Babylon by Bus
Or, the True Story of Two Friends Who Gave up Their Valuable Franchise Selling Yankees Suck T-shirts at Fenway to Find Meaning and Adventure in Iraq, Where They Became Employed by the Occupation in Jobs for Which They Lacked Qualification and Witnessed Much That Amazed and Disturbed Them
Jeff and Ray had la vida: selling YANKEES SUCK T-shirts five months of the year in front of Fenway Park and spending the rest of the year traveling the world. Sure, they'd go back to college at some point, but for now, the future was comfortably on hold. But the play button got pushed for them after the Sox broke their hearts in the 2003 Series. In the painfully clear light of the morning after, they looked at each other and faced up to the fact that they were in danger of becoming losers. Sad cases. What to do, where to go if you're a young American man craving experience and wisdom in late 2003? If you're Jeff Neumann and Ray LeMoine, you go to Baghdad. And so they did. You might not think these two scruffy, lovably clueless characters would have made attractive candidates for the U.S. government to run the desk in Baghdad's Coalition Provisional Authority that served as the interface between the CPA and the Iraqi people, fielding complaints and requests for aid from all over for a city of more than five million people. You might be naïve. But Ray and Jeff would prove to be dedicated and ingenious public servants, and they managed to do a great deal of good during their tenure in the face of staggering frauds and feuds. They also had their full share of the wild times that young people under immense stress in war zones have had from time immemorial, especially young people who return each night to a hermetically sealed safe zone flush with money and all the temptations, legal and illegal, that money attracts. Hard-core smart, hard-core scathing, hard-core funny, this is Apocalypse Right Now-explosive and appalling. 'Roid rage fueling gang wars between rival private-security contractors; staggering fraud involving phantom construction projects; naïve young Americans given responsibilities for which their lack of qualification would be laughable if the consequences weren't so dire-this is the inside-out view of an occupation gone wildly wrong, from the point of view of two radically unaffiliated authors, members of no tribe, beholden to no one, and afraid of nothing.
New York : Penguin Press, 2006.
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316 p. : ill., maps ; 25 cm.