Wednesday, February 16, 2005

Back Out in Town

I'm getting ready to leave again for a few days out in Baghdad--I can't wait. I love getting out there, I go every chance I get. This sitting around behind a desk all day every day is a true drag.

And speaking of drag, I paid a tranny to cut off all my hair yesterday. Yes, it was a Filipino She-male. She chopped off the pony tail and held it up--it was a foot long. All the little Filipino ladies gasped in unison. It was about that time I noticed my hairdresser's prominent Adam's apple and largish hands. Having spent a great deal of time working in downtown New Orleans where you cannot swing a dead cat without smacking a tranny, my instincts are finely honed.

Of course, I don't care, because everyone knows that when you have a choice, go for the gay man to cut your hair. They are able to see what would make a woman look good, and then they take away everything but what needs to be there.

I love my hair short. It's long layers, chin length, and I've been told many times I look ten years younger.

I'm so conflicted about my future, it keeps me awake at night. If I had any certainty I could find a job I like that will pay me well, it would be a no-brainer. But most days, I like the Army, I love being an officer, and I like what I do. But then there's the deploying, the long hours, the utter lack of personal freedom. I need to just shit or get off the pot, make a decision and stick with it.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Far From Home

I just saw on the Blogger Dashboard, Blogs of Note section, one titled "Baghdad Burning." Curious, I opened it...and it's not written by a soldier. Or an American. British journalist, I'm thinking...and feeling rather slighted that those muldoons that run this website haven't recognized what A Great Blog this is! Well, granted, I'm terribly neglectful of it...because I have a job that keeps me madly busy, is all. I mean, I am an intelligence officer in the capital city, for chrissakes.

The elections--nothing short of amazing. I was fortunate enough to get selected for S2, or primary intel officer, for the IPOC--Iraqi Police Operations Center--for eleven days during the elections. So I got to see and hear everything. I ate Iraqi food (no gastric distress), slept on a cot on the roof amoung the date tree tops, worked my ass off, hung out with the plain-clothes detective guys we call the Shia Death Squad, taught them to play Texas Hold 'Em. The Sudanese suicide bomber's ripped-up head sat on the sidewalk and the voters spat on it, stepped over it, and voted anyway.

One old woman was the first in line at the first polling station the Commander visited. She said, "Iraq has been in darkness since 1963. Today the sun finally came out." She had tears in her eyes, her hand shook as she dipped her finger in the purple ink and slid the paper ballot into the plastic box.

In Sadr City, a rocket hit just outside a polling center, killing several voters and injuring others. The injured voters fashioned bandages from clothing and got back in line.

There have been two moments in my Army career when I have felt the full brunt of Far From Home--the first was in Korea, when I was a junior enlisted soldier on guard duty about a mile from the DMZ. It was ten below zero and quiet the way only extreme cold can still the world. The North Koreans have giant speakers along the DMZ--absurd propoganda during the day, and usually silent at night. One night, though, as I was on guard duty, they played opera. In the clear, cold air, it cleanly and without effort trilled across the frozen rice paddies, utterly surreal and unspeakably beautiful.

The second moment came January 30, election day, after I'd come in from patrols. I stepped outside to take some photos of the odd communications tower to our north, just as the sun was going down and the call to evening prayers spun up from dozens of mosques in the neighborhood. I stopped what I was doing and just watched--the sun in the date trees and on the comms tower, the softly mournful prayers sung on the most joyous day in recent Iraqi history, centuries of sorrow untainted by the newly-hatched democracy.

But in the street in front of the Police Station, the pick-up soccer game only paused long enough for the players to pray for a few moments, foreheads to the earth as the ball settled in the gutter. As soon as it was over, they kissed each other, retrieved the ball, and it was game on.