Chicago in January

“So I gotta ask, why Chicago? Is it the rampant gun violence? Or do you just like seeing improv actors who weren’t good enough for LA?”

— Bojack Horseman, on Chicago

What is the snow/slush mix falling down outside!? It is not pleasant.

To be fair. when I arrived on Thursday night the weather was downright balmy in Chicago, for January. But my youngest cousin, Stephanie, was getting married (today) and so I trekked it out here to rep her father’s side of the family. The rest of my family (Matty and girls), and the one into which I was born — the Hu’s, couldn’t make it for various reasons.

Hosting a Chicago edition of It’s Been a Minute, at WBEZ with Greta Johnsen and Peter Sagal. Photo credit: Emily Cummings

Since I was going to be here anyway, I was able to see my Chicago-based buddies AND bring the podcast/radio show I sometimes host, It’s Been A Minute, to WBEZ Chicago, the NPR member station here. It’s located (thanks to a $1 a year, 99-year lease) on the storied Navy Pier, home of tourists wearing MAGA hats, the Chicago Children’s Museum and a ferris wheel I could not see through the morning fog yesterday. Peter Sagal, who hosts the quiz show Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me from Chicago, came on to be a panelist. We got to catch up and hit him with the “patriarchy stinger,” which is a jingle that interrupts him every time he’s mansplaining.

On a whim, I decided to reach out to my high school social studies teacher, Mr. Coates, who has been living and teaching in Chicago for 20 years now. I know the exact number of years because he left Texas right after I graduated from high school and this year is my 20 year reunion. (CRAZY!) And I hadn’t seen him since I was 18, but he and his wife, MRS. Coates, met up with me for dinner on Thursday — the first time I’d ever hung out with Mr. Coates, actually. Enjoyed them both. Special night. And since my daughters (who usually introduced the podcast) didn’t tape their show intro in time, I was able to ask Mr. Coates to do it, and he makes an appearance on the podcast itself! He quipped that this is going to do wonders for “his brand.”

Cousin Stephanie and my new cousin-in-law, Josh!

And up in the ‘burbs, my cousin Steph is now lawfully wedded. Given my inability to handle anything below 65 degrees, I cringed in horror as the wedding party braved the falling snow and 30 degree F/-1 degree C, windy outdoors to get a photo outside the church. But so glad to be here, to celebrate the wedding of my final unmarried cousin (who, incidentally, is only 24), and ready to get back to the sunshine, so long as the gods of O’Hare airport let me.

Back To The … Country Kitchen

Blast from my past. This was taken on a disposable film camera because yes those existed.

In May I will be the commencement speaker for the Class of 2019 graduation ceremony at the University of Missouri-Columbia School of Journalism. This is such a special honor because the Mizzou J-School is c’mon, the best, and it’s also my alma mater.

At my own graduation ceremony, the commencement speaker was so breathtakingly bad that my professor Stacey later told me that he saw a department head, who was sitting on stage, driving his thumb into the opposite hand’s nail bed so hard that he started bleeding. All I remember about the speech’s content was that at one point the old-white-dude-in-the-advertising-biz told us to exercise and eat right. Can’t make this up.

My low bar goal is to outperform him. In preparation I need to draw on specific memories and experiences. The problem is, my brain does not work like Jim Comey’s, who remembers everything linearly and with high specificity. My brain seems to remember the past only in general feelings or vibes I had rather than a tick-tock of how things went down and who said what. For example, I still love and have nothing but warm feelings for Mr. Coates from AP Macro and Micro Econ in high school but I don’t remember anything he taught me except the Laffer Curve and how Arthur Laffer had a problematic theory. (BUT WHAT WAS THAT THEORY!?) To remember a tidbit, it has to be super random and often requires some jogging-of-my-memory to access, like looking at whatever I wrote down at that time.

With roomie Fiscus in our halcyon days of youth. I think this was 2005. Also shot on film.

That was a long windup to say that to write this speech, I downloaded MY OLD XANGA BLOG from my senior year of college and imported the posts here to HeyElise!

When I went down the 2002-2003 rabbit hole, I realized a lot of things, like just how much we went to Country Kitchen to “study,” how awful I was at going to class and how my education in that last year consisted of shooting a lot of television news stories about the 2002 Senate race, to the exclusion of everything else, like a solid liberal arts education.

Also I spent a heavy amount of time watching football, some of my time going to an ab workout class, and a stupid amount of time following around a dude named Ryan, which is regrettable, and WHERE WAS MY ROOMMATE AMY FISCUS TO STOP ME?! FISCUS I AM LOOKING AT YOU.

In other ways, I realized some things have never changed: pop culture-laden snark, going on random last minute trips with whomever, being the biggest fangirl of Brad Hawkins.

Anyway my archives are in the footer of this blog and you, too, can do the time warp! But maybe don’t, because I am going to mine this material for the A+ stuff so it can subtly make appearances in that Class of 2019 commencement speech. As I used to say in 2002, “More to come.”