Monday, November 26, 2012

Game On!

[Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published Nov. 29, 2012© 2012

This column was a collaborative effort between the Light’s Inga, and Laura Walcher, humor columnist at the Presidio Sentinel.  It is running concurrently in both papers.

Inga:  At the San Diego Press Club Journalism Awards in 2010, the first year that my column in the La Jolla Light was eligible, I won second place in the Humor division after Laura Walcher, who writes for the Presidio Sentinel.  Sensing (correctly) that she would continue to be my chief competition, I hunted her down looked her up, and invited her for coffee.  Annoyingly, she was incredibly nice, and as she had been in the column biz a lot longer than I had, even shared some hot tips. 

Laura: Uh-oh.  I was only “nice” to disguise my cut-throat competitive nature.  I’m hoping she really embraces my long-discarded tips.   

Inga:  We put each other on our distribution lists.  This was not altogether a great idea.  One of Laura’s pieces would show up in my In-box and I’d laugh myself silly, followed by a sober realization:  Dang!  I just lost again!  And sure enough, in 2011, she was again first and I was (again) second.  Was I simply going to have to outlive her to ever get first?   Now, I suppose I should have been happy with second, but I’m a veteran of many years of youth sports.  Second is the first loser. 

Laura:  “First” is SO my favorite!   If you’re going to win first, best that you boot some super contender - that’s so satisfying!

Inga: Our awards are judged by a press club in another city to avoid all the ugly politics that are rampant in, well, politics.  Laura’s style couldn’t be more different than mine, definitely more highbrow.  I feared that some stuffy press club with pretentions, like San Francisco, was probably judging ours (I don’t think they even HAVE a Humor category) and I was doomed in perpetuity.  The awards committee won’t reveal which club does the judging, probably to avoid the potential of mail bombs from people who come in second (not mentioning any names).  But surely Arkansas has a press club?  I could totally take Laura down.

Laura: I am SO excited.  “Highbrow” is just not a word that normally describes me.  Must be my New York City origins?  Or, Inga just has more courage: she sends up her neighbors, friends, family, pets SO high. Mine would stop talking to me altogether.  Besides, mine provide less “material” all the time; now that my grand-children are teenagers, they’re just NOT THAT FUNNY ANYMORE. 

Inga:  Fortunately, the kids live out of town and Olof is simply resigned to being fodder.  The neighbor whose sex life I wrote about used it to pimp dates.  The pets have retained counsel.

Laura:  The thing we have in common, though, is that we never write fiction.  Life provides. What worries me, though, is that, one of these days, she could have better material - I mean, just TAKE Olof, her husband; he’s such a source.  (“Olof” - ?  Hmm, to preserve the marriage, that name might be “fiction.”)

Inga:  October 23 was the 2012 Press Club awards, and Laura was one of the first people I saw when I got there. I thought I had some strong contenders (the Humor category awards go to individual columns) but so did she.  This year, I got first and she got second.  I figured that if I couldn’t be a gracious loser, I could at least be a gracious winner.  I gave her my heartiest (nyeh nyeh) congratulations.

Laura:  Well, per chronology, she could outlive me.  Then, she can try all my tricks?  But now, she’s finally made a serious impression on journalism judges, probably because this year’s judging panels have no sense of humor. 

Inga:  As for the 2013 Press Club awards?  Game on!



Sunday, November 11, 2012

The Best Neighbor In The World

["Let Inga Tell You,"  La Jolla Light, published Nov. 15, 2012] © 2012 

It’s a good thing we adore our next door neighbor, Bert, because for all practical purposes, he and Olof and I live together. 

Sixty-five years ago, an obviously inebriated architect chose to ignore the collective 19,000 square feet of our two lots and build two houses a mere ten feet from each other.  Worse, the houses are oriented so that rather than being parallel, our houses face right into each other.  I’m trying to even imagine how any of this worked before 1955 when a six foot fence and a Japanese privet hedge were installed that created at least the illusion of any privacy.

Fortunately for us, the neighbors who have inhabited this house, have, bar one, been wonderful – a PSA pilot and his white go-go-booted flight attendant wife, then for 25 years a lovely spinster school teacher who was either hard of hearing or driven to defensive deafness by the 150 decibel activities of our kids directly under her TV room window. 

The next folks (see “bar one,” above) turned out to be drum-playing house flippers.  (I keep thinking that if I just changed the first letters of that phrase I could make it sound really obscene).  There was nothing they liked better than having the family over on a Sunday afternoon and playing drums for seven straight homicide-inducing hours.  They might as well have been playing in our living room, as among the many stupid things they did in their brief (but still over-stayed) tenure was remove all the sound-blocking foliage between our two homes, and also put in master bedroom windows on the side of the house facing us. 

There was a good reason no windows were put in on that side originally.  Suddenly there was no conversation in that bedroom, never mind other activities, that we were not fully, completely, and occasionally vomitously privy to. 

When they flipped the house to the hunky, wonderful, single Bert, he wasn’t initially aware of the lack of auditory privacy between his bedroom and our home.  But we were ultimately able to subtly, if unorthodoxly, communicate this to him.  (I even won a Press Club award for that column!)
Our houses are truly in such close proximity that in the summer when everyone’s windows are open, if Bert sneezes, we say “Gesundheit.”  I always know when the Yankees are on, and on a play by play basis, how they’re doing. 

Being a hunky (I really can’t emphasize this enough) 6’4” athletic guy, we often get strange sound effects from the other side of the fence, the origin of which provide Olof and me with many hours of cheerful conjecture in our otherwise dull and boring lives.  One Sunday morning as we read the paper out on the patio, we could hear the sound mere feet away of something (someone?) being horrifically beaten.  Hopefully not his lovely girlfriend, Diane?  Should we be taking notes for our subsequent interviews on Dateline? 
“Well, Lester, we first suspected that Diane was buried under the house after…”
Turns out it was just Bert working out with a golf impact bag.  More recently, we were eating dinner when we were seriously alarmed to hear Bert desperately gasping for air.  We looked at each other.

Olof:  New workout regimen?

Inga:  Accidentally hung himself with the phone cord?

Fortunately, the answer was (a).  No wonder Bert is so hunk-, er, fit!

When all of the power went out in Southern California last September, I chatted with Bert through the fence as he cooked on his grill (he prefers fish) and I sat out in the moonlight with my glass of wine. 

Last fall, the 1955 hedge and fence between our houses precipitously died/fell down obliterating any privacy between our homes for a month. I sat at my desk in my nightgown answering email and watching Bert watch sports recaps in his living room until he went to bed at 11:05.  A rebuilt fence restored some privacy to us both but until the new hedge grows up, I now stare into Bert’s shower from my kitchen window.  Bert is 6’4” and hunky (sorry, I know I said that already) and my husband, Olof, accuses me of topping the new hedge every time it threatens to obliterate the view. 

A base canard, of course.  Bert recently told me through the fence that he had cut back the hedge because the new motion lights outside his window seemed to be going off and on all night.  OK by me!

If you’re going to live in this kind of proximity to a neighbor, it helps that they’re the best neighbor in the world. When we were out of the country for two years on a work contract a few years ago, Bert saved our landscaping and aviary birds more times than we could count when the people who were supposed to do it didn’t.   We’re destined to be friends forever if for no other reason than we have waaaaay too much on each other at this point. 

The only thing that worries me is wondering what HIS version of this column would be.  Name your price, Bert.