Two Inch Heels Part 10 – Low

Bridge over the Meuse river in Liege Belgium

It was a chilly Friday October 12, though the light rain had finally stopped. Our boat ride down the Moselle finished at 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. I had just read in the latest edition of the International Herald Tribune that 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. More young soldiers of my generation would be dying on both sides of the conflict.

Me and all the now drunken German tourists funneled down the gangway into town. Unlike my ride down the Rhine to Koblenz the previous day, I had not found any fellow travelers, or even English speaking tourists, to pass today’s journey with. Feeling cold and alone, I had tried to appreciate the beautiful vistas along the way. Hillsides covered with vineyards dominated by old stone houses and even castles plus the occasional picturesque little stone town, like my current location. I was headed to Trier another 100 kilometers or so down the river to the hostel there, and I was counting on catching some sort of afternoon train from the station in town to my day’s destination.

Turns out I had a several hours wait for the train, so I took a walk through town and found what seemed like an inexpensive little restaurant to buy something to eat. In the waiting area I saw a familiar looking backpack of one of my fellow travelers. When the person finally turned so I could see them, it was crazy globe-trotting Miranda from New Zealand. She saw me, waved, and I thought it would be rude not to head over and at least say hello. She immediately started regaling me unsolicited with her travels since the last conversation we had had several days back, like I was now an old friend who was just dying to know everything. She shared with me in detail how she had gotten a fake student identity card in Copenhagen for the equivalent of just five dollars.

We were seated at a small table together and each ordered a bowl of soup, in honor of the cold autumn day. Her too long story of her travels since I’d seen her in Mainz concluded finally with the fact that she was staying at the hostel here in Cochem, and presuming that I would join her there.

For the first time it was just the two of us alone. And for the first time since my previous encounter with this prickly, egoistic young woman with her British snobbery and tone deaf talking down to everyone else, she actually looked me in the eyes for a moment and did her best to try and smile at me. After a cold day on the boat listening to drunken German tourists merrilly jabbering with each other in a language I did not understand, it did feel good to actually have a conversation with someone, even odd duck Miranda. She rattled on about how she would show me the sights of “little Cochem” in the morning, like we were suddenly going to be traveling together.

Then the conversation, mostly her monologue really with a few “uh-huhs” and such by me, shifted to a conversational thread from yesterday where she had regaled the group with her story of being accosted by a German man who had picked her up hitchhiking.

As she looked off in the distance she asked, “Did you know that he put his hand between my legs as he drove and told me about a fancy restaurant where he would ‘wine and dine’ me?” like that was a critical detail she had left out in yesterday’s conversation. “CAN you imagine?”

I shook my head, not sure how else to react to her lurid detail and theatrical finish.

Then I felt her knee touch the inside of my thigh under the table, not just an incidental brush but continuing to press against me with the feel of real intention, as she continued. “I might have let him have his way with me but he was most assuredly not my type. I don’t have a preference for older men.”

Then she turned to look at me, right elbow on the table and resting her chin in her right hand as she did. Her eyes met mine and she gave me a wild look, a complicated mixture of fear and longing. Then her eyes moved downward like she was sizing me up and finding me… acceptable. It finally got through to me that she could be hitting on me in her own indirect and obtuse way.

At that thought I was quickly thrown into great discomfort and at a loss on how to respond. She was ironically about the only female fellow backpacker I’d encountered that I WASN’T attracted to. Maybe if she had been cuter, or sweeter, or not such a tone deaf odd duck, I would have accepted her invitation, presuming it was more than just travel buddies given the knee against my thigh and the details of the guy fondling her. Where would we even go to make out and maybe even go off another deep end and lose my virginity.

In my paltry previous intimate encounters with female peers, such as they were, I had kissed two of them on the lips and laid on top of a third, both of us fully clothed. And in the one situation where my partner tried to push things further, even as attracted as I was to her, I had gotten cold feet and bailed. I never had had anything close to “making out” even, let alone real sex, which I assumed was what Miranda was suggesting.

Completely caught off guard, I silently fretted about what to do or say, trying hard not to give any indication that I was acknowledging any advance by her, while I desperately tried to figure out a path forward. She continued to talk, looking off in the distance, about her story of being fondled, her knee still against mine, with just a quick furtive glance at me here and there, while I struggled to be completely unreactive. Finally it seemed she got the message of my lack of reaction, sighed and flashed the briefest look into her soul and its frustration, composed herself, and returned to her normal tone deaf state.

She looked at me and said, “German is such an ugly language to listen to!” That, as we sat among German diners at the restaurant.

Her non sequitur was followed by my own. “I’ve got to catch my train to Trier.” I was bailing. I certainly had every right and reason to do so, but I felt bad that I could not even acknowledge that as another human being with needs and desires, that maybe she liked me and wanted to be with me and that I was not comfortable with that. To somehow more politely, more gallantly, turn her down. She said something like, “Of course” and we continued some idle conversation as we both finished every bit of the soup in our bowls and the bread and butter on our table, not leaving anything edible behind. As backpackers on a tight tight budget we got every possible calorie out of our relatively expensive restaurant meals.

Finally by myself on my train to Trier, looking out the window as its course shadowed the Moselle river, I reran my close encounter with Miranda over and over in my mind. I pondered that if I could have been more assertive, more comfortable in my own skin, I might have been able to say, “Miranda… are you hitting on me?” Then moved forward with a frank discussion possibly, about what we both wanted and how we both felt, and what if anything we would agree or disagree to do about it. But I was neither of those things. I felt completely demoralized, while the clickity clack and rhythmic lurches of the train, and the cozy confines of my compartment, did their best to try and soothe my soul. In a couple hours my train arrived at the big station in Trier.

Outside the hostel in Trier I met a couple fellow male backpackers, an American guy named Lance and a British guy, Dick. I sat and talked with them and shared a bottle of cheap wine in a plastic jug that Lance had bought. He was doing his best to live up to his image of what he thought a hippie should be. He had the requisite long hair, he shared his intoxicant with the group, said everything was “so cool” and that he was “so buzzed” from drinking the wine. But to me, a bit buzzed now myself, he was a pseudo freak, not unlike those guys I stayed with back at the U.S. base in Munich. Unlike most of the backpackers I had met, he was one of those “pack animals”, a male person who hid within emulating and behaving like the “pack” of other guys around him. I really had come to dislike this sort of behavior in my male cohort, him doing what he thought would make him one of the guys, rather than being genuinely himself. But still a buzz was a buzz.

I thought about David Crosby’s song, “Almost Cut My Hair”, which kind of defined what it meant to be a bona fide “long-haired hippie freak”. Though your flowing mane was your emblem of the brand, it was still so much more..

Almost cut my hair
It happened just the other day
It’s getting kinda long
I coulda said it was in my way
But I didn’t and I wonder why
I feel like letting my freak flag fly
Cause I feel like I owe it to someone

Must be because I had the flu’ for Christmas
And I’m not feeling up to par
It increases my paranoia
Like looking in the mirror and seeing a police car
But I’m not giving in an inch to fear
Cause I missed myself this year
I feel like I owe it to someone

When I finally get myself together
I’m going to get down in that sunny southern weather
And I find a place inside to laugh
Separate the wheat from the chaff
I feel like I owe it to someone

It was about solidarity with your fellow freaks to fearlessly challenge the established order and get beyond its pretense and shallow values, “separate the wheat from the chaff” to find true peace, love and joy amidst all the materialism and conformity. At least that was the idealistic, even maybe a bit pollyannaish way that I interpreted it. In that regard, the British guy, Dick, with his requisite long straight hair, flannel shirt and bell-bottom jeans, seemed more genuine and more comfortable in his own skin. He was more of a listener and a thinker than a talker.

After we had booked our beds for the night the three of us decided to walk into town to, as Lance suggested, “Hit the bars”. The first was a discotheque type place with American psychedelic rock music so loud it was easily heard outside from across the street. As we sucked down a mug of the deliciously bitter German ale on tap, listening to Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” and Iron Butterfly’s “In-a-gadda-da-vida”, we checked out the large number of young American men there in their paisley shirts and jeans, their short short hair signalling that they were likely U.S. military. And then there were some young German women, all pretty dolled up in short skirts and gaudy revealing tops showing off their tits. Every dark corner seemed to have a couple passionately kissing and running their hands over the other’s body. The atmosphere was very intense and sexual, but not in any sort of way I would consider fun. I had heard the term “meat market” back in the States a couple times and I figured this must be the kind of place they were talking about. The tensions in the place were palpable, it was “Sex, drugs, rocknroll” but without any of the “peace, love, joy”! Dick and I finished our beers and decided to move on. Our pseudo freak comrade Lance stayed to talk to and I guess try to hook up with this young hot looking German woman he had met outside.

So Dick and I continued to walk around town, the cheap wine and ale we had already consumed a serious enough buzz to get us talking to each other more genuinely about our lives. We had both been raised in our teen years by divorced moms. He still had a lot of anger at his mom, but seemed taken by the fact that I had resolved more of those issues with my own. We ended up at another place in the basement of an old stone building. It was a high ceilinged room with stone walls and arch supports like the basement of a castle. There was a band playing folk music – Peter, Paul and Mary and Mamas and Papas type stuff. A large group of Dutch youth, looking a bit younger than even me, were there with their adult chaperones.

We sat down at a table with two of the dutch youth, one male and one female, both drinking beers and getting a bit tipsy. I was duly both shocked and impressed when they shared with us that they and all their comrades in the group were just fifteen or sixteen years old. Over a round of beers for ourselves we discussed that a number of countries in Europe did not have the strict prohibitions against alcohol consumption by youth that we had in the States. The two of them, friends but not a couple, seemed very mature for their years, and I pondered that maybe in their world they were treated less like “children” than many of us older youth in the States. But as soon as we had finished our beers and that initial conversation they had to leave, and so did Dick and I to get back to the hostel before they locked us out for the night.

The next day, at my suggestion, Dick and I walked into town again and checked out the house where Karl Marx grew up, now a small out of the way a little worse for wear museum. The Friedrich Ebert Foundation, whose mission was to support the Social Democratic Party in Germany and a more pluralistic democracy, had purchased the property in 1928, had it seized by the Nazis after they came to power in 1933, and was not reclaimed by the Foundation until after the conclusion of World War II. It was interesting to see that Marx was essentially homeschooled by his politically progressive lawyer dad, then sent to a private high school that was so left leaning that it was raided and shut down by the conservative, pre Nazi German government in 1932. Marx went on to attend the University of Bonn in 1837, hoping to study philosophy, but forced by his father to study law instead.

I shared with Dick my own great interest in politics and philosophy, and even radical anarchist and feminist ideas. I had read Marx’s Communist Manifesto, but his economic determinism and transitional dictatorship of the proletariat did not resonate with me as much as the vision of anarchists like Mikhail Bakunin, Peter Kropotkin and Emma Goldman. Though familiar with Marx as a father of communism, Dick had not learned much beyond that, and had not been particularly politically aware, but seemed open to wrestling with these more radical ideas I was sharing with him. It felt strange but empowering to be playing the political radical with my peers, like my mom and her feminist friends had done for me in recent years, and more recently like Bublil had held forth back at the youth hostel in Chur.

Back at the hostel, Dick shared with me his plans for the future, beyond his own current odyssey backpacking through Europe like me. He had secured a not so easy to get appointment at a U.S. embassy to try and get a tourist visa to go to the States, to Winston-Salem North Carolina, where he knew someone who would hopefully put him up for a while. His plan was to try to find work in the States under the table, without having an actual green card or work visa. Up to that point I hadn’t realized my own privilege as a U.S. citizen. I could travel to Europe without any previously obtained visa at all, but Europeans could not come to the States, even just to visit, without going through a long bureaucratic process of getting a visa beforehand.

I decided that evening to leave Trier the next morning by train for Luxembourg City. I felt that my very limited budget, based on my supply of American Express travelers checks squirreled away in my money belt always around my waist, could not finance two nights in a row drinking beer at the bars. So I turned down Dick’s invitation to do so, wished him well in his future plans, told him he had a standing invitation to visit me in Ann Arbor if he got to the States, and made an early night of it. I was feeling very tired with the beginnings of cold symptoms, the first time I had felt at all under the weather since I started my trip. Recent events, including the war in the Middle East, my awkward encounter with Miranda, and my nagging sense of loneliness, had all taken their toll on my immune system.

I was focused on the capital of the small landlocked duchy of Luxembourg as my next destination, since being a student of military history, and having played a board game version of the Battle of the Bulge, I wanted to see the Ardennes region where that military campaign took place. According to my youth hostel guide, though there was no hostel in Bastogne, the town that was the focal point of the battle, there was one in nearby Clervaux, another important location in the battle and on the Avalon Hill game board. It was designated on the game board as a fortress, tripling the defense factor of any units stationed in the town, and just west of the Our River, which was the front line between the Allied army on its west bank and the German army on the east. The only train up into the Ardennes to Clervaux originated in Luxembourg City.

I woke up that morning, Sunday October 14th, with a full on dry throat and stuffy nose. I tended to ignore such cold systems back home, so I figured I would try to power through them here as well, leveraging my usually dependable constitution to get me through. Though hanging out with Dick had redirected me for the last couple days, I was still feeling that underlying homesickness and frayed soul as I boarded the train at the Trier station for Luxembourg City, where I would catch that second train up to Clervaux. Maybe from there I could find a way to get to Bastogne.

It was several hours through mostly forest and very little sense of civilization until suddenly the train emerged from the seemingly endless trees into a sizable city. With its quaint looking homes and other buildings, it looked more like some giant Santa’s village, just lacking the dusting of snow. What made our entry particularly dramatic was that the train emerged from the woods on the edge of a precipice. The city out the windows on one side of the train was at the level of the tracks, but out the other side it was maybe a 50 to 100 foot drop to another level of the town below.

Once debarked at the station I saw that I had a couple hours before my train left for Clervaux. Hungry, and with it getting to be lunchtime, and knowing not to buy food at the jacked up prices in train stations, I found a market across the street from the station and bought myself some bread and yogurt for breakfast. The city was built on several levels, from the high ground on precipitous cliffs where I was, terracing down into narrow valleys and deep gorges cut by the Alzette and Petrusse rivers, whose confluence is in the city. All covered with picturesque stone buildings and bridges, again looking more like Santa’s village or the set for some Disney fairytale movie, than a real contemporary city.

The train up to Clervaux took a couple hours of winding its way through sparsely populated dense forests and steep-sided valleys carved out by rivers between high hills. Never tiring of riding trains, and this ride particularly memorable, my battered lonely soul took some comfort in the beauty of this Ardennes wilderness in the heart of Western Europe. Clervaux itself was a beautiful little town built on a single steep hill, surrounded by other steep hills nestled in a small river valley. The town center was dominated by an old castle and church on its summit. I found the street to the youth hostel, which wound its way up the hill. It was now late afternoon, and carrying my fifty pound pack up the steep grade, and nursing my cold, I felt glad that my day’s travels were almost at an end. My throat was scratchy and sore and I was so thirsty, but it was Sunday and most of the town seemed closed down, including all the shops where I might have purchased something to drink. I knew at least at the youth hostel there would be water in the bathroom sinks if nowhere else.

But when I finally got to the hostel, there was a sign on the door saying it was closed for the season. I regretted again having a youth hostel guide book that was a year out of date. It had been Angie’s and she and I had figured it would be good enough for our purposes. There was a hotel in town I had passed on my trudge up the hill that was open, but I figured it was way beyond my budget. So not figuring I had any other options but to get back to Luxembourg City as soon as I could, I retraced my steps down the hill to the train station and luckily in an hour or so there was one last train back to Luxembourg City. In the meantime, at least I was able to refill my plastic water bottles in the station’s bathroom.

Back at the Luxembourg City train station, a helpful English-speaking clerk made a phone call for me to determine that the youth hostel there was full. With daylight starting to fail I jumped on a train to Namur Belgium, two hours west, where there was another youth hostel that hopefully was both open and not full. I got to Namur about 7pm at the end of a work day and the station area was bustling with people, cars and buses going here and there. As in all these situations, if I was not fortunate enough to find someone who spoke English, I knew at least how to say “where is the youth hostel” in both French and German, but could not really understand more than the most rudimentary instructions and directions. Somehow I found out what bus I needed to board and what stop I should get off at. The bus was crowded so I had to stand and continue to bear the weight of my pack on my back. The driver was in a churlish mood, yelling at a boarding passenger at one point in a language I did not recognize as either French or German. I screwed up my courage and tried to tell him that I needed to get off at the stop for the youth hostel. He nodded grimly, said nothing, and drove on.

After about a half hour which felt like much longer, I got off the bus at a stop that seemed like the right one, but I was certainly not sure. I wandered around the streets asking anyone who looked reasonably willing for directions. I did not understand their words, but they pointed in a direction that I would walk for a block or two, then ask for directions again. I considered it a victory that I was at least in the neighborhood. Not finding my destination after several iterations of this ask and follow the pointing finger, I had the fortune to come to the attention of two young Dutch women driving a car who were kind enough to hail me and ask if I was looking for the youth hostel. I said yes and they offered me the back seat of their small sedan. We finally found the hostel, but consistent with my day’s karma, it was full. My two vivacious and good-looking rescuers were gracious enough to drive me back to the train station, though not gracious enough to fulfill my fantasy at that moment that they would offer to share a hotel room with them.

It was now into the evening when I boarded my next train from Namur to Liege, where another potential lodging was indicated in my guide. I got into the almost empty station after ten in the evening, and the station master gave me directions, mostly in English, on how to get to the youth hostel, which involved a long walk from the station across the Meuse river to the other side of town. Dog tired, with now runny nose and sore throat plus aching shoulders bearing the weight of my pack, I set off through the dark cold stone city.

I must have walked at least four miles, when I came across an open tavern. Desperately needing to get off my feet for a bit, and craving the bitter buzz of a Belgian beer (alliteration!), I walked up to the bar, found a resting place next to me for my pack, and when the bartender approached, ordered “Ein grosses bier bitte”.

It was the best tasting pint (or half liter) I had ever tasted. The bitterness soothed my throat and the alcohol gave me enough of a glow to press on. Unfortunately, the time spent indulging my thirst led to me arriving at the hostel just past midnight, and despite my pleadings the proprietor stuck to his guns that his establishment was closed for the night and I was once more out of luck.

Bewildered and still buzzed from the beer, I walked the four miles back through the shuddered town to the train station. With not another soul on it, I recrossed the long straight brightly lit old stone and concrete bridge over the Meuse river surrounded by the quiet darkness and the hushed whoosh of the water below against the supports of the bridge.

Alone on the bridge under the glare of the lights from above, making the city beyond the bridge seem like a dark lifeless abyss, I felt the ever lurking loneliness engulf me. My nose continued to run with the occasional sneeze and my head was cloudy. My back ached from the weight of my pack. And with each step now my calf muscles throbed with pain. I had done close to twenty miles walking in three different countries – Germany, Luxembourg and Belgium – since I left the youth hostel in Trier some 18 hours earlier. I still wasn’t sure where I’d be sleeping that night, whether in the Liege train station, on some long haul train to Copenhagen perhaps, or someplace else. My morale had been flagging since hearing that rendition of Dylan’s “Knocking on Heaven’s Door” in Koblenz four days ago and then awkwardly pretending to ignore the advance of Miranda in Cochem. Now it seemed at its lowest since Angie had told me she was bailing on our journey together back in England some four weeks ago. By my acknowledged goal of continuing my journey until my rail pass and money ran out, I was still less than half way into my journey, but I felt like I was not going to make it if there were many more days like this one!

It occurred to me that this was the life of a foot soldier from the many wars – Napoleonic, World War I and II – that had been fought through this area of the Low Countries – Belgium and the Netherlands. Trudge all day weighed down by your life on your back, uncertain of where you would sleep. At least I was in no danger of being killed in the next day’s battle. And despite the aches and pains, the cold coming on, the loneliness deep in my center, I realized that I was basically okay. I would find somewhere to sleep. Coming out of that sleep I would have a new day, a new destination, Paris, and my mom’s friend Giselle expecting my visit. Decades later I would understand this as an aspect of my white, male and economic privilege, but it was no less a godsend at that moment.

Songs always came into my head spontaneously. Crossing that old stone bridge in the thick quiet of the night, something in my subconscious decided to fire up the jukebox in my mind and ask for a sing songy tune for moral support and to keep my legs moving to the beat. What came out was that sappy bubble gum pop song from the one hit wonder Rhode Island boy band the Cowsills, “The Rain, the Park and Other Things”

I saw her sitting in the rain
Raindrops falling on her
She didn’t seem to care
She sat there and smiled at me
Then I knew (I knew, I knew, I knew, I knew)
She could make me happy (happy, happy)
Flowers in her hair (in her hair)
Flowers everywhere (everywhere)

I love the flower girl
Oh, I don’t know just why
She simply caught my eye
I love the flower girl
She seemed so sweet and kind
She crept into my mind
(To my mind)(to my mind)

I sang the song over and over again, out loud, to keep my legs moving. It was my own naive imagining of finding my perfect muse. A young woman so compassionate and compelling (and probably implausible) that even my extreme shyness and timidity would not turn her away.

I knew I had to say hello (hello, hello)
She smiled up at me (hello, how do you do)
And she took my hand
And we walked through the park alone

And I knew (I knew, I knew, I knew, I knew)
She had made me happy (happy, happy)
Flowers in her hair (in her hair)
Flowers everywhere (everywhere)

I love the flower girl
Oh, I don’t know just why
She simply caught my eye
I love the flower girl
She seemed so sweet and kind
She crept into my mind

Was it that I wanted to be in love, or was it that I wanted someone to be in love with me, acknowledging me in a way I struggled to acknowledge myself? I just imagined us blissfully holding hands, moving forward into the future together, at least for now, achieving those generational hippie goals of “peace, love, joy”, that the long free flowing hair and bell bottom pants were supposed to be symbolic of. Both of us putting flowers in the gun barrels of the soldiers, who were part of our cohort and no different than us really.

And then of course there was the more visceral “sex, drugs, rock and roll” thing. I had in the past year become comfortable with the drugs, at least the ubiquitous marijuana which was my cohort’s social lubricant that distinguished us from our parents’ generation. Sure we drank and buzzed on their booze, but we ascended to our higher place sharing one more toke on the communal “jay” we passed between each other in solidarity. And of course I had long been enthralled by and addicted to the music, which coursed through me and made my feet move on a dance floor or a paved street.

The sex part was dicier and more difficult. The revelatory level of honesty and intimacy whose siren call was laced through the music and the rest of the culture, had always thrilled but also discomforted me. I just longed for that special young woman who would be comfortable and satisfied holding hands until we eventually got round to the rest. The vivacious and real young women I was encountering on a regular basis in my life all seemed somehow too imperfect, too complicated, to fit the bill, projecting of course my own discomfort with myself.

Suddenly, the sun broke through (see the sun)
I turned around, she was gone (where did she go)
And all I had left
Was one little flower in my hair

But I knew (I knew, I knew, I knew, I knew)
She had made me happy (happy, happy)
Flowers in her hair (in her hair)
Flowers everywhere (everywhere)

Singing the verses over and over again like a mantra or soldier’s marching song, my legs kept the cadence and got me finally back to the Liege train station. There was a train due in at 2am headed for Copenhagen. Given my rail pass, I had already once practiced the technique learned from my fellow backpackers of using an overnight train to sleep. My train was scheduled to arrive in Copenhagen Monday morning, so I boarded it with the plan to sleep in my seat. The train was fairly crowded, and though I could find a seat, I couldn’t find a completely empty side of a compartment to lie down on, and had to attempt the more difficult trick of sleeping sitting up.

I was awakened from a light hypnagogic daze when the train pulled into a smaller station on the outskirts of Brussels about 3:30 in the morning. It was an open platform rather than an enclosed station and through the window I could see the neon sign across the street that said something close to “Hotel”. I longed for a cozy bed and something close to a real night’s sleep. Now sneezing with a runny nose, I debarked from the train, crossed the street and stumbled into the hotel and asked the night desk clerk for a room. He had one which cost me what I remember to be several hundred Belgian Francs, about maybe $15 American. I would have paid almost anything, and I was so grateful when I got the key and directions to my room.

Just like no beer had ever tasted as good as the one I had sucked down a few hours earlier in Liege. No clean sheets, soft mattress and pillow had ever felt better against my beaten body. In that little room, just hours before dawn, I again contemplated my existential situation. I was an eighteen-year-old kid who had thrown myself in the deep end in taking this backpacking trip to Europe, and as a result of events beyond my control, had ended up doing it alone. Alone in the darkness on other occasions during the past four weeks, this adventure kept seeming more like an ordeal than a joyful journey of discovery. But at every point when I contemplated bailing out and returning to the States, pride, resolve, something, drove me to continue until my resources ran out. I was apparently developing enough tenuous self-respect that I did not want to risk losing it by truncating my trip and not notching my belt with at least my share of the sights.

My tiny room had a night stand by my single bed with a radio that I was able to turn on and tune until I found what turned out to be the U.S. armed forces radio. They were broadcasting the third game of the World Series between the Oakland A’s and the New York Mets, a night game at Shea Stadium in New York. By the time I tuned in they were starting extra innings in what had been a pitchers’ duel between team aces Tom Seaver and Catfish Hunter. A’s shortstop Bert Campaneris had scored the tying run in the top of the ninth to send the game into those extra innings. I heard the call in the tenth, when Willie Mays made his final appearance in a game, in the twilight of his career now on the Mets, unsuccessfully pinch-hitting for the Mets’ pitcher. Then Campaneris delivered the go ahead RBI with a single in the eleventh. After the Mets got a leadoff single in the bottom of the inning, the A’s ace reliever Rollie Fingers came in to successfully retire the last three Mets batters for a 3 to 2 win.

It was just like at home when I would sometimes listen to late games curled up in my bed. Now here in Brussels, in my cozy little bed under my warm covers I listened to the game until the final out. Being a big baseball fan and a student of the game, it was such a critical connection to my world back home at perhaps the lowest point of my journey so far. After the game ended I finally passed out from utter exhaustion, pondering where I would head off to tomorrow, on my way to Paris and to see Giselle.

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2 replies on “Two Inch Heels Part 10 – Low”

  1. Thanks Reuben. I appreciate you continuing reading of my work and some positive reinforcement, which helps me keep moving forward with it, and know that the effort is worthwhile!

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