How to live a good life on the road.

I took the day off and barely left my hotel.  It was a much-needed rest.  My translator and driver came by at 2 and we went to lunch.  At lunch my translator was telling me about how he has satellite TV for the first time.  Saddam outlawed it and now everybody has it, as, I think, I’ve written.  He said, ‘do you know this program, Friends?  It is so funny.  It’s the best show I’ve ever seen.’  He had never heard of it.  ‘Rachel is very beautiful and Joey is very funny,’ he said.  He also likes Phoebe and feels bad for Ross and all his bad luck with wives.  I asked if he had seen Frasier or Seinfeld.  No, never heard of them.  Simpsons?  ‘I heard about this show but never saw it.’  The other new show he’s excited about is Remington Steele but he doesn’t like McAlley (Alley Mcbeel).  We then went to a store that sells pirated movies on CD.  It’s strange that they have all these blockbusters, like James Bond movies and lots of action/adventure.  Then they have these smaller films, like Adaptation and Donny Darko.  I don’t get it.

I’m so impressed by the veteran correspondents who set up such a nice life wherever they are.  I feel like I’m still living out of suitcases.  They keep telling me: you can’t live like you’re just in a hotel room.  A hotel room is your home and you have to treat it like that.  I went over for dinner with some friends.  They found all this food, their fridge is stocked, their cupboards full.  They have a full compliment of booze, wine, and beer.  These guys walk in to a hotel room and in moments they’ve transformed it in to a real home.  They hang pictures.  The first priority is setting up their computers to play music.  They know how to live on the road.  Because they spend most of their lives on the road.  There are different approaches.  One guy, the most veteran one I know, always gets two twin beds, sleeps in one and sets the other up with all sorts of well organized piles so he always knows where everything is.  Other people put everything away right away. I felt like they know how to create a pleasant, nice place to come home to.  I’m still working on that and that might be part of why I feel so taxed and exhausted.  Although, even the people with better set ups are pretty exhausted, too.

At dinner were two people who had such unbearably awful experiences this war.  One guy was shot up (well, his car was) by Iraqis on the third day of the war and then spent a night wandering the Iraqi desert trying to get away from Iraqi soldiers.  Another was imprisoned by the Iraqis for 8 days during the war.  I don’t know what to write about this.  Except I’m surprised by how open, even excited, they are to talk about their experiences and how exciting it is to sit with them and hear the details.  And also how little macho bullshit there is.  They are really not showing off.  They’re not impressed by their own near-death experiences.  They want to talk because it was a big deal and scary and all.  But they regret it and wish it never happened.  They said when they get back home to the US, they don’t talk about this stuff because people just seem kind of bored and freaked out.  Overall, dinner was so easy and pleasant, it really was shocking to think, every once in a while that we’re in Baghdad, we’re still in the middle of all this. It felt just like a dinner party back home.  Then we’d hear lots of gunfire outside the window and we’d all look at the window and then get back to dinner.  Then, right at midnight, the power went out and I had to walk down six flights of stairs with a candle.