Matt grew up on the South Side of Chicago along the edge of the city’s industrial belt. Oceanbound ships sailed out of the nearby Port of Chicago, freight trains rumbled past his elementary school, and at night the sky glowed orange as molten steel was poured at the mills. But he found nature too. Lake Michigan was a mile away and he and his friends would ride their bikes to catch frogs and snakes at what they dubbed The Swamps, the surviving wetlands that edged the community.
With the neighborhood in steep decline, Matt’s family moved to Chicago’s far North Side. So he learned something about how communities change and how even two neighborhoods in one city can be so different. About having to learn a place from the ground up.
The idea of place is central to his writing, whether in travel pieces, environmental articles, or features on individuals and communities. Matt’s writing balances the joy of discovering new destinations with the depth and understanding that can only come through repeat visits to the many places he has come to know. You can’t see the whole world. But sometimes by hiking the same trail in different years and different seasons or by returning to neighborhoods and cities, what emerges is a perspective that combines an insider’s knowledge with an outsider’s appreciation.