Chicago is not a city full of “thugs” or “disrupters.”
Chicago is a very diverse city with a variety of beautiful cultures big and small. Its the city of big shoulders. It’s the city where ketchup on a hot dog is a sin. It’s the city where the pizza is 3+ inches thick. It’s the city where at least once a day you hear someone passing by on the street or on the bus talking about the Cubs, or the Sox, or the Bulls or the Blackhawks. It’s the city where you’re downtown and you look up and the seagulls above are taunting the buildings to reach higher and higher. It’s the city where on those hot, humid summer days you take the bus down Montrose to Montrose Beach. It’s the city where on the worst winter days you still see people making their commute downtown, determined to get from place A to B. It’s the city where twisters are afraid to go, chased off by the Great Lake Michigan. It’s the city where writers and artists alike are inspired, and are encouraged to release their talent into the world. It’s the city where on St. Pat’s weekend the river turns green and everyone celebrates with cheers and (sometimes too much) beer. It’s the city where you know that one corner that has the crepe stand, and those crepes are delicious. It’s the city where on a street of red brick two flats there’s that one tan 4 story apartment building that sticks out like a thorn. It’s the city where a girl can call home.
It’s the city where I grew up, and I am not ashamed of it.
Think of this the next time you watch Trump, CNN, or Fox on your television. Please repost to spread the truth.
HEY SARAH i am sorry that you are feeling bad, DO YOU WANT TO TALK ABOUT YOUR, SAY, TOP 3 FAVORITE PLACES IN CHICAGO & WHY YOU LOVE THEM?
1. UCHICAGO. I know I know, this is cheating, but I’ve lived and worked here for almost four years now and I love it, I love everything about it—the labyrinth of the hospital, the way the buildings on the quad interlace in a network of nondescript hallways and stairwells, each of the cafes and the dark stacks in basement B, the gothic architecture, the brutalist architecture, the futuristic glass-and-steel look that all the newer buildings have—I love the people and the professors and the fact that I’ve been so privileged to be at home here, in this place.
And I love it for teaching me to love Chicago. That too.
(1.5. The Point, which is a small park that juts out into Lake Michigan. You sit on these massive concrete blocks, dangling your feet above the water and watching the sun go down on a chilly November afternoon. Don’t talk much.)
2. THE ART INSTITUTE. This is also sort of cheating because it’s a tourist trap, it’s a museum for god’s sake, but I adore the Art Institute with every fiber of my being. Students get free admission so you just go, and wander around for a little while, talking or not talking, seeing what’s new, revisiting old paintings…it’s one of Chicago’s only museums that I experienced for the first time as an adult, and I think there’s something to seeing it untainted with nostalgia. Like finding a treasure you never expected to be dropped in your hands, instead of revisiting something you thought was precious and finding it’s pyrite.
(2.5. That alleyway I passed every time I walked to work, because every thursday morning like clockwork I saw two people kissing on the fire escape, but they were never the same people.)
3. The CTA. For all its delays, bumpy rides, slow buses, crowded carriages, drunk and inappropriate riders, incomplete coverage, and everything else that characterizes Chicago’s public transportation system, I do love the CTA. It’s frustrating and cheap and human, very human, in that everyone has to wait and everyone has to fit and people give up their seats for old women and young children, and we’re all quiet, in this space together, surrendering privacy and space and personal expression (three things americans are most fond of) in order to all get to the place we’re going. It’s one of the great loci of Chicago, the place where stories converge, and I love it for that.
(3a. There’s this place on the Chicago river, one of those inexplicable sets of cement stairs that lead halfway down and then drop off into the water. I sat there with my friends after La Traviata one night, eating hotdogs and getting relish on my dress, and even in Chicago, the whole world was still and perfect.)
MY CITYYYYYYY OH MY GOD YOU JUST WAIT you will not even believe how much you can love this city <3 <3 <3 (this rain is weird and horribly and glorious, though, isn’t it?)
It’s just so sudden! I’ve been going to school in Chicago for three years now! I’ve worked downtown for two summers! And while I have loved the city (my urban angels thing is partly born of great fondness for Chicago) was the first time I felt such a deep surge of enormous affection for everything it was, for me eating a panini on the steps of Union Station waiting for the bus and the mad search for a Starbucks so I could get some wifi
there’s a Bennigan’s right outside the Art Institute where if you eat a late dinner, you can watch the crowds slowly shift from tourists to people headed out to the clubs and there are tons of little art galleries where they glare at you if you’re wearing a t-shirt but the art is worth the silent judging
or how about this past summer, when I worked on State Street and we got backwash from the Stanley Cup parade but a few weeks later there was a march for Egypt that passed by as I was waiting for the bus and it was mostly families, women in hijabs and niqabs, men with their sons on their shoulders
or how whenever my friend and I have serious shit to discuss we go to this cupcake place on the north side, just before they close, because the day-old cupcakes are two bucks, and so we eat cupcakes and tell each other secrets.
and the bus drivers are either lovely and hilarious (will talk to you about anything or flirt shamelessly) or utterly terrifying; I’ve had cabbies from all over the world, and they all seem to listen to the BBC; you can stand on the edge of the Point and stare out at the grey-torn Lake Michigan and if the wind is really strong the waves will strike against the stone and rear up and then you can go for Thai food at the place with plastic lawn chairs or see an opera or shakespeare or the orchestra or do anything, go anywhere,
preface. the junk stood up into skyscrapers and asked: Who am I? Am I a city?
1.Chicago grows up out of land flat as an act of God; it looms, gleaming up out of the rusting teeth of Gary’s steel mills, split level suburbs that give way to cornfields. An accident of hubris and will, crouching upon many waters.
2. In the summer, the city smells of skin and sweat and metal, stultifying heat where the wind can’t reach. The winter is bitter cold, the metal under your tongue. The sky is all other times, grey.
3. Prior to 1900, the fetid, polluted Chicago River flowed out into Lake Michigan, which supplied Chicago’s drinking water. Rather than stop dumping their waste into the river, the city chose to reverse the river entirely through a system of locks, and send their sewage across the Illinois floodplain to Saint Louis.
When Saint Louis threatened to take out an injunction on the project, the Sanitary District of Chicago did not stop work—but ordered the new canal lock be opened the day before the injunction went into effect.
This is the most Chicago story you will hear, except perhaps for how during Prohibition, Al Capone ran a speakeasy at the top of 35 East Wacker. It was one of the mayor’s favorite retreats.
Chicago has always taken a certain pride in being crooked (coarse and strong and cunning)
interlude. The metaphors for Chicago are all unlovely—broken noses and heavy-shouldered laughter, cagework smiles and coalsmoke hair. In metaphor, Chicago is skin-stitched scars and wicked, shifting, junkheap given name. Iron born of fire and hands to the making.
4. Chicago is divided by rivers and then again by less visible battle lines—class and culture and color, scored deeply into its streets and the shifting geography of its neighborhoods. Chicago loves its own crooked, daring myth, but even a city feels shame.
5.There is a stillness you can find only in the heart of the loop at ten-thirty at night, when the passersby lower their voices as though suddenly stepping into a cathedral. The only sound is a dim humming of streetlamp daylight and the quiet whisk of taxis, occasional strains of saxophone drifting up from an underground El station.
The city is not sleeping, so much as you have caught it between heartbeats.
coda. Come clean with me, come clean or dirty, I am stone and steel of your sleeping numbers; I remember all you forget. I will die as many times as you make me over again.
HOG Butcher for the World, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler; Stormy, husky, brawling, City of the Big Shoulders:
They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I have seen your painted women under the gas lamps luring the farm boys. And they tell me you are crooked and I answer: Yes, it is true I have seen the gunman kill and go free to kill again. And they tell me you are brutal and my reply is: On the faces of women and children I have seen the marks of wanton hunger. And having answered so I turn once more to those who sneer at this my city, and I give them back the sneer and say to them: Come and show me another city with lifted head singing so proud to be alive and coarse and strong and cunning. Flinging magnetic curses amid the toil of piling job on job, here is a tall bold slugger set vivid against the little soft cities;
Fierce as a dog with tongue lapping for action, cunning as a savage pitted against the wilderness, Bareheaded, Shoveling, Wrecking, Planning, Building, breaking, rebuilding, Under the smoke, dust all over his mouth, laughing with white teeth, Under the terrible burden of destiny laughing as a young man laughs, Laughing even as an ignorant fighter laughs who has never lost a battle, Bragging and laughing that under his wrist is the pulse. and under his ribs the heart of the people, Laughing! Laughing the stormy, husky, brawling laughter of Youth, half-naked, sweating, proud to be Hog Butcher, Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat, Player with Railroads and Freight Handler to the Nation.
ME: chicago is terrible ulta-segregated dearth of resources police violence all our politicians are corrupt the city’s gridlocked illinois doesn’t know what the hell it’s doing we haven’t had a state budget for over nine months no sunlight high cost of living etc
SOMEONE NOT FROM CHICAGO: lol yeah you’ll probably head somewhere else after law school right
ME: …….no I’m literally never leaving you’ll have to pry my bones out of the 606 zip code
I think of all the writers I am most jealous of, Carl Sandburg is the one I most strive to emulate. Because Carl Sandburg is angry about poverty and he’s angry about cities and yes his poetry is a little bit brutalist and uncomplicated, but he likes Chicago and he likes people, and there’s a kind of determined forging in what he writes, a hopefulness the endures despite death and labor and inequality and a lack of air, because people endure, and he likes them.
carl sandburg writes things like “There was light in his eyes of one who has conquered sorrow in so far as sorrow is conquerable or worth conquering"
I hate Chicago in the summer Chicago in the summer is hot and crowded and loud and everyone smells like skin and the subways stink of bodies and metal and I hate it so much but also Chicago in the summer is more alive than any place I’ve ever been everyone laughs louder everyone talks louder everyone seems more awake there’s music everywhere in the summer, people bump into each other (and apologize, Chicago is still midwestern, if only in slant ways it doesn’t like to admit to)
Chicago is real in the summer it becomes riotous, overtaxed, crowded, teeming, and I hate it so much but at the same time it’s perfect, it becomes most itself when the lake looks plasticine and the air is heavy and there are people crowded on their front steps, lazing in the sun.
it is almost 6am in Chicago and I have not slept in almost twenty-four hours but I have a not-inconsiderable amount of tequila and beer in me I hung out with people who agreed we are all not very secretly pedantic shits I sat on a bus with a lady who recited a very dirty poem about Mayor Daley now I’m sitting naked in bed listening to lots of celtic woman and figuring out what I’m going to do with my month off
I feel so good this is good everything is quiet and bright beneath the street lights stupid hopeful city of the big shoulders I love you
i was in the 'city of big shoulders' tag and i saw your answer about chicago below. it occurs to be that the city was built on swampland, and the buildings kept sinking into the muck. perhaps chicago below would be populated by the ones who got stuck?
I mean, there’s a couple problems with that. First, by the time Chicago was turned into a proper city (19th century, at the earliest), they mostly knew how to build things that didn’t sink. The only example of a disastrous sinking I know is the Monadnock building—and that’s one of the tallest steel-frame skyscrapers ever built, it sank 2 inches in 80 years. Hardly a sinkhole situation.
(Monadnock is also notable for being one of the first renovated skyscrapers. Before then, when a skyscraper was falling into disrepair, they just assumed that there was nothing to be done, and demolished it. I was serious when I said Chicago burns itself clean every few years.)
Second, Chicago is actually more prone to flooding than sinking. We’re built on a flat floodplain, with soil that doesn’t really absorb water. So for many many years, Chicago was muddy as hell and drainage was a nightmare, since the dirty streets didn’t slope to anything. (There also wasn’t any room to build sewage tunnels in. Chicago is so unbelievably flat, guys.) So in the 1850s, the city of Chicago undertook a major project to raise the level of the streets.
Chicago today is at 4-5 feet higher than it was previously (in some places, it was raised to 8 feet.) But they filled in the spaces, there’s no hidden crawlspace under the city. [source]
The closest you get to a “Chicago below” is the network of service, sewage, and CTC tunnels, as well as the pedways—but those are all 20th century or newer. Hardly an ancient labyrinthine complex.