About an hour ago, I met my wife for lunch at a favorite delicatessen outside Philadelphia, Hymie’s in Merion. My father, who is Jewish, brought me there almost weekly when I was growing up, and while the restaurant has updated its decor, the combination of great food and memories is difficult to refuse. As it turns out, Joanna was in the area running a few errands and I — well, I’m capable of rationalizing a Hymie’s trip under almost any circumstances.
So, as we’re sitting down at a table, Joanna cocks her head toward a group of three men to my right and says, “Jeff, who does that look like to you?”
I knew right away. “Yeah,” I said. “That guy looks dead-up like Joe Biden. He’s probably his brother.”
A few minutes later, the Biden look-a-like was standing next to the pickle bar in the back. I was running low on half-sours, so I thought it was as good a time as any to stock up. As I approached, I asked whether anyone had ever said that he bears a striking resemblance to the vice president. Obviously preoccupied and peeved–I would have been, too–and without even looking at me, he said: “Yeah, that’s because I’m his brother.”
It was James Biden. All I could think to say was “fantastic.” So much for poignant. Then again, it’s not like he was looking to engage in conversation. And, besides, what was I supposed to say?
Congratulations, Mr. Biden, for having your hedge fund-related fraud lawsuit tossed by a Manhattan judge a couple of weeks ago?
So that’s what the vice president would look like with a natural hairline?
I knew you weren’t your brother because your foot isn’t in your mouth?
Truth be told, it was Hymie’s. I was in a state of relative euphoria because of a chopped herring plate and a bowl of to-die-for matzo ball soup. I wasn’t going to say anything controversial. Joanna and I had already been discussion the failures of this administration and the likelihood that Biden would not be on the president’s ticket in 2012 within earshot of the other Mr. Biden’s table. Plus, nearly everyone I know who has interacted personally or professionally with the vice president says that he really is a likable and gracious man.
How all of this figures into the health care debate, I don’t know. It’s just not every day that I run into the brother of the sitting vice president. And even better, it was my wife who noticed. Lucky man on all accounts; I just wish I could have thought of something a little better than “fantastic.”