Tag Archives: road trip

Street Level Hallucinogens

lsd_collage2A few months ago I was lucky enough to go to Helsinki, Finland for a week for a work conference. It was great to see some old friends, make some new ones, have some amazing food, watch the sun go down  from the top of a mountain  eat some boar and the list goes on and on. The only downsize is that the hangovers were unlike any I have had in a while but just about everyone was in the same shape so I suppose I can’t really complain.

With all of these great experiences, one random encounter has just stuck in my mind more than others and for a few reasons. It was late into the night by Helsinki in April standards. By that I meen it was 11pm on a Sunday night. The city center looked like something out of a bad zombie film. We actually joked about how we were the only ones out and about as we made our way from the bars for one last night cap at a bar near the hotel. There were four us and we were well into getting after it by this point. Along the way one of us really had to pee and there was NOTHING open so a restroom was out the question. So the only real option was to just find a nice warm door way and do what he had to do, and he did. We couldn’t help but laugh at the sound of it all, and then the laughter of realizing just how much steam drunk pee can make on a freezing cold night in Finland in early spring. Thats when we heard it. The unmistakable sound of polyurethane skateboard wheels moving along at a nice pace on a paved street. I looked up and around the corner in anticipation of who or what was about to come cruising around the corner. Then we saw him. A random  kid about seventeen years old comes around the bend towards the group and you can see he was on a mission, and with a look of purpose about him. He saw us immediately and the look on his face told me he wanted to ask us a very important question. Within just a few  seconds he was next to us and eyeing up each and everyone of us. He reaches up and wipes his mouth as he takes one more look at us. He squints his eyes in that way that is both inquisitive and suspicious at the same time and then he said the following five words in a very deliberate and serious manner:

Do you want any acid?”

It has been a long time since I answered that question with an enthusiastic yes but the unavoidable smile that came to my face when I heard that was not one I could control. I can not say for sure if anyone of us did in fact want any acid as we all kinda were caught off guard by the proposal and we all started to reply in a nonchalant way “naw, thats cool thanks”. His look of intense purpose was not altered in any way. He pursed his lips with conviction and nodded his head in acknowledgment. His only reply was “OK”. Then he jumped back on his skateboard and rode away. He just sliped away into the night and out of sight just as fast as he entered it. 

The rest of that week it became a great drunken catch phrase and source of entertainment. We got some raised eyebrows as we joked about it, but that is ok. No one really seemed bothered by it. I just can’t help but wonder if he came across anyone else and if they said “sure. Did they end up taking it that night? Was it real? Was it good? I have always been pro-hallucinogen in the right and proper context as much as the next guy, yet I always wonder about  who comes across  such experiences, understandings, and doors unlocked from them by random strangers on a skateboard late at night. Did the kid on the skateboard know something I didnt? What exactly had he seen? Have I seen some of the same things along the way? I know I have had such convictions about what lays out there in the universe and just wonder from time to time where they all went or are they just manifesting in different places now? I suppose that is the great mystery. Thats the thrill of this expieriment of this life and universe. I suppose you see all the things along the way you are open to seeing. I will end this with a great quote…”A closed eye sees nothing. The same is true for the mind”

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Lets Get This Show On The Road…

Its still dark. Heather is still asleep. South Philly is quiet and the house is still. Hell, there isn’t even any coffee brewed yet. Its just past 6am on the day we hit the road for a Thanksgiving week with my mom, some gigs, and seeing some of my very oldest and dearest friends. It almost has the feelings that we are taking one part Kerouac and Cassidy outings of seeing whats out there, and mixing it with a classic holiday travel to family romcom. It will be equal parts of wild freedom delicately blended with introspection fueled by genuine nostalgia.

As mentioned in the previous post, it is something I am looking forward to sharing with my lady-friend  whose life, influences, and roots have been shared and shown to me since we first met. We were talking yesterday and it was interesting to summarize that I have 9 days to show her what she has shown me over the last two years.

I am looking forward to connecting with people who helped shaped me, and help me be the man I am today. I am looking forward to reconnecting with my passion of music. Its not that it ever went away, but it became more personal, and less business and I am curious to see how that plays out when I stand behind those turntables in public to share the way I see and hear and feel this music I know so well and with so much love and understanding.

I know its going to be one hell of a ride, so lock and load ya’ll, its tine to get this show on the road….

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Home Sweet Home

Halloween has come and gone, and we are now two days into November and I have started to slowly get amped up about the anual holiday season. Traditionally it has never been a major deal or time for me. My immediate family has always been close, but not in proximity or in time spent together compared to most here in the good old USA. Since I have become a father however, that is changing and the understanding and need for my daughter to be around her bloodline and kinfolk is more and more important in a way I have never understood until now. As my ladyfriend (Happy Birthday HKB!) and I grow closer and closer and continue to build our home and family, the sense of family and the understanding of home is becoming more important as well. It is turning out to be quite a great thing that I was never too overly excited about in the past, and am glad this is changing.

One of the challenges of living so far from where I grew up, but dating someone who lives 10 minutes from their childhood home is that my friends of my youth, and some of my longer running friends are not near by. There is no point of reference to where I am from and the things that have helped me become who I am today.  There is no connection to the stories of my youth. No recall of smells and sounds and sights of the things that motivated me. No way to show how growing up around such an international melting pot of Ohio State University helped to fill my mind with wonder and curiosity about all the places on this planet outside of an All American city like Columbus, Ohio. No way to connect how spending hours on rainy days exploring the Village Bookshop or The Book Loft in German Village and the way the smell of all those old and rare books were (and still are) an intoxicating smell and also helped push me to understand and explore this rich planet. However, there is also no way to explain the way I needed to get out when I did. The need to break out and use those motivators to grow and excel and be as triumphant and pure in my undertakings as I could after nineteen odd years in the great Buckeye State. That is all about to change…..

For the first time in almost ten years, I am spending the holidays with my family. That statement can conjure up all sorts of emotions in just about anyone, but let me be clear about just how excited I am about all of this. There are so many things for me to be excited about.  First off, spending Thanksgiving with my mom, and my  ladyfriend in Ohio and the eight day road trip surrounding it is going to so much fun. Showing her my old stomping grounds, introducing her to some of my oldest and dearest friends, and it goes without saying introducing her to the glory that is Donato’s Pizza and UDF Chocolate and  Peanut Butter milkshakes. Getting to play music (details to follow) with some of the coolest cats I know, and being able to order a Red Cream Soda without anyone giving me a weird look. This has brought up a large amount of thoughts about why we have such an attachement to our regional foods and treats, but that is for another day. This  road trip will take us through Columbus, Dayton, and Pittsburgh with a few other side trips here and there in the mix for good measure.  I expect there to be many great photos to with this journey, which you can see in the photo stream on the side bar on the homepage of The Vast Parlor.

After we get through that, we will be taking my daughter to Texas for a Christmas gathering with my brother and his family, our mom, and the three of us. I am not quiet in the Christmas mood yet, but will share some thoughts on that as we get a little closer to that time….

For now, its time to get ready Ohio…..I’m coming for you and I am bringing the HKB with me. You have been warned….

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Wicked Smooth Start in Boston

“How are you doing tonight Mr. Aufdenberg?” The seemingly defeated and discouraged woman behind the counter said to me as she checked my reservation.

“I am amazing.  I am tired, but amazing” I replied in my usual answer to anyone who inquires about how I may be.

“That is one heck of a reply Mr. Aufdenberg” she replied seemingly caught off guard, as many seem to be when they get such an answer.

“How about you? You look like you have seen better days young lass, and call me Brian” I add in as I hand her my ID so we can get the check in started.

“You have no idea. It is just one of those nights in customer service, and my sons name is Bryan. But he spells it with a Y” she answered, hinting that she still had hopes for some sort of turn around for the night or for a complaining guest to suffer in some way, it was hard to tell her true motives at this point.

“Well, it was a long drive today just over 7 hours with stops, but I love Boston so it was well worth it, and if you named him with a Y, then I suppose it is you who spells, or at one time at least, spelled it with a Y” I come back to her. I was glad to be out of Betty and ready to get deep into a glass of something that can be measured by a ABV rating.

“You make a strong point Mr.Auf–, I mean Brian” She said as she let a loose chuckle out as her face started to slowly light up.  She could sense I meant no harm, and was actually hoping to make her night better than it started. That idea seemed like a good option to her.

“What can I say, I am a giver. Oh wait, here is my rewards number, does this get me anything with this reservation?” I inquire.

“Let me see what I can do for you sugar….”she said in my general direction as she was looking into her computer screen as her long purple nails clickitty clacked away on her keyboard.

A few moments go by with a lot of inquisitive looks and lots of keystrokes until I am informed of the following:

  1. Upgrade to a King Suite with river view.
  2. Free breakfast coupons.
  3. Half priced parking for two days.
  4. 2 Free fresh baked chocolate chip cookies

“You single handedly may be the most bad ass hotel employee in this time zone, if not in all of the Hilton Empire” I say with full confidence in my new friend. “Are you going to be here for a few minutes? I need to drop this stuff off and then I will have one very important question for you” I inform her.

“No need to come back child, just ask me now while you are here. If you don’t like my answer then you wont be upset that you wasted time to come all the way back down here” she says in an almost motherly fashion.

“I can’t argue with that logic, even though I am a creature of habit, you seem like you can be trusted” I say with growing confidence.

“How late is the hotel bar open tonight? I need a handful of drinks and am ready to sit down and get the business done” I almost seem to be pleading for good news.

“Well Brian from Philadelphia who spells his name with an I, the bar is open until ten thirty tonight. Its now nine fifty five. What ever work you need to get into gear, I suggest you report directly to the bar with no delay. I can have the bellman take your bags up for you, and would be happy to arrange such a thing,” she said again in a tone boarding on motherly.

“I like how you think. You are one fine example of perfection. You are the type of dame most of us men are endlessly searching for” I say with a smile and wink that would befit any nineteen thirties spy action charmer of a leading man. “If I wasn’t deeper then a dead anchor in love, I would insist you join me for a drink” I say not hesitating one syllable.

“Your bags sir?” said a new and unexpected voice just off my right shoulder.

“Here you go boss, and here is a token, just for you “ I say with an appreciative smile as I hand him an Abe and start to make a move towards the bar.

************************************************************************************

The elevator whisked me away to the third floor and I made my way directly to the bar. There was basketball on the TV, and your typical landscape of solo men in business casual attire. There is not many things that makes me want to drink, and a fare amount at that, then walking into a room full of middle aged men in blue button down shirts and khaki pants talking about spread sheets and joking about another round then heading to the strip clubs.

“I wonder if you can expense a lap dance?”

“Do you think Mitch in accounting will question why our cards were being used at a place called ‘Giggles’ or ‘The Brass Ass’?

These are the types of comments I heard within a minute of getting to the bar, added in with the bro like head nods from the next table over that means to hint that “hey that guy knows what’s up”.

“Hey there” the bartender says I approach the bar.  “What can I do for you?” he asks as an immediate follow up.

“I need wine. Preferably a full bottle. Whaddaya got as far as Pinot’s go?” I inquire.

“We do have one that’s fitting to all the basketball on. Its called Hangtime and its wicked smooth” he assures me.

“SOLD!” I declare and add in a Caesar Salad with grilled chicken for good measure and find my way back to my seat among the dull dressed and dull conversations.

After a moment or two the bartender comes over with the wine and three glasses, pauses, looks around and asks “How many are in your party tonight?”

“Oh, just me, so lets get this cork a popping!” I reply trying to politely get this process underway.

“Oh, did you want just a glass?” The bartender asked wondering if he had misheard what I had ordered.

“Nope, I want the whole bottle. Every last tasty drop” I replied with the same wink I gave the woman at the front counter but with more of a cool guy tone then spy movie thriller theme.

He opens the bottle and gives me a heavy pour and lets me know the bar closes in twenty minutes almost as a warning, not aware of the caliber of thirst I am capable of satisfying. I suppose I cannot blame him considering the caliber of most of the current company I am keeping and that he must see on a daily and weekly basis. The middle of the road drinking middle of the road beers and cocktails whose recipes they discovered on sports radio commercials.  I say at the end of the day, do what you enjoy and forget the rest, but there is something to say for a certain level of taste too.

He screws the cap back on, grabs the bottle and walks away and it wasn’t until he was back pouring another pisswater beer for another blue shirt that I noticed he had taken my bottle and I could not snap a photo for my Drink A Day column. The next time he walks by I grab him and inquire as to where the bottle had run off to. It is at that point he informs me that in the state of Massachusetts a person sitting or eating alone at a bar or restaurant can not by law have a bottle of wine on the table, it has be kept behind the bar or at a servers station.

“Is that a problem up here?” I ask

“According to law makers it is” he answered.

“That many people eating and drinking alone huh? I then ask.

“They are here for sure, it is a hotel after all” He said with a smirk

“I noticed from the bill. Most of my friends let me crash for free. Oh, and the food and drink prices reflect it too” I said with a playful tone letting him know I  wasn’t being a dick.

“Yeah, I suppose you are right. At least $36 for a full bottle of good Pinot is not to crazy” He reassured me. “It may take a few minutes to get the salad to you and I am trying to close down. Is there anyway I can send the salad and rest of the wine up to your room?” he then inquired.

“Sounds perfect to me” I say without a doubt. “Rock that up to room 1406, but top off my glass first. I am more of a ‘the cup should always be full’ kind of guy. I can’t be bothered with the half empty or half full bullshit. If your glass is always mostly full, the truth will set you free” I say almost in a preachers tone and with just as much conviction.

“You got it champ” the friendly, and ready to be done working bar keep said.

I sign the receipt, leave a cash tip, and make my way up to type this up. Nothing like a good pinot to help good story out….

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The Big Easy

Last Autumn I took a sales trip across the South that started in New Orleans. I wrote about my stay there for Dirty Magazine (http://dirtylikestoparty.com/). It was a lot of fun and the beginning of a 10 day extravaganza of Mexican Jumping beans, An oceanside  funeral, Strange times in Florida, roadside tourist stores, and alot of time in a car. After recently finishing up a 14 day sales trip across Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and Ohio and heading back to New Orleans this week, I wanted share this piece I did and gear up for the week ahead! Enjoy……

It was a humid day in New Orleans when the plane come down fast, focused and ahead of schedule and I was feeling good about getting into the guts of this city and getting friendly with other parts of the dirty south. I was well aware that I had eleven days and around fifteen hundred miles in the rental car to see what the highways, byways and cities had to reveal. I knew there was going to be long days,short nights, and a whole lot of adventure to be had.

As soon as I stepped off the plane I knew I was in a special place. The happy go lucky ragtime was playing on the overhead speakers. Big Easy jazz was pouring out of every shop and bar. WHO DAT Nation was full of pride and showing it with more black, gold, and fleur de lys than one can understand with out seeing in person. The sounds of a spirit and culture that is deeply rooted and inseparable from the city seemed to be oozing from the ground with every step.

After getting checked in I get headed full steam into the rituals of a new town. I grab my camera and note book, get a map from the concierge, two large cups of coffee with one or two extra espresso shots for added umpf, and sunglasses. From there I was ready to wonder. The images of Mardi Gras and tits flashing like paparazzi ran through my mind. I honestly was only half interested in those things, and you can probably figure out what half. After walking about two blocks I was able to discover some basic truths about New Orleans most already know. Its fucking hot and sticky there. Not just a little bit. Huge amounts. New Orleans is humidity’s bitch no questions asked. The second is just how disgusting and rotten most of the French Quarter smells. It was like a large possum was just out of site and rotting in the bushes, but it is EVERYWHERE you go. One lady at a bar leaned over, and in a drunken slur and said “That my friend, is the smell of tourists. You can take that to the bank” A brilliant deduction and one spoke with true conviction and one I can relate to living in Philadelphia. The funnier part is that as soon as she said that her husband chimes in

“Aw what du fuck doyah know? Your from fucking Natches, Arizona”

“Don’t be an asshole. We are in public god damn it” she fired back.

“Well its true is all I’m saying that’s all” he retorted like a man who knew his place and hated where that left him.

I shook my head and said, “I think it is a universal stench that is hard to shake whereever ones finds tourists.” We all seemed to agree on that and I moved along

I wanted to find out what all the excitement was about surrounding one of the biggest party streets in the country, so I made my way to Bourbon Street. The smell of rotting food, stale beer, puke, piss, and bad taste seemed filtered into everything there. I didn’t know what to expect really, but it was a rather big let down. It was as if the Overlords of all public drunkenness sat down at their high council and said “Where can we combine Spring Break, Frat Parties, binge drinking, Beer League, tits, and daiquiris??” A heavenly light shined down from up on high and the result s the modern day Bourbon Street. It was like the Southern version of the Las Vegas Strip minus the glitz and glam. Its seemed like the kind of place amateur drinkers go to get some experience under their belt.

After I walked three more blocks I hear a Dixieland band jamming out a cover version of Stevie Ray Vaughn’s “Pride and Joy”. I phoned up my brother and told him of the discovery and added in it was in a place called ‘The Old Absinthe House”. He said it was a no brainier and be sure to eat something before it got to serious. The place was packed and alive with the disjointed movements of a tour bus full of retirees from Arkansas. I figured the old timers could be a fun group to have a few drinks with. I ended up next to two retired guys named Bud and Warren. Both are proud members of the Moose Lodge and Korean War veterans. Both had Budweiser long necks in their hands. Both had shots of Wild Turkey in front of them. I nodded my head in greetings and turned to look for the bartender. It was at that point I knew it was going to get weird. I find the bartender about five feet down and wearing a Hawaiian shirt and a porn star mustache. I said “I’ll have what these two are having” The bartender then nodded his head and turned to prepare my drink when I noticed he was only wearing my a black Speedo and flip flops. That’s not even the best part. He reaches into the cooler behind him, grabs my beer, and turns around and give me a big smile as he moves the beer dangerously close to what appears to be his oversized junk and pops the bottle cap off with the bottle opener attached to his Speedo that had gone un noticed. He puts the beer down in front of me and then pours me a shot of the kicken’ chicken and leans in real close and says slowly and with a twinkle in his eye and says “That’s four dollars kindly”

“Did you say four dollars?” I said in disbelief.

“I did indeed. There is no charge for the view” he said with a wink.

“Wonderful, here is six” I said with a tad of sass.

I raise my shot glass and nodded over to the two fine gents next to me and in unison they pick theirs up, we all clink glasses and toss em back.

“Names Warren, this here is Bud” Warren warmly said.

“Brian, pleased to meet you” I mentioned as we all shook hands.

“He only charged us three bucks. Said it was an AARP discount” Bud leaned over to

interject.

“Good thing, cuz that whole cock bottle opener was kinda weird. But what the hell, its Nawlins”

“Well then game on good sirs, game on” I said with a smile escaping my face.

We make small talk about life, the economy, the differences between the Southern and the Northern way of life. One thing Bud said that struck a chord with me in particular. “Just like the heat and the long Southern nights, they always break eventually. You just godda know haw to deal withit, that’s all. That’s maybe one way to sum up us Southerners. We know the heat will break and the sun will also rise so just slow your pace and wait for that time to come kid”

“Isnt that a book?” Warren chimed in?

“Huh? “ Bud asked confused.

“That part you just said about the sun. Isn’t that a book ur sumtin?” Warren asked again.

“In the last forty years, have you ever seen me read a book?” Bud said almost insulted..

“Spose not” Warren agreed.

“I think your referring to Hemmingway’s ‘The Sun Also Rises’, Warren” I chime in.

“Ha! I knew it!” Warren said in relief as he took a swig of his beer

“Thank you Barnes and Noble” Bud said in my direction.

We all have a laugh and order another shot. We toss it back and finish off our beers. As the last drink of beer is washed down, Buds wife comes over from the pack of the other tour members and says, and I shit you not,

“ The doorman said to make it a true trip to New Orleans with out doing this!” as she lifts her American flag Old Navy tank top and her surprisingly large and well maintained tits pop out and jiggle around for what was about thirty to forty seconds. I felt bad for looking, but it was kind of hard not too.

“Darla, this here is Brian. He is from Philladelphia.” Bud mentions, being the Southern gentleman he is.

“Howdy” Darla says, tits still hanging out. In the background you can hear her friends laughing and carrying on from her brash exhibition. It was at that moment that Bud looked over and says with a stone cold expressionless face and tugged on my shirt to pull me closer and said as a matter of fact voice“Best thing that ever happened to the modern and aging man is Viagra. I can go out, drink till I forget my name, and still go home to Darla and play newlyweds. Look into it young man” He smiles, pulls Darla’s shirt down and the three of them wonder off to mix with the other cheep beer and blue pill popping folks they motored in with. I finished my beer and made my way back out into the heat to be one among many wondering, just looking for someplace to go as we try to forget where we all just came from.

It was my first time back to the Big Easy since Katrina and BP got their hands all over the place. For the most part, the Quarter, the Garden District, The Irish Channel and the highlands seemed to be business as usual. The recent Super bowl victory of the Saint’s seemed to inject some life into the heart of the city. I was struck how the overall reaction by those that were there that I spoke to was “Meh, it happened. We got fucked. We moved on best we can and get on with what we can” The people who live there LOVE their city. They don’t want to be somewhere else. They don’t NEED to be anywhere else. They have a perseverance to them that is to be envied.  You can still drop by the locals favorite eatery Coops Place (www.coopsplace.net) and have a handful of local Cajun and Creole dishes, or stop by either Molly’s at the Market (www.mollysatthemarket.net) or a classic haunt, 13 on Frenchman Street which is a kick ass pub and restaurant that serves food and hooch until 4am.

While the drinking, cutting loose, and raise hell or go home attitude of the city is fine and well and important to its charecter, you can not forget about the THOUSANDS of people who died there. The THOUSANDS who we left and never came back because there was nothing to come home to. The huge families who owned whole blocks of houses for generations that no longer exsist. There are vast blocks, untold acres of debris, trash, rubble and left behind sections of New Orleans that still stand dead silent and vacant five years later. Yet many still are trying to stick it out. Just trying to make it work and start a new. There is a certain patience here that maybe hard from some to understand. Like the beads hanging from every wire and tree in the city waiting for the wind to blow them down some day, to the street dogs waiting by a cafes from door waiting from some crumbs from a leaving patron, to the unemployed families trying to stay sill during the day to stay cool and not sweat the energy they do have out before the sun goes down.  Bud hit it write on the head, the Southern way of life just knows how to sit back and take iti all in stride. They know the heat will break one day soon, and the sun will also rise, and when it does, it will shine down upon New Orleans.

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Maiden Voyage

It seemed later than 8am when I loaded up and got on the road for the journey to State College, PA. It was still a grey, muted Thursday and there was nothing crisp to be seen in South Philly. I mounted the new GPS unit to the window, made sure my new EZ Pass was in place and turned the key and got down to business. It was something I had done hundreds of times before but today was different. It was me behind the wheel of my new car, and at the helm for my first road trip as the piolet. I hit random on the iPod and away I went. Sooner than expected the city got behind me and the outskirts followed shortly after. The coffee kicked in and seemed to hit the soundtrack of Radiohead, Motley Crue, and The Devil Makes Three in all the right places.

The clouds were hanging around and at times let some sunbeams break through across the peaks and valleys of the turnpikes first foothills. Around one curve I found the richest fog cutting into the greenest foliage still hanging around form the rain. Off the left side a river was way over its banks and reminding some unfortunate homeowners who still calls the shots on this rock. Despite that it was a maiden voyage I had been contemplating for months. My new car, my new camera, my new laptop, my new appreciation for the open road and all the things to see along it all finally in motion. I had a schedule, but it was a loose one and self imposed so I made sure to stop off at a scenic view rest stop and snap a few pics. It was wet and muddy so I did not make it far, but the stretch of the legs and the few frames I got were ok. Was nice to just make it happen and to allow my self the time and the opportunity and experience.

It is true that you just have to be open to life. To keep your eyes open, your ears open, your life open. You may not be able to understand it all all the time, but shit, if you ask me, that is part of the fun. Today I remembered why I enjoy what I do and the choices I have made, and the way it is all unfolding or coming together, which ever expression you prefer. Sure there are things I miss on a daily basis that are a result, but again, sometimes you just have to be open to life and take it all in and make what sense of it you can.

So far, the Maiden Voyage of the new car and the new mobile showroom I am undertaking is going ok. Didnt find many leads today, but maybe tonight will reveal something different. The morning was full of wonder and nature along the way, to be met with cookie cutter hotel, bad shopping options, and A LOT of young students that looked at me as if I was someones dad. Now time for dinner and most likely an fair share of rum.

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