What Else I've Learned In Las Cruces

Apr 8, 2018

Commentary: I really like my new hometown: the weather, the food, the people, the history, the geography. I’ve learned how to tolerate Texas and Texans. I look forward to doing so many new things, but I still have so much to learn.

The moment you figure out the traffic patterns downtown, they change. I’ve been here less than two years, and I think I’m on my twelfth downtown traffic configuration. I’m all in favor of the downtown redevelopment plan. I truly am. I just don’t know how to get there because I’m caught in a lane that now suddenly ends in a left turn only that wasn’t there last week.

It is possible to eat your body weight in chips and salsa before your meal arrives. I’m not proud of this fact, but I do have to state the obvious. When a restaurant announces that it’s all you can eat chips and salsa, eventually the manager comes over to me and tells me that’s all I’m allowed to eat.

If you see something that doesn’t have crimson on it, it will soon. I guess we just should be glad that the NMSU school color isn’t beige or dayglow pink or puce or plaid or paisley. The culinary corollary of this is: if you see a food that doesn’t have green chile on it, in it or near it, it will soon.

That dust storm you see on the horizon isn’t on the horizon, it’s all around you. It turns out that you’re actually in the middle of the storm if you can see a wall of dust on the horizon. I learned this one day shortly after I bought my new car and, it being a hot day, left the windows cracked so the interior wouldn’t get ridiculously hot. When I returned to my car after work, there was enough dirt, dust and desert detritus on the inside to film Lawrence of Arabia. That’s a mistake you only make once.

You can put anything in a burrito. You’ve got your meat and cheese burritos. You’ve got your chicken and green chile burrito. You’ve got breakfast burritos and veggie burritos. I’m sure there are breakfast burritos stuffed with jelly donuts, and gourmet burritos with duck confit and a raspberry balsamic reduction available somewhere in this town. I haven’t eaten at every restaurant yet. Also, isn’t a cannoli really just a burrito who thinks itself too fancy, like a courtier at the palace of King Louis XV.

You owe it to your community to learn basic Spanish, beyond words associated with ordering dinner or curse words. I have failed in this regard, in both aspects. I plan to spend a lot of time in this community and I’m the outsider here, so I should learn basic conversational Spanish…or at least the curse words. I know more curse words in German than I do in Spanish, and we’re a long way from Munich and Hamburg. I doubt the campus or adult education courses in conversational Spanish focus on curse words, but I’ll bet you they’d be popular. How do you say “schweinhund” or “You’re mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries” in Spanish?

Chocolate on sale doesn’t have any calories. At least that’s what the guy at the grocery store marking down chocolate told me. He wouldn’t lie, would he? This isn’t specifically a Las Cruces thing, but all facets of lifelong learning are important.

Very few Las Cruces drivers have learned how to use the turn signal indicator. Maybe this isn’t a Las Cruces thing either, but I’m just noticing it more because I don’t know where I’m going. I’m beyond using the GPS on my phone to get back and forth to the grocery store, but by no means do I know my way around town. I look for street names and usually drive past my destination twice before finding it. That’s why I count on the people in front of me to know where they’re going or at least to know what they’re doing. We can’t solve world peace or feed the multitudes or beat all our swords into plowshares, but you can use your turn blinker. Please. It’s the thing that looks like a stick and moves up and down on the left side of the steering wheel. Now that would make the world a better place.

Phil Wilke is a recent transplant to Las Cruces, is driving around downtown the wrong way and is a freelance writer. He can be reached at