Tag Archives: travel

Cities of the Dead

If you think cemeteries are unbearably creepy or sad, you might want to skip this post. After returning from a trip to New Orleans, I am still seeing her “Cities of the Dead”– as the graveyards are called–in my mind. New Orleans has dozens of cemeteries, but why are they so memorable?

Because so much of the land is at or below sea level, burials are mainly above ground. When caskets are buried underground, as the water table rises, they come right up out of the ground and float away. Above ground burials are in stone vaults or monuments, and when you see a cemetery full of these little “houses” they give the appearance of a ghoulish neighborhood or town. You can see decorative iron trim, stone crosses and sculptures, and some vaults even have stained glass.

A lot of movies have been filmed in these cemeteries. The one that has stayed with me is Double Jeopardy where Ashley Judd gets locked in a casket in Lafayette Cemetery #1. The Easy Rider scene was filmed at St. Louis Cemetery #1. The latter one is the oldest cemetery in the city and located in a swamp. It’s claim to fame is that it houses the tomb of Marie Laveau, Voodoo Queen, who was buried there in 1881. Many of the cemeteries are Roman Catholic or divided into sections by religion and also by race. The oldest cemeteries, like St. Louis 1, 2, and 3 are very dilapitated. The stone is crumbling, there is moss over many of the vaults, and therefore they are the most creepy.

Metairie Cemetery (located in New Orleans, not the city of Metairie) is newer and was set up by a Creole (usually “mixed race” person, and that is important to the following) who did not want sections by religion and race and did not want a segregated cemetery. It has the most extravagant marble monuments in the city, though, and Anne Rice’s husband the poet Stan Rice is buried there. He died at age 60 of brain cancer. At the same cemetery, the owners of Whitney Bank made their monument look like a little bank.

You can take tours of the cemeteries, but I think the best way is to plan a couple of days to visit several cemeteries on your own. That way you can spend as much time as you like, depending on the ones you prefer.

It might seem odd to take photos of places where people just like me were buried, but I belong to FindaGrave, which accesses cemetery records across the country. The point of that site is to take photos of all the headstones/graves in the U.S.–and connect each one to the person buried there–birth and death info, relationships with others buried, and photos of the individual. I “tend” a few graves on there by paying a one-time fee of $5 to remove advertising from the grave’s page.

New Orleans even has a Masonic cemetery. I was actually surprised to see the old, abandoned Masonic Temple because my understanding is that the doctrines of the Catholic Church and Freemasonry are incompatible. Since New Orleans has a Catholic historical base and population, I mentioned to the gardener that I probably wouldn’t find a Masonic Temple here, and right at that moment, it stood in front of our car.

I wanted to visit the Masonic cemetery, but it was not to be (for which I blame the gardener).

He doesn’t really understand my fascination with the Masons. He even said, “What’s the big deal? It’s just a place for a bunch of guys to hang out.” He doesn’t think they are mysterious or intriguing at all.

But I do ;).

And the same is true for those cemeteries. But then I can’t go past an old cemetery without stopping.

 

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Lazybones Blog Post

After a difficult week, I offer some of the more positive views I experienced (outside of my post-election distress, complicated migraine, screwed-up-and-painful leg, and ridiculously hectic travel). Today my father has been gone exactly 18 months.

My peace pole (built and erected by my father) as seen through the palms as a sort of liminal space. Here it is in Korean and English. The other sides are Spanish and Hebrew. Dad chose the languages.

We were in California again this past week. The Virginia Dare winery crusher building in Rancho Cucamonga. The Virginia Dare wine company is close to 200 years old and is now owned by the Coppola family.

The gate of the medical office complex that is part of the Virginia Dare center now. The metal grape leaves are a nice touch. Sorry it is so crooked. I thought I had that problem solved, but apparently not.

A mug with my life’s motto (the mug itself belongs to someone else, but the wine is mine): I just want to drink wine & pet my cat. Or cats. Which I can’t do when I am in California.

The view of Phoenix when I drove back in from California.

And when I got to the house I discovered that Pear and Tiger had decided to share the window seat.

Memoir Writing: Structure

I am doing some writing–just enough to feel as if I am writing. Rewriting my memoir into chronological order is really not difficult. The material is almost completely written–and it seems to more effortlessly fall into place this way. I remember now when I first started putting the  story in a different order. I was in a workshop where the students insisted that because the main secret that is revealed in my book is not HUGE, as in not huge for the public and only huge for me and for my family, that I had to reveal just enough of it up front so that nobody would get the wrong idea. I think this started me on the wrong path that has gone on now for years. I hope my new revelation that they were wrong is correct, otherwise I don’t know how to tell the story. So I am following some hopefully wise advice from Lewis Carroll:

“Begin at the beginning,” the King said, very gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.”

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Filed under #AmWriting, Arizona, California, Cats and Other Animals, Food & Drink, Liminality, Nonfiction, Photographs, Writing, Writing Talk

Across the Country Back toward the Civil War

After seeing our daughter in New York, we traveled northeast–farther northeast than I had ever been before. Unfortunately, both the gardener and I got sick, possibly infected by the 10-year-old Typhoid Mary I sat next to on the plane ride to New York. Rather than flying to see my mother when we had planned, we started driving southwest, in the general vicinity of home, hoping that eventually we would be well enough to fly without cracking our ear drums. (This was upsetting because my mother is having knee surgery soon, and I don’t get to see her now before the surgery).

Before we turned back, though, we did see some sights that engaged my imagination.

I found this little gem in Searsport, Maine. It’s a Masonic AND Odd Fellows lodge, built around 1870 in the downtown area. It houses a Civil War memorial.  My iPhone cut off part of the memorial, but I am so interested in old building architecture, as well as Masonic temples and lodges. I’ve been thinking about starting a Pinterest board for the Masons.

All these little towns ending with the word “port” are very charming, old, and generally not very updated. Since I’ve lived so long in the southwest, it’s very refreshing to be around this “antiquity” (I can hear European readers snickering). But it was almost disconcerting to be around so few chain restaurants and big box stores. I mean, that is almost all there is in Arizona and southern California.

We made it to Canada and stayed overnight in St. John, New Brunswick, a city with a fairly depressed economy over a length of time, from the looks of it. But this, of course, leads to a wealth of interesting old architectural details. Of course, we were driving, and I didn’t get too many photos. And if I did take any, I can’t find them.

Out in the middle of nowhere we stopped at a cafe/convenience store with a little rest stop building on its property. They sold a great variety of types of jerky, but the overall look of the place and the pale skinny girls who worked there made us wonder just which horror movie set we had stumbled onto.  There was a Sweeney Todd atmosphere throughout the property.

 

We stayed at Bar Harbor, Maine, before we turned back and headed south. It’s a small town, so it only took 20 minutes in the ER to get my pack of antibiotics!

We enjoyed our first time in Louisville.  But it was one of the more thought-provoking visits from a historical standpoint. The Ohio River separates Kentucky from Indiana at Louisville. Having read and taught a lot of 19th century American literature, I’ve read of the importance of the Ohio River to slaves who were trying to escape to freedom. If they could get across this river, they would reach land upon which they would be free. When you look at a map of the United States and see how far north the south actually ranges, you can grasp the magnitude of the journey that some slaves set out on. There is a whole lot of country south of Louisville!

Actually, the situation with slavery laws was more complicated than what I just described, but literature has managed to distill the situation down to this simple image.

Uncle Tom’s Cabin presents the image most compellingly when Eliza crosses the river to get to Ohio (rather than Indiana, but similar idea). She wanted to take the ferry across, but then she sees a slave trader and must grab her young child and flee.

A thousand lives seemed to be concentrated in that one moment to Eliza. Her room opened by a side door to the river. She caught her child, and sprang down the steps towards it. The trader caught a full glimpse of her, just as she was disappearing down the bank; and throwing himself from his horse, and calling loudly on Sam and Andy, he was after her like a hound after a deer. In that dizzy moment her feet to her scarce seemed to touch the ground, and a moment brought her to the water’s edge. Right on behind they came; and, nerved with strength such as God gives only to the desperate, with one wild cry and flying leap, she vaulted sheer over the turbid current by the shore, on to the raft of ice beyond. It was a desperate leap—impossible to anything but madness and despair; and Haley, Sam, and Andy, instinctively cried out, and lifted up their hands, as she did it.

The huge green fragment of ice on which she alighted pitched and creaked as her weight came on it, but she staid there not a moment. With wild cries and desperate energy she leaped to another and still another cake;—stumbling—leaping—slipping—springing upwards again! Her shoes are gone—her stockings cut from her feet—while blood marked every step; but she saw nothing, felt nothing, till dimly, as in a dream, she saw the Ohio side, and a man helping her up the bank.

I’ve looked everywhere for my river photos, but they have mysteriously disappeared. If Eliza had tried to cross at Louisville, where the Ohio River is a full mile across, she never would have made it.

Talk about a liminal space: the river between life and death, between freedom and shackles.

Original illustration by George Cruikshank 1852

Original illustration by George Cruikshank 1852

In case you’re wondering why Eliza appears white in the illustration, she was supposed to be biracial with light skin.

Have you ever read Uncle Tom’s Cabin? Have you avoided it because you heard it was racist? Why don’t you read the book for yourself before you decide that. The book is taught on college campuses because it’s a very important book in the history of this country. It helped bring about the abolition of slavery–and that was the intention of the writer, Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Tom is presented as a Christ figure, but is seen as meek (rather than godly) by critics of the book. Where the book truly goes awry, or odd, strange, peculiar, is what happens to a couple of the main characters in the last part of the book. It’s about something called “colonization” that was part of the abolition movement of the time period. That’s something you don’t hear about too often when you visit museums where the abolitionist movement is revered. Read the book and see what I mean!

OK, you can see that the Civil War came up more than once in my mind on this trip, and that is something that can only happen when you travel in areas where history actually happened. I get a little hungry for history living out here.

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More Arizona Exploring

To get away from the record heat in Phoenix, we went south for a day. Tucson, at 2,589 ft,  is a higher altitude than Phoenix, which is 1,086. Plus, Tucson is protected from the sun by the mountains and thus has more cloud cover. But we didn’t stay there long. We went to the real mountains. To Bisbee, AZ, to be precise. 5,589 ft.

There are those darn lines again!

It was a lovely temperature for summer. I don’t know what temperature it was, but it felt perfect. There was even a drizzle part of the day.

See that B up there on top? Stands for Bisbee.  No kidding! The population is about the same as the altitude. About one person per foot of altitude.

Bisbee is a very charming looking town because in the downtown area there is very little new construction. It’s almost all “antique.”

The museum had a lovely garden.

And the shops were interesting to me. A honey shop. A custom hat shop. A dress shop where I bought a hat in my favorite color (coral called peony). And a shop with a window after my own heart.

Dolls, masks, old photos, and memento mori. What more could I want?

The only thing they had very little of: gluten free food. Yikes. OK, I won’t go into that rant again.

On the way back from Bisbee, we drove through Tombstone (yup, that Tombstone), where we’ve been before.

I had to take photos out of the car window . . . .

We also drove through St. David, a town founded by LDS pioneers. It’s still mainly Mormon, and it appears to be a farming community, but maybe the farming was in its past. I was glad to get home, though, to my 4+1 cats. Slupe is doing so well! She’s now been out with all the others cats, and I am hopeful that they can be one happy group (when Tiger watches her back so Kana doesn’t sneak up on her).

Slupe

Slupe

My new writing project is a play. I’ve been working on the play with my daughter. I find it fairly easy to write dialogue, but more difficult to conceptualize how it all works onstage. That is her expertise. As an actor, she has a good feel for the physical parts of the play. I expect it to move slowly because of being the work of two people.

Have you ever worked on a project, writing or otherwise, with someone else that you were used to doing by yourself?

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More Arizona

  • This year we travelled to Sedona, Jerome, Cottonwood, the Grand Canyon, Prescott, Williams, and Montezuma’s Castle, all in two days.

That’s what the Sedona sunrise looks like.

Here is your chance to see the classic Luanne ponytail–always just off center as though the middle of the back of my head is just too far to manage.

 

The slide show is the Grand Canyon. It turned out to be overcast that day, but the rain held off at least.

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The squirrels at the Grand Canyon beg for food. They are adorably cute, but it’s kind of sad that people have unwittingly trained them this way. This little guy gave me vertigo because he would go very near the edge of the walkway.

 

Sort of between Sedona and Phoenix is Montezuma’s Castle, which is the remains of a town that existed between the 12th and 14th centuries. The people, called the Sinagua,  lived on the face of the mountain in a beehive of rooms that are known as “cliff dwellings.” Only a few parts of the town remain.

 

The settlement was built along Beaver Creek.

I used to bemoan the fact that we have all these spindly trees in Arizona–Palo Verde, Mesquite, Sweet Acacia. At this national monument I discovered an actual Real Tree of Arizona that is not an evergreen. The Arizona Sycamore! Beautiful and wise . . . .

 

 

The bark looks like camouflage clothing.

I’ve had too much company in the past few months to get much writing done. But I also feel that I need to start a new project and haven’t landed on the one I really want to tackle. It’s not writer’s block–in part because I don’t have much time to think anyway and also because I actually want to write but need a project that feels right at this time to focus on.

Until then, #notreallywriting. heh

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As you know, I typically don’t post much political and didn’t post any petitions for the elephants on my elephant book post, although they are in danger of becoming extinct in 15-20 years if humans don’t change their ways. But I am posting the following. You can stop reading here and it won’t insult me. But I can’t not post this information because this abuse of horses and mules is almost in my own backyard.

Please consider signing this petition for better treatment of the pack animals at the Grand Canyon. The horses are said to be “punched, kicked, push off the sides of mountains when injured, starved to death, without water and rest for long periods of time?” I even read the yelp reviews that talk about the horrific abuse of the animals.

You can sign here:  http://www.thepetitionsite.com/815/945/903/.

If you are interested in more information you can read this:

About This Petition

A concerned group of citizens have started the “Stop Animal ViolencE” (SAVE)  Foundation to protect the pack animals in Havasupai from abuse. These horses and mules travel from Hualapi Hilltop to Havasu Falls daily, and there have been an overwhelming number of reports of rampant and heinous animal abuse.

We are calling on the Havasupai Tribal Council to establish a minimum standard of care for all horses and mules living in Supai, AZ. Until it is confirmed that these standards have been adopted and implemented, we will boycott trips to the Havasu Falls that use horses and mules.

This treatment that has been witnessed by many tourists around the world is nothing short of horrifying and violent for both animals and humans. SAVE has collected first-hand accounts of extreme animal abuse and neglect by specific violent people. Recently, a Havasupai man was charged with four counts of animal abuse.  

We are turning to you, the public, to help these defenseless animals. We are committed to the cessation of violence against animals by these violent individuals. Please help us in putting a stop to this violence and bringing about not only healing for these peaceful, deserving animals, but with your signature, change.

Do you feel pain and agony seeing this photo and imagining the terror of these horses? We have eyewitness accounts of these horses being punched, kicked, pushed off the sides of mountains when injured, starved to death, without water and rest for long periods of time. It’s a death camp for pack animals.

So, please, reach into your pain and feel the ferocity of compassion well up in your heart. And then take action. Sign this petition to demand that the Havasupai Tribal Council adopt SAVE’s guidelines for a minimum standard of care for these horses and mules. For you, for me, for the earth and for all the inhabitants who will suffer if this abuse continues.  Please, do not post anything hateful against an entire group of people. These crimes are being committed by certain violent people, not by a group. We will not accept prejudicial, rude, or inappropriate comments targeted toward entire groups of people.

If you read down to this point, thank you SO MUCH for caring about the horses and mules.

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An Hour Spent Peering into Zane Grey’s World

The most recent little trip was to Payson, Arizona–with hubby and daughter. We drove northeast on the Beeline. The landscape was dotted with saguaros for the first half of the drive.

Many or most of the saguaros had flowering tips.

We followed behind this truck for awhile :/. At a certain point, the saguaros disappeared as we were at an altitude where they can’t live.

None of us had ever visited Payson before. I had expected a quaint village, fun little shops, that sort of thing. The economy didn’t look very strong, and there wasn’t too much that was quaint.

We tried to find the candle factory, only to discover it was just a gift shop. We had a pretty good laugh about that.

But next door there was a fudge shop where we each picked out a flavor. Caramel pecan, creme brulee, and rocky road. The ceiling was tentlike and they sold little sculptures made out of spoons.

I enjoyed these sculptures. The young man who helped us with our fudge said his father made them.

We drove past these odd old buildings. Notice the new construction behind.

We had each selected something we wanted to see. Daughter = candle factory. Scratch that. Hubby = antique stores. They were out of biz, closed, or not very good. Scratch that. Me = The Zane Grey cabin and museum. Woot–that turned out to be a winner.

Zane Grey, if you don’t know, was a writer of frontier novels and short stories. He was responsible for creating (or helping to create) a very romantic image of the American cowboy. He was also a very enthusiastic and talented hunter. When he was older, he began to have second thoughts about all that hunting and joined the Izaak Walton League to promote conservation.

The cabin is a reconstruction because Grey’s original cabin burned down in a big 1990 fire, but it was fascinating to see it and hear about the writer’s life in Arizona. Did you know that Hemingway ripped him off? I think it was The Old Man and the Sea that took its story from one of Grey’s–an unpublished one that Grey had let Hemingway read before Hemingway wrote his “masterpiece.”

They didn’t let me take pix of the cabin’s interior.

But next door was an old cabin that used to house eight people. We all had a hard time getting our minds around that as the interior is very small. You can’t really tell that from the photo. Apparently the Haught family built (1904) and lived here while they built their “real” house. It took about two years.

After viewing these two buildings, we toured the museum. Our tour guide was an old-fashioned schoolteacher type (you can draw your own conclusions). She did a great job teaching us about the Tonto Apache and the history of the vicinity. This is where I plugged Adrienne Morris’ wonderful novel about just this subject: The House on Tenafly Road. You can read my review here if you missed it: book review.

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That Same Old Drive Again

Last week we drove to California for work again. I tried to keep my camera phone on in case I could snap a shot of anything else of interest besides those beheaded palm trees I posted last time. The quality is poor because of shooting as we drove by, though the glass window and its reflection, and every other excuse you can imagine.

Freeway travel is fast and so often hubby drives in the left lane, which makes it even more difficult.

These buildings are out in the middle of nowhere.

And then we go through a rural area with cow and sheep ranches. Only they aren’t ranches as you think of them. They are FACTORIES to produce milk and meat. The stench is so bad that I have to cover my face with a towel in these areas. Remember those old commercials about happy cows in California? NOT. And as for Land O’Lakes and their sweet little signs on these enterprises, they can kiss my back forty. Today I bought some Irish butter from grass-fed cows. When I go to IRELAND this summer, I’ll check out the situation of the cows there.

(Yes, I am planning to go to Ireland. It’s not set up yet, but hopefully all will go well!)

Most of the landscape is monotonous desert stubbled with cacti or weeds, but occasionally we drive through master-planned chaos and more beheaded trees.

Last time I wrote about our drive, I wasn’t writing. I’ve been tinkering with my memoir manuscript and putting together the bones of my “genealogy” chapbook. It’s not a lot of writing, but it is writing.  So YAY!!! How about you??

Leaving you with a pic of my favorite shelter cat, Slupe. I couldn’t wait to get back and see her. She’s a prickly little calico/tortie (nobody can decide for sure, but I think she’s a calico), but we have a special relationship. She’s been at the shelter for two years and needs rescuing!!!

Slupe in cave

 

 

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That Same Old Drive

We go back and forth between Arizona and California often enough that I am sick of the ride. There are only two ways to travel. One is via Interstate 8 through the mountains west of San Diego. We pass so close to Mexico that my cell service switches over for awhile.  The other is our regular route, via Interstate 10. We rarely take the first route because I hate losing cell service while we drive through the mountains–just in case something goes wrong–because we are generally on a deadline. It’s also a little longer.

I10 takes us through the flat desert. I always thought this was the Mohave, but actually the southern boundary of the Mohave is just north of the 10. We drive through the northern section of the Colorado Desert. Go figure. Maybe that is why we drive over the Colorado River near Blythe. Or maybe the desert is named after the river.

Since we only make one stop each drive and it’s to get gas and have a potty break (5 minutes in and out), we never stop near the river, so I haven’t been able to take a pic of it.

But there are things I can snap as the car moves (since I’m not the one driving).

Look at that. Beheaded palm trees. This is the sort of view that gives me the creeps. I keep wondering what happened to their branches. You could say, “Where’s the green?” (Happy St. Patrick’s Day!)

There are the picturesque (to me) ruins of old gas stations and motels, generally covered with graffiti, but darned if I’ve been able to capture those either.

We go to California for work and to see our son and his fiancée.

After seeing them, I am always ready to head back home to this: Pear, Tiger, Kana, Felix.

I’m still working my way through the work that got behind this winter. Then I plan to get back to writing. Sigh.

Do you find it difficult to write when your head is too full of stuff to do?

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Places to Go and People to See

My mother is visiting for two months. So that she doesn’t have to sit around while I work all the time, I decided to take her to southern California and visit her grandson and his fiancée. And to stop off at a few wineries . . . .

Did I ever mention that I discovered my father’s grandmother’s family owned vineyards in Germany? It was in a village called Budesheim, right outside of Bingen. I explained to Mom that proves that I come from a long line of winos.

We not only checked out Chardonnays, but other wines as well.

We were picky about which wineries and even walked out of one before we bought our tickets. Calloway above was a favorite.

Mom was entranced with the snow on the mountaintops so early in the season.

I was entranced with the egrets sneaking around every vineyard.

On an unrelated note, if you’ve read Doll God and haven’t yet written a review for Amazon, I am shamelessly begging for another review to boost the book up to 30 reviews. It’s been at 29 for a loooooooong time. xo

 

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Getting All Out of Art

When we visited New York in October, we saw this sculpture:

I didn’t really understand what it was, although there was a sign that said it was the Merchant Mariners’ Memorial at Battery Park. I thought it was amusing because of the bird perched on the guy’s head.

Tourists were in front of it, snapping photos, and I had a hard time getting an angle I wanted.

And there was a fence around it, too.

I was with hubby and daughter and we walked on through the park. After all, we could see the State of Liberty and Ellis Island. I don’t know much about Merchant Mariners other than:

  • my dad’s uncle was one during WWI (he died in his 30s from a car accident)
  • my dad’s friend when I was a kid was one (he was a very sweet guy but used to get drunk and in bar fights when he was on leave)
  • Daniel Keyes, the author of Flowers for Algernon (run to library if you haven’t read it), joined the Merchant Marines at age 17 and practiced medicine on the sailors

Daughter has been visiting (and has to leave today BIG SOBS). She’s packing right now. I just ran across these pix and wondered more about the sculpture. A lot of effort and money goes into these public art projects, so what is this one about?

Apparently, it’s supposed to look like THIS:

American Merchant Mariners' Memorial, designed by the sculptor Marisol Escobar, is located just south of Pier A on a rebuilt stone breakwater. It is a representation in bronze of four merchant seamen with their sinking vessel after it had been attacked by a U-boat in World War II

American Merchant Mariners’ Memorial, designed by the sculptor Marisol Escobar, is located just south of Pier A on a rebuilt stone breakwater. It is a representation in bronze of four merchant seamen with their sinking vessel after it had been attacked by a U-boat in World War II

These men were drowning after a Nazi U-boat attacked their ship. And look how powerful it is. Why is it so blocked now that you can’t get the effect of this drama? A beautiful work of art, but because the “setting” or “context” is no longer correct for it, much of the meaning and beauty is lost.

Like a diamond needs the right setting and a painting needs the right placement, does writing need the appropriate context, too? Are there ways that the full expression of a book, story, or poem is lost because the context has changed? Or is writing something that we can always access in just the way someone did 20 years before? or 200? What do you think?

 

 

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