Happy Monday. Welcome back to the reality of the work week following an epic patriotic weekend. I’ll use this space to summarize a brief trip home to Chicago. But first, let me check the Metra website to verify if the trains are running on the Saturday or Holiday schedule for Fourth of July…

“If you don’t know where you are going, you might wind up someplace else.” – Yogi Berra

Tuesday: Original logistics to commute from Long Beach to LAX fell through, but arranging Plan B via Uber was no problem at all. (More on this later.) My flight home was my first of the red-eye variety. I came home after work and finished packing and caught a quick nap. Thanks to the dysfunctional building elevator, I bumped and clanked my way down from the seventh floor with my luggage and hailed a ride. My friendly driver rolled me in style to the airport in his Cadillac SUV playing smooth jams and making friendly conversation. I was to LAX before 10pm and to the gate with plenty of time to spare. The only challenge was staying awake long enough to board the plane for this midnight flight.

Why do flights show movies for a flight that departs at 1155pm? We were due to arrive at O’Hare just before 6am local time, and thankfully I had George Lopez and the rest of the cast of Spare Parts to keep me company for the duration of the journey. Marissa Tomei did look pretty good in her mom jeans. Or maybe I was just deliriously tired after only catching about 45 minutes of sleep.

Wednesday: Goal one upon returning home was to say hi to mom and lay down for a rest before meeting at work for lunch. I might have gotten two hours, but it felt like an entire refreshing night of slumber. The comfy couch nearly swallowed me whole. And the meat locker temperature was more comfortable than the sauna I’ve become accustomed to. I met for lunch at Rammy’s and forgotten how much I longed for a well-made sandwich and the 2×4 paired perfectly with a peach iced tea. WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN?; I was an office celebrity for a day, telling tales of California and being complimented for being taller, slimmer, and tanner. I should hang out there more often for self-esteem boosting.

After another cat nap to make up for minimal sleep, I ventured to LaGrange to meet for beer and burger at Palmer Place, my favorite stop downtown LG. It would have been better if we sat outside in the epic biergarten, but the unseasonably cool temperatures forced us inside. We caught up and exchanged ridiculous stories of tree climbing, shark attacks, and prison escapes, while enjoying delicious hamburger creations. The Mexicali features jalapeno jack cheese, guacamole, and pico de gallo and helped soak up my 5 Rabbit cerveza.

Thursday: The late Wednesday night bled into Thursday morning, where I was treated to a requested homemade egg-mcmuffin before heading to the golf course. We got special dispensation for access to golf at Boulder Ridge, the club where Grandpa belonged and I grew up playing through high school. I havent been able to play there since he passed, though we have been allowed to play the last two seasons. The staff is friendly and made us feel like we were members. There were no aces during the Thursday round, but we played well enough to remember why we enjoy this country club so much.

Family day continued into the evening where Grandma came over to the house for steak dinner (boom!), caught up about California goings on, and discussed my brother’s silly eating habits. He enjoys corn, but not on the cob. He eats deep-fried onion rings, but loathes onions. While sipping a glass of wine, he mentioned how he avoids each grape in mom’s fruit salad. I contemplated how conflicted he must be as we sat in the back yard enjoying one or two more beers next to the fire.

Friday: Friday was the halfway point of the trip and a full day was planned, beginning with another day on the golf course. We made the same drive along Route 62 as we had the day before the Boulder Ridge, though today we would turn left into the entrance for Terrace Hill. We arrived at the course plenty early and exchanged pleasantries with the owner before making our way onto the golf course. It felt good to be “home” on my favorite course. Shots off target are able to be recovered from and creativity is rewarded. Birdies were made and miraculous shots were achieved. Any round that ends with a two-putt birdie to break 80 leave a good taste in my mouth… Especially after skipping eating a hot dog at the turn.

Aside from all of the golf that was planned for my trip home, the top priority was a meal at Real Urban Barbecue. Friday was the night for the two meat platter, serving up brisket and pulled pork with mac & cheese and SWEET POTATO SOUFFLE. On a typical visit, I would save enough of the fixin’s for leftovers, but there was no room in my luggage to bring home all this flavor. I housed the entire tray and didn’t regret one bite. It’s only unfortunate that I won’t be back to RUB until at least Christmas.

I shook off the food coma and met up with friends for fireworks, once we navigated through and around the mass of humanity that had descended upon Palatine. We got to the party as the party ended, so we made for our own good times at the local German and Irish bars to celebrate American independence. It is unclear if our mischievous actions the last time we frequented the Deutsch taverne resulted in the new identity. Either way, the Revolution and Goose Island pints hit the spot.

Saturday: One more day of golf. I did a lousy job packing for this trip, so I had to buy extra underpants and socks, though I did have plenty of stuff to wear on the golf course. We had a morning tee-time at a local course so that we could squeeze in one more round before rushing home and into the City for the July 4th Cubs game extravaganza. Most of the events of Saturday afternoon and beyond will be contained in its own blog entry as this wordy recap has likely already lost your interest.

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Playing 14 holes with strangers who used every golf cliché proved to be exhausting. But not nearly as tiresome as the our pair of playing partners speaking in third person:

  • “Oh don’t hit it off to the right, Jimmy!”
  • “You really stroked that one nice, Ronny!”
  • “Jimmy! That putt is fast downhill!”

I couldn’t take it anymore. I made a long birdie putt on the short par three 14th hole and was ready to walk off the course. We rushed home and showered and made our way to the train station. Hilarity ensued. As did our status as full-blown suburbanite. More coming later this week after I make sure I’m standing on the correct side of the train platform.

Sunday: After a later than expected evening and one too many craft beers, it was an early morning flight back to Los Angeles. It is always hard to say good-bye but it was made slightly easier knowing I’ll see family and friends again next month and in October and when I return in December. The snooze button was tapped two or three times and I packed my bag for the airport. Traffic was miserable near the terminal and the security line was overwhelming. Somehow I recently contracted airport anxiety, and it was coming on strong. I made it to the gate without much time to spare and was settled in my last row window seat. I slept much better than I had on the red-eye into Chicago, likely finally succumbing to the lack of sleep I enjoyed while home.

I caught a ride back to Long Beach, after enjoying lunch near the ocean. Enchiladas Mole. It felt great to be back in California. It felt comfortable. Home will always be home, but there is a lot to be excited for here too. Hopefully I will have more tales to share upon my next trip back to Arlington…


Shipping and railroad tycoon Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) was a self-made multi-millionaire who became one of the wealthiest Americans of the 19th century. As a boy, he worked with his father, who operated a boat that ferried cargo between Staten Island, New York, where they lived, and Manhattan. After working as a steamship captain, Vanderbilt went into business for himself in the late 1820s, and eventually became one of the country’s largest steamship operators. In the process, the Commodore, as he was publicly nicknamed, gained a reputation for being fiercely competitive and ruthless. In the 1860s, he shifted his focus to the railroad industry, where he built another empire and helped make railroad transportation more efficient. When Vanderbilt died, he was worth more than $100 million.

A descendant of Dutch settlers who came to America in the mid-1600s, Cornelius Vanderbilt was born into humble circumstances on May 27, 1794, on Staten Island, New York. His parents were farmers and his father also made money by ferrying produce and merchandise between Staten Island and Manhattan in his two-masted sailing vessel. As a boy, the younger Vanderbilt worked with his father on the water and attended school briefly. When Vanderbilt was a teen he transported cargo around the New York harbor in his own periauger. Eventually, he acquired a fleet of small boats and learned about ship design.

In 1817, Vanderbilt went to work as a ferry captain for a wealthy businessman who owned a commercial steamboat service that operated between New Jersey and New York. The job provided Vanderbilt the opportunity to learn about the burgeoning steamship industry. In the late 1820s, he went into business on his own, building steamships and operating ferry lines around the New York region. Shrewd and aggressive, he became a dominant force in the industry by engaging in fierce fare wars with his rivals. In some cases, his competitors paid him hefty sums not to compete with them.

In the 1840s, Vanderbilt constructed a large brick home for his family in Manhattan’s present-day Greenwich Village neighborhood. Despite his growing wealth, the city’s elite residents were slow to accept Vanderbilt, considering him rough and uncultured.

In the early 1850s, during the California Gold Rush, a time before transcontinental railroads, Vanderbilt launched a steamship service that transported prospectors from New York to San Francisco via a route across Nicaragua. His route was faster than an established route across Panama, and much speedier than the other alternative, around Cape Horn at the southern tip of South America, which could take months. Vanderbilt’s new line was an instant success, earning more than $1 million (about $26 million in today’s money) a year.

In the 1860s, Vanderbilt shifted his focus from shipping to the railroad industry, which was entering a period of great expansion. He gained control of a number of railway lines operating between Chicago and New York and established an inter-regional railroad system. According to T.J. Styles, author of “The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt”: “This was a major transformation of the railroad network, which previously had been fragmented into numerous short railroads, each with its own procedures, timetables, and rolling stock. The creation of a coherent system spanning several states lowered costs, increased efficiency, and sped up travel and shipment times.”

Vanderbilt was the driving force behind the construction of Manhattan’s Grand Central Depot, which opened in 1871. The station eventually was torn down and replaced by present-day Grand Central Terminal, which opened in 1913.

Unlike the Gilded Age titans who followed him, such as steel magnate Andrew Carnegie (1835-1919) and oil mogul John Rockefeller (1839-1937), Vanderbilt did not own grand homes or give away much of his vast wealth to charitable causes. In fact, the only substantial philanthropic donation he made was in 1873, toward the end of his life, when he gave $1 million to build and endow Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee. (In a nod to its founder’s nickname, the school’s athletic teams are called the Commodores.)

The Vanderbilt mansions associated with the Gilded Age, including the Breakers in Newport, Rhode Island, and the Biltmore in Asheville, North Carolina, were built by Cornelius Vanderbilt’s descendants. (The 250-room Biltmore estate, constructed in the late 19th century by one of Vanderbilt’s grandsons, is the largest privately owned home in the United States today.)

Vanderbilt died at age 82 on January 4, 1877, at his Manhattan home, and was buried in the Moravian Cemetery in New Dorp, Staten Island. He left the bulk of his fortune, estimated at more than $100 million, to his son William (1821-85).

(via History)


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