Eric Barry, I Hope You Find Your Beach

Andy Kerns

By Andy Kerns

No doubt about it, riding a bike in the city is hard. Factor in 40 new pounds of fat and a gigantic chip on your shoulder, and it’s damn near impossible. But we’re glad you survived, Eric Barry. You make us all better.

Hello, Chicago. What a week! And so it continues.

Because so many people from Eric Barry’s life have come out wielding essays in defense of themselves and our great city, it’s time for me to get involved. Who am I? I’m the guy who authored the study Eric criticized in his HuffPost article, the guy who supposedly declared Chicago’s beaches the best in the country. And I’m here, ultimately, to propose a special meeting of Chicago minds and mouths, featuring a very special guest. More on that in a minute.

Eric, I have a few thoughts to share with you. Qualifiers: I’ve lived in Chicago 10+ years, and in other cities, including Boston, D.C., Minneapolis, Adelaide (Australia), and, yup, your hope-filled new home, New York City (loneliest year of my life, entirely my fault). Also, you and I have some things in common. We’re about the same age, both white men of significant privilege, and both buoyed by liberal educations and enterprising spirits (I too want to do “extraordinary things”). Through my adulthood, in search of my own community and comic relief, I too have experienced isolation, rejection, confusion and depression-fueled burger eating. But I never once blamed my city. Blamed everything imaginable, but never my city.

I agree with you, this could be a more sex-positive place, and yes, we could be less segregated, and yes, we could take a zillion streets and buildings and scrunch them into a much smaller wonderland through which you could skip to your friends’ houses without breaking a sweat. Thank you for the feedback. Now, let’s talk about where we’re at. All of us—you, me, this city.

The bar incident. You’re a funny guy and a sharp writer, I will give you that. Now, if you could just add to that mix “respectful bar patron” who empathizes with the incessant hounding many women endure, we’ll be looking at a true-blue triple threat.

Also, dude, one out of two women who acknowledged you was friendly and made conversation. That’s batting .500 in spite of a brazen sorry-I’m-not-sorry interruption. This isn’t Love Actually, and you don’t have a British accent; this is adulthood, celebrate the wins.

Meeting people. I’ve made plenty of friends here, and met a few women too. That’s after I stopped drinking seven years ago. Also, I look stern and judgmental when I’m not smiling (heavy brow, arched eyebrows). The point is, if I can do it, you can do it.

You whined about people “being a grandma” and going to bed early instead of acquiescing to the demands of your edgy comic lifestyle. First of all, let’s be honest, you heard that one time from a woman you were hooking up with, as she was starting to lose interest. Second, that’s how Chicago grandmas get down, man! They rest up during the week, then blow it out on the weekends.

The food. I’ve had all kinds of incredible food in this city, and yeah, I’ve had to pay for it. But the notion that it lacks nuance is horseshit. And your argument is particularly out of touch considering Bon Appetit just named Chicago “Restaurant City of the Year.”

Just this past Saturday, I tasted one of the most divine things I’ve ever tasted, at Mindy’s HotChocolate—it was a small purple carrot with Swiss chard tzatziki. If you find our fare carnivalesque, it means your appetite is carnivalesque. In a city this big and diverse, expect to see your reflection. Life is not a place, Eric; it’s a series of choices.

Your criticism of our “study.” First of all, if you get news on elevators, expect news to be sensational. Second, if you’re gonna call out people who authored a study, a) bother to read the study, and b) spell their name right. We’re called Digital Third Coast, and we never once mentioned Chicago beaches in our “study,” which was actually just a ranked list featuring cities around the world that have dramatic and iconic relationships with water. Considering Chicago is nestled up to one of the largest bodies of fresh water in the world, yeah, it made the list. Our food, comedy and bike friendliness did the rest.

Our pride. No question, this city’s pride runneth over. Sorry we’re not sorry. It’s interesting though; as Katie Rife points out, “we have a very low tolerance for bullshit.” Proud… and intolerant of bullshit. I call that a neat combo!

Amid our pride, we do think we’re important. We are important. And I hope every other city dweller around the world feels the same about their city. I love this country, and no part more than its cities. As much as ever, this is a time for American cities to feel big and proud, to celebrate each other.

On that note. Eric, my friend, I’d like to propose a celebration—a celebration of your views and our views. You’re a comedian, Chicago’s home to other bright comedians, let’s all get together and have some fun with this, shall we? You remarked in an interview with DNAInfo that you will happily embrace a conversation if it’s off social media and there is room provided for context, nuance and intelligent discourse. We will provide that room.

If you’re up for it, my friends and I at Digital Third Coast will fly you back here for a live debate with a TBD Chicago comedian (we’ll run a contest on Facebook and have people make the case for why they should represent Chicago). We’ll hash out the topics in advance, as a group—Chicago food, making friends after 30, sex positivity, Steve Harvey, you name it.

This is a serious offer—airfare and venue are on us, you can do a live episode of your podcast Disclosure Full (see what I did there?), and we’ll have some good-spirited fun, keep it smart, keep it constructive, and maybe even raise a little dough for charity. You in?