In my long years of life, I’ve learned that some traditions are more valuable and enduring (the birthday party) than others (the hamster fry). One of the oldest and proudest political traditions in Pennsylvania is leaving Pennsylvania and heading to New York City for Pennsylvania Society!!
Each year I write about my experiences during this storied weekend. The account I give below is largely accurate in the same way that my campaign literature is “largely accurate.” I embellish only slightly, and omit only a few unimportant details which may or may not have anything to do with me getting arrested, sneaking out of restaurants without paying, or wearing High-Karate aftershave.
DAY 1 – Thursday
For the first time in 10 years I went up to New York Thursday night. I had been invited by a group of male colleagues and lobbyists I know to attend what was known as “Guy’s Night.” In the Quentin Tarrantino movie “Reservoir Dogs” the characters concealed their identity by calling each other “Mr. Pink” or “Mr. Brown.” In that spirit, I will refer to my companions by their secret hors d’oeuvre names. So after I checked into the W Hotel and splashed on my High-Karate (hey, that never happened), I met up with “Mr. Shrimp,” “Mr. Salmon Puff,” “Mr. Brochette” and “Mr. Chicken Satay on a skewer with a lemon glaze.”
First, we adopted manly theme songs. My buddies chose tunes such as “Wild Thing,” “Highway to Hell.” I decided to use The Theme Song to the Brady Bunch. This led to a very manly debate how whether my choice was sufficiently macho which was interrupted by the arrival of our cab.
First, we went to a very expensive steak house and, after being assured that the cows suffered sufficiently, ordered steaks the size of large steaks. Except, being a vegetarian, I ordered an eggplant quiche, which birthed yet another manly debate about just how manly we were all expected to be.
Eventually, Mr. Salmon Puff suggested we go to a bar he had been to before. Soon, I found myself walking into a very loud, low-lit place where it appears that some of the employees were oddly dressed. For example, do you know how some dresses are sleeveless? These dresses were very, very sleeveless. I asked Mr. Shrimp who these people were. He explained to me how Vitamin D is absorbed through the skin, and that these were lobbyists for Vitamin D.
When we first arrived, we were greeted by Tim, a large, muscular man in a tuxedo. I tried to get him to join me in a round of the Brady Song, but he didn’t seem interested. He explained he was the “exterior door man” and that he accepted tips. When we tipped Tim and entered the club we met Harvey. He was apparently the “interior door man” and was also kind enough to accept tips.
Harvey then handed us off to Otis, who was our host. I was unaware of what a “host” does. But now I know that he points in the general direction of a bunch of tables, some of which have empty seats you can sit at if you wish. For this, Otis requires what he called “a special tip.”
Soon a waitress arrived. and explained that if we would be kind enough to tip her, she would be kind enough to take our drink order. I asked if we could tip her when she brought the drinks. She explained patiently that another person would actually be bringing the drinks. That would be our “server”, and she likes”GIMONDO Tips.” I ordered a screwdriver and turned over the required $10 to ensure the bartender actually puts Vodka into it. I then went to the bathroom, outside of which I encountered Phil. We chatted briefly:
Hi. I’m Phil
I accept tips.
I thought you might. What is it you do?
I’m the Tornado Warner.
The Tornado Warner?
I warn people going into the men’s room if a tornado is coming.
Is that a big problem here?
Not so far.
What about people going into the ladies room? Do they get warned?
Oh sure, Todd does that. He takes tips too.
I thought he might.
Finally, it was late. I walked back to my hotel by myself humming (“Here’s a story, of a lovely lady…”). I ran into a drunk guy walking down the street outside. He threw up on my shoes. I tipped him. Pa Society was off to a great start.
Day 2 – FRIDAY
I woke up late, after a Dr. Phil Marathon until 4:00 AM (I guess the macho thing still had a grip on me). I went for a long run in Central Park to clear my head and get rid of the Virgin Pina-Colada hangover I was nursing. Then my wife arrived and we caught up. She asked me a lot of very detailed questions about the Vitamin D lobbyists. Then, it was time to clip on my tie and head out to the receptions.
I should mention that while I knew I would be seeing lots of people as I went from party to party, I wanted to make a particular point of sharing some quality time with Governor Corbett. Because the truth is, we have let our busy lives, and our disdain of the evil the other represents, get in the way of nurturing our relationship for the past…I’m not sure how old he is, but THAT long. So I want to make sure to…”stalk” is such a harsh word, but certainly seek-out the governor to give him the gift of some Daylin-time.
The first event we attended was a reception for Senate Majority Leader Dom Pileggi. And it was very nice, depending on what you were looking for. If you were looking for Republicans, this party was AWESOME. If however, you were looking for a tofu-bar, there was room for improvement.
However, I did have my first sighting of Governor Corbett. I waved at him. He pretended not to wave at me (very convincingly I might add). I wordlessly suggested we hang out. His eyes said “yes, yes, yes.” But his Secret Service detail said “time to move along pal,” so I cut out.
I then went to the Cozen O’Connor event at the 21 Club. Here, there were no sightings of Governor Corbett, but lots of sightings of Lobster Rolls. The room was so crowded that I was forced to eat other people’s food just to make room for us all to stand. I saw about 45 legislators there, including about 42 future Presidents of the United States.
At one point I got a cup of tea and started joking with everyone I met about how I was now a member of the “Tea Party.” And here I had thought that people became more jolly when they got drunk. Boy I was wrong about that.
Then, me and my Leo DiCaprio-sized posse walked a few more blocks and went to Senator Vince Hughes’ party. He had advertised that the “Number One Urban Dance Troop in the Nation” was going to be there. And that’s why I went. If the event only was supposed to feature the number two Urban Dance Troop in the country, there was no way I was going to be there. When it comes to Urban Dance Troops, give me #1 or give me death! (Liberty? More negotiable.)
I ran into Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Gene Barr there. I was not surprised. When I think of Urban Dance Troops, I think of the Chamber of Commerce. It just goes together, like peanut butter and liverwurst.
I also was surprised to see Governor Corbett. I ran over to him before he could escape. We had a very long conversation where we found we agreed on almost every issue. Then, I realized I was actually speaking to Representative Tony Peyton. I really need to get better glasses.
I eventually wound up back at the Waldorf and Johnny Doc’s Local 98 reception. There was a kick-ass band playing lots of Motown. They were even taking requests. When I asked them to do Monty Python’s Dead Parrot Sketch, I had my second encounter of the weekend with Governor Corbett’s security detail. It was hard to even say goodbye to folks, given that I was being dragged upside down as I left the room. But I did see a pair of shoes which could very well have been the Governor’s, and I slipped a note asking if he wanted to grab some Korean Bar-B-Que in his sock.
Day 3- Saturday
Once again I started the day with exercise. I spent an hour on the stationary bike at the hotel gym. As I worked out, I watched a show involving a nun with a giant crucifix sitting almost perfectly still. I didn’t have head-phones so I couldn’t hear what she was saying. But it was so visually interesting I didn’t mind.
After my shower I hit the Penn Breakfast. I love this event, you are literally swept along a sea of omelet-seekers. Your feet never have to touch the ground. As a result, you only have time for a very short sentence in any one conversation before you are swept away. So my conversations at the Penn Breakfast were as follows:
”I’ll have cheese with…”
“Good morning Tom, boy your wife was really…”
“Hey Congressman! Your new district looks like my…”
“Hey man, sorry about last week. I didn’t mean to vote against your disease.”
“It’s YOU! Why you little F…”
“Mayor Nutter! So nice to see you!
“What? No, this is not Narcoleptics Anonymous, you made a wrong…”
“Governor Corbett! Wait!! Stop! Are we still on for Korean Bar-B-Que?”
Finally, I ran into Kevin Harley, Governor Corbett’s Press Secretary. Kevin once said “Daylin Leach says something outrageous and irresponsible every single day.” As we passed each other we joked about that, and then I said “Hey Kevin, Governor Corbett’s propensity to eat human flesh makes Jeffrey Dahmer look like a vegan.”
Well, that irresponsible statement seemed to outrage Harley. I was happy to help out. It is, after all, the holiday season.
That afternoon I went out with a friend of mine who always get me tickets to a hot Broadway show (remember what I said about certain traditions being valuable and enduring). This year we saw “Book of Mormon.” This play was written by the folks who bring you South Park. So if you go into this thinking its “White Christmas” set in Utah, you are in for a bit of surprise.
After a nap, and another hour with my motionless nun friend (TIVO is awesome!) I went out to dinner with a couple of lobbyists I’ve known for a long time. They were nice enough to invite me even though it was a very Republican crowd.
But when it came time to invite me, partisan politics meant nothing to these women. Apparently, neither did my table manners, nor wardrobe, nor my insistence on talking about how my prom date stood me up (you’d think my mom would have been more reliable).
After dinner I ended the night at the Marcellus Shale Frack-a-Palooza. I’ve got to admit, it was an amazing party. There was a large dance floor where everyone was letting their hair down. I even saw Lt. Governor Cawley cutting a rug. He danced like Fred Astaire, if Fred Astaire had been made of ply-wood. I also saw Mark Cohen jump up and do a split, although I’m not sure it was intentional, in that he’s still there.
Finally, I spied Governor Corbett from across the room. He was doing some neat trick where he was taking frack water and burning a hole in the granite on the bar. I remember the moment perfectly. It was like the scene in West Side Story where Tony and Maria first see each other, and everyone else freezes. Except I don’t remember a bunch of secret-service agents leaping on Tony in the musical. I mean there was Officer Krupke, but he never had a Taser.
In any event, I woke up an hour later, snuggly in my hotel room, with the TV on and my wife muttering the names of old boyfriends. I suggested we put the nun show back on. But apparently someone had given her a Taser “for later.”
Day 4 – Sunday
Sadly, all good things must come to an end. And so to, must Pennsylvania Society Weekend. There wasn’t time to do much Sunday morning. We packed our bags, said goodbye to New York City, and waited an hour and a half in a Korean Bar-B-Que joint for Governor Corbett to show up. He must have been delayed by an emergency dog naming.
But what is the take-away from all of this? What have I learned? How is my life, and the lives of those I touched richer? I’m not sure I know the answer to that, but I’m pretty sure it involves not wearing High-Karate aftershave ever again.