Old enough

Written by hootenannie on October 8th, 2016

I only slept for five hours. When I woke, it was to a frigid house and a dull ache in my lower right abdomen.

Foxy was on the bed with me, curled up like a coyote, snout tucked beneath her tail. While she’s welcome on the bed, she usually doesn’t choose to be there. She’s independent and she needs her space. We’re a lot alike.

This morning, I was glad to find her on the bed. I wasn’t alone. I was freezing and weirdly in pain, but I wasn’t alone.

I picked up my phone and typed it in — abdominal pain lower right side — and it spit out the answer, the authoritative answer: Appendicitis. Go to the hospital immediately, it said. It will burst within 24 hours, it said. Once it bursts, it’s too late. You are dead, it said.

Appendectomy cost, I typed. I found a story about a Reddit post in which the bill for a 20-year old guy totaled $55,000. “I guess I’ll never get my wallpaper,” I thought. Mentally subtracting my very high insurance deductible from my bank account, I decided that before driving myself to the hospital, I should try drinking some Metamucil, which I stock in my cupboard because at some point, I became old enough to stock Metamucil in my cupboard.

I got out of bed and put on a down jacket and wool socks. Why was the house so damn cold? I made my way down the stairs and into the kitchen. Two rounded teaspoons of orange powder in a tall glass of water, then down the hatch. Within 30 minutes, I felt fine.

Appendectomy averted.

But the furnace. The furnace wasn’t working. The thermostat read 50 degrees. I texted Dane next door and asked him if he knew anything about furnaces, and he said he didn’t, but came over to look anyway. We took the panels off the machine and looked inside with flashlights — for what, we didn’t know.

I found a big cricket dead beside the furnace, and then realized it wasn’t a big cricket but a tiny mouse. Not an insect. An actual mammal with bones. How long had it been there? Did whatever killed the mouse kill the furnace, too? I grabbed it in a dryer sheet and threw it in the dumpster.

I called an HVAC repairman, and he showed up in the afternoon. I left him in the basement. Later, he called me downstairs. “What I’m about to tell you will make you want to tell me to get the hell out of your house,” he said.

The furnace is shot. I need a new one. They recommend also replacing the AC unit at the same time, especially since my AC unit is already over 20 years old, on its last legs. I thought about telling him to get the hell out of my house. When he gave me the estimate, I stared at him, and then said, “I want to curl up in a ball on this basement floor.” He laughed. I didn’t. It’s more money than I’ve ever spent on anything, even a car, save this house itself.

But my house is so cold.

I almost did it. I almost signed on the dotted line, which would have guaranteed me a brand new HVAC system by Tuesday. But at the last minute, as the salesman was walking around my house counting and measuring the windows in order to file the permits, my defeated, slumped shoulders straightened up.

If I’m old enough to stock Metamucil in my cupboard, then God knows I’m old enough to have learned to seek a second opinion, and probably a third. I’m also old enough to know that money is just money, so even if it’s worst case scenario, well, oh well. I’m old enough not to panic at a financial gut punch. I’m old enough to look a man in the face and let him know that I will not be pressured into anything.

And if I’m that old, then I’m definitely old enough to sit at my dining room table at 8pm on a Saturday night just typing out the events of the day.


My favorite words, via Emily McDowell

Catching up with Little AP

Written by hootenannie on October 6th, 2016

Raise your hand if you’ve been reading this blog since 2008.

[Hi Mom. Greta, of course. Hey there Valerie Morby!]

If you’ve been here for a while, you might remember the time that a 13-year old girl from Virginia googled her own name — which happened to be Annie Parsons — and landed on this site. A blog post later, she was cemented in Hootenannie lore as “Little Annie Parsons” — my very own Muppet Baby!

Well, you know what they say about time.
– It heals all wounds.
– It changes things.
– It’s money.
– It marches on*.

*The only applicable phrase, in this case.

Little AP is now TWENTY ONE years old. After our one and only meeting at a P.F. Chang’s in Nashville in 2009, we kept in spotty touch over the years — but I recently thought, “This is dumb. I want to catch up with that little sparklebug.”

APs at P.F. Chang's in 2009

APs at P.F. Chang’s in 2009

So here she is — back for your reading delight. And I mean it: this girl is absolutely delightful. You’ll see.


Little AP! Oh my goodness, I’m so glad to connect with you. First of all, happy 21st birthday a few days ago! WHERE HAS THE TIME GONE. The last (and only) time I saw you, you were what, 13? Sunrise, sunset.
I am so glad to connect with you, too! And thank you for the birthday wishes. It’s so weird to think that it’s been 8 years since Google brought us together, but it’s definitely been an amazing 8 years.

So, first things first. I must know: have you ever learned to use chopsticks?
Yes! If I remember correctly, you gave me a crash course in chopsticks when we met at P.F. Chang’s. That’s the first time I really got the hang of it.

Proud of you. Now that that’s out of the way, we can actually dive in. A lot has happened in your world since we last spoke. You’ve obviously graduated from high school (I hope). Did you homeschool all the way through? What are you doing now?
Yes, I homeschooled all the way through high school! After I graduated, I got to start working for the theatre education program where I had been a student in high school. The program has been evolving and growing so much over the past few years, and now I get to teach theatre to kids and direct plays and musicals with youth actors. It such a fun, rewarding job. I’m also slowly wrapping up an education degree which I’ve had simmering on the back burner for a while. Other than that, I get to dabble in a lot of awesome stuff like costuming, comedy improv, music, and enjoying life with my family.

The current Little AP - what a beauty!

The current Little AP – what a beauty!

What are you really excited about these days?
I’m getting pretty excited about the numerous chances to get festive over the next few months. Birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas… I walked into a store the other day where they had both their Halloween and Christmas stuff out at once, and I flipped my lid. I know that we can throw around words like “commercialism” here, but I don’t care. It’s October and I’m excited for Christmas.

You’ve always been a big reader and lover of stories and the arts. Right now, today, tell us your favorite
– book: Right now I’m reading the massive Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke, which is quickly becoming one of my favorites. Framed by Frank Cottrell Boyce is also an all-time favorite.
– movie: Austenland, because it is ridiculous and delightful and it always puts me in a good mood.
– TV show: Ah! Too many. Let’s say Poldark.
– song:I Feel the Earth Move” by Carole King (a staple of my solo karaoke parties when I’m driving).
– musical: The tragically short-lived Tuck Everlasting.
– podcast: I don’t get to listen to it often, but I love Good Job, Brain, which is a super funny/smart pub trivia podcast.

I want people to know that you’re an amazing artist. Where can they see your work? And will you draw Foxy?
Thank you so much! Art is something that I’ve loved for a long time, and I recently decided to share my work more courageously. My art blog is the creatively-named anniedrawsthings.wordpress.com, and I recently joined Instagram, where I’m also @anniedrawsthings. The pieces that I post are a mix of character designs, illustrations, drawings based on books and TV, on-location landscapes, and anything else that happens. And I will totally draw Foxy!


I fainted. I am dead. Are you kidding me?? You captured her perfectly! I AM FRAMING THIS. Thank you! Hyperventilating, actually. This is my favorite thing that has ever been made! (Sorry, Hamilton.)

[pulls self together]

Wow. Okay. What do you love about living in Abingdon?
Everything. Seriously. It is such a vibrant, gorgeous place to call home, and I am in love with it. If I had to pick one thing, I’d say that I love being a part of such a tight-knit small town community while still having access to so much amazing local theatre, art, music, food, etc. There are a lot of unbelievably talented and kind people around.

What is something that you know you’re good at? What is something you would like to be better at? (Sorry for the dangling prepositions – I just can’t stand the thought of saying, “What is something at which you would like to be better?” Gag me.)
Ooh, this is a good/tough one. I have a pretty good memory, but I’d like to be better at using it for things other than trivia and song lyrics.

Who is someone you really admire?
I’ve always admired my sister Katie for being a generally wonderful person, but recently she’s started taking a botany class and pursuing her love of plants. Her hikes and field journals are so cool, and she has all of these awesome stories about the history behind local plants. If we’re talking famous people, I’d have to go with Julie Andrews, for obvious reasons.

I like that Katie and Julie Andrews belong on the same level. High praise for Fräulein Maria!

Do you have a bucket list? Name something that’s on it.
Travel is a huge item on my bucket list. I actually have a sub-bucket list of places I want to visit. Rome is on the top of that list, closely followed by pretty much everywhere in England.

What are you learning these days? Something deep and spiritual, or something surface level — it matters not to me.
On a deeper/spiritual level, I have been learning a lot about peace and surrender in this past year or so. I’m a worry-er and a people-pleaser by nature, which has led to over-commitment, stress, and a lot of tears. Recently God has put me in a million everyday situations where He has taught me to say no when I need to and trust that I am still loved, valued, and on the right track (and you’ll have to excuse my passive voice there). So much freedom has come from that.

On a surface level, I’m directing a show right now that has a lot of fight choreography in it, so I’ve been learning how pretend to stab people and fall down without getting hurt (much, I’m a wimp).

STAGE STABBING! That is so cool.

And finally, in the spirit of fall, are you a fan of the Pumpkin Spice Latte? I am not. But that doesn’t mean that all APs have to be anti-PSL.
I’m going to say something kind of shocking here: I have not had a Pumpkin Spice Latte yet. I just started drinking coffee regularly this year (my folks got a Keurig for Christmas and it became way too easy to get hooked), so this is my debut Pumpkin Spice Latte season. I’ll have to give it a try and get back to you.


Can you handle it? She’s grown up, and awesome, and there’s no one I’d rather share a name with.

If you’re looking for a more mature Annie Parsons, obviously go to her. I’m still upset about Zayn leaving One Direction.

We get to be free

Written by hootenannie on October 2nd, 2016

This weekend, I made a searching and fearless moral inventory. Of my closet.

Over the years, my stockpile of clothing had become unwieldy and entirely unreasonable. As someone who has moved more often than many, one would think that I might have done a better job at paring down the collection every now and then – but alas. Twenty-one year old me held onto that item for a reason (the potential Roaring Twenties party when I might need to be a flapper? The Halloween when I am finally Cruella de Vil?), and far be it from 34-year old me to renounce my former self’s sartorial convictions.

That is, until now. Bye bye, bebe.

I suppose it’s just the latest in what’s becoming a snowball; I’ve spent the past few months “cleaning house” in all sorts of ways. I left a job, for one. I cut my hair. I gave up a month’s pay to skip town and clear my head, and returned to less financial margin but a more peaceful heart. My new gig allows me weeks that are pretty flexible and days that are pretty quiet. I have no alcohol in the house. I took all of the turpentine and paint thinner and old gasoline from the basement to the hazardous waste facility (although come to think of it, this was probably just a smart idea).

And now? Now I’ve cut my wardrobe in half. My friend Brent recently pantomimed me ripping off constrictions like the Incredible Hulk, which is a pretty accurate depiction of what’s going on inside.

One of my favorite quotes is from John Steinbeck’s East of Eden: “And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” But last week, I heard it taken a step further; in the latest episode of her podcast Magic Lessons, Elizabeth Gilbert quoted Rob Bell’s wife Kristen as having said, “I am so tired of being good. Now all I want is to be free.”

Oof. Does that ring as true for you as it does for me?

It occurs to me that all of my “housecleaning” – from the clothes to the hair to the job to the time – is an effort toward freedom. If my biggest fear is to be trapped (and it is – I never would have survived that Chilean mine disaster), then my ultimate desire is to be unconfined, unfettered, at liberty and on the loose.

And I truly believe that liberation is the point of it all – this entire life, this entire world. We are created for freedom – freedom from shame, freedom from despair, freedom from loneliness and isolation. (I’ve actually started calling isolation “vice-olation” because it’s when I’m separated from community that I turn to bad habits and unhealthy thought patterns.) Why do we stay behind bars, believing that the deadbolt is locked and we’re trapped when, if we would just look, we would see that the door is flung wide open?

We don’t have to be perfect. We don’t even have to be good. But we get to be free.

This is my favorite news.

Stop carting around that old junk move after move, from city to city. Because whether it’s shame or a shirt from Express, both are too ugly for you.

My road trip so far

Written by hootenannie on September 3rd, 2016

My last day at my job was August 18, and the very next morning, I left Minneapolis for a 6,000-mile road trip. I’m two weeks in, and am having such a good time I’ve decided to never get a job again. I will buy a camper and live in KOAs around the country until the day I die, as long as that day comes before my savings account dries up (so… less than a year).

Then again, I would like to see Foxy graduate high school. So I will stay alive and get a job — BUT ONLY FOR THE DOG. As soon as she’s out of the house, I’ll feel free to spiral into squalor and financial ruin. It’s my life.

Speaking of Foxy, she and I are basically conjoined twins these days. We spend every waking minute together (and also every sleeping minute). I fear I’m setting her up for some serious heartbreak whenever it happens that I have to, I don’t know, run to the grocery store or something — but until that day comes, we’re a package deal, and she’s a happy dog. Even if she’s perfected the art of looking sad.

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So far, I’ve found myself in Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Kentucky, Tennessee, Kansas, and Colorado. Today, I point the steering wheel toward Bend, Oregon, and then eastern Washington. I’ve been staying with friends and family so far, but in the coming weeks I’ve booked a few Airbnbs. I’ve used Airbnb before, but always for an empty apartment. These next few stays, I’ll be renting a guest room in an inhabited house — one of which is on, no joke, Killannie Street. KILL ANNIE STREET. Listening to Destiny’s Child’s “Survivor” to pump myself up.

Besides hiking in the mountains and seeing the Dixie Chicks in Denver (favorite concert of my life), of course the best thing about this trip has been catching up with some of my favorite people in some of my favorite places. Every stop, someone has asked me, “So, what’s next for you?” and my inclination is always to blurt out, “Move next door to you!” And it’s never an empty statement. I truly want to live next door to everyone I love (preferably aligned in a wheel with me as the hub) (don’t worry, I’ll situate you next to people you’ll like).

In all seriousness, plans are coming together for the fall. I’ve lined up a way to make some money (it’s not selling drugs), and other than employment, I’m not making any major changes right away. I’m not finished with Minneapolis, and am even excited to get back there.

Until then, hello from the road!

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A spacious place

Written by hootenannie on August 12th, 2016

About a month ago, I stubbed my toe so mightily I broke it.


This is not an unusual occurrence for me. I suppose I walk with a lot of force? And into things? Is there honestly a better explanation for why one frequently stubs toes?

Last night, I was heading to the living room to watch Michael Phelps win all of those gold medals when I slammed — slammed — my right pinky toe into the foot of the couch. It might as well have been a sledgehammer to the foot. Pain shot up my leg like an electric current. I collapsed onto the couch and SCREAMED INTO A PILLOW, no words, just one long primal shriek muffled by a cushion from Target.

Remembering it this morning I giggle — because sheesh Annie, overdramatic much? It was one of those moments that made me grateful I live alone; no one should be forced to bear witness to such hysteria (although I will say that it did hurt like a mother-truckin’ cuss word). Foxy came running down the stairs and looked at me, then turned around and retreated back to her safe corner in my bedroom.

Today while out for a walk, one of Foxy’s feet collided with a large landscaping rock. I heard the hit, it was so hard. She stubbed her toe! We both froze, and then she curled her paw up underneath her, refusing to put any weight on it. She looked straight into my eyes, a big fat “What just happened?” and when I reached down for her, she willingly jumped into my arms like a toddler.

I carried all 40+ pounds of her for several city blocks, and wished for some giant to do the same for me.

Life is barreling forward — I’m wrapping up my job, heading into an unknown future, and while all I want to do is watch the Olympics and read my stack of books and have someone lift me up and carry the load, I’m moving too fast and running into things and screaming into pillows, a dog my only witness. It’s like the walls of my life are pressing in on me, the clutter tripping me up.

In many ways, this past year has been difficult. It’s been crowded and messy. The Dixie Chicks’ “Wide Open Spaces” comes on the radio and I want to cry, because is there any better cure for spiritual congestion than space?

A week from today, Foxy and I are going to hit the road for a while. We’re going to drive around and go on some hikes and share a string cheese every day. I’m in search of space, both physical and mental, landscape and soulscape. By the time I get back to Minneapolis, I plan to have an answer to the “What’s next for you?” question.

In the meantime, I’m taping this verse to my steering wheel:
“He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.” —Psalm 18:19

Losing my eyesight, and my mind

Written by hootenannie on August 1st, 2016

Back in mid-June, I got pink eye — or if I want to sound older than a fourth grader, conjunctivitis. It was gross and ugly and uncomfortable and all of those things that you remember your childhood pink eye to be. I looked like I had been crying all the time, which, if you know me, isn’t all that hard to believe.

After a week with a goopy red eye and unusual blurry vision, I finally went to the MinuteClinic and got a prescription eye drop (EYE DROP #1). “The infection should be gone within 2-4 days,” the nurse practitioner told me. “If it isn’t, you need to see an ophthalmologist.”

Well, wouldn’t you know, I’m the lucky star who just couldn’t shake my conjunctivitis. So, after two weeks of pink eye, to the ophthalmologist I went. He did some tests, and discovered my cornea to be “incredibly infected.” He gave me a stronger eye drop (EYE DROP #2), and said that my affliction should be over within a week.

In the meantime, he checked my vision — something that historically had never been a problem for me, although things have been blurry lately — and, well, I NEED GLASSES. The doctor scheduled me to come back for another exam two weeks later, giving the drops a chance to work their magic, just in case my failing eyesight was at all tied to this sexy eye infection.

So ten days ago, I went back to the doctor for the follow-up exam. And because Annie Parsons is no quitter, the infection is STILL THERE. Surely I have broken some sort of record for “most consecutive days with a rotting eyeball.” He measured my eyesight again and still found it to be worthy of glasses, but gave me another prescription drop (EYE DROP #3), and asked me to come back in three weeks with a (hopefully) healed cornea. Late next week, I’ll return to pay a fourth co-pay for what I hope is my final exam, and walk out with a script for glasses.


As established, I have now been prescribed three different eye drops of various strength. The bottles all look pretty much the same, but I’ve been good at keeping them straight.

Until yesterday.

“Where did this fourth bottle come from?” I wondered. I mentally ticked back through my doctor’s visits, counting one, then two, then three prescriptions. There was not a fourth. Why did I have four bottles of eye drops?

Suddenly, all of the air sucked out of the room. The ground opened up beneath me and the earth swallowed me whole.

I remembered.

Two weeks ago, her eye had been goopy. I’d scrounged around through her stash of medicine from the past three years, and found her eye drops. The bottle looked the same as mine.

For the past two weeks, I’ve been using Foxy’s… expired… eye drops.

I don’t deserve to be an adult.


Live frugally on surprise

Written by hootenannie on July 5th, 2016

Write in the middle of it.

That’s what someone told me to do. As an introvert, my inclination is to wait until things are settled, processed, and sorted before sharing news in any kind of broad way — but I’m realizing that it might be awhile before things are settled, processed, and sorted, so OH WHAT THE HECK.

A year after moving to Minneapolis (Sunday was my Minneversary), I’ve decided to leave my job, the one I moved across the country for. There are a lot of factors that went into this decision, and it was not one that I made lightly. That said, I have a lot of peace about the decision itself, even though it leaves me staring into a future I can’t yet see.

From a job to the city in which I live, everything feels very much up for grabs right now — and while I’m experiencing a sense of possibility and potential, every idea I explore has a cost, a rub. My friend Leigh Kramer once wrote about the “jar lid click” — the moment when everything lines up — and so far, none of my ideas have led to that intuitive sense of alignment.

I don’t know what I’m going to do.

I am not the “leap and the net will appear” girl. I am a planner, a preparer, a “that’s not in the budget” pragmatist. The fact that I quit a job without a new plan in place is so out of character, it makes me question everything I thought I knew about myself. (What if I start liking board games?)

But you know what? The best stories of my life have been the things I could never have predicted or manipulated into happening — like once writing a song about a snack bar that landed me a job, or buying the first and only house I looked at (happened in both Denver and Minneapolis), or meeting people I had no idea would change my life (I’m looking at you, Keri Alexander, Kari Medina, Katie Freeze, Carin Towne, a whole slew of folks in Nashville, gal pals in Denver, my nephews, Foxy Brains, and, okay, EVERYONE).

Here is an idea I like:


I don’t know what’s coming next. But I’m going to try living frugally on surprise, the rhythm and simplicity of the unknown, and see what happens.

Or I might buy a bed & breakfast. (I’ll add it to this list.)

We can never go back

Written by hootenannie on June 11th, 2016

If you really want to torture yourself, keep your email address linked with the house you used to own in a city where real estate is on a rapid upward trajectory. Once a week or so, you’ll get an update that tells you how much the value of your former home has increased, i.e. how much money you didn’t make because you sold when you did. Bless.

Yesterday, I finally (mercifully) cut the Zillow cord with the Shotgun, my old, charming, 11-foot wide, 600 square foot house in Denver. I loved that nest, and it was the perfect place for me to live for the years I spent there — but that season is over. I made a choice, which led to a decision tree of other choices, all of which ultimately led my life 900 miles away to Minneapolis.

The cruelest question in the world is “what if.”

And yet, we ask it all the time, don’t we? What if I had stayed? What if I had gone? What if I had said yes? What if I had said no? What if I had met that person, or not met that person, or met that person at a different time? What if I had never left my house in Denver and now was sitting on an 11-foot wide MOUNTAIN OF GOLD.

Dumb, all of it.

Asking “what if” keeps us stuck, mentally revising the past toward a future that will never actually be. It’s a waste of energy and a waste of heart. Like Joy Williams sings, “We can never go back, we can only go on and on and on.”

Real estate profits are the least of it — because that stuff doesn’t matter, really. It’s about owning your life, owning your decisions, blessing the good, and wrestling the bad (which, by the way, would exist no matter which path you would have chosen). It’s about seeing your story for the adventure that it is, and realizing that certain things aren’t up to you, anyway. It’s about knowing that it’s a privilege to have a choice at all.

If you struggle with feeling alone, or anxious, or frantic because life doesn’t look the way you imagined it would — well, me too. Keep going, though, because we can never go back. We might as well move forward, because who knows what might be up there?

Here is what I’m learning

Written by hootenannie on May 25th, 2016

Some uncomfortable situations are worth stretching and growing for; others might only make you unhappy. It’s important — and sometimes difficult — to know the difference.

It doesn’t matter if it takes you five minutes or five years: As soon as you know a romantic interest should no longer be a romantic interest, cross him off the list. With a Sharpie.

Time is the new money — that is, until a 50-foot tree limb snaps and almost crushes your car in the driveway. When you fork over $450 to have some guy saw it down and haul it away, you realize that in certain situations your time is kind of worthless and money is, in fact, worth a lot.

At the end of the day, dogs are just wild animals. So when yours hunts, chases, catches, kills, rips apart, and swallows a rabbit, come on, man, don’t be so surprised.

If the only food you stock in your house is eggs, apples, string cheese, and Wheat Thins and it makes you feel sad but you still don’t change your ways, you have no one to blame but yourself.

Wherever you go, there you are. The grass is never greener; it’s all just grass.

The opposite of mending fences

Written by hootenannie on April 23rd, 2016

If you know me at all, you know my fence. Installing it was a huge deal in my life, and I talk about it to basically everyone I know. (I never promised I was cool.)

But when I moved into the house, there was an old stretch of a privacy fence at the top of the driveway, separate from my Fence of Glory. Maybe 12 feet long, it didn’t enclose anything — it was just a strip leftover from what had once been a full fence around the backyard. It served no purpose for me, except to hide my shovels behind. One of the most un-exciting things about being a homeowner is the fact that one has multiple shovels.

Last week when I returned from a work trip, I found that the old fence had fallen over.

Fence 1

And lest the neighbors start looking at my dilapidated house and thinking I’m a meth cook or something, this weekend I ripped it out with my own two hands.

I borrowed a few things from the neighbors — a drill, a sledgehammer, and a crowbar — and got to work. Most of it was easy to disassemble, just removing the screws from the boards and stacking them one at a time. But when it got down to just the frame, I had to get down to business. It was crowbar time.

So I crowbarred, and sometimes I sledgehammered, and the whole thing was very Chip and Jojo except my hair will never be as thick and luscious as hers. But I was DOING IT.

Fence 2

At one point, I yanked on a board and the whole frame came crashing to the ground — and instinctively, much like the time I watched 10 Cloverfield Lane, I screamed.

A man was walking by. “You okay?” he called.

“Yeah, sorry. I’m just being a girl.”

He looked at the fence and then looked back at me, felled fence and crowbar in hand. “It doesn’t look like it.”

Damn straight, man.

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