Leaving Home for Home

You Never Really Leave Okinawa....

You Never Really Leave Okinawa….

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home.”~Matsuo Bashō (born Matsuo Kinsaku [1644-1694], then Matsuo Chūemon Munefusa, was the most famous poet of the Edo period in Japan)

“Home is where the heart is.” ~Pliny the Elder

These are two different impressions on the essence of home, clearly different, but in many ways closely related.  Both apply equally to our upcoming international move to Okinawa, happening now in a period of time measured only in hours, instead of what used to be months, then weeks, and most recently days, which sometimes is more aptly referred to as “daze” (you now, for the double entendre).

Japanese Tree House

Japanese Tree House

The idea of the journey being so important is lost on most.  A standard and central biker creed, something one learns quickly on a long-distance motorcycle trip, is exactly what Busho so elegantly states:  it’s seldom about the destination, but always about the voyage.  The point is, the journeys we take in life are precisely what life is made of, and such cognizance can lead to such a fuller, deeper, more rich life, the kind worth reflecting back upon.

Japanese Housing Agencies

Japanese Housing Agencies

But perhaps there is yet a more apropos characterization of home that fits me personally:  “Home is not where you live, but where they understand you,” ~ Christian Morganstern.

Okinawan Soba House

Okinawan Soba House

When I fell for my wife Jody, the prettiest nurse in the Navy, I knew that more vagabond days may be in my future.  In fact, I was probably and primarily the reason behind this imminent Far Eastern foray.  Jody was all set to retire in Pensacola in 2014, but between the marvelous odds of making full Commander (and its associated massive spike in retirement pay), intersected with the idea that the government would pay (mostly and with much hassle) for what we would make to be an epic international adventure, we both decided that one last tour overseas was in order.  Although we both initially wanted Europe as the station of her duty, Okinawa was what was finally successfully negotiated, happily so mind you.

Traditional Okinawan Home

Traditional Okinawan Home

Jody has not travel nearly as extensively as I, nor has she lived in Asia (and specifically) Okinawa as I have for four years previously.  I find that Okinawa, as opposed to other places overseas I have lived, leaves an indelible mark on many peoples’ psyches, and for me personally – although I am positive my children would agree – Okinawa quickly became quite literally a second home.  I feel I understand Okinawa, and I know that Jody understand me.  These profound insights are what make my idea of “home” easily migratory back and forth across the great expanse of the Pacific.

My son's Sunabe Seawall-inspired painting titled simply "GOAL"

My son’s Sunabe Seawall-inspired painting titled simply “GOAL”

A fellow Okinawan-centric blogger Okinawa Blue perhaps captures this idea most appropriately in the form of Japanese haiku:

Always in longing

for the other half of me

whether here or there

This, in my opinion, captures perfectly the dichotomy between longing for what you miss, and appreciating where you are.  In the states, we live such easy, comfortable lives.  And most Americans don’t realize the breadth of that statement, at least, not until they leave their homes…and homeland.  Of course I will miss and even long for elements of America during my three years on Okinawa, but at the same time, in unison, I feel even more comfortable in some respects living in Okinawa as “home.”  I hope that in blogging over the next three years that I’ll be able to capture just a few of the reasons why Okinawa became and remains so very special to me and many people that I know.

My cat's nightmare of Anti-Home

My cat’s nightmare of Anti-Home

My cat's idea of "Home"

My cat’s idea of “Home”

“Where thou art, that is home.” ~Emily Dickinson

But there is an even more important constituent of “home” that counts the most.  That is, quite simply, what I told Jody early in our relationship:  that my home is wherever Jody can be found.  I knew that Jody would be re-posted, and had no illusions or compunction about following her across the globe.  And I’m happy, if not in anxious anticipation, to be part of this grand adventure with her!

Household Divorce

Household Divorce

Moving Daze

Moving Daze

“Home is any four walls that enclose the right person.” ~Helen Rowland

Although our vehicles are put away, and we have temporarily divorced ourselves of our house in Pensacola (where renters move in Thursday), in the final analysis, for each of us, home is where we are as long as we are together.  A house is a thing, and things inside of that house can make it warm, comfortable, and even inviting.  But a house is not a home; home is in the heart, and my heart is with Jody, who will soon be in Okinawa….

Idle Wheels

Idle Wheels

Journey-less Bike

Journey-less Bike

Together we are ready to take on Okinawa.  I just hope she falls in love with this most special of places as I have, and will too over time consider it a second home as much as I do.

An Idyllic Okinawan Neighborhood Awaits!

An Idyllic Okinawan Neighborhood Awaits!

Moving Daze

“You give but little when you give of your possessions. It is when you give of yourself that you truly give.” ~Khalil Gibran

A Useless Possession Invented by the Japanese

A Useless Possession Invented by the Japanese

Possessions most often do not equal happiness.  A lesson learned…again…today during move daze….

The movers called yesterday and my wife spoke to them.  Yes, they had wardrobes for the clothes, but they would be the lay-down type.  Yes, they’d be there between 10am and 1pm, but there was no clarification on whether that meant that they would be packing between those hours and done by early afternoon, or rather would they be showing up sometime in that range a-la the cable guy.

The Japanese must not Think Highly of the Cable Guy...Either

The Japanese must not Think Highly of the Cable Guy…Either

No matter.  My daze had already set in.  Partially from about three hours of sleep the night before (and before).  But more so from the constant sorting of our stuff – the massive amount of possessions that had to be gone through, and all gone through over the last week. 

Pile of Possessions

Pile of Possessions

All that compounded by uncooperative weather.

In Florida in the summer we can expect late afternoon thunderstorms most days, like clockwork.  However, it’s Move Daze, so what happens?  Yup, the heavens open up and proceed to offer a deluge starting at…yes…the movers’ show time. 

And it doesn’t stop raining!  And neither Jody nor I want our possessions wet.

So, it’s partially a blessing that the movers finally arrive at 3pm, when the rain finally begins to subside.  They quickly realize, however, that 1) they used all their wardrobes, and 2) they used the larger crate on their truck, both for the morning pickup.  The crate they do have won’t fit our stuff!!  Yikes.  Oh, and our large TV is too large for express shipment – fair’nough, and, we can’t ship the lamps express as they are “furniture.”  Okay, it’s just stuff, and we’ll get it 2-4 weeks later with our main household goods shipment anyway….  No worries.

Now, that’s all the dizziness of move daze.  But that’s not the real point of this story.  The movers were two older African American men, surprisingly older, like clocking in at 63 and 67.  They were particularly polite and cheerfully apologetic about their tardiness and the fact that they were not properly equipped for my pickup, but of course I’m becoming more and more upset, being bemused at the deteriorating situation.  They sense this and call their office to have their supervisor mediate, who calls and says he’s on the way with another truck, two different sizes of empty crates for all our stuff, and wardrobes for our clothes.

But I couldn’t get over the work these men were doing.  And doing it with a smile on their face, without complaint or any appearance of distress, over easily a 10 hour day.  I simply say to the leader-guy, “What are you guys doing?  You’re too old for this kindda work!  This is a young-man’s game….”

He stops his work, slowly gazes up with a smile, and replies in a low almost unintelligible voice, all the while grinning larger and larger, “Can’t get em young’uns to do the work; somebody got to do it….”

Where does this type of work ethic spring from?  I know one place.  Turns out BOTH men were ex-military, one Marine and the other Army.  These men had both served in Vietnam.  Both left the military around year 14 of service.  And both had children currently in the service, where both were being very firm about those kids retiring from the service so their offspring could avoid similar fates in old age.

But this story gets better.

Upon hearing about me going to Okinawa, the leader-guy again stopped and smiled even BIGGER.  “I was in Okinawa in 1972!”

“Did you enjoy it?”

“The nurses sure were pretty.”


“I was medivac’d through Okinawa after being hit in ‘Nam, or Cambodia, not really sure….”

This is just an odd coincidence; I often, almost invariably introduce Jody to people as the “Prettiest Nurse in the Navy!”  While she no longer embarrasses over this title like she used too, I’m not sure she realizes the healing power that she welds, especially for young, hurt, scared boys.  I tell the leader guy to follow me around a couple of corners through the home, and point out a framed bridal portrait of Jody hanging proudly on the wall. 

“Devil Dog, that, my friend, is the prettiest dang nurse in the Navy, and she’ll shortly be working at the hospital in Okinawa!” 

The Absolutely Prettiest Dang Nurse in the Navy

The Absolutely Prettiest Dang Nurse in the Navy

He grins and replies, “Good gracious, she’ll mend the boys but break their hearts!

The universe pretty much unfolds how it should.  The daze of the day had given way to a certain clarity about life.  That the stuff we had set aside for our express shipment really had little to do with our upcoming Far East Adventure.  That someone who had given so much physically and mentally during his youth, who maintains such a positive and upbeat attitude and demeanor in the face of what could be characterized as brutal physical existence in the summer heat of northern Florida, places so little value on “things.”

And I start to pull things out of our express shipment.  Partly because I want to accelerate the packing timeline (it was very late already).  Partly because the military expects the express shipment to be around 1,000 pounds (the actual number is very hard to find), and I knew we had too much.  But mostly because I truly wish to focus on the things that really will matter in Okinawa.

Parting with Possessions

Parting with Possessions

It is not the stuff we bring, we buy, we junk, use or sell.

It is the people we hold dear in our lives, those that we love, those that we befriend, and even those that simply cross our paths and help show us the way.  And it is those people whose lives we touch, sometimes profoundly for life, at other times simply through a healing smile and touch, that lend meaning to our mutual being.

Ninety cubic feet of storage and 900 pounds (estimated) later, I shake the crews’ hands and wish them well.  Semper Fi my new friends…..


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

Sayonara Amerika


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.


All will be missed.

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.


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.






The check was deposited today.

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

deer laughing