Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Dawn's Way Too Early Light

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published March 1, 2017] ©2017
Finally I’m living the life I was meant to live. I just had to wait 65 years for it.
My whole life I’ve been a night person, or more specifically, NOT a morning person. But until I retired a few years ago, circumstances maliciously forced me to live the life of people who were compelled to get up in darkness. The second that alarm went off, I’d lose my will to live. Sometimes for days at a time. I’ve always felt that alarms were cruel and unusual treatment. It didn’t even matter if it was soothing music from a clock radio or a jarring alarm. Unnatural awakening is unnatural awakening.
I actually know people who like to get up early. It’s obviously a birth defect.  It just goes against nature to wake up before it’s light. Cave people knew this instinctively.  Personally, I am of the belief that anything before 10 a.m. is still the night before.
In my first marriage, I was married to a morning person. This should be a screening question on a marriage license application. Morning people should be legally enjoined from marrying night people. One person I know who would absolutely agree with this is my former husband.
On vacation, for example, crazy psycho morning people want to get up two hours earlier than usual while nice normal night people want to sleep two hours later which is the whole purpose of a vacation.
Night people would never throw a plastic tarp over a sleeping spouse so they can get an early start painting the bedroom ceiling. (You know who you are.)
I concede that sunrises are beautiful. If only you didn’t have to get up so early to see one.
I mean, it’s not like I haven’t seen plenty of sunrises in my life, especially while feeding an infant. They have absolutely no respect for the rest requirements of their parents.
I’ve also experienced a fair number of sunrises en route to the airport for an o-dawn-thirty flight to the east coast. What with TSA lines now, you have to get up at 3 a.m. which even morning people would have to concede is in the middle of the night. I admit that the soft light looks really pretty on Mission Bay as those gluttons-for-punishment, the rowers, glide across the glassy water.
Which leads us to the third way I’ve seen a lot of sunrises: as the glutton-for-punishment parent of one of those rowers. OK, I get that you have to row when the water is quiet if you don’t want the boat to be swamped. But for all four years of high school, my younger son Henry was a rower which necessitated him being on site at the boat house as the first potential ray of light peeped over the horizon. One of the happiest days of my life was the day he got his driver’s license and I heard the car pulling out of the driveway to rowing practice without me in it.
But there were still frequent regattas in not-nearby places like Long Beach and Newport Beach for which the rowers had to be on site at precisely 6 a.m.   This meant that we had to be on the road at 4 a.m.  Henry would be snoozing in the back seat while I fed cups of industrial-strength coffee to the semi-conscious Olof who was driving. We’d turf Henry out at the dock then go have breakfast in the dark at the Denny’s in Long Beach, watching the sun come up over the bright yellow obnoxiously cheerful Denny’s sign, the sight of which I hate to this day. 
And then, of course, I frequently had to get up before dawn for work, depending on what season of year it was. And that’s my second favorite thing about retirement: waking up when I want to. If I’d known how good retirement was, I’d have spent my entire working career being despondently depressed.
The other side of not having to get up early is that you can read late into the night.  Some (my second husband would be one of them) would consider it the next morning. In my frantic single working mom years, I managed to read one book a year. Now I get to read three a week. 
The only way I’d willingly see sunrises again is in a recumbent position. This, I discovered, can be achieved if you live in an east-facing high rise where you can angle your bed toward the window. I have a friend who lives in one. You open your eyes as all that pretty pink light floods in and then as soon as it’s over, hit the automatic curtain closer button, flip over, and go back to sleep until a civilized hour.
If I can’t have that, I’ll just watch the video.


Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Getting An 'A' In Uber

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published February 15, 2017] ©2017
I recently saw an article on MSN about how you can find out what rating Uber drivers have given you. There wasn’t any doubt in my mind that it would be a perfect 5. I only get A’s. I do not do B+.  I am also an Uber driver’s dream: I’m standing out front when they arrive, regardless of the weather. I chat it up with them, am insanely cheerful, always give THEM a 5 and never fail to write a message of praise for their Ubering skills in the comments section. 
So I was stunned – and stunned is actually way too mild a word – to discover that my rating from drivers was 4.89.  WHAAAAAT?????  I’d love to get my hands on that driver (or drivers) who gave me less than a perfect score.  I even gave a 5 to the driver who blasted Christmas music in my ear at 120 decibels AND the one who took me ten miles out of my way. I demand an explanation!
But the app doesn’t provide explanations. Just an average score.
Seriously, this is haunting me. I take Uber a lot. My driving parameters definitely narrowed after a serious auto accident several years ago, and I also don’t like to drive at night.
Personally, I think Uber (and Lyft) are the best ideas of the new millennium. Unlike taxis who aren’t inclined to show up for short hauls, Uber is relentlessly reliable. Over the years I’ve given many elderly women rides home from the supermarket after the cab that the store manager has called for them failed to show up. Normally these women would never have gotten into a car with someone they didn’t know but by the time they’ve been sitting on a folding chair for two hours watching their groceries thaw, stranger murder doesn’t sound too bad. But now there’s Uber.  My whole outlook on aging has changed knowing I will not have to be a supermarket folding chair lady.
And Uber has so many applications! I love to tell the story of my son and daughter-in-law going to a dinner party in L.A. and forgetting the chocolate soufflé that my daughter-in-law, a fabulous cook, had promised to bring for dessert. My son thought he’d end up missing the whole party while he drove back home in L.A. Friday night traffic to retrieve it. But in an inspired moment, he sent an Uber car to his home where the babysitter handed off the soufflé to the driver who delivered it to the dinner party. (For the record, the soufflé gave the driver five stars.)
So now I’m second guessing myself.  Am I TOO chatty? Should I be sitting in the front seat?  Usually I automatically climb in the back except for one time this past December when my uber-friendly woman Uber driver with the heavy Southern accent patted the front seat as I got in and said, “Come sit up here with me, honey!”  Learning that I was headed to a medical center for a scary test, she suddenly raised her head skyward (I was kind of wishing she’d keep her eyes on the road), and began a prayer for me that lasted pretty much the whole trip.  “Lord Jesus, I am here with your servant Inga and I pray that in your infinite wisdom you will spare her!”  (I figured I could use all the help I could get.) But then the prayer took an ominous turn: “But it’s all up to you, Lord, so if you should decide it’s Inga’s time to join you in heaven then—“
WTF?  “Wait!” I said. “Stop talking!” As far as I was concerned, we were good with amen-ing after the sparing part. And fortunately, I was indeed spared. (That driver got the War & Peace of good comments from me.)
So why don’t I have a perfect 5?  Could it be about the tip? (Or lack thereof?)  I confess I do tip sometimes but not always. Uber makes such a big deal about not needing to tip. And it really IS nice not to have to be carrying bills in tip denominations. (Like most people, I live by my debit card.) But maybe this was at least one driver’s way of expressing his unhappiness that I live in La Jolla and couldn’t cough up a tip, my sparkling personality notwithstanding.
I’ve even tried to figure out the math of my 4.89. Was it just one driver who really just wished I’d shut up and gave me a 2? Or maybe a couple of mildly tip-disgruntled 4’s?  But now that I know my score I’ll be rigorously checking my rating after every ride. Goes down and that driver is toast. I have a reputation to maintain.


Monday, February 6, 2017

We Shouldn't Have Done It

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published February 8, 2017] ©2017
I just want to say, there were extenuating circumstances. And if you’re an art collector, please read no further.
When my first husband, a physician, finished his two year commitment to the Navy and opened his private practice, we were really short of money. We’d bought our home on a 100% VA loan, even borrowing the closing costs. My husband had paid his own way through college and medical school, and would pay off medical school loans until he was 48.
So there wasn’t a lot of money for art.  In fact, none at all. The few inexpensive prints we owned were now hanging in his new office leaving the walls of our house totally bare.
A favorite low-cost date for us in the mid-1970s was to go to an opening at one of the small galleries in La Jolla. It was fun to drink some wine and look at the art, chatting it up with some of the other cheapskates who were there for the same reasons that we were.
At one of these openings, my ex and I stood pondering a 3’ x 4’ oil depicting a daisy petal. It was basically an off-center yellow blob on a white background with assorted black and white petals disappearing into the frame. It cost $1,500, a chunk of money at the time.
Now, both of us, to our admitted detriment, had failed to ever take an art history class so we often struggled to understand why a particular work was considered “art” as opposed to a cruel psychology experiment to see who would be duped into thinking this utterly minimalist work (in our uneducated view) was worth that kind of money.
My husband suddenly had an idea. “I think I could duplicate this,” he whispered. Even we weren’t so gauche as to whip out a pencil and sketch it on the spot.  But we were not so gauche as to come creeping back a few nights later after dark when the gallery was closed, press our noses against the glass, and sketch away. 
The next day we stopped off at the art store on Cass St. and purchased a canvas, and some black and yellow oil paints.  As my husband painted, I concluded that the composition lacked a certain pre-Raphaelite je-ne-sais-quoi while he noted that the asymmetrical focal point emboldened the saturation of the petals creating a contemporary but evocative aesthetic with its own stylized drama.  We may not have taken any art history classes but we’d hung around at a fair number of art openings by that time.
Forty-five minutes later, “The Daisy” (as we unimaginatively entitled it) was hanging, still drying, in our guest room. It wasn’t as though we weren’t aware that this was technically art forgery, but we rationalized that we weren’t trying to sell it. We just wanted a little color.
About a year later, we had invited some new friends to dinner, another physician and his wife, also just starting in private practice. We were giving them a tour of our little house and when we collectively walked into the guest room, their eyes were suddenly riveted on the daisy painting. “Where did you get that?” they wanted to know.
And thus we regaled them with the story of seeing this painting at a gallery, deciding it was pathetically easy to copy, and wondering who in their right mind would pay $1,500 for the thing.
As it turned out, they would. And did.
I mean, seriously, what were the odds?  Actually, much higher than you might think, given that we subsequently recalled that we had first met them at an opening of another gallery. It goes without saying that dinner was acutely awkward, and we never saw them again.
While going through a photo album recently, I came across a picture of our guest room in 1977 with the daisy picture hanging over the bed. After the dinner guest fiasco, we knew we should take it down. But we hated to blow our $17 investment.
Ultimately, however, our consciences prevailed and it ended up in an alley dumpster in the dead of night.
Forty years later, I find myself wondering: Is the original of “The Daisy” now a classic studied by art students the world over? Is it revered for its uncompromising timeless boldly-organic vibrancy?  Or is it all about the light?  Are those folks who bought it now lending it out under armed guard to galleries the world over, basking in the prescience of purchasing a piece now worth $2,000,000? 
I’m hoping that the bona fide owners of the daisy painting have long since retired in Jackson Hole and will not see this column.  But if they do: we’re sorry.  We shouldn’t have done it. And I promise: we never did it again. 
The daisy picture hangs in our guest room, 1977