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Forty-eight hours in Vegas (downtown)

Discussion in 'Vegas Trip Reports' started by doctor_al, May 21, 2004.

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  1. doctor_al

    doctor_al VIP Whale

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    My Trip Report

    So my buddy calls up and says, “I’m stopping over in Vegas on my way out to California. Think you can make it out there for a couple of days?â€. Well, gee, let me look at my schedule… next thing you know, my plane is touching down at McCarren, forty-eight hours before I’m due to take off again.

    This being a quickie, I was also resolved to make it a cheapie. I caught the 109 again up Maryland to downtown. They’re trying to run that route more rapidly, and with more buses. As a result, 40 min later I was at the downtown transit hub. Walked over to the Las Vegas Club, and checked right in to the room. Didn’t ask for an “upgradeâ€, but they put us in a North Tower smoking room, double queens, which was exactly what we wanted. No real view to speak of (see the pics at webshots ) but it was clean and in decent shape, although kind of funky smelling in the hallway. Would have been nicer if the tub drained a little faster, the toilet didn’t wobble, and the outside window had been cleaner, but for $25/nite, it was fine.

    Changed into shorts, got my camera out and went to snap some pics before meeting with David B and whoever else was going to show up. Walked around, trying to decide where to get that first cocktail. Finally went back into the LVC and asked for a gin and tonic in a plastic glass to walk around with. Bartender tells me, “I’m sorry, we don’t have any plastic glasses. We have some plastic cups though. That okay?†Yeah, okay, fine, the booze is on your side of the counter so you get the laugh.

    Walked into the Gate 10-15 min early and was still just getting oriented when I hear a “Doctor Al?†Turned around, and there’s David. I’m sure I look nothing like you’d expect from my on-line “personaâ€, but I have to say I was expecting him to be a little older and maybe more, I don’t know, sedate, and here’s this fast-talking kid from Bah-ston. But he’s every bit the nice guy he is on the web. We yielded to temptation and got the traditional shrimp cocktail before heading around to the diner to see who shows up. Fielded a couple calls in rapid succession that told me first, Ohio Bino wasn’t going to make it (as he had thought might happen), and my buddy JonnyU had gotten to Fremont street and was looking for me. Nobody else showed, so Jonny, David went in to have lunch.

    The food at the Bay City Diner was pretty good, and the staff was excellent. Although there was the moment where Jonny asks what kind of beer they have, and the waiter says, “we’ve got everythingâ€. Okay, you got Leinie’s? (=Leinenkugels) Waiter hesitates, then says “you want a Leinekin?†Hee hee, ok so you don’t have everything. We chatted about David’s experience living in Las Vegas, this, that, and the other thing, and had a good time. After lunch we all headed over to “Binions†to see what was up there, and see how the WSOP was going. There weren’t a lot of signs to guide us to the WSOP area, in fact Jonny and David were pretty sure I was leading them in the wrong direction when we blew past Scotty Nguyen out taking a smoking break with some friends. Jonny and David didn’t see him at first, so I waited as they both walked back to see, sure enough, that’s Scotty Nguyen. The tournement room upstairs wasn’t super crowded, but there wasn’t a lot of observer space, either. There was a constant sound, like crickets – the sound of a hundred poker players, all fiddling with their chip stacks. We gawked and played spot the poker celebrity for a while. It was early, and there were a lot of tables in play. ESPN was focusing on one that I spotted Kathy Liebert at. David came over and pointed out that Ben Affleck was in the middle of the table. JonnyU came over and pointed out that Johnny Chan was on the other end of the table. So you’ve got Mr. Hollywood stuck between Johnny Chan and Kathy Liebert. We didn’t stay to see how it played out, but I was pretty sure by the end of the day they’d rename him to Ben Skooled.

    Watching poker live, you appreciate the format and editing you get on the WPT shows. We couldn’t see enough to follow any of the action. So after a little more player-spotting (Scotty came back in, saw Daniel Negreanu, Ted Forrest among others) we headed back downstairs to find… more poker tables! And Jesus! Sure enough, the easiest guy to spot, Chris Ferguson. This must have been first round action for the $5000 no-limit hold’em event. Looking around, I suddenly felt like I saw a ghost; that gent in the cowboy hat looks a lot like Amarillo Slim! When he stood up to get his picture taken with someone, the “Amarillo†buckle on the back (?) of his belt removed whatever doubt was left. For me, that was the coolest thing. For Jonny, it was seeing Johnny Chan. In fact when we stopped by again later, and were at the rail trying to identify faces, JonnyU turned around to find Johnny Chan standing behind him, talking with friends. We joked later about JonnyU being “stalked†by possibly the world’s greatest poker player.

    David headed home after that. JonnyU got his bags from the bellhop and put them up in the room, and we headed down to the strip via the 302, after a little 50c roulette at the LVC. A note on the 302: check the signs at the bus stop, because even though the 302 stops are also 301 stops (mind you, not all 301 stops are 302 stops), they don’t stop at exactly the same place. For example, downtown, by Neonopolis, you have to go a little farther north on LV Blvd to find the 302 stop.

    We got off outside the Westward Ho. Bino had told me he was staying at Circus Circus (eating at the Pink Pony when he called; David said, “he’s taking his life in his own hands, there.â€). I gave him a call to see if he wanted to meet. He had just headed into the Riviera, but between him losing signal inside the Riv (I later noticed I couldn’t get a cell signal at all in there) and me with the buses in my face, it wasn’t a very productive call, and we never did connect, which was unfortunate. JonnyU and I went into the SlotsAFun, and I couldn’t walk past the dollar craps table. Pretty crowded, as usual, but I squeezed in on the rail. Got nothing going, though, and squeezed off the rail down $15, not having had time to get a cocktail. JonnyU was just making it to the front of the dollar Heineken line as I found him, so we headed over to the Riv.

    There were guys with pool cue cases everywhere. Turns out there was an eight-ball tournement going on. Same deal as the WSOP downtown: Big room, lots of tables. The difference was, we had no idea who these guys were, so we left.

    Went back across the street to the Westward Ho and stood in a long, slow line for the dollar frozen margarita. It was getting towards five, so we found a table for the Michael Kennedy “Tribute to Elvis†show. He certainly looked the part, but as soon as he started singing, it all fell apart. The man wasn’t hitting the high notes, and on the parts where he was singing decently, he kept pulling the microphone away from his face. He had some of the moves, but he was just goofy up there. I think the guy could probably sing it well if he focused on it, but as it was he was pretty awful. We referred to him as “Crappy Elvis†from there on out.

    We went back to downtown, and stayed there the rest of the night. Details downtown are always sketchy. Had a pretty good frozen margarita upstairs at the Fitzgeralds, and sat outside on the balcony for a while. Some girl came over and asked JonnyU for a smoke, ok, here ya go. Then she asks, does he know how to heal this? and shows him scratch on her hand, and proceeds to go on about her boyfriend that beats her, and her drug addiction, and god knows what all. After a few “I have no idea what you’re talking about†from us, she gives up and heads back inside, where as we leave we find she’s latched onto someone else. Ah, downtown.

    We wandered up into the Plaza to get a cocktail as the Sunspots were performing, and were impressed enough to sit down at a table. It turned out to be one of the trip’s highlights. The Omaha Lounge has just a little more ambiance than a church basement, but the Sunspots lit it up. The three frontmen, Filipinos or Hawaiians in about their 40s or 50s, could all sing well, and the humor, while campy, was fun and well received by the crowd. They do some singing impressions which are pretty good. The Johnny Cash one (Fulton prison blues) was kind of spooky, it was that good. The crowd, well, when we sat down we lowered the median age by a decade or two. You don’t color your hair, or need to, you’re in the minority here. But everyone was having a great time. There’s a nominal one-drink minimum, but no one hassled us about it (maybe since we already had cocktails). They finished up around 9:30, and we moved on.

    Played a little VP at the nifty bar at Main Street Station and had a couple microbrews. The red lager was just ok, but the pale ale was good and hoppy. Hit a straight flush and cashed out ahead (for a change).

    When I saw the Fremont Street Experience show in February, I was underwhelmed with the new section. Sure, the colors were truer, but the resolution was no better. At lunch, David told me they were running the old resolution until the “grand opening†in June. The shows we saw this time sure were an improvement over the previous ones, and if this is the new resolution, it’s pretty good. If it was the same graphics (probably, but I wasn’t sure), they looked much better on the new lights, virtually all of which are up now, although the section from Vegas Vic to the Plaza end was not turned on.

    We went over to the El Cortez somewhere close to midnight, settled in at Kitty’s for the graveyard specials. A group of smart-ass kids came in, insisted on a booth, and proceeded to generally fail to get on the staff’s good side. As a result, as we were finishing our food, they were still waiting for theirs. They wound up walking out, and I’m thinking, failed to learn the lesson. At a diner, apply the “if momma ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy†rule to your waitress. Or just get some class, that wouldn’t hurt either.

    The El Cortez was pretty toned down that night. Dollar craps was now $3 craps, but there were still $3 and $5 blackjack tables. Las Vegas Club only had $5 (3x4x5x) craps tables, and maybe a $3 BJ table in the afternoon, but that disappeared later. Plaza also had only $5 craps tables. Hmm.

    We played a little quarter roulette at the El Cortez with an older Asian gent who would just wallpaper the board with chips, one each on at least half the numbers. The limit on the 50c table at the LVC was four chips minimum on each outside bet, or four chips total anywhere inside, but at the El Cortez, it was four chips total anywhere, so I could play a set of intersecting thirds the way I wanted to. Not to get deep into roulette theory, but I frankly don’t understand playing non-intersecting bets: if you cover eight numbers individually, only one of those can win. The other seven bets are guaranteed losers. But what do I know? I lost money at every freakin’ roulette table I sat down to. This one being no exception, I cashed out and moved on to a blackjack table.

    Soon I discovered I was playing with “Thee Greates’ Blackzhack Playah een thee Worl’â€. He could have been from India, not sure, had a Gabby Hayes laugh and about a 50% occupancy rate in his gums. Had a pretty decent stack of chips in front of him, though. The Greatest Blackjack Player in the World was playing royal match, as was one or two other folks at the table, so the game was moving pretty slow. Had a decent dealer, then it came to break out a new deck. They changed dealers and brought in a kind of cranky looking American lady, who reminded me of one I’d ran into at the Fitz in February. She fans the deck, gets part way through counting it before she herself is relieved. That’s right, midway through counting the deck, they change dealers again. This guy finishes counting the deck, puts it in the shuffler, and we get yet another dealer change. Heck with that, as soon as we settle on one dealer, I cash out.

    Jonny had caught up with me at that point. It seems after I left, two more older asian gentlemen who also used the wallpaper-the-board-with-chips method sat down, so that at betting time it was like octopus mating season, arms flying everywhere. That exhausted Jonny’s patience pretty quickly, and he wound up watching me and the Greatest Blackjack Player in the World.

    We headed back to the LVC about 3 am or so. The decent crowd we’d had walking with us to the El Co at about midnight was now gone. Jonny bought right back into a roulette table, but I was tired of getting beat at that game and went off to find some deuces wild machines. Played a bit here and there, didn’t see a single waitress, and pretty much gave up on the evening.

    Next morning, up at 7:30 am. Why, I don’t know, but I couldn’t get back to sleep, so I got cleaned up and went to snap some more shots of downtown. Our room looked out onto the Cal pool, a dinky little afterthought kind of over the entrance on Main and Ogden (?) that oddly did not appear to be in use. I took a gander at the Plaza 7th floor pool area, that’s actually pretty cool. Not in a “lush Mirage jungle†way, but it’s the best place to sit outside downtown. No drink service, though. Cruised over to see if I could see the Fitzgerald pool, and there it was, tucked in a corner of their parking lot, separated from the street corner by only a 5 foot high stucco wall. I climbed up the parking structure across the street to snap a shot. I’ll send these to Sonya for future reference. Oh, also saw the new Nugget poker room. Looks nice, but it’s basically a big tent on the south end of the pool area. Giant vents at the top imply they’ll be able to keep it cool in the summer. Didn’t see what they were spreading, it was early and only one table was going.

    Met back up with Jonny and we went back to the Bay City Diner for breakfast. Did I mention the staff here is excellent? Went up to the Plaza pool to hang out a bit, but forgot sunglasses, and it was too bright without shades. Went and got shades, but then decided to head back down to the strip, to our favorite bar at the Bellagio. Last time Jonny and I were in Vegas together, we were wandering around mid-strip, doing too much walking and needed to sit a while. Happened to sit down at the Baccarat Bar in Bellagio, and basically spent the whole rest of the afternoon there, sipping cocktails, watching the world go by, and chewing the proverbial fat. It was a great time, and so we did it again. It didn’t disappoint. Got a couple expertly made martinis and just parked. There’s a constant stream of traffic past that bar which makes for excellent people-watching. Every now and then you’d catch somebody glancing over, then doing kind of a double take as it occurred to them, hey, that martini looks good, why am I not sitting down somewhere with one?

    After a couple of those, we moved on and I showed Jonny how to play ponies at Caesars. Had the same, awesome drink service I had last time, but this time without the wins on the horses. I managed to get one favorite to win, and that was it. Jonny got a couple winners, but didn’t come out ahead either. Did I mention the drink service was awesome?

    Jonny got a call on his cell while we were there, so he jumped up and took it way out of the book. Not far enough, I guess, and management gave him a little warning on that. But when we get up to leave, Jonny points out that the guy sitting behind us has been yammering away on his phone, in the book, for the last ten minutes. Go figure.

    Stopped in to the Flamingo to see if we could get a look at the pool area, and wound up walking through the habitat area, which was pretty neat. Pool area was very nice too, especially the way the heavy vegetation hid this or that bit of it. Nobody asked for a room key, but there’s several ways in and out of the pool area, so it would be hard to “lock downâ€. Wandered back next door to the Big Elvis show. The man can certainly sing, but he is way, way too big. Didn’t see him get up and “bust a move†this time, got some ladies out of the crowd to come up and dance instead. It was crowded enough that we listened to the end of the show from the other side of the bar, playing VP. Finished up even on the VP, and we were done with the strip.

    Got back to the LVC and Jonny basically took out a lease on a spot at the roulette table. I may have played a little, just enough to be reminded again that this wasn’t my game, then wandered off to get some night neon pics. Wandered up to the MSS to play some more VP. Wandered here and there on Fremont. Saw five mounted police out patrolling. Saw the Weirdest Fremont Kiosk: “watch me write your name on rice!†(I’m pretty sure that’s a straight line, but I can’t figure out the rest of the joke.) Anyway every so often I’m going back to the LVC to check in on the roulette king. Dora the waitress even brought me a couple cocktails at his request, even though I was just standing around.

    Around this time I also stopped in at the brewpub upstairs at Four Queens. A decent little bar with a great bartender, Chris, who told me this was an off-shoot of a brewpub elsewhere in the city. He also told me that the owners of that brewpub bought the 4 Queens, or at least I think that’s what he said. Anyway, here’s my rundown on the beers I had there. The best were the stout, which was the “specialâ€, and the wheat, which had proper weissbier spiciness, unlike what I recall having at the Monte Carlo. The pale ale could have been hoppier (like the MSS one), and the “german brown ale†(alt?) was ok, but also missing something. The light lager was what it was. Oh, and Chris poured me a taster of this blueberry-vanilla wheat beer, which tasted better than it sounded (to me), but not something I could drink a whole pint of.

    Finally the roulette king was ready to go wandering. I stopped in at Mermaids for a dollar frozen daiquiri, a brain freeze. Didn’t get the extra shot or the fancy glass. It was ok, but if you want a dreamsicle, shake up a shot of triple sec with a couple shots of vodka and some ice, strain into a martini glass. I digress.

    We stopped at the Fremont for one of their shrimp cocktails. A mistake. First, the Express part of the Lanai Express was broken, it took forever to get anything. By the way, anybody know what “Spam Musubi†is, or why you might want to eat it? Then I got the cocktail. The celery relish part was probably a good idea, but there was about a cup or so of cocktail sauce pooled in the bottom of the thing. Ack.

    Somewhere in here we played a little craps at the Golden Gate. First roll I didn’t get too far on, but second roll was pretty decent, hit a bunch of inside numbers. Hit everything, except that is, the point my money was on. Busted out on that. In between, shooters would hit a little here and there, but basically it was no good. Gotta stop playing dice at the Gate, it’s never good. I love the place, but that dice table does not like me.

    From there, we headed to the ElCo again. Got to talking with a down-and-outer who was actually pretty well spoken. We talked about the Western, and he was pretty clear about how you didn’t want to be there. Told us his story of woe, involving gambling addiction and whatnot. It was actually an interesting conversation, we bought him a beer and sat at the bar in the ElCo jawing for a while. I got up to use the can, and when I got back Jonny had stopped buying the bullsh*t story, and usually that means the argument’s coming, and I elected to go play some BJ. Shortly after that I think Jonny bailed on the guy as well and went off to the roulette table.

    I wandered over and played a little $3 BJ heads up against a rookie dealer, a Chinese lady who was friendly enough, just not real talkative. Oh, and she could turn that 5 or 6 upcard into a 21 whenever you wanted it. I went up a little here and there, but after a while she mowed down my stack pretty good.

    And I’m beat. It’s closing in on 4 am, and I have hit the wall, just dog tired. The plan was to see the sun come up, since I’ve got to be at the airport at 7:30 am, but I’m done. So I set a wakeup call for 7. Three hours later the phone jars me awake. Heart pounding, I throw on some clothes, throw my junk in my bag, and head downstairs to check out. Took a cab to the airport and was in line at 7:40 am. And my stomach is starting to say, what the h*ll was that all about? Got through security, got some greasy Burger King breakfast food and waited to board. Got on the plane, sat down, and it all caught up to me and suddenly I knew if I didn’t get off that plane I was going to redecorate it. They had just closed the door but let me get off and rescheduled me for the 5:30pm flight. Probably didn’t help their on-time departure, but it was best for all concerned. On the way out, one stewardess said I should see a doctor, although not with a concerned tone, more like a “and it would serve you right if he jams something up your butt†tone. Anyway, once I was up and walking around, I felt better, but it was touch and go for a minute there. Served my eight hours in airport purgatory (had neither the cash or inclination to head back into town) and finally got home around 10:30pm.

    All-in-all, good trip. Wish I’d won more, maybe. Probably won’t get back to this town for a while, next year for the Madness or for the Wynn opening would be the earliest. Didn’t get to a lot of items on the to-do list, but I’m starting to think what you need to do is have fun writing up your to-do list, then when you get to Vegas, burn it and go do what sounds fun. Thanks for reading, hope you got a chuckle out of it, the pics are here, enjoy.

    [ May 21, 2004, 04:19 PM: Message edited by: doctor_al ]
     
  2. Coaster Kikky

    Coaster Kikky Tourist

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    Spam Musubi, yummmmm. It's spam (natcherly) with sticky rice wrapped in nori - that's a seaweed for you haoles. I have had it just once so far, but remembered that I liked it, even though I was mentally prepared to spit it out into my napkin.

    Kitty (not yet booked for next Hawaii trip, but eating at Roy's next week, and that will have to do)
     
  3. HurricaneMikey

    HurricaneMikey A-List Buffoon

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    Doctor Al--

    You magnificent bastard--I read your trip report!!!

    Dude, you had me dang near pissin' myself with the 'gums with the 50% occupancy rate'. Thanks for the write-up, my Friday afternoon was getting a little dull here in my cage. I loved every bit of it. Hope we can cross paths at the dice table someday.

    I'm starting to get the fever again, baby! (And the only prescription is more Cowbell...)

    Mikey [​IMG]

    [ May 21, 2004, 02:03 PM: Message edited by: HurricaneMikey ]
     
  4. tvon

    tvon VIP Whale

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    excellent report!! definetly had me crackin up. I need to back!!
    Sucks you had a sour ending, i bet you'll the itch to go again sooner!!
     
  5. YoungGun

    YoungGun VIP Whale

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    Great trip report. Nice pictures too. Thanks for taking pictures of all those downtown pools. When did you take those things? They all looked deserted!
     
  6. Falcon_Rob

    Falcon_Rob Flying Winnebago

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    Doctor Al.... I really enjoyed your report! Made me laugh out loud several times! Sorry to hear about the extended airport stay. I'll be checking into the LVC in about 72 hours, and I have a feeling I'll be putting your "to-do list theory" into practice!
    Rob

    T-3
     
  7. boxcars

    boxcars High-Roller

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    Nice report!

    I'm heading out in June. What two days were you there Doc? I was hoping to catch some $2 craps tables. Plaza had one going on a Wednesday night this past January.

    Sounds like the limits went up some. Not good news for this low roller!
     
  8. Blusbro

    Blusbro Guest

    Great trip report, and great pictures! I can't wait to see the new FSE show in late July. Now, if only they can somehow hurry the monorail along....
     
  9. doctor_al

    doctor_al VIP Whale

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    Thanks all for the kind words. Pool pics were taken about 9 or so in the AM. There's a couple folks in the Fitz one. The Plaza had just opened, some people showed up a little later. Never even saw chairs set out at the Cal, though.

    Boxcars, we were there Tues/Weds. Could just have been WSOP and nice weather driving occupancy rates and therefore limits, but my gut says no, at least for the Plaza and LVC. Investment in downtown is a double-edged sword.

    So it's a Spam sushi roll, Kitty? Actually, that doesn't sound all bad... but I wouldn't have had one there. Mikey, glad I could return the favor...
     
  10. Dean Martin

    Dean Martin VIP Whale

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    Doc...I loved your report...your line at the end is sooo right on target [​IMG] I do the same thing everytime we go...print out all this stuff of places I'm gonna go...read and re-read it on the plane...then leave it sit in my room...do whatever comes natural and realize 1/2 way thru the trip that I'm not gonna use it and throw it away. Most likely....I'll do it again too [​IMG] ~Dino :cool:
     
  11. DavidB

    DavidB Tourist

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    [​IMG]
    Great report, Al.

    I see you packed a lot of stuff into 48 hours.

    It was great to kill a couple of hours with you and JonnyU. I hope we can get you up here for a little visit if your next trip is a bit longer.
     
  12. doctor_al

    doctor_al VIP Whale

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    That would be great, David. I just realized I did a pretty poor job of name-dropping from the WSOP gawking. "Devilfish" Ulliot came over to the rail where I was standing, to talk to friends, giving me some sort of "what are you doing here" look as he came over. Recognized Paul Darden, and Barry Greenstein looks as deathly in person as on TV. Annie Duke came through the crowd making some joke about getting a massage - she's cuter in person than on the telly. Ram Vaswani, Paul Phillips (dot com), Daniel Negreanu. Ran into TJ Cloutier talking to his wife downstairs, he's a big guy, and that's not his poker face, he always looks like that. Didn't see Hellmuth, who I thought would be the second easiest guy to spot after Jesus.
     
  13. Bosco

    Bosco VIP Whale

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    Three dollar minimum craps at the El Co?????? My world is coming to an end!!!!
     
  14. NEON

    NEON Tourist

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    Great report Doc, and a busy 2 days!

    What did you think of Binions after the ownership change? Table limits etc...?
     
  15. doctor_al

    doctor_al VIP Whale

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    Neon, I don't have the background to say. It looked in good shape, and they seemed to still have the veteran dealers, but nothing on the gaming floor caught my eye so I didn't hang out there much. Snack bars were open during the day, but closed too early for my schedule.
     
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