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?

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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.

The Meaning of the Game

Playing sports is a positive activity, right? Good for the body, good for the mind. Gathering together for backyard volleyball, touch football or a rousing game of horseshoes also builds friendships by shoring up feelings of camaraderie through fair play and goodwill, no matter the outcome of the competition. As the old adage goes, it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game.

Right. Tell that to Lance Armstrong. To Tanya Harding. Mike Tyson. Granted, these athletes had risen light years above the level of, say, a neighborhood pickup basketball game by the time their need to win led them to engage in such ruthless behavior (and ultimately topple them into infamy). Yet even on the neighborhood playing field, competitive sports often bring out the worst in a person.

racquetball

John and I used to play racquetball and I remember well how combative people could be, especially in the local leagues. The way some of them behaved, you’d have thought there was real live money stashed inside those chintzy plastic trophies. Of course, there never was. (What did you say? Oh…how did I know the trophies were empty? Um, heh heh. Somebody told me.)

It’s been years since we’ve partaken in organized sports. Well, besides John’s brief tenure in a regional basketball league. They played at nearby Leander High whose school song was “Meander in Leander,” an inspiring ode to mediocrity if there ever was one. No matter the motto, however, those games were brutal, as are pretty much all team sports whether professional or amateur. It’s human nature, I suppose.

So it should have come as no surprise when we were first exposed to the phenomenon at the neighborhood pickleball court. But surprise us, it did. I mean, we’re talking about a doubles game where each side whacks a whiffle ball back and forth with racquets only slightly larger than pingpong paddles. One where the rules, when written down, could fit on a cocktail napkin. Don’t get me wrong; John and I love the game. It’s just, you know, pickleball.

Consequently, we were taken aback when the ugly side of sports showed up at the court one day. Another pickleballer (sounds like the latest kitchen gadget, doesn’t it?) had made arrangements for that afternoon’s game, and we didn’t know exactly who all would be joining us. As we drove into the parking lot, there was only one other person there — a woman we’d pickled with once or twice before. We waved from inside the car. She stared back in what appeared to be disbelief, as if we’d just pulled up in a tiny Volkswagen and many clowns would soon pile out. Evil clowns.

“It’s you!” she exclaimed, horrified, despite the dearth of murderous clowns. We were struck temporarily speechless.

“I was expecting someone else,” she continued, her disappointment palpable. A little shaken, we stuttered the names of a couple others soon to join us. She turned to leave.

Yes, leave. Although she’d come to the court ready to pickle, when faced with the options of doing so with us or heading back home, she was choosing home. Just then our fellow picklers arrived and, confused by her hasty retreat, they attempted in vain to persuade her to stay for at least one game. Obviously, in her eyes, our motley crew was far too inferior for her to bother even stepping onto the court.

Okay, admittedly I’m no pro. I’ve noticed, in fact, that I’m probably on the losing side 85% of the time no matter who’s unfortunate enough to play as my partner. A telling statistic. But John is quite good — he takes to sports like a puppy takes to a new chew toy — as are the other two players who showed up that day. Miss Snooty Pants (I pride myself on maintaining the utmost maturity in all situations) would have had ample competition, picklewise.

Regardless, we’re not talking Wimbledon here. No one is playing for a silver guilt cup or sterling silver platter. John and I attended the latest neighborhood pickleballers potluck and awards ceremony, and thus had the opportunity to take a peek at the Grand Prize: a bouquet of brightly painted whiffle balls stuck into a pot to resemble a flower arrangement. It was as stunning as you might imagine, yet I’m thinking it might not bring quite as much at the corner pawn shop as that silver platter.

In today’s spirit of everyone deserves a trophy, all the neighborhood pickle players were surprised this holiday season with a beautifully handcrafted ornament, no matter their ball pickling skill level. Our resident pickleball instructor stealthily left the tissue-wrapped gifts at each pickler’s door.

whiffle ball

And that’s what I call good sportsmanship.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to run downstairs to grab a hammer and break into this thing in case there’s any cash inside.

Which Came First: The Pickle or the Ball?

Although conflicting schedules delayed John’s and my completion of the three 1-1/2 hourlong training sessions required to play on pickleball leagues at the neighborhood court, we’ve finally done it. (Well, I finally did it. John was allowed a “by” after only one session since he’s a working man now with fewer opportunities to partake.)

What on earth is pickleball, you ask? Yes, I would have too, prior to our moving to a community where the majority of our neighbors look at us as the youngsters. Okay, “youngsters” is a little strong…but when on the court, there have indeed been references to our relative youth.

Which is a grand and wonderful thing, by the way.

But back to pickleball. It’s a game started in the ‘60s on Bainbridge Island here in Washington, named after the originator’s dog, Pickles. Seriously. Apparently, Pickles had an affinity for whiffle balls, and whiffles are the balls of choice for this game. Whiffle balls and pingpong-like paddles.

racket and ball

Pickleball is played on a court smaller than that used for tennis, with a net similar to a tennis net only lower. The object of the game is to whack the whiffle ball back and forth — and oh my, the racket does make a satisfying Twhack! sound when it meets with the plastic ball — until the opposing team either misses it or hits it out of bounds. If your team was serving, you get a point; if the other team was serving, that person loses his or her serve.

Leslie serving

It’s fairly basic. I’m not completely clear why three lessons are mandatory but John and I aren’t usually ones to rabble-rouse, thus our participation — albeit abbreviated in John’s case — in the formal classes. We’re new here, after all. We don’t want to make waves. (And risk our status as young’uns? Not a chance.)

Each game is played to 11 and must be won by at least two points. It’s pretty much no holds barred as far as rules during play, with one important exception: you may not hit the ball before it bounces when any part of your body is in the kitchen.

That is not a typo. The “kitchen” is the lined-off area directly on either side of the net.

playing

No one knows why it’s called the kitchen. It just is. And it’s where you try to dink the ball. To “dink” is to tap the whiffle ball lightly enough so as it falls barely over the net. Because the opposing team can’t rush into the kitchen to smack it and rather have to wait for it to bounce first, it’s often an effective shot.

The woman who teaches us Cape Georgers how to pickeball has two cats, one named Lob and one named Dink (yet no pets named Serve or Volley, as far as I know), which leads me to two fascinating somewhat coincidental tidbits.

Fascinating somewhat coincidental tidbit #1: When John and I played racquetball many years ago, one of the women I played regularly had a son whom she referred to as Dink. There are no shots called dinks in racquetball so I know that’s not where his nickname came from. I never learned the origination but always thought it was kind of cruel, particularly since the kid was a little dorky and actually looked like someone you’d call Dink.

Fascinating somewhat coincidental tidbit #2: Prior to our racquetball days, John and I used to watch a game show called Tic Tac Dough (because there’s nothing at all dorky about that). The host of the show was the legendary Wink Martindale, who we — hilariously — renamed Dink Fartindale.

We’ve always prided ourselves on our maturity.

And now we have something else to be proud of. Or I should say, I have something. After the successful completion of three pickleball lessons, the teacher awarded my fellow classmates (all two of them) and me a graduation gift.

pickle pen

A pen shaped like a pickle. I love it. Does that make me a complete dork? Quite possibly, yes, but I can live with that.

Just call me Dink.