There Was A Time

 

I grew up in Suburbia, middle child of a middle class family, living in the middle of nowhere. There were eight of us; my parents, myself, and my five siblings. It was an okay childhood, filled with family events, vacations, and I seem to remember feeling okay. We would take these long, family road trips to relatives spread out across Canada and the Northern Unites States, ranging from Winnipeg and Montreal up here, to New York, Cleveland, Chicago, and Washington. We loaded ourselves into the old man’s Ford Country Squire, the one with the cool wood paneling, and headed off, at dawn, down the road to perdition, and all stops in between.

I spent the first two years of my life in the ice covered tundra of Sault Ste. Marie, nestled on the shores of Lake Superior, after it had eaten the Edmund Fitzgerald, with my ass firmly frozen to the metal rails of a crib. I have no idea what the hell we were doing up there, but I was informed that the old man had taken a job in the vast wilderness of Northern Ontario. According to my mother the family next door were drunken hillbillies, albeit Canadian hillbillies, with little hope for neighborly chit chat. Survival among the wild animals, and somewhat wilder neighbors began to take its toll and after two years, she had enough. We loaded up and high tailed off of the ice floe we had called home, settling in the big city. My mother often told the story of how she was sure that those filthy, drunken, ignorant people next door would, sooner or later, bring us to some kind of horrific end.

I was, as a child, somewhat accident prone and spent a great deal of time at doctor’s offices and hospitals, being treated for a myriad of  injuries that included hazel nut shells in an eye, gashes on my arms and face from running through a closed glass door, a spike protruding through my foot, and broken bones caused by falling off of the roof of the house. To be fair, I did not fall off of the roof. I was flying. I was 6 years old and simply miscalculated wind speed. In any event, I suffered scars to my eye, stitches to my arms, received a wagon load of tetanus shots, and wore a cast for a large part of those formative years. And so, as we traveled, I was under strict orders not to move. As a super hero however, I was bound by an oath to not sit idly by. I was sworn to take action whenever I was needed.

The Ford Country Squire had really cool seats in the back that faced backwards. I sat there a lot, usually with one of my brothers who didn’t really travel well. He would throw up regularly, shortly after complaining of being sick. He kept a stack of paper lunch bags with him in order not to infect the Country Squire. In order to ease his distress, we would regularly stop to allow him to get out of the car and walk around until he was feeling better. These designated puke stops slowed down our progress, and really drove the old man crazy, as they almost doubled our travel time. We would often have to spend the night in a motel, usually a Howard Johnson Motor Lodge with a restaurant attached. The old man liked Howard Johnson. We would eat, get 2 rooms, and settle in for the night, getting up early and departing first thing in the morning. With all of the complaining about how long the trip was taking, and the added expense of motel rooms and meals, I was never really sure why they didn’t leave him at home with my grandparents.

My all time favorite family road trips were the ones we took to Washington, well actually Silver Springs, Maryland, to see my great uncle Nathan and his family. Nathan was my grandfather’s youngest brother, and I looked forward to seeing him with wild abandon.  We would always tour around D.C., as I sat in the front between Nathan and his wife in his Oldsmobile Vista Cruiser with a really cool glass roof about halfway back. My family followed behind in the Country Squire with a couple of his kids. I suppose Nathan was one of my all time favorite relatives. He encouraged the super hero that lived inside of me, and when I was 8, he got me a real cape to replace the towels I had been using. I really felt like a super hero then, standing tall with hands on my hips, cape blowing in the warm breeze, proudly displaying the t shirt I had made, emblazoned with the letter ‘G’, waiting to spring into action.

When I was 9 we took the Country Squire to Winnipeg. it took us three days to get there, as we overcame inordinate amounts of wrong turns and vomit. Uncle Sid, my other favorite relative, and aunt Francis were always fun to be around.  We attended events at the Pan Am games, and I went to my first CFL game, enjoying the blue and gold of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. I have no idea who won as I was quite busy, scouting the stadium for crime. It seemed that there was no crime in Winnipeg. This was no place for a super hero crime fighter.

Uncle Sid took us horseback riding one afternoon. I watched as my eldest brother mounted his horse, and disappeared at full gallop through the brush and the trees, screaming for the horse to stop. Finally, someone in need of help! I sprang into action, and tried to ride after him, too afraid to fly after the mishap from my parents’ roof years before. Several other people were able to corral the horse, whose name by the way was Daisy, and save my brother from impending doom. I fell in love with horseback riding that day, and realized that I could be a horseback riding, crime fighting hero. All I needed was a sword, and a black mask, and I could follow in the footsteps of Zorro. My brother has never been near a horse since then, and breaks out in  cold sweats whenever he gets near a bouquet of flowers.

The family road trips stopped by the time I was 12 or 13. We were all getting older, and my parents had taken to leaving us with my grandparents while they went away on their own. The Ford Country Squire was long gone, replaced by a Buick LeSabre.  I suppose that was the end of my super hero crime fighting, although over the years I have continued to visit various emergency rooms across the city for assorted accidents and injuries, most of which required stitches, tetanus shots and xrays. Uncle Nathan passed away when I was still a kid, as did the relatives in Cleveland and Chicago. The cousins in Montreal moved to Houston, Texas, and Uncle Sid, well he has been living here for 50 years or so, and I try to visit with him whenever possible. Many of the details have faded now, but I still have some clear memories of those family vacations. To this day I can’t look at a station wagon without detecting a subtle scent of vomit.

 

 

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It Was Tuesday, But It Wasn’t Belgium

by Solomon Tate

Sandy met me at Ben Gurion Airport. She was a family friend I had known most of my life. We grew up together, although she was a few years older, doing all of that family crap that family friends did back then. There were barbecues, picnics, and outings to an array of local attractions filled with animals, and non stop photographs that many years later were passed around, with that ‘weren’t they cute?’ precursor. There were drive ins and there were family vacations. It was on one such vacation that Sandy and I became close in the lane way behind the Red & White store in Jackson’s Point. We were young, we were foolish, and we were horny little shits. And now,  years later, I was staying in her Tel Aviv apartment, as she showed me around her adopted country. It was weeks of incredible scenery, centuries old artifacts, beaches, booze, banging and blow jobs.

I have no idea how I got there, but  that was nothing new. The mixing of Canadian whiskey and percocet usually had that kind of effect on me. Rivaled only by tequilla and peyote, there were many times that I had absolutely no idea how I got where I was. And now, I was in Tel Aviv, backpack at my side, passport in my jacket, and a pocket full of U.S. dollar traveler’s checks. There was an American weirdo in black tights and a cape who had been wandering through the airport, thinking he was some sort of super hero. I was certain that he was a paranoid schizophrenic who had been off his chlorpromazine for several days. He was apparently a regular at the airport, and as security whisked him away, he left without incident,  promising  that he would return to save us all from the evil doers hiding in the shadows.

Sandy was marginally fabulous,  with her 5 foot long legs crammed into a pair of skin tight jeans that, if I had to guess, were painted on. I wasn’t the only one who thought so. There always seemed to be testosterone saturated men gawking in amazement, with mouths opened and tongues hanging out like dogs in the summer heat, transfixed by what was not left to the imagination. She was insanely hot, usually drawing as big a crowd as nude jello wrestling. She worked for a tour company, leading visitors through the  historical and religious treasures, and once I was settled in the apartment, we began our journey.

We ventured to Bograshov Street, where she took me for what she claimed was the best falafel in town. To be fair, it was pretty damn good. We headed off to the beach, with Sandy leading the way, and me lagging behind, stopping to look at almost every bikinied body in my path. My eyes were darting back and forth, totally immersed in the tanned, beauty that lay before me like a beach blanket buffet. Sandy located a spot on the beach to lay down. She put down her towel and bag, and removed her street clothes, revealing that body that I had the pleasure of visiting years before. I had a brief conversation with my penis, asking it to keep sleeping, at least for the time being. Sandy went for a swim in the blue waters of The Mediterranean, and when she came out of the water, it was like watching Honey Ryder emerging from the sea in Dr. No. Ironically, I was silently praying that this would be a yes, as my penis had suddenly betrayed me,  having woken up and was now standing at attention. “Well, I hope that’s for me.”, Sandy said as she arrived at our spot on the beach.

“So does he.”, I told her.

“Damn, Tate”, she said. “I see you’ve still got your mind in the gutter.”

“It seems to be the only place I’m truly comfortable.”, I informed her as I watched beads of sweat roll down into her cleavage, while little kids roamed the beach selling popsicles out of boxes, and soldiers with weapons locked and loaded wandered around just about everywhere. It was often unsettling, but it was the way of life.

Sandy took me across the country, from Haifa to Eilat, from The Dead Sea to Ashkelon. We saw the Western Wall and Masada, visited Rosh HaNikra and Ein Gedi, and stood atop Mount Zion. The country was insanely beautiful, and I was particularly fond of the Old City of Jerusalem, Jaffa  and of course, Sandy’s Queen size bed, and couch, and kitchen table. I was comfortable there, and seemed to be at ease. The thought of remaining, of not returning home was bouncing around my head on a regular basis.

One night we went to see a movie, ‘One Flew Over The Cuckoos Nest’. Interestingly enough, the film was shown with Hebrew subtitles, while the patrons in the theatre spoke during the entire film, leaving me, with my limited Hebrew to try and make out what the hell was going on. Following the movie, Sandy and I went to meet some of her friends at a cafe in Jerusalem. It was a good night, and I am pretty sure Sandy got drunk. As she was the one driving, and I was somewhat shitfaced, we were forced to spend the night in Jerusalem. We got a room in The King David Hotel, and were woken by an explosion that seemed not so far away. In the morning, Police and soldiers were all over the streets, and barricades were up blocking passage past the blast site. It seemed that our little cafe from the night before stood no more. Gone. Just like that. In the blink of an eye, what was once a building, was now merely rubble. Luckily no one was hurt, but I was a little scared. Alright, I was quite scared. My decision was made. While I was deeply moved just being there, I didn’t think I could live like that. Sandy told me that you get used to it after a while and that it just becomes part of life there. You don’t think about it, and you don’t worry about it. You just go about your life. That was all well and good, but this Canadian guy, who had finally grown accustomed to raccoons rummaging through the garbage cans at night, and the pigeons that attacked without fear, found it just a bit too overwhelming to come home one day and find my apartment had been blown into several neighboring communities. I just couldn’t do it. Several years later My wife and I and our children, inquired about making Aliyah, but were informed by the Israeli government that due to my daughter’s physical disabilities she would not be able to receive health coverage. My wife was worried about the kids going into the army at age 18. I told her I thought it would do some of them some good, but in the end, we stayed put.

I haven’t seen Sandy since then, about 40 years ago, and I couldn’t even be certain that she was still alive and well. We corresponded for a while, but as happens with old friends and lovers, you just lose touch. Time passes, people move, and I suppose, most of all, you just don’t care enough to look for them. I do miss her, I mean, I had known forever.

While I waited at the airport for my flight out of Tel Aviv the caped crime fighter emerged from the bathroom. As he raced through the terminal looking for a crime to fight, he was chased by security who again caught him, and escorted him into a room. My thoughts were that he was taken to a plane bound for the U.S., strapped in, sedated and sent about his way. Either that, or he was admitted to a psychiatric facility for observation and assessment. Either way, he didn’t come out of that room while I was waiting for my flight. I have not returned to Israel since that time many, many years ago and to be honest, with my advancing age, I think I have become afraid to fly. Well, its not flying that scares me, but rather being blown up in mid air or crashing into the ocean is what I wish to avoid. My grandfather, in his infinite wisdom had once told me that while he was unable to ever go to Israel, he did spend his winters in Florida, and it was pretty damn close to the same thing. And now I am currently considering a slow, leisurely drive down to Fort Lauderdale.