My Kind of Town

I brought my White Sox cap with me to the conference Hanni and I went to in Austin this week. I wanted everyone there to know we were from Chicago.

It’s a strange and wonderful feeling to come “out” as a proud Chicagoan. And what an odd sensation to have national columnists take note of this, too. I was so pleased with Garrison Keillor’s November 12 column about Chicago that I emailed it to all my poor, sad, uncool friends who find themselves living somewhere outside the new center of the universe. In each email I highlighted the last few sentences.

And Chicago becomes The First City. Step aside, San Francisco. Shut up, New York. The Midwest is cool now. The mind reels.

And then today, another column about Chicago’s rise to the top of the heap! Titled A New Wind Is Blowing in Chicago, it came out in the New York Times. You’ve heard of that paper, haven’t you? It’s published in a little town east of here that used to call us the Second City.

Chicago has long been a place that seems comfortable — or, at least, well adjusted — to losing, a place where you put your head down and shoulder through whatever hand is dealt you.

But not anymore! The column goes on to quote famous Chicago chefs, authors and musicians describing the “hope:” and “change” we are experiencing here.

“It seems like there are eight million people walking around here congratulating each other,” said Scott Turow, the best-selling novelist who was born in the city. “Chicagoans are unbelievably proud of Barack and feel of course that he’s ours, because he is.”

Jeff Tweedy, the leader of the band Wilco, lives in Chicago and is a longtime friend of the president-elect.

“I think people really do enjoy the idea that we’re living in the center of the world all of the sudden,” Mr. Tweedy said.

It’s true. For days –even weeks — after the election it seemed all the people Hanni and I encountered on the streets and sidewalks were happy. I heard people being downright nice to each other, offering help to strangers. Even the Chicagoans (what were there, hmm, three of them, maybe?!) who didn’t vote for Obama are walking taller, just for all the attention we’re getting. And the city’s new tourism campaign? “Experience the city the Obamas enjoy.” It’s great fun for all of us. I spent a lot of my time in Texas this week gushing about Chicago to anyone who would listen. And you know what? They actually were interested! They all laughed as much as I did, though, when I told them about an encounter I’d had just the day before leaving for Austin — en experience that serves to remind me the Obamaglow can’t last forever. I’d taken Hanni out to “empty” at her favorite tree, and when walking back I brushed shoulders with a woman walking the other direction. “Excuse you, bitch!” she snapped. I don’t think she was referring to my female dog there. The comment didn’t alarm me – it made me laugh. At myself, really. All the bragging I’d been doing about Chicago, my pride, group hugs, happiness…and then this dose of reality. Somehow it struck me as funny. Still does. And I’m still delighted to live in a place where, every day, I can “Experience the City the Obamas Enjoy.”

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10 Responses to “My Kind of Town”


  1. 1 Teej November 20, 2008 at 8:33 pm

    Yay for Chicago! We still may end up there in a few years — who knows? So I hope Obamaglow does not increase property values before we get our hands on some. (Property, that is. Not Obamaglow.)

  2. 2 Jenny November 21, 2008 at 1:03 am

    Hi Beth. I’m just catching up on all your blog posts in the last few weeks – you’ve been busy as usual and its great reading.
    Wilco are great! My favourite band are the Frames (you might know Glen Hansard their lead singer, who won an Oscar for the music from the film Once?). anyway although they are Irish their guitarist Rob Botchnic is from Chicago and he’s really cool!
    Yay for Obama

  3. 3 Beth November 21, 2008 at 2:13 pm

    Teej, I think you’re safe – my guess is that Chicago property values will go down once the Obamas leave us and make DC the center of the universe again – we hate to see them go but worth it for the cause!

  4. 4 Beth November 21, 2008 at 2:21 pm

    Jenny – thanks for the heads up about The Frames, I will check them out. Also will check out the movie “Once,” Mike & I have finally joined the 21st Century and signed up with Netflix. Already in the past two weeks we’ve seen Little Children, Before Sunrise and Before Sunset, this weekend we are looking forward to American Movie. Send any other film recommendations my way, I’m feeling pretty cool about negotiating my Netflix cue with my talking computer.

  5. 5 Sandra Murillo November 21, 2008 at 9:46 pm

    So how accessible is the Netflix website with JAWS?

  6. 6 Beth November 21, 2008 at 10:56 pm

    Well, Netflix works with JAWS but I’m pretty sure it takes me a lot more time to put movies in my cue than it takes someone who can see the screen to do the same thing. I end up using the f5 + JAWS key together a lot to find all the edit boxes to fill in, and I also use the “j” key to “jump” down the web site to the movies I’m looking for. Once I got the hang of the Netflix site I did okay –so far I’ve added ten or more movies to my cue on my own.

  7. 7 Sara Latta November 22, 2008 at 11:23 pm

    For an another (and amusing) take on the NYT article, check out the article from the Chicagoist, “The New York Times Discovers the Magical Town of Chicago.” It begins:

    Have you ever heard a song by a band and totally been turned on to that band, rushing out to buy their record, listening to it, and then excitedly telling your friend all about your “discovery”, saying, “Hey, have you ever heard of this band called The Rolling Stones??? They ROCK!” only to have your heart crushed when your friend tells you that band’s old news? (Tankboy has to do it to me all the time.) We hate to be “that friend,” but…

    Here’s the link: http://chicagoist.com/2008/11/21/the_new_york_times_discovers_the_ma.php

  8. 8 bethfinke November 23, 2008 at 5:26 pm

    Thanks for the link — and what a fun blog! I left a comment to their post, then added “The Chicagoist” to my “favorites” list.

  9. 9 Jake November 25, 2008 at 1:47 am

    Three cheers for the Obamas!! As for Netflicks, my former roommate used them a lot when we were living together. However, I’ve never used that service. I do love to take in an audio-described movie or two now and then, or perhaps more. When I had a trial of the System Access Mobile Network I listened to a few movies on there. But I think the Klango Player will eventually have audio-described movies. It currently has a media catalog that is just monumental! It really does seem endless. And yes, Wilco is great! I heard them on Sound Opinions not too long ago. I’m referring to the rock-n’-roll talk show which is heard on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings on WBEZ.

  10. 10 Beth November 25, 2008 at 8:04 pm

    All this talk about netflix and movies is making me think maybe i should do a blog post on this subject at some point –Jake, do you know if there is a link somewhre for people to see/hear an example of an audio-described movie? If so, could you send the link my way? Would love to use it in a blog post.


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