Outward Bound: The Palace to Dubai

Mosul Palace

I haven’t even left yet, and I’m already a bit irritated. As regards stuff, I’m shipping it, taking it, or trashing it. I have good amounts of the first and last, and too much of the middle. One backpack contains electronic equipment such as my laptop, camera, external hard drive, Ipaq with all their attendant power supplies and cables, in addition to some paperwork type stuff such as my document folder, some small dictionaries, and a networking book. See, I had this idea about not being a totally hedonistic bum, and accomplishing something on such an extended time off. Not a major something, but more of a token something. Anyway, I bet that ends up a dead weight.

My other backpack is the clothes pack. It could be lighter, and also less stuffed. However, it’s my own fault, because I have made wildly differing plans in the climatological sense. Central Asian desert in winter vs. the tropical seas in and about Thailand, where they only understand winter in a theoretical sense, and from wild, unbelievable tales brought back by those with Nordic benefactors. Variety is the spice of life, but the bane of the traveler who totes his own gear. I have a jacket with liner. It’s not cold enough to require the liner here, but I’m gonna wear it because I have nowhere to pack it. It will be good in Uzbekistan, since I went with only short sleeve shirts to help the shirts do double duty. Maybe it will be warm enough in Uz that I can leave it entirely, since the thought of toting a jacket around Thailand is pretty abysmal.

John Kerry shows up at the DFAC for a meal with the troops. The ass-kissing political turds in charge decide to shut down 1 of 2 chow lines for his personal use. Of course he’s late. End result? The general causes the troops to wait in line that much longer in favor of a politician who doesn’t support them. What kind of bullshit is that? What the hell is he doing here anyways?

I get the 2 other guys heading to H2 to wake up. It’s cold, so maybe it won’t be too much with the jacket liner in. It’s 2 AM. Mr. Turkish Hard Car Driver seems aggressive yet imprecise. I feel confident he will get us out of trouble . It’s not as definite that he won’t get us into trouble. I will keep my bucket on.

The drive is relatively uneventful, though Mr. Turkish Hard Car Driver could use some convoy distance-keeping training. We avoid some rather large road craters. These are of course separate and distinct from the potholes. In some ways it feels like going back in time to some barbaric age as we get closer to the gate. As we get to the zone of control of the Iraqis, you see the drainage problems. Mud everywhere, streets inundated with water. You have to be extra special careful not to end up in a hole. Blown-apart hesco barriers abound. Most of them now more closely resemble wire obstacles instead of bullet barriers. The fire barrels give off a certain “Escape from New York” feeling. We pass a sign saying “no motorcycles beyond this point” and “deadly force will be used.” It’s not simply unauthorized. If you go down that road on a motorcycle you are a dead man. I really don’t like it here. It’s 5 AM.

Mosul Airfield

They have a lot more gunfights here than at the Palace. I will be glad not to stay. Plus, this place is like a great big sewer, with poor drainage everywhere that turns everything into a nasty muck from which you can not escape. It hasn’t even rained in days.

It just occurred to me that I am unemployed, or will be officially in a couple of days. I’ve haven’t been out of work in 8 years! Back then a 3 month vacation would have been a euphemism for “I hate the job market” and not a time of pleasant relaxation. What most of you see as some kind of adventure is truly just me being lazy.

I enjoy hanging out with The Mr. Tom Flood and Jack. Jack is King Ops and among the lucky things he has done are fly F-18s and share an office with me. The Mr. Tom Flood is some poor creature who never had the joy of my constant presence, though in the two years and then some that we have been in the same place, I have sought to brighten his otherwise miserable days with the wondrous joy that is me. He did get to Mosul about a week before me, and then of course I got stepchilded out to the Palace, where we had to take the pain to email instead. It’s kind of funny how you start running into people all over the place.

The transient quarters guy who I am stuck rooming with announces every single thing. “I just stopped by to use the bathroom” and “I’m taking a minute before I go pick someone up.” At least he doesn’t snore. That was the great thing about the Palace, no transient quarters and no roommates, weird or not.

The sound of C-130s in the night…oh, it takes me back to the days of K2. How that noise bothered me until I began to love it!

When the charter flight comes in, we line up to board, waiting for the go ahead signal. There is a short burst of fire, and I consider the irony of getting killed on my way out. I become slightly shorter. Sitting on the tarmac, a mortar round comes in. We boogie. I feel that over these 7 months I have gotten to know the bad guys a bit here. The dislike must be mutual.

Baghdad

We make it safely to Baghdad. I enjoy looking out over the city. The teardrop shape of what one can only assume must be called Signal Hill beckons, with it’s festooning of antennae. It seems the drive to Camp Victory North is streamlined and shorter. That doesn’t make it a short one, but it is a few checkpoints less than last time.

My roommate for tonight is a snorer. Imagine that! My pillow for the night consists of items in my laundry bag. It doesn’t smell bad yet thankfully, and is marginally more comfortable than the rock I used for a pillow When I Was Your Age, that is to say on days I could break rocks off of my bed to use as a pillow, and that is a subset of days that I was actually allowed to sleep.

They make such a big deal about searches and item confiscation at BIAP. I figured my bag full of electronic gear would be worth a few laughs. They didn’t even want to look at it. I feel kinda cheated. They just set my clothes bag off to the side for checked baggage, since it had clippers in it. They didn’t even look at it, either. A quick run through the machine, and that was that. At the same time, I do make it simple for the security folks. Everything metal typically goes into a jacket or bag that goes down the conveyor. I walk through the metal detector with nary a beep. Actually, one time in Denver I think it was, it went off. Boy, was I irritated. Why did it do that? Of course they didn’t find anything.

A lot of the folks are getting all feelings hurt on being told not to wear KBR hats, to put their badge / ID holders away, and not to wear Operation Iraqi Freedom type clothes. People just don’t know how to take care of themselves. Other people don’t want to look like targets. I figure it just looks idiotic, myself. “But I am who I am!” they cry out in righteous indignation. You’re an idiot, that’s who you are. Just wear the Earnhardt shirt instead today, alright?

Looks like we lost our Russian flight crew for the 737 charter. I’m not sure exactly who the new bunch is. They seem to be vaguely Indian in a former British colony sense of the world.

As we fly south, I can see Iran in the distance. It’s more of a suggestion of territory at the horizon, but there isn’t any place else it could be. I remember knowing Iran quite well from the days and nights of misspent youth in the form of F-15 Strike Eagle and Stealth Fighter from Microprose, way back in their heyday. I wish I had a good map and a less nasty window so I could have a better idea where I was. Maps are cool! I encourage you all to go out and acquire some for yourselves. You might be surprised to find I’m not going to Pakistan. What? There’s like…a bunch of ‘stans?

I am rather unhappy with the flight, since we have a lot of turbulence. I know it isn’t the plane falling apart, but in addition to your expect shakes and bumps, we get several noticeable drops as well. I know how these things work, but man it pisses me off. Maybe those shitheads that used to shoot at me whenever I would try to use the bathroom in the mid-afternoon time have some kind of arrangement with these pilots, and it’s not real turbulence, but some sort of evil-intentioned trick. I, for one, wouldn’t put it past them.

Dubai

Ah, Dubai! I reflect on the wonderfulness that is Dubai. Now having done this, I recognize that two main things stick, neither of which have anything to do with Dubai per se. I now have a life again. The other thing is that again I am my own worst enemy, not some pissed off Arab with a weapon. Such is the preferred order of things. The worst enemy part, not the Arab part. That’s just being topical.

Wow…Spot The Commie is so easy here! My hotel is full of them. I am in Commie Central it would seem. Although I only stay there two nights, and move on to good buddy Dave’s apartment after, there is of course no shortage of the Russian speaking folk in all of the city.

I have the dubious fortune to go to the Uzbek consulate to get my visa on what is apparently Prostitute Deportation Day. You know the truly sad part? Not a one of them is even remotely attractive. There was one that was sort of cute, but far too young. There were a couple that weren’t so bad, but were fat. I don’t see how any of them made any money. The cuter one was clearly better off than the others. On the whole, I suspect it was a bad situation for all of them, not just the two who were handcuffed together. Whether that occurred before or at their arrest I do not know. Anyways, it turns out that they only issue visas Monday, Tuesday, and Saturday. This may cause a problem, since I was hoping to fly out Friday morning. This would mean I couldn’t leave until Sunday. I’ve got my buddy Ikromjon on the case though, so we’ll see how that works out.

As it turns out, Ikromjon isn’t very extra helpful. Oh well. Didn’t really like him anyway.

My Pakistani buddy at Long’s Bar comes up to me, and we do the hand-shaking thing. He asks me if he should go dance with that chick on the dance floor. I haven’t got any idea who he’s referring to, but I figure he should, hey why not? Not only do I not know who he’s referring to, I don’t know who the hell he is, either.

I run into another friend from Mosul at Long’s. It’s home base for going out. Anyway, Randy worked up at the airfield. As it turns out, not only had he never seen a John Wayne movie, he had the gall to insult the Duke! For this I repeatedly advised him that if he continued in such an endeavor that he might need to be killed, however he could rest assured in the knowledge that this would in reality be a good thing for all humanity. After he left the airfield, he went and got himself a scruffy goatee. I almost didn’t recognize him at first, but I was quicker than him recognizing me. Well of course like anyone else with a lick of sense, he was real happy to see me. However he exceeded the limits of the manhug so I had to knock him out right there in front of his girlfriend. Ok, maybe not, but I thought about it. Seeing the bond we had, she definitely wanted to talk to me to find out any good secrets I might possess. That’s what she said at least, but it was clear to me that she wanted me. No mere notch on a bedpost am I, so I declined her offer. Nothing personal against her of course, but I’m simply not that kind of boy.

A Day At The Beach

…or at least two hours. It’s somewhere in the 70s, or 20s for you metric folks. It would be quite fine and comfy except for the near constant semi-gale force wind. It’s on the chilly side at night, but still ok during the day. I walk down to the water, since I am not Beach Guy, I’m Water Guy. Oh no, but not this water! It’s quite chilly on the feet and calves, and as I get waist deep I turn and run away like a little girl. That’s some cold water! I guess I’m Beach Guy today. Thankfully we all move on with the “hey lets cook!” before I can’t stand it anymore and admit I am freezing to death. Certainly I wasn’t, because I am such a manly man, but I didn’t have to fess up to anything that was true in order to save other members of our party from certain cases of hypothermia.

Grocery Shopping! It’s like normal human being stuff! There is such a fascinating array of things I haven’t had in a while, I want to try them all at once! I have forgotten several of the simple joys of life. I want a place to live.

We have a great meal, this multicultural bunch of folks. We have a couple of ‘murricans, two Hungarians, one of whom is actually Romanian, and a Romanian / Greek mix who thinks she’s Italian. She has the most delightful way of saying parallelogram. Yes, that’s correct. You have to hear it to believe it. Add in a couple of Macedonians, Marko and Darko, and we have also some representation from Australia. The Scottish guy with the Indian girlfriend didn’t make it, but as I like to tell him, I’ve always liked you Welsh people! Great times were had by all, in the Arab nation where the Arabs only constitute 20% of the population. It’s a funny world, and I think many cultures do not have the sense to act in their own best interests. It’s a trait we all seem to share.

And with that, I bid you good day!

2 Responses to “Outward Bound: The Palace to Dubai”

  1. Nevena Says:

    Who are you??? I love your stories. please post some more. Thank you.
    PS: Another thing about BIAP; i had to mail all my electronic stuff back “home” because I am foreign country national and couldn’t take them there where they have sent me.

  2. Robert Says:

    Eh, the stories from those days are pretty much done. I haven’t shown a whole lot of motivation to get anything after that added, unfortunately, though I have faithfully taken notes on all the trips.

    It’s disappointing how the inconsistent standards can affect you, isn’t it? Some places you can have this, some you can’t…

    Thanks for stopping by!

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