Friday, July 30, 2010

Peaking too soon for the holidays

LAS CRUCES — It’s August. Have you finished your Christmas shopping?
If you’re like most of my friends and relatives, you haven’t, and furthermore, you don’t want to hear about it. If I share my elation at having most of my holiday shopping done, I’m likely to be met with stony glares and dark mutterings, rather than the congratulations I feel I deserve.
I thought with all the “Christmas in July” brouhaha at shops and arts and crafts markets in recent years, my early bird proclivities would finally be embraced and appreciated.
But no. I still have a hard time recruiting amigos to join me on my super-early holiday shopping expeditions.
That’s okay. More bargains for me —and actually for you, too: I’ll feel free to get your gifts, since I won’t have to worry about hiding them from you.
Although chances are, you might have time to forget what I got you, since I started my shopping for December 2010 during the 2009 post-Christmas sales.
And alas, I might, too. Forgetting just what was intended for whom is among an increasing number of reasons I’ve begun to question my system for the first time.
There are lots of good reasons to shop early, of course. You can often find exactly the right gift for a hard-to-please or hard-to-shop-for amigo when you always have your radar out for the perfect present.
You can save a lot of money by taking advantage of sales, seasonal clearances and going-out-of-business events. When the holidays come around, you can relax and enjoy the season. You don’t have to worry about crowds and scarce popular items selling out before you can find them.
But this year, my system is falling apart. I blame it on the Leos and Virgos I love. Most of the people on my birthday list now were born in August and September.
I used to have a gift closet: A couple of shelves in my big, two-door, hall linen closet. Now, the gifts have taken over all three long shelves and the floor and part of the newly-designated linen armoire in one guest bedroom.
There’s another room, formerly the guest lair of grandson Alex the Great, that I’d planned to finish converting to a home office with the laptop, printer and accessories that dear friends gave me for Christmas last year.
Alas, again. It’s August and I still haven’t selected and brought home those 2009 gifts, a shocking lapse for an early bird like me.
But I have a good excuse: The office room floors, daybed, desk and file cabinet tops are currently covered with wrapping paper, ribbons, gift bags and birthday gifts, and yes, I admit it, a few more Christmas presents.
I’m working hard to rectify the situation. In early July, I packed up and shipped off all the gifts for out-of-town recipients born in June through September. Gifts for locals have been stashed in designated eco-friendly reusable totes, so I don’t have to worry about forgetting who gets which carefully-wrapped presents.
Before long, they’ll all be out of here and I’ll have some floor space, a staging area for phase two.
This year, I’m determined to clear out all the gift closets and cupboards and armoire. If I’ve been holding on to it because I forgot it, or the intended recipient’s size or tastes have changed, I’ll give it to someone else or donate it to charity.
I’ll acknowledge what I suspect are the true desires and needs of recipients and give cash and consumables whenever possible. I know some of my aging recipients have just about everything they need, except, for instance, fresh green chiles. For the last few years, I’ve relied on the nice folks at New Mexico Catalog in Fairacres to procure and (my least favorite part of gift-giving) pack and send the always-appreciated hot stuff.
This year, I’m determined to clear the decks before it’s time to deck the halls. And reclaim enough territory so I finally have room to claim and use my own 2009 Christmas presents.
Sometimes, it’s not only better but also necessary to give before you receive.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Boomers in age denial

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES— We never figured we’d get old.
Sometimes I wonder if we Baby Boomers were the first generation to think that way.
I don’t recall my parents or grandparents ever spouting nonsense like “50 is the new 30” or “80 is the new 40.”
If you carry that strange premise to its logical conclusion, and you live long enough, you should eventually become a teenager again. Or, as one wag put it, “Dead is the new 75.”
Personally, I’ve been doing my best to avoid thinking about what high school reunion year this could be, but with the advent of Facebook and Twitter and assorted other relentless online options, you can run (if your knees and joints are still holding up) but you can’t hide.
It’s not like it was in the olden days, when I could simply ignore the newsletters, if they managed to find me, in scattered countries, states and territories, far away from the mitten-shaped peninsula where I was born.
Or they’d enclose a little card, and you could politely send your regrets and be done with it.
All of a sudden, from the vast outer limits of cyberspace, I’m being bombarded with messages from what seem like a bunch of relentless strangers.
I’m from a big class in a big high school, and though some of us were a pretty close-knit group from K through 12, I find myself frankly baffled by a lot of the friendly messages.
A lot of my old amigos have married and changed names, including the guys. In the 60s and 70s, there was a lot of egalitarian hyphenation going on, so the friends I knew as Suzy Smith and Joe Jones might now be Suzy Smith-Chavez, and Joe Jones-Steinmetz. Our generation has a tendency to divorce and remarry a lot. What if Suzy and Joe both found themselves single and hooked up at a previous reunion and what if, say, for professional reasons or for the kids, they both wanted to keep their names? So they’re now Susan and Joseph Smith-Chavez-Jones-Steinmetz.
Who the heck are you? Do I know you? Did I ever?
And who can forget the ethnic pride movement that surged through our generation, leading many of us to research our roots and meander back to Ellis Island and other immigration records to see if there were any accommodating or forced name changes. We could stick it to the man by going back to the original surname or a likely-sounding moniker that better reflects our values and beliefs. Thus Cassius Clay became Muhammad Ali.
The whole ethic identity transformation thing was a little tougher in my mostly WASPish high school, where the majority of us sprung from ancestors in the British Isles or Scandinavian countries.
But we’re an inventive lot. I recently heard from one of our class’s most talented musicians. I knew him as Eric Johnson. But I’ll admit Erik Johanson looks better on a marquee. Power to the Swedish-Americans!
But no matter how much we protest, we really can’t change the march of time. Facebook makes it crystal clear that our faces —and all the rest of our parts — are not 18 anymore.
Ringo just turned 70, after all.
But the Beatles, of course, were really in a different generation— the age of our big sisters and brothers — and we’d like to stress that they were way, way older than we were — in their 20s when we were still in our teens.
And Ringo still looks pretty good, so maybe we Boomers, who frankly look much younger that our parents did at our age, will look even better when we get to Ringo’s age.
Maybe 60 is the new 22.
And maybe denial will segue seamlessly into senility and we’ll never have to face up to the fact that we’re old.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at; (575) 541-5450. To share comments, go to and click on Blogzone and Las Cruces Style.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Getting bigger and better

By S. Derrickson Moore

LAS CRUCES — The arches are history. The Yellow Brick Road is in yellow brick crumbles. Gone are the trees that shaded then-small grandson Alexander the Great as we shared our first waltz during a downtown fiesta.
My favorite block of the Las Cruces Downtown Mall now looks bald and forlorn, but the aftermath of what now looks like an urban war zone should be worth the wait, revitalization planners promise.
As she watched one of our loveliest old trees come down, Flo Hosa Dougherty stood ready with a list of about 50 artists who plan to transform the wood into some creative art pieces.
And much as we mourn those old Chinese pistaches and other trees, things are still on track to save what many of us think may be Las Cruces’ most beautiful tree: that big, wonderful Chinese pistache near White’s Music Box, on a stretch of the Downtown Mall scheduled for the next phase of revitalization efforts.
After a January Las Cruces Style column led to an outpouring of protests from tree fans, Mayor Ken Miyagishima expressed his support for efforts to save it and opined that a tree in the middle of the mall road might even become a tourist attraction.
This month, Assistant City Manager Robert Garza said saving the tree “will remain a high priority. It is located close to the center of the available right-of- way, so it is conceivable to design a median around it and allow it to remain.”
I was happy to hear Garza’s estimate that we may be “putting in more trees than are being removed.”
I’m sorry the cottonwood grove battles on Interstate 10 haven’t gone as well. I hope public and private outcries in support of preserving trees in desert lands will continue to grow.
I’ve been heartened to see the almost-instant landscape transformation at the new U.S. Courthouse, which now boasts rows of pretty young trees flanking the sidewalk along North Church Street, along with plump and prosperous-looking clumps of ornamental grasses that waved a cheerful green salute as I took an early morning tour of the new federal building and its impressive art collection.
Landscapers have also done a great job with the new Las Cruces City Hall grounds, a nice little reversal on the old Joni Mitchell tune. Where there was once a paved parking lot for the old SoLo supermarket, there are now little pockets of paradise: trees and shrubs and flowers.
Driving into work, it hit me that 2010 will go down in local history as a big year for our changing urban landscape, as Downtown Mall spruce-ups continue, the new city hall and federal building open their doors and new restaurants and art galleries spring up.
When the Las Cruces Museum of Natural History moves in, my favorite block will have three museums, two theaters, some great galleries and a world-class bookstore.
A few blocks away, Mesquite Street’s burgeoning number of galleries and artists’ studios could make it our version of Santa Fe’s Canyon Road.
And that’s just the beginning. This month, I stopped in at the Cutter Gallery, and peered out their windows at the almost-done Las Cruces Convention Center on University Avenue.
On Thursday, at University and Espina, it was time for the official groundbreaking ceremonies for the new Center for the Arts at NMSU. And up the street a few blocks, they’re getting ready to move into the almost-completed new American Indian Center, I learned from Justin McHorse, director of NMSU’s Indian Programs.
Sometimes, progress can be very hard on the corazon y alma (heart and soul) of places like Las Cruces.
But if we do it with heartfelt creativity and an eye for preserving the things we love (and all the trees we possibly can), we could end up with a win-win situation, a soulful city that keeps getting better as its getting bigger.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Friday, July 9, 2010

Make your own summer fun

LAS CRUCES — The Fourth of July Celebrations are over, full-tilt fiesta season and back-to-school (groan) preparations are still several weeks away.
What are you going to do?
Make your own fun!
I’ve written about all kinds of summer camps this year where kids can do everything from work for world peace to get fit and learn artistic skills.
About 60 local kids spent this week putting on a show, working as actors and assistant directors for a local production of “King Arthur’s Quest” in conjunction with the Missoula Children’s Theatre and the Doña Ana Arts Council.
All the organized activities sound like a lot of fun and I find myself wishing there were more summer camps for grown-ups.
Still, when I get wistful about my childhood summers, it’s the unplanned activities that rise to the top of the memory pile.
I remember those blissful mornings — three whole months of them — when I woke up knowing it was not a school day. Even though I really liked school, I found, back then, that I liked freedom even more.
Not that I eschewed learning. I read several books during most of my summer vacation weeks. And more dear to me than the bells of the ice cream trucks that prowled our Michigan neighborhoods was the news that the bookmobile would be coming soon to a street near me.
Beach time was another summer staple. Sometimes our parents would take a group of us to our favorite park on the shores of Lake Michigan, and, as we got into our teens, we’d be allowed to take a bus to a municipal beach.
I’m trying to remember what it was that made it so much fun. Swimming. Collecting shells. Sunbathing in the days before we realized what it would do our skin. Gossiping with our girlfriends. Flirting with boys, which always seemed a little more thrilling in our swimsuits, there in the mostly bundled-up Midwest.
We also probably walked several miles most days, around the neighborhood, to the schoolyard, which took on a complete different personality during the summer months, to friends’ cool basement rec rooms, and to the drug store that still had a soda fountain, rather retro even then.
There were always a few major arts and crafts projects, too. During some distant summer, I learned needlepoint and crewel embroidery and how to knit and crochet. We painted and drew sketches of one another and made fake flowers out of paper and fake Hawaiian leis out of recalcitrant summer dandelions and daisies.
We sewed and made some really cute stuffed animals, if I remember right, and some really ugly clothes.
Cosmetics and accessories were another summertime treat, acquired most from swapping with friends and from dime stores (the precursors of dollar stores, back in the Jurassic era).
We painted our fingernails and toenails with the wildest colors we could find. We attached fake flowers to our straw hats and flip-flops. We experimented with barrettes and hair ties and lots of ribbons. We tried to bleach streaks in our hair with lemon juice. We braided and made pony tails and French twists and gave a lot of thought to the great Bangs vs. No Bangs controversy.
We made big pitchers of Kool-Aid and lemonade and tried some disgusting variations on the classic fire-roasted s’mores combo of marshmallows, graham crackers and Hersey chocolate bars.
We picked blueberries and hunted for babysitting gigs when we were still too young to get regular jobs.
We redecorated our bedrooms did a lot of serious daydreaming.
We went out search for fun wherever we could find it, and if there didn’t seem to be much fun around, we made our own.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450

Friday, July 2, 2010

It's good to be an American, especially in Las Cruces

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Once again, it’s time to celebrate life, liberty and the pursuit of creative Independence Day celebrations.
The job market is still grim, the economy is limping, the ecology is taking hits from which it may not recover in our lifetimes, politicians are squabbling, corporations are pointing fingers at one another and Borderland problems and tensions are an ongoing concern.
Well, you know — and maybe choose to put out of mind — all the disturbing events that are tough to tune out when you work in a newsroom.
And for all that, I’m glad to be an American, and so were most of the people I talked to for today’s SunLife feature.
A sage once said that we should celebrate our defeats and mistakes, rather than our victories, because we learn more from the things we got wrong.
Americans have always been willing to take risks, to fight for what we think is right, even if it isn’t, always. And to correct injustices, face up to our mistakes, recognize we’ve taken wrong paths and change our course.
We’re willing to embrace new ideas and different cultures, a tradition that dates back to our continent’s indigenous peoples, who welcomed Europeans and taught them skills that helped them survive and flourish in a new land, demonstrating a generosity of spirit that many generations might rue in retrospect.
It hit me that the United States really needs a holiday or two to celebrate those who first settled our continent, the wealth of nations whose traditions many historians feel inspired so much that is right with America today.
I’ll be thinking of them today, from the Potawatomi of the Midwest to Pueblo Indians of New Mexico, from Seminoles of Florida to Umatilla of Oregon and all the groups in the heartlands, Hopi, Navajo, Apache, Cherokee, the Crow and so many others who have shared their knowledge, history, art and customs with me over the years.
I wish we had an official national holiday to celebrate those original residents of our nation together.
I’ve been inspired, here in Las Cruces, by multicultural celebrations of Martin Luther King Day. And Juneteenth, which recognizes the date, on June 19, 1865, when news finally reached the Southwest about President Abraham Lincoln’s Jan. 1, 1863, Emancipation Proclamation. Both days acknowledge the tragedies — the assassination of a brilliant leader and the horrors of slavery — but then find ways to celebrate progress made and hopes for the future.
Two regional Juneteenth celebrations, in Las Cruces and Alamogordo, included American Indians in their commemorations this year. It’s a step in the right direction, but a separate holiday to honor our nation’s original founding fathers and mothers is long overdue.
If such a celebration is to be, its birthplace could well be New Mexico, the best model I’ve seen in America, or anywhere in the world, for innovative, inclusive celebrations.
Even the way we celebrate the birth of the United States is a model of multicultural joy and inspiration. This year, it took me most of a working day, even armed with lists researched over almost two decades, to list all the ways we’ve come up with to celebrate Independence Day in this region.
In addition to the traditional parades and fireworks throughout the area, there are ice cream socials and parades (with horses) in Silver City and a Powwow, Dance of the Maidens, traditional Apache dances and wild horse races at Mescalero Apache Ceremonial Grounds.
If you cover enough territory this Fourth of July weekend, you’re likely to encounter multicultural fun that ranges from melodrama in Cloudcroft to mariachi music and folkloric dancing.
We even celebrate aliens — the not-of-this-world kind — at the Roswell UFO festival.
It’s a perfect day to spend some time thinking about where we come from, why we’re here and where we’re going.
It’s a day to be thankful we live in a place where change for the better is not just a dream, but an innate and real possibility and promise. And to be glad we live in America, especially this part of America.
Happy Independence Day.

S. Derrickson Moore can be reached at (575) 541-5450