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“They don’t know it,” he said, leaning forward and gesturing toward the collection of shiny relatives talking, laughing, and dancing before us, “but I know my shit.”

And I knew he did, as I was quick to reassure him before he launched into another story. I had not met many others in my life who knew something about everything as my great-uncle did.

He told me of his friend Dennis, “a real hippy from Woodstock,” and their countless North Beach nights spent under the influence of liquor and radical ideas. “[Dennis is] a loser,” he chuckled, “but I’m a loser too.”

Dennis’ ex-wife Stephanie had been a bona fide “wild child,” working on a reservation and owning little more than the bare necessities. “No one had any money. The phones were always being turned off, and the rent was barely made.” But they lived. Man, they lived.

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