That fourth-floor issue

Like Banquo’s Ghost, “it will not down.” The Stapleton-Espinoza-Gov. Martinez brouhaha keeps appearing in the press and on TV. Since it seems everybody has had a turn, here’s mine:

To review: Angry at KRQE’s Larry Barker for his investigative piece, the Albuquerque Democrat State Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton, directed some of her umbrage at a Republican representative, Nora Espinoza, from the southern part of the state, accusing her of “carrying water for the Mexican on the fourth floor.”

Now that Mexican in high places happens to be Gov. Susana Martinez, whose office is on the fourth floor of the state capitol. Then all hell broke loose.

Stapleton was angry because of Larry Barker’s exposé about how Stapleton has a high-ranking job with the Albuquerque Public Schools and is a state representative. Though not the only one in that position, Stapleton gets two checks, one from the schools, another for her legislative work.

We call it double-dipping.

The Mexican-on-the-fourth-floor debacle can be taken only as an insult, hardly a compliment. In these parts, some people still consider the intent of the remark. If Stapleton had meant the comment as a compliment — or merely as a statement of fact — she would have left out any reference to ethnicity, or race. And she certainly wouldn’t have mentioned “carrying water,” as if Espinoza were some lackey.

Clearly, Stapleton’s words, which she repeated, were intended to hurt. Otherwise, the Duke City school administrator would have used the word “governor.”

Now some apologists, hair-splitting columnists like Jose Armas, try to soft-pedal the issue, arguing that Stapleton, a Caribbean black, is really a Latina. OK, so if she were, why would she be so careful to describe the governor as a Mexican?

And Armas, in the Albuquerque Journal, gets on a kick about pride in one’s heritage. That’s not the point. Sure, we’re proud of who we are, but I never thought of myself as “that Mexican on the second floor at Highlands’ Mortimer Hall,” or “that Mexican copy editor for the Optic.”

And I don’t think of Armas as “that Mexican who writes an occasional column for the Journal.” The point is, Stapleton’s description of her legislative colleague was conceived as vitriol. There’s no way to sugar-coat that.

Here are some of my views on the issue:

Disclosure No. 1: No elected official should continue to get paid for the taxpayer-funded job he or she leaves behind when the legislature is in session.

Disclosure No. 2: Although I disagree with the governor’s stance on immigration and on rescinding drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, I voted for her in the last election.

Disclosure No. 3: I told my first lie of the new year. I didn’t actually vote for Susana Martinez but against the Richardson administration.

• • •

Few people look back to 2011 and declare it a great year. Any jubilation appears to be in the relief that the year is over.

A news program a few days ago featured a city named Wheaton, Ill., only four miles from a suburb I lived in when in Illinois. Wheaton, the home of Wheaton College, “The Harvard of the Midwest,” was an upper-middle-class community with a high average annual income and a Silk Stocking District that topped most neighboring communities.

So why was Wheaton featured on national news? It seems many residents, suddenly unemployed and forced into house foreclosure, now rely on impromptu food banks, have sold their SUVs and lowered their standard of living.

On the local level, I’ve gotten used to having total strangers approach me as I gas up, giving me a sob story about being out of gas and asking if I could provide a couple of gallons.

How far will that get them? To Tecolote? I’m embarrassed to admit that my generosity has too often been much greater than that: “And here’s a 20 to buy you a meal.” I’m finding it more and more difficult to avoid eye-contact with those who approach in search of “spare change” to help buy a meal . . . or something else.

Monday night, as my wife was entering Lowe’s, a couple of teen boys, 13 or 14, asked, “Ma’am, do you have any spare change?” Before Bonnie was able to react, one of the boys, wearing a hoodie and athletic shoes that must have cost $100, turned to yet another shopper to ask the same question.

Bonnie, obviously more jaded than I when it comes to eleemosynary matters, refused to part with any of her “spare change.” But yet, I wonder: Part of me still tells me a handout will help the plight of the beggars, when the reality might be that I’m just another sucker.

I’m amazed that people, including teens, perhaps products of the “age of entitlement” now so freely and unabashedly hustle total strangers, expecting help to fix a financial jam, whatever its cause.

• • •

I had a friend whose name was Lang; he had a neon sign. His neon sign was very old, so we called it “Old Lang’s sign.”

Four days ago it was difficult to escape hearing Auld Lang Syne on radio or TV. But yet, are we any closer to understanding the meaning of the New Year’s Eve melody that the late Guy Lombardo played each year?

If “auld acquaintance” is to be forgot, isn’t it redundant to add, “and never brought to mind”? And if “auld acquaintance” refers to long-time friends, why forget them?

But let’s not get carried away with semantics. I’d rather enjoy listening to that rendition by Sissel, a Norwegian soprano, whose words are synched to images of wildlife. Quite impressive. Look it up on You Tube. And thank you, Klare Schmidt, for having forwarded it.

• • •

A long-time acquaintance, the man who called me “tocayo” (namesake) has died, at age 92. We’ve lost a great man in Art Montoya. He and his wife Marie were featured in the Optic’s June 2010 Senior Profile.

2 thoughts on “That fourth-floor issue

  1. Ben Moffett

    Recently I exited a take-out restauant near UNM with a salad and an extra large Nutty-Buddy style ice cream cone, when a beggar approached me and asked for money. When I moved past him he shouted, “God, am I hungry.” Without thinking I wheeled around and gave him the ice cream. I have never seen such a grateful look on a man’s face. It was as if he couldn’t believe his luck. He thanked me profusely as I walked away. I turned to look back after several steps and he had ripped off the paper and was obviously enjoying it. It must have been the best thing that had happened to him that day, and it turned out to be my highlight of the day as well.

  2. Art Trujillo

    I wonder if you and I are softies (I KNOW I am) when it comes to people asking for handouts. I’d rather share food than money. I’m glad that day had such a highlight, Ben!

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