It’s a shame we have to leave Leaugefest 2013 early. But so it goes. We’ve taken a whole week and most of it was with family. Family time is important but not always relaxing. Neither, as it turns out, was much of the bloggy get-together.
You know how Chicago was founded by New Yorkers, right? They said, “We really like all the traffic, crime, and pollution, but this place is just too damn warm!” Chicagoans will have a sarcastic comeback at the ready, I’m sure. But there’s something to the joke.
For the day we were at Leaguefest, we faced what seemed like bizarre weather. Much of the mornings and early afternoons it was uncomfortably chilly and breezy. I know Chicago is called the “Windy City” for a reason but I’d expected it to be warm in June. Mrs. Likko fled the stands at Wrigley Park to find somewhere warm and out of the wind, along with frontpager Michelle and Mark Thompson’s wife, and James Aitch and I dissected academic life and the Pirates’ fielding patterns while the ladies (other than Johanna, who it turns out my have worked with me at a SoCal amusement park ehen we were teenagers!) drank downstairs and we all wore hoodies to stay warm.
I was and still am very grateful to Reader Angela for taking us out on a sail cruise after the ballgame. Keeping upright while the boat took chop from the lake was, however, just a bit more physical work than I’d expected. Safety cable or no, Burt Likko falling in to Lake Michigan was not on the agenda and so I spent some effort on our sail working my legs and abdominal muscles in ways my untrained muscles were not pleased with. I still feel sore today. Not Angela’s responsibility by any stretch of the imagination — more like the soreness one feels after skiing.
Chicago is a handsome, colorful city. People are out and about at night, enjoying clubs and restaurants, but the natives seem largely nonplussed by the skyline and seem to take for granted how densely built their city is. The upper and lower deck streets by the river in particular are a bit intimidating to the newcomer’s eye. Underground walkways and sidewalks left me a bit nervous but on surface streets I always felt safe despite seeing very few of Chicago’s Finest out on patrol. Much of that came from seeing the natives strolling about with confidence — even on the El late at night.
The streets are in terrible shape. They’re in constant use and constant weather so I can easily see how potholes would form, but still. Taxis were easy to come by during the day and impossible to hail at night. We also saw multiple incidences of volcanic anger on the streets. Not just the “light-turns-green-horn-goes-on” that seems to pervade most big east-of-the-Mississippi cities, but men (always men) shouting profanity so loud as to be heard blocks away, and following behavior that can only be described as threatening. I thought one time on the Eisenhower Expressway we’d be stopped by two cars parking so their drivers could get out and fight.
So in the city we walked more than anything. Not just cheaper, but more efficient. And less chance of getting beat up. “Less” does not mean “zero” given that one time a cabbie shouted explosively at us for reasons that remain unclear to this day.
The preservation of the lakefront was a very good thing for the city. The big parks, the landmark museums, Soldier Field, and the other public spaces create an open area where the city’s people mingle democratically. I very much enjoy the energy that results. This seems to me an important part of urban life — one that requires a significant and maintained civic commitment to both creatte and maintain. As I understand it Chicago has Marshall Field to thank for this — and so should the developers who felt the squeeze on available space resulting from this, creating over time the tall, long skyline that it seems so few Chicagoans stop to appreciate bit which is so much the signature of the city.
The river is always green, not just on St. Patrick’s Day. There are signs advising that one ought not to dive or swim in it, but who on Earth would want to do something like that?
Chicagoans love their sports. It’s the NHL playoffs now and about every fifth Chicagoan, male or female, that we interacted with was wearing Blackhawks gear. Cubs, Sox, Bulls, and Bears gear were all well-represented too. Not a lot of college sports stuff on display, though.
What we didn’t get a taste of were the ‘burbs. I know what a Milwaukee suburb is like and I have to imagine a Chicago suburb is much the same. And it’s not at all like a California suburb. Oh sure there’s the Super Wal-Mart and the Burger King. But the kids working these jobs seem to smile more sincerely and actually care about the customer having a good experience.
On the whole I enjoyed Chicago very much. Despite the fact that it’s loud, all the time. So really only one thing, one word, is what holds me back from wanting to live there: winter.