A young man's strange, erotic journey from Milan to Minsk...and apparently, back again.

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Location: Denver, Colorado, United States

The details of my life are quite inconsequential, really. Summers in Rangoon...luge lessons...

Saturday, October 02, 2010


What's on TV, Joe? Sweet! The news!

Both random thoughts and random pics, that is.  Why?  Because I have a lot of them, because it's the wee early morning hours, and because I don't feel like explaining myself!  (Sorry, residual effects of life in a top-heavy command headquarters...the 3,000,000 lb. flagpole often feels like it's planted on your jewels.)

So come along for the ride if you like.  But I must warn you, I don't actually ride anywhere much.  I walk to the Defense Ministry, and to the other command headquarters, and everything else in the "green zone".  In fact, one of the strangest differences between this deployment and my last is that helicopters and convoys were second nature to me that time, and complete rarities this time.

Afghan TV, shortly before Election Day.  The fellow in the turban was a candidate for the Wolesi Jirga (Parliament), the babe reading the news is probably the most beautiful woman we have seen on an Afghan broadcast that doesn't involve the whorish pasttime of singing(!).

It dawned on us recently that we outlasted the Summer, finally...the nights now are as cool as they were in May (Kabul is 6,000 ft. up).  But it still rains so rarely -- roughly once a month, I'd guess -- that I chose to stand around in a recent downpour just to feel it.  It's Boulder altitude + Baja drought.  I say "outlasted" not because life in the capital is full of hardship or danger, but because I find it mentally the toughest season to be confined to a camp here while the world we left behind all seems to take a breather at some point.  There's no ideal time to spend 6-12 months in Afghanistan (in a deployed status, that is -- it could be fascinating otherwise), but you don't want to miss every concert, camping trip and family vacation of an entire year either.

Summer benefit: the world's oddest conference room.
When they say "meeting under the grapes" here, they mean it literally.

Flanked by giant circles of brick two stories high, it's a trip. The design remaining from the once-fancy houses that comprise this camp is often pretty whimsical.

See?  Meeting under the grapes it is...and they are delicious grapes.  Dave and Col B discuss the finer points of strategic communication organization, while I play with my camera phone.

Speaking of clowning on the job, here are President Esmat and Secretary-General Qais mapping out their plan for world domination in the NTM-A "studio."

Random observation: 'Tom and Jerry' is the most commonly watched television show in Afghanistan.  Whether it's put on, you know, for the kids...or blatantly enjoyed by professional adults, it's simply amazing how often it is on TV.  Perhaps a program so utterly violent (in its good years) appeals to a people who have known brute force as the preferred method for conflict resolution too often...but more likely, they just have more sophisticated tastes than we do.  The day "Jalalabad Shore" happens is the day we can declare some sort of victory, I suppose.

New Kabul construction done in classic style, with TV Hill's crown of antennae in the background.

The Government Media Information Center, a gleaming palatial setup for press conferences.  You are to be thanked for your tax $$ support!

An impressive facility inside, unlike anything you expected to see in Afghanistan, and an eager press corps.  Damn, I've got to be there in 6 hours, actually...why are you people keeping me up?

Press conference in detail: one American wonders what's going on, one Afghan gives the press hell ("And another thing...!"), my man Azimi gives the evil eye (or the stinkeye?), and the general on the end asks, "Do I smell lamb?  Yep, I smell lamb.  Time for lunch, boys."

Random rant to follow.  So here we are, each of us going about our mostly-miserable deployed existence...miserable not for want, or at least want of the old checklist: food, clean water, shelter, laundry.  But for other reasons.  We think about our lives back home probably more often than any previous "war" participants did, I would guess, because we are so relentlessly connected.  This makes it great for calling your family, or even seeing them often on your personal computer, but at the end of the day it furthers the sense that this is just a check in the box for many.  I don't expect each and every deployed servicemember to drive himself or herself to insane exhaustion, but I also don't expect to see junior soldiers, sailors and airmen knock off promptly at 6 or so to play video games.  Downrange is another story...the guys on patrol risking life and limb each day?  They earned that.  But if you're living the cozy Kabul life, then maybe put in a few more hours, and maybe try not to call it quits until you've put in work on something that could contribute to mission success...which in this case is training and advising Afghan security forces to a point of self-sufficiency. 

Back at ISAF HQ, the reflecting pool invites contemplation...
(OK, so it's flooded grass - but I wouldn't put that past them!)

I remember trying about five times to get this photo.  Something about the local laborer, who had cut his bundle by hand and was taking it home for fuel most likely, walking it out past the flagpoles of flagpoles, was fascinating.

Just to be clear now, kids...if you're a VIP, head to the right.  If you're not, and you're "regular," then head left...and remember to eat raw meat, or you will be roasting like the poppy torches of the Apolcalypse.  Or something to that effect!


Anonymous Slappus Maximus said...

As an old-schooler who deployed in the (mostly) pre-internet age ... and knowing yourself, who's done so in both ages ... I'd say that you may not think of home MORE than in the old days, but you definitely do so with more clarity of exactly what you're missing on a daily basis. So I'd have to agree with your point that it may be more difficult nowadays ... sometimes it's just better not to be able to perfectly envision exactly what you're missing, huh?

Anyway, the Tom & Jerry anecdote was most amusing ... I'll always remember that cartoon being one of the ones we missed the most while living in Singapore -- and then eating it up when we'd come home for summer vacation every year!

October 9, 2010 at 8:27 AM  
Blogger Major Dan said...

Definitely so, big bro...I immediately think of Cornwall when I see it! Or "Itchy & Scratchy" - that pops into mind pretty often too.

October 24, 2010 at 3:36 PM  
Blogger yomistast said...

Ryan and Julia love Tom & Jerry. I refuse to let them watch the episodes when they are friends. Jerry's bowtie is a dead giveaway that they are friends.

I will tell you that thanks to the internet age, I don't need to rely on missbrenner job sheets to keep in touch with you.

October 24, 2010 at 7:42 PM  

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