Windy Fort Lauderdale

Woke up in 2312 of the W Fort Lauderdale to pretty heavy winds and choppy waters, with rain-like (and eventually true rain) conditions on the street level when we went looking for a nearby Starbucks. The photo below of the palm fronds blowing hard in the wind gives a good sense of how heavy the winds were on the street:

This evening I’ll head to Ave Maria for a short visit before flying to Washington from Fort Myers early tomorrow.

Full Moon Party

We’re in the Florida Keys for New Year’s Eve, specifically staying on a houseboat at Mangrove Marina in Tavernier near Key Largo, and later in Islamorada for a New Year’s Eve “Full Moon Party” at Pierre’s on the beach. I’ll post scenes from throughout the day.

First from Lazy Day’s in Islamorada, where we had a late lunch. then from Mangrove Marina on our “Starfish” houseboat, where we spent the last daylight hours of 2017 and watched the sun set over the water and the full moon grow increasingly bright in the darkening sky, and finally from Pierre’s on the beach in Islamorada, where we spent the final six hours of the year:

A parade weaved its way through the beachfront crowds probably a dozen or so times throughout the evening and night, past midnight. I captured this scene from our table-on-the-beach:

And the midnight fireworks were a fitting way to finish the year, especially in the Keys which suffered a fair amount of devastation from Hurricane Irma earlier this year:

Happy New Year.

Nearly New Years

We’re heading to Fort Lauderdale today to meet friends for New Years, and stayed at the Sheraton in Center City, Philadelphia last night before this morning’s flight—in part due to the forecast of snow that would have slowed the roads. Here’s the scene from the Sheraton at night, before the snow, and in the morning, after the snow:

Our flight ended up being delayed out of Philadelphia by about an hour, but the flight itself was smooth and I slept through most of it.

It’s my first time to Fort Lauderdale By-The-Sea, which seems lovely and retains perhaps a bit more of 1950s-era Florida than does Fort Lauderdale proper. Scenes from a walk to Assumption church for mass:

We’re heading to the Keys for New Years Eve, specifically Islamorada and Tavernier, near Key Largo.

Indiana Dunes State Park

Driving from Notre Dame to Chicago on Sunday, as we were nearing the border between Indiana and Illinois, we saw an exit for Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore and State Park. On the spur of the moment, we took the exit—we had about at least an hour padding in our schedule before we really had to be at Midway/O’Hare airports, anyway. It was about a ten minute drive from the highway exit, and we arrived at Indiana Dunes State Park maybe thirty minutes before dusk, paying the $12 admission, parking, and heading to Lake Michigan’s southernmost shoreline:

The park building there dates to at least the 1930s, but I think probably sometime in the 1920s. There was an historical sign that showed the building in that period when life in this park of the country was better in many respects than it might be presently. The “Devil’s Slide” was a slope that ran from the highest point of the natural dunes down to the lakefront—it was far more difficult to hike up than it looked from the bottom. I was panting by the time I made it to the top. What I filmed below doesn’t convey at all the steepness of this dune ridge; there was real risk that an incautious hiker could seriously injure himself by falling down the backside of this area. It sure was scenic; particularly for this Pennsylvania boy to see the unfolding autumn foliage mixed with sandy terrain and woods, in earnest and all together.

A short hike through the dune ridge’s wooded path led to a climbing-down point on the opposite side of the Devil’s Slide and back to the lakeshore. I tried to keep my hand steady for this filming, but wasn’t successful:

You can see in the last photo how rapidly we were beginning to lose the light, so we took in one more admiring view of this beautiful Midwestern scene before hopping in the car and returning to asphalt modernity.

Overcast, raining, and wet

After a good morning workout in the hotel gym, we checked out of our hotel, parked our rental car on Notre Dame’s campus near the Compton Family Ice Arena, and biked around the campus a bit one more time. It was initially overcast, but eventually (and quickly) turned to rain. Each of us were separated at different points during the rain, taking cover to keep warm with our Limebikes. Eventually we met up at the Morris Inn, left the bikes and Ubered to lunch at the Crooked Ewe, which was excellent. We finished our time at Notre Dame with a short ice skate, and then hit the road back to Chicago for our departures from Midway and O’Hare.

Notre Dame scenes

Today turned out to be much drearier than yesterday, with plenty of wet, chilly, and ultimately rainy weather. Yet despite the stretches of rain, it was a beautiful day in its own way, with Notre Dame’s shootout with Wake Forest leading to a win. (A few hours away in East Lansing, Michigan Penn State’s fortunes turned for the worse in their 27-24 defeat at the Spartans’ hands.) Celebrating mass immediately after home games is a distinctive and appropriate part of the Notre Dame football experience.

Limebike, Notre Dame/South Bend’s bikeshare program, has turned out to be really great. We’ve ridden a few miles on these dockless bikes that can be left anywhere, and work in conjunction with Limebike’s app. Probably the highlight of the day, strangely enough, was the Knights of Columbus-sponsored steak sandwich tent. A BBQ-steak sandwich, in the rain, with a rum and coke isn’t such a bad way to spent an autumn afternoon. Lots of big and little moments in between these.


This final photo reminded me very much of a contemporary version of Penn State’s historical “Ghost Walk,” a sort of “Lover’s Lane” that used to run through Hort Woods north of the campus. In any event, this little wooded area’s thoughtful and densely planted trees, combined with its well lit fresh green grass and the lingering fog/haze of the rain made it a memorably way to walk back to our hotel for the night.

To Notre Dame

I’m writing this as I land in Chicago, where I’ll be meeting up with Eric, Chris, and Nick Snyder for a weekend in South Bend and at Notre Dame for their game against Wake Forest. It’s been a few years since I visited Notre Dame, and over the past decade or so I’ve been there maybe a bit more than a half dozen times, from visiting retired Holy Cross priests for research on a manuscript about Fr. Richard Novak, C.S.C., to weekends for fun and fellowship like this one.

It’s a special place, and more than any other Catholic university in this country, the Congregation of Holy Cross has built a remarkable and resilient place of learning. It’s supposed to be a beautiful, unseasonably warm day. I’ll post scenes tonight from the activities of today.

And I recorded the “Trumpets Under the Dome” performance that took place shortly before the outdoor video:

Enlarger of the common life

A few photos from my day trip to Washington on Thursday for Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network purposes. It was a clear skies, beautiful sort of day. And I happened to walk out of Shake Shack and notice that Snap’s traveling Spectacles machine was vending their camera glasses to what was a fairly long line at one point.

And by the way, isn’t this just an incredible bit of poetic tribute to the U.S. Postal Service? This is how Americans used to conceive of their institutions and the public purpose behind federal and state government activities. How little regard we have even for the possibility of similarly lofty public purpose today:


Messenger of sympathy and love
Servant of parted friends
Consoler of the lonely
Bond of the scattered family
Enlarger of the common life

H.K. Derryberry

When I was in Cincinnati last week, I was fortunate to be able to attend Cincinnati Right to Life’s “Evening for Life” Dinner, which featured H.K. Derryberry as keynote speaker. H.K.’s life story is really incredible, and he and Jim Bradford, his friend/mentor, were inspirational in their witness for living the sort of life that recognizes suffering neighbors around you in your daily life. That’s how their friendship was built.


HK Derryberry’s short biography:

HK Derryberry’s life is truly a miracle.  Born July 8, 1990, in Nashville, Tennessee, HK arrived three months premature due to an automobile accident that took his mother’s life.  The tiny two-pound baby boy would spend the next 96 days fighting for survival in Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s neonatal intensive care unit.

Although doctors offered little hope for survival, this miracle baby proved them all wrong. Because of the accident and his premature birth, he was born blind, with cerebral palsy and countless other medical problems.  Eventually this proved too much for his father, who survived the automobile crash but was unable to cope with life.  When HK turned five years old, he left his disabled son in the care of his mother and disappeared for over ten years.  Raised by his grandmother, some people might say HK faced too many mountains to climb.

Quite the contrary!  At an early age, HK displayed an extraordinary will to overcome his disabilities and at age three enrolled at the Tennessee School for the Blind, becoming one of the youngest students in the school’s history.  His right arm, paralyzed from a stroke suffered soon after birth, did not stop him from learning to read and write Braille with just one hand, another first for the 150-year old school!

HK’s life was changed forever in 1999 when he unexpectedly met Jim Bradford, a local businessman in Brentwood, Tennessee, who was married with two adult daughters.  HK and Jim soon became inseparable and eventually Jim’s family welcomed HK into their lives like an adopted son.   His personal mentoring and constant involvement quickly exposed HK to a world he had never experienced.

Since age ten, HK had displayed signs of a remarkable ability to recall dates and other facts surrounding events in his life.  In 2012, the mystery of his memory was unlocked by medical researchers at Vanderbilt Medical Center’s Memory Clinic.  They discovered that HK is one of only five or six people in the world with a medical diagnosis of hyperthymesia, otherwise known as Superior Autobiographical Memory.  He has the ability to remember every event including time and place that’s occurred to him since he was 3½ years old.  Vanderbilt researchers are optimistic that studies on HK’s brain may one day lead to a breakthrough for people suffering memory loss.