Welcome to The Epic! I am launching this blog as a manifesto for and a guide to living well. The title and motto of the blog are taken from the Epicureans, at least some of whom believed in the notion that not one minute of the future was guaranteed to them and that as a result they had the duty to live life to its fullest every moment.
I believe in discovering fun and pleasurable things wherever I find myself each day and I am told I have a knack for unearthing them. My hope is that by sharing in my pleasures and some of my ways of finding them you will begin to collect all the riches that lie in the moments of your life. They are there. Take them! All our lives should be.....Epic.
Hello to all Epics everywhere with my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.
I suppose a lot of you are wondering how this first Christmas of the New Era has been for me and for the Future Rock Star. The truth is, it was rougher leading up to Christmas Eve and today than I imagined it would be. The Irish Redhead and I just adored Christmas and our entire family was always swept along in her enthusiasm as was usually the case. The returning reader may recall my post about driving all the way back to Florida from Wisconsin just so I would not miss our tradition of attending evening services on Christmas Eve. I had hoped that the heartache of the other special days this year which have come and gone would be cumulative and would in some way insulate my feelings on the greatest day of our spiritual year. I was wrong. The week or two leading up to today were filled with special challenges and trepidation, at least for me.
The first thing of course was to resist the temptation to bury my head in the emotional sand and skip Christmas altogether. As on a roller-coaster [if I were to ever ride one] to close my eyes and just hold on until New Year's Eve brings the turbulent ride which has been 2017 to a merciful close. It would have been pretty easy to opt for that approach.
But Christmas remains. It is and always will be my favorite holiday of the year. And, despite the cool exterior obtained over twenty years of life, the Future Rock Star loves it too. So I decided to put up our tree, and decorate the house. A bit. I admit that I did not have it in me to get out all of my wife's favorite decorations for the tree. I'm not sure that I will ever use them again. But Christmas remains. I bought gifts, wrapped them [horridly, I admit] and did my best.
Part of the problem is that I so vividly recall what we were doing a year ago. The IR was discharged from the hospital on Christmas Eve after an awful three week admission. After getting her home and properly installed in our bed for some real rest, I faced the daunting task of trying to get a particular time-released pain medication that, even with her very high pain threshold, she absolutely had to have to stay out of the hospital for Christmas. For all the charms of small city living, access to medication the evening before Christmas is not one of them. I drove to every pharmacy in our county that was open without success. Then, on a tip from a benevolent pharmacist, I drove to the adjoining county where, at midnight, I got the medicine. Amazingly, we had a very fine Christmas with gifts, a great dinner prepared by me and the Future Rock Star, the works. The Irish Redhead was in her full Christmas mode, delighting in every moment. The spirit continued unabated [with usual post-hospital recuperation time each day of course] through New Year's Day. Three weeks later, she was gone. Along with half my cell structure as I have previously mentioned.
Santa can do a lot of things but he can't give you that cell structure back. Santa can, however, give you the restorative gift of a lovely day. I am so pleased to report that that is exactly what I have received for the past twenty-four hours. Yesterday I had a nice breakfast and then went to see a special new friend who's company I have enjoyed on a few recent dates. I gave her a gift that I bought for her in New York a couple of weeks ago and she was as delighted with it as I had hoped she would be. I seem at the very least not to have lost my gift for paying attention to the nature of a lady. We chatted for a couple of hours and had a lovely time. Then I went to pay my mom a visit at her Assisted Care place as I do every Sunday afternoon. We had takeout food and gabbed about nothing in particular. After leaving my mom's I was invited over to the home of a pally where I used to perform Christmas standards with him at the piano. It was a gasser [as Frank would have said] to re-start that tradition. My singing was not quite up to par but after a couple of cocktails nobody much noticed. Then I went to church for the late service and back home to enjoy a great baked ziti prepared by the Future Rock Star.
By the time we finished eating it was already into the wee small hours of Christmas morning and the FRS said "can I play the eight year old card and open my presents"? I balked initially because I was YAWNING but I eventually gave in. It is the New Era after all. All of the presents were his anyhow, and he had specifically asked for most of them in the weeks leading up to Christmas. That said, there was one gift he requested that was whimsical even by his standards. An Irish Penny Whistle. He seems to have developed the notion that he should learn to play pub songs on it. I am very happy to report two things. First, that he was just as happy when he unwrapped that whistle as he was by any present I have ever seen him receive on Christmas. It revealed a boyishness that I haven't seen much from him this year.
Second, I can say that the finest Christmas present I have ever received was the distant sound of random tootling on an Irish whistle from the living room while I drifted off to a very contented sleep around 2:30 this morning. I know his mother was smiling.
A very happy New Year to each and every one of you!!
At 11:11 a.m. on this day in 1918 the worst blood letting the world had ever seen came to an end. There were a lot of people killed that morning although nobody really knew why. All over the world the mothers and fathers, wives, children, sisters and brothers wept in thanksgiving or in bitter loss. There was one good thing though. Laws were passed outlawing war forever. The laws only lasted twenty years.
On this day, now devoted in the U.S. to all of the military veterans who fortify our liberty with their lives, please thank someone. Pray for someone. Shake someone's hand. Remember someone who died over 100 years ago to save the world. The memorials are still there all over the globe. We mostly pass them by nowadays without a thought. Stop by one today and look...and remember...
Today is the birthday of one of my literary and gastronomic heroes...A.J. Liebling!!! He lived in Paris between the wars and wrote the marvelous book "Between Meals, An Appetite for Paris" about that time. He wrote superbly about boxing, politics, and any other topic that came his way at the old New Yorker magazine.
He was a fountain of great quotes such as:
The primary requisite for writing well about food is a good appetite. Without this, it is impossible to accumulate, within the allotted span, enough experience of eating to have anything worth setting down.
Liebling, not Hemingway, is the writer who ignited my enduring love affair with Paris. And even if he had been a lousy writer, I would owe him a huge debt of gratitude as a result.
The Epic diner is always on the alert for fine food. So it was that, years ago, my "spider sense" for restaurants went off strongly while I was driving up Interstate 65 from Mobile to Birmingham, Alabama. I saw one sign for Bates House of Turkey and immediately took the next exit. That single decision placed me into an incredible eating experience that I am proud to say has not changed one little bit in the twenty years since.
Bates is one of those small town classics that has managed to stay in business for generations. That sort of longevity is always founded upon great food, reasonable prices and fine service. Bates House of Turkey provides all of that at the highest level. The customers are all friendly too. They are all just happy eaters and they are happy you are eating too.
When you walk in the door one of the very friendly and well trained counter helpers gives you a big smile and asks for your order. Don't look for roast beef. Don't look for ham. Don't look for salami. This place is all about Dr. Franklin's "respectable bird". The turkey and only the turkey. Sandwiches, chili, lasagna, open faced sandwiches, dinner plates. You name it. As long as it features turkey.
I love everything about this place and I stop in every time I pass by. They open at 8:00 am. No scrambled eggs here. Turkey. Breakfast, lunch and dinner. This week I had the delightful experience of having lunch at BHoT on the way north to Birmingham on Monday and then again today on the way back south to Florida. I always get the carved turkey plate which includes FINE cornbread stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy and two side dishes. On a plastic plate with plastic forks and knives you get out of one of those devices with handles that dispenses them to you. Monday's lunch was...
Sliced tender, perfectly cooked turkey, perfect dressing, perfect gravy, green beans, and the most wonderful sweet potato casserole you ever tasted. And the dishes are all easy on the salt content as well. Oh did I mention the little cornbread muffin you get? And the little home baked roll? Both perfect. With tea and a slice of [wonderful] coconut cream pie. For just under $15. This place is like every southern grandma ever put all their cooking karma in one cute little building.
Day two lunch [south-bound] was...
Same plate but with fresh English peas and the best hash brown potato casserole you ever tasted. Oh, and a slice of chocolate cream pie this time. Just to mix it up.
This food is so good that when you finish you want to walk right up and order it all again. If anyone who calls themselves an Epic drives down I-65 and fails to stop at Bates House of Turkey [absent some very legitimate medical reason....and I want to see a note from the doctor] I'm going to read your name out in public. Because Bates House of Turkey is just about the best place you can be.
Hello to all of you Epics. I haven't been writing but I am still hanging around. This is my chapbook page on some experiences from the first seven months after losing the Irish Redhead.
I was a total mess for about three months, not much able to do anything but stare out the window. They say that is pretty much par for the course; only the amount of time varies. Now I only get that way on certain days. The problem is I can never tell what day is a certain day until it happens.
Early on, I saw myself in mortal emotional peril. The peril of going into some sort of mental fetal position and not waking up emotionally until I was very old. Then I was blessed with meeting three very different but singular women who have literally saved my emotional life. All younger than I am, their vivacity and joie de vivre has been a tonic to me and they have all helped, at different times and places, to restore the sense that I am an independent fellow of my own making even without the half of my cell structure that was connected to the IR's and which remains with her still.
This first round of special days has been brutal. After the funeral, Easter, Mothers' Day, my birthday, our son's birthday, Fathers' Day. Next month her birthday and our 30th anniversary. The same week.
You don't want to go to the cemetery all the time like you would think you would want to do. Then again, some days you don't want to go any place else. Going to to her grave and leaving flowers isn't disarming. It's leaving there after you put the flowers down that kills you.
I find that I am just as bad with money as I was 35 years ago when I last had unfettered access to it. I find that sort of charming in a way. She was superb with money. Careful and generous at the same time. She didn't trust me with it one little bit. I find that charming now too.
I cry at the oddest times and for the oddest reasons. At first the big things get to you. Then they don't. Then it is the little things. I am very thankful that I have only awakened from a dream crying three times.
We didn't really have a "special song". Now I am very glad about that. But if one of her favorite shows comes on television I can't bear to watch.
The most brutal thing of all is cleaning out her closet. One of my lady friends told me of a charity that helps women in homeless and other shelters dress well for job interviews. They do their hair and makeup and everything. And the charity always needs nice clothes. So I am donating almost all of the IR's very fine clothes, shoes, purses and non-heirloom jewelry to this outfit. She would really have liked that. But I still have to go in there and immerse myself in her best things. Some of which still smell like her cologne.
People say you feel like the person you lost is always right with you. I would like that but I don't feel that way. I feel like shes a million miles away. Like I am the one that got shipwrecked on some remote island.
I was doing what I considered to be o.k. until her dad had to go in the hospital a couple of times the past six weeks. He has lived with me for over 20 years. He is in the same hospital where she died. Going there is almost beyond my capacity. But I go anyhow. I admit it has set me back a good bit emotionally.
There are times when you just have to vanish and go out of town and pretend to be someone else. Or more accurately try to figure out who you are now. I am so thankful I have the ability to do that. It is a lot of fun to be able to go somewhere on the spur of the moment, I admit.
I don't feel guilty at all about trying to re-establish myself as a socially active single man. What other choice do I have? I have to remind myself that it is what I am. I imagine some eyebrows have been raised in this regard. Frankly, I don't give a damn.
I have discovered to my surprise that if I ask a woman out on a date a lot of the time she will say yes. I didn't have much nerve in that department 35 years ago.
I still wear my wedding ring. Some days I want to take it off. Some days I don't.
I played the part of the young husband in a High School rendition of Thornton Wilder's "Our Town".
The final scene made me cry way back then. Now I wish I had never heard of the play at all.
Some people feel that I must or will certainly re-marry. I don't see that happening at all. My current feeling about this [albeit very, very premature] is not in any way a negative comment on my marriage. Rather it is the highest endorsement of it. I was married once and very well and I don't think that I have the spiritual energy to commit that way again.
I know a young fellow who lost his wife three years ago. They had only been married a short time. I see him and I can't think of a single thing to say. I don't know what to say to myself.
Frank Sinatra said that at one point he "crawled into a bottle" and lived there for a year or so. I find life in a bottle isn't too bad as long as you can crawl out. It's cozy inside a bottle.
I do not deal well now with stressful situations. They make me sort of glass over. Not great in my line of work.
There are certain songs that make me cry. A lot. But I keep listening to them anyway. Not all the time thank God. Just sometimes. Usually very late at night. Or sometimes when I just need an excuse to cry. The musical version of stubbing your toe on purpose.
It is amazing to me when people ask "are you good now". No. I'm not. I lost half my cell structure in a moment. But I'm going to make it anyhow. And I am going to have a good time as best I can.
Frank would say I'm being "Charlie Raincloud" so I will close. Thanks for coming around. Don't worry about me. I do laugh and I don't feel horrid all the time. I have had some marvelous times with pretty friends. I'll eventually get to where there is blue sky most days. As I wrote a while ago, blue sky is always up there somewhere. For now, do me a favor. Go to the person you love and give them a big hug and a kiss and remind them how you feel. It is an Epic gesture, after all.
Like a lot of people, I became a huge fan of Big Bad Voodoo Daddy when they played in the Epic favorite movie Swingers. Every album they put out is to my liking.
This new one however, takes them in a completely new direction thematically. This album consists of covers of great tunes by Louis Armstrong, Louis Prima and Louis Jordan all done in the inimitable BBVD style. Superb!!!!
Any Epic would love this album for summer swilling and chilling. GO DADDY-O!!
As returning Epics know, I have always loved Hartsfield airport in Atlanta. One of my favorite restaurants is there. I have met many new friends there. They have a tremendous sculpture exhibit from Africa there in the tunnel between the A and T concourses. Returning Epics also know what a year this has been for me thus far.
But even in a maelstrom the wind eventually calms and the clouds eventually begin to part, if only intermittently. Sun peeks through. In the last sixteen weeks I have not only been through the worst emotional battering of my life but I have met a couple of superb new friends, had a few priceless trips, and I have even had some memorable social events.
I sat up in bed a couple of days ago during a tremendous trip to New York and realized that I felt better. Just a little. As if my internal compass had re-calibrated. That made me smile. But the next day I had to return to reality. I was concerned that my re-calibration might not survive the trip.
Then I happened through the Hartsfield tunnel between the B and A concourses. Where I ran upon the most amazing sculpture that lines the entire ceiling. It simulates tropical tree cover as you stroll along beneath it. Full of lush colors and light. With little spots where video panels show sky and birds flying about. With audio of bird calls. I really cannot adequately describe this marvelous work of art. Or its effect on people of all ages. Both children and adults were just standing looking up at different points. Taking photos or video. Or just staring with big grins on their faces. Including me. My fears of losing my New York smile vanished when I saw this sculpture. In an airport tunnel. A true Epic experience which carried the lovely memories of my trip forward. Undimmed. Smiling still.
They that love beyond the world cannot be separated by it.
Death cannot kill what never dies.
Nor can Spirits ever be divided that love and live in the same Divine Principle; the root and record of their Friendship.
If Absence be not Death, neither is theirs.
Death is but Crossing the World, as Friends do the Seas; They live in one another still.
For they must needs be present that love and live in that which is Omnipresent.
In this Divine Glass, they see Face to Face and their Converse is Free, as well as Pure.
This is the Comfort of Friends, that though they may be said to die, yet their friendship and society are in the best sense, ever present, because Immortal.
According to Bloomberg and many other news outlets, my favorite New York hotel, the Waldorf Astoria, is closing for "refurbishing" and when it reopens it will be "primarily" condominiums. That is what happens when an insurance company land trust buys the place.
In other words, they are going to "Plaza-ize" this grand old hotel and we can pretty much count on it being no more. I hope I'm wrong. When Conrad Hilton was a young man with one hotel in Texas he cut out a newspaper photo of the Waldorf Astoria and pinned it up by his desk. He swore he would own the magnificent hotel one day. One day he did.
Today, I am just glad he can't see what is happening to the apple of his entrepreneurial eye. If you can get by the Bull & Bear or Sir Harry's Bar and have one last toast, please think of me.
...I just wanted to say that I'll look after you, Tracy. Will you mind being looked after?
She held him away from her and looked at him. She smiled. Her eyes were introspective. "That's what it means being Mr and Mrs doesn't it? They don't say Mrs and Mr. But you need looking after too. Let's just look after each other."
"All right. But I'd rather have my job than yours."
--From On Her Majesty's Secret Service by Ian Fleming.
I buried my Irish Redhead last week. This is a weak attempt to talk about it.
The second year we were married she got sick. Really sick. They all agreed she wouldn't last a month. She managed to overcome the onset and through grit, love, faith and sheer will she made it through that month. And another three hundred thirty six months as well. Enduring annual hospitalizations. Surgeries. Infusions of iron. An implanted feeding line. And all the rest. Hospitals in New Orleans, Birmingham, Atlanta and Miami as well as at home. Then eventually kidney failure and more surgery and dialysis.
She met many angels along the path and she was an angel to many as well. And to me and her son, the Future Rock Star. Every day.
But there comes a time when the line assigned to each of us just comes to an end. After three decades of victory after victory an infection came along and she had nothing left to give. She didn't last twenty hours. Her lifetime record against disease was about 958-1.
I guess it is no surprise that I wrote her eulogy. I would like to share it, and a little bit of her, with you...
My Wife, Debbie. The first time I met her I felt like I had known her all my life. I bought an engagement ring three months later. A fascinating, loving and faith-filled thirty years passed in the blink of an eye. Leading us all to this room today. Debbie had world class skill at catching a runaway chicken in her parents' back yard. If you have ever tried to catch a runaway chicken you will know how athletic she was. She was the most intelligent person I ever knew. We always used to say that at least we would never be a couple with nothing to talk about and that was true. From international politics to reality television, Debbie was up to speed on it all despite the demands of running a successful court reporting business in the early years and despite the demands of motherhood later on. She had the ability to train her mind like a laser on any issue or new intellectual challenge and then to apply her tremendous work ethic to master any situation I saw her come across. She understood her medical conditions and dozens of daily medications so well more than one doctor asked her if she had been to medical school. She was the finest natural cross-examiner of a person I have ever seen and this occasionally made it rather uncomfortable for me, for our son or for her father Bill. Debbie had wide ranging interests running from ancient and modern history, antiques, fashion, design, politics, automobiles and travel. She could engage in a conversation with anyone about any topic. She had an amazing eye for fashion and for interior design. She was fiercely passionate about her faith, her family, her friends, her pets, her medical conditions and the people she didn't care for. She loved her son with the same intensity and he is the Glory of her life. This passion and intensity and strength came from her soul. Debbie's soul did not just shine out of her, it blazed out or her with a radiance I have never seen in any other person. In our second year of marriage Debbie became very ill from a rare congenital blood disorder. She was very ill that year but survived. For the following twenty eight years she was hospitalized at least once or twice annually, walking a medical high wire and fending off one life threatening condition after another all related to consequences of her condition. I often told people that she was like Harry Potter. She was "the girl that lived". Through all of this she never once complained, blamed God, or lost even a portion of her faith which was stronger than I have ever found in any person. If anyone ever needed proof that God exists, that God loves us, and that God blesses us with miracles, Debbie was absolute proof of all those things. From the time she survived the onset of her illness by her body "re-plumbing" itself by creation of new blood vessels, some of which ran the opposite direction of the originals which had been destroyed, through all the years up to last week, I saw Debbie receive one miraculous good turn after another. No one could have survived everything I saw her survive over three decades of life by merely being lucky. God reached down his hand and made her great. He kept her feet solidly on that high wire she was destined to walk. Her experiences and her steadfast belief were a crucible that tempered my own faith and made it stronger than I could have ever imagined. I would often tell people that if an atheist had started following along Debbie's path with her twenty eight years ago they would have been a true believer by January 25, 2017. I have used the words "unlike anyone I have ever seen" many times in this note because Debbie was a truly unique woman. It was my honor and privilege to spend more of my life with her than I have lived without her. I cannot wait for the day when I see her again. Her headstone epitaph only requires two words: "Indomitable Spirit". Our son, her father Bill and I would like to thank everyone for coming today and in sharing our celebration of this truly extraordinary life. God's blessings to each of you.
People have been wonderful. They ask how we are doing. We are OK, thanks to her example and what she taught us over the years. My biggest problem is not knowing what to do with myself. And seeing little things around the house that unexpectedly make me feel like I am being stabbed with a dull blade. Things like that. It is fair to say that Valentine's Day will be pretty substandard.
Billy Strayhorn said in Lush Life that "a week in Paris would ease the bite of it". This time, I don't think it would. At this point my hope is just that life's kaleidoscope will somehow eventually make a turn that jostles the shards of my broken heart into a pretty picture again.
Thanks for coming along for the ride, wherever it takes us from here.
One of my heroes said long ago that anyone can ski fast on a fast course but it takes a champion to ski fast on a slow course. In many ways the year 2016 was a very slow course for your Epic. A veritable storm of family crises, illnesses and business problems rocked Chez Epic for twelve months without stopping.
Life contains such times. The question up for discussion is how does the dedicated Epic ward off the incoming slings and arrows or at least deflect as many of them as possible while at the same time not allowing the direct hits to permanently damage the Epic view and manner of life? This was my singular challenge for the year just past. For as horrifying as it may seem, I felt at more than one juncture this year that my naturally Epic philosophy was in mortal danger.
Looking back from the comforting arms of a New Year, and having survived the aforementioned danger, I can only recommend to the reader a return to basic principles. The core principle of the Epic Life is to "mine the moment". Every moment of life contains gems of joy. The nature of the gems varies of course upon the individual Epic doing the mining. The key is to not allow the press of undesirable events to obscure your ability to see and appreciate what has always been in those moments. No matter how seemingly dire they may be. With this in mind, I offer my list of tips about how to bring Epic thinking to bear on a year like the one I just escaped...
Remember your faith. If you are a person of faith you can find yourself thinking of faithful things last when you are in crisis. Push your faith up the ladder of your thinking to the top rung where it belongs. You don't have to make a big production number out of it. You merely have to take a single moment to offer up a little prayer for help, calm, healing, or all of the above. For the faithful, use of one or two minutes in this fashion acts to immediately correct your course like a small turn of a ship's rudder while sailing during a moonless night.
See the angels in your midst. If you have read The Epic for long, you know that I absolutely believe in this concept. Even in the hardest time there are people on your path who can and will give you a gem of comfort through an act or just a smile. Like all other Epic gifts, they are there for you if you look. Find them. Accept their help whether it be in the form of a kind word or a cup of coffee in the middle of an Emergency Room in the wee small hours of the morning.
Give to get. Don't forget that you may well be an angel in someone else's path. Your kindness, your smile, your expression of gratitude, given when you are the farthest from feeling angelic can be just what someone else desperately needs. I find that when I am highly stressed an abundance of kind words for or appreciation of others inevitably leads to a reflection of kindness back towards me. Don't be shy. It works that way.
Don't fantasize. For goodness sake, do not begin fantasizing about how some person you know has a life that does not contain difficulties. About how they never stumble or have a bump in the road. There is no such person. All roads share the same features at some point or another. Imagining how smooth someone else's path is just concocts stress and despair out of whole emotional cloth.
Forget the past. Fight the desire to think of bad times in the past which should be jettisoned as soon as possible after their occurrence in any event. That doesn't mean we don't all have our share of emotional scar tissue but re-living undesirable moments from the dead past sure won't take it away. To the contrary, focusing on negative past events just allows the events to scar anew.
Remember the past. The Epic gems you have picked up along the way are always with you and always act to bring you pleasure through the recollection of them. They act as powerful pleasure tonics in lesser times.
Read and listen. A good book or music album works wonders in the midst of crisis. The past year's maelstrom was broken at times by reading some outstanding books such as "A Gentleman of Moscow" by Amor Towles, "Last Days of Night" by Graham Moore, "A Hero of France" by Alan Furst, anything by Mark Pryor, anything by Robert Nathan. Musically, I listened to a lot of Paul Weston & His Orchestra, Charles Trenet, Stacey Kent, Brian McKnight, Roberta Gambarini and Chantal Chamberland. And Frank. Always a lot of Frank.
Be a Child. When you walk out of the hospital at three in the morning look at the Christmas lights and just stare at them because they are pretty. Observe and experience little things merely because they are fun to observe or experience. There is always some kind of fun about, just for fun's sake. If you look through the child's eyes you had not that long ago.
With all these things in mind, when I looked back at 2016 it wasn't all a maelstrom. I had some wonderful trips, including a week driving around a ridiculously long route with my son and more than a few great meals and bottles of wine. I kept up with friends that mean the world to me. I enjoyed the best Chinese restaurant of my experience [pictured above with a very dry martini and shrimp toast]. And, my Irish Redhead is still right here with me after making her way through the darkest of times and weeks in hospital.
So, after all, the year was a total success. We took the blows. Loved strong. Laughed when we could. Mined the moment like crazy. Kept an Epic focus to the end. And I walk into 2017 with more gems than ever on hand. I wish each of you just the same things. For this year. And for every year.
In my early 60s, widower, father and itinerant storyteller. I am a putative jazz singer, poet and novelist, dedicated to mining every minute of life for the veins of pleasure they contain. My motto is "Dum Vivimus, Vivamus"..."While we Live--LET US LIVE".