Monday, February 16, 2009

My Kind Of Town

There is a popular formula in journalism these days, called "list articles", that grades a topic to catch a reader's attention. Examples include "Ten Best Places To Vacation" or "Three Ways To Improve Your Credit Score". A recent one caught my eye because it had a negative connotation and highlighted my favorite city. It was called "The Ten Most Unhappy Cities To Live In" (or some such title).

I don't know who came up with the criteria for this list but I am skeptical that the writer ever polled a significant number of Chicagoans before adding the Windy City to that group. Never in my life have I lived in a friendlier place or one in which the residents have such an upbeat outlook about anything that comes our way. We deal with extremes in weather, our comment to visitors being, "If you don't like the weather, wait fifteen minutes." Our city taxes are inordinantly high but we accept them because they fund one of the best mass transit systems in the country, provide immeasurable pleasure in our parks, museums, theatres, and a plethora of cityscape necessities. We are told that our air is not the cleanest but we reply that we have the breeze from Lake Michigan to enjoy. Other pessimistic examples were cited in this recent media article which I won't bother to detail. The bottom line is: the writer had it all wrong.

On Valentines Day, my husband and I spent the day in the City. It was quite cold, we encountered some light snow on and off - which we revelled in - and we walked over six miles from Union Station to the Art Institute to Michigan Avenue to State Street with lots of stops along the way. We lunched at a popular cafe while we watched traffic and pedestrians along the Chicago River, paused to rest and people watch in the lobby of the Drake Hotel, peered up at skyscrapers, window shopped in upscale and not so upscale stores, explored the wonders of the art world in the halls of the Art Institute, and immersed ourselves in the smells, sounds and atmosphere of the city in general. It was a perfect day for us and not once did we feel unhappy. Nor did we see unhappy faces, encounter unhappy tradespeople or hear grumblings from residents.

Chicago people are proud of their City, and, like many residents of other large cities, they happily endure the negative aspects of big city life in order to partake of all that they can experience by choosing to live there. That's why I'm certain that the writer who published that article was definitely not someone who lives here. And I defy him or her to do a proper investigation of a cross-section of true Chicagoans and still be able to include our City in that list. Just citing reasons that would make ordinary people unhappy doesn't translate into what happens here. Never has and never will. This is my kind of town, and I can find millions here who would agree.

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