Friday, July 31, 2009

Unsettling In

This house reeks of Harry Potter.

First, there's the address -- #13 Gridley Lane -- pairing an unlucky number with a word that rhymes with grimly.

Then there are the unfortunate ginko trees stretching dozens of partially-amputed limbs toward Azkaban, I mean the weather station, on the steep hill behind the house. That weather station looks especially ominous around midnight, glowing like a pearl against the inky sky and emitting a steady beam of light that is, of course, the color of blood, and this charming vignette is framed by those trees which look an awful lot like mutant monster hands erupting from the ground once the sun sets. "Help me, Kathy! I've been buried alive!"

Third, it's probably just my imagination but the hedge running along the side of the house up toward Azkaban, I mean the weather station, strikes me as just the sort of place Death-Eaters would lurk.

In the daytime there's a half dozen hawks constantly swooping and soaring overhead, hoping to snack on a tasty little dog. They look like a flock of messenger owls announcing a prison outbreak.

Here's the capper: Darlene (pictured at left maintaining a totally straight face) told me there's a Moaning Myrtle rodent dwelling in the pipes beneath the house. She advised (1) keeping the toilet lids down to keep Myrtle from making a surprise appearance inside the house and (2) flushing Myrtle further under the house immediately prior to using the toilet. Has Darlene given me a kind warning to guard against a potential heart attack or has she cast me as the stooge in the best practical joke anyone has pulled on me since my siblings hid my penuche frosting behind the milk carton?

I can't decide so I am playing it safe by checking all three toilet lids hourly until Matt gets the hang of this new routine and by flushing more water down my toilets in five days than everyone else on this base combined flushed in the last fiscal year.

Rest assured I will figure out how to feed Moaning Myrtle to Hedwig and his pals before you come to visit us.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Moving Day Again

Japanese people are much better sports about having their ankles photographed than most of the commuters I encountered on the Metro over the past year . . .

Taking possession of a house on base is a lot like buying a house back home, minus the financial outlay. Wednesday we returned to the housing office to sign umpteen documents for Yumiko (of the elegant ankles), Thursday Hiroyuko walked us through the house and presented us with shiny keys, and today the loaner furniture and internet connection guy will appear promptly at 9:00 am and we can start moving out of the Navy Lodge.

Meanwhile, we've been re-connecting with friends, re-visiting a few favorite restaurants, reminding Matt to stay in touch with us while he wanders all over Yokosuka and the base with his buddies, and exploring a few new places. Darlin' Darlene, with less than two weeks to go before she moves to Georgia, found time to wander around Yokosuka with me yesterday. We had lunch at a ramen place, loaded up on plastic zipper cases at the 100 Yen store ("Trust me, Darlene, you can not buy too many of these"), sipped $10 coffee in the ever-so-quaint Cafe de la Paix, and marched into Mr. Donut for glazed pon, angel crullers, and other tasty pastries.

Mastering the Mr. Donut process promises to be a mixed blessing . . .

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

South Bend Meets Tokyo

TICKET INFORMATION FOR ENGLISHThis is what Japan has to say about the upcoming contest between Notre Dame Football Legends and the Japan National Team:
The Notre Dame Japan Bowl 2009 is the biggest American Football event to take place in Japan. Never have such big names come to Japan to play against the Japanese national team for the purpose of American Football Globalization. Japan is the perfect place to start a global American Football movement and that is why Notre Dame Legends such as Lou Holtz and Tim Brown are coming to the Land of the Rising Sun to celebrate their 75th anniversary. The Notre Dame Japan Bowl will pit a Notre Dame team full of ex-NFL players as well as former All-Americans, against a Japanese National Team who took the U.S.A national team down to the wire in the American Football World Cup 2007.

Here's the kicker, unlike any other exhibition here in Tokyo, this will be a matchup full of global implications. Now that Japan has proven that they can play with the big boys, Notre Dame Legends will not be pulling any punches. This is the kind of gridiron battle that Japan has been lacking and this may be the epic battle to solidify Japan as an Elite American Football Country. Will Notre Dame put an over-achieving Japanese Team back in their place? Or will Japan prove all the naysayers wrong and force America to bring over an even tougher team?

You can be darn sure I'll be scanning the Tokyo Dome grounds for UND cell phone charms.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Our First Winner

And you didn't even know there was a contest, did you?

Catherine Lefere Sykes should start checking her mailbox for 10 boxes of mushroom-shaped cookies when the weather cools down, probably early October. We don't want those little mushroom caps to melt in transit. Cathy was the first - and, so far, only - relative/friend to request our stateside/Skype telephone number.

In other breaking news, Mike cut short his leave (vacation) by two weeks because the housing office can't let us have a house until he reports for duty. He donned his uniform this afternoon and caught a bus to the USS Blue Ridge to check a bureaucratic box then immediately went back on leave (vacation), carefully hanging that uniform back in the closet under close supervision.

Tomorrow we'll complete the paperwork (including a checklist of loaner furniture we'll need until our stuff gets here in late September) and Friday we'll move out of the Lodge and into #13 Gridley. We'll either be rolling 12 pieces of luggage across the base, crossing our fingers that the Base Taxi dispatcher learns how to answer the telephone between now and Friday, or tossing broad hints at the Brenyos when they get back from Nikko Thursday night.

We waited two weeks for a house the last time we came to Japan. This time we expected to wait up to a year for base housing and landed a place in less than a week. Life is full of so many interesting plot twists, isn't it?

P.S. Have you noticed how upbeat and uncomplaining I've been so far?

Monday, July 20, 2009

And On The Third Day, They Mastered Skype

We used our computer to call Katie and James this morning. Thanks to a nifty program called SKYPE, we now have a Virginia telephone number and can call the U.S. for $.021/minute. And it works both ways - Katie tested it for us - so let me know if you want the number.

While we were on a technological roll, we visited the AU store on Blue Street and picked up cell phones. There were scores of models on offer, too many choices really, but we narrowed our focus to the dozen or so models on the Free Phones rack. I can't imagine what those pricier models can do since my Free Phone comes with an e-mail address and an 8.1 pixel camera (which I photographed with my perhaps now redundant 7.2 pixel Nikon). After I download and study the English version of the operating manual I might give you the e-mail address. Right now all I can do is retrieve my phone number (and make that once in every five attempts).

One of the sweet store clerks attached my Enoden train charm for me when she saw me squinting at the microscopic hole. She even enlarged the font for me and let me select another cell phone charm as a "presento."

The housing office had surprisingly good news for us this morning: we've been assigned to #13 Gridley. The house was vacated last week and we can move in as soon as the cleaning/painting crew finishes whatever it is they do between tenants. This house has the exact same floor plan as our old house so we won't spend the first month bumping into walls. The carport is on the side of the house so I won't have to hold up traffic for hours on end while I'm trying to back into a space two inches wider than our car.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Jet Lag

Let's get the time thing straight right away. It's 2:30 am Sunday here and 1:30 pm Saturday in the Eastern Daylight Time states. Well, that's what time it was when I started writing this but then several other insomniacs invaded the patio and started passing out beers and exchanging life histories in loud voices beneath a quite specific sign . . .

I've slept for a record 10 hours and we have all managed to sleep through dinner two nights running. In the 36 hours since we arrived in Japan, we've checked out used cars in the Lemon Lot twice, walked a couple of miles, visited the Navy Exchange for haircuts (Mike and Matt), and bumped into a number of acquaintances and friends.

We are staying at the Navy Lodge, a new experience for us. They have penciled us in to stay in Room 420 until August 16 but my goal is to move out of here and into a house either off or on the base by August 9 at the absolute latest. During his run yesterday morning Mike spotted two possibly vacant houses -- the signs identifying residents were blank -- but we'll just have to wait until the housing office opens tomorrow morning to discover our options.

This Navy Lodge is noticeably less upscale than the one in Bethesda but I can understand why the Navy would choose to pour money into the place housing families of sailors and marines injured in Iraq and Afghanistan. I intend to keep my complaints to a minimum -- or at the very least re-title them "constructive suggestions" -- in deference to the Navy's generosity in bringing us back to the Land of the Rising Sun.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Another Move, Another Blog

Before I start blogging about Japan Redux, let me update you on the cats.

We found Delphina, 24, through a Pet Foster Care website. Delphina cannot take the cats until she moves to a pet-friendly apartment in August so we decided Minerva and CC should spend the next two weeks in a kennel. Mike settled on a place called -- prepare yourself -- Warm and Fuzzy Cat Boarding located between DC and Baltimore.

CC and Minerva are sharing a three-level pad (left) in the "Clubhouse." The blue blob behind the butterfly on the upper level is my nightgown which I am letting them borrow for three months so they will feel less abandoned. The owner/manager, a military spouse like me, told Mike she reads to the cats every night. Homeless people should have it so good. Seriously.

The Clubhouse is one of the mid-price options. Suites, which we did not consider for one second, cost the most. At left is the rustic "Camping Suite". Mike is sorry he didn't take this picture at a different angle to let you glimpse the little tent.

This is the Nautical Suite. "Welcome Aboard" is imprinted on the life preserver and there's an oar attached to the little bed.

This is a Girl Suite.

This is the Playroom. CC and Minerva will spend an hour in there every day, just the two of them, which comes as a relief to me because I'm pretty sure these Siamese cats would scare the remaining fur right off CC's back.

Do you see what I mean by "homeless people should have it so good"?


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