August 19, 2017

The Stealth Birthday Party

Posted on 06. Dec, 2011 by Stephan Helgesen in NM, Social/Cultural

Our State of New Mexico magazine has run an amusing column on its back page for many years, entitled, “One of our fifty is missing.” The column speaks humorously about our state’s lack of identity or confusion with Mexico.

If it weren’t so embarrassing that so many people don’t know who we are let alone where we are, I’d be laughing at it, but today, I’m fed up with being the ‘invisible man.’ My dander is up, because on the eve of celebrating our state’s 100th birthday, even WE don’t seem to care about who we are, or am I missing some statewide centennial extravaganza that has slipped under my radar?

Hundredth birthdays are supposed to be a pretty big deal. Even Willard Scott and the Smuckers Company that sponsor him, go out of their way to recognize the contributions of America’s centenarians by putting their photos up on national television and wishing them a ‘Happy Birthday.’

What has New Mexico done?

We have a website (nmcentennial.org). That’s a good start, but Billy Bob’s Plumbing and 24-Hour Taxidermy Service in the valley has a website, too. Months ago I checked out the site and found it attractive but with little in the way of substance and with very few events listed (though, in fairness, there are more listed today), so I wrote an article saying that a birthday this big deserved a little more promotion than it was getting, which was nearly zero outside of the website.

Drum roll, please.

With thinking cap firmly in place, my mind wondered like a coyote in search of prey. We could construct a giant chili like the huge apple in NYC’s Times Square and mount it on top of the Roundhouse (like the Farolitos/Luminarias). It could change color from red to green and then back again and then explode like a big pinata on January 1st spewing forth free tickets to ride the Rail Runner.

Another one of my brilliant ideas was an essay contest for school children on why the atomic bomb is such a good thing and why we should be proud of giving ‘birth’ to it here. (Admittedly, that one might be a little controversial, but it could have set a dialogue in motion about nuclear power.)

I also suggested a massive involvement by our schools, our private sector and the non-profits (who seem to be heavily represented on the steering committee) and encouraged the Governor’s Office to take the lead by throwing out a 100-year challenge to all New Mexicans to write her and tell her administration what kind of New Mexico they’d like to see in the year 2112.

As often happens here in our wonderful state, ideas get blown off and away like tumbleweeds in a wind storm. My article got a very predictable response, zero, so that got me to thinking that maybe the ‘powers that be’ don’t know where we are either or maybe they’re embarrassed by ‘things New Mexican’ (like our numerous scandals, bad national ratings, etc.) and would rather keep a low profile.

But no, that couldn’t be the reason. They love New Mexico as much as I do, so there had to be another. Then it came to me – the CLASSICAL REASON – for keeping mum…we don’t want any more of those pesky out-of-staters here to spoil our pristine environment.

I think I have the answer that will satisfy everybody and do it on the cheap (which seems to be the way we prefer things these days). We hold a stealth centennial party, and we don’t tell anybody about it. No promotional press releases, no TV coverage, no Twitter or You Tube or In-your-face book. We just pass the invitation around personally from door to door, from community to community.

That way, maybe New Mexicans will start thinking about wonderful the Land of Enchantment truly is and how much we owe the brave men and women who came before us for leaving us with a ‘work in progress.’

- Editor

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