Tis The Season for a Re-Blog

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This post first appeared on this little ol’ blog on December 11, 2007. Today it just feels right to re-blog it because the list is still true. This post remains one of my all time favorites since the Christmas season always gets me feeling a little extra homesick for New Mexico.


Top ten things I miss about Christmas in New Mexico (in no particular order):

1) An annual shopping trip to Old Town in Albuquerque. This was a longtime mom and me tradition. Every year I’d get to pick out my own ornament that would eventually be mine when I became an adult. I have every one of those ornaments stored in a Thom McAnn shoebox and they go on my tree every year. They are glitter and glass history of my life. I remember buying each of them and it gives me a beautiful sense of continuity to have them on my tree.


2) Luminarias. I always was the one to make them for the family. Someone would drive me to an empty lot and I’d dig out two buckets worth of good New Mexico dirt, then I’d go home and fold down the tops on brown lunch bags. Each would get a candle inside and then at night I’d light them. It was my holiday job and I loved every folded bag and every bulk buy candle (and every small emergency when a bag caught on fire in the wind). I miss real luminarias.


3) The Bugg House, which, sadly, is no more. My sister lived over on Prospect and we’d go for a walk in the dark on Christmas Eve to take a look at the outstanding display of holiday spirit. On the way to Christmas shop at Winrock Mall, I’d take a detour to the Bugg house to take a look. No one does lights like the Buggs did.


4) Neighbors bringing over a plate of freshly made tamales as a Christmas gift. When there are three generations of Hispanic women in a kitchen with some masa and shredded pork, magic happens. Yum! I also miss that people would bring tamales to work in a battered Igloo cooler and sell them to coworkers. I was always good for a dozen or more.


5) A ristra makes a good Christmas gift. I’ve given. I’ve received. I love ’em. They’d become a moldy mess here, and that makes me sad, cuz I’d love to have one.


6) Biscochitos. My love for these is well documented.


7) Sixty-five degrees and warm on Christmas Day. Growin’ up, I think one year there was actually snow on the ground for the 25th. But it was melted by the end of the day. Oh Fair New Mexico, how I love your weather.


8) Christmas Eve midnight Mass in Spanish with the overpowering scent of frankincense filling up the overly warm church. Pure torture for a small child, but oh how I’d belt out the carols. And when we came home after, we could pick one present and open it. Gah! The torture of choosing just one!


9) A New Mexico piñon, gappy, scrawny Christmas tree that cost $15 at the Flea Market and was cut from the top of a larger tree just that morning. Look, to my mind, it ain’t a tree unless you are using a few low hanging ornaments to fill the obvious empty spots. These overly fluffy trees just ain’t my bag. If you aren’t turning the ‘bad spot’ toward the wall, you paid too much for your tree.


10) Green chile stew for Christmas Eve dinner and posole for New Year’s, both served with homemade tortillas. My mouth waters. It’s weep worthy. I can taste the nice soft potatoes in the stew, the broth flavored just right. And posole to bring you luck with red chile flakes and soft hunks of pork. Yeah……


*sigh* Now I’m homesick.

Which is not to say I don’t have happy holidays where I live now…but sometimes I feel melancholy. And in a weird way, that’s what the holidays are for, right?



Finally, as a ode to My People, I give you this:





Image lifted from a friend’s Facebook page. It was just toooo perfect to pass up. If it’s yours, I’m happy to add an attribution or take it down, your choice.



Obessed by Floors

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There’s this hotel in San Francisco that’s technically in the Financial district but really is so close to the Embarcadero you can taste it (not that you’d actually want to taste the Embarcadero. That’s just ew.).

The hotel is the Hyatt Recency and it’s not only a hotel, it’s also a movie star. The Hyatt featured prominently in the Mel Brooks movie High Anxiety and also served as the lobby for the The Towering Inferno.

I am utterly fascinated by this hotel. It’s a quirky place and definitely has this 1970’s vibe. It was opened in 1973 and I’m guessing it was pretty cha-cha for the time.

It’s odd shaped. The huge atrium is profound. The open hallways looking into the atrium do give a bit of vertigo.

But while that’s all fascinating…it’s the floors that get me. I’m literally obsessed with these floors.

Here’s a couple photos. The patterns just kill me! (in a good way)



Photograph by Karen Fayeth, Copyright 2011



Photograph by Karen Fayeth, Copyright 2011


I can’t even begin to imagine how long it took to lay all of those tiles in patterns across not only the huge hotel atrium but also on all four buildings of the shopping center next door.

The floors have a seventies vibe, to be sure, but there is something engaging about them too.

I can catch a glimpse of these floors in a movie or old photo and I know exactly where they are.

It’s just another one of those oh-so-uniquely San Francisco things.




Yes, I wrote a whole blog post about floors.



Photographs by Karen Fayeth, Copyright 2011, and subject to the Creative Commons license in the far right corner of this blog. Photos takes with an iPhone4 (I haven’t set up the new phone yet) and using the Camera+ and Hipstamatic apps.


Happy Hour!

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Oh happiest of Happy Fridays. Sure, I was on vacation Monday and Tuesday, but I’ve packed a week or more of work into the two days I’ve spent back in the office and more more lies ahead. Yeesh!

As I rolled into work on my morning commute, I thought “today’s a real good day for a Happy Hour” which got me to thinking about all the bars I’ve visited in my little life.

Which got me wondering about what are the best (and by best, I the biggest dive) bars I’ve been to.

Here’s my top five, in no particular order:

  1. The Grant & Green Saloon (pre-renovation, when it was still a blues club), located conveniently at the corner of Grant and Green streets in San Francisco.


    It was in this dank, cave-like (it was painted black), seedy SF joint that I first saw the irrepressible Johnny Nitro & The Doorslammers.

    I still can’t believe I used to go to this place *by myself* Ah the stupidity courage of youth.

    One main feature of this dive was the bathroom. The ladies was located at the end of a weird dark hall. The door had a questionable bolt latch. The toilet tank was held together with a metal strap. The broken toilet seat was patched with heavily road worn gray duct tape. When you sat, first the tape would stick to you, and then the seat would give way a bit.

    When your business was done, you’d stand, and the seat came with you. It stuck to your leg just long enough for the seat to shift back together and pinch a good amount of thigh skin between the broken pieces. It hurt like a sonovabitch and I’d come away with a welt and left over adhesive from the tape. Curse words were uttered.

    Also, the boys loo at the front of the hall would stop up with some regularity, so when it was busted, the drunk boys would lumber to the end of the hall and shake the door to the ladies room. Regulars knew if you shook the door hard enough and long enough, that weak bolt would give way and *surprise* you’d be caught in a squat facing some drunk lumbering boy.

    I learned to pee really, really fast. Also, I’ve never been one of those girls to go to the bathroom with friends, but I did at the G&G. It helped to post someone outside the door to keep watch. (the door was too far away from the toilet to be able to both hold the door and do business).

    Despite all of what’s gross about the G&G, I saw some of the most amazing live blues there. I was actually heartbroken when they fixed it up, painted it white and put in new plumbing. It’s never been the same since….


  2. The Saloon just down Grant street from the G&G, in San Francisco


    Oh the Saloon. It contains what can only be called a “funky smell”. Sunlight never hits the inside of this place, and that’s probably for the best.

    Established in 1861, it’s San Francisco’s oldest continually operating bar. The Saloon holds some history. Legend has it the local firefighters saved the building from the fires that raged after the 1906 earthquake due to the prosperous brothel that operated on the upper floors.

    There are plenty of stories about young men having their fill and stumbling out onto the foggy San Francisco night, then waking up on a boat out to sea. An unwilling member of the ship’s crew and unable to return to port for months or years at a time. The colloquial term for that is Shanghaiing.

    All of that history invades the place, and you feel it. There is still live blues seven days at week at The Saloon (and two bands a day on the weekends).

    It’s strange, smelly, filled with weirdos, and a tiny dance floor (but the bathroom isn’t so bad). I’ve had some of the greatest nights of my life inside that place. The timbers jump when the base player thumps that thing.

    It’s fantastically beautiful. And Fresno alley just outside the door is a place filled with all sorts of shenanigans (including photography, the light there is awesome).


  3. The Alive just over the border in Juarez


    I couldn’t find any links to information about this place, other than wistful memories from many a person who was there back in the day.

    The Alive was actually underground, you had to navigate this long, steep ramp to get into the place.

    Just an aside….does it seem like a good idea to YOU to be in an place when you are 18, in a foreign country, underground, drunk and there is only ONE entry/exit? Ah the stupidity courage of youth.

    This was a place for cheap Coronas, thumping dance music, and a bathroom that I can hardly even describe. There were no lights in there (probably for the best). With my walnut sized bladder, I did my best to hold it for as long as possible. Once, I went in there (couldn’t wait anymore) and I slipped into a stall. SOMETHING was moving on the surface of the water in the toilet. It was alive. I have zero idea what it was and it scares the sheeeit out of me to think about it now.

    I held the door handle for my life and leaned back, doing the best I could to be the farthest possible distance I could get from the seat and still hit the water. I prayed that door handle wouldn’t give way. I prayed whatever was in the water wasn’t bitey. I prayed I could just get this done and go home.

    I survived and emerged unscathed. It took three tequila poppers (some called them slammers) to get over the trauma.

    Then I danced and tried to forget.

    I used to have such fun in Juarez. The danger made it more interesting, I suppose. Of course, these days it’s ill advised to slip over into Juarez. Too much awful business going on there. I’m afraid The Alive is an experience that is long gone (and maybe that’s for the best).


  4. A bar attached to the Steven’s hotel in Carlsbad

    At least I think it was the Steven’s Hotel. This was a bar that was located on the backside of a hotel on Canal Street in Carlsbad (it’s been soooo many years since I lived there.)

    I don’t actually think this bar exists anymore. I can’t seem to find any record of it from a Google search.

    To get to the place, you had to ascend these steep metal stairs. Going up wasn’t so bad, coming out was a bit treacherous once you were a little wobbly in your shoes, and especially if it had rained a bit. People slipped and bobbled down those stairs in droves. A big pile of borrachos at the bottom of the stairs. I wish I was kidding.

    The bar hosted Pot Ash miners, local cowboys, and us college kids. This was something of a volatile combination. The plate glass windows were replaced by plastic after too many fights in the bar kept smashing the glass. You couldn’t get beer in a bottle or glass. Only cans and plastic cups held drinks.

    The mood was weird, and tense. But the beer was cheap and whatever half ass local band was playing would getcha dancing. And hell, it was somewhere to go and something to do in Carlsbad. So ok.

    I had some odd, yet fun times there. Strange spot and strange people.


  5. Cowboys bar in Las Cruces


    Who knows what this place is called these days. At NMSU in the 80’s and 90’s this was THE place to be.

    A band called Easy Money used to play there. The lead singer was named Toby Keith. They were a pretty good band. The lead singer was a complete arrogant ass. Nobody liked him, and now he actually is somebody. (I still think he’s an ass)

    At one point they introduced a special where on Fridays, if you bought a pitcher of beer, you could eat as much pizza as you wanted. Big mistake. Hungry and broke college kids can eat a LOT. And if we all put in a dollar, we could get one, maybe two pitchers of Coor’s Light. So there.

    That promotion didn’t last long.

    I danced until my feet hurt many a night at Cowboys. God I loved that place.

    All night drinking and dancing, then after the bar closed, a group trip to Village Inn for late night pancakes. Why do pancakes taste so damn good at 2 am?


Whooo doggies, that was quite a trip in the Wayback Machine. I think I need a smoke (and a vodka drink) after all of that. (no, no, just kidding, I don’t smoke….)

Sadly, I won’t be at ANY those places tonight. Instead I’ll be at the Red Couch Saloon where The Good Man tends bar.

He knows which wine goes best with Cheetos.

Happy Friday everyone! Enjoy your night.



Photo of the interior of the Saloon, Copyright Scott Palmer.



A Party For A Glass

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There are a lot of adjectives that can be used to describe the City of San Francisco. Some flattering, some less so.

One word that always leaps to my mind is nostalgic. For a big bustling city, on the forefront of technology and food and lifestyle, the town can get really bundled up about the past.

From toppled clocks to fiberglass dog heads to the preservation of graffiti, the town will vehemently unite around a little quirky slice of the past. After the lamenting and handwringing, people will unite to lobby government, business owners and each other to put things back to right.

The latest example? Glasses. Plain ol’ glasses manufactured by the Libby Glass Co. of Toledo, Ohio.

But a special glass that oh so perfectly fits the town’s specialty of Irish Coffee. I, myself, have held onto many a glass of the type and shape that makes a perfect warm beverage. The same glass that the manufacturer decided to stop producing.

The City’s biggest purveyor of Irish coffee, the iconic Buena Vista at Fisherman’s Wharf, had stopped buying from the Toledo company and moved over to a Chinese manufacturer. With such a huge drop in business, the Libby Co. didn’t see why they should keep cranking them out. It just made good business sense.

Enter the tenacity of a nostalgic people. There was an outcry! There was vocal frustations. Pleading, begging and enough of a ruckus was made that the story hit the front page of the San Francisco Chronicle.

When the company read about the good people of San Francisco mourning the loss of the right glass, they made the decision to swallow some not-insignificant costs to resuscitate the glass mold and do a new run. If this stack of inventory sells well, they’ll consider doing another run.

And Irish Coffee drinkers rejoiced!

From the article in the SFGate:

“The queenly, petite glass…allows for just enough whiskey and not too much coffee, with barely room for three C&H sugar cubes at the bottom and aged whipping cream that floats like a halo on the top.”

Indeed. It’s another cool foggy summer evening in the City. Tourists and locals alike seem to get along pretty darn well over a perfectly poured Irish Coffee in the beautifully shaped, heat retaining glass.

For reference, in the photo below, the one on the left is all wrong. The glass on the right is our little beauty.



Photo credit: Susana Bates / Special to The Chronicle


Side note: A few years ago, the Buena Vista also changed their whiskey brand in favor of a private label. It was a shocking transition and the purists were not pleased, including me. The new whiskey isn’t as smooth as the other variety. Doesn’t keep me from drinking it, but it gives me something to complain about.


Dyin’ or Revivin’?

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Last week I received an email by the good folks running the literary competitions at my local county fair. After notifying me that my story won a prize, they invited me to come out to the fair next weekend to read my story aloud on stage as part of their literary event.

Well I was just pleased as punch to say yes. What a wonderful opportunity.

This past Saturday, I had some time on my hands while I sat in a chair waiting for my hair to turn that color that only my hairdresser knows how to make.

I started thinking about this event next weekend and planning. I need to spend some time practicing reading my story aloud. Practice is everything in a public speaking situation.

I wondered if I’d be asked any questions about the story. I thought I should try to think up what I might be asked so I could be ready with good answers.

One of the first questions I thought of was, “what was your inspiration for this story?”

I had to spend some time thinking that through. It’s a story that’s been rambling around in my mind for a while, and I’ve taken several stabs and getting it out, to both greater and lesser success.

Mainly, I was inspired by the fact that upon reading the guidelines for the competition, I noted that there was a “Western” genre available to compete under. This is not something I often see, so that really got my creative juices rolling.

My absolute author-hero is Larry McMurtry. I adore his way with description and dialogue, and his western novels are a cut above.

I have a collection of short stories that McMurtry edited. It’s western stories written only by writers raised in the west.

When I saw that my county fair offered a Western category, I knew there was no doubt that I had to write a western story.

That said, what I wrote isn’t truly a classical western. Technically, the western genre implies a story set in the 1800’s, the so called “Old West.”

If you read any of the literally thousands of short stories that Louis L’Amour wrote, you’ll find within his formula a common theme. The great conflict in his stories is of man against nature which includes cattle grazing the land, the weather and water. In fact, water rights always seem to play a big role in L’Amour’s short stories.

I guess that the western genre has declined so much because these concepts seem hopelessly old fashioned.

But are they?

Until his untimely death last year, my dear friend who farmed cotton and chile on his family’s farm in La Mesa was fighting with the state of New Mexico over water rights. This problem was such a vital aspect of his life that it was mentioned in his eulogy.

Yesterday I watched a televised show where renowned French chef Eric Ripert spoke passionately about the “farm to table” movement, and visited a Virginia farm where the owner was doing something revolutionary.

He was not overgrazing his land.

He spends time calculating how many head of cattle his land can bear and then actively rotates pastures to be sure that his cattle never overgraze. His land flourishes, his cattle are healthy and he’s seen as an innovator.

This is not innovation. Louis L’Amour wrote stories about this very idea over 70 years ago. This concept is also something they taught me in my collegiate FFA organization**. It’s called “being a good steward of the land.”

And so, to bring this back to my point…

I wanted to write a western story because although I keep hearing that the western fiction genre is dying, I’m seeing that the topics driving most true western stories are still essential and vital to today’s world.

And so maybe Westerns aren’t dying. Maybe, much like the land, if tended to and nourished, the genre can continue to flourish with a modern sensibility.

Writing a western story set in modern times that won an award at my local county fair is so deeply satisfying to me. It’s my affirmation that the Western genre is alive and well inside at least one little girl who was born and raised in the west.

_______________________


Further proof: The Western genre gets back in the saddle





**”I believe in the future of farming…”