Formality has place, but not in this column

By Ned Cantwell: State Columnist

When the reader response message begins “Mr. Cantwell,” I immediately grab a baseball bat and crouch in a corner. What follows is probably not going to be good. You just know the writer is thinking, “Mr. Cantwell, oh you fool.”

This is not a “Mr. Cantwell” type of column. Such formality is reserved for those who present themselves in a more dignified manner. You would hardly address the intellectual Newsweek columnist as “Hey, dude.” No, it would be “Dear Mr. Will.”

Consider how you might address the president:
Improper: “Hey, Georgy boy, this Iraq deal, I mean, what were you thinking?”

Proper: “Mr. president, sir, this Iraq deal, I mean, what were you thinking?”

The reader who emailed the “Mr. Cantwell” message was miffed – we’re talking major miff here – about a column discussing the New Mexico Coin Commission’s request for 150-word essays on what the state quarter should look like.

We suggested Gov. Bill might submit photos of himself astride his quarter horse – this a pony who is earning her keep – with an essay requesting predated letters of resignation should the governor not be featured on the design.

K George of Santa Fe did not find that humorous. “Mr. Cantwell,” wrote K George, “I’ve decided to take action and write to you in response to today’s article. …To be frank, I was quite offended in how you introduced the project – not only in your sarcasm, but in your blatant disrespect to New Mexican residents, governor, and anyone else interested in participating in this civic opportunity.”

K George, with the passion one identifies with the City Different, continued to express displeasure with my treatment of the subject. Suffice to say, should the new quarter depict a certain columnist hanging by his toes over a vat of acid, that might be just fine with K George.

Actually, our invitation for design ideas proved what we had long suspected: The readers of this column aren’t that deep.

However, Richard Hannemann, a regular reader and former resident of Los Alamos, now a musician in Southern California, says, “Ned, to be serious, have someone stand at the end of Barranca Mesa in Los Alamos and take a picture across the Valley and the River towards the Sangres – then have an artist work that up for an etching.”

Herb Altum of Alamogordo also wrote an essay he is forwarding to the Coin Commission. Herb suggests a coin design featuring the state’s natural beauty along with the Roadrunner.

John Brinkman of Ruidoso suggests the humorous depiction of a Roadrunner in mortal combat with a fighting cock. Carlsbad reader Charles Black concurs. He says that since New Mexico is only one of two states that allow cockfighting, that should be featured on the coin. Explains Charles, “Since you have a lot of pull with the cockfighting crowd and with Big Bill…we could have them fighting for a Snicker’s Bar.”

Suggests another reader who apparently wishes to remain anonymous, “I’ve got it: A picture of Stephen Watts Kearney raising the U.S. flag over the plaza.”

History buffs know Stephen Watts Kearney, dispatched by President Polk, accomplished a bloodless conquest of New Mexico in 1846. It was a feat not duplicated until Bill Richardson, dispatched by President Clinton, did the same in 2002.


Just call Ned Cantwell “Hey, dude.” He welcomes response at: ncantwell@charter.net