Saturday, September 08, 2007


Humidity is soaring here now... I don't know what the actual figure is, and I don't know how it could be more than 100 percent, but it has to be. It's not even that hot, but sitting in my room for any length of time results in my body pouring sweat. The air feels thick to breathe, and there's an oppressive closeness in the atmosphere that is impossible to escape.

So far, I've accomplished precious little since I've been home, and this god-awful humidity isn't helping at all.

Lately, my hopes of regular employment have been dashed. That's courtesy of the National Guard.

I reported to my unit, the 27th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, based on Hancock Field in Syracuse, last week. They were surprised to see me, and couldn't find hide nor hair of me in "The System" when they examined whatever strength roster that informs them of when new soldiers are due to arrive. But I produced my contract, discharge papers, and a whole sheaf of other identifying documents, and the strength NCO promised to look into the matter and contact me with further instructions.

In the meantime: "Go home, sit tight," he said.

Before I left the 27th's headquarters (which are squirreled away down a labyrinthine system of hallways and double doors, deep within the New York Guard's headquarters building), the headquarters company first sergeant got on the phone to tell me that he didn't want me at this weekend's drill, but that he did want me to show up next month -- for the annual two-week training period, to be held up north at Fort Drum.

Additionally, he said I could (and would) show up a couple days early for that, to earn the two-days' worth of active duty pay that I'll be missing this month. My job, the sergeants there in the personnel office conjectured, would probably be something like guarding weapons in the unit arms room, or helping load boxes to prepare for the brigade's impending deployment, scheduled for early next year.

It's not glamorous, but it's a small price to pay to keep the Golden Ticket I had written into my contract -- a 24-month stabilization guarantee, which means that when the 27th ships out, I'll be staying in New York and waving to the planes full of Real Soldiers as they take off for combat duty.

I'm sure I've mentioned my acute sense of cognitive dissonance at being called a "soldier" for the past several years. I've worn the uniform, qualified on rifle and PT, and carried out whatever orders I've been given by superiors. I've stood at attention and parade rest when necessary, saluted officers, and even carried unit flags or guidons when I've been required to. But the idea that "I am (or have been) a soldier" wasn't something I ever really actualized in my brain. Soldiers are people who go to war and shoot other soldiers. That was never something I was interested in, and it was never something I even came close to doing.

So when the rest of my guard unit leaves for The Sandbox (or the Theater, or the Quagmire, or whatever else you might call this current venture), I'm not going to feel as though I've shirked any responsibility or anything. I'm just a guy with a notepad and a camera who looks a little silly wearing camouflage.

What I meant to get at, before I launched off on that tangent, was that given the requirement for me to be at Fort Drum for the first few weeks of October, landing a job prior to that is basically impossible. I'm going to check in to doing some stringer work for the local paper, and maybe talk to a publisher I know up in Syracuse to see if he'd be interested in picking up another series of my columns. Having something specific to do would be a big help. As great as it sounds to have every day be Saturday, after a while you sort of lose any energy or motivation you had going in.

Also on the agenda, however, is to get enrolled in grad school. I'm planning on visiting my top choice on Monday, so we'll see how that pans out.

I've been losing weight, but very slowly, and it's not out of any effort taken on my part. That's another thing I've decided to change -- a workout regimen is a must, so I've decided to take up running again. Also, once I get back to town on Monday, I'm signing up for a kickboxing class... or something. Maybe some mixed-martial arts thing. I've never been a fighter, but I don't concentrate well during workouts, and I think having a training routine and concrete goals would help with that, too.

So yes, there are things I'm planning on getting done... things on the slate... I just have to start knocking them out.