A mountain dweller in the Great Lake valley

Rounds and grids
After Seattle earlier this year, I have had the opportunity to discover another iconic American city, Chicago Illinois. This town has accompanied my childhood through my television set. Michael Jordan or Al Bundy have introduced me to the Windy City, but through their own peculiar angles. A few years later, it was my turn to walk the banks of the Lake Michigan and to discover a few more differences to share in this blog.
  1. It's all about food. As you will read below Chicago boasts some iconic dishes such as deep pan pizza or hot dogs. And yet the city most interesting sandwich is not available to eat. Walking down the streets you could be amazed by the little amount of traffic for such a big conurbation. Avenues should be packed with cars and cabs, and yet I found the streets almost peaceful... Until I realised that the traffic that was not visible on the surface was happening under the upper crust of the city. In some places, you can encounter up to three levels of traffic, two of which are semi-underground. What is even more amazing is that these underground streets happen to go under the skyscrapers or even through buildings like this four-lane highway that literally goes through the former central post-office. I am calling that the urban sandwich.
  2. Emasculating pizzas. Whilst writing about food, let me close the topic by sharing a painful experience... One of these nights I went out with a couple female colleagues and we landed in one of the local culinary landmarks: Giordano's. When my friends suggested to share a deep pan pizza, I hesitated but behaved... and in the end agreed (you certainly don't want to be seen as an ogre by your colleagues). We opted for what sounded at that time a very reasonable, medium-sized pizza that the three of us would share. "Easy job" my gut said, already thinking about a complementary dessert... until the bespoke pizza landed on our table. In spite of my legendary Italian cravings and the precious help of my two sidekicks, we never saw the end of the cheesy dish that was taunting us. I felt I failed my peers. This was an indent into my manhood! In my defense, who else than Chicago-based Italians call a pizza a 5cm-thick quiche comprising of 0.5cm of crust, 4cm of melted mozzarella cheese and 0.5cm of tomato sauce and other toppings? Seriously! I must confess that a few days later, I had another go at it... On my own this time. I conquered the small-sized pizza all by myself, and regained some self-esteem.
  3. The magic box. In the US, everything is big. I am always amazed by the skyscrapers. After my first flight was canceled I went to our local office to work. It is located in the Aon Center, a 346m high building in the financial district (the third highest building in Chicago). One evening, as I was leaving the office I headed towards the elevators to see a guy stepping in. I rushed, but the doors closed right in front of me. I pushed frantically the button and the same lift opened... Empty. The guy before me had vanished. I suddenly remembered two things: first some elevators are super fast and second Houdini was half American. It was impossible for the lift to have gone down, unloaded its passenger, and returned to the 31st floor in a couple seconds. That left us with the second option: the lift was magic. I felt like a kid... I knew there was a trick, a hidden panel, a sliding door, something. But I could not find it. And trust me I could not refrain from knocking at the walls to see if I could crack it. The solution was revealed to me when we stopped at ground level and whilst the doors remained closed the robotic voice announced "Unloading lower deck". In this massive building, not only do you have a myriad of lifts to cater for the 83 floors, but they are also double-decked to load twice more people each time! The mystery of the magic lift was solved.
  4. Bears or bulls. I am a sports-fan, but I also appreciate symbols and economics... A weird mix I would say, but which proved handy in Chicago. When looking for some entertainment I was struck by the fact that the city was home of two major franchises, the Chicago Bulls and the Chicago Bears. These two animals are also the symbols of the stock markets: the bear represents a conservative, wait-and-see trend, whilst the Bull refers to a buoyant stock frenzy. Chicago being also a reputable finance markets with its stock exchange, its mercantile exchange... I could not really fathom if the two were connected in a subtle in-joke at the sport business and the millions of dollars transacted every season. And what to think about the White Sox... Is this hope that a bright colour will encourage Santa Claus to finally drop some good players in the local baseball team stockings?
That's it for now, but there will be probably more since my flights get canceled one after the other. That will leave me a bit more time to explore in greater depth this city and its local oddities.

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1 comment:

  1. Lori H8:34 pm

    Glad you conquered the deep dish! Now go try the italian beef sandwich at Mr. Beef's it is the best in the city. http://www.yelp.com/biz/mr-beef-chicago-2