Christmas Present

So, my last post was a sweet childhood Christmas memory, right? Ok, here’s what my Christmas looks like now:

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Obligatory trip to National Harbor’s giant tree
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The long wait to see Santa
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Christmas fatigue
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The inexplicably long line for a Honey Baked Ham
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IG photo op. I don’t really bake

I have to keep it real. Lol!

To be real, these are new memories I’ll keep forever just like the childhood ones. I’m grateful for all of them. And I’m grateful that you’re here with me.

Happy holidays!

Christmas Memory

I was having a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit until I made a BLT while listening to Christmas music the other day. It reminded me of a long gone restaurant in the Porter Square section of Cambridge, Massachusetts. I used to have the sandwich there as a kid. The combination of the sandwich, the memory and the music took me back to another time and that place at Christmas. C’mon back (way, way back) with me.

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By Conrad Poirier – Wikimedia Commons

 That smell! The smell of the Christmas tree as Mommy dragged it off of our Volkswagen Beetle and into our small apartment, needles dropping everywhere. Big colored lights. Some of the bulbs didn’t work and she had to replace them to make the whole string light up. Round red, green, silver and gold ornaments that my little sister, Sheri, and I had to hold with two hands. We liked the way our faces looked funny when we held the balls up close and looked into them. Our favorite ornaments were the little copper colored bells. They didn’t ring but they were delicate and sweet. My sister and I threw tinsel at the tree branches. Some of it clumped together but it was still beautiful to us.

The white bedsheet that covered the tree’s stand was empty of presents. Sheri and I had a plan. When our mother left the room, the search was on for us to find money for gifts. If we could find enough change, we could buy Mommy the bubble bath from Fox Drug Store. Sheri and I first hit up our piggy banks.  Not bad, one dollar each plus some change. Then we went through all the coat pockets in the hall closet. That grossed us another couple of dollars. Next was the best place to find money, the couch! There were always some dimes and pennies under the cushions. But the big coins dropped into the back, in the crack that ran along the whole length. It was a gold mine. Seven quarters had managed to shake loose from grownups pockets and had fallen into the crack during the year. We added them to the other bills and change we’d collected. Over seven dollars! It was more than enough for the bubble bath. We could get something at the Five and Ten for Big Sis too. We went into the kitchen and told Mommy we wanted to go Christmas shopping at Porter Square and asked if we could go. It was only three stops on the trolley down Mass Ave. I was nine and my sister was seven. We took the trolley much farther to school every day anyway. Mommy smiled and said it was ok. Sheri and I grabbed our coats, hats and mittens. We were so excited that we had to go to the bathroom first.

In those days, kids could ride public transportation alone and no one called child protective services. First, Sheri and I got off the trolley a block before the shopping center and stopped at Fox Drugs. We bought the bubble bath, happy the Lavender scented one we wanted was still there. Then we walked down to Porter Square (or Pohta Sq-way-ah” as the locals called it). The shopping center was a long row of local stores anchored at the front by Dunkin’Donuts and at the back by Star Market. Halfway down was the Five and Ten. We stopped there next and bought a pair of one-dollar Christmas earrings for Big Sis. We wondered if we should give them to her early so she could wear them to her bank job.

We still had a couple of dollars left so we decided to have lunch at the deli next door. I ordered sandwiches for both of us; Tuna for Sheri, BLT for me. At the time, kids could order sandwiches alone in a deli and no one called child protective services. The place was retro even for those days. It had red vinyl booths and table side jukeboxes continually playing customer selected tunes. That day it was Christmas music with a couple of rock tunes thrown in. I loved those BLTs. I remember the white bread was always toasted lightly, the way I like it. The mayonnaise was slathered on so as to cause the crispy bacon to slip a little. The lettuce and tomato were always fresh, never limp. Before I’d take the first bite, the smell of it would waft up into my nose.

I enjoyed my BLT, the shopping and the company of my sister. We walked all the way back home because, since we were kids, we had forgotten about bus fare when we ordered lunch. We didn’t mind. It wasn’t such a long walk. it wasn’t that cold and not too much snow was on the ground (for Massachusetts). Little kids could walk four or five blocks back then without worrying about child protective services. Along the way we laughed, sang Christmas songs and talked about what we wished would appear under the Christmas tree for us. ~

I hope you enjoy the season however you choose to celebrate/observe it. Thanks for sharing my Christmas memory and thanks as always, for reading.

Sooner or Later We Have to Face Before

You’re probably aware of the sudden controversy over the lyrics to the song  “Baby It’s Cold Outside”. What’s funny to me is that I thought about the creepiness of the song a couple of years ago.  I also wrote the piece below, which is along the same lines, a few of months ago. I decided not to post it because I didn’t want to upset anyone in this #MeToo moment. But now, I think maybe we can talk about it.

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I was listening to a Larry Graham tune the other day. He’s very talented and he was at the height of his career during my salad days. He was one of the original members of Sly and the Family Stone. He also had his own group for a minute, Graham Central Station, and a successful solo career. Some of you probably remember him for his song, “One in a Million”. (That was played one and a million times at weddings back in the day.) I used to dance to his music and he was one of my faves. A couple of his songs still loop in my head. I was thinking about one of the ones that comes up occasionally in my mind’s playlist. The song is Sooner or Later, from the album of the same name. Graham is a bass player with an beautiful deep, sexy voice. I was enjoying the memory of his voice on that particular song when it hit me that the lyrics sound strange in 2018.  I don’t know why I didn’t notice before. Like a lot of folks, I guess I’m more aware and sensitive these days.

The lyrics start out all right, your basic “I love you” tune. But a while into it, it starts to feel uncomfortable.
“You can’t run away from me. Oh baby, sooner or later I’m gonna make your mine…I know it’s just a matter of time.”
What? Umm…that’s vaguely intimidating. He goes on to say that the girl’s the sweetest in the world and he,
“just can’t let you go. Oh, oh you can’t run away from me.”
Ok, if a woman heard someone say that today it’d be a red flag, right? He starts riffing toward the end,
“You’re gonna be my darlin baby, ain’t no maybe…I’m gonna make you mine forever…”
What does that mean? Will there be ropes and duct tape involved?
“… we’ll be together…Although it might take time I’m gonna make you mine.
C’mon now, that doesn’t sound slightly threatening? Right now, it sounds like he’s planning on stalking.

Obviously, I’m not taking the song too seriously. But when I think of the number of times I sang along to Sooner or Later back then and wished my boyfriend (my husband three years later) would say those things to me, I gotta admit I’m a little embarrassed. I know the song is a product of its time. It was 1982. Tootsie and Victor/Victorious were in theaters so we had at least started to think outside the traditional lines of sex and gender roles but on the other hand Richard Dawson was still kissing the female contestants of Family Feud on the lips. I also know that when I was young, women my age didn’t think so much about the ramifications of men’s attention. We didn’t analyze the positive or negative connotations of that attention. We were more inclined to ask, “Why isn’t he giving me attention?” than “What does his attention mean?” I’m glad young women ask now. And if that questioning means we have to re-examine beloved chestnuts like “Baby It’s Cold Outside”, maybe that’s a good thing. We can think about it while still listening and enjoying.  I’m going to continue listening to Graham’s song cuz I like it. Maybe I just won’t sing along.

 

 

 

Donkey On The Beach

I was in Tulum, Mexico last month for my son’s wedding. Yes, the beaches are beautiful, the wedding was awesome, they’re very much in love and very happy. Here are some photos of that glorious day (Of course, I had to.)

 

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The wedding isn’t what this is about though. This is about whether or not I’m losing my mind.

The day of the wedding I got up to an extraordinary sunrise that’s ordinary in Tulum. I went down to do my morning meditation on the beach as had become my routine while  I was there.  It was easy to lose myself in the beauty of the water, sky, birds and flora. There was no cell service and no every day distractions so I could concentrate and contemplate fully. It was mystical.

I felt wonderful…and hungry. I went to breakfast and had my usual egg white omelette at a restaurant that wasn’t my usual. It was kind of salty which made me nervous (but I ate it anyway). I was afraid the salt would bloat me and make me look like the Michelin Man in the wedding photos. I had dieted, exercised, gone to the hairdresser and dentist in preparation for the photos so no matter how ethereal I felt on the beach,  I wasn’t about to let some eggs make a wedding balloon out of me. I didn’t think my daily diuretic would do enough damage control. I decided to go for a long walk on the beach in the sun to promote sweating. I figured sweat and the diaretic would do the trick. Tulum has a long beach with a string of resorts, one after another. The first half of my walk went according to plan. I walked past resort after resort, looking back and forth from the sea to other tourists lounging in the sun.

As an aside, one resort had this sign stuck in the sand in front of it. I thought it was funny so I took a photo. I showed it to my offspring. As they often do, they reacted as though I was showing them an obiturary I’d cut out of a newspaper.

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I still think it’s funny.

Anyway, I was walking back to my resort, wiping sweat from my face with my t-shirt and feeling satisfied that I’d already lost the extra water weight. I looked from the ocean to the resort on my right and there was a donkey standing there. ALONE! It was standing in the sand, outside the resort but there weren’t any people with it, handling it or controlling it. And it wasn’t wearing any festive donkey regalia a tourist like me might expect; no Mexican blanket, no sombrero, nothing. It was just standing there. At first, I thought to myself, “Oh Lawd, I’m dehydrated. I’m hallucinating.” Then I wondered if I forgot to take my blood pressure meds. Then I thought maybe I needed my meds tweaked. As I was musing, the donkey turned toward me and brayed. (I had to google how to spell brayed because I don’t have many donkey encounters.) It wasn’t a friendly bray so I got scared. I said to the donkey, “Don’t you come after me cuz if you do I’m going to have to jump into the ocean.” Then I wondered if donkeys can swim. I wanted to take a photo but I was shaking and trying to get away. Imagine a woman of a certain age trying to run in sand from a donkey. All I could manage was this one picture.

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You see the donkey, right?

A lot of cool stuff happened on that beach in Tulum, mystical and otherwise. I’m grateful. That will only change if I start seeing the donkey in my backyard.

 

 

 

Oh and snake lamp update: the grandkids were by the other day, See no evil:

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The Devil’s Decor

 

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One or two of you might remember this photo. It was the featured image on my post about storage units. This lamp, this six-foot tall, 80 lb bronze snake lamp had been in my storage unit for ten years. That’s right, I said TEN YEARS! You might wonder why. Well, so do I.

It all started twenty years ago on a family trip to Jim Thorpe, PA. We were browsing in an antique shop when my late husband got excited and stopped in his tracks. He said, “Honey, look at that lamp! Man, that’s great looking!” I answered, “What lamp?” There was only one lamp on display in the store but I didn’t want to believe he meant the hideous thing in front of us.

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I mean, look at it! It has a red glowing eye. The long tongue is extending out four inches. And it’s looming out of its basket and standing on its tail. So not only is it ugly but it’s a menacing snake lamp. I felt it was impossible for anyone who was serious about decor to work this curious floor lamp into a design concept. But because of B.T.’s attachment and the support of clueless children, we loaded the stupid thing awkwardly into our minivan for the drive back to Massachusetts. (It served those kids right to spend the five-hour trip maneuvering around the tail to reach their snacks. The tongue kept poking the youngest. The oldest spent the trip holding the heavy yellow glass shade which unfortunately didn’t break.)  I tried to get B.T. to take it down to his basement man cave but he wanted to see what it’d look like in the family room. He thought it was unique and stylish. If I could have lifted it by myself, I would have taken all that uniqueness downstairs as soon as he next left the house but I couldn’t so there it stood for all the world especially my friends and neighbors to see.

In the following years I had to pretend to be obsessively interested in rearranging the furniture so I could move it farther and farther into the corner of the room. I even tried hiding it behind the curtains. Nothing worked. It’s so big some part of it was always visible. I felt like the mom from A Christmas Story who had to deal with the leg lamp. At least that was small enough to push over.

When I downsized to a condo I had to put some furniture into storage. The snake lamp was the first item in, way in the back. I would have tried to get rid of it then except the offspring were sentimental about it. I kept the unit longer than planned but I disposed of everything over time…except the lamp. Last month while visiting family in Boston, I closed out the storage unit. The lamp was the only thing left. I wanted to sell it and have the buyer pick it up at the storage place. I thought maybe I could get $100 or so for it. I checked online (well you do, don’t you) and my luck, the thing is worth a little coin. I guess the lamp is in the style of Edgar Brandt’s La Tentation. Who knew it was a thing. Apparently there are other people who like the style and can make it work. My serpent isn’t worth the price of an original but it’s worth more than I thought, damn it.

You know where this is going, don’t you? Yup, I loaded up the red-eyed devil lamp for yet another long car ride. This time it was just me and the snake from Boston to Alexandria, Virginia where I now live. There were a couple of times I thought I heard it hiss.

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So where is the lamp now? You already know. The Edgar Brandt style, six-foot tall, looming, intimidating viper is taking up valuable real estate in my living room right next to the one window. I can’t believe I’m living with it again. It scares my grandkids so I have to cover the head when they come over. But it’ll stay there until I can unload sell it to a susceptible  discerning buyer. How did this happen? I can only assume it’s because I’m in hell.

Please Don’t Call Me Grandma

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My daughter called me a few days ago laughing. A family friend welcomed her first grandchild last month. My daughter was laughing because the friend told her she wants to be known as Neena to the baby. My daughter said, “All you baby boomers have different grandmother monikers and none of them is Grandma.”

Damn right. I have three grandchildren and I  dare any of them to call me Grandma. My chosen grandmother name is Memu. I love it when the middle one sees me at her preschool and says in her little New York accent, “I’m going with my grrrranmaa…” but I don’t want her to introduce me that way. I cringe when her teachers call out, “Nyla, Grandma’s here.” Is it crazy that I correct them sometimes? Her teachers are young so I’m sure they think, “Whatev.”

Is my daughter is right?  Do you think it’s because we’re boomers? If it is, maybe it’s the second stage boomers, those of us who came of age during the nineteen sixties. Our frame of reference developed during an era of major changes like the Voter Rights Act and the Equal Rights Act. We were empowered by its ethos. We define ourselves by that time and we think we’re cool. You’re more likely to see most of us in jeans and T-shirts than in black pants and Alfred Dunner blouses. You probably won’t find us with glasses hanging from chains around our necks. We turn our Marvin Gaye and Van Morrison up loud in our cars and we rock it like we know how. I don’t dye my grey hair but I do wear it in long braids, thank you very much. Many of us use social media. Interestingly, I know a few women born at the end of WWII who, although they like Facebook, won’t do Twitter or Instagram. I both tweet and ‘gram, much to the chagrin of my grandkids’ parents. I was told explicitly by one of them NOT to get on Snapchat. (Truth be told, I tried to post my first Instagram story recently, but I sent it to a young acquaintance by mistake. I could almost hear her saying to herself, “Why is this old lady texting me a video of her car window?”)

That brings up another point. I’ve had conversations with other grandmothers my age about how our adult children don’t like our attitudes. They would prefer it if we “acted our age” which I guess means old. I was told I’d be selfish if I let my social life impede being a good grandmother. I don’t understand what that even means. It’s not that I don’t like being with my grandkids. I look at their faces and my heart sings. They are my best friends. Their presence enhances my life for real. In them I have love to the second power…I just don’t want them calling me Grandma.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t deny my age. In fact, I embrace it. I’m fortunate to still be here. Several of the folks dear to me are gone now. And often I feel my age. I feel it when my knee doesn’t want to get out of the car with me after a long ride, when I fill my weekly pill case, when I catch myself eating dinner at 4pm and I feel it when the grandkids ask me to push them on the swings for what seems like days. But maybe my daughter is right. Maybe it is my attitude.  No matter how achy or tired I feel I’m always in the mood to put on my suede booties and go out to see what else there is for me to discover and enjoy.

So like all the other Memus and Mimis, the Neenas and Nonas and Nikas, I’ll be there on the school playground to pick up the kids and push them on the swings like the good grandmother I am. But please don’t call me Grandma and watch out for me when I leave. I’ll be the one tearing out of the parking lot with my music turned up, bouncing to the boomer beat.

Blue Blazes

Is it me? Man, it feels hot! As I’ve written about before, one of the reasons I moved to Virginia from Massachusetts was for the weather. I don’t like cold and I love the heat but man, it’s been hot here lately. When I came here in the summer of 2012 I relished the 90 degree days. I’d compare temperatures on my Yahoo Weather app and then call my sisters back in New England and ask them with stifled laughter if they were chilly. There were fifty 90 plus degree days that year and I rejoiced. So far this year there have been 52 and I’m uncomfortable.

Is it me? What’s different this year? Is it because 2013 and 2014 weren’t as hot? Did my Boston bred body reboot? These last couple of days, I thought my car thermometer was broken because it read 90 every damn time of the day and night. That was until yesterday when it read 93. And today it read 95!  I was actually annoyed to see a group of high-school students, during only the second day of the new school year, practicing band OUTSIDE, laughing and dancing. How dare they look fresh as little daisies while I look like a wilted brown-eyed susan, bent over in the heat.  And I’m tired of seeing skinny, good-looking young women in cute sundresses and Michael Kors sandals. I need for them to need to cover up.

Every morning for what seems like a month, as I sip my morning coffee (ice coffee), I hear the words “hazy, hot and humid” coming from the local TV meteorologist. I’ll give it to her, she has tried to change it up a bit lately by using expressions like, “trending above normal” and “summer continues” but we all know it just means it’s hot as hell. As a matter of fact, there was a fire in a field nearby a couple of days ago and the combination of the heat and red glow made me wonder if I’d slipped, bumped my head and now… Anyway, I’m not tolerating it well. I feel as if someone soaked a lead x-ray apron in water and threw it on my chest. The only consolation is that I’m not the only one. I’ve seen other folks huffing and puffing as they push grocery carts to their cars in supermarket parking lots under the blazing sun. And I was behind a man in FedEx today whose shirt back was completely wet with sweat even though the AC was on full blast. Earlier this afternoon,  I was stopped by the neighborhood dog walker who told me he’d never understood the term “hot as blue blazes” until today. Speaking of the neighborhood, I’m just moving in this week, this incredibly hot week, and three of my boxes collapsed  from the sweat on my hands. I’ve already written off the 3 new neighbors who asked, “Is it hot enough for ya?”

The forecast is for cooling in the next few days, a quick change which is good, I guess.  I thought I’d remembered there being a transitional period in August, a cooling off period, a winding down time between pool days and apple picking days. But that’s probably a memory created by classroom posters. When I was in elementary school I more than likely I went to the first day in shorts gratefully washed by my mother just like every other kid in my grade. So, right now I’ll wait with heavy, congested breath for the cold front I hear tell is about to pass through. Now watch, I’ll post this and tomorrow I’ll be looking for my sweater.

How about where you are? Has it been devilish hot where you live? Do you see a change in recent weather patterns?

Why You Won’t Be Seeing Us Real Soon

 It’s been a little while since I posted.  I have a few pieces in the pipeline so I  hope to post more during the summer. But there’s been a lot going on around here, the best of which was finishing the first draft of my first novella, “Ties That Bind”. I ‘ll talk about that experience on my other blog,  BusyWritingLife.

The other stuff is mainly around family, some good, some bad which are the subjects I’ll be sharing this summer. And speaking of which;

 

Yeah, Disney, about that…..

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We’ve been thinking about doing a family vacation this summer. There are young’ens in our clan so, naturally, when I threw out the vacation idea, Disneyland was mentioned by their parents as a possibility. I grew up in the counter-culture days and tend to think of myself as a social reform type so at the Disney suggestion the only response that came to my mind was, as one of the other family members says, “hashtag, I can’t”. But I was pointedly reminded by one daughter that as I was bringing her up, I pushed Disney like a Oxycontin dealer.

I admit it’s true. I enjoyed a lot of Disney movies, both as a child and as an adult. When I became a mother, the memories of feelings I had as a child for Snow White and Cinderella overcame my supposed highly developed social sense. My emotional need was to share those memories with my kids. I wanted them to give them what I thought I’d gotten out of the films. It was a knee-jerk response to parenthood. And, truth be told, I continued to get with the Disney program. As a matter of fact, The Little Mermaid was a special bonding experience for me and that same daughter. Her favorite song was Part of That World and mine was Under the Sea. Some things never change…

…And some things do. So, I changed my mind. Sue me. (Oh that’s right, daughter can because she’s an attorney now. Take that Arial!)  It was right around the Aladdin years that I noticed a change in my attitude toward Disney films. I was starting to become bothered by the things like historical contexts and language. Why is a princess using an expression like, “at your service?” And why a princess? Why always a princess?! By the time Pocahontas was released I was suspicious of all the basic Disney themes. (Actually during one point in that movie, in a theater, my sister and I both stood and shouted, ‘Oh c’mon!”)  I started questioning what it was I actually did get from those old “classics” in terms of gender roles, class distinctions and cultural perspective. I realized that as an evolved, modern, African-American woman, I needed a new cartoon vision that matched my mood. (Haha.) That’s when I started boring my kids with “responsible” TV shows like Captain Planet. We stopped going to Disney movies and instead I brought home videos like Ferngully, The Last Rainforest”. The only Disney distributed movie I let into the house was The Brave Little Toaster. It scared the shit out of them and began the “reading era” of their childhood. As a result, when they criticize me about that time, as they still do, it’s in very literate terms.

Did I do the right thing by casting a jaundice eye on Disney and sharing my misgivings with my kids or was I the throw back hippie hypocrite they feel I was? I’m not sure but I’m still going to take a pass on dunking the grandkids in the Disney kool-aid as our summertime fun. Maybe I’ll suggest a hiking trip in the mountains instead. Now, please excuse me. We have a birthday party this afternoon and I have to go wrap an Elsa’s Frozen Palace play set.

Really, This Time

Oops!! A couple of weeks ago I cavalierly posted a piece called “Welcome Back” which I have since deleted. It was a case of blogging without thinking. I really shouldn’t have assumed I knew how the WordPress pages feature works before I wrote about the grandiose plans I had for them. It turns out I’d have to PAY to have them formatted the way I’d like. That’s not going to happen. (I’m cheap.) I might decide to pop for the fancy pages in the future but more than you ten people will have to be reading me before I do that. (I did buy a domain so it’s just stopalongtheway.net now… That only cost $18.) I added the Category widget to my home page to accommodate the growing number of my topics without the expense. You can read about the changes to Stop Along The Way on the new “What’s Here” page.

Seriously though, I meant it in my deleted post when I said I appreciate those who read and/or follow me. I hope I will continue to provide content that helps you on your journey.

How to Get 3 Million Blog Views

I found this after Corngoblin liked my last post. It was a great way to tell me to get over myself. LOL!

WilliamCharlesBrock

Dear readers,

I’ve recently been working with a team of researchers from Miskatonic University, whose main goal is the delve into the lost recesses of cyber space and uncover long forgotten blog posts from blogs that, for one reason or another, came offline.  We’ve made some astounding discoveries.  This following piece is a prime example of some of the lost treasures we’ve found.

-The Corngoblin

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Hi guys!  In case you’re new here, my name’s Peter, and I’ve got 3 MILLION VIEWS, and I’d like to show you how you can too.  You guys are obviously familiar with my work since, you know, you’re on the internet, so here we go!

HOW TO GET 3 MILLION VIEWS

I go on a lot of people’s blogs, normally just to post a spam comment so they come look at mine, sure, but it still counts, and there’s one thing I always…

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