He was all over the telephone, sorting out (and paying for) The Extended Stay In The ‘City of Light’ with his new Love.
As soon as I got everything sorted, settled and paid for, Ela telephoned her two kids: A daughter and a son—Bout 9 and 12 respectively.
It was kind of a ‘conference call’ from what I could glean, but only hearing Ela’s words, and watching her begin to get all misty-eyed and then break down in tears, I could only surmise:
This could, in no way, shape, matter, nor form bode well…
She hung up and through her crying eyes, announced,
“I have to go home.
“My children are distraught. They expected me home tomorrow, not in four days.”
“You wanna see ‘distraught?’ Look at me!”
Now, mind you, I really did not give a shit about the six grand it had just cost me to sort out the extended stay at our hotel (Since I no longer had a reservation and they claimed to be booked solid they broke it off in my ass—ditto Air France—at least six grand all in, but who’s counting at this point?
I could always go back to ‘The Sandbox’ and make Six-Grand in two Weeks, but that wasn’t really the point, was it?
I wanted MORE TIME with HER!
We spent that final night under a bridge across from Notre Dame, drinking wine and holding hands.
First thing next morning, I grabbed a cab and took her to the airport.
As we were waiting in-line to get her boarding pass I made an incredibly stupid decision:
“I am flying with you—to Springfield,” I blurted out.
(Yet more money down that drain)
“You sure?” She asked.
Sorted out my new plane ride logistics (And ass-raped once again by Air France)
We got our boarding passes, our carry-ons and boarded the plane.
What the Fuck had I just done?
I was certain I would pay for this folly, and probably much sooner than later.
Thirty minutes passed and we were Wheels-Up and non-stop to New-Fucking-Jersey (To catch our connection to Springfield)
(I like to think myself an intelligent, worldly man, but this. THIS was a bone-headed, stupid move)
Trust me, Gentle Readers, it gets worse.
To Be Continued…
Added Value To Accentuate My Point:
(This song will become more relevant in upcoming chapters)
And try to guess who stopped giving a shit first.
You have only two options–these are easy odds
Not like betting The Ponies, or Roulette. Or A Crap Shoot.
Go ahead: Put your Money On The Table–Take A Shot.
I love You Sheryl–Always Have–Always shall.
(Even if you do resemble some Crack Whores I have called ‘Friend.’)
Hey! Wanna Try A Different ‘Lance’?
That Armstrong One Was Lame as Fuk–Just Sayin’.
But if he/she/it makes you happy…
Rock on Girl!
I have a ‘real-life’ Cheryl (Yeah, with a ‘C’) Cheryl story, but if I tell it, she will track me down and kill the fuck outta me. So I won’t tellit unless I get drunk out of my mind.
(Yeah, I know this is a really old photo, but my thought process goes like this: If Joni ever sees this it may piss her off just enuff to come see me and kick my ass) And I would cherish the ass-kicking. For the rest of my life.
We spent an inordinate amount of time in our lovely, comfy little love shack of a hotel room.
I had fetched along some of my most – favorite movies to share with Ela—Yes, at this point, she had instructed me to call her “Ela” because that was the moniker she went by, but reserved for her ‘closest friends.’—I figured ‘Lovers’—but whatever. I had made it to “Ela Status.” Hoped this boded well for our relationship.
Got one of the Hotel Staff to hook us up with a DVD Player so we could watch the movies I had brought to the soiree:
We wasted (well, not wasted to me) a lot of time holed up in our little room watching these movies, drinking vin rouge, and making love. I was in Heaven. I had already seen much of The Paris I was interested in seeing (This was not my First ‘Paris Rodeo’—Had been to Paris several times already. As had she.
So we just drank, made love, watched movies, and fell deep IN-LOVE (for the most part)
We did occasionally go out, usually in the late evenings to stroll down the Champs-Élysées and hang out at the Café George V.
We were having a wonderful Paris Experience.
But, it was rapidly coming to an end.
She had to return to her ‘Main-Mundane’ in Springfield and I had to return to ‘Le Sandbox’ that was Iraq. We kinda grew morose.
Then I had one of those ‘epiphany things.’
“Ela,” I broached. “Why cannot we just extend our stay here a few more days? I can change our plane tickets, sort things out with the hotel. My job won’t fire me. I am too good at it, as I am sure you are at yours. Let’s stay a few more days.”
She blinked at me through teary eyes, embraced me, kissed me and said, “Oh Yes! Oh Hell Yes!”
Then I got on the telephone to sort out all the logistics and the dice were cast.
It turned out to be a not-so-very-good crap-shoot, but it took some time for that realization to make manifest.
When I was working in Basra my gig allowed two weeks R&R every two months or so. Sounds like a deal, eh? Well yes it was. Be aware however, we worked seven days a week, ten hours a day. NO days off. So do the math; we earned it. And of course we were getting shelled and rocketed and mortared regularly.
I had a stateside girlfriend back then. Actually more friend than girl. Rather platonic relationship, but we were ‘Buds’ and I loved her dearly. (Still do) And we went way back.
It was agreed by us both that once I went to Iraq we would spend our (my) R&R’s together. I flew her to Barcelona, Athens, Italy, and finally London. (She made all the arrangements. All I had to do was show up) Too easy for me.
Mid 2006 we met in London. I was ‘cacked out’ (Lenny Bruce vernacular). Worn out. Plumb tuckered. Tired. Damn tired. Spent.
Click Me: This Was My London
She was of course not. Now mind you, this woman had been all over Europe already. London, Paris, Madrid, Rome, Berlin, Athens… well, she was rich. Catch my drift? I had seen quite a lot of Europe my own damn self. Did not hold much magic for me.
All I really wanted was some ‘down time.’
Bless her heart (and this speaks volumes of our great friendship), she let me do what I wanted, which basically meant I could sit in the flat she had arranged for us in downtown London and drink Beefeater while watching movies and smoking Marlboro’s and ranting at the current state of affairs in Iraq.
After a few days she did manage to get me out of the flat for a walk-about. We went to Buckingham Palace (one day shot there)
We went to the British Museum; saw the Rosetta stone. Another day gone.
“Lance that’s the Rosetta Stone.”
“Yep, that’s cool. What’s it say? I caint quite make it out”
“It says, ‘Shut up Lance'”
Had some fish ‘n’ chips (I preferred Long John Silvers, but that is just what an asshole I am)
Rode the Tube. (I prefer Le Metro in Paris, but what the hell)
And various other exhausting exhilarating excursions.
“About three days before we were to part: me back to The Sandbox; she back to Texas, she asked me, “Lance, isn’t there any place in London you would like to see?”
“Yeah, as a matter of fact, there is. I wanna go down to Marble Arch Station.”
“Whaaat?” she said.
“Yeah. Marble Arch Station.”
“That is a Tube Station.”
“Yeah, I know.”
“Why on Earth…”
“Because it belongs to Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker. And Texas.”
I was inspired to Re-Post This by a Fellow Blogger’s Post Over At
Please Pay A Visit to Her Blog:
Worth Every Minute of Your Time
The Below is Really Obnoxious.
Not to Mention Hard-On-The-Ears.
Kinda Like Chalk Breakingon a Chalk-Board
I recommend Ear-Plugs,
Turn the Volume Down
A Thousand Apologies
Especially To Freddie Mercury
Cred for Vid: GoatStep
I try really hard not to be asshole.
I truly Do,
But I Just Cannot Help My Nature
The Men Who Stare At Goats Movie Trailer
Of COURSE I Read The Book.
But Then You’d Already Know That About me.
I am, After All,
In ‘08 I gave my notice to Parsons and went to work for an Iraqi company called Leadstay. Leadstay was the outfit that provided all the heavy equipment and operators we employed at Camp Wolf in Anbar Province.
They worked under the direction of our EOD (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) guys, (Tetra Tech) helping them to locate and destroy the UO (un-exploded ordnance) that Saddam had so graciously left behind.
The project, USACE CMC (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Coalition Munitions Clearance project), was a noble one and I worked for them two years, “Kicking bombs” as my IT guy referred to it.
Previously I had worked for Parsons on the USAID (U.S. Dept. of State) Rural Water Project. We built water treatment plants for rural villages all over Iraq providing clean potable water to people who had never put lips to same. Spent two years doing that. I was in the ‘Construction’ business.
At CMC I had moved into the ‘Destruction’ business, or for you literary types: ‘deconstruction business’. The circle was now complete.
CMC was winding down in ’08 after having destroyed roughly four hundred thousand short tons of old live ordnance during the five years they had been ‘kicking the bombs’ which the bad guys would surely have turned into IED’s.
I needed to find a new gig.
Through my connections with Leadstay I was hired on as ‘Business Development Manager.” They paid me fifteen thousand bucks a month (In cash if I so desired) plus two percent of any new contracts I landed. Potentially very lucrative.
The Leadstay ‘Man Camp’ was in the ‘Red Zone’ just outside the wire of Camp Victory, which bordered BIAP (Baghdad International Air Port). Electricity was hit or miss. The power grid from Baghdad was kind of like Texas weather; “If you don’t like it just wait a minute and it’ll change.”
We had backup generators, but they were only for show. The shower in my hooch often gave me little shocks, reminding me that “OSHA does not live here.” All the Iraqis (and some of us) were armed. I wasn’t, but I had my eye on an AK-47 for sale in the duty-free shop Ahmed owned.
Mostly the Duty-Free was a liquor store. We were only allowed to drink booze on Thursday nights. (Of course we mangled that rule, being ‘By God Americans!”)
This is the continuation of a transcribed letter/email I sent to my Girlfriend while stuck in Kandahar, Afghanistan.
1820hrs: South Park
Checked into South Park and got me a bottom rack—With a Lockable Locker!
My Bottom Rack (with I-Pad)
First time that has ever happened!
Unhappy 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: South Park 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 compelled 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.”
South Park HQ
Don’t Lose Your Sanity OverTheSouth Park’s Bull-Shit-Enmity
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: South Park DFAC (Dining Facility) Tent
Sitting in the South Park 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.
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.)
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!”
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 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 South Park.
But then, I am not alone in this sentiment.
Lunch, or as we call it in The Texas, ‘Dinner’, was eat-able. I had the chicken because the other meat offerings were unrecognizable to me.
Wasn’t bad actually; the chicken (yard-bird?) was burned to perfection.
OK, NOT My Rack
While I was on my PX Foraging Mission, I was also searching for the Gym 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 expedition.
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 South Park 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 bother to 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) South Park.
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 whut says, “Bad Mutha-Fuckah.”
“Bad Mo’ Fo'”
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 ’08
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. 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.
Ten Gomers and One Gommette
Basra, Iraq ca. 2007
Welcome to the Gome – Zone
Yes. We all lost our minds in Basra, Iraq, ca. 2005-2008
Narrator: Lance Marcom
Cinematographer: Michael Perkins
All Rights Reserved
(Discovery ChannelMockumentary in pre-production)
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. 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 suspiciously 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 well refined)
I went on Walk-About for about an hour this afternoon, but of course it wasn’t the same as when I am ‘Home’ on Dwyer since I don’t have my ankle weights with me.
I’m proud of me for making the effort, at least.
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 exactly 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 after the CAC Badging office, I will check it out and report my findings to you.
If all goes well, 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?
Makes changing the batteries much more efficient and less time-consuming, I suppose.
Bumping along in a Casspir, a South African armored personnel carrier, on our way to Anbar Province, western Iraq. The year was 2007 and we were under attack.
Perfect? Yes. For you see, if you decide to get shot at in Iraq in 2007, the best venue for that is inside a Casspir. A Casspir is a big, white, heavily armored vehicle. During Apartheid, the South Africans needed such a vehicle; well, the White South Africans did anyway.
The first time I heard of “Casspir” I was somewhere close to Camp Speicher, northern Iraq and this was to be my “commute car.” I thought instantly, after seeing my first Casspir, that it was so moniker-ed because it was this big white thing and, being an American, immediately thought of “Casper the Friendly Ghost.” I was wrong. There is nothing friendly about a Casspir, aside from the fact that he (it) will save your ass.
Riding in a Casspir is probably one of the most uncomfortable things one can experience.
The seats are small. The quarters cramped. The air conditioning nonexistent. The suspension sans shock absorbers. The windows, smallish, which open up just enough to point a rifle through, or perhaps allow a round to one’s head. The driver, usually a Wanna-be Rambo with poor grammar and a poorer sense of direction.
No fun riding in a Casspir.
But on that day, back in ’07, just outside Fallujah there was no better place to be. Casspirs were often called the ‘Best Bug-Out Vehicles’ in Iraq.
First they shot at us with RPG’s (rocket propelled grenades). They fell somewhat short. Following up, they hit us with AK47 rounds. (Those didn’t fall short) Our PLS truck (Pallet-loading system) lost a windshield. Some of our “light-skinned” vehicles lost windshields and windows as well. “Casper” got hit, but the rounds barely scratched the paint (Thank you South Africa). No one lost his life, but we were somewhat shaken and more than a little pissed off.