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June 02, 2010

Best. Read. Ever.

Via Matt at Blackfive:

A machine gun punched a nickel-size hole in the Chinook two nights earlier, and everyone paused to inspect it as they got on the big black whale of a helicopter.

It was just after 9 p.m., and streaks of lightning flashed against the black sky. Fifteen minutes passed. The copter was grounded. It was then that two of the soldiers from the 4th Brigade of the Army's 4th Infantry Division launched into a profanity-laced argument over a burning question:

Is Connecticut in New England?

The first soldier gamely insisted that Connecticut couldn't possibly be part of New England because everyone from Connecticut cheers for New York sports teams: the Giants, the Jets, the Mets, the Yankees, etc.

"Do you even [expletive] know where Connecticut is?" the other soldier demanded. "I mean, could you even find it on an [expletive] map?"

The first soldier didn't answer. It was pretty obvious to all that he couldn't find Connecticut on an [expletive] map. Instead he reeled off the states that he thought were in New England: Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine and Rhode Island.

A third voice from the darkness suggested that Long Island is also in New England. But the first two soldiers -- both from Boston -- told him to shut up, because Long Island is definitely in New York, and New York is not on anybody's New England list.

The lightning kept flashing. Still grounded. In about 90 minutes the moon would rise and illuminate the sky, making it far too easy for whoever shot the Chinook last time to hit it again.

The soldiers' geography debate shifted to another topic: whether Brockton, Mass., is more dangerous than the Korengal Valley, where more than 40 U.S. troops had died over the past five years. One of the New England soldiers insisted that five of his relatives had been killed in Brockton, so he was pretty sure it was more dangerous than the Korengal.

The Chinook still hadn't moved. In the front of the helicopter, two captains talked about the pros and cons of letting the Army pay for graduate school. Toward the back, a sergeant started a monologue on how he cried watching "The Lion King" when he was 6. "Oh, Mufasa!" called a plaintive, mocking voice.

Someone asked a Russian-accented specialist named Egerov whether he cried when Sylvester Stallone knocked out Dolph Lundgren in "Rocky IV." There was a five-minute debate about who was really the better fighter, before Egerov pointed out that Lundgren isn't even Russian -- he's Swedish.

The helicopter sat in the darkness. A few soldiers climbed out of the back to stretch their legs, grab a smoke and swap stories about the tarantulas, lizards and monkeys in the valley. "Thirty-three days," said a soldier just back from leave. It was the time that had passed since he last set foot on the Korengal outpost.

A little before 10 p.m., everyone got back on the bird. Seat belts clicked. The engine revved, and soon the soldiers were airborne. As they hurtled toward the Korengal, a full moon rose over the mountains, and the rivers below glowed silvery-white. It was getting awfully bright.

The Chinook touched down at a different base about six miles from the Korengal. The pilots had decided that flying into the jagged sliver of a valley with the moon lighting up the sky was too dangerous; the hulking helo would be too easy for the Taliban to spot. The soldiers stumbled out, ears ringing from the noise of the engines, and searched for a place to sleep.

The next evening, they'd try again.

As the saying goes, read the whole thing. This was awfully good, too.

For a country that has been completely bereft of media coverage since MY's embed expired, there seems to be a suspicious amount of coverage coming from Afghanistan. Damned poseurs.

Posted by Cassandra at June 2, 2010 11:24 AM

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Comments

Funny, but I think both Bostonians are wrong. New York is definitely in New England. But yeah, you don't get to name every state bordering Connecticut (except New York) as New England and claim it's not New England.

Stupid Yankees. :P

Posted by: MikeD at June 2, 2010 01:23 PM

The exclusion of New York from New England actually has very old roots, that the Bostonian soldiers may have internalized without knowing it. Many of our core assumptions come in that way -- we don't know how we know, but we've somehow picked it up from a mental conglomeration of what we know about how people talked about things all our lives.

New York city was founded by the Dutch, not the English. It was originally New Amsterdam, and was on the opposite side of the English colonies in three wars during the 17th century. Although it was finally ceded to the English following the Third Anglo-Dutch war (and renamed "New York"), that established a sense of difference, at the point when the colonies were forming their identities.

I doubt those young soldiers know any of that history, or would much care about it; but it's probably why they have the instincts they do.

Posted by: Grim at June 2, 2010 02:08 PM

FWIW, I grew up in New England: Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and a short time in NY state. Lived there until I was 13.

I was always taught that NY was a mid-Atlantic state (in with Delaware, NJ, Penn, Maryland).

Posted by: Cass at June 2, 2010 03:20 PM

Hey! The screen's gone green down the middle! Huh.

I'm from New York. New York isn't New England, it's New York, the center of the universe. Sure, it's only a short ferry ride across Long Island Sound from New York to Connecticut (which is definately in New England), but then it's also only a short ferry ride from Dover to Calais. You don't hear anyone referring to London as being in "New France," do you?
Of course, I also root for the Red Sox, so I may be confused, territorially, when it comes to sports. But I'm comfortable in knowing that the Yankees would still suck no matter where they came from.

BTW,that was a nifty piece of writing. The boy's got a future in prose.

Posted by: spd rdr at June 2, 2010 03:28 PM

For a country that has been completely bereft of media coverage since MY's embed expired, there seems to be a suspicious amount of coverage coming from Afghanistan. Damned poseurs.
*poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke, poke*
Heheheheh.

Agree with SPD on the piece being a nifty piece of writing.

On the geography issue of Connecticut being New England or not, it's all nawth of tha Mason-Dixon liahn, so's ya'll jus splittin' haiahs far as Imma conseurned.

Posted by: bthun at June 2, 2010 04:13 PM

Of course, I also root for the Red Sox, so I may be confused, territorially, when it comes to sports. But I'm comfortable in knowing that the Yankees would still suck no matter where they came from.

Back away from the keyboard slooooooooowly :p

bthun, count on you to get that!

Posted by: Cass at June 2, 2010 04:21 PM

On the geography issue of Connecticut being New England or not, it's all nawth of tha Mason-Dixon liahn, so's ya'll jus splittin' haiahs far as Imma conseurned.

There is a similar argument as to whether Maryland is part of the South. I admit to being agnostic on the subject.

Posted by: Cass at June 2, 2010 04:22 PM

Maryland is not part of the South. There is no sweet tea there.

Posted by: Grim at June 2, 2010 06:12 PM

Amen, Grim. I'll go even further. When you order tea in a restaurant and they have to ask if you want sweet or unsweet you are no longer in The South.

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 2, 2010 06:18 PM

A fair point.

Now, it's not too far from the South. If you go just down to Lexington, Virginia, and stop in at the Southern Inn Restaurant, they will have pitchers of beautiful sweet tea with twists of mint from their garden inside them. That's the South.

But of course, the tomb of Robert E. Lee is there, as well. It happens, by accident of fate, that he died on the same day that I was born; though, of course, in a different year.

Posted by: Grim at June 2, 2010 07:08 PM

they will have pitchers of beautiful sweet tea with twists of mint from their garden inside them. That's the South.


*drool*

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 3, 2010 10:35 AM

College-level US history classes refer to New York, Pennsylvania, (sometimes Rhode Island), New Jersey, and Delaware as "the middle colonies." To the north is New England (which usually includes Rhode Island). To the south is the Tidewater (Maryland, Virginia), and the Carolinas and Georgia are "the southern colonies."

Not that those designations are Holy Writ, being based on culture and economics more than anything. As if this is not confusing enough, the Library of Congress cataloging system refers to Alabama and Mississippi and Louisiana as "Old Southwest" in their search criteria!

Another topic that's good for killing hours, if not days: pork or beef bar-b-que. Vinegar sauce or tomato base? Or do you smoke rather than baste?

Posted by: LittleRed1 at June 3, 2010 02:14 PM

Another topic that's good for killing hours, if not days: pork or beef bar-b-que. Vinegar sauce or tomato base? Or do you smoke rather than baste?

*hastily builds asbestos igloo*

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 3, 2010 02:45 PM

College-level US history classes refer to New York, Pennsylvania, (sometimes Rhode Island), New Jersey, and Delaware as "the middle colonies." To the north is New England (which usually includes Rhode Island). To the south is the Tidewater (Maryland, Virginia), and the Carolinas and Georgia are "the southern colonies."

I'm not so sure about that. I don't have my old texts, but I've always seen everything north of Pennsylvania as New England. Pennsylvannia, New Jersey, Maryland and Deleware as the Mid Atlantic States, and Virginia, North and South Carolina, and Georgia as the Southern States (at least as far as the first 13 were concerned). Your mileage may vary of course.

What constitutes "the South" is by far more contentious. The "old" definition is everything south of the Mason-Dixon line, but that includes Maryland and Deleware, and most Southerners today do not consider them "the South". Heck, I have been told I am a Yankee because I was from Virginia. Which is patently ridiculous considering where the capitol of the Confederacy was located, and where Robert E. Lee (the premier Southern General) was from.

I think a simple definition of what constitutes "the South" is every state that was a member of the Confederacy which is east of the Mississippi. Texas is pretty much it's own thing (being in parts "the South", "the West", "the Great Plains" and mostly "just Texas"). Missouri, Arkansas and Louisiana, while Confederate states, are just too far West to really feel like "the South". That's my take on it.

Posted by: MikeD at June 3, 2010 04:14 PM

Nah. While the rest of Tennessee is fine, when you order tea in Memphis they don't even ask if you want Sweet or Unsweet, they just assume and bring you Unsweet.

I steadfastly refuse to accept that that is in any way, shape, or form tolerable behavior in any part of "The South". :-)

Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 3, 2010 04:56 PM

pork or beef bar-b-que. Vinegar sauce or tomato base? Or do you smoke rather than baste?

Pork. And definitely vinegar sauce :p

On the subject of sweet tea, I am a heretic. I like my tea unsweetened, which is kind of funny since I like my coffee with cream (real, thank-you-very-much) and brown sugar.

Posted by: Cass at June 3, 2010 05:06 PM

On the subject of sweet tea, I am a heretic.

*shun* :-)

...pork or beef bar-b-que. Vinegar sauce or tomato base? Or do you smoke rather than baste?

Pork, smoked, and a molasses sauce with a touch of heat.


Posted by: Yu-Ain Gonnano at June 3, 2010 05:24 PM

and a molasses sauce...

Or, as I used to say to my sons, "Mole Asses... ewwwwwww!" :p

Posted by: Cass at June 3, 2010 05:25 PM

I loved it when I first went to SC on a business trip and automatically got sweet tea. I'm so used to having to ask...

As for BBQ, beef brisket and beef or pork rib a tomato-based sauce. With "our" potato salad: boiled potatoes (peeled and cubed), boiled eggs (diced), dill pickles (diced - size by preference), Miracle Whip (not mayo!), celery salt to taste. I've not found anyone that makes it like my family does...

Posted by: Miss Ladybug at June 3, 2010 05:47 PM

"pork or beef bar-b-que. Vinegar sauce or tomato base? Or do you smoke rather than baste"
Ya'll jus splittin' haiahs ahgin...
It's all good!

Next thing ya'll gonna tell mes that I shouldn't be wipin' mah fangers on mah bib overhauls aftah gnawin' on bbq ribs, and dat bourbon ain't a mouthwash.

Posted by: bthun at June 3, 2010 05:59 PM

I love pork bbq. We have a local brewery and that's what I get pretty much every time we go there for dinner - a pork bbq sandwich with cole slaw on top.

There is nothing better.

Posted by: Cass at June 3, 2010 06:07 PM

I like my tea unsweetened, which is kind of funny since I like my coffee with cream (real, thank-you-very-much) and brown sugar.

While I find that horrifying, the mark of a true Southerner is that it will be served just that way, should you ever visit us down here.

Posted by: Grim at June 3, 2010 08:43 PM

Well, people in Charleston understand the whole cream and brown sugar thing :p

Posted by: Cass at June 3, 2010 09:42 PM

Well, it was the tea thing I found horrifying. As for what they do in Charleston, well, their judgment has not always been the soundest.

Posted by: Grim at June 4, 2010 09:34 AM

Ya'll jus splittin' haiahs ahgin...
It's all good!

Once again, bthun proves to be a man of eminent class and taste. There is no such thing as bad slow cooked meat. And I've yet to meet a BBQ sauce or rub that I did not like.

Posted by: MikeD at June 4, 2010 10:29 AM

Well, people in Charleston understand the whole cream and brown sugar thing :p

My coffee has like 1/4th volume milk or sometimes 3/4th volume milk, with sugar encompassing around 1/10th of the volume or maybe 1/5th of the volume of the cup.

Maybe I carry the genes of people who were around poisonous and bitter stuff, so their taste buds were hyper sensitive to bitter stuff. That'd be something interesting to know.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 4, 2010 02:51 PM

I doubt those young soldiers know any of that history, or would much care about it; but it's probably why they have the instincts they do.

Psychic instincts? Amazing

Posted by: Ymarsakar at June 4, 2010 02:53 PM

Language is pretty amazing, actually; some of what it does is very difficult to explain. "Psychic" is probably not the answer, but consider the question.

To what, exactly, does "New England" refer?

Well, what does any name refer to? The thing being named: actually, a person, place or thing. But if I say, "Bob dropped by for coffee," maybe you know five guys named Bob. How do you pick out which one I mean? You do it by context: you know that, of all the Bobs you know, you and I both know and interact with only one of them. So, I mean that one; I may not even know that you know other Bobs.

None of that is spoken, and yet the meaning is conveyed anyway.

So, let's say you've grown up around people who use the phrase "New England" to indicate northern states except New York. Over time -- actually, very quickly -- you'll be able to use the phrase correctly. You'll be able to do this without anyone telling you exactly what "New England" is.

In doing this, you are inheriting from them a context without actually being taught it. For example, you may be getting from them some concepts about New England's makeup that were formed around the time of the Third Anglo-Dutch War. They don't know that there ever was a "Third Anglo-Dutch War," but they are part of a chain that has passed on these unspoken meanings that goes back to the people who fought it. Somehow, all that unspoken stuff is passed along without anyone ever saying it; or even, in many cases, knowing that it exists to be said.

Posted by: Grim at June 5, 2010 10:02 PM

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