Wednesday, August 3, 2022

You, too, can visit Chicago without weapons!

Navy Pier is the most popular tourist attraction in Chicago.

     My first cousin’s daughter is ... what? My second cousin? No, those are more distant kinfolk who only share great-grandparents. My mother’s sister’s son’s daughter is my first cousin, once-removed.
     I think.
     Whatever she is, my 18-year-old relation and her bestie came to visit with us for almost a week in July.
     Six days. Having readily agreed to the visit, in concept, I did blink a few times when informed of the specific span, thinking of a Yiddish word, mishpocha, which means “family.” And the obligations thereby implied.
     Sure, I said, yes yes, of course, a week is fine ... though I still have to work. As long as I’m not expected to squire the teens about the city, they’re welcome to use our house as a base for their explorations.
     That said, the unwritten code of familial responsibility dictates that I pick them up at the airport, buy a welcome lunch and host their initial foray into the city. What’ll it be, girls? Navy Pier? Most popular attraction in Chicago. A ferris wheel. Plenty of shops selling tat. Fireworks at night.
     Or ... the Art Institute. The Cezanne show. I was secretly pulling for that.
     Or ... if you kids are tired from your long trip, we could just walk in the Chicago Botanic Garden. (The “easiest for me” was unvoiced.)
     They chose that last option. Youth is wasted on the young.
     Driving there, we passed a Walgreens.
     “We need to stop at Walgreens,” one of my visitors said.
     I know better than to quiz young women about what kind of necessity might inspire a visit to a drugstore. But the purpose of the stop was revealed: Before they could venture into Chicago, they needed to buy pepper spray. They would have bought it before leaving Boston but couldn’t take it on the plane.

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  1. The most frequent question we are asked when we tell people how much our son loves living in Chicago and how much we love visiting is of course, “Is it safe?”
    All we can do is agree there are some rough areas and remind them there are some areas near where we live that are best to avoid as well.
    It’s part of the double edge sword of the media. Without it there is no democracy but the cost is the sensationalism that I guess must be produced to sell ad space and boost circulation.

  2. As a life long Chicagoan [Rogers Park], I stay off the Red Line & never go to the McDonald's at Chicago & State anymore. For some bizarre reason, the gangs have taken over that one & made it a fight zone. I've been to fast food restaurants in the worst parts of Chicago & never been afraid, but that McDonald's has become toxic!

  3. I didn't even know Walgreens sells pepper spray. I agree with Neil that it's not a good idea to carry stuff like that around: whip out your spray and your antagonist is likely to whip out his 45.


  4. Growing up, long ago, in the near south suburbs, it was always understood there were good and bad parts of the city. It hit home several years ago when I picked up a European printed travel guide to Chicago that noted one should take caution, because some parts of Chicago were not "tourist friendly". Fortunately, most of it is.

  5. Marianne Moore wrote a nice poem about good guests.
    "My father used to say,
    Superior people never make long visits.
    Have to be shown Longfellow's grave, or the glass flowers at Harvard.
    Self-reliant like the cat that takes its, prey to privacy,
    the mouse's limp tail hanging like a shoelace from its mouth.
    They sometimes delight in solitude
    and can be robbed of speech
    by speech which has delighted them.
    The deepest feeling always shows itself in silence,
    not in silence but restraint.
    Nor was he insincere in saying
    'Make my house your inn'
    Inns are not residences.

  6. I (f,75) live far south in Pullman and have no fears driving/shopping pretty much anywhere. I'm very cautious particularly driving at night, and pay great attention to my surroundings at all times. I don't know the statistics, but I'd guess I have a better chance of falling in the bathtub and cracking my skull open than getting hit by a stray bullet driving through Roseland. One could also be in a fatal car crash, get t-boned by a semi, fall down the stairs, etc. Life is dangerous. I don't think it's a good idea to live in fear 24 hours a day.

  7. Having lived in various places in all parts of the world, especially towns of all sizes in the U.S., I cannot think of any that did not have a Bad Side of Town. (In a couple of places it was presented to me somewhat as a point of pride, as if it qualified the place to be something larger than a small town.) Learning where to go and where not to go was simply part of getting acclimated.

    Here in Chicago, when our office was located on West Huron, our visitors were encouraged to go sightseeing during off-hours, but were warned (in print) to avoid going north of Chicago Avenue, where the high-rise projects were at that time, after a few got robbed on more than one occasion. In hindsight, we should have given out souvenir compasses with the company logo on them.

    Regarding pepper spray, I'm sure it gives some the necessary confidence to get out and about, but unless your finger is on the trigger when you really need it, I don't think it's going to help you in time. Our daughter and her BFF both got theirs confiscated at the airport once: they had been carrying them around without any need to use them for so long that they had forgotten that they had them at all.

  8. We took a short drive down Stoney Island last Saturday to attend a talk in Pullman . We went over to the national monument and walked through the museum. Then poked our head into Roseland for a tour of a vocational training center that took over a closed brewery. Walked around the square . Had a lovely afternoon.

    Theres danger everywhere. You can't be foolish, and hope for good fortune. same here in Pocket Town

  9. Chicago born, Chicago bred, lived almost half-a-lifetime in the city and the suburbs, and I hate what Chicago has become…a code word for predatory people of color, as George Soros is a euphemism for “Jews.” Some years ago, Chicago finally shed the stigma of its gangster past. Until then, you could go to Germany or Greece or. South Africa or China, and still endure: “Ahhhh...Chicago. Al Capone, rat-tat-tat-tat.” There was no escaping it. But even mobsters die off. Replaced by new ones…political fodder for the Orange Guy. Two steps forward, four steps back. That does not make me happy. Thanks, Donnie. Thanks. I really mean it.

    Pepper spray is a mistake. It only serves to piss off your assailant. Better to be mugged or robbed than stabbed or shot. Those in the tourist zones don’t need it, and it makes a bad situation worse. Visitors to any city need to learn what the natives know and need to carry little maps around in their heads…the ones that tell you what’s cool and what’s not, and especially where the no-go zones are. I did carry a box-cutter on the Red Line, when I worked third shift. But the one time I needed it, 45 years ago, the cops showed up when I needed them most.

    I’ve been making return visits to Chicago for thirty years now. In mid--June, for the first time ever, this native actually felt apprehensive. Being a seventy-something had a lot to do with it. I was warned repeatedly not to use the Red Line, a heads-up that has greatly upset me. The train I’ve taken all my life? Off-limits? Hell, yeah, dude. Especially for geezers like you. Even with the box-cutter.

    So there went this train junkie’s plan to ride the CTA, for pleasure and nostalgia. There went the Cubs (outrageous ticket prices also played into that one). But I had a good time anyway. No mishpocha, as they’ve all scattered or died. First visit to the Illinois Railway Museum since before 9/11. No pepper spray needed at the Botanic Garden, despite the hordes of suburban moms and their offspring. Drove through my old neighborhoods. No shots fired. Showed off the Garfield Park Conservatory to my wife.

    The city of my birth is still my kind of hellhole. Ticking off all the ways that it sucks will only tick ME off. Why? Because...I know better. One can hate it and still love it. Which makes it the most American of America’s cities.


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