Tipsy on a Tuesday Afternoon

When the Sailor sent me an email from Puerto Rico where he was for over 2 months for relief work after hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria saying, “WE GOT ORDERS TO JAPAN,” I was ecstatic. WE were ecstatic. What an adventure! A tropical island, completely different culture with a long complex and interesting history and we would be right on Tokyo Bay. We both immediately talked about climbing Mount Fuji, seeing the historic cities with their shrines and temples and listing all the surround countries that suddenly became long weekend trips. We were like little kids talking about summer camp. But no one really warns you about the process of moving over seas and what it entails so let me enlighten you. IT FUCKING SUCKS!

It sucks if you don’t have a perfect health history (check) and if you have pets that you can’t (or in my case re-home – check) and I can not even imagine it with children. It gets infinitely more frustrating and draining with each seemingly mundane aspect of your life. You think you have an idea of packers coming into your house and wrapping up all your stuff and taking it away… for 2+ months and living out of duffle bags. Eating on paper plates and plastic flatware with dollar store pots and pans in an empty house. Going to work and coming home to an air mattress and 2 lawn chairs. Then it happens and you realize, “Ummmm, this feels shitty,” because suddenly your home is empty and doesn’t really feel like home.

You think you understand that you’ll have so many days to relax, travel and visit your family and friends before boarding a very long flight but, suddenly 30 days of leave to do all that blows by and your standing at an airport waving goodbye. Funny, though no one ever really talks about flights getting delayed or canceled and having t frantically call your ride back at 3am to come lug you, your 4 giant duffle bags and 2 yowling scared shitless cats BACK to your family’s house again. Yeah, that happens. More frequently than I was aware. Then 24 hours later you do the same choked tearful goodbyes to the same family.

Then suddenly you’re watching a stranger wheel your two pets away to be loaded into the belly of a plane where they will be for the next 12+ hours and you cry some more because, they don’t friggen know. You know they don’t know and there isn’t anyway to tell an animal, “It’s fine. You’ll be fine. It will be over in no time.” You can barely explain that to a small child. You just see their sad little furry faces wide-eyed from the back of their cage looking at you like, “So this is how it ends” and your heart breaks because you haven’t slept in almost 36 hours because your original flight yesterday was delayed for 24 hours and you’re stressed and nervous. And the little girl whose dog is riding on the same cart with your cats is crying saying, “It’s ok boy. You’ll be OK. I love you. I’ll be waiting for you Japan.” And it’s just too much so, you cry too. Yeah, that was me.

No one warns you that as soon as you get here, all you’re going to do is run all over the damn base; apply for housing, immediately choose from a list of houses sight unseen or immediately know you want to live off base, then you’re on your own, 72 hours to report your pets entry onto base because they are under temporary quarantine, schedule a quarantine appointment to have the 12 hour quarantine lifted, get a Japanese phone, get a mail box, go to a week long area briefing, make an appointment to have your household goods delivered, make an appointment for a pre-move in inspection of your new home… It’s constant. It’s unrelenting. And you walk everywhere because you don’t have a car and it’s hotter than than Hades and more humid than his balls. Even if you did have a car, you couldn’t drive it because they drive on the left side of the road here (or if your egocentric, the “wrong side”) and all the traffic signs are in Japanese.

So you get your house. For us, since it was our first time in Japan and our first time living abroad, we chose base housing. Well, Kyle chose our house. Without me. I was salty for about 30 seconds. Then I didn’t give a shit because I just didn’t want to have to live in the Navy Lodge (aka Hotel on base) for months. When he went to the housing office early one morning to see what he had to do to request housing, they directed him to a house brief. After they told him he had to choose base housing or off base housing. Off base housing had another briefing. If he chose base housing then they had a list of base homes available right now for him to choose from. If he didn’t choose right then, the next guy from the briefing in rank got a choice and when he brought me back with him the list would be shorter. The next guy in line that the Sailor just happened to out rank smiled. He knew what he was choosing if the Sailor passed to come ask me. So he chose and a high-rise called Satsuki Heights became our new home for 3 years. Sight. Un. Seen.

Then you have a choice, pay to continue to stay in the hotel until your household goods are delivered, pay to rent furniture and shit to live in your new place until your stuff is delivered or move into an empty home and rough it on the floor until your shit arrives. One guess what we chose.

So you’ve made it this far. All your appointments are made, and you’ve begun attending the week long area briefing classes that basically spends the first 3 days telling you about the base, and reminding you that you’re living on a military installation so, ya know, don’t do stupid shit like talk about ships and what they are doing  and when. Oh and don’t get in fights at the bars or drive at all if you’ve had even one drink because the Japanese blood alcohol limit is .03% which is the rough equivalent of smelling a decent beer. During this time, they give you a sweet photocopy booklet to study for a written driving exam. Yes. It’s a booklet with all the new laws of how to drive on the left side of the road and what all the traffic signs mean. The translation is a little sketchy so the descriptions are… well, I was really glad for the pictures that accompanied the descriptions. On your final day of briefing you take the written exam if you want to get your SOFA license. BTW, SOFA is just a fancy acronym for status of forces agreement. Basically it’s just a host country (in our case Japan) agreeing that us foreigner living here for military purposes can get a quick license if we already have a US license, pass a set of simple tests proving we can handle the subtle differences (among maaaaany other things). There are 50 questions on the written and you need an 80% to pass. Here at Yokosuka they gave an incentive to really study. If you got 100% you get first choice of schedule availability for the driving exam. The Sailor assured me that he’d get a 100%. Needless to say, I was one of 6 that got 100% and he didn’t. HA! I haven’t taken the driving exam yet. I’m sure that will be complete fuckery. I’ll let you know how it goes.

If you’ve made it thus far without losing your shit, bravo. Sadly, thats about to change. Because now comes the delivery of your household goods. The Japanese movers are polite, nice, patient and effective as fuck. No matter how awesome they are thought, they can’t fix what the US packers and movers drop kicked across the country and on to a container ship. Some of your shit will get broken. If you’re lucky it will be a cheap clothes drying rack or small bowl that had seen better days anyway. If you’re unlucky your grandfather clock will be jacked up bad enough you don’t know how to fix it and the corner of your flat screen 3D TV will be broken off among other things. Yeah, it will make you mad. You will silently rage and if you’re like me you’ll shut down and take a nap on the couch surrounded by chaos. Then when the movers are done and you look around at all your stuff and wonder how in the hell you fit this much crap into a one bedroom apartment back home, you’ll crack open a delicious Coca Cola, chug a few swallows then tip in a shot or two of Sailor Jerry straight into the can and sit down to spew your woes of the last several weeks out online.

And that’s how I ended up tipsy on a Tuesday afternoon.

I Require a Possum in a Top Hat and Monocle (Original Post 03/06/16)

I grew up in a middle class house in the burbs of the north eastern corner of the Midwest in the 80’s. It was pretty normal really. Well, I thought it was. I mean everyone’s dad hunted, did his own taxidermy and lined the walls of your den and living room with said stuffed animals, right? To make things even more interesting, he had a tendency to “find” animals that needed help and saving and regularly brought them home from his hunting trips along with the carcasses of the slain. Oh, and he was also on the sheriff’s call list for when a buck (a male deer for you non-countiefied readers) was hit by a car but not decimated and they wanted someone to come and take the decent body… To butcher, wall mount etc..

More than a few times I came home and opened the barn (think giant garage with room for his Kubota tractor and riding lawn mower and an upstairs) to find a giant lifeless deer strung up skinned and gutted ready for butchering.  Totes normal.

My  earliest memory was in our basement. In a nook tucked back under the stairs where he had rigged up a wood stove to our laundry shoot to help heat our little post war bungalow was his work bench. It was close proximity to the wash tub that our washer drained into. This was important for his taxidermy work. I didn’t remember the exact process and formulas for the chemicals but one of the first steps after the ducks were gutted and skinned the pelts had to be soaked clean and tanned.  I used to stand next to my dad on an overturned bucket watching him at the sink. Sometimes if I wasn’t pestering him too much he’d give me the eyeballs to play with while he cleaned the bodies. My mother was repulsed which I couldn’t understand as I rolled the little jelly balls between my fingers occasionally turning my little hand sideways lining them up between my middle and pointer finger so it looked like my hand had little eyes and my thumb, working up and down resembled a talking mouth. Like a hand puppet. What? You didn’t play with eyeballs when you were a kid?

Anyway, he’d move to his work bench eventually where he shaped foam bodies with clay molded thighs and inserted wire into legs and beaks. I would sit on a tall stool he would pull up for hours watching him hand paint special tiny glass eyes, airbrush preserved legs and feet to be the just so shades as if they still had blood pumping through them. It always amazed me how suddenly some lumpy foam oval would suddenly have a feathered pelt stretched over it and to become the body of a drake mallard or hen canvas back. Sculptures clay molded to get the shape of the head just right. Some were bound to be in perpetual flight, mounted to a post off the carefully selected piece of drift wood to be wall mounted or a wire des retry coming from a selected spot in the back to hang from the ceiling forever coming in for a landing in out little bungalow’s living room.

My favorite were the standing ones. They didn’t just stand on the table. My father created entire vinettes to accompany them. Some perched on preserved and perfectly airbrushed logs with moss, preserved leaves and all. My favorite was a hen and 2 babies. Now don’t freak out. He may have shot the hen in season but the babies he found road side a casualty of a motorist. The momma and rest of the best were beyond saving from a taxidermist perspective but two weren’t so badly damaged that he couldn’t salvage them. So the hen he already has stuffed got a new habitat that was a nest and the addition of 2 offspring.

Yes, roadkil was regularly considered “finds”. One Christmas my grandfather and young uncle were in town for the holidays. On their way to join us at my Aunt’s house then hit a giant pheasant. Smashed their windshield. But they stopped and went back to see if the damn thing needed to be put out of any misery. It in fact was dead from what appeared to be a broken neck. It must have flown directly into the big old Cadillac’s windshield. Knowing my father they scooped up the fresh kill and put it in the trunk as a Christmas gift for my father. To say he was excited by that smelly thing was an understatement. In his defense, it was a big fucking bird. It hangs in mid flight to this day in his man cave.

I think all this leads me to where I’m at today. I have always had a little penchant for strange taxidermied animals over say, glass vases or pretty pottery. I have never had the opportunity to purchase any freaky stuffed squirrels or wall mounted boars heads but, should that opportunity arose, I’d be giddy with glee. That being said, The Sailor has just agreed that I can get a stuffed opossum wearing a little vest, monocle and top hat while carrying a little cup of tea or gentleman’s cane. I know, I married well. He’s a man of good taste and infinite understanding of how to make his lady happy. So, now the search for Sir Oliver Possington begins.

Nights Watch, Part 2 (Original Post 07/07/14)

And here’s what you missed on tonight’s sweatin’ after dark, night walk.

I was approached by 3 slow moving zombies tonight. Turns out they were just 3 mildly intoxicated women also getting an evening walk in. They were so convincing though, that I almost turned around and started to briskly walk the opposite direction. I didn’t but, whilst in the midst of my internal debate over fight or flight, I made a wrong turn and promptly got lost in my small neighborhood. Thankfully my cell had full battery (surprising) and was glued to my hand (not surprising).

While navigating my way back to familiar roads, there was a rustle in the shrubs road side followed by a growl. Assuming a black bear had wandered into the burbs of Virginia Beach and I was about to die, I jumped, screamed and inadvertently threw my phone at it. Thankfully I heard the familiar sound of my Otter Box connecting with metal and not furry flesh. My “bear” turned out to be a neighbor’s AC unit coming to life. Also thankfully, my GPS was still lighting up my phone and telling me to turn left in a quarter of a mile repeatedly so, I was able to locate it in the shrubs easily. Embarrassingly, the home owner happened to be out side having a smoke when this bear attack occurred. Having heard my yelp and phone chucking he asked into the night if I was OK or needed help. This forced my hand to lie by saying I had just stumbled and was fine. If he knew my fib, he was gentleman enough to not laugh until I was out of ear shot.

As I rounded a familiar bend, a man in a pick up truck came to a stop next to me. I immediately assumed I was about to end up in a hole in some creeper’s basement being told to put the lotion on its skin or it gets the hose again. The driver of the truck must have seen the look of fear on my face and readiness to bolt when in the nicest southern drawl said, “I’m sorry to scare ya ma’m but, could ya tell me how the hell ya get outta this dang neighborhood? I just gave a friend a ride home and he was in no state to give me directions and my cell is dead.” I quickly gave him directions to the nearest main drag which he was very grateful for and told me so. I, in turn, told him I was grateful that he had stopped to ask for directions and not to abduct me. That’s when things got awkward. He kindly ignored my stellar abduction comment, thanked me a final time then pulled away harmlessly.

And finally, I walked into the back of a parked SUV while looking up at the night sky. And no, I don’t want to discuss that matter.

Nights Watch, Part 1 (Original Post 06/24/14)

Here are the observations and happenings from this evenings post nightfall walk:

1. Certain roads in my neighborhood don’t have street lights. After this evening I will remember which ones and avoid them after dark. My vivid imagination during the very dark stretches included but were not limited to rapists, murders, rabid raccoons, patient zero of the zombie apocalypse, children of the corn, and the general deranged. Yes, I live in the burbs less then a mile from a Naval base, what is your point?

2. A lightening bug flew directly into my forehead so hard it stung. I then proceeded to make up a short story (between all the tragic death scenarios envisioned from observance número uno of course) about that lightening bug escaping bug prison, being chased by a bounty hunter bat, narrowly escaping the death glass of the 4 wheeled Japanese monster by the name of Honda only to die a unceremonious death by flying into my forehead. I might turn that into a dark children’s book a la Tim Burton so don’t steal that shit.

And finally…

3. There was a young woman sitting on what I can only assume was her front porch obvious talking on the phone. The first time around the block all I heard was murmuring at a low tone. The second (or third, or tenth, shit who knows) time around she suddenly burst out with, “He’s not cute and funny! He’s ugly! And stupid! And his kids are ugly and you can’t marry him or you will be miserable with ugly kids!” As I walked, mouth agape, into the circle of light from the nearing street light, there was a quiet gasp, creak of a screen door and subsequent slam tel tale of a person making a hasty entrance. Listen girlfriend, I feel ya. We have all been there. Your friend thinks he’s the cat’s pajamas but really he’s a gross cat turd. Kudos to you for saying what we have all thought in some way or another of a friends choice of beau. Too bad you were in the shadows. I kinda want to be your friend, my fellow Doctor with a PhD in KIR.