dear carl sandburg

Early the red men gave a name to a river,
the place of the skunk,
the river of the wild onion smell,
Shee-caw-go.
–Carl Sandburg, “The Windy City

 

Wicked, crooked and brutal. It’s true. I will not lie to you. They named me “shikaakwa” after the smell of onions and a striped skunk. You said, “Long ago we laughed and said: You? Your name is Chicago.” Now I get the joke.

My river stunk then and it still does. They dye my river green every March 17th to honor St. Patrick, but they don’t have to. It’s green enough as it is.

The Pottawatomie Indians thought I’d be a great place to hang out. Then the white people came and built farms. In 1871 Mrs. O’Leary put her lantern down in the hay so she could milk a cow. The dang thing kicked it over and all hell broke loose, literally. The only thing left of me was the water tower which made sense, really.

I got some nasty third degree burns but they paved me over and started all over again. You call me a windy city not because I’m windy but because of the hot air politicians blow around. My choice in governors? For that I’m truly sorry.

In 1968 I had a bit of a blow up at the Democratic National Convention. There’s a famous picture of a shirtless young man flipping the bird. But that was just one night; one of many in the timeline of my politics. Hunter S. Thompson said when he visited me, he came out with scars. But like my great fire, they paved me over again and built anew.

In 1974 the Sears Tower went up as the tallest building in the world. From the top, you can see all of me if it wasn’t for that fog you say that crawls in on little cat feet. One time the fog rolled in from Lake Michigan to Soldier Field so thick the Bears had to call the game. They couldn’t see the ball. The fans had to watch TV from the stands for which they could have just stayed home. But that was okay. The fans got along and laughed about it.

The Bears won the NFL Championship in 1986 albeit anti-climactic. They pulverized the Patriots from the beginning so the game was just…dull. The next day, the space shuttle Challenger blew up. Nobody felt like celebrating.

Which is why I won’t ever let a World Series play again at Wrigley Field. I can’t let what happened to the Bears happen to the Cubs. I warned them, Carl. I warned them not to put lights up in Wrigley Field. Baseball’s meant for the day and Wrigley held out for so long. But on 08/08/88, they flipped the switch.

After that, the sport raced downhill faster than a Cub fan chasing a beer and malt cup vendor down a concrete ramp. But what can I say, Carl? I’m just a toddlin’ town.

Sincerely,

Chicago

 

 

 

 

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