Author Archives: Cooper Zale

Introducing my Two Inch Heels Podcast!

Hey all… I’ve just posted the first nine podcast episodes of my autobiographical novel Two Inch Heels, about backpacking through Europe for 11 weeks in the fall of 1973 at age 18.

That said, having recorded and wrestled with the editing process of the first ten chapters, I am finding that an audio reading of my work is a challenging and humbling process. Challenging in that my voice these days tends to get hoarse and navigating my long sentences often causes me to stumble over words or struggle to render clauses in particularly long sentences correctly. Humbling because those stumbles often indicate my prose could be rendered better, plus that reading for an audience is a real skill that I have not fully developed yet!

Please have a listen, when you get a chance, and give me feedback. I’ve posted the introduction and 8 chapters so for, with more coming. Thank all of you for your continuing support!

To listen to the audio version of this introduction, either go to Apple Podcasts and search for “Two Inch Heels” , or click this link.

Clubius Incarnate Part 29 – The Wizard of Oz (December 1959)

Mom said a special “movie musical” was going to be on TV and she thought I would really like watching it. Molly said that even her mom was telling her about it too, which was strange because Molly’s mom didn’t even like TV. Molly’s mom came over to our house this morning and she and mom were talking about it as they drank coffee in the kitchen. I spied on them, quietly climbing up the basement stairs and sitting near the top step where I could hear them but they couldn’t see me.

“Jane you know I think television is the anathema of true culture”, Molly’s mom said, “But this is different. This is real musical theater, done with all the storytelling magic of the cinema, and I think that it’s important that the kids are exposed to it.”

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Clubius Incarnate Part 28 – Felix (November 1959)

I felt some cold on my nose so I opened my eyes. The wind was blowing outside and the window by my bed creaked. It wasn’t nighttime any more but there was no sunshine, just gray light outside that barely came into my bedroom. The rest of my body felt warm and cozy under the covers.

I looked at my big plastic clock that I got last Christmas, and the little hand was almost at the “8” and the big hand was between the “9” and the “10”. David’s bed was empty. He usually got up before I did. I could hear mom in the kitchen. I wondered if I would go to Play School again today, or if this was that “end” day when I didn’t go to school but all those “cartoons” were on TV. One of those cartoons could be Felix. That was the one I liked the best. I could hear the woman singing the Felix song in my head…

Felix the cat
The wonderful wonderful cat
Whenever he gets in a fix
He reaches into his bag of tricks

Felix the cat
The wonderful wonderful cat
You laugh so much your sides will ache
Your heart will go pitter pat
Watching Felix, the wonderful cat

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Clubius Incarnate Part 27 – Margie (November 1959)

Mom told me that Margie was going to come over after dinner to babysit David and me. Mom and dad were going to someone else’s house to play that “Bridge” game. I’d seen them play it once, but I’m not sure why they called it “Bridge”, because there weren’t any real or even pretend bridges. I liked real bridges, because they hooked things together and they let you go over something else, or also go under something else, though that could be a tunnel instead, though a tunnel would usually be longer.

I saw them play Bridge once but I could only figure some of it out. They sat at this special “Bridge table” where you had to open up the leg parts. They used those “playing cards” that came in a little box. One person gave everyone else a bunch of those cards and everybody looked at their own cards but didn’t show them to anyone else. Then they did this talking part when they were counting things like “hearts” and “diamonds” and other stuff. After that, one of the four people put all their cards down on the table so everyone else could see them, and then that person didn’t play for a while and just watched. The other people still playing took turns putting cards down on the table so everybody could see them, and then one person kept all the cards they put down. Mom saw me watching and said she would show me how the game worked sometime. I liked games where you had to do thinking and decide which thing to do. I didn’t like games like “Chutes and Ladders” where it was all luck and no thinking, even though the board looked kind of neat.

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Clubius Incarnate Part 26 – Whiffenpoof (October 1959)

Dad got mad today because the Michigan football team lost. He was down in his office part of the basement listening to the man on the radio saying what the teams were doing in the game. I was playing in my part of the basement making Tom Swift’s island where he made things in his “lab” and launched his spaceships, planes and submarines. Dad used TWO swear words, I guess because he was REALLY mad that the football team he liked the best was losing. Mom never got mad like that when the teams she liked lost. She’d say, “We’ll get ‘em next time”.

“Damn it to hell”, dad said with a low but very fierce, even scary voice, and he broke the pencil in half he was holding. He saw me looking at him and started looking worried, and mad even in a different way, at himself. It seemed strange to me that a person could get mad at themselves, but then grownups always did stuff that surprised me. Then I remembered that when I said “damn” to mom about tying my shoes, that later I wished I hadn’t said it.

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Clubius Incarnate Part 25 – Play School (September 1959)

“So I think it’s good that Khrushchev and his wife came to tour the U.S.” mom said, as she drove the car down Main street on a windy Monday morning with those big white puffy clouds like giant islands in the sky, “He seems much different than Stalin.”

“Not THAT different Liz”, dad said, sitting across from her in the front seat of the car, his brown “briefcase” thing on his lap, “I still don’t trust the man. He’s like one of those slick PR guys who says whatever he thinks will achieve his goals in the moment. He’s just another Stalin with a Madison Avenue twist. You yourself said on more than one occasion that you prefer a straightforward adversary to a weaselly friend.”

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Clubius Incarnate Part 24 – Nursery School

I was in the backyard of this house I had never seen before when mom left me here this morning, now sitting at this long table with a bunch of other boys. Some were my age and some were a little younger. The girls were sitting at another long table next to ours, not because they had to, but that’s just where they wanted to sit I guess. The grownup women in charge had given us peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, cut up pieces of apple, and milk in these small boxes for lunch for lunch. Those grownups said they were “teachers”, whatever those were, but they said things and did things like they were moms.

Mom said it was a “nursery school”, and before we got here this morning, I figured it would be some big building like that giant “school” down at the other end of our street from the park. Or like that “college” place where dad went which he also called a “school”. But instead it was just a regular house with a big sign in the front yard that I think had that “school” word on it.

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Two Inch Heels Part 4 – Solo

Victoria Station, London

[This is a rewrite from August 2021 of the first half of the original “Solo” chapter, now broken into two chapters.]

It was Tuesday September 25th as I walked alone now, my big red backpack on my back, through residential streets of west London to the subway stop that would take me to Victoria Station and my train to the Continent. I felt the locals I passed were looking at me like I was some sort of oddball. If Angie were still with me, they would have seen instead just another couple young “hippie Yank” travellers, a matched set. I was an unmatched set of one.

At several points along the way I almost turned around and went back to Angie in the hotel. This grand adventure with my comrade Angie was now something utterly different, a solo odyssey that was feeling like it was going to be an ordeal. But I could not bear the sense of defeat I knew I would feel if I gave up. The most painful thought of all, was 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 pretty sure I wasn’t ready for, but couldn’t NOT do at this point. So somehow I had to traverse this journey so I could return home transformed, the triumphant European traveler.

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Two Inch Heels Part 3 – Angie

[This is part of a rewrite in August of 2021 of my autobiographical novel “Two Inch Heels”. It is the second half of what used to be “Part 1 – Angie”]

The next morning was Friday September 21, and after breakfast with the Clays, we said our goodbyes, repacked our backpacks, and Bill drove us back to the Oxford bus station. We were catching the bus to Salisbury, which had been on our planned itinerary. Angie wanted to see Stonehenge. I had seen it, three years ago, but was happy to go again to a place of great gravity and historical significance. There was also an official youth hostel in Salisbury, and we had called ahead and confirmed it was open and should be able to accommodate us.

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Clubius Incarnate Part 23 – The Swat (August 1959)

I woke up. I heard the sounds of guns shooting and people yelling.

“Get your boots on and grab your rifle”, someone said, “The soldiers have found us, and our only chance is to get across the river!”

I sat up. I’d been lying on the ground using my backpack as a pillow. I pulled a boot over my left foot and watched my fingers move quickly, making the first loop, surrounding it with the other lace, and then pushing the second loop through and pulling it out the other side, and pulling on the first as well, making a tight knot. It was like I didn’t have to even think about it to make my fingers move. Then the other boot, doing the same thing. There was more shooting and a person screaming in pain.

“I’m hit”, he yelled out.

“No time to help him”, someone said, “We run now or we’ll all be dead.”

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