Dan Boyle: My Kind Of Town


From top: the author as a six-year-old cowboy fan in Chicago, Illinois; Dan Boyle

I must have been five or six years old. My  mother had sent me to my room for having committed some transgression. I was filled with childish fury at the injustice that had been done to me. 

My infantile mind searched for a comeback, finding a word I knew would annoy my Mom. I didn’t know what the word meant, but I did know that by saying it I would get a reaction. It was the N word. Each time she would pass my bedroom door I would open it to bellow my new found mantra.

Living then in Chicago, saw me pick up more than my share of bad habits. At eight years of age, along with other friends, we broke into a neighbour’s house just because we could. 

Living near a open rail line, and hanging off passing trucks, were every day hazards that made my Mother want to move the family to Ireland.

I’ve only returned to Chicago a couple of times. On the first occasion I stayed with friends of my family. They were very kind, and very generous. 

When I expressed a desire to visit my old family home, they became somewhat circumspect. It was dangerous to go there, they claimed, as it now had become a black neighbourhood.

We eventually agreed to drive through the area. What I could see, but what they couldn’t, was that the area had physically improved. What had been a working class Irish American community was now a middle class African American community.

The second time I visited I went on my own, on foot. From the city centre I took the L Line railway system, getting off at the 2nd last stop. I then took a bus for about 14 blocks (a block being about a quarter of a kilometre), walking the the last four blocks.

I found the house pretty easily, the gridiron system being a boon to the easily confused. On the porch sat an African American women. From the sidewalk I preceded to have a surreal conversation with her. “I used to live here” I said. The returned Yank in reverse. She may still look on that encounter with some puzzlement.

Chicago has not had the best of times since then. Violent deaths have been commonplace in the city. Donald Trump highlighted this and made the city an exemplar of all that was wrong with Obama’s America.

In true Trump fashion, his tirades against the city were somewhat lacking in truth. The appalling number of deaths were far from being the worst in the US, and the trend had already begun to fall. 

Trump’s taunts did have an effect, outside of the city, in the rest of the  country. It was calculated at undermining Obama, and by extension Hillary Clinton.

Prior to his becoming a State Senator, quickly followed by being elected to the US Senate, Obama had worked a lot in the Chicago Projects, in those parts of the city where poverty and attendant social problems were most concentrated.

Hillary Clinton also came from Illinois. The two of us were born in the same hospital in Chicago, although not at the same time.

I hope someday to visit Chicago again. It is a great city. Home of The Blues. A great food culture. Brilliant museums and galleries. It’s part of who I am and who I want to be. 

I don’t know when I’ll get to visit, hopefully soon. Hopefully at a time when The Great Moron is no longer casting his malevolence there.

Dan Boyle is a former Green Party TD and Senator. His column appears here every Thursday. Follow Dan on Twitter: @sendboyle

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13 thoughts on “Dan Boyle: My Kind Of Town

  1. johnny

    Hi Dan,perhaps by then Irelands National Asset Management Agency (NAMA)will no longer be in court or mired in allegations of bribery and dirty deals,but unlikely given yet another private PAC hearing yesterday on Project Eagle-NI loan book.
    Ireland’s Garrett Kelleher is currently involved in litigation over what would have been the most expensive,profitable and impressive building ever built by a Irishman,certainly in Chicago and America-The Spire.
    Its a long draw out saga,involving Anglo (IRBC) and NAMA,the loans were given away,sorry sold to Related for some beads and a few bottles of whiskey.
    This is a decent summary of the current litigation,including the filling.

    “NAMA and an affiliate, National Asset Loan Management, mishandled the process of disposing of the $92.5 million debt on the Spire, shortchanging Irish taxpayers of about $57 million, according to the 60-page lawsuit, which was filed today in U.S. District Court in Chicago.”


  2. Cu Cullan

    Yes, they do say that the very pious Mr. Kelleher has the most expensive hole in Ireland..

    1. Johny

      It’s in Chicago no need be such a self loathing cliche-hey kid look at that an irishman built it !

  3. Topsy

    When you mention ‘the great moron’ are you referring to yourself. After all it was you who came here to Ireland and cast your ‘malevolence’ here in Ireland along with your FF colleagues. To put it briefly- you have a neck like the proverbial jockey’s bol#!@.

    1. rotide

      ” hazards that made my Mother want to move the family to Ireland.”

      Can you even read english?

  4. Termagant

    What’s the point here? Is someone receiving kickbacks from the Chicago chamber of tourism?

  5. johnny

    If Garrett had stayed in America he’d probably be running the joint,he’s certainly a much more talented and gifted developer than the one currently in charge.His story epitomizes the American Dream (no not Dan’s rather sorry tale :)),he’s whats know as the quintessential Horatio Alger character,started with a ladder and a paint brush fixing up old houses in crap hoods.Parlayed that all the way and damn close to building what would have been a world class iconic award winning building,then along came NAMA !

    But what was he thinking,huh the dumb paddy should have stayed driving a beat up pick up,painting fixing up gaffs in the hood-the cheek of him-had it coming……..

    NAMA literally gave this away to Stephen Ross,Related Companies,so instead the young wan’s and young fella’s from Ireland serving fat yanks in the bars,restaurants off Chicago proudly pointing to The Spire,the kids coming home from yeshiva school can say shalom NAMA.
    Ross-ain’t no angel,its not required that you like developers/builders its not a popularity contest.


  6. DaithiG

    Chicago is a lovely city, some poo-y areas to be fair, around downtown is really nice. Down around Hyde Park is supposed to be the infamous South Side, but it’s safe, and very pretty.
    Also, to me, I think Millennium Park is nicer than Central Park in NY.

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