Sayonara, Okinawa!


“Where we love is home – home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts.” ~Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Recently Jody and I had to say our goodbyes to our beloved Okinawa, a land that we called home for the last 3.5 years.  I’ve written extensively about saying goodbyes during our last couple of international shifts.  One when we left Pensacola, Florida, the only place I really ever planted some roots since leaving my childhood home for college in 1984 (see Sayonara Amerika).  And just recently when we left Japan for our return to the states once again (see Goodbye).

Jody’s Hospital Crowd

Saying a proper “goodbye” to people, places, and even things has become more and more important to me as time has passed.  We marked our departure for the Orient back in 2013 with an Asian costume themed party to indelibly mark that occasion.  And we decided to do the same upon leaving Asia for ‘Murica just last month.

Terrace at Sea Garden

Renting out one of our favorite neighborhood restaurants Sea Garden, we invited a slew of our closest friends and coworkers.  Unfortunately for everyone, it seems that just the notion of wearing a costume kept more than a few people from attending.  But then again, in such a setting you get to see just who your closest friends and coworkers really are.  It IS important to say goodbye, and express it properly, a concept lost on so many people today who remain eternally rushed in their lives, taking things much too seriously as they neglect the things that really matter.  In any case, we had a wonderful time, and will cherish these bookend parties to our Far East Fling for the rest of our lives!

Party Goers

So, as I sit here in our pet-friendly hotel room in Jacksonville, North Carolina, passing the time until we can sign a lease and move into our temporary home for the next 20 months, I look fondly back on my latest time in Okinawa…and slowly shift my gaze to the future here in the coastal Carolinas.  But I’m already starting to scheme about the party we will throw upon our return to the Florida Panhandle in  late 2018.

Dorthy Says There’s No Place Like Home!

“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

Die Motherfucker Die


“Death is the solution to all problems. No printer – no problem.” ~Joseph Stalin, quote only slightly modified

Hate is a strong word.  I realized that about the time of my divorce well over a decade ago.  It is not to be used lightly, or loosely.  And seriously, I don’t hate much, or often.

But, I can say, with great confidence, that I hate my printer.  My ex-printer, that is….

We bought this printer quite by accident.  Such is how these types of ill-fated relationship-to-be often begin.  It was, at first, innocent enough:  our regular household goods, crated months earlier in Pensacola for our overseas journey to Okinawa, Japan, were never shipped, but instead, left sitting idly by, collecting dust in some musty warehouse in the rural southeast United States.  Read about that here Castaway.

We were able to file an “inconvenience claim” against our movers for their negligence in, well, actually moving our goods.  Or forgetting to move our household.  So off to the Kadena Air Force Base Exchange we went to find a replacement printer since we both needed one to carry out the personal plan and business transactions of our days.

Of course, there was absolutely nothing wrong with our beloved printer from The States.  But having the opportunity to buy a new device on someone else’s dime (and rightfully so), we decided to “upgrade” to what seemed to be a popular HP set, one of those large all-in-one photocopiers, printers, scanners and fax machines.  And so the Demon found its way home with us.

Demon Printer started executing its seditious agenda almost immediately.  When our Household Goods finally arrived in Okinawa (a full two months late), and when our *beloved* trusty printer of the past was unpacked, we realized it was damaged, and damaged beyond repair or operation.  Coincidence?  I think not.

The “problems” with our new printer started almost immediately after putting our original unit to permanent rest.  …as if the Demon Printer knew it and it alone now ruled the tangible output of our electronic lives.

And as if we already sensed the darker nature of this particular device, it was relocated to a far corner of a far room, connected wirelessly to our home network.  Perhaps it was this locale that really triggered Demon Printer’s incessant interruptions in our lives, or perhaps it was just ill-tempered no matter.  Its fate was sealed quite early our tenuous relationship.

Constant connectivity problems.  Paper jams.  Running out of paper at the most inopportune times.  Drinking ink like a an alcoholic crashing an open bar wedding reception….  And so much more.  I quickly came to hate this particular machine, clearly a “no-talent ass-clown”.

But the Exchange kept carrying the model.  There will hundreds of ink cartridges available.  They sold the entire 3.5 years we lived there.  Was it just me?  Was it just this particular serial-numbered printer which had been demonized?

Every single time I hit “print” from my desktop computer in our comfortable living area, I would hear the Demon awake with gurgles and growls, and then almost every single time an error message would appear.  Pick one, any one, or all of them:  “out of ink,” “paper jam,” “not ready,” “not online,” “out of paper”….  Sometimes the Demon would simply refuse to stir, no doubt deep in some black magic trance.

I attempted rational solutions.  I tried to flush its memory by pulling power for minutes, even hours.  I checked that all the trays were seated securely, the wheels and gears all aligned properly, and stacks of paper and ink cartridges were locked in place and photo cards aligned and inserted.  All to no avail.

The printer, when powered up or upon receiving a document to print would start an orchestrated gyration of popping sounds, grinding gears, and mechanical motion.  All, one would think, to ready itself to print.  But more often than that, it was simply a prelude to an error message….

Clearly this was no normal all-in-one copier.  No, it was no doubt a paranormal printer.  An Exorcism was clearly in order.  Problem was, I’m no Saint (not even close), and while anyone should be able to compel the power of Christ to oust the Devil, this too failed.

I had planned, for the longest time, to kill this printer prior to leaving Okinawa.  But with overseas, international moves being what they are, making time for this execution was problematic.  Don’t get me wrong:  I had the plan, the people, the camera, and even the bat.  But it came down to my last 24 hours….

We kept that demon printer out in case we needed to print.  But we were NOT taking it home with us.  And, as it turns out, we did need to print some documents (those having to do with sending our wine home, will be the subject of its own blog I assure you).  So I go to connect to the printer wirelessly with my Surface.  I Can’t…of course.  Jody comes in and connects right away with her Surface and prints the document.  However, she realizes a mistake, fixes it and attempts to reprint.  Wait-WHAT??  MOTHER FUCKER IS NOW, SUDDENLY OUT OF INK!?  Jody and I standing there, laughing or else we would cry.  And this – its failure on its very last print job is what ultimately sealed the Demon Printer’s fate.  The clock was now ticking to DEATH.

By the by, I told Jody to change the font in the document to blue, and it did print.  POORLY.  But good enough to get our booze home….

Minutes before our departure for the airport, after our seven pieces of luggage, four carry-ons, and two cat crates had been loaded in our two-vehicle convey, and with no reprieve coming, some friends and I carried out the sentence.

Die Motherfucker Die.

Goodbye!


“Dream as if you’ll live forever……live as if you’ll die today.” ~James Dean

Saying “Goodbye” is important.  Much more than most of us will allow.

In the skydiving world, we say goodbye to each other every single time we jump.  Because it could very well be the last jump we ever make.  It’s not a somber occasion, or even stressful.  No, the goodbyes are said energetically, with beaming smiles and eye contact that says “I love you, brother/sister, and if I don’t see you again, remember me in this moment.”  It’s about embracing life and living it fully and in the moment.  But unfortunately, this jumper’s farewell with a very good friend of mine a week before moving to Okinawa in 2013 was our last.  I am so very thankful that we got to say goodbye to each other.  And, in this case, in our own very unique way.  Read about it in Blue Skies, Black Death.

That story, which recalls my permanent goodbye with Jimmy, instantly makes me happy and warm whenever I think about him, and I do often.  That’s one reason why I take saying goodbye so seriously.  The word “goodbye” used to convey a much more serious sense of finality than it does today in the electronic age of connectedness.  Originally, it was said as a contraction of “God be with ye,” which conveys a blessing of safe travels and life.  “Farewell” comes from the antiquated “fare thee well,” yet another blessing we find today in “be well”.  But these send-offs also can also almost be a plea.  And to those of you that bid me and Jody adieu at our costumed “Sayonara” party, I salute you for coming out to say a fun-filled cheerio.  If you don’t see me again, I plead with you to remember me in that moment!

But now it is time for me to say goodbye to Okinawa.  I may not be back, after living here three different times and for over seven years total.  I’m filled with anticipation and I’m excited:  after living on Okinawa the last 3.5 years, Jody and I are moving, and moving to an area new to both of us (Camp Lejeune).  Don’t me wrong:  we don’t want to go, and we don’t want to go there.  But we have to.  Yes, it’s not what we wanted or expected, but it will allow me a wonderful new opportunity to continue pursuing my passion as a professional scuba diver, this time among the wrecks scattered off the coast of North Carolina.  But the fact remains I have to say goodbye to some people who and places which have come to mean a great deal to me.  Which always makes my heart hurt….

The military-industrial complex is not known for their stable, static jobs.  Active duty people continually transfer in and out through the proverbial revolving door.  Contractors come and go with contracts and sequestration, and even Government Service (GS) employees often relocate with either of these categories of people.  But even so, when the stable instability that is life associated with the military becomes even more unbalanced, what does it all mean?  The roles that people play are in reality easily replaced, but seldom is the person.  Once you know someone, it’s hard to unknow them—you might grow apart, your relationship might change, but if you know someone, have chosen to know someone, you will always know that person’s character.  It’s critical to us all, whatever our social constructs, that goodbyes resulting in significant change be acknowledged.  So we say goodbye, sometimes formally, often times as an expression of intimacy.  Goodbyes, especially among an affectionate cohort, can weigh heavily.  While you may officially say goodbye to such a someone once (or twice), you’ll continue to say goodbye, emotionally and mentally.  It’s a continual process.

So, at great risk of leaving important people off this list (and please take no offense), I say these goodbyes, in no particular order.  Ken Redifer, you’ve been a fantastic PADI Course Director and mentor to me along the way.  You have challenged me to be better at every turn, and trusted me with your students at every level.  I can’t think you enough for shepherding me along the way.  To Jessica Mills, my “Scuba Wife,” I value every moment together, even though as your surrogate Big Brother I probably annoyed you to no end.  You will do fine at the IE and will quickly mature into a kick-ass instructor!  Matt Lewis, you have been one of my closest allies here on Okinawa, and I’m ecstatic to leave both my Adopted Dive Site and the USS Emmons Diver Specialty in your capable hands.  I will not forget those final dives on that serene shipwreck with you.  Darlene Fong, my “Scuba Momma,” thank you for the tec training and 130fsw+ companionship along the way.  I will miss our trips out to the USS Emmons together!   Ben Favorite, a fellow retired flier and brother-in-arms, you have been a wonderful friend and solid dive buddy.  Here’s looking to Truk again in 2019.  Do me a favor and please do work too hard!  Rob and Wendy, thanks for introducing us to Ishigaki and the manta-scramble.  And Rob, my IDC cohort from back-in-the-day, you still owe me lunch!  For our dive industry professionals, including Mark of the Crystal Blue and Tony of Torii Scuba Locker, thanks for your assistance and pirate adventures on the high seas.  To my fellow instructors (including candidates sitting for their IE this coming weekend) and Certified Assistants with whom I have worked or taught – including Jeff R., Dale F., Kim N., Scott H., Gary J., Chris W., Mike H., Matt M., Jose R., Jayce G., Jimmy P., Brian P., Kurt R., Chuck D., Roger, Noorin, Louis, Troy, Sarah, Patricia S., Kim H., Rebecca R., Ben S., Barbara S., Cory J., Ty, Asako and Bruce, thank you for all the laughs and good times in and around the pools, seas and oceans of Okinawa.  And to the Divemasters who elected to train under me still located here (Ben, Jessica, Jacoby, Lewis, Gerardo, Peter and Cory), thank you for your trust in confidence in making your move to the pro side.  Mindy, I couldn’t let your broken foot go without a mention; thanks for all your help with my branding and website.  Ms. Ana, of course, one of my all-time favorite divers and former students, thank you for trusting me to safely introduce you to the amazing underwater world.  Your smile and passion about diving whenever I see you brightens my heart and lightens my day!  And, a special call-out to two individuals who need to become PADI Instructors:  Rich Kearney and Gerardo DeLucia.  You both have exactly what it takes, and I see you as perfect fits in our tribe.  Don’t put it off; I waited about 30 years too long….

Goodbye, to each and every one of you.

I no longer struggle with goodbyes.  Saying a heartfelt goodbye forces us to recognize a change in our path, an acknowledgment that we’re choosing (or sometimes being forced) to change the vector of our lives.  The very reason goodbyes are hard for so many people is the very reason we actually need to do them, and do them well:  because they matter.

Imbibing goodbyes is as much a part of the human experience as breathing.  Let them serve as goodness in your life, helping you to leave better, whole, and more loving.  All goodbyes contain a blessing.  Use them to make each goodbye count – even if you are just ducking out to the corner store.  Each fleeting goodbye can turn out to be a goodbye forever.

Blue Skies & Happy Bubbles, Kevin, Okinawa 2017

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Okinawa: A Year in Review


  “Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

1stanniversary

Well, when I wrote this we had just celebrated our one-year anniversary of relocating our domicile to Okinawa, and although it’s now over two months past due, I still thought it would be a good idea to do a “year in review” blog. So, here’s an eclectic summary of the King’s Flirtations with the Far East to date (as of this past August), along with a personally favorite blog selected for each month.

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July 2013.  Preparations for our overseas move.

See Sayonara Amerika to read and see our Asian-inspired going-away blowout

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August 2013.  Moved!  Rented our Florida home and moved overseas with our cat!

See Jody Drives Naked about used-car shopping in Okinawa.

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September 2013.  Divine winds!  Experienced something like 8 typhoons in two months.

See Surf Nazis Must Die to read about a scuba diver’s angst with the powers that be on Okinawa.

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October 2013.  Scuba Diving!  Kevin becomes a PADI scuba-diving instructor!

See Are You Breaking Up with Me on Mount Fuji for perhaps my favorite breakup story of all time!

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November 2013.  Jody’s birthday!  Celebrated by exploring the northern reaches of Okinawa.

See Shipwrecked on the Island of Misfit Toys about my first foray to Okinawa in 1999.

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December 2013.  Household goods!  Our forgotten “stuff” finally arrives on-island.

See Oh Christmas-Half-a-Tree to read about Christmas in Okinawa.

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January 2014.  Kevin’s birthday!  Celebrated by our first off-island trip to Kyoto, Japan.

See Okinawa Kijimuna for Okinawa’s version of “Red Power!”

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February 2014.  Contracted!  Dive the Blues Scuba gets well underway.

See Surprising Swastikas about an unlikely and unfortunate connection between East and West.

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March 2014.  Earthquake!  Friends breaking bad on Okinawa.

See Cat Cafes in Japan to read about the special bond between the Japanese and their feline friends.

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April 2014.  White Day and Zip-Lining on Okinawa.

See Timeless Townhouse for our rustically historical stay in Kyoto, Japan.

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May 2014.  Iriomote!  Off-island weekend getaway to this remote nature preserve.

See Tainted by Tats to read about the stigma of body art in this corner of the Far East.

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June 2014.  My daughter gets married!  A whirlwind trip home to the states and detour because of an unexpected hospital stay.

See Placenta: Prescription or Placebo to read about some strange herbal remedies popular in Japan.

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July 2014.  Ishigaki!  Off-island weekend getaway to dive with manta rays.

See The Cat-Dogs of Okinawa to read about the special guardians of the Ryukyu Islands.

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August 2014.  Okinawan World and Hospital Caves.

See Okinawan Hillsides & Hornets to read about my past explorations in the Okinawan jungles searching for traces of WWII.

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What are The Odds (The Right Way)


“Success is simple.  Do what’s right, the right way, at the right time.” ~Arnold H. Glasow

“If the odds are a million to one against something occurring, chances are 50-50 it will” ~Unknown

“I’ll enter the same calculations using what we like to call ‘The Right Way’.” ~Fred Randall, Rocketman

What-Are-The-OddsSo the day finally arrives and our household goods are actually on-island and scheduled for delivery.  The movers are due over sometime in the morning, and since our front door is usually ajar for Cleo’s sake (our cat; it’s hard to open doors without a thumb), I hear the moving trucks arrive and it’s only 7:45!  This is going to be a GOOD, early start to the day.

I am called down to inspect the customs seals that are placed on the wooded crates which are they themselves sealed with nails and metal banding.  As I approach the trucks, the first thing I do is count the crates:  we should have six remaining (one, and only one was delivered on-time back in October).

There were eight on the truck.

Well,” I think to myself, “they must have another delivery this afternoon.  No worries!”  After all, the name scribbled on the crates was “KING.”

The movers are all busy undoing the crates; hammering nails out here, cutting metal bands there, prying and splintering wood wherever wood happens to be, and staging moving equipment in order to get the 6,000+ pounds we have been expecting for oh so long up safely and securely to our 5th floor condo.  I am handed the move paperwork government forms in all their finest regalia (as you might imagine), and the customs seal stickers and numbers on those forms are pointed out for me to verify.  I like these guys; they strictly follow standard operating procedures.  Except…

Houston, we have a problem.

They seem to be missing some "stuff," too....

They seem to be missing some “stuff,” too….

None of the seals on the paperwork match any of the seals physically on the crates.  Not even close.  I call the head-mover-guy over and tell him, with a nervous smile, “No matches….”

He is very confused.

He takes the paper work, and looks back and forth between the numerous shifted sheets and the crates a number of frantic times.  He points out the name on the wooded sides of the crates written sloppily in fat permanent black marker, almost like really bad, conservative graffiti.  “Yes, that’s my name….”  There was even a leading initial “J,” for Jody we all assumed, since the move is in her name and under her social security number (I was simply an authorized agent).  He goes back to his paperwork, while I at the same instant spy in the upper corners of the crates a letter-sized piece of paper…too far away to read, but most certainly containing…the small print.

We really shouldn't assume as much as we do....

We really shouldn’t assume as much as we do….

The devil is always in the details.

Turns out, on closer and more careful inspection, this particular shipment was for a “Joshua King, E7, Kadena Air Force Base.”

I was dumbfounded.  What Are the Odds – WATO???  I had an old Skipper from my flying days in the Navy who used the phrase to great effect all the time.  Meaning, no matter how remote the odds may be, if you play with chance enough, your number comes up.  For instance, we used to “cloud-chase,” where we would weave around and through the puffy clouds which are always around the aircraft carrier, relying on the “big-sky, little-airplane” theory of airspace deconfliction.  “WATO?” our skipper would ask, rhetorically of course, but the point was firm.

This is especially true when attempting to navigate an asteroid field....

This is especially true when attempting to navigate an asteroid field….  Or get your HHG to Japan.

chances-of-dyingBut seriously!  There was another inbound shipment to Okinawa (our little corner of the world which we currently occupy), which arrived at the same time, on the same ship, for someone in the military with the same name, and even same first initial.  It seemed rather unbelievable, and certainly incredible enough actually to make me rather incredulous!

Trying to contain my growing frustration and anger, I don’t even take my eyes off the paper-plasted crates when I call out rather loudly (and probably rudely I imagine), “This isn’t my stuff.”

More confusion abounds.  It’s bad enough already that there is a really arduous language barrier between us.  Think about it; throughout Europe and South America, you can pretty easily get by without knowing the language.  The written characters of the language are easily readable and perhaps even wholly recognizable, and there’s a basic, generalized understanding of pronunciation.  Worst case, you can simply match up words and phrases.  Besides, many people in these regions speak English rather well.

Okinawa 2013, Kwuirky Home, dryer control translationAlmost none of this holds true in Okinawa, and the same can be said for many if not most places in Asia, at least those outside of the urbanized areas, particularly where westerners travel, visit, or do business.  Some of the language’s characters here are so complex that it takes a great deal of study to match; you should’ve seen me try to switch on the heat here using our air conditioner remote controls – all in Japanese; hypothermia was setting in by the time I could claim victory!  I explain to the moving crew that my wife’s first name is “Jody,” not “Joshua,” and the realization of the mistake slowly – and finally sets in.

I made Jody call me "Boris" for a day after supplying her heat.

I made Jody call me “Boris” for a day after supplying her heat.

The head-cheese-mover-guy is immediately on the phone with higher headquarters.  I interrupt:  “YOU DO HAVE MY STUFF, RIGHT?”  I’ll tell you this; it was much more of a demand at that point than a question.  “Hai!” came the polite response…with a smile…that just didn’t seem quite right.

It may be a good course, but not a good course of action.

It may be a good course, but not a good course of action.

How much faith do you put in a simple, single word response after going through all of this!?!  Not much.  In the military doing the things that I did, part of becoming quite deft at tactical and strategic planning and execution is that “hope” is not a good course of action, and “faith” is not proactive approach to any situation.

Sometimes faithlessness is punishable.

Sometimes faithlessness is disturbingly punishable.

I am immediately on the phone with the moving company.  I am placed on-hold; no doubt they are probably calling the head-cheese-mover-guy standing right in front of me on his phone to the same place…and both are most likely getting a busy signal!  The very nice and polite English-speaking Okinawan woman at the mover’s office comes back on the line and says, with some measure of relief, “We have your things here; the movers will be back in one hour!”

Now that is hard to believe; remember the thoughts about hope and faith above….  An hour to drive back to the warehouse, unload the trucks (there were two of them), find the right crates, load the right crates back on the trucks, and then drive back to my condo?  Seemed unlikely to me.  I was in no mood to be patronized.

We experienced drama that can only be properly captured in a pop #1 hit.  Sung by a boy-band....

We experienced drama that can only be properly captured in a pop #1 hit. Sung by a boy-band….

Not trusting the system any longer (it is a government-procured and controlled process after all), I asked her rather flatly:  “How many crates do you have.”  “Six,” came the replay.  Good, that was the right – and correct answer.  “What is the first name on the paperwork?”  “Jody-san.”  Right again.  “Okay, one hour; really?”  “Hai!  One hour!!”  I wouldn’t bet on it.

Okinawa Dec 2013, Qwuirky Home, living area

Our Qwuirky Home, with our Goofy Goods

Our Qwuirky Home, with our Goofy Goods

And I would’ve lost.  In the end, the movers did return within an hour, and, perhaps, more incredibly, they returned with the right stuff (the efficiency and responsiveness of the Japanese service industry is the subject of a blog of its own).  The crates were unloaded, our things are here (that quality of the move will be discussed later), and the movers were still gone by about 1 pm, ultimately righting a major wrong in our world…

Okinawa Dec 2013, Qwuirky Home, dining area and computer workstation

…against it seemed, all odds.

What moving horror story do YOU have to share?

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Castillo Condo de Gato


“One small cat changes coming home to an empty house to coming home.” ~Pam Brown

“When I play with my cat, who knows whether she is not amusing herself with me more than I with her.” ~Michel de Montaigne

“Curiosity killed the cat, but for a while I was a suspect.” ~Steven Wright

Cleo does not find Cat Sushi very funny.  I do.

Cleo does not find Cat Sushi very funny. I do.

Today is the day that our furniture is finally “supposed” to arrive in Okinawa.

Maybe.

You see, we live here in Okinawa in the future…depending on where you are.  Thus, the ship could actually be arriving tomorrow contingent on the time zone associated with its arrival date.  But what’s one more day when we’ve had to wait an extra seven weeks (see Castaway for the full sad story on the contracted shipping company simply forgetting to ship our household goods).  As of today it’s been exactly 16 weeks since the total of our “stuff” was packed up….

The women in my life.

The women in my life.  I’m thankful one of them shaves.

BUT, let’s assume the furniture IS arriving.  Given that we may only have a week or so to wait for actual delivery (unloading, customs, movement, more government waste and inefficiency surely has to be expended), and since I’ve covered some of the more important of our possessions that we’ve been missing since packing out our home back in the first week in August (see Do Sweat the Small Stuff and Easy Chair), I felt it was high time to give the third member of our home a voice about the same.  Of sorts.  She’s a cat, you see.  And she only speaks Spanish.

That book is in English.  Cleo only pretends to read....  I think.

That book is in English, which Cleo only pretends to read…. I think.

Sammy-Boy was a talker.  And spoke English.

Sammy-Boy was a talker. And spoke English.

I got Cleo – short for Cleopatra (of course), and her brother Alex  – short for Alexander the Great (of course), about six months after my former cat Sammy (the coolest cat on the planet) went missing in very early 2010.  Alex and Cleo, siblings, were very dissimilar from the very start; Cleo much more demure, light on her feet, and with rather odd leopard-like markings; and Alex, a somewhat blundering lover-boy of a more typical gray short-haired tabby tomcat.  Cleo has always been a smaller cat, and her size has allowed her the ability to jump extraordinarily high and better assume risks that most cats would instead take a nap over.  She has always been a climber, and always has immediately looked for the highest place she could attain in any given situation, and when that perch is attained, she promptly awards herself with a safe, quiet, and undisturbed catnap.

Cleo's nap spot as a kitten.

Cleo’s nap spot as a kitten, high in my office.  I bet she was reading my email….

What’s funny about this is that Alex has always tried to follow Cleo.  You see, he’s not nearly as interested in climbing, or heights for that matter.  As a fit and small kitten, Alex could climb and jump to the places his sister was able to easily navigate to, places that were usually not large and were rather isolated.  And once there, Alex would simply be too damn big for both of them to be comfortable.  And being more of a sumo wrestling build than his sleeker sister, as he got older (read:  BIGGER), he eventually gave up climbing in the same way and to the same places, and Cleo assumed her highness as Queen of the Household, wherever that home may be.

Cleo shared her perch, but the boy's ass became just too big.

Cleo (standing) shared her perch, but the boy’s ass became just too big.

There weren’t that many high places in my old condo in Pensacola (above), but there were plenty of high places for Cleo to explore and call her own in the house I shared with Jody there (below).

Cleo supervises food-service operations from on top of the kitchen cabinets.

Cleo supervises food-service operations from on top of the kitchen cabinets.

Cleo supervising Christmas Decorations.

Cleo supervising Christmas Decorations from our rooftop.

Not a step?  Cleo supervises DIY projects from on-high.

Not a step? Cleo supervises DIY projects from the top of a ladder.

Sleeping on the 8' plant ledge.

Cleo “sleeper-vising” on the 8′ high plant ledge.

However, moving to Okinawa initially really shook up her entire world.  It was bad enough she had to adjust to the loss of her brother in our lives; she literally became a different cat the very day he went missing.  Not only did the hotel in Pensacola suck for her prior to our flights to Japan, the journey across the continental United States and the Pacific Ocean was unfortunately somewhat eventful for our wee feline friend.  I mean if you count me almost killing her (see 9 Lives and Hard Travels)….

Cleo's thoughts on moving overseas are best summed up in this expression....

Cleo’s thoughts on moving overseas are best summed up in this expression….  The audio was something akin to “¡Vete a la mierda!”

In our “pet-friendly” room upon arrival in Okinawa – which simply means that the room was only friendly to pets exactly because it reeked of dirty, wet dog – Cleo immediately found the high spots.  But they weren’t very high, nor were they overly accessible…or apparently comfortable enough to nap.  Being locked in those two tiny rooms day after day for an indoor-outdoor cat is bad enough, but not having the space to climb and the security of her high perches I’m sure no doubt contributed to her rising stress.

Cleo scoffs at the elevation in the TLF.

Cleo scoffs at the lower elevations in the TLF.  Who puts a fan on a throne?

So, as we shopped around for a place to live here on the island, we always kept Cleo’s needs, and dare I say “wants” in mind.  We fully intended to rent a home, where Cleo could explore these foreign and far eastern shores easily from our windows and doors.  However, as we realized that what homes were left after the summer moving crush were much too expensive, too small, or poorly located, and as we shifted to looking at apartments and condos, we still looked at each location for what it could bring to and do for Cleo.  And what it might take away.  She’s family, after all.

Cleo's monster-smashing fantasies.  Tough to achieve from the 5th floor.

Cleo’s Asian monster-smashing fantasies. Tough to achieve from the 5th floor.  Tougher lost on the 3rd….

Living on the 5th floor of condominium building is tough on a cat.  There are a number of buildings all along the seawall here that look the same.  Further, every floor of the buildings and the exterior of every condo on every floor all look exactly alike.  So even though Cleo has these little windows in our place that we leave open where she can come and go as she pleases, no doubt she finds navigating the outside world quite daunting.

She also may be afraid of the urban traffic.  Or more so perhaps this...thing.

She also may be afraid of the urban traffic. Or more so perhaps this…thing.

Especially daunting, it seems, are the stairs!  Or more appropriately, the idea of multiple floors.  As much of a climber as Cleo may be, she turns out to be vertically challenged!!  For an animal that had a very extensive and detailed mental map of our neighborhood back in Pensacola, Cleo can’t seem to grasp the notion – or difference – between, say, the 3rd floor and our own!  We often have to go remind her, after hearing her cries for help, that “…we live up here silly, not down there.”  It seems her maps are one-dimensional only.  I’m pretty sure she hasn’t ventured past the 3rd floor, even though there is absolutely nothing stopping her.

She pleaded to keep the hutch.  It had to go....

She pleaded to keep the hutch. It had to go…back to help decorate a Cracker Barrel.

All this means that she really can’t – and doesn’t explore much here.  She likes the balconies at the front of our place and side where she can watch the goings-on along the seawall.  She most likes to hike down the breezeway and check out other peoples’ side balconies, where she’s been rescued more than a couple of times.  Jody and I have always felt bad for her because of this, and since our condo has relatively low ceilings (eight feet or so), we knew we had to do something.

Cat Castillo; Cleo rules from her Throne(s) on High.

Castillo de Gato; Cleo rules from her Throne(s) on High.

Thank goodness the Japanese have a robust love affair with their cats!  A trip to Pet Box and roughly $200+ later, we’re home building what has become Cleo’s new home away from her home, her very own high-rise Catland Condo.  In the little Spanish I do know, I heard her instantaneously correct our labels by quite clearly saying, “CASTILLO!!”  There’s no point in arguing with her.

"See, it says right here, "Cat Castillo"!'

“See, it says right here, “Castillo Condominio de Gato”!’

Okinawa Sep 2013, cat condo, Cleo takes the stairsCleo’s Castillo is truly her place, err, PALACE.  Here again she has those high places to jump and climb to, but more so, the corner post perches all supply those high, relatively inaccessible places that make her feel so secure.  She sleeps, err, rules from her perches most of the day after her breakfast and morning forays outside.  She lounges, err, holds court up there (when not demanding from her servant Jody to drink from Jody’s bathroom sink) during the evenings when not playing or otherwise interacting with us, or the outdoors.  She even has a $100,000 (basically the expense of renting our place over three years) view of the East China Sea and some truly magical sunsets from her cathedra….

Sometimes I wonder if here Cleo thinks of herself more as Chairman Meow....

Sometimes I wonder if here Cleo thinks of herself more as Chairman Meow….

There’s little doubt that every dollar spent on this giant cat toy is completely worth the cost; it is a small price we pay for the upheaval we have caused in Cleo’s life.  And there’s even less doubt that Cleo appreciates this act of caring kindness, as every night after the lights are out and things have quieted down, she meanders into our bedroom, jumps up on the bed with a small meow, and chooses to sleep with us, her lowly subjects, in our low and lowly bed, quite removed from her highness.

Okinawa Sep 2013, cat condo, Cleo in her new home