They Said It Better Than I Ever Could...


These words that I write, they keep me from total insanity. -Charles Bukowski

Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed? -Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

Dec 29, 2009

I Think I'm Going To Puke...

This little fucking douche bag was in the same company as me in Afghanistan! I will never forgive him for this!



Some of what he said is true, but he takes it way too far. And last time I checked sledge hammers do kill flies!

Later,

I love you Mom...

Dec 28, 2009

If Only. Those are truly the saddest words in the world...

I know that I just asked for help with writer's block in my last post, but I think I may have come up with something.

Does anyone remember how I talked about all the volume on life being turned down by my experiences in Afghanistan?

Well that's a true statement. Probably just a bit too true.

I've been saying, "If Only" to myself a lot lately. And that truly sucks.

Regret has become a fairly common state of mind for me lately. And I'd have to say that in my experience thus far. Regret is probably the worst emotion that I've ever felt.

I've had a lot of time to reflect on my life. Which is thinking, and we all know that thinking is not a good thing for me. I've gone as far back as high school and second guessed myself.

If only...

I did this.
I didn't do that.
I asked her out.
I didn't ask her out.
I went here.
I went there.
I didn't go here.
I didn't go there.
I tried a little harder.
I tried a lot harder.
I worked a little more.

I wonder where my life would have led if I didn't have the personality traits that I've got.

If only...

I wasn't so bull headed.
I wasn't so easily angered.
I was more patient.
I was more dedicated.
I was more diligent.
I was more loving.
I was less demanding.

And on and on it goes...

Bad things, brain is doing bad things.

Now the volume on all of that has been turned down. Which I'm thinking might be a horrible thing for me.

You see, I've created quite a comfortable little life for myself. I've got a great job. Money wise, I make more than most people and I've got federal benefits which most people would give their left nut for. I've got a nice place, with nice furniture, a nice car, nice clothes, nice this and nice that. I have no problems paying my bills. I have no real issues at all. Everything is going wonderfully.

And I've gotten quite used to it. And quite comfortable. And its quietly and comfortably sucking the life out of me!

I read a story tonight that brought all this on, so I guess I should share it with you. But we'll give you the condensed version.

This guy Cortes went to Mexico a long time ago to conquer the land and loot all the gold.

He only took 500 guys with him.

His guys grew discontented with him because they were afraid of the Aztecs that were running Mexico at the time and numbered about half a million.

They mutinied and tried to kill him.

He talked them out of it.

He realized that his men were only thinking of riches and since they couldn't really easily get them in Mexico because of the Aztecs they started thinking of home and their wives and families.

They were distracted, and only thinking of everything but the task at hand. Which was subduing Mexico.

So he had to figure out a way to make them focused and get them on board with what he wanted to do.

So he burned, or ran aground all his ships.

There was no escape for any of them.

They had no choice but to fight ferociously and conquer Mexico, which they did. Two years later.


Okay, so what does that say to me? Cortes put his men at death's door. He offered them no escape, no way of backing down. They had only one choice, fight! Live your life, and live it right now. Live it here, and live it now. Because tomorrow you are going to run into an Aztec who may or may not turn your hide into a hat!

I have no ships to run aground.

I have no Aztecs to conquer.

Now I just have to figure out how to make them up in my head.

Now I'm thinking, If only I were born in Cortes' day.

Ah, maybe I'm nuts. But the principle is there. I don't like the way that life feels anymore. I don't like the lack of urgency. I despise the comfort of it all. I wish that I had a Hun to slay. I wish that I had a battle to fight. I wish that I knew how to deal with that. But so far I've got nothing.

If only...I had some good advice.

Anyway,

Later,

I love you Mom...

Dec 25, 2009

HELP...

Me with writer's block.

I've been wrestling with what I should write about now that I'm not in Afghanistan anymore. I mean that place was an endless well of inspiration for hilarious posts. But now I'm back to normal life and I am running short of shit to write about...

What do you want to hear about?

Later,

I love you Mom...

Dec 18, 2009

The War Of Misplaced Priorities...

That's very well how Afghanistan might be remembered. The jury is still out on that one.

I actually heard a little snippet on the news the other day saying that somebody estimated that there are only about 100 Taliban/al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.

Then I read this article on MSNBC.com

Hard Line Pakistani Schools Lure Foreigners

Okay, so I'm sure all of you remember me telling you over and over again about the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. It sucked.

Why did it suck? Well besides being in Afghanistan, it was the place where the bad guys came from to cause all the fun.

Its been said, and given the fact that I watched it happen, that the Afghan/Pak border is pretty porous.

That's an understatement. The bad guys roll over the border, plant a few IED's, throw some lead at an unsuspecting patrol or two, stop off for a goat stew dinner, say their prayers and are back, safely in Pakistan before it gets dark!

Now we all know that there have been a few news stories here and there about American incursions over the Pakistani border. And I'm not naive enough to think that certain units are not operating on the other side of that border.

However, nothing large scale is going on over there. For us.

For them, Pakistan is huge. Pakistan is where they launch their fun little outings from. Pakistan is where they recruit, train, educate, equip and deploy their minions from.

So basically, if you want to look at it from a very cynical point of view. So far the best that the Afghan war has been able to do is move the terrorists base of operations from one country to the next.

They're still there. Still just as big a pain in the ass as ever and for whatever reason we aren't going to get them.

I've been arguing for the securing of the Afghan/Pakistan border being the most important priority any military/political effort in Afghanistan can have. Anyone who thinks otherwise, quite frankly, is either stupid or isn't looking at the facts.

You can't fix your flooded basement until you stop the water from coming in. Get it!

Now another war in Pakistan is obviously out of the question. Without a major event or shift in public opinion that'll just never fly. Nor would I want it to.

But the border has got to be shut down. The border needs to be secured. Simple. Not at all easy, but simple.

I'm starting to wonder what kind of enemy we are fighting when entire schools are dedicated to finding, educating, training, and radicalizing students and then passing them on al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations.

Its like minor league baseball over there. Learn here with us for a few years and then we'll send you on to the big league. Kind of creepy to think about. They actually take children, and completely brain wash them into radical Islamist nut jobs.

A fundamental shift in thinking is in order here. The most important real estate in Afghanistan is the 5 miles to the west of that border. The lion's share of American forces should be there if you ask me. (No one ever does.) I mean at one time we had 160,000 troops in Iraq. You're telling me that we can't get enough guys over there to secure that border.

I've beaten this horse for a while, and I am going to continue to beat it because it isn't dead yet.

How do you expect to build a viable police and military force there when you have Taliban coming across the border to corrupt the process?

How do you expect to get any infrastructure projects finished when the Taliban can slip over the border and blow it up nightly?

How do you expect to get anything done when the people that are working against you can come right on over and fuck up the works whenever they're feeling froggy?

Prevention is the best medicine, or so I've been told. Shut that border down and I'd go so far as to say that greater than 50% of the bullshit that goes on over there would come to a screeching halt. Prevent them from coming over and fucking things up, and then maybe some work could actually get done.

Once again, it won't happen but I can dream can't I?

Later,

I love you Mom...

Dec 14, 2009

One Drag Queen+House Music=My Take On People Today...

Alright, so I've told you in the past that I think that the vast majority of people are not worth the air and food it takes to keep them alive. Or maybe I haven't but that's it, that's the way I feel about a lot of people. Probably at least 90% of the human population today. It can go as high as 99.99% depending on when you catch said people.

First of all there's the drag queen. The six foot blonde Mexican that lives next door to me. Its got the whole package, skin tight dress, long blonde hair, nice rack, and a penis...

Then there's the house music (which I didn't know people even listened to anymore). Could've sworn that shit was outlawed along with Kid N' Play in 1996. But apparently this stuff still exists, and drag queens love it. And they like to play it, at insane decibel levels, in the apartment next to mine, until the wee hours of the morning.

So I went over there at 1:30 a.m. I was pissed, I wanted to sleep. I beat on the door like a cop. I assume they looked out and saw that I wasn't a cop and decided not to answer the door. I know for a fact there is no way they didn't hear me at the door, because I damn near unhinged the thing beating on it. I mean I started out just knocking, but between the music and my anger level I couldn't control myself all that long.

Woe is me, no answer. What to do? I know, call the cops...they fix things.

Called the cops, they came, talked to the drag queen, told it to tone the party down. They left, walking right past my door, almost falling over their own feet laughing about the appearance of my neighbor.

It toned it down, for about as long as it took for the parking lot to become bacon free.

Then it went right back up. And the aforementioned series of events was repeated.

With no result, until they finally decided to pack it up at 4:30 a.m. Normally, I don't really care about stuff like this. I'd usually be pretty pissed that I couldn't go to the party. However, tonight I'm tired.

But no consideration. For me, for the other people in the building, the cops, or anyone but themselves. Not an ounce of common courtesy in them. Or anyone else for that matter it seems.

How many times have you seen some punk dude, not hold the door open for an old lady?

How many times have you had to listen to a bunch of teenage girls talking on their cell phones right in the middle of a store at maximum volume?

How many times have you seen someone rush to get to the front of the line at the store and damn near knock everyone else over?

When was the last time someone offered to help you into the house with all your shit from the grocery store?

When was the last time some kid came over and shoveled an old couple's driveway after the first snow of the year? (I didn't volunteer but the mom always made me do this. I ended up shoveling 2 driveways and a block's worth of sidewalk because of her!)

And on and on and on...

I almost lost it once and became a felon when my mother walked into a department store to buy a birthday present for my cousin. My mom's a big lady, no way around it. I love her to death but she's no light weight. And my cousin, at the time anyway, was a 110 pound waif. Not to mention my mom was like 50 at the time and my cousin was maybe 26 or 27. So it was one of those fashionable stores that young chicks like.

So anyway, mom and I walk in. Girl walks right up to my mom and says, "Ma'am, we don't have anything here that would fit you!"

Completely flabbergasted. (Yep, I know that word, of course I'm not quite sure I used it right) my mom and I turned around and left and she had to spend the next 10 or so minutes convincing me not to kick the little bitch's ass. I do believe there are exceptions to the hitting a woman rule. Like when they deserve it!

So where am I going with this? What happened to common courtesy? Why is it that I am still terrified that my mother will jump out from behind a corner and belt me one if I didn't open the door for a woman, regardless of age, to include toddlers.

Please and thank you. As long as they aren't family, its a requirement.

Yes Ma'am, no ma'am, yes sir, no sir. The army beat that one into my skull.

Helping old ladies...that one just comes natural, if I do say so myself.

Knowing that the things I do affect others, and knocking it the fuck off when it affects them negatively. Dear old mom beat that one into me...with a belt.

Without sounding like I am tooting my own horn. I was taught the right way to do things. Apparently, teaching the right way of doing things isn't a real high priority anymore.

However, I do have a solution. (The following is a joke, but it just might work)

Someone once said, "An armed society is a polite society."

Require handguns to be owned and carried by every American citizen old enough to drive.

Make breaches of etiquette punishable.

By the person who was offended.

By allowing them to whip out their weapon and put a bullet in your ass.

You name on kid who wouldn't hold the door for granny if he feared her taking aim at him from behind her coke bottle glasses, with her shaky hands and putting a round right in his ass!

I'm telling you, you can't tell me you wouldn't love the idea of being able to shoot someone dead in the ass for pushing you out of the way on their way to a doorbuster deal on black Friday.

Well, it'll never happen but I can dream, can't I?

But its worth some thought, it could be fun. But until we get there, teach your and everyone else's kids some manners will ya?

Later,

I love you Mom...

Dec 7, 2009

Are You Fucking Serious?

Just got done reading something, its funny. Its the government and the military to a T. Can't get around the ridiculousness of some of the things that go on...

Read it and tell me what you think.

Read all about the military giving shit to Iraqis that soldiers in Afghanistan need.

Good relations or not, American soldiers needs are more important.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Dec 3, 2009

So Here's What I Think...

I wrestled with the title of this for a while. God only knows why. But I couldn't really come up with anything better than that. Which is unfortunate. I thought I was better at this.

So anyway, I couldn't watch Obama's speech because unlike anywhere from 10-20% of the citizenry (depending on where you live.) I had to work. So I downloaded a copy of the President's speech and read it. Highlighting along the way the things that I picked out that I liked and agreed with, along with the things that bugged the shit out of me. So from here on out I'll start with a quote and then tell you why I liked it or thought it was complete bullshit.

"As we know these men belonged to Al Qaeda-a group of extremists who have distorted and defiled Islam, one of the world's great religions, to justify the slaughter of innocents."

Complete bullshit. I've read the Koran. All that shit about smiting the infidels necks and killing those who will not convert and subjecting non-believers to dhimmi status (look it up) is all true. So any religion that will espouse tactics and actions like that is not a great religion. Don't worry, I'm not real thrilled with any organized religion. It just so happens that right now we're talking about Islam.

"After escaping across the border into Pakistan in 2001 and 2002, al Qaeda's leadership established safe haven there."

Totally agree. They roam freely across that border. I watched them do it. This is somewhat akin to a snowball fight between your kids and the neighbors kids. Except in this case there's a rule that says your kids can only throw snowballs at the neighbor kids when they are on your property. So long as they are in their own yard your kids can't do anything to them. They roam freely across that border, and Pakistan is claiming (and Obama is claiming) that they are our allies. Well then let us come and stomp around in your yard a little bit and find these animals.

"Afghanistan is not lost, but for several years it has moved backwards."

Agreed. Corruption in the government is rampant. I mean the things they have going over there would make Mayor Daley of Chicago blush. The police and military are making strides but they still have a way to go. The simple truth is that so much was put into Iraq, that there wasn't much left over for Afghanistan. Resources, intellectual, military, financial, diplomatic, and otherwise were poured into Iraq when they rightfully belonged in Afghanistan. So maybe now that Iraq is winding down there will be the resources that Afghanistan so desperately needs.

I'm going to skip around the speech and put a few of these together now. They focus on the same point.

"And as Commander in Chief I have determined that it is in our vital national interest to send an additional 30,000 U.S. troops to Afghanistan. After 18 months, our troops will begin to come home."

"I reject this course because it sets goals that are beyond what we can achieve at a reasonable cost, and what we need to achieve to secure our interests. Furthermore, the absence of a timeframe for our transition would deny us any sense of urgency in working with the Afghan government."

Agree/disagree. Now there is the standard argument that's been flying around all the 24 hour news channels that you can't put a timeframe on it. You just have to stay until its done. But anyone who has ever been in the military knows, the more work you get done, the more work they'll make you do. That's pretty simple.

I disagree with the 30,000. General McCrystal asked for (I think) 40,000. If a commander asks for something, within reason, give it to him. I don't think that shaving off 10,000 troops is anything more that bowing to Democratic party. I don't know for sure, but that's what it seems like. An effort by Obama to make this a little more palatable for his party.

The timeframe on the other hand, I can get on board with that. 18 months might be a bit quick, but that sense of urgency that he talked about is something that will be a master motivator. If you've ever read Robert Greene's ,the 33 laws of war, you'll know that one of the laws is "Back yourself into a corner." Its a simple rule of animal instinct. When you chase a dog, it'll run. When you back a dog into a corner, it will fight like a fucking lion.

18 months is a pretty small corner to be backed into. I like the psychology here. Obama is blatantly backing US military commanders and Afghan government and military officials into a corner. He's basically telling all of them, "You've got 18 months to get this shit done, and if you don't pull it off by then I'm pulling the rug out from underneath you." I like that. Light a fire under their asses. Maybe it will loosen things up a bit over there. Get some of those rules of engagement changed so that we're not hamstrung with what we can do. Maybe inspire a little outside the box thinking from US and Afghan commanders. Maybe get them to start saying to themselves, well this hasn't really been working the past 8 years, its not going to work the next 18 months so we HAVE to come up with something new.

"We will support efforts by the Afghan government to ope the door to those Taliban who abandon violence and respect the human rights of their fellow citizens."

Complete bullshit. Sorry, but this sounds an awful lot like you are installing a valet at the door to the henhouse and he's supposed to just let all the foxes in. If you can find the Taliban, kill them. Simple. These men will not change. This is where I get really angry. Allowing people that tried, and will continue to try to kill Americans to become a part of the Afghanistan that we are partnering in building. Its sorta like setting up a rollaway bed in the basement for the guy who banged your wife. Its an all around bad idea.

Last one I want to leave you with for today is this...

"Let me be clear, none of this will be easy."

WELL THANK YOU CAPTAIN OBVIOUS.

Overall, I think the Prez has some good ideas. Some of his ideas are bullshit. Some are misguided, some are a little goofy. But the man's got a plan. Now at least there's that. A plan, and not some dopey old man in a flight suit on an aircraft carrier telling us "mission accomplished" right as the whole thing was really kicking off.

My ideas for winning in Afghanistan are simple.

1. Send enough troops to secure the Pakistan border. You put enough guys over there that NO ONE can get over that border without bumping into some GI sleeping on guard shift. No one can come over the border, set the IED's and slink back undetected. No one can hit American convoys without running into several hundred, heavily armed, pissed off Marines. Security will improve exponentially with this simple, but exceedingly difficult step.

2. We've got enough guys to train the Afghani government. The entire US military police corps should be dedicated to training the Afghani National Police, and set aside a few battalions of infantry to handle the Army.

3. Finish that fucking ring road and get that country interconnected. Commerce will improve and the entire country's economy will benefit. When the money starts to flow and there are jobs and economic development I think it would be a bit easier to keep recruits away from the Taliban.

4. When the Afghani's are ready, pass the torch and roll on home. If you ask me, so long as the Pakistani border is secured this wouldn't take very long. It might even go as fast as 18 months.

Now the final question I have is this...I don't remember for certain, but at any time in his speech, did Obama mention the word "Victory"?

Hmmm

Anyway, I'm done.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Nov 29, 2009

Lets Talk About Loans...

So in my continuing effort to be topical in what I write I've been reading a lot of the news lately. Which is depressing. But I ignored most, if not all of it for so long while I was overseas I think its something that I need to do.

Here is what I read today GROWING FORECLOSURE CRISIS

Okay, so let's take stock of this whole thing. Basically, it comes down to what I would call shoddy loan officers giving money to people who had no business borrowing it in the first place.

Now, I'm not an economist and I don't claim to know a whole helluva lot about mortgages and loans and the monetary system. I know very little. Really, the only thing I know is that you work, you earn, you save, you buy. That's all I've got.

But the shit that these loan companies came up with seem to have removed those middle two steps. I mean there were actually loans out there that didn't require verification of your income! Who the fuck actually thought that was okay? And who the fuck thinks that something like that should be legal?

Taking out a loan without having to cough up your last two pay stubs would be a bit of a red flag to me. I don't know why people thought this was acceptable.

But it does increase the pool of potential buyers, which increases competition for housing, which given that housing and land (God isn't making any more of it) is a fairly stable (supply wise) commodity, prices are driven up. Well, its an artificial driving up of prices because a good percentage of these assholes can't afford the properties they are bidding on anyway.

I am by nature a simple person. Not intellectually, but my way of thinking says that the more complicated something is, the less likely it is to work. Mortgages and loans are no exception. You find out how much money a person makes. You find out how much they owe to other people. You subtract that from their income. You come up with a number. From that number you subtract the normal monthly living expenses for a family of their size. You come up with the amount of money they are making per month after all expenses. You decide, based on that number if they can afford the loan you are thinking of giving them.

But thinking like that would not have kept the pool of potential buyers large enough for the monolith mortgage banks that were operating at the time. Can't let that happen, if those banks fail who will make all those huge political campaign contributions?

Its very simple to figure out. When I was in college I worked as a bartender in an American Legion. Great job, being a combat vet in that place pretty much put me on par with a buxom, 22-year old blond as far as tips go. So while I was working there and this whole housing crash was going on, we got to talking about it. I asked a few of these guys who are for the most part older gentlemen. Most of whom bought their first homes around the late 1960's and early 1970's.

So I asked a few of them how much their houses cost at the time. The standard or average answer was somewhere around $35,000. At the time that was the going price for a starter home around here. I mean some guys bought places that cost around $50,000 some guys went as low as $19,000. But the average was around $35,000. So then the next question I asked was how much money did they make at the time. The usual answer was about $17-20K per year.

Or then there's the case of my mother and father who bought the house I grew up in for $47,500. And between the two of them at the time they were making $45,000 per year and put $20,000 down.

Why am I throwing all these numbers at you? To show you that everyone, lenders and borrowers alike were more responsible at the time. Its a simple matter of ratios. On average in the very scientific study of real estate at the time. You had to make around 50% of what your house was worth back then in order to qualify for a loan. Maybe that's not true, but from those people that I was able to talk to they made roughly 50% of what their houses were worth in a year. Which, if you did the math would make for a very manageable mortgage payment. It would make for a family that would have little to no trouble living comfortably in a home for 40-50 years. Having a paid off home and 20 or so years of continuous saving so that when mommy and daddy kicked off they were able to leave a little something behind so that junior could get a jump on his life, or he could get a nice shot in the arm on the life he was already in.

Lenders must have made sure that people could afford the loans they were taking out. And borrowers must have made sure that they were on good financial footing in order to take out the loans. Honesty, from both ends. Recipe for success if you ask me, for the lenders and the borrowers. The lenders make money with the borrowers paying their mortgages on time every month. Then the borrowers make money as their homes GRADUALLY rise in value and the principal on the loans is slowly paid off over the course of 30 years.

It was a perfect example of what a particularly gruff E-7 once called the "grind it out" system. He told me that anything, anything at all that comes quickly isn't going to last and probably isn't worth shit. If you lose weight fast, you'll gain it back faster. If your money comes fast and easy, you'll spend it faster and easier. Any woman that comes fast and easy, isn't worth the time or the expense. Everything, marriage, work, money, fitness it all has to be grinded out. It takes time. In the case of what we're talking about 30 years.

Well, that's not good enough for the American lending system anymore. They want it fast. They want a large pool of potential buyers. They want money to flow like a river. They want housing prices to soar. They want it all, and they want it now. (Ode de Queen)

And now we see where that got us.

Second half of this. My critique of the government bailout of the mortgage industry.

Here is the first point. READ THIS

Government bailouts already total enough money to pay off 90% of mortgages in the United States. So you knock out the mortgages of the top 10% of the wealthiest people in the US and you've got who you should pay.

Now, admittedly, I haven't thought this completely through. But wouldn't it be better for the government to pay off all the loans of the bottom 90% of wage earners in the US.

Okay, so the bailouts secured jobs and kept companies afloat so they could keep paying their employees and all that. But wouldn't 90% of the American public being free of mortgage payments stimulate the living shit out of the economy?

I always hear on the news that consumer spending is the engine that drives the economy. When people have money, they spend it, which creates jobs. Okay, so the government pays off all those mortgages. Next thing you know the US economy is flush with cash because no one has to pay a mortgage anymore. Now they can buy new cars, put up a fence, put in a pool, buy some new toys, put in new carpet, finish the basement, and la di da di da.

Its a thought. One that will never come true because it is just too damn simple. Pay off the nations mortgages and the people will have money to spend...and they will. Spending by consumers generates new jobs. New jobs generate more employed workers spending money. Which equals more tax revenue for the government. It all works out in the big circle of life I think.

Why wouldn't they do something like that? Its too simple, too transparent, and if something is simple and transparent the government's corporate masters can't steal all of it as its filtering through the mountain of government bureaucracy that it will inevitably have to go through.

They would never do something like that because a plan like that would be good for all. Not only good for them.

Simple...

Later,

I love you Mom...

Nov 27, 2009

Where Do We Go From Here...

I think that's a valid question. Its certainly been on my mind more than a little bit lately.

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson once wrote an essay called "Security" in 1955. Way before any of the world's present bullshit was even a thought in most minds. He ended that essay by saying, "Who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived, or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?"

I think this applies to a few other things that are going on in the world today. Most specifically, Obama's current waffling about whether or not he is going to send more troops to Afghanistan.

In the immortal words of the Door's, "The time to hesitate is through." Send them already, will ya?

We have a military situation in Afghanistan that in my well trained military eyes has reached what could only be described as a stalemate. Nobody's moving. One way or the other. Which is ridiculous. Get in there and win the fucking thing, or bring the boys back home! Simple.

However, I don't want that. I don't want any of them home until this thing is won. I can say that because I don't have any children over there right now, but make no mistake, I'll be headed back soon enough. (Wanderlust is a mother fucker.)

I spent entirely too much time of my life doing what my government sent me to do in that country to accept anything less than a victory in that God forsaken country. One drop of blood was too much to shed, but once it was shed, victory is the only thing that will vindicate that bloodshed.

So instead of being vague about victory like so many of our politicians, I came up with some standards for victory.

1. Secure border with Pakistan.

We have to do this before all else anyway. And if I were the general in charge of this shit that's where I would dedicate the majority of those new forces (if I got them). The bad guys filter in over the Pak border and set up their little exploding presents and conduct their operations with Pakistan as their base. So close the border and all of a sudden things will get a lot easier. Easily said, but not so easily done. But 40,000 US troops would have a pretty good shot of securing the border.

2. Freestanding, effective, respected government. That won't fold the first time the Taliban come and blow something up.

This is simple, and notice I didn't say corruption free. People who think they are going to get a corruption free government are to naive to live. Corruption is part of government whether anyone likes it or not. I think its laughable that people would want a corruption free government in Afghanistan when we don't have one here.

Freestanding, meaning they can stand on their own. Enforce their laws without US assistance, fight their own battles, their own wars, collect their own taxes, conduct their own elections, fix their own roads, do everything for themselves.

Effective, meaning they can do all the above mentioned things with a minimum of bloodshed.

Respected. In my blog when I was in Afghanistan I told you about the tribalism. Some people didn't even know that a central government existed, others knew about it but couldn't have cared less what it did or wanted. This is something that has to change there. A central government is integral to the success of that country and will be needed to make a viable nation. But until the people of that country accept and submit to a central government, progress will be either be slow or inert.

So are those the only things that need to be done to win in Afghanistan? Nope, definitely not. But I think those are the most important. You secure the border and next thing you know there isn't so much fighting to be done. Or maybe they just flip the switch and start coming in from Iran in greater numbers. But we can deal with that some other time.

Build a government is a huge undertaking. There's a million things that go in with that. Economic, diplomatic, educational, infrastructure and a ton of other concerns are all involved in building a government. But once there is one in place that can handle its own business then we can declare victory and roll out.

So if you ask me, they are going to have to send everyone that was in Iraq to Afghanistan. I couldn't imagine what would happen in that country if there were 200,000 US troops in that country, and they were deployed correctly. I can see it now...

-Afghanistan's borders with Iran and Pakistan have been secured by American troops standing guard every 10 meters.

-All roads have been cleared and secured by the newly instituted Afghani highway patrol.

-Searches are commencing of every residence and structure in Afghanistan. Under current troop levels this will be complete by Christmas next year.

-Afghani police and military academies and training centers are operating at optimum capacity. Churning out fully trained police officers and soldiers and their leaders in staggering amounts. The police will be fully staffed within six months and the military will be at 100% of its authorized strength by the end of next year.

-Afghani civilians are turning in Taliban operatives by the hundreds because they say, "There's no need to be afraid of them anymore, there are American and Afghani soldiers everywhere."

Ah, what a great thing that would be. But that's all pie in the sky bullshit.

However, it doesn't change the fact that an undertaking of this magnitude is not something that we can just walk away from. Stopping terrorism became nation building and we cannot leave under any circumstances until that nation is built. Whether anyone likes it or not.

There is still a mountain of work to be done. Work that will need to be done, one way or another. Give us the troops we need. Give us the resources we need. I've done my part, but don't worry, I just checked the deployments coming up and there's a few slots left for trainers for Afghani police in September 2010.

Fortune favors the bold, so let's get moving, let's quit waffling. The time to hesitate is through...thanks Jim.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Nov 26, 2009

Happily Ever After Afghanistan...

So today is Thanksgiving...so happy Thanksgiving!

I was supposed to write this a long time ago. But I've been exceptionally lazy with all my writing lately. Between work and well work, I just haven't been able to find the time. Excuses, excuses. If I really wanted to, I would've made it happen but I didn't. So take that for what its worth.

So how has life been for me since I came home?

Different to say the least.

I've said it a thousand times already and this is one of the few good things. Is that, all the volume on so many things is turned down. I don't really get as riled up over things as I used to. Don't really take things as seriously anymore.

Like this, I burnt through $5,000 the other day furnishing my new apartment. I even bought a gigantic television along with the stereo surround sound. Before this deployment that would've bugged the shit out of me. Spending all that money and since they are running those specials, "24 or 36 months no interest, same as cash" I put it all on credit. Which, previously would've made me absolutely batty.

This time I looked at it all, looked at the bills and said, "Hey, its just money. I'll make more."

Relationships are another thing. I've been trying to figure out what of this deployment I should tell everyone about. I mean the shrink told me that I needed to find someone to talk to about all of it and share with them as much as I could. I wanted to tell him that I told the world about most of it. 505 pages of psychotherapy courtesy of the internet.

But it doesn't change the fact that you tell people things about what went on over there and you can't help but see that somewhat blank look in their eyes. And you wonder to yourself, "Am I not explaining this well enough, or are they just dumber than a box of shit?"

It strains things a bit, because I want to tell them. God knows, I've always had a lot to say. But I haven't figured out whether or not to tell them the shitty things. Will they look at me differently, will they just think of me as damaged goods now? I mean the funny stuff is easy to tell them, everybody likes a funny story. But how far do I go? Haven't figured that one out yet, that's a work currently in progress.

Work? Is a snap now. Between the hours we worked in Afghanistan and the difficulty of some of that work over there makes a job (any job) seem pretty inconsequential. Most days I work an 8 hour shift, some days I get stuck with or volunteer for overtime and that takes me up to 16 hours. Well all things considered, in Afghanistan some of my shifts lasted around a week, 16 hours is nothing. Not to mention here no one is trying to kill me.

I went public with the blog again. So we'll see how long that lasts. I don't really think there is anything in there that could get me into any real trouble so we'll just see what happens. But I'm sure that some of you would like to see what happened after I went private. So its all there, minus a few. But don't worry I've got the whole thing saved.

Lately, I've been commenting on the differences between life over there and life here. I couldn't help it, its the lens through which I look at the world now. So I think there's some good stuff in there. But I troll the newspapers and find something I want to write about and then throw it out there.

I've rekindled some old friendships since I've been back. I started regularly speaking to my buddy "J". He's the guy if you can remember this, that I wrote the "copenhagen jerk" story about. He's been keeping my mind as focused as possible. He's just one of those guys that I can always talk to because he knows what it means to be a soldier and he knows me about as well as anyone.

I'm even heading back to school. Either in the spring, but I may have to put it off until the fall so that my GI Bill has time to go through. I found out that since I deployed and I used up all my previous GI Bill entitlement that I get 12 more months of benefits. Sweet.

But here let me tell you how retarded the military and government can be sometimes. The old GI Bill had 36 months of entitlements. And I think that the new one has 48. So if you used the old one then you can switch over to the new one, but here's the catch. If you used say, 30 months of the old GI Bill, you can only use 6 months of the new one for a total of 36 months. However, if, like me, you used all 36 months of the old one, you can use 12 months of the new one. For a total of 48. Well you can always count on Uncle Sam to make perfect sense.

Oh, another good one. I applied for my retroactive stop loss pay. $500 a month for the 7 months I was stop lossed. But of course, something went wrong. I applied, sent all the paperwork in. Filled out all the forms online. Then a couple days later I received an email that said that my paperwork and the months that I said I was stop lossed were not in agreement. Of course not, why would they be. I was only there, I wouldn't know what months I was stop lossed or anything. So stay tuned we'll have to see how that goes.

So I think that's about it. Life has successfully returned to something resembling normalcy. But its always there. A little bit of Afghanistan sneaks into my life at the weirdest or most inappropriate times. I was standing outside a bar one night. Some kid set off a firecracker and I just about jumped out of my pants. I was walking through the mall and I saw a little girl with a hoodie on and my mind saw that little Afghani girl with the burned face. Just the other day I flushed the toilet, and then I flushed it again. Just cuz I can...

So anyway, that's pretty much it.

I'm going out to my cousin's for dinner. Should be a blast, I even found a pair of jeans that are way too big so that I've got room to expand. I could go into the whole remember to be thankful thing, but I figure that when you see the copious amounts of food on the table today. You aren't going to need to be told that.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Nov 24, 2009

Smoking is healthier than fascism...

What has become of this great land of ours?

This land where freedom is "supposed" to be so cherished.

John Locke, who was so influential of our founding fathers that much of his writing was quoted almost verbatim in the Declaration of Independence, said that every person has an inherent right to life, liberty and property. (Or some variance thereof.)

So anyway, what the hell am I talking about? Just read an article about a bar in Chicago that is flouting the smoking ban and has put up rooms where smokers can congregate and smoke. The price of admission is putting a little something into the pot so that the business can pay the smoking fines that are generated by them allowing you to smoke.

Not a bad deal if you ask me. And yes, I am a smoker. And yes, I know I shouldn't be. There is no doubt whatsoever that smoking is about the stupidest thing that I do. But I'm still troubled by all of this.

Seems like a new smoking ban is going into effect somewhere, every day. Another place where ole' Uncle Sam is going to tell you what you have to do with your own property.

Do I think that people have a right to live smoke free lives? Sure I do. So stay the hell away from me. LOL. Its not that. I don't mind people wanting to stay away from smoke. I understand the health concerns. I understand all of it. What I can't understand is why they think that smoking's unhealthiness makes it okay for them to intrude into other people's lives.

Now the ban has gone into effect here and has been for a while. Bars were hit with it. Restaurants and many other places. The only ones of those that I want to talk about are private businesses. Those businesses owned by private citizens.

Who the fuck does the government think it is telling them what they can and cannot do with their own property?

You own something, it is your right to do with it as you please. Or so you would think. How would you like the government telling you what you can do in your car, or in your backyard, or in your shed, or in your garage, or in your house? I personally, don't see the difference between that property and a business property.

But maybe I'm stupid.

Okay, so businesses are open to the public. And the public is supposed to be free of smoke. Okay, well don't most businesses have a policy that (usually is up on the wall) that says we reserve the right to refuse service to anyone for any reason. Or some such shit. I say you've got every right to decide who comes into your home, you should have every right to decide who comes into your business.

I'd have to put it at this. A bar or restaurant or private business of any kind is inherently different than a public service. Any government entity or building, I get them being smoke free. Hospitals, I don't think anyone is going to argue that hospitals should be smoking. And if they did, I don't think the hospitals would go for it. Private or otherwise. Government or hospitals, these are places that EVERYONE HAS to go. I'd say that would be a good standard for smoking bans.

IF A BUSINESS OR RESIDENCE OR ENTITY OR BUILDING OF ANY KIND IS OF SUCH A PURPOSE THAT IT WOULD REQUIRE EVERY PERSON TO HAVE REASON TO ENTER OTHER THAN THEIR OWN CHOOSING, THEN THAT BUSINESS, RESIDENCE, ENTITY, BUILDING OR WHATEVER SHALL BE SMOKE FREE.

So gas stations, grocery stores, government buildings, schools, and all of that...smoke free.

Anywhere that you choose for yourself whether or not you go in there...can smoke.

The United States, during my lifetime has become a nation of "bans". Ban this, ban that. Its bad for you...ban it. Somebody got hurt...ban it. Some group doesn't like it...ban it. Someone was offended...ban it. Ban, ban, ban. FUCK YOU.

I like my America free. I love the freedoms that I used to have.

I joined the military under the assumption that I was going to be fighting all enemies, foreign and domestic. Well, I'd have to say that the nanny state is a domestic enemy. So, this begins my fight.

What you do with your own property is your business. Regardless if yous serve alcohol for money. Its yours and if you want to smoke in that building, so be it.

If you don't like smoking, don't go in there.
If you don't like smoking, don't work there.
Keep your preferences out of everyone elses business.

Next we'll talk about drugs, and watch the phone lines light up.

Later.

What A Wonderful World...

So tonight I got on the internet and started reading the news. I was reading the Chicago Tribune. You know, keeping it local.

I only read two articles before I stopped and started thinking. (Everyone remember what a bad thing it can be when I get to thinking?)

Chicago Cop Steals $1 Million

22 Year Old Kid killed in Afghanistan.

Two more opposite headlines I couldn't really think of. I mean I guess there are some similarities. Both involve really shitty things happening.

But I guess they show the dichotomy of the world. I think that might be the right word. Dichotomy...a division or contrast between two things that are or are represented as being opposed or entirely different. At least that's what the dictionary on my computer says.

On the one hand you have a greedy asshole, who is entrusted with protecting and serving the public. Then on top of that he is given the added responsibility of handling money for his fellow officers and what does he do? He steals it. Oh, how very Chicago of you.

Then on the other hand you have this kid. 22 years old, who just does what he has to do to support his wife and child. I didn't know the kid, but that is all I need to know about him. He joined the military to support his young wife and child. Enough said. Unfortunately, in his case, that little bit of loyalty, diligence, and responsibility got him killed.

I could go on and on with all the things that ran through my head reading these two articles but suffice it to say that I damn near started questioning whether or not there is any justice in the world. Now for those of you who aren't familiar with Chicago let me lay it out for you.

Corruption capital of the world. Bar none. No one can even hold a candle. Chicago has been family owned and operated for well at least 20 years (and that's just the kid.) So if you follow this story one of two things will happen. The cop will make a big deal out of it, he'll got to trial and he'll get off. Or this will drop off the face of the earth, he'll be quietly allowed to retire and move to Florida to live next to John Burge. The other asshole cop that beat confessions out of people and now lives high off the hog with his $80,000 a year pension.

They get to do that, and this kid goes down for a dirt nap, and his wife is widowed at 22 and the child is fatherless at 15 months.

I've got an idea, take both of those shitty cops pensions and give them to this young man's wife and daughter. Then set these two pricks in a car and drive it down a road straight into an IED.

But that won't happen.

Loyalty, honesty, responsibility and service-0
Dishonesty, theft, violence and corruption-2

And the winner is...

Later,

I love you Mom.

Oct 28, 2009

It's Funny What God Will Say To You, If You Just Stop To Listen...

So a few things have happened since I last wrote.

Remember a while back when I told you about how the war in Afghanistan had basically turned the volume down on everything back home? Well, I came back, started back to work and inevitably succumbed to acting and feeling just like everyone else. (Something that I swore to myself I wouldn't do.) But I went and did it.

I started to bitch about my job. I started to feel burdened by my family and friends. I started to whine about not having enough money. I became lazy, complacent, and an overall slug.

This all happened pretty quickly given that I have been home for just two months.

But the transformation hadn't taken full and complete effect. The volume was still low enough that I could hear the things that I needed to hear. And I think that I may have gotten a little kick in the ass from the big guy upstairs. At least I hope that's what it was. Either that or it was a polite message of "quit yer bitchin!"

So I ride the CTA (Chicago transit authority) buses and trains to work. Which most people consider to be a pain in the ass. However, I consider parking in downtown Chicago to be an even larger pain in the ass. So I have selected the lesser of two evils.

Anyway, so I was standing at the bus stop waiting on the bus. When the guy next to me said, "Excuse me, but could you give me a hand getting on the bus?"

I looked over and saw a guy, probably mid twenties, good looking kid. Except for a few glaring items. He was in a wheelchair, and he was minus a left leg.

I told him that I'd help him, and what did he need me to do? He replied, just to watch the chair as he got on the bus. (Chicago has kneeling buses. The shocks compress so that the bus basically kneels down so that he can get on the bus.)

Easy enough.

So we're sitting there waiting, and I can't help but ask. What happened?

He told me he lost his limbs in an IED blast in Afghanistan, not far from where I had been stomping around not more than 70 days ago. He his leg in 2002, when he was 18 years old.

So we swapped a few pleasantries, what unit we were each in, where we were, what we had done there and blah, blah, blah.

Then (while trying to ignore the elephant in our collective living room.) I asked what he had been up to since then.

(Here's where I got what I think is my message from God.)

He got home in 2002, had to rehab his injuries for a year. Then they sent him home. However, all the while he had been in the hospital he had been taking classes on the internet toward his bachelors degree. Now since he was 100% disabled he got a monthly check from the government that enabled him to keep on going to school. He was working on his masters in psychology, hoping to go on to get his PSY D. So that he could be a psychiatrist or psychologist or whatever.

I asked what he wanted to do with that, and he stated very matter of factly (like I should've known) that he wanted to work with Vets and help get them over PTSD.

We talked a bit more and I got a few other things out of him. Turns out he is an avid rock climber. (Yeah, only one leg and he decides to climb rocks.) On top of that, he runs 5 miles a day.

This one threw me off, I was like, "Dude, you're in a wheelchair. What gives?" Oh, he only uses the wheelchair for trips around the city. That way he doesn't have to wait in any lines, and its just easier to scoot a chair around than it is to deal with the prosthetic limb he's got, which he says hasn't been fitted exactly right yet so it still hurts over long distances. Not to mention people give him free stuff a lot.

That's a boy! Anyone who's ever been in the military will tell you that you take full advantage of every opportunity afforded you. And if a wheelchair will get you some free stuff every now and then and shoot you to the front of the line. So be it.

I couldn't resist. When we got to the train station I asked him if I could buy him a beer. He said sure, and then said, "See I already got a free beer out of this ride!"

Shithead.

So we sat down at the bar and ordered up a couple cold ones, and I started to pick his brain some more.

Do you work?

Yeah, I got a job at a mental hospital.

How much do you work?

40 a week.

Dude, and you go to school full time?

Yeah.

How do you pull that off?

I can sleep when I'm dead.

What's with all the running?

The running prosthetic I have is the only one that fits right, so I use it. Thinking about running a marathon too.

Of course, why wouldn't you? And I have a helluva time getting off my ass and going to the gym.

Well, (he looks down at where his leg should be) what the hell is your problem?

I don't know.

Do you ever get pissed about losing your leg?

I did, but then I just figured, what the fuck. Its a leg, its gone, and its not coming back. What's the use of sitting around being mad about it. Most guys in that hospital were mad about what happened to them. I fell in with them for a while, until I realized that I should be more happy than mad.

What the hell are you talking about?

I'm not dead...and given the fact that I'm not dead, means that I'm still alive.

Alright, Captain obvious, what are you talking about?

I'm not dead, sure I'm missing a leg, but I'm still breathing. And so long as I'm still breathing I can do something. Legs are a convenience. That's all. They make life easier. They don't make it possible. You don't need a leg to live. So fuck the leg. I'm gonna live. Embrace the suck, right?

I looked at him and laughed. Then explained to him this whole blog thing of mine.

We shot the shit for a few more minutes until his train was boarding and off he went.

I sat there, watching him roll away. And couldn't help but be ashamed of myself.

How dare I be pissed about...anything really. I've pretty much got it all. I've got a good job, all limbs attached and working, brain functional (for the most part), a family and friends that love me, and a million other things that are going for me.

But I manage to piss and moan and feel depressed about a few little things that if I were in Afghanistan wouldn't even register as problems.

This guy does more than I do, with less than I have.

So it turned into a little motivational shot in the arm. This is a guy who truly understands embracing the suck. Problems are only real if you let them stop you. Maybe things got altered a little bit for this guy, but he didn't stop. As a matter of fact he probably sped up!

This guy turned what most people would consider a big road block, into nothing more than an inconsequential speed bump in his life.

And here I am with the balls to complain about having to work 10 pm to 6 am.

Message received. Good talk. Hope to have another one again soon!

Later,

I love you Mom...

Oct 21, 2009

Observations...

I've kept telling all of you that sooner or later I would pull my head out of my ass and share some of my observations with you about being home and coming home and seeing everyone and everything through a different set of spectacles.

So here goes...

(and this one will probably sound redundant) I've noticed how INCREDIBLY spoiled and RIDICULOUSLY entitled the lion's share of Americans are. Especially those of us 30 and under.

I mean its a trip just watching it. I was in a Wal-mart the other day. (I'm not proud of it, but I needed batteries.) And it was one of those super Wal-Marts. Thing was the size of an airplane hangar. I actually heard a guy walking around in there say, "I hate this f-ing place, they never have anything!"

Dude, are you serious? They don't have anything here. They have EVERYTHING! There isn't a thing you could possibly need that you can't find in Wal-Mart.

Oh, and by the way my personal opinion of Wal-Mart is that they are fascist sacks of shit who do not deserve to live. They pay their workers next to nothing, and actually have infrastructure in place that helps their employees collect welfare benefits from the government so that they don't bitch so much about how badly they're being f-ed by their corporate masters.

When I got home and I went into a store for the first time, I dove right in. I went to the largest outdoor mall in my area. Every single store under the sun. Everything from glow in the dark condoms to ladies plus sized clothing. I was awed. I walked around like a kid at Disney land. It took me a good half an hour to wrap my brain around it all.

I couldn't help but think to myself, "Who the fuck needs all this shit?" Its no wonder the whole country is in debt. But that's a tired argument. Simple fact is that people need to discipline themselves to live within their means, however meager they might be.

I came from a place where I thought I was king of the world if I was able to buy a 23 oz can of Arizona Lemon Iced Tea. I never even bothered to think about what brand of toothpaste I wanted, because I was going to get what they had at the PX which was the size of my closet, or whatever you guys had sent to me.

I didn't even think of what kind of soap I would use. Because I would use whatever I could get my hands on.

I thought that a package of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups was a little slice of heaven.

A cupcake was orgasmic!

I wasn't even the slightest bit bothered by my drinks not being cold.

And a million other little indignities that no red blooded American would tolerate here.

So here's the observation. How about a little appreciation America? Not of soldiers, I'm not talking about that. Appreciation of the standard of living here.

It makes me laugh that there has been much made of the fact that mine is the first generation that will not have a higher standard of living than its predecessor. All I have to say about that is...have you ever heard of critical mass? Basically, when you grow so big that you can't grow any larger without crushing yourself underneath the weight of your own massiveness. (And even if that's not what it means, that's how I understand it so that's what we're going with.)

We don't need a higher standard of living. We need to lower our standards.

Not everyone needs a new car, a $200,000 house, a 60 inch TV, and all the toys that most of these jokers are running around with.

Another observation that is related to the first one.

I hang out with a decidedly blue collar crowd. Cops, prison guards, truckers, electricians, plumbers, factory workers, warehouse workers, beer delivery guys, and the like.

Now most of these guys are great, and they are hard working and dedicated and true blue down to the bone. And I love them for it.

Yet there's some of them who piss me off. Now here's where I get pissed. Given the current economic climate there aren't a lot of jobs out there. And for every job that is open currently, there are 6 workers chasing it. (Heard that on MSNBC)

So its tough out there. If you haven't got a job, you are probably going to have to do some serious "crow eating" in order to get one. In other words, swallow your pride and get a job.

Another sentence I heard out of a guys mouth, "I won't take that job, they only pay $12 an hour!"

To which I replied, "How much you making now?"

"Nothing"

"Last time I checked, twelve is twelve more than nothing!"

After which, he promptly stomped off and mumbled something about me under his breath.

Every time I see these guys, or hear about the employment situation on the news, or hear about it at work, or in a bar, or wherever, my brain rockets back to Waza Khwa Afghanistan. I see that kid (the one I gave the $20 to) and I remember him coming to the gate every single day. Not looking for a handout but asking if there was any work he could do for us. Kid couldn't have been more than 14, if that. But he showed up every day looking for work. Every single damn day!

Sure, if you lose your job that sucks. But embrace it and get on with your life. Get a new job, try a new field, take a lower paying job, do whatever you have to do to make money. Beggars cannot be choosers. Get off your ass, get out there and do something! There is nothing beneath anyone.

Any legal labor for which someone is willing to give you money is an honorable profession. Hey, if you are really hard up, join the Army. They're always looking for people.

Working for slave wages, to me, is better than sitting on your ass and collecting your government cheese. All that makes you is a dependent little nothing, who can't live unless your Uncle supports you. (Get it, "Uncle" Sam)

But that is an entirely different rant.

Moving on, my last observation for today will be this...

Why is it, that so many people feel the need to thank me for what I just did this past year? People I don't know, people I meet, pretty much everyone. Will talk to me and find out that I was in Afghanistan and then inevitably the next sentence is, "Well thank you so very much for what you did for us. I know a lot of people say it, but I really mean it."

I have to say though, the look on the guys face when I asked him, "What you think everyone else was just bullshitting me?"

Uh, well, I don't, Well, what I meant was...and on like that he went.

Until I let him off the hook and told him I was just kidding.

Now the thanks don't really bother me. I appreciate them. I am just trying to understand why people feel the need to come over and talk to me when they don't even know who I am. But I usually get a free beer or two out of the deal so its not all bad.

Now here's something that only guys have said to me. And this really does, PISS ME OFF!!!

I've probably imagined myself pummeling about 10 guys in my time since getting home when they come up to me and after exchanging pleasantries and accepting their thanks they say something to the effect of...

(If its an old guy) Yeah when I was younger I thought about joining the service. But it didn't work out because

A. I met a girl
B. I got a girl pregnant
C. They wouldn't take me
D. There was no war going on (am I the only one who thinks that "because there is a war going on" has got to be the dumbest reason ever to join the military?)
E. Or any number of other random reasons

(If its a young guy) I wanted to join the military but...

A. I've got a girlfriend
B. I've got kids
C. I couldn't leave my family
D. I got stoned too much and failed the drug test
E. My (insert ailment here) won't get past the medical test
F. Or any number of other random resons

Its not that I want to pummel them for not having joined the military. I couldn't care any less about that than I already do. What I want to beat their asses for is their almost pathological need to explain themselves to me. I'm going to paraphrase Jack Nicholson here and say, I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain anything to anyone for any reason. Enough said. Besides my opinion of people who don't join the military is pretty neutral, well maybe not. I'd have to say that the bumper sticker on my mother's car is an accurate description.

"My son serves, so that yours doesn't have to"

I like that.

Alright, I'm done for now.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Oct 11, 2009

Well, I Don't Know What To Tell Ya...

Alright, so I have been out of the loop for quite a while. Not really, I have been pretty well drunk for about a month and a half now. Don't worry, this is not unusual. But its finally happened.

The hammer has finally dropped.

The party's over.

The fat lady sang.

Its all over...

I...have...to...go...back...to...WORK TOMORROW!!!!

So all the fun is now over. Back to the workaday grind.

So hopefully, the plan is to get back to work and begin doing some productive things with my days. You know, working out, working, getting some editing done and just being a productive member of society again. As opposed to hanging out in the drunken limbo that my life became after returning from deployment.

Everything is fine, I'm doing good, and I have a few world events and trends that I am going to comment on very soon...I hope.

Anyways,

Later,

I love you Mom...

Sep 21, 2009

Embrace The Suck As A Philosophy Of Life...

I know the title sounds almost laughable.

But think about it.

Here's how I think any soldier, sailor, airman, or marine would define "embrace the suck" if you asked him or her.

Embrace The Suck: A sometimes polite, possibly even forceful reminder from one troop to another that this life of theirs sucks and you only have two choices. Embrace it, or roll over and die.

I was fortunate enough to find a definition in the Urban dictionary that fits also...

Often used by NCO's in the military. The term would be used when an individual or a group must complete a task that is pointless, tiring, and/or lame.

NCO: Hey gather up, we need to mow the grass before we are released today.
Soldier: That's bullshit, we had all day to do that.
NCO: Well then just embrace the suck and get it done.

So since the article hit the paper, I've been having entirely too much fun. I have pretty much been drunk for 2 and a half weeks now. Minus a few 14-16 hour snoozes, I have been intoxicated for the duration. So that's about the only update I can really give you because I don't remember between 80 and 90 percent of the past few weeks. And what I do, I am unsure as to whether or not my recollections are accurate or not.

Moving on from that, what the hell am I talking about here?

Embrace the suck as a philosophy of life!

I can't tell you how many times (mostly from drunkenness) that I've been presented with a situation and thought of embracing the suck of it all.

Some examples,

I'm running out of cash...Embrace the suck!
Gotta go back to work tomorrow...Embrace the suck!
Gotta buy an overpriced POS car...Embrace the suck!
Heard a car backfire and dove for cover...Embrace the suck!
Had to deal with some jackass drunk at the bar...Embrace the suck!
Women are a pain in the ass...Embrace the suck!
Everyone wants to see you all at once...Embrace the suck!
Even though all I want is to be alone...Embrace the suck!
And they get pissed if you don't do what they want...Embrace the suck!
Sox are losing every other game...Embrace the suck!
Packers beat the Bears...Embrace the suck!
Gotta get out of the mom's house...Embrace the suck!
Cigarettes cost a shit ton here...Embrace the suck!
Some guy just asked me if I had killed anyone over there...Embrace the suck!

I could go on and on.

But for all of our sanity's sake I will not.

Afghanistan is still as crystal clear in my mind as the keyboard in front me. I see it in all its suckiness. And I see the world through that lens now. Whether I like it or not. And let me tell you I don't like it one bit.

Funny part is, none of the previously listed things even came close to bothering me. It used to be that when my checking account was getting a little low I would go into a fit of anxiety. If the Bears lost to the Packers, my whole week was shot. When I couldn't accommodate people I would feel horrible.

I guess I may have learned to embrace the suck. Wait, there is no guessing. I did learn to embrace the suck.

So I've been forming that one little phrase into the baseline for my entire outlook on the world. At first I didn't really think it could be that profound. But the more that I think about it the more it works.

I'll steal one from Dennis Miller here, but its true. "Life is just one protracted episode of getting kicked in the nuts with one thing or another."

That being said, life in all its glory and all its suck needs to be embraced. Better open them arms and get ready to give it a hug!

So where am I going with this...who knows, who cares? I don't. I just love writing and am going to keep right on doing it whether anyone reads it or not. What am I going to write about? The world through a pair of suck colored spectacles!!!

Stay tuned, lets see how it looks...

Later,

I love you Mom...

Sep 12, 2009

Boy, Do I Clean Up Good...

Alright ladies and gents, due to this article I was in along with a steady stream of people telling me to make a book out of this thing I decided to clean everything up and make this blog presentable.

Haha, yeah right!

I'm going to sanitize out everything that could potentially get me into hot water. I don't think I did anything wrong, nor did I reveal any sensitive information. My crime was aggravating officers. Which I will not apologize for.

So I just started with my first 5 posts today, scrubbed them clean. And will be reposting them as I go. Don't worry, the sarcasm will still be there, the reality will still be there, the humor will still be there, and unfortunately for my mother the profanity will still be there.

I figure this will take me about 2 weeks of work to complete.

But it will enable me to take the blog public again. Then everyone can read every word.

And I hope they do!

Later,

I love you Mom...

Sep 8, 2009

Finally Made The Big Time...

Well here it is...

NY TIMES ARTICLE

Just thought you all might like to read it.

Later,

I love you Mom...

Sep 1, 2009

I Kissed My Mom Today...

So I got home today. As you can see from the video that I posted prior to writing this. I wrote this several months back as a kind of goodbye for this blog. But I don’t think I am going to be able to call it a day. I still have a lot to say and I still have a lot of living left to do. Not to mention I still have about 9 years or so to go in Ole’ Uncle Sam’s Mean Green Machine before I can retire so I think there will be plenty of stories worth telling. So this is the prelude to my final post. Or at least the final post that was written in the “suck”.

I’m going to keep writing, but for right now I have to scrub up everything I have written up until this point so that I can publish it on the net for all to see. God only knows how long that will take me.

But all this last year, every bit of shit that I went through, all the explosions, all the bullets, all the bullshit, all the insanity, all the stupidity, all the heartache, all the pain...led up to that moment when I stepped on the ground, looked out into a sea of bloodshot and tear glazed eyes, and found my family. There are no words to describe what its like to see your loved ones again after something like this so I won’t even try.

Suffice it to say...I kissed my mom today!

And everything after this is the post I wrote that would’ve been posted had I met my demise in Afghanistan...stay tuned, I’m not done just yet!

Don’t Rely On The Sword, Because Your Words Will Outlive Even Time...

If you are reading this and there isn’t a prelude above the title that means that I have been killed in Afghanistan, or died, who knows, I sure as hell don’t I haven’t died yet. But that is no matter.

I already gave the responsibility for posting this to my cousin Kenny. Hows that for a good relative? Hey pal, just in case I die, keep this saved on your computer so that we can tell all the people who read my blog that I am dead! Real good, Dan! Well at least I can use my name now because I am dead and as such anyone who wants to can get pissed about what I write, or they can try and steal my social security number and run up some credit card debt. I don’t care, because once again, if you are reading this I am dead.

So what do I want to tell all of you? I have no fucking idea! I mean these are kind of like words from the grave, right? Which is kind of creepy. But I digress.

Whatever this is, I guess it can only be a long, drawn out, exceedingly depressing goodbye. We sure had some fun, didn’t we. I started writing this blog, then shortly thereafter a lot of people started to read it, then I got into trouble, I took the whole thing private, now I’m dead, my cousin has made it all public again and you all get to read my final sayonara.

So why did I come here in the first place? Well Afghanistan was the war that I got, so I came. There is no other way of putting it. Had I been born in another generation, I would’ve gone to Vietnam, or Korea, or Europe, or the Pacific, or wherever. Its just part of who I am. I can’t stand the idea of anything big happening that I am not a part of.

I volunteered for this deployment. So that makes two times I am a dumb ass. First time, when I volunteered to join this man’s Army. Second time, when I volunteered for this deployment. Painful as it may be for me to admit, my intelligence level is obviously questionable.

Regardless of any of that, I came here, I did what the military told me to do, I served honorably but without distinction. I don’t know which really smart guy said it, but someone once said, “All that can be asked of a man is that he do his duty, no more, no less.” So I can check that one off my list of things to do. Better yet, someone set fire to that list of things to do, I’m dead there will be no more things to do. All I have to do now is lay there.

I have to say though, this has been a lot of fun for me. This blog has provided me with endless hours of entertainment, not to mention the ego boost of knowing that people actually liked reading my words. I know its true, they told me so. The only wish I really had was that I could’ve kept this whole thing public so that everyone could have enjoyed my take on what was going on here. However, military rules, and the rather sensitive ego’s of shit bag officers precluded me from doing that. But I got the last word, even if I had to email it in. So fuck them.

Now that I am dead, how do I want to be remembered? I don’t really care, I’m dead. But given the fact that I am writing this, which means at this particular Moment I am very much alive, this is how I would like to be thought of...

Remember me as I am. Don’t remember the idealized version of me. You know the one, where you go to a funeral and everyone spouts off about what a great person this was and blah, blah, blah. Even though a good half of the living people in the room despised the prick. I don’t want that. I want an honest remembrance.

Let’s be honest. I was profane. I was obnoxious. I was a bit of an asshole from time to time. I drank too much. I smoked WAY too much. (Ha, at least I didn’t die of cancer!) I was a little loose in my dealings with women. I could be selfish. I could be destructive. I could be downright mean at times. Lord knows, I have told a lie or two.

However, (now that I am done beating my dead ass up) I loved my family. I loved my friends. I loved my country. I loved my comrades in arms. I served my country. I took care of my family as best I could. I made my living as honestly as any man ever could. I never took anything that wasn’t mine. I made sacrifices for the good of my nation. I believed down to my last breath in the God of my parents. To my God, my country, my service, my family, my friends and to myself, I did my duty.

During my life I always believed that someday I was going to die, and when that happened I would have to stand face to face with God. And on that day I would have to answer for my life. I think I’ll be able to look God dead in the eye and say, “Yep, that was my life. I lived the best way that I knew how. I didn’t always do the right thing, but who does. I might have been a little rough around the edges, but the inside was always good. If you’ve got a place for me here, that’d be nice. But if you don’t you won’t hear anything out of me. I’ll take what I’ve got coming. I won’t make any apologies or excuses for the life I lived.”

Well now that we’ve gotten past the whole existential, heaven and hell portion of this, let’s get on to the rest of it.

The title of this reflects a line from an “O.A.R.” song entitled “James”. “Don’t rely on the sword, because your words will outlive even time.” I think that maybe that is part of the reason that I wrote this whole thing. Is it possible that in some small measure the words that I wrote here will outlive me? Yep, that’s already true because you are reading this and I am dead. So how does it feel to be talking to a dead guy? Anyone who has, or will read this noticed that I wrote every bit of this as if I were talking to someone. Its been a rather one sided conversation, but most conversations with me were one sided. That whole obnoxiousness thing again.

I learned a few things while I have been here. Most of them have been covered, in exhaustive detail, in previous posts, so lets not rehash all that shit. What is the most important thing that I learned here. That words are more powerful than the sword. Why? Because the use of the words is a precursor to the use of the sword. I am not talking about all this Islam vs. The west bullshit that is going on over here. I am talking so much bigger than that. Words have the ability to change the way people think. For better, and for worse. Words are the basis of religion, of government, of law, of society, or relationships, of civilization. Written or spoken, it doesn’t matter. Words are the difference between human beings and animals. Words are what allow us to further our lives and progress in our societies.

Unfortunately, they are also instruments of destruction. They can reduce ideas to nothing more than orders. They can reduce religious believers to terrorists. They can reduce the minds of people to nothing more than automatons. They can reduce a society to a dictatorship. They can reduce relationships to slavery. They can reduce laws to oppression. They can reduce governments to regimes. They can reduce societies to herds of cattle.

So all that being said, they can either reduce or uplift. Two directions only, ladies and gentlemen. Up or down. Black or white. Right or wrong.

This is what I have. These are my words. At times, I have not chosen my words carefully. For this I am sorry. I guess that is one of the few regrets that I have. I have used words that were specifically designed to injure people. I have used words before I gave them adequate forethought. I have written and said things while I was insanely angry. I have written and said things while incredibly depressed. I have written and said things while disillusioned. All these things cloud my reason and lessen my ability to think. This is the only real advice I could ever give anyone, don’t ever say or write anything when you cannot think clearly. Say what you like, write what you like, be as you are, but always think your way through whatever you are writing or saying. These words that you use, can injure, they can uplift, they can convey love, they can induce hate, they can do all these things. Regardless of what they do, they will outlast your life. Your words will echo long after you are dead. So consider them carefully.

So where does that leave us. You, well it leaves you wherever you are. Me, on the other hand, it leaves 6 feet under pushing up daisies. Actually in my case it leaves me burnt to a crisp in an urn on a mantle somewhere. You see it all amounts to a whole bunch of nothing when its all said and done. The only thing that is left is the words. Which, given that I have a word processing program that counts the number of words, is presently sitting at 169,541. God only knows where it will be when I am done. That’s a whole lot of bullshit. That’s a whole lot of words. And I am writing this on April 1, 2009. Seems kind of fitting that I would write my end to the blog and to my life right in the middle of all the fun and on April Fool’s Day no less.

What do I want you to think of this war? Quite frankly I couldn’t care less what you think of this war. I am not even sure what I think of this war. I have been part of endless missions, a whole shit ton of IED attacks, a handful of firefights, and a whole lot of suck. On the other side of the coin are all the good things I got to do here. I got to flip a kid enough money to feed his family for a month, but it only takes me about 45 minutes to make. I got to take care of a few dogs. I got to hand out a mountain of humanitarian aid. I got to see the look on the kids faces when you threw them candy, and pop, and what not. I may even have made a difference in this country. Then again I may not have made a difference. I don’t know. How could I, I am just one lonely soldier in this mountain of bullshit. But I still had hope. So maybe that is the only thing I could say about this war. Regardless of what happened, I never really lost hope. There is something good that we could do here. Whether we are actually doing that good thing is another matter entirely. Hopefully, someone will figure out what the good is, and then do it. Unfortunately, I don’t have any good advice for them. Except this, remember the words, there are only two directions, up and down. So choose them wisely.

What do I want you to think of me? Once again, don’t really care. But I do hope that at least of the few of the things that I have said over this past year or however long it may or may not have been, have been words that have affected you in some way. Good or bad, any effect is better than none. Like I said, I don’t really care what you think of me, I would much rather that you think.

If I were to give any piece of advice to new soldiers going to Afghanistan, it would be this. This is not like any war you have ever seen on any television screen or computer monitor. I guess the only thing you could call this is a low intensity conflict. The bad guys hit you with IED’s that they hide in the ground, they hit you from distant mountaintops, and they use the people and their needs against you. The chances of you ever seeing a high intensity firefight with a known enemy that you can see, are remote. You’ll get here, and your truck will explode and there will be no one around. You’ll get shot at, and you won’t see anything but far off muzzle flashes. You’ll take fire from a village and the culprit will melt into the local populace and you’ll never see him again. Mortar rounds will fall on your head at random, and by the time you figure out where they were coming from the shooters will already be gone, and that’s if they weren’t set on a timer. You’ll see a mirror flash in the mountains 2000 meters away, and then a bomb will go off right in the middle of the road and by the time you look up again, the guy with the mirror will be gone. That is what you are going to see here. There is no John Wayne hero shit going on in Afghanistan. The best you can hope for is that you can make a difference in some small measure in the lives of the Afghanis around you. The Army terms this “winning hearts and minds”. Well, then we have an awful lot of catching up to do, because we are way behind in this contest for their hearts and minds. There is no doubt that you, as a dog face soldier, are the one who is going to have to score the points to get us back in this game. I wish I could tell you that this war was going to be won easily, and American military superiority would carry the day. I wish that I could tell you that there is a simple solution to all of this mess, and the fact that our guns are bigger and there are more of them, would make this war simple. That is just not the case.

You are dealing with a culture that is different than anything you have ever seen before. Afghanistan isn’t even really a country if you ask me. Its a collection of warring tribes. Tribal and familial loyalties run deeper here than any love of country. Which makes everything all the more difficult. You cannot trust any of the government agencies or their personnel, but you will still have to work with, and in some cases for them. So watch your ass with that.

You will see some strange things here. I wish I could explain all of them to you, but that would ruin the fun of you coming over here. Suffice it to say that you will spend the first month or two wondering if you are still on earth.

The language barrier is another one. Learn as much Pashtu as you can, or if you are in one of the Dari areas learn as much of that as you can. Don’t worry, if you show a sincere interest in learning the terps will be happy to teach you. Remember what I said about words, and here, whether you like it or not, you have to use theirs.

Culture is another one. Their culture is completely different than ours. When you drive through villages the first thing you will notice is that apparently there are no women in Afghanistan. Patriarchal culture at its finest. You will learn things like not to touch any woman over the age of twelve because if you do, they will kill her for being contaminated by the infidels. You will also hear the prayer call 5 times a day, or whatever it is. Not to mention it will probably spook you a little when you hear the 1900 call, because it will be dark and its a little creepy. Just remember, walk softly. This is their land. These people, if properly treated, will help you. They will tell you where to find the Taliban. They will tell you where the IED’s are. They will assist you, if they believe you will help and protect them. Enough said on that.

Finally, try not to let the things that happen to you color your opinion of these people. They are not all Taliban or al Qaeda. I’m telling you right now, the first time you get blown up, you are going to want to slaughter each and every one of these motherfuckers. Well, first of all, if you don’t want to see the inside of a prison cell, don’t do that. Secondly, they aren’t all trying to kill you. In fact, most of them just want to live. Same as you, they just want to live, work, feed their kids, raise them, worship, and do what everyone else does. The part that sucks is that they live here, and they have to deal with these Taliban and al Qaeda fucks coming in here and screwing everything up. So don’t blame all for the actions of some.

However, and this will be hard to reconcile with what the Army feeds you, but there isn’t a thing in this country worth dying for. None of these people, none of these missions, none of it, is worth dying for. The only thing that warrants that kind of sacrifice is the soldier next to you. Your job is simple, get you and all your boys home. Preferably in one piece, but if that is not possible, breathing. That is the only thing you need to do. Don’t be one of these guys that wants to run into this country and slay the huns and save the world. It’s just not possible. Don’t chase your CAB either. Don’t go out looking for a fight, it’ll come to you eventually. If you can go home without your Combat Action Badge that means you accomplished the only real job you ever had and that was getting you and your boys home safely to your families.

Last piece of advice I will give is this. Whatever happens, regardless of how many times you blow up, regardless of how many firefights you get into, regardless of how many mortar rounds land right next to your piss tubes, don’t tell your Mom or family. Every time you call home make sure that everything is sunshine, puppy dogs and ice cream. Tell them you are in Bagram and nothing ever happens there. You can tell all the war stories you want when you get home, but this is hard enough on your mother and your family without you making it worse by telling them what a badass you are. That is a mistake that I made, and I will never forgive myself for making this whole ordeal harder on my family.

So hopefully that helps. Think about it.

Finally I would like to say thanks to all the people that have read my words. I picked up quite a few new friends along the way while this thing was still public. I can’t tell you how much you all mean to me. Just for the simple fact that you made sure that I knew that someone was hearing me. I told you many times that I used this blog as therapy. You have seen how many times my state of mind swung from one end of the spectrum to the other. Had I not been able to at least write about it, my head may very well have exploded. So thank you for keeping my head from exploding.

In any case, I am gone now. I lived as best I could, I served as best I could, and now I am dead. Don’t bother shedding any tears for me, death is a part of life. We all have to do it sooner or later, my time just came a bit sooner and was hustled along by my own choices. Choices for which I have no regrets. As Mr. Sinatra once said, “I did it my way.”

I sincerely hope that this war is won. Whatever that means. I sincerely hope that my words have helped, or made a difference in some way. I wish all the best for all of you who read this, to hell with anyone else. (Kidding)

And with that, I am done, but to my family I say...You’re going to be fine, you are all going to be just fine.

To everyone else I say...

Later, its been a blast.

And as always and forever,

I love you Mom...

Objects In The Rearview Mirror May Appear Closer Than They Are...

(Was written while I was at Fort McCoy, I've been home now for a few days. Almost a week. I got a few more things to say before I cap this off. But don't worry, I think Embrace The Suck will go on even now that this is all over for me.)

Well, we all know by now that I set my entire life to music, and the song today is Meatloaf’s “Objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are.”

Why? Because that’s one of the songs I kept on going back to on my iPod while we made this flight home. All in all we spent about 16 hours in a plane. We stopped off in Ireland after Kyrgyzstan, then we flew to Bangor, Maine and finished up the whole clusterfuck in Fort McCoy, Wisconsin which is where I am writing this from.

Unfortunately for me, and for you, nothing good happened on the flights over here. Just a whole lot of sitting around, eating terrible airline food, and sleeping. Not a thing worth writing about. But I did get a lot of thinking done. And we all know that leaving me alone with my thoughts is a dangerous thing.

What was I thinking about? Home. What the hell else could I think about? Nothing. So I thought about it. Then a few questions started to form in my head.

You see they keep on telling us about all the weird shit that is going to go on when we get home. They tell you about the honeymoon period where you will just be so happy to be home that not a thing in the world will bother you and it’ll just be like you are a relative who hasn’t been seen in a year and you came to visit.

Well I guess that’s not so bad. I don’t want much. A few hundred beers, a lot a days spent sleeping in, a weekend NCA (if you don’t know what NCA means do NOT ask me) trip to Vegas, and a road trip to Graceland with the mom, and I’m good. And that’ll about take care of the honeymoon for me.

So what happens then? Life returns to normal. Correction, my life returns to normal. How the fuck is my life ever going to return to normal? After this how is anything that goes on at home going to compare with this past year’s worth of shit? It’s not.

But I wonder.

What’s going to bug me about home?
How are people going to deal with me?
How much have I changed?
How much have they changed?
How much have they NOT changed?
What’s going to be the first thing that sets me off?
What’s going to stick with me the most?
What’s going to haunt me?
How the hell am I going to explain any of this shit to them?

I mean I have been back in the States for all of 15 hours so far and shit is already starting to bug me.

We got off the plane and there was a line of soldiers waiting to greet us. (A nice gesture) But there were some pretty high ranking folks in this line. Sergeant Major’s, Generals, Majors, Colonels, the whole kit and caboodle. I walked past and shook each and every one of their hands, said hello, and noticed a surprising lack of combat patches on these pricks. I guess they must’ve spent the war playing Wal-Mart greeter to all the returning soldiers.

I went to the chow hall today for dinner and was pissed when I found out that they don’t have gatorade and pop that we can just take with us. Apparently, here we have to go to the PX and buy gatorade and pop. What the fuck is that? (All that stuff was free in the suck)

I walked outside to look for some water and realized that they don’t have the piles of bottled water every 50 meters here. I had to drink my water out of this strange contraption that is bolted to the wall. In Wisconsin they call this thing a “bubbler”.

Then came the one that I really don’t like. I was unpacking all my shit and someone living on the second floor must’ve dropped something heavy. Like a plate from their vest.

It hit the floor.
There was a loud THUD!!!!
Followed by my entire body shuddering.
My palms starting to sweat.
My eyes darting from side to side, and up and down.
My hands darting around to my hip and my back...
Searching, feverishly for a gun.

Well, isn’t this wonderful. Just what I always wanted. A psychotic reaction to loud noises. This should be a lot of fun. The next time some kid drops and breaks a glass, I may try to shoot him. Well, there goes my part time babysitting gig!

But they said this would happen. Okay, that’s nice. Now that we’ve established that its going to happen, the next step is telling me how to make it stop.

Alright, enough of that. What else has been on my mind? Trying to think of all the odd things that will throw me for a loop when I get home. The funny things...

I will no longer have to put on either shoes or a coat to go to the bathroom.
I have already flushed the toilet about 900 times. It still fascinates me.
I caught myself flipping the lights on and off. Electricity is fun.
I got pissed on the bus on the way here because no one got out of our way. (All vehicles in Afghanistan pull over and get out of our way, otherwise we might shoot them.)
I still find myself wondering what the hell is under my feet when I am walking on pavement.
I don’t have to keep candy in my pocket anymore just to keep kids away from my car.
I no longer need two weapons, nor do I need 70 pounds of armor to walk across the street.
I will probably accidentally steal my first tank of gas. We just filled up and drove off in the suck.
A drive through the country will no longer require a belt fed weapon.
Roads do NOT explode here. Except I have caught myself looking for IED’s on the highway!

Well that’s all I’ve got for right now. I’ll probably think of a few more in the coming weeks and months. Which is either going to be really funny, or incredibly depressing. Either way, I’m home now. Or at least back in the States. Home is tomorrow. Its all behind me now, but objects in the rearview mirror may appear closer than they are...

Later,

I love you Mom...