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March 26-27, 2000


            This trip was not at all planned and did not fit into our agreed schedule of one country for three months every two years.  When Marcia picked me up at Union Station in downtown LA at the end of our 1999 UK trip, she told me that she had purchased a charity raffle ticket before we went on the trip and just found out that she had one the grand prize.  It was a round trip Alitalia Airlines Business Class flight for two from LAX to Rome or Milano, Italy including $2,500 for hotel expenses.  You could stay for as long as you want, but the caveat was that you had to return to the US before April 30, 2000.

            Now we had to decide what to do.  I didn't want to sit on an airplane for 12 hours and I came up with the idea that if I was going to have to, we could do our next three month trip to Spain (planned for 2011) and leave here in early February since Spain would be warmer than the rest of Europe.  Marcia didn't mind the flight but was absolutely against going for another three months after just returning from three months away from home.  We argued about this for months, including Marcia postulating that one of our kids could accompany her if I refused to go for a shorter period of time.  We could not settle this until Marcia suggested that we go for three weeks and visit my favorite Italy again and just enjoy the country instead of racing around touring.  I was beginning to mellow.  Then she pointed out that we could go to Rome for Easter week for the bimillenium of the birth of Christ.  I then mellowed and agreed, only if we would go for five weeks.  We wouldn't buy another car, however.

            We finally came to our Grand Compromise and would go to Italy five weeks before April 30th which would be March 26th.  I then realized that the Xanax I used to sleep on all four 3.5 hour Concorde flights, probably would not work for these 12 hour flights.  My colleague, who originally recommended the Xanax, agreed and prescribed the longer-acting Klonopin for this trip.

            So now we would be in Europe three years in a row.  Our plan was to relax in places we had enjoyed and maybe do a little touring in places we had missed.

            Before we left, we had a nice dinner and get together at the house.  Jeff's wife Rebecca, was pregnant with my first grandchild and I asked her to show it off for the camera and posterity.


[That little bundle became Kaylin Marie Hoffer and she became a teenager on July 20, 2013.  Below she is with her new gecko my daughter Kristin gave her.  Time really does fly.

Sunday, March 26, 2000

            I got up early today and went to Mass at St. Monica's at noon and then did my run on my treadmill and final packing for this trip.  At 2:00 PM, our daughter Kristin came over and drove us down the 405 San Diego Freeway to LAX to get our flight.



            We checked in at the Alitalia Italian Airlines counter and then took our take-on bags to Alitalia's First Class Lounge since we had these free Business Class tickets.


            While waiting, about a half hour before we were to board, I took a 0.5 mg Klonopin.  We then boarded the plane and after I was seated and the stewardess brought us some water, I took another 0.5 mg Klonopin along with six 3 mg Melatonin tablets.  I then put my earplugs in, donned my eye mask and put on my neck pillow as the jet rumbled down the runway and zoomed into the LA sky at 3:30 PM PST.


            As it leveled out and became quieter, I fell calmly to sleep.  This was my first long flight since the one I took from London to LAX in November 1974.  Those past four Concorde flights were nothing.  At 6:00, I awoke briefly and then fell back to sleep.  I woke again at 8:00 PM for a bathroom break and then took my final 0.5 mg Klonopin tablet and fell back to sleep as the day ended.

Monday March 27, 2000

        I awoke briefly at 12:00 midnight and fell back to sleep but about a half hour before landing I woke up and stayed up to watch the map on the TV screen showing the position of the flight as it crossed central Europe and headed over the Alps into northern Italy.  The plane landed very smoothly at Malpensa Airport in Milano at 1:30 PM CET* (4 AM PST.)  I had landed here briefly in 1974 while flying from Brussels to Rome.

            We got up and climbed off the plane.  After 12 hours and plenty of Klonopin, I was happy to be on the ground.

            We waited for our bags and went through passport control very quickly.  At 2:00 PM Dima (Dimitrii Dementiev, MD, below left) picked us up.  Rudy Paoletti (below, on right) and Steve Kalinich (below, center) had arrived via San Francisco and we met.  Nice coincidence.

{*CET means Central European Time or Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) +1. CA is GMT-9.]

Side Story:  Rudy Paoletti (photo right, on the left,) the bartender at our favorite restaurant since the 70s (Peppone's) was extremely nearsighted and had continued to ask me if I would perform Radial Keratotomy (RK) surgery on him, since the day I helped pioneer that surgery (to get rid of glasses) in 1979.  His myopia was the worst I had ever seen and I kept telling him to wait.  Over the years there was the development of the laser surgery and the implantable contact lens (ICL.)  there was a surgeon friend of mine in Mendoza, Argentina who had pioneered using the combination of the two modalities in extremely myopic eyes.  Rudy's  brother Gianni, the chef-owner of the restaurant, had also wanted RK, and later LASIK but the latter had not yet been approved in the US by the FDA.

            I recommended they both go and see Dr. Roberto Zaldivar (left) in Argentina, who had the most experience and was very good.  They both went to Mendoza and Gianni had a beautiful result with simple LASIK on both eyes.  Rudy had ICLs implanted in both his eyes but when he came home, though he no longer needed those thick coke-bottle glasses, kept complaining that he wished he never had it done.  Since my friend Dimitrii was the expert with the alternative implantable lens called the Phakic Refractive Lens (PRL,) I finally recommended that Rudy come to Milano and have the lenses exchanged surgically by Dimitrii.  So, he had flown to Milano with his friend Steve (right) to see Dima while I was here.  Steve Kalinich is a poet/lyricist, who worked with the Beach Boys in the 1960s.  While under contract as an artist signed to the Beach Boy's, Kalinich wrote several songs released by the group including "All I Want to Do", "Be Still", "Little Bird" and "A Time to Live in Dreams" with Dennis Wilson.  We all got to know each other at Peppone's restaurant.

            [Rudy developed pancreatic cancer and passed away in 2010.  We miss him very much.]

            After we loaded our luggage into Dima's car, at 3:00 PM, he drove us to his house in Arese, a nice suburb city 20 miles (32 Km) west of Milano.  After we unloaded and relaxed and enjoyed the moment of finally getting here and seeing them, at 5:00 I pleaded with Dima to drive me to downtown Milano near the Duomo so I could go to the AutoGrill there for a slice of their pizza and a cappuccino.  It must have been the 12 hour flight that got me loopy or maybe the Klonopin.  But, he relented and took me.  Believe me that was very enjoyable and I really appreciated it.  He then took me back to Arese and I changed into my running gear and at 7:30 did my run inside the gated community where they live.

            When I got back, Dima was cooking and he had a special treat for us.  At 8:15 we sat down to a dinner of Russian caviar with crepes followed by roast lamb.  We started out with a little red wine a plate of beautiful prosciutto.


            Then came the red caviar with a plate of warm crepes to put it on.


            Tania showed us how to do it.  You spoon the caviar onto the crepe and then you fold and roll it up.  You can cut it or pick the whole roll up and eat it.

            There was also a bowl of black caviar.


            Tania made one for little Anastasia, who was looking on eagerly awaiting hers.


            For dessert, Dima cut into this whipped cream pie.  After dinner Anastasia played a piece for us on the piano.


            I have tasted caviar in the past, but I was never impressed.  I felt I probably had not eaten the real good caviar.  It was very good but I am lucky not to be a big fan of caviar - I won't be spending large sums of money to get it.  It was very nice of Dima to go out of his way to get the good stuff from Russia for us.  We enjoyed drinking some Italian wine and talking with Dima and Tania until we realized we were exhausted.

            They say to fight jetlag you should not take a nap or fall asleep until it is bedtime in the place you arrive at.  We succeeded in that and got to bed around midnight (3 PM PST.)

[About Dimitrii: To recount the amazing story of how and why I met Dimitrii and how we became close friends, you have to visit the Italy 1997 trip, Diario #1 CONCORDE.]

KJH                                                                                                       Go To -> NEXT DIARIO #2 

Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD


Arese, Italy

Sent 10-11-2012

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Copyright 2013     Kenneth J. Hoffer, MD