Move Over Picasso

I had been there for about 45 days and I had been having a great time in Iraq. If by “I had been having a great time” you meant “This” and by “in Iraq” you meant “sucks.” Our mental health clinic occupied the second floor of an old building. In fact, our entire base was an old Iraqi air base. The structures were made from mud, straw, and something called “concrete.” They clearly fell below known building code standards.

If the mortars didn’t get me, the shoddy construction would have. The steps leading to our offices were the most interesting that I had ever encountered. Each step was a different height ranging from 6 in. to 14 ft. In America, walking up steps is a fairly unconscious process. Your feet just know exactly how high they’re supposed to be in order to negotiate each stair. Such thinking in Iraq could have ended your life.

The rest of the building had lots of character too. For instance, there were these sinister-looking hooks in the middle of all the ceilings of the large rooms. These hooks may have been used in countless ways to torture people. I was even more convinced that my office may have been used to facilitate such a purpose during the winter months as I had no heater. My patients had to wear their cold weather gear prior to entering my office.

I didn’t expect too many referrals from them.

There was a TV in most buildings. I guessed even the torturers needed a break. AFN (Armed Forces Network) was the only television network here. AFN was an example of state-controlled media, commonly found in communist countries. Rather than showing the latest commercials AFN bombarded us with pro-military propaganda, prohibiting us from learning about the outside world. The lack of commercials about the latest episode of Pimp My Ride atrophied the brain cells that hadn’t already been destroyed by alcohol, which resulted in a precipitous drop in IQ by about two points a week.

Since the TV spewed worthless rubbish and the internet was excruciatingly slow, where did one turn to get the latest current events? The answer was right outside most buildings: Port-a-Potties. Tormentors of my time at Ft. Sill, those much maligned and often ridiculed Port-a-Potties served as the bastions of free speech. If you ever wanted to get a sense of the issues that occupied the cortical space of the community, you needed to look no further than the plastic latrines.

Stepping into these synthetic commodes created a sense of nostalgia. In between the latest Paris fashions and war commentaries, there were exquisitely detailed anatomical drawings of the female and male mammillary and reproductive systems; veiled references about people’s mothers engaging in the world’s oldest profession; plethoric aphorisms bespeaking the assorted and impressive accomplishments of Chuck Norris; and introspective, eloquent discourses on each military branch’s inferiority. Many were appalled by these literary monstrosities ... I petitioned for their designation as national landmarks.

My favorite barbs were “The Air Fors [sic] Blows” and “The Armee [sic] Sucks.” I wished I was joking about the misspellings. I often felt embarrassed and sort of sad for the authors of these statements. I had this compulsion to break out my Sharpie® and correct the spelling for these authors. But I resisted that urge.

And I continued drawing my voluptuous pictures.

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