Southern Boy in ChiTown

Sunday, May 14, 2006

What's the Difference?

I'm enjoying being home for the first time in three weeks - it's been too long. Having been in Chicago now for most of the last 2 months, there are some interesting differences between there and home that are less obvious that the things like prices, population and weather.

Birds: It's rare that I see anything other than seagulls or pigeons in Chicago. I know there are other birds there - they just get overwhelmed visually by the predominance of the gulls and winged rats. On the other hand, when my birdwatching folks come to visit at home, they often never come in off the back porch, preferring to sit outside and watch all of our avian neighbors.

Piercings: I live in a college town, so multiple piercings of the odd body part is pretty normal. But here typically people either have some fairly standard ear piercings OR they go for the eyebrow, lip, tongue and/or cheek piercings. What I've noticed in Chicago is the number of otherwise unremarkably pierced girls with nose piercings. And I'm not just talking about South Asians. Pretty cute, actually. It may be a reaction to the longer cold weather season, which renders navel piercing unnoticable for much of the year.

Toes: I've gotten used to the fact that girls everywhere between the ages of 14 and 28 ONLY seem to own flip-flops of some sort and no other footwear. But for a city with really crappy weather and lots of walking, it amazes me how many women of all ages wear flip-flops or sandals or open-toed heels constantly. Lady J has an aversion to having her toes run over and she's had a hard time finding shoes that offer any protection at all. This has also apparently led to an inordinate number of women with what appear to be very expensive pedicures.

Homeless: Contrary to what you might expect, I saw more homeless people asking for change while walking down Franklin Street Satureday that I typically do walking twice as far down Michigan Ave. I don't know all of the factors that might explain that (a downtown shelter in CH being one certanily), but it's noticeable. In Chicago, it's clear they've each staked out their territory - you always see the same people at the same spots on the same blocks, where in Chapel Hill the ones downtown tend to roam around. Whether in Chicago or in Chapel Hill, it makes me realize that I'm no more than three bad things away from being out there myself. I tend to save my giving up for the IFC Food Kitchen in Chapel Hill as I feel pretty certain they'll use it better on behalf of these folks that the guys themselves, but it's hard to walk by and not do something. (Unlike some of my neighbors in both places, that doesn't mean I want to just get them out of sight...)

It would be interesting to get out to other parts of the city to see how things change - I recognize that I'm in a very weird neighborhood split between tourists, Loyola and Northwestern students and wealthy Gold Coasters. I have no doubt Glenview and Oak Park and other suburbs would strike me much differently. But frankly I'd not be having nearly as much fun if I'd ended up working up here out in the 'burbs.


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