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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.
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Tuesday, April 23

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Ramsin / November 3, 2003 11:43 PM

The whole suburbs v. city feud is so silly, a point I tried to prove satirically a while ago. I personally hate being in the suburbs, but not the people in the suburbs. There is no cachet to living in the city. It's just a place. I'd rather hang out with a gaggle of suburbanites than a single city dweller who thinks living in the city is like being part of a cool club. I've met plenty of freshly-arrived city dwellers with their heads much further up their ass than many suburbanites.

At times, the distinction is kind of arbitrary. Cicero, Evergreen Park, Oak Park, and Forest Park (suburbs) are just as, if not more, urban than Edison Park, Beverly, Scottsdale, or Norwood (neighborhoods).

The best way to sum it up is, though I hate having to go out to the suburbs, I love giving confused drivers directions or suggesting bars to friends of friends.

Murgatroit / November 4, 2003 9:01 AM

Mmm... Both. It seems like there's a subset of people, archetypical trixies if you will, that often spend their "wild years" in the city, find their trixie-man get married and move to the suburbs once there are kids on the way.

In any case, attitude is attitude; People from the suburbs where I grew up that think the city is this crime ridden place where it's impossible to park, so they never come in. I sometimes find myself looking down my nose at the burbs, because it tends to be bland homogeny and driving everywhere. Reality fits somewhere nicely in between.

And when you boil down to it, parts of the city are turning into the suburbs... North & Clyborn anyone?

Alice / November 4, 2003 9:22 AM

I couldn't agree more, Ramsin.

I grew up in the in the suburbs, but I lived very near some of the neighborhoods you mentioned: Edison Park, Norwood, etc., and there really was very little appreciable difference between there and Park Ridge. Now, as an adult, I've lived in the city for the last ten years so I sort of straddle the fence. I neither consider myself a suburbanite nor an urbanite, and it really doesn't matter to me either way. I have family in both areas, friends in both, and feel equally at home whether in Humboldt Park or Hoffman Estates.

The whole us vs. them debate is silly and pointless.

miss ellen / November 4, 2003 9:39 AM

we commonly refer to the North / Clyborn corridor as "the pit of consumption" ;)

stephen / November 4, 2003 9:56 AM

Assholes can live in Wicker park, and assholes can live in Naperville. It doesn't matter, just live where you're comfortable and don't give other people shit because they want to do the same thing.

Onid / November 4, 2003 9:59 AM

I think there are suburbs and then there are SUBURBS. The suburbs that I don't like are the ones where you have to drive everywhere and there isn't anything distinct about the place. Nothing stands out. Most of these places have the same set of chain stores and restaurants in various strip malls. Sometimes I think that someone is selling strip mall starter kits...The Chili's/Bennigans/Bestbuy kit will run you about 3 million but we'll throw in an Applebees and a Pottery Barn for half price and BINGO you have a suburb.

I don't want to make it sound like I am looking down at suburbanites because they want to live there so more power to them. Any rivalry is silly in my opinion. Live and let live I always say.

Ray / November 4, 2003 10:22 AM

While my address happens to be in Des Plaines, I spend a good chunk of every day in an office looking down at Michigan Avenue, I hang out with friends in Wicker Park and Edgewater, and I vastly prefer dinner at Leo's on Division to anywhere in my neighborhood. What does that make me? It makes me irritated at the folks on the dating sites that say, "if you don't live in the city, don't even bother."

Brenda / November 4, 2003 10:28 AM

Suburbanites in the city *are* tourists, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. Tourism is a staple of the city's industry. The mag mile wouldn't be "mag" without it.

On the other hand... I am admittedly elitist about living in the city. I HATE when people say they live in Chicago -- or worse, "Chicagoland" (groan) -- when they actually live in Naperville, or Des Plaines, or some other suburb I couldn't find on a map if my life depended on it. If people want to live in the 'burbs, more power to them. But they should at least have the balls to admit they live there. If they want to claim they live in Chicago... well, I'll be glad to point them to the city limits so they can move.

My favorite urban-elitist shirt slogan that I pretend I'm wearing every time I have to share the sidewalk with tourists on Michigan Avenue on a weekend:
"Welcome to Chicago. Now go home."

Joseph J. Finn / November 4, 2003 10:37 AM

Good points and bad point on either side, but you can always tell the tourists by two things:

1. The inability to walk on sidewalks. Walk on the right people, and don't walk three-abreast. And for crissake, try walking faster than a slow amble. You may be on a day out, but I have to live here.

2. Gaggling across the sidewalk when waiting for some crummy show at the Metro. When standing in line for something, stand parallel to the wall, not across the sidewalk.

Murgatroit / November 4, 2003 10:49 AM

Yes... Lollygagging on sidewalks while walking.

I was just at Six Flags and a couple malls in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, and these people just walked and wandered all over the place. I think they're legs have atrophied from driving everywhere. DFW is a textbook example of cities that are suburbs into themselves. Everyone thought I was crazy to walk down to the grocery store for donuts.

Naz / November 4, 2003 11:25 AM

I appreciate the suburbs for what they are and because I've lived in citiesmy entire life, going out to a suburb is like a day trip or something. It's almost a respite from the city. If you head out into Rockford or West Chicago, areas which are tiny and small with little downtown areas it's as if you're somewhere else and I appreciate it while I'm there. However, I do not want to live in the suburbs. Not for me. I understand why people do though and it makes sense. My interests and proximity to such interests require a city.

Jake / November 4, 2003 12:55 PM

Brenda, what in the world are you doing on Michigan Avenue on a weekend?

shechemist / November 4, 2003 12:58 PM

I live in the city (belmont and western, thanks for asking) and work in the 'burbs (lake county, deep in lake country). I gotta say I hate the 'burbs. hate hate hate. nothing is within walking distance. there are *NO* decent places to get lunch if I do drive instead of taking the train. the folks that live up here look at me like I have third eye when I mention that I take the train instead of driving.

don't me started when I tell people I live in the city and they respond with "oh you live down town." no you fucking mouth breathing moron, I don't fucking live downtown. I live in the city. there is more to chicago than the fucking museum campus (not that I don't love the museum campus) and the hard rock cafe.

oh and I can always spot the tourist. they are the ones that get off the train and then stand blocking everyone else from getting off the train while they count themselves to make sure little sue doesn't get left on the train and sold into prostitution.

Craig / November 4, 2003 1:45 PM

Rivalry? But why? It's just a different way of life-- not everyone is meant to exist in urban areas, and no one should look down at someone for their location. We should despise poor design and urban-planning, not area codes!

Defining a nice area has less to do with the location (city limits vs. suburbs) but more to do with community planning. A well planned community is going to feel good no matter it's geographical location. It's the difference between Evanston (a cohesive city plan with a central downtown) vs. Schaumburg (Strip mall after strip mall, each with its own MASSIVE parking lot, peppered with black-windowed homages to corporate America, and it's central "downtown" is a mall). A well planned community in the 'burbs can kick the crap out of a desolate neighborhood in the official city limits any day.

That said, I still get annoyed by people who don't know how to use a CTA card...

jima / November 4, 2003 2:09 PM

Brenda, what in the world are you doing on Michigan Avenue on a weekend?

She's going to the Apple store, obviously!

davers / November 4, 2003 2:12 PM

no kidding brenda...

me: where ya from?
them: chicago
me: no way me too
them: where abouts?
me: northwest side- irving &
them: oh um elk village park grove
me: i thought you said chicago


growing up in the city and hangin around locals and now working amongst a buncha transplants and suburbanites i do notice a difference in attitude.
not necessarily bad or good but there is a little bit of a different mentality.
also i never knew the names of neighborhoods until recently.

i don't mind tourists at all, i enjoy them actually! I never understood the disdain for people who want to visit this fine city.
As for suburbanites, we hardly gave a second thought to them. People who didn't grow up here and then flex like they're Chitown Urbanite Almighty are probably the ones making up this suburbanite rivalry to distract from their own insecurities.

Ramsin / November 4, 2003 3:13 PM

I gotta say, what an annoying poll question. So many little insecurities come popping out.

Why the hell do you live in one of the biggest cities in the country, in which 1 of every 20 people works in customer service, that is supported by conventioneer business, if you're just going to get annoyed at tourists? Have you ever visited anywhere and not known how to get around? Would you like to know people are making fun of you for it? The first time I was in Rome, I couldn't find anything. Is that because I was some kind of "Rome poseur"? Or because I'd never been there before? Better to be grateful that they're paying the sales and hotel and entertainment taxes that maintain our roads, fund our services, and over-pay our politicians. Nowadays with super-retail centers and cheap travel, people can go anywhere. None of us own this city, we should be welcoming and helpful.

I've lived in the city, the suburbs, and the city again. But always, most of my family, my church, and our social institutions were all in Chicago. So I always had a connection and fondness for the city. It does seem like the people who are so gung-ho about making fun of everything suburban (as Davers pointed out) are transplants from far-flung places who are extra-sensitive of being "exposed" as non-urban.

Let's have the next poll questions be about bunny rabbits or balloons or something. A lot less aggravation.

Carly / November 4, 2003 3:28 PM

i was born in the city, but grew up in the burbs. i even did a stint in missouri and michigan, which makes me bonafide midwesterner.

i think there's an "appeal" to looking down on suburbanites, just because we all like to feel elitist on some level. besides, i find it hard to believe anyone would CHOOSE to live in a place where the fanciest restaurant around is red lobster and the only fun things to do are going to the mall or seeing a movie.

there's something to be said about a suburbanite's point of view though. previously mentioned was their opinion that the city is crime-ridden and dirty. plus the parking issue. i guess i never gave into this theory, as true as it as at times.

i had the unfortunate experience of living on addison and racine. during the baseball season i wanted to kill myself. or more accurately, all of the damn people from the suburbs who roamed my streets, puked on my doorstep and littered on our lawn. i completely dismissed the fact that up until four years ago, i was probably one of those people.

i then moved to ukranian village to ride the wicker park is cool wave and ended up having my purse swiped twice; once at a bar, once right off of my arm on the street a block away from my apartment. it was obnoxious on it's own level. and even though i visit there a lot, whether to see friends or hang out at old favorite spots, i don't think i'd live there again.

i'm in andersonville now, which i absolutely love. in some regards, i'm afraid it will turn into a hotbed for scenesters. but for now, it's too far north for most people to consider.

bottomline: suburbanites vs. city dwellers is like cubs vs. sox; neither will ever see eye to eye and both will always feel superior.

Joseph J. Finn / November 4, 2003 4:55 PM

Just noting that I'm not annoyed by tourists in general (in fact, I love their expressions of joy and awe at our fine city); I was just expressing my annoyance when they choose to clog up sidewalks and make life difficult.

Besides that, tourists are great. I love helping them find their way, especially that wonderful expression you get when it clicks with them just how freakin' simple the grid system actually is. Then we share a satisifed grin before going on.

Kevin / November 4, 2003 6:21 PM

Aww fuck it. Who wants pie! Mmmmmmmmmm!

Kevin / November 4, 2003 6:27 PM

Just to qualify, I'm with Ramsin. I have my share of 708 Haterade coursing through my veins but for the most part, I'm a lover of geography and each place has it's own unique flavor; even Naperville. After living in the city for so long and visiting the suburbs, I can understand why people migrate there. More places to park, mega-malls to hang out in, statistically less violent and on edge and just a general feeling of security. After awhile, the fear of city life can grate on one's psyche and it's just a damn relief to go somewhere and eat a burger at Portillos or walk where there's not 16 trillion damn people.

Paul McCann / November 4, 2003 7:05 PM

Wait, Evanston's not a suburb is it?

christian / November 4, 2003 11:22 PM

I live in the burbs. I live just outside of the only town that has its own suburbs, Barrington.

I hang out in the city, I work in the city, and I have friends that live in the city. I go to a bar in the city and everyone that works there knows me by name and my drink.

Am I just some tourist? Am I a poser?

Iíll admit, there isnít much to do out here, but I sure as hell can find a fancier restaurant than red lobster or any other corporate owned theme restaurant. That kind of thinking pisses me off.

I like to drive, I have gas in my blood, I know the burbs like the back of my right hand, and the city like the left.

This question just pisses me off. Bite my shiny metal butt.

amyc / November 5, 2003 6:54 AM

When I first moved to this area in 94, I was really taken aback by the suburban hatred. It's much more pronounced than anywhere else I've ever lived. I grew up in the Detroit suburbs. I also lived in Boston for a year, where it was no big deal that my young hipster pals lived in Cambridge, Somerville, Brookline, etc. -- living in the suburbs certainly wasn't seen as a lack of moral character like it is here.

I lived in Oak Park for five years, mostly because I worked there and the 8-block commute beat spending an hour in traffic each way. But I also liked it -- rents were cheaper, it's CTA-accessible, there's a good movie theater and bookstore, and I had friends there.

I spent most of my free time in the city, but almost none of my city friends ever came out to visit me ("Do you know how long it takes us to get to Oak Park?" they'd whine. "Yes," I'd say, "Exactly as long as it takes me to get to your place."). I got questions like "Why would you live there?" and "Do you live with your parents?" Whenever I had to give my phone number to people (especially people I had been flirting with), I could see their faces fall after "708-"

The worst part was the implication from my city friends that I was somehow racist for living in the suburbs, even though Oak Park is a pretty diverse little town, and I lived much closer to the West Side than any of my smug Lakeview friends ever got.

I really love living in the city, and I would probably not consider moving back to the burbs, mostly because there's just so much more that interests me here. I'm well suited to big-city living. Plus I've grown to love not relying on my car to get around. But the notion that one is somehow a "better person" because of where one chooses to live is pretty baffling and childish, don't you think?

Brenda / November 5, 2003 9:37 AM

But the notion that one is somehow a "better person" because of where one chooses to live is pretty baffling and childish, don't you think?

Yes, it is. But I have to say, I don't recall anyone even implying that sentiment here (your friends are another story, however). Lifestyles and habits can be extremely different between city and suburb (or coast to coast, or country to country...). People here are reacting to the clash of those cultures, nothing more.

However, you can't deny that choosing to live in the city or the suburbs says *something* about a person. It may say something about their tolerance to crowds, or their family circumstances, or their primal need to be near a large body of water -- or a host of other things. It defines a person the way choice of wardrobe does, or choice of mate, or choice of hobbies, or choice of friends. It's one of the myriad things that make up someone's persona. One of the hundred little details we take in about a person when we meet them.

To dismiss it completely is also baffling and childish.

Wendy / November 5, 2003 9:42 AM

Kind of like what Amy said, I think people could stand to look at a stinking MAP more often. I'm one of the few city people to work at my office in the near north suburbs, and for some reason a lot of my co-workers seem to think I have this long, epic commute and say "you drive up here from Chicago!?" like I've come from another dimension. These are the same people who have to claw their way down the Edens from Northbrook and beyond. I have a half hour trip up Lincoln Avenue, and in the winter the city streets are usually plowed by 8:30 a.m., so I probably have it easier than anyone else.

The best part is that on my way home I can stop at a ton of strip malls. Because, see, shopping at Costco and DSW Shoe Warehouse is crass only when suburban people do it! Not classy city folks like me.

amyc / November 5, 2003 10:10 AM

But I have to say, I don't recall anyone even implying that sentiment here

Brenda, I'm not saying that at all. I was writing about my own experiences with the city-suburbs rivalry, and not to anything anyone said here. And I'm not sure what you think I'm dismissing. I agree that people usually have reasons for living where they live.

kegz / November 5, 2003 11:48 AM

and for some reason a lot of my co-workers seem to think I have this long, epic commute and say "you drive up here from Chicago!?"

I enjoy that my coworkers have that impression. Then they don't mind as I take off early when it's snowing or raining. "You should get going, you have lots of traffic to fight through."

Luke / November 5, 2003 11:52 AM

I have gas in my blood.

And because of all the pollution and toxins in the air, the rest of us do, too. Thanks!

Ramsin / November 5, 2003 12:00 PM

Living in the city doesn't define "who you are" any more than your clothes do--that is, unless you're utterly devoid of personality and choose to define yourself by the music you listen to, clothes you wear, and neighborhood you live in. It may say something about your personal history, but it doesn't make you more cultured, cosmopolitan, hip, intelligent, tolerant, or any other thing. Don't believe me, go to Bridgeport or any number of working class neighborhoods, and then head up to Evanston or Wilmette. Unless for you, the only people who "live in the city" are people who live north of the Loop, east of the highway and are under 34 years old.

Trust me, there is no Clash of Civilizations going on when somebody from Harwood Heights stumbles into Portage Park. They don't wander around wide-eyed fascinated by the high culture of city folk. The only thing living in the city all these years has "defined" about me is where Where I Get My Mail.

For the love of God, can't we all just live somewhere without analyzing the fact that we live there to death!? The fact of Our Living Here is infinitely less interesting than almost every other single topic.

Naz / November 5, 2003 12:25 PM

This is a good Fuel.

Hollie / November 5, 2003 12:48 PM

"I have a dream! I have a dream that someday people will not be defined by the area code that they live in, but defined by the content of their character!!...I have a dream!!"

What's a strip-mall?

kegz / November 5, 2003 12:53 PM

Is it time to talk about bunny rabbits and balloons yet? We need to switch before someone brings up the Cubs and Sox again.

Craig / November 5, 2003 2:41 PM

For the love of God, can't we all just live somewhere without analyzing the fact that we live there to death!? The fact of Our Living Here is infinitely less interesting than almost every other single topic.

Isn't this sort of contradictory to the entire reason Gaper's Block exists? What differentiates Gaper's Block from-- say, a community event calendar-- is the fact that it *is* constantly "analyzing the fact that we live [in Chicago]"!!

Ramsin / November 5, 2003 3:34 PM

Craig- Not really, because the purpose of Gapers' Block as I understand it is to discuss aspects of Chicago itself. Politics, events, sports, culture, history. Take Alice's "Ask the Librarian" column; it isn't about subjective things like how cool Logan Square is or how much better music is here. She reports the facts, gives factual insights. How would she respond to the question, "Isn't Chicago So Awesome!?" or "Why does Chicago rule so much more than Naperville!?" for example. We're not celebrating the fact that we in all our magnificence live here. We're talking about the current events of this city.

I love Chicago. I love living here. But if that's all we talked about and attributed the city's awesomeness to our own awesome selves, that'd be ridiculous.

bunnygirl / November 5, 2003 4:19 PM

For Ramsin and kegz:

Naz / November 5, 2003 4:56 PM

I officially deem this Fuel, Best Fuel Ever. Especially after Bunnygirl's post.

Naz / November 5, 2003 4:57 PM

Smile on your brother, get together, right now.

Alice / November 5, 2003 5:48 PM

Ha. I think I will make the topic of my next column "Why Chicago Roolz!"

And, just for the record, I'm not bunnygirl, but that link is pretty hilarious. Yes, next topic, please!

c / November 5, 2003 11:40 PM

i don't like people from the city.
i don't like people from the suburbs.

i hate everyone because i eat meat.

Niki / November 7, 2003 10:16 AM

Geography does make a difference as does the choice to live in certain areas. No one can tell me that living in Winnetka isn't drastically different than living in Cabrini Green. C'mon. Get real. & yes, some people have a choice to live in some places. & yes, some people are forced to live in some places. There's a lot more to this than city vs. suburbs.

That being said, I'm definitely a metropolis kinda gal, but there are moments when I'll take the road trip out of the city limits to take a breather.

Niki / November 7, 2003 10:18 AM

"On a cold & grey Chicago morning, a little baby child was born in the ghetto ... in the ghetto!"

timmy / December 7, 2003 4:32 PM

Ahhhh the burbs. Where else can I spend 20 gallons of gas just running errands on my day off. THats in the suv of course.

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