“Rochester, I Think We’ve Got This”

“Rochester, I think we’ve got this,” said Eli Paperboy Reed, venturing opinion at the onset of rain that would drench his listeners while he stayed dry. As though to show him that the city had more to offer than rain, his mike went dead. But he didn’t miss a beat, belting his soul out as the sound tech fixed it. He is a must-see artist who deserved more than the handful of weather-proof diehards that he got. One of them hollered that he must come back, for the weather is not always like this. What had he been smoking?

Actually, it was not like this last year. The ten-day Lilac Festival was picture-perfect almost every day. What are the chances of that happening two years in a row? I had heard Rochestarians grumbling all way from god-awful 90 degrees muggy Florida the prior week, and I had said “No worries. It will all clear out in time for the festival.” What had I been smoking?

I was there, all right, for I had come prepared with blue raincoat to slip over a warm grey jacket, which also wasn’t needed when I arrived after 4. When he waved everyone in close for the final number or two, I was close enough to get a decent photo or two, even with the crummy phone camera. Mrs. Harley doesn’t come to the Lilac Festival when the weather looks surly, so I was on my own.

It took him the entire set—I mean, he really must work on timely delivery—but at show’s end, the sun did indeed begin to pierce the gloom. A half hour later, it was full sunshine for the next group, who probably didn’t even thank him. I’d never heard of they or Eli, but that is only because I don’t keep up. The devoted fan next to me was aghast at my ignorance.

Garnering attention over the last decade, Eli was named Breakthough Artist of the Year by the MOJO awards people in 2009. Anyone who savors R & B must not miss this fellow when he comes to town, enhanced by a phenomenal backup band. How can you go wrong with someone who starts his set with ‘Go Tell That Long Tongued Liar’?





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At the Genesee Brew House

At the Genesee Brew House, all waitresses and restaurant staff are full employees of the High Falls Brewing Company and enjoy equal benefits. 1250B204-8D91-488B-BCE4-FE5D35E93A7F
This puts their work a cut above many waitressing jobs. Is there internal transfer to and from the adjacent brewery? I asked. No, it doesn’t often happen, our waitress said. She knew of no examples. She characterized those in the Brewery itself as lifers.

I told her my beer joke and she laughed. She didn’t guffaw like a donkey, and she didn’t collapse rolling on the floor in convulsions.  But it was a good solid laugh, not one of those “I’d better laugh at this old duffer’s lame joke so that he does not take it out on his tip, the way he looks like he might do.” No. it was an honest laugh. (Nor am I a bad tipper.)

My wife and I held out for a window seat, with a view of the High Falls. After lunch, we walked the unshoveled pathway by the farther fence. F47848FF-7D86-435A-840B-EF9F4B7E6F30
During summer, one does well to sit on the balcony just outside and afterwards walk the Platt Street bridge over the Genesee River that bisects Rochester. Looking out another window, we spied yet another of the horses on parade that found a permanent home when the parade exhibit was through and the creatures were auctioned off for charity. Well over one hundred are scattered throughout the area, each fiberglass and each with painting. This one, just across the street, may be closest to its home, because the idea originated with High Falls Brewing, the makers of Twelve Horse Ale. CBB2B9C6-B522-4192-9961-05791C6D988C

The restaurant itself is on the second floor of the 1904 building, which was first a bottling plant for Standard Brewing Company, then a succession of other businesses, ending up for 30 years a plumbing supply house, before being purchased by the Genesee Brewing Company in 1982 and converted to a restaurant 30 years after that. On the first floor is both a gift shop and museum of local beer history, with some emphasis on dodging the authorities during the days of prohibition. BD702881-78FC-4FAE-ADE7-34FADBA294B2
One poster recounts how “the city’s brewing industry also benefited from [German] migration [of the mid-eighteen hundreds] and from the growing theory that beer was healthy. (It was sometimes referred to as “liquid bread”.) This frustrated temperance advocates.”

A poster on the wall from bygone days advises buying Jenny by the case, and that is just what some visiting friends of ours from Rhode Island did, only they bought a case of Genny Cream Ale, which comes in a green box, not red. (for a friend, they said, as they plunked it down in our breezeway while they stayed with us.) 3E9A13E7-934B-4EA0-A89E-66136CB5EFF6
As sometimes happens with local attractions, they had stumbled upon the restaurant before we did, and it was on their visiting itinerary.

And the joke? Its setting is from many decades ago. A night worker, all alone on graveyard shift, had only to circle the huge tanks of brewing beer to ensure that all ingredients were mixing properly. Dead tired and thoroughly bored, sometime after 3 AM, he fell in and drowned. The commotion was huge the next day, with police and reporters all gathered around, when one of the latter ventured that his death must have been a horrible way to die. “No, I don’t think so,” said the supervisor, looking very thoughtful, “because he climbed out four times to go to the bathroom.” A920598F-1C7D-4D27-91D1-E823F3E9EFCB

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Bills Win in Wisconsin! (Um...Minnesota, That Is)

The Bills went down 47-3 and @AdamChodak said ‘Opening day jitters.’ Next game they also went down, looking mighty sloppy, and he just shook his head. Next week they trounced a supposedly much better team and he said ‘We’re going to the Super Bowl.’ He said this because he remembers, as do all Western New Yorkers who are old enough, when the Bills actually did go to the Super Bowl four times in a row (and got beat each time). On one of those drives to the Bowl, they overcame something like a 30 point deficit at half time to win.

Someone from the Bills (a dumbbill) had tweeted a map captioned ‘We’ve arrived in Minnesota’ only the arrow pointed to Wisconsin.’ ‘Um, we play in the other Minnesota’ the Vikings replied. ‘Good thing we found the right Minnesota’ the Bills said after trouncing them. It was all a Clever Deception, like in the Galaxy Quest movie. During that game Adam tweeted: 'I bet no one is going to quit during his half time.' He said this because somebody did from the previous game. He just walked off the field and said 'That's it. I've retired. I don't mean to disrespect anybody, but I'm outta here.' It has never happened before.


That same Bills-over-Vikings day Tiger Woods won his first tournament in five years. Everybody loves a story of redemption, and crowds swarmed around him like the messiah on the eighteenth. Adam tweeted that he imagined people did that toward their televisions whenever he was about to come on for the 11 PM news. He promised to devote a large part of the upcoming show to the Bills' improbable victory. 'In that case you may get your Tiger Woods onrush,' I tweeted back. he liked that one, as he does others from time to time. I don't know which Bills' character is more fun to watch: Allen, Milano, McDermott, or Chodak.

They asked some Bill how his team could rebound from a 55 point deficit over two games to stomp the Minnesota team into the ground. 'Funny how those things happen,' he said. The new quarterback (he's only 22) looked awfully good. He didn't sulk when he was passed over on opening day. He has a charisma about him. He managed to persuade all that nobody was especially put off over the last two drubbings. 'We're a tight team and we're trusting what coach McDermott is doing for us and doing with us, so that's it. We're trusting the process that's been put in front of us and we're working hard and just trying to improve everyday,' he said.

Adam Chodak is the TV8 newsman who was raised in the area and intertwines himself into local doings. He secures interviews with the newsmakers. Following those first two losses, he tweeted his gratitude that there is an end zone to stop drives of the offense. ‘Were it not for that, they would be stomping through your studio about now,’ I replied. He liked that one, too.

He is the one who presents the Golden Apple Award weekly to some teacher the kids have recommended. Someday, I tweeted, he is going to act upon faulty intelligence (hmm - maybe that can be my next project) and he will enter the classroom with cameras 'a blazing only to encounter some dragon who will tell him to sit down, shut up, pay attention, and raise his hand if he has anything to say.


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'It's My Party' Plays at the CharBroil Corral

The fellow on the left (stage right) is the driving force of It’s My Party, a recreation of the all-girl groups of the 60’s. Some of the performers (it is an 8 or 9-piece backup band) are high school students, as I’m pretty sure the girl in the middle is. She stood by as I spoke with the one on the right, a college student from out-of-state. Even while working both hands, the drummer beams at the audience for long takes, as though he is P.T. Barnum, so pleased that the audience is enjoying his greatest show on earth. And they did enjoy it. By the end of the show, during which the girls had changed into new outfits (closely resembling a certain sister at the Kingdom Hall), they convincingly transported geezers in the crowd to ‘back in the day.’


The group is thirty years old, and the female performers have been allowed to ‘age out’ several times so as to preserve authenticity. It is a temporary gig, and everyone knows it going in. Hopefully, those who are students get credit for it somewhere, and I said to my wife that they must be drama or music students, but when I spoke to the oldest singer it turned out that she was an economics student. Some of the performers have gone on to professional recognition. They have toured the country, which somehow came as a surprise to me given its local founder and the age of its participants.

Toward the end of the first set, the girls sashay down and invite persons of the audience to dance through a tune with them. Of course, all the guys in the audience remain firmly ensconced in their lawn chairs, for fear of their wives, as did I, but finally one old duffer whose wife had probably died took them up on it. This prompted a few children to join in also, along with their mom.

Later still, the audience was invited onto the dance stage for another number. It was an unusually docile group of bumpkins present. No one responded, save for one awkward couple who essentially leaned on each other for support so that the two-party pile would not collapse in a heap. Therefore, with plenty of space available, I led the lovely Mrs. Harley (don’t kid yourself – the woman’s a looker) up front to do the slow number and then the performers tricked us into remaining by saying they had another one. The other one was much bouncier and that is what we did – bounce. Seldom, in fact probably never, have we had such floor space to show off our moves, and the girls commended us later, I don’t think patronizingly, but you never know.

When they finished the first set and disappeared I predicted that they would emerge with new outfits. My wife took this as a no-brainer. “Oh yeah. Freshen up. Take a potty break. Have a drink. (Atypically for her: “Smoke a joint. I mean, get real.”) But it is hard to think that these girls would know how to smoke a joint if they wanted to, unlike those at the Grateful Dead tribute band that played on another occasion, where it was hard to believe that they would do anything else. Afterwards, I observed to Sienna, the economics student, that it must be strange for them to transport themselves into a much different age. I mean, these are not exactly feminist songs they are rolling out for the crowds. But she said that the music they were performing was from ‘a better time.’ Maybe she was just placating the duffers and the three collapse on each other in laughter afterwards, but it seemed reasonable to suppose that she was sincere in saying it. Even the duffers in the audience rolled their eyes at some of the corn, for they are not immune to contemporary times, even if they have not fully been molded by them.

This is the third time I have heard the group. The first time, with a different set of singers, was entirely by accident, back when I was working at the group home, and I wrote about it here:

After the meal, we drive over to the Fairport commons area - Liftbridge Park - to hang out a bit. We're in luck. Lots is happening - a classic car show and a live band. I wheel Doug near the band, an all-girl group called It's My Party, who perform songs from the early 60's, and perform them very well. They have matching outfits, just like in the 60's, synchronized gestures, and ... um...some campy 60's dialog between songs. The drummer is their producer, and their website says they have performed for 20 years. How can that be, since the singers themselves are yet high-schoolers? Ah, the producer has been around that long, and maybe some of the backup musicians, of which there are 8 or 9 - are some of them high-schoolers, too? The girl singers have been replaced once or twice.

Many in the audience are older folk - revisiting their youth, one suspects - and after the show, a woman remarks on the lankiest singer's long limbs. "Yeah, it's hard to get clothes," the performer replies. Actually, I thought she said it's hard to get close. That would fit too, for the trio accentuate their songs with 60's cheerleading gestures, arms flailing like windmills.

Doug is captivated by all this. You want to leave? I ask after a few songs. Slight but emphatic shake of the head no. You want to stay? Slight but emphatic shake of the head yes. You want one of their CDs? Yes. So we wait in the lineup, which really isn't wheelchair accessible, and they sign his copy with hugs and kisses - xxooxxoo. Of course, Doug solicits actual hugs and gets them from the girl or two closest to him. Backing out, he keeps it up and gets several more hugs from other girls....you know...girls in the audience, girl friends of the singers, and so forth!

Back at the home I write up a report - they like to keep track of social progress and "if it's not documented, it didn't happen." I tell about all the hugs and conclude with the question: "How does he do that?" I mean, it's not as though anyone offered to hug me. You don’t think I need hugs, too?

Though you cannot see him at all, positioned behind the middle singer as he is, the male guitarist had the most clear voice and playing for covering tunes such ‘Our Last Kiss’ whilst the girl singers wailed accompaniment. Garrison Keillor called such songs ‘teen-age self-pity songs’ and it is not hard to see why:

“The squealing tires, the busting glass, the painful screams that I heard last…

Well, when I woke up the rain was pouring down,

There were people standing all around.

Something warm running in my eyes,

But I found my baby somehow that night.

….She said ‘Hold me darling for a little while,’

I held her tight, I kissed her our last kiss,

I found the love I knew I would miss..”   and so forth.

Keillor responded with his own ‘dad self-pity song’ in which ‘the car slid through the mud, they heard a sickening thud. “Oh, Daryl,” Janie cried, “Is it bad?” “Yes,” he choked back tears, “it is my mom and dad.”

Daryl cradles his dying daddy’s head to hear this last words….and it is the same drivel that the old man said when he was healthy, matters pertaining to going to college and getting a good education, but also matters more mundane, like changing the oil every 3-4000 miles, and ‘when you go into the fridge to pour yourself some milk, don’t open a new container. Pour from the one already opened.’

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You Have to Support Your Local Buskers; You Just Have To

Summer is concert time in the city, and two days after the Skycoasters event by the shore, I went to one at the Public Market Friday eve. The public market gains in visibility each year; the city has lately poured some money into it, and starting mid-July through August, there is a series of free concerts (bring your own chair, and you can only bring in a bottle of water before resorting to the venders) called 'Bands on the Bricks.'

I got my timing mixed up and arrived when the AC/DC tribute band, Bonfire, was playing, so I had to sit though them. Don't misunderstand; it is not that they were bad - they were very good. It is just not my g-g-generation. The Led Zeppelin tribute band, Kashmir, is what I'd come to see. My wife had stayed home. Zeppelin is not her thing.

Isn't AC/DC an example of the "heavy metal" that Witnesses used to carry on about, along with rap? (so it was clear no one was playing racial favorites) They petered off on that per se, perhaps because, as my son told me, those genres mutated into other names and they still were saying 'heavy metal' and 'rap,' dating themselves with the kids and thereby making themselves look a little silly. Nowadays they just say 'inappropriate' entertainment. They never named any specific groups. They probably never knew any by name.

I dutifully scowled throughout the heavy metal AC/DC session, until the Led Zeppelin tribute band appeared, which was only slightly less heavy. In fact, THEY probably represented the greater slide into decadence, and AC/DC was just one more step. I didn't really frown for either one. A 30-year-old was holding his toddler son aloft, bouncing him to the music, and I said, "Yeah, train that boy right!" What are you going to do?

For that matter, it was thought to be the Beatles by my folks, who raised an uproar when I started to grow my hair long like theirs. My 'long hair' was laughably short by today's standards (though it later grew longer still), but Pop was raised on a farm and was familiar with the concept of shearing animals. As a young dad, he purchased a set of clippers and sheared his kids the same way, though they were barnyard animals, leaving just an upright tuft of hair front and center, like a hood ornament. Deviating even a little from that pattern was giving in to the decadant Beatle influence.

Or maybe it was Elvis. After all, HE was 'Elvis the pelvis,' not any of the Beatles.

Leaving a little before the crowds, I encountered a busker playing away on his guitar with his dog laying at his feet. I told him he had put his greatest fan to sleep and bid him a good night. I had only walked twenty feet, when I doubled back and dropped a buck in his hat. You have to support the musicians, you just have to; they play their hearts out. "Yeah, we can use it," he said, and I continued on.

57B9A82B-8FD5-4D8A-B02E-00DD2FA4EEF5Boys night out at the Led Zeppelin tribute concert.


C5CBBAFE-580B-4DBF-A39E-33D3343162A3Sometimes, for lesser volume, you hang out off to the side, behind the food guys.

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Skycoasters on the Lake

After the umpteenth costume change into garbs alternately goofy and gaudy, my wife paid the Skycoasters band singer the ultimate compliment. "I have to go home and watch Dr. Who, because this guy reminds me of him." At the time he was wearing LED lit lapels, as were flanking band members in lights of different colors, having just lost his sharkhead hat. There was pentup demand for the Wegman's concert by the shore. Two weeks ago it was cancelled due to rain, one week ago due to obscene heat. Wegman's mans the food tent and passes on the instinct to make profit. Hog dogs are two bucks, and other items are reasonable. I like Wegmans. Most here do.

It is the brilliant name that seals the place of Skycoasters as Rochester's premiere party band. They might win the crown in any event, but the name clinches the deal. It recalls the L-shaped wood roller coaster of Roseland Park on the shore of Canandaigua Lake, a park that existed long ago, and is now townhouses. You used to have to drive through the darkened country to get there. Today, all is one great suburb in between.

The band has been playing 50 years. They were hawking a CD of their songs, apparently with one from their first ever concert at Brighton high school in 1968. No, I was not there. I was at a different high school. They also sent someone through the audience with a hat, announcing that not all expenses were covered, and asking persons not to be stingy. This is something I have not seen before at a sponsored concert. However, it was sort of like Jehovah's Witnesses (who nonetheless do not pass hats or plates): people look around themselves, feel they obviously are getting much value for very little money (in the case of the concert, none at all), and are mostly willing to chip in something. After all, it is a nine-piece band with a significant support team and seemingly endless props.

I am practically the only Jehovahs Witnesses who has attended the Theocratic Ministry School AND the meetings of Toastmasters, since the two are essentially similar. But I was a little bit grumbling over some things at the time, and when the Toastmasters events came up my wife and I would skip the meeting at the Kingdom Hall. After my first Toastmasters talk, the moderator said: "Either you are a born natural or you have done this before." In the local chapter was the Skycoasters public relations person (I think that's what he was) brushing up on his public speaking skills. It is a curious side effect of theocracy that most of Jehovah's Witnesses can speak publicly with minimal fuss, whereas the prospect of public speaking terrifies the average person.

A co-worker of the time kept inviting me and other employees to the Toastmaster meeting. He was almost evangelical about it, as though one could be saved there. In a sense, he counted himself saved. He was painfully shy and he credited Toastmasters with making him less so. Several co-workers attended once or twice. My wife and I stayed for the longest interval, but when we finally drifted, this fellow was a bit put out, almost as though we were going apostate.



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Journalist Down - the Youngest Reporter in Rochester

Rochester’s youngest reporter, a 14-year old from the gritty city, was robbed! He tweeted the bad news @GSLShow. They lifted his camera from his bike while he was in the Family Dollar! It was worth $1000. But he promptly started a gofundme page and had it all back within 24 hours. It’s impossible not to love this kid. The cops in Rochester certainly do and have adopted him as one of their own. When he started getting bullied (for hanging out with cops) he marched into City Hall and asked what they were going to do about it! CBS This Morning ran a very nice story about him. Alas, some editorial idiot bannered it: ‘Local Youngster Follows His Dreams!’ He’s probably just having fun, the goal of all youngsters. I hope he doesn’t get too big for his pants, but the media people will encourage that outcome with all their might.   (From: 'No Fake News but Plenty of Hogwash')

Two years later the young man is still at it. He covered the Rochester Jazz Fest and landed an interview with the executive director. He is to be found at crime scenes. He has done guest spots on radio. He has thanked local business Rowe Photo for their support, calling them 'family.' He tweets that he has passed all his classes, and "10th grade here I come." His Twitter feed says he wants to make a difference in the community. He is probably being mentored by some. I hope so.

"Whipping out your phone doesn't make you a journalist. You need to ask questions do interviews and gain trust from your community. it's not easy being a journalist, especially being the youngest journalist, so before you say 'I'm a journalist,' for whipping out your phone, you're not," he tweets.

His very latest tweet, just two hours prior to this post, is alarming: "I have now declared a journalist down just about a few moments ago. @GeofferyRogers [himself] was shot by a BB gun with a leg injury."


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Leaving By the Fastest Means Possible

"Hi, this is Ned Naive, your new chief meteorologist at TV5. Since my family and I have moved into this community, we have been overwhelmed by your warm welcome!

"Now I see why. I had no idea it could get so ridiculously cold up here! This is obscene. You couldn't pay me enough to stick out this gig. Better to forecast weather in Antarctica.

"Why anyone would willingly live in a place like thisis beyond me!"

"I'm leaving on a jet plane...I don't think that I'll be back again...oh Lord, I can't wait to go." First thing in the morning. By the fastest means possible.
Jet plane

photo: AFmil


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Cresting the Crazy Steep Hill, I Met a GROC Overlord

Cresting an absurdly steep and winding hill in Tryon Park, I meet a cyclist about to descend. ‘You’re nuts if you do,’ I tell him, but he has no intention of it. He will walk his bike down. He is one of the GROC (Genesee Regional Off-Road Cyclists) trail overlords!

He actually means to eliminate this trail, in time, for it is not cut responsibly and it results in erosion and fauna damage. The GROCsters are very concerned about such things. They have carved a riotous tangle of paths into steeply underlying terrain, and they are ever thoughtful of conservation.

They want to link Tryon Park to Irondequoit Bay West Park more safely than it is presently linked, and they have a plan to do that. But that plan entails building trails right next to private homes on a residential street and the homeowners aren’t sure how they feel about that. Will the trails be frequented by responsible ones such as this GROC overlord? Or will it be a training wheel camp for Hell’s Angels?

My money’s on the first. I think the homeowners have little to worry about. GROC has produced studies showing that property value always rises where your property connects to a trail system. If you read their bylaws and code of conduct, you can be forgiven for thinking they are non-preaching dirt track Jehovah’s Witnesses, they are so nice. They actually counsel ones to be nice to each other and always say a greeting to passerby.

Of course, if you encounter the Grand GROC Trail Overlord, you must pick his brain, and he tells me much I did not know. The trails I hike and they ride are built where there was a long-ago town – here and there you will see ruins testifying to that. ‘Yes, there was indeed a community living in the lower bay area,’ he says. ‘but their water supply was the bay, and when the bay became polluted, residents gradually left the area. In time, the county snapped it all up and made it parkland.

At the headwaters of the bay there was once an amusement park, which I knew nothing about. It closed in 1901, which is why I knew nothing about it. I did know of Willowpoint Park, an amusement park on the east side of the bay. It closed long ago, and is now Willowpoint townhouses and apartments, but my parents used to take me to the rides when I was young. There is also Sea Breeze amusement park, a family – owned amusement park which remains to this day and steadily upgrades. It used to be two parks, the Grand GROCster tells me, which merged long ago. Or maybe one died out and the other took over. Image

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Lake Ontario Overflows its Banks. Massive Flooding. Yikes

There must be a scripture somewhere insulting the sea. If there is not, there should be. Rochester, my home town, is not on the sea and has no beef with it, but it sure does with the lake.

Lake Ontario is a mini-sea in its own right. Along with the four other Great Lakes, it constitutes one fifth of the earth’s fresh water supply. People have built homes on the shores of the lake, figuring that where the lake is, the lake is. Why would you not? But this year, the lake level is two feet higher than normal. Imagine! The entire lake! Let some math nerd figure out the volume increase – it shouldn’t be hard. Actually, the idea appeals to me, except I’m lazy. Give it to some kid for homework or let him bring it to class for extra credit.

When a boat sails by, those people on the shore sweat. They do so even more some when a wind kicks up. Even in calm times, the water is lapping up against their foundations. Their beach as disappeared and their decks are submerged. The beach about which I wrote “Horses in Water’ no longer exists.


The government is passing out sandbags and sand to fill them with. Volunteers appear to help the beach dwellers out. My experience is that sandbags are okay for a day or two or modest rise, but not for much else. The lake level is supposed to be high – it is still rising – all season. Image

Why don’t they drain the lake? someone asks. Just open up the St. Lawrence river more and let that stuff drain out to the sea. Unfortunately, people live along the river, too. An entire city is there, Montreal Canada, and they are seriously flooded as it is. To drain 1 inch of water from Lake Ontario will result in a rise of 10 inches for Montreal and other river dwellers. “Go for it, anyway!” say the besieged lakeshore dwellers, but Canada says ‘no.’

They’re funny that way.

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