Sunday, March 21, 2010

Memory Loss and Gain

I realize now after just a few short years that I am starting to loose certain details to events in my life. So to assist with my memory loss or more simply put my memory confusion I am going to attempt to write down what I feel are some of the more interesting stories in my life. Stories that I was involved in as a main character a secondary or even tertiary character and maybe one or two that I just happened to witness.

I suppose I should start at the realization of my memory lapses. I first noticed it yesterday when I was talking to a bunch of guys while sitting around a table playing a game and one of the gentlemen, Jordan is his name, whom I have been friends with for about 3 years now, ended up correcting me on a little adventure I had while I was in the United States Navy in 1987. This particular story I have only told about 5 or 6 times and usually I only tell people that I have become close to or when I am with my old Navy buddies who also were involved in this incident. Over the years I have come to think of this story as “The Great Pyramid Slide”

The Great Pyramid Slide

John was stuck on top of a camel about 1500 yards away from the Great Pyramid of Egypt in the desert outside of Cairo and Gale and I were standing at the base of the pyramid laughing uncontrollably. Actually, all three of us had been on a camel at the same time, different camels of course. We had been crazy enough at the time to all agree to go for a camel ride from some of the camel jockeys that hang around the pyramids and let you get on their camels for free but then charge you 20 bucks to get off. We all knew that it was a scam to get our money and that you could haggle with the Jockey’s but we didn’t care we just wanted to have some fun. I actually ended up giving my Jockey 10 bucks to get the camel to kneel down so I could get off of the beast after I had my picture taken on it and Gale was a bit bolder and jumped off his camel. John completely refused to pay so the jockey slapped the camel on its hind quarters and the foul beast took off running with John hanging on for dear life. All the while screaming at the top of his lungs “GAMBO THE CAMEL AVENGER OF CAIRO!!!” Gale and I found that to be just the sort of thing that would only add to John’s already legendary status on the ship started shouting “FREE THE CAMELS FROM THEIR UNLAWFUL ENSLAVEMENT!”

Gale and I soon realized that John was not coming back for some time and started to discuss what to do next. All three of us wanted to tour the pyramids interior and we really did not want to leave John out of the loop since the tours were in groups of 15 to 20 people at a time. So with nothing else to do we decided why not climb the Great Pyramid? I mean how hard could it be? The Egyptians did it, the Jewish slaves did it, why can’t we as Reagan Sailors part of the best Naval force in the history of the World do it? Heck, there was no one around to stop us so up we went and Gale lead the way.

It was AWESOME!!! We must have climbed for 20 minutes and this is not just straight up climbing. Nope, the blocks of the pyramids are about 4 to 5 feet tall and are covered with sand which is loose and slippery also there are rocks which are sometimes on top of the sand or in certain instances buried under the sand which will dig into your fingertips, palms and under your finger nails when you least expect it and make you scream like a 3 year old who just stubbed their toe at 3 a.m. while heading to the bathroom. Meaning, NO FUN FOR ANYONE! On top of this I had Gale kicking sand off of the blocks down on me and laughing about it. Ok, so I was laughing too because I knew I would have done the same thing to him if our rolls were reversed and he were following me. You can’t really climb straight up the pyramid, at best you can get 3 maybe 4 rows up and then you have to move left or right to another area on the pyramid to find a safer ascension point.

Where was I…? Oh, 20 minutes of climbing… Gale and I stopped to check out how high up we had gotten and to take in the sites of Cairo and to also look at the rest of the ruins from a vantage point few get to see. What we saw was amazing and frightening too. There were people pointing at us and screaming and cops running toward the base of the pyramid we were on and blowing whistles. I looked at Gale and said “Oh Fuck… Dude, I think we are in trouble.” Gale did not really reply, he just had a big grin on his face. “GALE…. Shit man, this is serious, we have to get off this thing man.” Gale laughed and then I started to laugh. “Skip, you got a cigarette on you?”I just look at Gale and say “Yeah Gale, I do. And I don’t think now is a good time for one with shit-storm of trouble we have waiting for us down there.” Gale looks at me with a funny look and said “Yeah, I think now is good. They don’t look like they are going to come up after us. As a matter of fact we just might not get to have another smoke if we do get caught.” So I pull out my pack of smokes and we light up.

It was a surreal moment. There we were sitting on the side of the Great Pyramid in Cairo, Egypt smoking Marlboro Lights while down below us there were people screaming, pointing, cursing and walking around wondering what two crazy guys were doing halfway up the Great Pyramid and we could not really care less. I had a sudden flash in my head of what it must have been like for the slaves who built the pyramids or the Pharaohs who had them built and showing up to inspect the work and looking down over the barren expanse of the desert and being filled with the satisfaction of knowing they were going to leave an everlasting impact on the planet, that the sheer power of their Will has helped them Create and Inspire generations of people not yet born or even from their country. It was a bit of a mind blowing experience but it could not last for long.

As Gale and I put out our cigarettes we realized we needed to move quickly and come up with a plan to get off the pyramid and away from the police or we were in for a major shit storm of trouble. Gale started moving quickly and I followed behind.
We both knew what our goal was and we did not need to verbalize the direness of our situation. Gale climbed, I followed but soon we knew we would run out of room as we approached the apex of the pyramid. As I followed I realized we were also approaching a corner and that we would be forced to turn. I did not know what kind of navigation and agility it would require but I knew it was going to happen. Gale went around the corner first and started to yell so I hastened my pace and got to where Gale had been just a moment before. The sand on the ledge was gritty and there was no place for a hand hold. It seemed as if the wind was blowing out of the desert at 40 miles an hour and kicking up enough sand to block out anything within 5 feet of my face. It was almost choking me. I couldn’t see my feet or even the edge of the pyramid, I also heard Gale yelling for me. I reached for the edge of the block, sliding my hand all the way to the edge. I could feel the corner where I needed to turn but the sand was everywhere. In my eyes, nose mouth, I was quite literally blind.

Suddenly there was a hand grabbing arm and pulling me around the corner. When I opened my eyes Gale was standing there grinning at me. “Crazy ass weather here” was all he said while laughing. “C’mon! We have got to move!” and then we were off again. I did not even have time to catch my breath we were moving so fast. We were starting to head down at an angle; Gale was about two rows below me when I felt some cool air coming out of the pyramid. I hollered at Gale to come back and he stopped. “What?” he shouted. “I found something. C’mere.” He climbed up and I told him what I felt and we both thought of the same thing. The Maps. The maps that we sat and looked at on the bus ride to Cairo from Alexandria. The maps showed how the Ancient Egyptians and their slaves built the pyramids but more importantly one of the photos showed a cross section of them and where all the ventilation shafts were and explained why they built them with the vents. We started to search for the source of the cool air and we found it quite easily. It was not even hidden. We both stood there looking down the gaping dark hole with cool air blowing out of it. It was not a large hole and the angle was quite steep. I looked at Gale and we both just grinned at each other. I nodded, Gale shrugged, “Why not.” He said but it was not a question, it was a statement. A statement that said; We have nothing to loose and everything to gain. Then he threw himself down the shaft feet first and laughing all the way. I grabbed the top edge of the vent and smiled to myself and looked over my shoulder down at the base of the pyramid, more people were starting to come around the corner, shouting and pointing at where I was. I waved at them with my free hand and then followed the sound of laughter.

I don’t know how long we slid or how fast we were going. It was dark and I could not see Gale in front of me but I could here him. I was laying on my back with one hand on the roof of the vent and one hand on the side just barely touching it. The cool air blowing up was quite amazing but it also blew up particles of sand and it was getting stuck all in my nose and mouth. Then I heard Gale shouting for me to slow down. To stop. I braced my feet against the sides of the vent and started to slow. I looked down and saw some light, faint but it was light and I knew we were close to getting out of the vent. I stopped. “It is about a 10 foot drop” Gale said. “Ok. What are you waiting for? GO!” was my reply. Then the top of Gales’ head disappeared and I heard a thump. “SWEET! Hurry Skip! It is not too bad.” I let go and fell. It seemed like a long fall but in truth it was really as Gale had said, about ten feet. I landed on my ass and when I looked up Gale was brushing sand off of his jeans and his jacket and laughing.”We have GOT to do that AGAIN!”. “Yeah” I said, “But next time John better be with us.” “Dude,” Gale replied “He would not fit in the ventilation shaft.” “Yeah you’re right, let’s get moving. Where are we?” “Do you still have the map from the bus?” Gale asked. “Uhh, I think.” I started to check my pockets. I found nothing in my pants or my shirt pickets, my jean jacket pocket were barren of maps. “Dude, I do not think I have it, do you?” I said. “Nope” Was Gales’ reply. “Got a smoke?” I heard Gale ask. “Sure” I said and reached into my cigarette pocket inside my jacket and that is when I felt the map. It was sitting next to my cigs. “Dude, got the map.” I said. Gale smiled and said. “Let’s go.” We started off, both looking at the map and trying to figure out where we were.

As we walked we started to hear voices and decided to follow them and also trying to figure out where we were inside this massive structure. We were headed up. As I looked at the map I realized we had landed near the Grand Gallery and were approaching the Kings Chamber. It seemed there was a tour group in there. The voices were getting louder and we hear cameras going off all over the place. Click, click, click, click. “Gale, think we can blend in with the group and get out?” “Sure Skip, I don’t see why not. Just hope no one notices us joining them. Let’s sit back and wait. Be quiet and inconspicuous.” “Sounds like a plan Shipmate.” I replied.
We slowed our walk down as we approached the King’s Chamber. We looked in and saw about 15 people there. Some of them were from our ship and some were just regular civilians. We approached the back of the crowd as quietly as we could. No one seemed to notice us, everyone was looking at the walls, ceiling and sarcophagus of the dead Pharaoh that was supposedly entombed there. We knew then we had a chance, a slim chance but one none-the-less.

We looked at each other and grinned. Then we started to try and blend in with everyone else. I took my jean jacket off and tied it around my waist. I noticed Gale was doing the same thing. After about 20 minutes the group we had joined started to walk out. Gale and I separated within the group and walked out of the Great Pyramid.

When we got outside there were cops everywhere looking for us but it seemed that no one knew what we looked like nor what we were wearing. We stayed as far away from each other as we could but we both seemed to be headed for the refreshments with just about everyone else in our adopted group and the groups of the other pyramids.

Everyone seemed to ignore us. We were invisible to them. That is when we saw John; he was sitting at a table with a beer in his hand a huge grin on his face. He was also waving to us. When we sat down at the table all he said was; “Guys, want to go see the Sphinx?”

Gale and I looked at each other and laughed, I said “Let’s CLIMB THE SPHINX!!!” John started laughing and I knew then we had another adventure coming this day.

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