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“Hey, man — Mazel Tov!” January 6, 2009

Posted by deepblueillinois in Uncategorized.
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Out in Washington, D.C., for a very quick business trip and had the pleasure of capping off my day with Sen. Dick Durbin’s soiree honoring the incoming class of Democratic U.S. Senators at Bobby Van’s Grill, just around the corner from the Grand Hyatt. Saturday Night Live’s Minnesota’s Al Franken was of course nowhere to be found, and though it was rumored that Roland Burris was going to make an appearance, I took off before subjecting myself to witnessing that uncomfortable possibility.

Though the party was Durbin’s personal welcome to the Senate’s non-Prairie State newbies, thanks to fundraiser extraordinaire Nancy Kohn and her team the restaurant and bar were teeming with Illinoisans from across the state who came to honor the nation’s second-ranking U.S. Senator. Dick’s wife, Loretta, was there for the celebration as well, along with my colleague, Sen. John Sullivan of Rushville, and scads of other Downstaters like Mike Daly, Barb Brown, Linda Hawker, Billy Halstead, Bridget and Tom Lamont, Ron and Bonnie Ettinger and Steve and Suzanna Preckwinkle, and Doug and Ann Dougherty, just to name a few. From up north, my pals Michael Bauer and Roger Simon, Susan Manilow, Todd Smith, Gila Bronner, Steve Powell, Jan Starr, Dean Maragos, Linda Sher, Marcia Balonick, Sandy Stein and Howard Swibel also helped pack the place.

Shortly before 7p, while I was chatting up Loretta Durbin on one side of the atrium I received an email on my Blackberry from the Trib‘s Christi Parsons, formerly of the Springfield bureau but now in line to become White House correspondent later this month. She asked if I was at Durbin-fest and let me know that the “pool reporters” were on their way over.

Immediately, my suspicions were aroused. Shortly thereafter, Loretta was urgently summoned to join Dick at the top of the atrium stairs. I took her by the hand and escorted her across Bobby Van’s over to her husband, who then said to me, “There’s going to be a former Illinois state senator here in a few minutes.”

Hmmm. Huff Post has more of the run-up here.

Sure enough, moments later a familiar face walks through the front door unannounced, greets the Durbins, and comes walking right down the stairs toward me with a big grin on his face. “Hey, Jeff, great to see you,” he says, as we shake hands and do the guy pound hug.

To which I reply — to the guy who officed down the hall from me at the State Capitol when I first moved over from the House to the Senate and who fought a million legislative battles along side me, who I first met when he was living on the South Side running a highly successful voter registration drive,  who is now one of the most recognized figures on the planet and who I hadn’t seen since well before he was elected our country’s 44th president:

“Hey, man — Mazel Tov!”

There was a bit more to the exchange between us before he descended into the stunned crowd to shake hands but I’ll skip it for now.

“Hey, man — Mazel Tov?”  I think I need to polish up on that etiquette a bit before I come back out here for January 20th.