The first time I met John Boehner, after winning that special election to replace the late Nathan Malkin and rushing down to Washington to do a job for which I was little prepared (but very eager), was a revelation. For one thing, I hadn’t suspected a new Democratic arrival would be summoned to meet the leader of the Republican majority. I guess I’d forgotten he was speaker of THE HOUSE, of which I was now a part (I’m a redundant support beam). Sometimes, to be quite honest, it seems like HE forgets.

But I was welcomed — it was an orientation of sorts — into a room wherein he, in friendly but perfunctory manner, introduced himself while, mostly, paying attention to his personal activities. I don’t think he even looked at me, but then, he was also doing something he considered more important. He was painting himself, while we talked, with a viscous, orange/brown lacquer of some kind, using (I was surprised to note) a long wooden stick, like a back scratcher, but with a small brush on the end in lieu of etched fingers of bamboo.

I wasn’t interested in wasting time there anyway. I know this was something like an enlisted man fraternizing with a lady officer in the military, but I had arranged a date, in a cluttered janitorial closet in the bowels of The Capitol, with Mary Landrieu.


It may have been labeled a janitorial closet but the space, neither on the Senate side of the building nor physically beholden to the House, contained little in the way of cleaning supplies. Truth be told, it could easily have served as a Coney Island appetizing shop. ‘Neath our toes was a multi-layered collection of discarded condoms dating back to the mid, perhaps late, 1850s. They appeared to be made of lace or bustle material and merely looking at them made the memory of Grandma’s doilies yelp with dormant entendres that had just about given up on being heard.

I suppose the shoe-level forest of petrified protection could have served as a necessary reminder, but I had no need of condoms, not simply because Senator Landrieu had used her last egg at a Loozyana crawdad boil several years earlier but because, in a nod to her marriage and some kind of technical Christian propriety upon which she insisted, remained limited to above the waist contact.

My mind wandered to Steny Hoyer’s root beer.

What kind of a name is Steny, anyway? I suppose I could ask him. Or Google it. For some reason, I experience it as a diminution of something Greek.

I don’t know him very well, but I see him as Joe Biden’s tougher brother, the guy who beat up the kids who didn’t fall for the smile. Not that he’s mean, though, just tough. Sometimes, it looks as if he and Jim Clyburn are really working as Nancy Pelosi’s bodyguards. I guess he learned to be that way all those years ago in the rough and tumble sandlot, protecting Joe. That’s the scenario I’ve whipped up, anyhow. I’ve come to think of him as “Uncle Steny.”

He has this tradition of giving each new member of the Democratic caucus a root beer in each of the member’s first thirty days. Since I’m the only guy in his first thirty days, all of Uncle Steny’s ice cold root beer, complete with properly bent straws, comes to me, in great, longneck, Mexican-style bottles, made, I’ll bet, with real sugar. I don’t even know if they have root beer in Mexico, but if they do, Uncle Steny probably got several cases as a thank you gift back when NAFTA kicked in and has carefully doled them out to new members ever since. This would be unimaginable if the recipient were, say, Utah Senator Mike Lee. who’d hole up in his quarters and plow, alone, through every bottle in every case. They’d find him several days later, dead in his rooming house, lying in a pool of his own carbonation.

Nah. Probably he’d save one bottle for his besty, Rafael Cruz, which would serve as the wafer thin mint he never had, preventing his expulsive demise. Oh, to have such a pal as Rafael, just down from Canada, who can sit at the uncool table with you, pretending better than you ever could that the cool kids’ table was full of losers and your table was the place to eat mayonnaise-laden peanut butter sandwiches just like real Americans do.


I refocused on the Louisiana senator’s breasts.

It seems Ms. Landrieu’s desire to employ rituals that limited any sense she may have been cheating, in the eyes of God, her husband or the press, had led her to add another dimension to the above the waist rule. She did not entirely remove her shirt, merely loosening it to allow access. Her breasts remained, if gently, sheathed.

I can’t say I hated this.

An avid explorer of natural caverns and ardent admirer of blindmen, I enjoyed the carnal braille spelunking aspect of these explorations. And I’ll be eternally grateful her ass was exempted from the lower reaches prohibition as it would be sad to be in a closet with someone whose father was named Moon and not get to touch her ass. Nevertheless, when she got called to a vote, I was ready to move on.

I needed to get back to New York to attend my first “town hall” meeting, which was scaring me.

Why am I here? Here in this place in life, I mean.

Here, in more immediate reality, is a bus heading up I-95, past the White Marsh shopping center, north of Baltimore. Yes, a bus.

I didn’t want to take the train. Someone might recognize me. Not the public, necessarily, I’m not an egotist (though, truth be told, I’m the best, most important non-egotist there is), but one of my new congressional colleagues or a staffer or journalist or something. And what am I going to tell them? That my election was an accident and I have no plans to speak of? That I’m not even conversant with the needs of my district?

Maybe I could tell them about the poster I saw the night I crashed on the floor of the apartment Louie Gohmert took over from Todd Akin after Akin left Congress at the beginning of the year. Unironically taped to the wall was a diagram of women’s reproductive anatomy that was the gynecological equivalent of the New Yorker cover featuring a Gothamite’s view of the world.

According to the diagram, used by doctors in many of the southern states and parts of the west, beyond the vagina lurks a rape dam, wee beasties, car keys and, of course, New Jersey.

This information came in handy when the time came to drive home.

Okay, we’re crossing into Delaware. Leaves are not yet “deep autumn.” Don’t know if they ever get there on this stretch of less-than-lonely highway.

Man, I know they’re going to ask me about the shutdown. “I thought it was great,” I’ll say. For Christ’s sake, I’m not Republican, why do they ask me questions for which they need no answers? Imaginary questions, I mean. Haven’t been asked too many questions, really.

Gonna get asked ’em at the town hall, though. They’re all about the questions, right? What am I, John Quincy Adams? What’s with the town halls? It’s like the triumph of the flinty New Englanders.

Gone awry.

I imagine colonial New Englanders would be horrified to learn their participatory institution has been mastered and maneuvered by descendants of their slaveholding southern brethren who used it to whip up the anti-Obamacare shutdown frenzy.

They’re dead, though. Colonial New Englanders.

Except Olympia Snowe.

I’m in a smelly room, waiting to begin the town hall. There’s a TV on, an old black and white with a box enabling it to process digital. I wish it was operating off a coat hanger and foil, the way these babies are supposed to. I know they’re not broadcasting on those analogue channels anymore, but I’d like to see any subversive messages now hidden in the fuzz.

Gotta call it fuzz. Can’t call it interference, since, these days, it doesn’t have anything to interfere with. If a pirate transmitted video over one of the old channels, THAT would be interference. In any event, I’d have to dismantle a whole setup to see whether my fuzz thesis might be borne out ’cause the technologically inconsistent organizers of this event have the set connected to cable, which is funny, a little.

Tiny black and white cable people are telling me about (yet) a(nother) shooting in progress at some naval recruitment base and how authorities have found surveillance footage of a 14-year-old pushing down the school hallway a recycling bin which may have contained the teacher they think he killed. Out the window, a roofer is jumping between an apartment roof and a brownstone roof, standing, in the wind, on the precarious and crumble-prone overhang at the top of the larger structure.

I don’t feel so good.

Oy. They’re calling me. Not even any water bottles here, only those conical, soft, paper cups that don’t even fit in a car’s soft drink holder.

“Alright. I’m COMing.”

I wonder, do I want to you to know I’m in a bar, in Williamsburg, drinking away my embarrassment over the town hall? Look, I think Nate did a good job representing my district (I still can’t write “my district” without shaking), but he was from a different era and his death was so sudden, likewise my replacing him, that I haven’t had time to replace his staff.

And they are not, with me, simpatico.

Sakes alive, I’m not confused about what I believe. Why do I need someone whispering in my ear like I’m Julia Louis-Dreyfus? I once saw Boris Johnson, the mayor of London, presiding over the opening of a department store alone. The mayor of fucking London. No security. No aides except a guy with a clipboard.

And he may have been working for the department store.

So, I did this thing solo. And when they asked what my agenda was, now that I’ve ascended into the legislative sub-heavens, I said, in addition to mentions of a few things I was in favor of, that I’d kind of like to get in on whatever that technically legal corruption is that enables congressmen to get rich.

“Congressman, what do you think about the government shutdown?”

“I think it was great.”


“Wow. You GOT that. You’re a hipper crowd than I expected. I expected fulminating lunatics like you see on the news. But I guess those town halls are south of the Macy/Gimbel line.”


“Are you disappointed by the problems with the rollout of Obamacare?”

“Nah. It gives the right something to dance about that won’t really change anything and in the meantime, they’re not out dismantling everything that’s good and pure in the name of a Constitution they seem to have read only in a bad English translation of an earlier translation into Laotian.”


“You bring up something I’ve been wondering about, Congressman, whether our representatives have even read the document they’re sworn to uphold. Sir…have YOU read the Constitution?”

“Sure. In the original Laotian.”


“Seriously, though, have you ever actually read our foundation document?”

“Um… (long pause) Parts of it.”


“The GOOD parts.”

Some laughs.

“One thing I know is there’s nothing in it that prevents a sitting congressman from getting rich. Why should only rural congressmen get rich guy welfare for, like, owning a farm? I’m gonna get me a rooftop farm like they have in Bushwick, then let those guvamint dollars come rollin’ at me, while the unworthy Food Stamp recipients shiver like Dickensian urchins.”

No audible reaction.

“You didn’t get that one?”


“Have I told you how much I look forward to meeting some of the more attractive MSNBC pundits?”

I also said some stuff that wasn’t stupid or flip, like (and these mimic parallels others have drawn, but I’ve never specifically heard them) how the right wants to protect kids before they’re born, but doesn’t want to help them get day care, pre-k or Special K once they’re popped.

Wait, that one sounds familiar. I’m like the George Harrison of political plagiarism. I THOUGHT I originated the thing, but didn’t. At least I’m man enough to admit it. No “This Song” from me.

But how about this one?

The opposition is opposed to regulating medical care for the borned, yet fetus-touching regulations are all the rage in regressive statehouses throughout this purple-mountained land.


Are there even any purple mountains in the United S of A? Anywhere?

Jesus, these guys can’t stop lying.

Here I am busting this purple mountain thing wide open and all the media can see is a guy who wants to get rich and hasn’t read the entire Constitution.

Not in English, anyway.