They call Balad “Mortar-ritaville” because here we basically get hit with mortars on a constant basis. At least, that’s the contention of everyone at the various gift shops, where you can buy all sorts of “Mortar-ritaville” paraphernalia, including some featuring Elmer Fudd and Kenny from “South Park.” All we need is a picture of Calvin pissing on Saddam Hussein and I’ll really feel great.
My feelings on the fetishization/commercialization/de-seriousness-ization of war notwithstanding, the word ‘round these parts is that we should expect some fireworks. As I mentioned, a mortar attack sounds like a very distant and sparse thunderstorm, and we’ve been informed that the festivities are strictly for our amusement, since none of them ever get anywhere near where we actually, physically are at any given moment. Also, um, we’ve got the Army in between us and the bad guys. Still, there are signs everywhere telling us about what to do in the event of a warning siren – namely, dive into one of the conveniently located bunkers, the nearest of which at this moment features a little park bench in case the yellow alert takes a while to clear. This morning, someone had left the comics page there.
I also saw these cool birds.
Anyway, I woke up this morning in Baghdad, packed, and checked out of the palace, but made time to go fishing first. As I mentioned yesterday, there’s a man-made lake in back of the palace, complete with man-made fishing. That’s how I got what might be, thus far, my favorite picture of the entire trip.
That would be Sar’n Arvin and our new friend, whom I won’t name, since we did sort of consign him to an early and unpleasant death. And when I say “we,” of course, I mean Sar’n Arvin – I’m a terrible fisherman, although I did almost catch a seagull. But Sar’n Arvin had the hang of it, baiting the hook with the fish’s favorite food (breakfast burrito), and almost immediately, we had a catch.
I do wish I’d been at the reel when we got it, but I’m very pleased to have caught a fish out of Saddam’s lake. By the way, you’ll notice Sar’n Arvin dropping it into a cooler – when he catches them, he gives them to local Iraqis, who, and I kinda like this, get to eat Saddam’s fish for breakfast.
So, that was it for Baghdad. I haven’t really spent enough time in Balad to get a feel for the place, as I spent much of the afternoon wandering around the local on-base bazaar (“local” relics with “Made in Thailand” stickers interposed with bootleg electronics, for the most part, although I found a few things for other Barrs) and watching old episodes of “The West Wing” on the TV in my room. Not bad for a war zone.
The shows keep getting better and better. (It can be a little hard to remember this, given how small a role I play in the actual production of the show every night, but the reason we’re here is to do these shows [okay, the real reason we’re here is to let the soldiers look at some hot chicks].) In particular, I’ve been kind of surprised by how much I’ve grown to like Darryl Worley and Mark Wills’s music.
I’m no fan of country music, although, like most indie kids, I profess to really appreciate Johnny Cash. I actually like a lot of older country, again like most indie kids. But I can’t really get into the faux-twangy Kenny Chesney bullshit that passes for country music these days. Sticking a cowboy hat on your head doesn’t make you not from L.A. And it’s kind of tough to discern authenticity from posture.
I still probably think all that’s probably true, but I do like the songs these guys are playing. And just because they’re pretty heartfelt and emotionally bare, the choking-up factor is a 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. Go download “Take It All Out On Me” by Mark Wills and see if you don’t agree. Although I’m hearing it live with the Army band.
And, yes, these are really good guys.
I’m hoping I’ll be able to post some over the next few days, but there don’t appear to be many more stops in my immediate future with guaranteed Internet access. So, I’ll try to write a lot in between and put up several posts at once when I get the chance.
Oh, and it’s strange, but the end of this tour is really sneaking up on me. Tomorrow is Thursday. Then comes Friday. Then comes Saturday, and after Saturday night’s show, I get on the big plane again. So I’m hoping to see everybody, but probably not until after I’ve had 48 hours of sleep.