Hug High

Sarah Kershaw: There is so much hugging at Pascack Hills High School in Montvale, N.J., that students have broken down the hugs by type:

There is the basic friend hug, probably the most popular, and the bear hug, of course. But now there is also the bear claw, when a boy embraces a girl awkwardly with his elbows poking out.

There is the hug that starts with a high-five, then moves into a fist bump, followed by a slap on the back and an embrace.

There’s the shake and lean; the hug from behind; and, the newest addition, the triple — any combination of three girls and boys hugging at once.

How? Why? How? Why?

Dan Le Batard (thanks, Nigel): The grass has browned around this haunted house in Davie. The lower half of the front door is covered in smudges that let you know the hands and feet of young boys live here. Inside the small rental, from the laundry strewn on the floor to the scared father struggling to keep it all together, everything is a turned-upside-down mess. The appearance of order isn’t high on the priority list when you feel like you are drowning.

”I’m out of money,” Jim Leyritz says.

Broke and broken. There wasn’t just one life lost in a blink at that intersection in the darkness. Leyritz lost his good name, his livelihood, his identity and his peace on Dec. 28 of 2007 as well, his bejeweled world coming apart in an explosion of fragments as soon as those two cars collided in the night. His freedom could be the next thing to go. Just last Thursday morning, Leyritz’s trial for DUI and vehicular manslaughter was set for September, and now the former New York Yankee and father of three is trying hard to explain the tortured tangle of emotions that sometimes keep him from quiet sleep. Shame. Grief. Fear. They’re all here.


Farhad Manjoo:

When I signed up for Mine a couple of months ago, I was mainly looking for a laugh. The new magazine from Time Inc. seemed like a gimmicky, goofy effort to save a beleaguered industry: Time wanted to print a magazine just for me! First, I had to choose several popular Time publications and answer a few odd questions about my interests. (“Which do you crave more—sushi, or pizza?”) Then, every two weeks, I would get an issue, curated just for me, filled with articles from different magazines. The process seemed hopelessly anachronistic, like if the horse-and-buggy industry decided to compete with cars by letting me pick my buggy driver. Doesn’t Time know that I already have a way to get a magazine tailored to my interests? The Web isn’t just faster and cheaper than print; it also doesn’t need to know what I ate for dinner in order to let me read exactly what I want to at any time.

Turns out my skepticism was misguided. I’ve received two issues of Mine, and I love it. Unlike a lot of the publications that slip into my mailbox each month, Mine is full of stories that I actually feel like reading.


Lee Hill Kavanaugh: Her phone rings at 10 p.m. The voice on the other end is quiet, uncertain.

I just got picked up by the police. … Do you hate me?

Donnette Siems takes a deep breath and looks down at Victoria’s baby cradled in her lap.

Maddie. Seven pounds of hope.

Big eyes and silky curls. A near copy of her mother. Innocent. Vulnerable.


No, Victoria, I don’t hate you, Donnette says. What happened?

Emotional Cease-Fire

Denise Gamino: ABOARD A TROOP PLANE — Flight attendant John Bechtold keys the public address mike just moments after this wide-body jet swooshes into the humid Texas sky.

His message is not the usual seatbelts-fastened advisory.

He lectures on chew.

Smokeless tobacco is banned. But Bechtold’s been flying with soldiers since America invaded the Middle East after 9/11. He knows dip is on board.

Don’t spit into the seat back pockets, he warns. Don’t leave it in the seats. Above all, don’t spit in the lavatories.

Deepest Wound

Bruce DeSilva: My father’s ankle-length, black-and-white tweed Mayfield, the first fine piece of clothing he bought for himself when he returned from the war, hangs still in my crowded closet. Once a year I slip it from the hanger and try it on, always astonished that I cannot squeeze into the giant’s coat.

I picture him draped in it, towering over me as we stand beside his robins-egg blue 1948 Plymouth coupe, a snap-brim fedora pulled low over his twinkling eyes, his mouth curled in the confident smile of a man who knows he helped save the world.

But behind his eyes something dark lurked.

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Final Note

Ron Matus: … One day, the band meekly begins what should be a raging funk jam, Jungle Boogie. Mr. T tells the baritone sax player, “You got to be angry.” He scrunches his face in mock fury as he bobs to the beat.

“Angry at somebody?” Mr. T shouts over the music. The boy laughs and shakes his head.

“Angry at your mom?” Another shake.

“Angry at Nazis?”

This time the boy nods and dives into the riff.

The kids still talk about the time, about a month ago, when they were working on Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing. It’s a tough piece for middle schoolers. Slow. Emotional. Mr. T told them some listeners would be moved because they would associate their faith with the music. Others would be transfixed because it’s so lyrical and lush.

But the audience won’t feel anything if the musicians don’t, he said.

Feel it. Emote it.

Finally, after days and days of practice, they rolled through the whole thing, from beginning to end. And they nailed it.

It was so good, Mr. T held the last note for an extra few seconds before signaling the band to stop. There was silence as he lowered his baton and tapped his fist against his chest.

As the kids looked on, stunned, tears ran down Mr. T’s face.

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Ashley Clark and Karla Ward: At 336 Hollyhill Drive, he was Leslie J. Burns Jr., the man who lived in a modest 1 1/2-story brick house before he died.

At a dimly lit bar and restaurant a few blocks away, he was affectionately known as Booney, the man who loved marshmallow Peeps and old-time Bluegrass music.

Booney was a man who spent hours settled in a tall wooden chair at The Ketch, off Southland Drive, where groups of patrons often share stories over cold Budweisers and hot sandwiches.

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Beat Sweeteners

We should have a conversation about beat sweeteners. I hear so many people ripping them and, frankly, this is one of the most interesting stories I’ve read out of the WH. Has anyone ever considered that readers WANT these stories?

Jeff Zeleny: WASHINGTON — Have you met Rotus?

This is a question President Obama has taken to asking some of his visitors to the White House. In a bureaucratic world awash in abbreviations and acronyms, this one in particular seems to amuse him.

Mr. Obama, of course, is Potus (president of the United States). Michelle Obama is Flotus (first lady of the United States). And the title of Rotus (receptionist of the United States) is worn by Darienne M. Page.

“This is the receptionist of the entire United States,” Mr. Obama said, introducing Ms. Page to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr.