(March 17, 2017)–My name is Michael Thaddeus Doyle and I am a native New Yorker with no idea how to drive a car. I went to Catholic elementary school in Queens, took the subway to the Bronx High School of Science, and got a degree in urban planning at Hunter College in Manhattan. I grew up dreaming of big cities and public transit, and never thought I would leave NYC.

Then 9/11 happened, and I started thinking about it, after all. In 2003, I decided to make America’s second-greatest big city, Chicago, my new home. After a couple of years of unexpected culture shock, in 2005 I began writing CHICAGO CARLESS as a way to examine things about the Windy City that people who grew up there usually take for granted. Since then, I’ve chronicled the difficulties, joys, and ultimately satisfaction of learning who you are as an adult in a place where all the assumptions you grew up with don’t apply the same way anymore–and how to navigate forward.

Along the way, I loved and left downtown Chicago, wrestled through life with ADHD, connected with my life partner, Ryan, became a Disney parks fanatic, and, together with my partner, converted to Judaism. I also learned how to love the world beyond New York City, endlessly tried to answer the question why I left my hometown in the first place, and experienced the unexpected blessing of reuniting with my NYC family after 20 years apart. And I’ve blogged my way through all of it.

My Blogging
Over the years, my blog, CHICAGO CARLESS, has been featured numerous times for coverage of civic and social-justice issues by local and national media including RomeneskoJay Rosen, the Chicago Reader‘s Michael Miner, the Chicago Tribune (which called me a “Newsmaker of the Week” in September 2006), the Chicago Sun-TimesChicago MagazineTime Out Chicago, the Detroit News, Centerstage Chicago (which called me a “born-again Chicagoan”), NBC 5 Chicago, Chicago Public Radio, WBBM Newsradio, the WVON Cliff Kelley Show, the former Chi-Town Daily News, Gapers Block, Chicagoist, and Rich Miller’s Capital Fax Blog.

Among those issues:

(My original masthead from 2005.)

In 2009, I was a charter blogger for the Chicago Tribune’s ChicagoNow blog network, writing the blog-roundup column, Chicagosphere. (My posts can now be found here on Chicago Carless.) My examination of substandard conditions for staff bloggers at ChicagoNow during my tenure there (“The Past Imperfect of ChicagoNow“) became a national media item and was the most-discussed topic ever on Chicago’s leading headline news site of the era, Windy Citizen.

My writing has also appeared on About.com (where I produced the “About Brooklyn” site at the turn of the millennium), Gapers Block, Huffington Post Chicago, InterfaithFamily.com, the Kenneth Cole “Awearness” Blog, Time Out Chicago, Jewcy, and in the pages of the Community Media Workshop annual Chicagoland media guide, Getting On the Air, Online & into Print.

My Consulting
smallbenamimedialogoforcarlessI’m the principal of Benami Media, a strategic communications and positioning shop that helps socially minded individuals and organizations tell their stories, grow awareness, and make change happen via campaign-based consulting services, one-on-one coaching, or ongoing retainer-based support. (Browse our services or connect with us to talk about how we can partner with you on your next project.)

I honed my sense of urban equity and social justice in the undergraduate and graduate planning programs at Hunter College of the City University of New York, and serving four years on the central staff of the New York City Transit Riders Council, two of them as associate director. I sharpened my strategic media skills through continuing education at Chicago’s nationally noted Community Media Workshop.

As a consultant or a partner with other boutique communications shops, I’ve worked with numerous community groups, nonprofits, and labor unions in Chicago and at the national level. During Election 2006 I received public accolades from the AFL-CIO and celebrity host Roseanne Barr for my grassroots video interviews shot for the groundbreaking video blog, 7 Days @ Minimum Wage. The project, conceived by Washington, DC-based progressive PR firm Massey Media–with my searing interview with single mom Jessica as its centerpiece (part onepart two)–helped win minimum wage increases in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio.

For my full professional profile, connect with me on Linkedin.

My Judaism
In 2010, I began a journey of conversion to Judaism and officially joined the Jewish people in May 2011. As I asked in my conversion essay, how many different ways are there to write that you’ve fallen in love with something that you never knew that you’ve always been? Or as my lifelong New York friends put it, “It’s about time you figured it out. We always knew.” I’m the rare Reform Jew who isn’t afraid to swim in the traditional end of the mitzvah pool (I wore my yarmulke every day for years), but I also believe that it’s no one else’s right to determine your Jewish choices or your Jewish legitimacy. In 2016, my partner, Ryan, joined the Jewish people, as well.

I’ve blogged my way throughout my Jewish journey, and I’ve been honored to receive numerous emails from around the world from fellow Jews-by-choice and those considering their own Jewish journeys. I am also the co-founder of Chicago’s Jew-by-choice discussion group, the Ruth Roundtable.

My Family
When my mother passed away in the mid-90s, I became estranged from my brother and sister, both a generation older than me, to protect myself from their hardcore, lifelong substance abuse. They never sought me out, and eventually I assumed I would never know my family again. Then in 2015 my adult nephews searched for me and in the blink of an eye, we were a family again. A family that’s white, black, Christian, Jewish, Irish, Hispanic, law-abiding, sentence-served, sober, and not so sober. If that’s not a typical American family in the 21st century, I don’t know what is.

After meeting them for the first time, Ryan told me my family has never met a stranger. He’s right. We’ll eventually relocate back to Queens to live near them–and the Queens Boulevard subway lines. So it’s convenient that I never learned how to drive while I was gone.