Don’t know when I’m going get a doctor to check on this swelling that’s been growing in pain for weeks now. First I have to choose a primary care provider from the network of my DC exchange plan and it takes time to comb through credentials (as anyone who’s switched plans knows). Other reps are annoyed they had to move to an exchange-based plan, though they themselves mandated it to demonstrate I’m not sure what. But I think my new private insurance is cool, since until this year I had pre-expansion Medicaid.

Yes, I was that poor.

Now, I’m a-travelin’ through the muck with the muckety-mucks. Like, last night, I got to attend what will presumably be the last of Henry Waxman’s annual Super Bowl parties. I never went to any of Phil Spector’s bowling parties, but THIS tradition I’ll have touched.

Haven’t agreed with Waxman on everything, but he has, in many ways, been a great man through his 40 (count ’em) years of service to the nation. He was my congressman in L.A. and I remember affixing my “I Voted” sticker to my bare chest and feeling a great deal of pride after doing my part to keep him in the chamber, doing (mostly) what was right.

Only time I ever met him before entering Congress was in the Beverly Connection Souplantation at lunchtime, when the House had recently turned Republican and he was wondering if, powerless, he should go on. This was during the Clinton years.

Twenty years later, he legislates still, and will continue through the year. If they let him.

He must look back at THAT spell in the minority as a glorious epoch of power.


Waxman’s one of those Jews who looks like a Mexican, making him perfect for success in Los Angeles politics. It might be an evolutionary adaptation, as when flowers have petals that look like beavers. After all, many New York Jews look like Puerto Ricans. Could be Jews are genetically programmed to mimic the predominant Latin population wherever they reside. Probably this started during the Roman occupation of the Holy Land, when it was useful not to look too conspicuous to the original Latins. This was likely also the beginning of the overlapping characteristics which undergirded the close Jewish/Italian relationship in 20th-century New York.

Then again, I may have been programmed by cartoons and old television comedy to see Mexicans as looking (and sounding) like Mel Blanc. Perhaps Mexicans don’t look like Jews at all. If that’s true, though, why are there Jews who look like Puerto Ricans?

Wait. Maybe it isn’t Jews who look like Puerto Ricans, maybe it’s Puerto Ricans who look like Jews.

Like, you know, Hector Elizondo.

The food was good and there was plenty of it, a real Yiddishe spread, as my mother might have it. A nouveau spread, really, since we were in one of those places that have recently sprung to bring a modern touch to trad Jew deli. There’s a similar joint in Brooklyn called Mile End and the people behind it have a relationship with these guys, been, for instance, on deli retreats with them and the others in their tribe. They love to cure their own meats, make their own dogs and pickle vegetables with their fists in the pickling liquid. It’s laudable and the results are sound.

This particular place was called DGS Delicatessen, the name an update, in the manner of the food itself, of “District Grocery Stores,” an old time Jewish outfit that once inhabited the building, or maybe the one next door. I have no idea if the congressman knew that store, but I do know he used to gather the Super troops at a venerable deli not far off. When it closed, this seemed the best available alternative.

Still, maybe the ways in which DGS pastrami is more artful than ample are emblematic of the changes in politics itself, perhaps the reason Waxman decided to retire. Maybe he didn’t want to serve in a nouveau Congress with comparatively paltry sandwiches, presented in a style he found — if slightly — unfamiliar.

“Free speech is more important than gun rights, so since rampant weaponry makes people fear to speak or act, loose gun laws have a chilling effect on speech and are constitutionally unsound.”

“Why don’t you say this in the chamber, Andrew?”

“It’s banal, self-evident. It goes without saying.

“Because YOU don’t say it.”

“What is this, a pickled vegetable or something?”

“I think so. Maybe a radish.”

The Republican reps were on one side of the room while we Dems clung to the other, a central gutter of empty tables running between us, as we eyed each other warily, like the Jets and the Sharks. I broke out a couple of modern dance moves — punctuated by a “pow” or two — in the center de-delicatessenized zone, but people glared, sans passion or understanding, so I headed toward the bathroom.

Speaker Boehner was in an alley-facing doorway, smoking.

“That’s why I like you, Lederer, you go right to West Side Story.”

“I didn’t think anybody knew what I was doing.”

“You’re right, nobody knows what you’re doing. But I certainly knew what you were referencing. I played Bernardo in summer camp when I was 12.”

“Is that when you discovered the self-lacquering device I imagine I’m not supposed to talk about?”

“Don’t tell Leno,” he laughed.

A few feet away, a waitress brought Iowa’s Steve King a cantaloupe.

“I didn’t order this.”

“Compliments of Congressman Lederer.”

He looked up and I nodded like a gambler in the old west. On the their side of the gutter, the Dems saw the melon before the anti-immigrant rep and sonically mocked with passion, none moreso than the members of the Hispanic caucus.

“That was for you, Bernardo,” I told Boehner as I entered the toilet.

Yeah, I know.

I haven’t really felt like writing. Probably didn’t need to anyway, anything that happened to me in the last few months that might have been interesting was in the papers. Not much of that even.

Nevertheless, you know how I’m feeling right now? I’m feeling like a few months after someone you cared about died or maybe that much time after a big breakup or like, you know, Woody Allen when he doesn’t have to appear on an awards show in “Annie Hall.” My appetite’s coming back, the tree outside is making my heart make an attempt to smile. Life is flowering within me for a few minutes at a time. Then I want to go back to sleep, perhaps the only one of my desires that generally gets fulfilled. Could be depression, could be I’m still sick.

But forget about that, you’re not my therapist. Anyway, I never got to tell you where we went after Henry Waxman’s Superbowl party and I really wanted to. See, there’s this wonderful dairy farm in Maryland, near where you take a ferry into Virginia, that somehow breeds cows to naturally produce different colors of milk. I know. Amazing.

They don’t use high-tech genetic manipulation, just good, old-fashioned cross-breeding to select for desired characteristics. But here’s the great part — they put flavors in the feed to make the milk taste more chocolatey or strawberryey and then they keep the cows in a cold barn, so you can squeeze a kind of soft ice cream right out of their udders! If I get to be in Congress for 35, 40 years, like Henry, I’ll know all the great places too!

But I’m letting my mind run away with me. We all know that’s not going to happen. The primary is tomorrow and I’m not on the ballot.

“Andrew, why are you here, anyway?”

Waxman, the guy on his way out, and I, the guy who’d just come in, were, I guess, bonding.

“You invited me, Henry, don’t you remember?”

I thought I was pretty funny, but he just felt I was dissolving the bond.

“Seriously, Andrew. Everybody’s been talking about how little you seem to even have tried to accomplish since you came to Washington.”

“Really? Everybody? I didn’t think most of the reps even knew me.”

“Well, okay. They don’t. But I’M everybody. I want to leave this body as close to the position of honor I found it in as I can and I can’t do that if jokesters and slackers are filling the seats on our side.” (I know my relating of this makes him seem uptight and proper but, though these are his exact words, he came across quite Jewy and warm.)

“Sounds like more than one person you’re talking about, but you’re just talking about me, right?”

“Right,” the Angeleno schpritzed “chocolate death” ice cream direct from a teat into his mouth.

“I know you’ve had a truncated term,” he admitted, “but you’ve got to start stepping up to the plate. It’s already time for you to start gearing up for reelection.”

“I’m not even sure I want reelection,” I said glibly.

I mean, it was an accident I got elected last time, a joke almost. Not my joke, but the joke of the people who put me up for office after I made that video, the first thing I ever did that went viral. At least I thought it went viral. Now I realize it went bacterial and I’m the one who got sepsis or peritonitis or whatever it is you get when you’re overrun with bacteria.

See? I don’t even know THAT, really. It’s all references where I’m concerned. It sounds like I know something, even to me, but there’s no depth to my understanding.

And that’s what happened with this CONGRESS thing. I thought I could do it because I have strong feelings, but there’s a whole process you have to work and I don’t have a work ethic, I have a craft ethic. I’ll spend as much time as necessary – ’til I lose interest, anyway – if I come up with some wild notion or other, but the nuts and bolts of anything is beyond me.

I tried to explain that to Henry about a week later as we walked through a wood shack World’s Fair from the ’30s in the distant regions of Loudoun County, part of his one-man mission to save me and the institution I’d been ruining. He said my self-awareness meant I WAS equipped for the job, that the tea party lunatics who’d commandeered our process were the true passionate incompetents, the ones who didn’t know what they were doing but thought they did, whose belief in belief itself, stemming from an ignorant misreading of religious faith, trumped fact and threatened the existence of society more than Islamic terrorists or my lazy-ass bohemianism ever could.

But I just wanted to know about this wood shack World’s Fair. What the hell was this? How did this happen? Why did it smell so good? Was somebody cooking something Russian?

It seems this town got it into its head in the ’30s that hosting a World’s Fair shouldn’t only be for cities that didn’t need the boost or the two-way exposure to the world. So, it applied to host one. And was ignored.

But they built one anyway, researching customs from around the world, creating small wooden pavilions to represent thirty-six countries, complete with snack stands where you could buy international foods, craft demonstrations, even little hotels of many nations. They taught themselves, via lessons on 78 rpm records, how to speak the various languages. And they kept the fair going for far longer than the one or two year lifespan of properly ordained fairs.

Over a period of decades, the world took notice. Hip guidebooks from the post-war ’40s caused tourists from “represented” nations to visit when they came to the US. Often, they were surprised by how right the villagers had gotten their customs and and crafts. Sometimes, they taught villagers the right way to do things they’d been doing wrong. In a few cases, international visitors stayed, finding this small world a better world than the big one, after all.

I don’t know what the town’s name was at that time, but now it’s Exposition, Va. It’s a medium-sized tourist destination, but in this country knows anything about it.

Except Congressman Henry Waxman.