WASHINGTON – I was brand-new to the Albuquerque Journal’s Washington beat in the summer of 2000, and my very first assignment was a doozy – covering the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia.
Beyond excited, I took the train from D.C. to Philly, checked into the downtown Embassy Suites hotel, which hosted the New Mexico delegates, and went to my room to get organized for the big week ahead.
An hour or so later, I got a phone call. A staffer for Sen. Pete Domenici, who died last week at 85, wanted to know if I could join the senator, his wife, Nancy, and a few of his friends for dinner that evening.
Who, me? Um, yes – I’d be honored. I wrote down the address of an old-school Italian restaurant and showed up overdressed and a little nervous. Domenici, who I learned later could be intense, was engaging and relaxed that evening as he asked about my background and family and traded inside jokes and laughs with others at the table, making the stranger feel welcome all the while. It remains one of my most memorable meals, and not just because the pasta was outstanding.