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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.





Big City Turn Me Loose

Dateline: April 23, 2014, 8:52am Pacific Daylight Savings Time

Location: An undisclosed intersection in what is known as the East Bay


It’s morning and I’m waking up rough after some really painful dental work yesterday. I’m running late for work but I’m trying to stay calm and just get there.

I’m traversing a road that is something of an unofficial border. On one side is a series of slightly rough neighborhoods where gentrification is coming hard and fast. And painfully.

The other side is the “good” side of the road. Gentrification has already arrived, for both better and for worse.

I stop at a red light at a major intersection. I am first in line and there is a long line of cars behind me.

“Who Can It Be Now,” plays from the oldies station on my radio. A popular song from my high school years is now an oldie. Don’t get me started.

I tap my thumb on the steering wheel and hum along when to my left, a gentleman enters the crosswalk taking something of a slant route over the white lines.

In his hand he’s carrying an open tall boy and holding it close to his chest. He’s smiling, though his face and his skin looks like he’s seen some things.

I am alternately like “right on!” because why not beer at almost nine in in the morning? Then “oooh, damn” because beer at nine in the morning maybe means a few demons in the mind somewhere around nine at night.

But I don’t know this guy’s story, so I don’t judge.

As he ambles amiably in front of the grill of The Jeep, to my right an oblivious driver in a black Mercedes whips right into the crosswalk, intent on turning right and doing it right now, and damn near hits the guy.

Our beer drinking friend pulls up short, steps back and slightly bows, waving the Mercedes along. It pulls out in a huff, if I can attribute huffiness to a car.

Then the guy turns to me and smiles a lopsided smile and waves. I do what any decent member of the human race should do, I wave back. I briefly entertain a “I should not have done that” thought because I have learned through enough years living near and in big cities that sometimes it’s just better not to engage.

But I was wrong for thinking that. As I wave, he smiles a little wider, peers around The Jeep to be sure the coast is clear, then makes his way to the other side of the road.

The light turns green and I drive on, thinking about the guy, this city where I now live, the ever growing division between rich and poor and the implications of gentrification. I also think about how delicious the lemon scone sitting in the passenger seat is going to be when I get to work and gobble it up.

I get to the place of my employment, find a parking spot, quick yank the parking break and start my day. Something about the man with the tall boy sticks with me and I can’t quite figure out why.

One thing I know for sure is that I have to write about it, to capture the fleeting moment and memorialize it for myself as much as for anyone else.

And so I have.











Image found here.




The Irony Is Not Lost

These days I live in a fairly urban area and I also live near a major university, so this means driving around here proves to be quite a challenge.

I see a lot of people both young and old riding the roads on their bicycles or scooters and of course walking. There is even the occasional Segway. Though the most popular mode of transport by far seems to be bicycles.

Fundamentally, I don’t have an issue with people riding their bicycles. It’s exercise, it’s efficient, and it’s environmental. Plus it leaves more parking spots for me. Great!

The issue I do have, however, is some bicyclist’s complete and flagrant disregard for traffic laws. You know, running stop signs, not yielding to a yield sign, flowing with cars when they feel like and acting like pedestrians when they feel like.

My commute to and from work is pretty short, but can be frustrating as I traverse many busy streets with lots of crosswalks and stop signs and long lights. In addition to bicycles, I often have to tangle with students walking around with eyes glued to their smartphones darting out from between parked cars.

I really hate it most when I have the green light and as I start to roll a bicyclist runs the red light the other way and sails through the intersection with nary a care in the world.

The other day that big wheel of karma ticked about two and a half degrees to the right and I saw something so ironic it made me laugh and shake my head.

Ok, here’s the scenario:

I am driving up a busy two lane and mostly residential street. Traffic is moving, albeit at a fairly slow pace. I’d estimate I was doing something like 25mph.

I was hugging the yellow line because to my right were two guys decked out in stretchy shorts and tip-tap-clompy biking shoes riding on very fancy bicycles.

We were all cool. I saw them, they saw me. I made space and we traveled casually along, moving straight ahead on the road.

As we three came to an intersection some hipster chick on a pink bicycle with a plastic basket on the front does not slow for the stop sign on the cross street. She glides at full speed right into the intersection.

This causes the car coming the opposite way to screech to a halt. I slammed on my brakes too and the two bicycle guys next to me just kept going.

Because I guess bicyclists do that. When everyone around is braking, they just keep rolling because why not.

One of the guys finally saw Miss Hipster and locked up his very expensive racing bicycle brakes. The other wasn’t as quick on the brakes. As he came to a stop he ended up tapping her back wheel.

Hipster chick was totally oblivious. She wobbled a bit and just kept rolling on through.

Now dos Stretchy Pants are mad. They start shouting and screaming and arm waving at her about obeying stop signs and right of way and what the bleep was she doing.

So indignant these bicyclists got about obeying traffic laws. So, so righteous.

Hmm. Interesting.

Ironically so.








Image found here.




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.




Such A Lot Of Fuss For A Little Orange Sticker

Sheesh. Grownups sometimes. They get so worked up about stuff. Little stuff. I mean, gawd.

: rolleyes :

So whatever, last week I got this piece of paper left on my windshield. It seems that this one guy with a uniform thinks he’s all important and stuff and he says that my car didn’t have enough adornment. He said I needed to have this orange thing on my car instead of the pretty blue one that was already there.

And I have to give him some money, too.

My car was just sitting at the Bart station minding its own business! Ffft! What a bunch of baloney.

And because this is all a big game of hide and go seek, they don’t make it easy for me to get the orange sticker since I wasn’t in line the first time they were giving them out.

It’s like everyone gets a giggle by how frustrated I get running around asking everyone for a stupid orange sticker. I don’t even want the thing! I like the blue one better!

But fine. I played their game and I ran around until I got dizzy and my head hurt and it wasn’t funny anymore.

Then I had to write out a piece of paper that means money in their game and sign it and give it to them.

For that big amount of money I wrote down on the thing called a check, they gave me a little orange sticker so I can be one of the cool kids, too.

It’s not even that nice a sticker. Plain really. Just has 2013 printed on it and some other numbers. Big whoop. No rhinestones or glitter or gold leaf or anything.

But I guess you are supposed to stand in line when they tell you to so you can pay the money and get one of the stickers. When you move and don’t get the message that you are supposed to stand in line and pay your money, then you whiff it by three months everyone gets really mean about it.

Buncha bullies.

Anyhow, here, see for yourself. It’s not that nice. The blue one was prettier.

Whatever.

Well played, DMV, well played. Maybe that almost $200 I just gave you can go toward some sensitivity training for your employees. Just sayin’.





Ok, so I blurred the serial number because this is the internet and who knows where this stuff ends up.



——————


Photo by Karen Fayeth, Copyright 2013, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.




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