Part V, and the conclusion of a five part series.
It was a short plane ride, take off, cruising altitude for something like a minute, then get ready for final descent into Las Vegas.
Las Vegas. My kind of town. Vegas and I go way back. Now you know my not so secret secret, I wasn’t actually born in New Mexico, I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada.
My dad was working out at the Nevada Test Site and one thing led to another and…
Growing up some of my friends liked to tease me that my parents took a gamble and lost. Oh! Hey! Good looking crowd. We’re here all night. Tip your waitress.
My folks loved living in Las Vegas, but for various reasons moved back to Albuquerque when I was very small. Really too small to remember much of life in Las Vegas. All I’ve ever known is New Mexico, so I still rightfully call myself a native.
I scrambled off that Southwest Airlines jet, through the jetway, and hit the carpet in McCarran Airport. I walked without hesitation to a bank of slot machines that were unoccupied and pulled up a seat.
My family likes to gamble. A trip to Vegas was my present for my twenty-first birthday. My folks used to get out there at least once, maybe twice a year and we kids often went along. I didn’t grow up in Vegas but I grew up an awful lot on the many casino floors through the course of my life.
The Vegas I know is an old school Vegas, from the 1970′s, and it always feels a little right to be there.
With twenty dollars in the slot machine, I managed to make it play for a little over a half hour. I’d get down to the last dollar then the machine would pay off again. I was on a nice hot streak. Not hot enough to cash out, but hot enough to have some fun.
When that was gone, I picked another machine and chased another twenty dollars around for about fifteen minutes.
When that was gone, I got up from the seat with a sigh. I felt hungry and went in search of something not airport-awful to eat. Over a really disappointing slice of Sbarro’s pizza, I stopped chewing for a minute and smiled.
A thought occurred to me. In that same day, I had been in New Mexico, I was in Las Vegas, and I’d soon be in California. Those are all of the places I have ever lived. Those are all of the places I know.
Those are all of the places I belong.
Kind of cool, really. Kind of a nice way to end my journey. A full circle kind of a thing.
My trip to New Mexico was, all in, pretty good. I was so glad I made the trip, so glad to see my best friend and my goddaughters, so glad to go home and immerse myself in memories (and make new ones too).
My trip to New Mexico was also a little difficult. You see, my dad died in 2005 and he’s buried in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. There was no way I could live with myself if I was in Santa Fe and didn’t go to the cemetery. And yet I really, really didn’t want to go to the cemetery. It’s not a joyful thing.
The last time I had visited was in 2009 and I was without a job and had lost my mind a little bit. I was scrambling to find a way to get back on my feet. That year I took a trip home to New Mexico to see if going back to my roots could help me find my compass needle.
I had cried a bit when my dad had died, but I was also a little stoic. My mom had asked me to be strong so that she didn’t have to be, and I agreed. I was as strong as I knew how to be back then, and a few years later there may have been some pent up stuff that needed to come out.
In 2009 when I found the stone that marks the place where my dad’s ashes are stored, it was a surreal experience. Gray skies opened up with rain and I stood there with my hand tracing the letters in stone and I cried, I keened, I howled. I scared the grounds crew. I honestly did, I freaked out this nice man taking care of the row of headstones nearby.
I guess back then I had some things I had to work out. On that recent spring day in March 2014, I was afraid that monster was still inside of me. I was terrified I’d find myself keening again at my father’s graveside. When considering going to the cemetery, I balked, I stalled, and finally I borrowed the keys to my friend’s new Suburban and set up Apple maps on my phone and took off on the highway, dreading it all the way.
Apple maps led me on quite a merry chase through the streets of downtown Santa Fe. That is a very old city, built by the Spanish Conquistadors so the roads are narrow and the sidewalks are high to accommodate horse drawn carriages.
With a little bit of axel grease and a shoehorn, I was able to navigate a huge Suburban through the streets, getting more lost by the moment.
Eventually, Siri found her head and I found my way, and there I was again, at the Santa Fe National Cemetery, both ready and not quite ready for what lay ahead.
That cemetery is always a difficult place for me. Rows upon rows of headstones mark all of my fellow New Mexicans who served in the military and who passed on, either in service of their country or later, as my dad had done. It is quite a humbling place for me, and that is even before I get to the place where I have to face my personal sorrow.
I had a bit of a false start, stopping at the wrong row of stones and realizing I was off by a bit. It didn’t take me a long time to find the right row and my father’s stone.
His ashes are in what is called a columbarium and it’s covered with a lovely piece of what I think is marble and secured to the wall with these connectors that look, to me anyway, like conchos.
They are so beautiful and so New Mexico appropriate.
Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth
For personal reasons, I will decline to post the entire stone, but I wanted to share a nice photo of that fastener. It stands on its own as a useful reminder.
On this visit I didn’t keen and I didn’t wail, but I sure did cry an awful lot. I put my hands on the now weathered stone and I traced his name and the word “Korea,” the war in which he participated. I felt the cold marble and I noted the sand blasted wear and tear and laughed at the unyielding New Mexico elements that caused the letters to already become faded. It’s only been nine years.
“Well, dad, I guess I’m doing a lot better than I was the last time I was here,” I said aloud. And I was.
Seeing my father’s name carved into stone never fails to break me on some level. After pacing a bit and having a pretty hard cry, I walked up the row and sat on one of the benches. It looks out over the valley and has a gorgeous view.
Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth
The mountains at my back and the dried grass and valley in front of me. The New Mexico unrelenting wind dried my tears the moment they slipped from my eyes. I laughed as the wind whipped at my hair. “Goddamn springtime wind,” I said to no one as I sat there alone.
Tumbleweeds of thoughts bounced in my mind. Through tears of sorrow, I smiled, because of that view, that place, that moment.
I had spent the past three days wondering I was even a New Mexican anymore. Sitting there, letting the climate steal my moisture and feeling grounded, I remembered that I always was and will always be.
I can never not be a New Mexican. Just as I can never not be born in Las Vegas. And I can never not be a damn near twenty-year veteran of California.
I am all of that. I am none of that. I am more than that.
I am greater than the sum of all my parts.
My version of New Mexico may not exist anymore but it’s mine. My particular brand of Las Vegas may not exist anymore, but I own it. My California is still telling me its story.
There is a lot left to learn about all of those places and as I gaze forward to the celebration of another revolution around the sun, I humbly admit there is an awful lot yet to learn about me.
What started as a fun trip to see my best friend in the entire world and my gorgeous godkids turned out to be something of a journey. A grounding moment in time that changed me, humbled me, reminded me and helped me grow.
I had no idea that was going to happen. I’m kind of glad I didn’t know. To paraphrase one of my oldest goddaughter’s favorite songs (that dates back to my college years), I might have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss that dance.
And there is no way I’d ever miss out on a good dance with some of my most favorite people in the world, back home where I belong.
Both photos Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app. The fastener photo was further edited in Instagram.
Part IV in a series.
There are a lot of times during my days, walking through this world, where I have small flashbacks or quick images that come into my brain. Not a hallucination, just a snapshot of a moment or a place or person.
A lot of the time the photostream of my brain shows me something about New Mexico. Some little atom or quark that is a building block of who I am. Meant to ground me, I think.
One image that seems to show up on rotation is being in either Old Town Albuquerque or at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe and buying beautiful handmade jewelry from the Native American artisans who display their wares on beautiful blankets.
Heck, in the early days (like the 1970′s) you would also find Native American artisans selling beautiful jewelry at the airport in Albuquerque. This was well before anyone called it a Sunport.
On this trip I made to Santa Fe at the end of last month, one thing I definitely wanted to do was see the Palace of the Governors and visit the row of Native American artisans with hand woven blankets laid out, selling handcrafted jewelry. I can remember being a fairly young kid and negotiating for beautiful pieces of silver, turquoise and coral.
The one moment I remember most was being something like nine or ten and using my allowance money to buy a really pretty green malachite ring set in silver.
I remember that the artisan was dressed in traditional Navajo clothing with her hair wrapped in leather and a huge and gorgeous turquoise bracelet on her arm. She either didn’t speak much English or chose not to. She was quite stoic, I recall, but I had watched my mom buy jewelry so I emulated her way, right down to the speech pattern.
I found the ring, tried it on, and liked it very much. I caught the artisan’s eye, held up the ring and asked, “How much?” I think she said ten dollars. I replied, “Would you take eight?” and she nodded. Thus, I now owned a beautiful handmade silver ring.
I wore it for many, many years.
In fact, I still have it.
This is it:
The ring is so tiny, it barely fits on my pinky finger. As you can see, the stone has a small nick. I really did wear this ring everyday for a long time. I loved it. I still love it.
So on that sunny Spring day on the Plaza a few weeks ago, after stuffing ourselves to the gills at the India Palace buffet, I was ready to walk around and my best friend and her girls were ready to sit.
They found a bench in the bustling center of the Plaza and I walked with purpose to the line of artisans with their creations on blankets.
My heart raced a little because I was excited. I mentally calculated how much cash I had on hand and what budget I would allow. I love beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry.
I had heard a few years back that there was some controversy about people who were not of Native American heritage selling jewelry on the Plaza, so I wasn’t sure what I expected.
I was pleased to see that indeed, the majority of the artisans seemed to be Native American. They wore modern dress, but the look, the speech pattern, the very vibe of the artisans let me know these were my New Mexico Native people, and I was happy.
As I walked down the row, I became less happy.
The quality of the jewelry I saw was not what I had hoped. The beautiful hand crafted chunky silver and turquoise, coral, jade and malachite jewelry had given way to items that were cheap looking, manufactured not handcrafted, meager and not bold and beautiful.
In some cases, I half expected to pick up a piece and see a stamp showing me it was manufactured in another country.
To be honest, not even the blankets seemed to be handmade. The image, the memory, it all looked the same as I crossed the street, but under the adobe and vigas of the Palace, everything really had changed.
On the plus side, I noticed that the artisans were very friendly with all of the tourists, inviting them to pick up pieces and try them on. Asking where they were from and how they liked New Mexico. The stoic artisan seems to be a thing of the past as I’m sure being a bit friendly sells more items. Even as I type that it feels a little like selling out.
So there was a plus and a minus to the experience. I ended up buying a pair of earrings from a vendor across the street on the plaza. They are small inexpensive dragonflies and I hold no illusions that they are genuine Native handcrafted.
I walked away a bit depressed and I remembered that I get a catalog from Southwest Indian Foundation, and they call the style of jewelry that I love “pawn style.”
Pawn style. There were some people that I knew who got really amazing deals on Native American crafted jewelry from the rows and rows of pawn shops in Gallup and other New Mexico towns. I never did that. I shopped a few times, but couldn’t get over the sad feeling in my gut. These pieces of jewelry were given up because someone needed fast money.
As I made a loop around the Santa Fe Plaza, I saw a shop that claimed to have old pawn jewelry, so I went inside.
They weren’t kidding. Inside the huge retail space half of the store was quite literally filled with pawn jewelry. The shop buys dead items (meaning the time has expired and no one was able to come back and claim the pieces) and resells them.
Resells them at a gigantic markup.
I found a case full of earrings and at a quick glance found three pairs that I either own the exact pair or something very, very similar.
Earrings that I know I paid somewhere between fifteen and forty dollars for were now marked anywhere from $125 to over $200.
I felt a little sick to my stomach. On the one hand I thought, “Hell, I should get out all of my old jewelry and sell it!” and of course I knew I’d never part with it. On the other hand my heart broke as progress has to come to all things, even Native American jewelry.
In my personal collection is my mother’s stunning New Mexico Native American handcrafted squash blossom necklace. Would I ever sell this? Hell no.
This is a really profound piece of jewelry. My mother often wore it and she was always beautiful wearing it, too. The turquoise is quite rough and each individual squash blossom is different, to match the stone.
But I wish I could have strolled the Palace of the Governors and seen pieces more like that chunky squash blossom for sale. The product of training, silversmithing, craftsmanship, and a deep Native American tradition.
Alas no, like that hammered tin clock that used to hang over the Albuquerque Airport, my memories are only nostalgia. Museum pieces. They no longer represent what is meaningful for today’s children growing up in New Mexico.
I guess I understand now. Sometimes as a kid I used to jokingly say that New Mexico was forgotten, wasn’t important, backward. Now I know it really was something good. I got to grow up in a beautiful culture and a beautiful state that is like nowhere else in the world.
I am hardly the only person who has ever come to realize this about the time and place that they were born and raised. It’s a common lesson. You really can never go back. I can be in New Mexico again, and I can love it, but it’s never going to be what I hold in my memories.
That hurts inside. I yearn for something that doesn’t really exist anymore, except in my mind and have to find a way to be okay with that. As of today, right this moment, I’m not okay. Not yet.
I suppose the answer is that I need to spend more time back home in New Mexico. I have to learn to know what she was once and love her as she is now.
It’s my failure that it’s been so long since I was back home. I hope to improve a lot over the coming years.
There is so much I know about New Mexico, and so much I have left to learn.
Up next, the conclusion: Part V, The Roots of My Raising Run Deep
Images Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.
Part III in a series.
So of course, one of the things I miss the most about my fair New Mexico is the food. It is unlike anything else in the world and as a native, the green chile flows in my veins.
Too much California time and I start to get a little pale, weak and shaky. I survive by cooking my own New Mexican food and that ties me over pretty darn well. But it’s not the same as being home.
From my first footstep on hallowed and dusty New Mexico ground and I was ready for some good eats.
I would have to wait for a good greasy restaurant meal, however. First stop on our tour was to go to see my best friend’s little sister who is a very dear friend in her own right.
Her three kids are growing too fast and I really couldn’t believe how time has flown. I guess that is how we mark time as adults, by how fast the kids grow?
After hugs and “it’s been too long!” we all loaded up in a Suburban and headed over to the nearby little league fields to watch her oldest son, who is ten, play a little baseball.
It’s pretty well documented how much I love baseball, so I had a great time watching the kids try to learn how to put it all together. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.
My friend’s husband was the umpire for the game, so of course Blue got a hearty ration of crap from us in the stands. “Use the good eye, Blue!” And I boo’d him when he called his own son out on strike three looking. That ain’t right to ring up your kid! LOL!
Thankfully he has a good sense of humor and is a very kind man. Also, he can dish out it just as well as he can take it.
Later that evening we ate together and had a wonderful home cooked meal. There was a nice bowl of chopped green chile to add to our good eats and I knew every little thing was going to be all right. Well, that and the four adults knocked back a few glasses of Mimbres Red and got a real good cuss and discuss going.
It was a good place to be, a very good place. This was one of those rare times and places in the world where I was able to simply be nothing other than my true self. No hiding my words, no trying to show off, no being circumspect. Simply 100% me because I know these people are family, and for well over twenty-five years they have accepted me just as I am. It gives me peace.
The next day we got it all together and got back into the ‘burb. We continued our journey by heading north to Santa Fe. Once we got settled into our hotel, my best friend remembered a restaurant that her husband recommended was located nearby, so we loaded up.
The place is called PC’s Restaurant Lounge and their menu included something called an Indian Taco. We used to call them Navajo Tacos, and they really are something special.
For the uninitiated, a Navajo Taco is a piece of Indian Fry Bread that is loaded with all the ingredients of a taco then covered in green chile and melted cheese.
Heaven on a plate.
These are not as common on the menus of Southern New Mexico and I haven’t had one in a long time. I hopped right on ordering this and giggled with anticipation.
I’ll save the suspense, it was galldang delicious. (Lactose intolerance be damned!)
Terrible photo of a terrific meal.
A beautiful combination of Mexican food and Native American food, right on my plate, into my tummy, into my veins, sustenance for my very soul.
This should be the State Dish of New Mexico because it perfectly describes our blending of cultures and the New Mexican’s love of a good meal.
Of course, I was a useless lump of lard for the rest of the day after this meal. My salad-and-a-little-exercise body was quite confused but mostly pleased. A nice lunch like that makes a siesta real easy and full of nice dreams.
The next day we managed to pull ourselves up and out the door and we explored the Plaza in Santa Fe. We shopped and strolled and touristed. Because why not?
I really enjoyed absorbing everything, recharging the batteries, and remembering when these feet last strolled the same sidewalks. So familiar. So different.
When it was time for lunch my friend suggested we go to an Indian place to eat.
“India Indian?” I asked, because one can never be too sure in New Mexico. She laughed, but she was very serious. She wanted to take me to an Indian (i.e. Central Asian) restaurant in the middle of Santa Fe.
No. Wait. What?
Yes. We went to a little place named India Palace and had their lunch buffet.
Ooooh damn. That was some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had. I live in the Bay Area and there are a lot (and by a lot, I mean A LOT) of good Indian food places here. And you know what? India Palace in Santa Fe, New Mexico beat them all.
I know, right? You may be saying, “C’mon, really?” Yes. Really. Sadly I was too busy shoving Saag and Paneer Masala down my gullet to stop and take a snapshot of such gorgeously delicious food.
Good eats are good eats and I sure had ‘em in New Mexico. Damn, I ate well. There were a few of things I had wanted to get to while I was there and I missed out. Like good old fashioned Sangria (a restaurant in Santa Fe that sadly isn’t there anymore called La Tertulia served the best I ever had) and carne adovada, and sopaipillas.
Oh well. I guess that gives me more to look forward on the next visit? And incentivizes me to make that next visit happen very, very soon.
Side Note: I just looked at the Wikipedia page for sopaipillas.
In that entry, it says the following:
“A simple imitation of a sopaipilla can be made by frying a flour tortilla until it puffs up then cutting it into triangles and serving with honey.”
Um. No. No it can’t. No it absolutely cannot. A puffy tortilla and a sopaipilla are absolutely NOT THE SAME THING. I am highly offended it was even suggested. Mo’flicking Wikipedia full of lies and insanity.
Ok, let’s get back on track here. While your mind reels over that sopaipilla madness, rest your eyes on this photo of my older goddaughter’s green chile chicken enchiladas, a perennial favorite of mine. Yum!
Yes, apparently while in New Mexico, I am a hipster freak photographing my food.
Coming up next: Part IV, The More Things Change
Images Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.
Part II in a series.
Today I continue my New Mexico storytelling with Part II. I guess my short trip to New Mexico last week takes more than one post to discuss.
At four days, it was a quick trip, too quick if you ask me, and even though time elapsed fast, there was an indelible impression left upon me. New Mexico kind of does that to a person, right?
The last time I had been north of Las Cruces was in 2009, so it wasn’t that long ago, but certainly long enough ago to change my worldview.
Back then I was newly married (yay!), had endured one of the worst years of my professional life (boo!). I found myself without a job, without any leads, and a little dislocated as I learned how to be both unemployed and married. Both being something I had never before experienced.
I returned to the homeland last week on a warm Spring Saturday with almost six years of marriage tucked under my belt and a really good job that I love very much. Time really does heal wounds.
To be honest, sometimes I still feel very dislocated. Caught somewhere in between. I am a New Mexican, through and through, but it has now been almost seventeen years that I have lived in California. My god. Seventeen. Where the hell did all those years go?
So I am not really a New Mexican anymore, but I’m seriously not a Californian either. What, exactly, am I? I don’t know and that’s the problem.
(Apparently this is a long running theme for me, here’s something from the archives.)
My best friend and goddaughters were on their Spring Break and wanted to make a trip to Santa Fe. As near as I can recall, the last time I was in Santa Fe I was somewhere in my twenties. Well, that’s not entirely true. I went to the outskirts of Santa Fe in 2009 because my father is buried there, at the National Cemetery.
But that last time I had been on the Plaza? Yeeks. I was of drinking age, but not old enough to know better, certainly.
Let’s just say, it’s been a while.
Santa Fe was, well, Santa Fe. She has changed in many ways. She has not changed at all in other ways.
Of course, one of the first places I had to visit was the Loretto Chapel. I have always loved that place, from the time I was a small child to now.
I had wanted so much to get married there, I mean, I really wanted that, but logistics being what they are, it just couldn’t happen.
(I am more than thrilled with where and how we did get married in California, by the by.)
In my mind, my child’s mind, the Loretto chapel was teeny tiny and the stairs were at the very back wall of the chapel. I was pleasantly surprised to see the chapel is actually larger than I remembered, with several rows of pews behind the very famous staircase.
So of course I took an unremarkable photo of the remarkable treasure. A photo from the same vantage point where everyone snaps the shutter, from behind the worn velvet ropes. It’s a bit like the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s been done. To death. It’s hard to do it any differently than the thousands who came before.
But that’s ok. I took the photo for me. A memory. An image that I don’t have to expend a calorie trying to conjure up in my mind. I can ease my brain and rest my eyes and smile fondly to see this photo.
Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth
While in Santa Fe, we also went to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis. Where Loretto is small, the Basilica is gigantic. Overwhelming in its proportions.
I took a lot of photos and absorbed all of my surroundings.
A bird at the base of a statue of Saint Francis and the Basilica’s rose window in the background.
Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth
Of course, I have a lot of mixed feelings about being raised Catholic, but that is not something to discuss here. I do try to stay away from religion and politics on the blog, though I don’t always succeed.
That said, I have always loved the iconography of the Catholic church and being raised in the Hispanic culture means all of those images hold a lot of power for me. The images are not just religious but part of our culture and folk art. It has shown up in a lot of my own work.
I have been obsessed for a long time with the image of a flaming heart and also a heart with a crown over it. Of course this is the Sagrado Corazón, found on paintings and statues and sculptures.
Being in such a beautiful space and being in Santa Fe and seeing all of these reminders of my childhood made me need to sit down. Just sit and be quiet. And think. And absorb.
My two godkids had a lot of questions for me about the Catholic Church and what some of the images mean. The Stations of the Cross proved to be a place of fear for my younger godkid, and I tried to explain that it was telling a story, certainly a sad story, but that it had a happy ending.
Meanwhile my thoughts raged with questions like, “Who am I?” and “Why don’t I know?” and “Why have I had this lost feeling for such a long time?”
Questions as unanswerable as some of the challenges posed by my beautiful girls.
I love New Mexico and inside of me something is able to rest when I am there, but to be honest there is another part of me (that has been there all of my life) that cannot rest, and needs more than New Mexico can give.
The only place that I truly know is home is anywhere The Good Man happens to be. That, I think, was my best comfort while the thoughts and feelings swirled like an eastern New Mexico tornado through my brain.
Part III: ¡Comida! There is Indian and then there is Indian
Images Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. The Loretto staircase was taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app. The little bird was taken with a Canon G10 and some crawling around on the ground.
It’s been far too long since I was here on the ol’ blog. I started writing on Tuesday and found, well, I was going to need several pages to write what was on my mind. So here is part one of what I think will be a three or four part series.
Since this blog is called Oh Fair New Mexico and I have been a little neglectful of writing content about my home state, I am going to do it up right by talking A LOT about New Mexico over the next week or so.
Thanks for coming along for the ride!
Holy guacamole, here I find myself at Tuesday, rushing through the work day, trying to keep my head above water (literally, it’s a frog strangling rain out there) and doing my best to be a decent grown up and contributing member of society.
It’s been over a week since I sat down and had a good blog style cuss and discuss.
Well hell, let’s fix that.
Here we go!
Last week I had the great joy of being back in the motherland of New Mexico. It was a very fast whirlwind tour and it seemed like I had only one blink and it was over. One minute I was enjoying a Navajo taco and then whoop, suddenly I was back on a plane heading home.
Yeeks! I need more time. I need time to slow down a little too, if I can take this time to ask for favors.
The main point of my trip was to see my best friend in the entire world. We were last together a year ago and that is entirely too long to wait. We had some things to discuss and we did. We had some other things to discuss that we just didn’t get to, and that hurts my heart.
I also got to be with my two goddaughters who have decided to go ahead and grow up without my consent. I did not authorize this! To me they are still cute little biscuits and Nina Karen can make it all better simply with a hug.
Nah, now they are in that teen area and I am watching them grow and learn and push against the edges and evolve.
It’s both satisfying and heartbreaking to watch. I want to fix all the mean things and make the world easy for them, but goodness knows that is not what they need.
So I will just keep loving them and worrying about them and hoping they still want to know their Nina as the years go by.
The four day journey was a fun one. The lovely ladies of Las Cruces picked me up at the Albuquerque airport and we were off in a flash of a bright white Suburban with Nina Karen wheezing from the asthma. My allergies remember New Mexico. Oh how they remember.
May I just pause here for a moment to share my soul saddening moment from the Albuquerque airport?
It has been since 2009 that I flew into ABQ International, and they have certainly done a lot of work on the place. Fair enough, it needed the touch up and the changes look great.
I came off my plane and looked around and saw mostly familiar sites and knew I was home. As I made my way to baggage claim, I came out of the security area and there I saw a sight I had a hard time believing.
On a wood pedestal, like some kind of damn museum piece, was the beautiful hammered tin clock that used to hang high and proudly from the vaulted ceiling of the main terminal before it was a Sunport and was just a regular old airport.
That timepiece goes back to my childhood. I have stared up at that clock to measure time for as long as I have been alive. It’s been there even longer than I have been alive.
Once majestic, beautiful, useful. Something with meaning.
Now, it’s something like a museum relic.
This, this is the beautiful clock that makes my tummy tense when I see it because it *means* something:
And this is where it lives now (and I do it no justice with terrible photo quality):
I wasn’t sure how to handle the feelings this brought up. I was happy to finally be able to see this beautiful clock at such close range. I could admire the details. I was also saddened that this useful object not longer hangs proudly over the airport.
It’s an aged relic. Um. Like me?
Turns out that the idea of “something I once knew well is now something quite different” would become a theme for my trip.
It began with my precious hammered tin clock. It extended to my gorgeous god kids who aren’t kids anymore.
This was kind of a tough trip for the little girl from New Mexico.
Coming up: Part II, Somewhere In Between
Photos Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth and subject to the Creative Commons in the far right column of this page.
So there I was a week ago on Tuesday, sitting at my desk and having one of the worst days at work in recent memory. There were all kinds of bonfires burning brightly on my desk. Still are.
So much so that in a recent hot project review with my manager and all of my peers, the Boss Lady remarked “wow, you have all of the really awful problems, don’t you?”
She is fairly unflappable and not easily worried by the bonfires that my job brings, so her concern means I am seriously up to my eyeballs in alligators.
As the day progressed like a hammer to the head of a nail, I decided to sit back for a few minutes and look at some personal email by way of distraction.
That is when I found an email from someone I don’t know, a Good Samaritan if you will, letting me know that my sweet Oh Fair New Mexico site had been hacked.
Oh joy. Just exactly what I needed.
This was, in my opinion, a particularly insidious hack. It was done so cleanly that I never even knew it had been hacked. Google “WordPress Pharma Hack” and read the pages and pages devoted to this really clever little invisible hack.
Instead of fiddling with my content or the front page of my blog, the intruder created something on the order of hundreds of offshoot pages from this blog. Those pages purported to sell all variety of fun pharmaceutical products, stove tops, waxing kits and more.
I suppose I should have guessed I was hacked when my website began to slow to a crawl. Then recently I noticed I couldn’t reach my website from my home network. A ticket raised at my hosting provider said “No, your blog is up and running.”
Turns out my ISP had blocked my infected web page. My blog continued to slow down even more. It began taking several long seconds to load.
I feel sort of sheepish that I didn’t figure this out for myself. The signs were there. I make a living in the tech industry, but when it came to my own blog I was a silly little twit.
So after receiving the bad news I:
1) freaked out, then
2) contacted my hosting provider who had done me the service of setting up my blog originally
Within about twenty minutes they had replied to my ticket and did their part to clean out all of the offending sites. I checked several of them to be sure they were shut off. A bit of Googling around showed me that I had been hacked going back into last year. Hoo boy.
Then I had to raise another ticket because I noticed that my usual log in page redirected me to a page that looked exactly like my log in page but had a different URL. Thankfully I did notice that in the URL line on my browser.
My hosting provider responded by giving me another way into my blog. Once in, I realized that my hacker friends had set up no less than five admin accounts on my blog and one more that was invisible. I could only tell that by seeing that I had one (1) line item for users but the count in the header of the page said I had two (2) admin accounts.
Hell, I never check my admin page, but I should have.
So I did a lot of research and I learned about PHPMyAdmin and I got new keys from WordPress to make sure if the hackers were still logged in it would crunch their cookies and I changed passwords.
And I freaked out a little more.
Then I went to Google and signed up for their webtools (as suggested) and ran through the process so I could get the “this site may be hacked” message to not show up in search results for my little blog. That seemed to work fairly quickly.
And then I freaked out less but still felt anxious. And I kept working on cleaning up the mess that was left behind.
It all feels so…dirty. I mean, I don’t get a ton of traffic to my little blog but it’s my tiny corner of the internet and this week I celebrated my seventh year of blogging. Over half a million words.
A lot of fun has been had. By me at least.
From all of this, I have learned that WordPress blogs are particularly hackable. I have also learned that some hosting providers are also particularly hackable.
I have some other things I want to do to better secure my blog, but I certainly can’t promise I won’t get hacked again.
In fact, based on my research, I probably will get hacked again pretty soon until I get better security on my pages.
I may have to just shut down the blog entirely, but for now, I’m back up. It seems to be running a little quicker. I do regular backups on the blog but I did another just to be cautious.
So there you go. For today I’m back to blogging and not selling.
I like it here. Oh Fair New Mexico makes me happy, and for the few but loyal readers I have, I hope it makes you happy too.
Meanwhile if you came here because you want to buy some good drugs off the blog, the bad guys are no longer in business at this location. For now, anyway.
*Special thanks to the kind reader who tipped me off about the hack. I am quite grateful to you.
**Humorous side note: When I told The Good Man that I had been hacked he went to look at the blog. He thought my kooky post about big cats liking Calvin Klein Obsession cologne was the work of the hackers.
Lol! I had a hell of a time convincing him that I wrote it. *grin* They can’t all be winners.
Image found here.
And so I am back, for now, to blogging.
I’ll be posting soon about the agony and ecstasy of the insidious little (gigantic) hack on my blog.
It’s been quite a ride and isn’t quite over. The good news for my readers is that I have had several scans done and it appears my blog isn’t serving malware, so I have that going for me.
For today, I think I am unhacked. We’ll see how long that lasts. (probably not for long, as my internet research has told me)
And so today on a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, let’s do a throwback Monday.
On this day of the wearin’ of the green and the drinkin’ of the green beer, many people from a variety of different backgrounds will claim their Irish heritage.
I will authenticate my own heritage by posting this photo of me and my 100% Irish grandmother:
This day also matters as it is the day the first post landed here on Oh Fair New Mexico back in 2007.
Today I celebrate a lucky seven years of blogging.
I have to admit, with the recent hack-a-roni, I deeply considered giving up blogging. Or maybe taking a break. But I made a promise to myself in 2007 and I’d like to keep going.
If the hack-a-thon keeps up I may have to move to another forum, but for today, I’m here, I’m Irish and I’m blogging.
Now, despite my deep Irish roots, I was raised in the Great State of New Mexico. That means I am going to celebrate Éirinn go Brách by toddling over to my local Mexican restaurant and diving in on some mole.
Because why not?
Why not indeed.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of you Irish and all of you wanna be Irish. Today we’re all from the Emerald Isle!
“Hey baby, you smell nice!” she says.
He grins, “thanks, it’s Calvin Kle—”
“ROWR” goes the leaping jaguar.
“Why can’t I ever meet a guy who lives longer than ONE date?” she wails.
: cue sad trombones :
My little story is a parable. A lesson. A warning.
Seems that large kitty cats with big claws and big teeth get a little fired up for….
…wait for it…
Calvin Klein Obsession For Men.
Makes ‘em nutty. Makes ‘em curious. Makes ‘em lusty. Serious, click the link and let the knowledge seep into your brain.
(Regarding the feline in your home, your milage may vary, but give it a try. Ol’ Scratchy might just become Fluffy McLapcat.)
Jaguars, tigers, snow leopards, cheetahs, pumas, ocelots, tapirs, peccaries and coatis, oh my!
Hey baby, wanna see my ocelot?
I learned this random fact this morning while perusing the news over a onion bagel.
Now you know it too.
My work here is done.
Hey baby, how YOU doin’?
Image found here.
It is a dark, gray and drizzly day here in Northern California and to be honest, that is a good thing. I say that even as my mood can best be described as poopy. The fact that the earth needs the rain doesn’t preclude a little blue mood to go with the not-blue skies.
To be honest, in March, this is what the Bay Area is supposed to do. It’s supposed to rain. So I’m grateful for the rain.
But still, I’m cranky.
Days like these make me want to stay in bed all day and only come to the surface for something tasty to eat (then dash back under the covers).
Last evening I watched an old episode of No Reservations when our host, Anthony Bourdain, was in France. At one point they showed warm hot loaves of bread coming out of the oven. Of course now all I want to eat is gigantic loaves of warm bread smothered with butter.
But alas, the butter is a non-starter for me with the lactose intolerance and all. And well, we all know bread gets a bad rap these days.
Later in the show, the host was eating some gigantic meat-on-meat madness type of meal and I said to The Good Man, “I…I just don’t think I could eat that. I mean, I would try, but oh how my stomach would hurt.”
What the hell has happened to me? I remember the days when I would and could eat everything from flaming hot green chiles to milk products to fatty meats washed down with a lot of beer and wouldn’t even blink an eye.
Now as I ponder yet another birthday coming along in a few months, I realize what a little lily I have become. A hothouse flower who can’t eat things too hot anymore (damn my GERD) and can’t eat milk products (well, I can, but it’s an unpleasant outcome) and I sure do eat a lot less meat than I used to because my tummy just can’t take it.
Alas! What has become of poor Karen? I don’t even know who I am anymore.
I suppose it’s all a part of the cycle of life. I mean, I have tried and digested a lot of good food in my life. I don’t hold back, I’m willing to give most foods a shot but I have become a lot more circumspect in how I nosh.
A “good” meal can be great in that moment and can then ruin my whole day. So I eat a little less quantity and a little better quality and I wonder what else I’m going to be a candy-butt about in this great life.
First world problems. I got ‘em.
(And give me time, I’ll get over myself. I always do.)
Image found here.
After what now amounts to almost seventeen years, I realize that I have lived in California a lot longer than I ever thought I would. Totaled up it’s still a lot less time than I lived in New Mexico, so I still have that going for me.
But here I am. After putting in this many years I guess I have the right to look at a building in San Francisco and say, “hey, I remember when that used to be…”
In my time in the Bay Area, I’ve seen a lot of things change. Like many people in San Francisco, I also have a deep sense of nostalgia for a lot of the quirky things the City brings to the world.
I cried when the last working street clock in North Beach was hit by a delivery truck, rendering it busted forever.
I beam with pride when I see the restored doggy head smirking atop a pole overlooking the Doggy Diner (over by the zoo).
And today. Today my heart is heavy for the loss of yet another San Francisco quirky institution.
Sadly, it was reported this morning that the Bushman from the Wharf has passed away.
If you haven’t had the pleasure of spending a touristy day down on Fisherman’s Wharf, then you don’t know about the Bushman.
He would take several leafy eucalyptus branches in hand and then he’d get real low, usually squatting on a milk crate, and he’d hold the branches out in front of him. He would usually position himself by other shrubbery so any passerby might think it was simply another bit of brush.
Then he’d pick out a person walking the sidewalk and as they walked past him he’d shake the leaves and let out a low rumbling growl.
At the noise, pretty much every victim would leap a foot off the ground. That was when the Bushman would laugh with the best, most expansive laugh you’ve ever heard. This would get the victim laughing too.
People would gather around and watch it happen, and they would laugh too, everyone brimming with anticipation for the next victim. After a good laugh, folks would throw a couple dollars his way and move on.
This whole thing was always done in good fun, the Bushman was never mean about it.
In the early years in my California tenure, I spent a lot of time in the company of blues musicians who worked a lot of Saturday afternoons at Lou’s Pier 47. Back when Lou still owned the place, she paid well and booked the top guys in all the prime spots.
A good sunny Saturday would pull in a room full of tourists who would happily unload their pockets for food and drinks and tip jars.
I would often go to the club on my own and as the afternoon went on and the patrons consumed more and more booze, things could sometimes get a bit weird. If things were too funky in the club and if it was still sunny out, I’d head out to the Wharf to wander the shops, eat some Ghirardelli or just sit by the water, stare at the Golden Gate and ponder my life.
I was my own version of a wharf rat and I loved it.
With all that time spent prowling around, I encountered the Bushman on several occasions.
He only got me once, but he got me good.
I learned to keep a sharp eye out for him so I could be in on the joke and not the punchline.
I liked to catch him, too. I’d say, “I see you!” and he’d growl at me and I’d go “uh-huh” and walk on.
I haven’t spent that much time on the Wharf in years, but when I was there a few months ago I saw him and was happy to know he was still there.
And now he’s not.
The article says that his sometime partner (who helped the ruse by distracting potential victims) will keep up the routine, but I suspect it won’t be quite the same.
San Francisco, so nostalgic, so prone to change.
The original Bushman will be missed.
Image found here. That blog owner is super duper cranky about the Bushman, but c’est la vie. To each their own. The Tumblr is named “I Hate Stuff” and provides content as advertised.
Dateline: Wednesday, February 19, 2014
It’s morning and I’m headed in to work a little earlier than I would like but I have a coworker who is a chirrupy morning person and keeps dropping early meetings on my calendar.
She knows I hate the mornings but just can’t help herself.
So I drive my beat up old Jeep down a major surface street that bisects three different cities. It is my usual route to work.
As I roll in slow traffic, there is a guy on a bicycle keeping pace next to me. I am used to bicyclists now because I live in a pretty hipster-y place and they are everywhere.
But this guy is the kind of bicyclist that bugs me. First of all he’s not wearing a helmet. That seems really dumb to ride on city streets without some kind of protection for the ol’ brain bucket.
Second, he’s the kind of guy who can’t ride in a straight line so he’s weaving in and out in front of me. I’m keeping a close eye on him so I can be sure I am not the person who injuries his pretty mane of curls.
We ride side by side on this narrow two-lane street and then I get to a light at a main intersection. I see there is a trash truck just ahead, but there is enough room for me to slip through the light and wait behind the truck.
To the immediate right there is a delivery truck at the curb unloading produce for the corner market.
As I pull through the intersection, the garbage truck cuts sharply in front of me so I easily tap my brakes and slow.
Boy On The Bicycle doesn’t slow. He plunges into that small space between the now moving trash truck and the large produce truck.
I think to myself, “I don’t have that kind of courage.”
I have packed my lunch today and that makes me very happy. It’s not just a lunch from home, but it’s the kind of sack lunch that I’ve been looking forward to all morning.
In that bag is a beautiful calzone. I have also packed a little glass bowl of marinara sauce.
After much dragging and delaying, the hands on the clock say it’s time to chow. I smile as I pop the calzone into the office toaster oven and I put the marinara into the microwave.
When the sauce has achieved a temperature akin to lava, I pull it out of the machine.
Soon the calzone is crispy on the outside and melty on the inside.
If I was eating this at home, I would quickly dump the marinara over the calzone and dive in headfirst.
I am at work and when I start to pour the sauce a little voice in my head reminds me that my office and the break room are diametrically opposed. I will have to carry my meal all the way across the building and will likely encounter many people on the journey.
I have a quick vision of spilling bright red sauce on the floor. On a coworker. On myself. Or all three.
I decide to put the lid back on the marinara bowl and carry it separately.
It’s the best decision I will make all day.
Once the calzone is thoroughly devoured, I wash my hands and clean my face and freshen up. I have a mid-year performance review with my boss who is a Big Boss and while I get along with her great, I still want to be behaved.
It seems only right. She is grading my performance.
As I walk to her office, that calzone starts to hit bottom and I feel instantly sleepy. I think, “Maybe calzone is more of a dinner food.”
It’s the end of the day and I’m tired. Not the tired one gets from physical exertion, but the fatigue that comes from sitting around all day thinking about stuff and making decisions.
It doesn’t seem like sitting on my can working on spreadsheets all day would wear me out, but it does.
The Jeep is rolling uphill, following the same route home that got me to work this morning.
I am idly listening to sports talk radio where the two on-air personalities are debating, quite heartily I might add, if it is acceptable for fans to boo their own team.
One guy is a former athlete. One guy is a current sports journalist. They have vastly different opinions.
I come to a stoplight on the two-lane street and I am the third car back. A dark car pulls up on my right side.
I think to myself, “They had better be turning right” and of course they are not. It’s become a game on this high trafficked street for people who don’t want to wait in line to come up the side, thus blocking any right turners, and then cutting off people going straight as soon as the light turns green.
This aggravates me.
The light turns and I make it a point to not let that car in. I pull up close to the car in front and I am not giving up. They are not giving up either.
I see that there is an SUV parked at the curb ahead and a woman is unloading her child from the back seat.
This is going to come to a head. I am going to win.
That jerkwad is going to have to slow down and get into line behind me.
Inexplicably, I tap my brakes. The Jeep slows. I let the shiny black BMW slide in front of me as a college-aged girl in the driver’s seat quite literally flips her hair.
There is no wave of thanks.
I wonder to myself, “What made me do that? Why did I slow down and let her in?”
Then I think, “Because it’s not always about being right. Sometimes it’s just about the fact that we all have to get home safely.”
When I finally turn down my block I am happy to see a spot on the street right in front of my building and I park.
I go inside and The Good Man hugs me and the cat ignores me and I sink into the warm familiar comfort of my home and my family.
I am filled with gratitude. I can finally rest.
Tomorrow is another day.
Image found here.
As has been mentioned before, these days I work in an open office plan, meaning pretty much everyone from big bosses to little minions all sit and work in open cubicles.
It’s supposed to make us more collaborative, or something.
Because everything is so open and airy fresh, as I walk through the building I quite frequently get a glimpse of other people’s computer screens. Honestly, most people are working away, boring. Snore.
Occasionally people are shopping or watching YouTube, but whatever, that’s between them and their IT rep.
There is one trend I’m noticing recently that has me a bit confused. There are several people, like five I can count off the top of my head and probably a few more I am missing, who have a photo of themselves set as their computer’s wallpaper background.
Now, I don’t mean it’s a photo of them and someone else, like a nice happy couple, or dad and son or something. No, I mean a photograph of only them, and most often the photo is looking right out of the screen. Most are selfies, some are a photo someone else has taken. Some are full body shots but most are close in, framed from the neck up.
What this means is, as they work, they are looking out at themselves while looking in at themselves.
Look, I like myself a lot. I’m a cool chick. I like hanging out with me. I even don’t mind looking in the mirror now and again.
In fact, to quote former 49ers football player Terrell Owens, “I love me some me“.
But I don’t “love me some me” so much that I want to look at me all the live long day.
At first I thought this was only the younger employees, the kids in their twenties who are supposedly really self-obsessed. No. It runs the age gamut.
I just…can’t. I don’t understand. Did I miss a memo or something?
(See what I did there? Miss a memo. How cute, granny.)
Image found here.
Today I learned something. It may not be a groundbreaking discovery, but it’s an important handy tip to know.
Let me start with the backstory.
This morning I noticed I had a meeting on my calendar that started early and would last all day long, so I decided to hustle up and get it together so I could leave the house plenty early. I wanted to be able to stop for coffee and still get into the office a bit early so I could sit a minute at my desk, gather my thoughts, and prioritize any urgent emails before disappearing into a conference room for the remainder of the day.
What a good strategy! This is part of my new approach for taking better care of myself. Generally I show up to the early meetings five to ten minutes late, anxious and sweaty from running to the meeting. Oh, and lacking coffee.
With determination, I took care of my at-home stuff and hit the mark. I left the house on time and was happy. I had a casual and not harried drive to work and I even lucked out and found a parking spot right in front of my local Starbucks.
I mean, the day was ticking right along on schedule. I was feeling so proud of myself.
With Jeep parked, I walked inside hoping for a short line then opened the door to that very image. Only three people in line. Yesss!
I stepped up to the register, ordered my drink, chatted with the person behind me in line, giggled with their child and was feeling pretty great.
My latte came up quick and I grabbed it and was feeling pleased with the smooth pace of my day.
I carried my drink over to the little station where you can find sweetener and milk to add in. I politely said excuse me as I accidentally walked in front of another customer. I thought about an article I had read recently about the value of being nice, and thought how I need to continue to be a nice person even when the world sometimes makes me want to be mean.
Landing at the sweetener station, I popped the lid off my drink, reached to grab a couple packets of sweetener, shook, tore and when I went to put this into my drink, I knocked over my lidless cup, sending a coffee tsunami into the air.
Seriously. How did my latte catch air? I have no idea. Sixteen ounces of beverage became gallons as it poured all over the counter and onto the floor. The force of the wave shoved my sunglasses off the counter and onto the floor.
The velocity was overwhelming as waves of coffee and soy milk engulfed the entire store and its patrons.
And that’s how I learned that Starbucks napkins are super, duper absorbent.
Keep that handy tip in mind.
A dramatic, yet dry, recreation of events
Image Copyright © 2014, Karen Fayeth. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app. Also taken surreptitiously in an empty conference room while the big meeting was on break.
Woke up this morning to a dark gray day as the (much needed) winter rain pounds the Bay Area.
But this rainy Saturday had a surprise. A whisper of Spring, growing in the small yard beside my building.
Photo © Karen Fayeth, 2014
I bought some daffodils from Trader Joe’s yesterday, but the small wild ‘dils in my yard beat them to the punch.
Oh how I love the sunny yellow of daffodils. Sweet smell of Spring.
While I do appreciate the rain, I really do, I secretly can’t wait for golden California sunshine to return.