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Former Gov. Jerry Apodaca (1975-78) was in New York City to attend the Heisman Trophy awards in 1978. Before the festivities, he went jogging in Central Park, got lost and asked a policeman for help.
He told the policeman he was the governor of New Mexico, and the officers shot him a look like, sure, and I’m the president. Apodaca’s attire (shorts, jersey, sneakers) had something to do with the policeman’s disbelief.
Apodaca had no identification with him, but he did have his room key at the New York Athletic Club. After a call to the club, the officers drove him there.
The story made the national news and reminded people there was such a thing as a governor of New Mexico.
New Mexico Magazine has a long-running regular feature titled “One of Our 50 is Missing,” in which readers submit stories about snubs against New Mexico. In the typical story, the airline reservation person says you need a passport to book a flight to a United States destination, or a mail-order catalog order-taker says her company doesn’t ship internationally. The feature is still running in the magazine, but our last three governors have definitely put New Mexico on the map.
Three in a row with national presence and national ambitions: Gary Johnson, Bill Richardson, now Susana Martinez.
Johnson’s presidential bid came a decade after the end of his term, but he did make himself famous earlier with his position on legalizing marijuana. The term “governor of New Mexico” can now be read by a national news anchor without a prior coaching session.
I think Richardson gets the credit for putting New Mexico on the map — literally. On the national morning news shows like “Today,” you might have noticed in past years that the weather person used to stand directly in front of New Mexico on the map, as if not noticing there was a state between Colorado and a nameless foreign country to the south.
Some time during the Richardson administration I noticed a pronounced shift. The weather guys and gals no longer routinely blocked New Mexico; they started mentioning the state in forecasts; and when they post the temperatures in selected cities around the country, the selections now include Albuquerque or Santa Fe. (Billy the Kid fans may insert their complaints here). Richardson’s contributions to the state are debatable, but I give him credit for this one.
I’ve also noticed a greater frequency recently of New Mexico-related clues on “Jeopardy.” The clue writers must be watching the weather reports.
So now many more Americans know where we are. They also know this state is capable of producing governors with a national presence: One famous for his position on drugs, one for being forced to decline a position in Obama’s cabinet, and the third, with her reputation still uncertain but with “criss-cross applesauce” (her phrase for sitting on the floor to pose with school children) rapidly losing its charm. So has New Mexico benefitted from finally having been recognized as a state?
A few months ago, the season opener of “Saturday Night Live” took place the night immediately before the finale of “Breaking Bad,” which also was two days before the deadline for the federal government shutdown and three days before the launch of the next phase of Obamacare. The actor playing President Obama was talking about the importance of the healthcare law.
To illustrate the problem the law is intended to solve, he introduced “Jesse from New Mexico,” and there was actor Aaron Paul, who played Jesse Pinkman, assistant meth cook to the infamous Walter White, wearing his signature grungy stocking cap. To thunderous applause and howls of laughter, Jesse launched into a rambling explanation of how pre-Obama health coverage was so bad that it forced a teacher to cook meth to pay his medical bills.
No one asked where New Mexico was.
Contact Merilee Dannemann through triplespacedagain.com.