Friday, September 09, 2005

Chicago's Seven Wonders

First I have to say that this entire exercise is rather silly, but the Chicago Tribune has been collecting nominees for the "7 Wonders of Chicago," and today the masses are voting on which of the 14 nominees should make the final list. I hate the final list of nominees, actually. As Eric Zorn blogged in a Rumsfeld-esque way, "But you go into the voting booth with the wonders you have, not the wonders you want." Being my family's only resident Chicagoan (I'm speaking only of my "side"--several of my wife's relatives live in the city), I feel compelled to weigh in with my choices. Here they are, in no particular order:

  • Sears Tower - This inspired Zorn' s statement, and I agree with him that the John Hancock Center is far more appealing. Chicago architecture is legendary, however, so some famous building has to be included, even if it's not particularly impressive aside from having once been the world's tallest. The Hancock Observatory (or better yet, the Signature Lounge) is a must-see (the ladies' restroom up there has a great view, too, but I'm not supposed to know that). People visiting Chicago by themselves go to the Sears Tower, but Chicagoans take visitors to the Hancock instead.
  • Chicago Bungalows - Maybe these are not truly a wonder, but as the owner of an official "Historic Chicago Bungalow" built in 1918, how could I vote differently?
  • Chicago Blues - This is rather broad to be a wonder, and I think the heyday of Chicago blues has passed, but it's one of our city's most recognizable cultural features.
  • The "L" - I will admit to having a sort of public transportation fetish. It may not really be a wonder, but I like it.
  • The Lakefront - This is a legitimate wonder, but not for the reasons one might think. Sure, there are fantastic views and myriad recreational opportunities, but the wonder is that it exists as a public space. How many cities have 18-20 miles of contiguous, public waterfront? People like A. Montgomery Ward battled tirelessly to protect this land for the masses. (Shameless plug: my upcoming book includes two bike rides along the lakefront.)
  • Wrigley Field - I'm not much of a baseball fan anymore, but a visit to Wrigley can almost make you picture a time when it truly was America's favorite pastime, when the players weren't overpaid, spoiled, performance-enhanced babies.
  • Lower Wacker Drive - I'm not sure how much of a wonder this is, except that it is a wonder that more people (including myself) haven't been killed driving down there! It is, however, an elegant solution to some of the Loop's traffic problems.

What didn't make my list?

  • Milennium Park - It's interesting, but it's just too new to be a wonder. The corporate sponsorship of every last fixture is rather off-putting, too.
  • The Water Tower - It is a symbol of the city since it survived the fire, but it isn't a wonder. Architecturally, it was skewered by Oscar Wilde, and there isn't much to do there besides look at it. At least the pumping station across the street has a restaurant, a City of Chicago store, and a tourist information center.
  • Chicago Theater Scene - I dont' think there really is such a great theater scene, but that's not my thing so I shouldn't judge. I think Chicago's comedy scene (i.e., Second City), is more renowned than its theater scene.
  • Chicago Hot Dog - I suppose I'm not a real Chicagoan because frankly (pun intended) I don't like Chicago-style hot dogs. I don't eat many hot dogs, but when I do, I like them plain or with only ketchup. At Wrigley Field, I hated the way the hot dogs used to come with mustard already on them (dogs from the roaming vendors had mustard, so I had to go downstairs to the concession stand to get one without). If you want a real Chicago culinary treat, have deep-dish pizza or an Italian beef sandwich. I have sampled a lot of pizza in this country, and ours (whether deep-dish, stuffed, or thin) is head and shoulders above pizza anywhere else. If Chicago pizza had been nominated, it would have received my vote!
  • University of Chicago - It's a neat place with some interesting architecture and a fine academic reputation, but it's not a wonder. Everyone in Hyde Park probably disagrees with me.
  • Museum of Science & Industry - This would have earned my vote as a favorite school field trip destination, but it didn't impress me as much when I visited in my 20s. Maybe I'll have a change of heart when I see the refurbished U-505.
  • Chicago River - The wonder isn't that it was reversed. The wonder is that downstate Illinois didn't start a war with Chicago when the city pulled this stunt, which sent tons of sh*t (literally) down the Illinois River. This screwed up that river for years and destroyed the fishing and button industries. As far as rivers go, the Chicago isn't that impressive anyway. People from St. Louis would laugh at us for calling our river a wonder. Heck, people from Morris would laugh at us. Plus, it still isn't clean enough to swim in (much less drink from) although it has been improving.

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