Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The Pull of Chicago

“A new year brings new changes to key members of the White House leadership. Today, President Obama announced that chief of staff William Daley will be leaving the White House to spend more time with his family in Chicago. Daley will be replaced by current Office of Management and Budget director Jacob “Jack” Lew.”

“The news comes after months of speculation that Daley would leave closer to the end of the president’s first term. In fact, the president said he initially declined Daley’s resignation, telling him to instead take a few days to think about the decision.
                                                                    "But in the end, the pull of Chicago won out,” President Obama said.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                
                                                                                              -Syndicated NPR broadcast, January 9, 2012 6:02pm EST

Spend any significant time in that city and you will feel the pull too.

I arrived in Chicago for the first time in September 1979.  I was starting college.  I had never seen the place before.  My parents never had the money or foresight to go on college tours.  We relied heavily on brochures and college catalogues to make that big decision. I applied, got into various places then narrowed down to two choices.  I did visit another East Coast Ivy League school prior to making a final choice but visiting after their “Spring Fling” probably wasn’t a good idea. 

“The place smells of beer and urine,” my mother cried out although not exactly in those words. Her fine urban vernacular shone through. “What do they major in here ‘drinking?’”  She bluntly asked the poor student guide.

She was not one to mince words.  The tour guide and I simultaneously rolled our eyes as if on queue.

Little did those students know that my fate rested on their careless bathroom habits.

Childhood years were spent growing up in one urban neighborhood only to be supplanted by another. I remember reading Carl Sandburg’s poem “Chicago’ in grammar school.  Little did I know then I would live it.
                                    Hog Butcher for the World,
                                    Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,

I had smelled hog butchers in the air of Secaucus, NJ.
                   Player with Railroads and the Nation's Freight Handler;

I played with railroads and freight every time I picked up my uncle on a late Friday night in Newark, NJ.

                                  And they tell me you are crooked 

Crooked?  You haven’t seen crooked until you bet with the local neighborhood bookie.

                                They tell me you are wicked and I believe them, for I
                                  have seen your painted women under the gas lamps
                                   luring the farm boys.

I didn’t see that many painted women in my hometown, but all you had to do was take a short trip to 42nd street in New York City for that. Simple. No problem. I was in my second home. I fell in love with Chicago. 

College was a smorgasbord of new people, new ideas and new surroundings all surrounded by familiar urban turf.  From Orientation Week to see the “Rocky Horror Picture Show” at the Biograph, to long walks at The Point, and to lectures by Nobel Laureates, I was in heaven.  The 1000-mile distance from my parents and siblings added some much needed wings.

Long and hard years followed with a group of students that were as eclectic as they were narrow, fun as they were frustrating, argumentative as they were reflective, sloppy as they were …sloppy. There was a unique smell to that old hotel refurbished as a dorm that I could never duplicate.  I am not sure I want to either.

Back to the East Coast for Med School and then I returned to my second home. 

Residency was yet another college-type setting.  Similar hard working people. You ate with these people,  cried with them, were humiliated by them and in turn humiliated back, fell asleep on them all with the backdrop of caring for many very sick and dying patients. I would put my life in any of their hands any day.  It was very hard and exhausting work but if anyone gave me a chance to go back there, I wouldn’t hesitate for a second.

Although those buildings have been torn down, I will never forget the soul of that hospital. 

Although one very urban city bore me, it was Chicago that made me grow up.  I went onto live there for more several  more years before moving onto ironically less green pastures in the farmlands of the Midwest and now the suburban east.

You are my kind of town. Such fond memories.

 Go home Mr. Daley.  Chicago beckons. And it certainly pulls. And it pulls. Hard.

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