Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Yes, They Will Come - But Will They Pay For Parking?

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published Nov. 1, 2017] ©2017
On October 19, the Light ran a story by reporter Corey Levitan entitled “Westfield UTC’s building it, will you come?” 
By coincidence, my husband and I had just been up there the week before for the first time since construction began with the intention of making a quick stop at Macy’s.  On-line shopping may be convenient but there are lots of items, like clothes, that are really nice to see in person before you buy them.  That “quick stop” took 90 minutes.
If you’ve been up there recently, you know that the huge asphalt parking lot on the west side of the shopping mall is now gone, replaced by a brand new Nordstrom and a five-story parking garage that go all the way to the edge of Genesee.  We were astonished that at 10:15 on an off-season Thursday morning, there wasn’t a single parking place on the first parking level and hardly a spot on the second.
Of course, as it turned out, this wasn’t some random Thursday morning: it was opening day of the new Nordstrom.  Phew!  Now, keep in mind that when we parked, it was obvious that the parking area was still very much under construction.  So hopefully when it’s done, there will be better signage, such as: How To Get Out of Here. Seriously, we and multitudes of others were wandering around trying to find any sort of exit that would allow us to get into the mall itself. 
I have shopped at UTC literally hundreds of times since it opened in 1977.  So it was the eeriest feeling to finally find our way into what looked like stores and not recognize anything, including what direction Macy’s might be in.  I had a sudden thought:  is this what dementia is like?  To know that you’re supposed to know where you are but don’t?  Ironically, once we found Macy’s, our purchase took all of ten minutes since it was just to buy slacks for Olof.  It would have been one minute but I made him try them on.
Now, we should have been able to find our car again, no problem, but we somehow missed one of the store landmarks we’d carefully noted. Once finally back at the 5-level parking garage, even knowing we needed Parking Level 2, Section 233, we got totally lost. That is one effing huge parking structure.  The new UTC now sports 5,500 parking places. Assuming you could walk by one vehicle every six seconds, failure to note where you parked could take nine hours to locate your car.
I’d emailed Corey Levitan after his story came out and regaled him with the story of our trying to find our car. He replied, “That would make a great column, Inga. But you have to work in the Seinfeld parking garage episode.”
Frankly, I couldn’t remember that episode but I went back and watched it on YouTube. Yes! Yes! Trying to find our car was EXACTLY like that!  Thanks, Corey!
After the first of the year, Westfield UTC is going to start charging for parking. To add insult to injury, you’d have to PAY for those nine hours looking for your car. 
I would like to say for the record that I think charging for parking at a shopping mall is a seriously bad idea. First, people hate paying for parking on principle.  Secondly, they especially hate paying for parking at a place where they are going to spend money. Third, it would seem you’d want to encourage people to hang around and have lunch or dinner after they’ve shopped. Some emporia will apparently be validating for longer than the two free hours. But who wants to keep track? Fourth, you’re competing with AMAZON, guys!
But here is the biggest reason not to have paid parking. It’s unclear if they are going to have humans in booths handling parking payments; more likely it will be those nasty automated machines. There is always one totally techno-disabled idiot who cannot figure out how to use the machine and holds up the whole line.  I know this for a fact because I am that idiot. I hate lip-reading people disparaging my mother in my rearview mirror. 
But at UTC, the stakes will be much higher.  Let’s say people have gotten back to their car with 10 minutes to spare before they have to pay for parking and they get stuck behind me. Can you say “parking lot rage”? 
Even worse, traffic will be going straight out to Genesee Avenue, a really busy roadway.  It used to back up like crazy BEFORE there was a 5-story parking garage with each car having to stop and feed a ticket into a machine (or settle up with a human). 
So, yes, I’ll come. But unless there’s a human I can hand my ticket to, I may not come back. At Amazon, no one disparages my mother.


Monday, October 16, 2017

Life With Paleo Guy

["Let Inga Tell You," La Jolla Light, published Oct. 17, 2017]

It has really been only in the most recent history that humans – well, first world humans anyway – have had the luxury of deciding what they want to eat. This has led to endless debate and virtually no agreement on what constitutes a healthy food regimen.  I know a number of people, for example, who are currently following the Paleo diet. 

Now, I am in no way bashing the Paleo diet except to comment that a life without ice cream or pasta seems like a cruel way to live.  But when you read about what those guys were actually eating back in the early Stone Age, you gotta wonder whether they would have killed for a loaf of Wonder Bread and a jar of Jiffy.

I was imagining Stone Age family life back in the Paleolithic era where people allegedly lived in caves, but most didn’t simply because there weren’t all that many caves.  Also, there was a lot of competition for cave real estate from wild creatures. I whine about rats but Paleo Mom had to call Hyena-Be-Gone if she wanted to get rid of household pests.

In that era, dinner was basically whatever you could hunt or gather. Eat it or starve. I imagine that starving probably sometimes seemed like the better option. But then, those people didn’t throw their genes forward.   

Now, “gather” has such a nice idyllic sound to it.  When I imagine it, it is never raining. Paleo Mom (women were the gatherers), a couple of kids in tow, meanders the local terrain picking berries, digging for tubers, and trying to create a balanced meal that would satisfy the minimum  daily requirements for iron, folate, and at least a smattering of the B vitamins. Unless, of course, it was winter, in which case she wasn’t picking much of anything. It all depended on where you lived, obviously, but in colder climes, more likely a lot of edible roots and tree bark.  Yummo!

Again, depending on where you lived, you could be finding fruit, nuts, insects, small lizards, and a selection of various sized mammals. The option of getting food that was “out of season” was 35,000 years out.

The “hunting” part is under some debate.  One likes to imagine Paleo Dad loping across the savannah in hot pursuit of a wooly mammoth. Of course, he had to drag it back home once he slew it, or at least the meaty parts.  In my fantasies, the Paleo kids are sitting around the fire when Dad gets home, and instead of greeting him with delight that he has brought home dinner (and that he himself wasn’t the dinner of assorted predators), they whine, “Wooly mammoth AGAIN? That’s all we ate LAST week!” 

But no, I’m guessing that didn’t happen much.  Paleo Mom meanwhile wanted to know, “Does this mastodon pelt make me look fat?” 

While the Mighty Hunter image sounds kind of romantic, it’s been theorized that those Paleo folks didn’t necessarily always kill their own food.  Some anthropologists maintain it was likely that they scavenged meat, fat, and organs from carcasses that larger animals had killed or from animals that had died of natural causes.  Sort of like an early deli. “Look, Thag! The snout is still here! Lunch!”  By this theory, Paleo dieters should probably be eating roadkill. 

It’s always fun to superimpose our lives onto those of our antecedents, especially if trying to replicate their diet.  So I’m thinking about Paleo Mom saying to Paleo Dad, “The Groksteins are coming for dinner on Saturday.  I’m thinking bison or ground sloth, with a side of grasshoppers and fly larvae. Do not even THINK of bringing home any carcasses. Fresh kill ONLY.” 

And Paleo Dad grumbles but goes and picks up his spear. No point in telling her that ground sloths are already extinct and the last bison he saw was 20 miles away. 

So I guess it’s kind of hard to know how healthy the Paleo diet really was for the people who actually ate it. Definitely a lot of protein in those insects.  But a lot of risk in eating a rotting carcass that has sat in the sun a day too long.   Maybe that’s why Paleo Guy was usually dead by 30.

Letting my always-perverse imagination run free, I like to speculate what Paleo Guy would think if he could see into a future world of us trying to emulate his diet (minus the lizards and beetles). Would he say, “That pepperoni pizza you’re eschewing in my name? I would have eaten it in a heartbeat. Unfortunately, home delivery didn’t start until the Mesolithic.”  Would it baffle him why anyone would restrict their diet if they could consume anything they wanted? Would he puzzle over why anyone would eat tofu if they had any other choice?  Much to ponder.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Hoping For A Cure For Colonoscopies

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published October 11, 2017] ©2017
Scientists of the world:  Want a guaranteed Nobel Prize?  Find an alternative to colonoscopies. 
Seriously, you will have the world worshipping at your feet.  There would be mass rallies of ecstatic oldies dancing in the streets, pouring jugs of GoLytely into sewer drains.  For the uninitiated, GoLytely is the citrus-flavored battery acid that patients are required to drink to cleanse their intestinal tract of anything they might have consumed in the last 15 years.  There’s an historic French phrase that has nothing to do with colonoscopies but should be on the label of every bottle: "Après moi, le déluge.”
It is a rite of passage that on your 50th birthday, you open your mailbox to find an AARP card and an appointment for a screening colonoscopy.  Congratulations! You’re old! And you may have cancer of the pooper!
By American standards, people over 50 are supposed to have a screening colonoscopy every 10 years.  I say American standards because a good friend who lives in Sweden asked her physician about getting one.  He laughed and said, “That’s only in America.”
We are so lucky!  Is it too late for apply for Swedish citizenship? (Their colon cancer death rates are only marginally worse than ours.)
I predict that I will get all manner of testimonials from people whose screening colonoscopy saved their lives.  I get it.  In fact, Olof and I have each had cancer, he twice and I once, that we would probably be dead from were they not caught early. But in none of those cases did we have to have our colons blast-capped by electrolytic TNT to find out.
Colon cancer is the second most deadly cancer.  I just wish the search for a less invasive way to diagnose it were the second leading objective of medical research.  Forty million Americans over 50 would thank you. 
As Olof and I know too well, these procedures have risks. You are, after all, dealing with an older population.  Each of us has had one colonoscopy that went normally, which is to say, was merely abjectly miserable.  But each of us has had one that went horribly wrong as well.
When you sign the consent form, you are usually on a gurney at the surgical center decked out in your backless hospital gown and hooked up to an IV, practically delirious from 24 hours of starvation and a 14-hour intestinal power wash. The Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s, extra side of bacon, is only an hour away. So initializing all those little boxes about how there’s one chance in 1,000 of a perforated colon, massive hemorrhage, or stroke is no contest.
When I talked a reluctant Olof into a routine colonoscopy 16 years ago, he’d already had cancer once. So he did the procedure and left the next morning on his scheduled business trip to Dallas.  Twenty-four hours later, he was in the intensive care unit at Baylor Medical Center where he spent five days.
When I was persuaded to have a screening colonoscopy by my primary care doctor four years later, I debated going to Olof’s doctor. After all, if the odds are 1 in 1,000, Olof had used them up so unless this guy had done more than 999 colonoscopies in the interim, he was the safest choice in town. But ultimately I decided to try someone else and the procedure went miserably normally. As did Olof’s second screening colonoscopy five years ago with this same guy.
By almost-70, I should be doing my third screening colonoscopy according to American gastroenterology income standards.  Given that everyone in my family dies of cancer (although neither Olof nor I have a family history of colon cancer) I was persuaded to do an (overdue) second one.
But unlike the first one, this one did not go well, not the least of which was that my blood pressure soared into stroke range. The gastroenterologist summoned Olof back to where I was recovering, the Grand-Slam-breakfast-extra-bacon now a nauseating fantasy, and said, “I am recommending that your wife never have a colonoscopy again.” His report recommended “alternatives.”
Wait! There were alternatives?  Why was I hearing about this NOW? 
Speaking with the doctor several days later, he clarified that those would be a CT scan, or hopefully, the perfecting of DNA testing of the stool, still in development.
There are already “virtual” colonoscopies but they still require the euphemistic “bowel prep” (an experience which gives new meaning to the term “all-nighter.”) You just don’t have to be subjected to the other ultimate euphemism, the “digital optic instrument” (video cam in locations and directions never intended by nature).  
If you’re considering cancelling your colonoscopy because of this column, don’t. We’ve already used up all the bad odds.  No one should die of colon cancer.
But seriously scientists: one day you will be over 50 if you’re not already. Forty million American’s colons are counting on you.