When I went away to college in Iowa City, I realized what a strange child childhood I really had, which made me love it more. I could never wait to come back to Chicago and party at chic bars and go out with my older brothers and their friends (finally!). But as an adult, I sort of hated that I ended up back in Chicago. Having grown up here, I always thought the next step would be New York City. I wanted so badly to move there, but could never afford it. So I paved my way in Chicago. And I hated it the whole time. I hated the same tired neighborhoods that I'd traipsed around as a kid. I hated that my friends, many of whom had moved here as adults, were experiencing neighborhoods for the first time that I'd already had whole life experiences in...and was so over. I longed to move away.
Here's the thing, when you live in Chicago, you are, in many ways, constantly compared to New York. Chicagoans are overly friendly Midwesterners, not gritty New Yorkers. We're fly over country between New York and L.A. We're not called the Second City for nothing. Carrie Bradshaw didn't live in Chicago and Monica, Ross, and the gang didn't drink coffee at Millennium Perk. Chicago is where people get their start before they take the plunge and move to the big city. And that's how I felt. I hated that I was stuck here. I felt like I was never going to live out my dream and move to New York. I felt second rate compared to all my friends that (with a lot of help from family) were able to move out to New York.
Something happened a few years ago, though. I began to really appreciate being a Chicagoan. And I began to realize the reality of my existence versus that of people I seemed to be jealous. It dawned on me that these New Yorkers weren't city people. Not really. They may be New Yorkers, but they're not really New Yorkers. And a lot of them won't be New Yorkers forever. But me, I'm the real deal. I'm a city person through and through. I grew up in the city, I live in the city, and I will continue to live in the city. More importantly, A.P. and I will raise our children in the city. And when I had that realization, I began to appreciate Chicago more. Plus...I went to New York a few times to visit friends. And while New York is a fun city and I would still love to live there one day, Chicago is a better city...for oh, so many reasons!
1. You may tease us for being the overly friendly Midwesterners, but we really are. And guess what? That's a good thing. I'm cynical, but not enough to be an asshole.
2. Our city smells like fresh water and sky...not poop. It's this awesome invention called alleys. You should try it, New York.
3. Say what you will about our politicians, but Daley made our city beautiful. Tulips line Michigan Avenue every spring. The city's protected lakefront parks provide a beautiful shoreline. And our tree lined sidewalks are always pleasing to walk down. Our city may be broke, but at least we look good!
4. We have the best restaurants in the world. Seriously. If you're at all a foodie, then you know that Alinea, The Girl and the Goat, Moto, and L2O aren't in NYC. Yeah, what's up?
5. We have a better skyline. The Empire State building and the Chrysler building are great, but they don't compare to this:
I talk about my love affair with A.P. on the blog all the time, and Chicago definitely creeps in, but I don't think I share enough what an amazing city this is. It is because I love Chicago so much that I decided to start a new feature here called Weekend Date. Each week, I will blog about a date you could go on in Chicago. The date will fit one of several categories: Friday Night Date, Saturday Night Date, Sunday Brunch Date, Weekend Day Date, or a Quick Getaway. I know not everyone who reads this blog is from Chicago, but I hope that you'll enjoy seeing what Chicago has to offer, and what adventures A.P. and I get into. I've already got a bunch of ideas in the works and A.P. and I have gone on a couple of dates already. My goal is to show you the other side of Chicago. Downtown is nice and fancy restaurants are great, but I really want to highlight neighborhoods you might not travel to unless you were a real Chicagoan and hopefully in the process show you why Chicago is not the second city, but the best city.
So, won't you please check back later today for the first Weekend Date feature? I'd heart you so much! : )