"What do you guys call Susana Martinez? Governor? Dictator?" Barney barked into my ear.
It was my New Jersey's friend's Smirnoff voice, never a good sign. The Pinot Grigio Barney is slightly smoother. The erstwhile curmudgeon has this wrongheaded idea his state is a model of modern democratic eminence while New Mexico is still sitting around with a six-shooter strapped to her belt, watching black and white TV.
"Just hold on, Barney," I objected, "do you hear yourself? This is coming from a guy whose governor called a reporter an idiot and said the media is stupid?"
"Chris Christie got it right again," Barney said. "No offense, but you news guys ain't no Phi Beta Kappers or you wouldn't spend your time pestering people with real jobs, following them around, begging them to talk to you."
That made me really, really angry. But if Barney gets wind he has you on the ropes, you're in trouble. "Whatever, Barney," I sighed with disinterest. "So, what is it about Governor Martinez that has your shorts in a twist?"
"Oh," he said. "Oh, let's just start with a little thing we have in New Jersey called due process. I mean, you got these 15 health service providers and your governor comes in and fires their leaders and gives the jobs to Arizona people without telling them why?"
I started to explain to Barney he was missing some of the nuances of the situation, but he was having none of it.
"Arizona! Are you kidding me? New Mexico is so talent-starved you have to import leadership from a state that thinks progressive law enforcement is Sheriff Joe Arpaio tent cities housing prisoners in 115 degree temperatures? New Mexico cannot find New Mexicans smart enough to run its companies?"
Barney seldom backs me whimpering into a corner, but I must admit he was onto some damaging stuff here. The current administration, after an audit revealed alleged fraud among health providers using federal funds, cut funding to those agencies and turned most of them over to Arizona companies. Furthermore, Martinez and Co. did so without telling the accused what the audits actually say. It is pretty much indefensible but I could never admit that to Barney.
"Well, Barney, remember," I said, "Governor Martinez did tell the press about that Las Cruces health agency CEO who she says was getting paid way too much for using his personal plane for business transportation."
"That's crappola!," Barney yelled, a clear indication he was drinking himself into an Archie Bunker stupor. "How come she can release just some information and not all the audit findings?"
My New Jersey antagonist was making far too much sense. I tried to extricate myself.
"Barney, I think we have exhausted this subject. You've made your point. It's time to move on."
"Fine with me," Barney said. "Does New Mexico have the foggiest notion where it is with gay marriage?"
"Gotta go, Barney!" I said, slamming down the receiver.
Ned Cantwell welcomes response at firstname.lastname@example.org. Unless you are from New Jersey.