Friday, January 28, 2011

Yum yum, Give Me Some

The Godfather, whom I've taken to referring to in real life as Commander Killjoy, has now become a loyal reader of this blog. He promptly informed me that the blog is worthless, as it barely focuses on him at all and certainly fails to document the vast universe of witty nuggets that pass his lips on any given day. He's made it clear that he expects this situation to be rectified, chop chop.

This directive came on the heels of a conversation in which he laid out his plan to use our recently-ordered simultaneous interpretation equipment to beam his inner monologue directly into the ears of his minions. I pointed out the logistics difficulties -- interpreter's equipment has only a short range -- and he decided on the spot (rapid, decisive leadership) to move all 92 members of the PRT into the Senior Enlisted office next to his. "But you'll only have 10 earpieces," I said.

"The best part of this plan," he replied, "is that you will only have an earpiece, and not a mouthpiece."

(The simultaneous interpretation equipment is a mic with 10 wireless earpieces for it, which will allow our interpreters, who do whispered translation during shuras, to be heard by everyone who has an earpiece and not just by those in their immediate vicinity; I told the Godfather that I'd ordered us a force multiplier from the Embassy and he promptly responded -- "You ordered another Commander Killjoy? Because that's really the ultimate force multiplier.")

I can only assume he's still mad at me for naming a to-be-slaughtered goat after him.

Christmas: there's an unexpected Kenyan-American on the SecFor team -- Specialist Masai -- and he, born and raised in East Africa, had been itching to get his hands on a celebratory goat. I had dropped a few not-so-subtle Yule-season hints to the Governor that being gifted a Christmas goat would be much appreciated, but it never came to fruition; rather than relying on the kindness of others, SecFor took up a collection of a couple bucks a man, and one of our interpreters called a guy he knows, and two hours and 90 bucks later a goat showed up at the front gate.

(There's a goat market just down the street from the FOB -- goat is the preferred red meat in the Afghan diet -- and said goat market is rumored to sell poppy and raw opium paste on certain days of the week; I have never seen the market and can neither confirm nor deny these rumors).

The goat was tied it up in a concrete bunker just behind the operations center and left it a bowl of water and a plate of goat-inappropriate food that SecFor generally appreciates -- turkey bacon and corn dog chunks, things on that order. The water bowl was Styrofoam and the goat hoofed through two of them before Masai took over, leaving the water at a distance where the goat could drink it without kicking it over, and supplying a tray of lettuce. "What are you naming it?" I asked the guys. "Oh, we're not naming it," I was told. "We don't want to get too attached."

I deemed that to be unacceptable. I named him after myself: Little Dakota.

I was worried that Little Dakota wouldn't provide enough meat for the entire PRT, so I checked with Captain Adventure (the tall and self-assured head of SecFor, who specifically asked for his nickname; I was going to call him Mortarshoot -- he's an infantryman at heart -- but Adventure seems equally apropos) to see if I could sponsor another goat. He greenlighted it. "If there's anything these guys could use," he said, "it's more killing." I ponied up the 90 bucks.

Little Dakota was small and black and gentle, and got along with everyone and generally abhorred violence in the form of headbutting, and when the second goat arrived it was clear that he was everything Little Dakota was not: wild-eyed and bucking, with a swagger in his step and larger, more threatening horns. Little Dakota was a peace-maker; the new goat was tougher, a warrior with no interest in diplomacy or making friends. The metaphor was too perfect; I named him Little Godfather.

Portrait in Sepia: Little Godfather in the foreground; Little Dakota in the Background

"I'm gonna be out there and make sure he puts up a god damn FIGHT when it's his time to go," the Godfather said. He didn't need to oversee the process, though: Little Godfather was out for blood, and would headbutt any SecFor guy who got too close.

I spent the morning of the slaughter feeding the goats animal crackers ("wrap your mind around how meta THIS is, guys") and generally trying to ensure that their last hours were pleasant. There was a brief discussion about where the slaughter should actually take place; we toyed briefly with the idea of doing it on the concrete slab formerly used for basketball but from which all the hoops had been removed by Sergeant Major MoraleKill, the senior enlisted man of the Maneuver unit, who had de-hooped the court as a means of preventing injuries. They ultimately decided to keep the slaughter on PRT turf, near the concrete bunker where the goats had spent the night.

There had been a spirited debate about who would actually do the goat slaughtering -- Sergeant DoubleD (who holds some sort of NCO position within the SecFor, though what he's actually tasked with is beyond me; the name DoubleD -- that's Domestic Dispute -- is taken from the ongoing and protracted arguments, punctuated with equal numbers of "baby I love you and miss you," that he has with his wife in the public arena of Facebook. "Facebook is nothing," I was told. "You should hear them argue on the phone.") wanted in on the action, but it was decided that Masai, who had long experience in all things goat, should actually be in charge of the first one.

Little Godfather was the first to go.

Just before the slaughter: Specialist Masai, assisted by Sergeant DoubleD

Masai took him by the horns (DoubleD had tried to pet him and had gotten headbutted, and kept a berth from that point forward), dragged him to the appointed area, and held him down with his neck over a fifty-cal ammo can -- a metal box used to hold bullets. Little Godfather bleated mournfully -- not an "I'm in pain" bleat or even an "I'm scared" bleat, but more of a "Wow, this is a shitty situation and I am helpless against it" sort of bleat that I found oddly depressing. The scene had drawn a crowd of cameramen; I walked away for the actual cutting.

A gaggle of bloodthirsty PRT-types; Captain Adventure is kneeling, second from right

Masai gutted and skinned the goats (Afghans usually skin the goats by attaching an air hose to them, in essence inflating the skin off the carcass; Kenyans, it seems, just use a balled fist to work the skin off the meat), and then they were wrapped in tin foil, buried in a pit just outside the FOB gate, and covered in hot coals and a thick layer of moon dust.

We dug them up six hours later. "I hate to be all food-safety civilian here," I said, "but maybe we should consider stabbing them with a meat thermometer to make sure they've reached an internal temperature of at least 160 degrees?" "You know, that's a good idea," Captain Adventure said. "Does anyone here have their meat thermometer on them? Sergeant DoubleD? Specialist Masai? Anyone? No?" He looked at me like I was an idiot, grinned, and started digging. The goats smelled delicious.

Little Dakota and Little Godfather were served alongside Carne Asada and an enormous pot of rice that the Governor's staff made for us. (In addition to the pot of rice, the Governor sent over four additional goats the next day; they were put into Dynecorp's FOB petting zoo along with a cow, a turkey, and multiple other goats). The final verdict on our goats was that they should have been dug up an hour earlier -- they were definitely over-roasted -- but Masai declared them delicious and tore into them; between him and our stable of interpreters, most of the meat was picked clean.

The first piece I had was tough and hard to chew, and I declared that I was definitely eating Little Godfather; the second piece was tender and soft, and I announced that the higher quality cut of meat clearly came from Little Dakota. "Of course Little Dakota was more tender," the Godfather replied. "Little Godfather was all muscle, and muscle is always tougher."


Donna said...

Every post you write is better than the last (unless, of course, you're a goat).

Dakota said...

Things I failed to mention: the title of this post, "yum yum, give me some," is apparently what one shouts when firing a fifty cal at bad guys. I myself can't say I've been around fifty cals being fired at bad guys, but I nonetheless find the image somewhat endearing. Somewhat.

Duckie said...

Oh boy! I can't wait to see all of these shenanigans for myself...