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I miss my best friend today. Autumnal Equinox makes me think of harvesting hay and Dickerson’s dances.
That was a text message I sent to my best friend yesterday afternoon. I was at work and found myself with a few moments of pause. What I felt in that silence was an aching sense of melancholy.
The angle of light has been changing for a while and yesterday the world looked a little different bathed in early Autumn sun.
A beautiful sunny yet hazy day as I found myself at a high elevation gazing across the amazing view, Oakland to my left, Golden Gate center, Albany to my right.
It’s hardly original to feel melancholy in the Fall. I will follow the old poetic trope and go there anyway.
Since I know I have a “thing” about Autumn, I started looking back in the archives of my blog and found something that perfectly captures how I feel today. I’m nothing if not consistent.
Autumn is, after all, my favorite season in Oh Fair New Mexico.
So here’s a repost to get me through the day. The words still ring true, even as time goes by.
Originally posted April 15, 2009
It was Fall, had to be. Slight crispness to the evening air. Anticipation thick as the fog of Aqua Net in the sorority house where I lived.
It was 1989, probably. Or somewhere close to that. The campus of New Mexico State University. I was a sophomore, maybe a junior, I can’t remember. Doesn’t matter.
What does matter is that I was getting ready to go to a dance at Corbett Center on the NMSU campus.
The woman who would become my best friend for what is now over twenty years was the driving force that night, and many just like it. Her parents had met at a Corbett Center dance, so she was especially incentivized to go scoot a boot and see what’s doing. Family history.
I nervously pulled on my too shiny, too new, gray goatskin round toe ropers and jeans that didn’t really go with the boots, but were at least long enough to be acceptable. “You should buy some Rockies,” I was told, and they were right. I would, later, in quantity. But then I had neither the money nor the courage. I wasn’t sure what I was going to get into, I just knew I was going to be there come hell or high water.
It wasn’t my first Corbett dance. It wouldn’t be my last. This story isn’t about one actual night, more an amalgam of a lot of great nights.
The gaggle of high-haired women walked out the back door of our home, a sorority house containing twenty-eight women of different backgrounds, and one understanding house mom. What bound us together was our choice of educational institution. A land grant institution. To the uninformed, that means an agricultural college.
It was a short shuffle over to Corbett, up the stairs to the third floor where they had the ballrooms. Pay the entrance fee. Five dollars I think? Maybe less back then. Get a stamp on your hand. Look around, see who is there already. Talk about who you hope shows up.
Hear the opening strains of music. Usually The Delk Band. A group of musicians, brothers, and their dad on fiddle. I went to school with most of the boys. I remember I thought one of the Delks was cute. I remember one of the Delks was the drummer and back then had a tendency to speed up the tempo as a song wore on. Hard to dance to a wildly varying tempo. But we did it. (note of update: Saw the band not that long ago and that is no longer a problem.)
They were our people, and we embraced them. And we danced. Oh did we dance.
The two-step. Not the Texas double up kind, no. The slow kind, keeping time to the music.
And a waltz. My favorite, how I love to waltz. The rhythm of a song set to the beat of a waltz still paces my heart a little differently.
The polka. If done right with the right boy (he had to be tall because I’m tall and otherwise we’d just bump knees) you felt like you were flying, feet hardly touching the ground.
The ladies, my friends and I, would stand on the sidelines and take a look at the scene. My best friend would always get asked to dance first. She’s beautiful and a great dancer. Who could blame the boys for flocking to her blue-eyed, dark haired gorgeousness? Not me, certainly.
As I got better at dancing, I got asked often enough, too. The boys liked the girls who could dance, who liked to dance, who didn’t turn up their nose at dirty fingernails and cow sh*t on their boots.
There is something special about dancing with a boy who knows how to dance, a strong lead, who looks you in the eyes. The boys who had the right fold in their hat and smelled faintly of Copenhagen and beer and Polo cologne.
I got to know those folks. All of them, the boys, the girls, the dancers, the musicians, the laughers, the people who liked to swing each other around the dance floor.
They became my family. We traveled in packs, dancing until we were sweaty, then heading outside into the cool air to take a breath, drink a beer, laugh a lot and occasionally find someone to spend a little time with.
Well not me, not then. I was still too awkward and mixed up to attract much in the way of boys at that point. I was more “one of the guys” than one of the girls the guys would chase. Don’t feel bad for me though, I eventually figured it out. (cover your eyes, mom)
Over time, we all aged a little, got to be over 21 and started to migrate from dancing at Corbett center to dancing at the local country bar. It was fun but seemed a little more complicated. Add more than a couple beers to the night and weird things happen.
But still we danced. By that time, I’d moved off campus and lived with my friend from TorC. She was crazy and fun and taught me a lot (cover your eyes, mom), and she loved to dance as much as I did. She coined the phrase “big bar hair” and gave me an education on how to get it, and keep it, despite dancing so hard sweat ran down your face.
Then we all aged a bit more, and we graduated and found respectable jobs. My best friend, her husband (a fine dancer, I must say) and I are all actually employed in the same area that’s listed on our diplomas. One might scoff at country folks, but all three of us hold a Master’s degree in our chosen fields.
on the verge of turning forty well past forty, I find I still miss those days, mightily. I wished I’d enjoyed them more at the time. The stress of school and classes and “what do I want to be when I grow up” cast a pall on my days.
My own fault. A worrier by nature, a tendency that I fight tooth and nail every single day I take a breath.
When I’m having a bad day, when I doubt myself, when I realize I don’t fit in at my new place of employment, when I don’t feel heard or understood or very well liked, I can always go back to those days in my mind and smile.
I can’t get together with my best friend and her husband and NOT talk about those days. Magical. I’m blessed to have been able to have them. Once upon a time, I knew where I belonged.
Photo of The Delk Band in action
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Despite the fact that The Good Man and I actually moved two weeks ago, we didn’t fully depart the old place until this past weekend.
That last mile is a sonofabitch.
I guess we just wanted to save the best for last? Or something. Basically, the last stuff to exit the old place was the stuff from deep in the dark recesses of storage under the house.
Let’s be honest, this stuff it wasn’t “our” stuff, it was my stuff. Lots and lots of boxes, some of which hadn’t been opened since they made the 1,200 mile ride from Albuquerque to the Bay Area.
The goal this weekend was to open those deteriorating boxes, get rid of what I could, and what was left, repack into fresh boxes and move on.
This proved to be a more difficult task than I had expected.
There were some surprises in those ol’ boxes. Especially the one I’d jauntily labeled “Karen’s Childhood.”
What a doozy that one was.
Sunday morning, there I sat on the cold floor of my now former garage, used my Buck knife to slice open the “childhood” box and dug around in there. I extracted a now almost fourteen year old gallon size Ziploc bag containing a bunch of papers and stuff I clearly didn’t know what to do with when I left Albuquerque.
I unzipped the bag, pulled out the contents and went through it piece by piece. I turned over photos, old love notes, and a ticket stub.
I gasped and my eyes got a little watery from both joy and memory.
The Wayback Machine gobbled me whole.
Here’s what I found:
The year was…um….yeah. 1990? Maybe 1989? Oh jumping jehosophat! I don’t know. A long time ago when my skin was elastic and my pants were not.
It was Ag Week at NMSU. An annual celebration that was a week full of fun, games, and dancing for all us kids in and around the Ag College. It culminated in a big concert and dance at the Pan Am center on the last day of the week.
This was a special year. My best good friend excitedly told me that her Uncle Bax would be performing at that year’s Ag Week. And by Uncle Bax, she meant Cowboy Poet and legendary New Mexican, Baxter Black.
That year there was another yahoolio on the bill with Bax. Some nobody named Vince Gill.
Yeah. That Vince Gill. Before anyone knew who he was.
Friday morning we were invited to come to the Ag Lobby to meet and greet. Bax was there holding court and signing autographs, and gave my best friend a huge hug when she walked up. We talked and laughed with Bax a while and then we went over to check out this Vince Gill character. He was wearing a pair of NMSU sweatpants, a three day old scruffy beard, and hair that hadn’t been washed in a good long while.
He was nice enough. Looked totally exhausted. He signed a glossy black and white promo photo (I found that in the bag too) and we walked away wondering who that rube was.
He put on a hell of a show that night. And so did Uncle Bax.
Let’s just say this, it was a hell of a party.
One for the history books. Sure would be fun to live that one again.
When the trash went out at the end of Sunday, the Bax and Vince ticket didn’t go with it. It went back into the Ziploc bag, then into a new box.
Maybe in another fourteen years I’ll slice open that box and discover it again.
And well up.
Those were salad days, indeed.
Filed under: anniversary, art, Bay Area, birfday, cake, Celebration, chasing cowboys, country music, dancing, Fat Babies, fun, gratitude, Love, melancholy, memories, Music, Opinions, Teachers, woo hoo!
Today, April 6th, country king Merle Haggard turns an amazing 74 years old.
I’d just like to give The Hag a hearty Feliz Cumpleaños and and big shout out for another year of amazing music.
Equals some real, real nice memories.
Thank you for being such an integral part of my life, Hag.
And cheers to your next trip around the sun.
Special shout out to my twitter buddy, local radio guy @Pcon34 for playing “Fightin’ Side of Me” on the early morning show. Saaaalute!
Filed under: Bay Area, big weather, blogging, dancing, dreams, family, farming, Fat Babies, fun, gratitude, grief, guilt, hellidays, homesick, Las Cruces, life, melancholy, Opinions, overwhelmed, wayback machine
On this post-holiday rainy day, I reserve the right to be melancholy.
Holiday blues, weeping gray clouds, and general lethargy. Sure. It’s my prerogative.
I am loath to say the next seven words I’m about to say but…
I heard this great story on NPR.
You may not realize how pompous I think the people are who quote NPR. Now here I am committing the crime I rail against.
Through a series of events, the record was shelved until recently. Camp met the new studio head at Reprise who gave Camp’s record a fresh listen and it was finally released in September of this year.
What’s got me going here, got me writing a whole blog post about this story, is one of Camp’s songs that they played on the air.
It was a beautifully written song about being at the funeral of his grandfather. For some reason, the words reminded me of the incredibly sad funeral I attended back in August.
Despite the passing of four months, I find I still grieve for my friend. I guess there’s still something left to grieve, because lately he’s been showing up in my dreams.
Listening to Shawn Camp’s song reminded me of a dream I had just last night.
It was me, and my friend, and we were dancing. Just a simple two-step, nothing fancy, but we danced and he was whole and healthy and grinning from ear to ear.
My best friend was there too, and before I was even done, she got the next dance with him. The three of us laughed like it was, well, 1994, and it was good.
Now, this dream was particularly odd because in real life, my friend wasn’t much of a dancer. Oh, he was long legged and tall, a perfect partner. But he had a farmer’s sensibilities and didn’t dance that much. He could, and did, but it wasn’t something he did a lot.
But there in my dream we danced. When I woke up, I remembered seeing my friend’s body laid out there in a casket inside the El Paso First Baptist Church.
The old Southern saying is “now, don’t he look natural?”
No, he didn’t look natural. In my dream smiling and laughing and giving me seventeen kinds of heck…that was natural.
I’ve always been pretty glad that at the end of the line for my dad, one afternoon when my mom had run into town for errands, my dad and I had a talk. It was uncomfortable and weird, but in that talk, a lot of things were said that needed to be said. I can happily say I have no unresolved issues there.
But with my dear friend, I have something unresolved. It niggles at the corners of my mind and sits on my chest when I have another dream in which he plays a cameo. I owed him an apology. I’d planned to deliver that apology when he came home from the surgery from which he never returned.
Perhaps in dreams I can find the way to lay my issues to rest, to lay down the burden I carry around, to feel at peace with the loss of my friend.
Or maybe we can just dance and forget about I’m sorries.
After my best friend is done (which may take awhile), I got the next waltz.
Cuz these Fat Babies were made for dancing
Photo by Karen Fayeth
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Been going through some stuff in storage, pulling out the keepers, tossing the others.
But then, there are some items where it’s hard to choose, stay or go.
I just unearthed a box full of my old boots. This is tough.
I don’t wear most of these anymore. But I just can’t bear to part with these dear friends either.
I just look at the worn leather…and I remember.
Like, my first pair of ropers.
I’d worn pointy style boots, but when I got to NMSU, all the folks there were wearing ropers. So of course, I needed some too.
I was about a sophomore in college, I think, when I went down to the Tony Lama outlet in El Paso to procure these babies. They are gray goat skin, soft and forgiving. I wore these a lot, as evidenced by the worn down heel.
These were my main everyday boots. I wore them dancing on the boards at Corbett Center. I wore them for my horseback riding classes. Covered in manure, I’d wear them up the hill to attend the business college.
The toes are scuffed all to hell. The pretty gray color job didn’t hold up much under the dainty hooves of the insane mare I was assigned for a while in my riding class. She liked to step on feet. A lot.
Thankfully my gray boots were made for working.
When my grays were starting to show some wear, I saved up and decided to get a new pair of boots. I wanted to try Justins this time and I wanted lace ups. I also wanted pretty. My gray boots were utility. I wanted flirty.
So I bought these very impractical pearl white beauties.
Man, I loved these boots. I started wearing these to dances and leaving the beat up gray boots at home. I almost never wore the pearls riding, except once, for the horse show I participated in (and won).
I got these pretties on the cheap, as you can see, they are marked “imperfect.”
I’ll admit the heel wasn’t balanced quite right on the right boot, but I didn’t care. They were roper perfection to me. These boots were made for flirting with cute cowboys.
Ya wanna know the best part about the fact that I still have these boots?
Look at the circle engraved into the leather sole. You know how you get a groove like that on your boot? By dancing, that’s how.
The leather is cracked and the boots are worn out, but they are still utterly gorgeous to me.
And then, after college, and on to work. That’s when I went back to Justin and bought these guys:
I wore these to work a lot. The soft rubber and not-leather sole was easier on my feet, especially the time spent on the shipping and receiving docks. That concrete is hard on the legs, but these babies are comfy and they look good.
And the leather…oh, the leather just ages so beautifully.
These boots were made for my first real job out of college. They helped me make the transition.
I might actually pull these back out and find another chance to wear them. They are delicious.
And finally…we have these.
This is what I’m wearing now, my beautiful Ariat Fat Babies. These boots went to see the Merle Haggard show recently. These boots get a lot of compliments every time I wear them.
Right now, these boots are packed tightly in my suitcase that, by the time you read this, will be tucked in the cargo hold of an eastbound airplane.
If I’m lucky, I might get these boots out on a dance floor in Southern New Mexico on Saturday night.
Cuz these pretty pink rhinestone boots? These are made for dancing.