Monday, March 17, 2008

Deep Thoughts with Biggie Smalls

As someone whose foreign language efforts usually resemble beluga whale mating calls, I have zero right to criticize non-English primary speakers attempts at my native language. I rationalize this by saying that my love for the English language is just too pure and too right to be tainted by something else, but really, who knows. I guess that synapse hadn’t connected yet before I escaped the womb in a Caesarian jailbreak. I even dated a French chick for a few months and never made any serious progression to learn her language. If a woman can’t make you do something despite all her harassments to the contrary, it probably isn’t meant to happen.

Still, one cannot avoid the very obvious truth that English sounds funny when it comes out of mouths untrained to its’ complexities. That’s not being culturally insensitive, that’s just straight comedic fact. Language – any language – inevitably develops into a multitude of dialects, nuances, and cultural references that can be nigh impossible to understand, let alone replicate. Such is the case for the Gravediggers’ ever-present and always amusing interpreter, Biggie Smalls. A good-natured grandfather who has a weakness for ignoring his diabetes in the name of Pepsi Cola and cannot stand punk teenagers, Biggie causes as much of a ruckus around Anu al-Verona as we do; his diversity due to his heritage in the Heart of Africa and midnight black skin, when blended with his ability to make newfound friends everywhere he goes and the rolling chuckle that follows nearly every statement he makes, has proven to be an instrumental asset in the counterinsurgency fight. Everyone knows Biggie, and Biggie knows everyone.

Here is a short collection of some of Biggie’s finer moments with my platoon. Keep in my mind, that some of my soldiers think he suffers from PTSD, due to surviving multiple IED strikes in the three years he has worked for Coalition Forces. Also, after some prodding, he reluctantly revealed that he lost three young children during Desert Storm, and that he visits their graves every time he goes home. He has seen far more war over the course of his life than one man ever should. Not all warriors in Anu al-Verona carry rifles when they leave the wire.

-- Biggie: “I do not understand why you Americans insist on missions in night. Night is for sleep!” Me: “You’re right. You should take it up with CPT Whiteback.” Biggie, completely straight-faced: “That is a good idea, LT. I will summon him as soon as we return from mission and explain the situation.”

-- Biggie: “I am worry that my family would be hurt if people knew I work with Americans. That is why I do not tell them.” Me: “Wait? So you’re saying no one in your family knows you work here? Not even your wives?” Biggie: “Women cannot keep from the talk. They be too proud of me and do the chatter when I am away. Then they will die!”

-- PFC Boomhauer: “How do you feel about rules of engagement, Biggie?” Biggie: “I say kill them all! That way, I do not have to leave Stryker.”

-- Biggie: (after walking into a maze of wire at night, that my soldiers had to help him get out of): “Why is that still there! I say to have it to be taken away.”

-- SGT Chico: “I only have one wife, Biggie. That’s more than enough for me. Not to mention, she’d kill me if I married another woman.” Biggie, shaking his head in confusion: “But why? If they do not want to share, you must hit them around to show who is king. I had to do that with smaller wife when she stop listening to me.” SGT Chico: “Yeah, well, my wife would just hit me right back.”

-- Me, sitting in a Sheik’s house, anxious to return to my Strykers and feeling slightly guilty that not all of my soldiers are partaking in the impromptu feast laid out before us: “Let’s go, Biggie.” Biggie: “But … but why, LT? There is more food and chai to come. It is Arab culture!” Me: “I need to check on my guys, man. Let’s roll.” Biggie, clearly perturbed and shoving food into his mouth as I thank the Sheik, and begin to head out the front door: “But … but … LT, it is Arab culture! We must stay for more food!”

-- Biggie, who I stumble upon in the breakfast line, staring at a piece of sausage. “This is pork, yes?” Me: “Yeah, it is. Sorry man, I know you’re not allowed to eat pork.” Biggie: “Gah! I do not understand why Allah does not allow us to eat the pork when it smell so good.”

-- First Sergeant, catching Biggie carrying a new mattress to his room in the combat outpost: “No, Biggie, we don’t have enough mattresses for everyone. Not even all the soldiers are going to get one.” Biggie: “But you have one for Biggie, yes?”

-- First Sergeant, catching Biggie with a dinner plate that would feed a block in Anu al-Verona: “Come on Biggie, you gonna tell me you gonna eat all that?” Biggie, who puts his plate down and flexes: “Of course! I have two wives, I must be strong for them!”

-- Me, seeing Biggie grab a Pepsi during a meeting: “Biggie, put that down. Grab something without sugar.” Biggie, laughing: “You are good leader of me, LT! I will have orange drink.” Me: “Biggie, how long have you known you have diabetes?” Biggie: “Oh, I don’t know. Ten years?”

-- Biggie, after unleashing a tongue-lashing on a Shi’a fourteen-year old kid who failed to produce his ID in a timely fashion: “Stupid mother fucker.” Me: “Man, Biggie, what did you tell that kid? He looks like we ran over his house.” Biggie: “I tell him next time he looks at Americans with the angry we will come and drop him off alone in Sunni neighborhood. We will not have problem again with him.”

-- Biggie, who has become addicted to Macgyver re-runs: “It is excellent show. He always use his mind, you know? Very good hero.”

-- Biggie, on the Saddam era: “It was not so bad. There were discos.”

-- Biggie, on his actions during the initial American offensive in 2003: “I see smoke from American tanks and American heli-choppers and American bombs and I go inside. I stay in house for three weeks and make two new babies with my wives.”

-- Biggie, on his actions in 2004, when members of the Mahdi Army showed up at his business and requisitioned all of his assets, financial or otherwise: “There were 30 men with AK. They tell me we shoot you and kill or you give everything. I say, ‘okay, have it all, bye bye! I go home now.’”

-- Biggie: “I tell all the other LTs and all the other terps- no one works like Gravediggers! We work, work, work. We no talk – we just do.” Me: “Word, Biggie. Word.”

-- Biggie, with a sense of absolute wonder in his voice that only someone from a third-world nation can attain: “Ahh-merr-ikaaa … America. It must be very beautiful place, yes?”

It is Biggie, it really is. I just wish we could understand that the way that you do.


Bag Blog said...

I'm glad you have Biggie to entertain and give new and intersting views on life in Iraq.

Back during the Clinton administration an illegal immigrant friend commented on one of Clinton's State of the Union speeches, "Aiee, that Clinton, he is just spreading butter all over us!" meaning: he is buttering us up.

Clayton said...

LT, those quotes are awesome! Can't anybody see this on a screenplay? This blog is particularly great because I'm married to French Canada and if my wife starts purring the dialect, it's like building a bigger bomb! I also work with 3 Beluga Whales and there's good money to be made if you can sound like them!

KJ said...

That was awesome! Thanks LT. Biggie sounds like a good man.

Ohh and a very happy St. Patricks day to you :). There is a song I think you should check out, seeing as it's a great song and it's St. Patricks day - you can find them on myspace (I know, I know...)

"Seven nights in Ire" by Reckless Kelly

Anonymous said...

1. Happy St. Patrick's Day!
2. Biggie is awesome. I want to get him some turkey sausage. I think Allah would be ok with that.

Anonymous said...

Happy St Patrick's Day!

LT. C said...

Nice post, LT, there are some gems in there. Many a guiness were consumed in your honor this weekend.

"They may question our drinking, but they'll never question our thirst"


lela said...

Happy St Pat's day, Lt G!!!

David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the blog post From the Front: 03/17/2008 News and Personal dispatches from the front lines. said...

You need to see the May 15th Prophecy which has been the only source that has been 100 accurate on what is happening in Iraq, as well as Lebanon, Iran and the greater Middle East

Do a Google search of the May 15th Prophecy and you will see for yourself

DebbieKinIL said...

Biggie- a true survivor. and MacGyver-man!, he HAS excellent taste. Thanks, this post was great!

I hope Biggie survives to tell his grandchildren, about the time they got their freedom back. and how he was a part in it.

Macy said...

Biggie seems like a very sweet person.

Anonymous said...

Lt. G,
As many you may hear on many radio talk shows, “First Time, Long Time.”
I enjoy your writings, and please keep your good and honest work up. I will raise my pint of Guinness this evening to you and your Gravediggers this St. Patrick's Day evening.

mike said...

Good stuff, LT.
Keep on keepin' on, and stay possible.

Nichole said...

Wow that was great!

Anonymous said...

Dude, great blog! Good to see that there are some sensible heads out there, that have a good sense of humor too! Know that at least one REMF here in the five-sided playpen on the Potomac remembers you guys out there -- stay safe!

Anonymous said...

Amazing blogs. I would have never known of you if it weren't for Yahoo News. I am thankful I was able to read your blogs. The truth of a daily so to speak. My husband is beginning a secong=d tour out there and he was a reck the first time around when he came home. It always helps to read and get a view of what really is going on. Good and bad! Thanks again!

subrookie said...

It's all your fault for getting this damn Killers song in my head! Now it's on repeat on my ipod. Good luck Gravedigger, I love your blog. Stay safe and keep up the good work!

Anonymous said...

Stay safe out there and THANK YOU for all that you do!

Happy St. Patrick's Day
~C. Tebedo (AKA the Better half)

horace said...

updated links- yahoo news, in addition to many, many major and minor newspapers across the country;_ylt=AoZDoXAWxrIf8KOuMuXkUp6s0NUE

Anonymous said...

A young American officer who likes to read, fight, and drink? Heaven help us, Norman Mailer has returned.

Anonymous said...

Great stuff! Thanks again for your service & stay safe!

BrianFH said...

My first exposure to your wonderful blog. Now on my RSS list.

Biggie is the best!

About languages: try learning Esperanto. Takes about a week. Gives the brain a "grid" to approach all other languages, and accelerates absorption.

BrianFH said...

Oh, about the diabetes:
It has been discovered recently (partly thru statistical matching of areas with high/low consumption of diet colas and high/low incidence of obesity) that using artificial sweeteners INCREASES weight. The body doesn't like being fooled by the sweet taste with no calories, so it cranks up intake. BLOOP!

Marksda46 said...

May G-d Bless you, May he hold you precious in his sight and safe in his Loving arms. I'm so very proud of you and all of the fine young men and women who have taken the enemy's focus from our streets and hallways. You truly are the "Tip of the Spear". Thank You for your service, sacrifice, and dedication.
One of my Buds is over there working Internet Cafe. I'll fwd him your URL so he can see how what he does works. Again G-d Bless. You will be in my prayers.

BrianFH said...

Oh, about that pure English. Here's the deal on the apostrophe, starting with "it":

he's, she's, it's;
his, hers, its.

No exceptions.

dog's tail;
dogs' tails.

Words ending in "s":
analysis' author;
analyses' authors.

ABCs are easy to learn;
ABC's star news anchor.

That's the pure quill.


Anonymous said...

Good stuff, LT! Just found your blog, and it's really interesting and informative! Really gives some much-needed insight into what's actually going on over there.

Keep it up and stay safe!!

Anonymous said...

You received over 2,000 hits in 24 hours!!! Thank you New York Times. I am so proud of you, as is everyone else in your life. Be safe and know that I am thinking of you.

-- City Girl

PS I am aware that by not posting this anonymously I am just asking to be insulted.

Grandpa said...

City girl, anyone who dares insult you on this blog will have their throats ripped out by everyone of the regular readers of this blog. Most of us want to see more from you on here.

Blogengeezer said...

Your last two paragraphs on this post were classic Sir.

I did a prolific email FWD of them, complete with your link.

Hope you don't mind. It should be around the world within a couple of weeks. The 'Gravediggers' are always in our prayers. Thank You Sir. 'DaFlikkers'

5wounds said...

Glad to see that CG is a brave warrior as well!
Remember girlfriend to include a bladder cleaning kit and tablets for his camelback in your boxes so that as Your G and the gravediggers embrace the suck.. well.. the suck doesn't cause them harm...
Everything needs cleaning once in awhile! CG don't sell yourself short ever! You did not go to boot camp or train for this!
Thanks to Biggie for the reminder of the blessedness and beauty of America!
..and thanks Lt G for keeping the fight there and allowing the beauty of Our Country to shine through you.

OldGrouchy said...

City Girl, what's important is how LT G thinks of you and the rest of us can go suck eggs or whatever. Grandpa is right, a teeny bit harsh but correct.

Hope Biggie sees some brightness in his life along with all other Iraqi's. Be nice if Americans could think of our country as biggie described it above. Like to think most Americans do and to heck with those that don't.

Stay safe, all of you Gravediggers too. God bless all of you and Biggie Smalls too.

terrylfarmerjr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
terrylfarmerjr said...

LT. G and the Gravediggers,
I first would like to thank each and every one of you brave men for doing the job that you do. As for you LT you have a gift of writing that is something that I hope you will pursue once back home. My family and I send care packages to the men and woman serving our nation and would love to put one together for the Gravediggers. Recently my close friend returned from Afghanistan, I know, firsthand, the packages were well received. Please do not consider this a form of charity or a civilian’s way of saying “we’ve done something for the troops”. I am a military brat as is my wife and we have known no other way to support the troops but to send love from home. Growing up military and having a house full of Vietnam and Gulf Vets have been a way of life. If at all possible please provide an APO box and our packages unless instructed otherwise will be addressed to the Gravediggers, if for reasons this cannot happen we understand and still would like to send our love and prayers to you men.

The Famers

Anonymous said...

Lt G (a/k/a Honorable Son Number 1), since I don't have the option to send this to City Girl directly , it goes on this post).

City Girl, don't worry what othrs think. Whatever is between you and Lt G is precisely that - between you and Lt G, and I (and I hope all others, will respect that). Lt G will always be Honorable Son Number 1 (with apologies to poor Hollywood stereotypes but those Charlie Chan movies are a part of American history and reflect all of American history - some of which to be proud of, some of which to reflect upon and learn from). But City Girl, you are more than "alright in my book." YOu are very important to Lt G, and thus, important to me.

Wishing you, Lt G, the Gravediggers and everyones family and friends, all the best

Papa G (or as Lt G refers to me Poppa G)

DG said...

LT G - I saw MacGyver one morning when I was skiing in Taos. My husband and I stopped off in some funky new age town not far from Taos and between seeing all of the pot smokers and crystals I worked up a mighty hunger. We dropped into a southwestern breakfast place and ordered up some yummy spicy huevos breakfast dishes which we promptly dove into with vigor. As my hunger relaxed I started glancing around at my surroundings. THAT'S WHEN I SAW MACGYVER. It freaked me the hell out. There slouched Richard Dean Anderson, all lean and lanky with his thin legs stuck out in front of him. He had his girl du jour with him and they were in some kind of tiff. She had on huge sunglasses that hid her face. I watched them with fascination until my husband whacked my leg under the table. "Do you think he's going to build a bomb?" I hissed. My husband rolled his eyes, but then started watching MacGyver suspiciously.

You just never know about MacGyver. The man's a genius. He could have blown us all to kingdom come with scrambled eggs, a toothpick, and a little salsa.

Inquiries said...

I like your blog. Biggie is hilarious.

BrianFH said...

Nah, everyone knows how dangerous it is to insult a redhead! ;)

BTW -- crushed under a microscope, all human hair contains red pigment, and no other colors.

AFSister said...

Biggie, on his actions during the initial American offensive in 2003: “I see smoke from American tanks and American heli-choppers and American bombs and I go inside. I stay in house for three weeks and make two new babies with my wives.”

OMFG.... That one had me seriously laughing out loud. CLASSIC!!!! He sounds like a real character- which means it's no wonder he fits right in with you guys!!