Entrance interview: Rahm Emanuel
The incoming mayor shares his plans to improve summer music festivals, fight food deserts and more.
“It’s breakfast, man,” Emanuel interjects as I hem and haw. “It only comes in a couple options!” He goes for a bowl of berries, a banana and two scrambled eggs. I follow the leader and ask for a couple of scrambled eggs.
“Don’t you want something else with your eggs?” he asks, staring me down through the raccoonlike circles that frame his eyes.
“Maybe I’ll have some of your berries.”
“You don’t share your berries?”
“No. I share my berries with my kid [son, Zach, 14, and daughters Ilana, 12, and Leah, 11]. You’re not my kid.”
Berry-blocked. So it goes with Emanuel, who talks Micro-Machines-man fast, and without apology. If you can’t keep up, if you can’t pick up what he’s putting down about reforms and changes and improvements—hell, if you don’t immediately know what you want for breakfast—too frickin’ bad.
“With all these new aldermen,” Emanuel says to my first question about how he feels the City Council has shaped up, “they have to understand: This is a big responsibility. You just can’t come play. You’ve gotta work and make choices—and there are hard choices here. Easy choices are gone. Nothing ahead of us is easy. It’s all hard.”
After precisely 30 high-octane minutes of conversation, Emanuel is definitively done. As he poses for a final photo, there’s no time for one more question. “Didn’t you think this interview was over?” he asks, forcefully patting my back. “I gotta go,” he adds, heading back to the SUV. “I got work to do.” And that’s coming from a man who isn’t even mayor yet.
When you were in Washington, you used to call people like the New York Times’ David Brooks and say, “Here’s what’s up.” So, what scoop do you have for us today?
That I saw a great band on Saturday night. I went to Piece to watch a game. It’s got a lot of TVs and great pizza. And great options on beer. A couple guys came by and said, “You gotta come see this band!” Black Joe Lewis and the Honeybears from Austin, Texas.
Seems like the culture vulture in you has come out in full force again since the election ended.
There was a five-month hiatus during the election that I was in a cultural wasteland. I was with T.S. Eliot. [Laughs] I went to Giordano Jazz Dance Company the other night at the Harris Theater. That is a fabulous dance space. I saw [Nan] Giordano’s dance piece Taal, an Indian dance piece—spectacular. Really beautiful. I’ve been to A Twist of Water [at Lakeview’s Theater Wit] and three different music venues for shows since that time. My wife and I, for five years in a row, have gone to Utah for the Sundance indie film festival. I think everything [Chicago does]—whether I’m at Double Door or, the other day, I was at the Chicago Theatre—is spectacular. I can go on for hours about this.