This is what I woke up to this morning.

In my inbox, in between press releases about Josh Homme's new side project called 5:15 (how many side projects can a man have? ritalin anyone?) and something about a Culver City art 'manutailer' (personally I prefer the traditional “a manufacturer who also retails”) was this photo of my friend Brian Carlin having a ball in Iraq, or 'the sandbox' as he likes to call it.

I met Brian two years ago when he was 19. He moved to LA from El Paso, Texas, leaving behind his wife and three year old daughter to move to Venice with his dad and take up a job as an art director. Despite becoming a father at age 16 and quitting school to find a job, he had managed to teach himself all kinds of fancy computer programs like InDesign and Photoshop and Quark. As such, he landed himself a job at the El Paso-based monthly magazine RV World, geared towards motor home enthusiasts. When his dad invited him out to the left coast to work on some magazines in Beverly Hills (I was editing them) he was excited, starry eyed. Things between he and his wife were breaking down and he was ready for a fresh start. He hung out on the beach, marveled at the pretty girls, started exercising and did his job faster and more effectively than any other production designer I had worked with. It seemed that California was treating this wunderkind well.

Privately, I often felt proud that we had offered this talented young man a lucky escape from a hellish life of RV magazine layout with a dullard of a wife who apparently likes nothing better than watching Oprah and gorging on cheese quesadillas.

But after less than a year, it became clear that the laidback Venice lifestyle just wasn't doing it for young Brian. “I want to becaome a man,” he told me. “How do I become a man here?” Hmmm. Well, part of LA's charm is that the living here is pretty easy, at least compared to other cities, especially if you are a young caucasian. Angry young white men who do feel the inner ancient warrior instinct have created their own urban rites of passage, through the subcultures of graffitti, skateboarding, surfing. But Brian didn't surf, didnt own a skateboard and certainly didn't believe in breaking the law. So he decided to go to Iraq instead.

“I leave in the morning for the sandbox,” he wrote me at the end of his bootcamp training. “It hasn't really hit me yet, but I'm excited about walking into the adventure of a lifetime.” A while later I got another email which read “Been in country about a month now but it really doesn't feel like it. I guess time flies when you're having fun.” A few month later, he sent me this photo, humorously titled “what I wear in the showers”.

law logo2x b Brian may be in the middle of a desert, presumably dodging bullets from day to day, knowing that many of his countrymen (his father included), are adamantly against the pointless and unjustified war he is fighting. But to him, the army provides something that fatherhood, LA, and a well-paid job didn't. I wish he hadn't gone, but when I imagine Brian still here, I see him drinking alot of beer and getting into fights on Main Street.

So Brian, I wish you safe passage through the sandbox…may you have your fun in the sun.

Posted by Caroline Ryder

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