Thursday, September 25, 2008

And the Question of the Week Answer is.....

ANSWER: It's Spirit Winds, 2260 Locust St. And P.S. If you're new in town, you might not know that their coffee, tea, lunches and snacks are a great treat after a long walk, too.
Now: What's the question? Read on to find about about teeny knights in semi-shining plastic armor and more.

Fall is the perfect time for an urban amble

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Fall brings the days that make you want to go “Ahhh!”
We’re all ready for a respite after a summer that consisted mostly of dusty wind storms followed by months — not a day here and there or even the usually couple of weeks — but months of monsoons and hot, sticky, stronger-than-swamp-coolers, humid weather.
It was a season-long siege of the kind of barometric pressure that drove me from the Pacific Northwest and the relentless humidity that made me glad to say good-bye to Jamaica and South Florida.
But it looks like most of that’s behind us now. We have passed the crucial transition that my sister Sally used to call “Magic Day” in South Florida, a time when you could finally exit your air-conditioned building or car without being “muggied” by an instant blast of heat and humidity.
Magic Day seemed the best-ever this year, since it offered a relief not only from the triple digit temps that seem somehow natural in high desert summers, but also from this season’s 80 to 100 percent humidity, which seemed downright perverse.
Now is the perfect time of year to linger on the patio with friends, ignoring the weeds if you can, or clearing them out in cool morning hours that tempt you to garden a little longer. It’s a great time to choose the outdoor seats for lunch, brunch or an evening meal at your favorite restaurant. (If they don’t have al fresco seating, this is the best time to try to talk them into adding some patio tables and chairs.).
And it’s prime time for one of my favorite activities, the state-of-the-city urban amble.
Start our with a walk around your neighborhood. You’ll notice things you never see, zipping by at morning drive time, or even on a bicycle.
Not that you can’t multitask during your urban hikes.
Combine your stroll with a fiesta visit, for instance. Check out what’s new, or features you’ve forgotten, around the Meerscheidt Recreation Center, while you’re waiting for Roberto to finish the world’s largest enchilada at the Whole Enchilada Fiesta today.
Budget some extra time to wander around downtown Las Cruces while you’re visiting the Wednesday or Saturday morning Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Markets or the Downtown Ramble through galleries and museums the first Friday of each month. Walk from the Downtown Mall to the library, and while you’re at it, see how the new Las Cruces City Hall is coming along and don’t miss all the entertaining art from the City of Artists Promotional Association lining the construction fence.
Or take a hike from the Mercado de la Mesilla to the Mesilla Plaza while you’re visiting Thursday and Sunday Mercados or one of the upcoming plaza fiestas, like next weekend’s Mesilla Jazz Happening.
Park on a side street and walk Picacho Avenue to check out the antique and second hand shops. Don’t miss Coyote Traders new location, right across from Sweet Old Bob’s S.O.B.. Antiques.
There are lots of fun places to investigate on and around the NMSU campus, too.
During your downtown stroll, stop by the Las Cruces Convention and Visitors Bureau and pick up more ideas, like the free Las Cruces Historical Districts pamphlet, with info for a walking tour of historic buildings in the downtown area , including the Mesquite Historic District and the Alameda Depot Historic District.
Bon voyage.
Introducing the Question of the Week:
My ambles have turned up some intriguing people and places and fun factoids.
Did you know, for instance, that there is a place in Las Cruces where some remarkable tiny objects are neatly organized in several small drawers with labels like “knights” and “duck devils” and two kinds of winged sprites: “regular” and “glow” fairies? If your computer or birthday cake could be improved with a tiny knight in armor or a luminescent Tinkerbell, do you know where to look? Welcome to my new Las Cruces Question of the Week feature. See answer above.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at, (575) 541-5450

Friday, September 19, 2008

Marketing the arts in Las Cruces

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Welcome to Las Cruces: New Mexico’s Secret Cultural Mecca.
Las Cruces: The Un-Santa Fe. Easier. Warmer in the Winter. Bargain Paradise for Art Lovers. Our culture and chile are hotter and fresher.
Las Cruces: Fiesta Capital of the Universe.
Las Cruces and the Three As: Art, Academics, Agriculture.
Las Cruces and the Three Cs : Culture, Chiles, the Cosmos.
Las Cruces: Ground zero for art, literature, drama and history aficionados, home base for exotic day-trip adventures.
From Cloudcroft and Ruidoso to T or C, Deming, Columbus and Silver City, Las Cruces is the hub of southern New Mexico’s Band of Enchantment.
I may be a little rusty, but hey, I used to get big bucks for this in my advertising agency creative director days, summing up the merits of a person, place or thing in a logo…or 25 words or less.
I was pondering all this at the first session of the New Mexico Arts Convention. If you have ideas to share, there’s still time. Artists, art lovers and arts organizations are invited to drop in for the last session from 4 to 8 p.m. Monday Sept. 22 at New Mexico State University’s Corbett Center Student Union. For information, visit
The focus of the gathering is to market our region’s already considerable and rapidly burgeoning cultural resources.
I’m now in my 15th autumn covering the arts and entertainment scene here and I say, it’s about time we got our props.
I’ll remember 2008 as the year I took umbrage on behalf of Las Cruces. As delighted as I was to see Garrison Keillor and his Prairie Home Companion gang broadcast from Pan Am Center, it irked me that he ignored our local talent to import what many of us felt were lesser luminaries, as he characterized our territory as “a place where…you can drive your all-terrain vehicle around at high speed late at night, naked, drinking a beer and firing a shotgun…or maybe you just like to blow things up.”
I also sympathized when readers sent me articles in national publications which praised “quirky” and artistic Truth or Consequences and concluded that T or C citizens had become very creative about making their own fun because there is “nothing to do” in nearby Las Cruces, by implication a cultural wasteland.
Well, I love T or C and admire the town’s inventive spirit, but if they think there’s nothing going on here, they just aren’t getting out enough. T or C has a nice little group of galleries, artists, shops, big water, fun places to dine and stay and those fire dancers. But in the dance category alone, we have New Mexico’s oldest ballet company (Las Cruces Chamber Ballet), the new Pan American Dance Institute, the internationally-renowned Ballet Folklorica de la Tierra del Encanto, DanceSport, flamenco dancers, ballroom dancers, African drum and dance troops, beaucoups performers and classes in everything from Bollywood to square and salsa dancing.
We have hundreds of visual, performing and literary artists, many of them world class. We premiere several original plays here each year, including two that have gone on to Broadway by Mark Medoff, who won a Tony Award and was nominated for an Academy Award and is among those who are making Las Cruces a movie mecca, too. Filmmakers lured by incentives that range from exotic scenery and our new film school, Creative Media Institute at NMSU and DACC film tech training programs, have turned out dozens of films and TV projects in the last couple of years. Charlize Theron and Harrison Ford are among stars who’ve filmed here recently.
We have a remarkable number of theater companies and theaters devoted to performing arts and more in the works, burgeoning gallery districts in Mesilla, Downtown and the University area, art and cultural museums that mount increasingly sophisticated exhibitions focusing on luminaries that include Auguste Rodin, Salvador Dali and King Tut, plus museums devoted to natural history, railroads, farm and ranching, space, and history and archaeology. We have great singers and cutting-edge bands and musical groups.
The Las Cruces Symphony attracts national attention, internationally renowned performers and presents world premieres of commissioned works. Doc Severinsen chose Las Cruces for his farewell performance with our symphony and Mariachi Cobre, performing in a venue that has attracted big names ranging from Elton John and Janet Jackson to George Strait, B.B. King and Warped Tour pop and alternative stars.
I suspect we are home to more noted authors and poets than any city our size anywhere. And we might be able to claim status not only as chile capital but fiesta center of the planet: There’s RenFaire, International Mariachi, Border Book, Whole Enchilada, Rio Grande Powwow, Dia de Los Muertos, and a whole host of other regional fiestas that celebrate everything from arts and crafts to Borderland holidays, balloons, film, jazz, bluegrass, space and ducks.
But there’s no disputing that marketing Las Cruces as a cultural mecca is a challenge: How can we sum up all we have to offer in 25 words or less?
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at, (575) 541-5450.
Do you have a slogan to suggest? Let me know...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Post Vacation Stress Syndrome

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — I should have gotten a clue years ago, when I did a story on Holmes-Rahe Life Changes Scale, also known as the Holmes Stress Scale, which postulates that changes and life events can adversely impact your health. The Holmes-Rahe Scale ranges from 100 points for death of a spouse to 11 points for “minor violations of the law,” and 12 points for “Christmas alone.”
There are some whopping stress totals for events most people would think of us happy happenings such as marriage (50 points) and retirement (45), including two categories that used to surprise me: “change in recreation” (19) and vacation (13).
When you add recreation and vacation to something most of us do on vacation, like experience a change of eating habits (15), you can get a whopping 47 points right away.
Hmm. If the vacation is a honeymoon, you could conclude that getting hitched and celebrating it with a vacation is almost as stressful as losing a spouse, something to ponder.
But now, I’d like to talk about vacations and a syndrome I am identifying as PVSD or Post Vacation Stress Disorder.
I haven’t worked out a point system yet. But I have noticed, now that I am up to a whopping four weeks of vacation a year, that there are several stressful elements involved.
Planning a vacation is a lot like planning a conventional news story. Both involve the Five Ws: who, where, what, when and why, plus a great big great H, for “how.”
Many employers, including mine, put a lot of pressure on you to declare the “when” as soon as possible, preferably several months or even a year in advance. But a lot of that is contingent on the “who” element, and many of us have several people to consider in our plans, from the colleagues whose workloads will be impacted by out absence to the friends and relatives we hope to vacation with or visit. Then we have to consider where we want to go or meet with others and what we want to do.
Then there are all the hows: how to get there, how to make all the transportation and lodging arrangements, how to get all our work done in advance or arrange for others to take care of things, and how to fit everything we need for skiing, snowboarding, rock climbing, horseback riding, art exhibitions, nights on the town and more ... all in one suitcase or carry-on luggage, or the trunk of a car, or a backpack or the back of a yak, depending on mode of transportation.
Then you have to tackle vacation communication issues, which should rate at least 50 stress points, I decided on my last excursion.
I’ve long maintained that being completely out of touch could become the ultimate luxury in the new millennium. I struggled to keep up with my e-mail at antique computers and confusing office centers and in-room keyboards at various resorts and B & Bs. I realized I was wasting precious vacation hours grappling with unfamiliar systems. But the alternative is to pack your own laptop and worry about losing it or compulsively working ... or to return to face several zillion e-mails and many disgruntled souls who wonder why you ignored their urgent messages.
You probably couldn’t explain, because your cell phone wasn’t working in several remote areas you frequented.
In the end, we worked it all out. I’m almost over the malady I caught on the plane home, so I think I can weather the stress of the unexpected bills from the emergency ward visit, the humongous cell phone roaming charges, the whopping credit card bills and all the other little surprises.
The PVST stress point total and other costs? Quite a lot.
Getting away from the salt mines for two whole weeks and spending time in beautiful places with people I love and miss? Priceless.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

War of Weeds

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Poison. Fire. Whacking. Yanking. Imported goats.
It’s an all-out war with formidable foes and Las Crucens are using diverse weapons of mass destruction.
A former neighbor took a blow torch to his, after waiting until his enemies grew tall and strong, lurking in surly, tenacious groups from the back patio to the front yard and spilling out into the curb strips. Maybe he figured he was picking on opponents close to his own size, so the violent fire power was justified. After all, he was clearly out-numbered.
Our conscientious janitor Bobby resorted to a substance that reminded me of the Vietnam-era Agent Orange excesses. One undiluted, full-tilt toxic attack upon encroaching forces cleared the interior, as coughing employees streamed out of the building. But one foe lingered defiantly by the back door, and still appeared to be in blooming good health a few weeks later. Others have established strong outposts in the parking lot, sometimes emerging from their subterranean barracks to break through blacktop and concrete.
Last week, I watched my neighbor Lois as she quietly, neatly — even artistically — disciplined her burgeoning enemies, while she trimmed the borders of her pretty little green patch of lawn with a weed whacker.
One of my former newsroom colleagues adopted a goat to help her cope with hers.
Auggh! Weeds, weeds, everywhere! What can you say about the ubiquitous bumper crop of 2008? What can you do about them?
After monitoring the battles of others, I’ve adopted a low-tech green approach. I pull them out by the roots, doing my best to keep after them on a daily, or at least a weekly, basis.
Tempting as it is to grab a hunk en route to the mail box or on the way to the door after work, after a few encounters with dangerously prickly insurgents, I try to remember to always grab a pair of gloves first.
And I am learning to heed the advice of an amiga who cleared her surly backyard jungle this year: “Never wear cheap gardening gloves.”
I wore a double pair of the flimsier kind to clear out a patch of weeds around my pretty blue yucca, which may have decided I was mounting a clear-earth offensive. I ran afoul of a very efficient defensive stalk-tip spike, and learned that one quick yucca jab could fill my thin gloves with enough blood for a vampire cocktail party.
Gardening may be a calming hobby, but weeding can be a blood sport.
So now I keep my new, heavy duty leather gloves with reinforced palms by the door when I head out to do battle. And I have abandoned my plan to hire small neighborhood kids to yank weeds, my grandparents’ strategy. They paid us a penny per weed. With inflation, the going rate would probably bankrupt me, anyway.
And I wouldn’t want to put tots in harm’s way. Some of the stuff tenacious enough to thrive in the desert comes with everything from barbs and hooks to a kind of organic Velcro. There can be some nasty bugs and critters lurking and buzzing among the weeds, too.
After weeks and months of the infestation, the intensity of the war still comes as a surprise to many of us who moved to high desert country to escape such trials.
And it seems especially unfair if we sacrificed green lawns for rockscapes. I purchased yards of supposedly weed-proof fabric, a wheelbarrow and truckloads of paver slabs and pretty, rose-colored rock to surround my adobe abode and hired two separate crews in recent years to install it all artistically.
My son gave me a leaf blower, which I faithfully used to wrangle leaves and debris so weeds could not gain a toehold...or roothold.
But this year’s one-two punch of dust storms followed by months of muggy monsoons clearly foiled our best-laid weed-proof rockscape plans.
I noticed this week that the only places weeds are not growing are in the enriched, fertilized, mulch-topped soil of my two narrow planting beds and container gardens. Go figure.
I’ve also noticed that the most diligent weeders fight a losing battle if your patch of land is surrounded by neighbors who are less conscientious. Are we our brother’s keepers and neighbors’ weeders? Should we organize neighborhood posses and devise strategic plans?
But some days, I must confess, I look out at strangely green Picacho Peak and the newly emerald Organ Mountains with awe and wonder. I squint a little and pretend I am in the hills of Ireland or in the pre-cattle, pre-population-explosion olden days when, we are told, much of New Mexico was verdant meadows and plains, rivers of grass studded with roaming buffalo.
Maybe it’s time to bring back the bison herds.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at, (575) 541-5450

Friday, September 5, 2008

Gone Fishing

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
COEUR D’ALENE, IDAHO — Alexander the Great caught a boisterous little bass on his very first cast off a pier on Lake Coeur d’Alene. Within a few hours, his catch-and-release total had mounted to 32 and I began to wonder if my grandson’s birthday rod and reel would be permanently bonded to his right arm.
I had planned family activities like hiking, canoeing, kayaking, swimming and maybe even horseback riding during my long-awaited vacation in the Pacific Northwest.
But once son Ryan presented Alex with his fishing gear, it was all over. They joined me for meals, a trip to an amusement park, an occasional swim or hike to festivals and art galleries, but if there were any opportunities to cast a line, the boys were there.
The fishing gene is clearly dominant in our tribe, and seems to get stronger if it skips a generation.
If my trout-frightening proclivities are less impressive, it is not for want of trying. I was the seventh granddaughter on my mom’s side of the family, and I think Grandpa was pretty disheartened in those years before his three grandsons finally got around to being born. As a result, I, along with any of my other sympathetic girl cousins he could recruit, got a basic education in archery, canoeing, shooting and fly fishing. My dad’s family were avid fishers, too, so I spent a lot of weekends rigging gear, wading through rivers, cleaning creels and gutting trout.
Frankly, I would rather have been playing with dolls, swimming or reading, but I tried to be a good sport. I feigned enthusiasm when happy campers shouted, “There’s a hatch on!” and deserted a warm and cozy campfire at dusk to attempt to fool hungry fish with graceful casts of hand-tied flies.
Then one day, it occurred to me that gutting a live trout is really very icky, for both me and the fish, no matter how quickly and skillfully it’s done.
This revelation was followed by an epiphany: Fishing is just an excuse for meditating around water, and I didn’t need an excuse. I filled my creel with wildflowers and waded home to enjoy the rest of my life.
I predict that my son and grandson will never have such a moment. The fishing force is strong in Ryan and young Alex. Their Jedi Knight quests in lakes, streams and oceans will continue as long as they draw breath in this life and, I suspect, if heaven is truly a place of dreams we design ourselves, in the next life, too.
There is no mistaking the reactions of a born fisherman: the thrill of the hunt, the cool evaluation of a likely fishing hole, the quickening pulse at the sight of a bent rod, the willingness of even a creature of the night on summer vacation to willingly rise at 6 a.m., if the fish are biting.
And there’s no question in my mind that the whole fishing thing is a matter of nature rather than nurture. Without any fish fanatics in his nuclear family, Ryan as a toddler still managed to rig his own gear with a stick and string, so he could fish in plentiful Oregon mud puddles until he was able to communicate to his parents his deep need to stalk salmon in the wild.
Alex, who spent many of his formative years in high desert country, recently turned 12 in the fecund fishing territory of Northern Idaho, and he’s making up for lost time.
Hanging with Alex in Coeur d’Alene put me in mind of my own days as a free-range child, back when relatively young kids could disappear for a whole Saturday or after school with no cell phones or angst, as long as we were home by dusk.
And that’s another thing that fishing is all about: freedom. More than dinner, conquest, sport or the thrill of the hunt, I think fishing is about saying goodbye, if just for a little while, to work and school and stressful relationships and urban problems, to movies and TV and iPods and PCs and video games and quests for material success.
When it comes to opportunities to commune with nature, with no demands or foes other than wily sparring partners with fins, I suspect there are all days when we all yearn to post a sign that the free-range child within us all lives on.
Gone fishing.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

It's Full-Tilt Fiesta Season

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Full-Tilt Fiesta Season (FTFS) seemed to achieve full bloom very early this year.
It caught me a little off guard. Maybe it’s because I left the state for my first two-week vacation in 15 years and landed in a place where kids don’t have to go back to school until after Labor Day. Or maybe it’s the screwy weather: the summer monsoons and muggy weather that usually last for a couple of weeks in July and August, this year have stretched from June into September. And some events snuck up on me: The Community Foundation Ball (formerly the Mayor’s Ball), was in August instead of September and many of us seemed not quite prepared for the 2008 FTFS kickoff.
And it’s the biggest kickoff ever.
Most FTFS experts agree that the opening quack is Deming’s Great American Duck Races. Then there’s the Labor Day first down with the Hatch Chile Festival, New Mexico Wine Harvest Festival and the Franciscan Festival of the Arts and almost a dozen fiestas from Cloudcroft and Ruidoso to Silver City. Hillsboro, despite last season’s “last Apple Festival” declarations, couldn’t bear to resign from the festivities and this year replaced their traditional celebrations with an event local wags are calling the “UnApple Festival.”
From there, we’ll traditionally be in fiesta mode for the rest of the year.
This weekend, we added a new twist, a day I’ll call FTFF (Full-tilt Fiesta Friday). The Doña Ana Art’s Council’s ArtsHop, the big fall opener for artists and art galleries with a record 18 participating art galleries, iss on the same day as the opening of the Rodin Exhibit at the Las Cruces Museum of Art and the Downtown Ramble.
If you miss a FTFF event or two, don’t despair, there’s still a lot of full-tilt fiesta-ing in store for 2008. You can still catch the last day of the 28th annual Elephant Butte Balloon Regatta. Or lift off with the fans of balloons and crystal dunes joining for the White Sands Balloon Invitational Sept. 20 and 21.
Mesilla will host the Diez y Seis de Septiembre Fiesta, celebrating Mexican Independence Day, on Sept. 12 and 14 on the Mesilla Plaza.
The Mesilla Valley Maze opens Sept. 27 and runs through Oct. 26 on the Lyle Family farms on Picacho Avenue, where the u-pick gardens are already open. Stock up.
Save some room for the world’s largest enchilada, and some time for parades, music, dancing and more chile treats at The Whole Enchilada Fiesta Sept. 26 through 28.
October starts out with the Southern New Mexico State Fair & Rodeo, Oct. 1 to 5. All that down-home state fair fun segues into the sophisticated 7th Annual Mesilla Jazz Happening Oct. 4 and 5 at two venues at the Mercado Plaza and the Mesilla Plaza. Later that month, it will be time for more food, entertainment and wine at La Viña Wine Festival, billed as New Mexico’s oldest wine festival, Oct. 18 and 19 in La Union.
Get your costumes ready. You’ll need them for Halloween and other dress-up occasions coming soon. Dress as your favorite difunto (dead person) at Dia de los Muertos celebrations Nov. 1 and 2 in Mesilla. Build a altar on the Mesilla Plaza, help break a giant piñata and join a closing candlelight procession. I understand there will be some new inspiration this year: in the works is a unique “Nuclear Meltdown” exhibit at the Purple Lizard, featuring ghoulish brides in vintage wedding gowns.
Go really retro for the 37th Annual Renaissance ArtsFaire, Nov. 1 and 2 at Young Park. Shop for the holidays and enjoy arts and crafts, music, live theater, dancing and gourmet food treats
The International Mariachi Conference & Concert Nov. 5 through 9 offers a chance to see top international and budding student talents at showcases and concerts, along with a mariachi mass and a Parque Festival day of entertainment and cultural activities.
December offers a round of holiday activities, including New Mexico State University’s night of luminarias and the traditional Christmas Eve on Mesilla’s Plaza.
We’ll have many more 2008 FTFS special events to look forward to, including some premieres for all the films being made here, along with theater and gallery and symphony openings and presentations, school and church events and pageants, arts shows and some surprises.
It’s Full-Tilt Fiesta Season! Party on, fiesta animals!
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at, (575) 541-5450