Getting back in synch, the food situation and travel plans
This is the beginning day 4 of my stay in Phoenix, with my daughter Andrea. I still wake up too early, even if I stay up to near-normal (for me) bedtime. At home in Stockholm, I often take a nap during the day, but not here, purposefully.
Personal things like this are not very interesting in a journal, so I’ll drift over to…
I am not a foodie. I am fortunate in having a wife who prepares dinners for both of us. My part of the deal is to clean up afterward, which I’m good at. Some of my credentials include having been a janitor, part-time for a year, for a janitorial service while attending San Francisco City College.
I don’t expect Andrea, who has a day/evening job, to emulate Eva in the meal prep department. I have, therefore, reverted to bachelor mode.
When I have lived alone, I had a simple regimen which served me well. Here is a generic example:
Breakfast: Oatmeal (or buckwheat or barley) porridge, with a large dollop of yogurt (Greek-style, to be sure) and some berries, preferably blue. And because I tend toward hypochondria, I now add a tablespoon of granulated or powdered lecithin from sunflower seeds. (Note: before breakfast is a period of around 30 minutes when I savor my coffee, currently drinking Peet’s ‘Major Dickerson’s Blend’.)
Lunch: Usually a scavenger hunt for protein and fresh vegetables. There is often leftover animal protein, or a package of lunch meat in the fridge, and I make sure there is a fresh, crunchy vegetable to accompany it: bell pepper, celery, or carrot for example.
Dinner: a good piece of meat, grilled or roasted, plus whole grain rice and a steamed vegetable, almost always broccoli. I served this dish up for Andrea after she returned from work around 7:30 PM last evening. Then we sat in front of the TV to watch the first episode of “The Outlander” which she thinks I will enjoy. I did.
Today, granddaughter Samantha will visit us during her lunch break. She’s currently staying with her sister Sabrina, and working/telecommuting from her home.
The afternoon is unscheduled, unless Andrea has some chores she like help with. One chore I’ll volunteer for is to transport her online purchase returns to the UPS retail store around 2 miles away in a large strip mall centered around a huge grocery market chain store. It’s a pleasure to drive the rental car, a new VW Passat I don’t know what ‘passat’ means or metaphorically implies, but it’s comfortable and has good air cooling. While in this area I’ll probably do some grocery shopping. A little further down the road is a ‘Trader Joe’s’ which is a favorite store for Eva and me—from our experiences in San Jose, California.
I will visit a friend in the Tucson area on Thursday, 3 days from now. We have been in touch only by correspondence for the last 30 years. More on this connection, later.
In a video chat yesterday with son Greg in Lake Charles, Louisiana, we speculated about a trip I may take to the Four Corners area of the USA. He suggested I stay in Cortez, Colorado, a place he’s familiar with.
If I do this, it would make sense to stay overnight in Flagstaff, then overnight in Cortez to give me time to explore an area I have dreamed about for a long time.
What happened to May 7? It’s a blur now, just an unbundling and recovery day. I do remember my bare toes appreciating the grass in front of Andrea’s apartment around midnight.
In the early morning of May 8 with my coffee, I sat on the small, partly enclosed patio in the front of Andrea’s ‘unit.’ There is a large, grass-filled rectangle of land between sets of units containing two healthy trees. The birds are everywhere and pleasantly loud (I was not trying to sleep). I saw a hummingbird. The neighbor cat skulked around. The sunlight was full but not yet hot. I was at peace.
Then I accomplished the following:
– Car rental
– US cash from a machine
– A SIM card for my mobile phone to temporarily replace the Sweden-based card.
The capstone of this day was the celebration of the third anniversary of Quinn’s birth. It was a grand occasion, expertly planned and executed by the honoree’s mother, Sabrina. Here are Quinn’s family connections, all but two being present. (I don’t yet know who Father Chris’s grandparents are).
Also present: Dolores, Sabrina’s aunt (via Internet video link) Socorro, Dolores’s daughter (via Internet video link)
Cousin/Aunt Elizabeth (via Internet video link) Cousin/Uncle Scott (via Internet video link) Samantha, Sabrina’s twin sister Amy, Sabrina’s half-sister Michelle, Sabrina’s best friend Jeff, Michelle’s husband
Several people contributed to the comestibles, including Grandma Andrea who served a classic dish she learned from her mother Patricia, who then was also present in spirit.
The opening of the presents was managed by Quinn, with guidance from Sabrina. They were many and all appropriate to Quinn’s age and the desires of her parents. It is self-serving, of course, for me to mention what I offered, but I feel good about having introduced Quinn to a set of characters who were first popular in Norden, and which are now more generally appreciated: the Moomin trolls.
The highlight of the occasion was– Balloons!!
After all the presents were opened, examined and appreciated, they were set aside (in an orderly manner, to be sure, as were the wrappings) to allow the adults to do their adult visiting. Some of the adults, including your humble and jetlagged correspondent, went into the adjacent large living room to join Quinn playing with one of her new toys, surrounded by air-filled balloons of various colors lying against one wall–apparently as decoration. There were four adults sitting on the couches watching and appreciating as her father helped her learn how to ‘golf’ a ball into a plastic dragon’s mouth which, if successfully done, would pop up out over the dragon’s tail back into the field of play.
Someone started to engage with the balloons and they eventually invaded the floor in from of the couches and Quinn’s play area. Someone hit a balloon and it went up; someone kicked a balloon and it also went up; soon, all the balloons were being battered around by everyone, especially Quinn, who uttered “Now THIS is a party!”
Without intending to, I awoke at 3:30 AM. The plane is scheduled to leave ARN at 1:40 PM.
Yesterday, in addition to celebrating the first birthday of Eva’s grandson Samuel with others of the family, I underwent the all-important nasal cavity test for Covid-19. The results were emailed to me (with an attached, official document) showing, in part, “… has been tested NEGATIVE for Covid-19 with a nasopharyngeal test… using Abbott Panbio Antigen kit (CE-IVD) for SARS-COV-2 with a sensitivity of 91.4% and a specificity of 99.8%”. Whew!
Although it probably has no weight with the travel authorities, I will bring along the document I received from my local medical clinic showing I had two vaccinations of the Pfizer brand for Covid-19 on 16 March and 9 April.
I am informed I will have to wear a mask in the airport and on the plane, changing it every four hours for a new one—and bring my own. I wonder what the rules are for eating and drinking during the flight?
I have checked into my scheduled flight via the Internet but will still have to check in a piece of luggage. I am allowed to have no more than one carryon bag. This will be a backpack which will carry my electronic gear: mobile phone, laptop computer, Kindle reader and iPad with attached keyboard. (I’ll continue writing my journal with the latter while on board). I will need to remove these from the backpack for the scanning device at the end of the check-in line. I have a Known Traveler Number issued by a U.S. government agency, but this will not be useful in Sweden and Denmark—only on my return trip from the USA.
6AM. It’s a grey, rainy day, temperature not too much above freezing. I don’t want to wear so many clothes as to be uncomfortable when I land in Phoenix, where the temperature will be near 100º F.
So, I’ll shiver up to the bus stop, around 200 paces away. After a 7-minute bus trip to the Alvik station, I’ll shiver a similar number of paces to the metro which will take me to Central Station. From there, it’s a 5-minute, walk, indoors, to the Arlanda Express which will take me to the airport within 40 minutes, at very high speeds. (Note: Eva accompanied me the bus stop and returned my umbrella to home with her. A nice send-off.)
11:45 AM, Boarding area.
The plane for this trip’s first leg, of three, is scheduled to take off at 13:40 PM. I am excessively early for at least two reasons: I like always to arrive at the airport 2 hours before the scheduled takeoff time; and, the airline and airport information services recommended early arrival to the airport, just in case… (you can fill in the blanks).
After a short bus ride and a 12-minutes metro ride, I boarded Arlanda Express for an advertised 18- minute ride. The train achieved a top speed of 190 kilometers/hour, or around 115 mph.
The airport is not bustling and noisy as it I have seen it in the past. There is plenty of space between walkers and sitters. I had one large bag to check (18 kilograms, 40 pounds). Since I had already checked in online, I was told by a greeter to bring the bag directly to the ticket counter. There was an agent immediately available. My Covid-19 certificate, my home-printed boarding pass, and my US passport were all I needed for a prompt approval to continue to the security gate, and the bag was whisked away with a ‘priority’ label on it (I think I remember I paid extra for this service).
After briefly chatting with Eva via messaging, I looked for a meal. I have resolved to eat more protein and vegetables, and fewer starches, grains and sugars. Most of the large restaurants are closed, apparently due to the effects of the pandemic, but there was Max with good burgers, in my experience. I was able to order verbally (I hate dealing with machines that want to take my order) and asked for the biggest burger, no cheese, no bread. They offered me a salad wrap, which is what I order in the USA when I go to In-n-Out Burger. It was good. I cleaned my beard and hands in the vacant public toallett, relieved myself, and walked, slowly, the long distance to the gate. And here I am.
There were no complications in boarding the flight to Copenhagen. The plane had around 25 passengers, but the Airbus A320 can seat between 140 and 170, depending on its configuration. I had but one person near me within a pod of around 24 seats. I couldn’t understand all the announcements about service items because of my poor hearing, but I learned that no coffee would be served, but canned and bottled drinks were offered. I had some tasty apple juice in a fancy bottle. The crew member explained how or why it was special, but I didn’t understand her.
The arrival to Copenhagen airport was complicated and confusing. We were not allowed to depart through the usual front door, but through the rear door, then to board a bus which traveled quite a way to a passenger sorting area. Those who were connecting to international flights could proceed through a maze of corridors, then up a flight of stairs (the only escalator was moving down, not up) to an almost deserted area which had no signage that listed my next flight, or which gate it would be at. I asked a lone employee where I could get to Chicago and she pointed me toward the area where I had to show my passport. I explained my confusion to the officer at the window, and she told me what gate to go to (and it was in boarding mode), which was close by where I exited the stairs, previously. I almost panicked, fearing I would miss the flight, but I learned there was plenty of time after I got to the gate.
(While I was previously traversing the halls and corridors, I saw that the passengers who were sorted into the other line, parallel to the one I was in, were not international travelers and had to get tested for Covid-19 right there in the airport. I passed by a whole large clinic of testers on my way to the staircase.)
Before boarding the plane to Chicago, US citizens had to fill out a simple form to indicate who to contact in the USA if the need arose. I listed my daughter, Andrea, with whom I will be staying in the Phoenix area. Then an agent walked around to the waiting passengers (not many) offering another, larger form which. was for the passenger to attest (without swearing on a Bible or in any other fashion) that one had immunity through some means–or didn’t but could be exempt in some way (I didn’t read it closely because I had my official medical certificate.) After presenting all my credentials to the lady at the desk, she pointed me toward a door behind her and to her left and said, “turn right.” But the employee who was watching everything (security?) said “turn left,” which I did.
Again, the plane was nearly empty of passengers. It was an Airbus A350 which can carry 300-350 passengers.
I had bought an “SAS Plus” seat, which is one step up from coach. At my age I need the comfort of a large and well-padded seat with plenty of elbow room, and with all the little conveniences that come with the higher price.
As usual, I checked out the movies that were offered on the small screen in front of me. There were some very old ones I had seen and liked, but none of the newer ones grabbed my attention. I decided to watch “2001” by Stanley Kubrick for old times’ sake. Chuck Kingsley and I saw this together in San Jose when it was first shown in 1968, at the new and modern theater, Century 21. Now there are four other theaters close by, named Century 22, 23, 24 and 25. I hope to see Chuck and his wife Barbara on this journey. Chuck and I became friends in 1958. We were both just out of military service (Air Force for him, Navy for me) and were both attending college with a small stipend from the G.I. Bill. I was enrolled at the City College of San Francisco and Chuck was at what was then San Francisco State College (now a state university). We then each lived with our parents in San Francisco, just a few doors away from each other on 42nd Avenue in the Richmond District, not too far from Ocean Beach.
I can’t listen to dialog and especially music, anymore (the cochlea are slowly fading away), But I watched the film anyway, remembering some of György Ligeti’s music which I have since listened to often The movie is worth watching for many reasons, including setting, cinemaphotography, and all the other aspects of high quality film making and presenting.
I have had a nice-enough chicken/pasta meal with asparagus, with tomato juice as an appetizer.
Five hours remain in the flight to Chicago. I did doze a bit in the Arlanda airport waiting room and could possibly sleep now if I let myself. But I’ll resist this in an attempt to get in synch with Arizona time.
Well, Chicago is a whole different matter. It was crowded, bustling and noisy.
The last leg of my trip was to begin in several hours, so I waited in the general area of the departure gate. I was back in the good ol’ US&A. What an amazing variety of people! And, despite the crowds and anxieties and boredom that come with airline terminals, there was general acceptance of the circumstances. No hassles, at least where I was. The added factor for everyone to deal with was the requirement to wear face masks at all times. This nearly gave me hypoxia, and I imagine it felt similarly in others.
The United Airlines plane was packed full. I was in an ordinary middle seat between two large people. The seat was hard and lumpy. The plane took off late and arrived late. I won’t dwell on the problems this created for my body and the arrival to my daughter’s house. I did arrive, and now I sit in her kitchen the following day, recounting, here, my adventures during May 6.
Next: Car rental, Quinn’s birthday celebration, massage to recover from the trip, etc.
I will keep this journal during my solo trip from Sweden to the USA, and during my travels there, by automobile, in Arizona, Nevada and California. After visiting friends and family, and after taking some hikes in favorite places, I’ll take an airplane to Houston then travel to Lake Charles, Louisiana, where I will stay with family for a while.
Given the uncertainties of life, especially in these times, I am writing from the perspective of this journey possibly being the last one I will have in the USA.
I am 84 years old. Most of my oldest friends, all my descendants and other family members (except those in Sweden) live in Arizona, California and Louisiana.
I have been to Nevada, often, and at least once with each of my three official and consecutive consorts. So, I will probably jog briefly north on my way from Arizona to California to stop in Henderson, just short of Las Vegas, for old times’ sake.
I will reminisce as I travel routes to and through familiar places, and will record many of these memories to the journal.
Go here to start the journey with me: 24 April, 2021
Header image: A view of the Almaden Valley from Coyote Peak, San Jose, California
After staying around a week with family in Phoenix, I will drive North 145 miles to Flagstaff and probably eat lunch there. Then, East on US Interstate Highway 40 for 148 miles to Kingman where I will stay overnight. I will take my time, probably stopping for some mementos of the trip from roadside vendors. I am especially interested in Native American art and artefacts.
I had originally thought of heading Northeast from Kingman on Arizona State highway 93 that leads to Henderson, Nevada, but I have checked the road conditions and find there are currently some closures on some parts of the road. Also, the general description of the highway is headlined as this, according to one website:
“U.S. Highway 93 Is 200 Miles Of White-Knuckle Driving In Arizona That’s Not For The Faint Of Heart (CAPS in the original). Arizona is full of roads with twists and turns galore, but this one just might take the cake. US-93, a highway with a southern terminus in Wickenburg, is 200 miles of pure white-knuckle driving. It’s a lot safer than it used to be, but the thrills of a curve-filled road are still undeniably there.”
So, as I travel further west on Interstate 40, I will turn north at Needles, California on a road that quickly becomes Nevada State Highway 95 for a 29-mile trip through the Mojave Valley to Laughlin, Nevada near Bullhead City.
I queried the Internet and found there are now at least a dozen casinos in Laughlin, many more than when I last visited decades ago. The gambling joints were then rather sad-looking compared to those in the larger cities of Nevada. Now there is even a Harrah’s casino, a high-class place found in other places in Nevada.
So, it looks like I’ll get to do the small amount of gambling I have in mind.
Some background on the gambling—
I learned to play poker, roll dice and pitch coins on the streets of Brooklyn where my family lived during my ages 9-to-14½. I furthered my education in this realm during my enlistment in the US Navy which ended in my 21st year. (Note: gambling is officially forbidden in the US Navy, under severe penalty).
When I was at the U. of Berkeley in the early 1960s, I had a good friend who enjoyed gambling as much as I. We read books, such as Scarne’s Guide to Gambling, to learn how to bet so that the odds were the least against us. At the time, we were interested in craps. So, we studied and practiced on a home-made board until we had some confidence and some extra money (we both worked for wages during our education). We weren’t looking to make a killing, but rather to play smart and enjoy the fun of it. We knew of one casino in Reno which, at the time, allowed a minimum bet of ten cents. That’s where we went. Of course, we didn’t make a killing but I do remember that we had fun and had no regrets upon returning back home to our studies (and family life for me—I was married but, as yet, without children. Patricia and I had eloped and were married in Reno, a few years earlier).
I made a few return trips to Reno to play other games. During one trip I met B.B. King in the Keno line. We shook hands, then bought our cards.
The honeymoon of my second marriage included a trip to Las Vegas, where a strange thing occurred.
I was at the time 35 years old, my hair not yet grey. I was slim and dark-haired, with heavy eyebrows. Mary and I were dressed up to go to a big show—I wore a dark suit and tie.
As we walked past the croupiers and dealers on the way to the showroom’s entrance, they each, in their turn as we passed by them, bowed to us—or rather to me, as Mary and I watched their eyes. At the showroom entrance the greeter immediately escorted us to a table at the edge of the stage. I offered no tip for this privilege.
We figured I looked like somebody and had a good laugh and a good time telling others about it afterward.
A few years later it happened again, and I got nervous. I vowed not to return.
But I did, decades later, with the woman who would become my third wife. I was then 30 years older, not as slim, and with a head full of grey hair. Neither was I wearing a suit and tie. I received no undue attention. The nervous feeling disappeared.
My intentions while in a casino in Laughlin are to play, briefly, four games of chance: roulette, Caribbean stud poker, a poker slot machine and, finally, the modern version of a “one-armed bandit” slot machine (which doesn’t have arms anymore).
The best way to bet on any game of chance is with a plan, and briefly. The longer one plays, the more the house is likely to get its percentage out of your bets. And one should bet, overall, no more than one is prepared to lose without any harm to you and yours.
So, will I spend no more than an hour, total, engaged with the above games.
Here is the layout of a roulette table:
I will buy 25 chips of modest denomination. At each of five turns of the wheel I will bet: one chip on No. 5, one chip on the intersection of 1-2-4-5, one chip on the intersection of 2-3-5-6, one chip on the intersection of 5-6-8-9, and one chip on the intersection of 4-5-7-8.
I am, in effect, betting 2 chips on No. 5, a half chip on Nos. 2-4-6-8, and a quarter chip on Nos. 1-3-7-9. The payout for any number that the ball lands on is 35-1. If the ball lands on 5, I will win 2×35=70 chips. If it lands on 2, or 4, or 6, or 8, I will win ½ of 35. If the ball lands on 1, or 3, or 7, or 9, I will win ¼ of 35 chips (somehow these bets get rounded out at the payout).
If during these five turns of the wheel the ball falls at least once into any number one through nine, I will consider that good luck and I will walk away with some chips.
Note: there is no magic in number 5. Once can pick any center number (except 2 and 35) and bet similarly. These center numbers allow you to bet in this pattern. There is no magic in the pattern. The little white ball doesn’t remember where it last landed, nor does it know where it will land next.
But, it does happen that the ball will land, consecutively, more than once in any given region. So, I will be betting that the ball will currently land more often in the region where I am betting. That’s it.
I was introduced to Caribbean stud poker in (wait for it!)—Stockholm, Sweden. Yes!
There are four casinos in Sweden, all called Casino Cosmopol, located in Sundsvall, Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö. These are large casinos offering all types of games including slots, blackjack, poker and more. The minimum age to enter and play at these casinos is 20. All of the casinos are owned by Svenska Spel which is run by the government of Sweden. Svenska Spel prides itself on responsible gaming. And because it is run by the government, the profit made by the company goes to the national treasury of Sweden.” (Source).
Eva and I have visited Stockholm’s casino around 10 times in the nearly 20 years I have lived here. Compared to casinos in Nevada, Cosmopol is quiet and unexciting. But, I did learn about Caribbean stud poker which was offered some years ago but, apparently, no longer, according to my last visit.
It’s a simple game which is described under this link, and here: each person is playing against the house; not against other players. Both the player and the dealer receive a 5-card poker hand, all cards are face-down except one of the dealer’s five cards; that single card is turned face-up for all to see. If you fold your hand, you lose your ante bet. To play, you need to add an extra bet equal to twice the ante. So by folding, you save 2/3 the cost, resulting in a 1/3 loss. If you stay in, the only way to lose is for the dealer to show a hand which is at least Ace-King high that ALSO beats your hand. The ways to win are as follows:
If the dealer does not have A-K high or better: you win 1/3 the size of your total bets. If he does have A-K high, a pair, or better, and you beat him, you are paid even money on 1/3 your bet and paid the other 2/3 based on this pay-table:
So, one hopes to get a hand that beats the dealer’s and which has a high rank in the above table. These are rare occurrences. And, even if you do get a high-ranking hand, if the dealer doesn’t ‘qualify’ you don’t get the advantage of the high hand, but merely get paid at straight odds. To ‘qualify’, the dealer has to show an A-K high hand or better.
I will bet, modestly, no more than 10 times, then quit. There is a method in betting which can reduce the odds against the player to a minimum:
Always raise with a pair or higher, fold with less than ace/king, and raise on ace/king if any of the following three rules apply.
Raise if the dealer’s card is a 2 through queen and matches one of yours.
Raise if the dealer’s card is an ace or king and you have a queen or jack in your hand.
Raise if the dealer’s rank does not match any of yours and you have a queen in your hand and the dealer’s card is less than your fourth highest card.
By now I will have spent no more than 30 minutes in the casino.
I like the automatic poker machines because I like poker but no longer have the fortitude to play against other, experienced players—and I am familiar with the odds.
I will bet, modestly, 25 times then quit. I have, over time, been lucky with these machines, as I have occasionally with the one-armed bandits which will be the last stop, for no more than 10 turns of the reels.
That’s it. Back to the car and return to US Interstate 40 at Needles, California and westward toward Santa Barbara, California to visit son Alex.
As the dealers and croupiers inevitably say at the beginning of each game: Good Luck!
I’m quoting my friend Vasil who, as a retired physician and in his 91st year of life, has deemed my pending adventure, and especially this journal, just so.
With Vasil’s observation, and now having 44 ‘followers’, I feel motivated to perform my best effort in observing and writing during my travels, starting Thursday 6 May at Arlanda International Airport, Stockholm.
This date for departure allows me to participate in two birthday celebrations: The first annual födelsedag of step-grandson Samuel on the 5th in Stockholm, and the third annual observation of the birth of great-granddaughter Quinn, on the 8th in Arizona. How magical is this?
I have already contacted some relatives and friends in California about the possibility of visiting with them, with affirmative results. Other family members and friends are ‘followers’ and are hereby on notice that I’ll be contacting them directly sometime after I arrive in the ‘States’.
In California, I’ll be based at the home of my youngest granddaughter, Sonya, and her father, Ken. I will have the exclusive use of a 2008 Honda Civic which belongs to Sonya; she currently doesn’t use it. I have a fondness for the Honda brand, having successfully logged at least 100,000 miles in a 1988 Honda Accord which I gave to son Alex upon my move to Sweden. He was able to take its total mileage past one light-second before it expired.
I seem to have retained my faculties, but they operate at a slower pace than when I was younger. If I am rushed, I become anxious about forgetting something important for an extended trip away from home.
There are new things one must consider during this time of the COVID-19 epidemic. My itinerary is: Stockholm to Copenhagen; Copenhagen to Chicago; Chicago to Phoenix.
Currently, the Copenhagen airport requires I have proof of non-infection from a test performed no more than 24 hours from the time of my departure from the airport. I am scheduled to have this test in Stockholm at 4 PM on 5 May, the day before I take off from Stockholm to Copenhagen—6 May. The next plane is scheduled to leave Copenhagen at 3:45 PM. Whew!
Since I have had my two Pfizer injections, the last one on 9 April, and that I have no symptoms of illness, I have reason to be confident that I will have a successful test. We’ll see.
The rules and requirements in the USA keep changing, so I will have to learn what I have to show and prove after I land in Chicago on the same date, after around 8 hours of air travel. The same uncertainty holds for my landing in Phoenix, 4 hours after takeoff in Chicago.
If all goes right (fingers crossed) my daughter Andrea will greet me in Phoenix at around 10:30 PM, the same day, but around 18 hours after taking off from Stockholm.
Whatever complications may arise during this trip, I hope to be able, on May 8, to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of great-granddaughter Quinn’s birth in Gilbert, Arizona with other family members.