Writer and comedian Eric Barry recently attracted the wrath of Chicagoans for penning a “goodbye letter” explaining why he didn’t enjoy living in the city, from Midwestern attitudes to overpriced beer.
“I had to disable my Twitter,” Barry told Morning Shift host Tony Sarabia on Tuesday. “Getting … hate tweets every two seconds, I just had to disable it.”
Barry, who grew up in the Bay Area and now lives in New York City, talked to Sarabia about the letter, the backlash, and if he’s had a change of heart. We also took calls from listeners to hear what advice they’d give to recent transplants on how to embrace Chicago.
Here are some interview highlights.
On the backlash
Eric Barry: I anticipated that there would be some people who had a different experience than I did. But I penned it, specifically, because I had not heard my own narrative kind of told before. Initially, there was a lot of really positive feedback from people who were thanking me for writing it because they (had been) reticent to say that publicly for fear of a backlash, which, a few days later, ended up playing out. …
It went viral, I believe, Thursday night, and I was actually asleep and then woke up last Friday morning to just a barrage of things I probably can’t say on the air.
On what he would have done differently in Chicago
Barry: I think I would have set very different expectations. I knew a good number of people from Chicago who weren’t living there but they had left to live in San Francisco, and I think maybe their notions of what Chicago had been like were distant memories from their childhood or something.
But I think it was more conservative than I was expecting, not just politically but also in terms of behavior. There’s kind of a Midwestern reserve, and I wasn’t aware of that, I suppose, about Chicago, specifically, until I lived there.
Advice from callers
Lynn: You got to learn the grid system so you can get around without consulting a map every 30 seconds. … It was one of the first things I was told, and it was really handy. So what you got to do, you have to recognize that State and Madison is the central point. You have to understand on the North Side, which is where a lot of tourists are going to go, it’s about eight blocks to a mile.
Leslie: Rather than stay within the three blocks where you think you have everything, get out and explore the neighborhoods. And make sure you have the right wardrobe for all our seasons, because most people who come for work, especially from other countries, their winter coats are more what we consider a light fall jacket.
Lindsey: I didn’t mean to get so philosophical about it, but … you are essentially a salesperson and you have to grind it out on a daily basis. People don’t really know that you’re new. It takes a special kind of person to pick up on the new kid airs that some people give off, so you have to be outgoing and ambitious, and if a certain approach doesn’t work for you, tune it to what you think might work the next day.
This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. Click the “play” button to listen to the entire conversation.