One Step Forward, Two Steps Back
Today, Saturday, which is winding down for me but is just getting started for all of you back home, marks exactly 11 months that I’ve been on this contract. I’m a mere one month away from my ‘end of contract’ date, and roughly six weeks away from actually leaving this place. What an unbelievable feeling. I’ve been looking forward to the end pretty much since I got here, and I’m completely stoked that I’m now so close. I’ve been on a high all day. I cannot wait until I get home. Excitement aside, here’s the latest news, and the reason for this post’s title. I finally started to make some progress on “The Project,” although it’s really not much. I had the day off yesterday, and I used the free time to meander on over to the PX where I bought myself a rather large crate. It’s basically a big plastic box -- the Army calls it a “foot locker,” but I just call it a trunk (thanks to the wonders of American marketing I still associate the words “foot locker” with athletic shoes and referee shirts). I’m optimistically hoping that everything I need to ship home will fit into this one trunk, but that may be a bit of wishful thinking. I have yet to actually put anything into the trunk, but I figure the purchase of it is one small step in the right direction. The only downside is that I currently have no space in my tiny little room for anything, let alone a huge trunk. As a result, the trunk has been making its way from the bed, to the floor, then back again -- incidentally, that’s how I often kept my room clean back home. Too much crap on the floor? Throw it all on the bed! At night I just dumped it all back on the floor to make room for myself to sleep, and then in the morning it all went back on the bed. That’s what the trunk’s been doing so far. One of these days I’ll get around to doing some actual organizing in here and maybe (gasp!) even start packing the trunk. So if buying the trunk is “one step forward,” what are the “two steps back?” I’m reluctant to tell you. More specifically I’m reluctant to tell my brother, because when he reads this he’s likely to disown me. I spent the better part of the day yesterday shopping for CDs. It’s been a long time since I’ve purchased any CDs, which is uncommon for me, so I spent most of my free time yesterday making up for it. Without going off on too much of a tangent (really, I’ll try my best not to), let’s just say I’m a huge fan of CDs. My CD collection, as a whole, is hands down the single most valuable item that I own -- both in terms of sentimental value, as well as sheer monetary cost (granted, I don’t currently own a car, but there was a time when the total cost of all the CDs I own was more than the cost of my car. Sad but true). Let me just say, for the record (and to clarify for all the folks that don’t understand how one man can spend that much money on CDs) that I’ve always been a fan of purchasing music. I remember when Napster (the original one) was all the rage back in college, but I never used it for much outside of obtaining hard to find tracks that were never sold in a traditional format (like the theme song to Duck Tales, for instance). Kazaa, BitTorrent, and all the other peer to peer file swapping services don’t appeal to me in the slightest. I’m a big fan of supporting the bands whose music I enjoy, and in the interest of not going off on an unrelated music piracy rant, I’ll just leave it at that. I will say this also -- I haven’t quite warmed up to the legitimate ways of buying digital music either. I’ve had the Apple iTunes software running on my computer since December, but it wasn’t until recently that I could finally access the iTunes Music Store. The Army, in their ongoing quest to maintain network security (or their overzealous authoritarianism, depending on your perspective), has decided to block access to that online store. Roughly a week ago I finally figured out how to circumvent their network security, which means not only can I now access the iTunes Music Store, but I can also use my chat software and access a myriad of web sites that were previously blocked. The best part is that I can do all of this without getting caught (I swear, working with the Army has turned me into a little wanna-be hacker). The point is that I’ve recently spent time browsing the iTunes store, and while I will say that it’s pretty darn cool, it’s still not something that I prefer over CDs (not yet anyway). It’s pretty neat to be able to find the bands that I’m in to and download an entire album for $10 and a mouse click, but somehow the idea of owning actual CDs still appeals to me. It could be that $10 isn’t much less (and is sometimes more) than what I’d pay for the CD itself anyway, or it could be that my internet connection is so slow out here that downloading a 60 MB album could easily take me 6 hours, or it could be that CDs don’t have the “DRM” restrictions that most legitimately purchased digital files do...but I think it’s more than that. There’s something about paying for a CD and then holding it in my hands -- about reading through the liner notes while I’m giving the disc its first listen -- that just makes the whole music buying experience worth it to me. So yesterday I embarked on what promises to be my final round of CD shopping from Afghanistan, and I found a lot of good stuff that I “need” to buy. The big question though, and this is where the whole story ties together, was whether I should have the CDs shipped to me out here (giving me limited time to receive them, rip them, and then ship them home myself) or just have them shipped directly home. If you know me at all, then you already know how I answered that question -- I had them all shipped to me out here. I realize that probably doesn’t sound like the brightest idea I’ve ever had, and I’ll admit that I had a bit of a hard time justifying it to myself. In the end I decided that some of the music is just too good, and that it can’t wait until I get home. I must have it, and I must have it now. How am I supposed to survive the impending hours-upon-hours of flights and layovers knowing that so much good music is sitting idly in a box at home, when I could be listening to it right now? The answer is I’m not, and that’s why the CDs are on their way. So here I sit, with a giant empty plastic trunk and a roomful of stuff to cram into it. But I couldn’t leave well enough alone; no, I went and bought a few boxes worth of extra stuff to cram into it. If this is good news for anybody, it’s good news for the US Postal Service. With all the music I’m having shipped out here, only to turn around and ship it all right back home (after it’s ripped to the iPod, of course), I just may single-handedly keep the USPS alive for the next few weeks. Trust me, it’ll be worth it.