While I was at Foster Beach the other day enjoying the waning days of summer, my thoughts drifted to, of all things and people, Eric Barry.
You may have heard of him; he’s the self-styled “comedian” and writer who authored a “goodbye letter” to Chicago in Huffington Post that went viral, except not in the way Barry probably would have liked. The scorn directed at him was not because Barry was publicly giving up on our city (there are certainly valid reasons one would do that), but the fact that his reasons were so manifestly bogus that for the first time in recent memory, Chicagoans of all stripes and all races, Sox and Cubs fans alike, came together in agreement on one point: Eric Barry is a colossal pussy.
I’m too lazy to give him the help of linking to his one-man pity party; it’s easily found by a Google search. We all have our issues with Chicago (the violence, the politics, the weather), but he dwelled on none of that, except to complain that the city is not liberal or tolerant enough for his taste. It has one of the largest gay pride parades in the country, not to mention one of the most thriving gay communities, but whatever.
He also ripped us for being too “family-oriented” (like that’s a bad thing). Barry seemed to be describing a completely different city from the one I have made my home for the better part of two decades. Far from finding it a provincial place with closed-off people, I’ve made friends here from all over the country and the world.
Barry fancies himself a west-coast-progressive, forward-thinking man of the millennium, but his barroom behavior exposed him to be as much a sexist oaf as Donald Trump. He refuses to see that what he perceives as Chicago’s rejection of him is a reflection on him and not on us.
But I digress from the point, and Barry’s rantings have already received inordinate attention. What made me think of him at the beach was the part of his screed that was singled out for special ridicule: his departure for New York City, where he believes he will find all the things that are lacking in the windy city. Where he will finally be appreciated for the awesome little dude he is.
As someone who has lived in said city, I can say with no small measure of giddiness that New York is going to eat him for lunch.
There is no place, and I mean none, that humbles a person faster or makes them more conscious of their own singular insignificance than the Big Apple. He will find the people there more cutthroat, more narcissistic, harder to impress, more BS-detecting and even quicker to reject his pudgy little self. He won’t last long. He is going to find himself a very tiny fish in a very vast and turbulent ocean.
New York certainly has its points, chief of which is way, way more jobs. It’s got its own storied sports teams, charming neighborhoods, the Chrysler building and Central Park. World famous restaurants. And the street vendors. When I went to NYU there was a vendor who parked his truck in front of my building in the Village every morning and knew that I got a small coffee with cream and sugar and a bagel. I think it all cost about $1.50.
I’ve found nothing like that here.
New York is not for the faint of heart, but I believe it does a person good to live there once in their life. It builds character, as they say. Barry could use that because he doesn’t have any. And it puts every place else in the country in a new perspective.
But as I kicked back at Foster Beach I thought to myself, there is nowhere in New York that I would be able to walk to a sandy beach and go for a refreshing dip in the water.
Barry waxed poetic over the beauty of New York’s skyline and rivers. But you wouldn't want to swim in the Hudson River, and to get to a beach you have to travel far outside the city to the Jersey shore or Long Island. And New York summers can be sweltering.
New York may have the vast Central Park with its zoo and ponds, but it doesn’t have Lake Michigan. Or Lincoln Park Zoo, the only free zoo in America. And if there is a skyline more breathtaking than Chicago’s at night from the vantage point of Millennium Park or a boat on the river, I have yet to see it.
So thank you, Eric Barry, you did me a favor. I’ve been very down on my city of late and so consumed with what is wrong with it that I forget to appreciate what’s right with it. Not only its physical beauty but the friendliness, realness, and family-oriented-ness of its people. It’s like the biggest small town in America, even though to you that’s a liability instead of an asset when it’s really the other way around.
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