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Yesterday I took a drive through Lakeview to say goodbye.  We will be moving to Wisconsin in three weeks and I wanted to say goodbye to a place where I spent many hours walking up and down the streets and parkways.

The streets were still empty, the houses still decimated, the weeds were high and many trees were dying.  But more on that below the fold.

For years I have had a love/hate relationship with this city.  I love the decadence, the art and music, the joie de vivre.  I love the way people don't follow rules here.  It is freeing to be non-conformist and yet not stick out.  I love Rue de la Course and Mandinas. I love the house on the corner of Audubon Park where we had our wedding reception and I love the sound of the City Park train.  

I hate the filth, the trash and the heat.  I hate the disparity between social classes and races.  I hate the crime and ignorance.  And I'm not fond of tropical plants growing out of control.

For ten years my dislike of the city was constantly challenged by those things that I loved, but dislike won out.  Then something happened to change that.  I moved to the northshore and found that Louisiana is a beautiful place full of strange native plants and a few cold, clear streams.  I journaled the seasons by what plants were blooming on my way home and I developed strong ties with the people I previously thought were just ignorant rednecks.  I passed that magical ten year mark that takes you from being an acquaintance in the south to being a friend.

We have so many people and places we want to say goodbye to - to visit, drink up, and imprint into our psyches.  As if the city hasn't already done that for us.  This place grows on you, like moss on the trees or like mold in a home.

So we said goodbye the the Quarter a few weeks ago when we went to see "An Inconvenient Truth" and eat at Irene's (you MUST eat there if you visit).  The Quarter is dirty in a different way than it used to be.  My husband, a native, taught me to appreciate and even find comforting the mixed odors of urine, alcohol and garbage in the quarter many years ago.  We would walk early in the morning while the shopkeepers were cleaning the sidewalks in front of their stores.  The AC units would drip condensate on us and I always wondered in the back of my mind if it was truly just water.  But now there are not enough shops open to get all of the sidewalks cleaned.  So the smell, which used to get diluted every day, is now just sour and strong.  The litter does not get picked up the way it used to.  The crowds are strangely sparse and subdued.  

The nice part of it is that you get to meet more of the locals as they are less diluted by the tourists.  And it's the same conversation on every elevator and doorway - "How'd you make out?"  Still.

I haven't said goodbye to Uptown yet, and may not get to it with my schedule.  But I did go to my old neighborhood - Lakeview.  

My precious house and garden are untouched, the door wide open, mold up the walls, the weeds up to the roof.  Miss Kinney's house on the corner has lost the massive magnolia that covered the entire front of the house.  On our block, one house had been restored and one was in progress.  There are ten houses per side, so twenty on each block.  Many houses sport the "round-up" look - the owner or someone has tried to keep the weeds down by spraying herbicide.  

This is a neighborhood where each little house had a cottage feel and a lovely garden.  I used to spend hours walking up and down the neighborhood with my dogs looking at the houses and gardens.  There was always a new project, a new landscape, some new art.  I would walk the service alleys to see the back yards, some of them fabulously done.  But on this trip the pepto pink house on the corner was overgrown with those flowering vines that had survived the storm and many other plants were just withering.

I stopped by an old friend's house in Lake Vista.  I wanted to tell them we were moving away.  L's mother, Miss Betty was there.  She and her husband lost everything.  They are living in Houma now, and are unsure about rebuilding because of the 17th street canal.  They don't trust it.  These are quintessential Orleanians.  Both were teachers and know half the people in the city.  

I remember when Andrew was approaching I called them to ask if we should evacuate.  Miss Betty told me that Lakeview didn't flood during Betsy and that they didn't expect any problems.  On my first trip into the city post-K I went by their house.  I was so relieved to see that the spray paint indicated that no one had died there!  I reminded Miss Betty about this and told her how glad I was that they had evacuated this time.

Then I drove by a house where I had designed and planted the front garden.  The house is empty and the yard is dead, except for the Basham's Party Pink Crepe Myrtle that I had planted.  It was huge, lush, and full of light, soft, pink blooms.

This was closer to the canal, and the area was still eerily quiet.  The only difference I see from the early post-k days is that the sludge that covered the streets has been partly FEMA'd (removed) and partly washed down the storm drains by the rains.  Else, there was really no difference.  One in twenty houses was occupied.  The activity of gutting is either over or ignored and the wait for insurance to pay up and the government to build levees is the only measure of time.

I left via Bucktown.  Not my favorite place due to it's support of David Duke, but still an important part of the city.  Entire blocks of FEMA trailers were parked in front of homes.  People are trying to live normal lives in a space many of them wouldn't want to camp in.  

Someone visiting the city recently said to me that it seemed as if people were waiting for the government to fix things, that they were content to just stay in their trailers.  I could have screamed.  They obviously didn't understand that getting a contractor is an act of god and that insurance companies are quibbling about who will pay for damages.

I wonder what kinds of questions they will ask in Wisconsin.  

I've said goodbye to most parts of the city now, and don't know when I'll be back.  I assume I will visit friends at some date and see what progress has been made.  Tomorrow I will give my notice at work.  More friends to say goodbye to.

It is bittersweet.

Originally posted to noladq on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 07:27 PM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm sorry (14+ / 0-)
    New Orleans has been relatively forgotten despite the good intentions of many here.

    I swore I heard a stem cell yell:'Blastocysterhood is powerful!"

    by Miss Devore on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 07:26:55 PM PDT

  •  Sweet and sad love letter to your home (10+ / 0-)

    I hope you find another sweet place to be, in Wisconsin.

    Thanks for your diary.

    Let the great world spin for ever down the ringing grooves of change. - Tennyson

    by bumblebums on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 07:28:57 PM PDT

  •  Damn. (9+ / 0-)

    You take the BEST care of yourself you can, noladq. Thank you for your very powerful diary. Travel safely to your new home, and please write more!

    Tell us of the questions in Wisconsin.

    "The opposite of war isn't peace, it's CREATION." _ Jonathan Larson, RENT

    by BeninSC on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 07:29:29 PM PDT

  •  The delivery guy took a week off and went down (8+ / 0-)

    to NOLA to help last month with his church group.

    He told me everything is wrecked, people don't have anywhere to go {still} some houses are still boarded up! Incredible.

    Where is the press?

    •  I recommend and (5+ / 0-)

      and NBC operates a New Orleans bureau with its affiliate WDSU 6.

      •  I do too (4+ / 0-)

        and I recommend that kossacks get on the forums - especially the Sound Off and Orleans forums.

        •  nolalily, i did get on the forums (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Avila, pico, luckydog

          after seeing you mention it in another post. Not knowing which one to try, I looked around and found some sad stuff in the Volunteer section, about FEMA throwing out every single item that was inside historic schools as they "clean them" out, in case of mold (even in multi-story buildings in which th water didn't go to upper floors) and that items include not only lots of basic useable things which could be sold or re-used, but statues and items of historical importance to the city (mostly KatyJoan's and angelgrlnola's posts. I'm sugarkitten over there, btw.)

          I was horrified in some of the others to hear the levels of racism- after all that has happened! I wanted to jump in, and still do, but wonder if people like that would even hear a thing I was saying.

          Will definitely try Orleans and Sound Off. Thanks.

          Bohemia has no banner. It survives by discretion. - Tennessee Williams

          by kitten sedaris on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 08:39:35 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Thanks for responding (5+ / 0-)

            We need help and I can't help but think kossacks who post there might be able to interject some sanity.  This city is in such despair that we are turning on one another - not to mention the neocons who are out in full force on the Sound Off (the political) forum.  The Orleans is the most reasoned.  Sometimes there's just a bunch of people hanging out but there's also a Canadian poster and several others who keep a balance.  We need these words and balanced views to keep us sane.  It is extremely hard to keep a realistic view down here right now.

            Thanks and, if I religious, I'd say "Bless you" for caring.

            •  P.S. (4+ / 0-)

              I'm LaLily and have been lurking more than posting lately but I tend to scatter around the forums.

            •  my computer just 'ate' my reply (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:

              so I'm reduced to the short recap:

              No blessing required, I'm not religious either, although I was married in a "parish;)" In case you haven't heard, I adore NoLa so much that it is truly my pleasure. Frankly, I'm glad that "outsiders" are welcome (are they really?)

              Feel free to email me if things are nasty anywhere in particular and you'd like a little backup- my email address is on my profile here.

              Bohemia has no banner. It survives by discretion. - Tennessee Williams

              by kitten sedaris on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 09:22:08 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

              •  Outsiders are welcomed by the reasoned (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                luckydog, kitten sedaris

                on the forums and not welcome from the assholes.  We need people with other perspectives because they bolster our courage and give us balance, reason and strength.  These negative people are poisoning us from within.

                •  Must add (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  luckydog, kitten sedaris

                  most the negative posters don't live in New Orleans.  Don't let them fool you.

                •  part of me (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  grndrush, luckydog

                  has been somehow living there since 1991, the first time I ever went to nola, tried to move down there but things didn't work out.

                  it's really strange, actually - i just have this connection to the place that never goes away, even if it isn't founded on as much experience as i want it to be.

                  i wish pico would have waited until later to post his diary- i haven't even read it thoroughly yet, but it looks amazing (just added it to my hotlist) - looks like it scrolled away without being added to the recommended list.

                  Bohemia has no banner. It survives by discretion. - Tennessee Williams

                  by kitten sedaris on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 09:42:43 PM PDT

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  You're having the universal (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    luckydog, kitten sedaris

                    nola experience.  Once it gets in your blood it claims you.

                  •  I've never lived in NOLA (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    sockpuppet, kitten sedaris

                    but also feel that connection to the place.  I've been several times, and I always have trouble explaining the feeling to those who've never been, or have been and aren't enchanted.

                    I came down to LA and MS in December, and I was shocked at how widespread the damage was.  I was even more shocked at how little help appeared to have arrived three months later.  I didn't have the time to visit NOLA, and honestly, I wasn't up to seeing it at the time.  I was spending the week with displaced Katrina animals, and seeing NOLA would have sent me over the emotional edge.

                    The depression in the air in Covington, where I was staying, was palpable. I wish I could describe it, but words fail me.  

                    America has lost its jewel city, and I can't understand why it seems to be forgotten.  I regret never having had the chance to live there before the storm.

                    Best of luck to you, noladq.

                •  Is there a parallel with dkos? n/t (1+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
          •  Speaking of historic (5+ / 0-)

            The idiots we hired to renovate our house tore out all our architectural tiles from our fireplaces.  They weren't supposed to do that.  They haphazardly threw them in a garbage can, breaking most of them.  I went to a large architectural salvage place here to see if they had any to replace the ones I lost.  ONE, ONE, 5x3 tile cost THIRTY DOLLARS!  And one 2"X1" tile cost TEN DOLLARS.  I'm sick to my stomach.  For awhile I kept seeing New Orleans salvage turning up on ebay like from sellers in Mississippi and Alabama.  I know they came here and raped us.  But I bought up at much as I could afford just so it would be returned to its proper home.  Makes me sick.

            •  morans in your house (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              sockpuppet, luckydog

              Oh, I am so sorry to hear that. What a nightmare- breaking them in a garbage can?!! Had they never worked with historic materials before? Not that they were even supposed to be doing it, as you mention.

              When we lived in California, we were making an offer on a house in which one of the selling points was the bathroom tile- 1930s waterlilies in pink and sea green, with deep indigo outlines, and tons of ornate semi-custom trim pieces, all in porcelain. So beautiful - and of course there was an arched "frame" as you went into the tub/shower.

              Then our building inspector found an old leak that had been covered up underneath the bathroom for so long that only the pressure of the walls was holding the room up off the ground! We were told that the tile would be broken in the repairs of the under-structure. The sellers had an idiot they found out of the phone book who wanted to put in 69cent home depot crap (not to knock it if someone's on a budget, but in this case..) and kept trying to tell us we should get rid of the tub, since some day we would get old and it would become a hazard (we're in our late 30s, and this was a few years ago.)

              Our realtor referred me to a vintage tile guy, who assessed the value of the tile at 8000 or $9000. ! The people selling us the house were horrified... but the realtors tried to work something out in which we/I got to pick out what I wanted in place of the vintage tile. I went to the most expensive place in town and designed a sort of mediterranean spa meets gothic cathedral scenario (the room wasn't even that big - laugh) which would have cost the entire 8 or 9k (at least!) I told them the Leda and the Swan mosaic was 11k, this seemed a bargain (more laughing..)

              Soon we managed to find a contractor (through the expensive tile place, incidentally :) who was able to repair the substructure without disturbing the tile.

              I don't know if my telling you all that was supposed to make you feel better... in the end we couldn't afford to stay out there anyway, & i',m in texas now, in a 5-year-old house which has some interesting tile of its own, believe it or not. My point was supposed to be that I understand about old tile. And I feel your pain- how old was it?

              Bohemia has no banner. It survives by discretion. - Tennessee Williams

              by kitten sedaris on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 09:37:21 PM PDT

              [ Parent ]

          • forums are a nest for racists... (0+ / 0-)

            Sorry, but it's true. The Orleans and Marigny/Bywater forums are okay, but if you want to get skeeved, drop in on Crime & Safety, the cops' cybercafe. None too bright, and completely obsessed with race to the point where they can't discuss anything else.

  •  Thanks for the diary (5+ / 0-)

    I lived in New Orleans for many years -- grew up in Eastern N.O., went to college at UNO, had several friends in Lakeshore and Lake Vista.

    I went to high school in Uptown (Ben Franklin).  I too had mixed feelings when I left.

    Thanks for reminding me of all of that is New Orleans.

  •  Beautiful (4+ / 0-)

    Thanks & Rec.

    "In the beginning the universe was created. This has been widely criticized and generally regarded as a bad move." -- Douglas Adams

    by LithiumCola on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 07:34:17 PM PDT

  •  Sounds like you already know what it means. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    luckydog, kitten sedaris

    And where dat tip jar?

  •  dq... (7+ / 0-)

    ...the French use the expression au revoir, which means more-or-less "until we see again"...tho' most take it to mean "goodbye". Just to throw 'em off, native francophones I mean, and 'cause it's a Caribbean & Creole thing, and to make a special emphasis, I like to say a la prochaine...which means "until the next time". Folks tend to get it, and all.

    Know what I mean?

    •  Amazing diary. (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Avila, grndrush, moiv, sockpuppet, luckydog

      I only visited NO once - during Mardi Gras many years ago.  This reminded me of that trip:

      The Quarter is dirty in a different way than it used to be.  My husband, a native, taught me to appreciate and even find comforting the mixed odors of urine, alcohol and garbage in the quarter many years ago.

      I found that a good hurricane sort of masked that er...aroma, lol.  

      I'd always planned to go back someday.  It just seems strange that the place I visited is gone.  Sure, some of the buildings remain, but the people.  The people are gone. People like you and all the others who have posted their stories...from somewhere else.  That's what I'll miss if I ever make it back there.

      Good luck in your new home, and thanks for sharing your story.

      Even their trolls suck. "Baaaaaaaam! Cradle Rock style."

      by cowgirl on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 08:15:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I just passed the evening (9+ / 0-)

    on my frontporch with a friend.  This night could be any one of the many she and I have sat there this summer.  In June I said, "get ready.  This summer is going to be the worst of a lifetime."  Tonight, openly, I talked of leaving.  We talked about where to move to.  I told her that some friends of ours, who also live three doors down, called me from Montreal this morning to tell me they want to move there.

    Tonight I want to cry but I still can't think of anyplace to go.  I want my home back.  Is it really true that some people want to kill us off?  To let New Orleans die?  It feels like it sometimes.

    August is a bitch as we approach the anniversary.  God these diaries are depressing.

    •  Is Johnny Gordon still at Lafitte's? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Avila, sockpuppet, luckydog

      If he is, go down and have a drink for me. My mother, sister-in-law and I went there the Friday night before they ordered the evacuation. I gave him all the money I had left- $2 in quarters (it spends the same, he said), and asked him to sing "Do you know what it means to miss New Orleans".

      He gave me the most hauntingly beautiful memory of that city. Listening to him sing/speak the lyrics in his raspy voice added the background music for what was about to happen. I hope he can sing it for me again in better times.

      Take care of yourself, nolalily.

    •  Those of us who did leave... (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      nolalily, sockpuppet, luckydog

      ...are missing it tremendously and questioning our decisions as well.

      I'm sorry. I know how you feel, all too well. Wish I could be there and pass an evening on the porch with you.

  •  I'm so sorry that you are leaving (8+ / 0-)

    My mother always raved about New Orleans. But I've never had the money to travel. However when my father in law relocated to La and was getting married in New Orleans, I knew I'd do whatever I had to do to get down there to see what she had been talking about.

    And because I made that trip, I can't read your post without breaking down in tears like I did for weeks after Katrina. While I only got to spend five days in NO, the connection was instantaneous.

    We were one of the millions of people stuck on I-10 in the Grapes of Wrath-type evacuation on Saturday afternoon, getting into Lake Charles just hours before the storm hit. Winding through side streets for what seemed like an eternity, trying to get around the traffic jams and find enough gas to get out before finally giving up and getting on the highway with everyone else. Leaving those streets to be flooded, and those gas stations to be looted.

    Even with all of the video and news reports (which ae more and more scarce, except for Anderson Cooper trying in vain to direct America's attention span to the continuing hardships there), I don't think I can really imagine what New Orleans looks like. And I can't imagine losing everything. But even harder to imagine is if everyone around me lost everything too.

    It's just too painful, and I've only been once. It was everything you described. And now it's a just another mess that we have created and are ignoring.

    I don't know how you've found the strength to go on, but I hope you know that so many people are rooting for you, and for New Orleans. Even if so many others, including our government, have forgotten.

  •  thanks, with questions: (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Avila, sockpuppet, luckydog

    where in wisconsin?

    Is that your original home state?

    & what brought you down South in the first place?

    i'm a native wisconsinite who lives in texas and has wanted to live in (or just be in) new Orleans ever since I learned it existed.

    Bohemia has no banner. It survives by discretion. - Tennessee Williams

    by kitten sedaris on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 08:30:07 PM PDT

  •  Be careful. (6+ / 0-)

    There are few feelings as powerful (and as powerfully depressing) as New Orleans-withdrawal.  It'll creep up on you slowly - at a sub-par meal, at a crowded bar, on a warm Sunday afternoon.  You can't get away from it.

    Best of luck in everything you do.

    Saint, n. A dead sinner revised and edited. - Ambrose Bierce

    by pico on Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 09:08:59 PM PDT

    •  True dat (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      sockpuppet, pico, luckydog

      ...especially when you have a meal that was "fine, I guess," or realize that you've got to go to some effort just to listen to a little live music.

      For me, it's the fact that people here look at you like you're crazy if you say "Good morning" when you catch their eyes as you pass them on the street. It's perfectly acceptable to ask for money, it seems, but "Good morning" is weird and a threat.

      •  You should see what passes for Jambalaya out west (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        sockpuppet, pico, kitten sedaris

        They have good food and music here in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, but they sure don't know how to make jambalaya - they all think its rice with sauce on it.  

        Noladq, good luck in Wisconsin. I visited Madison one time and completely fell in love with it.

        "Carry my joy on the left, carry my pain on the right." -- Bjork

        by Nerdsie on Fri Aug 11, 2006 at 12:22:18 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Oh, cherie, i had etouffee in Silverlake (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          neighborhood in L.A. (not La. ;) that had so much tomato sauce in it you would have thought Chef Boyardee had kicked somehow kicked Justin Wilson's ass!

          Bohemia has no banner. It survives by discretion. - Tennessee Williams

          by kitten sedaris on Sat Aug 12, 2006 at 12:42:14 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Good luck, noladq (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sockpuppet, noladq, pico, luckydog, lorzie

    Your diary was really bittersweet, as so many things have been over this last surreal year.

    I too tried to hack it on the Northshore for a few months. Didn't like it (if I wanted to live in a suburb, there are nicer ones elsewhere). When I'd go into the city for a day, I'd end up more depressed and enervated than energized.

    Visitors say "The Quarter is just fine," but if you spent any time there, smelling the smells both heavenly and hellish, whiling away an hour in a bookstore or a dive bar, getting dripped on from the condensate from all the sagging Friedrich A/Cs as you walked down the you wrote, the difference between Then and Now is palpable. It can make you sad if you dwell on it.

    I hate the filth, the trash and the heat.  I hate the disparity between social classes and races.  I hate the crime and ignorance.  And I'm not fond of tropical plants growing out of control.

    Me too. I thought about moving for years, just for those reasons. Then came Katrina, and the decision was (largely) made for me.

    Someone visiting the city recently said to me that it seemed as if people were waiting for the government to fix things, that they were content to just stay in their trailers.  I could have screamed.  They obviously didn't understand that getting a contractor is an act of god and that insurance companies are quibbling about who will pay for damages.

    I wonder what kinds of questions they will ask in Wisconsin.  

    From my experience, they'll be nice, but they won't get it, even the most basic fact that what happened wasn't an act of God, but an act of governmental incompetence. And as long as the levees can't be made safe (and, frankly, I can't afford to live there any longer), I won't come back except for visits.

    Now I'm in a place that's everything New Orleans is not - reasonable, safe, logical. It's pleasant. It ain't home. In four months, I haven't heard one life story or yarn like you've spun here. I miss the food and the music, but most of all I miss the storytelling.

    Tonight some nice people took me out to a restaurant that served "Louisiana food." I got a plate of red beans and rice. Actually, what I got was unseasoned pinto beans with no sauce served over rice, topped with pico de gallo (?). When I asked the server, she said "Pinto beans are red beans. I asked the cook." And I don't know if anyone except a New Orleans person would realize why that would have the capability to make anyone so melancholy.

    Take your memories of good times, take your music, and for God's sake, take your recipes.

    Best of luck, friend.

  •  This is going to be a hard transition (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sockpuppet, pico, ticket punch, lorzie

    Reading everyone's comments is making me so sad for something I haven't even left yet.  

    I do know what it means...  I will never give up telling people the story of those who are still here, and what it is like now.  We HAVE to keep telling people.  Anderson Cooper is doing his best.  Too bad not more journalists have his doggedness on the subject.

    I'm originally from Colorado.  Talk about a place that gets in your blood.  That was part of the reason I hated the filth here.  I had dreams of mountains and I would wake up crying for years.  I call it Niwot's revenge.  I have a feeling that NO will give me the same syndrome.  Maybe I'll call it Azalea Revenge or Canal St Revenge... or... luckydog revenge (hahaha).

    What brought me to the south was a job with a chemical company.  When people ask I tell them brain damage, but only jokingly.  Well, now it's only jokingly.

    To those of you who stay, take the best care of yourselves.  Enjoy what is here as only an Orleanian can.  

    We know that the contractors and fema are raping our city.  Especially the out of town fema subs who come in the guise of "helping us" but turn their backs on our environmental regulations, our property rights, and our historical culture.  They make money hand over fist, and that's why they're here.  They are just the Halliburtons and they must be curtailed.

    As for food, thank god for this place - it taught me how to cook!  If anyone gets to the Madison area, you will find me on Mondays because I can do red beans and they make the neighborhood smell wonderful!  I am going to miss eating out here though.  It's such a sublime pleasure.

    GB - The northshore is different, for sure, but we weren't in the suburbs, we had a "farmette" with the horses and dogs and chickens pretty far out.  The people are definitely racist, but I learned a lot from them, and learned to really care for them in spite of their lack in that area.

    a la prochaine!

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