Dear Kevin

Kevin DurantMy man, you went and did it this time.

You threw down a seismic dunk on the Association by joining a club that won 73 games last year and came within a Superman’s cape performance by Lebron of ‘Best Ever’ status. You’re not much for nuance at this stage of your career, and I gotta admit . . . I dig it.

Now, all you have to do is win it all. As Stephen Spielberg would tell you, you gotta kill the whole shark because the audience expects nothing less. And so while this new Death Lineup you have rounded out could make a legit run at 70 wins if all goes according to plan, it’s gonna come down to the 16 games you have to win in May and June. Your new mates won 15 spring games this year and were five points short of winning a second straight title when the clock struck midnight on their magical season. It might as well have been a hundred points because the end result still feels empty.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m thrilled for you. Really and truly and forever. I have been in deep love with your skills ever since you were a hotshot kid making Texas Longhorn basketball something worth watching. I remember the first time I watched you play, thinking that you possessed the silky smooth capture of a Jamaal Wilkes jump shot with the cool hand moves of George Gervin at go time. You had next in a league built on Rushmore legends, and I knew you had the kind of special to carve a spot of your own.

It began with that short stint in Seattle- which was a fitting destination for your supersonic talents- before making Oklahoma City your home. For nine years, you did the place proud, on and off the court. You went and took a football enclave and turned spring football into a fallback option. When you made the finals against Miami, it was a bittersweet proposition for yours truly. I would’ve been thrilled with a tie. But that’s not how it works in sports.

As you well know, it’s all about winning the last game of the season. No matter how great you are, no matter how transcendent a player you might be, people demand that 35 wins a ring. In OKC for sure, in Golden State? Most definitely.

Anything less than a ring will be considered an epic fail. So lemme be the first to recognize that you did not take the ‘easy’ route as your critics claim. These people have no idea how to set a pick and roll, much less master it. They never made a defensive stop when they needed to, or sank a free throw with the season on the line or knocked down a three as the clock went blank. There is no such thing as ‘easy’ in professional sports. As Pat Riley once opined, there’s winning and there’s misery. He knows of what he speaks from his time in Los Angeles and Miami. Building a Hall of Fame lineup guarantees you nothing, other than the vitriol of every fan base that ain’t yours.

The haters are pulling out archival proof that you’re a phony because your decision doesn’t jibe with their opinions. I guess you were supposed to base a life changing decision on the Twitter feed. Rest assured, many of these same critics have taken turns trashing and adoring Lebron for more than a decade. So there’s that.

As for the revisionist history being thrown around, let’s review. The critics contend that back in the day, star players were anchored to their teams like a Norman Rockwell painting. Which is interesting, seeing as how Maravich, Wilt, Kareem, Moses Malone and Charles Barkley all changed uniforms in their primes. That last fella has been awfully noisy about your move, but he changed zip codes a couple times in search of a ring. Funny how that works.

I wish the haters would stop throwing the halcyon days of Magic, Bird and Jordan in your face when they get on their soapboxes. Such talk fails to acknowledge the chasm that exists between their past and your present. It asks us to consider their motives retroactively, because that’s the only way their argument can work. Thanks but no thanks. I’ll stick to understanding the league and its players inside the times we’re living in.

Listen, I daydreamed about you in a Miami Heat uniform. And I agreed with my son when he said Boston was a pretty solid idea. Not to mention, I was intrigued about your chances in OKC next year with a team that had added Oladipo and possessed a belief that they could take the Warriors out next time around.

But see, here’s the thing. Those were my wishes and opinions. Not yours. And I think the critics are forgetting how all this free agency business works. But I won’t, promise. I’ll be rooting for big things from you in your new Bay area digs. And if you win it all, I’m gonna be pretty damned happy about it. I rooted like hell for Cleveland this June, but as a ball fan, I’m allowed to change things up. And so are you.

All that has to matter, all that should matter is what you feel in your heart. And not for nothing, but if Mom is good with it, you’re doing just fine. Your career to this point has been a basketball life well lived. All that’s left for you to do is write the ending. So don’t worry about the critics and the clowns. You just keep doing what you’ve been doing all along.

Finish strong.

Game of Thrones Season 6 Recap

(If you need a Spoiler Alert after reading the title of this post, then by all means, read on.)

Admittedly, I was late to the Game of Thrones party. Which is plenty ‘coo seeing as how it’s a platinum involvement on par with being Angelina Jolie’s second or third husband or Apple’s second or third CEO. It works just as sweetly, and the satisfaction goes longer than a leash made for interstellar dog walks.

Season 6 was a heavy (Valerian) metal rock concert we’ve gotten used to partying up with by now. It reminded us why we watch this show in the first place. Because anything can happen, and it does happen, in the most bloodily ambitious ways. It gave us everything we wanted it to give us, before giving us dollars on the dreadful penny more than that. There was all sorts of hard pipe hitting shit happening, from the get to the got. Pawns getting played, Knights getting laid, Rooks getting mated to Machiavellian plots that Shakespeare would’ve been like “Bitch! Why’dnt I think of that!”  And those Bishops and their self righteous exercises? Well, they got theirs too.

So lemme start with those Bishops, otherwise known as the Sparrows. I hope all those baths they didn’t take and sex they weren’t having was worth it. Then again, their ending was cupcake compared to what Sister Christian is going through.

As for Margaery, she was so busy playing the Sparrows that she failed to consider all that unleaded vitriol Mama Bee possessed might come back to bite her pretty little ass. Needless to say . . . huge mistake. So now she’s confetti and now Cersei is an empty nester with absolutely nothing left to lose. If that doesn’t scare you, then you’re already dead, or Larry King (Same? Meet difference).

Is it wrong to be turned on by a woman who bangs her brother, giggles like a schoolgirl when her husband dies and lets her only remaining offspring play like a retarded Eagle without so much as a “Please don’t?”. That’s a hypothetical question, mostly. Call her an evil bitch, I call her the campaign manager Hilary needs. Fight the power girlfriend!

Speaking of brotherly love, Jaime has hand (Literally). Sure, he pushed Bran out the castle window for peeping (He had a reason). And he strangled an adoring fanboy for being in the wrong shitpen at the wrong time. Again, consider the circumstances. I learned a lot about him this past season. For one thing, he’s self deprecating (a solid trait). And he knows how to tell a person to go fuck himself without saying it (a talent) as he did with Walder Frey. But my diggity for Jaime “Don’t Call Me Kingslayer” Lannister is based almost solely on the fact that he gets Brianne. In a world that thinks her a freak, he don’t. Consider his upbringing before you bring the hate. Jaime, like Cersei, was raised by a father who was about as warm and sympathetic as Marie Osmond after a piss poor pedicure. 

As for Arya Stark, I’m thankful she finally ditched The House of Black and White. Outside of a few Fight Club rumors about Arya and the Waif being one and the same, I wasn’t really all that interested in the storyline. And the way it ended? With Arya taking out Jaquen’s top (only) secret agent and all he can offer is a smirk? Obviously, I’m not refined enough to appreciate the nuance. On a positive note, Arya saved face (pun intended) by honing her murderous skill set and adding a huge check to her Kill List in the form of Walder Frey. And not for nothing but his Sonny Pie last meal still beats the hell out of anything on the Denny’s menu.

Quick Thought on Kevin Durant to the Warriors

I’ll post more on this shortly, but the haters of this move make me laugh. They refer to an arcane KD tweet from six years ago as their smoking gun as if it were included in the Bill of Rights. They argue that the old timers stayed with one team forever. Which is interesting, seeing as how two of the all time greatest centers ever- Wilt and Kareem- didn’t. They forget how Magic forced his head coach out after WINNING a title, with the threat it was the coach or him. And they forget how MJ was rewarded for his six titles in Chicago- by being shown the door. See, while I wish Durant had stayed in OKC (or moved to Miami), I recognize his right to choose his workplace. I don’t have to be a Warriors fan to wish him the best, to hope he wins a title by the Bay. I just have to be real about the whole thing, unlike the haters.

Older sister Sansa may not be a cold blooded assassin like Arya, but she’s learning how to weaponize her feminine wiles. From the moment Papa Stark lost his head in a power play, life has been handing the girl one poisonous lemon after another. The last straw was Ramsay Bolton, and so it was most proper that she got to let the dogs out on him. That wisp of a smile on her face as Ramsay became dog chow was priceless, and a long ass time in the making.

Turns out, Ramsay was a little pussy with no game when it came to picking on someone his own size as Jon Snow’s beat down on him proved. So now Evil Rob Thomas sleeps with the fishes in the lake of fire and I have to find someone to hate on in Season 7.

Littlefinger!

What’s to love about a weasel with a Hitler mustache who’s never met a back he wouldn’t stab, who has an American Beauty-like obsession with Sansa, who pushes his wife through the Moon Door knowing full well George Clooney wasn’t there to catch her . . . and did I mention the Hitler mustache? Unlike Varys- who has a perverse likeability about him- there’s nothing to like about Petyr, unless you want to get slathered in oil. When he’s the cavalry, bad shit is on the horizon.

So’s the Hound, he’s on the horizon too. The big lug got a reprieve, and for about five minutes it looked like he was going to waste his fighting skills on pacifism. Luckily, the villagers he was shacking up with were hanged by the Brotherhood, and this done pissed Hound off something awful and restored his bloodlust for life. Unluckily for us, Brother Ray- played by the inimitable Ian McShane- is gone much too soon. These are the savagely unforgiving tradeoffs that make Thrones one of the best shows on TV.

Meanwhile, Ellaria and the Snakes (sounds like a cover band) are busy making moves after dispensing of Doran. Girl’s out for revenge on the Lannisters after her man’s head was popped like a zit by the Mountain, but hey girlfriend, your man should have closed the deal! It was his own damn fault. She wants to take on Cersei? Okay, good luck with that . . .

And not for nothing, but Sam and Gilly would make a great sitcom. All kidding aside though, I’ve come to understand that his books are gonna prove to be a solid investment in time for his brother from another mother, Jon Snow, going forward.

And not for another nothing, but Bran’s eyes are what happens when you marry Nostradamus to Bette Davis. He possesses more power than all the Kings and Queens in all the lands, and to think, if not for a little push from Jaime. What? Too soon? Too late? Both? And not for a final nothing but rumor has it Charlie Sheen auditioned for the role of Hodor, but he couldn’t memorize his lines.

Jon Snow has had one hell of a season for a dead guy, hasn’t he? When we left him in Season 5, he had been sliced into the meat locker of eternity. But thanks to Melisandre (Spoiler Alert: She’s a contestant in my upcoming Vera Invitational Game of Thrones Edition), Jon is back and badder than ever. He got his homies and the wildlings to co-exist (albeit, tenuously), he convinced some of the other houses that these white walkers play for reals, he took back Winterfell, kicked Ramsay’s ass and let Sansa finish him. He also cut bait with Melisandre. This was a mistake, seeing as how she brought him back from the dead. Listen, I get that she did some crazy shit in her Lord of the Light tour, and I get that Jon didn’t want to be brought back from the dead. But holmes, seriously . . . in an age with so few good men, and where the average life expectancy for a ruler is twenty four minutes? Keep the bitch handy is all I’m saying.

Which leaves us with the gang at Mereen, because I’m saving my favorite for last. I LOVE the alliance forged between Tyrion and Daenerys, two of my favorite characters, like . . ever. Any woman who can give birth to dragons, walk out of a raging fire (twice!) unscathed and look like that? I’m voting her in as President of the World. Tyrion is a solid wartime consigliere who is the King of one liners, which counts for every bit as much in my book. He knows the landscape, the obstacles and most of all, he knows his sister better than anyone. Daenerys could teach that Trump guy a thing or two about negotiational skills. My personal favorite was her face to face with Yara Greyjoy. The Dragon Mother was firm when the Ironborn Queen was busy riding those eyes all up in her business, and they were able to forge the sexiest alliance since Ellen and Portia said “Let’s Do This!”.

What’s next for the Kings and Queens, the deal makers and deal breakers, the wicked and the good? Who knows? Game of Thrones is gonna keep playing hard to get with its plot twists. It will ravage our psyches, lay waste to our happy ending scenarios and it will be merciless in the doing.

Yes? Meet please.

 

 

 

Thank You, Cleveland

“There is prodigious strength in sorrow and despair.”
― Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities

I got to talking with J yesterday morning. We have absolutely nothing in common outside of work. He’s young, lives on social media and he tends to date men he works with. I think he’s wrong on that last count. Romance in the workplace is wrought with complications in a world that’s complicated enough.

We keep things uncomplicated by talking up the one thing we have in common. Our love of basketball. He’s a Cavs fan and I’m all about the Heat, and so we have Lebron in common. And for all the things I don’t know about the kid, I have to say I do love his spirit. He’s got some Cleveland in him, and I happen to think that’s a pretty good thing to have.

Topical involvements such as this cancel out the deeper, darker conversations. So we’ve never talked on Orlando, and the forty nine human beings who were lost on a night that is never going to go away for too many families and friends. Too many kids just like J were lost that night. Kids with their whole lives ahead of them. Kids who simply wanted to hold onto the weekend just a little bit longer. Kids who deserved the chance to see where their dreams might take them.

So what to do about a world that takes so very much of the good? Of a year that started with Bowie and Frey going away in the leadup to Prince. And then Ali, as if we can afford such losses with all the terror this world gives us. As if musical icons and the all time greatest fighter who ever laced ’em up just grow on fucking trees. What do you talk about when the world gives you tragedy and heartbreak and losing?

Cleveland. Of course.  So we talked about the Cavaliers. About Lebron, naturally, because he just so happens to be the best player on the planet no matter what sports writers might believe. But mostly Cleveland, because it’s a town that’s been used to losing since the Beatles came to America.

For a few minutes, the world went simple and belief didn’t seem like such a silly thing as we thought on the fifteen rounder that played out Sunday night. The mighty Warriors showing us why they belonged in the conversation with history’s greatest while Lebron reminded us why he’s already there.

I told him how my house sounded like Cleveland as me and my son screamed at the TV and clapped when the Cavaliers hit a big shot and cursed when the Warriors answered back. We’re not Cavs fans, me and the boy, but you wouldn’t have been able to tell. Not last night.

When the Warriors tied the score at 89 with 4:39 to go, those would be the last points they would score this season. Lemme repeat that since I still can’t wrap my head around it my damn self. The Golden State Warriors went scoreless for more than four and a half minutes. With the season, with history and all that legacy stuff on the line. With the ’96 Bulls looking on, no doubt. The Warriors- a team that scores faster than Charlie Sheen at the old Playboy Mansion,-got shut down.

Anyone who saw that coming should get to Vegas. Stat. Then again, anyone who saw a game 7 as being even remotely possible was either lying or from Cleveland. And if they were from Cleveland, they probably realized they were lying to themselves but they did it anyway. They watched conspiracy theorists lay waste to the Cavs and James despite a hard fought runaway win in Game 5. The haters were out in force, never minding Lebron’s cold blooded 41 point game that helped Cleveland stave off elimination.

“It would have been a different story if Draymond was out there.” They said.

And so, it was fitting that Lebron welcomed Draymond Green back for game 6 by dropping another forty one points on the champion Warriors. Still, there’s the whole thing about great power carrying great responsibility on its back, because despite those two Herculean efforts, Lebron was still expected to lose a game 7 by the bay. And the haters were not alone in this assessment. They were joined by just about everybody else. Outside of Cleveland. A place that believes in itself in spite of itself and always will.

The Cavs had forced the issue and good for them. They had pushed the mighty Warriors to the brink and they had put a damn good scare in them by doing so. But still, this Golden State team hadn’t won 73 games by accident. And with forty eight minutes standing between them and the kind of history that only happens once in a generation, they would show why their coronation was divined. Right?

And then the game started feeling very much like a script I’d read before. You know the one, where the Mariners tow 116 wins into the postseason, only to get knocked out by the Yankees. The one where the New England Patriots were minutes away from a perfect 19-0, before the Giants changed everything. Where Buster Douglas took down Tyson. The script that had Goliath as chalk while Davey warmed up in the bullpen. That script. 

Still, the Warriors were back in their crib for the deciding game. A place that has felt like Westeros over the last couple seasons. The Iron Throne of forever after legitimacy to its crown was right there for the taking. And if THAT wasn’t enough, they were playing a team from Cleveland. A town whose specialty is sporting heartbreak. From The Drive to The Fumble to the Browns leaving town (and worse, coming back!) to Jose Mesa to The Decision . . . a place where whatever can go wrong usually does.

So when Lebron went down hard and immediately clutched his right wrist with ten seconds left and the Cavs up by two, I think I spoke for every single person who ever had their heart broken by a team on the Erie.

“Are you fucking kidding me?” 

Inside those nerve wracking moments, I imagined another shit for eulogy getting ready to make itself known. I envisioned James breaking his wrist and being forced from the game, after which Golden State would throw down a couple threes and win the title. And after the game, Lebron would announce his retirement from the game and move back to South Beach to become part owner of the Heat. Because . . . it’s fucking Cleveland. And God bless them for believing in miracles but how in the fuck did they do this for fifty two years without going insane?!

But then James got up and made one of his free throws and then Westeros began to recognize that the King on its court wasn’t their King. Nope, he belonged to the snake bitten kingdom a couple thousand miles east. And then Curry missed the shot he’d been making all season long and then there was a long rebound and then I stopped watching the clock and I just focused on Lebron as he jumped into Kevin Love’s arms and then I watched as a fifty two year void finally, mercifully disappeared.

I asked J about the end of the game and he admitted to me that he hadn’t watched it. He couldn’t. Not after all the bad endings to promising seasons, no. So it was that he waited for his phone to bring him the news from California in the form of 83-79. And Final.

And then he told me what he did when he saw it and he knew.

“I cried.”

Tears of joy. In a world that’s pretty greedy when it comes to the giving of those kinds of tears. Here was a kid who had the right to cry. The right to be happy. The right to believe that anything truly is possible. Even if its just a game we’re talking about in this instance. It still counts.

And yanno, of all the places in this crazy world, Cleveland brings us joy.

Imagine that.

Purple Rain

I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain

I don’t remember much about Memphis.

I was ten. I’d just been uprooted from my childhood home. My semi-charmed life of latchkey afternoons and ice cream weekends with my grandmother were about to become memories fading fast like stationary images in a rear-view mirror.

In March my mother had remarried a military man. And in April we crammed our few possessions into the back of an old Datsun 280-z. I was in the backseat wedged between stuffed animals, Encyclopedia Brown books, and all of my cassettes and albums that I couldn’t bear to give away.

I said a tearful goodbye to Jacksonville, Florida and then took a vow of silence for the rest of the trip. I sat like a sardine squashed in that back seat for over thirteen hours. I refused to eat or drink or talk. I shot daggers into the back of my mother’s head; I wouldn’t even look at him.

I listened to old tapes in my Sony Walkman cassette player. But I couldn’t tell you who. I just listened. And I stared. At her. Out the window. At cars going by. At the constant rain. At the musical boxes of therapy wedged under my legs.

We pulled into Memphis in the dead of night. At two a.m. it looked just like any other city. Any other night. Any other motel parking lot with a purple neon flashing vacancy sign. Another suitcase in another hall.

“Come on, Christy,” Mom said.

“No, I’ll sleep in the car,” I said.

“No you will not. GET. OUT. NOW,” she growled.

I knew better than to push my mother when she spoke in short clipped words. I knew what was next. She used to do this ear pull and pinch thing that can still make me wince.

“Fine. I have to pee anyway,” I said.

I contorted my body like a pretzel and extracted myself from the backseat.

I shuffled around the wet parking lot while he got us a room. I brooded and sulked as only a ten-year old girl used to always getting her own way can, occasionally looking at my mom to see if she was watching me. She wasn’t. I glared at the asphalt and saw something shiny on the ground several yards away. It was in stark contrast to the slick black asphalt, a white rectangle on the ground between two parked cars.

“Come on, Christy.”

But I ignored her and walked closer to the pavement mystery.

I reached down and picked it up. It was a white cassette tape. It’s white plastic siding was scratched, and the black text was rubbed off in spots, but it looked to be mostly intact.

I brought it closer, curious as a cat, and read the wording on the tape. Somewhere mournful birds cried in the distance. My stomach trembled inside.

“Christy…,” Mom called.

“Coming!” I said. And smiled. It was my first real smile in weeks.

“What’d you find?”

“Oh nothing. Just a tape,” I said, refusing to share my excitement.

“Well come on. It’s starting to rain again. Let’s go in,” Mom said.

“I know. But I like the rain. It feels good. Refreshing. It feels like starting over.”

“Come here,” she said, with her arms open wide. “Come give me a hug.”

“Mom…..,” but I walked into her embrace and let her arms enfold me.

Honey I know, I know, I know times are changing. It’ll be okay, Christy. I still love you. He loves you too, you know. You’re still my little girl. You’ll always be my little girl. It’s all going to be okay…”

And I began to cry.

It rained harder.

The raindrops glistened like violets through the neon lights of the motel sign behind us.

“Shhhhhhh… Don’t cry.” She ran her hands through my hair, and wiped away my tears with her fingers. Then she moved her hands down my torso, gently tickling my sides.

“Mom! Stop! That tickles!” I said, giggling, despite my sorrow and pain.

But she didn’t stop. She kept tickling me. And tickling me. Delighting in a sound she hadn’t heard from me in a very long time.

And I laughed.

And laughed.

And laughed.

And laughed.

In the purple rain.

Purple rain, purple rain.

Laughing

in the purple rain.

 

“We love you very very much. Good night.”  ~ Prince, timestamp 13:26

(This video gets removed frequently, but I’ll try to keep updating. Just in case, a moving rendition by Etta James is included below.)

 

Prince Rogers Nelson (June 7, 1958 – April 21, 2016)

But I’m here to tell you
There’s something else
The after world
A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night

 

 

When sports becomes something else

The greatest thing about sports is that, just when you think you’ve seen everything it can offer up, it shows you something else.

It’s in the moments that were never supposed to happen- like a bunch of kids from the Midwest taking out the Russians in Lake Placid. Buster Douglas tugging at Superman’s cape in a heavyweight rumble with Tyson, and then knocking his ass into yesterday’s news. It’s the Red Sox doing their best Uma Thurman impression by punching their way out of that wooden box against the Yankees and then putting eighty seven years worth of Babe Ruth sightings to bed forever more. It’s the New York Giants, showing the Patriots that coronations can get complicated once you punch the undefeated champion in the mouth.

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Sunday Afternoon Coffee Love

To momentous days and long stories. To sunshine sparkling on our shoulders and to shining like diamonds; like Lana, not vampires.

To lucky days and winning streaks after lifetimes of breaking even or coming up short. To chances always in our favor.

To waking early … to sleepy good mornings and to crushed velvet in our ears. To the promise of sunrise, steadfast and assured … always there. To my happiness and your kindness, and vice versa and both … always there.

Hello, sun in my face.
Hello, you who make the morning
and spread it over the fields
and into the faces of the tulips
and the nodding morning glories,
and into the windows of, even, the
miserable and crotchety–

best preacher that ever was,
dear star, that just happens
to be where you are in the universe
to keep us from ever-darkness,
to ease us with warm touching,
to hold us in the great hands of light–
good morning, good morning, good morning.

Watch, now, how I start the day
in happiness, in kindness.

~ “Why I Wake Early” by Mary Oliver,

To going back to bed … to fluffy pillows and languid stretches, to reading yourself asleep and dreaming yourself awake, to wishes granted and dreams that keep coming true.

To warm suns and to north stars, to the waxing moons of our lives, to rising royally from ashes.

To singing on Fridays, to long walks on Saturdays, to sleeping late on Sundays. To the long hauls in between, made all the more sweeter by star-gazing lilies–finally in bloom–and by soft pink honeysuckle and photo-bombing puppies.

 

To Sunday afternoon coffee–sweetened with honey and plum and vanilla–and sweet words, and sweet music, and sweet pancakes.

To a new born song on an old guitar, to knowing–finally knowing–what it means to be alive.

To a love so large “that you can travel as far as you wish without having to step outside it,” and to that long haul ahead, together.

To a miracle constructed over time, and to the lifetime of unseen practice leading up to it.

And to April … come she will … come what may.

 

***

And I never hit the Spring so hard
A new born song on an old guitar
And I know what it means to be alive
She drives me crazy in all kinds of ways
Love kicked my head and took down my name
What happened

Here she comes
There we go …

I’m happy.

The Great Debate: MLB vs NBA

MLB vs NBAAfter Christy went all scorched earth on me in that futbol vs football debate post, I decided to come back for more with Mama Mick. Because I’m a glutton for punishment, when meted out by lovely opponents.

Mama is under the impression the MLB is the bomb diggity of American sports not named the NFL. It’s a quaint notion for sure, not to mention entirely wrong.

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