THE STREET JOURNAL

Standard

by Tom H. Brooks 3

24/7….anywhere, anytime…..

________________
 
“The Messiah will only come when he is no longer needed.” 
 
Franz Kafka
________________
 
“I may get so drunk that I`ll have to crawl,
but by God, I`ll crawl like a Marine.”
 
( I think this is from a t-shirt I had )
________________
 
“Only he who is dark with the night
 shall wake with the dawn.”
 
Kahlil Gibran
“The Prophet”
________________
 
“Half of what I say is meaningless,
but I say it so that the other half may reach you.”
 
Kahlil Gibran
“Sand and Foam”
________________
 
“The true harvest of my daily life is somewhat as intangible
and indescribable as the tints of morning or evening.  It is
a little stardust caught, a segment of the rainbow which I have clutched.”
 
Henry David Thoreau
________________
 
“I want to tell you
the ocean knows this;
that life in its jewel boxes
is endless as the sand,
impossible to count,
pure…
 
I am nothing but the empty net
which has gone on ahead
of human eyes, dead in those darknesses,
of fingers accustomed to the triangle,
longitudes
on the timid globe of an orange.
 
I walked around as you do
investigating the endless star,
and in my net, during the night,
I woke up naked,
the only thing caught,
a fish trapped inside the wind.”
 
Pablo Neruda
__________________________
 
“The conclusion of a masterpiece, if I were to attain this, would be death.”
 
Salvador Dali
__________________________
 
“God was here but he left early.”
 
Shaw
__________________________
 
2001- A couple of days before Halloween….
 
The car is gone; I crashed it, or rather, some jackass hit me and totalled my maroon-colored convertible Dodge Shadow.  It is no more.
So I bought a bus pass for the RTD, the rough, tough and dangerous.  Now I am riding around the metropolis aimlessly on the buses
from Beverly Hills to the ghettos.  I sit and stare out the windows and try to figure out how it all came to this.  I familiarize myself with
the routes and times, I see the city from the public transportation side of things rather than from a car.  Interesting perspective.  And
I can read on the bus.  I am forced to walk longer distances which doesn`t bother me.  It is all very fascinating but I like NYC subways
better.  I am now looking for a job.  I will work 60 hours a week, save mass amounts of money and leave the country and live fat elsewhere.
Maybe you can find me in Thailand or the Philippines.   ( This may be somewhat prescient on my part.  However, ME working 60 fucking hours? HA!
I did that once in my life in New York and it sucked ass.)
___________________________
STILL HERE
___________________________
 
“And I shall give him the morning star…”
 
The Book of Revelation
___________________________
 
“I`ve seen half a zillion girls and haven`t spoken to a single one of them…”
 
Soul Coughing        ( Of course, this isn`t me…)
___________________________
 
“Where were they going without even knowing the WAY?”
___________________________
 
“Water, water
everywhere,
nor any drop to drink…”
 
Samuel Taylor Coleridge
___________________________
 
10/31/2001~~~~~almost empty streets and shopping malls~~~post 9/11 hysteria
 
Despite numerous terrorist threats (or so they say), rumors and/or urban legends in the making, I sit
in the Beverly Center at 2pm and write this.  Indeed, there is a strange feeling in the air, a palpable,
crackling tension, an electrical undercurrent of fear that lies beneath surface appearances.  And this
is just a microcosm of the vast outside world of America and the world that lies in fearful waiting
for the next tragic disaster to befall us somewhere.  But where…and when?  Traffic was light today
and the feeling is of anticipation.  I felt irresistibly drawn here today and I can`t figure out why.  I usually
hate malls.  Was it the fates calling me to my untimely death?  Was it a personal dare, an experiment
in how far I will go?  Was it pure idiocy?  Well, if I don`t get blown up or anthraxed, we can read this
later and all have a good laugh.    (The Grove did not yet exist at this time.  All of America was in a kind
of hysterical frenzy after the planes slammed into the World Trade Center in New York, buildings which,
by the way, I have seen up close and personal and been to the top of them.  I actually know a guy in
New Jersey who was supposed to work that fateful day in one of the towers but called in sick because
of a hangover after partying with his brother and some friends in Seaside Heights, New Jersey.  Alcoholism
saved his life; he worked on the 82nd floor.)
_______________________________
 
I have been told that I take photos of the strangest things and objects, people and places.  Odd subject matter;
ruins, trash, skid row, dramatic faces, gutters.  They are abstract and seemingly pointless.  Sometimes they
are complex and multi-layered.  Every photo has a reason, a story behind it and how I got there.  The muse
takes hold and my heart and soul must listen.  I cannot help it.  It is an obsession.  It is all I am meant to do.
I focus and shoot, an instrument of higher forces at work, and at the same time, a being of my own creation.
I am a machine, self-invented with a soul that defies description.  I continue to record, to write, to paint.  It cannot
be stopped.  I compile the words of others, I write my own, I give visual images to posterity.  My purpose becomes
clear.  My intentions, my meaning, becomes focused…evolved…understood–at least to the degree that things
like this can be realized.  I must find a way to finance this most important of endeavors, because my purpose
could not possibly be elsewhere, as my every waking moment is consumed by this passion for travel and wandering
on the edge, for beauty and creation and the thrill I feel when doing these things.  This life is a bizarre and
incomprehensible thing. My reason for being alive lies well beyond the tiny, enclosed and restricting parameters
of this short life by which we are bound and gagged.  My voice will speak from beyond the grave, beyond time,
and beyond reason.  That`s just how it is.  I`m just saying…( 14 years later, and if anything, I`m worse than ever…I can`t stop…)
______________________________
 
I just walked by a cute little Mexican boy dressed up as a miniature Batman in his mother`s arms, and I couldn`t help but smile.
An older man at the bus stop nearby noticed this and said in an unmistakable Brooklyn accent, “Those were the days, huh?”
I agreed and smiling, went on my way.
______________________________
 
SO MANY fucking cops today!  They are everywhere…I didn`t know we had this many of them.
ESTADO DE POLICIA!
______________________________
 
A glittering diamond
shines
through a misty veil
and describes
wavering 
shadows through my heart
 
A million names 
and faces 
call to me
across the years
beyond time–
their whispering
and wisdom
and foolishness
are lost
on a steady breeze
 
And then
the Silence
becomes a song
unto itself
solving puzzles
unlocking doors
speaking volumes
streaming
water and color
beyond description
beyond love
beyond words…
 
11/05/01
_____________________________
 
We spend half our lives worrying about other people and what they are thinking about us,
when the fact is, they are spending their time doing the same thing, worrying about what
we are thinking about them.  It`s all kind of self-defeating and sad.  Do you think there 
might be a lack of communication here?
_____________________________
 
IMAGES
_____________________________
 
Almost everyone has their own version, their own concept of that which could be called a `higher state of mind` or `enlightenment`.  Whether it be religious, spiritual, philosophical,
or just plain good living doesn`t really matter.  To reach this Nirvana, they say, there are many paths.  Even the old Bible says it in its own metaphorical way, `in my Father`s house,
there are many rooms.`  Of all the ways and paths, I have found many dead ends, but I feel I am getting closer.  There is always a way around the obstacles.  I am in a dark tunnel,
very smothering at times but there is air ahead, a light just out of sight around a curve.  A voice calls to me, a space is there for me, infinite, full of light…
In this life, we must remember to enjoy ourselves the best ways we know.  Do not live in fear or in a prudent world of excessive morals and pious boredom.  Be nice, have good morals
but don`t let them stop you from having a good time.  Keep them in check as you should with your vices.  Every now and then lose control.  Go crazy.  Then, even out.  Be reasonable,
have fun, smile, live, and for fuck`s sake, lighten up!  Remember to always laugh, because it truly is the language of the soul letting loose.  A smile given is a thousand received
and the light shines on all those with benevolent souls and open hearts.    (I must have thought I was some kind of spiritual guru while writing this one….)
_____________________________
 
“Sittin` in the morning sun
I`ll be sitting when the evening comes
watching the ships roll in
then I watch `em roll away again…
looks like nothing`s gonna come my way
everything remains the same
sittin` here restin` my bones
and this loneliness won`t leave me alone
2000 miles I roamed
just to make this dock my home
Just a sittin` on the dock of the bay
wastin` time…”
 
Otis Redding
_____________________________
 
Always remember the Chevron station at the corner
of Washington and La Brea………you know why….
( Ha!  This one is funny.  I had a delayed reaction on what the hell
I was talking about here.  This was before medical marijuana.  I used
to go over there sometimes to meet this cool black homeboy from
the hood that used to hook me up with some sick chronic.  I met him
through an ex-Blood gang member I used to work with at Red Lobster.  He had 5 gunshot
wounds on his arms and shoulders.  I guess it was good to write these
seemingly unimportant things down because otherwise I would have forgotten.)
_____________________________
 
Walking south on La Brea through an area that would be called “the ghetto” by most people.
I met every type of person on this walk.  Maybe the variety factor is a little higher but a lot
of the people are every bit as nice, if not A LOT nicer than those types you`d meet in say…
Beverly Hills;  you know–the high & mighty, the snobs, the too good to smile types.  Give me
your lively people, your drunks and junkies, your free spirits and artists, the whores and freaks,
anytime over those stiffs on the other side of town. Down here, they may sometimes be thieves but they
are a lot more honest about who they are than the snooty assholes who are always trying
to impress somebody with their Italian shoes or their Rolex watches or their Armani suits.
As the immortal Bukowski once said, “I`M MORE INTERESTED IN PERVERTS THAN SAINTS.”
_____________________________
 
In NYC, you walk everywhere and it seems normal.  But here in LA, those on the street become a sidewalk
freakshow to the Jaguars and Benzos that parade by from the freeway.  I know; I`ve been on both sides
of the fence, from one end of the spectrum to the other.  I`ve heard many opinions and I`ve many of my own.
I know that right now I must look like a goddamned wino junkie sitting here on the sidewalk scribbling at
La Brea and Venice Blvd.  Maybe I should go lay in the gutter and give `em what they wanna see…
_____________________________
 
When I`m walking down the street faster than automobile traffic is moving, I feel happy without my car.
When I hear someone riding the car horn relentlessly in overheated road rage and I`m on foot, I smile.
When I think of insurance and payments and registration and DMV visits and coffee-guzzling, donut-munching
pigs, I laugh.  I find myself strolling through the filth and beauty fiercely inspired and in a state of bliss.
_____________________________
 
I do believe that in a day or two, I will embark on a Los Angeles adventure that few people if any have ever taken before.  I will get up early,
really early, and will take buses and trains without having any true idea of where I`m going or how I`ll get there.  Just take my Metro Pass,
jump on and ride.  I might make my way towards Long Beach and San Pedro, camping out at night somewhere by the ocean and then
continuing homeward by the coastal bus routes the following day.  Eventually, I will reach Santa Monica and the 24 hour bus #20 that will take me
back home.  Why do I do these strange things?  A cool breeze blowing answers the question for me.
_____________________________
 
There are SO MANY people talking to themselves nowadays, that I can`t tell if they are on their little phone headsets or if they`re just plain crazy,
like me.  LA is so `connected` that you can talk on the phone with the Prime Minister of Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur while you`re reading
the TV guide on the shitter.  Now THAT`S communication, baby….
_____________________________
 
“Exile and the Kingdom”
_____________________________
 
“A Man on the Move, and just sick enough to be totally confident…”
 
Hunter S. Thompson
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”  ( I first read this masterpiece in like 1987…WAY BEFORE THE MOVIE)
_____________________________
 
“Even the crookedest journey is the way home.”
_____________________________
 
“Only he who loses his way
a thousand times
shall have a homecoming.”
 
Kahlil Gibran
_____________________________
 
“I am alone
among rickety substances,
the rain falls upon me
and it seems like me,
like me with its madness
alone in the dead world,
rejected as it falls
and without persistent shape.”
 
Pablo Neruda
_____________________________
 
I just ran full speed down the road for a quarter of a mile to try to catch a bus only
to see a sign NOT IN SERVICE, as it pulled away…
_____________________________
 
Sometimes there is something sad about the city in the early morning; the way the sun shines
through the smoggy haze, casting dirty shadows across the stained sidewalks; the way the strangled
light intensifies both ugliness and beauty, mostly the former; the trash and filth is scattered across
every inch of the city sprawl.  It`s sad the way the street people awaken from their cardboard boxes
and newspapers and shuffle through the streets like the undead–a netherworld of zombies and
withered flesh.  It`s sad the way the little children with grimy faces and big eyes stare at me
as they stumble along beside their 16-year-old mothers.  The bus drivers are angry and insane and 
the faces I see are so often depressed and tired.  They seem to be clinging by a thread, every
one of them.  It`s sad the way people yell at each other in the morning streets; that`s no way
to start your day.  And the car horns, well, that`s just ridiculous–a cacophony of overwhelming
noise pollution.  It`s sad the way we all struggle uphill, never knowing for sure exactly what
it is we want, what we`re looking for.  I sit downtown, here in Los Angeles, at 6th Street and Main
at the end of the world and I think of you and I and all of us…..and I feel……..sad.
_____________________________
 
OF COURSE WE ARE HAPPY
CAN`T YOU SEE OUR HAPPY SMILES?
_____________________________
 
“The interplay of opposites is the engine that runs the universe.”
 
Tom Robbins
_____________________________
 
“Learn to handle hot things.
 Keep your knives sharp.
 And above all, have a good time.”
 
Julia Child            (I think she was talking about cooking, but it makes sense in so many ways.)
_____________________________
 
“I want God, I want poetry.
I want danger, I want freedom.
I want goodness, I want sin.”
 
Aldous Huxley
_____________________________
 
“Thirsty and Miserable….always wanting MORE!!”
 
Black Flag
_____________________________
 
“Sometimes naked
sometimes mad
Now the scholar
Now the fool
Thus they appear on the Earth;
The Free men…”
 
Hindu Verse
_____________________________
 
11/08/01
 
It`s weird the way trains, at least the ones I`ve been on in American cities, always pass through the most decrepit urban wastelands imaginable.
I remember the New Jersey trains, the New York trains, the ones through Maryland and Delaware.  Now I ride through the belly of the beast, 
Downtown LA, south….Vernon, Watts, Compton–a wasteland of junkyards and trash and burned-out cars.  I`m surrounded by gang graffiti and 
spiked fences with barbed wire and chemical tanks and gutted warehouses and ugly brown fields with oil rigs pumping away.  I`m getting off
in Wilmington.  I always remember sometimes going with my dad to karate movies in Wilmington and one time seeing a guy walking down the street with a baseball
bat with a nasty looking spike or nail driven through the business end of it.  So then, I thought I`d revisit this little corner of Shangri-La.  Danger
is in the air.  I haven`t been here in at least 25 years, since seeing those movies with dad and one of my karate teachers, Glen.  I remember that the
movies were filled with hot naked Asian girls (do you see a pattern here?) and that after the movie we would go to Joe Jost`s Bar and Grill in 
Long Beach and they would drink beer(and I would get a sip) but mostly ginger ale for me and pickled eggs and pretzels…
 
I got off at a random stop and asked some various characters until I found my way to 1st street in the LBC and caught the LA Dot Bus #142
over the bridges to San Pedro, Ports O` Call.  After having journeyed through the badlands and getting lost numerous times, I find myself
harborside in San Pedro, watching the still water and the ships and docks.  Despite all my various worries and problems, I am very happy 
at this moment.  Isn`t that all we`re reaching for….all that MATTERS?  Even when LA is my universe, I still find it fascinating, to wander
here and there aimlessly,  to go to fancy clubs at night and try to blend in with the high rollers and then to mingle amongst the denizens of the
dirtiest backstreets.  Top to bottom and back up again, there is no stopping this madness.  A huge white seagull, only 5 feet away on a rail,
stares directly at me with piercing, yellow-golden eyes and screams his message.  A red tugboat rumbles by.  Led Zeppelin is playing on 
a transistor radio.  The smell of fish, the ocean, oil, beer…permeates the air.  Conversations nearby in Spanish and English.  A distant ship is 
sounding its horn.  The breeze whispers through the jungle of my tangled heart.  The gull watches me write this for you….
_____________________________
 
“One day you`ll look to see I`m gone,
for tomorrow may rain so…
I`ll follow the sun…”
 
The Beatles
_____________________________
 
So…tonight I sleep on the docks…
_____________________________
 
Footsteps
on creaking wood
docks   tar    salt-air
enveloping mist
beacons of light
flashing
like eyes
in the darkness
Distant industry
A huge tanker ship
a shadow 
within shadows
moving
through
the heart of the night
 
2am Ports O`Call campout
11/9/01
_____________________________
 
I`M SO GLAD TO BE CRAZY
_____________________________
 
“Some people never go crazy.
What truly horrible lives they must lead…”
 
Charles Bukowski
_____________________________
 
“I lost my socks….so, I called information….
she said, `they`re behind the couch…`
She was right.”
 
Stephen Wright
_____________________________
 
Dawn at the docks…
later, after I woke up, I found out that back in the 1930`s San Pedro was called “Gateway to the Orient”
and a place called Brighton Beach on Terminal Island was a hot vacation spot for inlanders.  It is now 
all industry and junkyards and a Navy Shipyard on Terminal Island.
____________________________
 
“Everlong
I`ve been waiting here for you
Breathe out
so I can breathe you in
and I wonder
when I sing along with you
if everything could always be this real forever,
if anything could ever be this good again,
the only thing I`ll ever ask of you,
you gotta promise not to stop when I say when…”
 
Dave Grohl   The Foo Fighters
____________________________
 
In Egyptian astrology my sign is Anubis, god of the dead.  In the guise of a roaming dog, he explores every cemetery and every dark place,
fulfilling his duty of a sacred search for unattended souls.  They say those born under this sign are clever and full of compassion but they
harbor a presence of darkness.  With this realistic understanding of darkness, their character is deeply ambivalent and sometimes fatalistic.
____________________________
 
“There will be an answer….
 LET IT BE…”
 
Lennon, McCartney
____________________________
 
“That`s the way the mind works: the human brain is genetically disposed toward organization, yet if not tightly controlled, will link one image or
fragment to another on the flimsiest of pretense and in the most free-wheeling manner, as if it takes a kind of organic pleasure in creative
association without regard for logic or chronological sequence.”
 
Tom Robbins
“Fierce Invalids Home from Hot Climates”
____________________________
 
How did you know I was looking at you if you weren`t looking at me too?
____________________________
 
“STOP LOOKING AT ME SWAN!”
____________________________
 
Fishing Boat names at Fisherman`s Wharf, San Pedro, California:
 
Mary Louise
Jenny Lynne
Pamela Rose
Misty Moon
Blazer ll
Mello Boy
Pioneer
Tom & Gerry
Maria T
New Sunbeam
Endurance
Fiona D`Mare
 
and a tugboat named, Millennium Star
____________________________
 
It is sunset, 11/9/01
 
I have decided to do something totally insane.  I am going to walk all night over the Palos Verdes Peninsula and sleep 
tomorrow morning in Redondo`s Rat Beach.  Wish me luck and you`ll be hearing from me tomorrow for it will probably
be too dark to write out there in the night fields.      But first, I`m going to fuel up at Wienerschnitzel.
____________________________
 
TOO DAMN FAR …even for me.  I should`ve brought my skateboard.  Alright, so I bailed out–instead, I took the Metro
Bus 205 down Western and the 232 to Redondo Beach.  Beer and sleep in Malaga Cove.  On the way there, I walked
down my childhood street, Paseo de Gracia at night, smelling the firewood on the night air–autumn–the coming of winter;
I am taken back in time.
____________________________
 
The city used to seem endless…
Now, it seems so much smaller.
____________________________
 
A passing snippet of conversation overheard in Redondo;
“We`ve gotta get out more often…you spend far too much time with your wife lately.”
____________________________
 
Dawn, 11/10/01
 
Awoke to the crashing of waves as I have , every hour on the hour, all through the long cold night.  Beautiful moon hanging in the sky,
starry, forbidding, COLD.  It has been a grand adventure.
____________________________
 
I woke up and performed one of my strange rituals that I do from time to time.  I abandoned one of my personal items that I`ve had for a long
time in a beautiful place as a sign of my passing.  I tossed my old navy-blue ski cap beanie that says LOST on it into the ocean.  I have
had this for 10 years or more since Mission Beach, San Diego.
 
As I was sitting watching the morning light, I remembered something about last night (the extreme high tides this morning jogged my memory).  
It was a mega-low tide…the beach seemed like it was 400 yards wide and it seemed as if the ocean had receded for a tidal wave or something.
The crescent curve of the coastal light was reflected in the field of wet sand and the giant heaps of seaweed strewn all about.  Low tide, shore-pounding
waves, night insects….all this gave a constant symphony and roar within my thoughts as I watched the moon rise over the palisades like a shining jewel.
 
As I said before, it was a cold night and it is a cold morning.  I watched the surfers out in the water at Burnout where I used to surf 16 years ago.
An old man walked by in a blue speedo and walked into the frigid ocean and swam off into the distance.  The water is 58 degrees and even the 
surfers are wearing wetsuits.  If I move to Hawaii someday, I will take up surfing again.  As I stand there, I notice a very distinct line on the ocean,
to my left–sunlight; to my right–fog.  Suddenly a lovable golden retriever dog runs up to me out of the mist, panting, tail wagging, great disposition.
Minutes later, the sun is gone, the fog has moved in and I am wrapped in a cloak of mist.  As I walk through Redondo, I see so many familiar 
faces from yesteryear….they never left.  
 
10am  Avenue D
Nap time in the reappearing light….sea spray flying across the face of the sun.
I started thinking how funny it was to be sleeping out by the ocean like a hobo and calling it “camping”, so I began laughing hysterically.
 
Throughout the day, I walk through the blazing white sunlight, steadily north along the coast.  Santa Monica Bay seems much larger on foot.
It is 1pm and I am in Hermosa Beach plodding towards Venice where I can catch a bus inland again.  My journey has been of epic proportions
here within this vast metropolis.  I have wandered the ghettos, the harbors, the beaches….I`ve slept two nights outside like a bum, lived like
a nomad, just to show myself that I could (although, I admit I like having a home base).  
 
My heart is tangled seaweed
cast upon a desolate shore 
of discontent
 
Sometimes
in a sea of bliss 
I float and sway
with the wind and tides
 
But then I am ripped up
by stormy weather
and brutally thrown
on a littered shore
and left to dry up and wither
under an unforgiving sun.
 
Well, in the end, I really did walk all the way up the coast from Redondo Beach to Venice, a mere 14 miles along the sand barefoot.
Try it for yourself sometime.
__________________________________
 
“Rivers were the primal highways of life.  From the beginning of time, they had borne men`s dreams and in their lovely rush to elsewhere, fed our wanderlust,
mimicked our arteries, and charmed our imaginations, in a way the static pond or vast and savage ocean never could.  Rivers had transported entire cultures,
absorbed the tears of vanquished races, and propelled those foams that would impregnate future realms.  Everywhere damned and defiled, they cast modern
man`s witless reflection back at him, and went on singing the world`s inexhaustible song.”
 
Tom Robbins
__________________________________
 
“It has become a grotesque cliche of modern history that every rebel success embodies a duplication of establishment tactics, which means that every rebellion,
no matter how successful, is ultimately a failure in that it perpetuates rather than transcending the meanness of man, and in that those innocents who manage
to survive its bombardments will later be strangled by its red tape.”
 
Tom Robbins
__________________________________
 
Veteran`s Day Story
 
So, I was at a store on Washington after buying some herb.  Of course, I was buying beer, and suddenly the Asian owner just jumped over the counter and ran out of the store full speed 
and ripped open a bag from a black girl, maybe 30 years old.  He found a beer that had somehow fallen into her bag while her five friends had disrupted the rest of the store.  Seems
like an awful lot of trouble for one stinking beer.  A Mexican guy from the back of the store (stock boy?) had previously come up and whispered in the owner`s ear and he just took off.
It was spectacular.  Lots of screaming and yelling on both sides.  Chaos….she made a huge scene, called him a racist, said she had the beer when she came in, the whole thing.  I have
to side with the owner on this one because I could tell they were up to something and the Mexican dude was back in the refrigerator so he surely saw something.  A yelling match
ensued but I still managed to buy my beer and get the hell outta there before the police showed up.  I was holding a big bag of mota in a black neighborhood so I didn`t need any
unnecessary attention from the PO-lice.  Just another love your brothers and sisters episode in the City of Angels, this lovely Utopia in which we live….
__________________________________
 
Death is our only certainty in this life
and that alone should give you a nice sense of security…
 
THB3

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s