five ways to fall in love with a city
Chicago: A Love Letter In Five Parts
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.
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.
(the windy city, sandburg)
things girls do that I love:
- offer their friends sips of their coffee drinks without being asked
- scratch each others back
- say things like “smell this lotion I bought this weekend”
- compliment each other’s eyebrows
- that thing when they agree with you and their eyes get really wide and they nod their head solemnly
- throw out each others gum wrappers or chip bags when they get up