Saturday, May 2, 2009

sir yes sir!

i promised myself i wouldn't start this post by commenting on how long its been since my last post, i've obviously failed at that , so let me just say that i'm no good at blogging regularly and that once a month isn't terrible considering my limited amount of free time and my immense propensity to procrastinate. Some of my more avid followers (faryn, i'm thinking of you here) might point out that i haven't posted in nearly 2 months, and to you i say: hush. 
you'd think with two months to gather material id have more to say, but to be honest i can't think of a damn thing worth talking about. I started the commander course i was talking about last month. I think the course is the source of my writer's block. nothing really happens, id be hard pressed to describe a typical day there, somehow the days just go by, we run a lot, sit through a lot of classes i dont pay attention in, and then every so often we go down to the field for a few days to run exercises. The people im doing the course with are really great, met some good guys from all the different infantry units, its a fun little melting pot of the infantry units, lots of rivalries and jokes about each other's units. All in all i'm having a good time, but im definitely ready for a trip home. i finish the course in july so hopefully ill be coming home for a few weeks towards the end of july. dont mark ur calendars yet, but im working on it. 

in other news, i moved rooms in my apt, so now my room looks a lot less like a prison cell, though i still have the serial killer fridge in my room. Another one of my american friends from the paratroopers moved into my place, so now its 3 lone paratroopers and my one israeli roommate who plays mother to us all. The 3 of us went to her family's house near haifa for the weekend a couple weeks ago, it was pretty cool, apparently her dad is a parrot whisperer. He raises endangered parrots and treats traumatized birds and rehabilitates them, all from his backyard. its like a crazy parrot zoo back there and he built it all himself, it was unreal. he also has a pretty sick white handle bar mustache. quite a character. 

as usual, im writing this post well past my bedtime. The clock is ticking and soon i will turn back into a pumpkin. i might as well get a few dreams in before that happens. 


tip of the month: 
check out the all songs considered live concerts podcast, lots of gems to be found. Especially this somali/canadian rapper named K'naan.

Friday, February 20, 2009

its been a while

Yes, the title of this post is also the title of a staind song. No, this post is not about staind, although i did like this song when i was a sophomore in high school. I was young and impressionable. And i hated LA.   
So anyways, its been a while since my last post, which seems to be the case with every one of my posts. I guess im just not cut out for the fast paced world of personal web diaries. I think i would do better with monthly hand written letters that i could stain with wine, oil, and wax and claim to have written under candle light in the trenches of southern lebanon. But alas those times are past and we are now in the digital age of 24 hour news cycles. No one has the time or patience to read anything in a format that doesn't allow for toggling between at least 3 other windows on their screen at any given time. In consideration of our ever narrowing attention spans, i will write this post in sections with clearly labeled Headers so that you can scroll to that which interests you most while you flip back and forth between gchat, ichat, facebook chat, and the nytimes (yea...right...). 

Jump School 

Short summary of what its like to jump out of a perfectly functioning plane at 1200 ft. 

"fuck! im gonna die, im gonna die, im gonna die!" 
::look up:: parachute opened
"WOHOO! this is amazing, so beautiful, this was totally worth eating shit for 6 months" 
"shit, i hope none of these bozos floating really close to me knocks in to me and we both plunge to our deaths...TURN THE OTHER WAY MAN! YOUR OTHER LEFT!!!" 
"uh oh...i forgot to release the 20 lbs sack of equipment strapped to my leg..." 
::click, click:: sack drops. 
"fuck, the ground is coming fast, im gonna break my leg, im gonna break my leg, im gonna break my fucking leg!!" 
::get in the brace position:: 
::jump to my feet:: 
"Holy fuck! i cant believe i didn't break my leg!! that was nuts! glad i got that out of my system. I don't think i ever need to do that again... Wait, 4 more jumps you say??? Fuck! im gonna die..." 

It's amazing how much can go through your mind in 50 seconds. 

So that was jump school. The constant fear of death or massive bodily injury interrupted by brief moments of complete and utter euphoria.  
Well, actually, that was the second week of jump school, where we did the actual jumping. The first week of jump school involved jumping from different contraptions that when filmed look and sound exactly like men being hung, and when experienced in first person, combines the whiplash of a high speed auto accident with the ball crushing force of an atomic wedgie. Good times all around. 

Thoughts that went through my mind on the climb to 1200 ft:

"Thoughts before jumping out of a plane is a perfect category for a top 10 list" 

"Top Ten Thoughts Before Jumping Out of a Functioning Airplane: 
1. Why??
2. I guess if my friends jumped off of a bridge i would follow them... 
3. This harness is killing my balls 
4. It would be kind of exciting to have to pull a reserve chute
5. Im an idiot 
6. Its really warm in here, it seems windy outside, i don't wanna... 
7. ::Quick melodramatic montage of people i love and will miss if i die::
8. Wow, its almost my turn, i can't believe i'm really doing this, and with chutes packed by the same army that hasn't figured out a way to transport a refrigerator out of my room in 4 months no less. 
9. Remember: count 21, 22, 23, look up, no chute? PULL RESERVE
10. ::at the door:: mind goes completely blank... JUMP!!!

War Week 

Hail sounds a lot like hell. Turns out thats not a coincidence. If i were to sum up war week in a word it would be, hail. Why? Because in addition to sleeping 3 or 4 non consecutive hours a day, eating one "meal" a day, and walking endless miles with about 80 lbs on my back, it fucking hailed. To say it hailed doesn't really do the situation justice, because if it was only the hail it wouldn't have been so bad. First it hailed, then it rained, for hours, and it took hours before the higher ups could make up their minds about what to do with us, so we sat in the rain while everything we touched turned to mud. Eventually we got moved to a semi enclosed building in a fake arab village thats being built for training purposes. We stacked about 60 guys into this place. Bodies covered the entire floor, equipment was stacked to the ceiling, and the rain kept coming in through the open windows. It was quite a cozy evening. In the middle of the night the commanders decided we had rested too much so they tried taking us out to conquer some hills, but mother nature wouldn't cooperate. The rain became a torrential downpour, so they stacked us into these random storage sheds they found in the field, hoping the rain would calm down. It didn't. After a couple of hypothermic hours in the shed we picked up all our muddy, soaking wet equipment and went back to our village to wait out the storm. 
In the morning, we gathered our muddy selves, packed on our muddy equipment, and were delighted to discover that our equipment, much like a girl in her freshman year of college, had put on some "water weight". We got in formation and began marching in the rain towards our next unknown destination. Prior to this point we had already spent entire nights walking with 80 lbs bags on our backs and open stretchers on top of them, so we thought we had seen the worst of it, but of course, we were wrong. This march nearly killed me. At one point early on we had to cross a river that was created by the prior night's downpour, and since we didn't have any engineers around, we just walked right through the water like mules. You can imagine that soaking wet socks made the remaining 9 km we were to walk that day pure joy. 
The worst thing about this march wasn't the socks though, it was the uncertainty. Every time we would get close to where we thought we were supposed to end up, the target would move. People went crazy, some guys would fall on the spot during our rare breaks and start crying. I was cursing my commanders, god, my parents for giving birth to me, and myself for volunteering for this torture. I would have shed tears but i was too dehydrated. By the time we reached our destination it was afternoon and we hadn't eaten in nearly 24 hours. We rested for a few minutes and then immediately began an exercise. Priceless. 
Im not really doing the week justice though. There were some positive aspects. Towards the end we got transported by blackhawk helicopter, which saved us a 17km hike, and gave us a pretty sweet view and some much needed rest. We also got a pretty unbeatable sense of accomplishment when we ran up the final hill with open stretchers on our shoulders, smoke grenades flying all around, and some solid israeli music blasting from the stereos where the grand finale celebration was being held. 

Well that about does it i guess. Im sure a lot more has happened in the past month and a half, but i tried to stick to the highlights. My mom has also been in town for the past few weeks, my dad got in today. Always a happy reunion... ::cough cough:: They're here for my ceremony on thursday where i get my red beret. All thats left is to walk 70k between wed and thursday and ill be a fully trained paratrooper. 

Wish me luck and kiss my feet goodbye. 

Saturday, January 10, 2009

hi beseret

you know those moments when your sense of reality slips away only to be replaced by the inexplicable feeling that you're currently portraying yourself in the hollywood adaptation of your critically acclaimed, semi-autobiographical, first novel? no? does this just happen to me? well either way, thats what most of the last week felt like. 
Usually this feeling is brought on by blasting an emotionally loaded soundtrack through a decrepit car stereo while driving down a scenic two lane highway, on a sunny day, with the people you define as your best friends, on your way to nowhere in particular, or somewhere unimportant. However, it turns out that this feeling can also result from putting on full combat gear, patrolling a palestinian neighborhood, getting filmed by a foreign press crew, and trying to remember what steps in my life led me to become a possible segment on the evening news in some foreign country i may never visit. 
as i write this i have exactly 10 minutes left before i have to get back in uniform and head back to the army so ill make it quick. no, i wasn't in gaza for the past two weeks, but thanks for everyone's concern, i got a lot of worried emails and facebook messages. i was mostly in the west bank, taking over for soldiers that got sent to gaza. i spent the weekend patrolling a hamas dominated neighborhood in hebron near where the settlers who got kicked out of that big house last month went on a rampage. i saw the house and the graffiti the settlers painted all over the place, it made me sad/angry. while we were on patrol i think my officer got bored (we patrolled for 10 1/2 hours straight) so we started climbing through backyards, going up to rooftops and having impromptu stakeouts. we also did random car searches, which is when this guy and some blonde chick who was either a producer or a reporter started filming us. it felt surreal. the reason for the vigilance was a fear of increased violence because of the operation in gaza, but it turned out to be a mostly quiet weekend, with the noted exception of someone shooting at one of the jeep patrols a couple of kilometers from us. 
ok i really have to run now, i didnt get to write everything i wanted, maybe next week. 
i still have a few weeks of training left. i start jump school in a week, so keep your fingers crossed for my parachute opening. and dont worry, i wont be in gaza in the near future, so thats one news segment you wont have to worry about. 

Saturday, December 27, 2008


baltam is army speak for an unexpected occurrence, and that seems to be the best way to describe what's going on right now. There's been talk of an impending strike in gaza since the cease fire ended and the rocket fire intensified last week, but no one thought it would come on a saturday morning in the form of a massive aerial bombardment. As soon as i woke up today and saw the number of casualties in gaza my heart dropped. As far as i can tell there is little desire to go into gaza with ground forces because its one massive clusterfuck of terrorists and booby traps. But at the same time one of the lessons of the last lebanon war was that you cant win a war from the air and it seems that a ground invasion at some point is inevitable. i hope it doesnt come to that because sending troops in is much easier than pulling them out and its going to be hard to set clear goals for a ground invasion given that its likely the rockets will continue to fall on the south for a while no matter what we do. At the same time its pretty clear that israel cant allow 50 rockets to fall on the south every day with no response. For now i think the idea is to increase the pressure on hamas in stages in order to cripple and scare them into a new cease fire. In the meantime all we can do is just hope for as few civilian casualties as possible. 

Its funny that this operation started just as i finished a week of urban warfare training at a massive replica of a palestinian city the army built to train in. the one thing i learned from this week is that fighting in these neighborhoods is insanely complicated and treacherous. rest assured that i will not be participating in any ground invasion of gaza in the coming days so you dont have to worry about that. But theres a distinct possibility ill be sent somewhere else to guard and free up forces to go south. Right now were pretty much on standby, our training has been put on hold and were waiting to see what happens. 

anyways, thats the security update for the week. In other news, michael finished birthright on thursday and is now staying with me. I had a great time hanging out with him this weekend, i took him around to some of my favorite places in the city, many of them included food or drinks, hah. it sucks that im not going to get to spend that much time with him, im off to the army tom morning and i probably wont be back for 2 weeks. my roommate was supposed to get a week off next week but because of the situation in gaza that got cancelled. war is a bitch. 

and with that, im gonna go to sleep, i have to be up in 6 hours. wish me luck. 

Saturday, December 6, 2008

the lefty within

the fact that i start each post thinking its been too long since the last post suggests im doing a real poor job at this. Maybe mer can give me some tips now that she's a professional blogger. 
so its been over a month since my last post, in the meantime ive finished basic training, started advanced training, went through a week long navigation course, did some time in the dreaded kitchen, and then went through a week long education series with my company at a base near jerusalem.  

Navigating - 

Its hard. 15 of the squad leaders from my company got chosen to do an advanced navigation series with about 30 guys from 2 of the other companies on my base. We were told that most of the guys who were chosen to do this series are going to get sent to the early commander course at the end of training around march. I'd say there's an 80% chance im going to get sent to that course, which can be good or bad depending on a lot of variables which are out my control. There's nothing i can really do about it except wait and see. 
The navigation course was fun/exhausting. Almost all of it was done at night, and it happened to be a week with almost no moonlight, so there was very low visibility at night. We navigated in pairs in a nature reserve known as "the hills of fate". Very dramatic. Soldiers have been learning to navigate there almost since the inception of the IDF. During the day we got the coordinates of our checkpoints and had to plan and memorize a route using topographical maps. We did about 12K each night, with one of us carrying a heavy ass radio on top of our vests. Its a shoulder killer. Ideally, we were supposed to do the navigations without looking at the map but i only managed to do that on the last navigation. 
on the second half of our last navigation a fog came in out of nowhere and covered everything within 10 minutes. I couldn't see my hand in front of me. It got so bad that at one point we went up a hill to where one of our checkpoints was, we found the checkpoint, and then we couldn't figure out which direction we came up the hill from. We got so turned around that we walked a good 5 minutes in the completely wrong direction, thinking we were heading back to our original path. Eventually a bunch of bumbling groups made it to the same spot, argued for 10 minutes about what to do and where to go, until a friend of mine took charge and led us through the fog like moses leading the israelites through the desert. 
Learning how to navigate reminded me of doing alley cat races in ny, with all the checkpoints and route planning. i was never good at planning my routes in those races, so at least I can now say that the army has taught me something useful. monstertrack 2011, here i come. 

Educational series - 

in a word, painful. i would have preferred a week of getting my ass kicked in the field. The army is causing me to lean farther and farther left by the day. All the good work my leftist professors did to make me a right wing fanatic is being eroded by immature 18 year olds and the religious nationalist fringe. 

im too tired to finish this post,
to be continued next week... 


Sunday, October 19, 2008

my life is a joke

me: sorry
  i just had a gigantic fridge delivered to me
  my life is a joke
  i just dont have enough distance from it to laugh
1:34 PM Meredith: hah ohh arie
 me: this little russian guy walked up the stairs to my apartment with an industrial size fridge on his back
  he gets in my apt
  pushes it through the hallway
  only to discover its so fucking big it wont fit through the doorway to the kitchen
  now my room has a really wide door for some reason, so we end up putting it in my room
1:35 PM so now i have a bed, a sort of closet, no furniture to speak of, and a monstrous fridge in my room
  i cant connect to the electricity because i only have one outlet in my room and the ac/comp and every other electrical thing in my room is hooked up to a powerstrip on this one outlet and im afraid if i hook up the fridge it will burn down the building
1:36 PM so i have a monstrous useless fridge in my room now, thank you very much army
 Meredith: hahahah
  so you can just copy and paste that storry for the blog
1:37 PM me: good idea, i have been slacking on that
  ill do that right now

care of you

Some pics from the past couple of weeks:
The real army experience...

getting ready for the sergeant's trek

Leshnick taunting me with a coke i can't drink because im guarding

Aside from fridges, what else is new? well i flew in a black hawk helicopter a couple weeks ago, that was exciting, felt like a real soldier for a second. I got to shoot from a sharp shooter's gun and a machine gun, new toys are always fun. i had a 9k trek the other night at the end of which we got our infantry pins for our berets, one more thing you have to scratch and cut before wearing so it looks like you've been in the army forever and your not fresh out of your mommy's tummy.  The trek was pretty funny, its called the "massa samal", which i think translates to sergeant's trek, and its infamous because its very fast paced and its a tradition for the sergeant to fuck with you along the way. Did i mention the army is exactly like pledging for a frat? Anyways, back to the trek, after many delays a bus takes my unit with all our equipment to a field in the middle of nowhere. we get dropped off, we sit around for a good while and then finally the fun begins. Our sergeant gathers us in walking formation, does a little warm up, and then says with a devilish smile on his face: "this wont be hard, it wont be easy, welcome to the sergeant's trek" (this rhymes in hebrew and sounds much more devilish) and then he breaks out in a sprint and we start sprinting behind him in full gear for a good while and were thinking oh fuck were gonna sprint for 9k, but then inevitably he slows down a bit and we gather ourselves and realize its not so bad. The rest of the trek is still done at pretty much jogging pace, and after about 3k i switched with someone carrying the emergency water supply so i had all my equipment plus 15 liters of water on my back for a 6k jog. The last kilometer is done with open stretchers up a monstrous hill, at the top of which the sergeant turned around, had us go down the hill and jog back up it, with 3 open stretchers and the base in sight, it was one of the more demoralizing moments of the trek, but like all things, good or bad, it came to an end. We had a little ceremony, got punched in the chest, given our pins, and now were that much closer to being real soldiers, supposedly...

Saturday, September 27, 2008

bullets over birthdays

ive been slacking, i know, but in my defense ive only been home for like 3 days this month and i spent half of those days recouping the many hours of sleep and layers of skin i lost during the week. I think today i found my muse though. I'm sitting on my porch over looking yehuda halevi street, the sun is setting, the clouds have a pinkish hue and there is a cool breeze blowing. it rained this morning randomly, first rain since i got here in april, perhaps fall is finally here. The prospect of replacing my dirt training grounds with mud is not particularly uplifting. 
so two weeks have passed since i was home last, and it feels like two months. The first week back we were in the shooting range pretty much all week. I started the week with a little spark of brilliance in my shooting abilities but i quickly deteriorated to average over the course of the week. Everyone wants to be a sharp shooter because it means you get a cool scope to put on your gun and when you go home on the train everyone knows your a sharp shooter. I think people underestimate the responsibility of being a sharp shooter though. The trains and buses in israel on sunday mornings and friday mornings are packed with a parade of soldiers eager to impress each other with an array of unit tags, pins, berets, weapon accessories, etc. symbolizing their position in the army. Im starting to think the desire to impress people on public transportation is half the motivation for joining elite units in the army. Theres so many nuances to a soldier's uniform that people pick up on here its crazy. The basic rule is the older the better, so the more dusted up and faded your uniform is the better, and this means people find creative ways to dust up and fade their uniforms and accessories. Theres actually specific techniques passed on from generation to generation explaining how to properly age your uniform, beret, boots, etc. aging your beret, for instance, involves shaving, burning, wetting, rolling, pressing, and drying. its quite a process. But back to my original point, im probably not going to get a cool scope to show off on the train on sunday mornings and im bummed... hah. 

funny story: 

i closed shabat this passed week, so my unit had guard duty over the weekend. During lunch on friday there were kebabs that looked very undercooked but as i think i mentioned before, by the time you get to the lunch room your so hungry you'll eat anything, so i ate it, as did many of my brethren. Well, friday night comes along, my whole class has a shift guarding different posts throughout the base in the middle of the night. i get about half an hour into my shift before i feel the kebab from lunch itching to break out. i make it another half hour and i realize theres no way im making it through the shift without going to the bathroom, but i cant go to the bathroom because then i would be breaking my guard shift. thankfully, i also developed a cold at the same time so i had toilet paper on me to wipe my noise. i yelled to the guard tower near me to cover me and i went down to a ditch near my post to take care of business. long story short, i get back to my room after this shift, the guy guarding near me tells the guys in my room about our little adventure and everyone suddenly goes "ME TOO!" Turns out my entire room crapped up every guard post around the base. Half my pluga had diarrhea for the next two days, which got us out of kitchen duty, but bought us an extra day of guard duty. You win some you lose some. The first thing i thought of when the kebab struck back was todd's sock story in equador, i can thank my runny nose it didn't come to that. 

After my "shitty" weekend...(9 levels down... i know...) we went out to the field for a week to learn how to conquer hills in pairs. It was the first time we got to shoot outside of a shooting range, which was pretty exciting. I was sick all week and we had a lot of injuries so it was a pretty grueling week. By the time wednesday came around everyone was more than itching to get back to base. Wednesday started with an 8 am wake up call, we did drills all day, a 5k run, more drills that involve crawling, running, and rolling on thorns, and we've been living off of combat rations since sunday morning. so you can imagine when we got off the buses back at the base around 11pm wed night we were excited to see our beds. Our mefakdim had other plans however. We ended up having our first layla lavan or "white night" otherwise known as an all- nighter. of course this would fall on the night of my birthday. When we got back to base we unloaded all of our gear, we did it too slow, so we had to reload it, and unload it again somewhere else, then reload it and unload it back in our dorm. Then we went out back and i officially stepped into what felt like a movie. The mefakdim took out megaphones and started yelling commands at us and we started doing drills in the gravel out back while they played techno music through the megaphones and everyone is screaming and doing the drills and its just madness all around. After half an hour or so of this we go to the obstacle course and run the course a bunch of times in full gear. Imagine the obstacle courses youve seen in movies about the army, with walls to scale and ropes and logs of wood to run across and bars to hop and tires and fences to crawl under etc. that is exactly what it looks like. this is going to sound crazy i guess but i loved every second of it. probably one of the weirdest and best ways i could have spent my 23rd birthday. i always said my most productive hours were between midnight and 6am, so now the army finally took advantage of that fact. i had a smile on my face the whole time even though ive never been more exhausted. At one point our medic lifted me up like you cary wounded soldiers and ran me around the dorm with my unit singing me happy birthday, it was a nice little break from the madness, or a continuation of it i guess depending on how u look at it. The physical part of the night ended with the obstacle course, after that we cleaned our guns for an hour and we got like 15 minutes to clean all our gear and shower so we ended up showering with our vests on which was a funny sight to see. After all that we started a new day like nothing happening and my head didnt hit the pillow until 10 pm on thursday night. 
But now im home, recovering many lost hours of sleep, having a good time and relaxing. i have pretty much all next week off for rosh hashana, so i cant complain. 
well the sun has set long ago, this post took much longer to write than i anticipated and i need to get ready to head out to a show soon. i hope all is well with all of you. talk to you soon. 

shana tova