It was Thursday October 4th 1973 when I debarked the train from Bern Switzerland in Munich Germany, fifty pound (or should I say 22 kilo) pack on my back, bleary from lack of sleep, but happy to recognize Christiane and Volcker on the train platform smiling and scanning the numerous people exiting the train. I on the other hand looked much different than the five foot six inch short haired fifteen-year-old kid they had met three years ago. Now I had a long curly mop of hair, was six feet and even taller wearing my two-inch-heeled shoes (which I typically wore instead of my big clunky hiking boots which still hurt my feet and hung from my pack). When Christiane figured out by process of elimination who I was she started waving vigorously and her face lit up. Volcker followed her lead and waved as well, though more sedately, and put on his best charming smile.
We did not make it into Switzerland that day due to an unexpected detour by our last ride, a forty-something guy hauling a big sailboat behind his VW bus who seemed somewhat crazy or at least very very scatterbrained. With darkness approaching he took us into the town of Friedrichshafen in the very southernmost part of Bavaria, where he said he was going to participate the next morning in a big boat race. The town was on the north shore of a forty mile long lake called the Bodensee, which made up part of the border between West Germany and Switzerland. It was a beautiful town with great views of the lake. The blue-gray water blended into the blue-gray somewhat hazy sky at dusk to make the interface between the two indistinguishable, and with the far shore hidden in the haze, it felt like the town was on the edge of an endless abyss.
With all the bravado I could muster I left the hotel and my travel companion Angie, the two of us having decided to part company, I to continue some version of our original planned trip to the continent, and her to stay in London and hook up with her parents who had planned a trip to England. Though I was not excited about continuing, and part of me wanted to bail on the whole odyssey and return home, I could not bear the sense of defeat I knew I would feel if I gave up the adventure, even now alone and on my own. Like it or not, for my own still tenuous self respect, I had to continue. I knew at some level I was throwing myself into a hugely developmental “deep end” that I was in no way looking forward to but determined to traverse somehow and return home a triumphant European traveler.
I missed the 1968 generation. I came too late. That’s when we were still all together moving in the right direction. Now the momentum is shattered. People are turning inward and cruising. But maybe because I’m not part of the 1968 “Vietnam” generation I’m not disillusioned. My time may still be to come.
I felt I was somehow too young, born too late to have the bonafides to be an actual “hippie” radical, like my good friend Avi’s older brother or the characters in the movie The Strawberry Statement. It was like that boat had sailed and I could only at this point be some sort of poser wannabe… no thank you!
When I think back on all the crap I learned in high school
It’s a wonder I can think at all
And though my lack of education hasn’t hurt me none
I can read the writing on the wall
Dear friends and family… For the 7th 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, March 28, just four days before my 60th 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. In addition they have added further services in response to community requirements, including Holiday Toy Give-Away, 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! My goal this year is to raise $1000 for them!
To learn more about North Valley Caring Services and the great work they do, go to their website at www.nvcsinc.org.
Coop Goes to College Part 1 – Intoxications, Altered States, Song and Dance, Rhythm & Blues in the Deep EndJanuary 2nd, 2015
The last week of summer finally arrived as it always did, and with some reluctance but also some excitement I left my hometown of Ann Arbor, the place where most of the developmental events of my life had occurred, the Tuesday after Labor Day in September of 1972 to head off to college. The Munich Olympics were underway and the initial killing of two members of the Israeli Olympic team and kidnapping of nine others by PLO gunmen, the beginning of the “Munich Massacre” had just occurred, though we were not aware of that yet!
I still was feeling a great deal of ambivalence about my choice to go off to school ninety miles west at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo rather than at my hometown University of Michigan, in whose university medical center I had been born, where my parents were both Alumni, and my little family had been part of the extended University academic community for as long as I could remember. My stated reason for choosing WMU was that I was planning on being a theater major and I had been told they had a better theater program than UofM. But at some deeper level that I don’t know if I could really articulate I had a strong sense that I had to leave my Ann Arbor nest to best proceed with my further development. The thought of leaving my hometown did give me a discomforting sense of aloneness, but also a more positive sense that I was somehow doing at least something (if not perhaps the best thing) to push forward developmentally with my life.
Among other presents, my brother and I got the Beatles’ White Album and Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme for Christmas, both on our list that our mom had solicited from us. The tag on the wrapped gifts under the tree in our living room indicated they were from “Santa”. Our mom continued to believe in Santa Claus, or at least that her kids should continue to honor the myth of this jolly old avatar who loved children and spent his entire undying existence bringing gifts and joy to young people throughout an often child-unfriendly world.
Now that I had quit my paper route and no longer had my own money from it, Christmas gifts were an important source of particularly the games and record albums that were so significant to me developmentally. When we were little our mom and dad had done their best to observe our play carefully and buy us toys that would present a compelling “curriculum” for our play. In more recent years, our mom had taken to asking my brother and me for a list of the things we wanted for Christmas, and then tried her best, even collaborating with our dad, to get us those things that they could within their limited budget. I would put careful thought into our lists, because the toys, games, records, tape recorders and other stuff we ended up getting over the years continued to play the role of important self-directed developmental curriculum.