While I was away in Iraq, Eliza, my girlfriend and love of my life, packed up all of our things, cleaned the old apartment in Eugene, and moved to a new apartment in Portland, Oregon. I’ve come home to a place that is twice as big (we were cramped in that 400 sq ft place), an added cat (he is a brat), a fireplace (hmmmm), and a balcony large enough to grill on. Oh yeah, in apartment washer and drier… full sized. That is golden! While I may not have the quick access to wilderness that I did in Eugene, I still have access nonetheless. Mt Hood is nearby and I’ll probably get to know it quite well in the year to come, as well as lots of new fishing spots.
One of the things that I do like about my new neighborhood in Beaverton is that everyone seems more driven. Perhaps it is because I am seeing coordinated clothing around me, shiny cars, townhouses, and I am nearly done with Any Raynd’s “The Fountainhead” that I have this perception. I expect that when I get to know the people around me the inner beatnik will raise his head and wonder at what everyone is working so hard to achieve while they live their lives of quiet desperation. But for now I am overjoyed at being on a street where I am not seeing the dregs of society walk down the street after scoring drugs from a nearby dealer.
And speaking of meth, talking with my family I’ve learned how much it has taken over the rural communities of my childhood in Arkansas. It seems that nobody is not touched by this evil any longer. A fear grows in my heart for my nephews, one who is almost 12 and will come across things that I’ve never had to deal with at his age. I want to make it a priority to get him to fly out to spend time with me this year (either summer hiking or winter snowboarding) and to try to instill something within him, some little piece of me that will be with him in the times when he may need it. My hatred for drugs is pretty damn strong as it is, it would kill me to learn of my nephews being strung out on meth or pot or something else.
So I’m off on tangents. I’ve got a lot to get used to. I went to a coffee shop for the first time last week and I spent six hours drinking coffee, reading books, and just thinking. The thoughts were on every issue, politics, philosophy, ethics, magick, nature and the environment, principles and my own behavior, and they were like sheets of paper in a tornado, whirling about me in a maddening frenzy. I could not stay on just one thought, I had to merely sit in the middle of the tempest and observe what I could as they whipped about me.
While following a friend’s car to a comedy club the other night I had to drive fast to keep up. I was already in an emotional state and this triggered my feeling of being in Iraq. I looked down every side street for RPG teams, scanned every overpass, and every car that came speeding up from behind me got a glance. I was worn out when we got to the venue. Eliza showed concern and I told her that I could tell her how many people were on the overpasses on the way to the club, what they were wearing, and what they were doing.
When I first listened to the briefs about decompression and stress, I didn’t really pay much attention. I had felt fine in Iraq, I felt fine in Sgt’s school in Oklahoma for two weeks after Iraq, and I didn’t think anything of it. But now I am feeling things and an anxiety that I did not know then.
I saw in the paper yesterday about how many protestors had assembled in Baghdad, calling for an end to US deployment in Iraq, with pictures of Bush caricatured as Satan. I was angered greatly. This was in the same paper as news of another Oregon guardsman killed in Iraq (roadside bomb). The base that I was on in Baghdad was turned into an Iraqi Army base with only one detachment of US Troops for support. Missions changed for us at the months went on and I watched with my own eyes as the Iraqi Army went from wearing flip flops and wearing plastic helmets to having flak vests, combat boots, helmets, and from riding in small pickup trucks to larger trucks and finally tanks and armored carriers. Over the last year we’ve changed the rules of engagement many times to try and bring out more Iraqi involvement, even allowing Sadr’s militia (who were still launching rockets at the hotels when I left) to be a part of the process… encouraging it even. The grunts on the ground wanted more robust engagements with the enemy and we wanted to go after Sadr’s guys, and yet the administration has bent over backward, at times to our dismay, to bringing out disparate elements in Iraq to participate in the process of building that country. And they come out and call Bush a satan and more? What the fuck! It is enough to make me sick, particularly when I consider the casualties of Oregon guardsmen. It makes me want to pull out all troops now, tell the country to rip itself apart in civil war, and to let them work it out on their own.
But then I remember the many people who have come up to me and have cried, hugged my neck, and have given me blessings for my being there. There are groups and governments that do not want to see Iraq work and a lot of the money coming to the insurgents (yes, some were at that peaceful protest… it is all about the media and the picture that is painted on the world stage) come from outside of the country (ahem… Syria… ahem… Iran…). Today is also the day that, according to CNN, the number of Iraqi forces is greater than US forces in Iraq. This is not some ploy worked out in the last week. It took a damn month to get me out off that country. This is the result of the basic mission of the Bush policy in Iraq and I support it.
I am hoping for more rain this month, the snow pack needs it. I am also wanting to go fishing soon. I need some time out on the river to let my thoughts meander with the current.