6.16.2008

"Home"

We're back now. Back in the states.

Back to the booze. Back to the insanity of normal living. Fresh introduction to ridiculous gas prices. Great guys coming home to disastrous situations. The most unexpected, failed marriaged, and thankya very much Uncle Sam. Seeing as ol' Unc gives such a shit about fixing these quiet problems. Cheating wives. And who can blame who? Gone for over a year, what is a human being to do?

Just don't discredit the army, and everything is ok. Fuck you, Joe. Figure it out.

The Army cares about families. Really, it does. And that's why the happiest couples are in such an interesting state. That's why a married guy is crashing in the extra space in my room. Because we're all such heroes, we're all supported oh so much. But I guess refusing the dick is a bit much to ask from married women. I guess this is just our new culture. More money for the lawyers.

Here is your shiny happy future! Repetitive briefings filled with scare tactics, to the point where you don't even want to leave your room because it is a FACT that you will fuck up and the Army will destroy you. You're back, and "thank you" and all that, but really, hardly anyone truly cares. You're not in Iraq anymore, you're just another "vet" and yawn an' fuckoff kindly. Deny it all you want, but its the truth. The second day we were back, we went right back to not meaning shit to anyone except our mothers.

When I left, phones flipped open, but made sense. Now my phone has a keyboard and a touch screen. I should need a degree from MIT to run the bastard. You can't find a normal TV, they're all flat pannel HD spreadyercheeksandcoughupthecash crazy contraptions. Now I can see all the starlets blemishes in SUPER HIGH DEFINITION.

Sure, I catch myself scanning the freeway in high def, and the strangely shaped roofs. The shops and malls and hotels and godknowswhat. All to find even less.

"Oh, you're [Father]'s son, the one that just came back from Iraq?! How was it? Was it fun???"

I couldn't make this up if I tried. I've just been holding my tongue, being on my best behavior. That is, til I ended up at a friend's house, this friend being dead, and talking to his widowed wife, drinking wine and feeling awkward. Before I know it, I'm on the porch, hiding from everyone else, and the faucet is turned on, and I'm completely losing it, trying to find logic behind everything when I know that there is none. Trying to come to grips that one of the greatest people that I'll ever meet wasn't able to come home, and now I'm a guest in his wife's house. Oh you can bet I hung my head.

And then I went back to the Consumer Binge, namely in the mall. Sure, the Arabic fellow selling lotion didn't deserve the instinctive freak-out that I gave him, or the threats of bodily harm. He didn't deserve my desire to stomp the life out of him, but what business did he have being in my homeland, freedom aside?

Half the time, it's like I'm still There. The other half of the time, it's ALMOST like I had never actually left. Maybe just slept in. But now people are "proud" of me for doing whatever it is that I did.

I asked a Vietnam Vet a few questions. He said that it took him no time at all to readjust. Once again, we were the weird ones. Step outside and hear some other unit at the range unloading rounds, and for a second, it could be another firefight in Dourah, Baghdad. But no, it's not.

You're home now. You're no one again. All thanks aside, you're just a Joe. And no one here gives a shit. Most of 'em have done it, and the ones who haven't, well those newbie bastards are heading there sooner than soon. No ticker tape parade. Just a slideshow. Powerpoint.

Just liquor. Pouring as much of it into your face as you can, just as long as you don't have to work the next morning (even then, it's debatable). Everything is explainable, but nothing makes SENSE. We got no action, we got no motion. Don't think the boy can play much anymore.

We're kinda just like the rest of you now. Trying our damndest anyway. Got another year left. Then four years inactive.









Far as anyone else is concerned, I was never there. Never once.

6.02.2008

The Grand Fucking Finale

Kuwait. Nightmare of customs.

Waiting. Sleep deprivation. True sand. Dangling freedom right in front of us.

One flight after another. Layovers. Sitting in a bus in the middle of nowhere in Kuwait. Popping Unisoms and watching flight attendants disappear before your eyes. Next time they open, everyone else is eating. Everyone but you, as you wipe a thick sticky streak of saliva off your cheek.

You wake up in Ireland, just long enough to smoke a cigarette and catch another briefing.

You wake up in Bangor. By the time we got to our destination, no one even seemed that excited. Only a little. I always imagined that the plane would be fucking INSANE as we were landing, like a riot of very pleased Joes that no one could contain.

The truth is that most people were too tired and worn out or self conscious to even make a sound. Scattered "Whooo!" and clapping could be heard, but ultimately, our shit was weak.

When I stepped off the plane for the last time, a three star general and several other officers were waiting. As I shook the general's hand, I really couldn't think of a profound reply, so I responded to his thanks and hooah-congratulations with a heartfelt, "WHHOOOOOO!!!!!" Fuck it, treat it all like an AC/DC concert, right?

Another briefing. Turned in our rifles. Received packets. The voices echoed in the large room and no one had a fucking clue what the important ones were saying, and really, we doubted that it even mattered. We were home.

They stuffed us on buses. And to my LEGITIMATE SURPRISE, we waited. And waited. In my wildest dreams, I always thought that when we went home, it would be an expedited process. Truth is, they drag it out so long that you can't even get excited about it.

Then we arrived at Fort Lewis. It was weird. It was the same, and different at the same time. I didn't know WHAT the hell to think. They had us form up, big mass formation, complete idiocy if you asked me. Finally we marched in, in columns of twos, to a live military band.

Cheers. Like we were fucking rock gods or something. We were heralded, and for who know's what reasons, and dammit, who cares? It was without a doubt the one and only cool part about the redeployment process. The Beatles couldn't generate this much cheering. The families looked like they were ready to tear the gym apart. Ravenous for their American Boys.

It was weird. It was like I'd never left, but at the same time, like I was going to wake up at any moment and still be in Iraq.

I got my room key, threw my bags inside, and left with the family. Steaks. Beer.





My time in Purgatory is fucking OVER. Nice ride. See you on Part 3.

5.30.2008

The Cover Jacket For My Book

Yes, all this time on my hands to spam and spam meaningless posts about how great I think I am, naturally when I saw this, I'd repost it. It's all about our favorite subject: Me.

This is from Big Tobacco's blog at http://big-tobacco.blogspot.com





The Usual Suspect

I wrote this while smoking a Fincks Maravilloso.

I don’t know Specialist Suspect, but I’ve met him before. Suspect is the specialist that haunts my dreams. He is the one who cracks jokes in formation, shams to get out of duty and is the reason you always find yourself in front of the commander explaining why the lieutenant is so pissed off.

Suspect is a nightmare because he was good enough to reach the rank of specialist and smart enough to stay there. He’s figured out the system and he works it.Detail to do?He’ll grab a private to do it.

Need him to draw an expensive piece of equipment?

He’ll get his team leader.

Found “Two Girls One Cup” as your default webpage?

“SUSPECT!!!”

Yet somehow, Specialist Suspect always endears himself to you. You find yourself screaming at him, smoking him, and then walking away laughing. There are times when you don’t know whether to kiss him or kill him. If you are training, running patrols or blowing stuff up, he'll be the first one in line and you will be amazed at his performance. But if a truck needs to be moved, he will disappear. You will wish you had ten Suspects out in the field, but one Suspect in the rear is too much.

I started reading Suspect’s blog sometime in October of last year. He was featured on The Sandbox, a website that I started reading out of morbid curiosity when I found out that I was deploying to Iraq.

I’ve found that many milblogs are full of posing and preening. They use deep thoughts and beautiful, surreal colors to describe the sense of determination and wonder that soldiers want the world to think that they feel.

Suspect’s blog was different. First of all, he didn’t care what you thought of him. While other bloggers talked about the beauty of an Iraqi sunset, Suspect would be talking about masturbating in the porta-shitter. Secondly, he wasn’t afraid to show the world that he was only in this for the college money and definitely NOT having a good time.Suspect’s attitude is real. I would say that 80% to 90% of all soldiers are only in it for the college money. They only intend to do one tour. They bide their time shamming, play practical jokes, get drunk and lose their wallet at some fat girl’s house off post and come back to the barracks a vomit-soaked mess. Suspect’s Army is the real Army. His blog opened a window for the world to see Joe through the eyes of Joe.

Suspect is in Kuwait now, waiting to redeploy. As much as I’ll miss the stories he posted every few days, I start my own rotation in mid June and I’ll have my own stories to tell.Welcome back, Suspect. You made it. Now I need you to get a detail together to…SSG Big Tobacco







Not bad huh? He's about to hit the box, so put that link in your favorite's list and keep checking in on him. Hell, that post was so motivating that I kind of want to rip apart a huge steak, swallow some potatoes whole, and suck down a cigar, maybe even slap a General when I'm done.

This'un's for you, Sarge.

For The Nam Guys

While I'm busy here in Kuwait, fucking off and wasting more time on the internet than I have in a single month in Iraq, I'd like to address something.

Some of the coolest emails and comments I get come from Vietnam vets. If anyone gets it, they do, and then some. I've heard some amazing stories from these guys, and I also read John Leppelman's book Blood On The Risers.

It blows my mind, because I end up feeling a little guilty for all the gratitude I get, when we don't have it anywhere NEAR as bad as these guys did. Most of us don't get spit on, at most, an idiot will spout their mouth off about how evil and brainwashed we are, and we laugh it off and that's it. Nam vets got fucked every step of the way. I think the Thank You emails are vastly overdue.

You can't cut it by putting out movies with Sean Penn and Charlie Sheen and dramatizing and Hollywood-fucking their war. What kind of consolation is that? If they feel anywhere near as pissed off as I felt when I watched "Stop-Loss" or any of the bold new Iraq cash cow dramawhoring movies that are eeking their way into the box office, then we all owe some massive apologies.

Yet another reason why I won't wear the CIB. My deployment really wasn't all that bad all things considered. Now stand me next to someone who spent insane amounts of time out in the bush with rotting feet and 90 day wonder left-tenants, and you'll see a Wayne's World style "We're not worthy!"

Warm beds, phone connections, INTERNET FOR CHRIST'S SAKE, laptops and portable DVD players with bootleg movies that we can watch as soon as a WEEK after the movie hits theaters, showers, a chow hall staffed with little brown people working for KBR, and the list goes on.

The hell with me, thank a Nam vet. Or Korea vet. WWII.

Then again, most of us, we just watch our war movie reruns on Memorial Day, catch the repeat of Band of Brothers, and that's pretty much it. Doesn't bother me personally, I won't need a designated day to remember my guys. I'm sure the vets don't either. Guess we'll always have our shitty movies.

HOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOAH!!!!!!

Pff. Gimme a break.

If I ever sat down at a VFW bar and ended up in a conversation with one of the old-timers, I think I'd just shut the fuck up and listen, because I feel like I really don't have a damn thing to say in comparison.

And then again, "Thanks" just doesn't cut it either. I draw a blank on this one. Whatever it is, I guess it's just unspoken. You can't really communicate it either. But this post's for you, boys.

Vultures and POGs

Here in Kuwait, there isn't a damn thing to do, and that's precisely the reason why posts have been so frequent now.

One of my friends and I were out and about exploring this wasteland (after Iraq, this place really doesn't seem that bad. It just sucks, but it doesn't seem like its been marinaded in runny, sickly shit for eons). Kuwait has REAL sand, not the Iraq dust and dirt, but legitimate sand. In the movies, when you see someone walking aimlessly across the dunes, there's always vultures circling overhead, waiting for the lost traveller to grow too weak to continue, then they descend on him and pick his bones.

Here, it's bootleg vendors. They've got their shops set up all over the place and they shout at you as you walk by, explaining how incredible their shitty merchandise is.

"Mista, you want dress? For sister, wife, girlfriend, mother, anyone, very good dress," one of them hounds me.

I looked at my friend. "Dude, I never in my wildest dreams imagined that I'd come to the Middle East to be harassed by carnies."

My friend picks up a power adapter for an iPod.

"Hey, how much for this?"

"Fifty dollar."

Without hesitation, he chucks it back onto the table and walks away. I don't blame him. We survived a tour of duty in Iraq. Hell, this dude was SHOT. Saved by his body armor. In our cross between being completely worn out from the whole process, and travel, and being completely elated by the fact that we're supposedly going home, we just don't have the patience to deal with little bullshit like this. In fact, we feel above it all, like it's so inconsequential that we really don't have to take it seriously. We can have fun with anyone.

The people we overhear in the chow hall, Navy personnel who verbalize their training plans.

"Well, I think the first week, we should leave the plates out of our IBAs (body armor) and then the second or third week, put them in."

"But the plates are half the weight."

"No, not exactly I don't think."

I look at my friend. "Plates? What about all the AMMO? No one ever takes that into consideration."

"....Who cares?" he stares at me with utter contempt for even paying attention to a conversation that no longer applies to us in any way.

"....Dunno."





As I write, some older guy with a perfect high and tight hair cut and a hook nose struggles with his body armor, an assault pack (army style backpack, really) and a bag from the PX while trying to log onto a computer. He makes strange grunting noises, like Donald Duck meets Gollum as he quietly curses the machine and the cubicle that he can't seem to navigate.

He swipes his card, and it doesn't work.

"Ah, dangit....grnn..."

His body armor smacks against the wooden wall and his bag rattles and makes that ruffling sound plastic bags always make. His assault pack snags on the chair or something as he tries to move it to the other side of the chair. He half stands, getting his ass thoroughly kicked by the desk and his equipment. I have no idea why this guy even has this shit in here.

"Gah........rrn! C'mon....shitshitshitdamn!"

He finally gets up and drags his shit to another computer.

With as much negative criticism as I have for the Army and the military, I'll still always have that Infantry Superiority Complex. Seeing noncombatant personnel, it's always surreal and comical for me. Their priorites all out of whack, their leadership with no clue what combat is really like.

"I make my soldiers roadmarch all the time, teach muscle memory," a female First Sergeant once told me when I was going on leave. We never roadmarch in Iraq. And her soldiers never patrol. It reminded me of the time I was driving one of our Strykers to the fuel point, and I saw a bunch of finance clerks outside, doing reflexive fire exercises (raising your weapon, ready to fire, on command). They had no ammo, just the clumsily long M16s, standing on the side of the road, looking like idiots, preparing for something that they'll never actually do.

Asinine. The new word of the year. Mark my words.

Free Bird Part Two

After eons and millenia of waiting, we loaded our gear up once again. Let me tell ya, we are so fucking sick of packing and repacking and moving and hauling duffel bags and rucksacks, that at this point, I'm almost ready to just cut them adrift and show up with a carry-on bag.

We were stuffed into a tent, all on cots, cots against both sides of the walls, crammed together, cots wedged up next to each other all down the center, gear in the aisles for everyone to trip over, power that goes out at the hottest time of the day, killing the AC. And wiley MPs and Oakley thieves.

That is, until the Hurry Up And Wait game brought us to the airfield and we loaded up on C-130s.

"They have to leave the engines on," some dude instructed, "so make sure you have hearing protection."

I thought to myself, Dude, at this point, you can't do shit for our hearing. Explosions, gunfire, loud machinery, and iPods? Pretty sure if we're fucked, we're fucked, and our aging asses will watch The Price Is Right with subtitles on. Now move.

Rather than panick about the noise coming from the bird, they should warn you about the wind and heat that shoots out of the engines. It's like a giant blow dryer trying to knock you down and scald you.

I put on my headphones and jammed Skynyrd and fantasized about Irish Carbombs and attractive women when the plane took off, and it was just another military flight to me. Didn't really feel like we were leaving, just moving to another shithole, which technically is true. Some dude threw up during the landing procedure, inspiring passionate, "Aww, what the FUCK, man?!" cries from a couple of people. When The Vomitor got on the bus later, we all clapped and cheered for him.

They herded us all across white sand type places to new temporary living places.

Welcome back to Kuwait.

5.28.2008

Oakley Bandits

As we continued our reign of terror in this big Pleasantville FOB full of M16-toting clerks, I saw a couple of my friends standing by some concrete bunkers, with a group of Air Force MPs.

Apparently, one of the insidious Anaconda Gangs broke into the Oakley shop and stole a bunch of shit, and when some of my friends walked into the shop this morning looking to waste money, they found the door open and a bunch of shit missing. The vendor ran up on them, spazzing out, and the almighty authorities were summoned.

[Sgt BenHur] had been in the PX earlier and had bought a Monster energy drink. The Oakley Shop was his next stop. In all their action-seeking glory, the MPs commanded him, "PUT THE CAN DOWN AND STEP AWAY! STEP AWAY FROM THE CAN!!!"

How in the fuck can you even call a tour of duty on this FOB a deployment?

Questioning went on for about two hours or so as each guy gave the same story. Walked into the shop. Door was open. Display case was open. End of story.

Personally, I probably would have made an indignant scene had I been one of the individuals in question. After well over a year of the shit we've gone through for god knows what reason, I just don't see myself taking any rent-a-cops seriously.

No offense, Sandy. You are not, nor will you ever be associated in my mind with these vile creatures. Stay tuned as the bullshit unfolds. I expect a year's worth of idiocy, IEDs not included.

Arrogant Little Bastard

Never one to be the patient type, I've been keeping myself entertained while waiting for the next phase of travel. Thing is though, this typically involves me having fun at others' expense.

Me (to a young MP): "What the fuck is that on your unit patch?"
MP: "Huh? Where?"
Me: "Is that a BEAR?"
MP: "Yeah."
Me: "Wow. I've seen some really gay unit patches. I've even seen one with a little seahorse on it."
MP: [nervous chuckle]
Me: "And the 2nd Cav patch, looks like a girl scout patch if you ask me."

Of course I'm wearing the 2nd ID Indian Head patch. One of the few unit patches that doesn't look retarded. The 101st probably tops ours, and 1st ID has a simple cut and dry one, but for the most part, unit patches just look stupid. Especially when they have a cute fuzzy bear on it.

Me: "What's going on, sergeant?"
Sgt (as he places an order in Subway): Not much, you?"
Me: "Not much. Going home."
Sgt: "On R&R?"
Me: "No. For good. Redeploying." [Shit eating grin]

It's essential to point out that you're going home, especially to the non-combat MOS types that hang around this base. Plus, we already stick out like sore thumbs here, being that we're Infantry and have no regard for social norms or manners or the opinions of others.

We're like outlaws in this domesticated, glitzed out FOB. America, you're next.

5.27.2008

Free Bird Part One

We packed the last of our shit up and tossed duffels and rucksacks into the backs of five ton trucks and played the waiting game on the gravel.

Sprawled out at the airfield and shot the shit til the sun went down, and soon the helicopters touched down in shifts, loading us up. The wind from the rotors damn near knocked me over, same as it always does, and we squeezed inside. I found myself staring at a wall of duffel bags, thinking about how bad it would suck if it all avalanched on me.

The bird began to lift off and I flipped the bird towards the back ramp and shouted, "FUCK YOU, WARHORSE, FUUUUUCK YOOOOOU!", barely audible over the roar of the helo.

Warhorse disappeared underneath us and dropped us off at our next transient destination.

My friend and I ducked out of a detail, cocked our hats on our heads, and went for a walk, proudly showing off our stripped weapons and making it known that we are going home.

Render salute. Greeting of the day.

"Going home, Sir!"

The officers from other units sure love it. The look on their faces isn't one of pure hatred or anything.

Phase One complete.

Lulz

This came from a post at http://zionred.livejournal.com/.

"Of course, you do hear of a few that stray from the pack and try to give American soldiers a bad name. Unfortunately, those are the soldiers that the media often profiles while ignoring the rest. Case in point: just check out this blog from a soldier who calls himself The Unlikely Soldier. (warning: it is layered with profanities)It's a perfect example of a "rotten apple" within the armed forces that gives other American soldiers a bad name. His ramblings are some of the most immature, thoughtless and senseless postings you will ever read from a soldier. Thankfully, most soldiers are not like this. "

Oh the irony. I like this fellow already.

5.26.2008

Final Minutes

The Strykers pulled back onto the FOB, about a week or so ago, and the ramps dropped. We piled out and pointed our rifles at the clearing barrels.

"Clear."

"Clear."

We mounted back up, stripping off our gear and shutting radios down. I didn't know it at the time, but that was my last mission.

We turned in all sorts of high tech sensitive type items and gadgets. Turned in what ammo we had left. Cleaned gear, packed huge metal containers, the type of shit you see at docks, repacked them, unpacked them, had them inspected. We kept busy with all manner of Preparing To Leave busywork. And the whole time, it was never real.

Just going to a new tent. Maybe a new FOB. That's it. The States? Shit son, that's just a myth to keep morale up. There is no world, there is only Iraq.

We had all sorts of formations and award ceremonies and horse and pony cuteness on top of the scrubbing of body armor and the chainsmoking of cigarettes. Got me that fancy Army Commendation award, and wouldn't ya know it, El Tee pinned that Combat Infantryman Badge on my chest. Pushed the needles in all slow like. I don't remember where I put it, if I even kept it.

Asinine traditions aside, the best part is realizing that you will never shake another Iraqi hand (probably not, anyway). Never hear the screech of, "Mistah! Mistah! FOOTBALL! CHOCOLATA!" Never smell the burning trash and shit and body odor stench of Baghdad again. God I better not.

Not worry if a house is going to explode when I walk into it. Hopefully.

Not worry that some chubby woman in black is going to explode once she gets close enough to me. I pray.

Not worry about shit exploding in the road, about assholes with table cloths wrapped around their heads shooting at me for no particularly good reason. None of it.

Nah, truth is, shit like that, just might stick with you for a while. So be it. I can check my corners while I'm renting DVDs. Small price to pay.

This place isn't my problem anymore. In a matter of days, it'll just be another name in the newspaper. Headlines and warped stories nowhere near the truth. No more body armor, no more rifle, no more ammo or night vision or knee pads or helmets, only thing left is the idiot-patterned uniform.

Yeah, tap the kegs and hand over the American luxuries, in excess. The world can eat my ass, because I've done my time in Purgatory. As far as I'm concerned, I have no sins, never did. Sweated them all away. Blood, sweat, tears. Hell, I even have some credit now. Got some goodness to burn off. Sounds great.

It's over. Never bother me again.
Fuck you Baghdad.
Fuck you, Dourah.
Fuck you, Baqubah.
Fuck you, Iraq. Fuck you, Kuwait.
Fuck you mosques and run down schools and pitiful masonry and stripped down "houses".
Fuck you, donkey.
Fuck you, mangey dog.
Fuck you, screeching children.
Fuck you, corrupt militia dude.
Fuck you, lazy public defender.
Fuck you, Stryker.
Fuck you, M4.
Fuck you, FOB Warhorse.
Fuck you, pitiful attempt at a Pizza Hut.
Fuck you, bootleg DVD vendors.
Fuck you, Iraqi people with your cotton track suits.
Fuck you, soccer.
Fuck you, triple digit heat.

Fuck y'all. I'm out. It's over. Done. I've fulfilled my commitment. Enlisted with a mission in mind, and I did it. It's over.

Now how the fuck am I supposed to take my last year in the Army seriously? My mission is complete. Part Three oughta be interesting.




Shamming, short-timing, scheming. Cuz fuck it, it's all over for me. Garrison life is a complete joke. Tradition? Multiple formations just because the clock reads a certain time? Pristine uniforms and customs and courtesies? Come on. You gotta be joking.

It's going to be a rough year.















FUCKYOUIRAQIAINTNEVERCOMINGBACK.

5.21.2008

Untitled

Shh. Just listen.










Soon.

5.09.2008

Too Short For This Shit

It was a whiz, a zooming, a whistling, kind of like a low flying jet. You know, until it exploded.

[Sgt DolphLundgren] locked eyes in a moment of idiotic disbelief, just as that adrenaline ice-water-in-the-face feeling took over. We were taking incoming. And close.

We stumbled out of his trailer and outside was complete insanity, everyone running in different directions. One of the impacts was DAMN close.

"Suspect! GET AN AID BAG!" Sgt "Dolph" orders.

"Gotcha! .......Where?"

"On the truck!"

"I don't have a key!" I shout back at him.

"On TOP of the truck!!!"

"Oh! Ok!!!"

I sprinted towards our vehicles and started to climb on top when a thought hit me. I turned around and ran back.

"Where do we meet up?!"

"WHEREVER A BUNCH OF FUCKING PEOPLE ARE!!!" he yells back.

"Oh! ....OK!!!"

I rushed back out to the truck, scambled on top, spitting a cigarette out of my mouth and tossing a water bottle with NoXplode over my shoulder.

Aid bag, aid bag, aid bag, where the fuck, where the fuck, come on goddammit...

"SUSPECT! HURRY UP WITH THE FUCKING AID BAG!!!"

I stumbled forward, thinking I spotted it on the truck and racked my skull on the frame of the camo net. Then I threw my rifle behind me onto the front of the truck and scrambled through ammo cans and all sorts of shit on top of the truck while screaming and chaos ensued all around. When I finally spotted the bag and reached for it, the damn thing rolled back further and I had to crawl to get it. I was grunting and panting and cussing myself out while mental images of dudes thoroughly ripped up raced through my head. Once I grabbed the bag, I threw it off the truck, climbed over the cage and stumbled down, grabbed my weapon, and sprinted to the first crowd of people, screaming.

"AID BAG! AID BAG! GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE WAY!"

Meanwhile, [Sgt CoolCat] had been in the latrine, taking a piss, when the impact occurred. He stood there, dick in hand, trying to decide if he should finish or not. People immediately start shouting for him, being that he's a medic, so he cuts off midstream, sprinkling piss on his PT shorts, and scrambles outside.

[Stan Marsh] is on the way to call his wife when one of the rounds impacts nearby. Before reporting back to the company for accountability, he assists with wounded. We didn't find out til later, as he never said a damn thing about it.

I looked around as everyone quickly got their shit together.

"Man, I'm too fucking short for this shit," says [Sgt Trucker].

"So, do I sense another blog coming on?" asks [Staff Sergeant Suspect-Almost-Killed-Me-In-A-Rollover]. I look back at him and quickly babble something about MySpace, not wanting to outwardly shush him. Attempted anonymity is a bitch.

The mantra of all the guys: We're too fuckin' short for this kinda shit.

That night, I couldn't sleep worth a shit. Maybe it was the NoXplode, maybe it was wondering if someone was going to spaz out in their sleep and start babbling about incoming, maybe it was because my new bed sucks ass and there's always a light shining on my face. I don't know.

But we are WAY too short for this shit.

5.01.2008

The Ringing

The heat wasn't too oppressive, in fact, there was a little bit of a breeze. The funny thing though, is that we didn't even notice.

"FRAG OUT!"

The grenade explodes, throwing up the big cloud of dust, not the fireball you see in movies. A 105mm tank round blasts its target with another deafening roar. 5.56mm shell casings are bouncing off of my helmet from the guy next to me, and my shell casings are hitting the guy on my right. We're spitting lead with apocalyptic fury. The .50 cals are rocking, the 240Bravos are chattering, the shotguns, the pistols, the mortars. It's an orgy of firepower.

Destroyed vehicles and scarred wastelands are once again disturbed by our mindless onslaught, and there we are, getting gloriously lost in the insanity of it all. Squeezing triggers and belching out metal, stopping only to reload. Our ears are ringing in ridiculous octaves and still we're throwing flashbangs and firing explosives and spitting out small arms fire.

The best part of it all, is that no one is shooting back at us.

Just a group of frustrated, overworked, tired, homesick, angry motherfuckers letting loose with everything we got. Relentless. Chaos. Sheer animosity. Beautiful.

I side-arm a grenade and hit the dirt while everyone laughs at my feminine throw. I blast away with my M4, switching to burst and chewing up anything downrange that looks fun to shoot. I hopped into the gunner's seat of one of our MGS Strykers (the ones with the 105mm tank gun on 'em) and blasted away at a couple car hulks. When I fired the first round, the whole vehicle bucked so much that the screen I was looking at kicked me in the face. It was awesome.

With the 240, I squeezed the trigger and held it down, spraying left and right with a nice, passionate ten second burst.

By now, I've fired almost every weapon the Army has to offer. When the fun was over, I reloaded my magazines and piled back into the truck, completely satisfied. Our female interpreter didn't seem too pleased. Apparently she can't relate to the pure joy that man gets from explosions and guns and all things rude. Amidst the fury of it all, our commander could be seen walking behind the crowds, with a cigar in his teeth and an ear to ear grin.

Hey, this is what it's all about. Part of me wanted to shoot off every last round we had, but we aren't done yet. No matter, consider this a refresher, because the amount of firepower we pack is astounding. So if shit hit the fan, we could let loose with epic wrath.






Tubular.

4.26.2008

Through A Heat Stroke Darkly

The countdown should have already begun but ol' Suspect here doesn't give two squirts of piss about how long we have left. Not til the last mission is over, then it's time to count days. Until then, it's just the same freakshow every day.

The boys all strap on their fancy high tech super soldier gear, oppressive body armor and an assortment of pads and doohickeys, and plop down on the benches in the Stryker. Prepare your nightvision. Click. Good to go.

The truck transports us to another nowhere neighborhood in a nowhere town of a nowhere country that makes big news and the ramp drops, and all of it is very familiar. Very.

Boots hit the dirt and good God is it hot tonight. Flip the NODs (nightvision) down over the eye and dart your focus in all directions, scanning through a green lens in search of that evil bastard that probably isn't out there.

Down streets, across fields, stepping over trash and concertina wire and donkey shit. Take a knee, pull security, step into the courtyard. Clear the house, wait for the word from someone who actually knows what's going on, step into the street, rinse and repeat. Gargle. Swish. Spit. Wipe the sweat out of your eyes.

My clear lens eye protection glasses fog up with sweat and after wiping them repeatedly with a filthy glove, I say fuck it and take them off. That's me, upholding the standard. Whatever, I'll take the risk of getting my ass chewed in order to see where I'm walking.

Miss a step, ankle almost went. And goddamn this place. God damn these streets, the filth, the fucking stench, the eyes on you, the gear you hump everywhere, god damn the fashionable Oakleys that protect our eyes from whatever.

Someone else misses a step and eats shit, hard. Bite your cheek to keep from laughing out loud.




Now I'm on another roof, looking out at the neighborhood, and I turn around to walk back to the doorway. A wire snags my foot and I jerk it forward. This causes part of a satellite dish to break free and skitter across the roof. Whoops. Maybe if they didn't string wires everywhere so much like spider webs.

I'm dabbing sweat away from my eyes with my disgusting glove and my face is good and red. It's the middle of the night. More houses and more streets and more trash and shit and I have no idea what our overall goal is. Hell, I never do. The only concept I can ever wrap my head around is "pull security".

You know the drill by now. Embrace paranoia and look for that monster in the closet, where's Waldo, trying to spot that threat that isn't there and you know it. But you also know what happens when you DON'T spot it when it IS there.

And so you spend a night keeping an eye out for the Islamic Boogeyman and no such luck good sir, and it's finally time to load back on the trucks and go home, get some sleep.


Wake up and do it again, mid-day.

Rooftops and radiating sunlight, the occasional breeze but never enough. More houses, more kids, more everything and the same thing we've seen for over a year now.

A shop vendor offers me an orange or some version of one. It's swarmed with flies. I drop it in my pocket and go back to looking for nothing. He starts asking me for things. Like my goddamn Oakleys.


I stand on another roof top with a friend, smoking and staring at the most miserable place I can fathom. On the street below, a guy with a tractor and cart throws rusty propane tanks on the ground. The people around him stare up at me and I stare down at them and I feel no connection whatsoever.

We're from completely different worlds, different eras, different EVERYTHING. And I'm just doing my time here. So do me the favor of not asking me for anything, not shooting at me or trying to blow me up, not interacting with me in any way and I'll be out of your hair in no time.

Kindly fuck off.

4.23.2008

Kamikaze Kelly

After my last day of tower guard, I was afforded a day off. When the boys got back for the day, [StanMarsh] popped his head into my living area and sat down on my bunk to enlighten me on what I missed.

He pulled his camera out. On the screen, he showed me what looked like a black mop head lay on the ground, covered in dust.

"Oh, damn, is that a head?" I asked.

"Yeah. Some lady blew herself up. Look at this one, here's part of her skull."

I whistled a little.

"The smell was so fuckin' bad, dude," he shook his head, chuckled a tiny empty laugh.

While I did laundry and cleaned my living area up, they were dealing with the aftermath of a suicide bombing. Scattered body parts, wounded and killed Iraqis. The attack was targeting the local "good guy" militia.

She walks up to the house, probably trying to have a "meeting" with their head honcho. They stop her at the gate to search her supposedly. She goes with Plan B.

And it's all summed up by a dirty, disheveled, black Cousin It laying in the street. Guess she was trying to prove a point or something.

Now once again, here is where the gloves come off for a minute.

The truth is that maybe this is the stuff that we live for, those of us who wanted to come here and fight. When we see shit that went horribly bad, people all gored up, we know that we're right where we need to be. It's sick proof that we aren't just jerking our dicks.

Face down in the middle of the road in Baghdad, nothing left of one arm except the bone.

Face down, hands tied behind the back, head severed and blindfolded.

Riddled with shrapnel and bullets. A line of ants already walking into his nose (he fell on an anthill).

After a while, it isn't even all that disturbing. Just strange. Different.






Better you than us.

4.18.2008

Don't Recruit Me

I have no place on any more bandwagons. This includes IVAW (Iraq Veterans Against the War). I have no problem with them whatsoever and I commend them for doing what they feel is right, but that ain't me.

There isn't a single cause I'm looking to rally for. I don't need any form of salvation or enlightenment or redirection. Don't need my eyes opened to the truth, I'll just kick it here in the Matrix, thankyouverymuch. Still committed to my last cause as a matter of fact.

I don't want your sweatshop petitions or dates of when your next rally is. Don't want to protest anything. Don't want to read about your Scientology. Don't want to know where mankind came from or even where it's going. Don't want to hear about evil political agendas. Don't want to fight "the good fight", don't even want to fight the bad fight.

I spent four hours in that godforsaken guard tower during a sandstorm that brought visibility down to less than a hundred meters, letting my imagination run wild. While I'm up there doing jack shit, my platoon is on a raid somewhere. When I get off shift before they return, the internet is down. That gets the old imagination running in over time. Phones and internet are cut off when something happens.

Turns out my connection is just shit.

Still, with this going on, and being preoccupied with things like Short-Timing, why would I want to rush to stand under another banner? WHO CARES? I'll be perfectly happy with what I have, no sandwich board sign required. I don't need enemies. Got enough of em as it is.

This is what hermits are made out of.

Truth is that no one out there has the answers. There ARE no answers. It's just a chaotic, crazy, fucked up world and all you can do is grab life by the short sweaty hairs and hang on, laugh in the face of it and be a little bit reckless. Most importantly, just don't bother to give one peanut-butter-jelly-fuck about half of the garbage people spaz out about. Who cares?

So please, no pamphlets, no seminars, no re-enlistment briefings, no weekend retreats, no meetings, no re-education, no fierce debates, no nothing. I don't have anybody's fight to fight but my own. Stop soliciting cuz I'm not buying.

Lemme reiterate real quick-like: I'm dooooone. Finished and kaput. About to punch the time card and toss my good work shirt aside, maybe even use it to mop up the after-party. Devoted enough time to a cause, now it's almost time to start working my way out of here, to get back into that groove of normal. Sell me that. I'll buy a thousand shares right now.

I've seen exactly what following a cause can do. Following a cause gets people killed. Religious zealots are following causes right up to the moment they push that button, leaving someone else to clean them off the street. I won't be anyone's tool anymore, not after this.

So dust off the brand spankin' new cars and write the prices with soap. Line up the furnishings and appliances, just swipe my card. File this application, check out these SAT scores, yo! Lemme rejoin the common populace and pick up where I left off!

Ah, not yet? K, well let's start working on it then. I'll be out of the meatgrinder soon enough.




And when I am, as far as I'm concerned, I'll be nineteen all over again. And I'll know everything, just like last time. Sounds great.

4.16.2008

What A Dipshit

I perked up in the tower when I saw my platoon rolling back into the gate. I waved at the first truck, waved at the second one, waiting until I was out of their view, then proceeded to give the third truck both middle fingers. Then I turned around and stood in the doorway to the tower so I could flip the rear air guards off.

"Fuuuuuuuck yooooooou, buddy!" I yelled, demonstrating my ability to signal in traffic.

A hand reaches under the camo net of the Stryker and lifts it up to reveal none other than my First Sergeant. He points directly at me.

"Yeah, I got you now! I GOT you!"

I stood there in shock as my middle finger and the rest of my arm slowly dropped to my side, the same way my jaw slowly dropped to my chest. He has NEVER ridden in that truck before. What are the fucking odds?

Lemme tell ya about this guy real quick. Though most of the time, me and authority clash, not with this guy. He embodies what I thought the Army would be like. He's tough but fair, capable, he's not all about the bullshit. I have endless respect for the man. He's fucking awesome, but God help you if you piss him off. He'll snatch your soul.

And there I was leaning out of the tower with The Finger flying, shouting, "Fuuuuuuck yoooou!"

After that, I just shook my head and cracked open a bottle of water. Started hydrating.

4.15.2008

Combat Blue Balls

This expression, in this particular context, is not one that I made up. I read it somewhere, and lemme tell ya, it's a dead-on description.

I sat on a cooler up in my tower, miserable and sweating. I'd pull on the neck of my body armor and feel heat steam up from my chest. My Gatorade was piss hot within minutes. Minutes dragged on and I cursed all who were responsible for putting me on this detail.

"Hey," my Ugandan counterpart broke the silence, "That ambulance is coming down the wrong side."

I looked down the entrance and sure enough, there was an Iraqi ambulance with lights flashing heading down the military lane. I snatched my M4 up and chambered a round (I don't chamber one until I dismount or need to fire) and waited for him to reach a point that justified a warning shot.

"Wait, call it up first," the Ugandan Tower Guard Veteran advised. I grabbed the radio with my free hand.

"[BossMan] this is [TowerDude], we've got an Iraqi ambulance attempting to enter [EntryPoint]."

"....Say again, over?"

Ambulance slows as a couple Iraqis near the gate try to tell him he can't come in this way. Thing is, when the insurgency first kicked off, they'd use ambulances to get through checkpoints and ambush people. When I saw it coming with lights a-flashing, it flipped that Activate Infantryman switch. I sent the report up again, cursing this guy on the other end.

"Roger...well they aren't supposed to come in through that gate. Do you have an interpreter? If you have an interpreter, have him tell them--"

Is he fucking SERIOUS?!

"--that they need to go to [OtherPlace]."

I dropped the radio on the cooler and waited for the ambulance to come closer, ready to rock. It turned around and left.

There is such a thing as Combat Blue Balls. It occurs when something kicks off and your adrenaline starts rushing and you're more than ready to get it on and all you need is that final go-ahead, whatever it may be.

And that go-ahead never comes. Gets canceled. Disregard that. Negative. Return to FOB. Cease fire. Stand down. Abort. Pull out, Goose.

So there you are, all jacked up over a false alarm, and pissed about it. Not even getting to fire that one inconsequential shot. Can't get a healthy dose of what you came here for.

Hearts and minds? Come on, we never thought anything about that when we were signing up, when we were packing our gear, when we were eating Chicken Freezedried Bleu on the plane. No, we had all that action and insanity on the brain. That's what you enlist into the Infantry for. Young, dumb, reckless assholes like myself wanting to wreak some havoc on some bad guys. The hearts and minds thing, that only comes in small doses, when you have those occasional moments out in sector that make you want to ooooh and watch LifeTime for a month, that's just not us.

Instead, you're standing there with sweat running down your face, thumb still on the safety, ready to feel like you're in Iraq for a reason, to fulfill your own individual purpose, and nothing. Sorry bud.

You wait for your nerves to settle while you listen to the radio traffic. Big incident inside the city. Large number of casualties, civilian. The reports of wounded come in systematically as injured civilians are brought in to be treated.

Burns of all degrees.
Bleeding.
Shrapnel.
Head trauma.
Amputations.
Gunshot wounds.

Civilians.

So there's the proof. The assholes are still out there somewhere and I got a hardon that slings 5.56mm lead and agonizingly blue balls.

4.14.2008

Another Brief News Mention

"Others choose to remain nameless, like the Usual Suspect. He's the author of one of the most well-known and gritty soldier blogs called the Unlikely Soldier. The blog carries photos and uncensored thoughts. And the author warns the content is not suitable for everyone."

Hahaha.

Here's the article:

http://www.kwwl.com/News/index.php?ID=23059

Thank you, thank you. It's only because people read and spread through word of mouth and links and all that, that we military blogger types get any recognition, good or bad.

Also, thanks once again to everyone for reading and commenting and emailing and offering opinions, support, criticism, toilet humor, and shivers of disgust. You are the reason I make an attempt to spell check.

4.12.2008

Ah Shit....The Experiment Continues

Now and then I take it upon myself to firmly assert my position as the Bastard of All Bastards, Shithead Supreme. I can do this, even from the other side of the planet. With minimal effort, I had a gallon (yes, GALLON) of gorilla shit (yes, shit from a live gorilla's ass) delivered to someone's house. Was I wronged in any way? No.

Of course, this individual COULD act as my extended reach and use this newly acquired gorilla shit to get someone else for me, but in all likelihood, the dooker has already been disposed of, which is tragic.

Got a credit card and a desire to dish the shit out? go to http://www.poopsenders.com and enjoy.




The Zoloft Experiment continues with minimal progress. I still haven't been angry, rageful, or depressed, so I don't know how I'm going to gauge it when it supposedly kicks in. It may require the Old Yeller Challenge.

Side effects noticed:

-minor headache
-cotton mouth
-nausea
-drowsiness
-reduced libido (out here, I don't mind so much)

Gains thus far:

-Jack Shit.

So the experiment continues, with easy daily payments of discomfort and skepticism. I figure I have enough time to keep it up for a week once it kicks in, then come off of it and be over the half-life by the time I get back to the States. Progress reports to follow.



I had a new Ugandan tower pal today and we went with the norm: talking shop to keep ourselves awake. As always, the subject turned to women. That's a weakness in the cultural barrier. Men will always be comrades in the struggle with women, the only exception being when they are contending for the woman. The struggle between the men ends with one being the victor, and before long, the struggle between the man and the overwhelming dominance of the woman begins.

This particular guy was pretty fed up with women. He talked about a girlfriend he had for six years who suddenly cut him off, about cheating women, about a number of things. He looked legitimately bummed out, too. Not just the normal laughing and joking about the wrath of women, but seriously resignated. I felt bad for the guy. I didn't offer any lines either. In the normal world, this is the part where I motion to the bartender to get him a beer.

Here, I call up an inbound convoy and shift on the cooler I sit on.

He asked if I had a girlfriend on the FOB.

"Nope. You?"

".....Nope."

This is the most significant event I've experienced in days. I'm going to buy him a Russian woman.

4.10.2008

On Another Whim

I handed the forms back to the headshrinker in the digital camo uniform. Waited a few more minutes in a chair in the waiting room. Checked out the drawings sent from young American schoolchildren.

"I hope you have a nice war."




"Ok, let's see, you say you've been here before?" he asks. My attention snaps back to the task at hand.

"Yeah, I saw Captain SomeDude, last winter."

"Ok, what was that about?"

"Uh....anxiety. Occasional bouts of rage. Iraqmares. They gave me Benadryl. I stopped going. Still got the Benadryl though, if you want it back."

"Is this persisting?" he asked.

"Not as much these days," I leaned back. "Little here and there. Oh, I lied on some of those questions last time. Here, lemme explain."



I filled out some more forms, answered some more questions, explained a few things. I'm not bipolar, we know that one for sure. Said I got some sypmtoms of PTSD and depression/dysthymia or something like that. Nothing too serious, if I really had to be honest though.

"Do you ever feel like the world would be better off if you weren't around anymore?" I was asked. I laughed.

"That would be arrogant of me, wouldn't it? And no. I don't."

More hoops. Explain this. Have you experienced this? Uh huh. Hmm.



Zoloft. One bottle. 30 pills. Cottonmouth and nausea. Minor headache. Pissing all the time. And I wasn't even feeling moody or depressed or angry when I went in. Felt pretty good actually. Nevertheless, the experiment must go on. If I have improved concentration and energy in a few weeks, groovy. Let's see what all the rage is. What's it like when you chase the American Dream one little blue pill at a time? I think it's time I took a ride on this train, deep-imbedded journalism, investigative report. The test subject runs the experiments.

The doc mentioned a condition that was similar to bipolar disorder, but nowhere near as extreme, and mentioned the possibility that I COULD have a manic episode in reaction to the meds.

Awesome.

"Robin Williams?" the Doc began. "He's probably bipolar. It doesn't get much more manic than that."

Manic episode? Wait'll the guys in the tent get a load of me. I can already see myself laughing and having the time of my life, cracking jokes while doing pushups. "Can't help it!" I'll explain through fits of laughter. "They gave me bum meds!!! Oh what is this war coming to?!"



Down the hatch.

I gagged a little at the nausea and dry mouth on my way to brush my teeth. Shit better be worth it, cuz now I'm on day two (these little bastards take a couple weeks to build up in your system) and my stomach is already turning.

Zoloft. Hahahahahaha. It's just one crazy experiment after another, isn't it?

Put me on a commercial, smiling in the most content of ways while a slight breeze ruffles my shaggy hair and I cross my arms across my super-soft cream colored sweatshirt, sigh, then jump up and chase some chick down the beach. Zoooooloooooooft. Gimme a golden retriever while you're at it. We'll market these things like M&Ms.

Really, let's get to the bottom of this. I gotta tell ya, I'm skeptical as all hell. But good lord, am I entertained.

4.09.2008

Tower Guard Reflections

One of the Ugandans that I work with enlightened me with some incredible information that I did not know. He told me, in a very matter-of-fact manner, that American women fuck dogs. And that's where gonnorhea comes from. You can't make this shit up.

It's cool watching Strykers roll out at night, when they turn the lights off so you can't even see them, you just hear the high pitched whine of the engine, and before you know it, you can't even hear that anymore. I never knew we were such stealthy bastards.

The April Fool's prank seems to have failed. I'll wait a bit longer before I give up and reveal it.

Gnats are horrible creatures. I found that the can of spray that's in the tower isn't repellant, but insecticide. It only works if you can spray it in their little homes. I have no idea where they dwell, so instead I prefer to shoot each individual gnat out of the air with a long blast of toxins. My brain cell count is declining, faster than normal.

In light of my theory on the uniform itself having passive effects on the wearer, I'd like to point out that while in normal attire, I obey social norms, atleast somewhat. In uniform, however, I will pick my nose and blow snot rockets, regardless of where I am, what situation I am in, and who is around.

The Ugandan who enlightened me on the intimate relations between canines and American women has never heard of Tijuana, or donkey shows. He made a mental note to hit up Google after his shift.



My platoon rolled back onto the FOB as I watched from the tower. At first I waved, but then I decided that it would be more appropriate to flip them the bird. Later on, I met up with one of the medics in the chow hall.

"I saw you in the tower," he said.

"Yeah, I waved. Then I flipped [Hannibal] the bird," I replied.

"Oh we saw that too. First Sergeant waved. Then you flipped the bird."

"No shit? What did he say?"

"Nothing."

"Ah fuck..."


Now everywhere I go, I'm expecting to hear a voice somewhere behind me, shouting something along the lines of, "C'mere, 'Stud'!"

At that moment, I'll turn around and he'll see my hair all unregulation-long and I'll have what Army types call a "bad day."

4.06.2008

The Yang

Talked with a Ugandan soldier during my four hour romance with complete boredom. I mentioned how our enemy is the good guy in their own eyes and WE'RE the bad guys and vice versa, and that America's Founding Fathers could have been considered terrorists by the British back then.

Then this guy backhanded my statement with one simple clarification.

The terrorists that we're up against target civilians, non-combatants. Oh yeah, forgot about that part. And they've had a personal impact on me numerous times, in different ways. This place gets you so fucked up that you lose sight of things like that.

After all, we can't seem to find them to fight them.

But yeah, turns out I DO still care. I'm just too worn out to realize it.

Well, I got nothin. Thought I'd clear that up real quick though.

Truth is, I'm pretty sure I'm coming home with a sense of failure, guilt, and other things that I can't put a finger on. I tried though, I really did. But I got no enemy to attack, so it's back to the regular game plan: survive, embrace the paranoia. Wonder why I made it through unscathed (it's called survivor's guilt). Feel like shit every time someone thanks me or acts like I personally did something when I was really just along for the ride.

Bummer it has to end this way, huh?






"Do you believe in karma?"

"Karma is justice without the satisfaction. ....I don't believe in justice."




Yeah dude. Epic fail.

How It Ends


My stomach churns and my head pounds, my sleep schedule is fucked almost as bad as this "war" or whatever the fuck you want to call it.

I spend two four hour shifts in a guard tower. Staring out at nothing. Waiting for that psychotic wiley asshole to hop in his 1977 Ford VBIED and plow through the gate so I can put the .50 cal on him and blast him and the car to shreds, slinging lead until the barrel melts or I run out of ammo, and only after my ears stop ringing would I hear someone on the other end of the radio screaming at me. Gimme my medal sir, shake my hand for the pichur in the paper, outstanding soldier yaddah yaddah, and it all means precisely: $dick.

But nothing happens. I just scan. And think. And think. And think. Too much time to think.

This whole thing ends anti-climactic as hell, that's how I'm seeing it. This crazy trip peaked a long time ago and I've been coming down for a long time, with a bitter-as-fuck taste in my mouth and no patience for bullshit.

But I'm Joe, so it doesn't matter if I got patience for it or not. Still chewing it by the spoonful. Shovelfull. Tractorfull. Om nom nom.

Let's contrast and compare the Then and Now.

Remember how idealistic I used to be? NOT AT ALL anymore. Don't care about anything but going home alive. Don't care what happens to Iraq. At all. Zero concern. In fact, I don't care about a fucking thing but getting out of this Army and trying to reassemble the fucked up mess that I've become, try to get back to something resembling normal so I can go about a normal ARMY FREE life.

Every salute is empty.

Every smile insincere.

Every "Roger" is hollow.

None of this means anything to me anymore. Iraq? Waste of time. I have nothing more to say because I've just been typing and deleting for two hours straight. Catastrophuck.

4.03.2008

Any DAY NOW

I went back and started reading some of the original posts on the old site. Who wrote that? Not me. Young and dumb, the enthusiasm dripping off of the page almost makes me nauseous. Guess you gotta touch the stove to know for sure.

All's the same. Same as it ever was. Griiiiiiiiiiiind.

Couple of days and things are going to get really monotonous for me, but don't let me ruin that surprise just yet. Looks like everything is going to come full circle. I started this deployment doing FOB details, I just may be finishing it that way too.

Sounds great to me.

There's a life sized dummy wearing a pair of my jeans and one of my PT shoes stuffed into a footlocker in front of my bed, with just the one leg hanging out. Freaks me out every morning, but it was too twisted and funny not to do it. That was after I threw it at an unsuspecting interpreter while screaming like an idiot. Scared the shit out of the poor guy.

Then we left the dummy in different guys' beds. Told them some new guy was sleeping in their bed. Good fun.

A deployment has gone on way too long when you get more joy out of chokeslamming a dummy across the tent than you do anything else. We're all on the verge of going for each other's throats some of the time. Other times we're just fine. It's just time to go. Forget this whole thing.

You get Part 2 of the April Fool's bit as soon as it's safe to divulge it. All I'm waiting on is for a certain someone to get royally pissed at me.

This person just might be madder than SHIT. I'm excited.

[EDIT:]

SHKSSSHHHH!

That's what an impacting mortar round sounds like. With those occasional rocket attacks we've been taking (I've always been outside the wire when it happened), who knows what to think when I heard it just after hitting the POST button.

I walked outside where some of my friends were smoking.

"Sound like incoming to you?" I asked.

"Haha, yeah we were just talking about that. But we didn't feel any vibration or anything, so who knows, maybe it was outgoing, short round or something."

"Yeah," I concurred. Profound.

I'm not even going to offer an opinion or what I think about this whole ordeal and what it's about. Doesn't change a thing. I'll just keep my eyes peeled for a little while longer and after that, it's all just filler in history books to me.

No one can make sense of this. There's way too many different angles to look at, different stories, different pieces of a puzzle. Catastrophuck, that's it.

Now will my unsuspecting victim PLEASE hurry up and deliver unto me their gallon of indignant anger so I can brag about what a bastard I am?

3.27.2008

Escalation Of Force

The kids in the school crowd in the doorways and peek out the windows at the foreigners clearing the area. Once we finish and take up positions inside the courtyard, the kids become more curious.

"Hello Mista!"

"Mista! Football!"

"Mista! Pen!"

"Mista! I love you!"

"Mista! Give me!"

The teachers were obviously annoyed by the distraction and the kids' unruly behavior. There was really only one way that I could ever respond to something like this.

I gave the kids the thumbs up, which they returned, moderate cheering.

I threw my fist in the air. More excitement. I started clapping my hands over my head and making hand gestures to further rile them up. The shouting and cheering and idiocy amplified. I threw both fists in the air, bringing them to a crescendo of simple childish screeching. It was all I could do to keep myself from breaking out the chant of, "USA! USA! USA!"

Satisfied with the grade school riot I had incited, I went over to the main doorway again. First Sergeant asked what all the commotion was about.

"No idea, First Sergeant," I said. "I gave 'em the thumbs up. Guess they're happy to see us."



As we walked back, I took point, with my good friend, the travel partner, Solid Steak, on the other side of the road next to me. I went about the usual scanning paranoia routine, looking for the supposed bad guy before the supposed bad guy could supposedly get it on.

Down the road in front of us, an old dude pedaled towards us on a bike. I gave him the closed fist hand signal to stop. He didn't.

I gave him the Iraqi hand signal for Stop. He didn't.

I yelled at him, something polite like, "Hey! Keef! Stop! STOP MOTHERFUCKER!!!" He didn't.

I raised my M4 and put my sights on his face. "HEY! STOP AND GET THE FUCK OFF THE ROAD!!!" He didn't.

This ain't right, man. This motherfucker is wearing a suicide vest, HAS to be, no one would keep on pedaling--

BANG!
BANG!

I release the trigger as two plumes of dirt kick up five feet away from him. I had jerked my rifle a little to the right and downward to fire a warning shot, and Solid Steak sure wasn't going to pass up an opportunity to spit lead, and fired at the exact same time I did.

The old man hopped off the bike with a weak, "Aaah--aaaaah," sounding more like a lamb than anything else. Not thinking, I started walking towards him while shouting profanities, directives, and pointing to a lot off the side of the road.

"Take your fucking bike OVER THERE and WAIT for ONE MINUTE! WAHEED!" I tapped my watch. It took what felt like a minute of screaming at the guy to get my point across. It was stupid of me to get any closer to the guy than I already had, but it quickly became clear that he was just old, and possibly stupid. He didn't have any bulges in his clothing. I'm still on this earth writing this, so fuck it. Dumb move on my part.

An interpreter and a female officer talked to the guy on the side of the road as we headed back to another courtyard. Once everyone was inside, First Sergeant was relating what happened with one of the platoon leaders.

"What the fuck was that guy's problem?" I asked Top (1SG).

"Shit, he's just old, damn near blind, near sighted as hell, and probably half deaf too."

I would have felt bad if I had smoked him, but self preservation comes before my bleeding heart. If he wouldn't have stopped after that warning shot, I wouldn't have hesitated, not even for a second.

3.26.2008

Reflection

The same familiar dry and dead landscape flies past me as I stand in one of the hatches, on the same repetitive missions, and in that moment, it was like I had never left Iraq. Nothing had changed, same faces, same buildings, some destroyed, some just in pitiful condition.

We stop and the ramp drops. I step out and scan windows and rooftops and nooks and crannies and everything in between as we all link up and enter a building. My travel buddy and I take up positions in the stair well, not having much to talk about. The sun shining through a small window dimly lighting up the stair well added to the recurring surreal feeling I sometimes get here in Iraq. Once again, I couldn't believe that I was here.

I lit a cigarette and my train of thought began to flow. I started thinking about all the events that led up to this singular moment, working backwards. For five minutes, I backtracked, blowing my mind with each significant event. At any one of these points, a different decision would have changed everything. I followed it all the way back to the first real decision of my life.

The places I put myself and the people I surrounded myself with, the places, people, and events that shaped me. Meeting one person caused a series of events and introductions which led to new insights, opinions, disasters. My head began to spin a little. Anything could have re-directed this train.

A different MOS. A different branch. No military at all. College, or no college. Associating with different people, choosing to live in a different town, ANYWHERE, ANY SMALL DETAIL would result in a completely different life for me. The scary thing was that I didn't want the ability to change anything. Reality took a hit of ether and a tiny part of me wondered if this was really happening, all of this, or was it just one long vivid dream?

As we drove down the streets again later, I waved at a kid and he extended all fingers except the thumb and the ring finger. More commonly referred to as "The Shocker".

I guess this IS real.

There I am, that's me, almost seeing myself from the third person, drifting through the most illogical experience of my life. Yeah right there, that's me again, teaching kids the universal hand signal for "rock on". Now I'm holding the flag at a friend's re-enlistment ceremony.

My feet are kicking up gravel and I'm on my way to get some chow. How the hell did I get here again? I'm explaining that yes, ratemyboobies.com IS in fact, a viable excuse for being late to work. I'm watching director's cut episodes of Beavis and Butthead in a third world country. What the fuck am I DOING?

Most of the time, I don't think any of us really think about the reality of us actually being here. We keep ourselves sidetracked when we're off duty. If you thought about it too much, it just might drive you insane. And then you utter that subtle mantra:

"Holy shit....I'm in Iraq..."

3.22.2008

Lessons

Like the plagiaristic prostitute I am, I will now steal a trademark from someone dear to me. A series called "Lessons Learned". Here are some lessons I've learned in/about the army/Iraq.

-It is generally not a good idea to respond to radio traffic by saying, "That's a big, throbbing negative."

-If you throw soccer balls from a moving vehicle, children will chase you like super zombies in a George Romero movie.

-It is rude to taunt children with an uninflated soccer ball as you drive past.

-Telling the driver to "thrust" his way through an intersection and making continuous innuendo regarding symbols of phallic aggression will result in a loss of headset priveleges.

-Shooting things is fun.

-If you damage your own equipment, it'll probably never be fixed and your best bet is to use Gorilla Tape.

-Running while drunk can sometimes be unpleasant, but running while hung over is far worse.

-The word "Sarge" is no longer acceptable in the army.

-It's your fault. Always.

-It's considered rude to taunt friends attempting to quit smoking by waving cigarettes in front of them.

-Children are only afraid when you aren't trying to scare them. Making the conscious attempt will only entertain them.

-Never ask an Iraqi soldier about his sex life, or even allow the conversation to somehow drift there, which it will. You might not like what you hear.

-Never tell your platoon sergeant about any stories involving transsexuals in foreign countries, as he will alter the story and spread it around the company. Lulz ensue, but not for you.

-Don't drop your dogtags in the toilet.

-It's considered rude to take a brand new private, get him drunk, and take him to a strip club to watch him blow an entire paycheck.

-It's also rude if you run out of alcohol and decide to sneak through the barracks, trying every door until you find a locked one, and raiding their refrigerator for bottles of Bacardi.

-It gets you fucked up though.

-Don't piss when you wake up in the morning. That makes the surprise urinalysis much easier.

-When going to the aid station, inform them that your level of pain is 8, 9, or 10. This increases your chance of getting good drugs. But odds are, you won't, especially if you really are hurting.

-Motrin doesn't do shit.

-You are wrong.

-It is unwise to roadmarch with stubbly pubes (not learned from personal experience).

-It is not cool to wander around the barracks without a shirt on when you hear a female voice (learned by observing douchebags).

-You picked the wrong job.

-It is generally unwise to challenge a superior with a phrase such as, "You won't do it."

-College really was a good idea.

-Duck when entering low doorways of Iraqi houses.

-Energy drinks are bad before missions. Unless you enjoy vomiting off of the side of a Stryker (which I sort of did).

-It's rude to teach Iraqi children to chant, "USA! USA! USA!"

-If it's funny, it's probably rude.

-Breaking and entering is extremely fun.

-Breaking is fun.

-Entering without breaking is not that great.

-It is unwise to mock another company and/or their motto while they are in formation and their commander is standing behind them. This results in threats of having eyes snatched from their sockets, and pushups.

-It is unwise to point and laugh at someone who has to do pushups. You will join them.

-Volunteering never helps you out.

-If you don't clean your room, you run the risk of having to sleep outside.

-It is unwise to climb a mountain, start a fire, and get very drunk, but it IS fun to tell your drunk friends that you saw a mountain lion.

-Children seem to grasp the concept of the middle finger.

-Dogs and paintball guns go together very well.

-I am a bad person.

-iPods are for music, too.

-Launching water balloons at the Air Force can be excellent stress relief.

-It is unwise to inform a superior of their shortcomings.

-If I want to do it, it is probably unwise, and likely rude as well.



That's all I can think of for now. There's more, and there certainly will be even more, but that's all you get until later.

3.20.2008

Switch It Back On

We poured into someone else's strykers, bags and all, and sweat in the dark all the way back to the FOB. When the ramp finally dropped, we stumbled out into horribly familiar territory and sulked our way back to our tent, dropped our gear, and began getting "normal" again.

This uniform really does do something to you. Being in this place, all of it, it pulls a different side of you out. Already, I'm not the person I was in Japan. Not the person I am when I wear what I want, do what I want, and don't have to worry about anything. This person is bitter, cynical, loudmouthed and rambunctious, dark humor and raucous profanity, arrogant and blasphemous. It's just what the uniform does to me, like that movie "The Mask" with Jim Carrey, it transforms some of us. Some more than others.

But atleast now I know that when the uniform comes off, it all switches off.

I walked back outside and took a look around at the familiar desolation of the FOB. No color, no life. Concrete, gravel, dirt, and hideous sky. The summer heat is on its way, and I'm dreading wearing all that equipment again. I dread walking through the streets of this pitiful wasteland, looking at the faces of local inhabitants. I dread interacting with them, the kids begging for soccer balls.

I'm not the only short-timer now. We're all short. This nightmare ends soon enough, and I don't know how everyone else feels, but I'm dead set on getting the hell out of here. I'm sure everyone else is getting excited, but I've got a scowl. From here on out, no one out there gets close to me. None of the Iraqi Armies or Sons of Iraq or Iraqi Police are going to get any small talk out of me.

Pull security and emanate disdain, that's the fourth quarter game plan. Fuck you, Iraq, I'm going home. And switching off for good.

3.17.2008

Rear View Mirror

That horrible fucking day had to come, and it came way too fast for our liking. I found myself grudgingly checking out of the hotel. I made sure to say goodbye to my friend that works in my favorite lounge, and the next thing I know, I'm watching the city melt away through the window of a moving car.

I never understood anyone ever really being bummed about leaving any place, to me it was always like a kid going nuts when it was time to leave the playplace at McDonald's, but this was different. All those amazing signs, bustling crowds, incredible architecture, everything I'd come to love, the clean streets, the most incredible city I'd ever seen, it was all sliding past me.

At the airport, I hesitated. Getting on that plane was the hardest thing I'd ever done. Part of me knew that there was a small chance I could just say screw it, turn around and walk out. Find a job. Perfect the language. Plant my roots here and live it up. Why not? Everything about the city felt so right.

Back in the worst country on Earth, the rest of my friends are sucking it up, and it's my duty to do the same, but I'll be damned if I didn't have the most bitter taste in my mouth about it.

Waiting in the airport in Korea, the reality only intensified, leaving a massive lump in my throat. I could turn around and buy a ticket back. And I never miss places for some reason.





Maybe some other time. The Purgatorium is only one border away now. I have to finish this, but right now, I'm promising myself, I WILL visit Tokyo again.

3.14.2008

What An Asshole

Never to be defeated, the arrogant bastard that I am, I refuse to succumb to the depressive knowledge that I have to leave what I feel is the coolest city in the world.

I try to take my friend to my sacred lounge, only to find that we wasted too much time shopping for stupid shit, and they're closed. This bummed me out further, so we settled for a pisspoor bar on the second floor with no windows, brick walls, and no sense of Awesome that the previous one did.

On a whim, we decided to hit the famous sky lounge from the hotel featured in my favorite movie, "Lost In Translation". We take a taxi to the Park Hyatt Hotel, with only a half hour left until last call. We cross our fingers as we catch every damn red light in our path.

By some sick twisted miracle of a bizarre god, we make it on time and make our way through the hotel. I'm silently tripping out, like a rocker that stumbled across the stage of the first tiny gig that Metallica played. I see familiar hallways, and I do all I can to contain myself, already buzzed with the blessed sake that I've become to intimate with.

The elevator doors open and we turn a corner, and fuck me rotten, there we are, in the same bar that I wanted to be in for four years now. I order a drink dedicated to the movie as well as an order of sake, my friends order their own sake, and we squeeze the last half hour of the night out.

Once everyone else was gone, we took our drunken cue and left. At this point, the only decent and good thing to do is to ride this out and keep on wringing the juices out. I feel fucking great, and we decide to hit up a convenience store for more booze. Fuck it, we have to go back to the shittiest place in the world, why not go apeshit while we can? It's what our friends would want us to do.

But the sad thing is, for a twisted bastard like myself, that alone just isn't enough. I was born with an innate ability to disturb and occasionally entertain my mother. God save the world, this ability multiplies each year. I adorned myself with a freshly purchased track suit modeled exactly after the getup of the main character from the Japanese cartoon "DragonBall Z".

The crossing light turns green and I sprint across the road, screaming at the top of my lungs. We ransack the convenience store, loading up on Suntory Whisky, anti-hangover potions, drunk eating, and any seemingly nonsensical items we can think of.

After returning to the room, we realized that we had no ice. Personally, I'm not above drinking rancid liquor straight from the bottle and accepting the hellish consequences, but at a request, we made the order for ice, courtesy of room service.

Five minutes later, there's a knock at the door. I jump up, wrap a white headband around my head, the kind with Japanese Kanji characters and a red sun in the center. I tear the door open and bow.

"Arigato Gozeimas!" I shout (It means thanks very much, homie).

The clerk takes one look at me and does his best to keep a straight face. I worsen the deal by giving him my most dipshit drunk grin. He politely offers me the ice as he continues to completely lose his shit. This poor bastard is trained to be professional and courteous, and he is welcomed at a random door by some psychotic white kid dressed in anime-hero gear and a stereotypical Japanese headband. He is visibly biting his cheek and his stomach is convulsing.

I hope I made that dude's night. That was ten minutes ago.

Anyhow, this one is to you, you the reader, you the anyone, wherever you may be. Though my friend and I return to horseshit duty soon, we aren't there tonight, and we'll act accordingly.

Kon-Pai motherfuckers.

3.12.2008

Closing

The past few days, we've had the looming knowledge of having to return soon clouding over us. We do all we can to look the other way, not let a damn thing rain on our parade.

We stay at a traditional hotel and sleep on mats. Paper walls. Yukata robes.

We check out Buddhists temples and incredible green gardens, shit that takes your breath away and makes you wonder just HOW the rest of the world, normal civilization, can suck so completely. Caverns so small we have to duck walk through them, candles illuminate Buddhists sculptures.

A large wooden wheel that you turn by pushing, walking the full circle with it. They say that turning this wheel once is the equivalent to reading the Bible. Something to think about when you ride the subway I guess.

A park, beautiful as ever, hosts the most random cats running around that I've ever seen. Everywhere you look, there was a cat just chilling out.

We went to the beach. The weather was just nice enough for a t-shirt, for once. We take our shoes off and squeeze sand between our toes, skip rocks, walk in the tide. Best fucking vacation ever, and in the back (and the front) of our minds, we know that it's all ending soon.

When I drink, I wake up the next morning, and I suck down vitamins and orange juice and food to replenish everything I pissed away the night before, so as not to lose any time. If necessary, I even take the hair of the dog to reset my overcompensating nerves. Can't afford to lose any more time.

I look out the window and see the most amazing skyline. In the lounge at night, as I chat it up with my pal Hide (Hee-Day), I stare out at the lights, sip hot sake, chew on salted peas, and clap for the pianist and bass player, even when no one else pays them any mind.

Every time I look at my watch, we're on a new day. Time started off dragging beautifully slow the first week. Now it's taken a snowball avalanche momentum that we can't fucking stop. Like pressing against closing walls. Where the fuck is C3PO and R2D2 to stop this one?




We've had enough rest for today. No time to waste. Time to go and enjoy this while we can.

Fuck Iraq.

3.10.2008

More Fine Dining

In Harajuku, I followed narrow streets and bizarrely painted buildings to what seemed like some sort of crazy drug-addled arthouse. The only thing though, is that drugs are supposedly next to non-existent here. I find that hard to believe. After five minutes of channel surfing through their TV channels, I am convinced that they are ALL covert potheads, because the ONLY thing that would add any logic (or explanation) to these TV shows and commercials is a healthy helping of Bob Marley Feelgood Spinach.

This crazy Jamaican-Meets-Korean Neo Pop Art And Mescaline building led to a restaurant, the kind where your table has a grill or whatever inserted into it. I experienced Japanese Pancakes, which are in no way like American Pancakes.

You mix up bowls of all kinds of crazy concoctions and pour them onto the hot black thing, and go through an arduous process of preparing your own meal. When it's finally done, you take that first clumsy chopstick bite and go, "Damn, that's pretty good!"

You eat about half of your share when you notice something purple and frighteningly familiar on your plate.

Goddamn octopus. Sneaky bastard found his way into my meal.

This is the point of no return, you can't unsee that slimy fucker, it's too late. Your meal is forever changed, because you KNOW that this unnatural monstrosity has tainted your food. I shoveled bite after bite into my mouth, chasing it with orange juice. No sense in going hungry, after all, the only way...is ALL the way.

Fucking octopus.

3.08.2008

You can find any obscure movie or album in this city. There are specialty shops for everything. But nowhere will you find a copy of any of the American Pie movies. Except for The Naked Mile, which hardly counts.

Amidst the crowd, I wandered down the streets, from shop to shop, entering anything that had a sign reading DVD. You can find movies about 50 Foot Tall Women, any cult classic movie. Shops dedicated to horror flicks. It's awesome, you just can't find a good, common movie. It has to be a rare gem to be discovered here.

One building had a genre of music/music DVDs per floor. Progressive rock, heavy metal, punk, indie, and so on. As I climbed the stairs, I saw pictures of famous musicians on the walls. The pictures were taken in this store. The first one I recognized was Kirk Fucking Hammett of Metallica, pausing his perusal long enough to pose for a picture. Next is Lars Ulrich with his wife, and then Rob Trujillo. The only member that wasn't present was James Hetfield. As I climbed, I checked out all the pictures, thinking about how cool that was that all these dudes stopped in this store.

Then again, when you're out walking, you'll see Tommy Lee Jones on coffee vending machines. Boss is the brand. His facial expression looks like he was somewhat confused, listening very intently to an interpreter or something. A picture like that would have been scrapped in the states, but here, that's prime modeling at its best.

Cameron Diaz hawks cell phones for a company called SoftBank. Watch "Lost In Translation" and tell me that Anna Faris' character is NOT a total parody of that woman. I'll tell you that you're wrong.

Hillary Duff is selling cameras or something, and dancing with Mickey Mouse. It plays on giant video screens on gigantic buildings.

Hell, if they want white people to prostitute their image out for the sake of marketing, sign me up. These celebrities don't need to make an extra stop here, I'll take that bullet. Pay ME millions to have a deer in the headlight expression while I hold some tea or a PSP. I'm not too proud.

Off to Shibuya for more exploration, more immersion into the crowds, bombardment of the senses. I live for this.

Sure beats Iraq.

3.05.2008

Moar Rad

We sleep when we have to, just to keep ourselves going. A few hours and we're fully charged and we're back out there again, devouring this place.

Tokyo is the opposite of Iraq. It's clean, safe, and thoroughly enjoyable. We walk down narrow streets lined with shops, rubbernecking unapologetically. Arcades, pachinko "casinos", stores selling DVD porn (we learned that if the sign is pink, it's probably porn or some other appendage of the sex industry).

There's a Chinatown in this city that we took advantage of, stealing an extra mini-vacation. Paper lamps are strung across the streets and you know they'd look fucking amazing at night when the candles are lit. Chowing down on their food, we fumbled with chopsticks, and then we went to an old temple and enjoyed some oooh ahhhing mindblown tourist goodness.

Another discovery we made: the restaurant that inspired the set of the epic fight against the Crazy 8s or whatever in the movie Kill Bill. If you remember Uma Thurman running across balconies, up and down stairs, hacking her way through an army of dudes in suits and masks, picture that building, only as a restaurant. That's the real incarnation of it. One of the waitresses informed me that Quentin Tarantino likes to hang out in this restaurant, and devoted that fight scene to it.

That's what I call awesome, folks.

3.03.2008

De-Loused In The Chill Room

On a whim, from sheer boredom itself, mixed with a little bit of curiosity and the lack of the desire to leave the hotel, I found myself wandering up to the top level lounges.

It was quiet, so quiet that you're almost afraid to speak beyond that level just above a whisper, where your voice isn't quite natural but still amiable. The bartenders worked with delicate precision mixing drinks, setting glasses down so gently as to not even make a sound once they made contact with the counter.

I tested out the famed Santory whiskey. If you've had whiskey, you've had them all, that's my opinion. I've never been a liquor snob though, so take that with a grain of salt. After that, I ventured to the other lounge, and decided to try out sake, since I'd already crossed sushi off of my list of things to make me vomit.

This devil liquid goes down like water. I eyed my glass suspiciously, like a worthy opponent, and tried to guage its abilities. I sipped warily, pausing to observe the effects as they accumulated. As I waited, I'd stare out the windows, at the night time skyline of Tokyo, letting my mind get blown over and over again.

This lounge was quiet, calm, and downtempo as ever. I was just about to leave when a pianist and her bass playing counterpart showed up and laid out their sheet music. These people have this kind of chill music down to a science. It's the kind of thing you'd never let someone catch you listening to (if you're me), but once you're in an environment like this place, you open up and welcome it, and congratulations, you've just been blown away again.

I slowly sipped two jars or glasses of sake as I talked shop with one of the bartenders. He said my Japanese pronunciation was really good (overstatement, I'm sure) and we talked about the various places in the States that he visited, almost all of them being areas I never ventured to. When he asked me how I learned the Japanese that I did know, I wrote down the name of the company that does the language CDs and explained that he could probably get one that teaches from Japanese to English. This made him pretty happy, which in turn made me happy. These little interactions make the world go round if you ask me.

I continued to chill, sip, listen to the music, get lost in thoughts, stare out the windows, watch the employees and the patrons alike, and I realized that this was one of those unknowns that I had been searching for. No matter what, I have this particular place to relax in. For the time being, I've got my own spot.

I'd been searching from district to district for something I couldn't place, only to find that there was something right here in my own hotel.

Sushi Is Fail

There's an unwritten rule that requires any dipshit tourist in Japan to run out to a sushi restaurant, grab a menu, and point and grunt at a random picture, having resolved to try the Sushi Phenomenon. We were no exception.

Your beloved dynamic duo aimed themselves down a narrow street lined with shops and lights and signs, restaurants, convenience stores, little bars, anything. We found a restaurant that had doors that looked like the old school wooden sliding doors. They were painted to look that way though, actually being metal in reality, with a button in it labeled PUSH. Upon pressing the button, the doors automatically slid open, creating a paradox of old school antiquity with Star Wars technology.

The seats were tiny and I had no legroom, so I had to lean forward. We ordered some platter thing that was supposedly for two people. And then we waited, whispering smartass comments back and forth.

"What, are they still trying to catch the fish? How long does it take to grab a bunch of raw shit and throw it on a plate?"

A microscopic plate covered with assorted bits of What The Shit was delivered to us. We broke apart our chopsticks and fumbled with them like we'd been gassed with ether. I snatched up the first piece that was obviously fish, as it still had the skin and whatnot, and shoved it in my mouth. Not bad.

I just burped, and I can still taste it. Thought you should know.

Next, I snared a purplish square of some mystery meat, spotting suction cups on one side just as I threw it into my mouth. Must be octopus. Not bad to be honest, until you feel the suction cups crunching in your teeth, and you realize you're chowing down on Spongebob's pal. Speaking of Spongebob, a square of egg resembled a sponge, in an uncanny way. I decided to go ahead and eat Spongebob too.

A green blob of what appeared to be Play-Do lied in wait for me, so I threw that into my gaping maw as well. It stung like crowd control and set my mouth on fire. I did the typical hilarious reaction, where one realizes too late what they just ate and they suddenly go rigid and their eyes grow large.

Fucking wasabe.

I sucked down orange juice and any other random shit on my plate, ignoring the tough entrails that refused to break as I chewed through them. Shrimp or something that were fully intact, beady little black eyes staring at us.

"Aw dude, I can't eat something that still has EYES!" my friend laughs. We choke down the majority of the plate, looking at each other with regret in our eyes as we chuckle about this bizarre failed experiment.

We stood up, paid our check and walked out.

"All right," the friend says, "Wanna go get some dinner?"

We walked back to the hotel, glad that we could scratch sushi off of our to-do list.

Forever.

3.02.2008

Adapt And Overcome

In yesterday's episode, we were left with the inconclusive ending where my friend and I decided to go back to Roppongi, on a quiet Sunday night, as opposed to sitting in our hotel room.

I dropped all expectations, played it the same way he was, and I'll be damned if it wasn't one of the funnest nights we've had here. We went on a junior bar crawl, hitting one dead nightspot after another, getting a drink here and there. I chatted up some of the guys who worked in these bars, and they were cool as hell.

That's the upside of Roppongi, is all the English speaking people, it helps a lot. So no matter what, we've always got that. With that baseline established, the rest of the trip is golden and about where it needs to be for one important reason:

I'm on vacation, NOT in Iraq. Better bear that in mind at all times and act accordingly, whether we're club crawling or TV watching or bullshitting or getting more lost and dizzy than Cameron Diaz, being bombarded with lights and sounds and all things Holy Shit.

"What do you want to do today man?"

"I don't care. Let's go get lost again."

The Great Wall Of Whiteness

Days and nights and days bleed into each other, with periods of unshakable sleeplessness. The initial ooh and ahh has partially worn off, given way to dealing with insanely crowded areas, and a nearly impossible language barrier. I didn't study enough, but even then, as reserved as these people are until you get them drunk, I don't think that would have even mattered.

Hung over or waking up drunk, sucking down water WHILE drinking, trying to avoid beind debilitated, of wasting ANY time here, because it's precious, and I still don't feel like I've tapped the vein of this city.

Crowds of people, businessmen, trendy hipster young kids, girls in short skirts, all walks of life fill the streets and the subways are packed as hell but no one wants to know you it seems. I catch myself wondering if that Alleged Marine Rape Case or whatever has anything to do with this outsider feeling I get, or if that's just part of being here, a "Fucked Gaijin", as it were. Then I wonder if the Iraq War has fucked our image.

I chilled in my hotel, contemplating this, did more of the same while walking around. Can't let that shit get in the way though, I have no control over it. There's something intangible and indescribable that I'm trying to get ahold of here, and I gotta pull it off somehow.

We chilled in Shibuya, walking past endless porno shops and love hotels and pachinko (their primary means of gambling) machines. Hip hop culture has pretty much dominated the world, which adds to those feelings of isolation. My friend is much more relaxed than I am, and he just enjoys things for what they are, but I'm fucking hungry for something and I don't even know what. Can't even tell what it is I'm trying to force here.

Before this turns into some kind of fuckwit emo livejournal, let's get back to the sights n sounds and stories you all seem to like. Nothing has exploded here and no one's been shot.

This place is a concrete labyrinth, skyscrapers galore, and it pretty much looks like any city until you get to certain hubs of commerce and entertainment, and that's when the lights explode all around you and you're in some kind of technicolor pseudo-psychadelic dreamland. Tokyo is its own hallucinogenic (and no, it's no longer legal to purchase shrooms here).

In Roppongi a night or two (or three???) ago, I watched some Air Force or Navy or something group of guys I'd been hanging out with go apeshit on each other over money. Not even that much money. And they couldn't understand the concept that it really didn't matter that much. I left them to their bullshit and continued to wander, bombed-out drunk as the sun came up. The place was full of foreigners and locals and the obligatory black dudes who try to get you to go to their titty bars (I've befriended a couple of these guys just for the drunken hell of it).

Now the sun is up and everything has that early morning blue tint to it and two girls walk up to me and ask if I want massage. I decline and I decide to find an ATM to pull out more money. Another girl approaches me and asks if I'm looking for a massage. I tell her no, and we start almost debating with each other. Soon it's revealed that SHE isn't the one who does the massaging. Like the black dudes, her job is just to get customers to go there, to advertise on the street. She didn't seem too fond of it, kind of like the waitresses at strip clubs who sort of look at the "dancers" with disdain. It's funny. The whole thing depressed me a bit.

Anyway, she actually helped me find an ATM that had English options, and as it turns out, we'd already withdrawn my maximum for the day. My friend was with someone else we had met and we'd agreed to just meet back up at our hotel. As I wandered on the streets, I was nailed with this weird Catcher In The Rye syndrome I tend to get now and then.

All the massage hookers trying to rake in some cash, and the foreign strippers, the dipshit military fuckwits making asses of themselves, people jerking your sleeve to check out their particular den of evil, the locals that I just couldn't seem to connect with, it all started to depress me.

I had stuck to vodka the entire night, having heard that it contains less toxins, and sticking with one type of drink will keep you from being even MORE hung over. I had forgotten that vodka seems to have two phases: happy drunk phase, and depressive phase. The Navy Or Something crowd fighting like twats over money, drunk and retarded. Being temporarily broke for the next 24 hours. The stripper that I for some reason began to tell her about what kind of money she could make in America, breaking down the math of average cost of lapdance, average time of each song, to just how much insane money per night she could make. She was Romanian and seemed pretty nice (don't they all).

It all coalesced into one miserably failed night. I just started walking from there, somewhat bummed but wanting to figure it all out. I certainly wanted to get out of Roppongi. So I kept walking, not sure if I even had enough pocket change to ride the train.

I found the general direction that my district was in, and I started running. Hey, just some foreign dude out for a morning jog, right? Every now and then, I'd stop and make sure I was still heading in the same direction, and I just kept running. I didn't know how far it would be, but I knew I had to cross atleast two districts. I hadn't done any serious running in about a year. Stopping at a vending machine for a moment, I bought some orange juice and chugged it while I traversed the endless urban jungle.

And no one so much as looked at me.

I ended up in my hotel at about 9:30 or so and crashed out. I forget how many nights ago that was, probably two.

Now here I am, bored, wanting to go do something, unable to speak the language, with no friends here, wanting something I can't put my finger on, and directionless.

We're probably going back to Roppongi, the foreigner's fucked up haven.

Fuck me.