What if there were a World Series of Cities? Given America's provincial focus, would it pit two American cities like NYC versus Chicago?
Having just returned from a 9-day visit to New York City during which we rented a flat near Times Square through the still reliable airbnb.com, I couldn't help but to compare my two homes. After almost a decade lived in The City (as NYC is called) and the metropolitan area, I knew NYC. Added to my almost decade in the City of Chicago, I know it pretty well too.
NYC. Gone were the John Lindsay days of no air-conditioning in the subway, some of which were colder this time than the unseasonably warm weather above on the ground. Nevertheless--despite the inadvertent washing of the subways by Hurricane Sandy--the subways had that familiar "eau du urine" smell. Especially on one particular elevator, that also remarkably worked! With advertisements in the subway for bipolar and other mental health studies, the mentally ill were in greater evidence in NYC than in Chicago.
NYC was thinner and younger, with fewer wheelchairs of the diabetes survivors that are all too in evidence in Chicago. It was faster, more rushed with the 24/7 reality seen at all hours on the street. It gave a pressure cooker electricity to "hurry up" to even the most lackadaisical. With the cost of living higher than Chicago, it also felt poorer too, this despite the lucky few who have "rent controlled" apartments. With the world's UN on one side of the island, NYC looked like a middle school Model UN. The diversity on view was on steroids. Only in London have I seen such diversity. Perhaps that is why there were more senior citizens seen who were remarkable pissed off at the world, it wasn't their world.
Chicago is greener. Not blue bin recycling greener, but literally greener. Beyond the iconic Chicago parks, Chicago has neighborhood parks with actual grass planted. Except for massive Central Park, a park in NYC is usually a asphalt covered parking lot with children's play area. Trees are spindly things that struggle to get light and space, as dogs poop on the sidewalks and owners don't bother to pick it up. Then again in NYC it is still unusual to find a restaurant that has a toilet for customers. For some reason, New Yorkers seem to be immune from such biological functions.
Though the CTA does have plastic seats just like NYC, at least in Chicago the locals are more likely to give up a seat for an older person or parent carrying a child than in NYC. Even in London's posh plush seated tube, seeing anyone give up a seat for anyone else is unusual.
As to the reason we were in NYC, it was for The Wedding of our son and his longtime girlfriend/later fiance. Held in a non-profit, independent bookstore, Housing Works Bookstore Cafe, it was the best of NYC. An old school bookstore filled with literate, educated millennials who were friends of the bride and groom. A range of people from all sorts of backgrounds and life experiences, including one former New Yorker now living in Kansas.
One conversation remains with me like a fine film, a young man whose father had emigrated from Europe to the USA after WW2. Then the father was thankful that the USA gave immigrants the opportunity, but over the years the father evolved. As he aged, he became fixated 24/7 on Fox News. Today the father was a right-winger with whom this young man could barely find any common ground to talk about anything, their conversations reduced to "how about that game last night". This puzzled and amused the young man who clearly didn't recognize the father he'd known in his youth.
It reminded me of another NYC reference from the original Rear Window. When Thelma Ritter says:
"We've become a race of Peeping Toms. What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change."
Though going outside of Chicago made me appreciate what it does well; returning to the pension poop hanging over taxpayers heads and the DePaul Stadium debacle invading my neighborhood like an unwanted rat entering the house via the toilet reminded me. We can do better. We should.