About Michael Benami Doyle
(October 18, 2012)–I’ve written Chicago Carless since June 2005. My blog began as a look at life in Chicago–especially downtown Chicago–through the newcomer eyes of a non-driving, expatriate New Yorker. I’m a former urban planner, and there’s a lot of big-city boosterism on here. There’s also a lot of navel gazing–on this blog I’ve chronicled years of hopes, self-doubts, bad dates, good boyfriends, ADHD foibles, coffee roundtables, and endless tries to answer the question why I left New York in the first place.
In 2010 something happened that changed me and, ultimately, the focus of my blog. I began a journey of conversion to Judaism, and sealed the deal in 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? This blog has since become my attempt to find out. For the record, I’m the rare Reform Jew who likes to swim in the traditional end of the mitzvah pool.
I was once christened a “born-again Chicagoan” by Centerstage Chicago for my deep love of the Windy City. I’m a native New Yorker, but I always say the only New Yorkers who don’t love Chicago are the ones who haven’t been here yet. In 2003, I fell deeply in love with Chicago and after several attempts to stop flying here every two weeks, finally decided to make Chicago my home.
I spent my first six months here in Wrigleyville watching my cat get freaked out by phantom crowd noise from Wrigley Field, a year-and-a-half in Logan Square unsuccessfully trying not to get mugged, and five years downtown in the architecturally historic yet socially infamous Marina City. My partner, Ryan, and I now live on the lakefront in Edgewater, a far North Side neighborhood whose steadfast commitment to local residents makes it very easy to love.
Over the years, my blog and I have waded loudly into Chicago controversies regarding social justice in the public realm, including:
- Helping win the removal of ill-conceived homeland security cameras installed atop Millennium Park’s Crown Fountain;
- Getting Macy’s to replace erroneous wayfinding signage carelessly designed and installed throughout their flagship State Street store;
- Widening the debate on neighborhood noise in downtown Chicago;
- Supporting the Chicago Children’s Museum’s planned move to Grant Park;
- Giving my fellow Chicagoans an insider’s perspective on Marina City’s Gary Kimmel scandal;
- Motivating the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless to monitor the Chicago Transit Authority’s 2008 holiday crackdown on homeless riders; and
- Coverage of alleged price-gouging by Chicago’s Intelligentsia Coffee–including a guest spot on the nationally acclaimed LGBT news-and-features podcast, Feast of Fun.
In 2009, I also scribed Chicagosphere, the blog-roundup column of the Chicago Tribune’s ChicagoNow blog network (those posts now live on Chicago Carless, here.) My examination of substandard conditions for rank-and-file bloggers at ChicagoNow during my tenure there (“The Past Imperfect of ChicagoNow“) remains the most-discussed topic ever on Chicago’s homegrown headline news site, Windy Citizen. I’ve also served as a contributing blogger to Huffington Post Chicago, the regional news-and-features blog, Gapers Block, and until its premature demise in 2010, the Kenneth Cole “Awearness” Blog.
I honed my sense of urban social justice studying urban planning at Hunter College/CUNY in New York, and serving for 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 at Chicago’s grassroots Community Media Workshop, and am an occasional contributor to the Workshop’s annual Chicagoland media guide, Getting On the Air, Online & into Print.
I put my media chops to use for several years in Chicago through strategy work, blogging, and online outreach for community groups, nonprofits, and labor unions in Chicago and at the national level as a consultant and working with social justice-oriented boutique PR firms. During Election 2006, I received public accolades from the AFL-CIO and 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 heart-rending “Jessica” interview as its centerpiece (part one, part two)–helped win minimum wage increases in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio.
My blog has been featured numerous times for coverage of civic and social-justice issues by local and national media including Romenesko, Jay Rosen, the Chicago Reader‘s Michael Miner, the Chicago Tribune (which called me a “Newsmaker of the Week” in September 2006), the Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Magazine, Time Out Chicago, the Detroit News, NBC 5 Chicago, Chicago Public Radio, WBBM Newsradio, the WVON Cliff Kelley Show, the former Chi-Town Daily News, Centerstage Chicago, Gapers Block, Chicagoist, and Rich Miller’s Capital Fax Blog.
I’m a multimedia communications strategist by day.
I plan to go to rabbinical school, which is a great example of a buried lede.
Michael is my given name, and Michael Benami is my full Hebrew “first” name.
And I’m a member of Edgewater’s Emanuel Congregation. Our shul is awesome. Stop by and say hi.
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