TAMING THE MONSTER

k9457916Things are often not exactly as they seem… or so it seems… It was something right out of a movie. It felt almost like heaven, or at least what I imagine heaven  might be… The Pacific Ocean breeze tickled the sizzling skin as it danced by in rhythm with the towering and crashing waves.

The waves collided with the golden beach – spreading out flat and low as it reached for the toes of the scads of folks soaking up the famous Southern California rays. Small children frolicked in the shallows, getting pummeled by the innocent looking surf. They’d squeal in delight and get back up for the next round… only to get knocked off their tiny feet again and again.

About twenty yards out, around the area in the ocean where the waves reach their crest, just before their denouement, the boogie boarders ride the untamed water speeding toward the shore and strive to steer around the wee ones there. All this while the seagulls are undeterred a few feet above the uneven surface in search of lunch.

Beyond them, between the end of the earth and the distant ships on whiskey colored horizon are the surfers. They don’t ride the sea swells, they catch the monster waves by the tail then crawl up their backs and stand on top of the monster waves as conquering kings and queens of the sea.

The bravest of the surfers swing around the front side of the monster wave’s head and dance just in front of it’s mouth, taunting the sea as they race for the safety of the sand.

The scene looks serene, peaceful. The manmade floating devices being pushed by the power of the sea toward rest and safety. No wonder the place was so packed… like a sardine can.

Against my better judgment, I decided to join the seaside soiree. The water was colder than I expected – made me shiver as the sweat on my spine turned to ice. The bottom of my feet found a sharp rock that almost dropped me… No turning back. I pushed and fought my way out into the surf as the waves blasted me and my boogie board with body shots. I quickly remembered to hold the board over head and turn sideways to lessen that blows and setbacks toward shore.

When I did finally get far enough out to tame the monster I paddled toward land like a train robber gallops toward a caboose, grabbed both sides of the front of my board and rode the monster in. It spit me toward shore like I was Jonah. My legs and feet hanging off the undersized board scraped rocks and sand leaving skin in the sea as payment for it’s use along with a twisting dump that had me struggling to hang on to the board.

I finally trudged out of the surf in defeat, salt running from my sand packed sinuses… the monster unfazed and far from tamed.

That’s how many things are in this life. Things look fun, easy, and innocent, and we believe that we have the means to tame the creation… kinda like roping the wind… We jump in head first, believing or wishing for the best… The bruises, sometimes physically, sometimes spiritually, we carry with us for a time – the memories forever.

Like this newly torn rotator cuff that should be a good reminder for a while to come. Me getting a grasp on the horns of wisdom is a little like taming that monster wave…

Maybe next time… Getting another chance to do things right is a gift from the hand of the Almighty, don’t you think?

If I can’t get a handle on the wave… there’s zero chance I’m going to get one on the grace of God…

 

THE BEAUTY OF SIMPLE

is09a65cfIt’s different down there; in a way that doesn’t make sense, but things rarely do in this upside down world. It’s downtown and it’s old. People down there have a different lifestyle, a simpler one. One of the oldest bicycle stores in the city is down there and it just happened to have the only women’s bike that my wife had been looking for in the entire city. A bike shop in that community didn’t make sense to me… at first glance anyway.

The single silver aluminum framed glass front door jingled as it opened into world that was timeless. It was like stepping through the window of time back into the sixties. The cement floor was worn smooth by foot traffic over the decades and the low ceiling that at one time had been white was now tinted yellow by Father time and cigarettes when they were legal inside a public building.

“Afternoon!” one of the five men working called from behind the splintered paneling flanked counter. The white formica top was black in spots along the edges where all the elbows from all the generations leaning there had stolen the finish little by little unknowingly.

While the tired building reflected a past all but gone, the young men working there reminded me that I hadn’t slipped into the Twilight Zone by their dress and accessories; namely the earrings in their spreading earlobes that you could fit a penny through. They weren’t the only ones – the customers matched and made us look like the outsiders.

It didn’t take more than a few minutes to realize that my assumption about the little bicycle shop being over staffed was dead wrong. Although there was only one other vehicle besides ours in the tiny parking lot that was just a thin sidewalk and a curb from the glass front faced shop, the place was hopping with business.

I had plenty of time to observe the folks and the interactions while my wife test drove bikes, helmet, and jerseys. I learned it cost twenty two dollars and eighteen cents, with tax, to get a flat tire fixed with the the heavy duty thorn resistant tube.

I also noticed that those people that live with far less than the ones in my neighborhood, minus the tattoos and earrings, are in better shape. But the main thing I noticed was how friendly, mannerly, and genuinely happy they seemed.

“How’d you pop it?” I asked the mid thirties man that was built like a linebacker and had the face and aura of the perfect TV show serial killer.

“A pothole,” he chuckled.

“Bummer,” I shook my head.

“Yeah, it was four thirty this morning on my way to work and I just didn’t see it,” he lamented and added, “It’s my fourth one in two months.”

The kid fixed his bike and gave him the “That’ll be twenty two dollars and eighteen cents, please,” line that I’d become accustomed to. The burly bicyclist counted out the exact change and graciously thanked the kid for his help. He then turned to me and offered with a genuine smile and nod of his close shaved head, “Have a great day, sir.”

“I will, thank you… and you too,” I told him. He thanked me and told me that he would. “And watch out for those potholes, huh?” I called to him.

He laughed, nodded, and answered, “I’ll try!” as he exited the silver door with the year round Christmas bell on the handle.

We tend to strive for so much, we forget how much we already have.

We use words like, “please”, “thank you”, and “love” so often out of habit that they’re stripped of their true definitions and heart…. until you hear and see someone use them with magical simplicity and power that we’ve forgotten how to.

 

THE BLIND MIRROR

k8155973We have a fair amount of mirrors in our home, but I don’t spend a lot of time in front of any of them. It’s probably for the best that my eyes aren’t as spry as they used to be. I do spend enough time to see myself, what I look like anyway. What I see in the reflection of a mirror is what I strive for my reflection to be, and it goes far beyond the lines around the eyes that look back through me and into my soul.

The mirror can’t see beyond flesh and it reflects the lies we feed it.

We all tend to judge others we meet on a daily basis by what we see and precisely what the mirror shows, but that can’t begin to tell the story of a life that we can only grasp with our senses. Those senses, while miraculous, can be to easily fooled. We learn to be masters of portrayal over the course of our lives… but it only lasts as long as our tongue and actions are hidden from the light.

“Watch Bill over there, he can be a bit nasty,” I said in jest. The couple of people around chuckled, I could tell they were feeling a little bad for Bill who’d been standing innocently close by when I drug him into the sarcastic foray.

Bill’s a good natured guy and just laughed and played along, “Yeah, that’s me – it’s just part of being in this rowdy crowd,” he agreed.

We all smiled or laughed at the light humor of the day. As I was leaving I took aim and tossed one more sarcastic grenade. I motioned in Bill’s direction, “Well keep an eye on him, he’s tough, not near as kind or gentle as me,” I chuckled at my humor.

While I appreciate bringing smiles to other people’s faces as well as an occasional laugh, I was taken back by the gut bustin’ laughter that exploded from the targets at whom I’d lobbed the sarcastic laced grenade. I’d meant the comment to be amusing, even funny, but not hilarious.

If I were a comedian I might have been gratified. “See you guys tomorrow,” I said smiling and exchanging pleasantries. I thought about the response as I strolled away, the smile replaced by a pinched brow. It’s funny how the perception we have of ourselves, the ones we work so hard to represent, don’t always match up with the perceptions that others have of us after they get past our front cover; the mirror…

While I wouldn’t use the term “gentle” to describe myself, I feel like I have somewhat of a gentle spirit. But what we are on the inside tends to speak for us and make up the true image that the mirror can’t hide. Beautiful, handsome, fine, none of those things can be seen in the mirror… Those attributes are measured from the inside.

The mirror is blind…

 

A WOBBLY WEEKEND

k9401564I didn’t want to drive… but my wife insisted on driving over to the coast so she could take her bicycle to peddle up and down Highways 1. She left on a Thursday and I flew to catch up with her the following Saturday. When she picked me up from the airport she asked me, “Can you hear that sound?” while turning down the radio. Those are code words for big trouble. If she can hear something on a vehicle, it’s much too, too late.

“Yeah,” I answered, “That’s bad – real bad… That’s metal on metal and means the rotors are shot and we shouldn’t be driving this.” My wife told me the youngest, who’s been driving the SUV, mentioned something to her about the brakes a while back… I told her I wish someone would have mentioned it to me…

We found a mechanic shop and drove straight there. Out of state plates with an emergency… not a good hand of cards to be dealt. The owner of the shop with his thick black mustache and accent chuckled like a professional poker player. It’s never good when strangers in that scenario refer to you as their “Buddy”.

We took a cab back to the house and decided to boogie board on the biggest waves of the year in the Pacific. The other old SUV that is officially referred to as “mine” was waiting for me with problems of his own; a low tire. Really low, but I’ve come to expect the unexpected and was prepared.

I wrestled the compressor, air hose, air chuck, and electrical cord away from the spiders and filled up the tired tire. All the while I was spitting cobwebs from my mouth and pawing them off my face and head like a clumsy bear.

I didn’t think much about my shoulder just six months out of major surgery until after I’d been knocked down and arm barred by the tag team of wicked Pacific waves. I was nursing the cuts on my ankles from the collision with the shoreline before I realized we were running behind in our race with the clock and the closing of a Fedex office I’d never been to… No fear, I’ve never been shy of using all the available horse power to cheat time…

According to my wife’s cell phone I knew we were close to the Fedex office with about five minutes before the big hand struck twelve and the little one covered up the five. I gunned the big V-10 off a red light to get over into the right turn lane ahead when I heard the old familiar sound of a tired tire giving up the ghost.

I slowed as the oversized SUV loped on the blown rear driver’s side tire. I made the turn and kept creeping forward until the rim and pavement chewed through the rubber. I wheeled it over tight to the curb, hit the flashers and we started jogging toward the Fedex office.

On the way home the highway patrolman just the Arizona side of the Colorado River and border finished crossing the “T’s” and dotting the “I’s” on my punching bag of a weekend with a speeding ticket…

There are days we call “good” and days we refer to as “bad”. Sometimes it takes really hard days to put things into a proper perspective.

There was a time I’d have cussed a day or weekend like that and swore it was a plan hatched in the devil’s kitchen…I’ve had enough real life days in this fallen world to know that it was a taxing and expensive weekend… but not a bad one.

Each day is a gift… I just forget and need to be reminded sometimes…

It was a wobbly weekend, but a good one to be sure…

 

AN AUGUST NIGHT

x12537277My memory serves me fairly well, like most of us I’d say, but sometimes I need a reminder. I got one during a chameleon August night this year.

It rained cats and dogs when I was a kid, not often, but when it did, the tears from heaven were unleashed with fury on the dusty desert floor.

It’s easy to forget that the desolate washes, or what some folks in the Southwest call “arroyos”, are there for a reason. Tender footed folks chuckle at the street signs that say, “Do not cross when flooded.” I don’t blame em’, it seems harmless.

I’ve seen cars taken by the raging rivers in the middle of a normally dry desert and washed along like a leaf in a tornado. I’ve also witnessed eighteen wheeled trucks treated like Tonka Toys, but that was a long time ago.

We sat on the back patio deep into the normally punishing Arizona August night, that doesn’t happen too often, but then neither does the torrential and cool summer rain visit us like it did when I was still a kid.

August in Arizona is the peak of summer time and the blues that accompany it, but not that particular August night. That night was magical. The lightening lit the sky for an instant on and off all night like a young angel in heaven was playing with the light switch. The thunder shook the house and rattled the ground like a stampede of heavenly cattle being herded across the sky just the other side of the snarling rain clouds.

The place we call home is often referred to as “The devil’s bedroom,” where the temperatures can hover around the triple digit mark even after the sun clocks out for the day. That night God brought Oregon south for a visit.  The temperature was in the sixties. It was so cool that my wife asked me to fetch her a blanket.

The torrential waters falling from above seemed more like it was being shot from a heavenly sized water cannon. We watched in wonder and awe, enjoying the show and evening. The constant and steady patter of the damaging rain eventually rocked my wife to sleep, despite the record setting amount of rain fall in the relatively flat Valley Of The Sun.

My wife was fast asleep, curled up in the chair, swaddled in the blanket, sleeping in comfort and safety that is  promised from the One that designed the world in which we walk.

The miracles that we witness over and over in our lives we tend to take for granted. It would be easy to explain a cold August night in Arizona scientifically, but that won’t explain where the wind originates or the Power behind the perpetual motion that protects our delicate world.

The earth does indeed “Declare His majesty” and sovereignty over what belongs to God… including a cold and rainy August night in the Arizona desert. Along with the His loved ones sleeping through it.

WHISKEY FOR BREAKFAST

k5928024“Can I get you something to drink to start; coffee? juice?” the animated and bright eyed waitress with the matching uniform like everybody else in the pseudo French restaurant asked.

Sometimes, well, often really, I talk without thinking. The tall brunette waitress happened to be working in the bar area, which I guess makes her the bartender. That area has heavy and dark wood wainscoting with old red brick on the walls above it. It’s the perfect setting I like to contemplate or maybe write if I can steal a few moments in time.

“Uhhhmmmm,” I pondered aloud, looking at her and glancing over her shoulder, “Whiskey – Make it a double – Straight up,” I answered. She looked at me with a question in her friendly and customer service oriented eyes. She was stumped. It was morning and and I was ordering alcohol in what’s really a family restaurant.

She smiled kindly, awkward for a few moments until my smile gave it away. “Coffee and water, please,” I said chuckling, probably a little too amused with my pathetic humor. She told me later that occasionally folks will order alcohol in the mornings. I shared with her I couldn’t drink whiskey, and it didn’t matter what time of day.

Over the next several months I’d stop in now and then after physical therapy for my shoulder and sit in my section and read or scribble while waiting for breakfast. Not always, but on occasion I’m a people person. Each person is a story. Sometimes I learn by watching, but more often from talking.

The young lady wasn’t as young as she looked. She has sons; football players in high school. One of them may be headed to play in college. She’s proud, lights up when she talks about her boys. I get that.

“Whiskey this morning, sir?” she asked me on more than a couple of visits.

“You know, I think I’ll just have coffee today,” I answered once. Another time I told her, “No thanks, I’ve already had a fifth for breakfast,” she laughed.

In time she asked what I was writing, “A book?” with some sarcasm thrown in for good measure. She was surprised when I told her that in fact that’s exactly what I was writing. Eventually I told her about this site, told her if she got herself parked in front of a computer to look it up. I didn’t press her, but during one of my frequent fuel ups she told me, “I really enjoyed your posts!”On another occasion she told me she read a bunch of the archives and so did her friend.

My site isn’t fancy, but it does point to the Almighty and His sovereignty here on planet earth. Not all of us are called to preach, but all of us are called to ministry in one form or another. We’ve all been gifted one way or the other to share the Truth of our faith.

The waitress or bartender still chuckles about the whiskey comment I made.

She told me lemon for my water and the extra cream for their stout coffee were my “training wheels”.

I laughed and told her that was a good one.

It’s hard to imagine all the treasures we miss in life by not learning the stories of the lives put smack in the middle of ours.

A CHANCE ENCOUNTER?

The famous Millers Folly. Courtesy of Kelly Schulte.

The famous Millers Folly. Courtesy of Kelly Schulte.

Brad was busy so I tried to slip out without distracting him. He’s been running the front to that Italian restaurant for so long that he’s either developed a sixth sense or has grown eyes in the back of his head. With the front door quietly opened and me about half way out, thinking I’d slipped out undetected, I heard Brad call out, “See ya, Floyd – Thanks!”

I paused and turned, “Thanks, Brad – see you next week,” I answered.

About half way to my car in the dim lit parking lot I heard a woman’s voice behind me, “Floyd? – Floyd Samons?”

I turned to see her, “Yeah,” I answered as she quickly walked toward me.

“It’s Kelly Schulte!” she announced.

“Kelly Schulte? Are you kiddin’ me?” I asked in complete surprise already knowing full well it was the same girl I’d known pretty near my entire life.

We hugged like long lost family. Funny how people we’ve known almost all of our lives, and the ones that treated us as such, do feel like kin.

“I thought that might be you, and when I heard Brad call your name, I knew it had to be you,” Kelly said. We chatted, trying to give each other the readers digest condensed version of our lives standing in the tiny parking lot if front of and Italian restaurant two hundred miles from where we grew up. The spot we both just happened to be eating at that particular night and at the exact time…

Her big brother, the one famous in our town for his baseball skills, was killed in a car accident… I hadn’t heard…

Kelly had heard about my dad passing. We offered one another sincere condolences.

We talked about the endless days spent on her parents famous boat, “The Millers Folly”, the Mississippi paddle wheel replica boat that was unmistakable and the only one like it on Lake Havasu. I can still remember the bright red wooden slatted wheel slapping the water, engine humming, pushing us slowly across the waters of the Colorado River.

We would jump off the second floor of the good ship, Kelly’s brother throwing a football to us with pinpoint accuracy. They’d feed and water us, their neighbor, my friend Hank and I, like we belonged to them.

I asked how her mom and dad were, where they were, and how they were doing. I told Kelly how special those days were to me when we were young, the warm Arizona days when we hovered around the sixth grade mark for what seemed like a lifetime.

Kelly reminded me how much trouble she and I got into during school. I’d forgotten that… Funny how we see ourselves in hindsight better than other folks do in reality. The alphabetical seating landed our desks smack next to each other in all the classes that we shared.

We talked, passed notes, and broke just about every rule they laid out in front of us, but we weren’t so good at not getting caught at it. There was no one to keep Kelly and me from talking and catching up in the parking lot after a chance meeting at a small Italian restaurant in a city with over four million people.

I’m reminded how much value memories have and how much more valuable the ones we made them with are. But mostly I’m reminded that there are no coincidences in this life…

A COMPROMISING POSITION

k11881857He wasn’t really a king, not even close to royalty really, but he liked the sound of it and what it represented if someone else was hailing him as such. We didn’t announce it willingly, it was forced on us via torture if need be. How the title of royalty came to be was a transformation of sorts, evolution if you will. It started as standard communication, just the bare basics of a traditional surrender.

With my body parts in the right unforgiving position, another, usually my oldest brother, would ask, “You give?” Depending on the day and the amount of pain I’d be enduring, I’d calculate the possibilities of an escape or of the potential pain and possible bone break and I’d answer in a variety of ways.

“No!” was an option, usually short lived, and after more pressure was applied the dreaded words of defeat uttered with regret, “I give…” filled the air and brought about peace… physically anyway.

“I give” morphed into, “Uncle”, which for some reason seemed even more mocking than “I give”, but that didn’t hold a candle to the term my big brother cleverly devised eventually. The new form of admitting defeat took an admirable surrender to a more humiliating level, one that implied a depth below an honorable soldier to one of peasant status.

I muttered the dire words, “King Dean” to my oldest brother more times that I cared to or can even recollect.

With enough years and defeats things began to change ever so slowly. I got bigger and stronger, but more importantly I became more determined not to give in, to surrender my pride any longer. And while I was getting harder, my big brother was getting softer, not physically, but mentally, at least with his little brother.

A grueling battle and much of his furniture in his little apartments destroyed in the process, and on way more than one occasion, it would come down to me being pinned, choked, joint locked, or in some type of pain and compromising position while my big brother commanded me, “Say it!”

I’d said “King Dean” so often in life up to that point that I decided I didn’t want to utter the humble words ever again. I was prepared to let him break whatever he had in his clutch. He squeezed harder. I gritted my teeth, bracing against the pain and the worst of it as he yelled even louder, “Say it!!!”

“Never!” I hollered back with conviction.

Dean didn’t really want to hurt me and he’d eventually let me up, usually mumbling about me being extra stupid. I on the other hand wasn’t quite so forgiving after a childhood of humility. When I got the rare opportunity to have my big brother in a compromising  position, I showed him zero mercy, insisting on the title of royalty post haste.

“Say it! – King Floyd! Say it!” I commanded my subject. He’d try to hold out, but my compassion and mercy were no where to be found, only my pride was present, and if I didn’t hear my royal title in short order… it was bone breaking time…

Most of us though older still desire a title, respect, or recognition, and we’ll go to extremes to get it.

Pride is like a cancer being fed sugar; the more it gets the more it devours… and like a young and dumb kid, it doesn’t care who it hurts…

Trying to fulfill a soul from the outside in this world is kinda like trying to drown a fish…

CHEATING DEATH

k10875429Knowing where I was didn’t stop my soul from almost jumping out of my body when I heard the metallic cough of an M-16 less than a half a click from me. I watched and the enemy returned fire immediately, four rapid shots, a Soviet made AK-47. They were just below the surface of the Middle Eastern sand in a makeshift bunker – not a lot of protection from either ride.

My mind was processing the grim reality playing out right before my eyes so quickly it all seemed to be happening in slow motion. I saw the grenade tossed toward the Marine who opened fire just down and to the right from our God forsaken sandy position. He was crouched behind a burned out dump truck, the stocky smudged faced kid saw it too and was moving post haste toward my position.

The air was filled with ear breaking gun shots and metal as the searing sand danced in close proximity to the soldier who was fast approaching my reporter’s safe zone and bunker.

It’s amazing how fast the mind can generate thoughts, as quickly as the half a dozen plus Islamic soldiers could fire their semi-automatic weapons.

I didn’t blame the kid for running to the next closest shelter, it was the only option he had to save his life, but he was bringing the enemy  fire with him, and my position offered a somewhat questionable grace from the enemy… we were completely unarmed…

I knew my death wouldn’t keep all of those firing their rifles from a good night’s sleep, if it happened by chance or otherwise.

Three more what I think were Marines seemed  to appear like a mirage rising to life up and out of the sand returning fire to help protect their comrade until he reached safety. The grenade ignited the silt and shook the earth with vengeance. An RPG, (rocket propelled grenade) ripped toward the soldier and exploded right beside the head of the youngster… tearing the helmet and skull with fury…

Just as soon as that registered, the haunting sound of the RPG tearing the sky flashed in my direction, and just as the stocky smudged faced Marine landed in the bunker. Instinctually we both moved as hard and fast as we could, each leg pushing against the giving sand trying to outrun death.

I made it out first, but the repercussion slammed me to the sand that suddenly didn’t feel so giving. It sent the Marine airborne the height of a semi-tractor trailer and further in distance.

I got up to run but found my world spinning and  surrounded by the sneering enemy, I had no means of protection as they filled the young Marine with bullets with not a hint of mercy.

I was breathing like a fish out of water, my heart pounding in my ears like gunshots as I woke from my dream…

It didn’t take but a few air gasping minutes of pondering and catching my breath in the dark of night to interpret my dream; I and we often walk voluntarily into harms way spiritually and physically while willfully forfeiting the protection of our Father.

This life is a battle, even if it is unseen to our senses. When we fight it in and of ourselves in this flesh, pain and death is imminent.

Wisdom travels behind the hand and grace of God…

A ONE TON LEAF

k15631996“If some is good, then more is better.” I don’t know who said it, but we’ve all heard it, maybe even subscribed to that philosophy without even knowing it at times in life. Most of us realize how shallow the adage is, but we tend to buy into it with our actions, often slipping over the line into the “More is better” camp without grasping it.

The peculiar thing about pushing for more is that it’s generally valid necessities of life that are good and worthy desires to strive for… until they take the place of wisdom and honor. Even the good things can become idols. Some of us have to fight harder to strike a balance in our lives and I’m no stranger to obsessive behavior.

The twentieth of this month marked my four year anniversary of posting on this site. It’s been amazing. I’ve interacted with others, I’ve learned from others, been encouraged, and have tried to encourage as well. I’ve become part of a world that most of the others in this world don’t even know exists.

I’ve connected with believers, created relationships that have touched my life and soul in ways that only our sovereign Father could orchestrate. In the process we’ve sacrificed time for one another, one of the most precious gifts we’re given in this physical world. I can’t express how much it’s meant to me.

Like most conditions, even the honorable things can be given too much attention and it steals from our loved ones what we’re called to give them if we’re being mindful of our surroundings.

I’ve sacrificed time from my family when it hasn’t been prudent to, from business when it hasn’t been wise to. You’d think this leaf was made of solid steel and ten feet long as hard as I’ve struggled to turn it over, but it’s really the weight of a feather. It’s only the pride and desire that are overweight.

I’ll be cutting back a bit on posting and from reading and commenting at other sites as well. While it doesn’t make sense, I find it difficult to make the change, but then the hardest things are usually the most needed. For those that continue to visit, please don’t feel obligated to leave a comment.

Thank you for all you’ve given of yourself and your wisdom; you, I truly appreciate.

Words are peculiar things… It’s been said that they are more powerful than an atomic bomb. I think that’s true. Proof of that is John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God… and the Word was God.”

May our words bring honor to the Creator of them and all things.

God bless.

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