Baghdad Journal: May 11, 2006

The bangs, they are a changing. I was having a little trouble figuring out what to write about tonight, when all of a sudden there was a big loud explosion. The windows rattled, the doors shook and all the stuff happens that usually happens when something blows up.

We did what all slightly off-kilter journalists do when they hear a blast: We rushed up to the roof to check if we could see any flames or anything. Of course we couldn't. Then we called the U.S. military information center to see if it had any information on the explosion ... and the guy who picked up the phone laughed at us, almost as if to say, "What is news about an explosion in Baghdad?"

And that was it. We don't know what it was. We might never know what it was. In what other city could something blow up and no one ever really know what it was or what happened? There was a time when explosions in Baghdad were big news (this is the part where I pretend I am an old grizzled war journalist.)

Why, I remember a time in Baghdad, when something would blow up and we would prepare to do a special report and break into the soap operas. Why, I remember a time when we would hear an explosion and get in a car and drive around to see if we could find what blew up.

Like I said, the times and bangs, they are a changing. First of all, it really isn't safe enough to go chasing explosions -- frankly, I am not sure it ever was. And second, it really isn't news when something blows up here, is it? Indeed, the news would be if there were no explosions in Baghdad. So maybe the laughing soldier who answered our call was on to something. Either that or someone was tickling him.

Not long after the blast, one of our security contractors walked in to our office. Now, I am intentionally not providing too many details about how our security works, because you never know who is reading these journal entries. (I have neither insurgents nor the NSA on the distribution list, but I fully expect some prying eyes are learning much more than they bargained for about Thomas Jefferson, the Red Sox and a smelly dog.)

However, I think it is perfectly safe to say we have a number of guys whom we hire to protect us and our compound, and these are guys with a good many skills in this field. In other words, they are bad men ... in a good way.

Nevertheless, one of these bad/good men walked into our office tonight, and I thought I noticed something different, so I asked him if he was wearing cologne. I was really just trying to be funny, but he didn't laugh. So I learned an important lesson, which is when someone much much bigger than you, who is responsible to a large extent for keeping you alive, doesn't think you are funny, then you are not.

On the subject of attempted humor, last week at a briefing, the U.S. military released some video it had obtained of Abu Musab al Zarqawi. The U.S. general giving the briefing made a big point of mocking Zarqawi because he was wearing New Balance sneakers. What is wrong with New Balance sneakers? I wear New Balance sneakers. Is the general a Nike guy or something? (Honestly, it isn't like Zarqawi was wearing heels.)

Meanwhile, ABC Baghdad bureau chief Bruno Roeber was showing off his footwear this evening. Proudly displaying his boots, Bruno said, "These are my combat librarian shoes ... a librarian could wear them and go to war." I have absolutely no idea what he was talking about. None. Bruno also has a fetish for flashlights, which he calls torches.

The Red Sox lost last night, and Iraq still doesn't have a government. (There is no connection between the two other than Manny Ramirez and the fact that I follow both very closely.)

Finally, some leftover questions from tardy readers (please keep them coming):

Do the troops now have the gear they need, and are the U.S. military vehicles sufficiently armored now?

I can't speak for all the troops, but the Humvees that I have ridden in are more heavily armored than ever.

Which do you think will come first: The Iraq government will be viable and stable or the Red Sox will win another championship?

The Red Sox will have a viable and stable government, and Iraq will win a championship.

What TV do you get at the compound?

We get some satellite service. We get a bunch of stations from the Gulf region, which broadcast all the ABC News shows, and "The OC," which is on right now ... but I am not watching, as far as you know. We also get Iraqi TV, which is showing a Dolph Lundgren war movie right now. Just what the people here need. Just what we all need. What the world needs now, is Dolph, sweet Dolph.

As I was writing this entry, we learned that the explosion was an IED -- an improvised explosive device -- near the National Theater, which is actually quite close by. Theater critics, even in Baghdad.