I’m not exactly sure how long we’ve been here at this point. The days are starting to blend together. It’s weird that it’s not the same day that it is back at home – its almost a twelve hour differential. In fact it is an 11 hour, 30 minute difference from Pacific Standard Time. Afghanistan HAD to be different. They couldn’t agree on which time zone to be in, so they had to be difficult and created their own right in the middle. So now I miss half of every show I try to TiVo! It’s very irritating. No wonder every country invades… (just kidding, Ajmal)
But between the strange time, the jet lag, the heat, and the packed schedule, it’s become exhausting. It’s been about a week and I have to admit I’m kind of ready to go home. But then I think it’s got to be really tough for the troops and support folks.. they’re here for 7 to 9 months at a time, if not more.
It does energize me to meet and chat with the people over here. For the most part, they all seem to be excited to tell us about their function and experiences. I was concerned that they might be annoyed to have ignorant civilians hanging around, but it’s quite the opposite. Everyone’s happy to have us over to their base area and show us their toys and purpose. The group we performed for last night was the air rescue squad known as PEDRO. They are actual superheroes.. They swoop in from the sky in helicopters, often under fire, grab injured soldiers, perform medical aid as they fly them to hospitals. These animals are often hoisted down on ropes to grab the wounded and flown away while they’re dangling. They’re all freakin stunt people… but it’s not a movie and it’s definitely not special effects. This has to be the most exciting job on Earth. They told me there is often a huge emotional release from the soldiers when they realize they are actually going to live. How rewarding must it be to save someone who believes they are about to die. Incredible. When this is all over, how do these superheroes just go back to their desk jobs in the accounting department?
Our scheduled trip to another base today was cancelled. The V-22 wasn’t available to fly us back. And the girls voted down my idea of hitchhiking, so we stayed put and just rested. Tonight is our biggest show on this base, it’s in the Town Hall center, which is just and extra, extra large tent. There will probably be a couple hundred or so in the audience. .. and I’m just counting machine guns.
Tomorrow we fly to Bagram for another show. Stay overnight there. Then back to Kyrgyzstan for our biggest show. Then home. I’m tired right now, but I’m really going to miss this place. Well, that’s not true. This place sucks. But this experience has been amazing and the people have been welcoming, grateful, and happy to see us.
Special Ops Show with the RG-33 MRAP as a backdrop.
Tough Crowd… Literally. I told them I wanted to take a picture for the folks at home to show them what Saddam Hussain saw when he climbed out of his hole… he must have thought all the folding chairs were strange. Zoom in and count how many machine guns you can see. Some guys are watching the show with them strapped around their neck. Others were kind enough to put them under their chairs.
We did our first show last night. It was for the Special Operations Group which includes Army Rangers, Green Berets, Navy Seals, plus special ops forces from Britain and Denmark. I guess the show went well… no comedian was shot or gutted.
They let us play on an RG-33 MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected) vehicle. This literal monster truck has a V shaped hull to deflect mines and IEDs, operator controlled pressurized tires that inflate based on terrain, and a 50 caliber machine gun on top that is operated remotely by an occupant using a heat vision camera and video game controller. All these guys do is play video games! The driver took me for a spin around the base – I said we needed milk and eggs. He told me I could buy one of these MRAPs for only 1.5 million dollars. I agreed to purchase after he assured me next year’s model would be available as a hybrid.
This morning we met with the Garrison HQ commanders. Two were from Long Island and two were from SoCal – my peps! They were all civilians – some retired military, some just looking for adventure. A civilian force here is essential. They handle the base’s maintenance and operations needs, allowing the skilled military personnel to focus on their defensive missions and tasks. It’s as if this has all been planned out or something. Very impressive. The place runs very smoothly. But everyone seems really bored to be honest. No one is ever in a rush. It may be the insane heat. It was 109 Thursday and 104 Friday. Driving 15 mph is fast- probably because the cars have A/C. One soldier told me he hasn’t been in a rush to get somewhere since January. I guess if you’re in a war, boredom and the lack of urgency are terrific problems.
Today we get a tour of Scan Eagle…. the drones!!!!! Look, I love peace and tranquility more than anyone, but these toys are so cool.
Tonight we have a show at the Afghan Cultural Center for representatives of the local community. We Can’t do any sexually offensive material. Our show should be about a minute forty-five….
In some ways this place reminds me of LA…
I feel I’m the only one walking around without a weapon..
I’m a window seat kind of guy. I like the ability to track movement, velocity, elevation, direction, time of day, etc. by looking out the airplane’s window. None of that happens on a C-17. They lock palettes of seats along the cargo hull floor. You sit there. You hear loud, very loud engine noises. You feel the forces of movement, but you have no visual to confirm them. The “checked” bags and the rest of the payload are packed in bins right behind you. You sit there and just accept that in a little while they’ll land, lower the ramp, and you’ll walk out in some other place. Happily, I was able to conk out immediately. The day’s adventures exhausted me, so I slept the whole flight, until that hard bounce landing. The ladies I’m traveling with had a window… they visited the cockpit. Deb freakin stayed up there for the landing. Somehow these attractive, fit, comedy girls make friends with all the troops so easily… How do they do it?
We’re on one of the largest bases in Afghanistan. I’m not supposed to mention where, but apparently, we’re very insulated. There are three layers of security before entrance is granted. Our guide said this has never been breeched … not all three, anyway. But, I must say, I do feel safe. I was told there are really only two dangers. The first would be if a cleared worker was forced to be a suicide bomber, perhaps to save his kidnapped family. The second would be the unguided mortar fire they try to lob onto the bases. I think I may have heard some of the latter last night. But it might have just been low flying jets. I went with the jets, rolled over and went back to sleep.
The billets they put us in are very nice. I have wifi, air conditioning, a window!!! The latrines and showers are about 30 yards away. There’s a concrete bunker about 15 yards away. I have it pretty good.
This morning we’ll do a radio show to promote the performance this evening. They’re actually going to make us do comedy on this base. …some nerve. Then we may go to a gun range. They haven’t told us if we’ll be the shooters or the targets. I guess we’ll see how the radio show goes…
Clearly, a bad idea from the start…
It’s Thursday, right? Three days in Kyrgyzstan and we’ve yet to perform a show. The military folks are entertaining us far more than we’re entertaining them. We’ve also yet to see any danger zones. That will happen tonight when they fly us into Afghanistan at midnight. We’ll be flying in on one of those C-17 massive military cargo planes. (No, mom, we won’t be parachuting out.)
Yesterday we got a terrific briefing from the base commanders about our location, The Transit Center at Manas, formerly known as Ganci Air Base, named for Peter Ganci, the FDNY Fire Chief who died on Sept 11. We’ll be performing at Pete’s Place, still named in his honor. I liked the reminder that Sept 11 is still the reason we’re here. I told the commander that my cousin, FDNY Captain Patrick Waters also died when the towers came down. And my uncle, NYPD Emergency Services First Responder Robert Brady managed to survive, while most of his entire squad perished. This personal connection to the Sept 11 disasters was one reason why I wanted to contribute somehow. I’m glad I finally got the chance.
Yesterday we were also fitted with our helmets and bullet proof vests. The vests weigh 40 pounds. Some of the women I’m touring with barely weigh 40 pounds. We also went to the Air Force’s Birthday party. The bases had a big shindig. On Sept 18, 1947 the Air Force split from the Army to form its own its own branch. There were Army personnel at the BBQ…. I wonder if they were sad. I asked one if he felt like a Brit on the Fourth of July.
Today we get an air craft tour of the KC-135s and the C-17s. Then we get a demo at the K-9 Unit. They’re going to give us a demonstration with one of these killer dogs attacking us. The handler told me I’ll wear a padded jacket, then run for my life as the dog chases and attacks me. What could go wrong? And how did I suddenly become signed up for this? They haven’t even heard the show yet. … must have been that 4th of July comment.
Should be some good pics today…
nice puppy… good doggy… AHHHH!!!!!!
We arrived at the Manas Transit Center. Here we were debriefed… about the mission and given bullet proof flak jackets and helmets.
I’m sure you’ve probably heard on the news that President Obama will be sending some ‘resources’ to Syria in the coming weeks. For some reason CNN hasn’t made the fact that he’ll also be sending me to Afghanistan as big a story. Maybe it’s because Congress is hoping I won’t bomb… On Sept 16, I ship out to US military bases to perform some music and comedy for the troops still fighting the Afghanistan war. I’m sure Cowboy Christian Vale will blend in just fine with the locals. He’s a little nervous about the trip, he’s used to busting horses, but he never broke a camel before. He said he’s willing to try it for our country. Also, question for you: Camel Spiders can jump five feet in the air – myth right? Please tell me it is…
Before I leave, I’m doing one last Los Angeles show at Genghis Cohen, Saturday, Sept 14, 9pm. Cowboy Christian Vale will be opening for me. I’ll be finishing up the Genghis show as myself – with a possible new song or two. And I’ll be collecting any messages or trinkets you’d like delivered to the troops. And just in case things don’t go well, I know what I want people to say at my funeral – “Hey look, he’s moving.’ Come join me for some fun.
Saturday, Sept 14, 9pm – $8
740 N Fairfax Ave, LA 90069
If you’ve ever met Cowboy Christian Vale, you know that tomorrow night’s Genghis show is like Superman doing a show with Clark Kent. But with better CGI. Cowboy Christian Vale will open the show with his colorful, not so innocent, southern drawl and Country music twang. Then I’ll finish the show with my more usual Singer/Songwriter/Emotional Wreckness. Come join us!
Saturday, Aug 3, 9pm – Genghis Cohen, 740 N. Fairfax Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90069