Hollywood Walk of Fame ( Shame)

As Catch up with a Mate month 2017 come to an end – a nostalgic post.

Picture this: a 23-year-old Austinmer girl catches a plane from her temporary home in London, bound for the US, to reunite with a best friend, studying at San Diego University.

After much socialising and sight-seeing, best friend encourages solo travel to L.A, and proposes a nights stay at the Venice Beach Cotel ( Hostel). Girl from Austinmer, via London takes advice to heart and catches a grey hound bus L.A bound.

Girl from Austinmer is lost for words, over come by the sights, sounds, smells and size of the concrete monstrosity that is L.A. Venice Beach is her refuge, along with countless vodka and oranges downed at the hostel bar. Venturing out into the night with new-found friends, she is refused entry at a Santa Monica Bar. Aussie charm open’s doors, but no sooner had she entered the club, that the urge to be sick is overwhelming.

Sitting the gutter, feeling somewhat better, being comforted by ….someone….she is escorted back to the hostel.

‘ Girl do you want a tatoo?’ is the last thing she remembers being asked, before vomiting, into her hostel room bath tub.

Girl from Austinmer, sits feeling so sorry for herself the next morning on a bus tour of Hollywood. Jumbo sized lemonade from 7- Eleven in hand, as the tour weaves and winds its way across the city. She is sick countless times.

At midday, the bus tour sees her alight at the Hollywood Walk of Fame. It is underwhelming, it is dirty, it smells. The glitz and glamour of the movie industry is nowhere to be seen.

She walks up and down the boulevard, glancing over names in pavement,  Michael Jackson, Shirley Temple, but the heat of the day forces her to take shelter under the cover of a shop awning.

Then a voice: smooth, velvety, deep, croons in her direction:

‘ Girrll, you qualified!!’

The effects of her hangover takes hold, muddled head, slow comprehension – did he mean her?

The voice comes at her again ‘ Oooo Girrrlllll, yes, you, You qualified!!’

The girl from Austinmner realises the man’s comments are intended for her. He points at her lower back, smiling broadly, revealing a sea of white teeth.

She swivels at pace, turning her back towards the reflective glass of the shop front, pulls up her t-shirt.

Bunnies, two humping bunnies, making sweet sweet love have been drawn in thick black texture at the base of her spine.

Face red, she pulls down her t-shirt, hikes up her pants, holds head high, composes self and heads to towards tour bus.

Bestie greets girls from Austinmer at San Diego Grey Hound Bus terminal. The ‘ tatoo’ and the story surrounding its origins are retold.  Camera lights flash – paparazzi. Laughter, plenty of laughter.

Yet all I could hear was that  deep velvety voice ‘ Girl, you qualified’

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Ode to Olly Alexander

Well, nothing’s gonna hurt me with my eyes shut

I can see through them
I can see through them
I am drawing pictures I’m evading
I will not use them
I will not use them
Again

 

Vocalist Olly Alexander, of the British electronica trio, Years and Years, has described his song ‘ Eyes Shut’  as “a personal torch song.”

“It came out of a very depressing time. I didn’t intend for it to be on the album, but we started doing it live with just me on the piano and people seem to respond to it.”

I respond to this song. It is musical perfection for me, compliments the life stage I find myself entering.

Over the last 6 months, I have attended events of significance. The passing of time marked by a school reunion, a milestone birthday.

At both events, I found myself in tears. Sobbing on the way home from one celebration, public display of emotions at another.

I was never one to show emotion. I kept so much in for so long. But I welcome this change.

Everything used to hurt as I strained to keep my eyes open, fearful that night terrors would be more painful than  the reality of drawn out days.

It was a Saturday night’s milestone birthday  I ‘ think’ I heard through the laughter, tears and general revelry, the voice of an angel, Olly Alexander.

What I think I heard, lead me to return to the band Years and Years music yesterday at work.

This continued at home, song after song warmed up the winter chills that cloaked Sydney.

‘Cause I wanna be bigger than life
For you
For you

‘Cause I wanna be bigger than life
For you
For you

Yet on Saturday night, as this splendid voice pierced the party atmosphere, my tears flowed.

Upon reflection, familiar faces at school reunions and milestone birthdays  have a tendency to bring the past cascading back. Such events remind me of the heaviness I carried around for decades that consumed my ability to see with clarity the possibilities in front of me.

Nights such as school reunions and milestone birthdays also help to reinforce that whilst confronting the past has and will continue to be painful, I am travelling in a new direction.

The tears will continue to flow – I can’t stop them – and I don’t want too.

But eyes shut, eyes open – I have arrived in the here and now.

Would Justin Timberlake’s Brittany Spears break-up inspired number ‘ Cry me a River’ have been a more appropriate song to pen these self revelations too?

No, Olly Alexander and his Years & Years comrades are just what I needed to delve a little deeper into the never-ending process of self discovery.

Voice of an angel, thank you xxx

Flora

Flora

Flora

Flora the cat. She is my world. She is my muse.

That is how I came to choose her name all those years ago. I had paid a visit to the National Gallery of Victoria to see the work of Spanish great, Picasso. It was there that I saw a paining of Ms Dora Mar, one of the artists muses. I liked the idea of having a muse in life, a source of artistic inspiration which is a guiding force.

And to muse over something, to ponder and reflect, is a process that takes a great deal of time. You cannot muse over something in a couple of seconds. rather a number of years, decades even.

I borrowed from Dora, replacing the D with the letters F and L, and so came to be the black cat with anxiety levels to rival mine.

Flora the cat I have mused over her for 10 years and counting.

When I think back to the summer months of January 2007, when I dared to think that maybe this renter could own a cat, I thank my lucky stars that this little bundle of black fur chose me.

For Flora, had you known what was the next 10 years entailed, would you have stuck by me? Would you have bothered to scale the fence of my Leichhardt property and projectile meow into my bedroom window till I begrudgingly let you inside? Why did you single me out and not bother my flatmates? What was it that drew you to me?

Whatever the reason, I needed you more than you could have ever known. Back then I did not know myself.

You willingly comforted me every step of the way along the long road to acceptance. You cushioned the seemingly endless brutal blows with your soft fur and calming purr, you absorbed my tears and provided endless opportunities for cuddles.

Family and friends have been instrumental in supporting me too, but you my little fluffy muse, you have been by my side each and every day, more so than my nearest and dearest. You have seen the good, bad and the truly ugly.

To muse over something takes a good number of years, decades even, That is how long I will think of you Flora, for all you have done for me and for guiding and delivering me safely to a point in life with which I can honestly say I am truly at peace.

Thank you for finding me.

Surprise

With a keen interest in the recent birth a primary school friend’s third baby this story surfaces.

I was 11, turning 12 the very next day ( oh the elation!!) and an all girls Friday night sleep over had been organised. Everyone was invited, all 8 of us Year Six girls.

There was to be popcorn, a horror movie, ghost stories and very little sleep. Our excitement was palpable. The school day could not finish quick enough, and when the school bell tolled, heralding in the weekend, I recall party invites squealing.

But not me….for some reason I was not walking with my girl pals to the party venue – it was to be a pack of 7 not 8. I first had to go on a shopping expedition with my parents, which was to include a long stint in the local bank.

Then I could join my friends.  The host knew this in advance but neither of us knew how long it would eat in to party time.

This was the era before mobile phones- 1990. If I had been carrying a medium-sized brick in my back pack, it would have been ringing off the hook as I stood side my side my parents in the bank queue : ‘ Where are you?’ ‘ How much longer are you going to be? ‘

But there were no phones and the bank teller explained that it would that 48 hours to get currency for our impending Fijian family holiday. It was an explanation that felt like it took 48 hours – ‘ I had a slumber party to get too’ I wanted to scream, instead I opted to slump in complimentary waiting chair , head in my hands, nervous energy surging through my body.

‘ Where have you been? It doesn’t matter!! Surprise!! Happy Birthday!!’

The host closed the front door behind me and I was swept up into a celebration just for me.

A sea of friendly faces all looking in my direction, a birthday cake, complete with candles, beckoning me to make a wish.

I am overwhelmed, taken aback, that my friend had gone to so much effort to make me, humble, unassuming me, feel special, centre of attention special.

My mind could not compute- but this is YOUR party I wanted to say, please don’t shine a light on me, I just want to be a wall-flower. Just being part of this social occasion elevating me to levels of social anxiety never previously experienced. And now this…..

‘ Make a wish Kate! Happy 12th Birthday’

I have never forgotten this brief moment in time. This person made me feel special, signalled me out for some undivided attention with only the best of intentions. The fact that is made me feel a nervous wreck, second guessing my self-worth, a cascading downward spiral of emotions she could never have known.

This young girl has gone on the be an inspiration to many, successful on oh so many fronts. None more so than as a Mother, to three beautiful, most cherished children.

This story is written to thank that person for noticing the beauty within, long before I became aware, let alone comfortable with it.

You have an amazing capacity to bring out the very best in others.

Thank you. I am lucky to have crossed paths with you all those years ago.

To Be With You – Mr Big

Down South yesterday for the quarterly hair cut and colour, the drive from Austinmer to Shellharbour, the perfect amount of time for a nostalgic post to take shape.

The South Coast, or ‘ Coal Coast’ as it is now referred to by the bearded and the hip, was in fine form yesterday, the sun shone, the ocean glistened blue and the Illawarra escarpment, bursting with an autumnal glow.

I was listening to the Coal Coasts band of choice , ‘Shinging Bird – Black Opal’ . I had down right refused to take the 45 minute drive without there cd and song six and seven were on repeat. But in between the repetition, my mind drifted to a moment in time, some seven years earlier when I received an out of the blue phone call.

It was the beginning of 2010. I was not in a particularly happy place. When consumed by sadness, such was the tendency to shut people out, decline invitations in favour of my own company.

That was how I came to decline the invitation of my life long friend, one of my most supportive allies – Mim – and her Hen’s weekend. I just could not face it. I was an anomaly in guest list – 6 years older than most of the girls and not part of her close-knit group of school mates. But like all on the guest list, I loved and admired the hen. Reason enough to go?

The invitation was declined and I busied myself with the blues.

The phone rang.

Was it Friday or Saturday night?

The fact that I answered it took even me by surprise as often when faced an inner battle with black, the phone rings out, goes to voice mail.

‘ Hello’

Laughter, lots of it can be heard down the phone.

‘ Kate, I had to call you’

It is Mim.

‘ We are playing the first pop song YOU introduced me to – I had to call you’

Coming down the phone line is the tune ‘ To Be With You ‘ by Mr Big – a sure-fire hit from the mid 1990’s.

‘ Kate, are you there?’

I am in shock, had I know idea I had this kind of influence in Mim’s musical education – if I had known, perhaps I would have introduced her to David Bowie, a Whitney Houston classic, Michael Jackson – Mr Big???

‘ I love this song because it makes me think of you’

I don’t remember what I said to Mim, I just recall the joy in her voice,  the laughter of the group of girls in the background, singing at the top of their lungs ‘ I’m the one who wants to be – with – you’

Mim’s call induces intense feelings of guilt – I should be there, celebrating in person instead of home alone on the couch with Flora. It was as if the call snapped my out of my sadness, if only temporarily, to remind me that I did matter to people, people like Mim.

The phone conversation ended – a champagne bottle had popped in the background and I had encouraged Mim, who does not drink, to go and at least have a sip for me.

That conversation was 7 years ago, I have never forgotten it. That bolt from the blue, totally unexpected, shaking me out of my head, and piercing my heart. Whilst it did induce guilt, the overarching feeling it left me with was one of connection. It has never left.

I have no idea why this story surfaced yesterday, it took even me by surprise. The Coal Coast has a way of doing that I guess, the more time I spend South of Sydney, the more I find myself reflecting on my past in order to make sense of it all. Write it down, get it out there, move forward.

Note this Coal Coast chick is currently answering the phone, accepting social invitations and being much more careful on my musical influence on the young.

Anne of Green Gables

Yesterday when I was having lunch it dawned on me that I am what you call a passionate person.

I asked the question of the group who w dining at a local Ultimo Cafe, what movie defined their childhood. Given that one of the lunch guests was mid seventies, his answer was a book….but it took much prompting to get that from him.

Others had delayed responses, little excitement in their voice and even fewer hand gestures. Another factor might have been jet lag, two of the party having taken international flights a couple of weeks back…..

But really, when it boiled down to it….in my opinion, this kind of question allows a passionate person to go to town, to reminisce and indulge in a time gone by, and recount how said movie changed the course of ones life.

The movie I offered up was ‘ Anne of Green Gables’

The title alone should send shivers down a passionate person’s spine, could very well cause water to well in eyes, bring on contagious smiling, bouts of blushing,girlish giggles.

How many times did I watch this film at a 10 year old? Countless.

Why did I love Anne, the red-haired beauty from Prince Edward Island, Canada? Because she was bold, brave, lived in her head and loved with her whole heart.

This movie shaped me as a young girl, it was the very first film I recall sobbing uncontrollably to when kind-hearted Matthew, Anne’s adoptive Father, passed away. I think I hid my tears well, as no one in my family came near me, but I cried and cried – to the point where I could not even understand my sadness.

Today, I have come to understand why this on screen death deeply affected me – Matthew was a quiet, unassuming man, second fiddle to Marilla,  Anne’s formidable adoptive Mother. Marilla was the disciplinary and Matthew was advised ‘ not to put his oar in’ when it came to child rearing.

So he stayed in the background, but that was where he was most comfortable and could do the most good. He loved Anne, it shone through all his actions, was evident in the very few words he spoke.

Besotted by her, whole heartedly captivated by her spirit and energy, it brought out the best in him too – he adored her, spoilt her, mostly with the gift any child most wants – love, but with the occasional material possessions too – a beautiful blue ball gown with ‘ puffed sleeves’ (20 pounds of brown sugar accompanied this dress purchase- having struggled to articulate the real reason behind his shopping expedition, sugar preceeded dress sale)

In many ways Matthew was, and very much is, a version of my own Father.

My Father’s actions have always spoken louder than words – and his love for me is on display in everything he has ever done and continues to do, hopefully for many years to come.

This is but one reason I identify with this movie so strongly, so passionately, with tear filled eyes and runny nose. I saw myself and those I hold dear to me in the characters so beautifully acted out in the 1985 Canadian telemovie.

Oh, there is so much more I could say….this movie prompted a road trip to Prince Edward Island when I found myself in Canada is 2002, on the search for my own personal Gilbert with childhood friend Leonie and her P.E.I beau, Darin. The bouts of melancholy the film induced if watched on repeat in my teens….My love for the country Canada that runs oh so deep…..

But as a passionate person you have to learn to tell stories in short burst.

Sensing my enthusiasm for Anne of Green Gables was a little too much for my lunch guests I keep the account to under 2 minutes and then new that the rest of the tale was for my blog post.

Lucky readers….

To Be Continued.

Confessions of a Chronic Over Thinker

I’m quite enjoying the theme I have adopted for my 2017 blog posts – nostalgia.

It can be jarring to think just how many years have passed since I left high school, travelled overseas and lived independently for the first time, since I first I lost my first tooth, buried my first pet ( RIP Bruce the Budgie, 1988)

And yes, as the title suggests I have been a long-suffering over thinker. I suspect it first took hold in early primary school and crippled me way into my mid thirties. But to those in the grips of a will I or won’t I crisis – there is hope…I am living proof. Chronic over thinking can take a back seat and you can sit out days, months even years, experiencing life in the here and now, not some repetitive version of a story from the past, or  future.

But, and this is where it gets interesting, the life of a Chronic over thinker makes for good stories, good blog posts, good nostalgic writing – but do take note – I do not pine for version of myself that is evident in the tale I am about to tell.

It was 2002 and I was living in Edinburgh Scotland. I was working at a Pub on the Royal Mile, living in the staff quarters of a hostel ( ?) and surviving on a diet of cider, hot chips and backed potatoes. I was plump, I was happy.

On the rare occasion that I was not rostered on the weekend shift at the pub, I took it upon myself to book an overnight trip to the Scottish Highlands – visiting the towns of Aberdeen, Inverness, the famous Loch and hairy cow spotting.

I was travelling alone and don’t recall the nationality of the other tourists on the bus….it was not fully booked but I do recall one bus patron – Frank from Germany. Tall, good-looking and apparently, taken by me.

It so happened that the feeling was mutual. We paired up pretty quickly as bus buddies, took turns of taking solo tourist photos at all the hots spots and shared a pint or three that night.

Our connection was just plain sweet and at the conclusion of the two-day escapade, Frank asked me to join him on a day trip to St Andrews the following Monday.

We swapped mobile numbers and parted ways.

And then it started – the over thinking.

Whilst it was ALWAYS present on the Highland Tour,I had done my best to relax in his company, to lose myself in the crisp air and stunning natural beauty that surrounded me.

But apart I tortured myself at EVERY possible opportunity.

The story I told myself went along these lines –

  • What does he see in me? In a tour setting he was not able to see the real me, the flawed version, the true version.
  • A day trip to St Andrew –  a solo trip, just me and him, the real me with be revealed, he will hate me, I can’t ruin his day!!
  • What will we talk about?
  • What if he tries to kiss me, I am prone to recoil from intimacy in ALL forms….I’m a nutcase, I cannot let him see the real me.

Over and over and over and over….In the 48 hours till Monday, I embarked on this relentless campaign of self-critical chatter.

Monday came and I was right mess. I was panic-stricken, I had not slept, I was on edge and I could not be reasoned with. I felt it was unfair to send Frank a text, lying by saying I was sick and unable to attend the day trip.

So in my wisdom,  I decided to tell him person I was not coming…… I bolted across the Royal Mile, down to Princes Street and to the Bus Depot in my pyjamas and all-weather jacket. My bed hair was pulled back in a pony tail.

I guess I thought if I looked unprepared and unpresentable, Frank would understand why I was not getting on the bus.

I was wrong. Perhaps the language barrier was to blame – actually no, he spoke perfect English…..he just did not understand where the person, whose company he had truly enjoyed only a few days prior, had gone.

I was powerless to explain that either – for at that time in my life, I really had no coping mechanisms to manage my chronic, crippling over thinking ways.

And that my friends, is the end of that story.

I did not see Frank the German again.

He was a tall, handsome man who came into my life for but the briefest of moments in 2003.

And now in 2017, can I look back upon that time in my life and fully understand how I came to find myself in situations like that often. My tendency to over think absolutely EVERYTHING robbed me of so many opportunities to revel in the beauty of the here and now.

Not going to waste anymore time worrying about that!!!

Life Defined – Seven Words

Recently I had the misfortune of a stay in hospital.

But given that NSW was in the grips of an extreme heat wave, I welcomed the non-stop air conditioning, climate controlled approach to life.

The stay was short and sweet and I left almost as soon as I arrived.

Months passed and life continued.

By chance I opened a bag that I had remained closed since I had been patient in the public hospital system.

I found my discharged notes and saw that my life story, all 38 years, had been condensed into a seven word sentence:

Works in Office

Lives Alone

Supportive Family

Since discovering this extensive summation of my life I find myself reflecting on these seven words.

I have spoken to a treasured friend, read this account down the phone line – and shared a laugh, and nodded in agreeance at my confidants remarks ‘ A supportive family is all that matters’

True that.

I’d not be the person I am today without my support network, the unwavering love of my parents, brother, sister – in – law, niece, extended family and the many friends I have been blessed with.

When having your life summarised by medical staff who only know you as an illness, an injury – it brings happy tears to my eyes that during a short hospital stay, it was noticed that I have all the support in the world a girl could want – and then some.

How lucky I am.

The Bangles – Everything

Sunday afternoon is perfect for some nostalgic writing.

And music was the trigger that inspired the story that follows.

Home alone on a balmy autumn afternoon, summer having left Sydney 12 days ago, and in her wake a mixture of heavy rain set in. But not this weekend, the sun has soaked Sydney and smiles abound.

To celebrate I placed one of my most treasured albums on – The UK all girl group – The Bangles- Everything.

Released in 1988, when I was just 10 years old, it was if my memory serves me correctly, the 2nd cassette I ever owned – Whitney Houston beating the girl to top honours.

This cassette was EVERYTHING to me , pun intended. I loved EVERYTHING about it – EVERY song – EVERY WORD was learnt off by heart and sung off-key at EVERY opportunity.

The cassette was a gift from a women who was EVERYTHING to me – my Dad’s Mother, my beautiful Nana Boyle. I loved her whole heartedly, still do, and back then loved her more for the fact that at a women in her late 70’s would have brave a record store to get me this gift. Who was Nan served by in the record store? A late 80’s raver coming down from a night out in Kings Cross, a Jimmy Barnes flannelette wearing pub rocker?

Whoever it was, they were super helpful to my Nan, and it was mission accomplished and bridge built across the great musical generational divide.

So I’m sitting here in my lounge room, bopping along to ‘ Glitter Years ‘,  tearing up to the song ‘ Something to Believe In’ and ‘ Make a Play for Her now’, feeling like a love-sick teenager when ‘ In your Room’ and ‘ Waiting for You’ come through the speakers. Yes 29 years may have passed, but these beautifully crafted songs still tug at the heart strings and get the old feet tapping!

I’m instantly transported back to the concerts I gave to my Care Bears and Cabbage Patch Kids in my bedroom, when, without a care in the world, and with no one really watching, I would sing and sing and sing.

And I’m feeling a sense of sadness for all the time that has passed between listening to this music, the people I have loved and lost, my personal journey, the good, bad and EVERYTHING in between.

And whilst I might feel sad, this music also empowers. I think of the super strong woman who gifted me the album and all the memories it now inspires- time spent with loved ones, pets, friends, all with Bangles tunes as the musical backdrop.

It was by chance that I took this trip down musical memory lane today. The Bangles – Everything – turns the big 30 next year. For me the music is timeless and colours my childhood, teenage year , twenties and thirties. It has stood the test of time, an’ Eternal Flame’ in the story of my life.

2017 – The Year of the Nostalgic Post

I must be getting old if I am proposing that I spend 2017 writing nostalgic posts….

I have been struggling to find the will to write, yet over and over in my head swirl stories of my childhood, my angst ridden youth and early to late twenties. Holding onto the title of ‘ Late Thirties’ with a mixture of fear ( for sooner rather than later I will turn the Big Four Zero) and pride ( that I survived this long) …nostalgic posts for 2017 it is….these stories must be told.

I loved writing about South Coast Cafe Culture, my friend Clare and I and our shared desire for cafe latte in the early 1990’s.

Got me thinking about another ‘episode’ that occurred around the same time. This time the adventure was shared with my friend Steph. A plan devised that would see us embark on a bike ride school and thus avoid the dreaded school bus commute.

A leisurely start to the school day, the bike track would see us peddle a concrete path that was shared with fellow surfers, joggers and early morning walkers with dogs on leads. We would ride coast side, passing pristine beaches Thirroul, Bulli, Woonona and turn off at Bellambi beach, heading inland to school.

As a somewhat reformed chronic over thinker, I would have planned this bike ride escapade to school for days, weeks, even months before the ‘ big day’. Before I actually enlisted Steph join me….which I would have agonised over too (Would she want to ride with me?! Would she feel like it? Did she even like riding? Did she own a bike? Would she rather roller blade of god forbid catch the bus?!)

I would have researched the weather forecast, studied the school timetable to ensure we would be wearing our sports uniform (not an easy task as we were in different year levels, with differing timetables) , planned the ride on a day when I was not scheduled to wash my hair, on a day that I did not have to carry my Visual Art A3 diary, my chefs knife kit etc etc etc.

The day eventually arrived…not to the sound of trumpets blaring and cannons firing, I simply got up.

Steph had said yes.

The sun shone, and our white and maroon sports uniform made it easy to peddle the distance.

We road past Thirroul, Bulli, Woonona and turned off at Bellambi Beach, heading inland to school.

The afternoon ride home….

I had not planned for this

My bike peddle fell off

‘ Its ok Steph, I can still ride’ I whimpered as I tried to keep my bike upright, one leg on the ground to keep my balance, as the other leg attempted to circle the intact pedal round and round.

This spectacle caught the attention of my High School Sports Teacher.

Because to all who saw me – it was clear I was not going anywhere.

Bike was placed into the back of a four-wheel drive, I was encouraged to sit in the front seat and I was driven home, red-faced and embarrassed.

Steph, free as a bird, continued the solo to ride home, along the bike track, Bellambi, Woonona, Bulli and alighting at Thirroul.

In all the over thinking, over planning and general worrying about a simple bike ride to school – I had not factored ‘ Pedal Gate’ into the equation!

As a gesture of thanks and gratitude to my saviour, Mr High School Sports Teacher, a lottery ticket was purchased.

As for me and bike riding to school – it was a once only affair, and half-hearted at best.

It would seem that I still had much over thinking, over planning and general worrying to do in my teens, early and mid twenties and, yes, my thirties to ever get back on my bike and ride to school!

The joys of being a chronic ( somewhat reformed) over thinker

Plenty more stories to come…..

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