Yesterday we published our list of reasons to love Chicago. Two are mine, about sewers and landscape architecture; several are so close to my heart that I had to check that I didn’t write them, like our social-science research, the city flag as design (AMA), the still-underrated landscape architect Jens Jensen, Javy Baez’s tags, and the Empty Bottle (best show I’ve ever seen: the Mountain Goats, February 2004, We Shall All Be Healed Tour). I’ve only got beef with one of the reasons (mmm, “wet sandwich”).
After it got published, of course, lots of other reasons flooded my mind, because I have a lot of enthusiasms about the city I’ve chosen to make my home. Here are a few.
1. City Newsstand. It’s a store of about 5,000 magazine titles less than a mile from my house, and it’s my favorite thing about the neighborhood. Every time I go I wonder how a magazine store stays in business, and every time I walk out with $20 to $40 worth of magazines, proving how it does: Disegno, This Land, Frame, Dissent, Modern Farmer, When Saturday Comes, the wonderful children’s magazine Dot. How can brick-and-mortar stores survive? By being better than Google at finding things, and City Newsstand is better at that than anything I can think of.
3. Eddie South. He could have been a great classical violinist, but racism kept him out of the industry. So he became a great jazz violinist instead.
4. Lula Cafe Farm Dinner. As many restaurants as I’ve been to in Chicago now, Lula is the one that taught me how to eat at them, and the one I take people to first.
5. Charlemae Rollins. One of the great heroes of public libraries in America, who set to diversify children’s books in the 1930s and 1940s.
6. We invented rock before the Stones got through.
7. The Isolated Buildings Studies of photographer David Schalliol.
8. The glass floors at the Blackstone branch library.
9. Rajun Cajun. Hannibal Buress would have you go to Harold’s for the mild sauce; Toni Preckwinkle likes the storied Valois; I prefer the fried chicken at Rajun Cajun, Hyde Park’s soul food/Indian food slashie, with mac & cheese and saag paneer.
10. Marina City. Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot helped re-establish the development as one of the city’s truly iconic buildings, but it was also essential to how the city evolved in the second half of the 20th century.
11. The window seat at Hoosier Mama Pie Company; the window seat at Star Lounge; the window seats at the new, Stanley Tigerman-designed Seminary Co-Op bookstore; the Humboldt Boulevard lookout on the 606; the benches in the Logan Square and Belmont CTA stations.
14. The Bean as Chicago’s Schelling point.