No, Really…How DID I Get Here? Again.

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And the earth turns and the seasons change and yet, the patterns remain.

This week I attended the same trade show as I attended last year. It’s a landmark in my company’s year.

The progression is something like: Summer. Performance reviews. Attend trade show.

It’s overwhelmingly large and despite this being my third year attending, it never gets any easier or less overwhelming.

Last year was particularly challenging, and I wrote the post you’ll see below. Rereading it, I’m back there in that same time and same place.

In fact, I was reminded of the post when I walked past that exact same mailbox on that exact same street and stopped. “Oh,” I thought to myself. “Yeah. Last year. A very, very sad day.”

I had to stand there a moment and let the sadness in. I had to mark the time. I had to make sure I didn’t forget.

“Then I straightened my spine, threw my shoulders back and walked ahead to meet my boss because he’s in town from London and has terrible jet lag.”

Because over time, some things change and some things don’t.

Happy Friday, ya’ll.



_________________________

Originally published October 6, 2011

How Did I Get Here?


Yesterday was not what I’d call an ordinary day by any definition.

Let’s roll back a few days to give you the backstory.

On Friday I stood shoulder to shoulder with my best friend inside an auction barn in Las Cruces. We tried to talk over the drone of an auctioneer and watched the local 4H kids walk their animals around a pen while local businessmen bid up the price.

On Tuesday, I stood on the show floor of one of the largest IT conventions in the US, surrounded by the drone of booth workers shouting out to passerby as I tried my very best to be all business.

I have to say, it was a bit disorienting. I guess that 180 degree turn in the span of just five days is the closest example I can get of who I am. Both auction barn and big corporate.

Yesterday was my second day attending the show and I was doing my best to stay grounded in the midst of the chaos that is any trade show.

While waiting for a morning meeting, I idly checked my email on my iPhone. I saw a note from one of my aunts letting me know that a dear uncle of mine had passed away. He had gone through a long and valiant battle with cancer, and for a while he got topside on that demon. Sadly, just yesterday he lost the fight.

I was instantly crushed and heartbroken. I couldn’t begin to imagine how my aunt must be managing. I’d sat with my mom in the days after my dad passed, and I know that for a woman to lose her husband of 40-plus years is a long, sorrowful journey. It is a world turned upside down.

Glancing at the clock, I saw it was time to go, so I put on my game face and got back to work.

Later I had to meet with a Senior VP of the company who demands answers as he fires off questions from a fire hose and I do my best to keep up. He’s brilliant but irascible.

After I finished with Mr VP, it was off to another meeting with a telecom carrier, and then a hardware manufacturer, and then…and then…..

It was a brutal day and I had gotten up extra early to get to San Francisco through morning traffic and suddenly the lack of sleep caught up with me. My legs and back ached.

But I pushed forward.

When the day was mostly over, it was time to go to the big celebration to close the show, a huge event put on over at Treasure Island.

I changed clothes in a dingy bathroom and then set out for the meet-up spot to catch a shuttle bus. I got myself turned around and walked about three blocks in the wrong direction, only to turn and walk back against of tide of city people at the end of their day.

I was tired, sweaty, in pain and generally DONE with the day when my iPhone buzzed. The Good Man conveyed to me the sad news about Steve Jobs.

As I had worked for the man for a decade, I felt a certain affinity for him and at that moment, it was the straw that broke me.

I leaned against a mailbox on New Montgomery street, while cars honked, police officers directed traffic and busses coughed fumes, and I cried.

I cried because after traveling then working at this show, I am worn down to a nub. I cried because I did a terrible job of comforting my godkids last week as I found myself at a loss to explain why their pigs had to die. I cried because my uncle was a good man with a good life but grief never gets easier. I cried because the passing of a legend means the end of a very profound era.

It’s just a little to much death in too short a time frame.

Sometimes when it’s all built up inside you and the pressure cooker is about to blow, and you’ve found the end of your tether, crying is just a real good way to let off some steam.

It only lasted a few minutes. Then I straightened my spine, threw my shoulders back and walked ahead to meet my boss because he’s in town from London and has terrible jet lag. He relied on me to help get him to the right shuttle. And my supplier expected me to “say some words” to the team. And every one expected me to be adult and professional when I felt anything but.

Thankfully I met up with a couple friends out on the island. They handed me beer and gave me nodding, knowing looks.

And today, while still sad, I’m trying to be myself again.

Or in the immortal words of Stevie Ray Vaughan, I’m “walking the tightrope/both day and night”






Image from Agent Faircloth



Willing Suspension of Disbelief

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“An actor struggles to die onstage, but a puppet has to struggle to live. And in a way that’s a metaphor for life.” – Handspring Puppet Company, creator of puppets for the stage show “War Horse”

Over the weekend I had the great pleasure of joining two very dear friends and The Good Man for a night out on the town. We started at a little French restaurant for both dinner and great conversation. We lingered a bit over our food, but skipped dessert as we had tickets to the theater, and it was nearing showtime.

While I have seen quite a few stage productions in my life, I am not what one would call a “theatre geek.” All three of the other talented people at the table self-describe themselves as such, so obviously I learn a lot from them every time we are together.

On that beautiful night in San Francisco, we found ourselves at the venerable old Curran Theater with tickets in hand to see “War Horse.”

This show first came to my attention at the 2011 Tony Awards (where it picked up five awards). The brief yet enchanting moment when the puppet horse came on stage sent a jolt to my soul. I turned to The Good Man and said, “Let’s fly to New York to see it!” and he smiled, as The Good Man does, and inserted reason into my life. “I bet it will come to San Francisco. Let’s see.”

Of course he was right.

Life almost got in the way, because this past weekend was the closing of the San Francisco run of the show. Whew! I owe The Good Man so much for pulling this one together.

Now, while I love the quirky old Curran, she also makes me tired. It’s small, short on bathrooms, the seats are massively uncomfortable and it’s stifling hot inside. And yet I keep going back there because they stage some of the best shows in the world.

I went into this production with extraordinarily high expectations. They were all beat. Hand’s down.

This is the most magical and profound show I have ever witnessed.

It’s no secret that I am a horse person. I have spent time among horses. I’ve studied them. I was trained to ride by a protégé of Monty Roberts (the inspiration for “The Horse Whisperer”) and she taught us in his style.

Which is to say one must listen to a horse. You must note the posture of their ears. Understand why a foot stamp. Realize that a deep inhale or a deep exhale actually means something.

I’ve spent hours simply watching a horse so that I could hear what it was telling me.

So you know I was going to have an extraordinarily critical eye when it came to the puppetry in this show.

I’ll cut to the chase…they nailed it. I don’t know how they did it, but they did. From simple ear flicks, to a shivering coat when brushed, to head posture. At one point, there was a long dialogue between two human characters while two horses stood off to the side. The horses sighed, tipped a front hoof on edge, stamped, and shifted weight from side to side. If you’ve ever made a horse stand still you’ve seen all of those. It wasn’t affected, just simply natural.

These bits of metal and canvas transformed into actual horses in my eyes. It was absolutely magical.

And then woven around this astounding feat of puppetry was a really difficult story set during World War I.

A boy’s father wins a young horse at auction and the boy and horse embark on a deep friendship. Albert trains the horse, Joey, with ease and understanding. They have that special bond that only a horse owner can know. But when England goes to war, Joey is sold into service for the cavalry by Albert’s father. Quickly, our young Albert lies about his age and enlists so that he can find his horse and keep him safe.

It is an extraordinary journey through history, exploring many notable events of WWI.

I’ve often been told in crafting stories that there are no new plots and it is the job of the writer to find a way to bring a new perspective to a known story. In this play, the underlying story is one we know. War is awful. Ravaging. And it irrevocably changes those who were sent to the front lines.

We know that story, but when you add the majestic layer of these well wrought puppet animals, it becomes something almost cinematic. How they staged such an ambitious production on the Curran’s small stage is still a miracle to me.

From light cues to small movements to the amazing work of the puppeteers, this show transcends theatre. You willingly suspend your disbelief and don’t want it back for a single moment.

It was perhaps one of the most profound moments of live theatre I’ve ever experienced.

Now I’m sad that I waited so long to see it because I want to see it again. This despite the fact that I totally ugly cried right there in the theatre. I mean cried so hard I was afraid I couldn’t get my composure back. Thankfully I was in good company, most of the patrons shed a couple tears, too.

We were all that engaged in the story.

Driving home, The Good Man and I talked about the show. I wanted to know what he thought about it from a theatrical perspective. He wanted to know what I thought about the accuracy of the portrayal of the animals. Together we decided it was unlike anything we’d ever seen.

Whew. I was so emotionally done-in that I slept like a rock that night. Over Sunday breakfast The Good Man and I again idly discussed the show. Just trying to speak about one of the more powerful scenes in the show brought tears to the corners of my eyes.

It’s rare and beautiful to find a piece of creative work, be it a book, movie or play, that gets inside the cellular walls of your soul and hangs on. “War Horse” is that, for me.

I will be thinking about that show for a very long time and trying to find a way to see it again.

Hey Good Man, I think it’s still playing on Broadway. How ’bout a road trip?





Hard to believe these mechanical devices become real horses, but they do




Image from AlEtmanski.com



Ray Bradbury, 1920-2012

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The news this morning felt heavy on my heart. Via Twitter, I learned that author Ray Bradbury had passed away at the age of 91.

91 very productive years is one hell of a good life.

Even though I never met Mr. Bradbury in person (The Good Man did) I consider him to be an essential part of my own writing life.

Fifteen years ago I took my first few fitful steps into writing a full length novel. It was an effort that far transcended any type of writing or story crafting I’d ever done. I was tortured by demons, a flighty muse and painful, quavering self doubt. About halfway through the work, just attempting to put words on a page became massively frustrating.

Looking for inspiration, I went to my local library to see what was what. While prowling the aisles, my eyes traveled across a book title, “Zen in the Art of Writing.”

I read Mr. Bradbury’s essays on the art and magic of writing cover to cover and quite literally cried my eyes out the whole way.

Because his book unlocked something inside of me.

Something that will never be locked away again.

For that, I owe Ray Bradbury a deep debt of gratitude. He saved my (writing) life.

A few favorite quotes:

Every morning I jump out of bed and step on a landmine. The landmine is me. After the explosion, I spend the rest of the day putting the pieces together.

**
My stories run up and bite me on the leg – I respond by writing down everything that goes on during the bite. When I finish, the idea lets go and runs off.

**
I wish you a wrestling match with your Creative Muse that will last a lifetime. I wish craziness and foolishness and madness upon you. May you live with hysteria, and out of it make fine stories — science fiction or otherwise. Which finally means, may you be in love every day for the next 20,000 days. And out of that love remake a world.




Ray Bradbury in 1984. Photograph: Sophie Bassouls/Sygma/Corbis




Image from The Guardian and used here under Fair Use.



Oh Woe, My Lost Love

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For a whole variety of reasons my doctor has me off the java for a while. And by a while, I mean at least a month, probably. Likely I should keep off it all together.

Acid in the tummy and all.

But I love coffee. Adore coffee. Sing songs in ode to coffee.

And I miss it. Oh how I miss it.

While I moan and wail over my loss, I looked through the photos on my iPhone and found this little beauty shot taken a couple weeks ago.

That is The Good Man’s latte with a crispy little Amaretti cookie on the side. The (Italian) guy pulling shots at Cafe Venetia in Palo Alto always makes a charming little design.

Look how pretty. *sigh*

Such sorrow for my lost love…….



Photo copyright 2012, Karen Fayeth



Tomorrow: bad poetry as ode to the fact I also can’t have wine. *whimper*



Photo taken with an iPhone4s using the Camera+ app. Subject to the Creative Commons license, found in the right column of this 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.



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