Sunday, December 24, 2006

How's this for a 2006 Holiday Car Trip? Cairo to Jerusalem

There's quite a story unfolding in my family right now, and it's putting me through some changes. First, some background: My brother David began going out with my sister-in-law Barbara at the University of Colorado at Denver. Her father had worked for an oil pipeline company in Lebanon, before moving to Arabia where he went on to be CEO of Aramco, then the biggest oil company in the world. My father was also a big-time executive in Government Relations in Arabia - the country where I was born - so the fathers were friends. In other words, our families have old ties with each other and the Middle East. We were Americans living overseas.

The days of college in Boulder, Colorado led to Barbara's family's home state of Minnesota. The big question - as with any college romance - was what next? What next turned out to be heartbreak hotel, a temporary or maybe permanent split as Barb went for more schooling in Cairo, Egypt. My brother was extremely bummed out, and everything was up in the air. It was just like most young people in their early twenties trying to figure out what to do.

At this point, I was towards the end of my hitchhiking years. Most of the over 25,000 miles around America had been traveled, but I still had some game left. I decided to hitchhike from Portland to Minnesota and pull a surprise visit. The night before it looked like I'd arrive - when I was in North Dakota - I thought I'd call David to tell him I was on the way. He said I had to get there by a certain time. It was either 2 or 3 in the afternoon - something like that, or he'd be gone. He would not tell me why but it was obviously a major deal.

I had to get to St.Paul, and towards crunch time, I was stuck in Minneapolis in a freeway construction site. This is when the first real break happened. My brother was working at a place called Frosty's - as I remember the name - that was right by the church with the big blue dome. I explained to my next ride where I was going and the guy had a personal connection to the restaurant. I think he used to work in it. He drove me right there - right to the place, where my brother was finishing his shift. I think I made it from Portland with 40 minutes to spare.

He finally told me what he had done. He had joined the military in his heartbroken state and they were coming for him that afternoon. He would swear in that day and spend overnight at some other location. I immediately began talking him out of it, and when the military recruiter called my brother's apartment I took the phone, and told the man in no uncertain terms that they were not getting my brother that day. The other real important break was that one of his friends from one of his many prep schools, showed up out of the blue. We began a 2 or 3 day party sequence that I won't go into out of respect. There are children involved here.

In conclusion, my brother ended up bagging the military and following Barb to Cairo - with help from my big sister. That was where the adventure really began. David started interning at a news organization, and began working as a video journalist. When the Achille Lauro ship hijacking happened he got a quick interview with Mubarak that went all over the world. In America, it was on the Today Show and NBC Nightly News. That was his big break.

What happened in the next years was like a screenplay. In fact, it is a screenplay called "Covering It" that we wrote together. Dave and Barb got married and had 4 kids born in Cairo, London, South Africa, and the Philippines. After his last stint as Reuters television chief in China, David retired from the insane, dangerous, burn-out world of international news coverage.

This Christmas my family is getting a refresher course in what it was like to worry all those years ago. My brother and his family all met up in Cairo once again in December of this year, and - get this - drove from Cairo to Jerusalem in a car. They're still over there right now.

We have email so it's not as isolated and weird as the old days when David would be detained somewhere. And I do mean detained. Actually, some of his old video is so riveting, that it still shows up to this day on news specials about South Africa, etc...One tidbit: He sat in a garden at Bishop Tutu's house with Nelson Mandela, the day after Mandela's release from prison. On the other hand, he missed one of his kids graduations because he was being detained by the Chinese police.

I got permission to tell my part of the story before David left. When they are safely back, I'll ask to blog the picture of his family back by the Pyramids. The original was taken twenty years ago by a then unknown photographer, who is now an old Middle East hand. Then it was only of their first daughter, Shannon - now there are 6 in the family and the 4 kids are mostly adults.

My brother has a way of coming up with these classic adventures, and the holiday trip this year is no exception. I mean, come on. It's 2006 and you're driving the family from Cairo to Jerusalem? That is an inherently lively proposition. Obviously, Jerusalem is on high alert during the Holidays. Who am I kidding? The Middle East is always on high alert somewhere. One of the emails mentioned the atmosphere was pretty tense. Yeah, no kidding.

Me, I'm handling the whole thing much better now that I know they made the Cairo-Jerusalem drive okay. I forgot what it was like to worry about these maniacs. Of course, I also forgot how cool it was thinking about this legendary family out there doing their thing.


At 7:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Bill...just linked to your blog from Blue Oregon and really, really like what I have read, so far.
Will be putting you in my address bar for a daily visit in the future.

At 10:15 AM, Blogger Bill McDonald said...

Thanks, Mam, but the address bar? After only one post? Aren't we taking this a little fast?

At 10:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

what happens in the address bar, stays in the address bar

At 5:42 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Worst Christmas" In More Than 30 Years For Bethlehem Tourism...
CNN Posted December 24, 2006 03:46 PM


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