Recommended soundtrack to listen to as you read: The Beatles, “Now and Then” (a.k.a. “the last Beatles song”), released as a single on November 2, 2023. Originally written by John Lennon, there is a remarkably interesting history to the making of this song, from its original conception (circa 1977) to its recent release.

A Trip Down Memory Lane

March 19, 2024

David Scharf, CCA President

Then and Now

For this month’s blog post, I want to share with you some of the remarks I made to open the 2024 Enrolled Actuaries Conference, which took place last week at the Omni Shoreham in Washington, DC. These remarks were not scripted as they were rather personal, and I found myself speaking from the heart and in the moment. However, in this blog I have attempted to put some of what I said to paper. What follows is that attempt.

This is the first time we are meeting in the Omni Shoreham, just across the street from what used to be the Marriott Wardman Park, and that brought back a lot of memories. But before we go there, let’s come back here to this hotel. You may have noticed that just outside the elevator banks on the West Promenade, there is a display that contains the original copy of the Beatles setlist as written down in John Lennon’s hand on Shoreham hotel stationary. This was for their very first ever U.S. concert, which took place at the Washington Coliseum on February 11, 1964 – exactly 60 years and one month ago from today [March 11, 2024], and just two nights after their historic appearance on the Ed Sullivan show on February 9th. And they stayed here in this very hotel!

Keep that in mind as we go back across the street to “20 years ago today” (to quote the Beatles) to the 2004 Enrolled Actuaries Meeting, where I am in my hotel room at the Wardman Park talking to a doctor on the phone. 

You see, at the time I was very sick with something rather rare, and doctors did not know what to do – without treatment I was not going to live much longer.

So, this call was about an experimental surgery that they were developing at that time at Stanford University. This call was great news as I found out that I would be a good candidate for this surgery.

I don’t know what session I missed while I was in my room on that call – and it is likely that many of you here were in that very session – but at the very moment, the first step towards the surgery that would indeed save my life took place, just across the street from where we are now.

One of the doctors I needed to see regularly for the year after the surgery (as part of the follow-up) was located in New York City on East 51st Street, just off the East River.

Now fast forward a number of years, to the year 2012. I am now at full health and have long forgotten those doctor visits on 51st Street. I am out one evening in New York City with good friends. One of them was staying at her aunt’s apartment, and before the night ended, we went to that apartment to have a drink – courtesy of her aunt’s well-stocked bar – on her terrace.

Where was this apartment?

On East 52nd Street directly across the street from the doctor I used to visit on 51st Street!

And it gets better. As we sit there enjoying our drink and the beautiful view, my friend almost casually mentions that the terrace adjacent to where we were now sitting is the very same terrace that belonged to John Lennon (the very same John Lennon of the Beatles!) where his infamous picture – wearing a “New York City” emblazoned t-shirt – was taken by photographer Bob Gruen on August 29, 1974.*

My mind was blown! There was something very real about being there in that moment – something that could only be experienced in person. And perhaps all these memories came rushing back to me as we are now in person, across the street from the very place this meeting and this story began.

*For those you wondering, didn’t John Lennon live in the famed Dakota with wife Yoko Ono on Central Park West? Well, in the early 1970s they were estranged, and John Lennon was then living with May Pang in the apartment on East 52nd Street.

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