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.”