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

9 comments:

mad malva blue said...

that is amazing ... very vivid description and well written.

infinitesimal said...

#1:
THANK YOU for changing the font.
#2:
When is your tour over?
#3:
You got my message?
I am going to do a post for you soon I think,maybe today and let you feel my world.]

You are a great writer, actually and should be doing so often. Is that why we started these?

I have a theory that creating art is like taking a dump. At a certain point, idle of creative outlet, our own bodies will move and take action to let out some art. Crap or not, it arrives.

Those are usually my best pieces.

Water water is all I think of for you. You need the water, and no more flies.

Anonymous said...

I feel really bad for someone like you who has a blog-stalker like "infinitesimal". Shut up, already! You are too damn cheery!

SwallowedAlive said...

Malva,
Thanks.

Infini,
#1-De nada.
#2-That's called OpSec.
#3-Busy. Busy. Bee.

Anon,
I have no Blogger Stalkers, just voracious readers. I appreciate whatever audience enjoys my writing. Actually, I enjoy anyone reading my writing regardless of whether they enjoy it or not.

infinitesimal said...

OMG!
Anon thinks I am cheery?
sorry, no post yet. headaches...
it is my spring break.

~the cheery blog stalker~
(laughs)

Boris Yeltsin said...

You're a great writer, and the fact that you like Led Zeppelin doesn't make you all bad.

Thanks for stopping by!

Boris Yeltsin said...

BTW: if you don't mind, I'd like to link you to my blog. It's the only way I get to visit people. The links on my blog are like my favorites folder.

Boris Yeltsin said...

It's a continuous battle between my wife and I, because her family's the type of people who pride themselves on the, "I work hard; I play hard," life-philosophy, which means for them: get yourself into debt as far as you can go, then work all the overtime (or a 2nd job) you can to pay it off, then do it all over again.

According to them, if you're not living like that, you're somehow cheating yourself out of everything life has to offer.

When "paw-paw" ain't around to impress the kids with his bass boat, goose neck trailer and brand new GMC, 15 passenger van, I tell them: "Do you realize that when LaTrell Sprewell signed with the Minnesota Timberwolves at the age of 17, he bought a mansion, a yacht with marble floors and a Gulf Stream jet? How much overtime did he work to get it?"

In my humble opinion, when it comes to money, you either got it, or you don't - but if you don't, don't go around trying to spend like you do, or you'll be a slave to the grind for the rest of your life.

When there's a hurricane parked off the coast, do you know why weather casters are constantly freaking out and bombarding us with updates every fifteen minutes?

The weather forecasters are lap dogs for the rich. I mean, when you've got a whopper of a storm parked off the coast, those weather people are really telling the rich, "Hey assmunch! Get on the phone to your broker and get that Weyerhouser stock bought ASAP, before the market prices the cost increases into the profits - dipshit!"

In my opinion, that's the real reason those guys are on the air every 15 minutes while there's an impending hurricane.

Weyerhouser is a lumber stock. We all know that after a hurricane, the price of lumber goes through the roof. The same thing happens to lumber stocks. But, you've got to buy the stock before people start buying the lumber, or you can't capitalize.

Once people start buying the lumber, the price of the lumber stock is already going down. That's because in the stock market, you're buying tommorow's profits with today's money. If you were buying today's profits with today's money, hell - everyone would be rich!

This is what makes the difference between gambling and investing.

Gambling is when you buy a stock because uncle Philbert has a friend who says that "XYZ Company" is a no-brainer to go up. That's like getting tips at the track.

Investing is when you realize that stocks go up because investors are buying tommorow's profits with today's money - not today's profits with today's money.

I think we've all heard the horror stories of someone who saw a news story about the hottest toy at Christmas: stores just can't keep this toy on the shelves. So what do people do? They go out, and buy stock in the toy company that makes the toy. And guess what? The stock goes flat, even while the buying frenzy is going on. Why? People already bought those profits last quarter. Again, this is an attempt to buy today's profits with today's money - and it never works.

The smart ones went to the toy conventions they hold in Las Vegas in July, and checked out the displays and all the booths, and they read articles in the Wall St. Journal about others who did the same, and what they thought. By August, everyone pretty much reached a consensus on which toy is going to be the hot seller come September, and people start buying those toy company stocks in July and August - when they're cheap.

By September, October and November when the Christmas buying season is in full swing, the people who bought the toy stocks in July and August are laughing all the way to the bank.

The poor bastards who're just now buying the toy stocks, thinking the price will go up, don't realize, they're buying into the post-holiday earnings period, where revenue is typically at it's worst.

When it comes to stocks, you're buying tommorow's profits with today's money - not today's profits with today's money.

Hope this helps. After risking your life to defend what the commander-in-chief says is protecting our country, I'd sure hate to see you lose your nest egg on some hair-brain scheme cooked up by some scam artist who's nothing more than a centrifuge who separates people from their money.

Stay alive and stay healthy!

Boris Yeltsin said...

BTW: I linked you blog to mine, and gave you a shout out.