August 11, 2009

GENIUS:

"Flight of the Conchords" versus a real New Zealand Consulate: But, no, the Conchords aren't there; however, there are some similarities ( Christopher Borrelli, August 11, 2009, Chicago Tribune)

What we found will startle you.

We found Ed Burkhardt.

He is 70, and a very pleasant man, born in Queens, N.Y., a longtime resident of Kenilworth, a former police commissioner of Kenilworth, holed up in a spotless modern office tower (sans wood paneling) in the northwest corner of Chicago, blocks from Rosemont, miles from downtown. And so, yes, Chicago's New Zealand Consulate resides at the nerd table.

The British Consulate is in the Wrigley Building. The Canadian Consulate is across from Millennium Park. The Romanian Consulate is on Michigan Avenue. Even the Netherlands Consulate (on East Wacker) is within walking distance of a Starbucks. Indeed, there are almost 60 international consulates in Chicago, and nearly every one of them is downtown. All except Burkhardt -- who runs Chicago's New Zealand Consulate, which is in the same building as the world headquarters for True Value hardware.

Burkhardt is a droll character, with a broad laugh and a long face. When we asked about perks, he shrugged. You should see the entertainment budget they've got over at the Australian Consulate, he said. "I can probably expense a Coke from the machine, but that's about it." He wasn't entirely joking. If there are similarities between Chicago's New Zealand Consulate and New York's New Zealand Consulate as portrayed on "Flight of the Conchords" -- the Soviet-looking consulate facade seen on the show is actually the facade of the East Broadway Medical Association -- the primary one would be this general lack of international pomp and circumstance.

But there are other similarities -- eerie similarities.

"I hope the idiocy part of the similarities doesn't wash," Burkhardt said when we explained why we were there.

It doesn't wash. Still, incredibly, just as Murray manages a band some of the time and works at the New Zealand Consulate some of the time, Burkhardt spends a small part of his time as the honorary New Zealand consul for Chicago and the rest of his day managing a business.

Posted by Orrin Judd at August 11, 2009 11:50 AM
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