Tag Archives: safety

What Price Freedom


When I went to Bali last year, my travel buddy was Barry, a retired doctor and kindly gentleman, since we were the only singletons in the group. We got along well.

Fast forward a year and Barry and a couple of his friends are touring Japan. Barry asked us to join them for dinner. We did, and they were lovely people. We had a most enjoyable evening, but one part of our conversation really jolted me. I haven’t been able to shake that feeling.

They said that the travel company which had organized their tour had also put together twenty other such Japan tours because the demand for them had multiplied exponentially.


People are afraid of other places. Nobody feels safe going to Europe or Africa anymore. To be honest, they said, being in Japan was a relief because they live in Memphis, Tennessee, which is second only to Detroit for its gun violence. And I don’t mean the horrific psychosis that happened in Orlando. I mean day to day violence, bloodshed and murder, seemingly random, a specter that trails you every time you work up the nerve to leave your home. They said not an evening goes by when there isn’t a report of injury or death by gunshots on the news.

I had forgotten how common that type of news is in the States. On the other hand, I said laughing, just that same day the TV people had been reporting the discovery of a dismembered body in a pond not far from my house. Everyone stared at me, slightly aghast. “Oh, it’s not funny! Of course not. I’m laughing because it’s so strange. That kind of violence just doesn’t happen here.”

As all of them went on and on about how they’d fallen in love with Japan and couldn’t wait to come back, I inwardly rolled my eyes. But then I realized that I feel safe. All the time. I’m much more likely to be annoyed than threatened when I go out. I don’t lock my doors or windows. I’ve never even been groped. It suddenly dawned on me how complacent I’ve become, how I take for granted that nobody is going to shoot me for my political views or the contents of my wallet or just for looking at them sideways. I can move through my life with the comfort of not ever thinking about where I can or cannot go or what I can or cannot do.

Yes, Japan is wonderful, but it’s certainly no Shangri-la.

Or is it? Sure, it’s expensive, but what price can you put on freedom?

Twitchy Goof

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAI finally got a shot of her in sunlight.
Too bad you can only see one of her lovely green eyes.

The volunteer lady calls now and then to check up on us. Last time she called, she said Twitchy was discovered living alone in an abandoned house 5km from the crippled nuclear power plant. I’m not planning to think about that last part too much, but the first part explains a lot. She’s got a tiny notch in one of her ears, but otherwise she’s perfect. I have never seen a feral cat that didn’t at least have scars on its nose. Perhaps she had a private entrance and somewhere safe to hide. So she knows what houses are but not what people are. Most of the time when I walk past her, she looks at me as if to say, “What ARE you? What are you DOING here?” But the look has softened from offended to just perplexed.

I can’t imagine what she ate while she was living like that. We keep giving her both wet and dry food and unlike any cat I’ve ever met, she prefers dry. We thought maybe she’s used to eating raw food so the dry stuff is a treat–she didn’t have to chase it down and kill it and it doesn’t have any skin or bones in it. Also unlike any cat I’ve ever known, she shows no interest in going outside. Perhaps she had enough of that and likes feeling safe, which she is ever so slowly starting to do. Last night, while I was fixing her dinner, she kissed my leg.

PENTAX DIGITAL CAMERAAs she gets more comfortable here, her name keeps getting longer. Since we realized she is a Goth and Out-Of-Focus, she’s become Twitchy Goof. A friend gave me a hard time for giving her such a silly name, but I explained that there isn’t a word in English, or in any language for that matter, that could possibly do her justice.

Twitchy Blues

I’m pretty sure she thinks we can’t see her.

Our little beauty is something of a heartbreak. It hadn’t sunk in that she’s never been a house cat before, so she doesn’t know how to do that. She isn’t aware that her main job is letting us cuddle her. Instead, we can’t touch her at all, and the absolute worst thing we could do would be to try and force her. She spends most of her time on top of the fridge where she feels safe but can still see what everyone is doing. And she has taken a liking to staring at the garden from the windowsill above the sink, which is just a quick hop away from the top of the fridge.

She spends her nights wandering around the house looking for things to toss on the floor. Last night: a pile of blankets, a light bulb and a flower pot.

The third month of quitting is supposed to be one of the hardest, and not being able to touch the cat is making me sad, but at least her name is starting to grow on me. I bet nobody has ever named a cat Twitchy before.