The hand of the diligent maketh rich

Long before organized religion in America was infiltrated by evangelical-meets-Amway versions of Christian leaders, there was Reverend Ike.

Long before “Right-wing” and “Christian” were inexorably linked, decades before the Messiah was co-opted as bumper-sticker content, and a generation before the presumptuous question, What Would Jesus Do? was abbreviated (WWJD?) on millions of imitation-silver bracelets, there was the Rev. Frederick J. Eikerenkoetter II.

This larger-than-life minister, a self-made African-American Billy Graham-meets-P.T. Barnum, who preached personal gain as a direct result of devotion to God, died last week at age 74.

The New York Times quotes him: “Close your eyes and see green…Money up to your armpits, a roomful of money and there you are, just tossing around in it like a swimming pool.”

They heard, they closed their eyes, they saw green, and they sent a lot of it to Reverend Ike.

The IRS and the US Postal Service turned over every rock in the Reverend’s yard, looking for a way to nail the founder of the United Church of Jesus Christ for All People, for his stable of fine cars and lavish homes. They didn’t deter him or dampen his devotees’ enthusiasm. The man lifted his church and radio listeners way up. Reverend Ike talked of something beyond original sin and the long wait for the Promised Land. He distracted them from the here-on-earth realities of bigotry and want. He spoke the universal language of success, the creed of capitalism and the benediction of upward mobility.

It is a safe bet that no one dozed off during Reverend Ike’s sermons. As writer Christopher Lehmann-Haupt points out in The New York Times:

“Reverend Ike could be an electric preacher, whether at the old theater or on the road appearing before standing-room-only audiences. And he could make his congregations laugh, drawing on the Bible to drive home his message about the virtues of material rewards. ‘If it’s that difficult for a rich man to get into heaven,’ he would often say, citing Matthew, ‘think how terrible it must be for a poor man to get in. He doesn’t even have a bribe for the gatekeeper.’ “

Organized religion may well have once been the opiate of the masses. These days, when the opiate of the masses is well, opiates, a guy offering up some lively pastoral rhetoric doesn’t seem so awful.

Progress and social change in America have always been driven by religious movements and leaders. A lot of that change has been painful, much of it good. Commandment-embracer or nonbeliever, you can thank someone in a pulpit for some of your nearby food banks, transitional housing, health clinics and daycare.

And we can all mourn the passing of a man who put on a good show, and who figured God wouldn’t mind if we piled up a little treasure here on earth, not just in heaven.


I, blogger

“Microcelebrity” is what we bloggers want, and each of us defines that evocative term in our own way.

I discovered that word in a terrific piece of commentary by author Bill Wasik in The New York Times. Wasik compares internet ventures with a young adult’s idealistic move to New York City. He writes:

“The experience of moving online actually bears quite a few similarities to becoming a New Yorker. Disorienting and seemingly endless, the Internet conversation moves at lightning speed and according to unstated social rules that can bewilder outsiders. Also, like New Yorkers, residents of the Internet do not suffer fools, or mince words in belittling them, as anyone who has contributed a redundant post to Metafilter, or an earnest comment to Gawker, can attest.

A down-market version of that experience happens here in Portland. This is a young city, full of the magnetic pulls of great new music, art, food and other art. The hip factor, bike lanes, utterly absent dress code, and infinite number of temp agencies make it a good incubator for those of tender years and big dreams. (And a surprising number of late-career types.)

The Willamette River isn’t the only thing that flows through here. Every six months or so I hear from a Smith College alum (or one of their brothers) who has just landed here to pursue a life of art/social work/activism/journalism and who needs a decent meal/$50/a resume re-write/an evening’s break from the other three roommates. Some cherished friendships have grown out of those calls.

Likewise, as Wasik notes, the internet experience is one of connections and hopefulness–and in this, it transcends generation. Granted, my younger friends waste none of their time marveling at the transparency of life online, while my contemporaries are stunned by their own addiction to Facebook.

Why do I do it? I wasn’t even that wild about the public nature of being a newspaper reporter, never mind this wide-open medium. I think there’s a very attractive combination of forces at work when one blogs. I manage to be both intimate and public, journalist and fiction writer. I choose the news of the day. I revel in inconsistency and I take a morning off when I feel like it.

Oddly enough, blogging also feels more like my early days in a daily newsroom than anything else. Just as I did back then, I rise early and I have a clean slate every day. I know my family and close friends will read whatever I write, and quite a few strangers too. I have an inflated sense of my value, but most of the time I keep that under wraps. I secretly know my brilliance will be rewarded.

Let us bow our heads

It’s true: Hospitals and casinos are remarkably similar.

Years of family visits to Reno and Lake Tahoe have acquainted me with every casino restaurant for miles. That’s where you go to eat with a large group. Ditto for hotel accommodations. Even if you don’t gamble, there’s no avoiding gaming culture.

Last week I hung out in the astonishingly well-run St. Vincent’s Providence Hospital in Portland, Oregon, while my best friend recovered from scary emergency surgery. It took me a day or so to pinpoint the source of that eerie deja vu. Then it came to me: Only the slot machines were missing.

We go to casinos and hospitals seeking a change in our luck, sometimes betting against hugely unfavorable odds. The first day or so is a blur of hope and gratitude, which give way to weariness, regardless of how things are going.

The best-run of both rely on long-time staff people with inexplicable loyalty and high degree of personal pride. A discarded gum wrapper is a moral affront to the worker in both settings. While all are welcome at St. Vincent’s, it is most definitely a Catholic facility, evidenced by crucifixes in the rooms and historical murals showing the tireless Sisters of Providence who brought lifesaving care to the forested wilderness. Another sort of dogged pioneer brought life to the dessert of Nevada, an equally unlikely, and some would say, lifesaving, venture.

Both places have unique etiquette:

Use hand sanitizer at every door/Place chips on the table, not in the dealer’s hand.

Both also move us to suspend normal behaviors. We tell strangers in the elevator about losing the farm and the appendix. We call for a hooker or a chaplain to get us through the dark night. When the bill comes due, we’re shocked. Then we rally and talk about how “it could have been worse if…”

In both we hope for things that are out of reach; we mutter to God under our breath, promising to be better people if we’re dealt a good hand just this once.

Paranoia & Heartbreak

I’m still on hospital duty, but does that mean you won’t have anything to read? Certainly not.

Here’s a review I was lucky enough to write for this week’s Seattle Times:

“Paranoia & Heartbreak: Fifteen Years in a Juvenile Facility” by Jerome Gold

(Seven Stories Press, 344 pp., $19.95)

Jerome Gold has been in danger most of his adult life, in ways both visible and hidden.

As a soldier in Vietnam and later a rehabilitation counselor in a Washington state juvenile-detention facility, his survival hung on luck and intelligent caution, some days in equal measure. As a writer, he seems to live with the same ratio of risk and careful craft.

Reading “Paranoia & Heartbreak,” a journal of Gold’s years in what amounts to a prison for kids is like waking up in one of those Hieronymus Bosch paintings full of punishment and predatory reveling. First the horror overwhelms; over time it comes into focus as familiar surroundings. Evil becomes almost normal.

Read the rest here.

Watch your hat and coat. And your book.

I was just about ready to admit that maybe the Kindle wasn’t so bad. As much as I love real, honest-to-God paper pages and covers, the idea of being able to get a zillion books on a portable electronic tablet was seeming more appealing.

Now, though, as our New York relatives like to say: forgetaboutit.

Once I read the story about Amazon recalling George Orwell’s 1984 from Kindle owners who had already purchased and downloaded the novel, I came back to the fold. If it plugs in and lights up, it ain’t a book. Period.

Like everyone else who read the story, I’m loving the irony of Orwell’s famous big-brother-bashing book being the one that got taken away from the little people. Now that wireless giveth us e-books, it turns out it can also be used to taketh them away. Who knew?

Amazon took the book back when it became clear that a particular digital-publishing company selling 1984 for Kindle use did not have the legal right to do so. That seems appropriately respectful of copyright law, something that a lot of authors will appreciate. It just came a little late. You have to pay for a title search when you buy a house, but apparently the other kind of title searching got a little sloppy somewhere along the pipeline.

And, of course, the method of retrieval was unnerving. Thank God I didn’t buy my knock-off designer jeans by wireless.

I’m imagining that somewhere deep in the bowels of Amazon’s underground bunker, there’s a poor guy who had to take a deep breath, click on the RECALL icon, knowing he was about to become the online-bookseller equivalent of that perv who hangs around the laundromat and filches underwear out of the dryer.

It’s okay, buddy. You were just following orders. Mr. Orwell would understand.

How dry I am

Here at Type Like the Wind, we’re very cautious about product endorsement.

It’s a big responsibility, as well as a slippery slope. One glowing review here, another one there and — bam! Next thing you know, I’m sitting here with my PJs covered with brand logos, like a NASCAR driver.

Yet there are some products so superior that they simply must be singled out. Introducing DampRid by WM Barr. This busy little company, based in Memphis, makes stuff that does some utterly thankless work.

Its calcium chloride-based goods suck up moisture without machinery, toxic fumes or slurping sounds. This may not sound like a big deal, but if your closets smelled like a wet (and perhaps, ill) small animal when left to their own devices, you’d love DampRid too.

My personal favorite from the DampRid line is the Fragrance-free Hanging Moisture Absorber. This device is simple: a two-part clear-plastic bag on a small hanger. The top section has a chunk of what I presume is calcium chloride, a substance about which I know absolutely nothing except that it’s white and described in two words. The bottom bag is empty. Within about 3.5 weeks, that bag is full of water and the clump of white stuff is gone.

(That’s in my closet. My husband got the one in which it takes twice as long for the water-bag to fill. I’m sure he didn’t realize the vastly different moisture levels when he gallantly insisted I take the slightly larger closet. The one with the gigantic, sweating water-heater in the corner.)

Once I got over feeling creeped out that my clothes hang in the indoor equivalent of a protected wetland, I came to enjoy the Fragrance-free Hanging Moisture Absorber for its cool magic-trick performance. I don’t actually watch it work (that would be just weird) but I do check it every few days. When it’s full, I empty the bag and put in a new one.

(A true Portlander would use the collected water for plants. I pour it down the drain, listening nervously for the Eco-Police to pull up in their Prius, with solar-powered blue lights flashing.)

I order the Fragrance-free Hanging Moisture Absorbers directly from the company because no store in Greater Portland sells the unscented ones. Sadly, the “Fresh Scent” version turns the closet into a place that smells like an ill, wet, small animal who made a long stop by the perfume bar at Macy’s before coming over. I get a $35.95 six-pack every few months; probably the only six-pack of any kind I’ve purchased in 20 years.

I’m grateful that whatever it takes to assemble these products is happening way out there at WM Barr. That somewhere out there is a big, big pile of calcium chloride and people willing and able to shovel it into small bags, then send it across the country.

I worry about a lot of things: unrest in the Middle East, hate crimes, my own inevitable bone and memory loss; the fate of newspapers. One thing I don’t worry about is my closet. It’s important to take comfort where one can find it.

Bowling alone, reading together

I used to own a knitted book cover, just the right size to slip over a paperback. I got it at the same crafts fair where I found the homely yellow-and-orange teapot cozy that makes the pot look just like a severed head wearing a winter cap.

(Still, it does keep the tea nice and warm.)

The book cover instantly turned the trashiest novel into something mysterious. Or at least less obviously trashy. I used it often on airplanes, back when I cared what strangers thought of me.

These days my reading, like most of my opinions, is right out there. Take it or leave it; roll your eyes or agree with enthusiasm. Whatever.

This open-book policy has a real upside, and a recent wonderful post in the UK’s Guardian Book Blog captures it. Lively writer Molly Flatt talks about public encounters in which strangers comment on the book she’s reading:

“Novels aren’t just sources of solitary cogitation. They are social objects, and we use them to brandish our identities, mark our allegiances and broker our relationships.”

Well said. I’d add that books provide one of the last safe and polite ways to engage a stranger. I’ve arrived at the point in life where my saying “What a great purse!” to a younger woman is not much of a compliment. Who wants accessory admiration from someone carrying her stuff around in a Trader Joe’s canvas sack?

But saying “I love Randy Sue Coburn! She’s from Seattle! Have you read her other books?” is not only a welcome comment, it usually leads to a conversation well worth having. Sometimes it leads to a more lasting bond, as it did two summers ago when a tourist on the Portland streetcar asked me about the Doris Kearns Goodwin biography I was carrying. Our chatting led to coffee, dinner, and we’ve been emailing cross-country since.

As with any social intercourse, there are some partners one should avoid. I’ve learned that it is a very bad idea to try to engage over anything by Dan Brown. That may be because I’ve never been able to say anything except, “You like The Da Vinci Code? You’re kidding me, right?” Likewise, any book with “Conscience-driven” or “Chicken Soup” in the title just gets me into trouble.

Oh, and the old dude in the park reading that library copy of Tropic of Cancer? Just keep on walking right past him, trust me.

Taking it on the chin

I keep hearing and reading that tough economic times mean much lower profits for luxury and cosmetic services. This is good news for the little people: On the off chance that one of us gets called for a job interview, we can get a chic new haircut at the last minute, in time to sit down with the 12-year-old manager and enthuse about teamwork.

Evidence of frightened exfoliators surfaced here last week, when every house on the block got a discount-coupon from a posh new massage-skincare-haircut place a few zip codes away.

I’d say the 30-percent savings on chemical-facial peels isn’t going to spark much interest in this neck of the woods, but I could be wrong. For all I know, everyone will look fresher and younger the next time we meet for a day-long graffiti paint-out.

This morning I read that cosmetic surgeons aren’t letting any grass grow under their Guccis either. An article in The New York Times describes growing popularity of a kind of plastic surgery that should go a long way to make up for the decline in nose-job work.

The story is about Marcus Davis, a 35-year-old boxer and martial-arts ninja whose face has been stitched up 77 times. Bleeding profusely is not good in the ring; it stops the fight. Not only was Davis an easy bleeder–apparently just the sight of his waffle-textured mug made judges jump to the conclusion that he was the lesser man.

A Las Vegas plastic surgeon “burred down the bones around Davis’s eye sockets. He also removed scar tissue around his eyes and replaced it with collagen made from the skin of cadavers,” according to R.M. Schneiderman’s article.

We’re all making adjustments these days: cheaper grades of beef, fewer movies, stalling on car payments. We’re all a little scared. Even as I type this, somewhere in a medical-office building close by, there is a board-certified plastic surgeon poring over Boxing Monthly magazine and hoping for the best.

Ledes and me

When I went to back to college at 40, one of the hardest things was letting go of the “news lede” style of writing.

My professors, who almost to a person looked thoroughly constipated when I proudly revealed my profession, immediately pounced on my snappy opening paragraphs.

Professor: “This reads like a sell job.”
Me: (stiffly) “I don’t think a winning introduction is ever out of place.”
Professor: (dismissively) “You would do well to revisit this.”

I did. I learned to write those Ambien-like opening grafs when necessary. And, fortunately, I found a terrific thesis adviser, an historian and gifted author who didn’t take points off when I stepped into a pile of journalism now and then.

Returning to the daily-newspaper world was the same conversation, in reverse:

Editor: “Are you kidding me? What’s with this lede?”
Me: (stiffly) “I think readers deserve something a little less formulaic.”
Editor: (dismissively) “Bullshit.”

These days, of course, I get to veer wildly between ledes and thesis statements, a sort of literary bumper car, smashing into them just for laughs. Behind every former-journalist blogger is someone who always wanted to use the passive voice and bury the lede in the 19th graf.

And here, only about seven grafs in, is the point of this post: Today I read one of those ledes that makes me proud to have printer’s ink in my veins. Every now and again, a writer gets a whole story in that opening line. Michael Brick did it in the New York Times:

“John Bachar, a rock climber who inspired awe as a daredevil, condescension as an anachronism and eventually respect as a legend, fell to his death Sunday from a rock formation near his home in California. He was 51.”

Even more rare is the writer who gets it all in the lede, and then quits. One of my all-time favorites is this from E.B. White, who in 1963 captured John F. Kennedy in 149 perfect words:

“When we think of him, he is without a hat, standing in the wind and weather. He was impatient of topcoats and hats, preferring to be exposed, and he was young enough and tough enough to confront and to enjoy the cold and the wind of these times, whether the winds of nature or the winds of political circumstance and national danger. He died of exposure, but in a way that he would have settled for—in the line of duty, and with his friends and enemies all around, supporting him and shooting at him. It can be said of him, as of few men in a like position, that he did not fear the weather, and did not trim his sails, but instead challenged the wind itself, to improve its direction and to cause it to blow more softly and more kindly over the world and its people.”

The Hose Indices

I start most days pecking away at my keyboard while my husband watches 3 different news shows, toggling back and forth between them. Did I mention that the TV is about six feet away from my desk?

Weirdly, it works for both of us. I make surprised-sounding noises when he comments on the latest news disaster; he lowers the volume even before I finish the sentence, “Honey, can I read this to you?”

This morning, again, the news was all about economic indicators. The ones that prove what we already know: We’re hosed. Stimulus money is getting flushed while unemployment rises and costs for goods, services, health care and housing chew away at everyone’s puny savings and last nerve.

I guess some folks, somewhere, are surprised by the proof offered by these economic measuring sticks. I’m not. My trusty indicators have been spot-on for months.

The Classified Index: I’m an inveterate reader of classified ads. (I’ve had to move that habit online as newspaper print ads have dwindled, alas.) When the usual Christmas-season temporary-help ads didn’t spring up last fall, I knew we were screwed.

Ditto when more ads started appearing for collections work. You know it’s bad when companies that repossess cars from delinquent owners have so much work that they need “spotters” who drive around to find the cars in question, then radio the findings to the exhausted repo guy.

The Thrift-Store Index: When women wearing $190 shoes are pushing through the sweater rack at Goodwill, it’s time to accept that 24-month CDs paying 0.4% is neither misprint nor fluke.

The Panicked Landlord Index: I have young friends in that multi-roommate stage of life who report that in the last three months, the usually interminable lease-application process is moving at warp speed. When we came to Portland a few years ago, getting an apartment was tougher than making it into an edition of Burke’s Peerage & Gentry. Now, if you show up without a visible weapon and your check clears, you’re in.

The Crowded Sample-Table Index: You can’t tell me that the growing number of people lining up three-deep for a free sample of jalapeno turkey jerky at Costco doesn’t mean something.

Good to the last drop

Coffee, as you know, is no longer a beverage, it’s more like a drug cocktail. That sweet latte is two parts caffeine, heavy Vitamin D, high enough glycemic index to rocket it into your needy system.

The fact that most of us know so much about where our coffee originates tells you something. Usually we’re the sort of people who wear sneakers made in a Chinese sweatshop, while standing in line for a union rally.

Actually, the “Fair-trade” coffee label smacks a bit of the “Pro-life” label — both are marketing genius. You can proclaim where you stand AND cast the opposing side as evil — “Unfair trade” and “Anti-Life.”

We bean-Philistines have our conceits too. I take that self-delusional pride in drinking plain coffee, pleased to be the only one in the cafe who can order in two words: “Medium drip.”

I’m guessing that some time in the future I will be asking for “Hot, soy-free coffee in a cup” because the norm will be cold, soy-infused stuff that they pour into a vessel you bring in. If you leave your cup in the car, they’ll grudgingly give you one, just the way that stern checker does at Whole Foods, the one who acts like that paper bag is made from the flesh of newborns.

I do love the stuff though. I started drinking coffee as a kid. The story goes that at age 3, I threw my bottle across the room and refused to touch another drop of milk unless it was completely disguised. I don’t remember ever drinking it; even a whiff of straight milk makes me gag. Today such infant behavior would be cause for medical and psychiatric alarm; in my childhood home it was written off as a sign of a discerning palate.

My mother, a Southerner who thought Coke was a food group and wouldn’t allow me to eat anything with mayo during the summer because Yankees didn’t understand refrigeration, came up with the brilliant solution of allowing me coffee, heavily laced with whole milk.

I didn’t like it on an empty stomach, delicate flower that I was. So, coffee was usually a dinner beverage. No one ever remarked on its stimulant properties, but they might have something to do with my witnessing so much of Johnny Carson’s TV heyday.

A favorite memory:

Age 11 or so, sitting at a Howard Johnson’s lunch counter with my mother. I order a well-done hamburger, politely adding: “Coffee, regular, please.” (Back then in Massachusetts, “regular” meant a lot of cream added.)

The waitress does a double take and coos: “Wouldn’t you like a nice glass of milk?”

My mother, glaring, says in the firmest of voices: “She said coffee.”

Simple math

California’s decision to use IOUs as a way to keep the budget wheels turning is understandable, but faulty.

Based on my own experience on the receiving end, I can say this: IOUs are a great concept unless you are the U part.

A better strategy would be my Keep Moving Plan. KMP was inspired by that old urban joke that there’s just one Blauplunkt car stereo in the city of Boston: It just gets stolen and re-stolen.

Here’s how it works:

Invest heavily in goods using credit, then keep inventory idle. Right before credit-line grace period is up and interest commences, return all goods to vendor. Then re-purchase goods at much cheaper price and adjust for operating costs. Result: Invigorated marketplace, improved bottom line and heightened consumer morale.

An example:

Purchase four polished-cotton, three-quarter-sleeve shirts from Nordstrom for $288.

Start the next four days by viewing the newly bloated Visa statement online.

Return all goods.

Purchase four polished-cotton, three-quarter-sleeve shirts from Goodwill for $27.96.

Net savings (adjusting for cost of detergent and electricity needed to boil goods, twice): $258.04

Along with the measurable market benefits, there’s the enormous satisfaction at having cut costs without an embarrassing public proffering of IOUs.

Sisterhood is indeed powerful

If you could bottle nerve, the Vatican would look like a Coca-Cola plant at full throttle. The father-ship of the Church, that same institution that has enabled its clergy to misuse its power in the most heinous possible ways, then made an art out of covering it up, is now looking into its feisty sisterhood.

The Vatican is not happy with the independent nature of American Roman Catholic nuns, and they’re wielding the most effective device available to modern-day witch hunters: The “doctrinal investigation.”

As the New York Times reports, the nuns under scrutiny are not fooled by this latest Vatican-speak. They know what powerful women have always known: Get too smart, call too much bullshit and before you know it, someone in power is citing your wardrobe choices as proof that you need reining in.

These nun-rebels are a nervy bunch too. They teach, feed and care for people our government can’t seem to help. They pray for people they’ve never met, people who want nothing to do with God, Jesus, and certainly not organized religion.

Some think impure thoughts, such as “Maybe we should ordain women or married men” and “clergy who abuse children should be prosecuted.” Some are clearly unable to grasp the Vatican’s point that homosexuality is evil. Most of these women don’t wear habits; some teach meditation and practice healing arts. They are shamefully inept at kissing Vatican butt.

I wrote about the Stonewall anniversary earlier this week — the historic week in which gay and lesbian citizens got pushed too far and rioted. There’s another historic riot brewing and this time it won’t rage outside a Greenwich Village bar. And I bet it won’t take 40 years for the rest of us to wake up and support the cause this time.

Retooling journalism

A friend sent me the URL for Malcolm Gladwell’s book review in The New Yorker. (A magazine I get in print form, and which I read about two weeks after it arrives.)

Gladwell comments on Chris Anderson’s new book, “Free: The Future of a Radical Price” (Hyperion; $26.99),

The book makes the case, as Gladwell paraphrases, that “newspapers need to accept that content is never again going to be worth what they want it to be worth, and reinvent their business.” As author Anderson writes: “Out of the bloodbath will come a new role for professional journalists.”

Well, that’s certainly true. I think “a new role” is a much nicer way to say “broke, uninsured, compromised.” Gladwell quotes from Anderson’s book:

“There may be more of them, not fewer, as the ability to participate in journalism extends beyond the credentialed halls of traditional media. But they may be paid far less, and for many it won’t be a full time job at all. Journalism as a profession will share the stage with journalism as an avocation. Meanwhile, others may use their skills to teach and organize amateurs to do a better job covering their own communities, becoming more editor/coach than writer. If so, leveraging the Free—paying people to get other people to write for non-monetary rewards—may not be the enemy of professional journalists. Instead, it may be their salvation.”

Gladwell goes on to take this view apart. I won’t steal the rest of the review here…buy the magazine and enjoy.

I’ll just say this: At some point we’ll all need to quit shaping this discussion along the lines of “Is this good or bad for journalists?” and concentrate strictly on what this means for readers, especially young ones who won’t be comparing the New Journalism as done by part-time, non-specialists to the stuff we haggard veterans are defending.

In the meantime, I took the online multiple-choice test for the Oregon Food Handlers Permit, which will allow me to wait tables should my freelance life go up in smoke someday. I also can now ascertain if meat is safely refrigerated. (Won’t I be the compelling party conversationalist this weekend?)

Anyone need a cranky middle-aged waitress with no math skills and a poor short-term memory?

No, I don’t know if the damn risotto has cilantro. Just have the burger, well done. And get your elbows off the table.