Chicago: The Backstory

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It all started last summer. I walked off a plane at O’Hare and into a sultry, hazy Chicago afternoon. 

I made my way to the “L,” and passed through the suburbs and into the heart of the big city teeming with life.

It was such a contrast from Alaska. The clothes people wore flowed and billowed in the heated breeze. Glasses clinked and sweated on the outdoor tables. 

The smells of food wafting through the air, the tall buildings soaring up into the deep blue, the life going on in small spaces. I had forgotten how much I love big cities.

When I moved my family to Alaska in 2010, I promised them that if they could do one year in Alaska, and if after that they were not happy, I would do my best to move them along to something more their speed. 

They far exceeded my expectations. Two winters later, and I could tell that the glue that bonds you to a place was not setting up for us. 

It’s not that you get tired of waking up to the sun rising over the Chugach Mountains or the ebb and flow of the tides on Cook Inlet. Alaska offers so much to the lifelong dreamer, the isolationist, the rugged individualist, the hunter, the fisherman and the adventurer.

There has always been a price to pay for coming to Alaska. The cold, the loneliness, the cost of living, each taxes you individually. If Alaska is your dream, your end of the road, you pay those taxes willingly, knowing exactly what they extract and making up for it in whatever way you are gifted. 

After surviving a winter that saw record-breaking snowfall in Anchorage, I could see the signs of weariness on their faces on the weekends during breakup when we couldn’t do anything until the ice melted and the mud dissolved back into dust. 

The view from Alaska is amazing. While you have to go to Wales to see Russia, you can get a pretty amazing view of the Lower 48. So it wasn’t difficult to look around the country at the opportunities starting to open up.

Home to Oregon, Seattle, San Francisco, Los Angeles. We’ve been there, done that. 

The mountain west. Boise, Salt Lake, Colorado Springs. 

The Midwest? 

I have a list of favorite cities. Kyiv, San Francisco, Portland, Budapest, Vienna, Copenhagen. These places are magical for various reasons. But something about Chicago intrigued me. The food, the culture, the mess of life, the architecture, the wealth of stories inherent in a city of that size. 

Trying to mix your passions with the needs of your family is not easy. Nothing blends particularly well. 

I have worked at newspapers, but I know very well how tough the world is for the newsman these days. 

Television news is thriving and struggling with tides of behavioral and technology change. 

Aside from writing stories about people, my love for journalism resides in the place where it fits into our modern lives. The chance to explore the different platforms and financial systems that support great journalism has been a side bar and now a focus in my career. 

The confluence of Chicago, WBEZ and great journalism is still a little hard to believe.

You start with an application. You proceed to a phone call. Many phone calls. Visits, Skype, emails. And then you commit to going. To driving 3,000 miles in a U-Haul to set up all over again. 

It’s simultaneously slow and blazingly fast. 

This is just the beginning of it. All that goes into the beginning of a story is too much for a prologue. 

It’s time to turn the page and see what the rest of this story holds. 

Tim

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