Home Economics and Shop Class

Philadelphia, PA – 1975

If life wasn’t bad enough for me at Fels Junior High, I felt that it was about to get worse. Puberty had erupted all over my body. I was a lousy student, had bad skin, hair, glasses, braces, clothes, etc. I should have just walked around with a target on me so that the bullies, teachers, and parents could always have a clear shot at me. I felt like such a loser.

But it wasn’t all bad. I still had my comic books, my friends, my art ability, and my music. Like everybody else, I’d just have to make the best of it.

But one of the interesting things that happened at Fels was that they finally broke a 20-year tradition at the school. For the first time in two decades, they decided to change things up when it came to certain gender-specific classes they offered at the school.

In 1975 they decided that instead of only boys taking wood and metal shop, now girls would be offered those courses as well. But, that meant boys would have to take cooking and sewing classes.

At first, the boys were outraged that they would be forced to do “girl stuff”. But once we got into it, somehow it wasn’t all that bad.

Former Fels HS building to be demolished - Northeast Times

But before I begin, let me just get a few things out of the way. I’ll tell you what I remember about a couple of the teachers at this school.

Mrs. Lipschutz was my homeroom teacher. When you pronounce her name it sounds like something else. Legend has it that one time she was reprimanding some kid for talking in class and his response was, “If your lip shits, my ass talks!” It’s a juvenile but clever play on words even for a 12-year-old kid.

There was another teacher there who taught algebra named Mr. Dordick. Can you imagine having that as a name working in a junior high school?

There was also a geography teacher there named Mr. Kubell up in room 318. The class was boring to me because all we learned about was Europe. I would always turn to the back of my textbook and read about Australia because it seemed way cooler than anything we were currently learning in class. There was also a story about how Mr. Kubell had been in the military and suffered from shell shock, but I don’t know if there is any validity to that tale.

I had a reading teacher named Miss Ruscoff that I really liked. I was always an avid reader and did well in her class. She actually got married and her new name was Mrs. Dembitzer. My favorite thing about that class was when she brought out an old reel to reel tape player. Every Friday we would listen to old radio shows from the ’40s and 50s. Shows like Suspense and X Minus 1. This was an art form that was before my time. I grew up in a world with television. But I LOVED listening to these old radio shows. They were all based on short stories and acted out in studios and played on the radio back in the day.  What I loved about this medium was that you had to use your imagination. Something I had a surplus of in my brain. On TV and movies, it’s all set up for you. But on the radio, you have to picture the scene using only the actor’s voices and the use of sound effects. To this day, I still tune into Radio Classics on Sirius XM satellite radio and listen to these types of old shows. They still hold up to this day and make you use your mind in a different way than you do to consume the entertainment we’re inundated with now.

Another teacher that was beloved at that school was a gentleman named Mr. DiDonato. I think my sister had him as a teacher but I never did. I just remember him being a really nice guy that had the only class that taught something groundbreaking in school. Computers!

I had a couple of good science teachers as well. Sadly I don’t remember their names, but I remember their words. Science class was always one of my favorites.

Anyway, back to the vocational switch.

The first class the boys in my grade were placed into was a sewing course. At first, it was odd to be in a class like that, and I think a bit unsettling to the teachers. But, once we got going on the fundamentals of sewing it was a really cool class. I think the guys would agree with me on this one. I remember the teacher passed out sheets of lined paper to everyone in the class. We all sat at our sewing machines and learned how to operate the motor and see if we could sew in a straight line along the lines on the paper. A solid exercise before touching any fabric.

She also taught us all of the parts of the sewing machine. Remember how you could lean your thigh against that little metal arm that came down and the motor would accelerate so you could sew like lightning? It was kind of cool.

What I liked best about that class was that you were learning something new and working with your hands. Not just sitting in a boring class listening to some old person talk and reading words in a book. Then being tested on the stuff you read. It was really all about memory and never generating any new ideas. Just boring to me.

But in sewing class, you worked through a project that had a beginning, middle, and an end. We all made shirts! I remember you measured and designed the shirt, then cut it into pieces. The final bit was to sew it all together and then turn it inside out so that all of the seams were on the inside. Boom! You just made yourself a shirt. I loved that!

I even enjoyed cooking class. It wasn’t as fun as sewing class but we made some cool things. Mostly baked goods, but it gave us some great fundamentals for life.

I kind of wish junior high had been more like this. Not every kid is suited to sitting in class after class of boring textbook memory stuff. What if it had been half and half? What if every kid was assessed to what their abilities were? If a kid wasn’t good with the schoolwork stuff, give him more classes where he can use his hands. Teach them the basics. Math, science, reading, and history, but lean their curriculum a bit more towards making things. I think the kids would have been happier and there would be less dissent in the classrooms in junior high. It’s a tumultuous time in every child’s life.

I realize now that most kids that were bullies to me were probably getting the crap kicked out of them by older siblings and their parents at home. Maybe if these children could be given the opportunity to have courses that were more suited to their needs they’d act out less. Give them support and activities where they could work out their negative energy and turn it into making something good. Something they could be proud of. Maybe a little hope that things could change for them. But I could be wrong.

Another class I had was ceramics. Everybody’s first project was a pinch pot. Just an exercise to get our hands accustomed to working with pottery. I had already had years of experience working with clay, so I immediately adapted to the task at hand. My second project was a cool ashtray that I ended up using for years until it finally broke.

I heard funny stories from kids in metal shop that worked on their assignments but also made shurikens. (Asian throwing stars) Which I thought was so cool. I loved the TV show, Kung Fu and would have loved to have made one of those things. What boy wouldn’t? I never had metal shop, but it seemed like another awesome class. It’s probably for the best because with my luck I would have ended up putting some kid’s eye out. I was in enough trouble on a regular basis without any lethal weapons on hand.

Shurikens - Silver | The Specialists LTD

I finally did end up in woodshop and I really enjoyed working on my projects. It was cool to work with such powerful equipment far beyond anything we had in our toolboxes in our basements. I really learned a lot in that class, and I think my peers would agree with me.

I actually still have the little creation I made in that class 45 years ago. It’s been nearly half a century, and it still looks just as it did so many years ago.

A few pieces of wood glued together and then sanded and planed into a  shark. Something I could be proud of that came from a time of such pain. The finished work, something elegant that had been carved by sharp, dangerous objects. It mirrored my own existence in junior high. 

So, even though I had a tough time in junior high, I’m glad I went through it. As painful and awkward as it could be at times, we all experienced it together. For better or worse, it’s all part of our collective history now.

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Dating When You’re $120,000 In Debt

I thought my six-figure student-loan debt was making me undatable, but was it really the numbers that kept me from reaching the fourth date?

Here’s one from one of my female readers.

A lot hinges on the third date with a new person. By this point, you’ve seen enough of this potential significant other to determine the direction you want this newfound relationship to go in. A casual fling, your next serious partner, someone you’re sure you never want to see again—that’s all decided by date three. It’s the date on which you show your cards, air your dealbreakers, and hold your breath, waiting for the person on the other side of the table to respond.

So when you do have cards to show, you dread this date—which is how I felt sitting across from a man with whom I could envision a future, my mouth dry and my palms slick, trying to summon the power to reveal what I thought made me incredibly undatable. It was the reason I believed I was still single after countless awkward encounters. But I could tell things were going to progress between us—I was already imagining what falling in love with this beautiful bearded man would be like—and I knew I had to give him a chance to bail. Gathering all my courage, I formed the words I hated saying out loud: “I have student debt.”

After four years at the University of New Haven, a private university I couldn’t afford, and two years earning a master’s degree in journalism from New York University, I was saddled with a $120,000 debt for a career that did not guarantee a hefty return on investment. Although I loved my chosen field, I knew there were less expensive paths I could have taken. On my worst days, I spent hours tossing and turning in bed, desperately wishing I could go back in time and persuade myself to go to a cheaper school. I wished I had understood the gravity of what I was getting myself into, but I am the first child in my family to go to college, and neither my parents nor I truly understood the enormity of the debt I would be shouldering.

I felt suffocated, like I was barely treading water in a storm. I had already cut back in every aspect of my life—living at home with my mom, bringing lunch to work every day, switching to water after only one drink on a night out with friends—and it was barely a life I wanted to live. I couldn’t fathom finding a partner to join me in this misery because, ultimately, who would want to marry that burden?

I started to equate my self-worth with my net worth—and I was in the red.

I always knew dating in New York City was going to be hard. I had never been confident—I was self-conscious about my hips, my laugh, the way I rambled when nervous—and I often thought of a first date as Judgment Day. The few minutes before coming face-to-face with a man I had swiped into existence were always the worst; my heart would beat in my throat as I imagined him sizing me up, mentally comparing me with the person he had imagined me to be.

Being both single and in debt conjures anxiety like none other. You’re already at your most vulnerable while playing the field. Now mix in the possibility of rejection based on your financial situation. I started to equate my self-worth with my net worth—and I was in the red. If you’re worth what’s in your bank account, then I wasn’t just worth nothing. I was less than nothing.

I began to think, Why bother? I felt even if someone liked me for who I was, my finances would send him running. Choosing me meant hitching yourself to my debt—and why do that when someone with fewer financial complications was only a few swipes away?

It didn’t help that those fears had been confirmed. When I casually mentioned to the law student with dark olive skin and bright eyes that I had taken out loans for school, he had all but done a spit take. His eyes went wide and his head jerked back, as though the thought of anyone but your parents paying for college was ludicrous. “For journalism?” he asked. “Good luck ever paying those off!” He laughed, then took a swig of his beer, and a hot wave of shame washed over me. There was no fourth date.

Then there was the tall bass player sleeping on a mattress on a floor in Brooklyn who, despite all better judgment, I was very into. He hadn’t finished school and politely nodded when I broached the subject. In the moment, I felt relieved, but a week later, as I obsessively checked my phone for new messages and racked my brain for reasons he had gone silent, I couldn’t come up with anything other than my debt.

Sometimes the topic would surface naturally in conversation, which makes sense considering roughly one in four Americans are paying off student loans, averaging $28,800 nationally, after graduating. This happened on my second date with a charming physicist. He mentioned how many of his classmates had six figures’ worth of debt. He felt bad for them, he said, but he couldn’t relate. His grandparents had footed his bill. I swallowed hard as my stomach sank to my feet. This time, I didn’t bother bringing up my story; I already knew how this would end. Before we parted ways, we made plans to see each other that weekend, but after two restless nights, I canceled the date, using a canned excuse. “I’m just really trying to focus on work right now,” I said. “It’s not you; I’m just not ready for a relationship.”

Choosing me meant hitching yourself to my debt—and why do that when someone with fewer financial complications was only a few swipes away?

So, in September 2017, with a montage of these memories playing on a loop in my mind, I placed both sweaty palms on the table in front of me, looked into the eyes of the man I hoped to call my boyfriend, and said, “I have student debt. A lot of it.” He blinked once, twice, waiting for me to continue. When I didn’t, he cocked his head. “And … ?” he asked. I blurted: “Like, so much that I’ll probably be paying it off until I’m in my 60s.” He looked at me for a while longer, then shrugged his shoulders. “That blows, but you’ll get through it. You’re a motivated person.” And that was that. It didn’t come up again because he didn’t care. He didn’t like me any less. He didn’t disappear. We kept seeing each other until eventually we decided to date exclusively. My debt wasn’t the dealbreaker I had set it up to be.

Although my debt does come up when we plan for the future, it doesn’t seem like a liability; rather, it’s a challenge we’ll face together when the time comes to make big financial decisions. Since my debt-to-income ratio is skewed, we’ve discussed the possibility of leaving my name off the mortgage if we decide to buy a house. Although my debt is mine alone to pay back, he’s made it clear that I don’t have to weather the mental stress of it by myself.

Months after I bared all, he pointed out that I had gotten worked up for no reason. And that’s when it hit me: Worrying that my debt was making me undatable was what was actually making me undatable—not the debt itself. It was a self-fulfilling prophecy that I was willing into existence by stressing about it. Looking back at each failed date, I see now that it’s a very strong possibility that I was letting my anxieties and the shame I felt when I thought of my debt color how I interpreted the way those men had reacted.

Unless I’m the recipient of some huge windfall, my debt is something I’ll have to hack away at slowly over time, not something that will change overnight. What I can change is the way I perceive it and how I let it affect the way I conduct my life. My net worth doesn’t define me; my actions, my personality, and the way I live my life do. Instead of being heavy baggage, the thing I let determine my dating life, it’s now just another part of who I am. Now, two years after that fated third date, I’ve stopped worrying about it so much. Instead, I focus that energy on the relationship I’m in with the man who sat across from me that night, the one who accepted me for who I was, debt and all.

 

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Andrea – 2014 – S&M Girl

“Hi Lorelei. Daddy’s just going to take this fat, drunk bitch back to his room and tie her up. Then you’re going to hear a lot of slapping and squishing sounds. You’re also going to hear Daddy say a bunch of really foul sexually degrading things to this woman, so you better put your ear buds in and crank that shit up.”

One night a couple of years ago, I was out with a friend of mine. We were having drinks outside at Misconduct at 15th & Locust. He was telling me a story about this girl he met on Tinder. Pure hookup. She comes over to his apartment. Sadly, she doesn’t look like her Tinder pics. Which is not good. That’s like seeing a photo of a car you want to buy in the Auto Trader and when you get to the lot to check out the car, it’s an older model and a little banged up and maybe even a bit more car than you saw in the photos.

But he was drunk and up for the foul deed. He said she was a thick girl but he went to town on her anyway. Like my tinder profile says: “If you don’t look like your photos, you’re going to buy me drinks until you do.” So he said it was good sex except for one thing. He didn’t like that she wanted him to spit on her and hit her. There’s nothing wrong with what two consenting adults do with each other behind closed doors. Especially if everyone’s on board with what’s happening. But he didn’t like it. Just not his thing.

He told me that he wasn’t comfortable with that situation. He said at that point no matter what he was into or what he would do, he couldn’t do that again.  It just wasn’t him. (He didn’t spit on her or hit her at all) At that time, back in the beginning of 2014, I had just come off a break up and told him to send Andrea pics of me. Because I was up for whatever she wanted dished out. The key here is when it comes to dominance, be firm…not mean. There’s a big difference. I would discipline and correct her if necessary. And remember, the submissive party is ALWAYS in control. They have the safe word and hold the power to cancel the fantasy at anytime. That’s the rules of S&M play.

Well, nothing came of it. Until earlier this year when she connected to me on LinkedIn. LinkedIn of all places! Can you imagine with all of the dating websites out there, LinkedIn brings me the crazy S&M chick? So we chatted and did some texting. She wanted me to text her all of the things I was going to do to her, so I did. I have a pretty good imagination. She said she was getting really turned on and that we should meet.

I set it up that we should meet at the Ranstead Room. It’s just a good spot normally to hideout with somebody. I get there and I’m just chilling with a drink. She arrives shortly thereafter. My friend was right about her. In her Tinder pics she looks really hot, but in real life she is a lot bigger, and what was with that low tranny voice? Not good. I just wasn’t feeling it. I would have to drink a LOT of cocktails for Andrea to start to resemble her profile pics on Tinder. So I figured what the hell, I was already here and the drinks were flowing. She wasn’t that hot but at least I was someplace where nobody knew me.

Then the manager from the restaurant where my daughter works suddenly comes through the door and walks right up to me and says hello using my name.

Now I’m made. He can see who I’m with and now everybody there knows my name.

Andrea starts telling me about her life. She hates her job and wants to leave Philly. (Probably a good idea for us all.) She was seeing some crazy drug dealer loser guy. He’s suicidal, and does tons of coke. It’s bad, and she’s not much better.  I always thought if you did a bunch of cocaine you were skinny. Certainly not the case here.

After awhile we’re getting pretty tipsy. We went outside for a cigarette. She was on me like a northern pike hitting the bait. So I’m making out with her and people are walking by on Ranstead and she just pulls her boobs out. She’s losing her shit. She wants to take me back behind the building and give me a blowjob.

Yea. Great. I’ll just go stand behind my daughter’s manager’s Mercedes-Benz and you can give me oral. What if he walks outside and sees that shit? That’s not going to be good for me or anybody. Now, if this was Los Angeles and it was 1982, yea I’d be down for that, but not now. That’s gross. Sure, I’m flattered that she’s turned on enough from my words and the alcohol to want to blow me in a filthy alley, but no. Just no. I don’t roll like that.

She’s drunk. We go back inside and we’re in the vestibule and all sorts of things are happening with lips and fingers. If somebody comes through either door, we’re going to jail. So after that brief encounter, we go back inside. I kind of want to go home. In the right environment, some S&M play could be fun with her, but I’m just not getting a good vibe from her in this moment. She’s calling me daddy and all that shit. She says she loves older men, etc. I tell her I have an early sales meeting in the morning that I have to travel to so we should wrap it up. (A bold-faced lie)

She wants to go back to my place and have sex. Great idea. I can see it now. Me walking through the door to my apartment with Andrea and my daughter sitting on the sofa.

“Hi Lorelei. Daddy’s just going to take this fat, drunk bitch back to his room and tie her up. Then you’re going to hear a lot of slapping and squishing sounds. You’re also going to hear Daddy say a bunch of really foul sexually degrading things to this woman, so you better put your ear buds in and crank that shit up.”

No. Not happening. We pay the bill, and we walk over to 18th Street. I hail her a taxi and send her on her way. I was actually relieved when she was gone.

If somebody I met and was in a relationship wanted to experiment with some things, I’d be down with that, but Andrea just isn’t that person.

Update! She appeared at the salon tonight for a tan before she goes to L.A!

She’s leaving Philly for good!

 

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Cherie – Chapter 1 – Love At First Swipe

“She has youth and beauty, and as I’m finding out about myself, I’m bored with anything else. She fits the criteria. Young. Attractive. Slender. She seems intelligent. Articulate. Good communication skills for the most part. Likes scary movies and thrillers. Getting her education. Works two jobs. What could go wrong?”

I was literally about to begin writing this, and I just got a text from Cherie, so I hope that means something. I’ve responded back with “You must be psychic! I was just thinking about you.” (I was thinking about her because I was just about to write the first half of this very chapter.)

We swiped right on each other on Tinder. Cherie is a 26-year-old attractive, fit, black woman whose zodiac sign is Scorpio. When we first connected I sent her a simple, hello. She got back to me and said she was doing well, but she sitting in a boring class. She’s apparently studying developmental neuroscience. Once the small talk and pleasantries were dismissed, I asked her my standard question. “What prompted you to swipe right on my profile?”

She expressed that she liked the things I wrote in my bio. She said she likes to laugh and dine out, and like me, she’s a good listener. That’s pretty standard fare so far. Everybody likes to laugh and go out to dinner.

I truly hope that she’s a good listener, because I like to talk.

Then she asked me the same question. I told her that she seemed like an intelligent person who wanted to do big things. I really just read her brief profile about her being a neuroscience and psychology major, that had high dreams and aspirations, and spun it back to her in my own words.

I’ve heard from several of the women I’ve spoken to on Tinder that many times when they connect with someone, there is this long period of texting. Sometimes it doesn’t materialize into anything. Since I’ve operated in the real world my whole life, I like to establish things soon, and try to get a meeting. Sound like I’m in sales? I am. Depending on the client you always want to close as soon as possible. Keeps your numbers up and your pipeline full. So I move right in and ask her if she’s like to meet up for a drink sometime.

She thanks me for the compliment and agrees she has big dreams. (I know, I read it on your profile.) She says that having a drink with me sounds like a great idea. That was fast. My next response was positive affirmation and my cell number. She says she’ll send me a text.

Now, that looks like it happened very quickly but it actually didn’t. I was living my life all day, and she was probably in and out of classes and whatever else. That brief and pointed exchange began at 9:45am and ended at 3:30pm. Five and a half hours later! Now I just had to wait to see if she was going to text me.

Within moments she did. We continued our conversation off Tinder. She went on to tell me that she works as a medical assistant at a hospital, and also works at a pediatric office! 2 jobs and school? Wow! I tell her briefly my stuff, and she goes on to say that she loves her jobs because she gets to help people, but they can be stressful. I then hit her with how I get my energy from people and enjoy bringing people together personally and professionally. She likes that, and reveals that she’s a shy person at first but then she opens up after a bit.

I try to get her out for a Wednesday night drink.

I don’t hear from her for the rest of the day. She finally gets back to me and apologizes for the silence. She had a very long day with school and work. She re-affirms that she’d like to meet me for a drink, but she works late on Wednesdays but the weekend is probably better. I tell her I’m free Saturday. She’s available in the afternoon. I lock it down for 2pm Saturday. I tell her I’ll pick the spot. She thinks that sounds great.

That was early in the week. A lot can happen in 5 days. So I ping her Wednesday just to keep the current going. We participate in some light banter about the weather and our days events.

I ask another one of my standards: “What do you like to do when you’re not working or studying?” She likes movies, dining out and dancing, etc. I tell her I’m a former musician and not much of a dancer, but love movies and dining out too. I want to know what kind of movies she likes because that would be a splendid second date.

She likes scary movies and thrillers. I tell her I like the same. (I actually like a myriad of film genres but for this exchange, liking the same thing she likes works) I follow with “Let’s go to the movies together soon!” See what I did there?  I’m actually setting up a second date with a woman I haven’t even met for the first time yet. I’m reading her responses. She’s smart. I don’t ask or suggest, I simply say: “Let’s go see a movie together soon.” She responds with, “That sounds like a great idea. Notice how she uses the word “Sounds?” She is a good listener like she said. It reminds me of a thing that my ex-girlfriend Michelle does when I talk to her. She stays attentive to what I’m saying and usually mirrors my words back to me in affirmation. I like that Cherie is doing the same thing. Michelle does that all the time. (See: Michelle – 2007 to Present – A Brand New Day) I love Michelle for that. and she doesn’t even know about her gift. (Ordoes she?)

Cherie says she hasn’t seen too many commercials for scary movies lately. I tell her I’ll look into it. She responds that she thinks that’s nice. I like her manners already. I just hope that if I take her to a scary movie she doesn’t start yelling things like: “Don’t go in there!” or “Get out the house, fool!”

I’m going to go ahead and apologize to everyone reading this in advance for that last bit.

It’s getting late. As a gentle reminder, I tell her she seems really cool, and that I’m really looking forward to meeting her on Saturday.

Crickets.

But at 7:30 the next morning I get a mirrored response. “Good Morning. Thanks you seem cool as well. I’m looking forward to meeting you.” I simply respond with a smiley face. Which brings us back to tonight when I began this chapter. As I finish this part she has responded. “Lol, I highly doubt I’m psychic but thanks. It’s a busy but productive day as well.”

The date is supposed to happen on Saturday. We’re supposed to meet for a drink. It’s Thursday and there is some small talk texts leading up to it. I want to keep the embers glowing until we meet. We chat about our days, and what shows we’re watching. I ask her if she is a beer, wine or a cocktail girl. This way I can gauge where we should meet. She says she’s a beer girl. Then she says she doesn’t really like alcohol and then says: “What about you?” I tell her I enjoy an occasional drink socially. (A bold-faced lie) I ask her if she’d rather meet for brunch instead of a drink on Saturday.

She chooses brunch. I ask her if she has any dietary concerns. She says no, but she is a really unhealthy but picky eater, and thanks me for asking and do I have any. I tell her I can eat anything. So I ask her if she has any preferences. She loves seafood and breakfast food. That sounds perfectly fine to me. I thought of several places I could take her, but went with my go to: Square 1682. The staff knows me. The food’s great, and the service is on point. She can have seafood or breakfast food and so can I.

Friday I text her a “Happy Friday” meme around 5pm. I tell her I look forward to meeting her at Square 1682 for brunch Saturday at 2pm.

She replies: “Where is that at?” I wanted to reply: “I keep forgetting that I am the only one on Earth with iPhone technology because I came from the future, and I also don’t end my sentences with prepositions!” Of course I don’t.

But I do say: “Here, let me google that for you.” And send her a screenshot of Square 1682’s webpage from my phone. She thanks me like nothing happened, because to her, technically nothing did. She closes with: “I’m looking forward to meeting you too.” (Redeemed)

So far just texting her, I like this chick. I’m really looking forward to meeting her Saturday. She seems really sweet. I just pray that she isn’t just meeting with me for free food and drinks. I mean, that could happen. It’s happened before. She is a student. But she has youth and beauty, and as I’m finding out about myself, I’m bored with anything else. She fits the criteria. Young. Attractive. Slender. She seems intelligent. Articulate. Good communication skills for the most part. Likes scary movies and thrillers. Getting her education. Works two jobs. What could go wrong?

 

 

Thank you for reading my blog. Please read, like, comment, and most of all follow Phicklephilly. I publish Monday through Friday at 8am EST.

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