To make a long story short

I had another birthday yesterday.

That makes forty-seven that I have had so far. I”m not a big fan of birthdays. I feel it’s a lot of pressure to put on one day. But, it is a good excuse to get drunk and spend money so that’s what I did. It was actually a really fun night.  I could tell you all about it but I don’t want to . If you really cared you would have been there. Hopefully you are living your own life and don’t need to live vicariously through mine.

All I know is that at the end of the night I took a cab home alone. Last night I was pretty pissed off about that. Today I am grateful.

Today I can remember that a year ago I did have someone to spend my birthday with. I also know that what happened that night was so disturbing that I couldn’t even write about it factually. I had to write it as fiction.

Today I feel grateful to be alone.

Tomorrow… who knows how I will feel. It’s a funny thing about time.

Oh, that reminds me. I did learn something last night. I learned that time itself is a made up concept. I might have to think about that for a while.

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That was one freaking year

It was one year ago today that I started this blog. I’ve recently gone back and started reading what I was writing a year ago. I just wanted to see what was on my mind back then and what has changed. The first thing I noticed was that I used to be a lot more angry. Either that or I just used to swear a lot more. Maybe I have become a better writer. Don’t get me wrong, I still love sailor speak and am known to throw an f-bomb around from time to time but it’s a bit of a lazy method for getting one’s point across. I’m glad that I don’t feel the need to do it so much anymore.

I suppose now would be a good time to make plans for the coming year, set some expectations or something, but that is not how I got here and it’s not how I’m going to continue. I just think that writing this blog is a good idea so I’m going to keep doing it.

I do want to thank everyone who has taken the time to check out my blog. I want to thank the people who have clicked the “like” button when they thought one of my posts didn’t suck. I also want to say that I do really appreciate the comments. Hopefully I can find a way to encourage more of that in the coming year. Mostly, I want to thank all the other bloggers out there who are sharing their thoughts and feeling with the world. It’s a pretty amazing community that we have and I look forward to becoming more involved as time goes on.

Life outside my head

I haven’t really written much about what has gone on in my life since getting back from Mexico a month ago. Part of that is because not a lot has been going on. It’s winter and I haven’t been doing all that much that I consider all that exciting. A better answer is that I have been living in my head so what has been reflected in my blog has more to do with what I’ve been thinking than with what I’ve been doing. Neither are completely accurate however. The truth is I write about whatever I want to write about whenever I want to write. And even more accurate than that would be that I write whatever I write whenever I write because most of the time what comes out when I sit down at the computer is not quite what I had in mind when I decided to sit down at the computer.

For now I want to abandon the thoughts in my head and recap what I have been up to the past couple of weeks; let’s say going back to Christmas. It’s been an extremely chaotic time with the holidays and weekends and birthdays and random shit thrown in but in a way all of that is pretty run of the mill for me. I just want to capture the essence of what I’ve been up to so that I can move on. I’m expecting this to be a pretty boring post.

For starters, I’ve been spending a lot of time laying on my bed watching Netflix – mostly documentaries. Here is a boring ass list of said documentaries and historic dramas:

  • The Billionaires Tea Party – A left wing view of the Tea Party.
  • The One Percent – A billionaires view of the very wealthy.
  • Park Avenue: Money, Power and the American Dream – A comparison between Park Avenue in Manhattan and Park Avenue in the South Bronx.
  • Surviving Progress – Our progress may be a trap.
  • Ayn Rand & the Prophecy of Atlas Shrugged – The life and philosophy of one of our most popular thinkers.
  • The Secret of Nikola Tesla – One of our greatest inventors who claimed to have never invented anything.
  • Lovelace – A dramatization about one of our greatest porn stars.
  • Future by Design – The story of futurist and engineer, Jacques Fresco.
  • Escape from Suburbia – What are people going to do when we run out of oil?
  • Pedal-Driven – Mountain Bike riders work with the government to solve problems.
  • Unborn in the USA – A non-bias view of the Pro-Life movement.
  • Zeitgeist: Addendum – A non-political propaganda film worth paying attention to.
  • We Steal Secrets: The Story of WikiLeaks – An interesting expose on Julian Assange.
  • Occupy Unmasked – An extremely right wing view of the Occupy Movement.
  • Better This World – A remarkable tale of left wing radicals in my home town.
  • The Big Buy: How Tom DeLay Stole Congress – A story of power and corruption in law and government.
  • Runaway Slave – The story of one man’s move beyond the race paradigm
  • Let’s Make Money – A propaganda film that should make you think
  • Color Me Kubrick – A dramatization of the life of the man who pretended to be Stanley Kubrick
  • American Addict – There is more money in pharmaceutical drugs than in street drugs.
  • Patriocracy A look at the political divide and the unspoken majority who just want to get along.
  • The People vs. George Lucas – The love/hate relationship between the man who created Star Wars and it’s fans.
  • Hungry For Change – What happens when we stop eating food and start eating drugs.

Wow… twenty-three movies in fourteen days!?! How could I have had time for anything else? Okay, I cheated a bit. That list went back to December 13th but I really wanted to get in the name Ayn Rand. I know that simply being able to tag her will give me a hit or two and I think she wants me to have that. She has given rise to a political movement that is completely counter to everything I believe in but I don’t think most of her followers really understand what she was saying. They just picked up on what they liked.

But that’s the way it goes.

People seem to like Ayn Rand because she gives them justification for being a selfish prick. I say just be who you are! If you are a selfish prick then own it. No one needs to give you permission or justification. I think she would agree with that. But then you can’t complain when all the people around you care more about their own needs than yours. Birds of a feather flock together, bitch!

If you do want another view of the future I would really recommend watching Future By Design by Jacque Fresco. Actually, I would recommend watching all of these documentaries. Some are more biased than others. Some are more opinionated but all have the potential to get you thinking and I highly recommend thinking… in moderation.

So knowing that I can’t simply live inside my head, what else have I been up to?

I went to my sister’s for Christmas. With my parents out of the country I had really hoped that I could just take the day off but when my sister decided to do something at her house I figured it was important to attend. I’m sorry that my other sister was not able to attend but that is the way it goes in my family. We are a group of very diverse people but clearly… somehow… we still love each other.

Usually I spend Christmas night at the bar commiserating with others who either don’t have family in town or just survived another awkward family diner. This year I just felt like going home.

The following night I had rehearsal for our show on Friday. The show was fun. The show was fantastic. The show was what I do.

Hexagon - 27 Dec 2013

Hexagon – 27 Dec 2013

My son’s mother’s sister, who lives in Canada, was there. I helped raise her when she was in high-school and she totally loves me. It was so wonderful to see her again. Also in the audience was a woman who used to live with me and while doing so taught me a great deal about the toxicity of anger and the fear which comes with it. It was really good to see her again after getting past all of that. I also talked with a fan who told me that he could never do what I do but by watching me on stage he feels like he was living vicariously through me. That is one of the greatest gifts I can give as a performer but the truth is, I too am living vicariously through the audience.

The day after a show is usually just a day of rest but I got tired of just sitting around. The weather was nice but I knew it was going to get really cold so I wanted to get out of the house while I still could. I had no plans but I needed a back up battery for my e-cig so I hoped on the bus and headed to Smokeless Smoking in Northeast Minneapolis. My friend works there so I got the “family” discount.

As I left the store he asked, “So, what are you going to do now?”

I said, I have no idea but there will probably be whiskey involved.”

I needed food so I headed to the Spring Street for nutrients and libations. After that I headed to the 331 Club for a beer or two. Next thing I knew there was a dance party going on and I was shit-faced wasted. A friend of mine had sent me a text to see what I was up to but I didn’t notice it until two hours later. I still wound up crashing at her place. Forgiveness it the key to happiness.

The next day was hard. My friend gave me a ride home but I still didn’t know whether I wanted to be alone. It was my daughter’s birthday and I hadn’t seen her face or heard her voice since September. I tried calling her that morning but could only leave a message. I figured it would be a good day to just be alone and do nothing. I made myself a screwdriver to ease the hangover but still having my doubts about being alone I reached out to my Facebook friends. Within thirty seconds I had a phone call from my friend at Smokeless Smoking offering to come pick me up.  I spent the day and night in the loving company of him, his partner and their son.

When his partner dropped me off the next morning I said, “Thank you so much for being there for me.”

To which I was replied, “No, it was you who were there for us.”

Seriously, this is how my life goes but I think it is how life goes when we are willing to humble ourselves to ask for help.

The next day of significance was New Years Eve. Once again I had no plans. If I could have done it I would have done nothing on New Years Eve. It’s fucking amateur night but I needed my peeps. I called a cab and headed to the Cabooze to see WookieFoot. I knew the show was sold out but I hoped that the lovelight would shine on me and I would still be able to get it. It didn’t and I was’t. Luckily there was another cab waiting so I grabbed it and headed to the 331 Club where my friends in the band Rapedoor were playing.

There was a great line up at the 331 that night and it was free but it was still my second choice because one of the bands has a tendency to get naked on stage.  Now I have no problem with nudity but as a stage gimmick it seems over played, especially for a band with so much talent. For some reason that didn’t stop me from stripping off all my clothes and prancing around totally nude when I was brought up on stage.

I got a ride home that night but I couldn’t find my keys to get in my house. Luckily the people who dropped me off knew well enough to make sure that I got in my house. It was cold enough to where I could have froze to death if I spent the night out doors. Instead I spent the night on the couch of some friends in South Minneapolis. By morning I was sober enough to find my keys and make it home.

Thursday I had a therapy appointment. I wanted to spend some time with my friend who let me crash at her place after the first 311 Club night. We actually had a nice evening snuggling on the couch watching movies until four in the morning. Unbeknownst to me this was much later than she wanted to be up. She was pretty pissed off that it had gotten so late and to be fair it was largely my fault. I was a pretty talkative movie watcher that night. Sharing two bottles of wine and a six pack of beer will do that to me… especially since I drank most of it.

She stormed off to bed and I took a cab home. There was a time when I would have had no choice but to sleep on the couch. I feel quite grateful to have the financial resources to take care of myself when these conflicts arise because they will happen… drinking or not. By the way, we are just fine now. In fact we were fine the next morning.

My plan was to go back and retrieve my van but I never got sober enough to drive. I thought that my son would be coming home that day but it turned out he wouldn’t be back until Saturday so I just kept drinking slowly throughout the day. That night I had a meeting with the full cast off Venus’ performance art project. I’m doing the music for it. The meeting was great and I’m looking forward to it but that is about all I have to say about it at this point.

After the meeting Venus drove me to the Spring Street where two of my friends where celebrating their birthdays with an incredible line up of bands in the basement. There is much more that I could say about that night but I’m really trying to keep my posts under two thousand words. Suffice it to say I wound up at the after party and a really cute boy brought me home.

We can also say that I didn’t do much the next day other than welcome home my son, who I haven’t seen since we got back from Mexico.

It wasn’t until Sunday that I managed to retrieve my van. That took walking over a mile in sub zero weather but my van still started up just fine. I spent that night at the bar with my friend; the one at who’s house my van was previously parked. Remarkably, that night went much better.

Monday I drove my son out to see his sister and step-mother. Today I went to retrieve him. It sounds like my daughter is doing fine and at the end of the day, that is all that matters to me.

Pride and Prejudice

I’ve obviously not been keeping up with my personal goal of posting everyday. It always sucks when I don’t meet my goals but I would rather fail at doing something than succeed at doing nothing. To me, the important thing is that I keep going, doing the best I can and not get too discouraged. My last post was written over the course of Sunday and Monday. It pretty much covered the highlights of Thursday through Saturday.

On Sunday my son returned to college after spring break. I barely had anytime to myself for a week so when he left I felt a calm come over me. That calm that an introvert feels when they are alone and at peace. Most people think of me as an extrovert and quite often I am, but after a week of fairly intense interactions I become introverted. My plan was to go to a one year sobriety party for a friend but what I really needed was time to myself – so that’s what I did.

By the way, time to myself does not mean writing – at least not blog writing. I actually find this to be an intensely extroverted activity. As I’m sitting here writing I’m imagining all of you reading it. Sure, at this point that may only be six people but that is still a lot. That still takes a lot of extroverted chutzpah.

Monday night seemed like a good night to get wasted. I had a couple beers at the Bad Waitress the shared a couple pitchers with a friend at the CC Club. It was almost 10pm and I hadn’t finished my gift shopping for my bff so I headed to the liquor store before meeting her at the 19.

Tuesday I woke up on my friends couch and headed home so that I could pick up my daughter. I hung out with her after school and into the evening. I was pretty wiped by the time I got back from dropping her off at her mothers so I went to bed early.

Wednesday I worked all day delivering City Pages and RENT 411. After that I picked up Chinese food and heading to a depressed friend’s house to see if I could do some cheering up. This wasn’t just bad mood depression. This was real clinical depression but it still helps to have an understanding friend around.

Okay… now that we’ve got that out of the way, this is what I want to talk about:

I’m starting a new fucking job!

Since getting sick and going on Social Security back in 1999 it has been my life duty to get better and move forward, just as it would have been if I never got sick. In other words, I’m not trying to get back to where I was. That would be insane. That is what made me sick. Getting sick moved me from where I was and changed my trajectory but it never changed my goals.

I’m just trying to get better at what ever pace I can manage. I think that is the dream of anyone with a chronic illness or condition. I’m not talking about terminal illness. I don’t feel qualified to speak to that, although technically, we all have a terminal illness.

What Social Security has done for me is give me the time to explore what I can and cannot do without risking homelessness or starvation when I fail. It has allowed me to discover what I am good at so that I can be the best person I can be. I wouldn’t wish my “disabilities” on anyone, but fuck! I wish everyone got Social Security. In stead of a safety net, it should be a concrete floor which no one can drop below. Seriously, no one should be worse off financially than me no matter how stupid or unlucky they are. Stupid people are people too and we need crazy fucking risk takers if we are going to advance as species!

What really pisses me off are people who think that those on disability are lazy and milking the system. Really?!? You don’t think that people would seek a better life if they could? Living on Social Security sucks! Getting on Social Security sucks. I know a number of people who could qualify but struggle on without it because they don’t want to admit that their life sucks more than someone on disability! But hey, if you think that people on disability have it made and are jealous because you don’t qualify, let me know. I will gladly come poke your eyes or cut off your legs. Then you can live the high life too.

WOW… I really got off on a tangent there. It was an important tangent but I really wanted to talk about my new job.

So I’m going to be a pedicab driver. If you don’t know what that is, it’s a bicycle taxi. It’s like a rickshaw pulled by a bicycle. They are common in Asia but becoming more common in major cities in the United States. It’s not so much a transportation solution like a regular taxi, but part of the whole entertainment experience of a night on the town; part classy escort through the busy entertainment district, part tour guide. Yeah, totally up my fucking alley!

A few years back, when pedicabs started showing up in Minneapolis, I began wondering if it was something I could do. A big part of my recovery process has been getting back into biking but could I really do it as a job?

I determined that I could. I had been working as a newspaper delivery driver, as I still am, and really wanted to get out from behind the wheel and over the pedals. My big fear was the sales aspect, the dealing with the public part. I’ve done sales and I’ve been good at it. It was just a long time ago and I hated it. But then I realized, it’s not sales, it entertainment. I can do that! But entertaining fans from the stage is different than entertaining strangers who are standing on the sidewalk. That scared the shit out of me.

I wasn’t ready. But now I am. Almost. At least I’m ready to take the next step.

Saturday I went in to meet with the owner of Twin Town Pedicab. This is the closest thing that I’ve had to a job interview in next to… forever. I was a little bit terrified. I’ve been delivering papers for seven years. I suppose I had some sort of interview for that. I auditioned for All The Pretty Horses six years ago. That was a bit of an interview, but I knew I was awesome. Before that I worked cleaning houses for my best friend. Before that I did web design. I had two clients, both of whom were non-profits I worked with where I was in charge of hiring the IT. Don’t worry, I donated all of my income back to the organization.

My last real job interview was in 1996. I got the job, they put me in a monkey suit, I made a shitload of money and it nearly killed me.

But the meeting with the pedicab company wasn’t really a job interview. It still felt like one but really it was a sales pitch. Technically, I’m not their employee, I’m their customer.

I said, “Oh good, I’m a shitty employee.”

That didn’t go over so well. I was met with a suspicious, “What do you mean by that?”

I replied, quite confidently, “I just mean that I don’t believe in working for people, I believe in working with people.”

I guess I passed the audition.

Monday I went in for training on the pedicab. Driving a pedicab can be compared to riding a bicycle like driving a tour van is to driving a Ferrari.  That is to say, not at all! But within ten minutes I had it down and was out on the road. Apparently that was a bad idea. Until I have my pedicab licence driving on the road is totally illegal. Oops. Nothing bad happened but I’m sure I freaked out my trainer. With all the one way streets and dead-ends it took me twenty minutes to get back to the garage. Still, he was willing to get in the cab and let me take him for a spin around downtown Minneapolis. I think I did alright. I nicked a pothole and hit the brakes a little hard once but I’m still learning. I don’t think it will take me too long to get it down. I’m going to make mistakes but that is how I learn.

I still don’t know what they think of me though. I’m sure they have a lot of people who think they can do this but then quit. I’m sure that they are wondering who I am. Who is this weird, looking, weird dressing 46 year old and why does he want to be a pedicab driver? I’m sure they have their doubts. I’m sure they have their prejudices. Fuck, I have my own. I’m prejudging them by assuming that they have doubts about me.

Prejudice sucks, but it is also unavoidable. We all have it. In a way, we need it to make sense of this crazy complex world. It might be inaccurate but we have to start somewhere. I prefer to start with curiosity and intrigue but sometime that will get you killed. We need to be able to make uninformed judgments sometimes for the sake of safety. My problem is with intentional ignorance. I have a problem when someone’s prejudice prevents them from learning about another person. That just makes me sad.

What makes me angry is when someone allows their prejudice or ignorance to turn into hostility. When we take action based on these points of view we are discriminating. When our discrimination about a class of people causes harm it is wrong and unjust. Proposition 8 in California and DOMA at the federal level are wrong and unjust. I pray the Supreme Court of the United States will do their job of protecting the American people by striking down these unjust laws. Those who are being harmed by them cannot wait for people to overcome their prejudices. Human lives are at stake. Children’s lives are at stake. America has a horrible history of treating people unfairly but we can do better. I believe in this country. Please don’t let me down!

I think we are gonna crash

Over the past six years or so I have seen my financial situation get slowly but steadily worse. For the most part this hasn’t been a problem. I don’t need much. I don’t live lavishly, I don’t take vacations, I don’t drive much and I don’t need anymore stuff. Most of my money has gone to supporting my kids, caring for my friends and spending time with the people I love. This last year, however, has seen my income cut by 40% and my living expenses go up considerably, mostly due to increased auto expenses in order to see my kids who both live out of town, but also due to increased housing expenses; my mortgage has gone up $100 a month as a result of higher taxes and insurance cost.

I have done everything I can think of to cut expenses without jeopardizing my mental or physical health but it still isn’t enough to make ends meet. The past six months have been tooth and nail just to make it through. By putting off purchases and repairs, some creative financial juggling and some unexpected monies showing up just in the nick of time I have been able to squeak by. I knew I couldn’t keep it up for ever but I held on hoping for a miracle that never showed up.

I tried to refinance my home but I have too much debt, not enough income and not enough assets. Even though I had been paying my mortgage every month for the past 14 years without fail, and refinancing would have made it easier for me to keep doing that, I was told I was too broke to lower my mortgage payments. That’s fucked up!

I don’t have any savings because I’m carrying credit card debt. Any extra money I’ve ever had I have used to pay down my balances. Then when I hit hard times I turn to the credit cards just to get by. Now, that isn’t even an option. I am maxed out. For months I’ve just been making the minimum payments but in December I couldn’t even do that. I had to call one of my credit card companies to see what I could work out. This card has been closed for years so all I’m doing is paying interest and paying down the balance and I haven’t missed a single payment. I was able to refinance at a lower interest rate and a lower monthly payment. They let me slid for December as long as I paid them $125 by the 5th of January. I could do that and I though this might just be what I needed to balance my budget.

What I hadn’t anticipated was how much my van would cost me in January. This was the month where I could no longer put off needed repairs and I needed my van to do my job and see my kids. I had to spend the money. Once again, January saw me just squeaking by.

My primary source of income is Social Security so when that money came in for February I went on-line to pay my credit card bill. Instead of a bill for $125 like I expected I saw a bill for $250 with $125 being past due. Instead of my due date being the 5th of the month as we discussed, they switched it to the 26th. I never received a bill or any notification that they were doing this; not that I could have made another payment in January anyway, nor could I pay $250 by February 26th as the were requesting. So, I paid the $125 like I had planned and figured I would deal with this when I got back from tour.

Once I got back from tour I was able to deposit money in my checking account. I tried to take out $20 just so I would have some cash in my pocket but was told that funds were not available. This made me nervous  I could understand the deposited funds not being available right away but I should have had $70 in my account even before making the deposit. The whole day I was stressed out; wondering how much money I had, what bills I could pay or not pay, what I could sell to generate more funds and generally just working myself into a frenzy. I really try to never stress about money. I saw how disastrous it was for my parents growing up but there I was, falling apart over money.

Once I finished work I was able to get on-line. I saw that two automatic payments had been made from my checking account while I was out of town sending my balance into the red. I didn’t think this was suppose to happen. I thought the new Federal regulations passed in 2010 protected me from becoming overdrawn. Apparently it does not apply to automatic payments. Anyway, my deposit was enough to cover the payments and leave me with a positive balance. It didn’t appear that there were any overdraft charges so I thought all was good.

My next concern was my credit card payment for the computer I just bought so that I could start writing this blog. I hadn’t received a bill yet so I had no idea when that payment will come due. With no-interest financing I didn’t want to fuck it up.

I went to log-on to that account but was told that my ID and password did not match. What?!? It was the same ID and password I used last month to check my account before buying the computer. So I tried it again. Still no luck. I tried every combination I could think of but I still couldn’t get into my account so I clicked the link to have them reset my password. Fifteen minutes later I received an email saying that they didn’t have an account linked to that address.

WTF! I know they have my email address, they sent me the receipt for my purchase, goddamn it! What the hell is going on here?

So I picked up the phone and called the number on the back of my card. I just wanted to talk to a human being and figure out what was going on. Of course I had to make my way through a maze of computer prompts before that would even become an option. Actually, that never became an option. I got to the point where the computer voice told me that I would be transferred to the next available customer service representative but instead I was transferred back to the same computer voice now telling me to enter my card number. I complied but was told, “I’m sorry, I did not get that. Please enter your card number.” I tried again and got the same response.

“Fuck you! I just want to talk to a real person!!!”, I yelled into the phone but the computer voice just repeated over and over, “I do not understand your request. I do not understand your request. I do not understand your request.”

At this point I was shaking with frustration. My heart was pounding and I was ready to explode. I stopped myself just before hurling my phone across the room. I took a deep breath and said, “I’m done.”

I’m done with credit cards all together. I mean, who am I kidding?  I have no business using credit cards. Using credit to survive is fine when you know that things are going to be better in the future and you will be able to pay it back. I honestly thought that would be the case. I figured at some point I would be able to sell my house and get out of debt, but that’s not happening. My house is worth $50,000 less than it was in 2006 and it’s continuing to lose value. I see no chance of my financial situation improving, not in the near future, perhaps not ever. It’s time for me to stop borrowing and live within my means, measly as they may be.

In a moment of clarity it all made sense. A feeling of calm came over my body and I knew what I had to do. I had to break up will my credit cards.

DEAR CREDIT CARD COMPANIES: I can’t deal with this anymore. I’m sorry but you mother fuckers are on your own. I’ve got nothing left to give you. I tried my best. I hung in there as long as I could but now it’s over. We had a good run. You made shitloads of money off of me over the years but the gravy train has run out of track. Come after me if you want but I have given you my last dime. Literally, I’m broke; completely, totally, undeniably and utterly fucking broke!

… well not completely broke. I still had a little bit of available credit on one card. Okay, now this was clearly a dickhead move; maybe a little vindictive, maybe a last ditch effort at survival, maybe a purely logical decision; but considering that I was about to trash my credit rating I thought I might as well go all in. I was going to run up my credit card as far as I could. I headed to the liquor store and spent $70 on booze; 5 liters of wine, 1.75 liters of whiskey, 1.75 liters of vodka and a 30 pack of beer – enough to get me through the month for sure.

I still have $55 dollars left. Hopefully that will be enough to fill my tank, get a little food and toilet paper – then I’m done. I will spend what I earn and no more. And I’ve got a plan. I can do this. It is going to be okay.

By the way… my bank did sack me with overdraft charges, $37 for each payment, $74 in total. Yeah! Mother fucking bank, I’m done with you too! Tomorrow I am closing my account and as soon as I have some money saved up I’m opening an account at the credit union.

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