Sunday, April 25, 2010

Arrival . . .

. . . in Bella Napoli

Yep, we're here.

On 20 APR at 2335, we left Virginia on an AMC (military) flight. Five hours later, we stopped at Lajes airbase in the Azores, and wandered around doing nothing while the plane was refueled. Five more hours of flight, and we touched down at Aeroporto Inernazionale de Capodichino in Naples.

We are temporarily assigned officers' quarters - a furnished two-bedroom unit with TV and Internet. It's nice, but definitely government issue. We intend to find a place "outside the wire" as soon as possible. We didn't fly 5,000 miles to live in another American compound.

So far, I have spent about zero time at work. As with any government job, It's paperwork and orientation wall-to-wall.

Unfortunately, we're pretty well held prisoner (pun intended) on the base. Since we haven't obtained our Italian driving privileges - and have no car, by the way - walking and buses are our only means of transport.

On the upside, the commissary and the Naval Exchange are marvelously stocked, and relatively inexpensive.

BTW, for strangers (soto voce: as if anyone reads this blog), I am not a military officer. However, in line with every government's need to use one cookie cutter, everyone, civilian or military, pretty much follows the same procedures.

Oh, and I can see Vesuvio from my office. Cool.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Just shut . . .

. . . the bleep up!

So, we're sitting here in the AMC terminal at NAVSTA Norfolk waiting for our flight to Naples, and the guy across the aisle has been talking non-stop for the last 45 minutes.

Everything from how to beat the Navy system and get promoted, how to do one-arm pull-ups, how he tore his bicep, how to strength train, how to run.

Run his mouth, that is.

Some people just take up too much space and absorb too much oxygen.

I'm moving. . .

. . . but I greatly fear that he will end up sitting somewhere near us.

If you read about someone being ejected from an airplane somewhere between Norfolk and the Azores, that will be me.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Finally . . .

. . . daylight at the end of the tunnel.

I guess we're finally going to Italy.

We have been planning for an AMC (military contract) flight on 20 APR. Unfortunately, the folks at the travel office didn't seem to have it as a priority. Our request for port call was issued more than two weeks ago. I planned to check out of my current command today, take our car to be shipped on Monday, and fly out Tuesday.

One catch. To do that, we needed a ticket. Without a ticket, we can't go, and since were now homeless (we sold it), we would be stuck in a hotel for whoknowshowmany days at our own expense.

At 0900 this morning, I made a call, and received a lot of "should be." The paperwork "should be" done this morning. Your coordinator "should be" receiving it this afternoon. You "should be" getting the tickets by the end of the day.

At 1500, I had enough "should be's." Since my coordinator wasn't answering my email or phone calls, I hopped in the car and drove to his building. It didn't help much, because the paperwork hadn't gotten to him yet.

Back to my office. Call the travel office.

Success!. I am promised tickets on Monday morning.

Wheels up 2345 on Tuesday, 20 APR.

Boots . . . er . . . sneakers on the ground Wednesday, 21 APR.

I believe we stop in Lajes (the Azores) on the way. Unfortunately, there will be no time to wander around.

Oh . . . and we closed on the house sale today. It was only on the market for three days, and we got a little more for it than we expected.

Now, where do we put that $1.5 million?

As if . . .

Friday, April 16, 2010

Riddle me this . . .

Yesterday, I bought three bottles of Sprite Zero to stock our little hotel refrigerator (more on that later).

Of course, nothing is "rung up" any more - it's all scanned.

So, the cashier scans the first bottle, puts it in the bag. Then scans the second identical bottle, puts it in the bag. Then scans the third IDENTICAL bottle and puts it in the bag.

Today, I watched a lady buy seven IDENTICAL candy baskets. The cashier scans the first basket, puts it in the bag. Then scans the second IDENTICAL basket, but the scanner won't read it. So, she tries time after time after time. Finally, the scanner reads it. Then she scans the third basket, but the scanner won't read it. So, she tries time after time after time. Finally, the scanner reads it.

Do you see my question coming?

Why not scan one item seven times and dump them all in the basket?

Especially if half of them take three or four tries.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Fair winds . . .

. . . and following seas.

Yesterday, I had the honor of being invited to the retirement ceremony of a great friend, a commander in the United States Navy.

Jim spent his entire 20-year career in the helicopter Wing. Pilot, flight instructor, department head, Wing chief of staff. He flew helicopters in harm's way.

The Wing gave him a terrific send-off, and he deserved it. The Navy has a great tradition of ceremony. Whether it be the christening of a ship, a change of command, or a retirement, they do it with pomp and circumstance - and rightly so.

Jim's retirement was appropriately held in a helo hangar, on a deck in front of a garrison flag that must have been 15' x 24'. There were ushers, sideboys and the Fleet Forces Band. Dress whites, with white gloves and swords were the uniform of the day.

For those of you who haven't seen a Navy ceremony, the officers first march through the line of sideboys, smartly salute, and are piped "on board." Then, there are speeches, a decoration (medal) and other awards.

During his remarks, Jim described his "best day" in the Navy. He was Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of a group of seven helicopters flying supplies out of Northern Africa to the Bonhomme Richard, a large amphibious ship. During the many hops they made from shore to the ship, as they were communicating and coordinating by radio, Jim found out that all six of the other Navy and Marine pilots were former students of his. He had taught his whole ad-hoc squadron how to fly.

When the ceremony ended, Jim saluted the Commodore, and asked: "Permission to go ashore, sir." The Commodore appeared to be a bit choked up, and quietly said: "Permission granted." Jim was piped off to the announcement: "Departing, James -------, Commander, United States Navy, Retired."

As he walked down the gangway, the Fleet Forces Band struck up Anchors Away.

Of course, since I am relatively unemotional, and never cry at weddings, or anything like that, it didn't affect me at all . . .

Yeah. Right.
The joy of moving . . .

. . . not!

We spent the last five days moving out of our house in preparation for our move to Italy. The schedule:

Monday - Packing all the "stuff" to be stored for three years.
Tuesday - Loading all the "stuff" to be stored for three years.
Wednesday - Packing all the "stuff" to be shipped overseas.
Thursday - Loading all of the "stuff" to be shipped overseas.
Thursday - Move to a hotel. Why? Because all of our "stuff" is gone.
Friday - Packing and loading all of the "stuff" to be shipped overseas by air.

Seems like a complicated process, eh?

That's because I'm a Department of Defense employee, and that's the way the Yew Ess Ay Gummint does it.

In an idle moment I counted our moves. This will be number fourteen.

One to go - about three years from now. That will be the last.

I hope . . .



When we moved from Omaha to Kansas City, we left one of our children there. Relax. She wasn't abandoned. We didn't sneak out in the middle of the night and leave no forwarding address. That had become her home.

When we moved from Kansas City to Virginia Beach, we left another child there. Same story. Same reasons.

The third child? After he saw us dropping off kids by the handful, he got the hint, and took off on his own.

Candidly, it's been a bit trying being 1,100 miles from all the children and grandchildren. Being 5,000+ miles away will be a challenge.

But what adventure doesn't involve some challenges?

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Handy hints . . .

. . . for the terminally stupid.

1. You actually can fill out your ATM paperwork BEFORE you walk up to the machine.

2. Customers at the post office - see #1 above.

3. Customers at the DMV - see #1 & #2 above.

4. McDonalds, part 1: Not everyone uses the drive-through. Customers at the counter have money also.

5. McDonalds, part 2: You pride yourself on your coffee. Perhaps having more than one pot on at a time might be a good idea. Most customers won't think that 15 minutes is quick service for a cup of coffee.

Other than that, yesterday was terrific.