False Prophets

 

Happy Friday, Y’all …. ALL y’all!

Yes, I am feeling chipper today … not only because it has gotten a little chilly here in Sabadell, and is cloudy … no sunshine in sight … but because I have all this gratitude in my attitude …. AGAIN today!!  And … it’s Friday … AGAIN!!  T.G.I.F.!

Life is such a great gift … especially when one doesn’t have so many complications.  I mean, I will accept mine WITH the complications.  I guess I wouldn’t be “Me” unless I had and have complications to help shape me and form me.  Yet, I learn to handle each new one with renewed insight and strength.  I try not to let them … complications … wear me down.  Yesterday, I took a trip to an area of Barcelona called Barceloneta … It is close to the beach, the Port of Barcelona, and is rich in sights, tourists and street vendors, not to mention the competition of the local stores to lower their prices to compete with the street vendors.  There are some pretty cool restaurants, too.  I ate at one yesterday called “Taller de Las Tapas” where I had my favorite, calamari lightly fried and salted … with a ginger ale on the side.  I was just getting started on my adventure and needed a little energy to endure the casual 10 – 15 minute walk to the beach along the bustling harbor.  There were yachts in the water preparing to go out while others were just coming in and cleaning up, there were vendors on every inch of space along the side walks and tourists as well as locals all over the place!  The energy was swell.  I was able to saunter, meander and walk like there was no tomorrow!

Me and EE … you know, Educational Excellence … have this saying: “Know Thyself!” which we borrowed from Socrates and probably some other great “philosophs” of earlier times.  Have you noticed how many people think that they know everything … I mean EVERY DAMN THING … about me and you and the rest of the universe … and they don’t know much about themSELVES?!?  How annoying is that?!?  I could go on and on about the current president being an example but the one that really hit me was his comment alluding to the fact … alternate fact, of course … that Fredrick Douglass IS still alive!!  It just goes to show that some people will say anything just to seem like they like you or want to get along with you when they are really “sucking you in” to believe whatever they say.  Then, they say something completely hideous, that unless you are willing to be ignorant like they are, you finally realize that they are full of sh@t!

Here along my journey which is most definitely an “adventure” of sorts, I have realized that I can call upon another level of existence, of knowledge … of energy that I didn’t know that I had.  One thing I do have is a lot of self-confidence.  It’s hard to shake this “old horse” from believing what “he” already knows to be true.  I do my research first … then flap my lips afterwards, if necessary!  Sometimes, you can’t even converse with some of these “know-it-alls” because they continue to insist that … “they are right and you are wrong”!  How hideous, right?!  I can’t reduce myself to that level of existence … doing something or believing something … worse yet SAYING something that I know (or don’t know in Scrump’s case) to be wrong!  How do you do that?!?  This is another thing that I am grateful for … for knowing how to and believing in doing “the right thing”!

People come along when “we” are hurting and try to sell us on a complete bill of bull crap!  No shame in their game … just to be darn “right”, though wrong, for a second at the expense of a “broken-hearted person” or a “helpless soul” … so that they can feel “superior” … falsely superior.  To those kind of folks, I say, “Get the eff outa here!”  And please, stay out of my face with your pompous ignorance … it’s the worst kind.  I have found that I can learn something from just about anyone … even a liar!  I can learn what they hope I believe … I can learn what they fear in ME … and learn what they lack in themselves.  Sometimes, if they calm down … I am even willing to try to help them realize what they REALLY want other than to lie to me and have me believe it!!  Reverse psychology, you dig?!

So, my dear hearts all over the world out there, beware of those “false prophets” who rely on your ignorance of yourself … they know that you don’t know yourself … so they try to convince you that you are whom they NEED you to be.

Be well, have a great weekend … I will!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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A Kinder Kind of People

 

Happy Hump Day, y’all!

Just in case you didn’t know it, I am still at it! Still writing my pieces and still in Europe … Spain to be exact, on an extended vacation/birthday celebration/early retirement “party”!  You say that you’ve never heard of such a thing?!?  Neither have I … it just happened!  It all started when I wanted to leave the country not only because Scrump got elected, but because I wanted to celebrate my birthday in Spain.  Yet, I’ll admit that there is a long time female friend in Germany that I was hoping to see who in fact was supposed to meet me in Barcelona when I arrived.  Her plans changed but mine did not!  I hadn’t been to Spain in over 20 years when I visited Madrid.  I wanted to come back and see the other part of Spain that I have heard so much about, Catalunya to be exact!  I am use to adjusting my plans, making new ones, and starting over if necessary.

After meeting an incredible hostess, “Vicky”, I was able to stay in Sabadell, Barcelona for two weeks.  I then decided to move on as most of the readers know to other places.  I was enraptured … can I say that … by what I found.  Not only here in Sabadell were the people “curious” about who I was, most of them were courteous as well!  When I got to Valencia where I stayed for another two weeks, I met more incredible people … still here in Spain.  Soon, I decided to go to Germany but changed my plans back and forth a few times from going to Kiel where my friend lives or going to Hamburg, which is another historical city that I wanted to see.  Throughout my journey, I have had people offer to help me with my over-sized “duffel bag” on wheels either up or down the stair ways to the Metro and trains, including in Prague a young lady who gave me directions by train to the hostel where I was staying in Hamburg.  Once, in Paris, I was on my way down the stairs to the train and a gorgeous young lady offered to help me carry my bag down the stairs to the train platform.  We got in the same car and she even gave me her seat, which she had procured since she had gotten on the train first, after I pulled my bags, which included my laptop and a suit bag as well as a hand bag, onto the car!!  In Valencia, the staff at a hostel/dormitory where I had my own room, Colegio Galileo Galilei, was so kind that I immediately “fell in love” with them!  The food there was great … croissants, fresh orange juice and splendid coffee (cappuccino) every morning in moderate proportions and a great price.  I hit the beach in Valencia everyday I could, and encountered mostly charming people, sunbathing … the women topless … the ambiance was as warm as the sunlit beach there in Malvarrosa, a sprawling sun-drenched beach full of happy people of all ages and sizes jumping in and out of the water.  Shucks, I even encountered a yoga class on the sand at the same beach as well as a Tai chi class also there on the same beach, both for free!  I can truly say that I want to go back again, just for those reasons.  I saw some of the most impeccable museum sights there as well as in Barcelona and was able to enjoy multiple architectural creations in the form of La Catedral de Valencia as well as a free museum, Museu de Belles Artes de Valencia, there on a Sunday with incredible works of religious and Gothic art!  I wanted to revisit Spain again … on my way back from Hamburg, Amsterdam and Paris!  So here I am … back in Sabadell!

The kindness shown me by so many people along my journey has caused me to re-evaluate my retirement locations.  From here, I was able to see that there are still very kind people in the world.  The “America” that I have lived in most of my life is one that suffers from delusions of superiority to other countries and cultures.  While New York City and the Pentagon were also hit by terrorist attacks, “some of us” choose to point fingers at Paris, London .. shucks even Barcelona for their liberal policies towards immigrants.  We had multiple terrorists in our country, known by our “intelligence agencies” who were still able to pull of the biggest terrorist attack in history!  Here in Europe, the people are still kind to Muslims and Jews … gays and lesbians … and in general display a kind of kindness nearly long forgotten in many places in “America”.  Our competitive edge and desire to accumulate more wealth and power than ever has decreased our “humanness”, if you will.  At my age, I prefer kindness over intelligence … I am not impressed by how “haughty” a person might be able to behave, but more so by the kindness they display.

Have a great Hump Day … and think on these things.  I have a particular friend in social media, Lois Iannone, mother of one of my favorite yoga teachers – Christen Scott in the Jupiter area of Florida, who often posts suggestions of kindness for us to embrace.  I thank her … and I thank you all for reading.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Make Your Own “Music”!

 

Happy Friday, All!

Here’s to wishing all my friends, readers and others in the path of Hurricane Irma to be and remain safe … Peace be still … a Happy Friday, T.G.I.F!

Have you ever realized that some people may not like you … or your “music”, so to speak?!  The way I see it, we EACH have our own song to sing … have our own music to compose, perhaps using different “instruments” than are customary.  Hopefully by now, you understand that I am using imagery to encourage each of us to ultimately “be ourselves” … or as I had it in my yearbook my senior year at St. Paul’s School:  “Be Yourself … Because You Are You!”

Sometimes, life’s circumstances are NOT what we had hoped for or expected.  Things turn out different.  And … no matter how hard we “push”, things aren’t going to change.  Now please don’t confuse this as my saying just give up!  First of all, because you know I would never suggest that.  Now, let me add some clarity to what I am saying.  Okay, so I have been here in Europe for almost 2 months now.  I like it in Spain … Sabadell, Barcelona to be exact.  The hostess of the home where I am sitting right now is someone I met through an AirBnB reservation.  I was already at the airport in Spain when AirBnB “suggested” to her, since they were cancelling my reservation, that she should do the same …!  I had gotten an approval and confirmation code from AirBnB before I left Ft. Lauderdale. This woman, Vicky Lao, a 66 year old Catalunyan retired business woman and teacher, upon realizing that I had flown from Florida to Spain and had no other options other than the “street”, decided to let me stay at her home anyway.  She sent me the address once my cell phone was able to get messages, gave me instructions on how to arrive using the local train systems, and, once I got lost … decided to meet me at the top of the stairwell of the Metro station which was maybe 30 feet from the entrance to her apartment building … with a cane in her hand!  Can you hear her “music”?!!  I stayed two weeks here with an agreement NOT through AirBnb but between the two of us, had my own little bedroom, was able to shave and shower whenever I wanted, and she prepared meals for ALL 3 of us staying in her home!

After traveling from Sabadell, Barcelona to Valencia by train where I stayed for nearly two weeks, I then flew to Prague and Hamburg where I stayed for four days.  I had a great time and Vicky followed me on Facebook, noting my adventures and commenting.  My next stop was  to Amsterdam by bus since it was close to Hamburg and on the “route” back to Spain.  I stayed there for like 5 or 6 days … had a blast, met a former student from White Plains High School and met up with a “friend of a friend” from Ft. Lauderdale.  I was taken to dinner by Trevor Henry, a younger brother from White Plains, then taken on a canal cruise by Cheryl Nesbit, a yoga teacher who is the “friend of a friend” I met while apartment hunting in Ft. Lauderdale!  I enjoyed myself.  I wanted to live in Spain since I had had such a great time already.  After staying in Paris five days and having a sight-seeing, people meeting adventure in a hostel there in the Art District, I took a bus back to Barcelona where Vicky invited me to stay while I figured out my next move.  I wanted to live in Spain … After checking the requirements for a residency visa, I found a snafu … they require a background check from the local police department where a person is living, or from the FBI.  I would have to go back to Florida and prepare the necessary paperwork to apply for the visa.  Shucks, I have been turned down for jobs in Ft. Lauderdale after a potential employer did a background check on me!  So, I am abandoning the idea of living in Spain and now seeking to investigate “living abroad” in South America perhaps, where the regulations for living in a country are less strict.

I am going to keep on “composing my music”,  some of which you all are reading, continue to seek peace and spiritual development … and my Creator willing … to travel!

Have a great weekend, stay safe out there in the path of Hurricane Irma and wish each other well.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

You Can Run But You Can’t Hide

 

Happy Hump Day, All!

It’s another wonderful day in the “world community”, as I am grateful to be able to see it today!  Each of us has the chance to live life based on the opportunities we have been gifted with or exposed to and we have to make the best of it.  I have found that my inspiration comes from various places at different times.  I just “lift up” my antennae in a safe and comfortable place, and allow the vibrations to flow in.  That’s how I get inspired to live and to write.   Just last night, I was listening to JayZ and Linkin Park on Spotify before I dozed off to sleep as I needed some inspiration to make some tough decisions.  JayZ was spitting his usual New York City street rap using the “b-word” and the “n-word”, the way I use “love” and “peace” in my writing, and the music of Linkin Park had my toes twitching!!  I was enjoying the groove.  Shortly afterwards, with my antennae up and my search for answers, I considered how some “artists” are able to sell millions of dollars of recordings as both JayZ and Linkin Park are able to do.  I thought of a conversation I had with a guy from Argentina I had met while staying in a hostel in Paris …

We got comfortable enough with each other to discuss the use of the “n-word” in solving some of the racism problems in the USA.  This is not the first time I have addressed this controversial yet “powerful word” which takes on different meanings depending on the “user” and “the context” of the conversation.   There was a book, probably several by now, written on the “history of the n-word”.  I seldom use it, but accept the use of it coming from someone whom I KNOW is not going to come back ten minutes later when they get mad at me and call me an effin “n”, you dig.  “Brothers” use it with “other brothers” because we know that ten minutes later, one of us is not and CAN not use it to put the other down in a racially charged “setting”, if you will.  The guy from Argentina was saying that he thought the “n-word” and its usage should be banned … Can we really “ban” the use of a word?!?  We can “run” from it but we can’t “hide” from it …

Right now, I am investigating my early retirement plans … trying to iron out the wrinkles!  Of course, some of the “wrinkles” are just going to be there … folks are going to see them.  While some folks “make up” stuff to put another person down, rather than up, some “stuff” actually happened … as is the case with me.  Some folks want to go back 10 years … 20 years … to find “stuff” to hold against you to prohibit your progress.  They have never heard … nor do they believe … that “the past is the past” and some of us have made mistakes and CAN change!  I found out yesterday that in order to work under contract or “legally” in Spain, I need to have residency, which requires a host or domicile address for three years.  I have tutored in the USA “off the books”, so to speak, and am planning a strategy to do so here in Spain.  Needless to say, I would like to visit a few other places like Thailand, perhaps … Sweden and Norway when it’s warmer … maybe even North Africa!  I like it here in Spain though I don’t get as much “bang for my buck” as I would … so I have been told … in Thailand or Costa Rica or Ecuador.  Do I go to these places instead of staying where I am with a bedroom in someone’s home … hot meals each day … clothes washed and dried on a regular basis … included in the “rent”?!?  Now, while I do take suggestions from folks, I also do my own research and have my own “reasoning” capacity!  I ain’t runnin’ and I ain’t hidin’.  I also ain’t waitin’ for no hot headed cop in the USA … I use that term loosely … to detain me, try to push my buttons and end up stopping my early retirement!!

Have a great Hump Day and a wonderful rest of your week.

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

For A Friend from Childhood

 

Happy Hump Day, All!

Waking up in Paris today, I am enjoying pretty much the “last leg” of my birthday tour!  Imagine that … I was able to get to visit several countries … cities in them in a little less than 2 months.  I had “a little help from my friends” … in my Joe Cocker voice!  Some folks have asked me if I am moving here … to Europe … some are “telling” me that that is what I said that I was going to do!  Others are even suggesting that I do move to Europe … it would be Spain if anywhere … and there are still others who remain in disbelief that I did this in the first place!  “Things look different from the street than they do from the inside!”  It’s my new expression!

Everybody has a “take” on what you are doing and how you are going to do it … purely spectator sport for them.  Yet it is “YOU” who must figure it out … and endure the “long haul”.  It is usually in my character to apologize if I “mis-read” or misunderstood someone.  Some folks don’t care and continue with their same old stubborn mis-perceptions of “people, places and things”!  I can’t do that, personally.  I have to come to grips with MYSELF on what I think before I can move forward effectively.  Just a side note for those who are wondering what I will do now . . .

As I traveled a bit through Paris, I did what I could do.  For example, I didn’t enter the Louvre as I did in some museums in Barcelona and Valencia, which were free.  I don’t try to impress people with how fine my clothes are (I do have some, now!) nor how much money I spend on lunch.  In fact, I am quite the “budgeter”, quite thrifty even, which is why I stayed in hostels for much of my trip.  It is a lifestyle unto itself … meeting other people, sharing a restroom and common area in most cases.  You really have to be able to get along with “other” folks from “other” countries and cultures.  Believe me, many of the people I met have their own takes on … as well as ignorance … of our America …. hmmppfff!  I have had two young South Korean female room mates while here as well as a few males from Canada, Argentina and even one young guy from Kyrgyzstan and a young lady from Japan!  We sat last night and enjoyed a bottle of wine I had picked up for 2 Euro at a local market along with some potato chips and chatted about “terrorism” in Europe and the USA as well as how we as individuals might perceive it and handle it!  Quite enlightening indeed!

So last night when I laid down, I thought of all my friends who helped to make this trip possible …  Suddenly, it came to mind one friend of mine who is deceased – Robert Aurelius Hipp … He died from brain cancer shortly after he had graduated from the University of Wisconsin and worked for General Foods corporate headquarters there in White Plains, NY … our hometown.  We were such “homies”, in fact, that we both had grown up in the Winbrook Projects … even in the same building.  His dad and my dad were friends … His brothers, the twins – Charles and Carl – were friends with my brother “Hank” (RIP) and my sister Edna!  His mother, Gertrude (RIP), was friends with my mother … There were two other sisters in his family, Mary and Pat, the first a little older than me and the other my sister Barbara’s age (RIP)!  “Bobby” and I both got scholarships to attend St. Paul’s in New Hampshire through the efforts of the Urban League of Westchester and our high school assistant principal, Daniel Woodard (an African American ex-pro football player who took a special interest in the kids from “da hood”!)  “Bobby” studied French while I studied Spanish in what was then “Junior High School”.  His passing was untimely and I will remember him forever …  I was at his funeral.  Memories of him came back to me when I dozed off to sleep here in Paris last night, amongst the chatter of the people in the park just outside of the hotel and hostel as well as some of the homeless people who encountered an unusually cool night, after a very warm day.  Things look different from the street than they do from the inside …

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

Keepin’ the Faith . . .

 

Happy Friday, All!

And appropriately so, T.G.I.F.!

It’s been like a whirlwind on this journey across Europe visiting a few countries.  It’s been like walking on a tightrope and enjoying the scenery from a precarious view!  As I stated in the past few e-mails, I am working from a “tight budget” … and it is okay because I do not live extravagantly!  I still find myself counting on a few good friends to get me out of a tight spot or two … and I continue to keep the faith.  Traveling and booking flights and places to stay requires budgeting and meticulousness.  While I try to do all of those, somehow, things get a little “screwed” up and we never have as much as we thought we would … and the bills and costs of things are always more than we anticipated!  I am there right now!  I’ve reached out to some folks and hope they come through again!

On the “real” side, after visiting Paris for a few days I need to decide if I will stay in Spain a little longer or travel back to the USA with thoughts of plan B – retiring in Ecuador or Costa Rica!  It has been wonderful seeing the countries I have visited.  Of course, the costs vary a little in each one.  Yet, here in Amsterdam, I have experienced a higher cost of living than anywhere else!  I have had to spend more … just to get by … than anywhere else.  Still, I have been gifted a boat tour on the canals that run about 15 Euro per person!  A friend here in Amsterdam of a friend of a friend in Ft. Lauderdale invited me yesterday … it was a little challenging and timely meeting up … but it finally worked out.  I arrived at the boat exactly at the time it was scheduled to leave … the friend of a friend of a friend was looking for me as she sat on the boat entertaining the hope that I would arrive before the boat departed.  I did!  It was wonderful.  She is a yoga teacher in Amsterdam, married and she and her husband own one of the houses along the canals that is actually a “house boat”!  She mentioned that water and plumbing, electricity and other essentials are linked to the city of Amsterdam’s systems of the aforementioned.  We actually passed the houseboat while cruising down a canal and her husband was in the window of the living room awaiting our arrival!  We all shouted from the electric boat that we were on and he waved back.  They appear to be amongst the “socialites” here in Amsterdam!  I was fortunate, had a great time, came back to the hostel and listened to some music on “Spotify” until falling asleep.

If everything goes well, I will meet up with a guy from White Plains who attended the high school there when I taught.  He apparently lives in Germany not too far from Amsterdam, and we may have coffee or lunch once they arrive at the hostel where I am staying.  All along the way, I keep the faith that ” … every little thing will be alright!”  What else can one do?!

So … in closing this Friday message, I invite you to join in with me in “keepin’ the faith” in whatever you do … and of course, “Do the Right Thing”!

Have a great weekend!

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

There Is a Wonderful World Out Here!

 

Happy Hump Day, All!

I am up and doing one of my favorite things, putting together some thoughts and ideas and sharing them with those willing to be “shared with”!  It is interesting as I share my “experiences”, I get different types of feedback.  Most of the feedback is positive, wishing me well, telling me to be safe and to enjoy my journey.

Needless to say, I have never done anything like this before, traveling from country to country, visiting different cities … alone.  It wasn’t a daunting task, it was just something that materialized as I sought to gift myself a trip to Barcelona for my birthday.  I had one friend say, “Oh, I will meet you there when you arrive!” That never happened … which was okay because I got to “know” that person better.  I was planning pretty much on staying in Barcelona, Spain … visiting Valencia, maybe even Madrid … but as I looked at my budget, things there also changed a bit, so I had to modify.  I had one person, oddly enough, who attended the same university as I did, try to make fun of my trip!!  Ironic because I was never close with this person but often knew that “he” felt superior to me because of the fact that he had earned a law degree and works for a firm in DC.  As I was raised up in the world of “hippydom”, I believe in the expression “more power to you”!  One thing a person shouldn’t do … and doesn’t want to do with me … is try to put another person down who is trying to enjoy their OWN life and hasn’t asked for any advice!  Don’t get me wrong, I am cool with advice, but I prefer it to be helpful … not hurtful.  So, I am in the process of putting this character “in check” on MY social media pages as he posts his uninteresting, unwanted and unkind comments.  Sometimes, I just delete them!

I have recently been thinking more and more about my father on this trip!  My mother was the traveler of the family while my father was unequivocally more sedentary … he didn’t like to go further than the Catskill Mountains to hunt deer or to Florida for Christmas vacations with the family, or to Croton-On-The-Hudson for a cookout and softball game or to Bear Mountain State Park for the 4th of July or Memorial Day for a family and friends cookout!  Yet, here on this trip, which my mother would do in a heart beat, I have had memories of my father … songs, sayings, challenges and the like.  I try to handle the challenges as he did.  He was a much quieter man than me and had a close circle of friends … like I do!  I know (or am familiar with) a lot of people … but  a lot of people don’t “know” me.  I am a basic guy, I try hard at everything I do … I have my talents which NO ONE can take away from me (he taught me that!), and I go that extra mile to be kind and nice and sociable!  But please don’t “take my kindness for weakness” nor my desire to get along as a sign of desperation for friendship.  I can deliver a tongue lashing in the crudest of forms in a New York second, though I am not “proud” of myself when I do so.  I usually shy away from that type of behavior because it takes me out of being the person whom I wish to be.  I usually just distance myself from people who annoy me to that point once letting them know that “you got the wrong person this time”!  My father – Big Ike – was the same.  I am fortunate to be a combination of the two of them … my mother’s unending love for goodness and excellence and my father’s tireless efforts to live a good life, not be hassled or harassed … and provide a good life for himself and his family.

So here I sit in Amsterdam, Holland – a place that I have never been – in a hostel that I had booked once being jerked around by another hostel in Amsterdam through “Booking.com”, and I currently have an open dispute with them through Bank of America.  They had double charged me after using a misleading add for a low cost booking – charging me once for the cancellation and once for the entire week I was planning to stay in Amsterdam.  I am hoping for the best and currently have a temporary credit from which I am currently “living”.  I am not a lavish person and don’t need to be “everywhere with everybody” spending money that I don’t have.  I like to go out, but I know when to take it easy and stay at home, too … especially during my early retirement.

A young man who attended White Plains High School when I taught there is planning to meet up with me on Friday, since I leave Saturday, to have lunch at a place he is suggesting.  Trevor Henry was a student that I didn’t have in class but was always very outgoing and progressive.  It seems that he and his wife and a lovely family live in Germany somewhere … I don’t know why or how but will have to ask him.  I was visiting his Facebook page once he in-boxed me his interest in meeting up and saw a clip of Louis “Satchamo” Armstrong, trumpeter and crooner from Big Ike’s era!  My dad used to always be so cold and callous when I complained about things.  He was a tough old “cookie” … no pun intended … and had a hard life growing up in a very racist and “Dirty South” of the 1920’s and 1930’s.  When watching that video on Trevor’s page with “Satchamo” singing “What A Wonderful World”, I remembered how my dad used to always tell me to toughen up, be grateful for what I had and NOT want what others had that I didn’t have … It’s an interesting philosophy to entertain when you are NOT wealthy.  Yet, it keeps you proud and sensible and grounded at the same time.  That philosophy has encouraged me to reach out to people, places and things that I normally would not reach out to.  So, as I continue to travel, meet people, and enjoy the most beautiful responses to my e-mails and social media posts, I must admit that “there is a wonderful world out here … should we decide to reach for it!”

Peace,

John I. Cook, Director

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