Back to Basics

I know, I haven’t posted anything in about six weeks. As I noted in the last post, I just don’t feel like it when I’m away on leave…I’m too busy cramming 12 weeks of drinking into 4. I’ve been back in KAF for about a week now, having spent 6 days in Dubai doing some training. I’d like to say “it’s good to be back”…no, scratch that, saying that would be a sign of severe emotional distress. Let’s just say, I’m here….and it sure ain’t like home.

On The Home Front

How To Turn Money into Noise

No, I am not having a mid-life crisis, thank you.

I spent the couple of weeks just hanging around home getting all that shit done that I can’t do when I’m over here. I also had the chance to change the shocks and control arms on my car…or, as I fondly call it, my money pit. You see, I bought a ’69 Pontiac Beaumont. It’s pretty much a Chevelle on the outside and a GTO on the inside and was made only for the Canadian market…so it’s a sorta unique, cool thing. I had this naive vision of me whiling away sunny days working on my car while enjoying a few beers. The problem is, I don’t know jack shit about auto mechanics. The only shop I took in high school was one year of machine shop and it was my worst mark. Being able to solve a quadratic equation is fucking useless when you need to replace an engine. So, I do most of my work on the car down at a  local shop where the owners rebuild old cars in their spare time. By “do”, I mean that they handle the hard stuff and I’m in charge of having the Visa card. But, be that as it may, the car is now mechanically sound and is just about as fast as it is noisy. Next up is the interior and body work. If you know anything about car wiring…feel free to drop by.

Good Eats

You can tell the food is good because they serve it on oddly shaped plates.

Getting back to what this blog is purportedly about, the food at home was decidedly un-DFAC-ish. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my younger daughter, Erica, is in culinary school and is spending the summer interning at a fancy-pants restaurant near home. So, my wife and I and a couple of friends went there for dinner just to check the place out. It was awesome. I had some homemade pates and Joan had scallops as appetizers. For the main course she had Moroccan chicken and I had rabbit. Since we’re good parents, we went on a night Erica wasn’t working and, thus, were incognito. At least we were until it was time to pay. I’m using a debit card and have just reached the part of the payment process where it asks if I want to leave a tip of 10, 15 or 20%. My finger is moving the towards the 15% button when one of our friends says to the waitress “Hey, their daughter works here.” Fuck! 20% it is.

Food From A Box

Now that’s a pizza.

I’ve loved Kraft Pizza since I was a kid. You know, the box that has the dough mix, the sauce, that stinkily delicious fake parmesan cheese and the little envelope of mystery herbs? We still make them every few months and everyone gets to make their own pizza to their particular taste. Joan always makes some artisanal, hoity-toity thing with shit like spinach, real parmesan, sun-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs I’ve never heard of. I, on the other hand, make a Salt Lover’s pizza. It’s got bacon (lots of bacon), anchovies, black olives, fake parmesan, feta,onions and, of course, the mystery herbs. On this particular day, I was feeling particularly health conscious and added some tomatoes. If this doesn’t spike your blood pressure, nothing will. You’re welcome.

You’ll come for the ambiance and stay for the bits of deep fried fish.

Pearles Before Swine

We also visited a slightly less formal local eatery. Pearle’s is a roadside shack in Paradise, Nova Scotia. They’re famous for their Haddie Bits. These are tiny bits of haddock which are breaded and deep fried. My wife loves them despite my insistence that she is eating fish plant sweepings. I had the clam burger which is made with actual clams (albeit deep fried ones) and not just the bits that fell off the shucking table; it was delicious. I think their greatest claim to fame should be their ability to make everything they serve the same shade of “deep-fried” brown. As deep fried seafood goes, this place is the best.

Road Trip

Paris Would Be So Disappointed

During my third week of leave, Joan and I took a road trip back to my home town of London, Ontario. We drove for 13 hours the first day and, upon arriving in Albany NY at 9 PM, we asked Ms. GPS for the nearest hotel. Alas, the Hilton Garden Inn was full but they helpfully suggested the Hilton downtown. We got there about 10 pm. I should have known something was wrong when I asked the woman at the desk if they had a room available. Her answer of “I’m not sure…just a moment” was a portent of things to come. She brought the night manager over who said “Yes, you can give them that one”. The rate was $200…it seemed a little pricey but at that point I just wanted a room. So, we trundle off to room 320.

Duct taped window and ceiling stain.

Upon opening the door we are met with a rather unpleasant melange of disinfectant and mustiness. I consider complaining then think “Fuck it, I’m just gonna have a beer and go to bed”. That’s when I find out there’s no minibar. Upon contacting room service, they tell us it’ll take 20 minutes to send up a beer. Then I notice that one of the windows, and I mean a massive, 3′ X 3′ thing, is held in with duct tape. All this, along with the massive, yellowing water stain on the ceiling, made for an experience that was very different than that at the Hilton Dubai Creek. I figger that the room had been broken into via the window and a hideous axe murder had occurred spraying blood all over the ceiling which they tried, but failed to wash away. Either that or it’s just a poorly maintained shit hole. The happy ending is that I bitched to the manager the next morning and they comped our breakfast and parking and gave us 50% off the room. I gotta bitch more often.

Denny’s Ain’t No Diner

Grease with a side of gross.

Perhaps it’s false memory syndrome, but I could have sworn I once had an excellent breakfast at a Denny’s. Based upon this apparently erroneous recollection, I suggested we stop at Denny’s as we drove through Connecticut one morning on our way home. I ordered poached eggs. Take a look at those things! See that yellow shit all over them? That’s butter. They were swimming in it. What the fuck? Since when do poached eggs require 1/4 lb of butter melted over them? The toast was also liberally slathered with butter while the hash browns were awash with some other member of the edible fats family (lard, perhaps?). The whole things was a slimy mess and I shall not darken a Denny’s doorway again.

Now that’s a diner

Contrast this with our experience the very next day. After spending a night in one of the best hotels I’ve ever been in, The Portland Harbor Hotel, in Portland, Maine, we stopped just up the road in Brunswick for breakfast. We had a good feeling about this place as soon as we saw it. Not only does it look like a diner out of a Hollywood prop department, it also had about seven Harleys parked out front. Now, these weren’t the scary, Hell’s Angel brand of Harley riders…these were the middle-aged, beer-bellied brand. These are guys who know where to get a good breakfast. A further sign of good things to come was hearing the that waitress’s name was Marge. I love it when the real world lives up to my stereotyped image of it. The food was fantastic and cost 1/2 as much as the fucking slop at Denny’s.

Heading Back

Dubai Musings

So I spent a few days in Dubai for some training and due to various fortuitous fuck-ups on the part of others, I ended up having a fair amount of time off. I’m no fan of that place. It’s got a thin veneer of first world, liberal democracy overlaid upon a deep well of backwards, Islamic fascism. And the beer costs $10 each.

Speaking of beer. I really don’t quite understand Allah’s desires surrounding the consumption of alcohol. Judging by the shit going down at the Al Bustan Rotana Hotel, here’s what I’ve figured out:
1. Allah will condemn you to hell if you drink alcohol outside a hotel or in most places in the hotel.
2. Allah thinks alcohol is just fine in the hotel’s Executive Lounge but only between the hours of 1830 and 2030. He’s so ok with it, in fact, that it’s free. Outside those hours, however, he’ll torture you forever if you drink a beer there.
3. If you’re around a pool, Allah’s ok with you having a drink any time of the day but you have to pay $10 for it.
The Koran is more complex than I gave it credit for.

Regardless of the inanities of its religiously based laws, being in Dubai is still better than being in KAF. Here’s a little photo diary of my adventures:

Dust to Dust

Yeah, yeah, I know you denizens of Kandahar Airfield have been thinking “When the hell is he going to talk about KAF. I rely on his wisdom to guide me through my life here” while those readers in the real world saliciously thought “I wish he’d tell me more about how miserable it is there so I could feel better about my mediocre life”. So, on to the happenings in my little desert paradise since I’ve been back.

Toilet Update!

Several of our hygienically-challenged shackmates have moved out and I’m happy to report that the incidences of poo-water and it’s concomitant stench are decidedly reduced. There are still a couple of guys here who use the squatter but they’re pretty careful with the poo atomizers. There is, however, the problem of uncareful people sneaking into our accommodations to use our facilities…we suspect because they have completely fouled their own. At least things are improving; I mean, the dude that vomited while brushing his teeth is gone along with the guy who spit on the stall wall. So a couple of phantom shitters ain’t nothin’.

Another 3 Bite the Dust

My co-horts, A and M, dutifully recorded the three Toyota Surfs that lost wheels while I was gone. That’s seven since I started reporting on them on April 20th, for those keeping score.

I oughta send these to Toyota.

The Food

Low Carb Sugar

Ok, I’m finally ready to start talking about the DFACS. My first night back, J, D, A and I went to the Far East. J informed us that “Today is the cheat day” for his diet eating system but he was upset that there was “nothing to splurge on”. I helpfully laughed and took a picture of his two brownies and rice pudding covered in custard. He helpfully muttered “fuck off”.

I can’t decide…

I’m really not sure how he could complain about the selection. After all, there were eight drink dispensers offering a wide selection of Orange Squash, Milk, Orange Squash, Water, Orange Squash, Water, Spam, Water, and Orange Squash. There was Chicken Biryani available too. Oh sure, it didn’t contain any actual chicken meat, but there were bones in it that were chickenesque in appearance.

Worst. Steak. Ever.

On Thursday, the Monti had decent food which none of us could remember but our vague recollection of not being disgusted was enough for us to try it again on Friday. It turned out to be surf and turf night. Sounds great eh? It wasn’t. It was an awful parody of steak and shrimp. D wanted to take the steak up to the guy who served it, shake it in his face and say “You ought to be ashamed to serve that. Would you eat that?”. The shrimp were no better. They tasted like slightly burned, greasy breading with a hint of dessicated shrimp inside. D made a heroic effort to eat the corn on the cob before he was forced to concede and opined “If you fed this to the cows they’d ask ‘ya got any good corn?'”. Even the gravy on my fries tasted burned. But…the coleslaw was tangilicious leading D to sadly conclude “It’s pretty pathetic when the highlight of your meal is the fucking coleslaw”. He’s right, you know.

Yup. That’s a chunk o’ lard.

As one of the few remaining original members of our team, along with me, S and AA, D’s KAF wisdom, as exemplified above, is usually quite impressive. What the hell was he thinking, then, when he chose the Scone for dessert at the Lux? Oh sure, they make you think it has a nice moist, creamy filling…but, come on D, you’ve been here long enough to know it’s fucking lard and the scone is a dried out piece of crap!

My most surreal moment this week occurred on July 1st. That’s Canada Day, our national holiday, during which we celebrate being the second biggest country in the world. So, I and some colleagues are wearing shirts emblazoned with the Canadian flag. The Indian guy serving at the Northline says “Canada”. “Yeah”, I respond in a nice Canadian way. “Too many Canadians in India” [head waggle]. What the hell? I really don’t think there’s a huge fucking line up of Canadians trying to get into India. I got one word for this guy Brampton”I doubt there are any Indian cities that are 30% Canadian…

Bottom Line

It’s a slow decline in awesomeness as I transit back to this place. Nova Scotia rocks in a bucolic 1950 kinda way. I fly to Toronto…it’s crowded and a little rude but at least it’s still Canada. Then a flight to Frankfurt…well, they use weird money but it’s still a western liberal democracy with secular laws. On to Dubai where they at least pretend to be civilized…when they’re not enforcing medieval morality. Then comes KAF…ugh.

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2 thoughts on “Back to Basics

  1. It was great to meet you ,Mark when you swung by Guelph. Glad i didn’t rate a dinner review though. I was so happy to see Joan and it was nice to meet your mother too. Best to you.

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