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  • Chapter One – Winding Road of Secrets


    Families have so many secrets.  Many of us have past moments that we wish to forget.  Not surprisingly I had secrets of my own I could not share with my parents.  They are gone now and my chance to come clean is gone.

    It kind of runs in the family. There was an undiscussed family problem on my mom’s side of the family. Even though her grandparents lived about sixty miles from her as a child they never met.  Oh the secrets we keep for decades.

    So, instead of telling her this story I will tell you my secret.   “What was I thinking?” describes how I feel about my adventure and as you read perhaps you will agree.

    Chapter 1

    The road winds through late fall.  Or was it winter? Nope! Halloween had not come yet so it is fall in the Pacific Northwest.

    I feel sick from the twenty balloons of marijuana I swallowed.  The pink tablets I chewed up sort of helped.  Who was I kidding?  They just added the flavor of bubble gum to the rubber taste in my throat.

    The road winds on toward the bus station and our first leg of the journey.  In our old car was my sister, Evon, my hippie husband, Greg, and myself, Raven.  We all quietly traveled along in the predawn dark.  This trip would change all our lives.  Decades later I realize just how lucky we were in the end.   So, there we were driving down the road not realizing how our old world was slipping away just like the golden maple leaves along the winding road to Everett.

    This was my very first airplane ride.  Today most people treasure that first time but for me when recollecting the trip, the memory starts when the plane arrived in Germany. Funny how time has completely erased that airplane trip from Vancouver BC and the bus ride from Everett.  No matter how hard I try I cannot remember it.  Could it be too much marijuana, too much trauma, too many more important things to remember, or just old age?  What is important is what I do remember about this trip. 

    Let us get back to the story and not be distracted with our current world that I could never imagine in 1974.

    We had a Big Plan!  It was so simple we thought.  Our friend Teresa had told us we could go to Europe and score hash cheap.  She had a friend in Marburg, Germany that we could meet, and he would fix us up. 

    All we had to do was fly to Frankfurt, take a train to Marburg, introduce ourselves to Teresa’s friend and he would set us up with a great hash deal.  We had our airplane tickets, about fifteen hundred dollars to buy that pound of hash and our contact’s name and address.  Just two hippie girls with a dream of getting our family out of poverty.

    This was before cellphones and gosh we did not even have a home phone.  Can you imagine traveling that far from home without one today? Several reasons why we did not have a landline in our house. They were our distain for the niceties of the plastic fanatics, our paranoia of having our phone tapped, and being just too poor to afford it.  Remember it was the 1970s and the days of love & peace. Bet you can read between the lines that one of our occupations was dealing drugs. We knew we had a market for the hash once we got it home.

    How do I explain how free we were?  Drugs were not our essence they were just an accessory like a good purse. We lived by our wits, worked a few jobs here and there, recycled when it was not fashionable and got by just fine.  Just so happened we also sold drugs to help pay the bills to maintain our home.  That home was a run-down house we were buying . It was on five acres and we called it “The Farm”.  

    There we were two American counterculture girls in our early 20’s in Germany.  We did not speak the language, know the culture nor have any way to call for help or advice.  Again… “What was I thinking?”

  • Chapter Two – Trouble Started Early

    I am in the bathroom at the airport.  It is not like any in the United States.  It has a double toilet thing which now I know is a type of bidet-toilet combo.  We are both sick and no one speaks our language.  Plus, to make matters worse there is a matron at the restroom’s door.  I took Spanish in junior high school.  Do you think I remembered any of it?  Even if I had it would not have helped with speaking German.  However, we managed to get by with hand gestures, smiles, and kindness from those who spoke our language.  That would be a theme in our three weeks of travel.  We were continually amazed by the number of people who spoke English.

    Back to the airport bathroom.  I do not mean to gross you out, but I am pooping balloons.  That was why we were sick.  I do not ever recommend eating anything you want to retrieve later.  It is so gross!  Looking back, I was a strong woman even at 21.  I went about cleaning them off, wrapped them up in paper and put them in my purse.  That sounds so simple, but I was not prepared for this part of the smuggling plan.  It was a dry run on how to get the hash back to the USA.  Thankfully, the matron loitering around did not discover us cleaning contraband.  Paranoia is a dreadful thing and I had it bad.

    As much as I wanted to, we could not just flush them down the toilet.  The marijuana in the balloons was an asset ad part of our overall funds.  Pot was scarce in Europe, and we planned to sell it as well as use it ourselves.  Let me explain why we took this mess all in stride. 

    We lived on “The Farm” in conditions that did not make pooping balloons in an airport toilet the end of the world.  The Farm was an old house in disrepair.  It had been just a cabin in the 1920s.  By the time we moved in, it was a jumbled maze of hallways and add-on rooms.  Five of us pooled our money to buy this 5-acre farm from a real estate man who had foreclosed on a pig farmer family of twelve.  He thought we were good suckers.   We had the last laugh and hung onto it until 1979 when we resold it for a profit.

    It was awful.  We were kids (ranging from 18 to 23) with stars in our eyes.  Not wise buyers who ended up with a big mess.  By the time we went to Germany the bathroom already had been torn out for two years.  It was so dirty that I and my girlfriend caught hepatitis trying to scrub and scrape it clean.  Outside the bathroom door was a spot where the floor was rotting away.  That area like the bathroom area had to be ripped out to the studs.  That corner in the hall was where the pig farmer family had thrown dirty diapers for years. 

    It would take another 5 years before we had running water again.  Yes, you heard that right.  We used an outhouse, heated water on a stove for washing everything, and showered at the park for a quarter.  We hauled water with a bucket out of our well or we drove to an artisan spring when the well went dry.  We did have electricity but heated with a wood stove.  We cooked mostly on a cook stove we salvaged from a house that had burned down around it.  Hey, we did have the luxury of a refrigerator, an electric stove and lights but alas no running water.  The technology of the day would have been that telephone connection we did not have.  All this was before computers existed.  Cell phones were a Star Trek fantasy. 

    So, a few shitty balloons in a foreign airport toilet were nothing.  We had it under control and evaded the matron.

    Now it was time to get moving to the train station.  We did not waste time in Frankfurt on the day we arrived.  We had to get busy sorting out how to get to Marburg and meeting our connection.  So, we found the station and obtained a schedule with the train system map.  Exchanged a bit of money, bought tickets, and found the train platform to Marburg.  Everything we brought was in two backpacks, so we stuck out as two American inexperienced tourists navigating this cavernous station. 

    We had figured out the right stop by watching the stations go by and comparing them to the route map.  Might not have understood the language but we could visually compare the town’s names on the map to the signs.  Later in the trip this did not work so well where the language did not use the Latin alphabet. 

    The train arrived at our stop and a nice fellow passenger confirmed we were at the right one.  We then found the right local bus to take to the friend’s address.  Imagine the stares we got in the middle of this German suburbia.  The train ride was nothing but here we were two American Hippie girls roaming their quiet neighborhood.  We really stood out.  I do not think we had realized or had been self-aware of how different we would look in Europe.  “What was I Thinking?” sure applies here.

    Then we got to the right street and address.   We were there and walked up to the door.  Gosh it all sounds so easy 50 years later.  I am proud of us and how we got off an airplane in a foreign country and navigated our way there.  All on the other side of the world without GPS or a cell phone.  Unimaginable for many people today. 

    The moment had come.  We knocked on the door.  The person who answered thank goodness spoke English, but they looked at us with astonishment.  Then they told us that our friend’s friend had gone home to America the day before.  The door closed on us just like that in so many ways.  All we could do was walk away

    It was getting dark in this German neighborhood and as you can imagine we used a few cuss words.  We had been awake and traveling for more than 24 hours.  Imagine how dejected we felt?  Our plan was in tatters and all this effort was for naught.  So, we started to walk back down the street.  To where we were not sure.

  • Chapter Three – No Deal Tonight

    We were stunned.  It was dusk in a strange foreign residential neighborhood.  Then as we walked away back to the bus stop a man spotted us.  He knew we didn’t belong there.  Remember how I had mentioned we were two hippie girls and were obviously out of place?  Bell bottom jeans, recycled colorful tops, backpacks and very long hair screamed we were strangers there.

    Without understanding a word of what each other spoke he took us a few houses over to see the professor’s wife (as we would come to know her).  She took us into her home, gave us a bed, listened to our story (less the drug deal), and wouldn’t just take us to the train station.  There are very kind people in the world.  Luck doesn’t just explain this.  Perhaps it was our angels stepping in during our moment of need.

    I wish I could remember her name or her children’s.  I do remember her beautiful home and how she made sure we were comfortable.  For the mid 1970’s her house would surely be considered an upper middle-class home in America.  For us poor little hippie girls it was not our style, but we admired it in its tastefulness.

    She quickly took us down a flight of carpeted stairs to the guest rooms in the basement.  Everything was decorated with light colored walls and red accessories.  Our lovely hostess brought us sandwiches and soft drinks.  It had a little bedroom with soft down comforters on bunk beds.  A place where we could get some much-needed sleep.  It had been a long couple of days getting to the airport, cross continent air travel, a train trip, and smuggling drugs, all without much sleep.   

    We had our own bathroom where we could take a shower and have the privacy we needed.  That little bathroom was a god send because our systems were still pushing out balloons full of marijuana.  We could also do a though job of cleaning the balloons and removing the marijuana from them.  Don’t do this at home, eating balloons with contraband is not for the squeamish.  Like I said earlier we had no idea how this test project would work out.

    With a bit of hindsight, I suspect that she was keeping us away from her professor husband.  He must have been working long hours and perhaps she never told him she took in two wayward American girls. She knew he would not approve of these strangers in his house.

    Morning came and we had breakfast with her and the kids.  They spoke perfect English because her and her husband had lived in America years before.  Mr. Professor had already left for work and as I mentioned we never saw him probably not by coincidence.  It was a European breakfast of bread, soft cheese, jam, and tea.  When we talked about catching a bus to town and the train back to Frankfurt, Mrs. Professor insisted that she take us to town first.  She wanted to show us the famous castle and Flea Market there.  Then she would take us to the train after feeding us a little lunch.

    Who does that?  An angel who had no idea what a life saver she was.

    What a historical place Marburg was?  Nothing like our new cities back home.  This one dated from medieval times.  Sadly, we were a bit distracted to pay attention to the details of the historic district.  Our big hash score had not happened.  Thoughts of what to do next flashed around in our brains.  Hard to talk about how to cultivate a new drug connection with someone from the Straight World.  In the ‘60s and ‘70s we called anyone who wasn’t part of our counterculture movement “straights.” It described people who followed the traditional and “square” ways of life.  She was nice but certainly would not understand nor condone our mission.

    What seemed like eternity we finally made it to the train station.  Before we could discuss our next steps beyond getting back to Frankfurt, we had to smoke a joint.  That was when we smoked pot right in the train station.  Yes, you read that right.  We sat on the floor in a corner and smoked it.  Everyone around us were smoking cigarettes.  There was a haze of blue smoke hanging in the station and no one even noticed.

    Then we boarded the train to Frankfort.  Rested and with a day of travel in Germany under our belt we had got the swing of things.  We were free, unhindered, no cell phone, no police, no GPS, no Google maps, no internet search engines.  We were out in the wild world, and no one knew where we were.  Not our husbands, not our mothers, and we weren’t even sure ourselves if we were lost or not.  How many of us can say we have been truly out of touch or off the grid like that?  Is that even possible in our digital world where a minicomputer is in our pocket.  The computers of that day filled rooms not pockets.

    Decades and many changes to life later – What were we thinking?

  • Chapter Four – The New Plan

    When we got back to Frankfurt, we got a ridiculously small hotel room.  We quickly settled into our first European hotel room.  Did not take long because when I say small, I mean child size small.  It had enough room for the bathroom, the beds, our luggage, and us.  Not much bigger than a prison cell but it would work while we sorted out our next move.  Hunger called and we went out to dinner.  The last of the balloons had passed and our stomachs were feeling normal again.

    We walked to a typical German beer hall that we found close to our little humble room.  It had big tables, checked tablecloths, beer, bratwurst, and loud music.  Several Americans came over and introduced themselves to this pair of girls from their home country.  We did not know how close we were to a US military base until meeting our new friends, who were mostly soldiers.  

    After eating and drinking a bit they invited us to a private party.  And we went without batting an eye.  Two American Girls with pot was a treat to them.  We shared a few joints and in turn we smoked their hash and drank their liquor. 

    We were two married American Hippie Girls who were not bashful about much.  That included sex with men that were not our husbands.  As the night went on, it was decided it was not safe to go back to our hotel so late and we had gotten cozy with a couple of the guys.  So, we each went to bed with our preferred man.  Oh, that sounds so decadent, unholy, or that we were “loose women.”  We did not care about what people thought, it was a time of new morals and women could have unattached sex just like men.  That was what we thought at the time.  However, as time went on in my life, I realized that the male hierarchy never accepts easy girls like they do their promiscuous male friends.  Let us just say we were out from under our husbands’ thumbs and enjoying life to the fullest.  Devil be damned what people thought.

    Now the funny thing is what I remember about that casual intimate encounter and what I did not.  It is not what you think it might be, as in how good the sex was.  Let me explain.  We ended up on the floor sleeping with just blankets and pillows.  My back did not like that wood floor while doing the wild thing.  Yup… The act has faded into the mist but the pain from the wood floor under me was a lesson I would prefer to not repeat.  One must be a bit picky about where you do it.

    But back to our story.  This US Serviceman’s apartment party is where and how we met Ken.  He was not in the military but was also invited to the party that night.

    Ken was driving to Greece and then back to Belgium over the next week and half.  He invited us to drive with him.  We would still have plenty of time left on our three week trip to make a deal.  To score our hash, we decided to go to Amsterdam after going to Greece. 

    A trip to Greece!  Now how could we pass up that?  The new Plan had formed just like that at that night of partying.

    Can you say spontaneous?  That is how fast we ended up on the road to Athens in a small VW station wagon that Ken had bought for the trip.  We would change drivers on & off.  Then each sleep when we could in the back seat or the luggage area.  We ate too much cheese, sausage, and bread.  It was a race to Athens with no time to waste.

    The German countryside was a blur.  Ken was a bus driver, so he had his own ideas on how to get to Athens.  That made it easy for sure.  Time was short so we took the quickest way.  That route took us south of Frankfurt to Stuttgart.  Then we turned southeast towards Munich and crossed the Austrian border at Salzburg.  Due to the car’s licensing we had to pick the path to Athens through countries that the VW’s permit included.  This would be why we traveled into former Yugoslavia; an eastern bloc country run by a dictator.

    On this German leg of the trip, I became the trip’s currency expert.  Without a calculator I would figure out what things were worth in US bucks.  I did this with long math on a scrap of paper or figured it out in my head.  We had limited bucks and had to save for the big hash score.  I was the voice of what things cost and then we would decide if it was within our budget.

    Today we would have a cell phone with a currency exchange application.  Not to mention that today the Euro is most everywhere which makes for an easy consistent exchange rate.  However, in 1974 every country had its own coin and paper currency.  You try to sort out that puzzle without technology. 

    Then and now had things in common but others beyond our imagination then.  I am talking about technology and social morals.  The level of innovative technology we could never have imagined its impact on life.  On women’s equality we are still fighting for that in the workplace, in our families and in the bedroom. 

    But none of that mattered then.  We had a new drug deal plan via Amsterdam to accomplish.

  • Chapter Five – Nowhere like Home

    Then we were entering Tito’s Yugoslavia.  A true Eastern Bloc country run by a dictator.  Tito sort of reminds me of Iraq’s Saddam in that he kept all the factions from killing each other.  Can you spell “Suppression”?

    Two free love American Hippie Girls were in for a lesson in life.  We had no clue we were about to enter an authoritarian dictatorship.  Feminists in a land that resembled 1940s WWII!  Our first experience was the border.  Not the nice Canadian border between Washington and British Columbia with polite border guards.  Well maybe not that great at that US/Canada border when by accident you had a roach in your ashtray.  What I am referring to is not a bug but rather a stub of a joint.  But that is a conversation for another time.

    Remember the balloons?  Here we were on this border crossing with two bags of marijuana on us that came from the balloons we had eaten and pooped out. 

    Paranoid would be the word that describes us when we realized this was not like the nice Austrian border we had experienced earlier. Nor the Peace Arch Park north of Blaine where the jail would be fairly clean. “Hi – where are you going – see you later” One would flash the passports (or driver’s licenses) and off you would go.  Oh no… not like that at all.

    It was a new world for me.  One I often refer to when I remind people of how good we have it in the United States.  The border had soldiers and they carried automatic rifles like they were at war.  We rolled to a stop and then the fun began.  More like the terror began.

    We were asked to get out of the car.  Our luggage was taken out and here is the life memory that will never go away. They opened up the suitcases and back packs on the ground and pushed around our clothing, toiletries and personal items with their rifle barrels. Imagine your worst experience with the TSA at an airport.  Multiply that by 100!  The image contains long guns, soldiers speaking a foreign language, your underwear on the end of a gun, prodding your shampoo container and I could go on and on.  Never ever seen that in our sweet but messed up USA.

    My heart was in my throat.  God, I had drugs on me.  What the hell would happen if they found that?  No nice clean jail awaited us.  No visit from family.  Years of detention in a place you do not understand a word they are saying.  Holy SHIT!!

    Then like a lot of those terrifying moments in life it was over.  It is similar to a car wreck, where life flashes in front of your eyes.  That moment of life going by lasted only seconds but feels like hours. Then you avoid the ditch and find yourself safely stopped on the road’s shoulder! Hopefully with no shit in your panties.

    The solders laughed and had us put our stuff back in the car.  They figured we were just stupid tourists, had some twisted fun with us and then boom we were back on the road.  Off to see another world that these two girls had never expected to see in our wildest dreams.  When we planned our trip to buy drugs how could we have anticipated this?

    We are driving along a Yugoslavian superhighway still making sense of our narrow escape at the border.  Then we realize that this is the main north-south transportation corridor.  Everything that moved by truck used this road.  I see you imagining our American interstates. Even four to six lanes of divided highway.

    WRONG!!! This was not your USA Freeway or even close.  Nor was it safe nor fast!

    This road was more like a side street I know in the older parts of Seattle.  Red brick cobblestones with big potholes and patched repairs of asphalt.  I estimate that 20 years prior they just paved over the cobblestones and now the truck traffic had torn the shit out of it.  Forget the four lanes.  We are talking two lanes.  One North, one south and a dull line between them.  This was not a divided highway nor was it even a nice back country road.

    Add this to the fact that it was occupied by twenty big rig tractor trailer trucks to every tinny tiny car.  Our VW station wagon was wedged behind flatbeds with unsecured loads and drivers who knew no courtesy nor took any driving class let alone used defensive driving techniques.  They wanted to make time and made moves that left my hair standing on end.

    It was winter and the day started as a grey morning in many ways.  The countryside was the same rural mile after mile of fields.  Guess this would be typical of Yugoslavia in the 70s.  They had harvested the grain/grass into rolls and haystacks months before.  The landscape was a consistent pale brown under that grey sky and a foggy drizzly type of weather. It was terror on the road combined with no diversion of lovely scenery.  We felt trapped between cobblestones, 18 wheelers and miles of round hay bales.

    Then we came to our first town.  No freeway bypass, we went right through the middle of town.  All the trucks and tiny cars.  This town was stuck in another time I equate to World War II. It was worn out and had received little or no maintenance.  Just another version of the washed-out landscape but now bordered with decades old buildings that displayed a dismal poverty.

    I felt like the color had been drained from my life.  But until I saw the people, I just figured it was winter.  Later in my life this girl from the Pacific Northwest traveled to the Midwest. There she found winter was brown grass, bare trees, patches of snow and no evergreen trees or shrubs that can give color to winter.  Looking back this was not even a good comparison.

    Back to 1974, here we were in the center of this town. A signal light had a long line forming behind it.  Must have been the Yugoslavian style rush hour because there were people everywhere.  The street was awash in them.  They were even bleaker and sadder than the landscape, all dressed in long wool coats, scarves, and hats against the chilly winter morning.  Most were in shades of gray and that army issue dull green.  A green I associate with the old wool army surplus blankets my mom took camping.  No red, no pink, no blue, no yellow to be found.  Sad faces shuffling about their business.  We were in a black and white world that was nothing like our Kodachrome home.

    Then the traffic finished inching through the town and we were free to haul butt behind another big truck on that sorry excuse of a road.  The fields  started to fly by faster because of their sameness. The foreign flavor had worn off and we were encased in a dystopian world for hours on end.  The fog lifted and a bright grey day was behind it.  A few trees with a bit of green started to appear in the fields and along the road.

    Then we saw it.  Yes “It”!  Our mouths fell open at what could become of us.  Death certainly was close by and reminded us again that foreign travel was dangerous.  A tangled mass of trucks, trailers and cars were over on the side of the road.  It had been an empty car carrier of an unknown vintage.  Now it was a mess of twisted metal surrounded by the others who had been taken out in a blink of an eye.  In this truck driver’s haste he passed using the oncoming lane. Everyone lost the lottery in that huge head-on collision. The foggy ugly road had claimed more victims in a repressed eastern bloc country. All we could do was to keep going now. We had picked this route for better or worse.  It was going to be the shortest way, but it was this road we will never forget, even 50 years later.

    At last Belgrade loomed ahead of us.  Its buildings stuck out of the flatness and brown fields.  The capital of former Yugoslavia even had a freeway bypass.   Funny how we Americans are in love with our “freeways,” or the Germans love their “autobahns.”   They do get us from place to place rapidly.  After crawling along for hours on what we thought of as dilapidated country roads we saw that we could get some time back.  Our damaged enthusiasm was uplifted and hope of Athens coming soon sparkled again at the end of our imaginations.

    We got our little taste of freeway in Belgrade.  However, it was not a very long piece of cement freeing us from stop lights and hay wagons.  The reason it is so memorable isn’t our delight in having a bit of America under our wheels, but it was the sight that loomed out the darkness.   In the twilight we saw what looked like another city rise from the outskirts of town.   It seemed odd to us from a distance as we whizzed down the road.  

    We were not disappointed in this mini city.  Not that it was a happy moment.  It was more of a hard jar back to the reality of the iron curtain and poverty.   These buildings were the most depressing cement structures I have ever seen.  Even years later I have never encountered something so stark.  They were a dark smear on the human’s heart.  They rose from the land like ugly slabs of cement one sees in websites of deserted places.  They had a few lights, but they were so stark in their lack of color or their beaten down inhabitants that we drove by in silence. 

    How could people live in that place?  What life did they live that drove them to that place?  We thought we had seen despair on the faces of those in the small villages that were devoid of color, but this was another step lower into inhuman environments. 

    The USA became a wonderful place in our young eyes that day.  We might have our problems but at least we had our dignity, our freedom, and the hope of bettering ourselves. How much better I understood how good we had it; with our ability to demonstrate against the Vietnam war, to jeer at Nixon over the Watergate scandal and how we could drop out of the plastic fantastic white bread life to be carefree hippie girls.