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Wednesday, April 6, 2016

FIGHTS: LOUDMOUTH - Chapter 10 - The Flat-Track Dream Realized: The Dust Devil 2006

At the end of my past life, I earned the right to be the first flat track derby announcer with the Texas Rollergirls.

What follows is a very old, very unauthorized, and very unedited version of the document I produced describing my experiences during the genesis of flat track derby.  It would be some of the last moments of my past life.


LOUDMOUTH: Confessions of a Flat Track Derby Announcer


Bowie V. Ibarra

Copyright 2007  Bowie V. Ibarra

“… You make it so good I don’t want to leave/
So tell me wha-wha-wha-what-what is your fant-t-ta-seeeee!”
- Ludacris, “Fantasy”

Chapter X:  The Flat Track Dream Realized:  The Dust Devil 2006

            “These girls play so rough with people they call their friends, imagine what a bout would be like if they were playing people they didn’t care about.”
            I remember telling Chip and Whiskey that early in the first season.  The girls were very rough and very mean to each other on the track.  The fistfights between noted rivals Anna Mosity and Rolletta Lynn, Anna Mosity and Barbie Crash, (O.K., pretty much any fight Anna Mosity was in), Vendetta von Dutch and Trouble and… well, yeah, Anna Mosity and Trouble (in front of Trouble’s mom) will be cemented in my mind’s eye forever.
            Let me say before I move on that Anna Mosity and especially Barbie Crash were some of the dirtiest players in the game.  Do I support the nurturing of dirty players on teams?  Not necessarily.
            However, I do understand the reason and motivation for teams to have a dirty player on a team to set them loose on another team in an effort to put an opponent in check.  These people are definitely enforcers, even though their tactics go beyond being rough to downright dirty.  Whether you love them or hate them, dirty players have a role in every sport, and I believe there is a natural home for the uncompromising scrapper in derby.  Used correctly, the dirty player will always bring excitement to a game and, ideally, swing a game in their team’s favor.
            But I digress….
            Just a year after the Texas Rollergirls were up and running, teams were forming in Arizona.  And, naturally, there was a split in that sunny state as well.  But no one could stop derby from going viral.  Soon after, a trailblazer from one of the Arizona leagues formed another league in Las Vegas.  Before long, New York and Seattle had teams.
            Within two years, the viral movement proved to be growing faster than anyone anticipated, and these initial leagues and several others held a kind of flat track summit in Chicago, the home of yet another young league.  It was there that the Women’s Flat Track Derby Association was formed, the genesis of the phenomena that was to go global within a few years.
            It was shortly after the WFTDA formation and the compiling of the first set of official rules that the Tucson league initiated the first ever national championship.  The tournament would pit the sixteen WFTDA teams in a four group round robin.  The top two teams from each group would advance to the elimination round to determine the best WFTDA team in the nation.
            But how the blue blazes was I going to get to Tucson for this historic event?
            XXXXX, the baby girl, and I had just moved into a new house, and money was very tight.  But several windfalls that came through the house allowed me to have money put aside for the hotel and to split the gas for transportation.
            The transportation, you ask?  Well, I didn’t know what it was either.  Somehow, someone negotiated our transport with The Crusher and her friend in what was hyped by Chip to be a fantastic roomy and dependable transport.  I still needed to see it to judge for myself.  The opportunity would come in an offer to clean out the vehicle to prepare for the trip.
            It was very cold on the day of the cleanup.  I arrived at the address late that afternoon and hoped the vehicle I saw in the driveway was not the transport that Chip proposed would get us to Tucson.
            The vehicle was a small Toyota or Datsun with a glorified camper.  The color reminded me of the old floor of my home in Uvalde: ‘70’s caca brown and white.  I really thought I had pulled up to a San Diego getaway for Ron Burgandy, and thought my clean up would reveal a bottle of “Sex Panther”.
            The Captain Kangaroo era colors, rust, and “CHiP’s” vibe the vehicle was exuding  was quickly depleting my faith in the vehicle.  As Jim Jones, Chip, and I began to clean out the interior, my faith was spiraling to the proverbial rock bottom.  The vehicle might have housed the Commodores on a trip to Town Lake.  When I found the “born on” date on the driver’s side door (1982), I was officially looking for new transportation.
            Since I was partially responsible for financing the trip, I honestly told my colleagues how I felt.
            “I’m not going in this, guys.”
            Jim and Chip had faith, but my judgment was giving them second thoughts.  Especially Jim.
            “I’m not going.  This thing is over thirty years old.  It’s officially a classic car going on an antique.  I’m sorry.  I’m not going in this.”
            I left Howard Cosell’s winter home, searching for a way to scrape up dough for a plane ticket that was a week away.


            Eventually, I was able to get the cash to pay for the plane ticket.  I booked the flight and was mentally ready to leave.  It was going to be five days away from wife, work, and my baby girl.  It was a huge sacrifice that was going to prove to be the toughest thing for me.
            I was to leave Thursday to come back on Monday.  XXXXXXX
            Leaving my family at the Austin airport, I remember wanting to cry.  Knowing I was going to be away from not only XXXXX, but my baby XXXXX as well.  It made me abhor the police state strategy of only allowing passengers on the plane staging area.  It was a big personal sacrifice to be a part of flat track history.
            The flight would have a layover in Vegas before flying to Tucson.  Downtown Dave, an announcer for Tucson, would pick me up at the airport when I arrived.
            The flight to Vegas was interesting.  I finally got halfway through a book about hidden treasures of Templar Knights when I could see the deserts of Nevada.  It seemed so vast and barren.  When Vegas finally came into view, it was literally like an oasis.  It was my first time in Vegas, and seeing all the sights that I only saw on TV was amazing.
            Waiting for the plane to Tucson, I received word that my suspicions about the camper vehicle were correct.  The group, who had started their journey almost twelve hours before I did, did not even make it out of the state before the vehicle was showing its age.  Desperate, Chip and Jim abandoned ship in El Paso in an effort to rent a car.
            There was some good news for me, though.  I made $8 on the video poker machines.
/   /   /   /   /

            The fight into Tucson was quick and smooth, like taking a laxative after eating at Herberts in San Marcos or surfing with a mayfly.
            O.K., maybe that was not the greatest comparison.
            Needless to say, I arrived wearing my Arizona Cardinal’s jersey in a respectful homage to our hosts.  It was an old Chuck Cecil home jersey, number 26, complete with the Arizona flag on the sleeve.  I thought it would be a nice gesture of appreciation for our hosts and their state.
            Within minutes after arriving, Downtown Dave pulled into the airport pickup area in his suburban.  I was pleased to meet the guy, and he seemed very amicable.  Downtown was one of the voices of the Tucson league, along with Jeff Mann and Serge.  Downtown was a really cool guy and his accent suggested somewhere other than the American southwest.  “I’m originally from Philadelphia,” he answered when queried.
            We drove from the airport to the skating rink where the competition was to be held.  Along the way, Arizona was just as I imagined: a concrete city built on the sands of an ancient desert.
            Chip and Jim were to be pulling into Tucson in just a few hours, so I was hoping to get a nap in and a good night’s rest before the tournament.  Rooming with Jim and Chip, I had a sneaking suspicion there would be no rest for the wicked on this historic weekend.


            The roster for announcing could be described as slapdash at best.  Several teams did not bring announcers to the game, so spots needed to be filled.  Announcers began to lay claim to these guest teams in an effort for mic time. 
            Which brings me to a pivotal moment among our own announce team.  One that would soon turn the team on its ear.
            As previously mentioned, our announce team in Texas was doing pretty well together.  We were proud of being selected to be a part of what was now a national phenomena.  Who could blame us?
            But without leadership, our roles were beginning to blur.  Dust Devil was the signature event where certain team members were about to reinvent themselves in an effort to build their reputation along the lines their title did not charge them with.
            From the beginning, especially after MotorMouth’s departure, I was well aware of the roles I felt had been established, but not clearly defined and demarcated.  From my theatre perspective, each role was charged with certain duties and assignments particular to that role.  The informality of our early shows and reinterpretations of suggestions from the girls (ie. Everyone being prepared to act as an interim announcer during an announcer absence) were providing space for this evolution, or dare I say, mutation of the assigned roles.  Without no true leadership and, perhaps, an early distrust of some of my collegues, I felt I had no one to go to in order to keep this toxic growth in check.
            My fears were gaining merit with a call from Chip Queso.  We were talking about our announce assignments for the bout, and after stating Whiskey and I would be the announcers for all of the Texas bouts, a curious comment from Chip would provide a harbinger of future strife:
            “But I want to announce a Texas game.”
            My initial instinct to respond to this was true and justified.
            “But you’re the crowd wrangler.”
            I didn’t say it, though I wanted to.
            “Whiskey and I have been assigned as the play-by-play and color, respectively.  We call the bouts.”
            I didn’t say that, either.
            With no roles established, or respected, and with no formal leadership to check this ridiculous role shift, I felt like I couldn’t say anything.
            So I didn’t.
            I reasoned it was a historic event.  There would be only one first-ever National Championship.  I trusted Chip.  He would never try and assume an announce position, a position I earned.  He was going to continue to call himself the Crowd Wrangler for the Texas Rollergirls and never misrepresent himself by calling himself an announcer, which assumes a play-by-play or color role to ears that hear it.  Nationals would encourage him to innovate and set a standard for Crowd Wranglers across the nation.
            In short, Chip would never take advantage of this opportunity to betray Whiskey and I.
            Only time would tell.
            But back to the slapdash announce teams….
            Initially, the Tucson Announce team were going to announce every single bout.  But with a mammoth announce schedule ahead of them and conflicting work schedules outside of the game, they changed their minds.
            I remember the first day being very long.  Many teams were, to put it quite frankly, punked pretty bad.  But for every struggling team, there were stars.  I remember two standouts from Duke City, Kamikaze Kim and Death Row.  Death Row put a huge hit on a rollergirl in the first bout of the night that ten-toed her opponent.  I remember Quiet Storm motioning to the crowd with the international sign of quiet when she gained lead jammer status.
            I also remember Downtown Dave repeatedly telling Chip he could not plug in a fifth mic when the announce team was full.

/   /   /   /   /   /

            Friday night was interesting, and after a hard night of drinking, all I wanted to do was sleep.
            I was sharing a bed with Chip Queso.  As we were winding down ready for our old man sleep, Jim Jones enters.
            I was close to finding sleep when the nightmare of Friday night sleep continued.
            Chip snored.
            I was pretty sure at this point I was not to get sleep at all.
            I had to be three, maybe four in the morning when the Sandman blessed my eyes with sleep, bringing my body to rest above the cacophony of nasal problems that resonated around the room like a pit of satanic demons playing Halo 3 on Xbox 360.
            Sleep.  Thank you, God.
            That is, until my cell phone rang.
            My wife missed me.  And like a good husband, I went into the perpetually well lit hotel hallway to sacrifice more sleep at the altar of my wife’s peace of mind.


            One of the opening matchups the previous day was Texas vs. Kansas City.  Leading up to the bout, online message boards were ablaze with Kansas City claiming victory in a Texas/KC match up.  Chip and I had chimed in, bringing some levity to the palpable tension, but assuring KC their dreams of derby glory would be thrown out like Bill Clinton’s donated underwear.  The seeds of an unlikely derby tradition had been planted.
            As day two went on, I called my assigned bouts and sat out the ones I was sharing with the others.
            I must say, my initial reactions to some of the announcers was not necessarily favorable, but would change in time.
            Perhaps it was the person he was paired with, but I originally thought RockerBoy was a horrible announcer.  It also might have been the fact that his team, the Carolina Rollergirls, were stomping the competition.  Led by Carolina star jammers, Roxy Rocket and Princess America, Carolina was quickly showing themselves to be a force to be reckoned with.  In his enthusiasm, RockerBoy would unleash a screaming commentary that annoyed the hell out of me the first time I heard him.
            Though initially I was wary to join Whiskey to call about with Carolina, thinking Rocker was going to talk over us and scream a lot.  But I was wrong.  Like a true professional, Rocker adjusted his style to the more measured, yet whimsical approach of Whiskey and myself.
            Bob Noxious was another person that stood out to me.  His approach was just as whimsical, but very professional.  I remember the Tucson duo of Dave and Jeff Mann (before his heel turn gimmick change to Jeffery Calmer, an all-powerful egomaniac who is better than everyone) was a very effective, yet informal, duo.  It reminded me of a buddy movie pair, serious at times, but chuckling like chums at other times.
            As for us, Whiskey was on the mark and hysterical as usual.  When paired with a particularly unskilled announcer who, to her credit, actually made a good reference about a skater’s job outside of derby, responded with the most hilarious comment I’d ever heard:
            “Whoopty frikkin’ do.  This is roller derby.”
            Dust Devil was also a chance for Jim “Kool Aid” Jones to test his play-by-play chops on the field of derby, and he was amazing.  Jim had an outstanding eye for the game and his natural, dare I say, other worldly wit and sharp eye made many of the veteran announcers look like second rate hacks.
            Chip, on the other hand, did not do well, in my eyes.  His inflection was minimal, remaining constantly at either a shout, yell, or screaming level.  He talked over announcers as they called bouts and somehow remained at the table for every bout, holding on to the microphone like a child with a lollipop.  I also did not appreciate how he continued to hound Downtown Dave to plug in his fifth mic during a bout despite Dave repeatedly telling him no.  I was embarrassed by his actions, but once again, who could I go to?  And who was I to tell him anything.
            But Chip’s overzealous attempts to force himself into every game was to be a side issue as a miscommunication would nurture the seeds of anger planted on message boards that would sprout into a Texas Rollergirls tradition.

/   /   /   /   /   /

            Returning from the Saturday night afterparty where I was privileged enough to chat with the witty future WFTDA president, CrackerJack, I noticed a veritable treasure chest of alcoholic glee.  It was a kind of “manna from heaven” that confused me at its presence and neglect: Eight completely fresh and unopened Coors Light cans.
            I had found a Godsend, a silver windfall that, by all accounts, was all mine.  Seeing derby activity at a set of hotel rooms, I approached in an effort to magnanimously share my booty of silver bullets.
            I walked into the first room.  It was a contingent of Kansas City Warriors.  I feigned the role of Sally Struthers, searching for a home for my neglected cans of silver.  Several found a loving home.  I don’t recall all the girls that were in that room that night, but I do remember Boobarella.  When I mistakenly thought her name was Pooperella, she tried to get me in a legitimate Thai clinch to deliver knees to my bollocks.
            I walked to the adjacent room where my collegue D’Nouncer Dwayne was said to be present.  I once again started into my “Give a Beer a Home” routine and was greeted by a cold indifference.
            D”Nouncer Dwayne was the first to comment.
            “Julio, you have a lot of apologizing to do.”
            “What are you talking about?” I asked with a confused smile.
            “You called one of our girls a fat ass.”
            I was immediately stunned.  As a general rule, I never insult rollergirls, especially over the microphone.  I do remember making a comment when a group of Kansas girls were dancing to a random song the DJ was playing that one of them was “shaking that ass”.  But it was in no way an insult.
            I stood in the doorway, confused and upset.  Maybe they thought I called her a fat ass?  I had to find the girl and resolve this horrible mistake.
            But on my way out the door, I came face to face with Dee Klaw, one of the orneriest rollergirls in the world, who confronted me with the allegation.
            “You know,” she started, looking me in the eyes, “It’s really shitty of you to call (girl’s name) a fat ass and come around here trying to be everybody’s friend.”
            I had to say something.
            “I swear I didn’t call her that.”  But I was so confused.  I had done a lot of drinking, but I tend to remember things I’ve done, with few exceptions.  Especially with insults.
            Dee Klaw wasn’t hearing it, and groaned in disgust.  “What you did was not cool, and you’re full of shit.”
            It was obvious their minds were made up.    
            I walked away, feeling the definition of every letter in the word dejected. 


            Saturday had been a tough day all around.  Announcing was tough, having to deal with the “fat ass” rumor was another thing.  But the toughest thing I was having to deal with was being homesick.  By this time, it was the fourth day of being away, and despite the fun that was being had, I was feeling a little guilty having left my wife and child alone.  It did not help that I allowed her to listen in on some announcing and, as usual, took something I said the wrong way. 
            Keeping the phone by my side more for her security than mine, I decided to answer her call during a pre-match hype session.  I did not talk to her directly, just answered the phone and placed it on the table.  I happened to make a comment that I saw the Chicago team changing in the Men’s restroom in an effort to display that the rollergirls owned this skate center this weekend.  My wife, on the other hand, assumed wild stuff was happening in the restrooms, and that I took part in it.  Man.
            In spite of my guilt, I was going to enjoy watching the Texas Rollergirls play and, at this point, dominate.  The power and the glory of the Texas Rollergirls was unveiled to the flat track nation.  Texas finished Tucson decisively, and proved once again to be kryptonite to Tucson’s Supergirl.
            Pretty much for a full three days, it was one giant party.  And with Brown Paper Tickets footing the bill on drinks, it was a veritable Bacchanalle.  I remember eating a huge Frito Pie and telling Jim Jones, “This isn’t for nourishment, my friend”.  Dionysus would have been proud.
            On the previous days, I was dressed in my signature guayaberas and zarape.  But on the Sunday of this bout, I dressed in my best business gray suit, bright blue shirt, tie, and my zarape, I was “stylin’ and profilin’”.  Ric Flair would have been proud.  And with my trusty zarape over my shoulder, there was no announcer, bar none, that was a suave as Julio E. Glasses.
            That entire Sunday, a local mariachi group played in between bouts.  I asked the group if they would allow me to sing “El Rey” with their group.  I was pleasantly surprised when they said yes.
            I was even more surprised when exiting the bathroom later that evening when the mariachi were lined up by the announce booth and started to play before I had a mic in my hand.  I was a little nervous as I had been calling a lot of games and partying pretty hard.  My voice had taken a beating despite multiple vocal warm-ups.
            But it was as if I was channeling the spirit of Jose Alfredo Jimenez as, per my latin crooner gimmick, I belted out the first verse of “El Rey” with gusto to my flat track derby compadres.  It was excellent, and a very proud moment for me.
            The evening ended with a rather exciting final conflict between the Tucson Saddletramps.  After a fierce and exciting battle, Texas came out on top and became the first WFTDA National Champions.
            As the night winded down, I worked my way to the back door to get to my ride to the afterparty.  I was greeted at the exit by two derby fans.
            “Julio, you were awesome, man.”
            “Thanks, guys.”
            I was already buzzed and trying to come down from my drunken haze when the guys offered me a styrofoam cup of benevolently toxic fluid.
            “Dude, take a shot with us.”
            I took the medium sized cup in my hand and immediately noticed how heavy it felt.  I looked into the cup and observed how it was close to a third full of a dark fluid.  The aroma was malevolently strong.  It was probably something I should not drink in its entirety.
            It made me recall a hilarious part of the late, great Sam Kinison’s stand up routine.  The legendary comic commented how being a superstar with such a hard driving reputation, people had unreasonable expectations for him.  Especially when it came to partying.  His joke centered around going to parties where people are doing regular lines of cocaine in and around the party.  But when he arrives, they make an extra long line for him, with unprepped powder so big they, “…look like rocks you could put in your driveway”.  Sam relates that he understands  the danger, but does it anyway because its what his fans and friends expect and he doesn’t want to let them down.  By the end of the evening, his heart is thumping at 100 miles per hour and he excuses himself to a backroom to pray to God for his life, all the while encouraging his friends to keep partying while he looks for shoe polish to drink to prevent his heart attack.
            That pretty much sums up how I felt in this moment.  I learned my lesson about hard alcohol during the infancy of my alcoholism in college.  Lots of headaches and hangovers and, fortunately, no butt-rapes or pictures taken of me with genitals around my face. Since then, my loyalty has been to beer, sustaining my family tradition.  Great, huh?
            So the cup of Jagermeister that stood before me now is what I could only describe as a “Heroic Dose” by any standard.  And like Sam, I felt the pressure.  I’m the “rockstar voice” of the Texas Rollergirls.  These people know the hard partying reputation of the rollergirls.  It was, therefore, my duty to take that shot.  For God and country.  Or, more appropriately, for Flat Track and Texas.
            And like Sam Kinison before me, I took it.  And the Legend of Frankie the Zarape would begin.

            Let me introduce my friend, permanent announcer sidekick, and eternal friend, Frankie the Zarape.
            Frankie the Zarape was Made in Mexico and somehow transported to the famous Mercado of San Antonio where it lay for months at a time, its destiny unknown. Most of Frankie’s brothers and sisters were purchased to be draped in windows or along the walls of the various Mexican food establishments that pepper the Texas urban landscape. Frankie was prepared to suffer the same ignoble fate.
            However, one day, on a traditional trip to the Mercado to eat at Mi Tierra and drink Carta Blanca and Bohemia while listening to the trios that sing in the famous San Antonio restaurant, I wandered the Mercado in search of a zarape. I had seen a picture several times of Mexican revolutionary Francisco "Pancho" Villa and his wife in which Villa wore a zarape draped across his shoulder. Mexican chic at its best. I had to have one.                                                                                                                                       Searching around a store, Frankie called to me, and I answered her call. I purchased her for a little more than what she might have cost in Mexico, but I wanted it. I immediately tossed her over his shoulder and wore her the rest of the day. My new friend and I returned home, and Frankie sat on a hanger in safety for months at a time. I would only pull her out to take her out with me when I hit Sixth Street to drink alone or with friends.                                                                                                                                          When I made the cut to become a member of the newly formed Texas Rollergirls organization in 2002, Frankie called to me once again. I tossed her over my shoulder like a Mexican Revolutionary and she brought an edge to my traditional guayabera shirt. Together, we called the bouts of the Texas Rollergirls.
            And so the legend began…

            Back to Tucson…
            The Jager was attacking me like some kind of industrial strength CIA sponsored drug as I walked out the door. I vaguely remember talking to Sparkle Plenty and someone snapped a picture.  It was very curious to see all the orbs and ecto-plasmic swirls when the picture was developed.  The night was already resonating powerfully, and I’m convinced these desert spirits were going to join in the fun as well.  I was soon spirited away to the Jim Jones-mobile and stuffed into the car like a sardine.  I probably shouldn’t have been in there.  I’m sorry, Appoca-Lipps.                                                                                               The afterparty was also a blur.  I remember Dirty Little Secret of the Rats leaving in her gaudy vintage polka-dot dress as we arrived.  This Rat City girl hated my call during one of her initial bouts, and had no problem calling me out and challenging me to a physical confrontation after assuming her name related to a Melissa Ethridge album.  Her words still ring clear:  “That’s not what my name is in reference to and I hate you for saying that.”  I wonder what she meant by that?  Seriously, I never thought a girl was going to punch me in the face before that moment.                                                                                      At the afterparty, I remember shambling to the Seattle, New York, and Providence teams and making a drunken ass of myself.  And, perhaps, stumbling around the bar drunk as a Mexican skunk might have been the spark a conspiratorial group of rollergirls needed.                                                                                                                           By this point, the Jaeger, combined with the loads of Old Style (a beer I was dreaming of drinking for years) had provided a convenient and swift portal into the spirit world, ala the ‘80’s hit “Young Guns”.                                                                                                “Why aren’t they shootin’ at us?”
            As the evening wore on, I staggered outside.                                                                                    “We’re in the spirit world, asshole.  They can’t see us.”                                                 Communing with the friendly spirits outside the bar in the cool desert night of Tucson, I felt a gentle tug at my zarape.                                                                                      “Did you see the size of that chicken.”                                                                                  The tug turned into a full-blown yank and my zarape was whisked off by shoulder.  I spun around like a top and watched visions of red and black scrambling back into the bar with my zarape in tow.                                                                                                       In my stupor, I didn’t panic.  My thinking was someone was playing a trick on me and I’ll see it by the end of the evening.  As I crashed out back at the hotel room I somehow made it back to, I was not to see my zarape again for a long time.

            The next morning, things were to turn from bad to extremely worse.                                   I missed my morning flight.                                                                                                            Hung over and reeling, I got my stuff and made a mad dash to the airport.                              After the cocksucking police state pieces of shit called the FAA profiled me as a potential terrorist because I told them my shoes were not steel toed so there was no need for me to take off my shoes, I made my way to the terminal.                                                            By this point, my wife had heard the news and had been yelling at me over the phone.  She was grossly upset at my mistake and spouted cruel obscenities and hateful speech at her irresponsible husband.                                                                                                   How could I blame her?  For the past five days I had participated in a massive party longer than the first Gulf War thousands of miles away from home.  My wife was left alone with our infant child with no help.  I had promised her I would take the early flight home and be back home relatively early.  I failed in that promise.                                               My wife was so upset with me that my own mother had to drive from almost two hundred miles away to pick me up at the Austin airport.  XXXXX would not do it.                            I returned home from the first ever WFTDA National Championship sad and ashamed.  For several days after, I was prepared to walk away from the Texas Rollergirls.


More to come...


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