Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Rose at the ungodly hour of five-thirty this morning ... for the Atlantic interview ... .

Of course it was scheduled for eleven o'clock on the East Coast, but my appearance would be by WebEx online, and I would be sitting before my computer being piped into a meeting room somewhere in New York.  (Will wonders never cease?)

As luck would have it -- due to a glitch -- it all came to naught.  The gremlins (should I update that to trolls?) rose to the occasion, and for reasons unknown, we just didn't ever arrive in that room in any form whatever after a brief non-appearance.  My participation never rose above the level of eavesdropping.

It all began weeks ago when the call came from the magazine inviting me to come to New York to participate in the second annual "New Old Age" conference."  Since this was not NPS-related, I would fly as my private citizen self for a few minutes appearance, then return to work jet-lagged for days.

Jessie Li, the Atlantic's representative and I chose to have me interviewed, instead electronically, which was easier on their budget as well as the old bod.

Yesterday we did a rehearsal, kinda, as their techie, Jessie, and son, Bob, and I did a practice session where Bob experimented with lighting and downloading the program that would enable my participation.  Maybe mastering this program would mean fewer trips in the future, and that could be an advantage

This morning I logged into the meeting successfully (Bob flew off go Seattle for a concert last night).  Magically I found myself in an empty room somewhere in New York, with an occasional passerby crossing in front of the cameras, but little activity otherwise.

I was welcomed and instructed to listen to the audio of the panel that would precede my being patched in, and my interviewer would introduce me promptly at 8:00 a.m. (PDT).  So far so good.

As I listened a strange thing began to happen.  I started to feel more and more irrelevant.  The women in the discussion must have been the ages of my children ( 50s & 60s), and the issues being discussed were things I'd not thought about for decades (to color or not, to be rid of white hair, for one).  As I listened, I became keenly aware of the fact I'm living a life that is so far out of context that the issues being discussed seemed alien.

Fortunately, or unfortunately, as it turned out -- when my introduction was announced, through some failure on either their end or mine -- I was disconnected.  A few minutes later -- after a long silence announced the disconnection -- Jessie Li phoned with an embarrassed apology.

I felt oddly relieved, but also strangely rejected through no fault of my own.

In a way, my "New Old Age," was not represented in this forum.  It really sounded like the same old questions being asked by a new generation, but maybe that impression would have changed had I listened through to Norman Lear, who was the panelist who would bring the conference to a close in the afternoon session. I absolutely adore Norman Lear.

Heard just a bit of chat about the ever-fascinating Helen Mirren from the panelist from Allure magazine, but the audio faded out before completion, and there were only bits and pieces to hear.

Oh well ... .

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Teach-in held some surprises ... 

... not the least of which was that over 60% of the University of San Francisco's student body is made up of women.  The audience for this seventh annual Teach-in on Diversity was largely female, and I sensed an atmospheric difference.  May have been my imagination, but it was clearly evident, at least to me.  Wonder if college campuses across the country now reflect this change?

I'd been invited to participate as a member of this year's panel of amazing young leaders, with me living out of context, again, as "the oldest park ranger in the National Park Service"  I now freely admit that I'm growing tired of that label, largely because it reminds me of those occasions in the Fifties and Sixties when I was introduced in suburbans settings as an African American woman to audiences who might not recognize me as such -- when, then, as now, that may have been the least important fact about me.  But I do admit that it IS a fact.

Isabella Borgeson: National slam poet and spoken word artist, community organizer, teaching artist
Carlos Menchaca: NYC Council District 38 representative and USF alumnus. New York State's first Mexican-American elected official and Brooklyn's first openly gay office holder.
Leroy Moore: Poet, founder of Krip-Hop Nation, co-founder of Sins Invalid, and member of the National Black Disability Coalition
Betty Reid Soskin: The nation's oldest National Park Ranger and long-time activist
What an exciting event this was!  

Isabella is a feisty lovely young Filipina poet with a passionate delivery of the spoken word and an irresistible story to tell.  Would have loved to see her sharing her poetry among other poets in an evening when the context was other than prescribed through sociology, but where art defined the show. She had stashed her papers at the end of the long table we shared, which placed them within reach as she stood at the microphone ... and the urge to rifle through them for more was so tempting, but this was not the time ... .

Carlos is a handsome young Latino elected official, and it was impossible to not view the future with hope after listening to his brief talk.  Will watch his rise, as surely this is a young man with a bright future ahead.

Leroy Moore is an unapologetic disabled writer/poet/activist living on SSI whose stories of worldwide travel seeking greater support and opportunities for others are both touching and profound.  He is speaking for those whose lives have been made the more difficult by physical limitations.  Leroy has suffered from cerebral palsy, but has surely lived a lifetime of purpose and achievement despite all.  It was impossible to not think of my Dorian as he spoke, and of my hope that his voice is helping to give shape to her future.

Moore was seated next to me and whispered that he'd been in my audiences on at least 3 occasions in the past, and I was reminded of how much I've allowed "audiences" to become less than personalized -- and vowed to change that if at all possible.  Maybe that's the price we pay for celebrity. It has been so hard to think of myself as such, but maybe it's inevitable, and there is need in the future to adjust to this new reality.  Maybe in the past he was buried in the audience where I would have not have met him.  Surely he is now among the unforgettable.

What an honor it was to again find myself among young leaders -- and to be accepted without hesitation -- as if age were merely a number ... .