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A Real Chicago Dinosaur

(Photo: Another raised drawbridge for “non-native” Chicagoans. Wells Street Bridge in action, from Wacker Drive.)

Like all adopted Chicagoans, from time to time I get told by some other local who doesn’t agree with me to “go back where you came from” if I don’t like the way things are done in the Windy City. It’s an age-old prejudice (most recently raised again by Chicago Magazine) that claims being born in Chicago somehow makes you a more authentic Chicagoan than a person who moved here from a different time zone.

Of course, unless your family was already living on the shores of Lake Michigan around the time of the Louisiana Purchase and the founding of Fort Dearborn–or you’re 206 years old, yourself–you’re no more a “native” Chicagoan than anyone else.

In response to my juggernaut rant about why CTA President Richard Rodriguez shouldn’t be driving to work at his own transit agency (boy, did that make the rounds this week!), a commenter named “Steve”–who, you won’t be surprised to learn, refused to give his correct email address–became the latest allegedly more authentic Chicagoan to tell me to go back to New York.

You know what happened next. I hope he buckled up.

Below, I give you Steve’s comment and my response. All I can say is he had it coming…

STEVE // Jul 23, 2009 at 10:28 pm

I was going to write a long post and say why I thought your argument was a joke, but I’m not going to waste my time. Instead, I’ll just never read your blog again. Go back to New York.

Don’t worry, Steve. I did write a long post to say why I think your argument–or lack of one–is a joke. And unlike you, I think it was time well spent…

MIKE DOYLE // Jul 23, 2009 at 10:52 pm

Steve, I’m certainly not going to defend my ideas. They speak for themselves and many others are in agreement. If you’re not, that’s fine with me.

Now to the real meat of the matter. You, Steve, represent one of Chicago’s most feckless types of individual. The kind that believes the status quo in this town and the politicians and functionaries who work so hard to create it and keep it unchanging are together somehow inherently worthy of praise, no matter how much they conspire to make life less livable for Chicagoans.

Also, the kind of individual who refuses to accept any sort of criticism of the above–really, of anything that has to do with Chicago. Especially from the people you deem to be “outsiders.”

You do realize, of course, unless you’re a Native American, that your family tree branched out from another country to arrive in the Windy City. If you were born here, chances are your parents or grandparents first set up shop in an east coast city, much like the one I was born and raised in.

More than likely, you’re not even from Chicago, but from some outlying suburb, yet afflicted with the general delusion many Chicagoland suburbanites suffer from in thinking they are somehow from the city that instead they and their towns orbit, like codependent satellites.

Your type of Chicagoan actually believes that you get to decide who is an authentic citizen of this city and who isn’t. And those you deem inadmissible, you love to verbally toss out out town.

It’s an old, boring way to be, smacking of back rooms, and closed minds, and the worst kind of clout. Happily–although I doubt you’ll see it this way–your type of Chicagoan is dying out. Going the way of lakefront airports, parking meters, Our Ladies of the Underpass, and mayoral progeny with any chance of further election.

No one has a license to decide who is or isn’t an authentic Chicagoan. I was drawn here by love for this city, I remain here by choice, and I’m not going anywhere. These roots I’ve grown are well-tended and deep, and very much mine. They’ve got staying power and so do I. I may not be from Chicago, but my ongoing willingness to defend its honor shows I’m definitely of Chicago. And–sorry Steve–you can’t change that.

Yet much as I love this city, its history, and its people, I won’t be sad to see you go. When they hold the memorial service for your breed of chumbolone, I’ll be sure to send flowers.

To a funeral chapel in Elk Grove Village, I’m sure.

Categories: Backstory Chicagoans

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Michael Thaddeus Doyle

I'm a NYC-native, Latino, Jew-by-choice, hardcore WDW fan in Chicago with an Irish last name. I believe in social justice, big cities, and public transit. I do nonprofit development. I've written this blog since 2005. Believe in the world you want to live in.

My Bio | My Conversion | My Family Reunion

Contact: mikedoyleblogger@gmail.com

15 replies

  1. My only thing is that to say that unless you are a Native American your not a Native of some place in America is not the best thought out idea. Under that logic, if one is scientifically inclined it suggest that no one is a native European, Asian, North/South American, or Oceanian, because human life started in Africa. That means that we are all Africans, from that region, which is obviously false. To me one is a native of where they are born and where they choose to call themselves a native of if it is a place other than their place of birth.

    My Grandmother was born in Oakland, but has lived the last 62 years of her life in Chicago. She’s a Chicagoan to me, just as much as I am because I was born at Cook County Hospital and raised on the Westside

    1. It all depends on your time horizon. If you frame the idea in terms of millennia, then you could just as easily say we’re ultimately natives of the sea, since life on land began in the water. If you frame the idea in terms of a single lifetime, then everyone becomes a “native” of everywhere–either wherever you were born or wherever you end up. It seems to me a middle ground makes a lot more sense.

  2. Marko: there’s nothing wrong with Elk Grove. Other than it being, well, so far out there. You know, compared to here.

    KathieH: My favorite Italian Beef is accompanied by an Italian ice the size of your head and comes from none other than decidedly suburban Elmwood Park’s phenomenal Johnnie’s Beef. I will keep Rosario’s in mind–thanks for the tip.

  3. In re: chumbolone.

    Touche. I don’t read Kass. I think he’s a jackass. As is true with most things Kass writes, I can actually be informed about events without listening to Mr. Oak Lawn spew about a city he doesn’t live in.

  4. that was a great smack down of Chicago provincialism – well done. Now I want you to do the same for Cincinnati provincialism (I will be visiting the “Homeland” week after next – come down and meet me for Skyline! 🙂

  5. Whats wrong with Elk Grove? Thats actually where a lot of the Italians, Eastern Europeans and South Americans come now days when they step off the plane. Seriously – that area is the new port of entry as they bypass the city in larger and larger numbers. Addison, Elk Grove, Streamwood – that whole area is more like the make up of immigrants working factory jobs than the city is.

    Anyways – nice post. Nobody likes a Chicago snob. This is an international city, a baby among the global cities, and has room for everyone and new ideas.

  6. Mike,
    You sound pretty much like a Chicagoan to me! Outspoken, determined (my dad used to call it stubborn), stick-to-your-guns, caring, involved, passionate, and you live in the city.

    I consider myself a native Chicagoan; although I’m not 206 years old, I was born and raised in Chicago- not the suburbs. I’ve since moved away, but still love the city & miss it often.

    That’s how I got started reading your blog. I was looking for something to keep me connected to Chicago in some way. I look forward to reading it (and watching the videos).

    By the way, I read one of your old posts about the Italian beef – please tell me you’ve had some real Italian beef by now? It is certainly not steamed! I used to work at Rosario’s on Pulaski, just north of Southwest Highway; if you ever make it that far south- stop in there. It is oven roasted, sliced and packaged right there on the premises. They make the sausage fresh, too & other things. (Or at least they used to when I was there; but, I’m guessing it’s still good because they’re still in business.)

  7. 1. I never said life was fair.

    2. You’re telling me to let things go. You must be new around here.

    3. You’re a Chicagoan calling chumbolone a New Yorkism? I have no idea what to do with that. One word: Google.

  8. But wait. You just decided that you are “of Chicago.” Didn’t you just violate your own commandment that “no one has a license to decide who is or isn’t an authentic Chicagoan”? You decided that you are, right?

    I guess what I am missing in this rant is (a) why you didn’t just ignore a comment that added nothing to the discussion, and (b) at what point thinking that solutions you saw in New York were unattractive to Chicagoans made one a “chumbolone” (apparently some type of New Yorkism.

    By the way, my email is right, I was born at Ravenswood Hospital, attended Chicago Public Schools for everything except summer school chemistry, college, and law school, and continue to live in 606. I don’t challenge whether you care about Chicago and have deep roots here, but sheesh, relax.

  9. I agree. I was born in the south, raised in the north, and lived in many or our great cities from coast to coast. Chicago is my current home. Still, I find people in Chicago to believe that this city is the known center of the universe, and anyone not born here is never truly welcome.

  10. Nice response. I do not fully agree with your original post either, but your point of view is well within the range of reasonable opinions.

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