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I've found a new love in my life.

I've found some new love in my life!! And its called Classic Rock.   I was in Times Square last week covering a wounded warrior who was invited to participate in "the Rock and Roll Fantasy Camp."  A nine thousand dollar week long jam session with some notable Rock Gods.  I came with the intention of telling the story of this Soldier and in the end I ended up learning so much more...

First it started off with hearing Mountain's "Mississippi Queen" for the first time.  My god!  That song is almost 40 years old and  it pulled and  tugged at every angsty chord I have.   For us  90s kids its like hearing  "Cherub Rock" for the first time.   Just so much fucking power.  I got to talk with Corky Laing the drummer who co-wrote the song and he's just such a physical guy on his kit.  I can't imagine what Peart is like in person because Corky just sounds massive. 

Then there is Leslie West, the lead singer/guitarist of Mountain.  At first, and I'm sure I'm not the first, I was judgemental in West appearnce.  He has this Andy Warhal kind of aura about him.  Made me think of body painting and brie.  So at first he goes and dedicates a solo song to the troops.  It was Bob Dylan's "Blowing in the Wind." um... yeah. When he opened his mouth it was like Thor's Hammer striking the Earth.  I mean it was just fucking massive.  I couldn't do anything but just be captivated from there on out.

One day I had finished interviewing Paul Stanley of KISS and was sticking around for the late-night jam sessions.  Mark Farner of Grand Funk Railroad is up there and he's playing another song I've never heard, "I'm your Captain."  He goes into the chorus of "I"m getting closer to my home."  and I am floored.  He's played this song probably every night since before I was born and man, it still had so much... soul.  I mean how lucky can you be to pluck a song like that out of thin air and hold it close to you for years and years.  I mean Vanilla Ice has to "stop collaborate and listen."  And EMF has to suffer through long nights of "Unbelievable."  But the connection and warmth of Farmer's delivery just had me jealous as hell...

Then there was Glen Hughes of Deep Purple.  When we talked he kept saying he needed 8 hours of sleep to maintain his voice.  At first it I thought he sounded like he smoked too much.  I mean while in conversation.  On the final night, he got up on stage and I became a true believer.  I guess, Stevie Wonder once said Hughes is his favorite white singer.  I mean here is a Britt with the full accent, just destroying "Superstitious"  I didn't get the full song list but his voice could only be described as Rock God.

Classic Rock was never my Genre.  Never the thing I could fall in love with but Damn I am a true beliver!

It was a good trip.  In my quest for "Good TV" I found myself talking to the camera, being held down in a choke hold and eventually tazered.  My shooting partner looked at me like I was crazy, but once the idea inched its way into my little pea pod there was no way I'd not get stun gunned.

Unfortunatly, Benning greeted us with the hottest week in five years.  Shooting seven stories in five days with a heat index of 110 about beat the stuffings out of me.  I haven't sweat like that since Iraq.  But was impressed with how we worked as a team.  I was the big idea guy and he usually smoothed out the finer details.  Except for two stories believe we really raised the bar in how our community should shoot stories.  We got working interviews, interactive stand ups, really nice rack focuses, honest interviews, set up surprises, interesting interview shots,  intriguing opening shots, used fast shutter speeds and of course, I got my ass screaming on camera.

Some things I'm still missing as a producer/shooter.  I'm still impatient and I still rush when the time comes.  For instance, we were shooting interviews at the Ranger Memorial. Its interesting because it centers around a huuuge Bayonet and the outside ring has a big Ranger sign.  Okay we'll shoot our guy, then his wife.  I decided to shoot the guy in the foreground of the Ranger tab but use a shallow depth of field so the ranger tab was blurred in the background.  It looked kind of interesting, we used a reflector to pop the backlit sun on his face.  Truth be told that was one shot that ended up looking like ass.  It was a hundred degrees out there, this guy was standing up getting blasted with a reflector and his wife was on the side kind of uncomfortable with the whole thing.  Now whats the lesson.  The "professional" guys who shot the same couple after us took the couple into the shade, sat them on a bench.  I'm sure their shot was pretty standard but I'm sure what they got out of the interview was a world away in terms of them being comfortable and at ease.  Which is important when your trying to tell a Soldier's story.

So note to self:  Subject first Composition second

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Day 4

15 Apr 03

What is it w/ these rain showers?  Its not suppose to rain like this.

Weiss had his child today.  Good for him.  Wish things were cooler w/ us but oh well... I don't regret anything.
Played Spades today and got whupped.  Cold, tired and sick.  When I woke up thought someone slapped me with some bricks. Saw a picture of a beautiful woman in a magazine and someone said it looked like Stacy.  I smiled and said, "yeah, it does doesn't it?"
Need to shower tomorrow.

Things to Remember:  The way I feel right now:  Kinda useless.

Day 3

14 Apr 03

Went to the Ziggurat of Urr.  I guess the story is 4,000 B.C. King Abraham told his wife or his wife told him that she didn't want to live in the desert.  That she desired the mountains of Northern Iraq.  Well the king replied that he'd bring the mountains to her.  So he built the Ziggurat for her.  It use to stand much taller than it is now and 4,000 B.C. the miracle was it had running water at the top.

Anyway its only a mile away and its like a very different world.  A world of temples and goddesses.  Also witnessed a turkey slaugther.  (Leaving the tent) I look up and the Civil Affairs guys are holding up what looked like a huge bleeding vulture.  Seems they bought a turkey for seventeen bucks.  Remember steaming hot water lets you pull off the feathers quick.  They offered some but I have three days of crap in me and I'd like to have choice of when I let it go.  

Things to Remember:  How tall the steps to the Ziggurat steps were.  How the translaters eyes looked when he described Saddam's daily executions and the way his eyes looked when he said, "Killer."

Day 2

13 Apr 2003

Went to Al-Nasariya today.  Its not exactly paradise.  It looks like the lot between two old buildings where a building once stood, except its a whole city.  Its broken glass and rubble and trash and people looking like a suzanne somers infomercial.  Donkeys and horses pulling Amish carts with wheels that might as well be made of stone.
There was a joy as we approached but in the eyes of a few, those dangerous few there were hard stares (of defeat?)  1SG got himself what a few months ago would have equaled a million dollars of dinar.  Hendrix got his son an Iraqi uniform.  I got a weapon that wouldn't chamber a round and theres no frustration like that frustration.
I'm tired and beat and no shower today. 
Oh yeah, I'm in Iraq.
Thats in the Middle East.
That's 6000 miles from Stacy.
And why does it feel like home?


Things to Remember:
The old do-wop playing as we drove from Al-Nasariyah (R-E-S-P-E-C-T, gimme some loving) and w/ the overcast skies I thought I was in Vietnam or Forrest Gump.  Also the steak the night of the war.  That T-bone was that good.

Day 1

12 APR 2001

    Things are different than Camp Virginia.  One, this is Iraq.  Two, we now have officers :(  Three, there are no phones.   The town of  Safwan had the air of a movie: "This is not reality"  The kids kind of scared me.  I have three Soldiers who are out for the count.  Its funny how these are the ones who don't ever go to the gym.  Had "physical contact" with a Soldier today.  Officer said I made a fool of myself.  One point not to be forgotten is that he was not there.  If I see a Soldier ever dare get violent w/ one of my Soldiers, especially my females... Just like my wife, I would protect them with all I got.

    Hopefully, one day someone would do the same for me.  Could be dangerous though.  Think that is going to hurt me in the end.  Oh well, what can a boy do?

Things to remember:  Children in the streets of Safwan waving Iraqi money at us (w/ Saddams picture smiling back no less.)  Grabbing the air and putting their hands to their mouths... Burned tanks and semis next to the roads.
And that NCO's are professionals.  Wish I could remember that sometimes.

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The Iraq Diary: Getting back to my roots

I'm going to get back to the root of who I am:  A man who loves to write.

And I'm going to rediscover my love by revisiting an old journal.  The one I started the day I entered Iraq back in '03.  The writing is simple and easy.  I only had a chance to whip it out late at night as I was about to try and sleep.  At that point I was often exhausted and in some crappy cramped place.  Most of my writing won't make sense to you.  I just wanted to jot down a few triggers about images and feelings I didn't want to forget. 

The journal was a simple black journal about eight-inches long and five-inches wide.  It was given to me by my wife because she knew it was just perfect.

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RTNDAF

So I won a fellowship recently, the Radio-Television News Directors Association & Foundations Vada and Barney Oldfield National Security Reporting Fellowship.  I'm excited I just like having my work seen and critiqued.  Winning money and trips to Vegas are good perks too.  Everyone at work says I should use things like this to help me get a job when I leave the Army next summer.  The big thing is I really don't know how...

I have friends who will make their money by being a good networker.  They will simply talk their way into six figure jobs.  And honestly the ones I'm talking about are not ass kissers, they are just good people.  The kind of people you want around you on a daily basis.  For laughter and perspective and spilling the beans to. 

I'm not one of those people...  on first impressions anyways.

I'm socially awkward and have no idea how to entertain.  I can imagine the first impressions I've given over the years:

What the hell is this guy saying?  That he has a third nipple? 
This is the most foul-mouthed Filipino I've ever met, why is he sweating so much?
Are you going to let me talk?
If I hear, 'this one time in Iraq.' one more fucking time...
Why won't he look me in the eyes, he keeps staring off into space.
Yeah, that story about the drunk screaming at the girls behind their backs at the deaf school's happy hour- totally not funny.
Please stop with the ca ca stories.
I don't remember bringing up nipples.

That's probably the one thing that scares me the most out of being a future small business owner:  I have to sell myself and I'm not really sure how. I've always enjoyed the Tao part of the Army.  If you choose to you can just be.  If you want to kiss ass you can kiss ass.  If you don't want to you don't have to.   You can work hard or you can just  sort of attend.  Either way you know exactly how much your getting paid and you know you have a job.

How the hell do I take advantage of winning this thing... 

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Bunny Cowboy

vertigo

so my shoulder pops out of joint occassionally.  I can do my push ups at a fast rate but if I move my arm a certain way, my shoulder dislocates my arm goes numb I scream out in pain and kind of pop my shoulder back into place.  Reaching for the alarm clock is one of the movements, so my wife has woken up to me screaming hatekilldestroy numerous times over the last couple years.

Ok, so I discover I have a torn rotater cuff.  After six months of missed appointments and various excuses I get an M.R.I. thursday around midnight.  The M.R.I. is one of the surrealist things I've experienced in my life.  I felt like I was being baked in an egg shell white cocoon for 50 minutes.  The contraster they injected me with seemed simple enough, a dye that will let my circulatory system visually pop on the scans.

I get home around three that morning, intent to get to work on time because I have a story to edit.

Alarm clock rings at seven...  I feel fine...  Get up to take a shower and all of a sudden the world is spinning like its the day after prom.  I'm yacking, running into walls and can't tell where up and down is.

What the fuck is this?

It's saturday afternoon.  I still can't walk around with out the vertigo.  This is not right.