Mixes and mashes and seasonal samples, and song stories:
“Christmas Eve In Afghanistan, Again” (2010 / 3:30) Quil Lawrence
NPR talks to troops in a U.S. military hospital at Bagram Air Base, outside of Kabul. Quil Lawrence interviewed Sergeant Wallace Trahan, Sergeant Aaron Kelly, Sergeant Zachary Scoskie, and Colonel Diane Huey. Mix: Jim Wildman. Music: W.G. Snuffy Walden “The First Noel” Windham Hill Holiday Guitar Collection.
Paul Simon is offering a free download of “Getting Ready For Christmas Day.” It’s off his upcoming album So Beautiful Or So What (Spring 2011; Hear Music/Concord Music Group) and samples a 1941 speech by American Christian preacher and gospel singer, Reverend J.M. Gates:
The voices of Sergeant Wallace Trahan, Sergeant Aaron Kelly, Sergeant Zachary Scoskie, and Colonel Diane Huey, interviewed at a Bagram Air Base hospital (outside Kabul, Afghanistan) by NPR’s Quil Lawrence, and mixed bg Jim Wildman for Morning Edition:
Holiday cheer and holiday weird, a mix of lotsa holiday stories, found-sound, and sprinkling of sampled songs:
A home-recording of a “Christmas Gathering 1947” (4:08 excerpt), on an unlabeled 7″ Wilcox Gay Recordio Disc, was found by Bob Purse. The complete recording is posted at the 365 Days Project, “Christmas Gathering 1947” (6:32 mp3):
The producer, at age 2, sings “Silent Night” with her Dad. A woman homesteader remembers brutal North Dakota winters in the 1920s. Blues legend Brownie McGhee describes homemade Christmas presents. Adi Gevins’ father reveals that all New York Santas gain entry through the fire escape. And an Oroville grandfather uses a snow machine to make his plastic Christmas tree even more realistic. Produced for the series A Gathering of Days, with support from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and KQED-San Francisco. Thanks to Adi Gevins, psychiatrist Ray Posie, John Langstaff: creator of Christmas Revels, and the late Peter Allison for the family recordings.
Christmas wishes from soldiers at U.S. Army Contingency Operating Base Speicher, Northern Iraq: Sgt. First Class Siatuu Quarterman, Sgt. First Class Claudia Bullard, Staff Sgt. Brian Allen, Specialist Nico Kane, Staff Sgt. Robert Lacome, and Simon Welte.
Embedded with the Chaplin… yes, sounds strange to me too.
Here he is walking to service:
Two schools: Christmas on the battlefield is best ignored, or fully embraced. Our convoy of MRAPs (Mine Resistant something something’s) and HMMWVs (HighMobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle… aka: Humvees) drove from base to a joint forces outpost to deliver cheer — in this case a large plasma TV for Xbox tournaments. They were glad to see the Chaplin, he came with some promised bibles, they were very happy to see the TV (Tele-vision). Two frozen turkeys started thawing as well.
Wandering around base I found Santa with a shotgun defending a stash of presents sent from the states by organizations and school children who would pee just seeing this Clause. Everyone was peeing themselves laughing, I recorded him: “Merry Christmas Mother F…” He does the gun loading move for the F part. I too get stockings in the spirit of the season for there were far more stockings than troops in this section.
I miss my Grandmother, inside is what she used to get me for Christmas — everything from the pharmacy:
Road and Track magazine
Tin of tobacco chew
Toothbrushes and paste
Oh, how silly I thought. Then I picked-out the toothpaste because I was low. Then the tissues because the desert/pollution sinuses I’ve gone through so many packs already. I keep a pack of handy wipes because they’re so handy and I’m running out, the dust, oh the dust. Sox sure I’m on my feet most of the day. Lastly, I started reading an article in Road and Track about GPS navigators.
A card was at the bottom, drawn by a child, for a class project, tree penned in green, time was spent, an American flag, not colored within the lines, and a penciled letter cut and glued:
Thank You so much for serving for our country and keeping us safe. I appreciate you trying to keep everyone in America safe. Have a great Christmas. I hope you get to have a little celebration of Christmas. May we have peace on earth. From: Julia, Franklyn Elementary.
The other stocking of gifts I gave to an interpreter smoking outside his CHU (Container Housing Unit), just down from mine. In the spirit of giving.
“Merry Christ…” I started. “A gift” I ended. He was very happy, and so was I in the spirit of giving.
Woke up in a palace today, stared-up at huge golden chandeliers dangling from the ornate ceiling of a former palace. Mahmoon Palace or “Birthday” palace. Where Saddam’s birthday was celebrated. Less glamorous at eye-level: I lay on a dusty cot, and my neighbor in a public storage-like plywood cubicles was playing Alvin and the chipmunks Christmas. They had little warning that a reporter was coming, they were told I wanted to cover Christmas stories, I came to the Middle East to avoid it.
The famous balcony, where Saddam fired off his famous gun.
Troops posing outside the Palace bandstand
It’s kind of sad the disrepair here.
Large plasma TV, Xbox, PS2’s, internet terminals. Soldiers play war games, up to 4 at a time, executing their training in play. Boredom is the greatest threat here, complacency is its danger. They are very good warriors, I rarely see their screens turn red with electronic blood.
“People of Wal-Mart” website went viral in the banquet room, for that’s what this huge room was, ultimate of class and luxury, marble marble everywhere. We gathered around to look at the website: “Aw, no way!”s and “Shit, is that a dude? Fuck that!”s and “Hell no!”s, everywhere. One of those came from my lips.
Nice soldier, Joe, likes metal, from California as well. He tells others “man, we grew-up an hour from each other” but light-years. He turned 21 the day before, old enough at last but not a drop to drink. I asked him why he joined: “The health benefits, my wife is on expensive anti-seizure meds.” He loves to talk about weapons–a grenade launcher, I forget the caliber, is his favorite. Weapons weapons everywhere. Not guns, weapons. He pretended to defend me as I got a haircut. Has a 6mo old daughter, took her to Disneyland recently. Old enough.
It takes a while for soldiers to open-up to reporters. I know what they’ve been told about us, but I’m not supposed to know, so I won’t say. I needed an opening. A horror movie was thrown on late last night, a break from the gory video games to just gore. The man who I call dad in my life, his name came up, director of photography “hey, that’s my dad” I said. One mouth fell open. I said I too used to work on horror movies, more looks my way. I was in at last.
It’s “hum-vee” not “hummer”. The former is driven, the latter drives.
Comforts of home. It’s not REAL mountain-dew, it’s called “squiggly-dew” because it’s in Arabic and, the greatest complaint: it uses real sugar cane instead of high-fructose corn syrup. The Sergeant showed me the stash of a yummy caned coffee drink for us old-timers. Pallets of bottled water water everywhere. Tap water comes from the Tigris, never open your mouth while showering, don’t taste history.
[“Iraq: Christmas 2009“: observations, images and sounds from Iraq, Christmas 2009, a series of posts by Jake Warga.]
Oh the things I’ve seen.
I shall never complain about long lay-overs again.
I have flown in a C-17 transport.
I shall never complain again of uncomfortable seats again.
I have ridden in the belly of a Stryker.
What do you get when you stick a public radio guy with a Fox TV crew in the back of a Black Hawk for a multiple re-fuel hop up to Northern Iraq?
A bumpy ride.
I saw an injured dove in Baghdad trying to be nursed back to health on a blast wall away from cats. It had a saucer of water and feed, don’t know who put it there. I saw a dead dove come evening.
I got a serious cold sleeping in a 20-man tent during a thunder storm, closest I’ve come to being attacked.
I have yet to meet someone who wants to be here. I have met some wonderful people.
For lunch the other day I had crab legs, the desert bar is endless, burger king is everywhere. Where else in Arabia can I eat bacon and watch Fox TV on flat screens throughout a mess hall?
Ugandans hired by KBR guard entrances to buildings on bases, the Peruvians have the evening shift. They look at my passport, I don’t think they know what they’re looking for.
A papier-mâché Mount Rushmore and Statue of Liberty are in the DFAC (Dining FACility). Pakistanis do the dishes. You’re not allowed to bring bags into facilities or wear a hat, but you are required to have a weapon. I am unarmed. I know now the difference between an M16 rifle and an M4 Carbine. Both are 5.56 Caliber, I don’t know what that means but I was given a pamphlet.
The military is run by acronyms. I’m staying in an LSA (Life Support Area).
It’s almost encouraged to have a bad hair cut, in this I feel at home.
I go next to JCC in Tikrit with PSD (Joint Coordination Center…Personal Security Detail), I feel important, I may be a fool. I spend Christmas Embedded with the Chaplin…why not. Here’s what soldiers want for Christmas (4:07):
Black hawk gunner
Dust goes to one lung, trash burns go to the other.
Met a soldier young enough to be my daughter, I become a grandfather when she tells me about her 5yo back home. Everyone dresses the same, it’s confusing, uniformity, conformity, camouflaged in green in a land where there is only brown.
With love from the war on terror. Pictures at Flickr.
In Montana, a rabbi is an unusual sight. So when a Hasidic one walked into the State Capitol last December, with his long beard, black hat and long black coat, a police officer grabbed his bomb-sniffing German shepherd and went to ask the exotic visitor a few questions.
Jake Warga takes us on a personal tour through the Holy Land, looking at how the conflict started and what it’s like today between Jerusalem and Bethlehem… between birth and re-birth. (Also a PRX radio story.):