The cleanliness of downtown Chicago actually blew me away. I have this preconceived idea of what a downtown should look like. It should be a little gritty, a little dirty, somewhat sketchy in spots, but still the hub of urban life. While Chicago is for sure the hub of the midwest, all those things I associate with "big city" life were absent. From the metro line into downtown, I have a pretty good idea where they are hiding my notions, though.
Simply put, Chicago is big. It is an all consuming big. With that size, comes an area in which all large cities struggle: community. Luckily, I was staying with a friend from college. I got to see first hand that we create our own communities. We surround ourselves with like minded people who stand in for family in an effort to prosper.
The architecture was simply stunning. No picture I took did it any justice. Toward the end of my trip, I would learn the city planners of Chicago dreamed of designing America's Paris. That effort is apparent on every street corner and every towering high rise. Again, this is a notion relegated to the downtown corridor. I am sure things get more "real" in the suburbs.
Chicago appeared to have a dividing line that I would sum up like this, "Your Corner, Your Place, Your Team." This dividing line is where community is created. Gay, straight, black, white, young, old, wealthy, poor, this city seems to exemplify battle lines based on attributes. I could argue for and against this idea, but that is for another topic.
Despite the dividing lines, Chicago has an ever present sense of diversity. This diversity is present when communities intersect. I would argue most cities need places where communities can cross more often. My hunch is if I were to hang around the city long enough I would believe Chicago needs more of those opportunities too.
America has this running theme of North vs. South. More often than not, the North side of town is more affluent and the South side always seems to be playing catch up. This is true for Oklahoma City, Seattle and it is visible in Chicago. From the Cubs to the White Sox, to how northsiders talk about their neighbor, this idea seems to be ever present.
I got to spend a great deal of time alone in the city. I had an apartment to myself and spent a lot of time walking around alone. I miss this feeling. My first year in Seattle, I lived by myself. I miss the quiet solitude. I miss depending on just Nathan. Now, would I want it to be that way forever? NO!!!
Finally, I think most cities reveal themselves when the sun goes down. Chicago is no different. This is actually an idea I will explore in a future posting, but I strongly encourage you to explore a city at night by yourself. You will be glad you did.
Thanks for entering my world,