Thursday, November 5, 2009

City changes for the better

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — The only constant is change.
As Phyllis Franzoy and I reminisced this week about our first Las Cruces International Mariachi conference meeting in the Sun-News publisher’s office 16 years ago, I thought about the little seeds planted then that resulted in more than 12,000 students of Mariachi music and folklorico dance who have gone on to form groups, breath new life into old traditions and in some cases, even come back to teach this year’s classes themselves.
That same year, ArtsHop, another venerable tradition, was born.
Not long after, they were joined by other innovative programs and institutions, things that have become traditions: Court Youth Center and Alma d’arte, Border Book Festival, the Black Box Theatre, the renovated Rio Grande Theatre, the Las Cruces Art Museum, the Railroad Depot Museum, a burgeoning cluster of galleries on the Downtown Mall and sites around town...
Last week, I wandered down the yellow brick road on the Downtown Mall and wondered if we could save some of those bricks for some interesting art project.
My favorite mall block is looking pretty naked as they tear down the old arches, but, as in the Rio Grande Theatre block, the process reveals and showcases some beautiful architecture in museums, theaters and old adobe storefronts.
The almost-compete new city hall and federal building still seem out of scale with our cozy, adobe, mostly one-story downtown, but I’m keeping an open mind.
I had great trepidations about moving the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market across Las Cruces Avenue, and there are still some issues with shade and shelter. But I’ve been surprised how fun and upscale it all seems, how it brings life to the renovated block that never seemed quite finished or alive until the market came there.
We’re starting our own potion of the Downtown revitalization effort this week, as part of the newsroom in the old Las Cruces Sun-News building moves to another part of the building while they paint and replace ceiling tile and lay new carpet. Advertising has already completed its spruce-up and my part of the newsroom will be next.
I’ve been sorting through boxes of negatives from the 35mm days, news clips, files, business cards, tapes and CDs, and an old Rolodex that was already bent and ancient when I arrived in 1994.
For you whippersnappers, Rolodexes were those old hard-copy contraptions, like little leather address books, that most of us had in the days before everybody stored everything on their phones and PCs. And the low-tech backups still come in handy, I’ve found, when someone in your office or family suffers a PC crash or lost cell phone.
I flip through the old Rolodex cards and, like the kid in “The Sixth Sense,” I see dead people. There’s a card for Thelma “T.I.M” Medoff, Mark’s mom, and I think back to our first early morning conversation, when she called the newsroom to complain that the bridge column wasn’t in the morning paper.
And our last conversation, when she called to tell me my review of her son’s play was “exemplary.” She went to see it and had a good time, she reported, and then went home and, sometime that night, crossed over to that great theater in the sky.
In between those conversations, we became friends.
There are a lot of cards like that: Artists and musicians and novelists and poets and journalists and editors who have moved on, to other cities and countries and new and next lives.
I miss those who have moved to realms accessible only by prayer and dreamtime. But I’ve been around long enough to remain convinced that when we leave this plain, good souls go to a better place, and I feel blessed to have known so many who clearly qualify for Heaven.
After awhile, I realize that I am going to have to stop reminiscing or they will end up having to leave me on my own unrenovated newsroom island, mired in 16 years of nostalgia.
The only constant is change.
As we enter the month of Thanksgiving, I’m thankful that in my querencia Las Cruces, the changes are so often for the better.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

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