A Thousand Miles from Nowhere

“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.

Time Marches On

I remember the day I met him.

The year was 1989.

One of my friends had her eye on a boy who was part of a new Agriculture-based fraternity trying to get established at New Mexico State University.

Since he was in charge of getting new members to pledge, my friend had volunteered herself…and me, to work their rush party. It was held on a Sunday afternoon in one of the meeting rooms at the Pan Am Center.

We were there to pour fruit punch into paper cups and socialize with the prospective pledges.

My friend demanded I come with her, and so I did. I poured punch, I spoke to a few of the guys I already knew from the Ag College, and I felt uncomfortable.

Then I had this moment where I could feel someone looking at me, so I turned to look back. Over in the corner, behind a couple other fellows, was this boy.

He was the sort of quintessential cowboy you might find on the front of a western novel.

His eyes met mine for a moment, then flicked away.

Those eyes, a color somewhere between blue and black and gray. The color of a late afternoon storm on a hot August day in New Mexico.

He wore his hat low, and he looked at me again from under the brim, eyes in shadow.

My heart stopped, then skipped eight or ten beats.

I looked away and had to will myself not to stare. He still looked at me.

One of those “moments” passed between us.

A little while later, my friend dragged me around the room. I was her wingman as she made chirrupy conversation with all who would listen. Without warning, I found myself face to face with those smoky eyes.

“Karen, this is Michael**,” my friend said, by way of introduction.

“Hi!” I said, fixing him with my most winning smile.

He nodded and touched the brim of his black hat with his hand.

Oh swoon.

“How are you?” I asked, trying to get something going.

“All right,” he replied in a way that I think Louis L’Amour might describe as “laconic.”

That was the extent of our first meeting. My pal quickly dragged me off. Michael was not the boy she had in her cross hairs, so we went across the room to chase that one down.

As it turned out, Michael was friends with a lot of people I knew, so over the years, I’d come to know him a bit more.

He always wore extraordinarily pressed shirts and jeans.

He wore a straw hat in summer, a black Stetson the rest of the year.

He always wore a carefully groomed handlebar mustache (or as they called it in the 70’s, a “Fu Manchu”).

He’d grown up on the family farm…pecans, cotton, green chiles.

He was studying biology with plans to become a veterinarian.

He always spoke in that slow quiet manner, and rarely had much to say.

Because of this, it became wickedly easy to tease him. He’d always have a comeback, something smart and funny, spoken in that slow, quiet manner.

I had a wild, unabashed crush on Michael.

Of course, the feeling wasn’t mutual. We did manage to become decent friends.

This past Thursday afternoon, after laying my friend to rest, I sat outside at a folding table in La Union, New Mexico. We were gathered there to have a reception in memory of our friend.

I sat with my best friend and we visited with a buddy of ours from way back.

A shadow passed over the ray of sun to my side, and a chair across the table from me was pulled out.

Michael himself sat down.

He looked at me with that same intensity, and said in that slow quiet way, “Now that looks like trouble.”

“Hey Michael,” I said and he smiled.

Those intense eyes looked at me from behind the lenses of his corrective glasses. When he smiled, crow’s feet crinkled at the corners. The dark hair of his handlebar mustache showed gray.

I sat back and looked at him. He looked at me.

I struggled for something to say, trying to get something going.

Something that might sum up the past fifteen years or so it’s been since we were last in the same place at the same time.

Something meaningful.

“Goddamn you have a lot of gray hair. What the hell happened?” I said.

“I had that put in,” he replied, smoothing back the hair at his temples. “It makes me look distinguished.”

He had that familiar wry look in his eye and I laughed.

My heart skipped a couple beats then found its footing.

“I’m glad I’m not as old as you,” I said. Then I inquired about his wife and kids.

I don’t suppose I have a crush on Michael anymore, but behind all the attributes that have taxed my forty-something year old friends (and me), he hasn’t changed a bit.

**Names have been changed to protect the innocent

Oh The Humanity!

Side note:

I’d considered taking the week off from blogging because awkward commentary on awkward things seemed, perhaps, inappropriate after yesterday’s post.

But then I decided…well hell, writing this blog, no matter how trivial the topic, is what keeps me sane. I need to write something, anything, every day. And so, dear readers, despite my ongoing grief and my travel plans that will take me back to New Mexico for a few days, I’m going to try to keep on writing this week. Because it’s who I am.

Thanks to all for your support in comments and via email. Ya’ll rock.

And now, onward……

So I have a topic I’ve been wanting to talk about for a while.

I’ve not brought it up before because, well, I was dealing with all the emotions.

It’s essential that I my footing on this and make peace.

I don’t think it is any secret that I mostly use Apple products for my computing needs.

I had the great fortune to be able to use a Mac for work in my last three jobs, a time frame of almost fifteen years.

I have Macs at home. I have an iPhone.

Yes. I’m a Mac person.

Doesn’t mean I don’t know how to use the PC, I just haven’t had a lot of need to. Sure the occasional lookup on the PC at the library. Sometimes using my best friend’s machine to check email.

Not a problem.

Well. A month ago, I came to work on my first day, and into my hands they plopped….

A Dell.

Not just a Dell. A three year old Dell.

A three year old Dell that originally came with Vista but has since been blasted with some corporate approved version of some other member of the Windows family. I’ll be dag blarned if I can remember what it is.

(Because one click on the Apple logo in the upper left corner and it will tell me what OS I’m running, but I can’t find the similar on this machine. Oh wait…start….control panel….system…. Ah ha! Windows XP.)

The Good Man assures me that whatever the OS is on this machine is better than Vista.

Oh? So…ok.

I’m getting used to it, using this machine day by day.

It’s slow. It’s stodgy. It’s….well…it’s Windows.

I’m used to “hey, I wish this thingamabooper was over there instead of over here” and so I drag it over and off it goes, happier than anything, to its new location and it just does what it’s supposed to do.

Not so with my Windows. You have to find the thingamabooper in the right file and ask it nicely, maybe even coax it, to come over and perhaps make the transfer. Like a professional bureaucrat, it wants rubber stamps and approvals and nodding heads to let it know that, yes, it might be ok to be over there.

And it will go over there.

And then, later, it will go back to where it came from, without asking.

So okay. I’m adapting. It’s all just fine.

But I have a confession to make…

(I’m so ashamed.)

I find I really kind of like the ol’ right click. I never thought I needed more than one button on my mouse. It turns out…right click is pretty darn handy.

This whole PC thing is not so bad, really!

Sssh. Don’t tell Steve Jobs. He’d be so disappointed!

Can’t I Just Have Something Nice!?!

That title must be said in an Edith Bunker sort of voice.

Come with me to the Wayback Machine…

I remember back in the day, grade school era in Albuquerque, when I used to spend time over at my best friend Kathy’s house. It was small, white with pink trim, located over by Montgomery park, across from the public swimming pool.

That little house had this front room, right as you came in the door, that featured these really nice blue velour couches. Very cushiony.

However, those pretty couches were covered with thick plastic wrap. Her mother explained that was “to protect” the couches.

In Albuquerque on a hot summer day, those dang couches were miserable.

There were also plastic runners on the floor. This was “to protect” the carpet.

I once stepped outside the line, as is my way, and got my ear chewed off by Kathy’s mom.

That tiny Hispanic lady also drove a metallic blue Oldsmobile. Kathy and I used to take gymnastics lessons at the YMCA. Kathy’s mom would take that Olds to the car wash every single week during the hour we had our lessons.

She wouldn’t pay to have it dried, just washed, so she’d roll up with water droplets hanging off the sides. (You can get away with that in the 7% humidity of New Mexico.)

Why am I telling you this?

I got to thinking about Kathy’s mom today as I was looking at my brand spanking new iPhone 4.

It’s a beauty of a new phone. A bit heaver than the last model. The screen is amazingly clear. The black and chrome styling. Haaawt!

So here I am with this beautiful phone that isn’t cheap. It’s something really, really nice. And what did I do? I put an ugly plastic case around this marvel of industrial engineering.

You know, “to protect” it.

I tried to find the coolest case I could, but really, there’s not much out there that enhances the beauty and design of the iPhone.

I’m just “keeping it for nice.”

I know you know what I mean.

I Believe…

If you’ve ever had occasion to see a “Blue Collar Comedy” live show, then you know they end each performance with a litany of items that each of the four comedians believes.

Here is my I Believe list for today. Subject to change. Some restrictions apply. Offer ends July 20, 2010. Not valid in all 50 states.

I Beeeelieve….

…that Costco stores, like casinos, pump some substance into their ventilation system that causes me to behave in odd ways. How else can you explain my hitting all the sample tables like a drunk at a buffet bar, then buying a two thousand pack of toilet paper?

…that the first Indiana Jones movie is the one true Indiana Jones movie, and all else are just weak riffs on the original. I rate the movies on likability in the order in which they were made.

That said…

I also beeelieve that the “Crystal Skull” movie was not quite as bad as everyone made it out to be.

…that green chile has curative powers that extend beyond just physical health. I think we can achieve world peace and fix the global economy over a plate of enchiladas. Sour cream and fried egg on top.

…that Paris Hilton did, indeed, inhale. Yea verily though she has been busted for possession twice and gotten off scott free twice, I believe the clock is ticking and she will soon be cellmates with Lindsey.

…that coffee is the work of dark, evil forces. For though I welcome coffee with both arms and hug it to my person like a long lost sibling, it does terrible things to my stomach causing pain and acid reflux and generally causing havoc. And yet, I can’t seem to quit the dark beckoning brew.

…that red light cameras are patently unfair and unconstitutional and defy the Bill of Rights and upset the Code of Conduct and Robert’s Rules of Order and some other stuff I can’t think of right now. They don’t allow me to face my accuser in court! It’s bad! Real bad! Obviously, I’m still not over it.

…that AT&T is not quite as evil as we think (though they are still evil). Apple is not quite a cool as we think (though they are still cool). And that for some reason that I can’t explain, I dreamt last night that I met Bill Gates. And he hit on me. : shudder :

…that the 1970’s were weird and awkward during the 1970’s, and somehow time has made us all forget that. Now we remember the decade as cool.

…that times have gotten a little tough when grownups are stealing girl scout cookies. And stealing their money. And stealing their cookies. What’s next? Nun’s stealing babies? Oh. Weird.

…that white chocolate is just as delicious as regular chocolate and should be afforded all rights pertaining thereto. Same goes for vanilla ice cream. Oh, and also that something must be done *immediately* regarding the vanilla shortage. Code Red, people.

…that by writing this list of I Believe items, I have successfully avoided doing any real work for an hour and a half.