Alexandria, Egypt – Not Going Back

Been there. Done that. Even bought a few t-shirts. If I can help it, there is no reason for me to go there ever again.

The US Navy parked us in Alexandria, Egypt for three weeks back in 1989. It was fine for a few days. Just another port on the Mediterranean Sea. After that, it grew on us like mold.

Sure, the tour to Cairo to see the pyramids and sphinx was great. A once-in-a-lifetime trip to see those wonders of the world, take incredible pictures, speculate about how they were built, see a camel driver wipe his butt with a rock. All the unforgettable events you can imagine. It was time to leave that country.

Alexandria has thousands of years worth of history. Fine. Whatever. I remember a crowded, dirty city filled with people looking to me as if I could personally finance their lives forever.

Most of the crew battled diarrhea within days of arrival. Something in the food or water did not agree with our  systems and we suffered through it. As we left port headed for the French Riviera next, the captain said to the crew, “I don’t know about the rest of you, but I didn’t lose anything worth coming back for in this place. Even if I left my wallet behind, I’m not coming here again.”

Is there a place in the world you never want to visit? Where, and why not?

It Should be Safe to Admit This Now

Charleston, South Carolina. Summer of 1985. Tom was driving around on a night off with Tim, a fellow sailor. Two young, single men with not much to do. No girlfriends. Neither one drank alcohol (yet). Too early for a movie. I’m bored just remembering the setting. It must have been why we bought fireworks that day.

We both lived on the ship and had no place to store them once we purchased the large paper bag of fun little explosives. It was technically illegal to bring them onto the military base. If we kept them in Tom’s car and they were found, we could both be in trouble. The solution was obvious. We had to use them all TODAY.

It was not a holiday or local celebration event that would need fireworks. We had no noise to cover our fun. The challenge would be setting them off and not alerting local authorities to our activities. We decided to stay mobile.

Tom drove towards the edge of town to a wooded park. Along the way, Tim decided to set off a few items. Tim rolled down the passenger window of the 1979  Camaro and used the cigarette lighter to touch the fuse of a bottle rocket. The glow quickly moved up the fuse and Tim tossed the rocket away from the car just as the rocket took off in a trail of sparks, smoke, and a satisfying “Bang” two lanes over on the empty highway.

“That was cool!” Tim said reaching for another bottle rocket.

He set off three more and refined his timing. His desire was to lob the rocket out the window just in time for it to propel itself in the chosen direction. He changed over to a string of Chinese Firecrackers, lit them and threw them to the highway’s edge. They went off in a long series of “pops” and “bangs” that began to worry Tim.

He’d noticed some houses along the highway nearby. If somebody called the police, they would be in serious trouble. Tim decided to pause on the highway launches and wait until they reached the park. He rolled up his window and put the cigarette lighter into its holder.

Tom grew impatient simply driving. He reached into the bag for a bottle rocket. Using his knees to steer, he lit the fuse and PANICKED as it raced up the short string. He threw the bottle rocket at Tim’s closed window. The rocket bounced off the glass and fell into the brown paper bag with all the other fireworks.

The rocket threw a shower of sparks for several seconds before a fractional pause preceded a loud explosion inside the confines of the closed car. Tom swerved in reaction to the explosion. Tim frantically looked into the bag of fireworks to see if any others were lit from the shower of sparks given off by the bottle rocket. None were glowing. They might have gotten lucky.

A few tense moments passed in deafened silence while Tim monitored the bag of small explosives that now seems much more dangerous than when they had purchased them. Tom drove well under the speed limit and carefully stayed in his lane. Four miles until the park. Neither one anticipated fun now.

Think about the last time you broke a rule (a big one, not just ripping the tags off your pillows). Were you burned, or did things turn out for the best?