Acid Heroes: the Legends of LSD

April 22, 2017

The Backwords Theory on the human personality

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:21 pm


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This one friend of mine drives me nuts. He does this to me constantly. I’ll be hanging out somewhere by myself, minding my own business, and he comes up to me with his latest new friend.

“Oh Ace, I want to introduce you to my friend So-and-So! He’s great people! I just know you two guys will really like each other and will really hit it off!!”

I’ve told my friend, oh, at least a DOZEN times: “Listen I’m a very reclusive person. I’m not comfortable around most people. And I DON’T want to meet any new people.”

And I certainly don’t want to meet any of the people he introduces me to. They’re invariably street ne’er-do-wells. The very people I go out of my way to avoid

“Oh. OK,” he says. “I understand.” Momentary comprehension. That lasts until the next time he sees me.

So I was just hanging out by myself on a bench in People’s Park. And here he comes. With his latest new friend in tow.

“Oh Ace do you know my friend So-and-So? He’s a great guy. And blah blah blah.”

Followed by the usual, awkward, uncomfortable exchange.

Then my friend asks me: “Do you have any cigarettes?”

“No. I quit after Hate Man died.”

“Oh man I gotta get some smokes. So here’s what I’m gonna do. I’ll leave my guitar here with you guys. And you guys can hang here while I go to 7-11.”

So it isn’t bad enough that he’s forced this total stranger on me. Now he’s dumping him on me.

“Uh, no, I gotta get up and catch the second half of the Jazz game,” I lied. I hurriedly gulped down the rest of my beer, put on my shoes and split. And I felt bad. Because I could tell the guy felt rejected. Because I WAS rejecting him. Which is exactly why I’ve told my friend, oh, at least a dozen times NOT to put me in these situations in the first place.

But it’s something I learned about human nature over the years. We never learn. We got these engrained basic characteristics. That make the same mistakes. Over and over. Until we die.

With rare exceptions.




April 18, 2017

An April Fool’s Day story

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:20 pm

April 1, 2017

I made a fool of myself this morning at the main Post Office in Berkeley. Appropriately enough on April Fools Day.

It all started about a year ago when I started to have all sorts of problems with that post office. They were constantly putting other people’s mail in my P.O. box. And God only knows how much of my mail they were misplacing. Several people sent me packages that never got to me. And my sister (who lives in Berkeley) sent me a birthday card that didn’t get to my box until 2 months after my birthday.  Stuff like that.

Which is weird. Because before this, I had always had tremendous respect for the Post Office.  I used to do a tremendous amount of business with the Post Office and was always impressed with their great service. I mean, for like 25 cents you could send a letter from California to New York  and you could pretty much guarantee that it would get there in a couple of days.  Which is pretty amazing when you think of it.  I used to say that the Post Office was probably the only government agency that delivered real bang for the buck.

So it was weird how everything seemed to go south at the main Post Office.  And it wasn’t just me.  At least half the time I went in there, there’d be some person yelling at one of the clerks for their latest screw up or for the latest bureaucratic hoops they were forced to jump through.

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And then 6 months ago, I really started to have problems when I went in there to pay my 6-month rent on my P.O. Box. Things were going fine until about 3 weeks later when they mysteriously put a lock on my box.  When I complained to the clerk, they said they had locked my box because I had failed to pay my rent. I know for a fact that I paid it. I even checked my bank records which showed me taking out the exact amount on the day that it was due. But of course I had thrown out my receipt after 3 weeks so there was no way I could prove it. I’m sure the senile old bat at the front window had failed to properly register my transaction. But there was nothing I could do about it except fork over another $65 for the rent, plus an extra $40 for the “late fee.”

And as if I wasn’t already in a bad enough mood, the clerk informed me that I would also have to prove that I was a “Berkeley resident” before they would unlock my box.  I mean, I’ve had that box for 20 fucking years, and now I have to prove I’m a Berkeley resident??

“I’m homeless,” I explained. “How am I going to prove I’m a Berkeley resident?  Get a notarized  note from the feral cats at my campsite in the Berkeley hills?”

“That’s not our problem,” informed the clerk, sourly.

So, after several weeks of running around in circles, and trying to figure out how to get my P.O. Box back, I remembered that I was still registered to vote at the address of my old Berkeley apartment. So I managed to dig up some recent campaign mail that had my name and address on the envelope. And, after several more days of jumping through bureaucratic hoops at the Post Office, I was finally able to get my box unlocked.

But then, 6 months later, when I go to pay my rent again, the clerk tells me: “I’m sorry but your box has been locked.”

“What?” I said. “I went through all this last time and did everything you said.  And now I gotta’ go through this all over again??”

“I’m sorry, you’ll have to talk to the supervisor tomorrow,” said the clerk.

“Everybody that works here is completely insane!” I shouted, as I stormed out of the building.

And I spent the rest of the day (and night) ranting to anyone who would listen about the “idiots” and the “incompetents” at the Berkeley Post Office.

So the next morning, bright and early, I go charging back down to the Post Office for the express purpose of really letting the supervisor have it.  With both barrels! The supervisor is the same person that put me through hell 6 months ago. And I’ve had enough of this shit.

So I storm up to the front window.  And I’m glaring at the supervisor. And if looks could kill, I’d be doing 20-to-life right now.

“How are you doing this morning,” she said, blandly.

“Not very good,” I said.

But before I could get a word in edge-wise and really let her have it, she informed me: “Oh yes, we had to lock your box. You’re a month late with your rent.”

“What?” I said.  “No I’m not. My rent is due today on the first of April.”

“No. It was due on the first of March.”

I looked at my paperwork and realized she was right.

“Oh,” I said, brightly.

So I forked over the $65.  And I didn’t complain about paying the $40 late fee this time.  And I slunk out of there with my tail between my legs.


Maybe it’s a good thing that I make a fool of myself on a semi-regular basis.  I’m such an egomaniac as it is. I’d probably really be obnoxious if I was right all the time.





April 17, 2017

Hateless Camp

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:52 pm

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April 15, 2017

My crazy granddaddy Clyde “Jim” Gearwar

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:14 pm


Half Indian on his Dad’s side. Half French Canadian on his Mom’s side. An odd combination.


I finally managed to dig up some photos of my crazy, half-Injun grandaddy, Clyde “Jim” Gearwar (who I had never seen) from a distant cousin. (Apparently everyone called him “Jim” because Clyde wasn’t an Indian-enough sounding name.)

The story on Granddaddy Clyde was: he was raised in a little town in the mountains of New Hampshire. And when he was 16 he got into a physical fight with his Daddy — who was a full-blooded Iroquois  — and shot and critically wounded him. Clyde claims he was defending his mother. And his dad was well-known around town for going berzerk on the booze, and beating and threatening to kill his entire family. So no charges were ever filed.

But Clyde’s sister helped smuggle him off to Canada, because they knew if they didn’t, his Dad would kill him as soon as he got out of the hospital. Clyde ended up enlisting in the Army during World War I. And eventually made his way back to New Hampshire where he met my mother’s mother, who made the mistake of falling in love with him (apparently Clyde was a bit of a charming rogue). They got married, and it went downhill from there.

Clyde continued the great Gearwar family tradition of going berzerk on the booze and terrorizing his family. He’d rampage through the house with his shotgun threatening to kill the entire family. My mother’s mother would barricade herself and the kids in one of the bedrooms. And they’d hide out in there until Clyde passed out. My mother said one time she had to sneak out the backdoor to escape from one of his rampages, and run a quarter mile all the way to a neighbor’s house in her pajamas in the snow, and she almost froze to death. They had to put her in a hot bath to keep her from getting hypothermia.

Clyde (right) with his sister and brother.

But my mother had some good memories of Clyde, too. He was a talented woodsman, and he built a whole bunch of little cabins on their property with his own hands, that they would rent out to tourists and travelers. And my mother would bring his lunch out to him in the woods where he was chopping trees every afternoon, and they’d sit there eating lunch together. And she was fascinated watching how he built the cabins.

When he was 51, Clyde ended up getting shot in the back and killed outside a bar by a jealous husband who Clyde was having an affair with his wife. No charges were filed because in those backwoods New Hampshire towns they figured if you messed with another man’s wife you deserved to get your ass shot up. And it’s weird how Clyde’s life came full cycle.

And it’s weird when I think: If my mother’s mother hadn’t ended up romancing Clyde a 100 years ago, I wouldn’t even be sitting here right now, babbling on my Facebook page and pounding my Olde English. I wonder where I’d be. I guess I wouldn’t be anywhere. I wouldn’t even exist.

And I’m also told, as a 1-8th Injun myself, that I’m eligible to live on the Reservations and run casinos. And I can guilt-trip the other 7-8ths of myself for stealing my native land.


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April 13, 2017

The Candy Store of my childhood

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 5:32 pm


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Probably the closest I ever got to experiencing Heaven was hanging out at the beloved Candy Store of my childhood. Whenever I got my allowance every week I’d walk straight downtown to the Candy Store. They had a wall full of all the latest comic books. The first couple of comics I bought were 10 cents. This must have been around 1962, age 7. Then they raised the price to 12-cents, where it stayed for most of the rest of my comic-buying career.

Superman and Batman were my first choices, always. And all the related books. Superboy, Justice League of America, Superman’s Pal Jimmy Olsen, Legion of Superheroes, etc. But I’d also buy an occasional Green Lantern, Flash, Atom, Teen Titans or anything else with a hot cover. And if I could afford it I’d splurge and buy the big fat 25-cent Annuals.

After a couple years I got turned on to Spiderman, and completely switched over to Marvel. DC would always look hopelessly square after that. The Avengers were my favorite, with Captain America, Hawkeye, Thor, etc.

And I’d always buy a candy bar to go with my comic book. 5-cents out the door. And I’d agonize over the decision: Chunkies versus Tootsie Rolls. Chunkies were better but Tootsie Rolls lasted longer (the old quality versus quantity debate).

Every now and then me and my buddies would sidle up to the counter of the Candy Store and order ice cold Cherry Cokes at the soda fountain. And we’d sit there on our stools, reading our comic books and feeling very worldly.

My family moved away from that town when I was 12. But when I graduated from high school at age 17, the first thing I did that summer was hitch hike back to my old childhood town. And the first place I went to visit was that great old Candy Store of my childhood. I couldn’t wait to buy a couple of comic books for old time’s sake, and sit there at the counter reading them while I quaffed an ice cold Cherry Coke.

So I was more than a little disappointed when I discovered that the beloved Candy Store of my childhood had been converted into a not-so-beloved Laundromat.

But at least I learned a valuable life lesson right off the bat:

Being an adult sucks.



April 11, 2017

Mini Scaredy, the feral kitten, starts to grow up

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 9:52 pm


This morning Mini Scaredy stayed nestled on top of my blankets all morning. Which is unusual. Usually she eats her breakfast and then splits.

When I woke up from my nap around noon I figured out why. Owl the burly feral tom, was standing there 2 feet away from me. Which is unusual. Usually he keeps a respectful distance. And he didn’t run away when I sat up. Like he usually does. Instead Owl held his ground. Alternating between looking at me and looking at Mini Scaredy, with a distinctive hungry leer.

You could see the whole scenario in that picture. 8-month old Mini Scaredy, the Belle of the Ball, was freaked out about the eminent prospect of losing her virginity to Owl. She had even burrowed down into my blankets, like she was in a hole, with a protective wall of blankets around her. You could tell she was freaked out about the whole thing. Probably wondering what it was all about and why Owl was ardently pursuing her in the first place. So she wasn’t about to leave the relative safety of my bedding.

But even there, Owl kept making tentative little steps in that direction. Like he was going to jump right on top of her then and there. You could see that his sex drive was even stronger than his feral fear of me.

It was also the first time I ever got a look at Owl up close. He’s a battered old war horse. And he kept blinking his eyes at me in this inscrutable manner.

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The next morning, Mini Scaredy was in a particularly chipper mood. So I guess the tryst worked out OK.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I couldn’t spend all day at my campsite defending Mini Scaredy’s honor. I needed to get some coffee.

And sure enough, as soon as I stood up to pack up my campsite, Mini Scaredy went running down the hill. With Owl in hot pursuit. And as I was leaving I could see them off in the bushes, facing off. No doubt going through some serious negotiations.


April 7, 2017

One more rainy night on Sproul Plaza

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 6:17 pm

It’s fucking unbelievable! The weather tonight is like a middle-of-the-winter type rainstorm. On fucking April 6th. Sirens and firetrucks are blasting in my ears on the Ave. The wind actually breaks my umbrella in half. I start screaming “FUCK!! FUCK!!” at the top of my lungs as I’m walking down the street in the pouring rain. So I’m handling adversity with my usual maturity.

For a second I thought I was gonna completely crack up. But then I remembered I had cracked up a long time ago. So that was a relief.

I grab my back-up umbrella from my stash spot and head to my favorite late-night hang-out spot — this secluded awning over-looking lower Sproul Plaza.  But some other bum has already grabbed that spot. Fuck!

So I trudge in the pouring rain to my second favorite late-night hang-out spot — this little nook in the basement of Dwinelle Hall.  But wouldn’t you just know it??  There’s someone else hanging out there, too.  Fuck!

So I go to my third favorite late-night hang-out spot — the lobby of Dwinelle Hall. It’s almost 10 o’clock, but there’s still a fair amount of people hanging out.  But I find a spot in the back where I can probably get away with discreetly drinking my beer while I charge my cellphone.  So I take off all my wet jackets, plug in my cellphone, pull out my 6-pack of Racer 5, and reach into my backpack for my bottle-opener. But wouldn’t you just know it?  My bottle-opener is gone. Fuck!  I search through every pocket of my backpack.  Pull out everything in my backpack.  To no avail.  My bottle-opener is gone.  I briefly try to open the bottle of beer with a pair of scissors. But there’s too many people milling around to be able to pull it off discreetly.

So I pack up ALL my shit, put ALL my jackets back on, and trudge off in search of a bottle-opener. It’s been just an unbelievably weird sequence of events over the last half hour.  Where everything that could possibly go wrong, went wrong — one thing after another after another after another.  Like the Universe is fucking with me for sport, or something.

As I’m heading for the door I noticed a discarded umbrella lying on the floor by the trash can.  I already got an umbrella, but I figure I might as well grab a back-up in case the wind destroys this umbrella, too.  But as I’m walking out the door, this college student sidles up to me, and he’s following me step-for-step as I’m walking, and glaring at me with anger. So I stop and face him to see what his fucking problem is.

“Did you just steal my umbrella!!” he said.

“You mean this?” I said holding up the umbrella.

“Yes!  That’s my umbrella!”

“Oh man, I just thought it was discarded and was gonna get thrown out.” I hand him his umbrella.  “I apologize.”

“OK. It’s cool,” he says, still glaring at me. And storms off into the storm.

So it’s unbelievable. How everything keeps going from bad to worse. And everything I touch turns to shit.  I mean, 90% of the time that would have been a perfectly good move, grabbing that umbrella — I ground-score all sorts of great stuff lying around that’s been abandoned. But when the stars are aligned against me — like they obviously are now — it was stupid of me to make any unnecessary moves. Because whatever I do is likely to back-fire on me. So I feel like an incredible fool.

*                                                 *                                           *                                    *

Now some Hindus believe that when a person dies, his spirit lingers heavily in the area where he lived for several weeks. Before it finally disperses and merges back into the Cosmos.  And for those several weeks, the spirit can have all sorts of effects on the area.  In extreme cases, it can rein lightning bolts down on it’s enemies. Or it can bestow gifts to it’s friends. Or it can just send out weird little signals as a way of saying good-bye.

So, as I’m walking in the rain, it occurred to me.  The whole bizarre sequence of events that I just experienced was probably being directly by Hate Man and his recently disembodied spirit (he had just died a couple days ago). I mean, the whole thing was exactly out of Hate Man’s playbook.  Battling with a rainstorm on Sproul Plaza.  Cursing in rage.  And getting into an angry confrontation that managed to somehow resolve itself peacefully.

*                         *                                            *                                               *

So I head to my fourth favorite late-night hang-out spot. This secluded table under an awning in the back of the patio of the Golden Bear restaurant on Sproul Plaza.

And — miracle of miracles!! — the spot is deserted and I can actually hang out there.

And there’s a metal grating on the side of the wall. I put the top of my beer bottle into the grating and pull the bottle cap off with ease. The beer foams up out of the bottle, like champagne when you pop the cork in celebration.  But I manage to pour most of the beer into my cup before it all spills out.  I take a big hit off the beer.  And it tasted damn good.  Things are finally starting to go my way.

I look in my backpack. Notice I have one last cigarette in my pack of Virginia Slims 100s that I bought yesterday in honor of Hate Man. I light it up, take a big hit. At that exact moment the Campanile Tower bell starts chiming as the clock hits 10 PM.  Just as it had done on the countless nights when Hate Man had set up his Hate Camp on Sproul Plaza back in the day.  Adding an other-worldly dimension to my smoke.  And I thought back to the countless nights I had spent on Sproul Plaza with Hate Man and the crew.    Thinking of all the memories. From all the years. . .

The rain kept pouring down for hours.  Pounding down relentless on the pavement. The over-hanging tree branches nearby me kept swaying back and forth in the fierce gale winds.  It was a pretty powerful storm. So there was really nothing I could do except hole up at my table under the awning and pop open 5 more beers over the course of the evening.  Mostly thinking about nothing.

Then — it must have been after midnight but I was starting to get a little sketchy on the details at this point, if you know what I mean — after having finished off all the beer. I took out a couple of slices of leftover pizza that I had also ground-scored earlier at Dwinelle Hall (and no, I didn’t “steal” it!).  And as I’m eating the pizza, completely out of the blue.  A skunk shows up.  And starts trotting towards me. Fuck. I have no idea what the skunk was doing back there.  He was probably holed up in the far back corner of the patio, huddling under an awning, waiting out the storm. Just like me. But the smell of my pizza had probably roused him.

So I tossed the skunk one of my slices of pizza.  Which he gobbled up readily. And then trotted past me. And disappeared out onto Sproul Plaza.

And then it occurred to me.  That skunk was probably also a manifestation of Hate Man’s spirit.  I mean, the similarities were striking.  The skunk was black-and-white. Just like Hate Man’s black-and white shoes and uniforms.  The skunk was kind of an “outcast,” mostly living on the fringes of human society.  Just like Hate Man.  The skunk had been huddling under an awning on Sproul during a rainstorm. Just as Hate Man had done countless times over the years. And I had shared a slice of leftover pizza with the skunk. Just as I had shared countless slices of leftover pizza with Hate Man, night after night after picking up the leftover pizza from Greg’s Pizza every night.

Even weirder. Just as the skunk disappeared onto Sproul Plaza. The rain suddenly completely stopped.

Which made me even more convinced that that skunk had been a manifestation of Hate Man’s spirit and magic.

Or maybe it was just a fucking skunk.  Who really knows.  But one thing’s for sure. This life is a hell of lot more mysterious than some people think it is.






April 6, 2017

RIP Hate Man 1936 – 2017

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 11:08 pm

Mark “Hate Man” Hawthorne, right, and his friend Ace Backwords in People’s Park in Berkeley on March 17, 2010. Photo: Mike Kepka, The Chronicle

April 5, 2017

Hate Man eulogy

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 8:20 pm


RIP Hate Man 1936 – 2017

I was just waiting on the line at the Dollar Store this morning. The guy on line in front of me was talking to this other guy: “Hey, did you hear? The Hate Man died on Sunday. Yeah. The famous person from Berkeley. I just heard about it 5 minutes ago on CBS. Hate Man lived in People’s Park for years and years. He used to be a reporter for the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post. . . ”

I thought I was gonna start crying right there in the fucking store.

*                  *                            *                       *

The worst thing is. It’s now 6:30 in the evening. And I’ve drunk the first half of my 40 of OE. And now this is the time of the evening when — for just about every evening for the last 10 years — I’d walk over to Hate Camp at the top of People’s Park. And I’d pull up a blue milk crate to sit on. And I’d buy a cigarette from Hate Man for 50-cents (Virginia Slims 120 menthols, naturally — a man’s man cigarette  —  “Come to Virginia Slims Country!” — we’re rugged “street people” after all). . . And I’d tell Hate the latest gossip from my day. And he’d tell me the latest gossip from his day. And by the time I finished the rest of my 40, I’d be ready for my next 40. And several more Virginia Slims to go with it, naturally. And yet another evening of the usual madness would start to unfold.

Except now. I was just getting ready to go check in with Hate. Like I’ve done a thousand times before. Only now. I realize. I no longer have any place to go.


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Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away . . .

Filed under: Backwords from Ace — Ace Backwords @ 7:40 pm

(originally published June 5, 2015)



Me, Hate Man and Cheapseats enjoying the Good Old Days.

Yesterday, me and Charlie Cheapseats were hanging out with Hate Man in People’s Park, talking about the old days.

“When I first visited Berkeley in the summer of 1974 there was always a huge street scene happening on the Berkeley campus,”  I said.  “Back then it was hard to tell the street people from the students.  ‘Hippie’ was definitely the style.”

“Yeah,” said Cheapseats.  “Nowadays the campus is almost completely dead.”

“Yeah.  There are just a few loner-type street people that mostly keep to themselves.”

“There used to be tons of street musicians, too,” said Cheapseats.  “Remember that guy Rick Starr who used to croon those Frank Sinatra songs while singing into that fake plastic microphone?”

“Yeah,” I said.  “And Larry the Drummer. He used to drive everyone nuts bashing away on those buckets all day long.”

“All those characters are gone.  Whatever happened to Paul of the Pillar?”

“Even the Christian preachers don’t show up any more.  They used to be surrounded by huge mobs of people heckling them.  It was great entertainment.  Like a Roman amphitheater where they threw the Christians to the lions.”

“Even that nut the Happy Guy is gone.  The guy that used to stand on a bucket saying ‘Happy, happy, happy’ all day long.”

“And if you started heckling him, he would point his finger at you and shout, ‘CIA!! CIA!!  CIA!!’”

“Remember the lower Sproul drum circle every weekend in the 1990s?”

Suddenly, Hate Man had had enough of our reminiscing.

“I hate your guts with all this talk about the old days!!” said Hate Man.  “I wanna’ kill you.  I hate people who constantly dwell on the past.  I prefer to live in the present moment and appreciate what’s going on now.  Instead of all this lame nostalgia for the good old days.”

I realized recently that, nowadays, I live in a permanent state of mourning for my past.  I remember when I was a young man, this old guy once warned me about the danger of living in the past as you get older.  “You can get stuck in a rut if you don’t keep evolving with the times,” he said.  “You stop growing as a person.  You turn into a fossil.  You end up yearning for the return of the Good Old Days that will never come back.” . . .  I never thought I’d fall for that trap.  Because (in spite of my pen-name) for most of my life I was a very forward-looking person.  Whenever I finished an art project, my first thought always was:  “Yes.  But the next project is going to be the Best Thing Yet!!”  But then suddenly, a couple of years ago, it was like there no longer was a next project. . .  *sigh*

“I knowdja’ mean, Hate Man,” I said.  “It’s like that famous scene in the book ‘Be Here Now’ where Ram Das is constantly talking about his past adventures or his future plans.  And his guru says:  ‘The past and the future are an illusion.  Only the present is real.  Be here now.  Live in the present moment.  That’s where all the action is.’”

“Yeah,” said Hate Man.

“My problem is, I yearn for the past.  I fear and dread the future.   And my present moment usually sucks.  So I got all the wrong bases covered.”

Hate Man chuckled at that line.

Now I’m sitting here looking back fondly at that conversation I had with Hate Man and Charlie Cheapseats in People’s Park.  It seems like only yesterday . . .  Actually, it was only yesterday.


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