Thursday, January 19, 2006

The Folks, Ah the Folks

I’ve seen it happen many times. Unsuspecting souls come to Chicago in those few short hours we call Spring, and fall hopelessly in love—sometimes with the city and each other—but always with the city. How could they not? Chicago when the green’s beginning has everything to match the Paris that they sing about. Chicago folks won’t look down their noses when you ask them to show you the simplest thing. A city’s not much, if you don’t like the folks who live there.

It seems that spring visitors meet one Chicagoan who shows them around. They end up in any of a million neighborhood restaurants or bars, and in minutes everyone there knows their names, where they’re from, who they are. Depending on the end of town, someone carefully explains why the Sox or the Cubs are ones everyone loves, and someone else chimes in with, “Hey, how ‘bout them Bears?”

It’s not the winning in Chicago. How could it be? In Chicago, it’s the folks, always the folks.

Soon enough, those poor visitors are making plans to move here. Who could resist hospitality like that?

It happens much the same to summer visitors. Sure the weather’s hot, but “cooler by the lake” is the mantra they hear. There’s so much beauty, so much people want to show them, to take them to do and experience. Visitors hardly notice the temperature that hangs like vines in the air. When they do, it’s turn a corner, and a cold beer’s waiting in a frosted glass. Did you want the Irish pub? the brassiere? the top of the Hancock for the view and champagne? or maybe down to Old Town where the Hippies still hang out, throwing peanuts on the floor? Ah, let’s do them all. Oh me, my name’s Liz. I live here.

Again new Chicagoans are coming to new homes.

Even if I try to talk them out of it, the city calls them to come on. It’s the skyline. It’s the lakeshore that goes on past what your eyes can take in. It’s the hot dogs, the pizza, the work ethic. It’s the lack of pretentiousness. Who am I kidding? It’s the folks that they meet. The folks feel like family should feel. Of course there is no deciding. They have no choice. They will come.

In autumn, the city color and the city lights are romantic, but the chill makes wise ones stay to themselves. They have a chance bundled in their woolen coats, hiding under wind-blown hair. They keep their distance. It’s reluctance. Folks in Chicago understand. No one bothers them. Fall visitors usually get to go back home.

The shock of the WINTER comes dressed in snow and white lights on the lakefront. The streets are clear, as clear as the nights. Those spring and summer Chicagoans hear the winter mantra “warmer by the lakefront,” and learn that it doesn’t mean that much to their noses or toes. They wonder how they came to be in such a cold, cold place as this. They talk about it, fret about it, while they drink hot chocolate or hot toddies with their Chicago families—the folks they can’t bear to leave.

Had they only first visited Chicago in the winter. The unsuspecting ones might have had a clearer picture to start. They would have known the city as a place before they fell in love with the people. It’s possible they would never have moved here had they met the city when it’s so much slower, almost hibernating in the snow. Instead, they got to know the city as the folks. It’s possible they’ll never leave.

I think Chicago is very much like blogging. You might think about it, and warn your friends if they want to blog. Encourage them to start in the winter, when traffic is sleepy, almost hibernating. Then they will really get a picture of blogging as it is, before they fall in love with the folks. Ah you folks. If they come in the spring, they'll get to know you right away. Then it’s possible, quite probable, they’ll never leave.
—me strauss Letting me be


Anonymous said...

If it weren't for all the cold I'd definitely consider moving to Chicago. Chicago and Boston have always held a undeniable mystique for me.

Anonymous said...

You're right, Liz. Chicago is a wonderful place. I'm a West Coast transplant who now lives in Chicago. My first visit here was in July. The next visit was in March. Big difference!

I'm not a blogger, but I appreciate your analogy. I'm going to share it with my blogger-buddies.

Have a great day!

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Hi Mojo,
How'd I know you'd say that? I can't blame you. I lived seven years without snow and I hated the thought of moving back to it. Ah but the folks really do make a difference.

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Hi Dawn,
Do tell your bloggger friends, especially those who have visited you in Chicago, about what I said. The last thing we need is more blogging, Chicago addicts running around. :)
Thanks for coming by again, Dawn.

Anonymous said...

I have to say that Chicago sounds appealing...then I think of the winters and I remember I live in Boston that has plenty of winter itself :)

The one difference is (and though I've never been to Chicago) I think (from hearing people talk) is the Northeast is a much 'busier' place. We're always on the go. And I don't think we can claim to have that 'friendly' quality. Not saying we're not friendly, but we're definitely more 'hurried' and that comes across/is noticed when people visit. That said I love Boston!

One of these days I have to go visit Chicago :) I'll make sure it's in the winter!

And I love the blog analogy :)

Anonymous said...

I've always loved Chicago and have spent a lot time there, what with various family members and friends having lived there through the years. But you're right about the winters.

As to the people, I've always said that Chicago is just a little town that got very big. It retains that small, Midwestern town feel. The people are undeniably friendly.

But it really is too bad about the winters...and I bet that Jane Byrne would agree!

Mark Daniels

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Hi Mark,
You describe Chicago, perfectly, but then you would as a guy who spent some time here and in Ohio.

It really is just a little town that got really big. I like that description a lot.

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Hi Jennifer,
Having lived in both places, I can say this the winters in Boston are snowier, in Chicago they are slighty colder. The people in Chicago are warmer . . . My Brit friends all prefer Boston. :)My Irish friends like Chicago best.

I posted this earlier, but somehow it came up ahead of your comment and it was driving me crazy so I had to move it. :)

Anonymous said...

Chicago - I have so many stories - all of them wonderful. This from a Canadian who first visited Wrigley Field at the tender age of twelve and was told by his father that he could not root for the Cardinals because they were "his team..." Ever since, the lines were drawn and it would be my city.

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Well right of left,
You are a Canadian who has a great taste in American cities. I live very close to Wrigley Field, I'll be thinking of your story now whenever I pass it.

Anonymous said...

I have driven through Chicago a few times with a small child in the backseat and no adult to talk with. I found it to be the most intimidating driving I have ever done, not so much the agression, just the sheer number of people and the poorly marked roads.
Glad to hear there is more to it :)

"ME" Liz Strauss said...

Hi Rain,
I love your new picture. It's so spring-like and cheery. There's much more to Chicago than the roads and if you find these scary, please, don't drive in Boston. :)