More Random Memories from the Middle East: Still Sinai

Previously: One  Two

***

The IDF soldier navigated down the hill as Janet got ‘properly’ dressed inside our tent to greet our visitor. I didn’t bother. I figured cut-offs and no shirt just fine. As for him, well he had slightly longish unkempt hair, as was the norm for IDF soldiers back then. Most of them were reservists anyhow. IDF was a mega-weekend-warrior class anyhow. His beret was tucked into his shirt at the shoulder. His olive-drab uniform was dusty. In general, the IDF Army was unkempt, un-kept, un-disciplined and Fucking Ferocious.

Perfect soldiers.

This truth never did escape me. Some respect from me was obviously the ‘order of my day’ here…

I watched him cautiously descend onto the  my beach. The night before I had un-cautiously descended and ascended (ten times), full of false courage brought about by some imbibing and dope. But what the hell! So… I studied his unsteady progress toward me.

As he approached he switched to English, “This is restricted zone,” he said as he pointed with his rifle over his shoulder to what looked to be a military base of some minor proportions.

“Well, It was dark when we got here and I didn’t notice,” I lied.

“You must leave. Now.”

“Something wrong?” Janet said, sticking her head out of our tent.

“Janet, I got this. Go back inside,” I almost barked.

“Fine!” she said. “Gin or Whiskey for breakfast?”

“Back inside!”

“Fine!” she huffed and disappeared inside the tent.

Turning my attention back to the IDF soldier, I asked/said, “So ‘we’ (Meaning US, the U.S. of us), can pay for this ‘wonderful’ base here in Sinai, and you come climbing down from ‘Mount Fucking Sinai’ to inform me that I am not welcome here? Is this correct?”

He laughed at that and proceeded to take a seat on a beer cooler next to our now burnt out campfire. At least this one had a sense of humor.

“I am Jacob,” he said. “And who are you my American Friend?”

“Lance,” I said, cautiously  extending my hand, which he took and shook earnestly. “Would you like some breakfast? We have tuna fish, whiskey, or gin. Your choice.”

Again he laughed. “Coffee?”

“Fraid not. Sorry.”

“I noticed you have some ice in your big cooler. Where did you get it?” (How did he know this?)

“Eilat,” I said.

“Do not drink the water from the melted parts then.”

“Why not?”

“Because it is made with ammonia at the factory in Eilat. Toxic. Do not drink the water.”

“Hell! My man! I drink the water in Cairo.”

“Your funeral then.”

We laughed some more. I was warming up to this guy.

“Seriously though my friend, you cannot remain here.”

“Yeah? Well, we were planning to push south today anyhow. South to Ras Mohammed.”

“Beautiful diving and snorkeling there. Mind the sharks though.”

“The ‘Sharks’ are why we are going.”

“All you Americans… are Cowboys?” he snorted.

“Yep.”

“Okay then. Bonne chance! I take my leave now. Be sure you take yours too. Soon. Shalom.”

“Cheers, and nice to meet you Jacob.”

“Bye,” he said and walked away.

***

“Well, you fucked that up,” Janet said, finally emerging from the tent.

“How so?”

“Now we have to leave this place.”

“Janet, I never intended to stay here more than the one night. I wanna get to Ras.”

“I like it here.”

“Pack your shit. We’re leaving now.”

She ‘packed her shit’ and I schlepped it and the rest up the cliff and loaded our little chariot. Within two hours we were back on the road again, heading south. As we were driving through the Sinai with the mountains on our right, she pulled out her Bible and instructed  invited  demanded of me to ‘turn off that damn noise.’ That ‘noise’ was Bob Marley and I hesitated… for a moment, then saw some seriousness in her brown eyes and acquiesced. She opened her ‘book’ and began to read from Genesis.  I must admit it was fitting, given the time and the place.

We spent some miles in this activity. I smoked some cigarettes and studied the landscape. The Sinai Desert along the coast of the Gulf of Aqaba is wondrous beautiful. As I said, the contrast moved me. Janet’s reading (which she did quite well, I may add) added to the ambiance. This girl had some talents. “In the beginning…”

But, the magic moments could not last (Janet and I had a propensity for combat). We eventually got into an argument about thirty clicks outside of Sharm el Sheik. I was slightly gin-buzzed by this point and in no mood for…

“Stop the fuckin’ car!” She shouted.

“Whaaa?”

“Stop the FUCKING CAR!”

“Shit! What for?!”

“I’m getting out! That is what FOR!”

“Janet, we’re in the middle of a fucking desert in a Muslim / Bedouin country. Are you sure?”

“Yes! Goddamn it! I am sure. Stop the fucking car. I hate you!” (Not entirely sure where this sentiment came from, but it was, I could see, sincere.)

“Fine!” I stopped the car. “Don’t forget your fuckin’ Virginia Slims,” I said as she opened the door, got out and proceeded to ‘march’ down the empty road.

I would have (should have) left her there, but y’all know I could not.

 

 More to come… Here

Video Credit:

TheCowboy4411

More Random Memories from the Middle East

Driving from Eilat to Ras Mohammed (Sinai) with the first wife.

Don't stay here

Okay, we were not married at that time. (At least not in ‘her’ God’s eyes.) We were both working at SFM and had coordinated our R&R schedule so that we could spend that week together. ‘Bliss’ Promised, promise of same…

We arrived in Tel Aviv and immediately went off to rent a car for our ‘camping’ trip. Our itinerary required us to first make the rather long and somewhat treacherous drive to Elait (‘treacherous’ because of the roads) where I hoped to get in a few more dives toward qualifying me as a bona-fide PADI deep-sea-diver. Then we were to head further south all the way to Ras Mohammad, on the southernmost tip of the Sinai, perhaps stopping or staying at Sharm El Sheik along the way. (Sharm back then was all about nothingness, still Israeli-Occupied Egypt and not the tourist trap it is today.)

We had loaded up our tiny rental car with way too much camping stuff, ‘checked out’ from the rec center we had at Sinai Field Mission Base camp. We had a tent, (such as it was), cooking utensils, sleeping bags, lanterns, coolers, and et cetera, ‘et cetera’  mostly being booze, of course) And of course we had schlepped along my boom box, extra batteries, and about five dozen cassette tapes. My life needed musical accompaniment back then. Always.

We left Elait and proceeded south. The road hugged the Gulf of Aqaba. The contrast was stunning. I mean, every once in a while I would stop the car, grab a snorkel and, well, go snorkeling. The colors under the sea were so vibrant, as opposed to the desolation of the desert behind me. Now, do not mistake: I love the Sinai. It is perhaps the most beautiful desert in the world. But. But! The coral reefs in the Gulf of Aqaba! As I did say:  color contrast.

We got about half-way to Sharm and Ras Mohammad, and as it was getting late, I decided ‘time to camp’. We parked the car on a very small ‘break-down’ lane and as Janet watched, I schlepped all the ‘gear’ down a ravine, or rather a ‘clif’ to the beach and the camping site I had proclaimed, ‘perfect.”

Set up the camp. Opened a bottle of ‘fine’ Israeli wine. Turned up the boom box. Cooked some chicken bits over a make-shit campfire. Ate. Then… had to shit. (I had been drinking apple juice all day—ran through me—needed to evacuate—embarrassed—

“Uh Janet, I need to leave you here for a min or two…”

“Why?”

“Just do. I’ll be back… soon. Okay?”

“Sure.”

So, I grabbed a roll of T-paper and headed off into the darkness, looking for a place to take a righteous shit, diarrhea shit. Found one. Did the deed. Happy and sated. Went back to our camp site. Found Janet laughing her ass off.

“What’s so fuckin’ funny?” I asked.

“Your toilet paper preceded you!” She said.

“Huh?”

“Yeah! The wind blew it all over here!”

“Damn!”

We made love in the ‘tent.’ and fell asleep. The next early morning, we were awakened by the sounds of someone yelling at us in Hebrew:

I will translate:

“Hey! American! You cannot be here!”

“Why not?”

“This is IDF Zone!”

“And? I have diplomatic immunity!”

“What?!”

“We have diplomatic i-mun-it-ty!”

“What!?”

“Fuck off!”

“Wait! I am coming there..”

“Fine.” (asshole)

Will be continued… Here

Ras Mo

Ras Mohammad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vid Credit Here:

Country Boy At Its Best

“I’ve run my share of grass…”

Here

Five Random Memories from my Three Years Spent in Israel, Egypt, Gaza, and Sinai

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.

Q&A: Have you ever been to The Middle East? Do you live there? Do you care? Have you ever had a desire to visit the ‘Holy Land’? (ahem). Do you find me abrasive? 😉

Do you know that I love all comments?

Salaam and Shalom,

Lance

Half-way to  Jerusalem

Vid Credit:

Käyttäjän leopahta kanava

Early Thursday TB: ‘TA’ Does Not Always Mean ‘Tits an’ Ass’

Arrived Tel Aviv one afternoon Late ‘78. Soon to be Stoned, Dazed and Confused and somewhat abused. One of my fellow SFM drivers, Perry, a good bud of mine, had convoyed with me into TA. Each of us driving deuce and a’halfs and at dangerous speeds.

We checked into the Pal Hotel which SFM had retired to after the New Sheraton had made it plain they no longer desired nor needed the patronage of Sinai Field Mission types, specifically the Texan ones. I preferred the Pal Hotel anyway.

“Screw you Sheraton New Hotel!”

Of course for both of you Lenny Fans out there in ‘Radio Land’  I just had to drop this audio bit in. It really is not germane (nor certainly not German) to the point, but it do expand on the title somewhat.

It occurred to me that when using the term ‘Tits an’ Ass” some would not know the etymology. Lenny first coined the phrase. (Bless his heart).  He did some jail time too… for his transgressions.

So…when I first arrived to SFM and folks would talk of TA, imagine my confusion.

Lenny Bruce audio below ‘Tits and Ass’

Worth a listen

After settling in, Perry called me from his room, “Hey Lance. Got anything goin’ tonight?”

“Nope,” I replied. “Not a damn thing. You know Gladys done dumped me for that Venzu-walon dude.”

“Come on up to my room. We’ll smoke a bowl.”

“On my way,” I said and hung up. We smoked a few bowls of hash, drank some Amstels, and decided to head over to Dizengoff Street to check out the action. And sate some munchies. Just yet another night in TA.

dizengoff-cafe

Dizengoff Cafe

We stepped out onto Hayarkon Street just after sundown and proceeded to float on toward Dizengoff, a few short blocks away. We were stoned beyond repair. As we tried to navigate across the busy Hayarkon four lane, we noticed more than the average number of folk on foot. As soon as we had arrived on the leeward shore of Hayarkon, a teenage girl came running up to us and smacked us both on the top of our heads with a little plastic mallet. Then said something unintelligible in Hebrew and ran giggling away.

“What the fuck was that?!” I asked Perry.

“Dude, I gots no idea, but look yonder!” he said pointing up the street. Sure as shit, there were people everywhere; all armed with similar plastic mallets, just wailing the shit outta each other’s heads.

“Dude! We gotta sort this out. This is just too weird. Must be some kinda religious ritual.” This is what my hashish soaked brain was telling me anyway. We made our way to Dizengoff, after having our heads bonked repeatedly by overzealous religious fanatics. I spied a street vendor displaying the plastic mallets with aplomb.

“Perry, we gots to git one ah them for self-defense.” We purchased one each and went to whackin’ pretty Sabras about the head. (Great way to meet women, I must confess—Kinda Neanderthal—but what the hell?) Later I was told we had experienced some joyful Israeli Halloween-Like festival. Mardi Gras, it weren’t but dammit! I had fun. (But I didn’t get any beads)

To this day, I do not know the holiday, or festival. Are there any out there who would care to enlighten me? Tis one-of-those-unknown-things that still haunt me today. Perhaps if I had not been stoned…

banner_purim_sm[1]

Purim

My Jewish Friends: Was it Purim I had experienced? My enquirin’ mind really do wanna know.

“Goin’ To The Chapel…”

“And We’re Gonna Get Married”

My first wife and I got married in Jaffa Israel, an ancient Phoenician Seaport just south of Tel Aviv. The ceremony was performed by a Baptist Minister from Oklahoma in a Presbyterian Church which was maintained by Catholic Missionaries from Sweden.

(Now that right there shoulda told us we were testing Providence)

There were but two witnesses. (Co-workers of ours from Sinai Field Mission who just happened to be in town)

Twenty minutes before the ceremony, my soon to-be-bride and I were hitting all the jewelry stores on Dizengoff Street shopping for wedding rings. Could not find any that suited us or fit.

The clerks always had the same response:

“No problem; I can have it resized and you may pick it up tomorrow.”

We anxiously explained, “But we are getting married in just a few minutes.”

Jewish weddings are a great big hairy deal; so naturally, we were met with gasps of shocked amazement when we announced our time constraint. We tried to explain we weren’t Jewish, but that took just too much time, so we ran from shop to shop.

We finally, and at the very last minute, settled on two plain gold bands (which did not fit), purchased from the jewelry shop in the hotel where we were to rendezvous with the rest of the ‘Wedding Party’.

We all proceeded to Jaffa. My bride was wearing a black dress and I was in blue jeans. My woman and I tied the knot, (loosely, as it turned out). I gave the Okie preacher fifty bucks and we split.

The marriage didn’t stick, but we remain friends to this day.

My next wedding took place in Las Vegas.

My Bride and I got hitched in a venue called ‘The Chapel of Love’.

An Elvis impersonator performed the rites for two hundred bucks. (My woman was an Elvis fan, so what the hell). For fifty bucks more, he would sing ‘Love Me Tender’ A cappella. My girl, ever so frugal, suggested we pass on that.

If she had known that within just a few short hours I would be tossing black chips onto a craps table, she might have seriously considered his offer of serenade.

Next wedding was performed by a Justice of the Peace, who showed up two hours late due to some inescapable last-minute JP business which could not wait. By the time she arrived the Wedding Party (and I do mean ‘Party’) were all hopelessly drunk on Champagne. We did the deed and then all got hopelessly drunker. Several expensive champagne flûtes bit the dust that night, if memory serves… Was a great wedding, as those things go.

Last wedding took place in Arkansas and was just lovely.

None of these weddings took firm hold, I am sorry to say.

Apparently marriage to me is not much more binding than a hand-shake.

Now… Y’all. I am of course not making light of marriage. I do believe in its sanctity. (For other people) It just doesn’t appear to be right for This Cowboy.

 

 

Video Credit: patricia du prée

Video credit: Holger Syme

************

Thanks for your visit and thanks to Mark for putting this post in my head, sorta like an ear worm.

Cheers to you Mark! My Friend.

Throw-Back Thursday: “If You Don’t Mine, It Don’t Matter”

There is sand in the Sinai Desert. Lots of sand. There is wind in the Sinai Desert. Lots of wind. There are landmines in the Sinai Desert. Lots of landmines, some dating back to the ’56 war. Most of them are still functional.

When wind and sand collide, the sand moves. In waves. The sand does not respect manmade things. Manmade things such as roads or landmarks, or mine fields. Sand does not care if it inconveniences you. Or puts your life in danger. Sand has no conscience and actually does not give two shits about you or me, or anyone or anything.

Sand is just sand.

These truths about sand were to become blatantly obvious to me one day back in 1978. I was driving my Chevy Van Passenger Vehicle to the Suez Canal to rendezvous with a similar R&R vehicle coming from Cairo. My vehicle was loaded with ten passengers, all very happy to be headed out on R&R. It was my simple job to get them to the rendezvous point so they could take the little boat across the canal, climb into the other van and head on to Cairo and their scheduled flights back to The Real World.

From SFM Base Camp to Suez is about thirty klicks.

untso_map3

SFM Base Camp Located Between
The Giddi and Mitla Passes

Travel time on average, an hour and change, depending on how long the Egyptians wanted to detain me at the check points along the way. I always brought along some packs of Marlboros to provide them when they insisted on ‘baksheesh’. No big deal. I could afford the bribe. Hell, in our little BX (Base Exchange) cigarettes were three bucks a carton.

This particular day back in ’78 was a day after a particularly savage sand storm. The roads to Suez are passable most days. And safe. Off-roading is not safe.

Stay on the pavement.

I can compare it to the line from Apocalypse Now: “Never get out of the boat.”

As I drew closer and closer to the canal the roads began to get more and more difficult to discern. Now mind you, I had made the canal run many, many times, but I am a guy who can get lost in his own hometown of Honey Grove Texas, Population 1800. This is a small town, not too many ways to get lost, unless you are real creative. I am real creative.

I came to a point whereby I just could no longer make out the paved road. I took a turn in the general direction of the canal, hoping to pick up the road again after a few minutes. As I was bumping along I noticed one of those landmine signs:

mines

So did my passengers.

They freaked. I suppose this could be considered a normal reaction. They all started jabbering at once. I invited them to shut the hell up, and then I calmly backed the fuck out of the mine field, carefully retracing my inbound route.

Once I got back to the spot where I had obviously taken a wrong turn, I took the other turn and eventually made it to Suez. Picked up the inbound passengers and didn’t even have any shit to clean up in my vehicle, but I think at least one of my passengers had shit his pants.

Now all I had to do was make it back to Base Camp without any more drama. I gave it fifty-fifty.

postcard

Home, Safe Home

More to come on SFM

Here is a related post.

And another “Hello Minefield In The Sand”

And one more here

Thank You For Your Visit.

Comments always welcomed.