In Big 7 Travel’s annual survey of the 50 sexiest accents in the U.S., Chicago came in fifth. You may know Big 7 Travel if you’re looking for the 7 greatest waterfalls in the world or 7 of the most bizarre tourist attractions in the U.S. (#1: Carhenge in Nebraska). Last year’s poll revealed Southern accents were most popular. Long Island came in last. This year New Jersey’s accent came in last which is similar to Long Island’s twisted tongue.
I can’t say WGN radio’s Bob Sirott has the sexiest voice I’ve heard, but it’s all-out Chicago. I recently started listening to Bob in the morning because he broadcasts midwestern comfort. In my twenties I set my clock radio alarm to WXRT and woke to rock and roll. When I started working in politics, WBEZ, the local NPR news radio station rousted me from sleep. I switched to Bob Sirott this summer in order to stop scaring myself to death every morning by waking to minute-by-minute bad news. Bob, who includes a moment of on-air zen meditation, never mentions the current president, rarely discusses the gun shots I hear out my Gold Coast window.
In October 1997 I was a guest at Hillary Clinton’s fiftieth birthday at the Chicago Cultural Center. Chicago transplants like me working in the Clinton Administration were invited to fly with her and Bill aboard Air Force One from Washington. We landed at O’Hare in thirty-nine-degree rain and rode downtown in the presidential motorcade. I rushed to the makeshift staff room to use a landline. My son was at my father’s hospital bedside, and I needed to call.
I had neither seen nor talked to my father for years.
“He just died. Do you want to see him?”
I wandered into Preston Bradley Hall and found Bob Sirott, who had a morning TV news show then. Bob and I had arranged to talk off the record about what it was like to ride on Air Force One. I described the inside of the plane, the food, the guests and gave him a box of M&M’s imprinted with Air Force One’s seal. I said nothing about my father’s death. But he’s part of the pain and privilege from that night.
News of cops shooting unarmed Black people and the aftermath wake of destruction jolts me every damn time. I want to be informed but I must control the flow. The details. Inner tension between wanting to be safe and wanting criminal justice for Black people blankets my fearful dawn. Having cops on every corner makes me feel safe. Having cops on every corner is meant to deter Black men. Having cops on every corner demonstrates there is no criminal justice, no economic justice, no environmental justice, no educational justice, no spiritual justice. The system is completely broken.
That sexy Chicago voice breathes a bit of cheer into the morning as I set out into my beautifully landscaped, dangerous, noisy, boarded up neighborhood. A neighborhood I will never leave.