The short version of my resume — the one that appears on my book jacket, and which people usually read when introducing me at events — mentions that I served as a speechwriter for two U.S. Senators. Just that little nugget of information — and the words “U.S. Senators” — invariably leads to questions about life on Capitol Hill, my impressions of the Congress and the two members I’ve worked for, peeks behind the curtain at how the legislative process really works, even who I think Washington Irving might vote for in the upcoming elections.
I get the impression that people sometimes think they’re imposing or trying to uncover some Matter of National Security when they ask me whether Congressmen really read their mail, but the truth is, I love answering those kinds of questions. But it took me a bit to realize something: to those of us who live and work in the Washington, DC, area, things like politics, the legislative process, and the Capitol Building are such a part of our everyday lives that we often fail to remember how strange or magical or weird they may seem to everyone else. Even if you don’t work in government in this area, you still walk past the White House while on your way to get coffee, your daily newspaper is still The Washington Post, and you still have to shove past camera-laden tourists on the Metro, none of whom seem to get the whole stand-on-the-right, walk-on-the-left thing. To us, it’s our neighborhood; to the rest of the world, it’s a movie or postcard. Just as I was dazzled by New York City — I’m in awe of the people that actually live and work there, with a romantic perception of the place that, I’m sure, doesn’t reflect reality — so, too, are people fascinated by Washington, DC, and Capitol Hill.
From time to time, then — since people seem always to be asking, and since I seem to be always looking for Regular Features for this blog — I’ll share with you some of my stories, memories, and impressions of my Decade on Capitol Hill. And if you’ve got questions, I’ll do my best to answer them. It’s all part of the public service we like to perform here on this little corner of Literary Conceits.