Phil Nerges

About (Biography)

Phil Nerges, a lifelong New Jersey resident,  worked as a quality inspector of services provided to the Army in Iraq beginning in 2004. He spent parts of the next three years, twenty months total, in the war zone working from Camps Cedar, Victory, Scania, and Tallil Air Base.   He returned home in 2007, fifty-seven years old, feeling disconnected, and undecided whether to accept another contracting position overseas.   He opted to stay close to home and take a sabbatical to write.  After Iraq, the adjustment to life at home was hard.  

"I stared into space mostly, jumped at sudden noises, and thought about Iraq," he said.

His daughter, Rose, a New York comedienne began towing him to vaudeville shows in Greenwich Village, introducing him to the performers.   

"I’d moved from the warzone to the subculture of Greenwich Village without a transition.  The war wasn't popular there, but I was free to express myself and enjoyed the shows."

Phil had lyrics for a song he wrote in Iraq called Tampa Road, but no music.  A friend referred him to Vic Ruggiero of the Slackers, who was looking for solo material. They collaborated to create an album collection about civilian workers in Iraq called Don't Feed the Cats in Iraq.

The album was followed by a book of short stories with the same title, a story written to accompany each song.  Together they describe life along MSR Tampa.   


"Most of what I saw written about contractors portrayed them as profiteers or gunslingers.  The people I met, the majority,  worked in kitchens, drove trucks, things like that.  I wanted to give them a voice and describe the life of everyday workers, without the hype."

They Must Be Hungry contains seven of the stories from the original Cats book plus two more written later.  The writing served as a kind of therapy for Phil and he hopes to encourage others to share their experiences.   
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