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Job/house hunting on the Piscataqua w/ no clutch to live free or die making pneumatic valves (Aug 97)


[9 April 2021> Back to transcribing our journals, picking up from July 1997 in Savannah... we thought we spent at least a summer in Georgia but looks like by beginning of August we'd split north...]

August 2, 1997 — Waynesboro (Gettysburg), PA
Passed over the Mason-Dixon line, guess I'm officially a Yankee now. Let's see, when did I last write? The shithole of Daytona. Hmmm. Guess the week started out as planned, but I guess it was monday night that [our bedder-½] was stressing about getting a post office box set-up and she was going through all this trouble, and it occurred to me— why don't I just go up early? Can't stand my job anyway. So next day I gave Jeff notice. He conveniently left for Birmingham that afternoon. Did GPS most of the week which was good, no new rashes or bites to speak of. It was hot as hell until Thursday when it rained all day and got cold. Bizarre weather. Of course our bedder-½ started packing everything once it was decided I would go early.
     Didn't work Friday, Thursday was my last day. Stressing big time about whether I'd even get paid. Had to get on Jeff's case til he would send it FedEx, but I haven't seen or cashed the check yet, so I still am not sure. Have my fingers crossed. So sick of untrustworthiness, or just all-around lack of respect and justice in this world... and I'm a white guy, can't imagine how hard it is for dark-skinner people. I think the south had its toll on me. I'd like to attribute a lot of it to the south and "Slow"vannah. We'll see, now I'm officially out of the south. So yah, Friday I fixed a flat tire, picked up a U-haul (which of course was a pain, fucked up reservation, etc.) got $1500 in cash which should cover first and last month, and bedder-½ should leave with another $1500 or so (assuming I get paid and we get our deposit back).  She's coming by plane. I packed the U-haul. Bought a suit early in the week, which I put on and walked over to Joe Bean's. bedder-½ forgot her keys so she couldn't lock up, so I sped-walk back to the house. Speed walking/ sprinting in the muggy oppressive weather had taken its toll on my shirt so I had to change.
 The reason we were dressing up was to go to the First City Club. Jamie (one of Jeff's old boyfriends) gave bedder-½ an invitation for a free dinner and bottle of wine for both of us. It was ultra-fancy, definitely the fanciest and most pretentious restaurant I've ever been to. We were being served on by a half-dozen people— they would put your napkin on your lap, everything was a big ritualistic ordeal. Jamie himself prepared the Caesar salad table-side. Each entree two waiters would come out and put on white gloves. They would lay both our plates down exactly simultaneous, along with a fork, in a very peculiar fashion hard to describe in words but it was like they were robots. In between the salad and main course we were brought a little scoop of sorbet (to clear the palate I presume), oh yah, and we were also brough these funky appetizer things that I wasn't sure how to eat. And of course a bottle of wine, the whole rigmarole, smell the cork, taste a dash, etc.. . when they brought the entrees out (crab cakes for bedder-½ , some sort of chicken for me) they were covered (they brought them out with the white glove ritualistic pretense, of course). Then they simultaneously lifted the lids and held them slightly up towards us for a few seconds before removing them—all meticulously and precisely executed. Coffee and champagne, tiramisu, the works, . . .the menu said we didn't have to tip but we left a 20 anyway. A great way to end our stay in Savannah, sort of a counter-compliment to the experience as a whole, I mean something that was free, where we served upon with respect and great service, where we weren't get scammed or ripped off, it was the opposite of all our other Savannah experiences. And it was a great way to start this new existence, a transition. Woke up and packed up everything including the bed. bedder-½ is going to be left with nothing, she's basically camping out in the house. Sleeping on the floor, etc. Took her to Joe Beans and had a final breakfast before she opened and then a sad departure.
      John told me I couldn't bring the trailer on the Jersey turnpike so I headed out 26 thru Columbia, South Carolina and then 77 through Charlotte. Things didn't get interesting until Virginia. The monotonous flat, swampy canopy gave way to rolling hills and then what actually might be called mountains. Not so much the topography but you can see rocks and stuff sticking out of the ground. I miss rocks. There was breaks in the scenery and it wasn't so humid. It was refreshing. The Trooper struggled up the steeper grades lugging the loaded trailer. But these grades are nothing compared to Arizona or Colorado, that's for sure. West Virginia went by very quickly and Maryland even quicker. The states are getting smaller. Don't have much left for tomorrow.

August 7, 1997 —Newington, NH
Portsmouth! The beginning of a new era. I've been so wrapped up in securing a place and a job that I haven't gone out to see much, but what I see from the road is... I can't find the words for it. I should write more often to capture my emotion swings. I am done with phase I and am into phase II... Phase I being finding a place to stay.
     It wasn't easy. Just finding a hotel room in Portsmouth under $70/night was a chore. I stayed the first night in Portsmouth. I got in too late to unload the U-haul so I did that the next morning and then checked into the Newington Inn which is a few miles west of Portsmouth. Oh yah, the drive through Pennsylvania, New York, (I may have touched Jersey briefly?), Connecticut, Massachusetts and then here was hectic. Traffic was thick and it seemed every road I wanted to take was under construction so I had to take funky detours.
     The Newington Inn is functional, it was the only place I could find with weekly rates, though it is still $300/week. Portsmouth will eat you up alive if you don't have a place or a job. When I started looking for places I really started to panic. There was an article in the paper the morning I arrived about how saturated the market is, somebody puts an ad in the paper and they get a hundred calls the first night. Everybody and their grandmother wants to live in Portsmouth for whatever reason, actually for good reason, it's a cool town. As a consequence rents are considerably higher than surrounding areas. So I concentrated more on the Dover and Durham areas as they are at least convenient for bedder-½ to get to school. Some apartments, but no houses. By "some" I mean I found a place in New Market, that was okay, it was right on the river, but it was still an apartment complex. And it was through an agency so they wanted a mountain of paperwork, letters of reference, verification of employment, etc... and I didn't want to deal with all that unless I had to.
     I called and called. I'd leave messages and nobody would return calls, or they would just leave a message on their machine that the place had been taken. I saw a few run-down overpriced places in Portsmouth (though not downtown) that I just could not picture myself living in. The more I called and realtors told me that they had absolutely nothing—that everybody is looking but they don't have anything, "take whatever you get" they'd say—the more I started to panic.
     Meanwhile the clutch on the Trooper is going out. I'm driving around town jamming it into gear. It's so bad that if I stop the only way to get it going again is to turn the car off, put it in gear and then start in gear, "jerk start" it. Once rolling I'm pretty good now at shifting into other gears without the clutch. I plan my routes as to avoid stoplights or stop signs, driving around blocks, but it's hard as I don't know my way around and nothing is on a grid. For now I can prolong this clutch problem by milking it with clutch fluid. At least while I look for a place, I don't have money to fix it anyway. I saw an ad for a place in Durham near the campus. He made an appointment for the afternoon, but I begged to see it earlier. He said it was being painted but I said I didn't care. I just wanted to leave a deposit before someone else saw it. It was liveable and close to campus which was convenient for bedder-½. It was a subdivided bottom floor of this old couple’s home. Whatever, it was something, and it was $650/mo. which we could live with. I offered to leave a deposit then and there. But this old political scientist professor (I had to yell to be heard) said there was a few people that were considering it and that he would let me know in the morning. Idiot. If it was me, whoever (if they seemed reasonable) had the first deposit down would get it. He was sure I would have it, but I wasn't about to wait on that.
     Then I saw an ad for a place in Portsmouth overlooking the Piscataqua river. It was $850, I normally was skipping over ones that pricey, but this one I just had to see. The earliest appointment I could get was 2 p.m. I went by at 10 a.m. "excuse me, I just happened to be in the neighborhood and was wondering if I could see it now.” She, Linda Polasky, reluctantly let me see it. She looks like a female Willem Defoe with a big gap between her front teeth. The day before I had been walking around Portsmouth and saw the building and thought it would be a dream to live there. Right there in the heart of it looking out over the river at the tugboat traffic. This was too good to be true. It was the top floor, living room looking out over the river. Worth it for that alone. A big loft with a skylight (bedroom), a kitchen that is separated from the living room by a bar. And a back bedroom that looks out over Market St. (the heart of it). Vaulted ceilings that made you feel like you were in the inside of a ship. It was love at first sight. I had to have it at any cost. Who cares if we are completely in debt, I don't have a job and we really can't afford it. Afterall, New Hampshire's motto is "LIVE FREE OR DIE!” Why settle for anything less. At least we'd be living large. We worked Mcjobs in Savannah and lived in a gothic mansion on Gaston street and we got by (granted we paid minimum on all our credit cards). Who knows how in debt we are. But it's just a number.
     Linda seemed like she was about to give it to me. I asked if she wanted to see references but she shrugged no, that I seemed okay. But she had to talk to her husband as he was the one showing it, and he had appointments to show it that afternoon. So I loitered in the bottom floor (which is an ice cream shop that they own). I had a sandwich. Then her husband walks in. I knew it was him because there was a picture of them on the wall, a newspaper clipping about the opening of the shop. He was a little more hesitant. A little taken back that I didn't have a job, said he was worried that I wouldn't find one right away. Of course I reassured him that it was no problem that we had plenty of money. He said he would let me know in the morning.
     I came back here in the dilapidated Trooper and was pacing the floors, thinking I was nuts for even wanting the place, that it was way too much, that I was living a dream, but I was also thinking about all the people that were looking at the place right then and probably falling in love with the place, I mean how could you not? They were probably corporate managers with tons of money and great references. So I called back and begged Linda that I had to know sooner (I lied and said I had to give an answer to someone else), that I could pay the deposit and first month right there ($1700!) and that she could call any of my references and find that I have never even been a day late in paying rent, she could call bedder-½'s employer, etc. She said she would discuss it with Lew and call me back in fifteen. I paced the floor for half an hour and Lew calls me back. "It's just that I'm worried you won't find a job. It's not the first month I'm worried about its four months down the road.” I assured him I would. "What if you don't?"
     "Then I don't. I could've lied to you and said I already had a job. All I can tell you is that I know I will get a job right away. Even if I deliver Pizzas."
     There was silence on the other end. "And you can pay the deposit and first months right now?"
     "Yah, no problem."
     It just so happened that $1700 was exactly what I had. $1200 in travelers’ cheques and I had about $500 left on the MBNA card (maxing it out at $8000) and I had a credit card check. Gutted except for the two hundred dollars cash in my pocket. But we got the place! Now I could worry about phase II (getting a job) and all the other phases. Now I can get the slave cylinder fixed on the Trooper, if I can get the credit card company to increase my credit.
     We can't move in until the 20th and we needed to forward our mail. Couldn't get a P.O. box, or a guaranteed phone number. So I put this hotel's # and c/o general delivery on my resume. Then embarked on phase II which has seemed a little more promising so far. At least people are encouraging. I've been into a few agencies that say there's a lot of work and companies are settling for underqualified people. But still nothing definite. There's this field service tech position for automated fruit pickers and they really like me, the fact that I had done a lot of travelling and supervising crews. And they pay about $38K. But you travel for two or three weeks out of the month. What was the point of getting this nice place? I think I can afford to be somewhat picky, though I didn't rule that out. Now I need to just get out as many resumes as possible.
     Sometimes, when I'm ironing a nice shirt, or I'm kissing ass to somebody, telling them just what they want to hear, I'll get a fleeting thought of Kevin. When I'm walking around with resumes in my hand feeling like a yuppie, I'll think about how this is what broke Kevin. It makes me sad, and I picture myself looking like a pathetic yuppie. But it also is encouraging, that I'm in a way doing this for Kevin. This is survival in the modern world. There's a reason they call it job "hunting". Eat or be eaten. You have to play the game, otherwise you go bankrupt. You can't go hungry or homeless or anything like that, not in this day and age or you'll just slip into a dark downward spiral. The burden is great at this point, I can't imagine how heavy it must've felt to Kevin. At this point I just have to get a job and it has to be a good job. I'll do anything. One of the agencies even mentioned a defense company that had a lot of jobs and I didn't say "ooh, I won't work in defense.” Though I probably wouldn't. But I would at least hear them out before I closed anything off. Though I did walk in and out of a gun factory. The ad didn't say what they did, just that they were having a job fair, engineers needed, AutoCAD, etc. So I went all the way to Rochester (couldn't pay the 50-cent toll because all I had was hundred-dollar bills) and when I walked in there was pictures of people with guns in one hand and the other hand pulling up the head of some carcass. It was a gun factory! Like a bad dream, guns and pictures of dead carcasses disguised as trophies. A room full of white trash gun fanatics excited to get a job. I took a brochure and application and walked out.

August 11, 1997 — Newington
I am really stressed out. Like Tom Petty said—"the waiting is the hardest part". Everything is up in the air right now—no job, no home, our bedder-½ is a thousand miles away and our stuff is in storage. I've sent out many resumes and now I just wait. But even that's not easy... I make a point of sticking around the hotel, but then bedder-½ tells me on numerous occasions she has called and she doesn't even get through to the front desk. So not only do I have to be here, but the people at the front desk do too, and they are never there. They're weird and unfriendly. And if I'm not here they won't take a message (unless the caller hangs up and calls back). So I leave for 15 minutes to get a sandwich and wonder if anyone has called me. Wonder what job opportunities I'm missing out on because no one can get a hold of me. And twice when bedder-½ has gotten through they put her through to the wrong room. What can you do? I've already put this number down on resumes and what not, in hopes that maybe I will get some bites this week, so I can't switch hotels. Besides even this place is digging a huge hole in my pocket. A gaping crevasse. And I call up our landlord and try to ask him what date we can move in and that if we by chance get any mail there, if they could possibly just hold on to it and he sounds all bent out of shape, weird and unfriendly, and my mind starts getting over-imaginative and I start imagining horrible scenario's like that they'll just keep that $1700 I gave them and let someone else move in. After all, I paid mostly in travelers cheques, and the only receipt I could get was a handwritten note—would it stand up in court? How horrid. I'm paranoid and don't trust anybody anymore, but can you blame me? I feel like I'm getting ulcers (and I've got no health insurance), that everything is a conspiracy I just want to move in and get a job. I don't even care what kind of job it is, as long as it will pay the bills. It's making me lose sight of my own ambition, I can't write, it's a struggle enough just to get by, I have no appetite. Everyone’s out to get me. And besides the phone is the mail. I don't even trust the post office anymore after our experience in Savannah. And if you can't trust the postal service, who can you trust? I'm sick of writing out cover letters. So far this year I have sent out 93 resumes, and who knows how many more assuming employment agencies did their job. Surely there must be someone out there that will hire me. I'm on my knees.

August 14, 1997 — Newington
Well I got a job. A temp job as a system operator for Watts FluidAir, some sort of pneumatic valve company across the bridge in Kittery, Maine. I went in for an interview yesterday and ended up staying and working the rest of the afternoon. Basically I control all the jobs running on their AS/400, I go through all the batch jobs and designate which printers they need to be spooled to, etc. I monitor usage and if someone is using too much CPU I re-route them to another. Kind of interesting when you think about it, I'm like the systems gatekeeper. But it probably can get kind of stressful if it gets busy and people start demanding where their printouts are or why the computer is running so slow. But so far it is kickback, I have spare time to read through the manuals.
     I work under this woman Paula who is probably getting close to retiring. She has been working with Watts for something like twenty years. It's a pretty deadbeat job but it's a job and it's $10/hr. so I can't complain. Actually it will work out perfectly because it will go for 3-5 weeks and by then hopefully I will have something. I won't be under so much stress to take the first thing I get. And I get to work 7-3:30 so it gives me an hour in the afternoon to make calls or interview.
     Finally, our bedder-½ is coming tomorrow. I really don't feel complete without her. She's the one thing I have to be thankful for. If it wasn't for her my life would really suck. She alone makes me feel lucky to be alive.

August 24, 1997 — Portsmouth, NH
Has ten days passed since I last wrote in here? A lot has happened. Bedder-½ came and we're living in our new place. I picked her up last Friday. Drove to Boston early to check it out. Complete hecticity, but still a cool city. Majorly overcrowded and terrible traffic. An over whelming sense of not being able to park anywhere and at the same time not being able to get anywhere. It was great to see bedder-½ after a 2 weeks absence.
     I don't even remember what we did last weekend. We walked over bridges and stared at the water. Water is still such a noverlty to us. We explored around Portsmouth, I showed her our place from the outside. Then we moved in on Monday. I worked all week. After work on Monday we got the keys and I made runs to U-haul until it closed. Up three or four flights of stairs with all our stuff. Major gain in potential energy. Let's say 2000 kilos, 10 meters up, at 9.8 m/s2 that's 200,000 newtons of energy I stored in our apartment. It's awesome. The coolest place I've ever lived. But it was a pain getting everything up the narrow stairwell and parking on the street is going to be a pain as well. Didn't finish on Monday so I finished Tuesday. After an interview I had at four with George Carey. He is vice president of a company right here in Portsmouth that makes software for the hotel industry. It's actually pretty cool. And it would be awesome to work there as it is only a few blocks away and it is a kickback place. But he was a little discouraging, kept saying that they needed somebody that would be available right away, that wouldn't require too much training. But maybe they would take on somebody that would be more of a long-term investment. Haven't heard from him since.
     Wednesday I had an interview in Boston with Bechtel. Everything seems awesome about the job. It's for an environmental engineer monitoring noise on the Central Artery project. It's the biggest public works going on in the country right now. I experienced it firsthand going into the city. I gave myself plenty of time and thought I would be early until I hit the gridlock of downtown traffic and tried to park. It's complete hell. It's like a bomb hit the downtown. That's the Central Artery project. But the disadvantages of the job are that it is in Boston and I would have to do that commute. The hours would be irregular, sometimes I'd have to work the night shift, or start at six in the morning, so it would be hard to take a bus or train.     
     I interviewed first with the H.R. person and then she sent me over to meet with these two other guys and they really grilled me, sitting on either side of me. But they seemed to like me. I have good qualifications for the job. Field work experience yet a technical background. I could've kicked myself for forgetting some important information. He asked me what construction experience I had and I completely neglected to mention my most recent surveying work. That probably would've looked good, but I forgot. I was nervous, I had been held up in traffic, couldn't find parking, had to run to get there on time. I wasn't used to wearing a suit and tie, so it was hot and stuffy and I was sweating buckets. Had a sort of out of body panic attack like "who am I and what is this place I am interviewing at," sort of like that Talking Heads song. Not sure I would want to work in that environment, but I can't be choosey.
     So we moved in. We love it. We watch all the boat traffic, the coming and going of tides, the drawbridges raising, the tugboats going out to meet ships and escort them in, all the tourists and people in the streets, the crowded wharfside restaurants. We sleep under a skylight with fresh sea air coming through. The other morning it was foggy and we could barely see the bridges. I don't know, it's fantastic but none of it has really sunk in. I have been in such a frantic state moving in and with the interviews and job search and that I haven't really stopped to smell the flowers, let alone write in this journal. We did get out to the White mountains yesterday though. Went to cathedral ledge and climbed Thin Air (5.6 x 5 pitches)  It was about a 2 hour drive, the traffic sucked. It's not as grand scale as the west but still it's mountains and it's been months since I saw even a hill. And it's been 4 or 5 months since I've climbed. Thin Air was the classic moderate route. Long slabby route wandering up a dome. The rock can be vegetated and moist and sweaty like it is weeping (it rained hard the day before). It was just a nice change. Adventure climbing. Vertical hiking on cliffs. It will be really nice in the fall.
     I've got my routine pretty much down at work. I'd have more to stay but I need to catch up with everything else in my life. There's a lot more to say.

August 27, 1997 — Portsmouth
I go to work at seven. Sometimes it's boring and I play games on the computer or read the paper. Sometimes, like today I am busy and type so much I'm getting carpal tunnel. I don't talk to anyone really. Can't relate to anyone. I've read through manuals and magazines though, and am learning some. I rush home from work and park almost a mile away. Parking is a serious pain. Not only did they raise the meter costs (to 50 cents an hour) but they increased the time from 9 to 9 p.m. and there is a two-hour limit. I went to city hall to at least get a permit for the parking garage, but there is a waiting list, and even if I get a permit it's a hundred dollars a month. It's infuriating, can't even park in front of my own home.
     Anyways, I rush home, but I never get letters or phone messages that anyone even received my cover letters or resumes. Not even an acknowledgement or a rejection. It's very frustrating. People will totally forget you unless you get in their face and nag them. It's a fucked-up world. I go to the supermarket and they won't accept my checks and it's a big ordeal and my debit card doesn't work and neither do any of my credit cards and all I want to do is pay for my groceries. It's "hunting" far removed from our natural instincts. And driving. I may as well walk to work. When I'm at work I can see the freeway a hundred yards away. But it takes fifteen minutes to get to it because they channel you by all the outlet stores and everyone and their mothers are jammed in the roads. No planning whatsoever. I can backtrack five miles back to York and get on the freeway there and it takes the same amount of time. I may be bitter, but we're getting there. If I could just get a decent job. Why does everything have to be such a struggle? Our bedder-½ has started her orientation week and her classes start next week. We have a 3-day weekend due to Labor day. Hmm. Labor day, maybe that will bring me luck.

August 30, 1997 — Portsmouth
We are the surveyors of the boat traffic and the tides. I'll write The Shipping News part two. Yah, right. I tried to sit down and write last night but am having a lull. I'm in too much of a survival mode where I just need to get on my feet. "Take what I can get, perform the necessary actions" and this has spilled over into writing. I look back on my notes (for "Shadow Puppet") and I'm trying to force a chapter into print, with no real objective view or conscious vision of what's good writing or bad writing. I'm reading Krakauer's Into Thin Air and I know I can write like that if not better. And that's a bestseller. But that writing seems bad to me and I haven't seen any good writing that inspires me, not on content, but on style. I mean the subject matter of Into Thin Air is interesting, although I can't relate to the voice. Where does this guy get off on exploiting other people's tragedies, writing about how Scott Fischer smoked pot after tucking his kids into bed? These are real people with surviving families they left behind. That's what sucks about non-fiction is that you have to tiptoe around like that, well you don't have to, you can be a journalist with no morals but I wouldn't feel good about myself doing that just like I never felt comfortable sticking a camera in some strangers face and stealing a snapshot of their world. Reading this book definitely reinforces my aversion to tactical high-altitude mountaineering (or any dangerous climbing for that matter). It's twisted that people would pay that much money to have everything done for them like that, having Sherpas shuttle all their loads, all the garbage, etc. to embark on a extremely uncomfortable, suicidal mission. What I want to read is the book by the Sherpas that shuttle loads to the camps but never get to summit. That's what I want to read about. Anyways, we didn't climb yesterday and we probably won't climb today. Bedder-½'s shoulder is acting up. Yesterday we took the bus to Boston. Walked around and saw the Boston Tea Party stuff and the site of the Boston massacre and walked along the waterfront, had lunch at Faneuil Hall, etc. But the best part of the day was when we strayed from the "red line" that designated the "freedom trail" (walking tour of Boston). Happened upon the St. Anthony's festival in the North End. It was wild, something I had never experienced. I've seen it in movies, all the Italian-American stereotypes, Mafioso types, etc. but this was it in full living color. The stage set-up for Karaoke, the postman in uniform, stopping his route for a second to sing a song, the old people sitting in the middle of the road in lounge chairs, the suave kickback demeanor despite living in a hectic city, the smell of sweet Italian sausage, all sorts of foods sold by street vendors, the statue of St. Anthony with dollar bills pinned all over it (and a few $100's), the talk ("Fohhgadddabout et"), etc. Reminded me of that scene in The Godfather where Robert Deniro kills the black hand. I got the bowling ball to come to rest in the valley and won bedder-½ a bulldog. We just sat on the street and people watched. The air here is moist, thick and super-saturated dense fog, not thin mountain air. Meandered back up to Boston Commons and down via Chinatown to the bust station.
     It's loud at night below our place, everyone in the street, the waterfront bars, the band across the street behind us in the Gas Light Co., but then now, in the morning, the streets are empty. I wake up to the seagulls through our moonroof and open the hatch and see across the river. Just a dense wall of quiet fog. Bedder-½ sleeps peacefully, still, up in our den loft, and I try to find my voice, but will probably go out and read through Sunday papers of Portsmouth, Boston, Portland, Manchester, etc. instead of writing. My eyeball theory is being revamped. I'm trying a new theory out that takes a lot more patience. Rather than to desperately try to see as many different places as possible in vain, I'll try sitting in one spot and watch everything revolve about me. Watch the boats go in and out, the tides come in and out, the seasons change. I'm embarking on a new project where I take the same picture from our window every day. To capture the many facets of the same scene when given a history. That's something I have little experience with.

view from our window

looking back at our place (above the M tugboats) from the drawbridge

[... September 1997]

868 <(current)> 870> Flushing pipes, snaking drains + filtering lint from tributaries to launch Residue
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