Saturday, January 12, 2008

About the time I boozed w/ Gov. Bill Richardson...

First of all, let me just say that it's good to be back. I finally have some downtime from work, and trying to find a new job. And yes, I still have my current gig. Let's just say that my original plan for this job was to be here for about a year-and-a-half before I went to law school. Now that I'm not going to law school, I need to find something else w/ about the same pay but better benefits. If you know of anything, please let me know.

Just in case you were wondering where I've been on my nearly-month long sabbatical from Sports Karma, let me briefly recap my exploits before I share a tale of whiskey-soaked political schmoozing in my recent youth. First off, I made a roadie from Los Angeles to Austin to help a close friend of Sports Karma, Mr. Brad Hoegler, move. Sadly, however, I was a useless piece of crap as I injured my neck in an unfortunate sleeping accident. I slept on it the wrong way, and badly strained some muscles in my neck. Seriously, it may sound hilarious at a glance, but trust me, this crap sucked. Imagine waking up in the middle of the night with pain shooting from the base of your skull all the way down to your ass? Literally, if I wanted to flip myself over in the middle of the night, I would have to grab my neck with one hand, and flip myself over with my other hand. I would have been better off having John Kerry tase me, bro. The most comical part of this trip was a mad dash through El Paso looking for Icy Hot packs. We found a K-Mart open at 9 AM and stopped into that. I smelled like a nursing home and moved like a corpse. I sat in Brad's car with my eyes closed, dead to West Texas, speaking only when the pain was dulled. Suffice to say, it was pretty awesome.

After that, Dr. Phil and I made a brief trip to the local Kentwood, LA Wal-Mart and picked up some various cutting tools, an acetylene torch, a pair of pliers, and we paid a visit to the Spears family. For some strange reason, the family and the mass media didn't think we were being very helpful to the situation that the family has currently found themselves in. I don't understand why. If everyone would read Sports Karma more throughly, they'd understand that Dr. Phil and I weren't there to cause anyone any harm. I mean, he even told them, "Kids are coming out of the two of you more frequently than crap. When you're having babies more often than bodily functions, how's that working out for you?" Personally, I thought he was dead-on. But the media thought we were out of line. I guess they want a nation full of feral Spears children left unsupervised to roam in our garbage cans, spread diseases and fleas, and steal cigarettes from people who actually look cool smoking like Keith Richards or Slash. Should you feel that the Libtard Media is making a rush to judgement, please kindly disagree with them by donating money to the Please Have Britney and Jamie Lynn Spayed Foundation. We at Sports Karma are still taking donations, and once we have our $15K, we fully intend to shove it in their faces, and let the world know that the people have officially spoken.

Anyway, that's been what's going on lately. Onto my story...ahem.

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In 2002, I lived in Albuquerque doing radio sales for an otherwise-poorly run 80s radio station. My job was to convince advertisers why they should pay money to pimp their business on a station that played Phil Collins once an hour. Suffice to say, if was I going to look people in the eye and tell people to spend their hard-earned money on a station that even I thought was terrible, I was going to need to enlist some help. And my help, my salvation, came in the way of booze. And a lot of it. If I was going to point-blank ask somebody for thousands of dollars to advertise next to Hall and Oates, I sure as hell wasn't doing it sober. That and it wasn't like my liver was busy or anything. It needed the exercise.

My personal favorite times in town were the after-work networking events. Frequently, the Young Professionals of Albuquerque, the Albuquerque Chamber of Commerce and the Albuquerque Business Journal would have these meetings somewhere in the downtown vicinity. Most of the guys would ditch their ties, the ladies would let back their hair, show some cleavage, and everyone would reach for their booze of choice. But the best were the Hispano Chamber of Commerce (HCC) meetings. I was close business associates with one of the leaders of the HCC, Michael, and he would frequently greet me at these get-togethers with a brand-new list of the businesses that had just joined, and a plastic cup filled w/ Jack topped w/ a splash of Coke. He always had one for himself too. I loved that guy in the most platonic way possible. He was the best.

It was on those nights, once I had enough Jack coursing through my veins, where I could speak lovingly, almost infallibly about my radio station, and yes, of course market research shows that women 35-54 will absolutely love to hear about your chiropractor's office, Dr. S0-and-so, while they listen to "Invisible Touch" for the 934th time today. I quickly gained a reputation in the Albuquerque business community as the guy that you went out w/ if you wanted to tie one on until 3 AM or possibly later than that. If you went out w/ me, the bars wouldn't kick you out. You kicked the bar out and all of the booze that was in it.

So it was the October monthly meeting, complete with a Casino theme, that I found myself functionally tipsy and yelling at a mock roulette wheel while handing out business cards. Michael had already handed me over the new list and a Jack and Coke. Many of the women, some my age, others not so much, were slurping down vodka tonics and asking me for blackjack advice. I did my best Trent imitation from Swingers and told them to always double down on eleven. That was about it. But they didn't seem all that interested in my advice. Actually, no one seemed that interested in me or my schtick that night at all.

That's probably because wandering around on the floor with a Bourbon and Coke in his hand was the Governor of New Mexico Bill Richardson. Now, please understand this much about the Land of Enchantment. Santa Fe aside, New Mexico's pretty much a blue-collar state, a place that's at least half-covered by sand and dirt and the occasional cockfighting ranch. Driving west or south from Albuquerque is an exercise in desolation and loneliness. There's not much to see aside from Indian reservations, the occasional Indian casino, and the gas stations the size of a small Wal-Mart. The only other person of notable repute from New Mexico is Brian Urlacher, the Chicago Bears linebacker, who's originally from the tiny town of Lovington, located in the extreme southeastern part of the state. Other than that, the state is collectively a group of mostly government workers and guys who slave away everyday w/ their name on their shirt.

Bill Richardson, however, was a Congressman from southern New Mexico who became an international diplomat. He served as the U.N. Ambassador to North Korea, off all godforesaken places. He was named the Secretary of Energy by President Clinton in 1998. Shortly thereafter, he was elected Governor. In a working-class state, Bill Richardson was practically a mythical figure, the native son who went from a major league baseball prospect to an international globetrotter, a well-respected statesman from one of the least-appreciated States.

None of that interested me in the slightest, though. I'm from Texas. We've got plenty of guys like that where I'm from. What did interest me, though, was his booze, and making sure he got another one quick. I walked right over to him while he was being mobbed by a horde of sans-ties businessmen that were fawning over him like teenage girls meeting Justin Timberlake. I couldn't tell whether it was the booze or the attention or both, but Governor Richardson was turning just a bit red.

"Governor Richardson, my name's Matthew Tray," I said extending my hand to him.
"Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Tray," he replied smiling warmly and extending his hand back to mine.
"Forget economics or global politics for a second, Governor. What's in your glass?"
"It's a Bourbon and Coke."
"Well, it looks like the Bourbon and Coke's running low. It'd be an honor and a privilege to buy you another one. Even if I did vote Republican in the last election."
"That sounds fantastic!" exclaimed the Governor. He's in politics, I was in radio. We were both in businesses where booze wasn't a crutch, but rather a life preserver. So he knew that I knew. I knew that he knew. We sidled up to the bar for some of Kentucky's finest.

"Governor, what's your preference?" I asked him while looking at the bartender.
"Do you have Wild Turkey, Sir?" he asked the bartender. He nodded affirmatively, and began pouring almost immediately.
"I'll have one as well," I chimed in. Of course, at that point in time, I drank Jack Daniel's like I had stock in it. But it's not everyday that I went to drink w/ the Governor. I switched my allegiances like a Foster Brooks Judas. The bartender poured me one as well. Not quite as stout as what he made the Governor, but still.

I raised my glass to his, and toasted: "To the great state of New Mexico!"
"Indeed!" he said and clinked his glass to mine and took a hearty sip of his Turkey and Coke.
"Governor, I know there's a lot of people that want to talk to you tonight, but can I ask you a question?"
"Certainly, young man, what's your mind?"

Now let me interrupt my own tale here for a moment. I'm a little older now, and honestly a little wiser. I don't quite drink nearly as much as I used, and I'm much healthier as a result. I've lost weight, and I don't get into nearly as much trouble as I did. Having said all that, though, the last question you should probably ask me once I've been a few drinks down is "What's on your mind?" Trust me, you'll get an honest, completely unfiltered answer. It might even have profanity in it too. This time it didn't. But still enough, this was what was on my mind at the time.

"Got any good Clinton stories for me?"
He chuckled mightily at that. Oh, he had good Clinton stories for me. He just wasn't in a position to tell them, that's all.
"I'm sorry, I'm afraid I can't," he laughed.
"Aw, Governor, it looks like you want to tell them too." That was no lie. He looked like he was ready to tell a story filthier than anything Bob Saget could concoct. I thought for a second that the next thing out of his mouth was going to be, "There was this one time when Bill walked into the Oval Office with a couple of interns and an 8-ball of coke..."

No dice on that, however. The only thing I got was, "I'm afraid I can't divulge at this time. I'm sorry that I can't." Again, no lie. He looked genuinely sorry. However, I was pissed that he was busy acting like a politician as opposed to giving me what I want. Which was mostly tales of smut, filth and tawdry behavior from his boss, the Commander-In-Chief.

"Very well then, Governor," I said smiling. "That's all I wanted to know. I know you've got a lot of people to meet. I'll let you get on your way. Pleasure to meet you again."
"Pleasure's mine, sir," he replied. "Thank you for the drink."
"You're welcome."

And that was the entire conversation between a future candidate for the President of the United States and me. Total elasped time: Approximately 150 seconds.

However, that 150 seconds made a huge impact on me, personally. Here was a politician that didn't seem like one. He enjoyed a drink and seemed to know more than a few risque tales. He was genuine, and shook my hand like he meant it. Too often in politics, the candidates come off as being too polished, too refined. It gets to the point where you can't decide if they're running for Office or the Papacy. When Hillary got emotional in New Hampshire, it showed something of her that was totally off-the-cuff and impromptu. No matter how you feel about Hillary or her politics, one thing was clear: It seemed honest. It was at that moment when she ditched the image consultant, and spoke from the gut.

Bill Richardson was genuine w/ me, and subsequently I would vote for him for Governor or anything else, if I still lived in New Mexico. And I typically vote Libertarian or Republican. Hillary won New Hampshire for what I think are very similar reasons. True, nobody was boozing w/ Hillary in Concord or Keane, but still, Hillary came across like she gave a damn, and wasn't afraid to say so.

Maybe one day, I'll return to Santa Fe and offer to buy Governor Richardson another Turkey and Coke. We'll sit down, and I'll keep feeding him drinks until he spills his guts and tells me a completely filthy Bill Clinton story. And if he doesn't? Maybe I'll visit Hillary in Washington and feed her a Cosmopolitan. I know she's got some dirt on Bill...

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