Sunday, February 28, 2010

Daily Photo 2.28.10 (plus a dog)

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Set the camera on a park bench after today's 9-mile run and took this. Took out the color not because it looks moody, but because it ended up pretty blah. One thing I saw late on my run, which I did not photograph: a woman walking down the middle of the street dressed head-to-toe in pure white, including a furry white hat, pushing two empty folding shopping carts.

How do I get treated after running 9 miles -- more than 22 all week? Damn dog steals my seat on the couch.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Daily Photo 2.27.10

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Nik brought home a pomelo, which is apparently a giant citrus fruit. It looks like a freakishly big fuck-you grapefruit, except when you cut it open the segments are jumbled together and surrounded by styrofoam.

There's a grapefruit on the plate too, for scale.

Daily Photo 2.26.10 (plus some bonuses)

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Another night-time run, this one in wet weather with a little snowfall.

Nice thing about running at night -- stargazing.

You also find the best lunch specials when you go for a night-time run. Can't really go in there and get some chicken while you're running, but, you know -- future reference.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Daily Photo 2.25.10

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Managed less than half my plan today.

Daily Photo 2.24.10

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Stuck in a rather awful pattern lately where I'm waking up chronically late. Can't seem to shake myself out of it, as I'm great at talking myself back into bed after turning the alarm off.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Daily Photo 2.23.10

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Nik took the dogs on a 10-miler today. It showed. Once they found comfortable spots on the couch, they were out.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Daily Photo 2.22.10 (plus bonuses)

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Had a tweetup -- screw that. That word's too cutesy. I met up with some friends at the Kinsale Inn in Mattapoisett for drinks and burgers. From left: Nik, John from the Poi (maker of the fine Run New England video podcast), Jonathan from Go Motion Gear (maker of fine night-time running illumination), and Chris Russell from the Run Run Live podcast (maker of the fine Run Run Live podcast). It was my first time meeting Jonathan and first time meeting Chris in person.

Had a great time. Terrific beer, great burgers, fantastic company. And the Kinsale Inn is someplace I definitely have to make a regular spot. Particularly since burgers are $5 on Mondays. Above, Nik and John chat with Chris, below.

Chris took some video with a neat little Flip HD:

Monday, February 22, 2010

Daily Photo 2.21.10

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Spotted this while out on my run today.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Daily Photo 2.20.10

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I'm the proud owner of a trendy stainless steel water bottle now. So is Nik -- she got one too. When she mentioned she wanted to buy one, I gave her a pleasant surprise by responding warmly to the idea of paying money for a simple, spoutless, non-insulated metal receptacle to hold water. I had to admit -- the water bottles we bought look and feel really nice.

But it's not a fucking Sigg. I'm not made of money.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Daily Photo 2.19.10

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Daily Photo 2.18.10 (plus book recommendations)

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Had a meeting today with various mucky-mucks in my company, and so on & so forth, blah blah blah, the gist being: I realized just before the meeting that the event was to take place within walking distance of the New England Mobile Book Fair in Newton Highlands. I emitted a little squee.

The NE Mobile Book Fair is not mobile, and it's not a fair. Maybe it was at one time, I don't know -- but at the moment it's a warehouse filled floor to ceiling with books on every conceivable topic, of every age, fiction, nonfiction, children's books, bargain books, remainders, books in foreign languages, books you didn't realize were being printed anymore *, books impossible to find in big-box stores, literature for every purpose and taste. It's the Costco of book stores. Every time I go there I wonder why I don't go there more often, and every time I'm in there I wonder if I could hide in the back and live there without anybody knowing. I probably could've, this time. There was an unattended door open to the back rooms, and I could see in there. I could've found a nice spot to hide until nightfall.

I was there to find books on Pieter Breugel the Elder, a Flemish Renaissance painter who created beautiful jam-packed landscapes. His paintings are sort of rare around here, so Nik asked me to see if there were any books of his work with good quality prints. Either that or we go to Austria, because apparently that's where they're hogging the Breugels. I love his work as well -- his paintings are extraordinarily detailed and funny, and remind me of what's in the potato barn at the end of Kurt Vonnegut's Bluebeard. (You didn't realize a blog as rife with profanity as this one could make with the highbrow references, eh?)

Anyway, I didn't find any Breugel books. But I did find this:

Fuck me, what's that? It's "Brushing Mom's Hair," a children's book written by Andrea Cheng and illustrated by my very own wife! If only there were some way you could buy a copy without having to visit the New England Mobile Book Fair yourself.

It still gives me a thrill to see Nik's books on a store shelf, and I'm always struck by an impulse to buy all the copies -- which would make no goddam sense, because then there wouldn't be any left for anyone else, which is the point of publishing a book for others. So I was happy to pick this one up, thumb through (almost as if for quality control, to make sure there were no pages stuck together or bound upside down or something), and reshelve it.

We've recently joined for a year's membership, so that's been the primary way I've been ingesting my literature. I read for a living. When I come home, I have very little time to do much of anything, and there are various and sundry hobbies and activities and duties that take up my time, none of which allow me to sit quietly with a printed book. If I didn't listen to audiobooks while I shop or cook or run, I'd likely not read anything at all (sort of like the way I've been living for the past couple of years, which I'm hoping turns out to be kind of my own personal Dark Ages). Anyway -- my point is, while I love being able to consume literature again at my own pace with Audible, it unfortunately robs me of one of my great joys: roving through stacks of books up to the ceiling with my head cocked at a 60° angle to the right so I can read the spines, finding interesting books by accident, holding them and riffling the pages to hear the thick, almost digestive noise of the paper flipping from my thumb. One of the happiest memories of my life was going on a 2-week vacation with Nik to Bar Harbor one year where we did nothing but read books -- we prepared weeks before by going to a bookstore, performing the head-cock-discovery-and-riffle dance with over a dozen books each and buying them all with the clerk looking like he'd hit the lottery.

The point of this is, I find it mentally revitalizing to roam book stacks and browse and buy something, and for the last several years I've needed mental revitalization. And even though I'm now an Audible member I felt it would be criminal not to leave the NEMBF without picking up at least one. I mean, fucking hell -- they're just going to sit there, unread, staring out like dogs at the pound unless I take one home. For a while I was going to buy Karlology by Karl Pilkington, a great find considering how I hadn't seen it in any other bricks-and-mortar bookstore. That's the kind of thing that the NEMBF carries that you can't find anywhere else. But I put Karlology back, in case I could find it on Audible, so I could get it that way and hear Karl's bizarre shit as described in his Mancunian accent. It isn't on Audible, so I got screwed there.

I settled instead on a gift for Nik, a sealed-in-cellophane copy of The Blue Aspic by Edward Gorey. He's one of her favorite authors and illustrators, and mine too, kind of a secret hero of mine who I don't talk about much and read enough, who had the kind of writing career and bravado and humor that I covet painfully -- which may be why I don't talk about him much, come to think of it. The Blue Aspic is one of his best books. It tells the parallel stories of an opera diva named Ortenzia, who becomes increasingly famous and removed from the world as the story goes on, and Jasper Ankle, a fan of Ortenzia's who sinks deep into despair, stalking, and eventually madness. Spoiler alert (it's only 64 pages and the plot is really secondary to how the story resolves itself): It ends with Jasper escaping an insane asylum, finally coming face-to-face Ortenzia for the first time, and stabbing her in the throat.

At the cash register, the cashier told me: "He used to shop here." Meaning Edward Gorey. "He used to come here all the time and check out the remainders. Wore the big fur coat and everything."

I was stunned. "He have a cat lounging on his shoulders when he came in?"

"No -- just the fur coat."

I left just afterward. Remind me not to let it take another year or so before I go back -- and I'm bringing a pillow next time, because I'm going to live in there and that's all there is to it.


* Case in point, I found a stack three feet high of copies of the Star Trek Encyclopedia, containing everything you ever wanted to know about the entire Star Trek universe. I thumbed through one slightly dented phone-book-thick copy, found an entry labeled "exocomps" and spontaneously nerdgasmed. I didn't buy it because I couldn't justify the cost, given the existence of But then again, the encyclopedia did have extensive diagrams of the ships. I may return and get it.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Daily Photo 2.17.10

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Ran another 3 miles in pitch dark today.

Daily Photo 2.16.10

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Strangely enough, this is right where I work. Honest. It's in the parking lot.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Daily Photo 2.15.10

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Found Leah toasting herself on the radiator.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Daily Photo 2.14.10

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Celebrated Valentine's Day with a 5-mile run with Nik. Maybe it was the day, the nice weather, or the beautiful lady I was running with, but I had a wonderful time and felt really strong. I don't always feel that way when I run.

Want to see more photos from the run? See our running blog and podcast.

Daily Photo 2.13.10

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To celebrate the start of Chinese New Year, Nik and I got Chinese takeout. Beef and broccoli for her, the General for me. Happy Year of the Tiger to you: It's grrrrrrrreat!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Daily Photo 2.12.10

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On Route 24 south.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Frank Xing

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This is a short story I wrote many years ago. In 2001, it was published in a tiny literary magazine specializing in unusual and strange fiction called "The Missing Fez," which has apparently gone defunct -- probably because it had a ludicrous name. I sent them the manuscript on a lark, and they sent me back an acceptance letter enclosed with a check for $25. Which is breathtaking, to be honest, because should you be lucky to make it out of slush and into print, you shouldn't necessarily expect money -- even at a halfway-decent literary magazine.

I don't recall ever getting a print copy of the actual magazine (also unusual and strange, since your average literary magazine's standard currency is sample copies). "TMF" is not online, either. So essentially, this story did not exist anymore, except to me, to the few people who read it way back when I wrote it and decided to remember it, and perhaps to the guy who signed the $25 check to me, assuming he actually read it at the time.

I'm getting sick of keeping my old stuff in a box, because what's the point? Perfectly good sentences are getting moldy in that damn box. And I'm not sure why I'm so goddam stingy about letting other people read things I've written, particularly when they're old, already published, and have essentially vanished. So rather than let the story languish unread, I'm reprinting the story here, mostly unaltered except for a few wildly miscalculated metaphors, lame descriptions, and a semicolon glaring out of the first paragraph. Maybe it'll kill a few minutes while you're waiting at the dentist's office or something.


Route 395 was so long and straight, and Rodney’s seat so comfortable, that he was sure if he dozed off for just a few minutes or so he’d be fine. There was no traffic, not at this hour. For the past thirty minutes he’d rested his arms in his lap, holding the wheel steady with his stomach. The Volvo had heated seats. It reminded him of a soapy bath.

Shit, why the heated seats? The warmth radiating through his back coaxed him into a state of profound submissiveness. Between that and the soft leather he was essentially driving a plush La-Z-Boy with the optional massage turned on, and the soft jazz on the radio was soothing as a lullabye. He hadn’t planned on heated seats. He would’ve just as soon rented a Hyundai. But since Jerry was footing the bill, and since Jerry barely checked his receipts, Rodney had been nice to himself and rented the more spacious Volvo—and when would a guy like him get to drive a swanky car like this again? The heated seats had been a pleasant surprise he’d found while groping in the dark for the rear window defogger. Now the heated seats had spoiled him and he was squinting at the highway—a compromise between forcing his eyes open and letting them drift casually shut.

If only he brought an alarm clock. He could set it to go off in ten minutes and take a quick nap. Sleep and still make it to his hotel before 2, where a soft, plush mattress waited for him like a lover. No reason to steer, no reason to speed up or slow down—let cruise control take over. A little refresher. Just close your eyes—

He closed them.

He was on a bus. He was curled catlike, his legs under him, blazer draped across his shoulders and lap and head resting against someone's shoulder. His eyes no longer felt like pebbles rolling in dry sockets. Somebody was massaging his back and buttocks. It was a pretty girl with tender, milky hands sitting next to him, and she was saying this is jazz all night with you every weeknight until six ay em we just heard from bing crosby there

Rodney opened his eyes. He was still driving the Volvo, which had gotten bumpier. He checked the clock—somehow he’d lost three minutes. He had also moved from the high-speed to the breakdown lane. The tires roared over the rumble strip. Rodney's heart beat high in his chest, in his throat, behind his forehead. Just slept while driving! Shit! Shit! Jesus Christ! He was squinting again as he jerked the car into the center lane. His jaw cracked open, and he yawned improbably, trying to force his eyes open. Could’ve been killed! Could’ve driven off the road! Into a tree! Flipped over! Shit! Shit! He would pull over and nap, since nothing was open in this podunk neck of the woods at this hour, and if Jerry complained about the schedule being off, Rodney would—

A flash, and the car hit a wall—he heard a vaguely wet crunch of a meaty object hitting Swedish metal. Rodney was rocked in his seat and a pillow slammed into his face, the seat belts straining to hold him in place.

He slammed on the brakes, ground his teeth, and with an agonized yell, the car fishtailed to a stop in the middle of the highway. Not a wall—he hadn’t hit a wall. It was something. An animal.

Rodney rested his head on the pillow. It smelled like a tire.

Wake up! You hit something! You hit a giant penguin!

The windshield was spiderweb-cracked, the radio somehow louder than usual. He opened the door, wearily poked his head into the cold night, and saw a lump several feet away, in his headlights.

Rodney wobbled to his feet, his ribs, neck and shoulders aching from the crash. He braced himself on the fender. It had been hours since he'd stood up last and his feet had gone numb. A frigid wind strained through his blazer and slacks, ran up his sleeves. He folded his arms, teeth clicking like castanets, stunted breath smoking in the cold. He approached the lump and squinted at it.

It wasn’t a deer or a moose or a penguin. He rolled it over onto its back with his foot.

He hit Frank Sinatra. Sinatra’s tuxedo shirt was torn and bloody. He’d lost his shoes. He had a weeping gash on his head, blood clumping and staining his gray hair. One of his legs was at a crazy angle, and the tuxedo pants were in ribbons. His bow tie was crooked. One of Sinatra’s blue eyes was open and dumb, pointing toward at the black and empty sky, the other eye closed.

Jesus Christ. What the hell could he do now? He killed Sinatra. Sinatra was dead. Poor thing, Rodney thought, nudging Sinatra’s leg with his shoe. Through the tears in Sinatra’s pants, Rodney saw that he was wearing—had been wearing—yellow silk bikini briefs.

Rodney checked up and down the highway—nobody around, no troopers or truckers. Not even the moon was visible.

He had to clear Sinatra off the road. He crouched down by Sinatra’s round, wrinkled head, smelling Sinatra’s cologne, a heady mix of leather and scotch. Rodney poked him in the face. He was soft and still warm. Sinatra’s mouth fell open.

Rodney stood and stared at the corpse. He wasn’t tired anymore. If he drove away—no witnesses—but no, he couldn’t just leave the guy there. The car—maybe there was something he could use to push Sinatra off to the shoulder. He didn’t want to touch him again. Let the state clean him up.

Rodney lurched back to the car, holding his aching ribs, reached in and popped open the trunk. He shut the door to mute the radio. By the bumper, Rodney found a shiny black leather shoe, the laces still tied, size 10 1/2, the brand an Italian name he didn’t recognize.

Rodney shoved aside his boxes of silverware samples to the back of the trunk and found a jack handle. He'd use it to prod Sinatra until Rodney rolled him closer to the median—anything to keep from getting blood on his fingers and suit. Another arctic wind filtered through his blazer, ran up his legs, down his collar. He felt an acid bubble crawl up his throat. Rodney swallowed thickly. Sinatra was probably carrying germs.

He slammed the trunk shut and trotted to the front of the car.

Nobody in the headlights—empty road with a few blood spots on the tar. Rodney squinted at the place Sinatra had been and shivered.

He squinted rapidly in all directions, and he saw him—Sinatra—by the side of the road, rubbing the forehead wound as if shaking off a hangover. Sinatra was staggering back into the woods.

“Hey!” Rodney yelled, waving the jack handle.

The six lanes of empty highway said, again and again, “Hey!

If Sinatra heard, he made no sign. He limped off the road onto the shoulder, tearing off his bow tie. And then he was gone.

Rodney blinked, then looked back at the Volvo. The door was shut. He shivered. He walked over and tried the handle. It was locked.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Daily Photo 2.11.10 (plus over a dozen bonuses)

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Spent a little bit of time today clearing snow off the sidewalk. We were supposed to get a major storm, but apparently by "major" the weather forecasters meant "regular."

Afterward, had a romp in the backyard with Stanley and Myrna. I'm honestly surprised he stayed still this long. Below are many more.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Daily Photo 2.10.10

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Fuck the blizzard. I'm staying inside with this.

Daily Photo 2.9.10

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Monday, February 08, 2010

Daily Photo 2.8.10

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Dog's obsessed with chin-scratching. Stanley can't get enough.

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Daily Photo 2.7.10 (plus a slice of cake)

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Celebrated my 33rd with a morning 8-mile run. Nik and I and the dogs ran across the river into Somerset, where Stanley checked out the ducks.

Afterward, there was Carvel. And lo, the Carvel was good.

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Daily Photo 2.6.10 (plus a trip to the museum)

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Spent the afternoon, the day before my 33rd birthday, at the Museum of Fine Arts. Call me boring or whatever, but visiting the museum is genuinely what I wanted to do for my birthday. Because I'm a cultured SOB (see below).

This giant bronze baby head sculpture is by Antonio Lopez Garcia. It's 6 or maybe 7 feet tall -- I'm standing quite a bit away from it. Then again, I'm just a little fellow, so everything looks big to me.

There's a second baby-head sculpture -- both flank the rear Fenway exit of the MFA, one gazing out at the Fens and the other with its eyes squeezed shut. They're hilarious and beautiful, so massive they surprised us, so striking they immediately became one of the best things we'd seen.

Also on exhibit was a collection of amazing Albrecht Dürer etchings, drypoints, and woodcuts. I've seen a few of them in books obviously, and Nik said the room was like flipping through her Art History textbook, but studying them in person was fascinating. I kept wanting to get closer and closer, eyeballs inches from the prints, to see the detail and the variation in line width -- but then I remembered the knucklehead who fell into the Picasso and backed off.

Speaking of which: It's my usual custom to get yelled at by security guards at every museum I visit, and this trip was no exception. I take pictures of everything I see, but I never do it if there are signs posted and I never, ever use a flash. My camera has a goddam "museum" setting that keeps the flash off and doesn't even make any shutter noise, for Chrissake. I had tried to photograph a contemporary art video installation, a series of video screens showing Italian people singing Madonna songs in sync, looped for 70-plus minutes. The thing itself is pretty mediocre and shallow (but not nearly as shallow as other lousy, obvious, single-idea video installations we've seen). What interested me, and what I tried to photograph, was the throng of people standing and watching it -- more people crowded against the wall to see this by far than anything else we'd seen, likely because of the pop appeal. And they had, unconsciously, lined up against about six subtly placed giant white canvases opposite the TV screens. I was thinking how this immediately gave the piece another level that impressed me, and snapped off a shot (badly framed but I didn't get to take another). Then an asshole security guard gave me the paparazzi treatment, even though I didn't flash, I was subtle about it, and there were no signs posted. I think it's the beard and hat. I look like a troublemaker.

The rest of the time we spent at the exhibit "The Secrets of Tomb 10A," a show of Egyptian artifacts taken from the tomb of governor Djehutynakht and his wife, Djehutynakht. That's how those two met -- they were probably the only two Djehutynakhts in class. For this exhibit, Nik traveled all the way to Egypt. It's photographic evidence.

It's pronounced "Juh-hooty-knocked," by the way.

Among the treasures of Hooty's tomb? This bundle of sticks. I'd hate to be the archaeologist who got stuck labeling the bundle of sticks while the other ones get to dust off the sarcophagi and transcribe hieroglyphics. They probably gave the grad student the sticks. Let's call this grad student "Lyle." As in, "Those sticks are a great find, Lyle. Be a good boy and go tag them while the adults are busy dating this 4,000-year-old mummy linen."

The tomb had been ransacked centuries ago, but raiders left some other treasures behind. Gov. Djehutynakht, for instance, loved his model boats. The guy was positively obsessed with them.

You couldn't move for fucking model boats in there. Think I'm kidding? The Hootster apparently had more than 50 goddam model boats in his tomb.

Besides being fond of dolls to the point of compulsion -- excuse me, action figures -- Djehutynakht was a peculiar guy in other ways. For instance, he included a list of things he did not want to do in the afterlife, chief among these being the consumption of feces. The man did not want to eat any shit. None -- as in zero turds. Don't even think about trying to be a wiseguy and slip him feces, because he specifically requested no feces on the menu. You have to wonder about an afterlife where all your needs are met and you live in royal splendor, but you could still potentially eat feces if you're not careful. As for his wife, Lady Djehutynakht, nothing is recorded in terms of requests for or against eating poo, so we can only speculate that she's probably OK with it. This is, of course, the earliest known example of a guy "not taking any shit," and also the origin of the phrase "Eat shit and die." Over the years, the order of operations has become mysteriously reversed.

This is the mummified head of Djehutynakht. But which Djehutynakht, husband or wife? Archaeologists have no idea. Any blush or lipstick would have rotted away long ago, and even if there were traces of facial hair on the cheeks, keep in mind these people lived before Nads strips. And all that's left of either Djehutynakht is just this one head, so it's not like scientists can x-ray the mummy to see if it's got a cock. Nik and I speculated that it looked more like a guy, although to be fair he does look kind of effeminate. Maybe he was a bit bi.

This is my gorgeous wife rolling her eyes at me on the T after several hours of poo-eating jokes.

Nik asked me where I wanted to eat dinner. I said I was fine anywhere, but I specifically requested not to eat any feces. None. We ended up at the perfect place: Minado in Natick. Minado is an all-you-can-eat sushi place, and considering the kind of venue it is, it has some of the tastiest raw fish I've had. Pictured is just the first round. When we left, I was so full I had labored breathing for about 40 minutes. It's one of my favorite places, and shit is rarely if ever on the menu (but you never know -- that's not a "vein" in the shrimp, bub).

Friday, February 05, 2010

Daily Photo 2.5.10

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Came back from a 5-mile tempo run to find this waiting on the chair for me.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Daily Photo 2.4.10

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Cucumbers, peeled, scooped out, onions, butter, olive oil, saute 10 minutes, salt, pepper, cilantro. Boom. Done.
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