T-Minus…

…something like 25 days.

I got confirmation from USF–Iraq my paperwork is complete on their end. I still have one more thing to do, get my visa from the Iraqi government, but otherwise I’m good on that end. At least, that is, as far as paperwork is concerned.

My ballistic goggles are supposedly on their way, along with some ballistic sunglasses. I’ve made arrangements to rent a bulletproof vest for two weeks for something around $200. With that comes rifle plates and a kevlar helmet. The $200 figure may be wrong, but regardless its significantly less than the $2,000 buying that stuff would cost me.

I’m starting to realize I’m actually going. I am looking at dates for meetings I’m supposed to cover and realizing I won’t be here for them (tonight it was a public hearing about the transfer station). I am looking forward to having some time to dedicate to improving my radio reporting and how I tell stories with sound, which this period should allow me.

I was interviewing someone for a follow up piece about long-term pass holders at Wildcat today, and they mentioned they’d heard my piece on NHPR on the Cascade mill. And yesterday I got a comment on Facebook from a friend and former Memorial Hospital board member about how much they liked my article on health care in the Sun. I’ve been busy lately, and it’s had an impact. People are noticing stories.

But at the same time I’m trying to squeeze stories like that of the Cascade mill into a day of reporting, and then further squeeze it into four minutes. That’s tough. I colleague commented that they expected more from my mill story, because of the depth and severity of the situation. I can see that perspective. I talked with someone today who was instrumental in getting Fraser involved the last time the mills were in trouble, and he didn’t think this proposal has a chance. That’s a hard story to tell, though it may be true, and yet at this point it’s only one person’s opinion. I’ve said before I think the North Country needs a documentary, not a sound byte, because the interwoven future, past and present are so complex.

But that’s hard to do with a full time job. That’s hard to do with a daily deadline. That’s why I’m looking forward to a different kind of daily deadline—the kind connected to a radio deadline. The breadth of the stories waiting to be told both here and elsewhere are breathtaking. This trip will be a good “boot camp” for that work.

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