The New York ‘Adventure’

It all started with the finger nails. I have always bitten my nails to the quick. Never been able to stop chewing them. Last December – when the Princess got a box from Santa and didn’t like them – I discovered the plastic glue on things. Can no longer live without them and I haven’t gotten brave enough to get the ‘real’ things. The night before – while lost on the way to a soccer game 90 minutes from home and the gas tank settling in the red zone – I peeled the most recent set off. As I was on my way to New York City for a big adventure, I needed new ones. Stressed for time, I hadn’t had time to put them on at home. So…I figured that sitting in a bathroom stall at Metro Airport was as good a time as any. Call it ‘multi-tasking.’ Oh, I know, the nail technician in you is horrified. But, never done it before and will never do it again. I mean, they went on okay. Broke two off trying to get toilet paper off the roll, stopped and glued them back on only to discover that a bit of toilet paper had gotten caught in the edge of the glue and when I tried to pick it off…two fingers were glued together. Arrggghhh!

Once out of the bathroom I made the first of several ‘walking mistakes’ of the trip. I eschewed the brand spanking new tram ride to the other end of the tarmac where my gate was located. It was only 18 gates away after all and here were the moving sidewalk things to ride. Right? Heh. One was working and the other was not. My cute little cherry covered satchel minus wheels got heavier with each step. (Note to self: NEVER try a plane trip again without the carry on bag with wheels….even though cherry covered satchel is cute.)

Made it to the gate okay…made it on the plane okay….and that’s where the days and days of stress began to peel off in layers. Stress of the new school year beginning. Stress of getting to know and organize again the 767 students that pass through my computer lab each week. Stress of soccer practice/games/tournaments here and there at the same times. Stress of preparing materials for a substitute to take over my most chaotic scheduled school days of the week. Stress of just getting two kids back and forth to school and their various activities. Stress of trying to manage home and hearth. Peeling away in layers. This trip was mine. Three days visiting a city that I have wanted to see since I was eight years old. A city described to me in wondering delight by my mother after a visit for my dad’s army division reunion in 1964. On my way at last.

When I first began planning this trip, I made reservations at a cute little bed and breakfast in Greenwich Village. A room for one for one night. I planned to see the play I had tickets for on Tuesday night and then again on Wednesday night (yeah…call me crazy but more on that later) and take a plane home immediately after. When it became clear that the airlines were not going to cooperate with my little plan and I would need to stay another night, I contacted the B&B. They weren’t going to be able to accommodate the second night. I needed to find another venue. Expensive. VERY expensive. I began thinking about finding a travel partner. Someone to share hotel and taxi expenses with. That’s when I discovered a new friendship in ‘Indie.’ (Not so much named for the devil may care adventurous spirit she shares with one of my favorite Harrison Ford characters as much as from the small Indiana town she hails from.) Through phone calls and text messages we got to know each other a little (she is unbelievably shy), made hotel arrangements that suited us, purchased her ticket to the play and made plans to meet. Which is why I ended up sitting on a bench in front of a popcorn stall in the baggage claim area of the Delta tarmac at LaGuardia airport. Her plane landed 90 minutes after mine and I was watching for her. We had shared pictures so I sort of knew who I was looking for. Sort of. She came trudging down the walkway toward me and I smiled. She stopped and turned around, apparently not seeing me, pulled out her phone and started texting. I walked toward her and she stopped. Shared smiles and we were off in a taxi toward our hotel in Chelsea.

You have undoubtedly heard about New York cabbies. Believe me. Every single word you have heard is true. Better buckle up! They are brash, brave and determined to get you where you are going….just maybe not in one piece. Traffic from airport to city was horrendous and complicated by emergency vehicles trying to get through. Horns honking, sirens going….it was everything my mother described. I LOVED it! Every second of it.

Once settled in our hotel room we set out on a walk to nearby streets for a place to get something to eat. Our hotel was convienently nestled between Broadway and 6th Avenue. We found a tiny little deli across 6th Avenue and purchased very un-midwest like sandwiches to take back to the hotel.

I was meeting a friend at the Playwrights Horizon Theater on 42nd street before the play I had come to see. She and I had ‘met’ online through an AOL message board that focused on ‘ER.’ We share an affection for the show, the work of Maura Tierney and writing. She has done it professionally and is a retired life time member of the Writer’s Guild. I just do it for fun. Over the past three and a half years we have shared a lot of other things as well. This night we were meeting face to face for the very first time to share a meal and an evening at the theater to see Nicky Silver’s ‘Three Changes’, starring Maura Tierney, Dylan McDermott and Scott Cohen. So I set out for my first encounter with hailing a NY taxi on my own.

It wasn’t so bad I guess. I’d done it in Chicago. I’d seen it in the movies often enough. I mean, if Doris Day can do it, so can I. I held up my arm as a bevy of taxis rushed down 6th Avenue. One pulled to the side and rolled down his window. I said I was going to 42nd street and he shook his head and sped off. Uh oh. This was going to be harder than I thought. I held up my arm again and a black car pulled up to take another rider. He rolled his window down and asked where I was going. I told him and he nodded. I slipped in the back alongside a gorgeous black business woman. We started to chat. She was delighted to find out I was from Michigan and regaled me with her first encounter with the Great Lakes (‘like the Atlantic without waves!’)at a Traverse City wedding the previous weekend. Then our conversation slipped into the economy, Barack Obama, education, fashion shows in Bryant Park, theater, where to go in the city and on and on. She pulled out her money and told me softly to give the driver $12 when I got to the theater….and then she was gone. My driver continued several blocks to the theater, did a U turn in the middle of the street and dropped me off right in front. He accepted my money, tipped his head and was gone. So there I stood. Directly in front of a theater I had been planning to attend for months. It was a heady feeling.

I checked out the windows. Walked the length of the block to see where Indie (aka Shawna) and I could grab a bite the next night and then meandered back to the theater. People – staff – were starting to arrive. And then my friend arrived. Big smiles…hugs…and whispers about waiting for the cast to arrive. While we were talking I noticed playwright, Nicky Silver, and cast member, Brian J. Smith, standing near the corner of the building smoking. Silver was decidedly ignoring us. I stepped forward to help him with the Orange Crush bottle that was unknowingly falling out of his jacket pocket, shook his hand and told him I was looking forward to seeing the play. Exchanged smiles with Brian J. Smith (a very young looking cutie who plays a rather despicable character) and my friend and I were off to take our dinner reservation at ‘Chez Josephine’, right next to the theater.

We were met at the door by a delightfully polite and happy elf of a man – who I later found out was Jean-Claude Baker, the owner and one of Josephine Baker’s adopted ‘Rainbow Tribe’ sons. We were led to a small table in the midst of a narrow colorful art deco dining room. Dinner was a salad of endive leaves with Roquefort cheese and toasted walnuts and a bowl of Spaghetti Bolognese. Yum! As we left we were presented with a large post card featuring his mother. I wish I’d done more research before going. I would have loved to have talked to him for a longer period. Anyway….onto the theater!

The Playwrights Horizon theater is lovely and modern and has wonderful stadium type seating. It holds just 198 patrons. Not a bad seat in the house. My friend had an extra ticket and happily sold it to someone waiting in line. The house was absolutely full. We went inside and sat and waited. The lights went down and when the spotlight came up on her, Maura Tierney delivered the opening lines and the play began. The reason I had come.

‘Three Changes’ is a perplexing piece to say the least. It’s funny. It’s emotional. It’s dark and dreary…..and confusing. I haven’t talked to a person yet who was able to say they understood what was really going on with these five characters. One had it all…he thought. One lost it all….wanted what the other had and set out to get it. One was trying hard to create the persona that she DID have it all….but knew, deep down, something extraordinary was missing. Into the mix we stir a selfish, clueless ‘other woman’ and a darkly affective homeless teen. ‘Three Changes’ Not exactly family fare. Not exactly….what? I like my plays to have a satisfying ending. I like to have the pieces of the puzzle ‘fit.’ This one was like the button box Laurel gives to Nate to help him cope with his depression. When the buttons are sorted and in their place, the box is dumped, mixed up and you start all over again. I was a bit exhausted at the end. And depressed.

But the ACTING? The acting was phenomenal. Maura Tierney does not disappoint. Never has in my book. She was delightful as a woman who tried to turn every situation with a quip and a smile….and yet easily twisted to reveal layers of unhappiness. Dylan McDermott drove his character from a reasonably happy man to one struggling with confusion and despair. His life was on a train track going in a direction he didn’t want to go….literally. Scott Cohen was the man with the plan. An interesting actor with an interesting role. Aya Cash played clueless and was delightfully funny. Brian J. Smith’s portrayal was funny in his enthusiasm and yet very unlikeable. So that makes him a good actor, right? Frustrating in that I have had students with the same sort of persona he created….and that’s pretty scary.

The people who have known me for a while are going to appreciate this bit. During the break between Acts I and II, I stood up to stretch and talk and overheard my friend talking with someone sitting next to her. They were wondering about the noise they had heard all during Act I. I asked if it was a high pitched squeal and reached to check my hearing aid. My friend she thought that it was me but wasn’t quite sure how to let me know without being rude. I told her to BE rude and laughed. I was told that there were hearing assisted devices available at the snack bar but before I had a chance to get one, someone from back stage came out and offered to get it for me. All I had to do was hand over my driver’s license. Two minutes later I was presented with a head set. Hee. Nothing like making your presence known. And if people only knew what kind of trouble not being able to hear that squeal has gotten me into….

After the show I was returned the head set and retrieved my license and my friend and I were talking about how long to wait for the actors to come out. I was going through my bag looking for a picture I had made to have signed for my daughter when Maura entered the lobby from backstage. She was walking at a clip but stopped with a huge smile when I asked if she would sign something. Dang but she is cute in glasses. I handed her a pen and the picture, explaining that the top part was from an essay my daughter had written about me when she was in 4th grade…about how I ‘liked watching ‘ER’ because of a cool character named Maura Tierney and how I might get to meet my ‘cool character’ some day.’ Maura started to read it and I told her she didn’t have to do that…just sign it. She laughed and said she wanted to and then signed it for me. She had been talking to my friend about the play and was totally accommodating about having a picture taken….four times….and yet they were all out of focus. (I keep my camera on forced off flash and forgot about that…dang) I kept pulling away and she kept pulling me back. Heh.

Indie (aka Shawna) was waiting for me when I got back to the hotel. She wanted a recounting of every single little detail. Several. Times. Over. It was fun being with someone who didn’t mind that. Who has as much invested in Maura Tierney fandom as I do….well…maybe even more. We were up quite late talking about whatshesaid, whenshecameout, whatshewaswearing, howtheplaywent, howmanystayedforautographs, whatisgoingtohappentomorrow….etc.

Wednesday morning I was up before five – as is my habit. I took my book into the bathroom to read for a while. Showered. Dressed. Waited. When Indie (aka Shawna) was up we headed for the free breakfast offered by the hotel and then we were off. Now, my friend from the previous night was concerned that we would not have a proper ‘New York experience’ because our visit was to be so short. I am still not sure what that ‘experience’ might be but we did good on Wednesday. First we hailed a cab and headed for the Grayline Double Decker Bus tour. Wandered around Times Square a bit looking for the stop we were supposed to get on at. Climbed a board and took a quick tour of the city’s downtown loop. Now, I love watching how people react to things…especially when I can’t follow the narration being given. Our bus pulled up next to a nondescript building to wait for a light and I saw the late 60ish woman in front of me gently nudge her husband and slightly tip her head. Turned to look and I snapped a picture of ‘The Museum of Sex.’ “Sheesh, they have a museum for everything!” I snorted quietly and she grinned when she turned to look back at me. And then she outright laughed when I suggested that we take a field trip there. Hee. Teachers. Always on the lookout for a new ‘learning experience.’ We are so funny. Sometimes.

When I look back at the pictures I snapped on this tour, it’s apparent that I was taking photos of tall buildings that no one was really going to care about but me. I did snap one of a police officer on a horse in the middle of traffic (my daughter’s career aspiration) and a couple of interesting sidewalk sights. I was looking around trying to orient myself but it’s impossible in a city that contains so many different ‘personalities.’ When we reached the pier we were changing buses and everything smelled so good. Lots of smells to get those salivating glands running. The next stop was in East Village. Indie (aka Shawna) and I had kindsorta plans to lunch at a restaurant MT had mentioned on the ‘Martha Stewart Show’ back in the fall. I asked our bus driver if it was possible to walk from East Village to West Village from where we were. His eyes widened a bit and he pointed out a nearby bus stop. He said we could walk it but to take the bus…..please. Heh. My adventurous counterpart, Indie (aka Shawna), and I disembarked, counted out our dollars and waited for the bus. As we climbed aboard, we were told that we needed $2 in change…which we didn’t have. Another rider pointed down the street and said we could buy a bus pass ‘down there.’ We went down the block a bit and found a taco joint with a window open to the street. The young kid working inside had no clue where we could buy a bus pass but gave us two Sacajawea dollar coins for our bills. He emphatically told us to make sure we got a bus exchange ticket with our money as well. Sweet kid. Back to the bus stop and after a 10 minute or so wait, we were on the road again.

I love the ‘villages’. East Village. Greenwich Village. West Village. They are away from the honking horns and flashing lights and overcrowded sidewalks and streets of Manhatten….which was the only part of New York we had seen yet. Here they had huge shade trees covering the sidewalks. I had a googled map to Morandi so we stopped and sat in the sun on a sidewalk bench to get our bearings for a moment. My mom called. After reassuring her that we were having a good time and I actually DID know where we were going, we were off again. We found the corner where the restaurant was supposed to be, turned around and there it was. So cute. The sidewalk was almost completely open to the inside and we were offered an inside or outside table. Given that the outside was a bit fillep10109862d, we chose the quieter inside atmosphere. It was like dining in a Sicilian wine cellar…or at least what my mid-west mind imagines a Sicilian wine cellar to be like. Sitting in a corner table, we perused the menu and selected an apple/toasted macadamia nut salad recommended by our waitress and a grilled focaccia caprese with cherry tomatoes, mozzarella & basil. Again…yum. And the presentation was beautiful. Almost too beautiful to eat. So….I took pictures. The waiters were laughing and enjoying us…I think. : ) Forgoing dessert at Morandi we headed out for an easy stroll toward the Magnolia Bakery.

West Village exudes wealth, youth and charm. It’s pretty. Relaxing. People were friendly and I was most intrigued by the book stores that I saw. Little one room setups filled with shelf upon shelf of paperback books….expensive paperback books. I am a reader. I read in the morning. I read before I go to bed at night. I read while things pile up around me. I read on vacation. I read on long car drives when DH is driving. My children love bookstores. We go for full half days when we get the chance. Browsing. Looking. To meet authors. I could easily have spent several hours in this one, purchased a book and found a sunny bench to sit on to read. I need to go back. Seriously.

The Magnolia Bakery is well known in New York circles for it’s cupcakes. And you gotta love a place that has ‘cupcakes’ in it’s website address. Luckily it was a good day and there were only eight or so customers in a very small shop. There were many more employees baking and frosting and decorating. We chose four cupcakes from the window display area and made our way back into the sunshine. Here is where I made the second of poor walking decisions. We decided to walk back to the hotel….an easy walk, according to our waitress at Morandi. Heh. Next time we master the subway system. Totally.

It was an interesting walk though. We passed schools with parents and nannies waiting to pick up children, high schools with snickering teenagers in plaid skirted uniforms, a hospital, mothers and nannies pushing strollers with babies, privately owned brownstones and shops. People walking dogs. People asking for money. People selling things. And all around the ‘music’ of traffic, voices, construction machines….the music of a city. Didn’t hear that so much in Boston last summer. Didn’t hear it with quite the same intensity in Chicago. Definitely not in Detroit. New York has a ‘music’ all it’s own.

After relaxing and napping for a bit, we headed out for the Playwrights Horizon Theater. Indie (aka Shawna) was a bundle of nerves and had been for most of the day. She was there to see the play….and to meet Maura Tierney. It had been a long, busy day for us both. We arrived a bit early and headed for the Papaya Dog at the end of the block for something to drink as we waited. At the theater we sat in the lobby for a moment waiting for the doors to open. I traded my license for a hearing assistance head phone. (The non hearing impaired person always thinks they are wonderful but they aren’t. This set made it sound as if the actors were speaking inside a box….hollow and echoing.) An elderly gentleman who looked very tired and very perturbed headed toward the couch near me. He sat down with a sigh and I told him he looked very happy to be there. He rolled his eyes and laughed. His wife dragged him there a lot, he said. Some good plays and some not so good plays. Then we talked about the fun he had driving home from a Michigan family vacation through Canada. Nice chat. He was sweet and interestingly enough, was sitting in the spot directly behind me inside.

In the theater auditorium, Indie (aka Shawna) nervously settled herself in her front row seat. I sat on the stage edge and we talked about the set and where the actors were going to stand. We were hoping the person sitting next to her would be a single as well…and willing to trade their ticket for mine so we could sit together. That wasn’t to be so I headed back to my row 7 center seat (THANK you, Holly!!), put on my headphone and settled in for a second performance. Given that it was the second show of the day, it didn’t seem quite as edgy. MT caught a couple more laughs than the night before. Brian J. Smith – a good deal less. I also caught him ‘secretly’ sticking his tonuge out at MT…twice. Probably an attempt to break her concentration. Brat.

As someone who has directed/produced in community theater and is used to observing 6 to 8 weeks of regular rehearsal, one full week of dress rehearsals and then – at least – three to six actual performances, seeing a show twice in sucession was almost mandatory. When I had the chance to purchase two tickets and no one close to me was interested in going, it was a no brainer to see it twice. It’s not like watching a movie twice where everything is exactly the same. Theater changes with the tempo of the audience…with the time of day….etc. Each performance tends to take on it’s very own ‘personality.’ Twice? It’ a given.

After the show we headed to the lobby to wait for the actors. Brian J. Smith left in a hurry. Scott Cohen and Aya Cash were talking with groups of friends. Dylan McDermott, bag in hand, was leaving at a clip. I was actually surprised to see him because he hadn’t come out at all the night before. He stopped when I spoke and grinned when I told him he’d done a wonderful job tonight and had an even better performance the night before. He was surprised that I had come twice and I explained that I was a Teacher from Michigan and was skipping school to be there. I asked if he would mind signing a ‘please excuse….’ letter for my principal. He laughed and asked where I taught as he signed my note. He handed it back and said ‘this is great’ then with an evil little chuckle, shook his head and left. Sigh. I think he may have kick started my long dormant Dylan crush into action again. What a hottie…..sigh. Time to break out the ‘Home for the Holidays’ dvd again.

Maura Tierney had slipped out of the door and was visiting with several groups, including the ones circling Aya and Scott. She caught my eye and grinned and eventually made her way toward us. Indie (aka Shawna) was mesmerized. She was frazzled and very nervous. She was choking on her words. Maura was patient and accomodating to us both. She was cute and sweet. She talked and signed and posed for pictures and then said good by. She was standing outside on the sidewalk with Scott Cohen and the people they were talking with. They stood between us and the place we had decided to eat at after the show. Indie (aka Shawna) could not bring herself to walk past them so we waited for them to move. We followed as they made their way down the street, all talking and laughing. We moved into our Papaya Dog stand and ordered one of the best tasting hamburgers I have had in a long while. And it was a little difficult to eat. I was dealing with the very first cold sore on my lip that I have ever had in my life. My tonuge and roof of my mouth were raw from continually sucking on cough drops for two and a half hours during the show….twice. (The first night I was almost choking as I held back a cough until the loud sound of a subway train, which I had been forwarned about, started.) Dang nasty mid-western cold!

Thursday morning brought breakfast, shopping, packing and airports. It was a way cheaper ride back to LaGuardia than it had been coming. Indie (aka Shawna) got her boarding pass and we went to the main terminal for a last lunch together. We went back to the bus stand, took silly pictures together on our phone cameras and rode the bus back to our terminals. We hugged when it came to her terminal and then I rode the route again to mine. On my plane I was seated next to a wonderful older woman who was on her way home from Washington DC, where she was part of a group lobbying for more $$$ for cancer research. SHE had her picture taken with Senator Stabenow and was very excited about that. She was pleased about their progress for more funding and I was properly impressed. Nice chat.

When I landed in Detroit, I made my way through the terminal. And yes, I rode the tram this time. Found the bridge to the long term parking garage. Found the elevator that would take me up three levels to where my car was parked. Non-functional. Dragged my not so cute any more cherry covered bag without wheels up three flights of stairs and through the garage to to open section where I had parked. No car. I looked everywhere. Still no car. A businessman on his way home helped me look. No car. He left me standing there, trying to punch DH’s number into my totally dead cell phone. Finally I pulled out my envelope where I had written the car’s location. Heh. I had parked it in 9-D…not 9-A. It was down the entire length of the parking structure. I started trudging with my bags, found a rolling cart and tossed them a board. Kept walking. Found the car. Tossed my bags in the back seat and headed home. Back to ‘real’ life. Back to lesson plans, laundry and soccer games.

There were people that thought I was totally nuts to embark on this trip alone. There were people that thought I was very irresponsible to be meeting with people I had met on the internet. There were people that thought I was crazy to sit through the same play twice in a row. Nuts to you! This trip has had it’s lessons to be learned.

It has totally ruined my mid-western palate. I have always been an ‘adventurous’ diner and this trip has stepped that up a notch. No more plying to the desires of family yearning for meatpotatosandcorn. That’s boring. Hold on to your forks, folks. We are trying new things in the future. Things with….basil.

I was able to finally meet and enjoy an ‘old’ internet friend in person and discover that we may not have a lot in common but there is some wonder and comfort in knowing and enjoying one another. We’ll get a good picture next time, D. I promise. The Princess and I are already planning to visit in August for her 14th birthday.

I was able to watch a new friend spread her wings a little and do some things that were way out of her comfort zone. She was nervously game for any new adventure I had laid out for us. And she was very patient with me. She is also the fastest adult text messenger that I have ever seen. Shawna…you totally rock.

p10109451I was able to meet and greet an actress that I have had tremendous respect and admiration for her talent for a very long time. Was not able to open my mouth and tell her that however. I become verbally challenged when faced with someone I admire. The fact that I didn’t ask how she manages to stay out of the paparazzi loop…..how she really feels about leaving a show that brought her into our homes on a weekly basis and basically bought her some financial security….what is next on her career agenda…..what makes her laugh…..what book she is currently reading…..kills me. The fact that I didn’t ask those things will be a huge disappointement to my internet circle of Maura fandom. Dang. Can handle the cabbies and the random strangers about the Great Lakes and driving through Canada and field trips and cancer research without breaking a sweat. Go figure.

Mostly though, this New York adventure handed me the realization that I can still enjoy things on my own. That I still have the courage to try the things the I want to do. It allowed me to show my children that if they have something they really want to do – it’s possible to make it happen. And it has stirred enough chutzpah in me to actually think about making an appointment to get some ‘real’ nails put on for a change. By a real technician. Now….if I could just get a hummingbird cupcake or two shipped to Michigan……

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5 Comments on “The New York ‘Adventure’”

  1. marymurtz Says:

    What a great trip!!! I love traveling on my own and have wanted to see NYC forever. How fun!

  2. Anonymous Says:

    Oh, My Lord!! YOU ROCK!! I am so amazed, envious, proud, blown away ect., that you had the
    b—s to take on such an adventure. You are my hero. I mean it.! We have got to have lunch or something so I can hear about it from your own lips…I want all the details…what an adventure!! Freaking New York City!! I”m such a wuss…i would have talked myself out of it., heck, I wouldn’t even haveTHOUGHT about it. You’ve opened my eyes, baby. I’m starting a secret ‘adventure-Fund’. I don’t know where I’m going…but I’m going!

  3. Andressa Says:

    I was eager to read about your NY adventure! And I wasn’t dissapointed! funny stories. You know, I too heard people calling me Nuts for leaving DC on Saturday morning to watch a play at night and then leave NY again at midnight (my parents were desperate in Brazil)! To me totally worth, would do it again this week if I could! Thanks for sharing you experience Larue! I’m glad you had a good time! Maura is totally adorable isn’t she? gotta love her!

  4. Anonymous Says:

    I JUST READ AABOUT YOUR NEW YORK TRIP. I TELL YOU I WOULD HAVE SIT ON SOME STREET CORNER AND BAWLED MY EYES OUT. I WOULD HAVE BEEN SO SCARED . HOW DID YOU KNOW YOUR WAY AROUND? IT SOUNDS AS THO YOU REALLY ENJOYED YOURSELF.
    THAT PIECE ABOUT PRINCESS WAS SO CUTE THAT PIC OF HER WAS JUST BEAUTIFUL SHE IS GROWING UP SO FAST.


  5. […] zone and took my two personal business days in SEPTEMBER (I am a Teacher, remember?) to fly to New York to see her perform in an off Broadway play.  Even got to meet her while I was there….twice!  […]


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