birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.


I arrived in Baghdad on a February morning. I'd been out of the country before, lots of times. I was used to walking around until I found the person I was supposed to find, who would then take me where I was supposed to go. The Baghdad airport was no different from Frankfurt or Seoul or Macedonia or or or...

Except I couldn't find anyone. No one with my company's logo on their shirt or hat, no one who knew where they might be. Someone pointed me to the parking garage where the security guys usually hung out, and I dragged my duffel bag and computer bag out there. The heat wasn't bad, but the dust immediately got all over everything as I paced up and down the garage, asking each batch of security guys in turn whether they were with my company or knew where my company's people might be. Nope. Nossir. Nope. No.

After an hour or so, one of them said they were heading over to the International Zone, and their compound was right next to ours, so they could give me a ride. I took them up on it, and a little while longer, I was at my company's compound. I sort of knew what to expect -- I'd seen the map before I left -- but nothing prepares you for getting out of an armored vehicle and waving goodbye to a bunch of heavily armed dudes, then turning around to see a bunch of low-level mansions with wires strung between them and shipping containers strewn about like mobile homes in a trailer park.

The first house was the PSD (personal security detail) -- coincidentally, the guys who *should* have picked me up at the airport. They didn't know I was coming, but welcomed me and pointed me toward the HQ building. The HQ building didn't know I was coming either. So that was the first thing I decided in my new position as Administrative Project Manager: No one from our company would ever show up at Baghdad International Airport without *someone* being there to greet them. Even if it wasn't the actual PSD to give them a ride, *someone* would be there so they weren't walking around like an idiot at the BAGHDAD AIRPORT.

A lot of things happened over the next two years. I got divorced, fell in love again, quit twice, resigned once, traveled in and out of the Baghdad airport a dozen times, got shot at, got damn near blown up, had all kinds of other adventures and boredoms and stories and suchlike. But nobody ever got stranded at the airport again. I still count it as a win.

Geo (re) Locating

Born far from home