Vive la France!


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A week ago today was Bastille Day, also known as French Independence Day.  Being the Francophile that I am, it’s not uncommon to see me out at the French bars on that day.  Actually, it’s not uncommon to see me out at the French bars on ANY given day!  Being rather grumpy, I’d considered, for something like a millisecond, not going out at all; staying home and drinking something French by myself as a mini celebration.  Then again, I thought “Who am I kidding?!  What kind of Francophile does that?!”

After work, I trucked on over to Amelie Wine Bar and grabbed a stool at the bar.  For some reason, I get really annoyed if the bar is full and I’m relegated to a table or chair elsewhere.  That’s why I’m there right when they open!  My friend, T., showed up about half an hour later.  Truth be told, he detests the French, based on his experiences during his two trips to France.  He loves their food, though.  He’d never been to Amelie before; this was his virgin visit.  He asked which of the bartenders were French and admired the owner from afar!  Another friend, L., showed up shortly after T.  Now she’s been to Amelie on numerous occasions to imbibe with me.  I was halfway through my red wine flight (sangiovese, cabernet franc and chianti) by the time they got there.  As they ordered their first flight, I went for my second one – sparkling wine and champagne, mais oui!  T. decided that he was hungry, so quizzed me on food.  I said that, even with a limited kitchen, everything they turned out seemed to be very good.  He ordered a duck rillette sandwich, as well as figs (or were those dates?  What’s the difference?) stuffed with blue cheese, and was quite happy with both.  L. ordered the raviole du Royans, one of their specialties, and was equally happy.

Next we headed up to Bouche.  The situation was reversed there; T. has been in there once or twice with me, but L. has never been there.  Although two stories, the restaurant is very small.  They were quite busy, as was to be expected, but we managed to squeeze in at the bar.  We had a first hand view of food being prepared, which made us order the scallops “tartare,” complete with edible flowers.  In addition, we decided to go for the duck confit.  Meanwhile, the owner poured us some Kir Royales.  The food was scrumptious; I loved the scallops, in particular.  When we were done eating, we thanked the owner, I hugged him goodbye and we were off to yet another place.

L. had to leave by then to attend a party, but T. and I made a quick run-through of Café Claude, Gitane and Plouf before deciding to have a final drink at Café Bastille.  I was getting tired by then and couldn’t even finish my drink, which was complimentary, thanks to the nice bartender.

There you have it.  It wasn’t a crazy Bastille Day, by any means, but pleasant with good company.  I only regret forgetting to wear my toile chapeau!

L. and Me at Amelie

L. and Me at Amelie

T. and L. at Amelie

T. and L. at Amelie

I’m Just A Groupie


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My cousin’s band, Rebel Souljahz, was in town again to do an acoustic set at Pa’ina Lounge.  CRSB opened for them.  All of the advertisements said that the doors opened at 6:00 p.m.  I showed up at 5:55 p.m. and the entire downstairs section at Pa’ina, where the stage is located, was already full.  So not happy!  Anyways, whatever, I sat at the bar.  When CRSB began performing, I could hear them quite clearly.  I’ve already seen them 3 times before – once at Pa’ina and twice at Yoshi’s – so it didn’t kill me not to get a direct visual.  Besides, when their set was over, the two main members, Sonny and Chris, were hanging out at the bar!  Sadly, Sonny’s father died of cancer over the 4th of July weekend, so they were doing shots in his honor.  Somehow I started a little conversation with Sonny, he admired my myriad silver rings and then I asked if I could get a picture with them.  They had no problem with that, so I was sandwiched in between the two guys while Sonny’s sister took the picture.  Both of them are such nice, high energy guys.

When Rebel Souljahz started their set, I couldn’t NOT go down, even if I had a bad view.  In truth, I ended up having a pretty good view.  The people in seats remained there and others stood off to the side.  I’ve said it before, but Poly people seem to show each other so much more respect about these kinds of things.  No one blocks each other’s views and are even careful about getting in the way when someone is taking pictures or shooting videos.  I saw Rebel Souljahz in April at Mezzanine, on the same bill as the Mango Kingz and Anuhea.  Mezzanine is a HUGE venue, so I got nowhere near the stage.  it was a “flashy” production with all the dance moves and such.  Great show overall, yet I preferred this more intimate acoustic set.  The band members sat on stools on the stage, played guitars and ukuleles, and sang.  Simple, yet very effective.  They did a “Meet and Greet” afterwards, which meant they specifically spent some time taking pictures and meeting whomever of the fans were interested in doing such things.  When my cousin ran by, I stopped him to reintroduce myself and chat a bit.  He’d thought that I’d moved to Hawaii when he first met me in May!  When all of the band members were done taking photos with their other fans, I took one outside with my cousin, with the specific purpose of tagging his dad on Facebook!

Next up on my Hawaiian/Jawaiian concert list?  Mango Kingz and Jordan T. (that little sweetie from Maui) at, yup, Pa’ina once again!  And then, even though they’ve got nothing to do with the Islands, I’m considering buying tickets to see Keyshia Cole at the Fillmore in August and the Psychedelic Furs at the Masonic (?) in November.

Chris, Me & Sonny of CRSB

Chris, Me & Sonny of CRSB

My cousin, Mike, & me

My cousin, Mike, & me



Pre-Show Pa’ina


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Anuhea was in town on Saturday to do a concert at the Independent.  She was also selling a very limited number of tickets to a pre-show pa’ina, where she would meet with everyone, take pictures with them and sing a few songs.  I bought a ticket for the pre-show pa’ina rather than the concert; wasn’t feeling like being trampled by a crowd when I’m vertically challenged, anyway.  Her concert DID sell out, so she offered a few more pre-show pa’ina tickets, which several people were extremely glad to get, since they couldn’t buy ones for the concert!

The meeting location was a secret until the day before.  They sent me a text instructing me to be at Pa’ina Lounge (what a coincidence!) by 6:00 p.m. on Saturday.  It’s walking distance from my apartment, so was quite convenient for me.  She was scheduled to be there from 6:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.  The group of us were seated at various tables; mine happened to be the furthest one in the back.  Lucky for those at my table, though, she came to us first.  She signed “posters” and our passes, as well as taking photos with us.  She’s SO very nice and also very tall.  She did a song or two before finishing going around the room to meet everyone.  Food was provided, too – spam musubi, potstickers, spicy mango chicken wings and watermelon.  Once she made it around the room, did a few more songs.  When she asked if anyone wanted to hula, one serious hula dancer got onstage, but the other was a young girl that was basically going through the motions; don’t think she had a clue as to what she was doing.  She was enjoying it, though!  For another song, Anuhea asked if anyone wanted to be her back-up singers.  A group of little girls in the front, around 6-10 years of age, jumped on the stage and sang “Simple Love Song” with her.  The youngest girl was so small that she couldn’t get anywhere near the microphone; one of the other girls had to pick her up and hold her up to the microphone!  Next were some give-aways.  Anuhea asked some trivia questions; obviously, the first person with the right answer won the merchandise.  For a T-shirt, she asked that someone get on stage and do 25 push-ups.  Believe it or not, those little girls jumped up there again!  She only had one T-shirt, though, so she threw it up in the air and one of the girls nabbed it.  We also took a group picture.  So it was a nice and cozy experience.  If only other musicians would do something similar more often.

(BTW, excuse the quality of the photo.  It never ceases to amaze me how so many people can’t seem to operate a basic point-and-shoot camera!)

Anuhea and Me

Playgirl for the Weekend


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June 14th and 15th were the dates of the Playboy Jazz Festival at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles.  I have no idea how many years it’s been going on, but it was started by Hugh Hefner.  For years, Bill Cosby was the emcee; this year it was George Lopez.  I haven’t been to the Playboy Jazz Festival since moving away from Los Angeles in 1996, but always had fond memories of it.  This year I was all over it.  As soon as the tickets went on sale (i.e. 10:00 a.m. on whatever date), I was on-line at about 10:02 a.m. purchasing them.  I managed to get the same exact seat for both days.  My next step was to book a place to stay.  This was my virgin AirBnB experience, and I was pleasantly surprised.  The apartment I rented was about 5 blocks from my old apartment, across the street from “Rock N Roll Ralphs,” a 24-hour grocery store where my ex and I often did our grocery shopping around 2:00 a.m.!  The apartment was a large enough studio with a full-size refrigerator, full stove, microwave, toaster, hair dryer, plates, utensils and a small balcony in a secure building with a swimming pool.  The walk to the Metro station at Hollywood and Highland was probably 10 minutes.  The walk to the Hollywood Bowl itself, even with a backpack filled with food and what not, was maybe 30 minutes.  The bargain price, including the cleaning fee and the AirBnB fee, was something in the range of $120/noight. It was nice to feel as if you’re going back to your own place at the end of the night and not worry about anyone being in the place (i.e. maids) while you’re out.

Saturday at the Jazz Fest was a little wilder than on Sunday.  It was probably because most people don’t work on Sundays, so they felt free to really let loose on Saturday.  The party hearty group of 8 or so seated on my right had showed up with tons of food (coolers, backpacks, bags and even a small suitcase), wine, champagne, beer, vodka, Malibu rum and Fireball (whiskey?).  They were in fine form, long before my arrival.  They were quite friendly, though, offering me a shot of my choice – Malibu – as well as chips and other things to munch on.  My picnic supplies consisted of a chicken panini, potato salad, cantaloupe slices and bottled water.  I’d bought a bottle of wine, but declined to take it after several people told me that they didn’t think it was allowed at the Bowl any more.  I’d also read on-line that wine was allowed for L.A. Philharmonic concerts, but not for others.  Thus, I left it in the apt. rather than risk it being confiscated.  Imagine my disappointment when I saw all of the party supplies that the group next to me had!  The requisite beach balls were being thrown around, with everyone signing their name before hoisting it back into the crowd.  There were also Mardi Gras beads and jello shots being thrown into the crowd.  On Saturday, I managed to grab some Mardi Gras beads, but wasn’t lucky enough to catch any of the jello shots.  Musically, Dianne Reeves was wonderful and Jamie Cullum was quite animated.  There was a tribute to George Duke at the end, in which Patti Austin and Al Jarreau participated, but I wasn’t very impressed with either of them.

On Sunday a friend of mine and her husband were going to be at the Jazz Fest.  We hadn’t seen each other since my moving from L.A. years ago, so she was relatively excited.  They arrived EARLY, but I got there right at 3:00 p.m., when it started.  I ended up sitting in their row because too many people would have had to move to let me in on my original row; didn’t want to deal with it.  Rather than sit in the sun during the start, when lesser known acts are playing, we went to one of the picnic areas to grub.  They had arrived with adobo, rice, a huge submarine sandwich, nuts, a bottle of Riesling and bottled water.  I was more than prepared for the day this time.  I had chicken poppers, green beans with mushrooms, macaroni and cheese, strawberries, red licorice, Malibu and Coke (already pre-mixed) and a bottle of Chianti, plus all of the accoutrements – plastic cups, wine opener, napkins and plastic cutlery.  We sat in the shade, ate, drank and took pictures before heading back to our seats.  At that point, we became BFFs with the two cool chicks on my left.  Sunday was luckier for me, as I not only got more Mardi Gras beads, but plenty of flying jello shots!  My favorite musical acts were John Baptiste, Fantasia (who normally gives me a massive headache) and George Benson, of course.  Fantasia broke out with some old school stuff – “Nasty Girls,” “The Bird” and “Glamorous Life.”  George, unfortunately, did NOT do “Breezin'”, but was great, nonetheless.  My friend and her husband had such fun that she wants to do it every year.  I told her not to wear white the next time, though, as she managed to get a bit of Chianti on her white dress as she was dancing around!

P.S. Some kind young man gave me his last jello shot, along with his phone number.  I declined to call him, however, as I’d already gotten some serious play from Sponge Bob Square Pants over on Hollywood Boulevard!

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Hell Yes, I’m Gonna’ Go There


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I’ve been estranged from my immediate family, mainly my so-called mother and my so-called sister, for 10 years or more.  In April, there was a family reunion, from my so-called mother’s side of the family, in Reno.  I was originally planning to go and see my cousins, and most especially my Grandpa (my last remaining grandparent) until I heard that my so-called mother and older brother and his wife were planning to attend.  She never goes to anything, so it was quite a surprise that she was actually planning to attend the family reunion.  I immediately erased all plans of attending from my mind. In the meantime, I had to dodge so many queries from other relatives as to why I would not be in attendance.

This evening I had drinks with one of my first cousins, Joe; we haven’t seen each other since around 1980.  He attended the family reunion, although none of his siblings did.  He mentioned to me that he’d seen my so-called mother and asked her why I wasn’t in attendance.  She told him that we no longer speak, but apparently gave him some BS story as to why that is.  He said that she seemed completely emotional about possibly never seeing her sister again, but didn’t seem concerned about me in the least.

That is why I’m going to go there, even though most of you are complete strangers.  Let me set the record straight.  My so-called mother (who is Filipino-Chinese) married my so-called stepfather (who is white) and had my older half-brother.  At the time, my so-called stepfather was in the Navy.  He went AWOL and left my so-called mother without any means to support herself, or so I’ve been told.  During the long period that he was AWOL, she met another sailor, a Filipino man, who is my birth father.  After she became pregnant with me, my so-called stepfather came back into the picture and they got back together and went on to have 3 more kids (not including me).  Of course, I was to be given up for adoption as soon as I was born.  In the meantime, while she was pregnant with me, he used to beat her, or at least try to.  Supposedly, my uncle (her brother) used to protect her.   Once I was born, I wasn’t given up for adoption, simply because I was a girl.  I always hated my so-called stepfather and used to wonder what it was like to NOT be partially white.  Around the time I was 14 or 15, my Filipino grandmother told me the entire story, gave me my birth father’s name and address, and told me that he was aware of me.  My uncle, on a separate occasion, had told me the same story.  It was a relief to know that my so-called stepfather was NOT my real father; it was also a relief to know that I’m not partially white.  My half brothers and half sister don’t look like me, anyway; all of them are much taller than me, and 3 out of 4 of them are much lighter in skin tone than me.  My so-called mother didn’t know for several years that I knew the story.  She only realized it one afternoon when, as usual, she was snooping through my things.  I saw her, with my own eyes, going through my address book; she paused on the page that had the name and address of my birth father.  She never spoke to me about it, however.

When I was a little kid, she woke me up in the middle of the night and told me to get out of the house.  Unfortunately for her, my so-called stepfather woke up and prevented her from banishing me from the house.  She used to slap me all the time and call me “La Princessa,” simply for sleeping late.  She was never affectionate to me in any way.  On the other hand, my younger sister was her pride and joy; she couldn’t stop talking about how wonderful my sister was.  When I was young, she and her husband had a fight on Easter Sunday (must have been about me).  I remember her throwing an ashtray at me, then storming out of the house.  When I was in college, one of my college roommates went home with me one weekend.  She said that what she remembered is how badly they treated me.

The turning point came when my niece came to visit me in San Francisco.  My niece was maybe 14 or 15 at the time and it was her first flight.  After a week with my ex-husband and me, she was going home.  I’d called my sister to make sure that someone would be picking up my niece at the airport.  When my sister wasn’t home, I knew that she’d be at my so-called mother’s house.  When I called my so-called mother’s number (to make sure my sister would be picking up her daughter), the first thing my so-called mother said to me was “Oh, it’s you.  I don’t have time to speak to you right now.”  That’s when I decided that she’s not worth my time or my effort.  That’s the last time I ever spoke to her.

My ex-husband, who’s French, told me that his mother was never close to her mother, either.  He said that her mother always treated her badly so, when her mother passed away, she didn’t care that much.  He said that’s why his mother understood me, loved me and could relate to me.  Honestly, the only women who were like mothers to me were the mother of my ex-husband (who’s French) and the mother of an ex-boyfriend (who’s Thai).  I always wondered what it was like for other girls to be raised in loving families with real mothers.

Then again, I have at least 2 friends, maybe more, who have similar situations as mine.  They’re not close to their mothers, either, and barely have relationships with them.

As for me, there’s more I could say, but I’ll leave it at this.  I don’t cry over it; it’s made me a stronger person.  At the same time, I try never to treat anyone the way she’s treated me.  So don’t feel sorry for me.  I know who I am, and I know what my life is about.

When she dies, I won’t shed a tear.  Nor will I have any regrets about the path I’ve chosen.  Karma comes first to those who fear it the most.  I await mine with open arms.

Paradise on Repeat


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I recently returned from 10 days in Hawaii.  After giving it some thought, this was probably my 15th trip to the Islands.  Obviously, the place never grows old, even when the trip only involves Honolulu.  Not being able to drive and usually traveling alone, Honolulu is generally where you’ll find me.

Events on this trip included the Spawnbreezie concert at The Crown Bar & Grill, the Japanese Floating Lantern Ceremony on Memorial Day and the monthly Eat the Street event.

The Crown Bar & Grill is a nice venue near the intersection of Kalakaua and Kapiolani; a friend said that it’s the former Hard Rock Café.  It was my first time seeing Spawnbreezie and he sounds just as good live as he does otherwise.  The place was crowded.  Since I’m short and had been there awhile, I mainly stayed in my seat, not wanting to fight the crowd to get closer to the front.  What’s even more interesting is that I met my distant cousin, Mike, at the concert.  Although we’d never met before, he’s the lead singer for a local Hawaiian band called Rebel Souljahz, thus I recognized him from pictures!  I noticed him standing in my vicinity, asked if he was Mike, then introduced myself as his cousin from San Francisco.  He was very nice, hugged me and said “Aloha” and said that he was there with his girlfriend and other friends.  We didn’t have much other conversation as it was so crowded and loud, but at least I finally got to meet him after all these years!

The Japanese Floating Lantern Ceremony is attended by thousands every year on Memorial Day.  A limited number of lanterns are handed out down at Ala Moana Beach Park in the morning.  Those who are lucky enough to get one can write notes to their loved ones on the lantern, then light them and set them out to sea at sunset.  This was the first year that the ceremony had the possibility of being cancelled due to rain.  Though it had been raining off and on throughout most of the day, the skies were clear around 5:45 p.m. when I walked over and into the crowd of thousands.  A huge screen was set up so that everyone could see what was taking place on the stage.  Participants were relating stories of their loved ones, the Makaha Sons sang “I’ll Remember You,” there was taiko drumming, a Hawaiian priest did his blessing and the Japanese priestess spoke.  Men in canoes set out the first lanterns.  The rest of the crowd followed suit.  With so many people and my lack of height, it was necessary for me to wade out into the ocean myself to get some decent photos without people in front of me.  The photos were worth it, though.  The ceremony was very beautiful and calming.

Eat the Street is a monthly event where 40+ food trucks set up in Kaka’ako.  There is also live music and an area for drinking.  My relatives and I went shortly after it started.  Lucky we did, as it got much more crowded as the evening wore on.  Although garlic was the theme for May, I saw deconstructed musubis, red velvet malasada cheesecake and smoked salmon macarons, among other interesting food stuffs.  Not wanting anything too heavy, I opted for a very fresh tomato basil pie.  One of my relatives had a grilled cheese pulled pork sandwich, though he wasn’t as impressed with it as he’d hoped to be.

The one new attraction that I saw during my 10 days was the Pegge Hopper Gallery in Chinatown.  Pegge Hopper was born in Oakland, studied art in Los Angeles, then worked in both New York and Milan.  In 1963 she moved to Honolulu; she opened the gallery in 1983.  Her work is heavily Polynesian-inspired, which I’ve always liked.  The woman at the gallery assured me that it was fine to take pictures, so I snapped a photo of nearly everything in there!

My hopes of seeing Doris Duke’s Shangri-La and a free museum downtown on the second floor of some building will have to wait for a future trip; never got around to them.

Lots of the usual was involved – eating loco moco, buying leis, shopping at Ala Moana, drinking at The Mai Tai Bar in the Royal Hawaiian Hotel, doing more shopping at the Aloha Stadium Swap Meet, sunbathing and watching gorgeous sunsets.  What’s not to like?

Having not been to either of these places since the 90’s, I revisited both Bishop Museum and Iolani Palace.  They’ve changed, but not so much.

The best part of Hawaii has always been its mix of people, though.  When you’re introduced to someone, more often than not you’re greeted with a hug and a kiss, as opposed to a handshake.  You refer to anyone older than yourself as “Aunty” and “Uncle.”  Complete strangers call you “braddah” and “sistah.”  Unlike in San Francisco, people ALWAYS give up their seats for elderly people, pregnant women and women with children.  You seldom hear car horns being honked and there are no billboards cluttering the views.

As usual, it was with a heavy heart that I boarded the plane to return to San Francisco.  I hope to return to Paradise yet again sooner rather than later.

Bishop Museum

Bishop Museum





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More International Movies


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I saw two more  movies at the San Francisco International Film Festival last week.

“Manos Sucias” was a movie about two brothers in Colombia who are running drugs.  As they take their load down river and out into the ocean, they have many “adventures,” so to speak.  The acting was good and the plot line not truly predictable.  It was my least favorite of the four movies that I saw at the Festival, which isn’t saying that it’s bad in any way – just the other 3 were better, in my opinion.

The final film I saw was “White Shadow.”  It was about the black market for albino body parts, which are highly prized by witch doctors in Tanzania.  The film was NOT a documentary, but based on events which happen on a daily basis in Tanzania.  During the Q&A session afterwards, the director informed us that there are approximately 150,000 albinos in Tanzania, who are in constant fear for their lives.  According to him, the average annual salary in Tanzania is about $1000.  When an albino heart will get $500 on the black market, the thought of killing an albino is sure to cross the mind of the average citizen at least once or twice.  The film has only been shown to small audiences in Tanzania thus far, but received a favorable response.  In fact, the audience there thought the film was much milder than what actually happens.  Apparently, the Tanzanian Film Festival is next month, at which time the film will be shown on a much larger scale.  I was fascinated by the film, although it was not cohesive in some parts.  The acting was very, very good.  Of course, now it makes me want to read up on the subject.

Foreign Films


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It’s that time of year again – time for the San Francisco International Film Festival.  Since they raised the ticket prices to $15.00 apiece, I only committed myself to seeing 4 of them.  I don’t do that “rush” thing, either, as it’s just more added stress,

Last weekend I saw “Chinese Puzzle,” a French film starring Romain Duris.  Apparently, it’s part of a trilogy, the first two being “Auberge Espagnole” and “Russian Dolls.”  “Chinese Puzzle” was a cute romantic comedy, which Monsieur Duris seems to do so well.  Basically, he and his ex-girlfriend (with whom he has 2 children) live in Paris and take turns having the children.  When the ex meets someone in New York and decides to move there, he decides to move there, too, and ends up living in Chinatown.  The added plus was that Romain Duris was there at the beginning of the screening, as well as for the Q&A afterwards.

The following evening I saw “Belle,” which is based on a true story.  It dares to make a statement on the plight/influence of “colored” people in England back in the day.  “Belle” is the illegitimate child of a young man with a title and a colored woman.  When the woman passes away, he takes the child to live with his uncle, as he is constantly traveling for military duty.  She is raised with another illegitimate young girl, who’s white.  It of course touches on interesting situations where one is allowed to do things, but the other is not, yet one is “recognized” by her father, while the other is not.  Nice cinematography and good acting, though slightly over the top at times.

Next week I’m seeing “Manos Sucias” and “White Shadow.”  “Manos Sucias” is about two brothers, at least one of which is involved in drug trade/smuggling and what ensues as they journey down river.  “White Shadow” deals with the black market sale of albino body parts in some African nation; don’t recall which.  As you can tell, I’m into drama!


Cherry Blossom Festival


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Japantown held its annual Cherry Blossom Festival a few weeks ago, for two weekends in a row.  There were the usual retail vendors, food vendors and live music on a few stages.  There was also a parade, taiko demonstration, martial arts demonstration, etc., which I missed.  Anyway, this is just an excuse for me to post a few cherry blossom photos!



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