(an article written after the nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the Supreme Court, written roughly four years after interviewing Judge Sotomayor for Hispanic Outlook Magazine)
A couple of weeks ago, on a Saturday, then, I decided to search for the real Sonia, or at least one that I perceived as honestly as I could. I climbed onto one of those bullet trains at Penn Station and, three hours later, stepped off at Union Station in Washington, fully intending to try to sit down and go face to face with her.
This was a pipe dream. Sniffing around Washington, talking with
other writers at their watering holes, being super persistent with her
Washington staff got me exactly nowhere, because I learned that she had been advised by the Obama appointment team not to talk to the press until after she was nominated.
I took another bullet back to New York, and on the way I realized something: Even if I could get Sonia to speak to me the total truth about her was unlikely. Who speaks the truth about themselves to anyone? People color their presentation with self-interest. Indeed, the truth is many times hard to know even if you try to speak it. It gets misremembered, modified, diluted to make you look good to yourself.
Then, it struck me, and I knew where I could find the truth. It would be in the hearts and minds of Sonya’s neighbors. Collectively, their perceptions, if I could get them, would paint a truthful portrait of her, and if they lied I had faith that my gut would tell me.
Of course first I had to find her neighborhood. I had a photo of her condo in the Washington Post, and the accompanying story said she patronized a neighborhood chicken restaurant named Dallas Jones Bar-B-Q.
When I got back to New York I drove down to the West Village and quickly found the restaurant and her building near it and though just an ordinary clean, red brick building, I couldn’t help but stare at it, thinking that a human being who lived in it was on her way to being one of the most powerful people in the world.
The neighborhood itself has a small-town America look, small, clean streets lined with shade tress and shops—a bakery, laundromat, restaurant, café, and antiques store.