Monday, October 12, 2009

Time for a change

I enjoy blogging and want to keep writing. However, I feel that this blog is for my trip to Iraq and back. Now that I am back, I am done writing on this site. I started a new blog. If you wish to keep on reading of my adventures in this life, check out See you there, or not.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Getting settled

As I stated in my previous post, I've made it back, safe and sound.  I have decided to drop the method of titles, Day 1 and so on, and make more appropriate titles.
So, I've just spent a crapload of money.  I needed a new computer (don't ever buy a Dell), and decided on a Mac.  The closest Mac store; The Mall of America in the Twin Cities.  A bit of a drive, especially if you've never been there before and don't really know where you're going.  The good news is that my camper was ready to be picked up, and the store that had it is just a bit north of Minneapolis, so I decided to make it a worthwhile trip.  Yesterday I set out on my grand adventure to spend a crapload of money.  Now, some people call me crazy, but when I take a trip where my time schedule is the only one in mind, I usually don't plan.  I knew the Mall was close the airport, in a town that started with Bloom-something, and I knew that if I got onto I-94, it'd take me to the Cities, so a packed clean underware (fresh from Wal-Mart, as I still haven't found mine), my checkbook and hit the road.  I stopped at a rest area just North of the Cities, by about 10 miles, figuring there'd be a map on the wall.  What do you know, there was.  But I couldn't find a listing for the largest shopping mall in America.  I knew it was by the airport, so I found the picture of the airplane on the map and headed that direction.  I figured there'd be signs.  And what do you know, just about the time I thought I was on the wrong road, there was a sign said that the Mall was at exit 2C.  Now, the placement of that sign and my relative proximity to the exit made for some fairly fast lane changes, but I completed my task without a bump or a scratch or horn-honk.  I found parking right in front of one of the doors, located a Mall map, and found the Apple store.  I checked out what I wanted, walked to the Bose store to browse, back to the Apple store, made my purchase (A 17" MacBook Pro and Apple TV) and headed for the exit.  I stopped to ask a nice lady at the Customer Service if I could get back on 494 the way I got off, and she told me I could.  I left the mall and headed North.  I was in the Mall for just under an hour.  It's a nice place, but it's just a big-ass mall.  Any who, I drove North a ways to Big Lake, Minnesota and spent the night.  This morning I drove back towards the Cities and picked up my new Camper.  It tows behind my PT Cruiser.  The only time I know it is there is when the road is a bit bumpy and it starts bouncing.  I can't wait to use it.
I pushed the camper into the garage and am sitting here, playing with my new Mac.  I think it's going to take some time getting used to it.  Where are the 'end', 'home', and 'backspace' buttons?  I'm so confused.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Day 370

I just read the last post to see where I left off. Where to begin. Well, first off, I'm home. Back in Grand Forks, safe and sound. September in Iraq was a bit hurried; sorry for no posts, but getting out of there was priority one. We flew out of Iraq on Tuesday the 22nd of September, spent almost two days in Kuwait, and then flew to Germany, had a two-hour layover in Germany, then flew to Shannon, Ireland for another two-hour layover, then on to Bangor, Maine for another two-hour layover, and finally to an airfield in Wisconsin. We spent a few days in Ft. McCoy, Wisconsin doing our demobilization process. I flew to Bismarck on Tuesday the 29th of September and was met by friends and family. What a long, strange trip it was. The means do justify the end; the bills are paid and I have the GI Bill, but I hope to never go through this again. Only time will tell. My very good friends Don and Sandy Nagle rented a house for me and moved my stuff into it; I just need to find everything. I know my first priority should have been to find underware and a coat (I think North Dakota moved further north in my absence; it's cold here.) However, the first thing I did after getting here was to hook up the stereo and big-screen TV. I still haven't found any underware.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Day 331

Well, it's a new phase here on Tallil. This afternoon I moved into a tent with 12 of my newest best friends. Army cots and close quarters. At least the air conditioner kind of works. Best part; we have wireless internet here, so I'll be able to stay in touch. Well, maybe the best part is that my replacement arrives the day after tomorrow and I leave next month. I cleared out of my room, as my room mate is in the States having back surgery. He and I did Skype text today and he's doing fine. Says he feels like he was kicked by a mule, and I believe it. Surgery to repair two herniated disks can't be fun. I'm into 20-something days left before I leave this place. That's 20-something too many. I tell you, the days are flying by. I purposly don't count the days, as it seems to make time slow down, and when somebody tells me how many days we have left, I am always suprised, and pleasently so. Other than the swine flu, there is a nasty bug going around. Respritory, ear and sinus infections are common. We had a guy here who, a few months ago, had eye pain and then he couldn't see out of one eye. After very close examination, it was determined that a parasite got into his eyeball and then worked its way out. As it ate its way out, through layer after layer of eyeball, all of the fluid between those layers leaked out. Last I heard they were having some luck restoring some of his eyesight. Nobody's really sure how it got in there to begin with. The best guess is that, during one of the frequent sand storms we have here, it got lodged where it shouldn't have. I know, kind of gross, but I wanted to remind you that where we're living is really dirty and disgusting, as if I haven't mentioned it already.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 328

I got my two boxes loaded into the conex this morning. My room mates stuff is waiting for somebody else to load it, tomorrow, and there's tons of space in my room now. Too bad I have to move out in three days. Ah, Army cots and no privacy. Just what the doctor ordered. But, moving to the tents means we're just about out of here. Three weeks in a tent and then on a plane. I feel as though we're coming to that last bend in the tunnel, where we know we'll be able to see the light at the far end. Just in case I can't get back on the internet for a while, I wanted to say thank you to all of you who took the time to write, send packages, shoot me an email, or call on Skype. I've always prided myself on the fact that I don't own a cell phone, but I don't know how old guys in WWII did it without constant communication. Knowing that you all are out there, only a few keystrokes away, helped me through some bad days. Thank you. On a happy note, I lost better tha 30 pounds on this trip, and I exercised only when I had to and ate junk food all of the time. I hate playing 'what ifs', but imagine the lean, green, fighting machine I might have become if I had actually, you know, tried.
In a previous post I told you all it was ok to give me a dope slap, one apiece, for trying to stay an additional 6 months. I need all you all to give me repeated slaps up along side the head every time you hear me start any sentence with, "Well, when I was in Iraq, we did it this way." Don't let me get away with it. I see it too many times in others and I'm sure I'll be one of them for a while. Stop the horse before it gets out the starting gate. Squish that bug before it crawls. Pull the tail off of that gecko before it runs away. Drain the gas tank before you put in the key. Make the bed before you get out. Whip the yolks before you put in the cheese. Put a cork in the bottle before the genie gets out. Look both was before crossing the, oh wait, that's not right. Rewind the tape before returning it to the store. Click on the start button to power off. Don't mix salt and pepper in the same jar, no matter how smart it sounded in your head. If you're going to give a guy a swirly, make sure he's got hair. First rule of government spending; why build one when you can build two for twice the price. Ok, it's bed time.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Day 327

Tomorrow morning we start packing our personal gear into the conex for the slow boat ride home. Up at 2 o'clock in the blessed a-m to get to bed about 7 pm every night. We're trying to beat the heat, but this week is a monster. It's over 100 degress by 9 every morning and only gets hotter as the day goes on. We contacted the medics and they'll be at our work site at 7 or 8 each morning with bags of saline to rehydrate us the hard way. Well, it's not the hardest way, since water can be absorbed through the colon. Butt, all things considered, I think I'd rather take a short needle in the arm than a short arm in the ...
For me it is just after 6 pm on Sunday the 23rd. On Thursday the 27th we move out of our lovely metal accomodations and into the tents. Ah, tent life. It's been nice living all alone since my room mate was sent home for back surgery. Ain't no cats around my house. Three weeks in a tent here, three days in a tent in Kuwait, barracks in Ft. McCoy, and then to Fort Living Room. Yeah; I can handle that PSC move.
The pills they gave me for my cough have a strange affect on me. First, I feel slightly doped up and drowsy. The other I think is a diaretic. I'm in the middle of the freaking desert. Do I really need to get up every 45 minutes and pee? I mean, really?!
I am beginning to notice that my fond memories of home are becoming more specific. My most reuccuring memory is from when I was on leave from Ft. Lewis, back in November 2008. I flew to Sacramento to hang with my sister for my leave, to get caught up and do brother-sister stuff. I got off of the plane and headed for baggage claim. I got on the escalator to take me to the ground floor. Standing just to the right and at the bottom of the stairs, back from them about 15 feet, was my sister. Seeing her there and and then being able to hug is the best happy memory I have of this entire deployment. One strange image I can't shake is; I'm standing on the street corner in Bismarck, at the intersection of Ninth and Main, right next to the State Bank building. I'm looking over the underpass at the Civic Center. It appears to be comforting. Why? Maybe it's because I paid my student loans off a few years ago and the building doesn't bother me. Another image I have, and this one is more pleasant, is that I am sitting at the horseshoe bar at Whitey's in East Grand Forks, MN. There is a LARGE, COLD glass of what I can only assume is HoneyWeiss sitting slightly to the left of the view, a bottle of ketchup sitting slightly to the right of the view, a white linen napkin to the right and just off-center of the view, and in the middle, on a white plate, is my order of Whitey's Homemade Onion Rings. Real plates and silverware. Real Ketchup. The best part is, for me to be there, I won't be here.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Day 324

It's been a wild and crazy month at this end of world. We're about a month away from leaving and supply is just a little bit busy. We're on a 12-hour work schedule which I have yet to see. My days have been a bit longer than that by a few hours. On the bright side, I developed a virual thingy and am on quarters for 24 hours. That and a pocketful of pills, and I should feel right as rain. There is an outbreak of swine flu here, so as a precaution I had a Q-Tip swab up my nose (great fun), and luckily the test came back negative. If it had been positive, I'd be living in a tent with those stricken with swine flu, for a week. Can't say I see the downside of that. No phone, no email, no customers. Just sleep. That and all the symptoms that go with the flu. I have discovered a new smell in Iraq. It took me a while to identify its source and came as a bit of a shock when I finally made the discovery. It is a stinky, sweaty, disguisting odor that is offensive to olfactory senses. My helmet has its own odor. Helmets of old had a leather strap which rested on your head to keep it in place. These new ones have multiple pads, like a football helmet, which help to distribute the weight more evenly. The pads are held in place with velcro, and are adjustable so they can be made to be more comfortable for each persons head. They also soak up the sweat that runs off my shaved head. The chin-strap is a cloth material which also soaks up the sweat that runs off my shaved head. Add to that the dirt and sand and dust which has collected in each pore of the fabric in the last 10 months, and you one stinky hunk of kevlar. We all have one set of replacement pads, but there's no point in using them here. They'll just get as stinky before we leave. The pads don't hold up to a washing, so we're stuck with using really stinky helmets.
On a happy note, my replacement arrivs next week. We'll be in tents about the middle of next week, just waiting for our plane ride home. All of our replacements know their job, but we need to spend two weeks training them in on 'what's here and what's there and how to handle this office and who needs coffee and dognuts before they'll help you' type of things. My boss and I figure that about the 10th or so of September we'll be spending most of our time in the tent, playing cards and watching movies. I can't tell you when we're supposed to be leaving this hell-hole, but if you Google "National Talk Like A Pirate Day", that's the day. Three days in Kuwait and then five days in Ft. McCoy, and then surgery for me. For those who don't know, my Dad has had several surgeries in the last month. I'm going to ask for leave to see him before I have them cut into my kneee, so with any luck, they'll give me a week off so I can see him, and hopefully make a round-robin and say hi before they cut into me.
There's no internet in the tenst, but I will do my best to keep on posting from the MWR center. I'll be able to get emails, so don't quit emailing me.
On the bright side, in about a month I'll leave this place and never have to come back.