Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Don’t get caught under the mistletoe with anyone born after 1950.

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — As the holiday social season heats up in this special season of love, family, friends —and flu— maybe it’s time to rethink some of our warm New Mexico traditions.
I’ve written a lot over the years about our greeting customs, with lots of input from you.
We’ve debated the merits of besos, from L.A.-style air kisses to French two-cheek salutes and full-on lipsmackers.
We’ve discussed ubiquitous hugs. And I’ve explained that never before, in all my decades as a journalist, have I encountered so many sweet souls who seemed moved to end our interviews with spontaneous hugs. (The fact that I went from political and investigative reporting in my earlier career to arts and entertainment after moving to Las Cruces might be a factor, but maybe we’re just naturally more affectionate here.)
Trendy greetings have also been covered over the years, including the decline of high-fives in favor of a then-new innovation I described as the pulled-punch knuckle-knock. It’s since gone mainstream under a pithy and more apt name: fist bump.
In a couple of columns, you’ve shared your wisdom about venerable New Mexico traditions surrounding proper hand signals for greeting amigos and unmet friends when you’re both in cars, when one of you is in a truck and the other’s a pedestrian. And we’ve covered the variations that apply, depending on whether you’re in the city or in the “country” (defined as one block or more from a town’s plaza).
As I recall, various areas of the state differ on full palm vs. two- or three-fingered salutes for various road and pedestrian, town and country greetings. But it seems that any road rules will be OK in terms of current contagion concerns, since mobile greetings aren’t a contact sport.
But what do we do about the swine flu during the peak holiday social season?
If we’re all supposed to be coughing into our elbows, is it reckless to join our germy elbows in holiday hugs?
Does it make sense to compulsively Purell and wash our hands until they’re raw and then wantonly and promiscuously go around shaking hands and sharing high-fives and low-fives and bro-hug-double-tap-fist-bump combos at the office party?
And yes, air kissing seems superficial and cold, but if we want to avoid colds and flu, the French cheek salutes and lipsmackers seem contraindicated.
I was sharing such dilemmas with a friend who once took me to a Las Cruces mosque to pray and I remembered that we both reached out to shake hands and were gently instructed it was against Islamic customs for men and women just meeting to have any physical contact.
I later witnessed a nice, heartfelt greeting reportedly common in the Middle East that involved placing one’s hand upon one’s own heart, Pledge of Allegiance style, and gently patting while facing the person being greeted.
The gesture is similar to the one in a nationwide campaign to thank military men and women when you see them. For more info, go to www.gratitude campaign. com, or visit and click on this column in Lifestyle and Sunlife or Las Cruces Style in the Blogzone.
It might be a good ecumenical and practical gesture to adopt over all the holiday season, particularly when encountering pregnant women, small children and other high risk groups.
Maybe, if you were born before 1950 and are otherwise in an immune or low-risk group, you can skip the H1N1 vaccine AND go for the Christmas and Hanukkah and Kwanzaa lipsmackers and full-body hugs with your peers.
At last, a perk for getting old. Flirting is no longer a blood sport and you’ve survived long enough to qualify for safe public displays of affection.
Still, it seems an odd twist to offer advice like this to members of the protest generation whose motto was once, “Don’t trust anybody over 30.”
But here it is, the manta for the new millennium, or at least until H1N1 runs its course:
Don’t get caught under the mistletoe with anyone born after 1950.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style

Hot to cool: A societal temperature shift is due

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — Let’s talk temperature.
I’m not talking Fahrenheit — or Celsius.
What interests me is social temperature.
Just when did it become cool to be hot? Are we due for another societal shift? I feel a nip in the air — and not just because it’s December.
When I was growing up, in the height of the post-war Baby Boom. That’s World War II, I’m sad to have to point out, since we, like our parents during World War I, were told the global devastation that came just before we entered the planet was the war to end all wars.
As we know, it didn’t turn out that way.
But back to those temperature trends.
By the 1960s and 70s, being dubbed “cool” was the ultimate compliment, the best of everything in categories ranging from fashion, furniture, art, music and dance to sex appeal, hair, and most of all, attitude.
In fact, if you had the right attitude and the confidence to project it, you could be the coolest person in the room even if your skills sets were lacking in just about every area.
Marshal McLuhan even acquired an international reputation upon a communication theory built around the concept of hot and cool media.
I’m not sure when the reign of cool began. The parents of baby boomers still thought that being “hot stuff” was a great tribute, and even those into cool jazz admired musicians who contributed hot licks.
But somewhere along the line, cool became king. It was, I suspect, sometime, around the 1950s, about the time of cool jazz and rock and roll.
And, of course, the Cold War, which wasn’t cool at all. Maybe it was the protest generation, railing against that, the Vietnam War, Watergate, the military industrial complex, et al, that finally solidified the commitment to cool.
And I’m equally unsure about when the shift began to hot. There were serious inroads as early as the 1980s, with the advent the Me Generation heating up extreme consumerism and the economy, and movies like “Body Heat” setting the standard for steamy sexuality. (Though those of us who actually lived in the movie’s muggy Florida location know it was much more romantic to spend an evening in cool, air-conditioned comfort.)
But when it comes to complete conversion to the upper reaches of the societal thermostat, I think I’d call it sometime around the advent of the new millennium, when “hot” clearly constituted about half of Paris Hilton’s vocabulary. (The other half was “that’s,” as in “That’s hot.”)
I sympathize. Even for the Greatest Generation and the Protest Generation, who’ve been through quite a lot, it was hard to remain cool when the Twin Towers were falling, wars were heating up on too many fronts, the super-heated economy was tanking, and global warming was melting the polar icecaps.
Of course, that’s exactly when cool heads should prevail, and I begin to see signs the Gen Xers and their younger Y and Z siblings were beginning to gravitate to cool.
I saw rappers wearing fedoras and plucking up posters, music and the general ambience of the Rat Pack. Though Frank, Dean, Sammy, Peter and Joey weren’t really part of the cool Baby Boomer generation, they were among the first of our parents’ generation to be given the “cool” nod, our ultimate compliment.
And they embraced and embodied it with a style and élan that most of us Gen-Protest kids had a hard time emulating.
Flower power and much of the hippie culture, and certainly Jack Nicholson were very cool early on (Jack never lost his cool and remains the perpetually cool gold standard today.) But again, things heated up, with the wars, struggles against racism and political corruption and drugs ... and free love, that turned out to be not so free after all.
What will the new cool model turn out to be? Just fedoras and retro cocktails and a reprise of ugly green and orange decor, or something more?
If cooler tempers and rationality prevail over the hotheads in these hot and tumultuous times...
Well, that’s cool with me.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

Friday, November 13, 2009

Doug Rains' Legacy continues

By S. Derrickson Moore
Sun-News reporter
LAS CRUCES — For more than two decades, Doug Rains made it his mission to help needy kids get brand new winter wardrobes. The holiday Dress-the-Child shopping sprees represented a chance for kids — for many, the first opportunity in their young lifetimes — to have brand new garments and shoes that really fit.
Doug used to refer to anyone who offered the slightest bit of help as one of his “angels.”
Doug died Sept. 24, but his program lives on through angels who want Doug’s legacy to be another 500 kids with new clothes before Christmas.
“Actually, we might be able to make it 510 this year,” thanks to an outpouring of support in reaction to Rains’ passing, said Doug Boberg, who is “carrying the torch” as the new Dress-the-Child chairman.
Now, Boberg’s looking for angels to help kids shop for their new winter wardrobes at sessions that start today. The kids have been prescreened and qualified by the Salvation Army here.
The “dressing” events will be at 6:30 p.m. today at Sears in the Mesilla Valley Mall, 9 a.m. Nov. 22 at JC Penney in the Mesilla Valley Mall, 7 a.m. Dec. 5 at Wal-Mart at 571 Walton Blvd., and 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6 at Kohl’s, 2500 S. Triviz Drive.
Volunteers may show up at the events with a hand-held calculator. If you’d like more information, contact Boberg at (575) 644-9469 or e-mail
And it’s not too early to think about becoming one of Doug Rains’ 2010 angels. If you’d like to help, checks should be made payable to "Dress-the-Child” and sent to First New Mexico Bank, Att: Julie Koenig, 3000 E. Lohman Ave., Las Cruces, NM 88011, or Doug Boberg, Dress-the-Child Chairman, 141 Mimosa Lane, Las Cruces, NM 88001.
Rains, who died “peacefully in his sleep” just a few weeks before what would have been his 84th birthday, was thoughtful and organized to the end, managing to “turn over his practice” to Boberg and arranging to make the Rio Grande Rotarians the fiscal agents for the program.
“It was full circle. The program started in 1986 with the Rotarians. About three years ago, Doug asked if I could take it over and this year, he asked me to shadow him. As I was following him, I found that he was very organized. He worked hard and recruited good people and thought everything through. He probably wouldn’t have left if he hadn’t had all his ducks in a row,” Boberg believes.
He recalled some of Rains’ inspirational anecdotes about the joys of helping kids.
“It’s a tremendous program and I’m honored to be a part of it. Doug told me about one little boy who was just so happy to get a new pair of jeans. It was all he wanted and more than he could ever hope for when he got another pair of jeans, socks and other clothes. And we talked about not just what it does for the child, but the relief on their parents’ faces, what a huge help it was for both the children and their parents,” Boberg said.
Doug was the ultimate “dad” and, I learned over the years, had a lot in common with my own father: both were Army Air Corps veterans (Doug served on a B-17 crew flying missions over France and Germany during World War II), both were Masons, both married educators. Barbara Simmons Rains, a professor at Texas Tech University when they married, and later a dean of NMSU’s College of Education, died just seven weeks before Doug left us.
His career in radio, TV, public relations and advertising included gigs as an on-air sports director in Texas and later as KRWG-TV’s development director. He retired from NMSU in 1994, about the time I met him, and then “unretired” to become vice president of business development for Community First National Bank, retiring again in 2000. The retirement again failed to take and he worked in public relations for the New Mexico Department of Agriculture until his death. And, of course, for a multitude of community causes that included the Salvation Army, Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce, Doña Ana Work Action Council, the Whole Enchilada Festival, Masonic Lodge, Las Cruces Rotary and the boards of Keep New Mexico Beautiful and the Community of Hope. His honors included Conquistador of the Year and Las Cruces Citizen of the Year, and he was named Distinguished Citizen of the Year by the state of New Mexico.
He was the father of three, grandfather of five and great-grandfather of one.
He was an angel to thousands of children, who might not have known the name behind the gently smiling face, but who will remember for a lifetime the gifts of brand new wardrobes and holidays filled with hope.
Every year, when I interviewed Doug, working full-tilt during his busiest fundraising efforts, he’d talk about how those shopping sprees got him into the holiday spirit.
If you’d like to share some of that spirit, volunteer to be a shopping escort. This year, I’m willing to bet you’ll have an angel as your co-pilot.
It’s likely he’ll be there in spirit, but don’t expect to hear a lot of bells.
I’m pretty sure angel Doug already has his wings.
S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at

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