Thursday, July 14, 2005

The answer to the ultimate question.

My friend L and I were sitting in the outdoor patio of the restaurant of their hotel on Michigan Avenue on Saturday evening, enjoying a Guinness and the tremendous people-watching opportunities that Michigan Avenue offers. She and her family are considering a move to this glorious city, and she asked me, point-blank, why I love Chicago. Unfortunately, there are so many things that I love about this city for me to just blurt out after a pint of black. Let's see if I can give the reasons here.

#1- The grid system. Chicago's city planners were absolute geniouses. It is almost impossible to get lost in this city. Read about the grid system here.

#2- The Lake. Lake Michigan is not someplace that I ever want to swim, but I'll bike down the path, take a romantic walk along it, play softball by it, and ride a boat on it. It is also a handy navigational tool, as you can only drive so far east on Belmont without getting wet.

#3- Al Capone. Big Al, as you probably know, ran booze here. He started bars. The Red line was extended from Wilson to Lawrence to accomodate his bar, the Green Mill. Thanks to his efforts, some bars are open until 4 am. Not just on weekends, either, that's on a Monday night, friends and neighbors- the City extends drinking hours even further, in that bars are open for an extra hour on Saturday nights. Just about any bar has wonderful character and history, too. I could go on for days on this topic, so we'll just suffice it to say that the bars and the nightlife are great.

#4- Sports. No, I'm not a diehard Cubs, Sox, Bears, Bulls or Blackhawks fan. I am, however, very happy to have options. I am also a card-carrying, personalized-jersey-owning, roster-memorizing, one-step-down-from-facepainting Wolves fan, and will be until I die. Why? Let me drop some names: Wendell Young (the only player to win all four North American Championships, not to mention beat the living shit out of Shaun Penn), Steve Maltais (always high on the most goals scored list, and badass captain), Jeremy Mylymok (Mr. Badass Enforcer himself- once checked a guy so hard the guy's stick broke as it wrapped around his neck and head) and of course, Derek MacKenzie (send a Scotsman!). Don't forget that this is a city with excellent intramural and social leagues for just about any sport you can think of. Name it, we've probably got it somewhere around here.

#5- Chicagoans. As a people, city dwellers around here are usually friendly, laid-back, and fun to be around. As with everything, however, there are exceptions to this. On the whole, though, you can count on us to share a beer with you when you need it.

#6- Location, location, location. Chicago is 150 miles from my grandparents' homes, 410 from my father's house, and 470 from my mother's. I've also got two airports to choose from, and if I ever get the urge to go to Milwaukee, I could bike there!

#7- Jobs. Even though I have only ever been unemployed in Chicago, and for a total of 7 1/2 months, there are plenty of jobs in this city, if you're willing to work them.

#8- Food. Wow. There's just too much to think about here. We've got everything, though. Pizza, Thai, Cuban, Sushi, Italian, Greek, Ethiopian, Russian, Mediterranean, Jewish, Vietnamese. Everything.

There's more reasons, I know. I can feel them deep down inside, begging to be added to this list, but I'm not talking about the bad things about Chicago, like the fact that all roads lead to the Loop, both public trainsportation-wise and driving. Sometimes, but not often, our mayor goes crazy and does something completely inexcusable, like hire construction workers to tear up Meigs Field in the middle of the night, finally closing the airport. We've also got one hell of a sales tax, at a whopping 9%. Traffic isn't all that great, and unless you've got an I-Pass, you have to pay double the toll, but I don't drive enough for that to make a difference.

How do I love my city? Let me count the ways.


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