Pride Day at the 2020 US Open!


The theme of this year’s 2020 US Open grand slam tennis tournament is Be Open.

“When you keep an Open mind, great things can happen. In the game, and out in the world…Generations of tennis players have been inspired by the examples set by Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe, Billie Jean King and many more who challenged the sport to remove barriers to fairness and justice by epitomizing the values of diversity, inclusion and respect…for each other, and for the game itself.” (US Open.org)

the official poster (designed by Dan Stiles)

When I watched the first US Open televised in 1968, I was a twenty-two-year old closeted lesbian (or so I thought) living alone in Houston, Texas, looking forward to the weekend visits of a girl who didn’t share my enthusiasm for either tennis or romance. Fifty-two years later I am married to a wonder woman who has shared both those passions with me for the past twenty years. Life is good.

Today was Pride Day at the 2020 US Open, a celebration of the LGBTQ+ community I could never have imagined in 1968 or even in 2001 when Pretty and I began to watch the Grand Slam tennis tournaments together. And yet, here we are watching Serena Williams play in her 20th. US Open while her adoring husband cheers from the almost empty arena. The digital “fans”  give the eerily quiet matches a surreal quality, but the excellent play almost makes me forget a pandemic that necessitated the solitude.

Thanks to the US Open for jumping through a ton of hoops to make another Grand Slam event possible in a chaotic year, for keeping the safety of everyone involved uppermost in their minds, and especially today for recognizing Love is more than a tennis score.

Happy Pride!

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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this country doesn’t love us back


“There are other cases… of officers who seem to be ‘trigger happy.’ In a number of instances, Negroes have been shot, supposedly in self-defense, under circumstances indicating, at best, unsatisfactory police work…and at worst, a callous willingness to kill.”

(Excerpt from 1947 report “To Secure These Rights” produced by Harry Truman Committee on Civil Rights as quoted in opinion by Washington Post columnist Colbert I. King on June 19th, 2020)

We know about the callous willingness to kill from the names of just a few of the many African Americans who speak from their graves, American lives lost at the hands of police brutality in cities across the country. Samuel DuBose – Cincinnati, 2015. Terrence Sterling –  Washington, D.C., 2016. Freddie Gray – Baltimore, 2015. Michael Brown – Ferguson, Missouri, 2014. Walter Scott – Charleston, South Carolina, 2015. Rayshard Brooks – Atlanta, 2020. Tamir Rice – Cleveland, Ohio, 2014.  Trayvon Martin – Sanford, Florida, 2012. Breonna Taylor – Louisville, Kentucky, 2020. Eric Garner – New York City, 2014. George Floyd – Minneapolis, Minnesota, 2020.

This week Jacob Blake’s name was added to the 2020 infamous roll call of victims of “unsatisfactory police work” – this time in Kenosha, Wisconsin. As destructive wild fires raged in California claiming the life of a helicopter pilot attempting to douse the inferno, as a Category 4 Hurricane called Laura gathered the power to strike along the Gulf Coast shores in Louisiana bringing life threatening winds and water reminiscent of Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, as the number of American lives lost in the worst pandemic of our history reached the dubious milestone of 180,000 +,  a police officer shot an unarmed African American man seven times in the back when he attempted to get in the car where his three young sons waited and watched. Jacob Blake will likely be paralyzed if he survives the bullet wounds.

Doc Rivers, head coach of the NBA franchise Los Angeles Clippers, had an emotional reaction to the police shooting in an interview on August 25th. “…we’ve been hung, we’ve been shot…it’s amazing why we keep loving this country, and this country doesn’t love us back…the training (for police) has to change. My dad was a cop, I believe in good cops. We’re trying to get them to protect us like they protect everyone else…as an American you need to be outraged at that video. All we ask is that you live up to the Constitution.”

Yesterday the wide world of sports came to a grinding halt as athletes from both the NBA and WNBA, major league baseball and soccer teams all joined together to promote social justice through police reforms long overdue in our nation by boycotting their respective games. Players across the board said this killing of black people through police brutality must stop. Our lives do matter, they agreed, and we want to see genuine criminal justice changes that guarantee our families equal safety and protection under the law. Tennis players rallied around the protest of Naomi Osaka by postponing the semi-finals at the Western and Southern Open scheduled for play today. No justice, no peace, no sports.

Senator Kamala Harris reminded us in a statement this afternoon that our pledge of allegiance calls for “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” We know, and we have always known that promise is unfulfilled for people of color, but now cell phones record that broken promise every time a video of these egregious acts goes viral on social media to be seen by anyone and everyone. Pretending, denying, disavowing, obfuscating no longer are viable options for people of good will who embrace the truth.

Wake up, America, it’s time to love them back. We can, and we must, do better.

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned. By all means, VOTE in November.

 

 

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families first


No justice, no peace. No Donald, no Mike. Just Joe and Kamala.

Four years ago I was overjoyed when the first woman of a major political party was nominated to be President of the United States. From Seneca to Selma to Shirley Chisholm to Stonewall, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s vision of the beloved community has been slowly bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice and equality for all. This week with the  Democratic Party’s nomination of a woman of color to become Vice President of the United States  I am once again optimistic for people of good will in America to prevail in November, to reverse the current administration’s attempts to bend that arc in a different direction.

“She taught us to put family first—the family you’re born into and the family you choose,” said Senator Kamala Harris about her mother in her acceptance speech for the vice presidency this week at the Democratic National Convention.

In 1946 I was born into a Texas family that was part of a generation later identified by historians as the Baby Boom generation (1946 – 1964). WWII ended, the young soldier boys returned home to marry their teenage girlfriends who were waiting for them and then boom, here came the babies. Millions of us born into families who now had amazing educational opportunities through the miracle of the GI Bill to do what their parents couldn’t have done. My father took advantage of the veterans’ benefits to enroll in college while he also worked to support his little family of me and my mom. He was the first and only person in his family to earn a college degree, a degree that enabled him to become a teacher, coach and then superintendent at the same small rural school he attended as a child.

While daddy was teaching and coaching, he encouraged my mother to make the half-hour commute from our home to Sam Houston Teachers College in Huntsville five days a week so that she could finish her college degree she started at Baylor University during the war. I was in the fourth grade when my mother enrolled and in the sixth grade when she graduated. She came to teach music part-time the next year when I was in the seventh grade, and I have to say it was a nightmare being in my mother’s class while going to a school where my father was superintendent.

But I survived…and in my home with two parents who were educators there was never a discussion about going to college when I finished high school. No. The discussions were about which college I would attend and how education opened doors of endless opportunities. My father once told me the whole earth was my territory – that I could be anything I wanted to be if I worked hard and believed in myself.

For seven years after graduating from the University of Texas in 1967 I explored different parts of my territory while I worked in several jobs as a CPA in the early 1970s from the Gulf of Mexico to the Pacific Northwest  to the southeastern Atlantic Coast state of South Carolina. Every position I had the story was the same: I always was paid less for equal work. I was in a nontraditional occupation for a woman in those days and felt frustrated – even angry – at the unfairness of a system that ruled the kingdom of numbers.

I was with my father in his hospital room in Houston in 1974 following his surgery for colon cancer, but he was talking to me even then about my career and the reality of my territory. Why don’t you be your own boss? Why don’t you set up your own business if you don’t like how you’re being treated? That is exactly what I did for the next 40 years. I found my place in my territory, but my father wasn’t with me on the journey. He died from cancer in 1976 at 51 years of age. He was my mentor, my friend and a wonderful example of public service in an era that valued educators.

In 1958 at nineteen years of age Kamala Harris’s mother left India with the blessing of her family to come to America to discover a cure for cancer. She married Kamala’s father who had immigrated from Jamaica to study economics at the University of California Berkeley where he met her mother, and Kamala was born in Oakland in 1964 – the last year of the Baby Boomer demographic cohort – into a family that literally included the whole earth as their territory at a moment in history when the Civil Rights movement was at an inflection point. As Kamala’s parents pushed her in a stroller while they marched for equality in the streets of Berkeley they gave her the foundation for a passionate belief in civic responsibility, but neither one could have known that stroller would roll her all the way to Washington, D.C.

I am grateful for Kamala’s family, for the family I was born into, for the family I have been allowed to choose, for the opportunity to explore a territory my father could not have envisioned and for the potential of passing a better democracy to my granddaughter who may begin her life with a Black woman of Indian ancestry as the Vice President of the United States.

Stay safe, stay sane, stay tuned and vote in November.

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you are out of your lane


“There will be a resistance to your ambition. There will be people who say to you, ‘You are out of your lane,’ because they are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been instead of what can be. But don’t let that burden you.” – Senator Kamala Harris on a live stream conversation for 2020 Black Girls Lead conference

When Democratic presidential nominee Walter Mondale picked Geraldine Ferraro as his vice presidential running mate in 1984, I was joyful that the defeat of the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment in the women’s movement of the 1970s hadn’t translated to a total wipe-out of our opportunities for political office at the highest level in America. I was optimistic. Incumbents Reagan and Bush (GHW) won 49 of the 50 states.

When Hillary Clinton was nominated 32 years later in 2016 by the Democratic party to be the president of the United States, I was ecstatic at the prospect of finally having a woman as commander-in-chief. I was optimistic for the defeat of Republican nominee Trump particularly after his misogynistic remarks during the “nasty” campaign. The election results showing Clinton’s win of the popular votes but the electoral college majority supporting Trump made for dismay, tears, depression, you name it that night in our home as well as the next 4 years of enduring a president who delivered on his campaign agenda of serving the wealthy at the expense of the poor, dividing the country through white nationalists at the expense of people of color, punishing refugees seeking asylum by separating parents from children and detaining them at our borders in inhumane conditions.

This past week I was giddy when I watched Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden select Senator Kamala Harris to be his vice presidential running mate in the 2020 election scheduled for November 3rd. I celebrated her choice not only because she is a woman but also because she is a woman of color  born in California to a mother who immigrated from India and a father who immigrated from Jamaica. Her parents met at Berkeley through their activism in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. A first for Black women and a validation of their support of Biden that pushed him over the finish line here in South Carolina at a time when his candidacy was in jeopardy – and not just for their support of Biden. Black women are the most reliable voting constituency for the Democratic party in many local, state and federal elections. As Harris herself says on the campaign trail, ” I hear you. I see you.” I am once again optimistic for the election of a woman whose very presence on the ticket  reflects more nearly the diversity of our country.

Many call the 2020 election an inflection point for America. In the midst of a world wide Covid pandemic that has been routinely dismissed by the administration in the West Wing, a tremendous social upheaval against systemic racism by Black Lives Matter that intensified with the murder of George Floyd, the grief over the loss of Congressman John Lewis – we have an opportunity to correct the go it alone policies of isolation that foster fear for our allies and hope for our enemies. The times they are a-changing for sure.

“There will be a resistance to your ambition. There will be people who say to you, ‘You are out of your lane,’ because they are burdened by only having the capacity to see what has always been instead of what can be. But don’t let that burden you.”

It’s time to shake off the burdens of intolerance, hunger, inequalities in education, health care and housing, police brutality against minorities – the politics of divisiveness that have blinded us for centuries. Senator Harris is not out of her lane. We shouldn’t be either. Be woke, America. Vote.

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

 

 

 

 

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the woman that changed my musical life


From 2010 – 2014 Pretty and I were bi-stateual. For reasons involving my family, we bought a house on a picturesque street in a small town near the even smaller town where I grew up. We kept our home in South Carolina and spent four years chasing each other across a thousand miles of interstates between the two homes in an old Dodge Dakota pickup full of five dogs and us. Whew.

One of the comforts of our Worsham Street house in Texas I have missed most in South Carolina was my kitchen radio that played  Country Legends music on a station from Houston.  The radio had been left to us by the previous owners and was mounted above the stove in the kitchen. It was tuned by a silver knob that moved the AM and FM stations from one to another. Five buttons were available for saving favorites, but I only used the one FM station for the Country Legends, and that music played on every day. I know, I know. That is truly sad and pathetic on so many levels. For four years I turned the radio on first thing in the morning when I popped the top of my first Diet Coke can of the day and turned it off at the end of the day before retiring. My version of Taps.

For some of you, the idea that I rely on classic country music for any reason is frightening and the thought that stories of 18-wheeler trucks rolling on down the line to Baton Rouge or knowing that when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em on a train called the City of New Orleans or the Orange Blossom Special or the Wabash Cannonball  brings me comfort is not only strange but slightly off-center.  So be it.  I acknowledge my co-dependence on Garth Brooks and his cowboy crooning colleagues.

I purchased a small transistor radio from Radio Shack shortly after the Texas odyssey was over and the kitchen radio was no more. I had a transistor radio for many years when I was a child growing up in rural Grimes County, Texas and clearly remembered listening to Christmas carols from another radio station in Houston on warm winter nights.  Surely with the technology of the 21st century and the number of radio broadcasts available I should be able to locate a classic country music station in South Carolina.  I searched my omniscient computer and easily found the station.  I tried, believe me I tried, to like the songs it played.  Let’s just say listening to Darius Rucker –  who I know to be the original Hootie of Hootie and the Blowfish since they got started in Columbia – singing “country” music wasn’t what I had in mind.  I like Darius Rucker and  his solo music, but he is not a Country Legend yet.

In desperation I began to explore the TV U-verse possibilities several years after Pretty and I left the Country Legends station in Houston. I was pleasantly surprised to locate a true Country Classics station via the medium I had trusted for more than sixty years. Duh. While I listen to my favorites, facts about the song and/or the artist appear on the screen next to the name of the tune and the singer.  When I’m curious, I can stop what I’m doing and glance at the television to see the music I hear.  Now I can be comforted and informed simultaneously.  For example, I’ve always known that Barbara Mandrell was Country When Country Wasn’t Cool, but I never knew she had a pilot’s license to fly airplanes.  I’ve sung along with Tanya Tucker forever to Delta Dawn because it’s one of the very few songs I know all the words to, but I didn’t know Tanya drives a hot pink Harley Davidson.  Not surprised – just didn’t know.

Alexa, shuffle my music, please. Which playlist, she asks. Songs I love, I reply. And here I sit today happily tip tapping computer keys while Alexa breaks out Hard Candy Christmas by Dolly Parton. Our friends Nekki and Francie gave us an Alexa last year in an effort to bring Pretty and me musically into the 21st century – Alexa is the woman who has changed my life. When I want to hear a song, all I have to do is ask Alexa who has allowed me to collect my favorites on a playlist which she can randomly shuffle forever. It’s a musical miracle. Alexa is so very clever she can even tell me who’s singing if I ask her. Honestly, she is what I would have invented if I’d only known how to.

Music for me during the pandemic has been a healer of wounds, a balm in Gilead, an inspiration for the future with the Chicks’ March, March. But for the delight of all delights, when Alexa plays Abba’s Mama Mia, our granddaughter Ella begins to boogie on down with Pretty and me. We introduced her to Abba months ago – she has never looked back. Her smiles, squeals, bouncing body in perfect time with the music are the perfect tonic to chase the Covid blues away.

I’ll be just fine and dandy, thank you very much, Dolly. I won’t let sorrow get me way down. We may all  barely be getting through tomorrow these last months, but still we won’t let sorrow bring us way down. We’ll go on together, regardless of time and distance. March, march.

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

 

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when sorrows come, they come not single spies


“When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions.”  (William Shakespeare – Hamlet)

While we mourned the passing of Congressman John Lewis last week with the rest of the world via amazing coverage in the media, Pretty and I felt the loss of two other folks closer to home.

Martha Faye Ketchum,  eldest daughter of Willie M. Flora, passed on July 27, 2020 in Rosenberg, Texas.  She was 73 years old. Our niece Carmen Woods said of her, “Faye was one of a kind. She definitely kept you on point.” What a wonderful way to be remembered – oh, that more of us could stay on point.

Monroe Scott, our neighbor at Casa de Canterbury for more than nine years, also passed away last Monday, July 27th. He was 84 years old. Monroe was one of the kindest people I’ve ever known – I enjoyed visiting with him early in the mornings while he stood on his front porch with his beautiful flowers he planted every year. He would laugh at my pathetic attempts to grow flowers in our back yard. He even came over one day to give me a few tips, but it was a lost cause. After we moved across the river in 2017, we still kept in contact with Monroe and his son Anthony who called us last week about his father.

Martha Faye, an African American woman I called family, and Monroe Scott, an African American man I called friend both died during our mourning for another African American man that became a national hero but was also part of a large extended family who knew him as Uncle Robert and an even larger group of friends scattered across the world. As Shakespeare said, sorrows come not as single spies, but in battalions. This past week I felt the battalions circling.

The coronavirus pandemic which continues to rage in our midst amplifies our sorrows, makes our hibernating selves more susceptible to fears about our own safety along with concerns for the well being of our families and friends. Grief becomes a constant companion for many of us who have lost loved ones and additionally lost an even more fundamental faith in our institutions.

Elisabeth Kubler-Ross had this to say about grief: “The reality is that you will grieve forever. You will not get over the loss of a loved one; you will learn to live with it. You will heal and you will rebuild yourself around the loss you suffered. You will be whole again, but you will never be the same. Nor should you be the same, nor would you want to.”

We shall never be the same.

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

 

 

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nero fiddled while Rome burned, but who set the fire?


Summer of our Discontent

There once was an emperor named Nero

Who fiddled and called himself  Hero,

His people complained,

They held Nero to blame,

But Nero set fire to their peepholes.

****************

As paratrump (who knows who they really were) forces stormed into Portland, Oregon this month, I have been horrified by the pictures of peaceful protesters being picked up on the city streets by unidentified individuals dressed in camouflage carrying automatic weapons, whisked away in unmarked cars by these individuals, taken to unknown destinations in these unmarked cars. An invasion of an American city perpetrated by an American president who devotes himself to distinctly “unamerican” activities.

As we collectively mourned the loss of civil rights icon John Lewis this past week, we were reminded the struggle for justice and fair treatment continues. As I watched Portland ignite in flames last week, I thought of the emperor Nero’s alleged response to the fires that burned in ancient Rome. Fiddling away. Actually fiddling.

But for the rest of the story, I discovered that perhaps Nero did more than fiddle. Some theories emerged afterwards that Nero was responsible for the fires. Sound familiar? I wonder if Portland would be in flames if paratrump troops hadn’t been sent to that city.

While fires burn in some of our nation’s cities, the Covid-19 pandemic rages with a greater vengeance in many of the places we call home across the entire country.

This is without question another summer of our discontent.

Stay safe, stay sane and please stay tuned.

 

 

 

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second chances anyone?


Back in the days when I played more golf than I should have, I learned about mulligans.    Mulligans are a variation of  second chances. If you hit a shot with your driver off the tee on any one hole in a round and the little white golf ball vanishes mysteriously in deep woods closer to the fairway for another hole –  you know for sure you’ll never be able to find your little white ball, but you can say mulligan before you throw your driver in the direction of the same woods. Mulligan means you will have a second shot off that tee before you set off to try to find the driver you threw in the woods. You may hit a beautiful shot for your mulligan or you may not, but the important thing is you have a new opportunity.

In our personal lives second chances are sometimes painfully obvious and at other times so subtle we may miss them. Lesson Number One: Be open, available, alert and don’t think you won’t ever need a second chance.  You will.  Lesson Number Two:  When you get a second chance, try not to think of it as an opportunity to repeat mistakes.  Mistakes are hard to take back so don’t blow the mulligan.

Lesson Number Three:  Be sure to tell your friends about your second chance. It may give them hope and inspire them to offer one or accept one. Honestly, can there be too many second chances going around? Lesson Number Four:  Your second chance may be your last chance.   Really?   Really.

Lesson Number Five: Never be afraid to take a second chance when you have one. As Franklin Roosevelt famously said when the Hounds of the Baskervilles were closing in around him, We have nothing to fear but fear itself.

I am a survivor of second chances in my 74 years – I have at various times blown them, made mistakes, wished I had been a better person. I also have taken second chances that have brought me much joy and happiness. The point is I have had more than my share of opportunities to make choices.

I have to believe in second chances not only for us as individuals but also for us as communities and as a country.  We have collectively failed to fulfill our promises of equal opportunity for all through our systemic racism toward people of color in their pursuit of good health care during the current Covid-19 pandemic and beyond, in their pursuit of a good public educational system, in their need of reliable shelter through affordable housing, in their need of a living wage – in their ongoing fear of police brutality. One of our second chances to do better comes in November when we have a say in our democracy through our  votes. We must do better – we must elect new leadership that gives us second chances to become a better people.

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

 

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the good name of John Lewis, American patriot


I cannot imagine a world without John Lewis. I knew him first as a Civil Rights activist in the 1960s when I was in college, but I’ve known him longest as a congressman from our neighboring state of Georgia who for the past 33 years fought for social justice issues in the US House of Representatives. When John Lewis spoke, I listened. On July 17, 2020 his voice spoke for a final time as he drew his last breath, but his words will live on for me and countless others across the planet he loved.

Two of my favorite quotes from the 25 Best John Lewis quotes: “We may not have chosen the time, but the time has chosen us.”

“If you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have a moral obligation to do something about it.”

Then, this quote from a 2003 Op Ed by Congressman Lewis in the Boston Globe: “I’ve heard the reasons for opposing civil marriages for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions and they stink of the same fear, hatred and intolerance I have known in racism and bigotry.” 

From being beaten by police on Bloody Sunday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama in 1965 to observing the creation of a Black Lives Matter Plaza in Washington, D. C.  near the White House in June of this year, John Lewis was a presence and driving force for good for more than 50 years. I truly cannot imagine a world without him.

“You must be able and prepared to give until you cannot give any more. We must use our time and our space on this little planet that we call Earth to make a lasting contribution, to leave it a little better than we found it, and now that need is greater than ever before.” (quote provided by Jonathan Capehart in The Washington Post on June 10, 2020)

One of my father’s favorite biblical sayings was “a good name is rather to be chosen than great riches.” (Proverbs 22:1)  The name of Congressman John Robert Lewis who died yesterday at the age of 80 will be written in our American history as a good name, perhaps even an “exceptional” one according to remarks by former President Barack Obama as he remembered Lewis today.

I cannot imagine a world without the compassionate leadership of John Lewis, an American patriot. Your journey is over, John – your job was well done. Rest in peace.

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

 

 

 

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who has a secret?


I have a secret to tell you about the power of the vote, 

but all you care about is pulling my hair. Oh, well. Maybe later.

Pretty and I were talking about our nine months old granddaughter Ella James yesterday afternoon not just because she was playing in her playpen on our screened porch but also because Pretty said she had been thinking we needed to start making videos of our time with Ella for later on when we might not be here to talk to her in person.

I said I agreed with her – that neither of us was getting any younger and what a great idea it was to make the videos. Actually, I said, I’d also been thinking about the same inspiration, but Pretty has always been the ideas part of our marriage so I happily gave her credit.

However, Pretty and I are much better at thinking about good plans than we are at plan execution so let’s not any of us hold our breaths for those videos.

But Pretty is fabulous with her digital phone camera and takes a ton of pictures like the one above she took yesterday afternoon. I loved the picture. Maybe one day Ella James will see this picture and try to remember what she loved about grabbing my glasses, throwing them on the floor, then pulling my hair. I’m fairly confident she won’t remember my lesson on the importance of voting.

Stay safe, stay sane and stay tuned.

 

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