Thursday, October 8, 2009

Sweet Home Shikaakwa

I was closing in on my hour of cardio at the gym when the voting was being broadcast. I knew there were another 15 minutes or so until the results were announced and, get this, I KEPT DOING CARDIO UNTIL THE ANNOUNCEMENT. That's how excited I was to witness Chicago's historic win for the 2016 Summer Olympics. My usual routine involves staring at the clock and watching the seconds crawl slowly and painfully by as I wait for the sweet moment when my workout is done and I'm free of the shackles of the treadmill. But I was so excited to see my beloved city take the gold that I kept up the cardio. If that's not love then I don't know what is. And then I think we all know what happened. Chicago's collective ego took a huge hit as the President of the IOC with his fancy European accent (and a bit of snootiness, if I may say) uttered rather tersely and emotionless, "Chicago will be eliminated." I read an article in regards to the Olympics titled, "Used to Losing, Chicagoans Still Wounded" which suggested that the Second City identifies with frequently losing. Chicago used to losing? What's that supposed to mean? I immediately felt defensive of my beloved city. It's like the idea that you can make fun of your family because they're your own but nobody else can. Just back off people! I mean, what has Rio de Janeiro got that Chicago doesn't? A reputation for men with mustaches? Nope. A rich history full of organized crime and corruption? Uh-uh. A baseball team with no World Series wins in over a hundred years? Not even close! Rod Blagojevich? They wish! The fact is, Rio de Janerio is a snooze compared to sweet home Chicago. Not convinced? Read on...

Hey Rio de Janeiro, I dare you to beat Chicago's hot dog awesomeness! Scared? You should be!!!! People like to gush over Chicago's magnificent architecture but if I want to look at something beautifully designed, I find me a Chicago hot dog. And then I eat it. There was a time in my life when I actually ate hot dogs with ketchup. I know, I'm not proud to admit it and my dad would regularly badger me shouting in a strained voice, "You can't put ketchup on a hot dog!" How right you were father. My first bite into a Chicago-style dog and I was sold. Anthony Bourdain, famed food critic and close personal friend of mine (ok, I only met him once) even named Hot Doug's, a Chicago gourmet hot dog stand, as one of his top ten places to eat in the world. THE WORLD. I think the capital letters speak for themselves. And no one is more fully devoted to the hot dog than Sara. If she's not eating a hot dog, then she's probably talking about eating one. So yeah Rio, we got the hot dog covered.

You know, the season after summer? Well Rio's average annual temperature is 73.5 degrees. The lowest temperature ever recorded in Rio's history was 40 degrees in 1928. However, it's rare that the temperature ever drops below 50 degrees. Boring!! You can kiss the picturesque autumnal reds, oranges, and browns that practically sprinkle the city with color and life and signify the start of a new month, or a new school year, or even a new sports season goodbye if you live in Rio. Yes, it gets cold in Chicago, very cold. And most people whine about it for four months (myself included), but that's why the title of this entry isn't named "Winter." Fall means new sweaters and scarves, a reason to get cozy with a book on the couch, and time for tea! There's a very crisp woodsy smell to fall, especially on a cloudy day, that will forever give me butterflies in my stomach at the thought of a new school year, no matter how old I get. I love the slight nip in the air that leaves the tip of my nose cold. I love that every tree is practically begging for its picture to be taken. I love that I can drink a White Chocolate Mocha without guilt because fall makes it feel right. I love that every day is a good hair day because the humidity is gone. And I love that it all happens in Chicago. Beaches are nice and all, but I need some seasons.

Chicago is practically bursting at the seams with museums, theaters, and festivals. Every year is packed with events like Taste of Chicago, Jazz Fest, Blues Fest, Lollapolooza, and the Chicago Film Fest. Perhaps you're an indoors-y museum-y type of person? We've got a little something called the Field Museum or the Museum of Science and Industry or The Shedd Aquarium or the Adler Planetarium. Ever hear of 'em? Thought so. What's Rio got? Carnivale? Big deal. Chicago has a celebration every June called Gay Pride Parade, and I will wager my next paycheck that there is far more feathers and body glitter at Gay Pride than at Carnivale. There's also probably a lot more partial nudity and religious protesters. And so what if Rio's National Library is ranked 8th largest in the world? No one is visiting Rio for its libraries. They're visiting for Canivale, and we've already established that Gay Pride Parade is better than Carnivale. So, by the transitive property, people are visiting Rio but wishing they were at Gay Pride.

I know frighteningly little about sports but I know enough to be positive that Chicago is and always will be the quintessential sports town. From what I can deduce, the Cubs, Sox and Bears comprise what is considered to be the Holy Trinity of which all Chicagoans devoutly worship. There are three centers of worship in the city- Cellular Field, Wrigley Field, and Soldier Field. Obviously, it is mentally and spiritually impossible to support both the Cubs and the Sox without spontaneously combusting or alienating family and friends, but the everlasting Spirit of Baseball creates an unbreakable bond between all fans while also forging a lifelong, generations-old rift between Cubs fans and Sox fans. It's uncomfortable. However, when the Apocalypse is upon us and we stand before the pearly gates on our Judgement Day, we know Cubs fans will be ushered into the welcoming arms of Heaven while Sox fans will be damned to the fiery depths of hell. Or so I'm told. My last name is Lindsay and therefore I am a Cubs fan FOR LIFE. Ya see? I don't know the first thing about baseball but my blood runs Cubby blue. That's dangerously blind passion, Chicago-style. If there's any city in the world to host a sporting event, it's Chicago.

In the most technical sense, Rio de Janeiro has a solid 272 years of history on Chicago. But Chicago's historical richness can't be measured in years. From the Great Chicago Fire to the Haymarket Affair to the World's Columbian Exposition, Chicago's history is full of rivalries and tragedies and triumphs and losses. Our history has molded our neighborhoods and lent to our endless traditions. I guess I'm biased because my own Grandpa Joe was a Chicago cop and my Papa helped to build the Hancock Building with his own two hands. I get misty eyed every time I stop to think that I not only live in this beautiful city but that my family is so thoroughly ingrained in it. And ok, maybe my personal family history has little to do with Chicago's bid for the 2016 Olympics, but I can't manage to separate the two histories. They're one and the same to me. And if I'm forced to brings facts into this historical argument, we need only to look to the origin of each city's name to understand Chicago's superiority. Founded at Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro (or "January River") was named thus by Portuguese explorers because it was believed the bay was a mouth to a big river...which it's not. EMBARRASSING. The name Chicago is derived from a French rendering of the Native American word "shikaakwa," meaning wild onion. Wild Onion? DELICIOUS.

If only the International Olympic Committee had asked my opinion first, maybe we wouldn't be in this mess. Maybe Chicago would be well on it's way to becoming a world class city and host to the 2016 Summer Olympics instead of boring ol' exotic Rio. I guess in the meantime, Chicago will just have to remain the greatest culinary, autumnal, cultural, athletic, and historical city in the world.