people are people : Oh Fair New Mexico

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by Karen Fayeth

48 Hours of Prague Thoughts

I have found myself in the city of Prague in the country of Czech Republic for only forty-eight hours. Well, a little less than forty-eight, but let’s not quibble.

In forty-eight hours I have learned that the current leadership of the country wants their country to be referred to as Czechia, for reasons I don’t fully understand.

“The Terminological Committee of the Czech Office for Surveying, Mapping and Cadaster officially codified Czechia in 1993 in its publication “Names of States and their Territorial Parts”. Therefore, Czechia is the grammatically correct short name of the Czech Republic…” – from Go-Czechia.com

I have learned that occasionally I can understand a word or two in Czech, but then the diacritic marks give me doubt.

And I have interacted with Czech citizens, mostly the driver of my airport shuttle, hotel staff, and employees of the mall next door to the hotel. The clerks at the grocery store in the mall are probably the most Czech of the Czechs I have encountered. They have little to no English and can’t care that I have no Czech. I admire this.

One habit I have cultivated in my bit of international traveling is that I like to go to grocery stores when I visit other countries. I like to see what everyday people buy and how everyday people procure their comestibles. Also because grocery store clerks are the most representative of the people of the country because they have no enthusiasm for making it easy on tourists. They are just being genuine.

In less than forty-eight hours I have come to appreciate and even feel a deep fondness for the people of Prague. Come with me on this tangent: Over the course of my life I have been fortunate enough to be friends with many Russian people. People from Russia have a very distinct cultural identity. Most Russian people I know can find a way to be unhappy even in the most incredibly happy of times. Not a sadness, but a deep disappointment tinged with world weariness. There is almost an enjoyment in unhappiness.

Obviously, owing to the long history of Czechia (see, I can learn), Russian culture has had a deep impact on the people who live here. I find some of that same slight sadness, irritation and fatigue with life in the people of Prague. At least the people older than say…thirty-five. It’s almost kind of endearing.

Here’s my best example. I went to the grocery to get some water, some chips and some cookies to stock in my hotel room for snack time. I had just a few items and I approached the register, feeling nervous.

I had learned two days ago that if I want a bag, I have to take one (paper or plastic) from the front of the register, and I have to let the clerk know I am buying the bag, and then I have to bag my own groceries. It’s very common in Europe to bag your own groceries. I was proud to have learned the whole bag situation (a nice Czech lady helped me) and was ready to check out. (Czech out? Okay, bad pun.)

My sweet little American self stepped forward when it was my turn, and I held up the bag and pointed and nodded. The clerk sighed and began mumbling in Czech. Then the mumbling took on a ferocity. She riffled through some papers on her table and spoke more loudly, but not to me.

She shouted across the aisle to the clerk at the next checkout station. A conversation ensued. As near as I can decipher, she needed the code for the paper bag I had chosen. The other woman offered a suggestion that didn’t work. My checker kept trying until after several attempts, she sorted it out.

She then began to scan the rest of my items, mumbling and gesturing in Czech. Not speaking to me, but clearly unhappy. Occasionally she’d shove at the papers that had let her down.

In my mind, I translated from a language I do not understand, but I think I understood the moment.

“This person wants a paper bag and they tell me I have to charge for it and if I’m supposed to charge you’d think they would at least give me the code on these damn papers,” shoves papers, “but no, I have to guess and this goofy looking American is standing here, don’t think I don’t know you are an American. Just because you haven’t said a word doesn’t mean I can’t smell it on you from a mile away. And of course the American wants a paper bag. Plastic bag, I know the code for that, but no she wants a paper bag and I don’t know the code and I don’t have the code here,” shoves papers, “I have to scan all her stuff and I don’t even care, I just am trying to make a living here and I have to charge for paper bags and what is the meaning of life anyway, but to be miserable, forced to charge for a paper bag and never really knowing the correct code.”

Or, you know, I could be reading into things…just a teeny bit.

We concluded our transaction and I smiled and said “thank you.” She looked at me like I was a developmentally latent child, and I walked away, a few Czech Crowns lighter, a bag of chips water and cookies in hand, and a story that felt like it needed to be told.

Tomorrow brings the most intense day of meetings, the whole reason my employer sent me to Prague. Once that is concluded, I can hardly wait to finally explore more of this beautiful city and learn more about the people and places of Czechia. I can’t wait!




The Google translate app (using the camera, a very cool feature) tells me that this grocery bag says (roughly) “With 25 years, from us you take away freshness and quality.” You can see how the last word really could be the word “quality.” But beware of thinking you know something now, because you certainly do not. Your Czech is of no kvalitu.





Photo ©2016 Karen Fayeth, taken with an iPhone, the Camera+ app, amusement and jet lag. Subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page.




What? No. Thinking Businessey Things.

My employer is weird. This is known. And one of the weird things they like is to have portraits done of all of us minions every couple years.

The employer has a professional, award-winning photographer on staff and in addition to his amazing photos of amazing science, the poor guy also has to sit in a conference room while a parade of geeks, nerds, scientists, engineers, and dorks like me clomp through.

Last time I had a work photo taken, it was two years ago. It was a humid day. I had to walk up a steep hill to get to the place where the photos were being done. I was running late because I couldn’t find a parking spot.

I’d sweated my makeup off and my hair frizzed to cotton candy status. Then I sat down and had my photo taken. It’s awful. And it’s published on my department’s website for all to see.

We’re encouraged to use that photo as our email avatar. Nope.

Today is the day when new company photos are being taken. Argh. I have been, to put it mildly, obsessed about this. I want my new professional work photo to be something I am willing to look at.

Yesterday I carefully examined all of the photos of my coworkers in the photo archive to assess what works and what doesn’t. This morning I curled my hair. I put on makeup. I fussed.

At about twenty minutes before my appointment time, I sat at my desk fretting. I decided to open Photobooth on my Mac to get a real look at how things were working and what needed fixing.

I gazed into my laptop camera and took a couple shots. I evaluated the smile, the hair, the lipstick then I went back in to try again.

I was staring the camera dead on, trying to smize when in my peripheral vision I see one of the auditors come walking down the aisle. The very serious big 4 outside auditors here doing serious stuff like auditing financials. And here I am, a manager, supposed professional, at my desk selfie’ing.

So I tried to play it off real quick. I looked away and was acting all like “no, no selfies here.” And “Yeah it’s cool, ain’t no thing.”

And then the Photobooth “flash” popped (it flashes a blank white screen). Busted.

Yeah. Um.

Anyhow, I took that photo of my shame, cropped it, sent it through an Instagram filter and now it’s arty. Thoughtful. Meditative.

Nah, it’s just me trying to look cool and failing miserably. Welcome to Dorkville, population me.

I sure hope my professional photo turns out a lot better.




Thinking so hard right now.







Photo Copyright ©2015 Karen Fayeth and subject to the Creative Commons in the right column of this page. Please don’t use this photo elsewere. I’m asking nice. Photo made with Photobooth, Instagram and my special brand of genetic dorkiness.




May Santa Poop In Your Stocking and Smash Your Ornaments

Subtitled: An Open and Passive Aggressive Letter To A Jerk

Dear Festering Canker on the Butt Crack of Society,

On the weekend after the American Thanksgiving holiday I see that you managed to find yourself, and maybe a few of your slackjawed mouth breathing friends, in my neighborhood.

I can’t blame you because I live in an awesome neighborhood. Those houses that line the block are old, pristine and outrageously expensive.

It’s a neighborhood so nice I can’t afford to live here. Well, I mean own here. My economic status is evidenced by the nearly fifteen-year-old vehicle that I have to park on the street in front of the building that houses my teeny tiny apartment.

One of my neighbors who also lives in a small but well appointed apartment had parked her nearly decade old Volvo behind me on that fateful day. I know her, she knows me. We park near each other a lot.

So yeah, there are some really rich people who live on my block, but my neighbor and I are not among them. We managed to slip our middle class selves unnoticed into this nice neighborhood and enjoy the benefits of tree lined quiet streets and a walking score of an outrageously high 93.

I can see how you might show up in this neighborhood and see the opulence and think to yourself, “I need to mess some sh– up.”

And so you started with my neighbor’s Volvo. About eight months ago this same very nice person had a different Volvo, but a drunk college brat came careening through our street and bounced of her car and several others (thankfully I had parked across the street from her on that night) thus totaling her beloved old Volvo. That thing was a classic. She was heartbroken.

But her insurance kicked in and she lovingly replaced it with this used but in good shape model. You decided to be “cool” and rip the side mirror off of her new/used car. Ripped it clean off and left it dangling by the electrical cords. Aren’t you so clever?

Then you set your sights on my Jeep. You popped the passenger side mirror out and folded it over. It’s an SUV so it’s okay to do that. It’s a tough offroad vehicle and I’ve moved past bendy Willow branches that were stronger than your weak sauce.

It appears you wrestled with it a little bit because the case is cracked but your underdeveloped arms weren’t strong enough to twist it off of my Jeep.

Pause here, hand to heart in honor of my Jeep people.


So, since you weren’t able to complete your impotent act of vandalism, you then moved to my radio antenna. Yes, my Jeep is so old it still has an old fashioned non-retracting antenna that stands tall, reaching far into the universe to pull down radio waves and send them to the interior of my vehicle.

I have listened to hundreds and maybe thousands of baseball games on that radio using that antenna. Jon Miller’s voice so deep and bassy that it vibrates the cheap factory installed speakers in the doors. Well, speaker and door, singular. The driver’s side speaker hasn’t worked since 2005 and I never bothered to get it fixed.

But that’s not the point.

You got your giggles satisfied by ripping the antenna off my car. I can see from the clean spot in the dirt on my Jeep you had to lean in a little to get that done. I hope my antenna gave you a valiant fight. I hope you tore some skin when you ripped the metal and then carried it off.

You know, I grew up in the kind of place where there was really nothing to do on a weekend when school was out. My friends and I did some seriously stupid shit, too.

The quest to steal lawn ornamentation comes to mind. As young bucks we’d get a little sloshy and then go on the hunt for lawn ornaments. The people and culture of New Mexico tend to lend themselves to neighborhoods littered with plastic and clay items purchased over the border and brought home then proudly displayed on patchy grass and dirt lawns.

So yeah, we took stuff, but we always treated it nicely and often we’d go out on another night to return the things we took. Not always to the same lawns, granted, but the intentions were good.

All that by way of saying that I get it, the need to be young and dumb and act like an idiot.

But for eff’s sakes! There is A LOT to do in this town. We live in a hotbed of unique things to do, and not even all of them cost money.

Nah, you wanted to leave your little limpy mark on the world by destructing the property of some people who value our tired old hoopties the most.

Congratulations. You win. You got me.

I will rebuild. I will eventually have my antenna replaced. For now I listen to either scratchy FM stations or I pop in a CD. Yes, my car is so freaking old it still had a CD player.

And as the Christmas seasons dawns merry and bright, my wish for you, dear vandalist, is that Santa Claus takes a giant squat in your stocking while smashing your favorite ornament to bits.

And that someone takes something that you value very much and vandalizes it.

Happy Holidays!







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.




Yes, I Very Much Do Want Sprinkles on That

“Practice makes perfect,” they say and, “If you do something for 10,000 hours then you will be a master.”

Well, horse hockey is my answer to that.

If the delineator for adulthood is the age of 18, then I have put in a solid 236,682 hours at this craft, and I still haven’t figure out how to be a master.

In fact, I may be worse at it than ever.

Sure, I get up in the morning and I go to work and I make a paycheck and I pay my taxes and I usually vote and I have insurance and a 401k and even a will. All the trappings of being a grown up.

But I still would rather have cookies for dinner and silly cereal for breakfast. I still throw little tantrums when things don’t go my way. I still need naps and need to believe in Santa and I still want to play with toys and fly kites and occasionally I just need to melt down.

I can pay my taxes but the very thought of buying a house terrifies me. I can make decisions that impact millions of dollars at my job and then sometimes can’t decide if I want orange or lime flavored candy at the store. Then I buy and eat both and cry because my tummy hurts.

This thing, this adulthood, it doesn’t get easier.

And hell, I don’t even know where the border lies, the place I can cross safely and know for sure I have arrived into adulthood.

Some might say it happens when you have kids. Fair play, I guess. But I have a lot of friends with kids that I wouldn’t call the model citizens for grownup-itude.

When my dad died, that probably was the closest for me in knowing what it means to be an adult. I grew up pretty fast when, for better or worse, that was thrust upon me.

But even that wasn’t enough to be the final frontier for me. (mmm, Frontier. I could go for a cinnamon roll right about now)

This past month some things happened with my “lady guts” that signaled the beginning of a long journey. When a woman’s life turns from the dog days of summer into Autumn.

Discretion keeps me from going through all of the gory details, no one needs all of that. While I’m far too young for the “main event,” my body has let me know that the pre-game show has started and the players are starting to take the field. (nothing like a sports metaphor to describe a lady issue….)

I’m not ready for this. I’m not grown up enough for this. I’m not an adult! I have put in the hours, many hours of long grueling practice and still…still I find myself at this age and at this earthly turning of a season far from being an expert at adulthood. I am jack of many aspects and master of none.

Maybe that is okay. Maybe that is what being an adult is about, the continually wondering if you are “grown upping” correctly. Paying taxes and eating ice cream sundaes with reckless abandon (while popping Lactaid, because that’s a mature thing to do).

And on my next bubblegum ice cream sundae, I will be decisive enough to get both nuts AND sprinkles on top.

Because I’m young enough to want them both and old enough to pay for it.

So there. Take that! This is how I’m doing grown up and no one can make me do it differently!

Nanny nanny boo boo on you!

Adults are always asking kids what they want to be when they grow up because they are looking for ideas.

— Paula Poundstone








Image found here.




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