“Are you still writing…?”

I was surprised to be asked after a long day spent with guests whether or not the LONG BEACH blog was still functional. Most entries have been recaps of where I went to eat or drink or golf, or some story of frustratingly aimless adventure. I do not believe my corner of the Internet attracts any regular traffic, nor would I guess that reading my soliloquies is a part of anyone’s regular routine.

ONE DAY AGO… I was here in my office, suffering through another quiet work day. Dealing with the same sort of issues that typically cross my desk. Quoting and purchasing and troubleshooting; Suffering being the key word, as Wednesday night included a night of drinks and dinner (and drinks) with one of our top suppliers. I was gifted a fine bottle of reposado tequila, and took it upon myself to take a swig. In retrospect, this was perhaps not the best idea to toss this delicious spirit on top of the pile that already included bourbon, Long Island Iced Tea, Mai Tai, and sushi. I guess edamame and sushi do not soak up liquor as effectively as pizza or burritos. Lesson learned.

ONE WEEK AGO… I sat at my desk watching the clock, planning the weekend. Saturday would include a highly anticipated event: 18 holes of golf at Torrey Pines. I booked a tee-time for four in August upon hearing the news of guests planning a trip to the West Coast who wanted to include golf during the long weekend. It was a full-day event with plenty of logistics involved; Two traveled from Venice to Long Beach where we crammed into my car and traveled to Anaheim, where we picked up the final member of our foursome and trekked south towards San Diego. We arrived early enough to enjoy a lovely breakfast and brief practice session.

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Ninety days of anticipation were nearly flushed down the toilet, but we made it to our spot on the Blue Tee in front of the clubhouse in time to hit our drives toward the ocean. The actual golf performance was somewhat mediocre with only a handful of memorable shots among the foursome. The rough was dense and mangled each players’ clubhead, penalizing off-target shots. Greens were pitched and sloped and crested and punished anyone on the short side. Three-putts were in abundance on any effort that began from a position above the hole. Despite all of this, it was all an amazing experience with great friends who hadn’t been together in over ten years. Our friendship somehow traveled from the dugout to the golf course; From the Midwest and Pacific Northwest to the California Coast.

ONE MONTH AGO… At this time I was in a fuzzy haze en route to Long Beach from a weekend bender in Las Vegas. The morning began with an epic breakfast at Hash House A-Go-Go, served by a friendly waiter with an obnoxious Mohawk. The farm scramble helped soak some of the toxins from the night before and set me on my way for the daunting drive back to the coast. I scooted into the local gas station on fumes, then diverted my route to Manhattan Beach to watch the Cubs defeat the Cardinals. I resisted peer pressure and enjoyed the variety of finger food without indulging in another sip of alcohol. Cubs Win. Andy’s Liver Wins.

ONE YEAR AGO… As I make this entry, exactly one year ago on this day, I would have been driving westward somewhere in Iowa or Nebraska on the first leg of the journey to Long Beach. GO WEST YOUNG MAN. Wednesday night included a solemn dinner at Javier’s, a favorite local spot in Arlington. Neither of us had much of an appetite. Both knew it would be our last date night together. We returned to the condo on Evergreen for the last time hand-in-hand and attempted a few hours of sleep within the remnants of our home. Most everything of mine had been packed and shipped westward. Most everything else was in boxes and bags en route to wherever their next destination would be.

I sneaked out the front door under the cover of darkness. I packed my golf clubs and an overnight bag to accompany us for the cross-country adventure. I pulled the Maxima near the front door and let the engine warm while flurries began to fall from the heavens. It was a romantic image and one I’ll forever remember. Arlington Heights is home and I would have never guessed I’d have the opportunity to enjoy life in California. I didn’t completely comprehend all of the challenges I would encounter during my first year away from home. It is impossible to believe how quickly time has passed and I’m not sure how much longer I’m able to claim to be “new” to California.

SS Edmund Fitzgerald was an American Great Lakes freighter that sank in a Lake Superior storm on November 10, 1975, with the loss of the entire crew of 29. When launched on June 7, 1958, she was the largest ship on North America’s Great Lakes, and she remains the largest to have sunk there.

For seventeen years Fitzgerald carried taconite iron ore from mines near Duluth, Minnesota, to iron works in Detroit, Toledo, and other Great Lakes ports. As a “workhorse”, she set seasonal haul records six times, often breaking her own previous record. Captain Peter Pulcer was known for piping music day or night over the ship’s intercom while passing through the St. Clair and Detroit Rivers (between Lakes Huron and Erie), and entertaining spectators at the Soo Locks (between Lakes Superior and Huron) with a running commentary about the ship. Her size, record-breaking performance, and “DJ captain” endeared Fitzgerald to boat watchers.

Carrying a full cargo of ore pellets with Captain Ernest M. McSorley in command, she embarked on her ill-fated voyage from Superior, Wisconsin, near Duluth, on the afternoon of November 9, 1975. En route to a steel mill near Detroit, Fitzgerald joined a second freighter, SS Arthur M. Anderson. By the next day, the two ships were caught in a severe storm on Lake Superior, with near hurricane-force winds and waves up to 35 feet high. Shortly after 7:10 p.m., Fitzgerald suddenly sank in Canadian (Ontario) waters 530 feet deep, about 17 miles from Whitefish Bay near the twin cities of Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario—a distance Fitzgerald could have covered in just over an hour at her top speed. Although Fitzgerald had reported being in difficulty earlier, no distress signals were sent before she sank; Captain McSorley’s last message to Anderson said, “We are holding our own.” Her crew of 29 perished, and no bodies were recovered.

Many books, studies, and expeditions have examined the cause of the sinking. Fitzgerald might have fallen victim to the high waves of the storm, suffered structural failure, been swamped with water entering through her cargo hatches or deck, experienced topside damage, or shoaled in a shallow part of Lake Superior. The sinking of Edmund Fitzgeraldis one of the best-known disasters in the history of Great Lakes shipping. Gordon Lightfoot made it the subject of his 1976 hit song “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald after reading an article, “The Cruelest Month”, in the November 24, 1975, issue of Newsweek. The sinking led to changes in Great Lakes shipping regulations and practices that included mandatory survival suits, depth finders, positioning systems, increased freeboard, and more frequent inspection of vessels.

Full Entry at WIKIPEDIA


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