14September, 2009

I have been in Iraq for approximately four days now.   The first two were spent at FOB Speicher, where we flew in from Kuwait on a C-130.  The plane ride was even more uncomfortable than coach in a commercial airline if it can be imagined.  It was loud, contained no overhead compartments to store our gear, and many of the seats were broken.  Though we did not have to comingle with over-aged and over-weight bitchy flight attendants, we had to contend with no attendants whatsoever.  There was not even a bottle of water to be had, never mind steal biscuits and sweaty cheese.  But, as the anorexics say, “no food is good food.”


We landed combat style, which entailed dipping the nose of the plane nearly perpendicular to the earth’s surface and pulling up at the last minute to achieve a landing.   This is done in order to negate any possibility of surface-to-air missiles that could be used for our demise while flying too low over unprotected lands.  The secured area is not so large that a regular landing is feasible.  So, the plane has a small window of area in which to descend making the combat landing a necessity.   Along the way down, I was beyond too exhausted to be concerned about my safety or to even feel the nausea a more coherent mind would have manifested.  My forehead just rested on the back of the seat in front of me, mostly involuntarily, but it was a happy rest for my wary head just the same.

At Speicher, we waited for the OK to move on.  While we waited for the Chinook helicopter to transport us, our time there was rather uneventful.  We ate in a clapboard set-up that acted as a dining facility (DFAC) on the side of an airplane/helicopter hangar.  We slept as much as possible and attempted to get internet connection with mixed results.  The cot I got was like a five-star hotel on our first day there.  We were exhausted after taking twelve hours for what amounted to a two-hour flight.   But, as I am the product of the American nation, my comfort soon spoiled and the next night that same cot was like sleeping on cinder blocks.

Chinook Helicopter


After two days at Speicher, our helicopters were ready.  We had to be prepared to leave by 1930 hours (7:30 pm).  We carried upon our backs our bullet proof vests, rifles, assault packs, laptop cases, and rucksacks for a combined additional weight of approximately 1000 pounds or so.  It was difficult.  This trip, which in actual fly time amounted to about 15 minutes, took us about four hours.  The Chinook was every bit as uncomfortable as the C-130, every bit as loud, in every way just as uncomfortable.  The worst, however, was to know that I was flying directly over hundreds of thousands of Iraqi nationals that would have praised Allah in the Highest to have our bird shot down and may or may not have had the weaponry to do so.

I am ready to go home.  Nothing particularly war-like has happened so far.  But the people I am spending all my time with are on the verge of breaking my mental capacity for them.  The sergeants are more all over the place than usual with a steady flow of cautious wisdom peppered with brazen episodes of testosterone fueled outbursts.  The privates are all doing their best to step up to the plate and be good soldiers, which is nice.  What is not nice is that they have to broadcast loudly each other’s shortcomings and regurgitate the insults originated by the sergeants until you just cringe upon seeing their lips form a single one more word.  Then the specialists in the middle of the two are in a constant purgatory.  They are treated like shit like the privates, but are expected to keep the privates in line.  One particular specialist proves to be rather embittered and will showcase any of his teammate’s inadequacies to curry favor with whomever may be in earshot – as long as that someone is of a higher rank.  That is what is known as ‘ambition.’

Happy 42nd Birthday, Pam Souza!

15September, 2009

Just got back from my shower.  The water was running today and that makes me feel fine.  On the way back, I heard some gunfire.  Cannot tell whether it’s training or a firefight.  It’s more than likely training since the Iraqis like to stick to their IED trick – so annoying!  Speaking of annoying, I hate everyone here.  I have chosen to boycott breakfast just so I can have more time alone and/or asleep without having to hear two or three soldiers argue the finer points of some ‘GI Homo’ friggin’ video game.  So, each evening when they ask, “Do you want me to wake you up for breakfast?” I reply with a steadfast “No, thank you.  I think I’d prefer to sleep in this morning.”  Well, why do they bother asking?  I don’t know.  Since they come knocking on my door a full hour before I have my alarm set to give us the breakfast wake-up anyway, what was the point?  By knocking, so you know, I do not mean a simple tap tap tap once and then some whispering.  I mean two, three, four people will take turns intermittently every ten to twenty minutes and come BANG BANG BANGing on the door to give us the breakfast departure update – regardless of how many times I told them NO!  Assholes!

The day has progressed positively.  By lunch, our chief physician, the Colonel whom I had almost inadvertently named my rifle after (Dr. Pierce), took me aside and went over proper S.O.A.P. notes in the high falutin’ medical doctor way.  It was somewhat fun.  I got to strut my limited medical knowledge before him allowing me to feel like a smarty-pants for a brief second or two.   I also almost got to do an exam on an Iraqi detainee (read: terrorist!) this afternoon.  But I couldn’t find a helmet to wear so I couldn’t ride with the sergeants in the MRAP.  Oh well, it’s probably for the best.  They more than likely have crab lice and chiggers anyway (please excuse the blatant racism; I know it’s wrong but we’re at war and I’m trying to keep my “us and them” mindset about me in any way I possibly can).

I have also been put on as the pharmacy geek.  I will be tracking, issuing, inventorying, and auditing the incoming and outgoing drugs.  But none of the good stuff; I will be going after the decongestants, anti-inflammatory pills, yeast infection ointments, foot fungus powders, VD antibiotics, etc. etc.  I will create, edit, and manipulate spreadsheets to determine precisely what we have on hand, what we can expect, what went out, and who had signed it out.  I am all over this like white on rice, crackers!

I am happy to say, it still isn’t very war-like around here.  I know some of the teenybopper douche bags are chompin’ at the bit to get a little action.  Screw them anyway, dear Lord.  I’ve heard them talking.  They want the chance to kill someone legally.  They think life is a hit record produced by Death Row or something.  Pretty little fools know nothing.  I hope that if they do have the misfortune of killing someone, they feel it deep.

You can see the need for action in these boys.  Last night during “mandatory fun,” our volleyball game became a complete peacock strutting ego fest.  Apparently, these ‘dudes’ feel that if they are aggressive winners on the volleyball court (or basketball court, football field, baseball diamond, track, in the urinal or port-o-john, in bed, or at the dinner table) that it translates somehow into a win on the battlefield.  I do understand that physical fitness helps in the endeavors one faces, but until these boys realize that the floor boards they are playing on aren’t streamed with trip wires connected to enough blasting power to tear the entire gymnasium down, then they are missing a rather large point.  All their “hooahs” and high-fiving, back-slapping, jack-assing, hee-hawing, george-bushing shenanigans may be enough to fool themselves, but I for one am not buying into any of it.

There are some reminders of it being a war zone: random gun fire heard from a distance; an occasional crackling fire and/or black smoke rising from outside our gates; the smell of the blazes burning inside my nostrils like the aroma of 9/11 death; and of course the Army of the United States everywhere I turn and in every mirror in which I peep.  There are also the stories you hear.  It’s unknown how many are true and how many are just fabricated cautionary tales to keep us know-nothings in check.  For example, to keep us from smoking, they created a rule strictly limiting places and times when smoking is OK.  It is no longer allowed at night unless in a confined area (like our barracks) but not in a barracks where Iraqi nationals live (like our barracks – and, by the way, every Iraqi is born smoking a cigarette so I do not see how it matters if we smoke in front of them when they are smoking in front of us).  Therefore, there is nowhere to go smoke a cigarette once the sun sets without crossing a field next to the edge of the camp where you are open to attacks from the outside world a.k.a. “the terrorists.”  This all came about due to some soldier at some undisclosed location who was fired upon – the cherry of his cigarette was the beacon of death the terrorists used to single out and shoot at his capitalistic pig ass.  Anyway, I decided to be pro-active with this development and have once again eschewed cigarettes.

QUITTING SMOKING should not be too difficult.  It’s not like I can buy any while I’m here.  I can buy them, but they are old and stale and gross, and the money apparently goes right back into an economy hell bent on trying to blow me up or at least separate me from my sweet, young, taut limbs.  Procuring cigarettes is also made all the more difficult due to the fact that we have no ATMs on this base.  EVERYTHING must be paid for in cash.  The only way to get cash is by getting together with the finance guys who come through this base once a month.  As they had already came and gone before I got here, I have some time before I can get my hands on the good old legal tender.  So I may as well just say ‘screw it’ and begin a new two-and-a-half-year smoking cessation that will be the sensation of the nation.  If Jason Bachman can do it, so can I!

I haven’t seen a lot of this base, but from what I have seen, I predict that saving money should be pretty easy.  The soldiers run the PX, which means they take anything of any value for themselves and their friends leaving the rest of us with the scraps.  The “Hajji Mart” is run by the local nationals.  They sell cigarettes of American and local varieties (which I shall let alone) and very little else.  After cigarettes, the next big seller is bootleg copies of American movies.  The quality of these is suspect as most of these DVDs came about from cousin Mustafa and his digital camera filming directly from the silver screen at the American-local multiplex.  It’s a double crime as they are not even remotely embarrassed about capturing the silhouettes of the theater goers who are popping up and down like whack-a-moles to get their popcorn and go to the bathroom.   Also, my Mac Book is my baby.  I do not think for a second that I’m going to pop some virus-infected digi-phallus into my baby’s clean and tight disk drive.

Luckily for me, the food here is pretty good – much better, in fact, than the shit they shoveled down my throat in Kansas.  The DFAC here at Camp Summerall has a pastry counter!!  So far, it is two for two!  In my first encounter with the bastard au Sucre, I received a chocolate cheesecake that would have made Paula Deen blush.  The next night, I devoured a Black Forest Cake like a jackal on a baby elephant!  It was an ugly sight to be seen, but I don’t care.  Amongst the snot rocketeers, acne crème models, and poster children for dental care, my gluttonous fist-to-mouth eating of a delicious treat is like a comparison between an outhouse and the Taj Mahal.shithouse

I had a great samosa on Indian night.  It was mildly sweet and spicy and the texture was perfect.  I was a little apprehensive about the shrimp, but decided that it had to be canned and should only be feared for its tastelessness more than for its bacterial content.  The beef was good, although I didn’t think the Indians ate beef and now I’m frightened a bit about that prospect.  The potatoes were my favorite and could almost be called my “flavorite.”  Last night before “mandatory fun” volleyball, I ate some fantastic Tex-Mex.  Though it was good, it single handedly made me the source of a new gas crisis.  Holy cow, did I make soldiers run for their masks!

This DFAC also contains an ice cream bar that makes shakes and has a buffet of all the toppings you could want.  I still haven’t utilized this desert paradise.  The DFAC (I still do not know after which war hero or major battle it is named) also has all the major soda brands from America.  I drink the Dr. Pepper because it’s delicious.  Oddly, the only brand that has Arabic writing on the logo is Mountain Dew!  Who would have thought that the most redneck of beverages would be the one that is pronounced worthy by Allah’s chosen?  Not me, Rabbi Goldschmidt, that’s for sure!

Arab Dew

The DFAC also has a juice bar – as yet still untested by yours truly.  It’s odd, actually, that I haven’t tested it.  The bar itself is dressed up in tall grass to give it a tiki hut appearance.  There are all sorts of red, white, and blue banners behind it making it feel like 4th of July.  Beyond the banners are aquamarine metallic streamers to just add to the tackiness and wonderment.  All that and JUICE!  It’s right up my Portuguese alley.  Perhaps I will try it this evening.

The Specialty Bar is where they serve the Indian and Mexican choices.  That is my favorite place to get my grub on.  Until they start serving monkey brain or some other equally horrific concoction, I will spend all my love on the kind gentlefolk who serve the special delicacies.  Then there is the mainline, where you can get regular crap.  Today I got Pollock for lunch.  I had trout yesterday.  I try not to think of the origins of the fish.  If I were to dwell on it, it would be a no-win situation for me, so let’s drop it now.

There’s also the short order line.  They have jalapeno poppers and cheeseburgers and all the stuff that makes my pimply faced, rotten toothed, coworkers get hormonal and stiff in the trousers.  I avoid this place as much as I can.

The sandwich bar is excellent.  The salad bar is fantastic.  The one thing:  though I have not had one here in Iraq, while in Kuwait, I had the worst-ever bagel.  I’m sure you know where this is going… Arabs, until you can make a proper bagel, you best start kissing the collective Jewish ass if for no other reason than to get a good recipe.  Maybe someday, I will have an Israeli everything bagel sandwich with Iraqi falafel, Syrian hummus and Egyptian alfalfa sprouts with Lebanese-grown tomatoes and my American mouth can intervene and put a big, selfish bite into that historic collaboration.  Amen.

16September, 2009

The good news is that I did get my Jamocha Almond milk shake last night after dinner.  It was flavorful, but not nearly as thick as this hearty New Englander would expect from the crappiest ice cream slinger back home.  If that’s being an ugly American, I’m all apologies and warts.  The bad news is that on our way back, a few of the fellows and I stopped at the DMW to use the internet.  They only have six computers so it was a slightly lengthy process.  Now, I was fairly certain we let our sergeants know of our intention to visit the facility, but apparently not.  A short “front leaning rest position” later, we were to find out that they had NO idea where we were after dinner.  The mom routine soon came into play: they weren’t so upset with us as they were worried.  After an hour or so of listening to the disappointment (and, if I were to be honest, we were wrong in not fully letting it be known where we were going), we got new assignments.  Each of the four of us is now in charge, a permanent battle-buddy if you will, of another soldier that the sergeants find disagreeable for one reason or other.

I am in charge of another specialist who has been labeled a chronic liar/ teller of tall tales/ war veteran without a war record/ degree holder without a degree.  This sucks.  What does one do?  I’ll handle it and handle it well, I’m certain.  Nothing beats out the darkness of delusions of grandeur than some good old-fashioned truth telling.  But, I have to walk a fine line with this one.  I can’t require the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, when I’m not willing to give my full honesty either.  Oh God!  You write a human play better than Ibsen himself.

Time to go to work!

Today is my 2nd full day of non-smoking.  The chemical/emotional roller coaster ride is partially enjoyable.  It also affects my nerves in such a way that walking around Camp Summerall creates a sense of post-apocalyptic ennui.  I am rather unimpressed with our base and wonder if giving up the cigarettes was the best thing to do.  The DFAC is about a mile or so away, right by the gymnasium.  My pad (cluster of barracks that are made of railroad car materials) lies right beside the BAMF (Battalion Army Medical Facility or Bad Ass Mo Fo) in between two runways of an airfield.  About a quarter mile in the direction opposite the DFAC is the MWR where you can wait for hours to use one of their computers.  Halfway between my barracks and the DFAC is the PX (Post Exchange) where all of our needs should be met.  Walking these distances is a drag in the heat and made all the more miserable as the fearless flies here adopt you and stick to you every step you take with tenacity.  At night, it’s much the same, except there are no lights and you have to walk and pray you don’t step on an unexploded ordinance.

This was my home in Iraq for most of the time I was there.

I finally went to see the PX today in the process of asking directions to the laundry facilities.  Inside were several large jugs of protein powder for weight lifters, a few t-shirts, some energy drinks, coffee supplies, and a set of speakers – nothing else.  It was absolutely grim.  Gone are the days when I could buy Vitamin Waters, ice creams, trash bags and brooms, beer and cheap whisky, power bars and other delectables in a clean and affordable one-stop shop.  This place had plywood shelving with layers of sand and looked like what I imagined to be a depression-era flea market in America’s Dust Bowl.  If I could have afforded the moisture, I would have cried.

Today, after months of problems, I have finally received a tentative diagnosis on my right arm.  I have a problem with my C-5 nerve, meaning my 5th vertebra in my cervical spine (neck) is herniated or somehow pinching the nerve, which in turn has been making my are go numb, tingle, grow weak, and have a visible loss of muscle tone in comparison to the left arm.  There may also be some rotator cuff involvement.  I am relieved that it is something besides my imagination.  My body is a temple and this temple is falling into disrepair.  Where are my worshipers?  Where are my priests?  Where is the collection plate?  My spirit may be soaring like a bat out of hell, but my edifice crumbles.  Boo friggin hoo.

this is not my C Spine MRI. But it is a C Spine MRI almost like mine except healthier and more robust.

Stop Bugging Me! The insects in Iraq are straight from the Bible in the plague chapters.  Today is the most Moses I’ve ever seen.  There is a minor dust storm making the sky look something like what I would picture in Los Angeles.  At 1630 hours, the sun looks more like a full moon through the layers of flying sand in the atmosphere.  It’s not totally lacking in attractiveness.  But the bugs… this nation needs the Orkin men, not the US Army.  The insects here have what appears to be license from God to be as bold as they care to be.  There are the aforementioned dauntless flies, these little greenish-whitish bugs that are sort of like tiny crickets in their hopping ability but make no noise to my knowledge.  Once they land on your flesh, you have to physically and forcefully remove them.  A quick blow from the lips or a threatening brush with the index finger doesn’t even faze them.  I’ve seen one dead scorpion and hope to end any encounter with that set there.  The snakes are by and large poisonous and have been seen here and there by eyes not my own.  I am content to keep it that way.  I have seen signs of mice/rats.  Their tiny paw prints decorate the sand bags next to my friend’s CHU.  I guess I would rather have their company than the rest.  Perhaps I won’t have to pick and choose.  Maybe the snakes will eat the mice, the bats (there are those too) will eat the scorpions and the stupid flies, and Riki Tiki Tavi will sweep on in to clear out the snakes and bats for me.  That would be my ideal.  The sand fleas need to die too.

I’ve spent the greater part of this afternoon cleaning my rifle.  I’ve taken it apart about five times, dusted off each component piece, put it back together, walked outside to wherever, and came back to clean it again as every nook and cranny filled with sand.  This is somewhat like that movie “The Mummy.”  I never actually saw the movie en toto, but I think there was a scene depicting crazy sand.  That’s the part to which I now refer.  I do like cleaning my M4 though.  It’s sort of a mindless and calming exercise.  It’s like the Arab in that book “Skinny Legs and All” who got off on doing dishes even after he owned the restaurant.  It centered him.

My M-4

It’s 1700 hours now – happy hour in many of this world’s nicest cities, and the closest I’ll be getting to a buzz is my next nicotine withdrawal to be chased with a Gatorade.  I know it’s healthy and all, but what’s the point?  They found an unexploded rocket not very far at all from where I am just the other day.  I guess if I got buzzedy, it would have been more dangerous for my uncoordinated ass and I could have more easily ignored it and tripped over it, but I doubt it!  I lived in New York and have jumped over human feces on the sidewalks while inebriated to the highest of heavens; and not a plop of poop on the left or the right shoe, too.  I didn’t intend for this diary to be my boozy-crutch telltale crazy-crap-rehab bonanza like that lady from Boston with the white wine or Augustin Burroughs, but if it does become that, “so be it.”  They didn’t corner the market on jittery nerves.

17September, 2009

Good Morning, Vietnam! Another day, another dinar.  I think I have my serial numbers on all my sensitive items committed to memory!  “Whisky 2-1-0-5-5-1, Sergeant!” is an example of something I say a couple of times a day.  Other examples of things oft repeated by me are, “You sound like a jackass!” “You can really beat a joke to death, can’t you?”  “Any nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.”  “It’s not polite to make fun of him just because he’s Puerto Rican.”  “I don’t understand what you’re talking about and I don’t want to know.”  “On a scale of zero thru ten, ten meaning you’ll pass out, eight meaning you’re vomiting on yourself, can you tell me the level of pain you are at right now?  Eight, huh?”

This morning, for the first time ever, I did not shake out my boots.  I blame that directly on my platoon sergeant, who decided last evening to remind us to shake out our boots in the morning before we put them on.  Naturally, I took this as an affront and disobeyed; but just on the left boot.  Honestly, for some reason, I did not remember for the first time ever when I’ve been out in the field.  I remembered for the right boot.  But I figured, all is well and nothing is awry… ‘til I walked about for a few moments!!!  Something of God’s smaller sorts was tickling the bottom of my left foot a la Daniel Day Lewis.  ‘It must be my imagination’ I prayed.  So, back I went to my CHU, took off the boot, and out popped a “dung beetle,” or “la cucaracha,” or “scarab” as I like to call them.  It was the size of the Nation of Islam!  But, it was much more squashable.  I know I should not have killed it, but it touched the bottom of my foot.  I think I read once in the National Geographic that if they come in contact with one of your smellier regions, the rest of the tribe will torture them, so it’s best to just step on them and let them begin their cycle of reincarnation all the quicker.  As a matter of fact, I think that that scarab may have been the spirit of Michael Jackson.  He just came by to wish me luck and utilize me to getting himself closer to the path of returning to the human form.  Old Jacko!

I slept like a baby last night.  I only woke up ONCE.  That’s unheard of these days.  Even in Ft. Riley, I was up every hour upon the hour.  There were no knocks on my door this morning!  When I finally awoke to the tiny beeps of my wristwatch, can you imagine the joy I felt at setting my own pace for one morning?  I woke up to silence.  I woke up to just me and the sounds and words I wanted to hear in my head.  I woke up not being raped in the mind with other people’s unoriginal and/or annoying ideas.  I woke up without having to witness an argument/ debate/ multiple one-sided conversations.  It was heaven.

The close of the evening is my favorite part of the day. Today I saw some peace and quiet.  That’s how the day began.  By the end of the day I found myself shouting “jackass” at one of my sergeants because he was throwing rocks at me; juvenile little bastard! They love to make me mad for some reason.  Everyone loves to make me mad.  But I love to withhold my anger from them and really make them work for it.  The more I think about it, the more of a lose-lose situation it is for me, as they have the easy job of being wayward jackholes and I am the one who has to keep a hushed and calm countenance.  It will all work out in the end I’m sure.

I am finding it easier to deal with the soldiers here.  If I call them out on their shit, they back down and try to do the opposite of what I expect them to do.  That is how they are able to prove me wrong, which as we all know never really happens.  For example, today one soldier asked another soldier why he preferred a certain army vehicle over another, similar vehicle.  I could tell by the tone what was to come next – a long assed back and forth over who is right and who is wrong and who can piss the biggest stream and screw the deepest hole.  I wanted no part of it at all.  So, I put forth the simple question, “Are you asking because you actually care about his opinion?  Or are you asking so you can give him a list of the reasons he’s wrong?”  With that, voila! Peace in the valley.  He wouldn’t dare go about the usual modus operandi at that point.  He had to continue the conversation civilly and find more subtle ways of disagreeing with his fellow soldier.  They got to have their minor bullshit argument, and I got to not hear loud, voluminous boring army crap.

I did confess to one of my sergeants this evening that I really do not know the difference between many of the weapons (like the M240 v. the M249 – I think the 240 is the bigger one, but I always get confused), the ground vehicles (the Max ## v. the HAGA v. the Whatever Else), or the aircraft (Chinooks v. Apaches v. Blackhawks).  I also confessed that in all reality, I don’t give a shit about the difference either.  Honestly, the knowledge would be an asset in the eventuality that someone tells me to drive the Hoobajooba containing the M6400 over to the airfield and load it on the next outbound C-328.  I’d hate to eff that one up when it should be as easy as pie.  But it all looks exactly the same to me.  I am the only one who still gets lost on this base with what amounts to a total of three roads.  I can never tell where I am because everything landmark looks exactly like every other landmark.

However, there is one street by the DFAC that I quite like.  It’s the only tree-lined street in the whole of Arabia as far as I can tell.  The trees aren’t all that fantastic; they are a little dry and dead as any tree would be in a land that never rains.  But they are not bad.  I don’t know what kind they are, because like small arms and vehicles, I cannot differentiate between trees save the willow that weeps and the pine that cones.  These trees are neither willow nor pine.  They have a whitish bark to them and the leaves are long and narrow almost like palm fronds but not quite that long.  I’ll try to get a picture at some point and insert it right here .

I also am gaining excitement for a new Arab soap opera that is on the air here.  I don’t know the name of it or what it’s about, but they ride horses and the women cry and the men go to war and it’s a soap opera!  I missed all but the ending for it tonight, but I’ll aim at watching it in its entirety tomorrow.  It has English subtitles, but I’m still not sure if I should read them or come to my own conclusions about what is transpiring before me.  It promises to be good fun.

My lieutenant was telling me of a commercial he saw earlier today.  A man took a shot of vodka or whisky or something apparently alcoholic.  The next thing you know, that same man is burning in hell.  Now, I’m not certain, but I don’t think the Muslims have hell.  So, are they saying alcohol makes you burn in hell?  Are they saying that the particular brand of liquor being advertised is “hot?”  What are they saying?  It’s such a different world here.

I watched the news from the United Arab Emirates tonight as well.  That’s where I want to go.  I believe it may be the richest nation on earth.  When they showed outside shots of Dubai, their capital, I could not have been more impressed at what a clean, friendly, happening little city it appeared to be.  They just built and opened the city’s first Metro/Subway.  They are on the forefront of environmental protection.  The people spoke English perfectly.  The mall where they interviewed everyone regarding the Eid portion of Ramadan looked new, sparkling, and full of quality merchandise.  They have beaches that they actually use and, while there, they wear bathing suits.  The news program was only a half hour long, but it was long enough to make me love Dubai.

We also trained to drive these vehicles called MRAPs.  It stands for something like something that begins with “M,” “R,” “armored,”  “P.”  The M may be Military or Mechanized or Missile.  Oh!  I think that’s it: Missile Repelled Armored P.  No!  Mine Resistant Ambush Protector?  I can’t remember.  Anyway, I trained to drive on two different types.  One was bigger and one, surprisingly, was smaller.  We were supposed to learn how to drive them without headlights on at night.  They have this camera in it that senses heat and you drive it like a video game from a screen you put down in front of your face instead of looking out the windshield.  It’s fun and cool, but they just made us do it with regular headlights.  I was a little disappointed.  But I am now licensed to drive them.  Now I have my Massachusetts Driver’s License, my poetic license, my MRAP license, and of course, my license to ill.

18September, 2009

Sunrise! Today marks my 18-month anniversary being in the military.  Hooah!  I am officially able to be a sergeant provided I received a waiver from someone else.  That will not happen, so I am content to be a specialist.  Today is also Day #4 of NO SMOKING, FUMAR PROHIBIDO, NEIN RAUCHEN.   I’m just swinging right along.

19September, 2009

Yesterday was a buzz kill.  A soldier whom I like was taken away, tied up in a helicopter, for psychiatric/suicidal reasons.  I did his intake and blah blah blah – I’m not talking about it anymore.

Due to some people leaving their empty water bottles in some piece of shit truck with steering from hell, we now have to do a police call at the 22nd minute after every hour.  A police call is roaming about the place in a sort of orderly fashion and picking up every little bit of trash you find.  Needless to say, the other platoons are taking full advantage and throwing their cigarette butts and trash around willie-nillie knowing the medics will be by to pick it up.  We also have to now do a formation six times per day.  As you can see by the limited verboseness of yesterday’s entry, it cuts deeply into our time.  We also had to do 100 push-ups, so I’m a wee bit sore today.

The day is finally done.  The copious formations and police calls are annoying the shit out of everyone, but most importantly they are annoying me.  Scenario: it’s 1722 hours and we have to police-call the area around the Aid Station, the Barracks (Pad 4) adjacent to the Aid Station, and our Barracks (Pad 3), which is off a tad bit from the aid station.  This police-call business is just horrible.  Today alone I have found TWO 1 Liter water bottles filled to the brim with URINE!!!!  I brought that up to the sergeants who were appalled by a few empty bottles.  But, this did not even come close to fazing them.  I brought up the millions of cigarette butts I’ve been picking up (someone who smokes Marlboro Menthols is a particular slob who deserves a particular wound that would make it particularly hard for him to smoke and fling about his particular waste as if God just created him and maids for him).  They could have cared less.  Tomorrow, I will let them know about the spit bottle I found by the NCO bathroom filled with dip spit.  It is disgusting!  I know they think it looks like hillbilly champagne.  But I’m a delicate lad with refined tastes and a quickness to heave.

I have taken the fun out of fungus. Just one day in my life is all it takes; just once to forget to shake my boot, and a dinosaur is wedges inside tickling my plantar fascia; just once do I try the monkey bars, and I break a wrist.  Now I have one-time forgotten to wear my flip-flops in the shower, and I am paying the price with athlete’s feet that even real athletes don’t get.  My dogs look like hamburger and the pain is ridiculous.

Have you heard some stupid trend of people trying to substitute the faux word “ridunkulous” for the word “ridiculous?”  They all try to make it sound so easy-breezy, fresh from their lips.  But I suspect some jackass like that fat guy from “Knocked Up” has something to do with originating this newest assault on our language and our heritage.  I’ll get to the bottom of it eventually.  Or perhaps people will stop saying that stupid word in front of me and I can let go and… What will I do?  That’s right!  I will let go and let God!  Anyhow, the point of this paragraph is “stop trying to be clever, America.  You are not!”

So, back to the fungus among us.  It is crackling and looking like a good case of biblical-styled leprosy.  It’s not as if having had lost my big toe nail wasn’t bad enough; now I can smooch away any chance I may ever have had to be a foot model.  I even tried peeing on it in the shower because I heard along the way that it works.  It didn’t.  It may be because my pee is almost all water because I’m supra-hydrated like a desert dweller should be.

Now I have got some sore dogs, and I’m police-calling up slobs’ trash, and I’m hearing explosions and smelling burning oil all over the friggin’ place and I’m in a foreign land, and I know that sooner or later, the snap is going to happen; and it did.  In our small window where we can go get food (we only have enough time between police-calls to get our food to-go, bring it back to our rooms, get back in time for the next police call, then run back to our rooms so we can eat the food cold to luke-warm – and pray that no scarabs got into it!) I tried my best to rally the other medics into getting it done.

The Kenyan and I led the pack and got to the DFAC with a spring in our steps.  The others lollygagged, held back, and couldn’t walk even though they don’t have athlete’s feet.  They bitched and moaned and pouted and cried about how unfair everything in their life is.  I was stewing madness!  We had no time, and they were going to mope about the little time we had, thus wasting more time and jeopardizing us getting back in time, which would only augment the time we are put on a collective punishment.  Oh, by the way, the reason we were on a collective punishment was due to those same guys who couldn’t keep up to my “old” ass.  They are the chronic slobs, latecomers, and screw-ups.  So, after I got to the DFAC doors, I turned around and waited for their approach.  It took a few minutes.  I had to tell them, “You have five minutes to get your food and get the [expletive] out of there.  We are leaving at [time] with or without you.  Do you understand?”  I guess it’s not as big of a “snap” as some of you may be accustomed to from me, but the rage behind it was similar.  Still, I don’t think they understood my annoyance at all.

Today was a similar occurrence.  Somehow they got it in their heads that we were off the hook and could take our time getting back. So they’re lighting cigarettes and having a parking lot pow-wow.  I was not standing for this!   “Are you kidding me with this shit?  We are moving NOW!”  They followed several feet behind me the entire way back, and I’m sure they talked meanness about me.  But screw them!  I wanted to eat and get the day done as quickly and painlessly as possible.  I don’t have time for them and their cigarette addictions!  (I’m on Day 5 now of the NO SMOKING THING, I think.  So I’m sort of on that high horse now.  And I’m very handsome atop my steed, don’t you think?)

On the way back to the Aid Station/Barracks from the DFAC, a dog was following us.  But I don’t know if I like the Arab dogs too much.  They’ll do nothing for you and they only give you the time of day if they think they can get something off of you – not unlike their humans.  Anyway, this particular pooch was following me, I’m sure, because it was Arab Night at the Specialty Bar and I got these chicken kabobs, beef stew, and herbed potatoes that smelled like heaven.  Puppy wanted some.  Truth be told, he was a skinny-minnie and probably could have used a meal.  But what could I do?  There are already two mooching dogs at the aid station, one that pisses me off and one with only one eye.  I couldn’t have him following me home like a canine gypsy and adding to an already over-pupulated situation.  I think war is starting to harden me.

20September, 2009

A sort of good day today, it was.  I met the mayor of FOB Summerall.  He threatened me at first, but then became relatively nice.  I had to be deferential towards him and his arrogance so I could get him to arrange for a forklift to be delivered to the Aid Station.  It was either go through the mayor or try to lift these horrible, menacingly large boxes with just our dumb strength.  The forklift was much easier.

My work with wayward soldiers was sort of recognized and applauded by one of my sergeants.  I actually feel bad now complaining as I did about them in this here diary yesterday.  It’s true that they don’t ever shut up; that they go on and on about the most inane aspects of the world; they wait for any single chance they can to take any ambiguous word spoken by another and twist the meaning in hopes of getting an hysterical reaction that they never receive; that they collectively have a social structure similar to any 7th grade classroom in America.  But they are good and they do mean well and that’s the most important thing – although I did have to chastise someone at dinner tonight for trying to equate Obama with Hitler.

It seems like they do get the picture.  They still will take a yard if given an inch, but bit-by-bit, I think they are getting how things need to work.  I’m trying not to be too much of a nudge and give them room to operate and self-correct.  But it’s hard and only made harder by what appears to be a basic obliviousness to their surroundings.  I feel like I did when I was a child and I had all the pieces to all my games, then I’d play at a friend’s house and we could never play games because they lost all the pieces.  Then they would want to play my games, but I figured I couldn’t trust them since they were so reckless with their own stuff.  It grosses me out.  To watch someone with their belongings spilling out all over the place around them gives me a similar feeling as watching a morbidly obese person try to eat melting ice cream in the summer sun while it drips down their chin.

The funny part of the day was making fun of my platoon sergeant for his fondness for words like “bamboozled,” “hoodwinked,” and the like.  He will not be, in any way shape or form, bamboozled by no hoodwinking, wool-pulling so and so.  He makes me laugh.  He grew up on ranches in east Texas.  I wonder if that’s what makes him so defensive about not being taken advantage of; the whole cattle rustling mania that goes on down there.  Needless to say, any charlatans, snake oil salesmen, or lazy liars who try to evade doing their work will not be able to take him for a fool.  I love it and It makes me chuckle too.

21September, 2009

…And the winner is… Ms. Mary Ann Fenderson for her forwarded article on blogs in the military.  Thank you, Ms. Fenderson, yours is the first piece of mail I have received since arriving in the desert of desserts – I had another Jamocha Almond milk shake last night to celebrate my mail.

“Day # 7 and still not a toke of a cigarette in sight” is the latest news from my lungs and nicotine brain-tendrils.  Though they squeak and squawk and moan and groan a wee bit, the rest of my body is compensating by having an orgy with its sexy hydrated cells and pinkness and tar-free vasculars and such.  It is expected that the lungs and brain will fall in line after the body has produced an un-winded two to three mile run.  Does anyone know if there is such a thing as a Baghdad or Iraq marathon?  I don’t want it to be an obstacle course with bombs and Quran missiles and all, but just a simple 26.2-mile road race that winds through the roads, past the Tigris (is it the Tigris that is the main river here?), possibly past the Hanging Gardens of Babylon.  That would be a lovely way to spend a day in Iraq.

I saw my first scorpion a day or three ago.  It was hiding itself in the crack between wallboards.  One of the members of the outgoing battalion found it and plucked it out with some hemostats.  I hope he did the humanitarian thing by killing it before he put it out of doors. But now I have seen a scorpion in real life and I was not at all happy about it.

The overall ugliness of this place is just amazing.  There are pretty sunrises and sunsets.  When there is a lighter dust storm and the atmosphere is clogged with particulates, it gives a pleasant aura to the world around.  There is even one spot that I frequently walk past where these trees give off an aroma of Rosemary.  But, if I walk a few feet in any other direction, it smells like diesel fuel flambé.  The desert in California wasn’t ugly like this one is.  It’s just rocks, pot-holed roads and/or airstrips, and military-style edifices here.  We’ve already discussed the buggy situation, and that’s not helping to beautify the joint.  There’s not even a mirror around so I can gaze lovingly at my own visage.  I feel like a caveman before the invention of Frank Lloyd Wright.  For all the biblical types out there, I’m 99.94-ivory-soap-percent sure that there is not now, nor could there ever have been any sort of Garden of Eden anywhere within a million miles of here.

But the days are made prettier now that I have got the rest of the guys to give up on eating breakfast too.  We simply eat a muffin in our rooms and call it a meal.  I love being a role model and installing the virtues of a good night’s sleep into these firecrackers.

AAAhhhh, one more day is done. That means I am one day closer to getting out of here.  Tonight, the sky is a pretty red glow from the burning oil refineries in the distance.  People have been coming in, people have been going out.  I feel a bit like I’m at an old west trading post.  Everyone carries guns.  Everyone is a transient.  We have unhappy and restless natives who aren’t very fond of our being here.  There are lots of dirt roads, bugs, and disease.  But the Indian food I had tonight could never be found in bland old Dodge City!

Tonight a select few of us were taken aside and told that we are doing a great job.  Our leadership skills are improving.  We are being groomed to take over for our sergeants, and in some cases, for our officers.  The sergeants keep trying to talk me into dropping my application for Officer Candidate School.  I simply do not have the heart to tell them that once my four years is over, I have no desire to have anything further to do with this army.  It’s ok and all, but I can only tolerate being smothered in small doses.  I am curious to see how I would do in a different job in the war in Afghanistan.  But it’s a curiosity I can live without ever having that knowledge fulfilled – like being curious of what It’s like to be a woman or a prisoner or how it feels to put a cigarette out on your tongue.

It’s odd how much and how quickly I have gained some semblance of comfort here.  It’s odd considering how wound tight my bowels were coming over.  I guess I shouldn’t get too cocky too soon about being all “in my element” or anything too far-reaching like that.  I’ve only heard a couple of bombs in the distance and haven’t been shot at or seen anything horrific.  If and when I do, I can be certain there will be an extreme hormonal makeover with the fidgety adrenaline replacing the tranquil melatonin.

It just occurred to me that I have already written seventeen pages.  Is this going to be too much for my readers to digest at once?  Am I being a bad blogger?  Is there an etiquette I’m not realizing exists?  Would Miss Manners punch me in the pie hole for ignoring what is perfectly obvious to everyone else?  Should I be concerned that I am unintentionally letting out state secrets?  Will I be arrested for this?  Will my co-soldiers be angry if they read that I’ve been talking shit about them?

To this point: NO.  I’ve already told them in no uncertain terms that they will not be invited to read my blog due to the fact that I talk about them all behind their backs.  I let them know that I always conduct myself as a proper New Englander, and as such, would not want to hurt their feelings by letting them know how I really feel about them.  So, the last question I posed is already resolved.  But the others…

We have a year to work it out.  And I am sorry if this is taking too long to post and I have been neglectful of staying in touch with anyone.  But the only time I get to go to the place with Internet is after 2100 hours.  By then, I have a choice of trying my best to get some sleep and watch my “Family Guy” DVDs, or going to some trailer with a bunch of creepy web trolls and waiting ’til only God knows when for one of them to finally get his or her ass off of the damned machine.  It feels like being in a dirty public library with keyboards stained with the hands of the hordes who eat fried chicken and do nothing to remove the grease from their fingers.  I just have a hard time with it.  It’s as if writing to everyone at once in this blog, alone in my CHU, is more intimate than me trying to conduct a series of Instant Messages while some uppity sergeant is huffing and puffing behind me reading my words and crying because s/he wants a turn to use the computer too.  Am I forgiven now?  Good night.

22September, 2009

I was so lucky today.  My stupid wristwatch alarm either didn’t go off or didn’t wake me up.  If it wasn’t for the Kenyan come knocking on my door, things could have got ugly.  But it all worked out with a little luck.  Now I’m paranoid and half pray I go back to sleepless nights and half fear that I go back to sleepless nights.  I wish I knew what it was here that let’s me be so tranquil in the evenings.  I feel like I could sleep through a bomb.  I don’t think of that as a good thing out loud but internally I’m patting myself on the back and having quite the pomp and circumstance parade to honor my sleep skillz.

Nothing much happened to day.  It’s like they say/sing in that movie: “nothing ever happens on mars.”  I sat in a room for hours and hours inventorying boring drugs that had decades of sand and dust draped along their childproof tops.  My brain began bleeding about two hours into it and my eyes got a little bloody Oedipal themselves after I encountered the mother lode of antimicrobials.  I accounted for each bottle of medication and made separate entries for those bottles with different expiration dates and/or lot numbers.  I also put the scientific name (e.g. methsclomaxilloarthrodingdangdong) along with its trade name (e.g. Blahbusters).  After about 6 hours, I had close to 130 entries.  I never wish to be a pharmacist.  However, I did procure a nice little cream for my hamburger feet.

I got to see one of my favorite soldiers today!  I was very happy.  Hall, who was supposed to stay back at FOB Speicher, got booted along with his platoon from their mission.  So now they are here with us at Camp Summerall.  I need to think of a stupid nickname for this place (Camp Slumberballs, Camp Damn It All, Camp Dumber all, Camp blah blah blah).  Anyway, Hall came up to me in the DFAC at dinner tonight and it was a total surprise – a happy one too.  I made sure to tell him he looked like he was getting fat and he made sure to laugh at all my stupid jokes.  I’m very joyful at having one more person whom I actually like in my vicinity.

Well, I’m already in my bed.  I did my nightly scorpion and viper check and all came out clear.  My sergeants are at a point where they know if they keep me up too far past 2100 hours, that I’ll start to whine.  They ask every night when I start demanding to be let go so I can go to bed, “what?  Did you take you geritol already?” They then proceed to laugh and laugh like they haven’t each said it a thousand times before.  I like stupid old jokes too.  But I like them when they’re humorous.  I don’t even understand geritol?  Is that a sleep aid?  Doesn’t matter what it is – all that matters is that I am about 25 days into my deployment, which means I only have about 340 to go.  Yippee yai ay, gentle cowfolk!

23September, 2009

I got a whopping five minutes on Facebook tonight.  But it was enough to see hardly anyone wrote to me anyway.  Besides, as we’ve already mentioned, it’s hardly worth it if it is cutting into my process of beautifying through sleep.  That sweetest part of my day may or may not get cut short tonight.  I’m on-call to have to be the medic in a convoy to escort any sick or injured bastard who needs to be brought to the other FOB where they have more medicine and machines and medical things.  So these jackasses better keep to keeping healthy tonight.  I don’t want to be woken up just to have to face angry Iraqis in the wee hours.

So this will be another shorty-short one.  I am totally delirious tired now anyway.  I keep thinking I hear someone whistling like a scary movie outside my door.  Could it be snakes?  Do Arab snakes whistle instead of hiss?  Maybe it’s my computer sneezing from all the sand it has ingested since it’s been here.  There’s always a logical explanation.

If I’m not mistaken, and I could be but doubt it, I should be writing something a little extra in today’s entry, and it goes like this:


24September, 2009

Didn’t have to do diddly last night except enjoy every last second of sleep I got.  It was fantastic.  I even woke up before my watch.  The best part about it, one more day down!

If I had to go outside the wire (meaning off the fob into the Iraqi towns, on their roads, breaking into their homes, etc.), I would have been white-knuckling it the whole way, but would have been fine eventually.  Though I do dread the day when I have to do it, it will actually be good to see something else besides the same ugly square mile or so that I see here.  Even if I do have to face potential threats at every corner and along every road, I’d like to see the faces of the people who are supposedly benefiting from our presence.

And if I don’t?  I’ll be all right with that too.

I had a boiled egg for breakfast this morning and nothing else.  I think I can feel it’s protein doing something chemical to my body.  It feels like I’m the Incredible Hulk who just got bitten by the Peter Parker spider, but now has Aquaman gills in place of lungs, and the bats have been released from the belfry and the batcave.  In short, I feel strong today.  I should strike with this hot iron and go to the gym so as to not lose this power.  Maybe I’ll beat someone up in order to procure some information like the interrogators!  It will go something like this: sound affect: a crack of knuckle (possibly brass) against a pouty mouth “you better start talking Muhammad, why do you refuse to marinate your steaks???!!!!???”

In case you were wondering, I am still not smoking.  There has been no cheating.  I test the guys by asking them for cigarettes and they are smart or cheap enough to not give me any.  Nothing of the filthy habit is missed, except the camaraderie of being around the ashtray and squawking about whatever is the squawkable topic at the moment.

I am slowly running out of all my health and beauty aides.  Tom’s of Maine toothpaste – peppermint, there may be a week left of its use.  My Lever 2000 Fresh Scent Body Wash is gone.  My scrunchy green shower loofah thing is gone.  The PX here is not restocking anything, it seems.  It is sad.  I think this base is closing down and they’re trying to not add stuff here.  By stuff, I mean useful stuff like the items I just mentioned.  They are more than happy to add useless stuff like megaton heavy equipment that we have to pack up and take with us when we leave.

I’m currently torn about whether or not to join in and purchasing the internet for our CHUs.  It will cost near $100 per month, which is robbery as far as I can figure.  The service is supposedly fairly fast, which is good.  But, as I spend no more than sleeping hours in my CHU, I really have a hard time seeing the point of getting it.  I’m certainly not going to start losing sleep to tend to my farms now.  I have purged the cigarettes, the alcohol, and dare I say, the Facebook from my system.  I don’t know if I want to go back to all that pressure.  I shall seek advice from a sheik or an imam or a tribal counsel.

Does anyone have any questions so far?

Another day is put to the history books. I feel like stuff is going on and we’re not being told about it.  Random groups of people come and go through our aid station, helicopters land and take off, the sun rises and the sun sets, gunfire and explosions can be heard, and yet there is no word as to what is happening in our area of operations.  I guess now is the time to get back to my old familiar mantra: It’s none of my business. Honestly, what good could come from me knowing too much of what’s going on here anyway?  I’ll just maintain in my own little spreadsheet producing bubble where I come out a few times a week to care for a hypochondriac or a klutz.

Good night, sugar.

26September, 2009

What a couple of days it has been.  Yesterday, I took my first x-ray – the 5th metacarpal showed a clear break.  Afterwards, I set his splint and secured his medications.  I did my 2nd EKG on a sergeant who will most likely be discharged for huffing canned air.  My sergeant had to escort him to the next level care facility and, in the process of his being absent, I became the one “in charge” of the Aid Station.  That means nothing actually except the platoon sergeant and the lieutenant get to make fun of me and yell at me should anyone or anything screw up.

Today I cared for this little 20-year-old boy with chemical burns.  He spilled an unlabeled bottle upon himself and got some nasty 2nd degree blistering along his legs (medial aspect of knees down to mid-shin anterior), his right arm (anterior bicep area), bilaterally on his face, a splash on his nose, and on the right side anterior of his neck.  I wrapped him in gauze soaked with normal saline to cool his skin, and secured and placed on his wounds Silver Sulfadiazine ointment.  I then got his prescription for some percocets and sent him along his way without even trying to con him out of one of his pills.  I think I may be growing up!

Today I also got to watch the drainage and irrigation of an ear abscess -cystectomy.  It was oddly easy to witness.  I had passed up watching the colonel remove an anal fistula, which apparently was not a pretty sight.  Honestly, just hearing it from outside the area it was performed sounded like a prison rape scene.  One must be careful whom one gets as a patient.  This particular patient was a local national.

I have had two local nationals in the last two days.  One had a problem with breathing and his tongue was green (he got a large concentrated dose of antimicrobials).  The plump Iraqi pudding I saw today complained of allergies due to dust storms.  He seemed unimpressed when I recommended he wear a mask during such dust storms.  He wanted the good American pills.  He got Claritin-D.  He seemed far less concerned about his diabetes and high blood pressure (which was through the roof!) coupled with his extensive weight issues.  Many Iraqis remind me, in a strange way, of American trailer park people.  I can’t explain why.

Tomorrow, I am going to attempt to take away a half-hour of my precious sleep so I can go running.  I was mortified tonight as I sat down to eat with the colonel and the captain (both medical big-wigs), a sergeant and another specialist like me; I was the only one who had a shit-ton of food in front of him. On my plate were such items as white rice and fish (good, I know), broccoli – with cheese sauce, some salad, a big bowl of pudding, a kiwi yogurt, a giant peach, and a slice of chocolate cheesecake all washed down by a diet coke.   The Indian food servers I think must like me because they give me enormous American portions compared to what they give everyone else.  Or, maybe they are trying to kill me by capitalizing on my American gluttony.  Either way, I need to start running again.  Besides, it will be fun to check out any improvement I’ve made with my new, clean lungs.

I wonder what is going on back in America.  What are those people in San Francisco doing now?  Is it time for the Burning Man?  Are they making a party to celebrate a ban on down feathers?  In Massachusetts, are they bemoaning the tedium of a steadily rising oil bill?  In New York, does the race to be the most mature and stable individual continue at the speed of snoring sound?  What are those people up to now?  Are cocktails involved?

“Good night, America.  All the world still loves a dreamer.  All the gang is going home, and I’m standing on the corner all alone.”  That’s from a song.

27September, 2009

It’s Sunday and I had to get up early.  Well, I was going to get up early anyway to stay physically fit, but as usual, they took away my chance to do something independently and replaced it with a bullshit early morning formation.  We apparently have some missing “sensitive items.”  We don’t know what items are missing.  We don’t know whose items are missing.  We only know that we have to check and re-check our rifles and night optics devices about twenty thousand times per day until the supply people find what they did with the “missing” equipment.

So it is really the S-3 Shop (supply) that is responsible for my growing gut!  It makes sense, as misery and rotundity love company.  I doubt it

28September, 2009

“You only have yourself to blame, Gomes,” is what my platoon sergeant told me yesterday.  I knew immediately that he was right.  But what could I do?  I cannot purposely do a shitty job.  I can only do my best.  That is why my platoon sergeant is checking to see if he can temporarily make me a corporal in the short-term so as to make it easier for me to earn my sergeant stripes possibly by March!  “If you didn’t have common sense like every other jackass around here, if you did shitty work, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.  Think about it!  You brought this on yourself.”  He also added to the conversational mix that I probably should work on all the “army stuff,” which I’m sure is true.  I really can’t keep track of all the m246 jabberwocky doodads versus the p1112 metal bazoombas at all.

Isn’t that fun?

That is the same sergeant who refuses to be bamboozled or hornswoggled.  But let’s not idolize him too much.  For some unknown reason, he loves the Philadelphia Phillies.  He can’t help but have his faults like the rest of us.

The green-tongued Iraqi came back with his interpreter today.  His blood pressure was through the roof.  But all he cared about was his teeny tiny cough.  They want pills of the American sort for anything and everything.  As soon as I told him he needs to watch his blood pressure, he came back in a few hours with a request for a particular blood pressure medication.  I told him, that he couldn’t have any medication until I was satisfied he needed it and sure of what he needed.  I told him that because I’m a professional.  I also told him that because I don’t want word to get out that I’m bamboozable, and then have a slew of locals coming in and bombarding me with requests for medications.  “Hell-to-the-NO” as it says in the Quran.

By the way, a great BIG la-di-da to Charlotte Lapre for being the first person to send me a handwritten letter.  Also a chimichanga to Ms. Maryann Fenderson for keeping me abreast on the current events back in my native land – where corn is called maize and pigs are for eating and starring in Hollywood movies.

Jeers to the army for keeping me away from Facebook.  Although, somewhat honestly, I do not miss it.  I am currently working approximately 13 hours per day, seven days a week.  I barely have time to think my thoughts in the solitude of my room (my roommate works night shift so it’s lovely for a small while each day), never mind do anything productive or communicative.  I guess this bloggy thingy I’m doing here is a communiqué, but if it’s just me, does it count?  Am I that felled tree in the woods making clickety clackety keyboard sounds that nobody hears so it doesn’t really exist?  If I am, I hope I’m a pine or a willow or a great big redwood.  Or, since I’m in this neck o’ the woods, pun intended, perhaps I would do well by being a musky cedar.  That would impress the folks back home if nothing else would.

I’m sick of thinking now and am turning off my brain for bed.  It is 3:00 pm east coast time right now.  What’s everyone doing?

30September, 2009

Good morning, chaps!  Today, I had enough time to go for a wee two-mile baby run (which took me an inordinate amount of time I’m ashamed to say), and to shower, shave, shit, and shay hello to you and you and you.

I’m trying to be proactive with the exercise thing for I fear that if I am not, the powers that be will institute an exercise plan for us as a group.  As a group, they will determine the best time of day for this exercise.  The time they will be most likely to pick will somehow involve me losing sleep while the night shift crew goes merrily about their way.  Eff that, say I!  So, I got up a simple half-hour early today to see if that will be enough to appease the ego-gods that be.

Now it is time for me to be off to show that I have still not lost my rifle or my night optical device (NODs).  Wish me sanity!

I’m being followed by a moonshadow.  Moonshadow, moonshadow! I honestly never knew until tonight that there was such a thing in reality.  I always just assumed it was Cat Stevens trying to wax poetic.  I’ve never really been away from a city or in a place with no nighttime lighting.  So, as this moon waxes a la Cat, I am finding it easier and easier to maneuver through the area in the evening hours.  This culminated with me actually seeing my shadow on the sand as I was walking about.  I know no one cares, but I thought it was cool.

I got yelled at a little for complaining tonight.  In my defense, it was getting close to 2100 hours and I still hadn’t received word on being released for the evening.  A sergeant just informed us that the garbage needed to be taken out – which it needed ALL DAY.  But I was going to be damned if I took it out again.  Am I the only person who throws things away?  Of course I am not.  Am I the only person who throws things away who has two working eyes?  Once again, of course I am not.  I can go on and on and on about working limbs, brain cells and the like, but I’m certain you already get the picture.  I stood my ground and I was NOT the one to take out the garbage.  Lazy little shits!

So I yelled about that, about being kept up past my bedtime, about having to go to the bathroom in port-o-johns, and about my chances of having Leishmaniasis after that fly landed on my lip yesterday.

Can someone send me doggie treats?  I think the guys who are leaving are  not going to be able to bring Berta and Chock back to Hawaii.  Berta is the one-eyed war hero dog.  Chock is the one I don’t trust, but sometimes love in spite of myself.  I’d like to give them rewards for when they do sweet things.  For example, sometimes at night they will escort me here and there while I go to get crap done.  They even wait outside for me as I’m getting the crap done so they can walk me home again.  Isn’t that nice?  I still sometimes wonder if they’re not up to something treacherous, but then they show me their bellies and I get misty.

I don’t want to send up all sorts of red flags and alarms or anything, but I’ve been thinking about something.  In a way, I don’t disagree with the terrorists about certain things.  It’s completely eerie but I’m not adverse to being bombed back into the stone ages.  I sort of don’t miss the internet  or my phone or much of any of all the trimmings that go with western life all that much.  There is nothing here at all, but I still manage to find shit to laugh at and to occupy my time.  I know it’s sounding like I’m on a slippery slope to Mecca and picnic wear on my cabeca.  That’s ok.  There is plenty of room in my Unitarian Universalist soul to accommodate a bit of the old desert spirit.

Did you know that they can only wear the checkerboard head scarf thing if they  made the Hajj (the pilgrimage to Mecca)?  It’s true.  I think the guys who wear the black checkerboard are royalty who made the Hajj.  The red and white check dudes are your average Mohammads who made the Hajj.  Apparently, it’s a bigger deal to them to go on this journey than it is for the McFatass family from Ohio to make it to Disneyland while their children are still small enough to only require one seat on the airplane.

Did you know that some Arab women are actually beautiful and do  not have moustaches?  It’s true.  I’ve seen them on television.

Did you know my arch-enemy just came knocking on my door with mail and I got TWO packages!!!  I couldn’t be happier!  Ms. Maryann Fenderson has struck again!  This time, she has catapulted snacky food and literature into my realm.  The other package was truly a surprise, from one Ms. Susan Yeagle!  She is the aunt of my friend Jessie Cohen (daughter of Maryann Fenderson).  This woman, whom I have never met, sent an assortment of delicious snacks, some pens, a crossword puzzle book to keep my Alzheimer’s at bay, and some lovely postcards from her neck of the woods in Pennsylvania, which I’m not sure if it’s a Commonwealth like Massachusetts or just a boring state like New Hampshire.  A million “thank you”s to you both for making me feel like I’m getting a little Christmas in a land that only celebrates Secretaries Day or the Anniversary of the Day when Abraham pissed on the fire and Dust Storms were Born.

Now I’m going to neatly stack and organize my goods in a military fashion upon my shelves, decide what will be shared and what will be horded, and then go to bed.  I definitely need to keep this running fad up now more than ever.  America and the middle East are in a race to put food in my face!  Good night, campers and bon vivants.  You are missed.

01October, 2009

Good evening, one and all, and welcome to another installment of This Interminable Existence starring Casey Gomes as Specialist Gomes, the specialist everyone loves to give a brain hemorrhage.  I’m just going to skip all the poop and let you all breathe a little today.  My misery and discomfort and wasted hard work should have no bearing on you and yours.  But if you knew how many man hours are wasted (tax dollars!!!!) on bullcrap that need only be tended to once, it would make the Washington Post go into a tizzy!

The bigger and more important news of the day:

Happy 28th Birthday, Mr. Eric Souza!

I remember my 28th Birthday.  It was one of the fun ones until I pissed my pants at Max Fisch or No Tell Motel – I don’t remember which pub I was at that night.  But I do remember being at Lucille’s and all the pretty people buying your Uncle Casey tons and tons of shots of vodka – long after I didn’t even need anymore.  But I still asked for more because I thought it was a fun game to get strangers to buy me drinks.  They bought me plenty!  Then it got a little fuzzy.  My tiny friend Jen Maroney got stuck babysitting me and walking me home.  She got irked with me because I was apparently starting an ill-timed conversation with a mushroom salesman.  “But it’s my birthday!” I pleaded.  She would have none of my nonsense.  That oddly made the night even more fun – perhaps just in retrospect.  I hope your special day is just as fun but without all the itchy urine.

Now I have to go.  I’m not sure, but I think I either just saw a scorpion or a Band-Aid fall from the ceiling and now I’m freaking out.  It landed in a pile of my roommate’s clothes and I’m even more afraid of going through those.  If I get stung in my sleep, all of you need to know that I love you and resent you for not sending me a can of Raid.

02October, 2009

I have been forbidden to sleep in my room ’til my nasty roommate gets over his filthy virus.  It’s all the same to me, really, as I’m in my friend Murdock’s room and it’s much cleaner and more comfortable.  Not to mention, my room smells like a sick person’s room.  Still, my bed sits higher up making me feel more safely out of reach of the scorpions.

I think I may be going scorpion crazy now.  It may be from the lack of nicotine and alcohol.  It may be from the new mega-doses of caffeine I’m pouring down my pie hole.  But every time I turn around, I keep feeling new and more powerful phantom scorpion stings all over my tender, sweet body.  I was positive one got my left heel right through my boot.  Twice today I felt a sharp discomfort on my left forearm that could only be attributed to scorpion voodoo.  Something is going on and I do not like it.  Perhaps our camp is built upon the biggest scorpion burial ground in the world.  Or maybe below is the Queen Scorpion who is the size of a dragon, but a mean, fat and lazy dragon who turns all the little boy scorpions into her bitches doing her biding.

I must resist these thoughts!  That’s how the Muslims get you.  They sneak in through your fears and weaknesses and hypnotize you with their odors – both bad and good.  I wonder if they really be-head people or if they use film magic from Baliwood.   It would seem a more profitable endeavor for them to kidnap whitey Americano and sell him or her into white slavery.  I’ll have to bring that up to them at the next meeting.

I got to sit at the desk all day today while everyone else was outside in the heat sorting and re-sorting all the crap we brought over.  At first, I thought I was being punished for something.  AU-to-the-CONTRAIRE, mon frère!  I got to check my emails (no Facebook as military computers do not allow social networking – many don’t even allow yahoo), play with the scanner to do a project that has been pissing me off for a week now, jabber on the CB radio with my good-buddies ten-four, and shoot the shit with a Lieutenant or two on the telephone squawkbox.  I don’t know why the guy who has that job regularly complains about it.  I found it rather heavenly.  Boring, yes, but low-stress as to wash the cares of the world away.

The platoon sergeant did question me when he heard me yelling at someone on the phone.  Him and our Lieutenant got a kick out of it because they like to make fun of me.  I told the person on the other end “Shut up and stop (bleeping) interrupting me.”  The sergeants love it when I lose my mind and my tongue starts flapping with the bad words.  They try to encourage more of that sort of thing.  But I won’t have it.  I’ve fought too hard for too long to diminish that wicked behavior.  I certainly won’t reinstate it now for the likes of the US Army.

Speaking of the Army, I have to go and talk to the retention officer tomorrow.   He is the one who tries to convince you to re-enlist for even more time.  I think I know who this officer is and I don’t think he cares much for me.  I am imagining he’ll not try to keep me in, as I’m a disgrace to the uniform or something.  Or, he may give me the hard sell and sucker me into a 99-year contract.  I have to be strong and keep my wits about me tomorrow.  Right now, my answer is an indefatigable NO.  I wish I had more time to think about it, but if I have to answer tomorrow, I’ll answer as to how I’m feeling now.  And I’m not feeling like listening to this shit for another four years.

But what else can I do?  I feel almost ill-fit for the real world.  The army sort of has to take me.  The real world doesn’t like me any more than the army world does and they hate to give me jobs.  What if I get out and turn into one of those pan-handling veterans?  What if I go crazy and blame it on ‘Nam and have to have Tom Cruise play me in the movie?  That would be the worst!  Maybe I should just stay in for a little while longer.

I don’t know!  I miss certain things about freedom.  But I like not having to pay taxes.  I miss living alone, but not paying rent.  I miss going to the beach, but I currently do not miss sand.  I miss going for cocktails with friends at a place that’s not a bowling alley, but not …  I’ve got nothing for that one.  Shall I make a Pro and Con list?  You all can help me.  I’ll put up some sort of something where everyone can add pros and cons to help me decide what to do.  But how do I do that?  We’ll figure something out, mein kindern.

Ok.  I’m sleeping in an odd bed tonight by myself.  It feels like the old days in New York when I’d stay at everyone’s apartment while they were out of town.  I don’t miss that at all.  Well good night angels.  Tomorrow is going to be an explosive day!  I can feel it in my bones.  Or is that another phantom scorpion sting.  I’ve also felt phantom pains like people who lost limbs get after their amputation.  But mine are in preparedness for the accident that hasn’t as yet happened.  I’m going to try to find a Tylenol pm now.  Good night.

03October, 2009

I discovered a new and unsettling fact about myself whilst showering this evening.  When I get paranoid about whether or not people can read my mind, it’s never when I’m thinking horrible thoughts about them.  I only get paranoid that someone will really know that I think they are smart or funny or attractive or if I have those blue moon dirty thoughts.  Isn’t that gross?  I’d much rather be discovered to be a hater than a lover.  For that, I blame my mother and the rest of the United States of America.  I certainly wouldn’t think that way if I were a Speedo wearing European.

Happy ladi-dadis everybody: the retention officer was not in so I did not have to make a choice to stay or go from this institution today.  I got there with a couple of other specialists at 8:30.  His ass apparently doesn’t show up ‘til long around 9:00.  It must be nice to be that important that you get to sleep.  One of the specialists is putting in his application to go to OTS (Officer Training School) and the other has usurped my idea of going to X-ray Tech school.  I still like the idea, but I can always just use the GI Bill to pay for it at some community college somewhere.  But it could be fun to go back to San Antonio.  I wish my brain would stop arguing with itself!

Also, on the good news front: I got a care package from my Mamalou – thanks to you Mamalou!  The one-eyed dog liked the treats, but the stupid Arab boy dog ran away like a sketchy little weasel.  I think he made the mistake of thinking the sand was going to be beiger on the other side of the barbed wire and that he’d get to feast on a downed camel.  The big dumb mutt doesn’t know a thing!  I’ll break that bastard though and teach him to be more loving and trusting towards god’s chosen ones (e.g. people).

I’m in Murdock and Hollingshead’s room again tonight.  My roommate is still a sickly little sicko.  I argued with my sergeant about this.  This makes me nervous.  I’m finding it easier and easier to argue with my sergeants and get mouthy with them.  I have been doing my best to keep everything black and white and stay all military.  But they break you.  Now I am losing my discipline and I’m going to go too far one day and say one word (more likely one paragraph) too much and it’s going to be ugly.  But if I turn to shutting up now, they’ll think I’m all mad and crap and try to bait me on even more.  Why am I cursed/blessed with this damn cutting wit?

I don’t think I want to go to Hawaii anymore.  I hear they make you fly from island to island!  They tried to have boats but the people went berserk.  What kind of island chain doesn’t have ferries?  It sounds like a bunch of hornswoggling by the car rental and airline industries to me.

Speaking of “hornswoggling,” the guys with whom I went to get dinner this evening were trying to come up with all the sergeants little idioms like “hornswoggled,” “bamboozled,” and the like.  One came up with “ramrodded.”  I nearly busted a gut!  Everyone came to the same conclusion that that would never come out of our sergeant’s mouth.

I think I get a chance to get my hands on some cash this week.  If I do, I’ll look into getting a thumb drive to move my little tale from my smart and sexy laptop to the dumpy, army-issued, third world, hamster-on-a-wheel-driven computers in the internet trailer.

I saw in an email that New Bedford had an Oktoberfest today.  Was it fun?  Did anyone go?  I would have gone!  The Cardoza Liquors people sponsored it, I believe.  Every time I pop a cork, they seem to be getting fancier and fancier.  I wish I could have a glass of wine right now in celebration of Oktoberfest.  Hey!  I have not had an alcohol delicacy in over a month now.  I’m like Betty Ford or the Dalai Lama.

Speaking of Betty Ford and the Dalai Lama, I’m tired of typing and being awake and I want to go to bed now and watch Season 2 of Weeds, which is in my computer waiting to be played.  Adios!  Hey, maybe I’ll try to learn Arab words and make you learn them with me.  I don’t think my computer knows how to write in Arab though.  Good night.

04October, 2009

What a loopy day it has been.  Someone tried to disparage me in front of the sergeants again.  We believe he does this so as to appear less like a screw up and more on the ball than the rest of us.  He refuses to catch on that everyone thinks it makes him look like a back stabbing prick – including the sergeants he is trying to impress.  So, when he tried to correct me over some minute point, which would have caused me great aggravation to correct, I naturally tried to blow him off.  But he will not have that.  He will not let go of any power play in which he could feasibly show someone up.  So, like the blacks did with the “N Word,” I took the power away from him by shouting out loud, “Sergeants!  Gomes is a big, giant !#& up and is #&^ing everything up again!  SERGEANTS!!” With that, I got a laugh from the sergeants, I took away his ability to point a finger, and I didn’t have to do jack-diddly like he tried to push me to do.  RESULT!

After that, he got sent out into the sun and the scorching hot connexes to find non-existent serial numbers on products that have no serial numbers.  That took him about an hour.  I will give him a week or less before he tries to do that to me or someone else again.  It’s like an OCD with him.

I have been very medical lately.  I had to give this kid with swollen testicles a shot of some antibiotic.  I guessed the diagnosis and the doctor agreed with me: epididymitis.  I don’t know if I spelled it right, but it’s an inflammation of some tube that goes to your balls and causes the works to get backed up.  That was sure an uncomfortable exam!  Then this other guy came in with the pukes.  He was just retching and carrying on.  I had to give him an intravenous liter of normal saline to which I added 25mg of phenergan to relieve the nausea.  It was working on him in a matter of minutes.  I’m sort of like Dr. Marcus Welby or Dr. Doolittle or Dr. Zhivago or Dr. Ruth in many aspects, I think.

I had to give an old Iraqi man an EKG today.  He didn’t look too good.  I think he may be coming close to the time Allah calls him home to the turquoise colored tile mosaic mosque in the sky.

Luckily I still have not had to treat any gunshot wounds, bomb blast traumas, or anything gross like that.  ‘Save the trauma for your mama,’ like the t-shirts say.  I’m content taking blood pressures and giving out pseudoephedrine.  My green-tongued Iraqi is doing much better now.  The doc agreed with me that his blood pressure was just not going to do.  So I did the lightest of pushing to get the guy on blood pressure medication.  He came in for a reading a couple days ago, and his BP is now in normal range.  Now he can live to plot against us for years to come.

He is actually quite nice.  He waves and smiles when he sees me in the Dining Facility.  So does his interpreter, but I don’t trust him.  He’s always on a mission to get me to give him drugs.  I think he uses his friend’s poor health as a sinister means to a selfish end.  But who knows?  My character judgment is not what it once was.

My CHU is a dump.  I finally picked up all the clothes off the floor from when they were searching for those ‘sensitive items.’  (We still haven’t received an apology for all the threats and accusations they laid on us, by the way.)  But it still looks like a 3rd world dump in here.  I want a chair at least; maybe a nice folding chair like a director’s chair in the color of red.  But to put first thing first, I need to have my lock fixed.  The whole piece that slides into the hole so you can’t open the door fell out when I unlocked it coming in from work tonight.  I ask you, “What kind of crap is this?”

I read an article in yahoo tonight about the ten coolest small towns to live in America.  I can’t remember the name of number one, but it was in California half between San Francisco and Los Angeles.  It was right on the water and had hills and charm.  Then there was a town that began with the letter T in Arizona (40 minutes south of Tucson), where they had a main street with all these old Spanish homes of all sorts of fantastic colors.  I was torn between the two of them.  Where would you go?

I’m tired and hungry now.  So I’m going to eat some of the goodness that came my way via Maryann Cohen and chow on some almonds – IN BED – while I watch another episode of Weeds.  I know I’ve already seen it, but I like to let myself be surprised at the exploits of the good people of Agrestic, California.  Good night all you Jacks and Betties.

05October, 2009

Today I was sick as death.  The colonel made me leave the aid station so I wouldn’t be getting everyone else sick too.  It felt like a shovel had slammed into my face.  I woke up needing to throw up at 0500 hours, but for my laziness, I instead opted to quell my stomach with psychological technique so I wouldn’t have to get out of bed and walk the 100 feet to the bathroom.  Every noise, every golden ray of light, every smell was a nightmare.  I just took two Tylenol PMs.  Call me in the morning.

06October, 2009

On this day, I have had revelations!  I have had inspirations!  I have bathed in the light of truth and love and will never look back towards the darkness!  Today, dear friends, I had nearly met my Maker – the Lord Above All.  The events still leave me jittery, but for history’s sake, I will persevere and get the good and righteous words of truth out for all to read!

It was about 1930hours and I was harassing the smokers outside of the Aid Station because that is what people of my age do for fun if they are not smoking those cigarettes.  My favorite is to remind them of the lines being etched into their faces, and the lacquer forming black and lustrous around their lungy breath bags.  I try not to get into the teeth issue due to the fact that hits too close to home for some of them and I don’t want to be mean.

Anyway, I was ignoring one of their boring retorts and looking down to the ground with the disgust I usually feel for the world at that time every evening, when I saw it!  It came after me, it accosted me, and it tried to make me its bitch!  It was the world’s biggest and boldest scorpion!  I didn’t know at first what it was.  I had a suspicion, but I didn’t see its tail.  I thought, ‘what an odd looking desert crab or lobster coming at me with its claw-pinchers all clacking away.’  So I asked the smoker Jackson, “What kind of bug is this?”  By then it was closing in for the kill and nearly too late.  Jackson saw it for the sneaky Iraqi arachnid it was and stomped upon it, thus saving me from death.  Thank you, Jackson.  You will still more than likely die earlier than me since you smoke as much as you do.  Your brave actions tonight have pretty much clinched my longer lasting earthly existence over yours.

I don’t know if anyone knows this, but when you step on them, they leave behind a lot of juicy guts.  It’s pretty disgusting in a biological way.  I have a picture of it so you can all see.  You can’t see the guts, but you can see the behemoth that bullied me.

I was also attacked by a bee today.  But that was not nearly as interesting, I think.

All this nature has made me ferociously hungry!  I wonder if the Iraqis make cheese.  Not goat cheese, either; after having my sister’s goat cheese, all others will be retched puke in comparison.  But it wouldn’t be so bad if they found a way to make a nice Camembert or Gorgonzola with some tasty pita chips and figs on the side.  It’s almost like they go out of their way to displease us here.  It’s fine when they have these disgusting rashes that they flaunt in front of our faces and noses, but as soon as I want something that doesn’t make me want to vomit, they are all out of ideas!  Screw this place; I want to go home now.

My mid-tour leave may be changing again.  The bigwigs are tooting about how three people per platoon need to go on leave every month beginning in November.  That pretty much does us in as we only have about 12 people.  So maybe it will be a Christmas miracle in Germany with fourteen days off, thirteen hour flights, twelve hours of delays, eleven pages of documents, ten fingers jittering, nine brands of cheese, eight hours of sleep, seven bratwursts being bratty, six bottles of Sect, five sorts of wine glasses, four hors’ d’euvers platters, three shots of vodka, two Aunts a-quackin’, and Gomes in a big city!

I wish they’d stop acting like the rest of the world doesn’t exist.  It’s a pain in the ass when they won’t give you a straight answer on dates.  Do they think the other 750 billion people on the planet have nothing to do but wait on our calendars to be complete?  The army has too much ego, I think.  I don’t like it; it borders on arrogance.  I cannot and will not forgive arrogance.  I used to say the same thing about people who wore brown and black at the same time, and I came around to that.  So, maybe I can eventually get down with some arrogance too.  But I make no promises!

Good night, I’m sick of typing and being awake.

07October, 2009

Well, well, well, back for more, are you?  I think it may be time for you to get a hobby and stop globbing on to my glamorous and exciting life.  But since you’re already here, I may as well tell you, I got a thumb-drive off of one of the star trek kids from the medic platoon.  So you’ll actually get to know all this important actual/factual play-by-play war stuff that you can’t read in the history books or the Hemingway novels or see in those movies Steven Spielberg likes to shit out every so often.  How do you like me now?

Today was a lovely piece of cake.  I cleaned at my leisure, put some new drugs away into the pharmacy, played with the one-eyed dog (her name is Berta), and cured the ailing masses who have all decided it would be cool to copy me and get the same disease I had TWO DAYS AGO!  Not an original thought and now not even an original virus can these tots muster up for themselves!

They say, “imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.”  But I say, “imitation butter is the surest way to fattery!”  Can I get a ‘hooah?’

Speaking of fattery, I’m starving to death in Ethiopia, Iraq.  I know they have more food than what they are offering me.  Someone is holding out and I don’t think it would be asking too much if one of you got in touch with Mr. Obama or the Attorney General or your local consulate and find out what needs to be done to get this boy a decent sit-down meal – and NOT off of a freakin’ cafeteria tray neither.  Wait!  I still have nuts left over from one of the lovely Fenderson sisters.  Crisis averted.

I just found out yesterday after all this time, the NODs I’ve been lugging around don’t even work properly.  They asked me why I didn’t say anything prior to them noticing.  I told them I had nothing to compare it to.  I’ve never owned a pair before, so I didn’t know that they were supposed to focus better than they do.  I know that’s not at all interesting.  But it’s true and it happened.

The powers that be keep sending me to tend to the quarantined sickies.  I think it’s their subtle way of trying to kill me off – with layer upon layer of bacteria and viruses.  I use my mask and stuff, but it’s suffocating.  It also forces you to have to re-breathe your own breath.  Granted, it’s not as bad as when I was smoking.  But I still would be more comfortable with a trip to the dentist for a nice, thorough cleaning.

My final random thought for the evening: do you know what my biggest thrill will be when I’m finally done with this army world?  I will NEVER wear a hat again, or, if I do, it will be a fedora or something stylish and it will be of my own free will!!!  This automaton has sprouted a pair of ball bearings and there’s no getting rid of them now.

Good night, sweetheart, it’s time to go.

08October, 2009

Good morning, honky cats.  I remembered as I woke up, I paid $50 yesterday for internet service!  That means it should be coming soon.  I heard that we should get it between the 10th and the 14th.  But it’s unclear if they mean this month or next month.  The point is, I will be in steadier stream of communication and be able to let you all know the stuff you need to know.  But quid pro quo, Clarice!  I want some information in exchange.  I know nothing of what’s going on in your lives.  Some of you are probably almost little ladies and gentlemen by now, going to your first boy/girl dances and drinking champagne when the chaperones aren’t looking.  Perhaps some of you have one foot on the surfboard and the other in a monastery.  I don’t know because you don’t tell me shit.

Time for work!!!

Work is done.  13 hours later, I am back to fill you in on all the grizzlies.  But there aren’t any today.  I had one kid come in with a possible torn tendon or ligament or whatever it is that attaches the patella to the tibia.  I can’t remember, one is the thing that attaches bone to bone and the other is the thing that attaches muscle to bone.  I think I’m going to go with ligament on this one.  So I popped him in a knee immobilizer, gave him ibuprofen, took a couple of x-rays, and sent him on his way.  He’ll be back tomorrow though for his ‘orthopedics consult.’  He was actually one of my favorite patients so far.  He smiled pleasantly.  He didn’t smell horrible.  He neither tried to be overly brave in front of the sergeants, nor was he a big cry baby.  He did smoke though and that made me punch him in the knee.

Then we had this other kid come in who is a crazy.  He lived near me when we were in Kansas and always tried to touch my nipplers.  Well, he got his.  Tonight he came in with a giant snake bite in his leg!!!  Can you imagine, all these years later and this Garden of Eden still has a snake problem.  I don’t know what they live on out here.  There is nothing to eat.  There is nothing to see.  Snakes are gross and stupid.

We tied off the limb and gave him an IV, but they don’t let the low level clinics carry the anti-venom medication due to its sometimes rather harsh side effects that would require hospitalization anyway.  So we ordered up a whirly-bird and sent him off to the big FOB down the road.  That snake must have had quite the big mouth!  The two fang marks were quite a way apart, I thought.

This boy will be fine though.  He’s from Nevada and has been bit by rattlers all his life.  That may explain his fondness for my male breasts.  Either that or it’s something that goofball generation picked up in the comic books or one of the episodes of Star Wars that I never saw or remember seeing.  It probably has something to do with Seth Rogan though.  That would be the most probable explanation.

I might get to wear camouflage scrubs during work hours soon.  I already claimed two for myself.  I love to find the small comforts when I’m up to my shorthairs in sand and blood clots.  I’m going to start pushing the issue tomorrow if the sergeants seem to be in a stable mood.

Yesterday, I ordered two books by Cintra Wilson, Season 4 of Family Guy, and Season 1 of Hawaii Five-0.  I’m very excited to get these items.  I also discovered that I cannot order a thumb drive online and have it sent here.  Apparently, you cannot receive apparel, computers, most electronics, software, and some other shit at an APO address.  What the hell kind of bushwhacking hornswogglery is that?

I mean, it’s ok and everything.  I still haven’t finished Moby Dick and that was supposed to be my beach reading during my visit home in July.  So I guess it’s Allah’s way of telling me to put to use what the universe has already supplied me, and everything else will come as it is needed.  Allah is so freakin smart sometimes that I just want to sign him up to be on Jeopardy.

Have I told you about the truck they make me ride around in?  The same truck we got in trouble for leaving bottles in last month?  You would not believe this piece of shit.  First, we have to start it with a wrench.  That should say it all.  I won’t go on.  The picture is complete.

Good night.

09October, 2009

A great big “I’m tickled pink and thanks a million” goes out to Ms. J.C. Cohen today for her package, which arrived this evening.  It consisted of The Princeton Review GRE Study Guide, the Barron’s GRE Study Guide, and Barron’s GRE Flash Cards.  I’m blissful as an ignorant person… but not for long!

I will begin studying as soon as I start receiving all that promised ‘down time’ they spoke of before we got here.  I’m actually glad I didn’t register for classes.  So far, we still do not have the internet to do on-line classes and we have had no time to do any class work even if the internet weren’t an issue.  But we’re only a little more than a month into this whole thing, so I’m sure as we get more settled, more time will become available.

Then I’ll begin studying my analogies.  Ridunkulousness: The Army as Shenanigans: The Leprechauns.

I think I made everyone mad at me today and I don’t care.  I had to walk around our barracks area (Pad 3) and pick up cigarette butts all over the place.  I haven’t smoked in nearly a month.  Even when I did smoke, I never littered with my butts because Mother Nature would slap my ass and rightfully so.  When I was done, I made it a point to let the sergeants know where I found the most cigarettes – outside of the medics CHUs.  They tried to blame the Scouts for smoking and littering on our side of Pad 3, but the Scouts haven’t been here for over a week.  I was furious!  I asked my fellow medics several times to police up after themselves because the day would come when other people beside me noticed the butts.  That day was today and it was me who had to clean up the mess.  Now, medics are no longer allowed to smoke at all in Pad 3.  They have to walk to the Aid Station to inhale their carbon crapoxide.  If they are annoyed and inconvenienced by it, I say “tough shit” and “put that in your pipe and smoke it.”

I want a bill to be passed that litterers should not be allowed to own property or have children due to the fact that they only try to make the world ugly.

But on the prettier side, I just got a funny little New Yorker article from J.C. Cohen’s mom, Ms. Maryann Fenderson.  I also got a package containing oral care items and newspaper clippings from my very own Mamalou.

Medically, I treated some dude who picked up a box wrong and his back went all spasmodic on him.  The doctor gave him percocets AND diazepam, the lucky duck!  But, truth be told, I’d rather not have back spasms just for a tiny little chemical vacation.  They’re no fun when you need them anyway.

Other than that, I made lists today; very long lists of supplies/drugs that we need.  So there was much cutting and pasting.  There was much keeping that eye for detail.  There was much keeping my brain from bleeding due to the toll the task put upon me wee brain.    There was much fighting the sleep that comes with reading something similar to a user’s manual for a giant, nuclear-powered, ceiling fan.

I did get a nice slap on the back from one of my patients.  He saw me in the DFAC and was very happy to tell me that he felt better.  I think he thinks I did something.  Isn’t that funny?  He would have gotten better anyway.  But I’ll take the credit.  Maybe someday he’ll make me a delicious pie.

If anyone is reading this and wonders what a soldier in today’s army wants more than anything to keep him/her comfortable in the dry desert environs, the answer is a back scratcher.

Good night everyone.

10October, 2009

I was told that I am definitely not ready to go to any promotion board yet because I do not know my chain of command.  The platoon sergeant and lieutenant kept asking me questions like “who is your center dot com commander?” and shit like that.  I let them know that it didn’t matter because I’m equally nice to everyone.  Now I feel like a bad soldier.  So I might try to write a little paper on the history of my regiment.  Apparently we have something to do with this guy named Roger who was a Ranger for the King back before the US became the US and was just a bunch of colonies (the good old days).  Some of Rogers Rangers became hard core militiamen for the patriot side.  Then there was some fighting with the native Americans.  Then the 11th and 36th regiments formed to make the 16th back in the day.  Then there was a point where they marched down the street in Paris.  But I get it all mixed up.

I did get compliments up the ying yang from Lt Col Pierce.  He sang my praises for organizing the pharmacy and for giving a good Intravenous stick.  I was pretty beaming like a headlight aglow in the fog about that.

But that was hours ago, and this is now.  I managed to post everything I’ve written to date on some Google website thing.  But I don’t know everyone’s email to invite them.  This is turning out to be a much larger pain in the ass than the actual war itself.

As a matter of fact, I’m stopping writing now for a brief hiatus.  I hear helicopters coming in and they are there as a reminder of how stupid life can be.  So I’m going to spend some of my stupid life lying down in my bed with the DVD playing.  I may take a few days off.  Still don’t have real internet even after I paid $50.  Still don’t have crap in the store we have here (went today and could only find deodorant and vitamin water worth buying and nothing else).  Still haven’t had a day off since I got here.  I’m sick of it.  Good night.

13October, 2009

I started studying my GREs last night.  But it said, don’t take too little time (less than 4 weeks) or too much time (more than 12 weeks), so I may have to put this off too.  I’m bored.

I could have woke up early to do physical training with Shane and his band of merry men, but I opted out.  Shane is the medic with special forces.  He gets to wear civilian clothes and a moustache (blond and ridiculous) and put around on a golf cart.  All the medics in my platoon are madly in love with him.  It’s seriously grotesque in an absurd and demented way.

Anyhow, he conducted a PT session this morning for his fans.  Instead, I remained in bed having nightmares that I was a substitute teacher again and, as I was standing in the hallway of my school, I realized that none of the kids knew how to open their locker.  I felt bad for them instead of thinking that they were stupid.  I think in my dream I blamed it on the budget.

I’m not 100% positive, but I think that today I need to send a shout out to one AUNTIE DIANE for a SUPER-DUPER HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!  I know you won’t be reading this, but the thought is still real, and as I typed it, it should have reached your emotional cargo hold like a cosmic Hallmark!

Now I must go to do my daily 13 hours of stuff.

I have returned.  Many of you have already received my email telling about how I got my war cherry popped.  Sure, it was a relative flop, but I’m glad I got it over with.  The consensus was that we were all pretty glad to have this relatively minor incident to acclimate us to what could be.  It was the war equivalent of putting our big toe in the pool before jumping.

I don’t know what the hell happened, as it was the Iraqi army/SWAT that came in for treatment.  The poor guys drove for hours before they made it to us.  I am unclear why they came all the way to our Aid Station without trying any of the many others between where the incident took place and us.  But that is probably none of my business and by the process of trans something-something (trans am?), none of yours either.

The fact is, they got blasted.  Shrapnel hit them and the blast shocked them.  I didn’t think that the Iraqi army would have been so flappable.  You’d think by now that they’d take all these blasts in stride.  It actually makes me happy that they don’t feel that way.  It makes me feel better in some human way to know that no matter how many times someone goes through something awful, it remains awful.  It puts the mind at ease that not everyone here is immune to the effects of war.  The point is driven home particularly when the Iraqi SWAT team can be shaken.

The guy on my table had a small chunk blown out of his shin.  I was put on the lower extremities, so it was my wound to fix.  He already had it dressed, but we had to see what we were working with.  It began bleeding again after I cut all the bandages off, making me very nervous.  But it was a relatively light bleed.  He winced and pulled away and moaned and groaned as I removed the bandages.  He took my irrigation of his wound with normal saline very well.

There were two opinions of dealing with patients who do not speak English.  Many found it great to be able to speak candidly about their thoughts and viewpoints of the patient’s medical and physical (smell, etc.) condition.  My guy was clean, so I was fortunate.  I found it a pain in the ass, however, to find a translator to let the guy know every move I was making.  You really have to do that.  It would be horrible for me to just start moving this guy’s painful leg all about without warning him first.

We gave him a couple of x-rays, both indicating a large chunk of shrapnel was lodged in his leg.  We do not have the full resources to operate and remove it.  So, our doctor tried to get these guys to the next level of care.  No other facility would touch them.  That may be why they came all the way to us.  I don’t know.  The other FOBs actually told our doc that we should have met them at the gate with some medics and bandages and turned them away.  I don’t know that for a fact, but that’s the sense I got when I eavesdropped on the officers talking about it.

So, he got sent home with his own people.  They asked if he would be normal.  I understand what they meant.  I didn’t understand why it was an issue at all; why they just couldn’t bring him to one of their own hospitals for further diagnosis and treatment.  Then I remembered where I am.  It is odd how little medical understanding they have here.  I really think Hollywood needs to start thinking about refitting “ER” for an Arab audience.

In the end, the patients left as happy as patients can be after dealing with a bomb blast and having metal chunks blown into their flesh.  The Captain of this particular group made it a point to have the interpreters tell us all how appreciative he was of our good work and attention to his men.  The patients each took turns shaking hands with each and every one of us before they left, even though standing on their own two feet was highly painful.

The special services guys, the Americans who work directly with the Iraqis, also gave us a big thank you.  We helped seal better relations with the leadership of this area with our little bit of work we were able to do to help.  In all, I am pleased with this day.

Good night.

14October, 2009

Today was another day for another ‘first.’  Although it was not the first shot I gave, today was the first time I gave a shot without begging for supervision by my side.  I was nervous and skeptical that I knew what I was doing, but I had faith in my abilities and resisted asking for someone to be there to keep me from screwing up.  In other words, I allowed myself to ‘call the shots.’

The poor boy has epididymitis – inflammation of the epididymis, the tube that puts the little squirmy sperm into the males’ testes before turning them into further grossness.  It’s very painful apparently and is often confused with testicular torsion, a state in which the testicles and their tubes get all wrapped up upon each other.  This is a much more painful condition and requires immediate hospitalization/surgery.

At any rate, I knew he didn’t have torsion because he didn’t display enough pain and his vital signs were stable.  I am fairly certain that in order to be 100% on a torsion assessment, you need to stuff the guys’ junk in an MRI to look at it from the inside.  We don’t have an MRI, so we do it the good old-fashioned gypsy way – with spit, a good eye, and watch how the shit bounces.

You also have to be on the lookout for hernias.  You do this by pressing your finger up inside the dude’s ballsack at a certain spot and making him put pressure there from within.  I don’t do this.  My colonel does this.  I haven’t asked if I could do this because I don’t want to do this.  I’m fairly certain it would be educational and all, but I do have to draw the line at some point between what should and should not be known.

But I did my part.  In one arm, I injected the ball-busted youth with Toradol, an analgesic for mild to severe pain given intramuscularly or intravenously.  I hit him in the left deltoid.  In the right deltoid, I stuck him with Rocephin, an antibiotic that could clean the germs off a ghetto crack pipe.  This particular shot hurts to receive in much the same way it hurts to get the Anthrax shot.  I warned him and he didn’t believe me until after I plunged those chemicals deep deep deep within him.  At that point, the kid smarted.

Sadly, that was the highlight of my day.  I did manage to get the night crew to bring me a piece of chocolate devil’s food cake.  I got not one BUT TWO cryptoquips in the newspaper.  I got new night vision goggles due to my old pair supposedly not working properly.

That was the extent of my day.  Oh!  I did make time to read a little more of “Moby Dick.”  I got through a few chapters.  But it was pissing me off.  He spent page after drudgery page describing how spooky the color white can be.  As a cracker, I found it a bit distasteful.

We should be getting internet in our CHUs in the next week or two.  We had to give up more money today in the endeavor to get connected.  It will no longer be $50 per month.  It is now $75 per month.  How does one explain a 50% increase?  It doesn’t get explained.  It gets offered in the take it or leave it way of being offered.  I do have the feeling that those in power, those who make the most money, those who I have not seen putting a dime towards this, are taking advantage of their situation and tacking the costs on down to the little people.  It must be an American trait that we put all our costs on the poorer people since there are more of them to spread the burden about.

But who cares?  Right?  I will hopefully be Skyping and Facebooking and farming and tending to my pet pupz and my sorority by month’s end.  After all, isn’t that the most important part of being an American?

Or is sleep the most important part?  I’ll let you know in the morning when I wake up.  Good night Johnboy.

16October, 2009

Today we will have our patch ceremony.  In the Army, you wear the patch of the division you are assigned to on your left sleeve.  Your right sleeve stays patchless until you have been deployed.  Then, once you have deployed, you wear the patch of the division with whom you deployed on your right sleeve.  Once you return home, you can continue to wear on your right sleeve the patch of the division with whom you deployed, even after you are no longer with those sons of bitches.  This is the day where it will be made OK for us all to start wearing patches on our right.  It’s sort of a minor big deal.

But, in army fashion, we have to supply our own patches.  Whoever was in charge of this never bothered to make sure there were enough of the new patches to go around.  There aren’t.  so we have to take from the left sleeves of our other uniforms to supply the right sleeves of the uniform we wear today.

17October, 2009

The patch ceremony went well yesterday.  It was actually not bad standing in 120-degree heat for as long as we did.  I actually got a little misty-eyed at the end.  It almost made me feel a little special.  Then, at the end, the Lieutenant Colonel of the battalion came through and had some nice words for us as individuals.  It was like reaching yet another level of the army or unpeeling another layer of that famous multi-layered onion.

Today, I have finally got hip and modern.  I watched “The Matrix.”  I know it’s like 11 years old already, but it’s new to me.  Actually, I didn’t get it at all.  Was everybody a robot?  Am I a robot?  Is Keanu Reeves a kung fu Confucius?  Is the subway in Canada really that dirty?  It is my estimation that this movie must be great art because it asks more questions than it answers.

Right now, I cannot tell, I am either hearing a limp sounding helicopter coming in or gunfire.  I’m inclined to think it’s a helicopter.  It is.  It’s flying right over me right now and my CHU is a-shakin.  I’m starting to like helicopters a little more.  They take people away.

I think I discovered a bomb on the road yesterday!  It was quite scary.  But everyone acted all nonchalant about it.  Jackasses!  It was a big pipe on one end with a small globe with pieces of metal sticking out of it on the other end like the sticky outie pieces of mines that you see in the old pictures.

Today, we had to do a ‘hands across the desert,’ which is a giant police call picking up all the trash that has accumulated in the sands through time.  I felt a bit like ‘Days of Our Lives’ with the sands through the hourglass.  I was paranoid like a loony that I’d find some explosive or something poisonous.  But, alas, I found nothing more dangerous than some broken glass and empty Rip-It cans.  The kids love their energy drinks.

I tried to curtail my pissiness today.  I don’t think I did a great job of it.  One of my sergeants, who reminds me of an abused dog, interrupted my reading of “Moby Dick” and, try as I may, my face betrayed me by displaying a clear visage of annoyance.  I played it off with my soft words, but everyone knew I was irked.

I was otherwise successful in tuning each and every person out and living like an autistic in my own little world today.  I loved it.

Although, the Special Forces medic came in today and had to jump on the “Gomes is old” bandwagon, which caused me a little annoyance.  His observation was of me doing a crossword puzzle.  So, that naturally led to my being old.  He certainly is clever, just not clever enough to get the answers to any of the clues from one across to 54 down.

I threatened to beat the shit out of one of my sergeants yesterday.  I also flipped him the finger.  He said, “Hey Gomes, you look like a homo.”  So I stuck my middle finger up at him and asked how I looked to him at that point.  He then tried to hug me.  They are funny here – and I don’t necessarily mean in the ‘ha-ha’ way.

I’m wondering if I should write more about the people I’m with here.  It seems like it would be a good idea so all the home viewers can get a prettier picture.  But then I think, what if by chance one of these mamaos gets a hold of my literature?  Would they dislike what I wrote about them?  Would I hurt their feelings that they claim not to have but I know they’d still pout like scorned little girls at a birthday party that didn’t get kissed at spin the bottle cuz their braces grossed everyone out?

I’ll try doing a caricature a day starting sometime not now.  I want to make sure that when I write about these human beings, I am in a loving mood.  I know everyone would much rather read nice things about everyone here than all the crap I’ve been filling you up with in regards to their ways.  Also, I’d rather write nice things.

I finally got my Season One of “Hawaii Five-0” in the mail yesterday.  I tried watching the two-hour made for TV movie pilot episode, but the beginning scared me, and the rest of it made me fall asleep.  I was hoping for more luaus and surfing, I guess.  Perhaps a volcano or two would have opened my eyes.  I do like how funny people acted on television back then.  They did dress much more appropriately too.  But it all makes me wonder if there will ever be a place for me in Waikiki.

I’m going to go now and try to watch it again.  It’s already late so this will cut into my sleep time, but I’m going to take the risk.  Good night.

18October, 2009

I like Sundays because I can wear shorts.  But today I froze my ghoulies off in the ungodly air conditioning of the Aid Station.  What else did I do today?  A kid with a cut finger – I learned how to squeeze the Derma Bond out of its tube.  Oxygen tanks needed to be fetched – I spent an hour tracking down a Lieutenant with a key.  We did watch about four episodes of Season Four of “The Sopranos.”  That put an upside down to my frown.

I promised my Sergeant who says words like bamboozle that I’d write shitty things about him in my diary.  He saw me typing some stuff the other day and felt like he wouldn’t be doing his job if he didn’t give me something horrible to write about him.  So here it is:

This juvenile delinquent in big boy clothes needs to grow the eff up already.  He thinks he’s a big baseball star, but there is no team that plays inside an Aid Station and uses desks and people’s work places as bases.  It is annoying as daggers in hell when you try to do something that you’ll be given tons of shit for not getting done and all the while, those who want you to get it done are foolishly slopping all over themselves to do everything in their power to get in your way and put wrenches in the works.  That’s why I steal and throw away all your homemade toys that I can get my hands on!!!  Take up knitting or board games or something that doesn’t destroy the orderliness I’m trying to achieve.

I’m sort of over the food here.  I still love my desserts, but I fear growing into a mini blimp.  It’s odd though; everyone here knows by heart the food menu schedule as thoroughly as I knew the prime time television line up as a child.  I haven’t gotten to that point of knowing what is served or when.  I like it to be a surprise.

Tomorrow is Monday, and I’m not happy about it.  I have dread about what tomorrow brings.  There is a mission that some people are going on.  It has been talked about for a while and I’ve been dismissing it as a bunch of tomfoolery.  But tomorrow it will take place and I know a few people who will take part in it.  I have bad juju about this.  Perhaps it’s just my superstitious side building up the horror scenarios in my mind so that they won’t happen in real life – just like I do every time I have to go on an airplane.

I’m going to sleep now due to my brain being too unsettled and unimpressed with being awake.

19October, 2009

Big “Thank you” shout outs to my Mamalou, Ms. Maryann F, Mr. and Ms. Ed and Nancy Barrett, and to Pam Souza for your very thoughtful packages and posts.  It is very much appreciated.  It’s actually very much more appreciated by the people who gather around me while I open these packages to see what new candy treat they can get.  I will ask, half-heartedly, for you to no longer send candy.  I don’t really eat it and these bozos don’t really deserve it.  I do end up giving it all to my co-soldiers, but when I do, I can’t help but feel I’m somehow rewarding bad behavior.  OK, just send it!  I have just made a determination that I don’t care if I reward their bad behavior with candy.  Time and nature will reward them with cavities and poorer skin and teeth, and unflattering body shapes.

The box of candy that came in tonight I had to force upon some kid who came in for health related issues.  I nearly threatened to withhold treatment if he didn’t take the box with him back to his barracks.

Pam, your books were a hit.  I’m still trying to read “Moby Dick” since July, so I’m preoccupied with that.  But the kids went gaga over the hobbit and the other stuff this English degree holder never really heard of because I never kept up with literature and find it all rather oppressive now anyway.  I did keep the John Irving book for myself though.

Nancy and Ed, I am certain there will be nothing left of the goodies you sent by the time I get back to the Aid Station in the morning.  Half the cookies were gone within the first ten minutes of their release from the post box.  Our night shift has little to do but eat all the stuff we bring in on the day shift.  So, your contribution should keep them busy this evening.

I know I shouldn’t be complaining, but somehow I feel like I’m getting too much here.  Don’t get me wrong, if there are things you wish to rid yourself of, please forward them along.  At the very least, I will be leaving them behind when I’m gone so maybe some of the Iraqis who work with us (or their families) can benefit from what you share.  I don’t know if they really read in English or if they care to read anything at all.  I don’t know if they like junk food, but have the sneaking suspicion they do.  I don’t know much about anything, but I don’t have to know crap.  If they want it, they can have it.

I’m not sure, but it seems like packages are getting here a lot faster than they did in the beginning of my being here.  Maybe time is just going by much faster.  Tonight, for fun, we gave one another the flu vaccine injections in our arms.  We also watched the episode of “The Sopranos” where Tony beats and subsequently kills the character played by Joe Pantolianoli (or however you put his name together) after he has Tony’s horse killed for the insurance money!  I LOVE it when the mafia boss ends up being a big animal lover and whacks someone over a dead horse!  It serves the asscrack right anyhow.  You should never kill an animal for money unless your name is Oscar Mayer, Hormel, or Willow Tree Chicken Salad.  Or unless you promise to use the rest of them as shoes and clothes and jewelry, then you can hunt them and eat what you can and sell the rest at a discounted price to the poor family up on the mountain behind the creek.  That would be acceptable.

Speaking of animal cruelty, I finally got the one eyed dog to come with me and let me put the hose to her.  The big, smelly bitch loved getting brushed.  That portion of her grooming worked well.  But the shower was a little problematic.  I may need more dog treats to trick her into letting me wash her some more.  Also, if anyone could send along a nice dog shampoo for the lady dog with one eye and a warrior’s resume, it would be appreciated.  It should smell pretty enough to help us forget her ugly one eye, but it should also be bold enough to keep up with the heroic nature of this love bug.

I’m going to bed and watching “Family Guy” now.  “Hawaii Five-0” confuses me.

20October, 2009

I must have given out at least 12 trillion flu shots to the troops today.  I made it fun in my mind by picturing them to be typhoon victims and I was on some Sally Struthers UNICEF commercial.  All sorts of people came in to get their shot.  Some acted all brave about it, which was the norm.  Honestly, it was a tiny needle and not a big deal at all.  Then some people came in with horror stricken eyes and jittery knees.  Those were the people I would tell stories.  I told them that we had to get helicopter evacuations for three of my patients because I hit a nerve when I gave the shot and it left them paralyzed.  Some I told the saga of how I injected into just the right spot to make someone piss his pants involuntarily.  By the time they wrapped their heads around my nonsense, I was finished with their shot and telling them to go take a seat.  They almost all agreed it was not a big deal when I was finished.

Then I had another sickie come in with the possible gastroenteritis.  He had the ass squirts and the vomiting etc etc.  I knew he was going to have to get an IV and I was fine with that.  But, when I went to put it in him, I found he had no veins.  It was horrible.  Naturally, he was not easy about getting his veins tapped into either.  So, after my second try, I had to get someone else to do it.  I almost didn’t because I didn’t want to admit defeat.  But I also didn’t want this poor kid’s arms to turn into my prideful embroidery.  I am happy to say, my sergeant couldn’t get a vein on his first try.  So it wasn’t just me.  The kid was made faulty.

Let that be a lesson to you all.  If you let yourselves become dehydrated, your veins become more difficult to find and it’s harder to revive you.  The sergeants were talking about having me get the tube into his neck or feet veins.  Can you imagine?  I would have died!  I would have done it, but with rigor mortis growing in my limbs.

After the kid got stuck, I gave him 25mg of Phenergan to relieve the nausea and settle him down a bit.  Before he left, I gave him two-2mg Loperamide to ease his squirty ass for the 40-minute ride he had back to his base.  He was happy and looked a bit better when he left.  I think that was probably due to him getting away from the butchery of army medicine.

The rest of the day was a snooze.  I tried to cajole our platoon sergeant (SSG T) into letting go of the punishment of one of our jackasses named B.  He told B that if he wanted to eat, he would have to walk to the DFAC.  Instead, we all ended up picking up B’s food for him.  Then he’d complain about what we brought him.  I started getting pissed.

So, this morning, SSG T wanted me to steal video games from my roommate so he could play them.  I refused to do any stealing.  But I did get my roommate to agree to let these games be borrowed.  I told my sergeant he could use them if he relinquished that ridiculous punishment, as it was more of a punishment to me.  He said “No.”  But then something changed his mind and now I don’t have to get that guy’s food for him anymore.  I feel kind of like an adult doing that whole bartering favors thing that all the successful people do.

I remember doing that once in San Francisco.  I put in my demands for the job I wanted and had just about every single wish met.  But then I said “No” and moved back to New York.  I was stupid for leaving, but I remember feeling empowered.  I need to do things like that more often – the empowered part, not the stupid part.  It is so much more adult than my usual way of ‘dealing’ with things (and then being disappointed afterwards for not having things the way I’d like).  If I had a therapist, he or she would be very proud right now, I believe.

Well, all this growth has made me a tired lad.  Plus I promised Sgt. Cruz I’d get up early and go running with his fat ass.  It will be good for everyone if I start the running again.  I’m getting too much energy that I’m displacing in inappropriate ways.

By the way, I don’t know if I want to write this shit anymore.  It’s not the same as Facebook.  I don’t get any feedback.  I don’t get any chat to my chit.  It’s just me typing and flapping and carrying on.  It makes me feel like a crazy person.  It can’t be healthy to talk this much just to yourself.  I try to pretend I’m talking to you, but you’re not there.  I can see why authors are depressed alcoholics.  No one talks back and it gets annoying.  This is only a diary and I’m getting antsy.  What should I do?

21October, 2009

It’s rather odd, something I’ve noticed since being here.  I can only allow myself to be comfortable in increments.  But once I’ve opened a new box of coziness, it’s ripped open and spilling all over the place.  My mouth is one example that comes to mind.  As much as the professionalism was my norm for so long into this whole army thing, once I got comfortable enough to let the shit flow from my lips, it’s as if a dam has busted and everyone surrounding me is drowning in wave upon wave of my bullshit.  Likewise, I was at first skeptical about using this laptop at all.  Then, it was used only for this diary.  Now, bit by bit, I’m allowing myself to listen to my iTunes.  I still haven’t been able to allow myself time for my iPod.  It’s as if there is a fear of becoming too comfortable versus the “give him an inch he’ll take a yard” theory.

A small part of me just wishes the shit would hit the fan already as far as this war is concerned.  It’s just hanging in the air, day after day, as that little something missing.  It’s that bothersome visitor you’ve been preparing dinner for but who shows up after you’ve done the dishes and put all the food away.  He may be an hour late, he may be a day late, he may never come at all and you’ll never get a phone call telling you anything.  And I hope he never shows up.  I hope to never have to feed or look at his fat, pockmarked face.  But it will take a year before I’ll know whether or not I’m out of the woods.  Facing the unpleasantness now just seems like a decent short-term way to ease the tension of waiting for that knock on the door.

It’s probably just a stupid curiosity.  I must keep reminding myself that all the crappiest parts of what’s going on here are none of my business.  I’ll continue to keep all the evil at arm’s length as I would riff-raff or the demented people I’d encounter on the streets back home.  As enticing as their outbursts may be, it’s common knowledge that paying them attention is a slippery slope.  Entertainment soon gives way to ‘old hat’ and then to maddening monotony.  Who wants bombs and limblessness to become boring?  Maybe if it were, no one would want to play that game anymore.  But people beat dead horses all the time.  They’d play that same old game out til the end just like they do with jokes and underwear.

In an attempt to not harass people at home for stuff, I ordered my own crap online today.  If you don’t mind, I’m going to harass you some more.  I was charged $20 shipping for a $20 item and $7 shipping for a $2 item.  I just want clean teeth and gums!  The real reason I was at amazon.com was to order a chair.  I’m sick of sitting on the floor every time I want to shoe or unshoe myself.  The stupid chair place wouldn’t deliver.  It was a phat New England Patriots chair that folded snugly and had bottle holders in the arms.  But North Pole Chairs finds APO addresses a nuisance and won’t deliver their goods to those distant shores.

I saw a cute black girl on some horrible movie tonight who reminded me of my niece Meagan.  This sentence is designed to send sweetness and good wishes to my little Meagan.  I think I spelled your name wrong and you’ll have to forgive me if I did.

More shots were given out to the sad sacks here who “hate needles.”  Such dramatics you haven’t seen the likes of even on Broadway.

I still can’t stop obsessing about food and the feeling of wanting more and more of it.

I also obsess over whether or not I should live in Westport, Massachusetts or Los Angeles, CA or Portland, OR or the Florida Keys when I’m done with this donkey show.

Can’t some of you make comments and/or tell me what you obsess about?  I’m bored listening to my own mind and the jello mold quiverings of brain activity that passes as mental functioning around these parts.

22October, 2009

Sometimes it occurs to one that alcoholism may be an issue.  That occurrence is all abuzz in these parts today.  Whereas food usually suffices as a focal point to obsess over, the afternoon sun lighted upon me a dire craving for Irish Whisky.  The oddest part about it is that after perseverating over these thoughts for an hour or two and having cocktail reminiscences with a fellow alcoholic drinking buddy, someone told us the story of how the authorities here unearthed a case of Jack Daniels buried somewhere on base.  Perhaps I have psychic taste buds or my Sixth Sense is an addiction.  There must be a script in this paragraph somewhere.

Today was just another day of shot after shot of influenza vaccine pumping into deltoids.  In the morning, one of our star sickies showed up for yet another bout of misery.  This time I had to give her a pregnancy test!  It was all very ‘Melrose Place’ in my mind.  Did she make illegal love in a war zone?  Will she be discharged along with her precious cargo?  Will she opt to discharge the precious cargo instead?  The questions floated in me like my morning bladder.

She was not pregnant.  She was then able to take the preferred antibiotics with no fear of harming the non-existent fetus.  The extent of action today was that.  I am ok with that too.

I am concerned.  I wonder if everyone is mad at me.  It seems like they are leaving me alone more and more.  Yes, I do complain that they are constantly on my ass to do things.  But now they are letting me read my book (which is BRILLIANT) and watch television while asking the others to do work.  Am I going to get fired?  Is something amiss?  Did I screw up?  Am I just being a worried New Englander with my work ethic thing getting the better of me?  I guess nobody can have it both ways.  But what if they find out they don’t need me anymore?  What if they already know they don’t need me and now they’re realizing they also don’t want me?  I don’t want the gross army to think I’m gross.


My book is good though.  I’m currently reading Cintra Wilson’s “Colors Insulting to Nature.”  It’s a coming of age tale about some chick approximately my age growing up in the zany 80s.  She starts as a little freaky whoreishly dressed horror trying out for commercials at the insistence of her mother, an ex topless juggler from Reno.  She doesn’t get why people don’t like her because she dresses like a whore.  She doesn’t understand because this is how her mom had always dressed her.  She’s not a naughty girl at all.  She’s actually quite sweet.  But then she falls for the popular, rich boy and lets him get his way because she drank too much Triple Sec to understand what was going on.  After the act, she passes out and the dick guy shaved off her hair in a Mohawk.  Her friend, the pot dealer, convinced her to make this look work for her since everyone at school hated her anyway.  Now they are hanging out with all the early 80s punker kids in San Francisco.  It’s really fun.  I’ll let you know more as I read more.  Also, there was a great scene where the mother decided to put on a play in their firehouse cum “Dinner Theater.”  It was “The Sound of Music” and it was a freak show.  They tried to make it a proper event for the holidays – something to even rival “The Nutcracker.”  But the mom as Maria, the nun, ended up ripping off her habit to reveal a micro-mini skirt and began juggling crucifixes all over the stage til she tripped over a piece of habit that didn’t tear away fully and fell on her face.  I nearly shit myself bloody!

I know it’s not “Moby Dick.”  I hate to not finish a book.  But I read the New Bedford parts of it, which were very intriguing and telling.  Now he’s just writing to write.   It’s too much!  Besides, I can’t really support a full on attack on a great big mammal of a whale when we all know that they are the monkeys of the oceans.  I say “monkeys” and not “apes” because they have tails!

I took a drag of a Newport cigarette today!  It tasted like fertilized rat ass.  That was a bad part of the day.  A good part, and I know you’ll all think of me as someone horrible for writing this, is that someone put up these weird bowls with something that looks like bacon grease inside them.  All the stupid flies are flocking to these things and drowning in their own disgusting gluttonous filthy diseased desires.  What?  Kamikaze-ing my ears is no longer looking so good?  HAH!  Now I walk by the traps and I mock and taunt them.  I don’t care.  They put me through hell.  I feel like Farrah Fawcett’s character must have felt in that movie “Extremities.”

My new archenemies are the ants.  I’ll fix their little asses too.

Bertha tried to scare away a random gang of Iraqis that were near us for some reason today.  She is a racist!  I had feared that, but now I have the proof.  I don’t know what to do about it.  Should I try to give her some sensitivity training?  Should I coldly and brutally remind her that there are tons of people out there who would not allow her or any one-eyed being in their homes?  What will it take to get through to her?  Maybe I’ll shave a Mohawk in her fur and let her find a new way of life where she’s not the tap dancing princess she thinks she is.  Dolly Parton’s dogs would never pull this shit with her, that’s for sure.

Well, good night again to all.  I hear helicopters.  I think I should shut my lights out before someone asks me to do something weird.  I’m going to try running again in the morning and watching “Family Guy” again tonight.

23October, 2009

Today was a day of ups and downs – emotionally.  I enjoyed my run this morning in a way, but not fully.  I fully enjoy nothing anymore because everything here comes with a side of bullshit.  The run, while a nice invigorating morning exercise, had to be done with someone else in attendance.  That someone else invited a third.  Although the two I ran with are two of the more favored people in my midst, it was still two different paces to which I had to adjust.

Everything!  When I eat, the choice I make is from a very finite list of options provided to me.  It’s not like when I’d go to Shaw’s Supermarket four times a weeks with every changing craving.  When I go to the Break Room to read my book (which broke my heart today), it takes less than five minutes before the voices find me and carry on echoing their flat words in my ears.  I move and five minutes later, they find me again.

When I go to the bathroom, everyone sees me move and immediately questions me on my plans.  I tell them in vivid detail about the planned defecation, if for no other reason than to make them hear about shit they don’t wish to hear.

I haven’t been alone, except during sleeping hours, for thirty-five years now.  I feel weighted down and resentful.  This always happens.  I am incapable of being around people for too long a period without getting horrible towards them.  This is no new revelation, but I honestly thought I would make it longer than two months before I felt crushed by what I perceive as their neediness, nosiness, clinginess, and general over-familiarization with me.  I feel like I’m living under a microscope!

…and my book!  The girl who dressed like a slut ending up a punk rock chick finally made it to LA just to realize that famous people are horrible and burdened by maladjustment and narcissism and all those other gross things that Oprah never brings up when she has her celebrity friends on the show.  Her brother, however, became a shut-in with the agoraphobia and found comfort making these intricate little light boxes with pain-staking hand-crafted designs upon them which are now selling for between fourteen and twenty-two thousand dollars a pop!  I say “Good for him.”  But he won’t leave his bedroom, never mind the house, so he’ll never get to know first hand what an overwhelming success he is as can be assessed by the gallery opening dedicated to his art.

It made me sad.  But it couldn’t be just my sadness.  Everyone around here had to come up and pester me for a piece of my sadness.  I’m sick of living in a flipping hippie commune with republican rednecks!  You’d think there would at least be beer or oxycontin at this wingding – but there isn’t.  What do we have?  Lots of nothing and time to get to know one another just a little bit better every nauseating ass day.  Screw this, I want to go home!

When I get out of here, I’m finally letting loose and having adventures.  You can all say “adios” or “goodbye” or “auf wiedersehen” to the old, stodgy Gomes you’ve been taking for granted all these centuries.  Gone are the days of uptight modesty and sensible shoes.  I will shed this engineer’s exterior for once and for all and let my visage match my warrior soul!  And that doesn’t mean a tattoo and a trip to Mexico either.  It will be a more profound change than that.  I will no longer be the American automaton in his dime a dozen duds and communal life.  I will no longer have to share in the dark victories of combatives tournaments, youthful hooliganism, and shots of Crown Royal.

But I do have something here and now that is mine and that I can celebrate alone, in my heart and mind, without prying or interference.  That is my deep wish for my niece Kristen to have a bang-up, wonderful, supersonic 27th Birthday!  Happy Birthday Kristen Pimental[CG11] !


24October, 2009

Today was sad.  I’m sure you’re sick of me bellyaching about this and that and the blah blah blah that we all know stems from my own misdeeds etc etc.  But this time it’s different.  Someone murdered Bertha, the one-eyed dog this morning.  I hate those who thought it would be fun to run her over and leave her to die.  I say she was murdered, because according to the people who found her, she was off road and the tire tracks also went off road.  They went out of their way to kill her.

I’m happy that, coincidentally, I made sure to get a picture of her and me yesterday.  My Kim in New Orleans just happens to be doing a series on animals used in war.  She is a big wig at the World War II Museum in New Orleans.  She asked for a picture of Bertha the other day.  I’m so happy now that I finally remembered to do something someone asked me to do.

She was such a big monkey!  She was filthy and disgusting, but she always peed outside.  This is written about Bertha, not about Kim.  The dirt was inevitable.  She couldn’t help being raised by army guys who can barely clean themselves.  It was also out of her control that, once she set paw outside, there was little else to roam around in but dirt.  Cleanliness was a losing battle.  But she welcomed a good brushing!  She may have been dirty, but she had class.

She was also not a skeeze like the other dogs around here.  She wasn’t a shifty eyed food whore.  Well, she wasn’t shifty eyed anyway.  She was trustworthy and brave.  Her eye was lost in a bomb explosion after all.  That’s apparently around the point where her distaste for the Arabs and their culture began.  She also almost lost one of her rear paws but managed to keep it because she had strength and all the heroic qualities a certain pick-up truck driving piece of shit sorely lacks.

After I heard the news, I enveloped myself in my book.  I didn’t want to give anyone the chance to say anything stupid about her to me.  But then the book compounded the sadness because, as with all books that I like, it bothered me to have it end.  The girl who was a punk rocker grew up and found a career as a writer of dominatrix fiction, which flourished into a 1-900-number sexy phone call enterprise, and then a show in Vegas.  Love came back to her and she grew up to be a happy, well-adjusted show biz performer.  Even her train wreck of a mother grew in beautiful leaps and bounds by the end.  I think that happens to us all anyway  Ageing can be sweet.

I must thank Heidi Hazell-Cope today for sending a lovely package with towels (much needed and appreciated) and coffee (one of the bags went to another base where they get less than we do and they very much appreciate it) and other treats.  You made many people happy after we all had such a shitty start to our day.  Thank you.

It occurred to me that one of my initial reasons for putting these “thank you” bits in here, besides for self-explanatory reasons, is to be informative.  It is always nice to know that the post office didn’t pull our chain and just dump our package off in the middle of Siberia with some vodka drinking commie Eskimos.  But I also want everyone to know what has arrived.  I know I’ve sent out some lists of material crap that is desired h ere.  I just hate to deplete people’s resources by getting duplicate orders of stuff.  Then it occurred to me that none of you can read this shit because I am still without adequate internet service.  Sorry!

Now I go to bed and train my brain to get on a better wave of positive energy for tomorrow.  No frowns, no bitterness, no annoyance will be allowed.  Only kindness and warmth and appreciation for the good qualities will be tolerated.  That’s how my little one-eyed Bertha would have liked it.  Good night.

25October, 2009

One thing happened yesterday I failed to mention.  I think I may have a long lost brother looking for me.  It’s almost like I’m on Dr. Phil or Maury.  I got a message/ friend request from Christopher Gomes who was ‘looking for Casey Gomes from the New Bedford area.’  I may be going out on a limb with this, but I think he means me.

Anyway, I remember reading in my father’s obituary that he has a son named Christopher and a wife named N___ .  (I’m purposely leaving her name out just in case she wouldn’t appreciate it being included and because it makes it all look more mysterious).  I replied back asking if he was the same Christopher.  Then I asked my mother and sisters.  My mother seems to remember him, but not as the son of N____.  So, I became puzzled.  Did my father have two sons named Christopher?

Then it hit me like a ton of genetics; maybe I don’t have a younger brother who was born in a later marriage.  Maybe the Christopher listed in the obituary is this one.  Maybe just because they were listed as next of kin, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are mother and child.  My sleuthing is becoming superb with all the army training.

So I went back to see if I got any reply on the Facebook tonight.  But the site was down ‘for maintenance’ and I couldn’t log on.  I don’t understand that at all.  It’s not like you have to mop the floors of your website.  It’s not like all the little electric doodads had an office party and all sorts of tiny tequila bottles had to be picked up and disposed of in a discrete manner.  What maintenance do these doofuses need?

As I walked back from the trailer where all the free, crappy computers are located, a dog was up on the birm barking away towards me.  I tried to warn he to quiet down before the dog hunters heard, but she was inconsolable.  I think she knows that something is not quite right.  I think dogs understand being under the boot of war as much as anyone else.

Then I got back to the Aid Station, where I had to explain filing to the night shift personnel.  I gave them 5 lists of names; each presented alphabetically.  Each list corresponds to a drawer in the file cabinet, a company within the battalion.  Each company has soldiers with last names.  Each soldier should have a file.  Those files should be sorted by the last names, which begin with a letter from A to Z.  So, I basically asked them to do the alphabet five times.

It was so difficult, my brain began bleeding at the end.  “But what about …” was an oft-repeated starter to their inquiries.  I think it will be fun to see what it looks like when I go in tomorrow.  I sort of miss taking care of sick people.

But nobody gets sick on the weekends.  We get more of the ‘foreign nationals’ coming in on Sundays.  They never come during the hours that we are open for sick call.  It’s like they get off on bending our stupid little American rules.  They’ll come two hours prior or two hours late, but not one will come during the two hours we have put aside specifically for them.  it doesn’t allow for the best treatment when they have irritated the medical personnel by interrupting a sports game, or a meal, or something that we are trying to work on by coming in with a bellyache at some odd hour.  Tonight I pretty much tossed some TUMS at this guy and told him to call someone in the morning, “during sick call hours!”

I don’t want to be cold to my fellow human kind.  But the guy said he’s had the condition for SEVEN YEARS.  He wants to be treated, NOW, in the middle of my movie, for his acid reflux.  What the hell is that about?  They can’t get enough of the American drugs.  It doesn’t matter what you give them.  They think it’s magic or something.  Or maybe they sell it to the poorer, dumber people in the more rural regions.  I don’t know.  I just know that they want pills and lots of them.  So far, that’s the only thing I think I have in common with the Iraqis.

I’m sick of being conscious now.  Good night.

26October, 2009

Today we had a crisis of mini-proportion in that someone is peeing on the sand outside our CHU.  It’s right outside MY CHU, which makes it look pretty gross for my roommate and me.  But then I found more urine soaked sand in the pad where all the sergeants live.  So now they are blaming the packs of wild dogs.  (Bertha would never have done that.)

No news on my possible brother.  I was invited to go to the computers, but I just couldn’t.  Besides my nightly movement of the bowels,  I just couldn’t conjure up the energy to walk their, wait for a computer, and deal with people.  I tried yesterday and had to listen to some sop cry on the phone, “No Jessica, Stop!  Jessica, no. Stop!  Jessica, stop.  No!  No, stop!  Jessica.”   I’m fairly certain Jessica is a bitch, but I still couldn’t help but be on her side.  This guy was a turd.

It feels as if war-like things may be happening here soon.  I don’t know exactly why I think so, but I feel like the war machine has triangulated onto our peaceful, easy feelings here in the snooze capital of Iraq.  It’s just a matter of time now until all Allah’s followers come bulldozing on through.

Something very wrong is happening.  I keep being told that I’m mean.  Even my Lieutenant Colonel today asked what happened to the nice man he met back in June.  I think I’m successfully alienating myself from everyone.  It’s probably just withdrawal symptoms from my many addictions in conjunction with my manic psychosis from overdosing on caffeine on a daily basis.  They’ll be ok.  I wonder if they are really mad at me.  I’ll have to push it more to see what “really mad” looks like.  Then I’ll know the difference.

Maybe if they played a board game with me, we’d get along better.  I’ll try to suggest that some day.

I’m not getting a lot of patients.  Tonight I saw an Iraqi interpreter.  He came in for a headache, I think.  I can’t imagine that he’s a very good interpreter as his English was horrible.  But I was able to surmise that he had some sort of headache that may or may not be caused by either a) no longer taking his blood pressure medicine or b) taking some weird, voodoo Iraqi pills he got from a local hospital.  That is if he even was indeed trying to tell me he was a hypertensive.  Who knows?

I guess a lot of people got whacked in Baghdad today.  You’d think I’d know stuff fairly quickly being here and all.  But I get all my news from yahoo news.  So much for cutting out the middle man.

Does anyone have any ideas where I should live when I’m done with this in 2012?  I’m thinking that maybe doing one of those jobs where you help dig out the tsunami people in exotic locations might be a way to go.  I’d get to go to all the beautiful beaches in the world – but my price would be going at a gross time when all the pool bars are closed down.  However, I’d get to have an inflated sense of self vis-à-vis my noble and blah blah blah for the downtrodden brownish people.  I don’t know.  It could be the only way I ever get to see Thailand or Sri Lanka or Malaysia.

I still haven’t been to see the Retention Officer regarding re-enlisting.  No one has noticed.  This will be allowed to play itself out with no help from me.

So, the Special Forces ‘dude’ came in AGAIN tonight.  Now he’s crying because he chipped some fake tooth and wanted dental care from us.  The lengths he’ll go to in order to demand attention from the Aid Station is astonishing.  I cringe whenever he walks in the room or, worse, opens his mouth.  Now my recoil will be doubly dramatic knowing that his grill is made of polished plastique veneer and putty.  He did cut off the ridiculous blond moustache though, so maybe I could be a little more accepting.

The guys did do a good job with re-filing the medical records last night.  Naturally I was a dick and had to tell them more about where they screwed up than where they did well.  I regret that and will have to make it up to them.  I feel myself on a big rebound of kindness.  Then I’ll bend over backwards to be nice and gracious to everyone.

But first… Sleep!

27October, 2009

29October, 2009

It feels like being a babysitter – getting paid by the moms and dads of America, and sitting here day after day ‘just in case’ something happens.  ‘What if someone takes an eye out or loses a limb on the neighbor kids’ bombs while they’re playing?’ is the most common fear I guess.  Have I come this far in life just to be a glorified babysitter?  I’ll be pissed if that’s all I have ever amounted to.  In the mean time, I eat tons of junk food and argue with the kids about what we should watch on TV.  I know I should be happy that it’s going so well, and I am.  But as we all know, sometimes you give up a fun dance party to do a greater good by babysitting.  I feel like I should be able to sneak out and go to the fun dance party since the kids are all right and can take care of themselves.  But I also know, the second I turn my back, the little shits will find that damn land mine and I’ll be the one who gets in trouble if I’m not there to lay down my magic healing powers.  I am fourteen all over again.

Today I unloaded a bucket of serumen (aka earwax) out of a sergeant’s left ear.  He got out of the shower and thought he had gone deaf.  Was it from a prior blast he had been near?  Was it a punctured tympanic membrane?  Did the Rock And Roll oriented youth lifestyle finally get the best of him?  No, it was just impacted earwax a few fathoms down in his ear hole.  I got the shit out, yes.  But is that the point?  Who died and made me Nanny McPhee?

Today, it should be noted, is the 48th Birthday of my sister Sue.  Happy 48th Birthday, Sue!!!!

30October, 2009

An email has already been sent to almost everyone regarding the scorpion captured for my circus.  Her name was Isabelle.  She was lovely, for a scorpion, but she had no talent.  The high wire did not sing to her soul.  She would stubbornly refuse to jump through hoops.  She allowed no one to put a big red nose on her or put big floppy shoes on her millions of feet.  I found her as a complete nobody, took her in, and she gave me an attitude like she thought she was Julia Roberts or something.  Needless to say, she was let go of her contract.

I think that has the potential of being the new euphemism for “being killed.”  Everyone can use it, too.  Picture Tony Soprano telling Paulie, “Yeah, our friend was let go of his contract.”  You could say it about a loved one who had passed away, especially a spouse.  After all, isn’t our being here almost like some invisible contract with God?  Though I never signed mine and am still trying to iron out some of the details, I feel pretty sure I got a decent deal.  But the day comes when you are no longer able to live up to your earthly obligations, so you are sent to that big retirement community in the sky, no longer encumbered by that contract that had weighed you down all those years.

I ate cake AND ice cream tonight in front of the colonel.  I told him I didn’t care if everyone thinks I’m a fat ass.  I actually do care, but he doesn’t need to hear that.  He likes strong minds and wills.  It was delicious too.  It was the Devil Food Cake and the Jamocha Almond Ice Cream.  I alternated between the two on my spoon and tried to shovel the next bite in before the last bite was finished so the two flavors could play together prettily on my buds.  They certainly did make some pretty music together.

The colonel removed a keloid scar that this lieutenant had behind his earlobe.  It was the size of… I don’t know.  It was bigger than a raisin.  It was round and fleshy and attached to the back of the ear like a parasitic tumor.  It may have been the size of two or three plump, juicy raisins clumped together.  He got the scars after he stopped wearing earrings.  Isn’t that crazy?  He has them on BOTH ears!  That can happen to people!  That’s why they told us as children to not go and get pierced.  But even if they showed us pictures, no one would believe it likely that it would happen to them, not even a lieutenant in the United States Army.  Let’s all learn a lesson from this.

The removal was pretty gross.  I had to keep biting my lips to make sure that my mouth would stay shut and not agape.  Through the whole thing, I had this horrible fear that somehow, the bulbous fleshy thing would get its final slice off of the ear, fly off the scalpel and pop into my mouth.  I know that it’s irrational, but I kept seeing it in my mind.  I almost had to forego dinner because of the thought.

He is coming back on Monday to have the other ear cut.  This time I may opt to wear a mask.  I’d look conspicuous, but that’s ok.  They think I’m weird anyway.

At the end, the colonel has to cauterize the wound leftover on his ear to stop the bleeding.  This was fun in a sick and disgusting way.  With each zap of the cauterizer, you could see the blood stop seeping from that part of the flesh.  You could hear the electric and skin come together to make a sizzle.  Luckily I couldn’t smell anything.  But unluckily, by that point, the Lidocaine 1% was wearing off and the lieutenant was able to feel more of it than he should have.  But he’s army through and through.  He didn’t complain or cry once.  I was happy.

Well, I’m going to get back to the “Hawaii Five-O” disks to see if they can help shape my impressionable young mind.

I have some pics of the new scorpion, as well as a small video, I’ll try to put up in these here pages.  Ciao, bella!

Two pictures and a small action video of Isabelle.

31October, 2009

Happy Halloween to all the ghouls and tools.  Having asked our company’s interpreter how the Iraqis celebrate Halloween, he felt the need to remind me that this is a Muslim country.  Is everything about their precious religion in these parts?  Is Halloween even remotely religious?  I know it started out as some brouhaha about tomorrow being All Saints Day, and before that was some pagan mishmash.  But in its current manifestation, Spookieboogawooga Day is no more religious than Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day or 4th of July, for that matter.  It’s not like I asked if they eat turkey or goose on Christmas.  It’s Halloween – not the most holy of days in any religion.

Anyway, it was made into less than a big deal at good old FOB Summerall.  I’m actually more than fine with that.  There was no costume pressure.  No drama about finding an appropriate and worthwhile party had surfaced.  It was just another day, and I appreciated it for its Sartre-inspired nothingness.

Actually, there was a little somethingness going on.  Once again, someone pulled shenanigans and, once again, we are all paying for it.  Since someone decided to use one of the work computer to look up some porn website (I’ll leave the name of it out for decency sake and to be sure they get no business from anyone on my end), then wouldn’t admit to it, we are all now forbidden use of the internet while at work.

It occurred to me that this is going to be how it plays out for the next two and a half years.  I figured, in the beginning of basic training, it was one thing – everyone was new and nervous and young.  There was hope that some growing up would take place.  Then I got to school to be a medic.  The behavior got worse.  It was pretty much the same foolishness, but fueled by heavy alcohol consumption.  Now we have some history in the army, we no longer have alcohol to blame, time has gone by, and bullshit is STILL happening.  It is highly discouraging to know that your ups and downs, your happiness and dread, can all be so easily manipulated by a thoughtless, selfish, pubescent little son of a bitch.  I can almost see someone getting off in his private mind as he sabotages the rest of our tiny bits of freedom.

Is that a manifestation of the need for power?  I’d think it was a byproduct of growing up with an overbearing mother if I didn’t have one of my own.

At any rate, my communications with everyone will be severely limited for a while.

On the brighter side, I get to sleep late tomorrow.  To celebrate that fact, I’m going to begin that sleep starting right now.  Love!

01November, 2009

I got to sleep a little late this morning.  It was nice waking up on my own without any incessant beeping in my eardrum.  Since I went to sleep so early last night, it was hard for me to sleep late this morning.  A real effort was put into staying up, too.  The “Hawaii Five-O” I was watching had Captain Merrill Steubing, aka Murray, aka Gavin MacLeod playing a heroin aka smack aka horse dealer named “Big Chicken.”  I really wanted to see how it ended, as Danny (Dann-o) was going to the big house for first degree murder.  The guy he shot was shooting at him first, but his girlfriend snuck herself and the boyfriend’s gun out of the apartment undetected.  So, when Dann-o said, “he had a gun,” the villagers of Honolulu got their poi in a curdle when no gun could be presented.

I know what you’re thinking, “What about the bullets from the guy’s gun that he fired?” or “What about checking the corpse’s hands for carbon residues?”  I understand your frustration.  I share it and it renews its strength within my spirit.  But we must remember, the year was 1968.  Smart people were only just then being born.  They didn’t have CSI.  They didn’t know anything besides scoring tickets to the Doobie Brothers concert and some double booberry table salt acid.  It was a simple time with sporty cars, loose morality, and poor phone service.

I’ll try to watch it again tonight en toto so you can all benefit from the lessons Jack Lord in the guise of McGarrett was trying to teach us.  This season is pretty good in spite of the cheese.  It has all the stars!  Sal Mineo plays a Elvis-esque entertainer who fakes his own kidnapping.  Ricardo Montalban plays a mafia boss.  I even have a cameo as a surf dude with a heart of gold.

I’ve still got an hour before I have to go to work.  I’d try watching it now, but my roommate just got off night shift and is trying to sleep.  I won’t be a dick just to fulfill a burning curiosity.  Though I have my little speakers playing John Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” and the lights are glaring at full wattage.  I should go now I think.  I’ll write more tonight after my many hours of slave labor with no internet use.  I’ll try to go to the MWR where all they do is internet.

04November, 2009

What does one do when one discovers that they are the sort that only wants the unknown or unattainable?  I discovered that about myself while walking to the poop shack this evening.  The debates running through my head these days are as verbose and vicious as those in English Parliament.  Do I or do I not re-enlist for another four years?  Initially, I told the First Sergeant that it was quite possible given that my requests were met.  Within two days, he met those requests.  I was no longer interested and said, “Sorry, it’s not enough to keep me here.”

That’s the second time I’ve played that adult hardball thing people do when they go for employment.  It is also the second time I got my way and then walked away.  I do not want what I can have, apparently.  I do not want to belong to any club that would have me as a member.  The grass is always greener on the other side of the desert.  The milk is always creamier from the other udder.  What other clichés cover this sort of thing?  I’ll just keep making them up.  The pizza is always cheesier in New Bedford.  Et cetera, et cetera.

It is truly an insane-maker.  Do I give up health insurance and re-training and a possible stint in the desert of California for the unknown?  Do I give up freedom and the ability to roam for a bunch of immature cartoon porn watching freaks in a disorganized schizophrenic army?  One thing I will NOT do this time is make my decision by consulting an astrologist.

If I stay in the army, they’ll send me back to San Antonio to learn to be a Radiologist.  Then I could be stationed at Fort Irwin, CA (two small hours from Las Vegas to the East and two small hours from Los Angeles to the West).  It almost seems too good to be true – because it is!

Going back to school is great, when you are not being completely screwed over by a flock of wayward teens and their late night Dungeons and Dragons parties.  Being close to Vegas and LA is great, but not if I’m at the mercy of a screwed up system and never allowed to leave the base.

So, I’m at a mental stand still.  I felt horrible for saying, “Possibly yes,” and now I feel horrible for saying, “No way.”  But I want my own apartment and I want to cook my own food again.  I don’t want people near me all the time.  Is there a medium of happy?

HEY!  On the less glum and dumb side of life, I got a trillion packages in the mail yesterday!  Thank you so very much Ms. Jessica C. Cohen for the nifty trinkets, music, and usable do-dads; to Ms. Kim G for the pecan pie yum and the pretty-me-up stuff; to Ms. Charlotte Cardoso for the snacks and coffees; to Ms. Donna Hebert for the assortment of cookies and coffee; and to Ms. Leslie Mitrano for her contribution to my Health and Beauty Aides and coffee.  It was all very much appreciated.  Also, any surplus coming my way (like the toothbrushes you’ve all sent in bulk) is being put to good use.  There’s a lot of gross Americans from gross parts of America here who are gross.  I’ve been supplying them with a way to remove the moss from their teeth, the stink from their pits, and the ugly from their faces.  AND IT’S WORKING!!!  They are now getting tons of ‘Secret Admirer’ letters from Iraqi sheiks and fishmongers and belly dancers and suicide bombers.  The suicide bombers write the best letters saying they’d trade in their 99 Virgins in heaven for a night sniffing the GIs clean armpits and stuff like that.  You all only have yourselves to thank.  Give yourselves a round of applause!

Everybody gets to go shooting their army guns tomorrow except me and this sergeant.  We have to take care of the sick people.  I’m ok with that though, and I think they knew I would be.  After you are done shooting, the rifle gets filthy and it pisses me off.  They know I hate to do anything if it means having to do something else afterwards.  Shooting leads to gun cleaning, a sick patient leads to restocking our supplies, getting dressed leads to laundry, and eating leads to shitting.  These cycles are imperfect and I try to avoid them as often as possible.

Today was Sergeant Tyra’s birthday.  Nobody knew til it was too late.  He made nothing of it.  Personally, if I were him, I’d have made everyone do a trillion push ups and went shooting things.  But that’s why he’s the Staff Sergeant and I’m the itsy bitsy Specialist.

Has anyone seen “Parks and Recreation” starring Amy Poehler?  Is it as funny as the coming attractions?  Will I piss myself with the shuddering laughter?  DAMN IT!  I’m hungry again.  Thank goodness for some delicious nutrition bars I’ve received from the love bugs in the States.  By the way, I don’t think I want to live in America anymore.

I have to go to bed now because it’s getting way too close to the time of night when my 8 hours of sleep gets cut short.

09November, 2009

Hello everybody!  It’s your old soldier returning from his respite from writing.  I think writing the same thing everyday was making me realize that this isn’t quite the life of thrill and adventure I thought I’d be getting.  Also, I don’t want to disappoint the masses; let’s face it, so far my tales do not constitute the makings of a Spielberg epic.

The patients are the same.  I’m getting repeat visits from some of the local nationals.  This one sweet little Iraqi man (he’s only 58, but if you saw him conduct himself, you’d think he was in his 80s, which I believe is accurate by Iraqi standards, actually) came in again today.  He was my patient a month ago.  He decided it was a good idea to just up and quit taking his thyroid medication.  Since then, he has found his medication and resumed taking it. He is even drinking more water now; a good thing since he was basically a hydrogenated piece of onion the last I saw him.  But his dizziness has returned.

I think my Aid Station and I inadvertently gave him some run around during his first visit.  But we have hopefully got things straight and will get him the testing he needs.  I’d hate to lose him.  He is one of the few interpreters who can speak both English and Arabic.

We had shooting practice over this past weekend.  I must have shot no less than 500 bullets at menacing paper men.  Some of it was fun, but the whole time all I could think was that none of it justified the amount of carbon I’d have to clean from my M4’s bolt carrier.  But by the end, I was shooting every target ‘dead’ center in the chest.

Naturally, I am walking around like I’m some sort of superhero or something now.  I may be giving off more of a hitman vibe though.  I haven’t thought it through totally.  I guess I’ll have to wait and see the pics of me doing my dirtiest to determine if I’m a friend or a foe to the decent folk.

I do have some pics that I took of the second day of training.  I got six of the dudish dudes to make a pyramid!  They are all rather tasteful artsy pics I think.  I’m rather like the love child of Ansel Adams and Diane Arbus, having caught mentally challenged individuals in their most vulnerable states in the middle of the desert.

Did I tell you?  It’s a boy!  I have a new big brother!  His name is Christopher Gomes.  He’s a friend on Facebook, too.  I hope he doesn’t figure out that the rest of the people on my friend list are a bunch of freaky doodle weirdoes.  Apparently, he lives in Tennessee (a state I’ve been to and liked).  I didn’t get much else yet because the internet is still not something I can take for granted.  I used to write letters.  I wonder why I just don’t revert to that mode of communication.

I’ll add some pics of the day on the next page, but be forewarned: I’m going to bed once they have been added.

And what am I going to sleep on, you may ask yourself?  Well, I’ll tell you.  I’ll sleep on the sheets I received from Heidi Cope or perhaps those that were sent from Deborah Burnham.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to fall right to sleep since Deb sent tons of coffee and Heidi sent more of the sugary sweets.  I guess I could counter the sugar with the naturally delightful fruity snacks Ms. Maryann Fenderson sent.  I’ve got so much neat and nifty stuff lately, I must say a big, phat THANK YOU to you all.

And Deborah Burnham, how odd was it for me to receive a parcel from you on YOUR BIRTHDAY!!!!  HAPPY 41ST BIRTHDAY, MS. SHITTANE!  I LOVE YOU!

Now, for pics:

11November, 2009

I was in one of the stalls in the latrine (it’s a funny word for ‘bathroom’) this evening for a very important meeting.  While upon the seat of honor, these words appeared before me:

“Here I sit, broken hearted –

I came to shit, but only farted”

This was followed immediately (and appropriately) by:

“Still nothing new?”

Isn’t it sad?  There is still nothing new!  I feel for the soldier who had his own meeting, expected a little diversion from the dirty business of life, and found some old, clichéd, rhyme that archaeologists have been finding on cave walls for years.

It brings about so many questions.  Are the youth today just completely void of creativity?  Or, are the people in the army the group missing the chromosome for innovativeness?  Or, does everyone get to a point in life where all the bathroom poetry has been read and seems like “nothing new” except for the kids for whom it is new?

It is my hope to bridge the gap between dishwater-dull turds and funky-fresh words by offering a safe haven where we can expand on that old, tried and true diddy.  I’d like everyone to participate by coming up with a new version of the tale of the poor, constipated bastard in the bathroom stall.

I’ll go first:

“Here I shit, all brown and watery –

Feels like I won the plague lottery.”


“Passed some gas, out it came –

Now my knickers got a big brown stain.”

Those are just two examples of what I’m sure can be a positive revision of an old classic.  It’s also a way for you to bond with your whole family.  I can picture the moms and dads, sisters and brothers, all coming together to out-poop one another.  Just place your ideas up here.  This will be a judgment-free forum for you to get some rhythmic regularity.

This whole day has been rectally centered, if you want to know the truth.  I had to watch as the Colonel digitally penetrated the anus of this little kid soldier who was whining about a bellyache and bloody stools.  The kid did not have hemorrhoids, you’ll be glad to know.

In other news:

ü  my old fear of vampires has been returning.  I’m not sure, but I think they are having parties in the empty CHUs at night and following me around when I go to the latrine trailer and the shower trailer.

ü  I witnessed the execution of a third scorpion (genocide?)

ü  There was an ungodly green glowing light coming from this little shed the other night while I was walking back from my shower.  It may have been vampires getting apocalyptic or terrorists welding together a bomb.  I opted to not investigate.

ü  I’ve been smoking Newports like the African Americans do

ü  Cake and bakery items are only allowed in my mouth one weekend day per week now

ü  I’m thinking about studying to become a sergeant.  But I don’t know what to study and I don’t want to ask anyone because I don’t want them to think that I like it here.

ü  I’m contemplating giving the puppy dog mirror sent to me by Jessie Cohen to PFC Bartow, who insists on using an electric razor in his CHU without the aid of a mirror and looks like Mr. Chemotherapy Face everyday.

ü  I’m feeling a little put-off by the Dutch and they’re laziness

ü  There was a commercial on about being a cameraman in the army and it spoke to me.

Good night!

13November, 2009

Happy Friday the Thirteenth everybody!  Unluckily, today I learned how Mother Superior or that guy in Hawaii felt being surrounded by lepers.  Sick people are sickening, literally.  You can see the germs just storming out of their pores like a microscopic Luftwaffe aiming at destroying the healthy mucus membranes and lymph nodes of a nation of bodies.  Where oh where is Doctor Kevorkian when we need him most?

I learned my trip to Germany might not be happening now.  All of a sudden, after months of being told trips to Europe are OK, we are only being allowed to go only to our home of record.  We can fly wherever we want from there on our own dime.  I hate to break it to my family and to the powers that be, but there is as much chance of me spending February in Massachusetts as there is of Oprah finding a diet that works.

Well, at least it’s almost time for me to go to sleep.  Today was rather tense.  We have these Explosives personnel who detonate bombs all the time when caches of them are found or if the Arabs lob them in at us and they don’t explode as planned.  Today, it felt like there was one going off every five minutes.  I felt the Earth move under my feet, I felt the sky tumbling down, I felt my heart start to trembling whenever they’d sound.

Still no internet access of our own.

Good evening, ladies and germs.

14November, 2009

Another week has passed.  Tonight, we had to have someone airlifted out.  This time it was for a possible gall bladder attack.  It’s so odd the things we are dealing with as medics in comparison to the things we were trained to deal with as combat medics.  Once again, let no one read this as any sort of complaint.  It is not.

I got to chat a little with my niece Kristen via Facebook yesterday.  That was a nice way to pass the time.  But I had to end the messaging dialogue abruptly.  I hope everyone realizes that if I do blurt out a quick “gotta go,” that it’s not out of me being wantonly crude or fickle in my desires to converse, it’s because I am usually on a time limit to which I have great difficulty adhering.  By the time I’m ending with you, it’s usually at a point when I realize I’ve already been gone away from my duty station a half hour too long.  Just thought I’d clear it up in case anyone had any wonders why I end the way I do.  I certainly don’t want you to think it’s one of those bladder issues where “I gotta go I gotta go I gotta go right now.”

The weather here has taken a decidedly cooler turn, especially in the mornings and evenings.  The days are currently a beautiful temperature that allows all the foul oil/diesel smells to waft across the air from the Iraqi old factories to my olfactory.  Oddly, I’ve even been witnessing random patches of sparse grass growing in the desert dirt and sands.  I’m beginning to think Arabia is magic.

I’m also thinking that it might be a happy medium if after I finish with my contract, I work for the evil empire as a civilian.  KBR is a company that hires all the contractors who provide services for the enlisted.  They are soaking up your tax dollars in much the same way Halliburton and Blackwell are.  The assumption is that you’d mind this political bullshit less if someone you know (me) is benefiting from it.  It’s just something to think about.

By the way, what does everyone want for Christmas?  I’d love it if you all said some sort of book or DVD that is accessible from Amazon, because that’s pretty much the only way I can get anything.  My goal is to somehow let you all benefit from a day of tranquility and sweetness; a day where people communicate with you in a way you understand and appreciate; a day where you feel positive about your mental and physical image regardless of how gross and deranged you may be; a day like you are on the MDMA or several glasses of red wine but without the pesky headaches or aftertastes.  How do I accomplish that for you?

“Ho, ho, ho!”  Good night, Green Giant.

15November, 2009

I would be remiss if I didn’t allude to any grand notions of love felt by me or by others during our stay in the war zone.   Is there some heartfelt, deep-tissue bonding going on that you could only understand if you were here?  The answer is “No.”  I can’t speak for the whole war zone, but we all pretty much despise one another and long for the day when we no longer have to smell each other’s farts and feet.

We are all putting together a class on some medical aspect.  One smoker is doing a smoking cessation class.  One gentleman will do something on Over The Counter medications.  I got orthopedics!  Do you know how many slides (it’s being put together on Power Point) I have just on injuries to the foot and ankle?  There are 206 bones and about 32 million muscles in the human body.  Entire college majors are dedicated to the subject.  How will I, a squeamish love child, ever narrow so grand and grotesque a field down to a manageable unit?

In the foot, we could have a variety of issues to plague us.  Plantar fasciitis is more common in women and plump personages.  Fractures to the metatarsals could happen to any one of us, and there is really nothing to be done about it save surgery for the more severe breaks – but they are usually left alone to heal on their own in time.  Sesamoiditis strikes few people, but with a gusto – leaving their plantar surface between the toes achy and annoying.  Ligaments could snap causing your entire arch to collapse.  High falls could fracture your calcaneous, a rather large bone located under your heel.  Need I go into the dermatological aspects including the tinea pedis?  You wouldn’t like me very much if I did.

The ankle is another bitch to get your teeth around.  Breaks and sprains can occur in approximately 386,000 places: the medial malleolus, the lateral malleolus, the tibial-fibial tendons.  I don’t even know where else.

My brain is swollen and I haven’t even made my way up to the knee yet.  I’m tired and cranky and going to bed after watching Season 1, Disk 2, Episode 6 of “The Tudors.”

“The Tudors” is a Showtime production depicting the steamy and dangerous lives of King Henry VIII, Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, and their posse.  We all know how it turns out, but we forget that a lot of medieval posing and posturing and prancing and politicking took place on the day-to-day scale to shape a good portion of the world as we know it today.  Did you know that Katherine of Aragon was the daughter of the famous Isabelle and Ferdinand who gave Christopher Columbus money to come bug the Apaches?  It’s true.

16November, 2009

Today was just a very weird day.  There was tension in the air, although, perhaps, just my own.  It feels as if something is brewing out there on the other side of the wire.  There was an investigation into a possible IED not too far outside our gates.  I never heard what came of it.  As no news is good news, I’ll assume it was nothing.  Still, it feels as if something terrible this way comes.

We haven’t been having a lot of soldiers coming to sick call lately.  Those that do are showing some very odd signs: rashes mixed with vomiting; lots of warts; blood pressures out of whack.  And flies on everything!

There is not enough camel dung in the world (there is no camel dung here at all) to account for the amount of flies we are subject to in a given day.  There is one in my CHU right now kamikaze-ing me in my ears as I type.  My theory is that these flies are the reincarnations of suicide bombers who have come back to give Americans a little more hell – but then to die quickly because no one wants to trade down from human to fly.  But there have never even been that many suicide bombers in the history of suicide bombing.  So that theory may need a little fine-tuning.

It is my sincere hope that this, like all the other times, is some sort of hormone-induced, superstitious paranoia and not my instincts warning me to prepare for the worst.

But I did eat the most delicious thing I ever got from the DFAC tonight.  I don’t know for a fact what it was, but it sort of resembled Cuban pulled pork and tasted spicy like the Portuguese deliciousness to which I have grown accustomed these last 41 years.  I almost don’t even care about the fat content or the way my arteries are currently a full micrometer less in diameter than they were this morning.

There have been changes in the personnel here a wee bit.  One of the guys that has been with us from the beginning on this base has been switched out with someone at the oil refinery.  I like the guy who came here quite a bit.  We went to medic school together.  But I don’t like changes anymore.  Besides, they were supposed to send the annoying Puerto Rican guy, not the nice, odd boy who they decided at the last minute to send.

I hope nobody thinks I’m awful for saying “Puerto Rican.”  But I think it may be all right.  Every time we complain to him about interrupting us when we are speaking, he claims it to be part of his Puerto Rican culture.  Whenever we are talking about the proper way to insert a catheter intravenously and he interjects with some comment about anal sex, he chalks that up to his Puerto Rican customs, as well.  If the subject turns to politics or religion, which it rarely does, he contributes a volatile diatribe on how “they” are all homosexuals – apparently a popular belief in Puerto Rico.

Truth be told, he was supposed to go per direction of our platoon sergeant.  The change in plans came when the platoon sergeant at the oil refinery complained that he didn’t want that mess around him.  So, we are stuck with him and have lost someone much more genial and appropriate.  That’s show business for ya.’

I don’t know if I should watch “The Tudors” tonight.  Last night, the whole of England was visited by The Sleeping Sickness.  It was horrible!  They’d sweat and go into convulsions.  The “doctor” treated them by poking holes in their backs and letting them bleed!  People roamed the streets with big carts crying out, “Bring out your dead” and carrying them off to big human bonfires.  There is also a contemplation of war with either France or Spain, depending on the episode.  They may have had some spiffy clothes back then, but I sure as shootin’ would not ever want to live in the court of King Henry VIII.

Maybe it will not get to that point.  I currently can hear some gunfire in the not so distant distance.  It actually is sounding like machine gun fire.  I’m sure that it is more than likely some platoon at the range practicing.  But as it is after 9pm, it is a little unsettling.  I wish I had a big ceramic cup filled with herbal tea.  I don’t care if that makes me sound old.  I had those same wishes in my twenties, so it is a matter of taste, not age.

It’s probably time to call it a night now.  The fly is begging me to kill it and I am not paying him the attention he craves.  Good night, Jeff Goldblum, wherever you are.

Oh!  I don’t know if it’s inappropriate to wish a happy birthday to those friends who are no longer living, but if it’s ok, I’d like to wish a Happy 46th Birthday to Manny Gracia.  I was thinking of you frequently today!

18November, 2009

The Sudoku craze has hit a new level.  Those in the army who once gave me guff for playing it are slowly coming around solving their own puzzles.  Actually, there are several books lying all over the Aid Station.  It makes me happy that they have all taken to it.  It is, I’m sure, an exercise to delay Alzheimer’s.  It is a peaceful way to pass the time if you don’t count the slaughter of millions of innocent trees in producing the paper it is printed upon.  But the most important reason I am happy they have taken to it is that I can and will always be able to kick their asses at the brainteaser.

I have been doing nothing medical lately except injecting people with the anthrax vaccine.  It used to be fun when it was new.  Now it’s just mindless invasion of people’s bodies with some viscous fluid that causes them pain.  When will I have a job that doesn’t make me feel like a robot?

I have turned to binge eating to comfort me these days.  I don’t get too far with it, though, before my stomach feels like I have a block of concrete settling in to the magical innards of my being.  Even as I write this, my mind is conjuring up what I could slap together and stuff down my gullet.  Sometimes we must let our brain take control and dictate to the rest of our body what it knows to be best for it.  That is what makes us different from goldfish.  It is the only thing that makes us different from goldfish.

They have these Forman Grill-type things in the DFAC that presses our sandwiches, heats them slightly, and leaves them with grill marks.  That is one of my favorite things.  If they had those funny ice sculptures that pee out chilled vodka, I’d never want to leave FOB Summerall.

Oh!  I thought of a new name for where I am.  Let me try it out on you.  How about: SLOB Butterball?  I know it’s sort of weak, but I’m trying.  Besides, it’s pretty accurate in how I feel while I’m here.

Today’s shout outs go to: MamaLou for the Birth Certificate and the package containing the book, the gels, the lotions, the slathering goodness that I could not look beautiful without.  Also in today’s howdy-dos, a big THINKING OF YOU FOR 66 YEARS AND COUNTING goes out to my Auntie Cookie.  Can I get a hooah?

21November, 2009

Yes, a couple of days were taken off from spewing this drivel.  But what is there to write about?  The army?  It’s completely lost interest for me.  The Sergeant Major asked me some inane question, like “Are you a cat?”  Astonished and unsure if I heard him correctly, I replied, “Am I a cat, Sergeant Major?” The stress was on the word “cat,” so he’d know that I was curious as to what he meant by “cat.”  Was it “C.A.T.” – some acronym for a group unknown to me?  Was he asking if I was a “cat” like the blacks did back in the 70s e.g. “I can dig that cat?”  His response: “Do you think you’re smarter than me?  Do not answer my questions with a question.”

My work days have expanded from 13 hours to 15 hours now that we have to get up early to do Physical Training.  Yesterday, we had to do these sets consisting of a 50 yard sprint followed by a 50 yard walk on this giant airfield landing strip that runs outside the Aid Station where I work.  We went around and around in a giant square for an hour.  At first, I gave it my least.  Then, as I saw some of the dickie dunkers pressing to the front and sprinting before the “GO!” was announced, I said ‘screw this’ and put some effort into it.  By the end, it was just the Kenyan and me, neck-and-neck.  The others were left behind to sniff my ass-exhaust.  That gave a definite feeling of satisfaction; the kind you’d get from watching a parent FINALLY tell their child who has been miserably whining for three hours next to you on an airplane to ‘shut the hell up.’

Today I had two pieces of chocolate cheesecake and feel no guilt about it.  I know it’s wrong to eat fatty foods without remorse, but I just don’t care.  Does that make me a bad person?  I didn’t even care when all the eyes in the DFAC watched me go up to the bakery counter, once at lunch and once at dinner.  I know they were thinking “Does that cat have no shame or what?”  Apparently, the answer is “No, I do not.”

That reminds me of the time back in basic training when I was in 30th AG (PTRP) – the place where they sent broken trainees to mend.  We had a Drill Sergeant there who was the best.  I don’t remember the context, but I do remember him telling us that he’d climb up on top of one of the lockers, drop his drawers, squat over the edge, and crap all over the floor.  That’s because being in the army as long as he had been, he was left with no shame.  I liked him a lot.

I guess my stupid chocolate cheesecake pales in comparison.

I wasn’t going to write again tonight, but I get to sleep late tomorrow.  I can technically stay up until 0200 hours and still get 8 hours of sleep and be to work on time.  That is surely not going to be what happens.  But it does mean I have time to share with you, my loved ones, all the hot topics of the day.  Speaking of ‘hot topics,’ is America still obsessed with health care and/or keeping the bastard health insurance companies in business?  I don’t get what everyone is afraid of in regards to government-run health.  That’s exactly what I get (FOR FREE), and I’m no worse for the wear.  Honestly, isn’t it worth a few extra tax dollars to know that the homeless guy who bites your leg as you walk by does not have tuberculosis?  I’ve heard that the health care is so good in Europe, they have even started to domesticate their homeless.

I think I might volunteer to go out on a mission at some point soon.  I don’t know.  It’s not so much that I’m afraid to go out and what will happen, as much as I’m afraid of who I’d have to go out with and how much they’d say things that I don’t like.  It’s not like I could just say, “Stop the truck, I’ll walk back” in response to their re-telling of all the Larry the Cable Guy’s jokes.  I’d have to sit there and listen to it, hour after hour.  Still, it would be nice to go somewhere beyond my two square mile fishbowl.

If you wonder what we’re going to have for Thanksgiving, it’s going to be totally boss.  I’m already getting my gastros set on eating at least twenty-three pieces of sweet potato pie – but ONLY if they have whipped cream – REAL whipped cream, too; none of this Kool Whip nonsense.  I’m sure they’ll do a decent turkey.  The cranberry sauce is a lost cause as they only serve canned.  I bet they’ll make a killer green bean casserole.  The stuffing is generally my favorite, but to be honest, these people need to taste the soggy grossness they try to pass for stuffing and revamp that recipe.  Rumor has it, they’ll have two kinds of stuffing on Thanksgiving.  Let’s see if at least one of them is palatable.  I’m not trying to be some kind of New York Times food critic, but come on!  Even if they went with Stove Top, it would be a 100% improvement.

If you want, I can tell you some rumors that are going around.  You can’t pass these rumors along as they may not be true and I don’t like gossipers who don’t get their stories straight.  Anyway, here it goes:

  • We may be leaving here earlier than expected
  • We may have an attack on our FOB in the next week
  • We may have our mid-tour leaves canceled
  • Brad and Jennifer may be getting back together
  • They found and confiscated the largest weapons/IED cache in Bayji history
  • I may be throwing stuff out in the trash so we’ll have less to pack to bring back to America

…But you didn’t hear it here.

I believe I owe one Frau Benoit von Berlin ein Glucklich Geburtstag!  I wrote you a Happy Birthday on Facebook, but it’s still proper to put one here too – even if it’s two days late.

No word from my new big brother.

I’m going to watch Hawaii Five-0 now.  The episode is entitled “Yesterday Died and Tomorrow Won’t Be Born.”  To quote, “In this episode’s shocking opening, McGarrett is shot by an unknown assailant.  As Steve wavers between life and death, Danno assumes command of the Five-0, combing the islands for the shooter.  Original airdate: 12/19/68”  Spellbinding or what?

I remember watching the old re-runs of this show when I was little and thinking how glammy and exciting Hawaii seemed.  Now as I watch it, it seems sort of bland bordering on gross.  The airport is horrible!  You have to WALK on the runway to get to your plane!  Cars go flying off of winding roads atop cliffs, polluting the ocean.  The Japanese are constantly bombing the boats.  The waitresses take forever to bring you a drink.  Hotel Street is apparently home to strip clubs and shoot outs.  Jewel thieves lurk around every corner.  They even will go so far as to use a rope to climb down from the roof into your 21st floor “luxury” suite, which closely resembles a room in a modern day Motel 6. Sure a lot of the cosmetics can change over 41 years.  But the essence of Hawaii cannot change.  It’s tiki-mafia throwing Molotov-coconuts is the heart and soul of our island state, and I for one am not amused.  Curious, but not amused.

26November, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving, Pilgrims and Gluttons.  I have a few moments this morning before I head out for the temple of germs to reflect on what I am thankful for this year.  The answer, for the most part, is Facebook.  I don’t mean that in a jackass sort of way.  But through Facebook, the brother I’ve never been able to meet has been able to find me.  Also, friends lost through time and I have been able to restart our sass.  It has been a useful tool – unlike the telephone – that is successfully keeping my family in communication.  It’s also allowing all the carefully compartmentalized portions of my life to fold in upon me while all of you get chummy in my absence.  It’s fantastic, in spite of my trepidations of these blossoming new friendships.  I mean, really!  These are friendships I have been cultivating for several years.  I was the one who put the time in.  And here you all are, poaching from my garden, meeting quality others through no hard work and dedication of your own.  Still, I’m grateful and thankful.  I’d rather you be friends with each other than allow you to bring great big asshole strangers into this realm.

Tonight, when I’m done eating the standard Thanksgiving/Army fare, I will tell you stories of campfires and country music concerts, laughter and toenails, a tale of two nations.

27November, 2009

It’s been quite a holiday.  On Wednesday, we were treated to a “mandatory fun” event – seeing some country singer named Aaron Tippen sing his songs.  It wasn’t as horrible as I had feared it would be.  The music stemmed from the “stars-and-striped-eagles-who worship freedom-in the back of a broke down chevy-and-to-hell-with-the-foreigners-who-are-jealous-of-us-anyway” ilk.  But it was still rather nice, in it’s way.  The guy came here, of all places, to perform while missing out on Thanksgiving with his own family.  Although the cynic in me says, “well, his family will be ok when his P.R. agents pump this to the press and his record sales escalate, or when he writes the trip off on his taxes,” but I don’t want to think like that.  It’s tiresome.  Why is it hard to believe that anyone, with or without any modicum of success, could do something nice for it’s own sake?  Maybe more people would do more of the charitable and generous if they didn’t have to face being second-guessed as to their “true” intentions.  Besides, he’s a country music dude.  How business savvy can he possibly be?

Thanksgiving Dinner was actually very nice.  The line was unbelievable.  Oddly, instead of creating a source of annoyance in me, it made me excited as if I were in line for a great roller coaster ride.  That would be a great segue to saying, “Ironically, the food put my stomach on a ride that made me puke,” but au contraire.  The food was rather delicious.  They made three kinds of turkey: Cajun-fried, roast, and smoked.  The smoked was my flavorite.

Naturally, the cranberry sauce was canned, so I had to make do with having none.  The stuffing, which the army is notorious for making horrendously, came out decent this time around.  The vegetables were crisp and sweet.  The glazed yams (with marshmallow) dish was decadently delicious.  “And what of the portions, Mr. Gourmet?” you ask.  They were sky-high ridiculous!  We were served by the officers, who went nuts.  They plopped so many tons of what they were individually serving, that there was little room as you went down the line to fit more on your plate from the other officers.  The sparkling grape juice and sweet potato pie was a lovely end to a lovely meal.

I was surprised I had any appetite at all.  Unlike childbirth and whisky shots, some things on this Lord’s Earth do not get easier the more you are subjected to them.  In particular, I refer to the third or fourth toenail extraction I’ve had to watch.  I don’t know if I should go into the details due to you all being a bunch of babies and all.  But it never ceases to amaze me in its gruesome and barbaric edit of an already ugly appendage.

Last evening, a few people thought it would be appropriate to celebrate the holiday in the good old-fashioned way – with alcohol.  You may or may not know that I’m hardly a prude when it comes to the high-life.  However, moderation aside, there is a time and place for everything.  These few people, including a medic, got more than toasted.  Their buns were burnt.  I didn’t get to see any of it first hand, but a few things were reported to me.  The girl drunk not only pissed on one of our medics shoes, she also grabbed another by the testiculars, tried dragging people down on the floor, and slapped her First Sergeant across the face when he came to check up on her.

If you don’t know, the First Sergeant is sort of like the Chief Executive of Asswhooping in the company.  The position comes with the expectation that you will be a total and absolute dick as often as you can be.  This particular First Sergeant is actually rather nice and kept his composure in spite of the shenanigans.  He is hardly the type anyone would get pissed with, never mind slap.  However, when he got back to his company, every soldier of that unit was woken up and made to bring every last possession out of their room and place it on the floor of the airplane hangar for inspection.  It looks like a battalion-wide room inspection may be in our future.  I just cleaned my room, too.  Damn!

I guess it’s all small potatoes, though, in the grand scheme of things.  My biggest fear was that the Arabs would attack when we were all sluggish from the turkey triptophan.  It’s very nice that they didn’t as we had enough on our hands with a dumb drunk bitch.

I haven’t been taking any more pictures of anything.  I may have broken my phone (which also serves as my camera) due to some insanity involving 110 volts versus 220 volts.  I don’t know about that.  If the plug do fit, then my phone shouldn’t quit.

I found a new dog today I was rather taken with.  His name is Mr. Wong because he has the angulated eyes of the East as well as the dainty and delicate tootsies.  He’s all white, which is all right.  I don’t think it’s a sign of albino genetics.  He’s probably just a sign from God to remind us about trying to keep our tails clean in this dirty, dusty desert.  Anyway, I love him (or her).

It’s getting pretty cold out this way.  Luckily, our air conditioners also have heat in them.  Mine is cranked all day and night.  The afternoons remain fairly warm, though.  It’s perfect weather for fly hunting.  My fish-juice bag trap is filling up nicely.  I’m still mocking them when they fly into the trap, which we should pray will not come back to haunt me.

Gotta go now.  Hawaii Five-0 has really been opening my eyes to how the world operates.  Did you know that if you shoot a Hawaiian (or anybody in the state of Hawaii), they will die quickly but will not bleed except for a possible trickle out of the mouth.  It’s true!   I’ve witnessed it myself.  Tonight, Capt. Steubing from “The Love Boat” returns as ‘Big Chicken,’ a central character in a prison uprising that McGarrett has to defuse.

28November, 2009

‘Twas a long and tedious day, filled with tension and listlessness with a spattering of laughter to mark the time spent between nothing and nothing else.  An occasional, clandestine meeting would take place to discuss the events of drunkenness that occurred during the turkey feast day.  Each time, a sergeant would return with a perturbed look on his face.  “What does this mean?” we’d ask.  The guesses were fueled with paranoia on my part.  I had myself so worked up that I could see myself going to jail and being dishonorably discharged for somehow taking part in the drunkfest, which I had to keep reminding myself had nothing to do with me.  I saw myself being transferred to another company to pick up the slack of the offending medic involved.  I saw lots of horrible things happening.  In the end, when I was finally called in to speak to a sergeant, it was only to go to the S2 shop to get a pre-leave briefing on traveling to Germany.  Still, I wait for the other shoe to drop.

Sergeant Cruz found a use for all the individual needle and syringe holders we were throwing out.  He found that they make a particularly annoying whistle.  The more I yelled at him for being a whistle-blowing jerk, the more he’d follow me around blowing hard.  I can’t help but like him, even though he’s an immature ass cracker.

Maybe Sergeant Cruz will be the subject of my first literary caricature.  I remember reading that Gertrude Stein wrote these two-page ditties on all her peeps around her.  They all went gaga over them.  So, perhaps I’ll attempt to simulate the experience with these butt buffers.

But I’m not going to try that quite yet.  I feel intimidated right now to even try.  And, truth be told, I’d much rather say good-bye and get back to my Hawaii Five-0.  I’m still trying to watch the prison uprising episode.  I can’t seem to stay awake any longer than the first fifteen minutes of it.  I feel that tonight may be the night I get through the whole thing.  Ciao, chow.

PS – I think I saw Mr. Wong tonight.  Apparently he is a female with a bitch’s attitude.  Maybe she just thought she was too cool due to her being with her pack.  I can understand and appreciate that.  I remember those times when I’ve been embarrassed by friends and/or relations in front of others.

29November, 2009

We are all going to be taking turns going on convoys now.  Since the drunk medic got in trouble, she is no longer allowed to go off post.  It feels like more of a punishment to me than to her, but I suppose I’m alone in that feeling.  I don’t actually mind going, except they go in the deepest, darkest night.  I won’t be able to see shit.  Who knows how this will all unfold?

Today was rather unremarkable.  I treated a couple of patients well.  I had to take the blood sugar of an overweight Russian diabetic guy with an abnormally low pulse oximeter reading.  There was the usual Play Station 3 competitions going on for the better part of the day.  They did let me watch a few scenes from “Grease” uninterrupted.  For that, thanks must be given.  However, they did change the channel when the scene at the Rydell dance being broadcast nationally came up.  As that is my favorite scene, the thanks previously given is followed up with scorn, bitterness, and enmity.

I started getting tired around 1500hours and was unable to revive sufficiently since then.  I don’t know why I was so tired.  It’s not like I did anything.  I didn’t stay up til all hours last night.  I was asleep the second McGarrett quelled the prison hostage situation.

Actually, that’s a lie.  I watched the following episode too.  Most of it anyway.  It was spooky.  These two nephews work for their rich aunt at some non-descript business.  One of them is a serial killer!  It goes to show you, even in paradise will people go bananas.

What does everyone want for Christmas?  I need to know soon.

01December, 2009

Such full moon madness happened today, it was a biophysical day at Disney for me.  The morning went as poorly as any morning could.  The entire aid station was just exploded with supplies everywhere.  The night crew was frazzled trying to put it away while also making room for the Brigade dentist, who arrived last night.

A look of complete exhaustion mixed with nervous energy filled their faces.  I’m sure my coming in early offered them no comfort as they are used to me flipping out on them for leaving the place a mess.  But I knew this morning was different.  They had to work on their first American casualties during the evening.

The convoy that brought the dentist and his assistant to us had left.  Within five minutes of their leaving the gate, they were attacked with grenades.  Three soldiers of the crew were injured.  None were seriously hurt, although one had to be evacuated for possible brain trauma.  The other two had been hit with shrapnel, a piece going through one of the soldiers arms cleanly from front to back.

During the time that these casualties arrived, two of the medics were out at the trailer where we use the internet.  They didn’t return until nearly two hours after they left.  They didn’t bring a radio, so there was no way to contact them to let them know they were needed.  The tension amongst them in the morning was not wholly evident, but there just the same – buried somewhere beneath their busyness and fatigue.

Treatment went fine and none of the injured were worse for the wear.  But the t’s weren’t crossed nor the I’s dotted.  It was a rather small event to cause such disarray – but I wasn’t there and, as such, should probably reserve that sort of opinion.  But I won’t and didn’t and there it lies.  Why was there so much disarray?  Was it the chiefs and chief-wannabes outnumbering the Indians?  Probably not.  But problems with communication and ego were definitely factors, I’m sure.  They are every other day when we don’t have any wounded to treat.

I stupidly offered to pick up their slack and get everything put away so they could end their shift and go to sleep.  It caused me a headache and angst in disproportionate amounts for the task at hand.  I have discovered, in spite of the appearance of my personal space, I am a very orderly person.  God help the people who should ever have to deal with me if I ever become a sergeant.  No one does a satisfactory job.  They can argue on cue.  They can disappear quickly at the first sign of tedious work.  But can they follow a list of supplies and keep those supplies in an orderly fashion?  Apparently, they cannot.

On top of this, my Patriots lost last night!  I got to watch the beginning and end of the second half.  I was completely grief-stricken.  Though I should be happy for my dear friend Kim in New Orleans who is a Saints season ticket holder, I’m not at all happy for her.  I’m not happy for her because deep down I know that she and her friends somehow put voodoo curses on Tom Brady, et al and got the win, not by football skill, but by stirring the turd in the caldron of discontented spirits lingering around in the big, sleazy Big Easy.  I’m not saying this is worth another Civil War, but it is a possibility that should be considered.  I’ll put my Pilgrims and Witch Burners up against their Marie Leveaus any day of the week.

The day turned brighter as Sergeant Tyra returned with a truck FULL of mail.  HOLY CRAP!  The entire aid station was covered.  THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH!  Everyone (almost) got a box from the City of Attleboro, Massachusetts.  Then there were several sent from my big mama, too.  I got the Sergeant who is in charge of Combat Stress, and who works with a lot of different groups on base, to pass out much of the bounty.  She gave the box of toys/games to the MPs so they could pass them out to the kids in the area.  The tons of dental care products came at the perfect time – I passed them on to the visiting dentist so he could give them out to all the patients who came to visit him.  The bulk of health and beauty aides were passed out to whoever needed them most.

Then I also got a big box of skin care products from my dear friend Lewis at ‘Kiss My Face.’  The body wash, shampoos, conditioners, suntan lotions, etc he sent were swept up in minutes – as soon as people smelled them, they were hooked.  I only managed to keep a bottle of anti-stress body wash for myself.  Thank you to the good people at ‘Kiss My Face’ for the generous contribution.  We will have the snazziest smelling combatants on this entire hemisphere!

Auntie Cookie sent a very nice package with snacks and the best card ever!  I’ll try to get a picture of it and the note that came with it to share with you all.  I near choked on my own laughter when I read it.

But, in the end, it sort of made me sad to receive all those packages.  It made me miss everyone more.  It made me happy to see how involved everyone is getting, but pissed that I’m not there to see it and share in it with you all.  It seems like it could be a fun project.  I’ve seen through each package just how many people have put time and effort into it.  Mostly, I craved more words from back home than any products.  I did savor every last piece of writing I received.

I have to go.  I need to wake up early tomorrow to go running around the joint.  I’ll sign off with a big LOVE to all of you.  Good night.

02December, 2009

I think I’m dying of toxic fume inhalation.  I just spent an unnatural amount of time in front of a ‘campfire,’ which needed to be kept burning so I wouldn’t look like less of an outdoors person.  We all had to take turns on “fire guard” today because one of our sergeants went and burned a box, but left before the fire completely died out.  So, as punishment, we all had to take turns sitting out by the fire pit to make sure no fires raged out of control.

Initially, it was assumed by me that the point was to make sure the fire stayed out.  But the guard before me had kept it going.  Then the same sergeant who lit the initial fire added more to it while I was there.  So I then readjusted my estimation of events and concluded that we were to keep the fire burning all day and night.  When I told our platoon sergeant, who passed down the punishment, that we wouldn’t have enough wood to last the entire 24 hours, he thought I had lost my mind.   There was certainly not supposed to be any burning.  Then the flies and I sat around the smoldering embers for an hour or three while I waited to be relieved.

The guy who relieved me poured water on the fire. Then, someone hosed down the area all around the fire pit.  So now the fire pit and all the wood around it were wet.  People wanted to keep it burning due to it being fairly cold out today.  So they went for it anyway.

Before long, it was my turn to guard again. This time I was encouraged to keep it burning by that same platoon sergeant.  When I got there, it was getting dark and the fire was almost dead.  Who wants to be the one to drop that torch?  Not me, my friend.  My head was swimming in all this fire and ice.

So, I had to keep it going to stay warm and to show that it doesn’t take much to be the camper type.  All that was left for materials, however, was wet.  But I vowed to make it work.  I found all the dry kindling I could – no easy feat in a barren desert with scarce resources that have been hosed.  I lit the bitch on fire.  It burned!  And it smoked!  As the wind was rather unsteady, there was not one area you could sit in that helped you avoid getting all that smoke in your face.  For what seemed like days, I had smoke blowing on me.

Then I got it into my head that the wood I was using was chemically treated.  The more the smoke blew in my face, the more foreign and DuPont it began to smell.  I began spitting obsessively because I could taste the carbo-fleuro compound in my mouth secreting from my salivary glands.  It occurred to me that if I spit it out, it would be the same as not allowing the chemical cancer inside of me.  Then my eyes started watering.  I knew that I couldn’t keep all that toxicity out with my eyes open, so I had to turn half way around – enough so that I could avoid the smoke in my eyes, but not so far that I could be accused of turning my back on the job.  Still, I felt red dye #7 and syntheticosteroidalvinyl compound #62 entering my tear ducts and wreaking havoc with my brain.  For a while, it became clear that a lobotomy would be the only thing to cure me of this impending brain damage I was receiving, breath by breath.

I was choking and spitting and trying to not vomit all over everything.  I saw the hose and the fire extinguisher, and contemplated using them.  But then I’d fail.  The fire would be out and the night shift would have neither light nor warmth.  I didn’t know what to do.  Finally, someone came to relieve me.

I asked if he could smell all the burning plastic and toxic jet fuel.  He could not.  So either my senses are more refined than the rest of these hillbillies’ to the presence of the unnatural, or I had some sort of psychosomatic horror show.  I’m certain it was more of the prior, because I am not one who is a wanton spitter, treating the earth as my private spittoon.

Only two years, three months, and fifteen days left until my commitment to the army and all its carcinogens is complete.  I cannot wait!  I’m sort of sick of Iraq, too.

I’m on my last episode of Hawaii Five-0 tonight.  McGarrett is going to bust the crazy, bitch doctor who is defrauding her patients with some cockamamie electric current machine that is intended to cure their babies’ cancers.  It’s sort of bittersweet – the people in the 1960s were sort of stupid, but innocent and willing to give anything a try.  Nobody tries anything new any more – and it’s not for a lack of stupidity, I’ll tell you that much, brother!

I miss you all like toxic wood burning fires would miss oxygen.

03December, 2009

Today passed as another weird day.  Nothing particularly striking happened.  The most notable of events was that PFC Hall was asked to make coffee.  When he asked which kind of coffee the sergeant would like him to make, he was directed to a jar of Folger’s.  He used instant coffee in the coffee pot.  I do not know how much he put in, but when I drank it, I nearly died.  Yes, it tasted like shit.  Yes, I drank the whole cup (a new mug I received from one Ms. Roxanne Geiler – thank you, Geiler!).  I thought I had been doing so well with the java drinking.  I have had no psychotic episodes, no manic depressions, no paranoia of an impending Armageddon.  Until today, I was at peace with the Valdez clan and coffee bean growers, exporters, importers, processers, and baristas the world-wide.

Today, I wanted to throw out each and every bit of any snacks sent here that I had put out to share with everyone.  Today, I wanted to dig a tunnel out of this prisoner of war camp and make my way to sanctuary in Israel.  Today, I wanted the insurgents to rise up, try to take over this camp, and shoot them one by one as they tried to enter the gate.  Today, I drank instant coffee out of an automatic drip machine and it was horrible on my taste buds, as well as my nerves.

I managed to keep most of my discontent smoldering within as that is the healthy way to conduct one’s business.  When I found out that my favorite sergeant is leaving next week, I maintained.  When I listened to the never-ending gripe sessions of how stupid the army is, I quietly listened and agreed where I thought I ought to agree.  But when some porcine diddle-drop jackass started cracking wise about how horrible Hillary Clinton is looking these days, I had had enough.  I was forced to gently remind him that he, too, may be even less attractive if he had to work for a living.  He did not like this and started on some line about how he is within his “rights as an American to criticize…”  I let him know that I was also within my rights as someone forced to listen to the braying of jackasses to voice my opinion.

Then I went back to my CHU, where I now sit, relieved and disgusted by this day of loud mouths and germ carriers.  I HAD TO WASH SOMEONE’S STINKING FOOT TODAY!  I mean, what is this?  Am I Mary-effin-Magdalon?  “My toe hurts.”  I let him know that if his toe continues to hurt and if he continues to come in for his hurt toe, the doctor will decide to cut off the damn toenail.  I told him that I’ve seen it done time and again.  I then described the procedure to him in full.  I told him it was probably one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever been witness to and that, more than likely, I would be the one who’s turn it is to perform the next nail excision.  I don’t think I’ll be seeing any more of that daft punk.

I was going to start doing my literary caricatures of the people here today.  But, once again, events have fouled my opinions of mankind.  Therefore, it would be unwise and unkind of me to try to paint any honest portrait of the generally decent people with whom I work.

Speaking of work… I want to retire NOW.  I never want to wake up early again.  I want to receive discounts everywhere I go for everything I buy.  If standing for prolonged periods of time is involved, I want no part of the event.  I don’t want to pay high prices for warmth or for food, shelter, or anything else.  I want MTV off the air as it has more than served its purpose these last nearly thirty years.  I want REAL hippies in the White House, who don’t deflect the “liberal” label – as if they are being called “tuberculosis carriers”  – with concessions and compromises to the unloving, cheap, “God-fearing,” tough-love, right-wing bulk of American decay.  I also want a three-bedroom villa in Cabo San Lucas (with a pool) for the winter months.

Someone told me that if he had other options, if he came into money and was suddenly wealthy, he would still remain in the Army.  I almost could accept this.  Of course you would want to keep active in an occupation that makes you feel good about yourself and your work.  But his reason was that he LOVES the guys in the Army.  They are the best sort of people he’s ever known.  If that’s the case, he must have grown up around some real severe assholes to form such a high opinion.

Speaking of assholes, I must now go and make poop.  I will try once again to watch Part II of McGarrett’s legal entanglements with the Doctor of Quackery.  Did I tell you she tried to seduce him in her office when he came to speak to her about her practice?  She was also married to an old man snake oil salesman when she was just fourteen!  I could blame this, too, on Hawaii, but these episodes are taking place in Los Angeles.  So, naturally, she has a cult following cheering her on in the courtroom, much to McGarrett’s and the judge’s chagrin.  Guten Nacht, Frauen und Herrn.

04December, 2009

There was a death today.  A fuel truck exploded outside our gate this afternoon.  It was rather disconcerting.  We could feel the explosion a mile away.  Naturally, we wondered whether we were under attack or if we should prepare for casualties.  The announcements we received on the radio were a little less than informative. As it turned out, we were neither under attack nor should we expect casualties.  A single Iraqi man filling his truck must have been smoking while loading up on the fuel.  He blew himself and his truck sky high.

You could see the smoke plume for quite a distance.  It was black and it smelled.  I suppose feeling badly for the guy who died is ridiculous, but I cannot find the humor in it that the others around here do.  So he possibly smoked while filling his truck?  It hardly seems a crime worthy of death.  So he was flippant or stupid enough to not see the danger in what he was doing?  Few people do and will not be told otherwise.  If everyone guilty of this were to die, the lines would be a lot shorter at Disney World.

I’m grasping at whatever little bits I can grab a hold of to keep myself from sinking into a rut.  I found myself having a stern talk with the night crew due to their poor habits in regards to FILING!  It’s driving me crazy that I can no longer tell if I’m being knit-picky or being thorough, if I’m being too anal about the stupid things and letting matters of greater importance slip through my twiddling fingers.  It’s hard, if not impossible, to take my favorite advice (from Cher) and put it to good use.  Her mother always told her, “Baby, if it’s not going to matter five years from now, don’t sweat it now.”  The Army, I’m sure, sees it differently.

I’m on my last disk of Hawaii Five-0.  I thought the last episode was it for me.  But there’s more.  It’s actually quite the homophobic show.  In the episode the prison was taken over by the prisoners, one of the demands they made was that the ‘system’ do something about ‘the homosexuals.’  The criminal in charge further clarified this by adding, “you know, the older, smart ones.”  He said, “smart” like it was an indictment – a character flaw.  Then, in a scene later in the episode, when McGarrett was providing the voice of the intermediary between disgruntled cons and ‘the man,’ he listed off all the demands.  But the prisoner needed to remind him, “Don’t forget the homosexuals, McGarrett.”  It would be almost a bland offering from the show if it weren’t for the fact that the whole episode took place in the prisoners shower with all the guys standing around watching as Gavin MacLeod (aka Captain Merrill Steubing) was lathering up.

Then in last night’s episode, the hippies were meeting the General of the Military at a peace parade or something.  Someone in the crowd is supposedly shooting at the General, but hits the good-natured, all-American, blonde, blue-eyed peacenik.  In the end, we find out that it was no accident.  America’s son was indeed the target.  The shooter: some loosely disguised homo who felt burnt at the unrequited love he felt for Uncle Sam’s second favorite, but prettier son.

Why can’t life just be more like the Willie Nelson movie “Honeysuckle Rose?”  There was the issues that haunt us all: betrayed love, life on the road, a child’s upcoming birthday which is bittersweet because the baby mama played by Dyan Cannon is mad at you for banging Amy Irving.  But, in the end, everyone got their love back in groove and the family picnic was a huge success and the little boy loved his pet pony.

Sometimes I wish this war was in Texas instead of Iraq.

Good night.

05December, 2009

We had another casualty this evening; another Iraqi Army soldier who found himself in an unfortunate situation.  He was in the middle of a street and hit by the mirror of a HMMWV that was traveling in one direction that propelled him into the path of a civilian vehicle that was traveling in the opposite direction.  It’s rather sad that in our low level facility, they seek out our help rather than that of their own hospitals, which apparently one wouldn’t send their meat there to be butchered.

Initially, there was a suspicion of a fractured femur, pelvic bone, or hip.  But, as the X-Rays showed no abnormality, we could only conclude that his loud vocalizing were more histrionic than based on a real etymology.  We stood him up to determine if he could support weight at the site of injury.  He could.  However, he nearly passed out.  His pulse skyrocketed.  His eyes rolled.  It was now apparently something.

I tried to give him an IV.  It should have been extremely easy.  His veins were prominent enough.  But I got no flash of blood in the chamber to tell me I was successful in insertion of the catheter.  My sergeant tried another vein and was successful.  As the vein was already tapped, we tried getting some blood out to run some tests.  Blood was not forthcoming.  So he got his fluids while an attempt to get blood out of the other side took place.  It took three tries before anyone was able to get any usable amount out of him.  This, along with the increased heart rate and drop in blood pressure all pointed to hypovolemic shock.  He was bleeding internally.

And all we could do was send him home.

Our Aid Station is equipped to handle emergencies to the point of keeping someone alive until we can get him or her evacuated to a higher level of care.  But, since Americans did not cause his injuries, he did not qualify for any Army care beyond what we were willing to provide in our little shanty.  His going to a local hospital, as I mentioned, was tantamount to throwing him in a germ-infested gutter.  It would be less useful than if we just sent him directly to a funeral home.

It was all rather gross.  The guy had what looked like ejaculate on his shorts when we cut his pants off.  His hip was scraped up and bruised, but did not look as extensive as you’d expect coming from the mechanism of injury that took place.  It was a lot easier to think of him as being dramatic than to think that we could only give him an IV, a shot of morphine, and a “see you later, hope you feel better soon.”  I do not see how we can “win hearts and minds,” when we can’t provide care for the Iraqi soldiers, who in spite of extensive anti-American sentiment, still joined up to take training from us and try to provide security for this shit hole country.

I wonder if it’s because those in power do not want to have to justify the costs of providing this care to the American public.  “If all Americans cannot have health care, then why should we be paying for these ‘towel head terrorists’?” I can hear from Fox News callers now.  Never mind that all Americans could have health care – if America stopped being so fearful of life without greedy health insurance agencies who would rather pay top dollar to keep their power through lobbying and propaganda than pay for some old lady’s medicine.  But, as long as everyone fears that once the government takes over, all the MRIs will disappear and we’ll return to bleeding people with leeches, poorer Americans will continue to go without.  And as long as those poorer Americans go without, we can justify not helping out people in other countries who, in spite of America invading their homeland, are still trying to help us.  I mean I’m just wondering.  I’m probably wrong because Sean Hannity says so.

Maybe I shouldn’t even be writing this.  I wonder how many people would be upset to know that we even gave the guy as much help as we did.  Would they equate the ten-day supply of 800mg Ibuprofen I gave him with the amount of oil Iraq now owes them to heat their home?  Could that 5mg of Morphine be better used as gas money for someone to get to the mall to go Christmas shopping?  A $3.00 wad of gauze was also used – how much Enfamil was taken away from an American baby to clean this guy’s blood?  I can hear the calculators clicking away from across the ocean.

Look at me going on my little Michael Moore rant.  Typing my righteous discontent on my MacBook.  By tomorrow, I’ll be groaning about the fact I still owe the government thousands of dollars for my student loans.  “They can’t forgive me the measly cost of an education, but they can pay for water for Africans?” I’ll cry.  Let’s remember: in one way or another, it will all work out fine for everyone.

Especially for me!  Tonight is the season finale for real of Hawaii Five-0.  Did you know they call it Hawaii Five-0 because Hawaii is the 50th state?  In tonight’s episode, titled “The Big Kahuna,” McGarrett and company investigate a haunted house that happens to be sitting on some valuable property ripe for the prospecting.  No Iraqis had died in the making of that television show.

06December, 2009

The Finale of Hawaii Five-0 was a bit disappointing.  This was good as it prepared me for my entire day today.  Generally, Sundays are pretty good.  But today, there was no pleasing me.  I just wanted to be back in New Bedford for God-only-knows what reason.

I was immensely pissed off for a while, though I tried a little to not be.  It’s understandable that a bad mood is just that.  Nothing is necessarily wrong when one is in a bad mood.  It comes, you weather it, and it goes.  Also, it’s evident that it only appears that everyone is hell-bent on trying to make your mood worse.  They are not doing anything malicious on purpose.

So, when my sergeant, in his attempt to make me feel better, asked if I’d like to get out of the Aid Station for a while, I took it as a great chance to go down to the internet trailer and maybe get some Christmas shopping done.  Since I know I have to order everything, have it mailed, and since I have no idea what to get for anyone, I’ve been trying to get time down there for a while.  But, two medics disappeared on the night we had casualties, so the sergeants instituted a time limitation on being there.  So doing any web browsing is nearly impossible.  Also, between sick call, tasks around the Aid Station, coverage for meals, and other crap, there never seems to be time to go.

Today would have been great.  The Aid Station was relatively quiet.  I agreed that I would go.  I just wanted to type out a note for one of my patients first.  In the two minutes it took me to type it out, another two medics (who I am sure at least one of them heard my conversation with the sergeant), grabbed the opportunity and went in my place.  Even if they didn’t hear me telling him I wanted to go and get some Christmas shopping done, I distinctly heard him tell them to hurry back so I could go.

When did they come back?  They walked in just in time to sign in, and then sign out again to go to dinner.  I was truly amazed.  The selfish pricks may have just as well said, “Go Eff yourself, Gomes.”  The sergeant who told them to hurry knew what had happened.  When dinner was approaching and they still weren’t back, he asked “what’s wrong?”

As a matter of fact, I got “what’s wrong?” several times from random people – and they all KNEW what was wrong.  They kept trying to get me to ‘talk about it.’  Supposedly, it would make me feel better.  But I know it would not make me feel better.  It would make them feel better to watch me get pissed off – give them something to chuckle over.  Then, with the wisdom of Oprah and the compassion of the Republican Party, they could tell me, “Damn Gomes!  So you’re letting yourself get all worked up just because you couldn’t use the internet?  Get over it!”

Perhaps part of me knows that they are right.  Perhaps I wanted to give them not a second more of my time to waste on their bullshit.  Perhaps I just am sick of talking and, worse, listening.  When they had asked “what’s wrong?” they only got “nothing” in response.

We have three new kids coming this week – fresh out of San Antonio.  That could mean that we’ll have three more people to pick up the slack.  It could be three fresh minds with promise and intelligence.  It could be a welcome break for us to get to have more time for ourselves.  What it will be: three new playthings to be treated like shit by a bunch of old-timers who feel that they’ve paid their dues these past ten months.  It will be three nervous kids being screwed with until they make stupid mistakes – mistakes everyone under the rank of sergeant will have to pay for.  That’s giving the new kids credit.  Chances are even better that they will be some cocky little bitches – knowing everything about everything.  Odds are pretty good that they’ll try to put on a big boy front, flaunt their lack of respect for the rules, and bring us all down with them if we’re not able to keep them in check ourselves.  It could be three new chances at getting things done well.  It will most likely be three more pieces of shit to clean up after.

I have to go kill flies now.  Good night!

08December, 2009

We have three new guys now.  They got here about an hour or so ago.  I helped them move a ridiculous amount of crap into their CHUs (which are much better fitted than my own!) and am now sitting down to an evening of “Family Guy” and typing my innermost ponderings.  Currently, my mind is fixated on the fact that, new faces aside, life here is very like Bill Murray’s in “Ground Hog Day.”  I just haven’t figured out to make things better to shape a much prettier day.

Tomorrow is our PT test, when we prove our worth by doing two minutes of push-ups, two minutes of sit-ups, and a two-mile run.  I remember when I loved to go running.  Now, while I don’t hate it, the peace it had once brought me is now elusive.

But first thing’s first!  The flies must die!  I’ve pissed one off by spraying Deep Woods Off on him every chance I get.  Now he is pulling a no-holds-barred, massive attack on me.  I just wasted some spray on a fly I found perched on a box that was sent from one of my American admirers.  When I sprayed the filthy thing, nothing happened.  Then I realized, he landed on a slice of the copious tape used to package the box.  He was stuck and a goner before I could even get my chemical vengeance.  It almost feels like a little joke God told only to me.

There are only 17 days left until the big C.  It makes me wonder if I’ll ever get what I want to send sent.  I tried a little today and managed a couple of things for my fellow soldiers.  But I didn’t have time.  Then the Iraqi guy came in and said our internet was up and running.  He even gave us user names and passwords.  I just tried to connect and there isn’t so much as a glimmer of a signal penetrating this boxcar I live in.

What would Fred Flintstone do?  For that matter, Jesus didn’t have web access either.  But you could give someone a little bit of cinnamon back then and the whole village would let out ‘oohs and aahs.’   Stupid twenty-first century will be the undoing of me!  Maybe there are rare spices in Iraq that you can’t get in the US for under $5000 an ounce.  Then I can send that to everyone.  But, then again, that might not be such a good idea.  I can just imagine my mother putting $350 worth of Arabian Bruhaha on her bagel and spitting it out, calling it “unpalatable.”

My dear friend Kim, who helps the New Orleans Saints cheat with her voodoo, sent me some Chunky Soup Clam Chowder. I’m tempted to eat it except it may be the wrong thing to put in me only ten hours before I get tested for my physical fitness.  In two years, three months, and nine days, when I’m done with the Army, I’m eating everything I want when I want and never moving from the sitting position again.  If God is reading that last statement, I’m only kidding.  I don’t want to be taught a lesson by being given diabetes and cankles.

Good night one and all!

12December, 2009

Tick tock, tick tock.  Culture shock, I believe, grows bitterer as time goes on.  Instead of being appalled at the initial encounter, if one is expecting the affront, it only serves to reinforce what you already believed.  The real “shock” comes much later.  When it is realized that the culture, which you thought you would find so shocking, is just a relentless stream of bullshit, that’s when your psyche gets hit worst.

It’s disguised, of course, in many of the cultures that we immerse ourselves.  First, the newness makes it almost seem exciting.  It’s like a virtual reality with all the trimmings made just for you.  If one has any stereotypes or preconceived notions of any kind, it’s almost fun to have them put in flesh form in front of your very own eyes.  Then, the language is a preoccupying factor.  Having to learn your way around with this new vocabulary keeps your brain swimming in unchartered waters.  When entrenched, it can take months, even years, to realize that your reality has surpassed anything ‘virtual’ and that you have systematically surrounded yourself with people you actually don’t like very much.  It’s not that they are stupid, it’s not that they are narrow-minded, it’s not a political or religious bigotry stemming from either side; it’s simply that they are not your people – they do not get you and you do not get them and never will.

That is the sad part.  You keep seeing a glimmer of hope that you’ll eventually understand what makes a group love one thing and hate another; that you could possibly empathize with their beliefs.  After all, if enough people share a certain belief, shouldn’t that make it valid enough to merit consideration?  The answer to that is an undeniable “NO.”

Plenty of people in this country think it’s fine to vote on the Civil Rights of non-majority groups.  There are hundreds of thousands who find enjoyment watching loud cars drive in circles for hours on end.  Millions of people in America, who hail from every corner of the Earth, would rather spend millions of dollars on border fences than health care.  Some people equate firearms with speech – as to say that they let their weapons do their talking.  And they are PROUD that their guns can say more about them than they could possibly say about themselves.  Sometimes, we don’t need a PhD in Sociology (or Theology) to understand what is uncivilized.

Still, it’s all rather shocking to find you not only were unable to budge the least in your estimation of the culture you’ve adopted, but you’ve gained further resolve to keep yourself as separated from it as possible.  Who would have thought?

This babble has gone on long enough.  What is new in Iraq?  I’ve had to learn the Non Commissioned Officer’s Creed.  I’ve had to help train the new three soldier medics in my platoon.  I passed (barely) the Physical Training Test.  My push-ups AND sit-ups AND run have suffered from neglect.  It is being addressed. I now show a tiny bit of shame when I shove the chocolate cheesecake slices down my throat.

The sergeant in charge of treatment has been gone for a few days for training.  I was put in charge while he is away.  Thankfully, the new guys aren’t complete dumbasses.  One mistake I’ve tried to avoid making (similar to the substitute teacher days) is being too nice and accommodating to errant behaviors.  As such, I have sent them on a police call or two to let them keep in mind how crappy their jobs can be.

I will give them credit, they perform well with minimal direction. They offer help, although not consistently.   They are not afraid to ask questions, though one of them has a tendency to interrupt when you give him the answer.  My co-workers and sergeants have taken to sending them to me if they perceive any problems.  I do not understand why.  I still feel I baby them a bit too much, which may be why.  Perhaps it’s their method to keep the guys in line and to make me a bit more ruthless in my supervisory role.  Honestly, I am a much bigger dick as an underling, so I don’t know why they don’t leave well enough alone.

I know they are “grown men.”  But they make me feel like I’m looking at babies or little puppies.  One of them wants to be a doctor.  He’s the type that will do fine as a doctor, lawyer, or any profession – a politician perhaps.  He has a knack for subtle ass kissing and seems to be calculating his best odds with each exchange.  Naturally, he keeps a rather smart balance between hubris and humility, which makes him likable and unthreatening.  But I wouldn’t put it past him to turn that on a dime.

Another reminds me of a sort of simple, America’s-Son, man-boy.  He is guileless and expecting his first child.  He doesn’t speak a lot and that makes me happy.  He shows competence in what he does, and takes pride in doing a good job for the sake of a job well done.  He loves to work out but isn’t stupid about it.  He may have a materialistic side, but considering his age and how gross everything is, it’s not a particular discredit to him.

The third is has a very nervous demeanor.  He tries to be hard and talk hateful, but I can’t accept it.  I don’t know if it is because his physicality makes him seem an unlikely candidate for the words, or if the words themselves come out in such a hushed tone, but there is an irreconcilable aspect to his personality.  I have hopes that his nature may be sweet, but it seems even if I’m correct, he’s prepared to dig deeper to a more savage persona he believes is expected of him.

I get to sleep late tomorrow!  I’m very happy.  I’m also very sleepy and hungry right now.  Also, I miss many of your joyous faces.  I will now cry myself to sleep, hungry, exhausted, and all alone in a foreign land filled with goat-eating mustached strangers.

13December, 2009

Today we sing a birthday diddy in honor of Ms. Valerie Brown of Northampton, Massachusetts.  Ms. Brown is a restorer of antiquity bicycles and a prominent character within the NoHo metal-head scene.  Don’t be confused when you see her in cowgirl boots, though.  She’ll use the toe point to hammer your ass.  Val is Love – not unlike Valentine’s Day but without the ridiculous marketing and useless deforestation vis-à-vis the greeting card industry.  I would like to call her a chocolate covered cherry, but that somehow seems wrong.  At any rate, here’s wishing and praying and hoping that Ms. Brown gets some titillation on this, her numberless and timeless birthday.

How the hell is everybody anyway?  I just finished another long day at the mines.  It was the first mail delivery day in a long while.  I got a package from Kim, the voodoo priestess.  She decided to rub salt in the wound by sending me a Patriots/Saints commemorative t-shirt.  The meanness of it cannot be described with my mere Mac Thesaurus.  I’m still happy that she thought enough of me to be horrible through the miles.  But, once again, it made me sad, too.  Mail days always turn me blue.  I don’t think I want any more mail sent to me.  It’s too hard to be reminded of all the people I’ve left behind.

19December, 2009

On Saturday mornings, the day shift begins and the night shift ends their respective word days with a police call in our Area of Operations.  This is a piece of land roughly 16 times the size of the Areas covered by the office workers, mechanics, or anyone else.  This morning, one of our mentally deficient workers thought nothing of walking along and talking to everyone, but not bending over to pick up one single piece of trash.  This did not go unnoticed.  As he was made to be the sole trash collector for a patch of land approximately 50 meters by 3 feet, his perplexity was apparent.  He could not tell what was trash from what was nature.  He walked by discarded Styrofoam containers, cigarette butts, bent and corroded pieces of metal, to show us all a piece of wire he was unsure about touching because it could be attached to a bomb.  I would have gone through the roof had we been indoors.

That was how the day started.  It rolled along with my name being called an average of 12 trillion times per hour for assistance with any number of projects that were going on for no clear reason.  I finally got a moment to read a page and a half of some book before I was called upon to deliver a diseased computer to the people who fix computers.  Naturally, I felt and acted put upon.  But when I saw the break room filled with EVERY other member of the shift sitting around watching two people play some bullshit virtual al-Qaeda terrorist killing play station virtually annoying game, I snapped.

It got to a point that they had to let me watch a movie of my liking and not talk through it before I found peace and tranquility once more.  The movie was “Kill Bill Vol. 1” and it remains one of my favorites, in general; my favorite from Mr. Tarentino.  It’s just put together so well,  Even the violent scenes cause no unease.  They are obviously fake, as you can tell from the copious spurts of blood splashing out of the bodies.  The choreography and filming of Uma Thurman’s battles are done so prettily, however, you can’t turn away.  It was like watching synchronized swimming with swords!  I actually found myself tapping my foot along to the rhythm of the carnage.  I’m no Siskel or Ebert, but I think someone deserved an award for cinematography in that flick.

Well, our internet is up and running, but somehow not on my laptop.  My patience with this is paper-thin and I’m contemplating telling them to shove it up their collective rectal cavity.  They wouldn’t treat Uma this way!  Anyhow, my co-workers disappear for hours now playing on their newfound connection to the outside world.  I guess that having them occupied with something in a room away from me is reward enough.

The guys from Bayji Oil Refinery came in to our FOB today.  I neither know nor care why they are here.  All I know is that they are leaving a mess that I’ll have to clean once they’re gone.  They also brought puppies with them that some bitch dropped about a month ago.  Three of them came to visit me in the Aid Station this morning.  They were such sweet, little monkeys – except the black one.  He looked like he would grow up to be a thug.  He had a look in his eye that told me he was not to be trusted.  But, I also knew that if he were mine, I could work with him and make him less afraid of the world of men who tore him from the comfort of his mama’s teet.  None of it matters anyway.  Once the Sergeant Major heard that they were on his holy FOB, they were ordered taken away.  Yet he allows that horrible flea dog Chock Block to roam around with carte blanche.  Chock Block is a dick beyond redemption; a weasel, the canine equivalent of Sandra Bullock.

I haven’t written anything in a while.  We’ve been giving classes every night this week.  Day shift gets to go in early for Physical Training and stay late for classes.  I’ve had no time for anything but sleep and showering.  Tonight was supposed to be the class I was to lead.  But, at the last minute, it was canceled until next week.  Just as well, although I put some time and effort into it, I wasn’t all that jazzed about getting up in front of everyone and telling them all the gospel of Foot & Ankle inspection and testing procedures for ailments and injuries.  It would nave been as big or bigger a snoozefest as any of the classes we’ve had up to this point.  Everyone was relieved.  However, now that I have been “given” more time, there will be higher scrutiny as to the amount I have put into it.  In my heart, I know it will be fine.

There are no more DVDs for me to watch.  They’ve all been exhausted.  I’d love to get some entertainment from the others I used to have.  I had a lot more to watch.  When we were getting ready to come here, SPC Enga asked if anyone wanted to use the spare room in his Tuff Box in exchange for helping him with the postage.  I thought that sounded fair.  I gave him a box of DVDs and books that he was mailing out that day.  He called from the Post Office saying he couldn’t send them – the box heavier than allowable, so he had to take stuff out.  I told him it was fine, that I’d take care of it on my own.  He came back later in the day saying he had sent them separately for me.  He was gracious enough to forego me paying him back until we got to Iraq.

Weeks later, we are in Iraq.  Now the story is that he left my box in his car, which is now in his friend’s possession.  But that friend will be sending it out soon.  Another two months later: he talked to his friend two weeks ago and it’s on its way.  In other words, no one should ever trust SPC Enga with personal property.  Over $300 worth of DVDs and books later, I have learned my lesson.

But it’s not the season to gripe over these small potatoes.  It’s the season to get our spirits in tune with a bigger picture and a finer peace.  Property is not permanent – even if it would give me pleasure right now, it’s not a pleasure that will last forever.  Calling SPC Enga out on his shady dealings gives me pleasure now.  I cannot expect it will last beyond my turning off this word processing program and coming to the realization that I have nothing to watch.  It’s a crazy world we inherited from the Big Boy in the Sky.

Good night.

21December, 2009

Happy Birthday wishes are sent out to Melinda Johnston, wherever you may be.

24December, 2009

It’s about 2130 hours here in Iraq – close enough to midnight for me to wish everyone a very Merry Christmas.  Right about now, my sister Sue is having a Christmas lunch for her children, grandchildren, and our mother.  I hope it is going well and everyone is eating to their hearts’ content.

It’s been pretty quiet.  Either that, or what was once novel occurrences have now become rather rote.  I X-Rayed another body part and found no fractures.  More people are coming in with disgusting lesions on their flesh and it no longer turns my stomach.  Although, we fear they have the Leischmaniasis – the disease I’ve dreaded since day #1.  You get it when a fly bites you and then either vomits or shits in that same wound.  Worms eventually form there, which must be lured out (with fishing poles, I would assume).

I referred a guy who showed signs of bulimia and depression to the Chaplain.  He had no interest in speaking to the Chaplain as he feels it would only be a religious lecture.  I convinced him to keep an open mind, although I tend to agree with him.  His depression had demonstrated in an episode of cutting himself.  Not like a suicidal, but like those girls from the 90s who needed to feel alive.  The Army has an apparently poor record of suicide prevention, so they were all up in arms.  I had to remind them that what he did bared no resemblance to a suicide attempt and was more akin to all the yahoos who like to put cigarettes out on their flesh, a common and tolerated practice.

One funny part of the story of the sad boy happened a little bit after I was done screening him.  As I have previously written, we have three new medics here straight out of training in San Antonio.  The one with the biggest ego and the stench of ambition was shadowing me (without invitation) as I was beginning the screening process.  When I realized the patient was going to be getting into a more personal matter than athlete’s feet, I asked him if he’d prefer to talk to me alone.  He did.  So I sent little Mr. Importance out of the room.  Later, this new ‘medic/brain surgeon’ came to me to assure me that I shouldn’t worry – that he was not in the least bit angry with me for having sent him out of the room once he realized what the issue was.  I have been laughing about this act of pure hubris since.  Most commonly, I find it fitting to laugh directly in his face.  Sadly, he doesn’t understand the humor in it.

I’ve been less involved in patient care lately and much more involved in the tedious and mind deadening administrative aspects of the job.

Our doctor has decided that we will be closed for sick call tomorrow.  Only people in danger of losing life, limb or eyesight will receive treatment.  I’d love to take the opportunity to use the time on-line chatting with everyone.  But I have the sense that hardly any of you will be wasting your time diddling about on the cyber circuitry on the biggest brouhaha day of the year.  I’ll still give it a try though.  That’s only because I miss you all enough to try and try again for any moment I can steal with you.

25December, 2009

Now a real Merry Christmas to you all.  I didn’t go to any chapel services today or yesterday.  It just doesn’t feel practical to have a middleman between God and us.  It’s like passing notes in school versus having an adult conversation.  Sure, they get some aromatic incense burning, but I’m sure it’s not that difficult to find.  Anyway, this is a shout out for an approximate Happy Birthday to Jesu Christi too.

If I were Santa, this is what would be left under the various trees of this Earth:

  • Forgiveness and equity would be placed in a pretty package with no trip wires attached to it under the fragrant Cedar Tree of the Middle-East
  • A Kindle (with fool-proof directions) would be placed beneath my mother’s plastic Fur
  • A troop of milk-maids-a-milkin’ would be given (at union rates) for assistance to my sister and her herd of goats – they would be found dancing around a giant Maine Pine Tree
  • Tax relief for Willie Nelson under his desert cactus
  • America would be given health care provided for one and all without fear that the country would collapse in a Soviet-style implosion – it would come in a neat little paragraph added to some important document lying under the National Tree in DC
  • Marriage would be made illegal for all, tax benefits would be eliminated, and neither homo nor breeder would have to have any continuation of the equality debate – placed in a big velvety pink box under a West Hollywood Palm Tree
  • And, taking a tip from Oprah, NEW CARS FOR EVERYBODY underneath the tree in your front yard
  • Lots of delicious lobsters, steaks, and vegan treats placed in coolers beneath beach umbrellas
  • No pigeons or seagulls atop any telephone poll or tree anywhere

I’ll add to the list as I can think of things.  Currently, I’m thinking about giving everyone a little creativity and ingenuity by making X Boxes illegal, but that seems a bit mean somehow.

We had our Christmas dinner/lunch a little while ago.  I was forced to go with all the other medics who are awake so we could eat like a “family.”  I got the smoked turkey because it was so delicious on Thanksgiving.  This time, they gave me what amounted to a thorax with a few scraps of meat on it.  I am currently teetering on a dangerous precipice where I could either get my shit together and find something sweet about this day – or I can continue down a road of self-pity and loathing.

It’s late in the afternoon.  I would love to connect with someone.  The phone is being used by someone else.  My internet connection still does not work.  The Arabs don’t know how to make a Mac work.  The Army uses PCs; go figure.

This could be God’s way of speaking to me.  Maybe I’m just too old to enjoy Rudolph and Frosty and the rest of the gang any more.  Maybe I should start looking for cartoons of Elmac the Kwanza Camel or Na’anny the Ramadan Goat.  Maybe I should join the good Amish and concentrate on the joys of a well-built barn, a useful pitchfork, and a toasty quilt.  This war is challenging my world-views all the time.

Our interpreter made us lamb sausages on the grill.  It was very nice of him.  He’s a really good guy.  His name is Sam (in American).  I don’t know his real Arab name.  He’s the most gym-built of all the interpreters on our FOB.  He’s likely also the most under-utilized.  Anyway, he gave me some of the sausage.  I was very happy.  But I just couldn’t eat it.  I tried.  But in the time between the meager Christmas lunch and his sausage, I managed to down a stir-fry.  Plus, I had a little Christmas psychosis going on and became certain that I would be ill if I ate it as it tasted buttery/salty and I could feel my cholesterol levels rising exponentially from the two bites I took.

26December, 2009

Today was a much better day than yesterday.  There was no longer any pressure to compare what I was missing at home for what I was experiencing here.  It was actually the first Saturday in a month or two that I wasn’t in a foul mood.

It was a little scary though.  Another IED exploded right outside our gate.  I felt the blast, heard the blast, and ignored it.  I thought it was some kids throwing things at one another in the next room, or a controlled blast, or something.  I tuned it out and it ended up being a blast that was set to kill some of us.  Fortunately, no one was hurt.  But it took us a while to get word that there were no casualties.  In that time, I had so much uncertainty that I’d remember what to do when and if anyone came in, that I had to pray for good news.  I didn’t feel at all prepared for doing my job and that’s a scary feeling when lives could depend on it.

There was immense relief to all of us that no one was hurt.  The timing device on it malfunctioned or something happened that triggered it too early.  Still, there was a convoy on its way out that gate.  Someone wanted to hurt them.  If that someone was found or not, I do not know.

The amount of problems we’ve seen is admittedly miniscule.  I wouldn’t have it any other way.  But it worries me that after all this time of a relatively peaceful relationship between the local population and us, we’ve had two attacks in the last month.  Is this just the beginning of a bigger and more focused attack on us?  Or is it just random occurrences from some turd-stirring troublemakers?

Maybe it was the gift of not having to deal with carnage that set my mood right.  Maybe it’s just another swing of the bipolar pendulum that brought me back to a sweeter state.  At any rate, it may be a day late, but I feel tons of that old white, Christmas magic.

30December, 2009

The year is coming to a close.  It’s so odd that we celebrate such an arbitrarily set date.  If the year is a reflection of when Jesus was born, shouldn’t Christmas cover both his birthday and New Year’s Day?  One of our medics is from Kenya.  They do not celebrate birthdays there so enthusiastically as Americans.  He is not even 100% sure of his actual birthday – but can only estimate down to a week.  It seems suspect that someone in today’s world could not be fully knowledgeable about his own date of entry into this mess of a world, but the ‘Christian’ world can be so dead certain as to when someone 2008 years old was born.

Frankly, I’d prefer New Year’s Day to be August 1.  There are no holidays in August and the summer definitely needs more.  I think Times Square would be a much nicer place to watch a ball drop while wearing a pair of cut-offs and a tank top.  Also, who wouldn’t rather do the New Year’s dip in the ocean in August rather than freeze their bejimmies off in January?  January isn’t an appropriate month for the beach.  We’re not all Australian or Penguinese.

I got to chat with a few of you today on Facebook.  I was very happy about that.  But I had to logout quickly.  We had some patients coming in for treatment.  One of them is a repeat customer.  He just sprained his ankle last week and had a snake bite a month or two ago.  Today, he collapses at the gym.

I had to put him on a heart monitor.  He had me scared shitless at a point or two.  When placing the probes on him, he nearly jumped through the roof due to the pain it was causing him.  But, as I looked at his pulse reading, I noticed it spiked from 50 (pretty low) to 94 (normal – but high) in a matter of seconds.  The same issue happened again about ten minutes later.  His pulse went back down to about 60.  He started complaining about pain in his chest, then his pulse rate spiked to 114.  After that, he was unresponsive for approximately one minute.

The kid is only twenty years old and he was having what appeared to be myocardial infarctions.  It was sad.  It also pissed me off having all the medics gather around.  Everybody wanted a piece of the action.  They all used their ‘jovial’ bedside manners to keep him happy – but a patient with a heart condition doesn’t need to listen to loud banter.  Every time he tried to answer my questions regarding what led up to his episode, the other medics would interrupt by asking him some off-topic question to “keep his spirits up.”  I can’t stand working with kids at all anymore – not as a peer group.

I would have been happy to stand back and let them take over.  I tried to let them help.  When I had to reorganize the sensors on his chest, I asked for someone to give me the suction thingies.  They couldn’t even do that.  But they all managed to stand around and stare at the little medical freak show – waiting and watching to make note on who was doing what incorrectly and how they could do it better; debating over what the diagnosis would be; acting more like the gambling crowd at a cock fight than medics in an Aid Station.

More and more, I feel I have made the right decision to not reenlist.  Obviously, many of the medics are exceptional – in many ways more so than I could hope to be.  If it weren’t for their infantile need to be the most helpful, the most knowledgeable, the most squared away, the most gifted, they could actually be useful.  It is understandable for them to want to use the opportunity as a learning experience, too.  But if that’s the case, stand there, shut up and learn.  I’m wary of soldiers’ egos.

Anyway, that’s why I had to stop chatting on Facebook tonight.

The natives here seem to be getting restless and I’m again thinking shit is brewing. Apparently, according to one of the sergeants, there was a crowd outside one of our gates blowing their car horns, yelling and screaming, causing havoc in general.  No one seems sure why this is.  Last night, the convoy coming back here met with a small problem on the road.  Nothing destructive happened, but there were definitely suspicious activities unfolding.  It makes us wonder if we will manage to get out of this place unscathed.  It’s been a pretty good tour so far – but we all know that can change in a second.

I’m also getting funny about never leaving the FOB.  Honestly, I do not care one way or the other if I go on missions or not.  If I was told to go, I’d go.  But for some reason, my sergeants send and re-send the same people over and over again.  Yet, I haven’t gone out once.  Like I said, I do not care.  Obviously, I am aware that the second I go out, that’s when the shit will go down.  That is how my luck runs.  So in my mind, if I stay on the FOB, it could save a life.  But that is superstitious and egotistical thinking that I have such an effect as to entice terrorists to do their worst.  What is more realistic is that the people who do go on these missions, while never saying anything to me, must wonder why they have to go all the time while my ass sits pretty back here. Also, on the realistic tip, I need to think, what quality am I lacking that makes me unsuitable to go out on missions.  That’s a question I could ask if I were prepared for an answer I didn’t want to hear.

Well, Ms. Jessica Cohen sent me copies of “Mad Men” Seasons 1 & 2.  I think I’ll give that a whirl now.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MR. JAIME VENTURA.  I know it’s either today or yesterday, so I thought of you on both days.  You are now getting good wishes even under the realm of Allah.

31December, 2009

Tonight is the big night for all my party people back home!  I wonder, is Zoe shaking it to the left?  Is Liz wishing the snow would melt so she could lie on the spriglets of grass?  Is Shawn shaking his fist at imaginary Gods and Demons?  Is Annelise sitting like a smart cookie lady?  Is Auntie Cookie having grumbling bowels from the spinach dip?  Is Lewis smoking a cigar and angling his way to an early bedtime?  Is Erica finding new ways to serve wine to her guests?  I don’t know because you’re all where you are and I’m where I am.

I’m not going to say that I wish I was with you, because you already know it.  I’m not going to disparage where I am, because I will not be accused of having “the grass is always greener” syndrome (although in this case our sand is beiger than yours).  Yes, it is true I’d rather be yelled at by my friends for speaking inappropriately to their parents and passing out under their coffee tables than be here.  Yes, tonight of all nights makes me miss the power and dreaminess of drinking whisky – college-binge style.  But, it is not to be.  What will the upcoming day look like?

6;15 I will be up and running approximately 2 miles.  I will then shower in a cramped trailer with 4 or 5 others who have no problem finding nothing to talk about in the early morning.  I will go to work.  I will be asked where such-and-such report is.  I will give that report to whomever asks for it.  I will be asked why it is “all wrong.”  I will check it and it will indeed be all wrong.  I will spend the next several hours correcting all the mistakes made today by the people who can’t organize a thought, never mind an anthrax shot series for 700 soldiers.  I will be hugely annoyed and it will be compounded by those who screwed everything up asking me, “what’s wrong?”  Then lunch will come.

Lunch is a special time.  Everyone tries to look busy so they do not have to go and so they can get someone to bring them a plate back.  They then sit and eat their lunch in front of the large screen television while playing Rainbow 6: Vegas.  They were apparently not THAT busy.  Getting people into the truck to eat is a show of vaudeville proportions.  “I’m going” says soldier A, two seconds before getting a consensus of who is actually going; at which point three people back out, then two more say they will go, then five want plates brought back, then so-and-so wonders if he can go to the gym after lunch, so we have to wait for him to make up his mind, then a sergeant doesn’t want to go so we have to take his food order, but then almost everyone is gone already and left four people behind who, for some reason, can’t wait to make a separate trip so they radio the truck – not for them to return and pick up the outcasts, but to place their orders.

Then I will get to the DFAC, pass a small gauntlet of Ugandan guards, and produce my ID.  My ID is so old and faded, it works only after I swipe it under the laser enough times to remove the most stubborn mole from my wrist if there was one there.  The guy behind the desk acts surprised every day about how faded my ID is and reminds me I should get a new one.

“Hellos” are said to me by some patient I may have treated but I can’t remember.  “Hellos” are returned from me.  The food is not important any longer and I aim for the station with the shortest line.  No need spending time on eating when I have reports to get back to fixing.

Tick tock tick tock, “Gomes, where is…?”  “Gomes, I need…”  “Gomes, why isn’t…?”  Dinner time.

Then comes, at long last, the overnight shift to take over.  Now I only have about another hour or two left.  Night shift: “Why do we do all the work?”  “Why do we have to sweep and mop?”  “Why is there a water bottle on the table?”  They actually are trying to give me back my own questions I have for them.  It has yet to be successful for them to try this line of behavioral psychology with me.  They will lose at it every time.  Still, it will be the source of my end of the day aggravation.  Then we will have a class on some subject beginning at around 2000 hours.  Then we’ll have meetings about what we didn’t get done during the day and what still needs to be done and what we can expect to do tomorrow and the next several days.  Then, long about 2100 to 2130 hours, I finally get to go back to my CHU, get an hour to write this crap, go to sleep for my 8 hours, and do it all over again and again and again and again and again and again.

But tomorrow is New Year’s Day – a fresh beginning.  Everything changes on New Year’s Day.  It’s my aim to try to call everyone at midnight.  Let’s see how that plays out.  Once I ask, the rest of the Aid Station will also want to and then no one will be able to.  That’s a sour prediction!  I’m still going to go for it.  I’ll even bring my phone so that I have all your phone numbers with me.  This year is going to be the best one ever!

01January, 2010


I’m starting the New Year on a cleanliness note.  I took a picture – included here, of someone’s shit smeared mess they left in a toilet bowl for somebody else to clean.  Now I am going to tell those individuals who use that latrine that if I find another disgusting mess like that again, I will complain so sourly to the sergeants, that we will ALL be scrubbing the latrines every hour on the hour.  Then they will ALL say, “it wasn’t me and I’m not cleaning up after anyone else’s shit.”   We’ll see.

03January, 2010

HAPPY NEW YEAR!  AGAIN!  The new boy who strolls around like he thinks he’s Professor Murphystein has been moved to the night shift.  Everyone approached me as if I’d be the happiest person in the world at the news.  But it’s like being immersed and drowning in a giant martini glass and having some tea-totaller type come by to take a little sip out of it.  There is still the slime of vermouth slicking up the sides of the glass and preventing me any real means of escape.  There are still the olives coming rolling over me and pushing me down.

I’d be happier to keep him around and effect some positive change in his approach to the world.  It is rather an egotistical wish on my part, but this is my diary and I’ll write whatever I think and/or feel sans guilt.  (At this point, I’d write a laundry list of curse words, but I know my mother and a few other mothers may end up reading this.)

April seems to be the newest date afforded me for reprieve from this Eden.  I’ll believe it when it happens.  Given the army’s proclivity for constant change, it is not something I could trust to be reliable in any way.  I’d rather not have any leave and hoard my time for when I go home.  April is the cruelest month.

The dermatological patients here are growing exponentially.  I even have an unwavering sore on my left wrist.  Still, I work on these atrocities to sight and smell every day.  Will there be sainthood in it for me?  No, there will not be.  And I wouldn’t have it any other way. To have your name forever linked to an undesirable/pitiable trait or condition doesn’t seem the best legacy.  I’d much rather go out an Astor or a Carnegie or one of the von Doughnut clan than Leishman(iasis), Down (Syndrome), or Sandra Bullock.

My friend Charlotte sent me a book “The Edge of my Bed – How Dirty Pictures Changed My Life” by Lisa Palac.  Apparently, she is one of the uber feminist pornographers.  Her niche is in the future of sex and the whole cyber aspect to it.  It’s a very smartly written book/autobiography with a quite decent message.  However, once the other soldiers here saw the cover of it (a woman’s legs in black pantyhose crossed over so the feet are covering her private area), they all got a little more interested in my literary pursuits.  When I tell them “feminist pornographer,” smoke emits from their ears and the smell of burnt circuitry can be smelled for miles.

A certain Joe Mulligan of Queens, New York sent me delicious dark chocolate and these snack bars (a cherry pie and an apple pie) the name of which escapes me – but they were DELICIOUS and I want MORE!  Then there’s my dear friend Sarah Szczechowicz Goldie!  She sent me a package just bursting with love and nirvana.  How can I ever give her enough smooches for that?  Those are my shout outs for the evening.  Although I slept twelve hours last night (today was my day to come in late and I barely made it in time), I am ready to get a bit more.  I don’t know about you all, but my sleep is just like heaven!

04January, 2010

The theme of the day is “Solitary Confinement.”  Is it as bad as they say?

No, I do not wish to be placed in Solitary Confinement, per se.  Especially if it’s one of those horrible little boxes that are neither long enough for you to lie down not tall enough for you to sit up.  But, if it were an 8’x8’ cell with a toilet, room service, and no rodent problems, I think it might be doable.

They say it makes people go crazy being locked away and without any human contact.  It’s the dynamics of how it makes people go crazy that I find baffling.  I’m no Freud, but if criminals, an anti-social group by definition, can’t find comfort in being away from the very mass of humanity that drives them to act so contraire to the established norms, then why?  Is it because they thrive on the reactions and attention they get from the same society they find so disagreeable?  Is their self-image as a rebel reliant on the back and forth?  Are they just playing some great big game?

Frankly, I’d find it rather refreshing to go without hearing the chalkboard screeching of human voices for a spell.  To be able to sing your own songs, make up your own stories, create your own heroes, it seems relaxing.  If being OCD is your thing, you can count all the cracks or polka-dots in the walls.  No seasons, no clothing, no pesky choices to burden your mind would exist.  It would be pure ‘being.’  But I’d still like to keep Facebook if I could.

LARABARS are the delicious taste treat Mr. Joe Mulligan sent me!  If anyone finds any of those, I’ll eat them in bulk!

Jessie Cohen sent me “Mad Men.”  The oppression of 1960 is so suffocating yet sexy.  I LOVE that people care what the neighbors think!  I LOVE that cleanliness meant so much.  I LOVE that the “undesirables” were forced to be creative in their endeavors.  I LOVE that the President could have an affair and the press wouldn’t even think of it as a story that MUST be told.

In many ways, the gross didn’t have a voice and that’s too bad – especially since now that they do have a voice, they don’t have a lot to say.  It’s sad that so many people went crazy because they couldn’t deal with the crushing weight of the expectations placed upon them.  But when they went crazy, it was private and dignified and managed within the family.  Sure, lobotomies and electro-shock therapy may have been a bit extreme, but what else were they going to do?  It’s better than some freak fest ‘reality’ episode where everyone with a sandy vagina could get their trash televised, thus giving us all a collective societal lobotomy.

I think I’ll watch me some 1960 fun now.  I, for one, miss having only the Communists to be afraid of.  They were the nicest arch-enemies ever.

05January, 2010

We had to call in the choppers again today for a medical evacuation.  This time it was a possible gall bladder problem for some skinny, ugly guy who has already had a kidney infection and stomach issues.  I found out that the kid with the heart problems was sent on to Germany for further treatment, as was my original Leishmaniasis guy.  Our soldiers are trickling out of here.  But for every one to leave, three new ones show up to take their place; each louder and more full o’ shit than the last.

The last sentence bothers me.  It tells me that I’m not trying hard enough to look at the individual within the circumstance he finds himself.  How else can I expect these kids to act?  To be loud and stupid is to the military pride what being loud and stupid is to the gays, Canadians, teachers, Mafioso, and almost every other culture around.  It doesn’t make them bad people and every day I try to make myself remember that.

It is a good thing that the military exists for the simple fact that if it didn’t, our prison population would have skyrocketed even further than it has this last decade or two.  As far as its usefulness in “keeping America safe,” I’m still not totally convinced.

We are five days into this new year and so far I’m liking it.  The numbers 2, 0, 1, and 0 again – together – have a sort of luxurious feel to them.  Separately, they’re minimal and make me think of velvety earth colors.  Together, they’re futuristic, digital, and sexually all-encompassing.  The 0’s with their robust, fecund roundness pepper the year.  The curvy 2 and the stick-straight 1 usually stand side-by-side, but this year, they have to peak coyly at one another through the glory hole that separates them.  It’s so flirtatious.  This just may be the best century ever!

I got my money back for the internet.  I have finally had my fill of waiting, waiting and waiting some more for some service that had finally started to run, then with a slight improvement, no longer works on my MacBook.  So my communications with everyone will remain for the rest of my time here sporadic, interrupted, and dependant on the volume of other people who also need to use the public computers.  One of our sergeants, SGT Cruz, has been wicked nice about bringing in his laptop and letting us use it.  The wireless service provided works for him quite well.

I’m going to bed.  All this chit chat about communications has made me not want to type another word.

06January, 2010

Finally, I have had a day with a predominately good mood!  It feels good to end a day with no sour feelings.  I do not know why it is.  I do not care why it is.  The only wish is to keep it going for as long as possible.

I was smoking a cigarette outside of my CHU, and I had a feeling/thought that hasn’t occurred to me in quite a while: how good it is to be in the Army.  It is so easy to build up crises when we are bored.  There is a lot of complete ignorance and immaturity.  But where is that not the case?  As I was standing there, I couldn’t help but feel that I almost love it here.  My CHU is a simple boxcar with no amenities and it’s my comfort zone.  My workday involves waiting and listening for news of mangled bodies, but as long as they don’t come, I couldn’t be happier.  It’s just a simple, nice life.

Sure, I’d like a weekend off to go and play.  But it’s not necessary.  I’d like to do a lot of things that I cannot.  But there are also things that I am completely free from that are no longer a burden.  My CHU is a dump – but it’s my dump.  There is no decoration here.  There is sand all over my floor no matter how many times I sweep it.  It could be subjected to a mortar attack while I sleep on my loft bed.  But it’s free.  I have no company, so I have nobody to impress with its (lack of) fine features.  Comfort is such a state of mind.

I am a little bit uncomfortable as my personal skin condition is growing worse.  My left wrist began developing welts this evening.  I don’t know what bit me.  My sergeant (Cruz) tried to convince me I’m crazy and that we are past the season for sand flies.  But something here is out to disfigure and deform me.  I’m not fully ok with it, but neither am I obsessed.  Maybe this will be the extent of the scarring I get from war.  Here’s hoping.

My arms and chest are totally sore from doing 240 push ups yesterday.  No, I am not that good.  We did push up pyramids (start with one, then two, then three… up to fifteen, then back down to one).  Each set has a small break in between of about 30 – 60 seconds.  Anyone could do millions of push ups with small breaks in between.  You should try it.

Well, the Mad Men are calling me.  The crazy suburban wife of the advertising executive started shooting at the neighbors pigeons with a cigarette hanging out of her mouth.  She was dissatisfied at not having a life, but now she’s feeling quite good about being a completely devoted wife and mother, thus shooting the horrible neighbor’s stinky birds.  I need to see what else happens!

Does anyone want to go with me to Montreal at some point?

20January, 2010

I’m alive!  It’s been a while since I’ve written, I realize.  But one must face facts; there comes a point where the realization must be made that not every inhalation/exhalation/repeat cycle is blog-worthy.  Also, how much can we say about those who cause us headaches without becoming the cause of increased cranial pressure ourselves?  Currently, I’m alive and I feel that’s cause enough for a few words to be placed here in a sloppy, well-meaning fashion.

I went on my first mission “outside the wire” last night.  I needed to get a new ID card so the jerks at the door to the DFAC can get off my ass about my card being too faded to scan.  So, I volunteered to go down on the next convoy out to COB Speicher, where all the fancy offices (such as the ID office) for our Brigade are loacated.

The trip was originally supposed to be two nights ago.  Due to a rather gusty dust storm, it had to be postponed.  I couldn’t have been happier.  As usual, I worked myself up into such a frenzy about all the things that could go wrong, that I was nearly crippled on that first evening.  Having drank too much coffee during the day did nothing to help my shattered nerves.  By the time they said the trip was a No-Go, I was very relieved in spite of the huge amount of my sleep time that had been wasted.

Yesterday came and I knew I’d definitely be going out that evening.  By then, I had burnt off all the nervousness, which had grown into more of a passive sedation.  That was until I learned they found another IED outside our gate the night before (the night we were supposed to have gone!).  Then I remembered that I emailed a few people stating that my mission was postponed 24 hours.  This caused me great stress due to the fact that we all know the terrorists intercept and read all of my emails.  My loose lips could have sunk my own ship!  So, coffee or not, the nerves were emitting enough electricity to light up a small, New England town.

By the time the trucks finally started moving, though, a certain calmness came to me.  I felt confident that everyone (including me) was competent enough at our respective jobs to keep us all afloat.  Admittedly, every car that zoomed past our convoy caused me a much greater concern than any car that ever passed me on an American highway.  Driving through the city, with apartment buildings abutting the highway, great attention was paid to each and every balcony my eye could discern at 35 miles per hour and limited lighting.

But we made it.  Once we got there, everyone was as relieved as anyone who had just circumvented the earth in a paper airplane.  We got put up in a tent with bunk beds (I got stuck with an upper bunk atop a fat guy who made the whole unit shake with his every toss and turn).  We slept about five hours and went about all the various activities we all had to perform.

I could go on and on about the prayers that were said before leaving the gate on each end.  I could write pages about the dialogue I heard through the headsets we are mandated to wear.  Novels could be plucked from the juicy tidbits of gossip your American Soldiers pass around like bored housewives (“Guess which Sergeant is leaving and why?  Hint: She is PREGNANT!!!”)  But I will not.  Not because I feel you don’t deserve to be informed of the goings-on behind the greatest military power the world has ever seen, but because I prefer to stop typing now and get back to Season 2 of “The Tudors.”  Henry VIII is already getting sick of Anne Boleyn.  She knows it and is getting nutsy!  Good night!

22January, 2010

I think tonight may be the night Anne Boleyn gets her head chopped off!  It’s the season finale and her brother and accused lovers were decapitated last night.  So, it’s only logical.  Plus, stupid Jane Seymour is already receiving gifts from the King.  It makes my heart ache that poor William and Harry have to live in a world like that.

A pipe may be in my future.  My platoon sergeant started smoking one tonight and I had so much fun making up characters for him to perform with his shiny new red pipe.  I mostly had him be politicians from the 1800s.  He gave the privates a lecture on the horrors of the Missouri compromise and what that means for the state of the republic.  He was also a proper British professor of math and physics.  We laughed and laughed.  Now he wants me to get one too so we can talk about the cricket matches, the loose moral fiber of today’s society, and what Consolidated Steel can do to protect themselves from the miserable economy.

I hope they never make me go on another mission.  The seats are so uncomfortable.  The highways had more potholes than anywhere I’ve ever seen.  The whole time I just kept going over in my head what I need to do if someone has their face blown off.  Then I realized I had no proper light source and would have to fiddle in the dark.  It was too much for me to handle.  Luckily, the Arabs took pity on me and decided that it was not their night for a fight.

Today, I put in an offer to not go on mid-tour leave.  I believe I am currently scheduled for April.  But then many of us are reportedly beginning to leave in May.  I figured it would be just as well to save my vacation days for when I get back to the Old Country.

Hey, here are some pics.  Ms. Maryanne reminded me that I did not put in a pic of me in my Santa hat.  So, here it is:

Other pics you may not find interesting include:

Our drinking water supply

me holding up a drawing made by a Ms. Daria Goldie

a random desert flower I saw while I was out and about picking up trash

one of our fly traps.  The black layer is dead flies.

PFC Hall – one of my favorites

our port o’ johns – where I do much of my business when plumbing is too far away

Good night.  I must now try to comfort the inconsolable Princess Elizabeth.

23January, 2010

Human nature is so odd.  I thought that being in the Army would make me more understanding of the people I find gross.  It’s difficult to find a lot in common with people who can’t deal with “the whole Haiti thing.”  “What about the poor Americans?  Where were the Haitians when Katrina hit New Orleans?”  Then to have Ted Kennedy’s seat occupied by some Right Wing “pick up truck Joe” is enough to make me cry blood.  Chappaquidick is a romantic lullaby compared to his “Gas, Grass, or Ass…if you wanna ride with me” bumper sticker.

But we all persevere.

It has been non-stop administrative tasks for me these days.  I have been organizing and re-organizing vast amounts of supplies that are being packed for our departure!

Tomorrow is my “Ranger Rest Day” (don’t have to be in to work until 1100) and I couldn’t be happier.

I have to give a class on Blood and Bleeding Control next week.  I have to come up with a half hour’s worth of ways to say “put a tourniquet on it.”  I’m combining it with a tour of New Bedford, Massachusetts.  At the end, I’m placing some fun facts about Blood and recipes involving blood for the gourmets in the class.

I’m sick of consciousness now.  Good night.

25January, 2010

Some of our other medics and our regular physician’s assistant returned to this FOB today.  Up til now, they have been about an hour or so to the north at another base with Charlie Company.  But that base if pretty much closed down now.  So, they are back here.  I’m not sure if “the more the merrier” applies.  I’ll meet whoever coined that phrase half way with “the more the louder.”

One of the sergeants who returned with them NEVER shuts up.  One of the new guys that we had got was sent out to Bravo Company and I miss him – mostly because he was quiet.  I wish they would divide the companies up by their mouthiness.  Perhaps they already have and I somehow fell through the cracks and was put amongst the Lippy Luftwaffe.

At any rate, I have a humungous headache and am going to bed after watching an episode of Season One of “Ugly Betty.”  “The Tudors” broke my heart, like they do every time they kill Anne Boleyn.  But now I have to wait for Season Three to come out on DVD to find out what happens with the whore Jane Seymour with all her pretty blond innocence and non-boy-producing uterus.  Bitch!  And she’s already on a bend to put Mary in the line of succession over Elizabeth!  Busy body bitch!

Oh, I hate Massachusetts and will never set foot there again due to the Senate race I believe I mentioned in a previous tyrade.  Also, the Commonwealth can bite my fungal toe because of the piss poor performance of the Patriots.  What’s next?  Strip Malls with ‘Pick Up Truck Only’ parking at fast food Jack In The Boxes all along the roads of Cape Cod?  Tom Brady being traded off to the Detroit Lions?  Will scallops be put on an endangered species list and no longer be part of my most delicious plates?  I’ll show you bastards conservative!  There are a lot of prettier and cheaper places to live where I can be just as disappointed.

I’m going to try to pick up some life tips from Ugly Betty now.  I’m up to the episodes with Salma Hayak.  She is really a hot woman.  She must piss off everyone that knows and loves her because she so overshadows all of her surroundings.  If she were a blonde, she could play the bitch Jane Seymour and I might not mind her meddling in the monarchy.

27January, 2010

Sunrise!  Sunset!  I got yelled at today because I thought it would be fun to play the Bible game.  You simply ask God a question, open the bible to a random page, and read the first thing your eyes land upon for the answer.  Naturally, I would have needed a team of God’s lawyers (Simon, Brimstone, and Berkowitz) to interpret the readings into a practical application, but I digress.  Instead of being left to my own “wicked” devices, I was chastised for having the nerve to ask anything at all of God.  “’He” should not be questioned,” is what I was told.  “Since when is God a First Sergeant?” is how I replied.

I also tried to make my platoon sergeant sing Tom Jones’ “What’s New, Pussycat?” to no avail.  So, it was another uneventful day.

However, beginning on Super Bowl Sunday, I am officially switched over to the wretched night shift.  That’s some unwelcome news.  I have to be the shift leader.  That will consist of me trying to get four guys to work.  These same guys define work as arguing how many times the word “the” was used in their favorite movie.  “But in scene II, when he stuttered ‘th-th-the,’ it does NOT count as three times.  It’s only meant as one.”

One of the four I will be ‘leading,’ is the new guy who gave me a bushel of shit upon his arrival.  I was so happy to be rid of him.  Happiness, I need to remember, is not a solid, permanent state, but a fluid and haphazard blessing I need to look for at every moment of every day.

Another of the boresome foursome is this Specialist who likes to tell war stories of wars with which he has no association.  He also knows everything there is to know about everything.  Yet, for some reason, when I ask him where all my books and DVDs I entrusted him to mail here in a bulk package are, he is at a loss for a proper explanation.

The Puerto Rican guy, I have been told, finds hiding spots in the Aid Station during the night so he can take naps.  Actually, I was told they all take naps throughout the night.  But this one is particularly fretful.  He has affected for himself a case of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder manifesting in violent outbursts any time he feels startled.  So far, he has pushed a random passer-by into a wall when told “boo” by a sergeant, and has tried to punch the above-mentioned Specialist when someone poked him in the back.  He also pointed his rifle in a threatening manner at a passing truck that beeped at him.  Let it be known: if I find him sleeping, he will be startled.  If he tries to pull any of that crap with me, he will be startled with a fat lip.

The fourth of the crew is my roommate.  While I have no real problems with him, per se, he can be a handful in his own right.  He is chronically late for his shift.  His work ethic, while I do not know for a fact of any deficiencies, I find instinctively questionable.  The worst part of having to work with him is that if we are work at the same time, we’ll be in our CHU at the same time.  Therefore, my most valued portion of the day, the two tiny hours I have to myself, will no longer be.

On the bright side, I will no longer have the cacophony of sergeants braying on about the state of affairs, real or imaginary, that gets their collective goat.

They say that they need for me to have some experience as a shift leader.  But I think they’re just trying to get rid of me because they think I’m a wet blanket. Seriously, how am I going to high-five a man who thinks it is great that his brother has the ability to ‘ground’ his wife?  “He was sick of her and told her ‘Go to your room,’ and she just went.  AWESOME!”  Is that supposed to make me envious of power or, more probably, desirous to call some social service organization on the woman’s behalf?

WOMEN READERS:  DO NOT BREED WITH ARMY MEN!  IT IS A HUGE MISTAKE!  For the most part, it is a huge mistake.  Even if it isn’t a huge mistake, they are going to talk about every last bit of your lady parts and every last bit of your intimate times (again, real or imagined) to everyone and anyone who will listen.  If you’re going to deal with that amount of degradation, at least find someone who has more money than guns.  Of course, many young ladies get off on being ho-fabulous, so they are exempted from this cautionary paragraph.


It’s now time to get to the Ugly truth with my gal Betty.  Aloha, you poi pounders.

PS I’m thinking of starting another diary that is not censored.  What do you think?

28January, 2010

HATRED!!!!  The good news/bad news sandwich was pretty heavily skewed in the wrong direction.  If it were a real sandwich, it would be an entire jar of peanut butter that had expired in 1840 smelling rancid and dripping little brown puddles upon two moldy, wafer-sized pieces of white bread.

Slice #1 – we are leaving in May, possibly.

Slice #2 – we will continue to have a place to sleep

Filling – we have to move out of our CHUs by next week so another company can have them. Ten of us will be living in two small CHUs and the freezing cold/stifling hot back room of the aid station!

It wouldn’t be so bad if they even needed them right now.  But chances are, they won’t even be occupied until we are gone anyway.  This is typical of the racism we must face as medics in an infantry batallion.  Two years, one month, and eighteen days are all I have left of a commitment to this organization of jackassery!

I’m going to bed now and enjoying my last bits of solace while I can.

29January, 2010

OK, I’ve calmed down a bit.  I am now embracing the ‘suck’ of the situation.  This should actually be a life lesson for me: neither speak nor write off the cuff whenever I feel somehow wronged.  Within a day or so, it may not seem so bad.  The new living arrangements are still far from ideal, but considering I’m not sleeping in a muddy ditch somewhere, I guess I have very little to be upset about.

My favorite patient came in today with a head cold.  He’s a German who, for some reason, joined the US Army.  I love the foreigners.  They are so much more well-behaved.  Well, he is anyway.  In my basic training, there was a German who was a total piece of turd.  My good German had a bit of a head cold today.  I gave him Claritin-D and compassion.

I also had a patient who had complications from frostbite, of all things!  He actually was frostbitten in Kansas last month and was sent here recently.  Poor kid is feeling horrible pain due to all the tissue regeneration going on.  I think he was fishing for painkillers, but in true military fashion, he was given acetaminophen, ibuprofen, and told to carry on.  It was gross though – he lost his fingernails on both effected fingers.

One of the companies in this batallion has been tasked out to keep security over the local oil refinery until August or so.  It was not my company, so I feel blessed.  One of the new kids (he is 29 – but you’d never know) was chosen to stay behind with them.  He couldn’t be happier.  He was just talking about how he wished to stay tonight at dinner.  At our end-of-day meeting, he got the assignment.  I was happy for him.  He is frequently treated poorly by many people.  I think this should be a nice boost to his self-esteem.

I need no such assignments or votes of confidence.  My ass will happily schlep home, in tact, at the earliest possible time.

We started packing our personal stuff today.  We are directed to mail as much back to the States and travel as light as possible.  That was the last point covered in our meeting.  Nothing makes me as happy as traveling light.

The sergeants are keeping an eye on me now though.  They get angry that I keep trying to throw everything out.  We have tons upon tons of medical supplies – much of it has been here since before the war even started and Adam and Eve were swinging wild from the branches.  They are such pack rats, that it’s ridiculous!  They try to keep expired saline solution “for training purposes.”  I have to coerce, cajole, and sometimes tantrum to throw things out.  But mostly, I just sneak it out in a garbage bag under coffee grounds.  It makes me wonder if the only reason they want to keep it is to make us underlings pack it, inventory it, ship it, unpack it, inventory it again, then throw it out.

They may just be using all the extra shit to justify their “need” for THREE connexes.  The amount of stuff we have that has never nor never will be used is staggering.  The next time someone on the Right starts complaining about government waste paying for immigrant health care or for clean needles for the addicted, remind them that the Army pisses away enough needles to keep all the heroin addicts in New Bedford high and AIDS-free for a lifetime.  Remind them that the amount of medications that are ordered, stored away, never used, expired and thrown out by the Army could keep several clinics well-stocked for years.

And God forbid they pass it on to the Iraqis!  They are now training the Iraqi Army to perform the same emergency medicine that we practice.  But the Iraqi Army doesn’t have the same supplies.  So, I guess this is another money-making venture for western medical/pharmaceutical industries.  To rebuild the Iraqi Army as far as arms and vehicles should be a lucrative deal for America, as well.  I wonder how much of it they’ll have to pay off with their oil reserves.  I’d love to see the stock portfolios of the Generals and big wigs in charge.  Since they directly influence policy, are their stock portfolios open for public viewing like politicians?  I’m not trying to be Norma Rae, Ralph Nader, or Silkwood or anything… I’m just saying.

I have a headache now.  It will be cured by Betty, Daniel, Alexis, Amanda, et. al. in the next episode of “Ugly Betty.”  Auf wiedersehen.

03February, 2010

I’m settling into my new digs quite unsure.  It is much roomier, I admit.  However, there is nowhere to put my things.  I could have the entire desert to myself, but without shelves and drawers, it will still be a mess with clothes and personal do-dads scattered all about.  There is also no heat.  This will be no problem soon enough.  But for now, let me just have you understand that my shampoo came out like a frosty milkshake when I showered this morning.

Also, my room is right off of the office shared by the Platoon Sergeant and Lieutenant.  They both are very loud talkers.  They’ve been very good, though, about keeping their roaring debates about “doctors who perform breast implants are true American heroes” to a dull shout.  The only entrance to the room is either through their office or through an outside door, which doesn’t fully close.  Naturally, any terrorist who got through our gates could easily come for me, kidnap me, brainwash me, and turn me into one of those dicks who ruin everyone’s shopping day at the farmer’s market with a bomb.  Also, it gives carte blanche to the scorpions, whom I am certain will be back on the scene any day now.  On my first night, on two separate occasions, someone has opened the door and said, “oops,” as if they didn’t realize someone was living here.  Even if I weren’t living here, there is no real reason to come back here unless you are up to no-good.

They found a large 80 pound IED outside one of our gates last night.  I’m glad they found it.  My little pal Hall was scheduled to be on the first convoy out of here this morning.  He could have feasibly been blown to pieces.  He’s the reluctant medic for Delta Company.  It’s the company with the worst reputation.  Deservedly?  Who knows?  I cannot distinguish between soldiers any easier than I can tell which Eskimo passed me the blubber.

Another of our companies, Bravo Company, was actually hit a day or two ago.  No one was hurt, thankfully.  But one or two of their trucks were rendered unfit to drive.  We had to do a mass screening to be sure nobody involved suffered any blast injuries/concussions.  It’s a miserable process for them and us both.   We have to make them do all these brain exercises that the most pampered skull would find baffling (recalling lists of words, saying the months backwards, giving numbers in sequence, etc).  Then, if they pass, we have to make them exercise for two minutes then do the little test again.  It’s really not pleasant.

Well, that’s all you’re getting out of me today.  I don’t know why, but instead of the usual good night, I’d rather end with a ‘bon appetite.’  Perhaps you are having a healthy snack while you’re reading this.  I hope so.

Hey, I’m back to throwing up my fatty lunches again.  There’s only so much one person can take.

05February, 2010

Yesterday, I had to give our doctor two EKGs because his heart was going Kentucky Derby after a run.  Naturally, he was being a bit difficult in not wanting to allow his chest to be shaved.  When the tests repeatedly came back as ‘unreadable,’ he finally relented and shaved a few well-positioned patches in his fur for me to stick the electrode probesters.

Today was a giant stack of nothing.  I barely even get to work with patients anymore.  Actually, I’ve been doing less and less.  It’s making me nervous.  Are they trying to tell me that they don’t need me?  Is it their way of letting me know that my skills aren’t worth the bullshit I put them through?

I guess it’s good that the others are getting a chance to shine.  The nerdy new boy has a new nickname – “Testicular Fortitude” or “TF” for short.  He couldn’t remember the words “testicular torsion” and came out with “fortitude” instead.  Everyone got a huger than necessary jolly about that one.

I’m back on eating cake with abandon.  I feel it centers and calms me.  That’s exactly the sort of thought process/behavior they discourage on “The Biggest Loser.”  I don’t want stretch marks.  It’s bad enough that I’m already seeing that weird texture to my skin that wealthy, old people get on their arms from having spent their time pleasantly in-season.  I need a new leaf to turn over.  But where will I find it with no forest in sight?

I’m scared about leaving the Army in two years, one month and 12 days.  I might be gross by then.  No one will want to be my friend anymore.  Little hateful attitudes will slip by my censor allowing me to speak disparagingly of the dirty poor people who litter society with their acne and elastic-wasted pants.  I’ll just ask the Lord’s forgiveness in advance and join up with the Quakers or something to keep me from losing that loving feeling.  A monastery is still not out of the question.

It’s cold and I’m sad.  I’m hanging up now.

06February, 2010

“Nazi” and “Hater” are two words used this evening to describe me.  Today was my last on the Day Shift.  I am being switched with my buddy Murdock as the Night Shift leader.  When Sergeant Moreno told the night shift, he used those words in describing what they will be receiving in my leadership style.  I am partially offended, mostly flattered, but hugely confused.  Who am I that in the course of two years can be labeled by the sergeants in the military as “a dick,” “mean,” “vicious,” and now “Nazi” and “hater?”  It’s like having the munchkins call you “short,” the Mormons call you “nice,” or the hillbillies call you “stupid.”

I’m the nicest person in the entire world!  Perhaps there is a little bit of me that likes things to be done correctly the first time so I don’t have to constantly fix everything, but that is normal.  You don’t build a sandcastle right on the water line at high tide – unless you’re going for a moat and a whole affect.  You don’t count ten million pieces of gauze just to throw it out when you’re done.  You don’t tug on Superman’s cape, you don’t spit in the wind, you don’t pull the mask off the Ol’ Lone Ranger, and you don’t mess around with Gomes.  That’s all there is to it!

At any rate, once the announcement was made, my new arch-enemy (the arrogant kid who has been problematic since the beginning) said, “Oh, joy.”  That little shit!  He’s going to get “oh joy” up his fat, chicken-fried ass if he thinks I’ll ever put up with his shit.  I reminded him immediately, “Don’t worry.  You will  have no joy at all.  That’s a promise.”  Naturally, he had to get his mediocre last words in with “I know.”  Bitch.

Who the hell says, “oh, joy” anymore anyway?  Did he learn this from Sarcasm 101 at his local community college?  Besides, his nose looks like Beavis’ from Beavis and Butt-head – only it doesn’t look as good on him.

But guess who gets to sleep til all hours tomorrow?  I’m off now at nearly 2200 hours and don’t have to be on the other side of the wall until 2000 hours tomorrow.  I don’t even have to set the alarm on my watch.  I can wake up the natural way.  I’m so happy!  This is going to be the best day ever!  The stinky Arabs better not ruin it with their shenanigans.

Hey!  The heater portion of my air conditioner got fixed today too!  I no longer have to freeze to death in my new storage container.  Things are getting pretty rosey for old Gomes in this here cradle.  Still, I miss sushi – but all I need to do is remember that after the 5th piece, it gets on my nerves anyway.

Is anyone doing anything fun this summer that I can tag along on?  If I find out you do something and didn’t tell me, I have learned new ways to torture you.  If they don’t work, I’ll just go ask the good people at Psychological Operations.  They know how to press anyone’s ‘love,’ ‘fear,’ and ‘eeewwwww’ buttons.

I’m going to try to stay awake for as long as I can tonight.  But I already feel the Sandman creeping in from the desert outside my door.  He is so boring and he just won’t stop talking and making me yawn.  I may be forced to sit through all of Season One of “Ugly Betty” all over again.  All my other DVDs are packed away already and I don’t feel like rummaging.

I am wondering, should I be a teacher or a nurse/medical type?  If I pursue my Master’s in Adult Education AND become a nurse/medical type, I could maybe teach nursing.  I don’t know.  It’s all gross.  I just want to retire now.  If I must work, I want to go back to my original chosen career as a professional party guest.  I’ll even help with the dishes if the hosts are too cheap to hire caterers.

I got a juicy email from my dear Liz today.  I guess congratulations are in order for Zoe Isaacson, who just got her Master’s Degree a couple weeks ago from Hunter College to teach the outsiders a little of the English tongue.  I heard somebody else is knock-knock-who’s-there-knocked up!  But I can’t give out the particulars on that one just yet.  It’s all so forward moving and I sort of love it when other people’s lives take strides.  Personally, I’d be happy to go back to the 1990s and never budge from there again.  But go on we must.

I can’t take it any longer.  I’m starving to death.  I have to turn the lights on and find food.  Good bye.

09February, 2010

Exhaustion is my new best friend. Never has adaptation to time change been so excruciating as it is now.  Night shift is horrible.  I did get to watch the Super Bowl XLIV last night, which shook my maracas.  But tonight, I had to do all kinds of inventorying of crap.  It was just a never-ending deluge of pumps, tubes, sharps, and adhesives.  Also, I am treated like the hotel front desk with all sorts of requests to wake up so-and-so, pick up who-ba-joob, and leave a message for you-know-who.  It makes me feel as if I have an Arteriovenous Malformation causing my brain to bleed all over itself and spurt forth to freedom out of my right eye.

However, I have discovered the joy of Cherry NyQuil.  It knocks me out in an average time of about ten minutes.  I’m not sure, but the meth-heads might be on to something.  Dextromethorphan is a wonderous thing.  Plus, if I’m hungry (like now), it acts as a low calorie breakfast.

A big wicky-wicky-woo goes out to the Saints of New Orleans.  They are the new crowned victors of base brutality, dynamic speed, and cunning strategy.  On the other side of that collector’s coin is a small tiddly-ha-ha to the Colts of Indianapolis who have had their dreams dashed like the tiny skulls of baby gulls on the rocks of reality.  The bravado wave didn’t carry them to the golden shore like I’m sure they thought it would.  No, indeed.  Hard work, easy patience, and potent voodoo won the big prize this week.

What if I have a stroke on my right side of my brain?  I don’t want to have the orderliness of the robotic side take over.  I could be like one of those Aspurger’s Syndrome people who talk right in your face and know no better.  I want a stroke that makes the drab army colors look prettier and the nasty army smells more sniffable.  “Could it work that way?” I ask myself.  “Could we actually be blessed with a stroke that takes out the ugly part of our brains that cause us to be nasty little bollweevils to the cotton purity of the world around us?”  Or am I just trying to get God to give me a lobotomy?  I need to stop reading books, is what I think.

As I drink my cherry breakfast, I think back on all those commercials for denture cleaners.  It was always impressive how they turned those blueberry-stained clackers back to pearly-white.  Is that a big problem for people with false teeth?  Do you have to beware your food intake with plastic chomps?  It seems so unfair.  I wonder if it makes things taste different, too.  For the life of me, though, I cannot recall a single instance in my life when I’ve seen somebody with teeth stained blue.  I’ll have to pay better attention.

It’s freezing again this morning.  But I’m a hearty New Englander with salt water in my veins and snowballs in my scrotum.  This Iraqi winter I can take with a ha-ha laugh.  I think it’s just Allah’s way of trying to make me feel more at home.  It’s the thought that counts, as they say.  Still, it’s a very sweet gesture.  His own people are going crazy with the drafts up their burkas and the icicles on their moustaches (both men and women).  That’s not true!  Iraqi women are actually very beautiful – up to a certain age (like the blacks and the Asians, once Father Time grabs these people by the short hairs, it’s a quick and decisive decline in their prettiness).

I have the biggest craving in Iraq for some graham crackers.  Doesn’t that sound delicious?  Maybe a little peanut butter on top of them would not be out of the question.  Or I could mash a banana, spread it on the graham cracker, pour some melted dark chocolate over that, then sprinkle it with coconut.  That is the only thing in the whole world that will make me happy right now.  If I can’t have that, I want nothing and I want to hear and see no one ever again.  You ALL deny me my wishes all the time and it pisses me off!!!!   What other things can we make with bananas?

I wonder if they had good desserts in the 1950s or if they were all a bunch of Betty Crocker crap.  Somehow, I think they probably just had better cocktails, but the food was limited and very ‘Swanson TV Dinner’ and Pot Roast.  Those jerks probably wouldn’t know a kiwi if it came flying out of their southern hemispheres.  Stupid post-war consumers.

Now that I’m waxing philosophical on food and its importance in life and culture, it occurs to me that I haven’t had a single fig since I’ve been here.  Are they hogging them all for themselves?  Is it not fig season?  Are the infidels forbidden to eat of the fruit of Newton?  Selfish little bastard country.  I’m gonna get me a kaboom grenade and I’ll take out the whole fig orchard.  No one can have any now.

Oops.  My post-cherry ten minutes is almost up.  I love you but I HAVE to go.


10February, 2010

OK, I am a Nazi.  Today, I became fed up with finding cigarette butts littering the ground all around a sizeable box purposed to hold people’s used butts.  I became fed up because a) it’s ugly; b) it reflects poorly on us as a unit; c) I’m the only one who feels this way and, thus, become the only one who picks them up off the ground.  Unlike the Nazis, I was kind enough to give the soldiers a choice of cleaning up after themselves and anyone of our patients with poor aim or entirely losing the privilege of smoking on the area abutting the Aid Station.  I know what you’re thinking: “Casey, you don’t have the power to enforce such restrictions.”  You are correct.  However, I do have the power to bitch and moan in the right direction to people who will get so fed up with me, that they will come up with the idea of punishing everyone just to shut me up.  It’s worked before.

I finished my ‘stroke’ book.  Oddly, it does not make me want to have a stroke.  It seems too dicey a prospect.  The chances of getting a proper rewiring seem stacked against the one who has the stroke.  Dr. Jill was lucky.  My favorite part of it all was during her rehabilitation; she actually selectively chose which memories/ideas/brainy bits she wished to revive and those for which she no longer found use.  Any information she found associated with any negative emotion or that caused her anything less than positive growth, she simply discarded.  She took her stroke and used it as an opportunity to do some spring-cleaning of her mind – she rid herself of useless emotional baggage simply by choosing not to ever think about it again.  All that negativity died, awash in blood right off of her brain.  It’s really too bad that we couldn’t just go in and have our memories altered like we can with our computers.  Stupid neurologists!

I feel like falling in love this week.  I’ll keep you all up to date on that futile endeavor as it develops.

Today’s craving is for anything with peaches: salsa, flambé, bellinis, roasted vegetables with a peach chutney, or a turkey with peach in the stuffing.

But, in lieu of my true desire, cherry NyQuil will suffice.  The damn helicopters are coming in causing me distraction.  My new room is about 100 meters from where they land.  It sounds like Apocalypse, Now.  Oh, and we moved for nothing.  After we moved and ripped out our built-in beds and furniture, they decided to wait on taking the CHUs away.  I miss my air conditioner that heated my life.  Good morning, world!

11February, 2010

Today was a day that I got to do something new.  I’ve been avoiding it like the plague, but finally made myself learn it.  As I feared, it is boring and filled with pitfalls, but I conquered the challenge.  I put the new keys into the radios!  It’s a process where you have to attach this little black box to the radios and press all these buttons so that when we all chit chat about Army things, the radios know how to find one another or something.

It’s so crazy.  There are frequencies and channels and all this stuff that I can’t make heads or tails of.  Then when you put the key in, you have to do loading and storing and clearing and turn knobs and flip switches!  But I did it and now I feel like quite the young Thomas Edison or one of those Morse Code guys from the war movies.

Naturally, I bragged about my newest skill to the sergeants.  They think they have one more thing on me to qualify for mandatory mental health assistance.  They don’t like my child-like joy and exuberance I get when learning new tasks.  But considering how long I’ve weaseled my way out of having to take any responsibility for it, you’d think they too would be happy that I’m not scared of it any longer.  Jerks!

Maybe I should go into communications.  Nah!  It’s just another brain bleed with all those wires and cables and antennas – it just seems so carcinogenic, really.  I’ll stick to using my hands as instruments for healing.  What the hell does anyone have to communicate about anyway?

It’s almost Valentine’s Day.  I don’t care, really.  I only wish I had somebody to love me just for the chocolate covered cherries.  The rest of it I’m content without.  It’s so odd, I’ve found, how people just get married as if it’s some determined thing they must do.  I know one guy getting married, but it seems as if he and his fiancé hardly know one another.  There are constantly stories coming around of wives and husbands back in the States cheating on their soldier-spouse.  Some of those in bad marriages take it with a grain of salt and know enough to admit the mistake they made.  Others insist on playing out the role of the injured party and carry on as if they really cared.  But, something about them makes me think that they really do not care and are just replaying the same scene that has been played out in so many homes and on so many movie screens across America.  But, in all, those not married seem hell-bent on fixing that, as if they are less of a person without being married.  It might be some middle-America thing that I just don’t understand.  Maybe I’m the one who’s missing out.  I do get questioned about my single status so late in life (so funny!).  Don’t they know how gross they are?  Twenty-year-old kids going on their second marriages is normal around here and I’m the odd one?  I still want chocolate covered cherries.

Well, I’m freezing to death and need to put this laptop down, get into my sleeping bag all snuggly and burrowing-bunny-like, and dream about sweet love and sweet potato pie.  Good morning loves of my life.

12February, 2010

It’s a heart-breaking tale, but it’s one that must unfortunately be told.  I’m dying.  I don’t know how or when, but it’s going to happen.  The current school of thought is that my passing will be due to the internal hemorrhage that plagues my gastrointestinal tracts.  It’s clear that my old body is just going to implode upon itself; not with a bang but a whimper.  I guess it will be ok as long as it doesn’t leave a particularly bad smelling corpse.  That would be embarrassing.

A friend I met at Horseneck Beach once reminded me that once we cease, that it’s fairly certain that we no longer feel embarrassment.  I can’t claim to have watched a single episode of “Ghost Whisperer,” but it seems apparent that most ghosts come back not to haunt us but to distract us from finding the dildo under their mattress.  Let Elizabeth Kubler Ross add that as the eighth step in the dying process; denial, anger, fear, bargaining, depression, acceptance, something else, and covering your tracks.

My poor legs are so sore right now from my early morning run.  It’s probably because there’s no blood left in them as it’s all pouring into my abdomen from a sizable leak that is spouting forth from my aorta into my duodenum like Niagara Falls.  I’m half convinced somebody is pouring ground glass into my food as a practical joke.  That would account for the sour disposition I’ve been sporting these last two or so years.

Do people need to have your permission to take out a life insurance policy on you?  Or can any old person go to Mr. John Hancock Insurance Agency and say “I’d like to place a bet on so-and-so to be kicking off sometime in the next three years”?  That doesn’t seem like it would be right.  Then everyone would be taking policies out on Elizabeth Taylor and that horrible Gordon Ramsey.  Neither of them is long for this world.

There’s talk about me becoming a sergeant again.  I’m in no rush for it, as long as it happens before my contract is up.  I’d hate to not have any professional growth to show on my resume.  I have to study for it though.  It’s not the most horrible thing in the world to do, but they ask you questions like “who was the first Corporal to pistol whip a sassy Indian?” and “according to Army Regulation 368-28, how many sergeants are sanctioned to screw in a light bulb?”

Well, it’s time for my cherry NyQuil and sleeping bag.  Sayanara, hot stuff.

21February, 2010

“In the spirit of the Olympics, it is important to remember to acknowledge the outstanding achievements made by each individual in our society.  Each person capable of surpassing all their prior efforts based solely on will and determination deserves to be recognized.  It is in this spirit that I award you, Sergeant Tyra, and you, Lieutenant Carmen with a gold and silver prize based upon your unending desire to create cacophony out of peaceful silence and your evolving use of barnyard noises.”  This is how I presented them with two rocks I painted (one gold, one silver).  They went well out of their way to disrupt my sleep with said noise and it was the most creative way I could find to tell them to shut up.

The giving of rocks was not just random.  An Army tradition is to give wayward, unruly soldiers the “Rock of Remembering.”  This rock is generally given to new soldiers who have not shaved their scruffy, ugly faces.  As always, when asked “Why didn’t you shave this morning, Private?” the answer would more than likely be, “Because I forgot, Sergeant,” or with a desperate “I did, Sergeant.”  To this, the Sergeant would say, “It looks like you shaved with a rock.”  From that, the “Rock of Remembering” was born.  The Sergeant would find a rock approximately 15 – 20 pounds that the soldier could carry around with him, day and night, until it was felt he would no longer forget to shave.  This tradition was revived in the past few weeks due to a non-shaving comrade of mine.  A disposable razor was taped to the rock and unflattering words about the soldier were scribbled upon it.  No sooner did he rid himself of the rock than another, chronically late private, came in late one time too many.  Now he is carrying the rock with the razor, the unkind words, and a clock-face taped to it.

It was uncertain how they were going to receive such a thing from my lowly-specialist-ass.  But, after I got a “smart ass,” I also was told the noise was inadvertent and all measures would be taken to avoid a similar situation in the future.  Now, I’m sure to be the next one to screw up, be caught, and get the “Rock of Remembering” to cart around like a dead conjoined twin on my hip.  I’ll have to be very careful to be more perfect than ever.

I mailed two large boxes back to the States for myself today.  It’s the mark of being one step closer to going home.  It will be nice to have all that less to travel with.  My loved ones packed me down with tons of precious commodities that would be completely unsuitable for me to carry on my scrawny back.

Another Sergeant has been getting on me about going to the Board to receive my own Sergeant stripes.  He wants this done before we go back home.  It’s sort of nerve-wracking.  But I want it and the pay raise that comes with it.

It’s 0600 hours right now and I’m sitting atop my mattress with my earbuds inserted into the left and right canals.  I have to be quiet now that I have a roommate again.  PISS!!  I’m now shacked up soldier-style with the Kenyan.  He’ll be running in a marathon in a few weeks.  So he figures that gives him license to come in and change into his PT clothes whenever he feels like going for a run or to the gym.  He works on day shift, so when he comes in, it’s my precious, loving, slumber time that he’s walking in on.  To be fair, he just got back from leave yesterday and it was our first night in the same room.  Now that he knows fully that I’m not the nicest person in the world to wake prematurely, I’m sure we’ll get along beautifully.

Well, we are getting rid of a lot of over-ordered supplies.  They were either here when we got to Iraq, or it’s stuff we had and forgot, or whatever.  We filled an entire connex with the abundance.  It will be shipped down to a larger FOB, where it will either be used, or sent off to a base short on supplies, or left to rot.  They asked me to find each item that we’ve packed away and attach a dollar value to it.  I haven’t gotten very far into it, but so far we have over $60,000 of crap that was over supplied.  That doesn’t even include the medications.  That’s just one small medical platoon in one average-sized battalion that is one of six battalions in this brigade, of which there are who knows how many brigades in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Speaking of ‘waste,’ I’m starving to death again.  I only got to have one meal yesterday.  The stupid Puerto Rican went to eat with the sergeants instead of waiting for me to get food for our shift.  So three of us went without because Hector couldn’t wait for us.  So I made him do all kinds of extra work tonight.  I’ll do the same tomorrow night and the next until I feel he understands the weight of his trespass against us.

I got a beautiful Valentine’s package from the dear friends in New York City.  It was chock-full of DVDs, cookies, magazines, and love.  It could not have come at a more appropriate time.  I was stalling on mailing my stuff home because I didn’t want to have nothing to watch.  Now I have days upon days of new stuff to pass the gas with.

Also, Ms. Susan Yeagle of Pennsylvania is up to her old tricks sending me sweetness from the Quaker State.  Thank you all for your kind remembrances.  And you didn’t even need a rock strapped to you to think of this lowly sinner.  Well, smooches across the miles to you all.

The sun is rising, so I must fall.  Good night.

24February, 2010

The new thing that I find myself yelling about: the Olympics.  At night, the children wish to only watch the same movies and play the same games they’ve watched and played every single day since we’ve been here.  So, if they think that I’m not going to pitch a fit this entire two week period of the games that come on only every four years, well then I guess that they’re just in a complete vegetative state.  I’ve also been a bit defensive by the constant and inappropriate disparagement of the Communists.  It seems they need reminding that they are part of one of the largest and most ruthless communist ‘enterprises’ known to mankind.

I’ve started doing some correspondence courses to gain some Army knowledge and get some points towards promotions.  As you all know by today’s emails, I’m contemplating whether or not to reenlist.  I really do not want to, but I also really do not want to have to get back into the swing of things outside of this regimented organization.

Pros: I could easily become a Licensed Vocational Nurse and retain my sergeant’s rank when/if it comes to me; I would have an additional year of school down in ol’ San Antonio; there would be more time for me to plug away at my Master’s Degree in Education (free with Army service); there would be more time to pay down my debt.

Cons: I could easily go crazy dealing with stupid people and their bullshit; going to school in the Army is like an extended basic training experience; I will still have to live with a million people who never shut up; I’m curious to see what life will be like as a “veteran.”

I’m tired now.  I think I’ll watch Battlestar Galactica to try and get some common ground with the teeny-bopper nerds who infest my daily reality.

26February, 2010

I threw up so much yesterday, death appeared imminent.  After almost finishing my two circuits of our makeshift gym, I could take no more.  My mouth tasted chemical like I chewed a bottle of aspirin.  My heart was pounding.  My head was swimming in the ether.  I sweated like a junkie about half-past time for a shot.  It was disgusting.  What should we take from this?  Drink more water and less coffee!

I thought today would be a repeat of the same.  During our long run around the base, there was a definite feeling of unease.  But today it stemmed from the horrible smell infiltrating our nostrils more so than from anything internal and organic.  The Bayji Oil Refinery is pumping up some kinds of horror and the wind is blowing it all right towards us.  It is like a recipe for COPD.

The sergeants are coming to me more and more to be the one to play tough cop with the wayward soldiers.  So, I am looking for new ways to make them miserable.  I think I’ve already found a few.  Is it that I was born to be a totalitarian ruler?  I think so!

I had planned on writing a lot about this and that, but I have forgotten most of what I wanted to say.  OH!  I do remember this one thing that was rather nice.  My platoon sergeant, SSG Tyra, had put my name in a while back to receive a coin from a visiting General.  He’s some big wig General who is in charge of Iraq or our portion of it, I do not remember.  Unfortunately due to poor weather, the General had to cancel his trip to our fair FOB.  So, there is no coin for me.  But the idea that I was thought of to receive one is just as good.

Other than that, it’s a continued stream of sweet nothings around here.  I may have got Specialist Murdock to reenlist with me for the Licensed Practical Nurse program.  He’s my age, so I figured it would be good to have him around so I wouldn’t be so conspicuous.

Now, it’s back to Battlestar Galactica.  I’m wondering how long it’s going to take them to figure out that the mean Asian pilot girl is really a robot.  Stupid future people know nothing about nothing.

27February, 2010

In today’s episode of “A Land Without Jews” is the segment entitled ‘The Dick Roars.’  Four soldiers, each together but miles apart in their thoughts, sit and pass the time on the night shift in the Aid Station where they work.   He who is the supervisor is brilliant and bedazzling to behold.  That which is from La Isla Puerto Rico is slack jawed and perpetually confused.  The arctic mass from Minnesota is unable to move but at glacial speeds of inches per century.  The Arkansas native is willing to take part in whatever comes his way, but first must tear his eyes from the screen containing the avatars that do his brutal bidding.

While the supervisor is hard at work getting forms typed, papers printed, data input, and classes learned, the other three are hard at sharpening their witty banter amongst one another.  Inevitably, this leaves the Puerto Rican sitting at the desk and listening to the radio communications that he may or may not fully understand.  The other two watch movies.  When/if the supervisor asks for something to be done, it will be done…slowly and only as long as the television is not interrupted.

So, the supervisor has had enough.  He does not want to have to be jammed up anyone’s ass like yesterday’s corn.  But he also doesn’t want to have to take on all the work himself.  The only thing left to do is ride it out.  In the morning, when the clear light of day shines on the land and the nocturnal boys wish to go to bed, he can then remind them of all their unfinished chores.

The glacier was not very happy about this at all.  He squirmed to the left and he squirmed to the right and he ducked and jumped and went around in circles trying to avoid having to do any of these tasks.  The Puerto Rican simply remained oblivious and went along with whatever the situation dictated.  The Arkansas child cried at how unfair it was that he got his work done and didn’t understand why it mattered when it got done.

The supervisor reminded them nobody needs to be upset.  They had a great night watching movies and playing games and casting insults upon one another.  They each had plenty of rest.  One had so much rest, the supervisor found himself having to wake the soldier up a few times.  But for all that ease in life, it still wasn’t enough.

In the morning when the sergeants came in and wondered why things weren’t as they should be, not once did any of the soldiers mention what a great night they had had.  They mentioned how they didn’t know what had to be done.  They mentioned scheduling difficulties.  They mentioned that they still had time to do it before they went to bed.  So, now two of them are now carrying their own Rocks of Remembrance.  The supervisor has been given the “OK” to write down any and all troubles with work stoppages, which will later be transformed into counseling statements.  These counseling statements, when accumulated, become Article 15s.  An Article 15 places the soldier on restrictions, can make them lose rank and pay, and is an unsightly blemish on their record.

That is how the dick had roared.

On other fronts, I am getting my Army Correspondence classes knocked out as well as I can.  Each ‘module’ of instruction tends to not upload onto the computer as well as it could.  So each class is filled with reviewing the same material over and over again until the new material materializes.  Still, I have four of the little rascals completed.

I have not come to a decision about reenlisting.  Do I really want to continue on in this sort of environment?  Then, I think, where would I NOT be in this sort of environment?  If I go into teaching, it’s exactly what I’d be dealing with on a daily basis – only I wouldn’t be allowed to swear at the students.  If I became a nurse in the civilian world, I’d most likely have to take care of dropouts with pipe burns lining their mouths and ridiculousness spewing forth from their lips.  So, why not these knuckleheads?

But to have to wear olive-drab-digitized-camouflage-everything every day is so depressing that I could break glass!

I’m hungry for food and entertainment now.  Bye.  HAPPY BITHDAY TO Wayne Leavitt and to Heidi Hazell-Cope!

03March, 2010

In about half an hour, our medical platoon will be split up.  Sgt Cruz, PFC Jackson, PFC Lucas and I will be going with Charlie Company up to Sharqat.  Some will be going to the Bayji Oil Refinery, some to Bayji JCC, and some will stay here to take care of immediate business in Al-Siniyah.  Tomorrow is the Iraqi elections, the culminating event of our being here.  It’s sort of like the swimsuit competition in Miss America – sexy, dangerous, controversial, and the ultimate prediction of success.

No lie, it is probably going to be the closest thing to danger that we will have encountered since getting here.  There are lots of scenarios that could play out.  However, due to several months of cleaning the streets of insurgents and their IEDs, it should go off without a hitch.  My biggest fear right now is not for myself but, should anything happen, for those who fate brings me to treat.  I cannot screw this up.  I cannot let myself freeze.  I cannot forget what I’ve learned.  I cannot let outside noise influence my care of the casualty.  I will not fuck this up.

Just in case something goes wrong, everyone know that I love you.  If nothing goes wrong, I’ll just end up erasing this page so you’ll never know that I was nervous and being a big cry baby.

Gotta go!

05March, 2010

Part One of the mission went off without a hitch.  Last minute changes kept me behind on FOB Summerall, where I was medic for the Quick Reaction Force, a platoon designated to go out should any other platoon outside the wire need assistance.  Of course, we were called out.  I nearly crapped my camouflage trousers.  But the problem was a broke-down vehicle that needed to be towed back.  We had to provide coverage to the tow truck.

It was all very easy, except on the ride home, there was such a powerful storm, we all could have easily crashed.  Some of the storms here are ridiculous.   There are the occasional sand storms, which cause the sky to turn red and visibility to be severely limited.  Then there are the regular rainstorms, wind storms, etc.  But twice this past month, once on the evening in question, we have had a mixture.  The sand, wind, and rain mix to produce mud on your windshield.  Once that is swept to the side, the sand obstructs vision of anything more than a few feet away.  At some points, the sand builds up in drifts along the road so you cannot even tell if you are on the road at all.  I was in the last vehicle of the convoy and a few times, we could see the rest of the convoy in front of us veering off into the lanes for on-coming traffic.  Luckily, we were the only traffic out that night.

Tomorrow, we will do part two of the voting mission.  This time, I should be going up to Sharqat and remaining there unless needed in the town.  After the voting is finished, we are responsible for escorting the ballots to a location to be counted, then we are done!  Our final mission will be complete.

I still haven’t signed my re-enlistment contract.  I’m angling for the M6 qualifier (nursing) and I’m also going to try and hold out for placement in a German hospital.  We’ll see how that goes.

Now I am going to go to sleep as I’ve been feeling rather tweaked out all day today.  I could easily throw up, have had little to no appetite, and have a spaced out level of concentration that is a mix of OCD and ADD.  It’s all so strange.

08March, 2010

The elections are over!  After a few days of crap, I have waked to a rather warm, sunny Monday afternoon.  It seems summer has come to Iraq.  The last few days were anything but warm and clear.  Today is a welcomed relief.

If you would like to hear the story I tell the other soldiers who were not with me at Sharqat, it goes something like this:  I single-handedly killed every insurgent in Iraq.  Then, with my amazing super healing powers, I brought them all back to life and nourished them with Chicken McNuggetsÒ.  They are all now whistling the Star Spangled Banner up and down the banks of the mighty Tigris.  I sustained twenty bullet hits and threw back 74 rocket-propelled grenades at the opposing party.  My keen sense of smell sniffed out 42 IEDs planted about the area and saved the company untold dollars and lives (in that order).  The Iraqis were so impressed with my heroics, that they wrote-in my name on their ballots and have made me the lifelong King of Persia and the Provinces of Allah.

The reality is something else.  I was on truck guard for two days.  At 0500, 1100, 1700, and 2300 each day, I would go out and watch the trucks for an hour to make sure nobody was monkeying with them.  I’d start them up and let them idle for about fifteen minutes, and then I’d shut them off.  One of the trucks would continuously not start and I’d have to bust out the slave cables, find someone to drive one of the other trucks, and jump the battery.  I was also put in charge of monitoring the fuel levels.  As we all had just filled up when we got there, it was odd to me, but I did it happily.  Of course, the fuel meters were all kaput in every truck.  You had to look into the tank to tell.  The sergeant said, as he opened the lid, that I should see the level at half-full or more. When I opened it, there was the first part of the tank, where you pour the fuel initially.  On each truck, it was at differing levels within that area of the tank.  In my mind, the level you saw when you opened it was somehow correlated to the level in the tank.  I figured it was some sort of back-up gravity-induced mechanism to read fuel levels.  It did occur to me that if you see fuel up at the top of the tank, then it’s full.  But there was this little metal basket thing inside the tank, and that added to my belief that it was some sort of ingenious device to measure fuel levels with just a glace.  How else could you determine the level of fuel?  You certainly couldn’t look deep into the tank to see.  So, when I told the sergeant that four of the trucks were in need of fuel because they were lower than half full, it caused a bit of annoyance as everyone had to drive their truck to the fueler, drive it back, and re-stage it in the proper position.  Yes, it didn’t make sense that so much fuel would have been spent by just turning the engines on for a fifteen minute period every hour, but what do I know of mechanics?    What is usually a lengthy process to fill a truck up that day was done in a matter of seconds.  I also helped set-up the aid station/ casualty collection point where we would treat the injured should anyone become incapacitated.

In all, nothing much happened.  One of our tower guards reportedly spotted a sniper walking around outside our gate from a respectable distance, rifle in hand.  At another site, a vehicle approached, the passengers and driver fled, and the vehicle exploded at the gates.  Nobody was hurt.  The driver and his crew were not caught.  At another point, a voter was suspected of having had on a suicide vest, but as nothing happened to interrupt the elections, it will have to remain simply a rumor.

During the first round of elections, they did bring back one of the bombs they found and detonated it here.  I was walking back from the bathroom when it exploded.  The earth shook!  When I came around the corner, I was looking for people to be running all about.  I thought for sure we were under attack.  I did see some people looking at a fixed point, not too far off from where we were.  There was a mushroom cloud developing in the sky at about a 200-meter distance.  It was a controlled detonation.  That bomb would have done a great deal of damage had our people not intercepted it.

But we are done!  Not really fully done, because we are still here.  But our missions are complete and now we just have to wait and follow the logistics to pack our belongings and gracefully bow out of this texas-tea party.

‘Starvation’ is the word du jour.  I absolutely refused to eat the MREs.  There were some Iraqis in a little tiny store cooking up falafels.  I would have loved one.  But we were not allowed to purchase anything from them that wasn’t pre-packaged.  So I ate two packages of biscuits and drank two Pepsi-colas that were far too sweet and syrupy.  Also, I didn’t crap the whole time I was there.  The Iraqis had busted into the latrine unit while the camp was deserted and crapped on each toilet while standing on the seat, rendering them useless and disgusting.  A lot of them do not understand the American way of pooping still.  It causes more than its share of animosity towards them within the troops.  I’m going to watch Ugly Betty now.

11March, 2010

Let me start by saying Happy 22nd Birthday to Markie Cote. Let me proceed by saying that if it were my birthday, I would want a delicious ice cream cake to be eaten only after I managed my Salmon Oscar, chowder, baked brie, and pinot grigio.  I’d want that ice cream cake to be decorated as Kathy Bates riding a pony with a boa wrapped around her naked body and a cigarette dangling dangerously from her lips.

On other fronts:

  • I’m on a hunger strike and will continue to be until the food they give me no longer is filled with fat and poison.
  • The Terminator series is too filled with loopholes for me to sit quietly and enjoy it, much to the chagrin of the other soldiers here. But too bad!  They need to be cleverer if they wish to enjoy their non-plausible science fiction.
  • PFC Hall is still not back from his leave.  I’m suspecting foul play.
  • The scorpions and snakes have returned.  A Persian sand viper and a scorpion were just made to meet their maker yesterday.
  • Perhaps PFC Hall was assassinated by said viper and scorpion!

I have to be to work in 20 minutes and haven’t donned my uniform yet.  Gotta split, banana.

17March, 2010

Happy green beer and snake charming day to one and all.  Today marks my two year anniversary as being an American soldier, a warrior, a member of a team.  Until yesterday, I could have written “only two years to go.”  But, yesterday, that all changed.  Now I must write “only four years to go.”  I reenlisted and it is a done deal.  I will remain with the 1st Infantry Division, 4th Brigade, 2-16 Infantry Battalion, HHC Company, medical platoon until February, 2011.  At that point, I will be moseying on back to San Antonio, where I will pick up a nurse skill or two.  From there, it’s on to Walter Reed Hospital in Washington, DC, where I will get another nurse skill or several.  Oddly, Washington DC is named for George Washington, who was once a General in the United States Army.  So, it seems fitting.

I got a miniature bonus for the reenlistment.  That money will be poorly spent on frivolities, I’m sure.  Or, perhaps, it will be added to the down payment I put on a car.  I’m still uncertain if I want a car.  It will not be needed in San Antonio or in DC.  After DC, it is a possibility that I could end up in a non-USA workplace again.  So then what do I do?  I think I’ll get one just the same.  But do I get a Prius and have 50 miles to the gallon?  Or do I opt for a pick up truck that will come in handy some day when I start my own pool cleaning business?  I hate doing things!  Everything that gets done requires choices and choosing choices and weighing choices and then balancing choices.  It’s so sickening.  I want to live in Communism and have one kind of car – choice made!

I’ve had to get sergeant-like on people’s asses these last several days.  I noticed that one of our team puts in a half-assed effort every day we do our physical training.  So, I have now assigned him to be the leader of Tuesday’s PT session.  It is his job to recommend and/or create the exercises, determine the number of repetitions, develop a good balance between all the effected muscle groups, outline his plan for my approval, then lead the rest of the medics in performing these exercises.  He will, one way or another, learn that his full effort is required in everything he does.

On a similar note, I have had to get the other medics to stop being bitchy to him.  It’s just like that movie “Mean Girls” around here.  They won’t allow him to be part of their cliques.  They abandon him to a seat behind the radio desk while they play their little futuristic, apocalyptic nonsense games in the break room.  If he asks for someone to come and watch the desk so he can get out of there for a little while, they give him a huge ration of shit.  So I had to tell them, if they can’t work nice and help each other out, I will make a schedule for who sits behind the desk and when, who eats when, who cleans what and when, who uses the port o’ johns and when, right down to the tiniest detail.  They promised to try to be better.

Now it’s time for me.  I’m going to watch my favorite teen movie from when I was a lad, “Over The Edge.”  It’s a tale about the angst of American teens who move collectively to a planned community with their materialistic, soulless, automaton parents.  The parents eventually get locked into the junior high school, from what I remember of having watched it 29 years ago, and the kids go nuts with the pills and the booze and the funny cigarettes and the breaking of objects.  It was a delightful movie then and I’m sure its truisms are still every bit as valid today as they were in 1980.

“Mommy’s alright, Daddy’s alright, they just seem a little weird.  Surrender!  Surrender!  But don’t [something something] away.”

18March, 2010

At last, the worst has happened.  I woke up yesterday and looked in the mirror and did not recognize myself.  My face and neck were horrific!  I caught a glimpse of what I will look like at 70.  My flesh, fresh from sleep retained this amazingly wicked transformation to bagginess.  I could see the skin down the front of my throat as it peaked in two long, vertical lines; twin mounts of slack decay dripping down alongside my windpipe and choking me with its ugliness.  My face, swollen and misshapen, was pruned to such a degree I could have played Mother Teresa in the movie version of her life.  I looked and looked and looked again and it did not go away.  It was as if the ghosts were pulling down on me and not letting up.  I had to physically push my chin flaps back up and smooth out the brainy-contours of my cheeks and jowels.  It didn’t just go back by itself!  I need plastic surgery!!!

24March, 2010

Tonight’s big emotional collapse for me stemmed from someone having gone into the freezer and taking my ice cream bar.  The froth was just floating upon my lips like they were a fancy cappuccino.  I was not amused.  I am still not amused.  So, a new rule will be made that everyone has to serve me everything I want for the rest of my life.  That should teach the world to not resort to thievery.

On other fronts, I believe I’m sort of getting through to the people I supervise at night.  It’s definitely two steps forward, one step back in our growth pattern, but an occasional result can be seen.  I must be ever-vigilant, however, because if they sense the least bit of lightening in my rigor, they take it as a sign that they’re on vacation.

I’m irked that I reenlisted today.  All I want to do now is hike the Appalachian Trail from beginning to end.  That’s all I think about.  It’s either 2100 or 2600 miles, from Georgia to Maine, and takes about 6 months to do the whole thing.  I cannot wait.  But now, instead of waiting two years, I have to wait four years.  Stupid armed forces ruin everything!

I know I’ve been neglectful about writing in my diary these last couple of months.  I’d feel bad about it if I actually thought I wasn’t capturing some important details of this ‘life at war.’   From now on, I think all of our wars should be fought in Europe.  They make for much more interesting reads.

Maybe I’ll try to do some writing exercise explaining the landscape here.  But I am unsure about how many words I can find in any thesaurus to cover the word “beige.”  Also, I don’t know how much I’ve already written in regards to stuff.  Redundancy is one of the least favorite attributes I possess.  Laziness is another, so you can forget about me going back and reading what I’ve already written.  Besides, it may stir up some painful, heart-wrenching emotion in me or something.  You don’t want that.

I’m going to go and watch “Rome” now.  People were horrible piggies back in the day.  But, you can tell they meant well.  good night.

25March, 2010

I had a patient come in last night with a severe panic attack going on.  I should have known that something was wrong due to his coming in near midnight looking for the Chaplain.  He left after being told the Chaplain was unavailable due to it being after hours.  But then he came in a few minutes later visibly shaken, came up to me and said he needed to speak to somebody.  He was shaking.  It was horrible.  It’s just so odd to see these guys who do their damndest to be hard asses every moment of their lives come in spiritually and emotionally broken.

He had problems in the past with the army and his future in it is unclear.  In the meantime, he got word from home about some deterioration in his family.  It rocked him.  It’s so weird that there’s so little anyone I know back home could tell me that would make me react like that.  But for many of the guys here, one bad phone call can knock them out.  You horrible civilians don’t know the deleterious effects you have on my people.  You’re all bad!

Anyway, he’s better now after some oxygen and a couple of pills.  The weirdest part was having to hold my tongue.  In the past, people have come to me with this or that problem.  I spew my advice, requested or not, and be done with it.  I no longer have that option.  I now have to be all professional about it and let the people who counsel professionally do the advising.  All I could do was to reassure him, treat the symptoms that he complained most effected him, and pass him on (in this case to the Chaplain and the Physician’s Assistant who I had to call in due to the guy’s use of anti-depressants).

Anyhow, it’s another day closer to coming home.  If any of you homeslices even think of making me miserable like that, you can best bet you’ll end up dealing with Hurricane Gomes!

It’s now time to watch Caesar finally wrest control of Rome from Pompey.  Such a small thing, really, it was to happen.  But it changed the complexion of the world forever.  I can see dirt blowing in from under my door from those stupid Chinook helicopters that insist on parking near my room.  I wish they’d just go already!

26March, 2010

We had a PT test today.  I did superbly, but not outrageously.  I managed 50 sit-ups and push-ups, and did my two-mile run in 14:45.  In all, it was enough to give me 249 points out of 300.  However, my score as a 42 year-old (in two days) shoots up 15 points to a 264/300.  I’m a healthy, invinsible destroyer!  AND I lost 9 pounds!  So svelt, lean, and jaguaresque are three more adjectives you are now allowed to use in my description.

Yesterday, we had to do stretching for our morning PT, and I was informed about two hours prior to the session that I was leading it.  I was miffed.  So, I made them all do kundalini yoga.  Oh, how confused they were.  “This is sort of homoerotic” they’d bemoan!  I was howling between my ‘sat’ inhalations and ‘nam’ expirations.  Honestly, I wasn’t at my most flexible since I haven’t done it in quite a few years.  But I was like cooked spaghetti next to their plaster encased rigamortis meat bags.

I gotta go to work now.  I hear thunder!  Maybe Allah is coming.

Happy Birthday, Sheri Carmo!

28March, 2010

I am bedraggled.  It was a quiet night with one exception.  The patient I had seen the other night who was suffering a panic attack came back.  He was fine.  He was simply giving us a courtesy call.  He had found a pistol in the DFAC earlier in the day and wanted to return it to us.  When I checked the serial number on it, it indeed did match the serial number for our Lieutenant’s M9.  As our Lieutenant has been gone for a couple days to another FOB, the question remained “how the hell did his weapon get into the DFAC without him?”  So, it seems that one of our sergeants took it, and forgot it there.

In case nobody knows, leaving your weapon behind is such a completely serious offense, that soldiers have been kicked out of the Army for it.  It is probably the worst thing you can do as a soldier.  All sorts of other questions arise, such as “Why wasn’t the weapon with the officer who is assigned it?”  If this Lieutenant finds out, he will surely flip his lid.  Luckily, the guy who found it is grateful to the medical platoon for having treated him well in the past.  As a sergeant, he could easily make a huge ordeal out of it for the responsible parties.  If anyone else found it, this would cause a great amount of problems for our Lieutenant.  And, as they say in the Army, “shit rolls downhill.”  That means his pain and embarrassment would be felt all the way down to each and every Private in our ranks.  The sergeant who brought it and forgot it could very well lose rank because of this, should it come out.

So, I am curious to see how these sergeants respond when they are told about it later today.  If any one of us made the same mistake, we would at the very least be given an Article 15, be put on extra duty, and possibly lose money and rank.  Will their honor and integrity allow them to make the situation right?  Or will this be swept under the rug; no harm no foul?  I’ll keep you all posted.

In other fronts, I am newly ancient.  Yes, I know 42 is the new 24, but not so long ago it was the old 53.  At any rate, I’m less than excited about it.  I can’t broadcast it and make unreasonable demands as I’m accustomed to doing.  I can only keep my trap shut and pray no one finds out and uses it as an excuse to beat me up.  I had my own personal celebration that included only myself.  I turned mopping floors into a party in my brain.

I’m exhausted and need to sleep right now.

31March, 2010


10April, 2010

Our television and satellite dishes are gone.  They also took all the cereal.  So all that is left for me to eat is the Veggie Omelette MREs.  They are universally the most hated of all the MREs.  I pitched a minor fit about this lack of consideration.  So I was given some gym rat sergeant’s protein/nutrition shake as a substitute.  I’m fine with this as it is my new belief that chewing causes wrinkles.  I’m also currently on day #5 without a cigarette.  I’m finding it rather easy right now, but there is nothing to trigger me wanting one.  All the smokers are gone and there is nowhere to buy any.  I miss being one of the holier than thou non-smokers.  I find the saddle atop my large, white steed one of the most comfortable seats around.

I’ve been using my evening hours alone to do some minor working out.  I try to get 100 push-ups done and then fiddle and diddle with the dumbbells to fortify the guns.  But it feels weird doing it at night by myself.  Still, I know full well that my future as a supermodel and Hollywood movie star depends on it, so I will have to continue to feel weird = all the while getting results.

The one problem area is the buttocks though.  I’m afraid I’m getting those Billy Bob Thornton ass flaps.  Tonight, I’ll dedicate myself to my ass and its anger at the natural law of gravity.  We shall overcome.

I sometimes get nervous now since mostly everyone is gone.  I can’t really see what would stop a massive invasion of Iraqis from busting down the gates and offing us one and all.  But, then I remember that it’s not for me to see.  It’s just for me to accept that we’ve got things under control.  Nobody better get hurt, that’s for certain.  All of our stuff is packed away.

Did you know that shrimp shells are used to make hemostatic agents like Kwik-Klot and Combat Gauze?  It’s true.  They possess some super coagulating agent that helps clots form quicker.  Also, it doesn’t adversely effect those with shellfish allergies, so anyone with a gaping wound could benefit from it.  It’s unfortunate that we don’t use Kwik-Klot any longer due to the exteme temperatures it reaches when it hits the wound.  They found the tissue damage it causes doesn’t justify the good it had done.  It does get seriously hot.  You can see smoke coming off of a wound when you pore it in.

My sergeants arranged for my helicopter today.  Auntie Janice was right when she used to tell me that the squeaky wheel gets the grease.  When I suggested that I deserve a helicopter ride out of here, they asked me why.  I offered them reasons such as beauty, dedication, high intellect, and the fact that I never got a mid-tour leave like everyone else when they got to go on an additional ride on the whirlie bird.  So, with a little finesse and a glob of guilt, I got my way.  No convoy for this sweet boy.

Now I feel like crying.  My mother did not raise me to be a manipulative little shit.  Where did I get this from?  Why can’t I just be satisfied with what everyone else gets?  People like me are the reasons communism never worked.  Vainglorious pride, want, desire and gluttony while feeding the belly of the capitalist beast leave all sorts of people starving; left behind with their sore buttocks bouncing around in the back of MRAPs while I’m flying high in the blue blue skies above.  That’s selfishness, too.

OK.  I feel redeemed and less unselfish.  I just had a patient come in for treatment.  He is an American civilian who fell off the steps of an MRAP and hurt his arm.  It’s most probably not broken.  He got a shot of Toradol, and I slinged and splinted it for him.  I would have swathed it as well, but he was a little to round in the middle for me to fit the swathe from end to end.  Now he’s on his way with a war story of his very own.

Speaking of ‘round in the middle,’ how am I supposed to watch the Biggest Loser now?  Son of a BITCH!  They take everything away from me!

Oh, and that General with the coin stood me up AGAIN!  That coin is supposed to be a conversation piece for me someday, now I’ll have nothing to talk about.  Stupid friggin’ army!

I think I’m getting cranky from being starved to death.  Also, the lack of mental stimulation plays a very large part in one’s overall decline in mood.

Then night drives on.  It is now nearly 0430 hours on the 11th of April.  The stupid civilian is crying baby-style to someone because he wants an x-ray.  So, the sergeant to whom he is droning has called here demanding that I take him for an x-ray!  Since our x-ray machine has long ago been handed over to the Special Forces element, why wouldn’t he call them directly?  And since I am the only one here at night, who does he think is going to be here to man the desk should a more serious problem arise.  And if a more serious problem does arise, of course we are screwed, but that’s another story.

My mood has yet again deteriorated due to my need to make a #2 and we no longer have port-o-johns or any sort of facilities.  Everyone else is asleep and I cannot wake them up so I can go to use the toilets down the road.  So, I was forced to shit into a wastebasket!  I never did anything so horrible before that I can remember.  I know everyone thinks of me as a pinky-in-the-air, classy, tuxedo wearing bon vivant and I may have possibly ruined that image forever, but c’mon!  I thought I was going to die!  And I lined said wastebasket with a garbage bag first and I have since brought the garbage bag outside to the burn pit.  I didn’t take pictures of it or save it to make everyone smell it in the morning.  I was so distraught by what I had done, I sought succor on google by typing in “shitting in a wastebasket” to see if there was a support group.  All I found was a rather humorous blog someone put up totally sassing that jerk Dane Cook.  I felt better momentarily until I realized that currently, the only people in the world who have pooped in a wastebasket are the annoying Dane Cook and I.  So, I commented as such on this guy’s website.  I’m going completely open with this.  I will not let become some big skeleton in my closet that prevents me from receiving my well-deserved Supreme Court nomination.

11April, 2010

This is the last day of my time spent on FOB Summerall.  I will be leaving on a bird tomorrow at 1230hours (that’s 12:30 pm to you American Civilians).  I almost feel like I should mark this moment with a montage like they do on the series finales of television shows.  But I do not remember anything.  Perhaps I have the shell shock, perhaps I have the PTSD, perhaps I just never really paid too much attention, I just have nothing much to say about leaving.  Although I do have some unexplained trepidation about the move.  I get like this every time I have to go somewhere though.  It’s that “vacation’s over” feeling; without the vacation.

The powers that be did take a bunch more stuff today.  The mice are going crazy with all their hiding places upset.  They were running themselves ragged around here last night.  Within minutes, I saw one pop its head up from a floor drain, saw another run under a wall, then another I saw running from a hole in the ceiling all along a rim along the top of the wall.  I think they know something’s up.  We will no longer be able to offer them protection from the Shi’a, the Sunni, the Khmer Rouge, or the desert foxes.  They are on their own.

I have to go.  I just got a radio message that our interpreter fell off his roof while taking down his satellite dish.  He’s on his way in for me to fiddle with his knobby knees.

OK.  He came in with the tiniest cut on his tibial tuberosity area.  I slapped some iodine on it and called it ‘health.’  Now they are all cackling like barn animals about the guy’s fall off the roof.  Any reason to be obnoxious will be taken in a heartbeat around here.

I’ll show them obnoxious!  Obviously, it does not come naturally to me because I’ve been born with a heightened dignity and decorum.  But get me some liquor-fueled inhibitions and I’ll be loudly proclaiming my every half-concocted thought like the rest of them.

Speaking of liquor-fueled indecencies, I have now gone 7.5 months without a cocktail!  While I miss the giggles, I don’t miss the taste, or the ass squirts one gets the following morning.  Maybe I’ll continue down this boring road of sobriety even longer once I get back.  My body, after all, is a temple.  I can’t wait to eat avocados again.  The God that this temple is dedicated to loves it when I put avocados up for the offering.  S/he also quite enjoys scallops wrapped in bacon, and baked brie.  I think my God is trying to clog my pipes for the insurance payouts!

Great!  Now I’ve made myself hungry.  I cannot afford to eat anything anymore if I have any hopes of losing the love handles.  I haven’t gone running in a week!  My sergeants no longer enforce PT in the mornings because there aren’t enough of us around to do it.  So I have to find my dumbbells and push-ups sufficient.  But I want to exercise my newly cleansed lungs!  I can’t go running alone.  They would have a cow, or a camel because we’re in Iraq.

13April, 2010

I’m still on FOB Summerall.  My ride on the helicopter was canceled due to the weather.  So, now I have to wait til about 0100 tonight/ tomorrow morning.  It goes to show you, keep it simple.  If I had just gone with the ground crew, I would have been there already – safe and sound.  But, NO, I have to be little Mr. Brocade Britches and have my fancy delicates draped all over Air Force One.  Now, as I’ll be flying in the dark hours, all my photo ops of the sand and the sand formations and the sand bars and the sand storms have become nullified.  Also, how the hell do they see where they are going when they fly at night?  I’ll trust ten drunken pilots battling over the controls during the day before I trusted one General Electric Circuit Board to dictate my altitude and speed at night.  I’m an old fashioned conservative that way.

I just had a little laugh over here in the War Zone!  The sergeants are taking down this intricate latticework of cables and wires that connect everything to do with communications in the joint.  They think they are doing it correctly, because obviously, they do everything correctly.  But they just cannot seem to figure out why they are unable to get onto the internet now.  Speaking of: someone left a mensa quiz up on the computer yesterday when I came in.  I took the quiz and got a 25/30.  However, I must confess I cheated on two of the questions, which were word jumbles (PARACHUTE was one, I cannot remember the other).

The phone rings!  Is it a change in orders, a frago?  I hear nothing.  I like to hear nothing.  Not in the deaf way, I like hearing nothing in the peaceful way.  I don’t know that I’d find being deaf very peaceful after that episode of ‘Medium’ I saw where the Arquette girl gets asked for help from a kidnapped deaf child and she goes deaf herself til the case is solved.  She went bonkers!  Besides, deaf people are kind of snooty.

I fear I’m eventually going to have to make number two again.  I don’t know when it will strike, but I have already given everyone the heads-up that there may need to be vehicles, escorts, and flashlights involved.

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep, if anyone should wake me early, I pray the Lord won’t make me squirrely, because these jerks so loud and crass form the largest pain in my ass.  Sweet Dreams, Patsy Cline.

17April, 2010

So here I am at COB Speicher and all I can say is “it’s ok.”  Jessie Cohen asked the difference between this and FOB Summerall.  The best I can equate it to would be that COB Speicher is like Las Vegas if it existed in Communist-era Soviet Union.  FOB Summerall is more like Omaha in 1950s America.  Very little difference exists.  However, my work hours have declined dramatically and I do go to the gym every day now.  I’m also eating fairly healthy and resisting caffeine and nicotine.  I’m preparing myself for my new American life now.

Today I learned that gay people and lesbians choose their lifestyle/preference.  They can turn it on and off whenever they wish. They just like the attention they receive for being different.  That’s why they move to large cities, so they can get more attention.  Isn’t that smart?

I have to go and do my little turn at the faux Aid Station now.  It’s so boring I could pour alcohol on myself and light it ablaze just for the distraction.  But I will not.

21April, 2010

The following is a copy of an email sent to the people

As you may or may not know, I went to the promotions board yesterday.  I’m sure you can tell by my subject line that I did not get it.  The reason they gave me was that, although I’m technically proficient, I haven’t spent enough time working “on the line” which basically means in an infantry company going out on missions, laughing at farts, and calling everything under the sun “gay.”  This could be an ok explanation except that none of the people who work in the offices who went to the board were denied and they sit on their fat asses every day.  Still, it could be ok as an explanation if they were going to set medics to a different standard.  But when my co-worker Murdock went through with no more line experience and much less supervisory experience than I have and he got a pass then I know something else is going on.

My sponsoring sergeant is pissed off.  My platoon sergeant is pissed off.  My lieutenant is pissed off.

I answered all their legitimate questions with well thought out answers.  But, the board asked me several times which sex I preferred and when the last time I “got any” was.  I was described by one first sergeant as “weird” and they couldn’t understand how I could get to my age without having been married or spawning any kids.

After the board was over, my sergeants complained loudly.  One of the first sergeants at the board, my first sergeant from my company, the one who found it necessary to know when I last “got any” and recommended I should get some as a priority when we get home, pulled me aside and told me to not be so “butt hurt” about it all.  That was “just their way of easing tensions in the board.”  So, now it is all my problem.  I can’t take the heat.  I was told by him that I should feel lucky because they called my board meeting a “no-show” which means it never happened, so I can go again next month.  (for more of the same?)  or did they give it a no-show status so none of it is on record?  if I were actually kicked out for poor responses, I’d have to wait 90 days before I could go back to the board.  but they are doing me a solid favor by striking it as a no show.  and his reason for me not getting approved was due to some freakish tourette’s tic that he says I demonstrated!!!  if that were the case, I am certain they would not have been shy about bringing it up at the moment.  but they said during the board I wasn’t being promoted due to lack of line experience.  so what is it?  is he just covering their asses in that first sergeant way of admitting nothing and making the problem somebody else’s?

a couple of my sergeants want me to pursue it through the inspector general.  I don’t want to because I hate that sort of thing. which brings me to the point that now, even though I personally said/did nothing to be a complaining little bitch through this all, am getting viewed as one anyway. My sergeants have taken it upon themselves to make a stink, and I’m the one who is being looked at like a butt hurt crybaby.  So, I’m thinking, FUCK them!  Maybe I should make a stink.  But I do not want to.  “Things done cannot be undone,” and all.

don’t know what to do.  it’s not that i’m any worse off now than i was before i went there financially or otherwise.  i’m just disappointed to not have things go my way.  however, they spoke to me during and after the board as if i were some stupid piece of shit, which i cannot tolerate.  the one first sergeant came and shoveled some bullshit my way in order to calm the waters.  i may not be a great and wise non-commissioned officer, but after 42 years of being me, i know full well when i’m being dismissed for not having enough experience and when i’m being dismissed because bubba mccoy doesn’t quite like the flow of my speech.

02May, 2010

Since my last entry, things have gotten weird.  I’m certain a lot of the weirdness stems from a shift in my feelings of insecurity now, which brings about a concurrent paranoia and hyper-awareness of any disrespect (real or perceived) directed towards me.  But now there is also jealousy, a feeling I did not expect.  Co-workers, who have skated through the deployment not doing much of anything, are now being asked to perform end-of-deployment duties.  The same sergeants who found me unacceptable are watching them, and giving them critical acclaim, awards, coins, etc.  There is talk of them being promoted.  During the same conversation, a courteous inquiry into the status of the wife/girlfriend and/or child(ren) is posed.

It is as if all the work I have put in to unscrew the mess that was made of the anthrax immunization process, everything I did to streamline the moving process, any personal achievements I made, were all for nothing.  Naturally, they weren’t.  My platoon sergeants are all very grateful.  I’m happy to have pleased them.  But, the Battalion Colonel has no idea who I am.  The Sergeant Major dismisses me as a joke, a blight on his precious army.  My slacking peers, however, who have finally emerged as semi-competent workers, are celebrated as America’s Heroes, worthy of awards and citations.

I am actually happy for them.  I know that they are working diligently and that they do deserve what they get.  It is also clear that my new tack in dealing with the situation is neither mature nor is it productive: when asked any question by anyone regarding anything, I respond, “I don’t know, I’m not a non-commissioned officer.  Go find a sergeant and ask him.”  I am no longer, or very rarely, asked to do anything by my sergeants.

What should or could have been a good experience (being selected to go to the Promotions Board) has soured me on my present and future four years of life.  I will be the first to admit I take disappointment poorly.  I will also be the first to admit that I should know better, I am who I am and the army is what it is and the two probably never have met.  But I honestly believed I was beyond that.  I honestly believed that any difficulty I would receive would have been meted out by now and never by my “superiors.”

It tears me that I want to continue to do good work, but I also see little point in making any effort.  In all honesty, I don’t even know how much getting a promotion in this unit means to me.  I’ve seen some of the people they have promoted – complete assholes.  I will continue to go to the Promotions Board, but only as to not disappoint my platoon sergeants who want this for me.

Actually, one of those sergeants who was just promoted to Staff Sergeant, made me quite happy after the promotion ceremony yesterday.  After they rip off his old sergeant stripes, they replace it with the chevrons with a single rocker (the Staff Sergeant insignia).  He saved his sergeant three chevrons.  When we all went up to shake his hand and punch him in the chest as congratulations, he placed his old stripes in my hand.  Possibly he was just passing off his old trash on me.  That could be one way of looking at it.  Possibly there was a meaning in it that I’m too thick to get.  But i prefer to think of it as his way of saying that he believes I deserve them and that I will get them.  That actually touched me.

When I see the Sergeant Major or any of the First Sergeants now, I make it a point to acknowledge them and give them the fakest smile and courtesy I can muster.  Fake and loud without a smidge of ass kiss to it is the way I present it. I still see disgust and hatred in their eyes (paranoia?) and I hear disdain in their response (hypersensitivity?), but I don’t care.  Or do I?  I want what their recognition brings, but as people, I have no desire to please them at all.  They are all extremely militarily intelligent.  They are all what most of America would see as strong, solid, positive forces in the world.  But when I’m around them, I feel like I’m being held hostage by 7th graders with guns.

It’s just like that Janis Ian song, “I learned the truth at seventeen, that promotions are for beauty queens, and high school boys with clear skin smiles who marry young and then retire” as generals.

Oh well.

12May, 2010

Of all the things in the world I wish I could learn, the easiest and the most practical of skills in the one that seems more often than not to elude me: the ability to keep my mouth shut.

Today is a perfect example.  I was assigned to take a class on Suicide Prevention.  As I have already had that class, I piped up several times asking why I should take it again.  No one had an answer for me.  So, this morning, after I already dragged myself off of my cot at an unreasonable hour to be there in time, I went.  Once there, the Chaplain saw me and started a small-talk conversation.  I asked him if this class was meant to be a re-certification.  He was perplexed and borderline apoplectic.  This class was NOT meant as a re-certification.  It was meant to get as many new people enrolled and familiar with the concepts.  I was sent away to find someone else who hadn’t taken it.  I did it with gusto.

Now, the worm turns.  Tomorrow, instead of sitting in an air conditioned chapel role-playing the suicidal and/or the “Gatekeeper,” I will be stuck on some bullshit tennis court playing dodgeball!  WHEN WILL I EVER GRADUATE FROM 7TH GRADE?  I already warned them that if I lose another pair of glasses, I will not play another game with them EVER.

Also, one of my co-workers pissed me off.  Instead of just yelling at him like I generally would and letting it go, I went to the Sergeant in charge of Dodgeball to bemoan the situation.  As he is not a fan of the individual in question, he took it as an opportunity to come into the tent and berate the guy, drop “truth bombs” all over him, and get every involved in what was basically a Personality Intervention.  It carried on until nearly 2100 hours, interrupting all my quality Facebook time, and edging my sleep hours to the leaner hours.

I didn’t yell because I wanted to maintain peace.  During the horrible years-long knock down of the guys ego, I was semi-forced to end up doing the yelling I was avoiding in the first place.

Will I learn from this?  I certainly hope so.  The lesson is to keep all negative feelings pent up inside and let them out inappropriately at random times when people aren’t expecting them.  The alternatives are unbearable.

Now must I sleep.

13May, 2010

HOLY SHIT!  We are currently going through one of the worst storms I have ever been in my entire life.  It is a sandstorm with winds that are sounding/feeling like hurricane force.  We are in our tent and, although it is trimmed and anchored with wood and has these fifteen foot, 12” diameter polls (3 of them) holding up the roof, we can feel the floor raising.  The polls are swaying in the middle of the tent.  The walls are getting slack.  The air inside the tent is filling with sand.  My eyes are burning.  Everything around me is getting coated with sand and the smoke detectors are blaring.

The day was one of the hottest I have felt at about 110 degrees.  On our way back from the Dining Facility, we could see a lightning storm approaching in the distance.  Then, out of nowhere, the winds just picked up and started kicking our asses.  It’s knocked out the internet, or I’d be making this report live, via Facebook.

Hey, look at that.  It seems to be calming down now.  It’s been going on for a half hour.  It’s no wonder the people here seem so angry and hostile.  God is smiting them at every corner.  I know the popular opinion is to just leave if it sucks.  But where can they go?  Nobody wants immigrants these days.  So here they remain with their winds and rocks and heat and cracked earth and disgusting scorpions and flies and spiders.

Oh well.  I’m outta here in a couple days.

15May, 2010

Tomorrow morning, we abandon this tent that has been my home for this last month.  We will be moving to a holding area waiting for our flight to an airbase somewhere else in Iraq.  Once we are there, we’ll stay for anywhere from 1 – 3 days.  At the end of those days is that long, tight, claustrophobic, wonderful plane ride back to beige, boring, beautiful Kansas.

I’ve been quizzing everyone about what they’re most looking forward to once we get home.  The general consensus is that we are just most looking forward to not having to look at each other’s faces for a few days.  #2 is “I’m gonna get wasted, dude!”

I have nothing to say to mark this occasion.  The whole deployment is one big, fat disappointment to me.  Not that I’m not grateful for having a relatively peaceful time of it, I am.  I just feel that the time was wasted.  My hopes of working out at the gym were dashed with long, miserable hours of being a body ready for the worst.  Instead of preparing for the GRE’s, I inventoried and re-inventoried the same stocks of supplies over and over again.  Some money was saved, but that will be gone in no time.  I personally feel that I gained so little of anything relevant or interesting, I may as well never came.  Once again, I was able to waste time at the speed of light.

See you soon!

17May, 2010

I hate being in a good mood today.  It’s difficult because my sweet, little Allie is in the hospital getting operated on to remove the cancer that invaded her body.  But on the selfish side, I drank coffee and am surrounded with the good feelings that come with going home after a long absence.  Actually, I am not sorry for being in a good mood.  The surgery she faces is meant to improve her, not hurt her; it’s something that’s being done for her, not to her.  Something good is being done, and that’s how I will choose to look at it.

Anyway, tomorrow we will leave for Al Asad Air Base.  There, we will go through the customs inspections, go through some more waiting around, and finally, through the airplane door, into the jet, and on to Topeka.

Honestly, I could care less if I go back to Kansas or spend my time here, as long as I can still go home for my two-week leave on June 12.  That’s all I can think of right now.  I’m looking for hotel reservations at all the places I wish to play.  But I am getting nowhere with that.

I should start looking into places in California too.  I’ve never been to Russian River.  Maybe I’d like it.  I’ve never been to Palm Springs and I probably should if I plan on working/living there.

I feel like a big love explosion right now.  I cannot wait to see all your big, shiney faces again.

Right now, I think we’re about to have another large sand storm.  It’s currently rather brown outside.  The tents we’ve been moved to seem like they’ll be more stable than the others in terms of me not being panicked that they’ll collapse at any minute.

I’m going to go.  I can’t concentrate on this crap right now.

18May, 2010

I am still sitting and waiting for the magic word of “Go!”  This is the longest it’s ever taken me to get a ride to the airport.  Then, once there, we have about a 3 or 4-day wait, including customs inspections.  I’m antsy.

I’m also paranoid.  There are about 100 guys in this tent and I keep smelling this horrible cologne/fabreeze, and I’m starting to wonder if it’s being directed against me.  I was positive that it was the Puerto Rican’s feet that smelled like dog poop.  Now that I don’t have a cot near him, I haven’t smelled it at all.  But I wonder if he used Puerto Rican Voodoo to convince everyone that I was the culprit of cucka.  Sneaky bastards!!!!

Anyhow, I should be home by Sunday morning, May 23 (Linda Haskins’ Birthday!).  I’ll write more once I get this malarkey taken care of with my bank.  They canceled my card due to “Abnormal use” or some such phrase as that.  I bought a new iPod this morning on–line at the Apple store.  It’s the nano.  I got the red kind because if you do, a portion of the profits goes to feed some African kids.  It was hardly even painful as red is my favorite color anyway.  It’s what they’d call a win-win situation on Wall Street (except they only look for Win-Lose situations).

I hate typing now.

20May, 2010

We are now at Al Asad Air Base.  It is, from what I could see by cover of night, a rather large base with more accommodations than we are accustomed.  In Army fashion, the larger and nicer the base, the more rules and regulations are in place.  It doesn’t matter if this place has a Disneyland on it, as I’m only going to be here for possibly two days longer. How sweet it is!

While I’m here, I’m in another 100-man tent.  We’ve already been moved twice (from tent – tent; cot – cot) in the last 12 hours.  I’m on my third cot listenting to a bunch of low-level lackies over-laugh the most minor joke of a higher ranking member of the unit.  Smartly, I purchased new ear buds and they work beautifully.

I’ve packed away my IOTV (bullet-proof vest) and its accoutriment today.  I will not have to wear that gabbety-gook again for a while, and I don’t mind because it was rather heavy.

Some people of the unit are already gone, on their way back to the land of sunflowers.  I will call them “the shit heads.”  The shit heads are such due to my ungoverned jealousy of not being with them.

I’m starving to death now.  So I shall go hunt down some grub du jour.

21May, 2010

We got some hard times yesterday: 22May10 0600 – wake up; blah blah blah; 1810 – plane takes off; stop in Norway; stop in Bangor, ME; 0630 land in Topeka.

I had always wanted to see Norway.  Now, thanks to the army, that dream will be ruined too.  If it evolves anything like our surprise stay in Ireland, it will remain in my mind as ugly.  In Ireland, I shall never forget all the little Bobby Ray Sunshines taking every opportunity to tell the Irish how weird they (and their food, toilets, land, weather, etc.) were.  I guess the army boys were pissed off that they weren’t offered a Dr. Pepper with their breakfast.  Nonetheless, it was an embarrassment.

Now, given the opportunity, they’ll get to insult the people of another nation via their airport employees.

But it’s ok.  In the big picture, the Norwegians will have reason to think Americans are pigs, and therefore have no wish to assist us in any of our causes.  In the small picture, I’ll be stuck listening to a bunch of dudes congratulate themselves on their stupidity.  But in the selfish picture, it means I’m just that much closer to being back in the U.S. and one day closer to my block leave.

I know it’s unfair to be so harsh on these young jackasses.  They are but children; children who have cloned themselves and every aspect of their personalities off of any comedy involving Jeff-Foxworthy-like-down-home-wisdom.  It’s not their fault none of it is very funny.  Besides, who amongst us is some great prize pig anyway?

Speaking of: I wonder what the Norwegians serve for breakfast.  I bet they eat fish for breakfast.  They seem the type.  I could totally eat a little herring with a biscuit and a side of some sort of fresh Scandinavian melon.  But pork will no longer be allowed in my diet.  I must be strong.  Babe would want it that way.  But I do make exceptions of Linguica and Chorico and sausages of every nation.  Also excluded from this rule is the smoked shoulder that is a necessary part of the almighty boiled dinner.  But no bacon (Canadian or otherwise), sausage patties or breakfast links, ham sandwiches, or anything gross like that will be allowed in this temple.

I’m watching a movie (without sound) on the computer of the guy next to me.  I don’t know what it is, but it has the usual three friends; one is boyishly charming with a dopey smile and rosy outlook, one is the manly married type, and one is having an unspecified problem that will be resolved with the love of a good woman.  They gesture a lot more with their hands than people ever should in real life.  They inadvertently break the hearts of the young ladies with whom they come in contact and have an uproarious run-in with the law.  They are having shots of something in this movie right now.  It is Absolutly grossing me out and making me never want to drink again.