Congresswoman Cynthia Kang sat in the red cracked-leather booth considering, yet again, the scenario Joan Halstead had suggested to her a day ago. That shadowy billionaire Mace Gilmore was seeking to influence the ongoing presidential race. In and of itself, that wasn’t much of a revelation, as what person of means wasn’t sticking their finger into the American pastime, the blood sport called politics? She took another lady-like sip of her vodka martini, comfortably aware the Blind Pig Bar and Grill was off the regular media radar, but also knowing such self-assurance was false security in the age of bloggers and cell phone video.
Just ask Barack Obama about Mayhill Fowler, the 60-something Huffingtonpost “citizen journalist” who busted him on his comment at a fundraiser in SF she attended, herself a contributor to his campaign. She was recording him as a discussion arose about people in small towns where job prospects had become nil. “They get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” It’s not like, Kang reflected, this comment was particularly harsh or inaccurate, and those so-cool-we’re-frosty San Franciscans pretty much said that about Southern Californians on the regular. But perception is everything, and naturally the right-wing echo machine latched onto this to whipsaw the white electorate, branding Obama an elitist–launching the Bittergate two-step.
Kang eyed her martini glass and lifted it from the table, determined to pace herself, even though she certainly wasn’t going to get drunk and start muttering obscenities or cracking off-color jokes in the Pig. Even among the good ol’ boy gentry of the Beltway, such behavior was frowned on these days. The eatery was on the outer edge of what had been the traditional Chinatown in the DC metro area–small by San Francisco and New York standards. When she first got elected, Kang had been invited by the Greater Asian Pacific Islander Action Council to a dinner in Chinatown. GAP, as the 527 was called for shorthand, helped raise monies for progressive Asians seeking office or seeking to retain their office. The dinner was in a second-floor restaurant whose windows overlooked a Hooters across the street. Apparently after decades of neglect, DC’s boutique Chinatown had been given the gentrification treatment, and all the swell stuff that came with it.
Eschewing her own advice, she signaled for a refill, vowing to make it a maximum of two drinks. What was it about drinking and the mistaken belief that was the way to handle pressure? “Dutch courage” was the cliché from back in the day. A term her father the good pastor would use with reverence in his ritual raising of a glass of bourbon, neat, on Sunday evenings. After a week of dealing with the leak in the church basement, his parishioners’ woes and that morning’s sermon–he always regretted that he couldn’t have given it more work–he’d down his drink, sigh appreciatively, and then they’d have dinner. Sundays were her mom’s pot roast, stir-fried vegetables including bok choy and aubergine, rice and youtiao, a fried bread. Her mother was into fusion cooking before the term was in vogue.