Lee Wochner: Writer. Director. Writing instructor. Thinker about things.


Signs of the times

May 3rd, 2020

Because there are no events, no plays, no concerts, no open bars, and therefore nowhere to drive to, my walks all around town continue.

Yesterday evening, I walked to our local supermarket, Ralphs (yes, again), this time to pick up the most important staple:  coffee. Yes, we still had mediocre coffee (the kind my wife drinks:  that stuff that comes in the jumbo red plastic tub), but I drink my coffee black, so I like it to be actual coffee. Imagine my dismay upon waking up and discovering that the real coffee, the kind I buy and brew, was gone. Turns out that my 17-year-old discovered there’s a difference. “Hey!” he said later, when I asked him about it, “your coffee is better!” So now I’ll be buying twice as much of it, I guess.

So, I decided to walk to Ralphs. My wife proceeded to write up an entire shopping list.

“I’m walking,” I said, after looking at it. The last time I told her I was walking to Ralphs, which is a mile away, she asked me to bring back two 12-pound hams. This time she had a list that ran the length of the paper, and included things we didn’t even need, like toilet paper.

“We have a case of toilet paper,” I said. I know, because it’s sitting unopened on the landing leading to the upstairs bedrooms.

“Just in case,” she said.

She also wanted two bottles of hazelnut creamer, kalamata olives (okay — those were for me), maybe a roast, and other things I couldn’t imagine carrying home in my arms in the dark for a mile.

“I can’t carry all this.”

“Okay,” she said. “Then just one bottle of creamer. Just get the one. Do you want a backpack?”

My plan was similar to the one described here:  Visit to the ATM across from Ralphs to get cash, use that cash at the cigar shop in that strip mall so I’d have plenty of cigars for the week — and especially for the exciting cross-country virtual cigar party my friend Doug was going to host tonight! — and then go over to Ralphs, make a deposit at the other bank’s ATM in there, and buy coffee. Coffee and, I guess, whatever else I could carry. My wife outfitted me with a black backpack usually reserved for hiking. Now I really felt like an apocalyptic wanderer stocking up on provisions. At Ralphs I got two boxes of salad, one bottle of creamer, a jar of olives, two bags of good coffee, a bag of chips that were free because I had a coupon, and a couple of other things. I slipped them into the backpack and headed back home.

One thing I’ve noticed in these pandemic perambulations  around my neighborhood is colorful chalk messages written on sidewalks. Some appear written by children, some by adults. Sometimes they are words of encouragement, like “hang in there” or “we’re all in this together.” (I’ve seen each of those.) Last night, I came across this one:


At first, I wondered if we’d had a visit from my friend Joe, who lives in Atlantic City and who in my 37 years of friendship with him has always been known to say, “Oh, yay!” But Joe would never leave out the “Oh,” and certainly never the exclamation mark. Still, it made me think of him, so I texted him the photo and he happily made it his cover photo on Facebook.

Other messages are demanding. Tonight, while walking my dogs in a different direction, I came across this:

Yes, it reads “Put YouR Phone DOWN.” For the record, my phone was down, and in my pocket — that is, until I came across this and took a photo of it.

Signs like these are all over town. They are our time’s version of the hobo signs left to advise other drifters in the 1930s that the house behind this walkway had a nice lady who would feed you, or would offer work, or had a vicious dog to avoid.

When I got home last night finally with the groceries, I checked my phone to see how much I’d walked that day. I had walked to my office in the morning to conduct my playwriting workshop (virtually, of course), then walked back, then took the dogs for a long walk, then, as I said, walked a mile to Ralphs and then a mile back — and all of that added up to 10,369 steps.

“I just cleared ten thousand steps today,” I told my wife. “We’re always told that we’re supposed to walk ten thousand steps a day — but this is crazy! Who has time for this?” Leaving aside the fact that I average eight miles a day of walking every year at Comic-Con. But that’s Comic-Con! Have I said how much I miss the gym? I miss the gym. I can burn twice as many calories, and more enjoyably, and there’s a sauna, a steam room, and a jacuzzi. And then I drive home.

My wife was eyeing me as I pulled the meager groceries out of the backpack. “It’s like the London Blitz,” she said, watching as I produced two bags of coffee. “Ye got any chocolates in there? Nylons?”

I could’ve bought those at the supermarket — but I couldn’t have bought a single cleaning product. The entire aisle had been stripped bare — again. Anything that might kill germs or disinfect in any way was nowhere available.

Which is definitely another sign of the times.

Positive indicators

April 26th, 2020

On Friday, after weeks of calling and leaving messages, I finally reached my friend Ken on the phone. Ken is 92 and I was relieved to hear him come to the phone after his son answered.

Ken left the CIA long ago, but seems to be re-immersing himself in spycraft. He told me that from now on, I should call, ring twice, hang up, then call again — and only then would he pick up.

“Too many robocalls,” he explained.

It seemed to me that one would need to know the code in advance, but at least I do now.

Ken was born in 1928, so after ensuring that he’s doing fine, I was eager to hear his thoughts about growing up in the Great Depression, and of course his economic forecast:  Are we heading into Great Depression 2? Forewarned is forearmed. But first, I had to hear about ice hockey, of course (Ken was part of a championship ice-hockey team in high school), and how skating on ice for eight or ten hours a day in his teens has kept him so rugged in his 90s, and also about baseball this time.

“My father taught me to be a left-handed batter,” he said.

This came as a surprise.  “Are you left-handed?” I asked. I’ve known Ken for almost 15 years and hadn’t noticed.

“No. But when you’re a left-handed batter you can see better when the ball comes toward you. So my father taught me to bat left-handed. A lot of redheads are left-handed.”

I didn’t know this, and haven’t Googled it.

He went on. “My father was red-haired and left-handed.”

That sounded like the beginning of a Mark Twain story I hadn’t read.  I wasn’t sure where any of this was going, so I asked him what it was like growing up in the Great Depression.

“I didn’t realize it was the Great Depression. My father was never out of work. He was a printing pressman, and his company took the hard printing jobs:  textbooks. So he had a job all through the Depression.”

One thing he did notice was that his parochial school would serve meals for kids who didn’t get a meal at home. When there’s a depression, he said, “You realize more of the process of eating. Where food comes from, how it got there. [In normal times] when you go downtown to a restaurant, you don’t think about where that came from.”

I shared with him the story of when my father came to visit in 1991 and he and I took a walk around my neighborhood. My father, another child of the Depression, spotted a roll of brand-new screening, the sort for a screen door or a window screen, still sealed in its plastic sleeve. He picked it up and offered it to me as we walked back to my house. But I didn’t want it. “Dad, what am I going to do with that?” I asked. “Fix a screen door! Fix a window!” But I didn’t own a screen door or a window screen — those belonged to my landlord, who’d have to fix them if something happened. “Well, maybe you’ll move some day!” (He generally spoke in exclamation marks.) “And I’ll have to carry this around with me from place to place every time I move?” When we got to my house — my rented house — he disgustedly threw the screening into a trash bin outside my house. “There!” he said. “Now you don’t have to worry about it.”

Ken’s response was placid:  “He needed it. And if he couldn’t use it, his neighbor could use it.” During the Depression, that is. Increasingly, my generation doesn’t want to own anything it doesn’t have to have — we are the people filling Goodwill to the rim with our cleaned-out clutter; the generation of my siblings wanted to own and dispose and own and dispose; the Depression generation never got rid of anything. In the kitchen cabinet of my mother, there are spices that date back to the 1950s. “Still good!” she’d say. She is 94-and-a-half and has finally retired from cooking to just being served, but if she were still cooking I have no doubt she’d dig out that rusty can of allspice.

Ken has seen a lot in 92 years:  the Great Depression, World War II, the atomic bomb, Watergate, the fall of the Soviet Union, the dotcom bust of 2000, 9/11, the mortgage meltdown, and now this. Through all of that, he’s held onto his optimism.

“I don’t think we’ll get to the point of depression,” my old friend told me. “We’ll be all right. I’ve always lived with a large quantity of hope that things will get better. It doesn’t always work that way — but it works that way once in a while.”

I asked him if I could put this on my blog, because there’s a lot of anxiety in the world right now and people might want to hear from someone who’s seen so much history and come out of it with hope intact. He agreed.

By the way, five years after that walk with my father, which was four years after his death, my wife and I bought a house that needed a lot of work. We had to go out and buy screening.

Fast too-casual

April 19th, 2020

Because there aren’t any more in-person meetings I need to drive to, I’ve been leaving my car at home and instead walking to my office, six days a week. It’s half a mile away and takes 10 minutes and gives me an opportunity to admire the birds and lots of dogs getting more walks than ever, now that everyone’s at home and bored.

The other day I figured I’d also walk to our nearby supermarket, Ralphs, because there’s a US Bank ATM in there, and I needed to deposit some money in one of my accounts. Across the street from it, there’s a cigar shop I frequent, and also a Bank of America ATM where I could get some cash. Putting all this together, I thought, would be a nice walk, and I could cap it off by having lunch at Ralphs. Lunch at a supermarket? Well, they’ve got a pretty good hot lunch counter next to the deli, and seating areas outside. Walk to the office, do some work, walk to the Bank of America ATM, go buy cigars, walk to Ralphs and deposit that check, then pick up lunch and eat it outside, then head back to the office. Walking two miles roundtrip sounded like a nice way to get some exercise now that my gym was closed, and to enjoy a couple of hours in an idyllic 72-degree southern California afternoon.

After getting some cash from the one bank and then buying some cigars and then walking across the street and depositing the check in the other bank’s ATM, in other words, with all chores done, I headed to the service area at the end of the deli. A young man approached and asked what I’d like.

“I’ll have the three-item lunch special, please,” I said.

“Oh,” he said, “We can’t sell that anymore. Coronavirus.”

“Huh? What’s it got to do with coronavirus?”

“I don’t know. We just can’t sell it.”

“It’s on the sign.” I pointed to the sign. “3 hot items, $7.99.”

“I don’t know. Sorry.”

I looked down at all the items in the steamer trays. As usual, there they all were: ribs, fried chicken, roasted chicken, carnitas, mashed potatoes, potato wedges, corn, macaroni and cheese, vegetables and so forth.

“You realize you’re still selling the same food items, right?”

“Oh, I know,” he said mildly.

“It’s the same food,” I said. “It’s right there.”

He was unmoved.

“I walked a mile to get lunch here!”

“Sorry. You can still buy the food, but not the lunch deal.”

He didn’t look to be much older than my son, and he certainly wasn’t the decision-maker here. That had been someone in corporate, or a manager, and now the only decision-maker present was me. I sighed. “I’ll have the fried chicken, the mashed potatoes, and the corn.”

“Okay,” he said. And pulled together an order of eight pieces of chicken, half a pound of mashed potatoes and a quarter pound of corn. For my lunch.

The same things that would have been in the regular order – but tripled. Or quadrupled.

Looking at it being assembled, I now realized that I would need a basket. Originally, I was going to carry my hot meal in its little dish easily in one hand. Now I would need to transport it. While he completed my order, I went and got a plastic shopping basket.

When I came back, he handed everything over. As he released the corn, ensconced in a container that on its own could have held an entire lunch for me, he said with a sly wink, “I rang it up as green beans, because they’re cheaper.” I nodded at the proffer of reconciliation.

I and my massive lunch picked up a bottle of water and went through the self-checkout. I usually avoid the self-checkout because I want to keep humans employed, and because when I get the right checker, he or she will always accept every coupon I present, no matter what decade it’s from, and also personally congratulate me on how much money I’ve saved. The automated checker, by contrast, insists on trying to sell me a bag I don’t need. Today was no different. No, I didn’t need a bag – I had a basket! I paid and walked outside to the seating area.

Except the seating area was roped off. With the sort of tape you see at a crime scene. Coronavirus again, I suppose. I briefly considered just ducking under the tape and eating in there anyway, but then I thought, the heck with it, I would just walk back to the office and eat part of this lunch there and put the rest in the refrigerator.

As I headed to the sidewalk, a man called out, “Excuse me, sir! We need the basket!”

“I’ll bring it back!” I yelled back.

“Sorry,” he said. “We need it.”

“Okay! I’ll just… eat it here.”

And so I sat down on a dirty curb on the corner of the supermarket, like a hobo of yore, and gobbled down some chicken and some mashed potatoes and some corn while taking swigs of water. I had a sudden inspiration that this was just like a scene out of the Great Depression – and hey, we might be in a Great Depression now as well. Maybe this would become the new norm.

Just then, as I sat hunched over in the grime eating out of a shopping basket, I heard a voice call out, “Hey you!” and a woman I do business with passed me in her Mercedes, smiling brightly and waving at me.

I waved back.

Then I packed all of my lunch back into the basket, marched into the supermarket and stole a bag, one of those bags they sell you for 10¢, and I mentally dared anyone, anyone, to try to stop me, and stuffed all of my food into it, and headed for my office.

That lunch lasted me for three days.


April 19th, 2020

Because there’s enormous stress and upset out there in the land and among my friends, I thought I’d share the video below, after saying a few words in relation to it.

I first encountered the Stockdale Paradox, which this addresses, 15 years ago when I read Good to Great by Jim Collins, and it has informed my life, along with the two great philosophical works that for me are close to religion: The Enchiridion of Epictetus and the Meditations of Marcus Aurelius. The latter two counsel you to take control of your own life and not suffer the slings and arrows of others; the former advises planning. Voltaire said (and I’m paraphrasing) that Man is essentially optimistic because he goes to bed making plans for the next day — that in that assumption of continuance we are hopeful. (Camus said much the same thing in “The Myth of Sisyphus.”) And so I would say to you that making plans for your success is the first step in that success, and in providing balm for your wounds.

So, in the spirit of wanting to provide counsel to so many good people here who feel worry and anxiety, I’m sharing the video below. We are all here together on planet Earth, and we should all do what we can for each other.

Conceding victory

March 31st, 2020

Sometime in the 1970s, my sister vowed never to play Monopoly with me again.

That’s because, as the hour stretched to 1:30 a.m. and she had every single color-group set and houses or hotels on all of them and I had just one utility left but somehow inexplicably kept missing her and stockpiling cash as I went around go, I refused to concede. She was dead tired – could barely keep her eyes open – but I refused to concede. Told her that if she went to bed while I was still on the board, she would have forfeited – she, in effect, would have conceded.

That’s the way competitions work.

She went to bed.

And so, I won.

Our family took (takes) games-playing seriously. My father, certainly history’s foremost champ at Pinochle, over a series of encounters so thoroughly intimidated his playing partner Ed, who was one of his closest friends, that Ed’s wife was afraid Ed would have a heart attack, and so they switched partners. My mother is also formidable at this game (still, at age 94.5), and at 500 Rummy, but while my father’s approach was combustible, hers is steely and Teutonic. As I grew up, we played a lot of Risk, and Monopoly, and cards, and shot pool in the basement, as a family and with extended groups of friends, and I always played to win.

Throughout my childhood, and into my young adulthood, my mother would say, “Lee doesn’t like to lose.” Well, that was true – but what of it? I couldn’t figure out what the meaning was behind this. Because, after all, who would like to lose? Finally, after literally decades of hearing this, I said, “You know who likes to lose? Losers.” No one I know likes to lose. And no one I would want to know. We all win or lose at things throughout our lives – but people who chase loss? I’d rather keep my distance.

Last night, my son and I started a fresh game of Civilization 6. It’s now been… months? a year? … since I’ve been able to beat him. In one game I was close (playing the Dutch, and trying to win a cultural victory) but then we didn’t finish that one for reasons I can’t remember. In the last game we finished, I was well ahead – but he not only succeeded at the last minute in converting all the other civilizations to his religion, he also converted the seat of my church, meaning I had no way to re-convert people to the one true way (Leeism, a religion I founded in the game), and so I lost again.

I have to admit that I’m conflicted in my feelings about his many, many (many) victories. While as his father I appreciate his shrewdness, and part of me thrills at the success of my offspring, I’m not enjoying losing. (See above.) I also have insidious thoughts rolling around in my head like this one: “Well, sure – he’s got lots of time to play all the time; I’m busy working/writing/paying bills/etc. etc. etc.” I hope you’ll consider it a mark of strength that I’m freely admitting that right here for all to see.

Last night, losing yet again, this time while playing Chandragupta and getting bogged down in a war against Pedro II of Brazil that I had started with visions of easy conquest, I floated the idea of conceding. A two-player (plus AI) game of Civilization 6 can take 10 hours, and we were in hour 4, and I was watching my shot at victory slip down the drain. Scoring at that point put me at 219 points; Dietrich was at 539. He already had twice as many cities as I did and we weren’t even out of the Ancient Era, and he hadn’t started wars of conquest yet, which I knew he’d do soon. But if I conceded, we could start again tonight, with different leaders and a different map, and I’d have yet another chance at my Sisyphean goal of beating him.

Or, I said, I could stay in… and maybe learn something.

“What?” he said. “You wouldn’t try to… WIN? I’m so disappointed in you!”

My three children know that I’ve never thrown a game, not even when they were toddlers. If they wanted to win, they had to learn to win. That kiddie stacking-ring game? I beat every one of them at that. Checkers, Chutes and Ladders, Hungry Hungry Hippos, Connect 4, I won them all. After years of this, they got better. I’ll never forget how ecstatic my eldest was when he beat me at chess in a shopping mall that had one of those sets with pieces the size of school children that you had to embrace to lug across the board. Being in the center of the mall, with bystanders surrounding, it was a very visible win for him, and he was beside himself with glee – because he knew he’d actually won.

What I tried to explain to my other son last night is that while I’ve already lost this game (I’m sure), I could learn something in losing – something that might make me a better player next time, just as each of my kids learned in losing, and as I hope I’ve learned in the many (relatively small) losses and setbacks I’ve had in my life. One thing I’ve already learned in this case, for example, is that, yes, you might assemble six powerful war elephants early in the game and use them to attack, say, Pedro II, who is technologically backward, but if Pedro II has fortified his city with ancient walls, he’ll likely stand you off for so long that the cost in bloodshed and coins will be high, and meanwhile another competitor (like: my son) will pull ahead. I’ve also learned that building the Terracotta Army, which gives each of your land units a promotion, costs more in resources than it benefits in results — like so many things in life.

I also said to him: “My values have changed since I was 14.” Yes, I still like to win. And fully intend to do so. But my foremost goal, at age 57, is to enjoy every moment with my family and with my friends. Continuing a game where I’ve already lost doesn’t seem enjoyable.

Beating him in the next one will, though.


March 28th, 2020

Catchy. (Just like coronavirus!)



Safe-at-home stories, #1 in a series

March 26th, 2020

There’s a little virus going around, as you may have heard, resulting in our state of California being under a near-total lockdown. Everyone is supposed to stay at home, unless they need to venture out for “essential services.” One example of a non-essential service:  barber shops. (Which is why Kai Ryssdal of Marketplace was tweeting the other day that he’d ordered clippers online.)

“Stay at home” has led to a resurgence in game-playing in our house. My wife and son and I have been playing 500 Rummy, Sushi Go, Risk, and, tonight, Monopoly (the version modeled after the “Fallout” video game).

While we were playing, my wife looked over at our son’s hair and wondered aloud if I had my barber’s cellphone number (I do) and if he’d be willing to risk 30 days in the pokey or whatever to break the law by coming over and cutting hair in our back yard. I took a minute and “patiently” shared yet again what self-isolation means right now. After that, she took another look at our son’s lengthening tresses, now curling in every direction, and said to no one in particular, “You know, I did offer to cut his hair. I could cut it myself!”

The boy looked alarmed.  “Mom!” he said. “You know why I won’t let you cut my hair! You remember?!?!?”

She didn’t.

“Because the last time you cut my hair, you were cutting it, and halfway into it you stopped suddenly! And then you said, ‘Oh! … I should get my glasses!‘ “


Good timing

March 25th, 2020

Three recent examples of good timing:


  1. I went to Spain in January. Talk about perfect timing! But then, I went to see Pere Ubu – and they’ve always had perfect timing.  My daughter and I got into the country, sucked every bit of fun possible out of it for eight days, and left pretty much right before the Coronavirus panic started to hit Europe. What the people of that country are suffering now is almost unimaginable, and I’m thinking about them every day.
  2. On a whim, went to San Diego Comics Fest two weeks ago – i.e., immediately before all such gatherings got canceled. I bought some delicious old funny books at bargain rates, caught a presentation by one of the producers of the David Lynch version of “Dune” filled with fun backstory, and saw something I’d never before seen in 45 years of going to comics conventions:  someone named Ditko. (Yes, it was the nephew of the late, great, mysterious and unphotographed co-creator of Spider-Man and Doctor Strange. Who said that they all just knew him as “Uncle Steve,” and were impressed with his drawing ability… but didn’t know what he did for a living.)
  3. And, finally, on the very night before first Los Angeles Mayor Garcetti and then Governor Gavin Newsom shut down the city and then whole state, I had some friends over for drinks and cigars in my back yard. What was supposed to be a gathering of an hour or so stretched to almost five hours as we swapped stories about our friends and families, the economic and political situation and, of course, given that this universe’s foremost expert on it was in attendance, “Star Trek.” Everybody was grateful for the fellowship.


I have the memory of those three recent social activities to sustain me. But I also have new memories forged from staying home and being immersed in writing and reading and beating my kid at 500 Rummy, and also in a first-ever achievement last Saturday:  running my “Words That Speak” playwriting workshop as a videoconference, with seven other playwrights joining me for three-and-a-half hours and a lot of laughs and virtual social sharing. The workshop has been running since February, 1993 – but never via video. So:  That’s definitely something new.


We’ll all get back to everything soon. In the meantime, let’s do our best to make the best of this time, too.

I don’t know (and neither do you)

March 15th, 2020

“I Don’t Know” was the name of my band in college.

Originally, I had proposed “The Don’t Know.” When I floated that past our guitarist, he said, “I don’t know….” – and I said, “Even better!”

I’m thinking of that today because it’s pretty clear that there’s a lot I don’t know – that none of us knows – about what’s going to happen in the short term.

Who among us will get infected with Coronavirus?

What will be the impact on our lives?

What will this do to the larger economy and to our personal economy?

How long will this go on?


I don’t know.

Neither does anyone else.

Given that we don’t know, the best we can do is to focus on what we can control — our own personal actions. That means:

  1. Taking care of ourselves and others
  2. Doing our best not to further the spread of the virus
  3. Not contributing to panic
  4. Making, and following, contingencies
  • So, make sure you’re safe and well, and that your people are safe and well.
  • Ask yourself if you know someone who needs help. An elderly friend? Someone who was already home sick? Someone you think might be low on supplies? A buddy who just needs cheering up? Reach out.
  • Observe the CDC guidelines.
  • Don’t get caught up in the gossip. Yes, it’s human nature – but when it’s not helpful, it’s hurtful. Right now, it’s just going to contribute to people’s stress. No one needs it.

If there’s some way for you to work from home, set it up now. Immediately. Make a list of what might happen if you have to be home for a month — and set about ensuring you could do that.

And bear in mind that while you have no control over what you can’t control, you can have control over yourself and your own actions. Peace of mind comes from taking personal productive action, and from letting everything else go. Fretting over things you can’t control slides right into endless, needless worry (and, frequently, over things that never happen).

When it comes to what’s going to happen, we can know only one thing with certainty:  that this, too, shall pass.

Little things

February 17th, 2020

Yes, little things make a big difference.

Yesterday I saw a flat-out terrific play, about the benighted state of journalism and what that portends for us. The play was harrowing, somehow funny as well, very well-played and brilliantly directed. Seriously — brilliantly directed. Especially given that the director’s task involved choreographing the entrances and exits of six actors onto a stage the size of most vestibules, and that those actors had to change clothes repeatedly because five of them were playing more than one character.

(Oh, heck, the play was “Red Ink,” by Steven Leigh Morris, in a production by Playwrights Arena. Here’s a link. It’s running one more week — so go see it now.)

I saw it with a friend (another good director) and we both loved the production and the direction and talked briefly about the theme of the play. But what did we wind up texting about?

The shoes.

The shoes on one of the actors. A really great actor, one I’ve seen before, who played two diametrically opposed characters (one a financially successful if scurrilous businessman, the other a mental patient with kleptomania) and who brought life and energy with him in every scene… but who wore scuffed-up, box-toed cowboy boots missing several lifetimes’ worth of polish.

In scene after scene, I found myself staring at the shoes. It was hard to look away. Even during a production that good. Because the shoes are just wrong. They might be right for the mental patient, but they’re sorely wrong for the elderly disreputable publisher who spends all his time on the beach in Orlando. People are doing costume changes throughout the play, so get the man two pairs of slip-ons. Or, at the very least, polish the boots.

I know. It seems picayune. Pedantic. Other “p” words of low value. But when it takes you out of the play, it’s a big thing. And it’s especially distracting when everything else in the show is so good.

Go see it. If  you care about the news — real news — and about journalists who really care about such things, and if you want to see a hard-hitting and completely entertaining play that delves into that subject, you should see this. Just try not to notice the boots.