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. 


Thursday, February 29

Gapers Block

Gapers Block on Facebook Gapers Block on Flickr Gapers Block on Twitter The Gapers Block Tumblr


Andrew / June 3, 2008 11:38 AM

Question suggested by Ben. If you've got a good question from Fuel, email it to

I lived in Columbus, OH for college. It was great if you were really into the Buckeyes or had a young family, but otherwise there wasn't much to offer.

Yan / June 3, 2008 11:45 AM

Lived in Boston/Cambridge for 3 months in 2003. I liked it a lot...there were nice parks to hang out in and everything seems more compact with more good stuff in one place...also because of the many universities in the area it feels like living in a college town with lots of young people around.

jennifer / June 3, 2008 11:47 AM

after moving from small town iowa to ny state for college, I moved to chi. moved to london after a couple of years here. after moving back for a year, am now living in madison, wi.

london - a wonderful international city; great diversity, some not-great class and race issues, but a wealth of opportunities; proximity to the continent is, in a word, fabulous

madison, wi - nice liberal scene; good coffee shops and restaurants, recycling!, and beautiful lakes and parks, though it is lacking in racial diversity; still, I miss chicago's size and neighborhoods.

Brian / June 3, 2008 12:29 PM

I was born here and lived here until I was 12. My family moved to the south to a small town near Memphis, Tennessee. After high school, I moved to Murfreesboro, a suburb of Nashville, for college at MTSU. After I dropped out of college I moved into Nashville. I lived in that area for 9 years. Then I moved to Indianapolis, lived there for 2 years, and then back home to Chicago.

Memphis is definitely still in the ‘old south.’ There's a big racial divide, and animocity is palpable in the air there. The only saving graces of Memphis are awesome barbeque, the Memphis in May festival, and real live blues legends always around (Speaking of, R.I.P. Chicago native Bo Diddly). I didn't actually live in Memphis, so there's a lot about the city I can't speak about.

Nashville is, at its heart, a showbiz town. No one in Nashville seems to be from Nashville. Transplants from New York and Los Angeles abound in the behind–the–scenes. Transplants from virtually everywhere abound in the wants–to–be–a–star category. The city is a bit more progressive than the rest of the south, often compared to Austin, Texas and Charlotte, North Carolina. One similarity I did notice is that Nashville is also a city of neighborhoods. From Germantown to Bordeaux, Antioch to Madison, West Meade to Hermitage, each neighborhood is very different in style, make–up and even architecture. Public transit is lacking, but they're taking steps to improve it. They just their first Metra-like commuter train line 2 years ago, with more in the works. There's even talk of either a city rail system or possibly a monorail system. While I’m not cut out to be a southerner, or to withstand the 4-5 months of intense heat and humidity the south has to offer, I still have a soft spot for Nashville.

Indianapolis, in contrast, seems to be a city without a clear identity. It wants to be a city of artists, but it can't let go of its racing past. It wants to be a city of neighborhoods, but can't quite seem to get that together either. Suburban-style sprawl seems to be everywhere, and bland boxy apartment complexes from the late seventies and eighties are in abundance. Even the dreaded surburban ‘gated community’ has infiltrated into parts of the city, for those suburbanites who want to claim to live in the city without having to mingle with the common folks. It's definitely a city enamoured with their cars and shopping malls, going so far as to convert 2-3 full blocks of downtown into an urban shopping mall called “Circle Center Mall.” Public transit is severely lacking, and sidewalks are even more lacking the further from the city center you are. Indy has a few saving graces, though. They did a great canal-walk live-work-and-greenspace thing along the canal on the west side of downtown. There are a few areas of town I preferred and frequented like Fountain Square, the northeast quadrant of downtown, and Shelby Street.

All in all, I'm glad to be back home.

mike / June 3, 2008 1:05 PM

Honolulu, HI
Groton, CT
Bremerton, WA
Charleston, SC
Honolulu, HI again
San Diego, CA
Fairfax, VA
Baltimore, MD
Arlington, VA

My Dad was in the Navy. I moved here in '98. Nothing else has compared for a while but I'm starting to rethink that. The problem with not having a home is that you find yourself thinking, "what, am I just supposed to live here for the rest of my life?" And the problem with moving so much is that you find yourself weary of having to start from scratch yet again.

Pete / June 3, 2008 1:27 PM

Other than the Chicago area, I've only lived in Champaign-Urbana. Nice town, but obviously no comparison to the real deal.

Dan / June 3, 2008 1:35 PM

Reykjavik, Iceland: Grew up there. A nice and fun city to grow up in. Us kids were given a bit more independence than kids in the US seem to get. Some bus fare and bicycles got us all around town and into the countryside to cause trouble.

Copenhagen, Denmark: Good public trans, good bikability, fun place. The only downside at the time was a slight anti-immigrant feeling, but I looked and sounded similar enough to the locals that it was rarely a problem.

It's hard to compare the past of the other places to the current life in Chicago. I do like my part of the Chicago area, but suppose I have no particular attachment to Chicago other than the fact that my current friends, family, and job are here.

Carrie / June 3, 2008 2:26 PM

Born-- Fond du Lac, WI.
Fort Atkinson, WI
Plymouth, WI
South Beloit, IL
Rockton, IL
Finally-- Chicago

Chicago is tops... I learned from an early age that I'm not a fan of small towns. They're nice to visit, but I love coming home to the city. Not sure where things will take me next.

Iceland, Dan?! awesome

printdude / June 3, 2008 2:39 PM

I've lived in all sortsa town around Illinois, Park Ridge, Des Plaines, Glen Ellyn, west Chicago, St. Charles, Havana, Peoria, Park Forest, then as a yound adult I found myself in Arizona, and Phoenix.
i moved back because I hated the desert in the summer. F@#$()G hated it.
Lived back in Little Italys for a few years then heeded the call to Florida, and enjoyed it, but realized that is was no place to work and the crackers drove me crazy. I think most of the people down that way have had a bit too much time in the sun.
I cam back again, because I missed the concrete and the people and the food! Especially the food.
I do like to visit florida, but won't move back.

fluffy / June 3, 2008 2:55 PM

Mexico City- wonderful but very intense. Had a wonderful childhood. Dallas, Tx- if you didn't like the cowboys or drive a bmw, you didn't matter. Bad place to go through highschool in- very religious and closed minded. Washington, DC- great energetic, intellectual town. Denton, Tx- sleepy Texas college town. Lived there for 8 years. Had some fun yet strange times there.
I like Chicago but came here with my ex. Now that we're not together, I feel like Mike said about not having a home to go back to and not being sure if this is where you're supposed to end up. Chicago is a nice city, but I'm getting restless....

jen / June 3, 2008 3:52 PM

belleville, il – otherwise known as bellevegas during my high school years. it was ok growing up, but going back a couple times a year is purely for familial reasons.

st. louis, mo – college and a couple years after. meh. i met some great people there whom i'm stlll friends with, but there are many things about this city i couldn't get past, including but not limited to, humidity (CHI ain't got nothin' on STL when it comes to the moisture in the air), poor public transportation, too many highways, and it seems like one big suburb.

london – half a year for school. expensive, but goddamn did i love it there.

curacao – a 3-month hiatus in paradise when life was getting me down stateside. beautiful, relaxing, but sad to say it, i did get bored.

Grace / June 3, 2008 5:14 PM

Minneapolis - for 7 years in the 90s. Arts (theatre, museums, etc.) seem so much more accessible there, not sure why that it, but I did that kinda of stuff a lot more there than I do here. But in the end Mpls is just a big small town, I felt like I got the good out of it in 7 years and ended up back here after a 5 month detour to Skagway, Alaska.
Skagway - now that was a trip. Tiny town, but a big cruise ship port. Beautiful hiking right out the front door, but inundated with tourists (4,000 - 8,000 every day). Luckily, they all got back on the ships in the late afternoon, leaving the year-rounders and the summer folks to peaceful evenings. Not much to do (except consumer hike and consume alcohol), but it was a fun and funny summer. Highly recommend a summer in Alaska to anyone looking to check out of life for a season.

Mikey / June 3, 2008 5:49 PM

DeKalb for five years...

Lots more corn, lots more sex and lots more partying...

I was in college.

Steven / June 3, 2008 6:09 PM

Grew up in West Michigan near the Lake. Very beautiful, summer vacation as a kid was just that: a vacation on the beach. But as an adult, when the sun goes down I am bored senseless there. Alcohol does not help.

College years in Ann Arbor. Great college town. Unfortunately, it's still in Michigan so as an adult, I am bored senseless when the sun goes down there. Alcohol does not help.

Houston right out of college. 17 months. I can't imagine a more heinous major city in the U.S. to live in. Absolutely nothing positive to say about Houston or Texas.

Amsterdam. A'dam ROCKS. Lived there almost six years but I remember only about 8 months of it. Absolutely hands down the most cosmopolitan, avantgarde city under one million people on earth. Never quite felt as homey as Chicago though.

Chicago is home.

Christine / June 3, 2008 7:40 PM

Chicago rocks!

Currently I live in a small town in Connecticut. Too small.

It's bittersweet going back to see family and friends. I enjoy the people and the city, but then yearn for my own place.

Working on getting back to Chicago. I agree with Steve, Chicago is home.

Val / June 3, 2008 7:57 PM

Phoenix, AZ: First parts of my life here... All I remember is the sand storms and tangerine tree in our backyard.

Grinnell, IA: Parents still there. My dad built our dream home there... my childhood home. Playing in the creek. Sledding. Walking through the corn. Making out at the drive in. Prom. High School. Ultimate Frisbee.

London, England: I often wonder why I was born in the US because I think I belong in London. Someday I will be back. I was here six months but feel like it was a lifetime of experience.

Chicago, IL: Can I be honest? I just knew I didn't want to live in a small town my whole life. After London, that feeling was undeniable. It took me awhile to find my footing. Chicago was the simple solution for close enough to home, but a city to lay my hat. I now call this home.

My motivation:
"I wanted to live in an apartment across from a park in the heart of a city. I wanted to step outside my front door and be somewhere." -Bill Bryson, The Lost Continent

Leelah / June 3, 2008 8:17 PM

-New Jersey (born here, most of my extended family is there. It left me with an undying love for the Atlantic Ocean, Maruca's Tomato Pies and Bruce Springsteen).
-Lewisville, TX (it's a suburb of Denton, Fluffy! Left me with an undying love for the Cowboys and hot weather).
-Palatine (just led me to Chicago)
-DeKalb (left me with an undying love for corn?)
-London (my spiritual home, but you can't live there and teach!)
-Los Angeles (left me with an undying hatred of movie studios)

Chicago - I hate the cold, and the fact that I can't get a date to save my life, but I love this city and everything in it!

kate / June 4, 2008 2:20 AM

I consider Chicago my home.

I grew up in Austin and Albuquerque and moved to the surrounding suburbs for middle and high school.

Columbia, MO and Carbondale, IL for college. Whoa

Having been in Chicago just a handful of years, I have experienced Bucktown, Humboldt Park, Logan Square, Roscoe Village and Wicker Park. Sure they're all north side locales but good god damn they are all very, VERY different neighborhoods.

Chicago is really the only city I've been a resident of in my proper adult life, so I'm biased. The last time I visited Albuquerque, you best believe I ordered green chiles on everything. I would not mind a little more heat on my tongue in this town. Just sayin'.

Lauri Apple / June 4, 2008 8:14 AM

I've lived in Johnstown, PA; Pittsburgh, PA; Philadelphia, PA; Washington, DC; Prague, CR; Florence, Italy; Lodz, Poland; Krakow, Poland; Austin, TX; Amarillo, TX; New York City (Brooklyn, Manhattan and Queens), NY; and now Chicago. Chicago's really great, but it's so cold.

soup / June 4, 2008 8:52 AM

Grew up in Highland Park of the North Shore of Chicago.

Then moved to Olympia, WA 6 days after I turned 18. I wanted to go as far from home as possible. I went to an alternative school called Evergreen.

My sister talked me into transferring to school in Madison, so then I moved to Madison, WI where I promptly enrolled and then dropped out and moved to Portland, OR with my punk rock boyfriend.

After that relationship ended and I finished my degree in PDX, I moved to Jerusalem, Israel for a year. (thought it would be for longer)

Now I'm back here, near my family and my lake. I'll be here for at least two more years while I get my grad. degree. But I have my eye on California. I wanna ride my bike everyday of the year in the warm warm sun.

Its so hard to compare these cities to Chicago. Madison, Portland, and Olympia are liberal lefty socialists havens while Chicago is urbane diverse real. Jerusalem vs Chicago, I just can't compare.

zoenotcool / June 4, 2008 10:12 AM

Does London for 5 weeks (once upon a time) count? I hated to leave it and can't wait to return. It was during college and we lived a sheltered magical existence in a run-down hotel in Kensington. So I know it wasn't "real" London life.

Other than that, 4 years in the Quad Cities (on the Illinois side). Not very exciting or much to do. It was a big city experience for some of my peers from tiny Midwestern towns. Sure, I could have bought a house there for really cheap...since I'm from the burbs here, I moved to the heart of the city and never looked back.

Sometimes I think I'm just staying here by default, since my family is here and I'm too lazy/lacking reasons to leave. But once in a while, I get this funny feeling I want to move to Colorado (which I 've never even visited).

annie / June 4, 2008 10:15 AM

Man, I am jealous of some of the other cities you all have experienced. I was born and raised here, grew up in Morgan Park, Mother McAuley for H.S. and Loyola for college and I live in Ukrainian Village now. I think I need to move somewhere just to come back and appreciate Chicago more than I do. I love it here, but it would be nice to leave even for a few years. The hard part, I visit cities and I haven't found one I would live in yet.

charlie / June 4, 2008 10:34 AM

Vail, Co
San Francisco, Ca
Boston, Ma

On the road for a couple years.

Rogers Park for the past 20. I'm getting a bit itchy to move to the Pacific NW.

I like Chicago just fine but hate the "outdoor" options and have not had the scratch to travel much in the past 8 years.

My fiance in from outside of Berkley and hates Chicago. She grew up riding horses in the hills.

I think I liked Chicago and the lakefront better 20 years ago. Congestion is killing us and riding or running here is so freekin boring.

taj / June 4, 2008 11:47 AM

• lived in Bosnia till 18
• Wall, SD- population 800 at the time, now that was a huuuge cultural shock; go see Badlands, Blackhills...and cool open prarie
• Marengo IL, too small town
• DeKalb, for school, small-ish, but changed as i was leaving..more big box stores etc.
• Chicago, liking it for the most part but thinking where i will end up...apart from the lake and some parks getting out of the city is to nature is too far

Mucky Fingers / June 4, 2008 12:19 PM

A lifelong Chicagoan, I haven't been away from the city for more than a week. I could only compare the difference between how the north side is now compared to how it was in the 80s.

I do wish I lived abroad to see how the other half lives. All my travels were that of a tourist.

Being here all my life though, has allowed me to keep the same close friends for upwards of 25 years. People I really love who've steadily been at my side since high school.

jen / June 4, 2008 12:22 PM

duluth, mn
birmingham, england
portland, O

though it might be nostalgia speaking, i miss mpls. i agree with grace that there is something about mpls where culture seems more accessible, perhaps the town just feels more culturally saturated (back in the day mpls had the highest theatre seats per capita.) plus, there are tons of parks and lakes (and sure, they don't have a great lake, but i much prefer superior to michigan, anyway:). grace is also right on about the big small town-ness of mpls, though i'd go a step further and bring out an old complaint - that it had a very family-centered and incestuous vibe. if you weren't in a committed relationship, you were certainly trying for one; if you were in one your world was closing off to others who were not. on the incestuousness, many of the scenes/communities felt so small that once you spent some time in community x, that was pretty much it. queer friendly in a very heteronormative way.

i have no idea why i've been down on chicago for the past year. it just doesn't feel homey to me (and it could have something to do with one work-related gun to the head safe-clearing; one "police" (i have doubts that that unmarked car was police) gun to the head demand, from their car, to pull my bike over ("or we'll ram you with the car") as i biked home from a summer volunteer gig at olive-harvey through englewood on halstead at 5pm - "you shouldn't be in this neighborhood" - shaking me down for drugs; or the recent group mugging by a group of four youth - yuck all!). still, chicago police are by far the worst i have ever experienced, so many are just creepy and it isn't uncommon to see power-mad displays occurring - ish! and don't get me started on politics here, i stopped finding it charming years ago. local, organic, and co-op shopping are an utter joke - how could this be in a city this size? at least the size and diversity of the town provides tons of opportunities for finding new restaurants.

next stop, who knows. i lean to midwest or west coast.

Gemma / June 4, 2008 12:31 PM

Woodstock, IL - Fine place to grow up. It was still quaint and quite safe when I was kid. It is going the way of strip malls and subdivisions now though. In my experience small towns are great for being a child, but kind of rough when you get to high school. It can be hard to keep things in perspective and remember how much else is out there (and that all the jerks making you miserable will still be living there in 8 years.). Being on the Metra line into Chicago helped.

Mt. Vernon, IA I spent one misguided year of college here. My boyfriend at the time lived in Chicago and I was applying elsewhere by October. I didn't really give it a fair chance, but I'm still glad I left. I miss the resale stores and the hypnotic lull of the freight lines.

Portland, OR I spent the following three years of college here. I really loved Portland. I want to live in the northwest again. The lack of diversity and the over-the-top hipsters got to me once in while. But, oh, the produce, the live music, the weather, the bookstores, the coffee shops, the camping. I do miss it.

Chicago, IL This will always be my home. My family has called it so for generations and I can't get enough of its beauty and history. Every year the winters get more depressing though...

PJ / June 4, 2008 2:14 PM

Bartlett, IL - For the first 18 years of my life. Perfect example of suburban Chicago; strip mall after strip mall after strip mall. Luckily we had a Metra line running through town.

Pella, IA - 4 years of college. Pella is quintessential small-town Iowa. It was a nice place to stay for 4 years, but I couldnt live there again.

Vienna, Austria - One semester in college. Best damn time of my life. Culture is everywhere you look in Vienna.

Chicago, IL - This is home. coming from the burbs, I guess it was only natural to move to the city after college. In the 3 short years I've lived here, I've experienced Lincoln Square, Wrigleyville, and River West. I'll probably live abroad again at some point, but Chicago is definitely where I'll settle down.

Steven / June 4, 2008 9:18 PM

Lots of people have mention hating the cold and winter. This is how I approach it.

First, I think about how people pay good money to go on a cruise to Alaska or Antarctica to see an otherworldly cold landscape and how I am lucky that it comes to me each year. Yes, there are no polar bears or seals or penguins here, but if you listen closely, the gulls make these creepy, almost human sounds like hyenas in the winter.

So rather than complain about winter, add another layer, get yourself a flask and go to the lake. Look at how the snow and ice cling to the tree branches and watch how the lake changes color with the sky. Listen to that slushy sound the waves make under the ice. You'll find that if you embrace it, rather than bitch about it, winter goes by faster.

Second, I think about all the annoying LA-types, NYC-types, Miami-types, Las Vegas-types who would move here if it were warmer, jacking up the price of real estate and making going out to restaurants and bars intolerable. Seriously, people. Do you really want a bunch of neurotic New Yorkers or flaky Angelinos moving next door to you?

Then thank old man winter.

Brian / June 5, 2008 1:23 AM

Haha! I'm with Steven on this one. Anything that keeps the New Yorkers and Angelinos out is ok by me! I have no love for either of those cities or their neurotic (NY) and fake plastic (LA) people.

m / June 5, 2008 8:41 AM

flossmoor, il -- about 30 min south of the loop, the metra was 2 blocks away from my house and knew id move to the city eventually.

manchester, nh -- went to a small college here. meh. not my fave place but there are some good people out there.

florence, italy -- spent a semester in college here. would move there tomorrow if i had the job to back me up.

the only places i could live in, apart from chicago, are florence and paris. i enjoy all four seasons far too much to move anywhere warmer!!

Meems / June 5, 2008 8:45 AM

Grew up in southwest burbs. Went to school in Louisville, KY (where I developed my love for bluegrass and horse racing). Finally moved into Chicago after college, then spent a year in San Diego. Came back in mid-Feb.
The ocean was nice but Chicago is home.

CVAL / June 5, 2008 9:34 AM

I currently live in a borough of London;Richmond upon Thames and man was the last night of drinking on the tube a blast! Up until January 2008 I lived 39 years in Chicago, so living abroad is really different.

Greg / June 5, 2008 10:18 AM

Aside from a year of infancy in Iowa, I've lived in:

Minneapolis (17 yrs.) --got lucky in that the TC music scene hit its apex in my teens. A World Series didn't hurt either.

Boston (4) - Great for college, but I knew by the end I didn't want to live there.

East Lansing (1) - Interning. Bad place to be poor & carless.

Kenosha (1)- My landlords were a sweet family next door. That's the best I can say, really.

Here (14) - I'm pretty happy here. The only smaller place with any pull is the Twin Cities, but that's just the roots talking. And New York and LA have no appeal whatsoever. I don't think I'll ever develop any local sports allegiances, but that's a very minor complaint. The winters don't bother me (see above locations), and I can't see me living somewhere without a well defined one.

Hal / June 5, 2008 2:29 PM

A few years in Denton and Dallas, Texas, but moved to Houston in second grade. Stayed there until I was about 31, with a brief stopover in St. Louis for a work project.

I fell in love with Chicago the first time I had a business trip here. It took another four years to actually get up here, but I haven't looked back.

Aside from the cultural differences, the weather is a HUGE factor in my preference for the Windy City. It's June here and it's only just now hit 90F. That practically happens in March down there.

The only, only reason I would move back down there would be family, though if my brother had his way, he'd be shifting the brood up here in a heartbeat.

Graham / June 5, 2008 2:32 PM

I moved here in '94, but I grew up in the deep South (AL, TN, GA) where it's pretty hot & swampy That being the case, I don't mind winter here, at all. I kind of like it, actually. What I can't deal with if the lack of transition in the spring & fall. Instead of a gradual shift from hot to cold, you have the ping-ponging effect...with the temp swinging as much as 40 or 50 degrees in a 24-hr period as Canada & the Gulf of Mexico duking it out for dominance. That's the stuff that messes me up.

Other than that, I ended up in Baltimore for about 18 months a few years back. People there are the friendliest I've ever met. But the city's really broke, depressed, and has all sorts of majorly messed-up problems (like a lot of dying rustbelt cities out that way). After living there, I tend to raise an eyebrow whenever I hear Chicagoans complain about crime, rats, things being "dirty," etc. Police helicopter spotlights sweeping the block, rats in the garbage can every morning, vultures occasionally circling the neighborhood Safeway, people getting stabbed in the alley behind my apartment, a bail bonds vendor on what seemed like every corner, dealing with junkies & crackheads, everything that isn't nailed down being stolen in a snap...there's a lot of things & people that I miss since having left Bmore; but plenty of others that I don't. (And I lived in one of the more "decent" neighborhoods when I was there.) I was glad to return to Chicago, definitely.

JohnnyQ / June 5, 2008 3:06 PM

Quito, Ecuador - less oxygen, more guinea pigs. Loved the variety of daytrip options to get into real nature. Read: mountains, jungle, beach.

Val / June 6, 2008 6:20 AM

Yes, you can consider that because I think any time in London is a magical experience... even 5 weeks.

GB store

Recently on Fuel

Urban Ethos [26]
What is Chicago's "urban ethos"?

Cool Glass of... [16]
What're you drinking?

Supreme Decision [22]
What's your reaction to the Supreme Court's decision on the Affordable Care Act?

Taking it to the Streets [20]
Chicago Street Fairs: Revolting or Awesome?

I Can Be Cruel [9]
Be real: what is the meanest thing you've ever done?

View the complete archive

GB Store

GB Buttons $1.50

GB T-Shirt $12

I ✶ Chi T-Shirts $15