September 26, 2018
#5 Marceline the Murder Queen – Sports
This week’s episode is a little different. I sat down with Nicole Morgan aka Marceline the Murder Queen. She’s a roller derby girl based in Austin, TX. She calls herself a “high bottom”, which makes me laugh every time I hear it. She tried a bunch of different ways to moderate her drinking, including putting washi tape on the bottles to keep track of her drinking, but finally decided that moderation wasn’t for her. She comes from a family in recovery, her parents even met in rehab! That’s a crazy story I’ll let you hear from her. Honestly, I wanted to talk to her because I heard roller derby was a party scene and thought it would be hard to be sober there.
I was way wrong. They’re super supportive and even make mocktails and sober shots at the after parties to make everyone feel involved.
She talks about her parents falling off the wagon and explains roller derby to me. We also talk about the mindfulness trend and its effect on party culture. I hope you enjoy it!
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KiKi Maroon: Hi! Welcome to Clown, Interrupted with KiKi Maroon. I hope you’re all doing well. I’m…. still crazy.
Okay, since we last talked about dating a couple of weeks ago, I started doing it more. It’s the worst! I’m just going to delete Bumble. I hate it, it’s not for me. I couldn’t even find a regular picture to use as my profile. They’re all stage shots or bikini photoshoots, and while I’m sure that would get me plenty of men to choose from… I don’t want to use those. I feel like that would absolutely attract the wrong kind of guy.
I know this app is not for me because I spent like an hour trying to Photoshop my clown nose out of one of my pictures so that I would look like a normal girl. I really wish that was a joke, but it’s not. Not even a little bit. So yeah, I’m deleting it.
This week’s episode is a little different. I sat down with Nicole Morgan AKA Marceline the Murder Queen. She is a roller derby girl based in Austin, Texas. She calls herself a “high bottom,” which makes me laugh every time I hear it. It’s a real phrase though, I know that.
She tried a bunch of different ways to moderate her drinking, including putting washi tape on the bottles to keep track of her drinking. I find that so perfectly Pinterest! She finally decided that moderation wasn’t working for her.
She comes from a family in recovery – her parents even met in rehab! That’s a crazy story I will let her tell you. Honestly, I wanted to talk to her because I heard that roller derby was a super “party scene” and I thought it would be hard to be sober there. Apparently, I was way wrong. They are super supportive of her and even make mocktails and sober shots at the after-parties to make everyone feel involved. I did NOT expect that. My assumption was that everyone everywhere sucks, and are terrible assholes who will physically pour whiskey on your closed mouth to try and get you to take a drink. Yeah, that’s a real thing that happened to me. Comedians are assholes.
Anyway, she talks about her parents falling off the wagon and explains roller derby to me. I’ve never seen a game and I didn’t even know the rules. We also talked about the mindfulness trend and its effect on party culture, which I find super interesting. I hope you enjoy it. Here’s me and Marceline the Murder Queen.
[Theme song: “Last Call” provided by The Last Domino]
Nicole Morgan: There definitely is a lot of partying, like after the bout (roller derby match), everyone went to the after-party this weekend. Most people are doing shots and stuff like that. But everyone’s really respectful of people who don’t drink. One of the things about this last bout that they always do is they have a purple drink, because it’s a blue team and a pink team. So together it makes purple!
KiKi Maroon: Oh, that’s cute.
Nicole Morgan: But they made special sober shots for some of us. It was just grape soda. They really go out of their way to make sure that I’m also included somehow.
KiKi Maroon: That’s amazing!
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, they’re really respectful of it.
KiKi Maroon: Maybe I need to move to Austin because this is crazy talk to me.
Nicole Morgan: You should! I never feel pressured.
KiKi Maroon: So how long have you been doing derby?
Nicole Morgan: Close to two years… at the end of August, it will be two years officially since I strapped on skates for the first time.
KiKi Maroon: But were you a big fan? What got you into it?
Nicole Morgan: I had never even seen derby then actually. I started just because I was like, “This sounds like a good form of exercise.” I just wanted something that was going to be exciting and not boring. So, I just decided that I wanted to learn how to skate. I started taking the skate lessons, literally just for exercise. I still had not seen a bout, probably until six months after I started learning how to skate. Then I went and I was like, “That was cool but looked really scary. I will never do that.”
KiKi Maroon: Yeah, I’ve only seen pictures. All I’ve seen is people smashing into each other, so it looks a little terrifying.
Nicole Morgan: There are fights – I didn’t know that sometimes, they’re not real fights. But other times, they are real fights. But mostly, it’s your friends and you’re just fighting your friends, so it’s play-fighting. But I was just like, “They look so tough, I could never do that.”
KiKi Maroon: What percentage would you say is play-fighting? Because I’m very competitive and I don’t think I would be capable of play-fighting. I think it would start out, go for a couple of seconds, and then I would be angry.
Nicole Morgan: I think there is that – that it’s your friends, so you’re just like, “Oh, we’re going to play around. But actually, I want to beat them.” I don’t know. Percentage-wise, probably half of them are like, “Oh, I’m going to take you down.” But then there are other times where someone just takes a girl down and you’re like, “Oh, that was not fake.”
KiKi Maroon: Oh yes. I’m excited to see this. So, you said you’ve been doing it for like two years now. It looks like it becomes this huge part of people’s lives, in my experience watching it. Like people get really into it, and I was actually just telling my friend Kim that I’ve heard people be like, “Oh yeah, I’m going to church tonight.” When they’re actually talking about derby.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah.
KiKi Maroon: So what has it done for you?
Nicole Morgan: Like I said, initially I was like, “There’s no way I could do this. I’m not tough enough.” I’m an accountant by day. It just didn’t seem like something that was natural for me. But then, we started hitting each other and I was like, “Oh my God, I’m capable of so much more than I actually think that I am.” So, it did change my life in that way because I was like, “Oh my God, I can do things that I told myself I could never do. You know what? I’m going to do this for real. I want to try and get on a team.” It just completely takes over your life because you started making friends with people.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. I like stuff like that. I’ve had friends who went mountain climbing, or started doing stuff like that, where it’s like you’re pushing yourself past where you think you should physically stop. Once you do that one time, you start to question all the other things that you assume are limitations and it’s so wonderful. I don’t do any of those things now, I have a broken back.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, maybe not derby for you.
KiKi Maroon: So how long have you been sober?
Nicole Morgan: October 29th, 2015 – that’s my sobriety date. Initially, I got sober, did a lot of the stuff that they tell you to do, the self-care stuff. It’s lots of meditation and taking baths and lots of routines and it got very boring. I was like, “Okay, I literally need more in my life. I don’t want to have kids, I like living in Austin so I don’t want to move. I’m fine in my job, but I don’t care to move up.” It’s like nothing was interesting on the horizon, and so that’s part of why I was like, “Well, I want to try something new.” Learning how to skate: 1) it was exercise, but 2) I was like, “Oh, well that’s a cool new thing to learn.” I just needed something more.
KiKi Maroon: That makes so much sense to me. Actually, I’ve told friends who have asked me about not drinking, that an accidental side effect is that I’m doing so many more activities! I actually just went snorkeling, I want to get my scuba license now, I want to go skydiving. I think that previously if I was bored, the default was always, “Oh, I’m going to go to whatever bar.” So I always had an easy default, and now that the default is not an option, I’m like, “But I don’t want to be boring!”
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, exactly. That’s the number one thing you realize, is how much time you have. I’m just like, “Jesus Christ, did I really spend that much time drinking?!” [When you’re drinking,] you’re kind of doing things that are fun. You’re like, maybe drinking while you play games or something. But it’s like you feel that hole in yourself still, because it’s not really fun.
KiKi Maroon: Days are long!
Nicole Morgan: Yes.
KiKi Maroon: Days are so long when you’re not drinking the whole day.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah. In the beginning that was so hard. I would have projects like knitting or sewing and I just felt like I was going from one thing to the other, because I was like, “There’s too much time in a day.” I don’t know what to do with myself.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. I definitely had that, which was part of my fear. I think honestly, even before I quit drinking, I was like, “But I’m going to be so boring then. I don’t want that! [Drinking] is part of my life.” This is what I so identified with, it was part of my persona. And there is that feeling of, “I don’t want to be a boring person.” So, I had to take it to the way other extreme in order to incorporate this into my life. I totally connect with what you’re saying.
Nicole Morgan: The thing that I think is interesting, though I realized after, is most of the stuff that I did while I was drinking was extremely boring.
KiKi Maroon: Oh, yeah. Absolutely.
Nicole Morgan: That’s why you do it. You have to drink because it’s not fun, and so it’s like you can actually do fun things if you’re not drinking.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah, it definitely makes sitting tolerable – that’s what sitting at a bar is. You are sitting and staring and suddenly this is an adventure.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah. Or being at a party where you feel awkward and you don’t know who to talk to. It’s like you have to drink to feel like you don’t want to leave.
KiKi Maroon: Andy Huggins (comedian and friend; see Episode 1), he said one of the funniest things to me. I asked, “Was it weird for you at parties at first, where you didn’t want to be the sober guy?” And he was like, “Oh no. I always wanted to leave the parties. Now I had the excuse, ‘Oh, it’s getting too crazy, guys.’ I just didn’t want to be there.”
Nicole Morgan: Haha yeah, like “I’m just standing up for myself. This isn’t good for me…”
KiKi Maroon: Haha! Well, I have to be honest, I thought that the derby lifestyle – might be why you got out [of drinking]. So did you have a rock bottom or what was going on that you were drinking so much if it wasn’t derby?
Nicole Morgan: I would say I was very “high bottom” (quit before it got too bad aka “my rock bottom was not that low). I never had any legal issues or anything like that. Even when I told my partner initially, “I think I might have a problem.” He literally laughed, not in a mean way, but like, “Oh no, don’t you worry, you’re fine. You just get a little carried away sometimes.” Because I tended to binge drink, I would be like, “Oh, I’m so good, I didn’t drink all week long.” And then the second you know that you can drink it would be, “Okay, well I’m going to have at least two bottles of champagne by myself.” And it was that self-hatred that you would have the next morning. You’re just like, “Why do I keep doing this?” I just got so sick of doing that constantly. I needed something more in my life. “This is not fulfilling, this is all I feel like I do.”
KiKi Maroon: Okay. So you’re kind of making me think about teachers, where they’ll tell you that during the week, it’s all about focus and work. And then they don’t remember the weekends.
Nicole Morgan: Yes. Essentially that exact same thing. I think nobody at my work would have ever known anything. I was super high-functioning. I have a lot of perfectionist tendencies. So drinking on the weekends was the only time to actually feel like, “Oh, I don’t have to be so perfect.”
KiKi Maroon: Yes. That makes sense to me.
Nicole Morgan: I just really felt – it sounds so corny – like not living my authentic self or something. I felt like two totally different people. One who was so uptight and had everything together. And then the other one, just hating myself, being completely blackout drunk. Like you said, once you get past a certain point and you’re going to blackout every single time, you’re in trouble.
KiKi Maroon: That’s the goal of drinking at that point.
Nicole Morgan: Yes, and I still don’t understand people who that’s not their goal. That confuses me.
KiKi Maroon: I don’t get the, “Oh, but you can have one glass.” Why the fuck would you have one?! What is the point of one glass?!
Nicole Morgan: Yes. Or, I would see someone leaving a restaurant and they had half a glass of wine still. And it’s just like… “What?”
KiKi Maroon: “So wasteful!”
Nicole Morgan: The old me would be like, “How can I go drink that somehow?”
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. That’s funny about the two separate people. That’s something that I realized later on. I’m so on top of performing, I produce these shows and I am a super control freak. It’s taken me years to learn how to delegate, because I just was like, “No! I’m on top of everything.” I’m very strict on running everything. So the evenings would be when it’s, “Okay, now I don’t have to care about anything at all.” It was having those extremes; I needed that [nighttime drinking] for the daytime extreme to be – what I thought would be sustainable. I let that happen every single night to “counterbalance it”, but instead it just spirals.
Nicole Morgan: Yep. Like, you think it’s working and you realize, “No, maybe just balance would be better.” But then I had periods where I was thought, “Well I shouldn’t be so extreme on this, I can’t say I won’t drink any alcohol at all, I’ll just moderate.” Literally, I would put washi tape on my bottles of alcohol in the fridge and I would date them, “I cannot drink it until this date.” That’s sad, when you’re trying to schedule it out because I knew if I didn’t, I’m just going to drink that. Instead I would say, “Well it says I can’t drink that until two weeks from now, so I’ll just wait.”
KiKi Maroon: Oh two weeks! I thought we were talking each day. I mean, still…
Nicole Morgan: Or that! Or I had a rule where I would say, “Okay, I can only have up to four drinks.” Or three drinks. It would always change. I had a rule for a while where I couldn’t have any repeat drinks, so as long as they’re different beers or different wines I’m just experiencing. “I’m being a “connoisseur, so that’s okay – that’s not being an alcoholic.”
KiKi Maroon: Ohh no!
Nicole Morgan: Every version of moderation that you could come up with, I’d try. And then just basically realizing that moderation isn’t fun. It takes away the whole point. The whole point is you want to get wasted. You don’t want to have one or two or three.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. I love that you used washi tape! I feel like that is such a trendy way to moderate your drinking.
Nicole Morgan: Also, just the fact that I did it shows the perfectionistic tendencies, “Oh well I’ll just schedule it out.”
KiKi Maroon: Oh absolutely! I’m sure it was very squared off.
I have said for a while – I’ve gone through phases of what not drinking means to me, and I really love traveling, and that is something that I’ve done even more since not drinking. But I did allow myself, when I was in Japan, I was like, “Well, sake! I never want to deny an experience, but this doesn’t count. Because this isn’t part of my tendencies,” and as you were saying that, I was like, “Ahh damn.”
Nicole Morgan: I get what you’re saying. When I first said I was going to quit drinking, I was like I just want to try it out. So I decided I’m not going to drink for one year. We’ll see what happens at the end of that year. I told myself, “I might go back to drinking.” I loved trying new wines, trying new beers, I used to love to cook and bake [with alcohol]. So for me it was losing…
KiKi Maroon: So you’re a Pinterest girl?
Nicole Morgan: Maybe more of a serious cookbook collector. So for me, I was like, “The only way I can make this work is if I’m still allowed to taste things.” Which I know to a lot of people, might be to risky or something. “If you’re going to taste, you’re going to have the insatiable thirst to just have the rest of it.” But I feel like if I didn’t allow myself that, I would just constantly be looking at everyone’s [drink] and lusting after it. Whereas if I’m like, “Yeah, I can try anything I want, whenever I want,” it gives me that freedom. And most of the time I’m like, “Ew, gross, I don’t want to taste that.”
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. I actually have had that experience. I quit… many times. It was… a process. One of the many times I quit, I went and drank some more and I finally realized, “I don’t like this flavor.” When previously, I wanted it as strong as possible because I associated that with whatever wonderful things it was in my head. And when I finally got to the point where I was like, “I don’t like this flavor,” I knew “Okay, I’m on the right path finally.”
Nicole Morgan: Yeah.
KiKi Maroon: So, you mentioned that you were tired of feeling guilty the next day after [drinking]. Was it that you didn’t want to drink that much, or were there things you did that made you feel that way?
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, that was definitely part of it. When you blackout, you just don’t know what you’re doing, and then you wake up and you’re just like, “How bad is this going to be? Who did I text? What did I do to people last night?” So that’s definitely part of it. And there are things I’d get mad at myself for. For some reason, one of the ones I was always so pissed at myself about was that I left my purse in my backyard and it rained that night. I was really mad because my [Amazon] Kindle [e-reader] was in there. I broke my own Kindle, which is compared to other people wrecking cars and stuff. It sounds so trivial.
KiKi Maroon: But it’s not. You still left your purse outside.
Nicole Morgan: It made me mad. It could have been so much worse, but just the fact that it’s like, “I have to buy a new Kindle again.” Or new phones, and so many things like that…
KiKi Maroon: Things you shouldn’t have to do basically.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, luckily, nothing was ever catastrophic. I never cheated on my husband or anything like that. But it was just, “Well, I would have a better relationship with this person if I wasn’t getting drunk and then crying and screaming at them for something stupid that didn’t really matter.”
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. Ohh yeah.
Nicole Morgan: Then the guilt of knowing I could have done something better with my time. I’m an atheist – I don’t believe in the afterlife or anything like that. I believe that our life is just experiences and that’s what makes them memorable. I realized, “Wow, I don’t have a lot of experiences in my twenties because so much of it is just drinking.” I just want better for myself.
KiKi Maroon: I definitely relate to that. I feel very blessed that my job sends me around the world and I get to do crazy, amazing things. But I don’t remember most of the first part of it because I was like, “Oh my God, this is amazing. I’m going to celebrate with champagne” or whatever else. I’m all about experiences and just wanting to always try the next thing, which is probably part of the excess and personality traits. But I got to that point where I realized experiences are so important to me, but I’m not retaining any of them.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah. That’s the thing with traveling. For the longest time, I felt like, “Well, you can’t go to Italy and not have wine” or something like that. But I know if that was something that I allowed myself to do, Italy would just be about drinking wine and nothing else. Now, it’s more about having actual, real experiences that mean something.
KiKi Maroon: Talk to me more about [roller] derby, because like I told you, I’ve never even gone [to a game].
Nicole Morgan: So, do you want to know the rules or…
KiKi Maroon: Yeah, I guess explain what exactly it is? I know that you skate. I really don’t know much about it at all. I know it’s a sport.
Nicole Morgan: Some people call it “football on roller skates,” which isn’t entirely wrong. You have everyone on roller skates, and then you have what’s called a “jammer,” who is the person who actually scores points, and then everyone else is a “blocker.” The blockers are in a little group together and they’re basically trying to stop the jammer from being able to skate through their group and pass them. Every time they pass somebody, that’s a point. So you don’t want to be a point.
KiKi Maroon: Okay.
Nicole Morgan: Basically you’re trying to stop one person [from scoring] by throwing your body into them or just blocking them.
KiKi Maroon: I wondered, because I never saw a ball. I was wondering what the [scoring] thing was. Okay. That makes sense, the people that are the points.
Nicole Morgan: Yes, and the thing that’s really cool about derby is, if you ever see a game, you’ll see every size and shape of person. There’s one girl in the [Texas Roller Derby] league who probably doesn’t weigh more than a hundred pounds and she’s not even five feet [tall]. She’s really tiny, but being that tiny makes her really fast and really agile and then…
KiKi Maroon: Oh my God. Okay, I was going to say it sounds like she gets smashed a lot, but it’s good.
Nicole Morgan: No, I mean, every body type is really useful and that’s what’s so cool about this sport. Then you have people who are almost seven feet tall – they’re just giant, over 300 pounds. Both those people are just as useful. It’s such a cool sport. And like I said, everyone’s been super supportive of my sobriety always. I remember when I first wanted to skate, I asked this girl who was one of the captains of one of the hardest partying teams, “I’m sober. Is everyone going to hate me if I don’t go to after-parties? They’re going to think I’m lame?” And she said, “No, we would never! You should still go to after-parties”. Everyone’s wonderful. There’s no pressure.
KiKi Maroon: That is surprising. It makes me really happy. I’m glad that there are these subcultures that are super not pressury about it. Because I’ve heard the opposite from other people, where it becomes very weird and people want to know why you don’t drink. I’m sure you might have been in some situations where people ask, “Can I drink if you’re not drinking?”
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, I’ve definitely had that. If people are taking shots, they’ll apologize, “I’m so sorry.” And I’m like, “I do not care. I’ll take a shot of Gatorade over here.”
KiKi Maroon: I know that they’ll go play in different cities. Have you done that?
Nicole Morgan: I haven’t done any of those yet.
KiKi Maroon: I’m just wondering how much of that is an Austin-specific thing, because like I’ve said, I’ve met many people in Austin that don’t drink. And then when I go to Houston or San Antonio or Corpus [Christi], it’s a lot harder to find people to talk to. I’m wondering how much of it is derby culture and how much of it is Austin culture?
Nicole Morgan: I mean, part of it could be Austin culture. I do feel in some ways though, even the national conversation is somewhat changing. I don’t know if you feel that, but I feel like I’m running into more [non-drinkers], especially younger people. Even some who were just say, “Yeah, I don’t drink. I don’t like how it makes my body feel.”
KiKi Maroon: Not for any [particular] reason, they just don’t drink. Yeah, I’m noticing a lot more of that. I always figured there’s a catalyst somewhere, I’m just not sure what that thing is. Part of me wonders if it’s part of the anti-social media movement, the pendulum is swinging the other way. I’m meeting lots of younger people who have no social media at all, which is bananas to me, but they’re just disconnected and don’t want any part of it. So I’m wondering how much of it is that swinging away from party culture. Drinking every day is not seen as strange to a lot of people, so maybe it’s just the pendulum swinging the other way.
Nicole Morgan: That’s what I think. You almost have mindfulness becoming something that’s cool in culture. Most people I know now have at least tried meditation, at least once. So maybe they just don’t want to live that checked out life.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah, that’s true. I’ve actually heard people seem to almost be getting annoyed at “mindfulness” because it is very catchy right now. But I’d rather that be catchy than a lot of whatever other catchphrases that we’ve had like, “Who let the dogs out” or whatever.
Nicole Morgan: Well, it seems like so many people are now being open to talk about things like, “Yeah, I have problems with depression”. How much of that is because we’re in our cars all day, at jobs that we hate, looking at Instagram all day, and not doing anything fulfilling?
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. I think it’s probably either extreme because we’re all working super hard, but at the same time, we’re all staring at our phones, watching everybody thinking, “Everybody else is doing things way better than me, look at these guys scuba diving right now,” or whatever thing that he decided to post that day. So that’s really forced you to think, “What am I doing with my life?” Even if we understand that people present a polished, sometimes bullshit, version of their lives on social media, it still makes you reevaluate yours.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, for sure. And I think people are being more vocal about it. Like my dad actually, he has five years of sobriety now. That was also part of why I quit drinking. I saw him get to a very bad place and just knowing that [alcoholism is] in my family. I have a ton of brothers and sisters and can also see the same tendencies in all of us. Like, “Oh yeah, we could all have problems.” I remember when he first stopped drinking, and maybe it’s just his generation, people don’t really talk about it. But I tell everyone. If someone asks, “Do you want to drink?”, I respond “No, I’m sober.” I don’t feel embarrassed of it or anything.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah, it’s not a shocking moment.
Nicole Morgan: So I think more people saying it, it seems like it’s something that’s normalized. Then in our [Texas Roller Derby] league, having people say, “Yeah, I don’t drink.” People will do stuff, like make little mocktails and fake shots and stuff like that for us because they want us to feel included. Whereas before, if people didn’t talk about that, they would just pressure everybody.
KiKi Maroon: So, your dad – when he quit drinking, do you think there was a part of you saying, “Oh, I can do it too.”? I’m really interested in that because my dad, growing up, actually flipped multiple cars but he didn’t get arrested, which is bananas to me. He didn’t get arrested. It was just like, “Oh yeah, I shouldn’t have done that.” He’s from the generation who had the “road beer” and all that stuff was okay. When I went through my accident, I was like, “Wait a minute!” I’’m really interested in what it’s like being in a family who might be more…. self-aware, is what I’m trying to say.
Nicole Morgan: So to go back to the beginning, my parents actually met in rehab when they were like 17.
KiKi Maroon: Oh, shut up!
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, it’s a very strange story.
KiKi Maroon: It’s like a movie!
Nicole Morgan: Yes. And they immediately got pregnant. So my mom had me when she was just 17. They converted to Mormonism – which Mormons do not drink at all. So that was very helpful for them, going from rehab to you are now in a religion where you cannot drink.
KiKi Maroon: But wait, they both converted? Nobody converted for the other?
Nicole Morgan: My dad’s family was Mormon, but he was like the rebel. So he was technically Mormon.
KiKi Maroon: So they both said, “Okay, we’re going to do this now.”
Nicole Morgan: Yes. That happened until I was 15. There was never a drop of alcohol in our house the whole time. If I saw people drinking, I felt like, “Oh, that’s so bad! What sinners!”
KiKi Maroon: Oh my God!
Nicole Morgan: They got divorced when I was 15, and then both of them left the church and they just went off the rails. Not only did they start drinking again, but they’re also like, “Oh, we’re just going to have cocaine in our bedside table.” That’s normal. It was kind of crazy.
KiKi Maroon: Oh my God! Do you think that each one of them blamed the other side for keeping them square or something?
Nicole Morgan: Yes, yes.
KiKi Maroon: Oh my God.
Nicole Morgan: It was right in those formative, teenage years when I started seeing that for the first time. At first, I was like, “Oh, this is bullshit, they’re wasting their lives! I’m not like that. I’m better than them.” I didn’t drink at all in high school, ever. I never went to parties, never did any of that. It was afterward, I would start drinking with friends who were all intellectuals. We would discuss Marxism and stuff. We would drink more expensive liquor that we got from their parents’ cabinet. I thought it was a way of being a grown-up. So I was thought, “I’m not like my parents who went to rehab. I’m drinking because I’m sophisticated.” A sophisticated 18-year-old…
KiKi Maroon: Yes, very mature. Haha. Oh my God.
Nicole Morgan: So I always said, “I’m not like them at all.”
KiKi Maroon: Yeah, you rebelled in the most bizarre way.
Nicole Morgan: Yes. So then with my dad, it was clear that he had a problem for a long time. And I think my mom honestly needs to stop drinking too, but when my dad stopped drinking, I still saw him as very different from me at first. “He’s off the rails. I would never be that way.” But then you start doing things that you said that you would never do. Then you start thinking like, “You know what? I could be that way. That could happen to me if I drank for 20 years.”
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. That is so interesting.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah.
KiKi Maroon: So, I have to go back to this – they didn’t hide the cocaine?
Nicole Morgan: Oh, they thought that it was hidden but it’s just like right in their nightstand.
KiKi Maroon: Oh, it’s just in the drawer. I was thinking “Valley of the Dolls,” like a silver platter next to your mom’s bed with coke just on it!
Nicole Morgan: It was in the drawer. But…
KiKi Maroon: But that’s not hiding it from the children.
Nicole Morgan: No, not at all. We also found dildos during that time, and for some reason me and my siblings were just like, “Oh, we’re going to shame them.” For the majority of our life, we had been so repressed, growing up in Mormonism. And then you’re opening your mom’s cabinet, just like, “What the fuck? Dildos and cocaine now all of a sudden?!” We would leave them out in the open so that she would have to see them and answer for her choices.
KiKi Maroon: “We know about you!” Oh my God. Did she ever acknowledge it? Or was it like, just put the dildo back.
Nicole Morgan: Just put it back. Yeah. Haha.
KiKi Maroon: Ohhh, wow!
Nicole Morgan: You look so shocked.
KiKi Maroon: I am, that’s amazing! I can see that maybe it’s the repressed religion part where she’d respond with, “We’re just going to pretend this didn’t happen, and just put it right back. And here’s dinner.”
Nicole Morgan: I feel like it explained so much of the way that I would drink. I thought, ” I have everything together. I’m so sophisticated.” If I would drink, it would be an expensive bottle of champagne or a nice liquor. I would never be drinking like Natty Light [cheap beer] or something. So I was like, “This is sophisticated. I’m doing it the right way, I don’t have a problem.”
KiKi Maroon: Oh my God.
Nicole Morgan: Which I hear in the industry all the time. You’re supposed to be giving your clients wine tastings and stuff. You’re just like, “I’m sophisticated. I’m drinking fancy wine. I don’t have a problem.”
KiKi Maroon: Yeah, it’s seen as part of the deal-making process. I definitely get that. I do burlesque. A lot of it is faux-glamour. It’s part of the marketing, and the selling, and honestly the bullshit that you tell yourself. So having the martini for breakfast and thinking you’re very classy, old Hollywood. Until “Well, yeah, but now I’m drinking it out of a water bottle.” But I told myself I’m just being super fancy right now because I have the luxury of not having something to do today.
Nicole Morgan: Exactly.
KiKi Maroon: You’ll tell yourself stories.
I’m sorry I can’t get over this cocaine on the night table by the bed! I was so sure because I would always hear about other kid’s parents, like, “I found my dad’s Playboy” or “I found this, or I found that.” I was so sure my parents had to have something hidden somewhere. But I could never find anything in the house. I remember checking all of my mom’s herbs in the pantry, thinking “That’s where she would keep it, where I wouldn’t suspect!” Opening every little jar and smelling, because one of them was probably weed. None of them were weed because that’s crazy! But I was so sure.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, and I grew up thinking like, “Only bad people do that, my parents would never.” So it was such a shock to find out, “Oh no, we do that!” all of a sudden.
KiKi Maroon: Wow!
Nicole Morgan: That’s also part of why I had such twisted ideas of like, “Is this a normal thing that people do? Is this not?”
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. Were they in rehab originally for drinking or was it for drugs?
Nicole Morgan: Drugs. They both as kids got into hard drugs. I’m talking like 12-years-old.
KiKi Maroon: Oh my God. Wow. Okay. So, I guess post-divorce, you just kind of sink back into whatever you associate with freedom, and use some things like that?
Nicole Morgan: Well yeah, they got married young. When you have a baby when you’re 17. Getting married when you’re 18. You’re probably just going to go crazy once you finally have freedom.
KiKi Maroon: You said you don’t have kids, right?
Nicole Morgan: No.
KiKi Maroon: I think about that sometimes, “If I was my mom, I would have a 15-year-old right now.”
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, I think about that too.
KiKi Maroon: I don’t know what I’m doing. The idea that I would be in charge of a 15-year-old, I can’t even imagine. I’d have a 15-year-old and a 13-year-old.
Nicole Morgan: I know! If I were my parents, I would have 6 kids now. I’m 31 and the oldest of 11 kids.
KiKi Maroon: Eleven?!
Nicole Morgan: Eleven kids.
KiKi Maroon: Oh my God!
Nicole Morgan: I think she would have had probably six or seven by my age, and I’m like, “I can’t even imagine one.”
KiKi Maroon: She should have pulled out the dildos a lot sooner! That is so many kids!
Nicole Morgan: What’s funny, people at school used to tease me all the time with all the kids. They’d be like, “Your mom is such a slut.” I was always so embarrassed. And they’d be like, “Your dad must be so horny.”
KiKi Maroon: Hahaha! Oh, my God. Kid logic – she’s a slut because she’s got 11 kids from the same man.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah. “Why is my dad so horny? This is so embarrassing!”.
KiKi Maroon: Oh my God! So was this a Mormon school?
Nicole Morgan: Oh, no. It was just public school.
KiKi Maroon: Kids are assholes.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, and they all knew that we were Mormon.
KiKi Maroon: Are any of your siblings sober that you know of?
Nicole Morgan: The brother right under me, he doesn’t drink. But it was the weirdest thing – he had a dream. In the dream, some old guru dude told him not to drink anymore. He literally woke up that morning and I was like, “I do not drink anymore. I had a dream.”
KiKi Maroon: Shut up!
Nicole Morgan: That was back when I was still drinking, so I’m like, “Who does this?” But yeah, he doesn’t drink because he had a dream.
KiKi Maroon: That’s amazing!
Nicole Morgan: Yeah. He also has crazy willpower. So for him with these things, he can just flip a switch and that makes sense. It’s like you said, I tried to quit so many times before I finally did.
KiKi Maroon: I feel like he had to have been spoken to by a god because I have dreams all the time. For it to have that effect, he had to believe it was a real thing.
Nicole Morgan: I’m thinking that something had to have been going on that he just wasn’t talking about, where he had to have been like thinking, “Maybe I’m drinking too much.”
KiKi Maroon: Or he’s just magic. He just might be magical.
Nicole Morgan: He had some bad nights too. I remember we would sometimes go out as siblings on 6th Street (nightlife district in downtown Austin) or something. He would chest bump somebody and then I’m just right there, having my brother’s back like, “Oh yeah, let’s see if this person…”
KiKi Maroon: Just getting ready to fight.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, us oldest three siblings were kind of all that way. The sister under him still drinks. But I’m like, “Oh, it’s a matter of time. You’ll stop drinking.”
KiKi Maroon: Hahaha. Oh my God. Did you ever get into any bar fights then? Or was it always just hoping for it.
Nicole Morgan: It would be small stuff or just the chest-bumping or whatever. I would get really aggressive when I would be drunk, which probably goes with the [interest in] derby. I would love to challenge a guy to hit me or something like, “Come on, you can hit a girl.”
KiKi Maroon: Okay, everything’s coming full circle. Everything’s making sense. You’re getting the aggression out.
Nicole Morgan: I used to ask guys to punch me as hard as they can, like in the arm. And they’d say, “No, I’m not going to punch you.” “Come on, punch me!”
KiKi Maroon: “Come on, pussy!”
Nicole Morgan: They would finally punch me because they would get so annoyed at me. That was what I thought was fun when I would drink.
KiKi Maroon: I never got into a fight. I got violent but I never got into a fight, I just threw glasses. I liked to throw glasses in bars and cause chaos. I was very chaotic, but I didn’t ever physically attack anybody.
Nicole Morgan: Oh, I mean, I didn’t physically, that would be the closest, just dares. I wanted control. I still wanted to be in control of it, but I think I liked to feel like I was doing something dangerous.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. That makes sense – derby, everything’s coming together. You should try boxing.
Nicole Morgan: I probably would be good at boxing.
KiKi Maroon: I was going to sign up for classes actually, two weeks before I threw my back out and realized this is not a good idea.
So if you didn’t have a dream with a guru, did you use anything when you quit drinking? Did you go to a program or read any books?
Nicole Morgan: Have you ever heard of something called H.I.P. Sobriety School?
KiKi Maroon: No.
Nicole Morgan: It’s online and I know she (Holly Whitaker) still runs it, but I don’t think it’s as often as it used to be. It used to be two times a year, but her website is hipsobriety.com. Basically, she’s tried AA, but didn’t really resonate with the messages. A lot of it is more self-care-based, doing things like yoga and mindfulness. Basically, she talks about how you can just quit drinking and still be hip. I think she’s in San Francisco and she’s in her 30’s or something like that.
KiKi Maroon: Okay.
Nicole Morgan: It sort of talks about nutrition and ways that you can heal your brain from all this stuff that you do to it with alcohol and drugs and she uses a lot of science-based stuff. Showing you how you lower all your happiness levels and stuff like that whenever you’re using. Then when trying to do little things that should be enjoyable, they still feel shitty because you’ve artificially spiked your brain up so many times.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. Is it a blog or is it an actual program?
Nicole Morgan: Six weeks is how long the program used to be. I don’t know if it’s still that same length, but each week is different. It’s supposed to be building a life that you want to be sober for; that’s her main thing. She doesn’t think that you need to go to meetings every single day for the rest of your life. She says, “If you do that, your life always feels like it’s about not drinking. You want your life to feel something bigger than that.”
KiKi Maroon: Ohh. Yeah. Not drinking is just a part of my life, not my life.
Nicole Morgan: Yes.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah.
Nicole Morgan: It’s mostly more self-care-based, but then you do have a community. It is online, so it’s not in-person, but you do have a good community of people who are going through the same stuff as you that you can talk to.
KiKi Maroon: Oh God, that is so important.
Nicole Morgan: Yes. Especially, usually, when you’re first starting to quit drinking, you don’t really feel comfortable talking about it in real life, or you just think that you don’t relate. I know if I went to an AA meeting or something, I would probably be like, “Oh, well I’m not as bad as any of these people, so I guess it’s fine to keep drinking.” She kind of specializes in the high bottoms, I guess.
KiKi Maroon: Actually, I just had a conversation with a friend of mine, who called me… I’m sure you have this too, when people know you don’t drink, you become the phone call. So my friend called me and said, “I think I need to go to AA.” Now, I like the program. I like AA. I totally get why people don’t though. So I was like, “I don’t recommend that at this point. I really feel like you’re going to go and you’re going to be like, ‘Oh, I’m not this bad. I’m totally fine,’ and then you’re going to spiral the other way.” Because with some people, that’s exactly what happens. They’re like, “Well, I’m not sucking dick for vodka, so surely I’m fine.”
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, and that’s what I thought, and that’s why my husband had laughed at me like, “No, you’re fine.” I think I found her blog by Googling, “Not an alcoholic, but think I have a drinking problem.” Haha. Her thing is just, “Yeah, you could wait until you have something catastrophic happen, but why wait that long? Why not get off earlier?”
KiKi Maroon: Yeah, I like that. I’m going to definitely look that up because I do think that is the majority of people. It is rarely a massive problem as much as it’s just people thinking, “I don’t want to do this, but I don’t know how not to do this.”
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, exactly.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. Did you know anybody personally who didn’t drink?
Nicole Morgan: My dad didn’t, but he was every day going to AA. His was really at that stage where you drink tons every single day, you’re obviously going to have physical symptoms [when you stop]. Where it’s like, if you’re more of a high bottom, you’re not going to have that quite as bad.
KiKi Maroon: I know this is a real term, but “high bottom” keeps making me want to giggle because of “bottom.” I’m sorry, I’ve not heard that phrase. It makes total sense, but I just think it’s funny.
Nicole Morgan: Oh you haven’t? Yeah, because of rock bottom… high bottom.
KiKi Maroon: It makes total sense. I just think calling someone a bottom is funny.
I think that a parental relationship is completely different than having friends. I always wonder about people who don’t have anybody to talk to [about sobriety]. Some people are like, “Oh yeah, I knew all these people.” And I’m totally jealous.
Nicole Morgan: H.I.P Sobriety School has secret Facebook groups, so I did meet a lot of people in that group. They live across the country, but we can text or whatever. They were super similar to me, like the same age and lots of the same hobbies. So it’s not just me. Whereas I do feel like if I went into the [AA] rooms, it would just be like, “Oh yeah, I’m fine. I’m not like these people” or something.
KiKi Maroon: I know that personally, when I first stopped drinking – because I didn’t know anybody who didn’t drink – it was very isolating. I had a lot of times where I… honestly, I would Google, “I am lonely”. I was like, “What do people do when they are lonely? I’m confused.” That was honestly part of the reason for the podcast. I wanted to start it to connect with other people and be ask, “Hey, so what are these other stories?” That’s part of why I enjoyed the [AA] meetings, because I wanted to do that with other people.
My therapist actually made a really good point when I told her, “I feel really lonely after I quit drinking. I’m at these parties and everybody’s drinking and I feel so outside of everything.” She was like, “Okay, but when you were blackout, were you connecting to anybody?” I was like, “No, I wasn’t.” She said, “Do you think maybe you were telling yourself you were?” “Yes… I was.” It’s being honest with myself about what was actually happening. It’s easy to romanticize what was happening. And now that I’m living in reality, how do I reach out to people and make friends?
Nicole Morgan: It’s interesting that you said that. There was a girl in the group who has now written a book. Annie Grace is her name and it’s called, “This Naked Mind: Control Alcohol, Find Freedom, Discover Happiness & Change Your Life.” It’s about quitting drinking, but it’s really interesting the way she breaks it down.
KiKi Maroon: I like everything naked! I like that.
Nicole Morgan: Haha. But she actually videotaped herself when she was super drunk. To see how she really is, you know because she did the same thing, “Oh, this is how I have deep conversations with people.”
KiKi Maroon: “I’m so much more clever when I’m drunk.”
Nicole Morgan: Yeah and then she saw, she was talking at people and not paying attention, didn’t talk about anything deep and she was like, “Oh, I’m completely fooling myself.”
KiKi Maroon: Oh my God.
Nicole Morgan: Other people I know have done that too. They would videotape themselves to see how depressing it actually is.
KiKi Maroon: Oh no. That sounds terrifying to me. Because I am a performer, it was a very public life and there’s a lot of deleted Instagram videos and Facebook posts. That was “day-after shame”, but I never stopped. I just thought, “Oh God, no.” Then later on it was a joke. Now the idea of seeing some of that stuff is terrifying. I know that some of it still exists. And I know what’s out there is terrifying.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, it’s like when your Facebook memories pop up and you’re like, “Oh God, that’s not a good memory.”
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. I mean there was a lot of fun stuff. I always try to make sure I tell people. I’m not like, “Oh my God, that was so terrible.” I definitely had fun, just not all the time.
Nicole Morgan: What I think is interesting is when you see a photo where the person looks like they’re having a good time. There’s a girl who’s in my sobriety group who said, “Yeah, this looked like I was having a great time. But what you don’t see in this photo is I had been on a meth bender for like five days and this was the lowest point in my entire life. I wanted to kill myself.”
KiKi Maroon: Oh my God.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah. And you’re like, “Oh, you look perfectly happy.”
KiKi Maroon: And like we’re talking about with social media, how other people see those pictures and they’re like, “Oh God, what am I doing with my life?” Not knowing any of the backstory to any of those pictures.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah.
KiKi Maroon: Oh man.
Nicole Morgan: So it has been really cool being a part of that group because, since it is online, it’s easy to engage with whenever. And I didn’t have quite the same thing as you in real life, because I wasn’t really part of a community when I got sober. I hadn’t yet joined derby, and so it was really just me hanging out at home with my partner, and that’s about it. I didn’t have that feeling of being left out of something, but I was concerned about that when I got into derby.
I’ve used it [the Facebook group] because sometimes things just trigger you. I would go to a food and wine event and be like, “Well I’m just going to taste the food, I’m not going to get the wine.” That would still feel just hard because I would think, “What if I could just have anything?” Because even if you’re just having a taste, if you were to taste wine at every single tent, you’re going to end up with a buzz.
KiKi Maroon: Oh absolutely.
Nicole Morgan: So, they [the online community] would have tips, like write your sobriety date on your arm. At first I was like, “That’s so corny. I don’t want to do that.” But it actually would help during the event because you look down and think, “Oh yeah, I don’t want to throw that away.”
KiKi Maroon: Yeah.
Nicole Morgan: So it’s kind of practical things like that.
KiKi Maroon: Okay.
Nicole Morgan: So it was interesting, a lot of the work that I’ve been trying to do in sobriety has been about getting rid of wanting to escape from things or enhance. I felt a huge reason why I would drink is that it enhanced everything. You know, sitting, watching Netflix is too boring. But if you’re watching Netflix and you’re drunk, it’s great. And so trying to teach myself to not escape from things. It’s hard.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. And if you’re bored, you earned it.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah.
KiKi Maroon: Did you go to therapy?
Nicole Morgan: Yes. And I’m still in therapy.
KiKi Maroon: Okay. You just seem super self-aware and insightful about your life in general – more than just the sobriety – about what you want. I find that it’s people that have gone through that process that do that. I’m very new to therapy. I’m talking to everybody about it. I’m like, “My therapist said this. Why didn’t you guys tell me I’m codependent?!”
Nicole Morgan: Yeah. That’s so interesting, how your addiction just flops around other things and…
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. I just learned the phrase, “sober drunk.”
Nicole Morgan: Oh yeah. Or I’ve heard “dry drunk.”
KiKi Maroon: Dry drunk. Yeah. So it’s where you don’t drink, but you haven’t been actively working to fix the thing that made you an alcoholic. And I was like, “Ah, damn.” I knew instantly, “That’s why, I’m a workaholic!” So that’s what I’m working on. But it was through therapy, that I could hear the phrase and it fired off all the synapses to go, “Oh, that’s me because of this, because of this, because of this, because of this. Bingo.” I have realizations so much quicker than the denial that previous me would have gone through for years. Haha.
Nicole Morgan: Because you know, the denial isn’t going to make you happy this time.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. So it was like, “Okay. So I need to work on this other stuff for that thing. Okay. Got it. Check.”
Nicole Morgan: Which, sometimes, it can feel disheartening because it does feel like, “Oh my God, it’s never going to end. There’s always going to be something.” But that’s life, I guess.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. I keep saying, “I just want to be fixed.” But that’s not an option. You’re never done. Which is great because I think that when you’re done, you die. Why would you still be here if you were done?
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, yeah. I can’t remember the exact quote, but there’s a quote from this Buddhist nun-person and she says, “We think the point is to overcome and pass the test, but life’s not like that. You keep failing and the whole point is to keep getting back up and trying again and that’s life.” You never overcome the thing.
KiKi Maroon: Yeah. I definitely think we agree on this – the point is to experience things.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah.
KiKi Maroon: You’re doing the thing right now, so do it!
Nicole Morgan: Yeah, exactly.
KiKi Maroon: Awesome. Okay, final ask, and I have to be honest, I don’t know if the final ask is going to stay as the final ask. I keep saying maybe I’ll get rid of it, maybe I won’t. I’m not really sure. We’re still figuring this out. I switched over; I did a comedy podcast for a long time, and now this is more of a conversational podcast, so I’m still figuring it out.
Okay, final question. If you could snap your fingers and everybody instantly around the world believed two things, what would they be? One has to be for the good of humanity, because we care about people here. The other has to be completely selfish and self-serving, because we care about you.
Nicole Morgan: Okay. Probably my one for humanity would be that we’re the creators of our own suffering. That sounds really heavy and bad, but to me, I actually see that as a good thing. It’s like, “I don’t have to put pain on top of pain.” To me, being an alcoholic can actually be seen as a really cool gift. You’re probably going to get to find out stuff about yourself that other people are never going to work on, or maybe they don’t start until they’re way older, so it’s something that I actually felt somewhat lucky to have figured out early.
KiKi Maroon: Yes, I agree. You say that so much more eloquently. I always say, “My brain broke and it forced me to learn about myself.”
Nicole Morgan: Yeah. That’s a great way of putting it too. So just because things happen to us in our life, it really is all our perspective of how we look at that and what we want to do with it.
KiKi Maroon: I love that. I can’t tell you that’s my favorite answer, because people would be hurt. I’ll just say that I love it.
Nicole Morgan: Yeah. Did you guys hear that?
KiKi Maroon: Okay. And now be totally, totally selfish.
Nicole Morgan: It’s not that selfish. That’s probably just also another thing that’s good for humanity is…
KiKi Maroon: No goodness allowed.
Nicole Morgan: Oh! I was just going to say, be creative and do what you want in life.
KiKi Maroon: No, that’s not selfish at all. And you’re trying to cop-out. I think maybe this is just me. I feel people do have an answer and that they’re just scared to be selfish publicly. That’s my theory. I’m not calling you out on anything.
Nicole Morgan: I mean, I feel like I pretty openly embrace my selfishness, that’s part of why I don’t want kids. I’m like, “No, I want to do whatever I want, whenever I want.”
KiKi Maroon: Okay. So this is no longer a final ask. This is the new final ask. If you could…
Nicole Morgan: A commandment.
KiKi Maroon: …if you could make up the final ask on this podcast, what would it be?
Nicole Morgan: Hahaha are you serious?
KiKi Maroon: Hey, I’m learning.
Nicole Morgan: Oh, God!
KiKi Maroon: We’ll come back to it. It’s fine. Thank you so, so much. If people want to follow you, where can they find you?
Nicole Morgan: I’m on Instagram @Marceline_murderqueen.
KiKi Maroon: Okay. Thank you. Thank you so much. I really appreciate it.
Nicole Morgan: That was awesome.
[Theme song: “Last Call” provided by The Last Domino]
KiKi Maroon: Okay. Seriously. I still can’t get over the cocaine and dildos on the nightstand. What the fuck? That is so funny to me. Anyway, that was Nicole Morgan, AKA Marceline the Murder Queen. Roller derby sounds like so much fun. I have a lot of pent-up anger, so I could see myself getting way too into it. I’m glad she taught me about high bottoms. It’s still funny, but yeah, I think it’s important to know that not everyone has a catastrophic story. It’s okay to step off the train before it goes off the fucking rails. Not only is it okay, it’s admirable. I am working hard to have the kind of self-awareness that requires. And I think it’s amazing that she saw that in herself so early.
I hope you enjoyed our talk. Also, I hope you enjoy the theme song. I love this song so much. The Last Domino is an old friend who used to be based in Texas, but he’s now pursuing acting and music in LA. He was so wonderful and kind to let me use this for the podcast. So please, if you like it, pick up a copy. The link is in the show notes of every single episode. There’s also a link on the website, ClownInterrupted.com. So check it out. And be sure you follow me on Twitter @KiKiMaroon. Let me know what you think about this show. If you have anybody you want me to interview, I would love to hear that. I need help finding people.
And just in general, I love hearing from y’all. Thank you guys so much again, and I’ll be back next week.