For Just a Moment, Time Pauses Long Enough for the Moonlight to Catch Up

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Dateline: May 18, 2019, Las Cruces, New Mexico

It is a full moon Spring night and I am on the back patio of a home I know so well. Not my home, but the home where I live sometimes in my dreams. A storehouse for that part of me that exists back in my homestate while I live a bit farther out West.

The decision to leave New Mexico was made a long time ago, and with time I can see many of the reasons were wrong and many were also quite right. That audit can only occur looking backwards.

Tonight, time pauses because I am back home. I am where I belong with people who care about me. I am in a place so familiar I don’t even have to think hard about it, I just need to be.

It’s not always so easy just being me. It has been a bit of struggle lately. A tug of war inside my mind, but tonight is a welcome cease fire. I get to let my guard down a little, a lot, quite a bit.

“I was drunk…the day my mom…got out of prison,” we sing in full, robust, well-fed, and drunk voices. “And I went..to pick her up…in the rain.” We’re all in time but off key, which makes the sound that much more perfect. Our voices blending into a harmonic patchwork quilt.

This is a celebration of birthdays for four people. One of the four is me, and the other three are people who matter a whole lot to me. We eat, tell stories, drink a little more and remember the past. The past and the present merge until it is just us and now and then. Tomorrow is something to think about later. It will come back, but we don’t think about that now. The Wayback Machine is running at full capacity.

More dried bark and wood chips go into the firepit, making flames leap up. We keep the unseasonably cold desert wind at bay with flame and firewater.

An iPhone, an Apple music account, and a Bluetooth speaker keep the old songs rolling. Current technology pushes the old, old songs back to our ears. Patsy Cline, Jim Horton, George Strait, Foster and Lloyd, the Mavericks, Johnny Rodriguez. That’s only an appetizer plate of the ten course musical meal we serve. The music is like seeing old friends, and we sing. And we drink. And we dance.

I’m dancing around the brickwork patio with my best friend’s husband and I find myself looking down. I’ve known him for thirty years, so there are few secrets left between us. I say “It’s been so long since I danced, I have to look at my feet to make sure I still remember how.”

“Karen, you don’t have to look at your feet, it’s like riding a bike.”

I raise my head and look him in the eye. He’s right, of course.

“Besides you always were light on your feet.” I smile. It’s an awful nice compliment.

As the final notes of “Heard it in a Love Song” wrap up, he spins me around. In the centrifugal force I feel just like I did back when we danced to the same songs at Corbett Center or at Cowboys bar. We laugh a little, and then we hug. It’s good and right and fun. We’re both a little older, but it feels just like the good old days, dancing together and singing along with the music while we do.

I find my seat, my drink, the next song on the playlist. We all go “yeah! This one!” or “Haven’t heard this song in so long!” or “What else do you have on the playlist?”

It’s easy. The simpatico of friends who are family. We have a new friend in our midst, and she sings the songs as loud as any of us. She’s instantly our family, folded in like she was always here.

“We have to howl at the moon,” she says and we all howl like a mangy half-drunk (full drunk?) wolfpack. She makes each of us howl in turn, giving constructive critique, the director of our backyard opera. When we all meet her exacting criteria, we’re asked to howl together once more, and we do. And it feels good.

The songs keep rolling and the stories told a thousand times before seem fresh again. We laugh and laugh. Everything is funny. No mean words or contentious topics are exchanged. No need for that. We are in our groove, where we know who we are and what we are and we have nowhere to be other than right here with each other. We’ve laid our burdens down by the fire. They will be there for us in the morning.

I look up at the full moon between the branches of a mulberry tree. I look over at my best friend and her husband dancing together, looking like they did so long ago. Back when they first met and love was new and we knew then like we know now that they were simply meant to be.

It’s good. It’s right. It’s a balm on my wounds, mostly self-inflicted, invisible but quite real.

A moment where time has stopped. We’re together. We’re happy. And we dance.

They’ve done this together once or twice before

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All photos ©2019, Karen Fayeth and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page.

Misty Tequila Colored Memories

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There I am, a random sunny weekend day in suburban Northern California, with a bag of groceries in my arms and holding hands with my husband.

We’re headed to the car in the parking lot when a low, slow Honda Civic rolls by. The car has been lowered, the wheels are miniscule and from inside the car comes some techno music. Not the multilayered computer-mixed techno of this modern era, but a thin synth-pushed techno that was quite reminiscent of the dance club music of the late 1980’s.

And suddenly I am no longer on a grassy knoll outside of Whole Foods in suburban California, but I’m wandering over the Paseo del Norte bridge and stumbling down Avenida de Juarez.

And I am inside Alive, a bar just over the border in Juarez, Mexico. If I listen hard enough, I can hear the sound of tequila slammers hitting the bar, syncopating with the terrible music blaring from the terrible sound system.

Alive, a venue located underground (the irony was not lost on me) with a tan blown-foam covering on the walls and a trip-worthy ramp leading to the bowels of the nightclub. I’d remind myself as often as possible not to touch anything and mind my own business.

But a bucket of Coronitas and a few slammers later and hey, let’s dance!

And me with my walnut sized bladder begging myself to hold it because the bathrooms at Alive were awful. Just…frightening.

But who cares! I was young! I was invincible! I was the only responsible person in a group of very irresponsible college kids. We were having fun. In another country. With no parents in sight! Freeeedom!

Yes, I was young and in my prime and not something like 43 and worried about jobs and money and is that cereal I just bought gluten free because wheat gives me tummy rumbles and oh yeah, did I get hemp milk because by god I’m lactose intolerant too. And can you read the label on this box because the print is too tiny and I sure as hell can’t read it.

It was a fleeting memory and I told it all to The Good Man. He replied “You and I had very different lives.”

And I suppose that’s true, we did.

But I can’t shake the memory. It’s not that partying in Juarez was a particularly good time. I was always the “good kid” and worried to death about all my friends and how to get them all back home safe and intact. I worried that one of the guys would get in a fight and we wouldn’t have enough money to pay the Federales to let him go. I worried my pockets would be picked clean by the kids (I had fended off more than a few). I worried that if the time came to run that I would be the one not running fast enough.

None of that really sounds like fun.

Those times are long past, something of stories and fairy tales as I wouldn’t go near Juarez for all the tequila in the world now.

I guess that memory on that sunny California day was something like fond reminiscence? I think it is more my youth that I miss than the crappy bars like Alive and Spanky’s and The Tequila Derby.

While searching for photos of Alive, I found this story on CNN. The author perfectly describes what it was like then and what it’s like now and does a much better job than I did.


Juarez was fun – before it was dangerous.





This 1950’s (or maybe 1960’s) era postcard, oddly, comes closest to my memories of Avenida de Juarez. In the late 1980’s that big bottle over the liquor store on the corner (left side of the photo) was still there.




Image from an eBay posting selling the original postcard.



I Know Your Shame

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This morning I was at my local Peet’s waiting on a latte when I noticed the line behind me was getting pretty long. Like out the door. Commuters were starting to get the angry eyes.

The guy behind the counter pulling coffee shots and making drinks was moving slow, and when he noticed the backup, he got a little flustered. The more he eyed the long line of impatient workday people, the more flustered he got.

Suddenly, one of the other people behind the counter went, “whoa! Ok, you work the register” and then she physically pulled the guy away from the espresso machine and shoved him at the register. The young man sighed, dejected, turned to the next customer and said “can I help you?”

The kid was put in the hot spot, the bottleneck, the key role….and he couldn’t handle it.

And I felt bad for the guy. Then I slipped into the Wayback Machine.

The year was 1990. It was summertime. My folks were living in Carlsbad, so I went back home to C’bad to spend my summer between semesters at NMSU.

My salt-o-the earth parents insisted that I couldn’t enjoy the summer break. I was required to get a job.

Times were a little tough in Carlsbad in that year. Many of the potash mines had closed and jobs were a little scarce. Any good summer job had already been snapped up, and that left me with only one place that would hire me.

Taco Bell.

I slipped into my double knit polyester rust colored uniform, pinned my name to my chest, and went to work slinging beans.

I had worked a cashier’s job in high school, and one of my coworkers taught me how to count change and keep my till balanced to the penny. The Taco Bell people loved me. My till always balanced, I was pretty good as customer service, and I kept the place clean.

Inevitably, the manager decided to give me a shot working on the drive thru window.

The hot spot. The bottleneck. The key role.

It started out ok, I guess. I was a little confounded by taking the order but not taking money right away and keeping track of which car owed what amount and which order came next. The line of cars started to back up. It extended out onto Church street.

I managed to give the wrong order to at least three different cars.

Some guy came inside the restaurant all pissed off and complained to the manager. Cuz, you know, his tacos weren’t right. Or something.

Anyhow, I was unceremoniously pulled off drive through and put back on front register.

It was clear that I’d failed, and my failure was Very Bad. My coworkers wouldn’t make eye contact with me. I’d once been a star employee. I was now disgraced.

I was never given another shot at my nemesis the Drive Thru. Never had another chance to prove I could handle it (not that I cared, honestly).

I made it through the rest of that summer working register and of course went back to Las Cruces. Classes began again at NMSU and over the years I graduated, got a job and lived my life.

Twenty years later, the embarrassment is still fresh. Another minimum wage employee has learned the humiliation of not being quite good enough to handle the hot spot.

I hope he gets over it quicker than I did.
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Tangentially related, two years later, a F2 tornado ripped through town, injuring 6 people at the Taco Bell and ripping the bell off the top of the building.

The tornados in Carlsbad are the stuff of nightmares. My personal tornado story is well documented here.




A short Google search, and lo and behold, a photo of the 1992 tornado. The Internet is a weird thing.




Image from Southeastern New Mexico Weather Web Page.



In the Box

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Despite the fact that The Good Man and I actually moved two weeks ago, we didn’t fully depart the old place until this past weekend.

That last mile is a sonofabitch.

I guess we just wanted to save the best for last? Or something. Basically, the last stuff to exit the old place was the stuff from deep in the dark recesses of storage under the house.

Let’s be honest, this stuff it wasn’t “our” stuff, it was my stuff. Lots and lots of boxes, some of which hadn’t been opened since they made the 1,200 mile ride from Albuquerque to the Bay Area.

The goal this weekend was to open those deteriorating boxes, get rid of what I could, and what was left, repack into fresh boxes and move on.

This proved to be a more difficult task than I had expected.

There were some surprises in those ol’ boxes. Especially the one I’d jauntily labeled “Karen’s Childhood.”

What a doozy that one was.

Sunday morning, there I sat on the cold floor of my now former garage, used my Buck knife to slice open the “childhood” box and dug around in there. I extracted a now almost fourteen year old gallon size Ziploc bag containing a bunch of papers and stuff I clearly didn’t know what to do with when I left Albuquerque.

I unzipped the bag, pulled out the contents and went through it piece by piece. I turned over photos, old love notes, and a ticket stub.

I gasped and my eyes got a little watery from both joy and memory.

The Wayback Machine gobbled me whole.

Here’s what I found:




The year was…um….yeah. 1990? Maybe 1989? Oh jumping jehosophat! I don’t know. A long time ago when my skin was elastic and my pants were not.

It was Ag Week at NMSU. An annual celebration that was a week full of fun, games, and dancing for all us kids in and around the Ag College. It culminated in a big concert and dance at the Pan Am center on the last day of the week.

This was a special year. My best good friend excitedly told me that her Uncle Bax would be performing at that year’s Ag Week. And by Uncle Bax, she meant Cowboy Poet and legendary New Mexican, Baxter Black.

That year there was another yahoolio on the bill with Bax. Some nobody named Vince Gill.

Yeah. That Vince Gill. Before anyone knew who he was.

Friday morning we were invited to come to the Ag Lobby to meet and greet. Bax was there holding court and signing autographs, and gave my best friend a huge hug when she walked up. We talked and laughed with Bax a while and then we went over to check out this Vince Gill character. He was wearing a pair of NMSU sweatpants, a three day old scruffy beard, and hair that hadn’t been washed in a good long while.

He was nice enough. Looked totally exhausted. He signed a glossy black and white promo photo (I found that in the bag too) and we walked away wondering who that rube was.

He put on a hell of a show that night. And so did Uncle Bax.

Let’s just say this, it was a hell of a party.

One for the history books. Sure would be fun to live that one again.

When the trash went out at the end of Sunday, the Bax and Vince ticket didn’t go with it. It went back into the Ziploc bag, then into a new box.

Maybe in another fourteen years I’ll slice open that box and discover it again.

And gasp.

And well up.

And remember.

Those were salad days, indeed.



A Thousand Miles from Nowhere

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“But I have to tell you, when we were driving home, we were on some highway in Utah? That highway goes on forever! We were getting scared. The towns are like fifty miles apart!”

— my coworker talking about her family’s summer vacation to Bryce and Zion canyons in Utah.

So she said that and I laughed. A lot. Loudly.

She looked very offended. “It’s not funny, we were totally freaked out!”

Ah. That’s so cute. City kids. How utterly charming. I should know, I married one.

Speaking of the one I married, when we made the drive from Las Cruces to Albuquerque in the month of October a few years back, he was very adamant that we had to pack in quite a bit of water before we drove. Now, he’s not wrong. It’s just good thinking.

He also wanted blankets, flashlights and a first aid kit. We were venturing out into the desert and by god like the Boy Scout he used to be, we were going in prepared.

Again, nothing wrong with that. All very fair.

Except I used to drive that same 200 miles in the dead heat of August in a rickety old Mercury Bobcat with too many miles, not enough metal and every single little possession that I could cram inside. Well, everything except water, blankets and a flashlight.

I guess when you’re raised where towns are fifty miles (or a lot more) apart, these things don’t worry you.

Sure, one Thanksgiving I was driving back from Deming to Albuquerque and got caught in a really heavy snowstorm. So I got off the highway to a state road, put my Jeep in four wheel drive and drove slowly to the ranch home located at the bottom of Nogal Canyon. My friend’s folks live there and they took me in, gave me a hot meal and we played cards all night.

Once, south of El Paso, I got caught in a terrible rain and hail storm. So I pulled over to the side, listened to the radio and read a book.

Then there was the time I made the ride to Silver City in July and had to turn off the A/C and turn on the heater since my engine was starting to overheat as I climbed the hill in my very weak Dodge Shadow (now known as a Neon). I was a puddle of sweat by the time I got there, but it was nothing that a Route 44 from Sonic couldn’t cure.

Oddly enough, even on all the blisteringly hot days I hit the endless highways of New Mexico, I never broke down, never lost a tire, never had a reason to need a gallon of water and a blanket.

In February my best good friend drove me and my two godkids out to the Spaceport in Upham. We spent an hour or more on dirt roads with only cows to accompany us. I didn’t get worried. I didn’t get scared. What I did is feel calm. Really, really calm. Being where the eye can’t see another human (other than the people you chose to be with) is a very happy place for me.

So I apologized to my city friend. Then I advised she’s allowed to laugh at me when I slip off my nut over getting lost (again!) in San Francisco, and then I go the wrong way on that one section of California Ave while everyone honks and yells, and WHY IN THE $%^# can’t I make a left turn to get off Market Street!

It’s all about where you’re from, I guess.



The view from Upham. It’s a happy place.


Photo by Karen Fayeth, copyright 2010, and subject to the Creative Commons license found in the far right hand column of this page.