The Massaaaahhhge

I love a massage.  I love everything about it.  The aroma of scented oils in the dimly lit massage room, the gentle new age-y music, the way the therapist speaks in hushed tones.  Even the padded face hole in the massage table pleases me.  If I could afford it, I’d have a regular spa appointment once a week.  Maybe more.

spa-md

And it wouldn’t matter what other treatments the spa offered — defoliating scrubs, body wraps, facials — I’m interested only in massage.  Twice John has given me a spa day as a birthday gift, and both times I eschewed any treatment that didn’t involve being rubbed.

Although I did make a fairly critical mistake on my first visit.  I signed up for the warm mud massage — it had the word “massage” in it, after all — and while the initial hands-on portion was sublime, once the therapist smeared on the mud and left the room for a while, all I could think about was how much time was being wasted; time that could have otherwise been filled with a whole lot more rubbing and a whole lot less lying there sweating.

I do have one very strict rule when it comes to receiving a massage:  other than the intermittent whispered instruction to roll over or to ask if the amount of pressure she’s using is adequate, the therapist must remain mute.  I’m not patient with chitchat during massage time.  I don’t need to know where the therapist grew up or what her children are studying in school.  Likewise, I feel no desire to report my life story to her.  I’m on that table for one reason and one reason alone, and that’s all I want to think about.  Massage me.  From head to toe.

Oh hang on, I almost forgot.  There is indeed one massage spot I’d prefer the therapist skip over.  Two spots, actually:  my ears.  When she starts kneading my ears it makes me feel silly.  I have no qualms about other extremities — each toe and finger thanks the therapist for the individual attention — but when she grabs for an ear, all I can think about is…big floppy ears.  And I have small ears, strangely enough, the right one even freakishly tiny.  Still, when someone touches them during a massage it’s like I’m Minnie Mouse.  Or Dumbo.

No matter.  Putting up with over-handled ears in order to be massaged everywhere else is a sacrifice I’ll make without qualms.  So when a friend offered me one of her pre-paid massage appointments, I jumped at the chance.  She had to give up the appointment because of a spinal problem that will likely require surgery, and I did suffer a pang of guilt for accepting her gift under such a circumstance.  Yet the feeling only lasted a second or two.  In my world, you see, the prospect of a free massage trumps all else.  I’m not proud of it but hey, I can live with it.

Especially when someone’s rubbing me.

Heatwave

Phew, thank goodness. Clouds. Finally.

cloud

We thought it might never cool down again. Oppressive, atypical heat was the topic of the day, every day, for at least a week. A week! Each day started out okay, with everyone hoping against hope the early morning fog would stick around but man, come afternoon it was the same old story.

sun

Sunshine and nothing but searing hot sunshine, blaring down relentlessly upon the tortured, panting souls below.

A friend of mine expressed it best when he signed off an email with: “Can you believe this weather? Great if you want to stay inside with the blinds shut but sucks if you want to do anything outside!!!”

Oof, I’ll say. Nonetheless, John and I scheduled an afternoon pickleball match with another couple and between each game, our two opponents dashed to the nearest shady spot to down copious amounts of water and gasp, over and over, “It’s so hot. It’s so hot.”

thermometerOut of curiosity, once we got home I checked online to see what the high temperature had been that day and wow, no wonder they were suffering so.

We’d just spent an hour-and-a-half outside, in the very hottest part of the afternoon, while the mercury soared to an unthinkable 76 degrees Fahrenheit. I know, I know. I’m stunned not one of us had keeled over from heatstroke. It was like the bowels of hell out there….

You’ve got to love people in Northwestern Washington, you really do. They’re kind of hilarious when it comes to heat. Or their perception of it, anyway. Back in Texas, 76 degrees is a nice, cool autumn day.

Thing is, after living up here well over a year now, I know we’re slowly morphing into Northwestern Washingtonians ourselves. We were perspiring, too, no doubt about it. And after the match, I found myself thinking about the jar of ice cold homemade pickles my friend Terri had surreptitiously slipped inside my car during a prior pickleball game.

pickles

At that time, when temperatures peaked at a much more reasonable mid-60s, the pickles themselves were the appreciated gift. On the 76-degree day, however, a jar full of frozen squid tentacles would have made me just as happy as refrigerator pickles. Either one would have been equally cooling pressed against a sweaty brow.

Yet, as written on the label, a jar of pickleball pickles seems a whole lot more appropriate than a jar of pickleball squid. We weren’t playing squidball, after all.

That gives me an idea though:  changing the name of the sport might influence Terri’s choice of future surprise gifts. Like maybe rarebottleofwineball, or freshmainelobsterball. And I sure wouldn’t argue with newwardrobeball or myownpersonalchefball. Heck, tenfreefullbodymassagegiftcertificateball sounds pretty good too.

Oh wait, I’ve got it. Next time we play, we’re calling it goldbarball. I don’t see how that would be a problem. Terri’s a good pal, always willing to share with a friend.

Still, on those sweltering 76-degree days, I wonder if it’d be too much to ask her to chill it first?

By Order of the Court

There aren’t many things that strike fear in the hearts of men (and women) quite like being served with a jury summons. Sure, a police car’s flashing blue lights in your rearview mirror is worse; a tsunami warning siren is worse. But still. The sight of that little jury card is enough to make even the bravest soul’s hair stand on end.

Especially when the card reads — usually in Big Bold Letters — SECOND NOTICE, followed by threats of dire circumstances dare you ignore the summons this time. Never mind you hadn’t received a first notice. (Is there ever a first notice?) A descendent of Vito Corleone is on his way to your house right this second with those plastic handcuffs that look like enormous trash bag twist-ties, ready to whisk you away to a secret underground world where all the other jury duty truants who came before you have since morphed into lawless Mole People and chaos reigns.

zombie-md

Or something along those lines.

It’s a testament to the power of that index-card sized notice that even when I realized the one I’d just pulled from our mailbox was addressed to John, my heart still leapt to my throat. Like a gag reflex. Upon examining it more closely, however, I was able to relax. As it turned out, the summons was for jury duty in Travis County, Texas.

We moved from Texas over a year ago, a fact reflected, oddly enough, on the jury summons itself. It hadn’t been mailed to our former home in Texas and consequently forwarded to our new residence here. Oh no. This card was addressed quite correctly to the house number and street where we live now, here in Jefferson County, Washington.

Already it’s creepy the Travis County Courthouse not only has access to our new address, but has automatically changed that address in its records without any type of notification from us. But I know, I know. All sorts of information about everyone everywhere, living or dead, is floating around in the ether ready for the grabbing. Yet wouldn’t you think, knowing this kind of thing happens systematically, that the powers-that-be at the courthouse could have somebody take at least a cursory glance at the jury summons cards before they stick them in the mailbag?

Apparently not. So instead, those of us who have legitimate reason not to serve on a jury in the Travis County Court’s jurisdiction are given the options of (1) calling the courthouse; or (2) going to the website listed on the card. Ever tried calling the courthouse associated with a busy, increasingly populated metropolitan area? Yeah, so have I. Which is why, when I got back to my house, I went immediately online on John’s behalf.

Like most things internet-related, the jury selection page on the site wasn’t at all on point. It was only after answering question after question — then reiterating my answers in reply to interrogatives like “Are you sure this is really, truly your current address?” and then “Are you absolutely sure?” — that John was finally dismissed of that particular civic duty.

Crazy as it sounds, in my fantasy world I’d hoped for a separate website page for those of us who were mistakenly contacted — or maybe a button with the instruction “If no longer residing in Travis County, click here.” Why I thought for one second it could be that simple, I can’t say for sure. It was nutty on my part. Hey, so sue me.

Or wait, no. Please don’t. Because if you do, and if the trial’s jurisdiction is Travis County, Texas, there’s no doubt in my mind the summons to appear — the SECOND NOTICE summons to appear — will wind up here, properly addressed, in my Jefferson County, Washington mailbox.

The Limelight

After months (two) of rehearsals, the big night was finally upon us. Show time. I gathered up my props,

drill and hard hat

shimmied into my costume

shirt

and made a beeline for the clubhouse.

We were the first scheduled performers in the Cape George Revue, the opening act. Although I’d heard whispers about the Drill Team being kind of overdone — this is year five for the Revue and each one has begun with a Drill Team routine — someone else likened it to carrying the Olympic torch. Because as it is with the ever anticipated ceremonial torch, no one is surprised about the Drill Team. Everyone knows we’ll march out at the beginning of the show; everyone knows we’ll have electric drills with shiny twirlies.

And you know what? Traditions are important. Essential, really, as far as giving people a sense of well being. There are enough surprises in life, many of them frightening and unwelcome. The Drill Team provides the Revue’s audience members a service, when you get right down to it. Something to depend on, like sticking a piece of bread in the toaster knowing you’ll ultimately end up with toast. We were to be the audience’s toast.

At least that’s what I kept telling myself during the months (two) of rehearsals.

We silently queued up in the darkened kitchen, my position being third in line for the march into the ballroom, third from the right in the back row on stage. At seven o’clock sharp the ballroom lights dimmed, the emcee announced us, the drumming began.

If you’d like to see for yourself, click here.

The Rockettes, we ain’t. Still, that’s not stopping us from participating in the upcoming Rhody Parade, part of an annual celebration of the multi-hued Rhododendrons seen all around town this time of year. Although we won’t be performing our now [in]famous dance number, we will be marching the one-mile parade route — left, right, left, right, left — while simultaneously lifting our drills up, then out, then up, then out again. We rehearse once more tomorrow night.

They’re predicting a 40% chance of rain parade day. Probably there’s about a 50% chance the Drill Team will stay in step the entire mile. If we beat either of those odds? I predict a 100% chance of jubilant celebration.

On a Boat? Really?

Sunday mornings are sacred to John and me, yet not for the reason that immediately comes to mind. We’re not churchgoers. What we are, instead, are freaks about big Sunday breakfasts. Religiously so, you might say. We look forward to our weekly repast of omelets or French toast or pancakes, coffee and tea and fruit smoothies while perusing the Seattle Times from front page to funnies all snug and warm in our jammies.

jammies

We vary from our ritual only begrudgingly, so when neighbors invited us to breakfast one Sunday morning before they were scheduled to head back to their second home in California, we were stumped. We could think of no excuse to decline. Not even a little white lie would work. We live across the street from them and if we were to claim we had other plans, we’d have to leave the house — meaning we’d miss our cherished Sunday morning jammies breakfast, regardless, thus defeating the purpose of trying to salvage it in the first place.

We’ve briefly considered postponing our Sunday routine to Monday in cases like this, but truth is, it’s simply not the same. It’s the newspaper. Sunday’s issue includes the travel section, NW Arts & Life, the extended comics page in color, the New York Times AND Merl Reagle’s Sunday crossword puzzles, and the Pacific NW Magazine. Monday’s paper, on the other hand, is flimsy. Lifeless. Exhausted, no doubt, after the robustness of Sunday’s offering. There’s no enjoying a leisurely breakfast over such a lackluster rag. It’s Sunday’s paper, or nothing.

A day or two after accepting our neighbors’ kind yet mortifying invitation, we were hit with a second bombshell: the event’s venue had changed. The meal had been sabotaged by mutual acquaintances — boat owners who, for some reason, decided it would be more fun to eat in the galley of their fishing vessel.

bateaunoir-md

Granted, these people have a fine, fine boat. Beautiful, really, all shiny brass and teak inside. But the Queen Mary, it ain’t. Squeezing six breakfast guests into the eating quarters was cozy, to say the least, forcing the owners of the craft to remain standing in the tiny kitchen space. Plus, in order to quell the threat of a claustrophobic episode from any of the diners crammed inside, the ship’s owners left the hatch open. It was cold in there, an atmospheric condition that no amount of instant coffee was going to offset.

You know what was weirdest of all? We never left port. Eight of us huddled inside that boat, tied securely to the dock, for two long hours. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m a firm believer that the relative discomfort of serving a meal inside a ship’s galley makes sense only when you’ve actually traversed water.

Sitting in the fishing boat, balancing my plate of breakfast taco (I dared wrestle with only one), I looked around the galley and focused briefly on each couple, imagining how much more agreeable it would have been in any one of their warm, comfy kitchens. We all live mere blocks from each other, at the farthest, and only a two-minute drive from the neighborhood marina where we were being held hostage on that damn boat. Ahoy matey, this is asinine.

To atone for the heartbreak of missing one of our Sunday services, so to speak, the following week we did it up big. Or I should say, did it up pig.

pig

At the store where John works, they give their past-prime produce and vegetable trimmings to a local hog farmer who in turn occasionally brings them a freshly processed pig. Normally we don’t partake in piggie, but John knows I’m a sucker for bacon. I mean, c’mon, who isn’t? And because this hog farmer raises his animals the way it’s supposed to be done, John brought home a slab of bacon as a Sunday surprise.

I haven’t attempted to cook pork of any fashion in years. This time, not only did I burn it to a crisp in the pan, we then stuck the four pieces in the convection oven to keep them warm while we prepared the remainder of our breakfast.

We hadn’t noticed the oven was set at 450 degrees. When we opened it to retrieve our special treat, we were faced with four shriveled ribbons of dried pork briquettes.

They were delicious.

And best of all, we didn’t have to eat them on a boat.

Chopped Liver

Strike three, four, five and six.

umpire-and-batter-md

Or maybe it’s seven. I’ve lost track of how many part-time jobs I’ve applied for since we moved here. All I know is twice in the last week or so, I was turned down yet again. Neither rejection was my fault (that’s my story and I’m sticking to it) but it still doesn’t do much for the ol’ ego.

The stinkiest part of it is that I really, honestly thought I had this last one. After a part-time professional organizer position fell apart — the owner of the company decided not to expand to this part of Washington after all (or so she said) — I emailed the folks who own an organic apple orchard just down the street from us to see if they’d be needing someone to work their hard cider tasting room come April. The wife replied quickly explaining they were “crazy busy” right that second, but she definitely wanted to talk with me.

Hopeful, wouldn’t you say?

In a subsequent email, she explained that while they already have plenty of help for the tasting room, they do have a large empty hoop house inside which they’d like to plant vegetables but don’t have the time to do it themselves. They wondered if I’d be interested in helping them plan a season or three and manage the crew.

Wow, how perfect does that sound for a former organic vegetable farmer such as myself, right? Wrong. See, I wasn’t the crop planner at the farm I co-owned. My husband John did all that. I, on the other hand, concentrated more on harvests and how much of this and that we needed for our bi-weekly markets, which I also worked. I did the bookkeeping, too, and payroll. I did them poorly (and I have a stack of correction notices from the IRS to prove it), but I did them.

First and foremost, however, my main role at the farm was as Princess. That job, I had down to an art. And oddly enough, I’ve yet to run across a want ad looking for one.

Nope, it appears what everyone wants is…John. For one thing, he’d be perfect for the apple orchard gig. He’s busy with his part-time job assistant managering the produce department at the groovy local foods store, though, and has no desire to give that up for a seasonal position, even one that seems almost custom-made for him.

Come to think of it, his produce department job was custom-made for him. He fell into it by answering an ad for part-time cashier and when the owners saw his resume, they created this altogether new position specifically for him.

Know what happened with my resume after I took it to a different local food store in response to their ad for part-time cashier? Nothing, that’s what. A big, fat nada. Not only did the owners not offer an even better, more streamlined job for me like John’s store did for him…they didn’t even call me to interview for the cashier job.

It doesn’t end there. John and I started playing pickleball at the same time yet not surprisingly, he’s much, much better at it than I. John’s a natural at sports, see. I’m, well, not. That’s not to say I’m lousy at the game — I can hold my own — but John has far surpassed my skill level. So much so that on a recent afternoon, a call came in on my phone from one of the Pros from Dover (as we refer to the most experienced players in the neighborhood) that went something like this:

Pro: Hi Jo. Is John at work today?

Me: No, he’s home.

Pro: He’s home? Right now?

Me: Yes.

Pro: Um, we’re up here at the court and need another player.

Me: Okay, I’ll tell him. It’ll only be John coming, though, because I’m not…

Pro: Great! Thanks! Bye!

I can’t say I was tickled pink at the implied insult, but I’ve never thought of myself as an athletic equal to my husband so it didn’t hurt my feelings really. I’m pretty much a klutz through and through, and am able to live with that.

The same Pro from Dover called again a day or two later, only this time it was about something other than pickleball. This time, she was calling to ask a question of me. Turns out, she’s on the neighborhood Nominating Committee and wanted to know if I’d be willing to run for a seat on the Board of Directors.

Well well well! How about that? Never mind that I have no desire to be on the Board — all those boring meetings — it still felt pretty good to think my name came up as a possibility. After all, in this community there are around 600 households from which to choose a nominee. Puffed with pride and feeling self-confident, I decided honesty was the best policy and told the Pro straight out that, while I was flattered, I was going to decline.

Apparently her policy is honesty too, as she immediately admitted it was John’s name, not mine, that originally came up in the Nominating Committee meeting. They just figured he probably wouldn’t have the time — being employed and all — making me, the unemployed one, a logical second choice.

So much for pride. And self-confidence. I’ll tell you what, though: one of these days, somebody, somewhere, is going to be in need of a princess.

princess

And chances are, when that happens they’ll offer John the job first.

Dancing Queen

Because I seem unable to form the word “no” anymore, I was recently recruited to be part of the Drill Team — a chorus line dance ensemble — at the upcoming Cape George Revue. Cape George, by the way, is my neighborhood. The Revue is its annual variety show. And the Drill Team uses — get this — actual electric drills as props. Who would have imagined that?

Yeah, I know. Pretty much everybody. Especially everybody who’s lived in Cape George for more than twelve months, it turns out, since the Drill Team always performs at the Revue. Different songs each year, happily, and different costumes…but always with drills.

Maybe I was enlisted because word has gotten out I don’t have a terribly full weekly schedule. While that is absolutely true, what the other Drill Team members are not aware of is that not only did they secure someone with ample time on her hands, as a bonus they’re getting a person with a background in professional dance. On an honest-to-goodness stage. With matching outfits and everything.

tap dancers

That’s me, on the far right. I was exactly as talented as I looked.

In fact, one year (because yes indeedy, I tapped my way to stardom several years in a row!), despite an instruction from the choreographer to STAY IN UNISON even if you know in your heart of hearts the other girls lost step with the accompanying piano score, I rebelled. Thing is, I was born with rhythm. Deep, deep in my soul. I wasn’t about to shuffle-ball-change on beat number 6 when I knew darn well it was supposed to happen two pulses earlier. No sirree. I clicked and clacked to my own inner drummer at that recital and was darned proud of myself for doing so. Never mind that at the end of the song I was headed stage left while the rest of the tappers remained smack in the center.

It was pure serendipity that the Cape George Drill Team found me, don’t you think?

There’s a down side to being chosen for the Drill Team, however, one I wasn’t aware of when the words “Sure I’d love to join” shot out of my mouth too fast to cram them back in: rehearsals are scheduled every Sunday for two solid months. Apparently, it takes a whole lot of dance sessions to memorize the steps (and drill moves) to Shania Twain’s ‘Man! I Feel Like A Woman.’

I made it to the first rehearsal a week ago, right on time, drill in hand. We learned the moves for half the song in the 1-1/2 hour stint that had been set aside, after which the team leader announced she’d be out of town for this week’s session and thus would not be here to teach us the steps (and drill moves) for the remainder of the tune. Still, we were instructed to meet at the clubhouse as planned to practice what we’d learned so far.

I didn’t go. Not out of disrespect for the process, certainly, nor because I underestimate the importance of utmost perfection come Revue time. To be the creme de la creme at neighborhood variety shows, practice is essential. At least for the amateurs in the group.

Yet I’m no amateur. Not only do I have experience performing for an audience, I have experience performing for an audience while carrying a prop.

baton twirlers

Theater, you see, is in my blood.