Cataract Surgery: Part I

The optometrist didn’t bother to ask my permission.  As soon as he finished the exam, he went straight to the front desk and told his receptionist to make me an appointment with the cataract surgery center.

It would have been difficult for me to argue with him, even if he’d given me the chance.  After being unable to read line after increasingly larger line of letters shown to me by the optician — who had trouble stifling her gasps as she neared what she knew would be the final, humongous O filling the entire screen — it was pretty apparent the time had come to be separated from my longtime cloudy companion, my congenital cataract that had been slowly robbing the vision from my left eye since I was in my early 40’s.

eyeball

It was a miracle I’d been able to get my drivers license renewed last year.  Only by the grace of Port Townsend’s DMV clerk was I able to squeak by, despite my admission that I couldn’t read a single thing on the left side of the vision test screen.  I don’t know if she was feeling generous that day or merely too bored and disinterested to bother but whatever the case, I was grateful beyond words to be granted permission to drive half-blind on the streets of Washington state.

I doubt the vehicular travelers crossing my path would have been quite so tickled, had they known.  Pedestrians and bicyclists even less so.  Yet in my defense, at my pre-surgery ophthalmological consultation, the doctor explained that because my right eye has been so busy doing the heavy lifting these past 15 years or so, my overall vision really wasn’t that horrendous.

Granted, he mentioned this not to ease my mind about any potential peril I’d been inflicting upon all who traversed the roads alongside me.  I hadn’t confessed to the doctor my poor performance at the DMV.   He was simply warning me that once my cataract was gone, my resultant vision improvement might not feel so dramatic as it does to those folks who have cataracts removed from both eyes.  Still, I chose to take it as affirmation of my decision — and that of my dear DMV clerk — to continue driving.

Come to think of it, though, the ophthalmologist obviously didn’t give one hoot about endangering myself or surrounding drivers, considering he sent me on my way that late afternoon (more like early evening) with fully dilated eyes and no one to chauffeur me home.  In the dark.  From Silverdale to Port Townsend, a nearly 45 mile trek.

After the front desk ladies cheerily handed me the packaged strip of black plastic that looks more like a roll of camera film than a substitute for honest-to-goodness sunglasses, I walked out to the car, took my place in the driver’s seat…and began to panic.  Already the traffic had built up to a frenzy — Silverdale is nothing but a maze of strip malls squeezed between zigging and zagging thoroughfares (my friend has aptly nicknamed the town Silverhell) and to make matters worse, I was in that godforsaken place at the height of Christmas shopping season.

I’d gotten so turned around trying to find the surgery center in the first place, I had no clue how to get back to the highway.  Add to that a thousand glaring headlights.  I slipped the black film under my glasses, hit the “Home” button on my GPS and waited for Nuvi (John’s and my terribly clever name for our Garmin “nuvi” model GPS) to coo her directives at me.

As soon as I pulled into the street, I yanked off that black film.  It’s bad enough to have blurred vision in a sea of headlamps — even worse when the background to all the bobbing, weaving lights is pitch blackness.  Without the piece of film obscuring what little focus I still had, I could at least make out the stripes in the road.  Blurry stripes, indeed, but stripes all the same.

It was a long, teeth-clenching drive back to Port Townsend.  Only a small fraction of the journey is divided highway; primarily the roads are two-laned, meaning a continuous line of oncoming traffic, each car’s lights boring straight into my enormous pupils, made it feel as if I were staring directly at the sun.

headlights

So I concentrated instead on those white road stripes (and held my breath at every intersection where the stripes disappeared) until finally — finally — Nuvi guided me through the entrance to our neighborhood.  When I turned at the stop sign on our street, Nuvi instructed, “Drive point three miles to Home, on left.”

Lovelier words have never been spoken.

To be continued….

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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.

Backwards

It was a day of weird comments. First, during my weekly volunteer gig at the Food Bank, one of the clients explained, in no uncertain terms, the reason for the obesity crisis in this country: people have quit smoking.

Forget about fast food, forget about choosing electronic games over physical activity, forget about high fructose corn syrup. According to this guy, if overweight folks would simply pick up a carton or two of cigs and start puffing away again, the problem would be solved.

cigarettes

After leaving the Food Bank, I stopped to pick up a few things at the grocery store (none of which contained tobacco or high fructose corn syrup, by the way) and as I wrestled away one of the carts from the outdoor rack I inadvertently blocked another shopper’s path.

“Oh, I’m sorry!” I exclaimed when I noticed what I’d done. “I was walking backwards and didn’t see you.”

“It’s all right,” she assured me. “We’re all walking backwards.”

I might have pointed out the fellow at the Food Bank who believes all Americans should backpedal to the nicotine-fueled days of tar-stained fingers and black lung would probably disagree. Yet assuming she was speaking in a more global sense, I simply smiled.

Less than 48 hours later I found myself traveling backwards again, though this time not in a parking lot. Instead, this rearward trajectory was a result of an email I received — a Facebook message, to be precise, a “friend” request from someone John and I went to college with and had since completely lost touch.

This isn’t the first college friend with whom I’ve reconnected through Facebook. As silly as social media can be — and oh my, can it ever — it’s difficult for me to argue with these kinds of results. I’ve been enjoying contact with my sophomore college roommate for some time, and now here shows up one of John’s former roommates and best friends from that same era. This one surprised me more, maybe because he’s male. (Females tend to make for better pen pals, in my experience, and I see Facebook as essentially the same thing). Or maybe it’s because my memory of him, although vivid, is kind of a drug-addled. His addled state, as well as ours. (This was, after all, college in the early 1970s.)

marijuana leaf

All these years later, we find out he’s an upstanding citizen, a pillar of his community who drives a bus for special needs children. He’s been long married, has an adult son and one granddaughter.

Wait a minute. A granddaughter? As in his child’s child?

baby

How can that be? I mean, he’s our age! And as we all know, John and I are far too young — FAR too young — to have grandchildren. Heck, we never had kids at all so even the idea of one of our old classmates…hang on, let me rephrase that…the idea of one of our former classmates having children older than, say, eleven is already a bit freaky.

Come to think of it, though, this former classmate and others we’ve subsequently “friended” are indeed starting to look a bit longer in the tooth. Gray hair, wrinkles around the eyes, extra padding in the midsection. And that’s what grandparents look like, right?

Thank goodness John and I still look exactly as we did the day we were married, over 36 years ago.

wedding photo

That’s us in the center. But you know that already, don’t you? Yes, of course you do because other than a change of fashion and hairstyles (for which we should all be eternally grateful) we’re both just as thin, our locks are just as brown and our skin is just as smooth as when that photo was snapped.

As proof, I refuse to post a more recent picture. You’d only be jealous.

Okay, okay, I’ll ‘fess up. I’m not reed thin anymore, not by a long shot (and I’m remaining steadfastly mum on the hair and wrinkles issue). And while I have no desire to be 21 years old again, I wouldn’t mind at all still being able to squeeze into that dress. That’s one backward step I’d be happy to take, fashion be damned.

John, on the other hand, has retained his girlish figure all this time. Even our recent Facebook friend expressed concern about John’s health, referring to photos I’ve posted of him as looking “awful skinny and almost gaunt.” I assured our newly rediscovered pal that John is absolutely fine, always has been. Truth is, he eats like a horse but is just naturally slender.

And get this: he doesn’t even smoke.

As a Lash Resort

Prior to a four-year stint as an unadorned, unshaven college art student, I’d worn eye makeup since my early teenage years. I inherited my mother’s hair, you see, which has proven mostly fortuitous — yet while the mane itself is quite thick, the volume gene didn’t translate to the brows and lashes. Like my mother did, I have wimpy, wispy eyebrows, and eyelashes that are barely perceptible without a good shellacking of mascara.

eye with mascara

Even my father noticed the transformation after I slathered on the goo. Although I was the apple of his darkly lashed eye, one day he made the mistake of commenting, to my mother’s unabashed horror, on what a difference it made in my appearance. From that day forward, I vowed to never leave the house without first applying an arsenal of cosmetics.

For a few months before declaring a college major in grooviness, I attended classes in full greasepaint. The night I met John, in fact, I was made up to the hilt, particularly in the eyelash department.

made-up eye

Problem was, our first encounter took place during a freshman co-ed snowball fight and upon my return to the dorm room afterwards, I discovered my heretofore perfectly blackened lashes had not only smudged, but the gloopy mess was smeared halfway down my cheeks.

smudged mascara

Happily for me, John looked past the tar pit on my face and chose to continue to pursue the relationship. Or maybe he was just desperate.

My subsequent artistically-inspired au naturel lash phase ended almost immediately upon my college graduation. After entering the work force, I caved once again to the pressure of the peer and reunited with my former constant companion.

Avon Daring Curves Mascara

Many lash-enhanced years later, when John and I began farming for a living, I swore I’d be the only local farmer to refuse to give up her cache of cosmetics. That lasted maybe three weeks. Upon rediscovering the sense of freedom that comes with choosing substance over appearance (You’ve seen farmers’ fingernails, right? And those goofy tans?), I continued my repudiation of the mascara wand throughout my farming tenure, beyond the eventual sale of the farm, and ultimately into our move to Washington with every intention of never again sullying these otherwise nearly undetectable eyelashes.

Until last week.

The Organic Seed Alliance, headquartered here in Port Townsend, was holding a fundraiser/10-year anniversary dinner and the local foods store where John works sponsored a table at the event.

osa

It was to be my first introduction to the store owner’s wife, and being that the fundraiser was a $75 per plate affair, I was a little nervous about making a good first impression in that kind of setting. People tend to doll up for those things. The morning before the dinner, I broke down and made a special trip to the drug store’s mascara counter.

It probably didn’t boost my confidence level when every time I blinked, I feared my eyelids were going to glom shut — what do they use in that stuff, Elmer’s Glue? — but I couldn’t have felt more socially inept when we arrived at the fundraiser had I tried. The owner’s wife was charming and relaxed. I was suddenly 17 years old, going to my first grown-up party, and my attempts at witty repartee went something like this:

Owner’s wife: “Oh yeah, Phil comes from a big, gregarious family. There was loud laughing and talking all through the house and it always intimidated me, coming from such a small quiet family myself.”

Me: “Same with John’s family! [Blink, panic.] [Blink, panic.] There was loud laughing and talking all through the house and it always intimidated me, coming from such a small quiet family myself.”

Brilliant.

Thankfully, at the end of the evening the owner’s wife gave me a hug. Out of pity more than camaraderie, no doubt, but I welcomed it nonetheless. And you know what I noticed, as we pulled away from our cordial embrace?

She wasn’t wearing a stitch of makeup.

The Great Washington ShakeOut

It’s 8:16 on a chilly, wet morning in early spring. You’ve just arrived at work and are pouring a cup of coffee when you become aware of a low rumbling noise. Within seconds, the rumbling becomes a roar, the floor beneath you heaves, and the building begins to pitch and shake so violently that you’re thrown to the floor. The roaring is joined by a cacophony of crashing as windows shatter and every unsecured object in the room—from the desk chair to the coffee pot—is sent flying. Shaken loose by the shuddering and jolting of the building, dust and ceiling particles drift down like snow. Then the lights flicker and go out. Remembering to “drop, cover, and hold,” you crawl under the nearest table, hold on tight, and tell yourself that the shaking should last only a few seconds more . . . but it goes on and on.

This is it: the Big One. The Cascadia subduction zone has just unleashed a magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

This fun-filled scenario begins the latest report from the Cascadia Region Earthquake Workgroup. Pretty nifty, huh? I mean, who knew the “Big One” was actually brewing along the British Columbia, Washington and Oregon coast, rather than the more commonly recognized earthquake-prone Bay Area of California? Nobody until the 1970s, as it turns out. That’s when some smarty pants discovered there’d been a whopper of a quake here in 1700.

[Which calls for a correction to my prior statement: There were indeed already people who knew about the 1700 earthquake — the Native Americans unfortunate enough to reside along the northwest coastline at that time. They knew it intimately.]

The fun doesn’t stop there, either. Apparently, we’re overdue for another one. And while the most recent findings show the fault zone is farther out in the ocean than they’d initially thought, meaning the shaking won’t be quite so severe (Yay!), the resultant tsunami will likely be more intense and damaging (Aw crap).

As some of you already know, John and I live close to the water. We’re not on the western coast of Washington but our bay — Discovery Bay — is attached to the Strait of Juan de Fuca, the waters of which flow in from the Pacific.

Discovery Bay

In the office here at Cape George there’s a map showing which houses might wind up under water in the event of a tsunami. Ours is not one of them. In fact, our house sits 50 feet higher still than the highest tsunami targets, which should be enough to assuage my wall-of-water fears.

Yep, it sure should be.

It isn’t.

See, I’m not good at threats of natural disasters. Man-made ones aren’t a favorite of mine either but wow, those natural ones are real doozies. Hurricanes, floods, avalanches, tornadoes. Especially tornadoes. Growing up in Central Indiana, tornadoes were a part of life. In fact, my favorite aunt and uncle’s house was flattened by one when I was a child. I’ll never forget my cousin’s nightmarish recollections of being buried under the rubble, screaming, each breath sucking in mouthfuls of crushed mortar.

I’d thought we were getting away from that when we relocated to the Texas Hill Country but no, oh no, there are plenty of twisters there too. Every spring I watched terrified as the local weatherman displayed ominous radar images filled with blobs of red, purple and even black, punctuated by multiple swirling, twirling discs indicating tornadic activity moving our way. How nice, then, to move to western Washington where tornadoes are all but unheard of. No more natural disaster worries!

Until I read in further detail about this.

Cascadia Subduction Zone

Then just last week came The Great Washington ShakeOut earthquake preparedness drill. From what I gather, when the Big One hits you’re supposed to dive under a table and hold tight to its legs until the shaking stops. Then, if you’re near the water, you’re to run like hell uphill as fast as your legs can scamper.

Simple as that. Oh, except you should also keep plenty of emergency supplies on hand — non-perishable food, a first aid kit, toiletries, a battery operated radio. Things like that. We’ve started to load up a closet in our basement, one that’s supported by two concrete walls and hopefully fairly shake-proof.

Earthquake closet

It isn’t finished yet. For instance, we have no portable propane cookstove or pots and pans. We do have a wok, a wooden salad bowl and charcoal, however, plenty enough for a festive backyard post-apocalyptic stir-fry. We even have a vase full of fake Gerbera daisies for decoration and a Cuisinart ice cream maker we can stare at wistfully until the electricity [maybe] comes back on.

I learned from a neighbor that shortly after the 2011 tsunami disaster in Japan, an earthquake expert of some sort came to Cape George to sum up what might happen here if the Big One were to occur.

Diamond Point & Protection Island

He said Diamond Point (the piece of land sticking out in the water on the left) and Protection Island (the island in the distance on the right), as well as the Dungeness Spit farther west would help temper any tsunami waves barreling towards us through the Strait of Juan de Fuca. (I’m guessing the electric pole smack in the center of this photo won’t be much help in that regard.) Good news, right? Sure, until we get to his next prediction: Should an earthquake vibrate an enormous hunk of Protection Island into the bay,

Protection Island

the rush of displaced water will rise up and swallow Cape George whole.

After sharing this little factoid with me, my neighbor shrugged and pointed out once more that at least here in western Washington we don’t get major floods, tornadoes and the like. The Big One is really the only natural disaster we have to be concerned with.

Phew. What a relief.

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.