I was semi-reliably informed today that Chicago
is "finally hip
". We've pulled up alongside New York City, apparently because in the last ten years or so we've become shinier (in reality, we are shinier because we wanted the Olympics, I think, and it hasn't worn off yet. But that doesn't stop me from enjoying it! I also think Rahm will have to maintain the shine for a little while, at least, or risk looking like a bad mayor). Also we're located on a pretty lake, we've run the midwest out of trees (and parks out of names--we've been numbering them lately), and we finally found a solution to the "no street vendors" issue*.
Aside from my hipster worries about people coming and upsetting the delicate balance of "not terrible" the city has achieved in a the last couple of years... it's kind of right. Since about 2008 we've gone from an odd grey little city with a mob history that suddenly found itself politically relevant to one that suddenly had free concerts nearly every night of the week**, that was courting designers and start-ups, that suddenly has movies and tv shows filmed in it, that was home to recent juggernaut Groupon***... etc etc.****
* Okay, this is seriously the most amusing thing in Chicago
right now. We are currently plagued by cupcake trucks
. Sometime around August or so, last summer, the city officially approved the sale of "prepackaged" food from trucks on the streets (still no food prep on the go). There'd been one food truck already in the city, that managed to get itself licensed as a restaurant due to a bit of a fluke (really, the best sort), but other than a few illicit outfits that was it for street food in Chicago
(and said food truck, All Fired Up, pretty much hit bars after midnight). Now, however, I cannot leave work for lunch without tripping over lines for Flirty Cupcakes or Sprinkles or any number of other recent additions to the cupcake van business. There's also a truck that sells nothing but macaroni and cheese, and one that sells nothing but meatballs
. I mean, I know of people that are stunned that we manage to sustain a business that serves nothing but popcorn, but this is a whole new level of food single-mindedness. (And I love it. A part of me wants very, very
badly to open a food truck. And, now that I've heard that Kitchen Chicago
is how some people do it... I'm very tempted (now that we're equal with NYC) to get up early, make a giant batch of bagels, find someone to make some artisanal cream cheese, package them together, and then sell them off the back of my bike. I mean, really, what is a city without a bagel vendor in the morning? And I'd probably get points for being crazy. (And if I do this soon, people are more likely to notice, since there's only the plague of cupcake vans and a handful of actual food vans in the city right now. This summer, I imagine, will be a different story.) Oh! And one other perk to the food van thing! It's also been picked up by farmers. This morning, I stopped by C & D Farms'
van to get some bacon and fresh eggs. It was parked not more than three blocks up the street from me. On one hand: I'm pretty sure you don't get much more ridiculous yuppie-hipster-locavore than that and everyone within 50 yards is probably shaking their heads and rolling their eyes. On the other: The inevitable two dollar surcharge for letting animals roam free goes directly to someone who knows the animals personally (and, also, who remembers her customers and teases me for being able to balance my bike while using both hands to load eggs and bacon into my already-overfull bag. There's something quite nice about that. It reminds me of the farmstands at home, even if it is on four wheels and was driven over from Indiana).******
** Number one reason I am looking forward to it being warm again. There have been rumblings that New Music Mondays and the other free concerts at Millennium Park might be ending this year, and if they do... I am going to be so
sad. I'm sure it's not cheap for the city, but it really makes every single thing about the city at least 70% more tolerable. Even if things like the She & Him show last year sometimes make it entirely impossible to find a place to lock your bike up in the loop.
*** Still haven't hired me and are doubtlessly luring more
helpless writers into the city, further saturating the market for strange jokes, puns, and general surreal copy. Why must you ruin everything, Groupon?!
**** There's actually a part of me that wonders if I've just figured out how to use the city properly, but that article does seem to present some evidence that it's not just me, and the city was suckier when I first came here back in 2003... I worry when I see articles like this, though, because I'm used to reading them after the fun part is over, and it makes me feel like Chicago
is already done being "hip" and by summer we'll be overrun by people who also want to be "hip" (who will then encounter next winter and go home, provided they're not from NYC or something, since at least we're better at dealing with snow). Plus there are still things like this
and I mean... Minneapolis, Madison, Cleveland
(Heights), but no theatre in Chicago
can bother? Psh.
****** Yes, actually, all I really wanted to write about were the food trucks, but I kind of got distracted.