The rebirth of Bullshit Sandwich
It's been over four years since I posted on here... oh my what a four years!
I'm out of Iraq & into South Texas.
On October 2, 2011 when I last posted on this blog I was sitting in a "dry hooch" (a housing unit with no running water) at Camp Adder in Talil, Iraq. I was about to be fired for a minor scuffle I had in the staging lanes with a Pakistani who was called "Crazy Man". I attempted to quit before I was actually fired, but because of a dust storm and the perils of flying "space available", the termination paperwork caught up with me literally as I was boarding a flight to Baghdad. Oh well, it was the career equivalent of suicide by cop. I would never have left there voluntarily - the money was too good, and I liked my job too much, but I had a begun to have recurring dreams of going home, and bad things were starting to happen both on and around my convoys. The war was closing down and there was no maintenance for my vehicles - which wasn't really a new problem, but also radios were being removed from trucks, and the subcontract workers, who filled my convoy's, were starting to feel the end coming, and their internal conflicts were coming up more and more, and we at KBR had less and less energy to quell the discord and keep things running smoothly. All of this led me to the uneasy feeling that I was in a place where I could no longer keep my guys safe, and I could no longer function outside the wire in a way that made me feel comfortable. True to form, in a pattern that has repeated itself in my life like the chorus of a bad & infinite pop song, I blew it up & took the responsibility off of my own cowardly shoulders. So, it was "chicken or pasta" (the phrase we always used when someone was about to be, or should be fired... "Joe fucked up, it's gonna be chicken or pasta for him" in reference to the choice of meals on the long flight home).
|I loved these guys, the core of "The Pakistani Express", and my crew, but it was time to go home.|
|How to commit career "suicide by cop".|
I was home less than two weeks. Long enough to take a casino trip with my buddies and lose a grand, long enough to buy a 2002 Harley Davidson FXDX from a guy who was fresh out of prison. Long enough to spend some time with my parents, my daughter Piper, and then pack my shit into two duffel bags and a backpack, strap em on to the DX and head for Salt Lake City in a soaking rainstorm, and over Snowqualmie Pass just ahead of the snow.
|Brand new used motorcycle.|
Not long after returning from Iraq, I had been in contact with a company in Victoria Texas in an effort to find work in the booming oilfields of South Texas. The nice lady at Dillon Transport told me "we're not going to hire you over the phone, if I was you, I would just come here to Victoria - I guarantee you'll find a job" Sounded reasonable to me. I got on the phone and called my buddy Kevin "the Professor" Ryver - we had spent many a night on the OMY Yard at Joint Base Balad together, smoking cigarettes and gently arguing politics, and he was one of the handful of guys I had a real affection for and remained friendly with after we went our separate ways in the desert. "Professor! what are you doing?" "Playing golf and drinking wine mostly" was his response. "Wanna go to Texas and see if we can get in on the oil boom?" I asked. "Sure, why not." It was that easy.
I consulted the weather forecast and various maps, and determined my best window for getting over the Cascades on a motorcycle in October - a dicey endeavor. I set a date, figured my route and told the Professor when I'd arrive in Salt Lake City - once there we'd either caravan down to Victoria, Texas or I would cram my motorcycle into the back of his Nissan pick-up and we'd ride together. That was the extent of our plans. We were flush with war-profit-cash, and off to seek another pile in the oilfields.
|Somewhere in the Cascades, this is what I brought to Texas.|
On the day I was to leave Orcas Island, I went to the hardware store and bought myself some shitty plastic rain gear. In typical northwest fashion the sky was purple and damp. I turned to my mother as I was about to pull out of her driveway. I wanted to stay and wait for the weather to clear - I said "Oh no it's raining..." She looked at me and said "This is what you wanted... be careful what you wish for" in a way that did not encourage me to stay, but in fact said to me "Go on dummy, you got what you wanted, don't chicken out now". I repeated that phrase all the way to SLC, and sometimes even now when I'm stuck in a pounding rain, or the wind is blowing me and my beloved DX all over the highway I'll laugh to myself and think "This is what you wanted... be careful what you wish for" and it's true. It's all I ever wanted, and I love it.
I made it over the hump and onto the east side of the Cascades. I stopped for the night in "the Palm Springs of Washington", Yakima. I had dinner at the Outback steakhouse with my old pal Kay, who was lucky enough to be living there (sarcasm), providing some symmetry to my Iraq experience, as I had spent my last night in WA before shipping off to Iraq via Houston with her some 3 1/2 years before in Bellingham. This time we didn't get blind drunk watching a female ACDC cover band, but we had a nice meal and a catch-up.
|My ass was sore in Baker City, OR|
The next morning I took off hoping to put some serious miles behind me. The sky was clear, and except for some wind, the riding was beautiful. I was understandably rusty, as the last time I had ridden a motorcycle was in late 2008 when I'd parked my cobbled-together Yammabobber in my brothers garage, and fled San Diego to prepare for my first trip to Iraq. The seat was hard, and the bars were too low. At highway speed it felt like warp speed after years of riding on Orcas Island with it's max speed limit of 45 MPH. I stopped a lot... sometimes after only 20 miles on the highway. My back ached and my hips would cramp up as I straddled the big fuel tank and hung on while being buffeted with high desert winds and passing semi's. My ass was sore. On the second night I made it to Boise, easily within striking distance of SLC the next day. I was tired and worried about how the hell I was gonna make it to Texas on this thing if it didn't fit in the Professors truck. Fuck! I hope it fits in the Professors truck. "This is what you wanted..."
The third day was better. I consulted my Google maps and found a route off of the Interstate, through the rolling Idaho cow country and into Utah. It was one of those transcendent motorcycle days. I could smell the livestock, the damp alfalfa and feel the temperature changes in the hollows and hills. I still couldn't stay on the DX for as long as I would have liked, but I was enjoying the ride, and arrived at the same hotel the Professor was calling home in SLC some time in the late afternoon.
After a few days in SLC, and after successfully cramming the DX into the bed of the little Nissan, we were Texas bound. We stopped in Albuquerque the first night, at a casino, where I lost another grand playing poker - I took a bad beat after shoving all my chips in the middle- I'd turned a medium flush, and was sure my opponent, a loose player who tried to bully players with over bets and strong raises out of position, would fold. it would have been a nice pot to pick up right there, and I would have been up a few hundred. To my surprise he called instantly and turned over the ace high flush, I was toast. I decided not to re-buy, went up to the hotel room and slept the sleep of the defeated.
|Shiprock, NM. Heading to Texas|
The next night we were in San Antonio, just 100 miles from Victoria. We stayed in a Motel 6, and early the next morning we were on our way south.
We found an extended stay motel on Victoria's main drag, and by Halloween we had secured jobs with a crude hauling outfit who had a yard in Victoria and home offices in the Panhandle. It all happened so fast. We had one day to find an apartment, buy a bed & a TV and then jump on a plane for orientation in Dumas, Texas. We took the first available two bedroom apartment, bought a couple beds, threw everything into the new pad and hitched a ride with our new boss Jimmy to the Houston airport. We lived in that apartment together for over 2 years, until I left Victoria for San Antonio. We never had livingroom furniture, our bedrooms were like hotel rooms, and we'd meet in the kitchen, or on our way to work, it was as if we'd moved our Iraqi hooches to Texas, not real homey, but functional. In the years since, the Professor has bought a house in Victoria, had a heart attack, quit trucking, and is now living the slow, easy life of a substitute teacher. I also bought a piece of Texas, a little house in an up-and-coming neighborhood in central San Antonio, I have a very understanding girlfriend who has put up with my bullshit for three years (on and off - she doesn't always put up with my bullshit), I have become a full member of a motorcycle club that I love dearly, the FXDX is better suited for long rides these days, and after having only her to rely on for transportation for the first 3 plus years I lived here, I'm no longer bothered by highway speed or big trucks. My exit from the oil field was - as usual - another suicide by cop situation. I had long been miserable, and was suffering from anxiety so badly that I went to the emergency room once convinced I was having a heart attack. My anxiety was caused by my hatred of my job and the dismal, sinking feeling that I was wasting my life doing something pointless, and hollow.
|Ah the beauty of the oilfield.|
And THAT has led me back here.
I am currently writing a book about my time in Iraq, and my life in general. Bits of that may appear here, but mostly I'm going to write about whatever the fuck I feel like. I will post pictures, political rants, pop culture rants, media reviews and remembrances. Hopefully some of it will be funny. Hopefully some of it will be thought provoking or even better, offensive.
|life is good.|
|Home sweet home, DX has had a facelift and a ton of miles, but still steady as ever.|
New Year, new Bullshit.