Tuesday, January 03, 2006

As an essentially private person, as this blog has felt less like a private space, and more like a public one, I've been finding it harder to negotiate what to say here, and how to say it. It's almost like the impulse is towards blogging more intimate details of myself/my life, to balance what feels like an increasingly public quality to blogging, i.e. more bloggers, being around longer, people occasionally googling me now because of, I suppose, the chapbook. Nothing so great, but more than one or two ears turned my way can make me self-conscious, I suppose.

Just thought I'd say.

Anyway, reading this story made me remember one particularly stupid string of days in Israel . . .

I was seventeen, and a friend convinced me that spending a month basically homeless in Israel would be a fun thing to do over the summer. So I signed up to go, and then he couldn't for medical reasons, so I went alone. There, I made friends with a few college guys who were trying to tour for as long as they could for as little as they could. The episode which first came to mind on reading Farris's story was alone from them, wandering the Old City of Jerusalem, getting lost in the souk, and finding myself by the Damascus gate, marveling at everything for who-knows-how-long, eventually finding my way back, having this great 'experience,' and then hearing about a German tourist couple getting stabbed there two weeks later, it ostensibly being the 'wrong' place to be.

But then I remembered the days after that . . . the two-day episode now in mind begins at a deserted city (Haifa?) bus stop at around 10 at night, where three scary people had Justin and I backed against a waiting platform wall. There was a sudden sick feeling of imminent violence, where the concrete all around, which normally is barely noticed, at the edge of consciousness, suddenly becomes--concrete--and an awareness of how prevalent concrete is, and how hard it is, and given to angles and unpleasant surfaces. Justin didn't want to give them our wallets, and then a bus out of nowhere neatly fit against the platform, and on we jumped. It was only a handful of seconds, I remember each one. (I should say that I have never experienced physical violence at the hand of another human in my life, the one exception being Q--, three grades older, who in fourth grade taunted me to 'pull down my pants' as I was walking home with a friend, and I turned and charged him with my head like a ram, and got clocked in the jaw and fell to the ground, and he left. There was no time to be scared, or hurt, there, I don't think it did either. The sensation on the bus stop in Israel, and later that night, was very different.)

We arrived at the equally deserted Tel Aviv central bus terminal around 11:30 pm. At this point I wanted to take a taxi to where we were going (I think we had a youth hostel in mind, though maybe we were just going to try find and sleep on a beach). But Justin said walking is free, so we walked. And got lost. The neighborhoods were getting uncomfortably scary, and I think at one point it became obvious at least one person was following us, so when we actually saw an open hotel, we went in and, though it was obviously nowhere near luxe, paid the $45 American for a room and called it a night.

Each floor shared a bathroom. Our floor (the second) had a bathtub full of (literally) shit and a toilet bowl overflowing. Our room had a window that wouldn't close which looked over a low roof, and the bed was equally (and abundantly) covered with dried blood and dried semen. We could hear a man and a woman arguing and, eventually, her getting beaten, soft dull and repeatedly hit. What could we do? We did nothing, I still feel ashamed. I don't think either of us slept an hour, and when morning came, we made our way to the beach and I fell asleep on my back in the sun. When I awoke, I felt delirious and had little white bumps on my chest, sun poisoning. I staggered into the nearest hotel and spent $15 (remember, these are 1987 dollars, and I was 17) on a pastrami sandwich (flown in regularly from Ratner's), and then $150 on a hotel room, where I slept feverishly. Justin crashed on the floor, but wouldn't chip in. So much for my experiment with budget travel.

So that was my stupid seventeen-year-old story. How much of it was true danger, and how much a timid middle-class American foreigner's imagination? Probably a fair bit of both. Nothing like Farris's adventure, for sure. One common conclusion though: fortune favors the oblivious.

So, if anyone wants to dig out their own embarrassingly stupid travel misadventures? I'd like to hear yours.

&: I know mine is super tame. That's part of the charm, or at least the intended charm.

I'd be happy to share - but my most astonishing misadventure isn't fit for print. Some of its elements are: an encounter with two strange drunk girls, driving without a license, the poetry of William Carlos Williams, and an albino man who somehow appeared in our hotel room. Twas in Austin, TX.
Ana, I thought of you when I wrote this, a little, along the lines of "I bet Ana has something to tell". But I would have guessed your story to be set in Croatia, not Austin. Though Austin sounds like just the right place for that kind of story.
THe only time I've ever been to Austin, someone came into our hotel room in the middle of the night!

We were so tired from driving for a day and a half straight that we didn't even get up to see who it was. We just rolled over and went back to sleep.

An albino perhaps?
You two sure you weren't there the same night?
Maybe the albino has made a shtick out of it.
Post a Comment

<< Home

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Subscribe with Bloglines