Jimmy Tayoun was sui generis.
If he were standing over my shoulder reading this – as he did for so many articles – he would be raspily bellowing, “What the hell are you doing? Keep it simple!” before I finished typing “generis.”
I’m not going to call him “unique.” Or “larger than life.” Or “one of a kind.” He was all of those things, but to affix such casually administered sobriquets doesn’t do him justice.
Jimmy, who died on Wednesday at the too-young age of 87, proved F. Scott Fitzgerald wrong on a regular basis. He had a second act, followed by a third and a fourth. He was a cab driver. A soldier. A restaurateur. A politician. An inmate. An author. A newspaperman. A mensch.
It was this last calling that I bore witness to over the past year and a half. Once I got used to having him tell me “Kiddo, you don’t know anything” on a regular basis – and once he got tired of pointing out my cluelessness – he welcomed me into the world of Philadelphia politics and newspapers. His world. Committee breakfasts, political galas, parades – if there were people to interview and potentates to photograph, he would drag me along to meet them, bemusedly berating me for not having done so earlier.
He knew his paper. He knew his readers. He knew Philadelphia.
And Philadelphia knew him. On a daily basis, he would take calls from former constituents from his time as a state Rep. and as a Philadelphia City Councilman. Regardless of the task at hand, he made time to talk to anyone who came through the door to seek his counsel. He had no shortage of advice – unsolicited at times – for politicians of all stripes in Philadelphia.
Helping people was as much a part of him as his habit of stepping in front of everyone else to get the shot he wanted. He may not have delivered his advice and assistance in the nicest way, but, really, who cares? He got answers for those looking for them, and his brusque gruffness was an effective complement to his unmatched knowledge of officials and institutions in pursuit of getting results as well as stories.
His death truly came as a shock to those who knew him because they had most likely just been in touch with him. Nearly everyone I spoke to afterward had some sadly stunned variation of “But I just talked to him the other day!” to relate.
Like a significant portion of Philadelphia, I’m heading over momentarily to pay my respects to Jimmy and to his family. But I won’t be offering condolences – I tried to do that Wednesday night, and his son David responded with a directness that would have made his father proud. “What are you doing that for? Don’t be upset for his passing – he lived his life to the fullest – it’s everyone else who will feel the loss.”
Some of us already do.
Jim Kenney: Philly’s mayor did what so many have wanted done for so long: lay out a plan to eliminate the School Reform Commission, the state-created entity that the School District of Philadelphia – and the city’s families – have been stuck with since a Faustian budget deal was struck 16 years ago. The cheers for returning control of city schools to the city rang long and loud, but it was crickets when it came time to talk about how future funding would work.
Medical marijuana users: Make that “expectant medical marijuana users.” Pennsylvania took another step forward into the dank new world this week by launching its patient and caregiver registry. In just 24 hours, more than 1,000 people signed up to be part of the program.
Curtis Jones, Jr.: What should you do when protesters hijack your event? People asking this question could take a lesson from the Philadelphia City Councilman, who deftly defused Black Lives Matters leader Asa Khalif’s protest at a City Hall poverty demonstration. When Khalif told the audience that he could take them to where real poverty was occurring, Jones took him up on the offer – and they decamped immediately for an impromptu tour of one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
Chrissy Houlahan: The Democratic Congressional candidate hoping to unseat GOP incumbent Ryan Costello in PA-6 was forced onto defense after the surfacing of a 13-year-old report that linked Chinese sweatshops to a sportswear company where she had long served as an executive. Houlahan has frequently cited her business acumen while running against Costello.
Patrick Reese: the former Dunmore police chief who became the driver for disgraced AG Kathleen Kane, Reese lost his final appeal to overturn charges he tampered with sealed grand jury information and must now report to prison.
Pennsylvania State Police: Talk about tone-deaf: When called out on its … unusual policy to subject officer-involved shootings only to internal review, the state police doubled down by trying to quash a grand jury investigation into the legality of the practice – never mind the optics of a police force trying to stonewall on shootings in 2017.