THE PURITY OF LONG-AGO SNOWS

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/thepurityoflongagosnows.mp3

or read his story below:

THE PURITY OF LONG-AGO SNOWS

Saturday morning. Snow and ice abound. I clamber aboard my iced vehicle and carefully, CAREFULLY make my way through Southside, sailing to work at the whim of nature and chance.

I actually arrive at the bookshop Downtown, unscathed, un-snowbound, the only denizen in sight, the sole survivor of a species huddling indoors.

I stoke the furnace, say g’day to the books and facsimile Santas, and begin my workday.

Yes, there are booklovers out there for whom snow and ice are mere challenges, not barriers. A few trickle in, have enjoyable browses, make their purchases and continue their explorations of a winter day of sunshine and slippery.

As I prepare to close the shop at closing time, I recall a day long, long ago, when I was a mere tad experiencing my first and best snowfall.

Here’s an entry from my Red Clay Diary:

PURITY

One day when I was seven years old, the world got all cleaned up and everything got a chance to start all over again.

Overnight, the multi-textured earth became one smooth, soft, icy texture, the world of colors and hues became one wonderful multi-shaded land of whites and off-whites and cream-whites and shadowed whites and faintly pinkish whites.

The world overnight cleansed the landscape and allowed clapping children to remold everything in their own images.

Snowmen and snowwomen appeared quickly, playing guardian to our delight. Makeshift sleds materialized mysteriously out of old siding, ragged boards, large tubs and pans.

Footprints showed us who had been where and from where and where to, leaving traces of their makers—something that could never happen during ordinary times.

Mother took the whitened landscape that our Father had gathered from the yard and shrubbery and, waving her large magic wand of a serving-spoon, created the sweetest, sloshiest ice cream I’ve ever tasted.

Large multilayered men came outside to pretend they were younger in the deepening creamy banks, and little stuffed-slug kids meandered about in pelts made of nylon and dacron and cotton and leather.

Though we could barely make out each others’ faces under all those makeshift scarves, we recognized everybody instantly, because they were our transmogrified neighbors and playmates running amok upon the unfamiliar terra-infirma.

All human routine was suspended, and during that 24-hour period so many years ago, nobody seemed to hold a job, nobody had homework to do, nobody had to be anywhere else but right there on our block on Eastwood Avenue right down from McArthur Avenue and Patton Avenue and 15th Street.

Some celestial force had taken over our little village for a day and, like Brigadoon, it would not repeat itself in our lifetimes but would save itself for the next hundred-year generation that needed a quick and gentle cleansing so that the next day, when all was back to normal texture normal color normal temperature normal firma, everybody who had experienced this whiter-than-white washing of the spirit would have a memory to cherish in old age, a memory of things being just right and just magical and just totally real all at the same time 

(c) Jim Reed 2017 A.D.

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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IN CASE WE EVER NEED A BOOK

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/incaseweeverneedabook.mp3

or read his story below:

IN CASE WE EVER NEED A BOOK

“This is a book store?” the new customer asks in surprise.

“I was just looking at the doodads,” she’s referring to all the collectible and cherished items scattered about to keep the books company.

She pauses thoughtfully, “Well, it’s good to know you have books, in case we ever need one.”

Her husband responds when I ask him what his kids are reading these days, “Well, they don’t read. Except on their phones.”

It’s New Year’s Eve at Reed Books and the Museum of Fond Memories. Lots of browsers are combing the aisles and examining my foster children, the books. Some shoppers are just along for the ride with family and friends, some are here to dive into other worlds, other times, other lives through the page by page surprises awaiting them.

Some shoppers don’t get why anybody would read a book. Others cannot imagine living without a plethora of reading matter…because, well, reading Matters to them.

I cherish customers who have fallen in love with reading. I cherish those who are beginning a flirtation with literature. I cherish readers who are returning to reading after years of distraction, decades of losing their way. I even cherish this rural husband and wife who do not read at all. I hope they have found something as thrilling and mind-boggling as reading, to while away their years. I can hope, can’t I?

I am beginning my 37th year as curator/owner/founder/janitor of Reed Books. I operate this lovely business out of sheer hope, sheer enthusiasm, sheer refusal to imagine a world that does not know what true love of reading is like.

To paraphrase Henry Standing Bear, It’s another beautiful day at Reed Books’ continual soiree. Come on down and drink deep of the Pierian Spring.

Convince me that you might be the visitor who just found out that you could use a book.

And tell me where else in the world  such characters as Alexander Pope and Henry Standing Bear would hang out and find excitement in just rubbing elbows with literati and illiterati with such ease

 

© 2017 A.D. by Jim Reed

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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THE MORNING AFTER THE MORNING BEFORE

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

 http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/themorningafterthemorningbefore.mp3

or ready his story below:

THE MORNING AFTER THE MORNING BEFORE

Solstice celebrations are packing December, and O what fun they are.

But the day after the joy, the day after the close of this wacky year, what will the world be like?

After overstaying my mortal welcome and journeying forth into the netherlands of geezerhood, l can speculate all I want. Because who’s to stop me?

My hunch is that Earth will continue spinning a few billion times, Old Sol will fume and glisten for a trillion or so, humanoids will come and go and come again and go again, mice and mosquitoes will prevail to the inconsequential end, and the darkness of space will keep on sparkling with stars and other glowy objects, and large rocks will orbit and collide right on random schedule.

Now that the science lesson is concluded, what is left upon which to focus our attentions?

It’s always the same. As long as we are bumbling about, birthing and suspiring, we might as well do something worthwhile…something bigger and better than acquiring wealth and power and status and property. We might as well take care of each other.

Each other is all we’ve got.

In my case, I can only do what I can only do. Hug my family. Hug a friend. Hug someone in need. Hug someone who simply could use a hug.

What else could I do? Listen instead of blabbering and bragging. Look someone in the eye instead of avoiding them altogether. Imagine what it would be like to be that other person. Slap myself each time I throw out an entertaining but hurtful remark. Remember what it is like to be on the other end of that remark.

If I behave according to these precepts, will I become inert, wimpy, useless…or will I morph into someone better, someone wiser, someone worth respecting, someone to be trusted?

It would be a brave new world, the world that would allow all of us to behave, to embrace, to acknowledge, to share, to support, to assist.

Sometimes I want to grab a large canvas bag and stuff it with all the useless ideas that rattle around me. This bag would be filled with negativity, pessimism, criticism, violence, careless remarks, snobbishness, condescension, smirking, and all I’m-better-than-you-isms. Perhaps NASA could gather all these bags and launch them toward the Sun, where they would evaporate and for a moment illuminate our better selves.

Just another idea. What you do with it is all on you, my fellow traveller

 

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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TALLYING THE SWEET MOMENTS LEST THEY GO AWRY

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

 http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/tallyingthesweetmoments.mp3

or read his story below:

TALLYING THE SWEET MOMENTS LEST THEY GO AWRY

“Wow! Look at all the shoe boxes!” Sweetness exclaims as she opens the rear passenger door of my bookmobile to retrieve two heavy bags from the seat.

The bags are filled with clothing and multi-textured cloth products ready to be laundered.

It is Tuesday morning. I’ve just pulled up to the front of the laundromat and Sweetness has popped out of the entrance to grab the bags as an extra service to me, the regular customer. What she sees are two re-purposed shoe boxes filled with Christmas goodies packed and headed for the postal service. Shoe boxes deserve an afterlife, and this is it.

I call Sweetness Sweetness because I don’t know her real name, and because she’s always chipper and smiling, a friendly flower child. She makes my Tuesdays a little sweeter.

I wish her a great day, she reciprocates, and I’m off to my next adventure–getting those packages mailed at the UAB postal station where, again, my morning is flavored with the good will of my favorite postmistress. We exchange pleasantries and gossip, she processes everything like clockwork, wishes me a great day and smiles when I wish her right back. I know her real name, but I label her Postmistress in honor of my late Aunt Gladys McGee, who was postmistress of Peterson, Alabama, when I was a child.

I pull up to a pump at the convenience station, obey robotic instructions, fill the tank, retrieve my credit card, and enter the store. I take one Diet Coke and a sin-filled calorie-loaded pastry to checkout, where Ms. Convenient grins and makes change. We banter, I grab my goodies, I head for the door. I don’t know her name, either. But she is so nicely convenient to my routine that the improvised title seems just right.

The bookmobile then pushes workward, but first I stop at Family Dollar to pick up store supplies and chat with another clerk who always seems happy to see me. She is Family Lady. We are three-minute friends every few days.

Then, I wend my way to the commercial parking lot where the bookmobile will slumber all day. I trade friendly and newsworthy remarks with the lot attendant, who, like me, is always grateful for our dialogues. He is Park Man, my mini super-hero.

Then, I tread the short block to the bookshop, forever waving to the bank clerks on the corner, sharing a smile or a puzzled look, depending on who’s on duty.

I grapple with the shop keys, dive into the store, and meet my daytime buddies, the books, the books, the books. They, too, add sweetness to my day and prepare me for the diversity of customers and clients I will face. They all have names.

By the time I’m ready to lower the drawbridge and welcome visitors, I’ve completed a full cycle of pre-work activities.

I am now ready for my second shift

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

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A WHOLE SLEW OF PONDERING HAPPENING HERE

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http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/awholeslewofpondering.mp3

or read his story below:

A WHOLE SLEW OF PONDERING HAPPENING HERE

Can’t stop those beautiful thoughts from creeping in between the ghastly ones, the ghostly ones.

Lots of reasons to think grimly these days, but eventually something interrupts the flow and spoils my morose prattlings.

For instance, something like a Beautiful Thought.

Yep, the beautiful thoughts just well up and take over now and then when they find an opening. I usually have to insert myself into an in-between moment in order to give those beautiful thoughts a chance to creep in.

Before I know it, though, the Uglies sneak around and start chomping at the Beauties and the war is on, the war between Ugly and Beautiful.

The good news is that, given time–that is, you can’t “give” time, you have to stop, back up a pace, and observe the fact that time goes on with or without your permission–given time, the war seesaws. No matter how much ugliness chomps away, beauty will most likely sneak back in when you least expect it.

It’s those beautiful thoughts, those beautiful minutes, that seem to make things worthwhile again. If you’re lucky, you’ll live long enough to experience a whole slew of these beautiful thoughts, enough of a whole slew to make you almost believe that it’s all worth it–whatever It is and whatever Worth It means

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

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(For all concerned grammarians–the word “slew” as used above simply means “multitude.” From old Gaelic. Just so you know that, as an idiot, I am still incomplete.)

HERE THERE BE TOMBSTONE MONIKERS

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 http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/heretherebetombstonemonikers.mp3

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HERE THERE BE TOMBSTONE MONIKERS 

“My mama named me after a dead baby on a tombstone.”

This is one grand entrance I won’t soon forget.

I’m at the shop, plying the book trade, when this rather feisty first-time customer throws open the front door and makes her pronouncement. Her name is Olivia, which she explains is not a common moniker. Her mother did not want her to carry a family name–something unique was in order.

So, while tiptoeing through the tombstones one day, she spied a child’s grave with the name Olivia chiseled thereon. It resonated. It stuck. And right here right now, the second Olivia stands, obviously confused and a little angry about knowing her roots.

“Yep, I’m named after a dead baby.” She manages to grin and frown simultaneously.

All of us humanoids have names. Most of these names are stamped upon us and stick there for a lifetime. Some of these names are deleted by those of us who want to pick our own.

As Pearl Bailey once said, “You can taste a word.”

I like the taste of my name as it escapes my lips. I don’t mind hearing it being tossed back to me. I would not dream of changing it, out of respect for my father and grandfather, who carried the same name.

I don’t mind being Jimmy Three. It sounds a little like a small-time con man’s name. Jimmy Three.

Well, you can call me Jim. My schoolmates always called me James. My friends and family call me Jim. I wouldn’t even mind being called my full name, James Thomas Reed, III, except that it sounds pretentious and too multisyllabic.

And some day, somebody might get cute and carve my name onto a granite tombstone. Then, generations later, when the name Jim isn’t so common anymore, some jokester parent might decide to pluck Jim from the stone and plop it into the lineage of their latest offspring.

Then, thirty years after that, a smiling frowning Jim could be caught telling all within hearing that his folks named him after a dead guy in a cemetery.

Maybe I’ll get to roll over laughing in my six-foot resting place

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

 jim@jimreedbooks.com

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NOTHING LIKE TURNING OVER A NEW BEEF

NOTHING LIKE TURNING OVER A NEW BEEF

Are vegetarians the only folks who know how to turn over a new leaf?

Are the rest of us capable only of turning over a new beef?

Don’t ask me where such thoughts come from–they just insist themselves into my writing, searching for space in which to thrive and insinuate.

Why am I pondering the prominence of beefs? I keep tamping down this prominence but it continues to raise its fluttering hand. It seems everybody has a beef these days, including you and me.

Griping and whining can be fun and tribally satisfying. But griping and whining also sucks all the time off the clock, eats up space, leaves us little room to ruminate, contemplate, meditate…little time to feel the awesome, surrounding presence of the Universe.

I was never a sportsman, never an athlete. But in my swirling imagination I am great with a baseball bat. When I’m feeling the better part of my DNA, I can take that bat and swing at the beefs and whines and self-deprecating illogical annoying stormtrooping negatives and CRACK! send them shattered into dust. Then, some kind of metaphorical leaf blower is employed to delegate that useless dust to the imaginary ethos in which they were birthed.

All this talk about whining and beefing is really another way of contemplating all those philosophical writings about whether a glass is half full or half empty. You know–are you a pessimist if you see the glass as half empty, are you an optimist if you view the glass as half full?

Unfortunately those whines and beefs rear their uglified heads and won’t allow you to feel good till you’ve found something negative to say.

Is the glass half-full or half-empty? DEPENDS ON WHETHER YOU ARE DRINKING OR POURING.

If you see water spots on a glass that’s half full, ARE YOU BEING PESSIMISTIC?

If the glass is half full, DO YOU WORRY ABOUT WHO DRANK THE FIRST HALF?

And so on.

Any good idea can be twisted into a bad one by the snarkies of society.

It’s up to you, it’s up to me, to take up our bats and knock those negatories into a ballpark far, far away

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

 

jim@jimreedbooks.com

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ANOTHER HAPPY SAD DAY

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://jimreedbooks.com/mp3/thanksgivinghappiestsaddest.mp3

or read on…

Here is a true story I re-tell every Thanksgiving, just

to remind myself and you that everything that really

matters is right before us, all the time. Here ‘tis:

.

THANKSGIVING:

THE HAPPIEST SAD DAY OF THE YEAR

.

The saddest thing I ever saw: a small, well-dressed elderly woman dining alone at Morrison’s Cafeteria, on Thanksgiving Day.

.

Oh there are many other sadnesses you can find if you look hard enough, in this variegated world of ours, but a diner alone on Thanksgiving Day makes you feel really fortunate, guilty, smug, relieved, tearful, grateful…it brings you up short and makes you time-travel to the pockets of joy and cheer you experienced in earlier days…

.

Crepe paper. Lots of crepe paper. And construction paper. Bunches of different-colored construction paper. In my childhood home in Tuscaloosa, my Thanksgiving Mother always made sure we creative and restless kids had all the cardboard, scratch paper, partly-used tablets, corrugated surfaces, unused napkins, backs of cancelled checks, rough brown paper from disassembled grocery bags, backs of advertising letters and flyers…anything at all that we could use to make things. Yes, dear 21st-Century young’uns, we kids back then made things from scraps.

We could cut up all we wanted, and cut up we did.

.

We cut out rough rectangular sheets from stiff black wrapping paper and glued the edges together to make Pilgrim hats. Old belt buckles were tied to our shoelaces—we never could get it straight, whether the Pilgrims were Quakers, or vice versa, or neither. But it always seemed important to put buckles on our shoes and sandals, wear tubular hats and funny white paper collars, and craft weird-looking guns that flared out like trombones at one end. More fun than being a Pilgrim/Quaker was being an Indian—a true blue Native American, replete with bare chest, feathers shed by neighborhood doves, bows made of crooked twigs and kite string, arrows dulled at the tip by rubber stoppers and corks, and loads of Mother’s discarded rouge and powder and lipstick and mashed cranberries smeared here and there on face and body, to make us feel like the Indians we momentarily were.

.

Sister Barbara and Mother would find some long autumnal-hued dresses for the occasion, but they were seldom seen outside the kitchen for hours on end, while the eight-course dinner was under construction.

.

There was always an accordion-fold crepe paper turkey centerpiece on display, hastily bought on sale at S.H. Kress, just after last year’s Thanksgiving season. It looked nothing like my Aunt Mattie’s turkeys in her West Blocton front yard. And for some reason, we ate cranberry products on that day and that day only. Nobody ever thought about cranberries the other 364 days! And those lucky turkeys were lucky because nobody ever thought of eating them except at Thanksgiving and Christmas. They were home free the rest of the year!

.

Now, back into the time machine of just a few years ago.

.

It is Thanksgiving Day. My wife and son and granddaughter are all out of the country. Other family and relatives are either dead or gone, or just plain tied up with their own lives in other states, doing things other than having Thanksgiving Dinner with me.

.

My brother, Tim, my friends Tim Baer and Don Henderson and I decide that we will have to spend Thanksgiving Dinner together, since each of us is bereft of wife or playmate or relative, this particular holiday this particular year.

.

So, we wind up at Morrison’s Cafeteria, eating alone together, going through the line and picking out steamed-particle-board turkey, canned cranberries, thin gravy, boxed mashed potatoes and some bakery goods whose source cannot easily be determined.

.

But we laugh at our situation and each other, tell jokes, cut up a bit, and thank our lucky stars that this one Thanksgiving Dinner is surely just a fluke. We’ll be trying that much harder, next year, to not get blind-sided by the best holiday of the year, Thanksgiving being the only holiday you don’t have to give gifts or reciprocate gifts or strain to find the correct gifts.

Left to right: Tim Reed, Tim Baer, Jim Reed lining up for Thanksgiving.

Don Henderson is behind the camera.

.

.

On Thanksgiving holidays ever since, I make sure I’m with family and friends, and now and then I try to set a place at the table of my mind, for any little old lady or lone friend who might want to join us…for the second saddest thing I’ve ever seen is a happy family lustily enjoying a Thanksgiving feast together and forgetting for a moment about all those lone diners in all the cafeterias of the world who could use a kind glance and a smile

.

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

 

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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CRY FOR HAPPY

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/cryforhappy.mp3

or read his story below:

CRY FOR HAPPY

If you are reading this, you must be hanging in there despite the fact that you and I are survivors of yet another Election Day.

Yes, Grasshopper, people do live through times like these–perhaps with great caution, maybe with a dab of apprehension, but certainly with a healthy dose of goodwill and humor.

The world around us swirls with disjointed factoids and fictions, mythologies and truths. It is our job to bear it all, to make sure we take care of our loved ones and seek the good in each and every person, the good in all the peoples living on this small spheroid afloat in a directionless galaxy.

The all-consuming media clog our sensibilities with the good, the bad, the uglified, the uplifting. Awash with all this debris, we who have survived the election–all of us–must get on with making security and love and kindness our topmost priorities.

The uglified stuff must be stared down, confronted, humiliated, marginalized…the beautiful stuff must be accentuated, made prominent. The bestial must be attenuated.

Our fellow travelers are watching us, so we must set inspiring standards of behavior. If we fail to do this, what good are we?

It’s the only path that makes any sense.

As Henry James said, “Three things in human life are important: The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind.”

Living a kindly life is difficult. Difficult is the only way anything good ever gets done.

Ray Bradbury said, “Living at risk is jumping off the cliff and building your wings on the way down.”

If we wish to be fondly remembered by future generations, we must behave each moment at the top of our genetics.

We must build our wings whether descending or ascending

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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THE PERFECT DAY OF TRUE GRITS AND SALTED BLACK-EYED PEAS

Listen to Jim’s podcast:

http://redclaydiary.com/mp3/truegrits.mp3

or read his story below:

THE PERFECT DAY OF TRUE GRITS AND SALTED BLACK-EYED PEAS 

Bill, the guy from Up North, is visiting Alabama for the first time, and he is poking at his food as if it might be hiding a live squirrel.

We’re having an expense-account dinner, trying to entice him into moving down south by introducing him to our exotic food, our southern hospitality culture.

Bill is making a effort to slow down and sync up with our slow southern rhythms.

Finally, he reaches down into a serving of black-eyed peas, picks one up, examines it closely and says, “Is this a grit?”

At this moment, we realize this is not going to be easy, this baptism-by-food initiation.

Earlier, looking over the menu, Bill asks, “What is this OCK-ruh dish?” We know he’s never known the pleasures of okra. As James Dickey once said, “If God made anything better than okra, he held it back for himself.”

Just for the record, here’s how you eat black-eyed peas, assuming they have been carefully and correctly prepared:

First, you shake lots of salt on the peas, followed by ground pepper and maybe even some pepper sauce. Then, like all true Deep South connoisseurs, you shake a heap of catsup upon them.

Don’t laugh. Everybody in my family does this, and the result is delicious. Try it.

What we try to get across to Bill is the fact that it’s not the plain-and-simple southern food that tastes great, it’s the stuff you add to it in correct proportions.

For instance here’s how you eat grits, assuming they have been carefully and lovingly prepared:

Make sure they are piping hot. Salt and pepper them. Add a dollop or two of butter, some cheese, even a touch of garlic, then vigorously stir them. Prepare ye for a transformative experience.

Something not to do if you want to immerse yourself in true dining ecstasy:  Never, never eat grits plain, with no flavoring. They will taste like steamed particle board and you will never go near them again. Lots of visitors to the south have done this, and they are now lost souls, condemned forever to living on Ovaltine and non-iced, non-lemoned iced tea.

Ever gone to a Chicago diner and ordered iced tea? You’ll get that blank stare reserved only for aliens from far planets.

Down Here, there are things one does not do. We don’t put gravy on good steak. We will tolerate hash browns only if you have run out of grits. We know the difference between flavorless raw spinach leaves and hot, pork-flavored over-cooked tasty spinach.

And so on.

After all, what Bill needs to understand is that the South is a wonderful, friendly and warm place to live, but you must learn the rules about good food in order to truly enjoy yourself.

And the correct way to prepare barbecue is an entirely different story for a later time.

Does Bill “get it” and learn to relax around southern cuisine? Er, southern eating?

Don’t know. He disappears and is never heard from again.

Which means we get to divide up his servings

© 2016 A.D. by Jim Reed

jim@jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com

http://www.jimreedbooks.com/podcast

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