Sunday, November 06, 2005
desert football, jarhead style
More from Jarhead
|The colonel, on seeing the football, has exited his vehicle and instructed Staff Sergeant Siek that better than a workout of calisthenics, we should play football for the reporters, wearing full MOPP (Mission Oriented Protective Posture) gear and gas masks... The MOPP suits are in jungle camouflage, so we look like a movable forest, something from a Monty Python skit. We break up, scout teams one and three versus teams two and four. We use five-gallon water jugs to mark the goals. This football game will kick our asses, but it might be better than standard-issue boredom.|
I drop a touchdown pass. Dickerson and Fowler argue back and forth across the line of scrimmage and throw sand at one another and insult each other's mother. The drama of the scene is catching, our audience is entranced. The reporters are taking notes and Siek looks happy with our performance. We've been forced into this inhumane game and we're going to play. We have no lines. MOPP improv. The heat is intense: 125, 130, 140 degrees inside our suits... the Pentagon insists that warriors can fight at 100 percent in full MOPP and gas mask for eight hours. Siek wants us to play ball for an hour.
After a few more changes of possession and no change in score, Siek calls halftime. To demonstrate to the reporters the usefulness and practicality of the drinking tube, he orders that with our gas masks on we drink from our canteens, as if to say, 'Aren't we smart, we've thought of everything...'
The problem is, even if your drink tube is intact, the device on your canteen cap designed to interact with the drink tube will probably be broken. The atmosphere is one of glee...
"Staff Sergeant," I say. "I requested a new gas mask four months ago. My drinking tube fell off in the gas chamber at the Palms and Kuehn stepped on it. And we have unserviceable filters in our masks. We're all dead. We are the ghosts of STA 2/7..."
We're breaking up in laughter, but Siek is not happy. He tells us to take our masks off and drink from our canteens, and that he'll talk to Supply about replacement parts. He whistles like a referee and we resume the game...
Vann returns the kickoff. Kuehn decides to switch from touch to tackle, and he takes Vann down hard. Vann punches Kuehn in the side of the head, Combs kicks Kuehn in the ass, and we all jump on the pile, punching each other, and it doesn't matter whom you punch, because you're not punching hard, you're not punching to hurt, but only to punch. The half-speed fight degenerates into a laughter-filled dog-pile, with guys fighting their way from the bottom to climb back to the top, king of the pile, king of the Desert. We're swearing and shouting and shrieking through our masks. This is fun, plain mindless fun, the kind grunts are best at. Siek doesn't like our grab-ass, and he yells at us to resume the game, but we do not listen. He must know what terrible treat will soon be played out for the colonel and reporters.
Field-f*ck: an act wherein marines violate one member of the unit, typically someone who has recently been a jerk or abused rank or acted antisocial, ignoring the unspoken contracts of brotherhood and camaraderie and espirit de corps and the combat family. The victim is held fast in the doggie position and his fellow marines take turns from behind.
Combs pulls Kuehn from the bottom of the pile and yells, "Field-f*ck!" Fowler starts the fun, thrusting his hips against Kuehn's ass, slapping the back of his head; when you aren't field-f*cking, you're shouting support and encouragement or helping secure Kuehn.
Dickerson yells, "Get that virgin Texas ass! It's free!"
"I want some of that. I ain't seen boy ass this pretty since Korea."
"Semper fi! Scout-sniper!"
"Somebody get a picture for his wife. Poor woman."
Kuehn yells, "I'm the prettiest girl any of you has ever had! I've seen the whores you've brought, you sick bastards!"
"Scout-sniper! STA 2/7!"
We continue to scream, in joy, in revelry, still wearing full MOPP and gas mask, and we look wild, hungry, bug-eyed animals swarming around disabled prey, and we sound thousands of miles away from ourselves.
The reporters have stopped taking notes. Siek runs toward us, yelling, "Stop! Stop, you assh*les!"
I stand back from a turn with Kuehn. I feel frightened and exhilarted by the scene. The exhilaration isn't sexual, it's communal-a pure surge of passion and violence and shared anger, a pure distillation of our confusion and hope and shared fear. We aren't field-f*cking Kuehn: we're f*cking the press-pool colonel, and the sorry, worthless MOPP suits, and the goddamn gas masks and canteens with defective parts, and President Bush and Dick Cheney and the generals, and Saddam Hussein, and the PRC-77 radio and the goddamn heavy E-tools that can't help us dig deep enough holes; we're f*cking the world's televisions, and CNN; we're f*cking the sand and the loneliness and the boredom and the potentially unfaithful wives and girlfriends and the parents and siblings who don't write and the bad food and the f*ckhead peaceniks back home, the skate punks and labor unionists and teachers and grandmothers and socialists and Stalinists and Communists and hung-over hippies grasping their fraudulent sixties idealism; we're f*cking our confusion and fear and boredom; we're f*cking ourselves for signing the contract, for listening to the soothing lies of the recruiters, for letting them call us buddy and pal and dude, luring us into this life of loneliness and boredom and fear; we're f*cking all of the hometown girls we've wanted but never had; we're angry and afraid and acting the way we've been trained to kill, violently, and with no remorse. We take turns, and we go through the line a few times and Kuehn takes it all, like the thick, rough Texan he is, our emissary to the gallows, to the chambers, to death do us part.
We stop the field-f*ck and rip our gas masks from our faces and throw them in the air, as football players might do with their helmets after an especially grueling victory. We're bent over at the waist, hands on knees, breathing hard, breathing free. We pile our charcoal-lined MOPP suits in the straddle trench. We're standing around the trench either naked or in skivvy bottoms. We look like burn victims. The fires, the smoke and mirrors of history have been transposed to our skin...
Kuehn douses the suits with fuel and strikes a match. He says, "May God please save us, because these MOPP suits, won't," and he drops the match, sending the pile into raging flames that burn black and sooty, choking the blue sky gray.
So I watched Jarhead
on Saturday, and was happy that the movie wasn't a disappointment. Being a fan of both of the director and the book, I had some high expectations.
While the book is still better in my opinion, the movie did a great job capturing the atmosphere of the book and characterizations it makes. I have a feeling a lot of people who see the movie will be disappointed, expecting a "boom / bang bang / boom" war movie, without knowing that the focus of the book is basically a classic "coming of age story" within the context of American society and military culture. Still, by virtue of the visual medium, the movie does make the story more accessible to people, and if that gets them to read the book... that's a good thing.
Anybody interested in quality cinema ought to check it out.
1. The act or an instance of inscribing.
2. Something, such as the wording on a coin, medal, monument, or seal, that is inscribed.
3. A short, signed message in a book or on a photograph given as a gift.
4. The usually informal dedication of an artistic work.
5. Jeremiah 31:33
name. Gar AKA "that Chinese guy"
ethnicity/nationality. Chinese/American, 4th gen.
location. Sea-Town, WA, USA
less-cynical poor grad student
age. younger than you think, older than you know