I decided to try and not post about music or guitars for a little bit. However, there will be a short passage where I address a guitarist. It's inevitable as most of my memories involve guitars or music. At least, that's how I remember them.
I was deployed to Afghanistan from late 2002 to mid-2003. While there, I got to do a lot of cool stuff, see some truly beautiful sites juxtaposed against the worst kind of poverty and suffering you could imagine. I saw oppression, repression and potential salvation. It's a country of glimmering pessimism and long memories.
My office was located on Bagram Air Base. We put out the daily newspaper. Sounds like a lot, but really it was a newsletter, about 8 - 12 pages and we took Sundays off. So, as with anything, after you do it for a month or so, it becomes old. You get faster at it, and suddenly you have to find other ways to occupy your mind.
Most of us had planned ahead to some degree and being Public Affairs had its benefits. We had broadcasters in our shop which meant we had TVs as part of our deployable equipment. One of my soldiers brought his X box and that was constantly played. We had books galore and I brought a crappy Ibanez G10 with me to plunk occasionally. I had actually bought a cheap $99 Epiphone Les Paul Junior Special specifically for this reason but liked it so much I took the $300 Ibanez. Wouldn't have mattered, it survived the trip well and I wound up giving the guitar to my brother for his birthday upon my return (after buying a "welcome home" present for myself in the form of a new guitar).
One of the problems with having TV in a "war zone" is that you get a lot of people who meander into your office. Now, lots of folks had TVs in their tents and they were starting to run cable out to the tent area (Armed Forces Network ran a link to their channels to us). It made getting things done difficult sometimes. Other times, it was an interesting way to meet new people. Some of the folks who stopped by rather often were the Chaplains and their assistants. Neat people generally.
A particular assistant got me into Madman comics. For the life of me I can't remember his full name (not that I'd give it here), but I do remember some interesting facts about him. His middle name was Yngvie and as we were both musicians, the fact that he shared a name (only a letter difference) with the most egotistical guitarist on the planet made for some interesting conversations.
About the same time that we are hanging out, the story about Yngwie Malmsteen verbally assaulting a passenger on an airplane in 1988 came out on the internet and in Maxim magazine. So, of course, we cut the clipping from the magazine and gave it to the young sergeant. From then on, every time he came into the office, we were afraid that he might "Unleash the Fookin' Fury." Too funny.
The coolest thing ever about being deployed is this sense of benevolence you have about giving crap away. You finish a book, you give it to someone else. You finish a video game, you give it to someone else. He happened to have some copies of Madman comics with him. We had discussed how I was into comics growing up. Next time he stopped by the office, he brings me like five copies of these comics.
Cool and snappy. Created and drawn by Mike Allred. The artwork is throwback. It's the kind of artwork you find on a Cramps or Gore Gore Girls album. It evokes images of Betty Page and leopard-skin prints. Elvis and hula girls. Art deco and pop art. All wrapped in a neat Frankenstein meets Einstein tale.
So, Sgt. Yngvie would come by. We'd talk comics, Johnny Cash and other music. As much as you appreciate talking with folks who share your opinion, I believe the real reason he stopped by my office so often was the fact that my youngest, newest soldier was a 19-year-old, fresh-faced female private first class who joined us in Afghanistan after we'd been there about two months. Just out of training and into a war zone. Not the coolest introduction to the Army, but it was baptism by fire and she did a stellar job.
Not only that, but I had three other women in my office and another female soldier broadcaster who worked down the hall. My Major and I had our hands full trying to keep an eye and ear open to all the goings on. To be honest, after a month or so, I stopped caring whether or not they were actually doing anything and was just happy I hadn't heard anything. If they were discreet, I was happy.
So, now any time I think about Madman, I think of unleashing the "fookin'" fury, passing the time talking about the man in black, beautiful landscapes full of opium poppies and grappa with the Italian Army. The last two are just gonna have to be subjects for future posts.