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by Karen Fayeth

I Don’t Want To Be Right. Okay, Maybe I Do.

In my quest to 1) become a better person and 2) survive 2016 intact, several weeks ago I signed up for a mindfulness meditation class.

The instructor is lovely and the class is, well, relaxing. It makes me calmer and a better person in so many ways.

This whole meditation thing doesn’t really jibe with my New Mexico upbringing. Stress reduction is a bit different ’round here than it was there.

For example, where I live now, it’s awful hard to take a three-hour ride upon my favorite horse in order to relax. And driving out to Chopes for enchiladas and a beer is a longer drive than I can make in a day.

Meditation it is, then.

Last week, we had a long class discussion about the use of one’s car horn. How it’s not mindful or necessary to lay on the horn while traveling this world. How it can make things worse by scaring the other driver or making the other driver mad (and bad things come from that).

This is also in line with The Good Man and his rules for better living. Since we live in a more urban city than I’ve ever lived in before, he has asked me nicely give my horn honking a rest. These are tense times and occasionally I travel through tough neighborhoods. Who knows how the ol’ toot-toot will be received?

Really, this is all sage advice, both from the Vispassana teacher and the man I married.

Until yesterday, when I found myself in Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood. Where the Chinatown in San Francisco is something of a tourist delight, the Oakland Chinatown is a serious ethnic neighborhood. It sits near Oakland’s downtown, so it’s busy, jam packed with traffic, and not to be taken lightly.

I’ve spent many an hour in Oakland’s Chinatown over my years and I love it. It had been a while, and was nice to be there again. I had a couple things on my shopping list that can only be found in that neighborhood.

As I rolled into the area, I made my way past city buses and double-parked cars, and was filled with glee to find a nice wide parking spot on the street just around the corner from where I needed to be. Score!

I carefully maneuvered over, waited while the car ahead loaded her kid in the car, had my blinker on the whole time and as I pulled forward to align and began to back into the spot, some $%^& started to pull head first into my spot.

Yay, verily, there was much laying on of horns. Oh yes. My beloved Jeep is equipped with not one but two bassy air horns that make it clear to whomever is on the receiving end that they have been properly honked. One firm flat-palm press lights up the hearing cavities of all nearby.

I held that Jeep horn with a solid hand, owing my destiny to all of the fabulous people throughout my years here in the Bay Area who taught me how to survive in a city. Indeed. I followed the playbook and hoped to hell this wouldn’t escalate into that driver getting out of their car.

Thus, as the interloper assessed the situation, she surely noticed my sixteen-year-old Jeep was far less shiny than her almost new SUV nosing into my spot. I held steady, knowing even then that the person backing in is at a disadvantage to the person trying to head in.

Finally the fancy car threw it in reverse and left, giving me an exaggerated shrug on the way by.

Here is the true confession: Damn did honking the hell out of my horn feel good. Like, real good. Like cold beer after a hard day of yard work. Like that first bite of a Chopes enchilada (egg and sour cream on top). Like finally getting out the splinter that is starting to fester.

I know it goes against everything my spouse and my learned teacher have asked of me. It wasn’t peaceful, nor kind. But damn did it feel good.

Almost too good.

Okay, okay. The horn honking is over. The satisfaction was quick and delicious. The endorphins rose and quickly dissipated.

Today I’ll rededicate myself to the peaceful life. To being more kind. To being more centered. To let traffic solve itself without the help of two weighty and meaningful Jeep air horns.

They don’t call meditation a practice for nothing. It takes work. Perfection is not expected. (I’ll add this note, I refrained from both cursing and arm waving in addition to the horn. It’s something to build on.)

Given the same situation, would I honk it up again? Hee, hee…probably.

Okay, okay. I’ll try harder.

Ooooohmmmmmmmmmmmmm……




Recycling one of my favorite photos.





Image found here.





I Don’t Subscribe To This Point of View

Do you remember the Sting song “Russians” from way back in 1985? An overly somber commentary on the state of the Cold War, Sting implored “I hope the Russians love their children too.”

I have had occasion to listen to this song a few times over the past months. It keeps coming up in my consciousness. I do readily admit that in 2016 the song sounds almost quaint and old fashioned. I remember the first time I heard it in 1985 it felt deadly serious.

As a GenXer, the Cold War is certainly a part of my formative years. Growing up in New Mexico, I was acutely aware that “Oppenheimer’s deadly toy” was largely created in Los Alamos. My dad was employed by Sandia Labs and he worked on nuclear weapons. Hell, my dad was one of those guys in the 1950’s out on some Pacific island in the middle of nowhere setting off nuclear explosions just to see what would happen.

So the Cold War was a little more real to me than perhaps many of my classmates. I remember on the playground talking with some friends about this list that apparently the Soviets had. A list of the first places they would hit if the war began. We all agreed Los Alamos would be on the list and debated if Sandia was there too.

I remember saying to a friend that I’d rather be nearby if a nuke was dropped. I’d rather be vaporized than have to live with radiation poisoning. I was just a kid but I had worked out how I would get as close as possible to Kirtland Air Force Base to control my own destiny.

That was some heavy stuff for a little kid, but it was the reality of the world back then.

So when I learned in April of this year that I would be traveling to the Czech Republic, I was incredibly excited. I love international travel and Czech Republic is a really old and quite historic city. The Good Man calls it “deep Europe” and it sounded so dark and mysterious.

But I also pulled up short. Hesitatingly, I asked The Good Man, “Didn’t…uh…Czechoslovakia used to be Communist?”

Then I took a look on Google, I searched “Iron Curtain” and found this map. There it is, Czech Republic behind that heavy line.



Map found here

I had a startling realization that I was preparing to travel to a communist country. This brought up an amazing amount of fear and almost guilt. Like I was betraying my country. Like I was letting down my father and all of those people he worked with back in the day. Or that I would surely find myself taken prisoner and subjected to intense KGB scrutiny simply for being an American in the wrong place.

Of course, all of that is patently ridiculous. The Czech people had taken back their country in 1989 and Americans visit Prague all the time. One of my coworkers had just been there and she loved it.

My weirdness was not helped when the guy who heads up the property team at work dropped a letter on my desk and told me to keep it with my laptop when I traveled. The letter assured that my employer owned the machine and that I was authorized to carry it.

I said, “This is my fourth international trip for our employer. I should admit I’ve never had a letter like this before.”

He quickly replied, “That’s because you’ve never traveled to a former Communist country before.”

Oh.

Back in the day, I loved that movie “White Nights.” What more could a movie do to pander to GenXer fears around the Cold War? Plus, I had enormous teenage tingly feelings for Gregory Hines (I can confess I actually got to meet him once and he was even more handsome in person, and also a true gentleman). Mikhail Baryshnikov was not exactly hard to look at either. But I’m wandering off topic…

That scene where Baryshnikov’s character, a defector from Russia, realizes the airplane is going to make a crash landing in Siberia had a big impact on me. As he’s tearing up his passport and flushing it down the toilet, I was terrified. When the inevitable straight out of central casting KGB agents arrived to harass our hero, I just knew that was EXACTLY how it really was. This was more documentary than fiction, right? <*smirk*>

It was with all of these thoughts and fears that I boarded a plane headed for the Czech Republic. Of course what I found when I landed was a beautiful country and very kind people.

My first foray into the center of the city of Prague was to attend a formal dinner at the historic Rudolfinum. One of my coworkers who knew her way around suggested we get off the Metro a couple stops early and walk about half a mile to the venue. Well of course, I was excited at this very idea. My first real exposure to the heart and soul of Prague.

I was immediately enchanted by the lumpy cobblestone streets and the very old buildings. We soon came across an odd building with four statues over the entrance depicting what appeared to be, to my eye anyway, communist era workers. The kind of thick neck and heavy features you’d find in a Diego Rivera painting.



A very bad screen grab from Google maps because I didn’t take a photo while there

I had kind of a “holy shit, look at that” moment and kept walking. There was a remnant of Soviet era Prague right there. Right there!

As we kept walking my eyes landed on souvenir shops with colorful marionettes, crystal shops, many pubs, restaurants and even a big ol’ Burger King, and I knew that it was okay. I was not somewhere I wasn’t supposed to be. I didn’t need to rip up my passport and toss it into the murky blue waters of an airplane toilet.

No, rather, I was exactly where I needed to be. Instead of fear I felt proud that my ten New Mexico bred toes felt the pulse and music and life of one of deep Europe’s most beautiful cities.

Now, in hindsight, of course I was being ridiculous. I mean, my brother has traveled right into the heart of Moscow, Americans are free to visit Cuba, and Dennis Rodman gets to visit his bestie in North Korea. It’s a different world and a different view.

At the end of the day, it turned out that the Russians did (and do) love their children too.





A Shiny New Toy

My fascination with bridges is pretty well documented. I have a mini project going on in my creative background to photograph bridges (and rivers, boy do I love rivers!).

This weekend I had a nice opportunity to photograph a brand spanking new bridge.

For years, ok pretty much since I moved to the Bay Area, I have railed about the eastern span of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The western span is a beautiful, elegant suspension bridge while the eastern span is a bunch of clunky tinker toys, better known as a cantilever bridge.

Here’s a photo I took from the upper deck of the tinker toy:



Image Copyright 2010, Karen Fayeth

This part of the bridge is very functional but not very aesthetically pleasing. At least in my personal opinion (others disagree).

You’ll recall that in 1989, this was also the section of the Bay Bridge that collapsed during the Loma Prieta earthquake.



Image from Wikipedia and used under a Creative Commons license.


If that photo don’t make your heiney pucker, than you have a set of brass nerves that I just don’t have.

In the wake of the 1989 earthquake, planning and work began to replace this span of the Bay Bridge with something more seismically stable. This project was not cheap and it was not simple, but by gum, now some 24 years later the brand spanking new eastern span of the Bay Bridge opened up to the public last night.

Traffic reports this morning were pretty bleak as plenty of people crammed onto the new span for their first ride.

Yesterday The Good Man and I sought to escape the breeze-less heat at our happy home and drove out to the marina near Emeryville, which offers unobstructed views of the City, the bridges and downtown Oakland. I took my camera along as I am part of a photography club and this month’s theme is landscapes.

Here is my semi-artistic view of the new eastern span (to the far left in the photo) and how it blends is perfectly with the existing buildings and landscape of the San Francisco city line (that’s the top of the iconic Transamerica building just to the right of the new bridge).

At first I was no fan of the white paint on the new span, but now I’ve come to love it. This new suspension bridge really stands out against the backdrop and claims its own place in Bay Area history.



Image Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth


Hard to tell from this photo, but there are no cars on the deck of the bridge. Who knows how many years will pass before we see that again!

And while I’m excited to the point of hyperactivity about this gorgeous new suspension bridge and looking forward to seeing it every day as I drive to work, I find something curious is happening.

The news reports say that the moment the new bridge is up and running, the old eastern span will be dismantled. The pieces will come out in the reverse order they went in and much of the metal will be sold for scrap. This makes me a bit sad. It seems that ugly ol’ bridge found a way into my heart. Those 1934 era tinker toys now mean something to me, and I’m more than sad to see them go.

In the wake of this shiny new toy, that unseismically sound bridge now seems awfully lovely. In the many months I commuted to the east bay across the Bay Bridge (before I made the big move), I learned to love the forgotten little sister to the Golden Gate bridge.

Sure am going to miss one half of my old chum, even as I welcome this safer new span.

I’m glad the Bay Bridge is having a much deserved moment in the sun.





Image of the old eastern span of the Bay Bridge, Copyright 2010, Karen Fayeth. Image of new eastern span of the Bay Bridge, Copyright 2013, Karen Fayeth. Both images subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Old span taken with an iPhone and the Camera+ app, new span taken with a Canon Rebel and fixed up a bit in Photoshop.




So Hard To Resist

Earlier this week we had occasion to experience a surprise fire drill in my office building. Well, mostly a surprise. For the people working away in their cubicle farm, they noticed the designated safety prevention people suiting up in orange vest and hard hat and figured things out pretty quickly. I was in a meeting and had no such tip off.

When the alarm went off, like good little children, we rose from our seats and milled around, lost. A safety coordinator pointed at me and told me to go through the emergency exit right there in the conference room.

Okey dokey, I hit the safety bar on the door and “weeoooo weeoooo weeooo” a second alarm sounded loudly, sharper than the already blaring fire alarm.

I have to say, that was kind of fun. A little bit of a rush. To be able to actually open the emergency, don’t go through it or an alarm will sound door was awesome!

While milling around outside at our designated checkpoint, I was chatting with one of my coworkers about the happy adrenaline run I had from setting off an alarm.

He said, “You must be the kind of person who wants to pull a fire alarm.”

“Well. Yeah.” was my reply. “But not just any fire alarm, one of those alarms they have in our really old buildings. The ones with the little pane of glass and a tiny hammer? Yeah, I can hardly walk by one of those without wanting to smash that little glass window.

And so, dear reader, to make my point, I snapped a photo of the kind of ancient fire alarm I’m talking about. These things are peppered throughout a building that dates back to the 1940’s, and my fingers itch every time I walk by.

If weren’t for that whole being against the law thing…






Image Copyright 2013, 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 Big Bad Sultans of Swat And One Eight Year Old Girl

June 6, 2013 by · Comments Off on The Big Bad Sultans of Swat And One Eight Year Old Girl
Filed under: adorable, awesome!, backyard, baseball, big weather, cackle, Dad, drama, laffs, latent childhood, life, make it work, New Mexico, Opinions, play through, rain, safety, scared, water, woo hoo! 

Imagine it if you will, Albuquerque in the 1970’s. Idyllic late summer days of blazing hot temperatures and then around 4pm, the boiling dark clouds move in and the rain comes a’pouring down.

That summer monsoon rain would cool things off, water the plants and change the smell of the air.

I used to love running outside to play in the pouring rain. It was always a warm rain and I’d dance among the raindrops, catch a few on my tongue and generally frolicking about getting soaked from head to toe while searching for rainbows.

Rain storms in New Mexico are a show. Ripping bolts of lightning and crashing booms of thunder. On one such dancing day in the rain when I was a kid, I didn’t realize how close I was to the center of the storm, and as I did my soggy dance, the thunder cracked so loudly that my feet moved from a lively jig to a dead ahead run in one swift movement as terror coursed through my veins.

It looked something like…well…this:




Except I was an eight year old girl. The people in this .gif are grown ass men. Major league ballplayers for the New York Yankees. (there is video out there, the Boston players had a similar reaction).

But I know the feeling. Oh, I get it.

Just as my dad laughed his butt off when I went racing by, terrified and soaking, I am laughing my head off at this .gif (and the video).

Just can’t stop watching it. heh.




.gif found on Cheezburger.com.





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