Lefty Parent


Circle of equals

Posts Tagged ‘coming of age’

Coop Backpacks thru Europe Part 38 – North Sea

Sunday, April 16th, 2017

It was Wednesday December 5th and I awoke in my upper bunk in the Christian Youth Hostel in Amsterdam, the smell of hashish and tobacco in the air as it usually was.  I had not slept well, my mind buzzing late into the night with so many thoughts.  Returning from our journeys yesterday, we had actually smoked one more round of Butch’s stuff and played cards, my favorite game Hearts, until about two in the morning when we all collectively were about to pass out and agreed to call it quits.  No one wanted the day to end, the four of us having certainly done that day to the absolute max, for me my last full day on the Continent before returning to England and then flying home to the States.

When I finally climbed up onto my bunk and into my sleeping bag, I expected to quickly part the land of the conscious, but instead my fried and headachy mind continued to percolate.  It was my last night on the Continent in these foreign lands where I did not speak the language but had had such an array of experiences.  Probably my last youth hostel, where I had found such community with my backpacker peers, and had close encounters with any number of vibrant young women and some older ones as well.  Indulging my ever unsatisfied libido, I imagined a scenario where I would get naked and have sex with each one of them, and that took me pretty much through most of the rest of the night, not really fully dozing off until the first light of the drizzly dawn through the windows.


Coop Goes to Europe Part 37 – Intimate

Saturday, March 18th, 2017

Van Gogh’s “Wheat Field with a Lark”

It was still a cold and rainy Tuesday December 4th and I and my three comrades were still high from the hashish we’d smoked before leaving the hostel that morning, and now drunk from the five glass limit of beer after doing the Heineken brewery tour for a second straight day. Despite the intoxication and after a couple wrong turns, we finally found our way to the Van Gogh museum, and were able to take off our wet ponchos and hang them in the coat room.

We had been drawn to stay together out on the streets while we had a common destination, but now here in the museum with its random array of rooms full of Van Gogh’s works, it was a very different dynamic. It really didn’t work for four people, even in a kind of stoned peas in a pod mode, to experience each painting together. The level of interest in a particular canvass was bound to vary, and the more personal one on one with a work of art, particularly when one was high, which was such an involving and intimate experience. Also a lot of Van Gogh’s paintings were on the small side, making it hard for more than one or two people to look at a canvass at the same time. So we soon drifted apart, each of us drawn to different canvasses in different rooms of the museum.


Coop Goes to Europe Part 36 – High

Sunday, March 12th, 2017

It was Tuesday December 4th and I awoke to that same smell of hashish and tobacco that had been in the air as I drifted off to sleep last night, only more so. It was not a minute later and Butch was by the side of my upper bunk. He looked at me with his big dark eyes and asked if I was okay. He said that I had wandered off yesterday from the brewery and when he Gwendolyn and Burton had returned to the hostel after dinner I was already in bed sound asleep. I told him that I was, just really tired, still fighting off a cold and looking forward to getting home soon.

He nodded as if that made sense, then gave me his best shiteating grin and said he had “scored some killer hash” outside the Am X office yesterday, and that he had almost woken me up yesterday evening when he decided to smoke some with “all my impoverished white friends”, referring to our discussion yesterday about traveling on a shoestring budget. Still groggy from my extended sleep, I uttered some unintelligible sound to acknowledge his success. Acquisition of good weed, or hashish in this case, was, by every pot smoker protocol that I had been exposed to, considered a celebratory moment, that should be shared by smoking some. He said they were going to fire up a bowl and did I, or the “manster Coopenstein” as he had coined me, want to join them. It was just like in Grindelwald, one session of drinking too much beer together with one’s fellow backpackers, and though he had only known me for a day and a half he was already addressing me like an old friend.


Coop Goes to Europe Part 35 – Otto & Anne

Sunday, February 12th, 2017

The Anne Frank House in Amsterdam

It was Monday afternoon December 3rd when I finished my walk from the Heineken Brewery back to the big Amsterdam train station on the south shore of the Ijsselmeer, the huge human made lake just north of the city. 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 some English, and 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. It 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 duly noted 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.


Coop Goes to Europe Part 34 – Amsterdam

Sunday, February 5th, 2017

It was late Sunday afternoon December 2nd when the train I had boarded in Best arrived at the big Amsterdam central station. The mostly clear skies in Best and across the Netherlands had given way to more overcast as we neared its capital city. The two hour trip had been uneventful but otherwise kind of fun, enjoying the view out the window of chaste, white and wintry Holland, plus enjoying the mouth feel of the gooey, cheddary, grilled cheese sandwich that Hugo’s girlfriend Femke had made and wrapped up for me. And I had to give it to the Dutch, their trains were the prettiest I had seen in Europe, all bright yellow on the outside with slashes of red forming abstract designs on the sides. And unlike yesterday’s train from Munich, the compartments, at least my compartment, was toasty warm.
Coming into the city, the train tracks had already crossed a handful of its iconic canals, and finally there was a view of the huge man made Ijsselmeer (Lake IJssel) to the north just before we came into the station. I would learn later that it was the largest “lake” in Europe, having originally been part of the Netherlands’ Zuiderzee bay, but had been separated from the bay by a 32 kilometer dyke in 1932 and became a freshwater body filled by the Rhine river. All these views were very exciting, particularly from my cozy train compartment, and took my mind off my homesickness.


Coop Goes to Europe Part 33 – Hugo

Saturday, January 7th, 2017

The village of Best

It was Saturday evening December 1st when I parted company with Angelica and Helmet and left Munich on the train headed west toward Ulm and beyond. Since my student rail pass did not allow me to sit in first class coaches, I had learned to board a train at either the very first or very last second class coach so I could walk through all those coaches and check out every possible compartment without having to double back. In this case I had boarded at the very back, and walking forward I had found none with other young backpackers like me or other young people I might share my current passage with. All the compartments were very full, so in the forwardmost second class coach, I finally entered one with what looked like a big family, with mom, dad, a male teen, and two younger female children. In theory there should be a sixth seat for me, though the compartment was pretty full with the five of them and all their suitcases, tote bags, toys and other stuff. My thinking on choosing this compartment was that maybe the family would get off at one of the upcoming stops and then I’d have the compartment to myself. Maybe then another fellow young traveler, boarding at a later stop, might join me.


Coop Goes to Europe Part 32 – Angelica

Sunday, December 4th, 2016

It was Monday December 1st and I awoke in Angelica and Helmut’s guest bedroom. A real bed with real bed linens, not the sleeping bag on the bunk mattress that had been my nightly resting place for much of my odyssey, including every night in the past three weeks since Steve and I slept in that bed together, platonically, in Walter’s hotel room in Paris. I had been so relieved last night when I called them from the Munich train station and Angelica answered the phone, said that of course I could stay with them, and offered at that late hour to come and pick me up. I felt so bad that I had boarded the train to Munich in Bern forgetting to call them from there to give them a heads up. After I hung up I had a moment of angst wondering if I had displayed too much entitlement in expecting them to retrieve me and put me up that late on a weekday evening, without any prior notice!

They had both seemed happy enough to see me at the train station, Angelica giving me a big hug and Helmut a hardy welcoming handshake. He drove their little sedan home through the brightly lit snow frosted streets of the city, while she grilled me from the front passenger seat on my adventures. I was sitting in that same back seat where I remember throwing up, that night back in early October when I consumed way too much sweet white wine and Leberkäse (liver cheese) at their friend’s thirtieth birthday party. That had certainly been the most embarrassing moment of my entire now ten week odyssey. And it was right up there with my other worst moments, including being pulled over by Swiss police and given a breathalyzer test in Chur, losing my passport and railpass boarding the train in Bar-sur-Aube, and being turned away from that youth hostel in Liege at five minutes past midnight and having to trudge the eight kilometers back to the train station with my fifty pound pack on my back, dead tired and sneezing from an oncoming cold.


Coop Goes to Europe Part 31 – Starting Home

Sunday, November 20th, 2016

The Bodensee (Lake Constance) in the winter

It was still Friday November 30th when I parted company with Beth at the Interlaken train station and boarded the train to Bern, from where yet another train would take me to Munich, scheduled to arrive at my destination about 9pm. She had been the last vestige of the little community of backpacker types we had put together briefly in Grindelwald, as we had in Venice, Florence and Rome. In retrospect, the best two weeks of my odyssey to date, particularly the last three days up in Grindelwald. Now it was just a fond memory, and I was on my own again, but unlike Bob Dylan’s classic lyric from “Like a Rolling Stone”, I did have a direction home.

It was not lost on me that though I’d been traveling basically on my own for the past two weeks, which made for some lonesome moments, I had been able to connect with and interact with some of the most interesting and bigger than life people in my young adult cohort. While I had been traveling with Steve for the previous two weeks before that, I had not connected with so many new people. Certainly part of that was staying in hotel rooms in Spain rather than youth hostels brimming with my backpacker cohort. But another aspect I pondered was that when I had a travel partner, a lot of my need for connection was satisfied by my partner, and particularly as a shy person, I did not necessarily make the effort to reach out to other people or give them the opportunity to reach out to me, though maybe Randall and Zo were the exception. If I had had a travel partner at the time, would Trix have taken me under her wing on the train to Florence and invited me to share her compartment with the four other young women? Would I have gone for gelato with Sarah in Florence? Would Sophia have engaged me in our somewhat amorous exchange on the train to Venice? Would I have connected so much with Jacques in Venice?


Coop Goes to Europe Part 30 – Beth

Sunday, November 6th, 2016

Train from Grindelwald to Interlaken

It was Friday November 30th and I awoke to the diffused light through the high windows of the bunkroom indicating another cloudy day. I had not slept well overnight, my mind buzzing with so many thoughts about the experiences I had had here over the past three days, the little temporary community we had built here, feeling like this had been the climax to my European odyssey, high in this winter wonderland, and that now I was starting my long journey down from the real and proverbial heights home.

Our evening at the tavern had been more low key last night. There were no less pitchers of beer, but the old German guys had not been there on the bar stools to sing their song and inspire us to sing ours in response, replaced by trendier tourist couples. I had talked more with Schuman and others about music, and with Beth about the details of her own European odyssey, which in ways paralleled my own. She had lost her own travel partner Christine, who while they were traveling in Spain had decided to return to Australia, Beth deciding to continue on, a challenging venture for a young woman alone.


Coop Goes to Europe Part 29 – Snow Day

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

The Sphinx Observatory near the peak of the Jung Frau

It was Thursday November 29 1973 and I woke up to a softer more diffuse light coming through the small hostel bunkroom windows, high up on the walls so some natural light came in though you really could not see in or out very well. The energy of the outside felt very different, subdued, quiet, and very calm. A couple guys were still sleeping but most were up and out. I generally slept in a t-shirt and underwear, my long underwear here in wintry Grindelwald, so i pulled on my jeans, grabbed my towel and wash cloth hung on my pack frame overnight to dry, dug my toiletries and my flannel shirt out of my pack. I sniffed the shirt to make sure it did not stink too much from past days’ sweat… so so. I headed to the bathroom and tried the shower to make sure it would actually get warm before committing to taking my clothes off and entering the stall. Most of the hostels I had stayed at only had cold water, and I had not been able to bring myself to taking that cold shower, even if my body really needed it, opting for a wet washcloth “birdbath” instead. This place was the exception, but after two morning’s of glorious hot showers I still did not trust it. But the water was hot, so for the third straight day, a deliciously long hot shower, my body started the day completely squeaky clean.