Friday, May 20, 2011

A Husband Trades an Appendage for Pasta

[“Let Inga Tell You”, La Jolla Light, published May 19, 2011] © 2011

For three brief days, my husband was the happiest gout sufferer in America.

He’d still be, except he didn’t actually have gout.

Why, one might reasonably ask, would one be thrilled to be afflicted with such a painful arthritic condition?

A few weeks ago, Olof woke up one morning with a seriously swollen ankle on which he could barely walk.  He didn’t remember injuring it which he thought he would have since he hasn’t been able to exercise much. Since May of 2010, he has pretty much worked seven days a week.

“We just have a lot of business right now,” said Olof.  “But that’s good.”

“Only if you live to tell about it,” I said.

I have had words with Olof about this, because in addition to not getting as much exercise as his wife would like, Olof has cancelled every appointment I’ve made for his annual physical.

“Just to be clear, Olof,” I’d said for months.  “If something happens to you, I am putting you in the cheapest nursing home I can find.  One of those ones you see on Sixty Minutes.”

But despite being totally crippled, Olof, the ultimate Anti-Patient, continued to refuse all medical care and limp off to work.   Five days later, as I was arranging an ice bag around his ankle (the extent of treatment to which he would concede), I noticed that his ankle seemed more swollen than ever.

“OK, Olof.” I said.  “You’re seeing Dr. No first thing tomorrow morning.  I am willing to make a massive scene at your office if you cancel.”

I’ve written about our primary care physician, Dr. No, before.  As in no alcohol, no sugar, no coffee, no starches and even only teeny weeny bits of whole grains.  She has a particular vendetta against pasta.

Dr. No sent Olof for x-rays and labs, citing a preliminary diagnosis of gout.  If so, she informed Olof, he would have to start eating a diet rich in low purine foods, like coffee, bread, rice, and …pasta.

Olof could barely believe his ears.  Did the “p” word actually cross Dr. No’s lips?  And the “c” word (coffee) too?

He called me as soon as he got back to his office, because despite not being able to walk, Olof was still working eighty hours a week.  Just in case she changes her mind, he said, could I start making pasta every night?  Which, by the way, only he can have?

“You want pasta,” he added, “you’ve got to have your own gout.”

That night over dinner, we began to wonder if Dr. No’s draconian dietary standards could have, in fact, caused gout in the first place.  But Olof was one happy guy.  Olof thinks this isn’t a bad trade-off:  he loses a foot but gains pasta.   The only downside would be that it could make his upcoming  business trip to the UK problematical at best.  As a former Air Force pilot, Olof would sooner crawl on all fours to the departure gate than request a wheelchair.

Meanwhile, Dr. No puts Olof on a two day Shock-And-Awe dose of prednisone.  He did a little better but the ankle was still seriously swollen.

The labs took three days to come back.  Definitely not gout.  All arthritic markers were well within normal limits.  Devastated, Olof asked: can we pretend we didn’t hear the lab results?  At least through Monday, or linguine with white clam sauce, whichever comes first?

Meanwhile, Olof’s ankle gradually got better, but not before Dr. No wisely subjected him to an ultrasound for blood clots.  It may have been a blood clot but by the time Olof was successfully bludgeoned into going in, it could well have died of old age and/or boredom.  Olof, meanwhile, maintains that his medical philosophy has once again been vindicated:   If you just leave things long enough, they will either get better or kill you.  Either of which is preferable to seeing a doctor.

Pinnipeds vs. The People

["Let Inga Tell You", La Jolla Light, published May 5, 2011]  © 2011

I have to confess my husband implored me not to write about the seals.  He works hard enough, he says, without having to come home to crosses burning on the front lawn. 

So let me start out by saying that it was incredibly generous of Ellen Browning Scripps to have donated the money for a breakwater at Seal Rock Point some eighty years ago as “a gratuity to children”. 

But in more recent years, WHAT children?

Maybe I just walked by at all the wrong times, but I rarely – pre-seals - saw many children at the Children’s Pool.  In fact, most of the habitu├ęs in the last few decades seem to have been teenagers with group death wishes hanging out on the sea wall during storm surf.  (They’re actually still there, same death wish, going for up-close-and-personal photo-ops with the seals.)

I’m sorry, Ellen, because I know you were very well-intentioned.  And because in 1931, I’ll bet there weren’t that many back yard pools.  Heck, there weren’t that many people (less than a tenth of what there are now.)   And you could probably even park in downtown La Jolla since there weren’t that many cars either.  But the times I took my now-30-something kids to the Children’s Pool, I had to schlep a two-year-old and a four-year-old and all their beach stuff a number of  blocks from my parking place across traffic then navigate down three slippery sets of steps to the beach.  The teeny weeny beach.  The beach that had about fifty feet of water front and if I recall, a rather nasty drop off.

This wasn’t exactly the beach of this toddler parent’s dreams.  As a nice enclosed space where it was fun to wade, it was good.  But if the kids actually wanted to get wet, I found La Jolla Shores or Pacific Beach at low tide preferable and a lot more accessible.

Now, of course, the entire infrastructure of the Children’s Pool is disintegrating. Even the bathrooms have succumbed to decay, replaced by five totally rank view-busting Porta Potties  (a.k.a. The Restrooms of Last Resort) on the street level three flights up. 

But during its heyday, the Children’s Pool enjoyed a definite success.  People in my age group  who grew up here would attest to many happy memories there.  Probably not coincidentally, a number of such acquaintances are among the most vocal members of the Nuke The Seals (as one insists she’d happily do) faction. 

But in my observation, over the last three decades, the Children’s Pool has been pretty much abandoned.   If Ellen had had a crystal ball along with her desire to promote water safety, she would have left a second bequest to the Murray Callan Swim School.  It was there, the Y, the Back Yard Swim program, the Beach and Tennis Club, the family pool or a host of other  swimming locations that kids in the last thirty or so years have been hanging out.

As for the shared use proposal, however appealing the concept is, I’m not seeing tiny kids, tiny beach, wild animals, and coliform bacteria as a winning combination. 

I don’t remember precisely when our controversial Pinnipeds first moved from the adjoining rocks to the sand but I am fairly certain that the seals didn’t stage a Normandy-style invasion against a beachlet of terrified tots.  The beach was pretty much there for the taking.

So what’s going on here?  For some, is this a case of nostalgia run amok?  For others, I have no clue.  Hate marine mammals if you will, but deliberately crossing the rope barrier to torment baby seals in the name of “children” has a logic that I don’t get. 

Assuming the seals are driven from the beach in Ellen’s honor by continued marine mammal mayhem, is this suddenly going to be become a Shangri-La full of frolicking kids again?  Maybe, but not likely.  It will still be a massively decaying structure with impossible parking and a residual seal poop problem akin to Chernobyl. 

There is now a security guard at the Children’s Pool to mediate warfare between the Seal Sadists and the pro-animal Sealots.  The adults in our otherwise-wonderful internationally-renowned community have been polarized by a legal and verbal fight to the death over the exclusive rights of use of a tiny beach that the exclusees abandoned years ago. 

 The kids, meanwhile, are adoring the seals.