Question: Who are you?
Tom Stewart: I’m tempted to say I’m an American, Chicago-born … said that better. I was born in Chicago. I’m a classic boomer, you know, sort of background. I was born in 1948. When we were six …When I was six years old … I was the second child of what became four. But when I was six, we joined the great American Diaspora to the suburbs. I was born in and around the University of Chicago. We moved … we moved to the suburbs. I had a fairly classic, suburban 50s upbringing with, you know, Boy Scouts and … and … and … and the desire to do the right thing and get to the right college, and so on and so forth. I like to say that because of the way I grew up outside of Chicago, I knew all of that great city’s museums and none of its bars.
When I was a junior, my father and I made this sort of the … the trip east to look at colleges. And we started at Oberlin and we started working our way east from Oberlin to Williams to Amherst … and came into Cambridge, Massachusetts on a March day when it was slushy and gray. And, you know, there were these streets that were not perpendicular and this dirty slush and buses. And we joined a friend of mine – who was a freshman at Harvard – for dinner and went to a place that still exists called Bartley’s Burger Cottage. And there, sitting down the … you know, four or five tables away, smoking a cigarette, was a woman in a dark top and a light skirt which was the shortest miniskirt I had theretofore seen in my life. And at that point I was set. You know, I wanted to be in the east, and … and be at Harvard and be a city kid. And really in a sense, in a funny way, that was the … I did get into Harvard. I was lucky enough to do that. But the transforming thing was … was that image of cities. Having had a, you know, a city childhood – I mean an early childhood – and then a suburban, middle childhood, that was the moment when I realized cities turned me on in every possible way.
Recorded on: 6/22/07