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The magnificent, otherworldly force of greatness that is Broadway

June 24, 2011

Of all the places in New York City that thrive on the talent and greatness of those that walk its streets, Times Square and Broadway are the places where you can most literally feel the streets pulsing with creativity. You can see the buildings sweating out brilliance, shining their message to the millions of wide-eyed tourists who come to be part of the greatness for a night.

I’ve felt that way ever since I first went to Broadway at age 9. I took a trip to the city with my Mom, Aunt and cousin — en experience that has entirely eluded my memory, except for my memories of Broadway. I was in the city for a week, and the only things I remember are the two Broadway shows I saw: The Lion King and Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk. That is how powerful Broadway is. It is so penetrating, so vibrant and precise in its excellence, that it even had the ability, all those years ago, to make it into and build a home in

Me capturing the greatness and being amazed by it all at once. Photo cred: Mom

the memory bank of a 9-year-old girl who, admittedly, is quite oblivious and forgetful. I’ll never forget the wild tapping and overpowering coolness that oozed from the dancers in Bring in Da Noise, Bring in Da Funk. The rhythmic tapping, heads bowed, feet furious, souls dancing as wildly as their bodies — at the innocent age of 9, I knew that for that one night, I was a part of something that was greater than anything I’d seen before. It was the same with Lion King. The images created through lights and set decoration that brought to life the moment Simba loses his father in a Wildebeest stampede shook me and moved me in a way that still sends shivers through my fingers even as I type!

Two years ago I saw God of Carnage on Broadway, which was also incredible compelling, raucous and hilarious — everything it was meant to be. But still — for me, there’s something about the Broadway musical that is so inspiring that it eclipses the beauty of the straight play. Maybe it’s the fact that I am in such awe of the talent of the actors in the musicals — the perfection and precision of their voices and movements, the strength of their acting, and their perseverance, endurance and dedication that allows them to perform the same show at top quality 9 times a week for months on end. It’s an incredible feat. Even still, I can’t understand how people can do it. It must be the most physically, mentally and emotionally taxing thing to do, and yet they do it because they love the art of it, they love making the audience laugh, they love how it feels to sing on a stage with the stage lights creating a theatrical halo around their faces as they sing perfectly on pitch with a perfect tone for an audience that loves them as much as they love what they’re doing.

Andrew Rannells as Elder Price

So I don’t think its any surprise to anyone reading this blog that ever since I saw The Book of Mormon on Broadway, I have been able to think of nothing else. I saw The Book of Mormon a week ago today, and there has not been an hour that has gone by since I saw the musical that I have not thought about it, youtubed it, googled it, sang it or spoken about it. That is the honest to God truth. I’ve dreamed about it. I’ve read every article ever written about it. I’ve downloaded the soundtrack and The Book of Mormon playlist is exclusively being played on my iPod. I’m desperately in love with the man who plays the protagonist named Elder Price. The real man’s name is Andrew Rannells, but I prefer to imagine him as Elder Price forever — Elder Price with the smile that reminds me what happiness means and the voice that could postpone the apocalypse — or eliminate it altogether.

The musical was so outrageously good that I am actually at a loss for words when I think of all the ways I want to praise it. For starters, read the New York Times’ review of the musical here. That guy seems pretty damned jazzed about his experience at the Eugene O’Neill theatre seeing that musical, doesn’t he? Well, take the jazzy melody he’s singin’ in his article, multiply it by a thousand, and raise it to the power of the numerical value of the heat of the sun, and then you have HALF of how much I love this musical. I love it so much, I’m not going to go into detail about my love for it. I love it so dearly there are literally no words, and I wouldn’t want to do my love any injustice by placing weak words upon it that don’t convey my true emotions. All I can say is that by some force of nature — either the grace of God or by me breaking the law — I have to see it again. Just one more time. And then another time after that. And possibly again after that. And then more and more and more and more and — okay, fine, I’ll stop after 17. But at least 17 times. Until then, I’ll have to content myself with this YouTube video of the Broadway wonder Rannells singing in a perfect tenor the song “I Believe” at the Tony’s. May Heavenly Father bless you, The Book of Mormon cast and crew. You guys are going to heaven FOR SURE.

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More reasons to love this place

June 21, 2011

Today I wandered around the city aimlessly — which I’m actually really good at because I have no sense of direction. When I walk to one

Found it!

place, without fail, the walk back is always longer becuase I will undoubtedly walk in the wrong direction for a fair amount of time, lose myself, and desperately try to find my way back.

ANYWAYS. Today, my walk began with the goal of making it to East 7th and Avenue A — the location of my Dad’s apartment when he lived in New York, and the title of a wonderful song he also wrote about his experience there. On my journey there and back, I came up with 3 more reasons why I love this city.

 

 

 

 

1) There are cats everywhere. In gardens. On the street. Everywhere. It makes me so very happy. Awesome cats in awesome places. I’m all about it.

Kitty I discovered sleeping in a garden while I was geocaching.

Sighting of a cat in the act of being cute on the street.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2) There is a memorial to Joe Strummer. Yes.

Joe Strummer memorial -- double-take worthy.

3) When they say Chinatown, they ain’t kiddin’. This is the first time I’ve ever been truly happy I got lost on my way home, ’cause it landed me in Chinatown — the greatest unintentional detour of all time. I didn’t get a chance to stop at any restaurants/stores/etc., but when I do, another blog post will be born.

Manhattan: a city of two countries

Second thoughts …

June 21, 2011

Hey guys, remember when I said public transportation wasn’t glorious? Remember when I said it wasn’t cool? And I think I also said something along the lines of: “everywhere I went I was followed by a nagging odor that wreaked of urine, body odor and whatever the dude in front of me had for lunch”? Well … I’ve changed my mind!

Why, you ask? Well, when I wrote that blog post, I had never gotten off at a stop I (and the rest of the world) like to call, “Grand Central Station.” And boy, it is a grand station, let me tell you.

I met up with my friend Mori last night after work and she told me to meet her at the Grand Central Station stop. I thought, “Hmm, I feel like I’ve heard of that place before…” and said, “Alrighty, meet you there.” The ride there was as per usual. Cramped, musty and awkward. I got off at the stop. It was all normal. Whatever. I exited on to 42nd street to get cell service and see try to rendezvous with my friend. Whatever.

And then it happened. I had to get back into the station to meet up with my friend, so I went through this large entrance which seemed too nice to be a part of the subway system I have come to know and dislike. I heaved open the double doors and was met with white marble and high ceilings and gold-painted railings and an engraving over two more double doors at the end of a long hallway. Here’s a picture of it:

I think it bears mentioning that I didn’t even notice how cool it was behind the first set of doors until I was halfway down the walkway because I was so predisposed to believe I was going to walk into another urine-stained, mucus-smelling cement shack that I had my head down and breath held. But as I looked at the ground I noticed it was shinier and whiter than usual … so I looked up. I immediately doubled back to the front doors to enter again and take it all in — the right way. I read the engraving, I pulled multiple 360° turns with my eyes pushed open as far as they’d go. I made it to the end of the walkway after I was satisfied with my appreciation of my surroundings and  opened the second set of double doors and was transported to a white marble wonderland.

Readers, I wasn’t in Kansas anymore. Before then, the only transportation systems I’d become familiar with was the “L” in Chicago — a pathetic, rickety, slow, yet dearly beloved elevated train that gets Chicagoans from place to place at an extremely inefficient pace, and Metro buses in LA — but I won’t insult the L and the NY subways by lumping the LA Metro with them in the same category. Walking into Grand Central Station slapped my theory that public transportation in NY wasn’t glorious DIRECTLY in the face relentlessly. Every time I turned my head, that theory was slapped again, and again, and again until it resembled the Elephant Man.

Grand Central Station is a shining beacon of the beauty and power of public transportation. Over the years, public transportation has come to receive a negative connotation because usually, people just assume that you use public transportation ’cause you’re too poor to afford a car, and therefore you have to travel with hundreds of random people you don’t know in close, unsanitary quarters, just waiting for your ride to be done so you can get where you’re going and be done with the whole experience. But that’s not what public transportation is really about. It’s an amazing, ecological, efficient thing that should be seen as the wonder of human technology and innovation that it is, and not something that has to be endured instead of celebrated. Grand Central Station celebrates the public commuter — it glorifies the art of transportation in the public domain. There is a gigantic clock in the main area that gave me a sense of the vastness of the world — and more specifically the NY transportation system. Green lights all around me flashed times and stops and neighborhoods in New York, and I felt all the excitement and the curiosity that comes along with the desire to travel to places I’ve never been and enjoying the ride along the way. Chandeliers hung proudly from the ceiling, as though they were assuring us that yes, we are in a beautiful, important place, and that we should be careful to take notice and have respect for the ground upon which we travel. When I looked up, I was met with constellations and small lights highlighting their outlines — another symbol of the call to explore those places we’ve never been — no matter how distant or impossible it may seem. Once again, New York has scoreboard over EVERYWHERE ELSE.

And now, I’d like to share something with you out of sheer vanity and pride. You can ignore this if you want, but I really want to put this out there because … well … JUST LISTEN. I’ve kept a running tally of how many times I’ve been mistaken for a New Yorker now, and the number is three. Yes, thrice tourists from lands near and far have all been united under one common characteristic: they assumed I was a native New Yorker. Of

Contellations on the ceiling!

course, not wanting to make them feel awkward about the error of their ways, far be it from me to correct them. Unfotuntately, the first two times I was mistaken for a native and asked for directions, in a pathetic attempt not to blow my cover, I waved my arm in a random direction, smiled and said, “that way a few blocks,” and bustled off in a different direction. I’m not proud of that part of the story, but I would like to inform you all that on the third occasion I was for the location of Bleecker Street, and I am happy to tell you that I was well aware of the whereabouts of that street and informed my inquisitor happily and swiftly and he was on his merry way.

Oh, New York City, I’d love to know you better. If only we could get a little alone time — could you please send all the tourists away (besides me?).

First Full Day in the CIT-AY: Crashing, the Crawfords and Public Transportation

June 20, 2011

SIDE NOTE: I’m sorry this has taken way too long to post, but I have had EXTREMELY intermittent and short access to internet/a computer. That will no longer be.

How much can I say about New York without sounding like an over-zealous travel guide or

The city! (I’m sorry, lady in the front, for catching you at a bad time…)

an incredibly starry-eyed, optimistic idealist? Well, here’s to trying!

On my first day in the city, my mother, sister and I woke up leisurely (drenched in sweat as the city is HUMID AS A FLORIDIAN SWAMP) and made our way to one of the city’s most famous and beloved delis: Zabar’s.

Now, I’ve had a sandwich or two in my time. I’ve had many a panini. Hell, I’ve even been known to eat more than my fair share of cookies at a birthday party. So, I think it’s fair to say that I know when I’m saying when I say that ZABAR’S KNOWS WHAT’S UP. According to mybeloved bible, “The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to Living in New York City,”Zabar’s usually to cuts prices on pre-made sandwiches after 7 pm.” So yes, I knew the place was cheap. I had heard this legendary deli mentioned on shows like Seinfeld and Sex and the City — but what did all that really mean? I mean, a sandwich is a sandwich, is it not? Would a panini by any other

My panini. And yes, I did want coffee with that.

name smell as sweet? And I’ve had homemade cookies, muffins, cakes, you NAME it. There couldn’t POSSIBLY be anything better than a HOMEMADE COOKIE … could there?

Friends, Romans, carb-lovers incorporated … I have seen the mountain top … and it looks like a disgruntled woman with traces of a mustache standing slouched behind a greasy deli counter saying, “Welcome to Zabar’s, what do you want?” and then romantically adding, “Would you like coffee with that?”

The cheese wall that made me believe in God.

Needless to say that after I ordered my first panini at Zabar’s (Ham and provolone … what else??) my family and I went back there every day for three days (sometimes twice a day) and I have no shame. None, I say!

And not only does Zabar’s have an incredible sit-down deli-restaurant, but immediately next-door is a Zabar’s sponsored grocery store overflowing with the most delectable cheeses and meats and produce and baked goods I’d ever seen. When I first walked in and turned the corner, I came face-to-face with the greatest wall of cheese I had ever seen in my life; I met it with my eyes wide open and fully-baked smile, and it gave the term “cutting the cheese” a new meaning.

The baked goods section of Zabar’s. Yes, heaven IS place on earth.

Since that moment I have had countless others that leave me with one question: How can anyone lump cities like Chicago and Los Angeles into the same category as New York for “greatest cities in the country?” Standing alone in the crowded Zabar’s grocery store, staring shocked and awed at the abundant plethora of cheeses before me shining like an Olympic gold medal, it became clear to me that New York City is the heartbeat of America. It sets the beat — it sets the tone — for the rest of America to live up to. And this was just a New York deli — other blog posts will detail for you New York parks, theatre, music and whatnot. But right now, I’m talkin’ delis, and I am a happy customer.

Anyways, we finally left Zabar’s and met up with our dear friends, Ron and Sydney Crawford, who live in an area of NYC called NoLiTa (Northern Little Italy) right near SoHo. To do that, we took (drumroll please) the New York Subway! And it wasn’t glorious. It wasn’t cool. It was hot. It was crowded. And everywhere I went I was followed by a nagging odor that wreaked of urine, body odor and whatever the dude in front of me had for lunch. But I gotta get used to it. It’s the way you get around over here — unless you want to walk farther than Moses  did over the entire course of his 40 days and nights in the desert. One thing I

People — obviously thrilled — waiting at the shiny, lovely subway stop to board the train.

learned in New York is that if you want to get around, you gotta do it on your own. If you want help, you have to put your life in danger and yell, “Taxi!”

Taxis in NYC are a deathwish. If you are suicidal, keep riding in taxis. Death will come to you eventually. Cabdrivers here abide by three rules: #1: I do not listen,

All the people so happy to be on the subway.

#2: I do not slow down and #3: I do not care. Half the time they don’t drive in the right direction, and if you have the stones to fill them in on the error of their ways, they quickly refer you to rules 1 and 3, and then they exercise rule 2.

ANYWAYS, after we met up with the lovely Crawfords at

My lovely friend, Vanessa

their gorgeous apartment in NoLita, my BEAUTIFUL friend Vanessa joined us and we scoped out my studio apartment for the summer. It is beautiful, hip and lacking in air conditioner. But what it lacks in AC it makes up for in absolute

The lovely Laura in my apartment!

COOLNESS. That night I had some friends over and we spent hours in the apartment just talking and reveling in the joy that comes with having your own place and living in it. I literally had to drag them out of the building and into the city. And I didn’t have to drag them that far — which is what I love about

We finally made it out to the city! (When I become a better photographer, you’ll actually be able to see the city too

my apartment. The moment I open the apartment building’s door, the world is vibrant, busy, colorful and

CITY!

lively. People of all different colors, styles and livelihoods are walking through the streets at their own leisure — be it a break-neck pace or a a stroll — and it’s fascinating to be part of it all. I have no CLUE how I’m going to live in Evanston after this. But I’m not going to think about that right now. It’s summer time for chrissakes.

(Video above: Laura can’t stop laughing … for some reason …)

New York, here I come!

June 13, 2011

Today, my friends, I traversed the country in a sky-bound metal tube that landed in the greatest city in the world: New York City.  Let me tell you a little bit about my travels.

I like to think of myself as a pioneer — traveling across the country with nothing but the clothes on my back … and in my suitcase … and in my othersuitcase … and all the items I brought with me on the plane to avoid boredom — okay fine, so I ain’t exactly Laura Ingalls Wilder from Little House on the Prairie, but I did

travel 800 miles in one day … thanks to the advancements in modern transportation. (Yes, I’m aware the previous sentence was a run-on. BITE ME)

And after my travels and all the things I’ve seen from one coast to the other, I have one, huge question to ask: does anybody really win with the adjustable  backs on airplane seats? Because, to me, those adjustable backs are just a shit storm waiting to happen. In my experience, from the moment the adjustments are made, all involved end up angry, bitter and passive-aggressive, which makes me wonder — does anybody really win? For instance, I know that when I move my chair back, I just become angry and disappointed because the change is too miniscule to make any difference in my comfort levels. I’m no more comfortable than I was before — I’m just more depressed because my hopes have been smattered. Meanwhile, the poor soul behind me is more cramped than he/she was before because, while the change seems like nothing to me, it made a WORLD of a difference to the dude behind me. I know, because I’ve been the dude in the seat that gets smushed. It’s a piece of shit. So now, we’ve got a depressed passenger and a suffocating one, and about 90 minutes

to go before we can finally part ways forever. And, I’m sure all the people around me who had to watch us go through that awkward debacle feel no better about being stuffed into a small air-bound metal tube with me for the remaining 90 minutes.

Ahhh, life.

Anyways, my family and I got to O’Hare Airport around 2 pm, which is when we had to part ways. My father was homeward bound while the girls of the family (my mother, myself and my lil’ sis’) had the New York skyline ahead of us. And BOY were we psyched! (Just look at the picture — the psyched-ness is well documented)

Me being all psyched by the city and stuff.

The moment we hit the ground in New York, I could feel the difference in atmosphere. Immediately, you know you’re in a quite unique place, and either you’re going to fit in or you won’t. New York is a one-of-a-kind place — there’s really no better word for it (or group of hyphenated words). The pace, the intensity, the colors, the vibrancy — it all swirls together and blows up into this massive, bustling body that is the city. Driving in the taxi from the airport to home base, I could see blurs from my window

NYC skyline from the taxi!

of an already blurry city. Moving at a fast pace through a fast-paced city is pretty interesting — maybe that’s why no one in NY owns a car! Eureka!

I’m gonna admit up front, though, my first night in NY was pretty low-key. We got to our apartment (an apartment of a friend’s that we’re using for a week until I get myself moved in to my real apartment for this summer) and we were extremely excited to be in the city. (Note the video below.) Once we hauled all of our luggage up the 3 flights of stairs to our room (which left me with very little dignity, sanity, energy and goodwill), we wiped the sweat from our brows  (oh yeah, did I mention the apartment has no air conditioning?) and decided to get a bite in the Big Apple.

The great thing about this city is that no matter where you go, great food is waiting for you — and in every kind of capacity. Whether its some

Restaurant we went to!

random man with questionable body odor selling you a hot dog on the side of the road, or a swanky, 5-star French restaurant, the food is gonna be brilliant — and it was. We stopped at a delightful french café at the

Toasting our first night in the city!

recommendation of a family friend and grabbed dinner. The whole time my sister and I made a deep and concerted effort to look like New Yorkers — although it was difficult to fool everyone when I continued to stop over and over again to take pictures of street signs. Something tells me Carrie Bradshaw wouldn’t have stopped at the Broadway street sign and said, “GUYS STOP, I’VE GOTTA DOCUMENT THIS.” But I could be wrong.

We went back to the apartment and lounged around and hit the hay. We’re preppin’ for our first real day in the city. I continued to pore over The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to New York Cityin anticipation of the

Broadway and the full moon!

coming months’ adventures. Think of all the things I could do when I have a full day in the city, as opposed to half of one!

New York, New York!

June 3, 2011

Once upon a time, there was a little girl who was obsessed with dinosaurs and the Power Rangers. She had impeccable taste.

Then, this little girl got really into a band called Green Day and simultaneously discovered black eye liner. She came to think of herself as a teenager during this period.

This teenager played soccer and eventually hurt her knee because the rest of the kids on the field just couldn’t handle how badass she was. She limped off the field, picked up a newspaper and sprinted full-speed into the rest of her life.

Oh, and by the way, she thinks of herself as a woman now.

(DISCLAIMER: This person is me!!)

This summer, I will continue to pursue my journalism dreams in New York City — The Big Apple, The City that Never Sleeps … The Place Where Sex and the City Was Filmed.

And, this summer, this city will also come to be known as, “The City in Which Emilia Spent an Entire Summer, and Tried Really Hard Not to Look Like a Tourist.” I’ll be writing for The New York Press and The Villager, and I’ll try to have a social life in my spare time.

I’ll document my summer with anecdotes, photos and videos of my adventures. I bought a book called The Cheap Bastard’s Guide to New York City (which I now think was written specifically for me), and I will endeavor to complete as many of the cool things in it as possible.

Now, you may be wondering a few things:

How will an LA girl survive in Manhattan? Will New Yorkers mistakenly treat me as an equal? Will angry cab drivers scream profanities at me in a different language as I nervously cross the busy streets? Will I get lost on the subway? How many times will I get lost on the subway? Will I ever ride the subway and NOT get lost?

Or, will I rock the city harder than an apocalyptic meteor shower?

I’ll let you know. Tune in and find it out!

The word “love”

May 25, 2011

So yeah, I watch the OC a lot. Wanna fight about it?

And also, *disclaimer*, this blog post may initially fool you into believing it’s all about the OC, but it’s actually about something else — guess you’ll have to read it to find out! Ooooooh!!!!

Anyways, in the OC, which is essentially a dream world filled with marble table tops, large, shiny, black cars and devastating love triangles, there’s a lot of drama. There’s a lot of high schoolers shooting other high schoolers. And there are a lot of declarations of love.

And that last bit is what pisses me off the most.

Okay, I get it. Some guy punched some other guy at some other, other guy’s beach house and now the girlfriend that caused the commotion in the first place has to shoot one of them, because, well, you can’t take both of ’em to prom! You know, just the typical high school experience.

And yeah, some kid’s Dad headed a ponzi scheme that devastated the entire community and also had a gay love affair with that kid’s best friend’s brother who is secretly the half-sibling of the town’s mayor who’s dog is from another planet, but hey — don’t we all have neighbors that are a little off-kilter?

But the one thing I cannot accept is the flippant manner in which these characters use the word “love”. By the end of this show’s stellar 4 season run, each character has said they are “in love” with at least 4 different people. Four! And they’re not even out of high school yet!

Which brings me to my actual point — have we suddenly forgotten what a heavy, important and meaningful word “love” is?

I now realize, that in today’s society, love has lost its meaning. If it hasn’t, then tell me why there are so many divorces! If people took the time to understand what they’re getting themselves into when they say “I love you,” maybe they’d say it less — and only when they mean it.

Call me old fashioned — but I know that, when the time comes for me to say “I love you,” its gonna be a big fuckin’ deal because, when I say it, I’m going to mean it.

And what does it mean to “mean it,” you might ask?

Well, in my humble opinion, when you say you love someone, you’re not saying, “Oh my god, I have overwhelming feelings of passion, tenderness and emotion for you. I want to kiss you — even when you look ugly! I love hearing your name and saying it and holding your hand.”

Don’t get me wrong, those feeling are all part of the general emotion, but for me, you should not use the L word unless you also feel these things:

1) You know the person inside and out. You have spent enough time with this person to know the things that absolutely SUCK about him/her, and you have moved past it and are willing to be with that person when they suck AND when they’re awesome.

2) You love that person so much and know the personality so well, that you are 100% certain that you will never become bored with that person. When you say you “love” someone, that supposedly means that you want to be with them forever, and forever is forever, so you’re pretty much locked in. And if you’re not down to chill with that person every day for the rest of your life even when they’re going through their periods of suckage, then keep your damn mouth SHUT and save “I love you” for your cat.

3) The love you feel for your significant other makes you a better person. If you’re in a relationship with someone who makes you feel inferior, you’re not in love. You just idealize the person enough to allow yourself to feel inferior, which isn’t love — it’s idolatry. But when you’re truly in love with someone, simply thinking about the way you feel should make you feel important and powerful and that, I think, is real love.

4) You don’t feel as though you’re missing out on anything. When you’re in love and think you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you should never feel as though it’s difficult to reserve yourself for just one person. I believe that if you’re actually in love, everyone else’s face should blur when placed next to your loved one and the idea of ever being with anyone else should seem absurd and insulting.

I know people who have told each other I love you after only knowing each other for weeks, and I cannot understand that. How can you truly know you love someone after such a short period of time? How can you be certain? How, in that short space of time, could the other person have revealed their complicated intricacies — unique to only them — that serve as the foundation upon which you build your true love?

I wish people would stop throwing love around. It’s been tossed about so frequently in today’s world that it’s no longer as special as it used to be. People say it out of guilt, out of inspiration, out of necessity, out of depression, out of desire, out of hopefulness, out of ignorance.

But people shouldn’t feel obliged to say it. Love is so powerful and wonderful and unique that it doesn’t come around every day — or every year even! Either the kids on the OC are the luckiest people on the face of the planet for finding 4 true loves a piece in high school alone, or they’re idiots who don’t understand the significance of their emotions. You can be the judge of that one.

To quote the greats, love is, in fact, a many splendored thing — but it shouldn’t be a many-spoken thing. It’s special. It’s one-of-a-kind. And you should find another person who is truly special and one-of-a-kind to you, and say it to that person.

Call me old fashioned, but when I say “I love you”, I’m going to mean it.

Get psyched.