You Do What, Now?

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My very truly honestly global job certainly keeps me on my toes from one day to the next, calculating time zones with ease and panache.

The laws that govern each country are different and there are nuances in languages that keep my brain working overtime.

This is never more apparent than in the weekly catch up meetings I have with my boss, who is located in London.

My boss has a sense of humor about to the level of mine, so lately we have this ongoing riff.

It goes something like this:

Boss: “So, what is this, um, let’s see what do they call it…yes, this day of groundhog you people celebrate in the US?”

Me: “What, they don’t have this holiday in the UK?”

Boss: “I don’t think so, what is this all about?”

Me: “So, wait, you’re telling me that in the UK they don’t pull rodents out of the ground in order to determine the extent of winter?”

Boss: “Not as such, no.”

Our conversation usually revolves around some odd thing that “you people do in your country.”

To be fair, I catch the brunt of this. You never know how weird you are until you see your own culture through another’s eyes.

Things like:

Boss: “So I’m going to be in the US the week of March 14th. I understand I’ll be able to participate in what you Americans refer to as St. Patrick’s Day.”

Me: “Oh c’mon, any holiday that involves drinking a lot of beer can’t be so bad.”

Boss: “Well, true.”

Or

Boss: “Did you watch this thing you Americans call the ‘Super Bowl’ this weekend?”

Me: “Yes, I did.”

Boss: “So, did the team you were rooting for win?”

Me: “Well, I wasn’t really rooting for one of the teams, so it didn’t matter.”

Boss: “Oh…so what did you do then? Did you attend a party?

Me: “Yes, I went to a friend’s house. We did what we Americans are fond of doing, we ate a lot.”

Boss: “Your people seem to like that.” (<- my boss attended his first American Thanksgiving meal this year and was horrified by how much food was presented.) My return vollies tend to be more along the lines of his use of language. Me: "So if we can crack on, is it possible to crack off?" Boss: --silence-- "I've never really thought about that." Or Me: "So you need to know when you say 'creating an implementation scheme', that the word scheme has a bit of a negative connotation for Americans." Boss: "How do you mean?" Me: "Well, setting up a scheme usually involves something illegal or at least questionable." Boss: "Oh! My. Well we won't use that anymore will we?" Or Me: "When you told me to revert on your email, I have no idea what you mean." Boss: "You mean my question?" Me: "No, I mean...the word revert means going back to a previous version. I don't understand how I can go back to a previous version of an email you wrote. It makes no sense!" Boss: --sigh-- "You click reply and answer my question!" Me: "Oh. I get it. That's a weird use of the word revert." Or, my personal favorite... Boss: "So to let you know, the UK office will be on holiday Monday." Me: "What!? Another holiday?" Boss: "Yes, this is a Bank Holiday and all will have the day." Me: "Don’t you get like five weeks vacation, too?" Boss: "Yes." Me: "When do you people find any time to work over there! Geez!" So yeah, US and UK relations continue to involve a lot of sarcasm. Good thing I'm good at that. Though the best part is when we have to chat about our counterparts in Canada, because that's when we're on the same side. We can both usually find some good reason to pick on the Canadians. (Aw Canada, ya know I love ya! You're like that pesky yet precocious kid brother who says adorable things like "aboot".)






Photo by Scott Duhamel and found on Flickr.

Hey, Joe!

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Been working some long days at the ol’ office this week, and it’s keeping me hopping.

Yesterday evening, I was asked to attend a corporate event in the place of my second level boss. He’s working even harder than I am right now, so I was happy to help him out.

This event was something of a schmoozy thing for a lot of corporate customers around the Bay Area.

Here’s where it gets interesting, this particular gathering was held at the San Francisco 49ers training facility down in Santa Clara.

Growing up in New Mexico with no professional sports teams affiliated with the state, we all adopted our teams from neighboring states. All the kids were either Denver or Dallas fans. Not so for me, I picked the 49ers early on as my team.

It was easy to be a 49ers fan back then. Joe Montana was the guy in charge and our chances of winning on any given Sunday were pretty darn good.

So yesterday I went to the training facility and walked out on the field and took my seat in the tent to sit through the corporate, work related stuff.

Blah blah this and blah blah that….and may we now introduce Jim Harbaugh, coach of the 49ers.

Well hey, that’s pretty cool. Harbaugh, fresh of Stanford’s win in the Orange Bowl, was just named head coach, so he’s got some media credibility.

Harbaugh did some motivational style speaking in the way only an old style football coach could. I mean heck, I was ready to hit the weight room and strap on the shoulder pads by the time he was done. Harrgggh!

But the finale of the night was the best. 49er helmets and footballs were given to a few attendees as prizes (I got a football) and then Joe Montana, Bay Area royalty, entered the room.

He gave a short talk about the company putting on the event, how great their product is, and then went to the back of the room for a meet and greet.

So, you know, here I am with my new friend Joe (he also signed my football).




Gravity is a Cruel, Cruel Mistress

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As I was growing up, my mom, bless her soul, had some pretty strong aspirations for her daughters. Mainly, she wanted both my sister and me to be strong, healthy and graceful girls.

This is an admirable wish.

So to that end, both my sissy and I attended dance classes regularly, learning ballet, tap and jazz (yes, I learned how to make perfect jazz hands).

Blessed from an early age with sturdy thighs and broad German hips, I was what might be called “stocky.” This whole dancing thing was a bit tougher for me than it was for the lithe little girls who also attended the dance classes.

That said, I danced and it was not so bad. I was a damn fine tap dancer in my day, actually. I could shuffle-off-to-buffalo like nobody’s business! (Google it, that’s actually a tap dancing term)

At some point, I don’t know how it came about, but it was agreed that I would start taking gymnastics classes at the local YMCA.

Well, this was quite a step up in the game. Gymnastics! Whoa!

Ok, let’s go back to the sturdy thighs and broad German hips thing…my center of gravity is rather low. This is a good thing for lifting things and staying on the planet.

However, that “staying on the planet” aspect is quite the hindrance to the goal of gymnastics activities which often involve leaving the ground.

In hindsight, I did ok on balance beam. I was actually not that bad on the uneven bars.

But the floor routines were another story entirely.

Cartwheels? Yes!

Backbends. Sure. I’m all over them.

Flips? Er. Not so much.

I’d come thundering down the mat, do the hop, attempt to flip forward and wind up lying on the mat in a tangled mess of limbs and lycra spandex.

Next I’d try to do that big hop and tuck to make a back flip work, and would end up in a similar state.

A back flip on the balance beam? Oh please, I never even tried.

It was kind of hard on the ol’ self esteem back then that all these other girls could flip through the air with the greatest of ease while I stayed firmly grounded.

Over the years I’ve become a bit more circumspect. Gravity is one of those laws that, unless you are an astronaut, you just can’t break. These days I tend to allow all due deference to that bitchy Mistress Gravity. She’s always going to win.






Today’s theme for Theme Thursday is flip.

Photo by Charlie Balch and used royalty free from stock.xchng.


Carbo Loading The Muse

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This past weekend, I competed in round two of the NYCMidnight Flash Fiction Challenge.

It goes like this: They give you a genre, a location and an object. You get 48 hours to write a one thousand word story incorporating all of that.

I *love* participating in this contest. It is my third year and it challenges me and stretches me and causes me to come at my writing from different angles.

Until this contest I’d never written anything that could be remotely labeled science fiction, fantasy or historical fiction. But guess what, I’ve done them all, and in the case of historical fiction, twice.

My first jab at historical fiction was a well researched story about Babe Ruth. It remains one of my most favored stories of all that I’ve written.

It scored very low with the judges, however.

This weekend I pondered all the angles of a comedy set in a tunnel with a gold watch. (A little bit like Clue…Colonel Mustard in the library with a candlestick.)

As I threw around story ideas, I got the brilliant Good Man involved in brainstorming. He looks at the world in a way very different from me and is a good source of inspiration. While brainstomring, he uttered one of those pearls of wisdom that will stay with me all my days as a writer.

The conversation went like this:

Me: “What’s funny about a tunnel? Is there a tunnel that could be funny? What about a sewer? Is that funny?”

TGM: “Well, anything with poop in it has potential.”

There it is, folks. Write that down. Embroider that on a dish towel. Just remember you heard it here first!

But he’s right. Bodily functions are usually funny. Except when they are not.

I chose to avoid a sewer tunnel for my story, choosing something a bit more metaphysical instead.

All of this yammering on is to say, my brain is exhausted. My Muse is weary. She gave it her all for forty-eight hours and informed me this morning that she didn’t *feel* like coming up with a brilliant blog post idea today.

So instead, I chose to follow well-heeded wisdom when it comes to writer’s block…

Write through it.

So here I am, writing through the block. Suddenly words are forming into paragraphs and the page is filling up. It’s not brilliant words of prose, but it’s working.

And here I am at about 400 words. Plenty enough for a blog post! So ok! I did it!

The Muse didn’t even have to work that hard.

Though I think if I hope to get another blog post tomorrow, I’d better treat her to some baked goods. She does tend to run better on sweets.

Flash Fiction & Fables Finale – New Mexico Folklore

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And so it is that we’ve come to the last day of this fun and different sort of week on the blog.

What a ride it’s been!

My goal was to shake up my brain a little bit so I could get some fresh blog posts out of the ol’ noodle.

Well, it worked. I already have a list of about ten fresh topics that will start coming your way next week.

For today, I have what I consider to be the grand prize for coming along with me on this ride.

Today is the Fables part of the week.

After scouring both books and the internet, I’ve selected an item from a book called Cuentos de Cuanto Hay. The subtitle is “Tales from Spanish New Mexico.”

This story collection is published by University of New Mexico Press, and was edited and translated by Joe Hayes.

The stories were originally collected by J. Manuel Espinosa in the 1930’s. He traveled around Northern New Mexico collecting verbal tales from the Spanish speaking residents, then transcribed and published them. That first published book was called Spanish Folk Tales from New Mexico.

Joe Hayes found a copy of the book and had loved it through the years, so in 1998 he worked with Dr. Espinosa to clean up many of the stories, added in a few more, and republished the collection.

It is charming, odd, and packed full of deep rooted stories from the Hispanic culture.

Just like New Mexico itself, many of the stories are a bit quirky.

Even the title of the book reflects the beautiful slow moving, “Land of Mañana” charm. Joe Hayes translates the phrase Cuentos de Cuanto Hay as “tales of olden times.” Literally translated, it means “stories of whatever it is.”

Which seems sort of New Mexico to me. “Eh, tales of whatever!” with a dismissive wave of the hand.

The story I’ve selected, “Juan Pelotero” also brings a lot of that New Mexico mischievous sense of humor. There is a line in the story where two characters agree to meet at “such and such a place.” Details, feh, who needs ’em!

The name, Pelotero, is also symbolic. In today’s vernacular, a pelotero is a ball player, usually baseball, but pelotero can also refer to futbol. The first line of the story gives you the clue to the more archaic use of the word: “Juanito Pelotero was a gambler.” Pelotero back then meant a player, a rogue, a roustabout.

You’ll also find the story tends to move fast in some parts, skipping over details. At just a few pages long, it packs a lot of story in there.

Since these tales were originally an oral legacy passed down from family member to family member, I’m going to bring “Juan Pelotero” (and maybe others) back to the verbal tradition.

Today, I’ve made a recording of the story and it’s posted below for your listening pleasure. I suggest putting the story on in the background while you go about your work checking email or what have you.

As I converted the file to MP3 format, feel free to download the audio file and put it on your iTunes or iPod to listen later if you would like.

I recorded this using a podcast microphone and Garageband software.

Do not expect recording studio quality, please. The quality reflects my gear and my room. I’ve done my best to keep the sounds of The Feline and my iPhone out of the recording, but I live in a creaky house and it’s windy today. You get the idea.

If listening to a story isn’t your thing, but you’d still like to read it, I’ve posted a .pdf. Click here for that. (remember, this edition of the story is copyright the University of New Mexico Press, so don’t run off doing anything naughty with it, you hear?)

______________________

The story of “Juan Pelotero” was told to Dr. Espinosa by Bonifacio Mestas of Chamita, NM.

Run time is just over nine minutes. File is just over 4MB, so it may take a few moments to load. Player opens in a new window.

Enjoy!

Karen Fayeth reading “Juan Pelotero”

Footnotes:

1. Sorry about the high-pitched whine behind the audio. I think it’s from the internet router on my desk.

2. In case you are wondering what a sacristan is, click here. I had to look it up too.

3. Yes, I think the part about the talking spit is weird.

4. The dove sounds I’m making are read as written in the story. Cucurucú is how it’s written. I did my best….:)