The Prune: Prune’s rock-polishing mind hones trip into fond memories

THE PRUNE SNAPS a selfie at the Tate Modern Art Museum in London while son, Zak, believes things are looking up for him and his dad. Todd Sharp photo

by Todd Sharp

These past few weeks I was in Europe to see my son as he was finishing up his semester abroad in Vasteras, Sweden.

As I recalled bits of this vacation on the way home, I started organizing the trip in my head … putting the events in an explainable, structured and ordered narrative. Jumbled somewhat differently than living through the actual trip.

I’m glad my brain works as a bit of a rock tumbler, polishing recollections in my mind.

Hopefully making stories and memories smoother and brighter, sanding off the first draft or rough cut of daily life and yet not grinding them to dust.

I optimistically remember a smoother version.

Leaving from Green Lake, driving to Milwaukee, busing to Chicago, flying to Helsinki, then a short, painful flight to Stockholm and a bus ride to Vasteras brought me to an Espresso House in the train and bus station in center of town. The Centerum.

As I was about to enjoy my first sip of coffee and bite of cinnamon roll, what the Swedish call an afternoon break, “Fika,” Zak was there to greet me with a humongous smile, towing two huge suitcases of his own.

What a joy! We were ready to travel!

The stress of the previous 20-hours of confusing airport signs and rules, meeting travel timelines, standing on one foot then the other in long customs lines all tumbled away with his smile.

We walked all over town and talked about what we saw and had been doing for the past half year, ate delicious food and saw the sights of Vasteras.

Then we took a 120 mph train to Stockholm, a beautiful international city with even more to discover.

We didn’t have any expectations or specific plans of what to see and do on this trip but knew we had a great knack to roam and find delight in interesting places.

Many museums, art galleries and all parks are free in the cities we visited which added to our easy, carefree ability to move around, learn more about the culture and history, and people watch.

After three days in Stockholm we flew to London for the same low cost of an Uber ride from Green Lake to Ripon. Although being much too early in the morning, the ride was without turbulence.

I recall the terrible little rented room with an awful smell in the hall, the tiny bathroom so small you had to sit sideways, the filthy walls and a noisy street we rented just off Baker Street the first few nights in London, not for the ugliness of the room, but because it was so damn hot we couldn’t sleep and stayed up each night talking and laughing past 1 a.m. as the room cooled.

I’ll enjoy the memories of the long talks far longer than any recollections about how unbearably hot and sweaty we were in that claustrophobic room.

London was busy and crowded, bustling and huge. The city vibe was wonderful — gracious shop keepers, pubs full of talkative business folks in early afternoon; loads of energy.

I was sad to leave for the long flight back to Chicago. Two weeks went way too quickly. I was excited for Zak to spend a couple more weeks in Europe. He has a succession of friends and family meeting up with him throughout his travels. He’s got a lot more to discover and his own rough cut, first draft to live through.

If there is actually anyone under 50 who reads the Prune, don’t wait to travel abroad. You’ll find some of your rock- hard ideals will get gently polished. The earlier you get started the more time you’ll have to make beautiful precious gems.

Editor’s note: Although Todd Sharp is no rock star, he’s a gem of a fellow when it comes to selling advertising for the Green Laker, Express and The Ripon Commonwealth Press.