The Prince of Queens Raw Transcript
[New York Magazine, 20 April 2009]
As told to Richard Morgan
Joe Rivera was 22 when he joined, so he has me beat by two years. But his dad was the county chairman or something, so that’s different. But, look, there’s no substitute for hard work. I’m no prodigy; I’m just a hard worker. I’m just the neighborhood guy who got involved in civics – police, Knights of Columbus, Kiwanis, all that – but people called me a “kid.” Chuck Schumer was 23 at the state assembly. Joe Crowley was 24. Anthony Weiner was 26 or 27. It’s not such a weird thing. Look, I was born here in Ozone Park to a teenage mom, raised by my mom and grandmother, never knew my dad – don’t even know who he is – I wasn’t supposed to make much of my life. But here I am. I wake up at 6 every morning. OK, I don’t get out of bed until 6:30, I gotta be honest, but I wake up at 6 and work until 11 or 12. It’s a full-time job that’s listed as a part-time job. And, yeah, a councilman’s salary is $112,500 – did you know that? – but I tell you I’d do it for $25,000. It’s a calling. Like a doctor or a lawyer or a teacher or a firefighter. So what if I’m young? So what if I’m one of only three Republicans in the city council – the only one who isn’t from Staten Island? It’s not such a party-line town, because then all the votes would be 48 to 3. In New York you have the county machine and the voters rubberstamp the party choices. I’m not like that. I’m not beholden to anyone. I’m independent and I’d like to think I’ll keep on being independent. Of course, when you have Bloomberg’s money, you can afford to be an Independent, but I like the Republican party. There’s a lot of what you might call Rockefeller Republican values that are really needed to be an urban Republican. This is still Guiliani’s city, Bloomberg’s city. And the one thing I like about the Republican Party is that it has a big tent. I’m pro-life, so I could never ever run in a Democratic primary no matter what my views are on the environment or zoning or domestic partnerships or anything. Y’know, Republicans aren’t all religious fundamentalists from Alabama; some of us are just normal, working-class conservative Catholics from Queens. Just as New York as the next guy. The Pope wears Prada, too, y’know? Gimme a break. The other night I was unshaven in sweatpants, buying groceries at the PathMark and someone came up to me asking me if I was the councilman. I’m a normal guy. My constituents don’t have to go through minions or anything; they can call me up. I’m just like them. I watch Family Guy. I like to go to Atlantic City, stay at the Borgata, and play three-card poker. I drop off my own dry cleaning and take out my own trash. I just bought a new car. Lots of my colleagues have a Mercedes or a Lexus, but I went with a Chevy Impala. It’s slate; it’s like a dark gray. I love it. It has XM radio. Love it. I joke with my fiancé that I have a mistress. I had seen something on MSNBC about GM and thought I should buy American. I watch MSNBC. I read The New York Times. I did the crossword in New York Magazine even though I could never finish it. I watch Bill Maher on HBO and Letterman. I’m a very cosmopolitan type. And even with this new car, I test drove a Prius; didn’t like it. You ever ridden one? It’s like driving a video game. It has a weird interior design; I kept imagining myself crumpled up like an accordion by an 18-wheeler. I’m a normal guy, normal things. I love my Chevy Impala. The day after the election, I celebrated by taking my fiancé to breakfast at IHOP – do you know IHOP? ‘cause my mother, now she lives in South Carolina, and there they have Waffle House – so I’m in the booth with my pancakes and the cell phone rings. I didn’t recognize the number. I pick up. “Is this Eric Ulrich?” I say yeah. “Mike Bloomberg here.” I didn’t know what to say so I said “Hi, mister mayor.” That’s when I realized I was a councilman. And now I recognize his number. But I’m just the type to focus on my work. I’m not a perpetual candidate. In fact, it’s going to be a very uphill race for my reelection in November. And November 20, actually, is when I’m getting married to my fiancé – Yadira; she’s 28, lives in the Lower East Side, a Democrat from the Dominican Republic – so, opposites attract. What I like is to take her to our special place: great Italian restaurant called Antica Trattoria, on Fresh Pond Road. Great food. And people don’t recognize me because it’s out of my district – but, c’mon, who recognizes their councilman? Most people, if you stopped them on the street, couldn’t even name their councilman or assemblyman or congressman or whatever. Let’s not kid ourselves here.
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