On my friend Patrick's off-handed recommendation, I strayed into Metropolis, Illinois around 11 p.m. When a fog bank descended over I-57/24, I decided to stay the night...
Yesterday was as grim as I imagined it would be. Didn't have a lot of time alone with Evan the previous evening - four hours, I suppose. We drove onto Fort Riley, bought booze, and decamped at a dire Days Inn (the only lodging available) to talk music, women, our shared pasts, and Iraq. I'd bought one of the new Nano 2.0 units for him the day of my departure from Atlanta; as Evan filled it with trance and dubstep in anticipation of his 17-hour flight from Kansas to Kuwait we guzzled Beam and Coke, took the expected blurry, poorly composited photos, and laughed between annoying cell calls.
(Evan Smith, early on the morning of September 18... It's all a blur. Razr snap by his dad.)
(A fetid Days Inn about to be razed by Cyclops' disinfectant gaze...)
Around 2 a.m., the lil' doppelganger had to retire. I could sense bedbugs seething just inches below tawdry, tattered sheets (I wouldn't fuck one of my irregularly scheduled punk girlfriends in so rancid a dump - a brick pile salted with radon ices and asbestos seasonings would be more hygenic), so I slept on the unturned queen and entertained vague, unappealing dreams.
Evan knocked on my door at 8 in full combat dress - a bit of a jolt, as I was wearing naught but nuthin'. I felt like some poor Sadr City slob who'd just had his home broken into by soldiers very much like the one gesturing before me... Cleaned up, got dressed, and we drove again to Fort Riley for the send-off / meltdown. Lots of wives and girlfriends (many of whom were very pregnant), a smattering of family members, and rows of rucksacks and body armor upon which were stacked Kevlar helmets and boxes of Army-issued (Oakley) polarized lenses.
(The array... Ft. Riley, Kansas, September 18, 2006.)
The unit was fairly consumed with the preparation of its field kits, but friends and family snaked through the procession unimpeded. Every ethnic sub-category was represented, but not many Christopher Hitchens or Laura Ingraham types seemed to be suited up. (Gotta love those warhawk cunts...)
Tears were flowing; Evan and I traded quips. At 11:15, they were whisked away, and that was that. A numb drive back into dreary Junction City. Gave Dawn a goodbye hug, jumped into the Jeep, and eight hours later, Metropolis... Now, I don't know what I'm feeling.
Check-out's in half an hour - more, including pix, the delayed TLASILA tour recap, and overdue toliveandshaveinla.com updates, later this evening. (Or, tomorrow. Graham and Bobbie have promised to take me to a strip club later tonight... I need the diversion.)