Another Goodbye to Another Good Friend

Posted in Uncategorized on April 14, 2014 by tom

Jolan Albritton, a long-time family friend, died Thursday. She lived in constant pain for years, with autoimmune and skeletal diseases that baffled doctors for literal decades. She was in that capital-p Pain most of us never have to live with, certainly not an entire adulthood.

The great triumph of Jolan’s death is that her pain has stopped. She had a huge family, who supported her and loved her, and she had friends who cared. Pain is the worst isolation, because nobody can be there with you. They can offer bromides like, “I’m sorry, is there anything I can do?” as if every doctor in the State of Florida missed something–”OH. Just take an Advil and an Alka-Seltzer, and you’ll be all fixed”—or bringing a shiny balloon will ease the hurting. It’s nice to know they care, but…

People mean well, but pain–that true, three o’clock in the morning dark night of the soul pain–you are left to face that alone.

Jolan faced her pain with aplomb and grace. She hurt, but she still cared about others. In many ways, that’s triumph over sickness: you can ravage my body, but you can’t touch my soul, damn you.

Jolan’s life was far too short, and certainly far too difficult, more difficult than most people could stand.

My idea of Heaven is an infinite resort in Vegas. Your room is dependent on how well you lived. If you were okay, but kind of a jerk, you get a crappy little room between the elevator and the ice machine. If you were evil, you’ll be up to your elbows scrubbing dishes for all eternity.

Jolan would have a giant penthouse, with all the luxuries imaginable, right down to the solid gold toothbrush holder. It would be a penthouse where she could throw parties for her innumerable friends and family, with the finest catered food and drink, a pool for the kids, and lots of conversation and fun.

But that penthouse would remain empty much of the time. You see, its tenant wouldn’t be there. She’d be down in the ballroom, dancing up a storm, her pain not even a vague memory anymore.

This is the paradise she deserves. I hope and pray this is the paradise she’s enjoying today.

Requiescat in Pace, my former babysitter. Save a dance for me in a few years.

With love,

t

Merry Christmas from Cynical Bastard Land

Posted in Uncategorized on December 24, 2013 by tom

grinch

Alana’s Kiss

Posted in Uncategorized on December 1, 2013 by tom

Alana’s Kiss

Sleep Sonnet 1

The Angel called Alana whispers by,

And wrests away your day’s unpleasantness.

The wings–so soft, so strong, their flight is nigh,

A journey Morpheus will surely bless.

Shades: people, places, faces, books, combine

With triumphs, stress, your day’s routine events.

The Angels blend your thoughts, distilling wine

Unique to you in taste and bouquet’s scents

This wine they place upon your tongue reserves

Your seat upon the train that passes through

A broad pastiche, a vault of thought that serves

To magnify, create a story, too—

 

A Yahtzee cast of dice within your brain

A tale both wild and rich, if half-insane

 

Sleep Sonnet 2

 

Your grandma taps and twirls with Fred Astaire,

While Gwyneth Paltrow gloms a rare roast beef.

Bob Dylan hugs a purple grizzly bear,

And Billy Graham—so high—chews coca leaf.

A unicorn devours the grassy knoll,

Kate Hepburn, hands the Yahtzee dice to you

You score a straight! Then Elvis takes his roll.

The dice spell out, “Grab hugs and mem’ries too.”

Your sad good-bye so quickly seems to come,

To choc’late rivers, trees that laugh and sing;

To cocoanuts pre-filled with spicy rum,

To tumbleweeds who—tumbling–loudly ring.

 

The train’s familiar whistle beckons you

To look around and bid this world adieu.

 

Sleep Sonnet 3

 

A dozen colored lambs soft-gently lead

You to your station platform, sere and stark;

Bob Dylan and his bear bring books to read.

Ms. Hepburn slips you chocolates white and dark.

Your grandma waltzes up for final hugs—

Her feel, her scent familiar as your hands—

She brings a tiny swarm of lady bugs

To guide you safely through these foreign lands.

Too quickly sounds a bell—its toll complete,

Your friends all raise a heartfelt parting cheer.

Soft angel hands escort you to your seat,

Past rows and rows into the coach’s rear.

 

Dear friends who saw you off, through windows fade.

Your dream retreats, your ticket punched and paid.

 

 

Sleep Sonnet #4

 

No fantastic journey this–just gray.

The faces of your boss with projects due

And classless slime who’ll stab your back today.

Cruel traffic jams are tailored just for you.

Spoiled rotten clients slam your latest work:

“Rank amateurs could do a better job.

“We’re just not going to pay,” declares one jerk.

If only you could run away and sob.

Your grandma charges through the heavy mist.

Her face is stern, her dancing joy dissolved.

“You disappointing whore, do you exist

“To be a one-night-stand, no ring involved?”

 

You scream out in your coach, “This once was nice!

“What happened here?” Your blood runs cold as ice.

 

Sleep Sonnet #5

 

The mist retreats, as morning sunlight burns

And reassures you, now you’re safe from harm.

Your angel–glowing, beautiful–returns.

You melt into her smile; she takes your arm.

Soporific Hypnos, god of sleep,

And Morpheus—his son—the god of dreams

Relax upon the floor on pillows deep

Your angel brought you to this place it seems.

“Your pitiful subconscious mind is sure,”

God Morpheus explains with rolling eyes,

“That Grandma dearest—gag—was certain you’re

“On track to waste your love on men whose lies,

 

“Whose promises mean nothing: they won’t leave

“Their wives, and when you die, no one will grieve.”

 

Sleep Sonnet #6

 

In his left hand are cards of glowing blue

“Upon these cards appear deep-seated fears

“That Grandma—Gag, again—died thinking you

“Will cry away your life with bitter tears.”

In his right hand are cards of glowing red.

“Upon these cards appear dear Grandma’s place

“In Heaven, where the righteous go when dead,

“And reap rewards for lives of love and grace.

“With lemon sun and endless fields of flowers,

“Eternity of joy so pure,” he drawls,

“That time is gone. Not minutes, days, nor hours

“Will limit them: no clocks, no curtain falls.”

 

The Dream God yawns, blasé, “This heaven’s where

“Dear grandma cuts a rug with Fred Astaire.”

 

Sleep Sonnet #7

 

“Now take thy leave,” said Hypnos. “Go away.

“Just clasp thy angel’s hand, and board thy train.

“Go home. Go out for breakfast. Start thy day.

“To us, ’tis no concern, thou human stain.”

Alana takes your hand; you pull away

And shout, “But all these things I’ve seen

“Which ones are real? The terrors in the gray?

“That lovely world with meadows lush and green,

“Where grandma (Morpheus gags) could laugh and dance?

“Where ev’ryone was glad, the sunshine bright–”

“Dear Zeus!” He spat. “What vomitous romance!

“Both Heav’n and Hell have crossed your path tonight.

 

“And real?” He strew your cards upon the floor.

“Your answer’s there; I’ll tell you nothing more.”


 

Sleep Sonnet #8

Your angel called Alana takes your hand

And leads you ‘cross the platform to your train,

Which carries you through rich and verdant land.

The clacking wheels tap out a jazz refrain.

You point back toward the station. “He’s a jerk!

“Just who the hell–” “Respect please! He can be

“Abrasive, yes, but quite adept at work.

“For he’s the god who shows what you can’t see.”

You ponder for a moment. “What’s that mean?

“Explain to me just what I cannot see.”

“The forest for the trees,” she said. “You’ve seen

“Your deepest fears, and hopes for what will be

“When you have crossed the veil and learned your fate.

“You’ve seen your dreadful hell and heaven great.”

 

 

Sleep Sonnet #9

 

Alana’s words have fogged your weary mind.

The train continues, steady, through the hills.

Your angel’s smile is warm; her gold eyes, kind.

“Poor humans and the gods, with clashing wills.”

Amused, she shakes her head. “You never learn

“The sway immortals hold in daily life.

“The dream gods play, and leave you to discern

“What’s fact or fiction, peace or endless strife.”

Alana says, “In dreams, you sort it out.”

She kisses you good-bye and fades to light.

You cry, “Don’t go!” She says, “I must. Don’t pout.”

“I’ll see you when we go again tonight.”

 

You wonder if the gods see you, alone,

Inside this coach, where once your angel shone.

 

 

Epilogue

I

Your destination slowly nears

The station lovely, it appears

As sunlight creeps toward the dawn.

You wish that you could journey on,

But you’re aware the trip ends here:

No glowing joy nor crippling fear

 

II

You frown, confused, and wonder how

You reached this depot, empty now,

But brightly lit, so blindingly,

As mem’ries fade fast, fleetingly

“I must remember them, I must!”

And still they crumble into dust.

.

III

So weary, now, at journey’s end.

You battle Hypnos, hope to fend

Away this urge to curl and sleep.

Inside the station blares a beep.

It’s keeping you awake, you fume,

From in your bed, inside your room.

 

IV

You brush your teeth; you take your shower,

And curse the early morning hour.

A dreary, mortal’s day for you,

And so the cycle starts anew.

You wipe the mirror clear of mist,

And rub the spot Alana kissed.

 

(tom sanchez, Saint Petersburg, Florida, November 2013)

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized on November 23, 2013 by tom

Not In Your Lifetime(We continue our JFK series with this book from Anthony Summers. Research-wise, this is on par with “Case Closed” from yesterday. A very different conclusion, though)

The other night, I was chatting online with my friend, Amanda. She asked what I was doing, and I told her I was reading a book about the JFK Assassination. There was a long pause while she thought and typed.

Her reply: One thing I don’t understand, and don’t want to read a bunch of books to find out, is why people are still so caught up with the assassination. JFK? The ONLY thing I know about him is that he was shot in the head. And that his wife is named Jackie, and for some reason I know that he was Catholic Why do people still care about him?

For her, that’s a perfectly valid question. Amanda is 24. She was twelve when 9/11 happened; The Cold War—such a big part of JFK’s administration—was over before she started school. For Amanda and her peers, 9/11 is their defining event, her generation’s equivalent of the JFK assassination.

I wasn’t alive when JFK was killed, but I grew up with the legends of Kennedy’s Camelot, of his vitality and wit, and of that terrible day in Dallas. My parents talked about JFK when November 22nd rolled around. My teachers—also Baby Boomers—talked about it. What I told Amanda was that for a couple generations of Americans, the day JFK died, something in America also died.

For Amanda, that day tolled shortly after 9/10/01 turned over to 9/11/01. That was when her generation’s innocence was lost, and it’s understandable why the Kennedy assassination doesn’t resonate with her.

For me, though, it does. Since I was in middle school, I’ve read books about JFK, his administration, his family, especially his assassination. My conclusions aren’t important here. My point is that for millions of Americans, JFK still matters.

And most Americans don’t buy that a scrawny Marxist nutball named Lee Harvey Oswald—acting alone—killed the most-powerful man in the free world.

The government’s official findings—The Warren Report—say there was no conspiracy in Dallas: that Oswald killed JFK, period.

In the preface to “Not in Your Lifetime,” author Anthony Summers quotes a 2009 CBS News poll that says 76% of Americans believe there was a conspiracy. Similar numbers think there was a government cover-up to hide the truth from the American people, and that we will never know exactly what happened that day.

“Not in Your Lifetime” is Anthony Summers’s intelligent, scholarly study of the JFK Assassination. It was originally published in 1983 under the title, “Conspiracy.” Since then, Summers has repeatedly updated his original work, essentially rewriting it by now. He changed the title to jibe with what Chief Justice Earl Warren said to a reporter asking when all of the information would be released: due to security concerns, “Not in your lifetime.”

Over the past fifty years, documents were released here and there, until the early 1990’s, when tens of millions of pages were released regarding the JFK Assassination.

Summers has examined many of these, as well as other fresh sources. He has conducted dozens of interviews with key players in the JFK assassination. Summers has a theory as to what happened on November 22nd, 1963, and he explains it here, with impeccable documentation.

Could one man kill President Kennedy from a sixth-floor warehouse window? Or was there an intricate plot involving various groups inside and outside the government?

While today’s twenty-somethings may have moved past the day JFK was shot and Camelot crumbled, millions of people still chew-over facts and fairytales, trying to make peace with what happened. As long as the debate continues, we can hope Anthony Summers keeps updating his wonderful book, “Not in Your Lifetime.”

Highly Recommended

(nb: I received an Advance Review Copy from the publisher via NetGalley)

Case Closed: Lee Harvey Oswald and the Assassination of JFK, by Gerald Posner (rev. ed 2013)

Posted in Uncategorized on November 22, 2013 by tom

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JFK in Dallas: Fifty Years Later

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , on November 21, 2013 by tom

My friend, Amanda, is twenty-five, and she asked me the other night why John F. Kennedy’s Assassination is still such a big deal, why Abraham Lincoln doesn’t garner the same idol-worship as JFK. To a young woman who was born in the twenty-fifth year since JFK was killed—who was twelve on 9/11—this is a valid question.

First, I explained that yes, Abraham Lincoln was a great president, but he died 128 years ago, and there isn’t a lifetime’s worth of film featuring him. Lincoln wasn’t a handsome man (except when played by Daniel Day Lewis), and almost nobody ever heard him speak.

John Kennedy had it all, everything a man would want to be: rich and handsome, charming and heroic. His wife, Jackie, was beautiful and elegant, all finishing-school grace. His two children were adorable.

More than that, though, he was the one to whom the torch was passed. Kennedy was the first of the World War 2 generation to be elected President, same as Bill Clinton was the first man of the Vietnam era to become the most powerful man on Earth.

JFK was a war hero, and Bill Clinton was a draft dodger. A little difference there.

The comparison between JFK and Clinton is an apt one, though, in that they shared certain traits, with different results. I think Bill Clinton was empirically smarter, a Rhodes Scholar and impressive student. In other ways, he was dumb, admittedly. He lied, when it should have been a given his lies would be discovered. He committed adultery, not just with Monica Lewinsky, but with a number of women. That came back to haunt him.

Then there was the draft-dodging thing. Bill Clinton was the first president to have to face that. Kennedy was in the Navy, the hero of PT-109. Nixon served with distinction, and Gerald Ford nearly lost his life in his Navy tour. Jimmy Carter graduated in the top tenth of his class at the U.S. Naval Academy, did graduate work in reactor technology and nuclear physics, and served on a nuclear sub, while George H. W. Bush was a heroic Naval aviator. The president before Kennedy?

Five-star General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the guy who orchestrated the Allies European victory in World War Two.

Kennedy faced different charges—that his father bought him the election with the help of organized crime, for example—but Jack Kennedy had enough charm to outweigh the sins of his father.

There’s another big difference between JFK and Bill Clinton.

JFK never had to face the scrutiny Clinton did. When Kennedy schtupped Marilyn Monroe, it would have been all over CNN, TMZ, and in all the tabloids. Add to that Kennedy’s long-term relationships, and that could have sunk him. Nixon? No questions there—he wasn’t exactly charming, handsome, or funny.

JFK’s father would have been raked over the coals for making his money through bootlegging and organized crime. Joe Kennedy, Sr., spent huge sums of money to get his less-smart sons (i.e., Teddy) into good schools, and keep them there. He was determined that his son—or sons—would be president one day (think about it: all the Kennedy home movies were shot with Hollywood-caliber cinematography; none were filmed by Uncle Ralph with his Super 8).

But neither father nor son faced that scrutiny. It was a different era, when reporters respected their subjects’s privacy. There are myriad other differences. None of these things really matter, though.

John Kennedy represented the beginning of a new era, one of promise and hope, a future of endless possibilities. He planned to bring all the U.S. Troops home from Vietnam by Christmas 1965. He opened communications with Soviet Premier Khrushchev, so that the world would never again be as close to nuclear war as during the Cuban Missile Crisis. JFK committed us to sending a man to the moon before the decade ended. His was an administration of limitless dreams, an administration Americans could embrace. Other presidents—before and since—seem not to have been elected for their own vision, but to patch-up whatever mess his predecessor created.

JFK came to power when the Baby Boomers were coming of age. No longer were the World War Two veterans the country’s loudest voices. It was their children, and America’s young bought into the dream more than anyone.

That dream ended on November 22nd, 1963, fifty years ago today. Within hours of that horrible headshot, it was back to the politics of yore with stodgy old Lyndon Johnson. Nobody who was alive that day seems to want to let Jack Kennedy go.

I think that’s why there are so many conspiracy theories out there. The “official” government account—the Warren Report—determined that Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone, firing three shots from the Texas School Book Depository’s sixth floor. Maybe he did. Maybe he was acting entirely on his own. Maybe he fired the shots, but there were others behind him—the CIA or Cubans or the Mafia. Maybe there were two shooters—one conspiracy theorist claims there were eight people firing that day.

If you want a sampling of conspiracy theories—promulgated by the sane and the tinfoil hat-wearing contingents alike—go to YouTube, and type in JFK Conspiracy Theories. It will bring up tons of them.

As for this Fiftieth Anniversary, I have saved you a lot of trouble (and insanity). Over the next few days, I will present reviews of JFK books—some scholastic and well-documented, others a bit…not—as well as a collection of notes I made during the various online documentaries. (Y’all owe me)

We’ll also touch on some fiction based in and around JFK’s life and assassination, as well as films, including Oliver Stone’s rabble-rousing (but excellent) “JFK.”

I was going to present these other materials leading up to today, and use the actual Fiftieth Anniversary as the climax. Upon reflection, it makes more sense to me to start with this little essay noting JFK’s murder that horrible day in Dallas, then allow the books, films, etc., to follow. That’s how it happened in real life, after all.

I wasn’t alive when JFK was killed. On one hand, his Presidency was always something distant, something from a history class, like the French Revolution or the Defenestration of Prague. This story was different, though, because my parents were young and idealistic at the time. My teachers were Baby Boomers, and every November 22nd, we’d hear the stories of where they were, of how it changed their lives. It always felt like there were two parts to JFK: the history book facts, and the personal relationship so many Americans felt with the man.

Amanda’s question is pure and right: why does it matter today? She knows he was President, that he had his brains blown out, that his beautiful wife was Jackie, and—somehow—that he was Catholic. She doesn’t worry about conspiracy theories, about who shot from where. She was almost Kindergarten-age when The Cold War ended; 9/11 happened when she was twelve.

One historian wrote that 9/11 has supplanted JFK as the seminal tragedy for this generation. They don’t know about JFK, nor will they ever feel that connection. Their parents were too young to care, if they were even alive.

For millions, though, today will be a day of reflection and memories. Some will think of the tragedy fifty years ago; others will ponder what could have been. Still others will use today as a sort of time machine to that day, and remember what they were doing a few lifetimes ago.

In time, I’m sure JFK’s assassination will go the way of Lincoln’s, just with more videotape. The survivors—those millions whose souls were cudgeled that day—will remember for now.

For them—as at John Kennedy’s grave—that flame is eternal.

A What from a Long-Ago When

Posted in Uncategorized on October 17, 2013 by tom

My father, bless him, was cleaning files out of an an old computer (“my father was de-filing an old computer” sounds perverted and gross), and he found a file called “Tom’s Writings.”

In those “Tom’s Writings” days–long before I began my real blogging career at Vox–basically I’d get completely munted and write an e-mail which I’d send to a large number of people. I was sorta-blogging, but not quite. There was no home port, like Vox or WordPress, and no permanent record. I wrote a bunch of stuff that I have no copies of.  Nothing. Nada. Some of those things were brilliant; most were shite. That’s how it worked with my email list back then. If you deleted the email, it was gone. If you forwarded it?

Some of them were forwarded around the world, especially following 9/11, and I received positive and negative replies from people in countries I’d never heard of. I acted like I wasn’t happy about people forwarding my emails, but you know damned well I did. “Can you believe Edie forwarded that email to her friend in Ireland? What was she thinking??”

Today, I have people I love all over the world, people who are even living in a world that is not their own. I know that one of the most beautiful songs ever was written and sung in Tagalog, and I followed Cori and Ryan on their incredible seven-month interplanetary honeymoon. (I don’t think I mentioned that I really hurt my back, and was given really good, enjoyable meds (which have been gone for over a week…blech))

Ironically, the benefit of this email my dad found is that you can see how I wrote when I drank. Out of all these kabillion posts I’ve written on WP or Vox, I’ve had a 0.0 blood alcohol level. I can’t say that my brain was always chemical free. When I wrote  from my hospital bed, I was connected to a Dilaudid pump, and there were a few times since where I’ve been on one pain med or another, and who, among my long time friends, can forget my occasional NyQuil posts (okay, maybe I got up to a .000001 BAC from the NyQuil)? Plus, sweet Jesus, I’m on a lot of psych meds now, and even writing this stupid paragraph has damn about drained everything out of me. So, herewith, is a sample of what your narrator was doing back around the turn of the millennium. I take credit for all the good parts–and I was one of the correct
“The New Millenium begins at a second past midnight on 01/01/01″ people)–and blame Larry effin King for everything wrong. ;-) Happy Thursday: 

 

Subj:      Happy New Year from the Tom Zone

Date:      1/1/00 11:18:08 PM Eastern Standard Time

From:     tsanche1@123456789.com (Tom Sanchez)

To:          tomzone@987654321.com (tom sanchez)

 

I’ve spent much of my New Millennium’s Eve driving around the Tampa Bay

Area,

listening to “The Larry King Show Millennium Special,” featuring interviews

from King’s radio show on Mutual.  As it happens, I used to run “The Larry

King Show” at a tiny Mutual affiliate in Sarasota, WKXY.  On radio, Larry

King was a great interviewer, and the guest list on this special read like a

who’s who of the Twentieth Century: Sinatra, Henny Youngman, Jonathan

Winters, John Erlichman, Presidents Carter, Bush, and Clinton.  The list

goes on.

 

Larry King missed one of the greats.

 

In this week’s National “Enquirer,” there’s an article about Grover

Washington, Jr, entitled “Jazz Great’s Amazing Legacy of Love.”  The theme

of the article is that Grover–who passed away two weeks ago–was one of the

nicest people ever to walk the earth, and that he was about to celebrate his

33rd wedding anniversary.

 

Happily, I had the opportunity to hang-out with Grover one Sunday afternoon.

He was, indeed, the nicest guy on earth: gracious, kind, modest, funny.  Not

only is Grover’s “Winelight” my all-time favorite jazz album, he turned out

to be every bit the cool guy I’d hoped he’d be.

 

Hearing all of Larry King’s interviews, combined with losing Grover, led me

to think about my career in radio.  I’ve had the opportunity to interview

some pretty incredible people along my ride.  Maybe you recognize some of

the names: The Beach Boys, Dion, Little Richard, Garry Shandling, Richard

Jeni, Al Stewart, Len Dawson, Joe Theisman, Newt Gingrich’s mom, Peter

Noone, Bobby “The Tenor in the Righteous Brothers” Hatfield, Tommy James of

the Shondells, and zillions of Smooth Jazz artists.  I’ve spent three hours

producing a show with Dick Clark, and I’ve served Paula Zahn lasagna (which

she SORELY needed!).  I even asked Art Garfunkel about NAFTA, during an

hour-long interview that was only supposed to last five minutes.

 

Thinking about all those opportunities made me realize how fortunate and

blessed I’ve been to have this career.  It also made me realize how sad a

year this was for our industry in this market.  I’ve seen some very good

friends lose their jobs, just in the name of “the bottom line.”  Big

corporations have eaten these poor folks alive.

 

I thank God CBS picked up my station, for we’ve suffered no losses.

 

That said, I’d like to grant you one blessing for the New Millennium! I

understand that it’s not my place to confer blessings, but I think God would

allow me this one, for I shall try and live by it: Anything bad that

happened to you last millennium?

 

Let go of it! It was last millennium!

 

For example, if your cholesterol is too high? Don’t beat yourself up for all

the country-fried steak you’ve eaten in your life, for they were in the last

millennium! THIS millennium, eat more wisely.

 

If you’ve suffered through bad relationships? LET THEM GO! Those pains

occurred in the last millennium! THIS millennium, work harder on your

relationships so that they may prove to be relatively painless.

 

If you messed around and never accomplished your dreams? Relax! That failure

was last millennium!! THIS millennium, work to achieve them!

 

If you were aloof and distant, and you didn’t spend enough time with your

friends and relatives? Abandon any guilt you might feel, for you have a

phone here, today, in THIS millennium! USE IT!

 

If you have gotten out of shape? Don’t sit around worrying about it.  Go out

and take a walk, here through THIS millennium!

 

It was cool to hear all those Larry King interviews on New Millennium Eve,

for it showed how many things we’ve endured.  But what’s more important is

that we are all here NOW! And it’s a new millennium!

 

Everything that has gone wrong in your life, my friend, was last millennium!

LET THEM ALL GO! And may we all work to improve our lives THIS millennium!

It’s a fresh start; let’s take advantage of it.

 

ts

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