Happy Anniversary: Five Years of Chicago Carless

(Photo: Johnny Five from Short Circuit. My blog is now this many 1980s movie robots old.)

(Welcome to readers from Chicagoist, and thanks to editor Marcus Gilmer/@marcusist for the birthday wishes!)

In 2005, I launched Chicago Carless out of sheer jealousy and I’m not ashamed to admit it. My then-boyfriend, Devyn, was getting a lot of press over his former downtown Chicago photoblog, Looper. Back in New York I used to write About.com’s Brooklyn homepage. But I’d already been in Chicago for two years with no byline and it was driving me crazy. I had no idea what to write about, though, or whether anyone would bother reading my words.

I always say my best ideas come when I’m peeing (don’t know why, but it works and I’m not afraid to admit that, either.) So in June 2005 I walked out of my former State Street bathroom ready to launch a blog about life in downtown Chicago–a concept that even in 2005 still eluded many lifelong Chicagoans. The blog originally debuted as a Blogger site called Corncobber, in reference to my recently having moved into the Marina City corncobs in River North.

My first two posts were telling: I wrote a love letter to my new high-rise home and a balls-to-the-wall screed against clueless suburban tourists. The posts set an unapologetically urbanist tone that has guided my writing on Chicago Carless ever since. (If you look closely, the actual date of the first post is June 27, 2005, so this is actually a belated anniversary entry. Eh, such is life with ADHD…)

Three months later, I walked out of my bathroom with the words “Chicago Carless” ringing in my head, and decided to rebrand this blog and relaunch it as a self-hosted site. If you’ve been with me long enough, here’s a blast from the past that may look familiar: my original banner and tag line, from a photo Devyn took from atop the Hancock Center:

That banner wasn’t so long ago, but it seems ages to me now. Since 2005, the blog and I have covered a lot of ground together. The act of reflecting on my life in this city and writing about it on a regular basis helped me figure out why I moved to Chicago, how much I love the place, and what I think could stand improvement here. It has also helped me understand my strengths (like discovering how well I write) and weaknesses (not playing the Chicago game.) Most of all, it’s taught my friends their favorite phrase of the past five years: “This is off the record, right?”

In the end, I just love living in and writing about Chicago. This blog may never get me rich or famous, but as an ex-New Yorker I’m proud to wave the Windy City flag every chance I get. I’ll just never have a passenger window to attach it to. So thank you for reading my words. I hope you find value in them.

With that, here are some of the highlights of the past 12 13 months of Chicago Carless (including some of my copyrighted content originally written for Tribune Media Group’s ChicagoNow and reposted here on Carless, where it properly belongs):

Introducing the Carless Cast of Characters
It had to happen sometime. I’ve finally created a comprehensive list of the friends, colleagues, dates, and various miscreants I’ve featured here in the virtual pages of Chicago Carless for the past four years. Some of these folks are happy to be in this list. Others are not. I leave it to you to figure out who’s who.

On Why Chicago Transit Authority President Richard Rodriguez Shouldn’t Be Driving to Work (Video)
Chicago Transit Authority president Richard Rodriguez canceled the free-car perq for dozens of high-ranking CTA managers. So why does the president of the nation’s second-largest public transit system continue to drive to work instead of riding his own agency’s buses and ‘L’ trains?

Following Up on Chicago’s Independence Eve Violence
Yesterday’s post on alleged gang violence during Chicago’s Independence Eve fireworks generated a lot of local attention and concern. That post compared official reports of a relatively ‘peaceful’ July 3rd fireworks display with reports from the blog, Second City Cop, and several Twitter members indicating a sizable gang presence, multiple gang-related fights, numerous guns recovered, and a potential shooting in the vicinity of Buckingham Fountain. Here’s how you can help get to the bottom of things.

Sex and the Sneakered Blogger
It’s a sad commentary on my social life when the highlight of the past week comes from sitting on the front patio of hoary Uptown gay bar Big Chicks on dollar burger night, doing Gweilo impressions of contact sheets from AsianPoses.com. On a Monday. There are reasons why I’m single. The fact that I actually had fun is probably one of them.

Analyzing Helen Shiller’s Response to the Uptown Riot Controversy
Yesterday afternoon, Alderman Helen Shiller posted a lengthy response on the 46th Ward website regarding the widely viewed August 13th Uptown riot video and the firestorm of controversy surrounding it. Given the gravity of the situation for Uptown residents, it’s a response worthy of a line-by-line analysis by a communications strategist. Being one, myself (how useful is that?), that’s exactly what I’ve done. Read on to learn why I think Shiller’s response doesn’t fit the crime.

Chicago Bloggers Discuss Online Sustainability at C-BOM
On the morning of Saturday, August 29th, more than two dozen Chicago bloggers sat down to talk about the future of the local blogosphere at the C-BOM: Chicago Blogging & Online Media meetup. The invitation-only event was an opportunity for Windy City scribes to continue a discussion about community sustainability begun earlier this summer by third parties in the nonprofit and journalism communities. On Saturday, however, the bloggers finally had their say.

Attention Deficit Deja Vu
It’s not so much paying attention that’s the problem for us ADHDers. The real impossible dream tends to be stopping ourselves form paying attention to less important tasks so we can focus on issues that really count. Like paying bills. Or taking things out of the oven. Or…what was I talking about, again?

Who’s Afraid of the Big, Bad ‘Burbs?
One of the things I shouted loudest when I first began Chicago Carless four-and-a-half years ago no longer applies. Back in mid-2005, I still carried around my New-York-native anti-surburban bias. On recent reflection, it’s time to let the suburbs have their due. At least in Chicago.

I’m Not a Mac: Why I’m Dumping Apple After 15 Years
I never thought I’d say it, but I am a future Windows PC user and that is that. After a 15-year relationship with all things Apple, I’ve finally had it with the Steve Jobs ‘you’ll use your computer they way we tell you to use your computer’ method of customer relations. I’ve seen the world on the other side of the digital fence…and it turns out I like it better, after all.

“Here’s a lesson from the media…”–Bill Leff, WGN Radio
Today, the host of WGN Radio’s new ChicagoNow weekend show, Bill Leff tried to teach me a ‘lesson’ by telling me I was ‘replaceable’ a minute before air time for an interview about my ChicagoNow byline. So I gave him a lesson from the blogosphere instead. As the seconds ticked down, I smiled, got up, and left to go buy my Thanksgiving turkey.

Firony: How I was Almost the Next Chicago High-Rise Fire Headline
When you see a flash of light on your balcony followed by your cat sniffing worriedly around your windows, it’s probably a good idea to examine your outdoor outlet before leaving for a party for six hours. Or at least to examine them when you get back. Or before you go to sleep. In hindsight, boy, I wish I’d had those ideas.

The Point of Social Media Is the Social, Not the Media
Lido’s Caffé in Oak Park, the home of a longstanding coffee klatsch that germinated on Twitter–my coffee klatsch–succumbed to the ailing economy last week. Yet in the shop’s failure is a lesson in online community–and how to translate it to real life. The coffee shop may be gone, but the friendships forged there live on.

“Nostalgia for samsara is bullshit…”
Yearning for the return of bygone glory days in a universe that’s ever-changing is a great way to lose forward momentum. Yet, I can’t help but ponder the first day of the last decade as I resolve myself to go a bit more gently into this one. Has it really been ten years, already, since I walked down Flatbush Avenue and wondered where all the flying cars were?

Why New Yorkers Shouldn’t Look for Sweet Home in Chicago
A recent discussion thread in the popular, urbanist City-Data Forum asked for reasons why some people shouldn’t move to Chicago. Speaking as an ex-New Yorker who very annoyingly used to measure every city by the standard of the five boroughs, I can think of eight million people who might want to consider a reason to stay home.

Rotund, huh?
A recent step on the bathroom scale confirmed the hateful fact that my shortness of breath on long flights of stairs has been trying to tell me for awhile already: I’m heavier than I want to be. But the men I date like that in a guy. So how does a gay bear keep his dance card full when the time has come to reject his inner heifer?

The Economic Damage of Social Media “Internships”
An improving economy is bringing new job openings for graduating collegians. Unfortunately, opportunities in the social media industry remain monopolized by a highly disingenuous job title: social media intern. It’s a title manufactured by the nonprofit sector to squeeze critically needed expertise from college students–without paying them what they’re worth.

The ADHDeer-in-Headlights Syndrome
Sometimes an ADHDer takes a look at the responsibilities, tasks, and to-do items on their plate and freezes like a deer in oncoming headlights. When you have a brain that’s hard-wired to help you remember past failure, the hardest thing in the world can be taking a single step forward.

In Defense of CTA “Doomsday”
Today, at long last, comes the day Chicagoans have dreaded in one guise or another since the bad old era of the Blagojevich regime: CTA ‘Doomsday’. As Windy City bus and ‘L’ service gets curtailed across the board, you might be surprised to learn I welcome the event with open arms. Here’s why.

The Past Imperfect of ChicagoNow
You can’t run a 21st-century blog network at the speed of a 19th-century newspaper. I wish someone would tell the Chicago Tribune. Here’s how institutional lethargy, inadequate tools, inscrutable navigation, and newsroom pushback make it hard to be a successful ChicagoNow blogger. (This post has now officially become the top-rated Windy Citizen story of all time.)

How Android Won Me Away from iPhone (Video)
When I replaced my Apple Macbook with a Windows 7 laptop, my cell phone was sure to be the next Apple item to go.  Last week, I replaced my Apple iPhone 3G with a Google Android phone. Here’s why I did it, why I think Android is the better smartphone platform, and a look at what I did with my former 3G. Think: hammer…

Moving on from Marina City
I am no longer a resident of Marina City. At the verge of 40, my life goals when I moved downtown five years ago just don’t match up with who I want to be in the next chapter of my life. So I’ve given up my high-rise home in order to get my feet back on the ground. In every way possible.

Why I’m Here: My 9/11 Story Told for the StoryCorps September 11th Initiative (Audio)
On May 21st, I was blessed with the unexpected opportunity to be interviewed by the nonprofit oral-history project, StoryCorps. I visited their mobile recording studio, temporarily parked in Pilsen…and told my 9/11 story for the national September 11th Initiative. From StoryCorps, here is my recorded remembrance of the day that changed my life and, ultimately, brought me to Chicago.

The Status Quo Versus the Local Blogger
In Chicago, how people feel privately about the status quo and what they say about it in public are rarely the same. That applies to Chicago’s blogosphere, too. In a new-media space where dissent makes people run for cover, how can local bloggers hope to make change happen?

“The archives will remain online”: The Troubling History of Geoff Dougherty
Media entrepreneur Geoff Dougherty ran two multimedia news ventures into the ground. Now, the embattled Chicago Reader has hired him as associate publisher. Maybe they didn’t read his press. Here’s a look at the track record the Reader’s new owners may have missed.

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