(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 tryin’ to fly, back in the Seventies….
This was originally posted 02 FEB entitledLetter 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
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.)
Saturday 28 July 2012, Camp Dwyer PAX Terminal, Afghanistan 1218hrs
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.
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.”
1310hrs: PAX Terminal, Dwyer
Ok, for amusement, I took an inventory of the MRE’s stacked on pallets here in the terminal:
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!
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.
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:
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
“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)
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. Screw 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 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.
‘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.
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.
“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 f*#k 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. 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 what, 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 f*#kin’ breakfast? She wakes me up in the f*#king 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?”
“Well Hot Damn then! You be Bogey. I’ll be Bacall.” (of course)
“I weren’t able to bust up 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.”
“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)
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.
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.*
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.”
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.)
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.”
“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”)