Saturday, February 17, 2024

The Weather-Averse Life Of The Southern California Dog

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light,, published February 19, 2024] ©2024

The recent rains have highlighted the unique habits of a breed of canine known as The Southern California Dog.  Our bichon-poodle mix, Lily, is in this category.

The Southern California Dog is characterized by a total aversion to getting his or her tiny paws wet. Forget their actual fur.

“Averse” is actually too mild a term.  Lily, for example, is absolutely offended by wet grass or pavement. If it is so much as sprinkling, she will walk out to the end of the front porch, sniff the air, and go back inside with a “Sorry, don’t need to go that badly” look.

The problem, of course, is when it gets to the point that she does need to go out that badly. 

With rain in the forecast, Olof and I study the radar maps with the express mission of scheduling Lily walks.  On more than one occasion, I have gotten up at 5 a.m. to wake up the dog and haul her fluffy reluctant bum outside for a stroll around our front yard in advance of a morning storm.  In addition to hating rain, the Southern California Dog does not wish to be woken from slumber.

Lily does have a doggie raincoat, the mere sight of which causes her to hide under the most inaccessible place in the house she can find.  Extracting her from under there is a two-person chore, never mind wrassling her resistant self into the raincoat.  If she could use a cell phone, she’d be calling the SPCA to report us for infliction of sartorial cruelty. 

I can’t even imagine what we’d do if we lived in a climate that might require booties.

If it’s actually raining without a break in sight, as happened recently, and it’s clear we are going to have to take Lily out against her will, I do my best to stick Olof with this chore.  Unlike me, he doesn’t have a coif or wear glasses.  I would, of course, be happy to use an umbrella but both Lily and our previous dog, English bulldog Winston, had a puzzling but abiding fear of them.  Maybe because they don’t see them that often. I’m guessing the Pacific Northwest Dog overcomes its fear of umbrellas pretty quickly.

But taking The Southern California Dog out while you’re holding an umbrella simply results in the animal pulling away in fear so hard on its leash that you can’t get them to focus on the task at hand. 

We really do our best to keep Lily from getting wet.  Her bichon-poodle fur seems to be a non-dryable water-absorbent sponge, especially the fur on her head.  Seriously, if anyone needs to invent a product that will never, ever dry, start with poodle hair.  If we try to blow her dry, she’s not having that either, even with the hair dryer on the lowest barely-warm setting.  To her, there’s a time and place for everything, and the place to her for a blow dry is at the groomers.  She will let them blow dry her.  Must be all in the wrist. 

A further compelling reason to keep Lily from getting wet is that her preferred drying method is to race around the house at warp speed, stopping for a quick wet-dog-smell-dispensing roll on every bed, upholstered chair, and sofa, before tucking herself in for a final dry and nap on Olof’s pillow.

Which brings us to an important question.  Even people who don’t own pets will recognize “wet dog smell,” a highly distinctive odor that can make the trip back from an excursion to Fiesta Island with your wet dog in the car seem like several lifetimes.

Inquiring minds want to know: what exactly makes a wet dog smell so, well, miasmic?

It turns out that eau de chien mouillé isn’t actually the fault of the dog at all. 

The culprits are microorganisms like yeasts and bacteria that take up residence on your pet, leaving behind "micro excreta" in the form of organic compounds.  The signature scent comes from moisture evaporation that carries some of these compounds with it.  

The odor of wet dog has been characterized as "a mixture of scents, including almond, fruit, honey, and mushroom, with hints of sulfur and feces."  Sounds like a diner lunch special gone waaaay wrong. 

Obviously dogs in other climates, which is to say pretty much everywhere in the U.S. except Southern California, have to adapt to weather. Here's my theory as to why The Southern California Dog is so reluctant to do so. 

People move to Southern California with the expectation that it will never be too hot or too cold, that rain will occur at night while they're sleeping and have dried up by the time they awaken, and that climatological elements should not be an inconvenience to their non-weather-afflicted existence.  I guess we shouldn't be too surprised that our dogs think so too.  

 Lily, absolutely miserable in her raincoat

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Suffering For The Sake Of Beauty

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published February 12, 2024] ©2024

As much as I enjoy the late-19th century show The Gilded Age, I can’t help but be preoccupied by what had to be the sheer discomfort of those corset- and bustle-afflicted dresses. Taking a deep breath seems like it would be problematical, using a restroom even more so.  In fact, when you think of bathroom stalls now, you’d need two to even get the whole dress in there, never mind actually, er, perform.

It was probably not too surprising, then, that in 1913 when 19-year-old Mary Phelps Jacob patented the first modern bra (short for brassière) composed of two handkerchiefs and some ribbon, the idea was an instant success. 

Well, not quite instant.  After attempting to manufacture her design in what amounted to a two-woman sweatshop in Boston, she sold her patent to Warner Brothers Corset Company who were already manufacturing “comfort corsets” (an oxymoron if there ever was one).  Dr. Lucien Warner, the physician-founder of the company, had been concerned about the ill effects on a woman’s health of having her internal organs essentially relocated to parts of her body where they were not intended. 

Warner Brothers Corset Company apparently made $12.8 million off Mary Phelps Jacob’s patent. (Why is there not a commemorative coin with Mary’s picture on it?).  During the flapper movement and Jazz Age in the 1920’s, however, women largely lost interest in both corsets and their partner-in-undergarments, pantaloons. 

But ways to sartorially torture women were simply morphing.  The corset was replaced by the panty girdle, a garment I remember way too well from my teenage years.  Girdles often had garters on which to attach one’s nylon stockings in the pre-pantyhose era.  Panty hose were one of the greatest inventions ever, in my view, in times when going bare-legged in a dress or skirt was simply not done.  Once there were pantyhose, it was also a great excuse to jettison the girdle too.  And best yet, being bare legged in a dress is now perfectly acceptable, unless you’re in the British Royal Family.  The late Queen apparently had a strict rule against it.

Of course, there are plenty of “shape wear” brands still out there, often alleging to be “comfortable” (ha!) while re-distributing one’s unwanted adipose into a more flattering configuration.  I remember shopping for a mother-of-the-groom outfit for my younger son’s wedding and the sales lady opining, “Of course, you’ll want shape wear with this.”  And I looked at her and said, “Hell no!  I plan to enjoy this event in full comfort!” 

Right as I was starting college, the other biggest boon to my life besides pantyhose was just making its debut.  We’re talking hot rollers.  I had spent my entire teenage life being crucified nightly on brush rollers, hair curlers with brush spikes (like a bottle brush) that you rolled up your entire head of hair in so that it would become curly while you theoretically slept but actually didn’t because you were in too much pain. 

My voluminous quantities of hair, alas, if left un-abused by brush rollers, looked like I had a mattress on my head.

With hot rollers, you could actually get a good night’s sleep and then wake up, plug in the set, roll up your hair, wait ten minutes, and voilà!  Seriously, it revolutionized my college life.   And decades thereafter. 

I should mention that there are still salons somewhere out there who do what is called a “wet set” where they roll your wet hair up with curlers, and fry you under a bonnet hair dryer for an hour after which your coif is combed out and lacquered into what is called “helmet hair.” Move your head and your hair moves in a single unit with it.   

Now, of course, there’s an even better option avoiding rollers altogether, the “blow out.” I hope to have seen my last hot (or even cold) hair roller. 

While bras were intended to be a much more comfortable option to corsets, fashion dictates that that whatever item of apparel is designed for women has to have a version that is pure pain.  We’re talking push-up bras, stiletto heels, skin-tight jeans, false eye lashes, and new versions of “shape wear” that probably aren’t any more comfortable than girdles or corsets. 

I don’t know what it is about aging, but bras just keep getting more and more uncomfortable as you get older.  I was telling a friend that the first thing I do when I get home is take off my bra.  She said she usually takes hers off in the car. 

Back when I was in college, I didn’t mind being tortured by apparel.  At this point in my life, I just want to be comfortable. I feel like I’ve done my time. 

Advice columnists in women’s magazines will implore their older readers not to “let yourself go.”  Sorry, advice lady, but I’m already gone.


Saturday, January 27, 2024

Ice(cube) Capades

[ Let Inga Tell You, La Jolla Light, published January 29, 2024] 2024

When you find yourself writing about ice cubes, is it time to hang it up?

I m aware I've written about appliances a lot lately because, well, failing appliances have been sucking up an ordinate amount of our time and money in recent months.

Sorry, folks: here comes another one.

A few months ago, I chronicled, among our various appliance challenges, the acquisition of a new refrigerator that had to fit into a very tight space and left us with exactly two choices. We re talking two choices of any brand in any price range. Fridges have gotten a lot deeper since the last time we bought one for our 1999 kitchen remodel.

We loved our previous sadly-deceased fridge and were hoping to reincarnate it. The fridge we ended up with was the same brand and exactly the same exterior dimensions as its predecessor, with, oddly, a lot less interior space. We can only assume its walls now have five inches of eco-excessive insulation.

The replacement, while hardly an inexpensive appliance, is a far (far) inferior version in every possible way. Even the door shelves on the refrigerator side are a thin, flimsy plastic. (Are they even actually plastic or something created by a hobby-level 3D printer?) It's like the designers sat down and said, How we can re-design this interior space to make it smaller, darker, chintzier, and guaranteed to annoy the s--t out of the owner?

One of the features that we didn't want but were forced to buy was a door ice dispenser. To us, it just screamed repair.

As it turns out, it s screaming a lot of other things too. And so are we.

This door dispenser takes up almost all the interior door real estate of our freezer so we have half as much freezer storage as we had before. Personally, we'd prefer to use our freezer for, say, freezing stuff.

But worse, it s really hard to get just the number of ice cubes you want from the door dispenser. Of course, with our old refrigerator, we just opened the freezer door and stuck our little hands into the heavy-duty ice bin and took as many as we needed. Theoretically, the door dispensers are more environmentally friendly because you are opening your freezer door less often. We aren't convinced.

Having never had a freezer door ice dispenser before, we've found there s a definite learning curve. Lesson one: It s all in the wrist.

You press your beverage glass against the sensor and ice starts to come out. You pull back quickly before too many come out. But you don't have quite enough so you press your glass against the sensor hoping for another two cubes. Next thing you know, there's ice cubes all over the floor. These are usually accompanied by bad words.

It's become a predictable script: ice can be heard filling a glass. Then: Wait! Stop! No! Fuck! (Sound of ice cubes hitting the floor).

So we've tried to make a friendly competition of the new ice dispenser as to who can dispense ice with the least number of cubes on the floor. Score is being kept.

When you get to our age, fun is where you find it. It also means your kids will roll their eyes and insist, "you guys need a life."

We have a life. It just happens to involve ice cube wars. So far, the ice cube dispenser is winning. And it knows it.

At Christmas, I tried to fill up a Ziplock bag with ice cubes to transport some perishable food on our trip to L.A. I held the open bag under the door spout and pressed, just as I would with a drinking glass. A few cubes came out but then stopped. I kept pressing. Was it jammed? I finally opened the freezer door to check and was greeted with a veritable avalanche of ice cubes which skittered all over the kitchen floor. Why this shouldn't have worked, I don t know. But note to self: next time fill the Ziplock bag with single glassfuls of ice.

Alternatively, one could remove the entire ice bin from the freezer to access ice to fill the Ziplock bag but its thin cheap plastic-esque material resists sliding out or back in. Best to let sleeping ice bins lie.

Maybe other ice dispensers work better than this one. But now I keep a separate glass in our tiny useless freezer filled with ice cubes from which I can then take as many as I need. Sometimes you just have to admit defeat.

Of course, we're slowly getting better with practice. But a day without a single ice cube on our floor would be a rare day indeed. The dog knows better than to stand anywhere near the fridge as ice is being dispensed lest she be in the line of fire. When even the dog has it figured out, pay attention. 


Saturday, January 20, 2024

Uber For The Elderly

[“Let Inga Tell You,” La Jolla Light, published January 22, 2024] ©2024

Rideshares have enjoyed mixed reputations in recent years but compared to the olden days when the only other options were taxis, they’ve been a huge boon to the elderly. 

I can’t even count the number of rides home I gave over the years to seniors who were relegated to a folding chair in front of a supermarket, a cart full of melting groceries next to them, waiting for a taxi that never came.  These were women who would normally never get in a car with a stranger but after an hour in a folding chair in a grocery store parking lot, being murdered didn’t sound too bad.

Now a senior myself, I’ve been thinking about all the other applications ride shares might be used for with the elderly. On your 65th birthday – as soon as that Medicare card is laminated and tucked into your wallet, the dementia anxiety attacks – and jokes – begin. We laugh, of course, to hide the fact that we’re completely terrified. Watching the 11 o’clock news about the elderly person who has wandered off from her facility truly puts fear in your heart. You can’t help but super-impose your face on the screen. And you just know your hair would look like hell.

I read an article a while back that said if you can’t find your car keys, that’s getting older. If you don’t remember you have a car, it’s dementia. Every time I’m searching in my mind for a word for a column or crossword, I find myself muttering a refrain in the background, “I have a car, I have a car.” Probably if I stopped doing that, I’d remember the word a lot sooner.

It didn’t help that soon after my 65th birthday, my older son, the perpetual prankster Rory, saw an ad on TV for a placement service for the severely memory-impaired. Several days later, a very sympathetic woman called and asked for my husband Olof, and when told he was at work, was dismayed to learn that I had been left unattended. She seemed to have a great deal of information about me and when I adamantly insisted “I do not need institutional care!” soothed, “You seem to be having one of your good days, dear.”

But back to Uber. I think ride shares have huge possibilities for the senility set. There could be a special app that pops up as soon as you pick up your phone showing a photo of your house with your address underneath and the words “You live here.” If you still couldn’t find your house, you’d just press the icon’s Save Me! option and a ride share would show up and take you home. That, of course, is assuming you can remember to push the button but that seems inherently easier than remembering your address – especially here.

Addresses in La Jolla are basically permutations of the same ten Spanish words.  You could be forgiven even before you’re senile for not remembering whether you live on Vista Playa Bonita or Playa Bonita Vista.

I had some even better ideas after my younger son told me that over the holidays one year, they sent a ride share to their house for the chocolate soufflé they’d inadvertently left home. The sitter handed off the soufflé to the Uber driver, who delivered it to the dinner party. (For the record, the soufflé rated the driver very highly.)

So, I’m thinking, if soufflés, why not Mom?

Letting my ever-overamped imagination run wild, I was thinking that Uber could develop an application called “Find My Mother.” Mom wanders away from The Home and son is alerted by the Escape Alarm on his phone that she is no longer tied to her bed. Son presses his new GoGetHer app which immediately gives a GPS location on Mom who presumably has her phone in a little velvet carry bag around her neck. (OK, you may have to microchip her.) The Uber driver swoops in, puts mom in the car (hopefully she goes quietly) and returns me, er, her to The Facility, courtesy of the “If found, please return to” app on Mom’s phone. Avoids that whole embarrassing evening news thing. Never mind that son didn’t even have to blink during his office Power Point presentation.

Now, as a senior, I think these Uber applications should go both ways. Don’t like the nursing home your kids have stashed you in? Before you make a break for it, you install an override app on your phone with special instructions to the rideshare driver: DON’T TAKE ME BACK TO THAT PLACE! LEAVE ME AT THE DOWNTOWN TRAIN STATION AND CHARGE A ONE-WAY TICKET TO SAN FRANCISCO ON MY CREDIT CARD. THEN THROW THE PHONE IN THE BAY. Like, we have rights too.

Now that I’m on Medicare, issues of aging occupy a lot of my brain cells. Olof thinks they would probably be better spent on memory exercises. The important thing is, I’m pretty sure I have a car.



Saturday, January 6, 2024

When Christmas Is A Parallel Universe

["Let Inga Tell You,"  La Jolla Light, published January 8, 2024] 2024

It becomes increasingly worrisome to me that I couldn't identify half of the Christmas gifts that were exchanged Christmas morning, even ones that I gave.

Fortunately, I didn't have to know what they were. This is what Christmas lists are for. The grandchild or other relative wants this thing? OK, I'm game.

What does it do? I'd ask with genuine interest (and a nagging fear that the world has passed me by) as they oohed and aahed over it.

But then, I am a person who doesn't want any gift that comes with instructions. As I have often chronicled, I have enough trouble operating my iPhone. In fact, a regular source of entertainment at family Christmas gatherings is passing around my phone and laughing at the directions taped to the back. But at least I don't have to worry about someone picking up my phone by mistake.

Christmas is always my favorite holiday of the year, made even more special in that it includes a good-sized group of relatives both from our side plus my daughter-in-law's. A genuinely congenial group.

Fortunately, during gift opening, I was seated next to my daughter-in-law's mother, a truly kindred soul. As a gift was opened, I'd lean over and whisper, Do you know what that is? And she'd whisper back, "Not a clue."

One such item was a gift I gave my 14-year-old granddaughter from her wish list which was described as a Luxury Intensive Skin Treatment Candle. So, was this some kind of skin treatment, or a candle? Turns out it was both. As the fine print, which I hadn't bothered to read in my haste to get my Christmas shopping done, noted: "Nourishing cocoa butter is blended with soybean oil and almond oil to leave the skin smooth and silky, whilst delivering therapeutic benefits for the mind and body. After blowing out the candle, the wax reaches the perfect temperature for application on to skin."

It is also "100% natural, ethically sourced and finely crafted from sustainable origins with absolutely no artificial ingredients." Which, along with using the word "whilst", explains why it is $46. But it made her happy so it made me happy.

One gift that totally stymied me was a bunch of colorful reels of something. Turns out they are printer "food"  for a hobbyist-level 3D printer.

I'm still trying to get my head around a desktop robot pet my nine-year-old grandson desperately coveted. Apparently these things are hugely popular and come in all forms and prices. Thinking this was going to be an easy purchase, I was dismayed to go on Amazon and find the little critters priced from $29 to $500. (I went on the lower end.) According to the description, these robots are "the perfect companion for both kids and adults who love pets, with abundant emotions, idle animations, and interactive features."   No idea what any of that actually means. Should I mention that my grandchildren have actual real pets? With, presumably, emotions (they're dogs)? But my grandson was elated to now be able to share the emotional life of an inanimate object.

I didn't buy this next one, but one of the uber-health-conscious family members received a Smart Ring, an actual fashion accessory ring loaded on its inside with teeny weeny electronics that you wear on your finger 24/7 and tracks, well, pretty much everything. Waterproof, it monitors sleep quality, stress index, heart health, skin temperature, body movement etc. which is then presumably sent to your equally-smart phone? It s apparently way better than those clunky passé  smart watches. The Smart Ring alleges to track every movement you make which in my case, would be tracking all the moves I wasn't making. I don't need a Smart Ring (or watch) to abuse me about my weight. I have a primary care doctor for that, and she doesn't need re-charging.

Another grandchild received an easy-to-operate drone. My son and his wife, who host Christmas, moved several months ago to a house with lots of outdoor space which their previous home was woefully lacking. Anyway, when out taking a walk shortly after the move, they noticed the next-door neighbor leaving his home and said to each other, "Um, is that ...?"   Turns out a very famous but now elderly movie star lives next door. When the drone gift was opened, my daughter-in-law's mother leaned in and whispered, "Not sure how the neighbor is going to feel about drones circling over his house. Or about letting kids come over and retrieve it after it crashes into his patio."  This may be a gift that only gets used at the local public park.

I confess that every time someone opened a present that I could actually name, I felt a huge sense of relief. It was starting to feel like I was in a sci fi movie in a parallel universe but which fortunately still served the same totally recognizable and utterly fabulous Christmas dinner. When I can no longer identify what we re eating, I'm calling it quits.

                                                        These reels are "food" for a 3D printer