as a good place.
So we checked out the three books on the Middle East available at the public library, and spent our allowance on others at the Readmore Book World. We ate olives and drank coffee, and sat cross-legged on the floor (since one of our books said that no one in Saudi Arabia used chairs). We sent away for an Arabic textbook. And we planned a pilgrimage to Mecca.
The holy city of Islam, forbidden to non-Muslims, remote, mysterious.
But 40 years ago, before the internet, in a small town in the Midwest, we found only sketchy, outdated information:
The tale of explorer Richard Burton sneaking into Mecca in disguise in 1853.
A two-paragraph description of the pilgrimage (hajj) in Hitti's Islam: A Way of Life.
Some photographs in a National Geographic article.
Or out of their robes.
And, most important, freedom from the mind-control chant of "what girl do you like? What girl do you like?"
How were we going to get to Mecca?
I suggested that we become missionaries, and win all of the Muslims in Saudi Arabia for Christ. Surely it wouldn't take more than a year or two, and then they would welcome us into Mecca.
In the fall of ninth grade, we decided to move to Jiddah to work as engineers, then cross the desert by camel (about a two day trip) and sneak into the city. If we wore Arab costumes, we would certainly be undetected.
Once we reached "the good place," we would never want to leave.
But sometime in the spring, Dan suddenly abandoned our plans to call a girl and ask her for a date! He had been taken over by the tripods. He was lost.
I know now that Saudi Arabia is one of the more vehemently homophobic countries on Earth. But I still remember the dream of Mecca that kept us warm and happy during a cold Midwestern winter 40 years ago.
For more stories of junior high, see: Getting Phil to Sin; and a Naked Man for Christmas.