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Nobody's Property: Living on the Remains of a Life in Calfornia

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Nobody's Property: Living on the Remains of a Life in Calfornia

Nobody's Property: Living on the Remains of a Life in Calfornia

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November 4, 1971Jennifer Rose Cooke, a girl from California, just turned 18, goes missing in a frigid forest in West Germany. She has been hitchhiking. First she caught a ride with a trucker, then with a West German soldier. Maybe she was trying to visit a young professor she had met on the boat over from New York. On that trip, he had heard her say she might throw herself overboard.April 28, 1972Another girl, just turned three, lives with her parents in a house in Laurel Canyon that lets the California rain in. Her biggest fear is of the brown snails in the garden; she will not cross the brick path if one is there. It is her father's twenty-sixth birthday; on this day his sister Jenny's remains are found. Officially, she died "of exposure," although a murder investigation is begun and the file remains permanently open.This is the tale of a relationship only half lived. I have no memories of my Aunt Jenny as a living person. For all of my younger years I knew her only as someone who had died, and the only lessons her story held for me were about death and the probability that the worst would happen. Then I began to write about her. This was the next logical step since for me she was pure story already. While I started trying to find the truth of what had happened to her, I began to see that each person in my family had a different version of the story that suited their particular worldview and satisfied their particular needs. I was no different. In a sense, Jenny's story has become the instrument that I'm singing along to--singing about a childhood in gorgeous 1970s-era L.A., about a friendly divorce; about the changing California landscape, its violent beauty; about traveling with my dad to try to get closer to what happened; and about getting to know something about a living girl who, it turns out, preferred to be called "Rose," not Jenny.I've left Rose alone for a few years, but now we're traveling together again.

Latest Episodes

Nobody's Property 15

Three o’clock in the afternoon, and Shirley, of Shawnee Memorials, just across Harrison Avenue from Fairview Cemetery, was not taking any shit off my dad.We had come here at my urging; Dad had mentioned that he still needed to order a stone to mark the plot where Jenny’s and Edith’s remains were buried together. I could see that if I didn’t push a little, it wasn’t going to happen any time soon. And the grass in the Rose family plot, though a bit dry and thatched in patches, covered their grave so smoothly that no one would ever know they were there.

31 MIN2011 APR 29
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Nobody's Property 15

Nobody's Property 14

The sound of pistons pumping, a lawn-mower pulse and wheeze, comes up behind her, and she looks over her shoulder to see the VW coming up fast: black and chrome, some of the shine worn off and anyway looking duller in this flat November light. She keeps her thumbs hooked under the leather of her backpack straps, walks backward and keeps her gaze straight and sober toward the driver of the car. It pulls over a few paces ahead and stops at an angle on the gravel margin. Under her boots the gray gravel rasps and she doesn't slow down or speed up but keeps up her trudge toward the car. In one version of the story she opens the passenger door herself; in another, the driver pushes the door open and it swings out in front of her like a gate, so that if she had wanted to keep going she couldn't; but she doesn't want to keep going.

31 MIN2011 APR 23
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Nobody's Property 14

Nobody's Property 13

"I serve with the German Armed Forces. My garrison is Hardheim, where I am stationed at Carl-Schurz-Kaserne. At present, I attend the Bundeswehrfachschule in Tauberbischofsheim. "On Friday, 5 November 1971, I was driving in my VW...from Tauberbischofsheim to Hardheim between 12.20 and 12.30 o'clock. About 200 meters past the stone works on the B 27 I saw a young woman walk on the right-hand side of the road. She did not use the usual signal to indicate that she wanted a ride, but she turned around to face my vehicle. To me, this meant, she wanted a ride, so I braked and came to a halt at some distance ahead of her. When she reached the car, she opened the passenger door and said: 'To Bietigheim.'..."

42 MIN2011 APR 15
Comments
Nobody's Property 13

Nobody's Property 12

Terminal burrowing can be identified in reports of hypothermia deaths, but has only recently been given a name. It is a behavior pattern observed in the last stages of hypothermia whereby the afflicted will enter small, enclosed spaces, such as wardrobes, cupboards, and closets. Outdoors, the victim may burrow into piles of leaves, the crevices between rocks or fallen trees, or into culverts. Searchers must be aware of the possibility that the missing persons may be thoroughly hidden and too hypothermic to respond to their calls. It is most often observed in moderately cold conditions, when the victim's body temperature falls slowly. These conditions would be found during power outages, or when someone is lost in chilly, but not freezing, weather. See also Paradoxical undressing --from Wikipedia

29 MIN2011 APR 9
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Nobody's Property 12

Nobody's Property 11

In Tübingen the houses sit along the River Neckar like nineteenth-century ladies on lounge chairs with flowing skirts and big hats: they look comfortable and bourgeois and unassailable. Like most of Germany. From the bridge over the river you can see a tower, painted yellow now, where the poet Hölderlin went crazy for 36 years: a long, slow burn that might, in other circumstances, be called life. This is where he wrote these words, which I found quoted by Paul Auster inThe Invention of Solitude: The lines of life are as various as roads or asThe limits of the mountains are, and what we areDown here, in harmonies, in recompense,In peace for ever, a god will finish there. On the opposite side of the river is a park where I walked with my father under plane trees two hundred years old.

33 MIN2011 APR 2
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Nobody's Property 11

Nobody's Property 10

Charles had given us maps and a police report when we visited him in Oklahoma City. He pulled out one map, of Hardheim and its surroundings, and pointed. “This is where Jennifer was…uh…murdered,” he told us. At the time, I wondered if his hesitancy over the word indicated uncertainty. But later I found that I, too, was reluctant to say it: murder. Not an easy word. We had this itinerary we’d been given: Jennifer’s last stops on this earth. Did we think visiting them would make sense of things? I tried to tell myself we were on a kind of pilgrimage, which made it sound okay, even more than okay: important. Dignified. There were stations we had to visit. The first was Münchingen—the place where a truck driver had let Jenny off before first light on a cold November morning. The place where she drank a cup of coffee.

25 MIN2011 MAR 26
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Nobody's Property 10

Nobody's Property 09

We had our money out to pay the Lufthansa flight attendant for our drinks—my no-name red wine and Dad’s Glenlivet—and when she moved on without even looking at the fold of bills in Dad’s hand we were practically giddy. Free drinks! It made being stuck in a metal and plastic capsule for eleven hours seem worth it. The flight attendant, a slim German woman with blond hair gathered expertly into a chignon, must have thought us such rubes. We didn’t care. Salt of the earth! Thankful for small favors! Not taking ourselves too seriously, over here in seats 34 A and C; able to live with light irony.

27 MIN2011 MAR 18
Comments
Nobody's Property 09

Nobody's Property 08

“I’ve been thinking about a trip to Germany,” my father says on the phone one day. “I’m thinking I need to start thinking about Jenny in a new way.” I’ve been thinking that too. And my father: the first thirty years of our time together are over; what are the next thirty going to be like? What will we do in Germany? I’ve thought of going by myself, trying to find some things out. I see myself in a room with a man who was the last person to see Jenny alive. Did he kill her? Or did he just leave her by the side of the road? All these years I’ve waited for Jenny to haunt me, but she’s just kept her peace. That’s a nice way to think about it, that she’s out there somewhere keeping to herself (‘she is just away’). I know it’s not true; I know she’s gone. But him? He was a young guy in 1971. Odds are he’s out there. He’s the one who’s been haunting me.

38 MIN2011 MAR 11
Comments
Nobody's Property 08

Nobody's Property 07

Do you think you are free to live your life? We try to tell ourselves that the worst won’t happen, that we can leave the doors of our lives unlocked and the crazies won’t come through them, or if they do we can talk them down. We search the papers for the reasons behind the senseless murder—the plot. How can we still be doing this? I grew up with the plot in my head: Jenny died hitchhiking. That was the “reason.” That was the “plot.” Her parents sent her there. That was the “pathos,” the “hook.” And so there were ways to prevent dying, to make sure it didn’t happen to you. There were rules to being safe, rather than dead, and these rules chiefly applied to women, because—let’s face it—women who don’t follow the rules don’t deserve to live.

28 MIN2011 MAR 4
Comments
Nobody's Property 07

Nobody's Property 06

Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry Go to sleepy little baby. When you wake, you will find All the pretty little horses. Dapples and grays, pintos and bays All the pretty little horses. Way down yonder, in the meadow, Poor little baby, crying “mama”. Birds and the butterflys flutter ‘round her eyes. Poor little baby crying “mama”. Hush-a-bye....

37 MIN2011 MAR 1
Comments
Nobody's Property 06

Latest Episodes

Nobody's Property 15

Three o’clock in the afternoon, and Shirley, of Shawnee Memorials, just across Harrison Avenue from Fairview Cemetery, was not taking any shit off my dad.We had come here at my urging; Dad had mentioned that he still needed to order a stone to mark the plot where Jenny’s and Edith’s remains were buried together. I could see that if I didn’t push a little, it wasn’t going to happen any time soon. And the grass in the Rose family plot, though a bit dry and thatched in patches, covered their grave so smoothly that no one would ever know they were there.

31 MIN2011 APR 29
Comments
Nobody's Property 15

Nobody's Property 14

The sound of pistons pumping, a lawn-mower pulse and wheeze, comes up behind her, and she looks over her shoulder to see the VW coming up fast: black and chrome, some of the shine worn off and anyway looking duller in this flat November light. She keeps her thumbs hooked under the leather of her backpack straps, walks backward and keeps her gaze straight and sober toward the driver of the car. It pulls over a few paces ahead and stops at an angle on the gravel margin. Under her boots the gray gravel rasps and she doesn't slow down or speed up but keeps up her trudge toward the car. In one version of the story she opens the passenger door herself; in another, the driver pushes the door open and it swings out in front of her like a gate, so that if she had wanted to keep going she couldn't; but she doesn't want to keep going.

31 MIN2011 APR 23
Comments
Nobody's Property 14

Nobody's Property 13

"I serve with the German Armed Forces. My garrison is Hardheim, where I am stationed at Carl-Schurz-Kaserne. At present, I attend the Bundeswehrfachschule in Tauberbischofsheim. "On Friday, 5 November 1971, I was driving in my VW...from Tauberbischofsheim to Hardheim between 12.20 and 12.30 o'clock. About 200 meters past the stone works on the B 27 I saw a young woman walk on the right-hand side of the road. She did not use the usual signal to indicate that she wanted a ride, but she turned around to face my vehicle. To me, this meant, she wanted a ride, so I braked and came to a halt at some distance ahead of her. When she reached the car, she opened the passenger door and said: 'To Bietigheim.'..."

42 MIN2011 APR 15
Comments
Nobody's Property 13

Nobody's Property 12

Terminal burrowing can be identified in reports of hypothermia deaths, but has only recently been given a name. It is a behavior pattern observed in the last stages of hypothermia whereby the afflicted will enter small, enclosed spaces, such as wardrobes, cupboards, and closets. Outdoors, the victim may burrow into piles of leaves, the crevices between rocks or fallen trees, or into culverts. Searchers must be aware of the possibility that the missing persons may be thoroughly hidden and too hypothermic to respond to their calls. It is most often observed in moderately cold conditions, when the victim's body temperature falls slowly. These conditions would be found during power outages, or when someone is lost in chilly, but not freezing, weather. See also Paradoxical undressing --from Wikipedia

29 MIN2011 APR 9
Comments
Nobody's Property 12

Nobody's Property 11

In Tübingen the houses sit along the River Neckar like nineteenth-century ladies on lounge chairs with flowing skirts and big hats: they look comfortable and bourgeois and unassailable. Like most of Germany. From the bridge over the river you can see a tower, painted yellow now, where the poet Hölderlin went crazy for 36 years: a long, slow burn that might, in other circumstances, be called life. This is where he wrote these words, which I found quoted by Paul Auster inThe Invention of Solitude: The lines of life are as various as roads or asThe limits of the mountains are, and what we areDown here, in harmonies, in recompense,In peace for ever, a god will finish there. On the opposite side of the river is a park where I walked with my father under plane trees two hundred years old.

33 MIN2011 APR 2
Comments
Nobody's Property 11

Nobody's Property 10

Charles had given us maps and a police report when we visited him in Oklahoma City. He pulled out one map, of Hardheim and its surroundings, and pointed. “This is where Jennifer was…uh…murdered,” he told us. At the time, I wondered if his hesitancy over the word indicated uncertainty. But later I found that I, too, was reluctant to say it: murder. Not an easy word. We had this itinerary we’d been given: Jennifer’s last stops on this earth. Did we think visiting them would make sense of things? I tried to tell myself we were on a kind of pilgrimage, which made it sound okay, even more than okay: important. Dignified. There were stations we had to visit. The first was Münchingen—the place where a truck driver had let Jenny off before first light on a cold November morning. The place where she drank a cup of coffee.

25 MIN2011 MAR 26
Comments
Nobody's Property 10

Nobody's Property 09

We had our money out to pay the Lufthansa flight attendant for our drinks—my no-name red wine and Dad’s Glenlivet—and when she moved on without even looking at the fold of bills in Dad’s hand we were practically giddy. Free drinks! It made being stuck in a metal and plastic capsule for eleven hours seem worth it. The flight attendant, a slim German woman with blond hair gathered expertly into a chignon, must have thought us such rubes. We didn’t care. Salt of the earth! Thankful for small favors! Not taking ourselves too seriously, over here in seats 34 A and C; able to live with light irony.

27 MIN2011 MAR 18
Comments
Nobody's Property 09

Nobody's Property 08

“I’ve been thinking about a trip to Germany,” my father says on the phone one day. “I’m thinking I need to start thinking about Jenny in a new way.” I’ve been thinking that too. And my father: the first thirty years of our time together are over; what are the next thirty going to be like? What will we do in Germany? I’ve thought of going by myself, trying to find some things out. I see myself in a room with a man who was the last person to see Jenny alive. Did he kill her? Or did he just leave her by the side of the road? All these years I’ve waited for Jenny to haunt me, but she’s just kept her peace. That’s a nice way to think about it, that she’s out there somewhere keeping to herself (‘she is just away’). I know it’s not true; I know she’s gone. But him? He was a young guy in 1971. Odds are he’s out there. He’s the one who’s been haunting me.

38 MIN2011 MAR 11
Comments
Nobody's Property 08

Nobody's Property 07

Do you think you are free to live your life? We try to tell ourselves that the worst won’t happen, that we can leave the doors of our lives unlocked and the crazies won’t come through them, or if they do we can talk them down. We search the papers for the reasons behind the senseless murder—the plot. How can we still be doing this? I grew up with the plot in my head: Jenny died hitchhiking. That was the “reason.” That was the “plot.” Her parents sent her there. That was the “pathos,” the “hook.” And so there were ways to prevent dying, to make sure it didn’t happen to you. There were rules to being safe, rather than dead, and these rules chiefly applied to women, because—let’s face it—women who don’t follow the rules don’t deserve to live.

28 MIN2011 MAR 4
Comments
Nobody's Property 07

Nobody's Property 06

Hush-a-bye, don’t you cry Go to sleepy little baby. When you wake, you will find All the pretty little horses. Dapples and grays, pintos and bays All the pretty little horses. Way down yonder, in the meadow, Poor little baby, crying “mama”. Birds and the butterflys flutter ‘round her eyes. Poor little baby crying “mama”. Hush-a-bye....

37 MIN2011 MAR 1
Comments
Nobody's Property 06
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