Are you a big juice guy?
I don’t know about a big juice guy but I don’t do any carbonated beverages.
It’s refreshing to drink something healthy instead of having a beer.
No, no I don’t do beer at all. It all looks really good here.
What are you going to go with?
Something with ginger, I really like ginger. Let me try the Cherry Moon [smoothie] for now and then I’m going to get the Life Support [juice] to-go so I can drink it before my race tomorrow.
We won’t be asking any Obamacare questions, not sure if that’s a nice change for you or not.
It could be prep for Sunday! I have to do [NBC’s] “Meet the Press”.
Paint the scene of Thanksgiving day with the Emanuels. Are you watching football?
Everyone gets together. This year it’s in Chicago but each brother hosts in succession, we rotate cities. Last year it was Washington and next year it will be L.A. There will be some people who watch football, not me, but Ari’s kids typically watch football.
Of the actual meal? Good question. I like the turkey but I’m actually a big dessert guy. I spend a lot of time cooking desserts. I may make an apple pie.,I love to bake. Apple pies, apple crisps, linzer torte [pastries].
With the first day of Hanukkah falling on Thanksgiving, will you be integrating the holiday into your festivities?
I don’t think there is going to be a big Hanukkah celebration but I do have some Hanukkah gifts for my children. This is traditionally Rahm’s birthday and one of Ari’s children’s birthdays fall during this period so we do a little birthday shtick.
Seems like there is healthy competition between you and your brothers. Is there ever any jealousy?
That’s an interesting question. I don’t think I have that emotion with them. I mean, I was going to say I feel incredibly privileged in my life and I have a long list of things I’d like to do and places to go so they’ve taken some trips I would have liked to take. Rahm and his family went to Patagonia a couple of years ago, that sounds like a fantastic trip. I’ve never been to Patagonia so that sounds like something cool.
You have three daughters in their twenties, what’s the difference between three brothers fighting and three sisters having it out?
Oh, they’re much calmer! Much calmer.
Have they decided on their career paths?
I can say one thing very, very definitively; not medicine. Zero for three. One is in business school, one is working for NPR and one is going to become an economist.
What did you get most from writing “Brothers Emanuel: A Memoir of an American Family”?
It was very helpful in sorting out things about growing up so it made sense of things. In that sense it was useful and I’m very glad that the kids and the grandkids can have it as a memory.
How did your personal memoir come to be?
I had been writing down and thinking about recording stories for my kids and had written down a list of stories that I had wanted to tell them. One of Ari’s agents came up with the idea [to make it a book] and Ari negotiated the deal.
How did your family initially react?
Everyone hated the idea of exposing the family. [They thought they] were going to be embarrassed or they didn’t want to be out there like that but there were two things which I think made a difference. One, this is less so but there was someone who wanted to do an unauthorized profile so we killed that by doing the authorized one. And I think the second thing is when the family looked at it and read it people were calmed by the fact that it was good and there was no kiss-and-tell and none of the kids appear in the story.
You’ve stated that you don’t own a TV. So no “Homeland” or “Breaking Bad”?
I haven’t had a TV since I left home for college. I’ve never seen “Breaking Bad”, I’ve never seen “Homeland”. I couldn’t even tell you who’s in any of them. I have seen one episode of “Entourage” and Larry David sent me like the third or fourth season of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” because he was so incensed that I hadn’t seen them so I have watched part of that but otherwise I have no compulsion.
What about movies?
I see movies, yes.
Last movie you saw?
The last movie I saw was “Enough Said”. We’re going to see “Blue Is the Warmest Color”, that’s on the list to be seen. I also saw one of the old classics “The Bicycle Thieves” on a flight to China and back. I recently watched “Cool Hand Luke” again, I’ve seen that about 10 times. That was such a great movie.
Last thing you did for fun?
I’ll tell you what I’m going to do just for fun. In January I’m taking a week to go see the whales near Puerto Vallarta. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do. In May Rahm and I and a couple of other guys from Chicago went fly fishing for fun out in the Missouri River in Montana. Fly fishing is great.
Do you get up before dawn like your brothers do?
No, I am not an early riser. I sort of have an internal clock that gets me up at six or seven but I’m not a super early riser. Ari is a super early riser. Ari is crazy! I tried my first year in college to get up at four to do the reading for classes but it never worked. I have no inclination to be an early bird. I do have a routine and when I can get into it it’s extremely productive but it doesn’t include early rising.
You’ve talked about the importance of failure. Can you share a recent event where you were reminded of this?
We just had an episode in my family with one of my daughters. She didn’t do well on a test and then she became super focused and—bang, bang, bang—she repeatedly hit things out of the park. It was important to have that failure for her to focus the energy and attention differently.
Can you share one of the questions you didn’t appreciate that didn’t make it to air that Brian Williams asked during his controversial interview with you, Ari and Rahm?
I don’t know what made the air. Most of that wasn’t directed at me, it was directed at Ari I think and I don’t quite understand that Hollywood business.
Who is someone you’d like the chance to debate with?
I’d like to go up against Paul Ryan. We might have an agreement in that I’m very worried about the national debt like he is but on health care we disagree.
In your opinion, what is the best thing about the city of Chicago?
Last time I was in Chicago was early September and I loved getting the bikes. I was staying downtown on Michigan Avenue and I peddled to where we used to live right near Fullerton along the lake shore. It’s a great ride, I love it.
Restaurant you always make sure to visit while you’re in town?
The absolute best meal I have ever had in my life was at Alinea. Just an outstanding, phenomenal, incredible place. It was about a four-and-a-half hour meal. It’s like an opera around food, it was a show and the food was phenomenal.
If you could have a drink with anyone, who would it be?
Oh my God, you have to warn me about these questions! If I could have a drink with anyone? You know, I don’t know if there is anyone alive who I’m dying to have a drink with. I think it might have been incredibly cool to have a drink with Winston Churchill at the height of his life. The guy is unbelievable facile with the English language, he could hold his drink pretty well! Another person would be a guy named Immanuel Kant, one of the greatest philosophers. Apparently he had dinner parties that were very, very cool.
Let’s see how well you know your brother Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Who do you think he said he wanted to have a drink with?
That’s a good question. We read and trade history books a lot so it might have been someone like Martin Luther King. He was on my list too, I think he would have been fascinating to talk to.
It was Abraham Lincoln.
You know, I was thinking about saying him too! That’s interesting, Abe Lincoln. I had thought about that and passed that one over.
Photography by Neal Agustin
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