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  • 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 Unfortunately, it’s been replaced by Bob Dylan’s “Slow Train Coming.”

  • 10+1 Photos & Moving All Over

    It's been a busy past few days, with two shoots, a large D.C. banquet, family visits, a mini-reunion with longtime friends from North Carolina, and wrapping up our move from Lorton to Old Town Alexandria.

    This week brings trips to New York (for another shoot) and Pittsburgh (for another family move) before returning home to take photos of Metropolitan School of the Arts' production of "Snow White."

    More photos coming soon, I promise, but for now I'll leave you with a few from MSA's "10+1" show earlier this month.

  • Notes From the 'Empty Nesters' File

    This past week, I realized something I knew deep down but had never articulated: I like exercise as long as it’s organic.

    Faced with a walk-first mentality, I’m happy to stroll around or bike until my feet want to fall off, using trains or cars only as necessary. Put in a drive-first situation, my embedded laziness takes over. The only exercise I seem to get then is typing on my laptop or phone or clicking the camera shutter. After 17 years in the suburbs, all I'm left with are really strong hands.

    Over the past two-plus months, Jill and I moved ourselves from Lorton to Alexandria, with help on a couple of occasions from friends and family. Although I’ve never been in the military, I’m pretty sure it was a 53-year-old’s version of boot camp: several weeks of hell followed by a big reward.

    On Sunday, we drove to Springfield Mall to shop in an actual store and see a movie for Mother’s Day. It was the first time I’ve been in a car in five days — one of the longest “no automobile” stretches of my life since my teens —and I haven’t missed it at all. Not one bit.

    That might seem strange given that I grew up in Texas, where public transportation is defined in the state Constitution as “build another loop,” and have driven back and forth to North Carolina, Pennsylvania and New York numerous times over the years to see our kids. (By my estimate, I’ve easily driven more than 1 million miles since getting my driver’s license in — gulp! — 1981.)

    Since the move to Old Town, I’ve walked at least 3 to 4 miles daily and have gone on three bike rides in the past 10 days. The exercise has been good for the mind and soul, not to mention the waistline.

    For that, I’m grateful.

    Additional observations from the “recently moved empty nesters” file:

    • My most recent bike ride was 21 miles, the longest I’ve ridden in at least five years. I enjoyed all but the last three miles of it, which is when my body’s hashtag became #hipsdontlie. Two days later, I’m ready to go out again.

    • Commuter transportation is not perfect. I thought Metro was underselling itself with its marketing theme, “Back to Good,” then realized while traveling into D.C. this week that the tagline might be a tad ambitious. Still, there’s a lot to be said for walking to the Metro and not having to deal with the car/train/car commute. (Or worse, just the car commute.)

    • Surviving the sale of one house and the purchase of another within a two-month period is a great litmus test for your marriage/friendship/partnership. What I appreciate most about Jill is that our differences mostly compliment each other. It's OK to divide as long as you can conquer in the long run, and we've managed to do that. 

    • Moving inputs and outputs: Six days a week, UPS, FedEx, and Amazon have a love-hate relationship with our front porch. On the seventh day, the City of Alexandria’s sanitation/recycling departments dread coming to our backyard to scoop up the remains.

    • Styrofoam pieces and peanuts are like glitter: No matter how much you sweep, you can never completely rid yourself of either one.

    • We are the sole reason cardboard sales were at an all-time high in the second quarter of 2018.

    • “Some assembly required” remain the three dirtiest words in the English language.

  • Happy Birthday, Jill!

    Happy birthday to Jill, the person I love with all my heart and soul. Thank you for walking with me on the trail of life's great adventure. We celebrated her birthday today by scheduling the closing of our new house in Old Town Alexandria tomorrow!

    If you’d be interested in our current home, it’s on the market...