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Dismantling Chicago--One Name at a Time

Dismantling Chicago--One Name at a Time

A few years back, there existed an online newspaper called "ChitownDailyNews(dot)Org". This piece ran there. In light of this week's atrocity (the Santa Fe Building becoming the Motorola Building), I decided to dust it off and re-share it. Yes, I'm a bit biased. I worked in the Santa Fe Building for a couple of years--and back in the day, my dad was a hardworking Burlington Northern and Santa Fe man.

 

There has always been something so distinctly beautiful about Chicago.
The old faces mixed in with the new. Fannie Mae and Ethel's. The Gehry
creation just a stone's throw away from a Burnham building.

Chicago is the ultimate dichotomy. A city which has thrived in spite of,
and likely because of, its diversity.

But lately, the old are being replaced, seemingly, without too much of a
battle. A preoccupation with newness has permeated Chicago's thinking.
As if newness were synonymous with "better", and oldness with
"unimportant."

Marshall Field's, Carson Pirie and Scott, and others have been removed
from the Chicago landscape, paving the way for new faces. And while
their era may be bygone, their denizens remain among us. As sad as the
fact that these old Chicago institutions are being replaced, it appears
that to some, these old friends appear to be losing their value as well.

I come here often. To the basement of the old Marshall Field's building
on State Street. I write grocery lists. I contemplate my life's plans. I
people watch. I imagine what it used to be like years ago when my mom
was a salesgirl here. She was a knockout. I imagine this classy
teenager, her svelte 5'9" frame in the fashions of the 60's. I imagine
her chatting with the handsome teenage and twentysomething salesmen in
their suits. In pictures I've seen, things seem to have been so much
more elegant-- even 40 years ago.

On this particular day on which I'm visiting, an immaculate-looking lady
in a turquoise coat is perusing the Frango mints. She is at least 75.
Her perfectly-coifed hair is salt and pepper, mostly the former. She
wears black-rimmed glasses and pearl earrings, and holds a black cane to
match her elegant black "high-heeled" shoes.

There is a young male sales associate handing out samples.

She inquires as to the flavors. There is one that her old ears just
can't seem to grasp.

"French Silk Pie!" the sales associate says. "French Silk Pie!" he
repeats. She just can't seem to get it.

"I can't yell it any louder," he ultimately states, seemingly
exasperated.

Later, a less-put together woman-- but of the same generation as the
Turquoise Coat, approaches the same unsuspecting candy man. She is
missing a tooth or two, and is referencing the days "when it was
'Marshall Field's'." She says she used to get samples of chocolate with
her purchases. "How many can I get? she asks him. One of each, he
responds. There are three trays, so she's eligible for three samples.
She mumbles something about "bad business" as she putters away.

He appears to be oblivious to the uniqueness of these women. Chicago
landmarks in their own right. Little pieces of history. Treasures.

There are those who will argue that there can't be an oversentimentality
when it comes to commerce, or to inanimate objects like buildings, or
even old people. It's a new generation, they'll say. You've got to go
with the flow.

After all, "everything must change", the song says. "Nothing stays the
same".

And while change is not necessarily a bad thing, must we welcome the
indifference that accompanies it?

I'm not ashamed to say that I miss Marshall Field's, that I was furious
that it changed over, and that while I may frequent the new
establishment, I will always refuse to call the new store anything but
"the old Marshall Field's." And though I no longer have Field's to
treasure in all its glory, I will cherish those who, cane in hand,
missing teeth and all, still roam its premises.

Because Chicago has never seemed to be a city where anything or better
yet, anyone, is made to feel expendable.

And now it appears that even in Chicago, to everything, there is a
season.

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