From September 1971 through August 1972, I hitchhiked and backpacked throughout Europe, spending days, weeks, even months in various locales. My adventures ranged from wondrous to perilous. Once, I lived with the owner and staff above Kipp’s, London’s sole vegetarian restaurant, where I mingled with the likes of Warren Beatty, Julie Christy and Marc Bolan. On another occasion, I milked cows on an Israeli kibbutz and explored ancient Jerusalem, sleeping in the prison where Christ was held. Some events, however, still chill me …
… like the time I hitched a ride into Paris.
I remember little about the young man who picked me up—longish, medium brown hair and a sparse moustache and beard that spoke of a youth in his early twenties. It was a gray afternoon and I was enjoying my first glimpse of the City of Lights when the rundown gray Volvo braked hard. I tore my gaze from the architecture only to stare down the barrels of dozens of automatic rifles, at helmeted police clad in body armor and ballistic face masks.
I was manacled, shoved into the caged rear seat of a police car and transported to headquarters where I was relieved of my passport and held. With no idea why they arrested me, what they thought I had done, who they thought I might be, I tried to explain I had met the driver only minutes before.
Eventually, they released me, perhaps because the one they had taken to interrogation confirmed my story. I have no idea why we were stopped, but a client of mine living in Europe at the time recalls that the terrorist group, Baader Meinhof, was very active then and numerous arrests were being made throughout Europe. What else could explain such an overwhelming show of force?
Then, in February, 1972, there were the three Portuguese revolutionaries who drove me from Copenhagen to Hamburg, discussing their plans to overthrow the dictator, Oliveira Salazar. I still have the business card of the printer who invited me to visit, should he survive the coup. On April 25, 1973, the authoritarian Estado Novo regime did fall.
Days later, I had just climbed from a concert cellist’s car at an autobahn restaurant near Karlsruhe. I was sitting down to eat when a man asked if I were going to Munich. When I replied in the affirmative, he said if I wanted a lift, to grab my food and come with him.
During the drive, he related how, as a hashish dealer, he gone into hiding after evading arrest two weeks earlier. Friends had phoned that it was safe to return. At one point, the conversation turned to black market merchandise. The most valuable thing one could sell, he said, was an American passport. Conversation halted. We both knew what I had. After long minutes of silence—now well after dark—he suggested we stop somewhere—to eat, he explained. The first likely place was brightly lit. Many parked cars. As I expected, he kept driving. The next autobahn restaurant, however, was deserted—the perfect place for what he was planning. Once inside, I headed for the restroom. If matters escalated, I needed to empty my bladder. Before returning to the common area, I adjusted my sweater to reveal the Buck knife holstered on my belt. Bigger than he and armed, I went out to confront him. One glance, and he was once again the genial host.
I made him drop me off at Munich’s outskirts and walked six hours until I reached the city center. At the Hauptbahnhof—the main train station—I purchased a ticket.
These days, I write thrillers, preferring not to live them.