Saturday, October 29, 2005

Got Milk?

We get bored. We get daring. We make challenges. We do dumb things to entertain ourselves. Not only that, we video tape the events.

Iraqi milk is not anything close to the goodness of American whole milk, please keep that in mind. It actually gets shipped to us from Kuwait, not many cows around here and the ones we see don't look like they have any to spare.

But anyway, for your viewing displeasure, the Gladiators Gallon Milk Challenge. One hour to drink a gallon of full cream (whole) milk (15.5 boxes), must keep it in your stomach for 45 minutes afterward. There was money on the line....and pride. So, place your bets and watch the video.

Right Click and chose Save Link As...
Do NOT click and stream the video!!!
video is 20Megs, xvid/divx

Breaker 1-9 This is Teddy Bear

Ya, just got back from another convoy. Finally had something mildly exciting to do....if you consider driving a gun truck through Iraq mildly exciting. Driving is so much more fun than being on the radio.

I know that I have not updated frequently enough, for some very basic reasons. I have yet to really recover from the events of my R&R; not that I should expect to overnight either. Life here is a desolate and abject experience. If you do your job well, there is less to do. We all do our jobs well here. Couple that lack of purpose with a profound existential emptiness and it is a recipe for stir craziness. But on to the convoy....

One thing I noticed was the number of Iraqis that showed support for us when we drove by, even after all this time of our strong-armed occupation. It is wonderful to see the little children, dressed in bright clothes, running to the edge of the road to wave to us. I wish I had bags of candy, like the parade floats, to toss to these kids.

I wrote previously that 'chicken' is my favorite road game to play. Mind you, I play only when needed. One Iraqi almost bought his ticket though......

We were driving through a lightly populated area which produced light traffic on the roadway. We own the road. We drive where we want, but usually in the middle while the civilians leave the surface to drive on the wide shoulders. We know this, they know this. So, I was driving the 2nd gun truck watching the lead vehicle split the oncoming traffic, when I noticed the gunner waving off a fast approaching car. It always pops into my head that this may finally be the VBIED I have expected. The car continued at the lead truck without slowing. At the last moment the car swerved to barely miss the lead truck. I was far enough back to watch the driver begin to gesticulate wildly and aggressively out the side window. He never cleared the lane and tried maintaining his speed. I perked up. Here was my chance to test this vehicle to see how much will he had to meet Allah that day. He started to come fully into the lane again, the lane that I now occupied, making aggressive gestures. I sped up. He saw me headed directly towards him. He increased his gesticulating and speed. I sped up and aimed. I had a vehicle behind me we were escorting, so if there was to be an attack on the convoy I wanted to take care of it. So I am driving directly at the vehicle now, roughly 65-75 mph, he's accelerating towards me but then thinks better of it when he notices that I am aiming for him. He pulls half off the road again and demonstrates more aggressive behavior. I adjusted my aim. At the very last instant, he cleared the road fully. I never left the surface but came within inches of his car; right behind the driver door to the rear bumper. He then stayed clear of the lane to let the following vehicles pass.

He must not have gotten the memo.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

The "Way-Back" Machine

Let's all get in our Way-Back Machines and roll back time 14 years or so. Here's the scenario....

Bob, Joel, Brian, STBEW, and myself have cookout at my house in Shamokin Dam, PA. We decide to go to a local pub just up the road, the Old Trail Inn, to see a rising local band play. I remember vaguely the singer because he hit on my STBEW while I was standing there, but all in good fun. I remember the band was loosely based in Northumberland, PA, while the singer allegedly attended college at Susquehanna University in Selinsgrove, PA. The singer was not a big guy, medium build really with long curly dark brown hair. Pretty boy. We all liked the music, was a little grungier than the other successful local band, Dirty Looks. The band had a strange name, I think it was multiple words which got eventually shortened as they became more popular. They put out a CD, picture on the back or inside cover showed the band sitting on the back stoop of a house in Norry, B&W.

Why Can I remember all these damned details but can't remember the name of this band. If you have a clue please respond. There has to be some local band trivia buffs out there from central PA. (How many times can I include "PA" in this post?) This is the kind of thing that I find myself thinking about because I have nothing but frikkin' time to do so. This deployment has been akin to the moment before one dies wherein your whole life flashes before your eyes.....but it has lasted for 10 months so far. Help.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


Ya, no cute quip today, just an update. Went to the range today, firing is always fun. Today was the first overcast sky since April and a few spinkles actually made their way to the ground. I wagered that a full shower will happen by the weekend. It has cooled off a lot, at night it gets down to 75 degrees F. Days are only about 95 now.

My net connection is back and stable for once, so I feel connected to the world again. Conversely, I decided last night that I hated myself and every word that came out of my mouth. I stopped talking today unless I absolutely had to. I have become a pudding skin of mellow, wrapping a ball of vile rage. Seems to be working out for me...when in doubt - withdraw.

Walked into a building today (not like a collision) and saw my vendor buddy, Saddam. Coincidentally, the Saddam Hussein trials were on the TV. So we stood and watched them together for a few minutes. I asked him what he thought of Hussein, to which he replied with the knife-edge finger across the throat. War crimes....remember the good old days of war when the enemy leaders were shot?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Trust is a Haircut

Faith is a haircut and shave by an Iraqi.

Friday, October 07, 2005

The Metaphor

The IED that caused that crater would have taken out my side of the truck and me along with it. But strangely, I had no real reaction to that consideration; no fear, no shock, no feeling of fortune. Nothing except the idea that it signified something.

It only took me a few more moments to realize what that was. As we were snaking our way through the tight, bush-lined corridor toward the Tigris bridge, I came to understand that the IED blast was a specific, destructive event that had left lasting effects.

The metaphor began.

We continued for a few more kilometers through the threatening corridor, not able to see around bend nor any potential threat that may lie thinly veiled behind some foliage. That IED blast happened while I was not around, outside of my control, but yet disrupting my path, changing my life. That represented what had been done to my children and me during my deployment. The winding, blind corridor with vague unseen threats in all directions signified the time of feeling lost, violated, attacked after the news had been given us during R&R. I was blind to my future; what step was next, but forced to continue moving forward.

Then came the bridge.

Recently, I have been pulling out of the pervasive funk I had been trapped in since my return to Iraq. The other side of the bridge is clear and open, the road wide and visible. Traveling on from there, I saw the bigger metaphor; Iraq has been my marital life. Iraq started out beautiful and progressive, the cradle of civilization, a wonderous place to be. Then shortly after its shining rise, it stagnated; lost its way, became barren and unforgiving. For centuries, leaders and empires tried to raise Iraq to its preious stature, to make it a viable nation once again. But all failed. As my marital life suffered its destructive blows, so did Iraq suffer the toppling of itself as a nation at the hands of an outside uninvited force. Many said Iraq would be better off after the corruption had been exposed and removed, but now the nation lays in anarchic waste.

Mile after mile of flat, tan, barren land lay between me and home.

Iraq, and my life, awaits a time that actual healing and rebuilding of its own, by its own, can begin. The occupying armies, the facts and memories in my newly forced history, perpetuate the chaos and represent the first major step to overcome in regaining sovereign control over the nation, my life. Maybe we, as the occupying force, at the very least steel the resolve of the indiginous, making them stronger in the spite of our efforts and not in their subjugation. The painful details of the events that occurred to my children, myself, and my marriage have the power to build my resolve for a better future, in lieu of being destroyed by the shame thrust upon us.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

A Quick Interjection About Instant Messaging

I just needed to post this since we've been denied the privelege of using instant messaging for nearly 2 weeks now. To put it bluntly, I hacked around the restrictions on the network and I / we are now able to do IM again ;)

So, the previous entry will continue soon, but look for me again on IM.


Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Living a Metaphor of Life

Today I was completing another mission travelling through Iraq when I realized a most curious idea. I had been bothered by something for days, a feeling of disjointedness. I had seen several new and interesting things on the trip out to our location whose existential beauty seemed greater than I really could absorb at that time. Could I have become calloused to what brings my experiences their deeper meanings? Could I have been so personally damaged by the recent events of my life that now the simplest of wonders is met with apathy? Has life simply turned absolutely ugly for me that the few pearls that come along are worthless because of the slop? I refused to let that last bit of me be ruined. I recorded the events in my mind as they happened, feeling only some of their beauty. I replayed them in my mind during the doldrums of the mission until they took on a surreal quality.

Today is the first day of Ramadan.

We began or convoy back to home in the morning as Ramadan began. We had been given the obligatory propaganda briefings about Ramadan the week prior. Repeating to us that Ramadan is a period of peace for the muslim; through fasting and prayer they become closer to Allah. We should respect them because Ramadan is a period of peace for the muslim. Repeated ad nauseum. That is why the Apaches were on patrol as we left the gate.

I began to replay the events I witnessed on the trip up. Comparing what I saw today, there was a noticeable difference between missions but no real difference between what I saw at the beginning and the end of our current mission. Many more people were out in their fields and in towns, many teens and younger children, too. Too many donkeys littered the streets that our convoy had to swerve around one that was obscured by a cloud of dust, as he lazily strolled down the center of a major route. I chalked all the activity up to two factors; beginning of Ramadan and the change in weather. Recently, the weather has gotten cooler. The highs are only 100 fahrenheit, lows around 75. It even rained nearby for the first time since April.

There was a fresh IED crater in our lane.

To be continued.....