Saturday, September 30, 2006


Standing in line, waiting for the PX to open. I need toothpaste. There is something hard under my boot – I almost don’t even look because there are so many rocks about. What crappy land, it’s so dry and rocky. But I am bored, so I bend down - it’s the broken stock of an AK-47, covered in dirt. It’s been there a long time, and it looks almost as if the wood is becoming a part of the earth. Like dirt with a shape. I scoop up a handful of the fine dry silt and let it drip from between my fingers…

The dirt in Iraq is different than the dirt back home. At least different from Michigan dirt. Maybe it’s more like dust bowl dirt. When you first walk in it has a hard shell, but this is deceiving as it rapidly crumbles into dust. Listen to this – Iraqi dirt is so fine that we import sand to fill the sandbags, because the indigenous soil seeps through the weave of the bags. I don’t know if that’s an urban myth. As you step, this dust just envelopes your feet, poofing up little clouds of dust-smoke. And some of the dust-dirt always slops over the lip of the sole of your boot so that when you actually take a step you end up throwing a little bit of dirt in front of you – rather like pig pen walking. .

The color of dirt here is what I call dirty-dirt-tan. Sort of a light grey, scorched desert-looking color. It looks soft and dead, at the same time. Dusty dead like very old crinkly paper. And you know how Michigan dirt can turn almost black when you get it wet? Well, this stuff stays exactly the same color wet or dry, only the tone gets darker. It’s nasty when it’s wet, sort of like thick grey soup. Very sticky. The have large, hard-bristled brushes hanging on a string next to many of the doorways, so you can clean the glue off of your boots before you go in. I can’t wait for the rainy season.

Some dirt smells good, like when you’re working in the garden or potting plants. I remember the rich earth smell of Spain mixed with the fragrance of spring lilacs. The smell here is just like opening a real old book in John King’s Bookstore; old and dusty. The dirt just smells ancient here, as if it is older than dirt in any other part of the world. Each time I have had the opportunity to put my mouth and nose near the ground (don’t ask) I have hitched slightly at the smell, which of course sucks the dust-dirt into your mouth and nostrils in copious quantities. And no matter how much you wash out your mouth, the next drink will taste like mud going down your throat.


Blogger KAB said...

The fact that we have to import sand to fill sandbags in the middle of a shithole country with nothing but sand, is a wonderful (and sad) comment on the whole planning and progress of the war. No doubt Halliburton and Root are able to get us a good price for the sand.

September 30, 2006 9:48 AM  
Blogger KAB said...

I found out that some farm dirt doesn't exactly smell too good either. We were at the CT State fair last weekend - nuff said.

September 30, 2006 9:49 AM  
Anonymous Pixie said...

Importing sand... to a land of sand.

Kab, you chouldn't have wrapped that up any better.

Is that like importing grass to Kentucky?


September 30, 2006 12:36 PM  
Blogger KAB said...

thanks for all that info, Mark. Only you could make an article about crummy ol sand interesting!

love yo yo

September 30, 2006 3:47 PM  
Anonymous Pixie said...

Guess what? We're supposed to have a dust storm tonight. I'll think of you Mark! ;)

October 01, 2006 5:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's good to see Pixie back.

October 02, 2006 11:17 AM  

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