Here’s the story of my trip to the Dead Sea in 2010:
It was 1 PM on a Saturday. I was in the middle of my day-off routine, which at the time went something like this:
11:30 AM-11:45 AM- Wake up. Thoroughly stretch hips. Chug water. Tell myself I am going to teach myself computer programming, study for the GMAT, and clean my apartment.
11:45 AM- 12:00 PM – Decide that thoroughly stretching hips was enough energy expenditure for the morning. Put off any studying and self improvement exercises. Turn on podcast, make scrambled eggs with fried potatoes.
12:00 PM- 2:30 AM – Watch episode after episode of Breaking Bad/ Parks and Recreation/ New Girl / Deadwood / NTSFSD:SUV / Children’s Hospital / Archer/ Cougar Town/ The British Office/ The Sopranos / Mad Men / Friday Night Lights/ anything on TV that didn’t have a Chef or a Real Housewife. Whatever show I was into at the moment, I basically free-based it until I passed out. Occasionally I would venture outside, but usually I just holed up, consumed media and ate.
My go to meal at the time was a dish I still consider to be one of the most delicious desserts I’ve ever had: an Israeli cinnamon bread, whose name I never learned, topped with vanilla Haagen Daas Ice cream.
While this dish was good at room temperature, microwaving it allowed for the ice cream to melt over the bread, resulting in a treat with heroin-level addiction potential. Unfortunately, there were times when the microwave proved to be problematic.
My apartment was outfitted with a heating device that should barely have been allowed to call itself a microwave. It had to be manually turned on and off. You could turn a knob and pre-set an amount of cooking time, but the microwave would not shut off until you physically opened the door. It was an abomination of an appliance that never should have been allowed out of the factory. It definitely would not have made the final cut if Jack Donaghy was in charge:
One afternoon I was using noise-cancelling headphones while preparing my dessert, and I was particularly wrapped up in a podcast. I put the dish in the microwave, walked away, and promptly forgot about it.
About 10 minutes later I noticed that my room was filling with smoke. Once I finally figured out what was going on, I rushed over to the microwave and turned it off. I then opened it to assess the damage. Amateur move. Opening the door just released even more billowing, black smoke. At this point there was a knock on my door.
I opened it to find a very concerned neighbor. He was checking in to make sure the American guy upstairs wasn’t about to burn down the building. I guess what many Israeli apartment complexes lack in smoke alarms they make up for in helpful, concerned neighbors. I was shirtless, ashy, bed headed and standing beside a janky homemade desk that I built out of cinder blocks. I don’t think I was inspiring much confidence. After repeated assurances that there was no fire, he finally left.
I then removed the microwave and left it outside my building, correct in my assumption that no one would bother stealing my dirty, smoldering appliance. I’m sure any passersby pitied the unfortunate person who couldn’t afford a microwave with ACTUAL BUTTONS.
Anyway, my TV binge watching was interrupted by a call from my two of my closest friends on the team, Sylven and Ty. They were shopping in Tel Aviv, and they decided on a whim that they wanted to go to the Dead Sea for the night. They were asking me to join. We had practice the next morning at noon, so my immediate instinct was to say no. After some cajoling on their part, and a brief consideration of what my day would consist of otherwise, (TVTVTVTVTVFOODTVTVTVTFOODTVTVFOOD) I decided to make the trek.
I arrived in Tel Aviv just as they were finishing up one of their epic shopping binges. The trunk was filled with Jordans, packs of gummy worms and designer jeans. I figured we were all set to start the drive, but at the last second they decided that we should try to bring some girls along.
This was something I had not figured into the equation. I can’t just procure girls out of thin air. If I wanted to take someone on an overnight trip to the Dead Sea, it would take some serious planning. Days of iChatting, facebooking and phone calls. Probably a dinner. Constant wondering if the girl was the kind of person I could talk to in a car for 6 hours. It would be a serious undertaking.
Here’s how much thought Ty and Syl put into it:
“We need girls.”
“Ok, call what’s her face.”
Within a half hour we were on the highway out of the city. I was at the wheel, Syl was riding shotgun, and Ty was in the back with two very attractive female companions. They compressed what for me would have been a week of effort into 3 or 4 texts. If life was a game of Mario Kart, they would be the annoying guys who knew how to hop the wall in Wario Stadium and finish the course in 5 seconds.
I was worried that it might become tiresome to talk with these two women for a four drive, but that didn’t turn out to be a problem. They were friendly, interesting and spoke good English, so no complaints there. My issue, car ride wise, was with Wiz Khalifa.
Something about him just strikes me as being marshmallow soft. It’s like he’s making the Kidz Bop version of potentially interesting songs. If I heard he was touring with John Mayer, I’d think that sounded about right.
He’s not helped by an anemic flow and relying on only the most trite subject matter. Rap has always had people who make songs about drugs and women, but Wiz transcends them all in terms of sheer cliche-ness. There are plenty of talented rappers who love their substances. Wiz Khalifa can kick rocks.
Just as I was about to pull a double Van Gogh on myself after hearing “Black and Yellow” for the ninth time, we finally got to our hotel. Instead of rushing down to the water and relishing the natural beauty of one of the world’s premiere tourist destinations, we decided to first procure some beverages.
The drink of the night was the Coco Loso, which is tequila and lemonade. Sylven is from New York, and apparently this is something Fabolous made popular out there. It’s not the worst combination. We whipped up some drinks and got our tourist on.
Floating in the sea is actually pretty amazing. I had people describe the sensation of lying on your back in a body of water, unable to sink if you wanted to, and just sort of wrote it off. It is really, really cool. Especially when you are getting tipsy with your friends and some girls.
“But Drew! You had practice in the morning!”
We did. It’s true. Frolicking in the sea, while drinking and eating hot dogs, is not smartest way to rest up for a demanding athletic endeavor. While I would certainly do things differently if I could go back, you have to understand my mind state at this point in the year. The season was almost over. We were in dead last in the league. We were on our third coach. And, most importantly, I was locked to the bench with iron chains. I was only playing if every other guard got food poisoning and our coach was unable to pull someone up from our middle school affiliate team. While I’m not proud of it, there were some reasons I wasn’t the most focused person at this point.
Eventually we decided it would be a great idea to buy a grill and start cooking. That is where, for me, the night started to veer toward the regrettable. We were making a nice dent in the Coco Loso jug, and I was quickly approaching the point where I should not have been around an open flame.
One second I was laughing and joking around with our girl friends:
The next second I was with Ty, on top of a wooden canopy, dodging rocks. It took a moment to realize that the rocks were being thrown by Sylven, who was standing on the beach below us, laughing.
I have zero recollection of how I scaled the canopy, or why Sylven was throwing things at us, but I immediately knew things had gone horribly awry. It was like Memento, only if that guy was drunk on a beach.
“Haha, what y’all doin up there?”
“Honestly…not sure. But one of those could take out my eye!”
“Nah, you’re cool”
It went on like that for another minute. Ty and I taking cover while Sylven shelled us from below. Apparently I am quick to forgive, because I look downright giddy in the one picture I have of the situation. Ty still looks rather perturbed, which is understandable. It would have been tough to explain a broken orbital bone to the coaches.
I eventually made it down, disrobed (??) and started chasing Sylven around the beach. Not in a “I really want to fight you” way but in a “my blood is half Coco Loso and I don’t see the peril in provoking a 6’6 freak athlete” way. Probably a good thing I didn’t catch him.
Unfortunately, while giving chase, I managed to catch calf full of burning hot embers. As I sprinted after Sylven, wearing only underwear and a look of determination, I clipped the grill with my heel. This sent coal, ash and flames all over the back of my right leg.
It barely even phased me. I stopped my pursuit, but not to assess how badly I just burned myself, or to think about how lucky I was that the damage was limited to the back of my leg. I simply realized I had to fix the grill so we could keep cooking. I had the vaguest notion that the next morning I was going to wish I had brought some hospital grade ointments, but at the time I was so focused on doing cartwheels in the sand and splashing around in the sea that I wasn’t really concerned.
About an hour later the details start to get tremendously hazy. Here are a couple things I remember:
-Ty buying this sweet hat.
-Being excited that I was able to locate my ear plugs when I got back to my hotel room.
Now, here are some things I definitely didn’t remember until I looked back at my photos:
-Re-entering the ocean. (Most likely saying something about how the healing properties of the salt water would heal my leg.)
-Whatever’s going on here:
Soon after that I was sound asleep. Thank god.
The next morning was a little rough, but at least we didn’t sleep through our alarms. We checked out with just enough time to make it back to practice. The natural reaction would be to hustle or asses back up North. So of course we decided to stop at a gas station, grab some breakfast and ride a camel.
None of us had ever tried it, so we all took a ride. Camels are way bigger than I imagined, and they have a temper. This guy was not particularly thrilled to have me aboard. I guess that’s to be expected when you’re a four-legged tourist attraction who lives behind a gas station. It was still pretty cool.
We managed to make it back to the gym with just enough time to change and start practice. And honestly, other than the fact that the back of my right calf felt like it had been dipped in a volcano, the practice wasn’t that bad. I guess a benefit of being young and athletic is having the resiliency to function even after putting your body through the ringer.
And maybe this is just blatant cognitive dissonance, but is having a few too many drinks with your buddies really going to compromise your athletic performance any more than if we had spent the previous night running every stair in Harvard Stadium? Or pushing weighted sleds? Or doing an ungodly amount of sprints on the track? I’m not so sure it would. I have gone into plenty of practices feeling like my body had just been trampled by elephants, and it wasn’t because I had partied the night before. The body needs rest, regardless of the stressors that were applied.
So I made it through our training session, made it home, and passed out. It was a draining experience, but if that was the only way I was ever going to experience the Dead Sea, I’d say it was time well spent. And if anyone recognizes that guy I’m sitting with on the bench in that one pic, let me know. Most likely we really annoyed him. I can Facebook him a Starbucks gift card or something.