Thursday, July 31, 2008

D-189: Big K Loses His Ass; Cookie Monster Loses His Legs; The Augmentee Loses Two Friends

The summer between junior and senior year at college, those of us who remained on campus occasionally got together for a friendly card game, before going out for the evening. This was before Texas Hold’em really took off, and most poker gathering were generally “dealer’s choice;” this is a fine arrangement, as long as each player at the table possesses a large arsenal of games from which to choose. No such luck at our games, we generally bounced around between dull draw games, where the pot was never able to grow past $0.90 (this was nickel/dime poker after all), and ridiculous stud games with multiple wild cards and five or six rounds of betting, i.e. “seven card stud, follow the queen, slap the bitch, deuces and fours are wild.” We hadn’t yet grasped the concept of Hold’em, or any of its terrific offspring such as Tic-Tac-Toe.

The bets were nickel ante, with a max raise of a quarter; nothing fancy. These games generally got very boring, very fast; and were really just an excuse to get together and drink while we waited for the bars to fill up. The boredom combined with the dealers’ lack of creativity, inevitably led to some kind of “pot” game, where a large pot develop and everyone takes turns competing for it. Two popular pot games come to mind; “Guts” and “Acey Ducey.” This story is about the latter.

In Acey Ducey, everyone antes up a quarter to the pot, then each player is dealt two cards face down that he may not look at. Starting to the left of the dealer, the player reveals his two card hand, and then chooses to bet anything from $0.25 up to the amount of money in the pot – he is betting that the next card in the deck will be between the two cards he has on the table, hence the name “Acey Ducey,” since an Ace and a deuce are the pair that give you your best shot at winning.

Here is the big kick-in-the-balls; if you show a pair, you pay double. Meaning, if you have an Ace/Deuce; and the dealer turns over an Ace or a two, you now have pair in your three-card hand and you owe double. Read it again if you need to; it is essential that you understand. If this seems rare or unlikely to you, try it right now. Go get a deck of cards, and deal out a few hands – how often did a pair come up? So in our game, with just $1.50 worth of antes in the pot, someone had a decent hand, let’s say King/Three, so he bet “the pot,” and another three comes out; now he owes not $1.50, but $3.00! And now the pot is $4.50 to the next player.

I challenge every one of you to play this game with 5 friends – with 25 cent stakes; I guarantee you achieve a pot of over $40 in your first three games.

It is evil, this game. It is the devil’s work.

One night during our poker game, I was getting bored and I was way ahead, so I threw down the Acey Ducey. The pot was $1.50; the very first hand was a double loser – Boom! Just like that, $4.50 in the pot. Two unlikely losses later, it was finally my first turn, with the pot already at $18.00; I flipped my cards and revealed an ace/four. I bet the pot, convinced there was no way it could happen again; predictably, it happened again. When I turned over the four, the room erupted in cheers! Everyone who had lost already still had a chance to win their money back, along with the $36.00 that I just lost to the pot.

I didn’t have enough money on hand to pay it, so I went into my room and retrieved my adorable Cookie Monster Cookie Jar. Cookie Monster was about ten inches high, ceramic and hand painted with a glossy finish. His head detached from his pudgy body around his shoulder, revealing the cavernous belly meant to hide your cookies and keep them fresh. I do not remember exactly how I came into the possession of Cookie, but I know he originated at Ralph Rotten’s Fabulous Fudge Factory on Portion Road where a friend of mine in high school worked. I believe he was left in my car. At the time of this story, I had been hiding my money in Cookie Monster’s Belly for over five years, and I was very fond of him.

The game continued; desperate to win some of the loot before it went all the way around the table again, possibly to be won by someone else, people began betting recklessly; and the pot grew. I was broke, and my $36 loss really stung. With my ability to buy beer in jeopardy, I adjusted tactics, and tightened up – refusing to bet on anything that was not a very probable win, and even then betting small amounts. I achieved a few small victories to chip away at my losses, but others kept feeding the pot, with loud whooping and hollering from the rest each time someone lost another chunk. The game was turning into a regular slaughter; I don’t think anyone was having fun anymore. Pot games always come up, because everyone want to let a big prize build up, for a chance to win some decent money; say, $20 in two seconds instead of winning $2.75 on a hand of poker that took 15 minutes. But therein lies the rub; once the pot grows, it needs to be dealt with. It sits in the middle of the table, it mocks you for not having the courage to go for it, and it reminds you that you cannot leave until the money has been fairly won.

It was $235 when Big K was dealt an Ace Deuce.

He asked if we would allow him to bet the pot, even though he didn’t have the dough – he swore he would go straight to the ATM if he lost. Wanting it to end, we agreed, although IOU’s are generally taboo at poker games.

The noise that escaped Big K’s mouth when the second ace was flipped was something between a yelp and a whimper. It was the sound a dog makes when you step on its tail; but with the volume turned way down. For once, there was no cheering at this loss – this was devastating, and we all knew it. In a way, we were disappointed that the game wasn’t over, terrified over the prospect of dealing with a pot of nearly $700, and baffled over what to do in the likely event that Big K could not pay. The room was silent; we all stared at the pair of aces on the table, cursing them for the trouble they had caused.

To his credit, Big K marched straight to the ATM and with a $70 loan from his friend, came back and laid $470 on the table. He shook his head, screamed every swear word he knew, turned around, and walked out. It was so awkward; if there was a way I could have let him off the hook for it, I would have done it in an instant, but there were still four people left, all with stakes in the pot, and all having paid up fairly when they lost, so it was impossible.

I slowly took about $100 back out of the giant pot, but the big prize was taken down by “N.O.R Lee,” a wild-haired hippie frat-boy, who had the balls to take on a $400+ dollar pot, just an hour after witnessing Big K’s ruin. I deposited my $100 into my beloved Cookie Monster Jar, and we went out to the bar without Big K. It was $2 Miller Lite pitcher night, so it didn’t take much, and N.O.R. Lee was buying drinks for everyone in the spirit of a good winner.

Two days later, I woke up after a long night of drinking, and Cookie Monster was gone. Actually, only his body was gone, his little blue ceramic head was still there, still joyously gobbling down his cookie as if nothing was wrong. I know Big K was still in the living room when I went to bed; I also know that he is one of about seven people that know where I keep my money, and one of exactly five people aware of the extra bit of poker winnings that Cookie Monster was housing. I asked him directly, he denied it, and I was faced with a difficult situation – I could take him at his word, but the situation was a little too suspicious and my brain would just not allow it; I could pitch a fit about it, but that would serve no purpose; what I did was this – I accepted the lost money, I believed that it was taken by Big K, and I just made it perfectly clear several times that I only wanted Cookie Monster back. Big K adamantly denied any knowledge of the money or the jar, but I continued to mention it – often.

About a year later, Big K’s best friend, let’s call him Little M, confessed the theft, and admitted that the Cookie Monster body was discarded immediately after the money was taken. I asked why, that these two people, whom I had been friends with for three years, would choose to steal from me for $60. His answer; “we really needed it.” Which I knew was true – I said “I would have given it to you,” which I think he knew was true.

They needed it because they drank every night, and they needed it because they had acquired a taste for expensive drugs, and they needed it because Big K lost his rent in an Acey Ducey game. Whatever the reason, I could never really stomach being around either one of them after that, and they more or less faded out of my life.

D-189: More Reader Feedback

I just wanted to add a few more digs at the guy who is taking his own time to do me a personal favor. That's what friends do; ungrateful, demanding, judgmental friends like me.

Underpants Gnomes

on a side note -- is the aforementioned "Mr. Pride" an army guy, because the sailor figure in that new banner looks quite gay.

I didn't know if this was intentional, or subconscious or what...

...not that there's anything wrong with that

My Brother (via e-mail) said...

not sure what to make of the new blog design yet. the concept of the augm. logo is cool, but unfortunately, the navy guy looked loopy and gay in the true homosexual sense. the new one is shirtless and muscled in the even more homoerotic sense (or is that just me and my homophobia?)

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

D-190: Some Reader Feedback

Pride’s bold new web site design has the reader’s in an uproar; some love it, others not as much, but nearly everyone seemed to enjoy calling him names. Let’s take a minute to respond to some of the comments:

MyNuttsLookLikeButts said...

"I noticed the change in background FIRST!!!!"

Excellent work! The rest of you could learn a little something we military men call “Attention to Detail” from our friend MyNuttsLookLikeButts. Come on people! Get in the game!

I like ABORTIONS on FACE! said...

"…I'm stoned…"

I agree, you are very likely stoned. I believe my rant on Harold and Kumar may have inadvertently turned up some hippies who were google searching for a fan site. Welcome godless hippies, all are appreciated here. Each uptick of the hits counter strokes my ego equally.

Bob Ruby said...

"I am embarrassed I know who did your website. He did a great job...even if he is gay and will sleep with a woman....poor guy."

I have already addressed this in the comments section of Potpourri, but it is worth taking another look at. Let’s start with the cryptic phrase “even if he is gay and will sleep with a woman....” What the fuck does that mean? Explain yourself.

Underpants Gnomes said...

"As much as I like the new 'snazzy' setup you got going on artistically here, and as inspiring as it is to see something new each day, I think you should maintain artistic rights on the main banner...the original one was classic -- I mean, it's on the T-shirt -- I vote to keep that as the main banner regardless of the changes to the rest of the interface..."

I actually addressed this issue with Mr. Pride, and he responded by deleting my T-shirt image all together – I realized I don’t know how to fix any of this shit, and subsequently decided not to fuck with Pride anymore. Artistic rights have been surrendered, and I don’t have time or money for any more litigation until the unfortunate fence incident is resolved.

Sandy Salt said...

By the way the site looks great and since I am a flamin' homo that is high praise."

It’s true, flaming homos do have great taste. I would also like to point out that I am not a fan of the “i-n-apostrophe” in place of the “i-n-g,” except in instances of dialogue, when your are trying to nail down a local dialect. It doesn’t save time, as hitting the “g” key is as easy as the apostrophe key, and I don’t see the nuance or other value added by doing so. But that’s just my opinion.

1: Underpants 2:??? 3: PROFIT!!!! said...

"I just read the story again, forwarded it to my lovely little jewbird and she said you're an awesome writer."

This has nothing to do with Pride’s redesign – but I like being called an “awesome writer,” and it probably wouldn’t kill any of you to complement me more often. Also, I thought it was necessary to point out that “jewbird” is a skinny, flightless bird originating in Brooklyn but are abundantly found all along the north shore of Long Island. Their natural predators include the GOP and most allergens.

Uncle motherfuckin Remus said...

"Make the paragraphs separate you faggy little artistic retard.

Otherwise, good job on the display of your gay little skill that captured your interest after cruising through the kid section of Myspace."

Yes, the text is a mess. Something needs to be done about this, as writing this post was difficult and time consuming with all the formatting issues. The insults seemed unnecessary, but funny.

Well, there you have it; the people have spoken, take it or leave it. While it seems opinion varies wildly, one thing is certain; my readers do not appear to be very smart.

Monday, July 28, 2008

D-192: Potpourri

The CO gave us back gym privileges today; which was just in time, because I was going to invoke my status as a non-battalion asset today and start going to the gym again anyhow. Although allowed to work out, we are still on lockdown pending the completion of the missing Night Optical Device investigation, so we are required to go to the gym with a “battle-buddy.” I decided that rule is retarded, and therefore I am not subject to it as non-retarded asset.

Speaking of retarded, do you know what else is retarded? The word “battle-buddy” is. Everyone is assigned a battle-buddy (except me, I guess I have to find my own); some of them even refer to their buddy as “battle.” I guess it’s more casual than “battle-buddy,” and they are buddies after all, so I suppose it is only appropriate that they are on a “first half of a retarded phrase” basis.

In the Navy, we have the word “shipmate,” which while I’ll agree is nearly as gay, the term is usually only exercised in order to tell someone they are fucked up; i.e. “shipmate, what the fuck is wrong with your shirt?”

Grumpy from dust-storms and lack of exercise, today is officially the day that I decided that the Army sucks, and is inferior to Navy in every imaginable way. The excitement that accompanied this clarity of thought provoked me to tell every Army friend the news, and enthusiastically list all the ways in which the Army sucks and the Navy rules. None disagreed (true story).

In the midst of all the nostalgia recently, I may have neglected some administrative items.

First, I have enlisted the help of a talented old squadron-mate to redesign my website. I was able to promise him no money, no gratitude, constant complaining and criticism, and no credit or acknowledgement. It was an offer he could not refuse. Perhaps in order to display some semblance of a backbone, he did demand total artistic control, so don’t blame me if he really gays the place up.

Another of today’s revelations is that the words” gay,”” fag,” and “retard” no longer belong to homosexuals or mentally handicapped. They belong to me, and people like me, who have used them generously over the past fifteen years. We have cultivated their meanings, filled them nuance, mystery, and comedy; and delivered them with masterful timing – they are our words, and I will not be made to feel guilty by anyone who pretends they are offended. I was informed recently that the era of PC is over, that whole thing was gay anyway, and I am taking back what rightfully belongs to me and my generation, regardless of what a few faggy retards may think of it.

Second, a soldier known as CPT G, who ran a blog called Kaboom: A Soldier’s War Journal was recently shut down by the man, so I am going underground. I am going to scrub some of my old blogs for anything that might jeopardize my anonymity. Everything will be saved for the sake of posterity, but back me up and let me know if you find anything compromising, as it is going to take me some time to get through it all. I have spent far too much of my youth defending free speech to sacrifice my own just because some Army General doesn’t like reading about how retarded and gay his branch is; the truth hurts. Granted, CPT G was a lot looser with personal information than I am, but the rule is; every blog must be approved by the chain of command, and I have some questionable content so rules be damned! I like all the attention I am getting, and I’m hooked on all the power and influence that accompanies the running of a blog that is only read by friends, family, and one third of the state of New Hampshire.


The Augmentee

Sunday, July 27, 2008

D-193: The Guy on the Couch

As an NROTC Midshipman in college, I was automatically a member of a predefined meathead subculture; even before my first day of Freshman Year. I had spent the week prior to that first day at an Army National Guard base with all the other prospective Midshipmen, participating in a seven day hazing exercise known affectionately as “The Gap.” The Gap was a pretty standard week of military style desolate wretchedness; complete with communal bunking, drill, long runs, screaming and lots of push-ups. The program is cut from the original boiler-plate; break down the individual, build up the team. As transparent as the whole shtick seems to me now, back then it was new and exciting, and I couldn’t help but get caught up in it. I became close with my class, many of whom are my best friends to this day*.

One of the Marine Midshipman from that class, we’ll call him “Big K,” stood out from the word go. He was brawny Central Pennsylvanian country boy; blond, barrel-chested and full of that special Hillbilly retard strength that is only achieved by those who have contributed large portions of their lives to splitting logs.

Early on, Big K was an incredibly successful Midshipman; he was as hard as nails and seemed not to recognize physical pain. I could cite a hundred examples, but I’ll only need one: Big K ran the Marine Corps marathon in boots and utilities. That is just fucking hard-core.

Physically he had all the tools, but his attitude was what really separated him from the pack. If being a meathead were an art form, you could hang this guy in the Louvre next to the Mona Lisa. A product of the ultra-competitive Pennsylvanian Catholic Football League, he modeled his life after Steve Lattimer, the steroid abusing psycho from James Caan’s “The Program,” making me wonder if he really understood what that movie was about. One winter afternoon freshman year, during a seemingly friendly game of tackle football out on the IM field, Big K sniffed out a running play and charged the middle, delivering a vicious high hit worthy of an ESPN highlight reel. The ball carrier, a 120 pound dorm-mate of ours, was knocked cleanly off his feet by the ferocity of impact alone, but in accordance with the kind of fundamental tackling technique that could bring a tear to the eye of Mike Ditka, Big K wrapped him up and drove him into the fresh snow, digging his cleats into the turf with each step. As we all stood in awe, wondering if our small friend would ever walk again, we questioned whether or not that extent of brutality really had any place in backyard football. Big K unapologetically pointed out that he was only aware of one kind of football, and he only played that kind of football one way.

If you happened to be a smart-mouthed, skinny, eighteen-year-old punk, whose hobbies include attending fraternity parties, behaving obnoxiously, and making blatant passes at girls directly within sight and hearing of their boyfriends; it is absolutely essential that you roll with a friend like this. He was not necessarily the most insufferable member of our crew, but he had the ability to quickly diffuse the problems that the rest of caused with a single hard look. He was just one mean dude.

In the meathead culture, drinking yourself just to the brink of hospitalization is customary, and a failure to do so calls your very manhood into question. Big K treated every alcoholic beverage he ever saw as a personal challenge, and he dedicated his life to making all booze disappear from the face of the earth as quickly as possible. His tolerance was nothing short of miraculous, but he asserted himself to overcoming it by consuming mass quantities of the most dangerous substances known to man; such as Bacardi 151 and grain alcohol - usually in the form of an unholy green sludge known as “the hand grenade.”

Once his drunkenness crossed a certain line, the rest of us instinctively formed into a Big K containment quick reaction team, and did everything humanly possible to confine him to a known safe haven where the odds of him being arrested or hospitalized were reduced to manageable levels. We had varying degrees of success, as his behavior was so unpredictable we could easily be caught off guard. Even within the presumably secure walls of his own apartment, he could surprise us by charging the balcony at a full-on sprint and bounding over the railing; splattering himself on the upper deck of the parking garage 15 feet below. Leaving us to just stare, stupefied, at the developing pool of blood, and argue over who was sober enough to drive to the ER. Later we found out that it was an older Midshipman who told Big K that he “didn’t have the balls to jump off the balcony;” this person was either a sick sadist, or he didn’t know Big K.

As time went by, Big K underwent a mutually consensual separation from our group. For our part, it was a simple survival instinct; we simply could not keep up with his increasingly erratic behavior. It was like partying with an angry grizzly bear. He was in the advanced stages of a fall-from-grace of Nixonian magnitude; his behavior was often bizarre and dark, he alienated friends, was arrested a few times, and frightened away girls. He was toxic, and predictably, it ultimately cost him his chance at commissioning as an officer of Marines.

From his perspective, we were not keeping up with his rock star partying habits. His new Tommy Lee persona now included the use of illicit drugs as well as destructive alcoholism, and he simply found friends that could keep up. He would generally come by our house a few times a week before heading out on his evening tour of destruction to “drink his dinner” from our kegerator. After a few beers, we would part ways, and that would usually be the last we saw of him for the evening.

One Sunday morning senior year, I shot out of bed around noon, excited about the beginning of the NFL playoffs. I slipped on my flip-flops, and slogged my way across the living room carpet, which by this point had become a malty swamp due to a leaky kegerator tap that let so much beer out onto the rug, it froze into a dirty beer slushy in the winter (thanks in part to our failure to refill the oil tank, leaving us without heat). I looked over at the used, purple, wrap-around couch, and saw a pile of garbage in clothes on each end; upon further inspection, each pile was actually a person – both appeared to be in critical condition.

The first one, a chronic puker and golden girls fan, woke up without any trouble, and borrowed my car to shower and change before kick-off. The other was Big K. I gave him a shake, and he didn’t stir, so I decided to let him sleep, and got showered up. With about thirty minutes left before the game, I reengaged the sleeping giant. My roommates were starting to gather, and a few other friends had arrived, and we needed the seats that he was occupying on the sofa.

All traditional methods of waking a person up had failed; we shook him, yelled, and poured water on him until the couch started getting too wet, and he didn’t so much as shift positions. In my fourth year of college, I thought I had seen every kind of party and with it every kind of disaster of a human being that is left behind come morning. Whatever Big K had gotten into the night before, was nothing I had ever seen. I began to ask around; who was with him last night? Who brought him back to the house? How much did he drink? It turns out, none of my roommates nor I had seen him at all the previous night, he just crawled here afterward to die on our couch.

Giving up hope on waking him, we just attempted to move him, and reclaim our living room. I grabbed his arms, and two other guys grabbed a leg each and we attempted to lift. I will never forget how greasy his skin was, I am looking for an apt metaphor, but nothing that gruesome exists in nature; his oily appendages slipped from our grasp, and we dropped him back on to the couch, where he landed and slid off onto the floor. His limp body oozed of the couch, his arm slung unnaturally across his face, and I was immediately reminded of the scene in which a dead body is dumped out of a garbage truck from one of the gangster movies that we always used to watch. The image was so disgusting, that one of the leg holders threw up in his mouth. Careful to avoid any further contact with his skin, we grabbed a hold of his legs, and dragged him ten feet into the hallway, bouncing his head off the octagonal base of the coffee table several time en route. We considered that good enough, rewarded our hard work with a beer, and got ready for some football.

To this very day, no one knows where the fireworks came from. There they were, an entire unopened pack of “blockbusters,” sitting in the center of our coffee table illuminated by a single ray of sunlight bursting forth from the clouds and slicing through the musky air of our living room! I may not be much of a religious man, but of one thing I am sure; God wanted us to throw those firecrackers at Big K!

A blockbuster is simply ten ladyfingers, wired together, so their effect is similar to spectacularly loud popcorn popping. The unopened package contained fifty of these devices, but I am quite sure they were somehow replenishing themselves after each throw like Jesus’ baskets of fish. For the next four hours, we lit the fireworks, and giggled profusely as they detonated all around the heap of a man passed out in the hallway. The sound exploded off the walls and echoed in and out of the bathroom, Big K did not so much as twitch. We were equally delighted by the ashy little burn marks they left on his clothing and skin. We watched the playoffs, drank beer, and ignited an endless supply of ordnance in the direction of Big K.

Naturally, at halftime the fireworks throwing led to a cheese fry throwing event; in which we would compete to see who could throw a cheese fry and make it stick, preferably to the face. The winner would be congratulated with a noisy fireworks display.

This continued until about 5:00PM, one hour into the Steelers game. At that time, Big K slowly rose to his feet; I have seen homeless people that looked better than he did at that moment.

“What time is it?” He croaked.


“Oh shit, I’ve got to go to work!” He looked down at his white T-shirt, covered in char marks and bright orange nacho cheese, removed it, turned it inside out, and replaced it. He picked up a fistful of cheese fries, ate one, smashed the rest of the handful into the face of the guy at the end of the couch, and without so much as asking for mouthwash or washing his face, he walked out the door to the deli where he worked. Presumably, he spent the rest of that evening making sandwiches for unsuspecting deli patrons.

*Some such friends, along with their parents, are avid readers and contributors to this blog, well represented in the comments sections. One such parent has even bitched to her sparsely populated States’ congressional representative about some of my issues. Her efforts have exposed the rest of you as lazy and selfish, and you are considerably less valued as members of “The Augmentee” community.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

D-196: Hell is in Fallon, NV

The Army doesn’t debrief missions; well, the convoy commander debriefs the intel guys, but that’s all. I hate debriefs, but these guys repeat the same mistakes time and again; mostly trivial slip-ups, like taking a wrong turn or smashing a truck into a cement highway divider, but perhaps they ought to consider taking a moment to talk a few things over anyhow.

In the Navy, at least in aviation, the debrief is the longest, most excruciating phase of every event; often taking more time than the mission or exercise itself! Every unit has its own flavor of unnecessarily long debriefing checklist, and we go through each item, line by line, giving each blowhard a chance to stand up in front of a group to pop off at the mouth, proving how smart he is or pointing out why the missions’ failures were entirely your fault and not his. The mother of them all is in Fallon, Nevada; where every detail of flight is debriefed, mercilessly sucking the soul out of the hapless aviators, leaving something ashen and frail in their stead; skeletons in flight suits, with barely enough strength to hold themselves upright in their chairs.

If hell is in fact a personal journey, as famously suggested by Dante, than I am quite certain that my hell would be a Fallon style debrief of my life. I am going to quit watching porn; just to hedge my bets.

In my hell, the single vending machine in the hall of the NSAWC building steals my last dollar, and some nerd with a Top Gun patch is yelling “Let’s go! Hurry Up,” in the infuriating way that small men who lack influence shout at people to complete a task that they are already executing, making everyone want to stop dead just to spite them.

I am already tired, hungry, and sweating as I descend the stairs into the dark belly of a Fallon debriefing room; the room looks and smells like a small movie theater, with a large screen in the front facing ten or twelve rows of stadium style seating, but nothing entertaining will occur here. My mood slips a peg lower as the cinema parallel reminds me of yet another thing I would rather be doing.

I choose a seat toward the back, nestled comfortably between the crew of the EA-6B Prowler and the SH-60 pilots; we form like Voltron into a protective armor of Airwing “Fat Kids,” as the fighter jocks race for positions in the front row, anxious to call out their shots and congratulate themselves for achieving such high levels of success in spite of the pitiful support from the Hawkeyes and Prowlers. The Helo guys are not even acknowledged.

The Rhino pilots settle into their seats in their best slunk-down, too-cool-to-care, Tom Cruise impersonation; cherishing every moment of their “fighterdom,” before they are inevitably recast in the role of “Airwing Tanking Platform.” One of them is recounting some old tale of his glory in the Tomcat; even the other fighter guys look bored.

“Okay, let’s get started!” The Top Gun AIC instructor shouts from the front of the room.

At this point, all the other Aviators fade away, like a desert mirage in an old cartoon, and I am suddenly aware that I am dead. I am alone in the stands; the Top Gun Instructor is still standing up front, a broad Cheshire Cat grin on his face.

“I knew it, you are the devil.” The satisfaction of discovering this truth dissipates instantly. The devil just keeps smiling and calmly shrugs, raising him palms upward.

The debriefing begins; we are watching my life in real time. The camera angle is my eyes, in the first person, like a game of Halo, except I am usually armed with Miller Lite bottles and Camels instead of Plasma Rifles and Needlers. We fast forward through all the good times with the sound muted; at all of my life’s lowest, most miserable, embarrassing points, the devil hollers:

“Stop tape!” We re-watch the incident, sometimes working the tape in slow motion to capture all the particularly horrible moments.

He turns to me with a serious, instructional face; “Okay, what did you do wrong here?”

I sigh audibly; he knows damn well what I did wrong. I shrug and roll my eyes, “I don’t know; it looks like I’m peeing in someone’s closet.”

“Right, okay, and why… um… why exactly did you do this?”

“Well, I guess I was pretty drunk, that looks like a dorm room doesn’t it.” I reply sarcastically.

“Okay good, good… sooooooo” he drags out the word in an effort to make me jump in with the answer he wants to hear, I will not. “So, what do you think you could do better next time?”

He crosses his arms and bounces up and down anxiously awaiting my response and with it his chance to talk more – these Top Gun guys are the same in hell as they are on earth.

“I guess, maybe not drink so much next time” I answer, my voice dripping with boredom.

“Okay, good, great. Well, what does TACMAN say?”

“What?” I ask incredulously, “There’s a TACMAN for life?”

“There is a TACMAN for everything in hell,” his eyes glow red and he queues up his theatrical, maniacal devil laugh.

We run this routine until we have reached the end of the tape of my life. Relieved that it is finally over, I stand up, stretch, and rub my weary eyes with the backs of my hands.

When I look up, I am standing in front of the vending machine in the hall, the anger of just having had my dollar stolen still fresh. The devil is standing at the door of the briefing room, yelling “Let’s go! Hurry Up,” at the crowd of somber looking men and women in flight suits who are already filing in.

D-196: Not Just Stupid; Army Stupid

Some idiot lost a pair of Night Vision Goggles (NVGs) this week, prompting the CO to put the entire Battalion on “lock-down” until they are recovered. The idea of being on “lock-down,” when your life is contained within two square miles of sand and rocks, seems laughable, but in fact it is not, as the gym and the PX are now off limits.

I could care less about the PX, as it consists mostly of empty shelves and two months old magazines. My family fulfills my every need with a non-stop flow of generous care packages, but the gym is a tough one. I have been going to the gym six times a week since I got here, and have finally achieved the physical and mental state where I actually enjoy my time spent at the gym, rather than look on it as a miserable chore that is just an effort to fight off fatness; the counter-punch to my love of ice cream, pie, and cigarettes.

Looking around at the preponderance of very fat and lazy soldiers here, the idea of taking away PT as a means of punishing is ludicrous (not to be confused with Supah Sugah Cris, sorry; I just love that Ludicris). The only people being punished are those trying to do the right thing and stay fit, and since smoke sessions are still a perfectly acceptable punishment for misbehavior, rules forcing PT and banning PT are simultaneously in place; A universe collapsing paradigm that brings “Army Stupid” to a record plateau.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

D-197: Sea Stories: The Italian Death March

The Army’s institutionalized misery is starting to get the better of me. Today was another grueling day during which everyone who I usually really on for some entertainment was in an equally bad mood. So, in effort to both cheer myself up and maintain my audience, I am going back to the well of Navy stories, where suddenly it seems that the good times were plentiful.

The first port of my last deployment was in Naples, Italy; a historic Italian metropolis best known as the “New Jersey of Europe,” due to their industrious organized criminals who dutifully collect the trash of the entire continent and distribute it to the cities’ streets, where it stands in mounds five feet tall.

Recognizing Naples for the garbage dump that it is, we decided to take the first train to anywhere else. That train took us to Sorrento, along with just about everyone else from the ship. Although Sorrento was a gorgeous coastal Italian town with a breathtaking landscape view in every direction, the presence of the 5,000 people who we most wanted to avoid ruined the ambiance, so a dozen of us caught a bus; and by “caught a bus,” I mean we embarked on the most terrifying voyage of our lives; flanked on one side by the jagged, stony wall of a mountain and on the other by a steep cliff overlooking the rocky shore of the Mediterranean, certain death loomed about six inches in every direction. The bus was apparently piloted by Otto of ‘The Simpsons,’ who, with the petal to the metal, delivered us to Positano with soaking wet drawers.

Positano is a gorgeous little town along the Amalfi coast; its central feature is the golden dome of a 600+ year old church. The town flows from the church in every direction, including straight up, with the houses and hotels seemingly carved into the steep rock face of the sea-wall. You would be hard pressed to find a single location in the town without a magnificent view; the entire scene jumped right off of a postcard. I remember thinking that it seemed like a perfect honeymoon destination, or at least it was before a bus from hell dropped off a dozen urine-soaked American sailors whose only objective was to achieve a state of blacked-out drunkenness as quickly as possible.

We checked in to a hotel, and walked down to the hill to the waterside for dinner. The wine flowed, the food was amazing, and I popped off into an extremely loud rendition of my now-famous “Naked Wedding Story,” that made me the center of attention, not only of my table, but of the entire restaurant, for the better part of the meal. I have told many renditions of this story, but this was by far my best. I could not have been happier, as being the center of attention is what appeals to me most, and although I am certain I annoyed many of the patrons, a table of Canadians actually bought the twelve of us a round of drinks in gratitude for the entertainment.

Dinner consisted of many, many drinks, and with the wild success of my wedding story, I was feeling just delightful. Armed with my good spirits, and a BAC likely shattering the legal driving limits of any developed country, we headed to find a bar.

A bar we found, but not just any bar, a bar that was playing 1980’s pop classics, and I just happened to be desperate to prove to Italy that I knew every word to Michael Jackson’s Billy Jean. With that mission complete, I sauntered up to the bar to refresh my gin and tonic, and began an endeavor to convince the bartender to pour me stronger drinks, by repeatedly throwing a closed fist at the ceiling and screaming the word “STIFF” at increasing volume; I don’t know where I learned that was the international sign language for “stiff drink,” but I do know the message was delivered because the remainder of the night is a complete blur.

The following day, I limped back down to the water crippled by a wine, limoncello, beer, and gin hang-over, which I mistakenly concluded was the worst possible hang-over formula ever invented (as it turns out, the worst hang over formula is simply one half of a bottle of Goldschlager, but that is a story for another time). I sat at the outdoor counter of a little café with a buddy, and ordered lunch. I decided to attempt to “take the edge off” of my hangover by ordering a beer, and in keeping with the tradition of the great naval service, that beer ultimately led to two sailors, hammered drunk.

Several of the members of my group had the dreaded third day duty day, so we hopped on the bus back to Sorrento. The bus was packed like a clown car, and we were not one of the lucky few to score a seat; although those seated were treated to a face-full of some stranger’s ass or crotch every time the bus hit a bump, and likely did not consider themselves to be very lucky at all.

The inhumane conditions on the bus, plus my hang-over’s successful battle to overtake my buzz, allowed me to forget the cliffs and mountains of death bearing down on both sides of the bus. In all the madness, I lost track of my friends, until my afternoon drinking buddy jumped off the bus at the wrong stop, without a word to the rest of us.

Someone saw him racing up the sidewalk and alerted the rest of us, so we screamed for the bus to stop, and hopped off to search for him. Having no idea where he went or why he got off (we later learned that he had to make ‘poopie’), we started going in and out of all the shops on the street in search of him; the whole scene was reminiscent of an episode of “The Monkeys” sitcom.

While in one of the shops, I too had to make use of the facilities; I took care of business, and emerged from the shop and found no one.

Half drunk; half hung-over; having no idea where we were when we got off the bus; having no idea where I was going; and speaking not a lick of Italian; I was screwed in every way imaginable. I assumed that the group would be searching for me with the same fervor in which they searched for the idiot who got us into this mess in the first place; I wandered up and down that street, for three hours! I marched along with all the rage of an ordinary Italian citizen, which helped me blend in and avoid what I thought was an inevitable beating and robbery.

Finally, with darkness long since fallen, I had to admit that I had been abandoned; I got on a bus that was headed in our original direction, and hoped for the best. Unfortunately, no one else on this bus spoke English, so at the next stop I asked the bus driver as clearly as I could manage “So-ren-toe.”

He pointed toward the back of the bus, which may have meant, “Stand behind the line,” but may also have meant, “It is behind us.” I considered it, and decided on the latter, based on no information what-so-ever. I got off the bus and started walking again. The details of how I eventually found the group are a mystery, and to this day I just consider it a miracle, but after another two hours, I found them.”

By my approximation, I walked about 25 miles that day. My clothes were completely destroyed; I actually threw them away. I could not have been more pissed off.

“Oh there you are,” they were all smiling and laughing, “We thought we’d lost you!”

“Really? Why? Just because you fucking left me drunk in the middle of a fucking foreign country to fucking fend for myself you fucking assholes?”

With the traumatic death March behind me, I joined up with one other guy who needed to go back to the ship. We went to the train station and caught the last train back to Naples; or so we thought. It being so late, there were not many people on the train, and as it made stops, whatever other passengers there were in our car had filtered off. Finally, with just the two of us aboard, the train stopped, the doors flew open, and it powered down with a whir, leaving us both sitting in the dark.

We debarked, and assessing the situation, only one thing was clear; this was not Naples, nor was it a tourist-loving, American-friendly town of any sort. My friend turned to me, and with a short, nervous laughed observed; “Well, we’re fucked!”

“Yes, we are fucked indeed.”

We left the station, and wandered out into the town; it was dirty, run-down, and seemingly abandoned. We heard some voices, and decided that our best bet was to move toward them. Upon discovery of a bus station with people waiting, we assumed that a bus was on its way. The bus arrived and we jumped on. There were very few people on it, considering the late hour, and déjà vu of the train incident was setting in as the passengers got off one by one. Luckily, the one other passenger left spoke some English, and after a short negotiation, informed us that the driver agreed to take us to Naples in exchange for all the money we had on us. Essentially, the transaction was a robbery disguised as a deal, since this bus was supposed to be going to Naples anyway. We agreed.

The bus driver let us out about four blocks from Fleet Landing, and we hurried towards it, not wanting to miss the last liberty boats. We promptly were approached by two very unconvincing transvestite hookers, who either wanted business, or wanted to beat us up. Both options were terrifying, so we just pretended not to notice them and picked up the pace, with the man-hookers screaming insults at us as we fled. I thought about the likelihood that at least one of those hookers had been solicited by a sailor that day, and forced back vomit.

Finally safe at Fleet Landing, we got a burger and caught a boat back to the ship, where I went to my rack and slept for sixteen glorious hours.

Monday, July 21, 2008

D-199: Enforce the Standards

You would think I would be in a good mood today, with my D number slipping below 200, and my IA officially one third over. But I am not.

The Army’s obsession with its PT “uniform,” is by far the most stupid thing about it. Well, maybe not “by far,” as the Army continues to perfect the art being stupid in more astonishing ways each day; but it is the thing I am annoyed about right now.

The Army’s PT uniform consists of a pair of black shorts that say ARMY in block letters on the right leg, and a gray T-shirt that coincidentally also says “ARMY” in big block letters across the chest, and has a 10 inch high capital letter “A” stenciled on the back. Presumably, “A” is for ARMY. If you ever find yourself questioning whether or not a person is, in fact, in the Army, just look for the word “Army” or an incredibly large letter “A” printed on their clothes no fewer than three times. Less than three, you’ve got an impostor on your hands.

The gray and black color combo is very “old photograph” chic.

I have no problem with the fact that the Army has a PT uniform; the Navy has one too, except we only wear ours to PT, and even then only when engaged in some kind of organized unit PT, and even then, only when directed by the Commanding Officer, which is never . So in short, we never wear them outside of boot camp and OCS. In fact, the Navy is unveiling a brand new line of official Navy PT gear, a hideous ensemble comprised mostly of obnoxious bright yellow, that I have no intention of ever even purchasing.

In the Army, not only is the official Army PT uniform the only authorized outfit to wear to PT, it is authorized to wear pretty much everywhere. So the soldiers, when off duty, spend the whole day walking around in PT gear, saluting and carrying weapons.

The Army guys that I work with are incredibly envious of the simple fact that I can wear whatever I want to PT. It actually blows my mind. Every single day, at least one person comments on how nice it must be to just “wear whatever.” They are not being sarcastic; they just want to wear a different color shirt every now and then. I explain to them that we wear whatever we want to the gym, and only to the gym. Then we come back, shower, and put a proper uniform on. We don’t run around, carrying weapons, saluting, going to the chow hall, and screaming about “standards” in our PT gear. The Navy is just happy if people actually work out. It is not that far-fetched of a concept.

Now, the Army being the Army, they need to be fanatical about something, otherwise the NCOs would have no reason to race all over the place yelling at people and pitching little fits and otherwise acting like eight-year-olds. So they walk around screaming at guys in PT gear for not having their shirts properly tucked in. Keep in mind, we are talking about shorts and a T-shirt here; this would barely pass for a decent soccer uniform, let alone a military uniform, but still, we are going to get all worked up about the way it looks. We have to “enforce the standards,” after all.

The standards, with regard to PT uniforms, is that the shirt be tucked in, you have eye-protection on when outdoors, and you have a reflective garment, such as an orange bike vest, or a reflective belt to alert passing vehicle of your presence. Never mind the fact that the writing on the shirt is itself reflective, never mind that everyone not in a PT uniform is wearing ACUs which don’t have a stitch of reflective material on them (in fact, they are camouflage – which is what I imagine to be the exact opposite of reflective) but still somehow manage not to be constantly run over by vehicles, and never mind that there is no standard on the reflective clothing! Three soldiers could be in a line, one with a yellow belt, one with a blue one, and one with an orange motorcycle vest – this is not very “uniform” at all, it looks very un-Army. Just make sure you’ve got that shirt tucked in.

I was walking to the bathroom the other night, and one chaplain, who has graced the pages of this blog before, was out in the little gazebo, smoking a cigar. I tried to just breeze by, but he managed eye contact and said “hey, this guy here is in the Navy!” pointing to me. Another guy, whom I did not know put an overly dramatic fake quizzical face on and asked, “Oh really, you’re in the Navy?”

“Yeah, can’t you tell by the lack of standards in his clothes,” the Chaplain could barely get the sentence out before he laughed a deep and hearty laugh, to celebrate the whole “set-em up, knock-em down” cleverness of his comedy routine.

I replied, “Yeah, I guess, or maybe you could tell by the fact that my shirt says ‘NAVY’ in 6-inch bright fucking yellow block letters.”

He said something about my foul language when I walked away to which I responded, “Yeah, I’m in the Navy, that’s how we talk.” Which is actually true, it’s just that most people don’t talk to Chaplains like that. I do.

Quote of the Day: After watching the altercation between Danica Patrick and Milka Duno on Sportscenter this morning.

CPT: “Who is that other girl, she’s hot. I hope she has a fat butt!”

Thursday, July 17, 2008

D-203: Sea Stories, Flashback

“Please tell me you might become a columnist when you get out. I've never thought of myself as a web geek, and I was quite convinced that I would go my whole life without actually reading a blog on a regular basis (it just seems like I ought to have something better to do with my life), but you're damn good at this crap and now I'm a regular. Of course, if you got out of the Navy and weren't in Iraq, on the Ike or dealing with hinges, I could see you quickly running out of material. On second thought, you'll have to take a job that you hate, surround yourself with retards, and then write it on the side. The story about the trucks in the garage and the shit flavored flashlight had me laughing out loud. Stay safe out there.”

Above is an e-mail I received today from an old squadron-mate; he offered some encouragement but also brought up an interesting point. What I may have in story-telling ability, I likely lack in imagination, and without standing witness to some of the most breathtaking acts of retardation that man is capable of, I stand to run out of material rather quickly; a point that is poignantly driven home on days like today, when nobody has needlessly smashed up a HMMWV and I did not interact with any Iraqi Police (or put any of their soiled objects in my mouth) – I have nothing good to write about.

However, the “hinges” referred to in my friends’ message is actually a very specific hinge (hinge is unflattering lingo for a Lieutenant-Commander Department Head, who are generally hated by all), whose name I have removed for the sake of anonymity. So rather than leave you all empty-handed, I am going to attempt to conjure up a story from my last deployment. A heart-breaking tale of a talented young Lieutenant who is forced to work for a man so unmatched in stupidity, that I wouldn’t trust him to drive a HMMWV into a garage, let alone head the Operations Department of sea-going squadron of naval aircraft… in a war.

Hinge, as we’ll call him for the sake of the narrative, was an extremely bizarre man of average height, about 90-100 lbs, who was given to making “motivational” speeches which usually consisted of absurd metaphors to tennis or skiing. In fact, he loved tennis so much, that he painted his “vintage,” tricked-out Volkswagen Beetle to look like a tennis ball. In fairness, it was a tennis ball with flames coming off it, perhaps to give the impression that hinge is “bringing the heat” (in fact, that may be something he actually said). As if owning a VW Bug that you considered either “vintage” or “tricked-out” isn’t a big enough embarrassment; paint the thing to look like something that a mentally challenged, tennis-loving third-grader might draw in his notebook.

He was the sort of 90 pound man, that mistook his protruding rib cage for rippling muscle, and made a habit of challenging people to ridiculous competitions that could never possibly take place such as “one-on-one soccer,” and would be very noticeably butt-hurt if he was beaten in a game of Foosball or Ping-Pong, but would later fail to recall such a defeat ever took place. In short, he was the world’s biggest douchebag; and likely he still is.

My first day in the squadron fell on the first day of Airwing Fallon, an exercise in Nevada that is one of the last major sacraments in human misery before deploying. Hinge took it upon himself to get us all “pumped up” for the trials ahead, and what would pump us up more than some inspiring words from the fearless OPSO? Well, he delivered the goods:

“It’s like we were on the bunny slope, but that was way back, and it seems like that was a long time ago. And we’ve learned… like, a lot. Then we went forward, moved on, to bigger hills, and we did great! But this, this is the Black Diamond, that’s like the hardest hill on the mountain for those of you non-skiers… we’re getting ready to go down the black diamond and we’re pumped, you know, we’re all pumped up to go down, but we have to remember. We have to remember how to use our poles, and how to stop, and how to land those jumps, if you’re like me and you like the jumps, we have to remember that stuff, the stuff we learned waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay back, back on the bunny slopes!”

That was a few years back, but I swear to god that this speech is practically verbatim; it was as hard to write as it was to listen to that first time.

Fast forward a few months, and we are in our third month of deployment. We haven’t had a port in a couple of months, we have been flying the same tedious, brain-melting 5.5 hour flight into Afghanistan for 60 consecutive days, we have eaten a Spam sandwich on stale bread on every single one of those flights, and tempers are short; especially for the SDO. The SDO is the Squadron Duty Officer, doomed to stand behind a desk for somewhere between 18 and 24 hours, being harassed by everyone from CAG to the Maintenance Master Chief, and even sometimes, unforgivably by fellow JOs. He fields a constant barrage of questions that would require psychic power to possibly have an answer to.

CAG: “Where is the Skipper?”

SDO: (How the fuck should I know?) I’ll find out sir.

AirBoss: “What is up with 602?”

SDO: (You’re the one with the fucking radio.) I’ll find out sir.

XO: “Why is the Ready Room such a mess?”

SDO: (Are you referring to that one empty soda can?) I’ll clean up sir.

JO: “This coffee sucks!”

SDO: (Get Fucked!) Get Fucked!

The SDO is also the personal secretary for every hinge, the phone-answerer, message taker, maintenance tracker, and finally, report maker. There is one specific report, known as the Air Ops Summary that needs to be turned in to CAG OPS upon the completion of the days’ flight schedule. It is an extremely simple document that would be a challenge to fuck up, even for a retarded monkey. Sadly, I know one such retarded monkey; worse yet, he is the one who needs to sign this document before I can go to bed.

Inexplicably, one day Hinge walks up to me at the SDO desk, and tells me that if any portion of a flight is at night, then we will count that entire flight as “night hours.” He attempts to show me what qualifies as “night,” as if I am somehow unfamiliar with the concept of day and night. I hate this man.

I politely informed him that what he was proposing was, quote; “the dumbest thing I have ever heard.” Day hours and night hours are clearly delineated on the yellow-sheet, and will be entered as such in the pilots’ log books, so why would we report them any other way?

Well, he was clearly hurt at having his authority challenged, and snapped back at me “because that’s the way CAG OPS wants it.” I offered him the correct explanation; if a flight lands at night, it is a night “sortie,” but the pilots’ day and night hours are still clearly separate. He wasn’t interested, and I wasn’t interested in standing there and looking at his dumb face any longer, so I said “Fine, it’s wrong, but you’re the fucking OPSO, so if you want it fucked up, I’ll turn it in fucked up.” His facial expression told me that he did not particularly appreciate my tone. Fuck him.

Fast forward four days. I have somehow managed to pull SDO twice in one week, I just finished a brutal day, and I am in quite possibly the worst mood I have ever been in (no exaggeration). The flight schedule is finally complete, now just one more thing before I can escape this hell and go to my rack, I need to turn in an Air Ops Summary. I fill the page out according to the new “fucked up” policy that Hinge emplaced just four days ago. He comes in to sign it, looks it over, turns to me and in his “fatherly leader” tone, says:

“Hey, look, if the flight is at night, it’s a night sortie, but you still have to separate the day and night hours.

I look at him for a minute, I am trying to tell if he is fucking with me; he is not. I am dumb-founded. I should just let it go…

“Are you fucking kidding me? I told you that FOUR DAYS AGO! And you told me to do it like this!” I screamed.

“I never said that.”

(I hate you, I want you to die) “Fine, I’ll change it back. “ It takes literally, 4 seconds, to correct it. The document is on an excel spread sheet. The mathematical function in question: addition.

“Are you sure you added that right?” He has a puzzled expression on his face; he is more chimp-like than ever.

“Yes, it’s an excel spread sheet, look at the formula bar, excel is not wrong.” It is clear he is not impressed by fancy, unfamiliar words like “excel” and “formula bar.” I have no idea how to react, I have reasoned, I have gotten angry, I must either give stoic, short, correct responses, or kill this man, all other options have been exhausted.

He picks up the stack of yellow-sheets, turns one of them over, and begins doing the arithmetic in pencil. I stand in silence, even as he turns the page over and back multiple times, apparently unable to remember for even one second what number he had read off the other side. He performs the math, which consists of four single digit numbers out to one decimal point – ADDED TOGETHER!”

Naturally, he gets the answer wrong. In fact, while watching him add, I immediately identified the number he forgets to carry – an essential step in the addition process.

Between my excel spreadsheet, and his illegible chicken scratch in pencil, which do you suppose Hinge thought was correct? I bet you guessed it.

“Are you sure, that’s right? Can you add it again?”

“I can’t add it again, all the numbers are right there (pointing to the formula bar), they are all correct, the only way to add them again would be to change one of them to a wrong number.”

He gives me a confused look and tilts his head slightly to one side as if to say; “what do you mean? You can always do something again.”

I point to his paper, “you forgot to carry this 1, try it again.”

He stares at the page for 10 seconds or so, laughs in a way that makes me want to grab his throat, and says, “Oops, you’re right. Okay, so you’re clear on the day/night thing now.”

I go to bed and cry myself to sleep, wondering how the decisions I made in my life led me to a place where I work for a man this stupid.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

D-205: The Little Things

Today they had the Pecan Pie and the Caramel Praline Crunch ice cream. What a perfect dessert pairing, what a wonderful day it is when they both show up on the cart. Dinner was abysmal, but dessert heavenly. It really is the little things in life.

It’s like going to the shower right as the Nepalese are done cleaning it, just after they have cleared out, and being the first one there. Undressing without any foreigners staring at you, choosing whatever spot on the bench that you like. Every shower stall is clean and smells of bleach, and you can choose one that has a good shower head, drains properly, and has a towel rack; the perfect Trifecta of shower enjoyment; the trinity.

Even more rare and possibly more satisfying; stepping up to urinal that has a brand new urinal patty laying in the bottom; daring you to try to dent it’s smooth surface with pure force of your pee stream.

Waking up and finding that the morning meeting is cancelled, and that you have time to go to breakfast and have an egg sandwich or an omelet, instead of just eating cereal at your desk.

But of all the nice little things that make your day tolerable, what is the best. Without any question; getting mail. On days when mail comes, the supply guys loads as many packages as he can on to his little hand cart, and makes his way around the building. I pretend not to notice; I play it cool; as if to say, “I don’t care if I get mail, I have everything I need.” I won’t give those cocky sons-of-bitches opening packages the satisfaction of knowing how much I envy them. How I long to be handed mail, my jealousy consumes me. Look at them, making a big production of their crappy package, laying all their treasures out on the table as if we care about their stupid snacks… and then it comes!

A big beautiful box gets laid on your desk; I want jump up and down, I want to shriek, but I won’t. I’m still cool; “hmm, oh look, I got mail,” no big deal bitches, I get mail all the time, where’s your mail? Oh, you don’t have any, bet you want to see what’s in here. Well, you better get comfortable chump, because I’m going to take my time opening this baby. Let’s see who it’s from, “oh it’s from my wife,” that’s right, and we all know my wife sends the best packages don’t we? Where’s all your bar-hopping bachelor smack talk now? Come on Playah? Let’s hear about how great being single is again. Oh, how much fun it is digging through the seven hundred target bags that my wife hides all my wonderful gifts under. Oh check this out…

“Six magazines! Wow, how am I ever going to have time to read all six… oh, I missed one, there are actually seven… Seven! Seven magazines, wow, you want to look at this SmartMoney?”

“I don’t think I’m going to get to SmartMoney for a while… ah, ah, ah, hand’s off the football preview, I’m not finished with that one, maybe when I’m done; nope, Maxim too, that one comes with me. Oh, and there are snacks, look at these snacks. Sure, sure you can have some, when I open them though, what’s the hurry. “

“Let’s see, toiletries, just the ones I wanted perfect. Gold Bond, Listerine, oh man, where do you get your toiletries? At the PX? Have fun with that, better get there before those guys come in from the COP and empty the shelves; and have fun carrying that jumbo size mouthwash bottle back and forth to the head, if you want the regular size, better get someone to mail it.”

“Goodness Gracious, what do we have here? A card! A card from Hallmark! Now that is thoughtful, what a nice touch… and oh, oh boy look at this, she covered the whole thing with writing, front and back, that is so nice. Well, I’m off to my room to read my personal letter, here you guys go, you can have these Slim Jims; those are nasty anyway.”

Yes, getting mail is the best.

Monday, July 14, 2008

D-206: I Hate This FOB

I hate this FOB. There is a certain familiarity that can only be gained by walking. When you’re on foot, you are so connected to the world around you that the most common articles become instantly recognizable. This is why you never really feel at home as you do in the town you grew up in. When you were a kid, it was probably not uncommon for you to walk ten or twenty miles every day; every house, every tree, and every smell instantly told you exactly where you were. You knew where all the trails led, you knew what every back yard looked like and what was on the other side of it, and you knew what car belonged in every driveway. You were ultra-aware. As an adult, most people walk from their house to their car, and from the parking lot to their job and lose this connection.

When you walk around two square miles of sand, little rocks, concrete walls and porta-potties, the phenomenon is similar, except instead of invoking a sense of comfort like your old neighborhood, it just serves as a constant reminder that you are in fact locked in two squares miles of mind-numbingly monotonous, treeless terrain, where everything smells like shit. The thought that immediately follows: “you are going to be here for a whole lot longer.”

In the middle of the FOB, there is a softball field, which is really just another patch of sand with foul lines drawn on it. This is the afternoon playground for the Brigade staffers and supporting units, as the Battalions are really far too busy to entertain the idea of organized softball. It serves as a constant reminder of how much better those bastards have it.

Which brings up another interesting point; in the Army, as it was in the Navy and likely is in the civilian world for all I know, everyone truly believes that they have the hardest job in the world, and that everyone else just sits around with their thumb in their ass all day. Here is a common example of something you hear about thirty times a day:

“It must be so nice to be the (fill in the job title of any job other than yours) and just fucking jerk off all day! I wish I was the (fill in the job title of any job other than yours) so I could play softball and watch movies and never have any fucking work to do.”

In the Navy, we commonly referred to this as “Martyrdom,” and it would very quickly be met with a comment such as:

“Lord have mercy, hallelujah; nail this man to a cross! He is the hardest working mother-fucker on the whole damned ship… (pause)… sit down and shut up asshole, no one wants to hear your bitching.”

In the Army, everyone is doing this… all the time, so I quickly ran dry on witty retorts and now am forced to just sit there and listen to them bitch like everyone else. It doesn’t help that I admittedly do not have the hardest job in the Army, but guess what; I am not even in the fucking Army so leave me the fuck alone about it! Besides, I like to think that my job is easier because I am so locked-on that I never let it get out of control and don’t have to jump through my ass to un-fuck everything all the time, and because I am relatively low-profile and don't have anyone breathing down my neck all day. But what can I say, I’m an optimist. (I also don't have any Joes beneath me to screw my program up for me.)

The side effect of all this pissing and moaning is that there is a certain amount of guilt associated with taking part in simple pleasures such as going to the gym or reading a book. Maybe it’s because, that as a Catholic, I am very in touch with my own guilty conscience, but I think it’s more likely because you know as soon as you walk out the door that someone undoubtedly says:

“It must be so nice to be the EWO and just go to the gym whenever you feel like it, maybe when I get through this mountain of work I’ll go to the gym too.”

But my world doesn’t come crashing down just because I went to the gym for an hour, and it’s likely that theirs wouldn’t either, but they wouldn’t be able to cling to their martyr status if they did. Oh well, fuck them, I’ve got my own problems.

Disclaimer: These are all good dudes I’m talking about here; they’re just a little overworked.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

D-208: Smoke Session

I finally witnessed my first official Army “Smoke Session” today. I have heard a lot about them in stories; “we got smoked so badly in Ranger school,” for instance. I’ve seen them used in threats many times; i.e. “You want to get smoked? Keep being a smart ass.” But after two and half months, I have not seen one, and figured it to be more Army bullshit.

Walking back to HQ from lunch today, I heard someone screaming. Never wanting to miss a fight or an uncomfortable scene, I rushed on over to see a Private in a very sloppy push-up position; his arms were locked straight, but his back was making a perfect “U” and his crotch was nearly touching the ground. It was clear he had been pushing for quite some time before my arrival.

“That is not an authorized rest position Private Dickhead!”

A slight whimper escaped Private Dickhead’s (not his real name) lips as he pushed his butt toward a more “authorized” position.

For me as a spectator, this could not have gotten off to a better start, I am practically giddy. PT as punishment is not authorized in the Navy. This is just terrific.

I chose a position to stand that would not allow the victim to see me, adding to his humiliation and suffering; but did allow the pain-administering Sergeant First Class (whom I work with often) to see me. I stood silently, but I am sure my eyes urged him to keep it up.

The SFC was eating a chicken sandwich this whole time, which I found hilarious; this “Smoke Session” did not even interrupt his lunch.

“Are you ready to start soldiering Private? Or do you want to keep being a defiant little fuck?”

“ughh… I’m ready, roger Sergeant…”

SFC contemplated his answer for a moment; for the record, he did at least look like he thought about it.

“Nah, I don’t believe you. Keep pushing!” He throws his chicken sandwich aside in disgust. I am not sure if the sandwich was disgusting, or if the Private is so disgusting that SFC lost his appetite. Either way, this is awesome; I am trying not to crack up laughing.

SFC squats down like a baseball catcher and positions himself right in the Private’s face.

“Are you going to keep falling asleep on duty? People could die because of you, you think this is funny.” His anger is clearly growing. Let the hate consume you Sergeant.

“Oh! You don’t think so? You don’t think people can die? Is there always going to be someone around to wake you up? I can send your ass outside the wire tomorrow!” I did not see what Private Dickhead did that gave SFC the impression that he thought something was funny; but whatever it was, it is safe to say was ill-advised.

“Please do Sergeant!” Ooh-hoo-hoo-hoo-hoo; wrong answer idiot. I am laughing silently, but visibly, my chest is bouncing up and down with the force of my constrained laughter. I am not sure if the SFC noticed, but I am anxiously awaiting the maniacal screaming that is sure to come.”


The yelling continues, but I have seen enough. I walk past them both, and offer a nod of appreciation to SFC for the first rate entertainment. I don’t think he noticed, he was still full on in his spit-flying, red-faced rage. I am extremely satisfied; delighted even. Maybe the Army is not so bad; I think I am starting to come around.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

D-211: You Stink

AugmenteeFAN#1 said...

"Three days with no post, what gives? I am chained to my computer awaiting your next post; please get busy slicing up some Army dudes with your razor sharp wit!"

The above comment is fabricated, it was never actually posted, which is why it lacks the little gray “men’s room” logo that confirms blogger authenticity. However, I did receive some encouraging words from the Golden Girls of comedy, and in my imagination, you are all glued to your computer screens, obsessively hitting the “refresh” button in hopes that new post will finally appear. Well, your wait is over imaginary fans; feast your eyes on D-211!

Many of the battalion’s soldiers are deployed to command outposts, some are better equipped than others, but I was under the impression that they all had showers. I guess I was wrong, because I got into a truck today that smelled like a Tupperware that you find in the way back of the fridge; the kind that you pop open out of curiosity, perhaps in vain hope that you may be able to salvage the dish itself, only to be punched in the face by a stinky fist that makes you throw up in your mouth. It smelled like that.

I am sympathetic to those guys who live at the outposts; that sucks. I am not, however, the slightest bit sympathetic to people who don’t shower in the morning here on the FOB. One of the people I work with, routinely opts for the extra 20 minutes of sleep vice the shower before the morning meeting, and shows up at the last second with his boots untied and his hair all disheveled, looking like a Charlie Sheen mug-shot circa 1995.

It is a known fact that some people just “keep” better than others; I can say this, because I am not one the fortunate ones who can afford to skip a morning shower. One morning, it prompted my pretty wife to inform me that I smell like I “slept in garbage.” And that was me stateside; here, with temperatures routinely topping the 120F mark, and with my very manly quaff of Tom Selleck-like chest hair imperialistically invading my shoulders and back, morning showers are not an option.

Well, some others are cursed with my same fate, but do to a lack of an honest wife or a poor sense of smell, they are not yet aware of it. The disaster of a gentleman described above is one of them. This morning, he was leaning back in his reclining office chair with both hands clasped behind his head. In this relaxed position, he was exposing both armpits and thereby releasing the smell of smashed asshole mixed with cab driver all over the room.

Never one to mince words, I turned to him with contempt and said “dude, you smell like hadj.” He muttered something about just waking up, to which I replied, “well, wake up earlier and take a fucking shower!”

It sure seems pretty simple to me.

Quote of the day: PFC with broken hand, to me

“You think I care about breakin’ ma hand; no way sir, if I cared about breakin’ ma hand, I wouldn’t been on my ATV when I was on leave… Jumpin’ mountains, you know, dirt mountains. It only hurts sometimes anyway, like when I’m doin’ somethin’ with it… you know, like turnin’ a steerin’ wheel… or tyin’ ma shoes.”