Friday, September 30, 2005

Weekend Assignment #79: Sweet Home Chicago

Weekend Assignment #79: Sweet Home Chicago

Weekend Assignment #79: Chicago! It's a toddlin' town. Share some of your favorite things about the City of Big Shoulders. If you've ever been to Chicago, memories of your visit would be a topic. If you live in or near Chicago, some hometown favorite things would be good. If you've never been, share your favorite Chicago-related thing, from the Jordan-era Bulls to the Blues Brothers to Ferris Bueller. As long as it's tangentially related to Chicago, it's all good.

Extra Credit: Chicago Deep Dish Pizza -- the best pizza ever? Your thoughts.

Dear John,

A wicked strong cold front blew through about 12 hours ago. Of course, the leaves are still (mostly) on the trees, so there was a fiercsome noise coming from the woods as this gale blew herself out. With all the rain we've had lately from Katrina and Rita and stuff, it wouldn't surprise me if whole, great swaths of timber have “lodged,” i.e. fallen part way over into the neighboring tree, knocking that one, roots and all, into it's neighbor and so on down the line for a quarter mile or so at a whack. I guess I will have to make a point of going out back and checking the woodlot. Hope no one mistakes me for a moose. Moose “grunting” season begins on Monday. There isn't a whole helluva lot of hunting involved. Scout out an area, pick a site that is accessible from a road with a 4WD pickup truck, sit in a tree stand or just off the verge of the road (outside of the right-of-way – no hunting on the roads allowed), shoulder your large bore rifle-like weapon of choice, and be vewy, vewy noisy. Break sticks. Thwack the bushes, Pick up your megaphone (preferably rolled birch bark, if you want to be authentic) and let fly with the goldarndest beller of a horny moose you ever did hear, thwack some old antlers awhile, bellow some more and your likely to have a couple of cow meese come wandering your way looking for the likely progenitor for their next offspring. Shoot. Clean. Carry. Now does THAT sound like hunting? Taking advantage of horny moose in their annual time of need? Admittedly, there's a whole lot of grunting going on, particularly if your are French or visited a Canuck-style hunters breakfast that morning. Chow down on ployes, maple syrup, poutine, eggs coddled in bacon fat, the shredded pig “parts” cakes whose name eludes me at the moment -- similar to scrapple, about a gallon of coffee with rich cream skimmed off last night's milking, a dozen biscuits and fresh-churned sweet cream butter – the noises you hear out in the bush won't be two moose going at it. No, sireee! They be the tummy rumbles and other sounds of digestion and elimination generated by grown men who know better than to drink 64 ounces of coffee with a two cup grease chaser!

Well, you have me stumped with your choice of Chicago as this week's predigested muse. I can't rightly say I have been to Chicago. I've driven through a couple of times and I have spent interminable hours and hours in the terminal and on the tarmac out at O'hare trying to go somewhere else. I've seen it from a distance in both morning light and colored by sunset. But, aside from driving through at 30 to 45 miles an hour on the expressway and thruway, I have never set foot in Chi town proper.

Even though I haven't been there, I AM grateful for its existence. My daughter found herself and her husband in Chicago. The true impetus for the National Fire Protection Association is intimately involved with preventing another conflagration like the one caused by Mrs. O'Leary's cow. There's the stockyards that provoked C.S. Lewis's “The Problem of Pain.” Where would we be without Roger Ebert? Sara Paretsky's “V. I. Warshawski”? Studs Terkel (transplanted New Yorker, but most think of him as a Chicagoan)?

There's the Sears Tower, and Union Station. Chicago was the mid-western hub of railroad activity right from the start. Situated as it is on the shores of Lake Michigan, it was always an attractive land-locked port which later became a major inland seaport with the opening of the Saint Lawrence Seaway. Then there's the Mercantile Exchange and the Chicago Stock Market. “Business and Chicago have been inextricably bound since the city's beginnings in the early nineteenth century. Although there is no truth to the story that Chicago is Potawatomi for “let's make a deal,” economic and business concerns have not merely shaped but determined Chicago's destiny for almost two hundred years.” At least, according to the “Encyclopedia of Chicago.”

There's a lot to be said for Chicago. It's people are stalwart, resilient and astute in business. They are also corrupt, with an extraordinary tolerance for mendacity and pain – witness Mayor Richard Daley and the Chicago White Sox, to cite only two.

But what really sets the city apart in my book is the humor. Second City, self-deprecating and spot-on hilarious. See for yourself:

Chicago Humor:

The Pope, Richard Nixon and Mayor Daley are in a lifeboat, lost at sea. Unfortunately, they only have enough drinking water for one person. The three of them decide to vote to determine who should get the water. They vote, and Daley wins 6 to 2.

Q: What's orange and sleeps six?
A: A streets and sanitation truck.

Q: How do you keep a bear out of your back yard?
A: Put up a goal post.

Q: What three streets in Chicago rhyme with vagina?
A: Paulina, Melvina and Lunt.

There you have my disorganized thoughts on a city I've never visited, but always meant to. Who knows, maybe in a year or two. Take care of Krissy and Athena and have a great weekend.


P.S. Deep dish pizza is for the birds. Give me a thick-crust flat pie pizza any day. If I want soggy pizza, I'll order a Calzone.

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