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Young Man Went West #29-D: Winter Trip Facebook Statuses, Unabridged (Pt. 4)

Day 10-11: Lunch w/Justin Todd in L-Mo, then off to the SF w/Casey Cochran. Met up w/Nate Visconti, Jake Sorensen, Jessi Bucey, Sabeen Knows Techno, Kathryn Woodworth, Anna Felver, Matt Felver, and others. Ate, skated, drank. Woke up early to catch a plane to Maui. Left the airport, met a friend, ate free food. Back to Honolulu. . .

Though Christmas had wrapped up and I was getting on a plane on the 27th, I took full advantage of the 26th in terms of seeing people and going places.  My day started with lunch at IHOP with Casey and our good buddy Justin.  Justin is a busy, busy man with like ten jobs and fifty side projects, so he couldn’t stay too long or come with us to our next destination: the City.  Casey and I took BART to San Francisco where we planned to go ice skating in Union Square with some high school friends.  Along the way from the Embarcadero station to Union Square, we met up with Nate.  Each of my friends was glad the other guy wasn’t going to skate either, for neither could/wanted to.

While waiting in a short but slow line for a chai tea latte and cannoli (sad news: they had no cannoli, so I got a random, twisty pastry), Jake and Jessi arrived.  I couldn’t hang out with them just once.  More good news for Casey and Nate: neither Jake nor Jessi were skating either.  That’s okay, my skating friends were still coming.  I was just glad Casey wasn’t going to be hanging by himself outside the rink.

Finally, Sabeen and Anna showed up, as did Anna’s brother, Matt.  The three of them just come from a performance of The Nutcracker.  I would have joined them, but $100 a ticket was a little too steep for a show.  I’ll just YouTube it.

We were nine-people strong with over an hour to kill (our tickets were for a specific timeslot), so we decided to grab some nostalgia-infused burgers at Lori’s Diner, a ’50s-style restaurant.  During our two-block journey there, Anna’s boyfriend and his buddy joined us, so we were a party of twelve going into the poor diner (the extra seat was for Kate, who was joining up with us later).  It actually turned into a party of thirteen because a friend of Anna’s boyfriend’s buddy came along.  The sheer volume of surrounding friends–from as long ago as elementary school to as recent as right then–put a smile on my face.  I was drunk off euphoria.

(Just as a guide, here’s how I group everybody: Casey–elementary-high school; Sabeen, Anna, Kate–high school; Nate, Jake, Jessi–college.  The mixing of friends makes me happy, too.)

With the high school group. Pretty background, pretty company, awkward stance.

As a server, I empathized with our waiter when we asked for split checks.  He was happy to do it, but I drew him a diagram anyway.  I was pretty happy with the diagram, actually, which included a representation of the table and the number of seats around it, the different paying groups numbered and divided by lines, with reference points for orientation, i.e. stairs are on this side, giant airplane to the right, pie shelf to the left, etc.  It was probably the smoothest I’ve paid for a meal in a group that big.

After dinner, we finally took to the rink.  Half of us, anyway.  The ice, however, was crowded with amateurs.  I’m not even sure if what I did was skating or more just standing in a forward motion.  During skate trains and newbie dodging (I imagined I was Han Solo navigating an asteroid field), my friend Juliana finally met up with us.  She’s a friend from college, so it worked out perfectly that those standing on the sideline were Jake, Jessi, and Nate.

On the sidelines. The most attractive poses for Juliana, Casey, Jake, and Jessi.

The sideliners eventually took off for a nearby bar.  After a few more minutes of ice rink traffic jam, I joined them.  Everyone else, determined to skate every minute they paid for, joined in about an hour later.  The bar we ended up in was an Irish pub about half a block from Union Square.  We got a nice little corner with a long booth and were waited on by a crazy, old Irish lady.  I think she liked me.

In pairs and groups, my friends started leaving little by little.  For every friend I reunited with during this trip, I had to say goodbye to all over again.  Eventually, it was just me and Casey driving back to Livermore from the BART station (luckily we got a ride there and didn’t have to take BART).  Okay, it was more Casey driving and me falling asleep in the passenger seat.  That Irish pub had good beer.  I needed all the sleep I could get because I had a 7:40 AM flight to catch the next morning.

For some reason, the cheapest flight back to Honolulu included a three-hour layover in Maui.  Didn’t bother me, though.  For one, I’d never been to Maui, and two, the layover was long enough for me to leave the airport (one of my requirements for having visited a place).  As my days left in Hawaii become fewer–and my off-season tip income gets smaller–the reality of completing my Hawaii bucket list seems further away.  One goal is to visit the five other main islands.  I was determined to leave the airport to check off one-fifth of an item on that bucket list.

I hesitated at the exit gate, not sure where to go, what to see, or if I had enough time to come back and stand at the checkpoint.  But then I left.  Who cares what I’m not sure about?  I couldn’t come this close to another island without leaving the airport.  Bottom line.  I pulled out my laptop and looked on Google Maps for anything nearby.  I was this close to cabbing it to Bubba Gump’s, but that was in the main tourist city of Lahain, which is on the west side.  I was in Kahului on the north side.  Granted, it wouldn’t be too long of a taxi ride, but every minute counted in this layover.  Luckily, something in Kahului part of the map caught my eye: Whole Foods Market.

It took under ten minutes and less than ten dollars to get there by taxi.  I was excited by the prospect of seeing my old friend and coworker An Qi (whom you may remember from YMWW #13) at the Kikka Sushi stand inside.  If she worked here as often as she did in the Honolulu store, I was confident she’s be behind the counter when I arrived.  And she was.

An Qi was pleasantly surprised and a little confused to see me.  She was so excited, she bought me lunch.  It had been a while since I chowed down on the Kikka Sushi lunch special.  We talked for a while outside about her lazy coworkers and how Maui differs from Oahu.  She eventually had to go back inside, so I wandered around the outdoor Maui Mall for a bit.  It was small and empty.  I got bored right away and spent the next half hour on my laptop.

The most exciting part of Maui Mall! Yipee.

Luckily, An Qi convinced her friend to drive me back to the airport at the start of his lunch break.  At first, the guy seemed a little annoyed albeit willing, but by the time we started driving, he became very talkative.  He warmed up as soon as he found out I was a Filipino from the mainland, just like him.  I told him about my current wandering lifestyle and he told me all about his past jobs and relationships, and what ultimately drove him to Maui.  During the last few minutes to the airport, he started telling me about this one flight he was on where the engines failed.  He was sure he was going to die.  I was sure that wasn’t a story you tell somebody while dropping them off at the airport.  If I were anybody else, I’d have probably started freaking out.  Instead, I laughed to myself about the morbid irony of the situation.

I parted ways with my five-minute friend, thanking him profusely for the favor.  I definitely need to return to Maui to get the full experience, but I’m counting this little stop as a visit.  And it was a great end cap to a fantastic trip home.  With almost two weeks of memories and much less money in my account, I was ready to hop on that last plane to Honolulu.

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Young Man Went West #29-A: Winter Trip Facebook Statuses, Unabridged (Pt. 1)

Day 1: HNL to OAK. Arrive @ 9:45 PST. Meet family at hotel in Concord and prepare for my grandma’s 100th birthday celebration tomorrow.

Unlike most trips I take to and from California, I flew into Oakland with company, my cousin Brad.  Managed to get the seat next to him, across the aisle.  It was a typical, uneventful flight, but that’s a good thing when it comes to air travel considering the alternative: screaming, crashing, flames, and death.  Instead, this one consisted of Sky Mall, sporadic naps, and most of Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (my laptop died before the last scene).  We arrived at Oakland Airport in the brisk, breezy night.  My body covered  with warm layers and a big smile, I was happy to be back in the Bay.

Day 2: Went straight from the airport to BART to a bar (and later a diner) with the cousins. Went to bed late, woke up early. Now, putting together a slideshow for my grandma’s 100th birthday celebration tonight.

Since all of our family was at a Hilton in the nearby city of Concord, Brad and I took a free shuttle from the airport to an Oakland BART station, and then took BART into Concord.  I would have liked to say that our older siblings were there shortly afterward to pick us up, but somehow they got lost along the way, which is surprising since they’ve each lived in or near Concord at some point in their lives.  It’s alright, they came bearing Taco Bell.

Instead of heading to the  hotel where I could have dropped off my unnecessarily large, half-filled suitcase (only one I had), we drove straight to a downtown bar where a dozen of our cousins were already drinking.  I’m not complaining; being a young traveler and a family-oriented man, this was a fantastic welcome!  Although, it was weird seeing so many old, white people in a bar (you know, everybody but my family), but that’s what happens when you live in Hawaii for fifteen months.  We capped the night at a 24-hour diner, overwhelming the other diners in sheer number and volume.  Never put a drunk Filipino family in a public place with a jukebox.

I made it to the hotel in the wee hours of the night.  My loving parents woke up just long enough to hug me hello before falling back asleep.

We woke up relatively early the next morning to start on preparations for that evening’s festivities.  My main job was to put together a slideshow of my grandmother to play while people shuffled into the ballroom.  Projects in hand, we all congregated in a top floor suite and buckled down to business for the next few hours.  It almost felt like a busy campaign office before an election, except instead of fliers and buttons we had too much food and dozens of relatives to hug hello.  Though we were all working hard for that one special someone: birthday girl Fausta Reyes Ramil.

Fausta Ramil a.k.a. Grandma a.k.a. Lola

Day 3: Crazy night with the family. 6 hours of celebration, including a 3-hour talent show and then dancefloor badness. After party included 50 tacos from Jack in the Box at 3 AM. Now, it’s time to fly to LA.

All the aunties, uncles, and cousins were dressed to the nines and down in the ballroom around 5 pm.  Surrounding the stage and dancefloor were twenty-two linen-covered tables, a DJ, and a bustling catering crew.  After some frantic family photos (with what seemed a less-than-enthusiastic photographer) we spread out to greet, organize, and mingle with the other guests: friends and family from grandma’s past and present.  In all, attendance was around two hundred people.

This is just the family. . . which made up for about half the guest list.

Of course, my family just can’t say a few words, move to dinner, and mingle all night.  Oh no, we had a well-scheduled, fourteen-act talent show filled with song, dance, skits, and my uncle’s version of “This Is Your Life!”  I think the guests not as familiar with my family were pleasantly surprised by Polynesian and Filipino dances, the multiple duets, and the big show numbers.  Either that, or they were too scared to move.

Dinner was served during the performances, and after all was digested and the last act took a bow, the party started.  Everybody–young and old, family or friend, born into the craziness or witnessing it for the first time–took to the dancefloor and busted many a groove.  During all three hours of this, my grandmother refused to go to bed.  At one hundred years young, she stayed up ’til midnight to watch her legacy celebrate in her honor.

When the DJ announced the last song of the night, my sister–cousin number fourteen and that evening’s event coordinator–came up with one of her best ideas.  After the song ended she had everybody make a huge circle on the dancefloor.  My Auntie Gloria wheeled grandma to the center and the DJ started playing one last song: Bette Midler’s “Wind Beneath My Wings,” a family favorite.  Auntie Gloria spun grandma around slowly as we all sang to her.  There was not a dry eye in that circle.

The old ones went to bed, while the young ones (and the old ones who still think they’re young) retreated to the common room for some debauchery and poker.  After a while we got hungry, and since nobody was delivering pizza, my cousin’s husband Scott and I made a late night run to Jack in the Box for fifty (“Yes, five-zero”) tacos.  We held up the drive-thru line long enough for some woman to get out of her car and yell at us and/or the graveshift workers.  Scott and I thought we were returning to at least ten hungry men, but instead found a room of about four or five, with another passed out on the floor.  We that remained did as much damage as we could to the greasy bags, but barely made it through twenty or so tacos.  My limit, I found out, was four (not because I was full, but because my body couldn’t handle that much questionable meat).

The next day, after a hearty breakfast and many hugs goodbye, I went back to Oakland Airport for the So Cal leg of my trip.

 

Dancing to one of our family favorites: "Come On, Eileen."

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Young Man Went West #23-C: California Chronicles, Part III

California Chronicles: Part III—Around the Bay and Beyond

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Glen Ellen (Camp Milagros) ∙ Livermore ∙ San Francisco

Camp officially ended around noon on Sunday, so I still had half that day plus the following three to see as many people in as many places as I could before leaving.  I slept almost the entire drive back home.  The power nap came in handy, as not long after I dropped my duffle of dirty clothes in the laundry room, my parents and I took off for San Francisco.  We were going to meet my sister and her boyfriend Amit at the Bubba Gump’s at Pier 39.  You’d think I’d want to take a break from that place during my time off, but my motive was two-fold: I wanted to see how easy it would be to try out my employee discount at another location, and a family dinner was my mom’s belated birthday gift, so it might as well be a half-priced dinner.  Fifty bucks for dinner for five ain’t bad at all.

After finding a sweet shirt at the market (a black retro tee my coworkers envy), we took our seat at a corner booth near the front.  Sitting in a different Bubba’s is a strange experience; everything is completely brand new yet strangely familiar at the same time.  I was in a parallel universe.

I’d told my family to not let the server know I was an employee because I wanted to see how his service compared to that at my location.  At first, I wasn’t impressed.  He came around half as often as I do, and didn’t start trivia until we asked.  I later found out that he was the bartender as well, so I forgave him.  Also, he had some good trivia questions.  When he realized I wasn’t answering until the questions were too hard for my dad and sister, he figured out that I was an employee.  He gave me the discount without asking for proof, and I gave him twenty percent, base rate for a server-to-server tip.

We parted ways with my sister and Amit after dinner, and my parents and I just strolled around Fisherman’s Wharf for a few hours.  It was great to talk with my parents, to see and smell the City, to wear layers.  It was great to be back.

My sister and me at Bubba Gump's in San Francisco

Monday, August 9, 2010

Berkeley ∙ Livermore

One half day in Berkeley was not enough, so I woke up Monday morning and hopped on BART to the Downtown Berkeley station on Shattuck.  First, I met up with Bianca and had pizza and beer at Jupiter’s.  Wait, I need to emphasize that: I had gourmet, brick oven pizza and locally-brewed beer at one of my favorite ale houses in Berkeley.  I was in heaven, and with good company.  Bianca, a fellow UC Berkeley Film Studies graduate, also works an entry-level job at a museum.  We met up with Nate afterwards, who graduated a year before me and is still on the job hunt.  Every friend I meet makes me feel better about my post-graduate situation, but worse about the trend in general.  At least we’re all in it together!

Two friends in tow, I headed to campus and met up with two more, Felicity and Taylor.  They’re still in school, so they’re all bright-eyed and hopeful about the future.  Just they wait.  We strolled through our lovely Alma Mater and past Memorial Stadium because I wanted to see the construction progress on the soon-to-be Student High Peformance Athletic Center.  Not much progress since I left, as expected.

After a quick bite at Gypsy’s, we dropped Bianca off at BART and explored a bit of North Berkeley.  For those unfamiliar with the area, North Berkeley is nice Berkeley.  It’s a clean, high-brow neighborhood home to more professors and less panhandlers.  In true North Berkeley style, we made our last stop a tea house terrace.  The weather was perfect, the tea was tasty, and we had a fun time pretending to be sophisticated.

I returned to Livermore that night in time for my childhood friend Matt’s 24th birthday party at none other than First Street Ale House.  The room was filled with a few familiar faces—namely Tasha, Casey, Justin, and Anna—but mostly strangers.  This was the social circle Matt developed over the past five years, and while he has these people and I have my college and Hawaii friends, we still came together like high school was yesterday.  He’s still the same old silly, caring, goofy, honest Matt with whom I grew up.  I hope I haven’t changed too much.

Bianca, Taylor, Nate, Felicity, and me around the Pappy Statue at UC Berkeley

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sacramento

I had known before I left Hawaii that I was going to spend significant time in Sacramento, not only because my sister lived there, but also (and mainly) because that’s where my college roommate Jake moved to after we graduated.  Jake, Lawrence, and I shared the same small living spaces for four years, and now we reside in three different time zones.  While I couldn’t take a detour to Chicago to visit Lawrence, I did have the opportunity to see Jake again, and I was definitely going to take it.  Jake joined my family for dinner at a classy beer and pizza place (notice a trend?) and then we attempted to catch an early screening of Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.  Although he won the tickets from the radio, they oversold the screening and we got there too late.  No worries though, the theater was a short walk from Old Sacramento and Jake’s new place of employment on the Delta King, a hotel-slash-restaurant on a boat.

My old friend gave me a tour of the boat and of Old Sac.  It’s an interesting little town, but not as interesting as the conversations we had, about anything and everything, as usual.  Jake and I operate on the same brainwaves, no pretenses, no social walls, no awkward silences.  It was refreshing.  Too bad Lawrence couldn’t be there.

I got to see the apartment he lives in with his longtime girlfriend, Jessi.  It was definitely cleaner than our digs in Berkeley, and was furnished with a giant TV and two awesome cats.  After joining my sister and her friends for a couple drinks downtown, he took me to a bar across the street from his place and we split a pitcher of beer over foosball and pool.  A simple good time with a simply great friend.

Jake, Jessi, and their two cats--Lucius Vorenus and Niobe--in their Sacramento apartment

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Sacramento ∙ Lotus ∙ San Francisco

I spent the night on Jake and Jessi’s couch, falling asleep to TMNT.  We finished the Ninja Turtles movie the next morning and then went out for breakfast.  There are never sad goodbyes with Jake and I, just see-you-laters.  And I will.  Hell, he’s half-serious about moving to Seattle when I do.

I had plans to see some friends in San Francisco, but seeing as I was so close to Lotus, my dad suggested I first stop by there to see my grandma.  Lotus is about an hour northeast of Sac, but two hours back to Livermore.  Still, I went.

When I got there, it was only grandma, Uncle Junior, and Auntie Tessy.  I saw “only” because I’m used to that house filled with ten to eighty people.  It was like visiting an amusement park during the offseason.  My auntie and uncle were glad to see me and asked me tons of questions while forcing me to eat.  I declined food four or five times before giving in.  It’s hard to say no when your relative is already making you a plate.

The house is in a constant state of renovation, and besides a well-tended garden, the newest additions to the Lotus house were a poolside bamboo nipa hut and matching tiki bar.  Our family parties are going to amazing!

The Nipa Hut and Tiki Bar at our house in Lotus

After about an hour of eating unnecessarily and watching Filipino game shows, I headed back to Livermore, took a shower, and drove to the BART station to catch a train to the Mission District.  When I got there, my friend Juliana was finishing up work and Nate was still on his way over, so I had some time to just wander around the Mission solo for a bit.  I’d never really explored this area beyond the taquerias, but got excited as I imagined myself living there in five to ten years.  It’s an interesting neighborhood filled with impressive street art, small bars, and an abundance of Mexican restaurants.  I put it on my “to move to” list

I finally met up with my friends at Juliana’s super nice, very San Francisco-y house, and by that I mean a house that looks tall and small in the front, but extends quite far back.  We had some Mission Mexican food while I ranted about Hawaii’s problems (namely, how it lacks a rail system, recycling programs, and available girls).  I love the island, but not as much as complaining about it in front of people who so desperately want to go.  My ranting quieted a bit when my torta al pastor came out.  It wasn’t as good as what I scarfed down daily in Mexico, but it was far better than anything I could find in Hawaii (another thing it’s lacking).

Nate and I hit a bar for a bit to give Juliana some time to study as she’s one of my few friends that actually does school work.  She still hasn’t learned the art of studying just enough to BS your way through a class.  She must have graduated from Berkeley the hard way.  By the time we got back to her house, Juliana was ready for a break, so we played Clue.  Board games are such simple pleasures; I don’t know why people don’t play as often.  A few hours and YouTube videos later, Juliana was ready for more reading so Nate and I headed back to our respective homes.  We said our goodbyes and took off into the night.

Juliana shows off her awesome apron in her San Francisco house

***

Revisiting California was a refreshing break from monotony.  I soaked in my ability to recycle, to wear jackets, to drive 80+ miles per hour.  As I left those things behind, I took with me the knowledge that no matter how far I move or for how long, I will always have friends and family in Califoria ready to welcome me back home, hopefully over some pizza and beer.

FIN

Sigh, I guess it was time to leave California and come back to this. . .

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YMWW #12: Year in Review

Thursday, December 31, 2009

(Originally posted on Facebook)

Typhoons devastated the Western Pacific Ocean. A recession crippled US economy. Michael Jackson died, as did Tiger Woods’ career. 2009 was not the best year for the world entire, but this blog is about me, and to me, 2009 rocked! Here’s a review of the events that had me saying, “Oh yeah!” in Oh-Nine:

Went Out with a Bang. 2009 was destined to be a hallmark year for no other reason than that it is my college graduation year. My four years at UC Berkeley were the greatest I’ve ever had, my senior year being the best, that last semester being the best of the best. Academically, I was on easy street with ten units (the minimum number of units one can take per semester is 13, unless you were a Senior with a good excuse. . . like I was). Four units came from a class on sound in film, as taught by an Academy award-winning sound editor (Mark Berger), another four came from an awesomely random “History of Canada” class, and the last two from my class on Firefly. Yes, that’s right, I got college credit for studying a cult sci-fi television show.

Socially, I was having the time of my life. Since my officer position in the UC Rally Committee really ended with the football season, I was more or less relieved of responsibility by 2009. My closest friends in Rally Comm had given up on it, so I had more time to see them after Winter Break. I also had more time to spend with people from my film classes, usually on film shoots. I made a bunch of film friends my senior year, and often wondered if I should have left Rally Comm earlier. Wondered, yes, regretted not doing so, no. My rule is that if you like where you are in the present, regret nothing in the past, for all those things had to happen get you where you are. Still, spending more time with film people was refreshing.

The weeks around the time of finals and graduation were a blur of bittersweet celebration. They were filled with studying and partying, saying “bye” to old friends and saying “I wish I met you sooner” to new ones, closing out one chapter of my life and hoping for the best in the new one. I was proud to be a graduate, but sad to have graduated.

Summer of Win. After graduating, I stayed in Berkeley for the summer to intern for the sci-fi independent film In-World War. It was a lot of work for no pay; by “a lot of work” I mean ten- to 14-hour consecutive days for three weeks, and by “no pay” I mean that all I received was college credit, and that didn’t balance out the money I spent on BART fares and random props. Still, it was one of the most enjoyable and educational experiences of my life. I learned more about film-making than I did in my four years at Berkeley, and made quite a few friends along the way. Also, I have legitimate film credit as a Production Assistant, Assistant Casting Director, and Second Assistant Director (spread the word, wink wink). Though the film should be finished about a year from now, my involvement with it is done. I’ll never forget my summer on the set of In-World War.

Principle photography wrapped in July, the same time Comic-Con International returned to San Diego. Being a nerd surrounded by nerds all summer, it was inevitable that I make the pilgrimage to nerd mecca. Comic-Con is the largest and most popular comic book convention in the world, which showcases upcoming events in the world of comic books, films, television shows and video games. Felicity was my inside connection, and Leslie, Jean, Tommy, and Taylor were my posse. Comic-Con was the draw, but the road trip down south, the random visit to Sea World, and the awesome nights around town were what made the whole experience memorable. I hope to do it again next year.

My summer was rounded out with a return stint as a counselor at Camp Milagros, a wonderful, week-long sleep-over camp in Sonoma Valley for children with juvenile arthritis and other related diseases. I had a lot more fun my second time around since I was familiar with the camp and therefore had the confidence to be a leader. I hope to return after next year’s Comic-Con. I’ll be sure to bring more comic books this time around (apparently they’re key in calming down 8-year-olds with ADD).

I Went West. And you know the rest. . .

So, 2009 was one hell of a year, but now it’s time to say good-bye. I hope 2010 (pronounced “twenty-ten,” don’t you forget!) will bring as much good fortune and fun as did its predecessor. I’m already starting it out right by having—for the first time in my life—a New Year’s Resolution: find a new job. I’ll let you know how that goes (my second resolution is to write in this blog weekly, or at the very least, bi-weekly).

Do any of you have a New Year’s Resolution worth mentioning?

HAU’OLI MAKAHIKI HOU! (Happy New Year!)

What does this picture have to do with New Year’s? Um, she’s leaning on a ball. A ball drops in New York.

Yeah, that works.

EDITOR’S NOTE: I completely forgot about another major event in my 2009—I got laser eye surgery! Now, I have nearly 20/15 vision in both eyes, and going to the beach is no hassle at all.

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