17 March 2007

Here we are

in lovely Jacksonville, North Carolina. My only visit here was long ago, and under training circumstances, so I never saw anything beyond Camp Geiger.

I wasn't missing much.

However, I did manage to find a hotel with a bar, so it's all good. Mr. Abby had a hard time finding the place at first last night, which led to an amusing exchange as some old drunk in the bar gave him directions via cellphone. This guy sounded like the North Carolina equivalent of Boomhauer (from King of the Hill).

There were baby Marines at the bar from the School of Infantry. I forgot how cute they are. Looking about 12 years old, with their brand-new "0311" tattoos and little Baby Marine haircuts. Love 'em. They get crusty as they get older, but when they're that young...you just want to rub their little naked heads and say "awww..."

OK. More later - perhaps with pictures.

16 March 2007

Greetings from South Carolina

Hey, y'awllll....

Getting ready to vacate a highly creepy hotel and hit the road again. It's icky, but it was cheap. We like cheap - leaves more money for beer and ammunition.

I did, however, have a fabulous shower. Shampoo and conditioner. T'was almost more than I could bear.

I've only got 300 miles to go today - painless. I think I'll see if this little craphole has a Waffle House (something tells me it does) for a coffee infusion before I hit the road.

Let me tell you a little something about this place. The second floor catwalk outside my room? Plywood. Painted gray. And warped. Good lord, I hate the south.

15 March 2007

Killin' Time

I've got about 45 minutes to kill before I take off with the Bad Dogs. After watching me load beds, toys and, most horrifyingly, their bowls, they're absolutely pinging off the walls.

I ran on base to pick up some paperwork for Mr. Abby. I then stopped at the exchange, because I needed a white shirt. Nothing fancy, just a plan white female shirt. Button down.

Good lord. Shopping at the exchange is always an experience. Some aren't even worth bothering with, but the one here occasionally has something cool. Not today, people. I'm an excessively normal size, so I was prepared to find they had white shirts in sizes mumu and toothpick, but not average.

I was not, however, prepared for them to have nothing even slightly resembling a normal white shirt. Oh, if I wanted trim, ruffles, beads, weird pleats, avante garde necklines or all of the above on one single atrocious garment, I was in luck. But a chick's white oxford? Or anything vaguely similar? Shit outta luck.

Oh well. You win some and you lose some at the exchange. I've found some of my favorite shirts there, but it's all luck as to what they stock and there appears to be no system to it. One trip they have fabulous Columbia women's shirts, then the next eight times...nada.

And hey - Filipino lady in front of me in the express lane? Yeah, I noticed you had like thirty items in your basket. In the ten-item lane. And that the equally Filipino checker lady chattered with you in Tagalog and let you through. I am on to you ladies - I am fully aware of the strangehold you've somehow gained on all AAFES and DECA activities. I can only eagerly wait for the day when I don't care anymore.

Do not think I'm kidding. There is a no-shit Filipina mafia in total control of all commissary and exchange activities on every military base everywhere in the world. The systems are ruled by a dead-end general, and the upper management is entirely composed of retired suply majors, but the facilities themselves are firmly in the hands of the Filipinas. Creepy.

Strippers and voting

This is a quick one - I'm running behind but you all deserved this one. One of our local strip clubs has decided to encourage voter participation by offering free entrance to anyone who shows up with an "I voted" sticker.

Good lord. Only in Florida.

It is, however, a $20 value, and the offer runs through the period of early voting as well. I just thought you all might want to know.

14 March 2007

"Real journalist" on Iraq

Via The Smallest Minority, we find two interviews with a UPI reporter who spent some time in Iraq.

There are two different video clips. The one on the bottom is shorter and from CNN, the one above is significantly longer. But you need to watch at least one of them. Go now.

Sonsabitches...evil Blogger

I had a nice post all ready for you that involved a nice tour through some state prison website. But Blogger ate it. Stupid Blogger.

So I said the hell with it. I've got a Dr. Pepper and a book. What is Abby reading these days?

Shake Hands with the Devil - The Failure of Humanity in Rwanda, by LTG (Ret) Romeo Dallaire. I've heard about it for months, and finally picked up a copy. I'm only about a hundred pages in, but it's shaping up to be interesting.

Rope. Tree. Assembly required.

The jury was out less than 90 minutes before deciding 10-2 to recommend death in the John Couey case.


There are those who don't like what the death penalty says about our society. When I look at this case and this crime, I am pleased that I live in a society which says this man is unfit to live, even in a cage.

Roll on, highway!

I'm hitting it again. Tomorrow I kick off another Road Trip, this time off to visit Mr. Abby. I'm not sure exactly when I've last driven 700 miles for sex, but hey. Like I have anything better to do.

However, this is not a trip I intend to take the Bad Dogs on. You get a hotel that will allow two dogs (one of them large and scary), and then you're stuck there. Mine love love love to bark bark bark, so it's a downer.

This mean I had to find a Dog Hotel. I know Mr. Abby boarded them a time or two while I was gone, but I've never done it here. Thank God for google...

Also, for once, thank God for Florida. People are almost universally nuts, but the nice thing about that is it encourages folks to open absurdly nice pet care facilities. Once you resign yourself to paying a little bit, there are plenty of options here.

I settled on Carter's Canine Condos. Yes - I am that person. It looked nice.

We'll see. We hit the road tomorrow afternoon and I'll drop them on my way out of town. The guy who runs the Dog Hotel sounds good - trustworthy, like one of those men who likes dogs far better than people.

The Bad Dogs aren't yet aware that the shit is on, and since I won't have to pack their things until morning, they won't have a clue. If they seems happy when I pick them up, it'll be a product endorsement.

Bonus points if you know the song from which I took the post title. Of course, if you do, it's stuck in your head already. Gotcha!

Story Time - The World's Greatest Flashlight

I'm not overwhelmingly into expensive shit. Oh, I like it, but quite often, the really pricey version is overkill.

But not always. This occured to me as I was rummaging around my Jeep the other night trying to find my keys. A Maglite would have been helpful.

But a Surefire A2 Aviator is better. This is mine.

Ladies and gentlemen, I own guns that cost less than this flashlight. Story time!

Once upon a time, Abby was at an awful little base in Iraq. I had a small Maglite that annoyed me. I was making plenty of money, and for once, my husband wasn't spending it all on truck accesories (he must have been overseas at that point).

One day, we loaded up the trucks and made a run up to Disneyland (Camp Liberty - where you don't have to wear your body armor everywhere!). Often, these trips involved spending time at the World's Most Evil Civil Affairs Battalion HQ, but they also always involved a PX run.

Now, we had a "PX" down at FOB Crappy, but it was:
A- rarely open
B- rarely stocked because trucks couldn't get through
C- rarely stocked with anything useful. Seriously - you couldn't get toothpaste there. Or shampoo. Or cigarettes. You could get Mach 3 razor blades, Cheezit (if you were one of the first four people there when a truck came in), and an issue of Cosmopolitan in Spanish. I shit you not.

So - the Camp Liberty PX was...amazing. It had...stuff. More than one flavor of soda. Folding chairs. Pillows. Steaks (this was the most amazing thing in the world and we fully took advantage of it).

Now, I don't know about anyone else, but when I was over there, I did not give a shit about money. $150 bucks at Amazon.com so I could read something decent? Sure! $125 on steaks so my tentmates and I could eat good meat? Sure - don't worry about paying me back! A lot of the other folks seemed the same way. We had enough, and damned if we weren't going to pay for anything that might make us smile.

They had a rack of Surefire flashlights. They had obviously been pawed through, and were all mixed up. Most of them seemed to cost about $70. Seemed reasonable. So I pawed through, too, until I found one with features I liked.

Tossed it in my basket. Got steak, toothpaste, cigarettes, lighter fluid, root beer, and six month-old magazines. Got in the World's Longest Checkout Line. Finally got to the counter...my total was like $300.

I paid it. Whatever. If it was wrong, I'd look when I got outside and go back in and get it adjusted.

Got outside, looked at the receipt. The damn flashlight was $149.99.

Now, I walked around in a daze for a significant portion of my time in Iraq. If I was not on mission and there was no immediate threat to my life, I just did not pay attention. So I shrugged. I felt a little sheepish, but I resolved to look up this flashlight on the internet at the first opportunity and see if AAFES had mischarged me.

Later that night, it was time to head out and send the evening SITREP. So I put on my armor and my helmet and grabbed a gun and the Flashlight.

I went out into the pitch black night. I pushed the tailcap a little. A nice, white glow. Not very bright, but even and easy on the eyes. Totally sufficient for reading or close-up work. I pushed harder. Holy crap! It was Super Beam! This is the xenon bulb. And it is amazing.

I sent my SITREP. Then, as was my habit, I trudged across the FOB to get to the internet trailer. At that point, we worked with an armor unit. There was a big open space in the middle of our FOB (there's a story behind that space, but it involves a fire and I'll tell it another time). Crossing the open space was the best way to get where I was going, but the armor unit persisted in changing out track on their vehicles all the time. In the open area. So there were always several lengths of tank track stretched out there.

People, if you have never stubbed your toe on tank track while wearing running shoes...well, it hurts. So I shot the area with Super Beam. And damned if I couldn't see all the way across. Clearly.

I got to the internet trailer and found that the A2 normally retails for $185-$195. Seems I got a pretty good deal. So I kept it.

I did make my tentmates join me outdoors several times to admire the beam. They thought this was weird until I finally confessed what I paid for it. Then they really made fun of me.

It is the World's Greatest Flashlight, folks. But it is also overkill. I recommend the G2 from Surefire. Even brighter (but without the lower-output LED option), much less expensive, and unless you plan on really beating your flashlight to shit, it should hold up almost as well. And if it doesn't? You can buy another one. You'd have to go through four and be on number five before I became more frugal.

But here's the confession. I love my A2. I love it so much that I want more insanely expensive flashlights. I need a G3. And an E2E. And a C3. It's like a sickness.

13 March 2007


I hate 'em. Not the little ones - I hate the big ones. The big, bright, clear, life-changing decisions. I hate the sound of a door closing, and the really big decisions always shut one.

I made a big one in 1996, when I was 17 and enlisted in the Marine Corps. It was my first grownup decision. Very nearly everyone in my life told me not to do it, for a multitude of reasons. I did it anyway, and remain convinced it was the best move I've ever made.

I left the Corps in '01. That was a coin toss. I knew if I walked away, I wouldn't go back. I loved the Marine Corps, but it drove me crazy. So I left. In hindsight? I'd still get out. I miss it, but many of the wonderful things since then wouldn't have happened if I'd stayed.

I got married in '01. That wasn't a decision that was hard, although perhaps it should have been. Who hasn't, at one point or another, thought it may have been better to stay entirely in charge of their own life? It ain't easy, but on balance, I married my best friend and it's been worth it.

Joined the Army Reserve in '03. Another one that nobody (with the exception of Mr. Abby) approved of. He wasn't nuts about the idea, but he knew what makes me tick, and so he had my back. The Army was insane. Some of the best moments and biggest headaches of my life. I'd do it again.

Left the Army a few months ago. I never did really feel like that was entirely my decision (since so many other people were emotionally involved - sometimes more than I was, it seemed), and so I just put off staying in. Looked at re-enlistment papers when I was overseas, thought about it real hard when I got back, and eventually just let the sand run out of the glass. Time will tell whether or not that was a good call.

Where are you going with this? you say. You're doing the long-into thing again.

Well, you remember that before we knew about Dallas, it was looking as though Mr. Abby was going to be sent somewhere truly awful. I mean, really really bad. Not so much for him, but suffice it to say my life would probably have consisted of working as a WalMart checker in a hellhole desert town.

I love my husband, but I've learned that we don't necessarily know how much time we have. And I realized that the hellhole move was going to break me, make me into someone I hated. I'm not nuts about me right now, but at least I feel like it's a temporary state. Even thinking about living like that made me cry. So I resolved that I wouldn't go. I started filling out job applications.

Then the Marine Corps changed its mind. Dallas, they said. I can work with that, I thought. Might be fun. Real town, real job options - it was something I could be enthused about.

So I was driving up to Georgia the other day, and my cell rang. It was the US Forest Service in Alaska, calling to offer me a job in my field on a small island in the Inside Passage. The money was good. Since I was a little kid, I've always dreamed about living up there.

Drove and sobbed, sobbed and drove. Got to Georgia, kicked things around with Cousin R. Argued both sides. Called Mr. Abby, sobbed some more, argued both sides.

Wouldn't have sobbed if I didn't already know what I was going to do. I mourn the decisions already made - those that are truly fully on the table merit study, not hysterics.

Called the Forest Service. Told them I appreciated their offer, but was going to go in another direction. To Texas.

There are no sure bets out there. Florida sounded like a good one, and it's turned out to be a big old shit sandwich that I only got to stop chewing on when I went to a war. If that's the high point of any three-year period, it's been a pretty shitful three years.

In the absence of sure bets, all we can do is try to make the decision that we really think is the right thing to do. Running away on a life that's not as much fun as I think it ought to be...well, at some point that might be the best thing to do. But not right now. Alaska isn't going anywhere.

So to Texas it is. And I'm happy about that. But damn -

All I can say is, Texas better be a real good time.

Being useful

I think I might be getting back to a normal sleep pattern. I was asleep well before 0200 and up at 0915. This is a good thing.

I ran a little while ago (short run). Alas, now that I'm recovered, and now that we've done the time change and there are four more hours of daylight, I can't think of any excuse not to de-poop the yard and mow it.


Today's other major accomplishment was the handwashing of several favorite articles of clothing, since I really don't want to waste time at the laundromat until it's desperately necessary.

OK. Off to deal with the yard.

12 March 2007

Did you know...

that it's possible to lose your keys in a Jeep Wrangler and spend an hour finding them?

Last night I stopped at a truck stop near Ocala. Fueled up, walked the Bad Dogs, locked them in and went into the store. Bought coffee and water, then returned to the Jeep. Unlocked the door, then did the part where I put my coffee in the holder and my candy on the dash, all while keeping Sparky from launching himself out the door or stepping in my coffee.

I watered the dogs, then was about to start the Jeep. Where were the keys? I looked on the dash where I often set them...nope. Must have put them on the driver's seat as I lunged in, so I opened the door and got out...-clink-...I heard them move. But I couldn't see them.

Looked on the floor. Looked under the seat. Looked under the seat covers. Unloaded the passenger side and looked there. Nope. At this point, Sparky was being less than helpful whenever I had a door open, so he got tied to the front bumper.

As I was beginning to get seriously concerned, I wedged my head under my seat to try to look at a different angle (with a flashlight in my mouth). Of course, I smacked my head against some part of the seat, and as I jerked back in pain, I saw them.

Did you know there's a little ledge where the bottom part of the door secures that blocks the view from above of about two inches of floor space? I did not know that. Now I do.

However, it made me happy that I always carry the World's Greatest Flashlight, which is a story of its own. I'll be back later with that one.

And YES- I did untie the yorkie from the bumper before I took off. Although, after all his hysteria, it was tempting not to.

11 March 2007

Best. Thing. Ever.

Ladies and Gentlemen, you know I feel no emotion nearly so keenly as I feel rage. Or possibly annoyance. But today on the drive home from Georgia, I encountered something so wonderful, something so purely good, that I spent the next three hours looking for someone to hug.

And the better you know me, the more shocking that idea is.

I was doing the transition from Georgia Highway 82 (which is also, at that point, Highway 520) to I75. The dogs were being hysterical, and I needed to gas up before I hit the big road. And I was hungry. Ahead on my right I saw a combination Shell/Wendy's. Bingo, I thought.

I pulled in, fueled up. Pulled around back to walk the Bad Dogs. What? What was I pulling up in front of? This.

Ladies and gentlemen, that is a well-built small dog park behind a gas station/fast food joint.

Now, I don't know how many of my readers travel with dogs. But if you do...you understand. If you travel with multiple dogs, you really really understand. This is amazing. And fabulous. And super. And great.

You can see that they provide poop bags and a trash receptacle. There's a sign on the entrance gate that points out that they have toys and bowls and treats indoors. The other sign has the standard dog park rules.

I admit to being a Bad Person and having some nice total stranger with a small dog of her own keep an eye on mine while I ran in and got water (for them) and a burger (for me). I did share the burger.

I can't imagine anything nicer for the traveling pet owner than if this idea caught on. I'd go. Now, there's nothing on any of the roads approaching here that TELLS you this is here, so it's a luck or word of mouth thing. But I cruise the interstates A LOT - and if places would put "dog park" on their billboards, I would stop and buy their gas. Even if I didn't have my dogs with me.

For your reference, this is the TIFTON, GA exit. Number 62. It's on the WEST SIDE of I75, and on the SOUTH side of Highway 82/520. That's Wendy's and Shell, if you want to share the idea with your local gas station person.


I'm so impressed that I shall now try to manipulate the post timing so this stays on top.