Kate, Lydia, and I were sitting on the floor of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives yesterday, jammed in among a hundred other new representatives’ family members waiting for the swearing-in ceremony. This, apparently is supposed to go very smoothly: the new legislators take an oath, the new speaker is elected, and everyone goes for coffee.
Our first clue that things were going to go differently was when a silver-haired man in suspenders walked up to the podium, leaned w-a-a-a-y into the microphone, and in a “now-let’s-just-see-here-folks” Atticus Finch voice, asked for a half-hour caucus. Muttering from around the room.
What happened over the next few hours was a really awesome legislative coup, in which the incumbent Republican speaker, John Perzel, had the carpet yanked out from under him despite convincing three Democrats to split from their party and promise to vote for him, a minority party member, to back him for Speaker.
There was shouting, there were veiled intimations made with smiling faces, and we were sitting six feet from the Republican speaker’s podium, so we got to hear how Perzel was parroting things said by his aide. As DeWeese was negotiating with the Chief Clerk to see whether or not Perzel would be entitled to second his own nomination (essentially, giving him the chance to make a stump speech), his aid whispered “you can’t stop progress”, and Perzel then repeated this sententiously into the microphone, and then all the Democrats on the other side of the floor booed and threw beer bottles at him. Well, figuratively. That was the audio clip that ended up on all the radio reports of the day.
So it was AWESOME, even though I had to leave with Lydia halfway through the proceedings to find a bathroom for her; we got to use the members’ bathroom, which is just what you’d expect: half shoe-shine joint, half off-track betting facility, half turkish spa, filled with burly attendants in red V-necked sweaters. Barb got sworn in, escorted the new Speaker (Denny O’Brien) to the podium, and then we were off to shake hands.
Favorite part of the day: we arrived with only SECONDS to go before the doors closed to the ceremony, and so we were whisked through the back halls of the House by Barb’s legislative assistant Kendall: running through curved subterranean hallways, kicking pages off of elevators, taking the shortcut through the governor’s lobby, and finally squeaking in JUST as the door was closing (well, just after it closed; Kendall yanked it open at the last second and endured a stern lecture from the bailiff, nodding contritely and waving us past with the hand hidden behind her back. Kendall, you rock.)
Then, back home to visit Bob, who (and this is the reason I haven’t been blogging lately; how do you say this?) is in Chester County Hospital with a carcinoma in his pelvis. He’s been in a lot of pain the past few weeks, mostly physical, but also mental, as the diagnoses have been flying thick and fast (“hell, it’s just an infection!” “Dear lord, get the priest in here AND HURRY!”), and right now, he’s hooked up to an epidural and going through a two-week course of radiation. Matt is taking care of Bob’s business right now, driving all over the county installing and servicing high-tech water filtration systems, and Lydia, Kate, and I have been making regular visits to the surgical wing.
Bob puts Ferris Bueller to shame, and his room has been filled day and night with motorcycle buddies and other well-wishers. We’re really hoping that something that grew this fast will respond quickly to treatment; after five or six more radiation sessions, we’ll know something.
So it’s been a roller-coaster, as you can imagine. Thank goodness Barb got confirmed (her contentious recount process ended up giving her four new votes), because now her health insurance is, apparently, the best you can get. Keep him in your thoughts!