Lefty Parent


Circle of equals

Posts Tagged ‘travel’

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.


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.


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.


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.


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.