Friday, October 15, 2004

Ten Things I Miss (Sort of) About Chicago

Last week I bought a plane ticket to Chicago. I’ll be flying there in November to appease family and friends. I don’t go back to Chicago much, because Portland is so infinitely better. However, in an effort to psych myself up for the trip I’ve been trying--for a week--to come up with ten good things about Chicago. I have had one heck of a time formulating this list. Granted, the evil DHL corporation has seen to it that I maintained a rather high level of anxiety for the past few days, which has no doubt prevented me from doing as much memory rummaging I might have otherwise been able to do. (See end of this entry for DHL update.)

So here’s the list. False advertising—I only managed to come up with seven things.

  • Devon Avenue AKA Gandhi Marg AKA India in Highly Concentrated Form. This street serves one of the largest Indian communities in the U.S. and is the place to go if you want to buy a sari, scarf down a few burfi, rent Bollywood musicals to your heart’s content, or dine at any one of several dozen Indian and Pakistani restaurants. There is nothing remotely like it in Portland.
  • Machechoux AKA fish-scrap soup. Sounds delightful, no? It really is my absolutely all-time favorite soup. It’s a fabulous, spicy blend of cream, dribs and drabs of fish, shrimp, sausage, corn, garlic, and I don’t know what other seasonings. Cajun, I guess. It is impossible to replicate (I’ve tried), and the only restaurant on Earth that has it is the Davis Street Fish Market in Evanston (OK, technically not Chicago).
  • Electrical Storms. Admittedly, electrical storms are not unique to Chicago, but Chicago had some good ones, and I do legitimately miss forked lightning and a good jump-out-of-your skin thunderclap.
  • Sargon’s Quick Copy Empire. Portland has copy shops, of course, but none that I can get to in 45 seconds on foot. And none that are owned and operated by Sargon. Check out his namesake, the ruler of the black-headed peoples. Impressive.
  • Theater. Portland’s theater offerings are expensive, predictable, and cobwebby. We’ve seen a few decent productions but nothing that matches the energy and inventiveness of Chicago’s many small, upstart theater companies. Tickets were always attractively priced, too.
  • Omar. Our Mennonite car mechanic. Omar hardly ever drove a car himself, but he sure knew how to fix ’em. He was honest, scrupulous, fair, educated, courteous, not sexist, and he embodied every other nonknuckle-dragging quality you can think of. I don’t know why I’m speaking of him in the past tense. He’s still very much alive and his shop is open for business. If you live in Chicago and have a car, abandon your current mechanic for Omar: O&J Auto on Ravenswood in the Rogers Park neighborhood.
  • Inexpensive Korean Restaurants. Korean is the only ethnic cuisine that is seriously underrepresented in Portland, but in Chicago there are streets that are practically wall-to-wall Korean restaurants. Korean isn’t my favorite cuisine, but I am very fond of kimchee and all those unidentifiable side dishes. I always try everything on offer even the macerated miniature fish.

Now if I were to compile a list of all the things that drove me mad about Chicago, I’d be able to come up with ten in ten seconds. Not in the mood. I have other things to be het up about. See below.

Final DHL update: The package has been tracked down by my client’s diligent post room staff in the UK. And guess where the package turned up? That toddlin’ town, Chicago. Why would it want to go to Chicago when there are only seven good things about it? Well, through no choice of its own the package’s airbill was removed by DHL and replaced with another airbill of inferior quality, which promptly fell off while the package was vacationing in Arlington, VA. Someone somewhere, presumably employed by DHL, opened the airbill-less package to look for an address. And here’s where I’m sort of guessing—they saw the name of the client on the page proofs, but didn’t look closely enough to see that the pages were from the UK office, so they sent the package to the client’s Chicago office.

Luckily, the Chicago and UK offices are on speaking terms so they sorted it out. The Chicago office has now sent the package on to the UK. Here’s the amusing part. DHL called me this afternoon to tell me that they’d found the detached airbill, but they were absolutely baffled in regard to where the actual package might be. So whoever it was at DHL who took it upon himself to send the package to Chicago didn’t bother to document his actions. And what was it doing in Arlington, VA, anyway? Bunglers. Am I relieved that the package has been found? Provisionally. I’ll breathe out when I get confirmation from the UK client that it is in her hands. Oh, and one last thing: DHL really is evil. It has affiliations with the SLORC, Myanmar’s military dictatorship--often cited as one of the most repressive and corrupt regimes in the world. Thought I’d mention that just in case I haven’t made a convincing enough case for not using DHL.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

About seven years ago I was in Chicago for a week for some project manager training course. The highlight of this trip was going to Wrigley Field when the Cubs played the White Sox.

I had more fun watching and listening to the opposing fans than I did watching the game. In fact, I don't even remember who won the game, but I do remember we were sitting in the middle of a bunch of White Sox fans and someone got some beer thrown on them.

Now that's American Culture!

I was also in awe of the ball park, having read about it and seen it on television. It was like seeing the Statue of Liberty the first time - seeing that famous thing that previously had only been a picture in a grade school book.

I also went shopping.

12:40 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...

I'm not a baseball fan, but even I can appreciate Wrigley Field for the icon it is. I've only been in the "friendly confines" a total of five times in my life and never paid close attention to the game. There's plenty else to watch, especially if you're in the bleachers.

Your experience, Anonymous, of seeing someone doused with beer is probably fairly typical, especially considering the game was the Cubs vs. the Sox. Both teams have extremely loyal fans. Put some beer in them and watch out!

9:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Whoops - that was me!

And So It Goes

11:15 PM  
Blogger Sharon said...

I certainly hope your package makes it to the final destination. I've only had a RON in Chicago. I would like to spend a little time there some day.


7:43 PM  
Blogger Rozanne said...


What's a RON? I know I should probably know what that stands for, but I guess I don't.

9:22 AM  

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