19 NOV 2007 Hold fast
Happy Birthday P.! I miss you a lot, brother. I wish I was back home with you. We could go visit the reservation and trow some numbers. I'm so proud of you and all that you do for your family and your students. We'll have good time when I come visit. Maybe we can even see if Captain Tom's boat is available this summer.
Balad hasn't changed much . The past week has been cool and clear. I've been told by my father that I have my grandparents' genes in me. Of course I do, but it should come as no suprise that I plan to explain this in great detail. My grandparents exhibited a strong characteristic that could be equally and accurately described as resolve and stubborness. My mother inherited the same character, and apparently so have I. This family trait is demonstrated in fierce adherance to one's impressions formed when interacting with another individual. For family and friends, this is an undying and generous loyalty, but if you cross her she will remember it forever! She knows it is true. I really am much the same way. It is pretty hard to convince me to give up a point once I've adopted it.
Our commanders have decided that we will wear an official physical training uniform whenever we are not in our desert camaflage uniform or airman battle uniform. The PTU is a heather grey polyester T-shirt with a stylized reflective eagle on the front and the back. The shorts are dark blue nylon mini seventies Bruce Jenner shorts that come up on the side of the thigh and have reflective chevrons. There are a slew of other regulations related to armbands, headbands, socks, sneakers, hats, ipods, headphones and what not. The PTU is reasonably priced, even though the PX only has sizes petite and XXXL left at this point. For cooler weather, there is a matching track suit, of the swish swish friction between the legs nylon variety. This is not reasonably priced, in my opinion. Of course you have to take into account my background. At the beginning of each school year, my mother used to take us to Bob's Discount Clothing in Middletown where you could get a perfectly good sweatsuit for six dollars. You know the one: comfortable thick cotton with the double stripe in opposing color down the legs and sleeves, drawstring hoodie on the top, and a pocket sewn on the front where your hands come together in the middle. I may not be able to find one for $6 anymore, but I am not going to spend seventeen times as much on one I don't like! I don't know if the enlisted corps gets a uniform allowance to buy theirs, but I hope they do. I realize whenever I talk about money, I have to make sure you all know that I understand that doctors in the military are paid so much more than just about every one else. It would be insulting for me to bring up woes about money when I have it so much easier than many around me. The point is not the money, the point is that I'm being told to buy something I don't like for more than it is worth. It is not to wear for my job or during performance of official duties, but to wear during my non-working hours. There is no way that is going to happen. I will wear my skimpy polyester 70's Air Force PTU, dreamed up by some fashion sadist whose company was paid far too much for the consultation, but I will not buy the optional track suit. I will lose toes to frostbite before I do that! Therein lies the proof that I am my mother's son.
So we ride to dinner together each night in the back of the pickup truck. The sun sets before we head off for the several mile trip to the DFAC across base. The landscape of central Iraq is dry hard-packed ground with groves of scrubby trees. It is dry, and once the sun is down, the heat quickly flees the earth. As the truck traverses the base at 30 mph, a brisk breeze flows over the cab and chills us a little in the short trip, me more than most because I am not wearing my overpriced windbreaker, and I'm a pretty skinny poke to start with. I prefer the ride in the bed of the truck rather than the cab, because the open breeze gives me a brief nightly reminder of hauling down the highways of San Antonio with the top off the Jeep and the stars overhead. Usually the moon hasn't risen by the time we head for dinner, but we can often see Venus, and Mars. Tonight Mars rides high, a glaring yellow red speck ruling over us from afar. I may shiver a bit, but I am warmed by the smoulder of my bitterness and refusal to submit.
Just when I complain that I have seen every variety of brown stuff on rice that the DFAC has to offer, they go and surprise me with something new! Tonight our trip to DFAC 3 was rewarded with bountiful food service trays of sweet and savory chop pork barbecue. The main line attendant asked me twice if I really wanted turkey cutlet, shredded Buffalo chicken, and the barbecue pork. With an only mildly stale bun and some jalapenos, I was tearing into a darn good BBQ pork sandwich! With a nice Dixie cup of sweet tea, I could close my eyes and practically imagine that I was in Richmond at Bills.
Now I don't want to even get into the whole Texas barbecue thing with my dear, dear brothers and sisters in the Republic of Texas. Come on, do you really want me comparing something that Haliburton froze some where in New Jersey, shipped across the Atlantic and trucked up from Kuwait to anything served in our Lone Star State? Let me leave it at the fact that I had my first pork sandwich in Richmond, and perhaps that was a safer gradual entry for a boy from Connecticut than to dive right into the heart of Texas. I will tell you that Texas certainly did kick my tail a few years later when I foolishly entered a jalapeno eating contest after my training on Medina base annex in San Antonio. When I say kick my tail, I mean literally: those of you who have suffered the same fate won't need a detailed description. I had never before seen peppers the size of pears they were pulling out of the giant food supply cans. I did manage to cram 11 down my protesting gullet in a minute, only to be beaten by a girl from a girl from Brownsville who ate 12 without shedding a tear.
Have I illustrated the stubborness well enough yet? It may carry a little suffering to cling unflinchingly, perhaps unreasonably, to a position, but my mother couldn't have given me a better gift.