Also a gay bar in Birmingham, UK. As with many of the other gay bars, is found on Hurst Street. Is actually more of a cafe bar than a bar, at least in terms of appearance.

Angels is one of the better known gay bars. It's one of the biggest and most open, and can generally be seen as the life of Hurst Street. It has a very central position. Angels is the bar most baby queers (myself included) go to for their first time ever in a gay bar, before they graduate to somewhere more specialised (the Fox for women, and the Village, the Fountain or Boots for men, generally speaking).

Was refurbished just in time for pride a couple of years ago. As a result, has deeply cool, twisted metal furniture. The toilet facilities are, however, still appaling. To my knowledge, has disabled access. I originally thought underage people (under 18) weren't allowed in, but there was a baby in there the other week.

Smoking is permitted although, according to a sign on the door, drugs (use or dealing) are not.

The prices are reasonable - just over £2 for a pint. Compared to pubs such as the Square Peg and the Goose chain, however, this seems extortionate. No real ale; has wine, lager, spirits, cocktails and alcopops. It serves meat and vegetarian food from 'The Devil's Kitchen' from 12 noon until 9 p.m.

The music is very annoying if you don't like crappy pop bands and would prefer some rock or jazz. It's mainly chart R'n'B, with some generic pop.

Has comfy chairs and pretty barkeeps. Recently (2002), it was refurbished to include a stage for cabaret and stand-up comedy.

Update 14/06/02: Angels has now been shut down. According to Hilli at the Fox, there was an arson attack and the landlord freaked out and withdrew the lease. I was gutted by this, mostly because, as I mentioned earlier, Angels may not be much fun (the music and the crowding) for me, but it was my first ever gay bar, and has a lot of sentimental value.

Further update: Angels was reopened to much rejoicing recently. The manager, Gareth Scratcherd, won a court battle to get the lease back if his debts were repaid within two weeks. The first day it reopened was great - it was dark, and only two of the toilets worked, and the only alcohol was bottled. It really was quite fun - no loud pop music, either! In circumstances I don't quite understand, Angels has now been taken over by the owner of Subway City, one of the other gay clubs in Birmingham.

"Angels x" is shorthand, in aircraft communication, for "x thousand feet of altitude." Thus, a bogey cruising at angels twenty would have an altitude of twenty thousand feet.

The Origin and History of Angels

"Angels transcend every religion, every philosophy, every creed. In fact angels have no religion as we know it...their existence precedes every religious system that has ever existed on earth."

St. Thomas Aquinas


The Sumerians concept of a life force, zi, was similar to prana in Yoga and the Chinese chi. This animism, or the belief in life contained throughout all natural elemenst, included divine messengers who ran errands between gods and humans. This is the earliest recorded evidence of a type of angel, as it is the world's first recorded culture. One might say then that angels have been apart of humanity from the beginning. The English word 'angel' comes from the Greek angelos, which itself could be considered as a translation of the Hebrew word mal'akh, meaning 'messenger'. The etymology suggesting a being responsible for carrying messages between the human world and some other realm of existence. These beings influenced Sumerian poetry, the arts, and religions. Each Sumerian home had an altar honoring their guardian angel. Excavactions reveal that temple walls and palace entrances had paintings of winged beings who were worshipped in a fashion similar to the cherubim and seraphim of traditional Christianity.


The Egyptians believed that the air, sky, earth, and underworld had many visible and invisible beings who could be friendly or unfriendly to humans depending on their nature. The Egyptian Book of the Dead lists 500 gods and goddesses, while later Egyptian historians identified 1200 more deities including spirits and local gods. One group were the Hunmanit who were believed to assist humans by watching over the safety of the sun. Isis, the goddess of healing, is pictured on atleast one Egyptian tomb, enfolding devotees in her wings.


Zoroaster was purported to have received information about the one God from angels. Many of his teachings influenced the Christian, Muslim and Hebrew religions. When he was 30, he had a life changing vision of the Archangel VoHuManah, (Good Thought). This Angel was nine times the size of a human and had such a purifying and inspiring effect on Zoroaster that he stepped out of his physical body and entered the presence of God, who he called the Lord of Light. (on a side note, Lucifer is known as the Angel of Light.) The Lord of Light presided over a court of attending angels who reflected his radiance. Then God taught Zoroaster the doctrines and duties of this religion and he became a prophet for his people. During the next 8 yeas, Zoroaster met the six principle Archangels (the Immortal Holy Ones) who assisted him in his divine mission and taught him new concepts. These beings took both male and female forms and are known as the following: Archangels of Good Thought (Guardian of Cattle); Right (Guardian of Fire); Dominion (Guardian of Metals) ; Piety (The Feminine Guardian of Soil); Prosperity (Female Guardian of Waters); and Immortality (Feminine Guardian of Vegetation). These archangels are divine aspects of God and gifts to humans on earth.

The second rank of Zorastrian angels was filled with the Celestial and Material Adorable Ones. The Celestials represented the qualities of divine wisdom, victory, charity, peace, health , riches, cattle, felicity, rectitude, and spells. The Material Adorables watch over the material dimension and their representative aspects are light, wind, fire, water, earth, etc.

The third rank of Zoroaster's angels were the Guardian Angels who accompany each person for their entire life. Their roles are as guide, conscience, protector and helper. Zoroaster stated that these guardian angels were "a strong and watchful warrior who wears armor and carries weapons." Their strength, swiftness and healing energies were a constant blessing to the faithful.

As well as influencing Judeo-Christian doctrine on angels, Zoroastrianism influenced the intricate theories of heavenly beings of Gnostic systems and Manichaeism.

Judeo-Christian & Islamic

When the Semites conquered the Sumerians they kept much of the same theory on angels while tailoring them to be subservient to their gods. There were specific characteristics and offices held by these angels who served the Semite gods. This idea of an order of angels is similar to the later adaptation that divided the choirs of Angels. An early Semite concept of angel warriors fighting evil and serving good was also found in the religions of Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Islam and Judaism.

The ancient Jews thought God's spirit adapted to natural phenomena such as the aspects of rain, snow, thunder, dark, light, stars, sun, and moon. Traditionally the angels were represented by the elements of fire and wind, and the image of angels as religious figures evolved as their religion changed. The initial appearance of angels in the Jewish history was in Genesis. The Bible tells of the divine essence of God taking the form of "a man of God" or the "countenance of the angel of God." Some may consider the angel of the Lord as either an angel or God in another form. When the angel of God came to Moses as a the burning bush in Exodus, and he heard God's voice, it was a reference to angels as energy forces.

Both before and after the Jewish exile, their view of angels were influenced by the Zoroastrians. The number of recognised angels increased as they became messengers of Jehovah. The Jewish scriptures tell of the angelic war between good and the fallen ones which will be concluded at the world's end. This bears a striking resemblance to the apocalyptic Zoroasterian fight between the Lord of Darkness and Light.

Both Jewish and Christian theologians considered angels a very popular subject to discuss. Some famous Christian theologians were Gregory the Great, Phil, and St. Thomas of Aquinas. St. Thomas of Aquinas was known as the angel doctor. In 1259 A.D., he gave lectures and talks on angels at the Univeristy of Paris. The information from these lectures have formed some of the basis for the knowledge of angles for hundreds of years later. His angelology consisted of the existence of angels, their nature as purely spiritual beings (incorporeal substances) having minds but no bodies. St. Aquinas debates and discussions were so popular that they drew forth crowds of people. It was a rousing form of acceptable entertainment at the time.

While Judaism has no fixed ordering of classes of angels, Christianity has a specific hierarchy. Codified in its classic form in the 5th cent by St. Dionysius the Areopagite, it is known as The Nine Choirs of Angels. There are three ranks, or triads, very similar to Zoraster's three rankings. In descending order the ranks of angels are seraphim, cherubim, thrones; dominations, virtues, powers; principalities, archangels, and angels. Archangels are the most personified and recognisable of the choirs. The lowest choir of angel is where guardian angels are drawn from.

In Islam the four archangels are Jibrail, Mikail, Israfil, and Izrail (the Angel of Death), who often act in place of Allah. The Kiram al-Katibin are the recording angels. According to a popular tradition, each person has two scribe angels, the one on the right side recording good deeds, the one on the left taking note of transgressions. A lower order of angels is the jinn.


Angels are vestiges of the truly ancient religions that worshipped all aspects of reality as some form of spirit. The fact that they appear in some form in nearly all religions points to a common origin; some proto-religion. Even the cult of fertility, based around the Mother Goddess, is still represented in the heirarchy of angels in the patriarchal religions. The archangel Gabriel is often considered to be female, credited with the creation of Adam and Eve. The Sumerian translation of her name also doubles as the word for rib. Hence, through translational errors, we have the story in Genesis of Eve being created from Adam's 'rib'. Angel worship is still popular today but is not limited to the major religions. Mysticism, tarot, and Wicca all have a place for these helpful and powerful spirits of the past.

This is all real.

On February 26, 2014 I went in for a small 10-minute outpatient surgical procedure. Twelve hours later I was in a hospital ER in extraordinary pain.

I was initially discharged after six hours with the prognosis that I had a large hematoma on my bladder and no explanation of how it came to be there. After five days of continuous chills and growing weakness, it was revealed to me that I had lost six units of blood due to internal bleeding and it was possible I was still bleeding.

On the sixth day I wound up back in the ER in horrible pain, dehydrated and anemic. At that point I learned that my liver, pancreas, and stomach were completely cut off by coagulating blood in my gut. I was admitted to the hospital in a daze, and kept on a continuous IV drip. I was given no nutrients, only hydration, and thus was effectively starved for not only my 7 days in the hospital, but several days prior. In the hospital I drifted in and out of consciousness due mostly to the constant dosing with opiates to reduce my discomfort. During this time I was listed as NPO - meaning I was allowed nothing by mouth. No food. No water. And I was subjected to a barrage of painful procedures all done with the objective to try to prove that my condition was not caused by a gut full of blood, but rather, due to some form of tumor or ulcer.

Being tremendously thirsty, utterly unable to slake my thirst by drinking, starved, and under the heavy influence of dilaudid and with the ever present possibility that my condition was caused by a terminal cancerous condition, my mind wandered to ever more negative scenarios. At one point I began to realize how I might perish, and what death would feel like. At that point I began to have panic attacks and I flailed at the tubes in my body in an attempt to escape the confinement the hospital had become. It was only after my wife came to spend the night in the room with me that I could get through an entire evening avoiding the entreaties of the beings that I so clearly saw who continuously beckoned me toward what I knew would be my death.

I now know that all of this medical purgatory was inflicted upon me to provide some cover to the surgeon who had caused the bleeding.

Thus, my 10-minute outpatient procedure became a fight for my life.

I won.

If you're the recipient of a miracle, who do you thank?

Do you reach out to your ever present, ever existing God who has a hand in the vibration of every molecule, every pebble of sand on every planet circling all the stars?

Is anything that happens in your life large enough to equal earthquakes and tidal waves or the flow of water on Mars?

Maybe God is as happy about your miracle as you are. Perhaps he hasn't lifted a finger since the evening of the sixth day when it was all set in motion.

Everything from a breeze lifting dried leaves on a playground to the blue giants at the galactic core, spinning. Is it that? Really?

Isn't it closer? It is. One hand not so far from your own.

Isn't it someone you could rise on tip-toe to kiss?

Someone who has pledged to love you and see you through. The one who sees the storms and pleads for you to hold on. The harsh is coming. Hold on.

The only lamp left when the deluge drowned it all in blue-black dark. When you saw them go out one by one and there was no hope. Time is far too big. The warmth of your own life, too shallow to hold when the wave breaks.

It is not a miracle if he who made the oceans, divides them. It is not a miracle if he who throws stars blows them out in brilliant detonation. It is someone smaller than the sky or the sea who deflects the demons. It's a someone who parts the sea, not a god. It's a being who breaths back life where the beam was sputtering. Can't you take her hands and pour yourself into her eyes and pray thanks to her with the waning torch in your soul?

Dear One, how do I thank you?

I am here ankle deep in the sea that almost took me, soaked, breathing still, but for you.

I feel you. I see you everywhere.

I'm not afraid to tell them that you are real and you are mine and some day you have to let me die.

But not today, my guardian. Not today.

Nurses come and go in twelve hour shifts. Every half day I have to educate another one who takes my pressure and temp and injects fluids into the tube.

I am allowed some milligrams of dilaudid every hour. It makes me less upset about the pain which never leaves but I am trying to see what it might be like without it. Like a gopher poking his head up out of his burrow only to find the entrance to his underground domain is in the middle of traffic on the interstate. Maybe he won't get hit when he looks this time.

Never works.

I wince.

"You're overdue for pain meds," says Mandi, with an "i" like she's in high school. Without my glasses she's pink and white and black and I don't care to see her anymore.

"Just a while longer. I can't live underground."

"You can't, what?"

It's too much work to try to explain that what the drugs do is take me farther from the world of the healthy and push me to inner limits, crush me to a point in space from which it would be far too easy to fall off the edge of the world.

"It's why we have these drugs, Joe. So you don't have to go through it. It's why you're in the hospital."

I've waited too long. My head above ground is too clear and obvious and the next onslaught is coming like a truck. I wince when it hits. Exhale. My breath makes a noise, which I realize is my own groaning.

"Ok," I say. I gasp. "Go ahead."

She scans my hospital wrist band with a plastic gun that shoots blue and red lasers. Scans a preloaded syringe. Busts off the needle and screws the syringe into the outlet on my IV line. Slowly presses the plunger. I try not to watch.

"We don't like pain here and you need your rest to get well." I don't remember her unscrewing the syringe or leaving the room, pink and purple nurse Mandi with an "i".

There are volumes I could recite to her as the walls come up around me, lifetime of achievement and heartbreak, hundreds of story ideas flowing through my mind. Bathing in the subtle energies of everyone who suffered in that room, and I could tell her about the ghosts. The demons, everywhere. But it's not worth summoning the energy I know won't come. Head against the pillow.

Burrowing underground.

The door is open and patients luge past on wheeled pallets, a holiday parade with a medical theme. Their tenders negotiate the hallway traffic, becoming horizontal gravity, murmuring or speaking in comforting tones to the inert flesh they motivate through the halls. Aloft are bags of transparent fluids that fly like flags on tall rods connected to the mummified bodies by a venous system of clear plastic tubing and mechanized delivery devices that beep and blink.

There is someone there in that flesh, I tell myself. Each gurney that goes by. There is someone there.

All going for procedures. To the O.R. To x-ray. To the E.R. where they have the endoscopes. The path to the rest of a life goes through those rooms.

In the afternoon the visitors come shuffling. Shoulders low. Scanning the room numbers. When they're coming in I see their faces. Their conversations are the banal. All trying to convince themselves they are not where they are.

"It's ok."

"Of course. It's ok."

"He's getting better. You'll see."

Half hour later I see their backs as they leave. The ones who are not worried shift their conversations outward.

"Did you check if we have enough milk? We should stop at the store on the way back."

And then there are the ones who are not speaking. They hold hands. Wrap their arms around each other and refuse to complete their thoughts.

"It doesn't seem there's much..."

"Mom told us we should be ready. But I didn't think..."

In the night the nurses come to fill vials with blood. They wake you from chaotic dreams and pull you back into their living world to fill your lungs with air and remind you all is not well. That pain in your gut will now take over. You are shackled to the wall by the tube in your throat that demands you ask permission to swallow. This is what is.

The vampire nurse leaves with her vials. Stewart asks me if I want more pain meds. I know I can sleep without them, but I don't want to think of this anymore.

"Yes," I say, and he scans my wristband and the syringe. Breaks off the needle and screws the plastic cylinder into my IV. Slowly pushes the plunger.

"You can have this once per hour," he says. "Don't be shy. You don't have to lay there and hurt."

I tell him I'm not shy. I just wanted to be alive for a while.

When the time stops I see the same thing whether my eyes are open or closed.

Tall lights, just taller than people. Oblong, like a folded swiss army pocket knife. Glowing gold white. I can just about make out some detail in the glare.

They stand beside each of us, waiting. Some times there are six or more around me. But never less than one. I am never alone.

I want to ask them why they're not helping. Why just stand there?

And I get the answer, not as some mysterious telepathic channel, but a remembrance of something I always knew but never wanted to admit.

Because they're wondering what I'll do next. The choices always belong to us.

The hospital has an outdoor courtyard. There are two sets of rusting patio furniture that bathe in the sunshine daily.

My stomach tube comes out my nose. The way they have it taped on me makes me look like a distorted Star Warz bar scene character. The enigmatic elephant man with thin swinging trunk.

Another tube comes from where they plunged toward my duodenum from my back in a procedure full of 3D x-rays and pain like the end of the universe. The tube is full of blood but nothing drains from it that they hoped to drain. Now it's just something else that makes me need the meds.

I unclip the nose tube from the vacuum pump on the wall. Wish I could do the same with the IV, but if that stops I'll die of thirst. So it has to come with me.

The IV goes into a machine that's latched onto the middle of a seven-foot microphone stand-like device with wheels. At the top of the stand are four metal rods bent into curly ram's horn shapes. There are plastic bags filled with clear fluids hanging from the curled rods. I know most of these are saline, but some have electrolytes, and one had been filled with an antibiotic solution and now just hangs there filling space making it look like I'm being infused with ever more important fluids.

I push the microphone stand IV tree in front of me. Nobody stops me when I open a door that says, "ALARMED - EMERGENCY ONLY" through which I've seen hospital staff walking for days.

In the courtyard I park my IV tree and sit in one of the rusted patio chairs.

It's California springtime. Outside the sweet air moves. The sun is warm and if I close my eyes the hospital HVAC units sound like surf. I imagine seagulls and kids chasing each other through the sand and into the foam from the breakers in the distance.

"Wake up, sleeping beauty."

It's Mandi with an "i" pulling a double shift. I feel her shadow across my face. When I open my eyes I have to look nearly into the sun to see her, so I squint for a while, then just close my eyes again.

"It's time. Do you want your pain meds?"

I shake my head. I'm pretty good on my beach.

"Remember what we talked about. You want to stay ahead of the pain with the meds. If you go too long, the meds may not help you as much."

"I think I'm good," I say. "I'll just rest here."

"Ok, well if you need anything just come to the desk."

An image pops into my mind. Bright and clear.

"Well, there is one thing. Do you think I could get a Coke with some ice out here?"

Mandi's energy shifts slightly. I can feel it with my eyes closed. In fact, in my weakened state short six pints of blood and with less oxygen going to my brain, I'm feeling a lot of things. Watching the subtle energy leave marks. God is leaving signs everywhere, like a trail of breadcrumbs. But I don't want to follow. Mandi wants to pump in some opiates, but doesn't want to hand me a frosty paper cup filled with ice chips and soda.

Now I know for sure. This is the rabbit hole: a drug addict's paradise.

"I'm not sure you can have the caffeine," says Mandi. "I'll check."

I say, "Can't have a soft drink with caffeine but I can have another milligram of morphine-times-six."

Time goes by. I don't know if she heard me. It might be an hour. Best not to perturb these people. They control everything. This is how a patient winds up dead in the middle of the night. Lots of air bubbles in the IV line. Wrong juice pumped into the veins. They don't like the outside because there's too much chaos. Too much uncontrollability. Leaves are falling. The wind picks up dust. Birds land wherever they damn well please. It's an unpredictable environment. This is why they don't like windows or airflow or temperature where they're working on people. Too many external variables.

I decide I am going to be an external variable.

By the time I go back into the pressurized, controlled container of a hospital I know she never checked for my soda.

The shift's changed. At the front desk I see my name on the white board. Mandi's name is gone as my nurse and a new name is there. Jarred is my new nurse.

Back in my hospital bed I'm hooking up my nose tube myself when Jarred comes in.

He holds out a cup. "Hi I'm Jarred. Mandi said you wanted this."

It's a cup of soda and ice.

Jarred says, "It's Sprite. She called and your doc doesn't want you having Coke. Hope that's ok."

I take the cup, cool in my palms. All my summers compressed into a tiny vessel. Warm sand on my bare feet. The first day of vacation, off from school. Sip here and you're at poolside watching the cannonball contest. Sip here and you're sitting at a table at Denny's waiting for your chicken sandwich while the kids scribble over the crayon puzzles on their place mats. Sip here and everything outside this hospital can be yours again.

My eyes are tearing, and I know the reason my nose tube is starting to hurt is that the tears are flowing into my nasal cavity causing swelling. Now I can only breathe through my mouth.

Jarred asks me if I'm ok.

I nod. I don't know if my crying is ridiculous, humiliating, or utterly indicated by standard medical procedures. I try to speak but only squeaks and grunts come out.

My eyes are full of blear and blinking only brings the inside out. Jarred comes toward me, a tall oblong container of golden light.

"Do you want your pain meds?"

I shake my head.

I try to say, "I want to feel, alive," and it comes out in staccato.

Jarred says, "You know you're not like the other patients here, right? You're going to leave. You will. I know it's hard to believe sometimes, but I promise you, we will put you in a wheel chair and take you to your family. You have to have that image in your mind and your heart. Okay? Don't drop it. Keep it close. Think of it every time you can."

I sip my clear lemon soda and I'm sitting near the flying elephants at Disney World, watching my children spin circles in spasms of utter joy and I can't stop crying. I'm crying for everything that's now decades out of reach. My little children who are now adults. My wife with whom I thought I would travel to the end of time, and who is now my ex. Things I gave up for my career that were never worth the cost. Every investment I made in time or wealth or love turned sour. I'm crying for all the things I've never become. All the mistakes I've made. All the times I said I wanted to change my life for the better and made everything worse. Everyone I've ever hurt in a cup of sprite and ice.

How did I become so imperfect? In such need to apologize.

I don't want the pain meds. I want to feel the hopeless hurt that will never heal. That's the life I'm in and the meds just push me out of it and eventually you can't come back.

"You know where the buzzer is, right? Buzz if you need anything."

He leaves as if nothing is different. Crying is just another patient condition.

They live. They cry. Some die and some get through.

In the night the IV machine pumps quietly. The nurses walk the hallways off to break, back from break.

If I could focus myself to read - I could read a book by the light of my angel.

When I feel myself drifting I look for the light that leads us from this life to the after-death, but I never see it. My angel assures me that unlike others around me, I'm not even in the same country as that supernatural pathway.

"What kind of guardian lets this happen?" I say after my evening injection when the nurse leaves me alone with the clock and the liquid dark. But I'm talking to myself. There is no telepathy. No alien-like mind meld. There is what I know even with the probe in my back and the tube in my nose and the IV in the crook of my arm.

The guardian does not judge for there is nothing upon this planet with enough importance.

The guardian observes. Wipes the fever sweat from the brow and whispers ever, "I love you, I love you, I love you.

"I can never leave you. Though the roads you take may be torn by ice heave or bomb craters, or barely a foot's width along the side of a tall mountain in the snow and clouds, I cannot leave you, you will never lose me.

I am always holding your hand. I am always in wonderment at your thoughts.

I do not change your world. I do not shield you from falling rock or poor intention except to fortify you and remind you.

No matter what you do. No matter how good or bad.

No matter how much pain. No matter the price or the return.

I love you.

That is what it means."

In the hospital morning you can only know by looking at the clock, I open my eyes and I see the blankets on the chair in my room.

"Are you up?" the blonde haired girl asks from that chair where she has been watching me all night. Pushes off her blankets. Picks up a cloth and wipes the fever sweat from my brow.

I'm deep in the darkness, far away, and she takes my hand in a grip much stronger than machinery or planetary attraction.

"I'm not leaving until I take you home. You can't lose me. You're coming with me. We're going home together."

The drugs and the fatigue make it hard to speak and I can't squeeze her hand as hard as she's holding mine.

"I love you."

This is how we will get out. This is how we survive. It's in my mind and in my heart. The feeling of my walking out with her. Leaving the hospital. Into the sunlight and the air where everything happens and nothing is certain.

I know now, I can be saved.

I'm worth saving.

The term angels to indicate altitude has its origins in the Royal Air Force. Stories vary on when it entered the lexicon, but it was used, by the time World War II broke out, as a speech code for altitude when ground controllers were speaking to aircraft over the R/T - the somewhat low-quality voice radios available at the time. The most frequent explanation for the word was that it arose from the phrase 'up where the angels fly' and was selected as a short distinctive word that did not sound like numerals. Altitudes were given in thousands of feet, using the term, as in for example "angels fifteen" would mean fifteen thousand feet.

Since the phrase was originally used by ground control, and by those using the newly invented search radar, it was used to mean height above ground level (AGL) - the ground controllers did not usually have the local altimeter settings for the aircraft they were communicating with. Aircrew talking amongst themselves would use it to indicate (mostly) relative altitude. To the best of my knowledge (which admittedly may be woefully incomplete or incorrect) the term is not a phoenetic arising from pronouncing 'AGL' to save time.

At some point, the term 'cherubs' came to mean 'hundreds of feet' when finer control was needed.

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