After watching that “Lost World” movie I couldn’t stop thinking about dinosaurs. Mom said they lived a long long time ago, before there were any people. I guess they were in charge of things back then. People were in charge of all the animals now, though mom said that people were actually animals too, called “homo sapiens”. But she said we were different from other animals because we could talk and do more thinking.
“There’s the theater”, mom said, pointing to the right as she drove the car. It had this big sign with words on it. Above the sign were even bigger letters on top that spelled the word “MICHIGAN” in red letters. Below it the sign was white, with black words on it that said, “THE LOST WORLD” and other words below that. That was the name of the movie, because I knew all those words from books mom had read me.
That “the” word was all over the place in books, more than just about any other word. It didn’t really mean very much, but it was before other words that meant something. “Lost” was the word for something you couldn’t find. People were always “losing” things and couldn’t find them. And “world” was a really neat word that meant all the places everywhere. There was that other word “Earth” in the Tom Swift books dad read to me that was like “world”, though Tom said that that “Mars” place was a different “world”.
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.”
It was summer, and we kept the windows open all the time, except when it rained, because mom loved “fresh air”. She said it “kept her going” and she didn’t like “feeling all closed in”. Every morning mom would do chores in the kitchen and the basement. She said there was “twice as much laundry” because of all David’s clothes and especially his dirty diapers. Dad was usually at his desk in the basement typing on the typewriter trying to “finish this damn dissertation”. He would work on it all day, though he would always read to me and David at bedtime and also sing songs.
When mom finished her morning chores, if it wasn’t raining, she would take David and me over to the park. She said it was called “Allmendinger Park” because, “There was a family named ‘Allmendinger’ that was nice enough to give the land to Ann Arbor so it could be a park”. We didn’t just live on Prescott Street, we lived in Ann Arbor too. Ann Arbor had lots of streets, not just Prescott.
I woke up and I knew it was a special day, my birthday PARTY day! My real birthday was two days ago, but mom said today was a better day to have the party, because it was the “weekend”, and more people could come.
Yesterday, mom and dad had an argument about where to have my party if it rained. Dad said he could “borrow some folding chairs and card tables from the frat house” and have it in the living room, and us kids could play in the basement after we did cake and presents. Mom said she didn’t like that, and it was a “problem until we could afford to buy furniture for the living room”, and that this was the “same argument we had last year”. She would say “I don’t want to argue with you Eric”, but then she would argue anyway.
I didn’t like arguments. Mom would usually feel better when they were done, but dad would feel worse. But if dad felt better after, then MOM felt worse. And the one who felt worse would figure out how to have another argument later.
I was now four years old, the same number as Molly. She was really happy about that, because she didn’t like it when we were a different number. Not that I felt like I had changed because I was that new number, but grownups thought it was important, and older kids too.
Mom, dad and I crossed the street from our house walking through lots of snow, which mom said was “fresh” and also “beautiful”. David had stayed at home with Margie, who was “the babysitter”, and mom had told her that this was the first time she and dad had gone out together without him since he was born. Margie had stayed at our house a couple times to play with me when mom and dad went out to a party or to “play bridge”, whatever that was. I liked bridges too, because you were up high and going over something below, but I wasn’t sure how grownups would play on them. I also liked Margie because, like Aunt Pat, she was bigger and older than I was, but still I could tell she was a kid and not a grownup.
It was still Monday December 3 1973 and the large amount of beer I had consumed at the end of the brewery tour was still sloshing around in my belly, and the alcohol (which, unlike in the States with its shitty beer, was only half the motivation for drinking the good stuff here in Europe) was still juicing my brain. So it was a jovially tipsy frizzy haired eighteen year old in an orange poncho that grinned at the twenty-something male ticket agent with his well-ironed collared shirt and short coiffed hair. And in keeping with the trend since I’d gotten into town, he spoke a fair amount of English, enough to not only sell me my tickets, but give me the necessary logistical details for my travel to England.
I would start my journey by train from Amsterdam to the Hook of Holland port in the south part of Rotterdam, which was itself a huge industrial port city, Europe’s largest port even. I would then have a short walk to the boarding platform for a ferry that would take me across the North Sea to the English port town of Harwich. From there I would board a British train on to Colchester. The combined train, ferry, then train cost 43 Dutch guilders, about $12 U.S., gratefully within my budget, given my diminishing remnant of funds with still a week of travel and living expenses to finance. I thought it was so cool that I was able to buy a ticket in one country’s train station for a train in another country, even another country with a body of water intervening. It seemed so much less parochial and more international than how we interacted with the world in the States.
It was Monday morning December 3rd when I awoke after a good long sleep, more than twelve hours actually. The continuing cold symptoms I’d been having, seemed to have subsided considerably. With the releases from yesterday’s epiphanies, the one in Best and the one here sitting on my bunk last night, I felt lighter and unburdened, and was grateful for that, optimistic even. In eight days I would have done it! Completed my full odyssey through Western Europe and returned home the triumphant traveler. And perhaps a transformed one too, with at least a better idea of who I was, the baggage I still carried from my childhood, and hopefully a renewed and more focused intention to acknowledge and let go of that baggage.
It was still Friday November 30th when I parted company with Beth at the Interlaken train station and boarded the train to Bern. She had been the last vestige of the little community of backpacker types we had put together briefly in Grindelwald. The past two weeks, really since meeting Morgan and then Jen in the Rome hostel, had been the best of my odyssey to date, particularly these last three days up in Grindelwald. Now it was just a fond memory, and I was on my own again.
It was Friday November 30th and I awoke to the diffused light through the high windows of the bunk room indicating another cloudy day. Because of all the physical exertion yesterday afternoon in the snow I had finally fallen asleep and slept pretty well, even though my mind had buzzed for a couple of hours with so many thoughts about the experiences I had had here in Grindelwald over the past three days. Pondering the little temporary community we had built here. Feeling like this had been the climax to my European odyssey of sorts, high in this winter wonderland, and that now I was starting my long journey home down from the real and proverbial heights.