Monday, May 4, 2015

Spaceport America style is retro-visionary



RETRO-VISIONARY SPACEPORT May 3

 By S. Derrickson Moore

Ah, Spaceport style.
It’s a new frontier for Las Cruces regional style, and in fact, for the world.
After another day at Spaceport America, I was racking my brain for a descriptive phrase that captured the essence, the ambiance, the je ne sais quois of the place.
Retro-visionary.
It finally came to me when I was boldly — lamely, actually — going through spaces where no media person has gone before (at least on this particular press junket). I was there to preview new exhibits slated to open in June, at the Spaceport Visitor Center in downtown Truth or Consequences, and at April’s isolated Spaceport America tour site, the upstairs exhibit portion of the 120,000-square-foot Virgin Galactic Gateway to Space building, a combined terminal and hangar facility.
I realized my still-waiting-for-test-results, impaired knee would probably not appreciate climbing several flights up and down stairs to a SpaceShipTwo hangar media conference site.
To see if there was another way to get from here to there, I asked Virgin Galactic’s Chelsea Green, who may have the coolest job title on the planet: Terrestrial Experience Designer.
She revealed that it was her second awesome, out-this-world-title: the first was “astronaut sales.” Her business card was cosmic, too: the distinctive Virgin logo in the center of what looked like some sort of cosmic nebula but was, she revealed, based on a photo of each staffer’s eye.
She graciously offered to take me to an elevator, with the caution that photographs weren’t allowed in the regions of the vast building we’d be going through, after gaining access through what struck me as a super cool, secret hidden panel worthy of a futuristic castle in a galaxy long ago and far, far away. I kept my promise and didn’t Tout or Tweet or Instagram, so we’ll have to make do with the thousand words, rather than the picture.
Or maybe it won’t take quite that many. It was bright, shiny, white. White-white, like the rest of the interior of the building, and its Virgin Galactic SpaceShipTwo replica, waiting patiently to be replaced by the real thing, in its white-white hangar. The offices and conference areas were white, and so were what looked like cubicles and storage areas and desks, all in lovely, graceful, free-form, retro-visionary shapes.
It put me in mind of all-white futuristic scenes from Woody Allen movies of the early 1970s, of our first glimpses of Tomorrowland at Disneyland, when we were tiny tots, watching the Mickey Mouse Club in the 1950s. Of the bright, white boots, mod fashions and furnishings coming out of swinging London and New York in the 1960s.
It was our idea of what the future would look like, best-case scenario, when we were little kids.
I loved it then, and I love it now, and I can understand why Richard Branson loves it, too. We’re about the same vintage and came into our spacey salad days with the same style influences.
The building’s exterior, by the by, is not white-white, but still fits nicely into its own retro-visionary niche. True to its LEED Platinum accredited, eco-friendly status inside and out, it’s designed to harmonize visually with its high desert country environment.
“It is both sustainable and sensitive to its surroundings,” proclaims the architect’s website, fosterandpartners.com.
Back in the hippie, tree-hugging days of the Whole Earth Catalog of the late 1960s and ‘70s, we dreamed of lovely, organic, Spaceship Earth dwellings. I think Buckminster Fuller would have loved this pioneering, retro-visionary commercial spaceport terminal.
The building, designed by the firm of world-renowned architect Lord Norman Foster, will support up to two WhiteKnightTwo and five SpaceShipTwo vehicles, according to Virgin Galactic sources, and will house all of the company’s “astronaut preparation and celebration facilities, a mission control center, a friends and family area and space committed to public access.”
Whatever eventually gets off the ground at Spaceport America, what’s already there is the stuff of dreams — past, present and future.
Retro-visionary.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter  and Tout, or call 575-541-5450



Awkard silences are rare in Las Cruces



AWKWARD SILENCE  Pub date May 10

I was concentrating on allergy season aches and afternoon workloads.
It took me a moment to register that someone I’d never met had just climbed into the hot tub at our health club.
An awkward silence ensued.
I made some comment about good hot tub weather. After all, when you find yourself in what is essentially a large bathtub with a stranger, some pleasantry or greeting seems indicated. But no perfunctory reply was forthcoming and the awkward silence continued.
Later, I realized the incident stood out because awkward silences are so rare in Las Cruces.
At first, I thought it might be something about the physical nature of our territory.
Elevator rides, for instance, are one of the most frequent sites for awkward silences and there are very few elevators in Las Cruces.
But then again, I’ve never experienced an awkward silence during an elevator ride here. I’ve had some intriguing conversations with people from all over the world about the rarity of Mesilla Valley elevators (or “lifts” as they call them in Great Britain, a fellow traveler once informed me) while rising or falling in our still-uncommon, multi-story governmental, office, medical, financial and university buildings.
The escalator at Barnes & Noble on the New Mexico State University campus is an even better source of impromptu chatter. As far as I know, it’s the only one in the county and one of only a few in the whole state. Many of us can’t resist commenting on that fact and reminiscing about other escalators we have known in our travels and far-flung home towns.
“You strike me as someone who never met a stranger,” I was recently told by a nice lady who read a recent Las Cruces Style column and graciously invited me to a May picnic and wildflower appreciation gathering on her ranch.
It was a lovely invitation and compliment that made me feel like a natural-born Las Crucen, thank you very much.
But in my corazon, I know it’s not me: it’s you all.
It’s true I’ve interviewed thousands of you over the past decades, and even on my most shy or introverted days, I find it’s pretty easy to ask anybody their opinions on just about anything.
And that’s because you make it easy. In all those queries, over all those years, I can count the awkward silences, or “no comments,” on two hands without running out of fingers or getting into thumbs. They are so rare, in fact, that I can recall each refusal: most involved language or immigration issues during times of Borderland crack-downs. And even then, most of the refusals were accompanied with polite regrets or attempts to bridge whatever language gaps divided us.
Maybe it’s the wide open spaces, big skies and wild west spirit that foster companionable, rather than awkward, silences. A few friendly words seem like a natural segue from appreciation of nature’s wonders to human urban encounters.
Impromptu conversations are pretty much the norm here, I’ve found, in ticket queues, supermarket checkout lines, at festivals, meetings and during ambles around various plazas.
Nearly every newcomer and visitor I meet remarks about the warmth and friendliness of New Mexicans in general and Las Crucens in particular.
I’ve heard some particularly poignant, appreciative comments from members of minority groups in times of strife, and from those who have relocated from large metropolitan areas or insular, reserved small towns in cooler climes.
In a world perceived as cold, hard, hostile, threatening or downright dangerous, too many people on too much of the planet these days seem to be resigned to keeping silence and maintaining distance.
Just about everyone I’ve talked with here seems to agree that this is a welcoming refuge from all that.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

Fiesta Fatique in Las Cruces



When I coined the term Full-Tilt Fiesta Season in 1994, I was not exaggerating. Our semi-official motto then was "city of fiesta moods and festive, friendly attitudes." In the last two decades, our FTFS has burgeoned to the point where it's pretty much year-around, and festooned with several fiesta superweekends throughout the year.
But some fiestas that were going strong, and others that sprung up and went on to flourish and celebrate 15th and 20th anniversaries, are now calling it quits, cutting back or changing forms.
The Border Book Festival is the latest to say adios. Denise Chᶥz, who cofounded the festival with Susan J. Tweit, announced that the once-popular event, which never quite seemed to weather the change in venue from Mesilla to assorted downtown Las Cruces locales, is calling it quits. An online presence and some literary events will continue at Casa Camino Real, Chᶥz said.
Venues are also an issue for the Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference, which trained and educated thousands of mariachi musicians and singers and folklorico dancers over the past two decades and brought top entertainers to perform and teach. Founder Phyllis Franzoy announced that the nonprofit group, which fielded one of the largest gatherings of its kind each November, has had trouble securing suitable venues after New Mexico State University schedules and policies have changed. The group had an abbreviated event at Las Cruces Convention Center in 2014 and is now considering new venues and new dates that will allow return of a full roster of events, including a Mariachi Mass, parque festival with arts and crafts, Spectacular concert, student workshops and a performing showcase.
That's good news. It's one of the treasures of Las Cruces that generates the most comments in travels from Santa Fe to Deming and Albuquerque, where I run into performers who attribute their training and the origins of their mariachi groups to workshops and studies at the conference.
After more than a decade, the White Sands International Film Festival announced that last September's event would be their last gathering.
Roberto Estrada also announced that 2014 would mark his last year preparing his giant enchilada, which once claimed the Guinness Book of World Records title as the world's largest. Everybody agrees that Roberto has done us proud. But it's sad that the still-thriving Whole Enchilada Fiesta is without its behemoth attraction. It would be nice if a new generation would come forward to continue the tradition.
There are bright stars on the fiesta horizon, from the monthly Downtown Ramble, which evolved from the annual Artwalk, to Downtown Partnership and Las Cruces Farmers' and Crafts Market special events like evening markets, New Year's Eve Chile Drop and red-carpet events.
Several fiesta founders, planners and volunteers cited the Las Cruces County Music Festival as a good example of what we should be doing to maintain our fiesta central status. Las Cruces Convention Visitors Bureau Director Philip San Filippo came up with the concept, and had contacts and expertise after fielding similar events to create an event that is attracting national attention. Focus groups determined that we already had a reputation as a mecca for country music fans (thanks largely to decades of efforts by Barbara Hubbard in bringing top names in country, rock and pop to Pan Am). The bureau and city offered resources to put it all together, and hired Dawn Starostka and Helping Hands for the professional help needed.
In a time of what a friend called "fiesta management fatigue," it's a hopeful model. It's time to recognize we've grown. We need to pick the right times and venues, build on what talented founders have created, and hire professionals to help us move into a new fiesta era.

Since this column was posted in March, we also learned that the Soutthwest Environmental Center's Raft the Rio event has been canceled.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at lcsun-news, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.



Here's to Mom: Queen of the May



APRIL  26  May Day Memories
If September were a little less wonderful here and summer heat held off a bit longer, May would be hands-down my favorite month of the year. And it’s still a major contender.
It was no contest when I was growing up in Michigan.
Even if June through August had more reliable weather, May had the major advantage of offering the first real relief from the long winter months.
Apple trees were in blossom. So were crocus, tulips, daffodils, lilacs, if I remember right, and lots of woodland wildflowers, including my personal faves, jack-in-the-pulpit, a rare and lovely little orchid, columbines and the aptly named Mayflowers.
Some of my earliest childhood memories involved collecting tiny bouquets of early bloomers in the yard, or wildflowers in the forest. We would occasionally press a few prize specimens between sheets of white paper or paper towels, tucked in the pages of thick books. We checked them impatiently and then usually forgot about them until they fell out, dry, brittle and faded, during a summer vacation search for something to read. Then, if we were feeling bored or creative enough, we’d arrange them into masterpieces suitable for framing or greeting cards.
But in the meantime, back in flowery May prime time, we strung big blossoms from our catalpa trees to make Midwestern leis and floral wreaths to crown our heads.
Then, if we were in a springy mood, and we almost certainly were, we’d dance.
In those days, most of us had outdoor poles and lines to dry our clothes, and my art teacher, scout leader mom was a genius at transforming the utilitarian structure into a fiesta site. Banners and streamers were added and a Maypole was born.
Naturally, we danced around it. That’s what Maypoles, whatever their origins, are for, after all.
There were other important rituals to attend to, and we were on the case.
In a kind of flowery, reverse trick-or-treat routine, we made paper cones with little stapled ribbon handles, decorated them, filled them with flowers, hung them from the front doorknobs at the homes of our friends and neighbors, rang their doorbells and ran off as fast as we could.
If the landscape permitted, we’d try to hide behind a nearby bush, tree or fence and watch the reaction. If our May Day “victim” was home, the reaction was always rewarding: surprise, a smile, a look around. The best sports would pretend to ignore the benevolent pranksters hiding in plain site.
We’d giggle a lot. And maybe go home and finish the Brownie Scout meeting, or have another dance around the Maypole, dreaming of being Queen of the May.
But in my memory, that title always goes to mom. May 1 was her birthday, and those celebrations and Mother’s Day are forever linked in my mind. My sister presented mom with her first grandchild, beautiful Brandy, on May 1, and her second, my sweet son Ryan, was also a May baby.
Mays are a little bittersweet now.
After decades in high-desert country, I think of May as the time when the heat rises, time to turn off the furnace and turn on the AC or swamp cooler.
But it’s also the time, in the best years, when the desert explodes with late wildflowers and vivid displays of cactus in bright hues of fuchsia, purple, red, pink and yellow. The swirling, Technicolor skirts of Cinco de Mayo folklorico dancers remind me of our childhood spring fiestas.
And I can’t help thinking that my imaginative mom would have found a way for us to transform a big agave, a stalwart seguaro or a red-flagged ocotillo into a Maypole, and devised a way to dance around it without getting prickled or stabbed.
If anyone could manage such a feat, it would be my mom. She was magic. She was Queen of the May. I miss her and wish we could join with her kids, grandkids and great-grandkids for one more Maypole dance.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.



Tuesday, April 14, 2015

APRIL 19: MANAGING OUR HOME ART GALLERIES



APRIL 19: MANAGING OUR HOME ART  GALLERIES
                                   
BY S.DERRICKSON MOORE
Whether we appreciate or collect art, create it ourselves or some combination thereof, we may all eventually face a dilemma once humorously expressed by internationally-renowned, Las Cruces-based artist Stephen Hansen.
“Ultimately, I’ve come to think of art as a storage problem,” he once quipped.
Stephen, whose latest works pay homage to iconic artists seem to be flying out of his studio as fast as he creates them, may not be facing storage issues these days.
I, on the other hand, am still collecting and I can’t seem to stop. (I make no apologies, but I do have a solid defense. If you got to see some of the great stuff I get to see every week, I’ll bet you couldn’t resist either.)
As a result, my home looks, as my friend Fred once diplomatically put it, as if “you’ve really moved into every room.”
Both of my bathrooms, my office, kitchen and bedrooms are festooned — very festooned — with entertaining objets d’art. So is my garage, which is currently featuring a semi-permanent show of many of my favorite kites, and a laundry room exhibit of rustic wooden sculptures and prints I have every intension of reframing some day.
At least 30 percent of my closet space is devoted to a multimedia melange of arts and crafts that I hope to someday find just the right place to showcase.
A few more file cabinets, bureau drawers and under-sink and pantry lower shelves are dedicated to art supplies for arts and crafts projects I hope to complete myself, eventually. They are everyday reminders — amidst the extra vitamins, steel-cut oatmeal and cleaning supplies — of the reasons I took up painting and sculpture many decades ago. At that time, I didn’t have access to the art I really wanted, so I decided to create a few things on my own.
A lack of access to art I love is no longer a problem. Finding places to display it, or even to store it, on the other hand, is becoming a major issue.
About a decade ago, I took a cue from my art-loving friends Sue and Tom, who decided to take a rotating exhibit approach to decorating their home.
I don’t know why that didn’t occur to me earlier. I’ve curated and hung shows in galleries, museums, shops and homes throughout the United States and even once supervised permanent and rotating exhibits at an international airport.
Actually, I’ve been managing my own little gallery most of my life.
And it’s likely that you have, too, if you’re a parent and have a refrigerator, or were ever a kid with parents and a refrigerator.
It’s a good bet that most of us have had our own solo shows before we made it out of diapers, or were part of a several thoughtfully juried group exhibitions, if we had doting parents and siblings.
I’m now on my third generation of carefully curated, rotating refrigerator exhibitions.
Not for me are those long-trendy, minimalist, modern kitchens with gleaming, sterile, stainless steel appliances.
I’ve always felt that a white, beige or even vintage gold fridge is the perfect backdrop for most refrigerator art.
I was pleased when innovative Las Crucens once presented a refrigerator art exhibition, at Rokoko Gallery. I have a few fine art magnets from that show, proudly part of my rotating collection, which includes sunflower and roseate spoonbill magnets I created.
They help display my favorite photo of son Ryan and me, taken in the Badlands when he was a baby. I was in bellbottoms, and the family was headed westward. There is also grandson Alex the Great’s sketch of a pensive eagle contemplating a tiny cloud, which has held pride of place the past decade. He’s heading this way soon and I hope he’ll appreciate his long-term popularity at the venue and contribute some new work.
There’s always room for more great art.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

April 12: FOR REAL LUXURY, THERE'S NO PLACE LIKE HOME



BY S.DERRICKSON MOORE
Some people think of luxury in terms of expense and extravagance.
I prefer two out of three definitions of luxury from Merriam-Webster.com: “a condition or situation of great comfort, ease, and wealth;” and “something that is helpful or welcome and that is not usually or always available.”
Personally, I’d just as soon eliminate that dictionary’s other definition of luxury: “something that is expensive and not necessary.”
I’ve been around the planet for a while, and I’ve never really understood the lure of coveting something just because it costs big bucks, for status or for competitive, slap-in-the-face, dog-in-the-manger motives.
I’ve learned that some luxuries, like many of the best things in life, are free. Several zillionaires in their penthouses in the Northeast were still suffering from dreary skies and frigid temperatures when we were weeks into an early spring, enjoying bright blue skies and flowering trees and shrubs. True, those folks have the means to escape, but they still have to make arrangements to get away and trudge through the gray snowdrifts to get to their helicopters or limousines to transport them to their private jets. We have the luxury of merely opening our doors or looking out our office windows.
I was thinking of those first two definitions of luxury on a recent Saturday morning. I lingered in bed for an extra hour or two (a luxury after a few years of working on Saturdays), before ambling downtown to check out the Las Cruces Farmers’ and Crafts Market. I picked up perfect tomatoes and chose thick stalks of purple asparagus from my two favorite sources. (I won’t reveal booth locations; you should have the luxury — and fun — of discovering your favorite vendors yourself.)
The world was my luxurious oyster. I had the free time, the energy and the mobility (my sometimes-achy knees were cooperating that day) to do whatever I wanted. I could walk the acequias, shop, or stroll around the Mesilla Plaza, one of my favorite places in the world.
I could go swimming for $1 in our beautiful city aquatic center or stop in at my health club where monthly dues (including pool, two whirlpool hot tubs, saunas, fully-equipped workout facilities and an assortment of fun fitness classes) are less than a night’s parking at one of my favorite luxury hotels in Santa Fe. And by the by, that upscale hotel doesn’t offer spa facilities.
And speaking of resorts, I’ve been fortunate to stay in some multi-star doozies. But I’ve never experienced quite the degree of great comfort and ease I’ve felt on a good day in my own cozy little semi-adobe abode, particularly after I’ve done a major cleaning, stocked the fridge and pantry with healthy goodies and maybe cooked and decorated to share a nice dinner with friends and family.
In spite of (or maybe because of) exotic trips, upscale resorts, drinks, meals, yacht cruises and adventures I’ve enjoyed all over the world, I’ve come to realize there’s nothing quite as luxurious as an environment you’ve created to suit yourself.
After a productive day at work, a long walk, or creatively doing nothing on a sunny weekend day, a just-right bed awaits me with soft, clean sheets, colorful quilts and down and memory foam pillows. I once stayed in a place with a pillow concierge, but I’ve “curated” my own perfect collection over the years, thank you very much.
Every piece of art is exactly my taste. The shelves are stocked with intriguing books. The flowers I love most are growing on my back patio. I know how the TV and remote work and how to choose my favorite movies. I can enjoy a very fresh salad made just the way I like it with what I have found to be the world’s best tomatoes and asparagus.
The ultimate luxury in life just might be the ability to appreciate and enjoy what you already have in your own little home, sweet home.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com on Twitter and Tout @DerricksonMoore on Twitter, or call 575-541-5450.

MAKE A RUN FOR THE BORDER




April 5
BY S.DERRICKSON MOORE
It was my 2015 New Year’s resolution to ride the artistic range once again and visit some of my favorite haunts and CCCs (Certified Colorful Characters).
For more than a decade, it was my routine to visit southern New Mexican towns, particularly where we have sister newspapers, at least once a year, and also check out the art scenes in Santa Fe, Taos, Albuquerque and Truth or Consequences.
In recent years, that hasn’t happened as often as I’d like, due to a shrinking staff, escalating workloads and migratory friends and relatives. My Albuquerque BFFs moved to Utah. Grandson Alex the Great, now based in Idaho, was more interested in visiting Las Cruces amigos than going on statewide tours.
Mostly because soulmate Dr. Roger still loves the City Different, I usually get to Santa Fe once a year, and sometimes Taos while we’re in the neighborhood and T or C on the way home.
But somehow, it’s been a few years since I’ve made it to Carlsbad, Roswell, Ruidoso, Silver City, Alamogordo, Hillsboro, or even Deming, and my favorite border towns of Columbus and Palomas.
It’s a shame, since most on the list are within easy day-trip distance. In March, I proved that proximity again — to myself and our new photographer Jett Loe — as we made a run to the border that took us to the Deming Art Center and the Luna Mimbres Museum in Deming, and then south for a trip to Columbus and Palomas.
We missed a few of my favorite attractions. The City of the Sun, a fun, funky and inspiring ecological little borderland community is no longer scheduling visits, according to a resident artist, Maya, who nonetheless sent a friendly message: “But it’s good to hear your voice again after 20 years.”
I can’t believe it’s been quite that long, Maya, but I’ve thought of you and your imaginative adobe home often and wondered how those bricks you were baking in the sun during my last visit have been incorporated in your abode.
I couldn’t seem to make a connection through the only phone number I have for Gina Beadle, the last of the Southwest Surrealists. I thought I just might rudely show up at her door unannounced, but I found her wonderful hacienda surrounded with locked fences and we didn’t have time to track her down through the village grapevines. I hope I’ll find a way to get in touch and discover what artistic antics Gina’s up to these days. In the meantime, we can still admire the colorful walls and signs she’s created in Columbus.
I’d been raving so enthusiastically about some of our borderland wonders that I figured cosmopolitan world traveler Jett was experiencing some reasonable skepticism.
He was a believer long before we reached the second floor of the Deming Luna Mimbres Museum.
“Is this place famous?” he asked our tour guide, Virginia Pool. “Because it should be. This place is amazing.”
Like many of my favorite spots in the Land of Enchantment, the museum must be seen to be fully appreciated.
La Tienda Rosa, aka The Pink Store, in the tranquil-again little town of Palomas, is another place that is best experienced in person.
All the things I remembered fondly were still there — especially Ivonne Romero, who runs the Pink Store with her husband, Sergio. She gave us a tour of a brighter, more vibrant — and considerably more paved — Palomas than I remembered. The tour included a visit to a beautiful new library and the lowdown on everything from custom bootmakers to new pharmacies and supermarkets.
I’ll be writing about some fun day trips in the region, and I plan to return soon myself. If you’ve been hesitating, I hope I can entice you to get out your passport and make a border run of your own soon.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news.com,@DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or 575-541-5450.