Friendship

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What is a friend?  How do we make friends?  I reflected on friendship last weekend in Ann Arbor, while attending the wedding of Libby Paglione, the daughter of “friends” Barbara and John Paglione.

What is a friend?  The question was asked in a movie about anti-bias education made by Teaching Tolerance, the education arm of the Southern Poverty Law Center.  When asked the question, one shy little girl answered, “I just want them to sit beside me.”  Another imitated breaking a candy bar, “If I had candy, I don’t like candy,” she said, “I’d share it with them. That’s how you make friends, sharing.”

I recall several incidents when I was a new Freshman at Boston College.  I was outside, with hundreds of other Freshman, waiting around an auditorium for our first orientation.  Most of us were strangers.  I thought, “need to meet guys, should make friends.”  Almost without thinking, I swung around with a hand outstretched, introducing myself to the kid behind me.  Amazing!  He was doing the same thing at the same time.  Our hands touched.  The kid was Jerry Mascola and we became college friends.  In the summer of my Junior year, while waiting for my father to adjust to the idea of my proposed marriage, Jerry and his new wife put me up for a few weeks before I found an apartment.  Diane and I visited with them once or twice in Boston in the years right after graduation.  But we’ve lost touch.  I wonder were he is; are we still friends?

In my Freshman year at BC, there wasn’t enough dorm housing.  The college arranged rooms in private houses.  There were eight of us on the second floor of a house in Newton Square.  Initially we broke into three subgroups for hitchhiking to school and socialization in the evening.  I was “friends” with two guys who had gone to the same New Jersey Prep school, Jerry Alonzo and Ted Fuery.  There were two other pairs and then Mike Honan, a loner.  Mike took to following Jerry, Ted and me.  Little was said, but he’d be steps behind us.  Until one night.

I had a private room, had a small two cup coffee maker.  About 10 one night, Mike came in.  I offered a cup of coffee.  We talked – Dylan, music, movies, our lives.  We talked to early morning hours.  Mike and I became close friends.  Afterwards he sometimes walked with me, Jerry and Ted.  I’ve probably remained closest with Jerry, the best man in our wedding, we’ve made visits to each other. Mike and I stay in touch, through our blogs and FB.  Maybe one visit to him in Albany back in the 1970s.  It’s been many years since we had a face to face.  Ted is a FB friend, no more.  And I’ve had some contact– Christmas cards, letters, maybe one visit — with Tom Glynn, another guy in the house. How and why do we keep friends?

I mentioned at the start that this reflection was sparked by the marriage of Libby Paglione to Steve Vedder.  Libby’s father John and I are “best friends” and her mother Barbara is like a “fifth sister.”  How?  Why?

John and I grew up in Bristol, PA.  We went to different Catholic elementary schools in the town — the Italian parish, St. Ann’s (John) and  the Irish parish, St. Mark’s (Vince). Bristol was a small town.  About three years ago, John told me a funny story. In elementary school, he went to the library and signed up for a card.  It was an old wooden building, with worn books and dusty shelves.  The librarian fit a stereotype we all know.  John asked, “Where should I look for books.”  The librarian lowered her glasses and pointed to some shelves — Junior Classics, I suspect — “Vince Profy looks there she said.”  John thought, “Who the hell is Vince Profy?”

He met me a year or so later in the Boy Scouts — Troop 73.  We weren’t close friends  but we knew each other.  Friendship came a few years later at Holy Ghost Prep,  in High School.  We frequently hitch hiked together (often with another Bristol kid, John Mundy).  Coming home, after school, we would stop in the 5 & 10 or Katie’s Corner for a coke.  Sometimes John Paglione and I detoured to Route 13, Bob’s Books, where we purchased paperbacks, news stand returns I think, covers torn off, for a fraction of their stated price.  John Paglione and I became close friends.  The cement was reading and books.  When I left Paglione’s house, post wedding, this week, he handed me two books.

Which leads me to believe that friendships are formed first on mutual interests.  John and I bought, exchanged, reviewed, and shared books throughout our high school years.  In college we drifted apart.  He went to Duquesne; I went to Boston College.  John served in the Army; I was in the Peace Corps.    But we returned to Bristol and reconnected.

We discovered we had similar “liberal” political views.  For a year while living in Bristol, we worked with several other recent graduates and an older African American woman activist to establish a community center in town.  Diane and I had been married several years; John met Barbara Cantor, a New York art student who had moved to Bristol to live near a college friend.  John and Barbara were soon planning a wedding. Somehow within months of their marriage we had decided to share a house together in New Hope.  It was 1970, “drop out,” “back to the earth,” — communes were hot from Vermont to New Mexico.  With only two couples, ours was not really a commune but an “intentional community.”

In New Hope, John and I learned we had many mutual interests.  Besides books and reading, we shared pipe smoking, films, gardening, history, art, and imaginative travel.   The first summer together, we drove back roads in Bucks County, in a VW bug,  stopping at farms, looking for seasonal summer work, dreaming that we were characters in Steinbeck’s “Grapes of Wrath.”  We eventually found work and created another shared experience — Boy Scouts, High School, living together, now working together on the Daniel brothers’ farms in Pineville.

Friendship it seems is based on mutual interests, shared ideology, and common experiences. I quickly became friends with John’s wife, Barbara.  Our common interests were art, crafts, gardening, and cooking.  All of us had similar political ideologies.  We watched the Watergate Hearings and The Walton’s on TV.  As the months and years passed, I had common experiences with Barbara.  We all became friends with Barbara’s close friend, a potter, Melody Bonnema, and her husband Garrett. Again interests, ideology, experiences.

In 1974 when the house broke up, the Paglione’s moved to Ann Arbor where John went to graduate school and eventually got a job with the VA.  Diane and I bought a house in Yardley.  Within a few years we each had one child, our Jenny and Barbara and John’s Libby.

Initially my friends were Bristol kids, guys from Holy Ghost Prep where I went to high school; a few college and Peace Corps friends.  As a working adult in the 1970s, friends increasingly came from work, for me, it would be Holy Ghost Prep;  and neighborhood, after New Hope, then Yardley.  I think the basis of friendship remained pretty constant –mutual interests, common experiences and similar political and social ideology.  At work, I became friends  with a few fellow teachers, it seemed always those  younger than me.  In Yardley I became involved in local politics and made several close friends.

Twenty plus years, I am in touch and maybe social friends with a handful of  HGP teachers — Gallagher, Corley, Cavanaugh, Horch, Buscaglia, Gillesppi, DiGiesi. There are a few from more from recent years — McCullough, Posey, O’Conner, Figliola, Jordan.  I have many HGP grads as “friends” on Facebook but only a few are really friends.  In Yardley I’m not involved with most “friends” from the politically active years   Jerry and Susan Taylor are the exception.  We don’t always stay friends. Why?

I think friends fade because to sustain most friendships, we must remain actively involved with them. Diane and I have kept doing things with some of the HGP teachers — annual dinners, plays, lunch dates.  We have consistently done things with the Taylors  since we met in the 1980s. So we remain friends.

For years, several decades actually, our contact with the Pagliones was limited to a Christmas visit when they returned to Bristol to see parents and extended family.  They came to Yardley with Libby and spent a day.  It always ended with group pictures on our couch. Pre Internet and Facebook, there were few telephone calls or letters exchanged. We still had mutual interests, common experiences, and similar ideology; but time to be together was a missing element.

That changed recently.  A few years before retirement we took a trip to Western Pennsylvania to visit Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Falling Water.”   Pagliones retired and began to visit us in Yardley more often. We took an extended trip to Ann Arbor.  The first year the Profys  retired, we traveled together to the Hudson River Valley, spent five days in NYC together, John and I spent over a week reconstructing a slave cabin on Madison’s estate in Virginia.  There were more Paglione trips to Bucks County with time spent with the Profys.

One of John’s new post retirement interests has been craft beer and local breweries.  I shared the interest.  It may be related to our beer making in the New Hope years.  One day in the Philadelphia area we visited five breweries and several bars on a Phila beer explore.  Books remain an important shared experience.  We discuss our reading regularly on the phone, tried to start a joint book blog, and constantly lend each other books.

When we’ve visited Ann Arbor, wedding trip included, we are introduced to Paglione’s friends as, “this is Vince and Diane, the couple we lived with.”  Four years living together was a strong shared experience that kept us glued together even in the years we had minimal contact. Now that experience and bonding seems to be renewed and strengthened with each contact we have.

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I wondered what others had to say about friendship.  I immediately thought of Charlie Brown.  He and others often describe friends as those that stand beside you, accept you for who you are. Recently I’ve felt this as John has offered support in my year of surgeries. Not all good times.

 

I also found and liked an article, “The True Meaning of Friendship” by Alex Lickerman, in Psychology Today. Lickerman wrote:  “The Japanese have a term, kenzoku, which translated literally means “family.” The connotation suggests a bond between people who’ve made a similar commitment and who possibly therefore share a similar destiny. It implies the presence of the deepest connection of friendship, of lives lived as comrades from the distant past.”  He defines four qualities of friendship.  Three of them repeat qualities I’ve mentioned:   1) common interests, 2) common experiences, 3) shared values and for Lickerman 4) equality, true friends need and support each other, it’s not a one way relationship.

 

John and Barbara are not my only friends.  But they are probably the closest.  Like family, John, Barbara, Diane and I may have a “kenzoku” relationship.  And it may be a bit stronger between John and I, male bonding and the length of our relationship.  It’s been a hard year for me with three major surgeries.  I’m still not fully recovered.  But the recent days in Ann Arbor, at Libby and Steve’s wedding, with best friends, was happiness as Charlie Brown said.  And it gave me time to reflect on friendship.

Again quoting Charlie Brown, “In life, it’s not where you go it’s who your travel with.”  Hopefully in the coming year, some travel time will be with our kenzoku friends, John and Barbara.

Congratulations to them, to Libby and Steve.

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Trump: I’m tired.

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For some reason I broke down today.  I’ve had enough of Trump.  I’ve read too many articles about his history of lying, bankruptcies, poor business decisions, marriages, arrogance. And then his candidate pronouncements — building a wall between the US and Mexico; barring Muslin immigration; snide, ridiculous, or discriminatory comments against women, people of the Middle East, the handicapped, minorities;  suggestions that gun lovers may take on (out) Clinton.  No, I’m tired of it.  So I vented on Facebook.

I wrote several posts:

Number 1:   I was cleaning up back magazines after being away for several weeks and ran into the July 18, Time. 240 Reasons to Celebrate America (oh, this is liberal media). According to D. Trump, America is falling apart. Responsibility falls to that Black President, who wasn’t born in the United States, and you know who, Hillary Clinton.

I realize there is poverty, out of work people, terrorism, just as there is racism, anti feminism, homophobia. But these are all  constants. Unfortunately not something new.

Is America falling apart from your experience? I was in a restaurant (a bit upscale) in Wellfleet on Cape Cod last week. The tables were filled with loud, laughing families and couples enjoying lobster and other local seafood. I engaged the head waitress, “Are these people part of the failing, falling apart America?” She smiled, “I don’t think so.” I suspect some were Republicans and restaurants on Route 6 were filled (waiting in line) with many more middle class families.

I ask those decent, normal Trump supporters. Consider, is the country falling apart as Trump suggests? Is your life worse than it was 8 years ago. I know your stock portfolio must be better, if that’s important.  If life is worse, please tell me how? Tell me how President Obama is responsible? I don’t need vague political rhetoric. Be specific and relate it to Obama policy.

If you can’t do that, consider your support for Trump. And get a copy of Time, “240 reasons to Celebrate America.” America is  not a bad place to live. Never though I’d be waving the flag like this but with Trump it’s necessary.

Number 2:   Trump supporters! Are there any positive articles about Trump? I know you probably think the mainstream/liberal media is out to destroy him. But so many articles about his history as well as behavior and comments during this campaign paint a portrait of someone who should never be President. Republicans who can afford any potential political fallout have refused to support or have spoken out against him. This isn’t typical.

I’m not crazy about Clinton but Trump is a crazy choice for President. The country is no worse than it was before Obama’s election — it’s probably better but at least no worse.

I think, too many decent people have been sucked into the Trump vortex. Stop, listen to what’s being written and said about Donald Trump. It’s not your regular and unfortunate and partisan low blows, hype, and political nonsense.  Consider, and I hope embrace. Donald Trump is an unacceptable candidate. I don’t expect those that really like his racist and sexist comments, absurd policy pronouncements, arrogant, self centered behavior will recant.

But I know there are decent people currently in his camp than can and should reconsider.  Donald Trump is an unacceptable candidate for President of the United States.

Number 3:  Who is defending Trump? Am I missing something? I have a limited number of friends on FB. But many have association with HGP and not so long ago association with HGP ran about 90% Republican. In my last years teaching there the tide shifted a bit, my classes were maybe 60% Republican. Some of my best political discussions were with HGP young Conservative Republicans in the Library (I was the Librarian). Where are you guys? Can you explain Trump? Can you support him? Vote for him? Please tell me why!

I expected Trump would have a strong 30% base of loyal supporters.  From my liberal perspective, these were the crazies that believed in  his sell.  What bothers me is the additional percentage of good, decent people sucked into the Trump vortex  who have bought the sell — neighbors, relatives, friends.  Most disturbing is not hearing-reading why?  I want good people to explain Trump and his policies.  Help if you can.

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Down the Atlantic Coast: Maine

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So many writers come up with historic, geographic or cultural quests. Follow the trail taken by Lewis and Clark, visit all the sites associated with Henry David Thoreau, climb all the mountains in the Presidential range, drive Route 1 from Fort Kent, ME to Key West, walk the Applachian trail. I read one book where the writer visited the homes of famous people, collected and propagated seeds from the properties. His collection of trees was finally taken over by a non profit.

My best friend JP from Bristol, Pa set a goal to visit all the Bristols in the country; he also drank at 68 craft breweries, the year he turned 68. I believe he is currently visiting all the Presidential Libraries. To-date JP hasn’t written a book.

Last week I re-read “The Coast: a journey down the Atlantic Shore” by Joseph Thorndike. He lived on Cape Cod and decided to walk around the shore of the Cape. But he failed, there were too many harbors, marshes and other breaks. He scaled back and retraced Thoreau’s trek along Great Beach in 1849. (I did read the journal of a guy who successfully navigated the coastline of Manhattan.) Then Thorndike decided to travel down the Atlantic Coast, ME to the Keys.

Although I don’t think I’m going to follow Thorndike on the coastal tour or write a book, I thought it would be interesting to develop a wish list of places to visit along the coast and to recall those that are part of my experience. “Way down east,” Quoddy Head Light and Campobello Island (FDRs summer home) would be a places I would like to visit.

We’ve only gone as far as Arcadia National Park and Bar Harbor. Our first trip was in the 1970s and my strongest memory is horseback riding on one of the carriage roads built by Rockafeller. When he donated the land for a park he stipulated: no cars for so many years. The Park service has continued the policy. On our last trip we decided to take a carriage ride. Our driver mentioned that David Rockafeller still sometimes seen riding in  a carriage. A little later, as if on cue,  the driver announced, “And here’s David Rockefeller’s carriage. A guy riding on the back hopped off to steady the horses as the carriages passed; I quickly snapped a photograph of David, in his 90s, the last of his, the second generation.

Like Newport and Palm Beach, Bar Harbor was founded as a summer resort for the wealthy. We have never been impressed with the town. We stopped and walked around several years ago but found few shops and no restaurants that interested us. That trip we were staying on the southern part of Mount Desert Island called Southwest Harbor (Bar Harbor in in the northern end of the Island.) it’s a quieter town, close to the Park, without the fading pretension of Bar Harbor.

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We have special memories of the peninsula just south, Blue Hill. In the early 1970s after reading Helen and Scott Nearing’s “The Maple Sugar Book” and “Living the Good Life” I wrote them asking if we could visit. Scott had been an Economics professor at the University of Pennsylvania, fired for socialist beliefs. In the 1930s  Helen (a musician) and Scott bought land in Vermont to homestead. Maple sugar was their cash crop.  When the ski industry exploded in the 60s they moved to Harborside on the Blue Hill peninsula. The Pagliones, my father, Diane and I drove up to visit them in the early 1970s. They had become gurus of the “back to the earth movement.”  There were many  visitors; few had written ahead.

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In the early 70s, the Nearings were building a new stone house, gardening (vegetarians), raising blueberries as a small cash crop, and becoming an attraction in seashore Maine. The property next to theirs was being farmed by a young Eliot Coleman who would became a leading spokesman for the organic food movement. As we gathered seaweed for fertilizer and cut firewood, Scott encouraged us to visit Coleman. Visitors to the Nearings were sort of welcomed (don’t think Helen liked it a lot) but they were put to work. Some stayed for days; others bought nearby property. When we left we stopped to see Coleman’s organic farm.

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             Nearing House.

About 7 years ago, my son-in-law’s band, Cabin Dogs,  was invited to play at the Blue Hill Festival. They camped; Diane and I stayed in a B and B for several days. The Nearings were both dead (Scott was in his 90s when we visited) but their property and buildings they constructed with volunteer help were now The New Life Center. We walked around but the staff were all at the Festival. We did talk to them there. Such fond memories.

We also stopped next door and as we toured “Four Seasons” (Eliot Coleman and Barbara Damrosch’s farm), Eliot came out of the farmhouse. Much to Diane’s chagrin, I approached Eliot and told him about our visit in the 1970s when he was just getting started. I don’t think he was impressed but I was so pleased to renew with a place and individual that had influenced my life beliefs. At home I ordered a Coleman organic gardening book. I also discovered a book, “Living Next to the Good Life” by Jean Hay Bright. She and her husband had visited like us but ended up buying a piece of land from Helen and Scott. Her account of them is pretty critical at times.

We had other associations with Blue Hill.

“One early fall morning in 1949, E.B. White walked into the barn of his farm in Maine and saw a spider web. That in itself was nothing new, but this web, with its elaborate loops and whorls that glistened with early morning dew, caught his attention. Weeks passed until one cold October evening when he noticed that the spider was spinning what turned out to be an egg sac. White never saw the spider again and, so, when he had to return later that fall to New York City to his job as a regular contributor to The New Yorker magazine, White took out a razor blade and cut the silken egg sac out of the web. He put the sac in an empty candy box, punched some holes in it, and absent-mindedly put the box atop his bedroom bureau in New York.”

Michael Sims, the author of “The Story of Charlotte’s Web” reveals how that spider became the inspiration for a delightful children’s book. (See NPRs Maureen Corrigan’s, “How E.B. White spun Charlotte’s Web.”) For years White had a house, lived and wrote, in Brooklin, on Blue Hill Bay. It’s written that White didn’t like visitors.

As we drove around we stumbled on a local historical society; it was opened; staffed by a friendly local. We spent quite a bit of time looking at artifacts and talking with our guide when Diane noticed a sign, “Condon’s Garage.”  Our new friend quickly informed us that it was the real sign and Bookesville was just down the road. We were off to check it out.

One of our favorite children’s authors, Robert McCloskey summered on an island off Blue Hill. Several of his books are set in Maine. In “One Morning in Maine” father and daughter, Sal, arrive by boat at Buck’s Harbor to go to Condon’s Garage. Sal who has   lost a tooth in the morning enjoys a treat from a small store in the village before returning to their boat and home. Amazing seeing the source of McClosket’s drawings.

McCloskey’s wife  and eldest daughter are models for the classic story “Blueberries for Sal.” And “A Time of Wonder” is another book set in Maine. McCloskey is most famous, however,  for Caldicott winner, “Make Way for Ducklings” set in the Boston Public Gardens.   Several years ago we bought Vivienne a Boston street artist’s drawing of the ducklings.

We did goto the Blue Hill festival.  The Cabin Dogs were the last band to play.  They got the crowd up and moving. A great evening.

Furthur down the coast is Searsport.  In the early 80s we rented a older,  in need of repair house, across railroad tracks on a small spit of land overlooking Penobscot Bay. I recall raising a flag with Jen most mornings, walks, touring the local seaport museum, and drives exploring the rocky coast and other towns.

My real introduction to the Maine Coast came in 1974 when I did a week of photography  at the Maine Photographic Workshops.  They has been just established in Rockport by David Lyman.  The workshop I attended was a bit of Outward Bound.  We were given a sheet of plastic and showed how to construct a shelter in the wild.  Sure!  Our photography instructor was, Bill  Curtsinger, a contract photographer with National Geographic.  About 12 of us sailed with Bill  and a ship’s Captain to an island where we established camp. Food was provided.  The first night I tried to sleep under my plastic and a rock outcrop.  It was very uncomfortable.  The second and subsequent nights I slept on the sailboat after making friends with the Captain over a bottle of Hennessey’s Cognac.

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For a week, Bill opened our eyes (certainly mine)  to composition and light.  Using ektagraphic slide film (we could develop this at labs in Rockport) we shot sunrise and sunset (bracketing), passing sail boats, shore lines, and each other.  But most images were nature — rock formations, individual stones, trees, plants, sea shells, life in tidal pools, barnacles and birds.  We used telephoto and wide angel lenses.  I recall Bruce had an 18mm lens he shared.  For geographic photographers, film was cheap. Shoot, shoot and shoot more.  Bill wasn’t much older than me, in his late twenties.  His speciality was underwater photography.   Over meals and evening campfires we talked photography.  Bill’s  comment that he would only have so many shoots in his career has always stuck with me.

After 5 days on the island, we returned to Rockport, rooms to sleep and eat in and  labs to develop our film.  The last day we sat around a slide projector, sharing and critiquing our work.  It was quite an experience, so I returned to the Maine Photographic Workshops the following summer.

In 1975, I took two workshops.   The first was with National Geographic staff photographer, Bruce Dale.  The difference between staff and contract photographers is that staff photographers are paid a flat salary for all their work.  Contract photographers retain rights to photographs not used by the magazine and are paid based on what is used.   Interestingly according to Curtsinger/Dale photographers at Geographic headquarters got the basement; writers were upstairs.  Bruce looked at my portfolio and said I needed to learn to photograph people.  So I did.  I spent several days  in Rockland on the street, photographing people.

My next workshop with Ernst Haas presented different challenges.  The first full day, we sat in a studio and discussed color.  Haas said there should be a nail at the shutter — push when you know it is  a  photo you really need to take.    So different from the National Geographic philosophy, shoot, shoot, shoot.  One morning, with Haas we went early morning to a typical rural Maine fair.  Carnival attractions, live stock, and people filled our frames.  Focus, light and color.  Forty years later the Maine Photographic Workshops offer college credit, video, digital, and  a colorful catalog of  courses.  I suspect I experienced its most exciting years.

At least one year we took a sail out of Rockland.  Only a day trip but I’m adding to my new to-do list a Maine Windjammer cruise.  On day trips along the coast, we passed through or visited Friendship, Damariscotta,  Wiscasset, and other coastal towns.  I  always  liked those with fishing or lobstering fleets.

Portland.  Spent several overnights there, on our way north or as a destination.  The harbor area is gentrified — quaint shops and restaurants.  On our last visit, a few years ago,  I made reservations at Hugo’s.  As  we later learned Hugo’s was the first restaurant on Portland’s foodie map but now next door was the innovative and  hip, Eventide  Oyster Company. Unfortunately, we were stuck with our Hugo reservation and a price fixe menu; no openings at Eventide.  The next night we ate at Street and Company — a known favorite.  We’ve only been in Portland for two night visits.  Not enough  time to explore more than the historic harbor.  We need to revisit.

We’ve driven Route 1 south of Boston to Portland many times.  My first encounter with lobster  was at a  roadside stand — I don’t think I ever had it before that.  Crabs maybe; not lobster.  Delicious — fresh lobster, corn and baked potato — I was captured. But south of Portland, there was too much traffic, too much Route 1 landscape despite a touch of Maine.  We need to do more exploring  along the Maine coast and hopefully will visit friends who have a summer house on Matinicus island.

For now I’ll blog down coastal Massachusetts.

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