The Truth, Part 3: Culture Wars
Shot Down Flying to Kenya
The Stoic philosopher Seneca reportedly said:
“I pity you who have never experienced misfortune. For you have passed through life without an opponent, and no one can ever know what you are capable of, not even you.”
He would not have pitied me.
I’ve got great news!
The boat docked, the train left the station, and the trucks have delivered to our warehouse...
Our teak shower benches...
They're finally available for purchase again!
Boy, that was a long wait.
Which is why I immediately ordered another even larger shipment.
But I have a sneaky suspicion we’ll run out of stock again.
Just can’t seem to get ahead of the curve on this supply and demand thing.
The bad news…
We’re out of our teak shower mats again. Sheesh!
But, not to worry, by the time you read this they’ll be back in stock again (fingers crossed).
So, hopefully, we’re now in good shape for at least a couple of months.
More great news!
Our newest product will be loaded on the boat at the end of this month
When will it arrive here in the states?
Well, considering at last count 70 container ships were waiting to unload at the Los Angeles Port...
I'm not going to hazard a guess.
I’m also not spilling the beans just yet on what our newest product is.
What I can tell you…
This newest addition to our family of products is…
For your kitchen (and other areas)!
And there ain’t nothin’ on the market like it.
No one has it. No one is making it. No one is selling it.
We thought of it first and we’re the first to make it.
Now onto The Truth, part 3: Culture Wars
At the end of part 2, you read that my father, seeing his only son floundering on the stormy shoals of adulthood, made me an offer I couldn’t refuse.
You see, back in those long-ago days, when a nice Jewish boy was lost—just taking up time and space—lacking ambition, direction and a realistic or practical view of life—the cure-all was simple, if somewhat radical.
Ship him off to Israel!
The mantra being...
They’ll know how to fix him.
How, or who will fix a wayward Jewish soul was never disclosed.
Nonetheless, this was my father’s offer:
- A plane ticket to Israel
- A cash payment when I arrive
- A monthly allowance for one year—as long as I stayed there for one year
- And the best part—no limits! While there, I could do whatever I wanted
Whoa! I hit the jackpot!
How could I refuse an offer like that!
In the vernacular of the day, my mind was blown (actually they still say that today).
So of course I accepted.
But I had zero intention of staying in Israel for a day longer than it took to receive that first cash payment.
I had other plans.
I wanted to go to Africa!
To work on a game reserve—like John Wayne in the movie Hatari.
Screw Israel. My head was filled with visions of adventure and romance—just like in the movie.
I couldn’t wait.
In a matter of a weeks I had a passport—and I was gone!
However, I had no idea what I was going to do or where I’d stay once I arrived in Israel.
I knew as much about Israel as I did about Mars.
All I knew was that I had a few hundred dollars in my pocket—more than enough to last me until my father’s “cash down payment” arrived at a Western Union office, hopefully the day after I arrived in Tel-Aviv.
First, a stopover in Rome
In Rome, there was enough time to deplane and stretch my legs in the terminal.
But getting back on the plane was a bit of a problem.
They wouldn’t let me!
Security took me to a room where they patted me down and asked me a few questions. Ok, no big deal.
But for some reason they took my two large suitcases off the plane and I had to pay to get them back on the plane.
That reduced the money I had left by almost half.
I wasn’t worried. More was coming.
Do I look like a terrorist to you?
Sorry, I don’t have a photo of myself from back then, so you really can’t answer that question.
Nonetheless, I had a beard and longish hair—who didn’t (at least among guys like me in their early 20s)?
And yes, everybody was understandably a bit jumpy back in those days.
International terrorism was beginning to take off, particularly in Europe—specifically in Italy with the emergence of the violent and radical Red Brigades.
So I could see why the Italians were being over-cautious.
But over-cautiousness took on a whole ‘nother meaning when I landed in Tel-Aviv.
When the wheels touched down there was, at first, an unexpectedly joyous outpouring of raucous clapping and singing as we taxied in what seemed like circles.
We sat in the middle of the tarmac for an hour.
Seated in the back of the plane, pretty much by myself, I could see from my window the tiny international terminal far in the distance.
Finally, one of the plane doors swung open.
In rushed a bunch of guys my age wearing sunglasses, plaid short-sleeve shirts, carrying Uzi sub-machine guns.
They were headed straight for me—with their Uzi’s pointed at me!
The lead gunman asked for my passport, and without looking at it, or saying a word, indicated I should follow him down the center aisle as the other gunmen walked behind me.
A woman suddenly screamed, “he’s a terrorist!”
Had I the presence of mind to do so, I would’ve shouted back, “shut up, you idiot!”
But in truth, I was actually enjoying this made-for-TV drama.
And I couldn’t help but smile as I was escorted off the plane—confident that I was a victim of mistaken identity.
My foreign adventure had gotten off to a rip-roaring start!
As I descended the mobile airstairs, I could see that the plane was surrounded by army jeeps.
Off to my right, on the tarmac, I could also see my open suitcase with all my personal belongings strewn on the tarmac being picked through by two female soldiers.
I was no longer amused.
One of the female soldiers, a sergeant, held up a shampoo bottle.
“What is this?”
“Why so big bottle?”
“I have a lot of hair.”
She squirted it onto the tarmac and then tossed it aside.
The other soldier held up a pair of my tighty-whities and was clearly uncomfortable doing so. I smiled at her embarrassment.
Then, the order was given, and in a flash, they were all gone.
No apologies. No placing my tighty-whities, shampoo and other personal effects back in my suitcase.
They just left everything in a pile on the tarmac.
Then, on cue, a bus squealed to a stop beside the plane.
The rest of the passengers quickly deplaned. Hopped on the bus—and left!
Abandoned and alone on the tarmac, I repacked my suitcase, and then walked about a quarter-mile to the terminal.
Pissed as can be.
I was not liking Israel at all!
More reasons were to follow.
Inside the terminal, I walked up to an information kiosk and asked where I could find a youth hostel or a cheap hotel for the night.
The attendant wrote down the name and address of a hotel.
He then told me to take the bus outside, the only bus outside, to the Tel-Aviv Central Bus Station.
There, I was told to ask for a bus that will drop me off near the hotel.
Sounded easy enough.
The ride to the Central Bus Station was mercifully uneventful.
The Tel-Aviv Central Bus Station, on the other hand, was jaw-dropping.
Rows of buses in the middle of a crowded, smelly, dirty and noisy marketplace (mostly tiny stalls selling junk).
Amidst this jungle of fume-belching buses, donkeys pulled wooden carts laden with produce.
And everywhere soldiers, slinging rifles and backpacks, ran to catch buses to take them home or to their bases.
It was there that I also discovered the Israeli national pastime…
Spitting sunflower seed shells
They flew endlessly out from everyone’s mouth. The ground was covered with them. It was gross.
When I finally found the loading island where my bus was scheduled to arrive, I also discovered what did not exist anywhere in Israel.
Waiting in line—for anything—did not exist in Israel.
As soon as my bus pulled up, a mad rush to get on board began before it even came to a stop.
People pushed and shoved as I, with two large suitcases, struggled to maintain my place.
An old lady, with a plastic bag filled with groceries, literally hit me with it so she could get in front of me!
I had barely made it onto the bus when the driver violently opened and closed the doors; slapping people not yet fully aboard, attempting to pinch them off.
Which he succeeded in doing.
Smashed together like in a New York City subway car during rush hour, struggling to maintain a firm grip on to my suitcases…I was inches away from something I had never seen before.
Sleeveless women, holding onto overhead bus straps, displaying dense forests of hairy underarms!
My god, what kind of country is this! They’re animals!
Nevertheless, many of them spoke English, if not very well.
And so a passenger next to me told me when to get off the bus.
It then took me about an hour walking up and down, narrow tree-lined streets before I finally found my hotel.
A small two-story white-washed structure in the Bauhaus architectural style of the 1920’s and 30’s like the one below.
It was sandwiched between other buildings of similar design.
Now imagine my surprise, and relief, when the man at the front desk, named Moshe, who was also the owner of the hotel, was not only an American...
He was also from the Bronx!
I don’t remember the room rate, which included a continental breakfast, but it was affordable, at least until my father wired me more money the next day.
Moshe showed me to my room.
And soon enough I was horrified, then delighted, by two unrelated encounters.
One of which I hope never to encounter again.
And one that was… revelatory and heartwarming.
In next month’s The Teakster: The Truth, part 4, I’ll tell you the rest of the story.
In the meantime, please let me know below in the comments if you enjoyed reading this month’s Part 3 of The Truth.
Until next month—stay teak strong!