Enter an e-mail address to receive notification of new posts.

WELCOME

If this is your first visit, welcome to my blog of memories and observations. If you wish to be notified of new posts, enter an e-mail address above, and click on "Submit." As we move through a sixth year of this venture, I thank all who have made regular visits, as well as fellow bloggers who have found Stomp Off worth linking to. Doing this sort of thing is time-consuming, but I try to post fresh material at least once a week—let me know what you think. There is a Commentary option at the end of each post and a Guest Book can be reached by scrolling down and clicking on the quill image. I welcome your observations, reaction and/or suggestions in either spot—or both. As for blog content, the most current posts are on the home page, starting at the top. Earlier items are listed by month, year and title in the archive index. To zero in on a particular key word or subject, use the search option that is located directly beneath the blog's masthead. Most images can be enlarged with a mouse click, and there are links to some of my favorite blogs, etc. Since visitors have come from 150 countries, a translator with numerous languages is located below. You can at any time revert to English with a click at the top left of this page:

Search This Blog

Loading...

7/31/10

Ronnie Matthews at WBAI - 1965


It was WBAI's first marathon, some say the first on-the-air marathon any radio station threw for its own benefit. This one, a last-minute act of desperation, was successful beyond all expectations, bringing in more money than was pledged. One reason for  things going so well was that the jazz community responded when I reached out to it.

We could not afford the tape that would have been needed to capture it all, but I brought from home my B&O tape recorder and plugged it directly into the line. Unfortunately, I didn't have enough tape to record with my machine's optimum quality, so I had to slow the speed down to 3 3/4 i.p.s. and set it for four mono tracks. It speaks well for B&O that this resulted in listenable recordings—not good, but listenable.

Here is pianist Ronnie Matthews performing Duke Ellington's Prelude to a Kiss.



If you would like to know more about Mr. Matthews, who passed away two years ago, here is a link to his Wikipedia biography.



Lonnie and Elmer at WHAT - 1960



In 1959, when I was a disc jockey at WHAT-FM—a Philadelphia station that offered jazz around the clock, seven days a week—I played a record by Lonnie Johnson on my Sunday afternoon show. He was an artist whom I greatly admired, both as a singer and for his often dazzling guitar work, sometimes using a 12-string instrument. Lonnie is often rightly credited with being the most influential of the early jazz guitarists, a man to whom Charlie Christian claimed to owe a debt, a man who was called upon to record with Duke Ellington's orchestra and Louis Armstrong's classic Hot Five group. What, I wondered on the air, had become of Lonnie? Soon after that, the phone rang and a gentleman told me that he had recently seen Lonnie Johnson in a supermarket—Lonnie, it would appear, was living in Philadelphia. So was the caller, who turned out to be the no less legendary Elmer Snowden. Elmer was a multi-instrumentalist who once had played all the reeds, but now concentrated on banjo and guitar. His name was not as well known as Lonnie's, but he led several great bands in the Thirties and Forties, sometimes simultaneously, using a proxy (pianist Cliff Jackson was one). These were orchestras whose personnel included the likes of Rex Stewart, Roy Eldridge, Al Sears, and Duke Ellington. Elmer brought Duke to New York from their mutual home town, Washington, D.C., around 1923. That band, the Washingtonians, eventually became the first in a spectacular succession of Ellington orchestras.


So, I had accidentally stumbled upon two extraordinary artists. Elmer did not know how to contact Lonnie, but a subsequent caller gave me a clue. This man worked at the Benjamin Franklin Hotel, in Philadelphia's downtown area, and there was a janitor there by name of Lonnie Johnson. Could it be that this great artist held a menial hotel job? To a naïve European that was hard to believe. The caller noted that this Mr. Johnson was very protective of his hands, a fact that would be consistent with his being a guitarist. It was certainly a stretch, but worth following up. The following day, I went to the Benjamin Franklin Hotel and met Lonnie Johnson, a man whose countenance was quite familiar to me.


Lonnie, yours truly, John Hammond, Elmer - 1959
To make a long story short, I invited Lonnie and Elmer to my apartment on Chester Avenue and told them to bring their instruments. I also invited John Hammond and Orrin Keepnews, and asked them to listen.

My hope was, of course, that John or Orrin, neither of whom I had met previously, would produce a recording contract. They loved the music, asked many questions, and returned to New York. Well, at least they came, and that was more than I should have expected.




I taped that afternoon's impromptu session and played it for Bob Weinstock, whom I also had not previously met. He liked what he heard and asked me to do an album with Lonnie for his Prestige Bluesville label. I ended up doing several, including a session with Lonnie and Elmer together.

I also asked my newfound friends to appear live on my Sunday afternoon WHAT show, and they did that on several occasions. That was fifty years ago, but—and who says miracles don't happen—some of my airchecks have survived in the recesses of a closet. Do you want to hear them? I finally found out how to add audio to this blog, so here is an excerpt form Sunday, April 10, 1960. Sorry, Rose Mary Woods, but I found my missing 18 minutes! There is more audio to come, including other aircheck, such as Clifford Jordan, Ronnie Matthews, Walter Bishop, Jr. and others at WBAI's first marathon, just four years later. I hope you avail yourself of the comment option and tell me what you think of this retrieved moment, which included my delivery of a commercial for some rather affordable men's fashions.  

7/27/10

Honoring the Memory of Memorable Artists...

...OR NOT!

It was only 46 years ago, a month in which Lyndon Baines Johnson declared a losing "War on Poverty", the U.S. Government finally realized that smoking was a health hazard and The Beatles, compellingly wanting to hold your hand, made their first appearance on a Billboard chart. Ethel Merman gave theater goers a gift by turning down the title role in Hello Dolly!, which then opened on Broadway with Carol Channing. Louis had recorded his "Hello" to Ms. Levin a month earlier. Separately, Martin Luther King and Thomas Mann made the cover of Time magazine, the Panama Canal Zone saw a 3-day student riot plant the seed for independence, and quite a few people walked around trying to get Al Hirt's Java out of their head. Plans for building a World Trade Center at the tip of New York were revealed and preparations for the 1964 World's Fair were bringing back to life an area of the city that had been the site of the 1939 World's Fair. Alberta Hunter, who had made her television debut at that fair's RCA Pavilion 25 years earlier, was now getting ready to join old friends for a special fund-raising event at the Celebrity Club in Harlem. The object of this posthumous tribute was Mamie Smith, whose 1921 recording of Crazy Blues sparked the blues craze that carried the likes of Bessie Smith and Ida Cox to fame. Besides her many recordings, Mamie Smith's career encompassed stage and film performances, but the spotlight was dimming in 1946, when she passed away. 

Click on image to enlarge it.

If I remember correctly, the list of celebrities scheduled to attend was a bit on the fanciful side, but that's par for the course. The proceeds were to be used to purchase a stone for Mamie Smith's grave, which had been unmarked for 18 years...




7/19/10

Frank Kofsky letters - 1977


I don't know how many of you remember Frank Kofsky, but he wrote about jazz and other things, like politics, inevitably injecting (sometimes by force, it seemed) his Marxist beliefs into everything. He was of the sensationalist school of writers, people who make radical statements and espouse off-the-wall theories in order to attract the attention that their prose alone never could. Like Leonard Feather, he was a dishonest reporter who cared little for facts if they did not fit into his agenda. In the jazz world, Kofsky is probably best known for his 1971 book, Black Nationalism and the Revolution in Music,  which was later renamed John Coltrane and the Jazz Revolution of the 1960's) and a lengthy parking lot interview with a remarkably patient Coltrane. In 1997, when Kofsky died, he was an Associate Professor of History at California State University, in Sacramento. Isn't it amazing how many "historians" don't get along with the truth—well, he was one.

I never met Frank Kofsky, but he threw himself at me in 1977, when something I wrote in Stereo Review did not sit well with him. It was an innocuous review of an album by pianist Joel Shulman, whom I had not heard before, but liked. Now that I see the review, I am embarrassed by how shallow it is, but that was not what gave Kofsky a fit and made him put a fresh sheet in his typewriter. He was outraged because I was unfamiliar with bassist Don Thompson. Notice (on the envelope, above) that he tags me as "Writer-manque" (a term of 18th century origin, meaning "unfulfilled"). Well, here's my short review and the letter it prompted Kofsky to a Letter to the Editor:



Click on any image to enlarge it.

Stereo Review's Editor in Chief, Bill Anderson, responded with a short note—my reply was somewhat longer. I probably should have corrected Kofsky's spelling of Moe Koffman's name, but we were already getting close to overdosing on pettiness.




About three months later, Kofsky reacted, taking a stab at my editor and getting in a word about my "scandal-mongering 'biography' of Bessie Smith," a book from which he would eventually extract information for use in an attack on John Hammond.



Bill Anderson received a cc of the letter and sent me a copy with advice and opinion:


Bill did not reply to Kofsky, but I sent him a nasty little note, hoping—in my naïvité—that it would bring this exchange to a close. Of course, it didn't, but it inspired my favorite Kofsky response. In fact, I liked it so much that I sent it and the rest of them to CSUS's administration, with a question: Should I not be worried about the author of these letters teaching young people?

As you can see, Kofsky reaction was quick and sloppy. My Bessie Smith book now became a "ragbag of gossip" written by a person with a compulsive interest in drunkeness (sic), homosexuality, and gutter life in general."



Kofsky's Post Script indicates that he either did not read my book or that he read it with the same  inattention to detail that marks his own writing.  But, of course, he was trying to align me with John Hammond—two birds with one stone, as it were.

I decided not to respond directly to Kofsky, forwarding the material to his employers was enough, and we all know when enough is enough.

About a month later, I received an anonymous post card from Springfield, Illinois. Even if he hadn't addressed me as "Miserable worm" or misspelled despicable, I would have known that it came from my favorite Martian.... uh, Marxist.

                                                                                                           The moral of this experience is: Never admit in writing that you are unfamiliar with a musician who has made records. It can easily turn you into a worm or vermin.     End of story.


7/11/10

Frankfurt Experience - Part 3

 

This is Part III in a series of posts containing my recounting of a few eventful pages from my life. The story is but a snippet of my 78 years' experience, having taken place in a relatively short period of time: December 1954 to January 1955. You may wish to read the previous posts relating to this sojourn, so here is a link to the first one.

PART III
It was early evening and dark when the train pulled in to the Frankfurt station on Friday, January 7th, 1955. It was also even colder than it had been in Hannover, and I wasn't really dressed for that.  I had not made any arrangements for a hotel room—a mistake one is less apt to make in the Google Age—and there was no such thing as a tourist counter or office at the bahnhof, so I got into a cab and asked the driver to take me to an inexpensive hotel. That was not as easy as I had imagined it would be, because GIs flocked from all around to spend the weekend in the city and there simply was no room to be had at any inn on a Friday night. At the cab driver's suggestion, we began looking at more expensive hotels, which paid off—as it were. The rate was much more than I was prepared for, but I was cold and tired at this point, and I figured, what the hell, it would only be for the weekend.

The following day being Saturday, the personnel office in the I. G. Farben building was closed, so my job-seeking had to be shelved until Monday. The sun was out and I decided to brave the cold and take my first good look at Frankfurt. I had not walked far when the chill drove me to the nearest warm spot. At Keflavík, we all had government-issued parkas to keep us warm, so my overcoat was a bit of a joke, and I never wore hats. Anyway, I ended up in a somewhat earthy beer joint, where I had barely seated myself at a table when a lady slipped into the chair across from me. She was older than she wanted to be, pudgy and overly decorated with cheap makeup. Her hair was of questionable origin and she appeared to have doused herself in home made perfume that made Woolworth's  Evening in Paris smell like it might actually have come from there. "I am Natasha," she said in English, with a thick, tobacco-coarsened Eastern European accent. "I am from Czechoslovakia—where you come from?"

Before I could answer her, a waiter came over. I ordered a beer, she ordered a "whisky' and a bottle of Coke. "My friend, he pay for it," she told the waiter. Then she began a recitation of her miserable childhood among the Communists, tossing into her mostly incoherent blather a few words like "democracy," "freedom," and "America"—to give me a good feeling, I suppose. When I failed to react, she gestured with her chins towards my wedding band. "Vere she iss, your vife?" I said nothing, so she continued with her story as if reading from a script—I was obviously not the first one to hear it, and I wouldn't be the last. The waiter brought our order, I paid for it, and she hit her pause button. When she noticed that I had tuned her out, she changed her approach to a more visual one. Pointing to the opening of her Coke bottle, she brought her voice down to an intimate level, "Do you vant me to tell you sometink, darlink? Venn I came to Germany, my hole, it vas like this, but now," she tapped on the rim of her glass, "it is like this!"

There and then, my instinct told me to nip this "romance" in the bud, so I got up and left the joint. I spent the rest of the day and Sunday walking around until the cold got to me. The war had been over for ten years, but there were still quite a few people in the streets who looked like refugees. They would ask for a cigarette and take as many as they could grab when you held out an open pack. I soon learned to give them just one or two.

Monday morning finally came and I made my way to the I.G. Farben building, which was almost a city in itself. It looked like a gear fragment where six large building blocks made up the sprockets, and it had somehow survived the bombardments. Some say that it was deliberately spared by General Eisenhower, who had plans for it. He did, in fact make it his headquarters immediately following the war. This was once headquarters for the company that developed the Zyklon B gas used to kill millions of "Enemies of the German State," including Gypsies, homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses and Jews in concentration camps like Auschwitz. It eventually became a university. In 1955, when I stepped into one of its Paternoster elevators, it had become U.S. Northern Area Command, a giant filing cabinet and the place where could be found such things as the civilian personnel office. They used to call it the "Pentagon of Europe, a huge bureaucratic maze that one almost needed a map to negotiate. I took me some time to find the right building unit, let alone the office. Then I spent another hour in a waiting room until a friendly civilian lady beckoned me to follow her to her desk. She was American and she seemed intrigued by the fact that I had come all the way from Iceland in search of a job—would I care for a cup of coffee? 

When I handed her my papers, she took a cursory look at them and asked me for my passport. As soon as I produced my Icelandic passport, I knew something was wrong. She leafed through it, frowned, and told me she would be right back.


She returned with an Army lieutenant. "This is a foreign passport," he said, tapping the palm of his hand with it. There was something about the cadence of his voice that told me this was a problem as I nodded a quiet, "Yes."

Do you have a German work permit?", he asked. I indicated that I didn't so he explained that if they had a job for me, the Icelandic passport would not necessarily pose a problem, but that I absolutely had to have a work permit. I mentioned the letter I had sent from Iceland, and that their encouraging response had not mention that important detail. They had found my letter in their files, but it was written on official AFRS stationery and sent through military post, so they had assumed that I was a U.S. citizen. They had also been mislead by the fact that I was working on the air at AFRS in Iceland—it was highly irregular to hire a civilian as a broadcaster, especially a foreigner. Might I be hired by AFRS Frankfurt in some capacity if I had a German work permit? Yes, although perhaps not on the air, but he suggested that I apply for a permit from the German authorities, and come back to see them. I guess I couldn't hide my disappointment, nor could the nice lady veil her sympathy. She jotted down an address. "It is very near the Bahnhof," she said, handing me the slip of paper. Good, I knew where that was.

It was dark and I was in a gloomy mood when I left the I.G. Farben building and headed for my hotel. I had now stayed there three nights and Monday's check-out time had come and gone, so I had to sit down and take a serious look at my financial situation. It wasn't good. If I paid the hotel bill then and there—which I was still able to do, albeit barely—I would be left with a tram fare and no place to ride to, so I called Hanne in Copenhagen and told her I would need more money. We had some money put away, but in 1955 getting foreign currency was still a problem—the banks gave you just so much and we had already dipped into our quota. Not knowing how much longer I could stay at the hotel without paying my bill, I told Hanne to send the money to me c/o Poste Restante, in French that means "post that remains," and to any post office it means hold this until it is claimed by the addressee. Before American Express became the address away from home, it was Poste Restante.



On Tuesday morning, I went to the address given me by the lady at Civilian Personnel. It was, indeed, only about a block from the railway station and it turned out to be the office of the Fremdenpolizei, the police for foreigners. A surly clerk approached me from behind the counter—at nine o'clock on a cold wintry morning, he would obviously rather have been elsewhere, I shared that feeling. When I told him that I needed a work permit, he asked to see my visa. I put my passport on the counter and, for the second time in two days, the mere sight of it produced a frown. He flipped through it and shook his head. "Visum, visum, visum," he snarled. I said that I didn't have one. He demonstratively dropped the passport in front of me and said "Kein visum keine arbeitserlaubnis." I caught the glee in his voice, this fremdenpolizei bureaucrat seemed not to be too fond of foreigners or, for that matter, his job. I spotted the word "Visum" on a sign at the far end of the counter and asked if he could issue me one. My German was not at all good, so there was that barrier, but the man's hostility was so obvious that a younger clerk approached us. He actually had a friendly smile on his face. He told his grumpy co-worker that he would take over and, speaking excellent English, asked me what he could do to help.

It turned out that to obtain a work permit I had to have proof of employment and a visa that could only be applied for from a foreign country. I had to have entered Germany with a visa in hand. The clerk suggested that I go to nearby France or Belgium, not knowing that I could hardly afford to cross the street!

So, now began my little scoot-past-the-front-desk game as I made daily trips to the main post office in hopes of finding a letter from Hanne. The walk, a fairly long one, took me down Kaiserstrasse. Due to the cold weather and the fact that I was developing frost bites on my toes, I routinely walked through a department store that was almost a block long. This gave me a moment out of the cold and a chance to sit down and rest my feet.

Two or three days went by and there still was nothing for me to pick up at the post office window. However, there was a bill waiting for me at the front desk of the hotel—they were beginning to get a little nervous about me. Had it been a cheaper hotel, I'm sure I would have been put out in the street, but this one seemed remarkably tolerant, so I was able to tenuously hang in there. I was down to a few mark, so I now rationed myself, eating one sausage a day. I tried to pawn my watch, a rather expensive, gold-encased Gruen from the PX in Iceland, but Uncle said he would need proof of purchase for an item that expensive, so that didn't work. When Saturday came and I began my second week in Frankfurt, I made my usual trip down Kaiserstrasse, with a stop at the department store. My feet were really hurting at this point, so I had to walk slowly and rest longer at the store. I was doing just that when I was approached by a couple of GIs. They mistook me for an American and asked me how I was fixed for marks, they needed a couple of dollar's worth.

I can't tell you how good it felt to talk to someone who wasn't asking me to produce the right papers. I gave them the German money, about nine Deutsche Mark, and they gave me a couple of bucks in military script, which I could not use anywhere—but I didn't tell them that. One of the guys, Gus, asked me if I later on would want to go with them to a place called Mayer Gustle's. s hungry as I was for company, I didn't even have to think about it.

Of course there was nothing for me at the post office, so I whiled away the hours at the department store until it was time to meet my newfound friends. Mayer Gustle's turned out to be a typical German beer hall, complete with a Tyrolean band in lederhosen and forced sing-alongs. If you made a musical request, they dragged you up front and placed a hat on your head and a baton in your hand—that made you look silly and cost you a round of beer for the band. And let me tell you, that band could guzzle down some brew! It was a large room with typical wooden decor and a second tier of tables along the sides and rear, and it was filled with exuberant guests who sang along as they swung their beer steins back and forth, as  if keeping time with the music. Have you ever had the blues in the middle of a happy crowd of people? I had seen that in French movies, but now I was experiencing it and trying my best not to show it. As it turned out, this was but a prelude to a much worse experience, which I will tell you about in the next segment of this recollection. The fact that I had the good company of Gus and Joe made it a lot easier. For a moment, I was even able to forget that this would probably be my last night at the hotel—if they even let me in.

When we left the beer hall, Gus suggested that we grab a pizza at Die Blaue Grotte before they caught the truck back to their post. I had never heard of pizza until they mentioned it, but I became an instant fan and it was a pleasant departure from my sausage diet. That fund, my daily sausage allowance, was all but depleted when I met Gus and Joe, but I was less concerned than I ought to have been, because I had really had a very enjoyable evening. I tried to not think of my precarious situation at the hotel as I walked they guys to the railway station, where they would hop an Army truck that left at ten.

They were stationed northeast of Frankfurt, at Wildflecken, whose barracks had been home to the Waffen-SS, a notorious wing of the Nazi party. Just before he climbed onto the bed of the truck, Gus told me to visit them if I ever found myself in the neighborhood, "just ask for Company K."  Sure, I said to myself as I waved goodbye and stumbled towards the hotel. I thought of checking the post office first, but my feet were really giving me a hard time.

I deliberately waited until after midnight, because I had found it easier to slip past the night clerk. Another bill stared at me from the pillow of my turned up bed, and I knew that I had now stretched this stay to the limit.  I didn't get much sleep, but I came up with a plan. I would tell the hotel that I was going out of town for an overnight business meeting, and ask if I could leave my suitcase in storage. That way, I figured, the meter on my room would be stopped while I figured out how to get some money. My hope was, of course, that an envelope awaited me at the post office. I wanted to call Hanne and ask her what the status was, but my situation at the hotel was so precarious that I didn't want to do anything that might attract attention.

Sometimes, when one is brazen enough, one can get away with amazing things. I had not expected my out-of-town story to work, but it did. They took my suitcase and I left the hotel carrying only a small U.S. Army shaving kit bag that I had bought in the Keflavík PX.

I made it down Kaiserstrasse, pausing at store windows to somehow make my slow pace less conspicuous, and I made my usual stop at the department store. I was down to only five Deutschemark and the useless two dollars in military script. When the postal clerk, who now recognized me, returned to the window shaking his head, I went back to the department store and sat down to contemplate my next move. It was a crazy idea, but desperate times have a way of generating those, so I decided to make my way to the railway station and find out if I had enough money to get to Wildflecken. Of course, Gus never thought I would take him up on his invitation to visit them, but what else could I do? My optimism was bruised but not dead, I felt certain that if I just waited two or three more days, the money would be there and I could go home to Copenhagen.

When I found out that I had just enough money to get a round trip ticket to Wildflecken on the five o'clock rail bus, I bought it. Then I made another attempt to sell my gold watch, but ran into the same problem. I was standing at the entrance to the bahnhof, killing time, when a nearly hysterical American lady ran up to me and asked, "Mister, can you help me? I'm two dollars short and I have to catch a bus for Wiesbaden." I reached in my pocket and handed her my two dollars in script. She thanked me profusely and asked how she could get it back to me. I told her it was alright, I didn't need it back. Little did she know that a homeless man had given her his very last penny. A couple of hours later, I boarded the rail bus with only my ticket and the shaving kit.

I don't remember how long a trip it was, but the rail bus was obviously going up a mountain of sorts, I could look down through the darkness and see distant lights in what appeared to be a valley. It was also getting colder, so I wrapped my cashmere coat tightly around me. I had no idea what to expect when I reached my destination, but I somehow had an inkling that these tracks did not lead directly to Company K!

The rail bus station at Wildflecken
When we finally stopped and the conductor yelled "Wildflecken," I stepped into the cold darkness, leaving my two fellow passengers in their respective ends of the car. It was a relatively short platform with a station house that seemed abandoned. As the rail bus moved on into the night, I walked to the station house, hoping to find some sign of life. I didn't, but on the far side stood an idling Army bus. As I approached it, the driver opened the door and told me to "hop in." I was his only passenger, so he drove off as soon as I took a seat . "How was the old city?" asked the driver as we tore down a steep hill. He was making idle small talk. the details of which I don't recall. My mind was on my immediate future. Would I find Gus and Joe? Would they hate to see me? The bus was slowing down and I saw a guard house up ahead—it reminded me of Keflavík. An MP came around to the door and stuck his head in for a quick. I was worried at this point, but he just said "Okay, guys," and waved us on. So  much for security, I thought—at Keflavík I would have been required to show an ID, that awful blue button. I asked the driver if he could drop me off at Company K, which he did. I still couldn't believe how smoothly it all had gone, but luck was still with me, for no sooner had I stepped off the bus than I heard my name called. It was Gus! What an incredible coincidence, he had just come back from a movie.

I don't know who was more surprised, he or I, but his first question was "How the hell did you get past the gate?" I told him that I just took the bus. He was dumbfounded, because that was not supposed to be possible, but here I was, so he took me into the barracks and called Joe, who was equally speechless.

I told them that I needed to be back in Frankfurt in a couple of days and that I had come to Wildflecken in desperation. They took it very calmly and decided that the only way I could stay on post was to pose as a GI, so they found a set of fatigues, a cap and a pair of boots for me to stick my bloody feet into! They also came up with a bunk bed and, voila!, I was in the U.S. Army. Well, sorta, kinda...

It didn't cross my mind then, but it later hit me that Gus and Joe took an awful chance when they helped me out. If they are still around, they would be in their seventies and I wonder if they would recall that strange Scandinavian they rescued in the cold winter of 1955. They wouldn't even know that they rescued me, for I never had contact with them again. My time as an impostor was relatively uneventful. I spent my couple of days at Wildflecken in the old SS barracks, sometimes venturing outside for a brief, painful walk, flawlessly saluting my superiors, as I had learned from observation at Keflavík. As more good luck would have it, Joe was a cook in one of the mess halls, so I ate well, courtesy of Uncle Sam, who—of course—was not yet my uncle. I even saw a movie at the post theater, courtesy of Gus and Joe, who knew my situation and never once made me fel like the intruder I was. 

When I told Gus that I had better return to Frankfurt, he was reminded of another problem: how to get me off the post. Joe found the solution, he borrowed a friend's Volkswagen and said he would drive me up to the railway station, but that he would have to leave me there and return immediately. That meant spending a couple of hours in the station's waiting room, but I didn't mind—my nightmare, I thought, would soon be over.

Joe was a resourceful guy. He knew that he could not allow the MPS at the entrance to see me, so, just before we reached the gate house, which was on a fairly steep slope, he told me to duck out of sight, then he stalled the car, so we were actually coasting. As we approached the guard house, he yelled out, "Just trying to start her up, Sarge," and a moment later, we were down in the valley, around the bend, and out of sight in the darkness. Joe revved the old bug to the max as we climbed towards the station. Then I bid a hasty goodbye, thanked him for everything and heard him speed back down the hill as I entered the station's waiting room.

I should have brought something with me to read, there was nothing there but a bunch of schedules, not even fellow waiting passengers. I had been there for about a half hour when I decided, out of sheer boredom, to look at my return ticket. It was nowhere to be found!

So here I was in some small railway station high atop a desolate hill, with not a single penny and no ticket. My toes were still bleeding, the Army boots hadn't helped any, and I knew that if I managed to get back to Frankfurt, I would have no place to go. That money just had to be waiting for me at the post office. My immediate problem, however, was to get a rail ticket.

More to come.