By now, I'm sure most of you have seen the video of Sarah Palin being interviewed in front of Joe the Turkey Killer and read better jokes than I can write about the subject. I saw the video when it was played on The Rachel Maddow Show which was on the large, flatscreen television at the pho place where my family had dinner on Friday night. The television was muted, which I found oddly appropriate for Palin, and I was one of the unlucky three who were sitting facing the television. Having now seen the unsensored version of the video, I have to admit surprise that anything was fuzzed out at all, but then I am rather badly red-green colorblind. The video reminded me of a family story from our days in Romania.
This story takes place in the year before the Iron Curtain* fell, as we were driving home to Bucharest from a road trip through Yugoslavia. We had had a flat tire on the way out from Bucharest, so our spare was already in use when we ran over a nail or two** about ten minutes from the border with Romania with only hours left on our visas. We managed to limp across the border, during which I took the opportunity to admire the scenery while secretly trying to locate the Iron Curtain. We were now about 500 kilometers from Bucharest with two flat tires and three good ones. Paranoid security forces could show up at any time, and the people in the nearest town might be too afraid to help us out, regardless of hard currency or not.
Since it was getting late and we weren't going any further that day, Mom and Dad decide to camp out in the recently reaped field near the side of the road after asking permission from the farmer. As we set up our tents, our emotions were mixed. I was ecstatic about missing school the next day. My mother was worried about feeding us, since she had planned on a ten day trip which was stretching to 11 or more. My father was likely angry and bordering on furious. My younger brother was probably oblivious. My older brothers were feeling devious, taking every opportunity to tease us about being traded for a new tire. As we lay down for the night, we all felt extreme discomfort because the five-inch plant stalks didn't exactly crush easily beneath us. The sensation was akin to sleeping on a bed of nails with a nail density of one nail to one foot. I have had worse nights, but while they also involve claim jumping in camp sites, they are from a different era of my life.
The next morning we asked around the little farming town for some guy who might be able to help us with the leaky tire. The helpful gentlemen of this nameless town would react pretty much the same way to my father's requests for information: "VULKANAZARIA!?" and then they would relate some version of "I don't know anyone, but my brother/uncle/cousin/friend does know someone." We set off limping down the road, searching for a "VULKANAZARIA?!" In the end, we found some guy who was unable to fix the tire, but who thought we might be able to stick an inner tube inside our tire. That just might work. But first he had to find a tube without a whole in it, so we went to his buddy's house who had a large enough basin to submerge the semi-inflated tube and check for bubbles.
The scene at the buddy's house was interesting. A bizarre conversation was taking place my father conversing with a couple Romanians in a couple of different languages as my older brothers stood by, trying to look mature and knowlegable, and my mother watched me and my brother play with the variety of animals in the courtyard of the lovely, little farm house. There were kittens and maybe a puppy. There were also chickens in a coop, but those were rather less interesting because they were fenced in and I can't recall any chicks. So we played with the kittens, and tried not to be terribly bored as the tire issue dragged through the day.
When the grandmother of the house walked out of the kitchen door with a hatchet in her hand, the chickens suddenly became the focus of the afternoon. The grandmother was wearing a dark scarf and the hatchet was in her right hand. She walked over to the coop and at this point my mother said, "OH! Hey children! Uh, look down the well, I saw something move down in the well." My younger brother ran over and began looking down the well, as did I. As I looked down into wet darkness, I realized that there was absolutely no way my mother could have seen anything at the bottom because the weel was deep and she had been standing at least ten feet away. The chicken coop door creaked. I turned to ask her a question and she said, "There it is, I see it!" She pointed down the well again, and I didn't want to be the only one to miss the well creature, so I looked. The chickens began a mighty squawking. Seeing nothing, I turned my head again, but this time my mother grabbed my head and pointed it down the well and told me to look harder. The hatchet made a thunking sound twice and the squawking stopped. There was nothing down that damn well but water. My mother said, "Oh, maybe I just thought I saw something that wasn't there, or maybe you missed it." There was some blood on the stump by the coop.
We never did that tire fixed in that town. We ended up inflating the tire with a cigarette-lighter-powered-air pump and then racing as fast as we could for a mile or two, then my brother would jump out and inflate the tire again. I think this went on for close to six hours before we got home.
* KLANG! But seriously, ask me sometime about my young mind's unknowledge of metaphor and my subsequent education. I was a very confused boy, but my igneous parents even more so.
** Exact number uncertain. I remember at least two and one of my brothers claims there was only one.