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The Spooners are a definite example of 'relationship goals' — and the power of love.

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Muscular Dystrophy Association

To be around 56-year-old Ray and Rae Spooner is to be in the presence of a not-so-ordinary couple.

Then again, that's exactly who and what they've always been.


Rae and Ray in their garden. All photos courtesy of Justine Bursoni Photography.

Long before his successful career; before her job as his full-time caregiver; before the epic, unbelievable cross-country bike ride that would go on to raise thousands of dollars for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and ALS, they were simply Ray and Rae.

Two madly-in-love 23-year-olds who decided they wanted to travel the world together.

Their motto? "Never buy a return ticket."

The adventurers got married for one primary reason: Ray, a native Brit, needed a green card. Their plan was to divorce after one year because both had seen their parents endure painful divorces, and despite their love for one another, each was a bit skeptical of this marriage thing.

That was 1983.

Rae helps Ray get dressed.

They are now 33 years into what Ray playfully calls their "failed divorce" — a marriage happily settled in Urbana, Illinois.

The past three decades have seen Ray bring over 2,000 babies into the world as a beloved male midwife, a rarity in his field. Together he and Rae have three accomplished children, one beautiful grandchild, and a global community of people connecting with them through Ray's blog and the work they have done to raise awareness for ALS, the neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing weakness and eventually paralysis of all voluntary muscles.

Their marriage is proof, in more ways than one, that life doesn't always go as planned.

"People always ask us, 'How do you stay married to someone for that long?' We say we're not married to the same person. We have let each other grow individually and grown together. We have never been planners. We go with the flow and deal with whatever life sends our way."

In 2014, that life philosophy was put to the test.

Ray leans against the wall and hold Rae's hand to get downstairs safely.

While sitting in the hospital as their daughter labored with their soon-to-be-born first grandchild, their son-in-law Cory was tagged in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, the viral video phenomenon that asked people to donate money to help find a cure for the disease or pour ice water over their head. Most people did both.

For kicks and to pass the time during a long labor, Cory decided to accept the challenge right then and there. As his wife continued laboring, Ray and Rae poured ice water over Cory at the hospital.

None of them knew much about ALS, but challenged in turn by Cory, days later Ray too had Rae dump a bucket of ice water over his own head — continuing the viral chain to raise awareness for the rare but aggressive disease.

Little did they know that two months later, Ray would be diagnosed with the debilitating disease himself.

When Ray heard the news, he immediately knew what he wanted to do with the rest of his life.

"We're all dying. As much as we're living, we're all going to die. Now I can't say 'When we retire...' Whatever we want to do, we've got to do it now." He calls those must-do's a "f*ck it list" (not a "bucket list" because you don't have to be dying to do what you want to do). And at the top of that list was a cross-country bike trip.

A decorative bicycle hanging in their home.

Ray, an avid rider, had always wanted to do it. But that desire was no longer just about him. Now it had to have a purpose.

Despite the fact that he already had diminished use of one of his arms, he decided that it was the right time for the trip. And he would do it to raise awareness for ALS and the work of MDA, whose local care center (at the same hospital where Ray worked as a midwife) had given them the kind of medical care and support that Rae said "all care should be like."

On Oct. 18, 2015, a small group of friends, neighbors, and of course Rae, began the awareness-building cross-country bike trip with him. They called it "Ray's Little Ride."

The exciting ups and harrowing downs of that ride — three trips to emergency rooms, an accident that left Ray with several broken bones and blood clots, and an outpouring of public support — garnered quite a bit of press and, in turn, a lot of money for MDA. Videos of support from all over poured in, including from children who Ray had helped deliver over his 20-year career.

On Nov. 19, 2015, Ray finished his ride — nonfunctional arm, injuries, and all. And to date, he and the ride have helped raised over $80,000.

Ray out on a bike ride.

Today, Ray can no longer speak and has even less use of his limbs and other muscles.

He communicates now only via text to Rae. She is his primary mouthpiece. To watch them together is to see love in action. No fanfare, no false humility. Just two people who know each other intimately living life together. She can read his every chuckle, eye roll, yawn, and head nod. She intermittently leans over and wipes saliva from his mouth during conversation. The laughter is nonstop.

Rae gives Ray some water.

Rae calls Ray an amateur documentarian. The walls of their home are filled with pictures of their family and memories of their life together thus far. Now, they have graciously allowed photographer Justine Bursoni to come into their life and capture this phase of their journey together. According to Ray:

"It's funny really. To see your life through the eyes of someone else. Initially there were things I didn't want to be documented. But our life isn't a fairy tale. To be true to the whole narrative you have to include the hard to deal with moments. And there are many."

The hardest to deal with part of it all has been thinking about their children.

"I have had 34 years with him." Rae says. "They have not. They are all handling it differently, in their own way."

Ray and his son, Manu, programming what they called "Rayism" into an eye-gaze-operated communication program.

The second hardest part for Rae has been watching the physical deterioration of Ray's body, despite the unchanging brilliance and alertness of his mind.

"'Ray is an incredibly creative person. He's a jeweler by trade. He built a lot of things in our home and he always loved working with his hands. Now he just can't. This beautiful hand, he can't do anything with.' Rae picks up his hand as she says this and gently waves it in the air. 'Each day it deteriorates more and more. That's been the hardest part. I think in my mind, I thought maybe we wouldn't get to this point.'"

Ray wears his wedding ring on his right hand now that his left is completely paralyzed.

"When he was first diagnosed," she says, they looked for the "'Ray Spooner kind of ALS' — the one where you live another 30 years and what has happened to everyone else doesn't happen to you." But it is happening. And they, like their children, are dealing with it in their own unique way. Rae explains:

"On one visit to the clinic they hand me this huge ass book and they say 'Here, this is for the caretaker.' I'm like nooo, that's not for me. We do things the Ray and Rae way. Were we going to follow this guide? No. We were going to do what works for us. For example, our bathroom is still upstairs and we still live in a split-level home. Or, instead of hauling a wheelchair into a van, pushing Ray around and driving to our doctor's appointment, this morning Ray got on his tricycle, and I walked beside him the entire way."

Rae helps Ray onto his trike for an evening bike ride to Meadowbrook Park.

That isn't to say they don't need help. The importance of accepting and asking for help has been one of their greatest lessons. Nowadays, their house is often full of friends and visitors — everyone willing to pick up a rag or a cup or do whatever they can to help. And that has been their greatest surprise of the journey: just how much people care and are willing to help. Ray reflects on this:

"Initially I think there is a tendency on both the part of the person with the disease and their caregiver to think 'OK, we got this.' But time will come when you will have exhausted all your physical and psychological faculties. Take names. Take numbers. Don't be afraid to pick up the phone. It takes a tribe."

Their daughter, Sophia, wipes the saliva from Ray's mouth as they all enjoy the company of former co-workers on their patio.

But at the core of their tribe is each other.

"This isn't about one partner or family member putting their life on hold to help care for the other. It's about a partnership moving into the next phase of life together," Ray says, speaking about what many see as his wife's "sacrifice."

"One day Rae asked me, 'How will I know you’re still with me?' While the question surprised me, I did have an answer. But when I tried to verbalize a response, I couldn’t get the words out. The thought that one of us would not be with the other had never really occurred to me. But if one of us is not there physically, the essence of that person remains embedded within the person whose life you shared. So, really, how can we ever not be together?"

Ray now wears a BiPAP to bed. Here, he works with Rae to calm down from a panic attack.

He continues,
"I’ve been making movies as gifts for various birthdays in the future for Rae when I’m not around. Rae says I’m her memory so each mini movie is about a certain time or event in our life. I'm up to her 64th birthday. I've also made wedding/housewarming gifts for each of the kids. A book for Rae chronicling our 34 years together (its over 600 pages). A message for Jack on his bar mitzvah. You get the idea."

"Planning for the inevitable is my drug of choice. It may not work for everyone, but it's how I get through. When you're initially diagnosed everyone sends you info about therapy and miracle treatments. But as I said, preparation is my therapy. Fairly early on I decided not to spend my time chasing more time. I'm spending my time spending my time. Making sure that Rae knows I will always be with her."

Rae and Ray look in the mirror and embrace in a similar fashion, as they did for a photo taken years ago.

Ray jokes with Rae about her writing an advice book someday. It would be called, "Things You Need to Know Before You Have to Wipe Your Partner's Ass." They both laugh hysterically when she says this, but there's power in the underlying message. True love at its best requires service.

He continues to blog about his life at Ray's Little Ride.

There, he gives a raw, humorous, and poignant take on life as he knows it — not just living with ALS but the universally human experience of trying to live life as it's meant to be lived.

"Whether we have a disease or not, there is a number to our days. There is risk inherent in walking out the door in the morning. But ALS has given me an opportunity. To not leave things undone or unsaid. That is a gift."

And that's what both Ray and Rae are focused on appreciating. With their blog and their breathtaking photos, they have laid their life bare for the world to see. And he says confidently that he would do it all over again, just to know that he is helping someone.

Rae helps Ray out the back door of their home.


Joy

Watch a timid shelter dog named 'Venom' transform with some tender care and a new name

Rocky Kanaka knew "Venom" wasn't a fitting name for this sweet girl, and he sat with her to earn her trust.

Venom was unsure at first but warmed up after a while.

Dogs are a man's best friend, as the saying goes, but that's only true when humans treat them as they should be treated. When someone neglects, abuses or otherwise mistreats a dog, their sense of trust in human companionship gets disrupted and doesn't come as naturally as it should.

It's common to see issue with dogs who end up in shelters. They might be timid, suspicious or fearful, and living in a kennel in a shelter away from everything familiar doesn't help. Even if a shelter is better than the unhealthy situation they came from, it's certainly not ideal, which is one reason Rocky Kanaka goes to visit and sit with shelter dogs. If he can help a dog feel safe and convince it to to trust him, he kick-starts the process of repairing the dog-human bond.


One dog Kanaka sat with was a 3-year-old black Shepherd mix named "Venom." She was curled up in the corner of her kennel and wasn't too keen on having him coming into her space. She wasn't aggressive, but guarded. Her self-protective instincts seemed on, so Kanaka took it very slow.

He began by turning his back to her and squatting down, not interacting with her other than to speak soothingly, just to let her get used to his presence. He brought some treats, which he shared with her before sitting down. She kept looking at him with a mix of curiosity and trepidation, and Kanaka respected her space.

He found out she had been at the shelter for 10 days, which Kanaka said was bad because if a dog is still in this kind of nervous state after 10 days in the shelter, it's harder for them to get adopted. Soon, he got her to take treats from his hand, which enabled him to move a little closer to her—the goal being to eventually get her to approach him.

Then Kanaka got her story, including that her name was Venom and this was her second time in the shelter. The first time, her owners were on vacation, The second time a good samaritan brought her in, and the shelter couldn't get a hold of the owners. When they were finally reached, the owners said that she had not been behaving well with their smaller dog and they didn't want her anymore.

Kanaka didn't cast judgment on the owners for giving her up, but he was totally taken aback by her given name.

"Come on. Venom? She is anything but that. It should be like, Honeysuckle, you know? Or something sweet. Something sweet like Honey. I think that's her name, Honey."

Watch how this sweet puppers slowly warms up to Kanaka and begins to trust him:

Watching her eventually melt into a state of relaxation as Kanaka scratched her head was so rewarding. You can tell that she's a good girl who's been through some rough times, and she'd be an incredible dog for someone who took good care of her.

"Her eyes and brows are so expressive. You can read the concern in her face," wrote one commenter.

"That poor baby is heart broken. She knows she was left and lost family. I feel you baby," wrote another.

"What a sweet little fluff," shared another. "How could anyone just abandon her and not think she's worth the fee will baffle me for all of time. And to call her 'Venom' is not only an insult to her, but an insight into the life she could have previously had and how her last 'owners thought of her. Can't wait for her to find her forever home and finally get all the love she deserves."

Thankfully, according to an update on Kanaka's website, Honey was adopted on March 8, 2024. So hopefully, she did find a forever home with people who will appreciate and nurture her naturally sweet disposition and give her the life she should have.

You can follow Rocky Kanaka for more "Sitting with Dogs" videos on YouTube and on his website rockykanaka.com.

Democracy

What to know about the 1864 abortion ban Arizona's Supreme Court says is 'now enforceable'

The legal code it comes from also outlaws interracial marriage and forbids minorities from testifying against white people in court.

Peter Zillmann (HPZ)/Wikimedia Commons, Brandon Friedman/Twitter

Arizona's borders may soon be even more consequential.

When the 2022 Dobbs decision overturned the federal protection of medical privacy in reproductive decisions, leaving abortion law up to the states, experts warned of the legal and medical consequences to come: People in states with old laws on the books would find themselves facing abortion restrictions the likes of which had not been seen in over 50 years since Roe vs. Wade became "settled as a precedent of the Supreme Court," and medical providers would face legal conundrums that threatened patient care.

Nearly two years later, we've seen the fallout on multiple fronts, from women suing states for denying them medically necessary care to children who have been raped and impregnated being forced to travel across state lines to get an abortion.

And the latest development has Arizona set to enact a near-total abortion ban based on a 1864 legal code, after the Arizona Supreme Court ruled that the law "it is now enforceable."

Here's what to know about the 160-year-old law:


There is only one abortion exception allowed for in the law—to save the life of the mother. As medical providers have made clear, that kind of exception is a murky gray area that leads to impossible questions like "How imminent does a mother's death need to be?" for a doctor to take action without fearing legal repercussions.

Civil War-era historian Heather Cox Richardson shared some of the details about how the law came about and the context in which it was written on Facebook, and the historical facts paint a picture of how utterly absurd it is for the law to go into effect in 2024.

"In 1864, Arizona was not a state, women and minorities could not vote, and doctors were still sewing up wounds with horsehair and storing their unwashed medical instruments in velvet-lined cases," wrote Richardson. She pointed out that the U.S. was in the midst of the Civil War, and that the law didn't actually have much to do with women and reproductive care.

"The laws for Arizona Territory, chaotic and still at war in 1864, appear to reflect the need to rein in a lawless population of men," she explained, sharing that the word "miscarriage" was used in the criminal code to describe various forms of harm against another person, specifying dueling with, maiming and poisoning other people.

Richardson offered that detail as the context in which the law states that "a person who provides, supplies or administers to a pregnant woman, or procures such woman to take any medicine, drugs or substance, or uses or employs any instrument or other means whatever, with intent thereby to procure the miscarriage of such woman, unless it is necessary to save her life, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for not less than two years nor more than five years."

How did the law even come about? At that time, the newly formed Arizona Territorial Legislature was composed of 27 men. The first thing they did was authorize the governor to appoint a commissioner to draft a code of laws, but a judge named William T. Howell had already written one up. After some discussion, the legislators enacted Howell's laws, known as "The Howell Code."

The code included laws like, "No black or mulatto, or Indian, Mongolian, or Asiatic, shall be permitted to give evidence in favor of or against any white person," as well as "All marriages of white persons with negroes or mulattoes are declared to be illegal and void."

Richardson also pointed out that the code set the age of consent for sexual intercourse at 10-years-old.

Essentially, a law written by one man, 48 years before Arizona was officially a state, over half a century before women were allowed to vote, when it was perfectly legal to enact and enforce racist laws and see 10-year-olds as old enough to consent to sex, is now considered "enforceable" by the Arizona Supreme Court.

As Richardson pointed out, the difference now is that women can vote. And Americans have proven time and again that draconian abortion laws are wildly unpopular across the political spectrum. Even some Republican lawmakers and politicians are flip-flopping on previous praise for the 1864 law, saying that the Arizona legislature needs to do something about the law to prevent it from taking effect.

All GIFs and images via Exposure Labs.


Photographer James Balog and his crew were hanging out near a glacier when their camera captured something extraordinary.

They were in Greenland, gathering footage from the time-lapse they'd positioned all around the Arctic Circle for the last several years.


They were also there to shoot scenes for a documentary. And while they were hoping to capture some cool moments on camera, no one expected a huge chunk of a glacier to snap clean off and slide into the ocean right in front of their eyes.


science, calving, glaciers

A glacier falls into the sea.

assets.rebelmouse.io

ocean swells, sea level, erosion, going green

Massive swells created by large chunks of glacier falling away.

assets.rebelmouse.io

It was the largest such event ever filmed.

For nearly an hour and 15 minutes, Balog and his crew stood by and watched as a piece of ice the size of lower Manhattan — but with ice-equivalent buildings that were two to three times taller than that — simply melted away.

geological catastrophe, earth, glacier melt

A representation demonstrating the massive size of ice that broke off into the sea.

assets.rebelmouse.io

As far as anyone knows, this was an unprecedented geological catastrophe and they caught the entire thing on tape. It won't be the last time something like this happens either.

But once upon a time, Balog was openly skeptical about that "global warming" thing.

Balog had a reputation since the early 1980s as a conservationist and environmental photographer. And for nearly 20 years, he'd scoffed at the climate change heralds shouting, "The sky is falling! The sky is falling!"

"I didn't think that humans were capable of changing the basic physics and chemistry of this entire, huge planet. It didn't seem probable, it didn't seem possible," he explained in the 2012 documentary film "Chasing Ice."

There was too much margin of error in the computer simulations, too many other pressing problems to address about our beautiful planet. As far as he was concerned, these melodramatic doomsayers were distracting from the real issues.

That was then.

Greenland, Antarctica, glacier calving

The glacier ice continues to erode away.

assets.rebelmouse.io

In fact, it wasn't until 2005 that Balog became a believer.

He was sent on a photo expedition of the Arctic by National Geographic, and that first northern trip was more than enough to see the damage for himself.

"It was about actual tangible physical evidence that was preserved in the ice cores of Greenland and Antarctica," he said in a 2012 interview with ThinkProgress. "That was really the smoking gun showing how far outside normal, natural variation the world has become. And that's when I started to really get the message that this was something consequential and serious and needed to be dealt with."

Some of that evidence may have been the fact that more Arctic landmass has melted away in the last 20 years than the previous 10,000 years.

Watch the video of the event of the glacier calving below:

This article originally appeared on 11.04.15

A tourist visiting Italy. (Representative image)

Americans pride themselves on living in the “best country in the world.” However, the American way of life isn’t for everyone and some prefer the more laid-back approach to life that people enjoy in Europe.

Four years ago, a writer named Roze left her tiny apartment in Los Angeles, booked a one-way flight to Turn, Italy and never looked back. Now, she documents her new life in Europe on TikTok to inspire others to pursue their dreams.

Recently, she posted a video in which she counts down 5 things that she’ll never do now that she lives in Italy. These are examples of the relief some Americans feel when they move to Europe and settle into their new, stress-free lifestyle.


1. Rush

"One of the first things that attracted me to Italian culture is the fact that people don't seem to be in a rush. There are no drive-thrus. People don't walk and eat. If you need a coffee, you sit down and drink a cup of coffee. There's always time for that."

2. Own a car

"I don't plan on ever living in a place where you need a car to get around. I don’t like the expense of a car and it’s just bad for the environment.”

3. Live for work

“I’ll never obsess about work as much as I used to do in the U.S. Now, I'm not saying that people don't work here. People work very hard, but there's not as many people who make working hard their whole personality."

@rozeinitaly

A few ways my perspective has changed since moving abroad, maybe some other American immigrants can relate? #fivethingschallenge #5thingsiwouldneverdo #5thingschallenge #americanimmigrant #movingabroadtips #expatsinitaly #italylifestyle #lifeinitaly🇮🇹

4. Trust the internet for business hours

"If you look it up on Google Maps, it says that it's open from 10 am to, I think, 7 or 7:30 pm. Does that mean I can go there at like 2:30 3 o'clock? No. What is not listed on there is that they are closed from 1 to 4 for lunch."

5. Worry about medical bills

“I just don’t plan on living anywhere where there is not some kind of universal healthcare.”

A group of travelers waits patiently to check their bags.

Maybe you’re one of those elite travelers who’s mastered packing for an entire trip using only carry-on luggage. If so, you’re likely haughty and won’t stop crowing about the convenience of hopping off the plane and jetting to your destination.

We know: The airlines lost your bag in 1986 and you vowed never again. So, now you roll three garments, one pair of shoes, a tiny bottle of 5-in-one body wash, and a Kindle into your backpack, and you're good to go.

For the rest of us mere traveling mortals, especially those with kids, checking bags is a necessary evil—a necessary and costly one.

If it seems to you like checked bag fees have been steadily climbing, that’s because checked bag fees have been steadily climbing. According to this article, bag fees on American Airlines rose 33% just last year from $30 per bag to $40 and 5 of the 6 biggest carriers raised their fees last year.

Why is the entire industry upping their checked-bag fees? There’s a specific reason involving an arcane bit of tax code, which accounts for why the fees are tacked on separately versus rolled into the price of the ticket.


Jay L. Zagorsky, a business school professor who studies travel, says 7.5% of every domestic ticket goes to the federal government. Airlines dislike this, claiming it raises ticket prices for consumers. But as long as the bag fee is separate, it is excluded from the 7.5% transportation tax.

Estimated bag fees for 2023 topped 7 billion. By making the bag fees separate, airlines saved themselves about half a billion dollars. If that savings has been passed down to the customer, then we all got a bit of a break, too.

Perhaps you automatically dislike the separate fees because you’re Gen X and remember a time when a ticket was all-inclusive. Now, it feels like you’re paying for stuff you used to get for free.

Turns out that more and more travelers actually like the separate charges.

“One thing that our research has shown,” Henry Hartevedlt, president of travel industry analytics firm Atmosphere Research told USA Today, “is that more than two-thirds of U.S. leisure airline passengers now feel that the unbundling of the coach product and letting people buy what they want and need on an à la carte basis is actually something they like because it helps them stick to their budget.”

This is a positive way to look at something that’s undoubtedly here to stay. And now if you hear someone complain about bag fees at the airport, you’ll know why it’s done the way it’s done, which is really sweet satisfaction in itself.

Of course, there's always this unusual workaround courtesy of Reddit user Old_Man_Withers, "I Fedex my luggage to the hotel and carry nothing on the plane but my laptop for work. It doesn't matter if it's 2 days or two months, I ship it. The hotel has it waiting in my room when I get there and I ship it back home from there when I'm done. No random inspections, no chances of loss without recompense, fully trackable... I see no downside that isn't worth the 50-100 bucks it costs."

"The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon"/Youtube

Coco is back, baby.

Conan O’Brien had a blink-and-you-missed-it run as “Tonight Show” host. After only a year, he was unceremoniously laid off in 2010 by NBC due to a contractual dispute and replaced by former host Jay Leno, followed by Jimmy Fallon in 2014.

But despite his short-lived reign, O’Brien cemented himself as a wickedly funny and whip smart performer, as well as a master of recurring gags, self-deprecating humor and engaging conversation…not to mention developing a reputation for being a pretty great guy off the air.

Which is why fans were excited to see O’Brien appear as a “Tonight Show” guest for Tuesday’s episode, marking a return to his old stomping grounds for the first time in 14 years. And let’s just say…O’Brien’s comeback did not disappoint.


During parts of the interview, O’Brien exuded that same amount of candid poise that he famously maintained throughout the 2010 controversy. Like when he talked about podcast “Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend,” the project that followed his “Tonight Show” exit, he said he still considered hosting a late-night show “the best job in the world,” but shared his appreciation for the podcast format since it allows for longer, more in-depth conversations with guests.

But along with all the sentimentality were trademark rapid fire zingers and absurdly dramatic outbursts, especially when talking about how “weird” it felt to be back at Rockefeller Center.

"I was here for 16 years doing the ‘Late Night’ show," O'Brien told Jimmy Fallon (both “Late Night” and “The Tonight Show” filmed in the same building.

"When someone else is in your studio it feels weird. So I walked in and said, 'Who's in my old studio?' And they said 'Kelly Clarkson'. And I love Kelly Clarkson, who doesn't love Kelly Clarkson? But still I felt like, IT'S NOT RIGHT! BLASPHEMY! THEY SHOULD HAVE BURNED IT TO THE GROUND!"

"And then Kelly came out to say hi and I said, DON'T TALK TO ME! YOU MAKE ME SICK!!"

Man, O'Brien really knows how to commit to the bit. Watch:

O’Brien’s interview was so well received that fans seemed to fall in love with him all over again.

“Conan returns to the Tonight Show in TRIUMPHHH being one of the greatest of all time.”

“Conan is going down in history as one of the greatest to ever do it!”

“Conan's career is a true testament to the saying ‘Everything happens for a reason.’”

“This hit me right in the feels.”

“The man's a national treasure, give him everything.”

If you’re left wanting even more Coco, O’Brien has a new series, “Conan O’Brien Must Go,” which debuts on April 18 on Max. Talk about a full circle moment.