I just realized that I had drinks back in 1998 with now-U.S.-Senator Roger Wicker, Republican of Mississippi.
(Note: this was not a gay thing.)
So, my therapist gave me a homework assignment last week: he wanted me to think about what my wants and needs were when I was in law school. (Long story.) I’d been thinking about it over the last few days, and this morning I decided to pull out some of my old journals from my law school years to try and help me remember. While going through one of them, I came across a description of a night I had completely forgotten about.
On the night of February 14, 1998, the Virginia Glee Club, of which I was a member, performed in a Valentine’s Day concert on Grounds (which is what you call the campus there). Coincidentally, in town that night was Hob Bryan, a Mississippi state senator and UVa law school alumnus who was a longtime friend of the Glee Club. Since he happened to be in town, he came to our concert. Afterwards, he invited three of us Glee Club guys to have drinks at the Colonnade Club, a swanky faculty club on Grounds.
So we went to the Colonnade Club, which was basically one room with a small group of people having drinks. And, quoting from my journal:
Not only Hob, but also this other guy around his age, the guy’s daughter, and a young guy who it turned out is a 4th year…
So we went downstairs, fixed ourselves some drinks, choosing from gin, Maker’s Mark (I think), Speaker’s Choice Scotch. Went back up, hung out in nice comfortable chairs in the elegant room. And it turned out this guy is a Congressman! He’s a member of the U.S. House from Mississippi, represents the northernmost district, 24 counties, bordering Tennessee. Roger something. Begins with W? And his daughter (Meg? Margaret?) is visiting UVA this weekend…
I was reading this, and I thought, well that’s interesting, because one of the current U.S. senators from Mississippi is named Roger Wicker. So I looked him up on Wikipedia and the description matches up. It was him.
To continue on with the evening: another Glee Club guy and his girlfriend showed up, and we continued sipping from our drinks. And then:
Congressman X recited from memory a speech on whiskey by one Nathan “Soggy” Sweat, a long-ago state senator (from the 60′s at least). Congressman X used to be a Mississippi state senator too, a colleague of Hob’s; he was elected to Congress in 1994, part of the Republican Congressional Revolution. This speech, during a time when Mississippi was debating removing its state prohibition laws finally (the last state in the nation to do so), was phenomenal. And he did it from memory and so convincingly. “If by whiskey you mean that drink of the devil, that… and… [etc etc] then I am against it. But, if by whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the… the drink that keeps you warm on a cold and frosty evening… [etc etc], the sale of which fills our state coffers, providing for crippled children, the elderly… [etc etc]… then I am for it. This is my stand.” It was hilarious; it was a phenomenal performance. I felt like I was in a movie.
This morning I looked up Nathan Sweat. Turns out I had gotten his name wrong; his name was Noah “Soggy” Sweat, not Nathan “Soggy” Sweat. Here’s the whiskey speech.
After a while, we four Glee Club guys sang “The Good Old Song,” the UVA school song, for Hob Ryan and Roger Wicker. Then some people left and only four of us remained: me and one other Club guy, and Hob Ryan and Roger Wicker. According to my journal, the four of discussed the Monica Lewinsky scandal — this was just three weeks after the scandal broke — and Iraq. Since Ryan was a Democrat and Wicker was a Republican, “we got some give-and-take for a while,” according to my journal. Then Mr. Wicker went to bed and the three of us stayed up talking a while longer.
I wonder how I would feel today about having drinks with a Republican congressman from Mississippi. Back then I was 24, sexually confused and closeted, and less politically opinionated (albeit a solid Democrat). Later in 1998, Wicker would go on to vote for all four articles of Clinton’s impeachment (only two of them passed), and of course in 1996 he had voted for DOMA (although to be fair, so did most of Congress).
It’s so weird that I didn’t remember any of this until rereading it in my journal. That’s one of the reasons I’m so glad I’ve written things down over the years.