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NOTE:  This is a post from last year, a draft dated 07/31/16.  In it I talk about mental health problems following my car accident, moving on from a major breakup, which was still very much on my mind at the time… eggs.  The eggs were all good last year.  Other things not so much.  At the time that I wrote this, I was feeling rested, somewhat recovered, but about a month later I would fall into one of the worst depressions that followed the car accident, one of the worst that I’ve had as a grown adult honestly.  It’s strange to look back on moments that felt like clarity with something much more accurately resembling clarity.

Sunday Morning

Just before Ten. I’ve slept in. The dim hopes of waking early and going on a hike dashed already. But I needed the sleep. It’s okay. Awoken by the phone, buzz buzz, a text message from (and I know it before I even look…) Mom. I’m still not texting her back. I should call today, though. Things have been good lately. The family visit last week much better than expected.

Breakfast: eggs, potatoes, sausages.

Light and healthy chicken sausages. I’ve done a good job of losing weight and getting back into shape this year. Need to keep at it. The tater tots: my weekend luxury. Besides, I bake em.

Scrambled Eggs a la Jon

1x free range brown eggs
1/2 pat of butter
1-2 tsp cream, whole milk, or half and half
Dash salt and pepper

Pictured: some other morning’s breakfast

Fifteen minutes prior to cooking, scramble the eggs in a bowl. Add salt and pepper. Adding the salt and letting it sit loosens up the proteins and makes the eggs fluffier (credit: J Kenji Lopez-Alt on the tip). In a non-stick pan melt the butter. Add eggs. Stir while they cook. Just as the eggs are setting, add the dairy. Do not add the dairy earlier than this. The timing is the point here. (credit: Michel Roux on the tip.) The proper ratio of milk to eggs, in most recipes, I’ve found to be a quarter cup of dairy per dozen eggs. So bear that in mind. You don’t need much. Just a bit. Continue to cook the eggs until just about fully set. Turn off the heat and let the eggs rest. Like pasta or fish. The timing can be tricky. I’ve really only just gotten any good at it myself. Had to crack a lot of eggs, as they say….

No solid plans for the day. Need to practice Pilates. Should do weights too, maybe the treadmill. Would like to play some pinball. I’m still no good at it, but I’ve taken an interest in it lately. I haven’t been gaming much lately, but I’ve been working pinball in about once a week.

Might make pickles. Been wanting to try some fermentation, but feel pretty intimidated by it. Perhaps more to post on that later. In either case, it would involve a trip to Target, which I may or may not be willing to make this afternoon. Perhaps of there is a Target close to some pinball….

Been doing a lot of redecorating and reorganizing around the house. I reclaimed my spare bedroom this week. It has sat vacant since my ex moved out, and it has lent a certain hollowed quality to the home. After she moved out, I did a pretty big purge, getting rid of things that reminded me too much of her. Tossing some, boxing others. Memories can be difficult to un-entwine when you’ve lived with someone. I imagine, it was easier for her. That’s just how she is. For me, not so easy. In fact one of the hardest things about the breakup was that I was stuck in this house that we had tried to make into a home together. She got to just leave. Make something new. A process of potential and excitement. I had to rebuild. Again.

The car accident complicated everything. Months of physical therapy kept me from doing much of anything around the house. I had not understood it at the time, but as painful as the PT process felt, there was a sweet structure there. A regimen to my days. When that regimen ended, things really went off the rails for me mental health wise. I believe the concussion had much to do with this, but the timing right after such a major breakup could not have been worse. I leaned into my support network and found mixed results. In the end, really, I found myself very much on my own.

It’s been a long summer, but I’m doing much better. I started leaning pretty heavily on behavioral techniques with the help of my therapist. Setting boundaries, removing triggers, avoiding things that I simply cannot handle right now. It’s been hard. I’ve had to let go of some things dear to me for the time being.
And so, here I find myself reclaiming my home. It’s not just my ex moving out, but that I’m living here alone altogether now. No roommates. No one. Just me. At times it’s felt like I’m the one haunting the place. It used to be filled with such life, so many people. And now I roam about, talking to my sweet cat.
I now type from my reading and writing room. This bedroom was home to several others, but now it is me who sits at this window looking out at the shady trees, the ivy creeping up the chimney, the patches of lawns visible in the distance. This is the shady side of the house after all. It’s very peaceful. I feel like a stranger here. A stranger I am trying much harder to like again. Sometimes it’s tough. Like I said, it’s been a difficult summer.

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So I have a new hobby. It’s called annoying the living hell out of everyone by going on nonstop, seemingly uncontrollably, certainly–to say the least–with an egregiously unchecked sense of enthusiasm, about my shiny new juicer. Yes I am that guy: the dude who bought a juicer and won’t shut up about it.

It’s only been a week, and it’s been amazing. I’m still in the early stages, experimenting with recipes, but I’m in love with this new appliance. Just the hum of it as the engine spools up, it sounds like a mini aircraft engine. It hums. And then with frightening ease and efficiency the little bad boy shreds up anything I can put into it. Carrot-apple-ginger, my morning green juice, my homemade V8 (still a work in progress…) Juice man, it’s the best!

I’d already been incorporating V8 into my diet as a snack anyway, but this has felt like a gateway being thrust open. Just a whole world out there of juices to make. And all of them (well most of them), delicious, fresh, healthy snacks. This all ties into my healthier diet of late, which I’m not even sure if I’ve journaled about here.

It’s funny, for a guy whose pride and joy was once his secret chili recipes, I’m subsisting these days mostly on things like chick peas, juice, granola, greek yogurt. And cheese. Of course, delicious life-giving cheese. It has been good, and I have been feeling great (and not to mention looking better…).

But the juicer has kicked it up a notch. I feel as if a new plateau has been reached. In fact, our house has quickly become such a juicing hotbed that my roommate showed up the other day with a Fronana. This is a type of juicer that makes deserts with yogurt and frozen bananas. I promptly dubbed it the Bronana maker and declared it as a victory for our house.

So perhaps in the coming days I’ll post some juice recipes. At the least it would be nice to figure out my own homemade V8. My first attempt did *not* go as planned… but some experimentation is to be expected, even desired.

Anyway, spring is starting and here are the things I am currently looking forward to most:

Sunshine
Kayaking
Floor hockey
Bocce
Game of Thrones Season 3
NOLA
Swimming
BBQs
Gardening
Fitting into all of my old t-shirts again (woohoo!)

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Here are some current things…

Current Obsession:  This song, by Burial.

Current Thing I’m Most Lazy About:  Cheese.

I subscribed to this magazine not long ago called Culture: the word on cheese.  I have two subscriptions to two magazines in the whole world, one of them a regular dude sort of magazine, and the other a magazine about cheese (I keep putting off subscriptions to a few music magazines).  And anyway, what I wanted to do was start maybe something like a food diary and make cheese something of a true hobby, but I haven’t really gotten around to it.  I do love cheese more than most things in life, but truth is I just haven’t had time to cook much this summer.  And that means little time to visit my local cheese monger.  This is another thing I must rectify.

Current Most Excited About: New Orleans.

The girlfriend and I have been anticipating a New Orleans trip in a few months, probably just after the holidays.  She’s never been.  I’ve only been once, but I can’t wait to introduce her to it.  Just thinking about it… there truly just is something about that city.  I think she’s gonna fall in love with it as quickly as I did.

Current Whatev’s: Gears 3.

I had been jumping up and down anticipating Gears of War three for not only months, but years now.  And then it came, and then I finished the campaign with a friend just last night, and…. man I’m kinda over it.  I think I must feel the same way about Gears that some folks feel about Halo these days.  I never got tired of Halo, but by the time this last Gears rolled around I had simply had my fill.  The campaign is on rails… which at first felt so innovative.  The game played like a cinematic theme park ride.  But now it just feels overly scripted to me.  The characters were always pretty thin to begin with, and seriously, it was three games of fighting the same damn monsters again and again.  (And having said all that, it really truly amazes me that I never tired of Halo).

Current Obsession Bordering on Religious Fervor: George R.R. Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire series.

I never thought I’d get roped into these, but after seeing the HBO serious I just had to have more.  There are only two salient facts when it comes to George R.R. Martin:  1) his fantasy epic is pure, unfiltered nerd crack; 2) George R.R. Martin is a motherfucker.  This man giveth with one page, and he taketh away with another.  I almost screamed, tore at my clothes, and then ran into the streets like a lunatic when I read “the red wedding” chapters.  That son of a bitch author is just downright cruel sometimes.  But oh how I can’t quit him, how I can’t….

Current Project: a Deadmau5 head.

I’ve dithered like crazy wondering do I call it a Deadmau5 mask, helmet, what?  I dunno.  A Deadmau5 head thing.  The girlfriend and I had the dubious task of choosing between The Black Keys and Deadmau5 at Virgin Freefest.  I love The Black Keys to death (as does she–it’s her fricking ringtone), but we were both so glad we opted with the Canadian mouse man DJ.  His stage was this gigantic all LED installation that just blew everyone away.  One of the things that was so cool about the show was how many folks turned up with their own Deadmau5 heads on.  I knew right then and there what I wanted to do for Halloween.

As of now though…. I haven’t lifted a finger.  I’m giving myself about a 50/50 chance of following through on this one.  A lot of folks have posted their how-to’s online, so there are plenty of guides.  But some of them get a little pricey ($200? shit!)… and plus I just had this clear idea of how I wanted to do it.  No idea if I actually can though.  I guess we’ll see.  I promise to post pics.

Current Bummer: Missing out on Wild Flag/Eleanor Friedberger tickets in DC.

Sad face. 🙁

Current Best Decision Lately: Getting rid of cable.

This was a group decision, actually, by me and the roommates, but so glad we did it.  I had gotten into such a routine.  And understandably so, I mean, those shows on HBO and Showtime are so fucking good these days, not to mention all the other channels with their own pet shows.  But our bill went up to around $180, and we were like just fuck it.  Basic cable isn’t worth it, IMO, and the roommates were happy to cut down a monthly expense.

I haven’t missed it, I’m so happy to say.  Been catching a few things on Netflix, but for the most part just changed up some of the routine.  God my ass off the couch.  I’m sure I’ll have it again someday, but I hope that day is a ways off.

Current Thing I Should Be Doing instead of Writing This: Going to bed.

Good night!

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Right, so I took sort of a break there for a bit.  Actually part of the reason for that is incredibly ordinary:  my web browser at work was having problems with php.  Which means that I couldn’t view, nor update this page until it was fixed… months down the road.  I like posting on here on my morning break or my lunch break.  When I get home from work, I’m really not on the internet so much.

Anyway.

Things also had not been good at home.  The situation with one of the roommates had gone very south.  Not gonna post anything about it here (because that would be foolish), but thankfully that is now over.  I have a new roommate.  She is amazing.  We have all been getting along very well.

So now I am finally sleeping well at night and abandoning some of those negative habits I’m so prone to when under stress.

In fact, I’m gearing up to start P90x.  Got it from a friend of mine, and it looks really cool.  It’s made for people who are already in shape, and while I know it’s going to kick my ass, I’ve been doing a little pre-training for it.  For example, I gave the dive bomber push ups a try, and it hurt my left shoulder like fuck.  So, I’m gonna work on rounding out a few areas before I jump into the hard stuff.  Also: I need to install a chin-up bar. 

Specifically, the bar that I want is this one: The Stud Bar.  (Just try saying it to yourself: “the Stud Bar, yeah! Y’all wanna come over and get ripped pumpin my Stud Bar?”  I think you will agree, by its name alone it is perhaps the single most essential equipment for any home gym.)  I’m looking at some steps to convert a corner of my basement into a genuine fitness room, and I want that to be a part of it.  It’s gonna be a project taken in increments, though.

I’ve started making notes for this other blog project that I’ve alluded to on occassion.  I could end up working really, really long hours all summer, so I don’t know if it will happen now, but I may soon start making some preparations for it.  It is possible I could roll it out in the fall, and it’s actually something that could pick up a little bit of steam (and would be more interesting to most people than this journal–one of countless random journals scattered across the internet).  I’m looking at posting weekly, and I would try and keep a stable of posts ready in advance.  We’ll see how/if it comes together.

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Mulling it over here today and I feel confident about this as a draft menu.  There’s somethings here I’ve made before and some that I haven’t.  Will definitely need to do a few test runs before I commit to a few of these.

Main Dishes

Soy Ginger Glazed Sliders – Beef sliders glazed with a soy-ginger-citrus reduction and served on toasted buns with triple cream brie.

Cheddar Pretzel Sliders – Beef sliders with mustard and ale cheddar cheese served on pretzel buns.

BBQ Marinade Mini-dogs – Mini hot dogs braised in southern style bbq sauce

Carolina Slaw Dogs – All beef dogs served with Buffalo style blue cheese cole slaw and onions and mustard

Pulled Pork – Spicy braised pork shoulder, slow roasted in classic BBQ style

Sides

??????????

I really don’t know what to do for sides. A huge batch of slaw to go with the carolina slaw dogs and the pulled pork, but what else…. I guess we’ll see.

One thing I really, really, really want to attempt is cheese fries, preparing the fries McDonald’s style a la this recipe. But that could be too time consuming. I just don’t know yet.

Drinks

And this of course is not to mention my trademark fresh squeezed margaritas. I’ve a reputation for making margaritas that knock people the fuck out. And this is a reputation that I intend to live up to.

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So I’m falling into the same trap that I fall into every year at this point: lack of planning. Not that I’m being a slouch, just that I’m spinning one too many plates. The holidays aren’t even here yet, and already it’s one thing after another.

First issue is a Halloween costume. Every freakin’ year I do this. Put off Halloween ideas until it’s too late to do anything elaborate. And so I’m left scrambling for a last minute costume. Generally speaking I manage to pull it off. I come up with something fun, and Halloween’s always a blast. But this year… this year… man I’m not so sure I’m gonna pull it off. Like, almost a little worried. I might end up as that slacker without a real costume at the Halloween party.

There’s also the complication this year of the Jon Stewart rally, which I and a number of friends will be attending. Here’s to hoping we make it back from DC in time for the evening’s many Halloween parties. I mean, even if I had an elaborate costume, I probably wouldn’t have much time to put it together.

So yeah, there’s that.

And the other thing is food. And here the problem is an overabundance of ideas. I finally set a date for my much belated house-warming party. And now I must plan a menu. If you ever make it to one of my parties, rest assured my friend you will be well fed. And it’s all about the savories: burgers, dogs, cheese, cheese, and more cheese.

Just last night I came home with an armful of cheeses from Eddies. I found this cheddar called Red Dragon, which is an English cheddar with whole grain mustard seed and ale. It’s tasty stuff on its own, but it begs to be melted into a soup or dip. And I’d like to try it on a burger as well. I’m thinking cheeseburger sliders on pretzel rolls–the hearty mustard seed being a perfect compliment for the pretzel dough. Of course, where am I going to get pretzel roll slider buns?

I also brought home a savory, soft taleggio. I’d had an amazing taleggio this weekend at one of Baltimore’s finer restaurants, and it had me craving some more. I’m not entirely sure what to do with it though–eating it over bread and crackers aside. It would provide some delightful gooiness to a risotto or similar, but that’s not exactly party food. I might have to save this cheese for some non-party preparation.

Anyway.

The main thing I’ve been thinking about is dogs—hot dogs! Baltimore has been graced lately with two absolutely amazing hot dog establishments: Stuggy’s and The Haute Dog Cart. The Haute Dog Cart is tucked away in Mt Washington and is very low key–really just a lunchtime hot dog stand. But the dogs are A-MAZ-ING. I stopped by last week or so and had a bbq mustard cheesy dog that blew my mind. I will definitely be attempting to recreate that dog for my party. It’s preparation isn’t that different than a bunch of other BBQ I’ve done before–I’d just never thought to do it with hot dogs.

Stuggy’s on the other hand is fast on its way to becoming one of the city’s venerable savory meccas. It’s on the square in Fells, and it specializes in a number of regional dogs, all of which are amazing. Things like Chicago dogs and Carolina slaw dogs. The kinds of dogs you see here. I find myself raving about this place constantly, and if I lived down in Fells Pt, I swear to you I’d be twenty five pounds heavier by now.

So I’m trying to think of some ideas for dogs. Well, okay, I’m trying to pare down many, many ideas to just a few. I’ve got the BBQ dog that I’d like to do. I’d also like to do what I’d call a Mexican mushroom dog, based off of a recipe for Mexican mushrooms that I kinda whipped up (a variation on a traditional Russian recipe actually). There’s the temptation to do a hot dog bar, with fixins for slaw dogs and Chi-town dogs there for self serve. Just so many freaking hot dog possibilities.

And then of course there’s the sliders. I can’t have people over without sliders. The soy ginger with creamy brie spread slider most definitely will return.  Everyone loved those last year.  But what of the others? I feel like doing something a little more interesting than bacon cheeseburger sliders this year. But not sure what. I like the mustard cheddar and pretzel roll idea, but not sure how to make all of that work. Plus that cheese ain’t cheap.

And of course I need to plan all of this without overdoing it. I need to pare it down and figure out what’s workable–what can I preprep the day beforehand so that I won’t be busy cooking during my whole party. It would be nice if I allowed myself some time at my own party to enjoy myself, don’t you think.

Anyway, if you’re a friend or acquaintance of mine, don’t be alarmed if I call you over in the coming weeks plying you for opinions on recipes I’m trying.

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Oh, summer!  It seems you just arrived, and now you’re almost gone.  I guess it must always be this way.

I’ve had some family drama crop up, and that’s kept me from my internet endeavors.  Forgive me.  Well, unless you’re Twitter.  In which case, indulge me.  For someone who used to hate on Twitter, I’ve really come around.  But I’ve been kind of ignoring my blog here and some other things.  Anyway…

Yeah, so things are evening out.  I spent most of today in true Sunday fashion.  Grabbing brunch and chilling out with some friends on the deck all afternoon.  I did get some painting done.  I’m redoing the downstairs bathroom, and I’m pleased that the color I chose looks great.  I picked up new hardware too, so over the next week I’ll be replacing all of that.  I think I might need to get one of those laser levels if I want to get my towel racks mounted even remotely even.  Or at the least, one of those ordinary old fashioned levels.

The other thing I’ve been working on is burgers.  Hoping to have some folks over soon for a housewarming, and there two things that you get when I am your host:  mini-burgers and margaritas.  I haven’t made margaritas all summer.  Jesus, that just goes to show how I’ve let the social life slip while I work on this place.

To that end, I bring you Peppadew seasoning!  Saw this in Wegmans the other day.  I’ve known Peppadew peppers for a little while, but had no idea that they’d branched out.  The sweet and piquant peppadews add an amazing dimension to a seasoned salt mix.  And it goes great on burgers!  Check it out.


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Ah, Philly. I did miss you. It’s been awhile. But I found that not too much has changed. Your downtown is still pleasantly walkable. You still have more punk rockers per capita than homeless people. And you still exalt in your steaks and your cheeses.

I managed to swing by Pat’s at lunch hour. Most of the folks that I know love to rant about how much better Pat’s is than Geno’s, although I have to be honest the difference has never seemed that stark to me. What I do love about Pat’s is the non-assuming David it plays to Geno’s Goliath. Geno’s has all kinds of crazy bullshit going on around. It might as well be a night club. Pat’s, though, it’s just a sub shop. Which is all I want it to be.

It’s gotten me thinking, though.  The cheese steak I had was fine, but as I was eating it I couldn’t help but wonder, “what’s the fuss about?”  I’ve had this moment a number of times while ordering cheese steaks in Philly.  I mean, look at the sub.  Most of those ingredients are canned.  And I can’t honestly say much love went into it.  The meat is cooked in a giant pile and slapped onto each sandwich somewhat unceremoniously turn by turn.  It tastes good.  But does it taste amazing?

Not really.  And it had me wondering about famous hometown foods.  How many famous hometown foods are exceeded by leaps and bounds by their hype?  For Baltimore, this is sort of a hard one.  We have crab cakes, and crab cakes aren’t exactly fast food fare.  If you’re getting one, it’s almost definitely not cheap.  And the quality usually starts at okay.  You have to travel out of the region to get a bad crap cake.

But how do other cities stack up?  I’ve never had Buffalo wings in Buffalo.  Nor deep dish pizza in Chicago.  I’ve had good wings around here, though.  And good deep dish too.

So where is the best place to get a cheese steak in Philly?  Everyone you ask will tell you something different, but I wonder about those folks who swear by places like Pat’s and Geno’s.  Give me some fresh peppers and fresh mushrooms before you tell me something’s gonna blow my mind.  But to Pat’s credit, it is loved by the locals.  Maybe there’s just something there I can’t taste.

Yesterday I threw some steak on the griddle and veggies on the stove and made my own cheese steaks.  These were just kinda dashed together, and I didn’t get fancy with the ingredients.  I mean I didn’t even chop any garlic up, that’s how dressed down these were.  And they were still amazing.  Sizzlin steak and fresh veggies all the way.

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I’m still waiting on the appraisal.  Since the housing market went to shit, all these layers of extra paperwork and second sign-offs have been added that slow everything down.  With the housing credit ending, there’s a scramble on that I think is slowing things down even further.

Sigh.  I just want this part of the process done with, so that I can rest easy.

In other news, I went over to Faidley’s in the market at lunch.  Hot damn.  I wanted to enjoy some seafood, and in particular some crabs, before the price of seafood goes to hell thanks to the BP spill in the gulf.  If you’re looking for crabcakes, this is one of the places to go.  I actually skipped the crabcake today and instead had a steakfish sandwich.  My coworkers are always talking about steakfish, and I’ve been like “what the fuck is steakfish?”  No one has ever really given me a straight answer.  It’s definitely not any old kind of fish served cut up in steaks.  It’s a certain kind of fish deep fried and served on a sandwich.

I did a little Googling, and it seems that steakfish is uniquely a Baltimore thing.  Essentially, it’s a poor man’s fish filet sandwich.  People swear up and down that it’s not hake, although I think most of the steakfish you get these days is in fact hake.  I guess there is a steakfish of yesteryear that was made from some other fish.

In either case… it was alright.  It was sorta good-bad.  Like aweful, but sorta likeable.  I think Faidley’s knew how to fry it up right and get the most out of it.  That it’s totally local colored my opinion.  I’m eating it and even if not totally enjoying it, wondering what could be done to spruce it up.

I’m wondering if steakfish tacos might be a workable dish.

Anyway.  I was tempted to make this post a rant about the oil spill, which would devolve into a sort of rant about being a bit unhappy with Obama (he just approved more offshore drilling), but at the same time being unwilling to admit it publically because, as much as I might have some complaints, I don’t for a second want to sound like the Republicans speciously crying bloody murder on the right.

I’ve got some concerns about Obama, and I fear that in the next election I won’t be voting for him, so much as I am voting against the Republicans again.  I am sick of this.  I wish I could consider voting for a third party candidate without worrying about the Republicans taking over and getting another eight years just like the Bush years.

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It’s hard to find a better start to the week than one of your coworkers just breaking out a giant plate of berries and cream for everyone to share.  Talk about spring being here.

Last week was actually full of positive spontaneous energy, and I barely found the time to post anything.  This week might be starting off the same.  This seems to be a trend, or at least I hope it’s a trend, after the pall of negative energy that fell over the last few months.

I’ve been great about logging lots of hours at work, so all I need to do is keep that up and be good about a few other things, and we’ll be back on track.  I think my goal for this week is to get some reading done.

This weekend I managed to check out Sam’s Kid and Tapas Adela, and both were amazing.  Recommended!  Go to Sam’s Kid when it’s not busy, though.  They seem to be a little short staffed.

I have a post about Alice in Wonderland, but wanted to give it its due.  The short review:  imagine the hottest, cutest art school girl/boy you ever dated (or crushed on).  Tattoos, skinny jeans, amazing taste in music, and soooo god damn gorgeous that it was almost unbearable.  But as soon as this crush of yours opened his/her mouth and started talking, you just wished they would stop talking (and preferably start making out).  Because as soon as their lips start moving, their aching beauty is sullied by the complete nonsense that spills from their mouth.  Hot and stupid.  That’s what Alice in Wonderland is.

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