Thursday, July 14, 2011

Chi City

As I've told to just about everyone who had the misfortune of making eye contact with me this week, I'm going to Chicago today. I've never been to Chicago before and it's been a while since I've traveled to a totally foreign city in the good ol' U.S. of A. and I'm all tingly just thinking about new experiences and how different Chicago probably is than my usual stomping grounds of the 'illadelp and Boston.

For one, I've heard people there are, like, nice or something. This whole concept of "nice" truly fascinates me. I've heard that people in Philly are assholes, but I guess you could make the argument that I never noticed because I grew up as one of those assholes making lewd comments in public and shoving my way into doors and jeering at the gelled up Jersey visitors in Olde City and throwing batteries at Santa Claus at sporting events.

When I moved to Boston, I was truly startled by how cold people are in this city. Yes, I suppose they're cold because cold is literally all they know. It's the goddamn arctic here from December to May so people just keep their heads down and their parka hoods up and spend their time in dark corners sipping on their hot toddies. If you dare try striking up a conversation with a stranger next to you at the bar, you're usually met with a polite nod while they use their immaculate Top Siders to swivel their bar stool to turn their back to you, pausing only to pull their popped collars tighter to their cheeks to block out any further view of that blond girl who tried to talk to me. Bostonians are pros at the act of conversation evasion and general ignoring. Then of course there's that blond girl who usually sits at the bar judging everyone in her range of vision. Stereotyping is a sport, ya'll.

I've been told by people who grew up here that people take on airs because everyone who lives here is either from here or went to school here. They have their set group of friends, many of whom they've known since they've been in diapers, and they don't feel the need to let in anyone else, thankyouverymuch. Because making friends is just so ... sigh. If you had the misfortune of moving here post-college but pre-baby, you're pretty much set adrift and fight your way into a group of friends tooth and nail.

I once had someone who grew up in Boston but currently lives in Philadelphia tell me that very thing about Philadelphians, to which I called shenanigans. I'm used to striking up conversations with strangers. We Philadelphians do it all the time. Not only in the bar, but in the grocery store, the bank, the running trail. You try to pull that "friendly" shit here and you better prepare yourself to get stabbed in the face with the angry eye.

Every time I go to Pittsburgh, I'm struck by how polite people are. But I've heard Chicagoans just blow everyone out of the proverbial good natured water. I am so excited to observe nice people in their natural habitat. It will be fascinating.

Then there's the fact that it seems like Chicago's main demographic is people in their mid-twenties to early thirties. The city is like a veritable playground for my age group. But a playground where people hold doors for you and make eye contact and maybe even smile when you pass them on the street. I'm getting all googly just thinking about it.

My friend C-Mo has lived there since we graduated college and it seems like every week she has a new story of the great activities that Chicago offers its young business class. City-wide scavenger hunts and outdoor happy hours and community service days. I've seen some of these things in Philadelphia, but no one actually participates. Participating is for dorks. And in Boston, happy hour is illegal. YES. I KNOW. ILLEGAL. CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? WHY DON'T YOU JUST STAB ME IN THE HEART AND LEAVE ME ALONE TO DIE IN THE GUTTER, BOSTON? Don't get me wrong; people still imbibe in a couple drinks after work, but they do it for the same price they would all day. WHAT AM I MADE OF MONEY? THAT should be illegal. Criminal, I tell you.

But in Chicago, not only does half the city participate in these activities, but they do so enthusiastically. They love games. They step out their doors with smiles on their faces and wave hello to their neighbors and meet their future husbands and wives while planting a community garden on an inner-city block that only hours before was littered with old tires and used syringes before the twenty-something swept in with their grins and their good intentions.

And because she lives in Chicago and is also one of the genuinely nicest people I know (coincidence? I think not), C-Mo has planned our entire weekend to make sure everyone gets the full taste of the grandness of all that is Chicago. When people come to visit me, they're lucky if I put clean sheets on the guest bed and even luckier if I went grocery shopping. They can, however, rest easy knowing all the empty space in the fridge that should be taken up by food is instead filled with beer. Half a dozen Very Good Friends are flying in from the east coast and we've got a packed weekend of rooftop parties and baseball games and sightseeing and lake-side beaching and music festivals waiting for us. Gah who knows if we'll even have time for it all?!

Good oolllll' Chi City, I can only imagine the magic you have in store for us.


Mariposa said...

chicago is by far my favorite city! and, everything you have heard about it is true, they really are the nicest people.

i hope you have a fabulous trip!! =]

Becky Mochaface said...

I know. I was shocked when I moved to Boston to learn that happy hour is illegal. I mean that sounds like something you would expect from the Bible Belt. Not Boston.

Sunny said...

Well, THAT explains why the Chronically-Pissed-Off-Looking-Boston-Bred-Next-Door-Neighbor is such a bitch. I just thought she had a stick up her ass.

Kim said...

Funny enough, I was just comparing my trip to NYC this past week to last year's trip to Boston. Boston people were straight up rude, dismissive and generally assholes. So going to the much larger city of NYC, I expected the same treatment but worse. (I'm Canadian and we as a population generally assume that Americans are far more rude than we are, even though it's probably not at all true). To my surprise, NYC had SUCH friendly people. We were often assisted without even having to ask - if someone overheard us discussing the subway map they would chime in and give us correct directions! What a nice change from Boston....bunch of Massholes!

Bridget said...

@Sunny and @Kim, last night i got home from chicago, dropped my bags on the floor, flipped on the news, and this was the first story i saw:

i shit you not.


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