Why Chicago?


When I was a small child, The Dave Matthews Band almost covered me in 800 pounds of their human waste as I rode a boat on the Chicago River.

Luckily for me, I had been on the architecture tour that just narrowly avoided contact with the discharge. Their bus driver had emptied the tour’s septic tank over the Kinzie Street Bridge, covering tourists looking to the sky to formerly marvel at the tall monuments of what this city had become after the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. I imagine these tourists wished to burn the city back to ashes in this moment. I, on the other hand, got to be a kid and giggle about it while watching a report on the local news later that day.

I got to keep being a tourist. I got to keep loving this city.

My love for the city began with my grandpa, a native of Chicago. He indoctrinated me in Chicago sports fandom even before I started forming memories. I proudly wore a Bulls jacket and a Cubs hat to kindergarten classes, despite living in Virginia. In retrospect, he had an easy task given the existence of Michael Jordan. I could ignore the Cubs’ shortcomings because Jordan never lost.

My grandpa died before I became an adult. The Chicago priest at his funeral told a generic story about Irish Catholic drunks that did not apply to my grandpa — even if he did regularly drink gin martinis. The priest’s phone rang from his pocket during the service. Later, this priest had to resign because he had molested children. I’m sure my grandpa would have liked a do-over funeral, but that isn’t an option, of course. The dead don’t get do-overs.

I recently found a note my grandpa had written to me. He had tried to reassure me that the Bulls would be fine even though Jordan had retired. Of course, they wouldn’t. The team hasn’t won a championship since. But I’d like to think that my decision to keep the note meant this had been a comfort at the time. My complete lack of memory for receiving the note means whatever great disappointment I felt must have been abated.

That piece of writing soothed a wound. That piece of writing took my focus away from a dark situation. Those words reminded me of hope.

Disaster lurks in all moments. But so do good things. We’re all inevitably doomed. A few good things can help you forget that. A few good things can save the day.

After moving into my apartment sight unseen, I immediately came to learn that Trump International Hotel & Tower® Chicago looms right next to my building. Not a good thing. Illinois recently discovered that the tower has been violating clean water laws for the Chicago River. The tower has been dumping its sewage right into the water, right next to my apartment.

I, along with many other Chicagoans, have paddled a kayak next to this tower. As you paddle past, you can look up and see a multi-story logo on the building that says “TRUMP.” You look down and you’re apparently covered in the remnants of human waste that have splashed up from the river. Not a good thing.

Original construction plans would have made the tower the tallest in all of Chicago. Then the attacks on Sept. 11 happened, and buildings in the United States no longer wanted to stand out. But Donald Trump couldn’t resist putting his name in humongous letters on the building and he couldn’t resist running for president and many people in this country couldn’t resist voting for him, despite the fact that he couldn’t resist being our worst American.

And so the tower stands out again. Not a good thing.

My first weekend here, I woke up to a loud, droning sound. I figured it could be a missile. I figured this could be the end. I ran to my crumbling, cement balcony — a balcony that I’ve been told will likely fall into the Chicago River at some point, possibly while I stand on it — to determine my fate. I saw a construction helicopter hovering so close to my apartment that I could see the pilot.

It was only construction. The helicopter carried heavy materials that must have been too much for a truck. It was just the noise of progress and the city building itself up even more. Instead of an attack, it was simply my new city trying to get better.

Disaster can happen whenever, but I keep stumbling upon good things in this city. And so far I’m happy.  The good things I’ll write about in this blog have all contributed to that rare and lucky feeling. I hope they will help you too.

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