Chicago used to be a far away magical place.
If you are a Cubs fan one of the better ways to detach yourself from the current dismal product is to read books about Cubs history. There aren't many happy books on all that, but there are times that are better than the ones we are living through. I was at yesterday's game where I endured five Cubs wild pitches in one inning, a ninth inning game tying home run and a Cubs game losing balk.
I went home to continue with the new "Mr. Wrigley's Ball Club (Chicago & the Cubs During The Jazz Age)," an exhaustively researched nugget by Roberts Ehrgott (University of Nebraska Press.) I even loved the Art Deco cover. Didn't Art used to play third base for the 1932 Cubs? Don't forget to tip your waitresses.....
......Ehrgott's thesis is how in the 1920s and '30s Chicago was "The Capital of Baseball." Owner William "Bill" Wrigley Jr. made sure no National League payroll exceeded the Cubs. Ehrgott writes how in 1931 Cubs created the world's first "electronic village" beaming out radio broadcasts to six states in the Upper Midwest and 7 million residents of "Chicagoland."
I recently was in a flea market where I picked up a mail order catalog from the winter of 1939.
In big bold letters the home location was CHICAGO MAIL ORDER, CO. and folks could buy exotic things like boxed 'lovely lingerie" that will "give her a real thrill." .
Like jazz and Hack Wilson, this magic wasn't so easy to find in Waterloo, Iowa.
Last week Huffington Post writer David Landsel delivered his "10 Terribly Overrated Destinations (and Where to Travel Instead.)"
The former Chicago resident ranked Chicago 7th. We have lost some magic and I agree.
In part, he wrote, .."Chicago is a handsome, reasonably entertaining provincial capital. This used to be enough for Chicagoans, but then it wasn't, leading to a period of time, beginning around the turn of the new century, during which all manner of foolishness -- from baffling things built by celebrity architects to a slew of obnoxious restaurants -- was unleashed upon the city. Suddenly, everything was pretty much the same, except now it was way more expensive...."
Landsel is spot on.
For example, the "secret" Pilsen restaurant El Ideas (elevated ideas) is one of the most pompous examples of the Chicago culinary scene. You can only make reservations online, menus are not revealed and customers are supposed to bring a bottle of wine for the chef. Chefs also make themselves available for photo ops.
Who goes to a place like this? Not a real Chicagoan.
Landsel continued, "...Instead, try Go to Detroit. It's more honest. Also, there's a great art museum, a proper public market, some of the country's best architecture, the music scene is fun, the food scene is better than it has been in ages and the beer is better and much cheaper. Everything's cheaper."
Right again. Chicago has nothing like Detroit's Eastern Market.
Here's a link to the Mountain Dew farmers I found in Detroit.
There's a lot of work for Chicago to do to regain some of the cultural luster of a magical place.
I'd kill off Taste of Chicago in all shapes and forms.
I'd spread that money around to give the Chicago Blues Festival the world class status it currently lacks. I'd open up a monster year round farmer's market accessible to all walks of life. I'd gut check our roots in the bold ethnic spirit that exploded here and once gave people a real thrill.