Thursday, October 31, 2013

Something Old

“Vell, vhat do you zink?” the tall man scowled at us in the most intimidating, pretentious, “you don't deserve to be here” manner. 

In other words, he was treating us exactly how I'd expected a jewelry dealer in a store with a big name and bigger price tags would. Between humming the store's jingle in my head for the past ten minutes and trying to place Mr. Better-Than-You's accent, I'd barely paid any attention to the shiny sparkler he'd placed on my ring finger.

I glanced down and watched the fiery stone flicker in the store's overhead lighting. It was lovely. It just wasn'

“It's beautiful,” I said, and the salesman nodded in agreement. “It's just so...”

“So?” he asked, eyebrow arched.


There was no arguing with that. The band all but screamed “Every Kiss Begins with Kay.” It just didn't mesh well at all with my engagement ring. My ring - my beloved, gorgeous, simple ring - was so very loved for so many reasons, that finding a wedding band to go with it had become my newest mission. And so far, squat.

The salesman shot me a smile slick with hidden irritation as I slid the band from my finger. He stuffed the ring back in its display case and slammed it shut.

I stood, pulling JT up with me. “Thanks, but I think I'll keep looking,” I muttered as we made our hasty exit. Once beyond the salesman's sight, JT stopped and turned to me.

“So, that was about our last option and you still haven't found anything you like.” The poor thing was right to be annoyed. I'd dragged him to at least four other stores in the mall just like the one we'd just left and I still hadn't found The One. We'd bought his wedding band an hour earlier when we'd spotted it on clearance. It'd cost a whopping $100, including a lifetime protection policy. I was super glad we'd scored it, but I also realized my hesitation to refinance our mortgage on anything for me was becoming a problem.

But I just had to find the right ring. My engagement ring is so incredibly special, it simply requires something perfect. My ring is a white gold band with a perfect oval stone at its center and two small diamonds perched on either side. You just don't find rings cut like ovals anymore, and that's because mine is truly one of a kind. My dad, who passed away seven years ago, had given this ring to my mother when he proposed in the 1970s. She later gave me that very ring, and when JT got the itch to propose, he had the diamond reset in white gold. It's utterly priceless. I love it, and its companion had to be perfect.

As I pulled the car out of its parking space, I sighed. Now I couldn't cross “Buy wedding bands” off my to-do list provided by The Knot. I'd subscribed to the site minutes after becoming engaged and checking items off the list brought me more joy than actually doing the required tasks. 

“Look, there,” I pointed out the window as we passed a strip mall just past the mall. “What's that? An estate store?”

JT peered out the window in the fading sunlight. “Yeah, seems to be.”

“Should we give it a try?” I glanced at the console's clock. 8:45 p.m. We were likely pushing it as far as the store's hours. Having worked in retail, I understood the extreme sense of “oh, hell” store clerks feel when someone comes into their store mere moments before they flip off the flashing florescent “Open” sign.

“Why not? Let's do it.”

“I don't know....” I said, as the car coasted past the shopping center entrance.

“Come on, babe. We're just going home. What does it hurt to stop?”

Just then, another entrance to the shopping center presented itself right at the far corner of the parking lot. That surely was a sign, right? I pulled in.

We parked, walked up to the storefront, pulled open the front door, and walked directly into an episode of “Hoarders: Antique Shop Edition.”


JT and I lurched backward as a mangy chihuahua-like beast hurled itself directly us. As JT kept the dog at bay, my head swirled at it took in my surroundings. The room was a narrow hallway, both side walls lined in floor-to-ceiling glass china cabinets, each one's doors threatening to burst open at the sheer volume of their contents. Inside, organized in no discernible pattern, perched everything from porcelain dolls to cuckoo clocks, Jesus statues to tattered doilies. Every inch of spare space left uncovered by the china closets was home to a piece of furniture apparently plucked directly from Mrs. Havisham's abandoned parlor: low musty chaise lounges coated in stained upholstery and an inch of dust, an eight-feet-tall grandfather clock whose counter lumbered back and forth as if drunk. Oil paintings sat propped up everywhere, each one depicting one anonymous subject or unrecognizable scene or another. The squishy shag carpet beneath our feet was a rusty gold, nearly the same shade as the tiny canine still attempting to intimidate us into retreat.

“Barkley, down!” a voice floated from the back of the room. A waft of cigarette smoke initially obstructed its source from view, but as he took a few steps toward us, I could make out his features. This man, with the slight hunch to his back and slowness to his step, was easily in his seventies, and had clearly kept his fashion sense from the same decade. His polyester shirt was unbuttoned just enough to reveal a tuft of shiny gray chest hair. His obviously dyed hair, a brassy chestnut, sat swept back in a style that stopped just shy of being a true pompadour. He wore no fewer than five garish rings, their jeweled centers each spanning an entire knuckle. The barrage of bracelets he wore jingled as he shuffled toward us. Six chains rested around his neck, landing delicately in the patch of chest hair.

Ladies and gentleman, Yinzer Liberace.

The dog had obeyed his master's command, leaving us in the foray and rushing off to his owner, who scooped him up and planted a big kiss on his tiny snout. The man turned his attention to us, and gave us a “come closer” gesture. We took a few steps, sinking into the plush carpet and landing directly in front of a waist-high glass display case.

“Hello, I'm Jerry," he said. "What brings you in this evening?” 

I looked to JT, who gave me a “you go for it” nod. 

“I need an, um, wedding band?" I laughed so nervously, even Barkley felt the awkwardness in the air. "And I thought that since my ring is kinda old, maybe I could find something also, um, kinda old to go with it?”

Jerry placed Barkley back down on the floor behind the counter then turned back to me. He stuck his hand out palm up. I slid my own on top of his, and he wrenched my fingers to within an inch of his face to inspect my ring.

“Oh, yes, this is old,” he said, turning my hand this way and that, his own rings clanking together as he did. “And quite beautiful, if I might say so.....I might just have something here...” He dropped my hand and peered into his display case. I did the same, and saw pretty much what I'd expected. One gumball-sized bauble after another in every color of the rainbow. 

I prepared to shoot JT a discreet peace sign as it was clearly time to peace out.

“Now this just might work,” Jerry said at the same moment. I whipped back around and there, in his hand, was my wedding band. A stretch of tiny diamonds perched in a fine row, elevated ever so slightly above the white gold band that held them. It was clearly old, and dirty at that, but the second I saw it, I'd known I'd found my perfect match. I lunged for it.

As I slid my engagement ring off and the new/old piece on, I gasped. It looked so sublimely ideal on my finger like it was made for me. As I pulled my engagement ring on top of it, it nestled into place like it had finally found its home.

And it was in our price range. I was so beyond sold. Jerry offered to clean it for me and told me to come back the next day to pick it up.

When I returned, he had a line three-deep at the display case. I took my place behind them, and watched as one woman after another picked up pieces they'd had on hold, then naturally, modeled them for all of us. One had a sapphire so deep I initially thought it was an onyx. Another had a ruby that shimmered in the light every time she so much as moved. I moved to the front of the line, excited and confidant I was doing the right thing. Jerry let me try it on one more time, and the ladies gathered around me, gushing at its beauty and congratulating me on my pending nuptials.

Now I smile for even more reasons every time I look down at my left finger. I totally get that for some people, it's all about going to Jared. Give me Jerry any day.


Monday, October 28, 2013

Only In My Dreams

I'm in my wedding dress, but I've forgotten to wear the special, super-low cut bra that I bought because it would remain perfectly concealed under my strapless gown. Instead, I'm wearing a regular old ratty bra that I'd typically have on underneath a cable-knit sweater during an off laundry day. Everyone can see the straps protruding out from my sweetheart neckline. They droop loosely over my shoulders like unruly stands of fettuccine. The band of the bra sits a good three inches above the back of the dress, like a faded white censor strip placed on the wrong side of a topless women.

I'm at the altar, and I know the bra is all wrong. More than all wrong, down right ridiculous. But I've come this far, and I can't go back. I hear a low roar as the crowd of guests takes in my unorthodox underwear, and I flush a thick scarlet as the tears hurl out from behind my eyes. This is all wrong. How could I let this happen? Why the hell didn't one of my bridesmaids stop me before I put one toe outside the dressing room? This is unbearable. I have to get out. I turn around and run, as laughter pounds at my ears. Even JT lets out a little chuckle. I run past pews of hysterical guests, who only roar louder at my escape attempt. I flee past my parents, who can only shake their hung heads in shame. This is by far the worst moment of my life.

Until the next time I have a wedding-related night terror, that is.

My dreams have always been bizarre. Either they're so realistic and in tune with something I've been thinking about that I catch myself a week later realizing something I thought happened, didn't. Or they're so banana-sandwich insane, I'm afraid to tell even JT their plot for fear he'll decide to leave me at an inopportune moment, like say, mere seconds after I recite my vows to him.

Wait, that was another dream. And I woke up with a knot in my chest, tears on my face and a horse voice from screeching after him as he took off with a faceless, scantily-clad wedding crashing bitch.

Wedding planning is wreaking havoc on my sleeping brain, and I have no way whatsoever to stop it.

Last night, I had a dream that JT and I were walking on a path in a beautiful forest. Sunlight streamed through branches of tall trees surrounding us. I thought we were alone until a woman walked past us. We all exchanged pleasantries, but her smile lingered a just moment too long as she nodded in JT's direction. As she walked on, JT suddenly stopped and turned to me. He confessed he'd always harbored a secret crush for this mystery woman and wondered if I'd be opposed to him pursuing it now.

“But we're in the middle of buying a house!” I exclaimed. “And we're engaged!”

“I know,” he said solemnly. “But I really want this.”

Stunned, all I could do was nod. The instant my head ducked in agreement, JT was off like a bullet, chasing after his future happiness.

I woke with a start, then shook JT awake to relay my most recent subconscious episode.

“Hmmm,” he said, rubbing sleep from his eyes and yawning. “Was she hot?”

He's really got this reassurance thing down.

Truthfully, his nonchalant response more likely stemmed from the fact that I'd woken him with these nocturnal tall tales no fewer than three times. In the last week.

There's truly nothing to be done to stop these bizarre scenes from running through my mind. All my life, my dreams have run the gamut from introspective to nonsensical in extreme waves I have no control over.

When I was younger, my dreams were so strange, my parents encouraged me to keep a dream journal. A sample entry:

Nov. 12, 1997

Last night, I had a dream that I was in this jail place and all of the sudden, Leslie Nielsen came flying out of the sky. He had a gray suit on. When he landed, his head fell off. Then me and this other person were trying to stop Leslie Nielsen and this other really pretty dark-haired woman from doing something. We were on their shoulders pulling their heads off, but they were still alive. Toward the end, we were all laughing about it.

The what? So wait, Leslie loses his head once, then it regenerates, and I and “this other person” try to rip it off again? And who's this dark-haired woman? Priscilla Presley? You know what? It doesn't matter. We all laugh it off in the end.

The bottom line is none of it really means anything. In the weeks since I've become engaged, I've dreamed that my Mum, in a fit of rage over me not sending out the invitations in a timely fashion, forced me to run an obstacle course while wearing my wedding gown. I dreamed that my ceremony was moved from my parents backyard to a tree house, and people, especially the grandparents, were furious that they couldn't scale the branches to get to it. I dreamed that no one came to the reception and JT and I ended up with 130 plates of chicken Marsala to eat on our own. It's all nonsense.

Yet, in some way it's serving some purpose. Because while I'm tormented in my dreams, I remain calm and collected in my waking hours. Things are going well. Details are falling into place.

Check with me in a few months*. I can only imagine the dreams I'll be having then. Probably something along the lines of JT swapping his tux for my wedding gown, rallying the wedding party to participate in a celebratory game of rugby in my parents' backyard, then hooking up with the caterer.

I'll be in the tree house, looking for scissors to cut these damn bra straps.

*This was written about four months before the wedding. And yes, the dreams did get worse. I actually think I exhausted my subconscious, because about a week before the wedding, they finally let up. I think my brain had its fill and was all, "ENOUGH." Either that, or it simply ran out of horrifying scenarios to throw at me. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Strange Bedfellows - Or, What To Do When Your Brother Sleeps With Your In-Laws. (Part Two)

*Be sure you've read the first part, otherwise what follows will make no sense whatsoever to you. Heck, it makes no sense whatsoever to me, and I was there.

“Yeah, Jeff, what's up? You OK?”

“Oh, I am darlin'. But you're gonna have to come getcher brother out of my bed.”

I took a second to let that demand sink in. Nope, still didn't make sense.

“I'm sorry, what?”

“Follow me,” JT's dad said, helping me up off the floor and guiding me toward the room he and Dawn occupied.

My eyes immediately went to Dawn. She stood in the corner of the bedroom in her jammies, doubled over and red-faced, trying so hard and failing to control her laughter. My head swiveled right, and I saw the cause. There, at the foot of their bed, splayed out horizontally, was all 6-feet, four-inches of my brother. He was wrapped up in the covers like a burrito, his head poking out the top. His chest heaved in slow rhythmic movements and he emitted the slightest of snores. He was out cold.

I looked to Dawn who could only shake her head and cry even harder. I looked to Jeff, who was able to offer somewhat of an explanation. Apparently, a few minutes prior, they had heard someone come into their bedroom and use their adjoining bathroom. They then watched as the figure cozied up at the foot of their bed. They assumed it was JT, starting to feel the throws of his Platinum evening and wanting to be close to a toilet. So they decided to leave it alone and go back to sleep. That is, until the figure cleared his throat, and Dawn didn't recognize the tone as belonging to her son. She snapped on the bedside light, and saw my brother snoozing at her feet.

“I tried to wake him. But he just grabbed the covers and yanked 'em back over his head," Jeff said. "So, I'm looking at him, and I'm just thinking, 'Well, huh.'”

Well, sure. What else do you think when a strange man slides into your bed and bogarts the covers? 

“You did the right thing,” I assured Jeff, and silently thanked God for my future in-law's awesome sense of humor. “I'll see what I can do.”

I approached the bed slowly, as though Eric was the tiger in “The Hangover” and I was a steak-wielding Stu. I lightly touched his shoulder and gave it a quick shrug. Nothing. I pushed harder. Nothing. “ERIC!” I shouted.

At this, my brother popped up like a meerkat. He looked me right in the eye, looked in the opposite direction, stood up, and walked out the door. We followed and watched him pass right back out on the air mattress next to a snoozing Nik, who never even flinched. JT was still passed out on the couch. Dawn, Jeff and I gaped at each other wide-eyed as though a unicorn had just presented itself, did a quick tap dance, then disappeared.

“Huh.....well, night, darlin,'” Jeff said, ushering Dawn back into the bedroom.

I lay back down on the floor, wildly confused, but no worse for wear. I fell back to sleep with my eyebrows arched in perplexed wonder.

The next morning, I was the first to wake. I grabbed a cup of coffee and went out onto the balcony to consider the prior evening's events. It wasn't long before a sleepy-eyed Eric joined me.

He lumbered out, pulled a patio chair over, slumped down, and lit the day's first cigarette. I watched him closely, as if engrossed in a Discovery Channel documentary.

“Hey,” he said, leaning back for a stretch and yawning.

“Heeeey,” I said, finally pulling my stare away. Oh, this was too good.

He puffed and I sipped for a full minute before I couldn't wait any longer.

“So,” I said, pausing for effect. “Do you want to talk about the fact that you slept in Dawn and Jeff's bed last night, or...?”

Eric looked at me completely puzzled. His head cocked to the side. And then, slowly, wonderfully, his expression began to change. His scrunched eyebrows shoot heavenward, and his spine snapped straight. He gripped the handles of the chair, and every ounce of color drained from his face.

“WHAT THE FUCK DID I DO?!!!” he shrieked, looking at me pleadingly. I turned around, and just as I'd hoped, Dawn, Jeff and a brought-up-to-speed JT and Nik were all standing on the other side of the glass, laughing their faces off.

“OH MY GOD!!!!” Eric bolted inside and hung his head. “I DON'T KNOW WHAT HAPPENED! I'M SORRY! I'M SO SO SORRY!”

Dawn and Jeff just cried and cried and shook their heads. Finally, once we all could breathe again, Dawn put a reassuring arm around Eric.

“Well, honey, I guess we are all really family now. We've slept together.”

Eric continued to freak out, but eventually the mocking stopped. We've never fully let him off the hook, though. When they come to Pittsburgh to visit, Dawn and Jeff love to make a big deal of not revealing which hotel room is theirs lest Eric decide he wants another late-night snuggle.

It's all in good fun, and Eric has learned to live with the teasing. He blames the whole thing on sleepwalking.

I blame crab fries.  

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Strange Bedfellows – Or, What to Do When Your Brother Sleeps with Your In-Laws.

The thing I loved most about JT's proposal was that both of our families were represented when it went down (JT is, obvs, my now-husband. It's my nickname for him. And now yours, too!). His parents, Dawn and Jeff, were on the beach in Ocean City with us while his grandparents watched from our condo balcony 11 stories above. My brother, Eric, and sis-in-law, Nik, were there, too, getting some kick-ass candid photos of the whole thing (which they later had blown up and framed for me. Did I mention how hard my people rock?)

The thing I could have done without, however, happened later that night, when my brother decided he could not wait until the wedding to make the union of our two families official and attempted so sleep with JT”s parents.

Let's take it from the top.

Immediately after the proposal and subsequent 15 zillion phone calls to everyone we've ever met, JT and I wanted to celebrate. We decided to grab Eric and Nik and haul our little party to the boardwalk to eat, drink and merry it up.

We hopped on the Boardwalk Bus and soon learned it is not nearly as interesting for people watching mid-day as it is, say, midnightish when the drunken hoards begin to board. I once watched a swaying, slurring man disembark, sprint to the next stop and re-board. For six consecutive blocks. Each time he got on, he thought it was a different bus. He would get on, realize it wasn't headed in his desired direction, hop off, hoof it two blocks, then jump back on. Not one of us other passengers offered him any help, as we were too busy taking bets to see if he'd make it to the next stop. We let out a collective “Awww!” when the bus driver finally informed him he was effing nuts and couldn't get back on. And then an “Ewww!” as we all watched him ralph on the sidewalk. God, I love free entertainment.

Anyway, there was none of that on this trip (somewhat sadly) and we reached our destination, a bayside bar with all that tacky tiki crap on the walls and drinks served in coconuts, even though the closest native coconut is thousands of miles away.

So we found ourselves in this pseudo oasis drinking and talking about possible wedding ideas. That lasted about ten minutes before Eric got fed up and shouted, “You've been engaged one hour! No one gives a shit if you think the ring bearer's boutonniere should include an 'element of whimsy!'” So I told JT to stop all his wedding rambling (ahem) and we all spent the day just relaxing and generally being really really happy.

Drinks turned into dinner and what we thought looked like a fun Mexican spot on the boardwalk turned out to be a black hole where space and time are distended and what should be an hour-long meal turns into a 17-year social experiment in how much torture one person can sustain from a rude, slow and all-around terrible waitress before stabbing themselves in the jugular with a tortilla chip. After this particular girl took an hour to get our drinks, another 30 minutes to take our food order, delivered the (wrong) disgustingly undercooked meals, abandoned us for another 90 minutes, then took my debit card long enough to steal my identity and bid on all of eBay, JT and Eric literally just left. As I told them I was sure she'd return any minute with my poor abused card, they said they couldn't take another minute and needed a drink. So the boys took off in search of alcohol furnished by a human rather than a succubus, and Nik and I waited another 45 minutes so I could sign my debit slip and get the holy eff out of there. 

So Nik and I went to find the boys, and by the time we did in a tiny, sparsely populated dive bar a few blocks down, we had some catching up to do. We all calmed down from the disastrous dinner and tried to salvage the rest of our day. We played obnoxious hip hop and pop music on the jukebox, pumped quarters in the MegaTouch machine and laughed and carried on to the point of being OK again.

Until suddenly, we were very much not OK.

I believe it all began when JT decided to switch his drink of choice, lite beer, to Bud Light Platinum. I blame this choice for all of the following: 

JT sitting down Indian-style in the middle of a two-lane highway. Twice.

JT mounting a Dumpster.

JT punching an empty pizza box that was sitting atop of garage can (Not in like a weird, rage way. In an epically uncoordinated, bizarrely comedic way).

JT demanding I take him to a restaurant we'd eaten at once before where I'd gotten an order of their specialty: french fries topped with crab dip and cheese. Damn, those suckers were good, and JT had taken a few bites and remarked as such. Suddenly, those fries became a matter of national importance to my sloshed sweetheart. I'm pretty sure the astronauts in the Space Station heard his cry of “Crab fries!!!!” I took him there simply to get him to shut the eff up. Also, I kind of wanted some crab fries.

Nik and Eric laughed and laughed at all of this, as they too were feeling no pain. But they hadn't just
promised to take this man in holy matrimony, so I imagine their perspective of the whole spectacle was not nearly as “What the eff?” as mine.

We finally made it back to the condo, where the family was getting ready for bed. They all gathered around JT and howled as we regaled them with stories about his shenanigans, and cried laughing while watching him attempt to eat his crab fries in any kind of dignified manner. Cheese and crab everywhere, I tell you. We all laughed, had a few fries ourselves, put JT to bed on the pull-out couch, and called it a night. As the condo only had two bedrooms occupied by JT's parents and grandparents, Eric and Nik slept on an air mattress in the middle of the living room, and I snuggled up on the floor. JT's parents retired to their room, as did the grandparents, us all shouting “goodnights” at each other “Leave it to Beaver” style. I closed my eyes with a smile on my face, and conked out.

The next thing I heard was the concerned voice of JT's dad, Jeff, nudging me awake. (A note: Jeff has the best southern accent I've ever heard in my life. It's not super thick, just twangy enough to make his roots known. But Jeff is hysterically funny, known for perfectly-timed one-liners and something about that accent amplifies the hilarity in everything he says. So, with that in mind, moving on.)

“Darlin'?” I heard Jeff utter quietly, but firmly.

“Rumphff,” I answered, peeling my eyelids open. The only light in the condo crept out from the Dawn and Jeff's bedroom. It was almost pitch black.

“Rachel? Honey?”

OK, now I knew something was up, and it likely wasn't good. I snapped to consciousness.

“Yeah, Jeff, what's up? You OK?”

“Oh, I am darlin'. But you're gonna have to come getcher brother out of my bed.”

As thing has gone on FAR too long at this point, I will deem this TO BE CONTINUED. More (oh so much more) to come.
For a person who’s only happy when her never-ending to-do list has more checks than blank boxes, the last year has been enough to drastically up my investment in the sweet, sweet magic elixir/nerve-soother that is boxed wine. These days, my monthly recycling includes enough of these kicked bad boys to make a fort...or at least a small enclosure for an animal. Every time the bins have to go to the curb, I pray my neighbors assume I either a.) have a party every weekend with guests who apparate into my house Harry Potter-style, thus eliminating the need for street parking or b.) travel around all week snatching the boxes from hobos in attempts to get them off the sauce.

But I know none of this is true. And they know it too. And I know they know. But! What they don’t know is why.

Why have I become connaisseur of crappy wine with names like “Sunset Blush” and “Crisp White?” Why do I need something to calm the ceaseless list of Things To Do that runs on a loop in my mind any time it’s idle (and, often, when it’s very  much not idle and in the middle of, oh, I don’t know, Important Stuff That Requires My Full Attention)?

I’ve needed this because I got married. And bought a house. All in a one-year span.

Even if you’re not like me, and the term Type A means absolutely nothing to you…..even if the idea of SO MUCH CHANGE doesn’t render your daily heartburn medication useless...EVEN IF you prefer to galavant through life willy nilly-style without so much as an idea of what needs to be done, let alone a calendar on your phone that beeps every time you need to do something (a.k.a. every 15 seconds)… you have to admit that buying a house, packing, moving, planning a wedding and getting married are probably things best spread out over a period of, say, at least a decade.

Kidding, of course. I know there are tons of people who can pull this kind of stuff off in way less time (and with way more grace) than I did. I also know I put an absurd amount of pressure on myself to do things perfectly. I also know that perfection doesn’t exist. But try explaining that to my poor, spastic brain after 32 years of self-imposed abuse. It ain’t happening. So, yes, doing two whole things in one year is not that big of a most.

To me, it was a year of extreme highs and lows. There were days I was so excited and joy-filled I thought I might break into a soft shoe on my way to my office printer. There were days I felt so overwhelmed, I wanted to crawl into one of the several cubby holes in my new house and never come out. But most of all, there were days when something happened that struck me as so insanely, randomly hilarious, that I just had to make sure I remembered it.

And that’s exactly what I did. I wrote about the silly things, the oddball times, the moments no one could have planned for, no matter how high-strung you are. And those are the stories I intend to share here. They won’t be in any particular order, and I’ll probably pop in an update or even a brand new entry from time to time, based on whatever’s going on.

Some advice: these read a lot better when paired with a glass of “Delicious White” or “Fruity Sangria - Red.” Most of them were written with one nearby, anyway.

Happy reading!