Friday, August 14, 2009's hard work

Well, this is dangerous. I’m starting the entry without a single specific topic in mind, but as nothing keeps threatening to happen, if I just wait for actual events to report I’ll never set fingers to keyboard again. So…it’s been a quiet week at Camp Lemonnier, out here on the edge of Africa...

The big event so far was the visit, this past Tuesday, of a troupe of comedians. As it turned out, these folks hopped on a plane in LA and flew straight (or as straight as one can fly) to Djibouti. I guess we were the first stop on their tour of the military bases in the region. I hope they have a bit better luck at their next stops, for while they made it here a few hours before they were due to go on, their bags never did. Thus they found themselves, deep in the insidious grip of jet lag, clad in what they could find off the rack in our tiny exchange, and on a large, bare stage in an echo-prone barn of a building, trying to make people laugh. The performances were a bit uneven - predictably I guess.

It made me think a little bit about the phenomenon of stand-up comedy. Anyone who has ever told a joke and made people laugh must have a little taste of what it would be like to, by the mere force of your words and gestures, make an entire roomful of people laugh. It must be a tremendous high: you establish a connection in real time with people who, helplessly as it seems, reward you again and again with the audible evidence of their approbation – unforced laughter. Anyone - say a diminutive, bookish, socially maladroit future anesthesiologist - who ever coped in school by occasionally playing the clown must at least speculate about living that life. Much as other folk ponder how their life might have turned out if they’d just stuck with those guitar lessons and gone on to be a member of U-2.

On the other hand, have you ever had the excruciating experience of being at a stand up comedy performance wherein the performer and the audience just don’t connect? Where bit after bit is followed by silence, the shuffling of chairs and not so furtive glances at watches? It is for me one of the most exquisitely painful forms of social collapse to watch – indeed I’ll often literally avert my gaze like some might from a gory accident. It is so absolutely naked – a plea for acknowledgement and its stony-faced denial. Well, without being critical, and without ascribing blame to either performers or audience for their poor relationship, let me just say that I spent a lot of time with gaze averted Tuesday night.

I had the chance to see the performers – two women and one guy – as they toured the EMF the next morning. We were on our way to Peltier for what would prove a challenging day of anesthesia, so I just had moment to dash over, shake hands and thank them all for coming. Off stage they were sweet young people, who were doing what it was that they could to make this little part of this long, long struggle a little better for the folks involved. We’re all brave in our own way I guess, as providence grants us the scope to be brave. I was proud of them.

Not much else of note. We’ll have another pizza night and screen Godfather II this weekend, and with some luck I might get back to the beach although there are no concrete plans. Skype has been spotty these past weeks, which some are attributing to conflicts with Djibouti Telecom. Never heard that confirmed, but it is making the role of “away” parent a bit more of a challenge. Sigh. When I went away I told Jack that what we were both doing, he and I, was making a sacrifice that lots of fathers and boys had to make so that the right stuff could happen for America and the world. I believe that with my whole heart - all civilization needs to begin its slide into barbarism is the inaction of the well intentioned. That said, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t wonder if I’ve done my son more good by trying to live the way I conceive that men (and women) should, than I might have done by being there while he made his way from 8 to 9 years old. I know there’s no military parent who doesn’t wrestle with this every day. In the end I guess we must live out our values in front of our children, and give them credit for the ability to learn the value of sacrifice and to glean what strength of character it may bring them. But I’d still be happier if Skype worked better.

Otherwise I am well. I’ll attempt my fake ½ marathon on Sunday. 13.1 miles on a treadmill…I’m not sure if I’m more worried about my knees or my sanity. Many sincere thanks to the folks who have left such kind comments on the blog. It is a small source of joy on many an arid day to feel that I’ve let anyone who is interested have some insight into our life out here. I’ll make a concerted effort to go out and have some actual experiences in the next week, and send you all the results.

Picture is of the sign outside the gate. Take good care all.



  1. Always a fine line, and sometimes not so fine line, between doing what you perceive as your duty and being a good parent.

  2. if you take regular walk breaks starting them before you begin to feel fatigue, you will finish stronger and be able to run farther with fewer injuries. -- jeff calloway

    the world record-breaker for marathons in '97 took breaks!