I Just Want To Meet Jackie

The point of this post, if there is one, is that I have applied for no less than ten jobs in Saudi Arab today.

Some nine or so in various other shit holes, err, developing countries, just looking for my next war zone to make me famous, not unlike Hemmingway. At this point in life, I must admit: prolly ain’t gonna happen. All I can hope for is some good monies and some decent health insurance (and maybe some ESOP), but Hell! At this point, I’ll work for room and board…but never bored.

Me? Bored? Never.

Again, when do I get to get outraged? Ppl in Ferguson get to be outraged. I share their outrage, but I just want a small piece of that pie. I have more than one decade experience working in dangerous desolate places, yet, I find it so very difficult to find a job in same. I am feeling some outrage here! I should be entitled. I did my time. Hell! I served my country.

To quote some not so famous line from the movie, “The Right Stuff,” “Where is my parade with Jackie? I wanna meet Jackie. They owe me!” I want to meet Jackie. Or at the very least I want a window… into my golden years. End of Rant…

-Lance

And of course, as y’all know, this was all ‘tongue-in-cheek’

“Hook ’em Horns!”

(That’s ‘Texan’ for ‘Suck it up and move that ball on down the field.’   Boys.)

Or, even better, to quote Dan Jenkins: “Y’all knew it was gonna be semi-tough, eh?”

And this “trailer” is semi-tough to watch, but it was as advertised: semi tough, as we were growing up in The Seventies.

And of course, as usual, this last link is the important one.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C-qEmmpGYvA Video Credit: Erik Gloor

The Life of One Man

I really don’t have the energy (or the ‘want to’) to edit this…

Sorry.

***

(Broken down by decades)

Kinda…

57-60: Born

60-64: Awkward Years

65-68: Awareness

68-74: Lost virginity, Oh! And innocence

’74-’77: Self-Respect was an issue: High School, et al.

’77-80: Sinai Desert: lost loves (in the desert) came of age

‘80-‘85: Played at “making up for all the bad shit I did in ’77-80—failed.

’85-’90: Served my country (and served some wimmens)

’90-2004’: Worked a thankless job.

‘2004-2009’ Served my country again: This time in Iraq: So what??

2009-2011: Tried my hand at ‘House Husband—Step-Father—Fail.

2011-2012: Afghanistan

2012-til now: Adrift

Now, none of this makes sense to anyone but me, but, dear readers, I am working on a post (as always) to make some sense of it all.

Stray tuned…

–Lancer

And PS. Yeah, I know; this is self-serving, fore  for? no one reads anyhow…so… just for fun.

 Cheers,

L

Working on a new post, entitled “The Last Time I Saw Richard.”

Stay tuned.

(but do it quickly, ’cause “I’m gonna blow this damn candle out…”)

Peace.

 

War (or not)

“Some people say this song I wrote…”

“was very naïve.”

Or this:

 

I just put this video up to prove that I am as well, very naïve (and truth be told, I was inspired by a comment from David Scott Moyer)

http://davidscottmoyer.wordpress.com/

A Belated Throw-Back Thurs: “Letter From a South Park Jail” (and some other bullshit)

(And with apology to MLK for appropriating a great title)

His “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” is some of the best contemporary writing ever… Google it.

Went trolling for JOBs in Afghanistan today: Found a few, so I thought I’d repost this to rein in my reins… Not!

Truth is, I cannot work in the United ‘Stats’. I miss my former life.

I need to be ‘institutionalized’ somewhere far far away. A place where life is tenuous at worst and exciting at best and the pay is good and booze is scarce and the women are… well, usually not to be found, except on the Internet (That is a JOKE, by the way…)

I must redouble my efforts to get ‘back to the Sandbox’, and I shall.

“Here hold this while I do that!” said the Texan to his credulous girlfriend/cheerleader as he handed her his half-pint of Jim Beam and hit the accelerator on his pickup truck and flew headlong into oblivion… “Roads? We don’t need no roads!”

Then they probably both died, as so many did…back in the Seventies….

Peace,

Lance

Hope ya read this one. One of my favorites (hint hint snicker snicker) If you humor me, I will send you an autographed Mickey Mouse pencil sharpener…. (Sorry: Stole that line from the Movie: “About Last Night” loosely based upon Mamet’s “Sexual Perversity in Chicago…” A wonderful play, bastardized by Hollywood, with Rob Lowe and Demi Moore….)

Nothing but love for y’all. Nuthin’ but love….

***

This was originally posted 02 FEB entitled Letter from a Southpark Jail. I decided to re-post it as a series of ‘Chapters’ in the hope of making it a more manageable read.

(Because I do know… Bloggers have some sort of leeward side of  short, attention span…)

And I also know that ‘Bloggers’ are ‘Writers.’ And as such, we are vain. All of us. We want folks to read our writings. We live for this. Therefore, I do understand, and I do fawn (when anyone of y’all comment… we, we ‘writers” live for feedback (and more important: Accolades!). Anyway, I was not trying to chastise Bloggers for not commenting, nor for not reading ‘ere commenting.

Yes!

No!

Mais, Au contraire! I know how busy we all can be! What with writing that next ‘gonna go viral’ an’ shit, next post…. And emptying out that litter-box ‘between posts, and pretending to cook supper, and trying to explain away to one’s significant other…. how that cow ate the cabbage (and my homework…and that Book that I was gonna write, that was gonna make us…rich…Rich!)

Yep. I get it. I did not mow the lawn today… I forgot.

“But, how could you forget? It was there. It was greeeeen. Long! And Green!”

“Yeah, Baby. Sorry… Manana…”

So, I take a vow…now: I will no longer chastise…even those who ‘insta-like’ my shit–I will no longer chastise–I mean: “A like is a like” and who cares to dare… to chastise ten years from now?

I like likes. Even faux ones….

 

Chapter One: PAX Terminal, Camp Dwyer

Dwyer_Marine_LZ

The following is a transcribed letter I wrote to a Significant Other while cooling my heels in Kandahar, trying to get my CAC renewed (Common Access Card: An ID card for Civilians working with the U.S. Military). ‘Southpark’ is, for lack of a better term, A Holding Facility ‘soullessly owned and operated’ by DynCorp International for transients, itinerants, sycophants, miscreants, and other sad and lonely temporarily homeless people just trying to travel through, hoping to land somewhere else and the sooner the better…  Southpark is understaffed, under-financed, under-achieving, and sometimes underwater. It is also overpopulated, misconceiving, deceiving and just plain infuriating. Southpark will depress you, repress you, digress you, digest you, and shit you out (if you allow it). Writing saved me from insanity there.

(Whew! That was some long-ass’d diatribe!

Read on: it gets grows worse.)

 

Dwyer Map

Saturday 28 July 2012, Camp Dwyer PAX Terminal, Afghanistan 1218hrs

Dear Lady,

I’m sitting in the PAX terminal. We boarded the plane, (Sixties-Era, prop job) a couple of hours ago, but they were just kidding. After sitting on the tarmac for about forty five minutes they brought us back here. Seems someone forgot to feed the hamsters which are actually responsible for propelling the plane and hence, they died. We were told not to worry; they are flying in some fresh, well-fed hamsters from KAF (Kandahar Air Field) and once they get those settled into the plane’s power plant, we will be good to go: wheels up around 1430hrs.

So here I sit, thinking of you, Dubai, and Hamster Avionics.

This PAX terminal isn’t too bad, as these places go. (I have seen worse—and better). Like every other facility on Dwyer, it is a tent, but it is a rather enormous tent and they have provided the weary travelers with bottled water and MRE’s. So I am sated, as far as it goes. You see, I really am low maintenance.

Not being inclined to ignore any opportunity to ‘talk’ to you, I am using the tools (pen and paper) I thoughtfully provided myself in the event such opportunity did manifest itself. So here I sit, happily communicating to you using Nineteenth Century Technology. I do hope you are properly impressed.

IMG2

Page From Original Document

“And what lovely penmanship!” She exclaimed.

“Thank you,” he said.

Looking about the terminal, I have pronounced us a motley crew: About a dozen or so Indians & Sri Lankans, some Filipinos, a smattering of American Expats, couple of Brits, and a few bored Marines behind the counter, whose job it is to search the TCN’s. The counter has a sign which reads: “TCN Search Area.” TCN: ‘Third Country Nationals.’ in case you didn’t know.

“What did you do in The War, Daddy?”

“Son, I put my hands all over aromatic TCN’s.”

“What’s a TCN Daddy?’

“Uh…That’s a very sophisticated weapons system Son.”

“Wow! Cool!”

1310hrs: PAX Terminal, Dwyer

Ok, for amusement, I took an inventory of the MRE’s stacked on pallets here in the terminal:

15 pallets

56 cases of MRE’s per pallet

12 MRE’s per case

Total MRE’s: 10,080 (assuming my arithmetic is correct; a rather liberal assumption)

Posted on each pallet are four signs which read:

DO NOT EAT!

Pending Inspection

MRE stands for “Meal, Ready to Eat,” in case you didn’t know, or in this case, Meal, Not Ready to Eat. (“We done been eatin’ ‘em anyways. Hope we don’t die of ptomaine before the hamsters do, causing our Turbo Prop to morph into a glider…”)

1441hrs:  Still in PAX terminal

Announcement: “Listen up! We couldn’t get the hamsters here, but we’ve drafted a couple of gerbils and they’re fit for duty.” (‘Now there’s some happy news,’ I mused.) He continued, “For all those going to KAF, this means now you’re flying non-stop,” (Guess gerbils are not certified for multi-destination air duty.) and your luggage is already back on the plane. As soon as we warm up the gerbils, you fly. Those of you who are going to FOB Shindan, you will follow me now.”

Someone pipes up, “Are we walking?”

There’s one in every crowd…

Having a few minutes to kill while the gerbils are doing their warm up exercises, I return to the MRE pile and rat-fuck a couple of the boxes. ‘Rat Fuck’ is a technical term which simply means, “To open several bags of MRE’s and take only the premium items, leaving the not premium items for the next schmuck attempting to do same.” An example of this would be taking all the Reece’s Pieces and chocolate chip cookies, leaving only the cardboard crackers and synthetic peanut butter.

GryphonAir

1600hrs: Airborne

Wheels up and airborne and the gerbils gerbilling their little asses off. Time to destination: thirty minutes.

1613hrs: Flying High (I wish)

I am seated in a window seat. Normally I would take the aisle, but I wanted to describe the spectacular view and with all the beautiful details of this rarified vista below:

BROWN

Perusing the in-flight movie list (from the one inside my head), I select Lawrence of Arabia (with subtitles in Pashtun). I estimate getting about half-way through the opening credits before we touch down. I listen to the wonderful Academy Award winning musical score. The scenes of the burning desert are so real inside my head that I actually break a sweat. This Special Effect is helped along quite nicely by the fact that the air-conditioning on this aircraft in non-functional. I suppose one of the collateral duties of the deceased hamsters was operating the A/C unit.

1638hrs: Wheels Down

KAF

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Beautiful Kandahar.” (I do not doubt his sincerity, but I did detect a bit of sarcasm in his voice.) “For safety, you are required”, he continued, “to wear your full body armor with your helmet when exiting the aircraft. There really is no danger, but we want you to sweat just that much more. Thank you for flying Gryphon Airlines today and once again, we apologize for the teeny tiny delay we had in leaving Camp Dwyer and we do hope you will… uh, be flying with us again soon.” (As if we will have a choice)

Parts  Two  Three  Four 

And Hey! I paid fer it:

Watch it!

Vid Credit:

Woody.

Shit Done Jumped Off

In the Middle of the East.

Sad?

Yep.

Employment opportunity for me?

Most Def.

“Put me in Coach.”

“Redemption Day”

Vid Credit: allmydiscs

See the anger in her eyes?

(Yeah. I see that too)

This Read:

http://yelkhoudary.blogspot.com/

 

 

He Went to Paris: I can smell the Darkness

paris.jpg

And he went to England; played the piano, married an actress maimed “Kim:”…  She was a good wife… I loved her.

This is a continuation, albeit a flashback, to my story of Janet and Random Memories from The Middle East.

Months before the events inked here, here, here, and here, I found myself in Paris (actually two Paris’s—One Texan—One French). Confus’d yet? Stand by: it grows worse(r)

Let’s back up a mite (mites are hard to back up by the way, militarily that is: damn small and damn slippery, them mites… and they tend to mite-bite one, usually on one’s ass)

We call that “Green on Blue” and if you are following the recent news cycle, you will surely know that, that is inappropriate. But that is just how I roll. Fuck Afghanistan and their pretended bullshit “We gonna take over security of our country…” Won’t happen. But after ten plus years there (and some several months there by me, after Iraq–got ‘liberated’–now there is yet another joke, I can speak to the idiocy that is ‘our’ foreign fallacy.

I was in Sinai, 1978 (if memory serves), and I received a letter from my step-sis. This was not unusual back in those days, as we were still ‘speaking’. She sent me a rather long and boring letter regarding Honey Grove and all the ‘Happenings’ thereabouts. The letter was indeed ‘boring’ until I got to her ‘PS’. It read and I quote (loosely), “By the way, R is marrying J. Jesus-Beezus!”

This was, to me, devastation by way of bad, unspeakable news!

‘How could she?! She was MINE. Mine to mine and to have and to hold… just as soon as I finished with my wanderlust. How dare she?!” How DARE she?!

What to do?

Well, I had some R&R time ‘on the books’ so I hopped on a freighter (airplane), and flew back to Texas, ostensibly to break up the marriage, just like Dustin Hoffman in The Graduate. Problem was, was that I screwed up the dates and the logistics, and arrived not in time to bust up the wedding, but just in time to see the happy couple speeding off fast to Waco and their honeymoon…

Shit!

Never having been more depressed at missing a rendezvous, what to do? Rebound Son! Rebound!

So, I sought out Janet. Let’s call it a ‘bank shot rebound.’ I knew she was working at the Hopkins Lamar (See? To this day, I never know which county I am in)  County Courthouse as a probation officer, so I timed (this time, my timing was spot on) my entrance during her lunch break: Intercepted her coming down the stairs of the courthouse.

“Hey Janet!”

“Lance?”

“C’est moi! How’s Trix?”

“You are supposed to be in Egypt,” she said.

“I escaped,” I said. “Wanna have lunch?”

“Uh… Sure. Why not?” (Why not indeed)

We went to lunch. Then she took the rest of the day. We went to her apartment and drank gin. Later that eve, after I had regaled her with fantastical tales of the Middle of the East, she took a drag from her Virginia Slim and asked, “So are you gonna fuck me tonight, or what?”

I said, “No Ma’am; I am gonna make love to you—something I should have done five years ago.”

So we did—I did—make love to her.

The problem now became that I had a plane to catch to that other Paris: that one in France. The other part of the problem was that my plane was waiting in Houston. I was about five hours at seventy miles per hour away from my Air France plane at Houston Intercontinental. I had to go. Now.

I hit the road to Houston, not really wanting to go, but I had promised my buddy, Bart, Black Bart, that I would meet him in Paris on such and such a day. Naturally, I ended up missing my flight and arrived Paree a day late. On the taxi ride from Charles de Gaulle airport, we drove under a bridge and the taxi car lost its windshield to a lone rifle shot. (my theory) “Terrorist?” I asked the cabby? (en français).

“Merde!” Was all he said, as he dodged the flying glass. (true story). I did not care anyhow, but this rather happenstance occurrence did not bode well for my first day in Gay Paree…

“There’s my hotel!” I exclaimed as he had managed to (somehow) keep driving.

I paid him off, got out of his now mangled, windshield-less cab and made my way into the cheap hotel lobby. Went up to my room, dropped my shit; then went looking for my buddy. Found him at last sitting on his rack, rather sullen in mood. I checked out his room. It had a wonderful view of the Eiffel Tower.

“So Bart,” I asked finally, “What have you done here in The City of Light for twenty-four hours?”

“You see that tower there?” he asked, pointing to the window.

“Yep,” I said. “That would be the Eiffel Tower.”

“Well, since you didn’t show, I went out on my own… and hey! Ya know, they don’t speak English here? I went out on my own. (You mentioned that) Walked over to that tower, looked up at it—kicked it—and said to myself, ‘Yep. That there Bartamus, that there is the Eiffel Tower. Then I came back here and took a nap. And would you please tell that France Maid that I do not want no fuckin’ breakfast? She wakes me up in the fucking morning with her biscuits (‘croissants’ Asshole) and lousy coffee.”

“Sure Bart,” I said. “I will post a note, en français on yer door.”

“You speak France?”

“Yep.”

“Well Hot Damn then! You be Bogey. I’ll be Bacall.” (of course)

“I weren’t able to bust up the wedding.”

“What?”

“The Wedding.”

“Oh you mean between R and J?”

“Yep. That one, you moron.”

“Yer better off,” he said.

“OK. Then why am I so depressed?”

“Dunno. Did you have any other adventures while you were back In-The-World?”

“Matter of fact, I did. I hooked up with Janet.”

“Bullshit.”

“Nope. No bullshit. Why I missed my flight, in fact.”

“Well, I was just about pissed off at you, but now I unnerstand.”

“Thanks for that,” I said.

“Hey!” he said. “Let’s smoke a bowl and you can tell me all about it while we go and kick this town in the ass.”

“Light her up,” I said. We smoked and drank and then off we went stoned and semi-drunk and in Paris (France) Just two more ugly Americans (Texans)

Now Y’all…

I hesitated while choosing the vid to represent this post. Then I swerved onto this one below. It is somewhat depressing, yeah. But, but… This is how I see my life ending up. I hope you will take the time to watch, listen, and comment.

Vid Credit: 

John1948SevenA

Cheers,

Lance

To Be Continued… Hopefully.

“Losing his hearing, but he don’t care what most people say.”

“Lately I been thinkin’ I just might quit drinkin’…

“I feel like Hank Williams tonight”

JJ Walker

tex flag

Doctors Piss Me Off

While I was ‘out-processing’ in Fort Worth Texas to go to Kandahar back in 2011, I had this conversation with the DynCorp Doc:

Doctor asked me, “Did you attend a big drinking ‘going away party’ last night?”

“Nope” I lied. (I never need an excuse to drink me under the table)

“Well that is a shame, because your liver is inflamed. You sure you did not drink last night?”

“Yep. Quite sure,” I lied again.

“Well, you also have enlarged red blood cells. Do you realize what this means?”

“Yessir, I do. It means my red blood cells are capable of carrying more O2, and therefore, this is a good thing.”

*heavy sigh* from the doc. “That means they stick to each other. A bad thing.”

“Yeah, we all stick together… So doc, just sign the papers, ummm kay?”

“But… your BP… is off the chart. One-eighty over one-thirty-five”

“Ya, ain’t that cool? I have always been an over-achiever. High numbers fascinate me. Now please sign me off so I can go to the bar before going to Afghanistan to get shot at.”

stethoscope

True story. There are many more…

I don’t think that doc liked me. But he did sign ze papers like a good little DynCorp sycophant.

T-Back Thurs: Emails From Afghanistan: My Boss, aka: ‘That Guy I Wouldn’t Want Running An Elevator For Me’

Yet another email I dispatched from Camp Dwyer, 2012:

Around 1730hrs a truck pulls up outside my office at LSA 2. I didn’t see who was in the truck, but I figured I was about to have a visitor. (I’m really smart that way) After the truck had been literally blocking my door for about five minutes, Mike Smith (My Manager. The BBB: Billeting BIG BOSS) walks in holding up a pack of L&M cigarettes. Now remember, I have not seen this guy for the day-and-a-half he has been “back” on Dwyer.

“Anyone in here smoke these?” were the first words out of his mouth.
I look up from my personal emails and say, “Dunno. Lashonda smokes, but afraid I don’t know her brand.” (She was out of the office, actually smoking at this time)

“Well, I wish whoever is smoking these would stop doing it on the bench.” (There’s a bench just outside my office door and it sits in a ‘No-Smoking’ area.)

“Sorry Mike; not on ‘bench patrol duty’ today. Could’ve been anybody; probably a Marine with a rifle or a Jordanian with a goat. Did you trek all the way across this burning desert to tell me this? Or do you have some business here? Oh and welcome back by the way.” (Saturated sarcasm, I’m afraid.)

“Uh, no… You do realize we have a serious situation on our hands in Billeting?” (Well, duh. You’re the schmuck who has been gone, not me). I just gave him my best *You’re fucking kidding me, right? Lance, peering-over-his-glasses look.*

Are You Kidding Me

He continues, struggling now to maintain his Authority Voice, “Uh, of course you know everyone is gonna have to ‘get on board’ with all this new responsibility.”

I continue *Lance-looking* him.

 “I’m going to want you to run LSA 1 from this office; (LSA 2) are you ready to take ownership of this mission?”

“Sure, no problem,” I said. “But you do realize, Michael, that LSA 1 is over a half-mile from here and I have no vehicle?”

“Uh, I didn’t mean right now. But just as soon as Shannon gets everything settled down. Then we can come up with a plan forward.”

“Sorry Mike, but I’m not in the ‘Plan-Forward coming up with’ business anymore; above my pay grade, you see. But as soon as YOU come up with a Plan, forward or otherwise, I will be happy to follow it.”

*Looks hurt & confused* Mikey does.

“Well, uh” he stammers, “Everyone is gonna have to get on-board with all this.”

You mentioned that. Anything else? How was your R&R?” I said, hoping to change the subject and also out of mean-spiritedness, because I knew he was going to tell me something stupid. He didn’t disappoint:

“I had the flu for the first week and spent the next week getting over it.”

“Damn rotten luck. Perhaps DynCorp will allow you a ‘do-over.’ Whaddya think?”

*gears grinding as he searches—in vain—for something to say: painful to witness the mechanics of this*

“Nice chair,” he said finally, plopping his fat ass down in a chair Shannon had liberated from a Marine Corps office in one of the LSAs we’re taking over.

“Yeah, Shannon delivered that to us yesterday; nice to finally have a proper office chair in here after twelve months.”

“I have chairs on order for Billeting,” he reminded me.

“Yes, and ever since forever, even before I got here; still no sign of them,” I reminded him.

“Uh, yeah… they’re stuck at the Pakistani border; they’re gonna fly ‘em out.”

“Whatever. By the way, you do know these other two chairs are my personal property, purchased with my personal money, so don’t get any ideas.”

“Yes, yes, I know. I know those belong to you and your office.”

“Of course.”

I won’t bore you with the rest of the conversation; I think you get the drift and the general tenor of it.

After leaving work for the day I stopped by the Housing Office in the DynCorp LSA Compound (where there’s a tent I call ‘home’), and caught Shannon there, still working. (See? He does deserve to be Billeting Manager.)

Lance and Shannon

Shannon and Lance

“Mister Duckworth!” I saluted.

“Mister Marcom!” he returned.

“What up Duck?”

*gives me his best ‘exasperated’ look*

“Yeah, I know; they cancelled Christmas. What the fuck’s going on with MJS?” I asked as discreetly as I could; (there were others present) which was none too discreet I fear, but don’t matter; All Departments despise Monsieur le Mike, aka Michael J. Smith. (Not sure, but I think the ‘J’ stands for ‘Jagoff’)

“Don’t worry; it’s still gonna happen.”

“Christmas?”

“Yeah, an’ New Year’s too.”
“Ok, I’ll cool my jets an’ cancel my de-mobe.” (de-mobilization)

“Lance Bro,” (he sometimes calls me ‘Bro’) “Mike went to HR on me today.”

“Get the fuck out!” I said, honestly shocked. “Some brass balls on this guy.”

“Yeah, he told HR he couldn’t work with me anymore.”

“Pardon me a moment Shannon, while I fall down on this plywood floor and laugh my ass off. It’ll just take a sec.”

“Dude, (he sometimes calls me ‘Dude’) I’m serious! He went to HR on me and HR told me later about it and also told me to sit tight an’ chill; he will be leaving us soon.”

“Before Christmas, let’s hope,” I said.

“Yeah, yeah. Listen, Mike came to see me after he left LSA 2. He asked me, ‘What’s wrong with Lance?’ I tole him, I said, ‘Mike, every time you go to LSA 2 and talk to Lance, you come back and ask me this same stupid shit.’ An’ he says, ‘I don’t think Lance likes me. Why doesn’t he like me?’ This mothafucka is stupid.”

“Yeah Shannon, ya think? We all know this. Hell, tell the sonuvabitch to ask me next time, and you know what? It’s not as if I haven’t told him more than once to his face my issues with him. This guy wears me out.” (And I wonder why I have not been promoted)

“Yeah. You’re right.”

“Listen to me Shannon, take your ass on outta here and go to bed; it’s late.”

“Okay Brother (sometimes he calls me ‘Brother’), I’m heading out now.”

“Good. See you tomorrow. Night.”

“Peace out, My Friend.” (He sometimes even calls me “Friend”)

Throw-Back: Three Days in the Life of a South Park Survivor Chapter One

This was originally posted 02 FEB entitled Letter from a Southpark Jail. I decided to re-post it as a series of ‘Chapters’ in the hope of making it a more manageable read.

Chapter One: PAX Terminal, Camp Dwyer

Dwyer_Marine_LZ

The following is a transcribed letter I wrote to a Significant Other while cooling my heels in Kandahar, trying to get my CAC renewed (Common Access Card: An ID card for Civilians working with the U.S. Military). ‘Southpark’ is, for lack of a better term, A Holding Facility ‘soullessly owned and operated’ by DynCorp International for transients, itinerants, sycophants, miscreants, and other sad and lonely temporarily homeless people just trying to travel through, hoping to land somewhere else and the sooner the better…  Southpark is understaffed, under-financed, under-achieving, and sometimes underwater. It is also overpopulated, misconceiving, deceiving and just plain infuriating. Southpark will depress you, repress you, digress you, digest you, and shit you out (if you allow it). Writing saved me from insanity there.

Dwyer Map

Saturday 28 July 2012, Camp Dwyer PAX Terminal, Afghanistan 1218hrs

Dear Lady,

I’m sitting in the PAX terminal. We boarded the plane, (Sixties-Era, prop job) a couple of hours ago, but they were just kidding. After sitting on the tarmac for about forty five minutes they brought us back here. Seems someone forgot to feed the hamsters which are actually responsible for propelling the plane and hence, they died. We were told not to worry; they are flying in some fresh, well-fed hamsters from KAF (Kandahar Air Field) and once they get those settled into the plane’s power plant, we will be good to go: wheels up around 1430hrs.

So here I sit, thinking of you, Dubai, and Hamster Avionics.

This PAX terminal isn’t too bad, as these places go. (I have seen worse—and better). Like every other facility on Dwyer, it is a tent, but it is a rather enormous tent and they have provided the weary travelers with bottled water and MRE’s. So I am sated, as far as it goes. You see, I really am low maintenance.

Not being inclined to ignore any opportunity to ‘talk’ to you, I am using the tools (pen and paper) I thoughtfully provided myself in the event such opportunity did manifest itself. So here I sit, happily communicating to you using Nineteenth Century Technology. I do hope you are properly impressed.

IMG2

Page From Original Document

“And what lovely penmanship!” She exclaimed.

“Thank you,” he said.

Looking about the terminal, I have pronounced us a motley crew: About a dozen or so Indians & Sri Lankans, some Filipinos, a smattering of American Expats, couple of Brits, and a few bored Marines behind the counter, whose job it is to search the TCN’s. The counter has a sign which reads: “TCN Search Area.” TCN: ‘Third Country Nationals.’ in case you didn’t know.

“What did you do in The War, Daddy?”

“Son, I put my hands all over aromatic TCN’s.”

“What’s a TCN Daddy?’

“Uh…That’s a very sophisticated weapons system Son.”

“Wow! Cool!”

1310hrs: PAX Terminal, Dwyer

Ok, for amusement, I took an inventory of the MRE’s stacked on pallets here in the terminal:

15 pallets

56 cases of MRE’s per pallet

12 MRE’s per case

Total MRE’s: 10,080 (assuming my arithmetic is correct; a rather liberal assumption)

Posted on each pallet are four signs which read:

DO NOT EAT!

Pending Inspection

MRE stands for “Meal, Ready to Eat,” in case you didn’t know, or in this case, Meal, Not Ready to Eat. (“We done been eatin’ ‘em anyways. Hope we don’t die of ptomaine before the hamsters do, causing our Turbo Prop to morph into a glider…”)

1441hrs:  Still in PAX terminal

Announcement: “Listen up! We couldn’t get the hamsters here, but we’ve drafted a couple of gerbils and they’re fit for duty.” (‘Now there’s some happy news,’ I mused.) He continued, “For all those going to KAF, this means now you’re flying non-stop,” (Guess gerbils are not certified for multi-destination air duty.) and your luggage is already back on the plane. As soon as we warm up the gerbils, you fly. Those of you who are going to FOB Shindan, you will follow me now.”

Someone pipes up, “Are we walking?”

There’s one in every crowd…

Having a few minutes to kill while the gerbils are doing their warm up exercises, I return to the MRE pile and rat-fuck a couple of the boxes. ‘Rat Fuck’ is a technical term which simply means, “To open several bags of MRE’s and take only the premium items, leaving the not premium items for the next schmuck attempting to do same.” An example of this would be taking all the Reece’s Pieces and chocolate chip cookies, leaving only the cardboard crackers and synthetic peanut butter.

GryphonAir

1600hrs: Airborne

Wheels up and airborne and the gerbils gerbilling their little asses off. Time to destination: thirty minutes.

1613hrs: Flying High (I wish)

I am seated in a window seat. Normally I would take the aisle, but I wanted to describe the spectacular view and with all the beautiful details of this rarified vista below:

BROWN

Perusing the in-flight movie list (from the one inside my head), I select Lawrence of Arabia (with subtitles in Pashtun). I estimate getting about half-way through the opening credits before we touch down. I listen to the wonderful Academy Award winning musical score. The scenes of the burning desert are so real inside my head that I actually break a sweat. This Special Effect is helped along quite nicely by the fact that the air-conditioning on this aircraft is non-functional. I suppose one of the collateral duties of the deceased hamsters was operating the A/C unit.

1638hrs: Wheels Down

KAF

“Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to Beautiful Kandahar.” (I do not doubt his sincerity, but I did detect a bit of sarcasm in his voice.) “For safety, you are required”, he continued, “to wear your full body armor with your helmet when exiting the aircraft. There really is no danger, but we want you to sweat just that much more. Thank you for flying Gryphon Airlines today and once again, we apologize for the teeny tiny delay we had in leaving Camp Dwyer and we do hope you will… uh, be flying with us again soon.” (As if we will have a choice)

**********************

Chapter Two Here

Throwback Thursday: Please Don’t Shit in my Showers

Dispatches From Afghanistan: Mouses, Goats, and Snakes Oh My!

The Jordanians are coming: Specifically the JAF. (Jordanian Armed Forces) They will be living here in my LSA 2. Wonderful. Each of my tents have a capacity of 120 U.S. Marines. They ain’t comphy, but they cozy and U.S. Marines do not complain. They are Marines. The JAF contingent will top off at one hundred. They have been promised three of my tents. The math doesn’t work for me. I need every tent I have (twenty-four) to serve the Marines who transit through Dwyer on their way to the war.

After some lobbying (and predictions of pissed off Marines who won’t have a tent to sleep in), I got the JAF allocation down to two tents. Why after all these years the Jordanian government has decided to send troops to southern Afghanistan, I am not sure. But I have a theory:  U.S. Department of State. Yep. Not military necessity. Not a request from the coalition of governments already represented here. Not the U.S. Military. Nope. Politics.

I have nothing against Jordan or the Jordanian people. In fact, I love them. I lived and worked in Amman Jordan for six months back in ‘07 while working to close out the paperwork on the USAID Rural Water Project we had completed in Iraq. (Bechtel, the prime contractor, had decided there was no point to continually put our lives at risk in Iraq doing paperwork we could just as easily finish in their Jordan offices).

I had a meeting with the Mayor’s Cell here on Dwyer. (The ‘Mayor’s Cell’ is the term used for the administrative branch of the Marines who actually own Camp Dwyer.) All decisions of the Mayor are final. Except, I found out, when it comes to the JAF and their accommodations.  Apprehensive over the impending arrival of the Jordanians, I asked the Mayor, “Does the Mayor’s Cell have any special directive for treatment of the JAF?”

wpid-IMG_0685-2011-06-26-11-39

“Not at all Son. Treat ‘em like Marines.”

“Yessir!” (This was the response I had been hoping for)

With the help of the Labor Department and a few of my staff, I readied the two tents for the Jordanians. We were told to expect roughly one hundred men, so we set up fifty-five military cots in each tent. These tents in LSA 2 are best described as ‘Spartan.’ There are four ‘doors’ which are simply canvas flaps about four feet wide. When the wind is up the flaps flap open allowing Afghanistan to blow inside. The occupants are not allowed to tie the flaps shut, as this creates a safety hazard in the event of a fire—no quick egress. Each of the tents has two HVAC units. They are inadequate for the weather extremes here. The tents are in disrepair. They leak, they sag, they have mold. I cannot get approval from the Mayor’s Cell through DynCorp to provide anything more than patchy maintenance. “A lick and a promise.” That’s all. They tell me, “No more funding is available for LSA 2. Deal with it.”

Continue reading

Best Re-Blog Ever

Words Fail.
Thank you David.

Wow!

Fuckin’ wow!

I am not easily moved. Some would even call me “un-movable.”

Credit to Roxanna for this wonderful video.

***********

This moved me. (see below)

Wow!

Sorry: got distracted there for a moment…

It is, after all, a Shakespeare kind of day…

davidscottmoyer

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“Hard Places”, the Life and Service of Dr. Tom Little in Afghanistan

Many thanks to Anne Bell for this story. I have (as most of y’all know) spent a great portion of my life in the Middle East and Afghanistan. This hits me close to home. Please check out Anne’s wonderful site. Lots of great reads found there.

TalesAlongTheWay

Dr. Tom had served as an optometrist in Afghanistan since 1977. He and his family stayed during the Russian invasion and during the war with America. Dr. Tom felt that these were his people and they had no other care without him. He ,along with 7 foreign aid workers, and 2 Afghans were killed on August 6, 2010 by the Taliban who claimed the killings. Dr. Tom never took sides or withheld treatment to anyone who came to him, including Taliban. He loved Afghanistan and the people. Libby Little, Tom’s wife was awarded the highest civilian honor in the United States, the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Obama in honor of Dr. Tom’s 30 selfless years of faithful service in Afghanistan. Meet Tom and Libby, the other workers, and Afghan people in this documentary. The film, “Hard Places” will be released in 2014. Michael Swantek the editor, was my…

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Southpark Survivor Chapter Four: Homeward Bound

Final Chapter.

Previously: Part OnePart TwoPart Three

Ed. Note: Again, Most of the photos are ‘clickable”

1423hrs: Southpark DFAC

It was a long and winding road which led me home. As I was trudging along, sweating my ass off, I kept reminding myself of the New Yorker’s directions given to someone looking to get to Texas from NYC: “Head west until you smell shit. That’s Oklahoma. Go south until you step in it. That’s Texas.”

Bosnia Lovers

Bosnia Lovers

I found my way back to Southpark in similar fashion: Followed my nose to the ‘Poo Pond’; took a left—ran right into Southpark. Easy as pie. Poo Pie. As soon as I got back and kicked yet another Gomer outta my rack (What’s wrong with these people?), I went to Flight Ops to see if I could fly the hell outta here tomorrow. I’ll tell you what they told me: “We’ll have to get back to you on that.”

1738hrs: Sitting on my Rack

Shoo’d the Gomes off… again. I sent you an email few minutes ago, telling you my show-time is 0100hrs for my flight back to Dwyer. It believe it’s a Helo this time. They are slower, but it’s a short trip. Saturday, I could have walked here and gotten to the CAC office same day before they closed. The computers here have been acting stupid today, so I don’t know if you got my recent posts. Only thing left for me to do is update my time sheet at 1900hrs and eat supper. I stole a sleeping bag from the Billeting laundry box last night so I wouldn’t freeze (The A/C works really good in this tent starting around midnight). Problem is, not getting to really sleep much. I must confess something: I really like a routine. I do much better when I have a routine. You probably would never have guessed that about me. Hopefully Mike will not still be there tomorrow, but I had no email from Shannon, so I suspect he remains. Shannon surely would have told me if he finally did leave. I would hope so anyway.

 

1915hrs: Sitting on my rack

Supper was yummy. Roast pork and a chicken breast. Southpark’s population seems to have doubled today. Trying to find a spot to sit in the smoking arena is an exercise in futility. Time for me to leave obviously

What a Dump

What a Dump

I am really exhausted now. Tomorrow will be another Long Day, but at least at the end of it I’ll be back in my own bed and in my own hooch. “There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.” I’m sad right now a little bit ‘cause I have not heard from you. Hopefully a bit later before I depart for the flight line and most likely another long wait to get on yet another bird… I hope they fed the hamsters this time: “Helicopter Hamsters.” Sounds like a song: ‘Muskrat Love…’ (Lance, you need sleep Son)

2020hrs: DFAC

Tried to sleep. Failed. Ideas of what to show you and do with you and to you in Dubai race around in my head and look for a place to rest.

31 July Tuesday 0021hrs: DFAC – Strong coffee

Taster’s Choice instant. ‘twill serve. Just got off the computer a few minutes ago and had several emails from you. Happy Now. Some dude was very vociferous about some folks taking more than their allotted ten minutes (I’m not guilty of that. Not Much). Anyway, I had to go. Got a couple hours of death-like sleep until a Billeting Gome woke me up (very politely) tapping me on the shoulder, making sure I knew I was scheduled to fly. I assured him that “Yeah Baby! I’m flying outta here.” My alarm was about to go off, but I’m glad he woke me up just in case it didn’t. They have the Olympics on TV now here in the DFAC. I had forgotten about them and I suppose they are well underway by now. I do hope Texas brings home a lot of gold this time! Gotta go and grab my ‘kit’. See? I can speak Brit. Heading to the rally point. Rally Ho!

0315hrs: PAX Terminal KAF

Been successfully herded from Southpark.

0348hrs: Taxi Runway

Didn’t even have time to finish my coffee. Gryphon Airlines exhibited uncharacteristic efficiency today. I did manage to wolf down part of an MRE I had rat-fucked on the 28th. Not on a helo—thought I would be. A/C on this bird no better than the last one. Waiting to take off… Plane is full and we have two stops before Dwyer. Hopefully I’ll be home in time for DFAC breakfast, but not likely. Oh, plane holds about forty-six in case you’re wondering.

0404hrs: Airborne! Escape Velocity Breached! “Once more unto the Breach!”

On our way! Yippee Ki Aye! Captain is female, Michelle. I love her already.

0519hrs: FOB Shindan

Sitting here in Beautiful Shindan. Well, just sittin’ on the plane which is sittin’ on the tarmac in Beautiful Shindan. I have never been to Shindan, so I have no emotions one way or another about Shindan, but apparently I like writing the word ‘Shindan.’ It is just before sunrise here and this time tomorrow I should be back in MY Gym on MY FOB. But for now, next stop FOB Ferah. Shindan Gomes are boarding now… While they are settling in, I’d like to tell you more about this airplane. As I said, she seats around forty-six. I am semi-comfortably ensconced in a window seat, seated near-the-rear of this DHC-8-300, aka: ‘Dash Eight’ and we just dashed from KAF to here at twenty-thousand feet and I must assume at about 250 mph, but I’d have to verify that with Michelle, or her hamsters. This is a Four-Hamster plane: two hamsters per propeller which is in accordance with FAA, ‘Fuckin Afghan Aviation’ regulations. Our Flight Attendant, Gail, is going through her spiel again (poorly) and has informed us that “No one would like to hear the smoke alarm going off (ya think?), so please don’t smoke Schmuck.” I added the “Schmuck” because I am in charge of this letter and it made me happy to do so. Well, the hamsters are warming up their little legs, so I reckon, we’ll be departing presently. And in fact we ARE! I love my Life!

Airborne now and I see the sun just peeking over a mountain—very romantic. Why does Shindan get to have mountains and Dwyer does not? Shindan looks like Aspen on a bad day, and Dwyer looks like Lubbock on any day.

0613hrs: FOB Farah

Gotta get off here briefly. The hamsters will be taking on Hamster Fuel, probably corn, or corn nuts, or whatever it is that fuels hamsters.

0629hrs: FOB Farah

I love this FOB! Well, what little I have seen of it anyway. It is tiny and nestled in some really cool-looking mountains. As we were landing I was watching for the asphalt runway to appear. It didn’t. We landed on a dirt strip. How cool is that? Not my first dirt strip landing but it caught me off guard.

AMLOs in the fight

FOB Farah

When I first got to Afghanistan, I was hoping to be sent to a small remote FOB such as this, alas, I’ve been stuck at Dwyer for a year. Now that the hamsters have refueled and I’ve had a taste of my ‘Dream FOB’ nothing left to do but head back to Dwyer, which should begin in a minute or two.

0655hrs: Airborne Again

Gail told us we have thirty-five minutes to Dwyer and I believe her. Shouldn’t get over twelve thousand feet altitude, “And once again, this is a non-smoking flight.”

“Thank you Gail. It’s been at least thirty minutes since I heard that.”

0730hrs: Home

This concludes our Special Broadcast and we now return you to your regularly scheduled emails, already in progress. It’s good to be home.

Dwyer_billet1

Shannon & Lance

Shannon & Lance

My Lucy

My Lucy

Southpark Survivor Chapter Three: Under The Boardwalk

Continuation of the Southpark Survivor Series: Chapter Three

Previously: Part One Part Two Original Complete Version

30 July 0426hrs: Rally Point

Waiting on the bus and the Gomer to take us to the Badging Office. This time of day Afghanistan is pleasant—not hot—cool in fact. I tossed and turned all night and did not sleep well at all. I kept thinking about Dubai, well specifically about us in Dubai. There were no Rockets’ Red Glare last night. So that cannot be used as excuse today for red eyes and sleepy Lance, not that I will be required to provide any, as no one gives two shits about anyone else here.

0452hrs: Briefing

The Briefing was Brief: “This here’s the van gonna take you. Leaves at zero five hunert, and it’ll leave without yew, so don’t wander off.”

0523hrs: CAC Badging Office

We’re told to expect to be here all day. Perfect! (At Dwyer last time I had to get a new CAC, I was in and out in thirty minutes max. Shit!)

0630hrs: CAC Badging Office

No sooner than four hours from now…grrrr. Didn’t bring my sunglasses; didn’t bring any snack, “No phone, no pool, no pets; I ain’t got no cigarettes…” This day is gonna suck.

0758hrs: Boardwalk, KAF

Yes, you read that right: BOARDWALK. I’m sitting at a table drinking a Mocha Frappe purchased from Green Beans Coffee (Think Starbucks) Come to find out, the world famous KAF Boardwalk lies less than one hundred meters from the CAC office. Praise The Great White Cat of the River Nile! (Again)

Boardwalk

Boardwalk

The boardwalk embraces a soccer field but and there appears to also be a hockey court of some kind as well. On the Boardwalk itself are myriad food joints: KFC, Fridays (no booze), Pizza, Juice Bar, Kebab Joint, Convenience Store (called Downtime), Trinket Shops, ATT Phone Center, Souvenir Joint, Afgh Bank, Nathan’s Frankfurters, and God knows what else. Amazing! I’d heard of this place, but didn’t know it was of this magnitude. Having a lot of time to kill, I think this will be the place to do it. Damn! That mocha thingy was good. I now have a brain freeze. This is only the third time I have ever had a Frappe. Me! The World Traveler! Ha! Now I’m spoiled. ‘Ruint’ as we say in Texas.

Green Beans Coffee

To top that off (my discovery of Le Boardwalk), I ran into my old Filipino Electrician from Iraq days on my way over here. File that in ‘it’s a small world after all’ department. His name is Hernani and he was, without doubt, my best employee and also a very good friend. I have missed him and it was wonderful to see him again after almost three and a half years. He has been here at KAF for three years now he tells me. Poor guy has been working all over the Middle East for at least twelve years, sending all his money back to the Philippines to support his wife and family. Now here is an honorable man. I truly admire and respect him.

0907hrs: Boardwalk, KAF

I snuck a couple of photos—not sure on KAF about photography—best to be cautious. I suppose I could just ask, but where would be the fun in that? As I was starving to death, I purchased a toasted bagel with cream cheese from a joint called YO Time. The ‘O’ is a clock. Clever. The bagel was mediocre, the cream cheese probably made from powder, but it hit my spot and I feel much better. The airfield lies in the direction I’m facing and I’ve been observing various aircraft come and go. So far about half a dozen helos, a couple of Predator Drones, couple of cargo planes, and I swear, I think I saw Air France landing.

Bored Walker

Bored Walker

There is a large white blimp suspended overhead. We had these in Iraq. They serve as the Eye in the Sky. ‘Gomer, watch yer ass.’

I forgot to mention that the soccer/hockey field has a jogging track circling it. I may have to try it out for a walk-about, but it is already getting hot and I really don’t want to look like I just ran in front of a fire hose… (I tend to perspire…uh, no… Sweat. A lot, when I’m working out. But that’s OK. People who don’t sweat in the desert die of heat stroke) before I get my ID photo taken.

0959hrs: CAC Badging Office

Decided better return here to see how far I’ve moved up the list: Twelve in front of me now. Looks like they have been knocking out about four per hour. “Warp Speed Mister Zulu!”

1025hrs: Boardwalk

Needed more caffeine—wanted another one of those orgasmic frappes, but my self-discipline kicked in—Diet Coke—Ah! Tasty. Before I left the badging office, I inquired to the Soldierette behind the counter, “If I have ten in front of me do I have at least an hour?”
She laughed. “Yes Sir. At Least.”

*heavy sigh*

The Boardwalk has really come to life in the past hour. Quite a cosmopolitan crowd here: U.S. Mil, civilians of every stripe, NATO forces, Afghani shop keepers, TCN’s and… Lance. (I deserve my own category—I have worked hard to be certifiable.) It’s disappointing that there are no hockey or football (See, I didn’t say ‘soccer’ this time in deference to my audience) matches going on. Probably that sort of activity happens only at night. In November. In The Rain. When it’s cool.  Anyway folks are walkin’ around the B’Walk stopping here, stoppin’ there, buyin’ food, eatin’ same, shootin’ the shit, cokin’ an’ smokin’ and if I didn’t know better, I’d think I was in Atlantic City. But I know better.

KFC

We do have lots of beach here, just no water. And they do sell beer. Non-alcoholic beer. Why even bother? Might as well drink camel piss. Probably could get that too (for medicinal purposes) now that I think on it.

1112hrs: CAC Badging Office

Only three in front of me. I can see the light. Read an article in Stars & Stripes about the casualties of contractors during the rebuilding efforts in Iraq. Finally someone is giving credit to those who died doing this work! Personally, I lost two friends there in 2007. Not best friends, but friends—killed by a roadside bomb. We were in Anbar Province at the time. The story cited 719 killed, but the number is probably over one thousand: the USG folks estimate… according to the story. I know the number is much higher even than that.

1151hrs: CAC Badging Office: NEXT

Once saw a buxom brunette wearing a T-Shirt which read, “You can’t be the first, but you can be Next.” (Okay. I stole that line from Larry McMurtry… Please don’t tell him.) Well, I’m next in line for the CAC’ing Experience. Feels like Christmas Eve. Sorta.

1242hrs: TGI Fridays

Yep. I’m sitting in a Fridays in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Believe this shit? Iraq was never like this. This is almost the Real Deal.

Just need a frosty pint of my favorite Irish Stout to make it so much more Real… *sigh* Needless to say I am now the proud owner of a brand new Common Access Card, or CAC. This one is good until 31 July 2013. I am sure you are dying to know what I ordered at Fridays. Chicken Sandwich. Gawd! I must be boring. Well, I am, after all, in training and must treat my body as a temple. I was staring around at the décor here and I must have looked like an idiot because a Gomer wait-person came over and asked if I needed any help. “No thank you,” I said. “Just never been to the Big City before.” He left, probably certain now that I am an idiot.

After I eat, I must try to find my way back to Southpark. This should prove interesting.

Comments Most Welcome.

Chapter Four Here

Three Day Southpark Survivor Chapter Two

Southpark: Day The First

For those who may not have read Chapter One or Letter From a Southpark Jail,  This is a transcribed letter/email sent to my Girlfriend from Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Ed Note: Most of the photos are ‘clickable’

1820hrs: Southpark

Checked into Southpark and got me a bottom rack—With a Lockable Locker!

My Rack

My Bottom Rack (with I-Pad)

First time that has ever happened! Bad news is now it is too late to get to the CAC badging office and they are closed on Sundays. Therefore, I waste a day here. But at least I have you now (don’t I?) and can occupy my time with thoughts of us in Dubai in a few short weeks. And just in case I take a pause from that lovely daydream, I have fetched along Ishmael, Captain Ahab, and Moby Dick to keep me company: just a little light reading.

Sunday 29 July 0830hrs: Southpark Smoking Area

Sitting outside in the smoking area surrounded by Bosnians all on one table, Indians on another, Filipinos at yet another, a few Americans strategically placed, and on and on. Oh, and some Brits, also strategically placed. The Gomers have a ‘work detail’ list. They are dreaming if they broach this subject to me. I am Forced to Be Here; that is all they will receive from me: My illustrious presence and my promise not to kill anyone while here. Every morning at muster, we are forced to sign in on the Sign in Sheet. Lest we forget, there are signs everywhere to remind us:

“If You Do Not Make Muster and Sign In You Will Not Be Paid. And Furthermore: Not Making Muster Will Result In Disciplinary Action Up To And Including Termination (And An Ass Rendering Administered By Conan Our Resident Barbarian) Thank You for Complying and have a nice day…yada yada yada.

Don't Lose Your Head over SP

Don’t Lose Your Head over SP

I found DynCorp to be a little too subtle for my taste. I always like to know exactly where I stand with a company I am helping to fleece the Government on the backs of low-paid TCN’s. (OK, I promised I would not ‘dis’ DynCorp. Overmuch.)

0859hrs: Southpark DFAC (Dining Facility) Tent

Sitting in the Southpark DFAC, such as it is, having some coffee, such as that is. AFN (Armed Forces Network) is on the TV. Yes, there is a television (another first). This is all we ever see over here (was the same in most parts of Iraq, but when I was in Basra, I could watch Al Jazeera—in English–but that probably wasn’t looked upon too kindly) and actually, it ain’t bad. They pretty much broadcast the same shit one gets back in The States: CNN, Fox, ESPN, lousy movies, Andy Griffith, etc. The only way to know you are watching AFN, in fact, is by the ‘Commercials’: All PSA’s detailing how U.S. Service Personnel are expected to comport themselves and various other things mil-centric. Some of these “Made in the U.S. DOD commercials” are quite professional and slick as Baby Shit, while others are so bad as to be hysterical. I love watching the bad ones–the ones that look like High School Plays.

1015hrs: DFAC

More coffee. Regarding last night’s rocket attack: (Guess I neglected to mention that) My Dear, this is just routine for KAF. As far as I know, it has been at least two months since the Taliban Assholes have actually hit anything or injured anyone. In other words, they usually can’t hit shit.

Point being, please do not worry about THAT. (I just caught myself looking for the “Save” button on this steno pad. I must be losing my mind.)

1127hrs: DFAC

DFAC

DFAC

Just returned from PX Mission: Mission accomplished. No apparent casualties.

1134hrs: Picnic Area

Got kicked out of the DFAC so ‘they’ could clean it before lunch time (1230hrs). Purchased an alarm clock at the PX since I have to get up at 0345hrs tomorrow to go to the CAC badging office and I forgot to bring my Dwyer alarm clock with me. “Hell Lance! It’s only money.” I now have three alarm clocks plus my watch. “As God as my witness, I’ll never be late again!”

Picnic Area

‘Picnic’ Area

Ran into an acquaintance from Dwyer. His name escapes me, but he told me Dwyer was slated for closure in December. Hmmmm…. I may be out of a job soon. Maybe they did cancel Christmas after all.

1255hrs: Sitting on my rack…

…After I came ‘home’ and discovered two Gomers with their butts parked on same. They removed/relocated their butts as soon as I pointed out to them that I was not (in this case) a very nice person. In case you missed it, I am never a very nice person while I am stuck in Southpark. But then, I am not alone in this. Lunch, or as we call it in the Texas, ‘Dinner’, was eat-able. I had the chicken, as the other meat offerings were unrecognizable to me. Wasn’t bad actually, the chicken (yard-bird?) was burned to perfection.

OK, Not My Rack

OK, Not My Rack

While I was on my PX mission, I was also searching for the Gym that someone at Dwyer had assured me was ‘Close to the PX’ – didn’t find it and now it is too bloody hot to go on another reconnaissance mission.  If you’re wondering how I am able to move freely about, sans escort, it is because ‘they’ changed the rules once again. This time for the better: A First in all my previous Southpark experiences. Now, those in possession of a valid CAC card are no longer restricted in their movements, bowel or otherwise. Praise Be to The Great White Cat of the River Nile.

1313hrs: Sirens Again! Then the BIG VOICE:

*ROCKET ATTACK! ROCKET ATTACK! TAKE COVER! TAKE COVER!*

(Don’t these people ever give up?) Be right back.

1315hrs: Still sitting on my rack

ALL CLEAR! ALL CLEAR! Glad I didn’t get up. Probably a false alarm. How do they expect me to get distressed when the BIG VOICE is female with a soothing British accent?

1405hrs: Sitting on my rack

Waiting on the Gomers to finish cleaning the DFAC Tent so I can get another coffee. I seem to drink heavily when I am on-board (bored) Southpark.

Oh, I forgot to tell you… After I kicked the two Gomes off’n my rack, I asked one of them to take my photo (action shot of me writing to you) Look for it amongst the attachments. It will be the one what says, “Bad Mutha-Fuckah.”

???????????????????????????????

1435hrs: DFAC

I suppose it is time to explain why I use the term ‘Gomer’ when referring to TCN’s (and everyone else On Staff, for that matter). During my Iraq days, I had a good friend (Rick) who referred to the Iraqis as ‘Gomers’. Not sure how he arrived at that, but it seemed to fit at the time. Gomer, Gomer Pyle or Get Out of My Emergency Room (Really. Google it.) Anyway, the moniker took hold–took hold so well that all in our clique began using it to refer to all ‘others’. And let me further say it actually became, over time, somewhat of a term of endearment.

Gomer 1 and Gomette 2 Amman Jordan '07

Gomer 1 and Gomette 2 Amman Jordan ’07

We started calling each other ‘Gomer’. Since there were several of us, now all Gomers, things could get confusing. To prevent miscommunication, we labeled each other ‘Gomer 1’, ‘Gomer 2’, ‘Gomer 3’, and so on. I was, of course, ‘Gomer 1’ (and I can prove that, as I have documentation—and it was a high honor.) There were never more than four Original Gomers, or ‘Gomes’ for short, but we did have one ‘Alternate Gomer’, just in case one of the Founding Gomers got taken out by an Iraqi Gomer with a lucky mortar shot.

2002hrs: My Rack

Was wonderful to discover several emails from you earlier. Unfortunately it took forever to load Gmail and by the time I had finished reading them I had no time left to respond, as it was time for everyone to start entering their hours on the electronic time sheets. We must do this every day and management has no sense of humor if we don’t. (Up to and including termination…)  Supper tonight was turkey, which tasted very much like the chicken I had for lunch. Available also was some roast beast, but I had to take a pass on that. (My sense of self-preservation is quite refined).  I went on Walk-About for about an hour this afternoon, but of course it wasn’t the same as I don’t have my ankle weights with me. I’m proud of me for making the effort, at least.

2029hrs DFAC

Coffee. Hell, why not coffee? I probably won’t sleep much tonight anyway and I have to get up at 0345hrs anyhow. Ran into the aforementioned buddy again (still cannot recall his name), not that it matters. Well, he told me where the gym was and it is NOT where some other buddy back at Dwyer had told me. If fact, it is about as far removed from THAT location as is possible. If I am not too whacked out tomorrow after the CAC Badging office, I will check it out and report my findings to you. If all goes well tomorrow, then tomorrow will be my last full day here until I come through on my way to Dubai. I had an email from Shannon today, saying that Mike was still hanging on. Christ! Firing that jerk is proving more involved than impeaching Clinton (or Nixon). I was hoping he’d be gone when I got back, but now I’m not so sure. This DFAC tent is actually pretty squared away, now that I am really studying it. It is small, yes, but the Gomes keep it clean and tidy. Not really an easy task, given the scores of people who use it at all hours. I never leave a mess when I depart. I am good that way and am famous for cleaning my own hotel rooms before checking out. Does that make me weird? Don’t worry though; I’m not anal about it. One thing that strikes me funny about this DFAC tent is that there are three smoke detectors (that I can see from where I am sitting) that are all clumped together in relatively the same area—about six feet apart. Logic would seem to dictate that they be spread out a bit, but what the hell, right?

************

Chapter Three Here

Comments, as always, much appreciated.

 

Three Days in the Life of a Southpark Survivor

This was originally posted 02 FEB entitled Letter from a Southpark Jail. I decided to re-post it as a series of ‘Chapters’ in the hope of making it a more manageable read.

Chapter One: PAX Terminal, Camp Dwyer

Dwyer_Marine_LZ

The following is a transcribed letter I wrote to a Significant Other while cooling my heels in Kandahar, trying to get my CAC renewed (Common Access Card: An ID card for Civilians working with the U.S. Military). ‘Southpark’ is, for lack of a better term, A Holding Facility ‘soullessly owned and operated’ by DynCorp International for transients, itinerants, sycophants, miscreants, and other sad and lonely temporarily homeless people just trying to travel through, hoping to land somewhere else and the sooner the better…  Southpark is understaffed, under-financed, under-achieving, and sometimes underwater. It is also overpopulated, misconceiving, deceiving and just plain infuriating. Southpark will depress you, repress you, digress you, digest you, and shit you out (if you allow it). Writing saved me from insanity there.

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Bring Yer Own Goat

So I’m standing in line at Kroger’s last night reading the tabloid headlines:

“Jennifer Lawrence gives birth to purple alien.”

”Perfectly preserved Elvis head found under back seat of ’57 Chevy in Dallas” (Why does this shit always happen in Texas?)

“Bill O’Reilly Comes Out” (Out of what? Stupidity?)

Just kiddin’ Bill. I love you man! Hahaha! (tongue firmly planted in cheek)

Anyhow, there is an elderly black gentleman in front of me, driving one of those grocery store golf carts. He has maybe five items in his basket. Still perusing the latest headlines, I hear the cashier say,

Bitch you crazy

It’s OK to say “Mother-Fucker” on my site. Tis rated “M”

“Eighty-one-fifty.”

“Eighty dollars?!” the man exclaims.

Now I look up.

“Yessir, eight-one-fifty.”

“Lan’ sakes chile. For what?”

“Well, you got them short ribs there… them was eighteen. Then you got that cough medicine, thas eight ninety-nine. Then you got that ‘luminum foil casserole dish, seven. Then you got them chips. Fo’ dollar. Then you got that gum there…. It all adds up.”

Black gentleman shakes grizzled head.

“Lawd ah mercy!”

“Yep. Y’all gonna be in big trouble onc’t y’all git home,” Cashier says. “Got a Kroger Loyalty Card?”

“Yessum, but far as I kin see, doan do no damn good.”

Now. I ask you: Since when do short ribs fetch nine dollar a pound? Since when does a nickel’s worth of aluminum foil shaped to look like a roasting pan cost seven bucks? Since when does a bag of potato chips cost four dollars? What has happened to my country?

Fuck it.

I’m moving back to Baghdad, where you can still purchase goat on the hoof for four bits a pound. (BYOB)

“Bring yer own bullets.”

No prob.

Please Don’t Shit in My Shower

Dispatches From Afghanistan: Mouses, Goats, and Snakes Oh My!

The Jordanians are coming: Specifically the JAF. (Jordanian Armed Forces) They will be living here in my LSA 2. Wonderful. Each of my tents have a capacity of 120 U.S. Marines. They ain’t comphy, but they cozy and U.S. Marines do not complain. They are Marines. The JAF contingent will top off at one hundred. They have been promised three of my tents. The math doesn’t work for me. I need every tent I have (twenty-four) to serve the Marines who transit through Dwyer on their way to the war.

After some lobbying (and predictions of pissed off Marines who won’t have a tent to sleep in), I got the JAF allocation down to two tents. Why after all these years the Jordanian government has decided to send troops to southern Afghanistan, I am not sure. But I have a theory:  U.S. Department of State. Yep. Not military necessity. Not a request from the coalition of governments already represented here. Not the U.S. Military. Nope. Politics.

I have nothing against Jordan or the Jordanian people. In fact, I love them. I lived and worked in Amman Jordan for six months back in ‘07 while working to close out the paperwork on the USAID Rural Water Project we had completed in Iraq. (Bechtel, the prime contractor, had decided there was no point to continually put our lives at risk in Iraq doing paperwork we could just as easily finish in their Jordan offices).

I had a meeting with the Mayor’s Cell here on Dwyer. (The ‘Mayor’s Cell’ is the term used for the administrative branch of the Marines who actually own Camp Dwyer.) All decisions of the Mayor are final. Except, I found out, when it comes to the JAF and their accommodations.  Apprehensive over the impending arrival of the Jordanians, I asked the Mayor, “Does the Mayor’s Cell have any special directive for treatment of the JAF?”

wpid-IMG_0685-2011-06-26-11-39

“Not at all Son. Treat ‘em like Marines.”

“Yessir!” (This was the response I had been hoping for)

With the help of the Labor Department and a few of my staff, I readied the two tents for the Jordanians. We were told to expect roughly one hundred men, so we set up fifty-five military cots in each tent. These tents in LSA 2 are best described as ‘Spartan.’ There are four ‘doors’ which are simply canvas flaps about four feet wide. When the wind is up the flaps flap open allowing Afghanistan to blow inside. The occupants are not allowed to tie the flaps shut, as this creates a safety hazard in the event of a fire—no quick egress. Each of the tents has two HVAC units. They are inadequate for the weather extremes here. The tents are in disrepair. They leak, they sag, they have mold. I cannot get approval from the Mayor’s Cell through DynCorp to provide anything more than patchy maintenance. “A lick and a promise.” That’s all. They tell me, “No more funding is available for LSA 2. Deal with it.”

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A Conversation Over a Plywood Wall In a Tent in Afghanistan

A co-worker from Trinidad, but calling Houston home for the past 20 years, (let’s call him “Persad” since that’s his name), lives in the “cubicle” next to mine in Tent C-9.

He was “home” when I arrived. He greeted me from over the cube wall.

My Hooch_Afghanistan

My Hooch

“Lance Mar—cone!” (that’s how he calls me, ’cause to him, that’s MY name) “Waz da happn’in’s?”

“Same ol’ same ol’. Where you working these days?” (he just got back from RR yesterday)

“Dey got me over to the new LSA, Bro.”

“That would be LSA Six… Bro,” I answered back. “You got an office over there?”

“Nope, no office,” he lied.

“Well, I heard you got a CHU.” (Containerized Housing Unit–small trailer, kind of)

“Ya, but no furniture.”

“Pretend you’re Japanese; sit on the damn floor. What you need furniture for anyway?”

“Damn Bro! I be too old an’ shit for dat.” (I am aiming for “Island Accent” here.)

“You do realize, Persad, that you are in a war zone?”

*Unintelligible grumbling*

After a pause…

“Hey Mar—cone!”

“Yes?”

“I spoke to yer girl today.”

“You mean Lashonda?”

“Yeah, dat one.”

“She’s not my Girl, but, yes, she works for me; ‘Bout what?”

“She said you dun give her dat office chair.”

“You mean that office chair I bought with my own money months ago for my hooch here?”

“Ya dat’s de one.”

“What about it?”

“She said you give it to her.”

“I did in fact; it’s my chair.”

“You give it to her, or to the office?”

“I gave it to her for as long as she is on Dwyer.”

“Why you give her dat chair, Mon?”

“Because her back was hurting and I am a gentleman.”

“Oh.”

“You want a chair?

“Ya.”

“Amazon dot com.”

“Damn Bro, caint you H Bee Oh; Help a brother out?”

“No.”

“You gots some scissors I can borrow?”

“Yes,” I said, handing them over the wall, “Here ya go; don’t run with them.”

“Tanks.”

“No prob.”

Emails From Afghanistan: My Boss, aka: ‘That Guy I Wouldn’t Want Running An Elevator For Me’

Yet another email I dispatched from Camp Dwyer, 2012:

***********

Around 1730hrs a truck pulls up outside my office at LSA 2. I didn’t see who was in the truck, but I figured I was about to have a visitor. (I’m really smart that way) After the truck had been literally blocking my door for about five minutes, Mike Smith (My Manager. The BBB: Billeting BIG BOSS) walks in holding up a pack of L&M cigarettes. Now remember, I have not seen this guy for the day-and-a-half he has been “back” on Dwyer.

“Anyone in here smoke these?” were the first words out of his mouth.
I look up from my personal emails and say, “Dunno. Lashonda smokes, but afraid I don’t know her brand.” (She was out of the office, actually smoking at this time)

“Well, I wish whoever is smoking these would stop doing it on the bench.” (There’s a bench just outside my office door and it sits in a ‘No-Smoking’ area.)

“Sorry Mike; not on ‘bench patrol duty’ today. Could’ve been anybody; probably a Marine with a rifle or a Jordanian with a goat. Did you trek all the way across this burning desert to tell me this? Or do you have some business here? Oh and welcome back by the way.” (Saturated sarcasm, I’m afraid.)

“Uh, no… You do realize we have a serious situation on our hands in Billeting?” (Well, duh. You’re the schmuck who has been gone, not me). I just gave him my best *You’re fucking kidding me, right? Lance, peering-over-his-glasses look.*

Are You Kidding Me

He continues, struggling now to maintain his Authority Voice, “Uh, of course you know everyone is gonna have to ‘get on board’ with all this new responsibility.”

I continue *Lance-looking* him.

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Emails From Afghanistan: Stop The War!

Excerpts from a couple of emails I sent from Camp Dwyer in 2012:

The boys are still moving cots and I think we just had a heat casualty. At least that’s what I heard on the hand-held radio. At first I thought it was here in LSA 2. (LSA—‘Life Support Area’—euphemism for ‘Small Tent City’)

LSA2_tents

LSA 2

I went to the tent where Kushal was supervising but the casualty wasn’t there; apparently he was in LSA 6. The radios aren’t good enough to transmit from here to LSA 6 so details are sketchy. We don’t need any safety issues. Management gets all stupid over the slightest incident. Personally, I would just put the dude in the shade, give him a cold beer (NA of course) and continue on with the mission. But in Corporate America these days, a “Safety Stand Down” is required. All work stops while they “train” us once again to “drink plenty of water.” One would think that since humans have been drinking water for some years now, it would not be necessary to conduct this training, but hey! Guess that’s why I’m not in Upper Management. “Keep on spendin’ Boys! It’s only money!”

Speaking of management and such, I suppose I should get my butt back to work…

–Lance, just another worker-bee schmuck.

My Office

My Office

  ***Breaking News***

The “heat casualty” turned out to be a bug bite on the neck. Yes, you read that right: a fucking bug bite! Kushal told me this just now and my reaction?

“Are you shitting me?!”

 

 

 

Pandemonium on the radio. People freakin’ out. Stop the work! Stop the War! A bug bite?

I need to find another job.

And they call me crazy for walking around wearing ankle weights.

Unbelievable!

******************************

We have a crisis of sorts here in my LSA at this very moment: All work has stopped. It seems someone spotted a spider in the passenger van used by the Labor Guys. Eye witnesses reported the spider to be about the size of a cantaloupe. I heard this on the hand-held radio and burst out laughing. I grabbed a fly-swatter and headed over to the van. I forced my way through the crowd of Indians and Filipinos who were all staring into the windows of the vehicle and trembling visibly. I immediately started moving shit around inside the van, looking for this monster, and laughing at all of them for their antics and panic. Not finding the spider, I stood up and announced to the assembled crowd:

“STOP THE WAR! WE HAVE A SPIDER IN THIS VAN! SHUT DOWN THE OPERATION! PACK YOUR SHIT BOYS! WE’RE GOIN’ HOME!”

No one really appreciates my sense of humor over here.

Woe To The Wheeless Wheelbarrow

Heard this exchange on the handheld radio while in Afghanistan in 2012. (The Labor guys are Romanian and have that thick accent; The Plumber is American and without an interesting accent whatsoever…)

BrokenWheelbarrow

********

“Labor Two, this is Plumber One, copy?”

“Go for Labor Two…”

“Yessir, you told me you were gonna remove that dirt when you got the wheelbarrow.”

“Come back, Sir! You breakin’ up!”

“I SAID, You told me you gonna move that DIRT once you got the WHEEL–BARROW.”

“BREAK BREAK BREAK! This is Labor One.”

“Yessir, this is Plumber One. You promised me you gonna have your guys move that dirt from my job site when you got your wheelbarrow.”

“Sir, that wheelbarrow we got, got no wheel.”

***Pregnant Pause***

“Labor Two, this is Labor One. Look in connex. Tell me you got wheel for dis wheelbarrow.”

“Good Copy, Sir. We have.”

“You have wheel for dis wheelbarrow?”

“Yessir! We have wheel.”

“Okay. You check see if dis wheel is good one.”

“Yessir, dis wheel, she is good one.”

“Okay. Five mikes, I be dere. You wait me dere. I come see dis wheel.”

***Few minutes later***

“Plumber One, dis is Labor One, where you want dis wheelbarrow?”

“Labor One, this is Plumber One. Next to the dirt.”

“Ok, five mikes I be dere…”

So, my question is: what do you call a wheelbarrow without a wheel?

A “barrow?”

And what the hell good is it?

And so it went there at Camp Dwyer, Afghan-is-sand…

Letter From A South Park Jail

The following is a transcribed letter I wrote to a Significant Other while cooling my heels in Kandahar, trying to get my CAC renewed (Common Access Card: An ID card for Civilians working with the U.S. Military). ‘Southpark’ is, for lack of a better term, A Holding Facility ‘soullessly owned and operated’ by DynCorp International for transients, itinerants, sycophants, miscreants, and other sad and lonely temporarily homeless people just trying to travel through, hoping to land somewhere else sooner than later…  Southpark is understaffed, under-financed, under-achieving, and sometimes underwater. It is also overpopulated, misconceiving, deceiving and just plain infuriating. Southpark will depress you, repress you, digress you, digest you and shit you out (if you allow it). Writing saved me from insanity there.

southpark-afghanistan

*****************

Saturday 28 July 2012, Camp Dwyer, Afghanistan 1218hrs

Dear Lady,

I’m sitting in the PAX terminal. We boarded the plane, (Sixties-Era, prop job) a couple of hours ago, but they were just kidding. After sitting on the tarmac for about forty five minutes they brought us back here. Seems someone forgot to feed the hamsters which are actually responsible for propelling the plane and consequently, they died. We were told not to worry; they are flying in some fresh, well-fed hamsters from KAF (Kandahar Air Field) and once they get those settled into the plane’s power plant, we will be good to go: wheels up around 1430hrs.

So here I sit, thinking of you, Dubai, and Hamster Avionics.

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