Saturday, November 21, 2009

Algren's Undying Love

"Once you've become a part of this particular patch, you'll never love another. Like loving a woman with a broken nose, you may well find lovelier lovelies, but never a lovely so real."

Clearly, despite all of her flaws, be it gangsters, mobsters, political scandal, rich, poor, good and bad, Algren loves Chicago. Having grown up in the suburbs of this great city my whole life, I think I have come to take the city itself for granted. When I was a kid getting on the train to the city was the most exciting thing. Each year around Christmas my whole family would pack in the car, trek out to the blue line and make our way to see the tree in Daley Plaza and the windows and Marshal Fields (never Macy’s). Popping Frango mints on the way home was also a treat, but it just seemed like every other outing. The city was a bunch of tall buildings that looked cool, but never had a past. The only think I could ever think of as a past was which story did the windows tell last year or I wonder why we can’t climb on the Picasso anymore. While the buildings were awe-inspiring, they were a bunch of metal, steel and glass. The loop was the whole city, the museums were cool and sports rock.

Then came the time to pick a college. My friend and I had decided in 8th grade that we were going to go to school in the city. We chose the city because it looked like the most fun, not because it had a rich history that could teach us about why we were actually there, but because of all the bars for when we were 21! My dorm room freshman year was the top floor with a view of the Sears Tower (yet another building whose name will remain as it is in my memory). Everyday when I first got to school as I sat down to do homework I would look at the tower and it would take my breath away. Three years later as I walk through campus I see the building in the distance and don’t think twice. It’s there, it always has been and always will be so why ogle at it anymore? I have lived in the city for three years and have never gone further south than Comiskey Park and never further north than Wrigley Field; never more East than the lake (for obvious reasons) and never more West than Logan Square. I have stayed in the comfortable bubble that I have in my mind that is Chicago.

In a way, I feel like I take the city for granted. The buildings will always be there, the CTA will always make me crazy and the drivers will always be total morons. And yet, I have a new appreciation of the city because of Algren’s words. The fa├žade that is the city isn’t everything. This class has given me an opportunity to look at the nooks and crannies that really make up the city, it’s past, present and future. I’ve been to other cities, and really none compare. New York is dirty and loud and HUGE. LA is the same way. Then other cities are too small, not as grandiose. Chicago really is the perfect city. It has the diversity that is unmatched and an unbeatable skyline, and perhaps one of the seediest histories ever, and that’s what makes it so great. Algren is completely right, it doesn’t matter what the city has done in the past or what it will do in the future, this is home and nothing will ever trump that. Everything that I know about cities has come from living and visiting this city and I’m better for it. When I meet people who have never ridden the CTA I get so confused. Then of course I realize that not everyone has been to such a fantastical city before and I have to cut them some slack. Everything that has ever happened in Chicago has shaped it into the city it is now and Algren has such an appreciation for it. Sure some of the things the city isn’t particularly proud of **Blago** but she redeems herself in so many other ways and that is what Algren is saying. One must overlook the bad, but accept it as well in order to see the city for her true beauty.

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