Thursday, March 09, 2006

7.423 reasons to say tefilat haderech when departing on long car rides

jon caught my eyes across the room as we sit in the closing session of Jews in the Woods spring 06. jon tapped his watch, or maybe i did; we agreed we needed to hit the road. our crew stood up and the good-bye hugs began. lots of kinds of hugs, i'll-miss-you hugs, i'll-see-you-soon hugs, i-wished-we-spent-more-time-together hugs, i-am-so-glad-we-finally-connected hugs. we were a bit behind schedule and the car was loaded. we left the camp harlam compound and rolled off into the yellow pastures that in a few months will be gorgeous living green.

oops, wrong yellow rolling pastures, we doubled back and try a different road. we passed some fences made of sticks of various sorts, indeed, those were the right pastures. we get on route 209. it was time for tefillat haderech. finally, we were safe from brigands. we need to make some good time. so i stepped on it. we were zipping along, past ben's bargain barn were we looked for drawers for alan, past the world's largest general store and onto a legitimate highway. humming along with the protection from speeding tickets that only tefillat haderech and a minivan can provide we started to sing as usual. this little light of mine, i'm going to let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, all the way to dc, i'm going to let it shine. or zarua latzadik, ulyishrei lev simcha. josh luckens preached some mighty words about our trip and how it would be blessed with the the word.

to find out about the christian truck stop read on...

a couple hours of zipping zoomed by and we were making very good time. so good, in fact, that we got to stop for lunch. we chose a random place, the all american family restaurant in myerstown PA. it was in a very christian trucker stop. [yeah i didn't knwo there were christian trucker stops either.] we got a table in the back corner and the seven of us, charles, sarah, josh, aharon, jon, jonah, and i piled into a booth. we were pretty clearly the weirdest thing that had passed through in a long time. i went to check out their buffet. our waitress had told us that it had a "little bit of everything", i was skeptical. it did indeed have a little bit of several things, beef rollups, pork somethings, pork something elses, scrapple, some sort of beef and macaroni. needless to say, it wasn't what i was thinking about being a vegetarian and all. on my way back to the table i caught a snippet of a conversation of some truckers, or perhaps trucker-looking-locals; "i think they call that thing a yah-mer-kuh" one said. "really, yahr-muhl-kuh, huh?", said the other. i smiled, but not at them. our food came, it was just as expected. we paid and got on the road again. charles had gased up the rig and picked himself up some tastykakes (OUd).

we realized that we had about 100 miles of highway and 15 miles of local roads to cover in an hour and thirty-five minutes. i figured i could manage that. we did say tefillat haderech and we were in a minivan. while in the trucker stop aharon and josh had become very intrigued with the complimentary copies of the new testament- including revelations! and the word of the lord. josh and i sang some gospel and other people chimed in at various points. then some people read and critiqued parts of the christian stuff. it was pointed out that we'd be pretty good christians if we weren't already pretty good jews. we were looking for signs for mercersburg [mercersburg has a suspiciously good website given its central PA location] the town were jon had been hired to play a carillon concert.

oh shit! came a holler from the back, "i left my plane tickets in the restop". aharon had remembered his tickets 100 miles later than would have been ideal. he needed them the next morning to fly back down to louisiana to do reconstruction work. we got jon to the cathedral he needed to play in. we all went up several staircases into the bowels of the bell tower, and sang esai eynai el heharim as we looked out across the alleghenies from the top of the cathedral. he adjusted the mechanical systems and we opened the door to the bell-tower. what a cool instrument. jon warmed up, the bells danced back and forth and sung. their songs were audible all the way across the campus, across the fields, and probably out on the highway. that was good because aharon turned around and was driving on that very highway to pick up his purse-sized-military-looking-plane-ticket-holding veryimportantfuckin'bag.

at josh's suggestion we held onto the frisbee and tossed it on a field as jon played, the concert was more audible on the fields that in the cathedral anyways. all of a sudden the niggun we had be singing for a half hour in the car (the delaware niggun!) wafted out of the cathedral and into the fields. jon had never played it before, he thought about it for 15 seconds and figured it out in his head. then we met this guy patrick, but that's another story entirely...

i went up the tower to see jon play while josh, charles, jonah, and sarah wandered off into town. they found an antique shop filled with treasures. the proprietor was an ancient retired history teacher who recounted the grand history of mercersberg- who knew? mercesberg was a stop on the underground railroad, its the birthplace of our 15th President, James Buchanan (1857-1861), the birthplace of the mother of promimenet whig and our 9th President, William Henry Harrison.

after sidestepping some local meatheads , we sat down to dinner at the local pub. i asked the waitress about what the lentil soup stock was. chicken? beef? she asked the chef. veggie! huzzah! . charles asked for a potato. double-wrapped in aluminum foil, on a fresh plate. the woman was clearly at a loss. she couldn't figure it out at all. we were crazy exotic in this home town of some american presidents. aharon, came and we all ate.

we left the restaurant and tried to get back to the highway. key word: tried. we wound down pitch black roads onto more and more remote paths, some with signs some without. at the time it didn't seem like it was as unbelievably bad an idea as it does now that i am describing it. we realized we were no longer on roads that were on the map. so we saw a house with lights on so we pulled into the driveway. a quick convening of the nominating committee meeting yielded me and josh as our direction-asking-delegates. excited at this nomination we struck a path into the dark abyss.

at a measured pace we moseyed towards the house. there were a couple of pickups in the driveway and lights on, so we were pretty sure someone was home. when we were a few steps into our walk a woman popped out, she asked us what we were up to. josh said we were lost and headed towards DC and could she help. she goes "hold on a sec" and disappeared back inside her pad.
a few minutes passed. "maybe she is asking her significant other".
"i think they use the term 'husband here'".
a few mote minutes pass. "maybe she went to get a map", i hoped.
"or maybe she went to get a gun," josh theorized.
a few more minutes and then some rustling, lots of door related noises.
we suspected she locked several locks. prior to that we weren't even sure there was a lock.
"i didn't know they had that many locks around here".
"me either, i bet she is calling the cops," josh thought.
"excellent, they'll know how we can get to the highway," i offered.
we recentered, sung a bit of the niggun, walked some more and found a new house.
knock knock. the woman motioned us around to the side.
in our best innocent/exasperated/vulnerable voices we asked for help.
as sweet as honey in oatmeal this beautiful, courageous, brilliant sould took pity on us and directed us around a corner, under a tree, through an intersection, by a barn and to signs for an interstate. yes an an interstate. Halleluyah! that's what we said and we piled in. i basically remembered the directions and we got onto progressively more singificant roads. none of them had street lights, but its central PA, let's be realistic. we crossed the border to MD. halleluyah again.
we started to run out of gas, not so halleluyah.
we got to a gas station around 8:45. it was closed. are you kidding, at 8:45. it really was closed.
we went further got on an actual interstate and saw a BP station. we booked it over and pulled the van in. i hit the gas release button to pop open the gast hatch. nothing happened. i pressed it again, still nothing. i checked the owner's manual, nothing. we prodded. nothing. we poked. nothing. we prodded and poked while pulling the lever up, nothing. first poking then prodding, nothing. intention medidation then the lever, nothing. finally we gently applied pressure with a pen knife or some such thing. it opened, thank yah.
we got gas. we drove another coulple hours and started dropping people off, first at american, then in DuPont Circle (JuPont if you will). finally we couldn't find the night vision to trek up to college park so we went to the convenient columbia heights metro. i parallel parked and we got the stuff for jonah. we hugged and sung and joked and were huddled in a group hug. a guy looked at us for a while. he crossed the street. he fit in, we didn't. he stopped caught our eyes, and in that awkward moment did not judge, did not jump at the love these brothers were showing each other, nothing like that; he offered to sell us some bootleg DVDs. No thanks, we said. soon after we were home.
to spite the brisk driving we made what was from Kunkletown-->DC via mercersberg, a 286 mile trip in about 12 hours. avergaing 23 mph.
what an amazing ride!
good thing we said tefillat haderech.

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