(Updated: April 2023)–My name is Michael and I’m 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 moved to Chicago. They say the only thing harder then getting a New Yorker to move to Chicago is getting them to move back to New York. I know that’s true–I’ve been here more than 20 years.
I started writing CHICAGO CARLESS in 2005 to make sense of the culture shock of being a New Yorker in a city that is so similar and yet so much its own center of the universe. Since then, I’ve chronicled my difficulties, joys, and ultimately the 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.
Along the way, I loved and left downtown Chicago, wrestled with (what I thought was) ADHD, met my partner Ryan, became a Disney parks fanatic, became a Jew, watched Ryan do the same thing, and re-united with my family after 20 years apart.
And discovered I’m autistic. Which finally explained so, so much.
EVERYTHING ELSE BELOW IS JUST BONA FIDES FROM EARLIER TIMES, BUT IF YOU WANT TO DELVE DEEPER, FEEL FREE…
I strongly bend towards urban equity and social justice. I was a public transportation planner in NYC, serving four years on the central staff of the New York City Transit Riders Council, two of them as associate director. Now I do nonprofit fundraising and communications strategy.
As a consultant or a partner, 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 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 one, part two]–helped win minimum wage increases in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, and Ohio!)
I sharpened my strategic media skills through continuing education at Chicago’s nationally noted Public Narrative (formerly Community Media Workshop.) Over the years, my blog, has been featured numerous times for coverage of civic and social-justice issues by current and now sadly bygone local and national media including Jim 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, Rich Miller’s Capital Fax Blog, and the former Chi-Town Daily News, Gapers Block, Chicagoist, and Centerstage Chicago (which called me a “born-again Chicagoan” for the depth of my love and fascination with my adopted hometown.)
Among the change I’ve helped make:
- Widening the debate on neighborhood noise in downtown Chicago;
- Forcing the Chicago Transit Authority to cancel a holiday crackdown on homeless riders that would have ejected people from the ‘L’ system in sub-freezing temperatures with no support alternatives;
- Helping win the removal of ill-conceived homeland security cameras installed atop Millennium Park’s Crown Fountain;
- Calling out the national Trust for Public Land over a racially insensitive marketing campaign for Chicago’s new 606 linear park;
- Supporting the Chicago Children’s Museum’s right to self-determination;
- Getting Macy’s to replace erroneous wayfinding signage carelessly designed and installed throughout their flagship State Street store;
- Giving my fellow Chicagoans an insider’s perspective on Marina City’s Gary Kimmel scandal (for which I did ended up interviewed by CNBC’s American Greed a decade later); and
- Covering 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.
(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.
I’m not yet a dinosaur. I’ll die on Space Mountain in my 80s. The Magic Kingdom version, because I’m a stickler for a good post-queue. And I’ll enjoy the ride until then. Browse around, there’s lots of fun here.