Column: A not-always-misspent life revisited

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05/05/2013 8:00 AM |

It’s a clear indication that you’ve reached a certain age when your social calendar, usually based on trips to the dump or the supermarket, now includes reunions.

By definition, a reunion is a gathering of people who haven’t seen each other for an extended period of time, hence if you attend one you’ve either moseyed on through or are banging on the door of geezerhood.

TIM KELLY

And so it was that I found meself at a very nice home in suburban D.C. last weekend, there to mix and mingle with others once in the employ of former congressman William Carney (R-C-Hauppauge), who represented this fair community from 1979 to 1986. In the summer of ’83 I became the last press secretary of his congressional career (press aide actually, but, hey, press secretary sounds way cooler) and moved up from D.C. to the North Fork just before he retired.

You’ve already heard me wax nostalgic about a 20-something’s life on Capitol Hill so I won’t bore you will all that again. But since the face in the mirror now bears little resemblance to picture on the ol’ House ID, a certain amount of living in the past is to be expected.

I hadn’t seen most of these folks for over 25 years, including the former congressman, the guy who, with the exception of some gray hair and glasses, looks very much like the guy whose image graced the corner of the special paper used in printing — yes, you heard right, printing, as in batted out on a typewriter and run through a copy machine — the various press releases, columns and such mailed out through the U.S. Postal Service.

Tweet? Dude, that’s what a bird does.

I’d attended only one other reunion, that of me high school class. But we’re talkin’ two very different past experiences here. In D.C. I felt like a stranger in a strange land. OK, that was just like high school. In D.C., I was surrounded by great gals, all pretty much off limits. Ah, well, ditto. Was forced to wear a jacket, tie and even socks for pity’s sake. Damn. OK, on second thought, it was exactly like high school, minus the nuns but with Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill.

Ah, remember the fun we had? Like the time the staff counsel and I were having a water pistol duel when a lobbyist came through the office door and I swung around, planted my feet and took aim like a “Law & Order” detective bursting into a suspect’s apartment and the guy threw his hands up in surrender and muttered, “I don’t want to die”?

Or when the congressman would bring all the males into his office, make us each drop a dollar on the credenza for a putting competition that he always — and I mean, always — won?

Then there were the tapeball games; you’d crumple up a piece of copy paper, wrap it like a mummy in tape and swing away with a cardboard mailing tube filling in for a Louisville Slugger. A home run required walloping it past the appointment secretary and out the window onto South Capitol Street. Not as easy as it sounds.

On second thought, this was not at all like high school. Sister Mary Whoever would have cleaned our clocks, and these incidents would have made for unfortunate entries in our permanent records.

OK, it wasn’t always like that. Congressional staffers work long, hard hours, some assisting the member on legislative affairs and others providing constituent service, no small tasks when your district includes over a half-million people. Can’t help it if the wacky times are the most memorable. Unlike the representative, we don’t get smacked around by political foes or friends looking for favors.

As the reunion wore on, it was as if close to 30 years had melted away and we all had gathered at a Capitol Hill watering hole after work on a Friday night. Except, for some, Saturday morning might be a little more uncomfortable than it was 30 years ago.

Like my recent — gulp — 40th high school reunion, a great time was had by all. Except that a hellish ride back north on I-95 followed this gathering.

Recounting the tapeball story during Saturday’s party, I left out the part about one afternoon when the congressman was pitching and I was calling balls and strikes, and I made the strike zone about the size of a business envelope.

“You just won’t give me a break, will you?” he complained.

I thought to myself, keep me late last week before giving me the OK for the friggin’ column, will ya? I’ll show you.

“Nope,” said I, “not at all.”

tkelly@timesreview.com

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