Enrique Limón leads a toast at the Reader’s UnGala. Credit: GlitterGuts
Vol. 52, No. 6 print issue cover with photo by Carolina Sanchez Credit: Cover photo by Carolina Sanchez

Our recent anniversary UnGala was an affair to remember for myriad reasons. For starters, it brought out Chicago’s finest in droves to the Museum of Contemporary Art for a night of intimate performances, revelry, and reflection, Reader-style. 

The night also summoned Reader brass, new and old, including cofounder Bob McCamant, longtime executive editor Michael Lenehan, former editor Alison True, cartoonist Heather McAdams, typesetter and archivist Vera Videnovich, and “the conscience of Chicago journalism,” OG Michael Miner, who looked back and fêted this college dorm experiment, five decades into its existence. 

Longing for even more flair, publisher Tracy Baim asked me to prepare a few words to follow remarks from her, the Reader Institute for Community Journalism’s chairperson of the board Eileen Rhodes, and event patron Christie Hefner, who instantly won me over thanks to her oh-so-shagadelic frock. 

Through tidal surges in the media industry, as well as its own vicissitudes, the Reader still stands, I told the packed house, before waxing poetic on what this outlet has meant to so many, myself included. A couple of minutes in, I asked partygoers to raise a glass to what the following half century might hold, and culminated my speech with a heartfelt callback: “the Reader still stands, and it stands strong.” 

What followed was a near perfect night. 

An undying air of celebration and joy was palpable in the air. Every person (and puppet) in attendance wished nothing but for the Reader to survive and thrive. Even members from other outlets in the local mediascape were in attendance. Folks like Chicago Sun-Times executive editor Jennifer Kho, along with ever-fabulous editorial board member Ismael Pérez; and The TRiiBE head of operations David Elutilo, multimedia producer Tonia Hill, and publisher Morgan Elise Johnson, which meant a helluva lot. 

I say near perfect, because as I was leaving the venue, I took a spill and ended up falling down the museum’s iconic staircase. What I thought was a simple party foul, turned into an ambulance ride to the ER and emergency surgery. In stark contrast to the glitzy gala, the weeks that followed have been marred by excruciating pain, helplessness, and self-pity. 

Those who know me, know that I lead a very active, independent, and always “on” kind of life. These past few days have turned that notion on its head, and have proven to be a perma-exercise in patience and humility.

At the height of my medical malaise, bosslady Baim texted me a link to one of her favorite songs to “inspire” me, Heather Small’s “Proud”: I step out of the ordinary/I can feel my soul ascending/I’m on my way, can’t stop me now . . . /What have you done today to make you feel proud?

Heather Small’s song “Proud” was first released in 2000.

“I’m afraid my answer is not much,” I replied, browbeaten, after listening to the queer anthem in near tears.

The following day, waiting for the orthopedist at my first post-op appointment, I took stock of the humbling, nanoscopic triumphs I’ve experienced over the past couple of weeks: making it through my first day sans pain medication, shivers, sweats and all; how I finally managed to brush my teeth over the bathroom sink like a normal person, and not aided by my crafty, bedside Solo cup technique; and how I’ve conquered that trek up and down those nine damn steps to get in and out my apartment, which originally felt akin to climbing Everest. All of a sudden, Tracy’s survival song started playing in my head. Turns out there are many things I should feel proud of. I should be proud that I nary flinched when I got my sutures removed, as I deliberated whether or not this letter would materialize by deadline. I’m proud that during my first grocery store visit since the incident, aided by a motorized shopping cart, I was able to reach high up the refrigerated stands to fetch my favorite yogurt. I’m proud that even in my imperfect existence, I’ve somehow inspired selfless love from those around me to care and watch after me. I’m proud that my mom, over the phone checking up after my visit, did her best to convince me—as only a good, Catholic, Mexican mother could—to come home for the holidays, as even in my nomadic adulthood, I’ve never missed Christmas dinner, and it wouldn’t taste the same without me (though I hate to disappoint her, as chances currently look quite slim).

I’m also proud of the entire Reader team for making it through another year, when many outlets like ours have gone the way of Frosty the Snowman at Steamworks. I’m ungrudgingly proud of the editorial staff for taking stock of the impactful coverage they’ve delved deep in during the past twelve months, highlighted in this special issue, which hopefully holds you up until our next print iteration on January 12. 

Yes, Virginia, the Reader still stands. And so does yours truly—albeit a bit wobbly for now.

Year in Review ’22

Forty years in review

Metro and Smart Bar had a big birthday in 2022. Owner Joe Shanahan shares some of his favorite memories from the venerable Chicago clubs.

More from the Issue (Vol. 52, No. 6)

Museums are everybody

At the National Museum of Mexican Art, Alberto Aguilar turns a solo exhibition into a collaborative thought experiment.

Myth of Moses

Baby steps

The good news about 2022 is that it could have been worse.

Listen to Women Talking

The new film adaptation of Miriam Toews’s novel is dark in color and content, but it sparks a conversation worth having.