The Break Is Broken

Back in my college days at NMSU, I was a good student with aspirations of graduating and getting a good job.

Round about my junior year, the business college started talking to the students about considering going on a co-op. This meant taking a semester off from school to take a job in a real office environment.

The goal was to get college students a more substantial experience than just a summer internship along with providing great fodder for our resumes upon graduation.

It seemed like a good idea to me, so I applied.

With my business background, I was picked up by a bank in Albuquerque.

I left Las Cruces and moved into an efficiency apartment in the downtown area. I started my first grown up job in January and worked through July of that year. The pay was terrible but the job was kind of interesting. I was an internal auditor for the then thriving bank (that no longer exists).

I got to travel with my team on the company jet to branches all over New Mexico to look at loans, review the criteria for lending, assess the borrower, check financials, and assign grades to the various loans. Based on the loan grades, the bank would be able to better value their portfolio. I’m sure they were also packaging and selling off loans too.

As a twenty year old, I got to delve into the financials of some of the most well known names in Albuquerque and the state. I learned how to value cattle and farm equipment, oil wells and drilling tools, and the inventory of various well known businesses in the area.

My desk was located near the small loan collections department, so I also learned a whole lot while listening to those verbally nasty collections agents all day long.

That gig at the bank was the first and only time I worked a job where I was required to take breaks during the work day.

I’d come in at 8:00, work until 10:00 then we’d all go upstairs to the break room to drink terrible coffee and cuss and discuss for fifteen minutes.

Back to work around 10:15, I’d work until noon then took one hour for lunch. It was expected we’d leave our desks for that hour, so we’d head back upstairs to the break room or on sunny days we’d all go outside on the plaza.

Back at work at 1:00, we’d take another break from 3:00 to 3:15, then leave the office by 5:00. No one stayed late. We all actually left at 5:00

I’d often thought, in my youthful exuberance, that I could have worked during that half hour of break time I took each day. I thought I could get more work done without that time. I mean heck! I can eat a sandwich at my desk and get even MORE work done!

Yeah. I know….

Today, I miss the lunch break. I miss enforced coffee breaks. When did we all start to think it extra moral or totally essential to work straight through the day and extra hours too and never leave the desk?

This is not good for our collective mental health.

Plus, if you must know, lately my right wrist hurts a lot. It aches all day and keeps me awake at night.

This is not a good sign. I’ve called in the ergo team at work to evaluate my workspace and my doctor is sending me to be fit for a wrist brace.

Also, my coworkers and I rarely get the chance to just sit back for fifteen minutes, sip some bad coffee and cuss and discuss something other than work.

Sort of a tragedy, really.

Just an aside…I really like my job and I dig my boss. I’m just working A LOT of hours.

Photo by Adria Navarro Mestres and used royalty free from stock.xchng.

This week’s Theme Thursday is: break

And Then The World Fell Off Its Axis

Woke up early this morning after a terrible night’s sleep, or rather, lack of sleep. Rising out of the bed, I was keenly aware of a feeling of anxiousness deep in my stomach.

I had an 8:00 video conference with London, and I worried about being able to make the equipment work for this very important meeting.

I got to work early, and as I walked around the nearby lagoon to get to the videoconference building, I saw a single Coot paddling along the smooth as glass surface.

Feeling anything but optimistic and keen to cheer myself up, I started singing “Good Morning, good moooorning, to you!” (a la “Singing in the Rain”) to the confused Coot.

I laughed at myself, and laughing felt good.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about the videoconference. It went off without a hitch and when it was over, my mood had improved greatly.

To add to the day’s improvements, two meetings directly following the videoconference were cancelled. I was given a gift of my morning, and that’s valuable.

Back at my desk, I fired up the streaming radio and dug into work.

Tip tapping away at the keys, I heard my iPhone buzz.

A text message from The Good Man. “Did you see today’s SF Gate?” he asked. The SFGate is the local newspaper for San Francisco.

“Not yet, let me look,” I replied, figuring there was something interesting there to see.

The page opened and I scanned the headlines, but didn’t latch on to what The Good Man wanted me to see.

Then I gasped.

I saw the photo first. Then the headline. My friend and consummate Blues Man Johnny Nitro has died.

Over quite a few years of hard living he’d had a little trouble with his ticker. His heart as big as the world had a mechanical flaw.

I’d last seen Nitro in August at the book signing for Saloonatics, an amazing book of photos by my buddy Scott Palmer that honestly captures the thriving blues scene at The Saloon in San Francisco’s North Beach.

Even though I hadn’t seen Nitro for many years, he still wrapped me in a tight hug that lasted a long time. He was genuinely happy to see me, and I almost cried for joy at seeing him again. I introduced Nitro to The Good Man and as they shook hands, I felt at home.

Back in 1997 when I moved to the Bay Area, I knew how to get to exactly one place in San Francisco: North Beach. With trembling knees and shaking hands I’d force myself to drive to North Beach on the weekends. I’d have dinner and a couple fortifying drinks at Sodini’s, then I’d go to one or both of the blues clubs located on Grant Street.

It didn’t take long before I was considered a North Beach regular. I got to be friends with the people who worked in the restaurants and bars, the musicians, and other regulars.

The people of North Beach look out for each other. We take up for our own. I was welcomed into the family by a group of good, hardworking people.

Nitro was one of those people back in the early days who closed ranks around a little hayseed from New Mexico and let her know she was going to be all right.

And I was. With these seasoned city folks to help me learn, I turned out all right.

Nitro had a deep catalog of blues tunes ingrained in his DNA. Name a song, he could play it. He’d fire up that blue and white Strat and make it sing.

Nitro made me laugh and he made me cry. He played music that spoke to my soul. I owe Nitro a debt of gratitude that now I’m afraid I’ll never be able to repay.

Nitro’s best known quote is, “Keep drinking triples ’til you’re seeing double, feeling single and getting in trouble.”

But he had another quote that seems more fitting.

In the middle of a soaring blues riff that filled The Saloon with sound, Nitro would step up to the mike and holler “Riiiide!”

And for you, my friend, wherever you are: Riiiide!

Photo by Scott Palmer, taken at the 2000 Rumsey Blues festival. Yes, I was there…..

Here’s What Being Smug Will Getcha

Remember when I gloated about the sun? I frolicked, collecting all the Vitamin Dees I could while it snowed in ABQ?


Photo originally posted February 1

Well I’ve certainly gotten my comeuppance, haven’t I?

Photo taken yesterday, Feb. 18

What a difference a few weeks make. When we had that early sun, I knew that soon the bill would come due. And it has. In a big way.

The skiers are happy, the snow has dumped on Tahoe. The people who track our water supplies are happy, lots of rain plus expected runoff means we avoid a drought for another year.

Me, I’m not as happy. Grey skies make me blue. So I sit inside, nose pressed against the window, and daydream about Spring.

All photographs by Karen Fayeth and subject to the creative commons license as seen in the far right column of this page.

From Nature Made to Man Made

Going to jump tracks a bit from yesterday’s purple mountains majesty to marvels of human engineering.

A couple days after my return from New Mexico, I had to drive up to Sacramento for work stuff.

On the journey over highway 80, there are two major bridges to cross, the Bay Bridge, and the Carquinez Bridge.

Both are, in my mind, very Jekyll and Hyde. Both beautiful and ugly at the same time.

When riding over these bridges, I always have to wonder what the bridge builders around here have got against the east side of a perfectly nice bridge?

Here, let me show you.

This is the eastbound section of the Carquinez, headed toward Sacramento:

It’s got sort of an Erector Set toy feel about it, no? (assuming you are old enough to remember Erector Sets)

It’s very utilitarian and functional and not very aesthetically pleasing.

And then, for comparison, here’s the westbound section of the same bridge (headed toward San Francisco).

Lovely! Clean lines and very modern and stylish.

You can even see the less attractive side of the bridge off to the left.

I’d like to think that this two opposite halves approach is an anomaly to only the Carquinez, but no.

Let’s talk the Bay Bridge. It’s split into two sections, the eastern span (east of Treasure Island) and the Western Span (west of Treasure Island).

These photos are from the top deck, headed west, but look at the vast difference in the two halves of the bridge.

Eastern span:

Again with the construction by Erector Set! So not pretty. Utilitarian.

And then the elegant, iconic western span:

Rumor has it that they are doing new construction on the eastern span and when complete, it will be a much more attractive suspension bridge like the western span.

But given the pace of the Department of Transportation and CalTrans, I wonder if I’ll see it in my lifetime.

All photographs taken with an iPhone4 by Karen Fayeth and subject to the creative commons license as seen in the far right column of this page.