Hog Butcher for the World,
Tool maker, Stacker of Wheat,
Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;
Stormy, husky, brawling,
City of the Big Shoulders
Carl Sandburg, "Chicago"
So I'm off to Chicago for the rest of the week. I haven't been to Chicago for hmm over five years now. Chicago to me is one of those cities that just seems to welcome you like a German grandmother: all hugs and bratwursts. "Wilkommen! Haben Sie gegessen?" she seems to say (although I doubt your German grandmother is going to use the formal case as I think I have done here.) I've never felt anxious or threatened in Chicago--not like say New York or San Francisco where I always feel that slight edge that some punk is going to step out of an alleyway and take a bat to me for my money.
Of course my feelings are not borne out by the city's overall history, in that historically it has been quite a rough-and-tumble town only surpassed by, perhaps, Kansas City for overall American rough-and-tumbleness. Chicago and violence, as the poet would have it, go right along with each other like onions on a hot dog. I suppose if I looked up the crime statistics, as well, I would probably find Chicago is still right up there with any big American city (but I don't think I'm going to do that.) Yet somehow I am never threatened by Chicago; it just seems like a cozy but giant midwestern city that opens up and takes you inside out of the cold wind.
So what's my point? Perhaps it is just a way for me to build up a necessary and proper tenseness that a visit to a modern megalopolis requires so as not become one of those very same crime statistics.
Did I ever tell you about the time in Baltimore where I made a "donation" to a guy who had "just gotten out of the Baltimore county lock up?" Now that was the moment when I could have become a statistic. Luckily I only had 5 bucks in my wallet and he saw that.
Like Chicago, Baltimore if one of my favorite cities, by the way. I could wander all day through the shadiest of areas and never feel like I'm in danger, even though, quite probably, I am.