Thursday, July 27, 2006

Adieu, Chicago

In a few days, I will be embarking on my trek to a new land, where tobacco grows heartily (which means that sadly, the Triangle area will never go smoke-free) and you get a funny look for requesting unsweetened tea. So, I would like to take a few moments to reflect on what is so great about Chicago, the New York of the Midwest.

1. Among the many things I have done during the summer include: some random side show circus/burlesque show; a student dance show and an open-to-all dance show; Bike the Drive; the L.A.T.E (Long After Twilight Ends, a 25-mile bike ride through the streets of Chicago at 1:30 am); Critical Mass (a worldwide movement to promote the use of bicycles as a viable means of transportation); gone to the regular and doggie beaches, went to various street festivals and concerts, including one great evening at Ravinia; ran in a road race; daytripped to a state park and hiked through some canyons; played in the fountains at Milennium Park; shopped at a few different farmers markets; went for walks and runs and bike rides through hidden parks, the zoo, the lakefront; dined al fresco beneath the el tracks; watched a gay pride parade and rode in a St. Patrick's Day parade...the list goes on. It's hard to believe that all these things happen in just a few short months of nice weather in Chicago. But when you experience them, you forget all about the 20 mph winds that whip through your bones when it's 25 degrees outside.

2. Chicago is a city of communities. At one time, you can live in one neighborhood, work in another, and interact with people in myriad different communities. I lived in Lakeview, Boystown specifically, and worked at the University of Chicago in Hyde Park. I was part of: the 20-something community (those of us who graduated from college 1 to 9 years ago and were trying to figure out what to do with our lives), the Jewish community (both in Lakeview and Hyde Park, and they often overlap), the gay community (by proxy), the environmental community, the University of Chicago community, the athletic community, the bicycling community, the music-lovers community (and within that, fans of specific bands--I saw a lot of the same people at various Poi Dog Pondering and Michael McDermott shows), the native South Suburban community (meaning I have run into various people I went to high school with who now live in the area), the Red Line/Brown Line/Purple Line/various bus route communities of people who take the same mode of public transportation every day to and from work. There are probably more too. And although I didn't go to Michigan for college and I didn't grow up in Cleveland, there seem to be communities of those people here in Chicago as well. It's always a little trippy and a lot of fun that the communities overlap, so that you always feel like you'll belong somewhere and you'll always see a friendly face.

3. Speaking of friendly, most people in Chicago have that kind Midwestern disposition, so they're usually happy to help out and they're very friendly.

4. You want culture, you got it. Chicago has a little bit of just about anything you could ever want here, including food, art, dance, music, language, social groups, and more for just about every ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, race, tradition, etc, and everything is open to everyone. And yet, prejudice still abounds, which is tragic.

5. Nature--you gotta look a little harder for it sometimes, but it's there. Personally, it's not enough for my liking, but still...

6. Institutions of learning--Take a college course, get a new degree, learn how to belly dance, brew coffee, parachute out of a plane, speak Armenian, whatever your heart desires. Whether it's a community college, private or public university, community center, place of worship, library, there's education to be had.

I think there's probably more that I love about Chicago, which makes it very hard to leave. Maybe I'll be back someday, but in the meantime, I'll continue to post about all the new things I'll love about the Triangle area, as well as some of the things I'll want to change. Adieu, Chicago. It's been a blast!

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A mini-trip to Mexico

Today I went to the Mexican Fine Arts Center Museum in the Pilsen neighborhood. Mexican culture is so rich and layered and complex, and this particular exhibit featured the African presence in Mexico. Really, most modern Mexicans are a genetic mix of Spanish, American Indian, and African genes, but because there used to be such a stigma associated with interracial relationships, many people don't consider or acknowledge the possibility that they have a mixed heritage. Africans were brought to Mexico as slaves when the Spanish came to conquer the native Indian groups, and just like in the States, they played an integral role in the development of Mexico's modern society. It's a fascinating exhibit, and it makes me really bored of my own heritage. It does highlight, however, the fact that some things about the human experience are the same across cultures, and that we should be working together to bring fairness and equality for everyone, an idea especially relevant right now with all the discussion in this country about immigration rights.

I regret that in the almost 3 years I've lived in the city, I couldn't get my act together to go to the Dios de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) exhibit, which runs every year in September and October. Perhaps I'll have to make a special trip back to see it.

Sunday, July 23, 2006

Bestill my heart

A little birdie told me that Trader Joe's would soon be making its way to Durham, NC. And I know homey wouldn't mess with a girl's emotions like that.

Whole Foods, hang on to your knickers. Although truth be told, when the average high in winter is 40ish degrees, the farmers' markets probably operate nine or 10 months a year, and that's much preferrable to any grocery store anyway.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The Age of Misinformation

A minority congressional report has charged that 20 out of 23 federally funded pregnancy resource centers are telling women that abortion results in an increased risk of breast cancer, infertility and deep psychological trauma. Click on the post title to read the article.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Hopping off the coat tails

Bradd Pitt is drawing attention to something good for the world besides his good looks, and he's doing it without Angie's help. Brad Piit has apparently always been interested in architecture, and now he's working with Global Green to sponsor a contest to design environmentally friendly housing in New Orleans for victims of Hurricane Katrina. Read more about it at MSNBC's special.

Green building is becoming really big. The new mega tower that serves as Hearst media headquarters was build with green elements. See, there's hope...