Darwin. Again. Now what?

13 May 2017

Back in Darwin. Again. Now what? Collect the Beast from one of Scott’s friends just out of Darwin. Great, got transport. Now what? Plan a future. Again.`

Rock up at the Rainforest Commune. Found it on AirBnB. A nice place. Anything but a commune. Run by a woman seriously on the wrong side of reality. Heard the word ‘moron’ more times in the space of ten minutes as she lambasts a utilities provider than in the last four decades. The curses and complaints to the very people she wants to develop a sense of commune with, about their slovenly habits, their poor communal traits, their behaviour. It’s a shit hole. The swimming pool a green slimy pond. The toilets fetid. The shower uncleaned in a long, long time. The kitchen barely functional. I can’t believe I paid three nights in advance. God I want it to end.

Back to the Dingo Moon, now that Rhianna has finally moved on.

18 May 2017 enroute Perth

The greatest problem I have with flying is not the inhuman inhumane torturous excruciating pain of dealing with the full unrelenting glamour of (inter)national air travel. Nope. It is dealing with the excruciating longing looking out the window over landscapes that simply cannot fail to draw me in, creating huge diapirs of longing heated deep in the mantle of my lower soul until they mushroom in my consciousness and point out I should be down there in among it all.

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Sand dunes waaay below. I should be there

The down there continues for an impressive four and half hours. Four of which are only in the state of Western Australia. There can’t be too many flights for four hours only across a single state of a country. There are trace amounts of humanity scattered precariously throughout a limitless land, but that’s about it. We don’t go over any urban areas. Unbelievably beautiful. And alluring.

Perth. Again. I’m not actually going to be staying in Perth. This time I’ve chosen South Freemantle. I won’t be staying with family. Too complicated. I’ll visit Baz and Roz if for no other reason than to collect my Bike Inna Box, the reason why I’m in Perth.

Halfway through staying in Bunaken Ram and I hit a pivotal point in our relationship. After two years apart I simply can’t imagine a return to the status quo which dominated our relationship prior to the start of my Epic. And which prevented both of us from fully reaping the benefits we deserve from our relationship. Both of us are haunted by negative patterns we inherited from our parents. Trauma. We are shattered children. And in the inexplicable way relationships work, we as traumatised kids attract each other.

Our patterns beautifully intersect with each other in spectacular fashion. In other words we can unfailingly press each other’s buttons. And in Indonesia, in Paradise on Bunaken there was a nasty period of button-pushing.

Bottom-line, our relationship hit the wall. All the plans we had hit the wall. The six-month road-trip planned for mid-2017 to show Ram where I’ve been in Australia, hit the wall. The return to the north of Scandinavia planned in September 2017, hit the wall. It all hit the wall.

From one moment to another my future ended. Now what?

Both Ram and I are aware of our Patterns and aware that they get in the way of the beautiful life we deserve. We’ve been working on removing them for years. The reconciliation with my mother is perhaps the last and one of the most critical moments in my process. Paradoxically it’s why Ram and  hit the wall. I have come too far changed too much I can’t go back to how it was. I need something different. Something new.

Ram comes to the same realisation. So she’s off to the Hoffman Q2. If you want to be in control of your own life and change self-destructive behaviours and have a good life I strongly recommend the Hoffmann Process. Check out: hoffmanprocess.com.au; or www.hoffmaninstitute.co.uk

Anyway, Ram plans to do a re-boot, the Q2, after we hit the wall. It’s quite remarkable what a revelation can do, what happens when your eyes are finally opened. She’s optimistic.

Ok, that’s great, but what do I do whilst she’s off getting her head screwed on the right way?

Obviously plan more Epic. So I do. That last bit of Australia I’ve never been to: The Cape York Peninsular.

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Impressive building downtown Freo

Anyway, for an Epic I need Dreamer and Zi-Biddi and the rest of the team all currently packed beautifully in a box in my dad’s shed. That’s why I’m here.

If there’s a bus or some other form of public transport to Freemantle no one in Perth’s domestic arrivals hall knows anything about it. Australia is the Land of The Car, and it shows. I take a taxi. Chatty driver who’s just lost him mom, who happened to live in Beaconsfield where I’m AirBnBing.

Seventy dollars later I’m welcomed into a very nice house, very clean, very nice French hosts.

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Market Street, Freo. Great vibe

22 May 2017

Today I aim to collect my Bike Inna Box from my father’s abode and take it to Sadlier’s depot in Kewdale. To accomplish this I’ve rented a trayback pickup – the ubiquitous Aussie Ute – from Europcar but I’m having trouble finding their depot. Getting a bit frustrated when my phone rings. Europcar. Great! thinks I, they’re obviously calling to find where I am.

Wishful thinking. They are calling to tell me that the pickup I have rented has been involved in a crash and nothing else is available. “Sorry” they say helpfully, “hope you can find another”.

F U-U-U C K … the entire reason I am in Perth is for this pickup on this day at this time to collect Bike Inna Box and transport it to Sadliers! And from one second to another I do not have a vehicle. Fuck!

Hertz, Budget, Thrifty, Avis … I try them all and all have nothing available. Time is ticking away. One of them suggests Bunnings. Bunnings is a hardware-DIY franchise. WTF … sure enough, Bunnings actually has one available. Err, where’s Bunnings? Five kilometres away on South Street.

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They don’t make ’em like this anymore … classic house in Fremantle

My logistical nightmare continues. Catch a bus on South Terrace until South Street. Miss one, catch another until Bunnings. Two hours after I expected to be mobile today I’m finally driving towards Glen Forrest and Bike Inna Box.

After carefully reversing my trayback ute until near the rickety doors of Baz’s shed, we – Baz, Roz and I – survey our objective. There’s seventy-five centimetre height difference between the floor of the shed and the rear of the ute. Bike Inna Box is huge. And heavy, weighing in at 167 kg (I find this out a couple of hours later at Sadliers).

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Eastwest Designs’ great mural along Marine Terrace

The Mission, should we accept this, is to somehow manhandle a 167 kg, one metre cubic box from the rear of the shed to the doors then lift it seventy-five centimetres onto the back of a ute, using one fit but not super-strong fifty-five year old, one frail sixty-one year old female and an octogenarian with Alzheimer’s. I’m dubious but give Baz and Roz their due, they are keen. I drag Bike Inna Box using cycle-leg power and straps to the door. We then place two stout planks between the shed floor and the tray of the ute. Baz and Roz push mightily from behind whilst I pull mightily on my straps whilst on the tray and we get Bike Inna Box to the tray. But not on it.  The underside of the pallet is ten centimetres below the ute’s tray. And no matter how much I huff and puff and pull and grunt I cannot lift the pallet enough to get it on the tray. Stalemate.

Baz may have Alzheimer’s but everynowandthen a perfect gem floats out of his engineering consciousness and lands with expert-facet-polished clarity and this is one of them. “Put a plank under the pallet to lift it whilst we push” he says with nonchalant disregard to the power he and Roz can put into a 167 kg box on a twenty-five percent incline. But his idea works. I slide a strong plank under the pallet. With adroit choreography I simultaneously press down on the plank with my butt whilst pulling against the straps as Baz and Roz continue their herculean efforts from behind, and Bike Inna Box clears the edge of the ute’s tray.

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Detail of amazing street art on Eastwest Design’s studio

After coffee and a chat, I head off. I need to get Bike Inna Box to Kewdale b 1630 and given today’s rate of trip-ups I’m a tad anxious. Baz hits me with the usual dilemma of “When are we going to see you again?” It makes me sad in truth. Should I actually be here I’m asked when I’m leaving. And when I’m not I’m asked when I’ll be visiting next. I’ve learnt to be non-committal. Not quite a lie not quite a truth “In a few months, most likely”, I answer before hugs and I drive off unsure if it’s the last time I’ll see him. Ever. It’s a strange sensation, sadly testament to my family’s long history of dysfunction and detachment.

Half an hour later James of Sadlier’s takes over and I’m entering pre-peak-hour traffic aiming to return the ute to Bunnings.

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More of Eastwest’s mural

23 May 2017

Tattoo day. After years of procrastination, failed attempts, and much, much tinkering with design and style I’m wandering towards Modern Ink on Queen St to get a tattoo. Two in fact. One is to update my only existing tattoo. The other is for a stylised tiger on my right shoulder.

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Sophie needling away. It hurt

The thinking wasn’t about the moral dilemma of getting or having a tattoo. It was about what tattoo. Namely how to modify the existing one so it looks like a ‘whole’ rather than an old tattoo with a new one around it. I believe I have something that’ll work. Now to see if a tattoo artist agrees with me.

For the second time a tattoo studio somewhat surprises me by telling me “You want something really specific” with a faint trace of disapproval mixed with a tinge of awe and a very slight smattering of worry, when I tell my tale and show my concept.

‘Something specific’? Damned right I want ‘something specific’. It’s a fucking tattoo, it’s gonna be on me forever. Why on earth would I not want something specific? Do you mean other people don’t have a specific idea for what tattoo they want?

Every tattoo studio has stacks of books full of tattoos and most have detailed portfolios from the artists in residence. From these a person chooses their tattoo, apparently.  In presenting them with my concept the Big Worry is faithfully replicating it to my satisfaction on my skin. Much easier for them for me to choose an existing and well-rehearsed template. As with Queen of Rings and Blue Hawaii in Rotterdam last time I tried this I find I am defending what I want and there’s a very real possibility they may decline to attempt my tattoo. After much thought I am directed to the large Chesterfield to browse the artists’ portfolios to see who’s style most closely resembles the concept as I see it. Sophia, it is. It’s now up to me and Sophia. If Sophia is confident she can replicate my tattoo, I get a tattoo. If not … Time to meet Sophia.

Sophia is from Korea and has a politeness and respectful approach essential in the crowded lands of Asia with their long complex cultural histories. Unlike the guy at the front desk, her concerns are expressed with a delicacy that makes them seem all the more imperative. We spend hours going over my design, talking pen widths – I want three millimetres, she recommends five or seven, fill versus non-fill – I want less fill, she likes the idea of bold statements, colour versus monochrome – monochrome is ‘in’ (it’s also much quicker and easier), whereas I want adroit accents of colour (read: fiddly). Photos are taken of my leg, stencils produced and tested. Tattoos aren’t cheap. On the other hand, Sophia spent perhaps six hours with me refining my design. Add that to the four hours she expects both tattoos to take, then the price is easily within the per-hour cost of pretty much any service in today’s economy. And, you know, I’d rather pay a good price and get a good well thought out tattoo applied with care and diligence than a cheap and nasty. And now, as I push open the door and enter again, to Sophia’s enthusiastic greeting, I’m going to find out if my expectations are to be met or not.

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Tattoo taking shape

According to the two medical professionals I’ve shown the skin irritations on my legs, I am “allergic to Australia”. Eczema in other words. Unsightly large red patches of dry skin. Any thought I had of languishing somewhat contorted on Sophia’s table reading Beckomberg: ode till min familie, a Swedish novel, evaporates the second her three millimetre needle hits that patch of eczema. It fucking hurts and continues to fucking hurt for hours as she methodically and mercilessly, albeit with significant compassion, converts design and concept into permanent ink.

Our discussion on pen size, fill-no-fill, colour-monochrome continues. I insist, whilst appreciating her artistic knowledge and skills and bit-by-bit we end up with a tattoo I’m really happy with. Sophia’s face beams with happiness too. The tiger-tat design is far simpler and easier, although she wants to fill it monochrome whereas I would choose ochre – it is a tiger after all – or non. I opt for non since I can always add colour later if I desire.

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Unless she was very absorbed in her art

Seven hundred dollars later I return to Ginos on South Terrace order a sublime espresso and a grappa, sit at a table almost but not quite in the shade and feel smug and content. Thanks Sophia.

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Sophie, Merchant Princess of Pain and Art

 

‘The B I G

Q

What to do?’

It seems I am plagued by my endless existential question. Ram may have recovered ground from our lose of faith in Bunaken following her Q2, but I remain sceptical. She comes over in a couple of weeks and all things being equal I expect us to try again and I have no reason to say no to this.

On the other hand … after decades in exile as the stranger in stranger lands, and being more comfortable with that than being a local in my own culture, should I not finally reconsider my (self-imposed) exile? Should I do that, what then.

Hmmm … What To Do?

The emotional, physical and financial cost of returning to Sweden or anywhere in Europe is exactly the same as staying here in Australia. With one massive exception: Ram. Ram remains the only icon of stability in my life. Even then such ‘stability’ is not a given. It is ephemeral and vulnerable.

I have drifted so far off The Path that even I am in uncharted territory. I am not on an Epic. It is a lifestyle. A Path in its own right with all Paths’ manifest pros and cons and frustrations and benefits and limitations and opportunities. There are others living this lifestyle but by its very nature they are rare to meet for they too have eschewed geographic stability for the sameness of the journey. Shooting stars that occasionally cross each others’ path. Largely I am on my own. Fits in well with my Loner pattern, that last major pattern remain from my detached birthright and childhood. I’ve been brought up this way my entire life. I don’t know how not to be a loner. I may be an Old Dog, but I know I can learn New Tricks. If I want to …

Sooo … what do I want?

24 May 2017

In the meantime let’s see if there’s any fish in the pond. A number of mining companies active in Sweden are based in Perth. I am currently in Perth and I’m thinking/planning to return to Sweden. I’m an expert in the social, environmental and related legislative requirements of mining in Sweden. I get a list of such companies from the SGU – Svenska Geologiska Undersökning – and phone them up. Two bite. I meet them today.

I meet the first lot in Repeat Offenders café in West Perth, the favoured nesting ground of resource companies in Perth. They’re just about to embark on their first visit to Sweden and their excitement is palpable. It’s a short chat over cappuccino but it I think it’s sown a seed. “Start your enviro and social stuff early” is my key recommendation. Let’s see if something comes from it down the line.

The next one is in a fine office resplendent with bits of rock, drill-core and ore samples. The conversation goes very well. They are aggressively pursuing several projects right smack in the area in which I spent five years developing a huge mining project. It’s hard not to be just a tad excited about the prospects of another go at developing a mining project in a social and environmentally responsible way. Sadly I’m trying to connect to an Australian Junior Mining company used to a Laisse Faire social and environmental approach of mine development, whereby the welfare of the project and its economics take precedence. I’ve encountered this confusion before, of Australian mining people in the Nordics when they don’t understand how their belief that everyone loves their project yet it’s thwarted by some unseen intransigence and they just can’t seem to get it off the ground. They believe they are doing The Right Thing. Afterall they are engaging with communities, they’ve instigated some baseline studies, and their projects neatly dovetails with all the hype the Swedish Geological Association and Mines Department promotes about how mining friendly Sweden is. What could go wrong? It’s a match made in heaven. And so on.

Scandinavians aren’t quite so in-your-face and boisterous as Australians and Anglo-Saxons in general. There may be favourable mining-legislation and macro-economic policies for mining projects. But there’s a subtlety to developing them that’s not evident in Australia. The friends and contacts I have in Sweden working in the mining sector tell me with an audible element of frustration in their voices about “… yet another Junior Australian mining company”, seemingly unable or unwilling to understand how to develop a mining project in Sweden. I’m armed with this information as I sit talking to the financial guy in the office, subtly trying get him to understand that excitement and potential economics alone are unlikely to garner them much support. That they need to do a shit-load of social and environmental work starting now to pull it off. Not just to comply with legislation, but to attract (grudging) admiration and (tacit) support from people involved, the communities, Indigenous Peoples, various government organisations, without which their project will stagnate and take forever to meander through the wonderfully way Scandinavians can drag things out. “Like walking through thick sand” is how one of my Swedish colleagues described it. I can’t really say ‘I’ve spoken with my friends and contacts who you’ve contracted [off and on] and they are telling me you’re pretty low down the ‘how to do it in Sweden’ approach, not matter how much you think you’re a leader in social and environmental performance’.

The possibility of me doing some work for them will be passed up the line to the Project Manager, based in Germany. Hmmm … let me get this straight, the Project Manager of your Swedish assets is based in Germany? Yes. Y’know, it’s real difficult, if not impossible, to effectively develop a project whilst thousands of kilometres from where it’s based? Err …

How do I get him, and them, to understand that their approach may work for certain Majority countries (formerly known as ‘developing’ countries), but will take F O R E V E R in Sweden?

For now, I await hearing from the Project Manager. In Germany.

24 May 2017

Thirty years ago I left Australia in a fireball of excitement and desperation, dumping my life in ten spectacular whirlwind days. Ever since my teenage years I’d had burning desire to ‘get out’ without ever really understanding why. The consequence of irreconciled trauma and profound denial. The denial meant I didn’t know why I had to get out. The irreconciled trauma, the cause of my denial, was a form of fusion energy, limitless boundless relentless energy. Instability is another way to look at it. Something deep, deep in my subconscious knew that my only path to salvation lay in ‘getting out’.

Six months prior to applying for a sparsely worded job-application for a geologist in Papua New Guinea, in a moment of clarity and insight I’d taken myself off to see a shrink. A woman wonderfully at odds to my ultra-pragmatic existentialist way of looking at the world. I’m a geologist and she believes stones and crystals have souls which can communicate with me, with a bit of practice. And a certain disregard for all the science I’ve had shoved down my throat for well over a decade.

Anyway, here I am lying on a mattress on the floor of her practice eyes-closed whilst she enters me into a semi-trance and sends me back, regresses me, into my past, to seek The Issue which she suspects is in there somewhere. It’s called regression therapy.

“Imagine” she tells me “that you are walking along a beach” Fine, I can do that BAM! Me onna beach “You come to some cliffs on the beach” No problem No shortage of limestone cliffs along Western Australian beaches BAM! Cliff onna beach “There’s a small cave” Okay, do a cave “You walk into the cave” Goddit “There’s a lift set in the wall of the cave. Can you imagine that?” Err, ‘kkkay, lift in wall of cave inna cliff onna beach. I like Sci-Fi, consider it Done! “You press the button, the lift opens and you go inside” Sure, I know how a lift works, am inside “There’s only one button in the lift. You press it and the lift goes up” Button pressed, lift moving, muzak playing “The lift stops and the door open onto a part of your life in your past that was very important for you” A pause as she allows time for the door to open and for me to walk out of the elevator “Can you describe it for me?”

This is where it all starts to go pear-shaped (never fully understood this idiom). I walk out into my Valley of Harmonies, Sanctuary. My endlessly perfect summer’s day retreat where I’ve been seeking solace for nearly two decades. My place. Where I am safe. Where no fucker can get me. I describe it to her.

For nearly an hour she tries to extract me from my Sanctuary. It’s clear that this a Protect Me From Evil place. I’m asked to walk this way and that and “turn around and there you find something in your past very important to you”. Only I don’t. I find more construct, more Sanctuary. Finally it dawns on her what’s missing …

“Imagine, you are sitting in the grass. You look to the left. You see someone coming towards you. A woman … “ and BAM! E V E R Y T H I N G suddenly abruptly dramatically changes and I ricochet around wild images times and places some of which I don’t remember at all – and which I doubt ever existed – until I’m twelve and confronting my mother and my father fighting like deranged starving hyenas over a tiny morsel of gnu, asking them pleading with them to stop and my mother simply turns around rips off my head and shits violently down my neck and my gutless fucking father at best simply does nothing or at worst condones her “I’ll fight, if I want to” she spits at me “and nothing you can do or say will stop me!” and I am dismissed.

Crushed I make my way to my room where I find the robot in the cupboard is now a phenomenally huge ugly Beast and I give up, simply give up, surrender myself to that Beast and my life is never going to be the same again …

I am jolted out of my trance in alarm and face-off against the shrink. I am a control freak, and she not only broke my control, she exposed something I didn’t want to know. For twelve was when I ‘gave up’. Sooo, that means something happened before twelve and I am not ready for it. Yet.

I don’t go back to the shrink. But I do reply to that advert for a geologist in Papua New Guinea. I get the job and ten days later, I leave the country.

When people ask me “Why did you leave Australia?” I answer “I had a good job, a great career, a beautiful woman, a wonderful house and could afford anything I wanted. I also knew what I’d be doing in forty years’ time at three-thirty on a Wednesday afternoon … “ It’s taken decades for me to also add the bit about the one brief moment when my carefully constructed steel-reinforced blast-proof concrete layers got so effortlessly cracked by some crystal-communicating New Age flowery-shrink who’s name I can’t even remember.

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This is the first office where I started my ‘professional’ career waaay back in 1984, for WUMS on Thomas Street. Amazed it still stands. And is still an office

Anyway, the “beautiful woman” I was dating back then was part of an intricately intertwined social group, the sister of a close friend who is the close friend of another friend who is the close friend of someone else, and on and on and on, and who is friends with Baz and Roz and other friends …

In terminating my life in ten days, my beautiful girlfriend did not stop crying. And then I was gone. So too was most of my social life.

Both the sister and my beautiful ex-girlfriend end up marrying guys they’d met through me. I was not invited to their weddings.

Twenty-five years later the sister agrees to meet me for a coffee during one of my infrequent visits to Perth and slowly we rebuild a shattered friendship.

And today, in Perth, I am finally going to meet my beautiful ex-girlfriend. She sent me a text-message, I phone, we meet at the ‘cactus’ art-instillation opposite Perth’s train-station make our way over to a small roof-top bar in Northbridge she buys a bottle of Shiraz we take a secluded table overlooking Northbridges’ rooftops toast each other and slowly start.

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The Cactus. No, no idea …

It is unbelievably cathartic, for me, for her, an honour no less to be able to sit with someone who I really didn’t treat well and explain how ever inadequately why I did what I did and to apologise deeply profoundly and sincerely. There are tears, plenty of them. Hers, mine. I was her first love. She was my Last Good Configuration before it All Changed. It is not all tears. We laugh as we re-build common ground. She married The Next Guy. Ultra-stable. Same house same job same lifestyle for thirty-years. Only now am I able to contemplate any one of the three Ss: Stable Secure Settled let alone all three which she’s enjoyed for those thirty years. For it is simple: If I do not have a good relationship with myself, I will not have a good relationship with anyone else. And only now, do I feel I truly have a good relationship with myself.

It is easy to see why I loved her. She is not only beautiful, but also alluring. However, given her comfort zone is sleepy Subiaco in remote isolated Perth, the proverbial Small Town Girl and I am a Global Survivor it’s questionable we’d have been able to pull it off long term even without Demons to plague me. Afterall she did point out “ … you left Australia, and I wanted to remain here”. It’s illustrative that we spend a lot of time talking about ‘us’. A story that needed to be concluded. “Coming full circle” as I put it. Closure.

It really was an honour to meet her, and talk and apologise and reconcile a course of events I could have and should have handled much, much more differently.

We don’t quite commit to ‘keep in touch’ but we shall try.

25 May 2017, VA 1433 enroute Darwin

Cob calls as I make my way to the airport. Nice to talk with him. Not sure I’ll ever see him again. And given I’m not high on his list of ‘important people’ I can’t see us keeping in touch enough to create a reason to meet again. Still, good to talk with him. I tease him that if we are in touch more I can work on his non-PC views. That women are good; First Nations’ People are nice; homosexuality is not a sin. I suggest it’s not implausible that one of his fine young sons may grow up and marry a transgender Aboriginal woman. The call ends on good terms but no solid commitment to keep in touch.

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I love Australian signs … this one in Perth airport

Farmland gives way to scrubland and salt lakes. A dead-straight track disappears into a harsh distance. Later long semi-sinuous sand-dunes line the land. Eventually, the land turns green as the tropics arrive with huge meandering and braided river channels ending in complex fractal tributaries. The scalloped coast as we near Darwin.

Then we land.

Back in Darwin. Again. Now what?

Max

Darwin, 25 May 2017

 

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