Monday, October 27, 2014

Old home week in Santa Fe

Oct. 26
By S. Derrickson Moore
It started as soon as I pulled in to my first stop in the City Different. I put coins in a parking meter, and found myself in front of the gallery of longtime Las Crucen David Rothermel (David Rothermel Contemporary Art at 142 Lincoln St. in Santa Fe).
I met Dr. Roger at the Inn of the Anasazi. We sipped spectacular margaritas (mine was silver, his was gold) and enjoyed a sumptuous dinner prepared by Chef Juan Bochenski, who came out to answer our questions about the mysterious preparation of the “green chile pearls” that accented our plates (Roger’s Duck Enchiladas Mole, and my Chile Almond Crusted Salmon, possibly the best salmon of my life). I won’t give away his secrets, beyond the agar agar and special care taken to retain our fave pepper’s bright flavors and colors, but I suspect that the green chile was from our stretch of high-desert country. We also discovered our bartender and waiter were great fans of Las Cruces. Their sister is an NMSU grad and they visit frequently, they explained.
At Marigold Arts on Canyon Road, we stopped in to see works by Las Crucen Robert Highsmith, whose remarkable paintings, by the by, star in the New Mexico Magazine’s 2015 Artist Calendar, “Robert Highsmith’s Views in Watercolor.”
Roger and I ended up having dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, the Pink Adobe (still the best blue corn green chile chicken enchiladas on the planet, next to Roger’s) with author and former Las Crucen Jann Arrington Wolcott and her husband John, discussing what it was like to grow up in Las Cruces and Jann’s college days in NMSU’s theatre department with the legendary Hershel Zohn.
In mid-vacay, when I decided to leave our pretty little condo and head for the indoor pool at Fort Marcy Hotel Suites for an early morning swim. I struck up a conversation with the only other person in the pool, a Santa Fe resident who asked me if I knew artist Flo Hosa Dougherty of Las Cruces. “Of course,” I replied, and it turned out her husband had gone to high school with Flo and they’d all had a nice reunion in Las Cruces, not long before his recent sudden death. Since we’d all started out as midwesterners, it struck me as a little beyond coincidence that this conversation should occur in a pool where I’d never been before. But Flo, I’d like you to know that Dorothy says, “Hi.”
It wasn’t really a surprise to run into Sallie Ritter and Dr. Kent Jacobs at a Governor’s Award reception at the state capital. We knew about the ceremony and we decided it would be fun to drop in and congratulate them.
But I was a little surprised to run into so many familiar Las Cruces faces, including Sally and Glenn Cutter, who came to cheer for Sallie and Kent, who were recognized this year with the Major Contributors to the Arts Award for their estate bequest to the Museum of New Mexico. Their Las Cruces home and collection of contemporary art and American Indian pottery and textiles will eventually become a satellite Museum of New Mexico museum, called the Jacobs-Ritter Compound.
The artistic and art-loving couple were honored for a variety of contributions to New Mexico’s art community with an exhibit that showcased their multi-faceted accomplishments and included some of Kent’s books and Sallie’s paintings. Sallie was recognized for her career as an internationally-known painter and Kent, a retired physician, was lauded for his contributions that include books and years of  years of service as a regent and past president of the Museum of New Mexico Board of Regents.
Some of the other honorees weren’t strangers, either. I’d interviewed Robert Shoofly Shufelt, who told us how he’d barely made it out of his flooded Southern New Mexico ranch (we didn’t see a drop up north, that soggy September week when Las Cruces and El Paso were getting hammered.) I’d also met and interviewed Governor’s Award winner Robert Mirabal, a multi-talented Grammy Award-winning musician, poet and artist who has appeared at NMSU’s American Indian Week here.
To check out my vacation videos of the Governor’s Awards reception, go to lcsun-news and click on this column.
Some of the old home week connections extended back more than two decades to another coast. David Setford, new director of Santa Fe’s Spanish Colonial Society (sponsors of Spanish Market), needed no introduction. We’d met in Palm Beach, Florida, when I was an executive with the Palm Beach County Council of the Arts and he was at the Norton Museum, (where he curated two of my all-time fave exhibitions: notes and sketches by Picasso and an exhibit of castle watercolors by Prince Charles). He told me he was headed to Las Cruces for a tour of our arts scene.
New Mexico may be the fifth biggest state in terms of land area, but synchronistic encounters during my fall vacation reminded me that we’re all part of a  surprisingly small world, especially in the arts community.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at  dmoore@lcsun-ners, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

Day of the Dead 101

Oct. 19
A guide to Dia de los Muertos
Día de los Muertos has been called “a day when heaven and earth meet” and “a celebration of lives well-lived.” In Las Cruces, it has become a beloved tradition, a time when Borderland cultures blend, showcasing and sometimes creatively combining Spanish, Mexican, American Indian and Anglo customs and beliefs.
Día De Los Muertos “is not a morbid holiday but a festive remembrance of Los Angelitos (children) and all souls (Los Difuntos),” according to a statement from the Calavera Coalition of Mesilla. “This celebration originated with the indigenous people of the American continent, the Aztec, Mayan, Toltec and the Inca. Now, many of the festivities have been transformed from their original pre-Hispanic origins. It is still celebrated throughout North America among Native American tribes. The Spanish arrived and they altered the celebration to coincide with the Catholic celebrations of All Saints Day (Nov. 1) and All Souls Day (Nov. 2).”
Continuing an annual Las Cruces Style tradition, here is a guide to some important terms and concepts relating to Day of the Dead celebrations, collected during more than 20 years of commemorations here.
•alfeñique: Molded sugar figures used in altars for the dead.
•ancianos: Grandparents or elderly friends or relatives who have died; ancestors honored during the first (north) part of processions for Day of the Dead.
•angelitos: Literally “little angels,” refers to departed children and babies, traditionally honored during the first day of celebrations, Nov. 1, and the third (south) part of processions honoring the dead.
•anima sola: A lonely soul or spirit who died far from home or who is without amigos or relatives to take responsibility for its care.
•calascas: Handmade skeleton figurines which display an active and joyful afterlife, such as musicians or skeleton brides and grooms in wedding finery.
•calaveras: Skeletons, used in many ways for celebrations: bread and candies in the shape of skeletons are traditional, along with everything from small and large figures and decorations, skeleton head rattles, candles, masks, jewelry and T-shirts. It’s also the term for skull masks, often painted with bright colors and flowers and used in displays and worn in Day of the Dead processions.
•literary calaveras: Poetic tributes written for departed loved ones or things mourned and/or as mock epitaphs.
•Catrin and Catrina: Formally dressed couple, or bride and groom skeletons, popularized by renowned Mexican graphic artist and political cartoonist José Guadalupe Posada (1851-1913). In modern celebrations, Catrina is particularly popular and appears in many stylish outfits.
•copal: A fragrant resin from a Mexican tree used as incense, burned alone or mixed with sage in processions in honor of the dead.
•Días de los Muertos: Days of the Dead, usually celebrated on Oct. 31 through Nov. 2 (the official date for Day of the Dead) in conjunction with All Souls Days or Todos Santos, the Catholic Feast of All Saints. Various Borderland communities, including Las Cruces, have their own celebration schedules in October and November. Look for altars and art exhibits around the Mesilla Valley, and our largest area celebration Oct. 29 and 30 on the Mesilla Plaza, also the site of a procession beginning at dusk Nov. 2.
•Difunto: Deceased soul, corpse, cadaver.
•La Flaca: Nickname for the female death figure, also known as La Muerte.
•Frida Kahlo: Mexican artist who collected objects related to the Day of the Dead. Her photo often appears in Día de los Muertos shrines or retablos.
•Los Guerreros: Literally, “the warriors,” are dead fathers, husbands, brothers and sons honored in the final (east) stop in Día De Los Muertos processions.
•marigolds: In Mexico, marigolds or “cempasuchil” are officially known as the “flower of the dead.” The flowers are added to processional wreaths at each stop, with one blossom representing each departed soul being honored. Sometimes marigold pedals are strewn from the cemetery to a house. Their pungent fragrance is said to help the spirits find their way back home. Mums and paper flowers are also used.
•mariposas: Butterflies, and sometimes hummingbirds, appear with skeletons to symbolize the flight of the soul from the body to heaven.
•masks: Carried or worn during processions and other activities, masks can range from white face paint to simple molded plaster or papier-maché creations or elaborate painted or carved versions that become family heirlooms.
•Las Mujeres: The women who have died are honored during the second (west) stop of Day of the Dead processions. After names of dead mothers, daughters, sisters and friends are called and honored, it is traditional for the crowd to sing a song for the Virgin of Guadalupe.
•Náhuatl poetry: Traditional odes dedicated to the subject of death, dating back to the pre-Columbian era.
•ofrenda: Traditional altar where offerings such as flowers, clothing, food, photographs and objects loved by the departed are placed. The ofrenda may be constructed in the home, usually in the dining room, at a cemetery, or may be carried in a procession. The ofrenda base is often an arch made of bent reeds. It is ornamented with special decorations, sometimes with heirlooms collected by families, much like Christmas ornaments. Decorations may include skeleton figures, toys and musical instruments in addition to offerings for a specific loved one.
•pan de muertos: Literally, “bread of the dead.” It is traditionally baked in the shape of a skull, or calavera, and dusted with pink sugar. Here, local bakeries sometimes include red and green chile decorations.
•papel picado: Decorations made of colored paper cut in intricate patterns.
•Posada: José Guadalupe Posada, (1852-1913), the self-taught “printmaker to the people” and caricaturist was known for his whimsical calaveras, or skeletons, depicted wearing dapper clothes, playing instruments and otherwise nonchalantly conducting their everyday activities, sometimes riding on horse skeletons.
•veladores: Professional mourners who help in the grief process in several ways, including candlelight vigils, prayers and with dramatic weeping and wailing.
•Xolotlitzcuintle: Monster dog, sometimes depicted as a canine skeleton, sometimes as a Mexican hairless breed. Since pre-Columbian times, this Día de los Muertos doggy has, according to legend, been the departed’s friend, helping with the tests of the perilous crossing of the River Chiconauapan to Mictlan, the land of the dead.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout or call 575-541-5450.

Duct tape, knitting needles and other essential tools...

Oct. 5
What’s in your toolbox?
I used to think, when I was growing up with an engineer dad, and later married to a physicist/engineer/woodworking/model-building husband, that tools were not a vital part of my personal life, or anything that need concern me.
As an otherwise liberated executive woman friend used to say of our mechanically skilled hubbies: “We have kitchens and laundry. Anything involving cars and tools is their mess.”
I pretty much held to that view later, when I moved on become a single householder. I decided the most important things in my toolbox are the names and contact information for those who can wield tools more skillfully than I’d ever be able to manage. And I must confess, I noticed that it was considerably easier and quicker to hire someone to do odd jobs than it was to nag one’s recalcitrant spouse to do something.
To be honest, it can even be cheaper, when you consider the funds and resources a perfectionist hubby might invest in tools, books, online instructional items and even, in some cases, expensive instructional courses.
I could tell you the tale of a hapless wife who just needed a few feet of crown molding replaced or repainted. Six months later, her husband had located a set of tools used many decades ago by a long-departed relative, a carpenter maestro from the old country. He had them shipped to his home and they arrived in a beautiful old trunk. That sparked an interest in modern tools that could almost, but not quite, replicate the effects of ancient craftsmanship, and an obsession with exotic woods. Soon, most of their garage and their guest bedroom were filled with his collection of rare woods and his new library of books on wood and ancient and modern carpentry techniques. He joined woodworking clubs and signed up for classes at the local community college.
And, as you’ve probably guessed, the hunk of forlorn crown molding remained untouched.
When I bought my semi-adobe abode, I was surprised how pleased I was to receive a nicely outfitted toolbox of my very own. My thoughtful amigos had probably noticed my own makeshift toolkit (still a favorite that’s in regular use). It’s a pretty little tin cylinder with blue and white fauns and flowers. It’s stocked with nails, a tiny hammer, little pliers, a screw driver and knitting needles. (If you aren’t a girl or a knitter, you may not appreciate how handy a basket of yarn, twine and various sized of knitting needles can be, for prying, retrieving and a variety of household emergencies, as well as for creating chic scarves and sweaters).
My little tin was also supplemented by my large stash of art supplies: brushes, paints, frame wire, glue guns, fusable web and other sewing and crafts staples that I’ve found very handy for home repairs and decor projects.
My gift toolkit has all the basics, but in serious sizes and many forms, plus a staple gun, calk and nail guns, a nice little saw, lots of cool tapes that made me want to create cool art projects and yes, even a power drill. (That intimidated me a little at first, but now I not only use it but have even began to understand the guy thing about power tools. It’s all in there in the name: there really is a sense of power, control and competency in skillfully wielding ‘em. You begin to believe we could bring order out of chaos, save the planet and usher in an era of world peace, if only we could find just the right tools.
Now I have two whole shelves in the pantry and part of a lazy susan in the kitchen, all filled with helpful tools. I still call in the pros for the big and most of the medium stuff, but I find I can do a surprising amount of useful little jobs on my own.
I feel I have even improved on some small tasks, like using cooking spray instead of WD-40 for squeaky hinges.
It smells better.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

Decluttering out lives

Sept. 28
We’re all busy, but this is still the perfect time of year to follow the example of trees and shed that which has outlived its usefulness.
For me, that starts with decluttering my life as much as possible. Spring may be the traditional time for house cleaning, but somehow, fall always seems like a more logical time to go through your closets and sort out what you want to keep and are ready to part with.
There’s something about back-to-school season, even if it’s practical to wear summer clothes for a few more months, that always makes me want to take a look at my wardrobe, reconsider colors and accessories and decide if this is the year I finally want to give up those last size 7s I’ve been clinging hopefully to, for too many years.
The argument that clothes I’ve loved are now out of style never is very successful for me. I’ve lived long enough to know that everything eventually comes back in style, albeit with a slightly different twist, sometimes. And most of us get more confident with age and experience about defining our own style, issuing ourselves artistic license to transcend conventions (or sometimes even saying to heck with the whole concept.
Still, I realize that there are some things in my wardrobe that I will never have the occasion or inclination to wear again. Cute, very high heels for instance. Things that were uncomfortable and restrictive, even when I had a 22-inch waist and was young and dumb enough to buy into the suffering-for-beauty notion. Colors that I love on the hanger but that make me look like an elderly green creature from the black lagoon.
My friend Marilyn, a retired librarian who shares my nostalgia for the classics, recently shared an excellent suggestion.
“Take pictures of things you love but no longer wear or use, then give them away,” Marilyn advised.
Wonderful. You can have your memories and share things you love, too.
Another friend, years ago, suggested making notes about possessions that friends and family members admire. Then wrap and give them away for birthday or holiday gifts. I started doing that with holiday decorations years ago and now feel inclined to extend the concept to clothing, household accessories, art, books, kitchen gadgets and even furniture and appliances.
I don’t think I’d qualify as a hoarder, but after 15 years in the same place, I’m amazed at how that once-seemingly infinite closet space has filled up.
I think most of us long for a more minimalistic Zen decor as we grow older. We’d rather have less to dust and clean, more elbow room in our life, less to trip over, less to maintain.
And yes, more to share.
My fall resolution is to eventually go through ever cabinet, room and closet and clear the decks.
I’m gradually devising a system. Things to pass on to friends and family members. Things to throw out (I’m. continually astonished to find out how much is in this category, which I have been tempted to stack in boxes labeled, “WHAT was I thinking??” Things to give away to good causes.  I think we all have our favorites and there are a lot of places in town that will appreciate your gently worn and new and never-used clothing and household goods.
One of the things that spurs me to soldier on when I’d rather not, is thinking about the kids that are helped by charities like Jardín de los Niños and Tutti Bambini (two cute boutiques that I always enjoy shopping at after I’ve brought in my goodies, an inexpensive reward for my virtuous cleaning).
You can also, of course, get receipts and tax deductions for everything from those new sheets and comforters that never looked right in your bedroom to art and jewelry.
It’s great for everyone. Someone else will be delighted with something that is surplus or unused in your life. People and organizations that need help will benefit. And you’ll experience the very real joy of giving, freedom from caring for items you don’t need and the time and space for new adventures.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

A few of my favorite Las Cruces things

Sept. 21

What do you like to share about Las Cruces?
It’s something that usually comes up whenever a friend or relative comes for a visit. It can depend, of course, on the season of — and the reason for — the visit.
I’ve developed my own checklist for Christmas or seasonal fiestas which pretty much plan themselves, and I have the pictures to prove it: grandson Alexander the Great, for instance, as a 10-month-old shaking his maracas on the Mesilla Plaza during a Cinco de Mayo celebration. It’s something to share with him now that he’s an 18-year-old with his own band.
My sister Sally and I built a Día de los Muertos altar for our late mom on that same plaza a few years later. Mesilla’s plaza is like every southern New Mexican’s back yard and touchstone. It’s one of the places where our history is most tangible.
Of course, new touchstones spring up, too. Like Olin Calk’s giant roadrunner made from recycled cast-offs. I love the creativity and green spirit the roadrunner represents, and I love to share it. I’ve gone out of my way to take like-minded tree-hugging souls to see one of my favorite all-time works of art, even when it meant a strange and less-than-fragrant trip to its former perch at what was then an East Mesa landfill. And I discovered I have lots of company. When the roadrunner returned to its more scenic perch at an I-10 rest stop overlooking the Organs, I learned that it has become a touchstone (and photo op) for cross-country truckers and even some newlyweds, who are coming back to have pictures taken with the first kids and the giant roadrunner.
In my two decades here,  the Las Cruces Farmers and Crafts Market has always been a mandatory stop on the Las Cruces grand tour, even before it rated as No. 1 in a nationwide poll of large outdoor markets. It’s always a good time — a sweet little showcase of everything I love about our town and it’s unique mix of the three As: arts, academia and agriculture. And it’s gotten better, as it’s gotten bigger, with more stylish booths, expanding live entertainment, and posher refurbished surroundings after Main Street re-opened.
I also try to swing by some of our other outdoor markets, too: the Mesilla Mercado on Sundays and Fridays and Big Daddy’s Flea Market on Saturdays.
Newcomers or returning former Las Cruces usually want to spend some time seeing what all the Downtown revitalization fuss is about, so I usually arrange for a walking tour — especially fun if we happen to hit on the first Friday Downtown Ramble through museums, shops and galleries. If not, we usually find a way to visit a few galleries, anyway, and the Branigan Cultural Center, Museum of Art and the Museum of Art and Science, and the Railroad Museum. My book-loving friends want to visit Coas, still one of the biggest and most intriguing used bookstores in the wild west.
Theatre buffs want to catch a performance at the Rio Grande, the Black Box, the Las Cruces Community Theatre, the Mark and Stephanie Medoff Theatre at the new Center for the Arts at NMSU and the newly-named Irene Oliver-Lewis Theatre at Court Youth Center and Alma d’arte Charter High School for the arts in the beautiful old Pueblo Revival building she inspired the community to bring back to life.
Which brings us to the new buildings tour: including the new Doña Ana County Government Center, Las Cruces City Hall and the federal building (look inside for their permanent and rotating art exhibits, too).
Outdoor enthusiasts get a tour of natural wonders: Dripping Springs, hikes through Baylor pass and other Organ destinations, Mesilla Valley Bosque State Park, a visit (and maybe a moonlight tour or dunes slide) to White Sands National Monument.
Science fans enjoy seeing the New Mexico Space Museum and Tombaugh Planetarium at Alamogordo, with stops on the trip home, if possible, at the eclectic museum on the WSMR base, and the Space Murals Museum on Hwy. 70 near Organ.
Even if your visitors happen to hit a rare Full-Tilt Fiesta Season weekend without a major fiesta, there is always a unique cultural smorgasbord of goodies on any given weekend that could include a symphony or ballet performance, live theater (maybe even a premiere), mariachis, dance, jazz, rock, blues or some exotic only-in-Las Cruces fusion of performance and visual arts.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

A surprisingly functional showbiz family

Sept. 14
Some of the very best lines came toward the end of the September Mark Medoff tribute, “Far From Finished” at New Mexico State University’s Center for the Arts.
One was from the man of the hour himself.
“Now, you don’t have to come to my funeral,” Mark quipped, after a gala dinner and some fast-paced hours that included a full Las Cruces Symphony Orchestra with conductor Lonnie Klein in white tie and tails, Debra Knapp’s NMSU dancers, a 60-member chorus and lots of celebrity appearances and film clips that reminded us just how impressive Medoff career has been. Performers included Mark’s daughter, Jessica Medoff Bunchman and her childhood amigo Don Groves (both grew up to be professional touring opera singers.)
If the tears glistening from center stage were any indication, Mark’s personal fave performance of the evening might have come from granddaughter Grace Marks, who delivered a brave and moving rendition of “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”
There was a lot of family in the show, which featured tributes to Medoff’s wife and “love of my life” Stephanie and their three daughters Debra, Rachel and Jessica, sons-in-law and grandchildren, including the newest, little Hope Elizabeth, born with major challenges, but clearly gifted when it comes to giving and receiving love.
In fact, conversations at the gala after-party indicated that the Medoffs greatest achievement over a long and stellar career may well have been nurturing a close, loving and amazingly functional family while navigating life in a notoriously dysfunctional business.
Their decision to remain in Las Cruces was lauded and was cited by many at the benefit (which featured a lot more toasting than roasting) as a factor in the Medoff’s extraordinary relationship with immediate and extended family. And that family seems to include much of Southern New Mexico and points north, south, east and west.
Which brings us to one of the other greatest lines of the evening, from superachiever writer-producer Don Foster (his credits include “Roseanne,” “Big Bang Theory,” “Two and a Half Men,” “Dharma & Greg” and “Mike and Molly.”)
Foster described himself as “a scruffy under-achiever from Alamogordo” when he became a theater major at NMSU and studied with Medoff.
He said Mark inspired his students to “walk the walk and talk the talk,” and led by his own example.
Foster noted that Mark always maintains he gets as much back as he gives when it comes to teaching and mentoring students.
“I have to tell you, that’s mathematically impossible. There are thousands of us,” Foster said.
Lately, I’ve been celebrating two decades here myself and reflecting on what makes Las Cruces my quenencia, that special hard-to-translate concept that, as I have come to understand it, is a person-place bond that is comparable to a soulmate relationship.
There’s something about the land, the climate, the history, our unique blend of art, agriculture and academia, alma y corazon that attracts, retains and nurtures some of the most remarkable souls I’ve encountered on this planet. And those extraordinary souls have made outstanding, world-class contributions in an amazing variety of fields. Many have considerably lower profiles than the Medoffs, but all seem to have some interesting characteristics in common, including a desire to share their knowledge and talents to teach, mentor and nurture others.
We’ve all heard cynical comments about big frogs in small ponds.
The Medoffs and their world-class ilk are something different: examples of what happens when big frogs make the big time, and instead of moving on to settle permanently in the Big Apple or Hollywood, decide to stay and live in smaller ponds and help inspire generations of pollywogs to grow and develop their own talents.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news, @DerricksonMoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

Nibbled to death by ducks

Sept. 7
Nibbled to death by ducks.
It’s been a favorite phrase of mine for a long time. Recently, a friend sent an email that proposed an unattributed alternative: drowning in a birdbath.
But it just doesn’t work for me. I get the point: even the most effusive drama queen couldn’t really make a case for the perils of a birdbath. And it’s even less of a threat when you come from a long line of water babies who can float in two inches of water and do laps for at least a half hour even when you’re old and injured.
On the other hand, you actually could conceivably be nibbled to death by ducks.
I know. I grew up with mallard ducks that we considered our brothers and sisters. They flew with us to the school bus stop. They dive-bombed (and yes, ferociously nibbled) any unfamiliar dogs, cats or squirrels that strayed into our yard.
And they did occasionally nibble us — especially our bare toes, which I suspect they mistook for jelly beans. One of my siblings got our ducks hooked on chocolate pieces and jelly beans. (I never could get either my brother or sister to admit it, but it wasn’t me, I swear.)
The point is, given world enough and time, a convergence of unfortunate circumstances, and the right mallards with a jelly bean jones, you really might be nibbled to death by ducks. Especially if you liked and/or trusted the ducks, and were distracted by stress and other factors in life.
For many of us, this year has been shaping up as a perfect storm of duck-nibbling events.
I was taking stock the other day. This was the year I finally decided to do something about refinancing my mortgage. Originally, with a keep-it-local philosophy, I’d purposely chosen a hometown bank, who sold my mortgage to Countrywide, who sold it to Bank of America. Well, you get the idea.
After endless offers of quick, easy savings with only a few online and phone maneuvers, I decided to take them up on it. After all, I’d been a good customer for years. How tough could this be? But a process they promised would close in a few weeks, dragged on for several months, as terms changed, promises were revoked, costs escalated, savings dwindled and team after repetitive team called and emailed, demanding the same extensive answers to the same repetitive questions.
The final straw came when this financial institution, allegedly too big to fail, lost the first info I’d sent them and could not figure out how to reconfirm my employment at a place I’d worked for 20 years (ironically, on a day when I had five bylined stories in print and online, including two on the front page). And the whole hay bale collapsed the next day, when they mailed me someone else’s loan agreement and financial statements.
Just as the ducks moved in to finish me off, my trusty realtor superhero Elaine Socolofsky Szalay swooped in to the rescue. With one phone call and two short end-of-the-lunch-hour visits, my refinancing was all done within a couple of weeks, back at the hometown bank I’d started from. And with lower interest rates and considerably lower closing costs than any of the “easy re-fi” big boys had offered.
The rest of the summer has been filled with similar duck nibbling, a lot of it involved with the things that wear out or go wrong 15 years after you buy a brand new house.
The new washer and dryer didn’t get shipped in when they were supposed to and then couldn’t be installed by the delivery guy because the hookup faucets had corroded shut. But my long-time local plumbers lived up to their Pronto name, swiftly hooked me up and as a bonus, unclogged a sink that’s been frustrating me for years.
I have a lot of duck-nibbling stories, and feel grateful that mine all have happier endings than those of so many in the world who’ve faced more challenging dilemmas and disasters.
What’s the message?
The price of avoiding terminal duck nibbling is, as with liberty, eternal vigilance. And valor, determination and polite persistence. And let’s throw in the credo of Dorothy of Oz. When it comes to finding helpful amigos, there’s no place like home.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at, @DerricksonMoore on Tout and  Twitter or call 575-541-5450

Courtesy can grease the recalcitrant wheels of living

With courtesy, everything can work out
Aug. 31
Age before beauty.
The first one there, or the car on your right.
Women and children first.
Those are the answers. Do you know the questions?
Q. What’s a polite, even flattering, way to suggest that it’s polite for young whippersnappers to yield to their elders?
Q. Who has the right-of-way at a four-way stop?
Q. Who, by marine tradition, should have first crack at lifeboats on a sinking ship?
Rights-of-ways and issues of deference may seem a trivial concern during a summer in which much of the world is rapidly zipping to hell in a handbasket (or via heavily armored vehicles, under heavy barrages of IEDs, rockets or tear gas and bullets in Midwestern regions).
But something tells me that it all starts with simple human consideration for one another: the choice between peace on earth, goodwill to all, or war, riots and endless angst and civil unrest.
If the current state of world affairs is any indication, it seems we haven’t evolved much beyond our poodles when it comes to turf rights. In fact, our smarter pooches may be far above us in sense and survival skills.
Most of the world’s conflicts could be resolved with manners and common sense, grounded in basic ideas of human decency and respect.
Or it’s easier to think so, living in an unusually polite place like Las Cruces.
That may come as a surprise to you, if you’re lucky enough to have lived here all or life and haven’t had a need to get outside the territory often.
After many decades here, I’m still not inclined to take it for granted. And if I start to, a reminder pops up, like a couple who recently told me they have never been sir-ed and ma’am-ed so much in their lives.
I was a little unnerved by that, when I first moved to New Mexico in my 30s, and found that contemporaries my age and younger routinely used respectful, rather formal terms of address, sometimes even after we became good friends and we were on a mostly first-name basis. Now, I think it’s rather lovely, and I do it, too, sometimes. (As aging memory fog rolls in, it’s also a handy, sweet way to show respect when the name of someone you know and care about doesn’t immediately spring to mind.)
Showing deference and yielding rights-of-way cheerfully can also do a lot to foster goodwill and defuse strife and tense situations, whatever the law, Miss Manners or political or royal protocol have to say about it all.
And the proof can be in as simple as passing through a door, it occurred to me the other day when I was leaving my health club. Who has the right of way of you both get to the door at the same time? I always thought that the person leaving should go before the person coming in. (If there’s a fire or a mad bomber, that could be the very best escape-and-warning, win-win, survive-survice solution for both parties.)
But in everyday situations, does it really matter? Usually, there’s a split second when it’s obvious or natural that one person should hold the door for the other. I’m a dedicated feminist, but I’ve always been pleased, rather than offended, when a gentleman offers me that courtesy. And I’m happy to return the favor when it seems appropriate.
I’ve also been touched at some odd-couple resolutions: a elderly woman with a walker holding a door to help a mom with a squirming toddler in her arms and a baby in a stroller, a small boy proudly playing doorman for his own family and all the uniformed members of a very healthy looking soccer team.
Somehow, if your heart’s in the right place, it all works out.
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore@lcsun-news, @derricksonmoore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Make memories when you can

Aug. 24
Some of my contemporaries and I have been taking trips down memory lane.
Literally, in some cases. An increasing number of my relatives and friends have been embarking on sentimental journeys. My older sister Sally made a trip back to Pentwater, Michigan, a little lakeside town where she spent her first seven years (three for me).
Sally was amazed to discover how much was just as she remembered it, down to a moose head in a local emporium.
And I realized how much she, as the eldest of three kids born over seven years, is the grand pooh-bah of family memory storage, now that our parents, all but one of our aunts and uncles, and three of our contemporary cousins are gone.
I thought about all this during a recent discussion with a mother who was thinking about taking her tots to an upcoming event that sounded like a lot of fun. The busy working mom decided her kids were too young to be able to remember the festivities, anyway.
And too late, I thought to tell her: “Maybe not, but YOU will.”
It all drove me to my family photo albums for a look at milestones in our lives. I went through formal graduation and wedding portraits, and pages of photos of other significant passages in life: first birthdays and early newborn shots of ourselves, our kids and grandkids. First days of school. Parties and festivals and summer gatherings of cousins at our grandparents’ log cabin lodge on Lake Margrethe in Michigan.
Many snapshots conjured up more mundane events that have nonetheless become the stuff of family legends.
The day our new Britanny Spaniel puppy decided to consume most of a big wheel of cheddar. The butterflies Duffy would instinctively move into perfect point pose to bring to our attention.
The joys and trials and tribulations of raising our own little families.
That miserable but memorable night camping in Redwood forests on our otherwise totally wonderful trip with our young son to San Francisco. A trip to the zoo, a toddler’s first encounter with a friendly giraffe.
The pain of deaths and separations and divorces can dissipate, as the decades pass, leaving warm memories of the love and warmth and laughter, moments to share as new generations and new friends join your circle.
In this age of selfies and Instagrams and relentless recording of our lives and times, I hope those “clouds” we are all entrusting with our memories will reliably store everything until we want to access it. And that we do some downloads and printouts along the way, just in case.
It all goes by in a flash — eventually even the hard and at-the-time tedious stuff. There will be moments when you’ll wake up on a sunny morning and realize how much you’d love to repeat that walk to the bus stop with an old friend, or your son or granddaughter. What you’d give to spend an hour with your mom, grocery shopping, folding laundry, discussing life, sharing a hug. How much it would mean, even if the wilderness-loving genes happened to skip you, to share a canoe trip and cast a few lines with your dad, your kids and their kids.
The speed of life, the value of the most mundane-at-the-time family moments, is, ironically, something many of us don’t realize until it’s clear how rare and precious such moments can be, both now and in the future, when you want to share them with new generations.
I was fortunate, though the knowledge came with pain and loss, to realize in my 20s that the price of awareness is awareness. And a bit later, that there’s a big pay-off for willingly paying that price.
Or in the words of lovable classic movie character Ferris Bueller: “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
S. Derrickson Moore may be reached at dmoore, @Derrickson Moore on Twitter and Tout, or call 575-541-5450.