Sunday, October 18, 2009

Attn. All My Chicago Peeps

So, I have a question, Chicago People, does the following ring true to you at all?

Chicago is known as the Windy City. And Chicago can be pretty windy. Picture: it's January and you're walking amongst the skyscrapers downtown. Those tall, elegantly substantial buildings protect you from the bitter, biting wind if you hug close to them. But one building will give way to the next and and as you make your way across the corridors between them, a wind tunnel can strike. Wind tunnels focus the wind so that as you cross them, the wind might blow off your hat, knock you off your feet. But, if you are a Chicagoan, as you brave that wind tunnel with frozen snot on the inside of your scarf and sensation in your feet a distant memory, you'll grab your hat before it flies away, chuckle and think "It's only a certain kind of person tough enough for this. In Chicago, we filter out the weak. Chicago is so awesome."

This brings me to the real reason why Chicago is called the Windy City; because despite those January days, Chicago isn't really all that windy. Cleveland, I'm told, is way windier. And while there are various theories as to how the moniker came into being, there's one I believe because it sounds so much like Chicago. It was coined by the editor of the New York Sun in the late 19th century to refer to the Chicago habit of rabid boosterism. To his point: even the truly terrible Chicago weather serves as a point of pride for a Chicagoan.

Only denizens of the wider Philadelphia area are more vociferously proud of their hometown. And whence this proud spirit of noisy boosterism? Much of it stems from a genuine recognition of all the things that are wonderful about Chicago, the amazing architecture and theater, the sports teams, the brusque affability of its people, the sparkling lakefront. Yet there is one shameful, unspoken reason Chicagoans boast so much: it's often just so much whistling in the dark to cover up the younger sibling inferiority complex we have with New York.