Thursday, October 14, 2010

Quick Update

When last we visited, I was in Kuwait, waiting for a bird. Well, a long flight and many hours later, we made it back to FT Bliss. Demob was fairly frustrating but seemed like everyone just had the sense of let's get this over with. By the end of the week we were back at Camp Bullis and after a mercifully brief ceremony we were cut loose. My first stop was the Whataburger drive-thru. A #1 with no tomatoes and a Coke to drink, please. Oh yeah. Tastes like freedom.

The first few days home were a bit...I don't know. I had to go to Walmart my first night back and it was too bright, crowded, and loud. I did not want to be around people overly much. Everytime I ventured into town, I ran into cops who all asked the same thing: "When are you coming back?" I went to a barbecue at a buddy's house and had a few beers, splashed in the pool a bit. It was nice and I caught up on a lot of the department gossip. 

I flew out to see Connie, spent a few (far too few) days with her, then flew to Vegas for a reunion with guys from my first Reserve unit, then back home where I started the VA process for some health issues I have been putting off too long. So far, things have been moving along pretty well. Some of the appointments are a little farther out than I would prefer, but I guess I can't complain too much.

What else...I caught up on the last season of Lost, which I still don't know what the hell happened. I just had a birthday, so I'm another year better. Connie got me all six season of Lost on DVD, so I can go back and puzzle everything out. Went to Austin and saw Drive By Trucker's at Stubb's, went to Luckenbach and saw Stephanie Urbina Jones, uh...that's about it, I guess. 

I'm back visiting Connie for the rest of October, trying to work some quality time in around the demands of her job. So I'm hanging the 'Do Not Disturb' sign out on Texas Music, and I'll see ya when I see ya.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

In Transit

Well, we are in Kuwait. Camp Virginia, to be precise, a transient camp not unlike Camp Buehring, where we spent a few days before heading to Iraq last year. Back to tent living. It's not too bad. I have my inflatable sleeping pad for my bad back, which makes the cot tolerable. We are crammed in pretty close together, which brings with it certain frustrations. Alarms, for one thing. People set alarms on their iPhone things or alarm clocks or whatever at weird odd middle of the night hours, then sleep through the ringing/beeping/foghorn sounds, which prompts me or some other light sleeper to stumble over to their cot, kick it and hiss, "Turn off your fucking alarm, asshole."

Other than that it's a joy. Except not really. It is hot. I mean hot, hot. Iraq was hot, no doubt, but this is some sort of special heat. It's up in the 120s to 130s and does not cool down at night. It's like there is a fan blasting super heated air on you wherever you go. It's miserable and makes one not spend any more time then necessary out of doors.

Yesterday we, or the majority of us, spent four hours sitting through a Combat Lifesaver recertification sourse. Let me explain a bit. Back in the very early 90's, the Army started a program called Combat Lifesaver (CLS). It was designed to give front line soldiers the skills to keep battlefield casualties alive if the medic was otherwise busy. It focused on the basics, airway, breathing and controlling blood loss. It was a week or maybe even two weeks long, if I recall. The grand finale was you got to stick your buddy with an IV. It was set up to give one soldier per squad these extra skills, and was appropriately difficult for the subject matter.

Fast forward to today, and CLS has become pretty much mandatory for all soldiers, especially those deploying. I've been through it maybe five or six times. Like any training that the Army decides everyone will go through, CLS has become a watered down shadow of its former self. Now I think it is like three days long. Some of that is due to natural training evolution, for example, the IV requirement has been deemed unnecessary and dropped from the course. The recertification, that we went through yesterday, is four house of lecture (Death by Powerpoint) and practical excercise. I wouldn't call it a complete waste of time, but...we are headed out of the combat zone.

This place has the usual Army amenities. A PX, USO, MWR, Starbucks, Pizza Inn, McDonalds, like that. I'm sitting in the Starbucks right now, in fact, typing this out with two fingers. It's even hot in here. But it could always be worse. We could still be in Iraq. Although Graywarz and I agreed that having to do a year here would be much much worse than Iraq.

Speaking of that, our flight has been pushed back twice. We were originally scheduled to fly out tonight, but yesterday we were told it was pushed to the right 24 hours, and I just was told it was pushed right a further 12 hours, which I guess means we are now set to fly sometime Friday morning. Maybe. I have no clue when that gets us home. And of course that time is subject to change.

I just spent the last three hours, literally three freaking hours, uploading a mess of pictures from our time in Iraq. I painstakingly went through and edited out all name tapes, access badges and the like, then went through and arranged them in chronological and subject matter order, then loaded them. It took three hours because the connection here is slow. And after all that, inexplicably, they didn't load. So no pictures for you. Sorry.

So that's what's up with me. Standing by to stand by.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

...and a wake up

Hopefully, by the time you read this, I'll be on the way home. A few days in Kuwait, a few more at our demobilization platform, and dee-you-enn done. 

I've got a ton of pictures I'd like to put up, so maybe when I get to Kuwait I can make that happen. In the meantime, enjoy this picture of me standing around like a tough guy. 

Friday, July 30, 2010


Our time in Iraq is swiftly drawing to a close. People are packing up, mailing excess stuff home, getting ready to leave. We have already sent our advance party ahead. We have started our RIP, which stands for 'Relief in Place,' meaning training up our replacements. There is a palatable sense of relief. Almost over.

I'm looking back on this tour and it wasn't what I expected. Not that I really knew what to expect, but still. I came over expecting on some level for the security situation to be about what it was in 2007, 2008. Aside from hearing some explosions in the distance and probably maybe perhaps getting sniped at that one time, this has been a very safe, quiet and ultimately boring tour. I'm not complaining.

No, really, I'm not.

I would have liked to have earned my CIB, but I much more prefer bringing all my guys home safe and sound. Nobody got hurt, nobody got blown up, nobody died. Good enough.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Italia: Blooper Reel

Crush crush crush.

Man's best friend.
(I'm not actually touching him.)

"Jack, stop trying to take my picture when I'm not looking."

"Jack, I think it's gonna be too dark."
"Pfft, it'll be fine."

"Jack, did you remember to zoom out?"
"Pfft, of course."

This little dude joined us on our picnic.

Italian Commies.

Italian Commie Hippie Pothead.

"Okay, a little more...little more..perfect!"

"Okay, you're almost...yes! Hold that!"

"Jack! Will you please..."

"I really think's this is gonna be too dark."
"Pfft, it's fine. Trust me."

Nice kitty #1.

I have clue what she was doing here.

Nice kitty #2.

Nice kitty #3.

Evil Devil Kitty.

Yeah, I'm a big overgrown infant.

"No, baby, of course I don't mind carrying your shopping bags."

"You remembered to zoom out this time, right, Jack?"
"Pfft, of course, what kind of idiot do you think I am?"

"Seriously, Jack, it's going to be too dark."
"Pfft, it's fine, I tell you."

I don't know why she puts up with me, but I'm so glad she does.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Italia: Venezia

After a few relaxing days in the beautiful Cinque Terre, it was time to pack up and head for our final destination, Venice. But first, a quick stop in Milan.

A couple of hours on the train and we were there. Here's Connie checking out the main square in front of the 
Duomo di Milano. Beautiful, no?

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele. 

Inside the cathedral. A bit blurry. The red light in the dome above the aspe marks the spot where one of the nails from the crucifixion of Christ has been stored.
Milan is known for its shopping. We hit up the ritzy shopping district where I took this picture of a fancy car. That was all we got there, luckily for both of our bank accounts. Our time was up, and we hopped back on the train to continue on to Venice.

And here we are. Gondola man in action. 

Here is the Piazza San Marco. Venice has one of the most striking squares of all the ones we saw. The domes are St Mark's Basilica. To the far left is St. Mark's Clocktower. To the right is Doge's Palace.

In the Piazza with the much battered Rick Dees. I hope y'all are clicking these links, there's so much amazing history about this place. I'm just too lazy to write it all here.

St Mark's Clocktower, the back of my baby's head, and some doofus tourist guys. Nice 'stache, dude. The Piazza is prone to flooding, as you can see from the standing water from an earlier shower.

A close up of the two metal men who beat the clock. The first robots ever. One is old, and one is young to symbolize the passage of time.

Connie with St Mark's Campanile in the background. Originally built in 1514, it collapsed in 1902 and was rebuilt ten years later. Click the link for the lowdown on what was probably the first photoshopped picture ever passed off as the real deal.

The Piazetta San Marco. Atop the two columns are the patrons or Venice, the lion of St Mark called Marco, and St Teodoro of Amasea, known as Todaro. It's bad luck to walk between the two columns, because they used to execute prisoners there back in the day.

A closer shot of Marco.

Here we are cruising past some place semi-famous on the ferry on the Grand Canal.

A shot of a side canal from the ferry.

The view from our hotel room.

One of the twisty turny alleys in Venice. Get this: NO cars. It's either a boat or walking.

My sweetie and the Grand Canal at twilight.

Our last night, just after our gondola ride. Bittersweet.

Well, that's it. Hope y'all enjoyed. It was an amazing trip. The food, the sights, the good. And over way too soon. It was the vacation of a lifetime, and I know we will be going back.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Italia: Cinque Terre

So, after the hustle and bustle of Rome and Florence, and with all the side trips and what not, it was time to slow our roll. Destination? Cinque Terre. It means 'Five Lands.' It's five little villages built into the seaside cliffs overlooking the Med. They are all pretty close together, and are connected by walking trails and the train line, so hopping back and forth between the towns is a simple proposition. We stayed in Levanto, which isn't one one the Cinque Terre villages proper, but it is very close and scenic in its own right.

We took a late afternoon stroll down the Via Dell'Amore

It means 'Love Walk,' and it's the trail between Riomaggiore to Manarola. The windows in the distance along the top is the trail, the ones below is where the train runs. 

According to Rick Dees, they call it the Love Walk because when the trail was finally built connecting the two villages, teenagers would go back and forth, for the hugging and the kissing and the stuff teenagers do. There is a local tradition for lovers to clasp a lock along the trail.

The rocky shore below.

I dig the rock work. Less so the graffiti. 

Locks from lovers.

Yeah, we did it, too. A second after this picture was taken, a little old Italian lady went by and shook her finger at me for standing on the rail. "Peligroso," she warned. Lady, that's my middle name.

Me and my sweetie.

A peek down onto the beach in Manarola.

Our dinner view.

Looking back at Manarola. We ate dinner at the outdoor restaurant to the left below the pink building. There's a naked chick in this picture.

More amazing views. These are between Manarola and Corniglia.

We had to cross this bridge. She took like a million years because she was so scared.

I made her carry my pack. Good job, Sherpa Girl!

We spent like three days in Cinque Terre, yet other than our hike, we didn't take many pictures. It was very relaxing. We hit the beach in Levanto, stayed up late at a sidewalk cafe, and generally just took it easy. Our last evening we dressed up just a bit and went for a nice dinner in (I think) Vernazza. 

Goodbye, Cinque Terre. Next stop: Venice!