On Being A Late Bloomer

This Sunday in PacificNW, the magazine section of the Seattle Times, a piece of my past was right there staring back at me in black and white. A month or so ago, a columnist there, Erik Lacitis, wrote an article about Seattle’s old time diners, the late night joints that operated twenty-four hours a day. One of those was the Dog House, a dive in the Denny Regrade, which was a staple in the early Beau books where it functioned as his home away from home.

Why was that? Because the Dog House was a place I knew well. I was still in the insurance business back then, and the restaurant was only a short walk from my office at Sixth and Stewart. For a single mom raising two kids, the prices couldn’t be beat. For five bucks I could get a tuna melt, endless cups of coffee, and a scoop of ice cream all for five bucks, tip included. The waitresses—definitely not waitstaff back then—were a kick. My favorite, JL, always had a racing form tucked into the pocket of her apron. The steaks served were affordable, but a warning on the menu reminded diners that “tenderness was NOT guaranteed.”

After the original article appeared, several of my fans contacted Erik, telling him that they had learned about the Dog House from reading my books. He sent me a note, asking if I’d be interested in weighing in on the topic, and that’s the article that appeared this past Sunday. Here’s the link, if you’re interested: J.A. Jance Adds Her Memories..

What struck me about the article was seeing that picture of me from back in 1987.My forty-three year-old self was seated in one of the Dog House’s many tattered booths, holding forth on some topic or other. Those were pre-LASIK days, so the lenses in my glasses are thick enough to accommodate my 20/850 and 20/900 vision. That’s a long way from 20/20.

Not surprisingly, the outfit I wore in the photo brought back a slew of memories. In black and white, you can’t make out the details of my light-weight gray wool suit, including the pale flowers woven into the material. It came with a tight fitting bolero style jacket and a flared mid-calf skirt. I remember that I was wearing a dark green, satiny blouse at the time. The black and white photo doesn’t reveal that either, and I often finished the outfit with a pair of high-heeled gray boots.

I bought the suit from Loehman’s back in the old, pre-QFC days when that particular shopping center in Factoria was called Loehman Plaza. That expensive impulse purchase soon became one of the mainstays in my book-signing wardrobe. If you attended signings way back then, you probably saw me wearing it in person. But I loved that outfit, and I wore it for years, until, sadly, the size of my waist no longer matched the size of the skirt.

Now we fast forward seven years from 1987 when the above photo was taken to 1994 when I was coming up on my 50th birthday. I learned from my daughter that Juanita High School had a reading-for-pleasure program in which the whole school shut down for twenty minutes each morning and everyone—teachers, students, staff, administrators, cafeteria workers, and custodians—were required to read something for fun. The only rule was that the reading material had to be something completely unrelated to work. Since I write books people read for pleasure, that was a program I thought I should support.

So I called the principal. I introduced myself, telling him who I was and what I did for a living. I went on to explain that, in honor of their reading-for-pleasure program, I wanted to come to Juanita High School and do an all-school assembly. Not only that, I was prepared to do that for free. I also told him that I wanted to do this presentation on my 50th birthday, the 27th of October.

His reply? “Who are you again? Are you aware that we have a wonderful auditorium that seats 400 people?”

I told him I was offering to do one assembly rather than four and that I was willing to do it for free.

Some time passed after that initial phone call, but eventually he called me back. “It turns out you have a lot of fans here, so you’re welcome to do an assembly, but October 27th won’t work. That’s the day the shop teachers do their pumpkin carving contest.”

I repeated, one more time and for the record, that I wanted to do the assembly on October 27th. I thought it was a no go, but a few days later the principal called me again. “It turns out, some of the shop teachers are J.A. Jance fans. They’re willing to move the pumpkins carving contest to another day.” So it was now a done deal.

At the time, my daughter was working at a movie theater where some of her fellow employees attended Juanita High. The night before the assembly, she came to me and said, “When you go to Juanita High School tomorrow, you should probably wear a long skirt.” It seemed like she was giving me serious advice, so I paid attention. The next morning, I pulled out my trusty gray floral suit with the long flared skirt as well as my high-heeled boots, and off I went.

It turns out that one of the shop teachers at Juanita wasn’t just a fan, he was a huge fan. In honor of my appearance, he had borrowed a Porsche—the kind of vehicle Beau was driving at the time. He loaded me into it and drove me into the gym homecoming queen style where he then handed me out of the vehicle, gave me a bouquet of flowers, and then introduced me to the waiting students.

For someone who had never been homecoming queen material back in high school, it was a very heady moment, and that was the day I learned for good and all the wonderful miracle of being a late bloomer. And last year, when I was invited to attend the Ballard High School 1961/62 reunion, a retired teacher from Juanita High told me that assembly was one of the favorite memories from his teaching days. Wow!

Now, almost thirty years later, I’m a whole different kind of late bloomer. For years, during annual physicals, when doctors asked me about my exercise regimen, I generally told them I got most of my exercise from jumping to conclusions. It was a good joke, but I’m not sure the doctors actually appreciated it. But then, one of them finally made a lasting impression on me, and that’s when I started walking. I don’t know exactly how many years it’s been exactly. I know I started ten-thousand-steps-a-day journey with a FitBit. Eventually I moved on to first an iPhone and finally to my Smart Watch. I’m still not sure if any of those FitBit steps ever made the transition over to the phone.

Today, before sitting down to write the blog, I went outside and finished my steps for the day. In the process I crossed another stepping milestone by moving just past the 21,000,000-step mark. I’m attaching a screenshot as my official report card. If you can enlarge the image enough, you should be able to see the score at the bottom—21,000,006 steps and 8800 miles. That’s a lot of worn out pairs of Skechers, but I’m still walking, and hope you are, too.

Let’s hear it for late bloomers!

38 thoughts on “On Being A Late Bloomer

  1. That’s a great number. You should also start riding a bike. Not electric. Great views around the country and fun exercise

    • The last time I rode a bike I crashed and burned. Not bad enough for stitches, but enough to make me go cold turkey. That was around 1980.

  2. I love the story and also the Fitbit news. I look forward every week to your stories. They have very interesting plots and situations. Thank you for doing that, and thank you for making my day with them.

  3. Thank you again for being in my late life. So many path crossings between us . unbelievable!. Chuck from Tacoma.

  4. When I clicked on your “memories” link. This is what I got, so I can’t see the picture. Bummer.
    Since I cannot show you the print screen, just know I was blocked

  5. At 17 I learned that love
    was meant for football stars
    With muscled bods and
    their own cars

    With apologies to Janis Ian

    • I’m sure Janis would approve. I’m going to forward your comment to her.

  6. Next week I leave California on a “road trip” with my daughter to Enid, Oklahoma where I will attend Enid High’s class of 1963’s 60th class reunion. I missed the first reunion because I had just given birth to her. Then my name and address went missing from their records. I was “re-discovered” via a comment made on Facebook when I mentioned pushing my older sister in her wheelchair up the hill on the way to school (Everyone remembers Paula Jo, the first handicapped child allowed to attend our public schools in the 1950s and 60s. No one remembers me.) The “highlight” of the celebration will be the tour of the newly renovated high school with its new fine arts wing and huge P.E. facilities.

    My life after my husband died June 17, 2021 is different from anything I ever imagined. My son remarried. His wife, Mindy, is a doctor of physical therapy. They purchased a new home after returning from their honeymoon in Hawaii. My daughter and her husband bought a new home a few weeks earlier. My sister, brother and his wife have all visited a couple of times. I have a backyard full of roses (my husband’s on-going promise from our early marriage) and a front yard full of gorgeous California Golden Poppies, two orange trees, and some other flowering bushes. I spend a lot of time gardening. Now that I do not need to wait for “permission” or “agreement” I have completed all but three of the “upgrades/repairs” that I had been wanting done before Covid shut down our state. Each day is a new adventure. I miss him, but I do not feel “incomplete” without him.

  7. Congrats on your high mileage…..?????your one and only “Northern Arizona Stalker”…. A big reader if JA……Dann

  8. LOVE YOUR UPDATES (or look backs)
    I enjoyed hearing you reminisce about the Dog House. It is a place I think I would have liked, with Beau of course.
    You bring people and places to life with your words.

  9. I too remember the Dog House Restaurant…very well as a matter of fact. I worked for NOAA on their ships homeported at the Pacific Marine Center on Lake Union from 1977-84. After a many a pub crawl, (Victoria Station, Eastlake Zoo, Bogey’s, Fat Alberts, et. al) we would often end up at the Dog House for the late night repast! I also remember columns in the Seattle Times by Erik Lacitis. Thanks for the memories!

  10. Love this and love reading your blog.
    I’m not able to use the link. Are any other readers having trouble with the link?

    • I am told I must be a subscriber to get past the first few paragraphs. It does include your photo, so I got to see the suit.

  11. When I read Until Proven Guilty and JP went to the Doghouse, it brought back a flood of memories of going there with my grandparents. I cannot thank you enough for that! I loved that mural on the wall, with the woman chasing her hubby with the frying pan…lol.
    Thank you again!

  12. my great grandmother owned and ran a diner in Pike Place Market in the 30’s and 40’s but I never learned the name—at the end of the day she let her daughter-in -law who worked for her (my own grandma) take home the leftover food to feed her family, which included my dad who was a teenager at the time. This was during the depression in Seattle days. Later in the 50’s they moved to “the country”–rural Factoria/Bellevue to get away from city life.

  13. I think I just like to read what you write no matter what! I love the emails. I loved this story about the Dog House (Doghouse) and your clothing. I was saddened I couldn’t see your walking total and there was a message in the email “This image was hotlinked.” Whatever that means. I just know I couldn’t see it! I told a librarian in my town about you and your books and about J.P. Beaumont. Particularly about the new unit he works for S.H.I.T. She thought that was pretty funny!
    The only complaint I have is the rehash in every book. I just skip over all that. I read them in order so I knew about J.P. and how he came to the new Unit and how Joanna Brady became sheriff. Only needed to read it once!
    Still love all the books! I think the Brady ones are my favorite!

    • Please send me an email at jajance@me.com so I can sen you the two links. As for the rehash? There are always new readers coming into the fold and I need to bring them up to date on background. I try to do so without boring long time readers to tears, but it’s very much like walking a tightrope. By the way the actual number was 21,000,006.

  14. Loved the story! Congratulations on the steps achievement!

    It’s always wonderful to be remembered for those type of events.

    And, like you, I say hurrah for being a late bloomer. I am 62 (63 in June) and am trying ot walk more, lose weight etc. It can’t hurt!

    Take care!

  15. I was delightfully surprised to see your picture in the Sunday paper and read your comments regarding the Dog House Restaurant. Our family went there often including my grandparents, 4 generations after my children were born. I don’t tolerate smoke well, but the food was worth exposing myself for an hour or so. I have a picture of my late mother and I there on a day or so before it closed for good. Bitter sweet dinner. Lots of family memories there. So glad they recognized you in the article. As a lifetime Greater Seattleite, I love the Beaumont series as I can visualize exactly where he is in your books.

  16. Good for you that you’ve kept up on your walking. You should be very proud of yourself.

  17. Love these slices from you interesting life. It is like having desert early once a week.

  18. I almost went to the Ballard high School 61/62 reunion last year. Both of my parents were graduates in the class of 1961. Unfortunately, mom passed away in 2003 and my dad now lives in Rhode Island where he’s being cared for with dementia. I got started reading your books with a very first one and I too remember the dog house very fondly. Five bucks, good food , and great people. I now live in Phoenix where my husband and I retired and we chose the area because of you and your books. We moved here just at the same time that you moved up to Seattle! Love the books. Looking forward to all the JP’s

  19. I wasn’t a late bloomer to walking because when I was a child my mother did not drive, so we walked back and forthe to our grade school unless it was raining, in which case my Dad would somehow fit us all into his business car, but we would walk home in the rain.

    But early on I noticed how no matter how I feel when I started walking, my spirits always rose during a long walk. I still walk daily. (unless travel prohibits it) and my general goal is 16,500 steps. I am 74 now so while not a late bloomer in th conventional sense I think of myself as still blooming and know that all my relationships are better because of my walking habits.

  20. Those are Wonerful memories ! & of clothes Thx for sharing & Congrats!!!(Loved the jumping exercise joke—u brighten up this ol’ world ???

  21. I was cleaning this morning and found Beau’s adventure “Taking the Fifth” under the desk. Guess what I’ll be reading tonight? This is the case of a blue high-heeled shoe being the murder weapon. It’s book #4.

    I love the story about the Dog House and your photo. It must have been a really pretty suit. Don’t you hate it when you can’t wear things any longer? Even tho they were probably annoying, I like your glasses.

    Keep well and walking.

  22. I went to my 50th high school reunion, a year late due to covid, last summer. It’s always disappointing when more locals don’t come but I did enjoy myself. Only one of my friend group came. We had tours of the Middle school and high school, so many great changes I wish we had had. Time flies.

    • Tours! What a good idea! I am going to suggest it for the next gathering. (My 50th reunion was last summer.) I didn’t even think about trying to go into one of the buildings, since it was summer. Just did a drive-by.

  23. Yes hooray for late bloomers! What a fun read. My Fridays are always a little better when your blogs show up in my inbox. Thank you!

  24. Judy, I too was/am a late bloomer. You story is inspiring. I’ve read everything I can get my hands on by j.a.jance! Please keep those fingers typing!

    Yesterday I read an article by Captain Seth Keshel (ret.), army logistics officer about drug smuggling cartels. It reminded me of the evil villianess, Graciella, from “Man Overboard” (if my memory serves me). I’ve provided a link to the article, in case you would like brain fodder for a new episode with FRIGG. You always manage to spin a fine yarn!

  25. What a great blog – and loved the old picture!
    I used to shop at Loehman’s when we lived back East…don’t think there are any out here in AZ – closest would be CA.
    I think you are still blooming – keep it up!
    PS – please send the links you mentioned to Mary Williams – I was unable to see the attachment as well.
    Thanks for being you!

  26. I am happy to say that I have been to the Doghouse more than once. Our mutual and dear friend Leslie Nisbett (Larkin), now sadly deceased, took me the first time for a book signing of your very first book that Leslie gave to me. I started out as Leslie and Ross’s housekeeper andwe became fast friends. We also enjoyed our mutual love of books, especially yours. The Doghouse days were before Bill days but my late husband and I met you both at their annual Christmas party. I then had the pleasure of visiting with Bill several more times at other book signings usually at South Center. I am so happy you found each other and have made such a great marriage. The Doghouse is long gone but my love of your books still remains. Keep it up as long as you possibly can. We DTB lovers enjoy every book you write. God bless you and yours.

  27. My Mom was a waitress at the Doghouse. Her brothers drove for Gray Top cabs. We spent alot of years in Seattle dives.
    Congratulations on your walking achievements. You are an inspiration.

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