These are trying times: Trump is president, hurricanes batter our coasts, Illinois is dead broke, and we’re staring down the barrel of a cold, bitter winter.
That’s why I want to personally thank self-proclaimed “writer-comedian-podcaster” Eric Barry for providing us all with a small miracle. His screed about leaving Chicago for New York City, published this week on HuffPost, was so breathtakingly bad that it managed to go viral locally and bring together Chicagoans of all stripes to sing in one loud, unified voice: “Wow, what a pile of shit.”
Discussion of the post was everywhere on social media on Thursday and Friday. “Reading all of Chicago Twitter’s continued dragging of that HuffPo dude was the greatest way to start my Friday. Bless u all,” read one tweet. “Two sources say Jared and Ivanka urged the HuffPo ‘I hate Chicago’ guy not to publish the article,” said another. The social media blowback was hard enough that as of Friday afternoon, Barry has apparently deleted his Twitter account.
I’m not typically a fan of the hate-read or hate-watch. They’re a kind of currency on social media used to fuel the constant cycle of outrage that defines much of online discourse. But “Goodbye Chicago: What It’s Like to Live in a City You Tried to But Couldn’t Love” is a special case. It’s the Moby-Dick of cluelessly self-indulgent blog posts.
Perhaps more accurately, it’s a volume in A Series of Unfortunate Events of posts, because this is actually the second time Barry has roasted a city on his way out. He gave San Francisco a similar treatment in 2014; decrying it as a haven of clueless techies who ruined local culture—which by Barry’s definition equals lots of drug-filled warehouse parties and people cool enough to understand what the term polyamory means. He noted that he was ready to flee the City by the Bay for the greener lakeside pastures of Chicago—though he’s also so worried he’d be too edgy for us (“Will I be too ‘gay’? Will sex-positivity there just [be] perceived as moral depravity?” he wonders) that he scrubs off his multicolored nail polish.
Three and a half years later, Barry’s sequel begins by blaming Chicago for the 40 pounds of weight he’s gained since moving from San Francisco (“It’s one of many ways my body has felt ravaged by this city,” he writes), for the biking accidents he’s suffered, and for his inability to make friends or get laid by random women he hits on at bars.
Real talk, I don’t live in Chicago anymore, but HOLY HELL THAT HUFFPO GUY IS BRINGING EVERYONE WHO EVER LIVED THERE TOGETHER. Amazing.
— Stacey A. (@CurvesAndNerves) September 8, 2017
With regard to the latter, he tells an anecdote that begins by observing that he’s impressed that a Chicago bar carries a “quirky indie-leaning Bay Area” beer—that’d be Lagunitas, which in fact opened a brewery and tap room in Chicago the same year Barry moved here—but complains that it’s $3 more expensive than in the typical San Francisco bar. Then he saunters over to a table of four women who are presumably not there to listen to a random stranger ramble about his move from San Francisco. That’s why one of the foursome finally interrupts the chat to say, “Just so you know: we’re all taken.” It’s a clear cue: dude, we’re not interested. But Barry does not take this casual rejection well. He lashes out at the group while somehow blaming it on Chicago’s—get this—”solidified gender dynamics”:
What did that even mean? We had hardly been talking for 60 seconds, and suddenly our relationship status had become central to my attempt to meet people. It felt like in that instant I was being told that solidified gender dynamics were alive and well in Chicago, and I wondered if Steve Harvey and Men Are From Mars were still things here.
I could’ve walked away. I would indeed later learn that meeting people in bars was not done the same way it was back home. But I like using my words.
“Just so you know, I don’t want to fuck ANY OF YOU,” I snapped back.
I downed my beer and left my glass on their table. Truth is, I would’ve fucked all of them. But that wasn’t the point.
He doesn’t stop there, either, going on to discuss Chicago’s public transportation, food (it’s either too pricey or “lacks nuance”), and family-friendliness.
Buying a home and getting married are much more in the sights of Chicagoans. And that makes dating hard. It seems like Chicago is a city of serial monogamy, which means any culture centered around being single can feel lacking.
By the end of what’s basically a 1,500-plus-word diary entry, you get the sense that Barry (whose Full Disclosure was named Best Sex-Positive Podcast in the Reader‘s 2015 Best of Chicago issue) sees cities not as living, breathing communities to invest in, but as a consumer good—an adult playground meant to revolve around him and host his nonstop eating, drinking, and fucking escapades. That’s why the essay has rightly earned so much ire from readers—well, beyond the fact that he manages to come off as spectacularly elitist, entitled, creepy, and wrong about Chicago in one fell swoop.
I can’t wait until 2020, when we’ll get to read his newest HuffPost piece: “Goodbye, New York City, I Guess I’ll Try Portland, Maine?”