elixir.

WordBowl Wednesday Reprise in honor of Colman Domingo’s birthday (HappyHappy!). Colman’s WordBowl Word, ELIXIR, proved challenging: an ancient term for a substance that could transform metal into gold or prolong life indefinitely, what could be a modern equivalent?

Originally written a year ago as he decamped NYC for London, this post is hitting as he flys off to shoot Season 2 of FEAR THE WALKING DEAD. As of last season’s cliffhanger, he is not yet a zombie…

Speaking of the dearly departed, two of the three establishments featured in this story are no longer part of the vibrant downtown Manhattan scene. RIP. 

On the eve of his departure to London for a limited engagement of his award-winning solo show, A Boy & His Soul (Tricycle Theatre) and to reprise his Tony-nominated role in The Scottsboro Boys (Young Vic), WordBowl Word-of-the-Day “elixir” from

Colman Domingo

Actor. Playwright. Director. Photographer. Collaborator. Creator.

ElixirWord

Fingers dancing, racing, drumming syncopating — almost, close — to the bombastic beats in his brain, crazy code streaming, screaming from his fingertips, he is in the zone, the Matrix, he is the Matrix, master, architect, builder, creator, executor.

He can’t type fast enough, he will go faster, faster, his head and his computer one beating organism. He barely, briefly pauses to throw back his spiked Red Bull, tepid and sickly slicking down his throat, chin. ClickClackClicketyTap. Focused. Clear. KILLING IT.

Way better than the skid-skittery of his last Adderall stint, this new stuff, this mixing of Old/New, this all-nighter in the company bullpen, solo flying, solo dancing with the pressure on — big money meet in the a.m. — he is ON, he is SHIT.

Nooooooooooooooooshittyshitshit.

OLOROSO SANGRE TRABEJADERO Sherry, elixir of the gods, a vacation to Spain without leaving the barstool (The Beagle, nyc)

OLOROSO SANGRE TRABEJADERO Sherry, elixir of the gods, a vacation to Spain without leaving the barstool (The Beagle, nyc)

Stop. He has not Lost It. Back up. Review. Line by line. Scan. See. Eliminate. Edit. Fixityfixfix. Stop. Crack the whole thing wide open. Follow the trail, follow the trail, follow the code, get inside the code, imbue the code with his secretsauce, chase himself down the rabbit hole all the way to Wonderland, find it, FOUND IT, the kernel, the essence, the key to NEXT, the frontier beyond Web 2.0, even 3.0, this is Fourth Dimension shit. Shift the course of human interaction, evolution. Fundafuckingmental.

And his code, clean, a sparkling stream.

He shouts into the void, Oh HELL YEAH. He needs to wii or drum, both of which are available at his apartment, but he has been cited — multiple citations — neighbor complaints, those J.O.B. nine-to-fivers objecting to his unregimented bursts of stimulation, inspiration.

As if the gods, the muses, punch a timeclock.

When this hits, he’ll buy the building, kick them all to the curb. Fill it with people like him. He high-fives an invisible friend, champion. Himself.

This is REVOLUTION, they will usher in a whole new way to engage, absorb information. Jack-streamed into the bloodstream, the infostream.

LEMON VERBENA SAZERAC (oh-so-subtle iteration of the classic) at Saxon & Parole

LEMON VERBENA SAZERAC (oh-so-subtle iteration of the classic) at Saxon & Parole

The ultimate algorithm, every moment of interaction exclusive to you, encasing you in a sentient bubble, sensing and synthesizing data, bespoke knowledge, interactivity not just tailored to but designed for your specific needs, tastes, desires, both articulated and innate.

Texts his co-founder, sleeping in preparation for the big meet tomorrow — today? —with the potential new VCs, because this is the forshizzleshit.

Times like this he wishes he smoked.

Dashes to the kitchen for a beer, keg tapped out, nothing in the fridge as they await the bridge financing to take them to the other side and he has done it, DONE IT, you-centric Nirvana and whoever — his co-founder, the Board, the VCs — will figure out the monetization shit cuz this is MIDAS.

Forget the Fountain of Youth, immortality. This life, this mortal life, with you at the center, served by data as acolytes once served the gods.

God of You. Served by the stream.

He sits down. Thrums thumbs against thighs. Pours himself back into the flow, coding towards You-topia.

The (hand)writing of “elixir” required inspirational cocktails at Saxon & Parole (on the Bowery, nyc) & some stimulating sherry at The Beagle (Yes, again! There’s cocktail alchemy going on behind the bar) as well as superlative caffeine at Bowery Coffee

Bowery Coffee

Bowery Coffee

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reparation.

It’s WordBowl Wednesday, Archive Edition!

Digging through the WordBowl archives we head into the high holiday season, thinking of friends present and past. In this instance, “present” friend Jeffrey Q. Sholemson, who submitted such a historically loaded word to contemplate, and “past” friend, who is the catalyst for this story. 

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day from Jeffrey Q Sholemson, Chicagoan by way of Long Island, Expert Listener, and once, long ago, my college Freshman Orientation Leader.

This story is in no way in references him. 

Fashion Conundrum: what to wear to an Amends Meeting.

reparationphotoYou recognize the courage it took for him to call, reach out after decades of radio silence — you heard through the collegiate grapevine he fell hard fast, cleaned up good — you have seen enough Oprah/Dr. Phi/Dr. Drew/BarbraWaWa to appreciate an addict’s narrative arc. Still, a surprise, the call, the formality of the request for a “meeting”. Not a “get-together” or “a coffee” and obviously not for “drinks”.

A meeting to make amends. To you.

You wonder what the proper preparation is for an amends, this momentous occasion not of your planning.  What your role is in his story: Recipient? Protagonist? Heroine? Victim?

You notice “heroine” is only one letter but a whole world away from “heroin”.

12-Stepping, there are handbooks, guidelines, amends processes. Are there any such materials for the amendee?

Balance, you think, somewhere between sartorial sophistication and sartorial seriousness. You jettison “sexy”, despite your history of drunken fumbling in your relative youth, the two of you studying and partying with equal abandon, the late  — or early, depending on the night/morning continuum — heartfelt, booze-fueled discussions which inevitably dovetailed into an unarticulated need to for a physical closeness as bared as the conversation. As if to manifest the talk.

Post-call, memories flash, flood.

You flip through your times together, legendary stories, hazy moments, half-recollections. Fragments. You try to figure out what he could possibly want to say, so you can formulate a response.

Because if the moment was so significant, a betrayal, what does it say about you, that you don’t remember?

That you do not remember them as THAT, whatever it is they see as the fulcrum of your relationship.

You wonder what your culpability is in all of this.

Dredges of Classic Margarita, Rosa Mexicano, union square, nyc

Dredges of Classic Margarita, Rosa Mexicano, union square, nyc

The night before, you go a drink too far attempting to drown out the questions arising unbidden as a result of the call. You wonder how an addict is defined, wonder where weed falls these days on the addictive substances spectrum, now that it is legal in some states. Prescription pills, legal, too. Alcohol, also legal. You live in NYC, so cigarettes are virtually illegal, sugar nearly so as well. You debate personal responsibility with your bartender as he refills your wine, gratis. You go out often, you are accustomed to the appreciation of bar staff.

On the big day, A-Day, you wear black, as you have lived in Manhattan long enough to be considered a New Yorker. You convince yourself your quavering hands are a result of too much caffeine, a day of coffee shop meetings before the main event, at a hotel the choice of which you cannot help overanalyzing.

Your high-heels click-clack on the reflective marble as you cross the lobby, he is up out of his lounge seat, waving, as you approach. He smiles a familiar smile. You reach out to shake his hand, he clasps the whole of you in an embrace, trapping your arm between both bodies.

There is no turning back now. You are in this. You are to be Amended.

This responsibly consumed cocktail-fueled post was written at Bakehouse (meat packing district, nyc) and uploaded at Rosa Mexicana (union square, nyc)

Do you want a WordBowl story of your own? Use this form (or drop me a word: wordbowl@gmail.com)

deracinate.

It all started with a word. Specifically, “deracinate”, a word submitted by documentarian Cyndee Readdean which resulted in a post picked by WordPress editors for promotion, which resulted in all sorts of amazing, provocative, heady words from you!

Reposting “deracinate” as tonight Cyndee Readdean will be honored for producing FREEDOM SUMMER (click for trailer), which was broadcast on PBS’s American Masters and garnered a prestigious Peabody. The Peabody Awards are airing this this evening (6/21) — watch the video trailer HERE  in the U.S. on Pivot broadcast network (check their digital platforms for streaming in other territories).

WordBowl Word of the Day “deracinate” — which I did not know essentially means “to uproot” until I Googled it — is courtesy of Cyndee Readdean. Filmmaker. Culture Creature. Twin. 

deracinateA few weeks after the birth of my baby brother — disappointing, as I specifically requested an OLDER brother, not this red-faced mewling thing taking up residence in my mother’s lap —I greeted the arrival of my road-weary father with suitcase in hand, assuming this Houston apartment was as temporary as the others, Phoenix for Spring Training, Tacoma in the off-season, San Francisco or San Mateo for games played in Candlestick Park, Evansville for dips down to Triple-A ball.

A travel savvy almost-five-year-old, I packed my own case, a miniature replica of my mother’s (hard-sided, top-stitched), with a few of my favorite outfits and matching socks (we dressed to the nines, my mother and I), a swimsuit (swimming pool hopes, often the case), paper and crayons (if we flew, stewardesses cooed and gave out coloring books, but I liked to be prepared for any travel situation), an assortment of books (of course) and my Giants jersey (adult-sized, doubling as security blanket). All set, ready to Hit the Road.

imgres-1We — Mom, Dad, me — may not have had a home, but our lives had a rhythm, bound to the tides of baseball fortunes, the ebbing minor leagues, the crests and swells of the majors. Shifts in destination and timing, the little dramas woven into the cycle of arrival, unpacking, practice, game, celebration or consolation, re-packing, waiting, departure, freeway or airport, motel or apartment, arrival.Vagabond days marked by gas station treats and airport gifts and occasional exotic meals cooked by one of the other ballplayer’s homesick wives.

Vesper Martini at Raoul's: a classic at a classic

Vesper Martini at Raoul’s: a classic at a classic

Ballparks, with their enormity of noise, swells of sound, announcements crackling, great waves of people, anticipatory, asserting statistical knowledge. Cries for beer, hotdogs, yes, even peanuts, better seats. The players loping onto the field, scattered shouts from the fans, weak clapping gaining strength as the crowds turn from their dissertations on the team’s chances for the season and acknowledge the actual talent hitting the field. Lazy balls arcing through the air, belying the precision with which they are thrown, even during warm up, the nonchalant preening of players on display but not yet at work, playing. Me, near the dugout, in uniform, an indulged team mascot.

Are not all fathers applauded by thousands upon arrival at their office?

wayside coffee bar, east village

wayside coffee bar, east village

Now, Houston, this apartment without a swimming pool, was to be our home for the next few years as my father — retiring at 27 from the only job he had ever known — attended pharmacy school.

I did not share my parents’ enthusiasm for kindergarten, the opportunity to play with kids my own age. I enjoyed my solo status, my books and my crayons, the company of grown-up players — Gaylord Perry, Juan Marichal, Mansori Murakami, Willie Mays — and their wives. In Houston, all the adults looked alike, the kids had known each other since birth, and everyone spoke with a singular syrup-drenched accent.

Adrift in this sea of sameness, I began plotting my escape.

Today’s WordBowl Word of the Day was handwritten at the SoHo institution Raoul’s and edited at the latest jewel in the East Village artisanal coffee crown, Wayside. 

reparation.

In honor of #ThrowBackThursday, revisiting one of the first WordBowl entries while resisting the temptation to re/write and re/design! Such a loaded word, REPARATION (click for definition). I initially started scribbling a fictional piece, but the act of (hand)writing jogged a memory, which became the story I share with you here. 

It remains the only WordBowl post to have been entirely conceived, written and uploaded in a bar(s).

WordBowl Word-of-the-Day from Jeffrey Q Sholemson, Chicagoan by way of Long Island, Expert Listener, and once, long ago, my college Freshman Orientation Leader.

This story is in no way in references him. 

 

reparationphotoConundrum: what to wear to an Amends Meeting.

You recognize the courage it took for him to call, reach out after decades of radio silence — you heard through the collegiate grapevine he fell hard fast, cleaned up good — you have seen enough Oprah/Dr. Phi/Dr. Drew/BarbraWaWa to appreciate an addict’s narrative arc. Still, a surprise, the call, the formality of the request for a “meeting”. Not a “get-together” or “a coffee” and obviously not for “drinks”.

A meeting to make amends. To you.

You wonder what the proper preparation is for an amends, this momentous occasion not of your planning.  What your role is in his story: Recipient? Protagonist? Heroine? Victim?

You notice “heroine” is only one letter but a whole world away from “heroin”.

12-Stepping, there are handbooks, guidelines, amends processes. Are there any such materials for the amendee?

Balance, you think, somewhere between sartorial sophistication and sartorial seriousness. You jettison “sexy”, despite your history of drunken fumbling in your relative youth, the two of you studying and partying with equal abandon, the late  — or early, depending on the night/morning continuum — heartfelt, booze-fueled discussions which inevitably dovetailed into an unarticulated need to for a physical closeness as bared as the conversation. As if to manifest the talk.

Post-call, memories flash, flood.

You flip through your times together, legendary stories, hazy moments, half-recollections. Fragments. You try to figure out what he could possibly want to say, so you can formulate a response.

Because if the moment was so significant, a betrayal, what does it say about you, that you don’t remember?

That you do not remember them as THAT, whatever it is they see as the fulcrum of your relationship.

You wonder what your culpability is in all of this.

Dredges of Classic Margarita, Rosa Mexicano, union square, nyc

Dredges of Classic Margarita, Rosa Mexicano, union square, nyc

The night before, you go a drink too far attempting to drown out the questions arising unbidden as a result of the call. You wonder how an addict is defined, wonder where weed falls these days on the addictive substances spectrum, now that it is legal in some states. Prescription pills, legal, too. Alcohol, also legal. You live in NYC, so cigarettes are virtually illegal, sugar nearly so as well. You debate personal responsibility with your bartender as he refills your wine, gratis. You go out often, you are accustomed to the appreciation of bar staff.

On the big day, A-Day, you wear black, as you have lived in Manhattan long enough to be considered a New Yorker. You convince yourself your quavering hands are a result of too much caffeine, a day of coffee shop meetings before the main event, at a hotel the choice of which you cannot help overanalyzing.

Your high-heels click-clack on the reflective marble as you cross the lobby, he is up out of his lounge seat, waving, as you approach. He smiles a familiar smile. You reach out to shake his hand, he clasps the whole of you in an embrace, trapping your arm between both bodies.

There is no turning back now. You are in this. You are to be Amended.

This responsibly consumed cocktail-fueled post was written at Bakehouse (meat packing district, nyc) and uploaded at Rosa Mexicana (union square, nyc)

Do you want a WordBowl story of your own? Use this form (or drop me a word: wordbowl@gmail.com)

gynarchy.

Today’s WordBowl word — which means “rule by women or a woman” — comes to us from “swandancer” who blogs about books, stories & the act of avid reading here

gyn

“Less wife, more woo.”

He leans in, not certain he heard her correctly. She looks up, slurs slightly, “More woo. Less wife. Or vice-versa,” tosses her hair, drains the dregs of her wine.

Retro-ish RYE SOUR at the retro-ish Joe Doe & Misses Doe (east village)

Retro RYE SOUR at the creatively retro Joe & Misses Doe

He nods at the bartender for another, peels off cash, signaling he’ll take care of whatever tab she’s run up. She takes the nod to be assent, smiles, launches into a story he only half-hears — I…worthy of woo-ing — his hearing off lately, sounds drop out or consonants reverberate, obliterating the adjacent vowels.

His father often bellows, getting old ain’t for sissies, as though to reinforce, again, his stature as one of the last Real Men who fought in real wars, returned home, built business empires, fathered pampered children who, failing to achieve greatness on their own, merely — barely — managed inherited business handed to them on platinum platters.

His mother insists he ignore his father, he was always her special boy, her only boy after a succession of daughters. But maybe his father is right, about aging. Or not entirely wrong.

WordBowl writing view, winter 2014

WordBowl view, Snowmeggedon 2014

The woman he is not officially dating snuggles against his chest, he kisses her lightly, she tastes like wine and something else, familiar, but the sense evaporates before he can name it. Her tongue lingers on his lower lip, he is forgiven.

He should not have gone off about his wife, but the woman is unhinged, her deranged demands requiring a level of attention nearly equal to when he was living in what he still considers his home. At least now he is in the city, with all it has to offer, right outside his door, within walking — or taxi-ing — distance.

He no longer hurls himself onto the last train, or worse, drives himself to their stately “commuter town” where the pulse of the city is too faint to feel, hemmed in by perpetually manicured yards and garages housing vestiges of aborted home improvement projects.

laptop editing at croissanteria (east village)

laptop editing at croissanteria

She presses against him, lifts expectant lips, mouth seeking some promise from him, but he hesitates, his twins are coming tomorrow, the reason he did not plan a formal date tonight. But after diffusing the latest wife-spewed text bombs, he deserved a drink, and since she had messaged him… He is reasonably confident she understands they are not exclusive — he’s not even divorced yet, for starters —despite the number of nights they wind up in his still-unsettled apartment, her not young but oh-so-crucially younger, well-tended skin and eager mouth and pre-menopausal pussy offered up like a reward for him being a decent, still-good looking guy with an at-the-ready credit card.

His daughters, he cannot risk them seeing a woman leaving his apartment, thinking he is having a post-midlife crisis. This was never about another woman. Or potential women, with all their tantalizing, within-grasping possibilities.

He just needs to breathe. Get out from under the judgment, the perpetual disappointment. Escape the vise of others’ devising choking any hope of hope out of him.

Be his own man.

This week’s piece — written amidst another blizzard — truly took a village. The East Village, that is. In honor of Valentine’s Day, “gynarchy” was handwritten at what was formerly JoeDoe, but post-wedding is Joe & Misses Doe where they are dishing up some seriously scrumptious updated comfort food and cocktails. Edited at Croissanteria with the aroma of fresh-baked croissants wafting by. 

Do you you want to participate? Drop your WordBowl word here: 

umrita.

“Umrita” is an Icelandic word for “rewrite”

This seasonally-appropriate (it may be as cold in Manhattan as it is in Iceland) word bestowed by the omnivorous, entrepreneurial, idea-avore @BKGKristen

In the Houston interim between the baseball years and the rest of our lives, two unforeseen events occurred. First, another brother materialized, unceremoniously plopped in a crib wedged into the bedroom Baby Bother and I shared, thus eliminating the space previously occupied by our Lincoln Log fort-building enterprises. The second — and far more momentous — occasion was the appearance of a roll top desk, capped with a cherry-red bow.

Umrita-countyJammed between our all-purpose dining table and the narrow passage to the galley kitchen, the spindly roll top was a thing of wonder, my own space, mine, semi-ambulatory Baby Brother forbidden to touch, a space wide enough to spread my school drawings — those burst of enthusiasm that, upon further reflection, were not quite hitting the mark I initially envisioned but with a smudge-erase-recolor might transform into something fridge-display worthy — and private enough to store my treasures.

For the first few enthralling months, I padded into the kitchen and, before eating my Cheerios, carefully rolled the desk open to discover a small gift from my parents: colored pencils, an assortment of erasers, construction paper of varying size and hue. My desk, where I wrote small stories and drew complicated pictures and performed complex plays with multiple Skipper dolls. Not Barbies, never Barbie, Barbie had breasts and was therefore expressly forbidden, so I made do with Barbie’s younger, flat-chested sister, so lacking in popularity only one version of her was manufactured, I chopped the hair off one and put ponytails on another in an attempt to imbue them with individual personalities.

Writing with wine

Writing with wine

My desk, my stage of wonder, was placed in the boys’ room when we moved to Mississippi, where I had a room of my own at last, my mother’s vision of a young girl’s fantasy bedroom: canopy bed, ruffles, matching white-washed and faux-gilded  furniture. No place for a worn wooden roll top.

The roll top desk became the domain of Baby Brother, scratched by his school studies, nicked by frustrations with his handwritten essays, his ever-enlarging form growing ever more hunched as the books thickened and the subjects increased in difficulty, the roll top carried him through grade school, junior high, high school all the way to his departure for military academy greatness.

Rewriting at Elsewhere Espresso

Rewriting at Elsewhere Espresso

in time, the roll top retired to an unobtrusive corner of the spare bedroom-slash-crafting-room in my parents home, relieved of active duty beyond serving as a catch-all storage space, no longer the springboard for a young person’s dreams.

The now-adult Baby Brother asserts — in tones commensurate with one accustomed to commanding squadrons — his claim, his inheritance intentions toward the roll top. With military-grade deniability, he insists the desk was always his, his alone. He occasionally convinces my mother of this, forcing me to counter with stories of my own to accurately correct her recollections.

Our memories — mine, Baby Brother’s — jockeying for dominance, equally potent, one poised to override the other, erase the other, reduce the other to an ignominious smudge. History to be written by the winner.

“umrita” handwritten on a brisk evening with a Candied Ginger Old Fashioned at locavore dining destination County (grammercy, nyc) and edited just before snowfall with a couple of nutty-rich Americanos at Elsewhere Espresso (east village, nyc).

umrita

WordBowl is an equal-opportunity word lottery. Drop in a word today:

calligraphy.

On the eve of her annual sojourn to the Land of Oz, today’s wordspiration is from The Madam Editrix, who provided the initial word (and initial kick in the tuckus) to catapult WordBowl into existence. 

images-1

Invitation arrives, weighty with wealth, prestige. Hand-addressed, hand-delivered. Presented with a slight bow, in homage to or in mockery of the customs his doorman imagines he performs on business overseas.

He runs a thumb over the envelope. His name rendered in royal script, princely. Bridal professional? Kiss-ass assistant? Younger sister? Female, surely.

some evenings, the muse requires scrumptious snacks

Scrumptious snacks, Lafayette

His early teachers disparaged his crabbed writing, his inability to marshal lines and curves into proper formation, bestowed favored smiles and desired grades upon the neat, self-satisfied girls who stayed between the lines.

Worthless, he can laugh now, handwriting obsolete. Typing, though, had he the prescience to take that “girls elective”. But even this, less vital, shrinking keyboards, adaptive keyboards. Soon a team — ideally one of theirs — will definitively crack speech recognition translation. Most things in which girls excelled in school have no bearing on success today. So he wasted no time learning useless crap.

She always teased he was too regimented to recognize artistry, too focused on the prize to appreciate the journey. She could afford to say such rich phrases, toss them as casually as bar tips.

They met his first day teaching English in a bustling town on the Sea of Japan. Post-undergrad Gap Year (her), Make-Money-for-Grad-School (him). He sought a posting with the best salary-to-cost-of-living ratio, hustled for private clients on the side. She came for their fabled gardens, practiced her shodo — “the way of writing” — without learning the language.

McNally Bookstore Cafe

Skyview, McNally Jackson Bookstore Cafe

Months ricocheting between museums, incomprehensible Butoh performances, Ishikawa festivals. Once, bullet train to Tokyo, Roppongi district, karaoke. Desultory kisses between final sips of beer and ordering that for-real last sake. She assumed his admiration, acquired his admiration as she did souvenirs, brushes, tissue-thin sheets of gold leaf. He acquiesced to acquisition. Her skin tasted like fragrant tea.

At the end, he drew the line when she suggested tattoos commemorating their shared experience. His real life had yet to begin, he wanted no permanent marks. Consented to her drawing on his forearm, swirls and symbols, in what she claimed was indelible ink. His arm startled him for days afterwards. Even after vigorous scrubbing it remained a ghostly presence, until vanishing altogether without him noticing.

She globe-trotted, he ladder-climbed. They reconnected after she joined her father’s company. He often scrolled through her status updates, no longer needing to imagine. His fantasies gave way to the immediacy of her publicly shared intimacies.

Barview, Lafayette

Barview, Lafayette

He has no compulsion to broadcast his own status. He’s done well, catapulted out of the middle-class morass, parlayed his pre-career teaching into an asset, specializes in Asian markets. Allows himself an occasional regret of favoring Japan over China, that fateful first adult choice.

She will waltz down the aisle towards her inevitable husband, her life preordained by privilege. One of his mentors’ wives will set him up with someone suitable. He has time, plenty of time, to establish a family of his own.

He harbors no illusions as to her being “the one that got away”. She was never his to lose.

This piece was penned at Lafayette, the latest in Andrew Carmellini’s burgeoning restaurant empire. My vote for best frites in Manhattan (deviled eggs divine as well). 

Edited on a snowy day, mesmerized by the ceiling of McNally Jackson Bookstore Cafe in Soho. 

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