Monday, 30 March 2009

cramped quarters

living in what would make a tiny two-car garage with 7 other adults is, at times, quite harrowing. you get to know their habits, quirks, fears, and intricacies. if you look closely, you can see them at their most vulnerable and open. this makes for close friendships, burning hatred, and fun writing.

8 people on 3 different schedules. 5 different musical tastes. 3 different languages. 8 different heritages. 3 different ranks. ages ranging from 22 to 29. 10 months together. and only one blog. that means that whatever i say about these people is what goes. there is honestly no need to slander these fine soldiers, but a slight embellishment of the truth may be in order.

i have spent the last 10 months in the top bunk, which is fine by me. my bunkmate is very easy-going and we get along quite well. he is considerate and it is infrequent that he eats an entire box of my powerbars. we have a very similar sense of humor, and take comfort in how much he hates my music (except for kings of leon for whatever reason). i quote rap lyrics to him to show how much we have in common:

MA: 'i do my thing in the club with the burner tucked.'

LW: 'what the hell is wrong with you, whitey?'

the other two guys on my side of the room are quite interesting as well. one is a manic/narcoleptic Chilean and the other is a sociopathic eskimo. i'm not sure if he's actually an eskimo, but it sure sounds good. he was called up from inactive reserve to come on this deployment, and he has been an absolute joy to have around. he leaves cute messages on our door (see photo), and laughs like an oxygen-starved weasel. in case you can't read what the picture says, i woke up to find a cryptic warning: "In case of zombie infestation... i told you so, so run zombie food, run!" this pretty much sums up my favorite paranoid kansan. he's leaving soon, and i will miss him. how will i prepare for the end of the world if he's not here to warn me?

our chilean buddy was deployed with me in '05, and he hasnt lost his crazy edge. he claps loudly and randomly, usually without reason. he enjoys keeping perishables in our fridge for up to 5 weeks without explanation or reason, bringing them to a point closer to 'mulch' than 'ripe.' due to circumstances beyond his control, he slipped in the shower and broke his wrist, ending up sprawled out on the bathroom floor, naked in front of 5 guys. never a dull moment.

80% of the laughs i have had this deployment have come from these 3 guys, and i would love to buy them all a beer when we get back. something tells me they might not want to talk to me after this blog... we'll see!

Saturday, 28 March 2009

lazy sunday

having a blog is not easy. not only do people constantly pester me with blog suggestions ("write about how handsome you are!" "talk about your modesty!" etc) but they also expect name drops (karen, hilger, erin, rana, doris, comer, everyone else). this pressure, combined with my rigorous daily schedule of waking up when i want and sometimes napping and getting food, really stifles my creative process. clearly this is too much for my brain to handle, as i am now writing blogs about blogging and forgetting to shower. this downward slide into what i am assuming is some form of dementia will soon result in a stroke, leaving my adoring masses salivating for their 'fix.'

considering all that happens in my daily life and all i have done in the past, you would think that finding inspiration for writing would come easily. i have been tempted to write about some of the new music that i have gotten, movies i have seen, and how handsome i am. none of these topics could carry an entire entry ("saw Rock N' Rolla today, and boy am i glad guy ritchie left madonna. the end.") so i am left to write about whatever comes to mind.

this is a horrible time of year for deployed soldiers. well-meaning people from all over the united states band together and send box after box of girl scout cookies overseas. since these sugary treats were a rarity at home, i decided during my tour in 2005 that i would eat every cookie that i could get my hands on. they came in by the truckload it seemed, and i had thin mint residue smeared from the corners of my mouth and caked onto my teeth. when all of the green boxes were gone, it was on to the peanut butter cookies. after about two weeks of horrible acid reflux i decided to never eat another girl scout cookie in my life.

i got my first box yesterday in the mail with a note promising many more boxes to come. i'm crying as i type this for fear that i will not be able to find suitable homes for the bounty that is on it's way to me. hopefully i can find some soldiers who want to gain enough weight to have their fingers turn into little sausages, but that is quite a stretch.

Friday, 27 March 2009

fun and games

i am often asked, 'what do you guys do for fun over there?' a completely understandable inquiry, but one that really exemplifies the mystique of the military. speaking from my own personal misconceptions before enlisting, i figured that when you werent getting cursed at Full Metal Jacket-style, you were most likely singing to pretty girls in bars a la Top Gun. everyone in the military is good-looking, and usually scowling. i feel that i shared these assumed truths with many other civilians.

the military does its best to perpetuate these views. i will always remember a recruiting poster i saw at my armory in new jersey: four young people standing close together, smiling like they had all just popped 5 pills of ecstacy. they are of both genders, mixed ethnicities, religions, and presumably all favor different professional sports teams. now if you step to the side, they magically appear in the same poses, but this time they are in uniform. the most notable change isnt the j crew-to-surplus store wardrobe switch, but their facial expressions. when in uniform, you apparently have to always look as if your commander just ordered you to bayonet your way through a cave filled with 9-11 masterminds. these soulless stares haunt me daily, and make me wonder if sometimes i take this whole experience too lightly.

please dont misunderstand, there have been times in my accolade-drenched time in the army where i have had my game face on. 70% of those times have been in the bathroom, 20% during actual combat, and the other 10% were most likely an accident. truth be told, i have spent most of my military time bored out of my mind. this could be due to the fact that we spend so much time doing run-throughs of drills and talking about things before we do them that when it comes time to actually do 'cool' stuff like kicking in doors and securing insurgent strongholds, i am so desensitized to the operation from all of the training that it doesn't feel that cool at all.

i am digressing from the whole 'fun' issue, i know. we are forced to make our own fun, because if it were left up to the army, there would be Field Manual 11-670 Enjoyable Passtimes and Recreational Safety. no one needs guidelines on free time. that said, the fun that i have had in iraq has changed with the tour.

in 2003, i spent most of my free time throwing rocks at things. this is not a joke, but a very serious passtime that most army personnel engage in regularly. rocks are bountiful here, and so are things at which to throw them. if nothing is around, simply dig the heel of your boot into the ground until you have a target. up to 5 people can simultaneously enjoy your boot divet with rocks of their own. optimal targets included:

- metal objects . their satisfying 'clang' denotes a critical hit, and acts as a starter's gun for high-fives and trash talk.

- open containers. sinking a rock into an empty coffee can or upturned helmet gives you the rush of hitting a game-winning three-pointer.

- living things. people are the best, as you can put over-under odds on how many times you can hit an individual before you get punched in the face.

in 2005, fun was abundant. i had my laptop, ipod, psp, and gameboy to keep me company. more spend-happy people purchased TVs and playstations, so there was usually a madden or halo tournament going on. these activities do not make for good writing.

this tour is by far the most enjoyable. i have the internet on my bunk, and right next door my best friends wait eagerly to play rock band with me. electronics aside, we entertain ourselves with our wonderful fitness facility, which is open 24 hours to help people like me feel inferior to some of the muscled-up freaks who obviously inject themselves with liquefied beef to obtain their impressive stature.

but sadly, that is pretty much the end of the 'fun.' the army doesnt waste its resources on miniature golf courses, arcades, petting zoos, roller coasters, midget-tossing, or knitting clubs. although at the rate we're pumping funds into the area, soldiers deployed here in 2013 have a good shot at a bouncy castle.

Thursday, 26 March 2009

selfish service

the army has seven core values: loyalty, duty, respect, selfless service, honor, integrity, and personal courage. i am failing at least 6 of them currently, and all 7 if you dont think that sitting in my room all day is an honorable thing. since losing my fight with gravity, rocks and clear thinking, i have been sitting around. yes, you read that correctly. i am currently fighting the war on terror from my adorable little apple laptop.

day six of worthlessness started about an hour ago, and i feel better by the minute. not only does my leg still look like i drunkenly scratched a mosquito bite with a cheese grater, people actually feel sorry for me because of it. dont get me wrong, it still hurts like you wouldnt believe. but i am slipping through the military cracks and havent had a single thing to do for the better part of a week. i live in constant fear that someone will come give me something to do, but i have a sneaking suspicion that i will spend another 3-4 days sitting on my increasingly ample ass.

the only issue with this is that My Personal Quest For Fitness Perfection (MPQFFP) has been put on hold due to my inability to continue my cardiovascular workouts. MPQFFP doesnt require an acronym, but it really validates the whole process for me. i have recently gotten in good enough shape so that i dont cry when i look at myself in the mirror after a shower, and this is obviously a step in the right direction. according to my assessment of my progress, i should be the pinnacle of masculine perfection within the next 3 months. now it is up to 3 months and 6 days, thanks to my neverending amusement with finding glorious and often ridiculously silly ways in which to injure myself.

my current concern is not that i am letting my unit down, or even myeself. i am starting to worry that all of the tax-free dollars that american citizens are paying me to sit in iraq and blog about sitting in iraq will end up making a one-way trip to amazon or (tally 6 bonus points from Rana for that one, and another 15 for dropping her name). amazing that since i was fighting this war in 2003, my biggest conerns here are finance- and boredom-related. anyone who says that this war is a quagmire just needs to talk to me; we have won it.

all of this typing has left my fingers a tad cramped, and i am growing quite tired. i think it might be time for an all-expense paid nap.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

a mental call to arms!

a good friend from home happens to also be a rabid fan of my blog (she enjoys the blog, but also has rabies). she recruited me to be her first online student of creative writing. this interested me immediately, as i am doing my best to become a better writer, and also because she claims to want to 'make out' with my blogs. aside from foaming at the mouth and fornicating with words, she is a masterful writer and i value her opinion on my pieces greatly.

now that i know i am to be sharing my thoughts with not only the entire internet, but also a group of 4-6 people, i am suddenly nervous. since i am far away from this potential ensemble of nay-sayers, they will have to read my works without my piercing glare to contend with. that means i will have to work four times as hard to impress them, since they wont have the pleasure of listening to my pleasant baritone recite whatever i have written for the week.

i dont think anyone who reads this blog regularly cares that i might not use punctuation properly, capitalize anything, or know what an 'adverb' is, but the eyes of writing's elite are more discerning. to really wow this new audience, i will have to use archaic participles and analogies that evoke childhood reprimands. i will cover subjects so ethereal and words so obscure that the layperson will need not only a dictionary but a brontothesaurus (look it up, layperson, it's like a mega-thesaurus, only bigger and more dangerous). this is my time to really show off my ability to show off.

should i fall short of these lofty goals, i will still have options open to me. i can reenlist in the army for 20 more years as an act of contrition, i can take up self-flagellation, or i can do the unthinkable: keep writing in hopes of slowly getting better. i know working at something until you reach a state of arguable profiency is unamerican, but i figure that is offset by the hard work i am willing to put into this.

Monday, 23 March 2009

completely blocked

this THING on my leg is quite the annoyance. everywhere i limp, people ask about it. that in and of itself is not a bad thing, it's the fact that they think we're friends because they have had a scraped up leg/knee/elbow/uncle at one point in time. since i am not in any condition to run away from these people, i have no choice but to use my orange belt in verbal judo to flip their words until they stop talking to me. here is a sample conversation from last night:

Random Old Obese Navy Man: 'that looks nasty!'

Matty America: 'want to touch it?'

ROONM: 'um... how'd you do that?'

MA: 'man i'm hungry...'

ROONM: 'my brother fell off his motorcycle and tore himself up pretty badly.'

MA starts hobbling away

ROONM: 'hey, do you need some help with those bags?'

MA: 'i'm pretty sure that this limp is contagious, you should keep your distance.'

i had just ordered food, and the conversation started while i was sitting on a bench near the pickup window. my number was called and i was getting some good space between myself and that lardy disgrace to the armed forces, very content with ending the conversation without it getting awkward (note: i did ask him if he had any interest in tonguing my wound, which isn't an awkward offer when coming from a total stranger... right?). after a few minutes of walking like a street thug, i was overtaken by my new jowly pal, and the conversation resumed.

ROONM: 'hey you werent kidding about walking slowly!'

MA: (Laughing) 'ha ha i hope you break your knee!'

ROONM: 'wait, what?'

MA: 'i said i have to pee.'

i then skillfully manuevered myself into a port-o-potty and proceeded to ... stand there. i counted to 30, then exited, terrified i would find Seaman Cankles still waiting for me. he was not.

as i continued on my 5 hour per mile pace back to my humble abode, i had the time to reflect a little on my life. i realized that i walk fast because i am always in a rush to get somewhere. though there are no roses here, i should still stop and try to smell things a little more often. i smiled to myself at this thought, and promised that i would take my time a little more when i'm all healed up.

then, from my left side a kid smoking a cigarette yells 'dude, what the FUCK happened to your leg?'

so it goes...

Saturday, 21 March 2009

my favorite vegetable? myself.

i jinxed myself in my last blog. whining about playing soccer on sand and rocks should have been saved until after i lost 15% of the skin on my left leg to the field conditions. to make matters worse, i apparently have some sort of soft tissue thing in my right hip. needless to say, i'm a mess. standing up, sitting down, lying down, walking, and thinking all seem to aggravate my conditions.

in short, i am useless. i was directed to go to the clinic today and get checked out (due to my noticeable limp), and was put on 'quarters' for about a day. quarters is the army's way of having you do as little as possible. they are very specific about where i can and cannot go while on quarters. the list of off-limits venturing includes 'places other than the bathroom' and 'everywhere but the bathroom.' this means i need people to bring me food. food is a hobby of mine. most days in enjoy eating food of some variety three or more times. this strenuous schedule of nourishment has been in my life for years, and i tend to get a little moody if something comes between my calories and me.

while i do not consider myself overly self-reliant, but i dont like being doted on. i like being able to do things for myself, and it is never more evident how little i like relying on others for basic needs than when i am enfeebled. to give you a glimpse into just how messed up i am, i was passed by a guy on crutches while hobbling back from the clinic this morning. upon seeing who had just overtaken me, i felt my face crinkle the same way it did when Mufasa dies in The Lion King. i was heartbroken that this little invalid was actually making better progress than i was. naturally, i summoned most of my courage and resolve, caught up to the crutcher, and kicked his back leg out, causing him to yell things at me that are not fit to print.

my room mate just brought me food. thank god, i havent eaten in 15 hours. maybe my mind will stop being so negative, and i will relax a bit. note to self: give that guy his crutches back.

Friday, 20 March 2009

everything i know is wrong.

i'm writing because other people want me to. apparently the entertainment value of my blog is unequaled, and here i am writing because of peer pressure.

last night i got my legs caked with sweat and sand, my shoes filled with rocks while i ran, and a very dry mouth. in iraq, they call that 'soccer.' i'm used to playing on soft grass made up of 73% canadian goose shit, so this is a real departure from my athletic comfort zone. though the experience was a positive one, it was yet another wrench iraq has thrown into my assumed norms and soccer-related values.

some other pillars of life that deployed life here have shaken:

-chicken is no longer an enjoyable meal. it is the only thing you eat, and it is only cooked well 1 in 3 times.

-subway is considered 'fine dining,' and the subtlely delicious flavors are best enjoyed with a vintage Fanta or Diet Coke. the way your taste buds dance while enoying a 6-inch turkey on wheat is enough to deserve it's own blog altogether.

- a monster is not something you find in your bed. it is in your fridge, and in everyone else's. they keep people awake at night, but not from sheer terror, but from sugar highs and caffiene overload.

- cup o'noodles and ramen are not only consumed by poor college kids, but also by lazy deployed soldiers.

- fitness is not something to dabble in. it is a way of life, and taken to such and extreme that if you touch a cookie, you can expect to turn around and be met with 10+ deathstares and at least one comment about how you will weigh over 500 pounds as soon as you finish the treat. people drink muscle milk like it is water, and pop pills to get them bigger, smaller, more toned, stronger, better-looking, and possibly able to fly.

- air force girls are easy. i used to think of the air force as one of the more noble branches of service, but all they do is dry-hump each other in plain sight. they are not able to complete their mission here without messing things up at least 4 times an hour, most likely because they are secreting too many horomones to function like normal human beings.

- bunk beds arent just for kids, they also attempt to house many 6-foot plus soldiers who barely fit on them even while knotted into the fetal position.

- sunglasses arent a fashion statement or to block out the sun, they are 'eye-protection' and they are to be worn at all times in case a small meteorite somehow makes it to earth and is aimed right for one of your peepers. other than that, they are cumbersome and useless.

as you can tell, some things defy conventional wisdom when deployed. i can't wait to get back to my 'real world,' where i have the freedom not to wear a hat whenever i'm outside, or have to clear my weapon before eating a meal. sigh.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

forward thinking

on account of my recent realization that i have NO IDEA what i'm going to do career-wise when i get home, i have decided to use this illustrious blog as a discussion for things that you, dear reader, think i would be good at. mind you, this is not meant as a joke. i am genuinely concerned for my mental well-being as this tour draws to a close, and not just for military reasons, but things on the civilian side as well.

i have had many jobs and experiences in my life so far, but none have really jumped out at me as something i could see myself doing for more than a year. my criteria are the following:

- it must be something that deals with people. either the people or the environment must change relatively frequently, but hopefully not both.

- it must challenge me at least a little so that i dont slack off and sit on gmail all day. also, it must not be too strict and mentally draining so that i can sit on gmail for at least part of the day.

- i would prefer something outdoors. office life isn't much fun.

- it has to pay at least decently well so that i can afford things such as 1) rent 2) car insurance 3) my cell phone bill 4) at least enough to cover the cost of 1 bottle of ketel one per week 5) my betty ford clinic dues after a few months of #4, 6) dog food for my as-of-yet unadopted canine companion and 7) food.

- the job cannot involve kids or old people. additionally, i would enjoy said job more if the people with whom i worked were all athletically inclined guys around my age so that i could join a local team with them, or attractive girls 4 years younger than i.

- a relaxed attire policy. i need a place of employment that understands the importance of cut-off jeans and sleeveless shirts as much as i do.

- four or more months of paid vacation per year, with an additional allotment of days that you 'just dont feel like getting out of bed.'

- the ability to play world of warcraft at work.

- a private jet.

if you can figure out something that might appeal to me, please let me know. other than those general requirements, i'm not too picky.

oh by the way, Lauren Hilger.

Monday, 9 March 2009


an escapist by nature, i always enjoy a chance to get away from myself. writing has always been my way out. im really surprised it has taken me this long to start sharing my deep thoughts with the entire internet, but i suppose it is as good a time as any to begin.

as i mentioned, i'm on my third tour to iraq with the army. the first one was fine; it was what i signed up for. the second two have been with the national guard, and have been horses of different colors. i started my military time in a tough, demanding unit that expected the best and enforced every standard. now the standards that are enforced are the petty little things, because they are the only things the command knows about. no one bothers to spend a day with the troops, seeing what they see and enduring the long hours (rarely hard work, just repetitive and boring) to get a feel for what we go through. that means that when decisions are made, they are generally rash and ill-informed. sigh.

this tour has gone fairly quickly, mainly because of the ability to connect to the internet from my bed. i am able to stalk people via facebook, write emails to my loved ones, and check my bank account daily. now add a dumb blog to that, and i lose hours a day in my computer. it is one of the two things that have kept me going here, the other being the gym.

we work closely with some air force personnel in one of our missions. there is a new AF crew that just took over, and they have little idea of what they're doing. today this worked out much to my benefit, as i found time for a 90-minute nap in the middle of my workday. i hope that their continued incompetence leads to more unexpected rest for me in the near future. if youre going to fuck something up, at least make sure some people benefit.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

war crimes against the english language

i suppose introductions are in order: i am newly 27, and enjoying my third tour in iraq. this will not be a commentary about the army, but since it is what i do every day, it will impact my thoughts quite a bit.

recently my unit has been dealing with a rash of miscommunication. it all stems from one small portion of our higher-ups not being able to read or write very well. since the funding of the war on terror (now known as the stabilization effort on terror, i believe) has been very high and very steady, much of our contact takes place via email.

allow me to back up for a minute. i serve in the national guard, which has been neglecting standards of every kind since it's inception before the revolutionary war. since no one is held to a standard, we can allow illiterates of all ages to progress through the ranks two or even four ranks past the point of incompetence. the peter principle goes out the window, trading the amount of time someone has spent being dumb in for a higher rank. don't get me wrong, for every 10 leaders, 1 of them does their job, and it is that elite 10% who keeps the national guard moving.

that said, some of the correspondence is downright hysterical. when i asked for clarification on an issue via email, the response was completely unreadable. the crown jewel of this response is actually what prompted me to start a blog. it is so amazing that i will give it it's own paragraph here.

"The reason is we have to implement a training program and this is so simple. I dont beleive no one could not do it."

i hope that you have effectively stifled your urge to vomit on your computer. after many musings about what these two 'sentences' actually mean, i am no closer to figuring it out. if only there were some sort of rosetta stone for military personnel, i think i would be in much better shape.

this gruesome mauling of the english language leads me to believe that there is, in fact, a hell. furthermore, i would not be surprised if the army starts issuing training manuals on deliberate misspeak and grammatical deceit. wouldn't be surprised at all.