Sayonara Amerika


Sayonara-Main-Signature

Most people think “sayonara” is simply Japanese for “goodbye.”  However, in actuality, saying “sayonara” upon a separation implies a certain amount of profound finality.  It is not meant as an informal and light-hearted farewell, but rather as a parting utilized to acknowledge situations where one will not see another for an extensive period of time,  if ever again.  It was (and is) the most fitting name for our going-away party and celebration recently held at our home and hosted by me and my wife.

Shogun King and His Geisha Queen

Shogun King and His Geisha Queen

Interspersed throughout this blog will be quotes from Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s North to the Orient, who expresses in a simply paragraph what I have tried to mentally capture for days now:

“For Sayonara, literally translated, ‘Since it must be so,’ of all the good-byes I have heard is the most beautiful. Unlike the Auf Wiedershens and Au revoirs, it does not try to cheat itself by any bravado ‘Till we meet again,’ any sedative to postpone the pain of separation. It does not evade the issue like the sturdy blinking Farewell.”

Jody and I like to throw parties, themed parties, where we encourage complex dress-up, coupled with relatively immature fun.  We wanted to make sure that we celebrated not only the friends and family that make our lives so very rich, but also the “Far East Fling” we are only now just starting to flirt with.  We attempted, in many small measures, to lend that sense of adventure to those who came to help send us on our way.

Sayonara Party 2013, Japanese Slipper drink mixerSayonara Party 2013, armed asian nursesSayonara Party 2013, where did all the sushi go!“Farewell is a father’s good-by. It is – ‘Go out in the world and do well, my son.’ It is encouragement and admonition. It is hope and faith. But it passes over the significance of the moment; of parting it says nothing. It hides its emotion. It says too little. While Good-by (‘God be with you’) and Adios say too much. They try to bridge the distance, almost to deny it.”

Sayonara Party 2013, our Sayonara ninja cakeSayonara Party 2013, Godzilla attacks (carrying a beer)Sayonara Party 2013, party pagodaAsian and the Far East, I believe, still holds mystery and awe for many, if not most Americans.  I have friends that almost never leave the continental United States, and others that only recently got passports to travel at my urging well into their 40s.  Even many from the west who enjoy traveling look at Asian and the Orient with both awe and some measure of trepidation.

“Good-by is a prayer, a ringing cry. ‘You must not go – I cannot bear to have you go! But you shall not go alone, unwatched. God will be with you. God’s hand will over you’ and even – underneath, hidden, but it is there, incorrigible – ‘I will be with you; I will watch you – always.’ It is a mother’s good-by.”

Epic Sayonara King-san Party!

Epic Sayonara King-san Party!

However, it is exactly for those reasons that I anticipate going back to live there – for the 3rd time.  It is a great journey to move overseas, and an even greater adventure to live outside of the United States.  But living, working, driving, eating, and just generally sustaining yourself in the Orient, where customs and peoples are so very alien, where even the writing cannot be deciphered without great difficulty, is an issue that I face with some measure of anxiety, mixed with a massive dose of excitement.

Sayonara Party 2013, surprised Geisha Girls gigglesSayonara Party 2013, asian pagoda theme party propsSayonara Party 2013, shots for the asian chicks

“But Sayonara says neither too much nor too little. It is a simple acceptance of fact. All understanding of life lies in its limits. All emotion, smoldering, is banked up behind it. But it says nothing. It is really the unspoken good-bye, the pressure of a hand, ‘Sayonara.”

Sayanora Party 2013, hear no evil, speak no evil, see no evil!Sayonara Party 2013, Godzilla attacks (carrying a beer)Sayonara Party 2013, Asian-inspired drink mixer labels

We have been officially regaled by those who thought enough to come see us off; we celebrated in grand style, complete with Asian-inspired drinks, more Sake than could be drunk, and all-you-can-eat Sushi.  Jody is checking out of her command here in Pensacola today, and the first of many days of packers and movers invading our space begins tomorrow.

Sayonara Pensacola.timetorn

Sayonara My Friends.

moving2japan

All will be missed.

Feline Fiasco!


-OR-

“Cats don’t like change…without their consent.” ~Roger Caras

Furry Friend Happy Owner

My cat only speaks Spanish.

This is a loose reference to Baxter the dog in Anchorman (the movie), and a constant joke in our household.  And besides, I can’t understand a word my cat says, much like my Colombian in-laws.

And that’s both good and bad.  Bad because she’s moving to Japan, where she won’t be able to get away with feigning ignorance of indigenous language.  Good because I don’t understand the bitching I’m sure she’s doing while we are packing…and that to come while we are moving.

This is close, but not true.

This is close, but not true.

And she also doesn’t understand how closely she came to NOT going to Japan with us.  You see, the Navy and the government are involved in most every aspect of this move.  Need I say more?

Way back when, months ago, when Jody put in our travel request, we made it very clear that we were traveling with pets.  Nothing abnormal that would or should cause any concern, like, say, an Asian Tiger, for either the Navy or the somewhat proud owners of a smallish female Tabby who, in our backyard, tends to think of herself as said Asian Tiger….

This is true for all cats I think.  Except the fat ones.

This is true for all cats I think. Except the fat ones.

If you agree, you’d think wrong.

You see, the first hurdle in traveling with pets to Japan is actually with the Japanese.  However, having been there – with cats (yes, plural, *sigh*) – I had a leg-up on those requirements.  Time being the main concern.

While I understand that no country wants to import animals with disease, how is it that the humans they do allow in are not screened at all?  It’s a very odd situation if you think about it.  Aids, SARS, influenza, hepatitis, typhoid, small pox, yellow fever, chicken pox; one would think all these diseases would be at least of equal concern!  However, Cleo, our cat (“Cleopatra” is her full name, sister to Alex “Alexander the Great,” who went missing 15 months ago *SIGH*), has these requirements placed on her:

  • Be micro-chipped….  Check.
  • Have two rabies shots…30 days apart, and prior to 6 months entering the country….  Check.
  • Have a blood titer drawn and confirmed…at least 180 days prior to import….  Check.
  • Submit notification to import a domestic animal to Japanese authorities…and have it approved…at least 10 days prior to travel….  Check (ApprovalNonF_EN_sofa).
  • See a USDA-certifying vet within tens days of travel to have issues an International Health Certification (which itself is only good for 10 days)….  That’s for next week….

However, the most important requirement is to figure out transportation for your animal so that she can actually get to Okinawa!

Okay, not hard.  Many families in the military have pets, and surely the Navy knows how to arrange transportation!

Not for us.

We get our flight arrangements – finally – after waiting like 2 months, and we are being forced to utilize a military charter flight referred to as “AMC:”  Air Mobility Command.  While this is nothing more than a chartered commercial airliner, complete with civilian aircrew, it is the biggest red-ass you can ever imagine.  More on that in a bit, or, better yet, see my previous blog on AMC buffoonery!

Fine.  Red our asses, Navy, it’s all part of the “fun.”

Except our cat is “not confirmed.”

What?  What the hell does that mean?  Unfortunately for Jody and I, we mistook or misinterpreted the flight email to imply that they would keep trying to confirm our pet…mainly because that’s exactly what it said.  You know what “they” say though, don’t you:  you can’t trust the government.

After weeks of hearing nothing, and after fighting the Navy for some domestic travel arrangements that actually make sense, and after planning to spend a day getting to Seattle, getting a hotel room, and then catching the AMC flight the next morning, we finally call about our pet and, well, they’re sorry, but “they” made mission by getting us on an AMC flight, and that “they” were worry but the pet is really “our concern.”

Fother-muckers.

It's in Spanish.  No idea what it says....

It’s in Spanish. No idea what it says….

There is only one flight a week to Okinawa from the states, at least on AMC.  Fine.  I understand that quite possibly – although I remain unconvinced – it is cheaper than commercial ticketing.  However, why on earth would “they” not put on us an AMC flight that had a pet allocation for us?  The flight the week before AND week after both had room for our pet, but changing our plans so late in the game would cause a whole cascade of issues.  Like pet-friendly room-arrangements in Okinawa.  Like we already have a renter for our house and we have nowhere to live.  Like the moves are all set up and we are losing the vast majority of our schtick!  Changing the AMC flight is really not an option, or, not a very good option.

Oh, but the Navy has a solution:  we are allowed to “delay up to 20 days en route.”  So, this is what “they” expect, given this authority.  We go to Seattle, and hope that, by using some form of Harry Potter magic that a pet slot opens on our flight (not likely).  If not, we stay in a hotel – in a city we don’t know, without a car but with a cat, who relies on an international health certificate that is only good for 10 days, AND, to be renewed, has to be done by a military vet OR a USDA official….  Really?  It’s really beyond belief that this is an approach that the Navy would take, an approach that would negate any cost-savings from flying AMC since “they” would be reimbursing us for hotel and per diem fees!!

Okay, Plan B…C…and maybe Q.

First.  Can we send the cat as cargo?  Oddly enough, we can.  It is not easy, nor cheap, AND, the cat can only be sent once we are in-country in Japan, so we would have to rely on some very good friends to help us out.  We don’t have many of those.

My dream for Cleo:  Marry into Japanese Shogun Royalty.

My dream for Cleo: Marry into Japanese Shogun Royalty.

Next.  How can we get out of the AMC flight?  The one that requires TWO days of travel and showing up for a flight at 2:30am for an 8:30am departure (true story), AND, stops twice in Japan before we get to Japan?  Well, there’s an instruction called the “Defense Travel Regulations….”

The DTRs state that the “mode” of dependent travel cannot be specified, or at least cannot be specified to either a military aircraft or military contracted aircraft.  So, I play the “I’m not playing your game Navy and you can’t make me play” game!  This would result in Jody, as the active duty servicemember having still to fly AMC, but me – and Cleo the non-English speaking cat – to fly commercial.  Fine.

Before forcing the issue, Jody has the good (common) sense to contact her detailer (the person in charge of the permanent change of station) to ask some advice.  Her detailer has an even better, if not graceful solution:  “circuitous travel.”  This means that we fly commercial, that we pick the routing and flights (where we can ensure that Cleo has a seat as well), and that we avoid two full days of travel (for only one) and the silly-assed rules and requirements that the Navy puts on flying AMC….

So, after three more days coordinating pet travel with two different airlines and agricultural officials at Narita airport in Tokyo, Cleo is going with us.  But nothing’s quite that easy, is it?  One leg requires us to have our cat in the cabin, while another requires us to put her in the cargo hold.  So, we will be hand-carrying a soft carrier and checking a hard-case!  That’s a lot of luggage for an eleven pound cat.

Who doesn’t even wear clothes or use a toiletry kit.

The water bowl however can always be half-full.  Even though we don’t have a military vet in Pensacola and now have to travel 1.5 hours (each way) to Eglin AFB for Cleo’s health certificate – and she really hates car rides, we are all traveling together on this great adventure.  And I’m sure that Jody is, at least, relieved to have Cleo with us physically in the cabin most of the way.  After all, family is family, and while the Navy doesn’t seem to realize or acknowledge this, our pets are every bit part of our families as we are.

Measured by the way we treat our animals.

Measured by the way we treat our animals.

Gandhi once said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”  I’m not sure what Gandhi would think of our situation, but…

…I sure am glad Cleo only speaks Spanish.  She remains blissfully ignorant of moral issues involved in her moving to Okinawa!

Welcome to Okinawa, Cleo!!

Welcome to Okinawa, Cleo!!

Kaizen – Change for the Better!


harass fur leather

“People are more violently opposed to fur than leather because it’s safer to harass rich women than motorcycle gangs.”

~Alexei Sayle

pensacola-helen backTonight is my next-to-last biker night before moving to Okinawa.  It’s hard to imagine that it’s all coming so close now.  It’s almost August, and that’s when it will really finally sink in….

When I settled in Pensacola I didn’t really know if it would be long-term or not.  However, the longer I stayed, the deeper and further my roots grew, and I find myself very torn about leaving.

You see, Okinawa is a second home to me and something I am very familiar with already.  I am stoked about scuba diving there again.  About the polite, non-violent people.  About the food, the culture, and yes, all the weirdness (it abounds in Japan!!).Biker Night

However, Pensacola has become my home – my first and really only home.  I have worked the best job I’ve ever had here in Pensacola, and was instrumental in building something meaningful and lasting (National Flight Academy).  I retired from the Navy here, and lived, for the first time, on the water here.  I have grown two strong and lasting branches of my family tree here:  skydiving and bikers.  My home Dropzone is here, where I trained and literally obtained my human wings for flight.  My first brand-new motorcycle was purchased here, and it was here that I really lost my motorcycle training wheels.

DSCN0716And although these are “things” I am describing, what makes those things even possible, let alone memorable, are the people of, in, and around those things.  People like Dan “Danno” Flynn, Thomas “T” O’Neil, Time Mueller, and Jake Muehls.   I will certainly miss these family members here, every bit as much (and even more) as I’ll miss my own family spread across this country.  There are very hard to leave behind.

Although there won’t be skydiving in Okinawa, there is a motorcycle in my future there.  And who knows what my soon-to-be-discovered Japanese biker family has in store for me! Biker Club

As we bikers say, it’s not the destination but the journey.  I’m ready for this one to begin.

Bike Quotes

Money grows…


“…on the tree of persistence.” ~Japanese Proverb

– or –

“Use the same measure for selling that you use for purchasing.” ~Abu Bakr

 

A sweet ride we can only dream of aspiring to!

A sweet ride we can only dream of aspiring to!

Well, since we can’t take our vehicles to Okinawa, we’ve got to do something with our three cars and one motorcycle.  If you read one of my previous posts you know we finally figured out how to get the motorcycle in storage, which in reality is the only vehicle we want to keep.  So, what to do with the Acura and the Ford Escape?  Well, we’ve got to generate a substantial cash-flow for a sweet ride such as this!!

The Escape is going to my son.  He is working full-time, in graduate school, and he and his wife just had his first baby, and are what I would characterize as eking by, but very happily so.  I have not had the fortunes to be able to assist much or very often; nor do I believe in financially assisting your children once they are grown, gone, and make their own decisions.  So the gift of my truck – still in very good shape with many years of safe life left in it – will, I hope, in some/many ways make up for my otherwise lack of financial support.  It’s a good thing I can do for the boy.

The Acura was another issue.  We needed to sell that car, but Jody and I didn’t really want to run through the “hassle” of selling it privately.  2004-acura-tl-1Although things are probably much different, faster, and quite possibly easier (although I personally find that technology is generally a big fat lie when it comes to making things “easy”) with the internet and such things as Craig’s List, we still didn’t, quite honestly, want to be bothered with monitoring email, answering phones, and making appointments to see, inspect, and drive the car….  Oh, and then the haggling.  Neither of us care much for that at all, unless I’m in some Asian market working a vendor down from $3 to 50 cent for a T-shirt or small piece of pottery.  Jody had previously sold a car through CarMax with good results and little trouble, so we figure, what the heck.

Problem is, the nearest CarMax is 250 miles away.  Off we go, caravanning down the highway in our two vehicles, setting off early to try to be back in time for dinner – and to continue packing!  Believe me, it was very hard to bypass New Orleans and the newly revamped National War World II museum, twice, once each way!  We get to CarMax, and everything starts off a-okay.  We figure, with a Blue Book value hovering around $7K for the model, miles, and condition of our car, we should be good at no less than $6K.  After about an hour, the staff is finally really to review our quote.  No Speedracer or Trixie in this joint.

 

You know these two were always Japanese!

You know these two were always Japanese!

The gentlemen handling our case – and I use both nouns loosely – was flying through computer screens.  You see, CarMax uses, basically, powerpoint slides to help “brief” the customer on the more salient points of the transaction.  The salesman literally flies past a page where I noticed some rather large negative comments with exclamation points, and asked him to go back.  Funny thing with this guy (remember, he’s a used-car salesman no matter what title CarMax bestows upon him):  he backs up two pages, and, in my opinion, feigns confusion when I ask for only the previous page.  After literally like 6 pushes of the forward and backwards keys, we arrive at the screen in question.  “FRAME DAMAGE!” it says in rather large you-can’t-miss-it-lettering that is surely there for the customer’s benefit!

You see, Jody hit a deer while driving on a highway years back when the car was relatively new.  You literally cannot tell, not from appearance, not from driving, not from noise or any other element of the vehicle that over $7,500 of damage was done by said (and stupid) mammal, although it appears the deer survived as it or any appreciable gore were not found anywhere near the accident scene.  She has the insurance claim and full repair report.  There is no frame damage noted, nor frame-classified parts listed.  HOWEVER, CarMax considers the replacement of the radiator as FRAME DAMAGE since mounts to the radiator had to be cut by torch and new parts welded on, as was explained to us by a very friendly and professional assessor that actually did the evaluation of our car.  That finding, however my friend, is cart blanche for CarMax to roll their weighted offer-reducing dice and slice their offer for a vehicle.

CarMax is full of another kind of gas....

CarMax is full of another kind of gas….

 

Their offer.

$4,000.

I literally laughed.

So, we get their quote in writing, all the while they are telling us that they support us doing what’s right for us and what’s best for us.  And we formulate another plan.  Let’s hit up the local Acura dealer and see what they will offer, especially since there isn’t one of those in Pensacola either.  Off we go.  Now it’s about 1 pm.  We’ve driven 4 hours to get to Baton Rouge.  We haven’t had lunch.   We are cranky and just want the car deal DONE and finished so there is one less thing to worry about.  We arrive at the Acura dealer, and are directed to meet Jerry, who is very helpful and attentive.  Now, I think, the Acura dealer is certainly going to be more cash-hungry than CarMax, right?  Well, all they can do is effectively say “no” by coming in under CarMax’s quote.  Funny thing about salesman:  Jerry pumps us immediately by asking what CarMax offered us!  I laugh in response, and basically say, “C’mon Jerry, you think we’re giving up the goods that easy?!?”  What I tell Jerry is that CarMax was insulting, and asked him if Acura really wanted to insult loyal and valued customers the same way.

Another hour goes by.  By this time I’ve put the word out on Facebook, and already have numerous people interested.  The word is getting out.  I’ve got a Craig’s List expert friend lined up and waiting to assist as soon as we’re home.  We are going to get more than $4,000 for this car; it’s a matter of pride at this point!

Finally, Jerry shows up.  Talks to us about the accident – which I assume by this point is fairly obvious to anyone familiar in car repair and/or assessment.  We fess up to it; he simply states it’s killing us on the offer they can make for the car.  And, having thought about it for the last 3 hours, the accident was severe, and if I were to get shown the Car Fax with such an amount of damage, I too would be very wary of the vehicle and want a deep discount.

But, it’s not as bad as we expected.  Their offer:  $5,000.

Jody and I conference with each other very quickly.  We could probably get right around $6,000 if we would privately.  But, as one of my favorite financial guiding principles says, your time (and effort and worry and stress) are all worth money, the going rate up to you.  We could drive back, burn more gas and miles, burn more time and endure more hassle in our move, or walk away clean with money in the bank, and time on our hands.

SCAN0365

 

 

 

 

The check was deposited today.

And somewhere, a deer is laughing with her ultimate revenge.

deer laughing

Snail Mail


I get mail; therefore I am. ~Scott Adams

lettersWe have an address in Okinawa.  Therefore, we are.  What is it about mail that remains so imbued with warmth and tangible connection?  What is this ongoing love affair with snail-mail that stands each and every test of time?  Or is it just me?  And, curiously, is the idea of mail held in the same embrace for Gen-Xers and those generations beyond?  Until today I would have said an emphatic “no”….

I was thinking about this very thing this afternoon as I completed the almost daily ritual of heading to the mailbox to check for mail.  And behold, four small card-sized envelopes addressed to me from my somewhat estranged daughter Naomi.   Our relationship is now only just starting to recover from a tough and somewhat nasty divorce seven years ago, and I wonder if she realizes the impact and purchase that such mail can breathe back into a relationship.  In the same sense, I believe that people woefully underestimate the mysterious power that mail can conjure.

funny-facebook-fails-mail-then-and-nowI, until very recently, still used to send hand-written postcards to friends and family.  I also have enjoyed a gift of a wax stamp seal kit for letters, using it to help personal my communications.  I cannot tell you how many comments I received from these simply but thoughtful acts:  actually taking the time to hand-address and hand-write a (very short) note, stamping it (front and back), and dropping it in the mail….  We are all warmed by this simple act, an action of yesteryear, one that survived millennia before email and the modern electronic information age.  That someone takes, not so much the time, but the intersection of time and effort to reach out and literally touch another is at once intimate and personal.  Snail-mail remains special, and my somewhat sacred walk to the post box at the street in front of my house is no less filled with great expectations than it has ever been.

I hope that we will receive mail often in Japan.  The dance moves are different in Okinawa; our post office is no longer literally a dance away down the driveway, but a specific journey by car to a military post office and sterile post box far, far away from our home.  However, the dance is no less emotional, and shifts from a simple box-step to more of a long-distance Foxtrot.   But, as is true in so many facets of life, it is always better to send than receive.  Be on the lookout once we are rooted in Okinawa; postcards and letters are sure to be flying at least one-way over the Pacific!

Especially to my daughter.

how-to-address-a-letter-Islandkings

 

The IslandKings

PSC 482 Box 46

FPO AP 96362-0100

POV: Point-of-View of my Privately-owned-Vehicles


If a man who cannot count finds a four-leaf clover, is he entitled to happiness?” ~Stanislaw Jerzy

or

“Entitlement is the opposite of enchantment.” ~Guy Kawasaki

Shouldn't You Know Where Your Car is Stored??

Shouldn’t You Know Where Your Car is Stored??

Well, I can count, and I am completely disenchanted with the Navy…so what does that say about my entitlement to be happy?  Let’s talk about POV.  And that means, oddly enough, both my Point of View AND Privately Owned Vehicle, the euphemism that the military uses to refer to your cars.

But maybe not RVs or wheeled campers.

Not boats.

And certainly not motorcycles or mopeds.

So, we are moving to Okinawa.  There are very clear restrictions on bringing POVs (vehicles) to the island, specifically those built after some year in the early 1970s…the actual year escapes me…but is rather unimportant.  The specific restriction is that we can’t bring our western cars to eastern Japan.  The rules and regulations governing what a service member’s entitlements are in relation to vehicles in such a situation are equally as clear:  we, as a married couple with no children, are entitled to store a POV at government expense.

entitlement-usa-america-liberal-democrat-obama-lazy-funny-de-demotivational-poster-1232250678

Now, as you may recall from my previous entries, I’ve done this move not once, but twice before.  Oh, and both times, I’ve stored at least one car (one move I stored twice), so you would figure that I know this drill.

You – and I – figured wrong!

Jody and I own three cars and a motorcycle.  Yes, that’s a lot of wheels for a couple, but the Harley is just for fun and to drive fast and take chances (a bike should never be a primary mode of transport), and Jody likes to have both a car and truck, you know, for those year-long home-improvement projects that requires multiples trips to Lowes and Home Deport each and every week.  Renovating all the bathrooms in our home just before leaving for Japan for 3 years will be the subject of another blog, however (wink).

What we really want to do is to dispose of the cars – by selling two (to create the cash for buying two cars and a bike in Okinawa), transferring one to my son (his young family is in dire need of a more reliable vehicle), and storing the motorcycle.  Remember, we are entitled to store a POV….

But not a bike.  Or moped, if you prefer the European-sheik Vespa/scooter mode of travel.  You see, after weeks of back-and-forth emails and phone calls with at least four different people in the Navy’s “Personal Property” chain of command, it has been proclaimed by a royal “they” that, for the Navy and Marine Corps, such two-wheeled vehicles are “…treated as HouseHold Goods (HHG).”  This means that such vehicles are, for all purposes, treated the same way that your living room couch or toaster or picture frames are treated.  They are thrown into a non-climate controlled warehouse and forgotten.  Even though the Defense Travel Regulations (DTR) clearly state that a member is entitled to store a vehicle “with two wheels” in lieu of a POV with four wheels when there is an entitlement to store a vehicle at government expense.  It seems, someway, somehow, the Navy/Marine Corps gang has decided that there’s “no motorcycle” in “team,” and has restricted POV storage entitlements for some unknown reason through a publication labeled no more than “NAVSUP.”  More on that later.

DTR

 

Okay, at least I have an answer.  But how to work an end-run around such nonsensical regulations?  You see, if I’ve learned anything after spending 20 years in the Navy, it’s there’s always a way, or that anything (and everything) is “waiverable” as long as you can find the right person with the right authority who remains somewhat enchanted with remaining part of the human race and treating the military servicemembers who are asked to already sacrifice so much with sound reason and some measure of respect.  An unlikely proposition I must say.

So, I contact the company I stored vehicles with before during my previous overseas assignments.  They do take care of motorcycles, but charge the same they would for a car, which happens to be exactly what the government will reimburse, which is $222/month!  Businesses aren’t stupid; I would do and charge exactly the same thing.  This company, (ADKOS – look’em up online), owned and operated by retired and ex-military, caters to vehicle storage for the military.  They have sites all over the country, and located a site with qualified and experienced bikers who can care for my bike while in storage (starting, riding, rotating wheels, keeping the battery charged).  Long story short, after explaining my sad, disenchanted story, and after reducing their price for the bike to $160/month(which I am still not paying out-of-pocket), the retired Navy commander running the site in Montgomery, Alabama, made me a deal that as long as I stored a car with him (at the going rate), he would take care of the bike on the side.

ADKOS

Done deal, yes?

Oh hell no.

Seems even though the regulations again state that we, since we are entitled to vehicle storage, are also allowed to self-procure commercial storage, the local Personal Property office claimed (initially) that we could only use the government’s contracted storage system…which will not accept a motorcycle….  You see, the government has their own vehicle storage contract, but anything the government can do, private business can do better.  These VPC’s as they are called collect your vehicle at like seven different locations across the nation.  So, for starters you may have to drive a really long way to use one….  Worse, they then sub-contract our storage of your vehicle, which literally – and get this – may be anywhere in the country!!  So, there is yet another contract for transporting the vehicles, and even another subcontract for warehouse space for the vehicles, since the company responsible for the storage leases storage space.  I dare anyone to explain to me how that’s cost-effective!  Further, there are so many additional middlemen in the chain, and so many more chances for damage to vehicles that there is no-doubt increased claims against the government for damage and failures in providing quality service.  With a self-procured company, you can visit the site, meet the people who will take care of your vehicles, and avoid additional risk from transportation and uncaring and non-value-added middlemen.   This whole government vehicle storage program is in desperate need of Lean Sigma Six initiatives…

Not only that, Personal Property claimed that we are only allowed to use the “Vehicle Processing Center” in New Orleans…when we wanted to use Atlanta if we were going to be forced into this option.  There are rumors of kick-backs from the various VPCs to specific personal property offices for directing vehicle traffic, but I won’t pursue such hearsay here.  However, I don’t take “no” that easily.

hearsay

After numerous other phone calls and emails to people in Pensacola, Panama City and Jacksonville, and even talking to the Commanding Officer of personal property in Jacksonville, Florida, I finally am referred to someone that agrees that we are “allowed” to self-procure storage.  But of course no one really seems to know the process….

We can’t be the first people to do this, right??

I’m still slightly worried that we’ll be gone and in Japan, I’ll have a car and bike in storage, and the Navy is going to reject our entitlement because of some SNAFU in paper or what seems to be multiple interpretations of governing instruction.  Fingers crossed and breath held.

Now, let’s take a journey down a logic by-way.  Two or four-wheeled, doesn’t matter to me – whatever moves you.  The central question I have is this:  why does the Navy care about what type of vehicle I intend to store?  If I have an entitlement to store a vehicle, and storing that vehicle results in no-cost difference (and maybe even lower cost), what does it matter to Uncle Sam?  In my particular case, it is the exact same cost to the government whether I store a car and bike, or just my bike.  Surely Uncle Sam is a closet-biker; it’s simply too American to think differently.

Uncle-Sam-Biker-Large

There is not an increase in paperwork.  There is no additional staffing that is needed, no hidden costs, no supplementary per diem or travel expense to worry about.  It is, as politicians and policy-makers like to say, “transparent.”  But we know that many policy makers are at least color blind, and most simply see with eyes-wide-shut.   All that results from this business transaction with the Navy is a HUGE amount of frustration on our part, increased workload with the Navy as we chase rabbits down through a series of Wonderlands of rules and regulations, and ultimately, a large degree of disenchantment with the service.  Businesses realize that such chasms of loyalty are tough to put a price on and are to be avoided at almost all costs; government often fail because it/they never apply rational, logical business sense to completely analogous business transaction situations….  And don’t get me started on the personnel they hire to front the customer.

project-management

Occam’s Razor would conclude these parting thoughts.  First, that one of the modern great evils to the Navy is owning and operating motorcycles, and second, that people are really not their most precious resource.  It is, in the end, their dollars that are most precious.

OccamsRazor

I am more disenchanted with the Navy than ever, but my own POV remains bound in a complete refusal to allow any type of flavor of POV – car, bike, unconstructive, reticent, or other – to taint my search for that four-leaf clover.

One assuredly is waiting for me across the pond in Okinawa.