New words, new Stuff

I recently attended my first, and perhaps last, Webinar. Since encountering the term (and after duly registering and attending) I’ve come to understand that webinars are old hat to the tech savvy, but I remain unconvinced that all of this new techno-wonder is necesssarily wondrous. (Power point presenters, for example, should, in my humble opinion, be confined in a small room with laser beams bashing them on the head until they promise NEVER to put up a list of items and proceed to read the list of items in a deadpan drone as if their audience were illiterate.) This particular webinar addressed the issue of POLST forms: Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment, something new and handy for people very close to dying and I’ll be happy to explore these issues with anyone. But the hours of webinars, in my humble opinion again, don’t accomplish a thing more than what a few good forms (which were indeed furnished in advance by the webinar sponsors) and a Q&A Web page could do.

More to the point, while I’m sitting here being cranky, is the business of new words sneaking into the vocabulary without so much as a nod to decency. No rhythm, no lyricism, not a smidge of beauty or imagination. I’m cool with the verb ‘to google’ and a few others that may be making Mr. Webster squirm in his grave, but webinar for heaven’s sake? The world is full of better words. My husband, who is even, ahem, older than I and maintains a vocabulary about triple that of most of us, subscribes to A.Word.A.Day, a giant storehouse of words old and new and fascinating. Maybe, if someone would ask nicely, the Wordsmith people could come up with something better than webinar.

On racing through life

Two years ago, seized with the notion that everyone should run a marathon before she turns 75 and realizing that didn’t leave me a lot of time, I bought a ridiculously expensive pair of running shoes and signed up for the Nike Women’s Marathon in San Francisco. Well, said my daughters Sandy & Pam, and Sandy’s running buddy Nan (later adding Pam-2), if you’re going to do that, we’ll come out and do it with you. Thus was born Team Gran. Sandy and Nan set about getting even fitter. Pam, who has rock-climbed all over the place but had never done this kind of flat-land business, signed on with a Team-in-Training group and set about getting seriously ready. I set about loping around the city — and promptly got breast cancer. That, plus a few other calamities in what became known as the Year of Medical Crises, interrupted my training enough for me to wimp back to a half-marathon. Even though I had paid for the whole thing. (Nike does not give rebates.) Ten months into the Year of Medical Crises, though, we assembled in the dark of a San Francisco morning, quickly caught the marathon adrenalin and Team Gran was off and running. Early on, going at our rather differing speeds, we each got boosts from my husband’s moving hug stations, from the cheers of friends and strangers alike and the general beauty of the course. Just to keep this blog honest, I admit to a few spans of walking. Still, when perfect strangers asked my age and said I was an inspiration, well, who can resist picking up speed? Nearing Mile 11 the first discouraging tiredness set it, only to be confronted by another hug, this one from my indomitable young friend Georg; the tiredness disappeared. Jogging across the finish line a good few minutes short of my goal, I had the utterly incredible feeling that I could easily have gone another 3 or 4 miles. (But not another 13!) Pam, not a lot later, charged across the full-marathon finish line just better than her own goal, with a grin that could’ve lit the Golden Gate Bridge. Accomplished runner Sandy blew a knee late in the race, struggled on with a lot of help from ice and friends, and finished somewhat tearfully. Unwilling to let that discouraging marathon be her last, she will run the More Magazine Half-Marathon in Manhattan on Sunday (not to mention the Empire State stair climb next year.) Pam went on to do her first Ride & Tie (you don’t know Ride & Tie? That’s another post entirely some day) and is currently into mountain biking around NC.
Here’s what’s behind this post: running is one of life’s great metaphors. It’s open to anyone, even without the expensive shoes. It doesn’t matter where you came from; you’re all going in the same direction. The encouragement of strangers makes the community work. Adrenalin can kick in when you’re not even watching. With a little luck, you can still do cancer and marathon in the same year. Hugs along the way are vital. You may not get do-overs, but you can always do more. Team Gran will reassemble in North Georgia this July for Lakemont’s soon-to-be-famous Rabun Ramble run.

New Music, Old Music, a Feast of Sound

Here’s something to celebrate: new music. I grew up (that’s me with the pigtails, c.1944 in our Ashland, VA back yard; I was very proud of that Girl Scout belt) to my older sisters’ big band dances, jazz and gospel and symphonies on the Victrola; they grew up to be serious musicians and one very accomplished artist. Recently I’ve gotten to know Carla Kihlstedt and her music. Went to hear the new 2 Foot Yard prepared to enjoy it, absolutely loved it. Then when guitar-percussion-electronics guy Shahzad Ismaily started talking in his gentle, quiet voice about recently lost loved ones and how life is short and death is certain and it is vitally important to enjoy every moment and be kind to those you love…. I was hooked. I was unexpectedly also hooked on Ara Anderson and his Iron & the Albatross group. Ara’s a “multi-instrumentalist” (a whiz on trumpet which I think is his #1.) The “multi” includes a toy piano, and Charlie Brown never sounded better. I’ve heard Carla do extraordinary new music, most recently premiering the last, great piece by the late Jorge Liderman with the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players — the kid can do it all (she calls herself musically schizophrenic) — and still remember being introduced to San Francisco with her Charming Hostess group at the Bottom of the Hill. Those gigs are always fun partly in that my husband and I raise the median age of the audience by about 40 years. Still, the celebratory thing is that so much music — Mozart, John Adams, Frank Sinatra, John Denver, Duke Ellington, Carla Kihlstedt — is in the air, getting more joyful all the time. Especially if someone like me can delight in it all.

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