Wednesday, February 11, 2009

"Miserable?" I Don't Think So.

Chicago Miserable

No, I'm not miserable living in Chicago. Not any more miserable than I'd be living anywhere else. Every city has its problems and those that don't, soon will, as everyone flocks like lemmings to live there.

High taxes? You'll have 'em too, soon enough.

Crime? Been to any other big city lately? That's the nature of the urban environment. It ain't Mayberry, folks. That's life--we've accepted it, and so have the thousands of others who come to live here every year, just as I did 12 years ago (granted, my father was born here and my grandmother grew up in the south side, but I had no experience with this city until I moved here myself). Sure, there are things we'd like to change, but I'm sure that the folks who put together that "Forbes"-cited study would like to change things about where they live, too. It's the human condition, discontent. That hardly qualifies as "misery."

I'm not usually a big Neil Steinberg fan, but I liked this paragraph in his column today (to go with the kick-ass front page photo):

"What the Forbes study overlooks is that Chicago is not populated by Manhattan scribes nor Boulder mountain climbers, but Chicagoans. We are a hearty tribe, made of stronger stuff, and delight in challenges that only seem miserable to those who don't know any better. Calling our city miserable is like an agoraphobic calling baseball awful because it takes place outside. It says a lot more about the complainer than the thing being complained about. We love it here, and pity those whose appreciation of life is so constricted that they fail to see why."

For all its corruption, Chicago used to be a whole lot dirtier and more corrupt. And still people loved it. They loved it for the people it produced (Walter Payton, Dorothy Hamill, Mike Ditka, Jack Benny, Benny Goodman, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Patti Smith, Billy Corgan, Bo Diddley, Herbie Hancock, Chaka Khan-this is just a very short list), and the heartiness of its inhabitants.

Maybe the difference is that, during those bad-and-dirty times, Chicago was a stand-alone city, signifying something that was unique to its geographic location. It's become a lot more cosmopolitan over the last few decades, so maybe the people who are really miserable are the folks who came from other regions to live here, and simply weren't expecting the physical and political climate that greeted them.

They'll learn. Just like the rest of us did. And they'll find reasons to make this city their own--things that they feel belong to them, that speak to them. There's a reason over 3 million people live here.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A take on the old R.W. Glover Poem: If you want to live in the kind of a city that's the kind of city you like, you needn't slip your clothes in a grip and start on a long, long hike.
You'll find elsewhere what you left behind, for there's nothing that's really new. It's a knock at yourself when you knock your city, it isn't yur city it's you.
Real cities are not made by men afraid lest somebody else gets ahead. When everybody works and nobody shirks you can raise a city from the dead.
And if while you make your stake your neighbor can make one too, your city will be what you want to see, it isn't the city it's you! ed

5:22 PM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Actually, that sounds a lot like a Dr. Seuss book. But it's very apt here--thanks!

5:39 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The only change to the poem I made besides spelling "your" wrong was that I changed the word town to city. ed

7:45 AM  
Blogger American Girl said...

I think it was Lonely Planet that ranked Chicago as the number one city to visit in The States this year.

8:24 AM  
Blogger Aaron said...

Exactly. People come to visit cities for different reasons. They don't give a rat's ass about the problems, unless they're planning to live there. And if they're planning to live there, they've already accepted the challenges and don't need dry-as-toast "Forbes" magazine to recommend it. It's hardly a travel publication. (It's not even a helpful business publication anymore, in this climate.)

We don't hear much about crackhead Marion Barry these days, do we? It was news for a bit, then it died down. So will this. The only reason people are making such an issue is because Obama is from here, and his inauguration and the governor's impeachment happened simultaneously.

Too much fodder for the mediocre to resist.

12:53 PM  

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