Two Inch Heels - An autobiographical novel

My reading of my autobiographical novel, Two Inch Heels, about my 11 week journey backpacking through Western Europe in 1973 at age 18.  The novel is divided into 53 chapters, each its own podcast episode, and most containing adult language and some with sexual and drug references.

This is my introduction to my reading of my autobiographical novel, Two Inch Heels, about my 11 week journey backpacking through Western Europe in 1973 at age 18.  The novel is divided into 53 chapters, each its own podcast episode, and most containing adult language and some sexual references.

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 hatched 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. Contains some adult language.

Chapter 2 of my autobiographical novel of my 11 week odyssey backpacking through Western Europe in 1973 at age 18, written and read by me, Cooper Zale. Angie and I actually get on that plane and fly to England, land at Heathrow Airport in London and have a stumbling start finding somewhere to stay and launching our planned extensive journey together. Contains some adult language.

Chapter 3 of my autobiographical novel of my 11 week odyssey backpacking through Western Europe in 1973 at age 18, written and read by me,  Cooper Zale. In today’s episode, Angie and I say goodbye to the Clays in Oxford, and head to Salisbury, where Angie finally shares her decision not to continue our planned European journey. Contains some adult language and sexual references.

Chapter 4 of my autobiographical novel of my 11 week odyssey backpacking through Western Europe in 1973 at age 18, written and read by me,  Cooper Zale. I leave Angie at our little hotel in London and head off alone to start the rest of the journey, still with great ambivalence and trepidation. Contains some adult language and sexual references.

Chapter 5 of my autobiographical novel of my 11 week odyssey backpacking through Western Europe in 1973 at age 18, written and read by me,  Cooper Zale. After my long journey by train and boat from London, I arrive in Munich ready to be greeted by familiar faces, but instead find a different challenge. Some adult language and sexual references.

Chapter 6 of my autobiographical novel of my 11 week odyssey backpacking through Western Europe in 1973 at age 18, written and read by me,  Cooper Zale. My new travel partner Jack and I cast our fate to the travel goddess and hitchhike from Munich south to Switzerland, where I meet two intriguing young women from Norway and their male travel companions and have a brief run in with the police. Contains some adult language and drug and sexual references.

Chapter 7 of my autobiographical novel of my 11 week odyssey backpacking through Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. My travel partner Jack decides to stay in Chur and I continue on my own, planning to hitchhike across the Alps to Geneva where I can catch a train back to Munich, finally using my rail pass, and hopefully hook up with Angelica and Helmut. Contains some adult language and drug and sexual references.

Chapter 8 of my autobiographical novel of my 11 week odyssey backpacking through Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. I return to Munich and finally get a chance to spend time with Angelica and Helmut, who my mom and I met in England three summers ago. This while a crisis comes to a head in the Middle East, with me so far away from home. Contains some adult language and drug and sexual references.

Chapter 10 of my autobiographical novel of my 11 week odyssey backpacking through Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. I debark the boat down the Moselle, and spend a couple nights in the city of Trier, and then from there by train into the forests and hills of the duchy of Luxembourg, seeking a small town that was notable in my Avalon Hill “Battle of the Bulge” game.  The hostel there turns out to be closed, starting me on a long day's journey into night to find somewhere, anywhere, to rest my weary head. Contains adult language and some drug and sexual references.

Chapter 11 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. 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 with 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. Contains some adult language, plus sexual and drug references.

Chapter 12 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. 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. Contains some adult language, plus sexual and drug references.

Chapter 13 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. My new travel partner Steve and I leave Paris and hitchhike to Spain, including an overnight ride on an iconic hippie chariot, the VW microbus, with a pair of Canadians, Randall and Zo. I take a turn driving through hilly southern France, and have a fairly intimate encounter with Zo. Contains some adult language, plus sexual and drug references.

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, including a middle of the night surprise. But after one more ride from Randall and Zo, we finally give up the hitchhiking and just manage to board an overcrowded train and a 20 hour ride further south. Contains some adult language, plus sexual and drug references.

Chapter 14 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. 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 near nudity, wild new sea creatures, some we actually eat, and with one of the 20th century’s most provocative and transformational artists Pablo Picasso.  A heads up, that this episode contains adult language, and some more explicit sexual discussion.

Chapter 16 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. After a delicious dinner of Paella with Calamari on top and lots of cheap wine, Steve presents me with a sexual proposition that I wrestle with but ultimately decline.  The next morning, undaunted, we continue on with our joint exploration of the storied city.  A heads up, that this episode contains adult language, and some more explicit sexual discussion.

Chapter 17 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. After rebuffing Steve’s proposition in Granada, he and I continue our travels together to this tickytack 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 pretty disturbing.  And a heads up, my description of the bullfight is pretty graphic, and as I just said, disturbing.

Chapter 18 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. Steve and I spend a couple days in Spain’s capital and visit to the Prado museum, and I'm enthralled by the stunningly bizarre “Garden of Earthly Delights” by Hieronymus Bosch and also the more gripping realism of Francisco Goya’s work. Contains adult language including sexual detail of paintings.

Chapter 19 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. Now crossing the border back into France, and returning to hitchhiking, 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. Contains adult language including sexual descriptions.

Chapter 20 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. Back in Paris, Steve and I leave Walter behind and luckily find room back at the nice Rue Titon hostel we had stayed at before in Paris.  He and I confirm that our paths forward are in different directions, but decide to spend our last couple days in Paris together, and even continue to hitchhike together to the Swiss border before finally parting company. Contains adult language and some sexual discussion.

Chapter 9 of my autobiographical novel of my 11 week odyssey backpacking through Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. I leave Munich and the warm hospitality of Angelica and Helmut, strike out on my own again, and try to navigate, metaphorically at least, the tourist boats down the Rhine and Moselle rivers, plus finding hostels to stay at along the way. Contains some adult language and drug and sexual references.

Chapter 21 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. In the swan song of my travels with Steve, we hitchhike east from Paris to Basel, and end up sleeping outside again, but unlike in Spain, under much more difficult conditions.  But even that is not the worst thing that befalls me.

Chapter 22 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. On the train to Rome and finally checked into its youth hostel, on my own again, I encounter a number of young fellow travelers with various agendas, including a bigger than life young woman and her more low key travel partner. Contains adult language.

Chapter 23 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18.  My second day in Rome, I have an unexpected offer from Jen’s partner Sarah, plus a long conversation with Morgan, solidifying both friendships.  Contains adult language.

Chapter 24 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. Acting on Morgan’s suggestion, I end up spending some 20 minutes nearly alone in the Sistine chapel, pondering this sanctuary to a religion and god I have chosen not to believe in. But then looking down on the Eternal City I realize I am burnt out on seeing the sights of yet another big city and long instead for something completely different, pondering my own sanctuaries. Contains adult language.

Chapter 25 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. My last couple days in Rome are spent with nerdy academic Morgan, 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 in the “eternal city”, some not so impressive in the midst of this big modern metropolis, but others still very much so. Contains adult language and sexual discussion.

Chapter 26 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. On the crowded train from Rome to Florence Italy, I encounter a very diminutive and charismatic young woman with the wildest hair yet, and find sanctuary and connection in a compartment with her and five other female backpackers. Contains adult language and sexual discussion.

Chapter 27 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. I get to Florence, whose real name is the much more suave “Firenze”, to find Trix and her crew and Jen and her partner Sarah. I meet three guys from Cleveland, who I dub ‘the boys’. It all culminates in a night of dining, discussion and introductions at our favorite Trattoria. Contains adult language and sexual discussion.

Chapter 28 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. My final full day in Florence, I escape the company of the ‘boys’ to walk the Vasari Corridor, a Florentine must see recommended by my comrade Morgan back in Rome. On my return to the hostel I reencounter the Clevelanders, who remind me it’s 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. Contains adult language and sexual discussion.

Chapter 29 of my autobiographical novel of backpacking thru Western Europe in 1973 at age 18. One of my many memorable train encounters, I share a compartment with a forty-something Italian businesswoman on the train from Florence to Venice interested in hearing the stories of my travels to pass the time, and who 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. Contains adult language and sexual discussion.

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