That was one of the first thoughts I had as we entered the city of Chicago on the Metra from Elgin, Illinois early last month. We were out there visiting a college for a long weekend, and couldn’t help but spend a day in the city since we were staying only about an hour away. As most of you know, I live in a relatively green (not all urbanized) area of New York that most people refer to as “upstate,” as in up the state in relation to New York City. While I’m not completely unfamiliar with huge cities like Chicago, it’s still always a bit of a shock to be thrust into them. I like to say that when I am older and move out on my own, I want the best of both worlds. I want to live near a big city, (and by near I mean within probably two hours of a major one) but I also like my green grass and fresh air; I couldn’t handle living in a concrete jungle. Let me tell you a little bit more about my area than you might have read in my “About Me” post or page. I live near the southern border of New York right near the Pennsylvania line that runs straight and horizontal. My general area spanning almost to Lake Ontario north of here is known as the Finger Lakes Region. We have lots of hills, lakes, gorges, waterfalls, and wineries. It’s a very outdoors oriented area and is great for people looking for that “small town” feel. There are lots of small towns as well as cities that are a little bit bigger; we don’t do without malls or regular stores or anything like that. It’s a good area to raise a family if you want to be outside a lot and get that fresh air but still have lots of things to do, there are festivals and hiking trails and other places and events throughout the region. Anyway, growing up around this and then visiting huge cities like Chicago is definitely a wake up call for me, so I’ve come up with a list of ways in which Chicago is different than my quiet, ruralish Upstate New York, and I thought I’d share them.
1. Chicago is loud. While my street does have considerable traffic compared to most in my town, nothing here compares to Chicago. And Chicago doesn’t compare to NYC. That’s even worse. I’m not saying I hate it; I don’t and it’s just something that people are used to or aren’t, but I know I’d probably have a bit of trouble sleeping anywhere in downtown Chicago as of right now.
2. Anything you want, you can find in the city. Here in my town, there’s a lot we don’t have that almost every considerably sized city in the US would have. Any type of specialty food, and type of specialty store, and every style of architecture and design you can imagine, Chicago probably has it. I’d probably have to drive at least a half hour to find an Asian market here.
3. Drivers have one goal: to get where they’re going as fast as possible, and if you’re in their way, you’d better watch out. It kind of amazes me how inconsiderate and outright dangerous drivers can be in huge cities, and Chicago was no exception. They drive unbelievably fast on crowded streets, and pretty much compete with each other for road space as well.
4. Chicago has an amazing skyline. Our towns here in Upstate are almost all pretty small, and we don’t have any skylines whatsoever. Our tallest buildings are probably ten stories high and there are so many hills here you wouldn’t be able to see a “skyline” clearly even if there was one. Chicago has a beautiful skyline, and the skyscrapers are worth of architectural study for sure, which were all especially an interest to me- an aspiring architect.
5. Couldn’t be much windier. I’ve gotta say. The hills that surround us really are wind barriers and weather protectors. Chicago lived up to its nickname; it was extremely windy the entire day we were there. It’s very flat in Illinois, and the wind doesn’t have anything stopping it from whipping through the streets and across the lake. While we get wind here like anyone else would, it’s not nearly as strong, or as constant.
6. Chicago has it’s own style. Chicago style pizza; Chicago style hot dogs; Chicago style townhouses. Chicagoans are very proud of their signature stamp on different things we enjoy here in the United States, and while my Finger Lakes area has a certain style too, it’s not nearly as pronounced. Chicago is very specific on their ways of doing things, and up here, not quite as much, or just not as extreme.
7. Public transportation; options galore. There’s the subway, there’s the regular trains, there’s taxis and bus stops. We have taxis here too, but you have to call them. We have bus routes, but there aren’t many and they aren’t very frequent. We have train tracks, but the trains that run them are definitely not for passengers, and barely ever go through here. And the only thing we have underground is our sewage and water systems- I hope.