Thursday, November 12, 2009

Las Cruces

On August 17, 1987 I moved to New Mexico. I was 26 years old and fresh out of being a kid. I knew nothing except that I loved New Mexico. It was love at first sight, and 22 years later I am still in love. I guess you can say I found my spiritual home in the US. Since that magical day, I have traveled (literally) all over the world, and more importantly all over the US and lived in over fifteen US cities, but I always come back to NM as my home, and each time I return I love her more or just the same.

Las Cruces was where I came on that sunny summer day in 1987. I moved to NM to start a doctoral program in computer science at New Mexico State University. I never finished my doctorate, but I did learn why I came to NM, and that was to find the most beautiful spot on planet Earth. They call it the land of enchantment and for good reason. Once it got you, it never lets go.

I have a sense that people who are born and raised in California feel the same way about their home state, and so I can relate to that feeling of native angelinos, or native folks from the great state of Ca. Others do what I did, move to Ca. and just after a while call it home. And for good reason. It also is a beautiful place, with perfect weather.

Its a two hour drive from Silver City to Las Cruces. The drive is awesome, especially if you like the high desert and the high desert vistas. The whole time you are driving from Silver City to Las Cruces as you look to the south you see the great country of Mexico in all her glory and the distant mountain peaks that define her border. Beyond them dar hills is a country steeped in culture, love, beauty, and unfortunately at this time in modern history some problems. It saddens me to know that Mexico is going through some tough times, but I am confident that she will find her way, and hopefully soon because I look forward to going back to the lovely towns of Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi, and Aguascalientes.

Back in Las Cruces, I stayed at my friends parents home in the Mesilla Valley. They have a lovely home close to the ditch and close to the most famous person I ever met in my life. Unfortunately, in the past couple of years he died, but his memory lives on in many ways. His name is scattered about southern NM in many small and pertinent different places.

One day, many years ago, I went to his 60th wedding anniversary. I was fortunate enough to attend his party because one of my best friends had known him for many years and was his next door neighbor. Being the next door neighbor to this man in my eyes was too cool, but yes it was the case.

The day that I attended his party I was probably at that time in my late 20's. I was still young and naive and very innocent. He told me something I will never forget. Everyone who knows me well has heard me tell this story, they probably don't remember me telling it to them, but I have told them, they just forget.

This person was a punster, he talked and told puns, left and right. Every paragraph he spoke was embedded in it a pun of some sort. As we sat there sitting around the kitchen table he directed his attention towards me and told me something that to this day I will never forget. It was a simple sentence, and so innocent and irrelevant, but to me I carry it with me every day of my life and it literally guides me in major decisions I make in my life and how I see the world. He said, "Human beings have small brains", and don't ever forget it.

There are only four people in the history of humanity who share a seat with this man in the course of human history. Barring the ancient planets and the modern day planets that are being discovered left and right, this man was the man who on a cold winter night in February of 1930 at a high mountain observatory in the tiny town of Flagstaff, Arizona used the observatory's 13-inch astrograph to take photographs of the same section of sky several nights apart. He then used a blink comparator to compare the different images.

Several days ago I walked by his house, of course Clyde Tombaugh is long gone, but his memory lives on in my mind as someone who as wise as he was knew his place and was humbled by it.

I am happy to report that in the 22 years that have passed Las Cruces has grown tremendously from that small high desert town I visited many years ago but the valley between Las Cruces and El Paso is pretty much the same. I wandered that valley recently in search of the memories and I am elated that those memories of cotton fields, pecan orchards, and red chile still live on. Unfortuntely, we can not say the same for the orchards between San Francisco and San Jose or the orange groves in southern California, but in my home state of New Mexico at least at this moment in history the valley of Mesilla is still preserved in a pristine sense.

I guess one of the reasons for this is the huge plantations of pecan trees that are still being held by single families who have been wise enough NOT to sell out to the developers, and fortunately the price of farm land in the valley has become so expensive that the cheap scrub desert hills north of the city is a cheaper way for housing developers to rape and pillage the land with new aspalt and track houses that satisfy their desires and the peoples desires for a piece of paradise. I don't usually go off on a tangent like this, so I will stop.

Going out to eat is fun, and we all enjoy the luxury of going to a place and having someone else cook and do the dishes for us. In my forty years of existence there are many restaurants I have attended but there are very few restaurants that I would call my favorites. One of my top ten restaurants of all time is in the Mesilla Valley. It is in the small village of La Mesa, NM and it serves red and green chile rellenos, tamales, posole, fresh chips, and fresh flour tortillas. The other day I had the pleasure of attending this restaurant and had once again a super fantastic meal. It was one of the best meals I have had this year, and I was very happy walking out the door into the light of a warm November afternoon in southern NM. The name of the restaurant is called Chopis.


  1. It all sounds wonderful... and as I told you, I know the New Mexico Enchantment. I am neither California nor New Mexico native, but love them both. The East Coast so long unknowingly my home easily loosened its grip on me, I can feel at home in different ways all over the world. One of the most surprising feelings was visiting Kyoto, Japan and feeling at home the way I was "at home" in Santa Fe, the river, the arts, I am not sure really why.When we lived in New Mexico I was entranced by the glow of rose mesas, the heights and warmth (as well as long winter chill in stunning air)of that place I loved so much... but that coldness that lasted so long was what lured me to the scent of orange blossoms and jasmine of Santa Barbara, and later to Pasadena where cultural life blooms alongside the natural blooms, and allows both strong roots in me... I think my home is the planet earth, I love it all but am lured by the vast unknown as well...thank you for sharing your adventure... I hope you will come "home" to your poet friends too, and our "restaurant"! We all miss you... but love your adventuring spirit.

  2. I have been to Las Cruces and the Mesilla Valley several times while living in Santa Fe. A bit north of there is Hatch, where the best green chili comes from. I bought a gunny sack of it each year and had it roasted outdoors in a big rotating drum. Enchanting!

    We will go to the farm tomorrow, the Caltech garden, and plant poems, a far cry know, but hey a tomato is ripe.