Old Jack raked the cinders together with a piece of cardboard and spread them judiciously over the whitening dome of coals. When the dome was thinly covered his face lapsed into darkness but, as he set himself to fan the fire again, his crouching shadow ascended the opposite wall and his face slowly re-emerged into light….
— from "Ivy Day in the Committee Room," by James Joyce
In the middle of a brilliant, unusually warm February afternoon (Thursday), I was holed up in an Irish-themed pub talking local politics. Jack Van Loan was holding court at his "office" in a booth at Delaney's pub in Five Points. And when I say office, I mean "office," with his files and organizers on the table before him next to his coffee, and his briefcase opened on a bench close at hand. From such locations Jack makes and takes his multiple calls getting ready for the big St. Paddy's Day event (March 14) and talks Five Points politics.
Last year, he was pushing Belinda Gergel for the 3rd district council contest that she eventually won. Today, he was conveying his blessing upon another (potential) candidate — this one for mayor.
The candidate, or potential candidate, sat in the dark with the bright light coming in the window behind him so that I was talking to a silhouette — a little like the effect when you talk to Joe Riley in his office down there at the Four Corners of the Law, with that huge cathedral-like array of windows behind him, and the fluid light of the Holy City radiating all about him. This was a little more prosaic than that, but then this wasn't the mayor yet, just a potential candidate.
Who was the candidate? Well, that's him in the very bad phone picture above, with Jack at his right. Shouldn't be hard to figure out. The thing about this candidate was, I needed no introduction. We've endorsed him for statewide office in the past. But my friend Jack wanted to introduce him as his candidate for mayor in next April's election, and I wanted to hear what Jack — a force in the influential Five Points Association since 1991 — had to say about him. It wasn't exactly Joyce's "Ivy Day in the Committee Room" and we didn't talk about Parnell, but by Columbia standards it would do.
Anyway, the rest of the story will be in my Sunday column, so tune in.