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The FishbowlDC Interview With Roll Call HOH Columnists Neda Semnani & Warren Rojas

Say hello to Roll Call‘s HOH columnists Neda Semnani and Warren Rojas. These two nearly stressed me out completely when yesterday Warren wrote and asked, “This is all off-the-record right?” Oh, that’s really funny Warren! I asked if he was joking while audibly cursing him out. He replied, “Indubitably.” While we’ve known these two Capitol Hill troublemakers for awhile and see them often at events, we had no idea how filthy-mouthed Warren is. Neda, formerly a disaster management specialist among other things, is an angel. No one has ever answered the “last meal” question to the depth that they have – we may have to borrow some of these culinary delights. I asked them both to tell me about the other’s  strengths and weaknesses. They have a special rapport that’s quite touching. She: “Warren is amazing to work with: a hilarious badass writer, who never ever apologizes for the story. He gets me and the column. It is a once in a lifetime partnership. I learn how to be a good reporter from him. Also, he feeds me and plies me with booze, so that helps.” He: “As for working with Neda, I’ve had the privilege of toiling alongside some truly outstanding reporters throughout my career. And Neda is one of the finest. She has one of the most acutely tuned bullshit detectors I’ve ever encountered. Yet she’s far from jaded and never dismissive. Her knowledge of the the people and personalities that color the Congressional landscape is astounding. And I know we’re really on to something when her inner crusader comes roaring out.” Enjoy!

If you were a combined carbonated beverage, which would you be?

WR: Scotch and soda.

NS: Champagne in a can.

How often do you Google yourself?

WR: Every few (Hold, please) … (Okay, back now) seconds.

NS: My Google alert does it for me.

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever said to an editor/boss (or vice versa)?

WR: I would perpetually badger one unabashedly aloof publisher about never, ever reading  a single word that I had written (still convinced they never did).

NS: Well, I am pretty sure I told one boss when I was old enough to know better that she was the worst person I had ever met, but maybe I just wish I did

Who is your favorite working journalist and why?

WR: I’m currently most enamored with the StoryCorps reports featured on NPR. They do an amazing job of giving voice to the underserved, the invisible or the just plain forgotten. And they do it in such a vivid and  compelling way that I don’t dare turn the dial, no matter what the source material.

NS: Warren, because he loves to alliterate near me.

Do you have a favorite word?

WR: Indubitably

NS: It’s a tie between anthropomorphic and synecdoche.

You’re walking down a dark alley and you run into a group of people, all of whom you’ve insulted in HOH. What do you do? What do you say? And do you activate your mace?

WR: Our readership is too highly evolved to resort to wanton violence. If anything, the offended might shoot me a sideways glance, let loose an audible “harrumph” or submit a cryptic New Yorker cartoon meant to impugn my manhood.

NS: I will smile and just hope the whole generic brown girl thing I got going works in my favor.

Who would you rather have dinner with – Roll Calls’s Mike Mills, Michaele and Tareq Salahi or Nelson Lewis? Tell us why.

WR:  Given his proclivity for bombast and identity theft, I’d have to go with Lewis. Confidence is high he’d spin a ton of entertaining yarns (all bullshit, of course). And one would hope that at the end of the night he sticks somebody/anybody else with the bill.

NS: Nelson Lewis, because his name makes me think of Nelson Mandela, Carl Lewis and Lewis & Clark, which give us three conversation topics right there.

The Earth’s human population is dying out and you must save it. Warren, you will spend a romantic evening with either Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) or Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.). Who will it be? And Neda, you will spend a romantic evening with either Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) or former Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.). Who do you choose? (Neither is not an option.)

WR: The good news is that to preserve the human race, I would gladly knock the bottom out of Sheila and Rosa—simultaneously even (if time were of the essence). The bad news is I’ve already tried playing the “going out with a bang” card, so the missus would immediately see right through this apocalyptic three-way.

NS: Well, now this is a bit of a Sophie’s choice, isn’t it? Maybe Sen. Graham, because I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t yell at me if ate off his plate.

See what forms of profanity each prefers after the jump…

What swear word do you use most often?

WR: I’m partial to “dickbag” and “son of bitch,” but in polite company I tend to stick with the more Christian “doucherocket”.

NS: It’s a tie between frick, crip-crap and fuck.

You’ve just been told the big news: You get to have your own Sunday morning talk show. Who will be on your roundtable? (Pick four journalists or pundits types.)

WR: I’d have to have Neda there to handle all the “Book Nook” segments. John Stanton would helm all politics/punk rock rants. A.J. Jacobs is the ideal zeitgeist gadfly. And I’d prop up Christopher Hitchen’s corpse and wait for any reports from the afterlife.

NS: The show would be called Some of “The News As Analyzed By Several People Who May or May Not Be Hungover” starring The Morning Call’s Colby Itkowitz, NPR’s Audie Cornish, TMP’s Evan McMorris-Santoro and NBC’s Shawna Thomas.

Now for a really serious moment: What is your dream job, money and practicalities aside?

WR: Journalism is all I know. I’ve always just wanted to tell stories. Though dining out for free is a pretty sweet gig.

NS: My dream job would be writing fiction … while writing for profiles and reviews for a magazine that will not be named … while traveling all over the world.

To borrow from Politico’s “Answer This” (with a FishbowlDC twist): Picture someone in Washington who you’d like to strangle (if such a thing were legal). Without naming him or her, please tell us what you think of them.

WR: If they’re mired daily in the same muck as I am, they’ve already suffered enough.

NS: As pitiful.

When you pig out what do you eat?

WR: If they were readily available, I’d eat a proper Cuban sandwich (bread prepared with bacon fat or lard, ‘natch) every goddamn day.

NS: Pizza.

What is your absolute favorite item of clothing in your closet? We want the fabric, the brand, the store and the price if possible. If it’s a certain kind of underwear we don’t want to know about it.

WR: The most comfortable items I own that I would have never thought to buy for myself are the two pairs of Calvin Klein Egyptian cotton dress socks somebody (probably my in-laws) gave me for Christmas a few years back.

NS: There is one dress I wear every time I need to feel like a badass.

Pick one: Kim, Khloe, or Kourtney?

WR: Not even at gunpoint

NS: Why?

Have you ever had a tarot card reading?

WR: Don’t know any gypsies

NS: I sure have.

Have you ever had a near-death experience?

WR: Hell doesn’t want me (yet).

NS: 1. almost died in an earthquake when i was a baby. 2. escaping from Iran when i was a toddler. I’ll go ahead a put that in the near death column. 3. i got malaria three times (pretty severely actually) when i was 17. 4. i had a severe allergic reaction to a medication when i was in college.

Ever been arrested?

WR: We talking domestic or international?

NS: I was arrested for riding my scooter without a motorcycle license. They booked me. Put my lunch in the fridge. I texted my boss. The cops forgot me post haste. I did some yoga by myself in holding. Reminded them I was in holding by knocking on the door. And then made it back for House votes. That, my dear, is dedication.

Tell us a secret not many people know about you.

WR: I’m nothing without spllcheck.

NS: I dance down the street when I think no one’s watching.

What scares you?

WR: Ignorance-fueled indignation

NS: Failure.

What’s your most embarrassing career moment?

WR: Give it time.

NS: When I get frustrated and/or angry, I start tearing up. It’s a problem.

Have you ever been fired?

WR: They wouldn’t dare. (I know where the bodies are buried.)

NS: Once in high school for being late for a shift at a retail job and once in college for drinking at the bar I worked at when I was a wee child of 20.

When and why did you last laugh so hard you had tears in your eyes?

WR: Probably something I heard on the Howard Stern show. Or getting chewed out by unequivocally clueless yet totally self-righteous Congressional flacks.

NS: I can’t remember, because it happens all the time.

When and why did you last lose your temper?

WR: Serenity now!

NS: A couple weeks ago, when a certain someone didn’t call me back for a story when they really should have, and when I heard of another someone I had written about picking on their underling. Generally, not a big fan of bullies.

Who would you want to play you in a movie?

WR: Bruce Campbell

NS: Marion Cotillard.

Do you have a me-wall? If so, who’s on it?

WR: Not my style. But I’d be okay with you erecting a shrine to me.

NS: I do not.

Who should just call it a day?

WR: Queen Elizabeth II has held a monopoly on hat trends for far too long

NS: My bill collectors.

From TMZ Founder Harvey Levin: You are about to be served your last meal. What will it be?

WR: A bottle of single malt Scotch; preferably of voting age, the more peaty the better. Buttermilk-brined fried chicken doused in hot sauce. Fried arepas slathered in butter and stuffed with carne mechada, queso Guayanes and caraotas negras. Barolo-braised veal cheeks nestled in Pecorino-Romano polenta, garlic-studded, red pepper-flecked rapini on the side. Custardy slice of Napoleon. Red velvet whoopee pie. Flaming Sambuca digestif.

NS: I read an article in Esquire years ago about the late-French President François Mitterrand’s last meal, which was the most indulgent, decadent meal I have ever heard of … but is probably not me so much, but feels like what a last meal should be.

This is what I think I would want: fresh garlicky, basily pizza topped with mushrooms; salty anchovies drizzled with olive oil, garlic and lemon; heaping plates of steamed blue crabs doused with Old Bay; stinky cheeses with crusty bread; every vegetable you can imagine served in every way you can imagine; plump oysters, fried and fresh; spicy seafood gumbo; perfect golden Persian rice; cold salmon ringed with caviar from the Caspian Sea and served with ice cold Vodka; fresh bowls of Pho and Banh Mi sandwiches with cold beer; sun ripened tomatoes with olive oil and sea salt; a perfectly fixed hot dog; my Mom’s chicken soup; my Grandmother’s eggs, and bottles and bottles of champagne, roses and big, bold red wines. Oh, and chunks of dark chocolate served with cold blue berries and cream.

Finally, please come up for a question for our next FishbowlDC interviewee. This one may live on indefinitely. Make it good.

WR: You have the power to undue any historical event of your choosing. What would you negate and why?

NS: What nickname, besides Scorpion, do you wish everyone people would call you?

 

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