book meet nose

Our oldest son, Sean, was such a dedicated bookworm when he was a lad. When Sean’s nose was in a book, he was not very easily distracted from it. It’s not a stretch to say that you could drop a grand piano from a great height to crash land on the pavement right in front of him and the odds were pretty even he might not notice.

Or, to be a little less hyperbolic: Once Sean asked me for a ride, then very nearly got left standing on the curb when he failed to notice me shouting and waving at him, even though I was close enough to hit with the proverbial dead cat. (Is it still a proverb? I just realized I haven’t heard anyone say that in ages.)

We were living on an air force base in northern Japan at the time. The O-mobile was a Mitsubishi minivan, which is not as small as the work “mini” implies. It had room to seat six grown adults in spacious comfort and a four wheel drive gearbox that we put to use to climb mountain roads with some regularity. It was a vehicle that was not easily missed when it drove by, is what I’m getting at.

As soon as I pulled into the parking lot I saw there was a parking space at the end of the row, right across from the entrance where Sean was standing by the curb waiting. Score! I pulled in, parked, and looked across the road expectantly at Sean. He did not look up from the book he was reading.

I’m an easily-distracted person. When a moving object crosses my peripheral vision, I look up to see what it is. I’m fully aware this makes me look like a walking nervous tick but I can’t help myself. Whatever makes me do that, though, Sean is full of the antidote for it. The arrival of a big, dark, growling vehicle virtually within arm’s reach did not register at all on his radar.

Which I was used to so, after chuckling to myself, I leaned out the window and said his name, just loudly enough to be heard over the sound of the engine but not so loudly that I might startle him. He was that close. But, apparently, not close enough. I repeated his name, a bit louder this time. Still no response, so I shouted his name, thumping the side of the van with the flat of my hand to give it a little added oomph.

Still oblivious. Wow.

Running out of noise-making options, I laid on the horn, which jolted him out of his reverie so suddenly he almost jumped out of his shoes. Seemed just a trifle annoyed at having been beeped at, too. I explained to him that I’d tried just about everything else but I seem to recall he wasn’t mollified and I had to just let it go.


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.

base bus

Rode the bus to work this morning. The base runs two bus routes up to the north area and back which almost nobody uses. I don’t use it much, but when I do, I’m usually the only one on it. The drivers are usually Japanese. They must think that’s one lunatic job, driving an empty bus round and round the base all day.

[10/20/2014: The “north area” of Misawa Air Base was anything north of the runway: a housing area, a gym, a store, and just about all of the Japanese air force’s stuff. We lived in the housing area on the south side of the base which, if memory serves, was called simply “main base.” I worked in an entirely different part of the base that was off on a spit of land to the west. The only way to get to it was to drive about five miles around the end of the runway, through a forest and across a causeway. We had just one car at first, so on days when B needed the car to go somewhere, I took one of the two buses that ran circles around the base, and they were almost always empty. I’m not kidding. I was very often the only guy on a sixty-passenger bus. The white-gloved Japanese drivers spoke no English, not that that was a problem: all drivers pulled over at every bus stop and opened the door, whether somebody was waiting there or not. Most often not. They would wait a couple beats, then close the door and drive away. This made a trip to work – normally a ten-minute drive – drag out over a half-hour. I usually brought a book, or napped.]

a day off

A day off? How’d that happen?

I checked out the Base Honor Guard this morning during their weekly practice, to see what the entrance requirements were and how often they performed. Honor Guard is something I’ve always wanted to take part in, but I’m thinking this is the wrong time for it. Besides the weekly mandatory practice sessions, they sometimes perform several times a week. I’m a fast-moving target right now trying to keep up with work, supervising, PT and keeping in touch with my family. I can’t see shoehorning one more activity into my regular schedule and keeping it all balanced. Think I’ll have to put this on the back burner and get to it later, if I can get to it at all.

Then I went to PT. This is becoming bad for the tendon over my left ankle, which is swollen and painful; must have tendonitis from pounding the treadmill and cranking the stationary bike. Think I’ll spend the next two days sitting at my desk on my narrow butt, gulping aspirin.

But for the rest of the day, even though I had errands to run, I tried not to do a whole lot. I took the library books back and got the mail, but I turned that into a reason to stroll in the crisp autumn air. I did the crossword and the cryptoquip while washing the clothes. I fixed a door, but that was pretty much mindless work, which is a pleasure after the brain-crunching of writing an EPR. I made calzones for dinner. I’ll probably spend the rest of the week farting the cheese out of my system, but what the hell, sometimes you gotta satisfy your lust.

a night at the ball

Shawn Bryant sat CHFS for me so I could leave about eleven o’clock to get ready for the Air Force Ball, my first chance to wear my mess dress here, and B’s first chance to go get her hair done again, and goodness, did they do her do. I knew she’d be in the beauty shop so I went straight from work down to the mall (yep, we’ve got a mall) and hung around waiting for her so she wouldn’t have to walk home in the rain. When she finally came out of there, two flippin’ hours later, her hair was piled in a curly coif that took her an hour to undo. Now she’s talking about a short-haired perm, not that I blame her.

800 people showed up for the ball, and from what I could tell, it was just another night at the club, except that we dressed up for it. Well, some of us did. Some of the prom dresses that the wives wore made the night almost interesting; Barb and I spent most of the night wandering from room to room, pointing out fashion crimes and trying to decide how to describe them. Lots of tattoos on parade. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but a women who has a blue rose the size of a cantaloupe tattooed on her breast should probably rethink her decision to buy, let alone wear, a low-cut ball gown, and women with unidentifiable winged things tattooed across the backs of their necks probably shouldn’t go out.

[11/20/14: My goodness, I was an opinionated son of a bitch back then, wasn’t I? It’s like I didn’t know that people could get a tattoo if they wanted. But I wasn’t the only one in the Air Force with a stick up his butt: This year or the next, the higher-ups would enact new regulations that would prohibit airmen from displaying tattoos. They could get tattoos, but they had to be in places where they would be covered up while on duty. But that’s not why I dissed people with tattoos; it was most likely because I was an being an asshole. At Misawa, there were a lot of people from the generation that was starting to get tattooed. I was meeting them and their tattoos for the first time, and I didn’t know how to react. That’s typically when my assholishness tends to rise to the surface of my personality. Change does not come easily to me.]

effete snob

The Air Base Fire Department came to our neighborhood today to set fire to the house across the street. You heard me.

It was such a bizarre event – one might even say Bradburian, if one were an effete snob who used words like “effete” – that I just had to watch, even though I should’ve been trying to catch some sleep after a twelve-hour mid. Not like they gave me much choice; they parked a fire truck just outside my bedroom window, dropped a brick on the gas pedal, and left the motor running all day.

Now, try to imagine: You’re a fireman in the air base fire department, maybe a young airmen or NCO, and one day you say to your supervisor, “Sarge, you know those old buildings they’re gonna tear down? Why don’t we set fire to them and use them as a classroom to teach fire fighting techniques?” And the supervisor says, “Sounds great. Work out the details and get back to me.” And you spend the rest of the week writing up a detailed plan to burn houses down. What a great job! If only it involved using explosives, it’d be a perfect job.

Sean’s first wrestling scrimmage is going on tonight, and I’ll have to miss it so I can go off to save the free world yet again. It’s really just a practice amongst the team members, not facing another team, but he worked so hard both at practice and on bringing his grades up from an unfortunate slump that I wanted to see him in action.

General Order #3 wasn’t the same: We’re now instructed to remain indoors during curfew, instead of in our “domicile.” The Ensign interprets this to mean that we can overnight out of town, so long as we let her know where we are.

family housing

Oh, Glorious Day! We took possession of quarters 292A bright and early this morning. No more living in hotel rooms!

Maybe you think you can imagine our relief, but – no offense – I seriously doubt it. Barb, Tim & I lived in what the Air Force calls “temporary lodging,” two rooms on RAF Mildenhall, for a week and a half, and we stayed one night in a pretty cheap motel in Washington, D.C. The whole family was stuck in a shabby little room in Anchorage for three nights, and then there was the Misawa Inn, a very nice place but a tiny bit cramped with a family of four, particularly after almost a month.

Phrases you might have used to describe our temperament up to this point could have been “stir crazy,” “cabin fever,” and “go away or I’ll kill you.” Our liberation came not a moment too soon.

Weird coincidences: 292A is just about right across the street from the quarters Barb lived in when she was stationed here in 1987. She and I paged through an album of some photos she took back then, and one of the photos, taken from her front porch on a sunny day, shows the buildings that used to stand where our quarters are now. She didn’t know anybody who lived over there, and can’t think of any reason she might have snapped a photo of the spot she was going to live in fifteen years later.

[11/21/14: I was so descriptive back then. What I called “our quarters” was a two-story quadriplex in the family housing area on the south side of the base, about a five-minute walk from the front gate. The building looked new; actually, what it looked like was a bomb-proof concrete bunker, which was not far from the truth. It was made to ride out earthquakes, and I can tell you that after the bigger temblors we had, the whole building used to sway back and forth like a ship at sea. The kitchen and living area was on the ground floor, and our bedrooms were on the upper floor. Until we moved in, we were living in a one-bedroom hotel suite: B and I slept in the bedroom, one of the boys slept on the sofa bed and the other boy slept on a roll-away cot that we set up in the hallway each night before bed. This got old after just a couple nights; we were in that little room for almost a month, so “stir crazy” doesn’t even come close to describing how we were feeling before they finally let us move into our quarters.]

an infestation of crows

Time now for colorful background: Big crows infest the base. Really big. Big enough to ride. B says she used to worry that they’d carry Sean away. That’s not just a funny way to put it; I’ll bet small dogs go missing pretty often around here. Sometimes they come soaring out of a tree, wings locked, and at first glance you mistake them for aircraft. They even sound like aircraft when they fly by, their wings beating like helicopter rotors. I just hope one of them doesn’t dump on me; that’d be a hard mess to clean up.