Category Archives: Uncategorized

Two Inch Heels Part 35b – Otto & Anne

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.

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Two Inch Heels Part 35a – Heineken Brewery

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.

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Two Inch Heels Part 31 – Direction Home

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.

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Two Inch Heels Part 30 – Beth

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.

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Coop Goes to College Part 3 – Night & Day

Me playing Peabody in “The Flahooley Incident”

As a counterpoint to all the gritty R&B music I had been enthralled by the past months at Western Michigan University, Paul Simon, recently separated from his partner Art Garfunkel, was all over the radio in May with his hit song “Kodachrome”. Only beginning to process and recover from over a decade of the year-after-year onslaught of school, I was particularly tickled by Simon’s lyric playfully capturing some of my continuing combat fatigue with formal education…

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

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Support My Bike Ride for North Valley Caring Services

Bikers-with-sign-206x181Dear 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.

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Please Support My Ride for North Valley Caring Services!

Bikers-with-sign-206x181Dear friends… For the sixth year now, I will be riding in the North Valley Caring Services 2014 bike-a-thon to raise money for this great community organization that supports the poor mostly Hispanic community in Panorama City, just a couple miles east of where I live.

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.

nvcs_logo

Coop’s Childhood Part I – As I Was Told

Eric & Jane

Eric & Jane

I was born on April 2, 1955 in the maternity ward of the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor Michigan. My mother, Jane Roberts Zale, was 32 years old, older than many first time mothers in those days. My father, Eric Michael Zale, was six years older than Jane. Theirs, I would later learn, would be a very unorthodox style of parenting, much more egalitarian than conventional practice, giving me a greater amount of freedom than most kids were blessed with. But given particularly my mom’s childhood story (I know little about my dad’s) that gift of an independent childhood had been passed through the generations.

As I get older, I am more and more amazed about the story of how my mom decided to go to Ann Arbor. An unlikely odyssey in 1947 for a single young woman of 23, but one consistent with her independent spirit, well nourished in her own childhood, that started a chain of events that led to my birth. Another thirty-two years later in 1978, I would embark on my own comparable odyssey to Los Angeles, coincidentally at age 23 as well.

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A Democratic Alternative Legacy within Command & Control Public Education

Alpha IIPublic education in the U.S. has featured state control of human development since Horace Mann and other educational “reformers” within the New England Protestant elite brought this novel approach of Prussian state-run universal compulsory schooling to America in the 1830s. Canadian educational policy followed a similar “melting pot” social engineering of immigrants path while accepting a greater role for Protestant and Catholic education in the mix with secular public schools. Today in both countries the bulk of public schools chart their course in sync with (or under the yoke of) continuing state efforts at high-stakes OSFA (one size fits all) standardization, though more so in the U.S. than in Canada.

I find this top-down “command and control” approach to public education at best boring and at worst very depressing, based on how I believe it diminishes the human imagination in particular and the human spirit in general. So as an advocate for what I call “many educational paths”, I celebrate and take heart from those rare educational alternatives that manage to find a way to exist within the leviathan of standardized public education. Sure there are a fair amount of private schools (for the more economically privileged among us) that follow these more human development supporting educational models, but I take my hat off to a community that can conceive and support a public school that challenges the hegemony of conventional standardization.

One such school that I recently read about in an online discussion on the AERO (Alternative Education Resource Organization) listserv is the Alpha II school in Toronto Ontario. It is the more recent incarnation of the original Alpha school, set up in 1972 in the heyday of the progressive education movement in Canada and the U.S. A movement that produced alternative public schools in many communities, including two – Earthworks and Community High School – begun a year earlier in my own hometown of Ann Arbor Michigan. FYI… Earthworks eventually merged with Community High and the latter is still going strong, but many of these unorthodox public schools have been forced to close due to the increasing standardization of education over the past twenty years.

The story of Alpha and Alpha II in particular I find fascinating, an insight into a chapter of education history and highlighting perhaps a somewhat more open-minded approach to public education in Canada. The story is courtesy of AERO members Carol Nash, a co-founder of the unorthodox school, and Deb O’Rourke, the school’s current volunteer coordinator.

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