PAINful Comedy, Classic Edition
Austin L. Ray
Billy Wayne Davis is being promoted as a “thinking-man’s hillbilly,” and if that sounds like an oxymoron, you may want to first give his debut album a listen. Everything from his name to the album’s cover practically screams “Blue Collar Comedy Tour,” but he would puzzle the halfwits who attend such shows. He instead offers a refreshing take on an oft-stereotyped “country” sensibility, one that can only be toppled if more artists like Davis step up and let their voices be heard.
A native Nashvillian who has since put down roots in Seattle (even placing second in 2010’s Seattle International Comedy Competition), Davis’s fish-out-of-water status gives him plenty of leeway to fuck with urbanites, as he does on a bit about colored pencils (you do the math on that one). He has fun playing with this confusion (i.e., that he should be a close-minded rube, according to his accent) when in reality, he gets down with all sides. In a bit about how rednecks and gay dudes dislike each other, he notes that they don’t seem to realize they both hate sleeves. When a joke about diabetes doesn’t go over, he claims the white people in the room who aren’t laughing simply don’t have any black friends. His taste in music runs the gamut and doesn’t exactly prove that he’s non-judgmental in regard to race, though going out to a small-town bar with actual live bull-riding – wherein he’s concerned for the lives of the black men there – sort of does.
Moreover, Davis doesn’t mind taking the piss out of so-called liberal institutions. While discussing his move to Seattle, he talks of how he read the city was a “utopia of progressive liberality” that rained open-mindedness every day. “Take off that Patagonia and soak it in!” he jokes in a cheeseball tourism voice. “You’re not wet, you’re a better person!” But it doesn’t take him long to wonder, “Where’s all the black people?” before realizing how “fucked up” it is that, with exception to sports players in gated communities, they all live in Tacoma, and how “all the gay people” live on a hill. Not only do the citizens of this allegedly progressive place look down on him for the way he talks, but they’re really not as progressive as they claim to be, anyway.
Considering his utterly calm demeanor on stage, it’s no surprise that Davis has worked with folks like Louis C.K., Mitch Hedberg and Colin Quinn. Relative newcomer though he may be, his confidence is infectious in such a way that it almost makes the duddier jokes go over better. He nonchalantly shuts down hecklers throughout as if it’s his job. After a guy yells for a “Tennessee joke,” Davis asks him if he sees anywhere on Davis’s person where the heckler could insert a quarter before quickly concluding for him, “I don’t take goddamn requests.” Elsewhere he informs a clearly-very-drunk woman that the performance is a “monologue, not a dialogue.” His effortless ease with both the crowd and his material is admirable; some comedians will play up their seriousness for laughs, but it’s Davis’s lightheartedness that really makes him shine, whether he’s talking about Texas bravado or terrible grammar.
All in all, Billy Wayne Davis is an exercise in tolerance, and not in the way that might be expected, but for big-city, blue-state, bleeding-heart liberals. Davis is a reminder that not every large, bald, Southern-accented meathead of a guy can be judged on face value alone. Maybe, just maybe, he also thinks rednecks are assholes, or that a guy at the Texas border asking whether or not you’re a faggot is ridiculous, too. Of course he’ll still perform that same joke in Texas in the meantime, because they’ll laugh even though they don’t realize the joke’s on them. He can hang with the hicks because he understands them, but by absorbing their asinine behavior and later mocking their ignorance, Davis is both funny and subversive.
Jason Radcliff: Trash Polka and Heartless Bastards
Name? Jason Radcliff
Shop? Black List Tattoo Parlour
Location? Albuquerque, New Mexico
Years tattooing? Just over 17 years.
How did you get your start as a tattoo artist?
I have always been immersed in the arts be it painting, illustration, or anything expressive. As a profession, tattooing has been the only thing that I’ve ever known. When I was a kid, my uncle, who is also a tattooer moved back into town (Seattle area) and eventually opened his own shop. We were close, so he gave me the opportunity to come work in the shop when I was 14, cleaning the place in the morning before school. By 16, I was working the counter and at 17, the guys at the shop offered me an apprenticeship.
What was your apprenticeship like?
My apprenticeship, I feel, was fairly typical of the 90’s. I was put through my paces by everyone in the shop. I cleaned and sterilized everyone’s tubes, built all of their needles, and was reprimanded incessantly. The needle-building was the worst. I would . . . build hundreds of needles over the course of a few days, breathing in flux and burning myself repeatedly, only to have a quarter of what I made come back to me because they weren’t good enough. The apprenticeship lasted about 2 years before I was allowed to work on the public.
You just picked up a Spektra Xion from FK Irons. How do you like it?
The Xion is a great machine! I picked this machine up because I just felt like trying something new again. I’ve use coil machines for the bulk of my career, and I love them . . . Coil machines each have their specific purposes. I’ve found that rotaries are just a bit more versatile.
You have several finished pieces, as well as sketches that stand out distinctly from the rest of your more conventional work. What was the inspiration behind these?
That stemmed from me trying to merge realistic elements with more abstract ones, as well as trying to find my own niche. The inspiration came from all over. The two biggest influences have come from both the U.S. and Germany in the form of abstractionist painter Franz Kline and the duo of Volker and Simone and their creation titled “Trash Polka.” Both are very unique and aggressive in substance and style.
You are both an artist and owner of your tattoo parlor. Is it ever a struggle to find balance between the two positions?
It can be tricky at times. I am lucky enough, however, to have a business partner that helps keep that balance in check. We communicate constantly to make sure that everything stays on track. Time management has to be the single greatest challenge of playing both roles, if I’m not drawing for an upcoming project, I’m doing clerical work, making sure bills are paid, or trying to figure out the next move for the business. It can be daunting at times.
Top Rocker Tattoo is not your typical tattoo shop — fact is, they don’t think of themselves as a “tattoo shop” at all.
As soon as walk through the door, you feel a uniquely creative vibe. It’s a bright, vibrant space, and instead of being covered with flash, the walls are decorated with artwork that the staff has created — some of the canvases are up to six feet tall.
“That’s what separates us from your typical tattoo shop — we’re a ‘studio’ and art gallery,” says owner and tattoo artist Ernie ‘’SerV One” Rojas.
Rojas opened Top Rocker not only as a working studio where he and his fellow artists could further their craft in an independent yet supportive environment, but also a place that would dispel some of the foreboding misconceptions about tattooing and open the eyes of uninitiated to a limitless artistic culture.
“When my guys aren’t tattooing, we’re constantly creating, whether it be drawing, painting or designing a logo or mural. I wanted to let people know that this is really a creative place,” Rojas says.
Joining Rojas are tattooers Tommy Robertson, Mister Rick and Duck Jones, and cosmetic tattooer and shop manager Fallon ‘FalMcK’ McKay — together, they represent more than 75 years of body art experience. It’s not wonder that as they celebrate their 10-year anniversary, Top Rocker has earned a reputation for custom tattooing, specializing in everything from cover-ups to microblading. Actually, they don’t specialize at all — there isn’t a style of artwork their artists can’t produce.
“Every day and every time that we have the opportunity, we’re trying to educate our clients about what it is we can do for them,” Rojas says. “Other places might just slap something on somebody —- here, from the time the client walks in the door to the time they leave, they’re being taken care of.”
For every amazing tattoo that leaves Top Rocker, a bad one comes in. Fixing regrets is a skill that these artists have turned into an art form all its own. And the outcomes are more than skin deep. Customers not only want to hide their awful tattoos, but to transform ones that represent negative experiences in their lives — like the girl whose boyfriend scratched a swastika on her hand without her realizing the hateful connotation.
Rojas covered the symbol with a rose, which he says helped the young lady “blossom into an amazing person.”
“I’ve covered up some really clean work too, but it’s not always about the image itself,” Rojas adds. “One of the most difficult things about a coverup is to make this person, that has been stained, put their trust in me.”
Gaining that rapport, Rojas explains, comes from showing genuine interest in the client and excitement about the vision for the new piece of art. There’s also the friendly, non-threatening vibe given off by the studio and staff that helps to put people at ease.
Technically speaking, Rojas draws from his background in Japanese-inspired tattoos which “flow on the body like armor.” Placement goes side by side with taking into consideration spacing, and whether than coverup needs to be a stand alone piece or whether there are existing elements or other tattoos that can be connected into a larger cohesive design.
“I try to put as much detail of the new image into the negative spaces of the existing tattoo because that tricks the eye,” Rojas says. “Also, we have amazing inks now that allow you to put virtually any color over old black.”
“One of my greatest satisfactions is to successfully cover something that was causing the person to be unhappy,” Rojas says. “When the client gets up from the station, where they’ve been sitting for six to seven hours, and they walk over to the mirror, the look of relief and satisfaction that they have, is the greatest thing.”
And knowing that they’ve been successful with coverups, gives the tattooers at Top Rocker the confidence to evolve and refine their art.
“If we can handle coverups, which are the hardest things in the industry to do, we can definitely cover every other style of tattooing be it traditional Americana, traditional Japanese, Chicano black and gray, portraits or color realism — basically anything,” Rojas says.
“I wake up every morning with the joy in knowing that we’re going to make somebody feel good about themselves wearing something that we’ve created.”
4 Tips for Creating a Positive Client Experience
Coverup specialist, like Ernie Rojas, at Arizona’s Top Rocker Tattoo, fix just as many bad tattoos as they do good ones that were ruined by negative experiences.
“Not everyone wants to wear an asshole’s art,” Rojas says. “There’s more to it than just the image — it may be a nice piece or work, but (the person’s perspective of it can be ruined) if it’s not done by somebody who truly cares about what they’re doing for their client.”
Putting yourself in your client’s skin (literally and figuratively) and displaying a genuine empathy for them as individuals is a powerful tool for creating confidence for them in your abilities and an emotional attachment through likability and trust.
With this in mind, here are 4 tips to improve communication between you and your client so that you can deliver a unique and exceptional experience.
Keep Clients Informed
Doing a tattoo or piercing may be routine to you, but there’s a good chance it could be a first for your client. The unknown fuels fear so clients need to be kept in the know. Rather than waiting to give your client aftercare instructions, a good way to ease their nerves about getting a tattoo or piercing is to give them a pre-appointment checklist to help them plan ahead for the day of the visit, know what to expect while they’re in the chair and understand what the healing process will involve. Keep your terms simple and easy to understand, otherwise you risk raising their anxiety level when they see a flurry of technical jargon with which they’re not familiar.
Involving clients from start to finish is not only considerate, it’s the right thing to do. It may be your art, but it’s their body, their anxieties and their concerns that they’re having to deal with.
Make Your Client Comfortable
Remain confident, but be mindful of your body language and avoid defensive poses, like crossing your arms or habits of boredom such as tapping your feet or fiddling with a pen. Defensive body language can be seen as a sign of egotism, impatience, or worse, indifference. Instead of giving into one of these undesirable habits, make eye contact, smile and try to nod and express a genuine interest in what your client is saying.
Watch your client’s body language, too. If your studio is an open space where others are getting tattooed or pierced, and your client appears nervous or uncomfortable discussing something in public (which might be the case with more exotic piercings or tattoo placement), offer to speak somewhere more private, like a consultation area to make sure he or she feels empowered to speak more freely.
It’s important to validate your client’s concerns and limit your assumptions. Use the active listening technique to facilitate better understanding and communication — listen closely, then repeat what the person said, checking to ensure you are on the same page. Ask open-ended questions to help uncover more information; “Yes” or “No” questions are impersonal, and the one-word answers won’t give you much insight from the patient’s own perspective. For example, asking “How does this feel” instead of “Does this hurt” opens the door to a lot more useful information.
Good chairside manner doesn’t end when your client leaves your shop. It’s not enough just to hand them a piece of paper with aftercare instructions and hope for the best. People want to feel like you’re truly invested in their well-being, so personally reaching out shortly after their visit adds an extra element of caring and concern. Taking five minutes to call a client to see how they’re doing and address any questions they may have is a personal touch they won’t forget.
No one appreciates being made to feel like a number. If a person doesn’t feel like they’ve been treated with respect and compassion, it’s possible they’ll write an online review warning others to stay clear of shops and artists they deem to have a venomous attitude.
Even when it isn’t necessary, following up is a smart idea because people want to return to a shop that makes them a priority. If a person has to choose between two artists of equal skill, they’ll likely opt for the one with the better chairside manner.
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Dear Ms. Angel,
I’ve been a professional piercer for 21 years (and I’m not exaggerating like some people do). I’m a member of the APP and take my job seriously. I’m having an argument with my coworkers about triangle piercings, and you are the Genital Piercing Queen.
I have taken your female piercing classes at conference and learned from you where a proper triangle piercing goes. Thank you on behalf of my happy clients! My colleagues insist that the piercing should go in the hood behind the clitoris (glans). But I learned from you that the triangle should stimulate the clitoral shaft, and that it should go closer to the body and higher than where they’re putting their piercings.
I’m fed up from fighting with them, and it is upsetting to see clients getting piercings that are not as pleasurable, which I keep hearing when I do their jewelry changes or new piercings, “Why don’t I feel anything from my triangle?”.
Please help me convince the other piercers of the right spot for a triangle!
I know exactly what you’re talking about because I frequently see this sort of triangle piercing misplacement (along with a variety of others). The reason I can definitively state where a triangle should be placed is that I learned it from Lou Duff, the innovator of the piercing—and I performed Lou’s triangle as well.
Disclaimer: This is not intended to teach anyone how to do a triangle piercing! Guidance under a qualified mentor is indispensable.
You are correct, a triangle piercing is intended to support and provide stimulation of the clitoral shaft, not the clitoral glans. It should be placed at the highest point just beneath (not through!) the clitoral shaft, at the natural fold where the base of the hood tissue joins the body. Because the skin of this region is so soft and pliable, positioning jewelry in the hood tissue behind the clitoral glans would not produce local stimulation.
An in-depth understanding of female anatomy is crucial. Graphic photos on my website(i) will help to clarify the placement, and I have videos available(ii) that show me performing anatomy consultations and triangle piercings, which further demonstrate the particulars.
Women who are suited have a single optimal spot for this piercing. If a “double triangle” is desired, one of the piercings won’t actually be a proper triangle, even if there is space for multiples in the area.
I’ve seen “triangle” piercings placed so low and forward that they prevented the hood from retracting normally. I’ve also seen many low “triangle” piercings that were actually a pair of inner labia piercings joined by a single piece of jewelry. Even worse, I’ve witnessed multiple instances of triangle attempts that resulted accidental piercings of the clitoral glans.
CAUTION: a puncture of that sensitive tissue could damage or entirely ruin a woman’s sexual pleasure. Through improper placement or piercing technique, the clitoral shaft could be nicked or severed with the same consequence. Piercers new to triangles are advised to decline if the shaft is very thin.
Another problem I see regularly is “triangle” piercings on women who are in no way configured for them. There are very specific anatomical criteria required for safe, successful triangle piercings.
Women with a lot of hood tissue are not automatically suited, as they must also have the right shape. Good candidates are built with what I term a “hill” formation: a hood that is substantial and higher than the outer labia. Women who have the “valley” shape, which is narrow, vertical, and flat or concave should not receive horizontal piercings (including the HCH). Sometimes it is possible to do a triangle on a woman who has a hill that is situated within a valley, but this is much more advanced.
A defined line or groove where the hood meets the body is extremely helpful but not required when a piercer is sufficiently experienced. Relative symmetry at the base of the hood is generally necessary for the jewelry to rest evenly.
Additionally, it is important to check for visible vessels along the base of the hood, as it is not uncommon for them to be located where the triangle piercing should be placed. Sometimes a vein will move out of the way when the tissue is manipulated in preparation for piercing. However, if a visible vessel is in the pathway and cannot be avoided, the piercing should not be performed.
Finally, you should check to see how high the inner lips divide at the top of the vaginal opening. The optimal spot for a triangle is above this juncture. But, sometimes the right spot for the triangle (as high as you can pierce) is at or below the level where the inner lips divide in two. Refer to my website for related information on what I’ve termed the “biangle” piercing(iii).
Do NOT pierce if the client does not meet all of the anatomical requirements. You must be able to locate the clitoral shaft with 100% confidence, lift it a small distance from the body, and keep it elevated throughout the procedure. If you cannot lift the hood without the shaft dropping back down, you must not do the piercing!
I also wanted to discuss jewelry for triangle piercings. Because the vulva is so vertical, I invented a customized style that conforms beautifully to the area. I use a circular barbell that would be one or two sizes too small, and I widen it using ring opening pliers so that it becomes U-shaped or C-shaped, depending on the individual build.
Most commonly I start with 12 gauge circular barbells in diameters ranging from 3/8” (10mm) to 5/8” (16mm), widened as necessary to allow the inner lips to pass through the gap between the balls or gems, so that the jewelry rests tucked against the body. Generally, I prefer to use 3/16” threaded ends. This gap should gently clasp the inner lips to hold the jewelry in position and prevent twisting, and the outer labia cradle and stabilize it. Some women prefer to wear the jewelry flipped up rather than down. But the point is that it tucks comfortably against the body. You must balance the jewelry diameter with the width of the tissue, and the available space between the inner and outer labia.
I leave a little extra room for initial swelling, so sometimes adjustments are needed during healing to narrow the gap and find the most comfortable fit in this dynamic area. If the hood is not tall or full enough, or there’s insufficient surrounding tissue to hold the jewelry in place, problems are likely due to twisting and excess trauma.
Just prior to piercing, I perform tissue manipulation to lift the clitoral shaft, attempt clear the area of vessels, and maximize the space at the sides of the hood where the forceps will be placed. It is ABSOLUTELY CRITICAL to keep clitoral shaft lifted and maintain continuous pressure behind it throughout procedure to prevent it from slipping back down. Otherwise, you could accidentally pierce through it (or in front of it).
The triangle piercing has potential to provide enhanced sensations that are not achievable by other means, so poorly placed attempts can represent seriously missed opportunities—or worse. I hope this information proves helpful in convincing your colleagues of the appropriate placement for triangle piercings.
It’s that time of year, folks. The annual doomsday countdown for the self-employed has begun. Tremble and weep, oh ye procrastinators, for the Taxman cometh to take what is his.
It doesn’t have to be all wailing and gnashing of teeth, though. In fact, it is actually possible for April 15th to be relatively painless. All it requires is a little foresight and attention to detail. Suddenly, it won’t feel like you’re keeping one and giving 19. Obviously, if you’re just thinking about this now, there’s not much to do for this year’s bill. Just take that box of crumpled receipts to your accountant and hope to hell he’s also a magician. But for next year, there are a few things you might want to consider. Keep in mind, though, that we’re constrained by a word count. This is a mere starting point; a handful of topics covered in the broadest strokes possible.
Business expenses: Deduct. Deduct. Deduct.
I have a customer who drives to my business every week to buy tattoo supplies, 30 miles each way. I couldn’t believe my ears when he told me he’d never thought to log his mileage. If you’re a tattoo artist working with pass-through income, a supply run absolutely qualifies as business travel. And in 2019, every mile you drive for your business is 54.5 cents you get to subtract from your taxable income. Let’s put it simply: If my buddy were to log that one trip he takes each week and report it to Uncle Sam, he would be looking at a tax savings of up to $400.2 That’s over 500 cans of PBR.
Deductions are scary because they require that you keep meticulous records; not exactly a prominent strength in the art world. But if you’re not taking them, you’re basically giving your money away to Uncle Sam for no good reason. Take what’s yours. Save every damn receipt, log every mile, and watch your tax bill shrink.
Reach Above the Line
If you’re making any real money, above the line deductions are crucial. Not familiar with the term? You should do some research. However, put simply, “above the line” means it goes directly against your taxable income, dollar for dollar. Examples are qualified retirement accounts, health savings accounts, and health insurance premiums. This section is equally important to your long-term financial security. I think it goes without saying that you should have opened a retirement account by now, and if you haven’t, get on it. Bending over the chair isn’t going to be nearly as fun at 65. But what you might not have considered is that you should also be paying into a health savings account. You have to spend money on healthcare anyway, but if you take a high deductible/low premium plan and pay the difference of your monthly bill into an HSA, you not only get that above the line deduction, you also get to collect tax-free interest. Best of all, if by some miracle you stay healthy and disaster free, you can pull that cash out for whatever you want at retirement with no additional penalties.(3)
Don’t procrastinate! File quarterly.
The adage comparing procrastination to masturbation goes double when it comes to dealing with Uncle Sammy. Quarterly payments are technically required of all businesses, whether it’s a giant corporation or a mom and pop pass-through scenario. Obviously, the reduced stress of not having to pay a lump sum at the end of the year should be motivation enough. But you should also keep in mind that when you fail to file quarterly, the IRS will take that lump sum, split it among the four quarters and tack on a compounding interest charge. So once again, you’re leaving money on the table that should be in your pocket. Stop it.
It’s your right to take every dime off the table that’s yours. That much, we’ve established. But don’t take a dime more. It’s tempting to skim cash, or even keep cash payments off the books entirely, but all you’re doing is opening yourself to a world of trouble. That code you enter on your tax form to indicate your trade is the IRS’s gateway to a wealth of information. They have determined what your credit card/cash ratio should be. If the ratio you report is significantly off, you’re at a high risk of triggering an audit. Don’t think you’ll fall through the cracks; the algorithms don’t lie. Besides, if you don’t report it to the IRS, you can’t report it to a bank, either. A little extra beer money isn’t worth screwing yourself out of a mortgage.
Optional Disclaimer: This article is for entertainment and informational purposes only. For real tax advice, consult a tax professional.
(1) Yes, that was a Beatles reference. Good catch.
(2) This number is obviously dependent on his tax bracket and the number of trips he actually took.
(3) For a better idea of what you’d save and accrue, check out hsacenter.com and try out their Future Value Calculator.
About the author:
Chris Black is the founder and owner of Munson’s Emporium, a wildly successful smoke and adult novelty shop in Belton, Texas, as well as the former owner of Mr. Nice Guy’s Tattoo in Bell County, Texas. His favorite pastimes are overseeing his adolescent baseball camp, hanging out with his wife and five kids, working on his classic Porsche, and viciously trolling people of lesser intelligence on social media.
401 Tattoo Art & Antiquities
Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina
Everything in a tattoo shop is one-of-a-kind. At 401 Tattoo Art & Antiquities, in Fuquay-Varina, North Carolina, things are more unique and unusual than in most.
At 401 (referring to the highway that runs in front of the shop), along with custom tattoo art, you’ll also taxidermy, wet specimens, mummified creatures, fossils, vintage medical devices, framed insects and even human skulls.
The oddities are the collection of 401 owner and tattoo artist Jimmy Bissette, who says when he opened the shop in 2011, the idea was to create a space that was uniquely his own after having worked for 12 years in other places around Raleigh.
“Back in the day, anytime you saw a freak show there was always the tattooed lady and other body modifications. A lot of tattoo artists and people who are into the culture really enjoy things like,” Bissette says.
Bissette originally got into tattooing without ever having put much thought into it after his girlfriend gave him a cheapo machine as a gift. He had a mural business, and was always the creative type, so it was an easy transition to this new art form.
“I had tattoos, but I’d never really considered doing it myself. It just took over everything I was doing and became my focus. Being able to interact with people and creating something permanent made it really interesting to me,” Bissette says, “these days it’s just second nature and all I do.”
Bissette is one of those tattoo artists who dabbles in whatever style is requested. If forced to pick a favorite it would be neo-traditional for its heavy, bold lines surrounding intricate fineline details. His favorite subject matter — as you might expects of somebody who collects mummified remains, leans toward the dark side as well.
401 is a custom shop, where Bissette is joined by tattooers Robert Meyers, James Copper, Bishop and Sam Moore, with a focus on personal attention and client satisfaction.
“Being 100 percent original almost seems impossible and is always a challenge,” Bissette remarks,” “But I definitely do enjoy tattooing and creating that next new thing.”
“We definitely listen to the client,” Bissette adds. “There’s no showboating up in here.”
When it comes for inks and machines in use at 401, it’s much the same as in other shops where everyone has their own favorites. Meyers is sponsored by PEAK need cartridges, and he and Bissette both work with primarily rotary machines. The other guys, who are more into American traditional style, stick pretty much with old school coils.
The majority of the time, the artists at 401 are booked out months in advance. Bissette and Meyers, who brings two decades of award-winning experience to the team, do what they can to work guest spots and conventions into their schedules. Bissette, who rides with a legion of veteran motorcycle enthusiasts as yet another pastime, is also the organizer and host of Raleigh’s annual Tattoo Fest, which takes place alongside The Capital City Bike fest, with proceeds supporting the NC USO and Veterans Corps.
From the creative environment and unique forms of art to all of the weird and cool objects on display, 401 is Lissette’s home away from home — and a place and passion he loves to share.
“It’s super welcoming for me,” Bissette says. “I don’t know if I know how to do anything — or even want to do anything else at this point.
9901 Acoma Road SE
Albuquerque, NM 87123
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