Sunday, June 24, 2007


That's Army-speak for Nothing Significant to Report. Which is why I haven't posted.

I've settled into my routine and the weekly rhythm, and it doesn't vary much: up at 6:45am, work by 7:15, eat breakfast, work until about 11:30, eat lunch, gym from 2-3:30, dinner at 5:30, more work until about 9pm. Then I may go up on the roof and smoke sheesha, watch the helicopters, and trade war stories. Or I'll watch an episode of Lost or Dexter on my DVD player, bed by 11pm. It's hot, the wind blows constantly, it's's summer in Iraq. Toss a handful of superfine sand and dust into a hairdryer, keep it trained on yourself on high, full heat, all day long, and that's about how it feels to wander out of the building.

People constantly come and go in our little work community, so there's enough change to keep it from abyssmal monotony. I keep getting handed more responsibility and more work, so I stay engaged the entire 13-15 hours I'm at work. Which is a good thing, it makes the time pass quickly.

And I love what I do. The long hours don't bother me...and when they do, it's flexible enough, I can kick off early and go hole up in my room. Which is what I'm about to's Sunday night and it's been a long week. I'll write when something actually HAPPENS above and beyond the daily grind. Or I won't, if it's something I don't want ya'll to know...which is why most folks didn't know about the IED until I mentioned it almost two years later...

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Most Beautiful Words in the English Language...

...are not, "I love you." I stood in the office of the Agents I work with, and one of them asked, "Hey, are you, like, dropping a bunch of weight?!?"

All I could do was smile. Even wider when the beautiful new, bald, muscled one hollered, "Droppin' it like it's hot!!"

I'm down nine pounds and counting--little wonder, since I spend A FULL HOUR, six days a week, on the elliptical trainer with the resistance cranked up. That's 700 calories a pop! Then there's the fact that once I started seeing results, I quit eating junk food in the chow hall. My normal meal is exactly what they say it should be--about 2/3 vegetables, a little bit of meat, and I eat fruit for dessert.

It feels GOOD. My arthritic knee does not bother me one bit on the 5 flights of stairs I climb several times a day--it's been years since I've climbed stairs pain-free. I'm seeing it most in my face, which is also highly gratifying.

What's even better, standing in that office with all those good-looking men, they started in on a big hit-on-Kristen spiel. If they only knew how dangerous that behavior is right now...well, they'd do it even more, I'm sure. Another guy walked by and one shouted, "Hey, M, we're in here hitting on Kristen, wanna join us??"

This round of muscle-flexing, shit-talking, and teasing that ensued made all those hours in the gym and all those pieces of cheesecake I didn't eat all more than worth it. There's one...okay, two...I have my eye on. The way things are going, I might even get to choose. What luxury. I'm not used to having options.

If I could have my dog here, it would be the perfect job.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Beyond Thunderdome

It's Sunday morning, I'm enjoying a cup of Cafe de Monde (they ship over here if you ask them nicely), and I'm finally caught up (mostly) on all the work that piled up all week while my computers went berserk. So, a moment to post.

The building we live and work in took a direct hit from a US bomb, right down the middle, during the initial invasion. This is the result--a courtyard/rotunda that starts on the 5th floor and goes all the way up. The daylight filtering in comes from the giant hole in the roof.The infantry unit that lives here with us set up a boxing ring right in the middle of the destroyed center, and this is what Friday Night Fights look like.

If you look closely, you can see an American flag hanging in the upper left corner, and more muldoons perched up there. I'm on the 7th floor roof, smoking sheesha and watching it all. And no, sheesha is not a local term for any sort of illegal substance, despite the houka pipe looking for all intents and purposes like the love child of a bong and a turkish opium water pipe. The sheesha is fruit, molasses, and a smidge of tobacco, maybe 5%. I suspect my uncle the cop may have a cardiac on the spot when I bring one home and set it up right on the back porch. I bring it up onto the roof most nights and we pass the little hose around--my favorite flavor is orange and, despite our sweating like whores in church, it's quite pleasant up there at sunset.
This was to be the Grand Mosque, the biggest mosque in the world. For some odd reason, all construction stopped in 2003 and this crane-skirted bohemoth has stood here like a comatose elephant ever since. It's difficult to capture the view from the roof the way we're able to see it--the smog from the Dora power plant (coal) hangs over the city all day and night. I'll keep trying to take good shots--it looks so peaceful from up there. Until you start hearing gunfire and explosions...and there we sit like Roman noblemen above the destruction, smoking fruit and exchanging war stories. I'll miss the warzone story exchanges once I leave this business--it's a whole different telling when your audience doesn't speak the language. It just takes a bit longer to tell.

I've been a bit homesick these last few days--I dream of home constantly and I miss everyone, including my animals. I've come to see how, in an organization where people come and go as individuals as opposed to a unit, those who depart love to darkly predict our futures--our jobs will evaporate, our living quarters yanked from us, mortars and rockets will rain down on us. One guy even said, "This place is fixing to go to hell." They won't hire anyone else because the whole organization is going away, blah blah blah! Seems to me, no one knows anything about...well, anything, and it's a way for those who leave to pat themselves on the back at our expense on their way out the door.

Save it, fellas. No one has any knowledge of or control over events here. Worst case scenario, my company tells me to pack my bags tomorrow because the contract went away, it's not the end of the world. We'll all cross our own bridges as we get to them. I work for the largest defense contractor in the world and I suspect they'd find me another job, even if it's stateside, fairly quickly. My debts are all paid off (except the car, still working on that one) and I'm in a much better position than I was two months ago. Things have a way of working themselves out, and there's no sense in getting all spun up over rumors, as much as the Doom Mongers would like to watch us all panic while we congratulate them for having the wisdom to bail and curse ourselves for not doing the same.

For me, I don't believe a word of it. We're doing great things and our reporting is some of the best in theater; why would the Department of Defense suddenly decide they don't need it? And if I'm wrong, I'll deal with it then.