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by Karen Fayeth

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.




A Tip of the Cap

How does one eulogize a legend? I’m certainly not qualified, but my sincerity, hopefully, will win the day.

Over the weekend Major League Baseball lost a Hall of Famer, and it’s given me quite a few moments to pause and reflect.

Lon Simmons didn’t play the game but is as integral to the sport as any home run champion.

Simmons started out calling San Francisco 49er games in 1957 and then also began calling games for the San Francisco Giants with longtime partner Russ Hodges in 1958. This was just after the Giants had moved west from New York.

Lon’s deep resonant voice is iconic in its own right as is his very dry sense of humor. So dry that occasionally athletes and other broadcasters didn’t quite get it when he’d lay down a quip. In my opinion that sometimes led to awkward encounters, but Simmons was so affable that he could always save the moment.

Any baseball broadcaster worth a damn also has a signature homerun call, and I believe Simmons’ call is the foundation for any good call you hear today.

It went something like this *crack of the bat* “…that ball is way back, way back….tell it good-bye!” and he said with a rising inflection that built the tension, made you clutch the steering wheel in your car, hug a loved one or just squinch down waiting for the payoff. Then yesss! Tell it goodbye! Now that’s iconic.

In the early 2000’s Lon was still broadcasting pretty regularly for the Giants. I have a confession to make, back then I was starting to get pretty frustrated with Simmons. He was of course legendary but his game calling had lost a step. Perhaps it was the impatience of youth, but I used to turn it off if he was calling the game and listen a different way. Sad but true.

When he retired from the Giants broadcasting, I was relieved. I believed then as I do now that it was time. There are other legends, Jon Miller among them, ready to carry on the legacy that Lon Simmons began.

Over the last decade or so, Lon could often be seen at the ballpark and we’d always give him a hero’s welcome. Retirement seemed to suit him and when he’d come on the air, I was a lot more forgiving of his slow style and sometimes awkward pauses.

There is not a doubt in my mind that Mr. Simmons deserved his Ford C Frick award and his place in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

His voice, his storytelling, his homerun call, they are all a part of the fabric of the game that I love so much.

So on this second day of the 2015 Major League Baseball season and the first day of the San Francisco Giants season, I salute Lon Simmons for his service, for his style and for bringing baseball to life for me with his voice and his words.

I tip my cap to a great man. May he rest in peace.




Russ Hodges (l) and Lon Simmons (r)




Image found here




When Did That Happen?

I was out and about recently and ran into some friends who were with some other of their friends that I didn’t know. We all got to talking, cussing and discussing over beers and a bit of wine, and the conversation drifted over to the show “Breaking Bad.”

As a matter of fact, this happens to me a lot. Even though the show is no longer producing new episodes, it lives on in the world of Netflix. This show seemed to touch a nerve in people and it still relevant. People like to talk about it.

So I told one of my new friends that, “yeah, I’m finally watching it. I just started Season 2. It’s kind of weird to watch, though, because Albuquerque is my hometown. It’s where I grew up.”

The person responded, “Really? That is so cool! I mean, really cool. Tell me about it! Tell me about Albuquerque.”

This literally took the speech right out of me. “Uh, brr, eeeh, aauuugg” was about all I could manage.

Albuquerque? Cool? What?

Albuquerque is not cool!

Well, hell, maybe it really has become cool and it’s time to admit it.

The Albuquerque I know was the place that either no one had heard of or said “Oh yeah, you mean like Bugs Bunny?”

Albuquerque is the place that Southwest Airlines used to fly planes that were only one third full because NO ONE went to Albuquerque. (side note: I used to really like that. Now on Southwest flights people are squeezed in so tight you can hardly sneeze.)

Albuquerque wasn’t on anybody’s radar and now it’s in the zeitgeist. Just last night I saw an AT&T commercial that name checked Albuquerque. And it’s not the only recent commercial I’ve seen that gave the ‘Burque a shout out. Back in May I wrote this post about New Mexico being a part of not one but two popular movies.

When did this happen? I know, I know, this happened when “Breaking Bad” started airing.

I appreciate I haven’t seen all of the episodes but so far, but I’m not sure that show portrays my hometown in the best light.

So far in Season 1 and the first part of Season 2 I can see it’s mostly filmed in downtown. I think Jesse Pinkman lives somewhere off of Silver street. It’s a pretty cool house, old style.

I lived around downtown ABQ for a while when I was doing a co-op job out of college with Sunwest Bank. I liked living there, but to be honest, that part of ABQ that doesn’t always match my experience. I was more of a northeast heights kind of girl.

I often wince at the Jesse Pinkman character because he’s so not anyone I would recognize from Albuquerque. Then I wince again because the bad guy character Tuco is pretty much an amalgamation of a lot of guys I went to school with.

Anyhow, I suppose I should be glad that Albuquerque is getting the love. Then again, the spirit of New Mexico runs deep within me. We often have been pretty damn happy when no one knows about our beautiful state. The less outsiders the better.

But alas, Albuquerque is on the map. I even saw a Twitter profile the other day saying, “Proudly living in the land of Walter White,” and I just shook my head.

There’s so much more to ABQ. But ya’ll don’t need to know any of that. When the glow of Breaking Bad fades off, we can reclaim our “not cool” town, and going on doing what we do and knowing what we know.






Image from Wikipedia and used here under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.




Tell It Like It Is

Over the weekend, after another rough week at work, The Good Man and I found our way to the big main branch of our city’s library. It was like an awesome haven from the mean old world.

I immediately found my way to the fifth floor where they keep the art books. I needed an infusion of art and creation in my life to erase the financial and business blues of my workweek. I decided I wanted to look at some Frida Kahlo prints. I am a huge fan of Frida.

As I plucked a slim book of her paintings off the shelf, I found another small book hiding behind it. It was a book of letters written by Frida to her friends and family.

I love reading old letters. You learn a lot about who a person was (or is) by reading their handwritten letters.

I had always thought that Frida was so strong, powerful, fierce and uncompromising.

Boy was I wrong. Through her letters, I found her to be very sweet, quite insecure, and almost childlike.

She often would write letters to friends and ask their advice on big life decisions. For example, at one point her husband, Diego Rivera, had a terrible infection in his eye that had spread to the side of his face. She asked a friend, a fellow painter, if he though she should take Diego to New York to see American doctors or stay in Mexico and take the guidance of Mexican doctors.

Now that seems like a pretty big life crisis, something you would want to decide along with your husband and instead she was soliciting, nay begging for, the advice of a friend. She actually did this quite a lot, begged her dear friends to tell her what to do.

I found that so counter to the fierce woman I see through her paintings.

And then, over time, as she got older she did seem to become a lot harder edged. A lot more sarcastic and passive aggressive.

Clearly the philandering ways of her husband and his over bearing need to be controlling had taken a toll on her psyche.

That and years and years of immense pain in her spine, leg, and foot, all massively unresolved injuries from an accident in her teens.

Her physical and mental anguish become so forceful, it drove a little bit of the lightness out of her words. She became more bitter. And so maybe that is the Frida I came to know, the rough around the edges and hard woman who had been hurt too much.

But even then, as I understood how she could come to be that way, I was a bit shocked to read (in the book) a quite long essay that was to accompany an exhibition meant to honor Diego Rivera.

I came across this section and burst out laughing. I mean, wow.

Here, read it and see what you think. She is describing Diego’s physical form from many angles. In this section she refers to his chest:

“Diego’s chest — of it we have to say, that had he landed on an island governed by Sappho, where male invaders were apt to be executed, Diego would never have been in danger. The sensitivity of his marvelous breasts would have insured his welcome, although his masculine virility, specific and strange, would have made him equally desired in the lands of these queens avidly hungering for masculine love.”

Um. Did she just say her husband had moobs? Cuz I think she did.

In another section she describes seeing him naked as looking something like a child frog. Paraphrasing here, she said that his skin takes on a greenish tone and is pale under his clothes and only tan in his face and hands.

Yeah. Green moob guy. Awesome.

This was, I’m sure, taking a bit of her own pound of flesh from him for the years of unkindness. And also a bit of the ol’ anti-bourgeoisie taking the piss out of what might have been a flowery ode to her husband.

I’ll tell you what, that image is sure going to stick with me for a while.

Actually, the whole book will stick with me for a while. The letters so quaint, so childlike and such a deep glimpse into one of my creative heroes. Quite something.

Oh, and she liked to invent words of her own. My favorite was when she would refer to her life or other things that were not working out as expected as fuc-bulous. Oh yes. I can use that. I may have to adopt it myself.

Next up, I have on my bedside table a book of letters by Vincent Van Gogh. He was quite prolific in his letters to his brother, and it is a thick tome. I am both wary and excited to dip in.





Photograph by Martin Munkácsi





Image found here.





An Unlikely Icon

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.




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