Wednesday, November 11, 2009

BIBJ Playlist of the 2000s entry #54: Day After Tomorrow by Tom Waits

Wow. I just found this video for the first time today, but I remember Chase shooting it when we were at Camp Arifjan in 2004.

I spent nearly three weeks in Kuwait in September 2004, and in the five years since, I still haven't been able to fully articulate the trip, aside from saying it was the best experience of my life.  The laundry list of things I witnessed still seems like something out of a Fellini movie, starting with the fact that my ride forgot to pick me up at the airport on arrival.  Imagine the normal encounter one gets when landing at a big airport, where cabbies bombard arriving passengers looking for a fair.  Now imagine that same group mentality, only everyone is speaking Arabic and you don't see any other white people.  Prejudiced or not, it's not something you can really prepare for.

Once I got my ride straightened out and got to the army base, I immediately jumped into an edit room and got to work, despite the fact that I had been up for about 24 hours straight at that point.  Within a couple minutes, a curious soldier poked his head in to see what we were working on.  I invited him in where this exchange took place:

HIM: "I've seen you guys shooting video all around the base.  If you need any extra video to show, you just let me know, man."
ME:  (Curious)  "What do you mean?"
HIM:  "Man I got some sick video of cows blowing up in Iraq."
ME:  (2 second pause)  "Uhh...What?"
HIM:  "Yeah man it's insane.  Cows literally blowin' up!  I'll bring it to you."
ME:  (Desperately searching for a way to politely pass on exploding cow footage) "Well, you know, there's rights and clearance laws, so we can really only broadcast footage we shoot ourselves.  Sounds aweome though!"
HIM:  "Shit man, I'll sign over the rights for it if you want it.  You just let me know man!  Hey, can you sign this banner for me?"
ME:  "Absolutely I will."

Ordinarily, I would find it odd that somebody was asking for my autograph, but at that point it seemed pedestrian.  I also silently wondered how it would go over had I actually included exploding cow footage on SportsCenter.  (Tuesday's #6 play of the night...from Kirkuk!)

Over the next couple weeks, these types of encounters would happen all the time.  Not necessarily exploding cow encounters, but one random conversation after another with soldiers from every part of the country.  They were so happy to see us doing a show there, that the joy was contagious and we in turn became downright giddy.  18-to-20-hour workdays were the routine for us, and I never once felt tired.  Every day was filled with one ridiculous story after another.

We saw a thermometer top 120 degrees on a rather warm day.  We then walked past port-o-johns in 120 degree heat, which I'll never be able to put into words.  We used our one day off to jet ski in the Persian Gulf.  I went to the fish markets of Kuwait City, and asked my military escort if I could hold her rifle.  (These were two separate happenings.)  We did a piece where Kenny Mayne called out the Baskin-Robbins on the base for having only 28 flavors, and the next day they had 32! I got invited along with our NFL analyst to a house party by out Kuwaiti make-up artist, and I had to explain to said analyst why it might not be the best idea for us to attend.  We joined soldiers in mocking Steve Levy for wearing shorts instead of pants like a grown-up.  We had a sergeant explain protocol to us if our bus encountered suspicious objects on the road, and his speech to us concluded with the sentence, "If I need to discharge my weapon to protect you, be advised that this medal (pointing to his uniform) means when I fire, I do NOT MISS."  (Honestly, he said this!  Holy shit!)

But above all else, we had so much pure fun just talking to the soldiers and keeping the warehouse-turned-studio open to watch games at 5am.  Honestly I would've loved to have stayed there and done another month of shows, if only to avoid the awkwardness when people finally started saying goodbye to us.  While they thanked up profusely for coming, I remember trying to think of the right thing to say back to them.  "I hope we can do it again," didn't seem quite right, but neither did "I hope there's no reason for us to come back next year," for obvious reasons.  Never did I think it was even a remote possibility that the fiasco would still being going on five years later but sometimes, as a wise man once said, situations get fucked up.

The best thing I heard happened on my 4th day there.  We saw a convoy rolling in and I ran over to see what their story was.  They were a platoon just arriving back from a year in Fallujah.  Keep in mind that Fallujah in '04 was literally the worst place on earth to be with ambushes and attacks on envoys happening virtually daily.  We did a short feature to run on SC about the platoon coming back.  I asked one of the soldiers what he was looking to most now that he was back in a safe place.  Due to the attacks, he hadn't slept for longer than 20 minutes at a time in over a year, but as frazzled as he got over that time, he said he kept one goal in mind.

"We were over there eating MREs three times a day for a year," he said.  "And every day I just thought to myself, 'I'd so anything to just eat a normal egg.  Just one egg."  His tired eyes lit up as he beamed, "So tonight, I just can't wait to go to sleep, wake up tomorrow, go to the mess hall, and eat an egg." 

I got your letter today
And I miss you all so much, here
I can't wait to see you all
And I'm counting the days, dear
I still believe that there's gold
At the end of the world
And I'll come home
To Illinois
On the day after tomorrow

It is so hard
And it's cold here
And I'm tired of taking orders
And I miss old Rockford town
Up by the Wisconsin border
But I miss you won't believe
Shoveling snow and raking leaves
And my plane will touch tomorrow
On the day after tomorrow

I close my eyes
Every night
And I dream that I can hold you
They fill us full of lies
Everyone buys
About what it means to be a soldier
I still don't know how I'm supposed to feel
About all the blood that's been spilled
Look out on the street
Get me back home
On the day after tomorrow

You can't deny
The other side
Don't want to die
Any more than we do
What I'm trying to say,
Is don't they pray
To the same God that we do?
Tell me, how does God choose?
Whose prayers does he refuse?
Who turns the wheel?
And who throws the dice
On the day after tomorrow?

I'm not fighting
For justice
I am not fighting
For freedom
I am fighting
For my life
And another day
In the world here
I just do what I've been told
You're just the gravel on the road
And the one's that are lucky
One's come home
On the day after tomorrow

And the summer
It too will fade
And with it comes the winter's frost, dear
And I know we too are made
Of all the things that we have lost here
I'll be twenty-one today
I've been saving all my pay
And my plane will touch down
On the day after tomorrow
And my plane it will touch down
On the day after tomorrow

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