Archives: king st.

girl on the wing on king

In recent weeks you might have seen the seemingly sudden growth per capita of vintage stores opening up downtown. In fact in the past month or so vintage stores like Newold’sLa Bichette and Love in the Afternoon have all opened on James St. North (only adding to the roster of other established vintage shops on James like White ElephantHawk and Sparrow, Humble Pie and Chaises Musicales).

You could say James North has become the default street that young entrepreneurs and the like have been choosing to open up shop. This, however, is why when I see new stores open elsewhere downtown (like more specifically on King East), I do extra jumps of joy. New businesses on King make me happy because, for one thing, it’s in my hood but secondly a lot of areas besides James North could use a little breath of fresh air too. So I gotta to give mega props when people go out on a limb and venture off the beaten track.

Enter Girl on the Wing.

Girl on the Wing (located at 181 King St. East) is a vintage clothing store that carries nostalgic wares among many other lovely little things such as: T-Shirts inspired by classic reads like The Great Gatsby, Hamlet and Moby Dick, tote bags, jewellery from decoSquare and White Owl, greeting cards, notebooks, and other fanciful novelty and vintage rarities.

Depeapa backpack totes

Saltwater Sandals: I hear that these are all the rage. They even come in super cute fire truck red!

From The Little Otsu LIVING THINGS art zine

Owner, Whitney McMeekin is a Hamilton ex-pat that has recently made the move from Toronto back to Hamilton. She is pleased as punch to be in Hamilton again, and has been happily surprised about her rediscovery of all that Hamilton has to offer.

Whitney’s got a degree in Fashion Communication at Ryerson, and has experience working in the vintage and fashion boutique scene in Toronto. So no surprise that she’s got a knack at promoting her new store with super glam professionally photographed and personally styled lookbooks that cover her fashion favs for her seasonal launches.

Girl on the Wing’s summer launch is tonight from 8-11pm at the store, with promises of drinks, dancing and more importantly fun!

Take a peak at the new vintage inspired swimwear that Girl on the Wing will be carrying by designer Dumebi Iyamah’s fashion line Andrea Iyamah. Here’s a little sneak peak of Andrea Iyamah’s swimsuits -so gorgeous!

swimwear from Andrea Iyamah's summer 2012 line, image taken from

See you tonight at the Summer Solstice Salebration!

*Girl on the Wing, 181 King St. E. 289.389.9898, TW 12-6, ThF 12-7, S 12-6, S12-5, @gotw_hamilton

john street

Since moving to Hamilton, I have been keeping a close eye on a short stretch of John Street, South and North.

At first glance, the two-and-something blocks between Main East and King William may seem a semi-abandoned and derelict portion of a “typical” downtown Hamilton street. But if you look a little more closely you might notice signs of life, both old and new, and, dare I say it, rejuvenation.

I spend most of my walks downtown wandering with my eyes up, taking in the old architectural beauty of the Victorian cityscape and observing the history of the buildings that line the path of the daily meanderings.

There’s some great character and history to the buildings on John Street. Take, for example, the John Sopinka Courthouse (formerly the Dominion Public Building built in 1934). It’s a beauty of a building, the depth of an entire block, enveloped by Main, John and King streets. With its ornate Art Deco stonework and lettering on the exterior it’s not a surprise that on the inside, fitting with its architectural era, you’ll find glossy marble floors, and polished metal work decorating the elevators, tills and counters. Everything has a certain sparkle and sheen to it that you just can’t find in many buildings these days.

Across John Street, next to the abandoned Crazy Horse Saloon, you’ll find the old Royal Connaught. It’s hard to miss, as it too occupies nearly a full city corner (not to mention it’s been boarded up for the past 10 years).

When I walk by the old Connaught I sometimes get a waft of the musty dankness seeping from the cracks of its boarded-up windows, and with that I usually feel a little pang of despair as I wonder about its fate. Wrecking ball or refurbish? Word on the street as of late is that the Connaught will indeed see new life again. I can’t wait. What a difference it will make to the core and surrounding areas. Is it too early to say aloud the silent chanting I’ve secretly been saying in my head: “Ren-nai-sance! Ren-nai-sance!”?

Just past the courthouse and the Connaught, over the tail end of Gore Park and past the old 1940s Pagoda Chinese restaurant sign at King and John, you’ll find a scene that is typically Hamilton. It’s no frills. Hamilton is what it is and that’s what I like about it.

You’ll see folks going in and out of the John Street Clinic (one of the city’s methadone dispensaries), or waiting for the bus, leaning against the backdrop of yet another stretch of seemingly abandoned buildings such as the Golden Fortune Restaurant or Treble Hall.

However, despite the description, things here are not quite as they seem. This little stretch is teeming with life both old and new. There’s change happening here on John, slowly but surely.

Take Treble Hall, for example, one of my favourite buildings in the city. Built 134 years ago (that’s 1879), Treble Hall has been undergoing a full-haul restoration by owner Jeff Feswick of Historia Restoration. Moulin Rouge, a French-inspired café and clothing store, occupies two of Treble’s street-level retail spaces. A bit of Paris in Hamilton? Why not?

Just across the street from Treble Hall you’ll see Downtown Bike Hounds, which a few years back made the move to John (relocating from Cannon and James streets). Maybe owner Sean Burak had the same inklings of optimism about John that I do. Regardless, every downtown needs an urban bicycle shop and bike rental place in its core. Next to Bike Hounds is the tasty and always busy My Thai restaurant that has been going strong for a decade already.

If you are old enough to remember taking a dinner “vacation” to the Grotta Azzurra at the Capri Ristorante Italiano — a destination-themed restaurant from the ’60s — then you’ll know the Capri is a Hamilton fixture. Although the second floor “grotto” is no longer open, Capri is still serving up classic pizza and pasta on its main floor.

Recent to the block is my new favourite art gallery, the Nathaniel Hughson Gallery. The gallery features some fabulous established Ontario artists. It’s named after one of Hamilton’s city founders, who at one time owned much of the prime downtown real estate from James to Mary streets and from Main to the bay.

At King William and John is Lulu’s, serving one of the best shawarmas in the city. If you haven’t tried their chicken shawarma, you’ve been missing out.

There are many new and old businesses on John, ranging from shoe repair, hair weave and beauty supply to the London Tap House, a Greek restaurant, Korean BBQ and Chinese hotpot. They’re all — a pretty amazing and eclectic mix — on just these two downtown Hamilton blocks.

Let’s be honest: John, like much of downtown Hamilton, still has a long way to go. But I’m optimistic and excited to see these changing downtown streets start to take shape. I hope one day to see streets like James North, King William, John and King — all of them coming back to life — start to connect together. Imagine that, a full chunk of our city core hustling and bustling like it did back in the day.

Some may say my optimism, and my daydreams of the Hamilton I want to see, show me to be naïve. Perhaps I am. But how will Hamilton ever change if we don’t start to see the potential for all that we’ve already got?

Hamilton, you’ve got a soft spot in my heart. I’m here for the long haul.


This article was originally published in The Hamilton Spectator on Saturday, March 16th 2013. You can see the article from The Spec website here.



With the weather being unseasonably warm this winter I’ve been trying to take advantage of getting out of the house. I’ve taken to going for a walk a day with baby in tow.

Considering November and December can be so drab it was nice to see little pops of colour along my walks.

313 Barton St. E

62 East Ave. S

East Ave. just north of King

record show

Last month I finally attended the bi-annual Record Show at the Festival Banquet Centre. I’d seen the flyers for the show around town before and had always wanted to check it out but had never been able to -so I was extra super stoked to go. I prepared myself for an afternoon of record browsing with the hopes of finding some real gems.

The Festival Banquet centre is located on King St. East (to see my post on King East click here).  With low ceilings and dim lighting the hall kind of reminded of the multiple friend’s parent’s basements that I hung out in as a teenager.  The hall however was still decked out in kitschy wedding decorations and the air smelled like a cocktail of stale alcohol and tobacco smoke. Like most record sales I’ve been to it was pretty much a dude fest with a small spattering of women digging and flipping through the crates.

I went with the hopes of discovering some rare record finds; old jamaican ska, surf, 50/60′s soul and perhaps a little calypso or Nigerian afro-funk. But I was stuck mostly with flipping through various vendor’s collections of The Beatles, The Stones, Kiss and Journey among other boxes of records that you might normally find at a garage sale (priced accordingly cheap 3 for $5). So I guess if you’re into bargain bin rock music and perhaps completing a collection of a specific rock artist then this would’ve been the record sale for you. Don’t get me wrong there were tons of records -maybe too many? I probably would’ve been happier with less records and just a little more quality and uniqueness to the selection. A couple of turn tables with headphones for listening to potential record purchases would’ve helped too.

In the end we did end up buying a couple of albums. Steve got Rush: Archives (a triple album: Rush, Fly By Night and Caress of Steel), and I picked up a Barbara Lynn album.

We put them on in the evening Steve rocked out to some Rush, and later I danced Omi to sleep with Barbara Lynn’s sweet voice.

I leave you with a song from Barbara Lynn:

rock museum

When I was in my early teens I would often make my way to Hamilton from Burlington to shop along King Street; Deja Vu for vintage, Cheapies for CD’s and tapes and Rock N Tee’s for shoes and T-shirts. I can’t remember if I ever happened into Rock Museum back in the day, but boy was I ever happy about my rediscovery of this store in recent weeks.

Nearly twenty years later, having moved to downtown Hamilton I walk by Rock Museum about a million times a week without really giving it a second thought. Clearly taking for granted all that it has to offer as a classic neighbourhood fixture.

On occasion at a quick glance, a T-shirt in the window might catch my eye.  Like the one with kittens wearing cowboy hats, or one with wolves howling at the moon.  Sometimes I think I should go in there and pick one up -you know just for fun in that classic 80′s vintage T-shirt kind of way.

Well, the other day a friend was visiting from out of town and under her suggestion we headed on in to the Rock Museum. The store appeared to be relatively unchanged from the 80′s. It is quite a miracle that a store can stay so much the same when everything else seems to change so quickly. I guess that is what I found to be the beauty of this store.

The store is all T-shirts from wall to wall, and floor to ceiling ranging from hilarious slogans to classic rock t-shirts in the back.  For the most part the T-shirts are printed with kitschy pictures of unicorns, rainbows, wolves, cats, and even some shirts with those sparkly bubble letters.  All the shirts have that matte kind of gluey texture of the classic iron-on.

Yep, I did say iron-on. That’s how they do all their shirts.  You pick the shirt style and colour you want (or bring in your own shirt).  You pick the print or design.  Then they’ll iron it on for you.

In no less than 2-3 minutes your shirt will have a fresh and hot iron-on image bonded right on. So cool!

They’re definitely the iron-on experts as they’ve been doing it for over 30+ years!

I was so enthralled with the whole store and its infinite possibilities for hilarious and amazing gifts for friends and family that I was giddily spreading the word about my awe of Rock Museum to all those visiting us in Hamilton.

When my sister came down to visit she popped into the store and came out with iron-on letters of her name that she was going to put onto a shirt of her choice from home.  She advised that I should get my letters ASAP as they are in short supply mostly because the lettering is actually from the 80′s and they are running out of certain letters like for example the letter “I” which had to be craftily severed from part of a letter “H”.

So if you want your T-shirt emblazoned with your name in 80′s glittery rainbow lettering, you’d better hurry down to Rock Museum fast!

*Rock Museum/Klassy T-shirt (that’s classy with a “K”!), 101 King St. East, 905.525.5333



Ever since moving to Hamilton there’s been a part of me that has always wanted to stop into Delta Bingo on King Street.  I’ve never played “real” bingo, and I feel as if the days of bingo halls are somewhat limited -a dying sport -you know just one of those weird and random things that somehow carried its way through the decades into the 21st century but will likely not be around forever.

So here we are in the year 2012. I’m nine months pregnant and sitting in a Bingo hall. It felt in many ways somewhat fitting.

With some friends visiting from Pittsburgh (Hamilton’s neighbouring rusty American older brother), we figured it was as good as a time as ever to bingo it up and celebrate all that downtown Hamilton has to offer.

We made a stop first for a mandatory Hamilton classic Ghostbuster donut from non other than Grandad’s Donut -the one next to the bingo hall and not to be confused with the recently closed Grandad’s Donut on James north (sniffle -I shed a tear).  We travelled with donut in hand to check out this bingo situation.

Well it turns out bingo is dirt cheap! For just a $1.25 you can play four games with three cards per game and a chance to win upwards of $200!!

The bingo patrons and workers were sweethearts too.  I think everyone caught the drift that we were novices. They took us under their bingo expert wings -always checking up on us, making sure we were on the right coloured card and familiarizing us with all the bingo lingo (diamond, rotating kite etc).

I have to admit although bingo is cheap it can just suck you right in and before you know it you’ve spent an afternoon tossing away dollars and not winning much.  We left with our eyes red and in a haze, only to be coaxed back in by a bingo veteran who told us we needed to try for the $2000 jackpot -beginners luck right?

Well we didn’t win, but we did learn some good bingo tips.

1. Buy your bingo dabber before, from a cheap place like a dollar store. We bought ours at the convenience store two doors down for $1.5o each

2. Spend a limited and set amount of time and money that is predetermined before you enter the bingo hall.  It’s so easy to get carried away when cards are cheap and they give you change in Delta Bingo coins. Before sitting down to play inquire what time the big jackpots are throughout the day and spend a $1 on just the one card and sit for that one game and then skedaddle.

3. If you’re planning on spending a while at the hall bring your own snacks and drinks.  We indulged in some fries and onion rings from the Delta Bingo cafeteria.  They gave us a little needed energy boost but they also burnt an $8 hole in our pockets that could’ve been better spent trying to win a bingo jackpot or just hitting the road $8 richer.

4.  Too many bingo cards at one time means trouble.  You’ll see all the elderly (and more advanced) bingo players doing it, but don’t get too ambitious… honestly playing more than six game cards per round made my head spin. I couldn’t keep up and kept missing multiple numbers.  For all I know I could’ve won the $2000 jackpot. I preferred sticking to three cards per bingo round. I failed entirely when we had a sheet with nine game cards to play at one time.

I would go back to play bingo at the Delta on another special occasion. Perhaps for a bachelorette or a birthday pitstop before drinks, dinner, a movie or bowling.

When and if the Delta does close I wonder what that huge space would be repurposed for.  Perhaps another downtown grocery store? Or maybe an indoor roller rink? A downtown McMaster University building? We’ll just have to wait and see…

the ‘other’ side of downtown

The boundaries of what I consider downtown Hamilton are somewhat arbitrary. Downtown for me is often defined by the radius of wherever I can walk 15 to 20 minutes from my neighbourhood.

This usually means walking 15-20 minutes toward the core, as into Gore Park, Jackson Square, the Farmers Market, and James Street North. I do venture east on King Street on occasion to pick up some German delicacies from Denninger’s or to peek into J.H. Gordon Books. But for the most part I find that I rarely continue to walk east past the infamous steel Downtown Hamilton archway at King and Wellington. The gateway so boldly implies that wherever you were just east of Wellington, you weren’t downtown.

On foot I don’t often explore beyond this imaginary boundary unless it’s through the Stinson neighbourhood side streets (a more picturesque and relaxing route for walking). Travelling outside the designated “downtown” area more often than not calls for transportation by car, bus or if I’m feeling dangerous and daring by bicycle — whatever mode of transport that offers the quickest way to travel through the main thoroughfares such as Main or King Streets.

There’s no need to stop, to dawdle, or look at storefronts (what storefronts?). Just keep on keeping on; this isn’t downtown and there’s not much going on. Right?

As I drive from east to west on King along some of the roughest patches of road in the city, bumping along the potholes, I sometimes sneak quick-second glances at the old buildings and seemingly abandoned storefronts. I imagine a time when this “dejected” part of downtown was considered part of the whole, when it must’ve hustled and bustled like the rest of King Street once did.

There’s a part of me that is intrigued by this “other” downtown side of King East, similar to how much of Hamilton pulls at my heartstrings. I’m a nostalgic optimist who gets caught up in daily fantasies about Hamilton’s past and potential future. What can I say?

On a recent hot and dry summer afternoon I decided to get to know King Street East on a more intimate level. I took a long walk way down King East — waaaaay past Wellington and its Downtown Hamilton sign.

An almost immediate and obvious observation was the street broadening to accommodate the four and five lanes of car traffic. It felt like I was in a different world. As the traffic moved with the timed traffic lights I felt the ebbing and flowing of the one-way King Street traffic blowing by me, and then leaving eerie ghost-town-like gaps of four-lane emptiness.

But as I walked, I could tell that once there was a time when this leg of King Street was alive and thriving. Its buildings have the height and stature of a proper downtown cityscape. There are storefronts and neighbourhoods north and south that have some real character and charm.

For a little extra read on the Carlton Tavern (it’s for sale) click here.  Paul Wilson writes about the soon to close Tavern.

This whole strip of King feels like it was lost in some bizarre time warp from the ’60s and ’70s — perhaps that’s when businesses started to falter and pack up for the ‘burbs?

Having grown up in the late ’70s and early ’80s, I was reminded of Sesame Street — or New York in that era: slightly gritty, with that rusty kind of soft-focused haze that all things filmed during that time have. There were lots of automotive and used car dealerships with those old shiny tinsel banners (see my post on that here), closed up and abandoned storefronts with For Sale or For Rent signs.

I did pass by a few places that seem to hold it down on King East, like the classy Newman’s Menswear established in 1927, Rebel’s Rock Irish Pub, plus a few other restaurants and eateries. I noted a music therapy practice called Fermata that stood out and was looking fresh and new.

King East does have signs of life. The people I passed were friendly, said their hellos and waved as I snapped my photos. I do believe it has the potential to one day become something more than just buildings most people speed by in their cars. Maybe one day the storefronts will again start to cater to the surrounding neighbourhoods by providing practical stores and destinations found in other thriving communities — say a bakery, a deli, a library, a doctor’s office or a mom-and-pop grocery store.

On my way back west on King, I sat for a moment in the shade by the fountain in the parkette (a miniature Gore Park) across from the First Place building at Wellington. I had a great view of the two different and divided worlds of King East.

I wondered if and when these two seemingly opposite “downtown” city spaces would ever merge into one.

I hope that the bravery to set up new shops and try out new things continues along King East as it has in many other arteries of the city like James North, Locke, Ottawa and Concession streets. It is a nice chunk of city that needs just a little love and appreciation.


This post was originally printed in The Hamilton Spectator on Saturday, August 4th 2012 -you can find it here.

bling on king

I’d been wanting to take a photo of this glitzy and glamours “WASH ME CAR WASH” sign on King Street East for a long time.  I love how sparkly it is. The other day when I was walking by it was shimmering in the sun and I couldn’t resist snapping a shot.

I guess you could say this is a bit of mini sneak-peak of an article that I’m writing for The Hamilton Spectator about King Street East, which should be coming out soon. While walking around taking pictures for the article I found myself getting slightly caught up with all the bling of the old used car and auto dealerships on this drag of King Street. Like what is this 1982!?  I even found a car to fit the era by happenstance in a random parking lot!

I find it so strange that King East is still workin’ the car thing like gas is .20 cents a litre.

I’m not a car connoisseur or a lover of cars -we own a ’95 pontiac- whatever gets you around town right?  But yet somehow I am nostalgic for what memories these used car dealerships were bringing back for me.  The smell of used car, hot asphalt penetrating through my flipflops and the sun beating down and catching little wisps of that used car lot tinsel -it reminds me a little of summers as a kid.  The hot burning feeling of fake leather vinyl  as I gingerly took my spot in the back seat (of course there was no A/C and I had an older sister so I never got shotgun), the too hot to touch metal of my seatbelt buckle (which by the way may or may not have been buckled up -it was the 80′s!), and the many popsicles that were eaten sitting on the massive hood of our green beast of a station wagon.

j.h. gordon books

Like much of downtown Hamilton, King Street has seen its fair share of vacant buildings and lacklustre storefronts.  So I was happy to see another store opening up that I would potentially see myself regularly popping into.  It seems like stores like Julie Gordon’s bookstore -J.H. Gordon Books- is just one of the many places deciding to set up shop on King.  Newish stores like Accoutrements, MODify Your Closet have opened on King in the past year or two bringing some new life to the street while fitting in nicely among other established stores that have stood the test of time such as Dennigers Foods of the World, Tundra Leather and least I forget Rock’N Tees -how long has this shop been around for?!

I don’t remember how or when exactly I first stumbled across Julie Gordon’s blog, but I remember being thrilled as I read through it that a neighbourhood bookstore was soon to be opening up on King Street East. Yay!

It is with great perseverance and determination that Julie has finally got her gorgeous bookshop.  People don’t often know the behind the scenes work it takes to get a new business up and running in this city; the red tape, renos, permits… the list could go on and on.  Now that the wheels are finally in motion and the store is open it seems like all her hard work has paid off and was worth it all in the end -the place looks great!

Kristin (from I Heart Hamilton) and I were in the neighbourhood checking out Apple Berry Café (next door), and being the book lovers that we both are, we couldn’t resist taking a peak in. Everything is beautifully arranged with a refined curatorial selection of choice books from History, to Sci-Fi to classics and even rare antique books.  Julie mentioned in the next little while that she would be expanding her collection of Graphic Novels, which I was super excited about.  In the mean time I picked up a few books myself for some summer reading, and made a mental note that the selection was fabulously ripe for future gift buying for all those book lovers in my life too.

Julie is as passionate about literature as she is about Hamilton.  As a result she has already started to build a community of likeminded literary enthusiasts that frequent the shop for different bookish occasions.  Stop by her store some time to chat books with Julie or to see what types of literary events she has in store for the neighbourhood.

Welcome to King Street Julie!

You can check out Kristin’s blog post about our mini tour of King St. here.

*J.H. Gordon Books, 314 King St. East, 905.522,1862


apple berry café with i heart hamilton

A little while ago I had the pleasure of meeting up with Kristin from I Heart Hamilton.  Both of us, being explorers of Hamilton, decided to collaborate in our meanderings and check out a few of the new places popping up on King St. East together.

So happy to see revitalizing changes going on along this strip of King Street!

Our first priority was to stop for a bite to eat.  Kristin, knowing all things Hamilton, got me caught up with the word on the street that a new Caribbean lunch spot had just opened up.

In the space where the old Barbarossa Moroccan tea house used to be now stands the brand new Apple Berry Café.  It’s a down to earth kind of place that’s got the right prices for healthy, fresh lunches and snacks on the go or to eat in house.  Kristin and I were in no hurry so we sat back in a window-seat booth ordered our lunches and chatted with owner Opal Osiol.

Opal is just about the happiest woman on King Street!  You can tell she loves what she does mostly because she does everything with a gorgeous smile. When chatting with Opal she mentioned that for years she lived in Hamilton just down the street from King but had just recently moved to Oakville. When she saw the space on King Street become available and the opportunity to open up Apple Berry she couldn’t turn it down despite now having to commute into the city. Funny how things sometimes work out, isn’t it?

You can tell that the business for Opal is really a labour of love. She’s committed to making all her dishes fresh and from scratch. While we waited for our lunches Opal squeezed up two fresh lemonades.  They were super refreshing on a hot summer day and they were priced so reasonably too -$1 each!

The menu is pretty extensive.  Ranging from breakfast, baked goods and sandwiches to full lunches with sides.  It’s kinda a secret but Opal even mentioned that although not on the menu on some days (if they have all the ingredients) her daughter, who works along side Opal, would cook up roti too (you just have to ask)!

I went for a lunch combo of pan fried fish with lemon and butter.  With the combo you can pick a side of either home baked macaroni and cheese (which looked awesome), rice pilaf or rice with beans.  I opted for rice with beans.  For a meal including a drink and taxes, everything was under $10!

While Kristin and I were there we saw a bunch of people picking up their pre-ordered lunches to go and we saw Julie Gordon from J.H. Gordon Books next door stopping by for a freshly made smoothie.  Apple Berry already seems like a great neighbourhood fixture, and even if you’re not from the neighbourhood you should stop by for a bite to eat. There are some good things going on over there on King East.  While you’re there stop in and visit Julie at her bookstore too.

Apple Berry’s does local neighbourhood delivery service for lunches on the go to anywhere in short walking distances.  Or if you’re in a hurry and have a limited lunch hour you could always order your lunch in advance and swing by to pick up too. Apple Berry’s is open from 9:30am Mon-Wed 5:30pm  (Thurs-Fri 9:30am until 7:30pm).  Friday, July 27th is there Grand Opening! Stop by for some free menu sampling and say hi to Opal.

It has been great over the past few months to be meeting up with some of the other fabulous people that are just as much in love with Hamilton as I am. Had a great time with Kristin exploring, and I feel honoured being included on one of I Heart Hamilton’s tour stops. Thanks Kristin!

Check out I Heart Hamilton’s post here.

*Apple Berry’s Café, 312 King St. East, 905.962.8488


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