Have You Heard the One About President Joe Biden?

by longformphilly

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Jeanne Marie Laskas | GQ | July 2013

“Keep going straight here,” Joe Biden says. We’ve been at this for hours, climbing in and out of the SUV to look at stuff, a water tower, a stone wall, the house where the most beautiful girl in the world lived, hoagies, Herman the German’s gas station, Meyers-eats-tires tire shop, the house where another most beautiful girl in the world lived, and he’s holding up better than the rest of us. He never winces, has no achy knees, no lower-back anything, neck, joints; for the guy rockin’ the Ray-Ban aviators, 70 is the new 60. “Wait, there’s Little Italy down there,” he says, peering out the window. “A lot of great Italian restaurants. If there’s anybody down there who doesn’t vote for me, I haven’t found them yet. But I will. I will.

“Okay, in the interest of time, we’ll stop here. Let’s get out here.”

It’s his old street. His house. Small white brick. Black shutters. Cement path. A perfectly average 1950s American neighborhood in Wilmington, Delaware, now with a motorcade parked along Wilson Road and Secret Service guys swarming and the vice president of the United States wandering, leading fast. “Hi there,” he says to a guy with a leaf blower. “I lived here for twenty years. Mack? Hey, Mack. I’m Joe. You’re living in a house a guy named Kenny Horn used to live in. Kenny Horn.

“Okay, the driveway, watch yourself. So this is the house. That was my bedroom. I lived there with my brothers Jimmy, Frankie, and my Uncle Ed. One bureau, four drawers, everybody got a drawer. My sister, the princess Valerie, had her own room. Which was ten by twelve. But she deserved it. And my dad took great pride in having that barbecue pit.” He circles the house, heads to the back door. “I wish I knew who lived here, because I would show you my room.”

Uncle Ed, they called him Uncle Boo-Boo. Brilliant guy. Sprawling intellect. He stuttered. Way worse than Biden stuttered as a boy, which was bad enough. Uncle Boo-Boo never got past it. Never married. Dud job. Drank. Drank a lot. He served as an example of what could happen if you didn’t rehearse, didn’t practice getting your mouth unstuck. Biden has never had a drink.

“Oh, what the hell.” He charges up to the back door, knocks. “Hello? Hello?” We stand on the back deck, waiting. Two Secret Service guys have their backs to us, stationed like owls by the picket fence.

Writer bio: Jeanne Marie Laskas was born in Philadelphia, raised in our suburbs and earned her bachelors degree from Saint Joseph’s University. She has written for national publications for more than 20 years, including GQ, Esquire, The New York Times Magazine and the now-defunct Philadelphia Inquirer Sunday Magazine. From 1994 to 2008 she wrote a syndicated column, “Significant Others,” for The Washington Post Magazine. She was a finalist for the National Magazine Award in 2007.

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