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Fragments and Shrapnel – From triathlons to English slang

This morning I got up at 4:30 AM, got dressed, ate a piece of toast and drove to downtown Portland. I didn’t do it to watch the sunrise from the river or anything romantic like that. I did it to volunteer at the Portland Triathlon. Now, gentle readers, I am not insane or masochistic. Most people probably wouldn’t get up that early to do anything except maybe go to work or the airport. But this event is important to me.

Anyone who has volunteered at any sort of athletic race knows the feeling of encouragement and community you get cheering on the athletes. It’s not about the hard-bodied athletes but the ones that look like you and me who trained hard and dammit, they’re going to finish this race. Watching them cross the finish line and watching their families cheer them on is worth getting up at o’dark hundred.

This is the third year I’ve volunteered for the race and last year I got up the nerve to actually race. It was a hard road on the training trail but worth every minute of sweat and tears when I crossed the finish line. While I was handing out energy drinks today my friend Ken walked by and growled at me and told me I was participating in the race next year. I’ll start training now.

The reason I’m telling you this is because despite having a good day and feeling encouraged, I am incredibly exhausted. Of course the wine tour I went on the day before doesn’t help my tired brain, but I’m having a hard time stringing coherent sentences together. I tried to think of good theme for this week’s F&S but all I can do is stare at the dirty carpet in my office. So, I rounded up a couple of links and interesting sites from various sources for your weekly helping of F&S. Maybe this week it should be called Various and Sundry.

I have driven on Interstate 95 twice in my life. Both times were during a quick trip I took to Philadelphia and we took a side trip to Washington D.C. I don’t remember what music we listened to there and back but it was an interesting cultural experience for me. Why? Well, mostly it was because of the rest stops. Where I grew up in the Midwest, rest stops were places where you stopped to pee and maybe grab a candy bar. Sometimes they had toilet paper and were clean. If you were lucky, the local Jaycees were handing out bad coffee. Stopping at a rest stop along I-95 was a culture shock for me. The places were mini-malls with gifts shops, fast food joints and convenience stores. And they were PACKED!

So when I found out NPR was dedicating a series to life along I-95, I tuned in. Hear stories of how it impacts the local economies, 95 songs to listen to while you drive this stretch of road and exciting places to stop along the way. Call me a geek, but I like this stuff and I bet you do, too.

Speaking of the Eastern Seaboard, I don’t know about you but the whole idea of Ellis Island is oddly romantic and exciting to me. 12 million immigrants passed through during its sixty-two years and one-percent were turned away due to illness or landed in the infirmary. For five years photographer Stephen Wilkes photographed the halls of the defunct hospital for his book Ellis Island: Ghosts of Freedom. . The book came out in 2006 but is now part of an exhibit at the James A. Michener Art Museum outside Philadelphia. Now, I have a friend who said shooting abandoned buildings is like shooting fish in a barrel. In some ways it is, but it takes true talent to capture the essence and feel of the building. Just looking at the pictures on the website EllisIslandGhosts, I can hear the voices and see the bustling nurses.

Changing gears completely, the other day was I telling my husband about a word the English use to describe those times when you break down and cry and get snot all over the place. They call it “blarting”. As in, “I went over to my friend’s house and blarted for an hour after I lost my job. Then we went out dancing.” For those of you who collect English slang words (and who doesn’t?!) I’m proud to announce The Bodleian Library is publishing a new edition of the English Slang Dictionary. Out of print for over 300 years, this book gives the definition to such colorful words as bumfodder, dandyprat, and lantern-jawed. You can thank me later.

I hope my list of miscellany has feed your soul for another week. If not, check out this list of The Five Superhero Reboots.

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About Anna Alexander

I am a freelance writer and producer living in the Pacific Northwest. My husband and I live with our cat Grendel who lets us pay his mortgage.

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