The rules are simple: 1)Be Worldly, 2) No Guilt! 3) Discover the perfect pint of ale.
Travelers, like writers, believe in the power of setting. Jen thinks of traveling Europe with fellow Mormon, Jeanne, and an Alaska Native named Bert, as an escape from her conservative upbringing and the pressures of conforming to a religion she does not believe in. The change of setting and culture allows Jen to have a raucous, guilt-free experience with her boisterous, silly, and hilarious friends.
The journey also propels the twenty-two-year-old women into confronting the baggage they carried including grief, sexuality, and for Jen, the abuses of an uncle and a powerful, patriarchal religion. A Backpack, a Eurorail Pass, and Some Serious Baggage is an honest, sometimes humorous, account of a young woman’s struggle to get to a place where she can run unabashedly through the pages of her story.
Targeted Age Group:: 20-50
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I believe we all have a story to tell, and my hope is that by sharing mine, I can help individuals navigate life a little easier, and perhaps feel a little less alone on the journey.
The guide made sure everyone was in the room, and then he said, “We at Carlsberg Brewery would like to give you a chance to have a drink on us. The bus will leave for the visitor’s center in twenty minutes. Enjoy please.”
Jeanne grabbed my arm and pulled me to the table. She thrust a cup at me. By then I realized it was real. I was on her heels running for a keg. We parked in front of one, claiming it as our own.
Jeanne and I made good use of our time. When Alexander came to get us, I was feeling pretty great. We hurried and drank one last beer while the sippers of our group discarded their cups and made their way outside. The tour guide waited patiently by the door for us. When we reached him, cups in hand, he chuckled.
Jeanne said, “What are you laughin’ at?”
“What did you think, better than Budweiser?”
“Hell yeah, tons better, totally awesome.” Jeanne said.
“Good. Now, I cannot let you take your cups on the bus.” Alexander pointed to a garbage can.
I followed Jeanne onto the bus until she stopped short. I looked over her shoulder. Our tour companions stared at us.
“What are they lookin’ at?” Jeanne whispered.
“We’re drunk.” I pointed to an open seat in the middle of the bus.
We shuffled down the aisle. I glanced at people as we went. One guy gave me a thumb’s up. Another smiled and shook his head as if he remembered something from his younger days. And then, I noticed the sour puss who didn’t like my LaVerne and Shirley dance. She had the Church Lady disapproving stare down pat. When she clicked her tongue at us, I whispered to Jeanne, “She obviously didn’t have enough to drink.”
“No kidding.” Jeanne pushed me into a bus seat. “That was the best tour I’ve ever been on.”
“Goal number three completed again,” I said.
“One of my goals was to discover the perfect pint of ale.”
“Oh, good goal.”
“What are the other goals?”
“Be worldly, and no guilt.”
“Those work out for you too?”
The visitor’s center smelled wonderful. Jeanne grabbed at the nearest person. “Where is that smell coming from?”
It just so happened the nearest person was also the rancid woman from the bus. I was growing tired of this tightly curled, powdered lemon squeezed into a peach pant suit. I stifled a drunken urge to tell her schlemiel, schlimazel.
The woman jerked her arm away from Jeanne and spat, “Americans.”
I knew she was the worst kind of Englishman. She probably had a little money, was old enough to care that she spoke the Queen’s English to perfection, and believed with all her heart and soul that Americans should demonstrate more appreciation and reverence for her England because if it weren’t for them, there would be no United States.
“Yes, we are Americans, and as Americans, we know how to have a good time.” I was surprised at my boldness and my volume. That’s the problem with being drunk, you have no volume control, and believe everybody wants to hear what you have to say.
“Well, I never,” the woman said pursing her lips like she’d gotten a taste of her personality.
Alexander stepped in. “What can I do for you?”
“Sorry,” I said to the woman. My apology made no difference. She turned and strutted off. I turned to Alexander. “We just wanted to know where the smell was coming from.”
“That woman was, how you say a,”
“Tight ass?” I offered.
Jeanne snorted. “You pegged it.”
“She needed to drink more Carlsburg beer.” Alexander pointed to a set of doors. “The smell is from café.”
“I’m starving,” Jeanne said.
It wasn’t until we finished eating and were working to keep our buzz that I noticed two guys at the bar staring at us. “Hey Jeanne, I think those guys over there are looking at us.”
“Oh, hell no! Look at them. I really like the one on the left’s comb over. Do they really think they don’t look bald when they do that?”
“I’m definitely attracted to the other one, shirt unbuttoned, showing his fake gold chains laying in that sexy gray chest hair.”
“I think I might go straight because of them.” We peeled into laughter.
We sobered when the waitress approached our table. “From them at the bar.” She set two beers in front of us.
“Oh shit,” Jeanne said. “Oh well, it’s free right? Those two idiots are so barking up the wrong tree, but you don’t turn down free beer.”
“I guess.” I picked up the beer and we clinked glasses and took a sip. “So, how do you know if a girl is, I mean how do-”
“How does a lesbian pick up women?” Jeanne said.
“Just like you pick up men. Even just like those assholes are trying to pick us up.”
That didn’t answer my question at all. I wasn’t somebody who picked up men. “I mean, how do you know they’re that way?”
“I guess you just do. I guess you find what you’re looking for. Like in Spain, I saw a bunch of lesbians. I’ve also seen a ton here, but I’m lookin’. You probably haven’t noticed any cause you’re not lookin’.”
I thought about that for a second. “So we find what we’re looking for. That’s true with everything isn’t it? But there are mistakes. Like that boss I had who backed me into a corner at Albertson’s and asked me if I wanted to sex her up. I was so shocked I just said no thank you. I even quit my job the next day.”
“Not everything is perfect. There are idiot gays just like there are idiot straight people. We can’t go around wearing signs.” Jeanne nodded toward the bar. “There’s two major idiots coming our way.” The men were strutting like two posturing peacocks to our table.
“How drunk do they think we are?” I asked.
Jeanne didn’t have a chance to answer before one was standing at my side of the table and the other at Jeanne’s. I often wondered how men picked when there was more than one girl. Was there a conversation, or did they just know? What if they both wanted the same one? Maybe they played rock, paper, scissors to see who got who.
“Hello, ladies.” The speaker raised his hand in greeting revealing a white band on his finger where a wedding ring should have been. The other nodded while smoothing his greasy comb-over.
“Oh, hell no!”
“Do you speak English?” I asked.
“Sure I do, baby.”
“Okay then, thanks for the drink and all, but we’re not interested. In fact, we are not attracted to you, or your friend, for so many reasons. I will give you the highlights of that list just so we understand each other.” I knew I was probably talking too loud again, but I didn’t care. I was about to be on a roll.
“You are old, much too old for us, no matter how hard you try to hide that fact. We are not only young and unwrinkled, but we are also intelligent. Smart enough to see that you are married.” I pointed to Jeanne’s man. “I mean, please, you have a tan line where your ring is supposed to be.”
I pointed to the other guy. “And you, who are you fooling with the comb-over? There is no one on this earth that is going to think you are not bald.”
The man smoothed down the hairs again, and his partner shoved his hands in his pockets.
“And last, but not least guys, Jeanne here is gay, a real life lesbian, and I’m-” I ran out of things to say. What was I?
“And she has a horribly contagious sexually transmitted disease that’ll eat your dick right off,” Jeanne said.
“Yeah, I’m skanky.” I sat back in my chair and folded my arms.
The comb over guy snarled, “American beeches!”
“Yes, thank you,” I said.
The two men turned and left the bar. The waitress and the female bartender broke out in applause. I stood and took a bow.
When Jeanne stopped laughing, she said, “You never cease to amaze. Bert would have been so proud.”
“Gotta tell Bert. But you, really, a sexually transmitted disease?”
Our frivolity was interrupted when the waitress appeared at our table carrying two pints and Carlsberg bar towels on her tray. She set a beer and a towel in front of Jeanne and me.
“Oh no, who are these from?” Jeanne asked.
“No, no, not from ugly men. From me and her.” She pointed to the bar tender who gave us a ‘thumbs up’.
“Why?” I asked.
“What you say, so funny and true. They are here all the time. I have to be nice, but you make them go away and make us laugh. Their faces were so mad. Thank you, thank you.”
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