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Monday, 01 March
My Life With The Liver Pill Kult

We have moved successfully. Well, semi-successfully. Our stuff was all transported and transported well: the young lads from the moving company were actually nice and helpful and hard-working. It kind of freaked me out, as I was anticipating Teamsterish, sandwich-clutching mesomorphs who would stolidly refuse to move anything, because I'm such a weenie. But no! We got everything into the house okay, and then I promptly broke the toilet by foolishly trying to, you know, use it. My pleas for a plumber were somehow construed by the manager as a demand for a brand-new toilet, which made no sense at all, but it sure caused a lot of baffled screaming on my part, which then immediately made the cable go out.

I'm sure the events are related somehow, anyway. So the wife is going home early today to meet the cable guy "between one and five!" Or so promised the nice cable lady, who allowed me to bully her into an afternoon slot rather than the usual preposterous wasting of an entire workday. Honestly, when did an entire nation--large parts of which are predicated on the notion of good service--suddenly roll over for a bunch of geek failures in ballcaps who provide annoying, desultory service and then soak you for plugging in some fucking co-ax? For these dipshits we willingly sacrifice entire workdays? Cable companies can't contract out to people with efficient scheduling and troubleshooting skills? What if every service was like that? "Hi, I'd like a cab, please." "All right, it'll be about two to six hours." "WHAT?" "Yep. Eat it raw, stupid. Oh, and no matter where you're going, it's gonna cost you forty bucks. How do you like that?" "I hate it!" "I know! But tough! So you still want a cab?" "I guess . . . "

I'm sorry, but this is not the America I want to live in.

It is time now for me to do something I haven't yet really had to do: issue a retraction. In a previous post, I made several mean-spirited jokes at the expense of my new condoneighbors. I implied that they were a bunch of soulless cheese-scarfing yuppies with shiny expensive cars and no taste. I now declare that I couldn't have been more wrong about my new neighbors. They are not yuppies.

They are, in fact, all wizened husks, near-corpses and shambling, blasted zombies with shiny expensive cars and no taste. I have moved into the Condo Of Imminent Death, and it's a little alarming. In the course of one discussion in the lobby with the Head of the Board (estimated age = one million), there were three wheelchairs, two walkers, and one cane spotted. At another point, when the movers were backing the truck into the front roundabout, an agitated woman started saying frantically, "They can't block the driveway! They can't block the driveway!" Later, after I had gotten the truck out of the way, she (with restored composure) explained, "It's a house rule. There are a lot of people who use that roundabout: tenants, deliverypeople, emergency vehicles . . . " She casually dropped "emergency vehicles" in there without noticing that not all apartment buildings have ambulances on full call all the time. I wondered how many tenants had died during our conversation, and whether or not they had nicer apartments than mine.

But then, when I get home and find out that I still have no cable, and I still have no toilet, I'll probably welcome death myself. And look! I'm right where I need to be.

Thursday, 26 February
We Are Proud To Be Vermin

The move continues, and we are working in frantic spasms, like periodically salted slugs. We actually got the keys tonight, and wandered around the new place for a while, staring at its soon-to-be-ours features, such as the one orange-y wall in the dining area (WE HAVE A DINING AREA!) or the immense parking space in the secure garage (WE HAVE A PARKING SPOT IN A GARAGE!). We also have, by far, the crummiest car in there, which kind of makes me happy. I look forward to the first dirty look I get from some yuppie, so I can cheerfully pipe up, "It's a beaut, isn't it? You can hardly see the rust! I'll trade you straight across for your Lexus!" Then the yuppie, creeped out, will scamper to the elevator, wanting only to get to his apartment and to settle into a nice slice of Gouda, and the wife and I will chase him. "ONE OF US! ONE OF US!" we'll scream after him as he hunches crabwise into a waiting elevator. "WE'RE RUINING YOUR PROPERTY VALUES JUST BY BEING HERE!" You have to make your own fun if you're going to live amongst many people who all have much more money than yourself.

Yesterday I made the big sacrifice: I toted three huge bags of books down to the local cat-infested used bookstore to auction them off to the legendarily nutty (in a great way) proprietor. She asked me my name as she immediately attacked my miserable offerings. "My name's Skot," I replied. She stared at me as if I had said, "Hu-mans call me Klaatu!" But that's just her way: the woman is a champion starer, and you never quite know why. She fingered my ancient Dungeons & Dragons books from high school: "These are terrible, Steve. So old. I'll send them up the the University District store. The only people who buy these are the kids in black who mutter to themselves about the Lord of the Rings movies." She grabbed at my musty, horrible Piers Anthony paperbacks. "I guess I'll take these. They always sell. I don't know why. He sucks." I couldn't disagree. Also, I was taking a shine to being called "Steve."

It wasn't all tripe. I'm a book-buying nut, and over the years had developed a pretty big collection. In fact, on the whole, she seemed impressed by what I had brought, wretched crap aside. "So!" she crowed, holding up an improbable collection of New York Times Book Review pieces, "What did you do with all this education?" I fidgeted. "Let me guess. The arts." I surrendered. "Well, yeah, I'm an actor. I mean, that was my degree." She all but swooned: "I knew it! You have such a wonderful voice!" I shuffled nervously some more. "I have a cold. It makes me sound more resonant than usual." She blew me off and spun on the wife. "Do you ever just sit around and listen to him talk?" The wife, in what I imagine was a purely heroic effort, managed not to say, "Holy fuck, do you think I have a choice?"

It was very silly and embarrassing. Then she started telling me about her 21 pairs of Birkenstocks, and I'm afraid I had to kind of leave my body.

Anyway. She gave me an $80 store credit for all of my crap, and I'm pretty sure that at least $20 of that is going to go towards a t-shirt that they sell that says, "666 years of celebrating the Bubonic Plague."

In the soon-to-be-not-our-home, I was panicking earlier about being behind with the packing, but I think we're getting a handle on it. Plus I had forgotten that the wife is off for most of tomorrow, and will be able to get some more work done (and I'm taking Friday off, which will be the Uh Oh Am I Fucked Day? Because that's when I'll fearfully disconnect all the electronics with only a vanishing hope of being able to revive them again later). Move-panic also inspires some telling reactions in terms of your relationship with the items surrounding you in your home. "Honey? What about this leather bag with the broken strap?" "Ugh. Get rid of it." "What's this old bookshelf stereo system?" "I still have that? It's busted. To the dump." "Why are there four speakers in the closet when we have five around the apartment?" "Uh . . . all red-blooded males dream of a nonaphonic stereo system." "All right. What about this broken monkey-themed candleholder?" "Fuck it! Dump all of this shit!" "Even this solid bar of platinum?" "Gone!" "And this splinter from the One True Cross?" "Garbage!" "Oh, and here's a bottle of Bushmills. It has half an inch left in it." "Jesus Christ. Make sure to double-wrap that."

Hell, I'd keep even an empty bottle of Bushmills. Why? So I could loll around in the pool (WE HAVE A POOL! AND A PATIO!), decked out, say, in lime-green biker shorts, resting the empty whiskey bottle on my tummy. Then I'd wait for the fearful yuppies to creep out onto their balconies to look down at me with opprobrium and terror. And I'd scream at them, brandishing the bottle.

"ONE OF US! ONE OF US! SOMETIMES WE BUY OFF-BRAND MAYONNAISE!" The yuppies, terrified beyond lucidity, will scuttle back into their leatherette warrens, cowed into blank incomprehension by the dreadful invasion of Us.

And they haven't even met our friends yet. We're going to have a time.

Wednesday, 04 February
This Boy Is Exhausted

At long last, the wife and I are officially looking for a new apartment. When I first moved into this place back in, uh, 1999 or so, it was perfect for me: I was single, didn't have a lot of shit, etc. Then the future-wife moved in, and things got a little tighter, but no biggie; we made compromises, we both dumped a bunch of redundant crap, my walls had artwork instead of nothing, again etc.

Then we got married.

Our stockpile of crap exploded (partially due to people who APPARENTLY DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO WEDDING REGISTRIES). At one point, we had--I'm not kidding--something like 36 martini glasses. 24 margarita glasses. 18 highball glasses. 6 discount drugstore eyeglasses. (Some of our friends are drunkards or dumb or both.) Were people trying to tell us something? We hate you! said these gifts, We'd sure appreciate it if you drank yourselves to death! Well, we're working on it.

We gave away tons of crap. We received a George Foreman grill from a certain wobbly relative, who was extolling the virtues of its eggplant-sizzling properties: we gave it away to our friend C. (fuck you, eggplant). We didn't have room in our kitchen for the motherfucker anyway. A few months later, for her birthday, the wife's parents gave her (us) . . . a George Foreman grill. The "deluxe" size, perfect for roasting, say, dinosaurs. We exchanged sidelong glances when she unwrapped it, and put on our best happy grin-rictuses, gaily showing our teeth to the oldsters. "That's fantastic! We have . . . nobody left to give this away to! Maybe we can put it . . . Christ, I don't know . . . in our bed?"

This explosion of shiny stuff is only compounded by my penchant for buying as much crap as humanly possible: I am a freak for CDs, DVDs, and, my real Achilles' heel, books: Books are goddamn fucking bulky, and not to mention heavy as shit, so you can imagine how stoked I am to move all the bastards. Also not helpful is my seeming inability to get rid of any of them, which makes no sense whatsoever, since I'd rather roll around on a bed of carpet tacks rather than reread, say, Piers Anthony ever again, but the main problem is: I can't get rid of any of my goddamn books. I'm just incapable, and so I stare disconsolately at wretched pieces of shit like Golem in the Gears on my shelf, thinking, "I can't even burn you. Why can't I burn you?" I don't know what it is.

So we're looking for a new place, preferably a 2-bedroom. No, definitely a 2-bedroom, because apparently I'll need one entire fucking space in which to store all of the sonuvabitching books I never again intend to read. I have a call in to a guy (actually a former building manager with whom I had a good relationship) to see about a condo on Friday; he said something about a pool. The rent on the place is $1100 a month, a sum that I can barely believe I am even contemplating: I know that you New Yorkers and San Franciscans pay that much a month just for your ham, but this is foreign territory for me.

And I know, I know, I shouldn't be throwing this money down a gape-hole, and should be getting some equity on some firetrap shack, but listen: I'm a total man-boy, and the concept of trying to buy a house is roughly akin to the idea of being a superhero. I could be NEBBISH-MAN! He drinks too much and routinely fails to combat crime, because, hey, he's lazy!

God help me if any Seattle landlords read this weblog. We could die in this place.

Monday, 14 July
A Miracle In The Temple

Something momentous occurred today.

My toilet got fixed.

A little backstory (haw!): since we moved into this apartment, the toilet has always been a cranky old bastard. The outlet valve was dodgy, and sometimes didn't fall into place, and the tank would gargle malevolently as it wasted vast quantities of water while we ineffectually jiggled the handle, trying to pacify the wretched beast. But worse than that was the inlet valve that sits atop the float; as it struggled to refill the tank, it hissed anemically, spraying water in a thin spittle that would literally take as long as twenty fucking minutes to refill the tank. This was bad news when you found yourself having to take a crap, only to hear the doom-flush of Ye Olde Floor Tuba in the bathroom courtesy of someone else, and you'd realize: Fuck! It's going to take twenty minutes to fill up before I can flush again! Then you had a choice: sit for twenty minutes or squirm for twenty minutes.

You end up taking that sort of thing personally after a while. And because I am unbalanced, I attributed it all to accumulated aggression on the toilet's part. I imagined its cognizant soul, a deeply jaded and angry spirit that lived somewhere deep within its workings, thinking vile thoughts: Twenty five years I've had to placidly sit here whilst various humans have lowered their unlovely asses onto me and done unspeakable things. Drunks have pissed on my feet and vomited into my lap. Well, well. I can't do much. But I sure can make you wait for nearly half an hour before you can drop the next payload of fun, can't I? Chew on that, you lousy goo merchants!

But no longer. Today, at long last, I think our nightmare might be over. The plumber was summoned, and he waved his bejeweled plunger over the recalcitrant beast; when it shuddered, he caressed its sides and whispered complex hoodoos into the thing's lid; and when it cried, he held it like a mother. And after the ordeal, the toilet was reborn, its purpose restored, its hate dispelled. It is once again childishly eager to receive our benighted asses, and it coos when we enter the temple to perform our gastrointestinal sacraments.

I love this toilet, and it loves me. When I flush, it gives a mighty throaty roar, like the howl of a Gorgon. The mighty valve blasts water into the tank, singing a song of hydrodynamic hosannas, and fills the tank in under two minutes flat. This is a toilet with some fucking panache, people. In fact, I can't stop flushing it. I dance to the song of its mightiness, and I know sublimity. I have flushed this toilet 138 times in a row now. And I don't think I will stop, not tonight anyway.

It's the music of the spheres. One of the spheres even folds down. If that's not magic, I don't know what is.

Monday, 07 April
Windows On A World

I oversee a magical realm.

(Don't look so surprised. I do have a treacherous, magical homunculus, after all.)

Courtyardia. Often do I stare out my window and survey my lush--albeit small--dominion; it soothes me to do so, and to view the lesser forms of life that reside there, and their small, charming habits. They (not counting the plants, of course) are three in number.

There is the tiny princess. She is very beautiful, and loves to cavort in Courtyardia, free in those precious moments when she has escaped the grasp of her wicked parents, the Bylding Managyrs, dark entities with whom I do battle too regularly; monthly it sometimes seems. Not physical battle, of course; mystical beings such as myself do not sully ourselves with crass, fleshly touch, but rather on a more mystical plane; what some call the Phiscal Levelle. I am, sadly, no doughty warrior here nor even there. I lose every battle, and they sap my essence, feasting like ghouls, denying me the pleasures I could otherwise achieve with this Phiscal Currencie: expensive meals at the ale-house, perhaps, or even a motor-bicycle. Alas.

So it remains puzzling how such a dark, twisted couple could have produced such a fine little tow-headed lass, who skips around Courtyardia, tra-la-la, feet kissing the ground, and often her face as well. "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" sings the princess on her many trips to the ground, and it tickles me to see such carefree play. "YAAAAAAAAAAAH!" Over and over she does it, the pretty thing! How she loves to greet the earth so intimately, with all of her face.

The princess has a companion, a mighty protector in the form of a dog. But what a dog! A champion without question, he runs by her side at all times, save when distracted by a bug, or a mail-man, or a cloud, or his own heroic ass, but at all other times he is very much mostly wholly vigilant to his charge. The mighty beast, in aspect, is a fair four-pound or so, with fearsome bug-eyes and a sharp, pointed face that all who are knowledgable recognize as of the Chijua-jua breed. And when danger approaches (or, truly, anything at all, for it must be confessed that the dog is blind), all quiver to hear his throaty cries: "erk! erk! erk!" It curdles the milk of the soul to hear the sound; and I hear it every day. But small price to pay for the spectacle of the lovely princess, once again embracing the ground. "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!" And the dog, perceiving something, or possibly nothing, joins the chorus: "erk! erk! erk!"

Such is the music of Courtyardia.

Only one other makes his way in the verdancy of the land, and that is the proud cat. The cat is older than both the princess and the dog, and remembers the Long Days, back in time when he roamed Courtyardia alone; seeming master of the place. The cat is older now, and probably grateful for the company, though he keeps his own counsel, and spends much time relaxing atop the picnick table, viewing the goings-on of the princess and the dog. I am sure that he welcomes the pleasing din of the child and her companion, though some foolish souls find his gaze murderous and cold. I do not see it; what lonely beast would not welcome such frolicsome sights, such joyously piercing noise! I prefer to think of him as perhaps in the grips of some digestive malady; and if he cuffs the dog roughly from time to time, or bites him viciously, or leaps on him savagely as he would a blind, idiot, ratlike thing--well, that is just play, I suppose, and the dog participates enthusiastically, howling with a mad panic that comes across as quite authentic.

These are the three players on my little stage, but alas, I see far too few of these springtime hi-jinx. Too quickly, too quickly by half, the princess always attracts the ire of the Bylding Managyrs, and her faceplay is quickly halted. They race out-of-doors (they hate the light) and scoop up the princess and the dog and scold her with fierce words. "Time to come inside," they hiss, and the princess resists futilely. Summoning inner reserves of strength, her body goes rigid, arms and legs sticking straight out, and she experiments with incantations. "NO! NO! NO! NO! NO!" Well, I allow, only one incantation thus far, but she is a young lass, and will learn. "erk! erk! erk!" cries the dog in protest, or pain, or mere confusion with the tilting world.

Daytime starts to leave Courtyardia, and only the cat is left, lonely and no doubt sad once again at the departure of the Songs. But the cat does not easily betray his feelings; he masks the sadness with a kind of relaxed enjoyment, and feigns as always a satisfaction with his solitude, and wanders the darkening Courtyardia, a king without subjects.

I turn from the window, my vigil over for the eve.

I know I shall hear it again tomorrow, though, and that gives me small comfort. Perhaps if I am lucky, I shall hear them sooner than that, in my dreams: "erk! erk! erk! "YAAAAAAAAH!" And might I smile as I sleep? I might. Or I might not.

Monday, 20 January
Strangers Enjoy the Ambience of My Uninviting Back Yard

It seems that one of our neighbors has a stalker. Isn't that fucking wonderful? There is a woman who apparently lives in the house next door to our apartment building, and her ex-boyfriend can be seen at pretty much any hour driving around the block in his van, parking in her driveway, or, if he's feeling really frisky, sneaking into our back yard to spy on her window. This I love. Our building manager caught him pressed up against the wall the other night and called the cops, who promptly let him go. Thanks, guys! I had a conversation about this with Jason, the guy who called the cops.

"What the fuck? I mean, what the fucking fuck? FUCK!"

"I know," Jason calmly replied as I fitfully gnawed on my arm.

"Why didn't you . . . I don't know . . . hit him with a shovel a bunch of times?"

"See, you can't. I have to lure him inside."

"Are you kidding? That's fucking stupid."

"I know. But I have taken my guns out of the safe again."

Well, now I feel better. So we have a crazed stalker diddling around in our back yard and an armed, bloodthirsty building manager. How can we add to this picture? I believe I'll set up a combo crack lab/abortion clinic! It is imperative that I maximize the horrific danger quotient here. But there are some other anti-stalker methods I can take.

1. I will stop recycling. Not only will this hasten the demise of the earth, and thus stalkers, it may also act as a psychologic depressive on intruders. They'll sneak into the back yard, and will inevitably see the woefully underused recycling bins. "Jesus, that's terrible," they'll think. "Recycling is important to the global community. I'm too depressed to murder my estranged girlfriend now. I'm going to go read some Carlos Castaneda instead."

2. I will litter the back yard with my famously inedible pot roasts. This is almost too cruel, but my safety is paramount to people like me. So the stalker will creep into the yard and spy a pot roast sitting there. "Pot roast!" he will think, "What a delicious surprise! I will eat this pot roast before I murder my estranged girlfriend! O happy day!" Then when he discovers that the pot roast is, in fact, horrible, he will become incredibly depressed. "Who can't cook pot roast? This country is going into the toilet. I'm moving to Indonesia."

3. I can pay William Bennett to sit around in my back yard and intercept the wicked. Again, the stalker sneaks into my yard, and there's William Bennett. The stalker panics. "Jesus Christ in New Jersey! A shrill, right-wing moralizer is back here!" And William Bennett will thunder, "This nation's poor have only themselves to blame!" And the stalker will cringe and think, "What? Is he insane? Why won't he let me murder my estranged girlfriend in peace?" William Bennett will be unperturbed. "Images on television are destroying our nation's fiber," he will dourly intone. The stalker is plunged into a paralyzing morass of confusion and terror. He gibbers fearfully while William Bennett continues his ruthless attack on his psyche. "White people are great! I am frightened by the young! I'm a quacking programmable mouthpiece for the Republican Party!" At which point the stalker, now terrorized beyond reason, chooses to die, and eats an entire pot roast. And William Bennett looks on approvingly; a criminal has died horribly, and recycling is on the wane. It's morning in America.

Monday, 30 December
The Many-Worlds Theory Predicts That Somewhere Roy Cohn is Cleaning Your Bathtub

I was outside on my little stooplet having a cigarette a moment ago, thinking of a few things. For one, my bathroom, or more specifically, my tub. Even more specifically, my filthy tub. It looks like God's own biological drop-zone; it is a horror. There are good reasons for this.

1. We're pretty fucking lazy. Who likes cleaning tubs? It's a filthy job, particularly if you're really lazy in the first place. I like to imagine, say, Roy Cohn on some blasted wasteland in hell, dutifully scrubbing an acres-wide tub while winged, incontinent demons flit about overhead. He has a radio, but it only plays songs by the Chipmunks.

2. The tub has a window above it with a sill. Instead of angling the sill downward so the water could sluice away, it is dead level, so water just pools up there and erects signs that say "Bacteria should come fuck their brains out over here!" Also, it's a wood sill for a little extra rot-oomph.

3. No fan. So all the steam just lurks around after a shower, handing out porn mags to everyone collected on the wood sill.

These three things all add up to: tubfilth. So while we can indeed take showers, we do so knowing that, oops, now we have river blindness. Have you ever tried calling in sick with river blindness? It doesn't fly. "Put some eyedrops in. We need you here today to cure cancer."

That's one thing I was thinking about on the stooplet. Another was I forget because all of a sudden, I heard a sound from downstairs. "EEEeeeeuuggh." It creeped me out, but then I remembered that the downstairs couple has a baby, and her room was right down there. "EEEeeeeuuugh" again. It was a weirdly non-baby sound; it really sounded like a querulous old man trying to disgustedly ward off some fresh terror, like a chilly sitz bath, or a hippie: "EEEEuuuugh." I figured the folks had dumped the tot in there in the hopes that she would sleep. I liked to think, too, that she was trying to exact revenge for this indignity by making the most plangent, awful noise that she could conceive of. It sounded like she was trying to talk her body into stigmata. "That'd show the big blurry food machines. A nice Biblicalicious mind-fuck. C'mon palms, c'mon palms, c'mon palms . . . EEEeeeeuuugghh!"

I finished the smoke, and retreated back indoors to escape the ghastly baby-thing honking downstairs. I took a little nap, and when I woke, went to the bathroom. A shower might be nice. I moved the curtain inside. There was Roy Cohn, wearing a tattered, grey suit and listening to the Chipmunks. He leered at me, and held up bleeding palms, and he moaned "EEEeeeeuuugh!"

Boom. River blindness.

Monday, 16 December
Lawyers and Houseflies Make My Life Sexier

So I smoke cigarettes. Hey, where are you going?

Oh, well, for those who didn't run screaming, I smoke. But not in the apartment, for a few salient reasons. One, it kind of makes everything smell after a while. Two, it tends to cover everything you own in a thin film of ick. And third, my apartment manager would nail my scrotum to a chair and then evict me and then nail some innocent passersby's scrotum to a chair just to work all the way through her anger.

So I smoke outside, which isn't too raw. I have a little covered stairway that I can smoke in, with a little window. I can enjoy the view out of my little window, and watch the lawyers working out of their home opposite my place. I will not be hiring these lawyers any time soon, as I cannot help but notice that they leave their computer monitors on all the fucking time. When they split, turn out the lights and slink into their gleaming fuck-you cars, there are their monitors, burning away. Oh, no screen savers either. Just angry, livid monitors, left helplessly on, feeling their pixels burn out one by one, for no reason at all. It seems to me kind of like tying your maid up every night and pointing a halogen lamp into her face. Jesus, you dumb fucks! Turn off your monitors! At least get a screen saver! Is that privileged information you've got blasting out photonically into the night? Perhaps I'll buy some binoculars find out why you're suing your HMO, gentle reader (they're not buying the "erotomania" argument, dude).

Another little perk I get from smoking outside--this is a recent development--giant, ghastly houseflies. Our apartment was evidently built on an Ancient Native American Septic Tank or something, because these lovelies really put the "super!" in "supernatural." For one thing, they are clearly intelligent. They know exactly when I am opening the door. I imagine them huddled outside, chattering: "T minus five seconds until the big pink thing opens the portal. Then we zip inside and look for dead stuff and crap on it. If we don't find any, just crap anywhere. Christ, I love this job." The other creepy thing is, they are utterly untroubled by spider webs. I know this because I don't mind spiders, and I let a few set up camp in my little smoking window area precisely so they could catch flying beasties. Not these putzes. In the Spider World, these guys are France. The flies are so huge that they fly into the webs, kick a bit, and they're gone. Then the spiders run out, see their ruined, flapping webs, see what amounts to the week's groceries gracefully flying off, and then run back inside to watch pretentious, porny art flicks and complain about the mushroom harvest.

So smoking clearly has its trade-offs. On the one hand, I have to deal with Brobdingagian super-insects, and even worse, I occasionally have to see lawyers. But on the other hand, I do get to smoke. It all works out.










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