10 Years and Counting
In geologic time, 10 years is an eyeblink. Glaciers barely budge, mountains erode hardly at all, and continents drift only a few inches. By astronomy standards, a decade is scarcely enough for anything to happen—only slightly longer, for example, than it takes for the light from the "dog star" Sirius to reach us.
In human terms, everyday history and especially the life of a publication, however, 10 years represents a roller-coaster ride of changes from then to now. I mention publishing because this year marks the 10th anniversary of the launch of Desert Exposure, with the first issue in April 1996. Officially, in the eyes of the New Mexico Department of Taxation and Revenue, Desert Exposure was born with the March 11, 1996, filing of a gross-receipts tax registration for a "monthly arts newspaper" by Adam Kizanis. That paperwork is the only surviving trace of the publication's launch that has passed down to us, the third and current owners of Desert Exposure, though we remain hopeful of turning up a copy of the first issue in a local library's stacks or reader's attic sometime in this anniversary year.
A few years later, Jay Glickman, who had become Kizanis' partner in the publication, became the sole owner of Desert Exposure. We bought the publication from him in early 2003; the April 2006 issue will be not only Desert Exposure's 10th anniversary but also our third.
Ten years ago, in 1996, when that first issue of Desert Exposure was just aborning, running our own publication in a small town in Southwest New Mexico was light-years away from our thoughts. I was still working for the St. Paul Pioneer Press newspaper in Minnesota; later in 1996, I'd switch to working for Microsoft, of all things, directing the launch of an online city guide, Twin Cities Sidewalk. That site is now long gone, a casualty of the boom and bust of the Internet era; Internet time, it turns out, is at the opposite extreme from geologic time.
Here in New Mexico, 1996 would see Bill Richardson re-elected to Congress and then named United Nations ambassador by President Bill Clinton, who carried New Mexico by seven points over Bob Dole. (This was before we knew about Red States and Blue States.) For the GOP, Sen. Pete Domenici got overwhelmingly re-elected, as did Rep. Joe Skee.
Football coach Jim Hess, who'd led the NMSU Aggies to their first winning record in 14 seasons just four years before, got fired right before the last game of the 1996 schedule. The US Fish and Wildlife Service unveiled a proposal to release rare Mexican gray wolves in a stretch of Southwest wilderness including the Gila National Forest; the idea would prove controversial, to say the least. Las Cruces homebuilders constructed 379 houses in 1996 at an average cost of $87,400—both figures that would almost double by 2004.
In Silver City in 1996, Diane's Restaurant opened its doors and the MainStreet Project marked its own 10th anniversary. In Las Cruces, the Court Youth Center opened with a manmade rainbow spectacle; no such festivities celebrated the opening of a minimum-restriction facility, occupancy 330, at the Southwest Correctional Facility. US Customs agents broke up a major marijuana-smuggling ring after seizing 202 pounds of pot at a Deming motel.
Nationally, 1996 brought Academy Awards for The English Patient, Geoffrey Rush in Shine and Frances McDormand (who would later film part of North Country in Silver City) in Fargo. The top-rated TV programs included "Touched by an Angel," "Seinfeld," "Suddenly Susan," "The Naked Truth," "Fired Up," "Home Improvement" and "The Single Guy." Everyone (well, almost everyone) was doing the "Macarena." Among the other top songs of 1996 were "Un-Break My Heart" by Toni Braxton, "Because You Loved Me" by Celine Dion and "I Believe I Can Fly" by R. Kelly. The Dow Jones Industrial Average stood at 6,448, the minimum wage was $4.75, and gasoline cost $1.29 a gallon.
It was a big year for bombs and bombers, with the arrest of the "Unabomber" and the bombing of Olympic Park during the summer games in Atlanta. Princess Di and Prince Charles divorced in 1996. The O.J. Simpson trial began.
Among 1996 beginnings, we like to think Desert Exposure turned out a bit better than the O.J. saga. Here we are, at any rate, 10 years later, with a publication few would even recognize from its inaugural issues. Someone told us that the early Desert Exposure was "very woo-woo" (though we're not sure if that's a good or a bad thing). Jay Glickman recalled the publication being labeled "a hippie rag" at one point.
Today, Desert Exposure reaches some 27,000 readers—not all of them "woo-woos" or "hippies," we suspect—throughout Southwest New Mexico, making it one of the most widely read publications in the region. With a total of almost 700 pages last year, we're pretty sure Desert Exposure offers the most reading of any monthly in Southwest New Mexico—possibly in the whole state. (New Mexico Magazine may routinely run as many as 100 pages an issue, but their pages are only half our size.)
We also modestly like to think we serve up some of the best reading to be found in our adopted corner of the world. It's always nice, though, when that admittedly biased opinion is confirmed by outside experts: For the second straight year, a piece from Desert Exposure has been selected by the editor of the Best American Essays anthology series as one of the year's most "Notable Essays." My essay on luminaria from the December 2004 issue, "Waiting for the Light," was honored along with essays from (ahem) The New Yorker, Vanity Fair, Harper's and other publications a tad better known than Desert Exposure.
There's more good reading to come in this, our 10th anniversary year, along with some special treats in our April anniversary issue, occasional looks backward at the best of Desert Exposure's first decade, and other goodies. Sharp-eyed readers may have already noticed that we've kicked off our anniversary celebration with a slightly redesigned logo on the cover. The new design also removes any typographic clutter from the works by local artists that we've been featuring on our covers since April 2003.
Don't worry, though—all your favorite Desert Exposure features are here beneath the slightly unfamiliar cover design. A decade may bring a whirlwind of changes, but we also know when we hit on something good enough to keep.
We look forward to plenty more exciting changes, in these pages and in the world this publication reflects, as well as to some things best enjoyed more on "geologic time," in Desert Exposure's next 10 years. We hope you'll join us—because the best, as they say, is yet to come.
David A. Fryxell is editor of Desert Exposure.