My Sweet Home Chicago: Mary-Margaret McSweene
Name: Mary-Margaret McSweene
Hometown: Born in Bayonne, NJ and raised in Indianapolis, IN
How long have you lived in Chicago?
What neighborhood do you call home? Why did you decide this was the right place for you?
What brought you to Chicago? What keeps you here?
What’s your favorite free (or super cheap) activity in Chicago?
My boyfriend, the talented UPChicago staff writer Phil Kranyak and I, spend a lot of our time exploring. We take full advantage of the libraries in the city, visit neighborhoods we haven’t seen before… and, having people over. That doesn’t sound very Chicago-specific, but let me explain. This is a great city full of super interesting humans. Making friends here was not difficult. There are just too many wonderful people!
Favorite off-the-beaten path spot:
When I lived in Lincoln Square, I was walking down my tiny street one day and thought to poke around in the trees at the dead-end of my block. To my surprise, I found myself standing toe-to-toe with a branch of the Chicago River! I mentioned my discovery to my landlady, who answered with pride that she had owned the two-flat we lived in for thirty years and that she had a hand in the efforts to keep that part of the river clean. Though it was hidden and there wasn’t really a place to sit, and the river was very thin at that part, it was wonderful to know how close I was to such a vital part of my city and that if I walked close enough to it and listened hard enough, I could hear it trickling.
Favorite deep dish locale:
I don’t meet many pizzas I don’t like. But, I think I’ll have to go with Chicago’s Pizza. I used to live within walking distance of Chicago’s on Montrose and Giordano’s on Damen. Giordano’s was probably just as good, but that location didn’t serve alcohol. So, Chicago’s usually won.
Favorite local store or restaurant:
I absolutely adore Dib Sushi and Thai in Uptown. Their delivery driver knows me, I’m pretty sure of it. But do yourself a favor and eat in their dining room. Great service and cute décor.
Favorite local celebrity or the one you want to meet most:
Dan Savage, the sex advice columnist and GLBT advocate. I would love to work with him on his activist efforts.
I have a soft spot for my first address in Chicago, the 700 block of South Federal Street. It’s downtown in the South Loop, Printer’s Row area, but it’s far enough removed from State and Michigan that it’s very calm.
Silliest thing you’ve noticed about Chicagoans:
I always used to tease the first group of lifelong Chicagoans I ever met because when they would need someone to repeat something, they wouldn’t say, “What?” but “What happened?” Nothing happened. Calm down. I just want you to pass me the die so I can continue to kick your ass in Scattergories.
Advice you would give to someone moving to Chicago?
Unless your job necessitates it, try to do it without a car. Nothing makes you feel like you live in the city like relying on transit 100%. Also, parking can be a nightmare. Going along with the first, my second piece of advice is to buy one of those granny shopping carts. That sale on canned goods seems great until you have to walk it home and up the stairs to your fourth floor apartment.
Advice you would give to someone visiting Chicago?
Drive, or take the bus, up Lake Shore Drive. It’s beautiful, and cheap! The L is also a cheap and beautiful way to simply city-gaze. During my undergrad years I would often just ride the brown line if I had a couple hours between classes, and study on the train. I loved it.
If you were gone for 5 years and came back, what’s the first thing you would do?
Build a time machine that took me back to the moment I decided to leave Chicago, and make a different choice!