Wednesday, January 20, 2021
Jan. 20, 2021

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Say ‘hey’ to a reporter today

By , Columbian Editor
3 Photos
Lou Brancaccio
Lou Brancaccio Photo Gallery

CHICAGO — If you like big cities, cutting through Chi-Town is a lot like being a butcher at the stockyards: You never quite know where to put the knife first.

I try to slice into an Italian beef sandwich — heavy on the giardiniera — then a couple of double cheeseburgers at the White Castle.

But there is so much to see and do. I’m always taken aback by its offerings.

I was in The City of the Big Shoulders this week primarily to see our daughter, Danni, graduate from Northwestern. (Yea!) She also landed a job in Chicago, so I suspect we’ll be back.

Graduation aside, I love hanging here.

This trip I made a point of going by the Trump Tower. It’s the second-tallest building in the United States. It’s a gorgeous structure. And interestingly to me, it was built on the land that used to be the home of the Sun-Times.

So I found the contrast of the new Trump Tower and the grittiness of the old Sun-Times building to be … delicious.

If you really want to get to know a city, pick up the newspaper. In this place you have two choices: the Times and the Tribune. I love the Tribune, but it has more of a suburban feel to it. The Times more reflects the blue-collar work ethic of this place.

While we were there, for example, the Times mapped out the 50 or so shootings that had taken place in the city in the last few days. Sobering, depressing, ghastly, yes. But honest.

Not far from the Trump Tower sits the Billy Goat Tavern. You won’t find it if you’re walking along one of Chicago’s main streets, Michigan Avenue.

It’s under the street. No kidding.

The Goat is a media hangout, so I always go by to pay my respects. When the famous newspaper columnist Mike Royko was alive, you would often find him here, holding court. Back in the day, if you didn’t agree with a column he had written, he’d try to convince you with a compelling argument.

If that didn’t work, he’d convince you with a compelling right hook. Many a man has been knocked off his stool here by Royko. He went down himself a few times, as well.

The place also is famous because:

• The owner of the joint tried to bring his pet goat into Wrigley Field during the 1945 World Series. The Cubs refused the goat entry, even though it had a ticket. When the owner asked why, the Cubs representative said, “Because the goat stinks.”

The owner promptly put a curse on the Cubs and said they would never win another World Series. And when the Cubs lost the ’45 World Series, the Cubs’ owner got this letter from Mr. Billy Goat:

“Who stinks now?”

• In 1978, “Saturday Night Live’s” John Belushi (who used to hang out at the Goat in his Chicago days) made it famous with his “Cheezborger, Cheezborger, Cheezborger, no fries, cheeps!” skit.

Belushi loved to go to Billy Goats because he loved journalists. Me too! So if you see one today, say “hey.”

Lou Brancaccio is The Columbian’s editor. Reach him at 360-735-4505 or