Thursday, August 27, 2009

A blanket endorsement for Las Cruces Style

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — We have our own sense of style, our own symphony and ballet. Dances and symphonic works have been inspired by and named for us. Las Cruces boasts creative museums and art galleries, a growing colony of renowned artists, writers and filmmakers and a burgeoning national and international reputation that acknowledges our distinctive blend of art, chile-infused cuisine, multicultural influences and multimedia fiesta attitudes.
And now we have our own blanket. I was tipped off by a Las Cruces Style reader who prefers to remain anonymous that Pendleton’s fall catalog features “a tribute to us:” a Las Cruces blanket.
I leapt online and sure enough, there it was, next to a picture of a pretty blanket in hues of desert sand, adobe red and turquoise: “The name Las Cruces (‘the crosses’) references the historic city in New Mexico where Hispanic and Native American cultures meet culturally and artistically. Earthtones reflect the ancient landscape along the Rio Grande.”
I felt elated, vindicated in my tastes and querencia choice. I thought back to that day in 1994 when I first proposed the Las Cruces Style column.
“Does Las Cruces have style?” mused our then-managing editor Harold Cousland.
I did some research and made my case with a full-page feature that summed up our style bona fides from the dawn of creation through the mid-1990s.
And I was not without authority for the task, having written some of the first newspaper articles on Santa Fe style during the dawn of the City Different’s mass-marketing frenzy. I knew and interviewed many of those who first popularized Santa Fe’s image in the 20th century, from Stanley Marcus (of Neiman Marcus fame, a savvy marketer and Santa Fe resident), to artists like Georgia O’Keeffe and tastemakers like the Pink Adobe’s Rosalee Murphy.
In short, I knew where Santa Fe Style came from, and I realized Las Cruces also has the right stuff.
In fact, enough of it to keep me in Las Cruces Style columns and news and features (and to contribute to features in magazines and a couple of books) for the next 15 years.
And as any style maven, pundit or arbiter will attest, getting our own Pendleton blanket is a big deal.
I grew up with some of those artistic and historic blankets at my grandparents’ resort in Michigan.
And as fate would have it, I would get to see where the legendary blankets are made, early in my career, as features and city editor in Portland, Ore., which was then corporate headquarters for some big names in style: Jantzen, White Stag and Pendleton.
I caught Bob Christnacht, Pendleton’s Home Division Manager, just as he was leaving for an August visit to the Santa Fe Indian Market. Their design teams make regular trips to the Southwest for inspiration and he’s personally familiar with Las Cruces, he said.
Designers agreed they’d come up with a blanket that captured our je ne sais quois and joie de vivre. Or, as Christnacht put it, “We decided it felt like you guys down there.”
It should also be noted that I did an extensive site search and it seems that neither Santa Fe nor Albuquerque has a Pendleton blanket to call their own.
So curl up and enjoy our blanket endorsement. Our time has come.
¡Viva Las Cruces Style!
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Pendleton warms up to Las Cruces Style

About the Las Cruces Blanket
Introduced: 2009
Manufacturer: Pendleton Woolen Mills
Pattern: Based on Pendleton Archival patterns from the early 1900s
How much? Queen: $288, King: $338, Sham $98
Las Cruces Robe/Shawl: (Available in 2010): $198
Info:, (800) 760-4844

Pendleton’s history
Source: Pendleton Woolen Mills history,
The company’s origins date to English weaver Thomas Kay, who came to America in 1863 and opened his own Oregon mill which began making Indian trade blankets in the late 1800s. His daughter Fannie learned the mill business and married retail merchant C.P. Bishop. Their three sons founded the business that was to become Pendleton Woolen Mills. For six generations, the Bishop family has owned and operated the company.
From the 1909 purchase of a scouring mill at the railhead along the Oregon Trail in Pendleton, Ore., through lean years during the Great Depression and the war years when the company produced blankets for the military, to the present time, the Bishop family has produced Indian blankets, robes and shawls which are highly prized by much of the Native American population. The company operates eight facilities and 75 retail stores. Pendleton products are sold in the U.S.A., Canada, Japan and China.

Pendleton warms up to Las Cruces style

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — We’ve been developing our own distinctive style. And now, we have our own blanket. The legendary Pendleton Woolen Mills has produced the Las Cruces blanket, a tribute to the city of crosses.
“The name Las Cruces (‘the crosses’) references the historic city in New Mexico where Hispanic and Native American cultures meet culturally and artistically. Earthtones reflect the ancient landscape along the Rio Grande,” according to a description in the 2009 Pendleton Catalog.
“It’s a woven, banded type of pattern. It’s a really cool blanket,” said Bob Christnacht, Pendleton’s Home Division Manager, in a telephone interview this week from the company’s headquarters in Portland, Ore.
“It was designed in-house by Jessica Camblin and Wintour Dewey,” who were inspired by a visit here, he said.
“We sell more blankets in the Southwest than anyplace else and we make a trip out there every year. We saw this old pattern in the shop of one of our blanket collectors,” Christnacht said, and it influenced the final Las Cruces blanket design, described in the catalog as a “reinterpretation of a timeless banded pattern from the Pendleton archives.”
The inspirational blanket dates back nearly a century, he said.
“It was a very early design from the 1900s, probably in the teens,” Christnacht said. "We didn’t name blanket designs back then. But when you consider the colors and the crosses in the pattern, we decided it felt like you guys down there. It’s a really interesting place.”
Designer Connie Hines of Connie Hines Interior Design in Las Cruces thinks the nod from Pendleton is another indication that Las Cruces is developing its own distinctive style image in the world.
“I keep telling people that the style is not so locked in, but if you’re here for a while, you’ll pick up the essences,” Hines said. "The cross patterns are a very fitting look for many reasons. This is a very spiritual place and everyone picks up on that. There’s an artsy approach. We have our own spin on just about everything: we turn it a little and massage it until it feels like Las Cruces."
The first Las Cruces blankets were produced in April and could have a shot at becoming a classic.
The colors are desert sand, a rich adobe red and turquoise, with lighter colors dominant on one side and darker hues on the reverse.
The blanket is a blend of “82 percent pure virgin wool and 18 percent cotton with Ultrasuede trim,” and it’s in Pendleton’s top-of-the-line blanket category, selling for $338 for king and $288 for queen bed sizes. A matching Las Cruces sham is available for $98.
And for those who think New Mexican and even Southwestern style begins and ends with Santa Fe, it’s worth noting that the 2009 online Pendleton catalog offers no Santa Fe items in the “blanket” category, though the City Different is acknowledged with a vase, embroidered towels, sheets and pillowcases.
But no blanket.
And in 2010, the Las Cruces pattern will be introduced in the company’s most popular “robe” or “shawl” form, the size of a standard twin-size blanket, for about $198, Christnacht said.
The robes can have a very long life in continuous production, and lasting appeal for blanket aficionados.
“We’ve been producing the Chief Joseph robe since 1927 and the Harding since 1924,” Christnacht said.
The blankets are also enduring favorites with collectors and have proven to be sound investments fetching big prices.
“There’s a huge market now for the old ones. If you could find one of the original blankets (that inspired the Las Cruces blanket design) it would fetch at least $3,000,” Christnacht said.
Las Cruces — the blanket and the city — will get international exposure through the company’s marketing, which includes an online catalog, eight facilities and 75 retail stores as well as specialty shops and boutiques. Pendleton products are sold in the U.S.A., Canada, Japan and China.
“We’ve already had inquiries about the Las Cruces blanket,” said Robert Ramirez of Galeria on the Plaza, 2410 Calle de Principal, in Mesilla, the only shop in the Las Cruces area that carries Pendleton blankets. He said the shop will special order the blankets on request.
They are also available online at or call (800) 760-4844 to request a catalog.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at, (575) 541-5450.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

It's Full-Tilt Fiesta Season

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
Ladies and gentlemen, y todos los niños, get out those maracas, dust off your sombreros and Carmen Miranda hats, unfurl your folklorico skirts, shine your dress boots and gently buff your turquoise and silver squash blossom necklaces.
We’re heading into Full-Tilt Fiesta Season (FTFS).
It’s hard to believe that this will be my 16th Las Cruces FTFS, proof positive that time flies when you’re having fun.
And apparently we all are. Fiesta spirit seems to endure even after the hits of recent years, which have included floods, droughts, fires, those explosive gas price hikes and more recent economic woes.
It’s true that the Hillsboro Apple Festival called it quits, but like many artistic endeavors, including art galleries, the tendency has been to regroup and reopen. Faced with a quixotic local apple crop and time slot jammed with festivals, the town simply decided to funnel that energy into other events during less crowded times of the year.
Of course, finding that kind of time period is getting increasingly tough. There are still a few fiesta dead zones here and there, in the most oppressive heat of summer after Fourth of July blow outs and during a post-holiday fiesta burnout period the first of each year.
But right now, we’re heading into prime time of FTFS, which starts not with a bang or a whimper, but a quack, at this weekend’s Great American Duck Races in Deming. Las Cruces is upping the ante with another early entry in the FTFS sweepstakes, the brand new MainStreet SalsaFest from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. next Saturday, along Main Street between Las Cruces Avenue and Griggs Street. Hopefully, it will help encourage local fiesta fans to follow the migration of one of our longest-running weekly sources of community fun, the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market, as it moves to a new location in that block.
From then on, we’ll be pretty much going full-tilt through New Year’s. Labor Day weekend attractions include the New Mexico Wine Harvest Festival, Hatch Chile Festival, Franciscan Festival of the Arts and many other regional attractions (see today’s SunLife feature).
Tour galleries, meet artists and see their latest wok at the Doña Arts Council Arts Hop Sept. 11. Then it’s on to Fort Selden Frontier Days, and the Diez y Seis de Septiembre Festival in Mesilla, both on Sept. 12 and 13, the White Sands Balloon Invitational Sept. 19 and 20, The Whole Enchilada Festival Sept. 25 through 27, and the Southern New Mexico State Fair and Rodeo Sept. 30 to Oct. 4.
Fiesta planners have adopted a new strategy and in October we won’t have to try to cram all that wine and song into just one weekend. This year, the Mesilla Jazz Happening will be Oct. 3 and 4 at the Mercado Plaza and the Mesilla Plaza, and the La Viña Wine Festival will be Oct. 10 and 11.
Deadheads and RenFaire fans get the same kind of break this year, since two of our most popular celebrations don’t fall on the same weekend.
But you may be able to multipurpose your Halloween costume — especially if you’re an angel or a calavera (skeleton)— for Dias de los Muertos celebrations around Las Cruces and from Oct. 31 to Nov. 2 on Mesilla’s Plaza.
November highlights include what’s billed as southern New Mexico’s largest cultural event, the Doña Ana Art’s Council’s Renaissance ArtsFaire Nov. 7 and 8 and the Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference Nov. 13 through 15, which includes concerts, a Mariachi Mass and the Parque Festival.
December is packed with festive and spiritual celebrations, pageants and festivals, some with historic roots that stretch back centuries. The Tortugas Pueblo invites the community for events that include a pilgrimage up A Mountain, dancing ceremonies and a traditional albondigas feast during their Virgen de Guadalupe Festival, always held Dec. 10, 11 and 12. There are traditional luminaria displays at NMSU and Doña Ana Plaza, and the Christmas Eve lumniarias and carols on Mesilla’s Plaza.
There are holiday concerts, church events, bazaars and bake sales, holiday Downtown Rambles and lots more.
And there are always a few fiesta surprises, I noted again when I was writing about the 2009 Great America Duck Race for today’s feature.
This year the GADR surprises were, like God, found in the details. On the entertainment roster, I discovered a performance described as “Honky Tonk Gospel,” a musical genre new to me, plus an appearance by “the Deming Varsity Mariachi Group Amistad, under the direction of Albert Valverde.”
Having arrived here just in time for the birth of the Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference, I can’t tell you how pleased I am to now be able to say that I live in a state where mariachi is a varsity sport. I’ve been musing ever since about what a mariachi varsity letter sweater would look like. I know I want one.
¡Viva Full-Tilt Fiesta Season!
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Thursday, August 13, 2009

How do you explain the magic of the Land of Enchantment?

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Lately, I’ve hosted a steady stream of visitors and have been fielding a lot of inquiries from long-lost friends, relatives and colleagues who are suddenly intrigued by New Mexico.
Is it another harmonic convergence?
Or maybe a desire to escape from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, earthquakes, urban flight, urban blight and assorted other disasters rare in high desert country? (Maybe God figures being the birthplace of the atom bomb and a repository for so much nuclear garbage was more than enough.)
I’ve found myself hard pressed to even try to explain why this is my querencia, my favorite spot on the planet.
And frankly, there are some ungenerous days when I don’t want to, when I remember a few years ago, when it seemed I could get anywhere in Doña Ana County in ten or 15 minutes. Heading home at rush hour, I muse whether it’s really a good idea to name a major thoroughfare after an infamous death march ... or could it be a great strategy to discourage faint-of-heart newcomers?
And a weird ditty from my wild youth floats through my brain, from “Do You Believe in Magic,” that immortal Lovin’ Spoonful hit: “I’ll tell you about the magic, and it’ll free your soul... But it’s like trying to tell a stranger ‘bout rock and roll.”
How do you explain, in an e-mail, a brief visit or a column? How do you convey the magic of the Land of Enchantment?
A visit to an adobe plaza or two helps, along with a few scenic churches, a pueblo or the right museum or art gallery.
Chiles must be involved, but it should be a full-spectrum sensory experience. You cannot answer our official state question (Red or green?) until you understand the multimedia implications. The sight of red chile ristras against warm adobe walls and lapis blue skies. The aroma of roasting green chiles wafting in open air markets. The euphoric endorphin high resulting from a healthy diet with all the basic food groups: chile rellenos, chile cornbread, chile enchiladas and tacos and chile-enhanced wontons and teriyaki and molé and sundaes ...
Fiestas are a big part of the equation, too: Heart-warming, pulse-raising festivals that celebrate harvests, fast ducks and slow-simmered giant enchiladas and loving (and sometimes slightly eccentric and whimsical) altars and parades honoring our dear departed and their lives well-lived.
If you don’t believe in magic now, chances are you will when you see how we can infuse entire communities with transcendent Christmas spirit, armed with nothing more than a bunch of brown paper bags, little votive candles and handfuls of one of our infinite desert resources: sand.
The same magic prevails in our visual and performing arts. A hunk of wood evokes a saint. People, places and things come alive with personal meaning though an artist’s investment of insight, time, pigments and brush stokes.
Centuries of passion can be distilled and conveyed in the flash of a folklorico dancer’s skirt, the spirited song of a mariachi musician.
I’ve seen strong—and normally unsentimental— men and women get teary at the sight of a sunrise or sunset over the Organ Mountains, the wistful howls of a coyote chorus, our vast indigo starry nights, double or even triple rainbows and that first bite of a piquant chile pepper.
And it’s tough to explain the drama of lightning and thunderstorms echoing through desert canyons, or the aroma of mesquite and profound gratitude that permeates the desert during a cloudburst after a long drought.
It came as no surprise to me to learn that “Singing in the Rain” was written by a Southern New Mexican: Nacio Herb Brown of Deming.
Explain the magic? Maybe, you just have to be here.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Quite a good news patch...and then some

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — British native Matthew Wells, in town this week to do stories for the BBC on the Spaceport and the lawsuit to bring Geronimo’s remains home, summed it up very well, I thought.
“Quite a good news patch you have right now!” Wells opined.
And he didn’t know the half of it, I thought, just a tiny percentage, in fact.
I reflected on our nice little news patch during a busy week that included tracking down comments on the impact of having the 2010 HGTV Dream House in New Mexico.
John G. Hadley, president-elect of Builders Association Industry of Southern New Mexico, told me he thought it would help draw attention to New Mexico’s lead (of several thousand years, before current “trend-setters”) in adobe and green building, to say nothing of helping to put us on the map (correctly, in the U.S.) with millions of HGTV viewers.
“At this point, anything positive would help. I moved here six years ago from New Jersey and when I tried to fly out here, I was told to go over to the international desk,” he quipped.
A few hours later, I was reflecting how prominently we are on the map, in some circles at least, as I went to the set of “Refuge” to interview actress Linda Hamilton. Director and cowriter of the film is long-time Las Crucen Mark Medoff, who has twice taken plays from Las Cruces to Broadway. “Children of a Lesser God,” as most of us know, won a Tony Award and garnered an Academy Award nomination for Mark. Marlee Matlin won a best actress Oscar for her role in the film. Medoff has gone on to bring several of his original movies —and premiere many plays and even an opera — here and helped found NMSU’s Creative Media Institute.
I recognized several seasoned pros on the set, along with students, and a crossover star: internationally-renowned artist Stephen Hansen, whose whimsical works are in the Smithsonian and in galleries, embassies and other prestigious sites throughout the world. Stephen is art director for the film.
I’m used to explaining that stars are nothing new in our territory. Recent blockbusters like the “Transformers” flicks and the latest Indiana Jones saga were filmed here and not too long ago, Academy Award-winners Charlese Theron and Kim Basinger were hanging out on the Downtown Mall, shooting “The Burning Plain.”
And I just learned that Oscar-nominated director Guillermo Arriaga is slated to appear at the Mesilla Valley Film Society’s early public screening of “Burning Plain” slated for Sept. 12 here, a week before the national opening. If you want to see it in less-privileged places, like New York or Los Angeles, you’ll just have to wait a week, ahem.
And while we’re talking star power — the celestial kind — we have some interesting connections there, too, that date back long before X-Prize and Spaceport America.
Most of the giants of the space age have worked in or visited our territory and several of them made their homes here. Frank Borman, once a Picacho Hills neighbor of mine, was commander of Apollo 8, the first mission to orbit the moon in1968. Harrison Schmitt, who grew up in Silver City, took a lunar lander to the moon’s surface in 1972.
And I was lucky enough to do several fun interviews with late, great Mesilla resident Clyde Tombaugh, who discovered what was proclaimed the ninth planet in our solar system. (Many of us reject the recent, misguided “dwarf” planet reclassification and continue to proudly wear our “PLUTO’S A PLANET, DAMMIT!” T-shirts to show our support.)
And again, this is just the tip of the White Sands dune. I reflected recently on how many renowned and fascinating people I’ve had a chance to have a natter and a chinwag with here. It’s a motley crew of stars of stage, screen, politics, religion, literature, music, science and more that includes such names as Elton John, Vince Gill, Elie Wiesel, Alice “The Color Purple” Walker, Gloria Steinem and Gloria Estefan ...
Often, they were people I never had a chance to meet, or met only briefly, in more crowded, boring places like New York, Los Angeles, Palm Beach, Santa Fe and Portland, Ore. Here, they tend to relax and take time to chat with students, residents, visitors, and, yes, journalists.
People here are sweet and kind as a rule. And, having grown up with astronauts for neighbors and the occasional superstars hanging out, there is a pervasive, multicultural, graceful and egalitarian graciousness extended to all human beings, regardless of race, creed, color, or level of fame.
And I thought, once again, about a prediction when I left many of the less exciting mega-metropolises I’ve lived in to more here: “Las Cruces is the place where the great souls of the planet will come to pitch their tents, circle their wagons and make their last American stand.”
Quite a good news patch, indeed.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

LC from a British perspective

“O would some Power the gift to give us
To see ourselves as others see us!”
~ Robert Burns (1769-1796), Scottish national poet

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — After 9-11, when many were thinking about leaving Ground Zero, Matthew Wells decided it was time to make a move he’d been contemplating for years.
“I’d been hankering to come and live here. Seven-and-a-half years ago, I decided to move from London to New York City,” said Wells, 43, a veteran print and broadcast journalist who covers “Wall Street to Broadway and everything in between,” including a vast beat that encompasses news and feature stories from coast to coast.
He was in town this week to do stories for the British Broadcasting System (BBC) on Spaceport America and on the controversial lawsuit seeking to bring Geronimo’s remains home to New Mexico from a grave in Ft. Sill, Okla.
Wells attracts an international audience during assignments for BBC News, free-lance projects and his online site, “Vindaloo: words, pictures and sounds from U.S.-based journalist, Matthew Wells” at
His recent reports include a story about desperate downsizing in Michigan: “ ‘Smart decline’ — That’s a great euphemism for shrinking. Flint, Mich., has already shrunk, but quite a few people still don't accept it.”
He just finished a two-part series for the BBC on a surprising American economic success story: “The Dakota Tiger. Grrr. There’s at least one place in the U.S. that’s going great guns. North Dakota’s economy is doing just fine, and that’s partly because they produce things. Tangible things, not derivatives or marketing strategies,” he reports.
His eclectic and sometimes eccentric interests could inspire comparisons that range from CBS-TV’s late, roving, “On the Road” reporter Charles Kuralt to Alexis de Tocqueville, the legendary French historian who roamed America in the 1800s and wrote about our fledgling democracy and its people.
“I think I’m more naturally skeptical than de Tocqueville, as I would hope a good journalist would be,” he said.
After studies at Oxford that focused on “modern history,” Wells, a journalist since 1983, has had a varied career that included writing and editing for newspapers and documentaries, and a stint as a TV news producer for Great Britain’s Channel 4, which he describes as a kind of “PBS-style news and arts program: HBO meets Nightline.”
He’s always had an instinct for trends, interviewing Kurt Cobain, “before Nirvana got big. A lot of American bands came to Europe then,” he said.
“I’d been visiting New York since 1994, but I really didn’t have impressions of America and really didn’t discover the rest of America” until the last decade, he said.
“It’s a much more individual, complex and unpredictable place than I thought it was.”
He thinks the U.S. will experience transitions in this century that are comparable to the decline of the British empire in the 20th century.
“I think America will be increasingly less significant to terms of world power and is not going to be as dominant in economic and cultural matters.”
As a student of history, he said, he appreciates America’s position as a leader of democracy: “You were advanced and you advanced the rest of the world.”
But in recent years, in the eyes of the world, he said, “There has recently been too much self-confidence. America shot first and asked questions later. And there is the perception that America has been selfish in its spending habits.”
Yet in his travels, often to remote and rural areas of the U.S., he has been intrigued by how different American communities and their residents are from international perceptions and political and cultural stereotypes.
He’s had some multicultural adventures of his own in the U.S., too. He met his Iraqi-American wife, Heather Raffo, a Michigan native, “when she came to my apartment to record a voiceover for a documentary." Now he and Raffo, an award-winning playwright and actress and author of the well-reviewed “9 Parts of Desire: Stories of Iraqi Women,” have a six-month-old daughter, Safia.
His far-flung concerns were evident during a tour of Mesilla. He mused about baby-proofing his New York apartment, while wielding his microphone to collect tidbits of history about the Gadsden Purchase and anecdotes about the Double Eagle ghosts and the Mesilla sites where Billy the Kid was tried and incarcerated.
“Quite a good news patch you have here,” he proclaimed, but stressed that he will be concentrating on his original two assignments this trip, interviewing southern New Mexico sources about commercial space travel and collecting insights on legendary Apache leader Geronimo.
“It’s quite a story, and I’m intrigued by the Skull and Bones Society angle,” he said, and long-held claims that in 1918, members of Skull and Bones, including Prescott Bush, the father of George H.W. Bush and grandfather of George W. Bush, invaded Geronimo’s grave at Fort Sill and stole his skull, bones and other items buried with him.
“I went to visit the Skull and Bones Society at Yale myself in 2004, because I thought it was quite amazing that both candidates, Bush and John Kerry, were members of the same secret society,” he said.
Wells said his BBC pieces on this area will likely be posted in about two weeks on his Web site at
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at