Andy Frye book

My author friend Jeff Winkowski is your classic Wisconsinite. He loves Old Style beer, cheese curds and the Green Bay Packers, and he won’t shut up about NBA champions, the Milwaukee Bucks. Recently he said how fond he was of his time living in Chicago (and I’m paraphrasing): “Chicago was 10 years of summer days, hanging out at record stores, watching Bulls games, playing music and being ‘I’m-more-punk-than-you’ with my frenemies.”

Jeff was talking about being young, soaking up the local culture and being part of it, too. Music, sports, friends and a Midwestern twenty-something experience that thousands anticipate upon arriving each summer.

Even though I grew up on the East Coast, I easily ditched any ideas about moving to New York City post-college, landing in Chicago, June 1994, and spending my first night at the unglamorous Lawson YMCA, before bunking at Northwestern’s empty grad school dorms that summer. From my first Chicago moments, I was sucked in.

Never mind that Michael Jordan was swinging bats down in Alabama and that soon the Cubs and White Sox would be on strike. My first day here, I saw the Sox win at Comiskey, as Frank Thomas hit back-to-back homers.

I spied—perhaps Michael Sneed-style—Roger Ebert strolling Michigan Avenue, before peeking into Magnificent Mile art galleries. I noshed deep-dish at Gino’s East, to observe the graffiti and because friends said I just had to go. Within weeks, I’d biked Chicago, been to blues bars and started to feel like a native—even if I was still a tourist. Then my first prospects—both for jobs and dates—fell through. But, Chicago had already sucked me in. In a good way.

It’s why I’ve spent 25 years here, and the last five years crafting what I hope is the quintessential Chicago novel, “Ninety Days In The 90s.” The story is basically: Out-of-towner meets quirky locals and gets tips on where to go to enjoy nightlife and Old Chicago. Even better, the CTA has a train line that goes back in time. (It’s called the Gray Line. You didn’t know?)

Whether or not you care about Chicago history, traditions or its sports, love the Weiners Circle or are more of a Chicago Cut type, there’s something for everyone. Unlike other big cities, with their gridlock and insular ways, Chicago, more than anywhere, invites everyone to become a local. Now as someone who is a local, it’s got me doing the same.

Andy Frye writes about sports for Forbes, and has written for ESPN Chicago and Red Eye. His debut novel “Ninety Days In The 90s: A Rock N Roll Time Travel Story” comes out next month.

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