I was chatting late with a boyfriend one night. We were up in the balcony of the Improv Comedy Club in Chicago. Yup – that’s the one – with the red brick wall and a microphone. I worked in the box office there and it was the best job I’ve ever had. Still, to this day, best job I’ve ever had.
So he and I were in the balcony, asking each other relationship questions and he says: “If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?” Not a second went by, not an intake of breath before I blurted out, “here. Chicago. I would live here.” He looked at me expectantly, hoping for maybe “a 3 story loft in Soho” or a “run away and live on the beach in Tahiti.” I explained as simply as I knew how that if I wanted to live somewhere else I would live there. He couldn’t believe my answer. We didn’t make it he and I, but my love affair with Chicago is as strong as ever.
It may seem biased, my love for Chicago. I have lived in other cities. I lived in Boulder, Indianapolis, then I moved home to Chicago. I lived in New York for a time, then I moved home to Chicago. I’ve visited and spent good time in some of the great cities of the world: Saigon, San Francisco, Lucerne, Paris, Rome. Barcelona was so amazing, full of art, energy, food and wine. Chaos and order both rule the streets of Bangkok, as scooters and pedestrians move together like a school of fish. Phnom Penh staggered me with it’s tragic history and it’s heroic struggle to rise again.
I love cities, all of them. I love the symphony of ideas that somehow come together for a city to erupt from the earth. The effort it takes to just even put one building together, much less miles of them – I’m amazed any building gets built at all.
Chicago is a new city, the youngest in a world-wide family of great cities. Much like the youngest child, Chicago is the amalgam of the cities that came before it. There are elements of Paris in our bridgehouses and boulevards. Doric and Corinthian columns decorate our skyscrapers. Our famous Wrigley Building is the 1st cousin of the Koutoubia Mosque in Marrakesh. Artists and architects from all over the world have brought their beauty to this most American of American cities.
There are countless stories of Chicagoans who were told their ideas were crazy, William Wrigley and his silly sticks of gum; William Le Baron Jenney who had a crazy idea to rest a building on a steel frame and call it a skyscraper; a young fellow by the name of George Washington Ferris who wanted to build a spinning wheel. We’ve been teased for being unsophisticated, too brash, too corrupt, too boastful. But I will always root for the underdog – it’s my midwestern values.
About the Author: Margaret Hicks is a tour guide, comedian and traveler.As a traveler, I spend much of my conscious time in wanderlust. I want to go, see something new, something different. It’s easy to regret time spent in the wrong place. Time laughs at travelers, as we fret about one more day in a town when there’s another one right around the corner. I must see the world; it is fixed in my genes that I must keep moving. But the one place I can stop, take a deep breath, find my footing and learn to stand as tall as the buildings around me, is Chicago. Is home.
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