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Aliens are cool after all

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By Ned Cantwell

As a service to our readers, I took a little time off to cover the Rose Bowl Parade, thus providing a first-hand account of the reception to the New Mexico float.Note I was the only New Mexico columnist to make this sacrifice. Please, a little applause here.OK, it wasn’t like going off to Iraq in a flak jacket, but surviving Los Angeles traffic where a million other folks want to do the same thing you want to do is no trivial accomplishment.Your humble correspondent wasn’t the only New Mexican there to gaze upon our float. Some 85 volunteers were there to attach the flowers. That was news to me. I thought for a couple of hundred thousands bucks, the state got a turn-key deal.Reality is, you need to do a lot of the work yourself. That’s kind of good, a community spirit thingThe volunteers were granted free admission to the parade. I sauntered to the ticket window and told them I am a member of the working press.“Jolly good,” the fellow answered, “that will be $75.”Because I wanted to impress two young and startlingly beautiful female traveling companions, I whipped out my Visa and said, “No problemo.”Their eyes wide with unabashed admiration, the girls gushed, “Gosh, Grandpa.” The fourth member of our travel group just rolled her eyes.Now comes a particularly painful admission. This column had made fun of our float for its space travel, alien theme with three little green men. I had posited our state has so much charm going for her that a float portraying New Mexicans as a bunch of spacey kooks is a disservice.I would like to go on record as saying I made a mistake. It takes a humble man to admit that, but it happened.Let me hasten to add that this is a rare occurrence.Although I was the only spectator who rose to his feet and put his hand over his heart when New Mexico’s float passed by (all three of my traveling companions rolled their eyes), the clever design drew an enthusiastic response.New Mexico’s float won the Grand Marshal award. The tourism department described it as the “coveted” Grand Marshall award. Any award is nice, but since they pass out about 25 of them, “coveted” might be a stretch.The heavy cheering went to the China float. Before the parade, Cindy Sheehan devotees had passed along the parade route with protest signs and a bullhorn urging us all to turn our backs when China passed by, thus showing our disdain for China’s lack of human rights.Naturally, everyone went nuts for the China float.One got the impression parade-goers disdain human rights infractions, but disdain Cindy Sheehan even more. Look, the Rose Bowl Parade is a cherished American tradition. Don’t muck it up with protests.Even more demonstrations were to follow the moment the final float passed. “Accept Jesus or your wife will leave you,” barked one fellow into a bullhorn. “Gee, wouldn’t that be horrible,” grumbled a spectator just behind us. His wife’s glaring look would suggest their New Year may not be all that happy.So ends the column writing vacation I announced in early December.One New Mexico editor said, “Okay, but when you return from your sabbatical we will assume you have reflected on life and will come back to us a wiser person.”Fat chance.

Ned Cantwell – ncantwell@beyondbb.com – will be submitting a heavy travel expense bill to his subscribers’ newspapers.