Monday, December 31, 2007

Good Vibrations

Our company commander is a really nice guy. Simple, but nice. He gets flustered easily, but he's good natured about it.

We have a psychiatry tech who everyone loves. She's quirky, but in a good way. In fact, she's the one who introduced me to the Sandman series that I've been reading voraciously (and intend to buy as soon as I get back).

Well, for whatever reason, she decided she had an important question for her commander. So right in front of everyone, she calls him on the phone and asks this all important question.

"Am I going to have trouble getting my vibrator through customs?"

Based on her reaction, her question must have been greeted by silence followed by some pretty uncomfortable stammering. I very much wish I could have seen his face.

Well, he must have recovered enough to ask some pertinent questions that might help him give an answer. Because no one could hear his side of the conversation, we're not entirely sure how he asked the next question, but the tech's response was, "Well, it's a Rabbit and it's really expensive, so I don't want to just leave it here!"

We each have our pressing issues, I guess.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Have No Fear - I'm in Charge!

For the next three weeks, I'm the chief of staff for the entire hospital. For the doctors I work with, this means I go from friend to boss. I've made this transition before, and I'm pretty good at it. Besides, doctors shouldn't need any real "managing," right?

Let me tell you something – doctors are the biggest crybabies, whiners and complainers you could possibly imagine. Add to the mix narcissism and a God-complex and you have the ingredients for tons of fun.

I wasn't in the job for 30 minutes when there was screaming in the OR. One of the docs got into it with one of the techs. Accusations of inappropriate cursing (as opposed to the appropriate kind), and even racism came up. It's my job to sort everything out, hand out punishment where necessary and get everyone back to a point where we can get along enough to continue our mission of patient care.

In the middle of all of this, a patient shows up with shrapnel injuries. We think he's a BAD GUY, but he didn't come with paperwork. (As an aside, I know many of my readers have jobs where they deal with paperwork. Have you ever wondered what would happen if some paperwork didn't get filed correctly? Probably nothing, right?)

In this case, with no paperwork, we have no legal right to detain him. If his injuries are not life-threatening, we are required to LET HIM GO HOME. Let me rephrase that – I (meaning ME) am required to let him go.

Well, it all ended well. In the time it took to finish with his medical needs, his paperwork finally showed up. Still, it was a tense few hours.

This was just my first day on the job. I can't wait to see what tomorrow brings.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Christmas Cheer and Guard Duty

We had our hospital Christmas party last night and it was pretty cool. It was well attended (what else do we have to do?), and there was good food (pizza), holiday movies and even a trivia contest – officers vs. enlisted. The officers pulled an early lead thanks to my guess of 1895 as the year Christmas lights were first used as decoration, but we eventually fell to the enlisted who pummeled us with their insane knowledge of the movie A Christmas Story. I wonder if the fact that three of the four officers on our side were Jewish had anything to do with it… Afterwards, I broke out the guitar and played Christmas carols and requests. Nothing says Christmas like Billy Joel and Jimmy Buffett.

This morning was Christmas morning of course. On my normal walk to the chow hall, I always have to stop and show my ID card to the gate guard. It's usually the same team every morning, but today was different. Today it was the company commander who was all smiles as he shot me a salute and greeted me with a hearty, "Merry Christmas, sir!" His Christmas present to his soldiers was to give them the day off so they could sleep in and call their families. I also found out that their Command Sergeant Major was pulling shifts in the guard tower.

I may be Jewish, but I'm pretty sure this is what Christmas is all about.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

I am a Dirty Old Man

We just had Open Mike Night here in Iraq. It was in an outdoor tent at 8pm and it was 40 degrees outside. My hands are just now thawing out. Unfortunately, I didn't get to play the Steve Earle guitar because I couldn't get back to my office in time to get it, but one young soldier player Copperhead Road, so Steve was there in spirit.

Open Mike Nights are an absolute blast. I never resist a chance to get up on stage, but this one was special. There is a young enlisted soldier who plays a mean lead guitar and a young nurse who's a helluva singer and they asked me to join in. We rehearsed 5 songs and got to play them all. If you are wondering, the set list was:

Kiss Me – Jewel
Santa Baby – (which I always thought was done by Marilyn Monroe until I read the Wikipedia page) – Eartha Kitt
Original Piece (sorry can't remember the name) - SPC Barrows
Peaceful Easy Feeling – Eagles
Hold My Hand – Hootie and the Blowfish

I must say, we rocked the house. The harmonies were excellent. The sound was perfect. The crowd was raucous. That last part may have just been just to keep warm, but I'd like to think they were also having a good time.

Now comes the Dirty Old Man part. Talent comes in many forms. We had singers and poetry readings. We also had dancing. A group of young black soldiers got up to dance to some Cupid song (I realize I'm totally a nerd for not knowing the song or even the type of music, other than it was probably Hip Hop. Give me a break. I'm a 40 year old Jewish doctor. Get the hell off my lawn!)

Anyway, do you remember the scene in Dirty Dancing? The one where Jennifer Grey gets to look into some real dancing behind closed doors? It had a… feeling to it. It was like it was privileged information, and you felt like this was something you shouldn't be seeing. At the same time, you were mesmerized.

Jeez, this is going to sound so cliché, but black women can dance. I know. The sky is blue and cold beer tastes good. Give me a break already. I don't go to clubs and maybe since I've been without my wife for 3 ½ months it was more enticing than it should have been. Still, I felt privileged for getting a glimpse of something I would otherwise never have been able to see. I even suspect that if I walked into an all black night club the dancing would immediately change so I would never get a chance to see this kind of movement.

It's silly, but I half wanted to go up to these women and thank them personally for allowing me (and the other 60 soldiers in the crowd) to watch this.

But then everyone would know I'm a dirty old man.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Tito Ortiz is the Man!

My son is gonna lose it when he sees this picture. Tito Ortiz from the Ultimate Fighting Championship is his ultimate hero (after me, I think). My hat is off to Tito and his training partner Justin "Nsane1" McCully for coming out here to Iraq to support the troops.

And no, Tito didn't bring his girlfriend .

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Trivia Answers and More Anti-Semitism

A quick search of Wikipedia reveals the answer to my trivia question from yesterday. To recap, the question was, who said, "The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from [the "Department of the Tennessee," an administrative district of the Union Army of occupation composed of the portions of Kentucky and Tennessee west of the Tennessee River, and Union-controlled areas of northern Mississippi] within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.

Answer: Ulysses S. Grant December 17 th, 1862

For some more interesting historical anti-Semitism, I recall an ex-girlfriend when I post about this next person:

He argued that the Jews were no longer the chosen people, but were "the devil's people." They were "base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth." The synagogue was a "defiled bride, yes, an incorrigible whore and an evil slut ..." and Jews were full of the "devil's feces ... which they wallow in like swine." He advocated setting synagogues on fire, destroying Jewish prayerbooks, forbidding rabbis from preaching, seizing Jews' property and money, smashing up their homes, and ensuring that these "poisonous envenomed worms" be forced into labor or expelled "for all time." He also seemed to sanction their murder, writing, "We are at fault in not slaying them."

Who said this? Why, it was Martin Luther , the founder of Protestantism.

Editor's note: Due to complexities of posting remotely, and other unforseen internet issues, this post should have come before the previous one. It was lost in the ether somewhere and has only reappeared recently. My apologies to all, for any confusion.

But then, again, the content is free . . .

Back to Nonsense

I got a little political and religious in those last two posts. Sorry 'bout that. I'll try not to let it happen again. See what happens when you surf around Wikipedia?

Anyway, it's a short post today. After reading this Head CT on a young soldier who is seizing, I'm off to play chess. I sucked right out loud in the last two tournaments, so I'm hoping to regain the honor of a past champion.

I'd like to leave you with this great quote I just read on Google quotes:

Talent hits a target no one else can hit; Genius hits a target no one else can see. - Arthur Schopenhauer

General Orders #1 and #11

For you military-minded folks, you may remember your three general orders. General Order #1, which every basic trainee has to memorize or be killed with endless push-ups is:

I will guard everything within the limits of my post and quit my post only when properly relieved.

Well, the command has developed a new General Order #1. This order is the one that keeps us from gambling for money and having sex while deployed. Let's just say I know of a few violations of this particular order (although not by me – I told you, I'm a goody-goody).

I just found out about General Order #11. Trivia question for the day: Who wrote it?

The Jews, as a class violating every regulation of trade established by the Treasury Department and also department orders, are hereby expelled from... Tennessee within twenty-four hours from the receipt of this order.

Post commanders will see to it that all of this class of people be furnished passes and required to leave, and any one returning after such notification will be arrested and held in confinement until an opportunity occurs of sending them out as prisoners, unless furnished with permit from headquarters. No passes will be given these people to visit headquarters for the purpose of making personal application of trade permits.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Poker Content, Iraq Style!

I haven't posted about poker in a while, so it's about time. As you may remember, we play poker here every Wednesday and Saturday night. We are not allowed to play for money, so at first glance this may not seem as interesting as a big cash game, but you'd be underestimating the competitiveness of soldiers.

I have developed the perfect table image, but I think I ruined it last night with this hand. Everyone has been commenting at how much I bluff in the beginning of games. They are mistaking bluffing for tight aggressive play, which is exactly what I want them to think. They play classic home-game poker, which means almost everyone limps in on every hand. What they don't see is that I play only one or two hands per orbit, and sometimes I've folded 10 hands or more in a row. With our blind structure you can't wait too long, but I'm way ahead on the Big Board of 1 st and 2nd place finishes, so I must be doing something right.

Anyway, much like a home game, a raise can mean anything, but a re-raise is something to pay attention to, especially when you know who is doing the re-raising. I look down at pocket Queens under the gun and raise to 3.5 times the big blind which is a huge raise in this game. I see weak player number one contemplating a call, when I say, "What are you doing? You don't want a lot of people in this hand. You should re-raise!" He stops for a second and says, "Okay. Re-raise!" He doubles my raise. Beware the min raise!

Now LAG in the next position (whose nickname is Hot Nuts) goes "All-in!" He could have any two cards at this point. He just hates when someone raises before it gets to him. I'm liking my chances at this point. But wait! The chaplain, sitting to my immediate right goes, "Okay, I'm all in, too." She such a nice girl, but so horrible at poker that you just can't believe. Her nickname is Queen High, because she won two tournaments with that same hand. She never goes all-in or re-raises without the nuts.

Well, shoot! What am I supposed to do with my Queens now, dammit? They hit the muck so fast it would make your head spin. Well, they should have hit the muck, but instead, I showed them to Ken Alphabet, which meant I had to show my laydown to everyone else, too.

Three all-ins:
Germ (the min re-raiser) – Pocket Aces
Hot Nuts – Ace 8 off-suit (?!)
Chaplain (AKA Queen High) – Pocket Kings

The Aces won the hand. My queens would have been junk. I'd like to say I went on to win it all after my great laydown, but I'd be lying. Still, it was one of the biggest preflop laydowns I've ever made. I just need to control my ego to the point where I don't need to show everyone. No need giving them additional information, right?

Of course, I'm giving it to you for free.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Flintstone Village

This has to be one of the most surreal things I've seen. I still can't get my mind around it. I've mentioned that crazy Saddam decided to build his own personal zoo. You'd think that was crazy enough, but apparently not. It turns out he was a fan of the Flintstones. Honest. Well, what's a crazy rich guy to do when it comes to giving a gift to his grandkids? Why he'll just built them an acre-sized playground of caves and tunnels so they can pretend they are in the Flintstones cartoon. This is just nuts.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Thank You

I just saw the picture of the guitar with all of your signatures. Sean , you did an amazing thing here. Thanks to all the bloggers for everything – for signing the guitar, for making me feel like I'm doing important work, for making The Wife feel welcome and for giving me something to look forward to - the next WPBT gathering.

So, from this lonely soldier to all of you I say, "thank you."

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Random Thoughts

First off, I'm loving the trip reports. Things here can get boring at times (although not tonight), so it great to read the stories. Keep 'em coming.

As I write this I am about 10 feet from a very dead bad guy. His limbs are most certainly pointing in the wrong direction. Just another day at the office.

Our hallways are decorated with greeting cards from literally thousands of folks back home who just wanted to send cards to deployed troops. My favorite is a bright blue card from a kid named Jimmy.

Jimmy writes, "I am very proud you are a soldier. I really like that you are keeping us safe. I hope you win so someday America can be free."

Monday, December 10, 2007

Trip Reports, Please!

Well, tales of Vegas debauchery are slowing starting to trickle in. It sounds like there was an incredible turn out and a final table of bloggerdom all-stars. Let's hear about it while it's still fresh, people!

Oh yeah, and someone had better explain what the hell the Rooster was doing kissing my wife. WTF?! Where were all her chaperones?!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

A Day that Will Live in Infamy

Besides being the anniversary of Pearl Harbor, it's also Hump Day for my deployment. That's right – I'm half-way done!

Good luck in Vegas, everyone. I'll be there in spirit.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Happy Chanukah!

Tonight is the first night of Chanukah and I just got off the phone with my very excited family. Before I left for Iraq, we purchased a Wii, and, rather than wait to the last night (the night we traditionally open the coolest present), my wife had them open it tonight.

While I'm talking with my wife on the phone, in the background I hear my oldest son teaching my youngest to play tennis. It must be a new kind of tennis because I can hear my 5 year old yelling, "Die, sucker. Die!"

Sad Day Today

I never claimed to be a great scribe. I'm jealous of those more eloquent than I , especially at times like these. You see, I lost my uncle today. He was a Great Man (capital letters intended). When I picture larger than life people, he's in that crowd. Everything about him was big – his waistline, his appetites, his lifestyle, his philosophies.

Here is an excerpt of what I wrote to my dad:

I can hear his laugh. He had a distinctive scraping noise he made in the back of his throat before laughing out loud. Big eyes. Big heart. Great laugh.
I will always picture him in the great recliner in his den in the house in White Plains watching the New York Giants on the big TV (before anyone else had a big TV).
I will always remember the engaging conversations about the market. He would get so excited that his words would sometimes not keep up with his thoughts. It was occasionally hard to follow him, but you could tell he was passionate and excited and since he felt it was important, you tried even harder to understand.

This is especially hard for me now. As most of you know, I am 8000 miles away in this God-forsaken desert of Iraq. If you know me well, you know how important family is to me. This is a time to be close to family, and I can't be there. It tears me up inside. I called, and that helped, but nothing beats a hug and a meal and listening to the stories that are being told in close quarters right now.

Rest in Peace, Unc. You earned it.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Carlos Mencia

Well, I took a break from strumming my new guitar (quite hard to leave it, actually) to go to a USO show. Our last show was Bret Michaels from Poison fame and it was very cool. This show had twice as many soldiers in the stands. It was an absolute nut house.

I got there about 2 ½ hours early due to a miscommunication with some friends. There was already about a hundred soldiers scooping up the good seats and I got one with a nice cushion. After a few minutes, a young soldier sat down next to me and we started chatting. He's Alabama National Guard and it's his job to guard convoys along the most dangerous road in the world. He has only been here two days and he already had to fire shots. He always provides security in the rear. Since convoys are slow, Iraqi motorists can get frustrated. Apparently, a man and woman in a car sped up along the shoulder in an ill-advised attempt to pass the convoy. He showed them his weapon. They kept coming. He took aim. Still they came. Finally, he fired into their engine. Smoke came up and the car trickled to a stop. Just another day in Iraq.

The concert was fantastic. Brad Williamson was his warm up. He's the dwarf that is usually on the show (Mind of Mencia). He had some really great stuff about being a little person and he talked about stereotypes and how he is perceived by kids and adults of different ethnicities. He had us all cracking up.

Carlos was his hysterical self. He mentioned that he hadn't been here before now because the "powers that be" asked him to tone down his show. He refused, so he didn't get to come. Finally, the powers relented and he agreed to come. There was no toning down in this show, believe me. We all had a great time, including Carlos. He stayed afterwards and signed autographs and chatted with literally hundreds of soldiers.

I was a fan before. I'm a huge fan now.