‘So Chicago’: Sentimental to silly in an Internet moment

Written By By ADRIENNE SAMUELS GIBBS Staff Reporter Posted: 07/25/2014, 06:36pm
Array Barry Levy, former longtime president of Moo & Oink with some Moo & Oink memorabilia. This is from one of their ads. Thursday, November 10, 2011 | Brian Jackson~ Sun-Times

Facebook recently was taken over by local love notes of Chi-town nostalgia.

Someone made a post, jokingly, that he was “sooooo Chicago” he had a paper bus pass. Another person joked that she was “sooooo Chicago” she remembered when the “L” stopped at 63rd Street. Then, over subsequent days, an Internet-savvy group of Chicagoans tried to outdo each other’s Chicagoness.

The best of what I saw was posted by Elemuel Williams, 39, who grew up in Parkway Gardens, South Shore and Englewood: “I’m so Chicago I remember coping that CTA Super Transfer on Sunday.”

Williams made that status update because, as a kid, having a bus pass was like owning one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets; those crumbly paper passes offered a way to freely travel about. “What made me think about the super transfer was simply the trend of Chicagoans reminiscing about the various elements that make the inner city of Chicago so unique,” he said.

One gal was “So Chicago” she remembered when the South Loop was the ghetto and when Fun Town amusement park was open on 95th and Stony Island.

Memories of the long-ago days of ’90s dance troupe House-o-Matic, the poets Richard Wright and Gwendolyn Brooks, Chess Records and now-defunct R&B and soul radio station WBMX took center stage. Then, sometime between Monday and Wednesday, three separate “I’m So Chicago” fan pages popped up.

“It was entertaining and it enabled me to just talk about my experiences in a comical way,” said Charlie Bonds, 39, of Hyde Park. “I’m so Chicago I went to all three locations of Moo and Oink! I don’t always jump on these bandwagons, but everybody else was doing it and then things got out of hand.”

In other words, the shenanigans began. One lady described herself as “so Chicago” because she grew up on 79th Street. Another was “so Chicago” because he “didn’t eat Uncle Reese’s chicken, but preferred Harold’s.” People started paying homage to things that weren’t really Chicago at all. And then Charlotte, North Carolina, jumped in. And Detroit. And Boston. And Twitter. And by week’s end, “I’m So . . . ” wasn’t just Chicago, it was everywhere.

There’s no official word on the origins of the idea, but knowyourmeme.com says it started in 2009 with a Twitter user who kicked things off with #imsomemphis. On July 17, the “I’m So” category was added to the Urban Dictionary. But last week was the first time in recent memory that the hashtag or meme was reactivated in the Chicago area on a large scale. There were hundreds of variants on Facebook and Twitter.

Much of it was boastful. A fair bit of it was silly, especially when people started breaking down the locations of hypes, con men, loose square sales, old principals, defunct churches and ice cream trucks. “It’s stupid and it’s the Internet,” said Andrew Emil, of Bucktown.

But for some, it did take a serious turn. Emil was robbed, and he says he’s Chicago because of it.

But most of what was posted was positive, especially regarding the 40+ set.

Perhaps many are reaching back to simpler times because current times are difficult to process.

So now this: memories of good times. When radio talk show host Warren Ballentine brings up the Chi, he brings up something most people can relate to with a smile: “I’m so Chicago I used to hit rainbow Friday the rink on Saturday and glennwood on Sunday then to the 50 yard line to step,” he tweeted.

Ballentine’s not alone. Sounds like home to me.

Email: agibbs@suntimes.com

Twitter: @AdrienneWrites

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