Thursday, July 12, 2012

From Somewhere Else


I'd originally planned on leaving you a direct response to the post you'd made today, except it kept coming out pedantic and annoying.

About two years ago I found myself being forcibly deported to Afghanistan courtesy of the United States Government. This had more to do with the vagaries of being in the military and therefore obligated to follow orders versus visa requirements, but I digress.

While I was there, I was stationed on a small base some two hundred or so miles north of Kandahar, a very small town nestled at the base of some relatively spectacular mountains reminiscent of Taos or Santa Fe in New Mexico. The construction there was similar as well, a lot of squat brown adobe structures usually no more than a single story tall. I suppose if you were doing well, you might have a second floor. That's after you manage to purchase your own generator and a cellular phone.

We tried to avoid certain things there. Some of these things were relatively obvious, such as improvised explosive devices, machine gun nests, and the unexploded Soviet ordnance that still litters most of the countryside- not that the United States isn't helping with that problem (specifically increasing the amount of unexploded ordnance left about), but we are trying. Other things were not so obvious, such as watching the movie 'Moon' more than once. (Don't get me wrong- good movie. It just became a little too personal a little too quickly to be comfortable.)

I spent a lot of time there watching Afghans. Part of this was a professional hazard, since I am paid to do the mostly boring job of flying unmanned aerial vehicles and analyzing the videos that comes along with those sorts of things. I spent countless hours staring into a screen waiting for something to happen for ten or fifteen seconds, hunched over in the back of a semi-armored HMMVW festooned with antennae, brushing the occasional mote of dust off of the controls while being dressed up like Robocop and making the mother of all useless documentaries.

Later, when it got quiet, I'd steal out for a cigarette and try to listen to the sound of Earth moving through her orbit at 67,000 miles an hour. If I listened hard enough, there would be the low hum of my mother-in-law's air conditioning cycling over in Koenji (a neighborhood in Tokyo), pushing a faint scent of yakitori from the mom-and-pop place next door into the living room. One of my friends (also once stationed in Japan) and I would crack open the last two cans of Boss Coffee, clink them together, and try to imagine being in a place less fucked up than a night soaked hilltop surrounded by people that would rather see you dead than alive. I would secretly wish that I'd just gone to art school, that I'd rather be in Tokyo shooting pictures of nothing and one of these days perchance wind up on Tokyo Camera Style. I'd rather be stuck on the 405 again, having the side of my head tuned up by my obnoxious nephew in the back seat who has been armed by my oh-so-brilliant brother with a whiffle ball bat.

None of this happened, however.

And six months later I stood on frost hardened grass in front of a granite marker and said goodbye to my friend by photographing him one last time.

I'm tempted to blow sunshine up your ass right now and tell you that you're published, you've shown, and your shit is pretty solid, but I don't think that's going to help. We all make bad decisions, we all deal with the lives we have. I wasn't mature enough to finish school, figured that out before the money ran dry, and walked into a recruiting station because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

But keep in mind that there are those of us out here who read what you have to say, live vicariously through your imagery, and find peace in them when it is in short supply elsewhere. Trust me, there are far more fucked up places on this planet to be pondering your life than a park in Tokyo. So yay, you're back. Please continue to tell us everything.


P.S. - I don't know why, but the umbrella series you posted today reminded me of something I snapped out of a window right after arriving in Afghanistan.

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