Tell It Like It Is

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Over the weekend, after another rough week at work, The Good Man and I found our way to the big main branch of our city’s library. It was like an awesome haven from the mean old world.

I immediately found my way to the fifth floor where they keep the art books. I needed an infusion of art and creation in my life to erase the financial and business blues of my workweek. I decided I wanted to look at some Frida Kahlo prints. I am a huge fan of Frida.

As I plucked a slim book of her paintings off the shelf, I found another small book hiding behind it. It was a book of letters written by Frida to her friends and family.

I love reading old letters. You learn a lot about who a person was (or is) by reading their handwritten letters.

I had always thought that Frida was so strong, powerful, fierce and uncompromising.

Boy was I wrong. Through her letters, I found her to be very sweet, quite insecure, and almost childlike.

She often would write letters to friends and ask their advice on big life decisions. For example, at one point her husband, Diego Rivera, had a terrible infection in his eye that had spread to the side of his face. She asked a friend, a fellow painter, if he though she should take Diego to New York to see American doctors or stay in Mexico and take the guidance of Mexican doctors.

Now that seems like a pretty big life crisis, something you would want to decide along with your husband and instead she was soliciting, nay begging for, the advice of a friend. She actually did this quite a lot, begged her dear friends to tell her what to do.

I found that so counter to the fierce woman I see through her paintings.

And then, over time, as she got older she did seem to become a lot harder edged. A lot more sarcastic and passive aggressive.

Clearly the philandering ways of her husband and his over bearing need to be controlling had taken a toll on her psyche.

That and years and years of immense pain in her spine, leg, and foot, all massively unresolved injuries from an accident in her teens.

Her physical and mental anguish become so forceful, it drove a little bit of the lightness out of her words. She became more bitter. And so maybe that is the Frida I came to know, the rough around the edges and hard woman who had been hurt too much.

But even then, as I understood how she could come to be that way, I was a bit shocked to read (in the book) a quite long essay that was to accompany an exhibition meant to honor Diego Rivera.

I came across this section and burst out laughing. I mean, wow.

Here, read it and see what you think. She is describing Diego’s physical form from many angles. In this section she refers to his chest:

“Diego’s chest — of it we have to say, that had he landed on an island governed by Sappho, where male invaders were apt to be executed, Diego would never have been in danger. The sensitivity of his marvelous breasts would have insured his welcome, although his masculine virility, specific and strange, would have made him equally desired in the lands of these queens avidly hungering for masculine love.”

Um. Did she just say her husband had moobs? Cuz I think she did.

In another section she describes seeing him naked as looking something like a child frog. Paraphrasing here, she said that his skin takes on a greenish tone and is pale under his clothes and only tan in his face and hands.

Yeah. Green moob guy. Awesome.

This was, I’m sure, taking a bit of her own pound of flesh from him for the years of unkindness. And also a bit of the ol’ anti-bourgeoisie taking the piss out of what might have been a flowery ode to her husband.

I’ll tell you what, that image is sure going to stick with me for a while.

Actually, the whole book will stick with me for a while. The letters so quaint, so childlike and such a deep glimpse into one of my creative heroes. Quite something.

Oh, and she liked to invent words of her own. My favorite was when she would refer to her life or other things that were not working out as expected as fuc-bulous. Oh yes. I can use that. I may have to adopt it myself.

Next up, I have on my bedside table a book of letters by Vincent Van Gogh. He was quite prolific in his letters to his brother, and it is a thick tome. I am both wary and excited to dip in.





Photograph by Martin Munkácsi





Image found here.





The Roots of My Raising Run Deep

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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.




Somewhere In Between

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Part II in a series.


Today I continue my New Mexico storytelling with Part II. I guess my short trip to New Mexico last week takes more than one post to discuss.

At four days, it was a quick trip, too quick if you ask me, and even though time elapsed fast, there was an indelible impression left upon me. New Mexico kind of does that to a person, right?

The last time I had been north of Las Cruces was in 2009, so it wasn’t that long ago, but certainly long enough ago to change my worldview.

Back then I was newly married (yay!), had endured one of the worst years of my professional life (boo!). I found myself without a job, without any leads, and a little dislocated as I learned how to be both unemployed and married. Both being something I had never before experienced.

I returned to the homeland last week on a warm Spring Saturday with almost six years of marriage tucked under my belt and a really good job that I love very much. Time really does heal wounds.

To be honest, sometimes I still feel very dislocated. Caught somewhere in between. I am a New Mexican, through and through, but it has now been almost seventeen years that I have lived in California. My god. Seventeen. Where the hell did all those years go?

So I am not really a New Mexican anymore, but I’m seriously not a Californian either. What, exactly, am I? I don’t know and that’s the problem.






(Apparently this is a long running theme for me, here’s something from the archives.)


My best friend and goddaughters were on their Spring Break and wanted to make a trip to Santa Fe. As near as I can recall, the last time I was in Santa Fe I was somewhere in my twenties. Well, that’s not entirely true. I went to the outskirts of Santa Fe in 2009 because my father is buried there, at the National Cemetery.

But that last time I had been on the Plaza? Yeeks. I was of drinking age, but not old enough to know better, certainly.

Let’s just say, it’s been a while.

Santa Fe was, well, Santa Fe. She has changed in many ways. She has not changed at all in other ways.

Of course, one of the first places I had to visit was the Loretto Chapel. I have always loved that place, from the time I was a small child to now.

I had wanted so much to get married there, I mean, I really wanted that, but logistics being what they are, it just couldn’t happen.

(I am more than thrilled with where and how we did get married in California, by the by.)

In my mind, my child’s mind, the Loretto chapel was teeny tiny and the stairs were at the very back wall of the chapel. I was pleasantly surprised to see the chapel is actually larger than I remembered, with several rows of pews behind the very famous staircase.

So of course I took an unremarkable photo of the remarkable treasure. A photo from the same vantage point where everyone snaps the shutter, from behind the worn velvet ropes. It’s a bit like the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s been done. To death. It’s hard to do it any differently than the thousands who came before.

But that’s ok. I took the photo for me. A memory. An image that I don’t have to expend a calorie trying to conjure up in my mind. I can ease my brain and rest my eyes and smile fondly to see this photo.




Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth

While in Santa Fe, we also went to the Cathedral Basilica of Saint Francis. Where Loretto is small, the Basilica is gigantic. Overwhelming in its proportions.

I took a lot of photos and absorbed all of my surroundings.




A bird at the base of a statue of Saint Francis and the Basilica’s rose window in the background.

Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth


Of course, I have a lot of mixed feelings about being raised Catholic, but that is not something to discuss here. I do try to stay away from religion and politics on the blog, though I don’t always succeed.

That said, I have always loved the iconography of the Catholic church and being raised in the Hispanic culture means all of those images hold a lot of power for me. The images are not just religious but part of our culture and folk art. It has shown up in a lot of my own work.

I have been obsessed for a long time with the image of a flaming heart and also a heart with a crown over it. Of course this is the Sagrado Corazón, found on paintings and statues and sculptures.

Being in such a beautiful space and being in Santa Fe and seeing all of these reminders of my childhood made me need to sit down. Just sit and be quiet. And think. And absorb.

My two godkids had a lot of questions for me about the Catholic Church and what some of the images mean. The Stations of the Cross proved to be a place of fear for my younger godkid, and I tried to explain that it was telling a story, certainly a sad story, but that it had a happy ending.

Meanwhile my thoughts raged with questions like, “Who am I?” and “Why don’t I know?” and “Why have I had this lost feeling for such a long time?”

Questions as unanswerable as some of the challenges posed by my beautiful girls.

I love New Mexico and inside of me something is able to rest when I am there, but to be honest there is another part of me (that has been there all of my life) that cannot rest, and needs more than New Mexico can give.

The only place that I truly know is home is anywhere The Good Man happens to be. That, I think, was my best comfort while the thoughts and feelings swirled like an eastern New Mexico tornado through my brain.


Part III: ¡Comida! There is Indian and then there is Indian




Images Copyright © 2014 Karen Fayeth, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the right column of this page. The Loretto staircase was taken with an iPhone5 and the Camera+ app. The little bird was taken with a Canon G10 and some crawling around on the ground.




I’m Legit – Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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And so I am back, for now, to blogging.

I’ll be posting soon about the agony and ecstasy of the insidious little (gigantic) hack on my blog.

It’s been quite a ride and isn’t quite over. The good news for my readers is that I have had several scans done and it appears my blog isn’t serving malware, so I have that going for me.

For today, I think I am unhacked. We’ll see how long that lasts. (probably not for long, as my internet research has told me)

And so today on a Happy St. Patrick’s Day, let’s do a throwback Monday.

On this day of the wearin’ of the green and the drinkin’ of the green beer, many people from a variety of different backgrounds will claim their Irish heritage.

I will authenticate my own heritage by posting this photo of me and my 100% Irish grandmother:





This day also matters as it is the day the first post landed here on Oh Fair New Mexico back in 2007.

Today I celebrate a lucky seven years of blogging.

I have to admit, with the recent hack-a-roni, I deeply considered giving up blogging. Or maybe taking a break. But I made a promise to myself in 2007 and I’d like to keep going.

If the hack-a-thon keeps up I may have to move to another forum, but for today, I’m here, I’m Irish and I’m blogging.

Now, despite my deep Irish roots, I was raised in the Great State of New Mexico. That means I am going to celebrate Éirinn go Brách by toddling over to my local Mexican restaurant and diving in on some mole.

Because why not?

Why not indeed.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all of you Irish and all of you wanna be Irish. Today we’re all from the Emerald Isle!

Sláinte!




Aw Hell Nah

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So there I was perusing my Facebook feed when one of my favorite pages to follow, ¡Orale! New Mexico posted this:




For reference: La Llorona

My first thought was “this HAS to be a joke! I must remand myself to the Google for confirmation!”

Turns out it is no joke, it’s a real park in Las Cruces.

Yes, La Llorona, a scary story told in my childhood. A Mexican fable intended to keep kids away from arroyos and rivers. My sadistic grade school teachers would shut off the lights in the classroom and whisper to us the story of the woman who had drowned her own child and wandered near waterways intent on stealing and drowning little kids.

Real educational stuff!

Mention La Llorona and Hispanic kids everywhere will shudder. Some will cross themselves. A few will weep.

What the hell Las Cruces? So you think it’s fun to scare the bat crap out of every child and most adults? Who are you Las Cruces? I don’t even know you anymore!

And for the record, I will NOT be visiting any park named for La Llorona. I won’t drink a La Llorona margarita. And no wailing woman milk.

Just. No. Especially this time of year. La Llorona likes the cold and damp of Autumn. Gah!

Oh Fair New Mexico, how I love and am confused by you so.





Image Copyright 2013, Joe Wigelsworth for ¡Orale! New Mexico. All rights reserved.