Thursday, October 29, 2015

The Summer of '68

In 1968 my friend Mike wrote to me from Germany to suggest I join him for the summer travelling together through Europe. I bought a ticket to leave at the end of my academic year at university but by the time of my departure Mike had returned home, broke.

I did not want to go alone but I was too ashamed to say so, so I got on the plane.  

When I arrived in London, all my anxieties poured out in a quiet meltdown of limitless tears. An empathetic family who recognized me from my plane took me under their wing. I took me three days to become emotionally stable enough to venture outside and three weeks to summon the courage to venture to Bruges, Belgium where I would experience being in a foreign-speaking country for the very first time. On the boat I had another meltdown and was rescued by a priest.

In Bruges, I had to find someone with whom to travel. I met Sharon (who had been dumped by her husband on their honeymoon) and we voyaged for the ensuing three months together—an unbelievable three months:
  1. While I had been in London under the care of my temporary guardian, Professor Elliot, we witnessed the arrest of the murder of Martin Luther King right outside the pub in which we were having a drink.
  2. I had sex with Sharon all summer. Me, who otherwise has been exclusively homosexual throughout six decades.
  3. In Vienna, we flipped a coin to decide whether we should go to Prague or Budapest. Prague won but our train had to back up as it filled with refugees; that was the beginning of the Prague Spring, an invasion by Warsaw Pact member countries.
  4. In Paris we were trapped for three days in our hotel due to serious rioting in the streets—see the photo above taken in Paris in May 1968. It was seeing this photo that reminded me of these incredible events that happened between May and August of 1968.

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