Tuesday, May 31, 2011

May 30, 2011. Four Wings And A Sneeze Guard

May 30, 2011.

Dateline: Patriot Square, Camp Phoenix

From:  George Shreves, (CUB Man) 

Subject:  Four wings and a sneeze guard.  

Here in Camp Phoenix, they take care of you.  Kind of.  For instance, laundry is free.  If you drop it off before 11:30 one day, you can pick it up the next day after one.  But…  they don’t fold anything, and they use too much soap, so for the first few hours you wear your clothes, you leave flurries of Borax in your wake.  The guys that take the laundry are all Afghans that can write in English.  Not speak.  Write.  They have the best penmanship you’ve ever seen.  You can imagine how their eyes narrow when they see my chicken scratches on the drop off forms.  “What this”?  “It’s my name”  “NO, no letters like that spell  “G-E-O-R-G-E”  “Yes, keep forward” (HUH?) “S-H-R…”  You get the point.  They’re particular.

They also take care of you on housing.  Meaning, they give you a spot.  They don’t clean it (and neither did the 900 other guys that flopped there), nor do they give you supplies to do so.  If you want to clean: “Go to the PX and buy the shit” as SGT Gilmore says.  He doesn’t understand why in the heck you need to clean anyway.  “See this dust?  The minute you clean it’s coming right back Shreves”  I tried to explain that I knew that, but I still would like even a few moments of cleanliness, but he just gave me a suspicious look, like I was a plant from a Peace group, so I spat on the ground and farted, just to let him know I’m not a pansy.  It seemed to work.

The craziest of all is the food.  The DFAC is open 24/7/365.  While there are regular mealtimes, you can always get something to eat.  You can go as many times as you want, no one keeps score.  You can have all you want too.  That’s why a rule they recently, briefly had, seemed crazy to me.  The 4 chicken wing rule.  Two days a week they make chicken wings.  Good chicken wings.  Get in line, mouth watering, people line up for these chicken wings.  So they put up a sign:  FOUR WINGS PER SERVING.  That went over big.  People still piled their plates high.  To stop this blatant poultry pilferage, they installed a cafeteria worker (Nepalese guy) with a pair of tongs who would dole out 4 wings.  This worked OK, except people came back for seconds and thirds, and when the desert badasses came to eat, they just gave the Nepalese guy “the look” and grunted “more”, which worked like a charm.  This didn’t go over with Basia, the cafeteria warden or overlord or whatever.

But the other day, I witnessed the “irresistible force meets the immovable object”, when a perfect storm of cafeteria drama came to pass.  First, they had chicken wings; second, Basia was the doler-outer (is that even a word) of the chicken wings (relieving the Nepalese for his break); and third, a tired and hungry group of soldiers came in from Helmand province, fresh from kicking ass and taking names.  I had a front row seat for this collision.  

It gets better.  The first sunburned warrior approached the chicken wing serving tray.  He says to his buddy “I love chicken wings, I’m going to eat a hundred”.  Folks, you can’t make shit up better than this.  As he approaches Basia, the world seems to slow down.  In the background, faintly, I hear the buzz of a rattlesnake, and the theme from The Good, The Bad and The Ugly.  The soldier holds out his plate, his stance almost challenging, eyes narrowed to mere slits.  I watch, spellbound, as the tongs slowly drop 1, 2, 3 4 wings on to his plate.  To her credit, Basia met his stare, defiant, throwing down the gauntlet, issuing the challenge.  The soldier grunted “more”.  A hush fell over the DFAC.  Taunting, Basia took the tongs and rapped on the plexiglass sneeze guard 1, 2, 3, 4 times.  “Read sign, 4 wings only”, her lips twisted into a sneer.   The soldier tapped his finger 1, 2, 3, 4 times in the same place “It says 4 wings per serving.  I want 5 servings”.

OOOHHHH.  The tension was a living thing, a malevolent force given life by this chance, karmic encounter.  Basia was clearly flustered.  The sign did say 4 per serving, with no mention of a maximum number of servings.  A bead of sweat appeared on her hairy, Bulgarian lip.  Attempting to retain at least a modicum of her tattered dignity, she shoveled 10, not 20 wings onto the soldier’s plate.  He looked at the wings, looked at Basia, and with a swagger, moved on to the French fries.  The room let out a collective sigh of relief. 

At that moment, the hapless Nepalese came back from break.  Basia unleashed a torrent of abuse on the unsuspecting little man.  “Your break 10 minute, not 15” “Take down stupid sign, tiny man, people hungry”.  Then she stalked away, accosting an unsuspecting Aghani along the way for the condition of the salad bar.  As she disappeared through the swinging kitchen doors (which swing both ways, similar to batwing doors in old westerns, ironic, huh?), I noticed the Nepalese guy resignedly scraping the 4 wing sign off the sneeze guard.

You know what really makes the story funny.  Once a month, they have lobster.  No limit.  No shit.

Til next time


Thursday, May 26, 2011

May 26, 2011. Holy Cow, It's A Cub Fan!

May 26, 2011.

Dateline: Patriot Square, Camp Phoenix

From:  George Shreves, Ambassador to USCENTCOM from BS

Subject:  Holy Cow, It’s a Cub Fan

Patriot Square is the hub of all activity here at Camp Phoenix.  It is bounded on one side by the DFAC, another by the Chapel (non-denominational, of course, steeple, no cross) the Welcome Center (should be renamed, “Don’t Ask, We Can’t Help” center), medical, security and other places that people need to go on a frequent basis.  So, Patriot Square is a big open area with all this stuff around the edges.

Patriot Square also has some activities.  On Tuesdays, they show MASH reruns, and they have free wi-fi connections two nights a week (20 connection limit please).  Races start and end there, and troops assemble there for deployment and redeployment.  Anyway, the point is, everybody passes through Patriot Square several times during the day.  

As I had previously reported, they sent me over here with uniforms and stuff, but when I got here I discovered that I can wear civilian clothes.  The only civilian clothes I had with me were two Cub shirts and two pairs of jeans.  By wearing one jean/Cub shirt combo, I could have the other washed, so every day; I wore a Cub shirt and jeans.  Finally, Caleb and Karol sent me a box with some more Cub shirts, so now I have six Cub shirts.  

Because of this, I have become a local celebrity of sorts:  “CUB Man”.  I have discovered that there are Cubs fans all over the world.  There are also assholes that like to rib people who are Cubs fans, ala Garry Caves (dickhead).  Everywhere I go now, I hear cheerful calls of “CUB Man!” or “Go Cubs”.  Sometimes, I hear things like “Look, he was actually alive in 1908”, or “CUBS Suck”.  These latter comments are from idiots who are Cardinal fans and Yankee fans, but lack the balls to wear their teams’ colors. 

Last week, I passed some Nepalese guys.  After I passed them, I hear one say to the group: “yes, eet eez heem, eet eez CUB Man”!  I felt like a million bucks.  

One other thing about Patriot Square that merits attention is that it is the gathering point for transient troops – that is troops that are just passing through.  Some of these troops are BAD ASS.  I don’t say that lightly, but when these tough guys roll in out of the desert, get out of their way.  Just the look in their eyes is scary enough, but some of these guys are physical monsters too.  

There are lots of physical monsters in the military. I never really realized it, because I always worked with officers, but these enlisted guys spend every spare minute lifting weights, running, eating power bars and thinking up new and imaginative ways to torture themselves and each other.  “Sure I’ll go on a 15 mile run blindfolded carrying 200 lbs, but ONLY if we tie our ankles together and sprinkle ground glass in our pants”  “OK, but then let’s make it 30 miles and run backwards AND let scorpions bite us every 5 miles”  “OK, sounds good”  They’re nuts.  They are also the most polite people I’ve ever met.  I’m used to being a pain in the ass to most people.  In fact, for years I thought my first name was “fuck you”.  Not here.  Here, it’s “Hello, sir” “Let me get that door for you sir”.  At first I was suspicious, like I would go through the door, then they would trip me, knock me down, give me a snuggie and take my silver dollar Garry gave me.  But no, they’re serious.  I guess it’s the military discipline.  Or maybe because I seem 100 yrs old to them, I don’t know, but I’m not bitching.  Today I’m wearing my Garza Cub shirt, because it’s Thursday.  The only way I would quit wearing my Cubs shirt is if I had a camo shirt that says: “You can’t kill insurgents all day long, if you don’t start in the morning”  HA!

More later

Your humble correspondent,


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

May 18, 2011. Potent Potables

May 18, 2011.

Dateline: Shower Huts, Camp Phoenix

From:  George Shreves, Ambassador to USCENTCOM from BS

Subject:  Water

Back home, water is taken for granted.  There’s plenty of it, for one thing, so much so that half the time we end up cussing at it, because it floods and screws up the fishing, rots the tomato vines, etc.   We ought to be ashamed of ourselves.  The first week I was here, it rained twice, one a real frog strangler.  I come to find out that might be it for the year.  FOR THE YEAR.  The average rainfall in June, July and August is ZERO.

I tell you this because water is a big deal here.  First, you got your bottled water.  There is bottled water everywhere here, you can’t walk across Patriot Square without tripping over a pallet or two.  They want you to drink it too, there are signs everywhere telling you to, and reminding you that if you don’t, you could fall victim to the effects of lack of hydration (or being thirsty, as John Berry would say).  If you read the posters, lack of hydration is worse for you than being held captive by the Taliban.  Apparently, you can turn clammy, fall down, and die right where you are unless measures are taken pronto! (I guess like giving you some water)  You won’t believe this, but there is one single contract here that provides for bottled water for $347 million dollars.  Yep, they prize bottled water over here.

Your next type of water is black water.  This is water that contains animal, human or food waste.  Shit water.  This water has to be toted away and disposed of.  Its nasty and I don’t know what exactly they do with it, but they get rid of it.  Now don’t confuse black water with grey water.  Your grey water is water from sinks and showers.  It’s nasty too, but it can’t hold a candle to black water for nastiness.  They suck the grey water up in trucks, disinfect it with tons of chlorine and then use it to wash trucks and other vehicles.  They wash vehicles all the time because they don’t want them to have shit on the undercarriages that could fall off on the streets (and I use the term street loosely, more like half pavement, half rip rap paths, actually).

Anyhoo, water is a big deal here in every form, and there are whole groups of people whose only job it is, is to get it, distribute it, re-use it and get rid of it.  So, I was surprised the other day, when I overheard a conversation about a type of water I was heretofore unfamiliar with – portable water.

This conversation took place among a group of HVAC guys who are contractors from the Memphis, TN/Tunica, MS area.  Good ole boys, they’d fit right in at BS.  Anyway, the leader of this group, Nuck (I don’t have any idea what that is short for) is talking to his workers, Darryl and Bob Ed (I swear I’m not making this up) and says “Bob Ed, look at that sign on the shower hut there, will ye?”  It says “Portable Water”.  “Now what kind of an idgit puts up a sign that says Portable Water?”  Darryl and Bob Ed shook their heads in commiseration.  Nuck continued: “Of course its Portable, they bring it in with a truck every night”.  Darryl and Bob Ed had to agree, they had seen the trucks themselves.

After they left, my curiosity got the best of me, and I wandered over to the shower hut.  Sure enough, there was a sign on the outside of the hut, in big letters that said “POTABLE WATER”.  Goes to show you, just when you think you know it all…….

Your humble correspondent,


Tuesday, May 10, 2011

May 10, 2011. Birds, Trees, and Latrines

May 10, 2011.

Dateline: Camp Phoenix, high in the Hindu-Kush Mountains

From:  George Shreves, Ambassador to USCENTCOM from BS

Subject:  Birds, Trees and Latrines

In the months leading up to my deployment I spent a great deal of time researching the various flora and fauna to be observed in Afghanistan.  Especially birds, since most interesting mammals do not generally brave concertina wire and automatic weapons to show themselves to intrepid adventurers.  I anxiously awaited my first glimpse of the elusive Corn Crake (crex crex) the giant Honey Buzzard (pernis apivorus), or even the playful Tibetan Sandgrouse (syrrhaptes tibetanus).   So far I have seen two birds – a mourning dove and a sparrow.  That’s it.  A plain old dove and a plain old sparrow.  Not even an exotic Dead Sea Sparrow (passer moabiticus), just a plain old House Sparrow (passer domesticus).  Bummer.  I did get to shooting the shit with the sparrow.  He asked where I was from, and I told him Follets.  He said he had a cousin that lived under the eaves at BS.  Smart-ass.

Oh, well, so much for the birds.  As you all know, my consuming passion, my avocation if you will, has always been trees.   My love of trees is well known, so of course I was greatly looking forward to seeing the majestic Cedurus Deodara, towering Pinus Longifolia and the exotic Almonds that dominate the landscape.  To that end, I have explored every corner of the area and have compiled a list of all the tree species that I have located and identified.  Here they are:

1.       Locust
2.      Mulberry

That’s it.  Two lousy trees.  Trees that grow in my own back yard at home! And on top of that, Mahmood the dumpster guy told me he had never seen a mulberry tree before the Americans came.  I wonder if that smart-ass sparrow snuck over here and shit out a mulberry seed.

So far, I am bitterly disappointed in my nature research product, but not without hope.  Mahmood tells me he saw a strange bird just yesterday.  Probably a grackle, but I’m going to check it out.

Lets talk about toilets.  In the relative comfort of your stateside homes (and even the restrooms at BS), if one feels the call of nature, one simply sits and relaxes on the porcelain throne, until the defecatory process is complete.  Not here.  The deranged (or psychopathic) engineers that designed the latrines left approximately 6 inches between the front of the toilet and the door.  This arrangement requires a latrine-goer (ha, there’s a pun there) to either sit on the seat sideways or perch like a leprechaun with feet on the seat and arms wrapped around legs.  I’m here to tell you that for some reason, sitting sideways to do your “business” goes against every human instinct – if you don’t believe me, try it at home.  Now I guess sitting like a leprechaun is OK for some, but if any of you can conjure a mental image of me perched on the throne like the guy off the Lucky Charms box without laughing, I’ll be surprised.

I’m working on an alternate position, but until then I’m doing the best I can with a shitty situation.  General Gator has summoned, so I must go.  Until next time.

Khosh Medawyn!

Friday, May 6, 2011

May 06, 2011

Welcome!  My dad, George, recently left on a civilian deployment to Afghanistan.   To keep people back home informed, and to perhaps give an answer to the question "why is Caleb so strange?" we've created this blog for him to post his adventures. 

I will make it cooler eventually, but I wanted to get his first post up!  Leave questions in the comment section if you want to know more!

Note: The "BS" refers to the BS General Store and Saloon (and fine dining if you like frozen pizza) located in Follets, IA.   

Here it is:

May 6, 2011.

Dateline: Kabul Afghanistan

From:  George Shreves, Ambassador to USCENTCOM from BS

Subject:  SITREP (for you BS’ers that means Situation Report – Duh!)

This is your humble servant, George, filing a report from camp Phoenix, outside Kabul Afghansitan.  I apologize for the lateness of this first report, I have been busy with TS activities (TS means Top Secret – Duh).  

Upon arrival on April 30, 2011, I was immediately summoned to the offices of General Wally Gator (who, incidentally, is the fastest alligator in the swamp).  He inquired as to the nature of my mission, to which I replied I was here to humbly represent the interests of the Freedom Cell located at BS General Store in Follets, IA.  He asked if Sue and Brenda worked there.  I told him once in a while.

My first orders were to capture/kill OBL by any means possible.  Knowing that the DFAC (cafeteria – Duh) closed in just a few short hours, I knew time was of the essence.  While I can’t reveal all the details of my op (operation – duh) suffice it to say that a mere two hours later I was enjoying an Italian Beef sandwich at the DFAC, while OBL was not.

My accommodations here are rather Spartan.  I was offered luxury accommodations at the State Department compound in Kabul, but in deference to the fighting men and women stationed here, I forewent that generous offer and chose instead to bunk in a hooch with the other warriors.  My 8 x 6 space is cramped, what with the surveillance gear and empty coffee cups, but being on a 24 hour schedule, I spend little time there.

Through the State Department channels, I have petitioned the President to officially recognize Follets diplomatically, which could mean huge subsidies.  If this comes through, I will need Bob Card to sign a treaty allowing gas to once again be sold.

Anybody catching any fish?  Me either.

More to come.  Stand by.


PS – some Bulgarian guy choked on a meatball the other day – he’s going to be OK.