Moby Dick, and the whale in Disney’s Pinocchio.

I did the same thing with the drawings on this page, and the two pages below this, that I did with the drawings about streamlining.

I won’t lie. I was only interested in this drawing because of the stunning combination of pink and orange. I traced this onto paper many times and colored it using the same markers and then hung it on my wall.

It was the menace in both of these pictures that grabbed me.

I couldn’t stop staring at this page. Yipes, what an UGLY fish. I kept imagining how horrified I’d be if I were swimming and this thing butted up against me. I was also fascinated by the curves in the drawings of how they swim.

My mother was a musician, and she had a box of random things like finger cymbals and maracas. These scallops reminded me of the castanets that she also kept in that box. I could envision these creatures in motion and I wondered if they made a sound like the castanets did.

Up until this point I had no idea that sea stars moved. So this picture fascinated me—not only because of that, but because I wondered if they felt prickly—like living pickles, I imagined—when you touched them. In fact, the thought spooked me so much it was a long time before I ate pickles again. To this day, I only eat a pickle maybe once a year.

Hideously ugly—again, another instance in which I couldn’t stop staring at something so horrifying. In addition, the memory of having been stung by a jellyfish just a few years before at Daytona Beach was still pretty fresh.

Loved this pic—my father had this awesome copy of Hemingway’s The Old Man and the Sea down in his den, and it had a marlin similar to this one whacking through the old man’s boat. I read his copy of that book several times. It was the first time I was exposed to Hemingway.

More diagrams, tracing, and quizzing myself.

The opening phrase on this page—“Nature red in tooth and claw?”—struck me. I opened several science reports with it.

I only liked this picture because the green water around the shark looked so cool and inviting, and I thought that when I grew up and moved to Florida I would have a swimming pool that had green water instead of blue.

This is going to sound completely stupid, but I liked this picture for two reasons: 1, I felt like I could stick my hand in the shark’s mouth and it would feel soft, like a pillow, and 2, I liked how it came out of the darkness, like a ghost.

It was the colors that attracted me to this photo. I was enthralled that something so deadly could be so pretty.

To me, looking at half-eaten fish was the same as looking at dead birds (see Episode 5). What’s funny about this is that I became more terrified of schools of bluefish than of sharks or barracuda simply because of this picture. In 2003, when I was invited to go water skiing with some friends out in Long Island Sound, I was behind the boat, waiting for them to go so I could get up on the water skis—and somebody shouted, “go now, there’s a school of bluefish around her!” I haven’t set foot in Long Island sound waters since.

For some reason this drawing reminded me of The Bermuda Triangle, which I had sketched on a National Geographic map at home and hung over my bed (I had the top bunk).

The photo that introduced me to the concept of “The Feeding Frenzy” in sharks, which I’d learn much more about a couple of years later when I found Dad’s 1968 National Geographic (covered in Episode 5).

This picture is the reason it took me a long time to be comfortable with scuba diving (which I did a few years later when I was 16).

This creature looked menacing. It wasn’t until years later, when I went to work at the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk as an exhibit interpreter, that horseshoe crabs were harmless.

The only reason I liked this picture was because it looked like the shark was eating a chicken leg. Don’t ask me why.

Here's the full set I acquired at a tag sale in the late 1990s. I gave this away years ago.

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 8–OPI

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 8: OPI

The colors I’ve decided to give away. Pretty!

When we decided we were moving, Nathan was surprised that I started wiping things out right away—but made the comment that I was focusing on “little things.”

Many little things, though, can add up to big things, and I also think it’s the little things that take the most time to process: for example, which of my nail polishes do I remove from my OPI collection?

After all, I’m very proud of it. Each color I own had been chosen for a specific event or reason, and, as is typical of all writers, I think, the thing I most enjoyed about OPI wasn’t the colors but their cool names (I know for a fact that my poet friend and I, Heather Sullivan, spent more time obsessing over which ones to buy because of the names rather than the colors).

In Newport, “spa days” were some of our best days. From left, my friend Heather, me, and Kaitlyn, November 15, 2002. I think we were trying seaweed masks…

…but we also were painting our nails. I’m sure we shared the colors, too. I can’t name all of these, but I can tell you that on my hands is “Grape Wall of China,” which I think I had just gotten.

In general, my OPI collection holds many great memories for me: hanging out with Heather in Newport, painting our nails at the beach or at her kitchen table. My friend Janet Cutler and I buzzing down to Danbury Beauty Supplies on our lunch hour to give ourselves a lift and pick out a new OPI color (many of my polishes were purchased at that store with Janet; it was our favorite lunchtime activity other than making an “office run” to the McDonald’s at the bottom of the hill). And all the events for which I’d chosen specific colors: my brother Chuck’s wedding in North Carolina; my friend Kaitlyn’s wedding; each trip to Walt Disney World; my romantic Myrtle Beach vacation with Nathan; my summer workshop at the Norman Mailer Writer’s Colony in Provincetown.

Me, at left, and Kaitlyn, Newport, RI, on New Year’s Eve Day, 2005. We were painting our nails to get ready to go out. She was wearing one of her personal favorites: either “A Man in Every Port-ugal” or “20 Candles on My Cake”

Here, I’m having my hand done in henna for my brother Chuck’s wedding in Duck, North Carolina (the Outer Banks), June 12, 2003. The nail color I had on at the time I actually got rid of a long time ago—it was from OPI’s Summer 2002 Surf Party Collection and was called “Ocean Love Potion.”

A better look at the Henna and “Ocean Love Potion.”

Looks like I was having fun with one of Kaitlyn’s OPIs here in Newport in August, 2004.

I decided I could keep a few—subtle, neutral, lighter colors (over the years I’ve lost interest in wearing brights, and honestly, I rarely have time to do my nails anymore—I get a mani-pedi and my new fave is called “Kyoto Pearl”). Which ones did I keep? I photographed them below.

…oh yeah. And as far as little things equaling big things? I filed the whole collection, including nail tools and everything, down from a large tote bag to a Ziploc.

That’s a little more like it—although now OPI’s got a fabulous Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean line (Summer 2011—click here for more info, but I’m sure this link won’t be up for too much longer, so here’s a screen shot): http://www.opi.com/

From left to right, Mermaid’s Tears, Stranger Tides, Planks A Lot, Sparrow Me The Drama, Steady As She Rose, Skull & Glossbones, Silver Shatter. I think I’ve got my eye on Stranger Tides and Skull & Glossbones—and mostly because of their names, not the colors.

THE COLORS I LET GO

“Hey, Get in Lime!” from OPI’s Spring 2006 Brights Collection. I never really liked this color, and I can’t find any photos of me with it on. I don’t even remember buying it, so out it goes.

“Nice Hand, Great Nails,” from OPI’s Spring 2003 Las Vegas Collection—I did wear this a couple of times, but it was one of Heather’s. A couple of years ago on one of my visits to Newport we traded a bunch of OPIs, and I think this is one I got from her. Again, don’t remember wearing it.

“Grape Wall of China”—from OPI’s Fall 2001 World Collection—was my fave back in 2002. I think it was pretty much all I wore.

“Apricotcha Cheating”—also from OPI’s Spring 2003 Las Vegas Collection—was big with me in the spring of 2003. It was my daily color.

“Cajun Shrimp”—I don’t know what year or line this was from, but I remember the day I bought it (as well as “Crim-Sun” from OPI’s Summer 2003 Summer for Shore Collection). Janet and I were taking a Friday break and decided to head down to Danbury Beauty Supply. A couple of new nail polishes always brightened an otherwise dull afternoon! “Cajun Shrimp” I used mostly on my toes during the summer because it lasted a long time—but the only reason I bought it, to be truthful, was because I love Cajun food and I love shrimp (the animals—and when I worked at Mystic, I was cleaning out a shrimp tank and some of them got sucked up in the suction hose. They emerged at the other end and I had a heck of a time chasing them all over quarantine to get them back in their tank).

“At Your Quebec and Call,” from OPI’s Fall 2004 Canada Collection, I bought on a post-Christmas trip to Newport, RI that same year at the Providence Place Mall. Heather, Kaitlyn and I spent the day shopping. I wore this color to many, many holiday parties. I also bought this because of its name – in 2001, I spent the most magical week up at Thunder Bay Beach in Canada with our friends Joan and Pete. Every time I wore this color, I recalled that great road trip.

“Electric Eel,” from OPI’s Summer 2005 Brights Collection, was one I searched high and low for—mostly because, with my love of all aquarium animals, I really wanted something in my collection that had a reference to fish in its title. When I finally did find it, though, and wore it, I didn’t like it. I don’t know—that color green just gave my skin tone a strange hue.

Ah, “Chapel of Love” from OPI’s Spring 2003 Las Vegas Collection. I LOVED THIS COLOR! I wore it to my brother Chip’s wedding (2003), my brother Chuck’s wedding (2003), the Danbury Mall Fireworks (2003), when I marched (yes, marched!) in Coney Island’s Mermaid Parade (2004), whenever I wore pink (I wore a great deal of pink in 2003). I’m surprised there’s any even left in this bottle to give away. The reason I’m letting it go? Well…I just have outgrown it.

Me sporting “Chapel of Love” at a wedding, May, 2003.

“Grand Canyon Sunset,” which I have no information on its year or line, was also a favorite and hard to let go (but it’s close to “Dusk Over Cairo,” which I liked better, so I kept that one instead).

Me wearing “Grand Canyon Sunset” in the Magic Kingom’s Fantasyland store, Hundred Acre Goods, just outside of The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh attraction in Walt Disney World, September, 2007.

“OPI & Apple Pie,” from OPI’s Fall 2001 Collection, I purchased specifically to wear during July, August, and early September to match a few shirts I had in my wardrobe. It was my color of choice to wear to New England summer activities, like the Bridgewater Fair, the Tractor Parade, and several Corn Mazes.

Me wearing “OPI & Apple Pie,” September 14, 2002, at White Hollow Farm’s Corn Maze in Litchfield, Connecticut.

“Merryberry Mauve,” from OPI’s 2002 Victorian Holiday collection, I got in a trade with Heather. The only reason I liked it was because it reminded me of one of my favorite colors—“Wyatt Earple Purple”—which was the color of choice for many weddings. It’s probably the only bottle of OPI I ever used up.

Me wearing “Wyatt Earple Purple,” from OPI’s Spring 1999 Wild West Collection, at a wedding in Myrtle Beach in April, 2006.

“Amethyst Abyss,” from OPI’s Millennium 2000 collection, was a gift from my friend Janet. I wore this all the time because I liked its holographic nature—it shifted subtly from amethyst to olive. What’s cooler about this color is its name—amethyst is my birthstone, so I have many amethyst rings and necklaces; the word “abyss” always reminds me of the 1989 movie The Abyss, which is a favorite of mine.

“Blushingham Palace,” from OPI’s Fall 2003 British Collection, I got in trade with Heather, who had owned it a long time. I don’t think I ever wore it.

“Goin’ Ape-ricot,” from OPI’s Spring 2006 Brights Collection. This one was great for my toes. I got it from Heather in a trade, I think—I don’t like monkeys, so anything with the word “ape” in it I never would have bought of my own volition.

“Niagara Falls for OPI,” from OPI’s Fall 2004 Canada Collection, I bought purely for its name—one of the most magical vacations I’d ever taken in my life, in 2001, was in Canada, and we spent a weekend in Niagara Falls. I’m also a big fan of that TV series Wonderfalls, which takes place there.

Me wearing “Niagara Falls for OPI” on the Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland attraction Tomorrowland® Transit Authority PeopleMover (formerly the WEDWay PeopleMover, formerly the Tomorrowland Transit Authority), Walt Disney World, September, 2007. Believe it or not, what I was doing here was shooting cover art to go with a short story I was writing which is set on the Peoplemover. The short story, “Doing Blue,” made its debut as an issue of my short-lived project Admit One Literary Theme Park, but now has a home as the front-running story in my collection Skeletons in the Swimmin’ Hole—Tales from Haunted Disney World, available at Amazon and wherever books are sold.

“Marquis D’Mauve,” from OPI’s Fall 2002 European Collection. I think I got this in a trade with Heather; I never wore it.

My friend Janet is first to reap the benefit of my saying goodbye.

COLORS I USED TO OWN, BUT DON’T ANYMORE

I figured since I’m telling my life story about my relationship with OPI, I might as well go down the list and tell you what I no longer own, either because I used it up, traded it, or gave it to someone long before now:

Can’t-a-Berry Have Some Fun? (Fall 2002 European Collection)

Changing of the Garnet (Fall 2002 European Collection—this was my VERY FIRST jar of OPI!)

Coral Reef

Crim-Sun

Glacier Bay Blues (Fall 2004 Canada Collection)

Ocean Love Potion (Summer 2002 Surf Party Collection)

Route Beer Float (Fall 1997 Route 66 Collection)

Wyatt Earple Purple (Spring 1999 Wild West Collection)

THE COLORS I KEPT

The colors I’m keeping, from left to right: “Cameo Role,” “Princesses Rule!”, “Chocolate Shake-speare,” “Polar Bare,” “How to Jamaica Million,” and “Dusk Over Cairo.” Before I go further: how did I choose what to keep? Neutrals. I can always go bright again later if I want, but any of these will pretty much go with any occasion or any outfit.

“Cameo Role,” from OPI’s Fall 1999 Hollywood Collection, was given to me by someone who no longer wanted it (it was probably Heather or Kaitlyn). I fell in love with it because it’s subtle, so it’s become a staple and a favorite. It’s great to keep in a travel kit, because it goes with whatever you’ve got in your suitcase, any time of year.

“Princesses Rule!,” from OPI’s Spring 2006 Princess Charming Collection. I totally bought this in August of 2006 in preparation for that year’s September trip to Walt Disney World with my sister, Missie, and my niece, Andi.

“Chocolate Shake-speare,” from OPI’s Fall 2003 British Collection, I own simply because of its name: my Dad was an English teacher and he loved Shakespeare. I like this color though. It’s nice for fall and for cold winter days.

“Polar Bare,” from OPI’s Fall 2004 Canada Collection. I got this in trade from Heather, but it’s become one of my favorites because just one coat adds a cleaned-up look with low maintenance.

Me wearing “Polar Bare” at Muddy Rivers pool bar at Walt Disney World’s Port Orleans Riverside resort in Florida, September, 2006.

“How to Jamaica Million” I don’t wear often, but it’s nice to have on hand for holidays.

“Dusk Over Cairo.” I got it because I liked the name—it reminded me of all the Indiana Jones movies—but once I put it on, I was pleased to find I liked the color, too.

Me wearing “Dusk Over Cairo” the day I got accepted at Burlington College, September, 2004.

And now…after I’ve seen Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, I’ll head out to the store to pick up those couple I mentioned. Want to know where I got all this great information on the years/dates/collections? Check out Suze’s Stuff website here: http://www.freewebs.com/suze/opinailpolishes.htm.

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 7–The Penguin Book

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 7: THE PENGUIN BOOK

I did this all the time--stick cute captions on pictures of penguins. This was a birthday card I made for my Dad in 2002--yes, he really DID have Macbeth memorized...

I’ve always had a fascination with penguins and wanted to work with them. In 2002, I applied to work as a volunteer at Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration (once called Mystic Marinelife Aquarium) in Mystic, CT.

I was accepted and given a choice: yes, the penguin department had an opening, but there wouldn’t be much room for missing a shift—penguins bond tightly with their caregivers—and as I lived two hours and fifteen minutes away, it was a little bit of a risk. So I went with the volunteer coordinator’s suggestion: Fishes & Invertebrates (sharks, crabs, jellies, etc).

I’m sure I would have loved working with the penguins. But I was very happy working in the F&I department (talk about people who walk to the beat of their own drummers! I had a ball). In addition, volunteers also got to attend the daily multi-departmental meeting, so I was privy to what was happening aquarium-wide—including in the penguin department.

I don’t remember what was going on with the penguins one day, but I came out of the meeting with a complete story idea. Over the next week, I went out and bought several books on penguins and did some research to see if I could get my story to work.

This is one of the books; the others I either gave away years ago (and ONE that I just couldn’t part with I kept—I figured having one tangible memory of that time in my life wasn’t a big deal). And if you’d like to read the finished story—called “Colonies,” which was originally published in 2005 in a limited-run anthology that’s no longer available—you can enjoy it here:

Colonies

Want to know more about penguins up close? Mystic Aquarium & IFE in Connecticut offers a Penguin Encounter at certain times of year. You can read more about that here: http://www.mysticaquarium.org/animals-and-exhibits/encounter-programs/749-penguin-encounter

…or enjoy marinebeauties12’s up-close encounter with them in 2009 here on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jsg9VxhKz-I

For more information about volunteering at the Mystic Aquarium & Institute for Exploration, visit here: http://www.mysticaquarium.org/get-involved/volunteer

March 29, 2002: the day I became a Mystic Aquarium & IFE volunteer. I'm holding up my uniform shirt (long gone, because when you work in F&I stuff gets destroyed fast).

The last of my penguin books with which I'm parting. Information from this book helped me understand penguins a little better so I could write a halfway decent short story.

"Colonies" is about Emperor Penguins (sort of, anyway). This Post-It was stuck in the inside front cover of the book, so I'm assuming these are the pages that had information I needed.

Not much highlighting in this book--at all. I probably copied the pages I needed and threw them in the story's file.

 

Here I am with Nathan in the back-up area for the Mammals exhibit at MA&IFE in March, 2004. We were helping the beluga whales get prepared for that summer's public Whale Encounter sessions. Notice our red/purple hands? YEAH...THAT water was COLD!

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 6–Archaeology

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 6: ARCHAEOLOGY

Update: June 27, 2011 Shortly after this post was published, I got a note from my friend Rob, who wanted to adopt the book on the Ramapo because he is doing research for a novel he is writing, as well as any of my books that were heavily highlighted. I was excited about this and am happy to report that both the Ramapo book and the Archaeology book are now part of his collection.

 

 

Me digging at Gallows Hill in Redding, Connecticut, with other members of my Archaeology Class from Norwalk Community College in November, 2002.

In the Fall of 2002 I was looking for a kick-start with something new. I was enjoying my time volunteering at both the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk and Mystic Aquarium, in fact, so much that I was considering finishing college for something in the sciences.

I was at the SoNo Arts Festival that August and discovered a booth run by Ernie Wiegand, who runs the Archaeology department at Norwalk Community College.* A couple of weeks later, I signed up for his Archaeology 101. After all, although I loved the marine sciences, I still felt the ages-old pull of geology and volcanology. Archaeology seemed as good a place to start as any. If I didn’t like it, I could always drop out.

Turns out I loved it—I learned how to read layers of dirt, what finding pieces of shells meant. I loved digging in New England in the fall, that smell of leaves, hot coffee, and loam with the bite in the air. I met other students who were walking history books. It didn’t only exceed my expectations, it was magical.

I did well in it, too—although I soon learned I don’t have much of an analytical mind when it comes to solving mysteries. Or maybe I just didn’t have all the knowledge backing me up. At any rate, that semester remains as one of the greatest eras of my life. Being a shovel bum was pretty cool.

I continued to do research after the class was over and had even thought about exploring some areas on my own. But that was nine years ago—I never went further, and it’s time to let go of my books and tools. The hardest to let go is the textbook. I honestly read that thing from cover to cover and highlighted the hell out of it, and believe it or not, had always thought I’d sit down and delve into it again someday.

If you want to read my final Site Report (December 18, 2002) on the Gallows Hill Dig, you can read it here in PDF:

SiteReportGallowsHill

*The current course catalog online at Norwalk Community College’s site doesn’t isolate the Archaeology as an Avocation program in a convenient manner, so here are two screen shots of what that page looks like. To access the full catalog and find out more about registration, please visit: http://www.ncc.commnet.edu/default.asp

And now…on with the story…

My textbook. It was tough to let this one go.

 

I didn't keep a record of all the passages I highlighted--only my favorites.

In 2000, I had written a short story that keyed around 18Rabbit. I did finish it, but had always wanted to improve it. I probably had planned on using this information to beef up the backstory. Who knows. Want to read the first draft of the story? It's right below this picture as a PDF: "Shorn." Enjoy!

Shorn

This was one of the books I used for research for my final site report.

I don't remember where I purchased this book, but I do remember it being one of the most interesting books I ever read. It did inspire me to do some exploring on my own, which I actually never got around to.

I can always tell how much I love a book by how many Post-It Notes I use.

I took a map of New Jersey and tried to pinpoint the burial ground noted in the book (the book may have given me the actual coordinates; I don't know).

Obviously, I had planned on trying to find this place, because other places in New Jersey which were familiar to me I marked so I could try to get my bearings.

Me, digging at Gallows Hill, Fall, 2002.

The woods at Gallows Hill. It was in an isolated residential neighborhood, and the houses were far enough apart that it felt like being in The Blair Witch Project.

Heather, one of my classmates. She was calculating depth or provenience, I don't recall which now.

Christmas, 2002: My housemate put together an archaeology kit for me as a gift. At that time, I was planning on furthering my studies.

The kit contained knee pads, safety glasses, gloves, hand cleaner, and, not pictured because I'm keeping them, tools such as a really nice Black and Decker tape measure.

The hand cleaner.

Gloves.

Safety glasses.

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 5–The National Geographics

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 5: OH, NATGEO!

Every Christmas, my Dad got a National Geographic gift subscription from his mother, so a closet in my childhood home museumed NG’s dating to the early 1950s.

When a new journal arrived, it was relegated to the back of the toilet—but each was a passport to new and exciting passions: sharks, volcanoes, highways I’d never traveled (somewhere in my basement there is a photo of me at age four sitting on the toilet “reading” the National Geographic). In some cases, the articles I loved most were compasses for major life decisions: where I went to college, what I was going to be when I grew up, how to process and survive injustices done to me by others.

Dad kept close watch on his inventory, but over the years, I’d absconded with a few of my favorites. These are the five I have left.

I decided I can let go of three. Oh, and by the way, if you are as big a fan of National Geographic as I am, yes, National Geographic is on Facebook! You can find them here: http://www.facebook.com/NGM

You can see how many of Dad’s issues I had here on this shot of my bookshelf in 1993.

VOL. 159, NO. 1: JANUARY 1981

Sunday, May 18, 1980:Mt.St. Helens erupted. The family was packing up for church and then my grandmother’s house. I don’t think we heard the news until later, and then I was upset I wasn’t home alone with the television. To make up for it, Dad let me stay home from school on Monday. This was before the days of 24-hour coverage, so to have news on all day, or even on-and-off during television programming, was a huge deal. I was nine when the mountain blew, but its story made me a regular 5 or 6 o’clock news watcher—at least for awhile.

Eventually, reporting on the event taxied to a halt. I was desperate to explore further, but there wasn’t much material available (for those of you who are younger, there was a time when no one had Internet and there weren’t such things as Amazon when you could get books on anything you wanted—you were restricted to whatever was on the shelf at Bradlee’s or Caldor). So when this issue arrived a few months later I was thrilled. At last, I was going to get the inside scoop.

 


I couldn’t stop studying this dead bird—I imagined its death throes. See the little bird’s footprints? It struggled to breathe before it keeled over. Even after I put this magazine away, I never forgot the photo of this bird and the impact it had on me…

…and it’s probably why, to this day, whenever I see a dead bird I photograph it. Here’s one in the Bronx Zoo parking lot, Bronx, New York, July 24, 2004.

This vista—before and after—was like watching a train wreck. I couldn’t believe how something so lush and green could turn into a moonscape in minutes. This would become one of the reasons, though, that my favorite piece in Disney’s Fantasia 2000 is “Firebird Suite,” which relies heavily on the Mt. St. Helens eruption for its inspiration.

A photo of Mt. St. Helens taken by an ex-boyfriend of mine as he flew over it back in 1999. He was, in all honesty, a selfish person who rarely considered anything beyond his own comfort, so I was surprised he’d even thought to do this for me. It created a bond between us for a little while, but still wasn’t enough to save the relationship—no shock there. Who’d expect that a photo of an explosive volcano would make a great totem for anything? I was dumb enough to try—at that time, the way to my heart was still through science.

At the time, our babysitter was Dawn Nagle.  She bought me an oil lamp crafted fromMt.St. Helensash. To this day it is one of my most treasured possessions, and I still light it once in awhile.

Here’s an excellent website which looks back at the Pulitzer Prize-winning coverage provided by The Longview Daily News (out ofLongview,Washington, which isn’t too far from the mountain).

http://www.tdn.com/app/helens/

The article following the extensive Mt. St. Helens piece, “Pompeii of Prehistoric Animals in Nebraska,” mapped a moment in time ten million years ago in which animals were engulfed in volcanic ash as they romped about in their water hole: “Death comes with agony in a rain of volcanic dust, causing the animals to suffocate.” This image captivated my imagination. Did they understand what was happening to them?

VOL. 1, NO. 5: MAY 1984

I remember the day this came in the mail; I was 13. I slid off the brown-bag cover (remember those?) and the sight of this terrified me. Then I saw “The Dead Do Tell Tales at Vesuvius.” I’m not even sure if I knew anything about Vesuvius at the time, but as you’ll discover in future episodes, volcanoes fascinated me. It never made it to the back of the toilet or the archives.

Before I read the text of “The Dead Do Tell Tales at Vesuvius,” I studied the photos and their captions. I recall being very disturbed by one photo of an empty cradle; from its caption: “Blow on a dead man’s embers and a live flame will start.” The thought, expressed by poet Robert Graves, holds true for Herculaneum…Fragile, too, was the life of a baby whose skeleton was found in the charred crib (right), rocking today as it did 1,900 years ago.”

The photo of the cradle that disturbed me. Although I’ll admit I was disappointed the bones weren’t in it.

At the time, my heroes were scientists: marine biologists, geologists, or volcanologists. I wanted to grow up to be one of those, but hadn’t decided yet. The first scientist depicted in the article wasUniversityofRhode Islandvolcanologist Haraldur Sigurdsson.

Haraldur was immediately added to my list of heroes.

After I came across his photo I read the whole article to learn more about what he had to say.

I was enthralled with the idea that it was possible to lay out an actual timeline just from looking at the layers of dirt. At that age, I’d never heard of such a thing.

Wow, I thought, I would sure love to take a class with that guy. I will definitely apply to go to school there.

Sure enough, in 1989 I did. Those of you who know me know that I embarked on my higher education at URI.

Years later—in 1998—I completed my first novel (it was terrible and it will never see the light of day, have no fear). It was a ghost story (of sorts) and was, perhaps, the first time I ever flirted with applying Poe’s triggers and the nature of haunting. I needed ghosts—but I wanted ghosts of a specific nature.

I wanted a common element among the ghosts—they needed to be burned, specifically, in their physical lives. I already knew I’d wanted to use Pompeii, and so I started digging through my massive Pompeii collection (more on that in a future episode) and read just about every book, but couldn’t get this article out of my head, because of its connection to where I eventually went to college and the book’s setting. I re-read it, and it became the map for a whole plot thread.

This is the paragraph that inspired one of the major plot threads in my 1998 novel.

This paragraph played a major role in one chapter’s dialogue.

This is the face of a toppled statue in Herculaneum’s theater—it was imprinted in the volcanic flow. This face became the face of one of the ghosts in my 1998 novel.

Now, I’d said the book will never see the light of day. And I meant it. But just for fun, here is the chapter that was inspired by the article. It’s a PDF. (Hey Dan Pearlman and Jerry Rivard—I cannot believe I used to be this “as-you-know-Bob.” Enjoy.)

13FugitivesGarden

VOL. 162, NO. 6: DECEMBER 1982         

This one comes second in the sequence because it was the May 1984 issue which led me to it—“The Dead Do Tell Tales at Vesuvius” made reference to “Buried Roman Town Gives Up Its Dead.” I descended to Dad’s archives and pulled it out.

I was forever highlighting information—mostly facts I wanted to remember—but the first line I highlighted on this page because of its forlorn quality. It brought a desperate image to mind.

That so many people died at Herculaneum was a shock to scholars, since before this, hardly any remains had been found.

I remember I couldn’t stop looking at this picture. It horrified me. Imagine, like the man in the forefront, diving head-long into hot ash and knowing you aren’t going to get up. Ever.

This article would also serve as fodder for the 1998 novel, but when I was reading it back when I was 13, I kept envisioning piles of people huddled in the boat bays. According to the story, they were instantly incinerated. The thought of that haunted me for weeks.

KEEPERS

VOL. 133, NO. 2: FEBRUARY 1968

The cover that kicked off my obsession with sharks.

I was 11 when I found this one in Dad’s collection, and the shark was so mean-looking I was sold—that old principle of being fascinated by things that we fear. I was done—sharks were the new love of my life. The copy I have isn’t my father’s original; it’s one I bought about 15 years ago at a tag sale. The original I cut up so I could tape the pictures all over the walls of my secret under-bunk-bed hideout (I am SO GLAD my father did NOT find out about that).

Years later, I was watching the movie Jaws, and there is a scene in which Roy Scheider is flipping through a book about sharks. Many of the photos from this article are in that book.

 

Anything about sharks—articles, photos, whatever I could find—I shoved into this notebook.


Here’s an example of the stuff I did in my spare time. I’m sure I traced this from some photo I found, because I couldn’t free-draw any better back then than I do now.

From left, my brother Chuck, my sister Missie, and me in the stream that ran through our five-acre property up in Salisbury, New York, in the Adirondack State Park. Each of the rocks had names. I am standing on my pet Great White Shark, “Cream Cheese.” Missie is standing on my pet Lemon Shark, “Crackers.” These sharks were the method of transportation for the character that represented me in my Underwater University series of stories, which were inspired by all of the science books I was reading and were about scientists of all kinds living in an underwater station similar to the one in the Battle of the Planets cartoon series. The character that was “me” in these stories was the Senior Ichthyologist. There were 26 stories; sadly, I only have 24, 25, and 26. I have no idea what happened to the first 23.

VOL. 182, NO. 6: DECEMBER 1992

Obviously, I took this one because it had an article on volcanoes I wanted to read. I got the surprise of my life when I discovered that “The Hard Ride of Route 93” was much more interesting.

I was home from URI for Christmas weekend, mostly because I needed to recover from a really screwed up pseudo-relationship with a person who basically had no relationship skills—I was confused by all the head games this person played, and really had no way to process it, let alone forgive it. Christmas weekend that year was a much-needed respite around normal people.

Enter the article “The Hard Ride of Route 93.” The characters who lived and traversed that desolate highway in Nevadawere romantic, intense, damaged, and off—just like the person I’d been dealing with. I read the article several times, took the issue back to Rhode Island with me, holed up between December 27 and 30 (yes, it only took me four days) and wrote the play Stranded on 93, which was produced at URI in April of 1993.

By the time it was all over, I hadn’t forgiven the person—but at least I could understand the problem wasn’t mine and could move on (and something tells me that person hasn’t changed at all, because people like that usually don’t).

A page of the Stranded on 93 script.

The press release for Stranded on 93.

Pages four and one of the program.

Pages two and three of the program.

The Cast of Stranded on 93 poses on my old 1986 Mustang at an abandoned gas station on Route 2 in Rhode Island, March, 1993.

So what am I doing with the three that I’m letting go? Well, I’m committing a sin: I’m ripping out the cover and the significant article. The two articles on Pompeii will go into the one Pompeii book I kept. The one on Mt. Saint Helens will go into my childhood save box (I’m allowing myself one tub of special keepsakes).

As for the other two, I can say I will never leave those behind.

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 4–The Nancy Drew Collection

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 4: NANCY DREW

As a kid, I was a great escapist. I had two favorite methods: reading, and role-playing as my favorite television heroine or hero.

These are the kids in my friend Kristen Hansen’s neighborhood, which was within walking distance of my house through the woods. We weren’t playing Nancy Drew that day, I’m sure, but probably Dr. Who. Role playing was big in that neighborhood; we were all pretty creative. I’d have to guess this was taken in the early 1980s.

Nancy Drew was an exception: she was the only heroine of mine from books that I imitated (apparently frequently; Bill Buckbee recalls our entire third grade year recesses with me as Nancy Drew and he and Kevin Fuller as Frank and Joe Hardy). I’d get a new book and rip through it in less than a day or so most of the time.

My friend Sonja in my room, 1985 (she’s holding a cassette! Remember those?) If you look behind her and toward the left, you can see a small collection of Nancy Drew books on the shelf.

My friend Samantha Levin used to have awesome birthday parties—but hers was a winter birthday (in March), like mine (in February), so her parents always had to be creative. This book was the one I was reading when she had a pool party at the Danbury Y. Then we all went back to her house and had pizza.

One birthday, in fact—1981, the most magical birthday I ever had, because I got the Battlestar Galactica game and not one, but TWO Nancy Drew books—my parents were angry because two days later I asked them if we could buy another Nancy Drew book.

One of the books I got for my birthday in 1981. I read it that weekend, but have always associated it with going to my friend Carrie Geren’s house during a blizzard—Dad took me over in the truck—and watching Ice Station Zebra on Channel 11 that same weekend.

“Your father and I just bought you two,” my mother said.

“I finished them.”

She turned and looked at me. “Kristin Mary, you did not. You just opened those.”

“I did too, I’m a fast reader,” I repeated.

“Well.” She shrugged. “Read them again.”

Ah! A woman who didn’t understand anything about flaming passion. “Mom, you can’t read them again right away. There’s no surprise.”

“Too bad,” she said. “They’re expensive.”

Expensive. Bradlees and Caldor had them for $1.99.

This is the other book I got for my 10th birthday. I remember staying up all night to finish it, because it comforted me during a terrifying experience. I had, that afternoon, watched a movie called The Devil at Four O’Clock—I loved volcano movies. Unfortunately, the white bulb in the nightlight had fritzed that day, and Mom and Dad replaced it with a red Christmas bulb. I was too afraid to close my eyes that night because of visions of lava pouring into my room.

But you didn’t argue with Mom. And that’s how, at 10 years old, I discovered the shelves in my father’s den.

I read things entirely inappropriate for my age: Irving Wallace’s The Word, in which I learned that if you failed at your career you became an alcoholic and slept with lots of people in far away cities; Jaws, in which I got a clue about what goes into grass and gazpacho soup, how married people have affairs (it’s usually with someone from your past and you have to do it in shitty motels and shower after so you don’t smell like sex, whatever THAT meant), and erections. I remember wondering if my parents had ever smoked grass, or if they’d ever had affairs. I remember feeling really uncomfortable and kind of dirty after I’d read it. I was haunted by the sentence: “Ellen started to giggle again, imagining the sight of Hooper lying by the side of the road, stiff as a flagpole, and herself lying next to him, her dress bunched up around her waist and her vagina yawing open, glistening wet, for the world to see.” (That’s on page 170 of my Dad’s copy, which was from Bantam Books’ 18th printing, June, 1975).

I finally was able to get another Nancy Drew book a few weeks later, but found I couldn’t respect her. I was suddenly aware that she and Ned should be having a full-on sexual relationship instead of this namby-pamby flirting thing, that at their ages they should at least smoke a cigarette or two and drink beer, and that she should get pissed off at someone at least once in awhile and preferably use a curse word.

I associate this with hanging out at my friend Kristina Hals’ house.

And so, for lack of $1.99 two days after my birthday in 1981, Nancy Drew was buried under a pile of adult books: Catch 22, Ghost Boat, The Bermuda Triangle, The Ghost of Flight 401, All the President’s Men, The Anthrax Mutation, The Amityville Horror—whatever crappy paperbacks my Dad had laying around. I read them so fast he never even knew they were missing before they were back on the shelf.

But I kept my original Drew collection, took them wherever I went. Over the years, I’d let go of one or two that didn’t have any specific memory attached to them. Eventually, I got down to my last seven, because they were the ones that invoke a special time or place.

Today, I let six of them go.

I couldn’t put this one down, and so I sat in school and had it open in the storage area of my desk so I could keep going throughout the day. I never got caught. I was good at clandestine reading.

The only one I kept was my first, The Secret of the Old Clock. And that’s just because my parents wrote “To Kristi, Love Mom & Dad, 12/25/79” in the front cover.

They had no idea what they were getting me into, I’m sure.

The books will be donated to a library sale.

Actually, all I remember about this one was that it scared the crap out of me, and there was something in it about acid being sprayed on their suitcases. “They bought new suitcases and went from store to store filling them” was the sentence that opened the next chapter. (Persistence of memory, folks, I’m not sure if that incident was even in this book because I read so many, but for some reason, I associate that with this cover, so there you go). In addition, the skate’s “face” really freaked me out.

We loved the TV Show in our house, too. This book I got at a tag sale, so it really doesn’t have any special memory for me other than that my brother Chuck and I couldn’t wait to watch it every week.

A history book I got for Christmas one year. Totally fascinating and a must-read for any Drew fan!

If you’re a Nancy Drew fan, there is a LIVELY Facebook fan page called Nancy Drew!! here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Nancy-Drew/363747038826?sk=wall

…oh, and if you want to know who my other childhood heroines/heroes were, here’s the list:

1. Princess (from Battle of the Planets)

2. H.M. Murdock (from The A-Team)

3. Kaye Morgan (senior biologist, Jaws 3)

4. Ellen Brody (Jaws)

5. Maid Marian (Robin Hood — the Disney cartoon version first; later, the Costner flick)

6. Lady J (from G.I. Joe)

7. Amy Allen (“AAA” from The A-team)

8. DeeDee McCall (from Hunter)

9. Penelope Pitstop

10. Nancy Drew

11. Daphne (from the original Scooby Doo cartoon series)

12. Lisa (from the original Robotech, Series 1)

13. Jennette (from Treme)

14. Dana Scully (from The X-Files)

15. April (from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 3–The Jurassic Park Stuff

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 3: JURASSIC PARK

I just love it when the camera captures something genuine. This is the moment in the Dinosaur attraction at Disney's Animal Kingdom Park in which the Carnosaur gets right in your face. In case you're wondering, that's me, left, freaking out. Nathan, on the other hand, looks like he's just made a new friend.

Like most kids, I had a thing for dinosaurs (I will confess here that I really wasn’t much into dolls). A few of my most exciting childhood memories: visiting the Museum of Natural History—I was very young, and it was the first time I saw real fossils. I remember being awed by the T-Rex skeleton’s mammoth proportions. The Geology Class field trip to dig fossils Freshman year in high school. I didn’t find any whole trilobites, but I found a leaf impression or two! A visit to the Peabody Museum—I got lucky and was there when Dolf Seilacher was giving a presentation on his exhibit Fossil Art. I was so fascinated I even got him to sign my copy of the book, in which I’d scribbled tons of notes (if you’d like more information on this, visit here: http://www.uv.es/pe/1999_1/books/fossil.htm)

Then there was the first time I visited Epcot’s Universe of Energy. When the curtains pulled back to reveal a prehistoric swamp teeming with breathing dinosaurs, I was so excited I wept. (Years later, I went on Dinosaur, and that wasn’t nearly as cool—I was too terrified to enjoy it. See it on my face in the above picture?) And let’s not forget the tons of fossil shark teeth I’ve picked up over the years.

And then along came Jurassic Park. And Jurassic Park: The Lost World. (By the way, before I go further: if you are a Jurassic Park fan and want to meet with like minds, I found a great community online at http://www.jplegacy.org.)

Being an ardent fan of Crighton anyway, I read The Lost World and was thrilled with some of the imaginative dinos I was expecting to see in the film (how about those ones that can change their skin color to match their surroundings? I was so petrified I had nightmares). When the movie came out in 1997, it was a big deal for me—and being the movie buff I am, the colorful promotional materials available were too tempting not to purchase—I’d just moved into Charles’ house and had loads of space (we even got our hands on a POP display Borders used for the release of the VHS).

Not the greatest shot of those stand-ups--I know there are better ones out there -- but you can see them on the upper left and right corners of the photo. Look closely! By the way, this photo was taken in 2002.

I was moving things around in the basement and unearthed a black box I’d forgotten about. The label on it read, “Jurassic Park.”

The storage box for my Jurassic Park: The Lost World collection.

I was surprised by the box, but more surprised by what was in it:

One of those giant soda cups. I think I might have gotten this for a few extra bucks at the movie theatre when the film premiered--in fact, I saw The Lost World at The Campus Theatre in Selinsgrove, PA, just after my brother Chuck graduated from Bucknell University. Check out The Campus Theatre here: http://www.campustheatre.org/index.html

At left, my brother Chuck, May 24, 1997, at his graduation from Bucknell University. That night, I headed out to the Campus Theatre in nearby Selinsgrove to see The Lost World.

No, I don’t have the Viewmaster or reels for this—honestly, I don’t know why I have the box, except that I suspect I might have given this as a present to my niece Andi and kept the box on Christmas morning. My sister and niece were still living in Connecticut at the time, so this explanation would make sense.

...turns out I DID have both the original Viewmaster and the reels that came in this box, all in mint condition. I had put them with my Viewmaster collection (will be addressed in a future episode).

I picked this up at store display in Stop & Shop on Exit 8. That was back when I used to shop there, and, in the late 1990s, even the grocery stores still sold more movie tie-in materials than they do now.

These are not from The Lost World; they’re Jurassic Park playing cards. I have a couple of sets of these, and I don’t know if I’m going to give away the other one yet. I’ll know when I find it; I have no idea where it is.

I used to wear this on my red barn jacket that I bought when I got married in 1994.

Here's me in that barn jacket, and you can see I've got the button on. This was taken at the Bridgewater, CT, firehouse during the Bridgewater FairWorker's Picnic, September 16, 2000.

What’s better than movie tie-in candy bar wrappers? And Hershey bars are my favorite chocolate, so this was a no-brainer. Don’t worry—the chocolate was eaten soon after I bought it.

I got these movie cards at my local CVS.

The PRIZE of the collection: the movie tie-in cereal. Scary, but unopened, meaning yes, there is 14-year-old cereal inside. The box was just so colorful and cool I couldn’t resist.

Fortunately for me, Charles was into going to Burger King a lot back then, so he worked his ass off getting me the entire set of tie-in watches. The watches have never been opened; I don’t even know what they look like. They’re in such mint condition I’m afraid to even take a peek. I think if I were going to keep one, it would be the “Something Has Survived.” That’s my favorite box.

My favorite dinosaur-related possession is a coffee mug my Dad bought me at the Museum of Natural History the last time we went together, which was so many years ago now I don’t remember when it was. I definitely will not be parting with that.

But as for the JP collection? Maybe it’ll dig up a few bucks on Ebay.

You never know.

The entire collection. I might find a couple of other JP items to throw in with it.

THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 2–Poetic Justice

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 2: POETIC JUSTICE

Poetic Justice, 1994. From left, clockwise: Joe, drums; Julio, sax; Bob, lead singer; Jeff, bass; Hank, guitar; me: keyboard and ornament.

I came back to Connecticut from URI in 1993 an emotional wreck. I had a broken heart, I missed my friends, and I had no idea what I was going to do for work. The work part—well, that sorted itself out in short order. But the other two conditions weren’t as easy to fix, and I knew I had to get creative.

I auditioned for a local band that was looking for a keyboard player, and before long I was spending every Friday night in rehearsal. Not only did I suddenly have all new friends, my social calendar filled up—soon we were playing two and sometimes three gigs every single weekend.

It turned out to be the Balm in Gileadfor which I’d been searching. The band let me go in 1995—which was totally fine with me, I was already getting into other things like community theatre and losing interest anyway—but I’ll never forget how much joy that experience brought into my life. I kept many of the objects associated with it, among them Joe’s chewed up drumsticks, my microphone (which had belonged to my parents, dated back to the late 1970s and was seriously bashed up), my music stand. Over the years, I’ve parted with all of it.

Or I thought I had.

I was going through a tub of miscellaneous keepsakes and I found my filthy file box full of index cards.

The cards were the most important thing other than my instrument: they were, essentially, my sheet music. On them, I wrote all the chords for each song and sometimes other notes, like if I had to sing harmony and when, or lyrics. When the guys put together a set list for a particular gig, I’d just pull the cards out of the box and put them in the appropriate order. Then I could set them on the keyboard or music stand and flip them over as we went.

I was torn about tossing out this box. But then I realized I have a stack of photos and a nice scrapbook, as well as some video and audio tapes—none of which I have any intention of ditching. So I decided that, in the interest of space, I should go through and just pull out the index cards for the songs I loved to play the most, or the ones to which special memories are attached.

Here’s a list of song cards I decided to keep:

“Jackie Wilson Said”—Van Morrison

“December”—Collective Soul

“All That She Wants”—Ace of Base

“Wonderful Tonight”—Eric Clapton

“Everything I Do”—Bryan Adams

“Hotel California”—The Eagles

“Tears in Heaven”—Eric Clapton

“Brown-Eyed Girl”—Van Morrison

“Wild Nights”—John Mellencamp

After that, it wasn’t that hard to throw the box—and the remaining cards—in the trash.

My only regret is that I didn’t have any cards for a couple of the songs on which I played  cowbell.


THE GOODBYE PROJECT: Letting Go is Good, Yo! Episode 1–The Coat Closet

About The Goodbye Project:

There are so many of us who can’t part with objects because of the sentimental attachment we have to them. You know—the graduation tassels, the barfed-on stuffed animal with the missing eye, the coat your late father bought for you because you begged. So what do you do when it’s time to let go of these beloved items because it’s absolutely necessary?

I’d read someplace that one of the best ways to let go of an object is to know that you have a photo. Sure, you can photograph it before you get rid of it. The Goodbye Project takes the idea a step further: go back and find photos of yourself actually with, using, or wearing that object, and blurb a bit about the memories it invokes.

Why? Everything has a story.

And because of that, the object deserves more than just a hasty trip to the Goodwill or the trash without a second thought.

EPISODE 1: THE COAT CLOSET

Actually, this is the first of many episodes dedicated to the coat closet in our foyer, but I’ll be mixing them up, because I like variety or I get bored.

I’ve been meaning to sort through my coats and jackets for a number of years now—I have so many that I don’t wear. Not because they don’t fit me anymore (honestly), but because I just don’t use them. They’re outdated or they’re just no longer “me.”

So on May 7 I decided to tackle my coat closet. And I got rid of several coats and jackets—surprised to discover that a few I knew I’d never wear again but was just keeping because they meant something. Even more shocking? The tons of other stuff I had in there—hats, gloves, even my first Easter basket—that needed to go as well.

Here’s the bomber jacket in Fall, 1988, shortly after I got it. My sister was into cheerleading. God knows what I was doing.

I’ll start with my beloved Bomber Jacket that my late father bought for me in 1988. These were all the rage then, and throughout most of the 1980s, because of the Indiana Jones craze. What was funny was that I really wanted a leather one. But Dad was more practical than that—he went to Sears at the then-almost-new-Danbury Fair Mall—and bought this padded version (the Canadian flag was sewn on because we’d visitedCanadathat summer). “Keep you warm in the winter,” he said. I was disappointed, but grew to love it. It was my staple fall/winter jacket for almost a decade. I hadn’t realized how much that jacket and I had been through together until I started going through old photo albums.

Yes, Dad, it kept me very, very warm, and because it was in mint condition (unbelievably so), I laundered it and donated it to Goodwill.

May it find a happy second home.

This pic is awful, but it was taken Feb. 24, 1992, and you can clearly see I have the jacket on. What was I doing? Well, I was up in Cranston, RI, with my friend Monique Smith on a very icy night. Her father’s car slid in the driveway and crashed into mine. Because it wasn’t really my car—it was the one Dad let me drive—we were scrubbing the black fender rubber off the door in the hopes he’d never notice. Look closely, though, and you’ll see the dent. I don’t think we ever fixed that.

The next jacket that needed to go was my very first jean jacket—which, of course, was untraditional: it was olive green. I bought it at Banana Republic in the early 1990s (when Banana Republic was still UNIQUE—the stores smelled like cut grass and sawdust and every trip there was like stepping into Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants”). And it coordinated well with all of their T-shirts, too—all that and a pair of jeans and I was ready for anything! I wore the jacket all through college, mostly during the time I was writing and directing plays for URI history department’s The ClioPlayers and editing for the daily paper The Good 5¢ Cigar. Every time I hear Def Leppard’s “Have You Ever Needed Someone So Bad” I think of that jacket.

That’s me in the middle with the Tab (which I still drink, and yes, they still sell)—I never took that jean jacket off, not even indoors, where we are here, in the hallway at Washburn Hall at URI (you could smoke in the halls back then). At my left is Andy and at my right, Mark Anderson. We were taking a break from rehearsing a ClioPlayers production, Of Pirates & Queens. March 26, 1992.

The jacket was in good shape, so I laundered it and donated it to Goodwill.

I pulled down a bin of all my winter hats, gloves, and scarves. At the bottom I found the very first item I’d ever purchased at Banana Republic—a cloth scarf, which I wore as an ascot the last year of high school and the first year out at URI. I wore it a couple of times a week with this really cool gold leaf pin to hold it in place.

Me, wearing my favorite scarf. At right is my brother Chip. It was January, 1990, and we were playing the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle board game and eating pizza. That was our favorite thing to do together for awhile.

The scarf had a huge rip in the middle, so I threw it away.

I used to be a hat person—I was the girl who wore hats with outfits at one time. Needless to say, I found some I couldn’t believe I still had.

I used to wear berets all the time in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but I haven’t worn one in years. They’re just not me anymore. I got rid of several, but the toughest one with which to part was what I liked to call my “carousel” beret. I think I picked it up in a thrift store, and it was wool and wow was it warm. But it was the colored buttons on it that made me tremble—it went with just about any bright top I owned. I wore it everywhere. Every day for one whole winter, in fact. I think people started to believe I was bald on the top of my head.

The most special memory I have of this beret, though, dates back to hanging out with a very artistic crowd up in Bridgewater, Connecticut. Theme parties were always afoot, and this beret was perfect for the character I played at a Beatnik Party in one of our friends’ basements. Yes, there was open mic; yes, there were bongos.

Me as “Chloe” at the Beatnik Party, February 24, 2000.

I tossed the beret in my home dry-cleaning kit and donated it to Goodwill.

I dug a little deeper into the bin and found my mother’s leather gloves, which I took as my own after high school and wore them all through college at URI. I did wear them again on and off through the years. In the photo below you can see them.

Me, March 26, 1992, sitting on the back of my car at the URI campus. I was probably taking a break from play rehearsal.

They were very durable and I believe had been purchased in the 1970s, but when I pulled them out of the bin, they practically fell apart. Unfortunately, they went to the trash.

The last thing to go was my very first Easter basket, which was used for that purpose all through my childhood and even into adulthood (Dad gave us Easter baskets until we were way too old to be getting candy and toys, so he’d get creative and fill them with other things. When I was in college, for example, mine was always filled with Tab, cigarettes, beer, and chips).

I kept it all these years despite the broken handle, and would always use it to store things as an excuse not to get rid of it. It’s lived on the coat closet shelf for the past 13 years, acting as a catchall for gloves without mates, emergency flashlights, and batteries.

The handle has been taped back on several times, the white paint has been scraped off, and some of the weaving is splintered. It had to go to the trash.

Me and my first Easter basket, April 1, 1972. I remember that bunny toy—it was plastic and had little jingle bells in the bottom. It smelled like plastic and cherries.

Coming Soon: boxes of old letters

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