Tuesday, September 20, 2005

I'm Okay...Just Lazy

21 September 2005

Okay, okay already! I've been particularly lazy the past few weeks and just haven't felt like writing. It's funny too, since things have been happening around here. I will say that we have been as consumed if not more than you at home with what has happened in New Orleans. We have seen the concern and worry of some of the soldiers here about their loved ones back home. We have also seen them pack up and leave on a moments notice when approval to depart was given. For many, it was going to be a challenge to find their relatives once they do actually make it to any airport nearby New Orleans, Biloxi-Gulfport, and any of the gulf areas nearby in Alabama that have been hit hard by Katrina.

I was riding my bike through the viaduct between Victory and Slayer when my ride was stopped short. Some semi trying to fit through the viaduct was about a foot too tall. Traffic was stopped in both directions, but since I was on two wheels, I was able to sneak by them. Although a couple of feet of the trailer was wedged and crushed at the top of the viaduct, the driver and military police were letting air out of tires to hopefully back the wedged truck and cargo out of the jam it was in. By the time I rode back, the truck was gone.

Last week (for the first time in how long) we had incoming mortars! I guess it was in protest to some headway made on the constitution. I think that five mortars came in. Seemed like they were more of a reaction than any kind of serious action or attack. Maybe it was in celebration of the hot weather finally breaking. It's down to 70 or so by early morning now. We've had a few warm days up in the 100-teens, but low 100's are more normal now; and soon down into the 90's. Time to break out the sweaters!

I did stop running for a few weeks over in that area where I heard the bullets flying last month. My sister was giving me hell about that too. She was telling me that there is a serious disconnect between the "me" that lives at home and the "me" that lives here in Iraq. She says that she can't believe that the anally tidy and clean person that lives in the nice house, nice neighborhood, typical middle-class-America-type life in Illinois would ever tolerate the living conditions that I live with and write about...especially the flying bullets and mortars part!

That experience a couple of weeks ago forced me to start running in a different area, which in turn has me now running more distance. Now I'm alternating every other day between 4 and 6 miles with a day off inbetween. Running that much every day just wears me down too much for now. I thought about doing the 5K last week, but lost interest.

Other than running once I'm off work, I've been watching video and reading. I'm almost through the first and second seasons of Moonlighting. After that, I'll start into season 4 of Will and Grace. Was going to start DiVince Code after Potter, but instead needed some comic relief and am reading Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris. I had heard a CD of his that Briz lent me and he also recommended the book. I also just completed a more serious book called the United States of Europe. I know, sounds boring, but I tend to gravitate to boring, social sciences type crap. This book was on my wish list and then was recommended to me when I was at home. I still have a small library of books that I sent from home and some found around here that will keep me reading for some time to come.

Got a good laugh this last week. A boxing ring has been built and set up over by the chow hall and the first matches were held on Saturday night. One of the soldiers we work with had made it back just in time for the shift brief and was all agog over the boxing. He was excitedly describing how he only got to see two or three matches, but he really enjoyed the two women beating the crap out of each other! That seems to be the general consensus around here about the boxing...always enjoyable to watch two dudes beating the crap out of one another, but when two women jump in the ring, you've got a captive audience!

As expected, people are equally all excited and happy that the football season has started up again. Since football pools are illegal, picks are made, but no wagers are exchanged. It is more for the fun of seeing who has a better handle on which teams are better. Eve had us busting a gut this weekend when we heard the method to her madness with her winning picks, so pay close attention. She doesn't like colors or style of Dallas' uniforms, so we can't choose them....Chicago/Detroit; she'd rather be going to Chicago than Detroit....Cleveland (of course) because there is no Cleveland without "Eve" (go figure!)...Never Arizona because after her stint in the Army at Fort Huachuca, nothing good could ever come out of AZ! Actually, she does like the coach of the Colts, so there is one that doesn't depend on the colors, the cities or the uniforms. There must be something to her madness, because she only lost five of her picks this week. She is still considering a trip to Monte Carlo in December. Now there is somewhere where she could take advantage of some of that unorthodox luck.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Donate to www.redcross.org

02 September 2005

I know that I have been slacking on writing up any blogs lately. Things have been happening, but I've just been in kind of a summer slump; kind of blah. I have been keeping up with my running and until last week, was running around Lost Lake. Then we were told to refrain from running there due to sniper fire in that area. Those words only a couple days after I had my little brush with just that type of incident.

No big deal; I would just have to run around the big lake now. So the past couple of weeks, I've been doing about a five mile path around the big lake four or five times a week. Well, this old corpse I'm inhabiting just isn't quite compatible with the youthful energy of my soul. The old body has been exhausted since I upped the mileage. Instead of two days of running with one off, I think I'll have to run an every-other-day sched and maybe bike ride on the off days.

Today I took a leisurely ride up to Slayer PX to see what they had, then over to Liberty PX (formerly North Victory) to look and shop at the Bizarre. Found a couple nice things like a small hanging lamp-type thing with amber colored glass and a small hand-carved desktop dust-collector. I bought two other wall hangings by this same wood-carver of some two dimensional street scenes of Baghdad. Very detailed carvings and very unique.

I have to say that the highlight of my day today was the stop in the carpet store. (No Deb, I didn't buy any more orientals...although, I was very tempted!) For me, looking at Oriental carpets without buying any of them is kind of like eating and chewing a choice Filet Mignon at Morton's Steak House but not being allowed to swallow it! The Turkish sales guy that I've bought from before just started rolling out these fantasic carpets. He started with a phenomemal wool and silk, cream and blue 8'X11' Nain. Then he rolled out a 7'X 11' lamb's wool, burgandy, gold and olive colored Ishfahan; similar to the one I bought for the breakfast area back in February. (I sound like I'm talking about a seven-course meal, don't I?) This lamb's wool Ishfahan was soooo soft, you just want to strip all your clothes off right there and roll around on it!

As tempted as I was, I stopped short of buying anything. Under the circumstances, I will probably instead make a $1000 donation to the Red Cross for the hurricane victims. Seeing what is going on there in LA, MS and AL is just heartbreaking.

We were watching the first pictures of the aftermath on Fox and CNN on Monday night. Having spent almost six months down in Biloxi back when I was at Tech School in the Air Force, I did also get down to New Orleans as well. But honestly, the Biloxi/Gulfport area were where I mostly hung out during that time. We were getting word that Keesler Air Force Base is pretty much non-existant as I write this. The runway is intact, but all base housing, the PX/Commissary and all support facilities are in ruins. Not a building on the base is intact without some water damage from the 25 foot surge at this point, from what we've heard.

With all the scheduled base closures that have occured and are to occur, I can't see how any lawmakers will be able to justify any porkbarrel spending of millions of dollars that will be required to bring Keesler back to life. Tech schools may end up being moved to other bases that still have available facilities. Maybe some formerly closed bases can be reactivated for use like Scott, Williams or Chanute.

The Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans have taken a heart-wrenching loss. Soon will come the task of rebuilding a city. I guess the biggest question everyone is asking is why rebuild a city like N'Orleans below sea-level again? Well, maybe we ought to ask the Dutch for suggestions. They have made a life for hundreds of years, living below sea level. Obviously N'Orleans didn't use the levy and spillway solutions the Dutch used when they recovered land from the Ijsselmeer/Zuidersee with their polters. Yes, the Dutch have had flooding in the past, but they have also developed new methods along the way to prevent against future flooding.

My greatest appreciation of the Dutch miracle of living below sea level came one day in 1986 when I was out driving through the Dutch countryside on a nice Springtime Sunday. Just as I'm about to drive under a viaduct, I look up to realize that there is a barge passing overhead. Imagine driving under a canal! The Dutch have perfected life below sea level; N'Orleans just has to borrow a few Dutch engineers and Dutch companies to rebuild properly. Until then, lots of donations are going to be needed to assist the people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast until they can get on their feet again.

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