My Memoir: Two Inch Heels

I was just 18, always the “shy alpha”, inspired by the Rock music that was the “Greek Chorus” of my life growing up in the 1960’s in a progressive college town to be part of a new generation transforming the world. I stumbled into an odyssey, not intending to do it on my own, thousands of miles from home.

“Two Inch Heels” is a memoir/autobiographical novel of my 11 weeks backpacking thru Europe in the fall of 1973 at age 18. The trip was originally the brainchild of my two best female friends, who agreed to let me tag along, but due to circumstances, one could not go and the other dropped out after our first week in England. Feeling my tenuous self-esteem could not handle bailing on the remainder of the journey myself, it became at times a lonely ordeal, and finally a singular odyssey, that to a large degree transformed me from an older youth into a young adult.

Interestingly, what ended up as MY solo journey was actually the brainchild of my two best female friends, who I have renamed as the characters Lane and Angie. They planned it as their backpacking journey to Europe. But when they told me about it, it sounded so much more compelling than yet another year of school (college in this case), that I cajoled them into letting me tag along. Then due to circumstances, Lane could not go, and Angie dropped out after our first week in England. Feeling my tenuous self-esteem could not handle bailing on the remainder of the journey, I continued on my own, on what was at times a lonely ordeal, and finally this singular odyssey that I will relate to you.

Note, that I have renamed all my friends and other peers in my writing, since I am putting my own guesses at the motivations in their heads and my own words on their lips. These are now my own characters, which I’d say are “inspired” by my various real friends and comrades.

The story is told in 53 chapters that encompass the key moments in my travels through England, southern Germany, Switzerland, Luxemburg, Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands. I was throughout a lonely homesick traveler, often on the edge of bailing and returning to the States, but pushed on by fear of once again, like so many times before in my life, not living up to my own expectations. So I was constantly looking for any and every inspiration to keep going until I could return home, the storied traveler.

Being shy, I was generally more of a listener than a talker. But especially when I was travelling on my own, that basic need for human companionship pushed me to overcome that shyness and reach out to others, as I realized they were reaching out to me for similar reasons. I also tended to hash things over in my mind often to the point of overthinking, and I try to capture some of that ongoing internal monologue. It was in that monologue, overthought at times, where my developmental process mostly plays out.

Looking for any and every inspiration to keep going until I can return home the storied traveler, I was buoyed by the rock and folk music I grew up with, mostly playing from memory in my mind’s “jukebox”, including bits of powerful and poetic lyrics. I was also inspired by fellow travelers I meet along the way, that shared an agency I did not fully appreciate that I had. Through their eyes I saw a new adult persona emerging for myself, that included the tall strut in my walk when I wore my two-inch heels, dressier shoes that I just happened to bring, along with my newly purchased hiking boots that never got properly broken in and continued to hurt my feet throughout my odyssey.

That journey turned into an odyssey of sorts, including high points and low, and explorations of geography both external and within my own soul. It served as a coming of age for me, a transition from a kid who always dreamed of doing something big but was often afraid to try, to a person who threw himself in the deep end and was actually able to swim the length of a very big metaphorical pool.

Though as a youth I always tried to chart my own course as much as I could, I still reported to school each fall looking forward to release from that institution that coming June. The ever incrementing next year of school was the cadence of my life, and the lives of all the other kids I grew up with. And in September of 1972, after graduating the previous June from Pioneer High in my hometown of Ann Arbor Michigan, I continued on the standard path and went off for my first year of college, with the conventional expectation that I would spend the next four years doing that. But though I made it through my first year and got good grades, I was burnt out on the whole “endless school” thing, and longed to do “something completely different”, as Monty Python would say.

My backpacking journey through Western Europe, gave this shy but plucky kid the courage and agency, five years later in 1978, to move from my oh so familiar and friendly college hometown of Ann Arbor to big bad Los Angeles. Basically on my own again, to try to conjure up a real adult life for myself in that mega city and its “tinseltown”. A city that Bob Seeger, Jim Morrison, and the post Smokey Robinson Miracles (among others) were singing about.

And I DID conjure a life for myself in L.A., though at times it was its own odyssey, certainly worthy of its own autobiographical novel at some point in the future. I rattled around in low level jobs in the TV and film business for a couple of years. I then reinvented myself as a male feminist activist and community organizer. In the process, I met the woman who was my soulmate and became my life partner. To have the money to start a family, I reinvented myself again as a computer software designer, later systems analyst and business analyst. She and I married and raised two kids, who did not end up following the standard “schooling” path that both their mom and I had, but managed to conjure up their own adulthoods in big crazy L.A.

Reconstructing this journey was only possible because of an extensive diary I kept during my trip. In that diary, I recorded a lot of details about where I went and what I saw, but unfortunately very little about the array of intriguing and inspiring people I met along the way. They were a cohort of characters from different parts of the world mostly part of my own emerging Baby Boom generation. So to make this mostly autobiographical tale more of a fun story to write and hopefully to read (or listen to in this case), I used my ever active imagination to invent most of the other people I encountered on my journey. I hope you find them as interesting a crew of colorful characters in the listening, as I found them in the writing. They must stand in, for all those real people I met on my journey, that did not get recorded in my diary.

Just as one example, in a diary entry from my time in Grindelwald up in the Swiss Alps, I had just a quick mention that I “met a lot of interesting young women” there. I turned that one phrase into the extensive characters of Monika, Ragna and Beth, who you will meet a little more than half way through my opus. Beyond those three, there are an array of other characters, male and female, a few actually recorded in my diary, but mostly fabricated, that you will meet in the telling of this tale. As you may notice, I have developed a particular penchant for bigger than life, some even badass, female characters, but that’s just me.

So due to this addition, to my tale, of these denizens of my imagination, this “memoir” has transitioned into what is more accurately an “autobiographical novel”. And truth be told, I like it that way. Particularly those young women I invented, have become as real in my mind as any other facet of this story.

I also want to note that I have salted the sung lyrics of rock, folk and pop songs I grew up with throughout the story, at least one lyrical reference in virtually every chapter. As a youth, I grew up in a great flowering of music in the 1960s and early 1970s played on radios, on stereos, or heard in stores or restaurants, or even live in concert. Some of the great singers and bands of the day became the “Greek chorus” of my life, providing me with their lyrical short sermons of wisdom to help me navigate the changing world of that time period and my own continuing evolution. In my earlier youth it was Petula Clark and all the powerful Motown music from nearby Detroit – The Supremes, The Vandellas, Smokey Robinson, Marvin Gaye, to name a few. Then in my later youth, the folk and rock bands – Bob Dylan, Simon and Garfunkel, and of course, The Beatles. By the time I started my journey through Europe, I had internalized so much of that music, that I could pretty much play and “hear” a wide array of songs in my head. It is my mind’s “jukebox” as it were. And during my travels, it was either consciously invoked or subconsciously triggered, to provide me support, solace, and occasional wisdom to aid me in my journey.

You will note that my writing style is not the least bit “journalistic”. I love long sentences with multiple clauses. I’m all about noticing and capturing the intimate physical and intuitive detail. What some other writers might cover in three sentences, I might take three pages to fully capture the context, the external details, and my internal thought process around and between the actions of the scene.

Click the highlighted title to read the chapter or the podcast link to listen to a reading of the chapter…

PART 1: THE ENDEAVOR – The events leading to my good friend Angie and I flying off to England for an ambitious extended journey through Western Europe. It’s the summer of 1973 and best friends Lane and Angie hatch a plan to backpack through Europe together for several months. I’m so taken with the idea that I manage to get myself invited to join. Lane then drops out and Angie and I plan our trip to Western Europe, living out of backpacks and trying to spend $6 a day.  She and I are just friends and not any sort of a romantic couple, though at some deep level I fantasize that this trip might make us more.  We follow through with our preparations and prepare to set out on our planned several month journey.

To listen to the audio version of this introduction, click the triangle in the podcast link below…

PART 2: ENGLAND – Angie and I fly from Detroit to London England to begin our journey through Western Europe. We get off to a shaky start, spending our first night at a rundown unofficial “youth hostel” in London. So we decide to head immediately on to Oxford the next morning, to see if we can get our bearings staying with the Clays, the family my mom, brother and I lived next door to three years ago when we spent the summer in England.

PART 3: ANGIE – After our first few days in England Angie tells me that it is all too much for her and she decides to stay in London and not continue on to the Continent. I had never intended to take this trip alone and wrestle with whether to continue, now no longer so much excited about an adventure, but more afraid of the loss of pride and self respect if I bail on the trip after putting so much money and self esteem into getting there!

PART 4: SOLO – After parting company with Angie in London, who I expected to share the entire backpacking thru Europe journey with, I set off on my own to the Continent. I’m headed to Munich where I hope to hook up with a young couple my mom and I met three years ago during our summer in England. I encounter a young French woman, Sylvie, who becomes my travel partner, at least for our time together on our journey from London to Basel.

PART 5: MUNICH – I finally arrive in Munich amidst the crush of people in town for Oktoberfest only to discover that I can’t reach Angelica and Helmut, and am on my own to find a place to stay, with all the youth hostels and hotels completely full for the yearly festival. I encounter a fellow American backpacker who finds us a place to stay.

PART 6: CHUR – Hitchhiking with my new travel partner Jack, we head south from Munich to Switzerland to the small town of Chur and a youth hostel where I meet and become friends with several fellow travelers including a young woman I make quite a connection with, and we all share an encounter with the local police.

PART 7: RAIL PASS – Leaving my comrades behind in Chur, I set out on my own hitchhiking across the Alps. I experience the kindness of strangers, and make it to the tiny resort town of Andermatt, when and where I can now use my student rail pass to ride the rail network of Western Europe, which is a skill I learn by trial and error. At my overnight stopover at the Bern train station, I encounter more fellow backpackers and an old homeless man who surprises all of us.

PART 8: ANGELICA & HELMUT – Back in Munich, finally hooking up with my mom’s friends Angelica and Helmet, I go to a birthday party of one of their friends, eat weird food and drink too much wine, and watch on TV in German news coverage of the start of the Arab-Israeli Yom Kippur war. It is all too much for my fragile soul and soured stomach.

PART 9: RIVERS – Leaving Munich, now four weeks into my European odyssey, I ride the tour boats along the Rhine & Mosel rivers, interact with my fellow young adult backpacker subculture, and wrestle with loneliness, longing for home, and a discomforting proposition from a particularly challenging female fellow backpacker.

PART 10: LOW – I leave Germany for Luxembourg and the low countries to try to see some of the towns and other geography that was represented on the game boards of the military simulation games I had played as a youth. In the process and due to a string of issues trying to find a bed at a youth hostel, I end up having a very long and soul searching day.

PART 11: PARIS – Still feeling the loneliness of traveling by myself, and the resulting urge to cut short my trip and head back home, I finally get to Paris to visit my mom’s friend Giselle and her family.  But after an initial tour of the city from my host, again on my own, I feel even more alone and anonymous in the big city and where the youth hostel I’m staying at feels more like a homeless shelter.

PART 12: STEVE – Staying at that a youth hostel more like a homeless shelter, I tour the Louvre and explore the art and architecture of this historic city.  I finally find a reprieve for the lonely traveler, a companion to continue my adventures with, at least for the next couple weeks, and we agree to head south from Paris to Spain.

PART 13: MAGIC BUS – With my new travel partner Steve, I leave Paris, Giselle and family and we hitchhike to Spain including an overnight ride on an iconic hippie chariot, the VW microbus, with a pair of Canadians, Randall and Zo, who are our fellow travelers, literally and metaphorically. I take a turn driving the thing through hilly southern France, getting to know, and eventually sleeping next to Zo.

PART 14: BARCELONA – Steve and I spend our first three days in semi-fascist Spain enjoying the significantly lower prices on food and lodging, and have encounters with new food, wild sea creatures in the fish market, and one of the 20th century’s most provocative and transformational artists Pablo Picasso. We enjoy their inexpensive signature rice and fish dish of Paella. We end up spending  a morning in our hotel room together in our underwear, waiting for the entrepreneurial older woman who rented us our room to meticulously wash all the rest of our clothes, charging a fee of course.

PART 15: ALDEA – Steve and I leave Barcelona and try to hitchhike south to Granada with little success, spending a night sleeping under the stars outside a little Spanish town. But we do get another ride from our Canadian hippie travelers. But we finally giving up the hitching and just manage to board a overcrowded train and a 20 hour ride further south.

PART 16: GRANADA – After a delicious dinner of Paella with Calamari on top and lots of cheap wine, Steve presents me with a sexual proposition that I have to wrestle with but after some thought, ultimately refuse.  The next morning, undaunted, we continue on with our joint exploration of the storied city.

PART 17: TORREMOLINOS – After Steve’s rebuffed sexual proposition in Granada, we continue our travels together to this ticky tack resort town and enjoy the sun and sea. I actually swim in the Mediterranean in November, just to say I did it. We also take in the uniquely Spanish sport and spectacle of bullfighting, which I find to be pretty disturbing.

PART 18: MADRID – We spend a couple days in Spain’s capital and visit to the Prado museum, enthralled by the stunningly bizarre sexuality of “Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch and a more realistic but explicit nudity in Goya’s “La Maja Desnuda”.  I am also gripped by Goya’s paintings depicting the Spanish people’s struggles against Napoleon’s armies in the early 19th century.

PART 19: WALTER – Steve and I get a ride from an older German businessman who ends up buying us dinner, driving us all the way to Paris, and putting us up for the night. The next morning we learn disturbing things about his past, and his dark take on the world.

PART 20: RUE TITON – Returning to Paris, Steve and I leave Walter behind after his morning Hitler supporting rant, and luckily find room at the quite nice Rue Titon hostel we had stayed at before in Paris.  We are checked in by a gorgeous but thoroughly fascist young woman named Jeanette. Steve and I go to an Algerian restaurant for dinner but I’m too shy to invite some other of my interesting female backpackers to come with. He and I confirm that our paths forward are in different directions, but decide to at least  hitchhike towards Switzerland together for a last hurrah.

PART 21: BAR-SUR-AUBE-In the swan song of my travels with Steve, we get stuck sleeping outdoors in the rain, and when I head off now on my own the results are nearly disastrous, as I lose my passport and rail pass boarding the train to Switzerland, and am on the verge of cutting short my whole endeavor due to that loss.

PART 22: COMRADE JEN – I come into Italy’s capitol traveling on my own for the first time since partnering with Steve several weeks back. I experience the uneven but at times rewarding feelings of being on my own, like meeting new people, including two charismatic Aussie women who I am quite taken with that give me the nickname, the “Coopster”.

PART 23: ROMA – My second day in Rome, which the Italians call the much suaver “Roma”, I take care of business, including booking my return flight, but also have an unexpected offer from Jen’s partner Sarah to be her escort to venture out together to sample gelato, Italy’s wonderful version of ice cream.

PART 24: INNER SANCTUMS – Continuing my visit to Rome, I spend my first day touring the city with new friend and architecture nerd Morgan. The next day, now on my own, I act on good advice from one of my fellow backpackers and end up spending some 20 minutes nearly alone in the Sistine chapel pondering this sanctuary to a religion and a god I have chosen years previously to not believe in. Then from the dome of St. Peters I look out over the Eternal City and realize I am burnt out on seeing the sights of yet another big city and long instead for what I’ve been told about the wonder of the snowy mountains of Switzerland.  But for now I can find some solace surrounding myself with my backpacking cohort.

PART 25: MORGAN – My last couple days in Rome are spent mostly with a nerdy academic of a guy from Canada who I have a real thing for, more crush than bromance, and I ponder the nature of attractions. We check out some of the ancient places of the “eternal city”, some not so impressive in the midst of this big modern city but others still very much so.

PART 26: TRIX – On a crowded train from Rome to Florence Italy, I encounter a very diminutive, charismatic and exotic looking young woman and find sanctuary and comfort in a compartment with her and five other of my fellow backpackers, all young women, easily aligning myself with their otherwise all female space and sensibility. They humorously re-invoke my new “Coopster” nickname, that Jen dubbed me at the Rome youth hostel, as I blend myself into their world.

PART 27: FIRENZE – I get to Florence, whose real name is the much more suave “Firenze”, to again find a compelling array of fellow backpackers to interact with.  Trix and her crew who I rode with on the train from Rome. Jen and her partner Sarah, the former having dubbed me ‘the Coopster’ back at the Rome hostel.  Finally three guys from Cleveland, who I dub ‘the boys’, and inspire me to think about the dynamics of patriarchy. It all culminates in a night of dining, discussion and introductions at our favorite Trattoria.

PART 28: CORRIDORS – My final full day in Florence, I escape the company of the ‘boys’ to walk the Vasari Corridor, a Florentine must see that had been recommended to me by my comrade Morgan back in Rome. On my return to the hotel I reencounter the Clevelanders who remind me it is Thanksgiving in the States, and we return once again to that wonderful Trattoria to try to celebrate appropriately.  In the midst of our feast we encounter a true world traveler who challenges my assumptions.

PART 29: SOPHIA – I encounter a sexy forty-something businesswoman on the train from Florence to Venice interested in hearing the stories of my travels to pass the time of the journey and ends up sharing a very intimate story of her own. She buys me dinner in the dining car and I ponder the nature of a fair exchange.

PART 30: VENICE – I spend a couple foggy days in this uniquely sensuous and atmospheric lagoon city, and am befriended by a character of a Frenchman name Jules and have a revelation about Jen and Sarah’s relationship.

PART 31: UNDER THE ALPS – Frayed and homesick after eight weeks of travel, mostly on my own, I take a long train ride from Venice thru a tunnel under the southern Alps headed to the anticipated winter wonderland of Grindelwald, and I ponder who I am and where, if anywhere, I am going with my life.

PART 32: GRINDELWALD – I awaken in the youth hostel in this snowy little paradise in the Alps and come out of my shell some to interact with a crew of interesting fellow backpackers including three guys from Cleveland and two women from Sweden, the stunning Monika and her semi-sister Ragna, and an afternoon of playing cards, the game of Hearts, and the connections that it built between us, followed by an epiphany at dinner.

PART 33: DOWN THE HILL – A trip down the mountainside from the hostel into the village below with some romantic flirtations, subtle and not, and a memorable evening in the pub with lots of beer and shared with fellow travelers on life’s adventures, including me stepping forward to lead at an important juncture.

PART 34: VIRGIN – A climax of sorts to my whole eight weeks so far of my European odyssey, in the beautiful little mountain resort of Grindelwald with intimate albeit nonsexual encounters with the goddess Monika but also her ever more intriguing semi-sister Ragna. Along the way I teach Ragna to play ‘Russian Bank’ and a whole group of us go on a trek to see the blue glacier, with Monika actually taking me by the arm to tell me how much she admires me. Then we all end up at the village pub again for more beer drinking, socializing, and singing, including my second close encounter of the day with Ragna, her translating German for my unfortunately clueless edification.

PART 35: SNOW DAY – The young women in our informal group decide to spend the money that I unfortunately am not willing to part with to ride the unique Cog Railway tunneling up through the mountains to the weather station at the “top of Europe”. While they are on their adventure, the guys I’ve befriended and I have fun in the snow with some local boys and I have an almost erotic encounter with one of my fellow male backpackers.

Part 36: TRIUMVIRATE – Monika, Ragna and Beth return from their journey via the cog railway thru the Eiger up to the Sphinx Observatory with tales of their journey, and with an apparent new connection between Monika and Beth, and I have regrets for not going along, and the possible encounter I could have had, not so much with Monika, but with Ragna. Monika and Ragna finally bid us good bye, and the guys walk them down to the train station, with hugs all round, including my own final embrace with the two Swedes before they take the train down the mountain on their way to Venice.

PART 37: BETH – I sadly part most of my backpacker comrades in wonderful little Grindelwald and take the train down to Interlaken to begin my journey back to London and then back to the States. But lucky for me, I am joined by one of those comrades and we share some secrets and have a quiet moment of intimacy together before going our separate ways, she chasing love and me beginning my road home.

PART 38: DIRECTION HOME – I part company with Beth, the last of my Grindelwald backpacker cohort, and finally face the realization that I am heading home, with all the positive and negative feelings that engenders, including seeing how far I have come in my own development since the early stages of my odyssey.

PART 39: ANGELICA – I return to Munich after inadvertently crisscrossing Switzerland by train and am grateful to get a warm welcome and a place to stay at the last minute with my young adult family friends Angelica & Helmut. I wrestle with my attraction to Angelica and the boundaries between friends and lovers. She takes me to the snowy English Garden, a large famous formal garden in the middle of the city that was not too far a walk from their apartment. I fantasize what it would be like to have a romantic partner not unlike her. Finally I leave them after my brief respite to continue my journey on to Amsterdam and from there back to England and a short final week before boarding my plane back to the States.

PART 40: HUGO – Tired, sad and homesick, on an overnight train from Munich to Amsterdam on a frigid night, I encounter a man who looks into my soul, sees my loneliness and then reaches out to give me a little taste of home at his home with his girlfriend and her two kids in the little Dutch village of Best.

PART 41: AMSTERDAM – I arrive in this cold, rainy, but beautiful and friendly city and find sanctuary at the Christian Youth Hostel, which is a haven for hashish and hippies and gives me some needed solace from my loneliness. I meet three backpacker comrades who I plan to make my long anticipated first foray for free beer at the Heineken brewery with in the morning, but need a good night’s sleep first to recover my equilibrium, after a long and emotional day.

PART 42: HEINEKEN BREWERY – On a cold and rainy morning in Amsterdam, I accompany three of my backpacker comrades to take the morning tour of the Heineken brewery, a must see for my ilk, if for no reason other than lots of free beer at the end of the tour.  As the four of us sit together in the tasting room drinking our limit of the wonderful bitter ambrosia, we loosen up, share a bit of our stories, talk about the future, and begin to connect.

PART 43: OTTO & ANNE – After my first trip to the Heineken brewery and all the wonderful free beer after the tour, now deliciously tipsy, I wander through the streets of Amsterdam and happen to encounter the Anne Frank house museum. I take the tour and am drawn into the life of Anne and her dad Otto, the character I played when my theater group did “The Diary of Anne Frank” the previous spring. In learning more about Anne’s and particularly Otto’s life, I ponder the gaps between the generations, as we all do our best to try and live our lives. I also ponder the horror of the holocaust, seeing it so much more personally through the eyes of a young woman and her dad.

PART 44: HIGH – I awake the next morning at the youth hostel to a brazen offer to smoke hash even before I’m out of bed, which accepted, sends me on a day’s adventure thru Amsterdam with three other backpacker stoner.  The second tour of the Heineken brewery was a very different experience stoned on the hash, and then headed to the Van Gogh museum,  something I mention brings Gwendolyn alive and she and I begin to connect.

PART 45: INTIMATE – The rest of that day in Amsterdam after smoking hash first thing in the morning and then drinking a lot of beer at the Heineken brewery. Together with three comrades exploring various venues of the cold rainy but friendly city, including close encounters with Van Gogh’s works, a female backpacking comrade, and a young woman working at the BOAC office.

PART 46: NORTH SEA – I finally part company my fellow stoner types and the “hive mind” we developed at the Christian Youth Hostel in Amsterdam, but not before a wonderful goodbye hug from Gwendolyn. I finally leave the Continent of Europe after nine weeks, starting across the North Sea back to England.

PART 47: LANCE – I share a bottle of Graan Jenever (a kind of Dutch gin) with a hippie rock musician from Los Angeles named Lance and a seemingly more straightlaced young woman from Minnesota named Rhonda.  Buzzed on the alcohol, we share our stories and our paths forward as we ride the ferry across the stormy North Sea to Harwich England. And then as we finally debark at our destination, there is a surprise and troubling twist that catches me off guard and makes me realize that I don’t really have everything in life figured out quite yet.

I ponder whether having a real girlfriend, that I acknowledged to the world as my romantic partner, would somehow expose me as a fraud. Force me to confront my own lack of self worth and resulting self absorption, thus making it difficult for me to give the appropriate focus to an intimate partner. I ponder if my timidity in this area was just a form of denial that I had too high standards. That lacking real self esteem, I was afraid that if I had a real girlfriend people would judge me based on her, so she had to be just so, to fit my needs, rather than who she really was, to fit her own.

PART 48: GREAT BENTLEY – I stay for a night with the couple my mom traded houses with three years back when we spent the summer in England in 1970, whom I had never before met. They had now moved to the perhaps ostentatious little “village” of Great Bentley outside Colchester and were starting a young family, but I was troubled by the dynamics of that family and particularly the husband’s approach to marriage and parenthood. I continue to find my solidarity still mostly with the female type people that surround me, as they continue to show themselves as more mature and fighting the good fight to survive and thrive.

PART 49: LONDON – I stop at the American Express office in London to get mail from home. Then I take a bus to Oxford and encounter three young women returning from an office party who have had too much to drink and engage with and challenge me to make their trip home more interesting. But in the end their solidarity as comrades living their lives together is an inspiration.

PART 50: THE CLAYS – Back in the village of Horspath outside Oxford, I stay again with the family we lived next to three years back when we lived in England for the summer, and where Angie and I stayed at the beginning of our journey.  I witness a family very active and in tune with each other, that makes me ponder my own little family.

PART 51: KATE & COMPANY – Still staying with the Clay’s, their daughter Kate invites me to join her and her two best friends seeing the new movie “Godspell”, and I get a glimpse of the world and worldview of three young women, though just two years my junior, with a very different view of the world!

PART 52: THE COOPSTER – I spend my final couple days in Europe amidsts the warm hospitality of the Clay family in Oxford.  When the day of my planned departure finally arrives, they put me on the bus to Heathrow airport and I board my plane back to the States.  On the plane flight back to Detroit in the States, I have one last chance to overthink everything, and I ponder who I might be becoming.  I have an epiphany on an old persona, “Clubius”, that I am now finally ready and able to give up.  And like the committed actor, I consider a new one, “The Coopster”, identified by big Aussie Jen in Rome several weeks back, that I will now try to inhabit as best I can for myself, for my family, and for the rest of my community back home in the States.

PART 53: HOME – My mom and brother bring me home from the airport to find some things changed and some things the same, both uncomfortable in their way, but happy to be home and reconnected with my family, and ready to reconnect with my larger circle.

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