Phase One, In Which Doris Gets Her Oats

I really pushed the envelope on this one. Trying to patch up a failing relationship meant skipping out of work and hitchhiking to Tel Aviv. As time would tell, our memories were “longer than the road that stretches out ahead,” but that evening I felt pretty good when I caught the last southbound bus. Well, felt pretty good about the two of us at least.

My livelihood was now in serious jeopardy. Work started at 6:00 a.m. No excuses. I couldn’t afford to be late and this bus would barely get me a third of the way to the Ovda airbase construction site. From there I was on my own.

It was after 11:00 p.m. when I finally caught a ride on the outskirts of Be’er Sheva.  Fortunately the guy had a lead foot. Unfortunately he was only going as far as Mitzpe Ramon and when he heard my intentions he did a double take. “Hitchhike through the makhtesh? Tonight? I advise you not to do that. We have a hostel, you should stay there.”

I had no choice. It was after midnight when – with a shake of his head – he dropped me off near the edge of the makhtesh or as most of us called it, the Ramon Crater.

About 24 miles long and with a vertical drop of 1,600 feet, the crater has variously been described as a “combination of the Grand Canyon and the surface of Mars,” “a titanic optical illusion,” “a massive, twisting fantasy of orange and black,” and “an enormous panorama of what the Earth looked like 200 million years ago.”

I’d driven through here many times, always thinking, “what a hell of a place to get stuck.” Now here I was descending the deserted triple-hairpin road on foot beneath a waning crescent moon, while the mountainous wall sucked-in a little more ambient light with every downward step. From the inky darkness at the base it was a five mile walk to the other side, where the ascent was more gradual and the night sky brighter; then only 55 miles of barren desert and pitted two-lane blacktop to Ovda.

In times like this, exhausted and alone, I take comfort in song. And rest assured I sang – sometimes at the top of my voice – every song I could remember the lyrics to. Of particular resonance was this, the opening track to the Beatles’ Let it Be album, which I first heard on a reel-to-reel deck my brother brought back from Korea, after leaving the Army in 1970.

Written by Paul McCartney, who ostensibly dedicated it to his other half, Linda, some of the lyrics clearly refer to his other, other half John. Sharing the same microphone as they sang it, each surely understood that the storied Lennon/McCartney partnership had reached an end. The song was also a point of contention between Paul and George, as played out in the film of Let It Be:

Paul: It’s complicated now. We can get it simpler, and then complicate it where it needs complications.

George: It’s not complicated.

Paul: This one is like, shall we play guitars through Hey Jude. Well, I don’t think we should.

George: OK, well I don’t mind. I’ll play, you know, whatever you want me to play, or I won’t play at all if  you don’t want to me to play. Whatever it is that will please you, I’ll do it.

The finished version of Two of Us (as shown in the film) was performed live at Apple Studios on the last day of January 1969 and first broadcast on The Ed Sullivan Show on March 1, 1970 as the Beatle’s final appearance.

Back in my world, it was around 4:00 a.m. on a July morning in 1981. With the prospect of salvation dimming I was encircled by wafting mirages – at least I think they were mirages – when lo, headlights appeared in the direction of the crater.

Coming into view was a derelict flatbed lorry, which – without completely stopping  -slowed enough for me to clamber on and join an Arab work crew huddling with their shovels on the back. “Ovda?” I called to the driver. He nodded.  In response to some quizzical expressions I mumbled one of the few Arabic words I knew, “Fatatan” (a girl). Wry smiles all around.

No time for sleep, but just maybe time for breakfast, I sat cross-legged in good company, nodding off to visions of buttered toast, fried eggs, coffee; hearkening again to the trill of Lennon’s whistle, while McCartney affirmed, “We’re going home, you better believe it…”

Two of Us

I Dig A Pygmy by Charles Hawtrey and the Deaf Aids.

Phase One, in which Doris gets her oats.

[Note: Charles Hawtrey was a British comedic actor,

and The Beatles called their Vox Amps “Deaf Aids.”]

Two of us riding nowhere

Spending someone’s

Hard earned pay

You and me Sunday driving

Not arriving

On our way back home

We’re on our way home

We’re on our way home

We’re going home

Two of us sending postcards

Writing letters

On my wall

You and me burning matches

Lifting latches

On our way back home

We’re on our way home

We’re on our way home

We’re going home

You and I have memories

Longer than the road that stretches out ahead

Two of us wearing raincoats

Standing so low

In the sun

You and me chasing paper

Getting nowhere

On our way back home

We’re on our way home

We’re on our way home

We’re going home

You and I have memories

Longer than the road that stretches out ahead

Two of us wearing raincoats

Standing so low

In the sun

You and me chasing paper

Getting nowhere

On our way back home

We’re on our way home

We’re on our way home

We’re going home

[We’re going home, you better believe it. Goodbye.]

One thought on “Phase One, In Which Doris Gets Her Oats

  1. absolutely wonderful pops. My favorite post of yours so far. The song fits perfectly, the length of the post is spot on, and I can truly picture the journey you were on. Wry smiles indeed.

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