Friday, July 4, 2008

"Call It."

It's cool today in Hanau, Germany. Partly cloudy, with a stiff breeze from the west.

Pioneer Kaserne is nearly empty. The Hanau Community is in the final stages of base closure, and with all but an MP detachment remaining in the area, the Kaserne, maybe the size of my hometown, is strangely empty. I don't even have a unit anymore. They left for the states months ago. For a while, I was attached to the local JAG office, but now they're closed down too.

Having chosen not to re-enlist, I've been left here to finish out my time. I finaled out yesterday. Anne and I have moved out of our apartment, and now the building where we made our home for three years stands silent and empty. We were the last tenants in the building. A blue Ford Windstar sits abandoned in the parking lot, baby-windowshades still plastering the interior.

It's over. I'm on my way out. In a few days, I'll be back stateside, and a new phase of my life will begin. This moment, this place, is an ending. A chapter of my life is closing, and in the background, a chapter in my nation's history overseas is closing, too. Here in a sleepy mid-sized suburb of Frankfurt, an era is ending, and soon only the old vets and their German widows will be left to remember. There is relief for many in this, to include myself, but also a sadness.

I walked by my old apartment this afternoon. The pinwheels my wife stuck in the flowerbeds are still there, along with the old picnic table under the ornamental apple-tree. The feuerkorb still contains the charred remnants of peat logs we burned the other night, sharing a bottle of prosecco with our friends the DeSotos. In the branches of the young tree over the table, the mason jars my wife hung as lanterns. Late at night, their candles glowing, I used to sit at that table with Anne, talking over the crickets, and think of fireflies. She always knows how to insert those little touches, the small things that made a place feel more friendly, feel like home. So it was with this. Preparing to move our things to the hotel, I came out to the picnic table and found my wife there, trying not to cry. Seeing those homemade lanterns, the way they swing in the breeze, I finally understand. I allow myself a sad smile.

It is a strange thing--the life I have lived for the last three years is ending. I am grateful, I am relieved. But I am sad, too. It occurs to me--soon I will no longer be called Soldier. There is a bittersweetness. On the one hand, it means I will have my freedom back; on the other, it means I will have given up my wings, the thing that made my countrymen admire me. I will be just a man again, and after three years plus one combat deployment, I know longer know just what sort of man I am. I have the clues, of course--I am a husband, a son, a writer. I am the voice of Alina. But beyond that, the rest is a mystery. I am excited to solve that mystery, but at the same time there is a mourning in me.

I will miss passing under the oak boughs in the early mornings, staring up into the green as I walk to PT.

It is ending now. I am coming back to myself, even now. I am older than I was when I started this journey, and I'm a different person as well. I'm no longer "just a kid;" no, for the first time in my life, I can look in the mirror and truly see a man. But what sort of man is that, I wonder? Who will I be, now that I no longer have the fences and protocols to contain me?

And how long will I have to fear their return?

I used to think that war was hard. It isn't, not in the sense I understand now. You do what you're told. Nor is being in the Army all that difficult. Show up every morning, in the right uniform. But I've heard the stories about soldiers who come back from Iraq and find themselves rootless; now, preparing to enter into a new life out West, I fear that the same fate may befall me. Adjusting back to life with my spouse was easy, but this, this new beginning... this will be hard.

One chapter ends. Another begins. Today, I'm the man with one foot out of the airplane. I'm the man with a grip on the ejection handle, counting to three. I'm the man who sees his cards, sizes up the other players, and then pushes all of his chips toward the center. This is it, I tell myself. No going back. It's time to see where you stand. What's it going to be?

I have to smile. It's a cool day in Hanau, Germany, and on Pioneer Kaserne the buildings all stand nearly empty. Beneath a blue sky spotted with clouds, the cottonwood boughs whisper softly with the breeze. Walking underneath the canopies of oak, I smile and allow myself to breathe in the shaded air, smell the unique green that is the Hessian Rhineland. When I open my eyes again, my mind is clear. I am sad, but I am also eager. I push my chips forward, and smile.

Call it.

(Crossposted at "The Calm Before The Sand.")

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Thursday, July 3, 2008

So Who Won The $50 Out Of The Pool?

In case you needed any more evidence that the media totally sees the election as a competition like sports, there's these two playoff brackets from CQPolitics, creatively named "VP Madness". Which it is when you think about it, because it's not a bracket tournament, it's not a contest of athletic acumen - It's the fucking election for the control of the government of the country.

Despite what CQ is asserting, we haven't even held the NIT tournament for real - all we've done is hold a series of online progressive pollings to determine by elimination who the "VP candidate" will be.

The real information is the choice and seeding of the candidates, as well as how the voting worked out from contest to contest. The Democratic side was 'won' by Wesley Clark, whom beat Joe Biden by a bare majority. Biden beat Kathleen Sibelius and (surprisingly) Bill Richardson; Clark beat Ed Rendell and John Edwards. Inquiring minds should consider how much each candidate beat the other by when placed head-to-head - there were a number of bare majorities as well as surprising beat downs. Edwards got waxed 62-37 by Clark, and both have strong constituencies on the web. Bill Richardson should have won out over Biden, but lost in a very close vote.

The GOP winner was, *snort* Mike Huckabee. But the last contest was interesting - the very obvious choice for John McCain is Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, whom is young, conservative, good-looking, and exceptionally popular. But Palin was beat like rug by Huckabee's voters, 3-to-1, after she earlier defeated Bobby Jindal and Sam Brownback. Mitt Romney didn't even make it out of the second round.

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Uv Ajed

My campus is currently testing the new outdoor Campus Warning System, so I'm hearing these sirens go off every 2-3 minutes. Ostensibly, these systems are designed for 'campus emergencies', but everyone knows they're inspired solely on the fears of another Virgina Tech or University of Iowa shooting incident.

Last night, I was watching Atomic Cafe after work.

So today, every damn time these sirens go off, I'm having these urges to dive under my desk because the Rooskies are bombing us.

Either way, it's a hopelessly irrational day.

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Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Dog Eat Canine. 'Cuz Dog is Derogatory.

I took the weekend off - and came back to this nonsense.

If this crap keeps up, both in the media and in the blogs, Obama is fucked like a Deadwood prostitute.

It's enough to make me go back to building computers instead of using them again. Oh, wait, I'll be doing that anyway - I have 3 Frankensteins to build and a base model MacBook to upgrade to 4 GB of RAM and 320 GB of hard disk space.

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