Basketball: A Mind Game

I’ve been asked, many times, why I don’t watch basketball, or whether I even like it. I grew up watching BBall.

I have TWO reasons for not watching. Please do not think I’m not aware of the sheer talent in the league, since I watched. I am.

Reason#1

I LOVED the Boston Celtics’ fab five:
Larry Bird
Kevin McHale
Dennis Johnson (R.I.P)
Robert Parrish
Danny Ainge

The Celtics, the Lakers (Magic, Kareem, Worthy), The Pistons, The Jazz….THAT was worth watching. Lost interest, after the Olympic “Dream Team”, and those guys retired. Never to be duplicated.

Reason#2

I grew up with the greatest player never known; my brother, Larry. He was a young phenom. He was grace and granite, fluid, and steel, flight, wind, water, FIRE.
When I was about 5/6 years old, my brother went to the Youth Olympics. At Friendship Airport, now BWI-Thurgood Marshall, you could watch them board the plane, near the tarmac. He was so handsome, in his gold sports jacket (HOF-like), perfect fro, and killer smile. I was so excited, as he, and the other young men, boarded the plane. I waved frantically, yelling, clapping, shouting, “that’s my brother, my ‘stepping partner’ ( I got that name because he rarely got to leave the house without me attached to his leg)”. Funny thing happened…they closed the doors, and I could no longer see him. Prettyface-Mommiekins said we were leaving. Well that can’t be right. Where’s Larry? Why didn’t he come back, yet? We have to wait for him. How’s he gonna get home? My young mind could not process that he was not coming with us, or that he wasn’t gone, forever. In the words of Adele, I set FIRE to the rain, dropping to the ground, screaming, begging for my “brova”. REAL LONG NIGHT for my parents.

A knee injury took him off the fast-track to basketball history. BNBL(Baltimore Neighborhood Basketball League) wanted him, BADLY, and he was barely out of junior high.

In later years, my brother had gained a lot of weight, but still had a love for the game, so he joined a local group. They were all about 5-10 years his junior, and in great physical shape. The games were played at Lake Clifton H.S. One day, my sister-in-law, and my nieces went to a game. I hadn’t seen him play since I was a kid. As they began the coin toss, people began to say things: ” I know that fat guy isn’t playing”, “look at ‘Fat Albert”….they laughed, not knowing they were sitting near his wife, children, and sister.

The game began, and the derisive chatter grew into, “these boys gon run him into the ground”, “he’s gonna have a heart attack” (laughter), “he can’t hang”. We said nothing. The ball comes to Larry. To this day, I don’t know what he did, or how he did it, but he moved so fast, he had to catch his own rebound, as the others seemed to be standing still, trying to figure out what happened. He proceeded to do more of the same, throughout the ENTIRE game. The chatter turned to chants of “Go big man”, ” Fat Albert is schooling dem boys”. Yes, they won,thanks to my brother’s triple-double.
After the game, I asked HOW. You out-maneuvered them all.  He simply said, “finesse”. HUH? He further explained that the essence of the game is mental, and that the physical is merely the manifestation; the execution. Further, he taught me that you MUST ALWAYS know what your opponent will do, before they do. HUH? “I out-thought them, Tigger (that’s me).” Oh, I see. That advice has served me well.

Why is this on my head? It’s playoff time. In the spirit, I just watched a great documentary called , “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals, on HBO On Demand. It was awesome. It took me back to the airport tarmac, to the bleachers at Lake Clifton, to the reason I don’t watch; I’ve seen the best.

I miss you all day, every day, my Tommy💔😥🏀.

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Letters To My Father

Why Didn’t You Ask About Me?

Cryss A. Jones

9/4/2017

My story, “Questions and Time”, was published in an anthology, of the same name, which is no longer available for purchase. However, it’s available here. Reviews are welcome.

The following is a letter to my father, Christopher Columbus Jones, on the thirty-three (33) year anniversary of his death.

Dear Daddy:

…I never know where to begin. We’ve done this- well, I’ve done this every September 4th, since about 1985. Usually, I would tell you about the family, and give you world updates (trust me, you don’t want to know); tell you how I continue to screw-up my life, etc., but not this time. I’m almost fifty (50) years old, and I have lived, learned, loved, and lost. I’ve had happy moments. I’ve had hellish times. I’ve laughed heartily, loved deeply, and managed to become a bit jaded, in the process. I have finally, FULLY surrendered my life to Christ, so my perspectives are ever changing. That said, I want to share a few things, muse a bit, and ask questions I’ve not allowed myself, before now.

As I’ve grown older, it seems I have more questions, than answers. I thought you were supposed to grow in wisdom, as you got older. I guess the nature of the questions prove that I have, in fact become a little wiser. I supposed when you get near the fifty (50) year old mark, you begin to ponder greater mysteries. What have I done with my life? Have I made a positive difference in the world? Regrets? What’s next? What is my relationship with God like? How long do I have left? Momma’s gone now; two days before my birthday, nonetheless. I’m widowed, with no children, so the words legacy, and ancestry, are now more than mere concepts.

Reminisce with me, Daddy. Lemon Street. 8-8:30 p.m. Momma would get me bathed, and in my pajamas, and I would anxiously await the sight of your big Lincoln Town Car™ coming down the street, to take me for my nightly ride around the block. I must have been about 4 years old, when this blissful ritual began; at least that’s my earliest memory. Your car seemed to take up the whole block; your presence, the entire neighborhood. People always stopped and stared, when you were around. You were, to me, larger than life. Always larger than life. I had no concept of the fact that you worked three jobs, seven (7) days a week, just to be certain that I had anything I wanted, and that you probably needed to be asleep at that time. You always made time for me. How? How did you do it?

Picnics at Robert E. Lee Park (Raa-baa-lee, as I called it), after you’d gone to Corn Beef Row, and got massive deli sandwiches, and everything to go with it. The movies, when you would put Planters ™ peanuts in your Coke ®. Ice Cream floats, root beer for you, and grape for me, at Read’s ® Drug Store, on a lazy saturday afternoon. Taking me to work with you, to your day job, driving the Baltimore City Dental Bus to the elementary schools, so kids could have free dental care. First, we’d go to the small restaurant around the corner from the bus garage on Elgin Avenue, or “go-rage”, as you said in your southern accent. You’d have coffee, and, a chocolate cake donut, with milk. You always said that you liked “a little coffee in your cream and sugar”. I drink it that way, too, on the rare occasions in which I indulge.

It seemed every staff person recognized you, at your job, and always greeted you kindly, by name; Mr. Jones. They seemed to already know me, as well. You’d tell anyone who’d listen about me. Why?

Afterward, we’d make our way to the garage, and greet your fellow drivers. They knew of me, as well. Ms. Marty, and Ms. Daisy, the Bus Aides, from when you used to drive a regular school bus.

“Are you paying attention in school, young lady?”

“Make sure you’re being a good girl.”

“Your Daddy really loves his baby.”

I felt so special. But why so special to you?

You, and your best friend, Mr. Charlie Wilson, would go to your respective buses, after a bit of morning “jawing”, and prepare for the day. I watched you intently. Your ritual the same. Every detailed etched in my memory. Open the bus doors, start the engine, turn on the lights. Starched navy blue uniform straight, one pant leg tucked into your work boot, and black leather work gloves; first left, then right. You would descend from the driver’s seat, and begin taking the wooden blocks from each tire. You checked fluids, tire pressure, and gave the bus a thorough once over, before inviting me to my usual seat, where the kids would wait for their exams, and we were off.

“What school are we going to today, Daddy?” You’d answer, telling me which Dentist would be working that day, about how often you went to that particular school, and how great the hot lunch was, that was always waiting for you. No joke there. Those lunches were A-Mazing! The Bus Aides, female Teachers, and Cafeteria ladies LOVED my Daddy. I was too young to know how much, or why, though.

Every six months, I’d have my annual teeth cleaning. My eighth year stands out for me, as it was PURE HELL! During the visit, I screamed and cried out in pure agony, and you used to be so angry, and embarrassed by my behavior. The Dentist was Dr. Davis, a very mean caucasian man, who had a goatee, and looked as if he could be a villain on “Get Smart”. He used to tell me to “stop all that shuckin’ and jivin”, or “shut up all that noise”, but only when you were out of earshot. I thought he was your boss, and I didn’t want you to argue with him, and maybe lose your job, because of me, so I began to tolerate pain, in silence. I remember him telling you that I had eight (8) cavities! I thought your head was going to pop off, and steam would come out. Too many cartoons, right? You even called me Crystal, that day. I didn’t respond immediately, as it sounded so foreign coming from a man who’d only called me “Daddy’s Baby”. I knew two things in that moment: it was going to be a scarily quiet ride home, with no stop at the Sears and Roebuck on North Avenue for new doll clothes, and that you’d be gunning for my Momma. I’d seen your temper (verbal) first hand, when it came to her. Whew! Your attack was fierce, frightening, all-consuming. When you told Momma, she was angry with me, too. An argument ensued; you blaming her for letting me eat so much candy, she blaming you for the same. I went to my hiding place under the table, until I thought it was safe to exist, again. It wasn’t until I was 12 years old that a random conversation with Momma, led to the revelation that I had not been given a numbing agent, whilst the Dentist was drilling, and filling my teeth. I guess she told you, huh? The next time I saw Dr. Davis, he looked extremely nervous, and was very gentle. Go figure.

You drove for the Baltimore City Schools, during the day, ran bus trips for Harford Motor Coach on weekends, and “hacked”. I don’t remember a time when you weren’t there, and you lived clear on the other side of town. How, Daddy? How did you manage it all?

Hugo Avenue. I recognized your signature “zing-zing” of our antique doorbell every single day. I waited all day for your visits. They were solace. They were safety. They were pure love for me – for the weird kid no one liked. Most of the neighbors thought you lived with us, because you were there each day, after work. Houdini could have learned a few things from you.

I ALWAYS seemed to be asking for something. Late night trips to the house, because I had a nightmare; a trip across town, in a torrential downpour, because I’d heard a new song on the radio, and HAD to have the 45 r.p.m., THAT DAY ! ”With A Little Luck- Paul McCartney, and Wings. Just for the record, Daddy, all of that had to hear the music, had to have it, turned out to be how I became a Songwriter, Singer and Composer, with perfect pitch. It wasn’t wasted. I promise. It wasn’t wasted, was it?

Expensive jewelry, dolls, souvenirs from your bus trips. All of this outside of the new wardrobe each season; Christmas, Easter, Birthdays, Halloween, Back-to-School… Heck, you gave me my first diamond. A sterling silver necklace, with a cross, and a diamond chip in the middle. I fell in love with it, during one of our trips to the mall. You were looking at a necklace for yourself, because you always looked good, head-to-toe. Sharp as a tack, just to go around the corner. I begged and begged, with no idea that getting my necklace meant you didn’t get yours. Why didn’t you say “no”, Daddy? Why was I always asking for something? I’d make up for it later in life, when I got a good job, though. We had time.

The ice rink. The 1980 Winter Olympics was the goal. Whether it was Northwest Ice Rink, Memorial Stadium, or Baltimore Gas, and Electric, we were there. Cold weather, low on money, exhausted, you got me there. It’s one of the things you and Momma tag-teamed on. I’d fly across the ice, with beautiful abandon, while you drank stale coffee, and watched. The expensive skates, lessons, ice time. I was gonna make you proud. I bet you knew all along, I was never going to make it to the Olympics, didn’t you? I didn’t have the feet, the flexibility, or the money. Why didn’t you tell me?

I recall August of 1982, just before I began high school, you, Uncle Shep, and I went to visit your family in Virginia. I loved being with both of you, and the ride was scenic and the area unfamiliar, and exciting. We rode past vast fields of what you called “soldier beans”. You would think an inquisitive kid like me. ALWAYS full of questions, would have been frantic to know every detail of your young life – of both of your lives. Where did you play? Who were your friends? Where did you go for fun? When did your parents die? What were you afraid of, other than Squirrels ( that still tickles me, tough guy)? Where were your parents buried? Did you cry? Who taught you the things that you know about cars? Who’s your favorite Aunt, or Uncle? Did you get whippings, and for what? No. I asked NOTHING! Why? I was content just being with you. You were my deep breath. I didn’t need to know a thing. After all, I could ask those questions when I grew up and had a family of my own. You weren’t going anywhere.

Meeting your Cousin Easter was an absolute JOY. I was so shy, and so overwhelmed with the strangers about me, I was afraid to let you out of my sight. I slept on a fold out bed, in a living room. The night seemed darker than black, and there was absolute silence. To this day, it’s the best, and most peaceful night’s sleep I’ve ever had. Remember breakfast, Daddy? I’d never had fried corn, and you had to coax me to eat. You cut my breakfast meat for me, as usual (yes, I was 14 yrs. old), and I think you let me eat some pork, even though Momma never knew. I didn’t care. As long as I had you in my line of sight, or could hear your voice, your booming laughter, my world was safe. You weren’t gonna get too far. It was a wonderful trip. I still have the pictures, the memories…the, ahem, enough of that.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1- God actually loves me more than even you did.

2 – Take nothing, and NO ONE for granted.

3 – Want vs. Need

4 – Love really IS the answer to all things, so don’t sprinkle it, pour it.

5 – I will never believe that man, on that day, in that coffin was you. You would NEVER abruptly leave me, at age 62. I waited for your return, from your trip to Boston. You were due back on Monday, Sept. 3, 1984. I spoke with you on Saturday, Sept. 2, 1984, for the last time. Did you know? You called me from your hotel room that night. In hindsight, you sounded woefully tired. I’d just come in from working an eleven (11) hour day at the shoe store, with Sharon. Her being the Manager, she would always let me work to earn cash for holidays, or back-to-school, etc. I was absolutely exhausted. I rushed you off the phone. I needed rest. Besides, we had time to talk when you got back, right? Did you bring me a souvenir? I know you did you always did. When we were hanging up, you said, “Good-bye”. How strange! You’d never said that before. I stared at the receiver, after you hung up. Huh? Well, I’ll ask you in a couple of days, when I saw you. No, I wouldn’t. I’d be too busy telling you about my first day of school, senior year, and whining because I didn’t get to go to Boston with you. There would be time for questions about your trip, your experience, your life.

There was always going to be time for questions, for revelations, for shocking details, for laughter, for tears, for the day you saw me graduate – the day you walked me down the aisle – to tell my children about your life. There was going to be time.

I’m sorry, we’re out of time.

How Do I Survive?

I am baffled. I acknowledge not being a Rhodes Scholar, but I attended Baltimore City College (third oldest high school in the nation, international renowned). Nonetheless, I’m confused as to how this “President”, and cabinet (might as well be kitchen cabinets) are LITERALLY breaking long established laws, with NO consequences.

One of the first things I remember learning about government, is that Congress exists for the purpose of “checks and balances”. They have refused to do their job, since Obama was President, and that went unchecked.

Perhaps someone can enlighten me. Granted, in any class I’ve ever had at 10 a.m, I was CERTAIN to be asleep (don’t judge me, I’m nocturnal), but I MUST have learned enough to know the function of the three branches of government. Heck, even SchoolHouse Rock taught us that much. These acts, or lack thereof, perpetrated by the last two administrations, Congress refusing EVERYTHING President Obama sent before them, looking the other way, as “Voldermort” sells our country to the scariest bidder, appear to be not only immoral, just plain stupid, and let’s not forget EXTREMELY DANGEROUS, but ILLEGAL. This goes back to “tricky” Dick Chaney, his bestie, Donald “Rummy” Rumsfeld, George W. Bush, and 9/11, and the “WMD’s”/ Iraq War; maybe even further.

Sidebar (but not really):Dick Chaney shot a man, during a hunting trip. The man apologized to him. For what? Being so shootable? What were you hunting, Mr. Chaney? What did he say/know?

How is this happening with NO repercussions? No Framers coming back, like Jacob Marley, and haunting the CRAP out of these folks. I’d say, I got Carpal Tunnel Syndrome writing the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, (not to mention having to dip my pen in ink every five seconds) and this is what you do?

Seriously, help me understand. My brilliant folks, far and near. Please don’t just read, talk to me. I need to understand how this COUP, ahem, blatant travesty is being allowed, and no one saw it coming, or is trying to stop it. Could we stop it?

Police shooting/ killing/ assaulting African – African men, women, ave children, in public view, on video, and receiving no more than a paid vacation? Their reason being, “I feared for my life. ”

What of the Police Officers who are actually trying to keep our neighborhoods and communities safe, who are kind and empathetic, who are well – trained in de-escalation, and crisis management, but STILL want to be able to go home to their families? They now HAVE to fear for their lives, because of their colleagues who devalue the lives of certain minority groups, and make assumptions, and react, with fatal results. Criminals who are better armed than Law Enforcement, and no one knows how the weapons are getting to our minority neighborhoods. Kinda like the drugs, huh?

Of course, after this blog, I may (unlike you know who) be kicked off of social media/ internet.

Signed,

Educated, but Baffled

Parallels

I’ve had a three parallel day. I’ve been blessed, all day, beginning with life, health, family, friends.

Parallel 1. I’ve felt quite human, as I had to see a Doctor, who told me the “cure ” for Fibromyalgia is not medication, but sleep and exercise (almost, but I wasn’t sure anyone would pay my bail). Oh, yeah. Went to the DMV, stood in line, only to be told they need proof of a ticket I paid(had a receipt)… nevermind….
Parallel 2. I was reminded of my soul, as I left the DMV and saw a place called “All About Music”(Joppa Rd., near the Kmart and DMV). I actually went in to look at sheet music, and stepped into an impromptu guitar performance. I was inquiring about having the fret board of my guitar fixed. Another customer was picking up his three guitars, and hit a chord that, in turn, hit me. I asked questions, he responded. I told him I was trying to learn ELP’s “Still, You Turn Me On”. He looked into my eyes, and said, “talk to Charlie”. We talked another couple of minutes. Just then, a man who looked as if he were an aged 1970’s surfer dude, with skin that had been tanned almost to leather, and hair bleached by the sun, came into the midst. The customer said, “Charlie, this nice lady is looking to learn ELP.” I told him I was a neophyte, at best, but my Yamaha workstation could not reproduce the acoustic sound, for my ear. He shook my hand, and said, ” NEVER say Yamaha to me” (PTSD moment? ) As I crept for the door, Charlie picked up a random acoustic guitar and played, and sang, “From The Beginning”, ELP. I turned slowly, and was frozen in stunned ecstasy. As quickly as he appeared, he was gone. The customer said, “wow, you have a great voice”. I didn’t realize I was singing.

Parallel 3 (best for last) MY SPIRIT:
I am feeling a bit overwhelmed, of late; closing old books, writing new chapters – forgetting to be present. A very wise friend told me I needed to vacuum away the debris in my head, and to remember that time is relative. So, I went to The WORD. God met me there, reminded me that I’d given all over to Him, and things were going better than expected, to eat something, and that it would be okay if I did nothing, tonite. I watched the last two episodes of “So, You Think You Can Dance”. It was ethereal. It was the manifestation of what I was reading. 1Chronicles 25, about the importance of music and dance, in praise and worship. By the time I was done, God had given me the FOURTH song for my Album. Fantastic end to the day. GOD DOES NOT DO RANDOM!

The Dance and the Music

Most who know me well, are aware of my love affair with music. It’s always evolving, ever enchanting, and a great equalizer, amongst humans.

You grow, you live, you love, you lose, you grieve, you learn. As I’ve evolved, I’ve discovered a great shift in my top three priorities. A Paradigm shift, if you will. Abraham Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” has become more than a conceptual paperweight on the desk of my psyche.

God, my KING, is my NUMBER ONE priority, now, and forever.

I won’t lie to you, and say it was easy, because it wasn’t. Music has ALWAYS come to my rescue. When I’m sad, I can wallow in blues, or certain jazz numbers; Robert Johnson, The Allman Brothers, Buddy Guy, B.B. King, Miles Davis, Joe Sample. When I’ve had enough of my own whining, I go to Gospel, R&B, Rock, and even a bit of Heavy Metal; Richard Smallwood, Doug Miller, James Cleveland; Anita Baker, Jill Scott, India Arie, Roberta Flack, Barry White (yessss), Winger, Dio, Motley Crue, Journey, Foreigner, Heart. Feeling creative, a bit of Alternative Rock; Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Train, Creed. When I’m feeling like a hyperactive Jack Russell Terrier, I go to the “light and easy favorites, of yesterday and today”. CSN&Y, England Dan and John Ford Coley, James Taylor; Carole King; Fleetwood Mac. Ah, when I’m in my version of love, The Spinners, The SalSoul Generation, Dan Fogelberg, Sade, Adele, Staind, Phoebe Snow….ad infinitum.

Tonight, I was talking to God, whom I call “The Great Orchestrator”, about a few things. I believe He gave each of us an instrument, unlike any other (our gifts), and the perfect sheet music -THE WORD! When we are in sync with God, obedient, and have pure love for God AND one another, it’s the perfect “song”. Of course, we have written our OWN metaphorical music, over time, and can’t figure out why everything is in disharmony, but that’s another blog.

Anyway, I was telling God how incredibly complicated things have become for me, of late, and that I know it’s because I keep getting in His way, when He tries to lead and guide me. No, it’s not that I can do better, it’s plain ole fear. Fear, for me, leads to self -sabotage ( yeah, only me, right? ).

I have another love. It’s DANCE! I was a dancer and figure skater, up until my 20’s. I still secretly choreograph in my head, when I see certain movement, or colors, witness leaves blowing in the breeze, or hear a particular song. Dance is the physical manifestation of music, for me.

So, I’m sitting here talking to God about how I’m wrecking His perfect plan for me, and watching the Iran Contra Hearings on YouTube. (What?) Suddenly, another video appears, and it’s David Letterman and Oprah.I have ADHD, so you know I watched. Paul Schaefer and the Orchestra begin to play, “Dance With Me”, by Orleans. “Wow! I haven’t heard that song in a while. Love the harmonies”, Crystal says to Cryss. So, I/ she looked it up, and began to sing along.

“Dance with me. I want to be your partner, can’t you see? The music is just starting. Night is calling, and I am falling. Dance with me.”

How sweet. How simplistic and sweet.

“Let it lift you off the ground. Starry-eyed, and love is ALL around us. I can take you where you want to go…”

Then, it happened. The epiphany. GOD, you’ve done it AGAIN!

You said my daughter is in a “place”, and I need her free, so I can not only use her, but bless her. So, as He’s done many times before, He spoke to me through the MUSIC. He simplified the sheet music, so I could read, and play on my instrument.

“Dance with me, my child. I want to commune with you, can’t you see? Your real mission is just starting. Night is falling, when you usually pray, and I AM here, calling. Dance with me.

Let ME lift you off the ground, my daughter. You won’t sabotage these blessings, for they are for YOU, ONLY. Stick with me, no matter. I can take you where you want to go, moreover, where you should be.

He does. He did. He can. He will. That’s tonite’s dance, to the Music of The Great Orchestrator, and the reason for the change in hierarchy.

Vizionairee- 2017

Musical Musings 5/20/2016

Evening Musings:

I’ve been staring out the window at night a lot, of late. The sky replete with her wondrous and vivid mysteries. Our clandestine meetings…. Playing coy with her shades, her colors, muted, but breathtaking. Teasing. Beckoning. Speaking. What will she tell me, tonight?

The moon shouted my name across a cloud, reaching me as a whisper, saying things; haunting things; beautiful things. “What is music? “, I dared ask. It was the question on my mind. A star twinkled and made a discernible sound- the voice of a small child’s glorious giggle, peeking around the seemingly vanished embers of the sun.

“You tell me?” The voice searing lightly across constellations had countered. I searched my cerebral Thesaurus. I needed intelligent, mystical verbiage for this conversation, but nothing. “Come on! You’re smarter than this”, Crystal said to Cryss. I acquiesced, thinking, “maybe not”. The thing I love, the thing I crave, the thing that is…. I can’t find the words. The lexicon I loved had failed me.

A silent and melodic breeze played my vertical blinds like Brahms’ Lullaby. Lillith perched angrily by; a silenced Banshee, still stewing over the one she couldn’t get. The one covered in the Blood.

It started in my chest. A tickling, as buzzing sensation. Working its way through every nerve, every pore, every fiber; bone, cartilage, sinew- flowing like liquid joy.

You see, I was singing all along. We were singing a harmonious duet. Ah, sky, there’s your answer. See you tomorrow night.

Vizionairee Jones-2016

Beautiful Anxiety

Beautiful anxiety

Courses thru my Spiritual veins

I anticipate the draw, the vessel

That will capture that precious essence.

That will release the life-blood of positive change.

Into my here, into my now.

Spill gently, over my lifetime,

That I may one day leave this place

Peacefully, joyously,

EMPTY

Vizionairee
Copyright-Steal it and I’ll kill ya!

5/13/2016