Going away, coming home

It’s different from back home.

At Ben Gurion Int’l Airport, you should plan to come early and stay awhile — that’s just the same.  When you’ve been on the No Fly list since before the U.S. government admitted to having a no-fly list, you become quite accustomed to hurry up and wait.

It wasn’t a worry.  This morning’s taxi ride was a smooth transition down ghostly empty streets.  Last night was the beginning of Independence Day (Jews start their holidays on sundown of the day previous).  Fireworks flamed and crackled over the city.  Miniskirted haunches wriggled along Dizengoff, Allenby and Ben Yehuda, rubbing along pedestrian barriers pasted up with Funk ‘n’ Stein posters.  Live pop crooners on rooftops competed with “deesco-deesco” dance mix and old Stevie Ray Vaughn CDs.  Over Tel Aviv’s big park, where burnt offerings apparently haven’t gone out of fashion, a savory cloud of barbeque smoke thickened the air.  It was a lot like the Fourth of July back home, only without baseball.

Those happy partiers were all asleep at 0700 this morning, gnat-buzzing scooters parked, dark curly hair tangled around the sweetest sleep of all.  I was left with plenty of time and space to make my flight.

Besides, I was in the army once.  I know the Duffel Bag Drag better than the Texas Two-Step.

Still, it’s different here.  My bags were gone through five different times and x-rayed thrice.  Never admit to being a journalist; just tell ’em you’re on a motorcycle trip.

But instead of fat, surly high school dropouts (sorry for the profiling, TSA!), you get inspected, detected and selected by pretty young women.  All of them are veterans of an army that has fought more wars on its own territory in 62 years than most countries do in a millennium.  They ask you the same questions several times, always with a knowing half-smile and the gentle manners of officials who happen to be holding your passport behind the table.  Best you give the same answers each time, and that they be simple ones.  Happily, I am a simple man.

When I had to return to the x-ray belt for the third time because I was short an inspection sticker, the brunette there angled an eyebrow at me and fired up her half-smile.

“I told you to be careful of the stickers!”

Of course she was messing with me, but you can either go with it or flunk the test.  Hey, some guys pay to be messed with by curvy little brunettes.  Besides, if you flunk the test, they quickly refer you to non-little, non-female interviewers.  Not for me, thanks.  I am constitutionally opposed to the ominous snap of rubber gloves.

So it all went well, and slowly, and I stopped regretting packing by Braille this morning at the precise point that I realized it was all going to be an indecipherable scramble of dirty socks and charging cords no matter what I did.  The same tango awaits in Newark, where my astoundingly generic red-flag name (shared with at least one U.S. Congressman) will assure me more than an equal share of attention from my own country’s Wal-Mart greeters.

In the meantime, I have a few more minutes to sit here at the heart of the branching concourses, a peaceful place beyond the gates where water falls gently from the ceiling into a shallow pool and more of Israel’s inexhaustible supply of pretty women wanders around, sipping coffee and browsing the duty-free.

The PA system periodically reminds people in this extremely well-armed country not only to keep track of their luggage, but that weapons aren’t allowed anywhere in the airport (waggly dogs are, though).  That would appear to go without saying if the country weren’t full of men and women walking around with a permitted 9mm on one hip and a spare mag on the other.

The airport McDonald’s has two windows, completely separated:  a standard outlet for goyim and the secular, plus a “McCafe’ Kosher.”  While I’ll miss the Israeli breakfast, I allow myself a touch of smugness that I never tried to find it at McD’s.

8,000 miles away and almost home.  Not duty-free but duty-bound.  No to say homeward bound, back to my sweetie and my puppy and my own bed, office, motorcycle, life.  Away from shiny new friends, back to burnished old friends.

I made at least one friend here that I hope will be a buddy for years to come — so check your damned dipstick, A.T., and take your meds.

We’ve got more riding to do.

“Go away, now.”

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  1. Jonathan Danilowitz says

    Ben Gurion Airport seen through your eyes is an eye-opener indeed. Glad you went with the flow.
    It was a delight to have met you last night. Ilan & I hope you have a soft landing and that you’ll come back & visit our neck of the woods again someday.
    Loved reading your impressions.

  2. Jack, every time someone bids a fond and suitably impressed first farewell to Israel, I well up in tears. Weird reflex, I know. It’s a remarkable country, and the people make it so.

    Glad you had such a fine and productive trip. Very glad you survived the roads. I just hope you survive TSA in Newark. Hint: Do not say, as I once did, “This was cleared through Ben Gurion security, it was fine with the Israelis, and that’s not good enough for TSA? Are you serious?!”

    I want a lengthy debriefing after you’ve slept a bit (or when you can’t). And photos.

    Welcome home.

  3. ummm… technically, weren’t you in the Army *twice*?

  4. When I opened my eyes, I realized my “cat nap” lasted a couple of hours. As the reason for waking up was the roar pruduced by a pair of F-15’s showing off to the Israeli crowd at a near by air base, It pooped to mind that at this time a certain J was in a metal cigar – probably wondering how such a huge metal thing gets around with no (constant) wheels doing some rooling.
    S**t – Missed the call.
    Well, as they say, praise the Lord for the WWW.
    Jacks visit to the Holy Land was the first one (I know of) of a writer for a major riding media outlet form the US.
    And he can ride… (he is not too bad at writing either)
    Days later I understood why – he keeps riding to “Lost” Town. and that accumulates to many many miles. (Or Kliks if you are green).
    Asd as we all know – practice makes perfect.
    I also redescovered why H-D makes bikes for a very particular palate. I still have that “Ant” sensation in my legs, and that “I’m a cowboy that misplaced his horse somwhere after a 500 mile ride” walk.
    I loved it…
    I just hope that J’s visit to this complicated strip of land called Israel is the first of many.

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