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  • Scanning The Headlines

    Scanning today's headlines is enough to make anyone's head spin, and for once, I'm not talking about the current administration or the ongoing crisis in the Catholic Church.

    Just wrap your mind around this: John McCain and Neil Simon died the same weekend, a half century after the release of The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” and the start of the disastrous Democratic National Convention in Chicago. When the latter two things took place, McCain was a POW in Vietnam and Simon had multiple plays on Broadway at the same time.

    I spent the majority of the day on a train (see "Notes from the Empty Nest" post below) and did a deep dive into those four topics. Here are some of the memorable quotes from the day.

    • “He served his country, and not always right — made a lot of mistakes, made a lot of errors — but served his country, and, I hope we could add, honorably."

    — Arizona Sen. John McCain, in a CNN interview in which he was asked how he would like to be remembered.

    • “Mr. Simon ruled Broadway when Broadway was still worth ruling. From 1965 to 1980, his plays and musicals racked up more than 9,000 performances, a record not even remotely touched by any other playwright of the era. In 1966 alone, he had four Broadway shows running simultaneously.”

    — Charles Isherwood in the New York Times story announcing Neil Simon’s death at age 91.

    • “Chicago 1968 is the political equivalent of Woodstock or Stonewall — a discrete moment that embodies the questions and forces of an entire age. It’s also a reminder that life is almost always more complicated than we tend to remember, given that the Democratic Party, often thought to tend to the radical in the postwar era, was in many ways the target of the protests.’

    — Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer Jon Meacham, on the 1968 Democratic National Convention, in a fascinating story in the Boston Globe

    • “The pain in “Hey Jude” resonated in 1968, in a world reeling from wars, riots and assassinations. And it’s why it sounds timely in the summer of  2018, as our world keeps getting colder. After 50 years, “Hey Jude” remains a source of sustenance in difficult times.”

    — Rolling Stone columnist Rob Sheffield, on The Beatles’ biggest hit.

  • Notes from the Empty Nest: U-Haul Edition

    On Thursday, I left Alexandria to help my wife’s cousin, Brian Hodges, move his family’s things from Chicago to Charlotte, where he starts a new job this week. Today, I’m riding the train home from Durham and have been — in an effort to avoid work of any significance — scanning the headlines on my phone to see what I’ve missed.

    Apparently, a lot has happened in the past four days, and not just on my planes, trains and automobiles journey. But more about the headlines In another post.

    With minor exceptions, I’ll spare you the minutiae of this circular odyssey — flying to Chicago; loading a 15-foot U-Haul and driving 720 miles to Charlotte over two days; unloading the van and driving with Brian’s dad to Durham, where I stayed last night with Nick and Conner; and the ongoing slow trek home on an Amtrak that is being passed by both snails and turtles as we jog in place.

    But here are some random details that are sticking with me from the trip:

    • I’m very fortunate that my schedule allows me to do things like this for members of our ever-growing extended family. Jill and I are the godparents of Brian’s 3-year-old son, Parker, and it means a lot to be able to help them out as they make this transition.

    • Over 36 hours, we traveled through six states in a U-Haul with non-existent shock absorbers and omnipresent wind noise. Musically speaking, it was like hearing the “Theme from Bonanza” on an endless loop.

    • I brought my camera and took few to no photos, except for one at O’Hare and a couple at a truck stop in rural Ohio, where you can get a mobile home on two acres of mostly cleared land for a measly $45,000. Strange, yes, but we were busy.

    • If you don’t understand why America is in the midst of an obesity epidemic, I challenge you to find anything resembling vegetables in the vast majority of the restaurants and stops along state highways and interstates.

    • In a desperate effort to find some greens, Brian and I stopped at a restaurant in Beckley, W.Va., where our waiter was an on-hiatus cruise ship performer. Now he works four part-time jobs for 80 hours a week and makes half the money he did on the ship. No wonder he can’t wait to return to the boat.

    • Fortunately, I no longer have the “Bonanza” theme stuck in my head. Unfortunately, it’s been replaced by Bob Dylan’s “Slow Train Coming.”