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.
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!”
After staying around a week with family in Phoenix, I will drive North 145 miles to Flagstaff and probably eat lunch there. Then, East on US Interstate Highway 40 for 148 miles to Kingman where I will stay overnight. I will take my time, probably stopping for some mementos of the trip from roadside vendors. I am especially interested in Native American art and artefacts.
I had originally thought of heading Northeast from Kingman on Arizona State highway 93 that leads to Henderson, Nevada, but I have checked the road conditions and find there are currently some closures on some parts of the road. Also, the general description of the highway is headlined as this, according to one website:
“U.S. Highway 93 Is 200 Miles Of White-Knuckle Driving In Arizona That’s Not For The Faint Of Heart (CAPS in the original). Arizona is full of roads with twists and turns galore, but this one just might take the cake. US-93, a highway with a southern terminus in Wickenburg, is 200 miles of pure white-knuckle driving. It’s a lot safer than it used to be, but the thrills of a curve-filled road are still undeniably there.”
So, as I travel further west on Interstate 40, I will turn north at Needles, California on a road that quickly becomes Nevada State Highway 95 for a 29-mile trip through the Mojave Valley to Laughlin, Nevada near Bullhead City.
I queried the Internet and found there are now at least a dozen casinos in Laughlin, many more than when I last visited decades ago. The gambling joints were then rather sad-looking compared to those in the larger cities of Nevada. Now there is even a Harrah’s casino, a high-class place found in other places in Nevada.
So, it looks like I’ll get to do the small amount of gambling I have in mind.
Some background on the gambling—
I learned to play poker, roll dice and pitch coins on the streets of Brooklyn where my family lived during my ages 9-to-14½. I furthered my education in this realm during my enlistment in the US Navy which ended in my 21st year. (Note: gambling is officially forbidden in the US Navy, under severe penalty).
When I was at the U. of Berkeley in the early 1960s, I had a good friend who enjoyed gambling as much as I. We read books, such as Scarne’s Guide to Gambling, to learn how to bet so that the odds were the least against us. At the time, we were interested in craps. So, we studied and practiced on a home-made board until we had some confidence and some extra money (we both worked for wages during our education). We weren’t looking to make a killing, but rather to play smart and enjoy the fun of it. We knew of one casino in Reno which, at the time, allowed a minimum bet of ten cents. That’s where we went. Of course, we didn’t make a killing but I do remember that we had fun and had no regrets upon returning back home to our studies (and family life for me—I was married but, as yet, without children. Patricia and I had eloped and were married in Reno, a few years earlier).
I made a few return trips to Reno to play other games. During one trip I met B.B. King in the Keno line. We shook hands, then bought our cards.
The honeymoon of my second marriage included a trip to Las Vegas, where a strange thing occurred.
I was at the time 35 years old, my hair not yet grey. I was slim and dark-haired, with heavy eyebrows. Mary and I were dressed up to go to a big show—I wore a dark suit and tie.
As we walked past the croupiers and dealers on the way to the showroom’s entrance, they each, in their turn as we passed by them, bowed to us—or rather to me, as Mary and I watched their eyes. At the showroom entrance the greeter immediately escorted us to a table at the edge of the stage. I offered no tip for this privilege.
We figured I looked like somebody and had a good laugh and a good time telling others about it afterward.
A few years later it happened again, and I got nervous. I vowed not to return.
But I did, decades later, with the woman who would become my third wife. I was then 30 years older, not as slim, and with a head full of grey hair. Neither was I wearing a suit and tie. I received no undue attention. The nervous feeling disappeared.
My intentions while in a casino in Laughlin are to play, briefly, four games of chance: roulette, Caribbean stud poker, a poker slot machine and, finally, the modern version of a “one-armed bandit” slot machine (which doesn’t have arms anymore).
The best way to bet on any game of chance is with a plan, and briefly. The longer one plays, the more the house is likely to get its percentage out of your bets. And one should bet, overall, no more than one is prepared to lose without any harm to you and yours.
So, will I spend no more than an hour, total, engaged with the above games.
Here is the layout of a roulette table:
I will buy 25 chips of modest denomination. At each of five turns of the wheel I will bet: one chip on No. 5, one chip on the intersection of 1-2-4-5, one chip on the intersection of 2-3-5-6, one chip on the intersection of 5-6-8-9, and one chip on the intersection of 4-5-7-8.
I am, in effect, betting 2 chips on No. 5, a half chip on Nos. 2-4-6-8, and a quarter chip on Nos. 1-3-7-9. The payout for any number that the ball lands on is 35-1. If the ball lands on 5, I will win 2×35=70 chips. If it lands on 2, or 4, or 6, or 8, I will win ½ of 35. If the ball lands on 1, or 3, or 7, or 9, I will win ¼ of 35 chips (somehow these bets get rounded out at the payout).
If during these five turns of the wheel the ball falls at least once into any number one through nine, I will consider that good luck and I will walk away with some chips.
Note: there is no magic in number 5. Once can pick any center number (except 2 and 35) and bet similarly. These center numbers allow you to bet in this pattern. There is no magic in the pattern. The little white ball doesn’t remember where it last landed, nor does it know where it will land next.
But, it does happen that the ball will land, consecutively, more than once in any given region. So, I will be betting that the ball will currently land more often in the region where I am betting. That’s it.
I was introduced to Caribbean stud poker in (wait for it!)—Stockholm, Sweden. Yes!
There are four casinos in Sweden, all called Casino Cosmopol, located in Sundsvall, Stockholm, Gothenburg, and Malmö. These are large casinos offering all types of games including slots, blackjack, poker and more. The minimum age to enter and play at these casinos is 20. All of the casinos are owned by Svenska Spel which is run by the government of Sweden. Svenska Spel prides itself on responsible gaming. And because it is run by the government, the profit made by the company goes to the national treasury of Sweden.” (Source).
Eva and I have visited Stockholm’s casino around 10 times in the nearly 20 years I have lived here. Compared to casinos in Nevada, Cosmopol is quiet and unexciting. But, I did learn about Caribbean stud poker which was offered some years ago but, apparently, no longer, according to my last visit.
It’s a simple game which is described under this link, and here: each person is playing against the house; not against other players. Both the player and the dealer receive a 5-card poker hand, all cards are face-down except one of the dealer’s five cards; that single card is turned face-up for all to see. If you fold your hand, you lose your ante bet. To play, you need to add an extra bet equal to twice the ante. So by folding, you save 2/3 the cost, resulting in a 1/3 loss. If you stay in, the only way to lose is for the dealer to show a hand which is at least Ace-King high that ALSO beats your hand. The ways to win are as follows:
If the dealer does not have A-K high or better: you win 1/3 the size of your total bets. If he does have A-K high, a pair, or better, and you beat him, you are paid even money on 1/3 your bet and paid the other 2/3 based on this pay-table:
So, one hopes to get a hand that beats the dealer’s and which has a high rank in the above table. These are rare occurrences. And, even if you do get a high-ranking hand, if the dealer doesn’t ‘qualify’ you don’t get the advantage of the high hand, but merely get paid at straight odds. To ‘qualify’, the dealer has to show an A-K high hand or better.
I will bet, modestly, no more than 10 times, then quit. There is a method in betting which can reduce the odds against the player to a minimum:
Always raise with a pair or higher, fold with less than ace/king, and raise on ace/king if any of the following three rules apply.
Raise if the dealer’s card is a 2 through queen and matches one of yours.
Raise if the dealer’s card is an ace or king and you have a queen or jack in your hand.
Raise if the dealer’s rank does not match any of yours and you have a queen in your hand and the dealer’s card is less than your fourth highest card.
By now I will have spent no more than 30 minutes in the casino.
I like the automatic poker machines because I like poker but no longer have the fortitude to play against other, experienced players—and I am familiar with the odds.
I will bet, modestly, 25 times then quit. I have, over time, been lucky with these machines, as I have occasionally with the one-armed bandits which will be the last stop, for no more than 10 turns of the reels.
That’s it. Back to the car and return to US Interstate 40 at Needles, California and westward toward Santa Barbara, California to visit son Alex.
As the dealers and croupiers inevitably say at the beginning of each game: Good Luck!
I’m quoting my friend Vasil who, as a retired physician and in his 91st year of life, has deemed my pending adventure, and especially this journal, just so.
With Vasil’s observation, and now having 44 ‘followers’, I feel motivated to perform my best effort in observing and writing during my travels, starting Thursday 6 May at Arlanda International Airport, Stockholm.
This date for departure allows me to participate in two birthday celebrations: The first annual födelsedag of step-grandson Samuel on the 5th in Stockholm, and the third annual observation of the birth of great-granddaughter Quinn, on the 8th in Arizona. How magical is this?
I have already contacted some relatives and friends in California about the possibility of visiting with them, with affirmative results. Other family members and friends are ‘followers’ and are hereby on notice that I’ll be contacting them directly sometime after I arrive in the ‘States’.
In California, I’ll be based at the home of my youngest granddaughter, Sonya, and her father, Ken. I will have the exclusive use of a 2008 Honda Civic which belongs to Sonya; she currently doesn’t use it. I have a fondness for the Honda brand, having successfully logged at least 100,000 miles in a 1988 Honda Accord which I gave to son Alex upon my move to Sweden. He was able to take its total mileage past one light-second before it expired.
I seem to have retained my faculties, but they operate at a slower pace than when I was younger. If I am rushed, I become anxious about forgetting something important for an extended trip away from home.
There are new things one must consider during this time of the COVID-19 epidemic. My itinerary is: Stockholm to Copenhagen; Copenhagen to Chicago; Chicago to Phoenix.
Currently, the Copenhagen airport requires I have proof of non-infection from a test performed no more than 24 hours from the time of my departure from the airport. I am scheduled to have this test in Stockholm at 4 PM on 5 May, the day before I take off from Stockholm to Copenhagen—6 May. The next plane is scheduled to leave Copenhagen at 3:45 PM. Whew!
Since I have had my two Pfizer injections, the last one on 9 April, and that I have no symptoms of illness, I have reason to be confident that I will have a successful test. We’ll see.
The rules and requirements in the USA keep changing, so I will have to learn what I have to show and prove after I land in Chicago on the same date, after around 8 hours of air travel. The same uncertainty holds for my landing in Phoenix, 4 hours after takeoff in Chicago.
If all goes right (fingers crossed) my daughter Andrea will greet me in Phoenix at around 10:30 PM, the same day, but around 18 hours after taking off from Stockholm.
Whatever complications may arise during this trip, I hope to be able, on May 8, to celebrate the 3rd anniversary of great-granddaughter Quinn’s birth in Gilbert, Arizona with other family members.
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