Thursday, May 9, 2024

A Happy Brugger Birthday

Brugger turned older than the hills — again! — today. This past Saturday, we'd gone up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to celebrate both of our birthdays ("Blue Ridge Parkway Caching, Wining, & Dining"), but as always, we had our own mellow little celebration at home on the actual day. For her birthday dinner, she wanted her special "French Onion Burgers," which include mushrooms, onions, swiss cheese, garlic aioli, and lots of Worcestershire sauce, so I made us up some. They were delicious. Plus we opened one of our really good bottles of wine from last fall's trip to the Pacific Northwest (a Cabernet Sauvignon from Sigillo Cellars in Snoqualmie). And she got a couple of nice gifts from some old fellow.

Me, I headed out bright and early for Danville, VA, to set up a couple of new geocaches — a Virtual and an Adventure Lab — in the Historic River District. While I was setting up the cache stages, I happened upon someone's bank card lying in the grass in one of the small park areas, so, in keeping with the theme of rescuing things, which seems to have been my lot lately, I rescued the card and promptly went out and had sushi at Tokyo Grill. (Yeah, the bank was right there, so I did turn in the errant card first, heh heh.)

Anyway, a nice day all around for both of us. Yet another step in the walk to Last Day. Till the next one...

A few random sites around the River District in Danville:
Eldredge, the Red Elephant, which occupies the shell of the old Eldredge's Drugstore on Craghead Street
The old Pepsi Cola Bottling Co. building
Left: restored old water tower; Right: Hidden door in a haunted corner of the River District
Entrance to the old Worsham Street Bridge

Monday, May 6, 2024

Ugly Animal Rescue Inc.

It was barely over a month ago that I (with the help of a neighbor) rescued a turkey vulture caught up in some fishing line across the street from my house (see "O Ugly Bird," March 25, 2024). Today, it was a big ol' snapping turtle* out in the road in the wilds of Guilford County, NC. I'd had a doctor appointment during the morning, and then friend Scott (a.k.a. Diefenbaker) and I spent a good portion of the day geocaching around Burlington. On my way home, I took one of the backroads to replace one of my caches that had gone missing, and very nearby, I happened upon the critter pictured here. It was a great big 'un — over two feet from snout to tail. And, oh my lord, how very unhappy! Aggressive as hell, and those jaws, had they snagged one of my fingers, would have taken it clean off. Still, it didn't appear inclined to get out of the road. So, I presented the end of my hiking stick and let it bite the tip. Its jaws locked on, and so I was able to lift it and carry it well out of harm's way.

Now, I don't know whether yon critter stayed out of harm's way, but I hated the idea of a vehicle smushing it, whether inadvertently or on purpose. Anyway, I did what I could, and I hope it's still out there going about its turtle business in relative safety.

Anyway, Ms. Brugger said I should start a business called Ugly Animal Rescue since seem to have a knack for it. An idea to consider.

*When I posted the photo on Facebook, there was some disagreement over whether this was a common snapping turtle or a musk turtle. Now, I've seen plenty of musk turtles around, but I've never seen one that looked — or behaved — like this critter. This one's shell wasn't ridged in the way of most snapping turtles, although it did appear jagged around the back edge. At no time did it release any of the musk that annoyed musk turtles usually do. So, based on its behavior, its general physical characteristics, and how it compares to the images of snapping turtles in NC vs musk turtles, I've gotta go with the common snapping turtle. Whatever type it was, had it gotten hold of my hand during all this, I'd be in one helluva bad way right now.

Sunday, May 5, 2024

Blue Ridge Parkway Caching, Wining, and Dining

Since my birthday fell on last Thursday, and Brugger's birthday is next Thursday, we decided to celebrate both by heading up to the Blue Ridge Parkway yesterday, primarily to visit Villa Appalaccia Winery for wine (it's our favorite winery in the region), and Chateau Morrisette for dinner (plus some more wine). There are a couple of Aventure Lab caches on the Parkway with a handful of stages at Mabry Mill, so we stopped there on our way so that I might claim them. I did. It was nice to visit the mill, which was a long-running personal & family tradition for many years, but — very sadly — the restaurant has closed, possibly permanently, though hopefully temporarily. Mabry Mill is one of the most photographed locations on the Blue Ridge Parkway, and I've taken more than I can count there over the years. And I'm posting a couple of more here.

Near the Parkway, U.S. 58 is undergoing a massive construction project, and last year, we had the misfortune of being stuck on it for an exceptionally long time while the work was going on. Google Maps indicated there might be delays, so on the way up — which was rainy (and very foggy once we reached the Parkway) — rather than taking 58, the more direct route, I went up U.S. 57 to Route 8 to the Parkway. It's a bit longer, but it's somewhat more scenic, especially since the construction work has utterly destroyed the most beautiful scenery along 58. We did take 58 home since by then it was late evening, and we ran into no problems whatsoever.

At Villa Appalaccia, we encountered a large crowd, which we found surprising since the weather was pretty dismal. Regardless, Ms. B. and I sat out in our favorite location — a little walled courtyard set back from the main building in a scenic grove of trees. We met a couple of interesting gentlemen smoking cigars out there, so we buckled up and shot the shit with them for a solid hour. Turned out to be a lot of fun.

Then Ms. B. and I migrated to the nearby Chateau Morrisette restaurant, where we enjoyed a first-rate dinner (as we almost always do) — butter-poached filet mignon for me and a beet salad and French onion soup for the missus. To accompany dinner, we went with a bottle of Dry Dog red, which wasn't bad. Not bad at all.

So, it was a lovely birthday excursion. We even enjoyed the fog and rain because it offered us a somewhat haunted atmosphere. Not much could be better for a birthday celebration.

Yesterday also would have been my brother's 60th birthday. He and I shared a lot of times on the Blue Ridge Parkway in our younger days. Here's to remembering all the best times with him.

Friday, May 3, 2024

Another Milestone on That Long, Winding Road to Last Day

YESTERDAY: Another birthday, another day closer to death, blah-blah-blah. This is my first month on Medicare, so that's how many of these milestones I've passed on the long and winding road. Don't get me wrong, I'm grateful for every second that I still inhabit this planet; milestones just don't seem to mean what they used to. The main reason I even remembered this one was because I needed to make sure I changed all my old medical insurance information over to the new.

It was a mellow birthday, to be sure. I began the day with my usual long walk around the neighborhood. I've managed to put in at least three miles a day without missing a single one since early January, and, before that, missed days were few and far between. It's definitely made a difference in my physical strength and stamina, and, given the abundance of steep hills in this area, I expect the cardiac workout has been good for keeping the ticker on a healthy track. I could probably stand to focus on a more healthful diet, but at the same time, it could be lot worse. I've got a regular physical checkup coming up soon, so I'm hoping my doctor will give me a smile rather than a frown.

Ms. Brugger made me one of her classic birthday cards (see above) and, come dinnertime, treated me to one of my favorite desserts ever — a mascarpone and Irish cream whipped dessert with bitter cherries, a recipe she got from our friend Yvonne. I was craving Thai chicken & basil for dinner, and since it's one of my mostest favoritest things to make, I up and fixed it myself. Next week, it's Brugger's birthday, so we're going to have a fancier dinner outing tomorrow evening as sort of a joint celebration.

We've been on a WWII movie kick lately, so for our evening theatrical feature, we put on Tora, Tora, Tora, which she hadn't seen, and it's one of my favorite films. The Blu-ray has the extended Japanese cut on it, so we watched that version, which I think I prefer. That carried us pretty late in the evening, so before bedtime, I finished listening to the audiobook of Gateways by F. Paul Wilson, as I've been on a Repairman Jack binge lately. Paul has had some serious health issues, but I heard from him the other day, and it sounds like he's on the upswing. I very much hope so.

I received a ton of very nice birthday wishes from friends both online and in person, and every last one is deeply appreciated. Perhaps I can continue plaguing you with my existence for a long time to come. (Evil laughter...)

Laters, all!
My infamous Thermonuclear Thai Chicken with Basil
Ms. B.'s mascarpone & Irish cream with bitter cherries. Heavenly!

Saturday, April 27, 2024

A Really Big Shew

I wasn't sure what to expect at the local author booksigning event at Imagination Lavender Farm this afternoon, but I can safely say that, for me, it turned out to be all kinds of successful. Indeed, I believe all the attending authors did well, which was great to see. This area has a pretty active writing community, and — besides me — the event included writers Pam Cobler, Susannah Eanes, Betsy Rodgers Henny, Jim Mize, Melissa Rooney, Finley Turner, Brenda Strickland, and Ben Williams. Susannah Eanes and I were in high school together, and I've known Ben Williams, who writes editorials for the Henry County Enterprise, for several years (I share his columns regularly on social media because they are as spot-on as spot-on has ever been). His new book, titled Voice of Degeneration, is a compilation of his columns from 2019 through 2023, so I absolutely had to pick one up.

Several customers came out specifically because they wanted to check out my more horrific fare, and they made many purchases, which I appreciate no end. I also ended up meeting several folks who shared a common history with me back in the day, and author/publisher/friend Samaire Wynne, who joined Brugger and me last night for dinner and a bonfire in the backyard, also came around to socialize and provide moral support.

There's a good chance that this will become a regular event, probably annually, and I definitely hope so. It's great for the writers as well as readers in the community, and I enjoyed seeing old friends and acquaintances as well as meeting some new. Huzzah!
Let the show begin!
From last night: Brugger's photo looking up through the trees in the backyard

Friday, April 26, 2024

TOMORROW, 4/27/24: Local Authors' Book Signing at Imagination Lavender Farm

TOMORROW — Saturday, April 27, 2024 — a booksigning event at Imagination Lavender Farm in MartinsvilleVA1–3 p.m. Besides me, there will be a slew of local writers, so if you're in reasonable traveling distance, you otter come around, say hello, and buy my books (not to mention any others that strike your fancy). As far as I know, I'll be the only author of scary things, and you KNOW you need scary things. Of course, if you don't like scary things (what's wrong with you?), there will be all kinds of traditional, uplifting, non-scary things as well.

Hope you'll stop by. Directions below. More info here.

Monday, April 22, 2024

Ferrum, Krakens, and Caches

Beware the Ferrum College Kraken!
It's fair to say that my college days, in the late 1970s, found me at the pinnacle of experimentation with anything and everything that wasn't part of my prescribed conservative, middle-class, sometimes overly protected upbringing. I spent the first two years of college at Ferrum, a relatively small, Methodist-sponsored, at-the-time junior college set in the mountains of Franklin County, VA, about 30 miles from Martinsville, my hometown. Since I lived on campus, free of the shackles of small-town conservatism, for me, drinking, drugs, and debauchery became the order of the day. To this day, I wonder how the hell I survived it—and how I still managed to do so well academically (Dean's list each semester). Still, I can't say I don't hold onto some regret for having been a true jerk and adhering to that kind of craptastic lifestyle. Well, it was part of the learning process, and I suppose I'm a better person for it today.

You're laughing, aren't you?

Back then, Ferrum was an attractive campus, though perpetually in a state of "improvement" (read disrepair). At that time, the distinctly rural life—which could be appealing in moderation—grew old quickly, so on weekends, I often went to Roanoke or Richmond or DC with friends to seek more urban-based pleasures. Still, the picturesque setting, not far from Philpott Lake, held considerable allure for me then, and even more for me now. The campus has grown, which I suppose is an okay thing, but what strikes me is how beautifully refurbished and well-maintained the place is now. It's one of the prettiest campuses I've ever seen, and... there are geocaches.

Since the weather could not have been better for geocaching, I had intended to drive up to Smith Mountain Lake this morning to hunt a few, but as soon as I woke up, I found that several new caches had been published at Ferrum. Abrupt change of plans! And it couldn't been better timed because I'd really been wanting to head back up to Ferrum for a visit.
Looky that shitty geocache!

Three new ones lurked out on the very lovely nature trail in the woods along the campus's western border. Back in college, I'd spent a lot of time in those woods, inevitably partaking of substances and activities that would have landed me in a heap of trouble had I been apprehended. Still, hiking back there brings back some very pleasant memories (at least, what I can actually remember), and on this spring day, it really couldn't have been more pleasant out there. I managed to sign the coveted if actually meaningless First-to-Find space on the logsheet of all three hides, which were very well done, courtesy of Varunner7, a very nice young lady whom friend Scott and I had met on a caching outing to Boones Mill, VA, a couple of months ago. Then, there was an Adventure Lab cache with five stages that led me to some of the most distinctive locations on campus, none of which existed when I was a student (notice the Kraken in the photo above).

Although school is in session, at the time I was there (between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m.), scarcely any students or faculty were out and about. I imagine just about everyone was in classes at the time I was skulking about from landmark to landmark.

After a lovely morning of it, I drove the backroads down to Bassett, VA (which proved very slow, thanks to a lengthy train creeping along at about five miles per hour), where I found a delicious lunch (steakburger) at the Railway Cafe, which I'd never visited before. I recommend it.

So, another special outing to Ferrum, and a bunch more caches under my belt. And many thanks to Varunner7 for drawing me back there yet again.
Schoolfield Hall. Back in my college days, they used to run "drive-in" movies out on the lawn here.
Franklin Hall, the dining hall, now with far more dining options than back in my day
Riddick, Chapman, and Susannah Wesley Halls. I lived in Riddick as a freshman, in Chapman as a sophomore, and got kicked out of Susannah Wesley, the girls' dorm, semi-frequently throughout my career at the college.
All that remains of The House Restaurant, where I often found relief from the school's near-deadly cafeteria fare. Far less remains here than on one of my last trips up this way
("Water Under the Bridge," Saturday, June 1, 2019)

Thursday, April 18, 2024

R.I.P. Bridget Colleen Langley-Broadwell, a.k.a. Suntigres

It is with the greatest sadness I bid farewell to my longtime friend and geocaching partner, Bridget Langley-Broadwell, known in caching circles as Suntigres. She and I met at a geocaching event back in 2011, and before long, we were caching together, oftentimes with numerous other geocachers in a regular group. Bridget and my wife, Kimberly, got to be good friends as well, so we frequently got together for dinners and even non-geocaching outings (heavens, I know). Bridget met her husband-to-be, Gerry Broadwell, in late 2016, I believe it was, and he became part of our regular geocaching crowd. In March 2019, when they got married at Gerry's place in Kernersville, NC, they invited me to officiate their "almost" official wedding, which was a true honor for me.

Almost from the day I met her, Bridget suffered issues with her lungs, which grew progressively worse over time, until she reached the point that geocaching or other rigorous physical exercise became impossible. She had been hoping and waiting for a lung transplant for a long spell before an appropriate donor became available. Unfortunately, by that time, it was too late.

Bridget passed away on April 6, 2024, after an unsuccessful attempt at lung transplant surgery.

It's doubly hard to say goodbye since the geocaching community also lost good friend Rob "Robgso" Isenhour only a few months ago to lung cancer. Today, I send Gerry all my condolences during such a difficult time, and I pray all his memories of Bridget are the happiest of his life. R.I.P. Suntigres.

Memories of Bridget from other friends and family may be found at Dignity Memorial, here.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Distant Early Warning Alert: Booksigning at Imagination Lavender Farm

Coming up on Saturday, April 27, 2024 — a booksigning event at Imagination Lavender Farm in Martinsville, VA,1–3 p.m. Besides me, there will be a slew of local writers, so if you're in reasonable traveling distance, you otter come around, say hello, and buy my books (not to mention any others that strike your fancy). As far as I know, I'll be the only author of scary things, and you KNOW you need scary things. Of course, if you don't like scary things (what's wrong with you?), there will be all kinds of traditional, uplifting, non-scary things as well.

Hope you'll stop by. Directions below. More info here.

Monday, April 15, 2024

My STC AuthorCon III Wrap-Up

Old Dude and Ms. B. at the Gross-Out Contest. No, we were not the stars.
Brugger and I just returned from a fantastic weekend at Scares That Care AuthorCon III in Williamsburg, VA, and I probably won't finish this blog tonight because I'm about to drop. Scares That Care is a charity organization put together by a group of horror professionals to help individuals in specific dire circumstances, and AuthorCon has become the biggest gathering of horror writers and artists in the country, if not the world. Largely via the conventions, the organization has raised an impressive amount of money over thirty-plus years, which goes directly to the selected recipients.

Ms. B. and I attended AuthorCon II last year and for me, sales-wise, it was one of the most successful cons ever. This year didn't quite match last year's total, but it was still a resounding success. I didn't have my own dealer table (tables had sold out within four minutes of being offered, and by the time I became aware that availability had been announced, they were all gone). However, being a regular Crossroad Press author, CEO David Niall Wilson offered me space at one of their three tables in the hotel's promenade area. My sincere thanks to the whole Crossroad Press gang — David W., David Dodd, and Trish Wilson (Patricia Lee Macomber)!
The Crossroad Press Gang: David Dodd, Patricia Lee Macomber (Trish Wilson), David Niall Wilson
Friday, April 12
We hit the road bright and early so we might arrive at Indian Fields Tavern in Charles City, about 25 miles this side of Williamsburg, in time for lunch. I've been there on a couple of prior occasions, and I cannot rave enough about their Charles City Burger. Yes, we got there in time for lunch, and I had one of them there burgers. So did Ms. B. I stopped for a couple of geocaches on the trip, but there aren't many near the major roads that I haven't already claimed.
Since it was considerably less expensive than the DoubleTree by Hilton, where the con takes place, we stayed at the nearby Merrimac Inn & Suites, which is an old-style motor court, hardly luxurious but comfortable enough. Our only complaints were a lack of good hot water and pressure in the shower and few electrical outlets. Fortunately, we had a tower with AC and USB outlets. Once checked in there, we booked it down to the con and set to work setting up one end of the Crossroad Press tables. Writer/Editor Katherine "Creepy Cat" Kerestman manned a table directly across from us and had plenty of copies of the anthology, The Weird Cat, which she and S.T. Joshi edited last year (this one contains my story, "Nimbus"). She's also a fellow Dark Shadows and Twin Peaks fan, so we have a lot of common interests, and it was cool to finally meet her in person. Along with Kat, I also met online friend and fellow Dark Shadows devotee, Ms. Amanda Trujillo, for the first time in person.
The notorious Mark Sieber

Also nearby lurked long-time friend and Horror Drive-In rock star, Mr. Mark Sieber, so we immediately launched into a lengthy gab session. I had just returned to the Crossroad Press table when my phone dinged, and I received notification that my interview on Cemetery Dance Online, conducted by writer Rick Hipson, had gone live. And who should be standing nearby but Mr. Rick himself, so again, it was great to meet yet another online friend in the flesh. (See Friday's blog announcement about the interview here.)
At 1600, the opening ceremony drew an already huge crowd to the main auditorium. It was a rousing kick-off, athough the temperature in there was oppressive enough to wilt the hardiest of the Fremen on the planet Arrakis. Lord have mercy. Fortunately, after the first night, the temperature in most areas of the hotel held steady at reasonably comfortable temperatures. At 1700, the main ballroom & promenade areas opened for business. Happily, business for me turned out fairly brisk. We found that old friend and purveyor of "Southern-Fried Horror," Mr. Ronald Kelly and his wife Joyce had set up across the way from us; I had originally suggested to him that we start a food fight, but with the high temps in the hotel, we decided it might be better to fling ice at each other. Ms. B. and broke around 2030 hours for what we hoped would be a quick dinner at the nearby hotel bar. But no; they ended up losing our order for two salads, and we ended up waiting an hour (at least they comped our drinks). We got back to our table with only a few minutes left before closing time.

Afterward, we retired to Dave & Trish's room and drank bourbon — well, some of us did, while others (Ms. B.) settled for boxed wine. It might have been a shade too much bourbon and wine, but I won't swear to it.
Katherine "Creepy Cat" Kerestman
Southern-Fried Horror! Joyce and Ronald Kelly
Saturday, April 13
Sirrah Madeiros and Joe Maddrey

Up bright and early, we stopped at a nearby Seven-Eleven to grab coffee and danishes for breakfast. At the con, business took off at a fair pace, and I moved a fair number of books. First thing, I ran into good friend Joe Maddrey, who had paid us a visit in Martinsville a few months back. He was talking to Kat across the way and trying to avoid me by keeping his back turned to me, but sadly for him, I recognized the back of his head. No escape for the wicked! About half the contributors to Deathrealm: Spirits were there at the con, so a good many lucky buyers were able to acquire some prized autographs in their copies. Onsite, we had contributors Maurice Broaddus, Heather Daughrity, Brian Keene, Ronald Kelly, Eric LaRocca, Patricia Lee Macomber, Bridgett Nelson, and David Niall Wilson. Also on hand were many of the Horror Writers Association Virginia Chapter; during the afternoon, we all got together for a group photo. Also from the chapter, I discovered Sirrah Medeiros, Mike Rook, Charles Wood, Sidney Williams, and Valerie B. Williams running amok in the hotel, so I dutifully terrorized them. Plaguing old friends Jeff Strand, Tom Deady, Mike DeadyRichard Dansky, John Langan, and others with my existence proved particularly exhilarating.
Scary Sidney Williams. Okay, maybe not that scary here.

At 1230, I had a reading with longtime compadre P.D. "Trish" Cacek, and attendance turned out to be pretty good, considering it was right in the middle of most people's lunchtimes. I had suggested that folks bring their lunch, though I worried a little that they might hurl food my way (not such a bad prospect if it were delicious, I guess), but no one flung anything. Afterward, a nice little discussion ensued, so this was one of the con's highlights for me.

The rest of the afternoon was a bit slower. The crowd had thinned after lunchtime, and there never was a very large resurgence, at least until the evening's festivities began. I did get to spend some time on the social front with Heather Daughrity and her husband, Joshua Loyd Fox, which was a treat. I recently read Heather's Echoes of the Dead fiction collection and gave it a blurb. Enjoyed a few nice spells yakking with Paul Tremblay, Eric LaRocca, Brian Keene, and others. For the evening, Ms. B. and I joined a large party headed up by the Crossroad Gang for dinner at the nearby The Whaling Company restaurant. Very good it was, with spicy cajun scallops for both Brugger and me. Present in the gang were old friends, artist Keith Minnion and writer Dave Simms, as well as newer acquaintances Justin Holley, Dan Henk, and Garrett Boatman, so we yakked on and on. This led us until fairly late in the evening, just in time to attend the customary Saturday night Gross-Out Contest. Such an event had never been high on my priority list, but I will say that we enjoyed it enough. Laughed a lot, and I guess it was pretty gross, if you have a penchant for that sort of thing.

We managed to drink considerably less than last night, which was a good thing, since that might have been way too much.
Mr. Dansky (and his good buddy, Sasquatch!) and Mr. Deathrealm
Jeff "I Am a Gross-Out Contest Judge and You're Not!" Strand & Bridgett "I Am Too!" Nelson
Oh, Lordy, the horror! Artist Keith Minnion and author David Simms
The Horror Writers Association Virginia Chapter, looking as pleasant as you'll ever see them
Sunday, April 14
Mr. Deathrealm, Heather Daughrity, Joshua Loyd Fox

After a brief stop at Starbucks for coffee and a light breakfast, we returned to the con for a couple of hours, did a little business, and then broke down a few minutes before noon, as we didn't want to be too late returning to our houseful of starving cats (who only had our cat sitter to look after and overfeed them under duress while we were gone). This time, we aimed ourselves at Cul's Courthouse Grill in Charles City, which we had discovered many years ago. They too are known for fantastic burgers, but I try not to have too much dead cow in one weekend, so I opted for their chicken tenders. Also very good. Only one cache stop on the way back to Martinsville.

I always enjoy AuthorCon, and we plan to attend next year's in Williamsburg, for sure — hopefully with a dealer table of my own. There's going to be new AuthorCon in St. Louis later this year, but that one is not in the cards for me, alas. Although sales were bit slower for me this year than last, I consider the weekend an absolute success. The events, the networking, and all-around fun times make this a con to treasure — not to mention the great good it does as a charity function. Such fantastic, selfless jobs by all the con organizers and volunteers, with special shout outs to Brian Keene, Joe Ripple, Angel Hollman-Gaston, Jake Lerner, Brian Smith, and everyone else who give this thing life and purpose — not to mention the wonderful folks who shelled out money for my books, only to have them devalued with my autograph. Such brave souls!
So... till next year, AuthorCon folks!

Friday, April 12, 2024

New Interview Live at Cemetery Dance Online

A few months back, writer Rick Hipson put together a nice Q & A interview with me for Cemetery Dance Online, and the interview posted today. It felt rather serendipitous, as I discovered the fact just as I arrived at Scares That Care AuthorCon III in Williamsburg, and Rick himself — whom I'd never met in person — just happened to be standing nearby. So I introduced myself, and he ran screaming from the hotel, and I do hope he's all right. Anyway, Rick did a great job with the interview, and I appreciate his effort. If anyone finds him, please make sure he gets back home.

Anyway, do check out the interview. I expect — or hope, at least — that you'll survive the experience.