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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Easy Chair


“The discontented man finds no easy chair.” ~Benjamin Franklin

“A house that does not have one warm, comfy chair in it is soulless.” ~May Sarton

“One who sits between two chairs may easily fall down.” ~Proverb quotes

Easy chair.  If you're 3.  Or apparently Japanese.

Easy chair. If you’re 3. Or apparently Japanese.

We should be about 10 days away from finally receiving our household goods from the States (knock on wood; see Castaway).  But that doesn’t do us any good right now.  Although I started out this move quite firm in the belief that things are just things, and stuff is just stuff and is wholly replaceable, that isn’t exactly true.

Not entirely.

The first – and only things I’ve written about missing so far has been our Love Jug.  And the second, and quite possibly only other thing worth mentioning is, quite honestly, our Easy Chair.  Well, it’s actually a chair and a half.

Our beloved Chair 1.5 in the center background

Our beloved Chair 1.5 in the center background

phenomenon-movieThere’s a scene and symbolism in the movie Phenomenon (1996) that concerns the importance of chairs to life.  In it, George appears to be magically and mysteriously transformed, suddenly endowed with strange powers.  The transformation, however, was short-lived and due to a brain tumor, which George ultimately passes from.  As George is approaching his terminal end, there’s a discussion in the local bar about it all:

Banes: [speaking to Doc about George’s transformation] “He never really changed at all.  Isn’t that right Doc?  I mean he never really got any smarter.  [after a long pause without a response] Doc?”

Doc:  “Banes… how’s your lady-love?”

Banes:  “We… um… we broke up.”

Doc:  “Really?  That’s too bad, yeah.  Now George has a love at his side and she is sticking with him.  You know why?  Because he bought her chairs.  That’s pretty smart to me.  You ever buy Lisa’s chairs?”

Banes:  [discounting the whole notion because he can’t comprehend the symbolism] “Doc’s real drunk tonight.”

Doc:  “Every woman has her chair, something she needs to put herself into, Banes.  You ever figure out what Lisa’s chairs were and buy ’em?

[Everyone pauses in silence]

Doc:  “Nope.  But, you’re right about one thing, George never changed.”

Our Chair - everyone should have one

Our Chair – everyone should have one

No, it's not a stripper chair....

No, it’s not a stripper chair….

Jody and I cemented our relationship in this chair; in it we poured and put ourselves, together.  It is one of our first co-purchases, a major item that already hinted at the longevity and closeness of what was to turn quickly into a marriage.  It is the centerpiece of not just our living room, but of our time together.  It fits us, and more importantly, it fits us together.

Cat Refuge.

Cat Refuge.

It nurtures us as a couple, and reminds each of us to nurture the other.  I cannot tell you how many nights I’ve spent laying across Jody’s lap watching a favorite show.

Alex sleeping with me on Otto

Alex sleeping with me on Otto

I cannot count the number of times Alex our cat (Cleo’s brother, who went missing quite a while ago back in the states) would hold Jody down in this chair and force her to nap.

The cats, while financially supported and raised by me, really belong to her....

The cats, while financially supported and raised by me, really belong to her…. Alex likes Otto.

It has hosted Christmas gifts, been kind to our party guests, and served as a refuge for our animals.  It is, in physical form, symbolic of our relationship.

A fabulous Christmas host.  And Jody's not bad, either.

A fabulous Christmas host. And Jody’s not bad, either.

And Otto, well let’s just say Otto serves naughty purposes rather well (he says “Hal-lo” with a wink and a Dutch accent).

Naughty things have been known to happen.  It's Otto's fault.

Naughty things have been known to happen. It’s Otto’s fault.

This was imagined, right?!?!?!

The stories our Chair could tell….

Currently we are on a sterile, BLUE, American folk-art inspired, government purchased and supplied sofa that not just exfoliates our skin, but provides the physical equivalent of a chemical peel.  The cat will have NOTHING to do with it.  But in an ironic twist, it manages to highlight every single piece of cat hair within a 10 meter radius.  Let’s just say we are dang tired of just managing with our temporary seating provided by the lowest bidder….

Yuck.

Yuck.  And soulless.

It’s true that this place is no home.  Not yet.  It remains soulless, without our one…and a half…warm, comfy, chair, where neither of us has to attempt to sit between two sofa cushions to be one.  Ten days, and we will once again be content.

Even Monkeys Fall From Trees: Moving to Japan


Even He Scratches His Head at Our Missing Items

Even He Scratches His Head at Our Missing Items

Head-Scratching & Expressly Missing

“It’s the little details that are vital. Little things make big things happen.” ~John Wooden

“Little things console us because little things afflict us.” ~Blaise Pascal

“百日の説法屁一つ” ~Japanese proverb, loosely, “breaking wind in front of the congregation ruins 100 days of sermon….”  Or, that the little things sometimes mean the most.

Or, “Saru mo ki kara ochiru (猿も木から落ちる),” literally, “even monkeys fall from trees….”

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That last Japanese proverb is more commonly interpreted as anyone can make a mistake.  And mistake we did in setting aside items for our “express shipment” to Okinawa.  You see, when you move overseas in the military– technically called a “Permanent Change of Station (PCS)” – you are allowed two moves.  Three, if you are not entitled to your full weight allowance, which figures on both rank and whether or not one has dependents (read:  a family).

The Majority of Our Stuff Going into Storage

The Majority of Our Stuff Going into Storage

To Okinawa we are limited to ¼ of our nominal weight allowance, which is odd because the Army and Air Force generally come with their full moving entitlement.  The Navy (and Marine Corps) argue that the places here are too small to handle the American plethora of goods, and while there is some truth to such a statement, the truth is always somewhere in the middle.  And by middle I mean that it saves the service money at the expense of the member….

It takes more than the village...to move properly to Japan.

It takes more than the village…to move properly to Japan.

At the Lieutenant Commander rank with dependents (that’s me), our moving weight entitlement is something like 17,000 pounds.  Thus, moving to Okinawa we get about 4,300 pounds for this move…which includes all three individual moves:  1) an “Unaccompanied Baggage (UB)” express shipment to Okinawa of about 1,000 pounds maximum; 2) a HouseHold Goods (HHG) shipment of the remainder, or about 3,300 pounds; and 3) a Non-Temporary Storage (NTS) shipment of the rest of our “stuff” that goes into storage state-side for the three years we are assigned to Japan.

We actually used 700 pounds of UB, and almost 7,000 pounds of household goods!  Not sure how the Navy is going to feel about that, and we still, as of writing, have no idea how much our storage shipment weighed.

Our Express Shipment Crated

Our Express Shipment Crated

Our Express Shipment was picked up on the 8th of August in Pensacola, Florida, and had a “Required Delivery Date (RDD)” of 12 September.  That’s about 35 days for those of you who are counting, and believe me, I am a counter…when you are depending on a loaner-kitchen.  Prior to the arrival of this “stuff,” we are literally living out of six suitcases carried with us via commercial airliner.  This included one 65 pound bag dedicated to two full sets of dive gear, and a whole host of cat-equipment, including not one, but two pet carriers….  See “Feline Fiasco” and “Nine Lives and Hard Travels” for more on those particular necessities!  We did get the most basic kitchen utensils from the Marine Corps’ “loan locker” here…but for just 30 days.

So, one can quickly image that after five full weeks of living out of suit cases and kitchen something like you might find while camping, and trying with all your might to attempt to delay purchases for those items which you know are coming, for which you start counting not only days, but hours until that all-important unaccompanied baggage is due to show.

In our case, there was nothing heard from the military personal property office on our express, right up until the required due date.  I, of course, being jaded about the military and their intelligence at times, was already considering the worse:  the shipment, clearly, had washed overboard from some third-world-lowest-bidder freighter in one of the four tropical storms to affect Okinawa since our arrival.

Surely our crate washed overboard....

Surely our crate washed overboard….

Alas, Jody calls on our due date and, like pennies from heaven, our shipment did indeed arrive Kadena Air Base on the 12th.  Or so we were told.  Talk about a “just-in-time” means of delivery; it makes me wonder whether or not the shipping company shipped to arrive at the latest possible time, or, did they have the opportunity to get it here earlier?  Like I said, I’m jaded at times…and every time when it comes to the government.

Our Crated Goods in Japan

Our Crated Goods in Japan

Unfortunately, our shipment didn’t or couldn’t clear costumes and the military officials in time for delivery that day.  But it was scheduled for the next day, and thanks be the gods (or at least Hermes), our long-anticipated and much-needed 700 pounds of mystery possessions do indeed show up at our doorstep.  Or at least in our parking lot.

Secured Goods.  We Hope.

Secured Goods. We Hope.

After okaying the costumes seals were still intact on our crate, the movers open and start brining boxes up one after another.  The first thing I will say is that 700 pounds doesn’t go very far.

And the most important thing I’ll say is that no matter how much weight you receive, if you didn’t pack the right things at the shipping end, you end up revisiting all those purchases you’ve been denying yourself thinking certain things were, most certainly, on their way!  But aren’t.

That Sinking Feeling of Items Forgotten

That Sinking Feeling of Items Forgotten

So, for those of you either packing to come overseas, or for those of you just merely interested in where we fell short, here’s an expressly short list of things we really wish we had packed for Okinawa:

Christmas Can Be Early:  Check Your List Twice

Christmas Can Be Early: Check Your List Twice

  • A Vacuum Cleaner, especially since we bought a brand-new one for Japan; our new rugs are looking old before their time, and will have to be swept I guess….
  • Except we didn’t pack a Broom, either.  Or a Dustpan, or Swifter, or even Basic Cleaning Supplies.  We’ll wait, unhappily, for the vacuum, but we had to get these basics to help clean up this mess, literally and figuratively.
  • Pillows & Blanket.  Well, we ended up buying pillows and a lame blanket two weeks ago to used on our military-provided full-size bed (yes, I said full-size), so this one isn’t so bad.
While there may be cushion in the government's budget, there is none in their beds.

While there may be cushion in the government’s budget, there is none in their beds.

  • Except that I set aside the Pillow-Top under-covering for our bed since I was afraid the dang thing would take up too much room.  It was the size of a small Japanese car, mind you.  Make sure you have the linens you really want; sleep is a very important commodity when you are dealing with ten time zones of change.
  • Coffee Mugs.  I did a great job setting aside about ¼ of about the ½ of the kitchen we are bringing (did you follow that math?).  This 1/8th of our state-side kitchen is quite well-appointed; in fact, as the familial domestic engineer and kept man, I cooked a kick-ass Sage & Basil Chicken Fettuccine dinner just last night with our newly arrived cookery.  Included are enough pots, pans, utensils, flatware, and dish service for four.  There is Tupperware for storage and for Jody’s lunches, along with our microwave.  And we even have our K-Cup machine…but with no mugs in which to brew all the good get-me-up juices.  I consider this a good investigation of our tempered drinking glasses.
Okay, you got us:  we are tea drinkers....

Okay, you got us: we are tea drinkers….

  • Toaster.  We have a microwave – another boxy but larger cooking accoutrement, and it’ll heat bread like nobody’s business, but it won’t brown bread to an ultimate crispy, golden deliciousness.  The microwave’s littler boxy cousin takes up no room and weighs next to nothing; do yourself a favor and keep the kissing cousins together!
Bring Your Toaster

Bring Your Toaster

  • Iron & Ironing Board.  Can you begin to even imagine how wrinkled our clothes are having spent the 36 day journey in a lay-down wardrobe…that’s been shifted to and fro?  Do you really think that those clothes stay neatly packed and their hangers??  The government really should throw in a few extra bucks so that we can at least have standup wardrobes for international moves.  They don’t, ‘cause such standup boxes take up too much room…which equates to money.  The Navy should be paying for some amount of dry-cleaning and pressing, at least.
Built-in Shelving from our Okinawan Home in 1999

Built-in Shelving from our Okinawan Home in 1999

  • Shelves.  They are not just for books in Japan.  It’s odd to me that while traditional Okinawan homes often have a wide variety of built-in storage, modern construction here lacks almost any type of storage outside of the most basic (and small) closet.  We have, over the years, accumulated a number of those stackable, customizable heavy metal shelving units that are so popular in Japan.  I had a number from my last time here, and Jody purchased some while stationed in Cuba.  In any case, although we have a whole host of linens, towels (beach & bath), and wash-cloths, we have nowhere to put them!
Sexiest Cartoon:  I am the Spouse...and Domestic Engineer...and Kept Man!

Sexiest Cartoon: I am the Spouse…and Domestic Engineer…and Kept Man!

small_things_quote_webWe are often told to “…not sweat the small stuff,” and that the little things don’t matter.  And while this type of philosophy may result in chicken soup for your soul, it’s awfully hard to cook that soup without a kitchen.  Accordingly, sometimes the littlest things do matter, and they do very much.  If you stop and give this discussion a dose of contemplation, and then think about what you would really want if you only had a thousand pounds of your “stuff” to live with, your list would be quite drastically different than if asked what things you would want to live for.  The latter includes all those big-dollar items of plenty that make our lives so (and maybe too) busy and full in America…so crammed that self-storage business in the United States is BIG business.

But it is the former where we are able to make living a life not just feasible, maybe not quite comfortable, but so much more agreeable.  Delicious freshly-cooked food, newly-brewed hot teas and coffees, a hygienic home and clean clothes, and, at the end of the day, sound slumber.  In all these ways, it is indeed the little things that allow for the big things in our lives to materialize.

Where's the Book on "Packing for Japan"!

Where’s the Book on “Packing for Japan”!

PS – Check out this link for a rather eccentric yet comprehensive list of things to pack for Japan.  It’s part of this blog about surviving a move to Japan!

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Jody Drives Naked in Japan!!!


Naked Buttocks

Naked Buttocks

“It’s not illegal to drive naked…if you have your seatbelt on….”

“Like, would you drive to school naked?” ~The Breakfast Club

“Art can never exist without Naked Beauty display’d.” ~William Blake

Naked Displayed

Naked Displayed

One of the first priorities in Okinawa is buying freedom.  Remember from my last blog, it costs at least a buck-o-five.  Seriously, without wheels, this island is prison-like, given the locales that must be covered to search for lodging, treks that must be made as part of required indoctrination, and the Ramen House that must be sampled.  Oh, and Jody has to go back to work, sometime….

Jody's Near-Naked Leg

Jody’s Near-Naked Leg

So it’s important for those intending to come to Okinawa at the invitation of the military and pleasure of the sequestering-President to know that it is not allowable such prisoners (actually, more accurately those on Status-of-Forces-Agreement [SOFA] status) to rent cars on the island until they have a United States Forces Japan (USFJ)-issued driver’s license.  Even though car rental is provided at various places on various bases.  Where people without license congregate and need transportation most.  Like at the Shogun Inn main building just down the street from our Temporary Lodge Facility (TLF), where rental prices are a wee-tad higher than those in the states, but where you can be zipping down the road at a raging 50 K’s an hour faster than you can repeat three times “SOFA Status Superstar.”  Don’t ask me how I know this; I, of course, would never improperly rent a car (wink)!  In any case, as of yesterday, I am a SOFA-licensed driver, so such conjecture about car rental is OBE.

Go Naked.  We don't own fur....

Go Naked. We don’t own fur….

But part of getting that all-important SOFA license is to take a driver’s test.  This, of course, administered after military-specified required prisoner mistreatment, courtesy of the Marine Crops’ safety department on Camp Foster.  This test is offered on various days during the week, but is only given at 10 am.  And although your on-island sponsor and annoying command may not think so, taking and passing this test must be a priority.

Naked Feels Great.  Cosmo Says So.

Naked Feels Great. Cosmo Says So.

Remember, freedom is at stake.

However, the license is only issued after attending the required island new-comer brief given on Wednesdays.  Now, since military intelligence is, as they say, an oxymoron, this “brief” lasts from 0730 through at least 1430.  Yes, it’s one of those times where the briefs will continue until morale improves (beatings are no longer tolerated in the modern kinder, gentler military as it was in those nostalgic days of piracy).  And since the “brief” is required for all family members, the kids and babies are all ripe for testing at the end of such an enlightening day of nothingness.  The SOFA license test is given upon the conclusion of this day of the dead, but if you have already taken the exam, you’ll simply pick up your license and save yourself at least 90 minutes…of freedom.  Or at least finally obtaining the free freedom to buy real freedom.

Naked Feels Soooo Good!

Naked Feels Soooo Good!

One note about his test.  This is a test, like in one that you have to study for, especially if you have never driven overseas.  Get your hands on the driver’s manual, and seriously, read through it at least twice.  Unlike the states where you’ve been driving already for a year (or more), you take this test COLD, without benefit of real-life, real-road experience.  Oh, and the test has very little to do with driving…but more to do with whether or not you studied.

Drive Naked Today

Drive Naked Today

So, once you have your SOFA license, which took us almost a week, you can purchase a car.  There are two basic approaches:  buy from a Japanese used-car salesman, or, buy from a pardoned prisoner (those who own vehicles).  The latter preferably in a way that takes advantage of another’s misery, which is really how capitalism operates most efficiently (think about how we all get those great deals on homes and yard sales and the truth is no longer “out there”).

He Can't Drive Naked.  He Won't Fit....

He Can’t Drive Naked. He Won’t Fit….

The island has the usual suspects of car dealers – less ALL the American brands – but is literally covered with used-car lots, most targeting American GIs.  One of the absolute truths of the Universe, though, is that used-car salesman share an almost incomprehensible amount of genetic material worldwide, the same scary stuff that would, in another era, result in a Darwin Award, and the eventual extinction of the species.  The cars from these lots may come with warranties, and probably on average are at least checked and/or repaired prior to sale, but alas, such services and assurances come with a price.  And there’s no real consensus whether that additional expense is justified.  Cars on these lots often can be gotten at times on-base for almost half the cost….

They Are All the Same

They Are All the Same

Which brings me to the Kadena Air Base “Lemon Lot,” more properly known as the “Auto Resale Lot.”  It’s been moved since I was here last time, and is now much closer to the Exchange, located in the parking lot of the uniform/dry-cleaning shop across the street of the base’s main shopping complex.  All the vehicles I have purchased on-island were acquired this way; 3 out of 4 did me just fine.  The one dud turns out to be a recall issue on Toyota Surfs (the direct equivalent of a Toyota 4Runner) due to over-heating issues in hotter climes such as Okinawa.  Which is exactly what happen to my old truck, which had to be junked.

Me, my Young Kids, and the Old Surf

Me, my Young Kids, and the Old Surf

Lemon Lot

Lemon Lot

Jody and I started looking for cars almost immediately.  It’s a daunting prospect, but easy enough process.  The cars are registered on-base, who are supposed to “vouch” for advertising accuracy.  And the owners (usually) put an information sheet in the car’s window, which must include – it seems by base regulation – “super cold AC runs GREAT!”

Really, I’m sure they all do.

What you are secretly hoping for is someone pressed for whatever reason (and there are many) to sell their car now-now-now, but not that guy who’s dumping a lemon and knows it.  So we go from car to truck to van to car, and discuss the relative merits of each vehicle.  It’s odd there are NO pickup trucks here.  Of course we act like we know a lot about cars, and no doubt you can tell much by kicking a car’s tires (just like in aircraft:  “kick the tires and light the fires!”).  Oh, and it’s like 97 degrees outside with 97% humidity, which makes the whole affair, well, in a word….

Moist.

Green Naked Envy

Green Naked Envy

And then we come upon “it.”  NAKED.  There is not much talk at first glance between Jody and I, but I know we are thinking the same thing:  this is the perfect name for a car.  For us.  Especially for me.

Ask my postman in Pensacola.

Naked Porn

Naked Porn

We start to examine the car.  It is small.  Boxy, like most modern Japanese cars tend to be, but with welcome relief in not its lines but its very construction.  It’s a great puke-military-green color, shinier and more attractive than olive drab, and strikes us immediately as a mini-Humvee.  Like the cube root of an H3.  Naked may suffer from tire envy (my motorcycle has bigger wheels), but size doesn’t matter when they’re carrying the torque of 659 white-lightn’n cubic inches of shear, raw 58 horse-power-generat’n combustion!  And that, my friends, is less than half that of my motorcycle, and not much larger than a Vespa!  Seriously, road taxes in Okinawa are based on engine size, and this car with its motor qualifies for the coveted “A” plate – much cheaper taxes – a can’t miss yellow plate with, yes, you guessed it, the letter “A.”  For those not in the know, the majority of cars on Okinawa have white plates, and those registered to SOFA status personnel are marked with a leading “Y” on the plate.  The joke is that this stands for “Yankee.”

"A" Stands for Acceleration

“A” Stands for Acceleration

"Y" is for Yankee!!

“Y” is for Yankee!!

I’m not so sure it’s a joke.  Or the joke may be on us.  Or at least the Rebels….

We fell in quick like with this car.  Which as we looked more and more (and it got hotter and hotter) quickly turned into a moist love affair.  A phone call to Steve, the owner and Air Force EOD officer, a test drive, and handshake later and the deal is done.  Dirty deeds done dirt cheap.

Freedom.

Celebrating Naked

Celebrating Naked

After $3,700 for the car, about $275 for title transfer and insurance, and 90 minutes standing in various lines at the military’s version of the DMV (and every bit as thrilling), we are literally handed the keys to our freedom.  And to Jody’s first drive in, well, let’s see:  Okinawa, Japan, Asian, west of the International Dateline, and oh yeah, on the left side of the road!  Although she was dreading it, it finally came time to put her big-girl panties on and take the great Naked leap of faith.

Right-Hand Drive on the Wrong Side Ride!

Right-Hand Drive on the Wrong Side Ride!

The only drawback?  We’ll probably have to tie the car down in typhoons….

Sometimes being Naked Blows

Sometimes being Naked Blows

Moving Day


Moving Sked 2Okinawa harkens to me.

But I don’t feel ready….

okinawa_mapToday our “Unaccompanied Baggage” is being packed and (hopefully) sent on its way to Okinawa.  In a utopian move – and like dry land in Waterworld – such a thing is the stuff of legend and myth, this “UB” would get there shortly after we arrive.  So, it’d be things like the most basics of the kitchen and bathroom that would support some measure of cooking and hygiene until the main shipment of household goods arrives.

Our "toys" are more of the "adult" flavor....

Our “toys” are more of the “adult” flavor….

Picking these items, however, is much harder than it may appear at first glance!  The real puzzle is, by staying under 1,000 pounds of shipment, what exactly would you bring?  Another interesting way of looking at the same issues is this:  if you had to cast away all the flotsam and jetsam in your life and compress your belongs down to a mere one thousand pounds, what would you have?  While this may seem relatively easy at first glance, real conflict can happen when decisions must be made to jettison “stuff,” which in the American culture, as witnessed by the sheer number of rentable storage facilities, seems to be equated with success and/or happiness.

Neither is true.

Pack Only What Your Heart Desires

Pack Only What Your Heart Desires

Home is where the heart is as the cliché goes.  But, like most clichés, this contains a jewel of absolute truth, bolstered by the wise, having stood the test of ages.  And while Jody and I are still combining our “stuff,” which has made this move especially stressful and complex, my heart remains with her, wherever that may take me.

And fortunately for me, there remain small pieces of my heart scattered throughout Okinawa from my other postings there.  After all, it is a second home.

And it does so harken to me.

Okinawa Harkens

Okinawa Harkens