Barwin's soggy Sarasota

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Odds and ends with some a bit odder than others:

Backstage with David Axelrod: The Journal was honored, delighted, stunned, gob-smacked to have landed David Axelrod as the first-up in our new Wednesday Journal Conversations series, presented by Dominican University. 

As I said to the sold-out crowd last Wednesday at the end of what was a just terrific evening, when we put David Axelrod at the top of our list of "gets," I thought it was a definite longshot. But from the first call I made — to Steve Edwards, my old neighbor and longtime Oak Parker — all I got was encouraging words. 

"Yes, I'll bet he'd love to," said Steve, then the second at Axelrod's Institute of Politics at the University of Chicago and now returning to a key post at WBEZ.

And he was right. After that it was just a long dance of finding a date that worked for the very busy Axelrod and the even more booked Fine Arts Center at Dominican. Finally, with about three weeks' notice, we landed on Sept. 6 and started selling tickets. We sold the final tickets on Wednesday afternoon and that filled the Lund Auditorium's 1,000-plus seats. (Thanks to Leslie Rodriguez and her talented staff at the Fine Arts Center. We know how to break news online, sell advertising and how to get ink on paper once a week, but events are scary!)

For those of you lucky enough to be in the audience, you saw the easy rapport between Axelrod and Charlie Meyerson, our terrific moderator. Spending a few minutes with David Axelrod at a short reception and then backstage, it's clear that he is as bright, funny and down to earth as he appeared when he took the stage.

As we closed out last week, I teased the audience with the news that we are thisclose to announcing who's next up. Well consider yourself teased once more as the dance over finding a date that works is all that is stopping us from saying that the next great guest will be …

Good thoughts to Sarasota: I reached out Saturday night to Tom Barwin, the longtime Oak Park village manager, who, in case you lost track, has been the city manager for Sarasota, Florida the past several years. Irma was coming to get them on Sunday night.

Barwin's pre-storm response was that plowing snow in Oak Park was not adequate preparation for the expected hurricane damage! By very early Monday morning, Barwin was on Facetime announcing to his constituents that the city's first responders would be back on the street by dawn assessing damage and working to get hospitals, firehouses and other vital entities reopened. He urged residents to "breakfast in place."

The things you learn in an Uber: Took an Uber to work Monday morning. The reality of being a one-car family. My driver and I talked about Irma, of course. Then I asked how long he'd driven for Uber and he told me he'd driven part time for quite a while but now just picked up a few fares between home and his full-time job downtown. 

His gig downtown? He does brain research at Northwestern Medical. Has been there five years and, he assures me, progress is being made in his area of specialty, which is dementia. So here's what I learned that I had no idea about: Useful meds are being developed but the usual delivery mechanisms, an oral med or a shot, do not work in getting medicine to the brain. Well, duh! But not anything I'd ever thought about.

Stem cells, he says, may prove to be the answer in getting medications to the brain. That was a lot to learn in a short ride up Oak Park Avenue.

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