Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
The 23 staff workers for Sen. James Abourezk (D.S.D.) had an intimate little farewell party for the retiring 47-year-old individualist Thursday and, as a wag said to a staffer, "I see about a thousand of your closest friends have come."
The senator, in exceoptional good humor even for him, greeted wellwishers who were still lined up an hour and 40 minutes after the reception began.
Instead of limp sandwiches, a great specialty of Capitol Hill, there was unleavened bread in flat pancake-type patties, spread with hummus, a mixture of chickpeas, lemon and garlic. The senator is very fond of it.
Several young men with beards grew more and more dignified and stately, wondering perhaps why people grinned at hem, and unaware of the chicken paste dribbled down their whiskers.
The senator wore a button saying in effect [WORD ILLEGIBLE] upon the bureaucracy ("Good Riddance to This Chicken - Operation") and some of his admirers like John Forster and Frank Nelson wore buttons alluding to such celebrated observations of the senator's as "the only thing you need to be a senator is to know how to find the men's room."
Abourezk would not let his staff pay for the party, it was said, and some unnamed American citizens paid part of it, not that it cost all that much with beer, ginger ale and inexpensive jugs of wine.
"There is a mandate for you to sing," the senator was told.
"My voice is shot," he said. "So not tonight."
"Shot?" said a young man, a little louder than necessary. "That never stopped him before."
Under pressure he seized his trusty guitar and joined Agriculture Secretary Bob Bergland, also on the guitar, and Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) in "This Land Is Your Land." Everybody sang along, backed by Bill and Tuffy Danoff of "Country Road" fame.
"Well," said a staffer, "it sure spoils you for anything else, to work for him."
"Thank God," said another, "he is almost the only senator around with a sense of humor."
Abourezk, the foe of gas deregulation, the advocate of Indian rights, the friend of government whistie-blowers and the tireless supporter of the notion that Arabs have a few arguments on their side too, begins law practice here and in Sioux Falls on Jan. 3.
The room has a lot of Indian Affairs and Judiciary Committee staffers and a general air of youthfulness.
"Life will never be the same," said a staffer.
"Us?" asked another. "Who cares about us? We will all be flung out like little puppies to starve to death."
In the meantime the music was pretty sensational (though some suspected Kennedy did not know the words) and the eats filled the whole multitude.