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

The music is the best part of this post.

Trust me: I’m with the Government.

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

Video Credit: andrew91118

Sinai Field Mission. Or The Story of How Lance Lost His Mind and Later Found it Ferreted Away in His Pocket

This Post is a Continuation of a Promise I made to Me (And to Y’all, Gentle Readers) to write about Sinai Field Mission. For brevity’s sake (The Soul of Wit), I am breaking it down into snippets. To catch the back story, actually the forward story, please go here:

“No Bare Feet Beyond This Point” (This is a ‘Re-Constructed Old Post.’ No Alcoholic Beverages Were Harmed, Nor Consumed While Operating The Requisite Heavy Machinery For The Successful Completion of This Project)

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

Me and Boeing’s 747 partners: Wheels Down at Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv Israel late one afternoon, October 1977, just a couple of days before Halloween, found the Talmud. I mean tarmac. 

My final destination, however was not Judea; it  was The Sinai Desert, to live for eighteen months-plus on a mountain-top base camp, Dubbed ‘Caddo Mountain’, (In deference to the Texans who built it and ran it and to whom I would soon become a compadre) some shit-hole between the Gidi and Mitla Passes: Historically, the only two routes armies could pass from east to west or west to east across burning Sinai to thwack upon each other’s opponents’ heads.

I was 40 days leeward of twenty years and a little more than apprehensive. (These Two States, Egypt & Israel, were still technically, At War)

UNEF BUFFER Zone

I knew some of the history, but I couldn’t be bothered that day about ‘Ancient’ History (Yom Kippur War, Six-Day War, ‘Suez War’ of ‘56, Holocaust. Nope: I was here for ‘New History’, ‘My History’, ‘My Adventure’: A Dangerous Desolate Gig (my first). I had never been out of CONUS (Continental United States) before.

And I was stoked. A fresh-faced, bullet-proof Texan Kid newly escaped from Louisiana and cock-strong! Fuck did I care for Mid-East Politics? I am here! Step right up! Texas has arrived! “Step aside, Son!”

Gathering my luggage (my father’s old sea-bag left over from his USMC Korean War days) and a few other bags, laden with tennis shoes, workout gear, books and magazines… way too much superfluous shit, I scampered to find my liaison, struggling with all my kit.

Finding him, a tall, skinny, thin-haired, gaunt-faced, ‘Middle-East-Hardened’ Texan Veteran (four months here previous to me, I discovered later), man who spoke with an air of, ‘Oh, you’re the ‘New Kid’… Follow me’ he said laconically.

He looked an old thirty-five to me. (Later I found out he was twenty-nine, but we were all so young there. Back then.)

Ignoring his attitude, I tried very hard to ‘get into the groove.’ It was hellishly hot, even for an October—a Texas October. I had jet lag and fatigue like a pup that had been crated too long. Even though I was ‘stoked’, all I really wanted was a gallon of really cold orange juice, an air-conditioned hotel room, and a bed. The ‘plane ride’ from Dallas to Tel Aviv had robbed me of some (I thought) important part of my young life and my health. I was severely dehydrated, completely spent, and pretty much left wondering if I had made some horrible mistake.

But, I sucked it up.

After a hot and hotter and even hotter bizarre drive (The Road signs looked so foreign to me, some form of hieroglyphic—never having seen Hebrew before—had not at that point read the Old Testament) from Ben Gurion Airport, through the busy streets of Tel Aviv (me resisting the urge to ask, “Hey! are we there yet?”) we arrived at the Mediterranean Sea and the Sheraton Hotel.

My ‘liaison’ deposited me at the front desk of the ‘New’ Sheraton Hotel on HaYarkon Street Tel Aviv, telling me in parting,

“The R&R Vehicle leaves at 0800hrs; meet here in the lobby. Don’t be late. Goodbye.”

“Thanks Asshole.”

I checked in, and got me that room, such as it was. It was more a closet than a room, but it was cool and clean, and there was that bed tucked away in the corner…

I hit it, and slept like the dead.

To be continued…

Hello Minefield In The Sand

(Sung to Neil Young’s “Cowgirl in the Sand”)

To an Unfeeling Landmine

So Sorry Neil

This spontaneous post is a follow up to the frivolous one below

***********

Hello Minefield in the Sand

Is this place at your command?

Can I live here just a while?

Can I pass your sweet, sweet style?

Not old enuff now to change my ways

When so many died here

Is this your plan?

It’s the problem with you

That makes me wanna go insane

So many innocent doan wanna play yer game

Hello dead one in the dust

You died because of us

Your band did not begin to rust

I guess it was all the sin I had

To trust a walk that didn’t seem bad

Holding out now, to change some things

Just some water; do that seem strange?

I was hoping that you’d turn bad

Go away now, I’d be not sad

But you hang around…

To kill my kids

You make me feel angry, but not like this

Purple blood on a sand background

With so much about you,

You’ll never be found…

Until you kill someone else.

*********

Too many people die still today from landmines meant to kill combatants in so many older, forgotten wars. 

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

 

SFM Base Camp

After Abandoned

Credit: Google Earth

 

 

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.

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

I cannot find my Gladys Lehanni Post.

Give me time…

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 through the Sinai Desert and into TA. Each of us driving deuce and a’halfs and at dangerous, reckless speeds.

We checked into the Pal Hotel which SFM had migrated 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–Which made up about 88 Percent of Sinai Field Mission Personnel.

I/We, preferred the Pal Hotel anyway. (They loved us and our fun-loving ways and how we were always, without fail, Big Tippers to The Hotel Staff)

“Fuck You Uptight Sheraton New Hotel!”

(This sentiment was unanimous amongst all-of-us-Texan Expats)

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.”

(Some Histoire on Gladys — Or as Bart Armstrong Called her: “Happy Butt”): 

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.

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

“On my way,” I said and hung up. We smoked a few bowls of hashish,

(All we could get in The Middle of The Fucking East–Which we would have Killed For In Texas, But after a few Years of NOTHING But Hashish, We Missed Good Old, Old-Fashion Pot)

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)

Nor Did I get laid that night, In spite of me whacking the heads of so many Pretty Sabras.

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.

 

TITS AND ASS BIT: LENNY

Charley The Cougar

I love Pussy

I like Critters

And Varmints

And Ants

And Spiders

And Crud Eaters

And Dogs

And Cats, especially Big Cats

The Summer of ’77 (sounds like a movie title)

Cougar_at_Cougar_Mountain_Zoological_Park

Big Kitty

I was living

in Lake Charles with one of my best friends from high school, his Girl Friend, a Vietnam Vet (who did three tours with the First Cav as a chopper pilot), and his wife. The husband and wife owned a pet shop. The wife ran the place and the husband flew roughnecks back and forth to offshore oil rigs.

One day the wife, let’s call her Barbara, since that was her name, brought home a cougar. She had named him Charley and he was the size of a large house-cat. It was love at first sight for me as Charley was the only pussy I had yet seen or would see, turns out, during the entire six or so months I spent in Lake Charles.

Charley and I started sleeping together since the other two beds in the house already had reached capacity and since I was so very good with animals and since I really wanted a roommate. Therefore I took over the care and feeding and raising of Charley the young ‘un Cougar.

Charley grew rapidly on a steady diet of raw hamburger, flank steak, catfish, eggs, tennis shoes, and the occasional Budweiser. We would wrestle and play tug of war for several hours every day. The house had a long narrow hallway leading to the three bedrooms. Our favorite game was “Charley The Flying Cougar.” I placed an ottoman at the entrance to the hallway and Charley would stand at the other end. On my cue he would race down the hallway and Mary-Lou-Retton-Like, hit the ottoman like a launch pad seriously becoming airborne and landing on my shoulders.

We continued refining this sport even after he had grown to about a hundred pounds. Of course at that point when he hit my shoulders we both tumbled to the floor. He was always gentle with me and I never felt his claws or his teeth. Sorry to say I cannot say the same for my old high school buddy. He just did not understand animals. When Charley was still house-cat size he would play too roughly with him.

So, I warned my buddy one day, “You’re gonna make that cat hate you, and when he grows up he’s gonna seriously tear you a new asshole, Asshole.”

“Naw, he likes it.”

“Okay, but you’ve been warned.”

Sure as shit, couple of months later, said high school buddy got his ass handed to him by Charley. Buddy only bled for a little while, but that ended their relationship as far as ‘heavy petting’ was concerned. When Charley got to be upwards of 120 pounds he started taking his half of our bed out of the middle. Barbara suggested we make a bed for him in the garage, and since I was not getting enough sleep anymore, I concurred. She brought home the biggest doggy bed she had in her shop and we laid it out for Charley in the garage along with his favorite toys, food and water dish and a small portable radio thinking he might get a little lonely at night.

‘That radio will keep him happy,” Barbara said.

Au contraire.

That night we put him to bed in the garage just before we all retired; he was fine. For about thirty-five minutes. Then the Cougar Wails began. If you have never heard a hundred-twenty-pound cougar cry late at night, well you have missed something of nature. Everyone got out of bed and Barbara said, “Let’s just let him cry for a bit. I’m sure he’ll give up and go to sleep.”

About an hour and two bottles of wine later… We all gave up. Charley just would not shut up. I couldn’t stand it any longer.

“Please let him in Barb,” I said

She opened the door. Charley came bolting in; knocked me down, pinned me on the floor with his big paws on my shoulders, licked my face, then ran into our room and jumped into the middle of our bed.

“Well, we tried. Goodnight y’all,” I said as I picked myself up and headed in to join Charley.

Barbara had provided a collar and leash for Charley and we used to have great fun taking him out to the night clubs in Lake Charles. (Lake Charles was a really cool town back then, and Louisiana folks really did not seem to find it at all strange when someone walked into a bar with a cougar. But I will say this: when we did, the crowds always parted, making it very easy to belly-up to the bar. Charley became a regular guest at our most–frequent hangouts.

And he was the most awesome chick magnet in Calcasieu Parish.

But I still never managed to get laid in that town—very puzzling to me—but I did have a theory:

Since all the places we hung out were Greek Joints (My high school buddy was a Kappa Alpha, and insisted we only hang out with the ‘Brothers’ an’ ‘Sisters’), and since I was an ‘Independent’ and actually despised everything “Greek,” there was just no way any self-respecting sorority girl was gonna give it up for me, Cougar or no Cougar.

“Well, screw ‘em,” I finally decided. (Although, I was a little disappointed, ‘cause I found some of girls very appealing & screw-able in demeanor.)

If I could have just found Farrah… We had Cougars-in-Common.

Summer turned to fall and one day my buddy and I had to leave Lake Charles in a hurry (for reasons I cannot disclose until I check the ‘statute of limitations’), and head back to Texas. I hated to leave Charley and my other good friends, but I had a mind to leave the U.S. altogether and there was just no way I could take Charley with me.

I reapplied for the Sinai Field Mission gig I had wanted ever since I was eighteen and had first heard of it. As luck would have it, they agreed to hire me (Since by then I met their minimum age requirement of twenty).

About a week later, Halloween 1977, I arrived in the middle of the Sinai Desert.