I love you too, Chicago

How cool are you, Chicago? Let’s do some arithmetic (everything I need to know about math I learned from the quizzes in Seventeen Magazine, apparently…)

— You have a marvelous magazine (of the Time Out variety) that just so happened to give a really GREAT review to my novel, Racing the Dark. And an interview! Where I sound vaguely intelligent! (+10) (Shut up.)

— You are the host city of my publisher and editor, which is one smooth small publishing operation. (+5)

— You are going to be hosting yours truly at an event in one of your local bookstores. However, I reserve judgment on precisely how cool this makes you, since you had better rustle up a few people to actually sit in the audience. (+4 for the event, +8 if people actually show – 7:30 pm, Wednesday November 14th, Women and Children First)

— I could have gone to school in you, if you weren’t so fucking cold. Though, actually, when I visited my would-be alma mater, it was warmer there than it was in New York, where I ended up going. Maybe that should have told me something… (+4 for probably being much better than the school I ended up attending)

— But you still are fucking cold. (-5)

— But while I’m at it, Chicago, your school districts have some serious issues. Like, some school administrators who seem to think we are living in a proto-facist state. Hell, I think we’re living in a proto-facist state, but at least I’m not trying to speed along the process. Listen up, Superintendent Ben Nowakowski: the right to non-violent protest is one of the foundations of this country. These students cut class to protest a horrifying, illegal war. If you want to give them detention for cutting class, knock yourself out. But you want to expel them for exercising their constitutional rights, after administrators had already promised them that they would only be given detentions? Then I think that you, and your sorry, clueless school board needs to lose your damn jobs. What’s particularly sad about this, to me, is that these kids are using their education in a profoundly relevant manner. When I went to high school, you would have thought that the only purpose of the grinding hours of classes and homework and after-school activities was to get into the right college. That’s all I heard anyone talking about, anyway. “My Dad’s legacy, but I still have to be president of at least three clubs my senior year so I can get into Yale.” Community service was rarely about serving the community, it was about ticking off a box on an application. And apparently this soul-numbing view of education and its ultimate purposes has infiltrated the thinking of the highest officials in our school system. I can think of no other reason why these protesting students would be punished so harshly, vindictively and stubbornly (in the face of such public outrage). It’s a message: education is not about learning, or following your conscience, or applying your intellect to current problems. No, it’s about the personal essay, the supplementary materials and the teacher recommendations. Why else would they have given the “better” students more lenient punishments?

I admire these Morton West students more than I can say. I never did anything like that in high school. I’d caught the prep school bug, I guess. Kids these days? About a hundred times cooler than I ever was.
(-15 for a lousy school district, and +20 for kids with the guts to stand up to them).

(btw, if you support what these students did and are horrified at what’s happened to them, please take a moment and sign the petition in their support. The school board is apparently going to decide on their fate in December).

— And, finally, you are the subject one of my favorite songs on earth: Chicago by Sufjan Stevens (+5)

And if you add it all up…

Chicago is 28 whole points of very, very cool. 32 if I don’t just give a reading to the bookstore staff. (And any scale that gives Chicago a 28 gives New York at least a 40 and DC about 38).

Look, now I’m all excited about going there tomorrow. Chicago, here I come!

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2 thoughts on “I love you too, Chicago

  1. Bill Shunn says:

    Great reading tonight, Alaya. I’m glad I wasn’t so drunk at World Fantasy that I forgot about it! And it was more than a little startling to get home from the reading and realize that you were so prominently featured in the issue of Time Out Chicago that I had brought inside as I left.

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