Lefty Parent

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Living & parenting without the rule book

Coop Goes to Europe Part 12 – Trying to Hitchhike in Spain

November 29th, 2015

Thursday October 25 1973 was our last morning in Barcelona. The sun pushing its way through the narrow window of our room in the little pension inspired us to get up early and enjoy being out in its bounty of heat and illumination in this beautiful old Gothic Quarter neighborhood of bricks and stone. We had agreed last night that we would try to hitchhike south to Granada. If I had been travelling on my own I would have used my rail pass to take the train, but Steve did not have one, and he wanted to avoid the expense of the train if at all possible given his limited budget. I certainly appreciated that, having very limited funds myself, beyond that key asset of the pass. And I so enjoyed having a travel partner, at least for my time in Spain.

Other than the difficult hitchhiking, Spain was living up to its advanced billing as heaven for low budget travellers like us, at least in the food and lodging department. We went to a little grocery store across the plaza from our pension and picked up supplies for our anticipated day on the road. I noted the prices in my journal…

Spanish sardines in oil 10 pst
4 (125cl) tubs of strawberry yogurt 32 pst
2 glazed donuts 10 pst
Biscuit cookies 9 pst
100 gm cheese 22 pst
2 bananas 9 pst
6 smallish tomatoes 3.5 pst
1 liter of Coca Cola 15 pst
Total 110.5 pst

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 11 – Barcelona

November 8th, 2015

Picasso’s “Las Meninas (Velazquez)” in Picasso Museum Barcelona

So it was mid afternoon on Monday October 22 1973 when Zo and Randall’s beat up old VW minivan, surviving the thorough going over by Spanish customs, finally entered the eastern Spanish port city of Barcelona, my travel partner Steve’s and my destination. Our hosts on the journey had picked us up outside of Lyon France and given us the longest single ride I had had to date or would ever have hitchhiking. With lots of hugs and some emotion, our two fellow-traveler hippie-esque Canadians parted company with us there, as they planned to continue down the coast to the south of Spain and an intended crossing over to Morocco in North Africa.

As Zo wrapped her arms around my waist and pressed her short but stocky body against mine for a long hug, her wild explosion of red hair, somewhat contained by her ever present red Canadian flag headband with the white maple leaf, gently tickling my chin and cheek. As we momentarily held the embrace, it struck me how connected I felt with this woman that I had only known since yesterday. Though I had always been shy about any physical intimacy with women, Zo had made me almost instantly comfortable with her and I had had no discomfort sleeping very close to her last night, albeit not sleeping together in any sexual sense and with our clothes on sandwiched between our travel companions. My trepidation really was in initiating the physical intimacy, but if circumstances led obviously in that direction, I had no problem being intimate, and really enjoyed it. If only we were in a world that was not so patriarchal and women were more comfortable initiating more intimacy, it would be a boon to a shy male type like me.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 10 – Magic Bus

October 25th, 2015

So Sunday morning October 21 Steve and I hoisted our packs and walked from the Rue Titon hostel we had been staying at to the main drag that headed out of Paris south towards Lyon, and stuck out our thumbs. I was a bit wistful to leave Giselle and her striking daughter Laurence behind, but was happy to have my new travel partner at my side, even though he was also male and not the subject of my romantic fantasies. Given that biological shortcoming, he seemed a good companion, a bit more gregarious than me, smart, funny and even-keeled, and all with a low ego. He did not seem to have the bouts of moodiness and withdrawal that had plagued my last travel partner Jack.

Standing on the side of a big Paris thoroughfare packed with cars zipping past and lots of pedestrians as well briskly walking by us on the wide sidewalk, I wasn’t sure anyone would pull over and give us a ride. But someone finally did. A young guy, one of our own cohort with his own long hair and bellbottom pants, driving one of the funkiest beat up little runty car I had had the occasion to see in either Europe or the States. Later when I asked him, he told me with a dose of hippie pride that it was a Citroen “Deux Chevaux”. I knew enough French to figure out that that meant “two horses”, and I was ready to believe that the little engine, sounding more like a lawnmower under the front hood, might only be two horsepower (it was actually just nine). It was the cutest little ugly duckling of a car, his with a canvass rollback sunroof, which was closed on that crisp October day. Steve sat in the front passenger seat next to our host while I sat in the semblance of a backseat squeezed next to our two backpacks taking up most of the space along with our driver’s duffle bag and cardboard boxes of random stuff.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 9 – Paris (Part 2)

October 10th, 2015

It was a Wednesday, October 16, finally a gorgeous fall day after too much cold and rain over the past two weeks of my European travels. From atop the cupola of Sacre Coeur, I looked down at central Paris. My loneliness was medicated somewhat by the dazzling fall weather and a previous evening spent with Giselle, Paul and Laurence, in a big European capital where I was all but anonymous.

As I stood alone on the observation deck and looked off at the city in the distance my mind looked off into the future as well. After I saw Christiane in Tubingen I figured I would have about four more weeks to go to Spain and Italy and end up in Vienna. Once I got there I would have it licked and could arguably say that I had seen Western Europe, and make my way back to England and then back home to the States. It felt a bit unnerving to be planning all this further travel when another part of me just wanted to hop on a train and get my ass back to the States as quickly as possible. I pondered whether that option was undermining my coping with my situation or was instead a helpful crutch.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 8 – Paris (Part 1)

October 9th, 2015

View of central Paris from Montmartre

When I finally woke up it was already past eleven in the morning on Monday October 15, and I had slept so deeply that it took my mind some thought cycles to remember where I was in time and space. I recalled listening to a World Series game last night on the radio, which is something I often did at night during the summer in my bedroom at home. But I quickly oriented to being far from home. The room I was in was tiny with no windows and barely room for the small bed in which I was nestled under the covers.

Given the Noon checkout, I got myself up, stumbled down the hall of the little hotel to the bathroom, hoping it would be unoccupied and have a shower with warm water, which it was and it did. It was the first shower I had had since I left Christiane and Volker’s place in Munich four days ago. The hostels I had stayed at since had all had showers, but none with hot water, and I hated taking cold showers, and preferred to go without, with just a quick bird bath with a moist washcloth instead.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 7 – Low

September 13th, 2015

Bridge over the Meuse river in Liege Belgium

With a temporary stalemate on the battlefield in the war in the Middle East, Israeli prime minister Golda Meir offered a ceasefire which Egyptian president Anwar Sadat refused. The light cold rain had finally stopped when the boat from Koblenz down the Moselle debarked me and all the now drunken German tourists in the little town of Cochem, set against the hillsides on either side of the river with one big old stone bridge connecting the two halves. Unlike my ride down the Rhine to Koblenz the previous day, I had not found any fellow travelers to pass today’s journey with. Feeling cold and alone, I tried to appreciate the beautiful vistas along the way, of hillsides covered with vineyards dominated by big stone houses and even castles plus the occasional picturesque little stone town, my current location included. I was headed to Trier another 100 kilometers or so down the river and the hostel there, and I was counting on catching some sort of afternoon train from the station in town to my day’s destination.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 6 – Rivers

August 22nd, 2015

I left Christiane and Volcker at the Munich train station on Wednesday October 10 1973 and headed out by train using my rail pass, on my own again, this time headed to Mainz to take a boat up the Rhine river. I was due to meet my mom’s friend Giselle in Paris in six days and I decided in the interest of time that I would pass on exploring the Black Forest for now. My new plan was to spend a few days touring the great historic river, which separated France from Germany, that Patton’s army breached in World War II with my dad as an artillery platoon leader, and that I had done a report on in sixth grade with ample assistance from my dad. A couple of my fellow young backpackers that I had spent the night with in the Bern train station had suggested that the sightseeing boat ride up the Rhine and then down the Mosel were spectacular.

In the narrow hallway of the train I passed a young adult guy, maybe a few years older than me, wearing an American army uniform, shiny black boots and a beret, which I figured meant he was in some sort of elite unit, maybe airborne. He seemed distracted and distant and did not look me in the eye, even though we had to do an awkward little dance to get around each other in the narrow aisle, me with my big backpack on my back, him moving into a sitting compartment momentarily to let me clomp by in my own not so shiny black hiking boots. I suddenly remembered that the war must still be going on in the Middle East, and though I didn’t think the U.S. was involved directly, since Israel, Syria and Egypt were, then the U.S. and the Soviet Union were probably already active behind the scenes and mustering various forces just in case the other side made some big military move.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 5 – Oktober War

July 11th, 2015

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.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 4 – Rail Pass

June 17th, 2015

Andermatt, Switzerland

It was Wednesday October 3 1973 when I left behind the Swiss town of Chur, my erstwhile travel partner Jack, and my more recent comrades, David, Bublil, Peter and particularly Ashild, who in her calm but passionate eyes had stirred my heart. I slept in that last morning at the youth hostel, my body and consciousness processing the traumatic and compelling events of the previous evening, nestled in my warm down sleeping bag in the cold dormitory room with the other mostly young adult travelers. By the time I awoke, put on my clothes, again decided not to take a cold shower (though I used a wet slightly soapy washcloth on some key body parts), and entered the main room, Ashild, Bublil and their male entourage had already departed. I ate my stash of Granola and yogurt, the latter having stayed nicely cool in the unheated dormitory room, and pondered the state of my heart and my soul.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 3 – Chur

May 31st, 2015

Chur, Switzerland

So Friday morning my new travel companion Jack and I left Munich, Oktoberfest, and our army brat hosts, and based on our agreed upon plan, took off hitchhiking south for Switzerland. Our plan was to travel together for a week in Switzerland and then return to Munich, hopefully to finally hook up with Christiana and Volker. Rides came slowly, maybe half an hour to an hour wait before someone pulled over, a lot more waiting with your thumb out than I was used to hitching back and forth from college that past year. But the weather was pleasant and Jack and I enjoyed talking about our time in Munich and travel plans going forward.

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.

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