Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Keep On Walking

Ah Chicago, we hardly knew ye. Just as quickly as our time together began, it has come to an end. But before the end, we two travelers checked off 3 items the Quintessential Chicago Experiences list: taking the L, riding the Navy Pier Ferris wheel, and seeing a Cubs game at Wrigley Field.

The fact that I have nothing of interest to say about the L probably constitutes a positive review. The best way to explain the view from the Ferris wheel is probably to show it to you:


As for the Cubs game, there are things to be said. I’m going to hold off on trying to characterize the fans (the hometown ones, at least) and the century-old ballpark until tomorrow, when I’ve had a chance to compare them to the lauded St. Louis baseball fans and their brand new stadium. The problem today was that most of the park was occupied by loud interlopers clad in prison-grey. Apparently most Yankee fans are unemployed, which gives them the time to travel 1,000 miles for a Wednesday day game against a team with which they have no rivalry. And even though they’ll probably go home and watch the highest-paid players on this continent several more times this year, they felt a need to give Derek Jeter a standing ovation today, despite the fact that he was already honored by the Cubs earlier in the series. And not one standing ovation – 6. Including demanding a curtain call after the Team Captain Who Couldn’t or Wouldn’t Help A-Rod Not Get Caught grounded out in the 7th inning. I just hope that those same fans are intellectually honest and will turn on Mariah Carey’s ex-boyfriend when it turns out that his miraculous jump in stats after he turned 35 was the unsurprising result of steroid use.

Anyway, it may be obvious that the predominance of Yankee fans at today’s game annoyed me. It’s bad enough that they act like they own the east coast (27 World Championships, huh? If we limit things to this century, who’s winning that World Series rivalry with the Red Sox?), but to invade the park of a team that hasn’t won anything in over 100 years felt like bullying.

Fortunately, we didn’t have to see the Evil Empire break a 2-2 tie in the 14th inning to beat the Cubs. We stayed for the first 13, but by that point it was 5:30 and we had a half hour trip back to the car and a 5 hour drive to St. Louis still ahead of us. Knowing that all that could happen in the top of the 14th was either nothing or the Yankees taking the lead, we decided to quit while we were ahead (or at least, before we were behind). Thirteen innings of baseball gave us our money’s worth.

As we headed away from the Loop for the last time, we both knew that we had covered a good bit of distance on foot in the last 24 hours. But it wasn’t until we got out of the car to refuel in Springfield, IL, hobbling like octogenarians, that we realized we might have overdone it. So, after at least 5 miles of walking in each of the last 2 days, tomorrow the Horse With No Name will do the walking, and we will devote as much energy as possible to sitting. 

But as for Chicago, it’s not a place I actively dislike, but it’s not for me. It’s a hybrid of New York’s and Boston’s best features, but still something about it leaves me uncomfortable. It looks like New York but it doesn’t act like New York. The people are too friendly, the streets and the trains too clean and too spacious. It doesn’t have the frenetic energy of New York, so it’s hard to forget that it’s in the Midwest surrounded by cornfields.

Chicago doesn’t look or sound anything like Boston. The people are too self-interested and too well-dressed. The streets are too generic and organized, and the trains too fast and too crowded. The whole place seems to have the character of Boston’s financial district – the part of the city with the least personality. No one seems to spend time outside, so I didn’t get a real sense of community, even though the Blackhawks played in the conference finals tonight. So maybe it’s actually too much like New York.

But let’s be honest: The real reason Chicago will never win in a competition for my affections against Boston is because of the people there – or, more accurately, the people who aren’t there. It’s a city with 2.7 million strangers and zero of those important people who’ve turned Boston into my home this year. Now, if my entire class were there (or at least my entire Wednesday night trivia team), that might be a different story.

1 comment:

  1. Gosh, I sure do enjoy reading your prose. At the end of reading this, I said to myself, "Actually, that was pretty much entirely about sports. How did I not catch that?"