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The Big Apple

Posted 25 September 2007, 4.59 pm by shaggy

Sirens going off at all hours of the night... some random dude trying to pick into the lock into my building with a card... and directions that include only four words: "up", "down", "left", "right", if not just simply pointing in one of these directions.

Yes, that's right... I'm now a New Yorker. Which is cool in its own right. The city is bustling, there's always something to do, and its a lot safer than you'd think for a city that has its own CSI. A footlong sandwich costs three dollars and seventy-five cents, which in this Canuck's view is amazing. The people here are really nice, contrary to some people's description-- they act rude, but its really not as bad as people make it out to be, and the rudeness has a charm of its own, and you can tell its never intended to be mean.

But good lordy, how the business people on cell-phones curse! Definitely an interesting difference from the Canadian business-folk, who are usually metrosexual and wouldn't raise their voice if you took a whiz on their shoes. But, like many of the differences I've seen, it is neither good nor bad. Just different.

Its not as different as I thought it might be... sure there is a cultural shock, but people behave roughly the same no matter where you are from, and here its just extended to many... many... MANY people. The population leads to some inherent differences, like bluntness, impatience, etc., but nothing that cannot be sociologically explained pretty much by "more people, less room to breathe." When you factor that into the equation, everything in this city makes sense.

One big cultural difference, though, is living in Harlem. Its not a total change, but the people here are big on their culture and its nice to see. I've been told that "its all because of the white man." Which, far from being offended, actually made me chuckle. I've been offered books like "Black Robes, White Justice." And on one of the yard-sale streets, caught a glimpse of BBW porno (google "BBW" if you don't know what it stands for).

The one thing I didn't expect was how lonely the city is for me. Now, bear in mind that I only start school on October 4th, and the only reason I'm here so early is for the sake of cheap tickets (the 18th was the cheapest ticket I could find, after that, it was for October 5th, which wouldn't do well). Nobody I know lives in the city, and I'm not the type to walk up to people and make friends. I usually have to be forced into it by scholastic environments, which I personally find the easiest excuse to make friends this side of sharing a bottom job. So it will be better once I start school, but spending time in an apartment with my roomies who I don't know and who generally are awkward conversationalists because of that-- not that they are bad at it, just we don't know each other well enough to really be comfortable with it-- coupled with the overwhelming amount of... stuff... the city is definitely a lonesome crowd for me at the moment. Keyword: at the moment.

Again, if this sounds like I'm trashing the city, I'm really not. The downs I'm seeing are mostly situational rather than a direct function of the city-- that is, my situation of being out of school and unable to work without revoking my i-20's (unless I manage to squeeze a work visa out of it, which... would be tricky). I have been contemplating volunteer-work, but I'd hate to fill a position for a week only to leave when I go back to school (I DEFINITELY won't have time to keep volunteering).

But the city is, even with that, amazing. Central park is beyond what I had expected, and I already had high expectations. The arts here... are... well, they're actually ENCOURAGED! Poetry is not dead here, poetry slams happen all the time; in fact, my school hosts some of them. I might wander to a screening my school is having with a Q&A with the director, though I probably should have
RSVP'd by now (oh woe is the procrastinator).

Also, when I went in my school for registration, I got to sit in a director's chair (the waiting room is loaded with them), which was pretty cool. And Broadway is a pretty rich and exciting street, though... definitely... long. I might take a visit to the New York Public Library and drool for a bit, though I definitely will find time to go there even during school (if its possible).

A friend of mine said the thought of me in New York was like a real life "Where's Waldo", and I'd have to say I feel that way most of the time. Like Waldo that is, lost in a crowd but still so very obviously not part of it. But say what you will, the atmosphere is still very welcoming here. They don't treat tourists any differently than they'd treat anyone else except where its absolutely necessary, which is, if you ask me, a deep sign of respect.

And, I cannot help but think, as I walk down these streets, feeling safe even in the strangest neighborhoods, I can't help but think, with a little bit of pride, "this is my new city." Don't get me wrong, I'm proud of where I came from-- it certainly has its own particularly brand of beauty, like wide open forests much bigger than central park, quaintitude galore, a quiet that this city could never possibly attain-- New York still just... feels like you can wander in and join the game so to speak.

As lonely as it is not knowing anyone in a new city, I'm still doin' alright. And I even learned a few interesting curses.

Wikipedia is Dangerous and Beautiful

Posted 16 July 2007, 4.55 am by The_Roach

This piece was originally posted last week in a rare update to my blog, The Face of Adversity, but since nobody reads that, it might as well reside here where someone might actually see it.

It's very early in the morning. I've had a fair bit to drink and smoked enough cigarettes to make my lungs ache from deep breath. I'm thinking about legend and myth, faces and heels, history, legacy, butterfly wings and ripples on ponds. Curiously enough, it has me remembering my grandfather, dead now eleven years.

I don't remember what inspired me to perform a Wikipedia search for Vince McMahon tonight. I know that I had been playing Fallout. I'd then wound up on MySpace as a result of an article I'm working on for PROVOKE magazine. There was a fascinating video posted in the comments of said article's subject about a "hip-hop church" that I'm curious to attend. Past this, I can't recall, despite it only being a few hours ago. I tend to jump around a bit, probably due to the multi-tasking options that have evolved during my time with computers. Now that I think about it, I remember the time when having multiple browser windows (let alone tabs within a browser) was unthinkable. It tends to make my memory a bit jumbled, which might be a good topic for a future post.

I traveled from Vince McMahon through a history of professional wrestling, opening many of these new-fangled tabs along the way. Degeneration X, Chris Benoit (and the scandal that I caught a glimpse of on FOX News the other day), Undertaker. I read all about the Montreal Screwjob and learned all sorts of new wrestling slang. It's been a very useless, educational experience. Click by click, I traveled through the life stories of names that were vaguely familiar to me from popular culture.

My experience with professional wrestling as an adult has been limited to a few parties thrown for Pay-Per-View events during the turn of this century. I wasn't interested in the "sport" so much as the people who watched it. I would show up at these get-togethers from time to time, which were treated akin to a Super-Bowl party, as an anthropological study. I think it was ego more than anything that drove me to attend, as I watched these peers of mine become enraptured by what I viewed as base entertainment. They weren't under any illusion as to the reality of the show, but the drama kept them coming back.

I had even less experience as a child but the explosion of the entertainment juggernaut in the mid-1980's made it impossible to be unaware of its existence. I remember being friends with a neighbor girl, two doors down (east, the companion piece to Mr. Wooley's semi-detached townhouse). The layout of her house seems very familiar to me, though I'm sure I confuse it to some extent in my memory with my father's childhood home a couple miles away. There was wrestling on the television in that girl's home, of that I'm certain.

You'll have to forgive me. I'm feeling emotional, even nostalgic to a certain degree and that always makes me ramble a bit. I promise that there's a point to all of this but I'm about to make a sharp turn that will seem jarring to some.

As a child, you visit Santa, tell him what you want and get a photo taken on his lap. It's the traditional Christmas ritual. I'm not sure if any photos of me on a mall Santa lap were ever purchased but I was taken yearly to sit and inform of my desires. Back then, they had these crappy, little shops attached to the Santa enclave that parents were forbidden to enter. While there, impressionable children could be coerced into buying assorted junk (at no doubt obscenely inflated profit margins) for their friends and family by teenagers in elf costumes. The Beautiful Girlfriend confirmed for me (after she woke up and wandered in here to see why I haven't come to bed yet) that the same sort of stores were a part of her childhood as well, so the phenomenon at least survived into the early 90's on the east coast. I cannot recall ever seeing one since moving to Arizona seventeen years ago.

One year, wandering through one of these wonderlands of cheap tinsel, I bought my grandfather a massive beer mug. Proportion and memory being what they are, I'm still certain that it was a fair sight larger than my skull. I did not know that he did not make a habit of drinking beer. My knowledge of beer drinking at that age is suspect, for what it's worth. It just seemed like the right thing to get him, I guess. Printed on the side of the mug was André the Giant, arms upraised in victory.

I never really needed to sit on some mall Santa's lap as I child, I don't think. Sure, there was the fantasy of a man who flew across the world in one night, giving gifts to all the good boys and girls, and fantasy is an integral part of our lives at that time. Looking back, the only Santa Claus I ever needed lived a six-hour drive away on our family farm in Slippery Rock. He looked the part, even acted the role for local schoolchildren, and that may have something to do with my memory of him. Even once I'd acknowledged the non-existence of a real St. Nick, that awareness never eliminated the desire to believe. I had seen him with my own eyes, year after year, that spirit of charity and goodwill towards man.

There are some people whose legends will never die. I'd like to think that Harry Thompson is one of those people. He was not famous, not renowned, just a good and humble man. Tonight, as I read legends of pop culture figures from a fake sport, the realization of why exactly I gave him that beer mug that he never needed in the first place became clear. He was a giant, larger than life, bigger than all the Paul Bunyans and John Henrys that ever lived.

He used that mug for coffee.


Posted 29 May 2007, 1.58 am by Duncan-O

It's a Friday night, and I'm out howling at the moon. My phone rings, and the name on the screen brings my revelry to a jarring halt. What could she want?

Shantel wants a favor. She needs her cat's litterbox changed. And as my inebriated mind struggles with this irritating and ludicrous request, she pushes on ahead: "It's the toxoplasmosis...the doctor says it's very dangerous for my baby."

All I can manage to say is "I didn't know you were pregnant."

We had gotten to Fort Bragg at the same time, three years ago, two new faces adjusting to the sea of regulation and camouflage. We were split up into different units, but she was a girl I went out of my way to keep close to me.

I think back to one morning when my knock on her door wakes her, and she steps back inside her tiny barracks room, wordlessly inviting me in. She sits on her bed and leans back against the wall, her round breasts revealed through the thin cotton of her tank top. She curls her legs under her, flexing, then stretches, pointing them at me across the room. She relaxes, draping her body across the sheets, her muscles unbunching under so much light brown skin. Only across the room, but I'm so far away. She's smiling a little, now, and her dark eyes flash.

It wasn't long until we had drifted apart. Shantel had joined the Army to get away from an abusive husband, and my heart went to her...but most people just keep making the same mistakes.

She looks at me now in her empty, unfurnished apartment, the swell of her baby starting to show underneath her loose blouse. Her eyes are significant once again. "My husband left me." Her cat nuzzles up to my leg. The words "you had your chance with me" come to mind--it's the kind of thing I've said to my married friends in lighter moments, said in front of their husbands so they would know I was joking.

But there's no joke here. The words hang in the air between us, tangible in the silence. They hurt both of us, so I leave them unsaid.

Who am I?

Posted 26 May 2007, 12.59 am by shaggy

Well, this will come as no surprise, but I recently settled on the undeniable fact that I have some sort of wicked mood disorder. I'm not terribly sure the extent, and my prescription coverage at work only kicks in about a month from now, so I'm hesitant to get diagnosed until that happens (what's the point of knowing what's wrong with me when I can't do much about it?) but I often wonder... when I get into my moods (I call them having an "emotional poop"... makes it easier to get out of them using a word like "poop" to describe being utterly depressed) what is happening to me? I am, in a nutshell, not myself. I don't mean that I am who I am subconsciously-- at least I would hope not. I argue with everyone around me, think everyone is basically, in some way, out to harm me or ridicule me or otherwise betray me, and I hide away in my apartment kicking myself for the agoraphobia that is most likely a direct result of the disorder (whatever it may be).

You've probably notice me snap on the shed from time to time. Arguments become whine-fests, I find myself just simply uncomfortable, angry, and not exactly sure why. Which got me thinking: I look back on this and don't understand myself. I could love someone dearly and just simply find everything that comes out of their mouth acid, and not because of any valid argument-- not because they are saying they are cheating on me and having a blast, or enjoyed making fun of me behind my back, they might just say something that strikes me as odd and I can't picture where it came from and BAM! I have an emotional poop-- and I can feel things getting worse. Can feel those around me starting to distance themselves, like they would from the drunk puking/crying person at a party.

I've caught myself doing it, and its morbidly fascinating. Its like I'm sitting, watching myself from a lawn-chair a thousand miles away, unable to stop myself or control myself. I know to a certain degree this is normal, but it is a chain reaction... I hurt those I care about, and in turn I start feeling depressed. I lose sleep (on bad spells I get an average of about 3 hours a night for weeks to months on end), I start hiding away and not really knowing what to do or what to make of myself.

And then I come out of it, looking at the shitty mess I've made and cursing myself the same way one would curse a puppy who shat on the floor, not with any real hate but with a severe annoyance and wish that things were different, and that there was more control in place.

I know some of you don't think my relationships have been gold. Yeah, I must admit I've taken my kicks to the groin. But I also know damn well that I've thrown my fair share of (proverbial) punches.

I've tried a few self-therapies until I get my prescription coverage. They've worked. I remember having negative thoughts, but they were only THOUGHTS, they didn't affect my mood, and it felt like I was protected by a wall that was blocking me from pain. It was wonderful. But it didn't last (St John's Wort is highly recommended, but is not a very powerful drug and is definitely under the category of "alternative medicine" meaning probably a very high level of placebo going on).

I've done a lot of research on the therapy that would make the most sense for me until I get to be myself. I most likely have what's called "Seasonal Affective Disorder" or SAD. Its a self-diagnosis, probably inaccurate as old hell (if I had the health coverage cards, I'd be taking my prozac or whatever by now and probably feeling a lot better for it) but it seems to be working to some degree. Apparently, light therapy (not sure what that is yet...) helps, along with exercise and a general good environment (read: I need to spruce up the humble abode). Problem is that it also comes, when in its spells, with a severe lack of motivation... meaning I need something STRONGER to knock me out of my "emotional poops" because otherwise, unless I catch myself, I'll dwell quite badly.

Which also explains why cognitive therapy works so well. When I notice I'm in an "emotional poop" I hurt no one but myself. Because I don't go running around calling everyone a whore or a bastard or a jerkface, I just feel paranoid and keep to myself and wait for it to subside.

Still, I can't help but look at myself confused. Who am I? I mean really... if these drugs change the way I behave, the way I feel... am I a result of the drugs or my own self? When I was blocked from emotional pain, was I experiencing the "really real", life as it SHOULD be experienced? And if so, how did I go for so long in my sheltered reality, hating and becoming angry for no good reason, a fire burning where there should have been ice?

I'm not trying to be "angsty" or "my life is more difficult than yours" or "oh woe is me". I'm really not. I think my life is a really good one in terms of outside environment, though I could certainly be taking more advantage of it. I'm merely curious, because I pride myself in being knowledgeable about myself, in knowing how I feel, in knowing what is inside of me, in what I believe and what I feel to be the truth... I'm obsessed about it really, and so it baffles me...

If I can be angry at nothing, am I capable of worse things? If I can feel like killing myself merely because the sound of the wind strikes me as malevolent, am I truly pathetic (read: FEEL like killing myself, I think suicide is an insult to everything alive and good in this world and I don't think I've ever really come close to it, as self-destructive as I can be)?

Bearing in mind these are all rhetorical questions, designed more for my self-analysis than anything. I know I'm dwelling on my flaws, but I look at a picture of me and Kim enjoying happy times together and I look at myself in the picture, cursing, saying to the image of myself, "don't chase away people anymore. I'll hate you if you do."

I don't know what I have to say, except that I want to look up from the abyss and smile, and dance, and have wicked sex with the woman I love, on a beach somewhere in the middle of nowhere, and fax pictures of my butt to unsuspecting people... in short, just enjoy myself, and in order to do so, I have to find out what this... THING.. this "emotional poop" is and how I can conquer it.

I think I'll start with taking a wicked dump. I don't care who you are... that brings joy and a general feeling of a burden removed.

"My father's fingers"

Posted 29 April 2007, 11.51 pm by Andy

My father’s fingers

thumb the pages of a paperback
thriller. Their scarred, coarse tips
are wet with spots of spit.
His rough knuckles crack

as he sinks
further into the plush, brown sofa. A sigh escapes
through his chapped, parted lips.
Right now, he does not think

about feeding sturdy sheets of plywood, two-by-fours,
sixes, and eights, into the hungry maw
of a table saw—
the daily duties of a carpenter—

but rather, about the round
tub of macadamia nut ice cream
in the freezer, and the Mariners game
unfolding on the television in the background.


Posted 27 April 2007, 4.46 pm by shaggy

The difference between a smile and a frown is the difference of choice. However, that being said, the goal of the storyteller is to convince someone to smile or frown, to laugh or cry. But the goal is in itself doomed to failure because of the fact that people choose: they can walk into a movie in which the filmmakers have faught hard to make a film to make everyone in the audience smile, but never so much as chuckle. I could walk into a movie intending to make me weep for a lost innocence and find myself laughing unintentionally at something within the frame (say, a hamster on a wheel as a man gives a monologue about how his life is destroyed).

So what is the point? Basically put, emotion is a strange beast. At once it is our choice whether to be happy or sad, but at the same time we are happy and sad because of other things. Even myself, I fear sometimes that I may be clinically depressed, meaning I ultimately feel sad a lot for no good reason, but it isn't that I just wake up and say "oh I'm sad for no good reason." I wake up in my apartment sometimes with a feeling of loneliness or what have you, and I attribute something to it. "I am sad because..." and what I attribute to it sometimes doesn't make any sense and sometimes is incredibly forced, but the point is my consciousness is incapable of thinking of emotion isolated away from incident.

But still, the minute I realize that I have no reason to be sad, more often than not I cease to be sad. This is one of the reasons why, although I fit the profile for clinical depression quite well, I have never seen medical help on the issue, probably to the great detriment of those around me. Still, as much as I have been a basketcase in the past, I think each day I get better by, rather than becoming opiated with a psychiatrist's grocery list, adjusting the manner in which I see things. No longer is a rainy day sad, but delightfully refreshing against dry skin. No longer is my apartment lonely and empty, but free from complications and a haven for my intimate thoughts.

You get my point.

So, if I were to sit and think upon whether I want to tell a story to convince people to laugh or cry, I have to think about what they will intend the minute they begin to listen to my tale being created. In other words, if the audience wants to laugh, they will laugh. If they think the story dictates a tear, they will cry. "Art-house" movies try to upset this balance, giving you a scene in which you feel like you should be crying but is forcing you to laugh, or vice versa. But I think they are missing one of the wonders of storytelling.

If I begin "once upon a time," it brings to the audience a background that is automatic for the phrase. They know they will hear a tall tale of sorts, most likely fantastical, and most likely with a slight tone of melancholy. Just like the colors on a plate of food will give you inclination of how the food will taste (which is why chefs focus on presentation as well as the quality of the meal), so too are there archetypes of emotion within any story.

So with that being said, I have but to wonder... looking at the state of the world, the cynicism and the jadedness, the xenophobia and the general discomfort, I do believe I've chosen my field of storytelling: to bring a smile into the room.

There is no experience like being lonely and then popping in an episode of Mr Bean or a bit of Futurama. Whether or not you like those shows, it does not change the fact that the choice both want you to make is to just generally feel good, generally smile.

Like I said about Scrubs, people being goofy and loving and silly, and just downright happy, is probably the norm more than the exception. People want to be happy, its undeniable; even "miserable" people bitch and moan because they want somebody to convince them NOT to bitch and moan, deep down inside. And well, if they choose to be so bitchy and whiney as to truly want to be miserable, then it begs the question of why they don't kill themselves if they think life is so unbearable.

Me? I think life is beautiful. I think even the darkest moments on earth have a tiny beacon of light, and that the darkness only makes the light brighter by contrast. I also believe that, if you look at darker stories like Pan's Labyrinth or Hotel Rwanda or such films, people aren't attracted to these films because they evoke tears... these films evoke tears because they have a light shining in darkness, and the light is made only brighter by the darkness that surrounds.

So, if emotion is a choice, than I choose comedy. It is the most difficult genre to write, since it walks the thin line between being funny and being a jerk, but its something I think the world needs more of.

I want to spread smiles. Really, if you sit down and think about it, wouldn't you rather be surrounded by laughing, smiling people than a bunch of goth melancholies that can't justify their own existence?

Tick, Tock

Posted 12 April 2007, 2.40 pm by Villager

I'm developing something of an aversion to clocks. They're deeply unsettling, with their incessant ticking and ceaseless tocking. Grim harbingers of mortality, milestones on the road to death flashing by, each one gone forever before the next has begun. I have achieved nothing. I have not sparkled, I have not shone, I have not excelled. I have barely begun contemplating where to begin. The clock is not sympathetic; it marches on, not stopping or slowing for pause or reflection.

It's not so much that I fear death. More that I fear living in perpetual mediocrity, pointlessness and apathy. What do I want? If I knew I might apply myself, then have at least a fighting chance. Perhaps I ought to develop my spirit, whatever that means. Certainly I find it hard to see what "material" achievements I would value anyway. Perhaps I should once more resign myself to the futile and dull nature of existence and just try to enjoy the ride. But that way lies suicide, of the mind if not necessarily the body too.

I have perceived as wisdom in different forms the idea that it is not one's destination that matters, but the way one travels. That suggests abandonment of goals and a focus on a way of being. But without wishing to be facetious, how can you travel if you do not know your destination, or at least have a bearing? I have ambled along the path of chance and fortune for long enough without reward.

I turned to God, and He wasn't unkind. He took away my sadness, and I was glad to be free of it. But while I find the wrath of omnipotence a compelling deterrence to sin, I am left just as cold by the inducements of spiritual freedom as I am by material indulgence. Peace is smashing when you're in pain, but awfully boring afterwards.

It's amazing how quickly you can become trapped in your perception of the world. You spend your youth considering the possibilities, beholding the incomprehensible vastness of it all. 'I'm going to be special', you think. And then it hits you. Your thoughts, your feelings, your beliefs, even your tastes – they're all contrived through choice. They are just habits, as good as any other, and chosen for the relief they promise from insufferable normality, little more. That may be what it means to exercise free will, but why do I feel no ownership of or even attachment to the person that I have become?

So what is the 'real me'? I spend a lot of time doing nothing. Not even thinking. I sit and I hear, I see and I feel. But I'm not listening, not looking, not truly feeling. That is when I 'feel' most natural. That's not to say I enjoy it, but nothing becomes the default option in the absence of something.

Reflections of a Trainee Teacher

Posted 25 March 2007, 8.45 pm by Villager

Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
Come, hear the woodland linnet
How sweet his music! On my life
There's more wisdom in it.

Working in a school feels a lot like working in a prison. I've never so much as set foot inside a prison, mind, so you'll have to excuse the liberties I take with the analogy. Every thing that takes place there is ostensibly in the name of the venerable aim of learning, but in the process of that so much humanity must be curtailed, chastened and pruned. I am called a teacher of English, but I spend rather more time trying to persuade, bribe, bully and otherwise force children into a mode of thought and behaviour that adult society deems appropriate. It's not just the children who suffer, either: I am daily at pains to contrive the façade that constitutes Professional Conduct.

I've been training for six months now. For most of that time I've been quite convinced that I'm never going to be good at it; I've persisted largely through the conviction that I'll not find anything better, and largely in fear of renewed failure. I dare say that most people would struggle to do the job well, but me more than most. The reasons are legion; laziness, introversion, relentless insecurity, emotional detachment, and more that I haven't the heart to summon. So why am I doing it?

One answer would be idealism. It impressed the course tutors, aligns with pedagogical good practice, and makes some sense, at least in the abstract. But it would be a dishonest answer. No, I chose to become a teacher because I couldn't think of anything else. As I read that back to myself I am forced to examine my conscience, as I have done many times. I considered the pay, the holidays, the social status, the pension, the lack of physical labour. People would call me 'Sir'. What else can you do with an English degree, except become a failed writer? I could always achieve that in my spare time. I had no confidence that I could do it, but arrogance and a tendency to ignore anything beyond the immediate future led me to disregard that.

I'm not as bitter as I sound. There are some children who are genuinely pleasant to interact with, and who comply most eagerly with my demands. There is an extrinsic pleasure to be had from conceiving and managing a successful lesson. I proclaim that I enjoy my subject and in part this is true, but there are only so many times that you can joke about Subordinate Claus and his bossy wife before you start to resent the entire exercise.

There are moments that cut through the madness and make me feel simply redundant. Like when an eleven-year old, asked to write an autobiography, narrates a detailed account of a child 'raised' by drug addicted parents, left to contract hepatitis from a needle left around without care, sleep in her own shit and repeatedly be bitten by a starved dog. She has the scars to prove it. And I'm asking her to write about it.

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In 2018 I started painting again. This was one of a series of acrylic sketches I did to relearn techniques and revisit my skills from art college.

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Hey Cris, it's as busy here as it was at the end - which is to say, not at all

I wish I could new you guys was here in the beginning of 2020 LOL

OMG I was feeling nostalgic and I can’t believe that AKP is still here! So how’s it going ?

Props to Green Mamba for bringing the weirdness


80s candy bars were pretty good

only because i traded it for a candy bar in the 80's.


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