It killed me to see Katherine Clark strutting around with one of those root beers at the congressional Christmas party. She was elected by, like, three people (maybe four). I think they said on CNN that turnout for her election was the lowest since the founding of the Massachusetts colony in 1620, so per voter cost of her root beer must be astonishing. My voters, on the other hand, in the theoretical world in which they’d be dunned for my root beer, would pay far less dearly. Why am I not on the budget committee?

It’s not the cost, though, that gets me, it’s the symbolism. I’m not the new kid anymore and if I’m no longer new, what am I? Maybe after my speech, I’ll know.

As expected, there was an open bar, yet root beer could not be had, by the rest of us, at any price. I think Uncle Steny forbade its disbursal to protect the specialness of the newbie’s drink. Sure, I’ve never, anywhere, at any point in my life, seen a bar that served root beer, but I’m sticking to my sense that Hoyer put the kibosh on root beer for Christmas. This is the House of Representative, for soda’s sake, it’s hard to believe our bar would not serve root beer if a member wanted some for Christmas.

Unless it had been muscled.


I live a life that straddles both sides of dismissiveness, my balls hanging directly between the inherently unworthy and those rendered unworthy by their disregard of me. If the balance of these races is sufficient, I feel free, surrounded almost exclusively by people who don’t like me and people who don’t mean anything anyway, kinda like the world is to begin with.

In such a world, I can do whatever the fuck I want. And the congressional Christmas party provided such a world, a room filled not just with the Yolos and the Stockmans, who deserve neither attention nor respect, but also worthy legislators of all power levels who, at best, don’t know why I’m around. As hired carolers piously harmonized on paeans to MangerBaby (named by God for the phrase used by Italian mothers to get their children to eat), I tried to induce the twenty-odd Jewish members of the House to sing, as a kind of rebuttal, our favored Chanukah songs..

“Is it legal to sing that religious stuff on the grounds of the Capitol?” I asked no one in particular, in a less than resonant voice. “Where’s the ever-popular ‘Jingle Bells’ and ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’ repertoire of inclusion?’ I wondered. “I demand equal time!”

“What?” a caroler asked?

I answered, in the manner of my clan, with a question: “Don’t you know any Jewish songs?”

“No, but I can follow on my concertina if you want,” he shot back with ridiculously unnuanced Christian sweetness.

I started on “Oh, Chanukah, Oh, Chanukah,” but didn’t know any of the other words, so I switched to “Ma O Tzur” for a word or two. Jerry Nadler continued for a few words more, then HE stopped. The concertina guy looked to me for guidance as silence overtook us all.

Eric Cantor picked up the slack and enthusiastically led partygoers in singing Jewish holiday standards. Cantor knew ALL the words to ALL the songs, even songs I never heard of.

Jesus (so to speak), the guy must have been the pride of the Richmond chapter of B’nai B’rith Youth, ca. 1978. Really saved my bacon (as it were). His Yiddishe singalong (including the likes of Mark Sanford and Pete Sessions. fearful that if they didn’t sing of Maccabees, they’d be shunned by AIPAC) degenerated into a dreidel-based drinking game that left me begging for mercy in the face of the awe-inspiring spinning skills of Keith Ellison.

That the sole Muslim member of Congress bested me at a Chanukah game made me kvell. It also made me miss my speech, not that some dissociative state would have allowed me to witness myself in action, but because I forgot to go.

Nobody noticed. Nobody cared.

Now, it’s the third week of the new year and I’m probably the only member of the House who didn’t speak his entire first year in office.

It wasn’t a whole year, though, so maybe it’s not that embarrassing.