Cairo – 1979
Cairo was fun. I was sixteen, and I’d never been outside the “states.” We called America, and more loosely, Canada, “The states” back then. A lot of my friends were British, and they called me “yank,” I thought it was a cool nickname until one of them told me it was a pejorative term: like “buddy.” You could have a friend named “buddy,” or you could call a guy “buddy,” but that guy that cuts you off when you’re trying to turn right… You usually say, “Hey, buddy (and please insert the word I should have used for buddy here, to make this correct for you). In any case, they were my friends. They were just assholes. But I loved those assholes.
One night (this is where the story starts), I can’t recall which day it was, but we didn’t concern ourselves with time, back then, because it belonged to us. Isn’t it funny, as you grow older, how time seems to contract? When I was in my teens, a day seemed to take forever… Now, a year goes by while I drink my coffee/whiskey… But I digress… We were talking about Port Said (pronounced Sai-eed) I don’t remember who brought it up, and it doesn’t matter; someone said something about wanting to see the Red Sea. Well, we were only a hundred-and-twenty-miles away from it…
Port Said is on the Mediterranean Sea. It’s several hundred miles from the actual Red Sea, but we didn’t know that (we were high school students, go figure), but we were determined to get there. We hashed out the plan in Kevin’s (none of the names have been changed – no one is innocent in this tale) den. Kevin’s dad was the military commander of the American Embassy, and we felt like that gave us legitimacy. It was unstated, but understood, in a haphazard way. And it was totally false. But that didn’t matter, because we had a goal…
The Red Sea… We were going, even if we were headed in the wrong direction…
Three of us had motorcycles; I was not one of the three. Kevin, Herb, and Hollis had motorcycles; each had a gas tank that held enough for a ninety-mile (roughly) trip. One-Hundred-And-Twenty miles is outside that range, so like the intelligent little squirrels we were, we devised a plan: we would carry our own gasoline with us!
We studiously gathered every container we thought might hold Gasoline, and then we left, headed for Port Said, and the Red Sea (which was three hundred miles further south, but that’s Ok).
Now, I can’t say at what mile the burning sensation on my back (I had the gasoline containers in my backpack, I was the mule) finally got to me, but I can say this. Gasoline will eat through a sports bottle (don’t put gasoline in a sports bottle). I chalk that up as a life-lesson learned; I’ve never put gasoline in a sports bottle since.
Hollis and I ended up stranded on the side of the road, in the middle of the Sahara desert, which is not something I could say, had I not been in Egypt, to begin with, and certainly not something I could say if we hadn’t concocted that lunatic plan. We did get back: it involved a taxi and hateful glares from both our mothers, but we made it.
I think the point of the story is, how can you know where you’ll end up if you never set out?
Go achieve your dreams.