FOUR YEARS LATER
By Jim Spiri
January 1, 2015
The Inaugural Ball for Governor Susana Martinez, Albuquerque, New Mexico: This past Thursday evening, on the first night of 2015, my wife and I found ourselves at the inaugural ball for Governor Susana Martinez. This was the second time we have been to such an event. Only in New Mexico could a couple who have zero importance in the political arena share a dance floor with the Governor and her husband to the music of a group called, “LONESTAR” and have one heck of a wonderful evening. This is why here in New Mexico the phrase, “mi casa es su casa” (my house is your house) really is true, all the way up to the top.
It was the first night of the new year. The weather was freezing cold and the roads had received a light dusting of snow earlier in the day. This year’s gala was to be held at the Albuquerque Convention Center as opposed to Santa Fe. That would mean a drive of only 15-minutes in order to attend. I told my wife Candi that we have an opportunity to have a good meal, meet a few thousand of the Governor’s closest friends and neighbors and to top it off there would be good music for sure. As usual, her concern was that we would not have the proper attire. to attend. I assured her that this event would be a “blue jeans and bolo tie” affair for sure. I knew that Chuck, (the first Gentleman) is a down home southern New Mexican cowboy that always wears a black cowboy hat. And he has a lot of friends that don’t wear tuxedos. I consider myself one that fits that category.
Sure enough, after a little arm twisting, it was “game on” for a night out on the town with me and wife headed to the ball. It was a wise choice. The evening was a real treat.
We arrived around 7:00 PM after locating the underground free parking. We meandered our way through the maze of the convention center and came upon the east side auditorium where guests were already in line. Outside there was a bit of a commotion due to a bunch of demonstrators complaining about typical political things I felt a little sorry for them because I knew they weren’t going to attend the event and they already had been outside for quite some time. And, it was really cold outside. Oh well. They’ll get over it even if it’s not until the spring thaw.
Once through the line and after our tickets had been verified, we entered the room where the event was taking place. There were a lot of people already present. There were people from all walks of life and a whole bunch of them were wearing blue jeans and cowboy hats. I told my wife simply…”told you so”. We smiled and walked around to scope the place out. This was surely going to be big deal and everyone was already having a good time. For sure everyone had their best “Sunday go to meeting clothes” on, albeit whatever side of the New Mexico culture one was on. I felt right at place in my black levis and silver bolo tie accompanied by my stunning wife in her beautiful black dress and long flowing hair fixed the way I love to see it. I had my black cowboy boots on and she her black evening sequin flats on. Neither of us wear these shoes very often and our feet were taking a bit of a beating.
We checked the place out and found where our seating area was. Shortly thereafter we took a seat, saw the two wine glasses and the opened bottles of chardonnay at the table and we poured ourselves a glass and toasted one another to a happy new year of 2015. The night was young yet and we knew we would enjoy the evening.
Each table had seating for ten. Salad settings were already in place and we began enjoying the appetizers. Soon it was time for a second glass of wine. During this time, we kept hearing the two performers on the stage singing and playing their music. From the get-go I had commented how good the music was. It had reminded me of something akin to a 2015 version of Jackson Browne, one of my all time favorite musician-song writers from back in the day. The two guys on stage seemed to be somewhere in their mid twenties but kept cranking out tunes that were really attention grabbing. I found myself asking, “who are these guys”? on more than one occasion. No one in my immediate area knew who they were. I would come to find out that they are from Albuquerque and known as, Richmond Music Group. They are two life-long friends, both 26-years-old. Nate Boitano and Heath Warren are their names. They have one song that particularly put them on the map titled, “Feels Like Home”. It is all about New Mexico. Perfect song for a perfect night.
As the main course was being prepared, the table we were sitting at began filling up rapidly. A few couples from Los Alamos were to our left and a couple from Albuquerque was to my immediate right. I had never seen any of them before and we struck up a conversation. “Hi, I’m so and so”, and, “Who are you and what do you do”? were the next few conversations at hand. The guy on my right said he was from Las Cruces and told me he worked at UNM. I asked him what he did there and he told me, “Well, I’m the President of the university”. I immediately quipped back, “Well, that sounds like a pretty good job to have at UNM. How long have you been doing that”? I asked.
His name is “Dr. Frank”. Turns out he and I and my wife all went to the same high school in Cruces and his parents house was not all that far from where my in-laws lived back in the 70’s. I’m pretty sure I was probably the only one in the crowd that had no idea who he was. But I like it that way. I’m pretty sure he won’t forget me now. I asked him what the hardest part of his job was and he slumped down in his chair, thought about it for a moment and finally replied back, “money”. I didn’t have the heart to tell him what my property taxes were these days on my 1100 square foot house and what portion of that goes to UNM. I let him tell me what a “good guy” the new football coach is. At that, I felt my wife’s leg kick me indicating I did not need to say too much tonight. So, I took another sip of my wine and changed the subject to baseball. Everyone at my table seemed to like baseball until I mentioned the worst thing that ever happened to MLB was designated hitter. I seem to have a knack for tackling controversial subjects in all kinds of atmospheres.
So here I was at the Governor’s ball, sitting with some scientists from Los Alamos on my left and the president of UNM on my right with my wife in the middle making sure I didn’t say anything too stupid. And, I had a total of two glasses of wine which was the night’s limit for me. After a little more conversation, the emcee, Mr. Bob Clark from KKOB radio station morning show, began speaking and shortly thereafter introduced Governor Susana Martinez. After prayer and the pledge, Susana began to speak. We all listened closely as is the case these days when she speaks. She mentioned those who helped and those who arranged and those who worked and those who volunteered. She also mentioned her desire to work and meet her opposition “half-way” in getting some things done in the upcoming legislative session.
Then she said something that caught my ear. She pointed out that one day the “children” will be taking over from us, the “adults”. Most all of us present in the room, (which estimates have at about 3000 more or less) are of the age that have grandchildren. Those of us that are grandparents are always keenly aware that the children do in fact grow up rather quickly and for sure take over the reins of whatever horse we’ve corralled for them.
I immediately thought back to the president of UNM who graduated from the same high school I did only a few years earlier. And then I thought of the theme of this past campaign where, “New Mexico’s children are first”. And then I was reminded of the stalemate between the New Mexico department of education and the Secretary designate, Hanna Skandara, and all the politicians in the Democratic controlled New Mexico State Senate, that can’t seem to get along long enough to save the children who will be taking over from the adults. And all I can seemingly hear people saying is; “money, money, money….” Followed by the words, “give me, give me, give me”.
It is no secret that in her first term, Governor Susana Martinez poured immense amounts of money into New Mexico education while at the same time demanded results that are in the best interests of all those in our state. This one concept; “return on investment”, seems to be a real tough pill to swallow for those who constantly oppose Susana’s approach. I flashed back again to my property taxes on my tiny house and how much the current UNM football coaches salary is at $750,000 per year. If we are going throw money at a problem, we had better be in this to win. That’s the way I see it. Just for the record, I have not seen a winning season at UNM since Rocky Long left.
Next it was time for the main event to get rolling. Apparently, one of the Governor’s favorite musical groups is a band called, “LONESTAR”. Turns out, they are pretty good and my daughter and grand daughter both like that band pretty much. I thought it was a little interesting that the Governor of New Mexico likes a band with the nick name same as the state of Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry is boss. Some say Perry might run for the White House. I think there is also some good music that comes out of Florida as well, where Gov. Jeb Bush is from. Especially north Florida heading towards Macon, Georgia where the Alman brothers band used to hang out. Which is not all that far from South Carolina, where Senator Lyndsay Graham is from and a group called the Marshall Tucker Band came from.
So as the music began playing and after the Governor and First Gentleman did their customary “first dance”, my wife and I took a stroll and ran into all kinds of folks. One of the most memorable folks this night was the Lt. Governor, John Sanchez and his wife. John in the past four years has become quite able in his role as Lt. Governor or as some say, Governor in waiting, depending on what transpires in 2016. He and his main handler, Vince, stopped us in the middle of the floor and gave us a warm greeting and wished us a very happy new year. We returned the greetings and strolled about our way. There were others that said hello and smiled as they saw us. We were just enjoying the walk. Then a nice slow song was playing and me and the wife took a place on the dance floor.
It was really nice. There we were embraced hand in hand, moving to the sound of the soft music. The Governor and her husband were up in front of us mingled in the crowd doing the same thing we were. That song came to an end and another slow song followed. We stayed for one more song and felt like kids that never wanted to become adults ever. Life was good this night. We had had a very full evening and it was time for us to head home. On the way off the dance floor, we stopped by the table that said, “Franco Family”. There I said hello to Carlo, the son of the First Gentleman and Susana. I had not seen him in nearly four years. He stood up, shook my hand and tipped his hat to my wife with all the manners of a proper gentleman. Like father like son crossed my mind immediately. Good people.
A lot has happened in the past four years. Governor Susana Martinez continues to make history in New Mexico. I’m still here with my wife enjoying the simple things in life as those in authority over us do their best to follow their hearts desire. Seems like I will be present as history continues to be made for one reason or another. I’ve always loved New Mexico since first coming here in 1959 and settling here for good in 1965. I learned from my step-father at a very early age that in New Mexico any one can meet the Governor and learn what goes on in state government. It is actually a responsibility that all of us in New Mexico should take advantage of. Susana Martinez, from Las Cruces, a town I know very well, is rapidly gaining a name as “the peoples’ Governor”. I can testify that this is my true experience. New Mexico true really means something to me.