Game night

All four of us, Tim, Sean, My Darling B and I, sat down for a Christmas dinner that B knew the boys would gobble up, her world-famous pasta dish (I can say that without lying even a little bit because she’s prepared it in every place we’ve lived) that we call pepperoni-rigatoni. It’s pasta and pepperoni in a casserole dish smothered in tomato sauce and cheese. The boys have always loved it and it’s quick and easy to make, which left us for the one other thing we do when we all get together: Play a board game!

Last night it was Monopoly. There was a sort of lukewarm feeling about playing a full-blown game of Monopoly so I suggested we deal all the deeds randomly and go from there, and everybody went along with that until we’d made two or maybe three laps around the board, when it turned out everybody really missed the part about buying the property, so we started over and everybody had a great time after that.

I bought all the railroads. I always do this because nobody else does. “Nobody ever lands on the railroads,” is the reason I hear, and yet I notice that, when I buy up all the railroads, the refrain quickly changes to, “Two hundred dollars to ride on the Reading? I didn’t even want to ride on your stupid railroad in the first place!”

Even though nobody ever lands on the railroads, I had to promise My Darling B she could ride on them free if she sold me the Pennsylvania so I could have all four. And she did, and then landed on them almost every time she rolled the dice. Saved herself a thousand bucks, easily.

The game ended in a draw at about nine-thirty when nobody was coming out ahead but nobody was really going under, either. All I had was Baltic, Oriental and all the railroads, couldn’t develop any property, the rest of the players had houses all over the board that I kept landing on, and still somehow I had more money than anybody else. When nine-thirty rolled around we called the game on account of not being able to bankrupt anybody.

Tonight’s game: RISK!

buy books

To celebrate Christmas this year, I hung the mid watch from the night before, if you can call staying awake an hour or so longer than usual “hanging the mid.” Most people call that “wussing out,” though. I came through the front door at about seven in the morning to find Barb and Sean still asleep! But Tim was wide awake and waiting for me at the top of the stairs. We woke up the sleepyheads and trooped down to the living room to see what Santa had brought us. It was a remarkably relaxed Christmas morning, which didn’t help me stay awake. I hung on long enough to see everybody open their presents; in some cases, I saw people open the same present twice when my eyes were crossing. Finally, when I couldn’t focus at all, I plodded upstairs and crawled into bed.

The boys got bicycles they couldn’t go out and ride, although I’m pretty sure Tim would’ve tried if we’d let him. Might’ve been pretty comical.

They each got plenty of books, too. I mentioned to somebody at work that the boys were getting lots of books, and she screwed up her face and said something like, “Books? How do you get them to read books?” Pretty simple, really, and here’s the secret in case you want to pass it along: You read to them every day when they’re young, starting as soon as they can hear your voice, and you teach them to read as soon as they show any kind of aptitude for it. You spend all your lunch money and pocket change on books, and keep them stacked everywhere in the house. You read good books whenever you can, and never discourage them from reading, even when they pick up the book you’re trying to finish. I can’t stop my kids from reading books, and we’ve never in my memory hesitated from buying books because we couldn’t afford it; if credit is good for anything, it’s got to be good for buying books you can’t pay for yet.

Speaking of which, I’d forgotten that being in the military is good for 10% off all the books in the BX book store. Yes!

[11/25/14: “Hanging a mid:” When we worked mid watches in my younger years, we would sometimes “hang” the last mid by staying awake all day, then go to bed at a normal time that evening. In theory, this would reset our biological clocks. In practice, we did it mostly as an excuse to hang out together at the club all day and drink beer.]


Today’s that magical day – yes, it’s the day we start a new work cycle, our first mid. For the next two weeks I’ll become a completely different person, working all night, sleeping all day. For several days at a stretch, I won’t see some of my family for more than fifteen minutes, and some of them I won’t see at all for days. Mids get pretty surreal sometimes.

Dawg flight relieved Charlie for the Christmas mid watch, and after SSgt Baker gave me the pass-down, we settled into the usual small talk: how’d the break go, what’s up with the family, that kind of thing. As the conversation fell into a lull and he seemed ready to put on his coat and go, I said something like, “Better get on home, sleep well,” the usual things I say to let somebody go, then I just barely remember to add, “Merry Christmas.” He settled back into his seat and said, “It just doesn’t feel like Christmas this year.”

It was a funny thing to say because I’d been feeling the same way for a while. I know it’s been said plenty already, but the holiday season starts way too darned soon. I had to buy a Christmas tree right after Thanksgiving or do without one, so the poor thing was a dead twig by Christmas eve. Then all through the build-up, hardly anybody seemed to be in the mood. It was a surprise to me whenever I heard, “Merry Christmas,” which wasn’t often.

Then on Christmas eve, My Darling B made the same remark: “Christmas doesn’t feel the same this year.” Maybe that was the essence of it, that it did feel like Christmas, but the way Christmas feels had changed, like so many other feelings, in the last six months.


Washed up after PT, then took B to the post office so she could put in her hours for the volunteer service she does there. She says the post office is feeling the big crush now, getting truckloads of packages many times a day. When I picked her up in the afternoon, they’d just received 400 pieces, some pieces being bags filled with packages.

During PT, I was thinking of something I wanted to search the internet for; even had the search strategy planned in my head, but because I was running the treadmill and didn’t have a pencil and paper handy, couldn’t write it down. Think I can remember a bit of it now? Can’t even recall the vaguest notion of what it was I was going to search for. In the march toward drooling senility, I’m just one step closer.

Japanese workers have begun to put steel shutters around the TOW housing across the street in preparation for demolition; B’s old house is already behind the barrier, almost completely out of sight. Might never see it again.

B’s about a gnat’s whisker from cooking up ramen the way they make it in town. She sorta just threw together a bunch of stuff that looked right – chunks of chicken breast, carrot shavings, diced onion, and some bean sprouts – and what do you know, it tasted pretty good!

Finally received some snow worth bragging about. It was coming down this morning when we first went out, and was still coming down, even heavier, this evening as we were sitting down to supper, only to stop shortly after. We must’ve got at least 4-6 inches, although it sure seemed like a lot more when I was shoveling it off the walk ways over and over again.

[11/24/14: “TOW housing” is what they called the wooden houses built on the hill across the street from our house. The only explanation I heard for this was that “TOW” stood for “termination of war,” the time period when the houses were built. They looked to be about fifty years old, so that explanation is probably as good as any.]

more is just more

Our next-door neighbors asked us if they could string Christmas lights all the way around the eaves on our corner of the building. Sure, why not, we said. I didn’t care, so long as I didn’t end up climbing out onto the roof. Well, I thought what they meant by “string Christmas lights” was maybe those drippy icicle-looking lights, hung from the eaves. Turns out these guys are from the “more is better” school of Christmas decorations. They must’ve blown a couple hundred dollars on reindeer and angels and candy canes and about a million feet of garland with woven-in lights. “I didn’t know you were going to so much trouble,” Barb said in her ever so diplomatic way when she went to talk with our neighbor about stretching the bounds of good taste. Our neighbors must have been acting on some weird signal from outer space that’s just above the pitch of our hearing, because just after they covered our building in dripping lights and ribbons, everybody in every other house down the street climbed out their bedroom windows and hung all the Christmas lights ever made in Taiwan across the front of their buildings. The whole street looks the way downtown Green Bay at Christmas time used to look; the only thing missing is animated toys in the windows.

Christmas shopping in Shimoda

Another beautiful day today; we’ve had a string of four or five days with clear, deep blue skies, lots of sunshine, and temps in the sixties. They keep telling me that we’ll be up to our noses in snow any minute now, and that the earthquakes knock you right off your feet, but what have we had so far? A flurry that hardly amounted to a dusting and two temblors that hardly slopped the water our of our glasses. Feh. There. That ought to jinx me good.

We went a couple miles south to Shimoda today to do a little shopping, some of it for us, some of it for Christmas gifts, thank goodness. Sean gets wound so tight about buying gifts that his head just about pops off and flies spinning high into the air; I think we loosened him up a bit with this trip. In one store I bought a set of soup bowls the size of bathtubs, porcelain soup spoons, and tiny little dishes that you pour soy sauce into for dipping. When I brought my meager purchases to the cashier’s counter, three check-out girls rushed to attend to me with many thank-yous and much bowing. I’ve never been to Tiffany’s my darned self, but I’ll bet the service there is shabby in comparison to this common department store. With three of them working furiously, it still took them at least five minutes to wrap them in more newspaper than you usually find in a Sunday edition of the New York Times.