11.14.2006

Chicago Envy

Anyone who knows me will tell you I'm a lover of Philadelphia. (By
the way, does that make me a philophiladelphian?) But I have to tell
you that I am often Eagle green with envy for another big city:
Chicago.

Where to begin? First, while Philadelphia has just as much of the
negative aspects of political corruption as Chicago, Chicago seems to
enjoy more of the benefits. Concentrated power might make for
undemocratic decision-making, but sometimes that translates into
things getting done faster, bigger, and in a more coordinated fashion.
And so Chicago has done more with its skyline and its waterfront than
Philadelphia has, Navy Pier and Millennium Park being two gorgeous
examples.

Second, not only is it a bigger and meaner than Philadelphia, but it's
also at the same time nimbler and prettier. When we hired our new
school chief from Chicago a few years back, the comparison was made
that the district he operated in Chicago was twice the size of
Philadelphia's, as if running things in Philadelphia would be easy if
he could hack Chicago. Chicago's ethnic communities and sports fandom
are more vibrant and more rabid, and yet even more lovable. And while
Philadelphia is becoming a huge mecca for the bicycling world, it's
Chicago that's become far more friendly to the everyday use of biking
to work, school, and errands. Speaking of mobility, there are two big
airports that serve Chicago, and you can get to both of them with just
a subway token; not so here in Philadelphia.

Cap all this off by the fact that the 2016 Summer Olympics, which once
seemed like Philadelphia's to lose, is now probably going to be hosted
by Chicago. Philadelphia and Houston were cut from the USOC's top
five earlier this year, and then San Francisco withdrew this week
because it couldn't get a deal done for the 49ers new football
stadium, leaving just Chicago and Los Angeles, which hosted the
Olympics barely two decades ago. So while Philadelphia licks its
wounds and asks, "What if," Chicago gets to rally around new
facilities and new parks and more transit and more tourists.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go drown my sorrows in a big,
greasy cheesesteak.

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