It didn’t start in July.
It didn’t start then, but I don’t know when it did start.
I don’t know when the first notion for the exhibit appeared to people. I don’t know when, according to the Tribune, they started the crowdsourced process of having online folks determine whether the new Chicago History Museum exhibit would be on local lit, local women or another Capone-apalooza.
I don’t know when click poll voters chose an exhibit about Chicago writers.
I don’t know who nominated something I wrote.
I don’t know who picked it.
But I’m glad they did.
I’m as glad now, a day before the exhibit opens, as I was the day in July when I received an email that dropped casually that one of these 543-and-counting Afternoons had been selected for inclusion in a Chicago History Museum exhibit and would I mind ever so much being recorded reading it for the interactive app.
I think I could swing that.
Over the months since July, I hustled to Navy Pier to record an edited version of the piece at the WBEZ studios, filed CHM paperwork authorizing excerpt permissions, reproduction rights and honorarium payments.
I’ve receive confused emails from folks who saw my name appear in print ads in the Sun-Times, on the side of buses and in yesterday’s Trib. I’ve tracked the digital progress, religiously googling and seeing who on Twitter has hashtagged #chicagoauthored.
And now, a day before my writing will spend two years in an exhibit alongside the likes of Royko, Cisneros, Sandburg and Gwendolyn Brooks, I can honestly say one thing befitting my place among Chicago’s noble literary tradition:
Wowzers. Like, seriously, wowie zowie.
I’m interviewing a magician next week. And I’m working out times to hit up a B-boy crew, a tagger and maybe get to that startup scientist. This weekend, after the exhibit, I’m going to a bunch of the Open House Chicago places to see hidden buildings from the inside, and see what fancy-type thoughts I can come up with on those.
That’s the real work of this site, digging into the stories I wanted to tell but couldn’t when I was a newsman in harness.
So, in theory, the work is its own reward and I’m just grateful for a chance to share my stories.
But, holy crud I’m excited about the museum. You really should go to this thing.
And download the app.
And I guess hashtag something #chicagoauthored.
I am honored and humbled and all that awards show bull hockey people say so they don’t end up just making a high-pitched “Squeeeeeeeee!” sound when asked how they’re feeling. But my main feeling at this moment is wonder.
Wonder that I was nominated. Wonder that I was selected. Wonder that, somewhere in this world, someone took a look at this weird thing I spend my nights working on and, like Indiana Jones looking at the Cross of Coronado, thought “It belongs in a museum.”
Here are a few more I’m really proud of (for all the new visitors the exhibit opening might possibly, hypothetically bring this weekend):
- An interactive search of an underground street
- My murderous neighbor
- Street musicians’ Christmas message
- Making an old woman cry
- The poetry of campaign finance paperwork