Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We're leaving together...

But still it's farewell
And maybe we'll come back
To Earth, who can tell?
I guess there is no one to blame
We're leaving ground (leaving ground)
Will things ever be the same again?
It's the final countdown...

So, I've got those predeployment jitters. We're down to less than a week now - just a few days, really - before we head up to New Jersey for the big loadout, and get ready to go overseas. For purposes of operational security, I won't be naming any dates. I'll simply vanish into the mists, and the next you'll hear of me will be from across the seas, unless I'm sufficiently motivated enough to e-mail an update into here from somewhere in the middle of the Atlantic.

Which, to be honest, I probably will. We're going to be undergoing the usual "beginning of the deployment" training sequence with some of my absolutely favorite people in the world, the Afloat Training Team, and I'm sure I'll have lots to talk about. That last sentence is so dripping with sarcasm I may have to change my sheets tonight.

I'm looking at two days off this week, which is a big happy booster for me. I've still got some things I'd like to do before we leave - eat all the food ever, for one thing, plus restocking on coffee. Pack some things, although not as much as you might think; my parchment, ink, and nibs to write the weekly letters home to my wife (the first time, by the way, that said letters will be addressed "to my wife" - the last time I deployed, we were only dating. Ours was a brief engagement, and it didn't start until I met her in the airport on my return to the States). Maybe some books, although I already have several on the ship, plus my Kindles, and I have to weigh the costs and weights of carrying hardcopy books with me; they'll either be left on the ship, shipped home, or carried back in my luggage. Either which way, they're likely to be a burden. My electronics; inevitably, I get the urge to play a PSP or DS game while we're underway. Most of the time, the two systems languish, abandoned, somewhere around the house. So, the first task there will be finding them, and their games. Should be fun. I'm sure there's something else I'm forgetting - laundry detergent, perhaps, or shampoo/body wash. I can buy either from the ship's store, or from Navy Exchanges on our way across, but eventually we're going to find ourselves in the Burning Lands, and getting American cleaning supplies is generally costly and difficult.

Two days off is also two more than I've had since I finished small arms, Friday before last. I worked straight through this past weekend, and the Sunday before; not only that, but most of this week has been fairly hectic, as we've been dealing with various inspections and overhauls in preparation for our trip, not to mention being somewhat shorthanded as people attend to their last minute details, training and personalwise. One day last week was an overtime nightmare, as we swapped out numerous fire suppression bottles in the engine room that had come up low on inspection; low, not empty. The damned things still weight well over 250 pounds apiece, and their full replacements were closer to 300. The most convenient way of getting the new ones in, and the old ones out, of the engine room involved a Bolted Equipment Removal Panel - a BERP - which, unfortunately, could not be simply left open at the end of the work day, so the task could be completed the next day. Or the day after. No, we had to plough straight through once we'd started, which is how I ended up working a 17 hour day, finishing up at 1 AM. And then had to report for work at the regular time that morning, and work most of a regular day, running around with contractors. (We worked late enough, as a matter of fact, that when I came in the next morning I found my partner sleeping in our office, sprawled across several chairs - he hadn't bothered to go home, or even to take a shower or switch out of his dirty coveralls. I did all of the above, but he got way more sleep than I did. We both made it to work on time and drank roughly equal measures of coffee, so I guess that worked out for the best).

Despite this, I managed to devour the final book of the Parasol Protectorate series, "Timeless" in a little less than six hours yesterday; this, despite the fact that I could only read it during free time or while waiting for something else to happen, while juggling a fair to moderate workload. Walked around with it in my pocket, for the most part, one of the advantages of paperbacks - they tuck away a lot easier than an e-reader, even my Kindle Fire. Don't get me started on the Kindle DX... comfortable and easy to read it may be, but easy to carry? Only if you're used to tucking a legal pad around with you, and I've yet to find a pocket I can comfortably stuff it in. Anyway, "Timeless" was an excellent read, full of the characters and adventures we've come to expect of the Parasol Protectorate, and answered many long lingering questions raised over the course of the series' plot; and yet, I can't help but be disappointed in it as the conclusion of the series. There are future novels to come, some of them set in the same world, so I can't help but hope that perhaps we'll simply be turning, as other novels have done (Kelley Armstrong's "Women of the Otherworld" series most notably) and following other characters for a while; Timeless certainly did have more scenes from the point of view of not-Alexia than I can recall from the other stories, although perhaps it's merely time interfering with my memory.

I finally got around to reading my nonfiction book of the month, a memoir/treatise on forensic anthropology called "Dead Men Do Tell Tales" that my wife found while we were wondering about the viability of pulling fingerprints off fingertips that had been swallowed - a path of inquiry inspired by a Castle episode, if you're curious. I followed this up with reading Tucker Max's free set of stories, "Sloppy Seconds" which impressed me enough to actually cough up the $5 to buy "I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell". He's an asshole, but he's a funny asshole; considering most of the stories seem to consist of at least twenty to forty percent hyperbole, I think I can live with that.

Other than that, there isn't a horrible amount exciting going on in my life; work, home, read, poke at writing, get to sleep too late and get up entirely too damned early (although still well behind my alarm) to repeat the whole process over again. I'm trying hard not to be irritable or mopey over the fact that I'm leaving home, friends, and family for nearly six months; at the same time, I'm trying hard not to grab my wife and daughter and simply hold them like I'll never let go. I haven't started listening to my Homesick Blues playlist yet ("Sloop John B," "500 Miles," "10,000 Miles," "Far Away From Home" and other songs of that ilk) but I imagine it won't be long before I'm humming them, or singing them under my breath. I'm enjoying those things I know I'll be missing - food I can choose for myself, sushi, unfettered internet access - and trying not to think too hard about how long it'll be until I can see them again. I keep telling myself I'm ready for this. It's not like I haven't done it before. It's not like I won't do it again.

Sometimes, my job really sucks. At the end of the day, though, nobody's shooting at me and my wife and daughter are living decently because of it. I guess that's about all one can really ask for.

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