Silver Dome Anniversary!

The month of June is just about done with us but, before it completes its mission, we’d like to take note of the 10 year anniversary of a significant moment on our professional timeline.

10 years ago this month (Wednesday, June 15th, 2011 to be specific.) we were singled out, by the Illinois Broadcasters Association, as winners of their Silver Dome Award for best local broadcast team in the Chicago market.

When we heard the news, we were very proud and very humbled to receive this award in a category that contained some of the best broadcast talent in Chicago. The other finalists were Felicia Middlebrooks & Pat Cassidy from WBBM-AM and Eric Ferguson & Kathy Hart from WTMX-FM, four very well known and very well respected names from two of Chicago’s top rated morning drive radio shows.

Most of us have heard the oft-repeated “It’s just an honor to be nominated.” And that really is true. But, actually winning this award in this specific category was a particularly memorable moment for us because it put an exclamation point on the “Life After Dark” mantra that was a part of our game plan from the day we were first approached by WGN management about hanging out inside your radio speakers on the nocturnal side of the clock.

BTW, maybe we should take a second or three to point out that, contrary to how some remember it, “Life After Dark” was never the name of our show. Our show was always called “The Steve & Johnnie Show.” “Life After Dark” was just a catch phrase we came up with to help describe the show’s focus. WGN Radio’s promotion and sales departments liked the phrase and quickly began using it to promote and sell our show.

One of our biggest compliments came from WGN’s legendary morning man, Bob Collins. One morning he walked in the studio during a commercial break and told us he’d been listening to us as he drove in and he suddenly really understood what we were doing. “You guys are doing morning drive radio for the overnight audience!”

BINGO!

Along with constructing our show as a landing strip for performers to unwind after a late night gig, we always made sure we covered any breaking news from the Chicago area and any other points on the globe that might be erupting into headline stories for that day. And we did our best to throw in a dose of pop culture news and trends. We always smiled when we’d get a voicemail or email from one of the other morning drive hosts from another Chicago radio station saying that they also listened as they were driving in and considered our show part of their “show prep.”

So, to receive this award, not just for best overnight team but, for Chicago Market Radio’s “Best Local Broadcast Team” and to be grouped with some of the best and highest rated morning drive radio talent in the country .. well, it was one of many professional moments we won’t soon forget.

So, as June rings itself to a close 10 years later, we remembered,

And, because without so many of you being on the other side of those radio speakers, this moment wouldn’t have happened, we just wanted to say thank you and share the memory with you.

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

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Satan Is Her Name … P.S.

In a previous post I shared the backstory of the resurgence of interest in a record I cut in the 60’s, “Satan Is Her Name.”

Well, since that post there have been a couple of addendums to the Satan saga that I wanted to share with you.

The first was a very nice article in the June issue of The Illinois Entertainer by Rick Kaempfer.

The second was the terrific time Johnnie and I had on WGN radio talking about the record with long time friend and Radio Hall Of Fame legend, John Records Landecker.

We thought hanging out with John was going to be fun and BOY WAS IT!! If you’d like to hear the entire, unedited, interview, just click on this link.

By the way, along with several other people, John has suggested that the song should be in a Quentin Tarantino movie. Well, I suppose if Quentin really insisted

Also, because we’re fortunate enough to have readers following this blog from all over the world, and quite often the people behind the videos and web sites care enough to post lyrics to “Satan Is Her Name” and, sadly, whether because of problems in translation or my rock & roll diction, sometimes get them wrong, for future reference, here are the lyrics as I originally wrote and sang them.

Satan is the name she goes by

There’s a lotta devil in her eye

Kiss of fire that burns you well

She breaks your heart and it hurts like .. words can’t tell

Ooooh! Lover!

Lady In Black, they call her

Your eyes can’t believe that’s all her

Got to fall, though you know your fate

The eyes of love soon change to .. the eyes of hate

Ooooh! Lover!

Old hands or beginners

With her there are no winners

She pulls your heart strings until they snap

Breaks your heart, but you know you’d .. crawl right back

Ooooh! Lover!

Finally, in the previous post about “Satan Is Her Name” I shared a few of the recent versions of the song and, since some very creative artists interpretations continue to populate the web, if you’ll allow me, I’d like to share a couple more.

I know nothing about Eric G., but I really like what he did with it.

I’m also not familiar with The H. Martin, but I like how they stayed close to my original arrangement while taking it in their own direction.

One of the many interesting aspects of hearing these new versions is that, as I continue to work on an album, I’m giving serious thought to doing my own update of the song.

Now, if only I could find a sexy female voice do do the “Ooooh! Lover!” part.

Stay safe,

Steve

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and the Horse He Rode In On

One of the many things I loved (And, even though it’s been many years, still love) about my Dad was his sense of humor. If you’ll humor me, I’d like to share a story to illustrate the point.

Along with working days at U. S. Steel South Works, on Chicago’s South Side, my Dad worked many nights as the owner/operator of his own TV/Radio repair business. Frequently, Saturdays included a visit to the local Allied (pre-Radio Shack) store to stock up on tubes and other things. A very young me would usually be at my Dad’s side. A very young me was usually dressed in some degree of cowboy attire. One Saturday, as we walked up to the counter, the young me was at my Dad’s side wearing my cowboy hat and bandana. The man behind the counter said something like “Hmm … wouldn’t a real cowboy have his guns on?”

I was not a happy cowboy.

The next Saturday, cowboy hat, bandana, holsters filled with my trusty cap guns, the young me again approached the counter at my Dad’s side. The evil doer behind the counter smiled, but lobbed a parting salvo something like “Nice, but you’d think a real cowboy would have a horse.”

If “True Grit” had been released at this point, and if a young me understood the meaning, much to my Dad’s chagrin, I might have uttered Rooster Cogburn’s (John Wayne) famous phrase about filling your hands.

The next part of the story is true and I even have the photographic evidence.

The next time we went to the Allied store, the young me was dressed in my usual cowboy attire but, by now, understood that my cowboy hero identity was not to be appreciated in this establishment. My Dad parked and we were walking down the block to the store when the cowboy gods intervened. At the end of the block was a photographer taking photos of kids … on a pony!!!

My Dad got a smile on his face.

I have no idea what magic my Dad worked when we walked up to the photographer. All I know is when we entered the Allied store my Dad was holding the reins and leading the horse with me in the saddle as I rode up to the counter!!!!

Cowboy Steve and the horse he rode in on.

As I recall, the evil doer threw up his hands, laughed and said “I give up, you win!”

The young me was a very happy cowboy as he rode out of the store and into the sunset that day.

And my Dad was still smiling.

Stay safe.

Steve

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2 Life-Changing Anniversaries!

Before we close the door on the month of May, 2021, I (Steve) would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the anniversaries of two events that had a lasting impact on my life.

First, it was 55 years ago, on May 23, 1966, that I started hanging out inside your radio speakers as I began my career in broadcasting at WJOB, in Hammond, IN.

In the 1960s most WJOB programs originated from their studio at 6405 Olcott Ave, in Hammond IN. The station’s broadcast tower is located right behind that building.

I’ve previously written about that day/night in this blog post, but each year, particularly those putting a significant number on the time stamp, does have the effect of causing a little head shaking and a “Really … that long?” moment. At the time, even though I knew it was a shift in my professional journey, I could never have imagined how big a shift or that it was one of my life’s decisions that I would never regret. As I wrote in another blog post, it was only months later, during the Chicago area’s record breaking snowfall of 1967 that I learned just how important the roll local radio plays can be.

Life-changing, indeed.

Second, this year marks 20 years since I was first diagnosed with Celiac Sprue (Celiac Disease). To say that diagnosis changed my life is a huge understatement. To those who, though meaning well, say “Oh, I’m so sorry.” trust me, there is nothing to be sorry about. Getting that diagnosis was one of the best things that ever happened to me.

I was reminded of this anniversary by various sources posting that May is Celiac Awareness Month.

Looking back on all the years before I was diagnosed, there are numerous health problems and stressful moments which, I can now see, were directly caused by this disease that, at the time, neither I nor my doctors had any knowledge of. For many years, Johnnie and I have posted Gluten-free lifestyle suggestions and recipes in this blog and you can browse them all just by clicking on this link.

Again, life-changing, indeed.

Without these two events would I have had a good/successful/interesting/happy life and, more importantly, met Johnnie? Who knows? What I do know is that I have absolutely no desire to push the rewind button and change either.

I’ve said it before, I’m a lucky man.

Stay safe,

Steve

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Delbert’s Retirement Blues

Well, it seems the pandemic has claimed another victim. The good news is he’s still with us to tell the tale of the bad news, which is that he’s retiring. He is a legendary, Grammy Award winning, American blues rock master we’re proud to be able to count as a long time friend, Delbert McClinton.

Along with many of his friends and fans, we were surprised and saddened to learn of Delbert’s decision from an announcement on his Facebook page.

While we certainly can understand and empathize with the reasoning behind the decision, it’s really sad on any of a number of levels that this singularly special talent and human being who has long been a part of our personal and professional lives has made the decision that “this is a good time to retire.”

Delbert’s music was on a mix tape Him made for Her when we were first dating. The song “Sandy Beaches” became a part of our life’s playlist early on and continues to this day.

“Sandy Beaches” also became the name of an annual family reunion cruise Delbert has hosted for 27 years that features an all-star line up of friends sailing the Caribbean and enjoying the heart and soul of American Music.

After being fans for years and having interviewed him by phone several times, our first personal encounter with Delbert took place in WGN radio’s Tribune Tower studios when Delbert and his guitarist, Gary Nicholson, were nice enough to fit an in-person visit with us into the schedule while in town performing at Chicago’s House Of Blues. Even though he was fighting a cold that night, Delbert was in good spirits and performed a couple of songs, one of which (“Better Off With The Blues”) he was nice enough to let us include on our “Life After Dark” cd, which helped raise thousands of dollars for charity.

The cover of our “Life After Dark” cd.

Fortunately for us, in addition to many more on-air phone interviews, that was the first of many in-person interviews we’ve been privileged to do with Delbert.

One took place on Delbert’s bus before a show at Chicago’s City Winery.

And another took place backstage when Delbert was appearing at Space, in Evanston, Ill.

Delbert always let us video part of his performance to include with the interviews.

While we’re sorry to learn that Delbert’s retirement announcement means that, with the exception of the 7th annual Big Blues Bender to be held at Westgate Resort & Casino September 9-12, 2021 and the Sandy Beaches Cruise sailing January 15-22, 2023, he won’t be doing any more touring, we hope that he will still find time to spread a little of his magic around the recording studio now and then and share the results with us. Some things are just too good to lose. Delbert’s talent is one of those.

Most importantly, we hope he is able to, as he says, “enjoy my family and travel a bit as it becomes safer. It’s been a great ride.”

It really has and thanks for letting us tag along.

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

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Satan Is Her Name

The inspiration hit me one night in the 1960s.  I was walking back home from my, then, girlfriend’s house.  It was probably around 9 or 10 … PM. 

I know walking alone at night might seem strange in light (or, dark as the case may be) of 21st century crime statistics but, back then, it just wasn’t that big a deal.  Sure, you were careful, but it just wasn’t all that unusual.

But, I digress …

Anyhow, so there I was, walking alone late at night and, while walking, I was hit with a song idea. I liked it and, possibly spurred on by the nocturnal vibe as I walked, I went with it.   It was one of those “moments” songwriters live for.  The title, words, melody and chords started appearing on the jukebox in my mind in rapid succession.  As I walked I hummed, and quietly sang the lyrics over and over to fix them in my head since I had nothing to write on. Thankfully, the streets were deserted and I didn’t sing loud enough for the lyrics to have wafted through any open windows and startled any unsuspecting audience members. By the time I covered the 8 block distance and arrived home all I had to do was quickly grab a piece of paper, write down the words, and then grab my guitar to see if the chords I thought would work, would work.  They did.

I really don’t recall what the inspiration for the title was. I don’t believe my girlfriend and I had any kind of argument. At this 60 year distance, that part of this story is lost in the darkness of that night. The song title was “Satan Is Her Name.”

I have no idea what the nuns at Chicago’s Our Lady Of Peace or St. Brides schools would have thought about one of their charges turning to godless rock & roll as a profession and writing a song with that title … but it does make me smile a little to think about it.

Yes, at this point in my life, godless rock & roll was my profession and, as soon as I could afford it, I got all the members of my group together and produced a demo session that included “Satan Is Her Name.” Also, at this point in time, Mercury records was a major force in the industry with offices on Chicago’s Wacker Drive. David Carroll was the label’s head of A&R (artist and repertoire) having worked on hits for The Diamonds, The Platters, Patti Page, The Crew Cuts, Sarah Vaughan and many others as well as later discovering The Smothers Brothers. He also charted on his own with many instrumental albums and a top ten hit single, “Melody Of Love.”

Most working musicians in Chicago were aware of Mercury records and David Carroll and I was no exception to that rule. After a bit of research and a few phone calls, I found myself spending, what seemed like, the better part of an entire day parked in the reception area of Mercury’s headquarters, thumbing through copies of Billboard and Cash Box magazines, making occasional small talk with the receptionist all the while having an ongoing internal discussion with myself about the pros and cons of the situation I had placed myself in. Finally, I found myself in Mr. Carroll’s office doing my best to hide my nervousness while, hopefully, putting my best foot forward as I responded to his friendly but, understandably, business-like opening questions. He listened to all of the songs from the demo session and was particularly taken with “Satan Is Her Name.”

There is a lot more to tell about what ultimately turned into a really good professional relationship with David Carroll, including playing harmonica on one of his big band albums and him signing me to his own label after he left Mercury, but the details of those adventures will probably make their way into our second book. For the purpose of this blog, suffice it to say that he signed me to Mercury and we recorded “Satan Is Her Name.”

“Satan Is Her Name” was released in 1962

While the record didn’t become the hit I hoped for, for a while it looked like it would be. I was told that it was getting good “buzz” and after a station in the Miami area started playing it, it became one of their top ten requests. More importantly, word reached the Mercury promotion department that Dick Clark liked it, was playing it on the portion of American Bandstand that was only seen in the Philadelphia area, and was thinking about adding it to the show’s national telecast. Sadly, proving timing is everything, Leslie Gore, who was a well-known Mercury artist, had also just released a new record. I’m not sure of the specifics but, the bottom line is that, Leslie’s record got played for Bandstand’s national audience and “Satan Is Her Name” didn’t. Years later when Johnnie and I interviewed Leslie and told her the story we all agreed that things worked out the way they were supposed to because Leslie kept having hits that built the foundation for her lengthy career and I wound up getting into radio and meeting Johnnie.

So, that’s the end of the story, right? Au contraire, mon ami!

And as the European influence enters this blog post, we fast forward a few decades.

I believe it was sometime in the 90s that Johnnie or I stumbled on a website listing copies of “Satan Is Her Name” being sold for ridiculous prices to collectors both in this country and in Europe. As we followed the trail down that internet rabbit hole, along with finding more copies of my record for sale at crazy prices, we discovered a number of European vinyl and CD releases containing “Satan” and also albums with some of my other recordings on them. Before you ask, no, I didn’t get any royalties from these albums. European copyright laws have changed in a way that has made many reissues of older recordings royalty free.

Every now and then, we’d think of it and check to see if those albums were still available and, surprisingly, we’d discover that, even if they weren’t, they were being replaced by new releases. It’s not something we ever obsessed with but, whenever we’d stumble across something, it was interesting to see some of my older recordings, particularly “Satan Is Her Name,” continually available in one form or another with Europe being a prime market.

In recent years, along with reissues of my original recording, “Satan Is Her Name” has been recorded by new artists, some of whom stick fairly close to my arrangement and some who put their own twist on it and take it in a bit of a new direction. I’ve communicated with some of these artists. Honestly, I’m flattered to find that many of them are as enthusiastic about hearing from me as I am to discover their interest in one of my songs.

Let me introduce you to just a few of my new friends.

From Kassel, Germany, Marcel Bontempi is the founder of Dr. Bontempi’s Sake Oil Company, a really creative hillbilly roots music group that played Nashville and returned to Germany just before the pandemic hit. Here’s a link to their version.

I was pleasantly surprised when I found out British born Holly Golightly covered “Satan Is Her Name.” Holly reworked it as “Satan Is His Name” and changed one line that does make it more explicit. I like her take on it. Here’s a link to her version.

From Greece, The Bevels recently released a very creative interpretation.

I’ve just heard from a band from Zagreb, Croatia, B. Confidential & The Secret 4, that will be releasing their newly recorded studio version of the song on vinyl in summer 2021. Here’s a link to a video of their rehearsal.

On this side of the big pond, here’s a link to a live performance from The Silver Chords, a Los Angeles, California based psychedelic rock group.

From Detroit, record producer and DJ, Michael Earl Clark, who has worked with Kid Rock, Insane Clown Posse, George Clinton, Patti Smith and others, worked his magic on the song.

Finally, along with the reissues and new versions of “Satan Is Her Name,” several people have taken my recording and added video to it in really creative ways. I’m absolutely amazed to see that this one made by a fan in Europe using my original record and some scenes from Russ Meyer’s movie titled “Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill” is, as of this writing, approaching 2 MILLION views!!

If this missive has piqued your interest, you might try doing your own search on YouTube for Satan Is Her Name and see what you find. If you discover any new friends you think I should meet let me know.

I guess this whole lengthy journey is a good example of “What a long, strange trip it’s been,” from a late night walk that inspired a song to the released record that didn’t become a hit yet, in a strange way, did!

Y’know, the more I think about it, it’s just really nice and a bit humbling to see and hear that something I created 60 years ago still has legs and is keeping some other creative juices flowing.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to see if Johnnie wants to go for a walk.

Stay safe … and please wear a mask,

Steve

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37!

Once upon a time, in a fairy tale land, him and her went for a ride … on an elephant.

The elephant’s name was “Killer.” We were the King & Queen of King Richard’s Faire.

While on the ride, he had a proposal that she reacted to positively. 37 years ago today (April 7, 1984) we made it official and became HimNHer. At that time, we were both at WIND radio, in Chicago. The station had a Sunday night religious block of programing hosted by a priest, minister and rabbi. Since we were friends with all of them, they all officiated at our wedding.

We were married by a priest, a minister and a rabbi. Really!

It’s been a wonderful ride for the 37 years or 1,930 weeks that we’ve been side by side. … and not just the elephant part!

This collage includes our first date (upper left), first anniversary (upper right), one of over 6,000 shows at WGN radio and enjoying our roles as “Grand Dude” and “Gigi” to Joseph Crispen.

Pandemics, parties or whatever, we’re in it for the long haul. Now, we’ve got our sights set on, at least, 37 more … and then some.

Thanks for hopping on this part of the ride with us!

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

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Happy Easter 2021!

It’s more than a little understandable if there is much about 2020 that you and we don’t choose to look back on. But, now and then, it’s not a bad thing to reflect on something to underscore, not only what we’ve been through but, how far we’ve come.

For example, this time last year, celebrating Easter the way we were used to was out of the question. Because, along with some extended family members, brother Lee couldn’t be with us and Johnnie’s Dad, John, we did make a quick trip to Munster, IN. to deliver Lee some of Johnnie’s home made Easter dinner and get a socially distanced hug.

Lee on his porch giving us a socially distanced hug last Easter

This year, thankfully, we’ve all been vaccinated and will be celebrating at our house, joined by Lee and two extended family friends, Ann and Tim.

To help us celebrate Easter 2021, it shouldn’t surprise you that The Wonderful Tree Lady has worked her magic both inside and out.

When our guests arrive they will be greeted by a very classy doorman.

Our very classy doorman.

Once inside, some little friends guide you up the stairs.

They’ll be watching your every step with rabbit attention.

It soon becomes obvious that The Wonderful Tree Lady really likes Spring and Easter!

Spring has sprung inside our house!

Of course, just one tree would never be enough.

You may notice a few rabbits checking things out.

Did we tell you that The Wonderful Tree Lady really likes Easter?

The table has been set.

And so do her little friends.

We think they’re probably reading Peter Cottontail.

REALLY!!

Some of these ornaments were made by our wonderful WGN listeners.

Will there be guitar music? Heck yeah!

He’s practicing “The Bunny Hop.”

While, it’s obvious, the pandemic isn’t behind us, yet, things are starting to look up and, thankfully, there is now room for a bit of celebrating.

That’s something we couldn’t say a year ago.

From our house to your house, Happy Easter!

Happy Easter from us to you!

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Was that the sound of an Irish jig we just heard?

Or, was it the sound of the wonderful tree lady dancing through our house as she weaved her magic for St. Patrick’s Day?

Smart pot o’ gold money would be on the latter and, not surprisingly, the results were spectacular. So, of course, we had to share them with the class.

Sure’n this would be tree #1.

Now, you really didn’t think there would only be one tree, did you?

Sure’n this would be tree #2. If your wondering, “Failte” means welcome.

And, of course, you didn’t expect the wonderful tree lady to stop weaving her magic after just 2 trees.

Perfect for coffee at the top ‘o the morning, this would be tree #3.

But wait, there’s more!

The tea set, the tiny leprechaun, the boy and girl bells and the tea pot were all gifts from some of our WGN radio listeners.

And, if you look a little closer …

The little tea set was brought back from Ireland by a listener. The little leprechaun on the pot of gold is actually a porcelain box with tiny shamrocks inside.

And is that an old friend we see at the bottom of one of the trees?

You may recognize our little friend at the bottom of the tree from his days working for the Illinois lottery.

And a few more little people showed up to join in the celebration.

Just a gathering of the clan.

And, because just “a few more” is never enough …

The little guy on the left was made by a listener and the one on the right began his life over 50 years ago.

We think it’s entirely probable that Steve’s Mom, a true Irish lass, who was born on St. Patrick’s Day, is looking down from her heavenly home and smiling at the results of the wonderful tree lady’s handiwork.

Happy Heavenly Birthday, Mary Elizabeth!

From our clan to your clan, Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

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One. Long. Year.

COVID-19 was declared a pandemic on March, 11, 2020.

One year ago?

Only one?!?!

Some days it feels like more … a lot more.

Like you, during the past year, we’ve had our share of ups and downs and, now and then, we’ve shared some of them with you. But, the good news is that, finally, we seem to be slowly making our way out of this tunnel. Obviously, things aren’t going to return to normal overnight and, even when they do, for a while it may be a new-ish normal.

Sadly, as we do our best to climb back to whatever normal will look like there are those who, for varying reasons, remain resistant to the climb. Some still don’t want to socially distance or wear masks. And, some are resistant to getting vaccinated.

We don’t happen to fall into either of those groups. After using a sizeable amount of our “safer at home” time to do as much research as we possibly could and then, like many of you, trying and trying and trying and trying to get vaccine appointments for us and Johnnie’s Dad, John, we were finally successful! Not surprisingly, each of us had different appointments at different locations.

But, we got them!

Johnnie in a celebratory mood after getting her first vaccine shot.

As of this writing, we’ve only had the first shot and are impatiently counting the days till the second.

The masked stranger after getting his first vaccine shot.

You may notice that we’re both covering up some of the information on our vaccine cards. That’s intentional. Just in case you’re not aware of it, the self-identifying information on it makes you vulnerable to identity theft and can help scammers create phony versions.

One interesting side-effect the three of us experienced and shared with each other and now share with you was an almost immediate sense of relief. Yes, we’d all been dealing with a year’s worth of COVID-19 stress but, apparently, we had no idea just how much that stress had an impact on us and how much it would ease up after getting that first shot.

So, if you’re on the fence, for whatever our opinions are worth to you, we strongly feel that getting the jab is the right thing to do … not only will it help keep you from getting COVID-19, but it’ll help you big time from the neck up!

Stay safe,

Steve & Johnnie

Posted in Coronavirus disease (COVID-19), Partly Personal | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments