Monday, January 29, 2007

The best thing I got out of 3 years of blogging?

is my wonderful wife

Three years of blogging part two

It’s been three years today (well in 2 hours) since I started this blog.

I left off part one with our somewhat explosive arrival to Iraq. The helicopter unit I flew with, our main mission was transporting troops and doing CASEVAC which is short hand for casualty evacuation. We were the basic air ambulances, during coverage, we would either be close to the site of the battle or flying around waiting for the call. My job for 90 percent of the time is waiting like a lump in the back for the shit to hit the fan and. It’s not fun ground turning for a couple of hours in a hot helicopter in the middle of the summer, let me tell you. The rules since have changed so I can write all I want about outdated techniques.

My first mission was a milk run, transporting from our base to the “CASH” or Combat Support Hospital in Baghdad. This was about a week after we got there and my first flight in country. We were flying along looking at the sights of the Baghdad night and tracers started flying by the window! We did a bit of banking and turning and continued on. Sheesh! Was this how every flight was going to be?

Up ahead we saw the landing pad (which was really just a parking lot) and as we were pulling in an RPG flew by us and exploded to one side! And suddenly we were sideways doing a sharp flying turn between two tall buildings and then circled around and landed. I had no idea what was going on in the cockpit, I wasn’t on ICS that night. We landed, off loaded our patient and were in the air in under a minute.

The flight back was smooth and I saw my first Iraqi sunrise flying, the air seemed a little sweeter because I was still alive.

All of the flights after that one mixed into one other unless something went wrong, helicopter almost taking off without me, aircraft breaking down in some strange place, having more patients then you have hands, you know those sorts of thing. Most of my groundside time was spent reading, taking pictures, taking care of minor medical needs and blogging.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Dinner date with a fellow blogger

We made a road trip up to Anaheim this weekend to visit my wife’s grandmother and have a dinner date with Tammi from Tammi’s World. We drove up to Whittier on Saturday to have lunch with her grandmother and talk her into babysitting the dog while we went out (it’s like having a kid all over again).

Grandma Lois was a little worried that I was running off to have dinner with some woman I’d met on the internet. She really doesn’t know much about blogging so Heather and I both reassured her and off we went.

Tammi is doing a show at the convention center down in Anaheim and after a few wrong turns, arrived to find her waiting at the curb in front of her hotel. I had googled restaurants in the area and there was literally dozens, so instead of making plans, we waited for a restaurant to jump out at us. The first Buco de Beppo had a waiting list of an hour and 45 minutes. The next set didn’t have a single empty parking slot so we drove further away from the lights of Disneyland and found a little Italian hole in the wall with Chinese waitresses. It was a little strange but the food was good.

Tammi was just like she reads, very down to earth and friendly. We talked about blogging cliques that we’re members of and how everybody in the blogosphere seems to flow back into the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. Tammi more so then any other blogger fits into the same niche that I do as far as making travel plans with meeting up with blogging buddies as we go. Whether business or pleasure, we’re always meeting new people.

Dinner was pure pleasure, to finally attach a face and a 6’ 2” body along with the words I’ve been reading for years. Conversation flowed, helped along by a rather large pitcher of beer Tammi and I split. I have decided I want her job when I grow up, going all over the place pitching ideas and products and meeting bloggers? How can you go wrong. Thanks for the dinner, next one is on me and I look forward to seeing you at the Milblog Convention.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I was a gear head

Between my two enlistments in the Navy as a Hospital Corpsman, I was a grease monkey. I did what many of these young guys do, get out and find a real job in the civilian world and in many respects I was doing alright for myself. That is until 9/11.

Suddenly the rose colored glasses I had been wearing were violently ripped from my head and I realized that my true talents were being put to waste and in reality? I wasn’t that happy, I didn’t have a great love at the time, there wasn’t anything to hold me down. Two weeks later, I was back in San Diego and getting ready for military life once again.

One good thing I got out of my foray into the mechanical field was a kick ass tool box and now for the first time, I have a garage that can hold both it and the great beast.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Three years of blogging part one

Almost three years ago, I carved a little chunk out of the internet which I dubbed Doc in the Box. I chose that name because I was talking to one of my doctors about what he was going to do after demobilizing and he said “I’ll work part time as a doc in the box at one of the local hospitals”, doc in the box meaning that he’s going to fill one of the doctor jobs as sort of a temp service. And the name stuck in my head, when I was getting ready for my first trip to Iraq, the name picked up a different definition, Marines call all of their Corpsman “Doc” and since I was heading to the great sandbox. The name took on a more intimate meaning.

So off I was on my first adventure, on one hand writing about the journey here and at the same time documenting everything through photography on my fotopage. We flew to Kuwait, without a clue about what we were getting into, even the old guys in the squadron were fresh faced, none of us had faced war nor taken another mans life. . Our Sergeant Major was telling us all daily that some of us weren’t going to make it back (one thing I was glad to prove him wrong, otherwise he was a pretty cool guy).

Our helicopters were wrapped in shrink wrap and had been shipped around the around the world, now we had to unpack them, drop in some blades and get them flight worthy enough to fly north to our regular base. Doing that process safely took 3 weeks, 3 weeks that the rest of us non mech flying types spent cleaning weapons, sharpening knives, emailing back home walking back and forth across the base making sure that every item we owned had a nice coating of fresh Arabic sand. For some of us (not me) the waiting was the hardest part.

Finally the day arrived when our helicopters were all up to specs and flight worthy. I actually had the choice of flying in out in our helicopters or taking a C130 (get real, those aircraft we in many small pieces just weeks before!) So off to Iraq we went. The C130 pulled right into the area we were going to be spending the next 2 months living in these huge circus tents next to a bunch of Constantia wire. We dropped off our bags and went into the welcome aboard brief where a friendly sounding SSgt, told us about how life was at Al Asad and he said quote, “We wear soft covers everywhere here on base, you only need your body armor if you leave the base, are riding in a tactical vehicle or fly. We never get hit here”.

Famous last words, an hour later, we were setting up our racks and I was taking a smoke breaking outside and all of the sudden “BOOM!!!! BOOM!!!! BOOOOMM!!!!!” Explosions were going on all over the place, people were running around in the dark, tripping over that Constantia wire which was conveniently placed every place we were trying to run to for cover.

Damn, we couldn’t use lights and most of the lights had been turned off so they wouldn’t be targeted (we didn’t know that the rockets were being shot from miles and miles anything that they did hit was just luck). I happened to run into one of the welcome aboard guys and asked him where we were supposed to go, he just looked at me in a panicky way and ran off into the darkness. I head SgtMaj yelling in the tents “GET YOUR SHIT TOGETHER AND MEET AT THE COC!!!” What the hell is a COC? I gathered with the now not smoking crowd and we headed over to the closest concrete building which just happened to be the COC. Where the rest of the squadron was now gathering, it was almost standing room only.

After a few minutes there, I was heading out on a patrol with a group of Marines. All of our weapons were locked and loaded (it’s a minor miracle that no one shot themselves in the foot). One of the rounds had landed close to the aircraft on the flight line and the mechs working on it hadn’t made it back in and a Corpsman could come in handy if someone was injured. After jumping at sounds and a walk search through the aircraft without finding anybody or damage, we beat feet back to the COC to find the mechs had passed us in the darkness and were already there.

Other then a few injured minor injuries from Constantia wire (yes, I was one of them) and sprained ankle, everyone was okay, just a bit jarred. We set up positions around the unit and spent the rest of the night on watch. Dawn came soon and we heard of one guy down in the main camp who wasn’t so lucky. The strange thing is, he was one of the few people on base who was actually wearing his body armor. He was in a 5 ton tactical vehicle (you’re required to wear body armor and Kevlar riding in any tactical vehicle) that was parked and the round hit the middle of the road.

Ahh, welcome to Iraq…

Part two coming soon.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Del Mar’s Dog Beach

Today we discovered a new dog beach in Del Mar, I’m probably letting out a big secret but the way you get down there is turn off of the 5 freeway on Via de la Valle road toward the ocean, keep going till you hit Camino Del Mar and make a left and the beach is on the right hand side a few hundred feet after the turn. There’s parking right there but it’s 2 bucks an hour and that’s craziness. So instead drive across the bridge and park on the side of the road where it’s free. There’s two reasons for do this, one it’s free and the other is that it will give your dog a chance to dry off before getting in your car.

Of course being the photo geek that I am, I’ve posted pictures on my fotopage. Nice beach, Gatsby had a great time and it’s tremendously funny watching him jump off rocks only to find out the water on the other side was deep. Heh.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

A fine start to the morning

I drive a huge ugly peeling diesel suburban who is in serious need of some loving care of which I plan on providing in the near future but need to wait till the time comes along. I know she’s old and a bit battered but she’s one of the most comfortable vehicles I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning.

This morning, I was minding my business driving to work and pull up to the front gate and the Marine guard there says “Good morning Doc, looks like you could use a new car”. A complete stranger! Talk about having to eat a serving of humble pie. Sigh!

I’ve switched units so I’m working with a bunch of new faces, new challenges, so far so good. I miss the old crew but I like the change of pace.

I posted a video that my old Doc made of flying around Iraq, good stuff!

Monday, January 15, 2007

Pan’s Labyrinth

The bright haired bride and I made a trip to Landmark Hillcrest cinema (local place that shows independent movies) to finally watch Pan’s Labyrinth. The regular movie theatres have dropped the ball on this one by not showing the movie. We were lucky to just find seats next to each other, there was a line going around the block.

So we settled into our seats seconds before the movie started and fell into the 1940’s Spanish civil war, a period of history I had little idea about. The story main character is Ofelia, a young lover of fairytales whose mother remarries Captain Vidal and they are both summoned out to a military outpost where he’s charged with putting down the rebellion in his area. On the way out to the outpost, her heavily pregnant mother asks the convoy to stop because she’s getting motion sick and Ofelia steps out and finds a rock in the middle of the road and turns it over to find it’s an eye of a statue and by seeming instinct walks to the side of a road and puts the eye back in the hole of a hidden statue.

Suddenly the movie takes on a surreal fairytale undertone that underlines the stark real life of living in the midst of a civil war. The plot is tightly drawn in both the war story and the fairytale side, it doesn’t over reach itself yet it does shock you, some parts had my wife cowering against my arm.

This isn’t your kid’s fantasy, that is if you don’t want them to go to bed with nightmares. It’s stark and new and compared to the fantasies I’ve seen over the past couple of years, this fantasy will brush away all of the cobwebs that one gets from gathering all of the plot holes in your head that you get from watching most of the fantasies that have came out over the past few years (except for the Lord of the Rings, that doesn’t count).

Hopefully it comes to your town soon.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

This is something that will never happen to a single guy.

My wife was taking a shower last night when a Costco sized bottle of shampoo fell from a fall of 6 or so feet and landed on her foot (this is not something which would ever happen to a single guy, they would never buy a monster sized bottle of shampoo, not only are they dangerous it would take years to use and if you happen to find one in the shower of a single military guy, it means he has a girlfriend who takes showers there and if you’re his girlfriend and it’s not yours, well…). She yelled and I rushed in to rescue her, got her out of the shower then had to put her back in to condition her hair. Being the medical fellow that I am, I examined the injury and decided it could go either direction. Its a type of injury which does cause quite a few fractures (not from shampoo bottles, usually weights or tools dropped on the foot). So it would be best if I brought her to the ER at Balboa.

The friendly medical staff x-rayed it and pronounced her bone unbroken. Just soft tissue damage, we were out of there in 2 hours with a set of crutches (new record). Perhaps they know that I’m publishing reviews of their services online and recognized the florescent locks of my brides hair?

Anyhow, today is going to be a lazy Saturday, hanging out and doing the final touches on the house.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Does L.E. Modesitt’s writing stick to anyone else’s brain like glue?

I started reading Mr Modesitt’s work in the early eighties with The Fires of Paratime (which I bought a decade later labeled as The Timegod, I still own that copy of The Fires of Paratime). I’ve found over time that I’ve been able to fall back into reading any of his books, years later. Open just about any of his stories to any page and it’s like falling back into wherever he wants to send you. There are other individual books that I can do that with, Ender’s Game by OSC, Boy’s Life by Robert McCammon but the only authors who have been able to hook me with consistently with just about anything they write are Mr Modesitt, David Gemmel (deceased), Robert Jordan (yes but he uses evil cliff hangers and with his illness could disenchant millions of readers away from epic fantasy), Steven Brust and Neil Gaiman.

All of you have learned the secret cadence of words that sink into the brain like stones and eventually make the reader look out at the world through the eyes of their characters.

Thank you Mr Modesitt, your books have brought me many years counted down by hours of joy to my life. When I was in the middle of a war zone, I could open one of your books and be transported away and your books have more bang for the buck, I could be stuck someplace and just keep re-reading with out it growing old. You let your writing speak for it’s self, you don’t entice people to come back with cliffhangers (like that RJ fellow), any one of your books stand and can hold themselves up without the rest of the series, reading the other books just adds to the colorful tapestry that you paint in our heads. You don’t leave your fans hanging.

As a current squid to an ex squid, thank you.