Chicago, by Studs Terkel

Book 26

I snagged a charming hardcover copy of Studs Terkel’s Chicago from the Little City Book Sale. It is a mishmash of short essays – the jacket called it “a long prose poem” – pulled together in the mid-1980s. I think I am going through a phase with Chicago history. There is a PBS series called “Remembering Chicago” or something that I am getting a pretty big kick out of, too. I love these stories.  Also, Terkel died not that long ago, as did legendary Chicago journalist Mike Royko.  I figured I had better see what the fuss was all about.  I read Royko’s short biography of Maredaley last year.

Here is the truth: I am not a real Chicagoan. Not even because I grew up in the suburbs. Because my parents are…non-native. My father grew up in New York and his family is from California. My mother grew up in Ohio and her family is from Michigan. We were here for the Blizzard of 1979, but not the one in 1967, so we cannot claim to be Chicagoans. Permanent residents, perhaps. But not Chicagoans.

(Sigh.)

My favorite part is Terkel writing about the unveiling of the Picasso. He went around asking people what they thought. What it was. A woman. A dog. “somethin’ ya ate last night that didn’t agree with ya”. An Austrian lady laughed at that one, then asked the guy:

“Vass you ever in the Louvre?”
“What is it?”
“The best art museum in the vorld.”
His civic pride was challenged. “We got one here on Michigan. The one with the lions. Don’t tell me about art.”

Or how about that Blizzard in 1967. Terkel is writing about how everyone was in a good mood and helping each other out for those three days. Drinking a bunch, but. You know. Terkel asked a cop what he thought about the weather.

“No comment.”

I love this stuff.

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