Monday, July 30, 2012

Week After Vacation Week





The week after vacation raced away from me.

Not sure why, but that always seems to be the case.



I guess after a week of being on your own schedule, doing whatever it is you want to do whenever you want to do it, even if that means just sitting on a beach, thinking and dosing….

What?

Oh….

Right….

I know what you’re thinking.

It is a different beach, here, with a much longer walk…you’re right….

Anyway, if vacation week passed as fast as week after vacation week, then I guess that would be…I don’t know…fast.

Not good.

But I think I’m at a point now where I’ve stopped obsessing over how fast life seems to be unraveling.  Instead, I’m more accepting of the fact that…well, it is…and it will continue to move along even faster…at least in my mind.

Unless I’m watching the NBC Universal Summer Olympics’ opening ceremonies, in which case it couldn’t move along fast enough.



What was with that giant baby head?

I'm guessing, something from the the Ministry of Silly Baby Heads?

But I did like the Queen parachuting into the stadium with James Bond; that was pretty cool.

Long fly the Queen!

But what happened to the Prince? Didn’t he get on that chopper too?  How did he get down there so fast?

It must suck being married to the Queen and having to be known as “Prince” your whole adult life, let alone get left off the parachute list.

I bet he gets a lot of confusing fan mail.

But I digress….

Oh, and you won’t be getting much Olympic coverage here, by the way…satirical or otherwise...so don’t be looking for it.

In fact, truth is, I didn’t even really watch the opening ceremonies, except for the Queen part, but only because Z called me into the kitchen to see it. Plus, I was guzzling my second week after vacation week blues gin and tonic at the time, so that helped.

The Olympics lost me sometime in the mid 80’s, after NBC bought the rights from ABC and once moved the “Summer” Olympics to the fall, so they could better promote their new shows.  Then they broke the winter games apart from the summer games, so this way they could have an Olympics event every two years instead of four. Then of course that whole spirit of amateur athletics thing went out the window when team US of A began losing too many basketball and hockey games, so now millionaire athletes compete and build their own Olympic villas instead of hanging in the Olympic village with the poor guy who runs out in the corn field every morning.

And just to sum up….beach volley ball….

Need I say more?

Probably not.


I’ve probably said enough already.

But, you know.. I digress….again.

Didn’t take long, did it?

Where was I?

The church ladies were just here. Right as I was writing the part about beach volley ball, the bell rang.


Kind of odd timing....

But I did tell you they come around every month.

What…you think I make these things up?

Today she said the theme was, what would you change if you could change the world?

I immediately went right to one of my ongoing themes and said free cable…to which she laughed and said, “You know, that’s not a bad idea!”

Of course it’s not a bad idea…but no amount of praying is gonna make that happen.

But...again...you know...digress, digress digress…again.

In fact I’ve digressed so far off track I don’t even remember where I was going.


The glare off this screen, sitting under this umbrella, is giving me a headache, anyway.

Maybe I’ll just go back to bed.


Beach volley ball…really?



Okay...Goodnight....







Friday, July 27, 2012

Straddling the Ocean's Edge




Last time I talked about how every vacation has a rhythm all its own.

As usual, Z and I found our rhythm in the ebb and flow of the ocean tide as it flowed and ebbed up onto the shore and over our sometimes sandy toes.

A sort of intrinsic internal clock always told us when it was time to head to the beach—mostly early morning, a couple of hours after dawn—where we would park our chairs, spread our towels and stake our umbrellas around a half acre of sand, because we don’t like strangers, woozy from the waves, putting their sandy toes on our non-sandy blankets.

We began most every morning in this same way, alone, ahead of the others, then immediately took off up the beach straddling the ocean’s edge, a half hour or so up, and a half hour or so back.

There’s a lot to be learned along the ocean’s edge, not the least of which is, you can develop an ugly blood blister on your big toe if you’re not careful.

At the time, there was apparently a nasty heat wave going on back home, but the magic of the ocean breeze kept all that heat at bay, as it were, especially at that hour of the morning with the sun still reflecting, long off the water.



Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote a beautiful book back in the 50’s called “Gift from the Sea”, in which she reflects on the various sea shells that are delivered to her spot on the beach every morning. Each item held meaning to her and delivered a message about life and relationships of all kinds…to each other, to nature…even the chatty old man on the nearby blanket that NEVER shut up the entire week.



Z and I are the perfect complimentary beach walking buddies. I have a tendency to look down when I stride, head, who knows where, following the mottled prints of all the beach feet that came before.

Z on the other hand, walks firmly in the present, head held high, savoring the misty ocean air, eyes always alert for hidden treasures.

This year it was dolphins, by the bushel.  We’ve always had occasion to see them throughout our beach weeks in the past, usually a ways a way, off in the distance, generally in sets of two or three.

It’s always a big occasion when folks spot them, accompanied by a lot of murmuring and dashes to the shore line. 

I don’t know how she does it, whether they send her a secret message or not, but Z always seems to be the one who lifts her head and says “Dolphins!” in the same manner that Radar O'Reilly would announce the incoming choppers on Mash.


For some reason, this week, the sea was full of them, breaching and playing, swimming around in groups much larger than any we’d ever seen in the past. At one point they had come in so close to the shore that the life guards pulled everyone from the water. 

Not sure why…I guess because Dolphins have been known to run off with other people’s boogie boards.

At least that was my theory.

Another theory is that Dolphins always arrive with a special message for everyone to whom they present themselves.  A lot of people feel it’s a sign to slow down, empty your brain and enjoy the simple pleasures.  To understand that no matter what insanity the world seem to manufacture at times, we’re all the same, existing together, whether on land or in the sea.

That’s the message that some people receive.



The message I usually receive is that I should slow down, empty my brain and get a cheese steak for lunch.

Don’t ask me why, I guess it’s just me….

Z says that’s a very self-serving message and she doubts the dolphins would make the trip just to deliver my lunch menu.

I just shake my head at her skepticism and say, “Its Dolphins…who am I to question?”

We continued on our outbound excursion up the beach for a bit longer, until we hit the two mile mark where we would usually turn around, but noticed we were close to an area of beach reclamation which was said to be yielding a rare supply of sand dollars, unearthed by the recent dredging.

Z thought we should walk on ahead a little and see if we could pick up a cretaceous buck or two.

Believe it or not, I was the first to come up with one, or half a dollar as it were, or a “Fity cent” piece of sea shell.

Of course Z went on to find several others, intact, yet on the small side, but the point was, it was a rare find, and anything rare is always welcome…including my impending cheese steak.

After an unplanned bit of sea shell hunting we finally turned around, mindful of the extra mile and a half we added on to our journey and walked back along the familiar shoreline.  This time we had the benefit of the cool breeze in our faces, which was a refreshing treat.  However, cool breeze aside, what was also different was the much larger, solitary, shadowy shape, barely breaching the waves in front of us.

At the same moment, a group of life guards, gathered for their morning roster call, all turned at once and began to point towards the ocean. This was obviously not your average Dolphin sighting.

Then a bit further to the south of our first glimpse, a long, majestic streak of shiny black rolled gracefully from the water, then slipped back beneath the waves. It was a whale…something we had never seen there before, and something so obviously rare, especially this close, that even the life guards were excited by it.

Z and I just stood there, mouths open, marveling at what we had just seen. It also struck us that if we had not walked the extra distance to gather the sand dollars, we would probably never had seen it at all.

I asked Z what message she thought THAT was supposed to be?  She just shrugged and said she wasn’t sure, but maybe there was real value in finding those sand dollars, after all. 

I, on the other hand had no doubt, what special message the whale was sending to me…it was telling me…“Go for the cheesy fries, as well!”

Which I did….

This all took place on a Tuesday, but it really defined and highlighted the rest of our week, which also included a day of swimming with the Rays, always a treat. Of course there were several nice dinners out—one in which a passing waiter spilled a mug of beer on me as I was leaving my name at the desk, which resulted in my scoring a t-shirt plus a trip to the head of a hungry line of diners for my soggy troubles—many trips for ice cream and gelato, shopping and all the other things you do on a vacation, including a rain shortened excursion to play mini-golf,.

By Thursday some cloudy, breezy weather rolled into town and by Friday we were entrenched under a blanket of rain, wind and end of vacation blues.

But now that I’m home, back clacking away, it seems clear to me that the gift left  behind on that special day of dolphins, sand dollars and whales was, and will be, a lasting one…..

Keep your head up, eyes focused and mind open.

But most importantly, always look to the sea…and straddle the ocean's edge every chance you get.






Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Surf Side Sonata




Vacations develop a rhythm of their own choosing; much different than the everyday rhythms we're accustomed to. The sooner you discover that rhythm and begin to step in time to it, the sooner you’re able to let yourself go wherever the music wants to take you.

The worst thing you can do is to try and set the beat yourself...especially if you’re spending the week with other folks, whether their family or friends, or in the best case, family who are also friends.

As it turned out, the latter situation happily applied to this particular family excursion, a first for both Z and me.

Z hadn’t spent an appreciable amount of time with her slightly older brother, T, (what can I tell you, it was a monosyllabic household) since they both used to jet set around the Adirondacks with their folks back in the 60’s and early 70’s.  As I’ve mentioned before, Z comes from a large Irish Catholic family of 3 boys and 3 girls, because Irish Catholics don’t like to share a pew at Sunday Mass. In this group, however, there’s quite a spread in ages—about 16 years from the youngest, which is Z, to her oldest brother, who we know only through post cards.

I always tell Z that her parents kept having kids until they were satisfied they got it right and stopped at her.  I do this mostly because Z makes me dinner, and I don’t want to screw that up…and, of course, it’s also true….

Can’t be too careful.

This brother, who came along with us to the beach, the aforementioned T, is the next one closest in age to Z; so being the two youngest, they pretty much grew up together as most siblings that close in age will do, whether they want to or not. 

I’m not saying that they didn’t have their moments—I’m not getting into the whole shoe/potty debacle—but for the most part, as I understand it, as it’s been told to me through the years…they got along okay; better than most…the shoe thing aside.

So, since Z moved out of the house, when she married me, some 33 years ago, her contact with T has been limited to mostly kid events, family gatherings and holidays. 

Nonetheless, we all thought it would work out since the whole group liked the beach and most importantly alcoholic beverages…lots and lots of alcoholic beverages.

Also on the trip was T’s wife, Jody, my partner from the in-law T-shirt and apparel business we started back in the 90’s for the benefit of all the other relations that married into the family called:
“We Share No DNA!”
It’s actually very profitable….

Then there’s Matt, 15, quiet, cool and collected, a star High School Hockey player, who plays all year long, but looked odd sitting on the beach with all those pads on, so we made him take them off in the afternoons.

But you know kids…go figure.


Then…last but not least…there’s always curious Emily, 20  going on 35, who never met a day or a camera she didn’t like…seemingly since she was born.

She’s also the group’s fashion coordinator, music programmer, game advisor and, in general, the Queen of most every situation she’s a part of, which sometimes involves getting lost on a Metro North Train.

Emily has always greeted me with a big hug and a smile ever since I can remember and has never failed to make me feel as if she’s genuinely glad to see me…especially if I’m bringing her bail money.

Okay…I’m kidding…I’ve never brought her bail money…I always use my credit card.

No…she’s a good kid and has a knack of attracting people like bees to honey…or college boys to beer.  So much so that when she showed up on the beach in a teensy weensy bikini we had to cover her up to keep all the bees and college boys at bay, along with all the other beach detritus that frequents the Jersey Shore.

Here she is cozying up to me in a bar, because she said it would be good for my street cred, but what she really wanted was for me to buy her drinks, cuz she left her ID at home.

Next time, I’ll have more details about what exiting events actually transpired throughout the week, but like I said last year, the most exciting thing that can happen on vacation is that nothing exciting happens on vacation...at least in my book.

But, basically, that’s all the players in this year’s surf side sonata, and I’m happy to say that we all found the rhythm pretty quickly, pretty easily. 

We also found we shared a lot of common ground other than a Thanksgiving Turkey every November and lasagna every December. 

Plus the strawberry daiquiris helped…and the ice cream….and the calamari… and the crab…and the beer….and the wine…and the gin….

Did I mention the strawberry daiquiris…?




Monday, July 23, 2012

Back To The Beach!




I guess the only bad things about vacations are that they end…much too quickly.

In the blink of an eye you’re settling in, unpacking your things, and in the next, you’re packing them back up and heading home.

Still, no matter how you slice it, a week is a week is a week. That doesn’t change, but I guess our perspective does.


The more we want to savor something—like that big pistachio cone I scored at the local ice cream joint—the faster it seems to melt away, even if we do try very hard to live in the moment.

I suppose if I had actually spent more time eating the thing than philosophizing about it, the ice cream would have melted more in my mouth than in the street. But that’s just how vacations go, and besides, how many times can I apologize to one crabby lady about ice cream dripping on her toes?

As has been our wont for a gaggle of years, Z and I headed back to the beach the Saturday before last, for our annual week of fun in the sun at the Jersey Shore. 

This year we were once again able to rent the house we had shared with a group of friends for more than a decade, but had to forgo, last year, because the friends scattered in other directions. We thought about taking it ourselves but it seemed silly to have an entire house for just us…especially since all we mostly do there is sleep, eat and shower…sometimes all at the same time.

Truth is, we actually enjoyed ourselves on our own last year, nestled in our little upstairs door-less apartment—the Ax Murder who rented downstairs was a nice change of pace from our usual crowd— but we’ve always enjoyed this particular beach house for a lot of reasons, so we decided to see if we could get a new group of fun cool people together to join us.

We couldn’t…so we went with some of my in-laws, instead….

No, I’m kidding.

We actually invited them.

It was actually my idea

Honest.

They’re actually fine, friendly, fun folk and pretty cool in their own right.

I never knew there were so many facets to the Amish culture.

And those hats…by the end of the week my bro-in-law had just about everyone on the beach wearing one, not to mention making their own beach chairs out of drift wood and kelp.

Of course, before we actually got to go on vacation we had to endure the usual trial of ‘Pre-Vacation Day”, the worst of all days, which I outlined in detail last year. Needless to say, I had to do quite a bit of scrambling to find the the list of lists that needed to be made, of the things that need to be prepared, including the lists, so other things could be taken with us.

This year, though, I tried something new; I wore a ring of garlic around my neck to ward of Z’s vampire like incisors that come out every Pre-Vacation Day, which minimized the blood loss…so that worked out.

Plus, I like the musky, macho way garlic makes me feel.

We also have the new car, so that required a whole new packing plan be put into place.  I scanned all of our things into the computer, on Z’s orders, combined it with the new car schematic and came up with about 2 dozen nifty theoretical combinations to achieve maximum density and storage capability.

Of course I still forgot my toothbrush…and my bathing suit…and almost Z, but she called me before I got to the bridge so I was able to go back and get her before I wasted any toll money.

We actually hit the road about 7 AM, which is necessary in order to avoid the hordes of other like-minded beach vacationers. That’s just how it is heading down to the shore; for every hour you delay your departure, you can figure on adding at least another ½ hour on top of that.

And that’s just for the line at the rest rooms on the way.

One needs their morning coffee, even though there are consequences.

All in all, we made pretty good time and reached our destination shortly before 9:30 AM.

By the time Z and I rolled up to the house, my bro-in-law had already parked his buggy and watered the horse.  In fact he had already hung most of the hex proof talismans, which is always a good thing.

The rest of his family had buzzed on ahead in their sporty SUV and was already in town buying donuts, but arrived shortly thereafter, and we all settled in...except for the horse, which was startled by a flock of sea gulls and ran off down to the beach.

But by 11 we were all on the beach, which was somewhat cloudy, with breaks of sun that made the raindrops a little more bearable.

Still, no one complained—except the folks next to us, who had to share their blanket with the horse—because any day at the beach is a good day because the sun always comes out, which it did for just about most of the week…if you don’t count Thursday and Friday.

I’ll have more on that in the next few days. I‘m still unpacking even though Z had all the laundry done before the sun set on Saturday.

The good news is, I finally found my toothbrush, which is fortunate because I had to share the replacement I bought down there with the horse.  The only thing I’ll say about that is…horses are hell on toothbrushes….


Friday, July 20, 2012

Smart Dog




Everyone thinks they have the smartest dog in the world. 

They see them, sitting in front of the window for hours on end, surveying the neighborhood. You assume they’re enjoying the goings on as their squirrel friends’ frolic and their bird buddies skip from here to there.

Ahhhhh…what an idyllic life, to be a dog.

But maybe—just maybe—what your dog is really thinking is….

Where the heck am I, and how did I get here again?

Can I climb trees like that?

Is there any food?

But I guess a lot of you think I’m being too harsh and not giving the dog enough credit.

And I suppose you’re right. At least the dog has enough sense to know that even though it’s transparent, he can’t walk through a glass door.

I’ve had party guests who don’t know that, much to their chagrin and the door’s.

The beauty of being a dog, or any animal, for that matter is that it’s a very instinctive, very intuitive being. It doesn’t give a lot of thought to things…it just does things.

When it’s hungry it eats.  When it’s sleepy it sleeps and when it’s happy it licks your face…much like my old college roommate, whose records are still sealed.

On the other hand, we—the thinkers and analyzers of the world—can’t do anything without picking it apart.

I wonder how much fiber is in that cupcake?”

A dog sniffs the cupcake…eats the cupcake…takes a nap.

We walk by a mirror and think…my ass is huge….

A dog walks by a mirror and thinks…there’s that hairy thing again…

We get invited out and think…do I really feel like going out…is it raining…is it cold… do I want Italian or Chinese?

A dog gets invited out, at any time, in any weather, and thinks…ahhhhhhhh…that’s better.  Is there anything to eat?

If your boss asks you to take a seat, you, think…uh oh… what’s this about?

If you tell your dog to “Sit”, it thinks…why does my butt always go down like that for no reason?

“Roll Over”now that’s weird.

“Beg”what am I doing!

And when you’re done putting your dog through its paces….

I wonder if there’s any food?

While you’re worrying how you’re gonna pay that Visa bill next month…

 Did I really need those $200 Nikes?

Are these pants too tight?

We’re so focused inward we miss that moment of pure Zen that is our dog…or cat…or gerbil.

Well, maybe not the gerbil, cuz who can tell what a gerbil is thinking.

Then by the time we snap out of it, the dog is sitting by the window again, one eye closing with sleep, a chew toy by its side.

Quite the life, we finally recognize, with not a little envy.

And the dog gives in, closes the remaining opened eye and thinks…

Where the heck am I, and how did I get here again?


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Skinny Jeans







My skinny jeans are giving me trouble.

Mostly because I‘m not that skinny.

I can’t feel my legs anymore.

I mean I know they’re still there…I can see the tips of my toes.

Sort of….

If I bend way over and peek…without tipping over.

Then I can see my toes.

Sort of….

So I know my legs are still where they’re supposed to be.

I just can’t feel them.

Because of the skinny jeans thing.

Apparently this is a pretty common problem in the skinny jean community.

According to this recent article in the NY Daily News, doctors are warning that the skinny jeans fad can have painful side effects that can cause nerve damage if your pants are too tight. Tingling and numbness are symptoms of the condition meralgia paresthetica that occurs when the nerve that runs down the front of the thigh is compressed. 

I hate that.

These doctors, who I guess specialize in the field of pants, called “Pantology”, suggest that we “fashion-forward” types use common sense if we suddenly can’t feel our legs. Their sage advice is…“Switch to a larger size”.

So all those medical school loans were well spent on coconuts.

I had this same problem with my hats.

My skull was getting numb.

So I stopped wearing hats.

Cuz once my skull was numb I couldn’t think of any other way.

But I don’t think I can stop wearing pants.

Not if that same judge has anything to say about it.

So I guess I’ll just start wearing bigger jeans.

I was causing too many accidents with the old ones anyway.

I’d be walking down the street, minding my own business and people would stop their cars and point.

Some would even honk their horns…and then point.

I mean I understood it…but it was tough to put up with.

But I guess it comes with the territory.

People just are drawn to a sleek, cool, sexy look…

Just like the song says “It’s the look you want to know better….”

“The look that’s all together.”

Yep….

So they point…and take pictures…and videos.

And I know they’re having a good time…because of all the laughing.

So it kind of makes me feel good to help them with that.

Even if I can’t feel my legs…or my stomach. Or sit down.

And once the nausea passes most of the people get back in their cars and drive away.

Probably to go buy their own skinny jeans.

But you have to be careful when you’re buying skinny jeans; not everyone can pull them off.

Or pull them on….

Just like my skinny jeans…..

Now I can’t feel my chest…or my arms. I guess because of my skinny shirt.

I better loosen the Velcro….


Monday, July 16, 2012

Saved by the Bell





I get all kinds of doorbell visitors. 

Phone companies, magazine and candy salesman. High School Band members, cheerleaders. Gas and electric suppliers, politicians and young kids who are intent on saving the environment, but not so much concerned about polluting the neighborhood.

And in most every instance I cut them off very quickly, tell them I’m not interested and turn them away.

And to be honest I kind of enjoy watching those smiles turn upside down. 

But sometimes I do offer them a bottle of water on a very hot day…especially the environmentalist, because they tend to get crankier than the others.

About once every month or so, a couple of Church Ladies ring my doorbell to say hello, hand me a couple of their latest publications, and attempt to save my misbegotten soul.

Oh, and they come to laugh, because saving souls can be a bit of a downer most of the time.

When they come to save me, though, they know it will at least be a good time for all.

They’re nice people. And they put up with me, who can be…well, let’s say difficult, when it comes to people talking to me about religion.

One of the nice ladies is always the same, but she seems to bring a new partner every time.

I guess I’m an acquired taste, even in soul saving endeavors. 

I’ve given my views when it comes to all things theological, here before, so I’ll spare you any discourse now. But the Church Lady first arrived at my door not long after we first moved here, a decade ago. 

I had seen her in the neighborhood walking from door to door on a hot sticky Saturday afternoon, that first summer, and she was receiving a less than welcome reception from most of the places she’d been.

Whereas I would probably have been ripping flowers from people gardens on the way out, this effervescent woman was always smiling, undeterred from her mission.

When she showed up at my door, I did what was only natural….I threw myself on the floor and crawled behind the couch.

The only problem was the front door was open, and since I had also knocked over a lamp, she was yoo hooing through the screen, asking if everything was alright in there…..

So I mustered a big smile, crawled out from behind the couch and went to meet my maker, or at least a very good friend of my maker.

I politely listened to her spiel, which to be honest was very short and to the point.  I told her how much I admired what she was doing; her dedication and above all her patience with some of my less than hospitable new neighbors. I told her that if I was running heaven, which I hoped to someday, I would make sure she got a room with a view and possibly even a swimming pool, while my neighbors would be relegated to split levels in the Heavenly equivalent of Levittown, NY.

That earned me a great big belly laugh, mostly because I don’t think she was expecting it, and I actually caught some of the neighbors peeking through their curtains wondering just what kind of person had taken up residence on their block.

I then proceeded to make very clear that while I certainly had my views on spirituality and religions of all kindssome positive, most negativeI had talked it all to death, was very happy where I was in that regard, but I’d be happy to have her drop by and leave her reading material, if that was of any benefit to her.  But no discussions, no bible thumping and especially no praying for my obstinate soul.

This pleased her to no end, and she told me that was a much better deal than she gets at most places, so she would see me in a month.

And she did, and she did...and she still does, when I’m not hiding behind the couch, almost every month, for about 10 years; but, like I said, with a different partner each time.

I think it’s how they break in the new people.  Or punish the old people. 

Not sure….

The first time she returned, she called me by name so I asked her if Jesus had told her my name…or if she had written it down.

She immediately burst out in that great big window rattling laugh of her’s and admitted that she had written it down.

Again the neighbors were peeking out the windows.

Again she handed me her little magazines.

Most times I get a little spiel on the hot topic of the month, to which I nod my head a lot, then comment on what a good looking Jesus they have pictured on the cover.  I tell her that I didn’t know Jesus looked so much like James Brolin, or that he was able to afford 200 dollar haircuts.

This elicits another big laugh from my friend, and a horrified expression from her partner who usually starts to wave various herbs and preventative talismans in my direction.

And then she’s gone until the next soul lifting moment….for both her and for me.

Most of my friends are befuddled when they learn about this and just how long it’s been going on.

They think I’m the last person they know who would allow such an invasion of time and space.

But I tell them, I don’t mind at all, and since all that’s asked of me is that I listen to what she has to say for 30 seconds and take a glance at her magazines to see if anything strikes my fancy, how can I not have time for that.

My friend the Church Lady is the one putting in all the time. It doesn’t matter if I think it’s time well spent or not.

So she wants to save my soul....what’s wrong with that?




To be honest it could use a good scrubbing.

So the next time you’re doorbell rings, don’t be so quick to go visit the dust bunnies behind the couch.

And there’s no law here or above—or even below— that says you can’t laugh about it.

Is there…?


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