Thursday, December 29, 2011

A passing of the guard

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — The trend started from the first month of 2011 and continued to the end of the year. There was a sense of a passing of the guard in our cultural community, with losses of leaders in history, music, literature and the visual arts.
First to leave us, on Jan. 2, was Donna R. Eichstaedt, 72. The historian and educator was a leader of the Mesilla Valley Historical Society. She taught at Illinois State University and Lincoln College in Normal, where she served as the dean before moving to Las Cruces in 1992. Here, she taught history at UTEP and Doña Ana Community College.
She inspired Las Crucens neighbors Chuck Miles and Felix Pfaeffle to collaborate on “Once Enemies, Now Friends” after they met here and discovered they had been within shooting distance of one another on opposite sides of German front lines in 1944. She wrote about a legendary New Mexican hotel in her book, “Silver City’s Bear Mountain Lodge: The Untold Story.”
Versatile Donna was also an avid flamenco dancer and supporter of the NMSU dance program.
Two beloved Las Cruces-based poets, Beatlick Joe Speer and Wayne Crawford, both diagnosed with pancreatic cancer within a few months of one another, shared their final journeys with poetic blog entries in 2011.
With his longtime companion Pamela Hirst, Las Cruces-based poet Speer, 62, who died Jan. 25, traveled throughout the U.S., publishing “Beatlick News,” a print and online poetry journal. The final copies of his “Kameleon” magazines, published early in the ’70s and ’80s, will become part of the complete and permanent Beatlick Joe Speer library and archive at NMSU, curated by Laurence Creider. In his last weeks, he supervised the compilation of his writings, “Backpack Trekker: A 60s Flashback,” now available on
“I’m not upset,” Speer told me a week before his death. “It’s not really for me to decide when I come and go. Those decisions are made by some other forces and it’s out of my control. You never know how long you have, how many miles you’re going to log on this road trip. When you’re ripe, they pluck you.”
Wayne Crawford, who died March 12 at age 64, was a creative force in the local poetry scene, after he “retired” to Las Cruces in 2000, following a life-long career as an educator. He developed open mics and the online journal “Lunarosity,” gathered and distributed lists of literary events, created the concept of an annual Las Cruces Poetry Day and hosted readings and co-edited “Sin Fronteras.” With his partner, award-winning musician and composer Randy Granger, he established an informal artists’ salon and nurtured a poetry community that welcomed NMSU students and poetry lovers of all ages. He worked with local organizations — from Branigan Library and the executive board of Doña Ana Arts Council to For the Love of Arts Month coordinators — to share his love of poetry with others.
Las Cruces Community Theatre’s guiding light Art Haggerton, who died Oct. 3 at age 65, produced, directed and performed in scores of theatrical productions and taught for four decades, ending his career at White Sands Middle School.
“Art was a wonderful mentor, director and friend and I was always in awe of his talents and enthusiasm for the theater. Art could do it all: sing, dance, act, direct, choreograph, construct sets, build props — and he did it all with an effortless grace and style. Art will be missed dearly, but will be remembered for years to come for the great works of entertainment that he gifted to all of us over the past 45 years," said Janet Mazdra, who worked in several productions with him.
It was a very good day, if you had the chance to visit her sunny Las Cruces studio and share the vivid paintings and enthusiasm of Susan Connelly, who died Nov. 2 at age 74. She was a well-known designer and boutique owner in Santa Fe where her shop, The Sign of the Pampered Maiden, sold the City Different’s first mini dresses. In 1992, she moved here and was finally able to devote time to her first love: making art. She had shows in several leading regional galleries and her paintings are in private and corporate collections in the United States, Mexico and Europe.
“I paint because, for the life of me, I really cannot think of anything I would rather do,” she said.
A Southwest cultural icon and the father of personal and regional musical families, Oscar Butler, died Nov. 27 at age 94. The music maestro arrived in Las Cruces in 1953, joined string quartets and created a chorale ensemble and was a central figure in the development of what is now New Mexico’s largest symphony orchestra, the Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra at NMSU. He was cellist in the orchestra and also founded the New Horizons Symphony, which gave amateur musicians of all ages a chance to learn music and perform. Butler was still conducting and encouraging budding and professional musicians in his ninth and final decade.
Anyone who spent any time at the city’s museums would know the face of H. Edward Hunsburger, who died Nov. 28 at age 64. He was a familiar fixture on the Downtown Mall, helping out at the Branigan Cultural Center, Las Cruces Museum of Art and the Railroad Museum.
The native New Yorker, novelist and world traveler had a rich, productive life in the arts himself before moving here in 2002. He attended art school in Florida, was a researcher at Esquire Magazine, and served on the board of Mystery Writers of America. He wrote several books, including a book in the Nick Carter series, “Crossfire,” and “Death Signs,” and short fiction published in Ellery Queen and Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine.
Though very different, all these artists had something in common: talents that they shared generously with others and an unselfish desire to help inspire and nurture other artists. We’ll miss them, but they left something wonderful behind as they worked to create the unique sense of camaraderie and cooperation that distinguishes the Las Cruces arts community today.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Treasuring Christmas in the Valley

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Whatever the rest of the year has been like, there’s something about Christmas in the Mesilla Valley that will always rejuvenate your spirit.
After two decades of New Mexico holidays, I’ve never been disappointed. Each year, there is always a special moment — sometimes a lot of special moments — worthy of the lifetime memory box.
This year, the big one has been a visit from my son Ryan, who finished up a job in California early and was able to make it here for our first extended holiday together in many years. Celebrating Christmas early or late is something we had to get used to during his showbiz years, first touring with his band and in recent years producing and managing a crew to put up spectacular holiday light shows in the Pacific Northwest.
Even the challenging moments are memorable. I got cold, wet and windblown during Winterfest 2011, which I was tempted to dub “la noche de several thousand soggy brown paper bags,” but I was amazed how many luminarias our dauntless volunteers managed to light and maintain in spite of it all.
I also enjoyed talking with some of those who’ve nurtured one of my favorite traditions: Christmas Eve on the Mesilla Plaza. Lalo Natividad talked about what it’s like this time of year to have a name that means “nativity” in Spanish.
Instead of the traditional holiday greeting, “Feliz Navidad,” friends sometimes wish him “Feliz Natividad,” he said, which he interprets as, “Happy me!”
Phone calls, cards, emails and letters recall heartwarming New Mexico holidays with people I’m missing this Christmas.
Grandson Alex the Great is in Idaho this year, but I have lots of fond recollections of holidays here with him, from his footed-pajama toddler years to preteen marathon present-unwrapping romps with his cousins.
I remember magical Mesilla Plaza celebrations with Cecilia Lewis and her husband, Alexis Bespaloff, in Alexis’ last years. One year, they both showed up wearing burgundy scarves I’d knitted for them and Cecilia had arranged to set up headquarters at a cozy table at the Double Eagle. We had dinner and went in and out to enjoy the plaza carolers and photograph the lights.
I’ve shared English crackers (filled with toys and silly paper hats) and flaming plum puddings with my British friends here, and sweet tamales and red chile mashed potatoes and green chile turkey enchiladas with inventive native New Mexican amigos.
I love checking out uniquely Southwestern ornaments and Christmas trees at shops, restaurants, hotel lobbies, art galleries, museums, markets and bazaars.
Christmas just doesn’t seem like Christmas to me without two crucial stops.
First is a visit to Tortugas Pueblo during Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival. The pilgrimage is a not-to-be-missed experience, I’ve found, and I have vivid, fond memories of their warm welcome to a newcomer my first year here. I’m always there to photograph days of dancing on Dec. 12 and Jan. 1, and this year loved seeing generations of the Fierro family working together to prepare the albondigas feast for the community.
The second “must” is a visit to Mesilla to see new decorations and old favorites, and it’s great having visitors to give me an excuse for return trips.
This year, I added some Josefina’s Gate portraits to the family Christmas album, and found my son shared my appreciation of some unique personal Mesilla favorites: the Nativity scene overlooking the image of our famed desperado at the Billy the Kid Gift Shop and the piranha swimming in his tank, surrounded by Borderland fiesta Christmas decor at La Posta.
There’s a lot to see and do and remember for many busy weeks, right up to Christmas Eve markets, caroling, plaza luminarias and midnight services at area churches.
Christmas itself is private family time for most Las Crucens, a wonderful day to close our ristra-decked doors, gather before our piñon-scented fires and enjoy a special celebration with those closest to us, and maybe some newcomer friends.
May your day be rich with love and memories of holidays past and present. Merry Christmas.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Cherish moments of joy in tough times

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — I'm ready for a new year and more than eager to be done with this one.
Our 2011 woes started with the January Sun-News fire that kicked us out of a building where some of us had spent almost two decades. We moved, first to the Ramada Palms ballroom and then to interim digs at 715 E. Idaho Ave.
Usually January is my least favorite month, but February was brutal. The February freeze killed many of our favorite agaves, trees and bushes.
But the vegetative devastation turned out to be a mere harbinger of the human tragedy in my circle of loved ones this year.
A dear friend lost her only grandchild, a sweet and inquisitive lad just leaving his teens. I'll always remember the time we spent on the patio of his grandmother's Mesilla adobe, when he was about 10, experimenting with my new underwater camera. He decided our best bet was to drop things in a rain barrel and try our luck. He came up with an imaginative variety of stuff to chuck in the water, while we took turns photographing splashes and submerged action shots of rocks and chile peppers and other motley subjects. His grandmother cheerfully applauded while we made a watery mess of the patio and one another.
He was a bright soul, and I wish we could have seen the man he would have become.
It was the first personal agony of 2011, but not the last.
My nephew made it back from Afghanistan, but his wife lost the child they were eagerly awaiting, just before his bittersweet return.
In the space of a few months, Grandson Alex lost three of his Idaho classmates to suicide, and then came the news of an unimaginable disaster. Two teenage amigos from his San Diego days, so close that they had continued to visit regularly after Alex moved to the Pacific Northwest, were found dead in their California home, shot by their father, who then committed suicide.
The boys were very smart, funny, creative, popular teens. Their dad was the neighborhood parent everyone reportedly felt safe leaving their kids with, a man with degrees in law and psychology.
Alex and I have talked a lot, but how can you explain to a 15-year-old what cannot be explained? I've been proud and touched to see what his generation can do with social media sites, with original music and creative explorations of the mysteries of life and death.
There have been too many untimely deaths this year, a lot of transitions, a lot of frustrations with Congress and the economy, a sense that we have taken wrong paths, that it is time — past time — for serious evaluations of what we hold dear, for new approaches and concepts and directions.
There are been stumbles — globally and personally. I took a header onto a concrete patio while photographing a festival (celebrating, ironically, beautiful and soothing lavender) and spent months regaining mobility I’d taken for granted.
I have a time-tested philosophical credo for situations of loss: For everything we willingly give up, we get something better. We can always replace things or adjust to their loss. We’re on track to finish 2012 with a brand new Sun-News building, for instance. My knee seems mostly functional again and the physical bruises have long since faded.
But my credo does not cover all situations, like the untimely and violent loss of people we love. I think of my Mesilla amiga, the parents, the grandparents, the friends and loved ones of those bright boys … and I know that though time can ease the shock and pain, there are bruises of the soul, wounds too deep to forget on this plane of existence.
The holidays can be particularly tough for those who have experienced great losses and tragedies.
We hug each other. We check in and we carry on. My big sis Sally says she thinks one of the good things about getting older is that eventually we won't mind dying because we have so many questions for God.
I have a lot of questions about 2011, and I'm eager to move on to a new year in hopes that it will bring wisdom, faith, healing and creative ways to reach out to one another, to love and comfort those who mourn.
For all of us, I pray this holiday season for a time of peace, comfort … and remembrance that the joy of love, once found and experienced, can never really die.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A vote for Team Christmas

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — It has been said that the world is divided into two kinds of people.
One wag opined: “Yeah, the kinds who try to divide the world into two kinds of people and the kinds who know better.”
Normally, I’d agree, but the lines of demarcation seem to be very sharply drawn when it comes to the holidays.
There is Team Grinch-Scrooge.
And then there’s Team FTC (Full-Tilt Christmas).
That’s my team. I love this time of year. That this love has lasted through a long lifetime, I believe, can only be attributed to an appreciation of the real meaning of Christmas.
It’s a story of hope and promise, of faith and love and spiritual triumph.
Still, those of us who go to the original text know that the original Christmas story is not a tale of easy times. Jesus was born in an occupied land with corrupt rulers. Generations of the devout had prayed for a savior with a faith so fierce that speculation about fulfillment of their prayers struck fear in the heart of a mighty empire that dominated much of the world. King Herod ordered the brutal slaying of a generation of helpless babies and toddlers on what today we would term an unverified, speculative rumor.
Conditions were so oppressive that Mary and Joseph were denied the rudimentary comforts of a birth in their own home. Even very pregnant women were not exempt from bureaucratic regulations that forced a hard journey to Bethlehem, where, as we all know now, the child embraced as the savior of billions, was, at least temporarily, homeless, left to be born in what amounts to a hay-filled shed, among farm animals.
Those are parts of the story that are not emphasized much these days, but I always remember those aspects when I think about the homeless, the depressed, the needy and the oppressed.
And I wonder about the true inspiration for our generosity during this season. Was all this gift-giving really inspired by the presents of three enlightened Wise Men?
Or could some group consciousness be pondering a contemporary savior, a Second Coming? Could this era’s Savior be homeless, in a brutal oppressive land, a child who is just a heartbeat — a gunshot, a landmine step, a pogrom, an ethnic cleansing, a preventable disease — away from reaching toddlerhood?
Maybe the dark sides of the original story are manifested in the things I don’t like about this season: the Black Friday/Cyber Monday obsessive acquisitiveness, the arrogance and greed, the pressure to complete a zillion little meaningless tasks, the Yule-zillas who care more about status and lavish impressions than true substance.
But I love the lights and the camaraderie, the songs and the sharing, the efforts to bring beauty to a barren winter landscape, the creative ways we can devise to show how much we love and care about one another.
I think we veterans on Team FTC always find ways to dial back the darkness and focus on what really matters.
Christmas is a story of miracles and soul survival, of new beginnings, of promises that we know, from the rest of the story, can be spectacularly fulfilled.
One divine spark, prayed forth, carefully protected and lovingly nurtured, can change lives — can change the world.
It’s the season of prayers and miracles. A season that eventually transformed even Scrooge and the Grinch.
And whatever team you’re on, it’s never too late to ponder that story of miraculous new beginnings. Whoever you are, wherever you live, the life you change could be your own this year.
Have a merry, milago Christmas.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Rich traditions are affordable by all

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Ah, it’s that wonderful time of year when I finally regain my hall closets and guest bed surfaces and time to appreciate the joys of the holidays in New Mexico.
By the time Thanksgiving comes around, if not shortly before, I’ve wrapped all my presents and packed boxes to ship off to loved ones on both coasts and what my soulmate calls the “belly button” regions of the United States.
Unless I’m hosting a party or expecting out-of-town guests, my halls are minimally decked and I’m dreaming of a no-clutter, Zen Christmas.
In fact, this was the year I shipped off to the Pacific Northwest most of the Halloween and Christmas decorations I’d collected with son Ryan and grandson Alexander the Great, my erstwhile partners in artistic holiday crimes — or at least imaginative seasonal shenanigans.
It’s time for them to establish their own traditions with Peanuts character band members and exotic Southwestern chile ornaments.
My “little” grandson is 15, a head taller than I am, and, I hope, thoroughly infused with loving, sometimes thoroughly silly and touching holiday memories.
This Christmas, I’ll be remembering those times, from his homemade toddler cinnamon ornaments to his Christmas pageants at Hillrise Elementary and the impromptu two-guy guitar concert of holiday-inspired original compositions produced with his dad.
Here — in New Mexico in general and the Mesilla Valley in particular — you don’t really need a personal display of ornaments, lavish parties or an opulent show of gifts to enjoy a very happy holiday season that’s rich in meaning and traditions and affordable by all.
What imaginative soul first used paper bags, sand and candle stubs to create a magical winter wonderland? That great idea now lights our city streets and plazas, for festivals like Winterfest and Mesilla’s legendary Christmas Eve celebration.
The world has taken notice. I once helped the San Antonio branch of the Weston family set up an impressive spring luminaria display on a Caribbean beach at Frenchman’s Cove in Jamaica.
Now, online sources offer multicolored and patterned LED-lit luminarias. I’m trying to remember the first time I saw a string of electric luminarias: plastic brown bags packed with small white light bulbs. I think it was on a store in Santa Fe, where many still take great umbrage of you don’t call them “farolitos.”
Luminarias, they insist, refer to the small bonfires lit along paths and roadways for Las Posadas, the traditional annual reenactments of the first Christmas, when Mary and Joseph sought refuge at inns in Bethlehem for the birth of the Christ child.
“Farolitos,” City Different residents will admonish you, was the name given to smaller lanterns carried by children and others reenacting La Posada (literally “house hunting”), a tradition dating to morality plays of the middle ages.
Many Las Crucens can tell you stories of their childhood La Posada adventures, ambling and caroling through neighborhoods on chilly nights.
It’s a tradition that has been revived in recent years at area churches and with a Downtown Mall procession, complete with a cooperative burro borrowed from the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Museum.
It’s one of many traditions that warm our hearts and hearths this time of year.
New red chile ristras symbolizing spicy hospitality in our kitchens and on our front doors. Fresh batches of biscochitos and sweet and savory tamales. The quiotes (walking sticks) and the candles of those expressing their faith at area services and pilgrimages up Tortugas Mountain.
The most vivid memories are made of the simplest things. No matter where you are in your holiday schedule, remind loved ones — and yourself — to take time to smell the piñon fires, see the lights, and experience the message of love that inspires this blessed season.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Superweekend & other holiday fun

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Christmas comes earlier every year. In southern New Mexico, it also gets more action-packed. This Friday, we move into full-tilt holiday fiesta season with Superweekend activities that include Winterfest Downtown and the popular shop-til-you-drop, three-day La Casa Bazaar at the Las Cruces Convention Center.
But that’s just the beginning. There are many more events on the horizon this weekend.
• If you’re in the mood for a little road trip and want alternatives to the big Las Cruces bashes on Friday, White Sands National Monument Open House features live music, luminarias around the historic adobe visitor center, and interpretive programs from 5 to 8 p.m. It’s free. Info: (575) 575-679-2599 ext. 236.
• The annual Hillsboro Christmas celebration, Christmas in the Foothills, runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday in the picturesque nearby mountain village, with handmade gifts, homemade pastries, live music, Lawrence Tedrow’s Clydesdale horses and the popular $49.99 Art Show and Sale.
• Catch the comedy “Nuncrackers,” by Dan Goggin and directed by Dale Pawley, Friday through Dec. 18 at Las Cruces Community Theatre, 313 N. Downtown Mall. Performances are 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. For tickets, at $5 to $10: (575) 523-1200.
• The Black Box Theatre, 430 N. Downtown Mall, offers “Private Fears in Public Places,” by Alan Ayckbourn and directed by Ceil Herman from Friday through Dec. 18 at 7 p.m. Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 p.m. Sundays. For tickets, at $7 to $10: (575) 523-1223.
• The Border Artists and the Unsettled Gallery, 905 N. Mesquite St., celebrate the holiday season with a special art event, “The Border Artists & Friends Go Ornamental,” with a gala opening reception from 5 to 8 p.m. Friday Dec. 2, and 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday.
• Laughing at the Sun Two Arts & Crafts Christmas Bazaar runs from 4 to 6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday at Mikey’s Place, 3100 Harrelson in Mesilla Park. A Friday fashion show will feature clothing by Georjeanna Feltha. Kids and pets can pose with Santa Claus from 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday and 3 to 5 p.m. Sunday and check out fine arts and crafts by local artists. Info: (575) 640-3869
Pace yourself and mark your calendars. There are school and church pageants on the horizon and there’s still time to help out as a volunteer or maybe even a participant.
• Los Pastores Del Valle de Mesilla, a traditional Christmas pageant presented by generations of family members in Mesilla, marks its 50th anniversary this year with a performance at 7 p.m. Dec. 17 at San Albino Basilica on the Mesilla Plaza. If your family is part of the tradition, or you’d like to start a tradition of your own, show up for rehearsals at 3:30 p.m. this Sunday and Dec. 4 and 11 at San Albino Basilica. Actors, singers and musicians of all ages are welcome. For information, call Joe Provencio at (575) 523-6174.
The weekend of Dec. 9 through 11 is almost as action-packed as superweekend. On Dec. 9, celebrate Mesilla Christmas Tree Lighting and shopping late. On Dec. 10, it’s time for the Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park third anniversary celebration from 3 to 7 p.m. with luminarias at 4:30 p.m., plus Fort Selden’s Luminaria Tour and the annual Luminaria Beachwalk & Floating Parade of Lights Elephant Butte, also the scene of an arts and crafts sale.
First Baptist Church, 106 E. Miranda St. presents its Living Christmas Tree Concert with performances Dec. 10 through 13. Info: (575) 524-3691.
Because much of it falls on a weekend, larger crowds than usual are expected for the annual Our Lady of Guadalupe Fiesta at Tortugas Dec. 10 to 12. The Tortugas Mountain pilgrimage will be on Dec. 11, with dancing and feasting on Dec. 12, all centered at Tortugas Pueblo.
The Piro-Manso-Tiwa Tribe will have dancing and feast days Dec. 10 and 12 this year at St. Genevieve’s Catholic Church.
And later in December, the Las Cruces Chamber Ballet’s presentation of “Nutcracker,” at 7 p.m. Dec. 15 to 17 and 2 p.m. Dec. 18 at NMSU’s Atkinson Hall.
Hanukkah begins at sundown Dec. 20. Kwanzaa is Dec. 26.
Many will plan to join for caroling and luminarias Christmas Eve on the Mesilla Plaza.
There will be other luminaria displays in the territory, several concerts, art sales, and lots more. To stay clued in, keep checking Friday and Sunday Sun-Life sections, see Pulse in every Thursday’s Sun-News, or visit online at www.lcsun-news and click on Entertainment, Pulse and Things To Do.
Happy holidays.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Inspiring dreams for a new generation..or..Does this tour van have flight capability?

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES— I was okay — and still righteously blasé — until we got out on the Spaceport America runway.
I looked out at the portentous gray strip stretching enticingly in front of us, and up at the wild blue yonder my aircraft engineer, U.S. Army Air Corps pilot daddy used to sing about.
“Does this vehicle have flight capability?” I hopefully asked our leader, Mark Bleth, as he piloted our Follow the Sun Tours van down the evocative, sparkling-new 10,000-foot Spaceport runway.
He laughed and assumed full-tilt launch position and for a magical moment, I thought I’d convinced him to give it a go.
Unfortunately, a pair of buzz-kill Spaceport security guys intervened to tell us tour busses are no longer allowed on the runway, so that’s not a transcendent experience you’ll be able to share if you take the Spaceport tour.
But there’s still a lot to make it worthwhile for you, your kids and grandkids. And I was a hard sell, mind you. About a decade ago, when I got vaguely seasick and claustrophobic just watching an IMAX simulated spaceflight at Tombaugh Planetarium, I realized I’m not particularly eager to head for space myself. I’ll wait for my next lifetime, thanks anyway, when they’ve gotten the bugs out, the price down and some creature comforts built into our space cruises.
Frankly, I can’t think of any conditions in which I could not find better use for $200,000 than a two-hour space jaunt. And though in the end I caved and voted for it, I had serious reservations about allocating county tax dollars to Spaceport in a time of so many earthly needs.
And yet ...
I had a moment of temptation when Bleth talked about the development of sister spaceports in places like Dubai and Switzerland, and the possibility that we might soon make an up-and-down flight that would take us from Spaceport America to, say, Spaceport New Zealand, in two hours, about the time of a round-trip from Las Cruces to the El Paso Airport.
And there on that now-forbidden runway, surrounded by Jetson-ish architecture, I flash-backed to childhood memories.
Sputnik. Telstar (the hit instrumental song inspired by satellite sounds). Worrying with my childhood buddies about the monkeys and dogs drafted for first astronaut duties. Wehner von Braun guest starring on the Mickey Mouse Club, prompting neighborhood kids to try their own rocket launches.
Space race. The phrase inspired the Greatest Generation to build big schools and labs and beef up science programs for us Baby Boomers.
There was all the hype about the space program-related technological discoveries that would enhance our daily lives. Standouts included a pen that would write at any angle, if I remember right, and the iconic Tang, that too-sweet orange juice substitute with an icky, chalky texture and a vile aftertaste. But we all clamored for it, because it was what the astronauts drank in space.
It was all pretty darn exciting, even for those of us who knew early on that our futures were linked to the liberal arts rather than the rapidly evolving sciences.
Space fired our imaginations. We made paper cartons into space capsules and rockets and explored the universe in our own backyards. We flocked to sci-fi movies. Some of us wrote our own sci-fi stories and poems and music and even went on to create works like “ET,” “Close Encounters,” “Star Wars” and “Star Trek.”
And some of us, including the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, were inspired to commit to science and technology in a big way, ushering in the computer age and innovations in everything from communications and transportation to medicine.
We dreamed of things that never were, and they came to be. And yes, our daily lives were transformed.
We have many problems, and they’re pressing.
And Spaceport won’t solve them. But maybe it will inspire some visionary souls to dream of new frontiers, new solutions, and a better life shared on our little blue planet.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Spaceport America needs great art

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Space culture could be a great deal for us all.
My autumn vacation included admiring the NASA art exhibit at the Las Cruces Museum of Art and a visit to Spaceport America.
I’ll be writing about my adventures soon and will tell you how you can book a behind-the-scenes tour yourself. (If you just can’t wait, contact Follow the Sun Tours at (866) 428-4786 or
But in the meantime, I’d like to alert area artists — and the Spaceport America powers-that-be — to some major potential art ops.
Richard Branson already inaugurated his exciting new terminal with some performance art of his own (including rappelling down the Jetson-ish building himself).
But there’s a wealth of opportunity in the blank canvas that is Spaceport America, which seemed to me to be calling — nay, screaming — for some artistic expression. And we have the perfect, internationally-renowned artists nearby.
There’s a water tank just waiting for maestro Tony Pennock’s special touch.
Stephen Hansen’s sculptures are in the Smithsonian and embassies, airports, museums and galleries around the world. He’s a spaceport natural.
Ever since I was in charge of art programs for Florida’s then-brand-new Palm Beach International Airport, I’ve been yearning to festoon a runway with poetry and profound quotes. I couldn’t talk the stuffy Palm Beach folks into that, but with all the famed poets, playwrights and authors in our area and what I’d think would be less demanding regulations for sporadic space flights, couldn’t we send our civilian astronauts off with some uplifting bons mots? And maybe some runway masterpieces by artist Bob Diven, whose repertory includes award-winning chalk masterpieces, if you insist on something less permanent.
How about a concert series? We had Harvard glee clubs, Yale Whiffenpoofs, Eastman School of Music chamber music ensembles and renowned jazz bands and gospel choirs flying in for the day to entertain passengers in Florida.
With Branson’s Virgin Music connections, I’ll bet we could lure some top names in for Spaceport music fests, with or without launches on the agenda.
I’m usually a proponent of public art competitions that are open to all, but in this case, I’d like to see our tax investment (New Mexico’s in general, and Sierra County’s and Doña Ana County’s in particular) acknowledged with a permanent and rotating art collection featuring regional artists in Spaceport America buildings and grounds.
With $90 million in reservations already booked for the first civilian flights, it’s clear that we will be attracting folks with lots of disposable income. If they can afford $200,000 for a quick space jaunt, surely they would could be in the market for some fine art souvenirs. And it wouldn’t be nice to have some of our top artists represented in a Spaceport gallery that might entice visitors to visit galleries in nearby Las Cruces, Mesilla, Truth or Consequences and Silver City?
I’d love to see a committee formed to explore the cultural possibilities of Spaceport. Between launches, it could be a very inspiring site for everything from music festivals to art exhibitions and maybe even an innovative play or two.
In the meantime, if you want examples of great ways space and art can partner up, see how world-renowned artists explore the final frontier in “NASA Art: 50 Years of Exploration,” running through Jan. 21 at the Las Cruces Museum of Art on the Downtown Mall. The Smithsonian Institution traveling exhibit features works from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and National Air and Space Museum archives, including some scenes inspired by space exploration scenarios in our part of the world.
We’ve already hosted some intriguing scientific and educational symposiums in conjunction with the development of Spaceport America. I’d love to see New Mexico’s extraordinary cultural and arts organizations find expressive ways to fire imaginations and express our creative talents.
I still remember, as a small child, watching the first space launches and hearing my artist mom and poetic, aircraft engineer dad muse that it would be nice if we could send artistic astronauts into space to share their insights with us all.
This time, with the civilian wave, I think we should find ways for artistic souls to get in on the ground floor of the Spaceport to help inspire us all to keep looking up.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

More Secrets of the Universe

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Last week, in Secrets of the Universe No. 1, I shared some of the perils and aggravations that come with parenthood and aging.
This week, let’s focus on the perks.
Some people think that life stories get less interesting and plot possibilities decrease as you get older. Those people are wrong.
Some of the most entertaining children of a lifetime may come into an enlightened woman’s world after her childbearing years have passed, along with passionate love, amazing adventures, unexpected, even startling successes, and maybe even some extraordinary and revolutionary creative concepts.
As we get older and — especially — wiser (alas, the two traits don’t always go together), the more likely we are to see potentials, make connections and skillfully navigate the critical passageways of life.
As the mantle of age descends upon your shoulders, so, too, if you’ve lived boldly and with integrity, do some secrets of the universe.
Here are a few I’ve collected.
The price of awareness is awareness.
The more some people feel out of control, the more they try to control others. Do your best to stay out of the knee-jerk controller category. It’s always best to get your own house in order before you attempt to order someone else’s chaos.
Learning and teaching are perpetually rewarding. Do your best to keep up with the latest technologies. Get your kids and grandkids to teach you. In return, teach them that sometimes the greatest luxury in the 21st century is being out of touch. Now and then, turn off the computers and smart phones and maintain voice and text silence, even if it’s just for the space of a half-hour, single-tasking nature walk.
There is a delicate balance between striking when the iron is hot, and waiting for the right ship to come in. (If you have a few miles on your sports car and notches on your belt, you aren’t so likely to fear the wrath of the mixed metaphor police.)
Communication sometimes trumps style, and getting the point across is more important than “proper” forms.
On the other hand, you may be willing to fight for proper form every now and again. Especially when the form is related to some really important concept like courtesy and respect.
But I always try to keep R.W. Emerson’s wise maxim in mind: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of small minds.”
Anger is something else you don’t fear as much as you grow older. You learn when to turn the other cheek, but you also learn when it doesn’t serve anyone to let a bully have his or her way. Bullying harms everyone, including, long-term, the bully.
There is also a great power in righteous indignation. Unlike the anger fueled by emotions like hate and prejudice, which ultimately destroy, anger on behalf of a good cause can be energizing, cleansing and even healthy. Since human beings are good at fooling themselves, however, it’s safest to be sure your anger is righteous, always easier when you are fighting for someone else, for a cause from which you do not benefit directly and intimately.
Service is untimately more rewarding than selfishness.
Free-ranging, fearless friendship can be another dividend that comes with maturity.
With age you learn that the risks most worth taking are not physical or financial, but emotional, spiritual and intellectual. Never be afraid to reach out to new people, new cultures and new ideas.
“There is much coldness among men because we do not dare to be as cordial as we truly are,” Albert Schweitzer said.
Declare yourself. Speak out. Love and courage expand your world, hate and cowardice contract it.
At every stage of life, there can be moments of pure joy. Learn to recognize, appreciate and savor them.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Protesting arrogance and greed brings hope

LAS CRUCES — Tenny Hale said the spiritual diseases of our era are arrogance and greed.
The major maladies of her Great Depression-World War II era, Hale said, were innocence and ignorance. And many of what Tom Brokaw would later term “the greatest generation” helped us find the “cures:” experience and education.
It’s not over yet, but I think I can already confirm that 2011 has been one of the toughest years many of us have ever seen.
But this fall, things are looking up. Whatever else happens, it’s somehow uplifting to see crowds flocking to the streets in cities all over the county to protest arrogance and greed.
It’s a breath of fresh air. Especially after the endless, selfish ME generation reign of self-absorbed terror. After surviving the materialistic 1980s and ‘90s. After the “official” rulings that “corporations are people.” (If so, what can we do to encourage them to be wise, compassionate and caring “people”?)
Are cures on the horizon for the diseases of arrogance and greed?
The diagnosis always has to come first. And that seems to be what a lot of people are concerned about these days, in social network-inspired protests and gatherings all over the world.
I followed our local protests at NMSU with interest and conferred with a good friend, former Las Crucen Cecilia Lewis, about what’s happening near her current home in New York City.
We had some philosophical discussions about what comes next, after the Arab Spring and the Tea Party and the current new round of protests.
The words of ancient sages came to mind: “Work on what has been spoiled” and “After enlightenment comes the laundry.”
“Maybe it’s time to stop, take some time and get together and decide what we want next for the world,” Cecilia said.
One of the few things that is clear in this murky era is that a lot of what we’ve been doing isn’t working, or needs repair and a fresh approach.
Major changes are happening in virtually every area of our lives, from the way we do our jobs and make our living to the ways we enjoy and purchase (or steal, alas, for the tech-savvy unscrupulous) music, films and books.
And those of us who have been alive long enough to see monumental change and keep our wits about us, realize that the capacity to transform our world is also increasing by leaps and bounds.
Change being life’s only constant, there is no choice about whether we’ll make changes, but we still have something to say about what, where, how and when.
Wouldn’t it be wise to have more local, national and international conversations about the future of everything from education to economic systems?
We might start with some paradigms that focus on better rather than bigger, on smart repair, regrowth and remodeling strategies, on creative conservation instead of wasteful, destructive, endless expansion.
We all seem to agree that in mature human beings, unbridled growth for the sake of growth is definitely not a good thing (consider cancer and morbid obesity, for instance). Might we not follow the same principle in mature human economies and societies?
Protest is great, and it’s the crucial diagnostic phase of what ails us. While we’re protesting, I hope we’ll devote some sit-in time to thoughtful pondering of where we’ve come from, where we are and where we’re headed.
We could even come up with some remedies for arrogance and greed and the messes they’ve gotten us into. With some steady doses of thoughtful humility, generosity and compassion and as much cooperative collective wisdom as we can muster, we just might be able to come up with cures that will leave upcoming generations with a better world.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Dead Day 101

Dead Day 101
By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Día de los Muertos has been called “a day when heaven and earth meet” and “a celebration of lives well-lived.”
In Las Cruces, it has become a beloved tradition, a time when Borderland cultures blend, showcasing and sometimes creatively combining Spanish, Mexican, American Indian and Anglo customs and beliefs.
Día De Los Muertos “is not a morbid holiday but a festive remembrance of Los Angelitos (children) and all souls (Los Difuntos),” according to a statement from The Calavera Coalition of Mesilla. “This celebration originated with the indigenous people of the American continent, the Aztec, Mayan, Toltec and the Inca. Now, many of the festivities have been transformed from their original pre-Hispanic origins. It is still celebrated throughout North America among Native American tribes. The Spanish arrived and they altered the celebration to coincide with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2).”
Continuing an annual Las Cruces Style tradition, here is a guide to some important terms and concepts relating to Day of the Dead celebrations, collected during 18 years of commemorations here.
alfeñique: Molded sugar figures used in altars for the dead.
ancianos: Grandparents or elderly friends or relatives who have died; ancestors honored during the first (north) part of processions for Day of the Dead.
angelitos: Literally “little angels,” refers to departed children and babies, traditionally honored during the first day of celebrations, Nov. 1, and the third (south) part of processions honoring the dead.
anima sola: A lonely soul or spirit who died far from home or who is without amigos or relatives to take responsibility for its care.
calascas: Handmade skeleton figurines which display an active and joyful afterlife, such as musicians or skeleton brides and grooms in wedding finery.
calaveras: Skeletons, used in many ways for celebrations: bread and candies in the shape of skeletons are traditional, along with everything from small and large figures and decorations, skeleton head rattles, candles, masks, jewelry and T-shirts. It’s also the term for skull masks, often painted with bright colors and flowers and used in displays and worn in Day of the Dead processions.
literary calaveras: Poetic tributes written for departed loved ones or things mourned and/or as mock epitaphs.
Catrin and Catrina: Formally dressed couple, or bride and groom skeletons popularized by renowned graphic artist and political cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada.
copal: A fragrant resin from a Mexican tree used as incense, burned alone or mixed with sage in processions in honor of the dead.
Días de los Muertos: Days of the dead, usually celebrated on Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 (the official date for Day of the Dead) in conjunction with All Souls Days or Todos Santos, the Catholic Feast of All Saints. Various Borderland communities, including Las Cruces, have their own celebration schedules in October and November. Look for altars and art exhibits around the Mesilla Valley, and our largest area celebration Oct. 29 and 30 on the Mesilla Plaza, also the site of a procession beginning at dusk Nov. 2.
Difunto: Deceased soul, corpse, cadaver.
La Flaca: Nickname for the female death figure, also known as La Muerte.
Frida Kahlo: Mexican artist who collected objects related to the Day of the Dead. Her photo often appears in Día de los Muertos shrines or retablos.
Los Guerreros: Literally, “the warriors,” are dead fathers, husbands, brothers and sons honored in the final (east) stop in Dia De Los Muertos processions.
marigolds: In Mexico, marigolds or “cempasuchil” are officially known as the “flower of the dead.” The flowers are added to processional wreaths at each stop, with one blossom representing each departed soul being honored. Sometimes marigold pedals are strewn from the cemetery to a house. Their pungent fragrance is said to help the spirits find their way back home. Sometimes mums and paper flowers are also used.
mariposas: Butterflies, and sometimes hummingbirds, appear with skeletons to symbolize the flight of the soul from the body to heaven.
masks: Carried or worn during processions and other activities, masks can range from white face paint to simple molded plaster or papier-maché creations or elaborate painted or carved versions that become family heirlooms.
Las Mujeres: The women who have died are honored during the second (west) stop of Day of the Dead processions. After names of dead mothers, daughters, sisters and friends are called and honored, it is traditional for the crowd to sing a song for the Virgin of Guadalupe.
Náhuatl poetry: Traditional odes dedicated to the subject of death, dating back to the pre-Columbian era.
ofrenda: Traditional altar where offerings such as flowers, clothing, food, photographs and objects loved by the departed are placed. The ofrenda may be constructed in the home — usually in the dining room — at a cemetery, or may be carried in a procession. The ofrenda base is usually an arch made of bent reeds. It is ornamented with special decorations, sometimes with heirlooms collected by families much like Christmas ornaments. Decorations may include skeleton figures, toys and musical instruments in addition to offerings for a specific loved one.
pan de muertos: Literally, “bread of the dead.” It is traditionally baked in the shape of a skull — or calavera — and dusted with pink sugar. Here, local bakeries sometimes include red and green chile decorations.
papel picado: Decorations made of colored paper cut in intricate patterns.
Posada: José Guadalupe Posada, (1852-1913), the self-taught “printmaker to the people” and caricaturist was known for his whimsical calaveras, or skeletons, depicted wearing dapper clothes, playing instruments and otherwise nonchalantly conducting their everyday activities, sometimes riding on horse skeletons.
veladores: Professional mourners who help in the grief process in several ways, including candlelight vigils, prayers and with dramatic weeping and wailing.
Xolotlitzcuintle: Monster dog, sometimes depicted as a canine skeleton, sometimes as a Mexican hairless breed. Since pre-Columbian times, this Día de los Muertos doggy has, according to legend, been the departed’s friend, helping with the tests of the perilous crossing of the River Chiconauapan to Mictlan, the land of the dead.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Here's to First Amendment Rights

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — I’ll start by explaining that I’m not a pagan myself, but I am an American and a fan of the U.S. Constitution, so I’ll defend to the end your right to be a pagan, along with all other First Amendment freedoms.
In these contentious (and these days, seemingly endless) election season sieges, I always welcome the opportunity to refresh us all on the basis of one of my fave amendments.
The mnemonic devise that helps me remember the basic concepts is “GRASP” your First Amendment freedoms.” (Capitalization of the five key freedoms is mine): “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of Religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of Speech, or of the Press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of Grievances.”
A full disclosure note, in the spirit of freedom of speech, press and religion: I’m a Christian myself.
But when I looked up some of the definitions of “pagan,” I found a lot that I, and I suspect many of us, whatever our current professed religions, could sympathize with in our spiritual journeys through life.
“A person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions,” is a definition I can identify with, as a Christian who works hard to adhere to the original Biblical teachings of Christ, which are often distressingly distant from the behaviors and practices of many professed practitioners of Christianity.
Paganism in its early history has always seemed more innocent than demonic to me. There is a sensuality and admiration for nature and all of creation that can — and usually has, in the evolution of most of our religions today —veered into hedonism.
And yes, there are historical incidents of bloodlust, human sacrifice and other manifestations of violence in many of the “pagan” cultures from which most of us trace our roots today, from Mayan and Aztec and numerous tribes in the Americas to the ancient beliefs of indigenous peoples of Africa, Asia, Australian, the Middle East, Polynesia, and my own mostly European heritage of Norsemen and Celts.
I wish I could say that we’ve outgrown all that in the “enlightened” world of our major world religions today, but, alas, no way.
And religious misunderstandings and closed-mindedness persist, though most Las Crucens seem more inclined toward gentle discussions than do the entrenched souls in other places I’ve lived.
Still, I’ve heard diatribes against out-of-the-ordinary spiritual beliefs, even those of fictional characters like Harry Potter (almost always from those who have never read the books and experienced their epic tales of courage in monumental good vs. evil conflicts).
I’ve overheard impassioned debates about the dangers of Halloween, the “heathen” practices of Dia de los Muertos and even charges that any interest in saints amounts to pagan polytheism. Some sourpusses are even irked by the Tooth Fairy.
American Indians dedicated to preservation of their traditions and conservation of their lands for future generations and environmentalists fighting the pollution of land, air and water have been condemned as “wanton pagans” and “godless tree-huggers.” (All too often, in my experience, by those seeking to exploit the very resources that conscientious souls are working to protect.)
I’m not sure what their official religious affiliations are, but I feel blessed to have so many people in my life who have strengthened my own faith and fortified my hopes by sharing the wisdom of their lives and cultures.
I’ll always appreciate Hector Telles, a poet with Apache heritage who shared the ecological, Golden rule philosophy that “We all live downstream.”
Dia de los Muertos celebrations have helped many of us come to terms with untimely and agonizing deaths, and to find a measure of peace with the “celebration of lives well-lived” and a gentle, sometimes humorous and matter-of-fact faith in the afterlife that is the cornerstone of most major religions.
As a God-fearing tree-hugger myself, and a big fan of Dia de los Muertos and the Pueblo Indian traditions I’ve been privileged to share, I am grateful to live in New Mexico, where a spirit of open-mindedess, tolerance and a genuine enthusiasm and appreciation for diversity and new experience results in a rich multicultural environment that makes life more creative, interesting and fulfilling for us all.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Halloween is getting old ...and those who love it are getting older

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — It could be the early deadline pressures, or maybe it’s just that real life has gotten so scary.
Somehow, I had trouble getting in the mood for Halloween this year. As I made the early rounds in September to research stories, I found I wasn’t alone.
In some quarters, the moods I encountered were akin to Christmas levels of angst and depression.
Or maybe it’s a generational thing.
I love Christmas, and motherhood and grandmotherhood have only enhanced my passion for my favorite holiday, much, I suspect, to the displeasure of my Grinchy friends and relatives.
But I must admit, I haven’t ever felt quite the same way about Halloween. And my interest dropped further when I, like most Baby Boomers and earlier generations, put away what were then considered childish things, like Halloween, around age 11 or 12.
But in recent years, the ages limits have lapsed. Halloween enthusiasms seem to peak in young adulthood and threaten to flourish well into middle age and beyond. In many surveys, adults list Halloween as their favorite holiday, surpassing all other celebrations by healthy margins — even Christmas, gasp!
In fact, most of the local costume emporiums seem to be frequented by a lot more adults and teens these days. If you encounter a family shopping with young children, chances are they’re looking for costumes for everybody: mom, dad, the kids and maybe a pet or two.
Some of the displays are decidedly adult, too, featuring oo-la-la sexy ensembles, scatological and verging-on-blue outfits and props and gore so extreme that many items could induce all-ages nightmares. It might be worth a preliminary scouting trip before you take the little kids on costume expeditions.
And adults are really into decorating, too. People start planning their gore décor months in advance and Halloween displays and specialty stores now typically offer their scary wares by early August or late July.
We may soon find ourselves planning for Halloween in the spring, if it follows the jump-the-gun pattern of year-end holidays … or perpetual presidential and congressional campaigns, speaking of scary concepts.
Backing up the polls revealing massive voter discontent, there is also Halloween-related evidence that the public has soured on politicians.
Masks of political leaders, usually early best-sellers, are gathering dust this year. Obama isn’t moving, and neither are masks of Bush or Clinton. Even Abraham Lincoln and George Washington masks are being ignored in favor of various superheroes, zombies and Angry Birds.
Maybe this is the year we should all go minimalist and punch a couple of holes in an old sheet and be ghosts. Or send a message by donning deathly green hands or feet and adding masks of our least-favorite political figures to become zombie politicians.
Personally, I’m working on minimizing stress and maximizing limited, recessionary budgets with some year-round seasonal decorating strategies.
We all know those people who wait several months to take their Christmas lights down. Why not invest in programmable LED lights that will work for every holiday?
We could flash red and green for Christmas, segue into just red for Valentine’s day, green for St. Patrick’s Day, purple and pastels for Easter, red, white and blue for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, orange and black for Halloween, blue and white for Hanukkah … you get the idea.
Let me know if you have some great ideas for simplifying holiday excess. And have a happy, basic Halloween.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Las Cruces is a cultural mecca

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Did Las Cruces become the cultural capital of New Mexico when no one was looking?
A case could be made.
The Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra is the largest symphony orchestra in the state, with the demise of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra in April.
The Las Cruces Chamber Ballet is the oldest continuously operating ballet company in the state.
We have more theater companies than Santa Fe and, depending on who’s doing the counting, may be neck and neck with Albuquerque, or even up by a troupe or two. And neither the Duke City nor the City Different can compete with us in the “Broadway of the Southwest” department. New Mexico State University has Hershel Zohn Theatre, Creative Media Institute’s little gem of a theater, the Atkinson Music Center Recital Hall, and the upcoming yet-to-be-christened Performing Arts Center. Nearby, University Avenue’s new Las Cruces Convention Center is increasingly used as an arts and performance venue, and just down Espina Street is Boba Cabaret, hosting revues and comedy performances.
Our revitalized downtown now has three major performing arts venues: the restored Rio Grande Theatre, Las Cruces Community Theatre and the Black Box.
And we have the talent to fill these venues with skilled performers and original productions by a glittering and growing roster of playwrights, from Tony Award-winning, Academy Award-nominated Mark Medoff to gifted playwrights like Bob Diven, Irene Oliver-Lewis and a new group of young talents emerging from workshops and mentoring relationships here.
And speaking of writers, I’m not even going to attempt a list or I’ll run out of space. Suffice it to say that Denise Chávez, herself a multi-award-winning author, could schedule year-round Border Book Festival events without venturing outside city borders.
CMI, great locations, local trained film crews and other resources continue to attract big budget film productions and sustain and nurture a healthy and burgeoning indy film community.
Our literary, music and dance communities are outstanding. We have world-renowned poets and dancers who excel in everything from flamenco and folklorica to innovative and award-winning modern and aerial routines. Our governor (Las Cruces’ own Susana Martinez) won a ballroom dance competition.
Our neighbors to the north, to give them their due, produce a quartet of world-renowned festivals (Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta, Santa Fe’s Indian Market, Spanish Market and Folk Art Market).
But we have dozens of festivals and cultural celebrations that have defined and redefined the way New Mexicans think about our diverse culture and ourselves, from the recently honored Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference and February for the Love of Art Month to Doña Ana Arts Council’s Renaissance ArtsFaire, their new Color Las Cruces Plein Arts Festival and Mesilla’s Dia de Los Muertos, Diez y Seis, Border Book, Cinco de Mayo and Jazz Happening, along with spiritually uplifting, artistic and traditional gatherings from Tortugas to Doña Ana.
Mesilla and, increasingly, the downtown cultural corridor, are vibrant, thriving cultural centers in themselves. Original arts abound in galleries and outdoor markets. Arts and crafts are a big part of the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market, just named No. 1 in the nation for big markets.
I can’t think of a city in the state, despite tough competition from big money enterprises up north, that can match us for diversity of museum offerings, with NMSU boasting Williams and Kent halls and the Zuhl Collection and several exhibit areas on campus.
Four expanding city museums are devoted to history, art, railroads and natural history. Three museums within an easy drive celebrate space exploration and the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum pays tributes to centuries of our unique cultural roots.
And what other city our size can claim two recent bequests of extraordinary homes to become major museums? J. Paul Taylor and his late wife Mary have promised us their unique Mesilla Plaza adobe home and spectacular arts and crafts collection.
Kent and Sallie Ritter Jacobs will leave us a modern architectural masterpiece with some intriguing collections. Dr. Jacobs, an author himself, by the way, was just named to the Museums of New Mexico Board of Regents, further extending our influence. He’s served with MNM for 12 years, five as board president and was a guiding force in creating the New Mexico History Museum.
Our colony of cutting edge artists is steadily growing and we have half a dozen thriving art tours to prove it, from the monthly Ramble and Camino del Arte to a variety of annual artists’ studio tours, citywide and in emerging area arts districts.
We have alma y corazon and a city of sweet, passionate and creative people who connect to their muses with a backdrop of the Organs, one of the planet’s most intriguing and inspiring mountain ranges.
There’s more, but I think that’s enough to call it. Las Cruces is evolving into the cultural capital of New Mexico — and one of the best places in the world to live while you’re being creative.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Home, sweet cubicle home

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Ah, home, sweet vine-covered cubicle.
I’ve worked in plush Palm Beach offices that had more square footage than some of my apartments, with swans and indoor lagoons and hanging gardens. I’ve worked by actual lagoons, on a primitive laptop on an oceanfront beach in Jamaica.
I’ve worked in home offices in expanded closets and basements and bedroom nooks.
I’ve worked in trains, boats and private planes, in classrooms, auditoriums, convention centers and hotel office complexes all over the world.
And I’ve worked in many newsrooms and communication centers in Germany, Michigan, New York, Portland, Oregon, Florida and New Mexico. (They were all remarkably similar: vast open expanses of keyboards, chatter, ringing phones, conference tables and camaraderie.) And those of us who’ve had our own offices from time to time, always felt part of the newsroom flocks, because the offices of even the surliest, most reclusive editors always had large windows, (overlooking the rest of the newsroom) and open doors.
I’ve managed to live a rich, full lifetime, spanning many decades, states, countries and vocations, without ever working in a cubicle.
Until now. While we wait for our shiny new Sun-News building, we’ve settled into our interim headquarters on 715 E. Idaho Ave., with a shipment of high-end cubicles (mine has three windows) that will go with us to our new digs.
It’s early days yet, but I can already see a new cubicle culture developing.
We are learning new ways, as we wend our way through the newsroom cubical maze. Editor Jim Lawitz noted that he feels like he’s addressing a prairie dog colony, as he summoned us for a company meeting and curious heads popped up behind gray walls.
I feel more in tune with cetacean analogies. I remember, in my Florida days, learning about “spy-hopping,” the wassup? strategy of whales and porpoises, a behavior that consists of rising vertically out of the water, head first, and rotating to scan the entire surrounding area.
When it comes to cubicles, I’m caught in Robert Front’s “Mending Wall” paradox: “Good fences make good neighbors” wars with “Something there is that doesn’t love a fence.”
Maybe we’re suffering a bit of post-Diaspora stress syndrome, as we’ve moved, after the fire, to various refugee settlements in hotel ballrooms and new configurations in interim offices.
In our new world of cubicles, we wander more, seeking our long-lost amigos. And we probably phone and text and e-mail more than we shout these days, which always seems silly to me, when we’re still just a few feet away from one another.
Frances Silva and I have shared a sightline for 15 years. Now a gray cubicle wall divides us, and I miss her.
Cubicle communication strategies remind me of old Walton episodes: disembodied voices poignantly calling over gray walls: “Goodnight, Frances. Goodnight, Walt. Goodnight John-Boy.”
Being newsguys, we aren’t in regimented lines. I’m not sure how the cubical configurations were determined, but we are already establishing our little fiefdoms.
Jason Gibbs, Lucas Peerman and Christine Rogel have named their cubicle trio the Mod Pod.
“You should really move here. It could be an all-blonde Mod Pod,” Lucas told me.
But I’m happily ensconced in the Aquarian Enclave, where everyone was born on Feb. 7 (Norm Dettlaff and me) or gave birth on that day (Robin Zielinski, our kingdom’s Queen Mom, I figure).
It’s only been a few weeks, but I’ve already added the aforementioned vines, two pepper plants … and I finally figured out how to hang art on fabric walls (sticky Velcro dots).
Now, I’m thinking about flags and banners, light shows and other signaling devises.
Creative, well-rounded souls in square abodes will find ways to make this cubicle wilderness a home.

+++++Any tips for making cubicle life more comfortable, efficient, artistic or fun? Let me know.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11 in the newsroom

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — It was one of those dates you never forget, like the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor for my parents’ generation and the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy for Baby Boomers.
As usual, I was the first one in the newsroom, very early the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when the calls began. At first, the wire, radio and TV reports suggested a freak accident, but when the second plane hit the Twin Towers, we knew something big was up. Within a couple of hours, the Pentagon was hit and the fourth hijacked plane had crashed in Pennsylvania.
Within minutes of the first attack, I was on the phone to then-editor Harold Cousland and our publisher, Michael Bush, who told me to call every staff member I could reach and get them into the newsroom.
“If they have to, tell them can bring their kids and we’ll have someone here to take care of them,” Michael said.
Within an hour, most of us were gathered and we’d awoken the photographers and pressmen. The editors started planning a special edition and reporters were sent out to get stories that ranged from security measures at regional military bases to comments from the public.
I headed out to the New Mexico State University campus and Walmart, where many heard the news for the first time from me.
Gathering comments for that special edition, written and on the streets in just a few hours, and for other stories in the next 12 hours, I was impressed with the cosmopolitan response I found here in Las Cruces.
I met students from other countries who had been through terrorist attacks.
Elaine Szalay referred me to some knowledgeable retired and active military personnel, one of whom told me he thought Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks, information that scooped the major news networks.
Other memories tend to blend together in a haze, but it was the deeply personal things that come to mind a decade later.
There were serious and sometimes frightening conversations with little kids, including grandson Alex the Great, then 5 years old, who looked up in the sky and wondered if airplanes would crash into their houses or apartment buildings.
I remember a poignant comment from my nephew, Adam, who was born on Sept. 11 and wondered if his birthday would forever be associated with a national disaster. As fate would have it, his life would be affected in other profound ways by that day. As an M.D. and U.S. Air Force officer, he would go on to serve in Afghanistan.
I also remember, in the crush of those first days, the interview that impelled me to retreat to my car for tissues.
Frank Parrish was the first person from Las Cruces I’d met who had lost a relative in the Twin Towers: a young mother just returned to work, who was still nursing her baby.
There were more tears, shed by many in the audience at an NMSU Choral Department concert, when conductor Jerry Ann Alt interrupted the program to ask us to join in singing anthems from each branch of the U.S. military, and invited any veterans in the audience to stand as we sang “their” songs. World War II Army and Navy veterans, young Marines and visiting Air Force pilots all stood proudly. There weren’t many dry eyes in the house after that medley.
It was a sad, surreal time. Commercial and private airplanes were grounded. Survivors were sought. Terrorist suspects and plots were investigated. Attempts were made to make sense out of the senseless. Artist Kelley Hestir, at a time when revenge slogans filled the air, created a peaceful image she called “Earth Angel”: a portrait of our planet under a hovering halo. Flags were waved.
Benefits for survivors were planned, and so were two wars — the nation’s longest — that continue to impact our lives every day, in many ways.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, or get on the Las Cruces Style e-mail list, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The old hometown has changed

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Sometimes you don’t realize how much the old querencia has changed until you try to describe some of your favorite places and events to friends, like some good amigos who had moved from Mesilla about a decade ago.
I was planning their visit over this Labor Day weekend when I realized a lot of things I wanted to share with them didn’t exist a few years — or even a few months — ago.
There are lots of new people, places and things to catch up on, I told them, but realized they’d be most surprised by the Downtown Mall.
Or that’s what most of us are still calling it, which is why that’s how we refer to it most of the time in the Las Cruces Sun-News, though we are regularly admonished by various factions who’d like us all to refer to our new and improved corazon as Historic Las Cruces MainStreet Downtown. Or just Main Street.
“Eventually, I guess we’ll want to call it the Main Street Downtown Arts & Cultural District,” suggests Ceci Vasconcellos, director of the Doña Ana Arts Council.
Kind of a mouthful, but a Downtown Mall by any other name is still looking very good these days.
I suggested that my amigos come visit on one of our art tour weekends. How about making a day of it at Camino del Arte, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the second Saturday of each month? It’s a great way to spend a fall day, after a visit to our expanded, award-winning (tops in state and nationwide contests) Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market. The market is spectacular in its newest incarnation, with hundreds of vendors and no ugly metal awnings to obscure the view. And you’ll be surprised to see how Mesquite is evolving into our own little version of Santa Fe’s famed Canyon Road, with growing numbers of unique artists studios and galleries.
Or come during the Ramble from 5 to 7 p.m. the first Friday of each month. Stroll, listen to music in galleries or on the street, bust a dance move, and stay for open mics and the Coyote Coffee House and maybe catch a play or special event at the Black Box, the Las Cruces Community Theatre or the Rio Grande.
Visit some impressive galleries and exhibits at the Las Cruces Art Museum and the Branigan Cultural Center. Before long, the Las Cruces Natural History Museum will join the quartet of city museums (don’t forget the Las Cruces Railroad Museum) located downtown.
Take a walk on the newly renovated north Main Street block and visit attractions both old (Coas Bookstore, one of the biggest and best new & used bookstores in the U.S.) and new, including the Las Cruces City Hall, some new galleries and the expanded Branigan Memorial Library.
My erstwhile Las Cruces buddies were amazed when I rattled off downtown dining choices that range from Hawaiian to Mexican, Southwestern-Continental and lots more. Think we still roll up our sidewalks at 6 p.m.? Let’s share a treat at S.B.'s Late-night Lunch Box.
Or let’s people-watch and — at last — dine al fresco. Remember where the Popular used to be? Let’s try pizza at Zeffiro’s/Popular Artisan Bakery, or a gourmet salad at La Iguana in the other half of what used to be our fave department store.
If it’s market day (Wednesday or Saturday), we can grab a green chile burrito, a fresh grilled green chile Swiss cheesburger, a delicate veggie spring roll, or our choice of several other treats, and have an impromptu picnic on a park bench or enjoy the last shady days of the big, beautiful Chinese Pistache tree on the soon-to-be renovated south end of the Downtown Mall.
Maybe we’ll mosey over to La Placita next to La Iguana and check out the progress of the grape arbor and the epic mosaic mural being constructed by Glenn Schweiger and his students and volunteers. Or see how the Las Cruces Downtown Partnership is coming along with a project to paint Downtown Mall buildings with a palette of warm, sophisticated Southwestern colors.
There are many delights in the heart of our city these days, and more are in the works.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Fiesta fun takes lots of work

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Porta-potties. Wind-resistant trash receptacles. Crowd shelters and evacuation routes in the event of thunderstorms, high winds, extreme heat and fire. Security measures. Traffic flow and control. Renaissance costumes you can wear — and work in — at high noon without getting heatstroke.
When you think “fiesta,” those probably aren’t the things that come to mind first, if at all.
Festival organizers often manage to make the best good times seem effortless, but the truth is, they’re not. It takes a village — or at least a good part of the population of smaller towns and villages — to field a great fiesta, and their efforts deserve praise and appreciation.
I know. I’ve looked at fiestas from all sides now. I’ve written newspaper and magazine features about some of our nation’s most impressive festivals throughout the United States, in Europe and the Caribbean.
Fiesta genes run in the family. I’ve planned and promoted festivals myself from Portland, Ore., to South Florida. My son has starred in gatherings with his rock bands that drew tens of thousands in large venues. And he’s gone on to handle organization, tech services, talent booking and stage management for venues that ranged from a jazz fest in Mesilla to holiday light shows and concert series in the Pacific Northwest.
Maybe that’s why our personal family gatherings tend to be on the small side, scheduled during off-season in uncrowded areas. We love fiestas, but we gave our all at the office and have the fiesta battle stories to prove it. Remember the belly dancer who lost her 8-foot python at the airport grand opening? The fiestas we had to reschedule because of hurricanes, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions? Aughhh.
That said, I still love fiestas and I’m delighted to live in a place that produces some of the best festivals I’ve had the pleasure of attending.
It’s even more impressive when you consider that we don’t have the big budgets many considerably less entertaining cities enjoy.
In fact, volunteers have been the driving and inspirational forces behind our most spectacular fiesta success stories.
In recent years, professional events organizers and coordinators have emerged, like the crack staff at Helping Hands, along with some savvy and sophisticated nonprofit organization administrators and planners, professional caterers and experienced entertainment bookers.
Resources like the Doña Ana Arts Council, the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau and city special events coordinators in Las Cruces and Mesilla have offered advice and assistance to many fledgling events about what can be a perplexing number of issues to be considered, from venue choices to timing.
Even old fiesta hands sometimes forget to check to make sure they aren’t booking their event at the same time as several other soirees likely to draw on the same audience. Go to the LCCVB website at and check out annual and monthly events calendars before you set the date and print the posters — and remember to get your info to them (and as many calendars as possible, including ours) as soon as you commit to your fiesta timetable.
The pros help a lot, but volunteers are still the backbone of our favorite fiestas. They keep coming up with new ideas, energy and enthusiasm and the make-or-break help that can transform an event.
It’s a great deal for volunteers, too. Choose an event that interests you and you could enjoy perks that range from a free T-shirt and enchilada to a balloon ride or new friendships with kindred souls.
Festivals are a source of fun, culture and community, and also raise money for a variety of worthy causes and offer economic benefits for individual artists, vendors and our tourism industry.
We hope you have a carefree, safe, fun time at the big fiestas starting this month. Lend a hand, if you can, and take a moment to think about and thank all the volunteers and dedicated pros that make our festivals possible.
!Mil gracias y mucho gusto!

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Thursday, August 18, 2011

It’s Full-Tilt Fiesta Season!

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES— This year, we really need FTFS (Full-Tilt Fiesta Season).
Maybe it was the weird global weather and disasters (including unprecedented calamities like Japan’s tsunami-nuclear plant double whammy) that struck before spring even had a chance to get started. Nature’s handiwork was further aggravated by a summer of manmade (or more accurately, politician-made and triggered) political and economic shenanigans, plus riots and global governmental overthrow attempts and continuing conflicts that had most of us on edge for much of the summer.
By the time we got around to contemplating vacation and a silly summery pursuit or two, our absurdly early school year had begun … and after this summer, we wonder if we should spend the money, anyway, with worldwide famines and needy friends and relatives out of work or marginally employed.
Whatever the origins of our summer of discontent, stress and misery, it’s clear that we have been deprived of our traditional silly season this year.
We may have to abandon all hopes of escapist pursuits for Summer 2011, and move on.
Luckily, the good news is that we live in southern New Mexico, Full-tilt Fiesta Season and chile capital of the world … maybe the universe.
And the even better news is that FTFS is bigger from the get-go in 2011. It starts this week, and there will be more chile-enhanced activities than ever before to help rev up our endorphin systems, cheer us up and strengthen our will to live, dance and party hearty. We can nurture our inner fiesta animals knowing that the festivities are a boon to our economy, our relationships, and a variety of regional causes and community organizations.
Appropriately, our official 2012 New Mexico statehood centennial celebrations kick off, not in the ancient City Different (Santa Fe) nor the Duke City (Albuquerque) but where a major 100-year state fiesta should rightfully begin, at FTFS ground zero, the city of festive moods and fiesta attitudes: Las Cruces! And in our neighboring communities, too.
You’ll have to do some careful party planning to get everything in, with the Centennial’s kickoff, the Main Street Centennial SalsaFest, the White Sands International Film Festival and Deming Duck races all starting with events this next week and running through Aug. 28.
And there will be no let-up, with more big bashes over the three-day Labor Day weekend, featuring must-go fiesta choices that include the 40th Hatch Chile Festival, New Mexico Wine Harvest Wine Festival, Franciscan Festival of Fine Arts and a super-festive Downtown Ramble.
Even the always-festive Las Cruces Convention Center seems to have been jolted into a new level of FTFS hyperbolic overdrive, billing our next big fiesta periods as “Superweekend” and “Super Labor Day Weekend.”
Get in training this weekend. Stock up on therapeutic doses of chile, practice your salsa moves, and get in touch with your amigos near and far to plan some rendezvous. Prepare to celebrate surviving a tough summer with your best FTFS ever!

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

(breakout on jump)
Full-Tilt Fiesta Season Highlights
For more events information, visit
Aug. 25-28: White Sands Film Fest
Aug. 25-28: Great American Duck Race
Aug. 28: Centennial ¡SalsaFest!
Sept. 3 & 4: 40th Hatch Chile Festival
Sept. 3 to 5: New Mexico Wine Harvest Wine Festival
Sept. 3 & 4: Franciscan Festival of Fine Arts
Sept. 5: Labor Day Wine Fest, Franciscan Fest
Sept. 9 to 11: Color Las Cruces: Plein Air Art Competition & Community Arts Fest Sept. 9 to 11
Sept. 10 & 11: Fort Selden Frontier Days
Sept. 11: 5,000 Flowers and other commemorations
Sept. 16 to 18: White Sands Hot Air Balloon Invitational
Sept. 17 & 18: Mesilla’s Diez y Seis de Septiembre
Sept. 23 to 25: The Whole Enchilada Fiesta
Sept. 27 to Oct. 2: SNM State Fair
Oct. 1 & 2: Mesilla Jazz Happening
Oct. 8: New Mexico Pumpkin Fest, Mesilla Valley Maze
Oct. 8 & 9: La Viña Harvest Fest
Oct. 27-29 NMSU Homecomng
Oct. 28 to 31, Nov. 2: Dia de Los Muertos in Mesilla, plus parade float, processions, art shows September through November.
Oct. 31: Halloween
Nov. 5 & 6: Renaissance ArtsFaire
Nov. 11: Mesilla Veteran’s Day Ceremony
Nov. 12: City of Las Cruces Veterans Day Parade
Nov. 11 to 13: Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference, workshops, Student Showcase Spectacular Concert, Mariachi Mass
Nov. 12: El Tratado de La Mesilla Reenactment of 1854 of Gadsden Purchase ratification
Nov. 20: Toys for Kids Motorcycle Parade
Nov. 26 & 27: St. Genevieve Holiday Antique & Craft Show
Dec. 2 to 4: La Casa Holiday Bazaar
Dec. 2 to 18: LCCB Nutcracker
Dec: 2: 8th Annual Trail of Lights Fiesta, City Xmas Tree Lighting
Dec. 9: Mesilla Xmas Tree Lighting
Dec. 10: Fort Selden Luminaria Tour
Dec. 10 to 12: Our Lady of Guadalupe Fiesta at Tortugas & St. Gen, Tortugas “A” Mountain Pilgrimage
Dec. 24: Mesilla Plaza Christmas Eve, Luminarias

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Harold’s spirit lives and grows

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Maybe it was writing about the Great American Duck Races that reminded me to bring Harold back to the newsroom last week.
“Harold” is what I christened a long-lived green amigo named in honor of Harold Cousland, our beloved editor-in-chief who departed for that great newsroom in the sky in 2001. He left shortly after rallying us to produce an “extra” edition, just hours after the Sept. 11 attacks, the only such special print edition I’ve seen in my many decades in the news biz — and almost certainly the last, in this era of instant online updates, tweets, texts and social media postings.
He went too soon, at 58, but very likely the way he would have wanted to go, with his boots on, so to speak, watching the news.
Harold, for those of you not lucky enough to get to know him, was a nationally-respected journalist with a steel-trap mind, a penchant for puns, and a dedication to journalism and freedom of the press that made his commitment to the news biz seem more like a vocation than a mere job.
It took at least three memorial services, here and in his native Deming, to make his colleagues feel like he’d had something like a proper send-off. The truth is, we didn’t want to let him go.
With the permission of his next of kin, I kept a small plant that was part of a floral tribute sent to a newsroom in mourning. As I put it in its own little pot of soil, I remembered hearing that a soul needed someplace to perch: a bush, a tree or a rock, as it prepared to depart from its Earth home to the next plain. I think it was a legend from my days in Santa Fe, where Harold and I both had worked with the Santa Fe New Mexican, though at different times.
We first met years later, on the phone in 1994, when I was in Jupiter (Fla., not the planet) and missing New Mexico, and he had become editor of the Sun-News. I’d sent a résumé and a few clips and told him I’d realized I belonged in the land of green chile and racing ducks.
He’d offered me a job before I realized that Harold himself had hatched the Great American Duck Race concept, with a group of fun-loving friends, back in 1980, reportedly over a few beers in a bar in Deming.
Harold’s fiesta has grown into an internationally-renowned institution in the past three decades.
Harold the plant flourished in our window-less, stuffy old newsroom, eventually filling a windowbox container and several annex pots as I pruned and subdivided over the years. Several overflow pots of Harold plant puppies went home with friends and colleagues as the staff expanded and space contracted.
When the presses left the building, the Harold parent plant waned a bit, actually seeming to miss the grungy mist of ubiquitous printers’ ink that lingered in the air for so many years. The plant seemed to perk up as political candidates streamed through for editorial conferences, and during various paint jobs, new carpets and attempted renovations of the old building. I was contemplating yet another root division and soliciting adoptions to good homes just before the January fire.
As we moved to interim digs, “Harold” got lost in the shuffle. A few weeks later, I finally found the sole survivor of what was once a flourishing green family. There were a few pathetic brown-tipped grayish leaves. I took the remains home, repotted with fresh soil and propped the stems up with some of my grandson’s old wooden darts.
And last week I brought a bright green, three-foot-high, happy Harold to our interim newsroom on Idaho Ave.
Practical souls would say it’s the windows. Cynics might cite the hot air and copious CO2 emitted by loquacious journalists. I’ll spare you my own theories and sentiments about the spirit of journalism and undying quests for truth, justice and the American Way … the way it ought to be.
But I’d swear “Harold” has grown half a foot and sprouted new leaves in a couple of days.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Your chance to be in a movie...

Want to be in the movies? If you’re available, get ready for your potential closeup. Award-winning movie producer, director and screenwriter Rod McCall is looking for men and women to appear in a trailer for his new feature-length comedy “Traveling Salesman.”
Try to look Midwestern. “It’s heavily Anglo, because the story is set in Iowa,” said McCall, who also teaches at NMSU’s Creative Media Institute, which is co-producing the project.
Men only are asked to show up at New Mexico State University’s Activity Center next to the natatorium at Stewart Street and Breland Drive between 7 and 11 p.m. Sunday Aug. 7.
“We’re looking for guys 18 to 60. Wear whatever you wear to work. It’s a town meeting scene,” McCall said.
Women only are asked to report for a shoot from 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Monday Aug. 8 at the Bosque Bridge, also known as the Mesilla Bridge. Take Calle De Norte 1.7 miles west of Avenida de Mesilla to the bridge on the Rio Grande.
“We’re looking for women 18 to 55. They can wear dresses, or blouses with skirts, jeans or shorts. They will be chasing an ice cream truck across the bridge,” McCall said.
But don’t count on ice cream, or any other pay. Your only reward will be the glory.
“We’re looking for as many people as possible. If you show up, about a half hour before the shoot times, if possible, you’ll be in the trailer,” which will be posted online in about six weeks, McCall said.
Shooting for the actual film is expected to be completed in 2012.
“Becoming Eduardo,” McCall’s recent film shot in Southern New Mexico, has won 11 top awards at film festivals throughout the world.

Our nation needs art therapy

LAS CRUCES — It’s a summer to take comfort where you can find it.
“When it all gets to be too much, I just look around my little living room and think, right now, at this moment, things are looking good,” said my daughter-in-law, Shannon, an artistic soul with an knack for beautifying her surroundings on a budget.
I thought about that centering attitude of gratitude and the healing power of artistic expression, as I tried to make sense of summer 2011, which has been filled with angst, sudden change, unrest and horrors, nationally, globally and personally.
For some reason, I keep thinking of 1967, famously known as the Summer of Love to nostalgic ’60s fans. But I also remember, as a journalism major at Michigan State, visiting Detroit and thinking that the city was about to explode. Detroit riots followed soon thereafter; then came a year of national tragedies, assassinations, protests and heartbreaks.
The mood seems similar this agonizing summer, I mused on a recent mid-week drive. Then I made an early morning trip to photograph a unique artistic tribute in progress. Alma d’arte students are deconstructing a dumpster painted by the late Alex Medina and turning it into a bench and memorial that will be part of an inspiring campus project.
“Students, faculty and volunteers are working on an art piece that makes a trash-the-violence statement and we’re thinking about creating a peace garden,” Alma founder Irene Oliver-Lewis said.
There’s something about an artistic, if wistful, homage to peace that can soothe the soul.
Many of our loved ones near and far are struggling with health insurance issues and cutbacks in hours and benefits, and those at or near retirement age are stressed out, too, by the economic uncertainties of this peripatetic summer.
The forces of arrogance and greed, partisan politics and governmental gridlock all seem locked, loaded and committed to summer high noon standoffs in Washington D.C., putting us all through more anxiety.
I was walking through the Downtown Mall grumbling to myself when I spotted Chelsea Melton’s custom license plate: “Stop repeat offenders: Do not re-elect them.” (Read about three generations of creative Melton family members in this week’s Artists of the Week feature on page 4E.)
A laugh at the one-glance solution cheered me up considerably more than wading through all the lengthy treatises I’m getting at home and the office, which include sensible suggestions that we return to our founding philosophy of government by citizen legislators rather than career politicians. Ideas include limiting congressman, senators and even presidents to one term, restricting all legislators to the same Social Security and health plans the rest of us have to cope with (elimination their self-customized platinum versions), strictly prohibiting campaign contributions from exceeding $10 for individuals AND for corporations, and abolishing the U.S. Electoral College in favor of one person, one vote.
Maybe if we could condense such concepts to a few license plates or bumper stickers, we could make progress in this era of information overload.
What I’d really like to do is make survival on minimum wage for six months a requirement for anyone running for office.
But I’d settle for some mandatory activities to channel all that raw energy into creative, rather than destructive, pursuits.
Maybe we should withhold THEIR paychecks until our lawmakers agree to sing “Kumbaya,” (in four-part, or at least two-part harmony). And maybe we should require them to regularly sit down together to make artistic macaroni bracelets, paint cooperative murals or create and fire pottery together without breaking anything or wasting all their art supplies.
Or, better yet, we should demand that they stage an annual bipartisan show to benefit (rather than demoralize) the American public.
In the stressed-out summer of 2011, we all could use an artistic break.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Thursday, July 21, 2011

In the beginning, there was the word: "Hey!"

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — When did “hey” become the casual greeting of choice? Gradually, it’s been replacing “hello,” “good morning,” “bye” and even “hi.”
When you’ve already greeted someone for the day at the office, for instance, it doesn’t seem appropriate to say “Hi” when you see him or her a few minutes later in the break room, at the water cooler, or strolling off to another meeting. But “hey” always seems okay.
It’s casual, friendly in a noncommittal mode ... a neutral way of acknowledging the presence of another creature in your environment.
It can be the equivalent of a poke on Facebook, when you don’t have the time, energy or inclination for any kind of real communication.
Maybe we need an online “hey” option: something between “poke” and “like,” for people who aren’t willing or ready to commit to liking but feel a little too strongly to leave it at a poke.
Of course, “hey” can offer a lot of room for emotional expansion and self-expression, and it’s all right there in the official Merriam-Webster/ definition for hey: “Used to attract attention, to express surprise, interest, or annoyance, or to elicit agreement.”
Depending on your inflection, “hey” could be a protest, an expression of approval, excitement, even coy seduction.
Of course, without the real-time, face-time, or even the voice inflections or facial expressions in a Skype or phone call, you’ll need some help to get your real message across via e-mail, text or tweet.
If you aren’t into emoticons, you can experiment with punctuation.
Try the alarmed or enthusiastic “Hey!”
Take it to the next level with “Hey!!” Or get extreme with “HEY!!!!!!”
Retreat to shy befuzzlement with “Hey?” Or the even more timid “hey....?”
Go old school with a retro variation on the Fonz’s cool, self-confident, or even flirtatious, “Heeeyyyyy!”
Say “hey” with music: “Hey, Jude,” “Hey, hey, hey” advice to “Mrs. Robinson,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “Hey, Soul Sister” or “Na Na Hey Hey Kiss Him Goodbye.”
Of course, some prefer the safety of taking refuge in the neutral DMZ of hey.
But others of us will always be seekers, working to discover where hey came from, probing why hey is here and wondering if it can boldly go where no hey has gone before.
C’mon. Let’s go on a “hey” ride.
Explore international variations. When in Canada, substitute “Eh?”
Legendary Sioux warrior Crazy Horse famously issued the war cry, “Hoka Hey,” which is variously translated by as “clear the path,” or “to live life in such as way that one has done all that one should upon one’s last day, so it is indeed a good day to die.”
Do some online research at cool sites like, where you’ll discover hey is the word for a Hebrew letter meaning “behold, look, breath and sigh.” The site even has some graphics (much cooler than emoticons, by the way) showing the evolution of the symbol for the letter hey, which started, in ancient times, with a little stick figure guy with both arms raised. Some mystic traditions have it that “Hey” represents the divine breath, revelation, ancient humanity’s greeting for God, or the word for the God principal itself. Or, given the divine breath concept, maybe it was God’s word in the beginning: a divine greeting and acknowledgment to creation itself.
Maybe it all started with a “hey,” not a big bang.
Hey, it’s something to think about, eh?

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.