Take Five With Rep. Earl Blumenauer

Posted June 12, 2012 at 12:01am

Every week, HOH gives you a closer look at a Member of Congress through five fun questions. This week, we talk to Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.) about “Portlandia,” why he’s a bow tie guy and his most embarrassing moment in Congress.

Q: You are a legendary advocate of biking. Where’s your favorite place to bike in D.C.?

A: It’s selfish, but the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue. This was something that we agitated for back in 2009 with the bike summit. And it’s happened, and it just makes me smile seeing bike lanes in our nation’s capital.

Q: Your district includes Portland. What’s your favorite skit on the IFC show “Portlandia”?

A: Where Fred [Armisen] is making artisan light bulbs that keep breaking and Carrie [Brownstein] is suffering from consumption in the corner, and they cut to some poor soul in the dark who’s waiting for the delivery of a light bulb. It really spoke to me. These are my people they’re making fun of, but there is more than a grain of truth in it, and it cuts a little close to the bone. It’s part of what makes “Portlandia” work: A lot of that is Portland.

Q: You’ve plugged recording artist the Decemberists on your Twitter account. If you could attend a concert of any artist, alive or dead, who would it be?

A: My family [members] are ferocious [Bruce] Springsteen fans, but there is a local group that has my heart and imagination: Pink Martini. They are just amazing, although they put me in possibly my most embarrassing moment in Congress. Last spring they were performing with the National Symphony at the Kennedy Center. It was just spectacular. Toward the end, my friend [leader and pianist] Thomas Lauderdale called me onstage. I ended up onstage with the conductor’s baton in my hands, pretending I was leading the National Symphony.

Q: You campaign for healthy foods. Where’s your favorite spot to eat back in Portland?

A: I won’t say something that’s politically incorrect like “swing a dead cat,” but you can’t turn around in Portland without tripping over a reviewer from the New York Times. The food scene is truly amazing. I go home every week and try to explore new places, and I’m constantly amazed by what’s there. It is impossible to pick a favorite. I’m almost incoherent about it.

Q: When did you discover your love of bow ties?

A: I had been advised earlier in my career that a friend thought my demeanor was “too serious” and [that] if I wore a bow tie, it would lighten me up a bit. So I started occasionally wearing a bow tie. When I came back here, Sen. [Mark] Hatfield [R-Ore.] said, “You often wear a bow tie, don’t you?” And I said “Yes,” and he looked back at me and said, “Always wear a bow tie.” This is when Sen. [Paul] Simon [D-Ill.] was leaving and Sen. [Daniel Patrick] Moynihan [D-N.Y.] soon after, and now there’s nobody else who wears a bow tie every day in Congress. In a place that’s filled with nondescript white males, all of whom look alike, in blue suits and red ties, wearing the bow tie was just a little tiny connection to people.