The Beatles: Keep That One, Mark It Fab

The nice thing about the Beatles Channel on Sirius XM is that you never know what you’re going to get. There might be Chuck Berry or another of many artists who inspired the Beatles, or one of their solo outings, such as from Ringo’s ‘fun period’ (early to mid-70’s).

Chances are though that you’ll hear the original Fab Four. It might be a tender love song, or it might be Take #17 of “Helter Skelter.” It seems now that this band did everything and tried everything. It’s all over the place, and it’s why the Beatles are still in heavy rotation, and not just on their own channel.

I might sound like a fan, and I am. But not always. As a young child, I didn’t really appreciate the Beatles.

I was probably born too late. You needed to be 14 or so in 1964 to feel the full impact of Beatlemania. I was younger than that. The mania first came to my Warwick, Rhode Island neighborhood when a kid brought over a new 45 record with his portable record player, treating our family to “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

It sounded loud, muddled and screechy to my five year old ears. It certainly wasn’t folk music, something you heard a lot of in my house. As the months and years went by, we heard more Beatles, songs like “Eight Days a Week”, or “Help!” But these were only occasional things, seen on television, and we were not radio listeners.

By the time we did discover radio, the band had transformed – a far cry from the ‘yeah yeah’ music of 1964. You could tell it was the Beatles by their voices, but all else had changed. Odd instrument choices: flutes, speeded up piano, sometimes a string quartet or even a full orchestra replaced or were added to the usual guitars and drums.

How did a band change this much this fast?

But I still couldn’t fully appreciate the music. It came in dribs and drabs. A few seconds here, a few there, on static-y AM radio with a DJ blabbering over the end of each song. Songs came and went. I heard “I Am The Walrus” once in 1967 and then never again until 1973. Where did it go?

I can see the problem now, I think. There were no Beatles records in our house. Nothing I could really listen to. We had plenty of Peter, Paul and Mary, and a few novelties like Herman’s Hermits and The Monkees. But no Beatles. Nada.

Finally, finally, finally. Someone brought home a Beatles record. I think it was the fall of 1968. A 45. The A side was “Hey Jude”, which we were blase about. The B side, “Revolution” was what we really wanted to hear. Over and over again. “All right, all right, all right, all right, ALL RIGHT!”

At long last, I was in heaven, like a starving dog being tossed a bone.

A year or so after that, we acquired Abbey Road, and the rest is history.

As a young adult I picked up the White Album, and discovered twenty or so songs I’d never heard before, including a slower version of “Revolution.” Why they included the eight minute “Revolution 9” I”ll never know. The consensus seems to be: Blame Yoko.

And later, a new, “Naked” version of Let it Be came out. I listened with interest, especially the banter between takes. Paul seems annoyed: “Ringo doesn’t want to go to Australia. That means we’re not going to Australia.” Evidently they had been there before and it’s a very long plane ride.

So here we are today. I have Sirius XM and a car with six awesome speakers. I wish our 1960’s station wagon had the same, so I could have heard “Got To Get You Into My Life” in its full, horn-infused glory, but what are you gonna do?

I am grateful, though, that I can now hear what was on John’s Jukebox, or a Paul remark after a good take. “Keep that one, mark it Fab.” Or anything by George.

Every single day of my life.

Those were the days.

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Galileo, Galileo

It might sound strange, but I’ve been a Galileo fan since the fourth grade.

The stars came first, in the form of constellations. I learned all I could. Then, a book report was due. I came across a young readers’ biography of the Italian scientist and astronomer, and thought, ‘why not’.

What impressed me then was Galileo’s ability to make his own telescope, then point it at the heavens night after night to make remarkable discoveries. The phases of Venus. The moons of Jupiter. The rings of Saturn.

His main observation about Mars? It looked red. Can’t win them all.

Over the course of my life, I thought about Galileo while looking at the stars, planets, our Moon. He was the first to see them in detail and publish books about his findings.

It was surreal to ride the school bus home in 1975 and hear “Galileo, Galileo” booming from the speakers. It was Queen of course. singing the ‘opera’ section of Bohemian Rhapsody. I guess they needed an Italian sounding lyric for their masterpiece.

So Galileo wasn’t just a forgotten man from the Renaissance. He was now part of pop culture.

Opera Singers

As I grew older I learned more about the fabled scientist. That he got into deep trouble with the Catholic Church, who kind of ruled the land back then. That he had three children born out of wedlock. That one of his two daughters had a major impact on his later life, and someone wrote a book about her. I have yet to read it, but I will.

Galileo surged back into my life just last week. A visiting actor name Mike Francis was coming to my city to play Galileo in The Starry Messenger, like one of those Mark Twain impersonations. A picture showed a middle aged man with a white beard, in period garb, next to his telescope.

Wow, a historical figure come to life. I was in.

I appeared at the theater in good time and settled in for the show. A good selection of fellow Concordians joined me. The lights did not dim, but Galileo was introduced and he made his way to center stage.

He looked like his photograph, with period clothing and shoes. He began to speak Italian to us, then realized that most of us spoke English. So he switched. It was funny how his Italian accent slowly gave way to a definite Boston accent. (I later learned the actor hailed from Newton, Mass.)

His only props onstage were his trademark telescope and a small table draped in a sun-and-moon print cloth. He explained how he invented his scope (local glassmakers taught him how to grind and polish lenses). Then he described how he trained it on the Moon, Sun, stars and planets and began to form his theories about them.

To illustrate his points, he invited 12 guests to the edge of the stage to represent mountains of the moon. Later, Galileo asked three women to come up and play the moons of Jupiter. (He himself was Jupiter.) It looked like fun but luckily I was not picked for any of these.

As his Boston accent grew, Galileo got funnier. He reminded me of the Car Talk guys, ready to give a dope slap to some unbelieving audience member. But he didn’t.

Mr. Francis at work.

After a brief intermission, Galileo came out in different garb, a bit more formal this time. He looked worried. “My friends, I have just learned I’ve been invited to Rome to answer some questions about my latest book.” He was tight with the current Pope, named Urban, but earlier ‘heretics’ had been burned at the stake for giving the wrong answers, and it could happen to him.

So he invited the audience to ask him whatever they wanted, in order to prepare for his inquisition.

Galileo patiently answered queries about the heavenly bodies he studied, his background, his house, what he thought of other scientists. At the end he said, “Why didn’t anyone ask about my daughters?”

After a round of applause, the Galileo persona faded and was replaced by Mike from Newton. He explained that the Q and A was something new he was trying out, and he thought it went well. Did we? Mike worked ten years for the Hayden Planetarium as a presenter, which makes perfect sense. He then strode away from the stage to even more applause. He offered to answer more questions one on one.

As I walked out, the ladies in charge of this lecture were smiling broadly. You could see they wanted to invite Mike/Galileo back again. I gave one of them a thumbs up.

Come on back, Galileo Galilei. Magnifico, oh oh oh oh.

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Coleslaw, the Musical

Those lunch ladies at Parker Elementary sure loved to serve coleslaw. And for years, I refused to eat it.

I was in the third grade. Hot lunch was recently introduced, so instead of brown bagging it, or walking four blocks home each noon, we kids were invited to stand in line for a hot, balanced meal.

“What is this?” I asked my classmate the first time it appeared on my tray.

“Coleslaw, I think” he replied.

It seemed to be a salad of some kind. But at home, salad meant sections of Iceberg lettuce with a slathering of mayo-like Miracle Whip. This new stuff just looked…weird.

I gave it a taste, and the smell of vinegar, or something, overpowered me. I paused, put down my fork and focused on my Sloppy Joe instead.

I can imagine a Korean kid halfway across the world trying kimchi for the first time, at the same moment. “I don’t want to eat this, Mom. Are you sure it’s food?”

In any case I didn’t try coleslaw again for many years. Until I had to.

It was my first restaurant job. I was hired as a dishwasher but soon learned I’d also be doing ‘prep.’ This involved making coleslaw.

Fine, I thought. As long as I don’t have to eat it.

“This here is your Buffalo Chopper,” my co-worker began. “You toss your carrots in there and let it go around a few times. Then you slice the cabbage over here.”

I looked at the oddly-shaped machine. My Buffalo what? Was this guy kidding?

Still, it was emblazoned with the Hobart name, like my dish machine, and it did a nice even job on those carrots and cabbages. Step one was to Buffalo Chop all the vegetables. Step two was to make the dressing.

I watched as my co-worker took a stainless steel bowl, measured oil, vinegar, mayonnaise, sugar, salt and dry mustard into it, whisked it all together, and added it to the large bagful of shredded veg. Mix thoroughly, cover and chill, and we were done.

I got pretty good at coleslaw. I got used to tasting it, and making it almost became second nature as I was expected to prepare it weekly. I had about two dozen batches under my belt when the hammer finally fell.

Perhaps – perhaps – I got a bit careless with the dressing ingredients. The last batch seemed fine to me. But my boss didn’t like it. “Doesn’t taste right.”

The following weekend I tried it again, knowing I was on trial. I measured each ingredient as if working with explosive nitroglycerin. There could be no mistakes.

I awaited the verdict nervously. “Still not right,” my boss said.

It wasn’t the end of the world. My boss was upset but I did keep my job. I was strongly encouraged, though, from that time on, to let someone else make the coleslaw.

A few years after that I discovered seafood. It became a favorite. I noticed that, almost every time I ordered fried clams or scallops it came with a small dish of slaw. And I tried it, and I liked it. It came in all colors and varieties, with different tastes and consistencies. I enjoyed all of it, thinking each time of my childhood foolishness and shaking my head.

I even tried to make it at home, with mediocre results. I couldn’t mess up the dressing because it came in a bottle. But the cabbage was all wrong, sliced manually by me, and badly. I decided to stick with restaurants.

But then, fast forward to last week. A recipe for Healthy Ramen Slaw appeared in a weekly newspaper. It had ingredients I liked, such as dried cranberries and almonds. They recommended using a bag of pre-sliced coleslaw mix, so no Buffalo Chopper required. And it had ramen, for added crunch.

I made a batch; it came out great. If my old restaurant boss could see me now! I even posted a picture of my coleslaw success story on Facebook. No one cared, but it didn’t matter.

I can make coleslaw, really.

If I could put this story to song, I would. Coleslaw, the Musical, anyone?

Ta da!
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Favorite Quotes from Seinfeld

I haven’t seen an entire episode of Seinfield in forever. It seems I have to subscribe to one streaming service or another at just the right time to do this. So when I need a fix, I fall back on Facebook (of all things) for a six-minute sample of the old days. Still funny, frustrating though because the endings are lopped off. Here, mostly from memory, are my favorite quotes.

The sea was angry that day, my friends.

But no, you had to get the BIG salad.

Let’s go over your case again.

These are my everyday balloons.

That van’s a-rockin’.

She just dislikes me so much…it’s irresistible.

She has man hands.

I don’t want to be a pirate!

Believe it or not, George isn’t at home, please leave a message at the beep.

I must be at the nexus of the universe.

I like the pen.

Shut up, you old bag!

Lois Loan.

I’m not the one going to Hell.

I hear wonderful things about the Bloomingdales executive training program.

Top of the Muffin to You!

We want the Kramer.

Get out!

That’s it for me. Good night!

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Jerome Weiselberry’s Bookcase

I may spend too much time on YouTube. Just when I think it’s getting a bit stale, and I should be doing other things, something fresh and exciting comes along.

Meet Jerome Weiselberry.

Despite the name (there’s a story behind it), she’s a 20-something woman who knows a lot about books and movies and is happy to share that knowledge on her YouTube channel. Most of her videos present her sitting comfortably in front of her trusty bookcase, lined with books thick and thin, small and tall.

It’s a plain setting but an effective one. As Jerome speaks, you get to look at her, check out the books, try to read the titles, and admire some representatives of her large owl collection, which she places on the shelves and changes depending on the season and her mood. I’m a bit of an owl fan myself.

Occasionally, a plush Godzilla makes an appearance.

I first encountered her when I had written a movie review for The Towering Inferno and looked on YouTube to see if anyone there had covered it. By chance, Jerome had reviewed it just a month before, and had done a fine job with it. I was hooked.

She starts each video with a cheery “Hello, everyone!” before jumping into a review, or series of reviews on what she has seen/read recently. Her speaking style is exact, pleasant, deadpan yet enthusiastic. That’s the best way I can describe it.

I’ve never met or seen anyone smile while talking, except for that fast talking lady who used to peddle next-day carpets on television. But Jerome does it with a natural charm, and her smile is infectious.

She seems to know all the film and book review buzzwords, and her knowledge of old movies is awe-inspiring. A friend of mine guessed that she may have majored in film studies, and I would agree. But even laymen like me can understand her. Her brief side comments and observations only add to the fun.

At the end of each video, she invites all interested to “leave your thoughts in the comments below” before emitting a high-pitched “Bye!” while waving one hand in a blurry flourish. The perfect sign-off.

I was worried about her bookcase for a while. See, Jerome’s videos go back seven years, and for a time the top shelf was bowed downward with the weight of books. It seemed like it might snap in two, like the splitting of a mighty oak, sending those books cascading to the floor. She must have noticed this too, for one day the shelf was straightened, with the heavy books moved to the lower shelves. Potential disaster averted!

The owls remained, of course – those weren’t going anywhere.

I would recommend this channel to those who love movies and books, especially older, classic ones, but also monster movies, horror movies, aliens from space movies, Jane Eyre, westerns, Star Wars, something that popped up on Amazon Prime last week, you name it. Talk about eclectic.

There’s my review. As always, leave your opinions in the comments below and I’ll see you soon. Bye!

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Camp Willard

My one and only camp experience came when I was eight. I don’t remember my mom asking me if I wanted to go; I would have politely declined. But go I did, for two weeks of day camp in the summer of 1967. The place? Camp Willard, Lexington, Mass.

I wasn’t exactly traumatized, but here I am writing about it, a lifetime later. So what does that tell you?

Each day my mother drove me there every day around nine and picked me up at five. Arriving there, at the J. W. Hayden Recreation Centre grounds, you found your group and lined up behind a counselor. Then, the Pledge of Allegiance, followed by a group song, most likely “My Country Tis of Thee.” Our moms would head back home, leaving us kids in Camp Willard’s care.

Time for softball!

Didn’t like playing softball? Too bad. It could be the heat wave of the century, but we had to troop out to the ball field and roast there for roughly 90 minutes, every day. I played right field, a quiet place to contemplate my fate, under that goddamned, unforgiving sun. Something about the smell of a grassy field on a hot summer morning stayed with me; I sometimes catch that scent in my current-day office park.

When softball was done, outside activities took over. Arts and crafts, done on picnic tables are my main memory. What did we make? Who can remember? We used those same tables to eat our lunches; stowed away in a cool place until noon.

As in school, lunches and recess were my favorite parts. Recess in camp meant any time I could steal away to find some shade. Shade, both then and now, is nice.

Afternoons were a bit scattershot. You could go inside to the rifle range (air rifles only) and try to shoot targets on sheets of paper. Or do another activity. It seems the counselors were a bit less concerned about us then; we’d have to sign out and then head off to the next thing.

Speaking of counselors, it was my first experience with them. We were only eight, but these guys (they were all guys) seems only slightly older, like 10 or 11. That can’t be right, though. Let’s just say they were not the most mature. Nice enough kids, but more like shepherds than recreation workers.

I know the Centre had a bowling alley in the basement, but I can’t remember bowling at all. Same with the indoor swimming pool. It might have felt nice on a hot day, but swimming was never on the agenda. In the name of J. W. Hayden, why wasn’t it?

One day we did woodworking outside, with small hand saws and what seemed like chunks of plywood. I made something…what was it?. Oh yeah, a shield of some kind, painted red white and blue. I wonder what landfill it’s buried in now.

When the day was over (thank you, Camp Willard), our moms would arrive as we lined up again, this time to address the flag as someone played Taps. It was very emotional. I found my mother and was grateful, as ever, to plop into the family Country Squire and return to our leafy neighborhood.

Did I get off easy? Were there worse camp experiences? There must have been. But I can’t say I enjoyed myself.

A few years later, a horror movie featuring an evil rat and thousands of his friends was released. It was called Willard. Perfect title, I thought.

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Call Me Magoo

“Some kids may call you Four Eyes.”

This was my preparation for entering my second grade classroom with a new pair of glasses. The warning wasn’t necessary, but it did tell me I was going to be different.

When a kid actually called me that name, I just looked at him as if to say, “Thanks for that, you unoriginal shmuck.”

Back then, at age 7, a common question was “Can you see what’s on the blackboard?” I always said yes, but there must have been some clue that sent me to the eye doctor’s. When my glasses finally arrived, everything got clearer. At school, I could still read the blackboard, but…much more easily.

From that time to now and beyond, I always had and will have glasses. But the journey from there to here was not without bumps.

When junior high rolled around, I took them off much of the time. Not for reading, but just walking around, having lunch, etc. I didn’t like the way they looked. So I tried contact lenses. They were hard and gas permeable, and they hurt like hell. Back to glasses.

In the Coast Guard they took my glasses away until I was seen by a military eye doctor. I ended up with a pair of “birth control glasses,” heavy, black rimmed, guaranteed to drive off the ladies. I never wore them.

I tried contacts again. Same experience as before. I just don’t think my eyes are made for them.

Later, in the civilian world, I could experiment a bit. I tried aviator type glasses, metal rimmed, more up to date styles. A far cry from ‘birth control’.

Glasses were an important and ingrained way of life for the next couple of decades. Until the Progressives Era.

Around ten years ago my optometrist advised me to get progressive lenses; although there didn’t seem to be much choice. This meant turning my head this way and that, high for distance and down for reading. Also from left to right as I read. I find this so complicated I don’t think I’ve ever really mastered it.

Which could be my problem.

For that reason, I haven’t liked any pair of new glasses I’ve had since then. They look fine on my face, I just can’t see out of them, not the way I want to. There are Mr. Magoo days where I’m squinting at everything, and other days when things are clearer.

My last visit to the Concord Eye Center was instructive, and I think, helpful. I told them my new glasses were not working out for me. Everything seemed blurred. I half expected an argument, but the nice lady optician carefully examined the new glasses, my old glasses, and me trying both glasses on.

There was all the time in the world. I relaxed.

She finally did some adjustments to the new glasses and advised me to try them for a day or so. Worst case scenario, I could call for a new eye exam, maybe with a different doctor.

That was two days ago, and so far, so good. I can see distance, I can read. I still don’t have the “Wow, these are so much better” feeling I usually have with new glasses. But these are progressives and with those, nothing is ever perfect.

Oh, another nickname I encountered: Goggles. Haven’t heard that one in a while.

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The Movie that Time Forgot

It was late 1974 and a few friends and I went to see the latest movie blockbuster. It was called The Towering Inferno.

Until I stumbled upon this in a corner of Amazon Prime, I had mostly forgotten it. But in a rush, it all came back. The fun of being in a group, of walking into the old Colonial Theatre in Laconia, the smell of popcorn, the anticipation of seeing Hollywood generated fire, and possibly explosions.

After a mental coin flip, I decided to rewatch this old timer. Lots of jokes were made about it back then, as well as a slew of other ‘disaster movies’. Soon, even parodies of these (Airplane) were quite popular. But now, as the movie began, with it’s serious, insistent music, and giant-lettered credits, I felt drawn in. This helicopter moving along the coast of California was obviously delivering someone important.

The chopper sets down on a large tower. The VIP leaves the aircraft. It’s Paul Newman, playing the Architect.

Plot in a nutshell: Architect has designed the world’s tallest building, with 135 floors, in San Francisco. The developer (William Holden) may have skimped on the electrical requirements, with the help of his engineer son-in-law (Richard Chamberlain). So there are a few bugs to work out before the Inaugural Gala that night. Architect is there for the party, and to see his girlfriend (Fay Dunaway) after which he plans to decompress in the desert for a few years.

The fire starts out small: a sparking fuse box igniting a box of greasy rags (didn’t they read the fire prevention brochure?) that begins on Floor 81 but spreads fast. Meanwhile, roughly 300 people have gathered on the top floor, the Promenade Room, in their finest, fanciest duds.

The fire is discovered and the S. F. fire department is called. Enter the no-nonsense Battalion Fire Chief (Steve McQueen).

It’s a huge cast of characters with lots of subplots and motivations. But when the fire gets out of control, all those become less important than staying alive. Fire Chief and Architect put aside their differences to battle the fire and save as many lives as possible.

Quick lesson on blowing things up.

I was amazed at the quality of the special effects. The fire looks real, and is real. Models of the building were produced for the exterior scenes, but you’d never know. For a long movie, the suspense never lets up. The music (an early John Williams score) gives the film that ‘wow, this is an important motion picture’ quality. Even the acting is good. Fred Astaire was nominated for an Academy Award, playing a charming Confidence Man.

One of the images that stayed with me is the con man standing in the street at movie’s end, looking bereft and lost, holding a cat.

If you come across this one, give it a chance. You’ll get to see what the disaster movie craze was all about, at its peak, and at its best.

The Towering Inferno Director: John Guillermin US Premiere: 10 December 1974 Copyright 1974 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation and Warner Bros. Inc.
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All Vaxxed

I remember some long waits in my childhood: the one for Christmas, the one for summer vacation. Even some when I was older. Nothing, though, will surpass the wait for the second vaccination.

It’s amazing to me how time slows down when something big is coming. Ever since I got my first Covid shot back in March, it seemed like April 23 would never get here.

That first shot went well, with a minimum of bother and almost no pain or side effects. I considered myself lucky. And then, as the long wait began, I began to hear things.

Some people fared worse after the second vaccination. Some didn’t. You heard of people getting the virus after the first shot, but before the second. And a few were getting the virus after both shots.

Added to this were reports of new strains of the virus, from South Africa and other countries, that have made their way to the U.S. This might lead to more shots in our future.

All of this was buzzing in my mind last Thursday, and I found it hard to fall asleep that night.

Friday morning I was a bundle of nerves. Thankfully I had work to take my mind off things. My appointment was for 12:50 p.m., after which I’d take the afternoon off. Possible side effects, you know.


The drive to the old Sears at the mall felt weird. Walking in, I noticed a different atmosphere than the one back in March. It was a lot emptier, for one thing. I checked in as before, and answered eight questions related to the virus. All of the answers needed to be ‘no’. Then I got into a short line with just a handful of people, and struck up a conversation with an older gentlemen in front of me.

We talked about the mall, what might happen to it (it was 90 percent empty) and what might replace Sears. A new anchor store would be the best outcome, I said, but we both agreed that anything could happen. The old Circuit City, at the mall’s other end, was now a trampoline place. No one could have imagined this back in 1990, the year the mall opened.

Then we got separated, and I was led to Station number 4. And it was nothing like my March experience. Instead of the brisk, professional nurse of my prior visit, I got a middle aged man with white haired crewcut. On his shirt was the insignia of the Concord Fire Department. Paramedic, I guessed.


His manner was strange. He tried to project authority but also seemed unsure of himself, walking around me as if I might explode at any second. His nervousness made me nervous. And the way he spoke rattled me, just like a cop might at a traffic stop. “Do you know why I pulled you over?

Sitting there, with two other stern volunteers nearby, I felt as if I were in a police station. Then the fireman asked me to roll up my sleeve. No problem. I expected to feel a jab, but when I glanced to my left I could see him putting on gloves, and making a production out of it. A nurse or doctor would have had them on in a couple of seconds, but this guy was taking forever.

All the while, I was holding up my sleeve, waiting, waiting. He finally got around to my arm, and this time I felt nothing. No pain, no sensation. As in March, I had the feeling, “Did this actually happen?”

We were finished. As I was leaving, he handed me my white card and a round Lindt truffle. Sort of a good luck token. I sat in the waiting area for ten minutes and exited. The whole visit was 25 minutes, much quicker than before.


So now I’m home, around eight hours after getting fully vaxxed. No effects so far. A couple of cat naps, but I take those anyway. I don’t feel the heavy fatigue I’ve been hearing about.

I hear there’s a two week period after the second shot where you’re in another kind of in limbo. What else is new? Two more weeks I can do.

After that I can exhale – maybe. As more of us, including kids, get the shots, we can all start to exhale. And get out there to do the things we used to; knock on wood.


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