Pictures from Tampa and Clearwater (4/20/19 – 4/28/19)

I took fewer photos than I have on earlier trips to see my son in Florida, but that was fine because I actually got more time to spend with him, and I just wanted to enjoy our time together.

Here are the pictures I did take during my week there.  We both had a fantastic time.

Tampa River Walk, Tampa.   I took these on April 20, the first night I was there, after the 12 hour long car ride.   These were taken just before, during, and just after sunset. I was sore from the car ride but still managed to walk quite a bit.  It was definitely worth it!

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I’m the one in the gray sneakers. 

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Clearwater Beach

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Sign greeting me in my hotel room.  The beachy decor was adorable.

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The surf was rough on this day (4/24) due to storms in the area, so there were few people swimming,  and there was a rip current warning.  The waves were very high for the Gulf.

I will never get enough of those Clearwater sunsets:

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Anclote Key sandbar (via boat ride from Tarpon Springs):

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The photo doesn’t do this justice.  Anclote Key is a state park and camping area, accessible only by boat, about 4 miles out in the Gulf of Mexico.  It is very remote.  The sand is as white as snow, and is almost blinding in the sun.  The many tidal pools are filled with shells and hermit crabs.

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My son took these two photos of the seabirds at Anclote.  This post wouldn’t be complete without them.

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Dessert at Hellenas Greek Bakery, Tarpon Springs.

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Birds and scenery at Anclote Key, FL

I had a wonderful time with my son in Florida. It’s amazing what a week away can do for your soul. I stayed away from the news, and therefore had no idea what was going on in Trumpland, and didn’t really care either (I was able to put my concern on hold while I was away).

I will post a selection of photos I took later, but my son, who is a professional videographer now, took these amazing photos of some sea birds when we went out to Anclote Key (a national park consisting of a group of small uninhabited islands and sandbars about 4 miles into the Gulf of Mexico from Tarpon Springs). This is a wonderfully remote place, accessible only by boat.   The many tidal pools are a shellers’ paradise.   There are two ferries that go there  several times a day.

I had a great time, and got to spend more time with my son this time than last year, since he took a few days off work, but it’s still good to be back.  (Well, sort of).

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My Clearwater and Tampa, Florida trip.

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Sandbar at Anclote Key Preserve.

More than two months ago, my daughter and I spent 8 days in Tampa and Clearwater Beach, Florida.  I never got around to writing about my trip, even though I kept promising to.  Well, I finally got around to it.  Better late than never, right?

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Horseshoe crabs — one of them crawled right over my feet!

I got to see my son while we were in Tampa, even though he had to work most of the 4 days were here, but we did all go out to dinner a couple of times, spent some time lounging at the hotel pool and hot tub.  On our last day together, we all went to ZooTampa.  It was a bit pricey, but worth it.   We got a late start, but still managed to see almost the entire zoo, except “Australia.”  The sections we saw were “Florida,” “Africa,” “Asia,” and “Primates.”   The zoo is very large so if you go, be prepared to spend lots of time walking!  Stay hydrated.   As we passed through the indoor reptile area (a welcomely cool respite from the heat), there were colorful decorations all over the ceiling that resembled deep sea creatures and looked as if they were made of glass — but they were actually sculptures made from recycled soda bottles and other plastic trash!

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We loved seeing all the different animals (there were even river otters — my favorite — in the “Florida” section).  My daughter seemed quite taken with the pink flamingos, who were very entertaining and funny.   There were so many of them!  We spent a long time just watching their antics.

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One of the days my son was working, my daughter and I decided to drive to Tarpon Springs, a small Greek fishing village which is known as the Sponge Capital of the US.  It was my third visit there.  It’s one of my favorite places in the Tampa Bay area. On a whim, we decided to take the Sponge-O-Rama cruise out into the Gulf.  It’s a two hour cruise and pretty cheap at only $20 per person.   We had to wait a while for the boat (a sort of ferry) to fill up, but when we took off, the water was pretty choppy from recent storms, and I had to hold on.  Drinks were served but it was hard to hold onto them without them splashing everywhere.  After we got out into the Gulf, the dark water from the marina and inlet suddenly turned bright aquamarine.   For a minute I thought someone had slipped some LSD into my beer!  But this is the actual color of the water.

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The boat’s captain, a youngish Greek man who had been raised in Tarpon Springs and worked with the boats all his life (his name was Atticus!) explained the reason why the color of the water changed so abruptly isn’t so much due to the depth, but because once you leave the river and enter the Gulf proper, the water changes from brackish (almost freshwater) to salt water.  The mangroves dotting the area suck up the nutrients from the water, making it clear.   He pointed out other things we were seeing along the way.

Finally, about three miles out into the Gulf, he pulled the boat over next to a large sandbar.   This was part of Anclote Key Preserve State Park, a group of very small mangrove islands so remote there is no way to get there except by boat.  The sandbar is a semi-permanent fixture, with a few low growing plants and grasses and a lot of seaweed washed up on the sand.   The sand was absolutely blinding white, like snow, and surrounded on all sides by the clearest aquamarine water I’ve ever seen.  In the shallow areas the water was so crystal clear you could barely see it.  Our group (there were about 20 of us) spent about 30 minutes exploring, collecting shells, or swimming.  We were each given a plastic grocery bag to collect shells in.   I didn’t spend much time shelling.  After a few minutes, I ran out into the pristine warm salt water and just let it engulf me.   The whole experience was exhilarating, even though 30 minutes wasn’t nearly enough time!

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The above photo is my absolute favorite.   The juxaposition of the white sands, aquamarine water and fluffy white clouds stirs my soul.  I have made this photo the background on my laptop!

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Our combined seashell booty.

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The marina at Tarpon Springs (notice how much darker the water here is)

We drove to Clearwater for the remaining 4 days.  The 10 mile drive over Tampa Bay into Clearwater is very pretty.   We stayed in a cute hotel right on the beach, but the weather during our stay could have been better.   We only had two days of good weather, but being right on the boardwalk, there was still more than enough to keep us busy.   Our first night, we ate at Clearwater’s most famous eatery, Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe.  The beach was wonderful, and not too crowded.  One day we decided to drive out to Treasure Island in St. Petersburg, even though it was raining.  Hey, why not?   It rained during the drive, and the entire time we were there, but the beach was still pleasant and the water warm.  We didn’t stay long, but it was nice having the beach almost completely to ourselves.

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Frenchy’s South Beach Cafe, Clearwater.

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Treasure Island in the pouring rain.

The sunsets over the Gulf were incredible.    I just can’t get enough of Gulf sunsets, and here are the pictures proving that.

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Sunlight from sunset reflecting off the clouds to the east.

On our second day, we had beautiful weather (even though the morning forecast had predicted rain), so we decided to book the Pirate ship for its Champagne Cruise, which takes off in the late afternoon.  There are two champagne cruises; ours was the first.  The next one takes off at sunset.   I would have liked to go on that one too, but we’d already had way too much champagne.  Yes, I confess both my daughter and I overindulged (you pay your $40 for the cruise, and the drinks are unlimited), but we had so much fun, and the views from the ship were amazing (a few are pictured below). The pirate theme was fun, and the appropriately costumed staff were friendly.  The nice young man pictured below (I can’t remember his name) even hung out with us on the upper deck for a few minutes.

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Me with view of the beach in the background

One thing I noticed this time was how good I’m getting at finding my way around the Tampa – St. Petersburg – Clearwater metro area.   It’s my third trip to this area, but this time I was finally getting comfortable just driving around and finding my way from one place to another.   I’m generally not good with directions and navigation, but  because everything’s pretty much laid out on a grid here, it’s a lot easier to get around the area than where I live, where there are mountains and no grid to speak of.

It seems so much longer than two months ago I was in Florida, but in some ways it feels like it was just yesterday.   To end this post, here’s a little video I made just after sunset of the patterns of the surf (it’s actually the first video I ever made from my phone).

Checking in!

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This is a VERY short post so no one worries about me, since it’s been almost a week since I last posted.

We are here in Clearwater Beach, FL having a WONDERFUL time.  I’m very frustrated at the moment though, because I just made my first little video of the moving Gulf water after sunset and the interesting patterns it was making, but even though it’s possible to post it here, it isn’t possible to remove my real name from the video (which I have never used on this blog).   So I won’t be able to post it after all.  Grrrr!    Trust me, it was very cool.   If I can find a way to remove my identifying info, I’ll definitely put it here.

I have about a gazillion photos, so I’ll be writing a longer post using some of those pictures in the next few days, or I just might wait until I get home on Sunday.   It’s so nice to see my son and swim in the warm Gulf waters again.

The picture you see above is from Anclote Key, a remote sandbar several miles out into the Gulf of Mexico and accessible only by boat.  More about that later!

I hope all of you are well. See you again soon!

 

Back to the Gulf Coast!

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Sunset off Clearwater Beach.

In just a month (April 7th), I’ll be driving back to the Tampa Bay area again to visit my son. I’ll be there for 5 days, until the 12th.   This time, my daughter is coming along with me, since she hasn’t seen where he lives before.

When I went in August last year, it was the first time I’d ever been in Florida, and since my son was working most of the week I was there, I had time to spend alone exploring the area.  One of my favorite discoveries was the bath-warm waters of the Gulf near his home, with its ever-shifting tides that expose the silt-like sand at low tide.   There aren’t a lot of tourists there in August (too hot), so that trip actually turned out to  be not only a peaceful, but also a spiritual experience — not to mention that I got to see my son and spend time with him and do some fun things together.

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The tide going out at Rees Park.

For me, the worst part of any vacation is returning from one.    I remember how hard it was to re-adjust to my daily routine when I came home.  For a while, I wanted to move to Florida, but I have changed my mind about that for a few reasons, mostly because of global warming.  Central-west Florida may be submerged in the near future.   I also don’t think I’d care much for the weather, due to the near-constant threat of severe storms, tornadoes, and hurricanes.

This time, I won’t be returning home just as my SAD (seasonal affective disorder) sets in.  Spring is my best time of year, and my mood improves with the lengthening days, so I shouldn’t be blindsided by the double whammy of oncoming SAD and post-vacation blues at the same time.

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My son may have to work again for part of the time I’m there, but he thinks he can get off most of the days I’m there, so that means more time spent together.   Clearwater Beach is definitely on the agenda, and this time we are going to visit the famous aquarium there too.   We might even drive to Disney World, but  I’m not sure yet.   None of us have ever been there.   I might try my hand at fishing again.

Whatever we wind up doing, it’s going to be a lot of fun.  I’ve already booked the room (because there are two of us this time, we’re staying at a nearby motel). I’m   getting excited about our road trip!

I’ll be bringing my laptop along with me, just as I did in August, so I can still blog while I’m there.

All photos you see here were taken by me during my trip in August of last year.

Surrounded by beauty.

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I went back to the beach this morning (I finally got up early), and the tide was the lowest I’ve seen it, and it was still going out. Sandbars stretched pretty far into what was covered over by water the day before yesterday, leaving bathwater-hot tidal pools filled with small tan fish (probably minnows), skeins of green-brown seaweed, and tiny hermit crabs. I put my things down on the dry part of the beach and waded out, deliberately stepping in the warm pools and feeling the soft silty sand along the way. Dragonflies flitted back and forth, probably looking for mosquitoes for brunch. The only annoying thing was the many biting sand-flies, which tried to eat up my legs (why didn’t the dragonflies go after those?) But as soon as I’d waded far enough where no more sand was exposed, the biting flies disappeared.

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I found a nice spot that wasn’t too mushy (some of the sand here is VERY soft, reminding me of quicksand, so I had to be mindful of that) and fairly free of seaweed. I settled into the slightly cooler water there, which only came up to my waist when I sat down in it.

At first there was no one else but me on the beach. I felt like I was the only person on earth. The sky was a bright blue dome, darkening to almost indigo toward its center, with white puffy cumulus clouds lining the edges against the horizon like lace trim. The water was clear and reflected the blue of the sky. I had waded so far out that I was surrounded on every side by barely moving but ever-changing water. I could tell the tide was still going out by the direction of the tiny ripples, and I kept having to move farther in to stay immersed. I looked back at where I’d laid my things on the beach and could barely see them anymore. I was very far out! I decided not to go any further because I didn’t want to lose sight of my things, even though it looked like the very shallow water went out quite a ways. I also didn’t want to be stuck any farther out if the tide suddenly came in.

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I laid down in the water and dug my toes into the wonderful fine sand. I put my hands behind my head and let my elbows rest in the sand, propping my head up so I could see. It was clouding up just a little, and they looked so close overhead I felt like I could reach out and touch them. I heard gulls overhead and way in the distance, I could hear the rumble of a motorboat. I stretched out my arms and legs and just let myself float, tempted to shout to the sky about how great God is and what an incredible gift this trip has been for me, and how blessed I am to be in this healing place right now.

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Mindful of my things on the beach and not wanting to drift too far away, I got myself back in a seated position and played with the sand again, rubbing it all over me the way I did two days ago. I decided to give myself a facial (that’s how soft this sand is!) so I plastered some of it on my face, let it dry a little, and then washed it off in the slightly salty water (Gulf water is less salty than ocean water). A few other people were visible here and there now, wading in the tidal pools or sitting in the shallow water. A young couple obviously in love embraced not too far away. Maybe they were on their honeymoon. I hoped things worked out for them.

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It was getting hotter and there were more people now, including some kids with plastic buckets and shovels collecting shells and hermit crabs. These kids and their equipment triggered a memory of myself as a mosquito-bitten, golden-tanned and skinny 8 year old, exploring a similar beach much farther north where my parents had rented a vacation cottage for two weeks. That beach was off Cape Cod Bay in Massachusetts, where I remembered the sandbars had stretched out even further into the distance–so far that the deeper water was only a thin dark blue line against the horizon. I remembered playing out there for hours, collecting hermit crabs in my orange plastic bucket and then setting them free, and how fast the incoming tide had moved–so fast my friends and I used to try to race it in. I recalled sunsets seen from our screened in porch, painting the tidal pools pink and orange, and the smell of citronella and the sound of the bug zapper as the armies of mosquitoes dodged into it. Memories of that distant summer fused with the here and now, and time itself seemed to stop. I was still that child, yes–more wounded and damaged, but still essentially intact under my armor born of pain; still curious about everything and still in love with the wonders of the natural world. A child who still possessed the ability to give and receive love.  I always wanted to go back to that place; now I’m here instead.

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Sandbars off Cape Cod Bay, Brewster, Massachusetts

I had no idea how long I remained out there. It seemed like a very long time. I could have stayed in that heavenly spot all day, but being so fair skinned, I knew I should probably head back to the car before I got too sunburned.

Gone fishing!

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I got up pretty late again today, and while my son slept (he got home from work around 7 AM) I went to Wal-mart and picked up a few things we needed, including bug spray, and then went down to the apartment complex’s pool for about an hour.   By the time I returned, my son was up and it was nearing 5:00.

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So far, the only damper  on this vacation was what my son told me about my mother.  On the way to pick up his friend Tal (who got my son into fishing),  we talked about her.   Seems she’s been attempting to triangulate against me. Fortunately he’s not in any danger of becoming a flying monkey because he doesn’t like her or the way she talks about people, especially me (he’s very protective of his mama, bless him!)  But that doesn’t mean she doesn’t try!  He said she is very condescending toward him, much like she always was with me. He said she’s negative and judgmental, which is absolutely true.  Apparently she had told him she didn’t like the idea of me visiting him (MY OWN SON!) because I would be a “bad influence” (huh, what?) and tried to get him to tell me not to come.    She also told him he was making bad life choices (he’s doing very well, in fact and is making great choices that make him happy) and should have become a journalist (he’s a good writer, but he doesn’t enjoy it).   She was always on me too about all the bad choices I supposedly made. Now she thinks I’m going to “infect” him with my “loser-ness” or something.  She’s also telling everyone I’m still with my ex and that I’m as bad as he is! These are all just lies. Oh, and she asked him if I was still “writing that thing” (referring to my blog).  Why would she even need to ask him since she can easily get the answer to that question herself?  She stalks my blog.  Welp, that’s narcissist “logic” for you.


The wind picks up as the storm clouds move in.

Now I’m convinced she really is malignant.  Malignant narcissists like my mother love to keep the scapegoat (me in this case) isolated from the rest of the family, even from their own children if they can get away with it.    I felt hurt by the things he told me but he’s on my side and doesn’t want anything to do with her either.   It’s also not as if any of this is news–I already knew she badmouths me to everyone who will listen, but hearing about her attempts to keep me from visiting my own son just really bugged me.    At that point I told him I’d heard enough and I just wanted to have a good time fishing.   He was sympathetic.  My son is definitely not a narcissist!  As an aside though, he told me he was tested recently for personality disorders and he does in fact have one–Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder (not the same as OCD). In fact, he scored very low in both narcissism and antisocial traits.

We picked up Tal, stopped at a bait and tackle shop and picked up some bait.  Then headed off to the mangrove park with a fishing area and nice view of the Gulf at the end.

It was rocky, and very buggy, so I was glad we brought the bug spray.  I got bit in a few places anyway.   It was also cloudy and we could hear thunder in the far distance.  Tal’s a weather buff and he said we wouldn’t have to worry about any storms for about 2 hours, so there was plenty of time to fish.   He showed me how to bait the line, and how to operate it, and then had me practice casting without bait for awhile.  The last time I ever fished was when I was at summer camp in the ’70s and we went deep sea fishing.    I caught onto casting pretty quickly, so maybe a part of me remembered how to do it from when I was at camp.

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Practicing casting a line.

It was getting darker, not just because night was coming, but also because the storm seemed to be getting pretty close.  Tal said it was still about a half hour away.   I started throwing some lines with small pieces of shrimp.  Once I got my line caught in a tree, and a few times I threw my line too far over to the right, getting it caught with my son’s and Tal’s.    I didn’t catch any fish (though I almost caught a small pinfish but he let go).  After awhile gave I gave up and decided to sit down ( we had our stuff laid out on a picnic table) and watch them instead.   They weren’t catching anything either.   A piece of shrimp I’d left on the table from earlier was already covered with ants.  it was gross but kind of cool at the same time, so I took a picture of it.

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After watching them for awhile, I noticed the sky had turned a fiery red and decided to walk to the end of the park overlooking the Gulf.  There I saw the most incredible sunset I think I’ve ever seen.  I started taking pictures like a crazy person, before the rain started.

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The storm was moving in fast from behind me.    When it rains in Florida, it REALLY rains.  I shoved my phone back into my purse before it got soaked and ran back to the car as fast as I could get there. There, my son was grinning like a maniac and holding up a fairly big catfish!    I got a quick picture of that.  I asked him where Tal was and he said he was still fishing.  “In this weather?” I asked.  “Oh, yeah, he never lets any kind of weather stop him,” my son said.

A few minutes later, Tal came back with a catfish of his own.   They both decided to release the fish because these weren’t good for eating, apparently.

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Finally the rain died down enough for me to go back and get one last picture of the sunset over the Gulf before dusk fell.

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Getting ready for my road trip next week!

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The Florida Gulf Coast before a storm (credit: my son)

I haven’t taken a long road trip since 2008! That’s WAYYYY too long. But after 8 long years, I’m getting ready for another one. Today I got my oil changed and my tires checked to make sure my car is road worthy for the 700 mile trip. I took Monday off so I’m going to Goodwill to look for an inexpensive travel bag. (I also have an emergency appointment with my therapist).

Next week, most likely next Sunday when the traffic on the highways is a little lighter, I’m driving to Port Richey, Florida, to visit my son for a whole week. I saw him in April when he came here to visit for a few days, but I’m dying to see his place (he lives in a nice apartment complex with a pool and a hot tub). I’ll be staying there to save money instead of staying in a hotel. He lives close to the beach, so we will also be hitting the beach a few times. He wasn’t able to get days off from work, but his hours are variable and I’m sure we’ll have a lot of time to spend together. He’s as excited as I am, and is planning to take me to a couple of his favorite eateries, of course the beach, and also fishing!

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The water looks like molten gold.

Hopefully the weather holds up. The Gulf Coast can be iffy this time of year since it’s the middle of hurricane season. I really need this trip, not only to see my son but also to get away and just relax near the ocean and see some new sights. The timing couldn’t be better, since I’ve been so triggered and upset lately. I think this trip is just what I need and will help me regroup and get my head and my emotions together.

I’m bringing my laptop with me because I will continue to blog while in Florida, and will post pictures every day of my adventures with my son. Gosh, I can’t wait!

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My son in Clearwater last year.

Tropical Storm Colin to hit Gulf coast of Florida

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My son lives in New Port Richey, Florida, which is right in the projected path of Tropical Storm Colin, which is due to make landfall later tonight. My son’s a bit of an adrenaline junkie (he wanted to be a stormchaser when he was younger) so hopefully he stays inside. He took this photo driving home. There were a few others, but I couldn’t upload them.

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