Monday, April 14, 2008

Photo Story Monday - So Long, Washington!

Tomorrow I'll be leaving behind the state I've called home for the last four years. I came to Washington in the winter of 2004, stationed at Ft. Lewis outside of Tacoma. It was my first time west of New Mexico, and my first time away from home. I was starting a new life in the Pacific Northwest. Flying into Seattle, the change of pressure from my home state of Texas made it feel like someone was standing on my forehead. But I still couldn't take my eyes of the sparkling blue water of Puget Sound and the deep green trees sprinkled around long, car-filled bridges.

I didn't have much time to take kayaking lessons or frolic on the streets of Seattle. Though the unit I was assigned to had just gotten back from a tour in Iraq, we'd immediately start training together. Anyone who has spent time at Ft. Lewis knows the dreaded trails of Yakima Training Center, a sprawling training facility in eastern Washington. It's practically a desert, with its rolling hills choked by sagebrush.

We went there twice, each for two weeks, to train for our eventual deployment. Both time were ferociously cold and miserable. Showers were available if you wanted to pour a water bottle over your head, and going to the bathroom meant walking to the next hill over, digging a hole and squatting over it. It was one of those things that was miserable at the time but remains a fond memory.

Strykers in a circle formation

The view of our platoon's vehicles from my newly dug shitting hole

Doc and I both came back from summer leave in 2005 early and decided to spend our last day discharging firearms in a national park. We drove towards Mt. Rainer, trying to find an empty stretch of road to quickly expend some rounds. In the back were two vintage rifles, an old SKS and and a CZ-98. I was never gun savvy but I was very fond of history. I was looking forward to shooting the CZ-98, a carbon copy of the rifle the Germans used in both world wars.

On the way to shootin' guns

We were deep in the woods when we got out and shot rounds for a minute or two before leaving in a hurry (it wasn't entirely legal). On the way back, we crossed over a rickety bridge that dropped down to one lane. It was probably a bad idea to get out and take a picture, but the backdrop made it irresistible. I love Texas, but the scenery is nothing like it is in Washington.

Last month, Lauren and I spent a weekend at Ocean Shores, a resort town on the Pacific Ocean. It was sunny and cold, but luckily it was windy enough to fly a kite. It was a dream to run up and down a largely deserted beach like a kid. Six months earlier I was patrolling the most dangerous province in Iraq. Suddenly, I was on a tranquil beach without a care in the world.

Lauren flying an octopus kite

Tomorrow, Lauren and I are putting Washington behind us as we start a new life in Austin, Texas. She spent her whole life in Redmond and Seattle, and me, just a fraction of it. More or less, I enjoyed my time in the Northwest. The weather and the people leave a bit to be desired, but you'd be hard pressed to beat the view.

So goodbye, Washington! You were kind to me when it counted. Maybe one day I'll come back to visit.

Lauren says goodbye to the ocean one last time



Nixon said...

By way of JP at, I came across this KUTV interview. Good stuff. Don't let the man keep you down. Hope your time in Texas is good.

Anonymous said...

Dude. The first 110 degree day, she is soooo going to bail on you.

Anonymous said...

^ LOL, so true. I was in Seattle one summer when they were enduring a sweltering heat wave of 85. The city's population was melting..

To stay cool, I suggest yall spend the summer on Lake Travis or floating the river in San Marcos.

I appreciate what you've done for us all and what you continue to do for us through your writing and photos.

Anonymous said...

Talk about a change in scenery!
All the best to you both wherever life leads.
Cathy B

Anonymous said...

I don't want to be rude, because I appreciate your writing and service, but DUDE this is the first biggest mistake you've made! Okay, you get back unharmed, you find a beautiful girl who loves you, and you take her to TEXAS?! DOH! Visit your family and take her back to Seattle, ASAP! All that flat land, stale air, and GEORGE BUSH will break her heart, and that will ruin your happy ending! Don't f*@k this up!

Unknown said...

But you have to understand that the climate in Texas is varied and wonderful. It gets hot enough to fry a bug in midair, and cold enough so that parts of a man just disappear. If you don't like the weather in Texas, just wait five minutes.

My old dad used to say, "Son, never ask a man where he's from. If he's from Texas, you'll find out soon enough. And if he's not, you don't want to embarrass him."

Alex's Dad
4th Generation Texan

Anonymous said...

No offense to Texans; there are good people everywhere. But the visual beauty and the taste of ocean air gets into your blood, and someone raised there can never leave for long.
Alex, listen to me. You know you felt inadequate and threatened in Washington, and you want to be on your home turf where you can be comfortable and express yourself, but your vulnerability is exactly what she loves about you. This is what will happen: she’ll love you, and love to see you happy, and so she’ll live with her unhappiness for your sake until her love for you is gone, and then it will be too late to mend.
Dude, here’s the thing about beautiful girls: you may THINK you’re one in a million, but the sad fact is she could find a hundred just like you (or me), but you will never find another HER!
Face your fear – take her back to Seattle and WRITE!!! You began writing for her, and there could be no better reason than that, but don’t stop now! Live like bohemians! Trust me, you only get one chance like this.
And Dad, I know you love your son. And I’m sure his happiness is what you really want.
Gotta go. My honey’s waiting for me.
Signed: Ex Poet/Marine who made it.

Alex Horton said...

Thanks for the non-advice guys, but what you don't know is that Lauren has wanted to go to Austin for quite some time now, even when we were just friends. A lot of people make the exodus from Seattle to Austin. She wouldn't be the first, and definitely not the last. To quote her directly, "It's time to leave the place I grew up." I didn't have to twist her ear about it.

Anonymous said...


Well, thanks for blogging your experiences in Iraq. You had a lot of good insights, and you let us into a world we never would have seen. It's been a pleasure. I look forward to your first novel.

K-Dubyah said...


Always remember it's not the destination, but the journey! And jouney's are always better when shared...

Wishing you both a wonderful, long, eventful trip!

Keep us posted along the way.

Anonymous said...

haji come to get you real soon american your dreams

Anonymous said...

I Suppose Texas may be slightly better than say Jacksonville North Carolina, weathers just as icky but at least theres more to do in Texas. and maybe if enough blues move into a red state it will become purple...

Unknown said...

Haha man that dudes comment cracked me up. The whole Lauren ditching you cause Texas sucks, and Washington rocks. I wish i was anywhere but in Kirkland right now, it's been snowing for the past 3 days, in late apriL!? What the hell.. grr... Hope you're all well buddy! Miss you both, and Axel.


Stram said...

You're leaving Washington for Texas? You'll be back.

... At least Lauren will once she gets a taste of Texas.

You do remember why Oklahoma floats, right?

Anonymous said...

Pay no heed to the naysayers. Austin and area is a wonderful place to be. Forward thinkers, great music, lots of parks, Lake Travis, Barton Springs, The Hill Country, more music, Friday nights at The Continental Club, The Mother Truckers, oh I could go on forever about the oasis in the middle of Texas. I think y'all will be loving it in no time.
Best of luck on the big move and remember, MESS WITH TEXAS!

Anonymous said...

Good luck in the big Texas, dude!
Greetings from the little Belgium

The New Englander said...

From another OIF veteran (still active duty) just want to wish best of luck to you and your woman! It's been great reading this and hopefully you continue it in some form once you guys have started your new life in Texas.

Wek said...

Best of luck in your move and remember to "Keep Austin Weird".

Anonymous said...

I found this story from my teacher I find the hope that you write about rather inspiring that even after all you still remain positive. Thank you.