Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Can't Talk No Jive

Friends of Athens,

Today, mankind has aspired toward new, startling and gradiose achievements. My work--the sweat of my brow, the fruit of my labor--is available for preorder on Amazon.com. But when, you ask, will I need to occupy myself in the study of Russian? I recommend that you remain at all times vigilant--the threat of communism lurks behind every corner, growing like a mold in the refrigerator-like minds of every desperate anarchist. Will you suffer your children the fate of living in a despotic nation? I dare say, no! Learn Russian. Arm yourselves! Preorder now!

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Wishing Wells Away

Comrades,

I have remained static, while the location around me has changed. Gone are the steel-reinforced walls of the Ministry of Interior. In their stead, I have the comfort of higher sort. Apparently, a pack of wild dogs had claimed my new home some months before we arrived. As such, evil has taken on a new face; though rabies has seldom looked cuter. Beusipholus, a heroic if not starved beast, likes to wake me every morning with his affectionate howls and his disease-infested drool. He and I share a strong disliking for the rats that have begun to wage war with the dogs for rule over my new kingdom. But all is not lost as it seldom is.

Yesterday, I saw the most jaw-droppingly, heart-achingly, hit-in-the-stomach-with-a-piece-of-molten-lava breaktakingly beautiful sunrise. The clouds broke halfway across the horizon as the half-crescent of the sun climbed above the steps of whispy white, and bounced sunbeams like pebbles across the pond of the heavens. This was the sort of sunrise that you cannot escape. It would find you in your bed, kicking and screaming and bouncing upon your chest like a child at first, until you had lifted your eyes to look at it, when at once it would have transformed into something infinitely more glorious than you would have been ready and or willing to accept. Going back to sleep, you would have felt that matter of supreme importance waited for you to explore it, if only you could remember the proper time and place to greet it. This was the sort of sunrise that starts wars for the love of a woman. The sort of splendor that makes small men giants, and giants mountains, and moun
tains obstacles to the view of the sun and therefore subject to the wrath of small men.

I would have taken a picture, but I'm lazy.

At any rate, I check my email now and again these days. I should take a picture of my building, but I doubt that I ever shall. I've become selfish, prone to hoarding memories these days. Fortunately, I write less poetry (or none at all) than I used to. Speaking of the esophogus, I have written a little story, hardly more than a page, which I greatly enjoyed writing. In fact, it's difficult to articulate, but I have felt quite so singularly alive--like really alive, conscious of the mindset of your toenails alive--in quite a long time. So I've decided to share my little bit of joy with you all, and hope that all will enjoy it.

Until our paths cross again, I remain,

Your friend and expatriot.

Saturday, October 4, 2003

The Swift Hand of The Enemy (AKA Those Who Have Been Liberated)

Once more, I turn to your patient and receptive arms for comfort and consolation. I have endured hard times at the hand of my enemy, but I shill yet prevail. The past months have been rife with conflict, challenges, suffering and even--dare I say, triumphs. Adversity knows no limits and fears no shame. My current home of residence, the Ministry of the Interior, is to be turned over to the Iraqi people sometime this month. Here, I have endured running water and fairly consistent power. In the long nights that I have here spent, I have felt the cruel whip of addiction as I watched entire seasons of 24 on glorious DVD--without the luxury of surround sound. The forces of evil have seen to it that I eat more tender vitals than are my right.

I have often despaired during these times; but now, no more. We must move. For the next few days, we are shutting down mission and packing up the 5-tons to relocate to a new home elsewhere in Baghdad. Suffering there, I'm certain, will increase. Unfortunately, my long-time friends "Abu Running Water" and "Sheikh Electricity" will not be waiting for me with open arms; but I have met these demons before and prevailed. My only real cause for concern is the lack of Internet connectivity, which I have enjoyed here, which has made me weak and sluggish, dulled my senses and thwarted the fight for freedom. This time, unlike other times in the past, when I felt a certain distrust of my 
Enemy (aka those who have been liberated) Internet vendors dedication to capitalistic aims, I am truly in the dark. Perhaps no computer lab awaits me. Perhaps I will once more rely on the support that your many kind letters have given me. Perhaps this dark abyss knows no bottom.

In recent events, a few items leap to mind that may be of interest to those of you, who keep track of some of my life's lesser details. My brother, Jonathan, is now engaged to his girlfriend, Rachel. I encourage any who are willing to give this stud a hard time, extend congratulations and rebuke equally as he prepares to embark into that final frontier. I think a quote from 1 Samuel might be appropriate here, "And Jonathan kicks ass." Amen.

I am now a landowner. I purchased 55 acres of land in Frenchville, Maine. I trust the significance and/or hilarity of this event should be self-evident.

I wish I had more time to write more personal emails, but I always seem to choose the worst moments to do so. As time is limited: Balan, I hope the wedding goes well--send me some pictures; I want to see this Margo of yours. Tim and Dave--I hope your Radiohead concert ended in a fiery inferno, from which you narrowly escaped with your lives. Or, at the very least, send me a poster or t-shirt or something. Dylan, . Habel, enjoy Spain--I envy you.

I'm sure there's more to be said, but I cannot think of it at the moment. I really do miss you all. I look forward to sitting back over a pint of Guiness and catching up.

If anyone wants to launch a small business with me in early 2006, let me know. Plans/details/inspiration are available upon request.

Saturday, August 16, 2003

The Enemy (AKA Those Who Have Been Liberated) Revisited: the Story of a Boy and His Ambition

Lest you, in your idle wonderings throughout the day, chance upon the grave and fundamentally flawed notion that we soldiers on the front line experience any moments of levity or relaxation from the near-insurmountable challenges of life in a combat zone, let me begin by relating the story of my journey to send this very email. As 3rd ID abandoned us 1st AD folks, leaving us to the wolves and would-be wolves, the not-quite-yet wolves, and the wolves-with-better-things-to-do-than-wolfing wolves, the enemy (aka those who had been liberated) again bared his teeth, showing his continued resistance to the march of democracy, revealing his hidden alliances to the former regime, practically admitting to the private production of chemical weapons with the intent of killing sweet, innocent American babies, by suggesting that he, the enemy (aka those who had been liberated) himself, would shut down this fine computer lab due to "decreased demand." Why, these fellows haven't caught on to the whole point of capitalism at all. If Smith tells us anything, it's that it doesn't matter whether demand be real or perceived--create it if you must, but never--EVER claim that it doesn't exist! People will buy because you tell them they must. This is the moral foundation of our great nation. This is why we wage wars. This is why the Enemy (aka those who have been liberated) lost, and the Enemy (aka those who have been liberated) must change!

I explained all of this to him, of course, through my trusty government sponsored interpreter (who is also, coincidentally, sponsored by Nike); but 
the Enemy (aka those who had been liberated) seemed more inclined to dismantle this fine lab than to give me cheap and immediate access to my beloved internet. In the end, I prevailed; though I must admit, I think the corporate sponsorship swayed the battle for me. Did you, for example, know that Pepsi is now sponsoring a full 45f all combat raids in New Baghdad? Our HMMVWWVMSMWNSXMMVS look very sheik with a cool, clean, morally satisfying Pepsi logo pasted across the side.

But I digress. To the internet I came. I typed for you a very brilliant, very emotionally evocative, very wise and sober email about my condition, the condition of 
the enemy (aka those who had been liberated)  and the profound relationship between a good, hot bath (where the water is just the right temperature, and you get to soak for a solid 10 minutes before the first person starts banging on the door, screaming, "When are you going to be done in there, you lazy, incompetent buffoon? 27 people are waiting outside...") and a cup of coffee (when you've just had a large, satisfying breakfast, and the coffee is oh-so-hot and the sun is just starting to rise, and you just lit the bowl of your pipe to watch blue wisps of smoke unfurl into the morning air, and you heave a sigh of relaxation and peace before the first person starts to shout, "Hey, why aren't you working? Didn't you see this stack of reports that need to be entered? Who said you could smoke in here?" before the resounding thud of a brick smashes their big toe), when the power went out. The power has gone out a number of times all day, for more reasons than I care to here explain; but I lost that bold and exciting email, and no one shall ever have the opportunity to see it.

But. And when I say, "but," here, of course I mean for you to brace yourselves for a shocking revelation. You see, I prevailed against 
the enemy (aka those who had been liberated) once more. The internet is mine. The comforting roar of a generator several feet from my right ear drum reassures me that the power will not prevent the successful completion of this email. All is well. I am ready.

Life is much the same as it has been. General-so-and-so forbade the consumption of Iraqi meat. 
The enemy (aka those who have been liberated) has taken to using chemical warfare, by proudly displaying his “chicken and rice”—the chicken so sweet and succulent, beckoning my brain to comply with the input from my nostrils. But alas! No.

The power has been on and off with no predictability or consistency, as has the water. The temperatures…shall not be spoken of. My ripped, Army abs are covered entirely in a particularly unpleasant heat rash. That’s right, you eligible, single females out there—I said it: ripped, Army abs. Feel free to write letters of adoration. I am impartial.

Soon, you may all add to my title, “Sgt.” Indeed, you heard me correctly. I am pursuing promotion, advancing in the ranks. You may all feel free to address me as “Grand Poobah, Sgt. Froehlich,” “Sgt. Froehlich, Grand Poobah” or any variation that seems to suit you. I will also (naturally) now be accepting burnt offerings, blood sacrifices, and lavish gifts. I really cannot stress the lavish gifts part enough. I mean, when all is said and done, who cares about spilt ram’s blood, when compared to a really nice Lazy boy, or a full body massage, or just a really good steak. Seriously. Promotion is still some months off, but you can feel free to emotionally prepare yourselves for the change.

As my access to the internet may once again be cut off (and very soon), I shall have to revert entirely to snail mail correspondence.

I had planned to write much more, but I realize that I've already written too much. Accounts of all my many adventures must wait for another day. I miss you all. I miss home. I miss everything that can be associated with America.

Feel free to write me, I will respond to anyone who cares to put ink to paper. That’s all I've got. 
The enemy (aka those who have been liberated) is kicking me out of my beloved computer lab. Thank you, and goodnight.

Sunday, July 6, 2003

War Against the Enemy (AKA Those Who Have Been Liberated)

The time will come, dear friends, when I shall be forced to recount the long stories of my youth spent in the desert, wandering through the wasteland, journeying toward purpose and mission and Baghdad. And lo! did I there arrive, observe, and subjugate. But in the days and years to come, from the comfort of an easy chair, I may allow myself to recount a few words about my experiences, some of which are still in the proverbial oven, and puffing a bit on one of Tennessee's finer pipe-tobaccos, I will spare a few, meaningful phrases about the hardships, the difficult victories, speaking at no long length of pain and loss.

"Imagine," I will begin, "that you've stopped to stare the 
Enemy (aka those who have been liberated) square in the face. You can sense the evil in him, for he wants $14 for a case of cold cokes, and you only have $12. What do you do? How do you wrestle with these kinds of despair?"

"Once," I'll say, "the 
Enemy (aka those who have been liberated) almost prevented me escape with my life. I ordered a pizza from him, with all the toppings. 'Supreme,' I think we used to say? But the Enemy (aka those who have been liberated) came back with only half the toppings, 45 minutes late. How can you conquer this sort of enemy?"

So you see dear friends, though I have not revealed all--certainly not, for the nation's security is at stake; but that my trials have not been few. Oh no. The constant sweating, the flies, the venerable roaches, the inscrutable mosquitos, the lingering humidity--let us not cast a scornful eye upon these adversaries; for they are not mere trifles to be laughed at, whilst you recline indoors, drinking expensive coke.

Alas, I will not have email again for some time; though I would, naturally encourage all replies. I am safe; though I would caution you not to rely too heavily upon these false pretenses of security that the media displays--for as you can glean from my descriptions above, we are in combat, quiet and constant against a determined foe. A foe who wants far more than his products are worth.

At any rate, I miss home. I cannot wait to return there again. Stay safe, for danger abounds everywhere.

Humbly yours.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

Purged By Fire

Friends of family, family of friends, and persons unconnected to either,

You may now pull forth your journals, note pads or stick-it notes and mark up the calendar of life (insomuch as we assume time to be a totally linear description of movement) the day that I, your humble hero--vested by God with the charge of sitting resolutely and waiting indefinitely, without thought for my own safety but only the safety of two courageous trucks--have seen it all. By 'all,' of course, I mean 'most of it.'

To the point, as I drove recreationally across the endless plains of desert sand this very morning, feeling quite suburban in the comforts of an SUV, complete with airbags and air conditioning and white picket fences, I found myself looking in my rear view mirror to notice that the vehicle following so closely behind me had embraced Frau Gravity in such a way that SUV's were not meant to embrace. Thus I found myself in the throes of panic, visions of heroism flashing before my eyes as I thrust myself atop the toppled vehicle to open the free doors and pull the occupants to safety. All had gone gloriously in my mind, replete with a score to do Mr. Williams proud, until the grim reality of my hand, resting on the exhaust pipe for oh-so-too-long of a brief second in passing woke my body to the joy of second degree burns.

If only I were of higher rank and authority, I might dictate these words to the rapt ears of an eager pupil; but, alas, I must myself painfully peck away at the keyboard until my burden of relating this adventure is complete. One might think, momentarily, that the sheer pain of typing would keep my wordiness in check, but alas--such is not the case.

My right hand has found itself the unwelcome home of a bitter blister, the size and scope of which we shall not here discuss. Now, my poor team members have the added weight of an unserviceable soldier as well as our aforementioned dead trucks. Fortunately, hope is in sight. While I remain in Kuwait, my comrades paving the way to freedom ahead of me in Baghdad, news has arrived that we (a friend of mine and I) may leave as early as Saturday for that fated land.

I don't actually know what day it is today, but the sound of 'Saturday' suggests a close proximity to me; it's reassuring and comforting, not like the bitter days of the week, like 'Thursday' or 'Monday.' At any rate, the doctor expects that my hand should heal sufficiently enough to use more than my forefinger in a few days, at which time I expect my verbosity to reach unprecedented levels, as my days in the tent have afforded me little other activity than brandying words about with my tent-mates, the rats and lizards, who find the accommodations considerably more desirable than I ever would (as an objective surveyor).

I would like, of course, to hear from you all; my poor laptop (which housed all of my addresses and phone numbers and whatnot) through which I hoped to send letters abroad has suffered an unholy fate and now waits in the dark recesses of some military mail room to find its way to a doctor of its kind. As such, all that I ask for are addresses for, to use the local vernacular, 'snail-mail' correspondence. Time is something which I have in abundance--though content, as I'm sure you have already surmised, is lacking.

That is all; I have finished. I shall report my victories and failures as they arise, given what opportunity I have.

Take care and goodnight.

Friday, May 16, 2003

One Last Hoorah

Friends of the U.S. Armed Forces,

This may be the last email that I send for some time, and by 'some time,' I of course mean, I have no idea when my fingers will touch a keyboard again. The last of my company is convoying out, taking with them this fine machine, whose virtues have allowed me to stay, shall we say, "in touch" with the outside world.

All I see is desert, but I wish I could say "dead people" there, instead. Alas, no tried metaphors for me. If any of you are curious as toward the fastest way to completely destroy a diesel engine on a HMWVV (better add a few more M's and V's in there), I would recommend the following, easy to perform, one-step procedure. Put any mixture of soap and water into the gas tank, preferably while the truck is running. Now, I, of course, was not so emboldened to try this daring maneuver; however, some of the Army's finest mechanics decided to live life to the fullest and take care of that challenge for me. The end result, you ask? Two blissfully dead trucks. My trucks. You should see them. They sit there so peacefully in the sun, not a care in the world, oblivious to the twists that Fate has thrown them.

So instead of heading North with my comrades in arms to rush into certain danger in a country full of people who increasingly hate Americans, despite our valiant efforts to convince them that water really isn't necessary to survive in the desert; I will be guarding my tent, until the Army sees fit to send a TET for myself and my vehicles. At that time, I will be whisked away to a land of milk and honey, or at least as close to the land of milk and honey as I have ever been.

Two keys to staying alive in the desert. One, don't go there. Two, if you do, find air conditioning until you can get out.

I've had a good run of it so far, surviving sand storms, general stupidity, water rationing, camel burgers, and those nasty little black flies that burrow into your skin and try to build condiminiums there. I feel almost complete. But then, I haven't been shot at yet, so I have that waiting for me.

Habel, wish you all the luck on the road--hope that the not-replacing-3rd ID non-mission mission works out well for you. Balan, I should be back in time for that wedding. Jonathan, hope that Residence Inn doesn't cramp your style. Craig, thinking about you--got your books and ready to chat. And for everyone else whom I don't have time to write personal messages to, take care--especially Lt. Farrar, who I hear is suffering down at the S-1 shop at OBC.

Much love