Category Archives: My Life

A Gallrein Farms Family Reunion

So I’m sitting on the couch watching Marvel’s Inhumans (it’s really not that bad) when The Wife comes to me and she says,

“Can we go to my family reunion?”

To which I reply,

“You have family?”
To be honest, I did know that Laurie had family. We’ve spent a good deal of time with her parents, siblings and nieces and nephews over the years. But we haven’t spent much time with her extended family — aunts, uncles, cousins. I’ve run into a few at the occasional wedding or funeral, but we don’t spend a lot of time together. Mainly, I suspect, because they’re scattered across the country.

It’s a different story with the Roy/Montgomery clan. In my family you can’t escape the aunts, uncles and cousins. Probably because most of them never left southwest Missouri. We don’t hook up like we used to since most of the previous generation have moved on, and us young people just can’t keep it together.

So yeah, I had no problem spending a weekend with Laurie’s family. If nothing else, I owed her for all the times she’s put up with my people.

gfarm16Laurie’s mother was a Gallrein, and the big event was to take place at Gallrein Farms in Shelbyville, Kentucky.

So last Friday afternoon we drove to the Holiday Inn in Shelbyville. Remember last month when discussing how luxury hotels don’t offer near the amenities as economy hotels? Well, here’s the proof: the Holiday Inn gave us free wi-fi, 5 HBO channels, a coffeemaker in our room, and complementary bottles of water, coffee, cookies and punch down in the main hall. And free breakfast. Take that, Harvey’s Casino and Resort.

That night we went to Cousin Eddie’s farm house for a pizza party and to visit (or in my case, meet) the family. Had a good visit and good pizza. Eddie had a really nice farm house with a large front porch which he had declared a “cellphone-free zone.” Cousin Eddie is my kinda guy.

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Gallrein Farms opens at 9 a.m. and we were told to get there early if we wanted decent parking. I figured he was exaggerating, but sure enough, it turned out everyone in Kentucky converged on GF for a day of fall fun. We spent the morning riding the train, taking a hayride out to the pumpkin patch, checking out the petting zoo (I felt a little bad for the pig that they had penned up next to a barbecue tent, but pigs aren’t too smart so I figure he didn’t know what was going down nearby), climbing the hay pyramid, and getting lost in the corn maze. We skipped the haunted house.








After a few hours we had seen and done it all and it was time for shopping. At Gallrein Farms you don’t use shopping carts — you use wheelbarrows. Laurie managed to fill hers with pumpkins, donuts and honey. I got a cap.


We went back to the hotel to chill for a while that afternoon, then returned to the farm that evening for a delicious barbecue feast and more visiting. A good time was had by all.

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Joelfest 2017, Part II (Part II)

The Main Event: Life Went On No Matter Who Was Wrong Or Right

To be fair, there were other reasons to attend the Billy Joel concert besides making The Wife happy (although that’s all the reason you need).

  1. My musical idols are dying right and left these days, so I might as well catch him one more time because it may be the last time.
  2. I’m probably never going to win the lottery and take Laurie and Liz to New York to see him at Madison Square Garden. Especially since I don’t play the lottery.
  3. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see Joel play “Miami: 2017,” a song he released in 1976, in 2017.
  4. I really needed a break from the unending depression of watching “The Vietnam War.”

The show was supposed to start promptly at 8 p.m. and due to security concerns we were told to get there early. We got there before the protesters arrived and left after they’d gone home so all went down without incident. No long line to get in so we spend 90 minutes in the stadium, checking out the souvenir stand and cursing the unseasonable heat.

Now you might think that $300 floor seats would mean primo viewing. For that much money I should be able to touch The Man and feel his sweat as he pounds on the keyboard. Nope. We were so far away that Joel looked like a speck on the stage. We would be watching the show mainly off the video screens, just like the people in the rafters.

My main objection with floor seats is that people on the floor feel some uncontrollable need to stand throughout the entire show. I don’t feel that need and resent having to stand just so I can see that speck way, way, away on the stage. Still, as I look around me at all the people even older than myself, some with canes, I’m thinking maybe this won’t be so bad.

The show starts — not promptly at 8 p.m. but close enough — with the theme music from “The Natural” (hmm, this seems familiar). Then The Man takes to the piano and begins playing some Beethoven (hmm, this seems familiar) and then he breaks into “My Life.” (Yep. It’s a Billy Joel concert, alright).

Everyone stands, and as I feared, remained standing throughout the show. Fine. I had resigned myself to this when I bought the seats. And as expected, everything I hate about concerts was concentrated in my section.

Behind me were a trio of women who WOULDN’T SHUT UP. In front of me were a couple of guys who figured it was OK to light up as long as they blew their smoke up in the air. People kept going back and forth to the bathroom or wherever, even though there was no room between rows for people to walk. For the love of God, why can’t people stay in one place for 2.5 hours? And be quiet?

And then there’s the all-new, 21st Century concert annoyance: Cellphones.  Live in the moment, people! You don’t need to videotape the moment! I can’t see the little speck on stage with you holding your damn phone over your head so you can get a blurry image that you can share on social media so you can brag to your friends how cool you are because you’re at the Billy Joel concert!

Despite the distractions, a good time was had by all, especially The Wife, which made it all worthwhile.


Random thoughts on Billy Joel at Busch Stadium, 2017:

It was a solid 26-song set, heavy on the hits with a few well-known non-hits thrown in as well.

The audience made all the right choices during the Fielder’s Choice segment: Vienna over Just The Way You Are; Zanzibar over Big Man on Mulberry Street; Billy the Kid over Downeaster Alexa; And So It Goes over Leningrad. I especially enjoyed “And So It Goes” as that was the only time during the show when Joel was singing that the crowd in my section sat down.

Joel freshened things up a bit by adding videos to some of his tunes. They weren’t as good as the ones The Who used on their last tour, but they were much better than the ones Ann Wilson used. I don’t know what she was thinking with some of those vids.

Every time I look in a mirror and regret how badly I have aged, I look at Billy Joel and feel better. Remember when Joel had multiple keyboards and he would run around from one end of the stage to the other to play them? Now he has 1 piano which rotates for him. When they started to play “Big Shot,” Laurie asked if I thought Joel would get up on the piano and dance around like in the old days. We laughed and laughed.

Three highlights of the show were not related to Billy Joel’s repertoire. One came when Joel performed “A Day in the Life” as a tribute to the Beatles. As that was the one song I had not heard Joel perform before, it was a highlight for me. The second came when one of his roadies came out and did a rousing performance of AC/DC’s “Highway to Hell” (That bit I had seen before).

The third special moment (and this was more a Laurie moment than a Ronnie moment) was when Joel’s guitarist Michael DelGuidice sang Puccini’s “Nessun dorma.” Laurie loved it because it was opera and DelGuidice had an amazing voice. I loved it because it was the second time and last time that everyone in my section sat down.

Joel did not perform “Prelude/Angry Young Man,” a staple of his live shows. Probably a good decision, given the mood outside the stadium.

Joel did not end the night by encouraging us to not take any shit from anybody. Does this mean we are supposed to take shit fom people now?


Joelfest 2017, Part II (Part I)

Sound Check: The Only Times I’ve Ever Known

Several months ago it was announced that Billy Joel would be performing in September in St. Louis.

“Are you going to the Billy Joel concert?”


“Why not?”

“Are you going to the Billy Joel concert?”


“Why not?”

“Are you going to the Billy Joel concert?”


“Why not?”

“Are you going to the Billy Joel concert?”


“Why not?”

Sometimes it’s not easy being perceived as the No. 1 fan of a popular musician. Yes, I love The Man and his music but I’ve seen him many times. In fact, I’m not sure how many times. There was the first time in Columbia, then in St. Louis, then I think in Kansas City, then again in St. Louis, then when he opened the Savvis Center, then with Elton John at Riverport, then with Liz that last time… so 6 or 7 times. Maybe 8.

He puts on a good show. But it’s pretty much the same show – heavy on the hits, a few album tracks, songs from whatever new album he’s promoting. But he hasn’t had a new album in 24 years. And I don’t need to hear him perform “My Life” one more time.  So I am pretty much done with Billy Joel Live. Especially since concert tickets are more expensive than they were when I paid $5.50 to see him the first time.

So I had made my peace about Joel being in town and me not being there, despite constant questioning by people — including my wife, who would ask me on a weekly basis if I wanted her to get me tickets.

And then some cop shot some black man and some judge didn’t toss him in jail and all hell broke loose in St. Louis.

As a result, the U2 concert was canceled. The Wife had been looking forward to that show for some time, and it’s true what they say — If Laurie ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.

So to make it up to her — and because her constant questioning me about whether I wanted tickets to Billy Joel was clearly as much about her desires as it was about mine (you learn these things after 29 years of marriage) — I figured I’d better scrounge up some concert tickets.

But the show is 2 days away and sold out. As luck or fate or whatever would have it, someone at work had a pair of tickets he wanted to unload. The bad news is they were floor seats, and I hate floor seats. The worst news is they were $150 each (plus a $40 service fee, which he wasn’t going to charge me, but once you’ve blown $300 on concert tickets, what’s another $40?)

Now, if my father were alive and he heard that I’d spent $340 on concert tickets, he would take his belt off and beat me with it. And he would be right to do so. But pa is no longer with us, so now it’s just a question of : Do I love my wife enough to spend $340 on concert tickets?


Looks like I’m going to the Billy Joel concert!


…To be continued   




A RROY REPORT Special Report: LawyerCon 2017: Lake Tahoe: Part IV

Part IV: The Long Ride Home

I fear I may have given a wrong impression of the airline industry earlier in Part I. To be fair, we didn’t have many problems with Southwest Airlines or the airports of St. Louis, Las Vegas and Reno. Well, aside from losing Andrew’s luggage — and they got it to us the next morning so no harm, no foul. No, the real criminals in our ride to Lake Tahoe were the parents who think it’s fine to put infants on airplanes.

Yes, I had no real complaints with the airline industry on Saturday.

But that was about to change.


A photo of the Roy clan in happier times, while taking a boat ride on Lake Tahoe. Something to make you smile before the horror begins.

Got up early Friday morning and had a relatively uneventful drive to Reno. I screwed up a turn, but we got back on the right track without too much time lost. Arrived at the airport in plenty of time to return the car, check the luggage, deal with the TSA, and find our gate.

Board the plane. Wait.

Looks like the airport is full of traffic. We’re going to sit here a while until we’re cleared to go. Thank you for your patience.

We leave Reno about 40 minutes behind schedule, not a big deal but we’ve only got an hour between flights, which has now been cut down to 20 minutes.  Arrive in Las Vegas at gate D-4. Check the screen and see our flight is at gate C-9. That shouldn’t be too bad. Get out of D section and find we are at Gate C-23. Minus the four D gates we just passed, we now have 14 more to go. And the clock is ticking.

We briskly make out way through the crowded terminal. My son, who is usually 50 feet ahead of me on all walks, picks today to be pokey. Somehow, exhausted and out of breath, we make it to our terminal just in the nick of time.

The flight to St. Louis has been delayed by one hour. Thank you for your patience.

The gate is packed with people. There’s nowhere to sit, not because there’s no room, but because they had to make room for all the slot machines. An hour later we still have not boarded the plane.

We will be boarding shortly. We are waiting for the flight crew to arrive. Thank you for your patience.

Some time later — by this time time has lost all meaning — we board the plane. Everyone finds a seat. Someone walks by and says there are 9 seats left. Some time later, about 9 people board the plane. I guess once Southwest realized that they had forgotten to overbook a flight, they went back out into the terminal and started pulling people off the floor to join in.

Everyone’s seated. Still no movement.

We will be leaving shortly. We’re still waiting for some luggage to be loaded. Thank you for your patience.


Eventually, the plane takes flight. I would like to say that was the end of our troubles, but you know better than that. I haven’t mentioned the wonderful people we’re traveling with. Yes, there were your standard-issue crying babies, but they were not the bane of my existence this time.

Directly behind me was a young boy. A young boy who enjoyed kicking the seat in front of him — the seat I happened to be sitting in. By the window was a young girl, who spent the entire flight saying:






































In between them sat a man who I assume was their father – who didn’t do a G-D thing about any of this. When the flight was over and I could stand up, turn around, and face my tormentors, I considered telling the man that he was the worst father in world history. Instead he just looked up at me, smiled meekly and said, “Thank you for your patience.”

No, he really didn’t.

If he had I’d be in prison right now.


A RROY REPORT Special Report: LawyerCon 2017: Lake Tahoe: Part II


Part II: Living the Resort Life

Something we have learned in our travels: The more upscale a hotel is, the fewer amenities they provide. Or rather, the fewer amenities they provide for free.

I guess that makes sense. Why put a coffeemaker in someone’s room when they can go down to the lobby where there’s a Starbucks? Why give someone free Internet access if you can charge them for it? Sadly, we are not the idle rich. By the end of the week I was missing coffee much more than I was missing Facebook.

So, to sum up: No free continental breakfast. No free USA Today. No coffeemaker. No free wi-fi. No free HBO (but there was Showtime, for what that’s worth). It’s like roughing it at some campground, but with beds and a private bathroom. And free Showtime, for what that’s worth. Oh, but there was a complementary hair dryer. Go figure.

Day Two

tahoe1Andrew’s suitcase arrived as promised, which was a good start to the day. Once we got our act together, we went out for a walk. Harvey’s sits on the state line between Nevada and California, I guess because gambling is illegal in California. Once you cross the street into Cali there is a few blocks filled with restaurants and shops — the kind of things you find in every resort area we stay in.

We had lunch at a crepes place because Laurie loves crepes. There was a shop next door that sold specialty ice cream sandwiches. We planned on going back later in the week but never did. That afternoon Andrew and I made our first of many trips to the hotel pool. That evening was the usual opening reception followed by a live auction and slideshow with highlights from last year’s con. We skipped out halfway through the slideshow to get dinner at a Greek restaurant. It seemed much fancier in the hotel magazine but it was kind of a dive. The gyro was good and that was all that mattered.


Day Three

More pool time as Laurie spent most of the day in class. A quartet of obnoxious boys kinda made pool time disagreeable on day three, but they never showed up again so that worked out. It was a heated pool and honestly at times I thought it was warmer than the hot tub. We took a lunch break at the Irish pub across the street, then back for more pool time until time for the night’s big event.


That night we had a dinner cruise on Lake Tahoe. It was very pleasant. The food was meh, but that’s pretty typical for dinner cruises. The whisky sour was just right. About once a year I drink alcohol and it’s usually LawyerCon and it’s usually the whisky sour. That night I had two, because you never know when you’re gonna have a free bar and when you’re not.



It was windy on the boat so Laurie did her Cousin It impression.

Tomorrow: There’s no escaping Shakespeare

A RROY REPORT Special Report: LawyerCon 2017: Lake Tahoe: Part I

Part One: Hell is for Parents (who let children cry on planes)

This year the National Conference of Appellate Court Clerks — hereinafter referred to as LawyerCon — took place at Harvey’s Casino and Resort in Lake Tahoe on the borderline of Nevada and California.

Getting there, as always, was not half the fun.

Day One 

There is no easy way to get from St. Louis, Missouri, to Lake Tahoe, Nevada. Saturday morning we loaded three suitcases and two carry-ons into the car – drove to the parking lot – got the shuttle to the airport – got our bags tagged – took off shoes and went through security  – put our shoes back on and found our gate – waited an hour for the airplane – sat in plane for 3.5 hours – got off plane in Las Vegas and walked to next gate – waited 45 minutes – sat in plane for an hour – got off plane in Reno, got luggage and rental car – drove 1 hour to Lake Tahoe – check into hotel – collapse on bed and watch free HBO.

If only it were that easy.


Before we get into the details of yet another horrific travel day, here’s a calm, tranquil picture of beautiful Lake Tahoe, to bring you peace before the terrors to come. 

went through security: Tried to explain to the nice TSA people that Andrew doesn’t understand “stand here and hold your arms up” so the nice TSA people took Andrew and Laurie aside and put gel on Laurie’s hands (I don’t know why). To be fair, the nice TSA people were the least of our hassles.

sat in plane for 3.5 hours: Sitting directly in front of me was a small child. Two rows up from my left was a small child. Three or so rows back and to my left was a small child. All 3 infants cried — sometimes in unison, sometimes solo — throughout the 3.5 hour trip. By the time we landed I had written the chorus to a song parody that I would sell to Weird Al Yankovich if he were buying.

Mamas, don’t let your babies go out and ride airplanes
They’ll cry and they’ll wail and they’ll drive us all nuts
Let ‘me ride buses and light rail and such

Mamas, don’t let your babies go out and ride airplanes
They’ll shriek and they’ll moan and not leave you alone
Makes you want to smack ’em with a glove

Now granted, rolling this through my head and working out the right wording did keep my mind occupied for the last hour of the flight, so there is that.

got luggage and rental car: At the airport we discovered that a Texas lawyer and her husband were on the same flight and were also renting a car to drive to Harvey’s and so we figured we would follow them there, even though there’s only one road to Lake Tahoe and we had brought the Garmin anyway to provide directions.

We got my bag. We got Laurie’s bag. There was no Andrew’s bag. How did they get 2 bags on the right plane but not the third? The nice lady at the help desk assured us it was probably on the next flight and they would sent it along to the hotel and be there for us in the morning. They even gave us a really nice travel bag with toiletries for Andrew to use that night. I don’t particularly care if he gets his clothes for the week, but we’re really going to need that swimsuit.

Did you know that Lake Tahoe sits in the mountains? I did not know this until very late in the program. I hate the mountains. Oh, I love them for their scenic beauty and purple majesty — but I can’t stand the curvy, windy, steep and terrifying roads you have to travel to get anywhere in them.

Keep in mind that by this time we’ve been traveling for roughly 6 hours and I’ve been through two airplane rides. I am literally wasted. Fortunately, my long-suffering wife was well aware of the state I would be in and had already planned to do the driving. First I shot a man just to watch him die, then we took off.

drove 1 hour to Lake Tahoe: The road from Reno to Carson City was straight and fine. The road from Carson City to Lake Tahoe was everything I hate about mountain driving. Oh, the view was incredible BUT WHO CAN’T ADMIRE THE VIEW WHEN YOU FEAR AT ANY MINUTE YOU’RE GOING TO GO OFF THE SIDE OF THE ROAD WHERE THERE IS NO SHOULDER — JUST A CAVERNOUS PLUNGE INTO DEATH.

And did I mention that my wife is driving like a maniac trying to keep up with Texas lawyer even though she’s driving a car she’s unfamiliar with on a road she’s never been on before?

Slow down! We don’t need to keep up with this guy! We’ll get there! We have the GPS! The speed limit’s 40, you’re doing 55! You don’t know what’s on the other side of this curve! Was that a Bear Crossing sign? Don’t hit any bears!

Now to be fair, I think I only shouted to slow down once, but in my head I said it 15 million times.

check into hotel: We arrived – in one piece, no less – at Harvey’s Casino and Resort around 8 p.m. Our room was not ready. It’s 8 p.m. – how is our room not ready? We are encouraged to go up to the casino and get some dinner and come back in an hour. We land in the Hard Rock Cafe upstairs. They seat us around memorabilia from bands and artists we are not familiar with. There was a guitar that once belonged to a member of Hoobastank. I had a decent, ridiculously overpriced burger, but my stomach wasn’t into eating.

An hour later we return to the front desk where Laurie is told…wait for it…our room is not ready. Now, if my sister had been there we would’ve got free lodging for the week and complementary everything, but she wasn’t. They did eventually give us another room, which was supposedly nicer than the room we signed up for, which I suppose was the least they could do.

collapse on bed and watch free HBO: Harvey’s did not have HBO, they had Showtime. I spent most of the week watching the AXS channel anyway.

Tomorrow: Life in Resort Land










Can’t Touch This (or Reflections on Joelfest 2017)

All my life I’ve wanted to be a hashtag. Aside from all those years when such a thing didn’t exist. Even now that it exists I don’t really know what it is. It’s a millennial thing, so I stay away from it.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Two Saturdays past was Joelfest 2017. If you don’t know what that is, read the F.A.Q. The Joelfest Selection Committee plans this thing well in advance, and the invitation is sent out January 1, so the people who don’t show up don’t show up because they hate me and not because they have a previous engagement — because no one plans out their June activities in January.

Granted, had I known in December how busy I was going to be the week of June 24, I would have suggested another date. But despite how much crap I had to deal with that week, I still made time for the quinquennial festival of William Joel. Because I care.

I used to care that people didn’t show up for Joelfest, but not anymore. I’m old now and I understand that everyone really hates me, so the mere fact that anyone shows up says something — I’m not sure what. And I can’t hold a grudge if someone decides a last-minute trip to Iceland with the kids is more important than seeing an old friend of 38 years. Right? I can’t hold a grudge about that. Can I?

The week’s festivities began Wednesday with a short trip to Columbia so The Wife could attend a work thing. The Son and I spent most of the time in the hotel pool and hot tub (which were wondrously empty for the most part). We tried to walk the campus but it was hot and muggy and Andrew almost immediately had a meltdown, so we wound up at the mall instead.

I did get to visit a new comic book shop (screw you, Rock Bottom — any comic shop that bags its books before putting them out no longer gets my business) and had pizza at Shakespeare’s and a gyro at G&D, so it was a successful trip overall. We returned home Friday in time for a little cleaning followed by opera. The next morning there was more cleaning, grocery shopping, and general preparations. In some respects it was probably good that we didn’t spend the whole week at home as that would’ve given Laurie too much time to obsess over the cleaning.

First to arrive were longtime Joelfesters Ron and Laura Leigh, all the way in from Florida (which makes everyone who claims “Oh, St. Charles is too far away” look like the sissies they are). They were followed by longtime Joelfester Scott and his wife Kim, the latter of whom was the big winner in this year’s hotly contested 50 Days of Joelfest trivia challenge. Laurie went out to get pizza and when she came back, she had Jay with her.

Now, when Jay Chism dies I will write a long and heartfelt obituary about him, but since I’m likely to go first, I’d better just go ahead and say a few nice things now. I’ve known Jay since, I believe, kindergarten, and he’s one of my oldest and dearest friends. Jay doesn’t say he’s coming to Joelfest and not show up. Jay makes no pretense that he’s coming to Joelfest. He just shows up. Once he showed up in Kansas City (where I was living at the time) instead of Columbia (where the party was actually held). We laugh about it now — it probably wasn’t so funny for him at the time.

So we sat in the back yard and had a nice chat while all the other guests showed up and Laurie played hostess while also dealing with Andrew’s inevitable meltdowns (Joelfest is one of those rare occasions where I’m not the one dealing with the meltdowns). There was Liz and Ann and Gena and Christine & family and Tina & family and Melfy & family and Stevie and Coffin Joe and Paul and Julie and the Leahs.

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A pretty good crowd for a Saturday.

Now, I’m not a big rules guy. When you come into my house, I don’t make you take off your shoes. You’re welcome to put your feet up on my coffee table. You can have anything in the fridge or the pantry. Want to take a nap on the couch? Fine. Leave the seat up when you’re done in the bathroom? I don’t give a damn.

I only ask one thing: Don’t Touch My Stuff.

This really shouldn’t even be a rule. It’s really just common sense, common decency, common courtesy. I don’t come into your house and touch your stuff. I am not an animal or a 2-year-old. I had parents who raised me right. But I realize now that I’m living in Trump’s America, so I have to spell things out. But when I say “don’t touch my stuff,” all I’m really saying is “be a decent human being.”

By midnight things had wound down and Stevie ran off because a young person can only stand so many minutes of 50-somethings talking about dealing with their aging parents. The next morning I hopped onto Facebook to get caught up on yesterday’s events only to discover that not I, but my stuff, had become a hashtag.






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There’s more. So much more. But this is a family blog and some of the things that were done to my stuff is not appropriate for all ages.

This is the world we live in, where “friends” can touch your stuff with abandon and then post photographs of it. Smiling. And while I’ll never be a trending topic on the Internet, at least my stuff will be.

You know who didn’t touch my stuff? Jay. And Jay had every reason to get back at me. And not because of that whole Kansas City/Columbia mix-up. No, many years ago, when we were like, 10, I pushed him off a wagon into the mud and cow manure at Warren Argall’s dairy farm. Why did I do it? I don’t know! I was 10! Kids do stupid things! And yet Jay loves to bring up that story every chance he gets — including Joelfest 2017.

So, thanks Jay, for not touching my stuff.

Or at least being smart enough not to leave behind photographic evidence.

See you in 2022.