Where are you from, and why there?
I was born in Syracuse, N.Y. I lived there only a couple years, then moved to Buffalo through Kindergarten, then Pittsburgh through junior high school, then Chicago through college. Actually, it was the same bedroom suburban community in all four cases, just increasingly far away from downtown as the cities got bigger. My father worked in coal traffic for the Pennsylvania Railroad, then the Penn Central, then Conrail. Back then, really before containerized shipping, freight rail moved two things, coal and everything else. The railroads kept failing, but Dad kept getting promoted, ending up retiring as Coal Sales Manager in Chicago. My mother died of stomach cancer when I was about 13, just after we moved to Chicago. I’m an only child, so Dad had to figure out single parenting in a hurry. His basic message was do what you want, but don’t screw up. I was very good at the former and not too bad at the latter. My senior year in high school, I managed to get myself elected to a three-year term on the school board. We had about 8,000 students in four high schools, which I mention not only because it’s a little-known cool fact about me, but also because it dictated my decision to go to college somewhere nearby. My very smart, sweet, and pretty high school girlfriend was going to Northwestern, which I thought might be a little too close to her for me, so I decided to go to the University of Chicago. Continue reading