Tag Archives: travel

Two Inch Heels Part 45 – Home

It 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 was 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 a year ago 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 dark 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 big auto 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 having started 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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Two Inch Heels Part 44 – The Coopster

It was Tuesday morning December 11, 1973. I awoke with a start, 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 nearly six 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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Two Inch Heels Part 43 – Kate & Company

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 downtown 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 hair 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, always dressed with thought when I had seen her. Today she was 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, certainly not the least bit fashionable.

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Two Inch Heels Part 42 – The Clays

Spring Lane in HorspathIt was Saturday December 8th and I woke up in the rollaway bed in Kevin Clay’s bedroom at his family’s house in Horspath outside Oxford. 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 all that 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. When Angie and I had been here back in September and I used it to sleep on the living room floor with Kevin, it had been all fresh and clean and never used before.

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Two Inch Heels Part 41 – London

It was Friday December 7th and I sat in the friendly confines of the American Express office in London. I still had a bit of post nasal drip, but was definitely and thankfully getting over my cold. 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 the Amsterdam office. In just four days I would be on the plane back to the States.

Ceil had driven me back to the little Manningtree station this morning with still snot-nosed Rebecca in tow. But the wildly precocious two-and-a-half year old had been full of energy and interest in everything. Rather than stay in her seat in the back of the car where she was too short to see much of anything out the windows, she would stand just behind and between Ceil and I in our front seats, and from that vantage see everything we could see out the car windows. She had learned to say, “What’s that?”, and fired off the question several times a minute for the entirety of the ten minute drive to the station. Between Ceil and I we had identified and explained to her trucks, tractors, traffic lights, bicycles, barns, even a small plane up in the sky, and of course the little station once we finally got there.

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Two Inch Heels Part 40 – Great Bentley

It was still Wednesday December 5 1973 and I was relieved when Ceil Kane answered the phone, knew who I was, and then confirmed that they could put me up for a couple nights. I had never actually met her before. It was nearly four years ago when she and her husband Ilya had answered my mom’s notice in the Oxford newspaper offering the house swap. My mom saw it as her only chance of giving her sons the more gentrified experience of travelling in Europe, an experience she and my dad could never afford under normal circumstances. But just as they had bought and refinished old furniture from garage sales and such to furnish a respectable looking house amongst the academic community of Ann Arbor, my mom had somehow managed to pull off the house swap and manage ten weeks in England for basically only the cost of the plane tickets.

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Two Inch Heels Part 39 – Lance

It was still Wednesday December 5 1973 as I stood alone on the stern deck of the big ferry crossing the North Sea, and watched the Dutch coast disappear over the horizon. The stormy sea was now the only thing there was in every direction and that fact was as nearly unnerving as it was awesome.

I had only been on a handful of boats in my entire lifetime. A couple canoes at summer camps and a family friend’s maybe twenty five foot sailboat on Lake Michigan when I was kid. A hovercraft, of all things, crossing the English Channel back in 1970, when our flight from the States landed in Amsterdam and we had to get over to England to live in the house we had traded for the summer. And of course the ferry, smaller than this one, that had taken me across the Channel from England to France when I left Angie in London nine weeks ago.

Though there is a point crossing the channel when you can’t see either shore, in both my crossings the water had been pretty calm, unlike the roiling whitecaps and major league swells all around me now. Mitigating that sense of being engulfed by the stormy goddess of the sea, was the fact that the ship we were on was so damn big, at least twice the size of that ferry I’d crossed the Channel on nine weeks ago.

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Two Inch Heels Part 38 – North Sea

It was Wednesday December 5 1973 and I awoke in my upper bunk in the Christian Youth Hostel in Amsterdam, the smell of hashish and tobacco in the air as always. I had not slept well, recovering from all the hash I smoked yesterday along with my mind buzzing late into the night with so many thoughts.

Returning from our journeys yesterday, Butch, Gwendolyn, Burton and I 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 together 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.

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Two Inch Heels Part 37 – Intimate

It was still a cold and rainy Tuesday December 4 1973 and I and my three comrades were still high from Butch’s hashish we’d smoked before leaving the hostel that morning (it truly was ‘killer’ stuff!). And we were now pretty 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 jackets and hang them in the coat room.

Beyond the whole cannabis ‘hive mind’ thing, we’d 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 piece was bound to vary, it either drew you in or it didn’t. Particularly when you were stoned, an evocative work of art, like much of Van Gogh’s stuff, is a very intimate experience. Also a lot of his paintings were on the small side, making it hard for more than one or two people to look at a painting at the same time. So we soon drifted apart, each of us drawn to different canvases in different rooms of the museum.

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Two Inch Heels Part 36 – High

It was Tuesday December 4 1973 and I awoke to that same smell of hashish that had been in the air as I quickly descended into unconsciousness last night, only more so. It was not a minute later that Butch was by the side of my upper bunk. He looked at me with his big dark eyes and asked if I was okay.

“The manster Coopenstein staggered off yesterday from the brewery in a drunken stupor into the wet embrace of the Lady Amsterdam”, he said, “The rest of our little ensemble returned from our separate adventures only to find his slender avatar hibernating in its nylon cocoon, and not even cocktail hour! I was for waking you, but I was outvoted by the majority.”

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