Tuesday, March 19, 2013

An Ode To The Neighborhood Hardware Store

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published March 21, 2013] © 2013

This is an ode to our two local hardware stores, Meanley’s and Hammer & Nails, along with my fervent hope that they stay in business forever.  Big-box hardware stores like Home Depot certainly excel at range of merchandise, but there is no substitute for humans who (a) you don’t have to flat-out tackle in the aisle to get them to help you and (b) actually know something.

I’ve written before about my twelve years as a single divorced mom and my efforts at home repair, fondly known at the time as the Single Woman Home Repair School. Basically, if it couldn’t be fixed with picture wire, duct tape, or hair scrunchies (a grossly under-utilized tool if there ever was one), it remained, by financial necessity, broken.
I was also fairly fond of brute force – the old kick-the-radio theory – which fixes far more things than you might think.  For example, thwacking the aerator on my kitchen faucet with a large wooden spoon shaped it up instantly.  And it felt so good.

One long-ago day, I had the good fortune to meet Dale who ran Hammer & Nails Hardware.  He convinced me I could actually repair things that had heretofore been out of my exceedingly limited range:  rewiring lamps, salvaging broken garden hoses, and once, crawling under my house (a nasty rat and spider-filled underworld that is my personal vision of hell) on my stomach and pouring a gallon of sulfuric acid into the clean-out pipe to clear my drains. 
At the time, I suspected that the drain project was Dale’s way of ensuring I never came back, or at least not until I had finished my two years of rehab at the local burn center.  But he was always unfailingly optimistic in my abilities to fix things that he knew I couldn’t afford to hire someone to do for me.

“Oh, you can do it, Inga!” he’d counter to my dubious expression, and give me step-by-step instructions along with critical safety tips.  Goggles, a mask, and protective clothing were de rigueur for the drain project, but profoundly clear on my innate lack of mechanical talent, he often advised a fire extinguisher as well. 

Marrying Olof ultimately (mercifully?) put the Single Woman Home Repair School out of business.  Olof still suspects I married him for his skills with a sewer augur (which IS partially true).  He himself grew up working in his own family’s hardware store where he maintains that in addition to learning how to mix paint and make keys, his sum total sex education occurred in the pipe fitting department.   
“Dad,” he remembers saying one day when he was around 10, “why do they call these pipe fittings male and female?”

And Dad, a man of few words, particularly in the sex education department, gruffed, “Well, why do you THINK?” and walked away.  Olof studied the fittings a little longer and had a revelation.
Both Hammer & Nails and Meanley’s were instrumental in my two sons’ engineering educations.  Summer camps for two kids usually cost more than I would make in a week as a clerical so much of the time, I allotted them $10 a day in building supplies: pulleys, ropes, nails, boards, etc. and while I was at work, they built rustic tree forts, rope bridges, swings, bucket systems and even ziplines between the big trees in our front yard.  (I only mention this now because the statute of limitations for felony child endangerment has passed.)  Ironically, I ended up getting it all back and more years later when Meanley’s gave my younger son a $5,000 merit scholarship for his first year of college.

Meanley’s, of course, is the ultimate old fashioned general store, the place that has everything you can’t find anywhere else.  And if they don’t have it, they’ll order it.  And if it’s the wrong thing, they’ll take it back, without making you drive out to Clairemont and stand in an endless soul-crushing returns line.  I consider shopping at my local hardware store, if nothing else, an investment in my spiritual health.

I fear in this era of smaller service-oriented businesses being squeezed out by big-box stores that the Meanleys and Hammer & Nails of the world could soon end up distant memories.  I’m trying to even imagine my life, particularly when I was a single woman, without these two stores.  The lovely Dale has long since gone to the Big Nail Bin in the Sky, but I would never have gotten his faith in me, one-on-one instructions, and endless patience from Home Depot.  Please, shop local – while you still can. 

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Yoga For The Maimed And Feeble

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published March 7, 2013] © 2013 
One of my first columns was about finding a yoga class for someone of my age and auto accident decrepitude.  There’s practically a yoga studio on every corner in downtown La Jolla so one wouldn’t think this was such a problem, especially when one factors in the large demographic of locals who are, well, old.  But La Jolla is nothing if not a competitive community and I have flunked out of more yoga classes than you can count.

No one ever asks me to leave, of course, but if the teacher is having to adapt every pose for me and I’m holding up the class, I start to feel the very un-yoga-ish vibes of photon missiles directed at the back of my head.  I conclude it’s time to pack up my mat and take my chakras elsewhere. 

At this point, I’m pretty good at sizing up whether a yoga class is going to work for me as soon as I walk in the door.  I’m not fooled by the brochure description of the class being “suitable for all levels.”  Yoga studios lie.  I’m sure the goddess Bhuvaneswari is not happy with them about this.

I can tell instantly if I’m in the wrong place if it’s a room full of people half my age (and worse, weight) who are wearing Yoga Attire.  Yoga Attire is characterized by suitable-for-forward-folding Nylon/Spandex tank tops over coordinated sports bras and stretchy pants, hair pulled back into a pony tail with matching scrunchie.  If I’m really in the wrong place, toenails match the bra.  I would be arrested in this outfit, if for no other reason that it would be a crime against humanity to inflict moi’s chunk√© derri√®re  in the downward dog pose to a room full of fellow yogis.  (But it would clear out the room fairly fast.)   

Younger people, inexplicably, sometimes show up at old people yoga.  I think they just want to show off.  They do balance poses without holding onto the wall, the tree pose with nary a wobble.  It is so frickin’ annoying.  

If your best pose isn’t shavasana (the resting pose), you don’t belong in a class with me.  If the room has a rope wall and the teacher has any intention of involving us with it, I can’t flee fast enough.  If the class takes place in one of those intentionally super-heated rooms, I’d have heat stroke.  People my age come with their own internal combustion furnaces.  In fact, in one of my classes, our sweet young genuinely adorable teacher always thinks the room is cold and wonders aloud why we don’t think so too.  From the back of the room comes, “Wait twenty years.”

It has taken a while, but I have indeed found classes with my demographic: Asanas for the Ossified and Svaroopa for the Somewhat Sentient are right up my alley.   But even these have their downside.  During the final relaxation, at least half of the class is snoring.  Loudly.  I mean, if oldies have a single talent, it’s falling asleep instantaneously.

I’m actually fine with snorers; it’s the moaners that disrupt my om-ish serenity.  It’s like they’ve gone into pranayama overdrive.  You begin to think you’ve been transported to the deli scene from “When Sally Met Harry.”  It’s all I can do to keep from hissing, “Do you mind???  Some of us are trying to have some inner peace over here!”

The other thing I’ve noticed in older people yoga is that when we go to put away our props (blocks, blankets, etc.) after class, I am always in line behind the precision blanket folder who decides that all the rest of the people ahead of her did not fold their blankets correctly. You just know exactly what her linen closet looks like.  But my yoga-cultivated calm starts fading fast waiting for her.

Here's one of the reasons why:  Classes are an hour and 15 minutes but parking around yoga studios is generally an hour.  (Note to take this up with La Jolla Town Council.)  That wonderful feeling of oneness with the universe is totally shot to hell when you see your car and ten others around it with parking tickets.  Yoga is a major revenue source for La Jolla.  We haven't done our first cat-and-cow before the evil meter crones swoop in and mark tires knowing they can make their daily quota on yoga classes alone.  But not to worry.  I remind myself that the goddess Bhuvaneswari is going to get them for this.  She doesn't like to be messed with.  Namaste.