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'Goodbye Chicago' Writer Says Locals Missed The 'Subtleties' In His Essay On Leaving Our City

By Stephen Gossett in News on Sep 11, 2017 8:20PM


So, about that burger that has corn chips inside the patty? Apparently it's Revolution Brewing's Hombre Burger. And that notorious $7 Lagunitas? If memory serves Eric Barry, it was Racine Plumbing Bar and Grill—although there are "a million places" in Chicago where such prices reign.

If you already know those references, that's a testament to the sheer supernova virality of Barry's now-infamous "Goodbye Chicago" essay, which was published on Huffington Post's Contributor platform last Tuesday—and, once Chicago social media found it, on Thursday night, prompted a collective clapback like few we've ever witnessed. (We had a hand in the backlash, too.)

Now that the spectacular Twitter dustup has more or less settled, Barry says he doesn't really have any regrets about the essay—although he thinks some excoriators glossed over what he said were the piece's subtleties—and so far, the erstwhile Chicago resident is loving his move to East Coast.

Barry, a copywriter by trade and aspiring comedian, shared "Goodbye Chicago" with several friends before it blew up, and got positive feedback, he said. "It was reassuring to other people who had similar experiences," he told Chicagoist by phone. "I thought was the end of it, then somehow it started to spread... I was prepared for some pushback on some of my perspective. But at the end of day, it was my experience so I didn’t think [the backlash] would be too bad."

It was. But Barry doesn't regret his take, stressing that "my experience was my experience" and floating the idea that what he described as some of his self-aware nuance was bowled over in a gleeful pile-on.

"I literally start off the essay by navel-gazing—which some people didn’t understand," he said in reference to him gaining 40 pounds in Chicago. Same deal for the Lagunitas, which did not have their Douglas Park brewery built when he first arrived, he said. "I wasn't coming from Bay Area—where Lagunitas comes from—thinking it wouldn't be available. "I was hoping readers would be taking my personal journey, as opposed to me noting, four years after the fact, that Chicago has Lagunitas." And he does know how bus transfers work, too, he said. But unemployed, having declared bankruptcy and just scraping by for a time in Chicago, he couldn't tie a Ventra card to a credit card, he said.

The whole thing was all blown out of proportion, and not to Chicago's benefit, he said. "I think it's fascinating that one person’s essay would cause so much ire. Who gives a s***? Why is this even a thing? It doesn’t bode well with any outsiders coming in," he said.

Of course there were far greater issues taken with the essay than beer, burgers and belly-growth blame, namely an anecdote Barry relays about an ugly bar encounter with a group of women. One of the women who said she was there, comedian Allyssa Bujdoso, blasted Barry for his behavior in a Medium post after his essay went viral. Barry said he's certain the run-in happened at a different bar than Bujdoso recounts; and he said he doesn't believe the confrontation involved her. (Meanwhile, Katie Rife, in the A.V. Club, took exception to what she called Barry's "'but what about me?!' undercurrent" to his professed sex-positivity.)

Angry comments poured in, and he said he disabled his Twitter account as a result. But the comments weren't from any women he referenced in his essay, according to Barry. He also said that the native Chicagoans by which he first ran his letter happened to be women, and they said it was fair and evenhanded, he told Chicagoist.

At this point, he's focused on his next chapter, in New York City—where the essay was considered a tempest in a teacup, if it was considered at all, he said. He's crashing with friends, pursuing advertising copywriting gigs, and working on a loosely autobiographical TV pilot—about an out-of-work writer who becomes a "gay-for-pay" escort—and related book.

As for Chicago, Barry said he'll miss our architecture (both its downtown jewels and neighborhood vernacular idiosyncrasies, like spacious, grilling-friendly back porches). And the friends he made. (The perception that he's "angry, sexless and friendless" is false, he added.) Nonetheless, Barry doesn't mind Chicagoans running with the joke at this point. He hopes Revolution even assembles a burger juggernaut that combines all those toppings he ticked off in his "the more, the better" shot at Chicago food culture. That would be cheese, bacon, egg, poutine, fries, onion rings, BBQ sauce, and, of course, corn chips, in case you don't recall.

Yeah, that sounds like overkill, but actually, we wouldn't really mind a taste. And going ahead and making the damn thing sounds just like the kind of cheeky swipe that Chicago would do. Ain't this town great?