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2005-01-30 - 10:05 p.m.

Things I love about Chicago

-Food at anytime of the day or night. I don’t have to settle for a place like Taco Bell if I’m wandering around hungry at 2am. This can lead to temper tantrums though. Don’t get a craving if you get used to this and go elsewhere because you’ll be drawing the inevitable conclusion that the new place is crappy and will start listing all of the things that are wrong with it.

-Only having to drive a car when I want to. For example, I'm willing to drive to the grocery store so I don't have to carry things, but driving when I have no choice about it makes me crazy. I'd much rather get in a little more walking and let someone else take me where I need to go. Besides, cars are crappy places for interacting with other people. There are too few bus crazies. (see Mimi smartypants's diary for some great stories on them!)

-Lake Michigan – there’s nothing like a view of the lake for variety. It has all sorts of moods, from quiet and zen-like to frightening. I’ve never managed to see water that quite compares to it though. Oceans are beautiful, but the lake manages to look more real/authentic/not-like-a-postcard without losing that beauty.

-There are 222 miles of rapid transit train track, and only 11 of those miles are subways. Subways are inherently uninteresting for those of us who like to look out windows. I'd much rather be looking into someone's kitchen window and feeling slightly guilty about my voyeurism than staring out the window at blackness and an occasional heat lamp.

-Those cabbage/lettuce looking plants that get put into the landscaping in the fall. I’m sure they’re made to handle the fall temperature changes, and they are pretty (all purple and green – often with silvery curly edges). But seeing something that looks like cabbage planted in the window box of a downtown high-rise makes me laugh.

-Listening to Mayor Daley. Don’t get me wrong – I spend a lot of time angry at him. He hates neighborhood pubs and closes them leading to more drunk drivers and fewer neighborhood connections. He spends $475 million on a small park downtown and then won’t even let people walk their dogs there. He adores wrought-iron fences and hiring his friends for city contracts installing said fences. But – there is nothing like hearing him speak. He tries so hard to get his point across, and when it comes out right it still sounds wrong in his medium-high nasally Bridgeport accent. He hasn’t matched his father’s ability to come up with a quote that will last forever*, but he’s well on his way**.

-How vastly different everyone is. It’s obvious on trains and busses that everyone looks different (well, outside of some bars in Lincoln Park where everyone has the same hairdo and hoochie-pants), but even people who look similar all have different backgrounds or languages or jobs. I sometimes start guessing what people are doing, where they’re going, and so on – but I generally end up giving up because the reality is probably so much more interesting than what I assume. I can look at a round-ish white guy in stained pants and assume he’s on his way home from painting someone’s house, but then I feel guilty for pigeonholing him like that. He could be on his way back from painting his goddaughter’s nursery, or hanging from the scaffolding making the Bean shiny in Millennium Park, or blowing off steam from his job as an accountant by covering himself with paint and throwing himself against a massive canvas.

-A lot of the things that annoy me about Chicago (more on that in a different entry – it deserves space all to itself!) are actually somewhat endearing. In a don’t-mess-with-my-sister-yes-I-know-I-do-but-you-can’t kind of way.

*”The police are not here to create disorder, they're here to preserve disorder.” ~Richard J. Daley, on the 1968 riots
**"I know nothing about salt. I know it goes on the streets, but I know nothing about it." ~Richard M. Daley, after a scandal about overpaying his friends for the city's road salt

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