Thursday, July 18, 2013

Let us entertain you

Let us entertain you
By S. Derrickson Moore
Some might scoff when people refer to us as Cruceswood or Hollywood on the Rio Grande.
You may have to explain, when Tonto, the Lone Ranger, Indiana Jones, assorted Transformers and their respective crews aren’t careening around nearby ravines, that the history of New Mexico’s deep involvement in the film industry dates back to the 1890s. Even before statehood, in fact. 
But you don’t have to be familiar with film locations to appreciate all the entertainment opportunities that are based here, all year around.
We’re known as the Broadway of the Southwest for good reason.
Check out today’s SunLife feature to see what’s in store for the 2013-14 theater season.
Las Cruces boasts three major theater companies: Las Cruces Community Theater, the American Southwest Theatre Company at New Mexico State University, and Black Box Theatre/No Strings Theatre Company, along with some intriguing specialty and children’s theater groups.
The “Big Three” seasons routinely include premieres of original works as well as beloved classics, including productions of the newest hits from that other Broadway in New York.
And speaking of the Big Apple, newcomers may not realize that three plays that made it to the Great White Way, all written by Mark Medoff, were launched here in Las Cruces, including the Tony Award-winning “Children of a Lesser God.”
In addition to our thriving theater community, Las Cruces also boasts its own symphony, opera and ballet companies, the Creative Media Institute film and multimedia school, a charter arts high school, entertainment programs at museums, the library and art galleries, and at world class fiestas.
The Pan Am Center has attracted sell-out crowds of more than 12,500 to see stars like George Strait,  Elton John and Garth Brooks.
Despite the heat, gatherings like Warped Tour continue to draw thousands of rock fans.
Though some feel we are in need of a venue that ranks somewhere between stadium and intimate small theaters, we continue to get creative with the spaces we have.
The most recent additions are the renovated Rio Grande Theatre, billed as the nation’s oldest adobe theater, and the state-of-the-art Mark and Stephanie Medoff Theatre at the brand new $37.5 million Center for the Arts at New Mexico State University, now home to the American Southwest Theatre Company.
Both venues are evidence of community support for the arts and represent the dedication of many community leaders who devoted years of volunteer efforts and resources to ensure their completion.
Audience demand and talent seem to keep pace with growing venues, too. NMSU’s budging-at-the-seams Atkinson Music Center Recital Hall is  booked with Las Cruces Symphony, choral, and numerous other concerts, plays and recitals.
Creative Las Crucens have found ways to bring entertainment to many other venues, too, including the new Las Cruces Convention Center, the renovated Court Youth Center, area churches and school auditoriums, museums, galleries, shops, malls and restaurants.
Our burgeoning talent base has chances to shine, indoors and out. 
The Mesilla Plaza offers musical and dance performances several times a year. The newly renovated (there’s that word again) downtown Main Street area features a host of musicians and street performers of all ages during Wednesday and Saturday Las Cruces Farmers & Crafts Markets.
And our parks often have entertaining opportunities beyond picnics and strolls with the family and friends.
Many make Sunday Music in the Park concerts a summertime tradition.
And when FTFS (Full-Tilt Fiesta Season) resumes in August, we’ll be reminded that we celebrate more than, say, fast ducks, salsa, enchiladas, chiles, wine, Borderland traditions and the costumes of yesteryear.
From theatrical troupes at RenFaire to dancers and singers at Meerscheidt and top national acts at the Southern New Mexico Fairgrounds, we know how to put on a show.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore

Maintaining voice contact has profound rewards

By S. Derrickson Moore
LAS CRUCES — Remember phone calls?
I’m not talking about Skype or Instagram, e-mails or app sharing or exploring the universe with Siri or texting or Geocashing, Touting, Tweeting or any of the other weird, wild and sometimes wonderful things you can do with smart phones and their on-screen cousins.
I’m talking about the fun even we ancient Baby Boomers and our Gen-X kids could have with our phones.
I’m talking about curling up in your comfiest (even rattiest) jammies for a nice, long, voice-to-voice,  heart-to-heart. With your best friend, a parent, a sibling, your soulmate, your love, your kid or grandkid.
And lately, I’ve been wondering if that most intimate of communication forms is going (or for many, has already gone) the way of the snail mail love letter.
It would be a shame.
There are spiritual traditions that maintain the best — or maybe the only  — way to transmit the most profound secrets of the universe is via the spoken word. Somehow, when Genesis proclaims, “In the beginning, there was the word,” I feel sure that there was a sacred vibration involved, not a text or a Tweet.
And on more mundane planes, there are profound bonds than can be achieved with nothing more than two voices in the dark, across town, a country, a continent and a world.
Texting can be safe and efficient. The right photo, Tweeted at just the right time, can be worth a thousand words.
And there are times, circumstances permitting, that only live face time, and hugs and kisses, will do.
But there are also times, in life’s trickier transitions, when love and friendship are very new or very old and established, that spoken words can be not merely enough, but perfection.
There’s something about a voice phone conversation that can make it easier to share secrets and problems, plans and fears and full-tilt love.
How many shy lovers have shared their first declarations in phone conversations? I wouldn’t be surprised if many or most first discussions of commitment, sharing lives, considerations of marriage and even proposals first surfaced on the phone.
Tweens and teens learn social skills. It may be easier to ask for a first date via text or a creative e-mail or Instagram, but there’s something about the butterflies that come with in-person or voice contact that I think we’ll miss, if we give it up entirely.
With voice phone calls, green employees on first jobs can learn to conduct business without having to worry about body language, prejudice and other issues that can be confidence busters for young workers or those seeking new positions or promotions.
Phone solicitations don’t fall into any of these desirable communication categories. But I wonder if some of our most lonely and vulnerable people might be more susceptible to unethical pitches, is an era where many are starved for human contact, the warmth of an intimate voice, even if the speaker is up to no good.
In the last few years, I’ve found myself making appointments for phone chats with friends and relatives, setting aside an hour or two to catch up, just as we would if we were getting together for lunch or dinner. Even if we Tweet, e-mail or keep tabs on one another via Facebook or other social media on a daily basis, there’s something special about making time for a real phone conversation.
Intergenerational chats can be more problematical. It can be tougher than ever to compete in a multimedia world. You have to be an entertaining conversationalist. And that’s still a valuable skill to develop, however the world may change.
It’s worth the effort, and the rewards can be  warmer relationships — and real communication in a plugged-in world where deep connections are still rare and precious.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

An ode to New Mexico summers

By S. Derrickson Moore

No matter if the weather is triple-digit-ish, summer is still my favorite season — I think.
There would have been no hesitation during my childhood in Michigan. If you loved to swim, play outside with friends, take long walks and gather wildflowers, as I did, summer was the season for you. The only season, in fact, that you could count on. Winters were very cold and very long, and prone to make untimely incursions on adjacent seasons. But summer was mostly free from awful weather, except for the occasional hail storm, maverick tornado or prolonged rains.
Here, summer is the usurper of what many consider our best seasons: fall and spring. Newcomers will notice that you frequently hear residents of Southern New Mexico complain: “We didn’t have much of a spring this year: we went straight from winter to summer.” 
You hear it so frequently, in fact, that we wonder why anyone considers it remarkable.
Weird as the weather has been in recent years, there are a few things you can expect pretty regularly during summer here: some wonderful, some — not so much.
A river will run through it (even if it’s only for 45 days this year), and we will be able to envision what summers once were like on the banks of the Rio Grande, when it was a wild river, rather than a micromanaged irrigation ditch. 
There will be what I called, in jest, a monsoon season, when I first moved here. Imagine my surprise when the term seemed to catch on with regional weather people.
While not as dependable as summer wildfires during our recent drought years, if there is going to be a rainy season, summer’s the time. And for almost all of my two decades in Las Cruces, it seems like the most likely time for a deluge, or at least some serious sprinkles, is the Fourth of July. Fireworks displays are just about the only event for which some municipalities have back-up alternative rain dates here. But most seem to decide to go ahead, even during the most impressive Independence day thunder and lightning storms, nature’s much more impressive answer to our feeble-by-comparison manmade explosions. Rain is something to celebrate.
This could even lead to a prolonged periods of what New Mexicans call humidity, a pretty laughable concept for someone who has lived in the Midwest, drizzly Oregon and in South Florida and Jamaica, where you can literally get mugged by desperado tsunamis of humidity which fog your sunglasses and leave you drenched, the second you step out of air conditioned DMZs.
Of course, many of us still have swamp coolers, which are severely compromised by prolonged monsoons.
Still, New Mexicans are so elated by any prospect of moisture, that you’re likely to find us pretty cheery during the summer, welcoming legitimate reasons (like survival) to take it slow, sip a cool drink, slip into places with the best AC, and sing and dance in the rain, when it comes. 
Even when it seems the triple-digit heat will never end, many of us will consider summer way too short, because school will start in August, rather than September, post-Labor Day, as it does in most of the country. 
And some will feel obligated to start contemplating back-to-school issues in July, or even June. 
New Mexico’s tax-free back-to-school weekend is Aug. 2 through 4 this year, so you don’t have to think about all that for another month. And though I just looked it up, I’m not going to mention exactly when school will start for teachers and students.
The older you get, the faster it goes.
 So slow down, kick back and enjoy it while you can. Savor your Southwestern summer in all its steamy, chile-enhanced, hopefully-monsoon-blessed glory.

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore.

La Posta unveils new brand of premium tequila

About the exclusive tequila
Name: La Posta de Mesilla Herradura Private Reserve Double Barrel Reposado
Available: Shots, shot flights, margaritas, by the bottle
Where: La Posta de Mesilla, 2410 Calle de San Albino
When: Restaurant open daily, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Friday, 8 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to  9 p.m. Sunday. 
How much? Prices vary
Info: 575-524-3524,

La Posta unveils new brand of premium tequila
By S. Derrickson Moore
MESILLA — Could we become a tequila tourism mecca?
La Posta, long celebrated for its food, history and adobe ambiance, now has its very own tequila. More than 225 tequila aficionados gathered for a June 27 launch and tasting party for La Posta de Mesilla Herradura Private Reserve Double Barrel Reposado at the historic restaurant, just off the Mesilla Plaza.
“And we had over 50 people on a waiting list for the party,” said Tom Hutchinson who owns La Posta with his wife Jerean Camuñez Hutchinson. Her great-aunt, Katy Griggs Camuñez, founded the popular restaurant in 1939.
The couple decided to work with premium tequila makers Huerradura, in Tequila in the Mexican state of Jalisco, to formulate their own brand.
And it’s a big deal, said Clint Lanier of Las Cruces, author of “Bucket List Bars: Historic Saloons, Pubs, and Dives of America.” 
He thinks it’s the right spirit at the right time.
“It’s one of just two New Mexico restaurants to have their own tequila. The only other, El Pinto in Albuquerque, has a similar partnership with a tequila maker, and a similar building with a lot of history,” said Lanier, who feels La Posta’s ambiance is perfectly suited to take advantage of a new trend.
“The craft liquor culture has become as trendy as  wine and then beer has become. A lot of those people are now crossing into the spirits,” he said, adding that aficionados will gladly travel on quests for a unique Scotch ... or tequila.
Enthusiastic connoisseurs seemed to be in full-tilt questing mode and La Posta was ready, with a launch fiesta that included an ice sculpture, Borderland music, festive decor, spicy cuisine and wait staff in colorful Mexican outfits.
And, of course, the tequila, served up in margaritas, multi-colored flashing neon shot glasses and a tasting bar designed to educate everyone from neophytes to sophisticated wine connoisseurs about the basics of tequila sampling.
There are procedures as traditional as the familiar wine, cheese and crackers rituals.
“In Mexico, we’ve learned that they use vegetables to cleanse the pallet between shots of tequila, and we’re also offering our own sangria,” said Jerean Hutchinson, holding court near a pyramid of containers stocked with carrots, lime, jicama, cucumbers and celery.
The new tequila is “smooth,” tasters generally agreed.
“It’s very smooth. A little oaky. You can taste the barrel aging. I like it a lot,” said Steve Spotts of El Paso, whose wife Jacqueline, agreed.
So did David E. Ikard of Las Cruces: “It’s smooth as all get out.”
Marsha San Filippo of Las Cruces tried the new spirit in a specialty drink called the Lucky Horseshoe Margarita.
“It was very smooth mixed. I want to try it straight up,” San Filippo said.
“Ooo. That’s nice. Full of flavor. I can see myself sitting on the beach, just sipping this,” said Shakera Crawley, an El Paso native who works in Las Cruces. She tried both a shot of the new spirit straight, and another sample infused with pink peppercorns and pineapple, her personal favorite.
“It’s so innovative. I love the idea of the tequila, that you can give a bottle of tequila that’s from our area and send it all over the world,” said Irene Oliver Lewis of Las Cruces.
“It’s wonderful. Beautiful. Everyone is absolutely intrigued with this,” said Keila Harrington, a Chicago native who now lives in New Mexico.
“I think it would be better if it were chilled. I’m not generally into the reposados, but this is pretty good, with a little bit of bite,” pronounced Ron Farthing of Las Cruces.
“It’s delicious. I like tequila. It’s smooth and easier,” said Margy Papen of Las Cruces.
Those who missed their event will be able to experience their own tasting with a Herradura Lucky Flight, featuring three, half-ounce pours of Herradura agave tequilas, including La Posta’s signature new Double Barrel Reposado, served with the house Sangria and “an assorted garden of jicama, cucumber and carrots to savor and cleanse the palate.” 
The Hutchinsons hope their tequila, sold only at La Posta, will soon be available by the bottle. For information, call 575-524-3524 or visit online at

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore

Ten things you should do at least once this summer

By S. Derrickson Moore

We may be having a tough time enduring the hot, muggy (for high-desert country) weather and it may seem that school is just around the corner, but don’t lose sight of some crucial summer pleasures that can be the best part of this season.
Here’s my personal list of 10 things you should do at least once this summer.
•Grill dinner.
Don’t have an outdoor grill, or feel like it’s too hot to contemplate the whole process? Invest in a grill pan and put those impressive grill marks on anything from a steak and chicken to fruits and veggies.
•Walk on the beach. Hurry, quick, while there are still a few more days before they turn off the Rio Grande. 
Or plan a day trip to Elephant Butte.
Or stroll our state’s most famous beach: White Sands. In the sizzling season, it’s best in early morning and by moonlight. Summer hours are 8 a.m. to 7 p.m., and next Full Moon Night programs will be at 8:30 p.m. July 22 and Aug. 21. Info: 575-479-6124 or e-mail
Fun fact from WSNM: “Only the top few inches of the gypsum dunes are made of loose sand. Rainwater falling on the dunes dissolves some of the gypsum and cements the sand grains together, creating a crude form of plaster of Paris. This makes the white sand dunes easy to walk on.”
And, of course, our whole state is pretty much beach, and if what we hear about the ancient inland sea is correct, most of it was oceanfront once upon a time.
Take off those flip-flops and get ready to feel the sand in your toes and build a castle or two. Wear something summery: a gaudy, tropical print shirt, a new bathing suit and stylish beach cover-up. And don’t forget the silly hat and sunscreen.
•Mix a summer cocktail. Invent your own mai tai or margarita. Add green chile or jalapeños to your favorite beer. Make virgin versions for teetotalers. How about a Virgin Galactic cocktail in honor of the Spaceport? Let me know if you come up with a great concoction.
•Take a cool summer dip. Not a swimmer? Join a water aerobics class, or take cool showers. And you’re never too old to run through the sprinkler or have a squirt gun fight.
•See a blockbuster movie. The sillier, the more special effects, the better. Sneak away during the hottest part of the day to a theater with the coldest A/C you can find.
•Read a beach book. Again, the sillier, the steamier, the better. Or reread a favorite mystery, novel or book from your childhood.
•Find a summer love — or, to recycle a key theme from that iconic ultimate summer festival, Woodstock, love the one you’re with.
 If you’re single, consider tracking down one of your first summer loves online. If he or she is single, too, and you can’t remember why you broke up/drifted apart, set up a reunion.
•Take a siesta, at the hottest time of the day. There’s a reason behind the custom.
•Have a picnic. It can be as simple as a brown bag solo lunch on a park bench or as elaborate as a basket packed with linen,  glassware, wine and gourmet goodies for a romantic brunch or sunset feast at your favorite scenic spot.
•Throw a party. Invite the whole neighborhood and go all out with a Tiki bar, umbrella drinks, leis and grass skirts.
Or have a small, impromptu, intimate soiree for one or two, based on any of the other nine items on this list.
Or not. If your favorite summer pleasure is not on this list, make your own. Happy summer!

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore

A slow start to silly season

By S. Derrickson Moore

Having trouble getting into a summery mood?
Climate change has escalated beyond deniability with giant tornados, floods, drought and rampant wildfires.
Our infrastructure is crumbling around us.
Congress is growing more and more dysfunctional.
The impacts of sequestration are coming home to roost and there seems to be a new government crisis or scandal every week.
Usually around this time of year, journalists are talking about silly season — a carefree time of vacations, blockbuster movies, games, music and books that are escapist and frivolous.
This summer, in addition to the greater-than-usual regional, national and international sturm und drang, your local Sun-News journalists are converting from Macs to PCs and a whole new multi-media content management system.
You’d think this would be the time to abandon silly season, personally and professionally.
That was my feeling, too, until I decided I might as well go ahead with my annual fads of summer story (currently in the works). 
And I’m glad I did, I decided, as I tempted a neighborhood dog with my glow-in-the-dark Frisbee and debated whether I should send my new collection of superhero hand tattoos (the temporary kind) to grandson Alexander the Great or  keep ’em myself. (I think I’ll compromise and keep Wonder Woman, then share the others.)
I’m not advocating a slacker, isolationist, escapist policy, you understand. There are issues that need attention, people who need help and members of congressmen to contact.
But could it hurt to throw a picnic, a sing-along, a blockbuster movie date, a swim, or a new toy into the mix?
There’s something about the rhythm of life that calls out for a summer break now and then.
There are American summer traditions as ingrained as the Fourth of July, apple pie and ice cream socials.
Almost all of us grew up associating summer with a break from school and some kind of family vacation, like a road trip to see assorted wonders or a camping expedition to enjoy the wilderness.
No matter what the budget, most of us can manage some variation of that, even if it’s just a day at a regional fiesta.
There are a lot of summer staycation options here, too — a backyard barbecue, summer park programs, free concerts and free movies.
While assembling a collection of my favorite childhood books for a friend’s granddaughter recently, I was reminded of how many adventures you can have just sitting and reading under a shady tree, or in a cool backyard hammock.
In fact, I was tempted to revisit some of my childhood favorites and a mystery series I love, and I’m finding them just as fun the second time around.
With a wealth of summer-reading programs, book giveaways and the resources of local libraries, we can all enjoy exotic travels to foreign cultures, and even other realms, without mortgaging the house or sacrificing college to fund a Spaceport fight.
Back-seat pillow fights and super squirtgun duels. Runs through the sprinkler. An early-morning nature walk with a parent or grandparent, before it gets too hot.
While the memory of  a five-star resort vacation dims, I can still remember a long-ago summer canoe trip with my grandfather. I remember clearly the shock of an icy cold swim, the fun of navigating through pine forests and sandy coves.
In trying times, we should all try to find ways to take breaks, play and have a little silly fun with those we love.
We’ll come back to life’s challenges refreshed, with new ideas and energy.
Maybe we should send Congress to mandatory summer camp this year, and hand out super camper medals for those who best learn how to play well with others.
Do something silly today. Happy summer!

S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at 575-541-5450. Follow her on Twitter @DerricksonMoore