I've got this intern working for me, he's a nice smart kid. (That's how bad things are for college grads these days. They intern for freelance writers.)
Anyway, the kid grew up in San Francisco. He moved here a few years ago to go to college at DePaul. The other day I asked him, "What did you think of Chicago after growing up in such a cosmopolitan city?"
He said he was shocked by the racism here, which his San Francisco upbringing had allowed him to assume was a relic of the urban past. And he said he missed the hills. Otherwise, he liked Chicago fine.
"There certainly is a lot to do here," he said with a shrug.
A lot to do here?
I'm thinking to myself, What kind of jamoke am I dealing with here?
How'm I ever gonna explain to this kid what makes Chicago different from San Francisco, different from anywhere else? How'm I gonna introduce him to Chicago's heroes, living and dead? How'm I gonna show him how to get a laugh in a Chicago tavern -- or at least help him understand what he's supposed to think is funny.
I'll tell you how I'm gonna start: I'm gonna grab a laptop computer in one hand and this kid's ear in the other and introduce him to a funny kind of TV -- a TV that's always playing Chicago's past, and always playing the good stuff because it's programmed by a guy who knew the guys that my young friend needs to meet.
I'm gonna start with these six short videos from what I call "Tom Weinberg TV," but what the legendary Chicago TV producer and his colleagues call Media Burn Independent Video Archive.
And then I'm gonna leave the friggin' kid alone. If he doesn't like this stuff -- if watching this 40 minutes of intimate Chicago history doesn't make him want to see the other 4,000 hours of Media Burn's searchable online archives, then he doesn't belong in Chicago.
Either that, or the rest of us don't belong in Chicago, anymore.
Speaking of how much there is to do in Chicago, here's a guy who knows all about that. It's Joe Cummings, the "overnight man," for WBBM news radio.
Here's Nelson Algren, the Chicago novelist Chicago loves to ignore, telling Studs Terkel in 1975 why he was moving from Chicago to Patterson, New Jersey. (To have better access to your home town, he explains.)
Here's Mike Royko, telling you everything you need to know about 16-inch softball--and, while he's at it, everything you need to know about how to tell a story in a tavern. (See the young women sitting there smiling in the beginning? That's the look you ought to have on your face, watching this video.)
Here's Jane Byrne, one of the mayors we had between the Daleys. She's conducting some sort of Easter egg hunt in Cabrini-Green, where she lived for a week in 1979, supposedly to draw attention to the place. As you can see, the residents weren't all that grateful. As they insightfully point out, "We need jobs, not eggs."
Here's Bill Veeck, a philosopher in a not-real-philosophical town.
And when a Chicagoan tells you he's not Santa Claus, here's what he means.
Look, kid, I know all these people are kind of old. Hell, most of them are dead. So you can dismiss them if you want. But if you're gonna dismiss them, you might as well dismiss them back in those happy, multicultural Northern California hills. I hear there's lots to do there, too.
David Murray blogs regularly at Writing Boots.
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