So I’m now at the point where I’m just about ready to shovel this whole steaming pile into IUniverse’s lap. There are undoubtedly going to be times where there simply isn’t anything to report. But–I can try to keep you hooked by possibly entertaining you with some little passages from the book. Depending on how slow IUniverse is, by the time the book is published, you may have no reason to buy it anymore, as I will have posted it all right here.
Anyway, here’s one of my favorites from a late afternoon we spent in the West Bank in a beat-up taxi with no air-conditioning and a young Palestinian driver. Keep in mind that it has reached the point where it’s so hot that there would be no use looking at a thermometer; it’s just hot hot hot:
“We then head south along the way we came, ostensibly heading back to Jerusalem.
“But no; Muhammad has decided that since we are so close to the Dead Sea, why, we must see it! It is difficult to get him to understand that we are the dead ones here now, and at this point the dark body of water in the barren distance holds no fascination for us.
“’But you have come all this way! It is only a little bit more!’ He drives on resolutely. Oh well; we give up. It’s harder to argue now than to just go along for the ride, and so the dark water gradually draws nearer.
“Finally, we’re here—in a parking lot. Wait a minute; I had envisioned us pulling off at the side of the road along the shoreline, wading around a bit, then heading back. But this is a full-fledged bathing/picnicking/bathhouse-ing establishment where we discover it’s going to cost us thirty American dollars each to buy access to this grubby lakeshore.
“’Sorry, Muhammad, but ninety dollars is just too much.’
“’But you are here only once! You must see it now!’ he says, a tone of both reverence and desperation in his voice.
“’But we didn’t bring our bathing suits.’ A logical point. This either doesn’t sink in or he doesn’t understand, or—
“’But you have come this far! It is right there!’
“’No bathing suits! We didn’t bring them!’
“’You can swim in your clothes!’
I have this absurd image of us splashing about in the brackish water fully dressed, then driving all the way back to Jerusalem, damp, tired, salty and miserable. I also have this uncharitable idea that perhaps if he can get us Americans into the water at this insane price, he’ll get some sort of kickback.
“’You know, Muhammad, in America you do not have to pay to swim in the sea’—well, in most cases. ‘You swim for free. We just won’t pay to do this. Isn’t there a place along the shore where you can swim without paying?’
“Maybe he is sincere about us making contact with the holy water, for he gets on his cell phone, calls Sandy [our Jewish guide] and asks her where we might swim for no shekels. Apparently there is such a place, but it is a good distance farther south, much farther than we’re willing to go this late in the day.
“We intended to stop briefly at the Dead Sea simply to dip our feet in, but found it would cost each of us thirty dollars to walk onto the beach, so we simply looked through the chain link fence at the water nearby instead. Perhaps it was different when you actually experienced it, but from my viewpoint its trash-lined banks looked like any old stupid pond.
“With great regret and many heavy sighs, Muhammad realizes he is defeated, and we trudge back across the baking parking lot to the car. There’s a lot of tension in the air, and we are all silent as we drive west into the sun. I ask myself why I should feel guilty about disappointing this young man. He’s our driver, and he should be taking us where we want to go, not the other way around.
“But I do feel bad . . .”
And there was a good reason to feel bad about this. But that’s another story.