- As has been the case for the last four years that I have been penning these little missives, I have again had the question asked of me: “Where do you find time for this?” I get the distinct impression that the question is intended to point out that my time would be better served doing something else. And I’ll level with you, this is one of my guilty pleasures. I could very well spend every waking moment engaged in some vital area that is undoubtedly going horribly, horribly wrong right now, as I am typing out this very sentence.
I have no counter-argument other than the simple fact that this little habit has, for me, become something like a mental colonic. Like anyone who writes, everytime I look up in the left hand corner of my inbox window, I see that “New” button. It calls me. It challenges me. It laughs at me and calls me a pussy. When I click it, all this empty space opens up on my screen. Pure, white, untrammeled. Just waiting there to have something put on it. Just waiting to hold my smarmy self-inflated personal opinion. Vandals must feel the same way about a bare wall in a public restroom. All that virgin space...It must be exploited.
This is all very Freudian.
However, I see all these things going on around me. I read all the silly shit going on back home. I detect the hypocrisies at work in the world, in the government, in my trou, and all of it must be commented on in some way, shape, form, or fashion, as publicly as I can make it...lest I go mad.
So I do this.
Ladies and Gentlemen, like the dog who must shit in the same spot in your living room, I am back again. Sober as the day I was born. Dry as the desert that is my home. Wired on coffee, cigarettes, and...
THE CAST (Pt. 1) and what dropped out of their faces this week.
1) “Wow, I thought the people I worked with were odd.” It is a fundamentally good thing, when in situations like this, to be surrounded by people who are dedicated, hard working, and rabidly dysfunctional. Were it not for people like this, the world would indeed be a depressing place, and getting out of bed would take that much more effort. For me this is never a problem. I don’t think that Mel Brooks, Kevin Smith, or Mel Blanc could’ve put this crew together at the height of their abilities. Truth, in this case, is much, much stranger than fiction. Without further ado, please allow me to introduce the Cast and Crew of my Battalion.
A) The 3A—Donnie: Donnie comes from somewhere. Nobody knows where. He mumbles some involved tale about relatives from Nova Scotia, being raised in a jungle in some french colony while being educated by Jesuits, and attending Nazification seminars somewhere in the South prior to being commissioned. Smart dude. Funny as hell. Has the odd habit of coming into my office late at night, as I’m finishing up, and ransacking the place. It’s like one of my kids coming in there, I swanny. Chairs, papers, the odd water bottle, and plastic chairs flit about the room effortlessly. I just sit back and watch him. After about a minute, I give him the same basic speech that I give my dog, Sadie, when she starts chewing on random articles of clothing in the living room: “Why? What does this possibly accomplish?” Why indeed. He and I had a pretty funny thing going the past few weeks, at least until I fucked it all up.
Ya see, the chaplain from our Higher Headquarters does this thing everyday where he forwards to everybody on the whole unit distribution these quotes in some half-assed attempt at motivation. Don’t know where he gets these things, or what possesses him to think that any Marine actually sees the benefit of them, but they hit every morning. Something like this:
They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.
-Carl W. Buechner
(Apologies to those who can’t view emails via html format. You lose some of the inanity of this by just viewing as a text file.)
So, we come into the CP everyday, ready to whip it on, and do a quick check of the Non-secure email before the games begin. You know, see if the fam has written or friends have sent messages of undying admiration and support. And everyday, after seeing that we have unread messages and getting excited, our hopes get thrown under the bus when we see that it’s just the RCT chaplain, trying to cheer us up. So anyway, Donnie and I start forwarding these things back and forth with caustic replies. You can imagine. (“Hey, Chaps. Who the fuck is Carl W. Buechner and why does he want me to act like I’m gay...” Like that.)
Well that went on for weeks. Then one day, I get the daily moto message which goes like this:
It isn't the mountains ahead that wear you out, it's the grain of sand in your shoe.
Without a thought, because I had a lot of shit to do, I hit [alt+R] and whip out the following response:
- “Wrong again GodBoy, it isn’t the grain of sand in my fuckin’ shoe. ‘Cause I’m smart enough to stop and empty my shoes, rather than attempt to walk up a mountain with a boot full of rocks…” and then hit [alt+S] and get on with my day... Three hours later, I’m sitting there, mindin’ my own damn business, when the Battalion XO walks in, flaps a printed version of the above message with an addendum page sent by the outraged 0-5 RCT Chaplain in my face, says sixteen unintelligible cuss words, and stalks out of my office. Because, while I am smart enough to empty my shoes, I’m apparently not smart enough to be left unsupervised with a keyboard.
[Alt+R], you see, are the quick keys to reply to the sender. [Alt+W] are the quick keys to forward the message to another person not on the “To” line. Oops.
I quickly fired off the most sincere and contrite apology in the history of such things, and marched my dumbass over to the Old Man’s office for my beating. (I do feel bad about it. It was really a case of Captains being Captains. I really didn’t mean to run over an ordained minister with the verbal equivalent of a road-grater.) The CO listened with a bemused smile to my story, told me not to be a dumbass, and let me go at that. I’m still embarassed by my stupidity, but it’s happened before, and I’ll probably do it again someday. Now Donnie and I both have somebody read the addressee aloud to us over our shoulder before sending any such nonsense.
Funniest thing is this: until I explained how I screwed up to the XO, he actually thought I intentionally smoke-checked a member of the clergy via email.
B) The S-2—Rainman (aka Joel): When I first checked into the battalion in February of 2004, before we came over last time, one of the first Marines I met was this Lieutenant in the Intel section. Birth Control Glasses perched on the end of his nose, shorter than me, with an ebbing hairline that just passed the Neap phase and was just starting to roll back to low tide. I asked a few questions about where we were going. An hour later, Joel took a breath, after speaking without pause for that long, just in time to watch my eyes roll up into the back of my skull. This guy’s got a degree in Astrophysics, for the love of God. He does algebra for fun. When we got to Iraq last year, I shared an office with him and the rest of the intel section. My Standard Operating Procedure for any and all muck-a-mucks who barged into our space was to introduce them to Joel and pull the string that comes out of his back, and go back to work as Joel spent an hour talking about everything in the Area we Operated in until the visitors’ eyes glazed over. Chicken, my boss back then, started calling him Rainman after about three weeks in Iraq. It stuck.
Joel is probably the only Red Sea Pedestrian that I have ever met who sings “Deustchland Uber Alles” and goosesteps like a native German. I’ve referred to him at various times as “Iron Feliks” and “my little Himmler”. I generally do so with a straight face, because Joel’s got a mean streak wider than my aunt Linda’s ass. Worse, in addition to Astrophysics, he’s a student of medieval European History, and was educated by some virulent strain of Jesuits, if I make my guess. Pope Urban II woulda loved this guy in 1098, ‘cause he would’ve cleaned out entire cities of Mohammedans like the Orkin man. I used to think he was more of a Libertarian, but I was wrong. Joel is the first Hebrew fascist to come along in modern history.
2. We get quotes. Spoken words, documented by the 3A...
“He should start emailing quotes from the Book of Job. Now that was one hard, dedicated motherfucker. That has a hell of a lot more application to this shithole.” –S-3A’s response to the RCT Chaplain’s daily quotes.
“I inadvertently blue-flamed the 0-5 RCT Chaplain, which has long term ramification regarding my eternal soul.” -My SitRep comments referring to the Chaplain’s outrage at my stupidity.
“On Call, all USMC units decamp from the City to Camp Fallujah, to provide overwatch on the Iraqi Security Forces. Sink or Swim. If they start to sink, we kill every male in the city and pile the bodies on the highway for all to see, then turn every structure in the city into a pile of rubble, burn it, and sow salt into the ground. Let all see the mercy of Asshurbanipal and know that this is the price of defiance to the Lord of Nineveh.” --S-2, spitballing courses of action at 3 in the morning, on the tweek again.
“Today is the S-3A’s Birthday. At 1700, all Marines on Camp Mercury will fire their individual weapons in the air for one minute in celebration.” -Inserted into the daily Intentions Message by the S-3A, with virtually no one noticing.
“Those who keep their wealth and do not share it will go to hell and their money will be the fuel for the fire in hell...When you die the money you kept from charity will transform into a serpent which will strangle you in hell and tell you ‘I am your money, I am your money.’” --English interpretation of the Money quote from a local Imam’s sermon
“You know their Names?!” -Battalion Adjutant, after listening to the S-2 talk about local insurgent targets for the first time.
Epilogue. When you get the next opportunity, please raise a glass to the memory of LCpl Ramon Romero: Gunner of 2nd Squad, CAAT Red, 2/7. He passed from this world this past week in an IED explosion. Romero was a fine man. Eager in performing his duty. Cheerful, no matter how bad the situation. He will be missed.
Dust to Dust,