Chase Center is the new home of our Golden State Warriors, and this will be my first visit. The pandemic has delayed several previous attempts to attend a Warriors game here. They broke ground here on January 17, 2017. The architect was Manica Architecture. The $1.8 billion arena was privately financed by the Warriors. The area is known for being the home of UCSF Medical Center and Kaiser-Permanente.
Starting in 1964, I have seen the Warriors play in several different venues: old Civic Auditorium (Chamberlain vs Russell) in downtown San Francisco, the old Cow Palace (Championship in 1975) in South San Francisco, the Oakland Alameda County Coliseum, SAP Center in San Jose, and finally, the new Chase Center in Dog Patch, aka Mission Bay.
The team has $2 billion under contract from a cluster of founding partners, including tech giants like Adobe, Oracle, Google Cloud, Accenture, and, of course, JPMorgan Chase, which shelled out a reported $300 million to snag the naming rights to the stadium for 20 years. But they did not ask for any funding from the City and County of San Francisco.
The Center is home to the Warriors, and seats 18,064 fans. The grand opening was a Metallica and San Francisco Symphony concert on September 6, 2019. The Warriors finally played their first regular season game on October 24, 2019. I really could not fathom attending a concert here before attending a game.
Here is an interesting thought:
SF Muni • Your event ticket is also your all-day Muni ticket. Ride for free!
• Muni KT Line trains provide service to/from downtown San Francisco and Embarcadero BART Station. The UCSF/Chase Center (16th Street) K Ingleside/T Third and S Shuttle stop is located on 3rd Street. Kudos for the Warriors for doing this!! We will take BART from the East Bay, then Muni to the Arena.
What else can I tell you? Ticket prices are rather high. When my buddy, Big Bob first started looking, a lower-level seat was about $500. Let’s just say, I am a little better shopper. My sister and brother-in-law have season tickets, at least they did at the Oakland Arena. Maybe they will invite us to the “club” area?
Of course, my favorite player is Steph Curry. Before that, I enjoyed the Mitch Richmond and Tim Hardaway duo, and before that, Rick Barry. But the greatest Warrior ever was Wilt Chamberlain. I was able to see him play the Celtics and Bill Russell back in 1964-65.
So, this may be my only visit to Chase Center. I noticed the visiting Houston Rockets have a local kid playing for them. The second overall pick in the draft was Jalen Green, who went to nearby San Joaquin Memorial High School before joining the D League on a developmental contract.
So, Big Bob and I will BART over to the game, try some Chase Center food, and enjoy the game. Wait, our Niners are playing. Maybe we need to find a sports bar with good food, before hitting Chase?
Instead of telling you what we do or see in Vegas, I want to digress a little. Did you ever just stop and watch people walking around this city? I am sure it is an adequate demographic representation of our country, We see tourists, cowboys, sourdoughs, young couples, gays, families, seniors, Hawaiians, and deadbeats.
I know of very few people who have really made tons of money from a gambling trip to Vegas. I hear even professional gamblers have problems here. I do know that if you win too much, they will take you into a room and try to find out more about you. That is S.O.P. in this town. Of course, they want to get the money back, so they invite you to come back on comps. From this point on, you are a marked man/woman.
It never ceases to amaze me how the casino and retail staff in Vegas ends up in this town. We see employees from all over the United States, Europe, Asia, and of course, Hawaii. The lure of affordable housing is a major reason. Many people in Hawaii are able to buy a house in Vegas. Owning on the Islands is next to impossible, especially for the young couples. I always try to find out how some of these transplants ended up here.
I notice also the valet parking guys at casinos and shopping venues. Same guys, a few years older. I wonder how much longer the older guys can keep being valets. These guys run into the garage to retrieve the cars, hop in and out like acrobats, and never seem to get tired.
We try to get off the Strip and downtown when we can. We have found many interesting places just west of the downtown area, on Sahara and Charleston Streets. Sahara has tons of Asian businesses and restaurants. Charleston has a mix of suburbia, and old inner-city businesses. Out on Decatur, we have found the Blueberry Hill Pancake House, with our waitress friend, Suzie. It is just down the street from both Trader Joe’s, and the Las Vegas Indoor Flea Market. It is definitely a good way to escape the gambling for a morning.
There are two In N’ Out burger places near the Strip and downtown as well. This is a good inexpensive meal, and a little respite from glitter and neon. Plus, we see all types here, from casino employees to limo drivers and hipster doofus types.
I have never purchased a car in Vegas, but I hear it is cheaper than California prices. When the airport closed down a few years ago, stranded travelers actually bought cars to drive home. Rental cars, busses and trains were sold out. I imagine that used cars from the rental agencies must be very reasonable here.
Once we get out to the suburbs, Vegas is much like any busy city. Out towards the north and west of town, the area is very upscale. Many of the nicer, smaller stores, boutiques and restaurants are here. People out in the suburbs usually stay away from the Strip and downtown areas. And the freeways have improved for the commuters over the years. Other than the monorail, I have not ridden the bus here for decades. And taxi drivers are notorious for “padding” fares to and from the airport in particular. The limo services and casino buses are much more reasonable.
While I was not a big Vegas fan when I was younger, I do really miss the big-name stars. Where did they go? Sinatra, Sammy, Elvis, Nat? We are left with Barry, Wayne, Elton, and Bob. I think I would even settle for Bob Newhart or Bill Cosby. The production shows like Mamma Mia, HSM, and Jersey Boys just don’t seem very Vegas.
The Sports Books are an interesting place to hang out. It is easy to get caught up in the action on a Saturday or Sunday. Both the pro and college games draw tons of interest and money. A two or three game parlay has a good payout. I can usually get two of the three but miss on the third. I play too many of my favorites when I really should not. But on the plus side, I get a place to sit, free drinks, as much secondhand smoke (free) as I want, and ALL of the TV’s are showing the biggest games at the same time. I never worry about worry about who has the TV clicker at this place.
There will be a plethora of cowboys, cowgirls, and wannabees here this week. It is the National Finals Rodeo whatever that is. It cracks me up when these huge guys show up in cowboy boots and ten-gallon hat. When they walk out to their car, it’s a Cooper Mini or Prius. My question is, “who is watching the ranch when they are here?” But the advantage for us is the cow folk go to the steak joints and leave the rest to us. However, just about every singer in town this week is a twanger, aka country western singer. Give me some good old-fashioned rock and roll.
Fast forward to 2021: My brother will be in Vegas at roughly the same time. He is playing in the World Series of Poker (senior division). He is driving over with a friend, staying downtown at Main Street Station, and most likely, has little time to get together with us. But I wish him luck!
Most of us watched the World Series or listened on the radio during our childhood. We often tried to fake an illness to stay home on game days. When I was growing up, the games were only on the radio. Once they were televised, I just had to watch a weekday game, weekend games were not enough for a young baseball fan.
I resolved as I grew older, that I would attend the World Series. Back then my favorite team, since they were on TV all the time, were the mighty New York Yankees. Their stars were Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford, and later Roger Maris. And they won many world titles.
But in the late Fifties, the life of young baseball fans changed forever, when the Dodgers and Giants moved west. Coming from central California, we had to choose between the Giants and Dodgers. This was pretty easy, since the Giants had the best player of all time, the great Willie Mays.
I thought I might get to attend my first World Series game in 1962, when the Yankees played the Giants. I would be a sophomore in high school. We tried to get tickets, through mail order, but were unable. I was fully prepared to miss school to go to a World Series game.
Fast forward ten years to 1972. I was working at my first post college job at a pharmacy in Alameda, just across the estuary from Oakland. The Oakland Athletics were building a juggernaut of a team, led by Joe Rudi, Catfish Hunter and Reggie Jackson.
Many of the players lived in Alameda, and regularly offered tickets when they dropped by the pharmacy. We would often go, about 4 to 6 of us. Average attendance back then was three to four thousand since everyone hated the owner, Carlie Finley.
That year, 1972 was the first of three consecutive World Series wins for the Athletics. Tickets were hard to get, but we figured out a way to get tickets. Since parking was a mess, we rode up to the front and parked my roommate’s motorcycle in the front lot. Just as the anthem was finishing, we offered the scalpers about half price on their tickets. We were seated by the first pitch. Better yet, we were back home, sipping a cold beer in celebration, when the post-game show came on TV.
Though my son was an ardent fan, we had very few chances to attend the World Series during this youth. But along game 2010, the beginning of the Giants championship run on 2010, 2012, and 2014. My neighbor Donna and I decided to go to Game 2 in San Francisco against the Texas Rangers. I had a thousand dollars in cash, and we were not to be denied.
Things looked bleak for a while, as very few scalpers were around. Then I found them across the street from the stadium, and we were rushed by dozens of scalpers. I found a guy who had two seats, “near 3rd base” he claimed, and the price was right, $500 each! Again, we waited until the Anthem was played, and we sat down as Matt Cain delivered the first pitch. The game was a rout, our Giants won big, 9-0 on October 28, 2010. They would go on to win the Series 4 games to one.
And yes, if you are asking, there are few bigger sports thrills than seeing your hometown team in the World Series. It compares favorably to the Niners in the Super Bowl, the Dubs in the NBA Finals, or (see me praying on my knees) my California Golden Bears someday in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day.
My second trip to Greece in less than six months may not seem very adventurous to you. But I plan to make up for what little I saw last May, when the weather was too hot to do anything. So, I am hoping for weather in the 70s, cooler evenings, and more outdoor activities. We had several downpours as well, mostly in the evening.
But I plan on visiting the friends I made on my last visit, Stavros, George, and Vasili. And I also plan on getting more adventurous with my Greek meals, wine, and neighborhoods. I know how to use the Metro and can get most anywhere on the mainland. But as you know, walking the big city is one of my big thrills when I travel. I also met a young Belarus girl, who also works there. Karina is studying to join the travel industry, and loves to speak English, along with her Greek and Russian.
Interesting things happen here. Just as I am paying for my dinner, after FIVE complimentary glasses of house white wine, the staff asked me to stay a few more minutes. The couple next to me, from Connecticut, were about to have a marriage proposal. She was totally surprised, and he even got on his knee to propose. The place went bonkers!!!
Another morning hangout, since I try to stay away from the big chains, is a local crepe shop. The owner’s father owned the space as a tailoring business. I found out that 800 Euros a month is the average salary in Athens and rent runs about 750 Euros for a 2-bedroom apartment. He was shocked when I told him that 800 Euros a DAY was a common wage in California, he was in total shock.
In the true tradition of my regular travel buddy, Mr. Mike, I have vowed to maintain walking the neighborhoods in Athens. I have found the cutest little cafes, tavernas, and shops. He would be proud of me!!! Until I got lost! So, I just jumped on the Metro, and whisked back to the Acropolis stop where I stay.
So a few nights ago, I am walking back to my hotel after a long 4-hour dinner with my friends. About a block away from my hotel, I can “feel” a guy following me. I keep turning around, he keeps gaining on me. I speed up, he speeds up. All of a sudden, he crosses the street in front of me as I approach the front door to my hotel.
I allow him to pass by first, but he stops and asks if I am Chinese. I said no, Japanese. He said your English is quite good. Of course, I am from California!!! He is a Singaporean, and just needed to speak to an Asian face. He is a rep for Issey Miyake!!! In general, there are more Singaporeans here than people from Japan or China.
I met an interesting character last night from Kansas. It was Wilfred Brimley, Jr.!!!!
I also met some other interesting people. A newlywed couple on my bike ride from Toronto have an interesting several years ahead of themselves. While she has a new career as a personal trainer (formerly a CPA), he is an engineer headed to Khabarovsk, Russia to build a gold mine. They were quite curious when I told them about my journey on the Trans-Siberian Railway across Russia. They are expecting good food, and the joke is on them!!
I met another couple at dinner, both from Panama, but also holding American passports. Most interestingly, Eric imports used clothing and sells them through several of his thrift stores. They could not get married in Panama due to the pandemic, so instead, held a small wedding and reception in Miami earlier this year.
We toasted my last evening in Athens with a bottle of champagne (last time was a cheap Prosecco). The gang, namely spearheaded by Chef Stavros, made a big speech in front of everyone. He told them I was his brother from another mother, and another father!!! They can’t wait to see me again next May! They even offered me a job.
Oh, and I just had to buy another bottle of mastika to take home! It made it home safely, not to worry.
Back in Frankfurt, the weather is decidedly colder, and somewhat wetter. Despite two huge downpours in Athens last night, it stays relatively comfortable both day and night, rarely requiring a jacket.
Taking Ryan Air to and from Athens, I realize most of the passengers are young. I was definitely the oldest person on the flight. Why? Perhaps it is the ultimate backpacker’s airline? Or the limited schedule, and lack of amenities on board? Believe me, I have been on many airlines that are not nearly as good. It reminds me of Air Asia in SE Asia, efficient, simple, and easy.
The Haupt Bahnhof here has several decent places to eat. Among them, seafood, a ton of bakeries, curry shops, pubs, fast food, slow food, even a crepe place, that does a very brisk business. But since all of the bakeries seem to make lots of bread, and croissants, along with the usual assortment of sweet and savory pastries, it was time to dive in.
My favorite bakery has a manager who is just outstanding. He greets everyone with a bright and cheery “Morgen”, then proceeds to fill their order, while starting another order. He is the ultimate in German efficiency, and a pleasure to watch. Speaking of pastries, theirs are outstanding and so reasonable priced. As good or better than Paris, but so much cheaper!
I could not find a place for ham and eggs, so I bought the ultimate oxymoron of food. It was a croissant stuffed with a wiener!! It might have been the worst food combination I have tried in TEN years!!! I was gagging, even as I think about it.
So, to settle my nerves and my stomach, I decided it was time for a hot bowl of pho. Yes, the now universal pho, prevalent in countries around the world, now that Vietnamese cuisine has gone mainstream. And it was really, really good.
Tons of beggars, beer drinkers, and homeless around the Frankfurt Haupt Bahnhof, even though I was told the area has been cleaned up. It prefers to be called “edgy” now. On the edge of what? But I gave away most of my leftovers, and even donated a gym bag that I purchased for the short trip to Mallorca.
Speaking of good food, I dined at the best restaurant in Mallorca, El Txoko de Martin, or as I refer to it, “Martin’s.” The facility is great, and the service is decent. But it has a snobby vibe, and the most I could give the food is a 7 out of 10. It also happened to be across the street from my hotel.
I enjoyed the Mallorca Mercado much more, along with some of the local joints on the sidewalks. I was able to sneak some Iberico ham home for me and Mr. Mike.
Sadly, the good people in Mallorca still hold Father Junipero Serra in high regard. In fact, the Catholic Church is thriving here. So different than here at home. But then, why do they charge admission?
Back in Frankfurt, and dreary weather, I decided to forego more wine tasting. Instead, I head to Frankfurt’s old town, Romer. I found stunning Germany architecture, a lively crowd, cute stores, tons of tourists, and even an outdoor wedding reception outside the main church. But I was so disappointed with the sauerbraten. The one from Chef Burger in Pleasant Hill is far superior.
I met an interesting honeymoon couple from India, while on my wine tasting tour. They were carrying a Nespresso machine!
They said it is half the price in Germany as in India. They were using it every day during their stay. Both are physicians and had to forego the traditional big Indian wedding due to the pandemic. They ended up with 30 to 40 people, perhaps a record for India!
I saw far more Asians in both Germany and Mallorca (Spain), than on previous trips. Also, more Middle Easterns, with huge areas of kebab shops, and hammams. But the overriding issue in Europe are the smokers, and now the kids vaping. Thankfully, a covid mask helps immensely. My guess is that 80 or 90% are smokers! Men, women, teens.
Home is the best place. I missed my two girls, my morning Peet’s coffee, my Eddie’s Bakery toast, the local news, my desktop computer, my bed, and mostly my Peloton. I am headed back to Europe in May for my long-awaited cycling trip in Croatia. I think it will be time to head east on my next big trip, Japan, Australia, or ??
So, here I am on the Spanish island of Mallorca. The island is 98 km by 78 km, with 550 km of coastline. Typically, this is not my normal type of trip, since I prefer bigger cities, since the entire island holds a little less than a million people. Only Tenerife in the Canary Islands has a larger island population.
I am staying in Palma, the capital of both Mallorca, and the autonomous region of the Balearic Islands. Autonomous since 1983, it has become one of the hottest party playgrounds in Europe, and the world. They say the Brits and the Krauts love it down here.
The economy is based almost totally on tourism. And speaking of which, cyclists fit into the tourist category. Mallorca has a 24km cycle track, totally separate from the road. The track is mostly along the water. It is a must ride!!
As recently as 2017, over ten million tourists have invaded this small island. And the ferry system is rather robust here as well. The island is best known for its beautiful coastline, secluded coves (naked girls, Webb), limestone mountains, Spanish architecture, wineries, fresh produce farms, and stunning beaches.
On the downside, Father Junipero Serra was from Mallorca. Though he played a major role in building the El Camino Real in California, he was a rather notorious priest. A statue remains outside a church in his honor. Former major league star Curt Flood has a bar here. Rafa Nadal lives in Manacor.
On another positive note, Mallorca has over 70 different wine producers. That makes me happy, cycling, wine, and seafood!! After a little research, Mallorca has some churches, museums, and assorted tourist sights. But it mostly appears to be “party central” for northern Europeans and some Americans.
You can count on me to give you the lowdown on this island. I may not be the partier I once was, but I can recognize a good time from almost any distance.
Palma, its capital, is said to be vibrant but laid-back, full of street side cafes, and beautiful Spanish architecture. It is also home to the large Gothic Roman church, the Cathedral of Santa Maria of Palma, or La Seu, as the locals call it.
Though I plan to cycle, the Port de Soller wooden tram is a cute way to get around. But the party life resides in Magaluf, with famous clubs, tattoo parlors, piano bars, and the world famous BCM Planet Dance. I promise no naked photos, as this is a PG 13 rated email today.
The highlight of my trip was accidentally finding the Mallorca Mercato, about a half mile from my hotel. With a multitude of food and drink purveyors, sprinkled with many stand up and sit-down cafes, including a sushi bar, I found my happy place. The meat and seafood selections were outstanding. It made me wish I had a kitchen. Maybe not.
But among the many food items, I noticed they had both types of persimmons, which I am now in the process of drying here at home. The vegetables in particularly looked large and delicious. But what really caught my eye were the various types of jamon. After carefully circling all the shops, I settled on a shop with the best jamon. I bought two, one for us, and one for Mr. Mike.
The bike ride in the afternoon was okay. Only e bikes since the trek to the top of the hill was a bit steep. The focus was on the big castle at the top of the hill, overlooking the massive harbor. Franco converted it into a prison during his notorious tenure. But we must have visited every church on this side of the island. With so many churches, why does everyone smoke? Anyway, many of the churches charge admission. Strange!
By the way, the harbor was filled with all manner of boats, from sailboats, to fishing boats, and on to the mega yachts. It was quite impressive, but not as impressive as Marbella and Porto Banus.
The poor kid guiding us is from Argentina, about an hour north of Buenos Aires. He comes here to work for about 9 months out of the year, since most of South American is (in his words), corrupt and declining. But he does return for 2 to 3 months during the Mallorcan winter, when the island is nearly deserted of tourists. He says Chile is the only country doing well, I assume mostly for its huge lithium supply.
I decided to splurge on dinner. I went to the best place on the island, El Txoko de Martin, across the street from my hotel. I was the first customer of the day, at around 8pm. They would not let me sit at a table, instead at the bar. I almost left. Though it turned out okay, the restaurant did begin to fill up around 9pm. I noticed most of us who were casually dressed, like the golfers, were all placed at the bar. The beautiful people got the tables!
Yes, it was pretty good, not that expensive, and an interesting experience. The bartender/waiter was friendly, and so helpful with the menu. When I told him I was not very hungry, he suggested a small appetizer before my paella. It was a “hot dog ala Martin”. See the attached photo, as it was hardly a hot dog, except for the unique bun and a few sliced pickles on top. Dessert turned out to be quite good, the paella quite average. The Alberino was just okay, but when in Spain…..
So, you know how I ended up here. But would I go back? Probably not, but the selection process was fun and interesting. Safe for solo travelers. And not terrible expensive, though the locals complain that it is. Gas runs about $10 USD a gallon! Meanwhile, back to Frankfurt, and my flight home. I had to send this after I returned home. Auf Wiedersehen!
Most of you who know me, know that I travel with my good buddy, Mr. Mike, or I travel solo. Mike is the BEST travel buddy ever. We are not joined at the hip when we travel, though we have similar interests. And we never, I repeat, never, talk about money!!
But perhaps you would like a different perspective on solo travel, other than mine. I had the benefit of traveling solo on business throughout the late Seventies, and most of the Eighties. And I was able to start traveling for pleasure at a fairly young age (to Europe), essentially, on my own.
The Point Guy has a great website, and email. I strongly suggest that you subscribe, not only for travel, but their advice on best use of award points and airline miles to maximize your trips. Here are some of his thoughts.
PG: For all sorts of reasons, you might be faced with the choice of traveling alone, or not traveling at all. Your partner, friends or family may not be able to take the same time off work or they may just not be as keen on the destination as you are. But that doesn’t mean you’re stuck at home. I love traveling by myself and have had some fantastic experiences abroad all on my own. In fact, sometimes I prefer traveling alone over traveling with others.
Now given a choice, I would choose Mr. Mike over solo travel. But when we are traveling, we always have the option to go in different directions. He loves to walk the cities, I love the trains and public transportation. I enjoy a museum or two, he prefers the street culture. But both of us are foodies, enjoy good wine and beer, and love to engage locals in conversation.
The best reason for solo travel is freedom. Sleep in or get up early. Coffee in the room or find a nearby coffee joint. Hit a bus or walking tour or explore on my own. Skip lunch or have beer and French fries. Take a nap or rent a bicycle. You get the idea.
PG: Long story short: You don’t have to do anything you don’t want just because someone you would travel with wants to do it.
Meeting new people is easier when traveling alone. While I was in Greece, both in Athens and Santorini, I made lifelong friends. Most of you know I have friends all over the world, from places like Cambodia, Malaysia, Peru, Japan, South Africa, Thailand, Mexico, Switzerland, and now Greece.
Plus, I’ve found that being the lone foreigner at a bar or café quickly leads to interesting conversations. In fact, just last week in Chicago, my new friends sitting at the bar at Joe’s Stone Crabs engaged in one of the best conversations I have experienced during the pandemic.
Solo trips also cost less. But for me, the flexibility to change plans midstream is even better. On my trip to Greece last May, after five days in Santorini, I decided to return to Athens for another six days, rather than head to more Greek islands.
PG: Traveling solo is not always perfect. My solo trip on the Trans-Siberian Railway is a good example. I missed my train, and had great difficulty rebooking on a later train, in second class, no less. Nobody spoke English, save for an unexpected young stranger who came to my rescue while I was being severely admonished by the ticket agent. For some people, mealtime is difficult. My mornings always start with coffee in my room (I bring Peet’s, as you know). Then I head out for a real breakfast. This creates the option to have a light lunch or to skip it altogether. A solo breakfast is no big deal. Dinner is where some people feel alone. Generally, I solve this by sitting at the bar and ordering my food there. And from my business days, eating alone generally does not bother me.
So, where are the best places for solo travelers? I lean toward bigger cities, like Bangkok, London, Buenos Aires, Washington, DC, Tokyo, Budapest, Athens, Paris, Chicago, Sydney, and Berlin. Why? There is always plenty to see, do, and eat.
I will admit to you that certain places should be avoided as a solo traveler. Which ones? Honeymoon and couples locations, of course!
I am not big on group tours. I will do a half day “hop on hop off” bus tour, just to get my bearings in a big city. But a big multi day tour is NOT my idea of fun! The very last one we took to Peru to visit Cuzco, and Machu Picchu were a disaster. Other people in the group were always late when the bus was leaving. Foreigners pass gas whenever they want! Skip the groups!!!
Many solo travelers prefer hostels since it is a great way to meet people. Though my hostel days are over, I stayed in one recently in Dublin. It was great fun, but noisy, and not that comfortable. My desk chair was a tree stump. And even though I had a room to myself, the noise level was quite high, and the room lacked basic amenities, like AC and extra towels.
Bottom line, just be open and approachable. I know this is easy to say as a single male traveler. But I have met many people, of both sexes, of all ages while traveling, and it can be done, safely. Whatever you do, please do not hibernate in your room.
Why Not? I think it is one of the great American cities. It is much more manageable than NYC, and certainly less expansive than Los Angeles. But the options for what to see and do seem limitless.
I may have told you that my parents lived here during the end of World War 2. They were allowed to leave the Relocation Center in Gila, Arizona if they went east and worked in factories that supported the war effort. Most of my family worked for Curtiss Candy Company. My Dad worked in an auto shop (Wood Brothers), getting his start on his future vocation. The lived on Addison Street, also home to famous Wrigley Field.
I first started visiting Chicago in the 70s, mostly on business. I learned the downtown area quickly. Then I had a client in South Chicago, which is/was a rather sketchy part of the city. I have also enjoyed the famous Brookfield Zoo, Wicker Park, and the Loop area. And I have done most of the tourist things, like the Hancock Center (96 stories), Wrigley Field, Rush Street, the Navy Pier, the Loop, the El, Second City, Garrett’s Popcorn, deep dish pizza, and Portillos.
One of the most enjoyable parts of my visit is feeding some of the old homeless men in the Loop. I make it a point to find a hungry soul and take him to breakfast. I also keep all of my leftovers, and give them away on Michigan Avenue. Don’t ask me how they survive the Mideast winters.
Don’t get me wrong, I also know how to live it up. I can dine at both famous and not so famous places. And Chicago is a great shopping city. The Magnificent Mile (Michigan Avenue) is perhaps unrivaled for shopping of all kinds.
Though my business travel days are over, I still love Chicago, even without an expense account. I have fond memories of dance parties, cocktail parties, and some things that are best left in the proverbial “vault”, if you know what I mean. Playing tennis is Chicago was always fun, same for golf. Jogging in the heat and humidity is just terrible. Maybe I will try some cycling since the temps are in the 80s.
In the 80s, it was great fun to visit famous Marshall Field’s Department Store to buy dress shirts. They had every color and style imaginable. After a visit to Chicago, I was the envy of all the other guys I worked with. My favorite was a blue dress shirt with a tab rounded collar. I was the envy of the department!
I particularly remember meeting a nice young lady from Pennsylvania. In fact we called her Miss Pennsylvania. Why? We went shopping at the famous Water Tower Place for a bathing suit for her!! And we got to see her model them for us!!!
But the best story revolves around a dinner at some Italian place not far from Rush Street. After the dinner ended, a group of about 50 followed us to a bar on Rush, where we danced the night away.
Then there is the story of taking some nuns to Rush Street. My buddy and I were on a site visit with a large, Catholic hospital chain here in California. The nuns asked us to take them out to Rush Street, and told us to get lost! When we went to retrieve them around 2am, they had about 5 guys gathered around them. In my infinite wisdom, I asked Sister Michaela if she was ready to head back to the hotel. The guys said, astonishingly, “Sister!!!!.” These ladies told the guys that they are hospital administrators! Yes, I said, they are, but they also are nuns!!!!!
But the focus of this trip is art, in the name of Frida Kahlo, Vincent van Gogh, and Banksy. And maybe a short train ride out to Ravinia for some music.
I am also headed to the oldest outdoor music festival in the US, the Ravinia Festival out in Highland Park. I think my Aunt and Uncle lived there post war, until the late Fifties. Over the years, performers have included: Aretha, Gladys, Santana, Smokey, Mary J., Dolly, Lady Gaga, Tony, Carrie, Diana, and Maroon 5. I am attending Jimmy Fallon’s favorite band, The Roots. The band was formed back in 1987 by Questlove and Black Thought. They are known as a jazzy and eclectic approach to hiphop. I love keyboarder, James Poyser when he plays to Jimmy’s thank you notes.
Big sidebar: My Uber driver was the nicest senior man of Iraqi decent. We had many nice topical conversations. But the best was talking about how our country was built by immigrants, people like him, and my Grandfather. They came here before the overthrow of Sadam, back in 1978. He about lost control when I told him my grandfather came from Japan in 1896, at the age of 6!!!! He spent most of his career at Motorola, got laid off, and now loves being an Uber driver. He and his wife raised two boys who have good jobs. It is the great American story.
Another small sidebar: the Hispanic busboy at breakfast on Friday was a man I recognized from a previous trip. He has been there for 12 hears, works two other jobs, including cleaning a bank on weekends. Another great American story about immigrants!!!!
Small sidebar #2: My cab driver this morning was a Paki guy, so we hit it off after I told him about my Paki friends here in California. I was just about to text Uber, and here he was outside of my hotel. He offered me a good price, so off we went to O’Hare.
My quick dinner on Saturday night before the Ravinia (Roots) concert was at Joe’s Stone Crabs, Chicago branch, of course. I am sitting at the bar with their “regulars” and strike up a great conversation with a really interesting African American couple, and a few of the bartenders. Besides making me miss my train to Ravinia, we had the best discussion of politics, medicine, and race relations. BTW, I had some great oysters, spicy fresh corn, and calamari, along with two glasses of rose’ champagne.
I have managed to feed a family of four and a lone panhandler, and a deaf panhandler so far.
Saturday, I went out to the Cubs game at Wrigley, always a treat. My usher moved me to a great view seat on the top deck, just “because”, I guess. Wrigley is always a treat, with a video version of the great Ernie Banks leading the 6th inning tradition of “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.”
So, on to Ravinia, I ended up having to take Uber out there, almost an hour north of the city. The Roots concert was mostly entertaining, a little too much rap for me, but the rest was outstanding. The topper was taking the Metra train back into the City, along with several thousand music fans. The ride back started around midnight (late for me) and must have stopped twenty times between Ravinia and the downtown Ogilvie Transportation Center. What a crazy experience!
So, it was big culture for a few days, but I am so happy to be home!!!
Though I wrote this email many years ago, I still get excited about the two weeks of the US Tennis Open in Flushing Meadow, NY. This year will allow fans, and the crazy roar of the fans during long rallies. And I will root again for Naomi Osaka.
But if you are a tennis fan, you will someday want to make your way to NY in the late summer for this tournament. Just picture George Costanza eating an ice cream on camera, the laughing stock of New York. Who remembers that scene on Seinfeld? Or Jerry wanting to date the deaf lineswoman?
My guess, if you are a player who depends on the crowd to pump you up, this year’s tournament will be a refreshening return to normal. And I must tell you, walking the grounds at the US Tennis Center is a thrill of its own. The day I spent there was magical. I attended the famous U.S. Open at Flushing Meadow in 1982. If you play tennis or are a big fan, you must go someday. It is an even bigger spectacle today. Watching the matches on TV brings back wonderful memories of my trip there. It is a much bigger event than the U.S. Open for golf. This story is from my trip there in 1982.
Having been a very avid tennis player and fan for most of my adult life, I jumped at the chance to attend the U.S. Open in Flushing Meadow, New York during the 80’s. I was going to Chicago and Atlanta on business anyway, so it fit right in. I got the tickets from the Northern California Tennis Association, for which I was a committee volunteer. During a meeting, the Director asked if anyone wanted the tickets, and I said YES. Do you remember who won the Men’s title in 1982?
Chicago and Atlanta were just a couple of stops on the way to the big event. A friend from Chicago was planning to meet me at the Open. That did not work out, but I decided to go anyway. I landed at LaGuardia Airport around midafternoon, and found a hotel room at a nearby Marriott. If you have never flown over the New York skyline, the Empire State Building, and the Statue of Liberty, it is a fabulous, and inspiring sight.
I called my cousin to see if he wanted to have dinner and go to the Open the next day with me. He and his parents picked me up, took me to a Long Island sushi bar, and showed me their home on Long Island, right across the street from the Bethpage Golf Course. They also showed me the sushi bar they were planning to open very soon. Chet, the Jet (he was a hockey player), who later became a physician, said he would meet me after work the next day. I gave him one of my tickets, and hoped for the best.
At this point, I must tell you that New York cab drivers are in a league of their own, for good or bad. A good one is invaluable, a bad one is the biggest jerk you have ever met. I got a good one to the Billie Jean King National Tennis Center at Flushing Meadow, site of a former World’s Fair, and just a train track crossing from the Met’s Shea Stadium. The Open has been held here since 1978, and actually began in 1881 in Newport, R.I.
The tickets that I had were good for both the day session, as well as the hard to get evening session in the Stadium court. The thrill of the day session was that matches were held on multiple courts, so that you could always find a good match. And I could get a front row view of all the well-known men and women players. The grounds also had several hospitality and merchandise tents, as if New York was not expensive already. I did buy T shirts, caps, and towels for my friends back home.
I wandered the many courts, looking for a good match. I found some people I knew, believe it or not. The first was one of the referees from California, who I knew through my own tennis competition and volunteer work. The second was a player, Ann Kiyomura from San Mateo. She played a great match against Kathy Jordan from Stanford, and upset her in 3 sets. She offered tickets for the next day, but I told her I would be on my way home by then. Most people do not know that Annie, at the time, had won more Junior tennis titles than anyone in history. She never became a big star, but she did win the Wimbledon women’s doubles one year with a gal from Japan. Her younger sister Vicki lives in the South Bay, and we played in the same tennis club and circle of friends for many years.
The worst part of this whole day was the cost of food. I think a hot dog and a soda were almost $10. But it was such a great experience, I said what the heck. It brought to mind a scene from Seinfeld, where Jerry and George went to the Open. Jerry met a deaf linesperson, while George was gorging a big ice cream, all over his face, while the TV cameras were trained on him.
Another nice thing about wandering around is getting to see the up and coming young players in practice or in junior matches. We also got to see the better players and their coaches working out on the practice courts. One of the big sensations back then was the infamous Dr. Renee Richards, formerly Richard Raskin. One look at her/him, and you could tell something was not right. Also, tennis groupies followed the good-looking young players around like horseflies. By the way, the winner this year (1982) was Jimmy Connors.
As the day wore on, things quieted down a little, at least for New York. I stayed all day since I was having so much fun. My evening Stadium ticket would get me into the evening matches shortly. When I entered the Stadium, I tried to find my seats. It turns out they were box seats, right near some famous people. I saw the likes of Dan Rather, Jack Kramer, Althea Gibson, Walter Cronkite, Johnny Carson, and Donald Dell. We were about 8 to 10 rows from the court, and could hear the players talk to the referee.
Chet finally showed up mid match. The second big match of the evening was Ivan Lendl and Tim Mayotte. The crowd was going crazy since Mayotte looked like he would upset Lendl. Around 10pm, the crowd began to stir, to the point where it was a big distraction. Chet said we had better get moving. We were about to get hit with a sudden East coast downpour in a matter of a few more seconds. We got to shelter in time, but it looked like the matches would be called for the evening.
About an hour later the rain let up, and we headed for the taxi and train area. Chet wanted to make sure I got a cab back to the hotel safely, so he waited with me. I guess we waited too long, as very few cabs were going by. We were joined by another young man attending the Open, and looking for a cab back to his hotel as well. We waited and waited.
Finally, out of the darkness came a cab. We asked how much and he replied $50. Chet told him to get lost, that he was ripping us off, and should be reported. He came back again in about 10 minutes, wanting $60 and started to insult us by calling us country bumpkins, and that we should be grateful he was around to take us to our hotel. Again, Chet told him to get lost.
He came back a 3rd time, wanting $75 and started swearing at us, in prime New York cabbie vernacular. We were ready for him this time. The other fellow and I engaged in some rather spirited banter with him, while Chet let the air out of his tires on the passenger side. When he finally took off, he was running on his tire rims on the right side, and never came back. We finally got an honest cabbie, dropped Chet at the train station, and got back to our hotel.
As you can guess, New York has never been one of my favorite places. The City is just out of control. The unending energy courses through you as you walk down any major boulevard, board the subway, and walk around Times Square or Wall Street. I just do not feel that I am in control.
But you can easily see why New Yorkers responded so well to the 9/11 disaster, as they are tough, resilient, and never give up. For me, I need a little more space and time. It is a crazy place, and you must go there at least once in your life.
I will be rooting for Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori.
While New York is not one of my favorite places, I do enjoy the theater, and music events downtown. And the food. But I find it difficult to deal with the crowds, and the pushy New Yorkers.
PS. I may try to make it to the French Open in May. It will be my third leg of the Grand Slam!!!!
With so much emphasis on the pandemic and its effect on the Olympics, very little is said about the country itself in the Olympic Games. Japan first participated in the Games in 1912. It was held in Stockholm, and Japan sent only two athletes. One was a sprinter (Yahiko Michima), the other a marathoner (Shizo Kanakuri), but neither won medals. Mishima made the semi finals, but Kanakuri did not finish his marathon.
With the popularity and proven skills of Naomi Osaka, it is no surprise that Japan’s first Olympic medal was in tennis at the 1920 Games in Antwerp, Belgium. Seiichiro Kashio and Ichiya Kumagae won silver in the doubles, with Kumagae winning another silver in singles. Osaka is the top-rated player in the world, and not coincidentally, the highest paid athlete in the world.
Overall, Japan has won 439 medals, including 41 at the recent 2016 Games in Rio. And twelve were gold! Japan has not fared as well in the Winter Games with only 58 medals. Judo, as you might expect, is Japan’s most successful sport, with 39 Gold, out of a total of 84 medals. In Rio in 2016, Japan won 12 gold, 8 silver, and 21 bronze, finishing 7th in the medal race.
Japan’s first gold medal was in the Triple Jump, Mikio Oda in 1928. This was in the Summer Games in Amsterdam in 1928. Fellow countryman Yoshio Tsuruda won a gold in swimming at the same games. Many Japanese Americans have participated in the Olympics and won medals.
Japan has hosted the Olympics three times before, Tokyo Summer Games in 1964, and the Winter Games in Sapporo in 1972, and Nagano in 1998. The men’s and women’s marathons will take place up north (500 miles) in Sapporo, where it should be much cooler. This is the second time Tokyo has hosted the Paralympics, with the first back in 1964. Tokyo was scheduled to host the 1940 games, but with the threat of war, the Olympics were moved to Helsinki. But the 1960 Tokyo Games were the first to be broadcast internationally, with some events in color.
The Japan National Stadium is made of wood, sourced from all 47 of Japan’s prefectures. The Games are focused on sustainability, as even the beds in the Olympic Village are made of cardboard, which will be recycled.
So, who will carry the Flags for Japan in the Opening Ceremony? One very familiar name is NBA and former Gonzaga basketball star, Rui Hachimura. The other is Yuri Susaki, and two time wrestling world champion. I would have chosen Naomi Osaka and Hideki Matsuyama (winner of the Masters). BTW, this is the first time in Olympic history that both a man and a woman will carry their country’s flag in the Opening Ceremonies. Japan will have 580 athletes marching behind this pair.
This year, the 5000 medals won my athletes from around the world are made from precious metals extracted from disused electronic devices. People in Japan were asked to donate disused electronics, like cell phones, for two years. Almost 79 tons were collected.
With much attention placed on both American Jesse Owens and the despotic Hitler, people have long forgotten the plight of a Korean runner, Sohn Kee-Chung. He won the marathon in the 1936 Berlin Olympics, but was forced to run for Japan, under the name of Son Kitei. Why? Korea was under the colonial rule of the Japanese Empire. The IOC corrected both is name and country in 2011.
Four new sports will be introduced in these Olympic Games, karate, skateboarding, sport climbing and surfing. Baseball and softball will make a comeback from 2008. But how many will we see live with a 13-hour time difference? As far as television, Swimming is the most watched sport, with nearly 1000 competitors from 170 countries.
Gymnastics is always popular, from the days of Olga and Nadia, and now Simone. Track and Field has over 2000 competitors, from 200 countries, in 47 events. Basketball and soccer are generally popular events, but if the American teams lose early, interest could wane.
Ralph Lauren is providing the opening ceremony unforms, basically blazers shoes, and even a mask. But the unform features a cooling jacket, battery powered devices that create a cooling sensation on the back of the neck.
With both competitors and others falling like flies with Covid, I wonder if the Games can continue and for how long? Masks will be worn by all competitors, officials and press. Food is already an issue as well. And the great stories and experiences in the Olympic Village will be very different this year. Testing will be daily.
Japan has experienced almost 15,000 deaths due to Covid, and 842,000 coronavirus cases.
Yes, these Games will be different. But for athletes who have worked so hard for the last four to five years, it is the opportunity of a lifetime.
If you did not already know, the Napa Vine Trial is a 47-mile walking and cycling trail, linking Vallejo with Calistoga, basically the entire Napa Valley. I have ridden portions of this trail several times, There are still sections that need development.
Background: In 2008, the Napa Valley Vintners, the Napa Valley Grapegrowers and the Land Trust founded the Vine Trail Coalition. The Napa Valley Vine Trail will be a 47-mile walking & biking trail system to physically, artistically and culturally connect the entire Napa Valley from Calistoga to the Vallejo Ferry and the greater Bay Area.
Beginning near the Ferry Terminal in historic Vallejo (thus linking with the greater Bay Area), the Vine Trail will continue north for 47 miles, through the world-renowned vineyards and towns of Napa Valley, to its northern gateway in Calistoga at the Oat Hill Mine Trail (Hwy29 at Silverado Trail) at the foot of Mount St. Helena.
The Napa Valley is world-famous above all for its vineyards and their appellations. To reflect this unique sense of place, we have organized the Vine Trail route into 10 SECTIONS, each named for the city or vineyard AVA (American Viticultural Area) the trail passes through. From north to south, these are: Calistoga, St. Helena, Rutherford, Oakville, Yountville, Oak Knoll District, City of Napa, Vista Carneros, American Canyon, and Vallejo. The 47-mile Vine Trail route has been mapped and its ten sections are in various stages of design or construction as shown on the above map.
I love the southern section, from the Napa Golf Course, up to the city. The section through the city has many city street crossings, without lights or stop signs. Then from Trancas Avenue north, the trail is separated from road traffic. Much of it runs parallel to the Napa Wine Train. The Trail currently ends in Yountville.
I fully support the Vine Trail effort. The people who are the “brain child” of this are both highly skilled and politically savvy people. I admire their efforts. I donate to the Vine Trai every year.
We will be cycling the Trail this weekend, and perhaps add some wine tasting and visit with dear friends.