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A very unhappy Chicagoan

Her name is Rachel Shtier and she has fully shared her unhappiness with the readers of Sunday's Times Book Review. On the front page no less. Three books were under review, but never mind them. Contempt for her adopted city was what she wanted to share with readers.I waved the review at my fellow Chicagoan across the breakfast table and we both snorted. "What does she know?" And "she'll be sorry."But first a taste: "...Chicago never ceases to boast about itself. The Magnificent Mile! Fabulous architecture! The MacArthur Foundation! According to The Tribune, Chicago is Americas hottest theater city; the mayors office touts new taxi ordinances as huge improvements. The mayor likes brags that could be read as indictments too, announcing the success of sting operations busting a variety of thugs and grifters. The swagger has bugged me since I moved here from New York 13 years ago."Michael Miner of the Chicago Reader responds and so do many Chicagoans. I am assuming she'll be moving back to New York soon--or maybe Peoria.

About the Author

Margaret O'Brien Steinfels, a former editor of Commonweal, writes frequently in these pages and blogs at dotCommonweal.



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"The swagger has bugged me since I moved here from New York 13 years ago.If she wants to experience real big swagger before she returns to NYC she should join us in San Francisco and see the World Champions of all events. (-:

My dear friend Don is very much put off by the NYC bragging even though he's from Brooklyn. He says that he has actually heard New Yorkers brag that the tails of the lions depicted in the statues in front of the biggest NYC library are longer than the tails of any other lions in statue form. Oh well. I love the Biggest Apple anyway.

Margaret - she sounds more like an unhappy New Yorker stuck in Chicago. The Cubs, the Magnificent Mile, Millenium Park - that's all part of the touristy veneer to Chicago.According to Miner, she teaches theater at DePaul, so it's understandable that she has sort of an arts-centric view of the world. Chicago isn't New York when it comes to the arts - by which I mean, it's not the same. Part of it is money: New York is much bigger and has many more rich people, and its richest people probably are a lot richer than Chicago's. And New York attracts many more tourists. And for theater specifically, there is no equivalent of Broadway in Chicago. (As it happens, "Broadway in Chicago" happens to be the name of the organization of downtown theaters that stage big-budget musicals. That name probably says it all. Its productions consist of touring companies of shows that originated on Broadway, or on occasion an original production that is trying out in Chicago before - hopefully - moving to Broadway.)Chicago has a tradition of smaller, more experimental theaters of which it can be proud (and which we support). Those theater companies undoubtedly provide employment opportunities for some of Shtier's students, but I'd think that if they were surveyed, most of them see their Chicago jobs as stepping stones to New York, or, more likely, to television or film in LA.Shtier is right that Chicago has the same problems that afflict pretty much every urban area in the upper Midwest. Jobs for people with high school educations that pay a living wage would make a huge difference.

She's from New York and is complaining about Chicago being boastful!Really?

New York is so boastful it counts for nothing; no one would pay attention. That's why she moved to Chicago!

The poor authors of those three books (including Neil Steinburg, whose Never a City So Real should be read by anyone seeking a reply to Shteir's bellyaching). The reviewer is the story, and that's a travesty. Andrew Patner really gets it right here:

Peggy: Is this what you're saying with your last three words above: Peoria:Chicago::Chicago:New York ?Then there's the New York priest who, after a year in Chicago, was dunned by a Chicagoan to say how he thought Chicago compared to New York City. After all evasion failed, he replied, "Oh, Chicago reminds me a lot of New York--New York, that is, without Manhattan."

As one married into an NYC family, I marvel at the insecurity of New Yorkers.

Having lived in both New York and Chicago I was always astounded by the parochialism of both places.

Mr. true; perfect sentiment. Such *tribalism* After all is said and done, who really cares? This is a much better statement: "Wasn't born in Texas but moved here as soon as I could"

JK: Peoria! Dubuque! One of those places thought to represent American rectitude in literary matters. Chicago:New York::Queens, Brooklyn, Bronx, Staten Island:Manhattan. If you think so!

Steven Millies: Thanks for the link to Andrew Patner's commentary. Loved his characterization of San Franciscans!! Even better, it's on WFMT, one of the crown jewels of Chicago. The greatest radio station in America!

Bill deHaas, Re: Texas... Would be okay if they had sidewalks and sewers.

"Peoria! Dubuque! One of those places thought to represent American rectitude in literary matters."Or the sticks. Although the Tin Pan Alley lyricists seemed to like Sheboygan and Kalamazoo.

Both cities appear on Forbes' Most Miserable Cities list.

I really hadn't thought much about the Shteir controversy until this morning. But now I've been thinking about my first visit to New York. In 1995, I drove up from DC to visit some Marist Brothers I knew at their community in Pelham. Over dinner, our conversation devolved into a now-all-too-familiar discussion about why NYC is better than Chicago. Apparently exasperated at my disinterest in the greatness of New York, their provincial (a very nice man) finally exploded at me: "But, in New York you can find a glass of papaya juice at 3AM if you want it!" I gave an honest reply: "Nobody in Chicago _wants_ a glass of papaya juice at 3AM."The conversation really has not advanced since then.

This puts me in mind of an observation that the Rev. Phillip Murnion (RIP) used to make about Chicago Catholics and New York Catholics, to wit: Chicago Catholics think they can teach everybody everything about Catholicism while New York Catholics think they have nothing to learn about Catholicism from anybody. He was from the Bronx.

Here's an astonishing survey from Science Daily (2009) about the happiest states. I wouldn't be so impressed if a million people hadn't been asked their feelings. "Dec. 21, 2009 New research by the UK's University of Warwick and Hamilton College in the US into the happiness levels of a million individual US citizens have revealed their personal happiness levels closely correlate with earlier research that ranked the quality of life available in the US's 50 states plus the District of Columbia. This research provides a unique external validation of people's self reported levels of happiness and will be of great value to future economic and clinical research in this field." about stereotypes!

Texas Would be okay if they had sidewalks Once in a Texas suburbs I went for a walk with my husband and a baby in a stroller. There were no sidewalks. A police car driving by stopped and asked us: "- Is everything all right?- Yes, why?- We saw you walking and wondered if anything was amiss.- No. We just like walking, thank you."Stopped by the police because we were walking instead of driving!

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