Monday, February 28, 2005

Beer, Shopping and Les Miserables

28 February 2005

Started off the morning by sleeping in. The bed was terrible; I’ve slept in better cots in Iraq than the beds at the Royal Horseguards. Missed the breakfast hour, and by the time I got out and about into Piccadilly Circus, it was already 1130am. Decided to stop for a small something at TGIF’s and also to see if any of the crew were still there from our trip this summer.

Of course some of them were and as soon as I pulled up a stool at the bar, I was consuming the breakfast of champions – an MGD. Hadn’t had one of those in some time and it was cold and went down smooth. Ordered an appetizer and after another beer was ready to face the shopping and securing a ticket for the show tonight.

Regent Street is “THE” place to shop here in London. But I also had to stop at Lillywhites and get myself a soccer shirt from my namesake who happens to play for Chelsea whose sponsor is Emirates Airlines. William Gallas is #13 and is pretty well known in these parts. Funny, for some reason, I’ve not had to spell my name for anyone since I’ve been here.

Ran back to the hotel to get cleaned up so that I’d have time for dinner prior to the show. Also wanted to stop for a couple of beers before the show. I had decided I was going to get sushi at this little place on Waterloo Street, but when I got there, they didn’t open till 1800. Bummer! Gave up on that idea.

As I walked down to the corner of Waterloo and Jermyn, I came to this nice looking little Lebanese place called Noura. Their menu looked good and since they’ve closed down the highway to the airport (back at Camp Victory in Iraq) and any subsequent visits to the restaurant there, I’ve really had a taste for shawarma and hommus. I ended up ordering the mixed plate which was mixed lamb and chicken shawarma and also included hommus. I was in heaven. If you’re in the area there in London, I would highly recommend the restaurant. It’s not but a block off Piccadilly Circus.

Caught a couple of beers on the bartender at TGIF’s, Jesse. I told him that I was the one working in Iraq and should be buying, but he insisted on buying and bought me a couple of rounds. Also did a good shot of Jaegermeister for our health! Then quickly onto the Queens Theater to go see Les Miserables.

Damned if I didn’t get lost and miss the first ten minutes. DOH! I didn’t miss too much, but was a bit unhappy with myself. The show was a three hour show if I had seen it all, but I only missed a small bit. At first I wasn’t all that impressed with it. I was comparing it to Mamma Mia, which is a comedy from start to finish. Putting things into perspective, Les Mis is somewhat based off of real life characters and situations as they went on in France.

After sleeping on it overnight, I began to appreciate the genius of the whole show. I found that I loved the characters that played Eponine’s parents. They were wretched and crooked and wicked and hysterical. Their antics really lit up the stage and provided the comic relief to an otherwise very serious love/war story. I also appreciated the actress that played Eponine. She was really quite talented and beautiful and had the voice of an angel. Maybe I just felt sorry for her character and also wanted her to be happy in the end as well. I am, after all, the ultimate bleeding heart! But I don’t want to give away the story if you’ve never seen it or read it. You can also read about it on the New York Times pages in the theater section at www.nytimes.com . Go to Theater, then London shows and you will find Les Miserables listed and reviewed along with a synopsis of the show.

Stopped by TGIF for a nightcap afterwards and ended up speaking to this nice young couple at the bar. He was Welsh and I think she was from the London area. She was learning how to drink Martinis, but wasn’t learning very well. I think they are a developed taste, nurtured by years of bitter, backbiting coworkers and the difficulties of years of workplace gossip and such! I did learn to eat green olives this trip, so maybe I can actually choke down a dirty martini now.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

Back in London

27 February 2005

I feel like a rubber ball lately. I probably shouldn’t have planned so many different stops, but I’m having fun too. Checked out of the Nh at Frankfurt (definitely on my new favorites list) and took the cab to the airport a bit early to make my 3pm flight to London. As before, delays due to weather. Weather at Frankfurt first, then backups at Heathrow set us back about 2 hours.

I finally got to the Royal Horseguards Hotel around 7pm. For a four star hotel, the bed leaves something to be desired, but overall, it is a good clean room in a good location and close to Trafalgar Square and Piccadilly Circus. I have heard that the rooms have been all recently renovated and it is close to the Houses of Parliament, so I guess that many of the visitors end up staying there since everything is just up the street. I found the halls to be like narrow long caves and the rooms nice but small. But they did have hot water, clean rooms and nice staff.

Guess the biggest problem for the Royal Horseguards is that I stayed in the five star Marriott on my first trip in and expect the same here. If you can at all afford the stay at the Marriott County Hall, it is definitely top notch. You won’t beat the staff, rooms, service, professionalism, room size and overall accommodations. You’re going to pay about $425 per night. But for a five star in London, you’re actually doing well. I really miss hearing Big Ben from my room when were at County Hall. BTW, the gardens in that one Julia Roberts movie (Closer - with Jude Law) are the gardens on the riverside of the Royal Horseguards.

Tomorrow’s list of things to do includes a stop at the Marriott County Hall to see if any of the people we saw in September are still around, make a trip to Virgin records for John back at Doha (he wanted a Best of Rush CD collection), go up to Regent Street shopping at Wedgewood, NEXT for a couple things Phil wants, and then a stop at that other store – Past Times – for a couple of things. And if I happen to see something interesting along the way, more power to me. Also have to get a ticket for Les Miserables. So we’ll see how it all goes.

The weather here is about like in Frankfurt and Cologne. Cold and flurries.

Had to eat, so I ended up at the Texas Embassy for Margarita’s and some tasty enchiladas. That was the first meal stop when I got here in September too. The staff here is really nice and the food isn’t bad either. The Margarita’s here definitely rule! Plus where I’m staying at now is just off Trafalgar Square, so it is a quick stumble back. Did I mention before that London is a great town?

Saturday, February 26, 2005

Elst, NL to Frankfurt, Germany

26 February 2005

Slept like a baby again. Roland, Angelique, Ilke and I spent the late morning walking around Elst. The city is very quaint. Took a very nice picture of them at the horse statue. They were telling me that the statue commemorates the horse auction they have there in the town center every year. Also saw a funeral at the old Catholic church. The lay-person was ringing the church bell by hand until the casket was driven away from the church.

Roland and Angelique are really happy about their move to Elst. It’s closer to both their families, the neighbors are nice and the house is bigger. They were saying that it was a bit of a pain in the neck living so close to the “holier than thou” Evangelicals in Apeldorn. When I reminded them that the original pilgrims were Dutch that were kicked out of Holland, they wouldn’t admit to having any knowledge of it!

Made it to the train on time. Kind of sad. Ilke doesn’t like good-byes. Hopefully, I’ll see them again soon. She is growing up so quickly. She already got taller and thinner since I saw her in September.

The train trip did not go as planned. In one of the worst trips on Die Bahn that I’ve ever made, the crew were a bunch of knuckleheads. They were very unprofessional in their updates over the intercom system which was bad because we were diverted off the train and onto different trains depending on our destination. I ended up getting up to the Frankfurt Airport and not to the Frankfurt Hauptbahnhof (main train station) and took a taxi to the hotel from there.

I got to the hotel and called Hal right away as it was already 1630 and I was supposed to go there for dinner. He said no problem. I ran across the street and checked email at the internet café before catching a cab out to their place. As always, it was great to see he, Madeline and the kids again. We had a great steak, salad and corn. The homemade apple pie was great too. Lots of cinnamon and sugar! Then a couple nice snifters of cognac.

While I was there, the snow was really coming down. I guess that Frankfurt has had more snow this winter than they’ve had in quite some time. It was really beautiful watching the snow. Can’t believe that I’m leaving again tomorrow for London. This time is going way too quickly.

Friday, February 25, 2005

Just Like Old Times

25 February 2005

Got to Elst with no problems at all. Not until after I got off the train. I didn’t realize that I didn’t have any change for the phone to call until after I got to Elst. So I go to the little shop and buy some Menthos to hold me over and to break the 5 Euro in my wallet. I find the phone booth and it only takes cards. Go back to the little shop, but they don’t sell phone cards. The woman behind the counter was just about no help.

Well, the one thing that I did remember when I was here in September was that Roland and Angelique showed me the house when it was still under construction. I may have been all of about half a mile from the station, so I hooved it from there. What else was I gonna do? No “handi”(German for cell phone) and no phone card. Could have stood there and cried, but it would just have caused a scene!

Get to the house and no one was there. Rang the bell twice. Then the neighbor comes out and asks if she could help me. Uhhhh, yes. Roland is supposed to be here for me and I don’t have a phone to call him. Really nice Indonesian family. They brought me in out of the cold and offered to call. Still no answer. Well about five minutes, Angelique pulls up and can’t figure out why I’m sitting on the front porch. Come to find out that Roland was there, but had fallen asleep. He didn’t even wake up for the cell phone ring. I don’t blame him, it was his day off too!

So we ended up catching up and hanging out for a bit. Since they are in a new house, they were talking about going to IKEA for the sale. Just like old times! It was busy, but not too bad. After we got back, Angelique cooked up some of her great stir-fry with chicken. I am going to have to take a stir-fry cooking course when I get back. I could have jammed more of that into my trap. It was great.

Tomorrow I am leaving for Frankfurt again. They reworked my ticket at Cologne before I left, so I can catch the Austria express which started off in Amsterdam and passes through Arnhem. This part of the trip is going too fast.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Swollen Head

24 February 2005

What a rush I’m having over these past few days in Cologne. I think that I've got a swollen head, and it ain't from the beer...today! No fewer than four times since my stay I have been generously complimented on, not only my German capabilities, but also on my dialect. Whomever I’m speaking to will usually stop me and ask where I’m from because they can’t quite make out my dialect. When I tell them that I’m American, they are surprised.

When I checked in at the Intercontinental in Cologne, the woman at the desk initially spoke English to me. When I responded in German, she then said that I must now speak German to practice and that she would only speak to me in German. They aren’t like that in Frankfurt. If they even hear a bit of English out of your mouth, they don’t have the patience and will mostly reply in English.

The one guy proceeded to tell me with graphical facial expressions why my speaking was nothing like most Ami’s (the German nickname for Americans pronounced Ahh-me). It looked completely silly the way he was contorting his face with this explanation. From my understanding, I have a somewhat distinctive Rheinische dialect from Niederrhein. There are worst things that I could be told. I suppose that it was from living in Kalkar all those years and learning to be a parrot in my effort to “fit in” with my German friends and at the German gym that I belonged to.

What has also been great for me is that I’m finally thinking in German first and not translating from English to German and back again. Things seemed to come to easier too since my last trip to Europe and speaking the language was only about seven months ago. The dreaming started about two days prior to my departure from Baghdad. Must be the mind’s way of preparing.

The weather here has been mostly clear with some snow flurries. I have forgotten what being “chilled to the bone” felt like. Actually, it is a bit invigorating to feel that full-body shiver and have your teeth chattering. Reminds you that you’re still alive in a way.

Starbuck’s has been my life-blood since arriving here. I’ve also been eating well. I may end up back in those 33W’s sooner than I wanted with all the beer and food here. When I got to Camp Doha last week, I needed jeans and found out that I’m back in a 32W. Don’t worry, the food is still good, I’ve just been watching my boyish figure! :) Tomorrow I’m on my way to Elst, Netherlands. I will take the train up to Arnhem and then over to Elst from there. It will be great to see them again. Only wish that I’d had more days to spend with them. ‘Nuf for now.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

It’s a Small World After All

23 February 2005

Well, I finally feel better after a Big Mac, Minestrone soup, Lazagna (from the Italian/Mexican Restaurant a block up from the Dom (Cathedral in English). ) Actually, I’m wondering if I’m not coming down with the flu that everyone and their mother has had in the Western world. Being on the “oriental” side of things has kept the most of us sheltered from the Outbreak. Time will tell.

It was great to bum around Cologne again at my own pace. I just drink this place in (literally) every time I’m here. As I have said before, the people speak the same dialect that I’ve learned, they have a more friendly approach, the food is great and especially the bier is fantastic. It was funny, but last night in Frankfurt, the waitress comes up to me and asks me what I want to drink and I asked her for the rundown on what they offer. Finally, I added questioningly, “Koelsch?” To which she relpied, “No, you have to go to Cologne for that. The world will stop on the day that the Koelsch-bier runs out in Cologne!

I’ve been having a great time here in Cologne. Took myself on an impromptu church tour. I had researched Cologne on TripAdvisor.com before coming here and was really surprised to find that Cologne has twelve churches specifically that are Roman established churches. Most boast their beginnings from the 9th century. Others like St. Albans and St. Maria im Capitol are very old churches that are still in the process of being restored.

I went looking for gifts today, no shopping today. That will be tomorrow’s task. They even have a city-sponsored shop that sells mugs, puzzles, glasses, all kinds of knick-knacks and posters all dedicated to the history and promotion of the city of Cologne. I’ll be going back there soon, but I just needed to chill today and plan.

I got a hold of Roland in Elst, Netherlands tonight. I really feel bad for springing my arrival in Europe on him. I begged him not to change any plans if they already had them, but he said not to worry. I will only spend Friday night and part of Saturday with them. This is the screaming fast tour of Europe for me this time around. At least I’m getting the chance to see friends. That really makes the trip special for me.

Speaking of special, I was at a bar tonight and started talking with a guy sitting next to me. Turns out that he is an American and is over here in Cologne on a special arrangement with the University here. I asked him what University he is with in the States and he replied Ohio U in Athens, OH10. I promptly asked him if he knew Ms (Professor) Lisa Crockett-Hassett and Mr (Professor) Pat Hassett as I know they live and work there too.

Lisa, Pat and crew go wayyyyyyy back (we’re talking jumping far into the wayback machine here folks) to my winter-over in 1988-89 season at Palmer Station. She and Pat were two of the group of scientists that came down during our winter over. Just a side-note here; Lisa is a third generation Antarctic explorer. Her Daddy and Granddaddy were down on the Ice too at different times of their lives. Another side note; I think that the spark between Lisa and Pat was started after Lisa got two of the other Beaker girls along with herself, to jump Pat and basically de-shirt him. They tried to “pants” him too, but I think Lisa wanted to still have some surprises for later!

Anyway, back to the story. I thought that the man was going to drop his teeth right there. Wasn’t it just a couple days ago I was saying something about the seven degrees of Kevin Bacon? I’ll be darned! See? It really is a Small World After All. It’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small world after all, it’s a small, small world. And with that, I’m going to let you with that song ringing in your head and waking you up in the middle of the night for the next two weeks! Cheers.

Note to Self:

23 February 2005

Note to Self:

Remind self next time to make sure to eat a full meal prior to over-imbibing on this German nectar of the gods. I have the worst headache but had to make the trip from Frankfurt to Cologne this morning. I’ll write more later…

KWI-LHR-FRA

22 February 2005

Kuwait-London-Frankfurt

Ed took me to the airport in Kuwait at 0530 as planned. It was a clear shot to the airport and the airport was empty too. British Air got me right on. I think that we had only 40 people on the entire 777 to London. The flight was smooth sailing (unlike a certain C130 flight that I may have recently imagined) and I actually slept some. Covered about half of the book I brought specifically for vacation. Maybe I *should* have brought the Jimmy Buffett book after all. You can’t believe how nice it is to read for fun again. After 7 years of school, I still can’t believe I have time to read for fun.

My latest book is another NY Times Best Seller, The Time Traveler’s Wife. Actually it is an almost perfect read for traveling. Kind of like a Dr. Who love story without all the weird characters. What is so funny is that in the bookstore in London Heathrow, a girl was looking at books and I steered her to this book. I think that she was surprised that anyone would suggest it out of the blue, but if you’re enjoying a good book, you want to share it.

This is why I can’t hold onto books in my personal library. The only books that should be on your bookshelves at home are the ones that you don’t want to recommend and lend out. If a book really grabs you, you should be sharing it. Good books should be shared, savored and handled like a good bottle of wine or a bottle of Moet White Star. Don’t save them for that “special occasion.” Every day is a special occasion because you’ve woken up to enjoy another day. I hope that she enjoys it as much as I am. Also at the airport bar, an older woman was at the bar to get a drink and she saw me reading this book. She looks at me and instantly strikes up a conversation asking me whether I liked it. She has also just started to read it. Gotta love the NY Times Best Seller List.

I guess what I like about this book is that it is nice and light, not too serious and enough plot to get you involved enough to laugh and in a couple of circumstances, cry. Must have got my soft heart from my Gramp Gallas. I can remember Gram having said some time ago that Gramp had a soft heart. She had said that he would even sometimes shed a tear at the movies. Hard for me even to fathom that that burly old 5’6” retired carpenter with the sun-baked skin, wide shoulders, huge forearms and perfect V-frame body, cleverly hid such a big heart. I still wish I had had the chance to get to know him better.

Anyway, so after my delay in London Heathrow, my connection to Frankfurt boarded around 1630. Then we ended up sitting on the runway for another two hours. Weather in both the UK and Germany has really messed up the air traffic. Now let’s add to that President Bush’s visit to Frankfurt and we have the making of a full-fledged “cluster-mess” on our hands. Ahh well, it’s the minor inconveniences in life that remind us that life is a process to be dealt with. What did Dennis DeYoung (Styx – Paradise Theater) sing? “Nothing ever goes as planned, it’s a hell of a notion, even Pharaohs turn to sand, like a drop in the ocean. You’re so together, you act so civilized. And every time that things go wrong, you’re still surprised.”

Suffice to say that I made it here. I had a nice conversation with a guy who lives in London and was traveling to Frankfurt to meet customers. He is heading back tomorrow and doesn’t seem to have any worries about getting back to London. Know what, I wouldn’t trade my life for his. He works a minimum of 12 hour days and commutes an hour each way to work in downtown London. He almost never sees his kids and his life revolves around his job. Maybe I have the soul of a contractor! If that is what I must do the rest of my life, shoot me now. I mean, I don’t have kids to see, but was fuer ein Leben is dat (what kind of a life is that)?

I got to my hotel NL Frankfurt (downtown FRA near the shopping district – good hotel, but bad move!) about 9pm. Called Hal my State Dept buddy as soon as I got in. I wanted to meet him tonight, but he is also busy and it’s late already. Working for the State Dept as a Foreign Service Officer, he has been busy planning for the President’s visit. So my timing is somewhat off. Besides, I just bought some great gifts for him and his family. You can’t visit and not bring anything. That’s just plain rude! I did learn proper etiquette while living in Europe and am properly embarrassed for myself when I can’t at least bring a nice bottle of wine when playing guest.

Anyway, I found some wonderful gifts at the Harrod’s Duty Free in London. Hal’s elder son was the only one giving me fits. I have no problems buying for girls, but boys in a certain age range can pose quite the problem. I finally found a great book of English historical nonsense about the kings and queens of Europe. It is just the thing for a boy his age. Okay, I’m practiced enough with three nephews that I know how to buy for them. It was just crunch time when I was looking for a gift. Maybe I’ve missed my calling as a professional shopper!

In my normal method of acquainting (or in this case, reacquainting) myself with Frankfurt after my last Elbe Strasse incident, I decided to take a walk after getting the suitcases up to the room. It was wonderful! Snow was falling as I was walking along the cobblestone streets of old Frankfurt and the shopping district. There can’t be anything quite as captivating as the quiet of snow falling. Even in the middle of a thriving metropolis and shopping district, snow falling at night has a quiet, calming, cleansing effect. Quite a different world from the last visit here. I think that I could stay here for a few days and probably enjoy it.

In fact, after speaking with Hal, I think I am going to jockey my sched and come back here in Saturday evening and only spend a day and a half in Netherlands. At this point, I haven’t even heard from Roland and Angelique, so I can’t even confirm that I’m going up there. Not that I don’t want to see them…that would be like going down to Phoenix and not visiting my Gram or the grave sites of my parent’s and Grandfather. This sched is just too tight this time around. Maybe I need to schedule a week after I get back to “real life” to go to Netherlands again. Just a thought.

Well, I’m just sitting here in the hotel bar sucking down Krystal Weiss Biers (ohne Hefe – clear and without yeast), listening to music and catching up on my journal while the bar patrons are watching futball on the Fernseh (soccer on the TV). I’ve got to admit that I really love hearing and speaking German again. Maybe it’s just being in Germany again. Maybe it’s just the way I let the whole experience envelope me and take me back home to Kalkar, Germany (and Kreis Kleve) circa 1984-1987. I don’t care what Kennedy said, I’m still not a jelly donut!

(Okay, for those youngsters who don’t know the story, John F. landed in Berlin in the 1960’s and gave the speech for which he will always will be remembered and loved. In his reassurance to the German people that America would never tolerate any Soviet blockade of Berlin, in his unity speech he declared, “Ich bin ein Berliner.”

Well, to an American learning German, this would make perfect sense. What is a person from Frankfurt? A Frankfurter. What is a person from Hamburg? A Hamburger. But….but a person from Berlin is not “A” Berliner. Proper German would be “Ich bin Berliner.” (technically, “I am Berliner.) However, with that little (to us) insignificant “ein” (pronounced “ei” pronounced like “eye” – long I and then “n” altogether) what JFK ended up declaring is that he was a jelly donut! So there is your history lesson kids.)

Those who forget the past are destined to repeat it.

Nie Wieder. (Never Again)
(at the sculpture which looks like barbed wire (which is really human bodies intertwined to resemble barbed wire) at Dachau Concentration Camp outside of Munich)

It´s a ´´Hardrock´´ Life

20 February 2005

I’m so clever sometimes, it scares me! Get it? It’s a “hard knock” life…oh never mind! I’ll explain later.

I have decided not to try and get out of Kuwait early. I will leave on my scheduled flight out of Kuwait for Frankfurt (via London) at 9am on Tuesday morning. It is kind of nice just to chill out and shop. Buy some stuff for home and then got myself a dress set of clothes for going to a show when in London. Also saw a rosewood carved fold-up bench that I couldn’t live without. That and a few other things along the way and then I had to find a box to ship it all home this afternoon. I just didn’t want to have to drag all this stuff though Europe.

Ed one of our T3 (meet and greet) ITT guys here at Doha had offered to take us (Lee Ann, Shirley (who is here for medical testing) and me, out on the town as long as nothing comes up. We all wanted to go to Hard Rock Café here in Kuwait since it has just opened. Ed said that we will go somewhere else to eat and hit the Hardrock for desert. He said the food pretty much sucks, but the deserts and coffee are good.

Enroute, we got a nice tour of Doha, Kuwait. The city-scape has changed by leaps and bounds since the last time I was out on the town. The Emir is really working to modernize the country and city and the waterfront is really gentrifying quickly. The Kuwaiti’s like the Qatari’s are really looking ahead and planning for the day when oil will no longer support them in their retirement. Where Qatar is developing as the Middle East banking center, it is believed that with time, Kuwait is working on becoming a gambling and entertainment rival with Bahrain. Time will tell. Driving down the coast, you wouldn’t believe all the well-known restaurants and such.

We ended up having beef filets (Argentine beef) at Big Al’s. The filet’s were so tender you about could have cut them with a fork. Excellent food and the service was also phenomenal. As promised, we went down to the Hardrock for desert and coffee. We all had a great time. Spent a fortune on Hardrock stuff, but that kind of goes with the territory.

And the Envelope, Please...

19 February 2005

Whoo-hoo, vacation day at last. Lee Ann, who is leaving country and I went to BIAP to manifest to get the heck out of Dodge (no pun intended since I only live in Dodge and she lived in Freedom Village) right after we got off of mid-shift on Saturday morning. Normally, you manifest about 24 hours ahead of when you want to go out. But, the woman behind the counter suggested that if we could, we might want to try to get back and try to hit the 1300 schedule. Lee Ann looked at me and said, “I’m game if you are.”

What the heck, so we get to Kuwait a bit earlier and sit around, but it sure beats the heck out of sitting around BIAP and not getting on a flight and worrying about being up all hours of the night waiting for availability! I’ve driven people out to BIAP before at 0730 am only to find that they weren’t able to catch a flight until the next day or late, late that night. Spending the night at BIAP is not picnic.

We went back to our trailers and packed up in a hurry. Lucky for us, we got on the 1300 to Ali Al Salem. Finally took off around 1600 to a rather windy and rough ride. So rough in fact, that some stomachs were not quite up to the dips and such. Keep in mind that flying in a C130, it is pretty stinkin loud that you get earplugs because the engine noise is so loud in the hold. Add to that, the tight flight pattern into and out of Baghdad, things can get a bit hairy. Let’s just say that it isn’t anything like a flight on a 777 into O’Hare. Although, suspicions are that some of the pilots get a real charge out of dramatizing the flight pattern. Good thing I got a cast-iron stomach.

We are about 15 minutes into the flight and bouncing up and down and Lee Ann hits me on the leg. I look at her and she is pointing across the aisle for the envelopes stuck between a support across from us. It was like a kid reaching for their favorite cereal while seated in a grocery cart, hand stretched out opening and closing in the direction of their desire. She didn’t quite know how to get out of the seat belt (which are a pretty funky set-up if you’ve never been on a C130).

Finally, I understood what she needed (duh!). So I unbelted and reached and got two envelopes containing the much needed barf bags with only seconds to spare! Don’t think I will ever be able to quite think about Subway sandwiches in the same context after that one.

We did make it safe and sound into Ali Al Salem and back to Building 18 on Camp Doha (aka as “the ITT Hilton”) by around 10 pm. Guess now I have to decide if I’m going to move up my ticket to Frankfurt or stay put and just chill out a bit. British Airways and Expedia want like 50 pounds plus $30 to change the ticket. I can think of better ways to spend about $125.

What Goes Up, Must Come Down

17 February 2005

I’ve been keeping some strange hours as of late. Can’t seem to sleep during the day for much longer than three or four hours. Guess I’m geared up about my upcoming leave that was finally granted. Had a bunch of use-them-or-lose-them vacation hours but I wasn’t sure that management was going to approve my leave. Thursday afternoon around 2 pm, I was wandering around and a guy two trailers over from us was out taking pictures of his trailer. I couldn’t see anything overly impressive (or oppressive) about his trailer, but he finally clued me in on what was going on.

Only a half our ago, he was awoken (he is also a night shifter) by a racket on top of his trailer. Apparently, a bullet fell from the sky and landed on top of his trailer sending some of the ceiling dust raining down on him. It didn’t penetrate the skin of the ceiling, but it was loud enough to wake him up and shake him up.

Today, I was hearing speculation in the bathroom that it was something that fell out of a helo, since helo ops are always flying overhead in their quest to scrape their landing gear on our trailer roofs. I highly doubt that that much damage could have been caused by a shell falling from a helo, but who knows? I ain’t the engineer to figure that one out…or just am not that worried about it until the sky falls on my head.

Friday, February 11, 2005

SSDD

11 February 2005

Same Stuff, different day.

No one even reminded me that I completely forgot about Groundhog's Day. With every day here nearly the same, every day is Groundhog Day. Although we did have a visit from Don yesterday. We were kind of wondering why all the helo's overhead and the Al Faw Palace (not Aw Ful as we'd like to refer to it)was all lit up like a friggin Christmas Tree. It is actually very beautiful when it's lit, but with the lights out dictate, it isn't too often that we see it all lit up.

One by one, all my friends are leaving or have left. Had I not extended, it would be me too. I forgot how things in the military are. You make friends to see them go. I think you judge how quickly your term is going by how many of your friends have left and moved on. I think Frank will be back as soon as he can blow his wad of cash back home. Rumors abound that Randall may come back too, but that's all it is for now. Don't know if he would even recognize the place.

Not that it has changed all that much physically, but politically it is unrecognizable from when he left back in October. Unlike then, now we have SOP's (Standard Operating Procedures) that require us to poop in red, white and blue. Maybe it's only red and white since there is already blue water at the bottom of the porta potties.

Funny thing happened to me yesterday. I came in and sat down at the desk and in front of me was a post it note with a name and number from back in the States. I thought that I recognized the name, but couldn't place it. After ruling out tech school in Biloxi, and assignments in Colorado Springs and Germany, I finally recognized the name as possibly someone I worked with at Tellabs. So I call up the number and asked Bob if he worked at Tellabs. Sure enough it was him. He had quit and moved down to St. Louis about a year before I got laid-off.

What is even more coincidental is that he sits only a few desks away from another guy that I worked with for three months in Germany when I was stationed there. Talk about a small world. I know that we're not talking about the "Seven Degrees of Kevin Bacon" here, but I think we forget what a small world the telecom industry is. You just never know who you will run into and where you will run into them.

Maybe I shouldn't have pissed off Dacia (pronounced Day'sha - btw, beautiful name, wicked woman)at MCI back in 1997-or whenever that was. Then again, fate has been treating me better than her--she wasn't aging very well when I last saw her! Maybe her "Dorianna Gray" compact got broken or something. Actually, I think it's all about karma when you get right down to it.

Monday, February 07, 2005

Training for Upper Management

07 February 2005

I got a great email today that just kind of cheered me up some. I'm in somewhat of a funk right now. My former running partner just PCS'd back to Ft. Hood and one of my coworkers is leaving on Wednesday. I'm gonna miss both Garcia and Frank. They just kind of brought some sanity and levity to my life whenever things seemed to boil over. So without further babble, here is that email joke from my old friend Cheryl Packard at Lucent...

An Indian walks into a cafe with a shotgun in one hand pulling a male buffalo with the other and says to the waiter, "Want coffee."

The waiter says, "Sure chief, coming right up."
He gets the Indian a tall mug of coffee.

After drinking the coffee down in one gulp, the Indian turns and blasts the buffalo with the shotgun, then just walks out.

The next morning the man returns. He has his shotgun in one hand pulling another male buffalo with the other. He walks up to the counter and says to the waiter, "Want coffee."

The waiter says, "Whoa, Buddy! We're still cleaning up your mess from yesterday. What the heck was all that about, anyway?"

The Indian smiles and proudly says, "Training for upper management position. Come in, drink coffee, shoot the bull, leave mess for others to clean up, disappear for rest of day."

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