Eating my World

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The Fly Rod

As spring shows its face (albeit slowly) my thoughts start to turn to spring activities.  Its just about time to dust off the fly rod and think about hitting the lakes and streams of the great northwest.  Its hard to ever think about fishing without thinking of my grandpa.  This morning I was chatting with a friend about fly fishing in Montana over email and I was immediately transported through time to my childhood.

Starting at about age 8 my parents used to put me on a Greyhound bus in Las Vegas to go to spend the summer with my grandparents in Anaconda Mt.  Funny, parents cringe to even let their kids walk to school alone these days and mine used to hand me a box of sandwiches and tell me to make sure and change buses in Salt Lake City and waved goodbye as I left for a two day journey to Montana.  Once at my grandparents house, there was almost immediately a fishing trip planned with Grandpa.  It wasn’t that long ago but let me tell you, Montana was not the yuppy get away it is today.  We would go fishing to many of the places touted in fly fishing magazines today and never see another soul.  Today its like fishing at the mall. I digress.  Whether Grandpa took me to a lake or stream, it was a guarantee that we would catch loads of fish.  Grandpa must have had the patience of Job to fish with me.  I figure by the time I really could fish on my own, I owed Grandpa about $18,589.50 in lost flies.  “GRANDPAAAA I GOT ANOTHER SNAGGGGGG!!!’ I would yell.  Or cry.  He would always stop what he was doing and help me.  Some times the help would come in the form of  “Well wade out and get it undone”.

No matter where we fished, no matter the method used, Grandpa always kicked my hiney at fishing.  He would catch more, catch bigger fish than I. Always.  I have a few very clear memories of specific fishing trips.  I wonder what it was about these few that have always stuck with me.  I remember once we were fishing a tiny tributary of the Big Hole river. It was tiny. You could jump across in some places.  There was a spot that had a little water fall.  Grandpa told me to get on my belly and sneak to the edge of the top of the water fall and look in the pool.  I did and was rewarded with staring into a pool with probably 20+  24″ trout.  It was a sight to behold.  I tried to catch one but they didn’t get to be 24″ by letting some snot nosed 10 year old catch them.  Another memory is of us fishing the Big Hole river. It was a good day of fishing and we were done by about 2pm.  As we were walking back to the car, I was a few hundred yards in front of Grandpa.  I walked by what looked like a good fishing hole behind a boulder and stopped to drop in my line.  The bank was REALLY steep and was just sand.  I couldn’t really stand on the bank so I dropped my line in from the road.  My fly was immediately taken by a huge trout. I fought it for  just a second or two before hoisting it to the steep sandy bank.  Rookie move.  The fish came out of the water and was 24″ easily.  It came off the fly and flopped around on the steep bank as I am sliding down trying to grab it.  Before I could even get close it was safely back in the water.  AHHH!!!!!!  This whole event took maybe 5 seconds.  Grandpa walks up just as I am crawling back up the bank.  I scream my story.  His reply was “Uh huh…”  “NO REALLY IT WAS HUGE!!!!”.  Ah the fish that got away.  I will never forget it. I will never forget Grandpa messing with me about his disbelief.  He got such a kick out of such things.

Grandpa always fished with a bamboo fly rod that he had for as long as I remember. It was weathered and repaired and to me was as perfect an object as a thing ever was.  I remember as a kid I got to use whatever was laying around, which most often was a spinning rod with a fly reel attached, but Grandpa always had the bamboo.  The last time I ever saw Grandpa fish, was about 10 years ago, we were camping with my parents and grandparents in Montana near Anaconda. Grandpa and I walked to this stream.   I sat and watched him cast the bamboo rod.  He was probably 90 years old at this time and I could tell that this was probably the last time that this rod would be cast by his hands.  I sat and admired these weathered hands work their magic as they had so many times before.  It was as if his rod had been crafted for him and him only.

Once back at camp I sat with my mom and told her that there are few things that hold as good a memories for me as did fishing with grandpa.  I told my mom that when my grandparents died, there was nothing I really wanted, but having that fly rod would be amazing.  My mom said that I should just ask Grandpa if I could have it.  I told her I couldn’t do that.  Not my style.  Later that evening, my mom told me that she had told Grandpa what I had told her earlier and that he said that I could absolutely have the rod when he passed on.  I was happy but there was so many more people that deserved it more than I.  I was sure that one day it would silently disappear into the hands of a family member more deserving.

Well time passed and my grandparents did both pass away as life makes its cycle.  Shortly after his passing my mom was at my Grandparents house to help clean out their possessions and decide what to do with everything.  She called me one day and said, “Cary I have some bad news. The fly rod is gone. Someone must have already taken it”.  I was disappointed but not surprised.  I had little hope of actually getting the rod.  I have to admit a little anger at the unknown  family member taking the rod, but it was gone and I knew it would happen so that was that.

Its a good thing you can’t see me type this next part for I am unable to tell it without crying.  The year after my Grandpa passed away, we were at my parents house for Christmas.  We had opened gifts and were sitting there amongst wrapping and things, when my mom said, “Oh wait, Cary I have something else for you, close your eyes”.  She walked to her bedroom and as she was coming back said “Are your eyes closed?” I said they were.  She walked to me and laid something in my hands and said to open my eyes.  I opened them and looked down at my grandpa’s fly rod.  I could do nothing for seconds but wipe tears from my eyes.  So many memories of such an amazing man sitting there in my hands.  No physical object ever given to me was this special.  Through cloudy eyes, I asked my mom how she got it.  She told me that my aunts Linda and Delores had run across it in my Grandparents house and had remembered seeing it on the list that my Grandparents had made of things that they wanted to go to people.  Grandpa despite being in his 90’s had remembered that he had promised me the rod and had put my name on the list as the recipient of it.   They put the rod aside for me.  Months later they had told my mom and gave it to her to give to me.  I sat looking at the rod for a long time.  It was weathered and aged from years of use.  It was once broken and had been repaired with a method Grandpa often used, epoxy tape wrap.  The cork handle is dark from years of sweat and dirty hands.  I imagined the thousands of fish that this rod had caught.  The family fish dinners around a camp fire produced with this piece wood and metal and cork and a little epoxy.  I feel guilty for the fleeting moment of anger towards the earlier disappearance of the rod.  Guilty for thinking family took it, when in reality, they took it for me.  I will never be able to show enough gratitude to them.

This year as I start the fishing season, I will take a moment to hold The Rod.  To feel its smoothness and its age. To breath in the smell of weathered cork and to remember a great man that cared so much for his grand kids.  And to think about family that cared enough for me to give me something incredibly special, that I am still not sure I deserve.

Grandpa in his early years clowning around as he loved to do.

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Is it still the “Happiest Place on Earth”?

Well I have just returned from what is probably my 45th ish time to Disneyland with Sara and Emily.  We spent a week bouncing around southern Cali from Disneyland to Universal to Knotts.  As usual we had a great time, but this morning as I take the first look at the charred remains of my checking account, I have to start asking myself if it was worth it.  A quick estimate of how much the entire trip cost with airfare (and keep in mind I got free hotel from my Hilton points) puts me somewhere around 3 grand.

Let me just say that we had a great time.  Can I, should I put a price on these faces?

I guess the real question is somewhat of a moral one for me.  Disney is not the greatest company and does it makes sense to let them rape my checking account in exchange for our week of fun? I’ll go one further, did we have fun? We did but I’m not sure that was because we were at Disneyland or if it was just because we were together, laughing, joking and just being generally goofy (pun intended) for a week. Most of our good times came from the silliness that is a certainty when Sara, Emily and I are together without supervision.  Emily constantly giving us the “cheese touch”. Sara and I discussing the lack of attractive men in their 40’s and me addressing every Disney employee by name (much to Sara’s horror) are just a sampling of the hi jinx that we engaged in.  What else could we have done for 3 grand? There are lots of places we could have gone and done. I think we could have done Europe on the cheap for a week if I could have gotten a good airfare.  We certainly could have done Mexico and maybe Hawaii.  Once you spend 3 thousand dollars for a week vacation, there are loads of things that can be done at that price.

Disneyland these days is almost certainly packed to the gills with kids and parents, which means that you are going to stand in lines all day for everything.  The lines for all the good rides were an hour. Soaring Over California was 90 minutes.  And as if that wasn’t bad enough, if you want to buy a water to quench your thirst after standing in line for 90 minutes, Disney is going to bend you over to the tune of $4 for it. Want a sweat shirt for the kids $50. Dinner at the Blue Bayou restaurant $130.  My god I can eat at some amazing restaurants for that price.  And is the food worth it? Absolutely not. Its mediocre at best.  Insult to injury.  Disney isn’t happy enough to charge you $75 dollars a day to get into their park, they want to make it hurt once you are there.

I have to question the morality of it. Disneyland is supposed to be a place for families. The plaque on the bridge as you enter Disneyland states “Here you leave today and enter the world of yesterday, tomorrow and fantasy”. Walt’s vision was a place where all people could come and enjoy a bit of old world fantasy. I’m not sure it was his intention for me to feel like I have been robbed every time I buy a water.

I grew up loving Disneyland and I don’t remember my parents ever complaining about the cost of things.  I remember my mom and dad fighting about how to GET to Disneyland but once we got there, it was one of the rare times my parents weren’t fighting.  Disneyland was always a place where Kate and I connected as well.  There was just something about it that has always held good memories for me, but increasingly as I get older I am just not as happy with this “Happiest Place”.  For the same money I could have given my girls a cultural experience. We could have visited another country. We could have eaten great cheap street food. We could have learned new words in another language. We could have met people that expanded our view of the world and people around us. We could have hiked in a jungle, swam in an ocean or waded in a stream.

As a parent, I need to do a better job of where I spend my vacation dollars. My kids have seen enough Disney for a while. I think next time, I will spend my 3 grand to expand their view of the world around them and not just fill Disney’s grand pockets with my hard earned vacation dollars.

Rules or no rules?

I am thinking of applying for a government grant to study the effects on rules as it relates to driving abilities.  I have a theory that needs to be researched.  It is this:  I believe that the more rules you have for driving, the less skilled drivers become.  Let me explain.

I am going to use Israel as an example but I have driven many places in this world and the same applies everywhere that I have been. The U.S.  appears to have the most stringent and the most enforced driving laws on the planet.  Here in Israel, I am really unsure of what the rules are.  You know why? Because rarely does anyone get pulled over.  Speeds are rarely posted and traffic cops are far and few between.  Driving here is an initial shock that is not for the faint of heart.  I have an older coworker that came  here and was told to get a car.  I drove with him on his inaugural trip from the airport to the hotel.  I was really worried we would die.  He was scared to death.  This is nothing against him, I think that most people would be scared at the prospect at driving here.  When my friend Teresa came to visit here, one of the biggest spats we had was over my driving.  She was scared shitless to put it simply.  I contend that I have just fully embraced  the Israeli rules (or lack thereof) of the road.  Which is to say, anything goes.  Anyone that tries to drive as they drive back in the states is in for a shock and I even think it would make you a danger to yourself and everyone around you.

Let me try to describe the driving here.  The first thing that really took some getting used to is the lack of a clear lane division.  Sure there are lanes and lines on the road, but no one uses them.  Its perfectly acceptable to drive straddling any lane you wish.  This appears to be done for one reason and one reason only.  To allow you to quickly jump to the fastest lane possible.  If you need to pass someone who is straddling a lane and blocking your path, you simply honk and they get over long enough for you to pass.  Speaking of horn, I love the usage of the horn here.  Here using the horn is as much of a driving tool as using the brake pedal and its used just about as much.  Someone moving when they shouldn’t be, give them the horn.  Stopped when they should be moving, again with the horn.  Need to warn someone that they are getting a tad close to hitting you, horn.  The nice thing is, it doesn’t make anyone angry to get honked at.  Its a simple way of telling someone they need to do or stop doing something, and everyone uses it.

The next thing that is tough to get used to is the speed.  Basically you smash your foot on the pedal until its time to smash your foot on the brake.  Sure its tough to get used to driving through town at U.S. highway (slight exaggeration) speeds, but let me be honest, I LOVE IT and have completely embraced it.  I drive as if I am trying to get my pregnant wife to the hospital before I am delivering the baby in the back of the Honda.

Next is the swarms of motorcycles that you must watch for.  It took me 3 months to figure out why a lane change takes someone a LONG time to complete here, until it hit me.  There are so many motorcycles that nothing is done suddenly here.  I can’t EVER remember anyone slamming on the brakes here either.  You need to know that most likely there is a motorcycle between you and the car next to you riding the line or directly behind you.  Or there is one racing up beside you to pass you in between you and the car next to you.  Maybe the whole thing is best described as bicycle Velodrome track racing.  In track racing there are no brakes on any of the bikes.  That way, bikes can be very close to each other in proximity.  Its totally safe because no one can slam on the brakes and upset the pack.  You move as a group and slow as a group.  This is why my coworker was so dangerous.  He kept slamming on the brakes.  This is a horrible thing for the pack as a whole.  Changing directions, lanes or speed is something that should be done with extreme purpose and caution.  The other thing of note is that many of the motorcycle drivers are teens.  There are no teens with cars here, or at least very few.  Teens ride scooter style motorcycles and they (girls included) are amazing at it.  The skills of the young girls on scooters here are something I couldn’t match if I spent the next year trying.  You would think that there would be dead scooter kids everywhere but there aren’t.

Lastly and this is the thing I find the funniest of all things done here, you simply MUST get as far forward on the pack as possible.  If a pedestrian is crossing the road, cars will drive out around them AND YOU instead of waiting the couple of seconds to get out of the road.  If you have two lanes merging into one, you must use shoulders and any gaps in the cars to move forward as much as possible.  What I see 20 times on the way home from work would have resulted in 20 gun deaths back in the states from people cutting you off, trying to get around you because you simply are not riding the ass of the car in front of you.  If you leave one inch of space between the car in front of you and your bumper, the car behind you will go around you and try to fit into that space.  There is simply nothing that will not be done to advance your car as far forward as possible.  This is most noticeable in bad traffic situations.  I really need to film it to get an idea of how insane it is.  The greatest thing about it is that NO ONE IS ANGRY, its perfectly acceptable and in fact, expected.  Its completely normal to do whatever you need to do to get further ahead.  If a car is trying to merge into your lane,  you must not let them in.  This problem causes yet another thing here.  When you need to merge or turn into traffic, rest assured that no one will let you.  Not only that, they will do everything in their power to keep you from doing it.  So what must you do?  You just keep slowly nosing out into the road little by little with cars racing by and having to swerve further and further into oncoming traffic until you have slowly but surely completely blocked the path, at which point you can now merge or turn.  I have seen cars completely sideways in the middle of a busy street trying to make a left turn with cars flying around them.  Its not until cars simply can no longer go around them, that the car is able to complete their turn.

OK,  I have described the driving, now for the hypothesis.  I believe this lack of rules (although I think in their own way, these are rules. Rules that are stringently followed) has made Israeli drivers MUCH MUCH better drivers than U.S. drivers.  I think drivers everywhere on the planet are better than U.S. drivers.  These people are able to respond to situations that would be an automatic accident in the U.S.  We in the U.S. have been gotten so used to things being exactly a certain way, within a very strict set of rules and procedures that when anything happens that falls outside of what we are used to, it almost always results in an accident.  People simply have no experience with things out of the norm.  Here because of such high speeds and with seen and unseen hazards everywhere, (motorcycles) you simply need the reflexes and ability to react to changing situations that Americans just don’t have.  People here are able to adapt to a seemingly infinite set of conditions and situations that are honestly for a foreigner are a little overwhelming.  Israeli’s think nothing of it.  They simply do it, and whats more, there is no road rage.  None. Well OK that’s not completely true, I got screamed at by a cab driver once because I wouldn’t let him cut in front of me.  He was driving WAY to damned slow for my preference and I choked his slow ass off so that he couldn’t get around me.  He finally made it beside me, rolled down the window and yelled something in Hebrew.  I returned a volley back at him that included the suggestion that he felate my Pomeranian.  Although not as politely.  Hey what can I say, old habits are hard to break.

Professional sports, you can keep them

This is hastily written but as my good friend Roger brought this up this morning and as this has always been a fiery ember burning in the pit of my soul since childhood, and since the rumor is that the Seahawks have somehow made it to the playoffs this year, its time to rant, Cleland style.

First off lets get this first part of out the way, fuck professional football. There I’ve said it. And while I’m at it  fuck baseball and basketball as well.  I think the three of them combined embody everything that is wrong with America.  We are more than willing to shell out millions upon millions of dollars to watch overpaid sports figures run around the field, but when it comes to say funding education, something that might just HELP our kids and ultimately society as a whole, well that’s another story.

And while I am at it, let me hop on all the parents that are more than willing to take little billy to practice 5 nights a week and take him to games on the weekend in hopes of breaking the zillion to one odds that little Billy will make the big time and make them all rich, when if they would spend that same amount of time teaching little Billy to read or become amazing at math and science, our country would be producing record amounts of scientists and the like, instead of what is going on now, which is NOT producing record amounts of anything. Except maybe boatloads of future McDonalds employees. I would wager a guess that most 13 year old boys could tell you what job a quarterback does on a football team but could not tell you who our governor is.

Every parent that has ignored their child’s education in exchange for helping them be sub par athletes (the reality is, most of your kids suck at sports anyway), you’re fired.  Now this isn’t to say all parents do this. I happen to have a close friend who’s kids are in sports and she is very active in her kids school and I think her kids do pretty well. But I think this is largely the exception to the rule. Most of my friends that are hoping little Billy makes the big time, are creating the next generation of Fox News watching idiots.

If it were up to me, I would not let any kid play any sport without at least a B average in school. Can’t make the grade, tough toodles. Want to know what else needs to be done. I would tax everything professional sports related at 25% and that money go directly to education. Want to pay $100 dollars for a seat to watch the Seahawks? Great, $25 of that will go to the state education fund. Parents that love their HS sports will love it too because the schools will have more money for those programs as well, as long as your kid can hold his or her B average that is.

Its sickening how little people care about education in our country. If you can tell me who the kicker is for the Seahawks but you can’t tell me the three branches of our government, you’re a big giant example of why this country is known for its ignorance.

So this weekend when you think about sitting down with little Billy and watching the big game, consider not doing it. Take little Billy for a hike, or take him or her to the zoo or the aquarium or maybe even really do something out of the box and read a book with your kid. Instead of going to the bar and plunking down 30 bucks for beers and nachos to watch the game, send that money to the local school district and tell them to buy books with it. Trust me, your child and every other child will be all the better for it. And the next time people are bitching that our education system is broken, you can say you actually DID something to try and change that.

OK off my soapbox now.

Apartment swimming pool

The other day I was thinking, you know I probably have more crazy stories of my life than any other person alive.  I will be doing something like filling the bathtub and it releases a memory from the bank.  I think its high time I share these stories.  I did some checking and the statute of limitations has run out on most the things I have done in my life and therefore I feel safe in releasing some of these tidbits to the masses.  Remember that A lot of these things happened a long time ago.  Please refrain from making rash judgments as to my mental stability now as I have matured quite a bit in the last 40 or so years.  OK that’s a lie, but still in the interest of charity and entertainment, try not to judge me too harshly.

When I was 7 years old, we lived in Las Vegas. The hilltop apts to be exact.  I’m not sure what they are called now but if you would like to see where I am talking about, Google street view has offered us clear picture of the apt.

http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Marysville,+Snohomish,+Washington&ll=36.174708,-115.12908&spn=0.016836,0.038581&z=15&layer=c&cbll=36.174878,-115.129081&panoid=-HokicqltlsGlFMuZM6zWA&cbp=12,87.84,,0,-0.81

Anyway, the memories are a tad fuzzy but I remember having this friend that lived a few apartments down from us.  I can’t remember his name, so for the sake of story telling, lets call him Creelor.  Creelor was in third grade and I was in first. This I remember clearly.  Creelor was somewhat of a problem kid and was always trying to get me in trouble.  I remember one day we were playing in the grass.  I told him I had to go home and poop.  He told me that I didn’t need to go home to poop, that he had figured out a good way to poop where ever you were without a toilet.  He told me to just poop a little and then shake said poo out of my shorts and down my pants leg and onto the grass.  Its stealthy and no one has to know.  I remember standing there trying to judge how much I should poo to let out that would easily be shaken down my pants.  It did work although I do remember having quite the poo trail down my leg when I got ready for bed that night.  I remember my dad asking me why I smelled like poo.  I lied and told him I farted.

One day Creelor and I were playing and we noticed that the apt on the first floor under his was vacant.  We wondered if we could get in and tried the door.  It was locked, but upon trying the window we were able to climb in that way.  The apt was totally vacant and clean.  We were running around and playing tag and at one point Creelor suggested we fill up the tub.  He plugged it up and started filling.  As it got towards the top, one of us suggested (I am quite sure it wasn’t me as this does not seem like something I nice boy like me would suggest) that we just let it overflow.  Then there was discussion of filling the entire apt with water and making an indoor pool.  So we went to every faucet in the apt, plugged it and turned the water on.  We watched for I am sure was at least an hour while the apt filled with water.  I think at its high water mark, we were at about 4″.  We were running around splashing and kicking and sliding around like loons.  I remember going to the refrigerator and getting out the crisper drawer.  I got in it and was trying to paddle around the apt like I was in a boat.  Creelor and I took turns pushing each other around in the crisper drawer.  After a couple hours of playing in our apt pool we were running in circles in the living room and Creelor fell and cut his leg open on the crisper drawer.  It was a huge gash clearly needing a lot of stitches.  Creelor was screaming.  Even in his panic we knew we needed a story or we were bound for prison.  I told him to tell his mom that he fell down the stairs after playing in the apt sprinklers.  We had to climb back out the window to get out of the apt because had we opened the door, the dam would have been released and we instantly busted.  Creelor hobbled crying back to his apt and I back to mine.  I was quite sure we were going to get busted and my life come to an immediate end.  I clearly remember going into our apt and my dad asking me why I was soaked.  I told him that we were playing in the sprinklers.  That seemed to work as no other questions were asked.  Later that evening while we were eating dinner, there was a knock at the door.  It was the manager of the apartments, he asked my dad he anyone had seen anything today as there was an apt that was flooded and much damage done.  Luckily for me, my dad didn’t piece together my suspicious mid day soaking with a flooded apt.  He told him he hadn’t seen anything.

Creelor showed up at school the next day with his leg all stitched up.  His mom had bought the stair story.  Long story short, we never got busted for the apt pool.  To be honest, I must have been one of the craftiest kids alive because I rarely got caught doing any of the many shenanigans I did as a kid.

This will be a new regular blog segment for a while.  At least until I run out of stories to tell.

Palestine. The adventure.

I haven’t done one of these in a while but Thursdays story really needs to be told while its still fresh in my memory.

Yesterday my friend Teresa and I had decided that we would take a road trip to the Sea of Galilee. We got up fairly early, and after getting gas, cleaning car windows (still covered from salt spray from the big storm) and a quick pastry and cappuccino, we were on the road. Navigation is a tad tricky in this part of the world as you might imagine, although they are pretty good about road signs being in Hebrew, Arabic and English. By the way let me just a moment to hop up on my soap box. OK listen, all you jackasses that complain about having to listen to Spanish speaking message options, reading Spanish on signs etc when you are in the U.S. Let me tell you something, I LOVE that other countries help me out by putting my language on their street signs. LOVE IT. Stop your bitching. Other countries help us out when we are in their country. Stop bitching about us helping them out when they are in ours. OK off my box now.

OK where was I? OH yes, on the road. Teresa being the passenger is relegated to being the navigator. She had the map, she knew where we were headed, done. Or so we thought. Our map didn’t show enough detail to really get us anywhere. We were on HWY 6, then we were on another highway and then another highway and then, this.

I’m not sure if its obvious to most of you as to what this is, so I will tell you. Its the heavily fortified crossing into Palestinian inhabited part of Israel. Now its important to remember, its very easy to get IN to the Palestinian side, its a tad more problematic getting out.  Not because its dangerous (I think), or because they won’t let us white bread Americans back into Israel, its because once you are on the Palestinian side, the road signage is pretty weak, and getting lost in places that would scare the hell out of most people, is just about a given.

You will make note of the relationship between where my car is parked and the road. This is because I quickly pulled over to snap a quick photo and to say “uhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, now what?” What is problematic about me being faced with this decision to either enter the Palestinian side in hopes of working my way to our destination, or not, is that I live my life by one simply rule. In life ALWAYS take the path leading you to the best story. I guess you know what happened next. With Teresa sitting in the passenger seat saying “uhhhh is this ok?” And me responding with “Im sure it will be fine”, we headed through the checkpoint.

After many turns and lots of photos, we start to realize we are off track, really really off track. We really didn’t know where we were. The signage (in Arabic) is no help whatsoever, and we are driving blindly. After an hour or so we start to enter towns. Towns where there are no white people in Honda civics blasting Tears for Fears on the stereo. We are stared at. I answer by taking photos.

First little town we came through.

 

There aren’t many fat guys in Israel. This one looks like he is from Granite Falls.

Mmm goat. I think its goat. It could be the last white guy to drive through this town in a Civic.

Hey its Arafat!

So anyway you get the picture (pun intended). At one point we come into the above town. There is a large gap in my photos as it becomes very crowded and the traffic is crazy. We are starting to get a little uneasy. We are stuck in traffic, people are staring and we are lost.

I wish I had pictures of this next chapter because it was goodness. I finally saw some Palestinian Authority cops standing by an armored VW Van. By armored, I mean some sort of screen stuff screwed over the windows.  They were parked at a very busy round-a-bout. As there was no place to park, I just pulled up as tight as I could to the circle, which is to say, not tight at all. And jumped out of the Civic. Now take a moment to picture this. Arabs, lots and lots of Arabs. Guys with automatic weapons standing on the round-a-bout and me getting out of the car in cargo shorts and a tee shirt I bought at Costco. I stick out like AN AMERICAN IN PALESTINE. I go up and say “HI IM LOST, can you tell?” The guy stares at me. I say “WAIT!”. I run back to the car. At this point there are many cars honking from the jam I have caused. There is a trucker screaming something at Teresa, who is still in the car, looking forward, making no eye contact. Its not her fault anyway, she is not driving. I grab my map and run back. I point to where I need to be. He calls for another guy to come over. This guy is the guy that knows some English and is assigned to help jackasses who have wandered into where they should not be. He tries to tell me how to get to where we need to go but its futile, so says “you follow me”. So I run back to the car and try to back up through this insane backup I have caused. Cars are honking, everyone on the street is staring and here we are totally screwing up the whole area. I manage to get backed up so that the van can get around me and show me the route. I manage to get this one picture of the van leading us out of town.

The best thing is where he led us. He leads us to a road that does not look like we should drive on it. He said, “Go until you see the wall. Turn right, you will see the Israeli guards. Yell at them through the fence, they can open the gate and let you out”. So we start driving, its not too far until we get to The Wall. Its the wall that the Israeli’s have build to keep the pesky Arabs out. So I look to the right and there is in fact part of the wall that has some fence that can be opened although it looks like it has not for quite some time. I should rephrase, the side letting people OUT, looks like it hasnt been opened in years. The are cars coming into Palestine but certainly not out. I again get out of the car and walk towards the guards, who looks like they are thinking of shooting me. I tell them I am lost and need out of Palestine. They ask to see our passports and search our car. As I am clearly no Arab, they open the gate (actually had to kick it to get it to open) and let us out and on our way.  Always the path of the best story.

Next we were headed for Tiberias, the Golan Heights and the river Jordan, or as the Israeli’s call it, the Kinnaret.  Its fairly uneventful for the next couple hours. We visit the hill where Jesus did the Beattitude speach. Of course the Catholics own that. I saw a lizard taking a poo and saw some flowers. BTW, I have 5 bucks says youve never taken a picture of a lizard taking a dump. Even if you have seen it.

Church of the Beattitudes

And I shall name him, Turd Ferguson

Next was our trip to the river Jordan where as you know from that one book, Jesus was baptized by John, the baptist. I have been there before but Teresa has not and no trip to the middle east would be complete without a visit to the river.  As I stated the last time I wrote about this place, the river Jordan spectacle is quite the thing to behold. Of course everything in this area is churchy and religious but none rise to the level of this place. Its really the Disneyland of religious sites.  Teresa and I wandered around. There were some people giving themselves self baptisms. Here is a group of Russian gearing up for a dip.

Oh look a perfectly harmless picture of people getting ready to be bapt…. UH HELLO!

Well here we are in the most holy of places, we should take some pictures of where Jesus was bapti… OH LOOK A RODENT THE SIZE OF A CAT!!!! Yes there was some sort of rodent there as well.  This water is also filled with giant catfish. I think that this is probably the only body of water on the planet where women would gladly get in water filled with giant rodents and catfish.

OK as most of you well know by now, I am game for a little hijinx from time to time. After some discussion we decide I am really really in need of a fresh sin scrub and as such, I need a baptism. I go rent my smock, towel and official certificate and head for the water. BTW, its only about 70 outside. Not ALL that warm.

There I am.

Oh this water is COLD!!!!!

You know what that is? SIN FREE BABY!!!

I was sin free for about 18 seconds until I came up with the idea of Teresa getting a picture of me looking wistfully away with my smock wedged in my bare ass. I really had no chance of staying sin free for too long.  We also got a picture of the front side but due to the nature of the temperature of the water and the effects of said water on the male anatomy, that picture will not be seen. Hazards of full commando under smock.

Anyway after much giggling and freezing, we left to go get some lunch and get lost again getting back to the hotel. All in all a good adventure and no harm was done. Well except the few people that might have witnessed the above scene.

Cabelas, the promised land, for men

Saturday while driving home from the Ft Worth Arts Festival I passed what looked to be a mall, until driving further I realized that it was in fact Cabelas Sporting goods.  I immediately felt this twinge in my soul, a yearning for something unseen and unknown. I was drawn to this building like salmon are drawn to the place of their birth, like swallows drawn to Capistrano. For reasons unseen but felt, I knew I needed to be here.

Sunday I got in the car and drove. I needed no directions, the car is a Dodge Charger, it knows the way and can navigate to any Cabelas without touching the wheel.

If you are not familiar with Cabelas, it is the size of a large shopping mall, without the hordes of teenagers. It has fish ponds around the outside of the property filled with fish that you can fish for, and people are doing so. Also around the outside of the building are boats, RV’s, Canoes and towable BBQs and all manner of large recreational device needing to be towed to be used. Cabelas is a mega store dedicated to the killing and eating of animals. Except for the fly fishing section which has a few small books on catching and releasing fish. Something unheard of in any other part of the store. This store has equipment and tools to kill any animal on the planet. They even have large fish tanks with all manner of game fish in them. Below is an Alligator Gar, Emily loves these. More I think about it, Emily would love this whole place.

The store is broken up into many parts or countries as I like to call them because they are as big as small countries. There are more guns in this store than half the worlds small countries military arsenals. There is a HUGE fishing section. It is the largest of all countries with several small states dividing fishing types. The state of Bass, the northern region of trout etc. There is every bait, lure and gadget known to man here. Its really overwhelming. My coworker Jeff who had invited me crappie fishing while here in Texas asked me to see if they had any purple and chartreuse tube jigs. I of course had no idea what this was, and asked for assistance from the camo wearing counter guy.  You should note, that at no time should you ever ask for help in Cabelas. If you need to know what a tube jig is, you have no business fishing, being in this store, or having testicles for that matter. The guy gave me a look as if I had just told him I was from San Fransisco and loved lace doilies.  I knew I was within seconds of him making a call to security so I quickly added “Uh I am a fly fisherman and am new to crappie fishing”. This was like telling him that although I still resided in San Fransisco that I in fact liked leather doilies and not lace. Only slightly less sinful. Fly fisherman are to fishing, what Richard Simmons is to working out. He gave me a chuff and took me to the tube jig AISLE. Yes an entire aisle dedicated to every color imaginable (although as luck would have it, not the color I needed) of tube jig. Camo shirt counter guy thought it funny to keep asking me questions about what I used when crappie fishing despite the fact I had already told him I hadn’t ever fished for crappie before.  “So you ever use these super duper popper pink nightmares?” Uh no jackass. Can you cast it on a fly rod? Then the answer is no, just like I said BEFORE. Of course I said this in my head as all Cabelas employees are required to pack heat and I felt no need to get up the ire of camo counter man.

Next I wandered into the bow hunting section.  Its just north of the moose in the pond filled with giant trout. I actually am very interested in the bow section as I have recently become strangely addicted to the hunting channel and bow hunting in particular. Bow hunting is the only real hunting in my opinion, as its most fair. Bow hunting grizzlies (which you may be shocked to know is actually done) is the most manly thing there is. Shooting a grizzly with a stick from 20 yards away is a sport that puts you and said grizzly on even ground, and if anything the grizzly has slightly better odds as shooting an arrow at anything rarely kills it immediately and therefore gives the bear enough time to completely consume you before dying.  I go into the bow area and ooo and ahhh over the killing gadgets. Manufactures have really dug deep into their imagination to create some of these. Genghis Khan would be proud. My most favorite was called the Gobbler Guillotine. The guillotine is a tip for an arrow that has swords sticking out of it that are about three inches long. Their purpose is to decapitate turkeys when shot, thereby killing two birds with one stone (taking off the head which will eventually need to be done, AND killing it). You can check it out in action here, caution this is  not for the faint of heart as you will be watching slow motion video of turkeys losing their heads:  VIDEO Another camo clad employee notices me eaves dropping on their bow conversation and asks me if I need help. I throw all caution to the wind and tell him that I have recently become hooked on all things bow related yet know nothing about it. I ask him to demonstrate  a few things I have seen on TV. Oddly enough, not like the fishing guy, seems completely happy to have someone interested in his section and immediately starts explaining the whole process to me. Look for all my trees in the back yard to be filled with holes soon.

After leaving the bow area, I take a tour of all the stuffed animals. The above is an entire hill filled with stuffed animals. My favorite can’t be seen in this picture. Its a deer that must have been the king of all deformed deers and most likely thanked god upon arriving in deer heaven for allowing it to be killed, thereby escaping what can only have been a tormented life of normal horned deer ridiculing him over his Don King like rack. He was labeled as a 127,895 point deer, or something near that. His head looked like barrel cactus, only instead of thorns, he had horns. I actually thought I had gotten his picture when I first added the above picture as the stick bush in the center looks like that deer’s head. I actually think its a hoax. Kind of like that rabbit in every truck stop in Montana with the deer horns, hilarious labeled “Jackalope”. I think someone did to this deer, what my grandfather used to do with his Christmas trees, which was to get any two trees and drill holes in the trunk of one and add branches from other to make one odd looking full branched tree.

Next was the gun area of the store. This is where you will see the real men milling about. There is everything gun and bullet related imaginable.  The country of Nauru would love to get its hands on an arsenal like this store has. They would instantly become more powerful than the entire continent of Australia. There is even a gun museum in this area. I “mosey” up to the counter (you don’t walk in Texas) and start looking at handguns. The camo clad counter guy asks me if he can help me. Given my extreme lack of firearm knowledge, there is almost no reply that won’t make me look like a little girl with feeted princess jammies and a parasol, when at the last second, I see a sign on the counter that says “We only sell guns to Texas residents”. I say to him, “Well not now, I see that you won’t sell to out of state residents”. WHEW, SAFE!  He replies “No sir, (they call you sir here, now I know where my dad gets it), we cain’t, the federal law prohibits it”. I tell him the government needs to keep their laws off my firearms, to which he and several others around me exclaim, “you got that right!”. Instantly I am taken into the fold and the counter guy looks much more friendly and tells me that if there is anything I would like to see, just ask and he would be glad to show it to me. I think that at any second I will get invited to go shooting sometime, but the invite never comes, I did tell him I was from Seattle (San Fransisco’s sister city) after all.

Lastly I wander into the clothes section. This is the entire center of the store. I stood there wondering why the center is completely taken up by clothes, then it hits me. This is the most important area! Most people can’t afford a $1000 gun or a $600 bow but for $24.95, I can buy a shirt that says BONE COLLECTOR or REMINGTON. I need not be a hunter or a gun owner,  owning a shirt that declares this is close enough. For the price of a bucket of popcorn at a movie theater, I can join the club. Armed with a few bits of choice verbiage, I can stand with other t-shirt clad outdoorsman and pretend to know something. “Yeah so the other day, I picked up one of them guillotine broad heads for my bow” I would say. “Them gobblers don’t stand a chance now”. The other t-shirt wearing guys would nod in agreement, then I would most likely spit. Guys like to spit when they have spewed forth some bit of useless knowledge. Its like putting a period on their statement of wisdom. “Yep, that theres a cow” spit, or “Oooo Weee she look gooood in them shorts!” spit. Last year I visited the Bass Pro Shop store, its exactly like this store only with a different sign out front. When I was there, the only thing I bought was underwear. I found my favorite kind (pink, lacy etc) UnderArmour, Men’s O Series (no not kidding about the “O series” either) Boxerjock 6″ (I just put that detail in here so that everyone would know that I wear cool underwear). I found some for $10 which is incredibly cheap. My guess is that they were on sale because they were labeled as “nude” in color, which had to have been a monstrous marketing mistake by the Under Armour company. Real men do not wear underwear labeled as “nude” in color. I however, will wear them in pink with baby bunnies on the fly for $10, as they are usually $20, and I am a cheap ass.

Anyway on this day I managed to get out of the store with a knife sharpener (for a knucklehead friend of mine with knives with blades as sharp as a box of tissues, I can cut vegis with my pointer finger faster than cutting with her knives), a bag of jerky and tube jigs in a dazzling array of colors to excite and delight the crappie palette.  I leave Cabelas a little bit sad that I don’t have more time and money and more of desire to kill things.  I shed a small tear as I climb into the car. Not because I am leaving this place, because I have suddenly realized that I have forgotten to get a fishing license and now get to walk the mile through this expanse of a parking lot BACK into the store. I would sure love to have my memory back… Spit.