Thursday, December 31, 2009

Breath of Fresh Air

It's a little weird looking back on this year, as not really much has changed. I basically spent the past 12 months just living life. There were a few significant events (making Tech, parental visit, trips around Europe, concerts), but it all pales in comparison to the events of 21-22 August.
Seeing that little baby open his eyes for the first time, so precious and frail, was a life-changing experience. Maybe the sequence of events in my life won't change that much, but my perspective and attitude toward them definitely will. I've always considered myself a rather compassionate person, and I like to think I have a positive outlook. But after helping Brayden come into the world, I feel so much more in touch with life. Its ups and downs. Its constant state of flux. Its unpredictability. And through it all, how God just wants me to be happy.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Fittings and Flashbacks

Along with nine other people, I made a trip to downtown Doha today, which was the first time I'd been since 2003. It's changed quite a bit, as the Qatari economy has grown considerably. Our mission was to find new vendors for parts, but I wasn't too lucky. I was looking for water heaters and adapters from PEX pipe to PVC. Unfortunately, none of the places we visited had anything I needed, leaving my options to whatever I can find online.
On the way back to base, we stopped at the new mall downtown for lunch. It's called the Vellagio, and it looks exactly like the Canal Shops inside The Venetian Casino in Las Vegas, which is a really bad replica of Venice. I couldn't decide which place I missed more--Italy or Vegas. To boot, we ate at the Macaroni Grill. Oh, the coincidental irony...or possibly the ironic coincidence...?

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Words Vs. Pictures

As I'll be here for six months, I brought quite a few books with me. If I don't finish all of them, I'll blame it on my current addiction to Parks and Recreation, which I've been watching on Hulu (which I can't access in Italy, but for some reason, it flies here in Qatar). I know it's similar to The Office, which I like, but I feel like I didn't really get in on the ground floor. Perhaps, one day, I'll start renting it on Netflix and make my way through the whole series. Until then, I'll stick with P&R, most of which I can currently watch online.
As for the books, here's what I brought:

The Dart League King by Keith Lee Morris
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
The Insanity Defense by Woody Allen
The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami
Rabbit, Run by John Updike
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski
The Song Is You by Arthur Phillips

Friday, December 25, 2009

Holiday Ho-Hum

It's Christmas, and I'm off; but I almost wish I was working. There's not really much going on today, so I'm just hanging out, watching movies, and doing laundry. All the buildings on base are decked with lights and decorations, but in a way, it seems like they're almost taunting us. When I'm deployed, I'd rather just skip Christmas. I might sound like a Scrooge, but if I can't be around my family or friends, or even look outside and see snow (it's 84 degrees outside right now), I'd rather save my enthusiasm for another time.
Still, to all those who are singing carols and opening gifts, I wish you a very Merry Christmas. God Bless.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My Quarters For Two Quarters

My Room
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
This is my place for the next six months. It's basically like a hotel room. What you can't see in the picture is my armoire with television, my closet, sink, or the kitchen and bathroom I share with the guy next door. I know I keep going on about how great it is, but yeah, I'm totally hooked up.
The only bad thing is that everyone I know or work with is on the other part of the base. They don't make it up here too often, so it's kinda lonely. Maybe once we get into a routine, I'll start hosting game nights and dance parties.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Survivor's Remorse

Our shop chief (the guy I'm replacing) told all of us from Aviano that we didn't really need to come into work today, but I did anyway, just to see how things run. He'll be leaving in two weeks, and I'm gonna need all the information and help I can get.
But first, did I mention how amazing my room is? Like, really amazing. It's dirty right now, but I'm getting ready to clean and move some furniture around, and as soon as I get done, it will be even better than amazing.
So, yeah, as the shop chief and I were driving around checking out our job sites today, we stopped by the dorms the other guys are living in. As soon as I looked in the room, I felt a wave of guilt. Those guys basically live in a double-wide coffin. It's a tiny room with two sets of bunk beds, two wall lockers, and barely enough room to turn around. They asked how my room was, and I told them they're never allowed to visit because if they saw my room, they might kill me and move in themselves.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Sweet Digs

I made it to Qatar. Getting our bags and going through customs was a chore, but now I'm in my room. And let me just say, my room is pretty nice. I have my own room with bed, desk, chairs, television, walk-in closet, and sink. I share a kitchen and bathroom with the guy next door. And I have wi-fi. The gym, BX, and chow hall are a two-minute walk out my door. It's almost like I'm not even deployed.
As for work, I'm going to be running the "Tiger Team," which is a crew of about eight guys who are building new facilities. Three of the guys on my team will be Rick, Diaz, and Steven, who came here with me from Aviano. Another on my team is Ryan, my old roommate from Utah. (It's a small Air Force.) It's my first time in a real NCOIC position with major responsibilities for an extended period of time. I hope I'm up to the challenge.
For now, I'm going to clean up and make my bed and try to get some sleep. The guy who picked me up told me to just give him a call whenever I wake up tomorrow, but I'd like to go in early just to get a head start on how things move here. I'm pretty excited.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Paid Vacation

I'm in Germany right now, and since yesterday, I've been laying in my hotel room and gorging myself food from every restaurant in the area. I don't feel bad, though, because I know I'm getting ready to endure six months in a place that, while not exactly a hardship, still isn't a life of luxury.
Our flight leaves here tomorrow, but I'm not sure what time we'll land in Qatar. I'm hoping for smooth in-processing and gradual integration into a nice daily routine. I'd like the next six months to go by quickly and without incident. Wish me luck.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Stolen Winter

Finances in order; house clean; bags packed. Cheyenne is house-sitting for me, and everything is pretty much taken care of. I think this is the most prepared I've ever been for a deployment. I was running errands and tying up loose ends today, and as I was driving, I realised how much I'm really looking forward to this trip. Granted, I won't be sleeping in my own bed for six months, and I'm really gonna miss Italy, my friends, and the entire snowboarding season. Still, I'm looking at it as an adventure.
We'll be spending a couple days in Germany before we fly into Qatar, so I'll get to see Ben, Sarah, and Jacob. Living conditions once we get there will be pretty nice. I should have my own dorm room, and I'll be sharing a bathroom with one other guy. They even have wi-fi there, which makes it seem even crazier that I can't get it in my house here in Italy. I'll have access to my e-mail, blog, and facebook, so keeping in touch shouldn't be a problem. Speaking of which, my address is:

TSgt Curtis W. Sutton
APO, AE 09309

Ciao, Italia!

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Decade of Ditties

Lately, I've been seeing lots of lists of the decade's top movies, albums, books, etc., but if I were to compile a list of my favourite albums from 2000 to 2009, I'd be writing for a very long time. So I'm doing something a little different.
But first, a little back story: Last week, I was scanning around on my iPod, looking for something to go with my mood. It was chilly outside, and I wanted to hear something powerful that I hadn't heard in a while. I eventually settled on PJ Harvey's "Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea." I really like this album, and considering the amount of music I have, I listen to it comparatively often. But for some reason, this particular time, as soon as I heard those first guitar chords ring out, I was instantly transported back to the winter/spring of 2000. It was my first winter in Japan, and I was loving life. This album was playing in my car non-stop that year, and to this day, whenever PJ belts out "Good Fortune" or "You Said Something," I get all nostalgic for driving on the left-hand side of the road.
This whole scenario got me thinking about the albums that define certain eras for me; particularly, if I had to pick my personal album from each year, what those albums would be. This isn't necessarily my pick for the best album of each year. It's more like the album that takes me back to that year.

2000 - "Return Of Saturn" by No Doubt
2001 - "Stories From the City, Stories From the Sea" by PJ Harvey
2002 - "Bleed American" by Jimmy Eat World
2003 - "Elephant" by The White Stripes
2004 - "Coral Fang" by The Distillers
2005 - "Antics" by Interpol
2006 - "Show Your Bones" by The Yeah Yeah Yeahs
2007 - "We Were Dead Before The Ship Even Sank" by Modest Mouse
2008 - "Stay Positive" by The Hold Steady
2009 - "These Four Walls" by We Were Promised Jetpacks

Like I said, these aren't really the best albums of each year; just the albums that I'll always identify with these spans of time. Radiohead's "In Rainbows" is probably a better album than "WWDBTSES" by Modest Mouse, but when I hear the Radiohead, I don't think about rocking out while southbound on I-15 getting ready to party with my friends in SLC. I love how music is so transcendent. It can make us feel things, take us back in time, and tug at our emotions like nothing else.
By the way, if I did make a decade-spanning list of the best albums, it would probably be a hybrid of this one from NPR and this one from The AV Club. Hope you appreciate them as much as I do.

Music To My Ears

I just realised I'm getting ready to leave in a couple days, and there are some loose ends I needed to tie up. Including this. So here it is, my
Top Ten Albums of 2009

The Dirty Projectors – Bitte Orca
St. Vincent – Actor
Animal Collective – Merriweather Post Pavilion
(It's been a good year for weird indie rock, as these first three albums can testify. And the Animal Collective wins the award for weirdest album of the year. My friend Scott recommended it, and it took a while for me to really appreciate it, but now I love it.)
(The) Gossip – Music For Men
Lily Allen – It’s Not Me, It’s You
(Not as witty as her first record, but she still cuts deep with her social commentary.)
The xx - xx
Peaches – I Feel Cream
(She shifted her focus from lust to love, but the attitude is still there.)
Spinnerette – Spinnerette
(Brody Dalle's new band, which isn't much of a departure from The Distillers. She definitely knows how to lay down the hooks.)
The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – It’s Blitz!
(It's amazing how a band can evolve so much and still sound unmistakably like themselves.)
We Were Promised Jetpacks – These Four Walls
(The best debut of the year. I couldn't stop listening to it. Dark, hopeful, singable, and full of thick Scottish accents.)

Older albums I got into: Whip-Smart by Liz Phair, O by Tilly and the Wall, and the entire back catalogue of Eagles of Death Metal.
I didn’t get the Blur or No Doubt albums I’d been hoping for this year, and it doesn’t look like the Blur album is going to happen at all. Fingers are crossed for the No Doubt next year, as well as records from Courtney Love (which may bear the Hole moniker), Missy Elliott, Vampire Weekend, and Garbage. If you have any suggestions for bands I might like, please let me know.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Yuletide Ya-Ya's

Deana, Me, JoAnn, & Renee
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Last night was our squadron holiday party. Over the past year, I've put in a lot of work toward it, including fund raisers, menu decisions, door prize shopping, endless meetings, etc. I was a little worried I'd be running around making sure everyone was having a good time and not be able to enjoy it myself. Luckily, a little thing called Wild Turkey put my fears to rest.

Jenni & Johnny
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
The holiday party is one of the few times work people get to see each other all dressed up. And this year, we had a casino theme, so some people went all out.

John & Me
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Did I mention I was drinking Wild Turkey? For some reason, the club doesn't stock Makers Mark, and since I'm a Kentucky boy, I went for the only thing they had from my home state. It went down surprisingly easy. It didn't hurt that the bartender, Tina, is a friend of mine, and every time she saw me coming, she already had it poured.

Trish & JoAnn
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
This was the first of several borderline inappropriate pictures taken throughout the evening, many of which are on other people's cameras.

Poker Table
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I was a little worried about the logistics of the gambling tables, but everything went off quite smoothly.

Me & Jo
Originally uploaded by currtdawg

Deana, Me, & JoAnn
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I wasn't the only one for whom the liquor was liberally flowing.

Steven, Stan, & Rick
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Steven has issues with smiling in pictures. It might not look like it, but he was having the time of his life, mostly because he was winning at poker. That, and the alcohol.

Me, Steve, & Travis
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We knew the party was pretty kick-ass because nearly everyone stayed until midnight, when the club turned on all the lights and basically kicked us out.

Steven & JoAnn
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
We all knew we'd be in no condition to drive after the party, so last week, several of us reserved rooms in lodging, which is right across the street from the club. The after-party commenced in my room, where we continued to drink and dance.

Wrestling Match
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Somehow, JoAnn, Deana, and Steven got into a big wrestling match. It was probably the most hysterical thing I've seen in a long time. On top of this, the radio was blaring and everyone was dancing. I kept expecting the cops to knock on our door, but they never did. It was after 3 AM by the time everyone left.
After checking out this morning, we all met for breakfast and laughed about everything that happened the night before. We kept quoting each other with funny one-liners, such as:
"How does everyone know what colour underwear I have
"This is how I kiss Brayden."
"Take your shirt off when you're talking to me!"
"I would totally stick it in the commander."
"You're like the George Clooney of the Air Force."
After breakfast, I made a quick trip to the grocery store, where I ran into several people from my squadron, and they all told me how much fun they had and how it was the best holiday party they've ever been to. I'm glad all the hard work we put into it really paid off. And to quote Deana, "Most successful party ever."

Friday, December 11, 2009

Four More Years

Capt Sha & Stan
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Stan re-enlisted yesterday, and he tried to not make a big deal out of it. In fact, he didn't even tell anyone. But I just happened to walk into the conference room as he and Captain Sha were getting ready to recite the oath. I made them wait until I got my camera. Congratulations, Stan! (Even though I saw you roll your eyes as I started snapping pictures.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

An Alternate Reality

I don't normally have to get up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom, but last night, I had multiple cups of tea while watching a movie. So, at about 2 AM, I woke up, peed, and went back to bed. But then I couldn't fall back asleep again.
So I laid there. And laid there. And laid there.
Finally, around 4, I started to drift off. But it was a weird in-and-out kind of sleep, and I was having a bunch of strange dreams that I don't really remember. So I decided to just get up and get some stuff done. I got out of bed and started walking down the stairs, but when I got to the first floor of my house, it didn't look right at all. My living room had changed into this really long room with doors and windows on either side, and a long wooden table in the middle. I walked through the room, slowly, and saw another set of stairs leading up on the other side. They were really shallow stairs, and they curved to the left. I started climbing the stairs when I realised, "Hey, this isn't right at all! Am I dreaming or something?"
I decided to perform a test. "If I take a big jump up these stairs and start flying, then I'm definitely dreaming." So I pushed off with my foot, and suddenly, I found myself floating through the air. I was totally having a lucid dream, and it was pretty awesome.
I wanted it to last a while, but I kept drifting in and out of consciousness. One second I was high above those stairs, and the next, I was laying in my bed. I was going back and forth between both places. And I could physically feel a weird tingling all over my body. It was one of the strangest sensations I've ever experienced.
I've done a little research on how to induce lucid dreams, and it's something I'd like to experience again. There's really no limit to what one's subconscious can conceive. I hope it happens again soon.

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Sharp Shooter

MSgt Hammes told all the deployers we could have off work until we leave. And even though I'm glad to have some time to relax and get things in order before I deploy, I still find myself spending a lot of time at work. Yesterday, I had to go in for a first aid class. Today, I had to shoot M-16. Tomorrow, I have to take care of holiday party stuff. And so on.
My M-16 class should have been done by 1 PM today, but for some reason, lasted until 5. I was feeling really optimistic as we were shooting our practice rounds. I was hitting the centre of the target each time. But by the time we started qualifying, my eyes were fatigued, and I didn't do as well. Still, I shot a 32, which is a qualifying score (barely), and that's all I really care about. Besides, if it ever comes to pass that the Air Force is relying on my marksman skills, we're in some serious shit.

Monday, December 07, 2009

Sunday Night Snacking

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
I had the whole crew over for dinner last night. It's going to be a busy week full of Christmas Party preparation and out-processing, and I wasn't sure I'd get to see Jess again before she leaves tomorrow. Seriously, I don't think anyone in the world can make me laugh as hard as that girl. We had a great time dining on pasta and bread, and tossing back some of the wine we got Saturday.
Sundays are the best time to have everyone over. We just relax, recap our weekends, and try not think about how we all have to go back to work the next morning.

Sunday, December 06, 2009


Red Velvet Cheesecake
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Jess flew in Friday night to hang out for a few days. As soon as she arrived, we all went dancing at Oddisea's. And yesterday morning, we went winery hopping in Spilimbergo. Last night, Cheyenne hosted a little gathering in Jess's honour.
A few weeks ago, I was searching around for a new cheesecake challenge, and found a recipe for red velvet cheesecake. And what better reason to make it than Jess's visit? It was so gorgeous, we almost didn't want to cut into it, but we're glad we did. It turned out wonderfully. Definitely something festive for the Christmas season.

Saturday, December 05, 2009

Finish Line

Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Johnny doesn't really like working in CE, and has been working really hard the past few months to cross-train to Tactical Air Control Party, or TACP. They're the guys who do ground combat manoeuvres, and advise air attack plans. Basically, they're hardcore. He found out a few months ago he'll start training in Florida in January. Since most of our crew is deploying next week, Johnny asked if we could have his going-away party early, so last night, we all met for dinner, followed by go-cart racing.
I don't think Steven has ever lost at go-cart racing, but last night, he came in second to Johnny. He said the only reason he lost is because Jenni got in his way, but I think he was just going easy on Johnny since it was his party and all.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Moving On

We found out yesterday we'll be leaving on the 16th, which made everyone happy because we'll all be here for the Christmas party on the 12th. I don't know who made our arrangements, but we're riding on two different busses and two different planes through Germany to get to Qatar. This is so ridiculous because a) there are direct flights from here to Qatar on a weekly basis, and b) aren't we the Air Force? Regardless, I'm just glad we have a set date, and I can work on getting things in order before we go.
Equally as satisfying is MSgt Hammes called me today and told me the Commander finally signed my extension. Again, it's only for twelve months, but that's another year I get to spend in Italy, and that makes me happy.

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Get-Along Gang

We had our shop Christmas Party/Chili Lunch today. We also invited the heavy equipment shop to participate. We had seven huge pots of chili, and ended everything with a "Dirty Santa" gift exchange. Everybody got good stuff, but a few things were a little misplaced. For instance, Mike got a big box of condoms and cigarettes, but he's married and doesn't smoke. Jeremiah got a bartender's guide, but he's Mormon and doesn't drink. It made for a fun afternoon with plenty of laughs.

Steven, Travis, & Aaron
Originally uploaded by currtdawg
Particularly special was JoAnn's gift to me: a copy of "Going Rogue" by Sarah Palin. We had hours of fun picking out random sentences and laughing at the absurdity of it all.
I know I sometimes complain about work, but I really can't complain about the people in my shop. We might not always be the most productive crew, but we get along great. It's a shame we can't all just deploy together.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Raining On My Parade

Here in northern Italy, we haven't seen the sun in about three weeks. I'm a pretty optimistic person, but this dreary weather had started to get me down. That is, until today, when the clouds broke and those golden rays shone through. Not only did we get some sun, we even saw the tops of the mountains! And, oh, how gloriously white and thick with snow they were! I stood outside for a while during lunch, just staring at the peaks, hoping I'll get a chance to board down them before I depart for Qatar.
Just as I went inside, SMSgt Campbell, our superintendent, came by the shop holding a familiar-looking blue folder. It was my extension paperwork, still unsigned by the commander. SMSgt Campbell told me the commander wouldn't approve my 24-month extension, and that my best bet was to go for a 12-month extension. Then, at the end of that time, we'll have a new commander, and I can apply for another extension. It's annoying, exhausting, and ridiculous; but at this point, I'll take what I can get.
After SMSgt Campbell left, I looked back outside to see the clouds gathering again, enveloping the mountains and blocking the sun. I hope it's not a sign.