Monday, August 14, 2006

COLUMN: The Windy City

I hate to break it to you, Quad Cities, but apparantly we're all a bunch of hicks.

This is the stereotype I've had to fight for years now. Being an Augustana graduate, most of my college friends -- as with most of Augustana's student body -- hailed from the Chicagoland area. I, meanwhile, come from Galesburg. In MY town, when the cool kids -- you know, the ones with the hottie girlfriends and seemingly no parents whatsoever -- went to "the big city" for the weekend, they meant HERE.

It's the Theory of Relative Hick-osity. When I lived in Galesburg, I thought the kids from Wataga were hayseeds. People in the Quad Cities probably think Galesburg's a little backwater. My friends from Chicago call the Quad Cities a "farm town." Heck, I'm sure the residents of Bombay think that Chicago's an insignifigant speck. It's all relative.

Personally, I think the Quad Cities are pretty great. Sure, I suppose Chicago has more to offer, but honestly, even if I lived in the Windy City, I'd still probably spend most of my nights sitting on a couch, watching TV, and complaining about having nothing to do. There's enough culture for me right here in River City, thanks much -- and honestly, I'll take a seven minute commute to work over high culture any day. If I want culture, I've got and a debit card number that I sadly know by heart.

I am no hick. However, last week, I felt like one. I've been online for over a decade now, and one of my best online buddies is a web designer from Los Angeles. He's a fellow music nerd, and years ago, the two of us launched a music webzine called While I don't give it as much attention as it needs, the site's still up today, and he and I still run it via a barrage of weekly e-mails.

The thing is, despite our daily communiques, we've never actually MET -- until this week, when he decided to fly out to the Midwest for a week's vacation. My mission: pick him up at O'Hare International Airport. It's called "International" because the airport is so big, I'm pretty sure it actually reaches into Canada.

I was stressed. If Chicagoans think we're hick, who knows what a guy from L.A. would think. He already told me that he'd never heard of this "John Deere" fella I kept mentioning.

Shockingly, I sorted out the airport trip fairly well. Thanks to the miracle of music, I parked on the "Na Na Hey Hey (Kiss Him Goodbye)" floor of the parking garage (I'm not kidding, they pipe music in to help you remember where you parked.) I made it to the terminal, picked him up, and got us back to our car despite my fears of getting lost forever, destined to roam the aisles of O'Hare for eternity, hopelessly singing, "Na na na na, heeeeey, goodbye."

Finding the car was the good news. The bad news was when my friend asked the fateful question. "So, man, before we go to Rock Island, can you show me around Chicago a little bit?"

Errr, okay. I'm a big boy. I know my way around Chicago -- kinda. I mean, you can't get SERIOUSLY lost, right? You're bound to run into either an interstate or a rather great lake, right? I could do this no problem IF THE CAB BEHIND ME WOULD STOP HONKING! Pardon, sir? Yes, I see your middle finger. What's that? Oh, the light's GREEN? I can go? Wait, THIS lane? Crud.

Who was I kidding? I'm about as comfortable driving in Chicago as Paris Hilton is in a Wal-mart. Still, I gave it my best. "Here's Wrigley Field... and nowhere to park." "Here's downtown... and nowhere to park." "Here's where they filmed 'The Blues Brothers'... and nowhere to park." I was getting the hang of it. Soon I would be a master tour guide. Just a quick left here, a quick right HERE, and...

Presto. I drove us right into the remnants of Cabrini Green and the Henry Horner complex. My tour went from "and over there's the Sears Tower" to "and over here's a prostitute attempting to flag us down. Did you need any illicit drugs, because I think this gentleman over here might be offering...?"

Other than the nightmare of winding up in the VERY wrong part of town, I held my own. And hopefully my friend didn't see how white my knuckles were from being on roads with more than 2 lanes. I just know that I was way more comfortable my NEXT day as a tour guide: "Here's the river... and we can park anywhere." "Here's the tractor museum... and we can park anywhere." "Here's Whitey's Ice Cream... and we can park anywhere."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Funny stuff! I lived for 8 years in Chicago, back in the 70's when there was parking. I didn't have a car, but I swear I saw vacant spots here and there. My latest trip to the Windy City proved you right. The parking place is extinct. -- Boomette