Sunday, March 26, 2006

The New Guy is Going to Pop

We recently recieved a new addition to the team going by the name J. Milky (close enough). Milky is a good kid from Nebraska with the attention span of a gnat and all the subtlety of a stop sign. I wanted to write about something else today but that post will have to wait because three roundhouse kicks was all it took to change the nature of this weeks post. Enjoy and welcome . . .

Welcome to ADD Theatre
A J. Milky Production
Brought to you in Vivid Realified Words by

in assosiation with
Ensephalo-Herps Studios

The following is based on actual events and unlike Hollywood “based on”, I mean this shit really happened and I saw it with my own two eyes—heard it with both ears.


Statements Milky has made since arriving:

"I taught myself three things. Tae-kwan-do, Spanish and how to kick asses." said with a seriously serious face. He then proceeds to pluck away at his guitar which he does not know how to tune or play. Sweet sounds of my very own Audio Ghraib.

"I really could kick your ass. Why are you laughing? I really could." after performing three wild roundhouse kicks that shook the whole building with his overweight ass.

"I wasn't a borderline personality disorder until I met her. Before her, I was an Antisocial personality disorder."

"Are you going to do that To-morning Morrow?" when he gets overly excited, he mixes words. I've heard some great ones but I can only remember this one because there are too many.

"I've hung out with Mexicans since I was a kid"

"I was a boxer."

"I was in Prison."

“I’ve been stabbed.”

“I’ve been shot at.”

“I was in a gang. The cops still got me on a list for gang affiliation.”

"Why are you laughing" I’ve heard him ask this one about a hundred times.

"I've punched a patient before but I respected his right to privacy."

"I was ADHD until I was a Junior in high school, then I took myself off the meds and I'm so much better without them. A lot of great people were ADHD you know."

"Why?" about a hundred times.

"That's stupid." after every answer to why.

"Fuck that shit." after every reasonable answer to that's stupid.

"Fuck that shit." muttered under his breath after every answer to fuck that shit.

"That hurt my feelings bro." more times than I can count.

Things that have happened to Milky since arriving:

His "fucking wallet" was "stolen" his first day here. He had to cancel all his credit and ATM cards and request "all new shit!" Then someone found his wallet on the bus he'd been riding and turned it in to the Navy peeps at the hospital. "So you lost your wallet" I accused. His reply, "it was stolen until that guy found it."

He was kicked out of the Troop Medical Clinic because no doctors knew of him. It was one of the things that "hurt my feelings bro".

When he was told that he was being reassigned to an outer camp away from the main hub (where the pools and women are located), he asked "Why" and replied to the reply "that's stupid" and the cycle began anew.

His Mutual Funds account was accidentally wiped out and is now in the process of being located. It is lost somewhere in the digital muck of the super dependable internet highway.

The only email address which contains documents of his mutual funds account is bogged down by slow servers. When he finally got his account displayed, it was locked out.

Things I've seen Milky Do:

Fucking round house kicks!

His eyes cross when he gets frustrated, which is a lot.

He's lost his keys, wallet, ID, cigarettes and coffee at least twice everyday.

Toilet OCD. He must use the same toilet after every meal. No other will do. Don't ask.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Significance in a Sign Shop

Here is a pit. A gash, paralleling the Iraqi border as far as I can see both ways east and west. Jumping across the pit looks about as easy as kicking yourself in the nuts which is as hard as finding something to juxtapose against the previous comparison. Our mission? Throwing things at poor, Iraqi children. They’re supposed to catch it—even if with their face.

We drive down several kilometers with our treats bouncing around in the rear compartment. The desert is never a smooth ride. The desert is anything except comfortable.

Several mud huts pocking the landscape on the other side remind me how far from home I’ve ventured today. Gardens and goats hug close against the desiccated homes. The winds and the rains have stopped. The dryness of the sand, indicative of how the weather may not have deigned to slum upon this peasant soil. Weather, she can be a haughty bitch sometimes.

The children spot our sandy plume and I can see them running for dear life on an intercept course. We stop the SUV and whip out the treats. The kids skid to a stop at the lip of the manmade canyon.

The yells of the sandy ones are shrill and immediate and incomprehensible. I don’t speak the language but my own anthropologic studies suggest a possible translation, “Gimmegimmegimmegimmmegimme


We pitch our charity skyward. Our charity is made up of hard things like Gatorade, candy, soda, toys and whatever else we could grab—stuff no one should have to catch. We underhand throw our American products across the barrier to the poor desert children on the other side who ran out of dried mud for anything we care to give.

I wonder if maybe I smacked a little girl with a Tropical Punch Gatorade tossed about twenty feet across to clear the gap. It may have ricocheted off her face. She smiles as she picks her prize off the sand and jumps up and down yelling for me to toss her another one. She’s a tough one.

A couple of adventurous catchers almost fall over the edge trying to get at something thrown too short. Someone in our group gasps loudly.

“Do they even like any of this stuff?” I ask the Kuwaiti Sergeant who just pulled his Army vehicle up behind us to see what’s going on.

“They will not keep any of it” he replies with a smile, “They will sell it all and bring the dinars back their family. Look, that little one is asking for your watch—oh now they all want a watch.”

Look back and every one of the children is pointing to their wrist. More gimme.

Feeling like a Good Samaritan yet guilty for not bringing more, I drive away back through the border purgatory to get back to base. My mind should rest in an ease of post altruistic harmony but I can’t help but wonder what those friendly little kids will grow up into. Will their adult forms hate America? Will tossed M&M’s be the catalyst that creates the next Iraqi I-Atota-Li Hay’t am-Erican or will that yellow bag be an emissary of good will that grows into a Sheikh of benevolent import, halting the measures of the Antichrist as he sews his seeds throughout this sandy region in search of a Revelation? Will they inherit or make more mud huts and be happy enough?

As we drive past, the shitty parking lot remains still and another fly lands on my lips.

This time, I really want that fucker off my face. I strike fast and hard. I wince. It retreats. I pursue. It must die. The parking lot gone past, my mind still on the pest and the desert encroaching, I want only for the death of this tiny life.


It’s done.

Driving back to our encampment, I feel heady from the day. I’ve seen too much today my brain whispers. Then I spot the camel laying a few feet from the road. She’s on her side and a brand new baby camel tries rising to her feet. Mommy camel looks wiped out with a trail behind her. Did she drag herself or did someone drag her to that spot?

Now you’ve really seen too much today shouts my brain. It’s just way too close to be shouting that way.

I drive away from the scene with death and rebirth and politics and symbolism and life and cyclical forces spinning up dust in my mind and bug guts still stuck to the palms of my hands.

There’s an epiphany out here somewhere for anyone with enough energy to go hunting. Right now, I’m way too self-absorbed for that kind of thought.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Sympathy From the Desert

I speed along on 80.

80 is referred to, by many, as the Highway of Death. There are two such roads with the same moniker. Iraqis stopped up this main artery recoiling from American/Coalition Forces during Desert Storm. They knew retreat was their only option left. So they did. Announcing their intentions to comply with UN Resolution 660, they abandoned Kuwait and clogged up two of the only roads back the way they invaded. Filling all available lanes, they jammed upon each other and waited in their vehicles like commuters in morning traffic. Someone cursed a last breath as the missiles shot into the jam and burned them all silent.

Two thousand people incinerated as they waited and waited for someone to get out of the way.

Tanks, supply trucks, tactical, non-tactical vehicles alike and even civilian cars formed burnt out husks littering the landscape after the jets flew away from their devastation. Smoke, wispily waving after their delivery boys like the passage of so many souls rose into the wind.

The Highways of Death are now immaculate, with hardly a scar of their namesakes as I break speed limits toward our next mission.

Raindrops make slapping sounds of clashing against our windshield and run in rivulets away from the wind. The wet weather is an abrupt change from the sandstorm that tried to tear our paper quarters apart last night and for the past two days.

Sympathy from the desert. From the sand. From the dying.

A fly, trapped in my vehicle all morning lands on my hair. I slap the top of my head like I’m special. I miss.

The radio stations are still playing in a state of mourning for the Emir, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah who died just weeks ago. With an I-pod radio transmitter plugged into my PDA, we avoid the country’s radioed self condolence with The Mars Volta, Wolf Parade, Mattoid and a bit of the Sufjan. But I know that beneath Take the Veil, Fancy Claps, Rat Poison and John Wayne Gacy, someone is singing a song of sorrow in honor of Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Sabah.

My Commander sits uncomfortably silent through the tunes. I know he dislikes my music which puts a slight dent in my enjoyment but not much. Led Zeppelin’s No Quarter is much better than suffering through his eclectic schizo-mix of Beach Boy pop between Gloria Estefan’s Greatest Hits and Bette Midler’s Biggest Shits.

At the encampment we work through patient after patient and after we’re done, the Commander says he wants to visit the border. He’s nervous. I can see his hesitation and hear the fear in his voice. The Iraqi border looms just beyond the concertina-wired sand berms and at night, gunfire picks different angles from which to snap and the occasional mortars booming through the tents, shaking in sympathetic vibration scare the shit out of skittish soldiers.

“We don’t have to go if you don’t feel like it” he suggests.

“I don’t mind going back there, sir” I reply, studying my Commander’s nervousness.

He looks uncomfortable in his Battle Rattle (flack jacket and Kevlar).

The zone between the two countries is a purgatory of Customs officials and various military authorities that one should expect to see in a place such as this. I drive slowly. We stop at the desert’s shitiest parking lot and the sailors I’ve brought with me dig out their digital cameras. The parking lot is a holding station for wreckage coming out of battle that must first clear customs through whatever paperwork tanks and humvees are supposed to have after they’ve been IED’d to shreds. The shit part of this lot is what we’re about to see.

Our escort, a Lieutenant Colonel, tells us where these vehicles have been and how long they’ve been waiting to enter the country.

“Seven days” he says in a deep military tone of disgust.

A fly lands on my face as his friend buzzes the tower. This isn’t altogether unusual considering the closer we get to Iraq, the more flies we meet. They bunch together in clouds and the atmosphere here becomes cloudier by the minute. I’m reminded of starving Ethiopians with dead, asking eyes on TV. A narrator admonishes me for my money as obese flies treat the bony faces of Nun’Knu and SeSay La’ki like pedestrian walkways while I search desperately for the remote. I shoo the flies away with a swipe of the hand.

“These six vehicles here are so tore up and melted shut that there are still pieces of people stuck to the floors in there” says the LTCOL in a resounding voice. The presence of my friendly fliers makes more sense now. So does the smell.

More wrecked humvees, tanks, trailers and trucks and it’s time to get out of there.

It was time to go the minute we arrived.

Next Piece is . . .Significance

Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Cheater

The role of the senior ranking member on a military team is to dictate the manner in which his team executes its mission.

“Hernandez! Take your team and cover me and the others from that sand dune two clicks due east. It’s the one with all the sand on it—you can’t miss it. We will engage the target, kick rocks and blaze forward . . . then we will all reconnoiter for scallops on the other side!”

Since our senior ranking official happens to be of the pudgy, food lusting variety, our missions sometimes fall in line with steak and lobster night at the nearest DFAC (dining facility for the acronym ignorant).

When on deployment, the best use of time, sometimes, is routine. Condense a day into a string of units of time that force one to follow the other in rapid succession. Your fully automatic, machine gun day is one of the better weapons to use against yourself and days with the potential to last years.

1630, End of the day reports are in, well now it’s fucking party time!

1631, Realize the serious lack of alcohol or any abusive substance and serious sausage saturation of the military, call party time over and now it’s time to get ready for working out.

1700, Arrive at the gym and wonder for five more minutes why . . . fucking why?!

1800, Stop the workout, survey the area for those two barrel-chested women, the Wundertwins, who put you to shame everyday, marvel at their masculinity and wonder which one wears the strap-on or if maybe they throw in change ups on Wild Wacky Wednesdays with a “My turn bitch!”

. . . And so on and so forth until it’s time to hit the rack, making the days wiz by until the beads are no more, signifying your last day of deployment.

Of course, this only works for so long before the monotony drives you to do something psychotic.

That something may take the shape of wearing only a gas mask and boxers, running around the barracks, knocking on people’s doors while banging empty water bottles against empty pizza boxes, yelling “GAS! GAS! GAS!” as friends run after, calling “He’s got the gas! It’s coming out his ass!!”

You know it’s spreading when people answer the door already wearing their own mask.

There’s much worse. I’ll save those stories for another day.

These routines were on my mind as I made my way back from Germany. With my patient escorting duties over (schizophrenia is the best reason to party), after being gone for a week of cheating on my deployment with drink, beautiful women and the real world of using the television to prophesize weather, it was time to get back to my Navy/Army world in the desert.

As the snow storms railed on, getting worse, laying down more snow and shutting down roads like the Autobahn, I contemplated the intelligence behind choosing the last flight out of Frankfurt on a night during one of Germany’s worst days this winter.

Northern European weather shat all over my itinerary.

The plane lifted itself from Frankfurt pavement an hour late and touched down in Qatar just as my plane to Kuwait left the tarmac. I added myself to the mob at the Transfers Desk looking left and right like a hunted animal desperate for a way out. This is going to take too long I told myself. Then I noticed a quiet little Middle Eastern woman off to the side trying to look busy by doing what front desk people do when they want to look busy—stare down at a computer and whatever happens, never look up and definitely never lock eyes with anyone.

I hurdled the ribbons placed there to signify Not This Way, ignored the angry stares from jealous mobgoers and plopped my ticket on the counter directly level with her face. She never looked up at me as she grabbed the ticket but I heard her sigh heavily as others lined up behind me while she loudly, rapidly typed.

I heard people crying, expressing shock at their airport fate. Managers came to my receptionist’s aid but no one spoke to me until it was time for me to “have a nice day, sir” in a very hurried 7-11 accent.

“Just so I’m sure. I missed my flight?”

“Yes sir, that is your new boarding pass and present that at the next airport for you next boarding pass.”

Then, I waited.

I slept sitting down, leaning on my sport bag like a school desk, which contained my laptop and survival gear (M&M’s and my PDA).

When I nodded off the first time, I was surrounded by Japanese business men. I woke up later in a gaggle of Egyptians and fell back asleep wondering about the science behind severing your sense of smell for certain situations. When next I woke up, I was surrounded by so many Pakistanis that I fought hard to contain my surprise at how many of them crowded my space. Most sat three to a chair and others filled the available air around the seating by standing in a gentle mosh-pit of Pakistani closeness. If only I had money to invest in that sensory manipulation thing, I’d make a fortune, I thought to myself before I made a hasty escape.

Two flights, much bull shit and seven hours later, once again in Kuwait trying to figure out a way back to my command. Eventually, I found and convinced some government spooks to lend me their cell phone so I could find a ride back to my encampment out in the desert, neighborhood of nowhere. Those guys are too easy to find.

I dialed the emergency cell, “What the shit? It’s me. I’m back and I need a ride out of here. Now would be good.”

“Ooooooo, sorry dude, we can’t get out there. Commander has the car and he’s at the HQ, Dining In ceremony.”

“Are you fucking serious?” I spat angrily, startling the government contractors standing close by. “You mean to tell me that after twenty six straight fucking hours of miserable travel through two different seasons and so many fucking languages, I’ve got to sit here and wait some more while Commander fills his fucking belly with food?!”

Once again, I was cast adrift by the winds of my Commander’s imperious appetite.
“Sorry man, but you know how the CDR gets when it’s catered Middle Eastern.”

“Fuck you! You guys knew I was coming. Don’t be around when I get back or I will piss in your eyes fuckface!” Sometimes, this exact eloquence of communication is reason enough to like the military.

“Well, did you at least have a good time? Did you get drunk for us all?”

“I could wait here in this airport for another week with Kuwaitis spitting on me and it would still be worth it. See you when I get back shitstain.”

It was all worth it and now that I’m back, I can’t wait for this deployment to be over and done. I’ve cheated on my deployment with the real world. Just a taste was enough to enlighten me of my addiction to everything civilian life has to offer.
I can’t wait to get home.