Friday, March 30, 2007

Sunday, March 25th

Miami Day again. This time we went to the Bayside Mall, which is an arduous half hour walk from the port. I say arduous because there is no real path to Bayside. You traverse highways and grass and industrial areas. But, it’s worth it because then you are at a mall with a Gap and a Sharper Image (The Place to Get The Stuff You Need That You Really Don’t Need At All) and a food court, which, when you are stuck on a ship 24/7, are all a collective oasis of the land life you never thought you would miss so much.
The best thing about Bayside Mall was that we got to hang out with our friend, Ben Johnson, who is finishing up his Second City stint on the Norwegian Pearl. Ben is one of my (and Steve’s) favorite people and seeing him for lunch was such a fun time. We pretty much compared notes (talked “ship”) and then just laughed and laughed and laughed. Three people who knew each other well, hadn’t seen each other in a while, and didn’t have to censor themselves around the NCL cameras. It was great. Hi, Ben.

Friday, March 23rd

I hang out in the spa a lot. The woman’s spa consists of a steam bath, a sauna, a plunge bath, and a hot tub. It is right at the front of the boat and features cozy chairs that look right over the ocean and a fully stocked table with tea, water, coffee, and fresh fruit. The part of the boat with the floor to ceiling windows that juts out? That’s the spa area. I have achieved various states of Zen bliss while reading in the spa, most of which end in me waking myself up with my own snoring.

The spa is usually empty during the day, especially when we are in port, but today was a sea day and it was busier than usual.

I was joined in the hot tub by a blonde woman in her late 50s. We began chatting, and her sister, Kim, came in and said, “Oh, it’s you!” She had seen me in the show the night before and had, for some reason, really taken a liking to me. “I don’t know, there was just something about you – I loved watching you on stage.”
I came to find out that the two women were on vacation with about 22 other women. It was a woman’s retreat for recovering alcoholics who also happen to be practicing members of AA. I then realized why Kim felt a connection to me. I’m not a member of AA or a recovering alcoholic, but I’ve had some pretty low times in my life, and, as happy as I am, there is still a little bit of pain that follows me around wherever I go.

“Religion is for people who don’t want to go to hell,” Lynn told me. “AA is for people who have been to hell and never want to go back.”

I talked to those ladies in the spa for a very long time that afternoon. They made sure to say goodbye to me before they left the boat on Saturday. It is amazing how people who have been to hell seem to find each other, even in the middle of paradise.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Where we Live

So, we live on a boat.
Isn't that weird?
This is our backyard. The Sapphire Pool on Deck 12.
We live in room 8572. Well, we almost got kicked out due to some Ecuadorians wanting our cabin, but the cruise director vetoed it. Notice the fish on the floor. The fish are always swimming forward. It is a nice hint if you are lost and trying to get home.
This blue/white dome-looking thing is our own personal droid. Just kidding. These are hand sanitizers and they are everywhere. Everywhere. This entire ship is my father's dream come true - people always telling you to wash your hands.
This is the Blue Lagoon, the 24-hour eatery on board. It is located pretty much outside our door, so that is convenient...for becoming a FATTY. They serve dinosaur-shaped chicken nuggets, burgers and french fries. Mmmmmm...Notice the beautiful floor to ceiling windows. I love to have breakfast in there and write and watch the waves.
Here is a view from the Garden Cafe, which is the buffet/cafeteria eatery on board. Our first week here I'm pretty sure Steve and I were certain we would never, ever get sick of all these options. Kidney Beans! Stir-Fry! Dinosaur-Shaped Chicken Nuggets! Don't worry, it all got old already.
Here are elevators. We try to avoid them and take the stairs as to combat becoming a FATTY. See Blue Lagoon for reference.

And we really live here. Our room. Kept fairly clean, thanks to our fantastic stewards, Marianito and Caesar. Fox News is on the TV in this picture. I just realized that. Now you know how few channels we have.

A Word With Steve: re: The Crew Pool

Steve here.
Katie and I have a new favorite TV show. It's called 'Front Boat.' "Front Boat' is a 24-hour camera feed of the front of the boat that is routed to one of the channels on the TVs in all the cabins. I guess this is so you can check from your room at all times to see where the boat is heading. Katie and I find 'Front Boat' fascinating. We sit and watch it and wonder what will happen next to our favorite character, SAM, the rotating satellite who spins on the front of the ship. His name is painted right on him. 'Front Boat's camera is mounted from about where the bridge sits, so it takes in about thirty feet of the front of the boat including SAM, some large anchors and deck space, and a small pool that no one ever uses.
This is the crew pool. Crew members can use it if they can find their way to it through the maze or corridors on deck seven forward.

Well, a little while ago, Katie and I found our way out to the crew pool and enjoyed a nice afternoon in the sun. We read a little bit, swam, and even got to talk to SAM. We were careful not to bother him too much though. I bet he gets annoyed by that kind of stuff. The only drag is that 'Front Boat' is a live show and we don't have any TiVo or anything, so our episode aired while we were doing it and we never got to see it. Yesterday, while talking to my mom on the phone, she said, "It doesn't matter if you never see yourself on TV. The important thing is that you're having a great time." I'm not sure
how she knew about the whole 'Front Boat' thing.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

You have Problems?

You may not know this, but I have problems.

About 7 years ago I was diagnosed with panic disorder. In the simplest of terms, your nervous system has a gas pedal and a brake. The gas pedal kicks in when there is danger (i.e. you have to fight and/or run away from a tiger) and the brake kicks in when the danger has passed. My gas pedal is broken, and tends to floor itself even when there isn’t a “tiger” in the room, like when I am watching a movie or simply sitting at a restaurant with my friends.

The past few years have been very hard, learning how to deal with this strange and terrifying disorder. There were times when I couldn’t leave my house, when the idea of going to the grocery store was too much for me. I needed to be near hospitals, near main roads and cars, just in case I got an attack and needed to be saved. Because you really do feel as though you’re dying – like your body is caving in on itself and your heart and mind can’t take it. There were times when I simply up and left a social engagement, jumping in a cab to flee to my bed. I’ve worked and worked and worked to not let this thing take over my life, as it does take over so many peoples’ lives completely. For many people, Panic Disorder is the master that controls their every move.

I was never one to listen to authority.

I will never defeat panic disorder. That’s like saying I’m going to defeat the freckles on my shoulders. There is no winning against it, but you can definitely lose to it. I chose not to lose, and to live with my lot, accept it, and when it comes over uninvited I can simply acknowledge it but not let it ruin my dinner.

I think the greatest thing about this cruise is that I am doing it. I am living in a tiny cabin that is often in the middle of the ocean or docked at a very remote island with no hospitals or cabs or warm beds to hide in. I’ve even been able to do it alone, as Steve has been leaving the ship here and there.

And I’m not saying I don’t feel it creeping up on me sometimes. But I never feel helpless. I never thought I would ever be able to do something like this. I am so grateful that my reward for my good fight against my body’s inability to know when it is time to fight is this beautiful adventure, with old friends and new. You might even say it was all worth it. You might.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Tuesday, March 20th

I’ve been watching a lot of Six Feet Under lately, which I’m sure sounds like a perfect complement to a Caribbean cruise. As the name implies, Six Feet Under is a show centering on the Fishers’ who own a funeral home. So, yeah, there’s a lot of death. But, like all smart writing, both sides of the story are told, and in the end, although we can’t escape the inevitable, it always seems like the living win. Because they have the ultimate advantage – life.

One of my favorite scenes from the series involves the long dead Father Fisher coming to talk to his son, who is in a bit of a paralysis in regard to his life choices. Mr. Fisher simply says, “You can do whatever you want, you lucky Bastard! You’re alive!”

Today I walked around Old San Juan on a beautiful path by the ocean and the old forts. San Juan used to have a horrible problem with stray cats, and these women began taking care of them, spaying and neutering them, giving them food, and finding them homes. These cats live in the rocks that sit by the ocean. It really is a surreal scene – these majestic, almost archaic forts protecting this rocky beach, waves crashing up against the sand, and literally everywhere are these little, sweet cats, poking out from the black rocks. It seems like they shouldn’t necessarily be there, but the place wouldn’t be as magical if they weren’t.

These experiences have been making me feel quite lucky lately. Quite lucky to…well…Be.

Sunday, March 18th

Today I tug along with Cody, Jennine, Dave Keaton, Charles, and Kris Geddes, who is one of the main dancers and also the Crew Welfare Chairman, to the Dadeland Mall in Miami. The mall is a solid trek from the port, and the cab ride is $50 one-way.

But, with Kris being on official crew welfare business, the cab rides were covered by NCL - as was the $4,200 we spent at Best Buy! Yes, our mission was to snap up laptops and iPods and digital cameras all for the crew welfare raffle and DVDs to add to the ever growing DVD rental store we have for the crew. Did I mention we spent $4, cash? Thanks, NCL!

If that wasn't enough, the absolute highlight of the day was getting to eat at a traditional American, fat-laden, over-proportioned chain restaurant. We headed directly to The Cheesecake Factory, where we proceeded to order almost everything that we couldn’t get on the ship (i.e. a decent burger, jambalaya, crab wonton, and diet cokes from the fountain – not a can). We tried to eat it all, we really did, but we were sent home defeated, our doggie bags our Scarlet Letters.

Steve met us there for a quick hello/goodbye before embarking on his arduous flight(s) from Miami to Seattle to Ontario, CA, and then a late-night drive to LA. Needless to say I ate all my leftovers that night.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Perhaps the AFLAC Duck Next Time?

Steve is back. No pilot. No four hours of make-up/prosthetics everyday. No lonely Katie traipsing around St. Thomas by herself on a bicycle built for two.

It is both disappointing and okay.

But you can see my tentativeness in accepting his return.

Saturday, March 17th

So, after our improv show last night (dubbed “The Second City: Scriptless) things got a little crazy. The shows are held in here, the Spinnaker Lounge on deck 13. We perform in the round, which provides from some awkward staging, but for the most part is fun. And we still get to wear those cool drive-thru/Madonna concert microphones.

The show went fine, and afterwards fun was to be had. Here you can see the boys living it up. What you don’t know (and let’s pray they don’t either) is that they are dancing to “I Feel Like a Woman” by Shania Twain. We will chalk it up to irony and move on.

As the night progressed, the boys went to play poker and Steve finally went to bed, leaving me, Jennine, crew member Lorena, dancer Kelsey, and the very fabulous dancers, Nick and Nathan (aka Martini, aka the guy wearing a bra outside his shirt).
Hoo boy.
As you can see from the pictures, we were having a blast, which was mostly centered around an impromptu “America’s Next Top Model” walk-off, which, as you can see by the bra he somehow procured, Martini won.
Afterwards, much overeating was done in the Blue Lagoon, our 24-hour eatery on the ship. I think it is a very good idea to have a burger AND fish and chips at 3 in the morning, don’t you? Now that’s freestyle cruising! We are so lucky to be surrounded by such fun and kind people, even beyond our wonderful cast. The dancers and crew members are quickly becoming part of our Boat Family.

Oh yeah, and I guess it’s St. Patrick’s Day. Erin go Brach.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


Yeah, I know. We COULD just let the stewards do it, but we have pride. Lazy, lazy pride.

Update: The pictured laundry has been done! A new pile is surely on the way. And by surely, I mean it is.

Friday, March 16th

Our Friend Charles Almost Died

The aforementioned Charles Bach is the magician on the ship. He has a lot to live for. He is getting married on 7/7/07 to a lovely lawyer named Magdalena. He is kind, genuine, and very, very talented. He also has a fantastic career, with best-selling magic DVDs and books, and sold out shows at Caesar’s Palace.

So why does he want to throw it all away by binding himself in feet of 75lbs chains and shackles, jumping into the pool (which is salt water by the way – ouchie on the eyes), and submerging himself for almost 3 minutes as he tries to escape?

Because he is a crazy, wonderful magician.
His record of holding his breath under water is 3 minutes, 30 seconds. He also wears all black, including black, Levi jeans. Now that is magic in itself – wearing sopping wet black jeans. Ew. You can see him in the right-hand corner, the Crazy Man in Black, with chains all around his arms, neck and legs, and his feet bound together.

Charles was filming some of his underwater escape a couple days ago and I was "lucky" enough to help him with it. I had to help tie up the guy, and, albeit I have the arms of a small boy who hasn't eaten in a week, those chains are dang, dang heavy. And they are tight around his neck. It is sort of the physical manifestation of anxiety - bound and drowning. I didn't think about it too much.

Well, Charles lived this time. Here he is basking in the love of the poolside crowd. This time he escaped just over 2 minutes, 40 seconds. So he is still part of Boat Family. At least until next Friday when he does it all over again.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Temporarily Abandoned at Sea (again)

Look at these two! Aren't they cute? Shouldn't they be cruising around together and performing?
Well, they aren't.
Steve's gone.
And it is definitely NOT what you think.

So, remember when Steve didn't get the last pilot he auditioned for last week, during his weekly "I-Leave-The-Ship-and-Try-to- Get-Famous" jaunt? Well, while he was in LA, his manager arranged for him to audition for a couple of other things. And the casting director for a different ABC pilot (who just so happens to be the casting director from a little show called "Friends") loved his audition.

So, on Sunday, he will be flying back to LA to network test for another pilot. Again.
The pilot? A sit-com based on the GEICO cavemen from the commercials. Yes, this guy:
The cavemen will try to make it in the real world as they all have normal jobs at IKEA.
This experience could not get any weirder. Am I right?
I now have really learned the lesson that worrying about the future is absolutely futile because what you fear will happen (ship will sink, the shows will suck, Steve and I will get in a terrible fight) will be nothing like what actually happens (your boyfriend leaves to try and be a TV caveman).
Break legs, Stevie!

Thursday, March 15th

We're doing it! Here is a lovely picture of Jennine and I as we celebrate our first FULL cast show on the Norwegian Jewel. We do two scripted, Second City reviews during the week, and then two improv sets on the weekends. The shows are so much more fun that I could have expected. This cast is very laid-back, but hard working, and I adore them. We really have a great time together.
These shows were no exception, as we rocked the house (some people stood! Twenty-four hour buffet cruise people stood!) and left feeling great. Some of our sketches are straight from the Second City archives, while others were written to poke fun at cruise life (i.e. showing what goes on behind the elusive "Crew Only" doors - it is crew members rowing! It kills every time). The audiences are gracious and supportive, even this unbelievably bombed-out-of-their-skulls crowd (read: Spring Break).

You may be noticing we are wearing McDonald's drive-thru/Madonna concert-style headset microphones. Oh, heck yes we do. These shows feel more like rock concerts that sketch shows because, well, it's a cruise. There is a lot of smoke and colors and shiny things - we even enter on a rotating stage. Because God forbid any passenger not be over-stimulated, even just for a moment.

Steve is the only one who has a black headset. That's what you get for being so talented and being flown out to LA. So there.

Is Something Different About You?

This cruise is really bringing out my Italian heritage.

And Steve’s wacky German dictator heritage.

Tuesday, March 13th

Our first time in San Juan – well, our first time with the ability to get off the boat and explore. San Juan is pretty great – San Francisco-steep hills, narrow streets lined with shops and filled with history, forts so weather-beaten one can only imagine the battles they saw and the souls they protected.

Naturally, we spent the entire day in a café that provided us with free wireless Internet.

I know, I know – blasphemers! Techno-dependent heathens! But when computer time on the ship costs an obscene amount (cherish those emails, friends) and we have so many people we love and want to keep in touch with, a little café called Café Berlin, right by a statue of Ponce de Leon, is a beacon in a sea of overpriced bandwidth.

And the hummus was fantastic.

So, anyway, here’s what I have seen of San Juan thus far – Steve looking intently at his computer. Muy guapo, si?

Hey, we’ll be back in a week.

Sunday, March 11th

Where is Steve?
Miami. South Beach.

Okay, so he didn't get the pilot. But, that means he's back. And look how L.A. he is! Open shirt, bored look, too good for anyone attitude. And, everyone loved him. Bruce McCullouch even wants to make sure that if the pilot gets picked up a part will be written for Steve. He even made the president of ABC burst out laughing. So, it was a fantastic experience and I know it will lead to good things.

The day was great. We had lunch at News Cafe on South Beach to celebrate Steve's return and to send off Matt, Beth, and Chris. Steve and I were so happy to see each other - Matt snapped this picture of us when we first got to see each other. Aren't we small and cute?

It was great to have a last lunch with everyone. I know Beth looks upset in this picture, but she really isn't. I think she is just sad she has to leave us fun people. Afterwards shopping was to be done, and overpriced, Miami coffee was to be consumed. Steve and I were enjoying a coffee in a restaurant when we saw a Sonic commercial with my good pals TJ and Peter! It was a nice little postcard from home.

Welcome back, Steve.

Saturday, March 10th

Drum roll…we got off the boat today!! No more recycled ship air and seizure-inducing colored carpet! Today we took a break from the weirdness of the week and joined the vacationers on Norwegian’s own private island, Great Stirrup Cay, in the Bahamas. Here is a shot of the boat from the island. As you can see, we weren’t that far away. The island itself is only about 2 miles wide, but it is filled with barbeques, steel drum music, volleyball, hammocks, and the occasional Pina Colada.

The highlight of the day was Jennine, Cody and I pilfering these huge rafts called Party Floats. Well, they weren’t so much pilfered as the guy who rented them “looked the other way.” The ocean by the cay is so clear and calm that we were all able to link up rafts and make one huge party float! And, our musical director, Dave Keaton, graciously played navigator and tugged us around the water. It was lazy and giggly and sunny and just what we needed. As we left the island (Cody looking very cool – what you can’t see is the souvenir margarita glass in his hand) we were all chatty and recharged. Sometimes playing around a beach like kids with your friends on huge rafts is exactly what you need.

Wednesday, March 7th

Today, after much Steve-less rehearsing, it was time to celebrate our director’s birthday. Matt Craig turned the big 3-4, and we did it up right. Our producer, Beth Kligerman, got us reservations at Cagney’s, the steakhouse on the Jewel.
Of course the cast was there, as well as some friends of Matt’s and ours. Matt had done the Mediterranean cruise on the Jewel last year, and because he is a very lovable man it seemed like everywhere we went on the ship everyone from stewards to magicians were very happy to see their old friend. Edge and Charles Bach, two of the magicians on the ship, and Chris, Charles’ best friend who recently performed magic for the Queen of England, joined us as well. Edge had gone to Antigua earlier that day to buy party hats (which I saved for my ship birthday – June 30th, FYI) and Matt ended up with two cakes. Jennine had gotten one earlier and the dinner package Beth generously treated us all to included a cake. Us fatties didn’t let it go to waste, however, and cocktails (a virgin smoothie for Matt, of course), steaks (grilled tuna for me, of course), and cake (for everyone, of course) were consumed happily.

There is something so beautiful about watching someone have a fantastic time on his or her birthday – especially when he or she is far from home. It looked like out “Boat Family” had done just fine for Matt, as you could tell he was genuinely having a great time. While it may not have been the roster he thought would be surrounding him on his big 34th, it did have a bit of a kid’s party feel, like we were all a family and Beth let some of our other friends play that night, too.

As for the empty seat across from me at dinner, well…we all who should have been sitting there.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Tuesday, March 6th

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Look at these two. Shouldn't they be cruising together?
Well, they aren't.
Steve is gone.
Our shipmate Dave wrote a pretty great account of the whole deal, so I'm just going to post it right here: "Halfway through Tuesday, our second full-cast rehearsal (the other three having put in a few hours a day for four days in Chicago), Steve gets a call from his agent, telling him he’s to be flown to LA to test for a pilot written by Bruce McCullough of The Kids in the Hall, and starring Jerry O’Connell. Great news.
He’s to fly out that day if possible, or Wednesday if not.
Bad news.
We open Thursday. We’re in Puerto Rico. It’s too late to replace Steve, and even if he does get the part, he’d be back in three weeks because his partner is already on board.
Beth Kligerman, our producer, makes the call to let Steve go, which none of us begrudge…it’s a tremendous opportunity, and in the past, Second City burned many a bridge with their performers when they refused to let them take a leave for a golden chance like this. Steve’s success would reflect well on Second City.

Rehearsal is canceled, and Beth and our director Matt Craig huddle up to make some decisions. Steve prepares to pack and tries to get out of San Juan before 6 p.m.
More drama, as he can’t get confirmation from the network (don’t quote me, but I think it’s NBC) that they’ll pay for his flight. Katie Rich is, at this point, the most conflicted person in the world: her boyfriend is about to get a great shot at a steady gig on television…but she’s stuck on a ship with people she barely knows and a show that is nowhere near ready for its opening night in 48 hours.

So, with everything up in the air, we gather for a much-needed beverage in the Crystal Atrium on Deck 7 to discuss our options…assuming Steve even gets to leave. Do we:
a) Have Matt himself step into Steve’s roles? He knows them well, has seen them all played (and wrote a couple when he was in Chicago’s mainstage), and is one hell of a performer.
b) Move down to a 4-person cast until Steve comes back, reassigning the guys roles to Cody and myself, with gender-neutral roles up to anyone not already in the scenes requiring it.
Much discussion ensues, but we opt for the four-person cast: if Steve books the pilot, we won’t have him for up to a month, and Matt can’t stay beyond this week. Besides…it’s probably better to have the director look at lighting and pacing from OUTSIDE the scenes.

Parts are reassigned, and we then separate to study our new lines, and think about blocking. Steve goes to re-pack and spend time with Katie. Matt, who doesn’t drink, seriously contemplates ditching sobriety for an epic bender."

So, yeah. I'm alone, but for the best reason possible. And no one deserves it more than Steve, even if he has to get it the hard way.
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Soon, these two will be back together. For now, I'm just ordering too much room service. Maybe I'm eating my feelings. Who cares? Break legs, Stevie!

Monday, March 5th

How do you get to perform in the Stardust Theater on the Norwegian Jewel? Practice, practice, practice. Here are some shots of the place where we do our show - it seats about 1,200 people (the boat can hold 2,400) Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket and is pretty gaudy - like everything on a cruise. There is a rotating part of the stage, which we use, and smoke machines, rock concert-style lights, and a huge front curtain with a peacock on it that is so glittery and obnoxious it looks like Cher's wardrobe threw up on it. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket We are living the dream! This week will be the most work we do in our entire stint on the cruise. I know, 5-hour daily rehearsals. Boo hoo. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket That's me playing on the set for one of the dance shows. We're doing it!!

Monday, March 12, 2007

Contact Us!


So much has happened in the last few days - I am updating pictures to post, but the ship's wireless internet seems to be run by fish out of a cave under the sea. It's real slow.

But, we miss you all! We can chat on the phone sometimes (Sundays are the best) so call Steve then. Email is great. If you'd like to send us letters, address them to:
Katie Rich (or Steve Waltien)
Crew Staff
Guest Entertainer/Second City
M/S Norwegian Jewel
P.O. Box 026969
Miami, FL 33102

Packages (wheeeee!):
Katie Rich (or Steve)
Crew Staff
Guest Entertainer/Second City
7665 Corporate Center Drive
Miami, FL 33126

Please note we will only be here until April 22, and stuff takes about two weeks to deliver.

Anyone who emails me their address gets a postcard!

Hope all is well - much more tomorrow.

Katie and Steve

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Sunday, March 4th

Here are some people you should meet, as they are my family for the next few months. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket Dave and Jennine are a married couple from Toronto. This is their second stint on the Norwegian Jewel, as they have been here for the four months prior to our arrival. They are full of life and energy and could not have been more welcoming to our sleep-deprived, disoriented selves when we arrived in Miami. Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket This is Dave Keaton, our musical director, who is calm and cool and breaks out with the best songs. He is based in L.A. Obviously, the gentleman in the front of this shot is Steve, who is pretty okay, I guess.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket This is Cody (dressed sharp) and Matt (dressed in a towel). Cody is from New Mexico, our team captain, and is probably one of the best guys I’ve ever met – so kind and funny. Matt is a Chicago Mainstage Alumni who is our director. He will only be with us for a week, and we will miss him a big ton, because he is a giant man with a giant heart who has really put this thing together.

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket So, here we are. Sailing away from Miami, our routines, our cell phones, our grocery shopping, our day jobs, our apartments, our pets, our winter coats, our land-life, and moving onto bluer pastures.