From Cape May to Killing

by Bernard McCormick Tuesday, June 18, 2013 No Comment(s)

Cape May, N.J., is the nation's oldest seashore resort.

Some of this has been written before; some hasn't. If you have read it before, skip those parts. The part repeated is a call for the Auto Train concept to be extended throughout the Republic. We have been riding this train almost annually since it began as a private enterprise in the 1970s, and we'd like to point out that it is not only a great idea, but is the only long-distance train in the Amtrak system that does not lose money.

Our most recent trip came amid the terrible weather that raced up and down the East Coast. Bad weather in the north delayed the southbound train arriving in Sanford, Fla. Therefore the train was about 20 minutes behind its scheduled 4 p.m. departure. Often it leaves early, just as soon as all the cars and their passengers are aboard. Despite the late start, it still managed to pull into Lorton, Va., a half hour before the scheduled 9:30 a.m. arrival. This trip was close to maximum - more than 300 vehicles. We have asked before, and ask again, why such a good idea, proved now over four decades, has not spread to all long-distance trains in the country?

The train saved us a day, maybe two, of hard driving on the way to Cape May, N.J. - the nation's oldest seashore resort. It taught Florida how to do it. There the big sports news was not the Miami Heat in a slugfest for the NBA championship, but rather the U.S. Open being played a few hours away at Merion East, outside Philadelphia. The weather there, as at the shore, turned from torrential (aka known as a typical Florida summer afternoon) to spectacular as the week wore on. The tournament, as you know, was not won by Tiger Woods, who may be still out there in a creek, but by a pleasant English chap who said all the right things.

The Philadelphia Inquirer, once part of the same company that produces The Miami Herald, covered the tournament in detail - much the way the Herald covers the Heat - describing each shot by every player, living or dead.

The same day as the big tournament coverage, the Inquireralso began a series of ambitious design. It seemed more than appropriate for an ex-Philly dog touring the disaster that has become of the old neighborhood. No grass, no glass, and in many cases no houses - just gaps like a missing tooth - where friends had once called home. "The Wheel Man" deals with a 2008 murder of a young man from Minnesota who had come to Philadelphia to teach. Six weeks later, coming home late from a part-time job at Starbucks, he was shot in the head from behind by someone who wanted his cell phone. The story is about how the cops, starting with almost nothing, got their man.

It is told in a gripping, staccato tone. You can smell the empty houses, rotted porches sagging, where crack dealers flop. For atmosphere, think "Blackhawk Down," which ran in the same paper. Example: "Another time, he got a cell phone from Ant North, a cracked white Samsung. He never said anything about a dead teacher."

The Inquirer is going for a prize on this one. Don't be surprised if they get one. Elsewhere in today's paper, there is a story about the Miami Heat fighting tonight for survival. But you probably knew that.

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