An infection is not cancer.

I will never publicly lament a personal tragedy on Facebook again.

Scroll down a few entries and you’ll find a piece about my sweet cat – both in the adorable sense and in the tubular Bill & Ted sense – mysteriously getting an aggressive and sudden case of large cell lymphoma.

The vet took one look at him and said, “Yes, this cat most likely has cancer.”

They took his blood and did a $400 test to determine that he most likely had cancer. They also gave me a generic antibiotic – just in case it was a virus.

“But we’re pretty sure it’s not a virus. He definitely has all the telling signs of cancer.”

Then the results came in and they said, “Well, your cat most likely has cancer, but before you can take him to an oncologist for chemotherapy, we need to do another $350 test to determine that he actually has cancer. However, your cat has cancer and he will die in about four weeks if he doesn’t get chemotherapy.”

Two things. I knew knew full well that I could not afford weekly chemotherapy treatments. Also, even if I could afford them, large cell lymphoma is the worst cancer a cat can get. It grows rapidly and it kills fast. Even with chemo, cats rarely live more than an additional four months.  I researched ways to make Taxi comfortable until he passed away or had to be put to sleep. I researched all of the terrible things that would start to happen to his body as the cancer worsened.

Screen Shot 2015-01-30 at 11.55.36 AMSince he refused to eat, I propped him up on my knees and squirted high calorie fat-paste into his mouth. I fed him like a baby four or five times a day. That guy was living off of fat-paste and special cancer-cat food. His coat was ratty and he was sleeping through the night – something he never used to do. Normally he’d sleep all day, gathering up his strength and making a list of things to knock over or destroy as soon as D and I went to bed.

I don’t know the exact moment I realized that Taxi was getting better. I had opened a pack of Tuna to snack on and Taxi walked over. He ate the tiny piece I put in his bowl. He hadn’t eaten on his own in a while.

Within a week he was up to half a pack a day! Yet, even though his energy levels even perked up a bit, I didn’t want to get my hopes up. Then his test finally came back in – negative. For cancer. The vet called and left me a message that basically said:
“I mean, it still looks like he has cancer, it just looks like Dog cancer. You should still take him to the oncologist and they will still recommend chemotherapy.”

Something wasn’t right. Within a week, Taxi graduated to human baby food because he was still being a dick about that fancy dry food I bought. The swollen lymph nodes in his neck had vanished. He even began to unleash the spirit of the hunter in the night! In other words, Taxi never had cancer. An malignant, 100% fatal cancer does not magically vanish because you funnel fat-paste and pure love down their throat.

While on a run to get more supplies, I went to vet in the back of the Pet Smart and described the ordeal to the vet-tech at the counter.

“Well, were there black specs in his urine?”
“Yes!”
“Uh-huh, see, that’s most likely a kidney thing. He probably just had a kidney infection. Didn’t they ask you at the other vet?”
“No.”
“Huh,” the tech said, popping a zit on her chin, “that should have been … like… the first thing they asked you. How old you said he was?”
“Three.”
“Like cat years or human years?”
“Human years.”
“Eh, either way. Still too young to have cancer. They definitely should have ruled out an infection first. First thing any vet should ever ask you: is there weird stuff in their pee? Could have saved you a lot of trouble and damn near a thousand bucks. Those tests are … like… $400 a pop.”

She wiped the zit on her pants and I nodded in agreement and paid for the paste. I’m sorry. The zit thing just really sticks out in my memory. Mostly because this girl who pops zits behind the counter of the vet in the back of the Pet Smart knew what was wrong with my cat by asking a simple question, yet a vet with an amazing reputation on Yelp led me a cancer goose chase.

I felt mighty sheepish telling everyone that I made a huge deal over what turned out to be an infection. That’s what I meant with my opening statement.

Taxi grimaces when I bring the syringe out. He hates the Fat-Paste of Life, but he muscles through it like a champ. I hate that I spent the last month thinking that he was going to be dead by now and I hate being extra-extra poor, but I’m muscling through it like a champ (or trying to.)

My little wiener cat doesn’t have cancer.

He also just knocked over a chair.

He could knock over all of the chairs, though, and I’d still be happy because I’ve still got my little Siamese Shetland Panther.

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pinup

 

It’s not nudity that bothers me. I personally don’t think there is anything wrong with getting naked for film and that it’s a choice that an adult can make for themselves.

What bothers me is the demand for female flesh and its constant objectification. The constant barrage of breakdowns that say, “Nudity required. Character must get naked. Non-negotiable: nudity required.”

For student films. For low budget films. For no budget films.

Prostitutes. Hookers. Girls getting taken advantage of.

“Nudity required: 18 To Play Younger preferred.”

Boobs just because.

And no fucking dongs. I have to stare at the actress who plays the rape victim’s breasts, but God forbid you tell the actor playing the rapist that he’d better be prepared to show his penis? Why?

“With boobs you kind of know what you’re getting. But with dicks you have no idea.”

Oh. Ok. Because the fact that it’s so well hidden means it will be more disappointing when it turns out to be much less than the 7 inch pillar of masculinity we’re supposed to think all men on screen possess? What a luxury it must be, for your normal to be clothes that leave the size of your private parts a mystery! Wah, wah, wah. I don’t care. Whip it out. Get on screen and wiggle it around a little for NO FUCKING REASON at all.

Don’t you sit there and try to tell me that cable television is doing a good job representing nudity from men as well as women. Don’t say one word about Game of Thrones. It’s not that there are too many wieners, Butters. It’s that there aren’t enough. Let’s say you’ve got a see-saw. On one side you place a bag of all the Game of Thrones dicks and guy-butts. On the other side you place a bag of all the Game of Thrones boobs, girl-butts and vaginas. Which side will outweigh the other?

I’ll give you a hint: the answer rhymes with shmoobs, shmutts, and shmaginas.

I don’t have a problem with nudity.  Boobs are awesome. So are vaginas. Butts are wonderful. And women rock at all three!

I’ve got a problem when you tell us your bullshit student, low budget, no budget, or fucking terrible movie or show “requires” them.

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I caught Taxi Cat doing something adorable.

And I have to show you.

taxicatHe is chugging along. I have been hand feeding him and he has perked up a bit, which we weren’t expecting, but are incredibly grateful for.

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I know that it’s probably not the most productive habit in the world, but sometimes I jump onboard with hashtags a bit more tenaciously than the average bear. Feminist hashtags tend to ruffle my feathers the most.

I don’t know if you watched the Super Bowl, but the commercials featured a spot called “Like a Girl” that confronted this idea that doing anything “like a girl” meant being weak and/or silly. You can watch it here:

This commerical isn’t exactly new, but airing it during the Super Bowl ensured exposure from new demographics. Unfortunately, this includes the “Male Supremecist Douchebag” demographic. On second thought, this might be fortunate after all;  exposure is the first step in realizing that the views you were raised with might be ridiculous and hateful.

A handful of men watched the commercial and tried to start a pro-male hashtag revolution.
“Why isn’t there a likeaboy commercial? #likeaboy”
“Feminists need to stop making everything about them! #meninist”
“asfdablfdsaaf serrrrrrrrrrrfartfartfartfartfart #likeaboy #meninist”

Then an avalanche of reasonable people responded with a variety of answers, all of which basically said:
“Because the term ‘boy’ is never used to label things as ‘weak’ or ‘stupid.”

Then the handful of weirdo men said something about irony and how feminists couldn’t understand it and jokes or something. Basically it’s a cop out.

It’s that child who cheats at a game and then tries to convince you that there were rules you didn’t know about. It’s that kid who puts his toes over the edge of the doorway after you told him not to leave the house because he’s just got to show you he is in charge. It’s every fat, racist, biggoty, sexist, awful character from film and literature that acts like a total buffoon to people who think that everyone should be able to vote and enjoy the same privileges and freedoms.

In other words, it was never an issue of irony and they know it.

I know that I shouldn’t have, but I chimed in with a tweet that said, “Cry, cry, you babies! #IwillDrinkYourTears, #meninist. #IdrinkThemUp!”

Within minutes, this happened:
tweet2

Ah, the anti feminist had something to say. Luckily, I was more than happy to have them tweet at me. Actually, I invited their whole, nonexistant army to tweet at me, too. You see, I have a Klout account. Klout measures how much you influence people on the internet. For those who exude a significant amount of influence, Klout awards them with perks. Perks can range from discounts on popular shopping sites to a free night in a nice hotel. The higher your Klout score, the more perks you earn.

I happen to be a few points away from another perk – and one of the best ways to encourage interaction on your Twitter and Instagram accounts is to ruffle a few feathers.

tweet

Unfortunately, the angry feminist didn’t feel like feeding my addiction to free stuff.

Oh, well. Another time.

What about you? Any ways that you deal with trolls you’d care to share?

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I was making my way home from my temping job when the battery light lit up in my car. Then every other light began to light up in my car.

I contemplated the possibility that I could blow up at any second, followed by the idea that maybe blowing up wouldn’t be such a terrible thing. I quickly dismissed the idea as it would be shameful for me to vanish in a pit of fire before Taxi Cat passed away and also because I really like the breakfast sandwich they make at Paper or Plastik and it’s difficult to enjoy those when you don’t exist.

Still, I have irrationally feared that I might meet my untimely end in a car since I was a child. If I get into a car, there is a chance that the car will explode. All of those little lights coming on one by one seemed to count me down to the inevitable end.

The car didn’t explode after the last light flickered on; the car merely shut off while I was driving. I say “merely” because I managed to get it into the buffer zone by the exit ramp before it croaked. Otherwise I would say, “the goddamn motherfucking sonofabitch fuckface queefing bullshit vehicle shut the fuck down in the middle of rush hour traffic.”

Context and whatnot.

I took a second to remind myself how fortunate I had been to evade harm. Then I sat and had a minute (or thirty) to myself. I texted D to let him know the situation and then I tried to call AAA so that I could renew my membership and get some help.

The thing about the representatives at AAA is their constant, chipper attitudes:
“Oh, your car started smoking? I’m so sorry to hear that! What is your AAA member number? We’ll get you taken care of in a jiffy!”
“Oh, you’re car broke down in the middle of a sink hole? I’m so sorry to hear that! What is your AAA member number? We’ll get you taken care of in a jiffy!”
“Oh, you locked your keys inside your vehicle and you’re on alone on University of Virginia campus soil and it’s dark outside? I’m so sorry to hear that! What’s your AAA member number? Do you have a rape whistle? We’ll have you out of there in a jiffy!”

Mine was no exception, so I felt bad when I had to cut her off in the middle of the transaction. Turns out I didn’t need AAA. Los Angeles has a team of roadside assistance workers who regularly patrol the freeways and give complimentary assistance to those in need.

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Fast forward a couple of hours: I’m alone in a Metro parking lot holding a car battery in a reusable grocery bag, telling a stranger that they aren’t allowed to call me Snow Baby as I wait for D to pick me up. Fast forward another hour to the register at an O’Reilly’s Auto Parts where one of their mechanics tells me that my alternator needs to be replaced. Fast forward to the tiny me inside my brain screaming, mercilessly, and knocking everything in the store to the floor.

Fast forward to today, where I temp in a small sports publication office. My boss has a nasally voice and looks like the doctor who gave Thurgood all that weed in Half Baked. All day he has been paging Heather on the intercom system to come into his office and walk him, step by step, through basic computer functions. At one point, he had three women surrounding him, each coaching him through Microsoft Word. I witnessed this grown man ball his hands into little fists and hit his desk repeatedly.

“It won’t let me copy and paste! I don’t understand why I can’t just copy and paste!”

Male tears.

“Why doesn’t it show the pretty pictures when it goes to sleep? Why is it just showing a black screen? Goddammit, why?”

MALE TEARS

“Dammit, it’s not letting me put the thing by the picture! Why is this computer made like this? This is stupid! I hate this!”

Man baby In a perfect world, I would march into his office and slap him across his face and say,

“You either get it together or just go home right now – because you’re acting pathetic.

It’s not a perfect world, though. My sweet cat is dying, my alternator is shot, the commercial industry is slow, I currently have no real career momentum, and there are things going on in the world that make me want to wipe the earth clean and just start over.

I know that in the end I’m going to be Unsinkable Motherfucking Molly Brown, but I have no idea what to think right now. However, here is what I know:

I will continue to temp here for the rest of the week. I will make money which I will put toward my car.
My car will get fixed somehow. An alternator is a thing, and things can be replaced.
D is ridiculously supportive and sweet.
I will have a career. I will work harder and harder and, eventually, I’ll make something happen.
Taxi will pass away and I will grieve and remember how much I love him. Then, one day, I will adopt another cat and I will love them, too.

Life will go on.

(Except for my Boss du Jour, who seems to be stuck in a perpetual state of thumb-sucking toddlerhood.)

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Heavy heart.

The tests came back and Taxi has progressed large cell lymphoma. It’s a malignant, terminal cancer. He is just three years old and doesn’t have feline leukemia. It doesn’t make any sense.

I am devastated. Taxi is one of the things that I love most. He has such a personality and has become such a huge part of my identity.

“Tell me the three most interesting things about yourself,” someone once said to me. I’m pretty sure that I replied,
“Well, for starters, I have a cat the size of a small Shetland pony.”
I offered up my cat instead of a so-very-catching detail about myself. He was like a piece of my identity.

I don’t know if any of you have issues with depression, but I have days where I don’t see the point in anything anymore. Then I think, “Well… Taxi needs me.”

I cry at random points in the day. I cried at the vet when I went to go pay for the test that would, essentially, reaffirm what we already knew. They gave me tissues and a cup of water and told me how sorry they were. They gave me pills to make him eat and, for now, they are working. The pills will run out, though, and he will stop eating and drinking as he becomes more and more sick. He has already stopped playing and chooses to rest in his cat carrier or in a secluded area of the apartment, coming out only to snuggle while D and I watch television or just to sit with me.

I cannot afford chemotherapy. It’s around $1,000 a month. Chemotherapy isn’t administered to animals to eradicate the cancer; rather, it is administered to prolong and improve the quality of life. The cancer always comes back. In a cat where the cancer has grown as fast and furiously as it has in Taxi, the treatment would only prolong his life by about four months.

The day is fast approaching where I will have to make the call to end his suffering or wait it out until he passes on his own.

I don’t know what to think right now. I’m making him as comfortable as I can and just loving him as much as I possibly can while I still have him.

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Taxi Cat might be very sick.

Right now, Dustin is waiting in the lobby of Taxi’s vet waiting to see if he has a virus – or if he has cancer. A few days ago I noticed that he was eating significantly less. Then he tried to eat litter. His coat started to look a little lackluster and his overall energy level seemed lower. I did a little bit of digging and found the best possible vet that I could afford.

I was not expecting, “He’s got a virus or cancer.”

I thought that it might be anemia or blockage of some sort, but no, apparently my sweet Taxi boy might have a tumor. A virus doesn’t make much sense because he is strictly an indoor cat and I don’t really hang out with other animals too often.

t1

He is one of the best parts about Los Angeles and he is way, way too young to have cancer.

t2

The vet bill was $400. Hopefully I can apply for Care Credit and they will work with me. According to my research, they’re the best. I’ll tell you what, though. I feel way better about my $400 going toward Taxi’s health than to fucking Casting Networks or Actors Access.

Dustin said that he was so good at the vet and that he made a lot of new fans.

Please keep my fuzzy butt face in your thoughts. I love him so much.

t3

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I promised myself less Actor Rants. They just make it easy to foster negativity and, let’s be real: nobody actually cares. That said, I have kept said promise to myself as of late, so I’m going to grant myself a teeny weeny pass for this one.

Because Casting Networks, the second of the two largest online breakdown distribution systems, just raised the price to upload a head shot by ONE HUNDRED PERCENT.

Let me first tell you why it’s necessary to have multiple head shots and why this absurd price hike pisses me off so damn much.

The internet has made it ridiculously easy for 1000’s of actors to submit on a single breakdown. Let’s say Casting Director X needs to figure out who to bring in for a Blue Cross Blue Shield commercial by 5pm. The client wants a “Well Meaning Nurse” and a “Drug Addled Runaway.” The only specification given to them by the client was “Female.”

Now, assuming that they make the breakdown open, which they sometimes do, this means they will most likely receive head shots from 10,000 + female actors of all races, ages, and body types. Hell, even if they make the breakdown accessible exclusively to agents, they still receive a huge number of submissions. They don’t have the time to look at your two basic head shots and wonder if you would look good as a well meaning nurse or a drug addled runaway. You need a head shot that makes it almost offensively clear that you can be what they want. I hope I’m not too out of line with this statement, but I think that imagination is a luxury in today’s casting industry – especially commercials.

I need a head shot that says I can be the friendly Best Buy/Pet Smart/AT&T employee. I need another head shot that says “People want to have vampire sex with me, I promise!” I need another head shot that says I can be a Young Mom/Nurse/Teacher. I need a head shot that supports my claim that I actually run on the regular (I do. Promise.) I need a head shot that says I live in Silverlake, raise chickens, and listen to musicians that only three other people have heard of.

I need these head shots posted on my LA Casting and Actors Access accounts.

A head shot session with a good photographer and makeup artist is around $400-$900 dollars by the time everything is said and done.

How much is it to upload 5-6 distinct looks onto your LA casting profile? I thought it was bad when the first picture was $15 and each additional photo was $25. Now the price is $25 for the first picture and $30 for each additional picture.

That’s around two hundred dollars just to have some pictures on your profile. That’s more than a third of what it cost to take the photos in the first place.

Capture

Casting Networks, Inc. is a private company with under 200 employees. It’s run out of an office on Wilshire Blvd. It’s a website. I find it difficult to believe that a 100% increase on the price to put a low-res version of your head shot on your profile is necessary. I get a charging fee. I do. What I do not get is charging a thirty dollar fee to post a photograph.

The average actor is poor. The diligent average actor puts nearly all of their spare money towards acting class, improv class, head shot prints, producing their own material, going to casting director and agent workshops for $40+ bucks a pop and crossing their fingers that the person they are paying to see actually intends to bring people in and not just make some quick cash, and keeping their online profiles current so that, God willing, they have a photo that corresponds to a breakdown that fits them.

And I know you’re probably thinking, “Tough luck. You’re the one who wanted to be an actress. This is the price of wanting that career.”

And deep down I know you’re probably right.

But ugh. Just ugh. The separate industry of making money off of actors pisses me off so damn much. 

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One of my first real memories happened in the Emmanuel Episcopal Church nursery. I was almost four. My mother had just dropped me off and was on her way out to “Big Church” when I walked over with one of the baby dolls and said,

“I have one of chocolate babies.” 

It still makes me cringe a little. Then I remember that I was four and had no real context for, well, anything. But boy, oh boy; did Gloria Sams then give me some context. In my mind, this was the look on her face:

“Excuse me?” she asked. Her brow furrowed and she lowered herself to my level, a position she frequently took when deciding whether or not to administer a spanking.
“Would you like it if I said, “This is Jas and she’s a vanilla baby?”
Again, I want to reiterate that while four year old me did not quite understand what was actually so terrible about being associated with a flavoring, but I did understand that I had done something bad by my mother’s tone, so I replied,
“No.”
“And why do you think that is?”
“Because… I am not ice cream.”
Mom paused for short, internal debate over whether or not this answer was something she’d be OK with. I think at this point I started to cry because the pressure was too much.
“Yes, but also because it’s rude. It’s not nice. People come in all colors and shapes. It is very rude for you to say that the baby doll is chocolate colored. The baby dolls are baby dolls. Do you understand?”
I nodded and went to join the other girls. I filed my experience away under “Things That Made My Mother Instill the Fear of God In Me” and there were no more issues concerning the baby dolls of color.

Then, some years later, the American Girls happened.

My mother always had a thing for American Girl dolls. This was back when American Girl was still a free catalog that came in the mail once a month. Back then American Girl was all about making history fun, so each doll came from a specific era that children studied in school. Each one had a set of books that highlighted the trials and tribulations of growing up in their respective time periods.  Mom loved them and she really wanted my sister and me to share her love. She talked them up, particularly Molly and Samantha; probably because she likes Samantha’s clothes and Molly’s glasses. Don’t ask me to explain to explain the psychology behind the attraction between full sized humans and dolls with their tiny, tiny accessories.

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In the months leading up to Christmas, Mom began to hint that Santa might bring an American Girl doll on Christmas morning. She began to bring up the dolls in conversation to get a feel for which one I might want. We were on our way to get Christmas photos taken at the mall when she asked,
“So which American Girl doll are you going to ask Santa for?”
“Addy.”

I could tell by the lengthy pause that my answer surprised her. American Girl dolls were pricey and the fact that I was getting one was a big deal; she wanted to make sure that I would actually play with it. Girls tended to want dolls that look like them. In other words, it seemed unnatural for me to want the black American Girl.  Though my mother would never use those words exactly, she did ask me on a couple of different occasions,
“Why is it that you want Addy?”

My answer was a less eloquent version of the following:

I was an avid reader. By the time mom asked me which doll I wanted, I had checked out and read most of the American Girl books from my school’s library. Addy’s story was, hands down, the most complex and the most emotionally driven, though back then I simply said, “Hers is the best one.”

I’ll break down the options for you:

In Meet Samantha, Samantha’s biggest struggle is whether or not she will have petite fours at her birthday party. She also has to come to terms with the fact some some people take milk with their tea. For some reason, the fact that some people put milk in their tea really bothers her.

In Meet Molly, Molly sits at the dinner table for hours because she refuses to eat yams. In the end, her mother relents and uses some of the spare cinnamon, which is rationed because they’re in the middle of World War II, to get her to stop bitching and eat her supper.

Got it? Now get ready, because Meet Addy starts with:

A) Addy recalling the time when she had to watch a plantation owner whip her older brother until he bled;
B) Addy’s father and brother getting sold to another plantation;
C) Addy being forced-fed worms after she overlooks a few of the crops since she can’t focus because, oh, her father was just sold and she may never see him again.

This is all in the first chapter. The book really gets going when Addy and her mother must leave her baby sister with relatives on the plantation so they can run away. They forge a river, take shelter with people that they have no idea if they can truly trust, and Addy even has to masquerade as a boy in the middle of a Confederate campsite. This is one of the original illustrations depicting part of their journey:

For a children’s book, this is some next level shit. With all of this in mind, I concluded that Addy was the ultimate American Girl.

“People might ask you why you picked her,” Mom warned me, “Are you sure she is the one you want?”
“Yup,” I replied.

On Christmas morning, Addy sat under the tree and I lost my shit. I was so excited. I brought her everywhere and played with her all the time. I read all of the books. A couple of children did ask my why I had her, but I told them the same thing I told my mother.

That’s what I like about children. Children don’t know racism unless you introduce it to them. Children can eyeball basic differences like skin color, but unlike adults who have been influenced by society and racism, children tend to ask questions rather than make assumptions. When a child asks why people have different colored skin, you can say, “Because people come in different colors and shapes, but it doesn’t matter what color they are because people are still people,” and it’s that simple. That’s the answer. That’s all they need.

There was a period in my life where I was terribly influenced by racism. If you’ve read Smile Big and Pretty recently, perhaps you remember this entry about the enduring effects of an abusive relationship. The man from that piece was not only offensively misogynist, but he was blatantly and just as offensively racist. Shaking off his influence after I left was a complicated, messy process. It’s embarrassing and I hate acknowledging it, so I won’t go into vivid detail. I will say this: one of the best things about having parents who put effort into making sure that you didn’t grow up to be a hateful, racist toolbag is the foundation that they gave you. You can fall back onto it if you lose your way.

I’m so grateful that Mom called me out in the nursery.

I’m grateful that she was down to let me pick Addy.

I’m incredibly grateful that in doing those things, she helped provide me with a foundation to hold onto when I wanted to be the kind of adult that the seven year old, Addy toting me would have been OK with growing into.

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VIDEO: Imaginary (Best) Friends.

So I want to share this film with you. My talented friends Anna Fleiss and Gary Sundt not only came up with this idea in the last 72 hours, but executed it in just as much time. I had so much fun working on this with them and hope to work with them on all the things they ever thing the thing to again. Check-chk-chk it.

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