May 13, 2013. "Let me introduce you to one and only" was the title. Those were the first words I wrote at ChicagoNow.
Today is the sixth anniversary of this blog. We've come a long way from day one. It's gone from writing about one topic to so many different ones that I can't keep track anyone. About a year into this, someone asked me to describe my blog. I said I write about Parkinson's, Nazis, antisemitism and The Beatles. Almost immediately after that discussion, I added homelessness and cancer. A year later came Donald Trump....sigh.
As we celebrate six years, I thought highlighting six stories that encompasses the above topics would be appropriate. Like I said in the final line of my first blog post...to quote Jackie Gleason...away we go.
Because this blog was at first dedicated to stories about Parkinson's Disease, that's where we start. A couple of years in, I was working on a piece about "The connection between Parkinson's Disease and Melanoma." I researched this for a couple of months. Couldn't find enough to write the story. It became personal when I found a mole on my back. I knew I had both Parkinson's and Melanoma. Yep, I then was able to write that story. I've written more than sixty posts about Melanoma since.
Towards the end of year one, I became tired of writing only about Parkinson's. Plus, I was going to run out of stories. I needed to diversify. I love music and decided to add that to my repertoire. If I was going to write about music, I had to start with the band that influenced me the most. February 9, 2014 was the fiftieth anniversary of The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. "The Beatles: Our Lives Were Never The Same" showed how they not only shaped our early years, but had an influence on the rest of our lives.
In 2014, a story broke about a painting at the art museum on the campus of the University of Oklahoma. This particular painting was taken by the Nazis from a Jewish family during World War Two. The painting made its way through various galleries and owners before ending up at OU as part of a donation. When the families heirs found out about this, they wanted the painting back. They felt it was part of their families legacy. A long court fight followed, with both sides digging in.
My piece, Nazis, Art & The University of Oklahoma was just the second forum to tell the story nationally. It led to three follow-up posts. A settlement between the two parties was finally reached, but not before a lot of bad feelings, bad publicity for the university and family supporters claiming antisemitism against the Oklahoma administration.
When I started writing here in 2013, I never gave a thought to Donald Trump. I wasn't the only one. At the time, he was a businessman with a not that interesting television show. Who would have guessed he was going to be a serious candidate to become President of the United States? Certainly, not I! Even when he was winning primaries, Trump was still kind of a buffoonish cartoon character.
But, then came the night of March 11, 2016. Don was scheduled to give a speech at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Students and locals protested. Trump cancelled the rally. I always felt that was the event that solidified his base and sent him on his way to the presidency. I was there that night to watch history being made, so, if you want to blame anyone for the mess Trump has made out this country, I'm willing to take the hit. It was a very strange "Day With The Donald."
Although I don't write about it often, I'm a big sports fan. Back in 2013, the Chicago Cubs were in another rebuilding mode. I've lost track of how many rebuilds I've watched in my 50plus years of being a Cubs fan. The difference with this one is Theo Epstein was in charge. We were optimistic because he changed the Boston Red Sox from losers to champions. Maybe he could do the same thing for the Cubs...maybe.
The process was slow going. At the end of the 2013, I wrote a post wondering if the Cubs would win a World Series before I died. Little did I know that three years later I would write "I'm Still In Shock The Chicago Cubs Won The World Series." When I think about this now, I still can't believe it actually happened. Whenever I see a replay of Kris Bryant making the throw to Anthony Rizzo that clinched the title, I always smile and raise my arms in victory. The greatest thing about the championship is whenever the Cubs win the next one, my children or future grandchildren will never have to say this is for dad/granddad who never saw one in his lifetime!
When you write a blog, especially one that talks about your own life, you give away a lot of your privacy. You need to make decisions on what you are willing to share and what you want to keep to yourself. In May of 2013, I was trying to deal with health and money problems. The combination was overwhelming. I lost my home and moved into a shelter, in the basement of a church. The only people who knew were family and a few friends, and even they didn't know a lot of the details, other than I was okay with the situation.
I made the decision I was not going to write about it. I didn't think letting the internet world know about this would be helpful to my situation. I also didn't want to invade the privacy of the other residents of the shelter. Plus, to be honest, I was a little embarrassed about living there.
My stay at the shelter lasted more than a year and a half. Towards the end, I let a few others that I trusted know about my living arrangements. No one was judgmental or looked down at it. I think some realized that if the situation was different, it could happen to them. This let me know I could write about the topic of homelessness, including my story, and feel safe to do so.
"The Face of Homelessness Isn't What You Think" is the piece where I outed myself as being homeless. It's led to my writing an ongoing series about homelessness that continues to this day. Every writer has a post that defines them. One that they will always be known for. This one is mine. I never would have guess this back in May of 2013, but I'm more than fine with it.
That's a look at six for six. We've had a lot of changes at ChicagoNow during my six years. You make a decision to deal with the changes or leave. I've chosen to stick around. I have no idea how long I'll be staying. I doubt it will be another six years, but I said the same thing after years three, four and five, so you never know. I do know this...ChicagoNow is my main writing home and I'm grateful for the last six years and also for everyone who has ever read anything I've written.
It's time to move ahead to year seven. I hear that's a lucky number.
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