Of Guilty, Disenchanted and Dazzling Women and Cities

Some of us take pride in having photographic memory and never forgetting a face or a name. I’m not like that you know. Casual encounters do not deeply register or leave a trace on my psyche. It has been extremely embarrassing at times when someone would remind me that we’ve met some years ago and goes on describing the exact setting of the “alleged” meeting. Judging from my bewilderment or insouciance, as he might deem, he may reach the conclusion that I’m either a fool or a condescending bastard. Unfortunately, it’s getting worse with the passage of time, especially my short-term memory. I either remember a particular occurrence with vivid and colorful details or barely have any recollection that it ever took place in my life.

Women and cities are normally exempted from this involuntary eclipse of the mind. Nature has endowed me with extra-large brain cells to store the sight, the smell, the sound, the taste and the feel of women and cities. I am a very lucky man as I don’t really have bad memories of women. Perhaps a few things went wrong over the years, but nothing that might cause embarrassment or remorse on my side or theirs. I need to add that I haven’t truly been close to that many anyway so I’d better remember each and everyone fondly and with the utmost of affection. I have some ghastly experiences in a few cities but they were, in general, independent of the place. They could’ve happened anywhere and to anyone. So it goes again that I have no real regrets about the cities I’ve been to. Sure, there are some I didn’t like but it serves no particular purpose to reminisce about what we're not fond of. Until now that is, which brings us to the beginning of our story.

It has been a fascinating week. I was slowly getting myself in travel mode as I was scheduled to leave to Amsterdam for a two-day conference. But on one dark night, as I was having dinner with a bunch of friends up in the mountains near Tartous I received a call that not only I would have to go to Rome first but that I would have to fly out of Beirut. Not two days later as previously planned but on the next day!

I arrived in Beirut late in the evening after a 2-hour drive from Tartous. By most accounts, Beirut is a gem, a unique cosmopolitan city of unmatched beauty and inspiration. To tell you the truth though, I never thought so much of her. I can’t fit in in Beirut where I have the nagging feeling that I’m in a heartless place. She’s a city who pretends to tolerate me but doesn’t like who I truly am. Beirut is an unloving city with a perpetual identity crisis even to her own inhabitants who have different mental maps of her based on sectarian coordinates. At one time during its celebrated modern history it provided an intellectual and political haven to all but only because other Arab cities were run by obsessive-compulsive and tyrannical regimes. This early fling with a pseudo-democracy, at a time when all her sisters were unabashedly struggling under the heavy load of despotism, made her derisive and pompous. What a shame, had she only learned a lesson or two in humility, things would have been different. Beirut today is a narcissistic and neurotic city, shifting loyalties, fostering hate and suspicion among dwellers on opposite sides of the same street. Like a once beautiful woman marred by a long scar running down her face, Beirut needs to come to terms with her own reality. She has to learn how to forgive and forget before she finds herself again. She has to accept that a great part of past faults, mistakes and blunders were hers and hers alone, all along. I opened the door of the Captain’s Cabin, an old restaurant, turned pub, on a side street of Al-Hamra and walked in. Had I been blind-folded I would’ve had no idea of where I was. I ordered a cold Almaza beer and sat at a corner alone. The beer was refreshing and cold. The atmosphere was stale and heavy. There were two women sitting nearby who could not make up their minds on what language to stick to to carry out their loud conversation. English, French then English again. They would get out of synch and inadvertently slip into Arabic before they would catch themselves and amend. A tall westerner of undetermined origin and age was standing in the middle of the small room, laughing hoarsely and begging for more attention. He was surrounded by two or three doting local chicks of mediocre beauty. A graying man sat at the bar, sipping his whiskey in silent thoughts. A girl, raring to go, gave me a look from across the room. "Nah", she must’ve thought, too old for her or not particularly her type. She shifted focus in search of a more interesting companion amongst the faces in the crowd. A mix of rock music, good and bad, reverberated in the corners. Only the man with the white hair looked real. Because he was real he had to forget what was going on around him. He was a disenchanted Beirutian, so I liked to think, overwhelmed by the unmerciful abuse his city has suffered on the hand of time. At 4:20 in the morning I left Beirut with no regrets but with a bottle of Jack Daniel’s from the duty free at the airport, a solitary testament of my brief call. The Alitalia plane took off and headed west toward Rome, the center of the known universe for a significant part of our recorded human history. I was harsh on Beirut you would think and assume that I will flip completely once I start writing about Rome. Not so I am afraid. I am not done badmouthing cities of inveterate reputations yet. Let me go on.

One of the most un-Italian traits of the dolce vita, in addition to the obstinately obsolete style of football, is the Italian national airline. Alitalia is without the slightest shadow of a doubt one of the worst in the business. I flew on four miserable flights during this trip of mine and was served with the same horrendous cold turkey sandwich. The airplanes were noisy, the service inferior and the Fiumicino airport in Rome a nightmare. I am one who enjoys his idle layovers in airports but Rome’s international doesn’t give the traveler any chance or possibility of having a good time. I jumped in a waiting cab and gave my hotel address to the driver who sped up toward the ancient capital of the world. It was 7:30 in the morning. I had one affair to attend to in Rome and I was done by ten o’clock. The Grand Ritz Hotel was in the northern part of town, an old establishment catering to American senior citizens traveling to Italy in flocks. I put on my walking shoes and headed in the general direction of Piazza di Spagna. It was a fine Saturday morning with vigorously fresh air. When I reached the Piazza hundreds of sightseers and tourist were already there. Under normal circumstances I avoid crowded venues and feel itchy in the bestial rush of the hordes stampeding from one site to the next for the sole purpose of being there. Soon enough my annoyance started creeping up on me and I found myself snaking through side streets and narrow alleys for evasion.

I located a small restaurant and sat at a table in the confined yard. The place was lively with conversation and having decided that these were probably some of my finest moments in Rome so far I ordered lunch. Primo e secondo, vino e cappucino have finally caught up with me after all these years of traveling to Italy. I simply needed an unfussy bite to eat and a cold beer to drink. The waiter presented me with a plain cheese sandwich, a Peroni and a cynical look. I gathered my will again and wandered the vias and the piazzas for the rest of the day. I watched the swarms of enthusiastic tourists clicking their cameras and further immortalizing statues of naked muscular men with hanging testicles and small penises. An hour or so before sunset I stopped again for a bite and another beer, a Moretti this time then walked back unhurriedly to the hotel where I slept the evening and night away. I wasn’t really disappointed in Rome but rather unimpressed. She reminded me of Zsa Zsa Gabor (b. 1917), the Hungarian-born American actress who was stunningly beautiful at one time. But nine marriages and the attrition of over ninety years had left their conspicuous toll. I found Rome a disenchanted city living the glories of her past and void of novel originality. The Italians, more Mediterranean than continental Europeans, suffer from our same Levantine infliction. They seem to be stuck in time while the rest of the world has moved forward in strides.

I briskly stepped out of the train carrying me from Schiphol airport to Amsterdam Centraal in less than twenty minutes. As I emerged from the underground station and took in my first panoramic look of the cityscape I immediately fell in love. I spent three days in Amsterdam and like a man madly in love with a stunningly beautiful woman I remember every little thing about her. I had imagined Amsterdam as a woman of aloof disposition, a flaxen with exceptional beauty, large breasts and pinkish nipples. How she turned out, however, is a thousand folds more intriguing. Immigrants came from everywhere, from Suriname, Indonesia, the West Indies, Turkey, Morocco, Italy and Spain and settled down to become part of the city’s identity. Her nipples had turned darker over the past two hundred years but certainly not less striking and tantalizing. Her breasts were smaller and firmer, her legs skinnier and taller, her hair wilder, her spirit livelier, her love more copious. Amsterdam decided at one point in her colorful history to shun aside all pretensions of chastity and conceited morality. She opened up and exposed to the world what goes on in every city in the shadows of dark shame and guilt. Prostitution and soft drugs are in no way degrading to the magnificent Dutch mindset.

I strolled the narrow passageways of the Red Light District where prostitutes display their mouthwatering bodies to the thousands of hungry eyes. I exchanged a word or two with a few of them and had a laugh and many smiles. No remorse, no guilt, no disgrace but a better understanding of true human nature. The tangy smell of marijuana filled the night air in the crowded Dam Square and the amber sparkle of frosty glasses of beer glittered with promises and assumptions. I lunched and dined around the city and experimented with Indonesian, Argentinean, Dutch and some of the best Italian pasta I’ve ever eaten anywhere, Italy included. Amsterdam permeated my skin and I reveled in an ecstatic abandon of Pilsner and light lager. Each restaurant and café promoted and served its preferred beer and I took every chance to sample a wide variety of drafts such as but not limited to Palm, Amstel, Heineken and Grolsch.
I dined in a boat and sipped South African wine while gliding through the canals of this magical city. I rode her trains, busses and trams and was besotted with her bicycles and the crisp yet relaxed pace of her ephemeral visitors and lifelong dwellers.

I know I have to go back there one day, hopefully with my wife and kids. Amsterdam broke all the taboos of the past and present and became a guiltless city where anything and everything goes, very much like Paradise. She has gone beyond morality, ethics and religion and is thriving in a higher form of humane conscience. I want them to see her with their own eyes and leave it to them to reach their own conclusions.
A week went by in the intangible silence between two successive heartbeats. A Week to remember in the arms of three cities.


Yazan said…
Abu Fares,
Welcome home.

The more I travel the more I get this incessant feeling that the city is who imprints itself over the collective psyche of its dwellers, certainly not the other way around. And your run down today has done nothing but prove that even further to me.

I felt nothing but pitty for Beirut this last summer, at first it was a terrible feeling of melancholy, like a little kid who just realized that Santa Clause was not real. And then it started to dawn on me, how much I hated what Beirut has done to Beirutis, and wht they have done back to her.
In my own little mind, I immediately imagined that old man at the Bar as being a Beiruti fisherman, of those that have long were my only face of that city.

Amsterdam, on the other hand, is a place I am yet to visit. But throughout my travels an living here, the dutch have always been the friendliest and most inviting people thus far. My best memories when traveling have always included one or more of a smiling half drunk dutch.
Anonymous said…
Had a one day stop in Amsterdam comig back from Kenya. The city was beautiful. The family and I fell in love with the water canals, much cleaner than the ones in Venice. The reflection of the architecture and the blue sky on the water that day was breath taking. The people were very friendly. All except for... the Security at the airport. (by the way what an airport!!??)

The story goes as follows. walking towards the gate on our way back home, my husband got distracted, and the girls and I walked ahead. At some point, I noticed he was not with us and started walking back down the hall. I see that he was detained at a Security check point and that the security guard was very agitated. When I reach them, the guard was practically shouting: "Ciggars, the cigarettes"!!!

My husband, who has never smoked in his life is looking at the guard and, I can see he is thinking what the fuck is wrong with this man. Subsequently the guard grabs my husbands carry-on bag, procedes to open it in a very brusque manner, and starts removing clothing until he finds a zippered toiletry bag, shoves it on my husbands face saying ciggars, and opens it... only to find ... a bunch of my tampons!

I have never seen a mans face turn so RED in my whole life. He immediatly closed the zipper returned the toiletry bag to my husband, and turned around without saying another word.

: D

poshlemon said…

I would have to say that I fail to see Beirut through this unflattering description if I may say - although sometimes I understand what you mean.
Allie said…
My god, you have made Amsterdam so much more appealing than it already was.

On a side note, whenever I fly, I order a kosher meal. It saves me from the horror of typical airline food. I don't know if that option is available, but if so I recommend it.
saint said…
You brought some wonderful memories from Amsterdam back fresh to my mind, although I still romanticise other cities and small towns in the Netherlands. I don’t know if you were fair to Rome but I’m sure you even weren’t harsh on Beirut enough.
Looking at those cities as a girl, is wonderful depiction, however it has brought to my thought today’s news of the loss of Levi Stubbs, the singer with the Four Tops and Temptation of Motown who they were famous for the Song,
Sugar Pie Honey Bunch

'Cause Sugar Pie Honey Bunch
You know that I'm waiting for you
I can't help myself
I love you and nobody else’
Abufares said…
The city and her people become one entity and you're right as cities age much more slowly then her inhabitants. People depart in a matter of decades, she stays around for generations.
Beirut and I never came to terms with each other. It's not as simple as saying: "yeah you're Syrian and your attitude is biased". I go there regularly with my family who all absolutely love her. While they go around, hopping from one place to another and enjoying the main attractions she has to offer, I prefer to stay by the swimming pool or the lobby in the hotel reading a good book.
The city center of Beirut, and looking at it from the objective eyes of an urban planner, was and is a disastrous renovation project. They took the people out and brought business in only to end up with a stone dead skeleton of a soulless city center.
Amsterdam is a city to love day and night and the Dutch, those I accidentally ran into were as friendly and courteous as they could be.
Abufares said…
I felt offended when I heard the term: "The Venice of the North" thrown at Amsterdam as a compliment. I've been to Venice more times than I can remember and I liked her as a tourist, no more. Amsterdam is by all means a much more interesting place to live at. Had I been a student again I would have done the impossible to go there for a university degree. You come out of Amsterdam with a new vantage point to look at life from. You leave Venice with photos of beautiful architecture and a romantic memory or two.
Schiphol is one of the cleanest and most entertaining airports. I laughed hard at your "misplaced" tampons:-)
Abufares said…
Thank you so much for dropping in.
My view of Beirut, and of any other city if I may add, is very subjective and I'm certain that very few people would actually agree with me.
Impressions could be the result of experiences on the subconscious level. I don't have the sense of "insecurity" in any other part of Lebanon. I don't mean simple physical security, although that too is in the back of my mind, but rather a sense of relaxation and going with the flow. Does it make any sense to say that I like the rest of Lebanon much more than I like Beirut? I don't know. Is it possible that because her own inhabitants define themselves depending on what neighborhood they come from (socially and religiously)??? Is the real Beirut in the western or eastern part??? Is it not true that there is no real ONE Beirut but that there are several connected municipalities. Is it unheard of that some Beirutians never venture out of their "turf" area??? It's very difficult for a stranger (after all) like me to fit in and identify with what I find a heartless fragmented city because I cannot accept that the ghostly City Center is a heart at all.
I don't fit in in Beirut because I cannot take sides and this is my only noble attempt at objectivity.
Abufares said…
Amsterdam "is" more appealing than she already "was". I loved her more on the 2nd day and eternally on my 3rd and final day. I know that I will never miss a chance of throwing myself in her arms again. Of course there are still a few very important European cities that I must visit and they too are always on my agenda.
Kosher or no Kosher, Alitalia is terrible. A smart passenger had the foresight of doing exactly what you suggested. I looked at him with envy when he was presented with a different sandwich. Then I saw his face turns blue just like the rest of us and I felt a little better :-)
Abufares said…
I didn't have the pleasure of seeing anything but Amsterdam in Holland. I have flown through Schiphol a dozen time or more without ever setting foot in the city. Now I will make sure, my schedule permitting, to have an overnight layover on my next transit passage.
It's very possible that I was not fair to Rome. It's even pretentious of me to talk about her with the very little knowledge a 24 hours visit offers. However, I was overwhelmed with the tourist scene and with the "general" Italian attitude that Rome (and in fact Italy) is still the center of the known universe. I wanted to get out as I had the suffocating feeling that I've had enough of this provincial mindset.
As for Beirut, I don't know. I am after all humanly biased. For example, and although I've never visited Dubai, I don't think I will last more than 24 hours there. I'm not easily impressed with antiquity or novelty. They have to go together in perfect harmony to make a city memorable and worthwhile. The gulf region will never reach authenticity (not in our lifetime anyway). It's sacrilegious for Beirut and other Arab cities with real history under their belts to look at Dubai as a role model.
Most European and a few American cities (despite their relatively shorter histories) have reached a melodious equilibrium between function, originality, innovation and a sense of urbanism.
I am sure that some Asian cities will prove to be tremendously beautiful when I get my chance to visit them. I will continue to feel so incomplete until I mingle with the people of India, China and the rest of the Far East in their respective backyards.
Mariyah said…
You never let your readers down, Ya Abu Fares!! Welcome home and bravo on another great post - was very much looking forward to it in whatever form it came. I was particularly impressed with your personification of the cities...or should I say "womanification". Anyway, I've not been to either Amsterdam or Rome and I have to admit, Amsterdam was never on my list of places I needed to go. You've definitely changed that. I was in Beirut too many years ago to comment on it - but your impressions are interesting. I'd like to see for myself.
Katia said…
Palm is Belgian ;-)
I have to run right now but I'll comment on the rest later on...
Allie said…
Eek. Faces turning blue is a very bad sign! Perhaps then next time just smuggle aboard a snack to munch on. So sad that airlines have so little care these days.
Abufares said…
Thank you for the kind words. I think that I was lucky this time around as I had ample of time to experience a city like Amsterdam. Usually on business trips such as this one we rarely get to see anything at all except the inside of office buildings, hotel rooms and perhaps fancy restaurants at the end of excruciatingly long days. Last year I stayed in Athens for 2 days and I really didn't get a chance to see anything at all.
You should see them for yourself, the 3 special cities I talked about and all of the others.
Abufares said…
I love it so much that I have a beer lover reading my every word. To tell you the truth this is the first time I tried Palm and it was in an Italian restaurant called ivoli... Hahaha, the T was missing from the sign over the door so it's mot like the (L) I missed in Leffe in my post on Brussels.
Anyway, my favorite Dutch beer before and after this visit remains Grolsch. I chose the different restaurants as per the beer they advertised to get a chance to taste as many different brews as possible. Palm was one of them and I had no idea that it's Belgian. I liked it but didn't find it special in any way. I also had one more mystery brand of beer on the cruise boat. I was drinking wine but wanted a beer to stay in the right Dutch mood. I got in an unbranded glass. My taste buds were already dulled by the wine and I didn't have the sense (then) to ask what it was. It could've been a Heineken but I couldn't swear on it.
On another note, there's a slim possibility that I might come to Belgium at the end of the month. Unfortunately I wouldn't be alone on this business trip and I have no idea whether I'll have a chance to break free for an hour or two. Still I would love to be able to have a glass or two with you if possible.
Abufares said…
You're absolutely right, flying was such a classy adventure at one time. I can remember my very first trip to the US on Pan American in 1976. I was treated like a teenage king... I traveled in business class last year in Europe but even that was in no way close.
Allie said…
Oh, I miss those times. When the stewardesses (flight attendants now, I guess) were nice and always refilled your drink (with a smile, no less!), a beer didn't cost your life savings, the radio was free to listen to, the food was edible and you could smoke on the plane. Oh, and no one threatened to arrest you if you used a swear word.

Those were the days.

I guess the trade off is now we can watch Law & Order on flight. :/
Abufares said…
You didn't comment on my T-Shirt. That's what I bought myself from Amsterdam.
Allie said…
Oh, you are correct, I didn't comment! It's a great shirt, but I think the one I would get would be with lots of choices of the leafy variety.

Did you manage to drink each of the beers? I always have so much trouble finding beer I really like, since my preference is for beers that are perfectly balanced between hops and malt.
Abufares said…
I think I've tried all of the brands on the T-Shirt over the years.
I've found my perfect beer in Belgium last year. I don't think I'd live to taste anything better.
Take my word and give DUVEL a try. You wouldn't know what you've been missing till then.
A friend of mine told me that it can be purchased in the US... and if you ever treat your taste buds to this Belgian masterpiece please let me know
Allie said…
I've seen Duvel; it has the special glass, yes? I do like Bottington's, though that's on the end of the amount of hoppiness I can accept. Newcastle is lovely as well, and recently we were in a small town for a wedding and I had a beer that was perfectly balanced and truly just beautiful. I wound up drunk because I had to have a second one. It's called Erdinger hefeweizen (http://www.erdinger.com). If you ever get the chance, I highly recommend it!

In terms of Belgians, I really like Chimay, especially for cooking with. Those monks really are a wonder!

Now I want beer.
Joseph said…
Thank you abufares for yet another beautifully chiseled post.

*To Beirut - peace to Beirut with all my heart
And kisses - to the sea and clouds,
To the rock of a city that looks like an old sailor's face.
From the soul of her people she makes wine,
From their sweat, she makes bread and jasmine.
So how did it come to taste of smoke and fire?

*Excerpts from the poem To Beirut (Li bayrut) by Joseph Harb.
Translation from Arabic by: Anonymous!

... I can almost say you are absolutely right abufares about the inhabitants of Beirut ...but not the way you perceive her.

Beirut needs no introduction and unlike her inhabitants she certainly is not pretentious.
She does not have the time to hate or even love for that matter… and no matter what we throw at her; she only knows how to stand defiant. From its primordial earthquake and aftermath to the departure of her last occupier, or the one that is still lurking in a mole hole…

Obscenities; our hands baked and offered to her.

Tonight I can see that you have added a couple of pictures more to complement your post and one of which is of her; Beirut!

Have a nice evening.
Katia said…
I'd love to get together for a glass or two, even if you have company :-) Let me know when you'll be here.
And about that nameless beer: if it didn't leave any particular taste, it was probably a Heineken ;-)
Abufares said…
Thank you for your perfectly sculptured comment.
Cities indeed carry the follies and absurdities of their inhabitants. My memories of Beirut are limited to my own lifespan of course. For 5 years I went to boarding schools in Lebanon in the late 60's and early 70's (the last 3 of which near Beirut) . Yet in the eye of an innocent child and even before the civil war broke out the writing was already on the wall.
I returned to Beirut after the war, during and after the Syrian presence (occupation if you so prefer) and I felt exactly the same. In an attempt to get along with whomever I met and wherever I was my best approach was to remain quiet and not engage in a 2-way conversation. I could never, for the life of me, reach a middle ground with a Beirutian. Everyone is 100% convinced that he/she is absolutely right. On top of that, I am truly an apolitical person by nature. It's almost impossible for me to maintain interest when the conversation turns into politics even if Charlize Theron is sitting next to me and holding my hand.
Beirut turns me into a very lonely and silent man.
Abufares said…

please drop me a line on how I can get in touch with you in Belgium.

abufares at abufares dot net
Joseph said…
It is most unfortunate that Beirut makes you feel this way abufares…on a different note I’ll tell you something for nothing, just the same if I were to sit with Charlize Theron and if she were to hold my hand
I would become silent, turn my head away and sink my eyes in the ground. I’d be embarrassed that she might be able to hear my thoughts or see through my eyes what the devil is cooking inside my filthy head…laughing out loud.

Have a great day abufares
Anonymous said…
Aufares, i,m in divene moments, just returnrd from a fantastis fishing day having wine with BASTURMA, listening SABAH FAKRI, singing a beautiful MAUAL ,KHALBI BINARI, and waching ORIENTATIS PAINTING,
Joseph said…
Hey abufares... it’s late and I can’t sleep. I’m sitting infront of this thing browsing aimlessly and stuffing my face with chocolate. Two Ferreros at a time; sinful.

...but hey look what I found:


Odd...I think I’m going nuts...Better go and rest the bones.

You have a nice day.
Abufares said…
Walla you know how to live my dear friend.
Soon Inshallah I'll join you as I have every intention of retiring when I'm still reasonably young. Can we still use this word "young" when we're slowly but surely approaching 50???
Abufares said…
Thank you for the great link. You made my day with this photo of the Captain's Cabin. Unfortunately though they stopped the fish & chips. I have been there many years ago and remember that I had a good "fast" meal". During my last visit I went in with the intention of having a bite before running to the airport. Frankly I had enough of the big attractive names, restaurants, bars,...etc. which I'm forced to go to when my family is traveling along.
Some of the Beirut photos are fantastic. You see what partially pains me about Beirut and other significant cities... is the attempt of authorities and dwellers to show the more "modern" side instead of fixing what's wrong with our original identity... it's like shedding our human skin and standing skinless and naked in the presence of strangely dressed crowds.
Diana said…
I've never been to Beirut, so I can't say if I agree, but I do like the way you painted her. (Hmm, perhaps Beirut is painted, with a bit too much makeup, which is now rubbing off. But what do I know.)

The line about the women speaking in English and French reminded me of an idea I read or heard somewhere: Beirut is proud that it speaks perfect French, but Damascus is proud that it speaks perfect Arabic.
Maysaloon said…
Great post Abu Fares, I hear it is an amazing city and definitely worth checking out one day. I'm not sure I'd say they are thriving in a "higher" state of human consciousness. A pig in mud is still a pig in mud, regardless of how much they are enjoying it! ;)
Abufares said…
Sorry for being late in replying to your comment. I was temporarily out of coverage.
Beirut, like all memorable cities, thrives on her contradictions. Despite my personal evaluation she is one of the most interesting cities in the Middle East to visit, and as I often hear, to live in.
Abufares said…
You definitely should check Amsterdam out.
Their higher state of human consciousness is due to the fact that they have forged a unique identity in clear contrast and opposition to all religious teachings. And, nothing happened... except pleasant things perhaps:-)
Maysaloon said…
As I said, a pig in mud... :D
Very well written and informative post, thanks! I enjoyed that. :)

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