I shot this a couple of weeks ago using a 600mm lens. The visual reference to Pink Floyd’s paradigmatic record, “Dark Side of the Moon” is given. At least to me it is. Especially now as we’re at the frontend of this weird year’s darkest months – figuratively and literally.
Several countries around the world have recently begun imposing new lockdowns and travel restrictions. I presume that the sense of fatigue many of us already feel from the limitations the pandemic has caused will likely increase over the next few months while we hope/pray/beg for those sweet better times to return.
Close friends have recently been infected with the virus, but are, fortunately, at least this far, asymptomatic. Charlotte and I got an antibody test a few weeks ago. Both of our test results were negative which made me wonder if a) we may have been infected but the antibodies had already left our bodies, or, b) the test results were false negative. Either way, like billions of other Earthlings, we are still caught in a perpetual “Covid Limbo”.
I don’t remember who shot it, but this group photo was taken with one of my old Canon cameras in an underwater case during a press trip to Aqaba, the sleepy seaside dive resort by the Red Sea. We only had a day and a night in Aqaba before heading to the ancient Jordanian city of Petra, so I can’t say much about the city, even if there was much to say about it (which I doubt there is).
While I don’t remember the dive location being particularly spectacular, I clearly recall the merry band of journalists from Scandinavia I was there with being extraordinarily fun to travel with. From other photos from this part of the press trip, I know that we did get to see some rather large coral formations and schooling fish.
I can’t remember when I last went scuba diving. Might have been when the above photo was taken. Or, maybe it was in Thailand a few years ago or as far back as in the Bay of Pigs, off the coast of Cuba. Hm. If that’s the case, it’s been way too long, for sure.
I wonder if my old Thai buddy Saran Sudduen still goes diving. When we were both younger men and lived not far from each other on Phuket, he and I would dive for about an hour most Saturday mornings outside of Kata Beach. We’d gear up at a local dive shop on the main road, walk down to the beach, and then head out into the Andaman Sea. Scorpionfish were fairly abundant and once in a while, we’d catch a glimpse of a small reef shark. Once we swam out to Koh Gai (Chicken Island) and dove entirely around it before swimming back with depleted tanks. We’d always return to shore carrying plastic bags and other garbage we’d collected during the dive.
Just like in Aqaba, it must be eerily quiet on Phuket now. Which is both hard to imagine and sad to think about. I hope 2021 will see things turn around. Maybe I’ll even be able to go for a dive again. I really miss buoyancy.
Eddie van Halen recently passed away. And so, yet another of my former idols bites the dust. Seems like most of my old pop and rock idols have died and those few that are still around are no longer active in any (to me) meaningfully creative way. The eighteen-year-old version of me was a huge fan of Van Halen and while more musically gifted friends of mine successfully reverse-engineered his licks and solos, I spent many, many hours listening and playing air guitar to Eddie van Halen’s amazing music.
I think that thanks to being able to play at least a little guitar myself, I always felt that my miserly talent still let me appreciate Eddie van Halen’s virtuosity more than if I hadn’t played at all. I’ve had this mindset throughout much of my adult life. Thanks to having dabbled in so many different fields; designing, cooking, coding, painting, teaching, bartending, writing, filming, etc, I can empathize and be cognizant of both the talent and all the tremendous amount of work it takes to excel at anything you set out to do really well.
In 1981, while visiting Los Angeles with friend Jonas Jarhäll, I bought a used, velvet red, Gibson SG Junior, from 1963 or 1965 at an obscure guitar shop somewhere in the San Fernando Valley. I want to remember paying $400 for it. I brought the SG back with me to Sweden and both loved playing on it and having it hang so beautifully on the wall of my first small apartment.
After my only gig as an “axman” at Christmas party for our local scout troupe, my SG was stolen and I never again bought an electric guitar. Perhaps the bereavement initiated my waning interest in Van Halen and the hard rock genre. In any case, after a concert with Eddie van Halen, Alex van Halen, Michael Anthony, and David Lee Roth during the legendary Monsters of Rock in Stockholm in August of 1984, I eventually moved on to other, more challenging and interesting musical genres.
I certainly read about the departure of frontman David Lee Roth and his replacement Sammy Hagar. But I didn’t continue to buy the band’s records or go to their concerts. As I said, I had moved on. Like in times gone by, much of today’s rock music seems so predictable, stale even, and still caught in a web of clichés, myth-building, bad hairdos, and self-destructiveness.
Today, youngsters call groups like Van Halen “Hair Bands” and marvel at how much work went into their hairdos. Quite interesting how a lot of us men of that era, myself included, wanted to be perceived as masculine and bursting with fertility, yet we had no qualms about spending hours effeminately caring for our hair.
Late last night, I wrote the above comment below the New York Times’s obituary column about Eddie van Halen and now I’m wondering if I might actually still have that bootleg tape somewhere. That would certainly be a wondrous trip in the time machine.
I am genuinely proud that I voted in the presidential election of 2020. I sent off my ballot a couple of weeks ago and now I can only hope that more Americans than ever before will be voting so that we collectively can kick scary Donald J Trump out of office.
There are literally thousands of elections across the country on November 3rd. But as a permanent resident (and citizen of Sweden), I don’t feel informed or engaged enough to vote in anything other than the presidential election, which I’ve followed closely.
Like for many, many others, my vote for the Biden-Harris ticket is just as much a vote against the incumbent, incompetent douchebag president – clearly, an unapologetic, narcissistic megalomaniac of which the USA and the world have never before had to endure.
Not even now that he has been infected with the virus is he humbled or cautious about his fate and the millions of others that have succumbed to Covid-19. Worse yet, Trump is through his careless actions and bold but idiotic statements making it perfectly clear that he thinks that those poor souls that have become seriously sick, or even died, are just losers. I obviously don’t want anybody to get sick or die, but I have to admit to feeling a little schadenfreude should the virus keep him bedridden for the remainder of the campaigne.
The more I see of Trump and his tail-wagging, ass-kissing entourage, not to mention the flag-waving, gun-totting Fox News-watching degenerate fan base, the more I realize that President Trump is evil personified – a Beelzebub that has cast a powerful spell on his followers. Followers that have either been so hypnotized and dumbed-down by decades of multi-orifice ingested crap culture or, just spinelessly following someone they perceive to be a winner and hope to benefit from. What a bunch of fools.
Ate lunch at a beautiful old spinning mill yesterday on the way home from Göteborg. The main building that once housed the factory has been repurposed and is today occupied by an assemblage of small creative companies and a handful of interior design shops – none of which I felt offered anything to write about, or, be inspired by. Not that they didn’t sell nice and fancy stuff (at premium prices). There was plenty of that.
Before arriving, I read a little about the mill’s history, the decades of suffering that both women and children were forced to endure while laboring there. Yeah, I recognize that the mill’s horrific history cast an uncomfortable shadow over my ability to find pleasure in the experience. As far as I could see, there wasn’t a single square meter of wall space dedicated to the workers that lived out their miserable lives there.
After standing in line for a while at the adjacent café, we ordered our lunch and found comfortable seating in one of the larger rooms where I marveled at the meticulously coordinated furnishings and decor. Nothing was left to chance.
There we sat, eating our yummy avocado sandwiches together with a dozen other plump, middle class, mostly middle-aged, over-dressed guests, chewing, sipping, and chatting away as carefree as can be. No social distancing. No masks. No worries. Some surely awaiting a socially acceptable opportunity to take out their shiny phones and post about their pleasant cultural adventure at the old spinning mill.
Ghosts of women and children hovering silently, a few millimeters below the ceiling. Peering. Wondering.
I don’t know. Maybe there’s too much shit going on in the world right now. Maybe I’ve filled my quota of excursions to bourgeois sanctuaries that ultimately leave me feeling emptier than when I arrived. That said, the toast above was an undeniably delightful experience – at least for the palate.
Soon time to return to Skåneland after a couple of calming days among friends and family in Gothenburg. where I’ve been both doing some soul searching and collecting new textures and walls for my “Resurfaced” series.
This is the perfect time of year to visit one of my many old hometowns. The weather has been extraordinarily pleasant. Crisp, clear air, mostly sunny and comfortably warm.
Yesterday, I went for a 5-hour walk from Gothenburg’s Opera House, along the harbor to the Älvsborgs Bridge where I ate lunch at Röda Sten Konsthall (an art museum), and then I literally crisscrossed my way back to the hotel through the Majorna and Masthugget districts.
I lived in Majorna for a summer back in the early 1980s. The wooden building I rented a flat in was so old that the two apartments on my floor shared a common bathroom. I thought it was interesting at the time. At least for a while. The guy I rented the place from was the manager for a Swedish fusion jazz band named Hawk on Flight and much of the apartment was filled with stuff somehow related to the band. I think I paid SEK400/USD$40 a month in rent but I can’t remember how the heck I got a hold of the pad or why I needed a place to live that summer.
It’s a little scary when memories fade or vanish. Then again, it was only two, maybe three months of my life that played out almost 40 years ago.
I love the architecture and the somewhat edgy vibe of Majorna. It’s bohemian and authentic and the abundance of mom and pop shops, restaurants and cafés make it seem like a cozy place to live.
For better or worse, of the other areas I’ve lived at during younger years, including Kålltorp, Vasastan and Johanneberg, today, Majorna feels the least changed and the most genuine “old Göteborg”. Much more so than, say, Haga.
I shot the images above with my now 2-year-old iPhone. Apple has yet to announce its new lineup and I have yet to decide if I actually need a new phone. The camera in my phone is still phenomenal and though I carried the Fuji x100v in my pocket during my walk, I mostly used it for capturing surfaces on walls and utility boxes. Still, every time Charlotte whips out her 2019 iPhone with its ultra-wide 13mm lens, I feel I’m missing out a little. Like I’m not getting the big picture.
This is possibly the prettiest, most whimsically pedagogical explainer video I have ever seen. It brings forth and unpacks unskewed and uncontestable arguments in a beautiful way that only flat-earth devotees can deny. Crafted by a Munich based animation studio, the project was funded by the Gates Foundation.
I’m not a huge fan of Bill Gates, on the contrary, I think he’s been a terrible actor in the computer space, morally and aesthetically. He’s certainly compensated some of his past wrongdoings with admirably charitable activities. But I will never trust the guy to not have hidden motives behind everything he does. One could argue (conspiratorily) that the work of the Gates Foundation is part of Bill’s immortalization strategy. But I agree with Gates on one central point: that Trump is bad for the planet. The enemy of my enemy is my friend…
Yeah, I know. More cows. But I’ve always loved cows. Not only do they symbolize a kind of universal motherhood, but cows are also animals that radiate timeless serenity.
After an intense period of work and emotional turmoil, more than ever, I need serenity in my life right now.
I shot this about a week ago when a thick, coastal fog rolled in and settled over Vejbystrand for much of the morning.
I went for a long walk along the meadow with a camera at my side, hoping to capture something uniquely foggy.
The cows instinctively huddled together in an effort to feel safer. Even if it was completely windless and soundless on the meadow, the dense fog visually impaired the herd’s ability to see where potential threats would be coming from. They didn’t seem particularly nervous, but I did get a sense of heightened awareness as I passed them. While my trajectory was clearly unthreatening, most of the cows followed my every step, making sure I wasn’t going to leave my chosen path.
Time for some preaching.
It’s been five years since I stopped eating meat and poultry on the advice of our wise daughter Elle, who started the family’s boycott. This for three reasons:
Most animals raised for consumption are bred and treated in a horrific and completely unacceptable way. Millions of animals suffer for most of their short lives just so people can eat cheap, often unhealthy amounts of meat and chicken.
It’s utterly unreasonable to clear gigantic areas of primeval forest in the Amazon and elsewhere in the world just in order to acquire land to grow soy and corn on as feed for the animals. If we instead grew vegetables directly for our own consumption, we’d both save the earth’s resources and eat healthier!
In a few years, we will be 8 billion people on this blue planet. Since we know that climate change is already causing devastating problems today, it’s easy to see that we have enormous challenges ahead of us when additional billions of people in developing countries start demanding the same unsound habits we in the industrial world have had for decades. A simple approach (but of course not a solitary solution alone) is, for example, to stop eating meat and poultry.
Even though we in Sweden eat slightly less meat today than before, it’s still far more than what many researchers consider to be healthy. Eating meat and poultry, in whole or processed form, undoubtedly increases the risk of getting cancer.
So if you don’t give a hoot about how the animals you eat experience their lives and how the earth feels from raising them, maybe you can start thinking about how your body feels before you eat the next slice of ham, grilled chicken, or steak.
Münich. Home of Puma, BMW, and a bunch of other huge German conglomerates. Like in Stuttgart, everyone wears masks here too. At least in public spaces and until it’s time to eat. Germans don’t hesitate a second to give you a somewhat perturbed, reprimanding look if you don’t have a mask strapped on.
Arrived in the Bavarian capital kinda late last night after a full day of meetings in Stuttgart. No doubt that it’s “big boy business” down here. The niche, fringe, and edge-case stuff isn’t exactly frowned upon, but it’s still traditional, old school industry that rules the day here.
Traveling for a couple of hours along the busy Autobahn A8 yesterday evening, frequently passed by a slew of vehicles, most at well above 200km/h, it became perfectly clear why there are so many supercharged cars here. Makes much less sense to own an AMG GLC or a Lamborghini Urus in Sweden with its low-bar speed limitations.
Took an off-the-street taxi to a meeting today, a Mercedes S Class (6 cyl/300hp/2019) which according to the driver cost about €150k – including some extra bells and whistles. I can’t wrap my head around how much money that represents and, above all, how many passengers that taxi has to transport before getting some kind of ROI.
Last time this far south in Germany, I was in Eisenach, about 4 hours north of Stuttgart. I was there on a press event together with a few other journalists from Scandinavia to see how beautifully reunited Germany had become 20 years after the wall and fences had come tumbling down.
If memory serves me correctly, Eisenach is famous for two things; an automotive museum located adjacent to what used to be a BMW factory but was renamed EMW (Eisenacher Motorenwerk) as Eisenach was part of East Germany – and Wartburg Castle where Martin Luther (of the Protestant persuasion) was kept under house arrest and also where he translated the bible from Latin to German.
Both Wartburg Castle and the factory were interesting places to visit. But the most memorable takeaway was during the press dinner when our guide, a woman in her 60s, admitted how much she missed East Germany’s patriarch, Erich Honecker, and how the state “took care” of everything for its citizens.
I’m going to paraphrase her here, but the gist of this remarkable, wine-fueled confession was this:
“You know, we never had to worry about anything…where to live, where to study, what kind of work we would do, the food we could buy…it was the same for everyone. Now it’s chaos…capitalist chaos…”
Currently in Germany for meetings in Stuttgart and Münich. First time I’ve left Sweden in over 7 months. It’s possibly been 25 years since the last time I stayed domestic for that long.
Mandatory mask on from the moment we traversed the Danish side of the Öresund Bridge, throughout the airport, the SAS lounge, on the aircraft, at the airport in Stuttgart and everywhere but my room at the hotel. My N95 mask fits relatively comfortably over my face. Not being able to read facial expressions other than by looking at people’s eyes and eyebrows is certainly interesting.
Kastrup was far from empty, but most shops, cafés, and restaurants were closed. It felt like having a middle-of-the-night departure time – but during a sunny afternoon. Weird.
Here in Germany, I’ll be staying at an American owned hotel where, unlike most hotels in the US, a spectacular breakfast buffet is included in the room rate (a rate which is roughly half of what it would have been if the hotel was located in the States).
Over the years, I’ve been spoiled rotten by lavish hotel breakfasts in Asia and, to a slightly lesser degree, here in Europe. But today, for the very first time ever, they offered fresh pretzels over at the bread corner. A pretzel is a pretty good substitute for a bagel. Back to work now.
Above is a piece I’ve been working on for a while. I’ve lost count how many different walls it consists of. It may or may not make it to the exhibit I’ve been invited to in a couple of weeks, but it’s definitely a finalist.
I really love being so busy as I am right now and looking forward to a short trip to a not-so-foreign land soon. I feel a little anxious about international travel. I’ve got a couple of n95 certified masks and as much liquid antiseptic fluid as I’m allowed to carry onboard.
Like the next guy, I can totally dig partaking in a good discussion. Discussions can often be an excellent platform for testing out arguments, venting thoughts, and learning what “the other side” thinks and has opinions about. Recently, I got into an acidic discussion with an old friend. I was fuming about something and needed to get it off my chest when I posted some angry commentary. Unsurprisingly, this pal answered me with a sledgehammer of contrarian views and belittling comments he felt compelled to share. Probably because my views were within his wheelhouse (or fishbowl).
Historically, my rhetorically gifted friend has often allowed his sharp intellect and an other-worldly ability to recall (and tirelessly recite) memories in ludicrous detail, (coupled with relentless, wide-ranging nerdiness) take a front seat socially. For as long as we’ve been friends, he’s been infamous for being a know-it-all, a behavior I feel a lot of common acquaintances would agree, albeit anonymously, can be a bit taxing. In moderation, socializing with him can nonetheless be a pleasant experience. Our discussion turned ridiculously ironic when he claimed that it was me, not him, that had a history of being a wisenheimer. Not that I can’t be incredibly stubborn about my opinions. But I never forget that they are just that, opinions.
To some people, being anything but right, regardless really of whether or not they’ve identified that there might just be different takes, opinions, and perspectives, or, god forbid, that they’re just plain wrong, is a seemingly absurd concept. It’s as if their lives depended on being right. Or, their fathers. It’s a trait of Donald Trump and exactly how he’s created the abysmal divide. Put in other words, it’s bullying.
One would think that at our ripe old age, despite being a know-it-all, my friend would have had grasped that discussions aren’t necessarily clear-cut right or wrong. Regardless of the topic, really, a discussion is a debate, a challenge, a contest of hopefully thoughtful, unemotional arguments – as opposed to thoughtless, unbecoming, belligerent speak.
I realize I really shouldn’t be that surprised about how this ended…and I guess I was just plain naive for continuing the discussion when it had gone down such a negative path early on. And I was certainly way too spontaneous and emotional in my opening statements. Live and learn.
Every once in a while, I cross paths with a website that gets me all fired up – in a good way – and I end up getting totally hooked for a time. This is the case with Poolside FM, a relatively new place on the Internet where great music and 1980s design aesthetics converge in a wonderfully cooky way. So well done. I never ever thought I’d look back at the 80s and feel some kind of weird nostalgia. After all, it was mostly a decade chock full of pastels, mullets, and, rarely memorable music! Poolside FM is available on iOS as well.
I couldn’t find any other poolside photo, so my shot of former pro swimmer Rebecca will have to do.
I took this photo on the shores of Mono Lake in Central California, as the bird flies, not too far from the Nevada state line. I was there with fellow photographer David Pahmp. We were heading to Bodie and stopped by the lake real quick to take a few early evening shots. As soon as we pulled back on to the highway again, a patrol car pulled us over for speeding. But just when the stocky highway patrolman was about to give us a well-deserved, triple-digit fine, he got a call on the radio and had leave us pronto with only a gentle slap on the wrist. He seemed like a decent fellow and after the verbal reprimand, wished us a safe journey onwards.
America is full of people like that. Decent folks with reasonably sound values and good attitudes. Unlike the president…
From David Frum of The Atlantic:
One of the most striking things about Trump is how seldom, if ever, anybody tells a story of kindness and compassion about him. Not even his own children have much to say. […] Few former employees of the Trump administration praise him as a boss. Few business partners speak of his honesty. Few tenants of Trump buildings have anything good to say about the homes he supposedly built. Few officials of any city have been willing to celebrate any contribution to urban life. Few beneficiaries of any Trump philanthropy.
Imagine a man who has lived in the public eye for half a century, supposedly one of the country’s leading business figures, and when in trouble he struggles to summon credible or trustworthy witnesses from outside the Fox Cinematic Universe. There’s just a gaping zero where goodness should be.
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From the other night here in rural Sweden where things seem peacefully timeless – at least until you go online.
Generally speaking, I’m an optimistic dude. I literally wake up most mornings and have at least one fun or interesting thing to look forward to. Today, it was first practicing yoga, then making a tasty breakfast for Charlotte, and finally, working on a super-snazzy presentation for a client.
I’m taking a break from that right now. Got to get some thoughts out of my head.
I still read a lot. Mostly news from liberal outlets like the Washington Posts, New York Times, The Atlantic, Chicago Tribune, and, of course, The L.A. Times. I dig into Swedish news as well, but honestly, it just reads so incredibly trivial – pebbles thrown in a tiny pond of political indulgence. At least when compared to all the really important issues the rest of the world is going through now. Obvious biases aside, I still feel I have a pretty good objective sense of key ongoings.
I continue to worry about the state of the US and what could be a potentially devastatingly chaotic, disastrous autumn. Living in this part of the world (EU) feels a whole lot safer, more secure – but also uneventful. I have family in California and Alaska, so that gives me a little anxiety. What if things get really bad? Lawless, even.
The rioting and protests aside, the socio-political upheavals have so far been mostly sensationalized by the media but trivial in the grand scheme of things. But what if there’s a dramatic escalation as we near November? What if Trump double downs on the confusion and deploys more military troupes, declares Marshall Law and does his best to fan the fires so the pandemonium spirals, spreads, and blankets the entire nation prior, during, and after the election?
The United States is going through so much turbulence right now. It’s mindboggling. I watched this really well-made documentary about Fascism in Europe the other day and was taken aback by how many parallels there were between the 1920s-30s in Italy and Germany and how things are right now. Trump isn’t smart enough to fully emulate the strategies of Mussolini and Hilter. But he does surround himself with a gang of ruthless thugs that could – and they are already in control of the narrative on Twitter and Fox News. Amazing that we forget how to recognize the signature elements of dictators. It’s like we all suffer from collective amnesia or dementia.
Maybe it’s time for a total reset. Maybe the fall will be so chaotic, so violent and disruptive, that good thing will come from it all once the dust has cleared.
Finally, a reminder of a few things that I think needs immediate fixing.
I learned of what is referred to as “The Chickenization of America” the other day. Not that I wasn’t aware of how monopolism, in general, is slowly but surely eating away and destroying democracy around the world. I just hadn’t heard it framed and phrased that way before. Just like at the beginning of the last century, a few key actors, huge, publicly-traded conglomerates, focused entirely on domination and increasing profits at any cost, are pulling all the strings today. Forbes has an excellent piece that points this out incontrovertibly. And since America has this problem, I can’t see how not breaking up the monopolies wouldn’t spread the wealth and revive competition!
Lobbying and Political Finances
The amount of money in US politics is another issue that needs to be fixed pronto. I think you have to either be cretinous or just plain ignorant not to see how American politicians are bought and sold left and right. Someone recently suggested that the American public should hire a lobbying firm to represent them in Congress. A brilliant idea, however sad it is. Shorten political term limits are also high on my list of ways to improve sound political activism in the US. To put it bluntly, Americans are too fat, physically, and mentally to understand how their democratic system is being dismantled and sold piece by piece by piece. Just the fact that their needs to be lobbyists should be a clear warning that the system is fucked.
Universal Healthcare is such a no-brainer that I don’t get how anybody could question it. How to finance this? Easy. Just reduce 10% of the Pentagon’s budget. Take another 5% and you could have a free college education for everyone. The Guardian has written an interesting article about this could save trillions. On the other hand, Americans would probably not need full universal healthcare if they just started eating and living healthier.
Ok, back to work.
Back in the village after a day in Lund where I discovered this wonderful resurfaced piece somewhere on an otherwise bland side street in the city’s historic district. More from my Resurfaced series can be enjoyed here.
I have more than enough photos of cows munching grass and simply calling out to them on the meadow hasn’t helped grab their attention at all. So, I devised a slightly different strategy, realizing that I had to befriend them somehow. Cows might not be the animal kingdom’s smartest mammal, but they surely know that I don’t belong to their tribe.
A month or so ago, I came up with an idea. I played a string of sound effects of cows mooing and calling out through my iPhone’s tiny speakers. Low and behold, the whole crew would not only look up from their grass munching, but a few of the boldest ones would also walk towards me, possibly thinking that in fact, I was one of them after all – just a little different. My strategy is the same as what some birdies do when they use a whistle or hunters when they employ horny moose calls. And with a few slices of apple with me, I literally have the cows in Vejbystrand eating out of my hand.
When I moved into this little cabin back in February, it was a mess. Unfinished walls and packed from floor to ceiling with all kinds of stuff n’ junk. Most of the cabin’s contents went to our local charity and whatever was left has been archived in boxes and stored away.
After giving the place a coat of paint, new furniture, wall decor, and both elephant grass and giant bamboo, my little summer studio has been a great place to work. At least until the late afternoon when the sun is out and pointed straight at my front window and the place gets sauna hot. On these rare afternoons, I’m usually ready to quit anyway, so no harm is done.
We’ll be heading back to Malmö in a while and I’m looking forward to enjoying additional indoor space – especially now that autumn is almost upon us. Still, I can see how I’ll be back here later in the fall to work on my new book of short stories.