Looking to hitch a ride into space
There is an ominous sound to the ring when he calls, threatening, foreboding. My friend Barney from New Jersey doesn’t call often but, somehow, I know that certain ring.
“Heellloo Nuuuevvooo Mehhhicoooo!” he blurts, a pronunciation he can’t pull off even when sober. Barney is big into New Year’s. His celebration begins two days after Christmas and ends March 3.
“So, Barney, it’s you,” I say. “Happy New Year.”
“Happy Bankruptcy is what I would think,” Barney says, warming to his topic. “I’ve been reading about your Spaceport. That boondoggle is going to have you guys tin cupping all over Washington. Texas is already starting to salivate over the notion of buying the entire state of New Mexico for 10 cents on a dollar.”
“Enough of the rant,” I told Barney. “We are very proud of our Spaceport and the opportunities it opens for the future. Our prime tenant, Virgin Galactic, is paying us a million bucks a year. And don’t forget the research launches. Just because New Jersey’s major industry is guys like Luigi putting vending machines in bars doesn’t mean you should take it out on us.”
“Saw the Spaceport picture on the Internet,” Barney whined. “Looks like one of them sprawling teen drive-in hangouts from the 50s. Put some hopped up Model A’s and 57 Chevys with a bunch of kids dancing around and it would look like a scene from ‘American Graffiti.’”
I could hear ice rattling the bottom of his glass. “And this Virgin Galactic deal,” Barney continued, “it is not even exclusive. They’ve got contracts all over the world for these spaceflights. People who can afford $200,000 for a space shot are going to come to Upham, New Mexico? Give me a break!”
I told my erstwhile friend the folks at the New Mexico Spaceport Authority are bullish on expectations for the future, confident they will get positive legislation from Santa Fe this session to protect companies from lawsuits.
“To tell you the truth, Barney,” I said, “I am personally saving up for a flight out of Upham.”
“You? All you do is write that two-bit column, one of them 47 per centers who sits by the mailbox waiting for Uncle Sam to bail you out every month. You may be saving up for a ticket alright. Rail Runner is my guess.”
“That was ugly, Barney,” I chided him. “I am hoping my readers can help me out a little.”
“Maybe,” my nemesis retorted, “but only if it is a one-way ticket. Why would you want to go into space anyway, given the fact you are chicken and all?”
“Kate,” I answered. “Kate Winslet has booked a trip from our spaceport. I think Kate is out of this world and it would be jolly well fun to interview her in space. I am hoping they put us in 1A and 1B.”
“There you go,” Barney said. “You and Kate Winslet. I remember the days you were middle age goofy. Now you are doddering old dodo.”
“Look, Barney. Kate married a guy named Ned Rocknroll. She doesn’t sound all that choosy!”
“You can just forget Kate Winslet,” Barney chortled. “I’ll tell you where they are going to seat you. They will put you next to new Grandma with her iPad. She’ll have pictures from the delivery room showing her latest grandson entering the world. And you’ll be grateful because the only other open seat will be next to a dropout from ‘The Biggest Loser’ with an attitude problem.”
“Well, Barney, thanks for your call. You’re the only guy in the world who can make me miss that lady who calls and tells me for the 754th time ‘this is your last and final chance to lower your credit card rate.’”
Barney hung up. It was just as well.
Ned Cantwell – firstname.lastname@example.org – will not accept donations over $1,000.