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.
A young guy with the requisite long freak-flag hair and bell-bottom jeans sat down across from me, said hello in English, and we were soon chatting. His name was Marcello and he was Italian and heading home to Rome. He spoke limited English but enough for us to cobble together a fairly substantial conversation. After the conventional topics – where we were from and where we were headed – he got more conspiratorial and shared with me that he had made several trips to Afghanistan and talked all about the hashish there and how easy and cheap it was to buy, compared to how expensive it was to buy here in Europe. I connected with him immediately because he seemed so passionate, genuine and unguarded, though our main topic of conversation was such that one would normally be guarded about. He seemed obsessed with every aspect of hashish and its availability, and the more he talked the more I realized, though he was just a few years older than I was, he was essentially in business buying and selling the stuff. He was what would conventionally be referred to as a drug dealer.
I say conventionally because, “drug dealer” was a pejorative term used by the older generation, their politicians and the media. Among my generational cohort that actually used some of those illegal drugs like marijuana (and its concentrated form hashish) as a recreational intoxicant and social lubricant, those among us who facilitated our use by selling the stuff, were doing the rest of us an important service, so were looked on favorably. “Drug dealers” were something else entirely, people in the inner cities that made a living selling cocaine and heroine and carried guns to shoot it out with the police or rival dealers as necessary. We who lived in the mostly white towns and suburbs were pretty much in denial that at some point up the distribution chain, our comrades that bought a pound of weed and sold it by the ounce to the rest of us were probably buying from someone buying and selling much larger quantities of the stuff, for all purposes more like real drug dealers.
So at some point he suggested that I stay with him at his place in Rome and he would show me around the city. Despite feeling an instant affinity with him and my acceptance of the buying and selling of drugs, marijuana and hashish at least, at the “retail” level, I was unsure of whether I should take him up on his offer, but did not want to be rude. Later on the train, he told me he lived with his mother, which seemed to change things a bit and make it maybe more okay. Plus the fact that he seemed so nice and was making such an effort to connect with me and offer me a way out of my cocoon of solitude.
But when our train finally got to Rome and he suggested I accompany him to his mother’s place outside the city, I hesitated, part of me still unsure of what I might be getting myself into, while another part feeling like I was being rude or at least overly timid. Witnessing my hesitation, he backed off a bit, but still gave me the phone number at his mother’s place and said for me to call him and we would hook up somehow. I agreed to call him, though the timid side of me felt I should probably not follow through, while the growing more adventurous side felt it would be a great opportunity to transcend the whole tourist thing and connect with a real Italian family in their home and their city, like I had with Angelica and Helmut in Munich and Gisele in Paris.
So when Marcello and I parted company at the Rome train station, that nagging feeling of homesickness had ratcheted up again and my spirits were on the low side as I made my way through the center city to the nearby youth hostel. Despite my reservations, that emerging more adventurous reach out to others part of me was determined to follow through and call him. It would likely turn out to be great I rationalized – free accommodations and a chance for me to meet and see how some Italians live. I of course would be duly cautious at first and make sure things were as he said they were.
The Rome youth hostel quickly pulled me out of my funk. It was full of fellow backpacker types, male and female, sitting or milling about the big common room of the place. In line to book my bed, I connected with the guy in line in front of me, Morgan, from Canada. He was enrolled in college in Toronto but spending his junior year abroad in Italy, studying European history and culture at the University of Milan, and in Rome to see the museums and the Renaissance and classical Roman architecture. What made him particularly fun was that beside his nerdy academic side with his passion for historical architecture, he had a countercultural side with an equally strong passion for radical politics, marijuana, psychedelic music and the more intense psychedelic drugs, like psilocybin, peyote and even LSD, none of which I had ever dared to try but still found very intriguing to hear about.
As we continued to sit together in the common room and talk, I enjoyed his introduction to the context and nuances of his favored musical genre, including his insights on the work of Donovan, Pink Floyd, Jefferson Airplane, Cream, and Jimi Hendrix. I was particularly intrigued by what he shared with me about the backstory of Pink Floyd’s seminal “See Emily Play” and made a note to explore their musical catalog more when I returned to the States. On his side he was unaware but intrigued by what I shared with him about jazz-rock fusion, including Chick Corea and the Mahavishnu Orchestra. Talking currently shared and potential new musical connections was one of the key ways my peers and I built common ground for our relationships with each other.
Sharing an interest in history, he enjoyed my thoughts on modern Russian history and particularly the Russian anarchists Mikhail Bakunin and Peter Kropotkin and the essentially anarchist themes in the paintings of Wassily Kandinsky. He was familiar with Kandinsky as an artist but not the anarchist angle, as he was familiar with Tolstoy but not so much about his anarchist leanings. He was pleasantly amazed by my stories of my high school history teacher, Mr. Peacock, who had taught the Modern Russian History class and was, or at least claimed to be, a card carrying communist.
Morgan and I then connected with a couple of our female backpacker cohort from Australia, Jen and Sarah. Like many of my fellow travelers I encountered from down under, they were in the midst of long sojourns in Europe of three to six months or longer. They were best friends and both taking a year off college studies in Sydney. I had a total instant crush on Jen. She was a physically imposing person, as tall as and stockier than I, with a big Aussie voice and even bigger personality that commanded a room, even a big raucous many things happening at once one like the hostel common room. Her travel partner Sarah, who was more reserved but had a deadpan killer acid wit, was at times Jen’s acolyte, assistant, foil, personal peanut gallery, handler and straight-man. I quickly had a crush on Sarah too, maybe even more so than Jen, since she kind of reminded me of Giselle’s stunning daughter Laurence. Jen was more like a force of nature or an alien goddess than a human being that one could imagine building a connection with. My libido in total overdrive, I imagined wild sexual encounters with the three of us. Looking back now, the two of them may even have been a lesbian couple, but as I said before I was clueless about that sort of stuff at the time.
Jen flirted with all the guys that came within range, and when it maybe got a little out of hand Sarah would say something like “Don’t mind her she’s just insane!”, in her deadpan delivery with just the right touch of tongue in cheek inflection. Then Jen would turn heads everywhere in the room with her big laugh and muss up Sarah’s short black neatly parted hair, which her travel partner would quickly rearrange with her hands while showing a mock scowl on her face, loving every bit of Jen’s attention. Jen got me in her crosshairs when she made a big deal about my name “Coop” and asking if anyone called me “Coopster”, which she proceeded to call me for the next several days we were all at the hostel. She also noted and complimented me on my two-inch heeled shoes making some reference to “the Coopster’s low spark”, a reference I picked up on to Steve Winwood and Jim Capaldi’s hit song, “The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”, with their band Traffic…
The percentage you’re paying is too high priced
While you’re living beyond all your means
And the man in the suit has just bought a new car
From the profit he’s made on your dreams
But today you just read that the man was shot dead
By a gun that didn’t make any noise
But it wasn’t the bullet that laid him to rest, was
The low spark of high-heeled boys (heeled boys)
Needless to say, though never feeling worthy of her grace, I was her slave after that and at her beck and call as with her partner Sarah.
When Jen said she and Sarah were going to head up to the female bunk room to stow their stuff, my timidness unfortunately kicked in and prevented me from right then and there just tossing out that the four of us should go out and search for a place to have dinner together. Tossed off in a way to make it no big deal if they declined, but in the same token making it easier for them to say “Yeah… what the hell!” Instead I grimaced and watched their cute jean clad rear ends underneath those big packs ascend the stairs to the upstairs dorms.
So in the high energy room still bustling full of backpacker types, Morgan and I were quickly sucked into a new conversation, with two British guys from Manchester. The mention of their hometown triggered that great song in my head from the musical Hair…
Manchester, England, England across the Atlantic Sea
And I’m a genius, genius, I believe in God
And I believe that God believes in Claude
Well unlike Claude I didn’t believe in god (having sorted that out a decade earlier), or even myself fully, and certainly needed a lot of work toward the latter.
At Morgan’s suggestion we all agreed to head out to find a cheap place to eat. I longed to be doing this with Jen and Sarah instead, but it would be rude to say no and I figured I better just go with the flow. We quickly found that the eating establishments broke down to basically two categories, ristoranti and trattorie. The former had printed menus, waiters and prices we could no way afford. The latter mostly fit our budgets, with generally no menus or waiters, and very simple though delicious cuisine.
In Spain, the dish to buy at a restaurant on the frugal budget had been Paella. Here in Italy, to get the most caloric bang for your buck (or load for your lira, though you generally needed a shitload of lire to buy anything) was pasta, with a marinara or cream sauce, and bread. I was only familiar at this point, in my limited culinary experience back home in WASPy Ann Arbor, with the basic forms – spaghetti, lasagna, ravioli and macaroni. (I don’t think we were even calling it “pasta” yet.) Virtually all the trattorie had the first three, but there was also a much broader array of other configurations of the formed wheat dough, including: mostaccioli, cannelloni, penne, rigatoni, linguini and vermicelli. Plus my favorite newly found format, gnocchi, little dollops of dough made with a mixture of wheat and potato flour. To get a little meat or cheese in your starchy meal you’d pay a little extra and get the cannelloni, ravioli, or pop for a meatball or two. Otherwise you at least had access to free parmesan or romano cheese to sprinkle on your bowl of hot saucy noodles.
As we all gobbled and slurped down big bowls of our chosen pasta format and drank decanters of cheap chianti Morgan and I swapped tales of life on the road with our two comrades from England’s industrial heartland. Though I was the youngest at the table in chronological age, I had actually been on those roads through the European continent for nearly two months now, a lot longer than any of my other three fellow travelers, and I ended up in the unusual situation of being the center of attention and telling the most stories at the table. Those tales included, parting company with Angie in London and heading to the continent on my own. Staying and smoking hash with the U.S. Army brats in Munich. The breathalyzer test in Chur. The homeless guy who brought us beers in the train station in Bern. Climbing a mountain in Bavaria. My long day across Luxemburg and Belgium. The prostitutes along the Avenue de Clichy in Paris. The ride across France in the VW van with Zo and Randall, and the third degree from the Spanish customs police. The amazing fish market in Barcelona and gruesome bullfight in Torremolinos (though not my travel partner wanting to have sex with me in Granada). And finally the German businessman who gave us a ride to Paris, popped for dinner and put us up for the night.
Again despite our three different countries of origin there was immediate camaraderie between the four of us around our common generational themes. Long or otherwise “freak flag” hair and bell bottom jeans. The spectrum of contemporary music we had all experienced to some degree, from rock through soul and R&B to jazz, from Motown to Mahavishnu Orchestra and Petula Clark to David Bowie. Drug culture, particularly the availability of and our experiences with marijuana and hashish, plus the other more exotic drugs beyond. Political activism in the context of a radical critique of conventional society. And of course that shared urge to leave the familiarity of home and wander beyond the horizon, ginned up by our generational Greek chorus. Dylan’s simile “on your own like a rolling stone” and Steppenwolf’s “like a true nature’s child we were born to be wild”. Lou Reed’s suggestion to “take a walk on the wild side” and Bowie’s to “turn and face the strange”.
And all my stories were salted with the array of engaging young women I had met along the way. My original travel partner and hometown buddy Angie. Norwegians Ashild and anarchist Bublil in Chur. My perky host Angelica in Munich. Crazy New Zealander Miranda along the Mosel (though not her sexual proposition, out of respect for her). My Parisian host Giselle’s stunning daughter Laurence, plus Prudence the hippie bard, and thoroughly fascist Jeanette. Wild red haired Canadian Zo and her “Magic Bus”.
As we all got buzzed on the cheap chianti my stories got saltier and more lurid and my three dinner companions enjoyed the richness of my travel tales and fantasized about there own possibilities still to come. They loved all the detail about the young women, and it occurred to me that everyone’s libido was probably percolating like mine, since who among us backpacker types were having any real opportunities for sexual encounters in our travels because, where would you do it? We all stayed in samesex bunk rooms! Maybe Randall and Zo in their VW van, but not most of us.
Walking back to the hostel after dinner I realized that I had forgotten to call Marcello, the guy I had met in the Basel train station who had invited me to stay with him at his mother’s place outside Rome. I had been uncomfortable when we had gotten to Rome together to accompany him there and said instead that I would call him. I had had a real connection with him, and he seemingly with me, but his apparent life selling hashish had put me off a bit. Still I felt I owed him the call and had committed to stay with him, and to back out would be rude. I used the pay phone at the hostel to try and call his mother’s house several times, but no answer. I realized that I was going to feel guilty about it until I managed to contact him and follow through.
As I climbed into my now so familiar sleeping bag on my bunk in one of the big male bunk rooms of the Rome youth hostel, my goose down cocoon made my feeling of aloneness return, and with it that wanting to finally be headed home. The afternoon’s encounter with Jen and Sarah and the evening’s dinner with Morgan and the guys from Manchester had been at best nice diversions from the underlying ache and flagging of my spirits. Everyone had their own separate plans for the next day and I had my own chores to get done.
So the next morning I set out on my own with the task of making my now much anticipated flight home a reality. I was headed to the BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) office to book my already paid for return flight from London to Detroit, and then to the post office to mail postcards. Eyeballing my Rome city map, and folding it in just such a way so that just the route from the hostel to the airline office was displayed, I calculated it to be about a five kilometer walk, maybe forty minutes, and with as much walking as I was now used to doing, what I now considered an easy hike, even shouldering my fifty pound pack. I was carrying it because I would try again to call Marcello, and hopefully hook up with him and enjoy the hospitality of him and his mom.
It was Thursday and the sidewalks were full of people and the streets were packed with speeding cars. I continued to notice how generally physically fit and well dressed most European pedestrians were. Most of them walked with a grace I did not recall seeing so much back in the States. Their clothes weren’t necessarily expensive or high fashion, but generally well put together with a bit of flair. In that context, the occasional fellow American I would encounter tended to stick out, and again I could often pick them out from a block away. They tended to move a little more awkwardly and dress less nattily with less attention to overall style. I know I wasn’t much for style with my limited wardrobe of three shirts and two pairs of pants, but I did think I looked particularly good when I wore my nicer paisley shirt, flared slacks and my two-inch heeled shoes with their two-toned corduroy uppers.
In this big unfamiliar city, walking by myself with all my possessions on my back, I felt that aloneness again that I had really not experienced since I had met Steve back in Paris several weeks ago and we started traveling together. For those last few weeks together, we had been a platonic couple of sorts, doing most activities together, including sleeping in adjoining beds when we slept in cheap hotels in Spain rather than hostels. Sometimes Steve had gotten on my nerves, but he had been a good companion for the most part, and I had never felt lonely. And since we had parted several days ago in Mulhouse, events had had me pretty much in the company of other acquaintances, even sleeping in my hostel bunk, until this foray this morning.
To mitigate that aloneness, I found that the internal jukebox in my mind would spontaneously start to “play” a song from my memory and I would start to sing along to it over and over while I walked. Depending on who was in earshot, maybe out loud, maybe in a whispered voice, or just in my mind’s unspoken voice. I had actually been doing this for years, particularly when I was walking a fairly significant distance alone, say to school in the morning or home at the end of the day. The particular song could be one of a hundred or more that I knew and liked, and which one I started up with in a given walk could be triggered by hearing it, a reference to the song or even a phrase spoken by someone else that was the same or similar to a song lyric, or even completely randomly, or subconsciously at least.
Probably more subconsciously than randomly, because usually the song was a good indicator of my mood at the time. If I was feeling light hearted, maybe something like Simon and Garfunkel’s “Feelin’ Groovy” or the Beatles’ “Obladi Oblada”. If I had more bearing on my soul, perhaps Ron Argent’s “Hold Your Head Up” or Petula Clark’s “Downtown”. Those were just a few examples, it could be any of a hundred songs that I had in my memory and could hear playing in my mind’s ear with my “phonographic memory”. The cadence of my walk would then tend to sync itself to the beat of the song, and I could go for an hour. Given my tendency, I would sometimes consciously launch into a song of choice while walking, but more often than not it would come from somewhere in my subconscious and represent some deep take on my own current circumstance. This morning was more of a “Hold Your Head Up” kind of a day.
I noted that at the big major intersections, particularly the big circular ones with five or six streets coming together, there often was a traffic cop standing on a sort of elevated podium in the middle of things directing traffic. But a further observation was that nobody seemed to pay any attention to him and just drove into or through the traffic seemingly willy nilly. Crossing one of these big busy streets as a pedestrian seemed like taking your life into your hands, but everyone did it, and I quickly learned to do it too. It wasn’t a matter of waiting for a signal from the traffic cop or any sort of light, you just walked out across the street, and whether two lanes or ten, the drivers just avoided you somehow. It was like a huge choreographed dance with people and machines that had all learned to do comfortably together, though looking like dangerous chaos to an outsider.
At the BOAC office I waited in line for an agent and then produced my plane ticket and my passport, and in about twenty minutes I had a reservation on flight 525 leaving London Heathrow Tuesday December 11 at 11:45am, arriving at Detroit Metro at 5:00pm with a stop first in Philadelphia. I needed to contact a BOAC office up to seven days before the flight to get my seat assignment. From there I got directions to the closest post office, and I sent out a round of postcards home to family and friends with my return date and flight info.
I had settled on the 11th as my return date because I had gotten a note from my brother at the Paris American Express office that my friends Avi and Jerry were planning to go to the Alice Cooper concert at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor on Wednesday December 12th, and wondered if I would be back and wanted to join them. At the post office I mailed my postcards, including one to my brother telling him to get me that ticket for the concert. Thinking it might take a while for him to receive that card, I paid several thousand lire (about $5 U.S.) and had someone at the post office help me send a telegram to my brother confirming that I wanted that ticket. It was so exciting to me to be beginning to make my return to my hometown a reality. Seeing Alice Cooper’s outrageous glam/shock rock show just my second evening home would be such a huge culture shock and “welcome back to the U.S. of A.” for me, but it felt good to anticipate, feeling I would immediately be back in the energy and embrace of my closest circle of friends. Now I just needed to play out the next four weeks as best I could to complete my journey in proper form.
At a pay phone in the post office I tried to call Marcello again but with no luck. As I lugged my fifty pound pack around the busy city, I realized what a hassle this whole thing with him was for me, though not his fault. It would be much easier for me to continue to stay at the hostel, and I figured more of a boost for my fragile spirit, having that array of fellow travelers to talk to all the time. But how could I tell him that? I decided to try again tomorrow, but I’d leave my pack at the hostel. I didn’t want to let him down, since he had been so nice, he deserved the effort. But I vowed that I wouldn’t let him make my life a hassle either.
Back at the hostel with my definite plan to stay there for the rest of my time in Rome, my spirits were buoyed, given that I also now had my plane flight home booked plus my ticket to see Alice with my friends. It did trouble me that I seemed so dependent on others to make traveling a fun thing for me. But I rationalized that most of my fellow travelers over here had three to five years more life experience under their belts than I did, so it was probably harder for me than some of the others.
In the main room I saw Sarah without Jen at her side. I wandered over her way and feeling a bit newly courageous I asked her how things were going. She looked me in the eye with what seemed like a slightly demonic glare with her dark intense eyes and said my new nickname acknowledging my presence in her space, “Coopster! What’s happening?” If I’d had any real courage I’d of said what was actually happening for me at that moment having this close encounter with her, “You’re happening!”, but instead I just rattled off the routine particulars of my day’s chores, BOAC and post office. What had happened to me today at a superficial level, but not what was really “happening” inside my ever percolating mind.
She listened to my recitation with more focus than I thought it deserved, and pondered a moment before responding. That response was not what I expected and way more than I could have hoped for. She told me she had discovered a great gelato place not to far from the hostel and would I like to accompany her. Her mind was so quick, like a good chess player thinking moves ahead. She said, “Obvious question… what about Jen? A good answer? Not really!”. She grimaced. I gathered that Jen was somehow AWOL, confounding her buddy and de facto handler, who was reaching out to me as an at least temporary buddy, given that good looking young women, particularly from foreign countries, often got hit on by young Italian guys when they went out on the streets alone. Though too shy around my female peers to have suggested she join me on such an endeavor, I was nonetheless very willing, and not wanting to appear too slavishly eager, tried to say “sure” with the most nonchalance I could muster.
I guessed that Sarah was about twenty one, those three additional years and the added maturity they implied, made her offer that much more surprising to me. Her neatly coiffed, short, straight black hair, parted on the side like a guy, was a contrast to most of the rest of us backpacker types, with our wilder manes, including her partner Jen’s big mop of curly hair. Her look, her petite stature, and her obvious razor sharp intelligence reminded me a lot of Giselle’s daughter Laurence, who I’d also been quite taken with. I still had a vivid memory of Laurence pressing her slender but definitely female frame against mine when she gave me a hug when I said goodbye to them several days back in Paris. But unlike the more reticent Laurence(at least around me), Sarah had that Aussie swagger that went so well with that nasally down under accent. I loved the way she and Jen used the British slang, including referring to guys as “blokes”, where I would call them “dudes”. I liked being her “bloke”, at least for the moment, the rest of our excursion to sample the Italian’s version of ice cream.
As we made our way through the late afternoon hubbub of the big European city, Rome seemed bustling and contemporary, and nothing like its “eternal city” nickname. Sarah asked me about my hometown and my family, and again listened intently as I told her about growing up in a politically liberal college town as part of the academic community, about my parent’s divorce when I was ten, and about my bigger than life mother, kind of like her friend Jen. She had grown up in a midsized town, both of her parents were professionals, and she had met Jen as her dorm roommate when they first attend college classes.
She seemed intrigued by my relative youth, and was curious about how I ended up on this extended sojourn in Europe by myself. So with plenty of time to kill, and I in no hurry to end our little sojourn together, I told her the long version. My involvement in the youth theater group in my home town which led to becoming close friends with best friends Lane and Angie. Their original plan to backpack through Europe together. My asking and being accepted to join them. Lane dropping out. Angie and I, friends but not girlfriend/boyfriend, flying off to London together, only to have Angie decide to go back after the first few days of our travels. Me almost deciding to bail myself, but making the ultimate decision to hang in.
She pondered all that for a while, as was her endearing style, before responding that I was a lot more courageous than she was. Having reached the gelato shop and purchased the wonderful concoction that put conventional ice cream to shame, she then told her story about how she and Jen had become “best mates” at college and been through some pretty wild times, mostly initiated by her rambunctious and libertine roommate. Jen had then badgered her into taking this trip to celebrate their graduation, and Sarah was now glad she had signed on, even though her travel partner was a handful at times, like she was being right now. I told her I thought that given the circumstances, Jen being Jen, she Sarah was pretty courageous too, or else completely foolhardy, which got a laugh out of her and a lean of her shoulder against mine briefly, with a comment that I was certainly a “charming bloke”.
I was so taken with being a “charming bloke” to this vivacious “older woman”, and if she was hitting on me at that point I don’t know, and would later ponder, but in the moment it just felt like we were developing the intimacy that was the beginning of being buddies. It was the sort of relationship I was most comfortable with with my female peers, and the kind of relationship I had with Lane, Angie and several other young women in my theater company. For a more conventional guy, maybe it would have been the entree to make a more romantic gesture, even a kiss perhaps. And maybe it was just rationalizing my sexual timidity, but I craved that deep connection with my peers, and adding the sexual component felt like it took away somehow from that, turning profound agape into a coarser, man “scoring” with woman eros. And yet if she had kissed me on the lips at that point I don’t think I would have balked, so maybe it was just timidity. But when we finally returned from our little sojourn back to the hostel, and Jen reappeared from wherever she had been, I felt enriched to have this new friend, or surrogate big sister even, among my fellow travelers.
Having parted with Sarah and Jen, I saw Morgan and we checked in with each other and ended up going out to that same Trattoria as last night for dinner, just the two of us. He had ended up spending the day touring the vatican, had gotten there at midday when it was pretty crowded, and said it was frustrating for him when he got to the Sistine Chapel, because it was packed with tourists and was hard to really appreciate the architectural gestalt of the space. He thought he would go back some time and try to get there earlier in the day. He said he had an appointment tomorrow with a research librarian to look at a local collection of Italian Renaissance architecture sources. I said I might try my luck at the Vatican museum tomorrow morning.
We talked about politics. About the wars in Vietnam and the Middle East. About the leaders of our home countries and Britain as well. How our home countries had very different leaders – Nixon in the U.S. and Trudeau in Canada – the former neither of us supported and the latter much more in line with our sensibilities and political worldview. Morgan liked that Nixon was being so aggressively gone after by the press over the whole Watergate thing, and said that British Prime Minister Heath should have gotten similar treatment from the British press for the “Bloody Sunday” massacre in Derry Northern Ireland in January of 1972. He explained that though a Brit himself, he was in favor of Irish independence and was not a “Unionist”.
The flow of the conversation eventually transitioned from politics to music, a passion of both of ours, as we had discovered yesterday evening. Once we got started on that, the hours flew by and it seemed we could go on and on forever. From our starting points yesterday, him with psychedelia, me with jazz-rock fusion, we moved to glam.
Mark Bolan and David Bowie on his side of “the pond” and Alice Cooper, Iggy Pop and the New York Dolls on mine. Ours both was an intellectual passion for the music. Swapping favorite songs, learning new ones. Bolan’s T-Rex “Bang a Gong” I knew of course and loved, but I had not heard of his other stuff like “Metal Guru”. He knew Cooper’s catalog starting with the Killer album and after, but only his hit “I’m Eighteen” off his earlier Love it to Death album, and not other great songs like “Is It My Body”. We even sang the songs the other didn’t know, to try to convey them as best we could. When the place closed we walked the streets of the neighborhood continuing the back and forth.
It was only getting back to the hostel just before curfew, and off to our separate bunks, that stopped our exchange. But as I slid into my sleeping bag, the sense of a new friendship kept the feelings of loneliness easily at bay.