Saturday, December 23, 2006


In Northern Iraq, so north that you can see the green farms of Turkey across a valley, we used to stay in what we called the Marble Palace. It looks like a state capital government office building. It's certainly the only one of its kind in the more rural urbans of Iraq.

We slept on the second floor. The Kurdish soldiers who stood guard in the area stayed on the first floor. Outside the bunk bed bays on the first floor there were always worn black leather boots lined up next to the doors.

I have watched the boots of the foreign soldiers around me. I have understood better the status symbol significance of shoes. Neither the Kurdish soldiers in Northern Iraq nor the Albanian soldiers in Mosul wear matching boots. Each soldier has a different type of black leather boot. Some very worn, almost the hand downs from a father who once served in the military. Some made of facade leather, more plastic than leather. Others wear very nice boots with good soles, the leather soft and polished.

The shoes are lined up very neatly outside the doors.

During the summer time the air conditioning turns the building to the temperature of a refrigerator. The place is four stories. Each floor forms a wraparound balcony around the center, like a shopping mall a little bit. There are two elevators with exposed pulley and cables. Only the soldiers that live there permanantly are allowed to use the elevators. We used them anyway. Until they got pissed at us and started making threats, then we stopped.

Everywhere we go there are a thousand rules. There are always a few with higher rank standing around watching to make sure you don't go outside without a reflector belt on, or without your cover (cap) on, and they must have been watching for elevator users too I guess.

When I went to hear Mr. Rumsfeld speak, and got to sit in the front row because I have two freakin purple hearts, I was standing around afterwards out in a foyer with my hands in my pockets. A staff sergeant looked me in the eyes long enough for me to realize he was trying to get me to understand something. I didn't pay very much attention. Then I heard him say, "Hey Sarge, there is far too much rank walking around here for you to be standing with your hands in your pockets."

"I apologize Staff Sergeant. Normally I wouldn't, but I was trying make sure that this little BIRDIE that I have in my pocket didn't get out."

That's how I wish I could have responded. "Yes, SERGEANT." That's what I did say, with more than a hint of sarcastic willingness to comply, but taking my hands out nicely.

I don't mean to condone insubordination, and maybe I do work behind a desk now, and maybe I am a good Christian white boy who feels sinful if anyone at all doesn't completely approve of me, and YES! I'm still a virgin, but damn it, I'm a soldier too and sometimes I just don't give a damn about not having my hands in my pockets around the Secretary of Defense after nearly getting killed twice by IEDs out there. There really are more important things to be worrying about.

So, yeah, they stopped us from using the elevator and we had to walk up the stairs every time to get from the second floor bays to the fourth floor chow area.

The chow in that place was horrible. That left very few reasons for using the stairs. Instead we often walked out behind the building where there is a small Turkish restaurant with a sign outside that states simply "Rest." It serves food to all the local nationals and particularly to the hundreds of drivers that drive the trucks in the convoys.

Because Kurdistan makes up most of Northern Iraq we were able to interact much more loosely with the people there, which is very different from the fortified walls and gate guards of Mosul. In Mosul the truck drivers are not allowed at all onto the main area of the FOB (forward operating base).

The trucks and drivers we escorted in our convoys were a rough bunch. A smelly bunch, rough-shaven, sleeping in their trucks and driving back and forth from Turkey into Iraq, passing from one FOB to the next and then back to Turkey. There's no need to worry about having your hands in your pockets around them. They played soccer sometimes on the concrete of the parking lot where we used to line up our trucks before leaving, played with bare feet or flapping sandals, their middle aged bellies showing, hanging over their belts a little. They are a rough, fun loving bunch.

I miss it.

Friday, December 22, 2006

a little more Orhan Pamuk

"We are in the company
of the words of those who came
before us, of other people’s
stories, other people’s books—the thing
we call tradition.
I believe literature to be
the most valuable tool that humanity
has found in its quest to understand itself."
I used to think that poetry (and novels no less) must surely be the savior of the world. I thought this naturally, because of how compellingly it has taken up my life. I have always made a point of believing that anything less than the savior of this world could never take up my life. My life is a very valuable thing. It's the only one I have like it.
But, Orhan, I'm just not convinced of that way in literature anymore. I am glad, nonetheless, always grateful, that it takes up our lives. It pleases me to no end knowing that you too will sit, and for hours. Though I'm not sure I could ever sit with you because of your enormously depressing disposition, it still brings me pleasure to think of it. We will have to settle for sharing literature between us in the absence of views or presence.
I will read your book and imagine you scribbling on real paper in sparse hard wood rooms off toward the East, vaguely angry at everyone, in Istanbul, and not so far from me.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

But of course his gets to be published and posted
on NPR's website.
that I'll soon be reading.
Newspapers are going to lose.
Apparently the Miami Herald only publishes old Berry columns
online. I don't like that. However, the gift guide's the exception.
I'm going to try and get better at this.

Monday, December 18, 2006


I'm writing a book of poems and prose grounded in whatever sand I can kick up here in Iraq. I'm calling it conveyance, after having run through an endless number of other more complicated titles, a few of which required more than a normal man's lung capacity for breath. And after failing to find a dictionary listing convoyance as a legit word.

I recently read a poem by a man, C. K. Williams, to whom I'm just now becoming acquainted, or rather three poems, composed about and around a close friend's death.

It is so easy to never develop an intimacy with someone. There are so many sly ways to never get involved. Particularly for painters and poets or poets and poets, or poets and any sort of artistic contemplating sort.

In Williams' poem (Elegy for an Artist), there is pain from loss. That is a thing dug up out of more than just contemplations about beauty, sharing ideas about the conditions of the soul, and taking meditative walks around the sticks and stones of one or the other's sun baked Arizona ranch.

I see suddenly how scared I am of several friends I have. And they are those having the most in common with the side of me that dreams and writes and sits only to think and watch for hours. For hours, man! I sit and do nothing for hours!

I have always felt a distance between myself and these friends I share the most with. And I always explained it to myself in ways. It wasn't true.

Suddenly I see that it's because I am scared. I am scared of the part of me that would wait for years for a girl who tells me good bye and moves across the country, believing that because I am in love the pieces of the world will fall into place.

I am scared of the part of me that revels in a hazy mirage or spirit underside of words, talking forever about the glory, the glory! and writing poems about nature that only eight or twelve people could ever enjoy. Most of those people died during the romantic era too, when it was still in vogue to write poems about nature.

I am afraid of the part of myself that would run headlong through woods like a crazy Indian, rushed at the thrill of my burning chest and racing heart... burning to bridge the gap between philosophy and my dexterous limbs and body, burning to let ideas mean something to me personally, to have conversations with dead people, brilliant dead people, and to believe in ideas, to turn ideas into things others can believe in.

Those are my friends. I am afraid if we were to share ourselves with each other we would be set too free, too recklessly free in our naivety.

Our words, our ideas, our interests or proclivities, they do not build intimacy. We can share all manner of conveyances with another person, and all manner of means for conveyance. But what we actually carry in those words and ideas, the substance, must be things that make us depend on another person more, or else we are just busy creating jobs for private contractors that otherwise could pack up and go home to be with their families, raising the unemployment rate by a quarter percent.

We do that sort of thing. We are afraid of idleness. And then we are afraid of dependency.

I guess that's what makes suspicion so marketable of unnecessary escalation of a war. We will talk and talk to unravel the most profound things, all so that we are ourselves talking and not unraveling.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

some daily language

Delivering newspapers as a boy
in the dark four a.m. morning
I learned Oregon coldness, shuffling
sound in shadows, afraid when
sprinklers suddenly jumped on
listlessly afterall, distantly barking dogs,
ominous where I walked under pale
street lamp fluorescence, a bathroom light
turning on in a quiet house from someone
no doubt caught in between dreamy
sleep and shuffling slippers and then

off and gone, that all these I learned
sneak along the dark fence lines
of a permanent loneliness, completely
new to my young always daylight
sense of the neighborhood, that word
expanding in me to a terror of the infinite
beyond the literal.

Even in my own little half
lighted 3 a.m. living
room, my fingers gathering
a film of newsprint ink
from rolling and banding
each of a hundred papers, in my heart
I was crying
from myself the warm salt water stores
of a childness that longed for hiding
in covers and blankets
and my mother’s soft singing voice to me
and for each them to last longer

than they would.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

peeing in bottles

I'm about to clean my "room". I would rather call it my plywood cubicle.

Cleaning mostly means sweeping the tile floor, taking my two rugs outside and shaking them into clouds of dust, and throwing out all my trash and pee bottles--yeah. I, uh, pee, in bottles in my room sometimes. It's just so freakin cold outside and you have to wear a full uniform if you go out and I hate using the porta-potty and they make us wear a reflector belt everywhere we go and sometimes I drink so much water that I have to pee every fifteen minutes. So, yeah, I pee in bottles sometimes. You aren't in Iraq. You don't know what it's like. You think it's gross, you think it's lazy. You don't know. You try peeing in a porta-potty for a couple weeks and have some crazy insurgents shoot mortars into your neighborhood once in a while unexpectedly and then just wait. I bet once your plastic communal potty has a couple shrapnel holes in it like mine does, I bet then you'll have some second thoughts about the etiquet of peeing in bottles.

Besides, once my brother and his friends saved up a bucket of pee at his school and then they chased some girls, I think, with it and spilled it all out in front of their dorm building. That's disgusting.

We can forgive him though because now my parents are going to read this and then they may have something to say to him. Me, however, I'm in Iraq. My parents can't do anything to me. I can pee anywhere and any way I want.

Friday, December 15, 2006

combat perfection

After nearly five months of combat logistical patrol, my convoy clip has been stood down and dispersed. Really, combat logistical patrol just means we make sure semi-trucks full of supplies don't get ambushed on their way from one military base to another. My company had two convoy clips, about thirty soldiers each: enough for ten three-man gun truck teams. Now there will be only one clip. Some of us will go work in a supply office, or in the motor pool shop or welding shop or pulling gate guard somewhere on the FOB. I'll be left alone at my CQ desk. No one's really tearing or scratching for my position.

A range of rumors floats in the sub-cultural stratosphere for why we were the ones to be stood down, and why not clip 2, the slower guys, the guys who stop when they think they've spotted an IED ahead, the guys that obey all the rules all the time, the guys who never challenge authority, who have never shot mistakenly at a friendly foreign-national semi-truck because we kicked him out of our convoy and then he decided to follow us from behind but we didn't realize it. We realized it, but not until we got close enough to see the poor Turkish man's wide-eyed face about twelve inches to the right of a bullet hole in his windshield from a 5.56mm M-16 round.

Despite the alleged habit of all soldiers and LAPD cops, we dutifully reported the mishap. The investigation concluded that probably after we kicked him out of our convoy the wide-eyed man should not have followed us across the Northern half of a country known for trying to blow us up with car bombs--or worse, semi-truck bombs. They concluded that definitely the guy should have stopped encroaching on our convoy after we flashed him repeatedly with our spot light and fired a warning shot.

We may be troublemakers but we know the steps of our escalation of force.

But I don't really think our positive attributes are what did us in, even if they also did not recommend us highly to some of our higher leadership. I think the real reason we were stood down had to do with the political unrest on our clip.

You would think among thirty people there could not be such a grand thing as political unrest. And you would be wrong.

The problem with putting a bunch of strong-willed, independent, and work-aholic soldiers together is that they will never be satisfied with the guy who tries to take charge. Very few of us on that clip could ever be a follower for more than eight to ten minutes at a time. And not even that long unless we were muttering epithets under our breath.

The way combat changes people is incredible. I watched as one soldier in particular slowly transformed from being likable, flexible and understanding, to being obsessively driven by combat perfectionism, rigid, vaguely cold, and a smoker of smokers.

Oh, cigarettes. You can track half the soldiers' stress levels here by noticing how many more or less cigarettes they are smoking compared to a day ago or a week or what have you.

My aunt sent me an email about three months back. She pleaded with me to please not become a smoker. Almost everyone here has become a smoker.

There's no such thing as combat perfection. I'm convinced of that. To chase such a whimsical fantasy will only make you an insomniac. Or I should say, more of insomniac. Insomnia is not like smoking. No one here escapes at least bouts of near insomnia. I'm in the middle of my second stretch of it, but for me it comes much more mild. And at the CQ desk, if I start getting tired from sleeping only restlessly the night before, well, then I just go to the back, turn off the lights and lie down on the green canvas cot we have. The first time it was worse. And even worse worse because I was still able-bodied on convoys and we were in the middle of nearly a month of back to back to back trips. I digress.

We've been through three or four convoy commanders in the last five months. Each time the overthrow rises up secretly in the underlying resentments of a select few and then they slowly start undermining his command, quietly, and then once he has been provoked sufficiently they begin the overt phase: overt confrontation, overt questioning, and finally, overt complaints to the first sergeant and commander. It's sneaky and I hate it. Not one of our convoy commanders was doing a half bad job. But everyone needs someone to vent their frustrations on for an unrealized combat perfection.

But you can't. Perfectionism often will slowly become the greatest of your imperfections, if you can call being crazy and on meds and delirious, either from lack of sleep or an excess of nicotine or both, an imperfection.

And the media would do well to take note. It is war after all folks. So, yep, someone might get hurt if we're not perfect. And we can't be.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

some daily language

I covet words
that maybe would turn toward me
the far side of a figure
of speech moon

in you. Afterwards I repent, ask
for just small mortal and spit
mouthfuls of a meaning
to let go
into the cold breath night of a lamplight world.
Let everything disappear without
any promises
that matter from the too quiet and god
like atmosphere.

But again I tirelessly spend beyond the likely ends
of myself, invest in great constructs
of promises, and
the love affair I have built
around me burns up into a house of smoke
finally, oh, how much the deep down betrayal and pity
of self and selfish I manage to feel!

I promise to come to a poem then
with exponentials of wonder, with
the burning ashes of it
like a poor man’s gold of lost
and heartless ache

after love from a woman.

Monday, December 11, 2006

naked words

I've heard somewhere that deployments wreck some ridiculous percentage of relationships, I think it was almost half.

I overheard tonight quiet portions of a conversation revolving around the wreckage of that fact for one of the soldiers in our unit.

There's a quiet struggle going on to believe in words. Everywhere. Once I thought that blogging was a significant triumph for written words, that finally people were being drawn back to the insubtantiated world of words--insubstantiated unless by belief or imagination. Seeing is believing we say. Words seem to lay down the burdon of proof half way. And so, the new world of video blogging will probably consume the old.

The struggle for or against naked words lies very deep in the world of politics, in the worlds of film vs. novel, in the opposite sides of this world when one person leaves for Iraq. Words sometimes become the only hope for substantiating a committed relationship. Maybe it's learned mistrust of words that contributes to the huge deterioration rate over here.

My recent effort to blog in part has been a return for me back to a belief, or an attempt at believing, in simple written language. I've watched a ridiculous number of movies since last April when I first stepped on a military plane to leave Los Angeles for eighteen months. The down-time we have over here is enormous. As enormous as dating used to be back when your adolescent sexual intrigue first began outstripping your driver's licensing. The trouble is not that we don't want to have time off from working, but we have nothing to fill that time with--no family, no clubs, no clothes shopping, no Hollywood Blvd., no movie theater complex, no alcohol.

Scratch that last, even though officially I guess it's true.

I take it back, it's worse than the first years of adolescence. If there were a Hollywood Blvd here I don't think any of us would complain about a quick ride over there from our mothers.

Recently, though, I've grown disinterested with movies. Owen Wilson movies excepted for the time being. I've begun reading again. I didn't even realize I was searching for a way to believe in words, believe that I could enjoy a book more than a movie, believe that books might have something movies don't have. Then I finished reading East of Eden. Probably the best book I've ever read.

I have become reaquainted with a old power that I've never been totally convinced written words can contain. I think that power has something to do with meditation. If so, it's strange since it's not words that meditate, it's the reader. But I think words allow a home for meditation to stay in. It's the meditation that convinces the reader, that woos the reader (romantically, not apparitionally), that substantiates the other person to the distant lover.

There is some truth to the postmodern verse that we create our realities... even if we don't. We do create our interfaces to reality. We control how little or how much we expose ourselves to that great shimmering and scary sea of realness that most of us can not yet so much as dangle a foot in off a fishing dock. In only fishing you can always cut the line. It takes long difficult persistance to hack your way through the mosquito jungle of your own convenient illusions, and the disillusionment is painful. But the process, and wisdom, is good, deep down good, scary good. And such a kind of good is East of Eden.

If we can go the slow way of words, we may enter into a patience and nakedness of ourselves and of those around us. I still believe that. Words will persist. And if they die, every image, and every mathmatical proof, all forensic evidence, every shared memory of rooms in candlelight, everything, will fall useless down at our sides absent the underneath power that made them magically convincing to us all along, and for which we idolize them. Running to the more and more sensory oriented mediums will not create more certainty about history or politics, will not create greater fascination or deeper catharsis, and will not result in intimacy.

I think only our own meditative processes can create things of so much substance.

Sunday, December 10, 2006


I shook Donald Rumsfeld's hand today.

He shakes with old firm hands. His eyes open towards you from their equilibrial squinting posture, that perpetual look of partly mulling over a deep question and partly a deep friendship with the answers, peering inside for the best way to explain it, to you, personally.

He wore slacks, a blue collared shirt with a top button unbuttoned, a nice jacket with lapel, but his shoes, old worn brown leather walking shoes. O'bama would not be caught laying in a casket with those shoes on. It seemed as though his shoes told the truth more openly than all the rest.

The more I watch these great earth movers that our world ancors the arch of its orbit to, the more I think most of these stalwart figures are not very different from others, from normal men and women. Still, greatness exists as a part of some people. I'm just not sure it exists in the manner we typically expect it to exist, and the ways we distance ourselves from great men and women do not leave opportunity for our expectation to be disappointed.

I wonder if those who are great do not find themselves caught in a difficulty of reconciling and closing the distance between the great part of them and the normal part of them.

Mr. Rumsfeld seemed to oscillate between his low everyday humanity and the place of greatness in him with as much ease as a man walking from his house to his mailbox and back. The mystery of how such a greatness could be inside of him, of him, a simple man whose wife knows all of his daily vices of pride or stubborness, the mystery seems to have long ago been deeply accepted and to no longer pose any sense of embarassment or need to hide that "low" humanity jammed full of minute every day limitations.

It's very perplexing to wonder where greatness comes from. Then when we settle on some unseen wholly superhumanness on the part of the great person, we are left with no choice but to feel ashamed of our own humanity, or to hide our humanity and feign or construct our own greatness, and we turn suddenly vicious toward those who we were shamefully tricked into thinking were great but then show us mistakes or an incapacity for omniscience, we begin to place the select few on pedestools and alienate them from the rest of the more fallible and humane so that they will not have a chance to show our exalted beliefs to be mistaken...

all this we do, I think maybe, for the sake of committing greatness to some measure of human control. Not that any man can work his way into greatness, but that those who are great were, subtly, their own creators. Just as all of us everyday sorts are our own creators. And we have nowhere to go but to be ashamed that we couldn't create our own greatness and to idealize and alienate those who did create it.

In the end we do not feel all that ashamed, insulated in normal lives, living among normal business people who we do not let to do or say risky greatness-striving things. Our greatness-striving is marginalized into the vicarious realm of television... or the slightly less vicarious realm of layman media... like blogs.

There's another way.

Some people are very great. As I think back I think maybe Mr. Rumsfeld is, whether right or wrong, very great. But his non-chalant acceptance of himself and the way he wears his shoes could fool you. He does not lend himself to idealization, though we are very good at relegating anyone we would like to it. He smiles at you as though greatness is a mysterious occurance he does not understand, yet puts it on without hesitating to assert its fact and definitely he does not apologize.

We all hope for some sort of greatness. And dab-nabbit! only a few people are given it. But greatness, does not take the place of even an ounce of all that human color and incapacity that we're always pleading the fifth about. We should try not to be ashamed of a little humanity inexplicably brushing up against a little greatness. We should try not to shush the normal guy trying to ask the best questions he can think of. We should try not to crucify a great man for being mistaken, see Rumsfeld. And we should definitely try not to crucify him for challenging a majority view, also see Rumsfeld... or, of course, Jesus.

But even if we still do run out into the night on witchhunts egged on by partial truths, I think Rumsfeld will partly understand. And Jesus too.

He said he knew before he accepted his nomination that noone ever ends up with all friends after trying to make changes. Rumsfeld said that, not Jesus. And not because he's right, and not because he's wrong, but because change takes greatness brushing up against the rest of us.

And that's scary, with less than a facade of human control or predictability.

Do you think he came to bring peace on Earth? No, he came to bring division. Jesus did say that. Jesus is scary.

Friday, December 08, 2006

some daily language

When we sweep without

one of those dust mop brooms,
a vague moving cloud following us
into all the rooms,

I choke and hang the inside
collar of my t-shirt over
the bridge of my nose,
suddenly breathe again within
the distinct smell of those
salts from my own sweat
sweet skin. I can lie

on a clean blue sheet
and I will partly lie
against the sensual worlds
longing of underneath. There's nothing
perfect about us

there, a lanky
bone and skin man with dust
in his hair, the desire underneath
a wood and bristle push-broom
left in his hands for a place neither
taken in except where there are limbs and kissing and
nor always then.

These rooms never sweep

from the dust and dust and dust kicked up.
But we hold our breath and all
the dirt that past generations we're sure must have
stomped off here like sins from where
they were, for a while

can be, despite
our dust cloud
less for us.
I will go on sweeping

and sweeping without.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

East of Eden

John Steinbeck wrote this one, no doubt wrote it with dusty farmers hands, calloused finger tips clacking out words like ancient roots and dark minerals on some half rusted type writer.

His stories twine up into a dark valley sky like the bare autumn branches of an old oak. They burn about as hot in a winter furnace too.

You do not tell people what John Steinbeck writes about. The only hope is to put down the book, look the people in their eyes, hold your hands out in front of them, and they'll see how those hands tremble.

I was looking through an open cardboard box of paperback books today. Someone had left them behind the CQ desk to quail the endless boredom of fourteen hours behind a desk. I read the covers. Everyone of them was either a New York Times bestseller or written by the author of a New York Times bestseller. The subtle sadness of the latter title is probably missed behind the flare of "New York Times bestseller" no matter what its context. They mean, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER has been, at their semantic bottom. There appears to be no shortage of New York Times reviewers with flatulences like "suspense", "intrigue", and "thriller" burning on the tips of their tongues.

Any man to use such loose language, and by loose I do mean slutty, to describe a book such as "East of Eden" ought to be--well, scolded harshly, atleast.

Here is what I mean:

"Why should you not tell me?" Adam asked.

"I can see my father's face when he told me. An old misery comes back, raw and full of pain. Telling it, my father had to stop and gain possession of himself, and when he continued he spoke sternly and he used hard sharp words almost as though he wanted to cut himself with them.
"[My parents] managed to stay close together by claiming she was my father's nephew. The months went by and fortunately for them there was very little abdominal swelling, and she worked in pain and out of it. My father could only help her a little, apologizing, 'My nephew is young and his bones are brittle.' They had no plan. They did not know what to do.
"And then my father figured out a plan. They would run into the high mountains to one of the higher meadows, and there beside a lake they would make a burrow for the birthing, and when my mother was safe and the baby born, my father would come back and take his punishment. And he would sign for an extra five years to pay for his delinquent nephew. Pitiful as their escape was, it was all they had, and it seemed a brightness. The plan had two requirements--the timing had to be right and a supply of food was necessary."
Lee said, "My parents"--and he stopped, smiling over his use of the word, and it felt so good that he warmed it up--"my dear parents began to make their preparations. They saved a part of their daily rice and hid it under their sleeping mats. My father found a length of string and filed out a hook from a piece of wire, for there were trout to be caught in the mountain lakes. He stopped smoking to save the matches issued. And my mother collected every tattered scrap of cloth she could find and unraveled edges to make thread and sewed this ragbag together with a splinter to make swaddling clothes for me. I wish I had known her.

"So do I," said Adam. "Did you ever tell this to Sam Hamilton?"

"No. I didn't. I wish I had. He loved a celebration of the human soul. Such things were like a personal triumph to him."

"I hope they got there," said Adam.

"I know. And when my father would tell me I would say to him, 'Get to that lake--get my mother there--don't let it happen again, not this time. Just once let's tell it: how you got to the lake and built a house of fir boughs.' And my father became very Chinese then. He said, 'There's more beauty in the truth even if it is dreadful beauty. The storytellers at the city gate twist life so that it looks sweet to the lazy and the stupid and the weak, and this only strengthens their infirmities and teaches nothing, cures nothing, nor does it let the heart soar.'"

Friday, December 01, 2006

CQ duty

Command Quarters duty does not rank highly on most soldiers' lists of menial jobs that the Army makes us do.
I've been on CQ now for just over four weeks, fourteen hours a day, six and a half days a week. This job requires a lot of sitting behind a little plywood reception desk throughout the midnight hours while the rest of the command quarters personel sleep back in their seven by fourteen SHUs (Service Housing Unit, I believe), more or less glorified disembodied semi-truck containers in actuality. Officers and the higher ranks of enlisted members get SHUs. SHUs are the luxery penthouses of Iraq. The rest of us crowd into the crumbling concrete office or storage builidings that Saddam cleared out for us. Needless to say there were no mints on our pillows when we arrived. We've had to make do by building plywood cubicles for some semblance of privacy.
Back in the command quarters, everynight we occupy ourselves with whatever few jobs we can sweep up. Literally sweeping, itself, being the most consistant. It's freakin Iraq. There's dirt everywhere. Dusty dirt. We sweep (by we, I mean I tell the lower enlisted soldier working with me to sweep) and a vague cloud of dust kicks up and hangs all throughout the building until the fire alarms start going off. So we take out the batteries and sometimes forget to replace them. I wonder if it's a felony to tamper with fire alarms around here. I began wondering this earlier tonight when I found that I had forgotten to replace the fire alarm in the Commander's office.
We also catch flies with our bare hands. It's frikin Iraq. There are flies everywhere this time of year. I began teaching this subtle combat art to the lower enlisted soldiers working with me so they could vent out some of their being forced to sweep frustrations. For beginners I recommend going after sitting flies. But eventually you can catch flies right out of mid air like a lizard's tongue.
I began learning this in the sixth grade at the small farm school I went to where there were no air conditioners and the doors were kept propped open during the summer to catch the Oregon summer breezes. Those were good tackle-football-when-the-teachers-aren't-watching days.
Lastly, I've spent some considerable time reading books. I've wanted to get paid to read books my whole life. And now I do. Who would have thought that the shoot em up Army would be the first to give me such a deal? For this reason, I thrive on CQ where other soldiers wither and dry up like the little fly skeletons we shake in our hands and slam on the ground.
And I suppose I resent the peace and boring quiet even less so as a result of my prior three months here and my two encounters with the world of getting blown up. Again, it's frikin Iraq. There are bombs to blow you up all over the place, but less of them at the CQ desk. In fact, as far as I know, there's never been a buried IED next to the CQ desk. I don't mind not getting blown up. I used to mind, about five months ago. But I don't really plan on ever minding again.