Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Halloween is getting old ...and those who love it are getting older

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — It could be the early deadline pressures, or maybe it’s just that real life has gotten so scary.
Somehow, I had trouble getting in the mood for Halloween this year. As I made the early rounds in September to research stories, I found I wasn’t alone.
In some quarters, the moods I encountered were akin to Christmas levels of angst and depression.
Or maybe it’s a generational thing.
I love Christmas, and motherhood and grandmotherhood have only enhanced my passion for my favorite holiday, much, I suspect, to the displeasure of my Grinchy friends and relatives.
But I must admit, I haven’t ever felt quite the same way about Halloween. And my interest dropped further when I, like most Baby Boomers and earlier generations, put away what were then considered childish things, like Halloween, around age 11 or 12.
But in recent years, the ages limits have lapsed. Halloween enthusiasms seem to peak in young adulthood and threaten to flourish well into middle age and beyond. In many surveys, adults list Halloween as their favorite holiday, surpassing all other celebrations by healthy margins — even Christmas, gasp!
In fact, most of the local costume emporiums seem to be frequented by a lot more adults and teens these days. If you encounter a family shopping with young children, chances are they’re looking for costumes for everybody: mom, dad, the kids and maybe a pet or two.
Some of the displays are decidedly adult, too, featuring oo-la-la sexy ensembles, scatological and verging-on-blue outfits and props and gore so extreme that many items could induce all-ages nightmares. It might be worth a preliminary scouting trip before you take the little kids on costume expeditions.
And adults are really into decorating, too. People start planning their gore décor months in advance and Halloween displays and specialty stores now typically offer their scary wares by early August or late July.
We may soon find ourselves planning for Halloween in the spring, if it follows the jump-the-gun pattern of year-end holidays … or perpetual presidential and congressional campaigns, speaking of scary concepts.
Backing up the polls revealing massive voter discontent, there is also Halloween-related evidence that the public has soured on politicians.
Masks of political leaders, usually early best-sellers, are gathering dust this year. Obama isn’t moving, and neither are masks of Bush or Clinton. Even Abraham Lincoln and George Washington masks are being ignored in favor of various superheroes, zombies and Angry Birds.
Maybe this is the year we should all go minimalist and punch a couple of holes in an old sheet and be ghosts. Or send a message by donning deathly green hands or feet and adding masks of our least-favorite political figures to become zombie politicians.
Personally, I’m working on minimizing stress and maximizing limited, recessionary budgets with some year-round seasonal decorating strategies.
We all know those people who wait several months to take their Christmas lights down. Why not invest in programmable LED lights that will work for every holiday?
We could flash red and green for Christmas, segue into just red for Valentine’s day, green for St. Patrick’s Day, purple and pastels for Easter, red, white and blue for Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, orange and black for Halloween, blue and white for Hanukkah … you get the idea.
Let me know if you have some great ideas for simplifying holiday excess. And have a happy, basic Halloween.

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

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Las Cruces is a cultural mecca

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Did Las Cruces become the cultural capital of New Mexico when no one was looking?
A case could be made.
The Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra is the largest symphony orchestra in the state, with the demise of the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra in April.
The Las Cruces Chamber Ballet is the oldest continuously operating ballet company in the state.
We have more theater companies than Santa Fe and, depending on who’s doing the counting, may be neck and neck with Albuquerque, or even up by a troupe or two. And neither the Duke City nor the City Different can compete with us in the “Broadway of the Southwest” department. New Mexico State University has Hershel Zohn Theatre, Creative Media Institute’s little gem of a theater, the Atkinson Music Center Recital Hall, and the upcoming yet-to-be-christened Performing Arts Center. Nearby, University Avenue’s new Las Cruces Convention Center is increasingly used as an arts and performance venue, and just down Espina Street is Boba Cabaret, hosting revues and comedy performances.
Our revitalized downtown now has three major performing arts venues: the restored Rio Grande Theatre, Las Cruces Community Theatre and the Black Box.
And we have the talent to fill these venues with skilled performers and original productions by a glittering and growing roster of playwrights, from Tony Award-winning, Academy Award-nominated Mark Medoff to gifted playwrights like Bob Diven, Irene Oliver-Lewis and a new group of young talents emerging from workshops and mentoring relationships here.
And speaking of writers, I’m not even going to attempt a list or I’ll run out of space. Suffice it to say that Denise Chávez, herself a multi-award-winning author, could schedule year-round Border Book Festival events without venturing outside city borders.
CMI, great locations, local trained film crews and other resources continue to attract big budget film productions and sustain and nurture a healthy and burgeoning indy film community.
Our literary, music and dance communities are outstanding. We have world-renowned poets and dancers who excel in everything from flamenco and folklorica to innovative and award-winning modern and aerial routines. Our governor (Las Cruces’ own Susana Martinez) won a ballroom dance competition.
Our neighbors to the north, to give them their due, produce a quartet of world-renowned festivals (Albuquerque’s Balloon Fiesta, Santa Fe’s Indian Market, Spanish Market and Folk Art Market).
But we have dozens of festivals and cultural celebrations that have defined and redefined the way New Mexicans think about our diverse culture and ourselves, from the recently honored Las Cruces International Mariachi Conference and February for the Love of Art Month to Doña Ana Arts Council’s Renaissance ArtsFaire, their new Color Las Cruces Plein Arts Festival and Mesilla’s Dia de Los Muertos, Diez y Seis, Border Book, Cinco de Mayo and Jazz Happening, along with spiritually uplifting, artistic and traditional gatherings from Tortugas to Doña Ana.
Mesilla and, increasingly, the downtown cultural corridor, are vibrant, thriving cultural centers in themselves. Original arts abound in galleries and outdoor markets. Arts and crafts are a big part of the Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market, just named No. 1 in the nation for big markets.
I can’t think of a city in the state, despite tough competition from big money enterprises up north, that can match us for diversity of museum offerings, with NMSU boasting Williams and Kent halls and the Zuhl Collection and several exhibit areas on campus.
Four expanding city museums are devoted to history, art, railroads and natural history. Three museums within an easy drive celebrate space exploration and the New Mexico Farm & Ranch Heritage Museum pays tributes to centuries of our unique cultural roots.
And what other city our size can claim two recent bequests of extraordinary homes to become major museums? J. Paul Taylor and his late wife Mary have promised us their unique Mesilla Plaza adobe home and spectacular arts and crafts collection.
Kent and Sallie Ritter Jacobs will leave us a modern architectural masterpiece with some intriguing collections. Dr. Jacobs, an author himself, by the way, was just named to the Museums of New Mexico Board of Regents, further extending our influence. He’s served with MNM for 12 years, five as board president and was a guiding force in creating the New Mexico History Museum.
Our colony of cutting edge artists is steadily growing and we have half a dozen thriving art tours to prove it, from the monthly Ramble and Camino del Arte to a variety of annual artists’ studio tours, citywide and in emerging area arts districts.
We have alma y corazon and a city of sweet, passionate and creative people who connect to their muses with a backdrop of the Organs, one of the planet’s most intriguing and inspiring mountain ranges.
There’s more, but I think that’s enough to call it. Las Cruces is evolving into the cultural capital of New Mexico — and one of the best places in the world to live while you’re being creative.

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

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Home, sweet cubicle home

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Ah, home, sweet vine-covered cubicle.
I’ve worked in plush Palm Beach offices that had more square footage than some of my apartments, with swans and indoor lagoons and hanging gardens. I’ve worked by actual lagoons, on a primitive laptop on an oceanfront beach in Jamaica.
I’ve worked in home offices in expanded closets and basements and bedroom nooks.
I’ve worked in trains, boats and private planes, in classrooms, auditoriums, convention centers and hotel office complexes all over the world.
And I’ve worked in many newsrooms and communication centers in Germany, Michigan, New York, Portland, Oregon, Florida and New Mexico. (They were all remarkably similar: vast open expanses of keyboards, chatter, ringing phones, conference tables and camaraderie.) And those of us who’ve had our own offices from time to time, always felt part of the newsroom flocks, because the offices of even the surliest, most reclusive editors always had large windows, (overlooking the rest of the newsroom) and open doors.
I’ve managed to live a rich, full lifetime, spanning many decades, states, countries and vocations, without ever working in a cubicle.
Until now. While we wait for our shiny new Sun-News building, we’ve settled into our interim headquarters on 715 E. Idaho Ave., with a shipment of high-end cubicles (mine has three windows) that will go with us to our new digs.
It’s early days yet, but I can already see a new cubicle culture developing.
We are learning new ways, as we wend our way through the newsroom cubical maze. Editor Jim Lawitz noted that he feels like he’s addressing a prairie dog colony, as he summoned us for a company meeting and curious heads popped up behind gray walls.
I feel more in tune with cetacean analogies. I remember, in my Florida days, learning about “spy-hopping,” the wassup? strategy of whales and porpoises, a behavior that consists of rising vertically out of the water, head first, and rotating to scan the entire surrounding area.
When it comes to cubicles, I’m caught in Robert Front’s “Mending Wall” paradox: “Good fences make good neighbors” wars with “Something there is that doesn’t love a fence.”
Maybe we’re suffering a bit of post-Diaspora stress syndrome, as we’ve moved, after the fire, to various refugee settlements in hotel ballrooms and new configurations in interim offices.
In our new world of cubicles, we wander more, seeking our long-lost amigos. And we probably phone and text and e-mail more than we shout these days, which always seems silly to me, when we’re still just a few feet away from one another.
Frances Silva and I have shared a sightline for 15 years. Now a gray cubicle wall divides us, and I miss her.
Cubicle communication strategies remind me of old Walton episodes: disembodied voices poignantly calling over gray walls: “Goodnight, Frances. Goodnight, Walt. Goodnight John-Boy.”
Being newsguys, we aren’t in regimented lines. I’m not sure how the cubical configurations were determined, but we are already establishing our little fiefdoms.
Jason Gibbs, Lucas Peerman and Christine Rogel have named their cubicle trio the Mod Pod.
“You should really move here. It could be an all-blonde Mod Pod,” Lucas told me.
But I’m happily ensconced in the Aquarian Enclave, where everyone was born on Feb. 7 (Norm Dettlaff and me) or gave birth on that day (Robin Zielinski, our kingdom’s Queen Mom, I figure).
It’s only been a few weeks, but I’ve already added the aforementioned vines, two pepper plants … and I finally figured out how to hang art on fabric walls (sticky Velcro dots).
Now, I’m thinking about flags and banners, light shows and other signaling devises.
Creative, well-rounded souls in square abodes will find ways to make this cubicle wilderness a home.

+++++Any tips for making cubicle life more comfortable, efficient, artistic or fun? Let me know.

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

Friday, September 9, 2011

9/11 in the newsroom

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — It was one of those dates you never forget, like the Dec. 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor for my parents’ generation and the Nov. 22, 1963, assassination of President John F. Kennedy for Baby Boomers.
As usual, I was the first one in the newsroom, very early the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, when the calls began. At first, the wire, radio and TV reports suggested a freak accident, but when the second plane hit the Twin Towers, we knew something big was up. Within a couple of hours, the Pentagon was hit and the fourth hijacked plane had crashed in Pennsylvania.
Within minutes of the first attack, I was on the phone to then-editor Harold Cousland and our publisher, Michael Bush, who told me to call every staff member I could reach and get them into the newsroom.
“If they have to, tell them can bring their kids and we’ll have someone here to take care of them,” Michael said.
Within an hour, most of us were gathered and we’d awoken the photographers and pressmen. The editors started planning a special edition and reporters were sent out to get stories that ranged from security measures at regional military bases to comments from the public.
I headed out to the New Mexico State University campus and Walmart, where many heard the news for the first time from me.
Gathering comments for that special edition, written and on the streets in just a few hours, and for other stories in the next 12 hours, I was impressed with the cosmopolitan response I found here in Las Cruces.
I met students from other countries who had been through terrorist attacks.
Elaine Szalay referred me to some knowledgeable retired and active military personnel, one of whom told me he thought Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks, information that scooped the major news networks.
Other memories tend to blend together in a haze, but it was the deeply personal things that come to mind a decade later.
There were serious and sometimes frightening conversations with little kids, including grandson Alex the Great, then 5 years old, who looked up in the sky and wondered if airplanes would crash into their houses or apartment buildings.
I remember a poignant comment from my nephew, Adam, who was born on Sept. 11 and wondered if his birthday would forever be associated with a national disaster. As fate would have it, his life would be affected in other profound ways by that day. As an M.D. and U.S. Air Force officer, he would go on to serve in Afghanistan.
I also remember, in the crush of those first days, the interview that impelled me to retreat to my car for tissues.
Frank Parrish was the first person from Las Cruces I’d met who had lost a relative in the Twin Towers: a young mother just returned to work, who was still nursing her baby.
There were more tears, shed by many in the audience at an NMSU Choral Department concert, when conductor Jerry Ann Alt interrupted the program to ask us to join in singing anthems from each branch of the U.S. military, and invited any veterans in the audience to stand as we sang “their” songs. World War II Army and Navy veterans, young Marines and visiting Air Force pilots all stood proudly. There weren’t many dry eyes in the house after that medley.
It was a sad, surreal time. Commercial and private airplanes were grounded. Survivors were sought. Terrorist suspects and plots were investigated. Attempts were made to make sense out of the senseless. Artist Kelley Hestir, at a time when revenge slogans filled the air, created a peaceful image she called “Earth Angel”: a portrait of our planet under a hovering halo. Flags were waved.
Benefits for survivors were planned, and so were two wars — the nation’s longest — that continue to impact our lives every day, in many ways.

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

Thursday, September 1, 2011

The old hometown has changed

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Sometimes you don’t realize how much the old querencia has changed until you try to describe some of your favorite places and events to friends, like some good amigos who had moved from Mesilla about a decade ago.
I was planning their visit over this Labor Day weekend when I realized a lot of things I wanted to share with them didn’t exist a few years — or even a few months — ago.
There are lots of new people, places and things to catch up on, I told them, but realized they’d be most surprised by the Downtown Mall.
Or that’s what most of us are still calling it, which is why that’s how we refer to it most of the time in the Las Cruces Sun-News, though we are regularly admonished by various factions who’d like us all to refer to our new and improved corazon as Historic Las Cruces MainStreet Downtown. Or just Main Street.
“Eventually, I guess we’ll want to call it the Main Street Downtown Arts & Cultural District,” suggests Ceci Vasconcellos, director of the Doña Ana Arts Council.
Kind of a mouthful, but a Downtown Mall by any other name is still looking very good these days.
I suggested that my amigos come visit on one of our art tour weekends. How about making a day of it at Camino del Arte, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. the second Saturday of each month? It’s a great way to spend a fall day, after a visit to our expanded, award-winning (tops in state and nationwide contests) Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Market. The market is spectacular in its newest incarnation, with hundreds of vendors and no ugly metal awnings to obscure the view. And you’ll be surprised to see how Mesquite is evolving into our own little version of Santa Fe’s famed Canyon Road, with growing numbers of unique artists studios and galleries.
Or come during the Ramble from 5 to 7 p.m. the first Friday of each month. Stroll, listen to music in galleries or on the street, bust a dance move, and stay for open mics and the Coyote Coffee House and maybe catch a play or special event at the Black Box, the Las Cruces Community Theatre or the Rio Grande.
Visit some impressive galleries and exhibits at the Las Cruces Art Museum and the Branigan Cultural Center. Before long, the Las Cruces Natural History Museum will join the quartet of city museums (don’t forget the Las Cruces Railroad Museum) located downtown.
Take a walk on the newly renovated north Main Street block and visit attractions both old (Coas Bookstore, one of the biggest and best new & used bookstores in the U.S.) and new, including the Las Cruces City Hall, some new galleries and the expanded Branigan Memorial Library.
My erstwhile Las Cruces buddies were amazed when I rattled off downtown dining choices that range from Hawaiian to Mexican, Southwestern-Continental and lots more. Think we still roll up our sidewalks at 6 p.m.? Let’s share a treat at S.B.'s Late-night Lunch Box.
Or let’s people-watch and — at last — dine al fresco. Remember where the Popular used to be? Let’s try pizza at Zeffiro’s/Popular Artisan Bakery, or a gourmet salad at La Iguana in the other half of what used to be our fave department store.
If it’s market day (Wednesday or Saturday), we can grab a green chile burrito, a fresh grilled green chile Swiss cheesburger, a delicate veggie spring roll, or our choice of several other treats, and have an impromptu picnic on a park bench or enjoy the last shady days of the big, beautiful Chinese Pistache tree on the soon-to-be renovated south end of the Downtown Mall.
Maybe we’ll mosey over to La Placita next to La Iguana and check out the progress of the grape arbor and the epic mosaic mural being constructed by Glenn Schweiger and his students and volunteers. Or see how the Las Cruces Downtown Partnership is coming along with a project to paint Downtown Mall buildings with a palette of warm, sophisticated Southwestern colors.
There are many delights in the heart of our city these days, and more are in the works.

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