“I danced for the Devil”

Does this sound familiar: rabid anti-gay rights activist caught making pass at a man in washroom – admits he is gay. The accuser being guilty of what he accuses others of – this is a part of the many layers of guilt in The Crucible. Guilty of one crime you are guilty of all crimes. Accusation = guilt. Being innocent doesn’t undo the stain of the accusation. The Crucible functions on many levels – the use of authority is more important that justice, the denial of guilt is really an admission of guilt.

My last theatre day trip to Stratford was to see Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. A play about witches in October – what a concept 🙂 The production was intense, riveting & the political allegory hasn’t dated a bit. Except these days many don’t care about guilt if the guilty are rich enough – a president can admit to ‘grabbing pussy’ (underage beauty contestants should be flattered he grabbed their privates) & is still in power. But I digress.

The simple set with side pieces of tall trees moves silently & easily to accommodate several locations. The ambient sound before the play starts create a a sense of forest. Once the plays starts with the ‘possessed’ child (nice nod here to ‘The Exorcist’) it moves with constant intent & mounting emotional & physical intensity.

The performances were strong for a cast who clearly enjoyed these characters, had dug deep into the text itself, & gave unexpectedly raw performances. Tim Campbell as John Proctor & Scott Wentworth as Reverend Parris gave amazing performances – perhaps the best I’ve seen by Scott Wentworth. I was drawn into the dense emotional mire both men were feeling on opposite sides of the conflict.

Shannon Taylor as Elizabeth Proctor was strong – her moment of ‘truth’ brought gasps from the audience. The tempted ‘girls’ lead by Katelyn McCulloch as Abigail Williams were given great dramatic moments of demonic possession. Katelyn was good but was more saucy than vengeful. They were women not girls or children, as they were referred to on the text.

I had seat in 4th row orchestra so had a very close view of the superb costumes plus I was impressed by the meticulous wig work. This is an excellent production, perhaps the best I’ve seen this season & one of the most compelling I’ve seen of stage in some time. Jonathan Goad’s direction brought performances that were deeply effective & made a challenging text engaging & challenging at the same time. 

“I danced for the Devil; I saw him, I wrote in his book.” Arthur Miller

other 2019 reviews:

Costume Warehouse Tour – Me? Caped Crusader https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3vQ

Henry VIII – ‘Abject Object’ https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3vW 

Our Father Issues  https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3CB

Cape Breton (Liberation Army) Day 7 https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3Gj

Mae Brecht’s Sex https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3ND

Plant Food For Thought https://wp.me/p1RtxU-3Oo

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & 2020 theatre tickets. Thanks paypal.me/TOpoet 

“Abject Object”

Over the years I have seen nearly all Shakespeare’s plays. Thankfully Stratford Festival presents one of the infrequently produced ones every year or so. This year it is Henry VIII, which we saw at the intimate Studio Theatre. A play with the largest cast list done in the smallest theatre presented a challenge for director Martha Henry, which she met with ease.

This was a preview production but most of the performances were excellent. Irene Poole as Queen Katherine was strong, her death scene was compelling – cutting the appearance of the spirit apparitions allowed the scene even greater emotional resonance. Kim Horsman as Duchess of Norfolk was great fun. Jonathan Goad as Henry was boyish, regal and made the king so appealing one almost forgives his treatment of women. The supporting players were good, Scott Wentworth as the Duke of Norfolk was particularly strong.

Thanks to the series The Tudors I was able to sort out the political web that was being spun for Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn but I’m not sure how anyone unfamiliar with the actual history would have fared with the religious & political intrigues that run though the play. But the play is also an emotional look at the disintegration of a marriage regardless of the political context.

The staging was simple, the costumes were detailed, though there were more sequins than one would have expected at that time 🙂 The ending bows were cleverly  choreographed. Highly recommended.


My only quibble is with an audience member, in my row, two seats to my right who felt it was perfectly fine to use his smartphone to check messages & text replies two different times, while the show was in progress. I guess I should be grateful he didn’t start a whispered conversation on it. 



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Sneak Peek February 2019 

A quick look back before the peek – my TOpoet.ca following is up to 305 maybe I’ll get to 350 by the end of the year. Also the jump in WordPress hits has remained consistent when I stopped the auto link to Tumblr & replaced it with Google+. India now takes the lead in the number of hits, with US, Canada, Ireland, South Africa (!) rounding out the top five.

Twitter is up to 212 followers thanks to more self-publishing entrepreneurs following me :-). Tumblr up 217 – even with their community standards I’m still getting hetero porn sites trying to follow me. Some are moaning about the ‘death’ of Tumblr merely because it is no longer a convenient site for uploading erotic to explicit sex pics. I see are fewer of such pics but they are still there.

So far, no such issues with WordPress. The serialization of Coal Dusters continues with 76,600 words, 40 chapters, so far; with at least 51,000 words (not chapters) to go. I say at least because as I edit things expand. I’m into the second nanowrimo portion & as I work on it I see where I left space for bridging scenes. So I’ve been creating whole new text to connect things. I like what is happening. I’ve also made a PDF file of Book 1 – $1.99 for anyone who wants to have the the first half in one piece (paypal.me/TOpoet). At this place I might have it done by summer.


WordPress photos are now Mondays: suitcases – I want to travel more & one way of getting that energy out there is with suitcases, right? Wednesday is texture – fabric, brick, shingles, wood – the feel of life; Thursday will continue to be random pairs; Fridays is doors – even cast-off doors are openings to a future.


Otherwise February is a routine month – no spoke-word shows to anticipate, no plays on the horizon though we’ll be ordering some tickets soon. Looking forward to Little Shop of Horrors at Stratford & Mae West’s Sex at the Shaw Festival this summer. Good news for my visit to Cape Breton: not only dot hey have a well-organize {Pride week they also have a Starbucks!

Stay In Bed

it seemed like a good idea 

at the time everyone was gung-ho

until they realized

they would have to do something 

to make it happen


expecting me to do it all

was part of their plan

not mine

sure I thought it was a great idea

but I’m not a one man show

as much as I’d like to be

and as much I as I know

I would be better person

for being willing to do it all by by myself

I’m not going to even try


when that become clear

the energy began to wane

the idea didn’t seem so wonderful

getting active

making things happen

isn’t such fun after all


why can’t someone else 

do all the work for us

while we sit back

and enjoy the results 

the rewards should be ours 

for the thinking

thanks to your doing

thanks to someone being 

consistant and eager

to take each demanding task 

and fulfilling them 

to our specification

faced with having

to do it ourselves 

we grow diffident 



while looking for the right person

to blame 

to save face


picking up the rake the shovel 

is such a bore

makes us want to just stay in bed

for another half hour 

maybe this’ll blow over 

maybe the next fast flash of inspiration

will require even less than thinking



every Tuesday 2019

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

August 2-13: getting back to my roots in Cape Breton 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2019’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Paradise Staged

Before seeing the Festival production of Paradise Lost we stopped into the costume warehouse sale to see what was on sale but more to see what was stored there. It was day 2 of the sale & all the ‘good’ stuff had been sold in the first few hours of day 1. I did buy a shirt though just to say I have a piece of Festival history. 

There were plenty of fun cloaks, sequinned dresses & few props. I found out that there are regular tours of the warehouse so one will be planned for next season. I did get some fun photos though which was my real reason for going there.

Paradise Lost was excellent. I wasn’t sure how the endless, blank verse poem would be staged. Doing spoken word frequently I know the struggle there can be in lifting words of the page. Adapter Erin Shields, director Jackie Maxwell & Lucy Peacock (as Satan) did an amazing job at making the text engaging & often much funnier than I’m sure John Milton intended it to be.

Centre stage at the Studio Theatre is a pile of shirts (going from dark at the bottom to white at the top) reaching to the ceiling, around it are hung black shirts. Lights out & we hear the dark shirts drop to the stage: the fallen angels. As Satan Lucy Peacock commands the stage whenever she appears. The interaction between the ‘good’ host of angels reflects their pecking order.

The supporting cast was all good. I particularly liked Sarah Dodd as as sort of east coast slutty Sin & as Zephon, who was eager to perform as Satan in the play-within-a-play. Perhaps because he was mainly naked I did enjoy Qasim Khan as Adam. His comic timing was excellent. Both he & Amelia Sargisson, as Eve, played the naivety of their characters to perfection. 

The play-within-a-play mystery play telling of the war that lead to fall was hilarious & ti was clear the supporting cast was having great fun with it. The rhyming couples were a nice sonic break from the blank verse too. This is a brilliant piece of theatre that rivalled Coriolanus for theatricality without relying on tech-magic to do so.

The other shows I saw this season:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: “The King and My Memories” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y

Julius Caesar: “Honourable Women” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-33T

The Hound of the Baskervilles: “Entertainment Afoot”  https://wp.me/p1RtxU-34I

The Tempest: “Brave Spirits Indeed” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-35S

Grand Hotel https://wp.me/p1RtxU-37e

Rocky Horror: “I Feel Sexy” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-38u

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Stratford Costume Warehouse pics:





I Feel Sexy

I’ve seen Rocky Horror a few times now – both on stage & of course the movie. I remember a photo of Tim Curry in Time magazine, when the film was being made. He was in the classic corset costume & I was amazed & aroused. I’ve never been fan of lingerie on a man except for this one. Panty Papi isn’t for me. 

I was working for Famous Players in Sydney, Cape Breton (not Australia) when the film was released & the opening lips mesmerized me. The plot had everything I was already into: spooky houses, crazed scientists, goth butlers, bisexuality, silly scifi plots & hilarious songs. Tim Curry was amazing too. The man could sing. His drag was not fem, a bit campy &  still remains cutting edge.

The stage productions I have seen have all been good fun but director Donna Feore’s Stratford take is the best I’ve seen. Dan Chameroy as Frank N. Furter is a powerhouse. He makes this role his own without initiating Curry at any point. Totally committed & he makes this imaginary character feel like a real person.

The show doesn’t let up for a minute from when one sits down to face the distressed velvet curtain to when that curtain reluctantly falls as the end after encores of Time Warp. The band was amazing & I love the sax playing of Ian Harper. The ensemble cast is like clockwork – they all sing & dance with energy plus it was clear that they really really loved these songs & the various bits of stage business they had to deal with.

Steve Ross as the narrator handled audience hecklers with aplomb without stepping of of character – plus his singing was excellent – too and he never got a song of his own. Sayer Roberts as Brad was great as well – it’s too easy to down play Brad as a minor player but Sayer holds his own, in undies for much of the play, & when he gets his song, Once in a While proves he can sing as well as looking good in fishnets & heels.

The women in the show are good but the sound mix resulted in them sounding like shrill Betty Boops. In fact the sound mix often made the lyrics indistinguishable to my friends who came to see the show with me. Regardless this is a dynamic production of a musical that remains edgy in its sexuality. Five out of five. It has been extended to the end of November so see it while you can.

My last show of the season will be Paradise Lost in October.

Other recent reviews:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: “The King and My Memories” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y

Julius Caesar: “Honourable Women” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-33T

The Hound of the Baskervilles: “Entertainment Afoot”  https://wp.me/p1RtxU-34I

The Tempest: “Brave Spirits Indeed” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-35S

Grand Hotel https://wp.me/p1RtxU-37e 




every Tuesday

October 5/6/7 – Gratitude Round-Up


October scary poetry every Wednesday & Thursday

June  – Capturing Fire 2019 – Washington D.C.  capfireslam.org 

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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Honourable Women

Where to start with this so-so Stratford Festival production of Julius Caesar? This early play, not regarded as one of Shakespeare’s better pieces, isn’t improved any by the casting of women in the lead roles. I was hoping there would be some layered resonance on the current discussion about gender & representation but if there is it was under too many layers. An arrogant & ambitious ruler meets a bad end. Assassins pay the price of their actions. 

Seana McKenna does not portray Caesar as being particularly arrogant or ambitious. She handles the role well but seems merely content to give the lines a well enunciated delivery. Michelle Giroux as Mark Antony invests the character with urgency & emotional connection. She handles the slyly manipulative “lend me your ears” speech very well. Now this a character with ambitions. Also good was Jonathan Goad as Marcus Brutus. 

Director Scott Wentworth does able work with the ‘rabble’ crowd scenes so they have good energy & theatricality – I really enjoy the opening of Act 2 with the rabble scattered throughout the theatre. Slow motion battle scenes & Gregorian chant didn’t work for me. I did like the hand washing nod to McBeth though.

When men play women, cross-dressing or doing drag, they are judged by how well they pass as women, so it is fair to do the same for when women play men. Seana is the most successful on surface appearance, Michelle is okay, Irene Poole as Cassius could pass as a teenage boy not as an adult male. Other women cast as men in the production are more androgynous than masculine. 


I was happy to see Julius Caesar and this is a solid production. I also appreciated the casting of women in men’s roles – this sort of gender play, only reversed, was the law in Shakespeare’s time. Maybe it’s time for a really tradition production where men play all the roles. Scott Wentworth would make a brilliant Lady McBeth.

PS: No one says: “Great Caesar’s ghost.” Also, I could not get that classic Canadian comedy moment “Julie, don’t go!  Julie, don’t go!  But he wouldn’t listen!” out of my mind: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rR_5h8CzRcI

Other summer reviews:

Long Day’s Journey Into Night: “a ghost haunting the past” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-30f 

Coriolanus: “My rage is gone” https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31K 

The King and I: The King and My Memories https://wp.me/p1RtxU-31Y 

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“a ghost haunting the past”

Our first of this year’s Stratford productions was Eugene O’Neill‘s Long Day’s Journey Into Night at the Studio Theatre. I don’t know what this reveals about either my sense of humour or about my attachment to trivia but when my partner asks where something misplaced might be I have been known to reply ‘have you looked in the box beside the wedding dress’ – which he knows is a reference to Long Day’s. 

I have seen at least two versions of Long Days on film – one, I think was a TV version starting Olivier – the other was Hepburn with her hands grasping at nothing in the air and muttering about her wedding dress. All very tragic, melodramatic & talky. But Long Day’s is a surprising contemporary play: addict mother living in blame & shame; alcoholic father living in regret for lost glory; alcoholic son following his Dad’s career footsteps & failing; another drunken son who tried to break free now dying of consumption. All caught in a string quartet of blame, shame, denial & retreating to the past. A few tweaks & this could be today.

I throughly enjoyed this production. The performers played well off each other, though Seana McKenna as the mother held our attention whenever she was on stage, & even when she wasn’t. When she wasn’t I longed for her to be there as the others never felt as invested in their roles as Seana did.

The staging was effective in the intimate space of the Studio Theatre. We had seats in row B so it felt like we were sitting in the room itself. The fog horn was resonant & at times underscored the emotional flow with it’s inevitability & a sense that the family’s emotional fog would always come rolling in.

Although I enjoyed the show I did not find it entertaining. The production was more a museum piece than one that offered us anything fresh in its presentation. The Festival, which has been reimagining classic pieces in ways which challenge audiences, offers no challenge in this production.

School For #sfScandal

Took in Antoni Cimolino’s production of R.B. Sheridan’s School For Scandal, our final Stratford production of the year at the Festival Theatre, on Tuesday. As per usual we left Toronto around 9:15 for to drive leisurely – 401 to Cambridge where we always stop at a Tim Ho’s for a washroom break & a coffee, then a welcome stop at the Shakespeare pie shop  http://www.shakespearepies.net  for meat pies. We would arrive in Stratford by noon for lunch, usually at Features. 

The weather was perfect for the drive. Sunny but not overly warm. Traffic on 401 was fine the first hour then bam! to snail crawl – three lanes of it moving nowhere slowly. Why? We find out when we get the Guelph Line where traffic was reduced to a single lane & detoured along the Line 😦 We had to make a washroom stop along with way at a Country Time. Skipped lunch, didn’t get back to 401 for an hour or so & finally got parked in Stratford at 2:15. Needless to say we missed the curtain going up on the show – the detour was the real scandal. But we didn’t give up on the show. All we missed was the first scene. I can read that if I need to.

Once my racing brain had settled in somewhat I was quickly immersed in the production. The text is essentially nasty one liners & comic retorts. Characters are created with names: i.e. Lord Backbite. The performances were lively, arch, sincere & delicious. Costumes were great, wigs were perfect. It was clear that the cast really enjoyed their roles & the dialogue they were given to perform.

The nature of gossip, truth & alternate facts were very clear & a great comment on our modern day life in which being malicious is often the point – it doesn’t matter who the object of the maliciousness is. Being clever & nasty that is the point. Name calling only counts if the name you are calling is witty enough.

A superb production that I’d recommend except this was the last performance. It almost made the hell drive okay but …. at least the pie shop was open on the way home & I got an amazing maple pecan butter tart to sooth my weariness.

Reviews of the other shows I’ve seen this season at Stratford & Shaw:

‘in the key of green’ Bakkhai http://wp.me/p1RtxU-2r0

A #Changeling For the Better http://wp.me/p1RtxU-2tg

A Bloodless #Dracula http://wp.me/p1RtxU-2uU

Tartuffe: The Dance Remix http://wp.me/p1RtxU-2w6

Me and My Lamp Post http://wp.me/p1RtxU-2xN


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A Changeling For the Better

I’m grateful that the Stratford Festival focuses on rarely produced English dramas & comedies that give Shakespeare’s work more of a context. One of these productions in this year’s The Changeling by Thomas Middleton & William Rowley. I enjoyed the show and would recommend it for the performances of the leads alone. Ben Carlson as De Flores is outstanding. Mikaela Davies as Beatrice-Joanna is intense and at times even a little frightening as she slips from manipulated to manipulator. Tim Campbell as Lollio brought much appreciated comic relief & a gifted command of double-entendre.

Written in early 1600’s this piece is one of the ones that established the use of physical deformity as a reflection of inner evil. In this production nevus flammeus on half of De Flores face. This demonization of physical disability is still evident in our culture’s reaction to otherness – though it has become more of an infantilization – treating the disabled as if they where children incapable thought or, as in fiction, letting their difference make them into spiteful, evil villains or saints.

I was also struck by the fear of women’s sexuality. Beatrice-Joanna begins by protecting her purity – her virginity – but once it surrendered the pleasure she takes in sex becomes a reflection of her evil. Clearly things haven’t changed much since 1600. Slut shamming & head-shaking over a woman enjoying or reclaiming her right to enjoy sex still goes on & on & on. Of course Beatrice-Joanna suffers appropriately both for her crime and for her sexual pleasure.

The staging was simple & effective with a set that morphed with lighting from church, to asylum, to street, to castle hall. It didn’t detract from the action. Costumes reflected the production being set in 1938 Spain – a time when Spain was going though political change & turmoil – like eh factor sin the playing going though emotional change & turmoil. I did find the opening scene’s rebel exchanging secret notes very distracting – it pulled focus from the dialogue with business that added nothing to the text.

I have to mention the smart, subtle, references to David Bowie, and Bob Dylan in the program notes. Two modern performers whose careers underwent constant & sometimes unpredictable changes – much like what the characters in The Changeling go through.

The notes mention another Middleton (with Thomas Dekker) play – The Roaring Girl, about the crossing-dressing Moll Firth, deserves a proper revival soon. I’d highly recommend The Changeling – an excellent production with more present day resonance than one might expect.

Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington at 2018’s capfireslam.org – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet


Over the years I’ve seen many productions & takes on the Scottish play both on stage & in film. Some very traditional, others reinventing the setting. One of my favourite films is Joe MacBeth a 50’s gangster take with Broderick Crawford & Ruth Roman. Throne of Blood is also great. Patrick Stewart’s eastern bloc version is the best Macbeth I’ve ever seen.

fall colours in Stratford Oct 2016
fall colours in Stratford Oct 2016

On stage I’ve seen puppets, clowns & even real people 🙂 tackling it. At The Festival this will be the the third or maybe fourth production I’ve seen. The last was the African revolution ‘variation’ that had Colm Feore driving a jeep on stage (in a nod I guess to Miss Saigon’s helicopter).

This production of Macbeth starts when you enter the theatre – instead of house music there is a constant rumble of distant thunder. Mist, blackout & lights up with the witches swirling around in the swirling mist. The play moves, for the most part, quickly, effectively. Ian Lake as our ‘hero’ is excellent, unflattering even when his character is supposed to falter. I never for a moment believed this man didn’t have the fortitude to what was to be done.07strat04

Krystin Pellerin as his Lady is strong as well, not as strong as Lane though. I didn’t feel her conniving – it was as if the murder was an automatic response as opposed to something that occurs to her. There is chemistry between her and the Lord. The washing of his body after battle is a nice foreshadowing of her later hand washing dilemma.

As much as I like the Porter’s text it stops the play in its tracks. No director has be willing to cut it. It is a problem to be solved & this production fails to solve it. I know the historic context for it but even then it added nothing to propelling the story. Comic relief isn’t needed & it doesn’t create tension.

Gene's washroom selfie Oct 2016
Gene’s washroom selfie Oct 2016

None of the secondary characters were outstanding, but Michael Blake as Macduff has an affecting moment on hearing of the death of his wife. Lane give ‘Tomorrow and’ a deeply emotional performance. I wish some of the other work had as much depth. The murderers were mundane, the generals lacked enunciation.

The sword play was exciting. The wigs & beards were amazing – I’ve seen too many badly constructed & poorly applied beards & the ones in this production looked real – we were in 2nd row centre seats so we had very close up looks 🙂 Which also added to my pleasure at the amazing six-pac abs the Laird wasn’t shy about displaying – I didn’t realize there was gym in his castle.

pig snout on the drive home from Stratford Oct 2016
pig snout on the drive home from Stratford Oct 2016


The other Festival productions I saw this season are:

A Little Night Music: http://wp.me/p1RtxU-1Rn

The Hypochondriac: http://wp.me/p1RtxU-1X6

A Chorus Line  http://wp.me/p1RtxU-1Zx


The Killer Wants To Know

the killer wondered
how long it took for blood to dry
he never left a crimson spatter pattern
he didnʼt leave clues
there was so much about death
that he didnʼt understand

like how long it took for blood to dry
did it get absorbed
would it slather the surface
and clot cake dry
become flakey then powder
be blown away

in the morning breeze

could it be resurrected by rain

he knew what was released on death
the bowel bladder
abrupt shudderings
that were the price of what he did
to liberate this world
from all these unnecessary fucks
all these jerk offs
who didnʼt see how precious life was
until he would suddenly confront them
in the washroom of a noisy bar
music pounding so loudly
people thought the the thump

on the stall door

was someoneʼs fun drug reaction

but most of them didnʼt know
how long it took for blood to dry
not that he asked them
why worry them with more
than how good is the coke

he offered

then push them into a stall
life gone
him gone out the door
his impression around the neck

satisfying and simple

but now he had something

new to learn

he had to find out

hello stranger


November 1 – 30 Participating NaNoWriMo




June: attending: Capturing Fire 2018 –



check out these poets from Capturing Fire 2015: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCx5KD1eDccdjdTdQ28kZRNg


Hey! Now you can give me $$$ to defray blog fees & buy coffee in Washington – sweet,eh? paypal.me/TOpoet

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