September 28, 2009

a happy ending.

Nub and Noah

This is Noah. Noah works at Departure, where seven and a half weeks ago, I left Nub.

Late last week, on realizing that my hedgehog still had not been returned, my friend Jennifer (our production stage manager at the opera) sent a disgruntled email to the management company who oversees The Nines Hotel, where Departure is located. She got a blanket reply, and then a second reply saying "someone will be responding to you within five days." Today she received an email from one of the managers at the hotel, saying that he had inquired into the matter with the restaurant's manager and with, it turns out, Noah.

I received the copy of your comments to Starwood, and can personally help and follow up on the situation.  I would like to apologize for the poor communication and follow through of our associates. 

Upon receiving your letter today, I discussed the matter with Ron Acierto, our Departure manager, as well as Noah  - the associate who you spoke with.

According to Noah, he personally took the stuffed animal – a small monkey?- to the post office, and sent it via regular mail in a small box.

Noah did not send it express mail, or certified, and does not have a tracking number for this shipment.  He believes that he may still have a copy of the receipt from the payment at the USPS office, but will be out of town for the remainder of the week and will attempt to locate it upon his return.

I will let you know what we discover later this week.  If you would like to discuss the situation further, I can be reached at the number listed in my email signature.

David Marsh
Director of Operations - Food and Beverage

When I got this email, I realized that maybe instead of being lost somewhere in Departure, Nub was in fact lost in the mail. What if, I thought, the address on the box was wrong and there was no return address? I called the post office and created a report with the Lost Mail division, who took all the relevant addresses and agreed to call me in two business days with their findings.

I got home tonight and was busy cooking dinner when I poked into my bedroom for something, only to hear my phone buzzing. I answered, thinking it would be the post office. Instead, it was Noah.
"I'm standing at Portland Opera and I have Nub," he said. "But the office is closed and I can't get in to deliver him."

It turned out Nub had, in fact, been sitting at the post office for five weeks, having been improperly labeled and lacking a return address. Noah hadn't thought anything more about him since dropping him off five weeks ago. No one at Departure had followed up with him so he had no way of knowing that Nub had never arrived. Today his manager called him; he was spending a day at the coast. He DROVE BACK to take care of the situation: called up the post office, swung by the branch where Nub had been dropped off, and brought him to the correct address.

"I don't want to leave here without dropping this box off," he said. I told him that there was no one to open the door: the folks in Patron Services don't really know me, and probably wouldn't let him in anyway. Cristina was in yoga until six inside the building, but there was no way of reaching her for another half hour. I offered to meet him at the office. "I'm only two miles away," I said.
"How about I drop him at your house?" he offered. "Unless you think that's weird."

So that's what he did. I gave him my address and then sat out on the stoop to wait. I warned my neighbor, Andrew, that I might shed a tear when Nub was delivered. Less than ten minutes later, Noah was smiling and walking up the sidewalk with a parcel wrapped in paper and string, and an envelope. "It's a little outdated now," he said, "but that's OK."

The envelope and letter were both typed up on a typewriter. The envelope is addressed with my name, "AKA: Nub's Mumsy."

The contents of the letter:
Dear Miss Jessica,

I have most certainly missed you. It's been torture these weeks apart and I can't say I've ever been more bored. This lovely gentleman who was kind enough to rescue me from that awful safe in the basement of that glitzy hotel may be sweet and all but he certainly doesn't travel NEARLY enough for my tastes.
He made sure to pack me carefully into this cozy little box for the journey home and he wanted me to convey a little message for you:
'I can assure you that Nub has been exceedingly well-behaved and quite entertaining in the week he spent with me. And he was remarkably gracious what with having been locked up in the basement up until I was able to procure him from security. I certainly hope he hasn't left too gaping a hole in your I'm positive quite lovely family and home. All my best, Noah.'
I must reiterate, Noah was the soul of provision and care during my brief stay in his home. I'm sure he'd love a picture or post cad from us on one of our future adventures. I'll be sure to get his home address prior to my departure. I look forward to seeing you again upon your opening this parcel. Just be careful, I may be sleeping and you know how grumpy I can be.

Love, Nub

happy reunion

September 24, 2009

this week I've taken to running first thing in the morning, before I can talk myself out of it. in the mornings it's usually overcast even if the sky clears later in the day. my route takes me up the hill of our road, past houses in various states of upkeep or dilapidation. the neighborhood passes fleetingly from character to character; on the other side of 39th, there's a pocket where I think I could spend the rest of my life: quiet, tree-lined, the occasional basketball hoop set up on the side of the road, the houses all different from one another but lovingly tended. the kind of place you imagine you would have fond memories of if you'd grown up there as a child.

there's something delicious about exploring your neighborhood on foot, something I think we as a culture have largely lost. I have such fond childhood memories of walking hand in hand with my mother to church on sunday mornings. the sidewalks were pitted and cracked and as a young girl they presented such a fun game of hopping and tiptoeing and avoiding. trees' roots thrust through the concrete. dandelions grew in the cracks. I made a deal with myself when we moved to this place that I would take more walks, and commute more by foot. it's a hard habit to form: it's so much more time-consuming than driving, and time is the thing I am most often lacking. running helps.

this morning there were so many things to see: a woman walking in a red coat; an orange cat sitting on the railing of a porch; a blue door; several red doors; a man in black track pants walking his dog; a group of young children playing on the playground during some sort of morning recess; a hummingbird in search of food; an empty swingset.

September 20, 2009

for a moment which was fleeting, long since passed

Words, Wide Night: Carol Ann Duffy

Somewhere on the other side of this wide night
and the distance between us. I am thinking of you.
The room is turning slowly away from the moon.

This is pleasurable. Or shall I cross that out and say
it is sad? In one of the tenses I singing
an impossible song of desire that you cannot hear.

La lala la. See? I close my eyes and imagine
the dark hills I would have to cross
to reach you. For I am in love with you and this

is what it is like or what it is like in words.

September 19, 2009


Things The Conductor Has Said About The Death Of Mimi In La Boheme During Orchestra Rehearsal
"Keep on with diminuendo, she's going to die in four bars."
"Coraggio, violins, she's not dead yet."

A Kodak Moment
A few weeks ago we passed a church whose sign read "Come meet Jesus here this Sunday."

A Normal Day in Nutrition, Lately
2 calcium chews
toast with jam
more coffee, now cold
half an avocado

Things I Have Thought Of In The Middle Of The Night Which Subsequently Have Kept Me Awake
I am probably never going to get Nub back.

September 15, 2009


This Is Just To Say

I have eaten
the plums
that were in
the icebox

and which
you were probably
for breakfast

Forgive me
they were delicious
so sweet
and so cold

—William Carlos Williams


last night our principal trumpet brought me a big bag of Italian plums from his backyard. today I stood at the counter and ate three of them, one after the other. after washing them they were cool, & so small and sweet.


the firmest ones were picked out and thrown into the fruit bowl for snacks. the rest were destined for greatness.

5 or maybe 6
the end.

plum butter. the recipe is actually for powidla sliwkowe, a polish recipe for a sort of plum sauce/jam/butter/reduction. I considered throwing them into the crock pot and letting them do their thing overnight, but I wasn't sure how well it would work. next time that's what I'll do; they took nearly two hours to reduce on the stove. as the bubbled and popped I chopped up lettuce for salads, made a stir fry for upcoming at-work meals, and flipped through tack catalogs, circling all the stuff to put on my christmas list. when it was finished, I spooned a huge dollop onto a piece of toast and then stood eating it at the counter. it's delicious.

p.s. today is my mother's birthday. she is 48. she is my favorite person in life. happy birthday, mama.

September 14, 2009

to piggyback on my last, here is one of the most amazing displays of bareback riding ever. Stacy Westfall makes this entire run look remarkably easy -- but it is SO SO hard. getting your horse to perform these maneuvers in full tack is hard enough, and riding them is hard; doing them without saddle or bridle is basically a work of art.

September 13, 2009

musing on horseback

this weekend I taught myself to swing onto Cookie's bare back without help of a step. the maneuver is harder than I ever thought, a lesson I learned several months ago after declaring with bravado that it can't be that hard and then leaping pathetically three or four times, making a herculean but futile effort at swinging my lower half onto (somebody else's) horse. the problem is, horses are slippery, tall, and alive. the trick requires that you have enough spring to propel most of your body to horse-back height, and then enough arm strength to get yourself on the rest of the way. more importantly it requires either that someone hold your horse, or, in my case, that your horse is good-natured enough to stand still while you heave yourself on.

we've been riding bareback a lot more this past week or two. it's good practice for a secure seat -- and it's remarkably difficult, even for someone who's been riding for 12 or 13 years. kids are good at riding bareback. do you know that it's our higher consciousness that keeps us from naturally being able to swim? that's why babies can do it. our thinking gets in our way. it's the same with bareback riding, I think. kids are good at it. they take to the constant balance shift naturally, and they aren't afraid of falling off. they aren't constantly obsessing about where their legs are supposed to go. on the other hand, I can never decide if I'm in the right spot on Cookie's back, or if my legs should dangle, or should they grip? I feel bad that my seatbones are digging into her back. I overthink.

when I prod her to trot and I'm riding bareback, she resists. yesterday I kicked and kicked and she did nothing more than raise her head. I think she was telling me, "listen, I know you want me to go, but girl, you are not balanced enough right now and I don't want to pitch you off." I tried to calmly explain that if I slipped off I wouldn't blame her. stubborn mare! she didn't listen; she just kept walking. eventually she did trot, but despite feeling relatively secure I could not convince her to keep up the pace for more than half a lap around the arena. I conceded.

tuesday I'm headed out with a friend on a trail ride. it'll be only our second trail ride together, Cookie and I, and I'm choosing to ride in my english saddle rather than opting for the more secure, but also more alien, western saddle. last time we went out on the trail, I rode western at the barn owner's suggestion, because the saddle is larger and harder to be bucked out of. but I don't ride western and so it felt very uncomfortable. now Cookie and I have been riding together for a year, and I hope I know her well enough to be able to ride through whatever she throws at me. we will see.

in related news, I've found myself at least five times this week caked in dirt and horse hair and having to run an errand. the other night I was at the mall, buying a gift for my mother's birthday. I was wearing a tank top and black shorts. I had been bathing Cookie, and had ridden her bareback. I was COVERED in mud and hair. I threw on the 4-H sweatshirt the barn gave me last year, which was in my back seat. I thought, surely it's better than the soaked, filthy tank top! I gave myself a once-over in the parking lot and thought, not so bad. then I stepped into the fluorescent light of Barnes and Noble and, well, oops. there was no hiding it. it didn't help that the sweatshirt I was using as a mask had itself been used for a ride two days before.

September 11, 2009


1. Driving home down Powell, I pass a man on the street somewhere around 65th who is strolling along in an enormous top hat. Just a few weeks ago, in almost the same spot, a boy of 11 or 12 was walking away from a group of his comrades wearing a Blazers jersey and a very high quality werewolf head. And werewolf gloves. He listed with a young boy swagger, which was completely deserved.

Today in the local coffee shop we spotted a guy very seriously wearing a peter pan cap, complete with feather.

2. At the barn we are working on the transition from halt to trot and halt to canter, and then back to the halt. No upward transition through the gaits, but directly from stop to go. Cookie takes almost no time to understand what I want from her; I give her an intermediate verbal cue before I ask for the halt, and she strains for the moment she is meant to brake. When I kiss and nudge her back into the canter she leaps into it so enthusiastically she nearly rides out from underneath me, and I am laughing, holding my reins loosely up her neck to let her have her head.

One morning we go on a trail ride through the back edge of the property, and when I let her run up the hill, as I know she's dying to do, she turns naughty and bucks all the way up. And yet I trust her enough afterward to ride her bareback in just her halter, and her every step is measured. I am wearing shorts, a tank top, flip flops. Without breeches I stick to her back like glue.

3. In the mornings in the kitchen I pour myself a bowl of cereal and when I turn around one of the cats is climbing the forbidden plant, a big tall palm they are quickly killing with all their forbidden climbing. I brandish the squirt bottle, return to my cereal, and when I turn around ten seconds later one of them is sitting on the kitchen table, nonchalantly, either brazen enough or dumb enough to forget that it's yet another illegal activity. By the end of most mornings I am threatening caticide, and both of the cats are soaked. Most days the note I leave Cristina on the fridge references hanging them by their tails.

In the evenings they are happy to see me, winding themselves sinuously around my legs. Tonight I lay on the rug with them and they came and snuggled; one of them happily rolled upside down and regarded me in that fashion for some time. I remind them to be grateful that their cuteness saves them on a daily basis.

September 7, 2009

open water

swimmers emerge

dudes, I am a superstar. this morning, with no prior training, I leapt into the Columbia River from the tail end of a sternwheeler, and swam a mile to the Oregon shore. a few things about this swim:

because I have done no swimming whatsoever in the last year, with the exception of a long chatty paddle through the warm Pacific waters off the coast of Oahu, I opted to rent a wetsuit. the water today was a balmy 71 degrees, but I wanted the wetsuit primarily because a good one will help you stay afloat. floating is good. sinking is bad. the average water depth in Hood River is 60 feet. no thanks.

an unintended side effect of the wetsuit was looking like Mystique. observe:





hard to tell the difference between us, I know.

no, but seriously, I really lucked out in the gear department. Cristina let me borrow a real swim suit (as opposed to the 2349 bikinis in my collection). the wetsuit fit perfectly and worked so well -- I didn't notice the extra buoyancy until I tried to swim completely underwater and discovered I couldn't keep my legs below the surface. and even my $12 goggles were PERFECT -- stayed on my face during the 7' jump from the boat, never leaked, and never fogged. freaking amazing.

flailing about
so, here's the thing: I am a pretty good swimmer in the sense that, you know, I can mostly keep myself afloat. I have strong legs and a good survival instinct. at the ocean, I can hold my own in the waves. I used to be a lifeguard, although frankly I swam more as a kid than I ever did as a lifeguard. but I did pass the lifeguard test (also with no training).

however, I am not a pretty swimmer. technique has never been a focal point. as a young child I was terrified of getting my head wet, and flunked a level in swim classes three times before they finally let me move on. I never got farther in swimming lessons than learning to keep myself afloat. I taught myself how to dive, and I nearly made my college roommate choke to death in the pool one afternoon when I showed off my butterfly. even the lifeguard laughed.

when you're swimming a mile, it turns out technique is kind of helpful. like, for not drowning. I did fine but boy, it would have been nice if I could have performed a stroke other than the breaststroke for more than 4 or 5 arm rotations. I have a pretty strong backstroke, but when you're in the water with 500 other swimmers and umpteen boats, and when you're actually aiming for a point offshore with no guidepost but a cloud formation, the backstroke is really not encouraged.

so I just resigned myself to flailing along in various strokes -- and by strokes, I mean poor imitations thereof -- for an entire mile. the thing I found especially humorous about the whole situation was that a number of people made assumptions about my swimming ability based solely on looks. "I bet you could swim this in ten minutes," one bystander said to me. another asked me the average temperature of the water, as if I were the kind of person to know. (I did know, actually). I kept the truth to myself: dudes, I am a runner. I am not a swimmer. watch me flail.

one mile
a mile.

one mile is really freaking far.

crossing the columbia
hey, I did it. I didn't need to pull up a paddleboard and rest; I didn't even need to take a nap afterward. I may even escape without soreness. it turns out that swimming a mile is hard, but doable. the triathlon may be in my future now. I've long thought -- as most do, I think -- that the swim would be the scariest of the three events, in part because it's my weakest and in part because, unlike running and biking, if you get tired you can't stop. but I realized today that there's also a certain saving grace in that. regardless of being tired, you have to just keep swimming. as a coworker mentioned in his pep talk to me last week, I am familiar with the task of pushing myself through that awful fatigue. it's easier to do that in a swim because you have no choice. sure, the boats could haul you out, but wouldn't you just rather keep swimming?

I called my mom on my drive back to reassure her that I yet lived. "do you think you'll do it again?" she asked. I told her about the woman in front of me at check-in, who, when asked by the swim volunteer if she was excited, replied, "no way!" and then, when asked why she was participating, replied simply, "it's tradition!" the cross-channel swim celebrated its 67th year this year, and most people on the boat seemed to be returning swimmers. would I do it again? yes. I'm way proud of myself and thrilled to have done it. and, after two years, I'm happy to be finally crossing it off the list.

still alive

September 2, 2009


this week rehearsals have begun for our first show of the season. I met our dreamy Italian maestro yesterday morning in a production meeting, nervously, despite all accounts indicating he is very nice. we begin orchestra readings next saturday, so I am enjoying my free evenings while they last.

over the weekend I flew home to maryland to attend my cousin stephanie's wedding. it's been a long time coming: she and evan had been dating for eleven years, since the tenth grade. he's been part of the family for ages; the wedding was in most ways just a formality. it was a stressful wedding for the bride, her sisters, and my aunt and uncle, and so it was even more gratifying than usual when it went off without a hitch.

of course the bride looked beautiful, and I'll admit to tearing up a couple of times. we grew up together and are still close.
the bride & groom

beauty and the bride

meta photo

the old folks' table
that is my family. despite what the photo suggests, they're really not a bunch of dour puritans. but they were the only full table of people sitting down -- everyone else was dancing.

meanwhile, ashley and I were being ridiculous. yes, that's a glowstick around my neck. it was that kind of wedding.
much better

obligatory chickens:
ella & genevieve

it was good to be home again, albeit briefly. I ate my last snowball of the season (two, in fact, because I couldn't decide between egg custard and chocolate) and played phase 10 with my family. my first night there, I slept at my cousins' house, and it was crazy to be back in the back bedroom, my cousin amy's old room, where as a child and a teen I spent so many countless hours. they were sisters to me when I had none, and I wanted more than anything else to be just like them. it still amazes me sometimes that we're all grown up, and also, somehow, that we all still have each other.

and now I'm working on number four. the other day I strolled out into the living room in a wetsuit. "you look like you stepped straight out of the incredibles," cristina said. never mind that I haven't been running much; never mind that I literally never swim. monday morning I'll be paddling my way through 1.1 miles. eek.

mt hood, plane wing