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Response to UTUSN (Reply #2)

Tue Nov 11, 2014, 10:09 PM

3. Here 'tis. Underwhelming?!1

The highlighted paragraph is what had stuck in my mind these years. My memory was not of the desert, but, probably from preceding chapters, of dank, depressing delays in transportation, misery of populace and environment. This has an actually comedic angle of the driver and the cranky traveler surrounding the (less bleak than I remembered) paragraph. The traveler's griping about being abandoned by the driver made me LOL.

********QUOTE*****

[font size=5]The Pillars of Hercules
A grand Tour of the Mediterranean[/font]

by Paul THEROUX

G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Copyright 1995 by Cape Cod Scriveners Company

(from Chapter: ) “The 7:20 Express to Latakia” pp 429, 430-431

(p. 429) Nothing held me in Tartus. Wishing to see the great Crusader castle known variously as the Krac de Chevaliers and Qal’at al-Hisn, I made a deal with a taxi driver named Abdallah, who said he would take me there and then on to Homs, where I could get a bus or a train to Damascus.

“Lebanon!” he cried out after twenty minutes or so, gesturing towards the dark hills to the south. ….

(p. 430) Just before the darkness fell the engine faltered and Abdallah cursed, and the car replied, coughing one-syllable complaints, and then we were stuck.

“Okay, okay,” Abdallah said. To prove he was confident he took my picture and he screamed into the wind.

His high spirits unconvincing. It was an electrical fault, he said. He waved to a passing car and said he would be right back. Then he was sped into the failing light, and dusk fell. I sat in the car, tuning my shortwave radio -- news of the Israelis shelling southern Lebanon and blockading the fishing ports. Every so often a large truck went by, and the thud of its slipstream hit Abdallah’s car and shook it, and me.

[FONT style="BACKGROUND-COLOR: yellow"]Cold and unsettled at the edge of this desert, feeling thwarted, this enforced isolation filled my mind with memories of injustice -- put-downs, misunderstandings, unresolved disputes, abusive remarks, rudeness, arguments I had lost, humiliations. Some of these instances went back many years. For a reason I could not explain, I thought of everything that had ever gone wrong in my life. I kept telling myself, “So what?” and “Never mind,” but it was no good. I could not stop the flow of unpleasant instances, and I was tormented.[/FONT]

From time to time, I laughed to think I was so removed mentally from Syria, but then I concluded that being in the middle of this desert had something to do with it. It was pitch dark and silent except for when the occasional trucks thundered by. I supposed that I was fearful and disgusted; I disliked the desert, I had been abandoned by Abdallah in this howling wilderness, where there was darkness and no water.

A pair of oncoming headlights wobbled off the road. Abdallah got out and approached the car laughing, carrying a gas can. Saying it was an electrical fault had been a face-saver.

It was late. Returning the gas can to the town of Deir Atiyeh, he stopped the car and I told him I was bailing out. There ensued a great whinging argument, as he pleaded, berated, complained and demanded more money than what we had agreed on. I bought you oranges! he howled. I thought: I hate this nagging man. Then I said: Do I care? I gave him what he wanted and swore at him, and afterwards realized that the whole incident irritated me because I had been planning to tip him the very amount he had demanded. ....

********UNQUOTE*****

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