Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Everybody in the pool

LAS CRUCES >> Before the rains finally came this month, when the West was parched and many parts of the country were flooding, Edie had a great idea.
Instead of oil pipelines, we should be building transcontinental water pipelines, she suggested.
It struck me as a brilliant concept, with far more long-term benefits and fewer eco-disaster potentials than the oil pipelines, and a much better place to invest our billions. Yes, there will be challenges, but we'll be able to work them out.
And we can start the process at my favorite local think tank, the Las Cruces pool where I've been swimming laps for almost two decades.
Prophet-psychic-philosophers Tenny Hale and Edgar Cayce have noted that it's easier to find great truths and come up with profound ideas around bodies of water, and I thing they're right, whether the watery body is an ocean, a great lake, a mighty river, or even a modest little swimming pool in Las Cruces, N,M,
In recent decades, I've written several of my best columns while doing the crawl or backstroke, and gotten some of my best ideas for news stories and features from a serendipitous group of poolmates who have become my friends.
There's something about chilling out in the pool, or burning off some of our aches and pains in the nearby whirlpool, that encourages instant intimacy. There's a tendency to share life stories, secrets of the universe and solutions to the problems of the world with people whose last names you've never gotten around to learning.
That we know first names, in fact, is mostly due to Becky, our de facto pool social director and CEO. From the onset, she established a tradition that always reminds me of the friendly "NORM!" shout-outs in the "CHEERS" sitcom. When Becky is in the house - or the pool - no soul goes ungreeted or leaves without an enthusiastic good-bye.
Professionally, she's a long-time mental health guru who has counseled everyone from high school kids to adults in crisis. As a volunteer she founded a rape victim therapy group and numerous community service outreach programs. She's one of a couple of counselors and mental health practitioners who seem to often turn up in the deep end when I'm doing my post-swim cool-downs or stretches, and these compassionate and very smart people offer some amazing insights on the state of our health. They're more tuned in to societal trends than any online site I've been able to find.
With their guidance, the pool think tank amigos are often able to sense problems and make sense of daunting issues long before they make headlines. And when disasters hit - locally, nationally or globally - it seems one of us has been there first, and has some ideas about solutions and best ways to cope.
The think tank regulars are a motley group.
Leslie and Aurora. Delores and Mark... There are a few mom and daughter teams who come regularly, at least one dad and son and one mom and son show up several times a week to float, swim, or do a few stretches and water aerobics while we solve the problems of the world, share tips about the best doctors in town, lend an occasional book, discuss favorite TV shows, and even organize the occasional field trip to the finest regional green chile sources.
Some regulars are famous for their derring-do acts and aquatic achievements,There's Tsunami Rudy, the Butterfly champ of the pool, and Cannon Ball Ray (I knew him before our think tank days as a Sun-News pressman, now retired). Some connections are even more remarkable, even in New Mexico, land of synchronicity. I discovered that our think tank's other Mark, for instance, used to work at Continental Motors in Muskegon, Mich., around the time my dad was an aircraft engineer there. We haven't established that they ever met, but Mark mentioned a few names I recognized from dad's nightly post-work recap monologues.
I swam laps for years beside Stan before I learned about his occupation, the death of his wife after a long illness, and his happy remarriage.
But eventually, we all seem to manage to catch up on everybody's lives and share experiences and wisdom about our duties on the front lines of the caretaker generation. We keep up on the trials and triumphs of kids, grandkids, parents and one another. We miss members when, like Michael L,, they defect to other pools, or leave this earthly plane to float in the great hereafter.
In our little pool, opinions, hypotheses, questions and sometimes, amazingly creative answers and solutions float freely over the chorinated waters.
We may not always agree on everything or some days, anything, except, in recent years, that congress is dysfunctional. Maybe they should consult us, a diverse, compassionate, funny, multigenrational group with some original ideas. What's your problem? We just might have the answer.
Everybody in the pool.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450.

Derrickson Moore
Features Reporter
Las Cruces Sun-News
256 W Las Cruces Ave
Las Cruces, NM 88005

Phone: (575) 541-5450
Web: http://www.lcsun-news.com  

Are you ready for a road trip?

Road trip! Road trip! 

That was a rallying cry for adventure long before seductive advertising slogans like "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" permeated our culture. Many Baby Boomers will fondly remember "road trip" as the cue for one of the funniest episodes in the 1978 movie "Animal House," but those excursions, by any other name, were a crucial part of the formative years of just about anyone who was a small child in the 1950s or 1960s. 

Our dads were back from World War II or the Korean conflict. The nation agreed (unanimously, it seemed) to spend mega bucks creating an infrastructure of superhighways and cloverleaf interchanges. Detroit was turning out roomy station wagons (precursors of RVs and minivans, for you whippersnappers), luxury family sedans with lots of impressive, futuristic fins and chrome and sports cars so sexy that they are still hot and collectible more than half a century later. 

You could buy three gallons of gas for a buck. 

Dinah Shore sang to us every week, urging us to see the U.S.A. in our Chevrolets. 

What choice did we have? 

America was asking us to call. 

And come summertime (or spring break, or Thanksgiving, Christmas, the turning of autumn leaves or any other excuse we could conjure), we were ready to answer the call. 

Road trips are an American institution, from the first land bridge migrations to tribal hunting groups following the buffalo to westward wagon trains and the first transcontinental railroad excursions. I don't have the statistics, but I suspect contemporary Americans may travel more and greater distances for fun than residents of most civilizations. Road trips may not be specified in the U.S. Constitution, but many of us feel it is clearly implied, under life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. 

I've seen enough of the world and the nation to welcome the post-Oz period of my life. Dorothy was right. There's no place quite as comfy, friendly, interesting and convenient to me as my home querencia. 

And yet, breathes there a soul so dead that "road trip!" doesn't fire the imagination -- at least a little? 

I think not. 

Every year around this time, I feel an urge to visit souvenir shops and I start to get nostalgic for log cabins, canoes, rivers, lakes or any large bodies of water. It's hard-wired, primordial memory from Midwestern camping trips in my youth. 

I get on the freeway en route to local assignments and spot enticing signs: Albuquerque, Santa Fe, San Diego, San Antonio. Or even Alamogordo, Lordsburg, Silver City and Truth or Consequences. Deadlines are looming and I have miles of copy to write before I sleep. 

But for just one wistful summertime moment, I think, "Why not?" 

It's a good question. 

Why not put pedal to the metal, crank up your fave summertime tunes and hit the road, right now? Decide where to spend the night when you find an interesting side road to explore. Wait till you have a few hundred miles between you and home base and call in to take a personal day or two. 

Being old and responsible, I don't abscond without notice. But in recent years, I have talked my type A soulmate into fitting some unscheduled, impromptu adventures into our vacation each year. 

Sometimes, we've ended up missing stellar attractions because we didn't reserve in advance. 

But mostly, we've made some amazing discoveries. An island in the middle of a pond at a monastery retreat. Riverfront statues hidden among glowing aspen groves. Beautiful little mountain villages and farm stand picnics. 

Summer's not quite over. There's still time for an adventure of your own. 

Road trip! Road trip!S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450.

Full-Tit Fiesta Season

Are you rested and ready? We're about to head into FTFS (Full-Tilt Fiesta Season). 

As our fiesta dead zone continues to shrink, you may not even have noticed a dearth of summer festivals this year. 

For most of my time here, there wasn't much to do between the Fourth of July and Labor Day. With the heat and monsoons, it seemed more logical to plan for siestas rather than fiestas. 

When the Las Cruces Convention Center opened, I thought there might be an uptick in summer events we could enjoy in air-conditioned comfort. But so far, not so much. 

Instead, we seem to have gotten more fearless in the face of extreme heat, adding outdoor events like July's Tour de Beer at the Southern New Mexico Fairgrounds. Once, fiesta lovers had to plan a road trip to Deming for the Great American Duck Race if they wanted any outdoor action in August before Labor Day weekend. Now, offerings include the Butterfly Flutterby and the Main Street SalsaFest. 

Some fiestas come and go or make crucial changes. Whole Enchilada Fiesta fans are happy to know that Robert Estrada will be back with new equipment making what has sometimes ranked as the world's largest enchilada. 

There will be sacred pilgrimages up Tortugas A mountain during the annual December Our Lady of Guadalupe Festival, a colorful procession through Mesilla on Nov. 2 for Dca de Los Muertos, strolls through Young Park with royalty during the November Renaissance ArtsFaire and a chance to strut your stuff with the undead at an Oct. 26 downtown Zombie Walk. From now until a month of holiday festivals in December, there will be a lot to do and see and fun ways to celebrate life in Las Cruces with friends and family members. 

Here's my annual list of popular favorites. Clip it and make plans. Pace yourself. It's FTFS! 

Las Cruces Full-Tilt Fiesta season highlights: 

Aug. 17: Men Who Cook, Las Cruces Convention Center 

Aug. 17: Butterfly Flutterby, Chihuahuan Desert Nature Park 

Aug. 22-25: 2013 Great American Duck Race, Deming 

Aug. 25: Main Street SalsaFest! 

Aug. 31-Sept. 1: Franciscan Festival of the Arts 

Aug. 31-Sept. 1: Hatch Chile Festival 

Aug. 31-Sept. 2: New Mexico Wine Harvest Festival, Southern New Mexico Fairgrounds 

Sept. 4-8: White Sands International Film Festival 

Sept. 7 & 8: St. Genevieve Church Fiesta 

Sept. 14: Doca Ana Doll Club Show 

Sept. 14: Fort Selden Frontier Day 

Sept. 14 & 15: Diez y Seis de Septiembre Fiesta 

Sept. 20-22: Silver City Red Dot Studio Tour 

Sept. 21 & 22: White Sands Hot Air Balloon Invitational 

Sept. 22: La Union Maze opens 

Sept. 28-30: The Whole Enchilada Festival 

Sept. 28-Oct. 27: Mesilla Valley Maze 

Sept. 28: Dress the Child Benefit Croquet Tournament 

Oct. 2-6: Southern New Mexico State Fair & Rodeo 

Oct. 5 & 6: Mesilla Jazz Happening 

Oct. 5 & 6: Pumpkin Festival 

Oct. 19 & 20: La Vica Wine Harvest Festival 

Oct. 26: Zombie Walk 

Oct. 26 & 27: Pecan Festival (Rootin Tootin Rib Cookoff and Kids Ranch Rodeo) 

Oct. 26-27: Lions Club Gun Show, LCCC 

Nov. 1-3: Dca de los Muertos, Mesilla 

Nov. 2 & 3: Renaissance ArtsFaire 

Nov. 20-24: Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference 

Nov. 24: Toys For Kids Motorcycle Parade 

December TBA: Winterfest, NMSU Noche de Luminarias, Las Cruces & Mesilla Christmas tree lightings 

Dec. 6-8: La Casa Bazaar, LCCC 

Dec. 10-12: Our Lady of Guadalupe Fiesta and Pilgrimage 

Dec. 19-22: Las Cruces Chamber Ballet "The Nutcracker"Dec. 24: Christmas Eve on the Mesilla Plaza 

Magic Day is almost here

Ready for the best season of the year? 

Right now, it may seem like a very long time away. It's hot and muggy -- or as muggy as we ever get in high desert country. 

You, the kids and grandkids might be feeling a little blue because school starts so early here. People say kids get used to it, or never miss what they've never had. 

But after a couple of decades as a New Mexican, I still find that it seems contrary to the natural order of things to start school before Labor Day, and getting out in May never seems like quite enough compensation. 

Nope. The summer months are the summer months: June, July and August. And free-range kids should be able to play and sleep in and do silly summer things and read good books through it all. 

The usual compensations for going back to school don't seem as comforting and inspiring when you head for the classrooms in August. 

As some of the kids I interviewed for recent back-to-school fashion features told me, the excitement of getting new fall clothes just isn't as much fun when it's too hot to shop. And even if you do find the perfect sweaters and long-sleeved shirts, tights, skinny jeans and boots, everything will be stuck in the closet for a long time before you'll have a chance to show 'em off to your classmates. 

For awhile, it will be summer as usual: hot, hot and more hot. So the best of your summer clothes will be trotted out for a few more weeks, reminding you of those carefree days you just abandoned. All the heat and none of the scintillating sizzle of the season. 

It just doesn't seem fair. 

But don't despair. Nothing lasts forever and great stuff is coming. We're on the brink of Full-Tilt Fiesta Season. Deming's Great American Duck Race events and programs start this Thursday, and both final duck racing heats and Las Cruces ' own SalsaFest will be next weekend on Sunday, Aug. 25. 

You can cheer up yourself and your loved ones with a road trip or immersion in a power greater than summer doldrums or too-early back to school. That, of course, would be fiesta spirit, a force that is strong in all true New Mexicans. 

There's a lot to dream about and anticipate, as the crops start rolling in and the official aroma of FTFS -- roasting green chiles -- fills the air. 

Before long, we'll be celebrating the endorphin rush of the hot stuff as the main attraction at some of our favorite fiestas: SalsaFest, the Hatch Chile Festival and the Whole Enchilada Fiesta. And chiles will be important guest stars at just about every indoor and outdoor gathering. Ristras will festoon our doorways, kitchens, roadside stands and outdoor markets and festivals. 

The venerable official state question ("Red or green?") will take on fresh new meanings as we experiment with just-harvested crops and try new recipes or cook up old favorites, which never taste quite as wonderful as they do this time of year. 

Before you know it, these torrid days will be behind us and we'll realize, yet again, that time really does pass more quickly when we're having fun. 

And there will come the special time my sister (who lives in Florida, where August is considerably muggier and more miserable than ours), once christened as "magic day." 

It's a time when fresh Pacific Ocean breezes seem to leap over the Rockies and onto our patios, where we will be tempted to linger a few more minutes or hours, instead of rushing for the shelter of the nearest, most intense air conditioner. 

We'll plan weekend fall getaways and find excuses to plan picnics, take long walks and organize outdoor excursions. 

The weather will be warm and sunny, with a hint of invigorating morning crispness. The skies will turn perfect New Mexican lapis lazuli blue. Our flowers will rally for a last autumn hurrah and so will we. 

The best is yet to come, amigos. Magic season is almost here. 

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter or call 575-541-5450

Why do we love Billy the Kid

He’s back. Though he never really goes away.

Billy the Kid, a.k.a. William Henry McCarty Jr., William Bonney and Henry Antrim, was born in New York on Nov. 23, 1859, and died July 14, 1881 in Fort Summer, N.M., according to most accounts. That was 132 years ago. But does he live on in spirit?

Boy, howdy.

I was reminded again of our affection (maybe even obsession, in some quarters) with the young outlaw after my Aug. 18 story about the discovery of a possible new image of the Kid. Frank H. Parrish, a nature photographer and New Mexico history aficionado, has been researching a tintype owned by a local man who wishes to remain anonymous. In the picture, Billy’s all dressed up, without the hat and vintage firearms in the iconic rustic outlaw pose in the famous tintype image historians have said is authentic. And he’s seated next to his good amigo Dan Dedrick. The presence of Dedrick, whose descendants once possessed the authenticated  tintype, is the “clincher” to this new tintype’s authenticity, Parrish believes.

This Billy is somewhat more user-friendly. He even looks a bit like MAD Magazine’s Alfred E. Newman, in fact. That’s more in keeping with Billy’s rep as a charmer, Parrish said.

I never thought of Billy that way, if I thought of him at all, until I moved to Las Cruces and met Opal Lee Priestly. She and her husband Orville owned the Las Cruces Sun-News from 1946 to 1970.

I met and interviewed her just a few years before her death in 1999 at age 94. At lunches and meetings in her book-filled home, she shared anecdotes about writing her book, “Billy the Kid: The Good Side of a Bad Man,” culled from years of researching letters and talking to people who had known Billy or remembered relatives’ tales about the Kid.

What stuck in my mind were her tales about Billy’s adaptability, socializing with diverse cultural groups of the era. He reportedly taught himself Spanish. He was an adept dancer and something of ladies’ man. The stories that most touched me involved his sensitivity to the hardships of the time — and to the pride of those who endured the deprivations of a hard life on the high desert frontier. 

He was a rambling guy who often dropped in on friends unexpectedly (sometimes to take refuge from the law). But he usually came bearing food, which he skillfully cooked up and served. And he would help clean up and do the dishes afterward, endearing him to frontier womenfolk, Opal Lee explained.

It helped, to remember that, when I learned more and more about the wonders and outstanding residents of our querencia and found the best of them routinely eclipsed by Billy’s fame.

I admit I got a little cranky when I spent a couple of days with a BBC reporter, telling him about our Pluto discoverer Clyde Tombaugh, about our visual and performing arts, our award-winning filmmakers and playwrights and authors, our pioneering scientists, our remarkable Pueblo peoples and their art and culture, our rich and long Spanish and Mexican heritage, our sweet and talented citizens, our agricultural history culminating in the world’s best chile peppers.

And what made the cut in the final broadcast? The then-in-the-works Spaceport. And Billy the Kid.

This week, I heard from Billy fans around the world, from Germany to Bend, Ore, (where retired history teacher Steve McCarty, a possible relative of the Kid’s, believes he, too, has some long-lost tintypes that are images of Billy).

I also asked some Las Crucens about Billy’s enduring appeal.

“He represents so much of what made America. He was young, wild, unharnessed, a romantic, charismatic figure,” said Ross Marks, artistic director of the White Sands International Film Festival.

“He’s an outlaw and we love outlaws. He’s sexy,” said filmmaker, writer and director Rod McCall.

“A sociopath, but an appealing one,” pronounced artist Bob Diven, who has just finished a dramatic sculpture and is taking orders for life-sized statues of Billy, soon to be cast in bronze ($40,000 each at bobdiven.com if you’re in the market for an impressive desperado stocking stuffer).

Before we spiffed up Main Street, Bob once proposed a giant Billy, to be stationed at one end of what was then the Downtown Mall, with a revolving restaurant in his hat and a community-warming kiva fireplace in his derriere. After I’d lived here awhile, I realized he wasn’t kidding. And he had a lot of community support for the plan.

And why not? After all, we love Billy.

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@ lcsun-news.com. @DerricksonMoore on Twitter or call 575-541-5450.

Salty tales

I’d like to share a few salty tales with you. They’re all G-rated, but we’re going to be contemplating some real danger here.

Who would think that a chicken dinner (baked, not fried, mind you), a can of “low-sodium” chili, a nationally-acclaimed diet meal, or even a wholesome lunch at a popular senior citizen center could wind up being hazardous to your health?

All, I discovered, were loaded with sodium. In some cases, a single meal or serving greatly exceeded the recommended daily maximum of 1,500 mg or less suggested in a recent Anthem BlueCross BlueShield’ publication “Living Well.”

Salt and I have a long history together and I admire and respect its beneficial qualities. 

I helped my parents set up chunky saltblock salt licks to help deer and wildlife survive in our Michigan wilderness retreat.

I’ve visited the Lewis & Clark salt cairn site near Seaside, Ore., and marveled at how vital salt was to their historic cross-county expedition; and to the generations of explorers who used it to preserve their food supply.

I’ve loved swimming in both oceans and the occasional luxurious salt-water pool. I know how vital saline solutions are for medical use. Since I’ve been using special sea salt and purified water for nightly Neti pot ablutions, my allergies have all but vanished and colds, flu and respiratory infections have been considerably less frequent. Salt is even one of my favorite cleaning agents.

But with a family history of high blood pressure, for decades, I’ve done my best to avoid consuming excessive quantities of it. And that can be very tough to do.

Read the fine print and do a little checking and you’ll discover that salt is everywhere, in almost everything, including places you’d least expect to find it.

If you carefully read labels on canned and processed foods, you’ll discover that a single serving on a product labeled “low sodium” can sometimes be more than the recommended amount for an entire day — and shockingly, sometimes more than sodium levels of similar “regular” products.

Think you’re being safe with healthy choices like lean turkey or skinless chicken breasts that you’re preparing yourself? Check and you could find that poultry has been infused with saline solutions that raise sodium to unacceptable levels.

You could also find yourself sabotaged when you’re trying to make healthy choices while eating out at anything from fast-food emporiums to five star establishments.

Even with something as simple as a salad, the salty devil is often lurking in the details. Order dressings on the side or avoid them all together and you may still be piling on the salt with things like cheese, croutons and super-salty broiled chicken fillets.

Many of us have given up on any prepared frozen dinners or snacks. Even choices labeled as “healthy  and “diet,” that pass muster in terms of low calories, fat and cholesterol, are too often loaded with salt.

The quest for low-sodium choices seems to be the final frontier even in health-oriented, organic markets and health food sections of mainstream supermarkets. 

It doesn’t have to be this way. I can remember when concerned parents successfully demanded that baby food manufacturers remove unnecessary salt, sugar, food coloring and other additives from their products.

Babies never missed it, and neither will the rest of us, I believe, if we toss out the salt shaker. I finally gave up and decided to prepare most of my own food from scratch. With the use of chile and other spices, wines and vinegars, I soon found that I didn’t miss salt at all. Your tastebuds become so finely-tuned, in fact, that most of the world’s fare seems much too salty, and you find salt actually interferes with your appreciation of good fresh food, raw or cooked.

Still, it would be great to be able to enjoy more of the fare at my favorite restaurants and the masterpieces of good cooks at homes, fiestas, and salad and salsa bars. Would it be so tough to provide low- or no-sodium alternatives, or simply offer salt shakers to allow everyone to customize their sodium consumption after a taste or two? I think not.

Maybe, like those concerned parents, all we have to do is ask.

I’m asking.