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 Two Eyes In IBerIa

 Alitalia Non-Stop LAX to Milano


[One problem with the photos is that they were taken with 2001 digital quality which cannot match the quality of photos we get today.  There is no way to make them better.  This Trip Diario was the very first and was just put together using emails and severely desized photos. The editing now consists of using the original photos without desizing them as well as filling in some of the history.
  Comments in this font were added now.]

            This is the first of letters home regarding our trip to Iberia.  The two "eyes" in Iberia are Ken and Marcia Hoffer's.  I am from New York and Marcia is from Rockland, Maine.  We have been married since 1970 after which we honeymooned on a trip to Yugoslavia and Hungary behind the Iron Curtain.  We raised our three children, Kevin, Jeffrey and Kristin in Santa Monica, California while I built my cataract surgery practice specializing in intraocular lens implants.  We took many summer trips with the kids to show them America, including Alaska.  We refrained from trips to Europe until the children were all on their own.  It was our plan to experience the empty nest syndrome with biannual three month trips to Europe, one country at a time.  I selected Italy as the country for our first trip in 1997 and Marcia chose the UK and Ireland for our second trip in 1999.  We spent a great deal of time equally deciding the destination for our third trip in 2001 and concluded it best to go south again to Spain and of course Portugal while we are there.

            We went to Laguna Beach (below left) after our PRL course in Newport Beach.  Below is a picture of our friend from Chicago, Dr. Manus Kraff with a colleague of ours. Dr. Lisa Arbisser, the daughter of Dr. Joyce Brothers.  Dimitrii was also there with us.


            Before our trip, Daria Dementieva, Dimitrii's oldest daughter, came for a visit with some of her friends who were touring California.  She had a chance to see our first granddaughter, Kaylin, who was just beginning to walk.


[In 2010, Daria gave Dimitrii his first granddaughter while we were with him in Barcelona, Spain - coincidence?]

            Before we left we had a wonderful time celebrating Kaylin's first birthday as a wonderful send off.  We would have liked to visit Iberia earlier in the year but I had made a commitment that I wouldn�t take one of our three month trips to Europe during my presidency of the Los Angeles County Medical Association which ended on June 30th.  We were then told by my son Jeff and his wife Rebecca that we couldn�t leave until Kaylin�s first birthday, so we left the next day.  Rebecca did a great job as usual arranging the party and we all had a wonderful time (below.)  It was great having my brother Gary (below right, with Lynda Auer) there to see his new niece for the first time.


            We also had a little Bon Voyage party of my office staff out in the back yard.


            In the left photo (below) is L-R: Florence Braun, RN, my operating room nurse, Romy Wheeler a technician, Vince Adams, my greatest technician and Tylee Roberts, another technician.  In the right photo is Connie Donohue on the left and Terry Mitchell on the right. Terry was my second secretary/administrator for the American Intra-Ocular Implant Society (AIOIS) that I started back in 1974.  She succeeded Connie McGoughan and was succeeded by Debby Miller.  The Society moved to Fairfax, VA in 1983 and changed its name to the American Society of Cataract and Refractive Surgery (ASCRS.)  Manus Kraff (way above) replaced me as Meeting Chairman and did it for 25 years.



            Above is a beautiful shot of my "crew:" L-R, Lisa Adams, Pat Thirsk, RN, and Connie Donohue.  Connie is my office manager, Pat is my head nurse and Lisa is my best technician.  Without them I would never have had the successful practice of eye surgery that I enjoyed for so many years.  I am grateful to them and all the loyal and diligent staff members that worked with me over the years.

[Pat retired in 2007, as did Connie. Lisa, today is my only employee in my much shrunken practice.]

 Sunday, July 22, 2001

            I got up earlier than usual and went to 9:30 Mass at St. Monica's and then had a cappuccino at Diedrich's and then did my run.  At 1:30 PM, our oldest son, Kevin, drove us to LAX airport but we still got there in plenty of time.  We got on the plane at 3:45 PM and our flight (#623) took off at 4:20.  It seemed to go much smoother this time, as we are repeating the Alitalia Magnifica class to Milano that we had taken last year.  I dislike flying very much (not afraid of dying just hate sitting cooped up for so long) so I usually travel by car or Amtrak train.  I hadn�t been on an airplane since November 1974 until we took our first three month trip to Italy in 1997.  For that I decided I wanted my first flight in 23 years to be as short as possible so we took the Air France Concorde from New York to Paris.  We repeated this using the British Airways Concorde from New York to London in 1999 for the UK trip.  Upon my return Amtrak trip from New York, Marcia picked me up at Union Station in Los Angeles and on the way to Santa Monica let me know she had just won the first prize in a charity raffle.  The prize was two first class tickets on Alitalia to Milano or Roma with $2,500 for hotel expenses.  The catch was that the return trip home had to be before April 30th.

            It was then that I had to decide whether to take the almost 12 hour flight or let one of our kids go with her.  They were all hoping I wouldn�t go.  I had used Xanax and melatonin to sleep the full three and half hours for the Concorde transatlantic flights but that was not going to work for a flight this long.  So for the flight to Milano I took Klonopin and melatonin and it allowed me to sleep 10 of the 12 hours with a bathroom break halfway through. I gratefully missed all the meals and movies, and the seat was very comfortable.  Since the return trip worked as well and the Concorde crash in Paris grounded all the Concorde�s, I decided to just repeat what worked well the year before.

            On the flight, I woke at 8:30 PM and then again at 1:30 AM and tried to sleep some more but was unsuccessful.  We landed in Milano�s Malpensa airport at 4:00 AM (12:00 noon CET.)  The flight lasted exactly eleven and half hours.  It was a beautiful hot day - it's actually summer here (compared to Santa Monica's usual 72� F.)  Dimitrii had his driver, Mario pick us up at the airport and take us to our hotel.  I first met Dr. Dimitrii Dementiev in April of 1997 at a cataract society educational meeting in Boston just before heading to NYC to get on the Concorde on the way to Italy.  He was a pioneer in implanting intraocular lenses to correct nearsightedness (called PRLs,) something he had learned while at the Moscow Eye Institute.  This is a procedure I had been dying to perform since 1993 when I first heard the famous Russian surgeon Dr. Syvataslav Fyodorov present his results with PRLs in Los Angeles.  Dimitrii was born in Moscow and was able to escape the USSR in 1989 just before the Berlin wall came down.  He settled in Milano, established an eye surgery practice there and basically became an Italian.  During our visit to Italy, he showed me the patients he had implanted and allowed me to implant my first PRL lens in Bari, Italy.  We have become very close friends with Dimitrii and his wife Tania over these past four years.

  Mario dropped us off at the Hotel Buenos Aires [26 Corso Buenos Aires, +39-022-940-0169] (right) near Piazza San Babila where we have stayed before.  They gave us room #408 and Alberto checked us in.  The tiny lobby is below left.  It is the skinniest 6 story hotel you'll ever see, being only the width of two room windows.  The rooms (below center and right) are very modern and clean and the rate is reasonable (<�100.)

            I began running in September 1993, at the age of 50, in preparation for my first treadmill test at a cardiologist�s office.  I knew I would probably collapse two minutes after they turned it on, so to prevent this embarrassment in front of a colleague I tried to train for it.  After several months I had worked up to a mile and I was a winner on the treadmill test but not with the cholesterol test.

            My cardiologist told me to keep up the running and start Lipitor as well as cut out fatty foods.  I kept up on the first two but haven�t been very good on the meals.  But this has led to a compulsive 45 minutes of running for one mile at 7 mph (11.3 Kph) followed by fast walking at 4.5 mph (7.2 Kph.)  I do it every day because I don�t have to spend time trying to figure which days will be the best to do it.  I have not missed one single day of running since September 1993.  Once I find a reliable excuse to skip a day, that excuse will occur more and more often.  I have run even when I have been sick as a dog and in bed all day.  I�m told by colleagues that this is not good, so don�t follow my example � I just refuse to miss a day.  I don�t really enjoy running or look forward to it � actually I dread it each day.  I get no high afterwards or �endorphin kick� but I feel better generally, happier and more optimistic than before I started running.  I also no longer have those aches and pains in my hips and knees as I used to.

[In September 2012, I just passed 19 years of running every day without missing one day.]

        After taking the slowest elevator in Italy and unloading our bags, I went for my first Italian run down Corso Buenos Aires to Piazza San Babila and the Duomo (dwoh-moh) (major cathedral) area.  To see any of the 30 stores on this famous shopping street click here.

            After my run, I had a cappuccino at the Autogrill (below) along with a great slice of pizza (below right) which I had been looking forward to for quite some time.  Now this place is a fast food chain that is common on the Italian Autostradas (freeways.)  It is located past the Duomo almost to Piazza San Babilla.


            My usual routine back home is to have at least one cappuccino while doing my daily LA Times crossword puzzle.  Regular brewed American coffee has more caffeine in it and the acids give me stomach upset while a cappuccino does not because it is made fresh right before you drink it and it doesn�t get to sit around.  I walked back to the hotel and then Marcia and I took a cab to Bice Ristorante (below) [12 Via Borgospesso, +39-027-600-2572] for dinner.


            We have been here before and enjoyed it (map.)  We ordered their wonderful vitello tonnato.  It is cold thin slices of cooked tender veal (vitello) covered with a tawny-colored creamy sauce of tuna (tonnato).  Sounds ridiculous but it is wonderful.  Below are some stock photos of different variations on this dish.


            Dimitrii introduced us to this dish at the Gatto Nero restaurant in Moltrasio near the outrageously expensive Villa d�Este on Lago di Como in 1999.  I don�t like cold foods at dinner so I really wasn�t inclined to try it but he forced me to and am I glad he did.  The only cold appetizer I have ever enjoyed.  It�s only served in the summer in Italy and we have never found it on the menu in the States.  [Furlotti, Medesano (near Parma,) +39-052-542-0720] sells it packaged (above) but cannot ship to the US, unfortunately.

[Several years later, we found vitello tonnato in an Italian restaurants here, the most notable is a place on the Santa Monica Promenade called Locando del Lago [231 Arizona Ave, +1-310-451-3525] run by a couple (Wes Hooker-Poletti) originally from Bellagio, Italy who recommended good places for us to visit when we went there in 2009.]

            During dinner, we met a young couple from Connecticut; he's a venture capitalist looking to spend money.  I wish I had something for him to invest in.  The rest of the dinner was excellent and we had a lovely walk back down the famous shopping street, Via Montenapoleone which is like Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.  Milano is the capitol of the Italian fashion industry and every famous designer you have ever heard of has a shop on this street or just nearby.  We spent some time looking through all the shop windows (below.)  Lucky for me they were all closed.


            The street traces the old Roman city walls erected by Emperor Maximillian.  In 1783, a bank known as the Monte Camerale di Santa Teresa opened here in Palazzo Marliani.  Its function was to manage the public debt.  In 1786, the street itself was named after the Monte.  The bank was closed in 1796 but re-opened in 1804 as the Monte Napoleone, when Milano was made the capital of the Napoleonic Italian Republic.  During the first part of the nineteenth century the street was almost entirely rebuilt in the Neoclassical style with palaces inhabited by the highest of the aristocracy.  Notable buildings from this period are the Palazzo Melzi di Cusano, the Palazzo Gavazzi, the Casa Carcassola, and the Palazzetta Tarverna.  The much earlier Palazzo Marliani however, regarded as one of the finest houses to survive from the Sforza era, did not survive the destruction during the Allied bombing campaign of 1943.

            Casa Cova Caff� Cova [8 Via Montenapoleone, +39-027-600-5599] was founded in 1817 by a veteren of Napoleone's army and is one of the city�s oldest caf�s and confectioners.  It relocated to Via Monte Napoleone in 1950 from its original premises next to the Teatro alla Scala.

            We both have felt a little dizzy jet lag and it felt right going to bed at this �normal� time of 3 AM (my usual bedtime at home.)


KJH                                                                                                                    Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #2 

Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD


Milano, Italy

Sent 7-23-01

Edited & Resent 1-3-13

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Copyright 2013     Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD