I sped off still heading south. I observed her fade fast in my rear-view mirror, but not before I saw her mouth hanging open in wide disbelief (As if I were actually calling her bluff). After about a half-mile and her no longer in sight, I stopped, opened a beer, popped in a Joni Mitchell–Hejira–cranked it up, lit a Marlboro and waited.
Presently I could make out her petite form marching through the sandy haze, her skinny arms flailing back and forth, not unlike a power-walker. As I watched her approach I snuffed out my second cigarette, tossed the empty beer bottle onto the back floorboard, turned down the volume on Joni’s Black Crow, and waited to see if she was getting back in the car.
She opened the door, threw herself in and off we drove, not saying a word until we got within about five clicks of Sharm el Sheikh. Her face was dirty with trails of sweat running down, making small rivers of mud, her hair windblown and looking to have absorbed quite some substantial part of the Sinai.
She did not look happy.
“Are you sorry?” she finally blurted out.
“Sorry? Sorry for what?”
“Sorry for being an asshole,” she said.
“Oh, that… What!?” I was genuinely confused.
“For refusing to have sex with me this morning after that Israeli dude left.”
Now I am laughing. She wasn’t.
“Are you fucking serious Janet?” I asked after I had regained some composure. “You heard the man. We had to vacate. Did you think I was in the mood for love? With the IDF watching us? Shit Woman! It was time to go.”
“There was time enough… in the tent,” she said somewhat between clenched teeth and somewhat subdued—at the same time—a talent she had perfected over some years. (Ed. Note: Janet had five years on me)
“You are unbelievable. Okay, ‘I’m sorry for not fucking you’. Gimme another go? Right here. Right now. In this fuckin’ heat and in this fuckin’ sardine can of a car? Or would you prefer it on the burning sand with the scorpions and spiders?! For Chrissake Janet!”
“There was a time when you’d never refuse me, no matter where or what,” she said and then clammed up, starring out the window.
Fine! I thought as I gave the volume back up to Joni.
Just on the outskirts of Sharm (The whole Sinai Pennisula was ‘Outskirts’) we came upon a Bedioun ‘roadside do drop in’ sort of place.
“Hey Janet! Let’s check this out.”
“Can’t we just go in to Sharm?”
“No. I wanna talk to these folks. Besides they may have some stuff we need.”
“Fine.” (And then someday too soon, this woman would be my wife…)
I parked the car and got out. Janet cleaned her sunglasses and remained behind. I walked up to the ramshackle place and was greeted by an old grizzled Bedouin.
“Salaam alaikum,” I said.
“Salaam alaikum,” he said back. Then, “Amer-ca?”
“Yes,” said. “English? Speak?”
(I spoke just enough Arabic (and Hebrew) to get me into trouble back then.)
“Sodas? Coke-a-cola?” I asked.
I gave him a pack of Marlboros. He gave me two cokes. Apparently inflation had set in here. I smiled though and shook his hand, happy to have made some cultural advancement. Jimmy Carter shoulda seen me that day. Got back in the car. Janet, still incogneto, remarked,
“Was that worth it?”
“Yes. It was. Thank you. We are reps of the State Department. WE are suppose to be ambassadors. Don’t you git it?’
“Yeah. I ‘git’ it. I get that I want this trip to end soon. I am tired and hot and sweaty and thirsty and hungry and horny. And I see no end in sight for me.”
We drove on into Sharm.
As I have reported, Sharm back then was not much. There was one hotel, but who had money (or desire) for that? It had a tentative look about it anyhow. This was ‘Israeli-Occupied Egypt’ after all and finding investors to pump money into a region, however beautiful, must have been difficult, given the volatility of the times and the probability that Israel would eventually give the desert back to Egypt (even though Israel had ‘held’ the Sinai for more than ten years at this point)
Past the hotel was a small ‘camping ground’ of sorts. There were ‘bird houses’ for rent: ten bucks per night and a communal shower/latrine area. I say ‘bird houses’, because that is exactly what they resembled: Thatched roof, two wooden ‘bunks’ side-by-side, and too small for a six-foot-one cowboy to sleep on. I lay down and test-drove one. I discovered that by leaving the door open I could be fine with the sleeping arrangements, letting my feet hang out, though if Janet and I were to have some privacy for any ‘Woo-Hoo’ / ‘Whoopee’, we would have to pretend we were in the back seat of a compact car and make due. (Unless we opted to keep the door open: an option my shyness would never allow me to consider)
At this point I must admit Janet was always a trooper during such times. She was of course a soldier, albeit a weekend one, and had previous experience with less-than-pristine habiliments. After we had decided to spend the night at this place, taken our showers, had some drink and sandwiches, her mood (and mine) improved as the sun went down and the heat subsided. Behind us were the mountains. In front of us, the sea, and ahead of us, our future.
We were after all, two lovebirds deep in love and in our own private birdhouse.
We made love in that birdhouse after sundown.
And with the door open.
And why not?
We were young.
(And we had all that ‘Diplomatic Immunity’ bullshit to boot)
I love Joni’s smile. She don’t smile often, but when she does… magical shit happens. Shoots bolts right through my heart Baby!
Her prompt: What’s the most ridiculous way you’ve injured yourself?
Back in the Middle Ages (1980’s) when I owned my tropical fish store in Nacogdoches (Yes, That ‘Oldest Town in Texas’), I was trying to clean the front glass of one of my retail tanks (ten gallon) which housed an electric catfish (like an electric eel, but with higher amps and voltage).
I was standing on a stool as ‘Benny Franklin’s’ tank was on the third tier—you just know I had to name him—since I’d had him ‘in-stock’ for months (All the East Texans were interested in were guppies, goldfish, and ‘crud-eaters’).
Anyhow, as I was keeping a watchful eye on Benny, lest I inadvertently swerve my paw/forearm into him, a customer walked up to me, inquiring (rather vociferously) about where were the crud eaters (Yes, I have posted about crud-eaters), I took my eye off the prize (my arm) just for-a-second. Yep: Bam! Brushed Benny and received a shock which knocked me off the stool and flat on my ass.
Malapterurus electricus- shock yer ass-officus
Embarrassed? What do you think? I was supposedly a ‘professional aquarist.’ Apparently not-on-that-day.
The potential crud-eater customer just looked down at me and announced dryly that she would try ‘Ben Franklin’s’ (coincidence? or irony?) or better still Wal*Mart up the road.
Guess I did not answer her query quick enough as I was taking my own sweet time in my sincere effort to start breathing again.
True Story: you can take my word for it.
Cheers to you Aussa,
Always my pleasure to visit y’all, and glean inspiration for future posts (sincerely).
Joni Mitchell Live At The Carnegie Hall 1972 Electricity:
My very first morning at the Tel Aviv Sheraton. I had a ‘raw fish’ breakfast buffet at zero five hundred.
(And there were cucumbers, cheese, olives an’ shit too! Outrageous!) I had never had raw fish for breakfast until then. Cost me five bucks (a lot of money for breakfast in 1977 for a twenty-year-old-kid).
I only gagged once and I drank a lot of orange juice, which was the only thing remotely resembling ‘breakfast’ to me. Well, “When in Rome…” I later discovered I could have had scrambled eggs and bacon down the street at the U.S. Embassy for a buck and a half…
My first R&R in November, 1977. I went to Tel Aviv for one week. This just also happened to be the same week Anwar Sadat made his historic visit to Israel and most important, to speak to the Knesset in Jerusalem.
The Israelis actually fell in love with Sadat. I did too. Peace was in the air! Sadat was front page news every day in the Jerusalem Post. The atmosphere in downtown Tel Aviv every night was ‘Party Down!’ (Sadly, this could not last)
First Israeli Love. Her name was Gladys Lehani and she spoke French, English, Hebrew, and Lies. I was instantly enamored. She worked nights at the Tel Aviv Sheraton in the ‘Kum Kum’ Lounge, a bar.
During the afternoons she was a cashier in the little lobby area of the hotel. A place where one could look out the huge windows at the Mediterranean, have a cocktail, read a book, and flirt with her. I spent many hours there doing all four.
Driving through Gaza. After I had been with SFM for some months, I was ‘promoted’ to driver (see this story). The most expeditious way to get to Tel Aviv was to drive straight through the Gaza Strip, so of course we did just that.
Never felt any wisp of danger. Not once. Then one day someone threw a brick into the windshield of one of our vehicles. This prompted management (And S. State: Our ‘Client.’) to suspend all travel through Gaza.
Now let me tell you, this was bullshit. At that point in time we had been travelling through Gaza for many, many months. This was surely an isolated incident—“Just kids havin’ fun,”–to quote Croc Dundee. Hell! I had friends in Gaza.
One in particular comes to mind. His name was Mohammad (go figure) and he ran the gas station where I would always fill up my vehicles when I passed through.
We often shared gifts. I gave him American cigarettes and T-Shirts from Texas and he gave me various little Arabic statuettes and such. Once (on his request) I brought him a fifth of Jonnie Walker Red. I thought he was gonna adopt me over that!
The new route we were instructed to take took us through Beersheba and added two and a half hours to our travel time. This was unacceptable, so we (we drivers), ignored it, unless there were ‘uncool’, read, “USG” people riding along as passengers.
Most of the rest were in a frantic rush to get to TA and did not want to waste one minute of their well-earned R&R over some State Department Bullshit, so I always conducted a poll before taking the turn off to Gaza: “Any of y’all got a problem with getting to TA in an hour via Gaza? Or do Y’all wanna go through Beer’Sheba and get to TA four hours after yer girlfriends done give up on you?”
The usual response was something like this: “Marcom, I will risk Gaza, not ‘cause I am afraid my girlfriend will give up on me, but because I just can’t stan’ one extra minute of listening to your music!” (I had a boom box on the dash and ‘treated’ my passengers to four or five hours of continuous Bob Marley on my trips. I was famous for this. Sometimes I would throw in a little Joni Mitchell, if I were feeling benevolent on that day.)
The Orphan Benjamin. One night, I think it was in late ’78, I was staggering back to my hooch from our little bar. My walk took me through our game room: Two pool tables, a jukebox, shuffle board, ping pong… etc.
Anyway, just by the exit door there was a table. On this table was a carton of Marlboro’s, a case of Heineken, a ‘doggie bag’ from the galley, and a one hundred dollar bill.
Thinking nothing of it, I just kept on tacking toward my hooch, some fifty meters down the way… I woke up the next morning and instantly thought of all that unclaimed booty and for just an instant hoped that no one had stolen it.
We had a brother/sisterhood there in Sinai. I managed to drag my hung-over ass out of my rack and head in to breakfast in our galley. My trip took me past the table in question.
Everything was just as it was the night before; waiting for the rightful owner to sober up and claim. If I had not already been in love with my Co-SFM’ers till then, I certainly was now. Two hundred folks at SFM, and nary a thief amongst us. I will never forget that minor little memory. It touched me deep.
And then I just went into breakfast. You see? This was not… ‘different’ then! Shit! Can’t explain. Won’t try.
You see? We had love. And respect.
I am thinking of continuing this series in light of the recent news from Israel and Gaza.
Not saying that my experiences are relevant today, but I do feel the need to write them. Please let me know if you are interested to read of my times spent in the region.
Will definitely require some strong, mighty resolve and determination. Not to mention uncommon valor and courage…
So I sent out an urgent ‘Mayday! Mayday!’ to Three-Star General Woodbridge requesting he Muster his Marines:
Through a secure internet line Iwas able to listen in ‘real-time’ as The General briefed his men:
“Men, I’m not gonna Bullshit you, nor sugar-coat this. We are taskedwith a very dangerous mission, fraught with peril.But I know you are up to the job. Many Men will die; not return alive, but remember this: No manleft behind.”
“Our mission is simple in concept, but will be difficult in execution. We have received a recon film from our man on the ground. He bravely risked his life in obtaining this intelligence, so pay close attention.”
“Additionally, Sergeant Ihrke will be passing out a complete ‘Mission Objectives Packet’ containing still photographs and the most up-to-date intelligence available regarding the current situation on the ground.”
“Sergeant, you may proceed.”
“Good Day Men.Stand at Ease. Study all these items carefully, closely, and completely, with nothing but ‘attention to detail’ and the successful completion of the Mission Objective in the forefront of your minds.”
“Succinctly put, our sole Mission is to Clean-Up This Shithole, taking as few casualties as Our Almighty General ‘Chesty’ Puller, will allow.”
(“RIP, Oh Great One”)
“Wheels up at zero five hundred hours.”
“OK. That’s it then!”
“Now, let’s go Get Some!“
MUST STUDY THIS ONE FIRST MEN
Street Cred for Vid: Lance Marcom
Items Containedin theMission Objectives Packet For Your Perusal Below.
But Be Thee Forewarned, The ‘Packet’ Was CompiledBy a Moron: Possessing Not Much ‘Intelligence’ for an ‘Intelligence Officer.”
Not Sure If Any Value To The Marines
Oh My Goodness! We Got Ourselves a
Yep! A Natural Disaster!
Heavy casualties taken
But we were not yet done
We stacked them up as cordwood
‘Til the Battle could be Won!
A Brief Interlude To Take You From The Carnage,
If Only For A Moment:
“A War Poem”
ByLance A. Marcom
I Knocked a beer off my chair
It spilt everywhere
I did not die
(Just opened a new one)
And Carried On!
And Was Happy Again.
We Captured A Spy Who Had StealthilyPenetrated InBehind Our Lines.
We Executed Him On The Spot
Having Been ThuslyCompromised, General Woodbridge Ordered We Fortify Our Defenses.
We Did So
With A Bigger Wall
Coming Under Heavy Artillery Fire
We Were Forced To Hunker-In-Our-Bunker
The Enemy Was Amassing Large Numbers of Troops For A ‘Tet Offensive’
When It Finally Came
We Doggedly Held Our Ground.
And Punished Them All Around
Thusly They Ended Their
The War Dragged On For Months and Months
The Men Were Growing More and More
Fatigued and Morose
“How Long Will This Bullshit Go On?”
Could Often Be Heard About The Mess Tent At Night
Morale Was Low
Then One Day Word Came Down That ‘Peace’ TalksWere On-Going Somewhere In Europe.
“Paris, France” Was The Scuttlebutt
Those ‘Frogs’Sucked At War, But They Were Damn Talented When It Came Time To Sue For Peace.
At Any Rate, Morale Was Lifted By The News.
This War Had Become Not Unlike ‘The Korea’, or Perhaps ‘The Nam‘, Or Perhaps ‘Le Deux’.
A ‘See-Saw’ WarofAttrition
It Simply No Longer Made No Sense
Nor Showed No Sign of Contrition
We Had Gained A Little Ground, But Nowhere NearEnough To Justify All The Lives Lost Or Destroyed
Late One Evening Some of the Men Were Rummaging Around in the Galley Looking For a ‘Late-Night Snack’
Don’t Despair About The Frigidaire,
‘Cuz Now It’sClean In There
Just Take My Word. You’ll Have To:
I’m Outta Film
Suddenly The Communications Officer Appeared, Running And Screaming Throughout The Camp:
“The War is OVER! The War is OVER!
“‘Cease-Fire’ Effective in Twenty-Four Hours!”
Joyous Pandemonium Quickly Ensued
Whoa! Not-So-Fast Hot-Rod!
Twenty-Four Hours CanBe a
Very, Very Long Time
BeaucoupBullshit Can Go Down in Twenty-Four Hours
After That Initial Orgasmic Spurt of Elation The Men Grew Nervous and Paranoid
Never A Great State Of Mind For A Fighting Man
No One, it Seemed, Wished to be The Last Man To Die in ‘Marcom’s Hooch War’
With The War ‘Over’
(For The Time-Being)
Things Settled Into ‘Détente Lite’
Nothing Left To Fight
The ‘Cold War’ Did Commence
And Stuck Us On The Fence
And Even More Stressing
The Bills Kept A-Coming
Never ‘Paid’ Them Much AttentionBefore
Way Too Busy, So… Ignore
But No Way Now ToRelieve That StressSomehow
Nor The Boredom
I Suppose I Could Work On Cleaning My HoochSomeMore…