Recent thoughts on Chicago

There was a funny moment earlier in my present Chicago sojourn when I wasn’t sure whether my flight was headed to MDW or ORD. And it was a relief to realize it didn’t matter, that they were both part of a city and a system that I understand.

Familiarity is a luxury, one we don’t appreciate until we’ve been without it for a while. In this way, Chicago is the most luxurious city in the world to me, even more than Kansas City, which I think may always be a sort of distant older cousin with whom I have only formal familiarity. I’ve gotten lost in Chicago and figured out how to get un-lost there. I feel all the excitement and anxiety of arrival, and then when it happens, feel instead the simultaneous letdown and relief of recognition: “It’s just you, just you, and we’re both okay.”

Chicago – it’s you, after all.
Since the last time I was here I’ve visited New York three times,
San Francisco twice.
Yet despite your foibles and your flaws (all real)
I find that you are still the one I love.
To love a different city
I would first have to be a different man.

Maybe any real love for a city must occur
on a different order from the usual measured attributes:
population and tax base and GDP
or even the sexy ones like LEED certifications.
Maybe it must occur, can only occur
in the same way we love a sibling or spouse:
unconditionally, in spite of all the known difficulties
(and even the unknown).
Perhaps we are joined to our towns at a level deeper than choice
where something beyond reason says,
“I need you, now and for the foreseeable future;
I need to know how you turn out.”

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