Sunday, July 25, 2010

Saw Restrepo on Saturday night and afterward had a drink with poetry friends. (I actually meant to see Yojimbo at Berkeley's Pacific Film Archive but it was sold out. Anyway,) Restrepo is a documentary about a military outpost in the Korgengal valley in Afganistan, and the soldiers who built it, and their year long deployment. There is a lot of footage of the soldiers engaged in firefights, and of the soldiers in-between firefights relaxing or whatever you call it during a war. No voice over, just editing mixed with interviews of some of them after their deployment ended.

It was strange how "normal" their experience seemed, at least the soldiers, their conversations and jokes and mannerisms. The only difference between them and the rest of us is that they're constantly being shot at, conditioning that a movie can't really capture, and probably shouldn't. I have a student in one of my classes this semester who worked out of the back of a humvee in Iraq, manning the turret gun with team that rode around looking for roadside bombs. He wrote his memoir (an assignment for the class) about how his military experience made him a man. That when he came back from training, and came back from Iraq, it was hard to identify with his friends.

How is it possible to explain these kinds of experiences? Much less your own hard wiring jerry rigged from trauma, wide eyed and jumpy. The strangest solider in the bunch, at least in the telling of the story, was the one who was smiling the entire time he spoke; smiling when talking about setting up the camp, about being shot at, about his dead comrades, about not being able to sleep, about nightmares. Such a deep smile, and genuine. But in the footage of him in the field, him firing back, smoking, cleaning his gun, he's not smiling. I don't know what this means.

What was most striking was the huge contrast between them in the field, and their post field interviews, how the experiences had seemed to settle in their faces and mannerisms. No ending, but that's all there is to this post. It's Sunday evening. Still light out but overcast. It was a sunny day, in the low seventies. I met friends in the park to watch the SF Symphony do a free concert. The big black cat just jumped on me. It's hard to type when there's a cat on my arms. Did laundry. Ate a burrito. Etc. Hope you're well. Now back to scheduled programming.