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Yesterday we woke up to 6 inches of snow here in Central Virginny. It was a long time coming…it had been a miserable winter with little to no snowfall.

Unlike a lot of people, I like snow. I don’t want Boston snow, but I like it. I get excited when a snow storm is predicted, and can become rather perturbed when the weather folks get the forecast wrong and I wake up to my normal landscape. Because a little snow can turn the world into a different place…a place a little prettier and a little more magical than it was just a few hours before.

So like I said, having woken up to 6 inches of good powdery snow, our family geared up to do what we always do on a snow day. We went sledding.

Our community has a golf course with a pretty decent hill, and it’s our favorite place to sled. When we showed up yesterday there was already a crowd, and the conditions looked fantastic. It was sunny and cold, but not so cold that you were uncomfortable. It was really a perfect day.

We have two sleds, both the plastic variety; a long blue two-seater and a regular-sized orange sled. Nobody ever likes the orange one because any time anyone in my family would ride it, they’d turn sideways halfway down the hill. Therefore, it was deemed defective.

Well, I have to tell you, that sled is not defective – but my family’s ability to sled apparently is. Cause let me tell you, I was flying on that thing.

That’s right, me. Fifty year old Typical Tracy plopped her ass down on that sled, not once. Not twice. I’m pretty sure I made at least 12-15 runs down that golf course hill. And you know what was weird? I was one of the only parents doing it.

Most of the parents just stood around at the top of the hill, gossiping and “supervising.” Between sips of K-Cup Coffee in insulated travel mugs they might scold little Carson for taking Hudson’s sled, or wipe the nose of little Marlowe, but other than that, they were having zero fun.

I used to just hang around at the top of the hill too, but for a different reason. I was too self-conscious to give it a try. I mean, it’s not easy to lower yourself into a sled gracefully…at least for me. Then there was the walk up that hill. But I’ve been walking a lot lately, and while I’d not venture to say I’m “in shape,” I’m hardly the physical basket case I was a year or so ago.

So, down I went. Over and over again.

It was so exhilarating to fly down that snow-packed hill. Occasionally I’d hit the little ramp of snow and catch some air. Other times I went so fast and so far, my sled would wind up in virgin snow beyond where any other sledder had landed. I rode double with my daughter, and once I even rode down with our camera running on video mode – which btw didn’t turn out that great.

And I never once did I cause that orange sled to turn. Because this 50 year old Slovak knows how to work it. Let those other moms drink their coffee at the top of the hill. Not be, baby. I’d rather be flying.

Skater

I used to be addicted to figure skating. It was my absolute favorite sport, and each year from fall to spring I would scan the TV Guide for any televised competition. I’d watch them breathlessly (except for Ice Dancing…zzzzzzzz) and size up each competitor, and pick my favorites each year.

But these days I know very little about who laces their skates or who sits in the kiss and cry. Do you know I barely watched skating in the Olympics last year? I have to tell you skating got dull for me once they changed the scoring system back in 2004.

Isn’t that dopey? I mean, why should that make a difference?

Well dammit, because old scoring system was fun! Judges from different countries would post their score, 6.0 being the highest. With this system, a viewer felt more involved. You could cheer the 5.9’s and the 6.0’s and jeer at the crusty judge who gave your favorite a 5.2. With the new system they just post a total – and it’s a number that I just can’t comprehend…Ok, his score is 65.35….well is that good or bad? WHAT DOES IT MEAN?

I lost interest real fast.

I tried to soldier on, but once the skaters were in the kiss and cry, there was nothing to look forward to. Waiting for those scores, which would flash up one at a time, sometimes, was part of the drama that was figure skating – as much of a nail biter as watching and wondering if they will land that triple axel.

I realized how much the scoring had played a part in my enjoyment of the sport. And suddenly a lifetime of love for figure skating just melted away.

Skating 1I’d been watching since I was a kid. I had a Dorothy Hamill cut when I was in the 6th grade. I remember watching Scott Hamilton in the days where he had hair…and a rather lousy cut, I might add. I remember watching Denise Biellmann and that wonderful spin, and Elaine Zayak, who was from Paramus, NJ – only a few towns away from my hometown.

skating 2I hated Katarina Witt when she came on the scene. She was too buxom and she was from West Germany…she was like an evil prison guard in my mind. I rooted for Debi Thomas in the Battle of the Carmens (where I lost) and rooted for Brian Boytano in the Battle of the Brians (where I won) during the ’88 Olympics. I mean, who wanted Brian Orser?

4f58f61de276b.preview-620But it wasn’t solely American skaters who piqued my fancy. In the late 80’s/early 90’s I fell in love with the Russian Pairs team of Gordeeva and Grinkov. They were so good, so elegant, and that little Ekaterina was just so cute! They could land jumps that other pairs teams couldn’t – and they made it look easy.

They wound up getting married, those two. But then, in 1995 Sergei died suddenly of a heart attack right on the ice while they were practicing in Lake Placid. I was heart broken – how in the world could someone so young and so fit just die like that? I went to see Ekaterina skate in a Champions on Ice show at Madison Square Garden the next winter, and I balled my eyes out.

CryingNow, we can’t have a serious skating discussion without bringing up the whole Tanya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan saga. Personally, I hated both of them. Tonya Harding looked like a thug, and Nancy Kerrigan, with her giant Mr. Ed horse teeth, irked me as well. I didn’t like anyone that year – not even Oksana the orphan – but I’ll tell you, the Olympics that year was riveting television!

MenIn the early 2000’s I fell in love with Men’s skating….well, Johnny Weir to be exact. Oh, he was so wonderful to watch, and so cute with his hair and his smile! How about when Rudy Galindo won the Nationals in 1996 – that performance was goose-bump raising. And then Evan Lycacek came on the scene – he was super easy on the eyes and a super skater to boot. What had I been missing all these years?

But my greatest skating triumph came when Champions on Ice started off their 2007 (and for a while, last) tour in Richmond. Hubby was the zamboni driver/ice tech at the time, and I got to hang out backstage more than once during the week they were rehearsing.

Johnny Weir called me one night to tell me my husband  had grease on his pants.

I held Evan Lycacek’s skate guards.

Rudy Galindo was jealous that I had a photo of Johnny Weir on my office bulletin board. he made me promise to add his photo as well. And I did.

evgeni-plushenkoEvgeni Plushenko? He smoked non-stop and avoided me like the plague.

I got to stand rink-side during the entire show, and was allowed to attend the meet & greet where my camera ran out of batteries. Typical. Thankfully a co-worker of my husbands had a camera and snapped photos of me with Weir, Lycacek & Galindo.

I was thankful until I saw them, that is. She had zoomed in so close that I was all face. Ugh. I was not Norma Desmond and I was not ready for my closeup. Here I had my photo taken with 3 of figure skating’s golden boys, and I had a gigantic moon-face that no amount of photoshopping could fix.

That was more than 7 years ago and nobody outside my immediate family has seen those photos. My Facebook bragging rights? Shot to freakin’ hell.

I was watching the US Figure Skating championships a few weeks back, and a young skater named Adam Rippon caught my eye. His free skate gave me chills, much like Johnny and Rudy had back in the day when I rarely missed a men’s skating event.

And then they flashed his score, and it meant nothing to me.

I turned the channel and watched an episode of Chopped instead.

Bbbys

A few years ago my husband and I decided to have lunch together. The area where we work, which is a pedestrian mall, has lots of restaurants, and some of them have outdoor eating areas. We got some food from a place that has a great salad bar, and sat at a table at the outdoor eating patio in front of the store.

About 15 minutes later and older gentleman approaches us and says, “I’m not going to make you move, because you’re pretty much done with your lunch, but this eating area for Baggby’s only.”

Baggby’s being the sandwich shop right next to the place where we bought our salads.

I smiled at him and said in return, “I’m so sorry! I saw the plackard in front of this eating area and thought the seating area belong to the place where we bought our lunch.”

He, in turn said quite nastily, “I don’t care what you thought. There is a sign right there (picture him pointing) that says this eating area is for Baggby’s only.” Then he began to rattle off the money he has to pay each month for the spot, and how it’s not spent for folks who don’t support his business.

I stood up and said, while cleaning up my stuff, “well you don’t have to worry about seeing me here again, because if this is the way you deal with an honest mistake, I’d rather eat out of the garbage can than ever buy anything at your restaurant.”

And I’ve stuck to it. Besides, their sandwiches are expensive and completely average. I’ve made tastier sandwiches using Oscar Mayer lunch meat.

Today at my office they are hosting a lunch and learn. I could’ve had a free lunch courtesy of our guest speaker. But he was ordering from Baggby’s.

I proudly passed and brought lunch from home instead. Because even if I wasn’t paying for it, I didn’t want that asshole making one thin dime from me.

podcast-headphones

For the past few years I was a devoted downloader of audio books from LibriVox.org – it’s a site that has tons of books that have been released into the public domain.  Through that site I discovered a stockpile of great reading material that I might have overlooked simply because the books were “old.” I discovered authors like Horatio Alger, Jr., and Lucy Maud Montgomery, and wonderful books like “The Enchanted Barn,” and “Dandelion Cottage.”

But after a few years, I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve listened to all the good ones. I’ve downloaded dud after dud the past month or so – either the story sucks or the reader does, and I give up after a chapter or two. I needed something new, and fast.

Enter the podcast. I found that there are tons and tons of podcasts on iTunes – all free, and just sitting there waiting for me to download and enjoy. I mean, there are so many it’s almost overwhelming. It’s like I’d stumbled into an audio goldmine.

Here are my favorites so far:

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 12.03.43 PMReal Time with Bill Maher: We recently had to cancel HBO in order to save some money on our ever-rising cable bill. Therefore, I was thrilled to see that I could download new episodes and listen to them while I walk. Who needs to see the panel? It’s what they say that’s of any interest anyway.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 12.09.22 PMRadio Diaries: This was the first of the story-telling podcasts I stumbled across. They are stories on seemingly random topics – like when a plane hit the Empire State Building back in the 40’s, or the Miss Subways contests, which I never even knew existed.  There were only ten episodes available for download, and I listened to every one of them. I’m hoping for more to be available soon.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 12.16.53 PMCriminal: Stories of crime – like a guy who went to jail for murdering his wife, when actually they think she was killed from an owl attack. Or a girl who spent a few months passing off counterfeit $20 bills with her shiftless boyfriend. Or, a young hacker who pretty much shut down the internet back in 1999.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 12.45.38 PMUnfictional: I’m not sure how to describe this one. It’s just stories on random topics…a gravedigger in England, the Salem Witch Trials, the story of Dog Mountain. Perhaps it seems like a snooze to you, but they are really well-crafted and super interesting. They remind me of when CBS Sunday Morning runs a story on some person you never heard of, but it’s still very entertaining.

Screen Shot 2015-02-02 at 1.59.36 PMPorchlight Storytelling Series: This one’s a wee bit wacky. These two San Francisco gals invite 6 people to an open mike to tell their stories relating to a specific topic. These can be delicously awkward, especially when the story teller is hoping for a response from the audience—aka, a laugh—and gets none. Plus they never know how to end the story gracefully. It’s great.

I really dig these podcasts – maybe because they remind me of my blog. I’m just telling my stories to anyone who cares to listen. I, in turn, like hearing their stories. It makes the world seem wonderfully chaotic – filled with all these people who all have their own tales to tell.

I’ll tell you, it makes my walks and my morning commute much more entertaining.

pedestrian-accident-II-road-sign-tire-tracks

This morning I was taking my usual 2.25 mile walk around my neighborhood. The street I predominantly walk on is somewhat busy, especially in the morning with folks heading to work and school buses picking up kids. So even though I am usually listening to a podcast or an audio book, I keep my eyes and ears open to what is going on around me.

I was coming up to an intersection and noticed a car was approaching but wasn’t concerned because she has a stop sign and I was pretty much already 1/3 of the way across the street. She’s rolling up, and rolling up, and her car begins to turn (towards me) and turn and she’s still coming, and I’m still walking and she’s still coming.

I pretty much had to stop dead in my tracks to avoid being hit. As I peered into her driver’s side window to be sure a zombie wasn’t behind the wheel, I see a woman, head down, fiddling with stuff in her middle console.

Her head was down. And she was making a left hand turn onto a busy street. She never even stopped.

I began to yell things like, “Hey watch it!” and  “You almost hit me!” as her car moved on down the road. I was pissed, and I felt the need to tell her so. I raised my bright green gloved hands and gave her the double middle finger.

As I began to turn back around, I noticed her put on her brakes and pull to the side. So I stopped, took off my headphones and watched as she made a U-Turn and came back my way.

She pulled up along side me, lowered her window and began to apologize. The first thing she said? “I wasn’t texting.”

Apparently she had spilled her coffee and was too preoccupied with that to notice me. Okay, I guess that can happen. We’ve all been distracted while driving from time to time, and luckily nobody got hurt. Then she volunteered the information that she was breast pumping – I am assuming it was an automated thing – but I guess she needed it to add validity to the fact that she blew through a stop sign and almost killed me.

Being a naturally forgiving person, I was telling her that all was okay when she said, “But I have to tell you, it was very inappropriate for you to give me the double finger when I have kids in the car.”

Um….what?

For a split second, I felt a pang of shame, but then my rage took over. The rest of the coversation went something like this…

ME: Are you kidding me? You almost ran me over!

IDIOTIC DRIVER: But I have a four year old and a baby in the car – that was very rude.

ME: Well gee, maybe you would’ve been happier if you had actually hit me. Then your kids wouldn’t have been subject to seeing the middle finger. Instead they’d get to see a mother of two put into an ambulance because their mom doesn’t know how to pay attention.

IDIOTIC DRIVER: Yes, I was wrong to not be looking, but you were wrong to give me the finger.

ME: I had every right to do that! YOU ALMOST HIT ME! Besides, how am I supposed to know you have kids in the car? I was too busy watching my life pass before my eyes to take note of how many passengers you had in your car and the ages of each!

IDIOTIC DRIVER: You should ALWAYS assume there are kids in the car and never gesture like that.

ME: Why would I ever assume you had kids in your car WHEN YOU ARE MAKING A LEFT HAND TURN WHILE LOOKING AT YOUR LAP? What lunatic drives like that with KIDS IN THE CAR?

Inner dialogue: Ok moron – here are a few things I can assume.

  1. I can assume that when you come to a stop sign, you are actually going to stop, especially if there is a person in front of you.
  2. I can assume that if you did spill your coffee, the responsible thing to do is to put your fucking car in park and take care of it. NOT to just keep on truckin’ while you mop up your shit.

If I can’t assume those things, I should not feel the need to assume that your precious kids are in the car. Kids that you are so fearful of maybe knowing what the middle finger means rather than a mom who drives distracted.

She was apologizing over and over, but she was asking me to do the same and I just would not. In the end I might have said something like “Fine Sorry. Whatever. Keep your eyes on the road.”

Bottom line was, she was wrong. Dead wrong. Yet somehow she was incenced that I had flipped her the bird. I’ve been in her shoes – but when I make a boneheaded driving mistake I beg forgiveness and take whatever crap the other guys throws at me. I have it coming.

Because after she almost hit me I was not going to let this lady continue on with her busy toddler toting, breast pumping day without letting her know just what I thought of her. And short of chasing her down, which I could not do, I resorted to the international sign for go fuck yourself. Sue me if you disagree, but in my book I had the absolute right.

And as I walked back home, it dawned on me that her kids couldn’t possibly have seen me flip the bird. They were driving away; the kid’s backs to me. Unless her kids are owls, or Linda Blair, there is no way they could’ve seen it. But I failed to think of it when I could have used it to shut her big trap.

And that is so Typical of me.

Life Awaits you

You know, life can really be a mind-meld, especially if you try to make any sort of sense out of it.

We recently noticed our dishwasher was leaking water. After finding yet another puddle of water on the kitchen floor, Hubby was all ready to head to Lowe’s and plop $500 down on a new one. Afterall, it’s more than 10 years old. But I was not quite ready to throw my money in Lowe’s direction. Perhaps the seal was worn.  Maybe there’s an easy fix if we do a little research.

So I made a call to Whirlpool, and put hubby on the phone with a parts gal, and together they realized that somewhere in the past month or so, a little part had fallen out/off of our washer. And the best part was the fix only cost us $27.

I spent the rest of the afternoon bathed in a rosy glow, happy that we had avoided spending all that money. Perhaps the rosy glow was more due to the low-grade fever I was running at the time, but I was happy none-the less.

Flash forward to 5 pm. I’m feeling pretty lousy, sick with a cold, when I go to the laundry room and immediately step into a puddle of water. What? Not again.

Turns out something behind the wall is leaking. This is where the life mind-meld comes in. I had just saved us $500 mere hours before. And here we are staring at a job that we are going to need to call a plumber to fix.

It was like a financial final destination. I’d cheated life out of our having to pay $500 bucks to the universe, and it came right around and found another way to make me pay.

It was super spooky. And really annoying.

bigstock-Quick-Dry-Cleaning-Retro-Ad-17348990

I recently listened to a podcast about jobs that are becoming extinct, and it made me think of George.

For as long as I can remember, a man named George came to our home every Saturday morning/early afternoon to pick up and drop off my parent’s dry cleaning. While the art of dry cleaning clothes is not likely to fall by the wayside like the milkman any time soon, this man actually delivered his services. And nobody does that anymore – not around here, anyway.

Except Domino’s and Papa John’s.

Each Saturday George would spend a few minutes standing in our foyer as my mom took dad’s freshly cleaned clothes wrapped in cellophane, and would hand him the week’s soiled suits. He’d hang them on one arm and talk with mom or dad for a few minutes, then he’d be on his way. He was bald and had a moustache – and he wore glasses.

George saw me grow up in an odd sort of way, one Saturday at a time. As a kid he saw me in my pajamas, in my bathing suit, and with curlers in my hair. When I got older, he cleaned my Leonia High School jacket, and my prom dress, and. And each Saturday someone would chat with him in our foyer. For years and years and years. It was really a very intimate sort of relationship.

And I had sort of forgotten about him until this morning. So here’s to you, George. Thanks for being a part of my family each and every Saturday.

Old News

This morning while watching the Today Show they did a story about boys who insist on wearing shorts to school in the dead of winter.

I turned to my husband and said smuggly, “Hmph! I blogged about that two years ago.”

And if you go on the Today Show’s website, the story is “trending.”

My husband, while supportive of my blog, thinks it’s boring. He’s not alone. I had this comment from some asshole who I hope is an ex-reader a month or so back…

Screen Shot 2015-01-16 at 12.26.09 PM

I answered with the typical “If you find it meaningless, then don’t read it (shithead).”

And the things I wrtie about? They’re not meaningless – not to me. They are my thoughts and memories and observations from my little corner of the world. And I was tickled pink to see that a social phenomenom that I had blogged about in the past made it to the main stream.

And is trending.

Kids Knees

 

Track

My freshman year in high school I decided to join winter track. I’d always been a decent runner, and I was eager to get involved in a school sport now that volleyball season had ended.

During tryouts, the coach had the freshman run various race lengths to see where our strengths lied. I was at the starting line getting ready to run the 220 next to a proven sophomore – she had legs like a colt and was rumored to be the best female runner on the team.

She knew it too. She looked at me with snort and a smirk, clearly displaying her superiority over a mere freshman. It pissed me off, and I wanted to beat her really, really badly. The coach, before firing the starter pistol, warned us to take it easy and not push ourselves to the max. These were just warm up races.

Yeah, coach. Sure thing. You betcha.

When the pistol shot rang out I was off, as was the smirking sophomore. We quickly left the pack behind, and it was just me and her out in front. We were neck and neck for the longest time, when I heard her say, “Ugh, I can’t!” as I passed her.

Ha! Having crossed the finish line first, I toyed with the idea of smirking back at her, but Tracy don’t play that way. Instead, I walked it off, heading across the field back to the starting line. As I approached the team clustered around the stands, a few girls ran up to me and said, “You broke the school record!”

WHAT? ME? On my first DAY?!?

Turns out I had. I was so intent on beating that show-off sophomore that I had run faster than even I knew I could. The coach confirmed it, but said it could not be counted officially because it had not happened during an actual race, just during practice. A friend of mine said that during the race the coach had said something to effect of, “Look at her go…”

I always liked that.

I spent the next month or so running and re-running the 220 in practice, sometimes breaking the record, sometimes not. Our only meet that season was a huge Tri-State event in which runners from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania would compete. It was held on a college campus with a large, indoor track facility; where I could not tell you. I just know we had to leave really early and the bus ride was loooong.

I had one event, a relay in which each of 4 team members ran 220 yards and passed the baton to the next runner. While I cared if my team won our heat, I was more interested in my portion of the race, because this was my shot at beating our school record.

The event arena was crowded, and It was difficult to make my way to the starting line when the call time for our race came. groups of students from God knows how many schools were camped in any open spot they could find

I had the outside lane. I remember being confident rather than nervous at the starting line. All I had to do was run, right?

As I heard the bang of the starting pistol, I was off running and was soon neck and neck with girls from the tri-state area, but I wasn’t interested in them. I could come in dead last, as long as I beat our school’s record.

As I came into the first turn, there were legs across the track. How odd.

See, the arena was really too small for all the people that were there. A set of bleachers came within 2 feet or so of the outside lane of the track until you got to the turns, where it opened up a bit. A group of students had decided this little spot by the turn would be the perfect place to hang out and relax before their next event. Apparently said group of students had not heard the race begin.

So there they were. A set of legs, clad in athletic socks and white sneakers, in my path. Not to be deterred, I leapt over them without breaking stride, which was fine & dandy.

Except for when I landed, my ankle twisted and I stumbled right into the girl running next to me, who fell. It was enough of a blunder to demolish my time and annihilate any chance I had at the school record. I remember passing the baton to my team mate with the sage advice of “Run your ass off!”

Our team not only lost, but didn’t qualify for the next heat. And like that my winter track season was over. I would never gaze proudly at my name on the record board in the cafeteria. No mention of my name would be made in the morning annoucements in home room. No accolades, no nods of approval from fellow classmates.

zip.

As if all that wasn’t bad enough, the chick I stumbled into? She was pissed. And tough. She looked like a Bronx gang lord. I’d not only messed up my chances, I’d messed hers up as well. With wounded pride and a sore ankle I spent the remainder of the meet skulking around in the shadows desperately trying to avoid getting my ass kicked.

I don’t rememer if my coach ever lodged a complaint about the human obstacle in my path. Who knows what might have happened if that girl had sat cross-legged, or had used a Q-tip that morning and had thus heard the starter pistol, or maybe just decided that baton twirling would be way more fun that winter track. Who knows?

But she was there, and in my path, and changed my fate.

Typical.

Screen Shot 2015-01-09 at 12.34.12 PM

The other day we were talking about crime filled areas, and somebody mentioned that I must have experience with that coming from Northern Jersey, and having lived so close to New York. Actually, my town had very little serious crime at all. Until January 8th, 1975 that is.

I had been at the next door neighbor’s house playing, and walked across the driveway to the back door. I found it locked and banged on the glass to be let in. My sister, peeking through the door, quickly opened it up, pulled me in, and locked the door behind me.

Then she said, “There’s been a murder in town.”

What? IN LEONIA? To make matters worse, it had happened just a few blocks away. And I had just been out in the near dark alone…with a murderer on the loose.

Over the course of the next few days we’d all hear the gruesome details of how Joseph Kallinger, a shoemaker from Philadelphia and his son, forced their way into a house in my town and murdered a young nurse, Maria Fasching, in the basement.

After the murder Kallinger and his son had walked down to a park in our town that is literally a few houses from where my husband grew up…they probably walked right past his house to get there. They had washed off in a puddle in the park, and Kallinger discarded his bloody shirt there, which was a dopey move because the shirt had his name imprinted in it from his cleaners in Philly.

He was caught days later.

Maria Fasching’s face was plastered on the cover of every newspaper for days, and I remember feeling so sad for her. She was young, and was going to be married. And she just happened to stop by that house to check on a patient at the wrong time.

Oh, and that house – it scared the crap out of me for years and years. If I had to walk past it in the daytime, I’d try to not stare at the basement windows. But at night? I kept my eyes on the sidewalk and walked very, very fast.

There was a book written about Joseph Kallinger and his life leading up to the murders called “The Shoemaker.” I’ve read it, and let me tell you, this guy was really wacko. It amazed me that someone so mentally ill could slip through the cracks and live right out in the world with the rest of us. It scares me to think of how many similar characters are out there now…

Yesterday marked the 40 year anniversary of that murder. It really changed our little town – it smudged it. Made it seem less of haven and slightly haunted.

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