today I become a blogger

I just got back from my guitar lesson. Michele Castellani and I played picking exercises and he gave me some rhythmic figures to work with to improve my picking and my sense of timing. I started taking guitar lessons again after nearly 50 years because my playing had become sloppy and I had picked up some lazy habits. Plus, living in Italy, I want to engage with other musicians.

Before I got home, though, I tried to pick Norma up and got stuck at the end of a dead-end road and had to make a careful many-point turn with a ditch on one side and a wall on the other, and the wind has come up, the first sign of fall and winter, the first day in many months that it is chilly, and we have had a long day, finalizing our plans for the kitchen with our voluble and ingenious designer Alvaro Toresi, and our friends Todd Freeman and Connie Hendrix are here in Castiglion Fiorention with us, and we ate a long and delicious but somewhat exhausting lunch at Il Teatro in Cortona after meeting with Alvaro in Camucia and well into the lunch I felt I was maybe coming down with something and would not be able to make the writers group I usually go to up in Florence, and went home to take a nap.

All of which is neither here nor there, the inconsequential acts that precede a big decision, a big decision that sort of comes out of nowhere. I decided finally to start blogging about my life here. Mostly because I just want to.

I’ve been keeping a journal regularly since August. I always use the Mead 100-page composition book but lately I’ve been confiding in it daily, and it has led me to this point. I won’t bore you with my many reasons for disparaging such an activity as keeping a blog about my life in Italy. I’m just going to start posting things, some of which will be boring like this one, and others of which will go quite deeply and carefully into my writing life and my daily work to finish and publish book-length manuscripts.

People write blogs for themselves and for others. I guess that’s what this will be. It will be for me and also for you. And I won’t worry too much about whether it’s fascinating or not. Some days it will be boring, just like the writing I do in my journal. Other days I will spend a lot of time thinking through matters related to being a writer, etc.

OH: one more thing. This month makes five years since I lost my job at Salon.com writing the “Since You Asked” column. Less than two years after that job ended Norma and I decided to sell our San Francisco house and move to Castiglion Fiorentino, where we are living now. There will probably be lots more about that as well.

Sorry I don’t have a picture for this one. I’m lazy.

Cheers

CT

Three Quick Thoughts on Living in Tuscany

  1. No kidding, people are different here.
  2. Everything’s got a story and often it’s a long story.
  3. We’re glad we got out of San Francisco when we did but the real Tuscany is both much more amazing and much more about regular daily life than the brand “Tuscany”  co-opted by sellers of “Tuscan-brown sofas surrounded by Tuscan-yellow walls,” etcetera. That’s all. Just something I was thinking about. Keep in touch. Missing all our friends in the States.–Cary T.

    Hi there, I’m waving at you from the grounds of Iris Origo’s famous estate La Foce.

Why we had to get out of America

(UPon reading “Fear of Freedom” by Carlo Levi)

It was necessary to get out of America because America had become a monster, an unrecognizable foe, a fascist seedling sprouting on the fringe of consciousness.

It was necessary to go someplace far away from America to sit and contemplate, to try to regain the self.

I’m going to read this piece here: (Tasso Hostel open mic, Florence, Italy, Wednesday, June 6, 2018, 8:30pm!)

Italy was a renunciation, a place to flee to, a refuge. Though it was in reality a practical move, of course it seemed crazy and in our hearts we felt crazy and that craziness, that suddenness was itself a sign of our confusion and hurt, our fear, our fed-up-ness with America. It was a sudden, satisfying point of surrender, a throwing up of the hands, a turning over of the table on which the chess pieces defied us, a walking-off the field, a giving of the finger. Not that we thought it was the end-all solution; Italy was, rather, the next dry stone to jump to in the middle of a growing tumult of water, soon become a rapids.

We left America before we knew precisely where we were going. We knew we were going to Castiglion Fiorentino, that people there would welcome us, but beyond that we only knew we had to get out of America and that Italy was a place to land, a place to pause while we come to our senses amid the onslaught of America’s blind romance with fascism.

You’ve done it once already, Italy! You’ve gone fascist, seen its awful consequences, and with the latest government perhaps you are trying to return to that! Yet somehow Italy’s fascist turn is not so traumatic as America’s. Now it’s America’s turn and it will be historic and ugly and interesting also but we did not want to be there for the full pageant of death. We did not want to stay and resist because we felt we no longer had enough partners in resistance, having witnessed a melting away of our comrades!

We were like children awakening from a dream on a field of battle, finding ourselves abandoned and thus fleeing to the first available shelter. Did no one else see what was happening? Yes, they did, but they thought they could oppose it and by opposing it thus fix it but we saw it as too monstrous a wave, not a thing we could fix because we ourselves were creating this fascist wave, in our refusal to believe what we were creating, all of us, in our creation and our resistance, all of us together in our resistance not seeing that even our resistance was subsumed by this thing, this monster of democracy transforming itself and all of us with it, into fascism.

All we could do was flee, because we have had experience with such a thing, and so we fled, and because we wanted safety and quiet and thought we could not afford to live in Florence we landed in a tiny town with art and museums and coffee, where we had patrons and protection, a family who knew us and would watch out for us, watch over us. Yes, we fled America for the protection of an Italian family whose kindness touched us and made us feel safe, even as we realize that the fascist organization called Casa Pound, after the great and misguided poet Ezra, that the young fans of fascism have their secret club meetings and their powerful and cultured members, who seem to treat the fascist underground like Club 54,  the Fab Mab, or CBGB, a private club of raw elegance and sophistication where the right sort of disaffected intellectuals torture themselves in artful and subversive ways.

It cannot be just a flirtation, it must mean something, this romance with fascism. It cannot be just puppy love.  We cannot say that this flirtation is not a genuine cry of anguish, any more than we could deny that punk was a primal scream as much as a musical style, only later cleaned up and made expert entertainment by a little band from across the Bay called Green Day. Whom I adore, btw, just saying social upheavals are not just stylistic adjustments.
And now I seem to have fallen silent, reading Carlo Levi, being reminded of the necessity of resistance and seeing that I have left the playing field and my comrades. We resist the surface of fascism while our machines tirelessly breed it from within! Because fascism turned out to be from within, and inescapable.

I mean that we sought a certain comfortable respite in order to wait and see what happens and not wait until everyone was fleeing, until we had been reduced to rags and were marching out of the city with a million other refugees. We wanted to be among the first to leave so we could set up house and welcome the others who stayed longer, who had more faith, who thought that fascism could be resisted and defeated while we believed that it was something dormant now awakened in the American soul, finally, after such long devotion to democracy. We thought it was far scarier than others seemed to think; we sensed its beginnings early. We sensed that our comrades did not see it and could not be convinced of its inevitability.
We are friends with the fascists; it has not come to war yet; we eat together, we sit around a table with those who quote Mussolini and idolize a past of violence and repression, who root for fascism like it’s a rock band, a favorite show, a fashionable shoe, to put on for the streets and the dinner tables and then take off at night, casting off one’s murderousness, one’s erotic fascination with dark domination. Believing that it does not grow in the night, but it does. It grows in the night and awakens stronger until eventually it, the plaything fed by darkness, eventually it grows larger, becomes the monster and master and begins to whip us mercilessly until we become the servant, meekly polishing its guns and submitting to its violent violations of our bodies.
Those last few months in San Francisco we had a feeling things would not end well; we saw the fascism of the technocrats, their dreamy hypnotic envelopment in code, their repudiation of the family meal and preference for solitary pizzas in front of streaming glowing code running down their green laptop screens like rain, their superman fantasies, uber mensches taking Uber to the mansions of their uber bosses. We had a feeling that America was ripe for an earthquake; it was that feeling of acrid stillness and violent unease, and so we in an instant decided to crack open the magical egg of real estate, convert our house to money, take the money and run.
Now we are here, safe high on a hillside, watching and waiting–and going to the Tasso Hostel every month for the Open Mic!

I’m filled with rage

A classic column from TUESDAY, SEP 27, 2005 


It’s political, it’s personal — I just wanna clobber the people in charge!


Dear Cary,


I have an emotional problem. I walk around with a rage inside me that I don’t know how to address. I fantasize about things that, were I to describe them to you, I would be visited by black-suited men at my apartment one night and, if not taken away, at least placed on a list I’d rather not be on.


I don’t know what to do with my rage. I can’t hold it inside me like this, but every time it seems to dissipate, and I’ve forgotten, as I have the luxury of doing, what a sorry, sad, unjust and, yes, despicable state of affairs we’ve galloped merrily into, something dramatically and heart-wrenchingly demands that my rage be acknowledged. And frankly — it’s necessary to be reminded of these things.


My problem is this, I just never felt interested in or comfortable with political action. I can’t stand the excruciatingly slow pace of it. I can’t stand the one-step-forward, two-steps-back inevitability of it. I can’t stand that progress is measured in generations and not years, in shades of brown and not in lives enriched.


I’d rather sing a song than write a letter. I’d rather nuzzle a belly than immunize a child. I’d rather build a tree house than a shelter. But I have to do something with this rage. I can’t walk around wanting to inflict pain and suffering on the people in charge, who seem to have neither brains between their ears nor eyes in their heads nor hearts in their chests.


I don’t like being angry. It’s a pathetic cliché, but I’m a lover, not fighter. Especially when the fight is as heartbreaking and insurmountable as this. Where can I put this energy that is poisoning me?


Lover, Not a Fighter

Dear Lover Not Fighter,

 

You seem to be describing an overwhelming state of emotion that is linked to politics but not directly tied to one particular act — as though world events had accumulated like snow on the roof and then crashed through, covering you to the chin. Your natural reaction is to struggle mightily against being engulfed. It’s hard to find a target, though. You are immersed.

 

That makes it difficult, at first, to know what to say to you — aside from “Grab the rope! Grab the rope!”

 

But I think I know what you are going through. There comes a time when we are so overwhelmed by events that we lose faith in orderly, sequential action toward moderate goals. Our situation seems so desperate that we need to do something right now or we will suffocate. Signing up to man a phone bank just doesn’t cut it.

 

You are not alone. Your letter reminds me, actually, of the situation prior to last year’s election when readers began saying they felt out of control and anxious; they were thinking of leaving the country. They were feeling apocalyptic. It was unthinkable that George Bush would be elected again. And yet it happened. We staggered out into the night.

 

I found myself trying to understand how human beings get themselves into these insane situations of mass hysteria, fascism, Nazism and so forth. One of the questions I had was why we in America seemed to be so deeply freaked out, torn, betrayed, as though having internalized some ideal notion of our country, as though it were a father or mother — while those in other, older civilizations would shrug it off, or hunker down, or do something pragmatic like emigrate. And I came across the writing of Jacqueline Rose, who talked about how citizens of a democracy are uniquely vulnerable to feelings of unbearable inner contradiction when their countries act in unconscionable ways.

 

Anyway, during my investigations into the symptoms of our national disease, I myself fell ill; I had some kind of attack; I collapsed and was taken to the hospital, where they found nothing wrong.

 

It turned out that to get well I would have to stop taking everything so seriously.

 

So actually, believe it or not, to counter the effects of today’s political climate, I have begun (again) reading Fredric Jameson’s “Postmodernism; or, The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism.” His is a mind so energetic, so engaged and so amusing in its speculations, so wide in its knowledge, that it acts as a tonic for one’s befuddlement and outrage. Also, for the same reason, Terry Eagleton has been helpful. “The Illusions of Postmodernism” can also been taken like a vitamin to correct our deficiencies and relieve some of our symptoms.

 

Not that I understand what these brilliant men are saying, mind you. It’s more like reading Sartre in junior high: You sense some marvelous energy and intelligence at work, eager to tutor you into being if you can only walk alongside and listen.

 

And it is helpful for outside voices to diagnose us as well, for we cannot always recognize our own symptoms. Jonathan Raban in the recent New York Review of Books:

 

“I have been visiting the US for more than thirty years and have lived here for the last fifteen: during the last four of those years, America, in its public and official face, has become more foreign to me by the day — which wouldn’t be worth reporting, except that the sentiment is largely shared by so many Americans … Under Bush’s self-styled ‘wartime presidency,’ the composition of the American landscape is steadily altering. What was once in the foreground is moving into the background, and vice versa. Our world is being continuously rearranged around us in deceptively small increments. Though we like to pretend that the emerging new order is ‘normal,’ that daily life proceeds much as it always did, with a few small novel inconveniences, we keep on bumping uncomfortably into the furniture.”

 

The sense of disorientation that he describes strikes me as central to what many of us are feeling: It is not so much that we disagree with specific policies as that, as he puts it, someone keeps rearranging the furniture. It would be tempting, if also paranoid, to consider us as the victims of a kind of shock-and-awe campaign, orchestrated not with bombs but with media and a planned concatenation of events, a bombardment from all sides on all our privileges and freedoms, beliefs and assumptions, wholly ideological in its content but military in its precision and its strategic concentration of force. The purpose of such an assault would be not just to win a series of individual battles but to systematically demoralize and disorient the left so that it becomes ineffective for a generation or two to come. After all, a confused and enraged enemy without a plan is a weak enemy indeed. The fact that we increasingly wander alone in the night, dumbly wanting only to club somebody with a stick, is evidence that, intentional or not, such a strategy seems to be working.

 

It is good to feel crazy about politics. It is a good signal. It means we must act. But act how? If you are feeling crazy and nearly violent with anger, protesting is good for you — and good for the country! We saw this during the period of the Vietnam War: It was possible for a time to believe in the necessity of the war. One by one, though, people began to crack. One by one they sought a cure. It could only be found in action. People of all stripes took to the streets. Once that began to happen, the old regime was finished.

 

Lastly, a warning: Your symptoms may not be exclusively political; there is the possibility that you may require medical intervention. I am not particularly frightened for you, for I am well acquainted with the extremes to which one can go before one really needs to be checked in somewhere. Still, if the voices begin telling you to do things, harmful things, seek psychiatric help.

Junkie Sax Player Johnny Favors Changes His Tune

I performed this last night at the Tasso Hostel open mic in Florence. It’s from Famous Actress Disappears.–Cary T.

Johnny Favors was a junkie sax player in the Tenderloin playing punky jazzy avant-garde new wave bebop when he got so strung out he couldn’t hit the high notes opening for Blondie and backstage Debbie Harry wouldn’t give him one of her last three Marlboros so he called her an airheaded cheerleader for the capitalist rear guard of New Wave sellouts and she called him a preppie asshole and he kind of made a gesture like he was going to punch her even though he wasn’t and that was when the Filipino bantamweight bouncer broke his jaw.

 

Johnny Favors didn’t get any more gigs in San Francisco after that and one rainy night on Ellis in the Tenderloin walking home from trio practice he got shot.

 

The bullet came at him from behind garbage cans in an alley off of Turk Street and he wasn’t doing anything but walking home with his sax case after trio practice, he wasn’t out to cop, he wasn’t even high, he was sort of even trying to quit and this bullet comes out of nowhere right behind his skull and it takes like the cleanest little nick of hair and scalp right off the back of his head and then he hears, from the dark pile of vague alleyway shapes and ironwork and brick wet with cat piss and beer urine and condoms and syringes lying about and a half-torn copy of the SF Weekly turned to the section of demo tape reviews and an empty box of cornflakes lying next to a discarded old broom and one foot protruding from the garbage can in the vicinity of which the shot had been fired, HE HEARS, in the mizzling rain of 2:30 a.m. on a Friday night in January, his hair wet and slick and the piece of his skull the bullet took off so tiny, just a tiny little sliver that fell down his shirt, and a few bits of hair on his neck, and him all startled and starting to run and he slips on the mucky garbage slick as he tries to run and goes down on the sidewalk but catches himself with his left palm and as he regains his footing, agile son of a gun that he is, HE HEARS from the alley way this kinda plaintive, whiny old wino voice saying, “Sorry mister! Sorry! I didn’t hit you, did I?”

 

So then he’s going to run but he’s kind of stunned and he’s already fallen down once so he’s like,

 

“What?”

 

“I said I’m sorry mister I don’t know what happened with this stupid gun of mine I didn’t mean anything.”

 

Then John feels the back of his head and there’s this tiny little sliver missing and that’s when he figures anything could happen and maybe he doesn’t have as many lives as he thought.

 

The next morning was a rainy San Francisco morning in the Tenderloin when he woke up and had no dope and after searching under the cushions and in the coffee can and in the pockets of his two jackets and under the rug and behind his copy of De Quincy’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater and behind the TV and under the microwave, it hit him that he was a fucking moron, an addict, a junkie, nothing more, a fucking lowlife junkie who would never amount to anything and would probably die behind a garbage can like that idiot bum who nearly took his head off last night and then in that moment he knew, he just knew he was done, done for good, if he could swing it, and he walked out of his room in the Luxworth Hotel on Eddy and Hyde without even locking the door and trudged up to Bush to Leavenworth and up Leavenworth to the Nob Hill home and office of his brother-in-law the clean-and-sober surgeon and rang the bell and when his brother-in-law the surgeon answered the door he told him he wanted to get clean.

 

“Finally,” said his brother-in-law, and booked him into a 28-day program in Napa.

New Years Day 2018

“I’m still alive!”
is something you shout
from the crevasse
to the rescuers
whose pick axes remind you
because you are still a poet although stuck in the ice
of cartoon implements from TV in Florida
and this is how you hope to go
one day but not yet because
the medicine was good and you are still here
a bit of a miracle but
as they with their chisels chip and hammer at the ice
that preserves you like an aspic of creative, this whole
human mess we’re in for a flash is also frozen like an X-ray
of the sun, leaping fusion mountains unsurfable
and now in tuscany looking west at rooftops
Two arms reach out a window shaking out a rug the
miracle of my rescue gets another dial click as
Scientists gather like in Florida TV sci-fi in black and white
and something I remember after surgery barely walking how I
Suddenly wanted pink and yellow shirts and
Soon as I could drive the V-8 Tundra I drove from the beach
down to mall and went to Nordstrom’s and bought these outrageous
pink and yellow shirts.

Linked-In proves: I know an awful lot of people not very well at all

It is a job to get all the social media accounts up to date so I can tell everyone to buy the Finishing School book as a gift this gift-giving season and hopefully some will do as I command, I being master of the universe in my own head. But wow. So I go to Linked-In, which I hate, or at least have hated up to now, and I think, I have to get the info on this awful thing up to date just in case a few people may be reached through this channel, and I may also connect maybe with some people I haven’t talked to in 40 years.

So man, it starts in with who do you know, maybe you know these people, or these people, and the names and faces start scrolling down, and I’m there I swear an hour or more, maybe two hours, scrolling through these names and faces thinking I Know A Shitload of People! from the years in San Francisco media and scuffling on the street and being a musician and writing about musicians and from back in the 1980s before I quit drinking, I think I met probably when I was drunk or I interviewed them or they interviewed me or we pumped each other for information and free tickets and records. And some of them were heroes to me, people whose columns I read in the Chronicle, people whose reporting I followed, people who performed and pestered me for coverage of their performances, people whom I admired and people I feared and people I sort of knew from here or there and some of them now that I am clicking Yes Request This Person To Connect on the Hated and Evil Platform Known as Linked-In, some of them perhaps I do not know, or know much better than I think I do, so great is the distance between my memory and events.

People and events I had almost forgotten about:

 

A Thing I Wrote in Last Night’s Workshop

From the prompt, “A child falling through the air”
November 5, 2017

The thing about seeing a child falling through the air is that you can really only see it in a dream or in slow motion in a movie.
Picture a child falling through the air and reflect upon how we are all children falling through the air. We are all in motion, a motion not of our own making, we are all being pulled toward something we do not want to strike but must inevitably strike, and it will not be pretty when we strike this thing we are headed to, and we do not have any say in the matter, and it is also possible that as the universe expands and accelerates so we too, in our inexorable falling out of control, are falling at ever greater speed toward some end we would not wish on ourselves or anyone else, and this ought to cause us great alarm if we thought about it a lot, but meantime it is quite easy to sit on a couch in a quiet room in a small town in Italy and type into a MacBook Pro, with one’s guitar sitting there at one’s feet, a nice guitar, but a guitar which also like everything else is hurtling through space powered by a force that we of course have no control over.
My novel.
Kid falling through the air. My novel. Same thing. Out of control, beyond all power to stop, headed for a messy concussive end, nothing I can do about it. My kid self. Could be. What of it? Who wants to know?
Kevin Costner in Tin Cup goes to see Rene Russo his golf student who is a psychotherapist and he sits on the couch and tells her he’s in love with her and she tries to keep it professional and calls her own therapist to talk about it and I’m thinking Tin Cup is a good movie if you like falling in love with your therapist and doomed Quixotic quest type movies which I do.
Kid falling through the air. Frozen now, got that image in my head, nothing to do about it, can’t stop shit from happening. Like that baby falling through the air, nothing we can do, we got no control, we got nothing, not even a fire department with nets, it’s all happening too fast. All we can do is accept it. Accept that tornado. Accept that blue sky. Accept that sunset, that lady bug, that skullcap, that immigrant. That immigrant I give two euros to every time I see him. Something about crossing water in a boat, in a what’s the word for it, what a shit brain I’ve ended up with, like a surly shopkeeper who won’t show you what you want to see, you know it’s there but he’s just not interested in showing it to you so you go Zephyr, no, Zebra, no, what is the name for that inflatable boat those immigrants came over from Libya on, that Prosper the napkin peddler came over on, Zodiac, that’s it, just like the killer in San Francisco. Zodiac.
Baby falling through the air. Immigrant from Nigeria crossing the Mediterranean in a Zodiac. Me falling through the air with this novel in my hand. I can feel the wind. Everything is accelerating. At the same time I know exactly what I’m doing, because it’s a performance, just like that baby falling through the air, seems so natural, like he’s not even acting, seems so real like it’s actually happening.

I hate giving gifts. But …

It’s a terrible thing about me I guess but the truth is that the approach of the holiday season fills me with a mortal fear that I will have to give people gifts and I won’t know what to get them and so will get something stupid and it will ruin the relationship forever and cause me to spiral into a suicidal depression in which I will drive the car over a cliff but not actually kill myself only become hugely disfigured and then go through a lifetime of plastic surgeries that will only make me more gruesomely hideous.

It’s also possible that while trying to decide what gift to buy someone I will feel ever more frustrated at my inability to make a simple choice that regular people all over the world are making with apparent ease and this frustration will lead to anger and the anger will lead me to say something inappropriate to the person I am with who up till now thought I was a pretty decent person but will then decide on the basis of my sudden outburst that I am rather unstable and maybe made some bad life choices and henceforth that person will block my calls and unfriend me on Facebook.

Or I will spend way too much money on an inferior product. Or I will get something I think the person will like but which I personally find hideous and when the person opens it in my presence I will be seen to wince and that will telegraph something untrustworthy and suspicious about me, that I don’t really like the thing I claim to believe is really really cute and if I’m lying about that maybe I’m lying about many other things and this relationship, too, will spiral out of control and I will find myself blocked in numerous technological ways from further contact.

These are just a few of the bad things that could happen. This is why I hate giving gifts. But here is something. Here is the thing.

Finishing School Book CoverOur book Finishing School: The Happy Ending to That Writing Project You Can’t Seem to Get Done makes a great gift. I propose it as the solution to all gift-giving problems. And I have somewhat reliable proof, based on real people saying real things without prompting or cash prizes. When we talked about this idea, Danelle and I, when we wrote the proposal and showed it to people, especially but not only people in the worlds of journalism and book publishing but other people too, the thing they said, the overwhelmingly most common thing they said was, “I know somebody I want to give this to.”

So that was something we knew from the very beginning, that this would make a great gift-type book. So naturally we thought the smartest thing to do would be to publish just in time for the gift-giving season. Say, in October, just in time to get the advertising ready and everything geared up for a big push to market this book as a great gift book.
Instead, and surely they had their reasons, our publisher decided to release the book in January 2017. And the launch was kind of a bust for a number of reasons most of which totally having to do with me, which I hope to go into in subsequent posts …

Number One Reason the January 2017 Launch Was Kind of a Bust: I moved to Italy. It was a totally unrelated decision, unrelated to the book, which surprised the bejeezus out of Danelle, my co-writer, and probably caused her to think that she had teamed up with a person who was mildly unstable, a diagnosis that in subsequent interactions I must say has proven to be largely accurate, but be that as it may, the point here is that this is a great gift book that came out at the exact wrong time for a great gift book and I’m setting about to do what I can to rectify that totally innocent error by mounting a major push now, now that it is getting to be just about on the verge of gift-giving season. (Plus you don’t have to tell me how complicated the book business is, or how hard it is as an editor to get your favorite book slotted in the publication date slot you want it slotted in, especially if you are a brilliant but fairly new and young editor who has not yet acquired the superhuman clout and intra-business social capital you will later acquire, so I hold no grudge about this, I totally understand.)
Nonetheless, this is just by way of saying that for the next two months I’m going to be all over this trying to explain to people why this is a great gift book because I really am all about helping people and changing the world.