Lefty Parent

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Circle of equals

Posts Tagged ‘backpacking through europe’

Two Inch Heels Part 3 – Chur

Sunday, September 8th, 2019

It was Friday morning September 28. As we had agreed, my new travel companion Jack and I left Munich, Oktoberfest, and our army brat hosts, and hitchhiked south. Our plan was to travel together for a week in Switzerland and then return to Munich, hopefully for me to finally hook up with Angelica and Helmet.

This was my first time actually trying to hitchhike in Europe. I had cut my teeth on this means of transportation the previous year, in the States, for the 100 mile journey home from school in Kalamazoo to Ann Arbor. It had worked out pretty well and seemed a fairly dependable way to get home, particularly if there was basically only one highway to traverse to get to the destination, and it usually ended up taking about the same amount of time as taking the bus or the train, and certainly the price the right. Several times one of my rides was another young student type like me, who offered up all or part of a joint to smoke together.

But here and now leaving Munich, 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 back home. But the weather was pleasant and Jack and I enjoyed talking about our time in Munich and travel plans going forward.

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Two Inch Heels Part 1 – Angie

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

[This is a rewrite of the second half of part 1 of my original backpacking thru Europe memoir]

It was late afternoon Monday September 17 when her mom drove Angie and me and our big full backpacks the thirty some miles to Metropolitan Airport outside Detroit. I felt an unnatural calm, akin to the reverse stage fright I would get before going out on stage in a theatrical performance. I was once again throwing myself in the deep end of the metaphorical pool of life experience. Like when I had first decided three years earlier to perform on stage, particularly my first big lead part singing and dancing in the musical Oklahoma. It was how shy, reticent me conducted my development, resisting and procrastinating until the fear of being a total chickenshit overwhelmed the fear of the leap into the abyss.

If Angie was having any second thoughts about our trip at this point, I did not notice. I was so deep within myself. She was quiet as well, sitting next to me in the backseat, probably going through her own version of something like a pre stage performance routine. Her mom seemed uncomfortable with our silence and kept trying to make conversation. All she got was short answers from both of us.

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Two Inch Heels Part 0 – The Endeavor

Sunday, August 18th, 2019

Me as “Peabody” in The Flahooley Incident

[This is a rewrite of the first half of part 1 of my original backpacking thru Europe memoir]

It was Monday September 2nd 1973. Labor Day actually, though if I still had my “house boy” job at the Briarwood Hilton, I probably would have worked that day to get the time-and-a-half holiday pay. I was walking down the sidewalk on the north side of Wells across from Burns Park returning home from Angie’s house. Now turned September, it had still been a summery Ann Arbor day, but now a breeze had come up out of the north with that first real fall chill in it.

“Impending doom” is probably too strong a phrase, but a sense of some dread engulfed me. For the past twelve straight years that first chill had meant that I would shortly, always grudgingly, be reporting back to school. That institution my parents and other adults of their cohort imagined would allow me and mine to learn the skills to eventually take our place as successors to the civilization they were now responsible for. A civilization, from my point of view, whose history was a litany of wars, genocides, slavery, colonization, racial oppression and the subjugation of women.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 45 – Home

Sunday, September 24th, 2017

1139-martin-plIt was still Tuesday December 11 and I sat in the front passenger seat of our old Buick Skylark that my mom was driving home from Detroit Metro airport. My brother was in the back seat and my backpack stowed in the trunk. The car was technically mine, given to me by my grandfather, my mom’s dad, but was now our family’s only car. Her “old banger” of a car finally died and was sold for parts for fifty bucks and hauled off by a tow truck. She did not have the money to buy even another used one. She at least, while I was gone, was paying the insurance, the gas, and what little maintenance it got.

It was nighttime already so it was hard to make anything out. I-94 from Detroit to Ann Arbor was familiar to me, having driven into Detroit and back, maybe a dozen times or so in the past few years, mainly to go to the airport or to see a Detroit Tiger baseball game. Particularly when we got near the car plant outside Ypsilanti, all lit up just off the freeway, I knew I was getting into familiar territory and close to home. I felt really tired, my day starting fifteen hours ago after little sleep and since then the four Chivas on the rocks. My mom got a kick out of it when I told her what I had drunk on the plane, commenting that I had become a “sophisticated drinker”, though I did not tell her how much I had drunk.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 44 – The Coopster

Sunday, September 10th, 2017

The Waite Tarot deck Fool card

It was Tuesday morning December 11. I awoke with a start from a hypnogogic state, Kevin calling my name, and it barely felt like I had slept at all. My mind had buzzed late into the night with anticipation, it being my last night after eleven weeks in Europe. It was 6 o’clock and I had a 7:15 AM bus from the downtown Oxford bus station to the London Victoria Coach Station. From there a walk across the street to the BOAC office where I would check my backpack and take another bus to Heathrow for my 11:15 AM flight nonstop to Detroit. Kevin had volunteered to drive me into town.

My last two days had been pretty mellow, just hanging out here at the Clay’s with whoever was home. That is except for a trip to the village pub last night with Kevin, Madge, Bill, and Nana, where they took turns treating me to pints of Watney’s for my final sendoff, each with a toast. Kate was out studying with her friends. Before heading out she had found a moment with me when the others were out of earshot to say goodbye and say that Mackenzie wanted her to pass on a big thank you to “her cousin Spike”.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 43 – Kate & Company

Sunday, August 27th, 2017

Scene from 1973 “Godspell” movie

It was a chilly overcast Saturday afternoon December 8 as Kate Clay and I walked down Manor Farm Road from her family’s house towards Horspath village’s little bus stop at the bottom of the hill. She had invited me to join her and her “mates” who were going to see the new movie version of the musical Godspell, showing at a theater in Oxford.

I remembered Kate from that summer three years ago when she was just thirteen. She was extremely shy, and had not interacted with me, my brother, or my mom very much. Now at sixteen she seemed to have come out of that shell, though still more reserved than her gregarious older brother. She had a look about her that was quite distinctive, with straight brown hair cut short on top and behind the ears in back, but with long bangs tumbling over her forehead and even longer on each temple down in front of her ears. Shy and cerebral like me, she had a thing where she would look down when she was thinking, her bangs hanging down obscuring her eyes and nose, then bring her head up and flip her bangs to the side revealing her big eyes when she was finally ready to share her thoughts. More so than me, her brother or her parents, she seemed to have a real fashion sense about her, wearing a knee-length camel colored wool coat, fake-fur trimmed black gloves, brown and gold plaid knee socks rising above tall shiny black boots with platform heels an inch higher than mine. With my own big ‘fro’d hair, charcoal colored flared slacks, and two-tone suede heels (a bit worse for wear after ten weeks of way more use than I had imagined when I brought them) we would have looked the part of a trendy young couple. That is except for my bright orange down jacket (certainly a bit on the dirty side as well from so much use) that clashed with the rest of my attire.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 42 – The Clays

Saturday, July 8th, 2017

The Horspath village pub

It was Saturday December 8th and I woke up in the rollaway bed in Kevin Clay’s bedroom at the family’s house in Horspath. I had gotten in last night around ten o’clock and Madge, Kevin’s mom, had made up that bed with fresh linens, rather than having to use my sleeping bag. Good thing, because I had noted that final morning at the youth hostel in Amsterdam when I had last rolled my bag up, that it really smelled of ten weeks of my sweat. Not so noticeable in a big male bunkroom where your nose kind of expected a bit of that reek, plus the pervasive smell of hashish also kind of masked it. Of course, after those three days lying open on my bunk, with the smell of burnt hashish in the air, I’m sure my bag was now imbued with that scent as well. But here in this clean well kept house, it’s odor would probably be more noticeable, so best not to have to unroll it.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 41 – London

Sunday, June 18th, 2017

It was Friday December 7th and I was in the friendly confines of the American Express office in London. The place was full of people including some of my backpacker ilk, though there were no VW vans being sold out front or hashish being sold in the bathrooms like in Amsterdam. It had been a two hour train ride from Colchester to Liverpool Street Station and then about a half hour on two subways to Victoria Station, about a five minute walk from Am Ex. Hearing all the English being spoken around me made me feel close to home. In just four days I would be on the plane back to the States.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 40 – Great Bentley

Sunday, May 28th, 2017

It was still Wednesday December 5th and I was relieved when Ceil Kane answered the phone, remembered who I was, and then confirmed that they could put me up for a couple nights. She and her husband Ilya had answered my mom’s notice in the Oxford newspaper nearly four years earlier, offering the house swap. We had ended up agreeing to the swap, spending ten weeks during the summer of 1970 living in their place outside Oxford while they lived in ours in Ann Arbor. For Ilya it was the opportunity to take several statistics classes offered by the UofM Institute of Social Research. Turns out the place they lived now, after moving from Oxford, was in a small village called Great Bentley, only ten kilometers from where I was. My mom had continued to correspond with them and given them a heads up that I was traveling in Europe. They had offered to put me up for a couple days when I was in the area, and they had recently received a letter from my mom updating them on my travels and my approximate arrival back in England. Ceil said she was happy to drive to Manningtree and pick me up, because her husband Ilya was sick, and she needed an excuse to get out of the house.

So I sat on a bench in front of the little train station and waited. It was getting late, long since gotten dark, and I thought that it was duly chilly for an early December eve in southeast England. (Not that I’d ever been in southeast England before in early December!) I was still fighting that cold I had been wrestling with in Holland, and I felt chilled, even wearing my down jacket. I could feel my body wanting to shut down so it could divert more resources to fighting this cold that was gripping me. I was sneezing and my nose was running. But it was the excitement, exhilaration even, that I was really close to actually getting on that plane and flying home, that was keeping me afloat, above the drag of the virus on my body.

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Coop Goes to Europe Part 39 – Max

Sunday, May 7th, 2017

It was still Wednesday December 5th as I stood on the stern of the ferry crossing the North Sea, and watched the Dutch coast disappear over the horizon. The stormy sea was now the only thing to see in every direction and that fact was as nearly unnerving as it was awesome. Mitigating that sense of being engulfed by the roiling swells was the fact that the ship we were on was so damn big.

I was in a strange psychological space, alone now on the stern deck for the past half hour or so, pondering what I had left behind on the European continent. The places would still be there if I ever returned, but almost all the people I had encountered and the circumstances that brought us together would not. It was past and gone, though a lot of it still in my memory and bits in my journal. There was a grieving at some level combined with an excitement that I would be headed home soon.

There was also a deeper excitement, plus relief really, that I had actually fucking done it! I had parted company with Angie and struck out on my own nine weeks ago from England for the Continent and had hung in there through all the ordeals and low points of my odyssey in this foreign landscape. Hung in there through the moments where I contemplated calling it quits. Hung in there, as Angie and I had originally planned, until I had used up all my money and returned to the States for the Christmas season. Anything less, at some level, would have felt like failure, a failure to fully engage in the opportunities that the universe was putting in front of me. I felt like I had failed to seize opportunities so many times in the past.

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