Aggies : Oh Fair New Mexico

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by Karen Fayeth

Ok, I’ll Pick A Side

Recently, as I perused the pages of Facebook, I came across a Newscastic (read clickbaity) article with a New Mexico topic. I took the bait so you don’t have to.

The title of the article is:

Pick A Side: 11 Famous ABQ Rivalries Since The Day You Were Born

They said to pick a side, so I did.

Herewith, the 11 so called rivalries (many of which came well after the day I was born, by the way) and my pick for each.


1) Comanche vs Candelaria


We can all agree not Montgomery, right? My preference always was and will always be Comanche, since it was quite close to the house where I grew up.

Sideline here, I looked up the house where I grew up on Google Street View. Wow, hardly recognize it. Brought a little tear to my eye.

Back in my day Comanche had way less traffic than Candelaria and made it worth taking, even with all of the stoplights. Who knows how it goes today? Maybe my ABQ folks can let me know.


2) Twisters vs Golden Pride


Have I been out of the state so long I don’t know what Twisters is? Had to look it up. Established in 1998. Psh! No.

Golden Pride (est 1972) all the way.


3) Sadies vs El Pinto


Isn’t the right answer first one then the other?

Okay, okay, look, I grew up in the days when Sadies was located in a bowling alley. That’s the kind of clientele they drew. El Pinto was always nice, a little more upscale (and pricey).

So to me it’s Sadies if you want casual and El Pinto if you want nice. Even with the lovely Sadies stand-alone restaurant, I stand by that rule of thumb.

Verdict: No pick, love ’em both in different ways


4) Rio Grande vs Alameda


Shrug. No opinion. I was a Northeast Heights girl. Didn’t get down either very often. Probably Alameda, based on my limited memories.


5) The Shins vs Brokencyde


Who? I thought this was “rivalries since the day you were born.”

Let’s go with neither. How about Joe King Carrasco, who is not from ABQ but played the hell out of it back in my day. Yeah.


6) UNM vs New Mexico State


I believe my feelings are this matter are abundantly clear.

And when we win this game, we’ll buy a keg of booze, and drink it to the Aggies til we wobble in our shoes.


Best. Fight song. Ever.


7) Eldorado vs La Cueva


Richie rich versus the really Richie rich. Who cares? Not me.

Del Norte for the win.


8) Sandia vs Rock Quarry


For skiing? Sandia. Oh Sandia and your bare dirt patches. Your hard icy spots. Your imperfect but nearby skiing, how I miss you.


9) La Cueva Skatepark vs Los Altos Skatepark


Hey! You children get off my lawn!


10) Scorpions vs Dukes


Those Dukes are comin’ up swinging. No contest whatsoever. Love the Dukes. Likely because I am a huge fan of the sport of baseball.

While I love the sport of hockey and have nothing against the Scorpions, it just never seemed…right…to have hockey in the middle of the desert. (Yes, yes, I know about the Coyotes)

Side note, the Dukes used to have dollar dog and dollar draft days. Wow there are some games I can’t remember but had fun.


11) Sandhill cranes vs Balloons


Stop it Newscastic, you’re drunk. This is a ridiculous question. What, because they both fly?

Here’s the answer, hot air balloons in the morning, sandhill cranes at sundown. Owl burgers all day long.

Solved.


Okay, ABQ folks, what are your picks?





Image found here.





Slowly Fading Out of Sight

I drove a 1979 Mercury Bobcat. It was a Ford Pinto made by Mercury. Less flammable.

It featured a rigid manual clutch and four speeds on the center console. With a good tail wind and a steep New Mexico hill, I could get some speed in that tin can of a car.

Its vintage meant that it was too new for an 8-track player and too old for a cassette player. Only an AM radio was provided. You’d pull the button out and shove it back in to save your favorite station.

There is a lot of wide open land in New Mexico. So uninhabited that radio signals from faraway populated areas don’t always reach. Spin the dial and listen to different kinds of static. Only static.

I grew up in Albuquerque and went to college at New Mexico State in Las Cruces. The same day I moved into my freshman dorm, my parents moved to Carlsbad.

To go from Las Cruces to Carlsbad, you get to the other side of El Paso and face about two hours of nowhere and nothing. No people. No animals. No radio.

The seatbelt on the passenger side fit nicely around my boom box, a Christmas present from my mom. A stack of cassette tapes queued up to take a turn in the dual slots.

The Mavericks, Patsy Cline, Foster and Lloyd, Dwight Yoakum, Buck Owens, Alan Jackson, Keith Whitley, Marty Stuart, Willie Nelson.

Merle Haggard.

And that’s the point of telling this story, isn’t it?





Those voices, those songs, those musicians. Then and now, they are a part of telling my life’s story. The music of Merle Haggard lives in my DNA. It’s a short hand between friends. An access code for memories, to instantly revisit a time and place.

There was this blue eyed cowboy. He loved to sing. Occasionally he’d even sing to me. There was this dance in Mimbres. The band let him do a song, “Silver Wings.” Merle’s music and that cowboy’s voice. Everyone talked about it for weeks.

I wasn’t even there (he and I had parted ways by that point) and it’s still a part of my story, the collective story of all of us Ag College kids from that era.

Back then a band or a jukebox or a cassette tape would play a Haggard song and we had to dance, had to sing along.

When I was taking acoustic guitar lessons, I spent a lot of time learning how to play “My Favorite Memory.” I never quite got it right.

Merle Haggard told stories. His stories became our stories. His stories became timeless. The opening cords of any number of his songs thrum a string in my soul.

Seventy-nine years is a lot and yet somehow not enough. I had recently been trying to get tickets to a show. He’d rescheduled February and cancelled March. I knew he was having trouble.

Knowing the end is near and the arrival are two very different things.

We last got to see him in December 2014. He came out to the stage looking tired and at half a lung down his voice was a little thin. By the end of the show he had energy and that smooth Merle Haggard sound rang clear, filling the venue and spilling out onto the streets.

We left the show full up to the top with the music of Merle Haggard. Though we’ve lost the man, his music lives on. In that way, we’ll always have Merle.

I’m saddened for his family who lost a husband, father and friend. We lost a good man yesterday. Today seems a little paler for the loss.

Rest easy, Hag.




December 2014 at the Uptown Theatre in Napa, CA




Black and white photo from Ben Haggard’s Facebook page all rights stay with the originator. Color photo ©2014 Karen Fayeth, taken with an iPhone6 and the Camera+ app and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page.




I Before L and E – The Grammar of Good Eats

I have the greatest best friend in the world. Knowing a ex-pat New Mexican like me is missing home more than ever in the Fall, she decided to poke the bruise. Because why not?

And being my best friend, she knew right where to hit for maximum impact. She got me right in the green chile.

Over this past weekend, she sent me a text with a photo taken near Las Cruces and the words “New Mexico misses you.”





So of course I damn near wept. I mean, my nostrils long for the scent of roasting green chile. And Zozobra just happened. And the State Fair is going on. And the Balloon Fiesta is coming up. It’s the best time of the year to be a New Mexican. And oh damn, why again did I move to California?

So I replied and waxed rhapsodic about the virtues of green chile. How I missed it. How maybe I could find some again this year at Whole Foods. How my local hippie grocery store carries dried red chile pods that are labeled as being from New Mexico.

I was lost in a land of happy thoughts and green chile dreams when my best friend who is teaches English at a local high school, said…

“Did you notice it was spelled c h l i e?”

Whaa?

Truth was, I hadn’t noticed. I was so busy trying to locate the green chile smell in my memory banks and bring it back to my nose. So I looked again. Sure enough.

Then I laughed. I considered making a crack about the sorry condition of public education in New Mexico, but that’s just hitting below the belt.

To be honest, the photo of a hastily hand painted sign made me miss New Mexico that much more.

Oh Fair New Mexico. How I love you you, your green chile and your bad spelling.

Love you so.




Photo courtesy and copyright 2013 my best friend in the world. Don’t steal it without asking!”




On The Wrong Road

This morning at an hour not early enough to avoid crushing commute time travels, I navigated my old Jeep through some swirls and whorls of Bay Area traffic and found myself on Highway 80 approaching the Bay Bridge.

As I did, I was thinking about the planned upcoming visit from my best friend in the whole world, and how excited I am to see her. Been too long.

I was listening to a shuffle of whatever music is on my iPhone by way of calming my nerves when a real old song came on, one of my best pal’s faves (a Waylon Jennings tune if you must know). As often happens to me in this crazy mixed up life of mine, what I saw with my eyes was the Bay Bridge but what I wished in my heart was that I was somewhere else.

Something about the springtime makes me miss New Mexico pretty ferociously. I let some memories in and found myself landing in a place called Lake Valley and the abandoned schoolhouse where we used to go to dance. That’s a whole other highway then were I was in that moment.

All of this reminded me that I once wrote about Lake Valley so I went into the archives and pulled this post up from 2007. I had to edit it quite a bit because, well, my editing skills have improved a bit since then.

So here’s a memory. Do click on that link to the Baxter Black piece if you get a chance. He says it better than I ever could.

Happy Dancin’ Friday to you, wherever you are today.



—————-


When memories reach up and grab you

Originally published March 26, 2007

Lately I’ve been on quite a jag of reading the works of one noble New Mexico-born left handed cowboy poet named Baxter Black.

He’s a good friend of my “adopted dad” (my best friend’s father) and I had the chance to meet him face-to-face back in college. Of course, I’ve heard plenty of his stories over the years.

I was heartened to see that my local library carried a good selection of Bax’s works. They make you smile, make you think and make you outright laugh yer bum off.

I just got done reading one of his collections of NPR material called “Horseshoes, Cowsocks and Duckfeet”.

One selection from that book is called “Lake Valley” and man oh man, that almost made me weep with homesickness. It also made me smile to know that two people, some twenty-five years apart in age, have similar memories of the same place and similar events. That’s the staying power of Lake Valley.

Back at NMSU I used to go to dancing at Lake Valley with my best friend. She’s the one who turned me on to it. Her parents used to come along for the fun because they went to NMSU too, and they danced at Lake Valley (probably along with Bax).

I remember at the dance they used to charge a family rate of $20. My fill-in dad would gather up all us scraggly college kids, blonds, redheads, brunettes, short, tall, thin, stocky and all about the same age. He’d lead us to the door, point to our gang, tell ’em that was his family, throw ’em a twenty and we’d all get in.

You know, in our way, we were (and are) family. [insert my best wistful smile right here as I miss my best friend for like the hundredth time today, already]

The way Bax describes Lake Valley in his writing is just how I remember it. When I was dancing, it was with a band called The Rounders and they played the old songs. What a talented group, The Rounders. They even played at my best friend’s wedding. Now THAT was a party.

At the end of this post is a photo I found online. It’s how the schoolhouse used to look when it was still a school. Ok, imagine that, but with no desks and a lot more years on it. That’s pretty much how I remember. See that riser there at the end? Where the teacher would sit? That’s where the band would play. It was a long narrow room so we had to dance in a long oval. Like Bax said, as we danced, the floorboards would give under your feet and they weren’t particularly even and a few nail heads were popped up, so you had to mind your feet. But oh it was a hell of a good time.

I’ve never felt quite so free, happy and in touch with the simple easy joys in life as I did dancing at Lake Valley. I miss the feeling of flying I’d get dancing a polka with my very tall and very dear friend Larry. I loved the camaraderie of wrapping arm around arm and doing the Schottische and Cotton Eyed Joe (“stepped in what?”).

And, as Bax said, when the band took a break, we’d all migrate outside to cool off and dip into someone’s ice chest for food, beverages and the telling of a few good stories.

We were all community then. We were bound by our heritage and our lives in New Mexico. Under that bright moonlight we were all inextricably connected, and it felt so right.

Ah the memories. If I let ’em, they’ll take over my whole day.







Image from Living Ghost Towns.




Misty Tequila Colored Memories

There I am, a random sunny weekend day in suburban Northern California, with a bag of groceries in my arms and holding hands with my husband.

We’re headed to the car in the parking lot when a low, slow Honda Civic rolls by. The car has been lowered, the wheels are miniscule and from inside the car comes some techno music. Not the multilayered computer-mixed techno of this modern era, but a thin synth-pushed techno that was quite reminiscent of the dance club music of the late 1980’s.

And suddenly I am no longer on a grassy knoll outside of Whole Foods in suburban California, but I’m wandering over the Paseo del Norte bridge and stumbling down Avenida de Juarez.

And I am inside Alive, a bar just over the border in Juarez, Mexico. If I listen hard enough, I can hear the sound of tequila slammers hitting the bar, syncopating with the terrible music blaring from the terrible sound system.

Alive, a venue located underground (the irony was not lost on me) with a tan blown-foam covering on the walls and a trip-worthy ramp leading to the bowels of the nightclub. I’d remind myself as often as possible not to touch anything and mind my own business.

But a bucket of Coronitas and a few slammers later and hey, let’s dance!

And me with my walnut sized bladder begging myself to hold it because the bathrooms at Alive were awful. Just…frightening.

But who cares! I was young! I was invincible! I was the only responsible person in a group of very irresponsible college kids. We were having fun. In another country. With no parents in sight! Freeeedom!

Yes, I was young and in my prime and not something like 43 and worried about jobs and money and is that cereal I just bought gluten free because wheat gives me tummy rumbles and oh yeah, did I get hemp milk because by god I’m lactose intolerant too. And can you read the label on this box because the print is too tiny and I sure as hell can’t read it.

It was a fleeting memory and I told it all to The Good Man. He replied “You and I had very different lives.”

And I suppose that’s true, we did.

But I can’t shake the memory. It’s not that partying in Juarez was a particularly good time. I was always the “good kid” and worried to death about all my friends and how to get them all back home safe and intact. I worried that one of the guys would get in a fight and we wouldn’t have enough money to pay the Federales to let him go. I worried my pockets would be picked clean by the kids (I had fended off more than a few). I worried that if the time came to run that I would be the one not running fast enough.

None of that really sounds like fun.

Those times are long past, something of stories and fairy tales as I wouldn’t go near Juarez for all the tequila in the world now.

I guess that memory on that sunny California day was something like fond reminiscence? I think it is more my youth that I miss than the crappy bars like Alive and Spanky’s and The Tequila Derby.

While searching for photos of Alive, I found this story on CNN. The author perfectly describes what it was like then and what it’s like now and does a much better job than I did.


Juarez was fun – before it was dangerous.





This 1950’s (or maybe 1960’s) era postcard, oddly, comes closest to my memories of Avenida de Juarez. In the late 1980’s that big bottle over the liquor store on the corner (left side of the photo) was still there.




Image from an eBay posting selling the original postcard.



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