Your Definition and My Definition Differ Greatly

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So every once in a while, I’ll read something in the daily news that grabs my attention.

Occasionally, something really makes my eyes open wide.

And then every once in a while, I’ll read something that makes my eyes open wide, leap out of my head, fall down on the floor and roll around a while.

The following headline in yesterday’s news had just this effect on me.

El Paso named safest US city

Uhhh.

Errr.

“…El Paso has taken the top spot for having the lowest crime rate among cities of more than 500,000 population in the annual rankings by CQ Press, a publishing firm based in Washington, D.C.”

So, yeah, I’m gonna guess that those people at CQ Press haven’t paid a personal visit to El Paso lately.

Look, I’m not going to bag on El Paso. It is the birth place of my best friend, and that itself recommends it highly.

It’s also the birthplace of Sam Donaldson and Gene Roddenbury. So ok. Some decent talent comes from the town that Texas forgot.

Having spent a lot of time in El Paso, I could use a lot of adjectives to describe the city. I’m not sure that the word “safe” would burble up to the top ten.

I’ll be fair here. I’ll even take out the obvious concerns about El Paso sharing a border with arguably the most dangerous city in Mexico.

In the past year, approximately 50,000 additional troops were located to Fort Bliss, an army installation in El Paso. Those 50,000 include both returning troops and soldiers left after bases closed in other states. That 50,000 is soldiers only. Add in spouses, kids, other family and the number of new residents rises.

Then add in the high number of people who are fleeing the violence in Juarez and the numbers climb even higher.

Put it together and you’ll find a city bursting at the seams. You can feel it when you visit, the town is growing so fast that infrastructure is having a hard time keeping pace.

That means busy police, fire and emt forces are being overextended during a period of economic downturn and government cost cutting. Sure, all of the new city residents will pay taxes into the economy which will help shore up infrastructure, but that kind of growth takes time.

And then let’s talk about the ongoing immigration flow through a border town like El Paso. My best friend’s folks live within visual distance of the border highway’s Zaragoza bridge. They have bars on their windows. In their some forty years of living there, they’ve found desperate illegals hiding in their yard. Neighbors have been robbed. Violence occurs (but isn’t often reported). I’ve been sitting in the back yard and heard shots fired.

El Paso is a fine town with a rich history. There is a lot to offer the residents who live in that city. Reasonable real estate costs. The Franklin Mountains are beautiful. UTEP is a fine university. Great weather. Even lots of job opportunities. It may even be a relatively safe city. But safest in the US? I have to question that assertion.

Evidently, I’m not the only one.

Some Call El Paso’s Safest City Ranking ‘Bogus’

Waiter? I’d Like To Order….

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The topic of Theme Thursday this week couldn’t be more timely. In the lead up to the best eating holiday of the year, our topic, is: Food.

But here’s my sideways twist on the theme.

Over the weekend, while on a fairly long drive, I began to riff on something The Good Man said, devolving, as I’m prone, to low brow humor. The stuff of twelve year old boys.

The Good Man isn’t so much a fan of the twelve year old boy humor, so his side of the car went pretty quiet.

Well. Fine. I am who I am. If I can’t let my inner twelve year old boy fly free at home, I’ll take the next best option…imposing it on you, my fair readers.

So, herewith, my list of food names that are unintentionally rude, just in time for Thanksgiving.

1) Head cheese. You knew I had to start there, right? I’m not going to lie, I laughed right out loud typing the words. I wouldn’t laugh out loud eating it though, because congealed gelatinous meat bits doesn’t really appeal to my palate. But whatever.

2) Cacahuete. Hee, hee, giggle *snort*. You said caca! Yeah, cacahuete is the Spanish word for peanut. But still, it’s sooooo fun to say!

3) Bubble and squeak. It’s just fried up meat, taters and cabbage and when done right is very tasty. That said, eating cabbage *does* cause certain parts of my anatomy to both bubble AND squeak. In addition, I rather like saying the name. Repeatedly. Like a toddler. Bubble and squeak! Bubble and squeak! Bubble and squeak! (making a squeaky noise as you say the word squeak is mandatory)

4) Rump roast. Yeah. Unh huh. And I’m supposed to ask for that at the butcher shop and not laugh? I’ve always been curious about what names were rejected in that marketing meeting. Ass brisket? Booty beef? ‘Tocks steak? I mean, what exactly do you call a cut of beef that is sourced from, well, here. (link is TOTALLY safe for work)

And finally…

5) Spotted Dick. I think the gold standard for rude food names has to go to this British fare. It’s a spongy concoction of dried fruit that is usually served in pudding. There is a version manufactured by Heinz available at my local grocery store. I always chortle inappropriately when I see it there on the shelves.

I mean, come on, Spotted Dick? Who thought that was a good idea?

You got any others I forgot? Leave ’em in the comments!

Weeee Represent the Lollipop Guild

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I’m what they call a robust gal. Hardy. Big boned. The word “petite” doesn’t apply to any of the assets I embody. I’m broad of shoulder and sturdy in the hips and thanks to a mom who told me to stand up straight, I own every one of my five feet and almost eight inches.

I had to stand in the back row for class photos. I long ago gave over to the knowledge that with these thighs, corduroy was not an option.

Back in college, I danced with short cowboys and took many a brim of a cowboy hat to the bridge of my nose.

After I moved to California, I wore flat shoes for years because I dated a guy not much taller than me. He once cooed over a friend who is teeny tiny, “you’re like a little doll!” he gushed. I never felt more elephantine than I did at that moment.

This is the hand I’ve got to play, dealt by my genetics. Honestly, I’ve become more sanguine about it over the years.

This brings us to the events of yesterday. I’d been invited to a status update meeting with a VP from my company and the CEO of a large multinational corporation.

In the morning, I dug around in my closet and put together a pretty nice outfit. A meeting like this is big doings, so I knew I had to up my game.

I got dressed and put on my favorite pair of three inch heels. The outfit looked great. Before leaving the house, I asked The Good Man if I was committing a work faux pas.

See…my boss is about 5’9″ on a good day, and his boss is maybe 5’6″ if the wind is right and he’s on the uphill side of an incline.

Is it bad form to tower over the people who pay my paycheck? The Good Man considered the question and decided the outfit worked, and thus all would be ok.

Off I went to work feeling pretty good. The meeting time rolled around and I stepped into the conference room. As I was the only woman in a roomful of nine men, they all rose and walked over to greet me.

Ok, so flatfooted I’m 5’8″ and now wearing three inch heels I’m 5’11”

There was only one person in the room who was taller than me. Just one. The rest of these #$%^ing Lilliputians scrambled around somewhere about my kneecaps.

*sigh*

At the end of the day, I was very glad to go home, kick off my tall shoes, stand on tippy toes, and kiss my 6’2″ husband.

Because that’s the best way to navigate through a day chock full of Oopma Loompa-ish men.

(I might also add that I was only one of two Americans in the room. We had a gent from Hong Kong, a Dutchman, an Aussie, a Swede, a Scotsman, a Russian, an Irishman, a Spaniard, an American from Phoenix…and me.)

The Lonely Road

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I’ll send the angels to watch over you tonight
And you send them right back to me
A lonely road is a bodyguard
If we really want it to be

— From “Sleeping in Paris” by Rosanne Cash

Yesterday I climbed into the Jeep and went on a long overdue road trip, just me and my steel beast, 130 highway miles and lots and lots of thinking.

The reason for the trip was nothing earth shattering, just had to head up to the north side of Sacramento to attend some work related meetings.

Clocking in at just under three hours, it was a ghastly drive, not only because it lacks any sort of interesting things to see, but the stop and go traffic kept me on my toes most of the way.

I left plenty early to avoid commute traffic but had no luck. California’s Highway 80 is a busy road no matter what time of day.

As I drove, dodging other cars, stepping quickly on my brakes for yet another slowdown, stopping to pay the toll on the Carquinez Bridge, and cursing under my breath, I yearned for a different sort of road trip.

Growing up in New Mexico, the ability to hop in the car for the sole purpose of a long thoughtful drive was something I took advantage of every chance I got.

While living in Albuquerque, sometimes I’d gas up the car and drive to Soccoro, only to turn around and drive home.

I can’t lie to ya, Albuquerque to Soccoro isn’t a visually interesting drive either, but once out of the city limits, it’s a pretty easy road with hardly any traffic. I’d set the cruise control on 75, point ‘er south in a straight line and let my mind work out the problems of the day.

Straight roads and very little traffic produce a very fine form of therapy.

My all time favorite drive and think road, however, is Highway 28 in southern New Mexico. The stretch of road from Las Cruces to La Union and back includes canopy of pecan trees arcing over the road, arboreal arms to embrace and hold me safe in case I need to cry.

I got a lot of thinking taken care of on Highway 28.

Not so much on California’s highway 80. The thinking was more like, “uh, stopping again? Why? Oh please don’t slam into me!”

But still, it was a road trip and there is something beautiful about me, my decade old Jeep, shuffle on the iTunes and a problem to work out in my mind.

Oh, by the way, something else happened while out there on the road.

First, this occurred:

Shocking, isn’t it?

Then, from out of nowhere, this happened:

(No, mom, I wasn’t driving almost 80 while taking a photograph of my odometer. Why do you ask?)

It’s the first car I’ve ever owned from fresh off the lot to one hundred thousand miles. Sort of proud of my little Jeep.

And just because I’m feeling gratuitous, here’s a quad cam shot of the Bay Bridge (because the Golden Gate gets all the love).

(Click for full size)

Ok, I’m wandering off the point here. Let’s tie this whole thing together, and get back to where we began.

I discovered today that any road, even a commute time busy three lane highway in Northern California can be a lonely road.

And a lonely road is a bodyguard if we really want it to be.
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All photographs by Karen Fayeth, and taken with my iPhone 4. Bay Bridge shot from the QuadCamera app.

Time Has A Funny Way…

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There is an episode of Futurama (oh god, I’m going to quote Futurama) called “How Hermes Requisitioned His Groove Back.” It happens to be my favorite Futurama episode ever.

The episode is an homage to the bureaucrat, which appeals to me in a weird and sadistic way. At one point, the head bureaucrat is inspecting the locker of Fry, the show’s ne’er do well.

The bureaucrat extracts a baseball cap from Fry’s locker, and says, “Why is there yogurt in this hat?”

Fry replies, “I can explain. See it used to be milk, and…well, time makes fools of us all!”

This quote, “time makes fools of us all” has become a fave with The Good Man and me. Oft quoted and certainly true, time does make fools of us all.

And here’s what’s got me thinking this way…

After being sick both in October and for the first two weeks of November, I have been unable to shake a powerful and chronic cough. The gasping, almost retching, cannot-catch-my-breath sort of cough.

After being commanded by both The Good Man and my coworkers, on Friday I went to see a doctor. She was convinced I had Whooping Cough until she noted on my chart that I’d had a tetanus shot earlier this year. These days a Whooping Cough booster comes along with a tetanus shot.

So, after ruling out Whooping Cough and giving my non-stop cough a good listen, my doctor has determined that I have developed “hypersensitive airways.”

In laymen’s terms this means I now have asthma. I’ve never had asthma a day in my life, but evidently you can develop this problem at any time. It’s not expected to become a permanent condition, and with medication, I should be able to recover.

My medication takes the form of an inhaler used four times a day, a regimen I’m not enjoying in the least, but I’m sticking to quite adamantly.

You see, this health issue comes with a heavy load of baggage. Like back the truck up, get a U-Haul, step aside, “damn that’s a lot of baggage” sort of heavy.

Almost six years ago, my father passed away from complications of pulmonary fibrosis. It is believed he obtained this condition from the inhalation of beryllium in the course of his career at Sandia Labs.

In the years before he passed away, I watched my father struggle to simply breathe. Just bringing enough oxygen to his scarred and battered lungs was a battle. It was heartrending.

I thought then, “your breath is nothing to take for granted.” But then time moved on. I went on about the matters of living my life. The lesson became less important.

This year when I got a winter cold, I got the resulting cough but I ignored it. I coughed my way through it and it went away, mostly.

Then I got sick again and it went right to my chest and set up home.

Right now, typing this, I breathe with a wheeze. I’m able to get air into my lungs, but it’s hard to breathe deep without dissolving into a coughing fit.

What my father had was a disease of the lungs. What I have is a temporary inflammation of my airways. It’s not the same, I know. But right now I kind of feel like time has made a fool of me.

I know better. Perhaps the lesson needed to be learned again.

Professor Time comes with a reminder: Breathing is nothing to take for granted.

Photo by Maria Herrera and provided royalty free from stock.xchng.