Gapers Block has ceased publication.

Gapers Block published from April 22, 2003 to Jan. 1, 2016. The site will remain up in archive form. Please visit Third Coast Review, a new site by several GB alumni.
 Thank you for your readership and contributions. 


Saturday, July 20

Gapers Block

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You are not just like any other big city. You are unique. You are beautiful. You are difficult. You can be cruel. You can hurt us so much and reward us so much. You can be boring, repetitive, redundant, played out. You can be exciting, new, frightening, surprising, the cutting edge.

We love you, Chicago, because your brand new — like some of your favorite sons said, sometimes, we only like it when it's brand new.

And just in case we ever got too sentimental about it, you made sure that you built your rep on this day, Valentine's Day, the international day of love, with a quintuple homicide, a "massacre" that was a testament to the criminality that unfettered capitalism had created.

No matter how hard the glitterati try to fashion a jet-setting crew, with their high-rise lounges and loud trust-funded yacht parties on the lake, they can't do it. You refuse to notice. You refuse to let that become you.

No matter how hard the hipsters try to ape their New York counterparts, with their absurd themed parties and half-witted cliques, they can't do it. Because that's not your style, and just because the pretty people are coming on to you, doesn't mean you'll accept them. In fact you'll kick them to the curb — or Las Vegas, if you have to.

We don't love you because you're cosmopolitan, because you're not; but you're also not the hard-boiled working class city so many like to pretend you are. You're just you — just you, doing whatever you gotta do. Sometimes you go too far (Lake View), sometimes you are straight neglectful (Lawndale). We have so many different categories we try to force you into — blue collar, working class, the Machine city, the mob town, the union town, the windy city. You aren't any of those things, really. You just do you.

You go where the money's at. You're living just enough. Year after year and generation after generation, they try to build their little scenes and cliques. Their crews and collectives. And they get no support. Nobody cares. We look, shrug, and move on. And so do they. The few that do make it, they leave, too, and mewl and puke about how they got no support. Fine; let 'em go. That's not what you're about.

See that's the thing. There are no airs about you, and in those cases where those around you try to force you to put on airs, it looks ridiculous on its face; or horrifying, like those poor kids whose parents make them march around in beauty pageants. It's just wrong, and it doesn't work; those clothes don't belong on those children.

That's you. That's what so attractive about you. You do you. You just are. You don't belong to the world, like New York City. You're just a city. You work, you make your money, you raise your family, and then move on. There's room for play, and some adventure, and fun, and a little art and a little culture — but just enough, the right amount.

Just like life. We wake up, work, and try to take in some enlightenment and entertainment when we can — that's us. You're the perfect expression of the human condition.

And it's for that reason — your very human nature — that you fill us with hope that we can improve you, even perfect you. That's why you've been the palette for so many flights of fancy and experiments. Some — concentrated public housing — failed miserably. Others — modern architecture — changed the entire course of human civilization. The birthplace of the Harold, that explosively powerful innovation in man's capacity to entertain himself and others, was the birthplace of the atomic bomb, that explosively powerful innovation in man's capacity to destroy himself — and others.

Your savage inequalities are a natural result of always being on the make — the home of the jungle, and even Billy Sunday couldn't shut down the sexual perversity in Chicago.

I gotta say — I love you Chicago exactly because you're in those old jeans and your sweatshirt is stained just so. Your eyes bright. A little sad, but bright. Just you. I, or my friends, or my family, or the block clubs, may hate what you become from today to tomorrow — or we may love it. Not your business. You do you.

We'll fight to keep you ours, because that's what you do for the ones you love. But ultimately, that's your choice. You don't bend one way or the other to the neophytes with vision. Sometimes you'll accommodate them — often you won't. But one thing, you're real, you're not a symbol or a portal, you're the first real city — you're there. You're you. You're home.

Be my Valentine?

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Another Chicago Lover / February 15, 2007 12:03 PM

Seriously, this is the worst piece of writing on the site.

Andrew / February 15, 2007 12:18 PM

We love you too.


About the Author(s)

Richard F. Carnahan is a true South Side Sox fan who's played a bit part in Chicago politics more than once over the years. Contact him at

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