I was in Chicago (The City of Big Shoulders, The City That Eats, The Windy Apple) last weekend to attend the Pitchfork Music Festival, as well as visit my friends Josh and Alex. Gaby tagged along because she heard that you get an LOL Cats sticker with a deep dish pizza at Giordano's. That turned out not to be true.
I consider myself pretty well-traveled, but changes of scenery are always eye-opening to me. Hell, even driving to the airport is a bit strange. Here is a whole stretch of run-down Brooklyn and Queens that I never, ever see except when I'm flying out of JFK. Who knows what kind of interesting stories are hiding in the rowhouses and shitty bodegas flying by? I guess what I'm saying is that when one is confined to a certain corner of the universe, it's hard to imagine most of the human race getting up for work every morning, working at job all day, doing whatever it is they do for fun, and going to bed. In a somewhat related story, there's a lot I don't understand about the concept of celbrity. But that's another post for another time.
Chicago itself is a city hard not to like--it's friendly, has great, innovative architecture (excuse me, starchitecture), and is adjacent to scenic Lake Michigan, where I was lucky enough to be taken sailing.
A few other observations about Chicago. First of all, every time I go there I'm blown away by its cleanliness. Now, granted, I didn't go to the shitty parts of the city, but even in the somewhat marginal parts, things were really spic and span, a striking contrast to New Jack City, where in the summer, you get a whiff of urine and/or feces every half block. I don't really understand how the city does it, and I'm not sure if I want to know, since I enjoy chalking it up to some Midwestern character, and I like it more that way. (I'm endlessly fascinated by how places, in our modern, transient age, still retain characteristics they've had for decades, even hundreds of years.)
Second of all, I dig the emphasis on food. The more I think about it, the more eating should be the centerpiece of everything. It's the only pure thing left in this world. Also, the large contingent of morbidly obese people in Chicago make me feel better about myself.
Thirdly, and this one's for the hipsters--the cool folks in Chicago are not in your face with their ridiculousness. And by that I mean, as Gaby observed, nobody is trying to be the #1 hippest person on the planet. Go up to Bedford Ave. here in New Jack and you'll see that in spades. And it's pretty fucking annoying.
Fourthly, I don't think I'd ever want to live in Chicago. But Axel, I hear you cry, you just said the town was clean, has good eatin', and is refreshingly laid back! What's not to like?? Well, I suppose this is why I can't stand any of those reports that come out claiming the best place to live in America is somewhere like Greensboro, North Carolina. They analyze tons of factors, but they don't place great enough weight on the really important ones. Like, say, the people. Chicagoans are friendly, but New Yorkers (and northeasterners in general) are self-deprecating, loud, sarcastic, somewhat dickish. In other words, my people. I don't think I'd fit in there. Also, Chicago isn't near an ocean and it's fucking freezing in the winter. And, as Mr. Jackson says, all of the young people are too happy to be there. and they all went to state schools. Generalization complete! Close the generalization capsule!
Enclosing, geography and setting is very important to me. I've never understood people who don't really care where they live. I could talk about the merits of New York, Boston, London, Barcelona, and Washington DC for hours. It's one of those topics, like the weather, that people traditionally use to fill awkward silences but which I actually enjoy discussing.