15 June 2021: The journal ends, but not the journey

Five days have elapsed since I offered a journal entry. I have been immersed in family visits and doings which are of supreme interest to me, but not so much for the reader.

I will report that all my intentions for this journey have been fulfilled, except for the last leg which begins tomorrow—a flight from San Jose to Lake Charles, Louisiana to be with my son Greg and his wife Candy for perhaps two weeks. Then home to Eva in Stockholm.

Thank you for traveling with me.

Ron Pavellas

10 June 2021:  Coyote Peak

During my seven years in San Jose, before retiring from employment, then immediately getting married, then quickly moving to Stockholm, I kept in shape by hiking most mornings before I went to work. My favorite hike was to Coyote Peak, two miles from the trail head with about 1,000 feet of elevation change. At my best time, I could do the four miles in around 35 minutes. That was around 20 years ago.

This is now.

At the trail head was  a warm greeting placed by the Park Rangers:

The objective, seen from the trail, around 4/10 of the way there.

I walked slowly, rhythmically, as in a march. My breathing matched each step. I stopped no more than ten times, briefly, to recover sufficiently to maintain the rhythm. I’m not sure how long it took to reach the peak, but it had to be at least an hour.

I was not in a hurry, as I was in the past. I could let my attention wander more fully without being concerned that I might lose some momentum.

I saw that the poison oak which usually is camouflaged among other green plants, was turning red as it should, in order to warn the unwary:

I saw cattle grazing behind a protective fence:

The slanting morning sunlight revealed that the grasses are always covered by the webs of spiders:

The familiar hillside oaks seemed perfect to me:

As I approached a familiar bend in the path near the summit I saw a stand of elderberry bushes in bloom. The are called fläder in Swedish, favorite soft drink flavor.

And then, the summit:

I have sat many times on this bench. I perceive the round brown hills of the San Francisco Bay Area to be pleasantly female in aspect. A ridge of the Santa Cruz Mountain dominates the Western Sky.

I have written many poems from the vantage point. Here’s one:

One thousand feet I hike uphill
With purpose undeterred to sit.
The bench stands by Nature’s spoor.
I rest amidst lush greenery.

I think therefore I think I am.
These thistles, foxtails do not think
Yet they seem even realer
Than I the interloper here.

These paltry words will write themselves
In hope of capturing this once.
And then I’ll wander back to home
As they in silent knowledge stay.

These spiky, rustling weeds are mute
But tell of wordless mysteries,
Of hidden forces spinning green
Relentless creatures in the hills.

While we imagine that
We are the inheritors
Of the Earth.

The Final Journal Entry, here: https://wp.me/pcZSnC-9u

8 June 2021: A little hike among the Oaks and Manzanitas

After all the sitting while driving, and visiting and eating, it seemed prudent to move the body on a day when I had nothing scheduled. I chose St. Joseph’s Hill because it requires only a short drive to the trail head in Los Gatos, I am familiar with it having hiked there since 1995, and there are plenty of people around in case I suddenly get ‘old’ on the trail. The round trip is 3.9 miles. The  elevation at the peak is around 1250 feet, but the trail head seems like it is at least at 300 feet of elevation–but let us say that it was a decent hike.

No number of pictures can capture such an experience, but here are glimpses. First the closely set stand of oaks (perhaps from one root system?) around a bend in the trail, so familiar to me:

There is also much scrub oak and poison oak throughout St. Joseph’s Hill.

I always look forward to seeing the bare, red and twisted bark of the Manzanita bushes (‘little apple’ in Spanish):

The fruit of the bush resembles a small apple, but don’t eat it!

A drawback to this trail is its proximity to a busy highway, State Route 17 that connects San Jose with the City of Santa Cruz, over the Santa Cruz Mountains. (The last big ‘quake in the SF Bay Area was centered in these mountains, not far from Santa Cruz). I turned off my hearing aids to deaden the sound of traffic, heard mostly at the lower elevations.

The concrete structure on the left of the highway is the spillway from Lexington Dam.

The are several places where large eucalyptus trees dominate, but these are not native and, although I loved them in my childhood and youth, I now see them as interlopers. And, they are dangerous in fires, being full of oil.

As befits a ‘day off’, on the way home, I bought a lunch of fresh spring rolls from Pho Spot, took a nap, then a shower/shave, and prepared this journal entry.

Now I can look forward to a dinner prepared by Ken for me and his two daughters, Sydney and Sonya.

Life is good.


Here is the next journal entry

7 June 2021: Earthquake country, the Great Central Valley and Berserkely.

The neologism in the heading was created by Herb Caen, the late and still revered chronicler of the social scene of San Francisco, including its underbelly. Tales from other parts of the Bay Area, especially Berkeley, a city that amused him, were offered as well.

Before I visited the people located at the places listed in the heading, I traveled to the gravesite of my pal of 63 years, Fred Pape, in the San Joaquin Valley National Cemetery.

Frederic Buchanan Pape, 1937 – 2015: A Memoir and a Eulogy

Here is the eulogy I gave at his funeral:

Fred was a civilized man. He was an honorable man. He was a curious man who collected information, processed it carefully, used it, and shared it with others, but never officiously. He was a teacher. He observed the proper forms of society without subordinating the self-directed ways which were peculiarly his. He was his own man. He listened to others and chose to learn from them when he found them interesting. He did not judge others. He loved music. The rear window of his work truck showed a sign declaring: “I Hafta Hear Haydn.” To those who would share his interests he offered friendship. He was my friend. Goodbye Fred, “and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.”

As I stood for a short while contemplating Fred’s plaque among the many that were tightly placed in the well-tended lawn, I noted the infinity symbol at the top of it. I recalled in a letter he sent me, perhaps five years before he died, that he intended this symbol be displayed, rather than a religious or family symbol typically shown.

Then on to Earthquake Country, around 70 miles away in Hollister.

Hollister is well known among geologists because it portrays one of the best examples of aseismic creep anywhere in the world. The Calaveras Fault (a branch of the San Andreas Fault system) bisects the city north and south, roughly along Locust Ave. and Powell St. The streets running east/west across the fault have significant visible offsets. The fault runs directly under several houses. [Source].

Living in Hollister is my daughter Andrea’s best friend from Los Gatos High School, Nancy, with her husband John. I befriended Nancy in 1995 when I moved to San Jose, not far from Los Gatos. She and John recently move to Hollister where Nancy has exercised her green thumb:

Nancy is standing by one of the several planting boxes she tends, in addition to many rose and other flowering bushes.

Nancy took me on a tour of the only other major settlement in San Benito County, San Juan Bautista, named after the Roman Catholic mission founded there in 1797 by the Franciscan order.

Hollister is in a relatively small valley adjacent and to the east of the great and fertile Salinas Valley, of John Steinbeck fame.

The bounty of Hollister can be seen from the Mission’s grounds:

Hollister achieved some notoriety, then fame by having been the setting for the movie “The Wild One”, starring Marlon Branco and Lee Marvin, the fictional leaders (in their roles) of two motorcycle gangs. The basis, or inspiration, for this fiction can be seen here:

Throughout the 1930s, Hollister, California hosted an annual Fourth of July gypsy tour event. Gypsy tours were American Motorcyclist Association-sanctioned racing events that took place all over America and were considered to be the best place for motorcyclists to converge… (T)he rally became a major event in its yearly life as well as an important part of the town’s economy… Source].

With some exceptions, the town has continued to host these rallies, annually.

After an overnight stay with Nancy and John, I went on to Modesto to visit my cousin Anna Pagonis-Pitts and her husband Bard Pitts (not ‘Pitt’). We hadn’t been together since Eva’s and my wedding in Los Gatos, 2002. Here is Anna at the wedding party with her mother Sophie Pagonis, my Uncle Harry’s widow, and Brad behind the camera.

Aunt Sophie has recently passed away at age 92.

Anna and Brad have a beautiful house with fine appointments, including this area of the ‘back yard’:

After a fine dinner at the Del Rio Country Club, we returned to their home for much soulful conversation about our individual lives and our family.

The next morning at breakfast, we were visited by Anna’s older sister, Helen, and her husband Larry Alexander. It had been 45 years since I had seen this couple, and we had some catching up to do.

Then on to a lunch date with my former wife, Mary Pavellas, in Berkeley. It had been around two years since we last met, so there was a good deal of family information to interchange. I don’t like to drive at dusk or at night, so I stayed until 5PM, promising another visit before I leave for my next leg of this journey.

I returned to my temporary lodging with Ken Slosarik, my son-in-law, feeling well-fulfilled by the events of these three days.

The next journal entry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 June 2021: Two days, two friends, one person

I and my friend and former colleague from Merritt Hospital days did not, in fact, discuss “healthcare.” (The reference for this statement is found in the last paragraph of the previous journal entry).

Tim, I learned through our rapid and extensive conversation, was a history major for his undergraduate degree. I avoided history until after I retired, then dived deeply into selected parts of world history.

Much of the discussion touched on world conflicts and we seemed to agree that we are in ‘world war three’ now, one that is not localized but distributed in many places around the world, and not confined solely to armed warfare. On another front, we do agree that Mother Nature will win humanity’s assault upon the earth. I referred Tim to a relevant book I am carrying with me, containing many marginal notes, exclamations and under-linings: Straw Dogs, by John Gray.

I always have a stimulating conversation with Tim McMurdo. I asserted to him we need to meet once per year to charge my batteries.

That was yesterday. Today I visited a friend I first encountered in July 1995, Bernal Hill, part of Santa Teresa County Park in San Jose (Santa Clara County).

I haven’t performed any exercise for too long, certainly since early May this year when I left Sweden for this long visit to the USA. Before that, long walks with Eva and some mild gardening chores were the extent of my physical exertions. The Gym I visited regularly, until Covid appeared, I haven’t visited since then.

So, it was with mild trepidation that I addressed the three short but steep inclines of the 1.6-mile path to the summit, going slowly with two walking sticks I borrowed from Ken.

The first incline is the steepest (and harder to descend than to ascend):

Looking up from the trail head—Looking back—Looking down. Really steep.

After the first grade, the path winds around a stand of trees and bushes, giving a brief respite from the hot sun. I saw evidence that California scrub-jays still live here.

The flowers were not profuse, but were everywhere: poppies, a purple flower I can’t identify, wild mustard, white morning glories, dandelion and false dandelion, and others.

The larger picture:

After negotiating the three steep parts, with the noise of the city finally out of range of hearing, my objective came into view, the Blue Oaks circling the summit:

I reckon my pace from the beginning was just about one stride per second, but around only 18” per step. As I continued the last, brief uphill, under the shade of the oaks, even this pace seemed a bit rapid, but I made it, and it was all downhill afterward.

In the distance is Coyote peak which I have visited uncountable times. It was my morning exercise several times per week before going to work. I will visit the peak at least once before I move on to the next leg of my journey.

These hills nourished me at a time when I needed such nourishment. I wrote about it:

Days in the hills

I will be absent here for a few days while I travel and visit in the Great Central Valley, and in Berkeley.

Foe the next journal entry: GO HERE

Stay tuned.

2 June 2021, San Jose, CA: Octogenarians Rock!

I don’t know exactly how old Bill and Gary Sanders are, they whom I visited two days ago and reported in the previous Journal entry, but if one or both is/are not yet 80 they fit the category, having five great-grandchildren. I also then reported on my visit with Al and Lydia Montaño. Lydia is my age, and Al is a few years older.

Yesterday I visited Barbara and Chuck Kingsley in Palo Alto. Chuck is an ‘octo’, for sure, being 87, and Barbara is a small number of years younger, I believe. Anyway, there we were, chatting away about all the things octos chat about: family, the state of the world, health, and with Chuck, in particular, MUSIC!

Yes, Chuck was my ‘music buddy’, starting ‘way back in 1958. (Fred Pape was my first music buddy, starting in high school, 1952).

I have reported elsewhere that wherever my family lived my father had a portrait of L. van Beethoven affixed to a prominent wall. In Chuck’s (and, therefore, also Barbara’s) house the portrait is of Dmitri Shostakovich. After a few hours of tea and chat, Chuck and I left the house to get a takeout lunch, and thence to a park. We sat under two marvellous old trees in Mitchell Park, Palo Alto, eating classic bagels with cream cheese, etc., from Izzy’s Brooklyn Bagels. (Barbara stayed home knowing we needed to talk about music, well beyond her level of our obsessive interest).

Composers remembered and discussed, along with their interpreters, were Prokofiev, Rachmaninoff, Bach, Beethoven, Alan Hovhaness (a greatly under-appreciated American composer), etc.

It was good.

By dinner time I was back in my temporary home in San Jose, having ordered a takeout Vietnamese dinner, sitting in the backyard while eating Phở Gà and fresh spring rolls, surrounded by the succulents and other plants nurtured by granddaughter Sonya:

(A small portion of Sonya’s garden)

In a few hours I will be eating lunch with a friend and former colleague from what was once the largest private hospital in Oakland, CA., in the mid-1980s. No doubt we will talk about hospitals, “healthcare” (which is really “sick care”, a much better and more accurate appellation), old mutual friends (at least one of which is following this journal—yes, you, Peter), and whatever else may flow through our minds while sitting outside ‘Par Three Restaurant’, Poplar Creek Golf Course, San Mateo, CA, a public course.

Stay tuned.

Next Journal Entry.

 

31 May 2021, Review, Augment, Elucidate

I’ve been away from home since 6 May—25 days.

I am currently staying with son-in-law Ken and granddaughter Sonya in San Jose. I have nothing scheduled today, so I will review what I have written, fill in some blanks, and allow any summary observations to emerge, if they will.

The picture in the header in the ‘About’ journal entry was taken from the summit of Coyote Peak in San Jose. I intend to visit here during the week beginning May 7 when I have nothing currently scheduled (although I hope to visit daughter Analiese in San Francisco during this period).

Regarding the new shoes I bought in Scottsdale, as reported in the 12 May journal entry, I have worn only the sandals, not the oxford type shoes I also bought. The sandals are more comfortable than any I have worn, giving my toes the ability to grasp the inner surface, thereby exercising them and associated sinews. The heel is cushioned so well that I can step off a curb without worrying about discomfort to my left knee. The only negative I have experienced is that they tend to be too warm, but this is undoubtedly due, at least in part, to ambient temperatures.

Son Greg reported to me that he had also visited Speedy’s Truck Stop in Arizona during his travels.

I have failed to report in several of the journal entries that sometimes the landscape at the higher elevations is covered, over many miles, with ROCKS, millions of rocks—from where? And how?

I did try to communicate with the chief executive at Ojai Valley Community Hospital, although I could do it only indirectly, but I got no response. I can understand this, especially in this time of COVID. Hospital executives have tightly packed schedules most of the time.

While waiting for my friend in Ventura at the designated place for our lunch, I visited the ‘Bank of Books’ across the street (I was about 30 minutes early in case I got lost, which I didn’t). It is a marvelous, old-fashion used book store with two levels, well organized with identifying signs for subject areas. I came away with two books: Freedom in Exile, The autobiography of the Dalai Lama, and The Funeral Ceremony of a Lay Buddhist, published by Shasta Abbey, located near the town of Mount Shasta in Northern California. I have another book that they have translated and published:  Shōbōgenzō by Eihei Dōgen.

Since arriving in San Jose, I have mostly settled in, arranging my things so I no longer live out of two suitcases and a backpack. Ken and Sonya are wonderfully accommodating and pleasant company. Ken and I have covered old ground in our conversation and now in new territory, catching up on each other’s lives. It is good.

In the bathroom hangs a photo of a picture painted by my former wife, now dead, Patricia, Sonya’s maternal grandmother.

I’ve had a foot and leg massage (30 minutes) to address my cramping calves, and another 30 minutes for my neck and upper back.

My first visit was with the other (maternal side) great-grandparents to Quinn, the Montaños, and their daughter Dolores, Quinn’s ‘Grand-tía‘. We also ‘share’ twin granddaughters. We had a lovely luncheon on Lydia’s patio, surrounded by plants, including many succulents. Al told me of three juncos that had hatched in a large succulent against the house wall. We had a grand time catching up all our families’ growth and doings.

Next day I visited friends Bill and Gary in Palo Alto, and recounted times at the U. in Berkeley during the middle-1960s, including the ‘Free Speech Movement‘, remembered mutual friends, told of the generations in our respective families (they have five g-grandchildren), and compared ailments and recoveries. I also invited then to contribute to my ‘Being Old’ blog.

So, here I am at 13:50 PM in San Jose, 31 May, completing another journal entry and looking forward to tomorrow’s visit with another couple of old friends in Palo Alto.

Eva and I have been in touch and confess we have been missing each other and are looking forward to our reunion sometime in Late June or Early July.

Stay Tuned.

Go Here: For the next journal entry.

28 May 2021, from Santa Barbara to San Jose

… seeing familiar places and names.

The Dinner meeting on 26 May with son Alex and his lady, Lauren, was a smashing success from my point of view, even if the restaurant was too noisy. Alex and I caught up on things in our lives and in those of others. He continues to be successful at his day job with Campus Learning Assistance Services at UC Santa Barbara. And his musical group Killer Kaya, in which he is the bass guitar player, is wrapping up its next album.

I learned that Lauren loves to read science fiction and is writing something in that realm. She consented to look at my long-pending SciFi novel to advise me where it could be a more exciting page-turner.

Earlier in the day, after I checked out of the motel in Oak View, I had lunch in Ventura with a friend I hadn’t see in over 30 years. I invited her to write something for my Being Old blog. I hope she does. She has had an interesting life.

The traffic back to Ojai by Highway 33 was essentially stalled; there was one lane for two-way traffic on a busy highway, thus making it impractical to give myself a brief tour of Ojai. I was not disappointed, for I was tired and needed a nap before I met with Alex and Lauren. Just being in the environs of Ojai gave me the memory refresher I was looking for.

I checked into a justifiably cheap motel just off highway 101 in Goleta, north of Santa Barbara.

I was on the road very early next morning, without the benefit of coffee or breakfast. It wasn’t until I reached Los Alamos, 50 miles further that I, once again, found the perfect place for breakfast: Bob’s Well-Bread Bakery.

After great coffee and a filling breakfast, I was on my way. The gas tank gauge showed near empty, so I veered of the highway as soon as I saw the signage for a station ahead: Nipomo. Perhaps the gas station is the main business in town?

From Santa Barbara to San Jose, I was familiar with every name attached to towns and cities and river crossings and turnoffs at junctions. This is one reason why I am showing small pieces of the trip, so the names are more apparent. I have been on this piece of highway 101 perhaps 100 times, or more.

I didn’t stop again, not even at Paso Robles where I could have, as in the past, eaten an early lunch. I zipped on through knowing I would have to wait until King City to eat. Not far beyond Pas Robles in a town I have never visited: San Miguel. I thought there might be a place to eat. No. But the entrance to the town was picture-worthy:

Readers of this journal who are from, or who have lived in California will be familiar with the establishment of 21 Catholic Missions during the Spanish era.

King City was a bust. I was looking for iced tea and apple pie, at a place I have stopped many times. It had changed owners and apple pie was not on the menu. I took the iced tea to go.

Next target, Gilroy, the Garlic Capital of the World. I got off the highway here, wanting to travel to the home of Ken, my son-in-law, by the back roads which are full of hills and agriculture.

The roads roughly parallel highway 101 to the west.

I made it!

I was tired, but I stayed up until 10PM with Ken and his two daughters, my granddaughters, Sydney and Sonya. We had a grand time eating Ken’s excellent cooking, talking and looking at family photos I had brought along on a thumb drive.

I’m going to settle in for around two weeks (thanks Ken!) and create the details of my further travels to visit many friends and family. First stop, the burial place of my old pal Fred Pape.

Stay Tuned!

For the next journal entry: GO HERE

26 May 2021, Traveling the Breadth of California

… and most of it through desert.

I released myself from the hotel/casino palace at 7AM, after a breakfast of fruit cup (which included some nice berries) and coffee, purchased from a small konditori adjacent to the hotel lobby. No other eating places were open. There was a half-loaf of formerly fresh, seeded bread and a banana in the car, left over from the day before.

The hotel is located near the entrance to US 15 South, so I was quickly on my way to Southern California, but not so far south as Los Angeles—I pray I never to have to be there again.

The plan was, first, to take US15 to Victorville, California—the area outlined in red at the bottom left:

Highway 15 goes mostly through desert until it reaches Victorville. Two oases, shown along the route as dots in the map, are the cities of Baker and Barstow (affectionately known as ‘Barstool’ to aficionados).

The prospect of being in Baker intrigued me because I have a California-born friend in Sweden with that last name. I wondered what I might find there to tease him with. In addition, there were many roadside advertisements for a restaurant in Baker named “The Mad Greek’s” beginning at least 50 miles ahead of it. (Note: three of my grandparents were born in Greece).

A few miles before I reached the border of the town, I saw a sign that read: “Welcome to Baker, Gateway to Area 51” which, if examined closely, is not strictly true, since Area 51 is in an area north of Las Vegas (click the link, above). Nonetheless, it seems that the town, or some people in it, have adopted Area 51 as their own, including the putative aliens (who were captured along with their flying saucer) that the U.S. Air Force is allegedly holding there for the CIA to allegedly examine them. Here is an effigy of one of the aliens which greet the traveler from the east:

Also, the Mad Greek is advertising his gyros in the background.

I stopped to examine the alien. It was advertising “Alien Fresh Jerky” at this establishment:

Another advertisement at the roadside, by the parking lot:

Upon parking the car, I heard strange, irregularly intermittent squawking sounds. Could these be the aliens? Or was the sound transmitted by a hidden speaker? Finally, the source, no doubt guarding the parking lot:

I have seen many ravens at high desert altitudes in Arizona and California, at ~3000 feet of elevation. Their wingspread is surprisingly wide when first seen in full.

The Mad Greek’s was a disappointment. It was ‘temporarily closed’. It was a small place with garish, Greek-themed decorations and colors—not at all inviting.

Heading into Barstow, new and intriguing signs regularly appeared “Peggy Sue’s 50’s café”. I was ready for another old-fashion café. “Peggy Sue” was a popular song by Buddy Holly in 1957:

If you knew Peggy Sue
Then you’d know why I feel blue
Without Peggy, my Peggy Sue
Oh well I love you gal, yes, I love you Peggy Sue

It was not a disappointment. I was greeted in the parking lot by the café’s wandering tortoise:

Here’s the history of the place on the back of the extensive menu:

In addition to being a popular café, evident from the many customer almost filling the large place, it is a museum of artefacts of cartoon characters and effigies and photos of movie stars and the roles they played. And, like the cafes I remember from my youth, the was a tall, refrigerated glass cabinet filled with lemon meringue and apple pies.

I had scrambled eggs with rye toast and tomato juice.

The next leg of my journey was from Barstow to Palmdale where I would turn south on highway 14 toward Santa Clarita at bottom left):

For no reason that I can remember, I turned left at Elizabeth Lake Road where Highway 138 turns eastward from its coterminous path with Highway 14, instead of continuing south on Highway 14, and it was a serendipitous error.

I realized something was not quite right when this ‘Elizabeth Lake Road’ started winding its way deeper into the hills. Finally, I came to an intersection where I had to make a decision. Did I want to go to north toward Lake Hughes, or did I want to go, apparently, southwest on San Francisquito Canyon Road toward Green Valley? I knew I was ‘lost’, but I didn’t feel lost. I was headed in the right direction and the countryside was inviting. Green Valley seemed like a place to travel through, so I did. It was a lovely ride, with light traffic so I could travel below the speed limit to enjoy the farms and fields and green hills.

San Francisquito Canyon road, from where I entered it, is a descending mountain road roughly paralleling the route of the Los Angeles Aqueduct, the huge, white pipes of which I could crawling over the mountain ridges visible from the road. I turned a corner, and there they were, all three together, descending at 45˚ down a slope I was about turn toward:

Los Angeles takes water from many other places, north and east and from underground, and these pipes deliver it. When in Arizona, I wrote a short article for my Pavellas Perspective blog on the subject: In the Great Sonoran Desert.

To shorten this story, for I am about to leave Santa Barbara early morning 27 May, San Francisquito Canyon Road connects with Copper Hill Drive which connect with Newhall Ranch Road which crosses US Highway 5 at Castaic Junction where I entered the intended road toward Ventura–State Highway 126. Here’s the maze at Castaic Junction:

From Ventura I would drive the familiar Route 33 to Oak View and the Oakridge Inn, a few miles south of Ojai.

The remainder of this day’s trip, a visit with a friend I hadn’t seen in 30 years, and later with my son and his lady in Santa Barbara, will begin the next journal entry.

Stay tuned.

For the next journal entry: GO HERE

24 May 2021, Chandler, AZ to Henderson, NV

I set the alarm for 05:30 AM but couldn’t sleep past 03:30. I don’t feel wired for this next leg of my trip, but I do feel focused.

04:30 AM. I have been dithering about the route to take. There are three ways I’ve considered but now, at this sitting, I’ve decided on the shortest, most direct route even though I am unsure of the road conditions.

I will take the route in bold blue, the light blue route being obviously more complicated and longer. The original route I had fixed on was to get first to Flagstaff, then head due west to Kingman. I have just calculated this to be around 450 miles, which now seems ridiculous, given I can use ‘bold blue’ and travel only 289 miles.

That’s it. I’ve settled on it.

At 09:30 AM, Andrea will follow me in her car as I return the rental car to a local retail outlet, then deposit me and my goods at the Phoenix airport (PHX) where I’ll pick up the next rental car, which is a one-way rental. I’ll return this car to the San Jose airport (SJC) no more than a week later.


Last evening, I once again had a delightful time at the home of granddaughter Sabrina, her husband Chris and their three-year-old force of nature, Quinn. Andrea was there too, of course.

Chris had been preparing the main dinner item for several hours, marinating and cooking pork ribs. As I told Chris at the dinner table, while my hands were covered with pork fat, words cannot convey the actual experience of the animal joy in eating cooked pork just waiting to drop off the bone with the slightest touch. There was corn on the cob and salad, as well, the latter prepared by Andrea. We had, as dessert, the last of the Quinn’s birthday cupcakes.

Here is Chris’s cooker, the Traeger Pro 780:

I will forward this picture to Eva’s son Simon who, as a dedicated outdoor griller, will be envious, I reckon. I hope this doesn’t get me in trouble with his wonderful wife Josefine.


Here’s the view from the hotel room:

I arrived around 5:30 PM after leaving Phoenix around 12:00 Noon. I stopped once, briefly for a cup of coffee to go at McDonald’s.

The highlight of the trip was to see, at certain elevation levels (I think between 2000 and 3000 feet), many square miles of Joshua trees and saguaro cactus. There were some large and fantastic blooms on other plants I couldn’t identify. This and my earlier experiences tell me that May is the time to see the desert.

The highway, US 11, seems to be new one, bypassing and replacing US 93, which you can see below. As it passes over the Colorado River on Hoover Dam, all one can see is concrete—no views.

The practical values of the dam are water supply and electricity. The electricity part is evidenced by a forest of electrical towers and transformers as one approaches the dam from the Arizona side of the border.

When Las Vegas comes into sight from the heights above it and Henderson, the larger hotel/casinos seem to jut ingloriously from the desert, which is now covered with urban sprawl. And, everywhere, we are surrounded by mountains, including during the major portion of this trip.

There were few sights similar those I saw in northern and eastern Arizona; that is, the rock and landscape formations and colors. The colors seen from this highway are mostly black and grey and dull brown. Other than the aforementioned plants and chaparral, the vegetation seems to have a difficult time to find suitable rooting opportunities.

The hotel is a palace, but almost all the guests are casually dressed. I did not feel out of place as I approached the front desk in my rumpled cargo shorts and sandals, with my shirt untucked (but buttoned, of course). The hotel is proud of being the home of the Raiders football team headquarters, so Raiders imagery and paraphernalia dominate portions of the hotel and integrated casino.

The room, despite I paid the same as for a motel room through a third-party service, is (I’m writing from it now) too grand. Two king-size beds, a glass-enclosed area containing a shower, a separate bathing tub, a sink with two bowls, an ‘electric mirror’ with a control wand (I have no idea), and more.

I needed to eat. In my tired state I chose the nearest restaurant adjacent to the hotel lobby. It was expensive. I chose the least expensive but appealing item on the menu which could constitute a meal: seafood louie. It was unusual but was an excellent meal, with crustaceans, molluscs, avocado and finely chopped vegetables contained by a cordon of thinly sliced cucumbers,  all in a circular pile. There was other stuff in it too; I’m not a foodie.

I made notes on the trip before the food arrived. My final note was that it didn’t feel right that Eva was not with me.


I did my gambling pretty much as had planned, but there was no Caribbean stud poker. Instead, I played ‘heads-up hold’em poker.’ It is a variation on the game I hadn’t played before; it was entertaining, and enjoyable because of two other players who were pleasantly sociable. I think I broke even in my betting. I had already played at the roulette table, in the manner described in a previous journal entry, and I was able to walk away with at least half the money I had allocated for the game. Then the poker machines and one-armed bandits (which no longer have arms) gave me no joy, and I walked away before they reached too deeply into my pocket.

I got to sleep at 10 PM, but couldn’t sleep past 3:30 AM, hence my finishing up this journal entry at close to 5:00 AM, on May 25.

Next: breakfast in the hotel, then on to Ojai (after I pay the valet parking attendant). I will stay in a motel in Oakview which is around 5 miles farther down the road toward Ventura, and cheaper than those in Ojai.

The following day I will have dinner with son Alex, whom I haven’t seen in two years.

PS: the rental car I used when based in Chandler showed I put 1,864 miles on it.

Stay tuned.

For the next journal entry: GO HERE

22 May 2021, Chandler, AZ

After the long trip through three states and back, it’s time to stay put, recover, and visit with family.

I’ll resume my journey two days from now, with overnight stays in Henderson, Nevada and Oakview, California, near Ojai, which town is my objective. My former wife Mary and lived there with our three children, and we all still love the place. See here about it.

I also had a job there, as chief executive of the community hospital, thirty years ago. I am hopeful I will be able to visit the current executive to see what we may have to say to each other. I am among the small percentage of people who like hospitals; I especially like the people who work in them.

Then I’ll move on to visit my son Alex in Santa Barbara.

While Andrea has been working at her job, I’ve been doing a few chores for her. Everything requires car travel here, unless one lives next to one of the many large strip malls and shopping centers. This gives her more time at home, and more time for us to be together. One of the delightful things about this visit is to sit with her on her little patio in the morning, to chat or just be.

This picture was taken at mid-afternoon, so the morning birds are avoiding the high sun. They are all over the place in the early morning, offering us a pleasant racket as background.

I didn’t get all of skooter, the cat, in the lower left. He doesn’t bother the birds, but they may bother him.

One early chore was to get some things at the local pharmacy.

Returning home the short distance, I saw some youngsters waving CAR WASH signs for the church near Andrea’s home. I was not in a hurry, it was not yet hot, and the young people were engaging, so I laid out a mere $5 for a splendid car wash. I brushed off the feeling that I was supporting slave labor; there were so many people attending my car, in fits and starts, I felt that there were more person-hours than $5 should buy. But of course, they were volunteering for their church. I felt good about it.

Another chore today entailed a visit to a large, upscale shopping center in a nearby city. I arrived around noon, so I thought I’d take lunch with myself there. There were many places to eat, around the central area containing the boutiques and department stores. I chose one because the menu offered sushi, even though it offered mainly beef steaks and the like, as well. And, it was close by where I had to perform the chore.

It has been said before in rants, ironic jokes, and in despair: there is no quiet establishment which serves the general public, especially if it serves food and drink.

Three masked young women greeted me at the entrance counter of a fancy-looking (but ersatz, by my taste) restaurant/bar. One of the women greeted me rapidly in a high-pitched, girlish voice, through her COVID mask.

“I’m old, I don’t hear well, please slow down and speak more distinctly.”

I guess she tried, but I have found that the less experienced service worker is so programmed that an unusual request is not computable. I still couldn’t get what she said to me.

The tallest of the girls lowered her mask and said in a deeper voice and less rapidly, “bar or dining area?” I got it and explained to the three that high-pitched voices usually defeat me, and I could better understand the lower-pitched voice of the other girl/woman. The latter smiled nicely, and someone led me to a table after I thanked them all for their patience with me.

At the table: audible content from the sports bar 50 feet away; thumpity-thump music overhead; voices of other diners, mostly high-pitched and female, bouncing off the hard surfaces everywhere; the occasional outcry from an infant.

The female waiter listened better and did respond accordingly as we tried to understand each other. (Notice what I did there? I did not call her a waitress, which I would have done without any self-consciousness ten or twenty years ago).

Once the waiter and I locked onto each other we both repeated my order three times to be sure there was no misunderstanding.

There were a few minor missteps not worth mentioning, because the waiter was pleasant and trying her best. Upon receiving the bill, I was astounded at the price of the meal. The menu was printed on a computer printer, both sides, and had been shrunk to fit. I don’t remember seeing any prices but assumed it would be similar to other places at which I had eaten. No! I am not easily off-put, but I am still growling to myself about it. (I did leave a standard percentage tip).

Now, you must be thinking I’m some kind of curmudgeon, and you are right. Former wife Mary, 40 years ago, gave me a T-shirt to wear which had the legend “Curm” on it. I wore it, occasionally (certainly not at work), until I felt I had done my penance.

I am thinking nostalgically of the old-fashion café I visited in Cortez, Colorado. No piped-in music, quiet conversations, sound-absorbing wooden walls and fixtures, lots of support beams, vertical and horizontal to break up the sound. Order takers who spoke clearly and directly and listened well.

Here’s a little fiction I wrote on this subject two years ago: Curmudgeon

Next Journal entry will be from M Resort at Henderson, Nevada (I got a cheap room).

20 May 2021, Chandler, AZ

New territory in Arizona, and a long ride back

Yesterday, I drove around 500 miles from Durango, Colorado to Chandler, Arizona, the major portion of which was at altitudes between 5000 and 7000 feet.

Upon reaching Chandler I took a shower, had a 90-minute massage by Anna at ‘Yo Yo Foot Reflexology & Body Massage’, and ate a sushi dinner, topped off with a pint of ice cream—“Death by Chocolate”.

Other than to experience the scenery which I will discuss below, I had two major accomplishments: I had a breakfast in a good old-fashion American café, and I was able to satisfy my normal human needs for waste elimination despite there being long stretches of road where opportunities for this were nil—at least in private.

My original plan was to drive to Flagstaff, Arizona and stay overnight before returning to my daughter’s home in Chandler, Arizona, a distance of 170 miles. I imagined I would be too tuckered out to continue my trip from Durango, Colorado, around 320 miles, not counting the extra mileage from tooling around trying to find things and places in town. I discovered I wasn’t tuckered when I reached Flagstaff at around Noon. The lady at the desk of Green Tree Inn, Flagstaff was completely accommodating when I told her, in person, that I wanted to cancel my reservation. I ate lunch further on down the highway at a real drive-in restaurant, like the old days, Sonic Drive-in, Camp Verde, Arizona: A Sonic cheeseburger without the cheese, and an iced, sweet raspberry tea. (They had a toilet, also).

The first part of the return trip was on the same road I traveled the day before, US Highway 160 to Teec Nos Pos.

(That’s Durango at the upper right—the dark blue line is the road I traveled).

I wanted to have breakfast in a locally owned café, not a chain outlet, but I couldn’t find one in Durango, so I took my chances, hoping to find one in Cortez, 45 miles on US Highway 160, back toward Arizona.

The drive started in the very early morning, the sun just over the peaks to the east. One always sees thing returning on a road one didn’t see the first time: the sun slanting off snow-tipped mountains, the green of the trees, the passes curving down into broad valleys with rivers and creeks with water in them, unlike those in Arizona and New Mexico.

I found a café in Cortez on the highway, Pippo’s Café, 101 West Main Street. Right away I knew I had found the right place: there was no YOU MUST WEAR A MASK sign at the entrance. And, sure enough, no one in the small eating area was wearing one, nor were the servers. Wooden tables and chairs, décor so familiar I didn’t even notice it, humorous sayings tacked to the wall and support columns, no canned music. I had oatmeal with rye toast and coffee. One sign bragged about the coffee, and the sign was true. It was the best cup, and refill, I’ve had in years. They had a toilet.

It was only 45 miles to Teec Nos Pos, located at the junction of two highways. I would continue, now, on a new road for me, the continuation of Highway 160. I had reached this junction the day before on Highway 64 from Shiprock.

Along the way to Tee Noc Pos I saw the great Ute Mountains in full, in the morning sun. I can see why the Ute Tribe reveres them.

I traveled on highway 160/491, my eyes unable not to gaze, as much as safety allowed, on the north side of the mountain ridge, all in green (two shades), above. I was like another planet, a place where no one could live, but would want to visit.

I passed by the Casino and Four Corners, where I left Colorado and entered Arizona, and then quickly on to Tee Noc Pos.

From this point westward on Highway 160, the greens of the landscape faded away and the reds and dark browns, greys and blacks dominated.

Another planet, again, with the land tending toward red colors, more intensely as I went deeper into the territory. Sometimes I would round a tight bend in the road and come across gullies and canyons and tortured-looking shapes that had no seeming connection to the landscape on the previous side of the bend.  Although vegetation was sparse and sporadic, some places would be black with no vegetation, nor any promise of it.

The whole of the landscape, in all its varieties, seemed shaped by the weather, primarily water. But where was the water? It had to be the sporadic large downfall which quickly drained off and evaporated, over uncountable millions of years. This is the most vivid impression of my experience in this part of Arizona—unimaginable lengths of time, great upheavals from inside the earth and possibly from outside, as in meteorites and, certainly, the constant wind.

When there were broad vistas, the distant mountains and ridges to the north and west often had the peculiar shapes I saw in other parts of Arizona and in New Mexico. The distant ridges were often mesas, like this one I saw nearby at the settlement of Red Mesa:

I was anticipating my arrival at the next larger settlement, a town, where I could possibly have a toilet break. This was Kayenta. There was a Burger King. Mask on, enter, go to the toilet, order a cup of coffee, and off to the road again.

Soon after leaving Kayenta, rocks and formations such as there appeared to my left:

(Credit: Sea of Blush)

Yet another planet.

Seventy-five miles later I was in Tuba City, but I didn’t stop to tour the many shops advertising their Navajo and Hopi wares. I could see now that if I kept on going  I could be in Flagstaff by noon and could cancel my reservation.

The landscape continued to fascinate me; no picture or words can recreate it. This is why I traveled here. I will carry these images with me.

Highway 160 ends shortly after Tuba City where I turned due south on Highway 89 toward Flagstaff. The notable aspect of the landscape was San Francisco Peaks, covered with snow. The pass over this ridge was at 7286 feet, and then to Flagstaff.

On 24 May I plan to go back to Flagstaff, but then turn westward toward California and another adventure.

See you then.

Now to celebrate my daughter’s 58th birthday with her daughter’s family, including her precious granddaughter Quinn—at Benihana’s, a new experience for Quinn.

To see the next journal entry, GO HERE.

 

 

18 May 2021, Durango, Colorado

An addendum, three states, four corners, Nature’s monuments, elevations, and luck at the Ute Mountain Casino

An addendum to 17 May 2021, Gallup, New Mexico.

In my emails to Eva, I often include information I haven’t put into this journal, for one reason or another. She suggested I include the following:
Gallup is the town that time forgot (at least the old town). The new town is an abomination of large and huge (Walmart ‘Supercenter’) retail outlets and tourist accommodations. There used to be ‘Route 66‘ that went from Chicago to Santa Monica (Los Angeles County, at the beach). A great and popular song was written about it: Get Your Kicks on Route 66.

The lyrics read as a mini-travelogue about the major stops along the route, listing several cities and towns through which Route 66 passes: St. Louis; Joplin, Missouri; Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; Amarillo, Texas; Gallup, New Mexico; Flagstaff, Arizona; Winona, Arizona; Kingman, Arizona; Barstow, California; and San Bernardino, California.” (Wikipedia)

Route 66 was replaced by the modern freeway, US Highway 40, which bypassed all the towns that were nourished by the traffic on Route 66 and thereby consigned them to the dust heap. A book was written about this phenomenon, Blue Highways by William Least Heat Moon by William Least Heat Moon (yes!) Gallup’s old town is fading away, ingloriously and not attractive in any way.


I was up very early, performed some communication via Internet, then set out for breakfast in ‘new’ Gallup. The info on my ‘machine’ (that’s what I call my mobilfone) told me that breakfasts in Gallup happen at chain fast food places. So I said to myself, “Pav, you have eaten Egg McMuffin with sausage upon occasion; don’t be grumpy and get on down there.” So, I did, but the main dining area wasn’t yet open (I assumed), just the drive in/takeout. I wanted to sit down, so I went a little further up into the big strip mall, to Denny’s. I tried to get in, but the front door was locked. A sign read: “We are now open at 6AM”. Good, I thought, noting the time was 5:55 AM. So, I waited. Waited. Nobody unlocked the door. I went up to the front door and peered in: “We serve takeouts only”. Aha! That’s why McD’s is taking drive-in orders only. The COVID. So, I got my egg and sausage sandwich and coffee, which I ate while parked in the parking lot. I didn’t spill any food or coffee in the car.

Before I take us on the day’s journey, I will show you the elevations of the places I have been and passed through so you can understand (which I didn’t, until late in today’s journey) why I felt tired and sluggish, especially when out of the car walking to somewhere close by.

Place Elevation, feet
Chandler, AZ 1 214
Flagstaff, AZ 6 909
Gallup, NM 6 467
Shiprock, NM 4 892
Beclabito, NM 5 574
Teec Nos Pos, AZ 5 210
Four Corners Monument Entrance, NM ~5 000
Ute Mountain Casino, CO 6 007
Cortez, CO 6 191
Mancos, CO 7 028
Durango, CO 6 522

The name “Shiprock” easily conjures a picture in one’s head. I was prepared to spot the “rock” after which, I assumed, the town toward which I was first headed, was named. “There it is, on the left!”

Uh, no–sorry Pav. This strange peak was not close enough to the town, and as I, much further down the road, saw the real thing there was no way to stop and take an image of it.  I turned left onto state highway 64 and, as the real rock kept to my leftward view, I finally had a chance to pull over on the right and take pic:

This road was like a washboard all the way to the Arizona border (I was going west again) where it immediately improved. I wish I had had the chance to safely pull over to take pix of the amazing rock walls of huge gullies the road bridged over. Once in Arizona territory it was a relatively quick trip, into New Mexico again, and to the entrance of Four Corners Monument (not “National” monument which I had mistakenly reported earlier–and thereby hangs the next tale):

The Navajo Nation Parks and Recreation Department had closed it due to COVID.

There was another tourist at the entrance, looking at a map spread out on his car’s hood. I walked up to him and commiserated at this turn of events, although not deeply. I could see the spot where the four corners of the four states lay together, approximately, so I counted this as having achieved the objective. Andy and I had a nice chat, I gave him my card so that he might read that I had named him here, and we went on our separate ways.

US route 160, east, immediately enters Colorado from the entrance to Four Corners. Southern Colorado is beautiful. The scenery is exactly what I was hopeful of. Here are Nature’s monuments, spread into the far distance beyond the high plains. No camera can match the experience. I felt full and peaceful, but I still had to drive at high speeds or be run over by the occasional truck. I was able to pull over to view a marvelous ridge of mountains:

Further on, I saw what I believe to be one of the sacred mountains of the Ute Tribe, some of whom still live here:

I had seen signs along the way advertising the Ute Mountain Casino, and as I approached it I could see that it was of significant size and quality. I stopped to rest and play a while. Masks, of course, were mandatory. The COVID had shut down the roulette and 21 tables, but the slot machines were many. I played a while and after having increased my fortune by $60, I decided to quit and have lunch in the dining room.  Good casinos typically underprice their food and it is often quite good. I had steak and eggs. Good–more than I should have eaten. I huffed and puffed a little bit as I, slower than usual, walked 150 steps back the car. I attributed this my full stomach and, possible, being tired. I later saw (above) that the elevation was 6007 feet, the same elevation as at Lake Tahoe in California which, when I visited there, took me a day to adjust to.

It was only 15 minutes to Cortez, after which the highway took a roundabout below the end of a ridge of snow-topped mountains into a luscious green landscape, so different from Arizona and New Mexico. It was almost breath-taking after being surrounded by and immersed in the desert.

I found my lodging in Durango, the Holiday Inn, with comfortable accommodations. It was a welcome change. I haven’t explored Durango but from what I saw, it seemed as a large and bustling city. But, Wikipedia has it at a population of around 19,000! (Source)

After checking in. I immediately set up my IdeaPad to begin the day’s journal. I couldn’t get into the Hotel’s internet for an obscure reason. After trying everything I knew how to try (which is not inconsiderable, because I been computing since the early 1980s) I asked for help. The manager of the Hotel, with the wonderful name of Phoebe Ogden, personally visited my laptop, in my room, and solved my problem. And now you are reading all about it.

For Rebecca and Stefan: Here’s beer I had at dinner:

Tomorrow: Back to Flagstaff.

Go Here: for the next journal entry.

 

 

17 May 2021, Gallup, New Mexico

From Chandler, AZ to Flagstaff, AZ to Gallup, NM

The trip took around 6 hours, including a brief stop for a snack at Taco Bell, in Flagstaff (where I experienced a brief hailstorm), and some wandering around in Gallup, 190 miles later, before I found Red Roof Inn.

After checking in and unloading my stuff to the room, I went looking for a place to have a cup of coffee and write some notes for the journal. I ignorantly went in the wrong direction on the highway/freeway and found I couldn’t turn back until I had traveled 24 miles and had reached Lupton, in Apache County, Arizona, just over the border from New Mexico, a place I had already zipped by at 75 MPH, around an hour earlier.

So, add another 48 miles to the ~300 I had already traveled.

But, there was a place to have a cup of coffee—Speedy’s Truck Stop. Speedy’s serves Lupton’s few locals (Pop. 25) and the many truckers (and lost souls such as I) who travel US Highway 40.

It is a restaurant and a food, drinks and snacks store, with Indian-looking faux artifacts and children’s gewgaws for the occasional tourist, plus small tools and supplies for truckers and other motorists. And toilets, and fuel.

The large interior is very neat and well-tended. It appears to have once been a small plane hangar, or an industrial plant of some sort which needed a very high ceiling and lots of open space.

Below, a view from Speedy’s. Those are loaded railroad cars you see. Gallup seems to be a hub for many, very long trains going both east and west. [If you right-click on any image, and then click on ‘open image in new tab’, you will get a larger, more detailed view]

I assume all the staff are Navajo, or at least Native American—they appeared to be so. I had a heavy, deep-fried beef and bean burrito with my coffee. Another view from Speedy’s. We are at 6000 feet elevation here.

Earlier, in approaching Flagstaff from the south, I was reminded of the last time I took this route. It was in July 1995. I was just out of a job and a marriage. To clear my mind and soul to prepare for the next iteration of my life, I decided to travel in Arizona, the northern part I had not yet seen. A friend had a friend in suburb of Flagstaff. She set me up with that friend so I could have a place to stay on my way through. I was a beautiful setting, the balcony overlooking a thick forest (the elevation is between 6,000 and 7,000 feet around Flagstaff).

As I relaxed into the view and the sounds of the forest, I began to ponder my life’s path. I perceived recurring patterns. Try as I might, to go in direction A or B, I seemed always to revert to C. And, after some thought-less viewing of the forest, I found myself at peace and wrote this:

Words to describe my path:

To let go; to not-cling
To accept; things are as they are
To be open; to learn about the universe/my “self”

To live simply
To nourish loving relationships
To create and maintain a private space
To contribute to useful processes
To avoid negative people and processes.

Twenty-six years later, these phrases are still true for me.

Go here for the next journal entry

 

14 May 2021, A trip to Green Valley

Yes, in the desert of Arizona, near the Mexican border at Nogales.

Green Valley is twenty miles south of Tucson and 40 miles north of Nogales, Mexico. Green Valley is an unincorporated retirement community composed of 59 Homeowner Associations. (Source)

Why was I there?

No, it isn’t because Green Valley is home to the Titan Missile Museum, America’s largest nuclear weapons museum. (Source).

It is because a friend, whom I hadn’t seen in 30 years, lives there. Here is about her, in my ‘Being Old’ blog: “From Nanci Thomas.” She wrote this memoir for my blog five years before she moved to Green Valley. She has a brother here.

(Note— the first journal entry, “About”, contains this item: “I will reminisce as I travel routes to and through familiar places, and will record many of these memories to the journal.” Today’s entry contains some soulful, sometimes sad, reminiscences.)

Mary, my former wife, and I met Nanci and her husband Dave Thomas in Anchorage, Alaska where I then lived and worked. We were social and did things together. Dave had been a military officer in the Vietnam War. It had affected him deeply.

Both families left Alaska around the same time, met up again, briefly in California, then lost track of each other. Later, I was working as the chief executive of a general hospital in Ventura County, California. Dave walked into my office seeking help for a medical condition, and I gave him an appropriate referral. I learned that Dave and Nanci were living in Santa Barbara, less than an hour’s drive from Ventura. Shortly after Dave’s visit, Nanci informed me by telephone that Dave had died, and there would be a memorial service at the beach in Santa Barbara. Here is what I offered.

“Dear Dave,

You will remain with me as a singular man: highly charged, a carrier of great secrets, imbued with ancient codes of honor, duty, loyalty and, perhaps, some with no name.

Your presence was stimulating, sometimes compelling and always interesting.

Your spirit is now released, and I rejoice in your having found peace.

Farewell, friend.”

Nanci and I have stayed in touch since then.

(Note: David Thomas is not the only man I have known who was damaged by his being active in the Vietnam War. I was lucky to be too young for the action in Korea, although I served during the official period of it, and too old and otherwise ineligible for the conflict in Vietnam.)

Nanci is an artist. She has shared many of her paintings with me via the Internet. Being in Phoenix, only 140 miles north of Green Valley, accessible by well maintained freeways, I had the opportunity to see her, and I did.

I had traveled through this country 62 years ago when on a trip with my first wife, Patricia, on a sort of a honeymoon. (My father had given me a 1952 Ford sedan upon my leaving the Navy in 1958. I returned to live with the family while I attended a local  college.) Patricia and I had eloped to Reno to marry in February, 1959 during the academic year of our respective colleges in San Francisco. We immediately returned to continue our classes; we were then both living with my parents. We each had people we wanted to visit after the Spring semester ended, to present ourselves as a married couple. She wanted to visit her father in Ephraim, Utah; she hadn’t been with him since he left her and her mother when she was age 6. We necessarily had to pass through Salt Lake City, so Patricia decided to visit her father’s relatives there. We were not given a warm welcome.

We drove south to Ephraim, around 120 miles, and found her father living near the railroad tracks with his third wife, the only Catholic in a small Mormon town.

It was a not a pleasant visit. There was nothing to talk about, and Patricia’s father had no affection for his daughter. Her father’s wife was essential a blank for us. We escaped the next morning to travel to El Paso, Texas to visit one of my Navy buddies, living there with his pregnant wife and one child.

Across the Rio Grande from El Paso is the Mexican city of Juarez which, at the time, was as accessible as any neighboring USA city. Patrick took us on a tour of Juarez, a dim memory now except that we brought back to El Paso a bottle of Añejo Rum. Patrick and I drank it. We went back for more. Back again at his home, Patrick got violent, and we had to leave the next morning under a cloud of disappointment and unhappiness.

Our next objective was to visit my relatives, two aunts and an uncle, in Newport Beach, California. We traveled US Highway 10, which, in Arizona, connects Tucson and Phoenix. We entered Tucson at 2PM in June. It was so hot we couldn’t continue in a car that had no air cooling, so we went to an air-conditioned movie house. Upon leaving the movie, I remember the word ‘blast furnace’ entering my brain and leaving my lips. Nothing has changed since then, regarding temperatures in June. (PS: we had a good visit with my relatives, before traveling back to San Francisco. If you want to read a memoir about Patricia’s life, go here).

Yesterday, I left Phoenix around 8:30 AM when the temperature was in the 80s (the rental car politely tells me the outside temperature at all times). By the time I had gone 100 miles it was in the 90s, and when I arrived at Naci’s it was near 100 and climbing.

The landscape is strange. The desert is flat, with such close-by features as defined fields with and without fences, ditches, small settlements, and cactus and other desert flora. In the near distance, on any side, are strangely shaped, irregular mountains, extending over brief ranges.

There were also hills, shaped general like the image, above, closer by the highway. I imagined two things about these: They were former mountains and ranges which either: 1) were overcome by the rising elevation of the desert as it accumulated the eroded soil of all other mountains, over many millions of years; or, simply, had just eroded away from the high winds and occasional downpour, which sometimes is a monsoon. It seemed odd to have what appeared to be the top of a mountain, only a few hundred feet high, sticking out of the flat desert floor nearby.

In the far distance, always somewhere on the horizon, are large mountain ranges, with peaks and ridges similarly shaped as the above.

The speed limit is most often 75 miles per hour, or 120 Km/hr. I left US Highway 10 shortly after leaving Tucson to take US Highway 19 which ends at Nogales, Mexico.

Nanci’s house was easy to find. We hugged a greeting, stayed a short while in her house where I viewed some of her paintings and those of her brother in England, and their father’s, as well.

We set out in her car to travel further south to the town of Tubac, an artistic community.

It was too hot to see all there was to see, but we did enjoy a gallery of art by the Navajo artist R.C. Gorman, now dead. His father, Carl N. Norman. had been one of the “code talkers” in the Second World War. Here is a sculpture by R.C. Norman to honor his father.

We visited several stores that featured Native American art. I bought ceramic bowl, with lid, that has a beautiful western scene with horses etched lightly on its exterior. I also bought a cover for a couch pillow for our deep emerald green couch which needs some brightening (Eva agrees, but I don’t yet know whether this will meet her artistic standards.)

The heat finally stopped us from further exploration. So, we headed back to her place. It was soon time anyway for me to leave in order to avoid the rush hour in Greater Phoenix. It was good visit. She asked me to send her greetings to Mary when I (plan to) visit her next month in Berkeley; and also to Eva, fellow artist and wife of her friend, me.

In closing I offer an image of a great metal sculpture standing outside the gallery where I bought the ceramic bowl:

Stay tuned.

Go Here: for the next journal entry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

12 May 2021, Maricopa County, Arizona

A short trip for shoes, blooming cactus and a Mexican dinner

I have learned that one’s footwear has an important effect on one’s general health, including the psyche. Before beginning this journey, I became aware of a brand of shoes, engineered in Switzerland and manufactured in Germany and Italy, that promised me the best experience in this realm, to-date. I therefore planned a trip to the nearest retail store that carries the brand, in Scottsdale, a 35-minute mostly-freeway road trip north of Chandler, the Phoenix suburb where my daughter lives.

Look to the bottom of this Google Earth screenshot to locate Chandler. You can spot Scottsdale to the north, connected by a straight vertical line which is state highway 101. The political jurisdictions between Chandler and Scottsdale are, going north, Tempe, Mesa, and Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community. The names of some of the freeway offramps give us some flavor of area’s history:

Scottsdale Road. Named in 1894 after Winfield Scott, a retired U.S. Army chaplain.
Hayden Road. Arizona became the 48th state on February 14, 1912. Five days later Carl Hayden became the state’s first U.S. Representative.
Pima Road. The Pima or Akimel O’odham, “River People”, are a group of Native Americans living in an area consisting of what is now central and southern Arizona.
Frank Lloyd Wright Boulevard. Frank Lloyd Wright (1867 – 1959) was an American architect, designer, writer, and educator. He designed more than 1,000 structures over a creative period of 70 years. “Taliesin West” was architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and school in the desert. It is located in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Thunderbird Road. In American Indian mythology, Thunderbird is a powerful spirit in the form of a bird. By its work the earth was watered and vegetation grew. Lightning flashes from its beak and the beating of its wings represents the rolling of thunder.
Pima–Maricopa Indian Community
Via de Ventura. Road of Luck, Spanish.
Talking Stick Way. The talking stick is used by many tribes. It may be passed around a group, as multiple people speak in turn, or used only by leaders as a symbol of their authority and right to speak in public.
Chaparral Road. Chaparral is a shrubland plant system that occurs in central Arizona. The name comes from the Spanish word for place of the scrub oak, chaparro.
Indian School Road.
Rio Salado Parkway. Salty River, Spanish.
Superstition Freeway. The Superstition Mountains is a range of mountains located to the east of the Phoenix metropolitan area. They are anchored by Superstition Mountain.
Guadalupe Road. Our Lady of Guadalupe holds a special place in the religious life of Mexico and is one of the most popular religious devotions. Her image has played an important role as a national symbol of Mexico.

The drive north from Chandler was the usual freeway experience, although with a distinct Arizona flavor via the symbols and art etched in the concrete walls, overpasses and other structures.

Just as I crossed the border into the Scottsdale jurisdiction, the vastness of the desert and surrounding mountains was revealed. I sensed the eons of earth in the distant, craggy and oddly shaped mountains and ridges.

Greater Phoenix is at the bottom of the picture.

On view everywhere was blooming saguaro cactus.

I bought my shoes in Scottsdale then headed back to Chandler. As I foretold, Andrea and I were invited to a grand Mexican dinner by Christine and Mike, Quinn’s grandparents on her father’s side. I had had a number of pleasant conversations with Christine over the years at family gatherings, especially at the wedding of Quinn’s parents, but I hadn’t had a conversation with Mike. We discovered we had a lot in common:

  • He was born in Brooklyn; I lived in Brooklyn not far from where he had lived.
  • He was in the US Navy; I was in the US Navy.
  • His rating was electronics technician; mine was also.
  • After the Navy he lived and worked in and around Silicon Valley; me too, for a lot of my life.

The pinnacle of the day was the food. Christine had bought and prepared the ‘flat iron steak’ strips at a Mexican market (not in Mexico, you must understand) and marinated them for three days. Mike cut them into strips and grilled them. These became the main ingredient for the meal in which we made our own tacos and tostadas. There also was deep-fried fish to make fish tacos. Avocado, salsa, various sliced vegetables and condiments—all hard to remember at this sitting, all delicious. I made three corn tortilla tacos (wheat tortillas were available too).

After completely filling available space in mi estomigo, I was faced with the pleasant task of further expanding it with the dessert: Empanadas, soft fruit-filled turnovers. Ice cream and other accompaniments were offered, as well.

Thanks again, Christine and Mike.

Note: Present also were Quinn and her parents.


Tomorrow: A trip to Green Valley, Arizona, south of Tucson, to visit an old friend.

 

 

 

10 May 2021, Phoenix

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…

Food.

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.

Stay tuned.

Go here: for the next journal entry

8 May 2021, Phoenix

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!”

Quinn feeds “Baba” Andrea some cake.

 


Go to: for the next journal entry.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6 May 2021, Arlanda Stockholm Airport

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.


Go here: to see the next journal entry

4 May 2021, Stockholm

Nevada Casino Preview

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.

  1. Raise if the dealer’s card is a 2 through queen and matches one of yours.
  2. Raise if the dealer’s card is an ace or king and you have a queen or jack in your hand.
  3. 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!


Go Here: for the next journal entry

27 April 2021, Stockholm

“Prophylaxis for Dementia”

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.

Next event: the PCR test for antigens at ‘DocLab’, Stockholm.

Credit: technocracy.news

Go here: for the next journal entry.

24 April 2021, Stockholm

Beginning to start to commence to get ready.

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.

Stay tuned.

(Next Journal Entry)


Making new friends in Arizona, previous visit, 2019.

 

About

20 April 2021, Stockholm, Sweden, 

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