Posts Tagged ‘New Jersey’

My-Photos-Third-Eye-Blind

As a young lad growing up in New Jersey, summer was my favorite season.  Not so much because of the weather, but really because of the all the free time I had.  I loved the freedom from the regimented school day, and used this new-found autonomy in the most efficient way possible: playing video games and reading comic books.  However, as I’ve become older and more grizzled, summer is dropping down in my season power rankings.  I’m sweating in the subway to work, all vacation spots are increasing their prices, and I spend 20 minutes putting on sunscreen to go out and check the mail.  And yet, even as the glory days of summer become a thing of the past, I still love Memorial Day weekend, as it signifies the start of what will assuredly be the greatest summer ever.  This year, things kicked off the way my younger self would have whole-heartedly approved of: a Third Eye Blind concert.

The crew for this adventure consisted of the Atlantic City veteran and man of leisure, OB, and good-friend-but-Atlantic-City-novice Steve.  Like many of our trips, this tale begins in the subterranean basement of Port Authority, waiting at gate 80….

3:30PM – OB and I are waiting on an ever-growing line for a bus to Caesar’s.  As it is Memorial Day weekend, the crowd is more numerous and more hostile.  Behind us, a crazy women dressed like Stevie Nicks is monitoring the line, yelling at people she suspects may be cutting in (when in reality, they are just asking if this was the right gate, or they had been in line already).  We are slightly nervous, as Steve has been unresponsive so far, and sneaking him into our spot in line may prove difficult.  However, another bus to Atlantic City shows up at the adjacent gate, and the crazy lady hops on it.  The first crisis of the weekend has been averted.

4:00 – Due to the excess of people, there are two buses waiting to take people to Caesar’s at the scheduled time.  We begin to board, with Steve still incommunicado.  We have to pass up the first bus, and things are starting to look dicey.  The next bus is the “last of the Mohicans,” a strange Greyhound worker tells us.  As OB and I try to unwrap this baffling piece of information, Steve makes a dramatic last minute appearance, and we are able to get the second bus.  Second crisis averted, and we are off to Atlantic City!

6:25 – At our estimated arrival time, we arrive….at exit 102 on the Garden State Parkway.  The traffic is bad but not unexpected – it is Memorial Day Weekend after all.  However, the concert starts at 9:00PM, and I still do not have a ticket to the concert.  Just to explain the situation – OB was given two complimentary tickets, but the seat location was not set.  I would like to get a third complimentary ticket, but failing that, I would like to buy a ticket near where they are sitting.

Anyway, this bus ride was not as booze-filled as our usual trips.  Since it is just the Friday of a three day weekend, we are all playing the long game – you don’t want to get too drunk too early.  We pass the extended bus ride by playing a “top 3” game, where we name our top 3 songs by particular artists, or top 3 movies by particular actors.  We are cool.

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4

It has been far, FAR too long since the boys and I have putzed the night away in Atlantic City.  Our last adventure, featuring Finn, OB, Keith, and myself, was way back in September.  Well, this time, the same crew reunited, heading down to see the Anti-Social Comedy Tour, featuring Jim Norton, Amy Schumer, Dave Attell, and Artie Lange.  I have to tell you, having gone nearly six months without a hit, spin, or roll of the dice was giving me the shakes.    The night before our trip, OB and I got into the right frame of mind by watching “gambling” episodes of our favorite TV comedies, such as Futurama’s “Viva Mars Vegas,” The Office’s “Casino Night,” and South Park’s “Red Man’s Greed.”  Needless to say, I could already smell the extra oxygen they allegedly pump into the casinos.

Our game plan was simple.  We had a room in Bally’s, which, fortunately, connects to one-and-a-half other casinos (Caesar’s and what is left of the Wild Wild West casino).  With this as our home base, we would have an ample area to putz about, without having to face the elements (it was freezing cold out).  The comedy show was at The Borgata at 7:30, which would help break up the night.  After that, we’d gamble until we rebuilt Atlantic City’s economy.  Like I said, the game plan was simple.  So let’s see if we stuck to it.

12:00PM – Our 12:30 bus arrived 30 minutes early, and left 10 minutes early.  I must say, this was a pleasant surprise.  Our bus driver was a friendly man with a thick accent who reminded Keith of his priest.  I didn’t drink much on the trip, using it to catch up with Keith and OB (Finn was driving down to meet us later).  Also, the light was out in the bathroom.  Not much to say here.

Keith Stone: Hey, what can I say? I went to church to absolve myself of my future sins, which may or may not include peeing all over the bus toilet seat. I also kept my streak alive of drinking Bandit wine on the trip down. I drank it out of a Gatorade bottle. Gotta keep hydrated.

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With the economy in the tank, legalized gambling has begun to sprout up all over the northeast.  New casinos have opened in New York City and Philadelphia, and legalized sports gambling is being pushed hard by Chris Christie in New Jersey.  These venues have given hardcore gamblers a more local way to sate their sinful desires.  Personally, I’m not addicted enough to try out the New York City casino yet, as it is in the distant land they call “Queens,” and there’s much more fun to be had all over the city (plus, NO BLACKJACK!).

With this new competition, Atlantic City has been forced to dump money into new marketing, creating the “How I Do AC” campaign.  The basis of this campaign isn’t just to spotlight everything you CAN do in Atlantic City, but spotlighting what you DO do (snicker) in Atlantic City.  These ads encourage you to make Atlantic City your own, and they want you to share your personal experience on Twitter using the hashtag #HowIDoAC.  But, 140 characters cannot contain me, so I’ve created a 12-step program.  I humbly present to you: How Rory Does AC.

1. Take Public Transportation – I know some people fear public transportation.  Driving there offers more freedom – you don’t have to stick to a schedule, you can play your own music, and, most importantly, you don’t have to deal with the riff-raff that often inhabits public transportation.  But, when going to Atlantic City, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better deal.  For one, the price can’t be beat.  If you are living in New York City, the bus will cost you just under $40, and that’s for the entire round trip.  Gas and tolls would easily cost twice as much.  In addition, many bus lines offer gambling vouchers which, while won’t cover the ride, are fun to put aside and use as an extra bet if you are down on your luck.  But, most importantly, the bus allows you to both prepare and repair yourself mentally from Atlantic City.  The “prepare” part comes on the way down, where I’ve taken to having a few adult beverages to get myself loose.  The “repair” part comes when you leave the city, as you recover from your long night with a solid nap on the bus.  You could drink and sleep in your own personal vehicle, but I certainly wouldn’t recommend it.

2. Get A Player’s Card At Every Casino – It baffles me that people do not get player’s cards.  They are free, and have literally no downside.  Through my player’s cards, I have gotten numerous free room stays and bets.  However, it is important not to overestimate the comp dollars you’ll earn with these cards – I’ve checked my cards after all-night gambling binges to see a robust $1.16 worth of comps.  But hey, that’s $1.16 I didn’t have before.  Many cards also have bonuses for new members, so if you haven’t signed up yet, make sure you do.

3. Gamble Almost Immediately – Really, get it out of your system.  There have been times where I’ve gone to Atlantic City, then checked into the room, then went to dinner, and then saw a concert.  And you know what was running through my head the whole time?  GAMBLE GAMBLE GAMBLE GAMBLE.  I couldn’t enjoy either the meal or the concert with that thought on my mind.  In Chapter 5, I gambled within minutes of debarking the bus, and was much happier for it.  Once you are done gambling, you can enjoy the other sites and sounds of the city, such as….

4. Walk The Boardwalk – Atlantic City has a beautiful, historic boardwalk.  On a lovely day, there’s nothing better than taking a stroll, stopping in novelty stores, hearing the ocean, feeling the sunshine…..

OK, you fellow gamblers know this is bullshit.  Really, just get outside.  Casinos have no windows, no clocks, and you are constantly bombarded by flashing lights and the ding-ding-dinging of slot machines.  A walk on the boardwalk will do you good, if only to get you fresh air and reconnect yourself with reality.

5. Buffets – The last two times I went to Atlantic City, I was fortunate enough to be treated to dinner by my good friend OB.  However, if you are on a budget, buffets are the way to go.  I’ve always liked the Resorts buffet, with its cheesy decor and endless crab legs.  The Atlantic Club casino seems to have the cheapest buffet on the boardwalk, but I have yet to try it out.  But, please, a moment of silence for the Wild Wild West’s Virginia City buffet.  It shall be missed.

6. Pool Time – Much like walking the boardwalk, this is another activity to relax you and keep you away from the tables a bit.  I’ve hit the pool the last two times with Keith, and have found it a nice way to both soothe your mind from the gambling you have done and will do.  While many pools offer a poolside bar, your best bet is to bring a drink down with you, as it can be a bit pricey.

7. Pay As Little As Possible For Your Hotel Room – When you go down to Atlantic City, you will be spending very little time in your hotel room.  The city never sleeps, and there is always something going on.  I feel like the world is passing me by whenever I’m in the hotel room.  With this in mind, try to get a comped room.  The aforementioned player cards will be useful in this regard – you can even add your friend’s card to the room to help reduce the price.  If the rooms are still too expensive, there are some seedy motels nearby.  I wouldn’t recommend these for everyone, but if you are on a budget, it could be a fun adventure.  The rooms there are such cliched dumps that it almost looks like they were purposely designed that way.

8. Sleep – While you may stay out to the wee hours of the morning, get some sleep.  Be it four hours, three hours, or even 30 minutes, any amount of sleep in Atlantic City will do you wonders.  I’ve pulled all-nighters in Atlantic City, and by the end, you feel physically and emotionally drained.  Your judgement starts to dissipate, and you make careless errors in gambling.  You’ll even be too tired to celebrate winning, as gambling will just turn into a joyless chore.  So yes, sleep will do you good.

9. Visit Other Casinos – Get a feel for the whole city.  I always enjoyed perusing the other casinos to see how the atmosphere was like in each one.  You may walk into a depressing hellhole (like I saw at the Trump Plaza last time), or an unexpected party (like I saw at Showboat bank in Chapter 2).  Staying in the same casino all night gets boring – eventually you’ll start to recognize all the dealers and gamblers.  Sure, the other casinos may be worse than the one you left, but that will just make you appreciate returning back that much more.

10. Break Up The Night With A Show – Once Atlantic City hits 8pm or so, the pools, shops, and buffets start to close.  There really isn’t much to do outside gamble and drink, which is fun, but if you plan to stay up to 4AM, that’ll be 8 hours of partying, which would tire out Andrew WK.  That’s why I’ve based many of my trips down around a show of some sort.  The show will break up the night, and give you a completely unique experience.  Many times, when you head to AC, the show will already be pre-planned, such as my trips to see the Orion Music Festival, Summerland, and Louie CK.  However, there was one time I was down with OB, and we had no plans.  We were getting killed at the tables, and decided to spend some money to see a Beatles tribute band.  While the show wasn’t anything special, we got a solid 2 hours of entertainment away from the gambling floor.

11. Know Your Budget – Whenever you go to Atlantic City, you’ll either win money or lose money.  No shit, right?  And, more often than not, you’ll lose money.  However, that doesn’t mean you’ll have a bad time.  It is all about setting a strict gambling budget.  Your adherence to your budget is your best indicator of how much fun you’ll have in Atlantic City.

When I used to go down, I was soft with my budget.  I would plan to gamble a bit, lose it, then hit an ATM, then lose that money.  By losing more than I should, it ruined some otherwise great trips.  Now, I have a strict amount I’m set to lose – I even refuse to bring my ATM card with me (which has its drawbacks – sometimes if I win I’d like to put the cash back into the ATM, but can’t).  It is extremely important to gamble within your means, and to realize that this is not a way to make your riches.  I feel like telling that to a gambler is like telling a child that Santa isn’t real, but it is true.  However, just as you can still enjoy Christmas knowing it is all fake, you can enjoy gambling knowing that your money will be gone soon.  Bottom line – any time you place a bet, assume that you’ve lost that money already.  Your money is as good as gone as soon as the cards get dealt, the roulette wheel spins, or the dice get tossed.  And ask yourself, “Am I OK with losing this bet?”  If the answer is “No,” stop gambling.

12. If All Else Fails – BOOZE! – Seriously, if you are out of money, just booze it up!  Alcohol is extremely cheap in Atlantic City, so you should have no problem getting your drink on.  You could sit at a bar, pretending to gamble and get free drinks, or you could get back to your room with some beers (this strategy works well if there is a sporting event to watch on TV).  After being responsibly inebriated, go out and putz around!  Maybe you’ll meet someone to have a romantic rendezvous with, or a rich oil tycoon who is looking for an heir to his fortune.  The possibilities are endless!

And, really, that’s the key point.  Most see AC as just a gambling mecca, and trust me, it is.  But, most of my points (4-6, 8-10, 12) are about finding fun things to do away from the casino floor.  When I look back at my memories of Atlantic City, I remember mostly the concerts, the food, the relaxing, and the putzing (but yes, I do remember some bad beats and lucky hits).  Bottom line, with AC, you never quite know what to expect, which is WHY I do AC.  You’ll never get the same experience twice, and it could be good, or it could be dreadful.  But if you stick to my 12-step program, you’ll have better odds walking away with a win.

Well, Summer 2012 is just about finished.  This past Labor Day weekend signified one last time to hit the beach, have a cookout, or find one last summer love.  For most Americans, that is.  For me, it was one last opportunity to recklessly spend money and drink.  Ladies and gentlemen, let’s just dive into this engrossing chapter of the Atlantic City Diaries!

Friday

3:45PM – The crew this time: OB (star of Chapters 2 and 4), Rainman Suite’s founder Keith, and yours truly.  The destination: Revel, again.  The goal: drunkenness.  As loyal readers know, I often have a low budget on trips to Atlantic City, and, at this time, I am in the process of moving, so my money is much lower than usual.  Therefore, I must exercise self-control, and by that, I mean I must drink more alcohol rather than gamble.  I’ve modeled myself after Charles Barkley, in the sense that I am not a role model.

As mentioned in previous chapters, taking the bus down always involves stealthy drinking.  However, due to my aforementioned money shortage, I went cheap – instead of buying several smaller bottles, I bought a giant two liter bottle of Pepsi that was on sale at the local CVS.  This, combined with my cheap liter of Rory B. Bellows brand rum, did very little to mask the fact that I was a bus rule-breaker.  Additionally, OB made sure to point out that I was drinking as loudly as possible, banging pots and pans like it was New Year’s Eve, marching up and down the bus aisle singing “RORY IS DRINKING, ON THE BUS!”  This may not be true, but it certainly felt akin to this as it was happening.

Keith Stone: I, meanwhile, had pounded a carton of Bandit wine at Rory’s apartment before the bus. When heading to New Jersey, do as white trash does.

6:30 – We arrive in Atlantic City.  Aside from some slight spills, the bus trip was without much ado.  While OB and Keith would be getting off at Showboat (which is next door to the Revel), I got off at Caesar’s.  I had a small amount of comped slot dollars to play, which expired at the end of August.  While I won absolutely nothing, it helped sate my appetite for gambling. When I arrive in Atlantic City, every second before my first foray into gambling is spent on thinking about when I am going to gamble.  This small detour helped me alleviate this thought – for a bit.

I strolled down the boardwalk, chugging my 2-liter-Pepsi-and-horrible-rum concoction, taking in the sights of the Jersey Shore in the late summer, which was primarily seeing a naked man get arrested.  The boardwalk is also littered by numerous t-shirt shops, pandering to the latest catchphrase of the day (i.e. “YOLO” and “Call Me Maybe” shirts).  However, MTV had just announced the cancellation of Jersey Shore, and you could see the disappointment in all the store owners’ faces.  Stay strong, my poorly-made crap-slinging entrepreneurs, I’m sure the next horrible exploitative phenomenon is just around the corner.

MKS: I’m looking at you, Honey Boo Boo.

7:30 – I meet Stone and OB at the Revel, where the great OB has procured us another comped room (although not a suite this time, but I’m not complaining).  We have dinner reservations are Azure again at 9:30, and we decide to drink more in the room as preparation.  Bad idea.

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In the last chapter of the Atlantic City Diaries, I was feeling a sense of burn-out with the city.  While I was financially successful, I suffered from multiple dramatic episodes, including an avian-related food disaster, a near fight with a complete asshole, and the potential of having to fill out a missing persons report for this website’s editor.  However, this trip was booked in advance and completely comped thanks to my friend OB, star of Chapter 2. Earlier this month (between the events recounted in Chapters 2 and 3), OB went down to stay at the Revel, for the sole purpose of building up his comp points.  And he ended up building a small empire.  While I don’t want to go into specifics, he ended up with enough winnings that he was assigned his own “experience manager.”  So this upcoming weekend was not only comped in one of the Revel’s nicest suites, but all room service and dinner would also be taken care of.  Additionally, we also had tickets to see Summerland – a concert featuring a who’s who of pop-rock 90’s bands.  With a bill featuring Marcy Playground, Sugar Ray, Everclear, Gin Blossoms, and Lit, I’m sure Fastball was feeling extremely left out.  To top things off, OB used his winnings to escort our group (including my girlfriend and Finn from Chapter 2) down from New York in a stretch limo.

Friday

3:30PM – My main experience with limos has been funeral-related, so this jovial, booze-filled ride was completely new and exciting for me.  It will be tough to go back to the Greyhound bus after this.  However, the only downside of drinking in a limo for three hours – you really have to go to the bathroom.  Each limo stop costs extra money, so you’ll be testing your bladder’s fortitude as you try not to break the seal.  I, unfortunately, broke the seal at our one rest stop – which was still about an hour and a half away from Atlantic City.  By the time we reached the Atlantic City Expressway, I was trying to remember anything at all from Phil Jackson’s Sacred Hoops – I needed to use the Zen Master’s advice to dissociate from my need to pee.  By the time we pulled up to the Revel, I pushed over my girlfriend and friends in a mad dash to the bathroom, much like George Costanza knocking over the children and old lady to get out of a fire at a children’s party.

7:00 – We checked into our room, and had some solid room service.  I ordered a burger, which, while nothing spectacular, sated me.  We then headed to the concert.  The concert opened at 7PM, and we arrived at 7:45, thinking that would be closer to the start time.  However, by the time we arrived, the lead singer for Everclear (who was hosting the event) was saying “Give it up for Marcy Playground!”  Well, one band down, four to go.  It made me wonder how long the sets would be – did Marcy Playground just go out, play “Sex & Candy,” and leave?  Next up was Lit.  Now, aside from “My Own Worst Enemy,” I was extremely unfamiliar with their music.  The set was…fine, I assume.  It gave me a feeling for how the rest of the night would go – they played for about 45 minutes, had a couple of the other bands’ members guest with them for a song or two, I would recognize a song that I forgot they played (in this case, “Miserable”), they would end with their biggest hit (the aforementioned “My Own Worst Enemy”), and the crowd mildly rocked around.

8:30 – After Lit’s set, I took time to look around the room.  It was a pretty light crowd, especially when compared to the Orion Music Festival.  The pit area (where we were) was maybe only two-thirds full, and it looked like many people there were past their best rocking days.  The interlude was very quick – in about 10 minutes after Lit finished, the Gin Blossoms started playing.  I have to give kudos to the stage crew – they kept it moving very quickly.  I’m a bigger fan of the Gin Blossoms, and they didn’t disappoint – they played every hit they had (of course ending with “Hey Jealousy”).  Two interesting notes about their set.  First, the lead singer really isn’t that charismatic – his only move was to ask the audience to put their hands up, which he repeated seven or eight times.  And secondly, during this set, two sets of what looked like 21-year-olds were locked in a vicious make-out session – they were, without exaggeration, rolling on the floor and making out for roughly 20 minutes.  It was distracting, but I was so impressed with their stamina in a crowd full of mostly older folks.

9:15 – Sugar Ray followed next, using the Saved By the Bell theme as their intro music.  Their set started with “Someday”, which had just awful harmonies.  Again, this wasn’t a band I was a huge fan of, and, much to my surprise, I found out here that “Someday,” “When It’s Over,” and “Every Morning” are, in fact, three different songs – my memory had blurred them all into one.  I always had a begrudging respect for Mark McGrath, he seems self-aware enough to know that his bread-and-butter is staying committed to the 90’s douche personality he’s developed.  (I remember one joke he had on the Adam Carolla podcast – “Wherever you smell funnel cake, Sugar Ray will be playing there.”)  McGrath spent more time talking to the audience than the last two bands and played a few covers, two signs that it was clearly tough for them to fill a 45 minute set.  The silliest gimmick was a “sing-along” part, where two random audience members were pulled on stage to sing random songs.  One audience member had to sing “Fight For Your Right To Party,” but ended up singing the lyrics after the lyrics had just be said, and got booed mercilessly by the hostile South Jersey crowd.  And, if you don’t know what song they ended with, I don’t know what to tell you.

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When I first decided to start writing the Atlantic City Diaries, I didn’t think I would be doing it very frequently.  From 2007 to 2011, I really only went to Atlantic City roughly once or twice a year.  This year, I’ve been to Atlantic City five times, with plans to go again in 10 days.  I originally thought that my last time there would be it for 2012, which is why I spared no detail in my 3,000-word recap.  However, Chapter 2 got Keith itching to go, and, backed by a free room on a Sunday night, we headed back down the shore.

Now, half of the time that I go to Atlantic City, I am there to see a concert or a comedy show.  This spaces out the night better.  I am away from the free-flow of booze and gambling, as hours upon hours of blinking lights and arcade noises can melt your brain.  However, the other half of the time, I am there for the sole purpose of having an alcohol-fueled gamble-thon.  This trip was the latter.

We left Sunday at noon, on a bus driven by Friday.  Yes, Friday was the born name of the man driving our bus.  I took this as a good omen for the trip to come.  On the bus ride, we caught up on several basketball topics, as the Brooklyn Nets were having a splendid summer, and the Manhattan Knicks were having a cruel one.  This point was reinforced when news broke on that trip that their young point guard Jason Kidd got arrested for a DWI.  I swear, that team needs some veteran leadership.

Keith Stone: As our trip turned out to be an extremely boozy one, I am going to step in to interject anything Rory may have missed or misremembered. Here, he’s forgetting the fact that Jason Kidd is 600-years-old. But hey, who doesn’t celebrate getting a new job by wrapping your car around one of your new boss’s telephone poles? It’s better than beating your wife.

We got off the bus at Showboat, even though we were staying at Resorts.  This was because of the bus deals – we decided that $25 of gambling money was more fun than $15 of gambling money and $15 in food vouchers.  However, I was extremely hungry when we arrived, and as we walked the boardwalk from Showboat to Resorts, I grabbed a philly cheesesteak from a food cart.  I was about halfway through this cheesesteak when–

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This past weekend, I made a trip to Atlantic City with a few goals. First, I’d like to introduce my girlfriend to the city I both love and loathe. Secondly, I wanted to get my rock on at the Orion Music Festival. And finally, I wanted to write this to share with you lovely readers. Let’s get going!

FRIDAY

The day began as usual: taking the bus from Port Authority to the casino. I was with my girlfriend and frequent gambling cohort, OB. This time, all of us were staying at the Resorts in a comped room for Friday night, then paying to stay in separate rooms (me and the lady in one, OB in the other) at the Showboat on Saturday night. The Greyhound bus from New York City always provides you with deals. For about $35, we got a round trip ticket to the city, as well as $15 for slots and $15 for food in Resorts. In addition, we brought some adult beverages onto the bus to get the party started a bit early. While this isn’t legal in any way, as long as you can keep your shit together, nobody will really mind. So you caution, folks. I don’t want anyone reading this, getting drunk on the bus, then causing a scene and blaming me. While driving down does provide a better sense of freedom – blasting your music, setting your own times, not being forced to sit next to anyone with questionable hygiene – the bus is just too good a deal to turn down, at least in my mindset, where I’d rather spend money on the tables than on gas and tolls.

The bus ride down was fairly incident free. It rained the whole time, which was a bit ominous, but the weather reports assured us sunshine throughout the rest of the weekend. When we got to Resorts, we had a bit of an incident where they gave us a room that looked like it had been vacated about 12 minutes ago. Now, after spending three hours on a bus, this was a bit frustrating – I just wanted to drop off my luggage and get the party started. However, it worked to our advantage, as we got a slightly bigger room. It was roughly 6PM by now, and we decided it was probably time to load up on food for the long night ahead of us. The $15 food voucher had a bunch of restrictions, so we decided to just play it safe and use it on the Resorts buffet.

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