The Glamour of Socialism

This is what it comes to in America: If you can’t get excited about Sanders or Biden, get excited about making sure that Trump doesn’t get four more years. Didn’t Jill Biden say that about her husband last year? Something about holding your nose and voting for her husband instead of Trump? That’s like telling women to vote for Hillary Clinton because you’re a woman and there’s a special place in Hell for you if you don’t. How ludicrous is that, voting for a woman because she’s a woman? It’s… un-American.

So, vote for a socialist communist who wants to usurp more power for the government, to run your life because he believes the government is more capable of making decisions for you than are you. And Trump is a totalitarian?

Or vote for Joe Biden, who’s had nearly 50 years to make a difference in the country but has done little but be on the wrong side of nearly every important issue throughout his career. Both are “decent men,” they argue. More decent than Trump. Right. That excites me enough to vote Democrat.

Are they really, decent? All politicians lie. All of them. They get rich not by representing the will of We, the People who elect them, but by those who pay them the most Benjamins. Sanders and Biden, too. Sanders stopped bashing millionaires when he became one. Now, only billionaires are evil in his eyes. Being president has cost Trump money. He fell off Forbes’ list of 100 richest Americans shortly after taking office.

I’m not really a Trump supporter. I support the president, because if he succeeds, the country succeeds—I succeed.

I’m not fond of Trump. I wouldn’t hang with him to drink bourbon and smoke a cigar even if he indulged in both of those habits. I don’t have to like my doctor with a poor bedside manner if they identify my ailment and treat me promptly and I get well quickly. I don’t have to like the president if he makes my life better, safer, and improves the country.

Yes, Trump is arrogant. Maybe he’s even confrontational; but in most cases, I’ve noticed he’s a counter-puncher: treat him unfairly, and he strikes back. Who doesn’t stick up for themselves when attacked unfairly? If you don’t then that’s on you.

“If you can’t get excited about Sanders or Biden, get excited about making sure that Trump doesn’t get four more years?” That sounds like mainstream media talk. Cut your nose off to spite your face.

Destroy everything that’s great about America—oh, that’s right, according to Andrew Cuomo, “America was never that great.” We just turned the tide in two World Wars, put a man on the moon, and continue to advance science and medicine. What’s great about any of that?

Tear up the Constitution; our Founding Fathers were slave owners, the nation was founded on an immoral basis so let’s rewrite history, tear down statues, rename streets, parks and schools. Start over. Because what the world needs is another failed socialist nation.

Bernie Sanders: “People waiting in food lines is a good thing. At least they’re not starving while the rich eat like kings.” That’s something even the Left-leaning, Democrat controlled media can’t get excited about. Get excited instead about preventing another four years of Trump, even if it means putting people in food lines.

More Bernie: “America is racist from top to bottom.” No it’s not, Bernie. Not even close. Stop trying to divide the country with lies. Where else in the world do Blacks have the opportunities they have in this country? I’ve known several Blacks who’ve succeeded far beyond where I am today. They didn’t let the color of their skin stand in their way. I smoke cigars with several Blacks at my local cigar shop. We talk family, politics, sports, yes, even racism. I work with several African Americans. I see their skin color as I’m sure they see mine. But I don’t see them for their skin color. They don’t want me to tiptoe around them because they’re Black. I treat them the way I treat everyone, with respect. I’d wager that’s what most people want.

But that’s Trump’s fault, too, right, that George Washington owned slaves? Just like the Coronavirus is Trump’s fault. First, he was a xenophobe and racist for placing travel restrictions on flights coming out of China on January 31. Now, he’s a bumbling idiot who waited too long to take action. The Left wants it both ways. No matter what he does, Trump must be second-guessed and criticized.

In 2009, the earliest reported cases of the Swine Flu in the U.S. began appearing in late March, in California. It quickly spread to infect people in Texas, New York, and assorted other states by mid-April. By the end of May, it had infected citizens in all 50 states. On October 24, 2009, President Obama declared Swine Flu a national emergency in the United States. On November 12, 2009, the CDC reported an estimated 22 million Americans had been infected with 2009 A H1N1 and 4,000 Americans had died.

Obama and Biden waited six months to declare a nation emergency, and Trump is the bumbling idiot?

You don’t like Trump, so I should vote for a socialist communist who wants to tear down everything that’s good about this country? A socialist communist who praises Castro and honeymooned in Russia?

Or I should vote for a corrupt lifetime politician who’s done little for this country while lining his own pockets and the pockets of his family, someone even his wife can’t get excited about?

Or vote for a loud-mouthed billionaire who gave up a good life for a job he didn’t need and donates his salary every quarter—this quarter to help battle the Coronavirus (you don’t hear that on CNN)—who lowered taxes, improved the economy, got more people off food stamps than his predecessor put on food stamps; improved the lives of all minorities, lowered unemployment to record lows among all demographics, increased jobs, brought manufacturing jobs back to America, negotiated fair trade deals with Japan, Mexico, Canada, South Korea, and is in the process of inking a new deal with China; destroyed the Caliphate; rebuilt our military, has taken care of our veterans, and lowered illegal crossings of our southern border. All accomplishments that had his predecessor done them would’ve labeled him the greatest president of our era. But it doesn’t matter, because a large chunk of Americans already believes that.

I don’t have to like Trump to see that he’s accomplished a hell of a lot in a short period of time. But not vote for Trump, vote instead for either Democrat because I don’t like him as a person, or because someone else doesn’t like him, because the Left tells me to, because liberal Left extremists like Robert De Niro will label me racist, misogynistic, illiterate, uneducated, deplorable and irredeemable if I don’t? Because my perceptions of Trump should be like yours, that he isn’t a decent man while his two opponents, in your opinion, are, but in reality, are no better?

Sorry, that’s something I just can’t get excited about. It’s un-American, and that’s something for which I won’t apologize.


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The Waiting is Hell

Calendars are funny, and yet I’m not laughing.

I pulled up my Outlook calendar on January 2 and was struck by the year: 2020. It reminded me again of my own mortality. In 36 years, I’ll be a century old. I really don’t expect to live to that age, and I truly don’t want to, not if it means outliving my wife and family and having to endure the socialism brought on by an Alexandria Ocasio Cortez administration. Dad always said no one wants to live to be 100, except those who are 99. Now that’s funny.

But I’m nothing if not introspective. I know that I have far more years behind me than ahead of me. I took a moment to look 36 years into my past. The Detroit Tigers won the World Series that year, the last time they won a championship; I was in the second year of an already unhappy marriage. Knowing my childhood dream to play baseball was dead, I was looking for a new dream to pursue. Looking ahead back then, in my mid-20s, I realized I’d be 43 years old at the turn of the century. I thought that was old. I wondered what I’d look like—would I have all or only most of my hair, or maybe little of it? Would I still be married? Would we have children? Would I be divorced and remarried?

But my calendar today tells me the year is 2020. I never considered, in 1984, that I’d ever be this age, or that this is where I’d be in my life. Not such a bad place, but certainly not where I feel I should be, career wise and family wise. Never had children, never thought I’d remain single for nearly 30 years after my divorce (certainly not for lack of dating), and I’m invisible to my second wife’s children. My 40-something boss recently left the company; one of my colleagues is transferring to another department, soon to be replaced. A few weeks ago, someone moved over from another department to fill the role vacated by a colleague who became my immediate supervisor…

And so it goes, the musical chairs of life. I’ve seen ten colleagues come and go in the past three-and-a-half years, only three who were there prior to my tenure. And yet here I sit, at the same desk in the same role I was hired to fill. I haven’t had my first raise yet, and I worry about when someone in the company I have never met might decide I’ve outlived my usefulness and decide to have someone else escort me out of the building. It’s happened to me before, more than once. Will that be sometime this year? Maybe next year? Surely, it’ll happen before I’m eligible for my maximum Social Security benefit?

All of which leads me to realize, once again, that I’ve spent most of my life waiting.


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“Method” Writing Vs. “Character” Writing

I did some acting in my youth—dinner theatre, community theatre. I even managed to make a few bucks. It was fun, but in time I tired of the work that went into learning characters and lines and rehearsing for a show that ran for two weekends. After writing a few murder mysteries that were produced and well accepted, I realized I much preferred writing than spewing the lines of other writers.

Let me digress a moment: in my theatre days I rarely played the romantic lead. Most of the roles I played were characters, and I was okay with that. Romantic leads are rather dull, or as Michael Keaton said after he walked away from Batman, the villains are the fun roles.

I used character acting to create characters that were unusual, sometimes over the top, maybe not very realistic—like the murderous Jonathon Brewster in Arsenic and Old Lace, who received plastic surgery from his alcoholic accomplice, Dr. Einstein. Boris Karloff played the role in the Broadway production. At the end of the show, when the police hauled me off to jail, the audience applauded my final exit. What greater approval can an actor hope for?

Method actors, on the other hand, employ a specific and intense preparation to create a character that is realistic, often relying on their own personal experience.

Now, the point of this post: Writers today are advised, taught, to never infuse any aspect of themselves into their characters. Writers who do are, in Elmore Leonard’s words, butting into the story.

I’ve read several novels whereby the writer employed that best practice, and honestly, I found them sorely lacking. The characters were somewhat cardboard, one-dimensional.

So, I ask, how can a writer write believably without, like a method actor, relying on their own personal experiences?

Red Smith, a prominent sports columnist from the middle of the last century, was asked, “Is turning out a daily column a chore?” “Why, no,” he replied. “You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed.”

That’s the approach I take with my fiction. My novels are character-driven, and I rely on a lot of my own personal experiences. My story lines may be fictional—time travel, alternate realities, the supernatural—but my protagonists contain large quantities of me, while secondary and tertiary characters are often based on people with whom I’ve shared rooms throughout my life: my parents, friends, former lovers. That’s how I achieve what I perceive as the realism I seek to share with my readers—by opening a vein and bleeding.


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Why I Write

Do I write for wealth? No, but I wouldn’t turn it down if it came my way.

Is it a game to me? I’m not sure what that means. Do I make a game of it? Again, no, although at times I find it as challenging as a game.

Compulsion or curiosity? The former, not so much; the latter, well, maybe. Every novel I’ve written (nearly 10) has left me with discovery: about the craft of writing, about people, relationships, about myself.

Was it a calling? I’m not sure. It started nearly 25 years ago as therapy in the aftermath of a bloodied and bruised heart. But as I learned to enjoy the creative process, I can honestly say writing leaves me feeling closer to my higher self and, yes (if it’s not arrogant to admit), closer to God.

I write fiction, nonfiction, creative nonfiction, op-ed, sports… whatever I’m moved to write.

I used to have goals but found it interfered with my creativity—worrying about publication, finding an agent or a major publisher. At some point enjoyment of creativity abates when your creations fail to leave an impact, that your audience is hardly bigger than it was with your first publication. It doesn’t help when family members tell you they think reading is a waste of time, and that fiction is nothing but lies.

Today I write for many reasons: I believe words have power. I use them as a soapbox. I write for my own amusement. I write to push myself, to stretch. My work in progress is written from the perspective of woman, which I find extremely challenging. It’s about a fetus about to be aborted who sees her unlived life flash before her eyes. Hardly mainstream, and I eliminate half my audience—those who are pro-choice.

I also write to learn about the craft of writing and about myself. I write to connect with readers and, with no offspring, to leave behind a legacy. My novels are the only children I’ll ever have, so I want them to go out into the world and be accepted, enjoyed, loved. I want them to impact the world in some small (or large) way.

I’ve many times considered setting down my pen. I’m frustrated by the publishing industry. It more often than not rewards the mundane, the formula, that which can be sold to Hollywood for next summer’s blockbuster movie.

I write about everyday people dealing with everyday issues like love (finding it), loss of love (ouch!), regret (who doesn’t have a few of those?), infidelity (from love to hate to compromise), death (the Grim Reaper recently visited me in a dream to tell me he was coming for me; “Great,” my dream self said. “You bring the whiskey and I’ll provide the cigars”). I write about redemption (that transformation from the anti-hero the reader wants to like into the hero for whom they root), and more. I write about relationships between men and woman, and fathers and sons. Yet each character, although flawed and in some cases broken, is in their own way extraordinary. I write mainstream, non-traditional romance (Fabio will never grace the cover of one of my novels), and soft science fiction.

My work has been called, “Gritty, entertaining… real. Romance for the non-romantic,” but with nearly a half-million new novels published every year it’s nearly impossible for the cream to rise to the top, to find an audience.


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Memories are Like Butterflies

Memories haunt us at the most inopportune moments. I got home a little while ago, got the mail (the cable bill and the rest junk), changed into jeans and a t-shirt, grabbed a cigar out one of my humidors, and came out to sit pond side and ponder my day, the sunset and tomorrow.

I snipped the head on my smoke and got it lit and, almost as if on cue, a beautiful monarch butterfly fluttered around me, close enough for me to reach out and offer a finger on which it might perch. It didn’t, but its presence brought flooding back a memory nearly a half-century old, and that’s funny because I can’t recall what I had for lunch a week ago today.

Dad had a marine buddy, Sgt. Major Hank Bean, with whom he kept in touch until Bean, a career marine, died back in the 1980s from HIV tainted blood given to him during heart surgery; but that’s another story.

Bean, who lived in San Diego, had a nephew, Don Walker, who lived in Michigan not too far from where I grew up. He owned a rock quarry, from which we’d built a rock garden in our yard. Our family visited Don, his wife, Connie, and young son (I can’t recall his name) several times. Once on their boat on the lake on their quarry. Bean let me drive the speedboat. Mind you, I was maybe nine or ten years old. Bean was so unlike my dad, who taught me to avoid risk.

A few years after the speedboat event, Bean came to Michigan for a Marine Corps reunion. He showed up at our house driving his nephew’s new Mark III. Tossing me the keys, he let me, a sixteen-year-old kid who’d just gotten his driver permit, drive that big boat of a car despite my parents’ protests, with my parents in the backseat, to a Chinese restaurant in Dearborn, where we had dinner.

It wouldn’t occur to me until many years later how much Bean always made me feel like a man. He trusted me. He’d shared a foxhole with my dad on Okinawa. He’d trusted my dad with his life, and so by extension, he trusted me.

I recall him telling my dad, it may have been on that same visit, what a good-looking kid I was, already nearly six-feet tall, but skinny as a rail. “We’ll make a marine out him, eh, Jim?” he said to my dad. Then he looked at me and asked, “Do you like to kill?”

All of that isn’t even foreshadowing for this post.

The monarch butterfly: Bean’s nephew and wife invited us over for dinner one Saturday night. It was, perhaps not so coincidentally, this time of year: late September or early October. After dinner, it wasn’t quite full dark out, we made ready to leave. Don and Connie walked us out to our car; and there on their dirt driveway lay… a monarch butterfly. It had died, likely due to the chill in the air.

Well, to make an already long story longer, Connie bent to pick it up and, perhaps seeing the heartbreak in my eyes over a dead insect, its coloring beautiful even in death, she handed it to me. At that moment, age 10 or 12, I fell in love with Connie.

During our drive I held that butterfly in my hands like the treasure it was to me. When we got home, I managed to procure a small white jewelry box, the cotton still inside, just large enough to fit that butterfly, which I kept for… I don’t know for how long.

I recall that event so vividly, brought to mind by a fluttering monarch butterfly decades later, but sadly can’t remember what became of that box.


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A Life Unlived

There came a time when I started to look back over my life, perhaps because there are more days behind me than ahead of me. Missed opportunities, poor choices, fear of risk even as I risked mightily where I ought not to have risked, dreams left unfulfilled. Regrets weigh more heavily on me as my race draws to its close.

A boyhood dream to play major league baseball missed because of parents who sought to protect me and taught me to avoid risk.

A toxic marriage that ended with no children. A mixed blessing: had I brought life into the world I might still be wed to a woman I married for the wrong reasons, whom I only thought I loved. Several failed relationships with women my desire for their flesh I mistook for love.

A sister who has no desire to share her life with me or to be a part of mine.

A childhood friend I selfishly treated poorly thirty years ago. We reconnected a decade or so ago; he was the best man at my second wedding. Today, I love him like a brother, admire him for the man he became, for the marriage he has. But I missed the chance to be a part of his fatherhood, the opportunity to be a part of his three sons’ lives, perhaps influence them in my own way.

Myriad people with whom I shared rooms briefly; they all left without leaving the door ajar.

I love my wife dearly; but her two adult sons, both living out of state, one married and newly a father, the other single but perhaps soon to be married, have no desire to know me, to share friendship with me. Maybe they don’t trust me—the man born to be their mother’s fourth husband.

A dream to be a published author, not simply self-published; maybe one day write that bestseller but content to connect with a large enough audience to supplement my retirement years. Eight novels later and I’m still unknown.

An ex-friend once told me I was the common denominator. The older I become the more right I suspect she was. The choices I made, the risks I failed to take to pursue my dreams, have all conspired to lead me here: A place by certain standards that’s not so bad a place. It’s just not nearly where I thought I’d be forty years ago. Life is what happens while we make other plans.

Or as Henry David Thoreau put it: “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation. From the desperate city you go into the desperate country, and have to console yourself with the bravery of minks and muskrats.”

Truer words were never written.


Art by Jeremiah Morelli

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A Final Parting

Word came to me through a grapevine late last week: a woman I met 30 years ago and dated for not quite three years passed away last November. I’m not quite sure how to feel, or what to feel.

I’ve shared rooms with a lot of people over the years, men and woman. The commonality? Once they walk out the door they never return, not to knock, not to crack the door to even sneak a peek.

This woman was no different. The relationship ended badly for me. She was eight years my senior, a user and a manipulator. But that’s what I was back then: a rescuer. Show her enough love and she would come to reciprocate.

I never got closure after the breakup. For me, from what I wrongly believed was love to hate to compromise, the getting over took a long time. The anger is gone. I forgave her long ago, and myself, too, for the role I played in staying far too long in a toxic relationship. I certainly have no fond feelings for her, having dated several other women since she and I split, and marrying the best of them. I now know it was never love between us. The lesson she taught me was not about what I wanted, but about what I didn’t want.

So why do I feel so unsettled?

Maybe there are a whole heap of whys.

I confess: there were times over the years I thought of her, wondered if she ever met that 747 captain she always dreamed of marrying (she was a gate agent for a major airline). She was looking for someone to take care of her, enable her to quit her stressful job. Maybe I wanted to know if she’d met him, although she was then, after we broke up, over forty. Too old, I thought then in my anger. Anyone with a six-figure job flying 747s can have their pick of flight attendants—younger and more beautiful. Why settle for an over forty Italian even if she is well-preserved, eats well, exercises often, keeps her figure? But I never told her that. In time, after I let go the anger, I wished her well, hoped she found what she sought. That’s the kind of man I am: I don’t wish ill on anyone.

Maybe I still wanted that closure I never got. While she was still, in my mind, alive and kicking, like the alcoholic going through the steps of recovery, she might yet get in touch to apologize for the pain she caused me. Not like I fell off the planet. Now she never will.

She had ample time to make her peace, if she’d wanted to. She didn’t want to. And I’m fairly certain she never gave me a thought in the twenty-seven years after she broke up with me.

Today I’m ashamed to admit I considered, after my first book was published twenty years ago, sending her a copy of it, wondering if she might recognize herself in the antagonist. Nah, she was too self-absorbed. Or maybe she’d matured, grown wiser. I’ll never know.

Maybe it’s just a microcosm of life, that she was mortal, that I’m mortal. Losing my parents drove that point home twenty years ago. Hell, I already know I’m mortal. Six years ago I wondered if that Mazda I bought might be my last car. Now I’m wondering if the car I might purchase in the next year or two or three might be the last one.

Learning a couple years ago about the passing of my first boss—he was not yet even sixty—hit me hard, in part because another part of my life, a part from my long ago youth, was gone forever.

But she’d been gone, after the not quite three years we dated, for nearly twenty-eight years. Might as well have been the forever of nearly half my life.

More maybes? Maybe. Maybe the right maybe just hasn’t yet occurred to me.



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Protesting a Protest

I’m not against peaceful protest, when it serves a purpose, and it doesn’t cause division in a country rife with division.

I can’t recall a time in my lifetime when Left and Right have moved so decisively away from center. So much hatred is being directed at the president. We live in a republic, and we’re supposed to support those we elect to the office of the president, even those for whom we didn’t vote. Don’t like them? Can’t get behind their platform? Don’t like what they say or how they say it? Vote them out of office in four years; but until then wish them well, hope they succeed, because when they succeed, America succeeds. You succeed. I succeed.

NFL players apparently have a beef with America, our flag, our National Anthem. Some people applaud them for kneeling during the Anthem. Some have taken a knee in solidarity.

I won’t. I never will take a knee during the anthem. I don’t believe a sporting event should be politicized. I go to a ballgame to get away from the realities of my life and politics, the cruelty in the world. I go to watch young men play a kid’s game. I can’t use my job to promote my political views, so why should athletes on the field, or celebrities for that matter, at awards shows?

But I also believe in the flag, what it represents, even if our government and our citizens often fall short of the ideals the flag, the Constitution, the National Anthem represent.

I stand proudly at ballgames, hockey games, the Indy 500, hat off, hand over my heart, and tears in my eyes. I recall my dad, a proud marine who served in the South Pacific during World War II. I was ten when he drove my family to Washington, D.C. to attend a Marine Corps reunion. We stood at the base of the World War II memorial, based on Joe Rosenthal’s iconic photograph of the raising of the flag on Iwo Jima, and my dad wept openly, unashamedly. I was too young to fully grasp the reasons behind his tears. But I understand now.

Dad taught me to honor my country, our flag, our anthem, those who defend us and protect us. I stand to honor him, his fellow marines who fought, many dying, to help shape the second half of the twentieth century. I stand to honor those who raised that flag on Iwo; three never came home. I stand to honor those who fought in Korea, in Vietnam, including a cousin, and another cousin who served in the Navy. I stand to honor those who fought in both Gulf wars and in Afghanistan, and who serve around the globe, in defense of our allies and our values and our country. I stand to honor a cousin’s son, now one of the few, the proud. A marine.

I will ALWAYS stand to honor them, even as I voice my discontent with our government, to speak out against liberals and the Left, against political correctness, against the destruction of all my father risked his life to protect.

So kneel if you feel you must, but you will never gain my respect, not the players, not the fans who support them, not for the way you protest your cause. Because you succeed only in creating more dissension, driving the wedge further between the Left and the Right, destroying what once was a great country.

God bless you, Dad. I remember you. I respect you. I honor you. Even though millions in this country you once said would fall without a shot being fired don’t.

You’re right. It won’t be long.

Semper fi.


Dad, a young, proud marine

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Can You Miss What You Never Had?

It’s been said you can’t miss what you never had: a father who passed away before you were old enough to really know him; a sister who chose to never be a part of your life; children you never had because you found the right woman too late.

I disagree. I miss the dad my father became after my mother passed away—he was gone too soon and I miss him still, nearly twenty years later. I miss the sister who treats me as a stranger, because I see other brother-sister relationships, caring and tight knit. And I miss the children I never had, seeing others grow through parenting, being called “Dad”, leaving behind a legacy, a part of themselves to live on after they’re gone.

I sought, learned, and grew,
desired, dreamt, and hoped.

Although caring, I feared risk,
risking mightily, carelessly, where I ought not to have.

aching and grieving and weeping,
I longed, oh, so longed,
to connect…

… with those with whom I shared a room for brief moments:
a father more marine than Dad;
with women my desire for their flesh I mistook for love;
with people who entered and left, oblivious of my presence.

And in dying,
in taking my final breath,
I realized no one would ever again say my name…

I would be –

—From A Retrospect In Death

let go

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A Sh*t-Hole By Any Other Name Is Still a Sh*t-Hole

I don’t know any Haitians so I can’t comment on their morals or their work ethic.

What I do know is that Haiti is a sh*t-hole (not to be confused with Libya, which a former president once called a “sh*t show”—that former president is revered and Trump is, once again, labeled a racist; have you heard what Martin Luther King Jr.’s niece, Alveda King, American evangelist, activist, author, former state representative for the 28th District in the Georgia House of Representatives, said about Donald Trump?).

What I do know is that no one wants to emigrate to Haiti. I also know of at least one Congressperson who, when asked if she’d rather emigrate to Norway or Haiti, said she couldn’t answer that question. Yes, she could answer it but chose not to. Because answering it truthfully would cost her votes and would’ve labeled her, like Trump, a racist.

I also know that truth isn’t racist. Truth can be only what it is, in this case that Haiti is not a very desirable place in which to live. I just wrote pretty much what Donald Trump is accused of saying. The subtext of my words is that Haiti is a sh*t hole. Does that make me racist? Does it make me racist to call out Maxine Waters and Al Sharpton as being racist?

Who among us hasn’t gone to a bar or restaurant where the food wasn’t good or the micro brew selection not to our liking and later, when a friend asked us about the place, we told them, “The place was a sh*t-hole”? It wasn’t a reflection of the wait staff.

As a nation we need borders. No nation without borders can call itself a nation. As a nation we have the right to determine who we allow into our country.

The Left would have us believe that all illegals are good people admirably contributing to the U.S., serving in our military. What they don’t want you to know is that illegals accounted for 37 percent of all federal crimes in the 12 months between September 2014 and September 2015.

The Left would have us believe this country was built on immigration. They don’t want us to consider that, unlike my ancestors who came here to embrace American ideals and wanted to contribute to America, and become an American, many of today’s immigrants couldn’t care less about becoming American. Some come here for the free handout, while others think that coming to America means they should be allowed to practice Sharia Law.

I know the Left is fond of quoting Emma Lazarus, a phrase from her sonnet, New Colossus: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” Nowhere in that phrase does Lazarus write “only”. We have the right to decide who we allow to live in our country, and that translates into not just the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to be free. How about a few Albert Einsteins? Some successful business people? Some who will contribute to the success of our nation and not just those who will be a drain on it, or translate to votes for Democrats?

We’ve forgotten the wisdom of Theodore Roosevelt, who in 1907 said of immigration, “In the first place, we should insist that if the immigrant who comes here in good faith becomes an American and assimilates himself to us, he shall be treated on an exact equality with everyone else, for it is an outrage to discriminate against any such man because of creed, or birthplace, or origin. But this is predicated upon the person’s becoming in every facet an American, and nothing but an American… There can be no divided allegiance here. Any man who says he is an American, but something else also, isn’t an American at all. We have room for but one flag, the American flag… We have room for but one language here, and that is the English language… and we have room for but one sole loyalty and that is a loyalty to the American people.”

We not only have the right to determine who we allow into our country, we have an obligation to do so, and also to rid ourselves of the lottery system and chain migration. If we don’t the U.S. is destined to become a third world nation for our children’s children’s children. That’s not a racist rant. It’s the truth. The nation who takes in the majority of immigrants who are uneducated and illiterate will be dragged down, not pulled up.

Sorry for the rant. My mother taught me that if I didn’t have something nice to say I should refrain from saying anything at all. Sorry, Mom, but you were wrong. Remaining silent is part of what has gotten us to this place. The Right has for too long remained silent to the PC taunts of the Left, their labeling and name-calling. I will not apologize for being conservative, for believing in borders and immigration laws (I’m not xenophobic), for being pro-life (I’m not a backward Christian who wants to take away women’s rights), for believing marriage should be between a man and a woman (I’m not homophobic), or for wanting smaller government when the Left wants more government and higher taxes to pay for their socialist programs.


Port-Au-Prince, Haiti, a city of nearly a million without a sewer system

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Liberalism: Bane or Boon?

I’m trying to remember if ever I was a liberal in my life. Nope, not in my youth. I voted for Ford, and then Reagan, twice. In my thirties I voted for Bush 41 (twice) and, when I turned forty, Bob Dole. With the new millennium I voted Bush 43, also twice.

I never considered myself a liberal when I voted for Obama—the first time I ever voted for a Democrat for president. But that I voted for Obama is really a misnomer because in essence I voted against McCain. The thought of Sarah Palin in the Oval Office if anything should happen to McCain kept me up at night. One term was enough to show me Obama wasn’t the answer.

But then if I’ve learned anything in my life it’s that, where government is concerned especially, there is no answer. If ambulance chasing lawyers are lowlifes, then politicians are the lowest form of life on the planet.

Once in office they’re beholden to the special interest groups who contributed to their campaigns. And, once in office, they spend more time raising campaign funds for reelection than governing.

One votes for one candidate or against their opponent and hope for the best, hope they make good on a few items on their agenda one supports.

But getting back to liberals: they’re for open borders because, after all, this country was built on immigrants. Never mind that my parents’ parents came here to embrace American ideals. To become an American was their dream, their goal. They asked, “What can I add to this great country to make it even greater?” They didn’t come to America to bend our culture, our laws, to their beliefs, their culture.

Today many immigrants are here illegally to take advantage of our Welfare system. Many don’t embrace our ideals. Case in point, a Muslim woman recently demanded pork-free menus in her child’s school or, “We will leave the U.S.” My first thought: Bah-bye.

Emigrating to America, or any nation, doesn’t grant you the right to make demands of your host.

The liberal left today supports a wide array of groups and promotes divisiveness and hate. They’re anti-gun and support gun-free zones, despite the fact many more shootings take place in gun-free zones than anywhere else.

Support pro-life and you’re accused of being backward and anti-women’s rights.

Support immigration laws—laws already on the books—and you’re xenophobic.

Believe in gender-specific public restrooms and you’re homophobic.

Believe in defending the flag and standing for the National Anthem and you’re racist, a white supremacist, despite the fact that many of our major cities have been governed by Democrats for decades, cities that suffer poor education, high employment, and high crime rates.

Support Donald Trump and you’re deplorable, accountable for hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and are wished painful, horrible deaths.

Disagree with the liberal left and you’re unflatteringly labeled.

Kathy Griffin, Stephen Colbert, and Shakespeare in the Park are all protected under the First Amendment. But conservative speech at our colleges and universities is labeled fascist and protested using fascist tactics.

Where on the liberal left is conservatism accepted? Where is civil debate invited? Only they can be right.

This isn’t America, certainly not the America my father fought in World War II to help create.

America is supposed to stand for unity, inclusiveness. Race, religion, culture are not anthropocentric: no single group is the central fact of the universe.

This once was a great country. No longer. Thanks to the liberal left.


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Is the Novel Dead?

That nearly a half-million novels are published each seems to indicate the novel is not only alive, but thriving.

But the other side of the coin seems to indicate otherwise.

A couple years ago I read that in 2014 sixty percent of Americans admitted to not reading a novel. Additionally, forty percent of college graduates claimed to never crack another book after graduating. A former colleague of mine, a Millennial, backed that up by telling me he reads only non-fiction.

Oh, and that sixty percent, it was put forth, was only expected to grow.

Last holiday season I watched a roving reporter in Times Square polling shoppers what they were buying their kids for Christmas. When the reporter suggested to one mother, “How about a book?” she looked at him sideways and replied, “You’re kidding, right?”

So demand is dwindling while supply is increasing. So how can anyone not named James Patterson, Stephen King, or JK Rowling hope to compete with nearly a half-million new titles released every year, most poorly written, just as poorly edited (if at all), poorly packaged drivel?

Additionally, Internet shorthand, texting, and emojis seem to not only be destroying communication but the beauty of language as well. People no longer have to express their feelings with words; they simply click one of hundreds of emojis to relate what they’re feeling at any given moment.

It seems people no longer have the patience to read a novel. Many would rather wait for the book to be made into a movie, which is why the major publishers look only for manuscripts that can be sold to Hollywood to turn into next summer’s blockbuster movie.

Is the novel destined to become only a curiosity, something to be studied in school as an archaic art form?


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Fascism on the Left

The Left continues to call the Right fascists. But today the Left employs everything they define as fascism. They’re trying to silence the Right.

Who is protesting conservatives at our colleges and universities? The liberal Left.

Who thought about blowing up the White House? A liberal Leftist.

Who protested in the streets for weeks after the election, destroying property, and berating Trump supporters? The Liberal Left.

Frankly, fascism has more in common with socialism, an intrinsically left wing ideology, than conservatism.

Don’t call me fearful, xenophobic, racist and uneducated when you know nothing about me. That’s a typical Leftist tactic: someone disagrees with you, label them with one of a host of phobias, the more the merrier, because the Left has no platform. They tried to buy the election in Georgia as well as the White House last fall. Neither worked out well, did they?

The Democrats have no platform other than “no borders” and “support sanctuary cities”, and attack the Right: you’re backward if you’re pro-life (an attack against religion); you’re xenophobic if you believe in borders (employing the laws already on the books); you’re homophobic if you believe in men’s and women’s public restrooms. You’re evil if you don’t agree with the Left.

Because I believe in borders, because I believe in legal immigration, because I believe a nation without borders isn’t a nation doesn’t make me xenophobic; because I’m pro-life doesn’t make me backward; and because I believe in gender specific public restrooms doesn’t make me homophobic.

Go ahead and call the new militant Left Antifa (short for anti-fascism) if you want. They’re still employing the same tactics they accuse the White House of using but that I don’t see. What I see is the Left trying to silence the Right through violence.

Our colleges and universities won’t let anyone with even a hint of conservatism speak at their campuses. That is an affront to free thinking. What is that teaching our youth about opposing views, that out of debate often comes the best solutions?

Just because liberals cite the dictionary definition of fascism doesn’t mean the Left can’t employ the same tactics. They do, they are, and it’s all sleight of hand to blame the Right for being fascists even though they’ve done nothing to warrant that label.

We had eight years of failed Left wing policy and look what it got us: wage gains largely confined to the rich. A toppling of the Libyan regime that not only did not include Congress but failed. A line drawn in the Syrian sand that was crossed and ignored. Race tension the worst it’s been in forty years. A “stimulus” plan to help recover from a recession that resulted in the weakest economic growth of any post-recession period since World War II.

There’s a reason why some called Obama the Bubble President. He entered office thinking, They love me, so they’ll love everything I do! But he had no plan for what to do if Congress worked against him. Every president has to negotiate with Capitol Hill, but Obama thought wheeling and dealing, negotiating—politics—was beneath him. So he signed executive orders to further his agenda, certain his successor, Hillary Clinton, would continue his legacy but that today are being overturned.

The voters wanted a change and so they voted for one. All you boo-hooers need to grow up. Vote Trump out of office in four years if you still think he’s doing a poor job, but leave him to do the job he was voted into office to do. We all want a better, safer America. Let him sink or swim on his own. He doesn’t need your help to fail. If he fails he’ll do it on his own. But no president succeeds on their own.

There are a number of items on Trump’s agenda with which I don’t agree. But there have been a number of items on every president’s agenda with which I haven’t agreed. So what? All Americans vote based on the choices presented. Trump was not my first choice in the primaries, but when it came down to him or Clinton, he was, for me, the only choice.

Disagree with me if you must, tell me I’m wrong, but leave the personal attacks out of it. I’m not evil, I just want government to do what it’s supposed to do: represent We, the People, who elect them to office. There is enough bickering between the parties. They’re so caught up in their personal agendas they’ve forgotten us.

Consider that solidarity is a two-way street: We’re all tired of gridlock in Washington; that’s why Middle America voted into office someone to “drain the swamp.” Maybe, just maybe, if we all got together to support “45” government might work a little better.

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The Beauty of Words

Words are beautiful. They have meaning. Words have life. They can make one feel. They can make one laugh, or cry. They can incite people to anger, or bring two lonely hearts together. They make something happen inside one’s head by inspiring imagination. When ancient Man first uttered something that was understood, civilization was born. With language, Mankind set itself on the road to becoming the dominant species, became a force with which to be reckoned.

But words are dying, not a slow death, and that means imagination is not far behind.

Texting and Internet shorthand are conspiring to kill communication. My wife gets frustrated with me when I draw a conclusion from something she said she didn’t intend. She claims I take her too literally. “That’s not what I meant,” she tells me. To which I reply, “Then say what you mean.”

I work with a number of Millennials, and none of them read novels, or even crack a book. They’d rather wait for a novel to come to the silver screen because then they don’t have to use their imagination. They, too, despite all the connectivity that texting boasts, fail to understand communication, the beauty of words—the utter loveliness of connecting with another human being by conveying thoughts, ideas and feelings acoustically rather than over the Internet.

If words are dying, that means the novel, too, will soon die, destined to become a curiosity, something only studied in classrooms as an archaic art form.

Nearly 305,000 new books were published in the U.S. in 2013, most self-published. Just about all of them are poorly written, just as poorly edited (if at all), and poorly produced by wannabes who know nothing of craft and have no desire to learn craft let alone the best practices of writing, whether it be fiction or nonfiction.

Toss into the equation the growing number of Americans who admit to not reading novels and you end up with a growing supply of poor product and a decreasing demand.

I find all of this sad, and not only because I make my living from arranging words on a blank monitor.

We live in a society of divisiveness, of left and right, where communication is broken. No one listens; everyone seems to want to be heard.

A society in which no one listens is fated to fall.

Does anyone hear me?



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A Life In Retrospect

“Does anybody really know what time it is? Does anybody really care? If so I can’t imagine why. We’ve all got time enough… to cry.” —Robert Lamm

Wise words written nearly fifty years ago by a man in his long ago youth.

Yet in preparing for death, and in preparing for the loss of a loved one, there is never enough time.

Funerals are strange affairs. People attend them for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the most popular reason is to pay one’s respects. Unlike Rodney Dangerfield, who never got any respect, apparently some people feel the dearly departed is deserving of a whole heap of it. I’m not sure what that means, paying ones’ respects. Did they pay them respect while they were alive, when it truly mattered? That, to me, is one of life’s great mysteries: why we withhold telling those who mean the most to us what they mean to us until it’s too late. Maybe we assume they know. That’s a travesty.

Others attend funerals in support of the family left behind, and that’s a fine sentiment. When someone loses a family member it provides much comfort to know that others share your grief.

And speaking of grief, yes, funerals are in large part about grief, the sharing of it. A burden is more easily carried by a multitude than by an individual. But more important than grief, funerals are—or should be—about a celebration of a life shared.

A man’s life should never amount to a few hundred words spoken after he’s gone. If a man’s life is measured by what he left behind, then John’s life is a fortune of the greatest value. He left behind two fine children who in turn became fine parents, giving to their daddy a chance to be a fine granddaddy. What greater gift could they give in return?

He also left behind a wife who adores him. He was the true definition of a biblical husband. He cherished you, Joan, and took care of you. In fact, he took care of you so well you had to call your son a few weeks ago, after John was admitted to the hospital for the last time, because you had no idea how to turn on the air conditioner.

By the number of people here today, I know he touched the lives of many others as well, mine included.

John was a simple man who enjoyed the simple things in life. Polish beer, watching a Wings game, time spent with family. A good card game. Especially a good card game. He enjoyed laughing, and enjoyed even more making people laugh. He took at least as much pleasure in giving a gift as the recipient received in its receipt.

John got it: life’s meaning. That he was here to give and not to receive. John received in the giving. He understood it’s not what you gather throughout a lifetime, but what you scatter that make up a memorable biography.

It’s okay to grieve loss, to shed a tear or three; but that’s not what John would want. He would want us to remember him the way he was in life, the way he lived his life. He would want us to remember that boyish grin, that mischievous glint in his eyes, his laughter. So grieve, and weep if we must for a man taken too soon. But he’d be taken too soon had he lived another twenty years. But smile, too. That should be our everlasting gift to him in return for all he gave us.

Yes, we lost one of the good ones. One of a kind, sui generis. And so today we mourn our lost John. But lost isn’t the right word. Lost is what happens to pennies when you can’t find them, or a sock. And then you do, between the cushions of the sofa or in the dryer. Nothing is ever really lost. You just need to find it.

But take joy in that there surely must be much dancing on the other side of the Great Divide over John’s arrival. Indeed, in addition to his heart of gold, Heaven has received:

  • a mischief maker
  • a rascal
  • a rogue
  • a scalawag
  • and one of one the luckiest card players I’ve ever met.

Yes, John, our debate is over: you have to be lucky in order to be good. God, I suspect, has met His match at the euchre table.

Long life to you, John. The Red Solo Cup that contained your essence may have broken, but who you were in life, who you are, lives on. Just as you live on in the memories of your children and grandchildren, your Joan, and all who already miss you. We are all better for knowing you.

Thanks, John, for all the cherished memories. Keep a seat open at the euchre table for me, will you?

God keep you.

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Twenty Years a Fatherless Son

Dad: It’s been nearly twenty years since you went away, and this is my twentieth Father’s Day spent without you to share it. I sit this morning writing these words with a heavy heart, even as the chipmunks run, chasing each other around, going about their chipmunk lives. The cigar I wish I could share with you brings little comfort to me.

Today is a day to honor you, to share with you, and sadly this is the best I can do: a few words, not nearly enough—words I hope you care enough to read, looking over my shoulder to read them as I type them.

My memories of you are pleasant, yes, even the not so good ones. I’ve forgiven you for much, understanding you were handicapped in many ways, and that as a father, you did the best you could.

I, too, have done the best I can, handicapped in my own way, falling short often, always seeking, striving to find understanding, while failing to achieve my many dreams. At times I’ve considered giving them up, knowing my race is drawing to a close and losing my drive. If you’ve been following my life, I know I’ve disappointed you, perhaps more than many other sons.

Still, I’ve found a measure of happiness, marrying a wonderful woman, but pained that you never met her. I know you would love her. I continue to endeavor to make my final dream come true. I think you know what that dream is.

I’ve written nine novels, and aspects of you appear in nearly all of them. Not always did I depict you in a favorable light, but hey, it makes for good reading. Still, I always showed you with redeeming traits, a sympathetic character. In one of my books I wrote you as the father I always wished you could’ve been. I hope that doesn’t bring you pain.

Know on this day that you are missed, as you are every day. I feel no less an orphan than I did the day you left. My world has been much colder without you.

I hope these words bring you some measure of comfort, more than they bring me, because writing them reminds me how much I miss you. (By the way, I’ve kept your watch running since you left it to me. Wearing it brings me comfort.)

Happy Father’s Day, Dad, with love and understanding,

Your son, Joseph Conrad


Dad, with J. Conrad, circa 1957

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Imitation Not Sincerest Form of Flattery

Inspired by Kathy Griffin’s recent sick attempt at humor.

What Type of World

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Mother’s Day 2017

Mom: This is my 20th Mother’s Day without you. I still remember the first one as if it were last year. A family once five now three joined together, sadly for the last time, to celebrate the life of a cherished departed member.

Mother’s Day has gotten less painful over the years—did you ever imagine me this old?—even as I miss you more and more.

Many unanswered questions unanswered because they were unasked because I never thought to ask them at a time when you could answer them. Another of life’s mysteries. Wisdom, enlightenment, often (if not always) comes too late.

I can’t know where you are, Mom, whether you’re bound by time and space, but I choose to believe that you, some part of you, still exists. I’m happy today, as I was twenty years ago, that your suffering is at an end. I suspect you’ve found peace and, hopefully, reconciliation. That last, I know, was important to you.

I don’t know whether what goes on on this plane matters to you, or whether I even mean anything to you anymore. But know this: you still matter to me, and perhaps that’s more important than the obverse. The measure of any mother is what she means to her children after she’s gone.

I’ve fallen short so many times over the years, failed to achieve many of my dreams, and have often wanted to give up. But I haven’t, even as my race tires me as it draws to its end.

Dad told me shortly before he joined you that no man gets out of life without a few regrets. We don’t, to my knowledge, get to choose our parents. But if we did, I’d never regret choosing you.

I can only hope you don’t regret me.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom, from your baby boy.


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Yearning for Simpler Days

My first car was a 1965 Beetle that I purchased from my dad for $200 (he bought it new for $1,795). I was probably eighteen years old. Panama beige was the color. He’d purchased it, sans a radio (Dad tended to be miserly), and a summer or two later the family (Mom, Dad, my sister and I) drove from Michigan all the way down to D.C. for a Marine Corps reunion. Imagine the four of us—I was eleven or twelve and already five foot seven or taller, my sister thirteen or fourteen—baggage for all of us for three or four days, no radio, making that trip today.

A few years later, after I got my driver license, Dad taught me to drive the stick shift in the Bug. I was petrified, not by the clutch but by Dad, the retired marine who was more drill instructor to me in my youth than Dad. But it turned out well. I was a quick study and thereafter anytime I asked for the keys to the car Dad would make a point of asking me where I was heading and how far it was. Then he’d go out to the car to record the mileage on the odometer. A few years later, after I brought it up to him, he told me it was a father’s duty to distrust his children. Ouch.

So when I bought it from Dad the first thing I did was install a quad stereo radio/eight-track player in the dash. Then I added a Hurst short-throw shifter, replacing the knob with a Coors beer can. This was before Coors could be gotten east of the Mississippi. I knew a pilot who flew to Colorado on occasion and I often had him bring me back a case of the beverage. Strange today how I never purchase Coors and drink it only when family or friends have it at their homes.

A ten-inch three-spoke steering wheel and wooden dashboard ended my, in Han Solo’s words, “special modifications.”

By the time I took it off my dad’s hands the running boards had rusted off, as had the back bumper. On cold winter mornings when it wouldn’t start, Dad had to push me with this car, backward, down the street. I’d wave him off just before popping the clutch to jump start it.

Kissed a girl (not my first) in that car at a drive-in movie (can’t recall the title).

Some grand memories, although one or two might not have been so grand at the time.

I sold it three years later for maybe $75 to a kid with whom my dad worked and bought my first new car: a Datsun B210 for (if I recall) just over $3,000, and I thought nothing of that Beetle for many years.

But then I wrote about it for one of my novels—most of my novels contain biographical moments from my life. In A Retrospect In Death, my protagonist trades his Beetle in for a Toyota Celica, and as he drives his car off the lot he sees his old Bug in the lot and feels a certain remorse I didn’t when I’d been his age, as if he’d broken up with an old girlfriend for a prettier model, one with more baubles but little personality.

It’s been said we become old the moment we begin to look back, reflect more on the past than looking ahead to the future. Maybe that’s human nature. After all, I have far more years behind me than ahead of me, and I can only hope and pray my future won’t be laden with adverse health issues.


Just like my old friend, including the half-moon wheel covers

Anyway, I’m not sure this is worthy of taking up space on my blog, but there you have it.

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Doesn’t Seem Like Twenty Years

“It was twenty years ago today
Sgt. Pepper taught the band to play
They’ve been going in and out of style
But they’re guaranteed to raise a smile
So may I introduce to you…”
—Lennon and McCartney

It was twenty years ago yesterday, Mom, that you departed this world for a safer, happier, healthier place, and my world became much colder. The last shred of my boyhood innocence was gone.


A Happy Mother

So much has happened over those twenty years—some good, some not so good. But I still remember the night you went away as if it happened last Sunday and not a Sunday two decades removed.

You passed easily, deservedly so. No death’s rattle for you: you simply took one last breath, and never let it out.

I grieved your loss from me then, but was happy for you that your suffering was at last at an end. Nearly a score of years battling Parkinson’s disease, a relentless foe, a battle you could not win. But in my eyes you were valiant until the very end.

I’ve kept you alive in my fiction and non-fiction, perhaps seeking a reason for your affliction, an answer to your own question: “Why me?” Perhaps one day I’ll find it. Maybe, having become a writer, I already have.

It’s been said that our lives are made up of a series of rooms. If that’s so then I was blessed to share a room with you for a time far too short.

I miss you, Mom, and I will until my memory abandons me or I take my own final breath. I hope you’ll be waiting for me—your little boy.

Until then, to “she who bears the sweetest name, and adds a luster to the same; long life to her, for there’s no other who takes the place of my dear mother.”


Sweet Sixteen: Destined to Become My Mother


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