Chicago’s Sexiest Voice

Chicago’s Sexiest Voice

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.

Soul Clawing Days

Anne Lamott, a popular soul-searching memoirist, live-Zoomed a teaching on writing recently. She emphasized two major points: 1) stop not writing, and; 2) no one cares if you’re writing, especially your family and friends. Anne told us to be likable narrators, never vengeful and don’t antagonize the reader.

I risk being an “un”likable antagonistic narrator in writing about the looting and violence in my downtown Chicago neighborhood, the Gold Coast. An amalgam of landscaped mansions, row houses and mixed income highrises, the Gold Coast rose in the wake of the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. Wealthy industrialists built North Lake Shore Drive to front their new mansions. In the late 1980s, the Gold Coast was the second most affluent neighborhood in the United States, behind Manhattan’s Upper East Side.  I’m neither affluent nor near-affluent. I live in the Gold Coast to be safe.

In the early morning of May 31, I walked out the back door of my building to Oak Street with Henry the dog. Oak Street is a block-long high-fashion retail museum where the haute couture show off their latest trendsetting wardrobes in oversize clear glass windows. The Chicago uprising stemming from the George Floyd murder turned Oak Street into a comic book version of a visit from Godzilla. Within hours shattered glass lay strewn on the streets and sidewalks, dismembered mannequins lay naked on the curbs, paper and cardboard boxes lay shredded everywhere. A U-Haul truck perched on the curbside by the shattered window of Dolce & Gabbana. Scavengers foraged through smashed-in Armani’s looking for remnants of the organized looting that had just ended. The street recovered somewhat over the next few months and then bam! On August 10 Godzilla came through again and not only sacked Oak Street, but unloosed a reign of violence and looting all over Chicago’s retail corridors. 

Black Lives Matter, a radical national organization became a mainstream darling after the gruesome George Floyd murder. Yes, white people said, we finally get it! We value Black people and their right to self-determination. We want to fight for equitable systems too. We might even support reparations. We’ll try to understand what you mean by “defund the police.” We pledge to learn more about white supremacist, capitalist patriarchy. Ending criminalization of Black communities is our goal too. We’re with you.

A BLM spokesperson stood in front of the police station that held 100 arrestees from the August 10 uprising and announced that BLM considers looting “reparations”, and that downtown attacks will continue until there’s justice and equality in their neighborhoods.

Activist Michael Pfleger appeared hangdog on TV mouthing a familiar plea including words like, “decades of disinvestment and abandonment,” and begging city leaders for a strategy. 

“I’ve never seen things worse.” He said.

In 1968 I had an autographed copy of Eldridge Cleaver’s “Soul on Ice”. I have no idea what drew me to anti-racism then or what draws me to it now. But I sure do feel as defeated as Father Pfleger sounds.

And I miss walking Henry through the Oak Street fashion museum.