Erasing History – The Yom Kippur War

When you are a 15-year-old kid (1975) and desperate to record your ‘fine’ rock and roll music, you hunt through your dad’s stuff, find a cassette tape (remember those?) and of course, tape over the existing recording…   except that, what was on that tape was far more interesting than the horrid, out-of-tune rendition of Honky Tonk Woman that followed.

34 years later, as my driver followed the Jordan Valley Highway south to drop me off for the tour of Jesus’ baptismal site, I thought back to that fateful day when I wiped out some interesting history on tape.

I wasn’t close to the old boy, but I can’t deny that he had a great go at life.   As a US diplomat stationed in Ankara (Turkey), he’d be called on to handle various assignments; one of which was to assist Henry Kissinger in his shuttle diplomacy during the early 1970s.  On one such assignment, during the Yom Kippur War, he found himself shuttling between Syria and Israel, the details of which I found in his journals and I’d rather not share.  But the tape he brought back of his time with the Israeli Army was surely fascinating.

While that conflict raged on, he found himself inside a mountain bunker with the US and Israeli military officers and NCOs while the Syrians were hurling artillery and vectoring closer to their hardened site.   And as the incoming barrage intensified, one could clearly hear the tenor of voices, the back and forth over the radio, and most of all the increasingly terrified voice of the civilians inside; my dad, included, though I could tell he was working hard to be brave.

I can still see, in my mind’s eye, the day my dad came into my room and asked, “have you seen my cassette?” and of course, seeing it on my desk, his heart sinking as he realized that I had taped over a good portion of his prized piece of history.  To his credit, he never lost his cool.  He just laughed, walked out, and closed the door behind him.

Cresting the rolling mountains overlooking the Dead Sea, passing Jordanian military check posts every few kilometers, I thought back to those earlier years and wondered what the old boy really did see in the desert so long ago.

My driver dropped me off under what looked like a crude, Bedouin tent with the deuce and a half parked next to it (military truck w/canvas top).   There were a few other tourists assembled and we all hopped into the back of the truck for our visit to The Jordan River Baptismal Site of Jesus Christ.   It was a fascinating walk to the famous river, the Israeli flag snapping in the wind across the way under the unrelenting high sun.   Surreal, in a way.

Sitting on a rock by the site, random thoughts coursed through my mind that afternoon.   If only my devoutly Catholic grandmother and great-grandmother could have joined me on this pilgrimage; though, I swore I felt their presence…

Still My Favorite

Funny how an image can reach into one’s soul and stir up passions.   I can still feel the key in my hand and hear the throaty sound of the engine come alive as I start her up in my mind. It was a simple ride, the car almost an afterthought to the engine that powered it.   That I am alive to tell this tale is almost a miracle in itself.

The ’69 Firebird was a young 10 when I took delivery from a friend.   Poor guy needed the cash for the next semester and I could feel the weight on his shoulders as he handed me the keys.   He was a good sport and must’ve seemed ok with it, given my enthusiasm at the time.  I’d give him a ride to the racket ball courts every so often and he’d ask to drive back.

“Here, take the keys.   Let’s go.”

In an age seemingly hamstrung with caution, the free spirit of this car reminds me of a much simpler and innocent time; a time marked by fewer distractions and worries, but maybe I’m just fooling myself.

So many stories with this beast.   Running a 350HO with a 3-speed racing clutch, I could do 60mph in first gear…  not that I ever did (wink).   It was like riding on the back of a bull.   Left only the driver’s seat in when I ditched college for a high-paying union job in the spring of 1980.  I’d  throw my hard hat, pick and shovel for the two hour ride to the site in south Georgia.   $13/hour was serious cash back in the day.   Just sayin’.

So much caution these days.   Almost as though people are afraid to express themselves anymore.   No law against letting loose every so often.

Nothing since this sweet ride has ever come close.   I can still remember waiting for my mom at Dulles Airport that summer of 1981, having returned from Berlin.   Can still hear that deep, throaty engine coming up and around the final stretch with my elegant mom behind the wheel… a hilarious contrast.

A swore I saw my old friend the other day.   Happened so fast, I wonder if I’d seen a ghost.