celebrating Black History Month with Pearl


In the tiny Sears Roebuck kit house I grew up in, boundaries were both invisible and highly visible. The home was owned by my maternal grandmother and shared with two of my mother’s adult brothers in addition to my daddy, mother and me. The home was crowded. When I think back on it, I don’t know how we all managed to eat and sleep there – not to mention the scheduling of everyone’s turn in the single bathroom which barely had space to turn around to close the door after entering. That room was tight, and boundaries were tightly defined.

While the home itself was small, the lot on which it sat was large, a corner lot with an unattached garage (with an attached outhouse that may help explain the bathroom scheduling inside) behind the house. Beyond the garage a small pond which we called a tank in rural Texas lay quietly in an “in-town” pasture that had no fences. My back yard was spacious, vast in a small child’s mind, unique in comparison to the other small frame houses sitting on the few dirt roads that connected them.

Although the tank wasn’t very big, the fish and frog population that lived there mysteriously thrived, encouraging our relatives from the bigger cities of Houston, Dallas, Rosenberg, et.al., to make regular fishing trips to our place “in the country.” They came with their poles, rods, reels, live and artificial bait to try to land Ol’ Biggie, the name my Uncle Toby gave to the wiser large perch and catfish that proved elusive most of the time. During those early years I preferred running around the banks of the tank with my cousins to dropping a line with a squiggly worm in the water.

At random times, though, I made an exception to enjoy the company of a full-bodied black woman named Pearl who walked across another invisible line to come fishing in our tank. One paved road we called main street distinctly divided black and white people in my community in those days in the late 1940s and early 1950s;  that street should have been painted blood red. Pearl lived in an area of town on one side of the street I knew simply as The Quarters. I would be much older when I realized the name referenced slave quarters that still separated her world from mine.

Pearl told me the best stories about all the fish she had caught in the hottest fishing holes around the county. I believed every word she said because I trusted the deep rich voice that spoke. Pearl and my grandmother were good friends who visited together whenever she got ready to leave with her bucket full of fish. Pearl had the best luck catching perch in our tank – never very large – but she bragged that the little ones were better to fry anyway. Made sense to me. My mother also adored Pearl which surprised me since Mama didn’t adore anyone including herself.

Pearl Harris was the first black person in my life. She was warm, affectionate, funny and always kind to me. I have no idea how she came to be friends with my grandmother. I suspect they met in the general store in town where my grandmother clerked. Whatever the circumstance, I felt their friendship was authentic. They were easy with each other. I now know Pearl’s walk across the invisible racial divide to our fishing tank was not only brave but necessary to put food on the table for her family. My grandmother could relate to that need, too.

Wanda Sykes says in her Netflix comedy routine that I’ve watched at least four times now, seriously, at least four, that all white people need to have at least one black person who is their friend. Wanda thinks that friendship just might be a starting point to heal the racial divide that is at the center of income inequality and a host of other problems in our country. From a little girl growing up in a Texas town big enough for only one general store but large enough to contain two worlds separated by skin colors of black and white, I say I couldn’t agree more, Wanda. Bravo.

RIP Pearl Harris (1893 – 1957).

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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this year really is 19


Nineteen, I argued with Pretty last year, when we were out with our friends Francie and Nekki having dinner to celebrate our anniversary date: February 09th. Pretty shook her head so I persisted with well, we got together February 09, 2001, so that makes 2019 our nineteenth anniversary. At the moment I said those words, I knew I was wrong. Me, the math person in our family, had missed that number which any fool could see was eighteen.

So now I again say nineteen in 2020, and I feel confident I’m right.

February 09, 2001 – Cancun, Mexico

I look at this picture, see those smiling younger women having dinner at a restaurant in Mexico, and wonder if they had any inkling of the journey they started that weekend.  I think journeys weren’t even in their minds. I was trying so hard to impress Pretty I boldly poured the hottest salsa on my tacos which produced a heat surge not unlike a hot flash. I almost fainted.

Pretty on the other hand did as she has done for nineteeen years of my trying to impress her. She laughed. That laughter has sustained us through the roller coaster rides life brings to everyone who risks the journey.

Today we were driving to retrieve our pickup that was in the Dodge shop having airbags replaced. Our conversation focused on my cell phone which Pretty has disparaged from the time I purchased it a few months ago, a phone which I still can’t use properly. I told Pretty the problem was now compounded because I have lost the vision in my left eye (I’ll have laser surgery to correct shortly). Pretty who has an iPhone said, you have a funky phone because you refuse to pay for a good one. How could she help me if I didn’t have an iPhone. Point taken. Give me 48 hours to think about it. I love the 48 hours trick.

Conversation topics change over the course of a marriage, but for us Mexican food is still a comfort meal. I go easier on the salsa caliente, though.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning makes me wish I were a poet. “How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…I love thee to the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach when feeling out of sight for the ends of being and ideal grace. I love thee to the level of every day’s most quiet need by sun and candlelight. I love thee freely, as men strive for right. I love thee purely, as they turn from praise. I love thee with the passion put to use in my old griefs, and with my childhood’s faith. I love thee with a love I seemed to lose with my lost saints. I love thee with the breath, smiles, tears of all my life; and if God choose, I shall but love thee better after death.”

I love thee, Pretty.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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starting 2020 with a spectacle or two


The Kansas City Chiefs scored three touchdowns in the last five minutes of the game to surprise the San Francisco 49ers and win the Super Bowl last night. Congratulations to the team, Coach Andy Reid, and all those Chiefs fans who have supported the team faithfully at Arrowhead Stadium through the years when many of them must have felt they were wandering in a wilderness of lost hopes and dreams. (Memo to Agent Orange: the Chiefs are not in Kansas anymore, actually they never were. It’s Kansas City, Missouri. Maybe Mike Pompeo can find it on a map for you.)

What a spectacle. I hardly knew what to focus on during the pre-game and half time shows.  As my friend Saskia from the Netherlands says, Americans know how to make a spectacle of themselves – or something like that. The Super Bowl brings our sports frenzies to new heights every year, and this year was no exception especially with the performances of Jennifer Lopez and Shakira who gave frenzies new meaning.

Meanwhile, as fires continued to burn in Australia, the first major tennis tournament of 2020 was coming to an end. The Australian Open has been going on for the past two weeks during which time I appeared dazed and confused due to my strange hours of trying to watch the tennis matches live on my telly.  For any of you who are mentally making an effort to convert Australian time to Eastern Daylight time here, stop immediately. It’s impossible, and you will never even know what day it is, much less whether it’s a.m. or p.m. Trust me. I’m a veteran of that battle. Still, I feel like something will be missing in my life until the clay court season starts in Europe.

Sofia Kenin, who was born in Moscow and whose family immigrated to the US when she was four months old, surprised herself and everyone else in the tennis world by winning the women’s singles championship at the Australian Open over the weekend when she defeated Garbine Muguruza in a blistering three-set final. In the semi-finals, Kenin walloped Australian Ash Barty in straight sets – much to the dismay of thousands of Australian fans watching in Rod Laver Arena in Melbourne. Barty was the defending champion and ranked number 1 in the world by the Women’s Tennis Association while the 21-year-old Floridian Kenin was at #14. Hopefully Kenin can lessen the load the Williams sisters have carried for American tennis fans for the last 20 years. Is Kenin for real? Gosh, I hope so.

The men’s singles championship trophy was won by Novak Djokovic when he defeated Dominic Thiem in a nail biter five-set final.  That was Novak’s eighth major title down under and not really a surprise to anyone other than Thiem’s mother whose hope springs eternal from the players’ box behind the court. Better luck next time, Dominic – your mother and I see trophies in your future. As for Djokovic, this puts his Open trophy total at 17, which is 2 behind Rafa Nadal at 19, and 3 behind Roger Federer who is at 20 and holding. Just in case anyone is counting. I’m counting because I consider myself privileged to have been a witness to what tennis peeps call the Golden Age of men’s professional tennis. At this point I take “golden age” any way I can get it.

The Super Bowl and Australian Open weren’t the only games in town for Pretty and me this weekend. Our Gamecock Women’s Basketball team polished off a very tall and excellent University of Tennessee team at Colonial Life Arena on Super Bowl Sunday. Our team is coached by Dawn Staley who has assembled a super group of freshmen to complement several returning upperclassmen – they have quickly jelled to become something special this season with a record of 19 – 1 and are ranked number 1 in the nation according to the AP poll. Go Gamecocks! I can almost taste that New Orleans shrimp at the Final Four!

Last, but certainly not least, another season kicks off today in Iowa. The Democratic primary in that state tonight begins the race for a president of the United States to replace the impeached one who will evidently continue to occupy the White House at the conclusion of the Senate “trial” this week. I wouldn’t want to live in Iowa today.  Those citizens carry a heavy burden to their caucuses tonight. I’ll be listening for the returns with much anxiety mixed with anticipation. That’s how I roll through a political quagmire.

Finally, the ground hog that determines our weather forecast has predicted an early spring this year. That makes me happy for Pretty who has signed up for not one, but two, tennis teams for the spring schedule. She much prefers warm, sunny weather for her matches. My bionic knees much prefer warm, sunny weather, too for the sport of bending them to get up out of my recliner.

Stay tuned.

Totally unrelated photo of 4 month old granddaughter Ella

with her NanaSlo, but I just love this picture of us so here it is

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Emmylou + Pretty = memory maker overnighter


As we left the restaurant Friday night, the cloudy gray skies we had followed to Greensboro, North Carolina rudely let loose with a deluge of rain for which both Pretty and I were unprepared. Jennifer, our friend who had ordered the Emmylou Harris concert tickets, was clever enough to bring a small umbrella and offered to share but her umbrella was inadequate for the task of keeping Pretty and me dry while we waited for Jennifer’s partner Lisa to rescue us in their SUV.

Unfortunately, they were parked in a city garage several blocks from our restaurant – a city garage which had closed while we all laughed our way through a delicious dinner. The arm for exiting was apparently defective, and Lisa had to figure a way out that didn’t involve her original impulse to run her vehicle through the arm. Time ticked away. Rain continued to pour like the drops had been saving up from a drought for this opportunity to soak us.

Pretty and I eyed the umbrellas next to the door in the restaurant and momentarily discussed the ethics of stealing one of them while we waited. We decided against, but the vote was a tie and decided by Pretty.

When the SVU finally pulled up, we all raced to get in. That is, Pretty and Jennifer raced while my two new bionic knees and I struggled to avoid falling on the drenched pavement to catch up. The time was 7:50 – the concert was at 8 but of course Jennifer had a phone leading us to the concert site at the University of North Carolina Greensboro Auditorium with an ETA of 8. Thank goodness for those cell phone aps, and thank goodness for people who actually know how to use them.

Our party of four remained in high spirits when we parked in a space near the sign that read Emmylou Harris Parking. The rain had lessened to a drizzle, but that was a moot point by then. I was seeing tiny rivers flowing downward on the lens of my eyeglasses  – we walked toward the building with the lights on next to the parking lot only to discover that was NOT the venue for the Emmylou concert. I cursed the cell phone ap in my mind.

We walked and walked and walked some more until we found the UNCG Auditorium. Jennifer kindly waited for me at the bottom of the steps I needed to climb to enter. They might as well have been Mount Everest to my exhausted wet knees. She assured me no one was getting in before us because she had the tickets on a phone ap. I had to trust her. We were already 15 minutes late.

All’s well that ends well, as the saying goes. And this concert was worth the bad weather, the defective parking lot arm and the mixup in our destination. Emmylou’s 73-year-old voice had its still powerful moments, and her musical stories remain timeless. To me, she is one of the greatest troubadours of both centuries she’s performed in.  The five musicians who played with her were masters of their instruments and did their best to showcase her voice and the songs she sang. I was transported to the days before arthritis was a big deal in my life and grateful to our friends for planning to go and including us.

Greensboro, North Carolina is a two interstate (77 and 85) three and a half hour drive from our home in West Columbia, South Carolina if you ride with most people. Pretty is not most people. She turns any trip into a treasure hunt for inventory for her antique empire which now spans three locations: Three Rivers on Meeting Street, Little Mountain Cafe and Antiques, and Towne Square Antiques in Prosperity, SC.  My wife is a mogul, and she also has a phone ap that can locate all Goodwill stores near wherever she is.

The morning after our concert drama the sun shined brightly through the LaQuinta motel curtains. Pretty had used her Goodwill ap and found 15 (FIFTEEN) Goodwill stores near Greensboro. We left the comfort of the LaQuinta before the noon checkout time to go on the Great Goodwill Treasure Hunt. I was underwhelmed but determined to rally.

one of 15 in the area – who knew?

Pretty finds a treasure!

Regardless of the drama surrounding our first overnighter in more than two years, Pretty and I managed to have truly tons of fun and laughter together, but I see my trip recovery time will be a little longer than it used to be.

Stay tuned.

P.S. I have one special follower, Dick Hubbard,  who rates every post of mine with 5 stars for excellent. He is usually the only person who is faithful to take the time to click that grade for me and has done this for years. I want to take a moment to thank him and wish him five stars for excellent health.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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late to bed? it’s a dog’s life, baby


So many demands on my time these days. Of course, we have the ongoing political melodrama in the nation’s capitol where Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts is “presiding” over the impeachment trial of Donald John Trump in the US Senate. To be honest, I might as well be “presiding” if I had the appropriate robe.  That poor man can’t decide anything. Not his fault, just the way the rules are in the upper chamber. No wonder Roberts’  hands were shaking when he was sworn in by Chuck Grassley Monday. He must have seen the handwriting on the wall. The first day ended at 2:00 a.m. the next day.

Couple the late hours of the Senate trial with the even later hours of the first tennis Grand Slam event of 2020, the Australian Open in Melbourne, and I find myself going to bed later and later every night. Down Under is a phrase I now use to describe myself and my covers when I try to wake up every morning wondering whether it is today or tomorrow. Australian time remains one of life’s great mysteries for me every year during the Open, but my body knows the jet lag in my recliner is real.

early to bed, early to rise…makes a person healthy, wealthy and wise,

say Ben Franklin and Pretty

late to bed, on the other hand, can be a problem

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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it’s a simple matter of justice – remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.


1993 March on Washington for LGBT Equality

Twenty-seven years ago this April I marched with the South Carolina delegation in the 1993 March on Washington. It was a life-changing experience not only for me but for hundreds of thousands of LGBT folks and their straight allies.

I loved that the commemorative poster for the event featured a quote from one of the Civil Rights movement leaders I most admired: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The framed poster has been hanging in every office of mine since then.

“Our freedom was not won a century ago, it is not won today,

but some small part of it is in our hands,

and we are no longer marching by ones and twos

but in legions of thousands,

convinced now it cannot be denied  by human force.”

On this special holiday I say RIP, Dr. King, but keep the living stirred up for equal justice for as long we walk the earth.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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hear ye, hear ye – calling ALL patriots: Mayday, Mayday!


Tears rolled down my cheeks today as I watched and heard House Manager Adam Schiff read the two Articles of Impeachment referred to the Senate by the House of Representatives for trial and removal of the president. Listening to the charges of high crimes and misdemeanors in the Senate chamber against the American president Donald John Trump, even a president I never supported, was an unexpectedly joyless experience.

I think I finally understood what Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi had been reminding the nation in every press conference she’s held concerning this process. Somber, solemn, even sad, the burden of discovery of the facts that forced her to stand up for her belief in the constiution of the United States regardless of political consequences. Her belief, and the conviction of her party’s caucus in the House,  that no person is above the law in this country gave her no choice in pursuing the removal of someone who continued to threaten our national securtiy and ultimately our democracy.

Today I felt her pain and sadness and wept with her for a country caught up in crisis.

Pretty tells me that only people like me who have the luxury to watch either MSNBC faithfully or FOX news religiously during the past few months actually cared about the Senate trial or its outcome. Until yesterday I assured her she was wrong.

But I had a conversation yesterday with a young woman who teaches sixth grade at a middle school here in South Carolina.  Obviously a person with a good education and a teacher for all the right reasons in this her eighth year of classrom experience. We talked about politics – the Democratic debate the night before. I asked her if she watched the debate, and she said no. She was waiting for the later ones. And then she added out of the blue, really politics are a joke in this country since Donald Trump became president. I felt she spoke for many in her generation; I had a sense of loss and frustation that perhaps our brightest younger citizens were turned off by the  divisions, heated hateful rhetoric, the images of a country at war with itself.

Then last night Pretty was once again proven to be right about the state of political awareness in our nation when three Jeopardy contestants, three clearly smart women who wouldn’t be on Jeopardy if they weren’t, had a question with a picture of a man they were asked to identify. None of the three buzzed in to answer. The man was Adam Schiff, the person who was the face of the House impeachment process during the past three months  because he is the Chair of the House Intelligence Committee which began the investigation into the president’s misconduct as a result of a whistleblower complaint. I have to admit I was stunned at their lack of recognition of this key House spokesperson.

Clearly I have too much time invested in the parade of outrageous acts that have defined this country in the past three years. Yes, I hope for a change in leadership, but I also hope for a change in our country’s attitudes toward ourselves in our home towns, attitudes that celebrate our differences, attitudes of finding common ground with our neighbors who share the same dreams for their families that we have for ours, attidudes that rise upward toward the men and women who represent us in Congress and elsewhere around the world.

The outcome of the Senate trial of this president supposedly has already been determined along party lines. I just watched 99 Senators sign a book attesting to their oath for a fair trial. I would like to believe they will be true to that oath. Regardless of the outcome, this is a moment in time for us to decide who we are as a nation. I encourage every American to care enough about our country to tune in to the Senate trial as our history and future unfolds.

Hear ye, hear ye – calling all patriots – mayday, mayday!

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boys and girls together


Finn, Oscar, Dwight, George – these are the names of the most important men in my life for the last nine years. I know for sure the number of years because Finn turned nine years old in November, Dwight will be nine this month, and I’ve known them both since they were new arrivals to the Snyder family in South Carolina and the Huss family in Texas respectively. Oscar, Dwight’s older brother, at eleven years old is the eldest of the Fabulous Huss Brothers of Worsham Street in Texas; George, the youngest Huss brother, is now seven.

Oscar, Dwight and George in April, 2014

(photo courtesy of their mother, Councilwoman Becky Huss)

Pretty holding Finn in April, 2011

Since my experience with infants becoming babies becoming children has been exclusively with boys, I admit to a certain trepidation when we found out our first grandchild was going to be a girl – a baby girl who is now three months old, a baby girl Pretty and I babysit two days a week while both her parents go to work.

granddaughter Ella today (01-11-2020)

(photo courtesy her mother Caroline)

I adore the men in my life – I always will – but boys, watch out.

Girls rock.

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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if these are the last days, we better have cash according to Pretty


Last night Pretty and I were watching who’s the greatest of all time on Jeopardy, bemoaning the fact that neither of us will ever make a million dollars answering questions which we might be able to think of the answers to in due time but certainly not so quickly as the three guys who pushed the buttons in lightning speed for the correct responses on the TV. Pretty said speaking of money, we need to get cash out of our bank account.

Like most people (I assume most people although I have no concrete proof) we make our purchases with our bank debit cards these days. Rarely is there any actual cash in either of our possession at home or when we’re out among the masses, but apparently Pretty had been alerted by her Twitter folks that these may be the  “last days” as the result of America’s killing an Iranian general in Baghdad over the weekend.

If these are the last days, she continued, we need to make preparations that include taking money out of the banks which might close as the result of a cyber attack, converting to currency, and hanging on to it for dear life.

Yes, I said jumping on board with any suggestions Pretty recommended for the last days, and let’s make sure we have gasoline in both vehicles at all times in case we need to make a run for it, I added.

What about food? Pretty asked. Hm, I thought. That’s a real problem since neither Pretty nor I ever used any appliance in the kitchen except a microwave to heat the takeout and the refrigerator for storing leftovers from the takeouts.

Evidently Pretty was also worried about the food situation. Never mind, she said, we’ll just buy fast food with our cash.

After Ken Jennings polished off Round 1 of the Jeopardy tournament, I switched to Rachel Maddow but could barely listen to her detailed explanation of the events of the past few days and our country’s precarious position in the Middle East because I was still mulling over our family plans for the last days.

For example, how much cash would we need. Pretty had suggested $500. Was that enough? Too much? Who knew? As for making a run for it with two tanks of gasoline, where in the world was I planning on going? Charleston? Charlotte? Landrum?

Thankfully today tensions appeared to cool after Iran’s retaliatory missile strikes in Iraq yesterday. I will check in tonight with Rachel Maddow after Round 2 of the Jeopardy tournament to try to learn more about the world we live in (for now anyway) and Pretty can revisit with her Twitter peeps to see if they have further suggestions for the last days.

In the mean time, I have a few unrelated pictures of several of the 24 dogs I’ve had in my lifetime – if these are the last days, I want to think of happy ones – and these are some of the happiest.

Stay tuned.

The Red Man and the Old Woman Slow

(in the early days – spring, 2001)

Tennis Ball Obsessed Chelsea, Smokey Lonesome Ollie, and The Red Man

(at Casa de Canterbury, sometime in 2012)

Spike, he who appeared on Worsham Street and never left us

(spring of 2012)

 

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pretty in fine form for new year’s day


‘Twas the week after Christmas, and all through the house two creatures are stirring, and neither’s a mouse. Only Spike and I are up so far, and in all fairness we’re probably not even stirring – more staring than stirring. Me at my computer – Spike at the front yard from his panoramic view in the living room.

Spike, our rescued shepherd mix, is the early riser in our family, but his main goal of being the first one up is to serve as an alarm clock for Pretty, Charly, and me. Pretty has perfected the pretense of ignoring him, I  get up when I hear Spike’s nails clicking on the hardwood floors in our bedroom and Charly makes a great show of jumping out of bed with me as the three of us walk together to open the doggie door in the sun room for the day.

I usually walk outside with Spike to greet the colors of the sunrise and to see the squirrels he will bark at while he chases them around for a few minutes until they scamper up the huge oak tree to safety. Charly, on the other hand, may or may not come with us, her decision resting on whether she determines breakfast will be served early or later. At the signs of no early breakfast, she turns and runs to go back to get in bed with Pretty whose philosophy is she’s never met a sunrise she liked.

Today is the first day of a new year, a new decade, I said to Spike this morning when we walked outside. He stood still for a second while I talked to him but then spotted two squirrels that were taunting him with their bushy tails in the yard near the old oak tree. He was off and running, but they weren’t frightened by either his loud barking or thundering toward them. I swear I saw one of them wink at the other one as they chased each other up the tree. Spike’s best efforts were thwarted once again. He turned away and walked back to me. His work was done until the pesky little varmints ventured into the yard again.

***********

Happy New Year, I said to Pretty an hour later when I heard her in the kitchen popping the top on her first can of Diet Coke for the day.

Happy New Year, Pretty responded and then continued, the first day of 2020 and the first day of a new decade.

I know, I said. When I was a teenager in Texas in the 1960s, I never thought I would live to be thirty years old. When I had my 30th birthday in 1976, I said well, I will never live to see the turn of the century and now here I still am on the verge of a third decade in the 21st century. What do you think about that, Pretty?

Pretty looked directly at me and said, I think you must be a drama queen.

*********

“We trust that time is linear. That it proceeds eternally, uniformly. Into infinity. But the distinction between past, present and future is nothing but an illusion. Yesterday, today and tomorrow are not consecutive, they are connected in a never-ending circle. Everything is connected.” (Dark, Season 1)

Lordy, Lordy. Whenever I do pass, I hope I somehow stay connected to Pretty.

Happy New Year!

Stay tuned.

 

 

 

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