when i was in high school i took an Iowan college up on an offer to visit their school.
a bus drove around suburban Illinois picking up kids like us who had signed up to spend the night in Cornell College. on the bus i saw two beautiful young ladies, Rise (pictured, left) and her best friend Tracy (not pictured). i enjoyed the college but i knew i was probably going to come to LA for my studies.
so before we got on the bus for the long ride back to Illinois i made sure that i sat near the two pretty girls, and i succeeded. not only that but we all hit it off. Tracy and Rise didn’t go to Cornell either, they chose, instead a school in Wisconsin. Since these were the days before the internet (!), we wrote letters back and forth and occasionally i called Tracy because i had, what the kids called, the hot for her, which i no disrespect to Rise who had the bluest eyes ive ever seen.
one day Rise told me she was going to spend a semester in Switzerland and i should visit her. i laughed it off because i was 20. who goes to Europe when they’re 20 simply because they were invited? i was selling TVs in west LA and i was doing pretty well at it. one thing led to another and i found myself not going to UCSB right away. i had 4 months to think about the bad job i had done at Santa Monica College.
so i wrote Rise and said, see you at the Swiss Army Knife Store! and i went to Europe for the first time and it changed my life. one thing i learned was travel is relatively inexpensive. another thing was that people around the world understand American politics better than most Americans. “Foreigners” are able to see past the racism that is intertwined within US politics and question it. miraculously. it made me feel guilty that i wasn’t as educated in politics as much as i should be.
from that trip i started subscribing to newspapers because all the smart people i met read at least one paper and often three. subsequently, each time i have visited europe i found that my first trip wasn’t unusual: europeans not only know US politics inside and out, but they also know their own, brilliantly. they also know several languages, how to drink, and how dangerous guns are in society.
looking back at this, now 30 years later, i feel so blessed that i went on that bus to a college i knew i was never going to attend, and had the courage to chat up the two hottest babes on that bus, and was in the position to be able to visit Rise (and her super cool friend Ae) in Switzerland, a trip that led me to visit several other countries on that journey… because it deeply shaped me as an adult. and i am so grateful. sooooo grateful.