Filed under: anxiety, automobiles, awkward, Bay Area, bebidas, beer, business is business, commuting, dental hell, disapproving boss, driving, first world problems, gratitude, ideas, learning, life, make it work, Opinions, play through, pondering, randomness, show and tell, stories, traffic, walking, words, writer, writing, yes boss
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.
Friends, family and readers of my little ol’ blog.
Just letting you know that I have unpublished my last post here for good reasons.
A coworker has stumbled across my blog, which is fine it’s hiding in plain sight, and has told a few others about it so I thought discretion was my best route. I wrote my last post all in good fun and in very general terms but it may not be taken in the right humor, so I did the right thing and censored myself.
Twas my mistake to write about work in the first place. Even though I keep all specifics out of the game, it’s still good practice to just keep that off limits.
So instead, have a photo of a monkey that comes very close to being my spirit animal:
Image found here.
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Part V, and the conclusion of a five part series.
It was a short plane ride, take off, cruising altitude for something like a minute, then get ready for final descent into Las Vegas.
Las Vegas. My kind of town. Vegas and I go way back. Now you know my not so secret secret, I wasn’t actually born in New Mexico, I was born in Las Vegas, Nevada.
My dad was working out at the Nevada Test Site and one thing led to another and…
Growing up some of my friends liked to tease me that my parents took a gamble and lost. Oh! Hey! Good looking crowd. We’re here all night. Tip your waitress.
My folks loved living in Las Vegas, but for various reasons moved back to Albuquerque when I was very small. Really too small to remember much of life in Las Vegas. All I’ve ever known is New Mexico, so I still rightfully call myself a native.
I scrambled off that Southwest Airlines jet, through the jetway, and hit the carpet in McCarran Airport. I walked without hesitation to a bank of slot machines that were unoccupied and pulled up a seat.
My family likes to gamble. A trip to Vegas was my present for my twenty-first birthday. My folks used to get out there at least once, maybe twice a year and we kids often went along. I didn’t grow up in Vegas but I grew up an awful lot on the many casino floors through the course of my life.
The Vegas I know is an old school Vegas, from the 1970’s, and it always feels a little right to be there.
With twenty dollars in the slot machine, I managed to make it play for a little over a half hour. I’d get down to the last dollar then the machine would pay off again. I was on a nice hot streak. Not hot enough to cash out, but hot enough to have some fun.
When that was gone, I picked another machine and chased another twenty dollars around for about fifteen minutes.
When that was gone, I got up from the seat with a sigh. I felt hungry and went in search of something not airport-awful to eat. Over a really disappointing slice of Sbarro’s pizza, I stopped chewing for a minute and smiled.
A thought occurred to me. In that same day, I had been in New Mexico, I was in Las Vegas, and I’d soon be in California. Those are all of the places I have ever lived. Those are all of the places I know.
Those are all of the places I belong.
Kind of cool, really. Kind of a nice way to end my journey. A full circle kind of a thing.
My trip to New Mexico was, all in, pretty good. I was so glad I made the trip, so glad to see my best friend and my goddaughters, so glad to go home and immerse myself in memories (and make new ones too).
My trip to New Mexico was also a little difficult. You see, my dad died in 2005 and he’s buried in the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. There was no way I could live with myself if I was in Santa Fe and didn’t go to the cemetery. And yet I really, really didn’t want to go to the cemetery. It’s not a joyful thing.
The last time I had visited was in 2009 and I was without a job and had lost my mind a little bit. I was scrambling to find a way to get back on my feet. That year I took a trip home to New Mexico to see if going back to my roots could help me find my compass needle.
I had cried a bit when my dad had died, but I was also a little stoic. My mom had asked me to be strong so that she didn’t have to be, and I agreed. I was as strong as I knew how to be back then, and a few years later there may have been some pent up stuff that needed to come out.
In 2009 when I found the stone that marks the place where my dad’s ashes are stored, it was a surreal experience. Gray skies opened up with rain and I stood there with my hand tracing the letters in stone and I cried, I keened, I howled. I scared the grounds crew. I honestly did, I freaked out this nice man taking care of the row of headstones nearby.
I guess back then I had some things I had to work out. On that recent spring day in March 2014, I was afraid that monster was still inside of me. I was terrified I’d find myself keening again at my father’s graveside. When considering going to the cemetery, I balked, I stalled, and finally I borrowed the keys to my friend’s new Suburban and set up Apple maps on my phone and took off on the highway, dreading it all the way.
Apple maps led me on quite a merry chase through the streets of downtown Santa Fe. That is a very old city, built by the Spanish Conquistadors so the roads are narrow and the sidewalks are high to accommodate horse drawn carriages.
With a little bit of axel grease and a shoehorn, I was able to navigate a huge Suburban through the streets, getting more lost by the moment.
Eventually, Siri found her head and I found my way, and there I was again, at the Santa Fe National Cemetery, both ready and not quite ready for what lay ahead.
That cemetery is always a difficult place for me. Rows upon rows of headstones mark all of my fellow New Mexicans who served in the military and who passed on, either in service of their country or later, as my dad had done. It is quite a humbling place for me, and that is even before I get to the place where I have to face my personal sorrow.
I had a bit of a false start, stopping at the wrong row of stones and realizing I was off by a bit. It didn’t take me a long time to find the right row and my father’s stone.
His ashes are in what is called a columbarium and it’s covered with a lovely piece of what I think is marble and secured to the wall with these connectors that look, to me anyway, like conchos.
They are so beautiful and so New Mexico appropriate.
Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth
For personal reasons, I will decline to post the entire stone, but I wanted to share a nice photo of that fastener. It stands on its own as a useful reminder.
On this visit I didn’t keen and I didn’t wail, but I sure did cry an awful lot. I put my hands on the now weathered stone and I traced his name and the word “Korea,” the war in which he participated. I felt the cold marble and I noted the sand blasted wear and tear and laughed at the unyielding New Mexico elements that caused the letters to already become faded. It’s only been nine years.
“Well, dad, I guess I’m doing a lot better than I was the last time I was here,” I said aloud. And I was.
Seeing my father’s name carved into stone never fails to break me on some level. After pacing a bit and having a pretty hard cry, I walked up the row and sat on one of the benches. It looks out over the valley and has a gorgeous view.
Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth
The mountains at my back and the dried grass and valley in front of me. The New Mexico unrelenting wind dried my tears the moment they slipped from my eyes. I laughed as the wind whipped at my hair. “Goddamn springtime wind,” I said to no one as I sat there alone.
Tumbleweeds of thoughts bounced in my mind. Through tears of sorrow, I smiled, because of that view, that place, that moment.
I had spent the past three days wondering I was even a New Mexican anymore. Sitting there, letting the climate steal my moisture and feeling grounded, I remembered that I always was and will always be.
I can never not be a New Mexican. Just as I can never not be born in Las Vegas. And I can never not be a damn near twenty-year veteran of California.
I am all of that. I am none of that. I am more than that.
I am greater than the sum of all my parts.
My version of New Mexico may not exist anymore but it’s mine. My particular brand of Las Vegas may not exist anymore, but I own it. My California is still telling me its story.
There is a lot left to learn about all of those places and as I gaze forward to the celebration of another revolution around the sun, I humbly admit there is an awful lot yet to learn about me.
What started as a fun trip to see my best friend in the entire world and my gorgeous godkids turned out to be something of a journey. A grounding moment in time that changed me, humbled me, reminded me and helped me grow.
I had no idea that was going to happen. I’m kind of glad I didn’t know. To paraphrase one of my oldest goddaughter’s favorite songs (that dates back to my college years), I might have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss that dance.
And there is no way I’d ever miss out on a good dance with some of my most favorite people in the world, back home where I belong.
Both photos Copyright © 2014, 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 fastener photo was further edited in Instagram.
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Part IV in a series.
There are a lot of times during my days, walking through this world, where I have small flashbacks or quick images that come into my brain. Not a hallucination, just a snapshot of a moment or a place or person.
A lot of the time the photostream of my brain shows me something about New Mexico. Some little atom or quark that is a building block of who I am. Meant to ground me, I think.
One image that seems to show up on rotation is being in either Old Town Albuquerque or at the Palace of the Governors in Santa Fe and buying beautiful handmade jewelry from the Native American artisans who display their wares on beautiful blankets.
Heck, in the early days (like the 1970’s) you would also find Native American artisans selling beautiful jewelry at the airport in Albuquerque. This was well before anyone called it a Sunport.
On this trip I made to Santa Fe at the end of last month, one thing I definitely wanted to do was see the Palace of the Governors and visit the row of Native American artisans with hand woven blankets laid out, selling handcrafted jewelry. I can remember being a fairly young kid and negotiating for beautiful pieces of silver, turquoise and coral.
The one moment I remember most was being something like nine or ten and using my allowance money to buy a really pretty green malachite ring set in silver.
I remember that the artisan was dressed in traditional Navajo clothing with her hair wrapped in leather and a huge and gorgeous turquoise bracelet on her arm. She either didn’t speak much English or chose not to. She was quite stoic, I recall, but I had watched my mom buy jewelry so I emulated her way, right down to the speech pattern.
I found the ring, tried it on, and liked it very much. I caught the artisan’s eye, held up the ring and asked, “How much?” I think she said ten dollars. I replied, “Would you take eight?” and she nodded. Thus, I now owned a beautiful handmade silver ring.
I wore it for many, many years.
In fact, I still have it.
This is it:
The ring is so tiny, it barely fits on my pinky finger. As you can see, the stone has a small nick. I really did wear this ring everyday for a long time. I loved it. I still love it.
So on that sunny Spring day on the Plaza a few weeks ago, after stuffing ourselves to the gills at the India Palace buffet, I was ready to walk around and my best friend and her girls were ready to sit.
They found a bench in the bustling center of the Plaza and I walked with purpose to the line of artisans with their creations on blankets.
My heart raced a little because I was excited. I mentally calculated how much cash I had on hand and what budget I would allow. I love beautiful silver and turquoise jewelry.
I had heard a few years back that there was some controversy about people who were not of Native American heritage selling jewelry on the Plaza, so I wasn’t sure what I expected.
I was pleased to see that indeed, the majority of the artisans seemed to be Native American. They wore modern dress, but the look, the speech pattern, the very vibe of the artisans let me know these were my New Mexico Native people, and I was happy.
As I walked down the row, I became less happy.
The quality of the jewelry I saw was not what I had hoped. The beautiful hand crafted chunky silver and turquoise, coral, jade and malachite jewelry had given way to items that were cheap looking, manufactured not handcrafted, meager and not bold and beautiful.
In some cases, I half expected to pick up a piece and see a stamp showing me it was manufactured in another country.
To be honest, not even the blankets seemed to be handmade. The image, the memory, it all looked the same as I crossed the street, but under the adobe and vigas of the Palace, everything really had changed.
On the plus side, I noticed that the artisans were very friendly with all of the tourists, inviting them to pick up pieces and try them on. Asking where they were from and how they liked New Mexico. The stoic artisan seems to be a thing of the past as I’m sure being a bit friendly sells more items. Even as I type that it feels a little like selling out.
So there was a plus and a minus to the experience. I ended up buying a pair of earrings from a vendor across the street on the plaza. They are small inexpensive dragonflies and I hold no illusions that they are genuine Native handcrafted.
I walked away a bit depressed and I remembered that I get a catalog from Southwest Indian Foundation, and they call the style of jewelry that I love “pawn style.”
Pawn style. There were some people that I knew who got really amazing deals on Native American crafted jewelry from the rows and rows of pawn shops in Gallup and other New Mexico towns. I never did that. I shopped a few times, but couldn’t get over the sad feeling in my gut. These pieces of jewelry were given up because someone needed fast money.
As I made a loop around the Santa Fe Plaza, I saw a shop that claimed to have old pawn jewelry, so I went inside.
They weren’t kidding. Inside the huge retail space half of the store was quite literally filled with pawn jewelry. The shop buys dead items (meaning the time has expired and no one was able to come back and claim the pieces) and resells them.
Resells them at a gigantic markup.
I found a case full of earrings and at a quick glance found three pairs that I either own the exact pair or something very, very similar.
Earrings that I know I paid somewhere between fifteen and forty dollars for were now marked anywhere from $125 to over $200.
I felt a little sick to my stomach. On the one hand I thought, “Hell, I should get out all of my old jewelry and sell it!” and of course I knew I’d never part with it. On the other hand my heart broke as progress has to come to all things, even Native American jewelry.
In my personal collection is my mother’s stunning New Mexico Native American handcrafted squash blossom necklace. Would I ever sell this? Hell no.
This is a really profound piece of jewelry. My mother often wore it and she was always beautiful wearing it, too. The turquoise is quite rough and each individual squash blossom is different, to match the stone.
But I wish I could have strolled the Palace of the Governors and seen pieces more like that chunky squash blossom for sale. The product of training, silversmithing, craftsmanship, and a deep Native American tradition.
Alas no, like that hammered tin clock that used to hang over the Albuquerque Airport, my memories are only nostalgia. Museum pieces. They no longer represent what is meaningful for today’s children growing up in New Mexico.
I guess I understand now. Sometimes as a kid I used to jokingly say that New Mexico was forgotten, wasn’t important, backward. Now I know it really was something good. I got to grow up in a beautiful culture and a beautiful state that is like nowhere else in the world.
I am hardly the only person who has ever come to realize this about the time and place that they were born and raised. It’s a common lesson. You really can never go back. I can be in New Mexico again, and I can love it, but it’s never going to be what I hold in my memories.
That hurts inside. I yearn for something that doesn’t really exist anymore, except in my mind and have to find a way to be okay with that. As of today, right this moment, I’m not okay. Not yet.
I suppose the answer is that I need to spend more time back home in New Mexico. I have to learn to know what she was once and love her as she is now.
It’s my failure that it’s been so long since I was back home. I hope to improve a lot over the coming years.
There is so much I know about New Mexico, and so much I have left to learn.
Up next, the conclusion: Part V, The Roots of My Raising Run Deep
Images Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth, 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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Part III in a series.
So of course, one of the things I miss the most about my fair New Mexico is the food. It is unlike anything else in the world and as a native, the green chile flows in my veins.
Too much California time and I start to get a little pale, weak and shaky. I survive by cooking my own New Mexican food and that ties me over pretty darn well. But it’s not the same as being home.
From my first footstep on hallowed and dusty New Mexico ground and I was ready for some good eats.
I would have to wait for a good greasy restaurant meal, however. First stop on our tour was to go to see my best friend’s little sister who is a very dear friend in her own right.
Her three kids are growing too fast and I really couldn’t believe how time has flown. I guess that is how we mark time as adults, by how fast the kids grow?
After hugs and “it’s been too long!” we all loaded up in a Suburban and headed over to the nearby little league fields to watch her oldest son, who is ten, play a little baseball.
It’s pretty well documented how much I love baseball, so I had a great time watching the kids try to learn how to put it all together. I haven’t laughed that hard in a long time.
My friend’s husband was the umpire for the game, so of course Blue got a hearty ration of crap from us in the stands. “Use the good eye, Blue!” And I boo’d him when he called his own son out on strike three looking. That ain’t right to ring up your kid! LOL!
Thankfully he has a good sense of humor and is a very kind man. Also, he can dish out it just as well as he can take it.
Later that evening we ate together and had a wonderful home cooked meal. There was a nice bowl of chopped green chile to add to our good eats and I knew every little thing was going to be all right. Well, that and the four adults knocked back a few glasses of Mimbres Red and got a real good cuss and discuss going.
It was a good place to be, a very good place. This was one of those rare times and places in the world where I was able to simply be nothing other than my true self. No hiding my words, no trying to show off, no being circumspect. Simply 100% me because I know these people are family, and for well over twenty-five years they have accepted me just as I am. It gives me peace.
The next day we got it all together and got back into the ‘burb. We continued our journey by heading north to Santa Fe. Once we got settled into our hotel, my best friend remembered a restaurant that her husband recommended was located nearby, so we loaded up.
The place is called PC’s Restaurant Lounge and their menu included something called an Indian Taco. We used to call them Navajo Tacos, and they really are something special.
For the uninitiated, a Navajo Taco is a piece of Indian Fry Bread that is loaded with all the ingredients of a taco then covered in green chile and melted cheese.
Heaven on a plate.
These are not as common on the menus of Southern New Mexico and I haven’t had one in a long time. I hopped right on ordering this and giggled with anticipation.
I’ll save the suspense, it was galldang delicious. (Lactose intolerance be damned!)
Terrible photo of a terrific meal.
A beautiful combination of Mexican food and Native American food, right on my plate, into my tummy, into my veins, sustenance for my very soul.
This should be the State Dish of New Mexico because it perfectly describes our blending of cultures and the New Mexican’s love of a good meal.
Of course, I was a useless lump of lard for the rest of the day after this meal. My salad-and-a-little-exercise body was quite confused but mostly pleased. A nice lunch like that makes a siesta real easy and full of nice dreams.
The next day we managed to pull ourselves up and out the door and we explored the Plaza in Santa Fe. We shopped and strolled and touristed. Because why not?
I really enjoyed absorbing everything, recharging the batteries, and remembering when these feet last strolled the same sidewalks. So familiar. So different.
When it was time for lunch my friend suggested we go to an Indian place to eat.
“India Indian?” I asked, because one can never be too sure in New Mexico. She laughed, but she was very serious. She wanted to take me to an Indian (i.e. Central Asian) restaurant in the middle of Santa Fe.
No. Wait. What?
Yes. We went to a little place named India Palace and had their lunch buffet.
Ooooh damn. That was some of the best Indian food I’ve ever had. I live in the Bay Area and there are a lot (and by a lot, I mean A LOT) of good Indian food places here. And you know what? India Palace in Santa Fe, New Mexico beat them all.
I know, right? You may be saying, “C’mon, really?” Yes. Really. Sadly I was too busy shoving Saag and Paneer Masala down my gullet to stop and take a snapshot of such gorgeously delicious food.
Good eats are good eats and I sure had ’em in New Mexico. Damn, I ate well. There were a few of things I had wanted to get to while I was there and I missed out. Like good old fashioned Sangria (a restaurant in Santa Fe that sadly isn’t there anymore called La Tertulia served the best I ever had) and carne adovada, and sopaipillas.
Oh well. I guess that gives me more to look forward on the next visit? And incentivizes me to make that next visit happen very, very soon.
Side Note: I just looked at the Wikipedia page for sopaipillas.
In that entry, it says the following:
“A simple imitation of a sopaipilla can be made by frying a flour tortilla until it puffs up then cutting it into triangles and serving with honey.”
Um. No. No it can’t. No it absolutely cannot. A puffy tortilla and a sopaipilla are absolutely NOT THE SAME THING. I am highly offended it was even suggested. Mo’flicking Wikipedia full of lies and insanity.
Ok, let’s get back on track here. While your mind reels over that sopaipilla madness, rest your eyes on this photo of my older goddaughter’s green chile chicken enchiladas, a perennial favorite of mine. Yum!
Yes, apparently while in New Mexico, I am a hipster freak photographing my food.
Coming up next: Part IV, The More Things Change
Images Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. Taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app.