Lefty Parent

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Living & parenting without the rule book

Coop Goes to Europe Part 22 – Firenze

May 21st, 2016

Michelangelo’s “Prisoners”

It was Tuesday November 20 1973 when I awoke in the male bunk room of the youth hostel in Florence, or as I was referring to it now by it’s suaver sounding real Italian name, “Firenze”. I had arrived at the hostel the previous evening with a big throng of my cohort, all of us with wet ponchos from the rain, dripping everywhere in the main common room as we stood in line, boisterously chatting with each other about the shitty weather, cold and wet. Trix and her five “mates”, who I had shared a crowded compartment with on the train from Rome, went off in their own directions for the evening, and Jen and Sarah, who had left Rome for Firenze a day before, were yet unsighted among the throng in the hostel that night, but hopefully I would encounter them again.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 21 – Train to Firenze

April 17th, 2016

It was November 19 1973 and I boarded the train headed northeast from Rome to Florence. It was a Monday, not that I kept track of what day it was since the days of the week made no difference to me, except maybe for Sunday, where in some of the more traditional areas, some of the grocery stores or the museums might be closed for the Christian sabbath. The only reason I knew it was Monday was because I’d seen the Pope do his Sunday thing in St. Peter’s square the day before.

As I boarded the train I saw others of my ilk, easily spotted by their backpacks and “freak flag” hair boarding the train as well at different doors. Some of them I recognized but I presume most or all of them had been staying at our hostel, or perhaps another one across town, and were now headed for guess where… probably Florence. My cohort of fellow travellers stuck out because most of the Europeans milling around us had way less unkempt hair, instead styled if even simply so. Easy to maintain short hair seemed to be the “mode” of the day for men and women, functional and even elegant on someone like Giselle’s daughter Laurence, who I had met in Paris. It was all about style I thought… most Europeans had a real sense of simple practical style. Thus the wild often unkempt manes on all of us backpacker types stuck out, along of course with those big packs often to be seen on our backs.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 20 – Inner Sanctum

April 3rd, 2016

The Sistine Chapel

Inspired by Morgan’s story of his frustrating foray to the Sistine Chapel, the next morning, Friday November 16, I was up early at the hostel, ate whatever remnants of food I had in my pack and headed out to walk to the Vatican, which was not too far from the hostel. As I had planned, I got to the museum entrance about 45 minutes before it opened. It was a small stairway up to a non-descript door, that looked more like a back way in than the main entrance to a bigtime museum. But the guard out front assured me that it was the right place, and I was the first person to get in line. I was thrilled, and I thought through my plan to get to the Chapel as quickly as I could. After about 15 more minutes the line started to form behind me and was nearly 50 people by the time they opened the door and let us in.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 19 – Rome

March 27th, 2016

It was Wednesday November 14 and the morning sun lit the interior of the Basel train station where I still sat waiting for the train to Rome. I had said goodbye to Steve yesterday evening in Mulhouse where I had to wait in the train station for the next train from Bar-sur-Aube to bring my passport and rail pass. It was a miracle that they had found my documents after falling out of my jacket pocket as I boarded the train. Without that miracle I would probably now be heading back to Paris, to the U.S. embassy to get a new passport and then quickly return to the States, ending my trip several weeks earlier than anticipated, and thus never getting to Italy, where I was now headed. The whole experience had chastened me, and made all my continuing issues with homesickness seem not so big a deal.

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Help me support North Valley Caring Services!

March 24th, 2016

Dear friends and family… For the 8th year, I will be riding in the North Valley Caring Services bike-a-thon to raise money for this great community organization that supports the emergence of this poor mostly Hispanic community in Panorama City, just a couple miles east of where I live. This year’s event is on Saturday, April 16, just two weeks after my 61st birthday!

From its beginnings as a soup kitchen, NVCS has grown to offer an array of programs that help individuals and families, including Adult ESL Courses, Early Childhood Education, and Parenting Classes; a Youth Program and a Workforce Development program. They have additional services including a holiday toy give-away, free Thanksgiving meal, health screenings and referral services.

Please support my effort by making a donation of $25, $50, $100 or whatever amount you can give by clicking the “Donate” button below! This is the one time during the year I ask my network for money, and my goal this year is to raise $1000 for this critical organization!









To learn more about North Valley Caring Services and the great work they do, go to their website at www.nvcsinc.org.

nvcs_logo

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 18 – Bar-sur-Aube

February 26th, 2016

Bar-sur-Aube train station today

It was late morning on Sunday November 11 when Steve and I left the Rue Titon hostel in Paris and its coterie of vivacious young female types, including foxy, flirtatious though thoroughly fascist Jeanette, who worked at the hostel desk and railed about the supposed scourge of criminal Algerians in Paris. Turns out, besides being Sunday, it was Armistice day, a big French holiday to celebrate the day in 1918 when the French and German governments agreed to stop slaughtering each other’s soldiers on the battlefield and finally put a stop to World War One. We had originally planned to stay in Paris one more day, but since the museums would all be closed, we decided we might as well depart. We also heard that there was a “food strike” in Paris.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 17 – Rue Titon

February 7th, 2016

Part 17 – Rue Titon

Kandinsky’s Painting “In White II”

On Thursday November 8 1973 Steve and I left the hotel where Walter had put us up for the night after picking us up hitchhiking just outside Hendaye in southwestern France and driving us some 800 kilometers to Paris. Along the way he had treated us to the most extensive and expensive meal either of us had had since leaving the States. He had been such a gracious and giving host, but also had revealed to us in conversation, just this morning, his right-wing political orientation including sympathies for Adolf Hitler, whose army he had fought in as a young adult soldier during World War Two. I was still struggling to reconcile all of that, him taking us under his wing and into his confidence for the day. Did he think we would share his pro capitalism, pro Hitler, anti communism worldview? Did he think he could sway us to that worldview? Or was he just simply sharing honest feelings that we could take or leave?

It was a quick walk to the Gare du Nord train station where we phoned the hostel on Rue Titon, where we had stayed previously in Paris, and confirmed they had beds for us. So we took the metro there, checked in, dropped our packs off, and then headed to our backpacker oasis of sorts, the American Express office. I was delighted to get another stack of mail from my mom and dad and several of my friends back home. I read my letters as we walked from there to the German embassy off the Champs Elysee where Steve was going to check out about the possibilities of getting a job in Germany. Turned out the embassy was only open until Noon and it was already past one in the afternoon. I agreed with Steve that it was ridiculous that the embassy would have such short office hours. So we stopped at a bar for a beer and some pinball and returned to the hostel.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 16 – Walter

February 6th, 2016

Road north from Hendaye France

Our train left the Madrid central train station a little after 10:30pm on Wednesday November 7 1973, headed north to the French border. From there my travel partner Steve and I planned to hitchhike back to Paris, where we had met each other three weeks ago. After spending a couple more days in the French capital together, we would finally go our separate ways having traveled together through Spain for those past three weeks. He to Switzerland to look for work to extend his stay before returning to the States. Me on to Italy to continue seeing the sites.

I was ready for us to part company. Back when we met I had been so lonely, homesick and with very low morale, and the two of us had quickly bonded, really enjoying each other’s company. Now, though we had been through alot together, there was more of a competitiveness to our relationship, and I felt like he was treating me more like a younger brother with whom a strong sibling rivalry prevailed. Of course when I said no to his request to have sex with me, that was certainly a big change point. At this moment, though still homesick, I was feeling much better about letting the last month of my travels play out, and traveling again on my own, before returning home to the States in mid December.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 15 – Madrid

January 16th, 2016

It was an overnight train to Madrid and we used it to save the cost of a night’s lodging. Having boarded at its starting point in Malaga Sunday night November 4, we had managed to score seats on one side of a compartment, with no one ending up sitting between us, giving us room to at least recline and try to get some sleep. The elderly couple sitting across from us were doing the same, and I thought it was cute how they cuddled with each other and smiled at Steve and I as we tried to find comfortable positions at opposite sides of our bench, not touching each other. In the early morning hours, when we came into Cordoba, the couple debarked and we got even luckier as no one else boarded and took their seats. So we each took a side, stretched out and I at least got a reasonably good rest of the night’s rest.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 14 – Torremolinos

January 3rd, 2016

It was Wednesday October 31, Halloween back in the States, when we left behind our hotel in Granada and Steve’s sexual proposition to me, to hopefully move on. While we stuck out our thumbs to try and hitchhike, I wondered what my brother was doing for Halloween, and imagined that he would be at his best friend Greg’s house creating a spooky display to scare the kids that came trick or treating. I also wondered if Alice Cooper would be on TV in honor of the holiday tailor made for his onstage nightmarish persona and antics.

But the Spanish highway did not treat us to any success in that department. After three hours trying to satisfy my travel partner’s wish to at least try to avoid the added expense to him of the train, Steve relented and we headed to the station and boarded an early afternoon train to the southern Spanish city of Malaga. The city was on the Costa del Sol, the “coast of the sun” in English, and after six weeks traveling in mostly cold and wet weather, it sounded heavenly in both Spanish and English.

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