Great.

Last night I took a selfie while taking a walk through the adjacent neighborhood. It was about 9:45 PM on a Saturday night. The pre-autumn winds were blowing nicely but not too strongly. There wasn’t a chill in the air. There was a very slight rustle to the leaves, but nothing to indicate the leaves were reaching the end of their life in 2020.

I propped my iPhone in the window sill of an old factory-turned office complex and set the timer to take the photo. I stood under the glow of an LED streetlight and next to a sign post. The photo was very simple and captured my mood and moment. I hope it conveyed how good I was feeling.

I posted this photo on Facebook. It was my first post of the week. I have calmed down on posting to Facebook but I still continue to do so, because love it or hate it, there are still a good number of friends and family that use Facebook as their primary form of digital communication. I think the caption said something like, “taken on a Saturday night in the greatest city in the United States”. 

I truly feel this way about Chicago, Illinois. We have been fortunate to be able to travel all over the United States. My husband and I have experienced most of the major cities that U.S.A. has to offer. We’ve spent a decent amount of time in each of the cities and I can say without hesitation, I am the most comfortable in Chicago.

It’s the mix of the Midwestern vibe with the pace of being the third largest city in the country. I know some media outlets like to paint Chicago into a spooky, destructive, heinous war zone, but the truth of the matter is, you’re going to find that in any city in the country.  The images of Chicago looking and acting like an apocalyptic war zone sells ads, fear, and propaganda. 

The truth of the matter is, Chicago is probably one of the cleanest cities we’ve encountered. Unlike New York, we don’t pile our garbage on the streets. We have alleys and our garbage and recycleable bins go back there. It also feels like people just care more here; trash bins are used with regularity. While no city would pass a “white glove test”, Chicago is a lot cleaner than anything I’ve experienced on the East Coast.

Chicago has beautiful architecture, wonderful food, and eclectic neighborhoods. We have the Lakefront, and one of the largest cycling programs in the country. Each of the neighborhoods that make up Chicago bring their own ingredients to a very diverse mix of experiences. As a lad that grew up in relatively rural Upstate New York, I have gained so much more in the way of cultural experiences since moving to Chicago a little over three years ago. Are there bad neighborhoods? Unfortunately, yes, too many of them. But there’s also plenty of beautiful neighborhoods in the Windy City.

And lastly, one of the other things I love about Chicago is the weather. You won’t hear that a lot, because Chicago is cold in the winter. Very cold. It’s common to hear how brutal Chicago winters are, but when you compare snowfall here to what we used to experience in the Lake Ontario Snowbelt in Upstate New York, it’s no contest; it’s easier to deal with the cold in Chicago instead of being buried in snow elsewhere. And when it does snow, Chicago seems to handle it just fine.

The summers are awesome. There’s plenty of sunshine. Our proximity to Lake Michigan keeps us from being completely roasted under the summer sun. And as a storm chaser, the thunderstorms can be impressive. Mother Nature keeps me in awe here in Chicago.

Additionally, in an hour we can be completely out of the city and driving across the beautiful prairies of Illinois. On the occasions I need to step away from city life, I can be near Green Acres in no time. It’s a win-win.

And lastly, I mentioned the neighborhoods. I love walking in the neighborhoods. I love discovering what makes each piece of Chicago unique.

When folks elsewhere in the country find we live in Chicago, I often here the comment, “I love that city”. I’ve heard from folks in Florida, people on the west coast,  desert dwellers, and people that grew up in the south.

The Second City? It’s second to none, just as our tourism ad campaigns proclaim. 

Chicago will always have a special place in my heart.

Neighborhood.

If one were to subscribe to the propaganda coming out of D.C. about The Windy City, one would think my husband and I risk being gunned down while shopping at the Jewel for our weekly grocery shopping.

Honestly, this is not how Chicago works. My husband and I have lived here over three years and we’ve never felt unsafe in our adopted city.

We live on the North Side. Our neighborhood is vibrant, eclectic, and exciting. We hear a smattering of languages while we walk the sidewalks. We can have anything we want at any time. There’s culture, there’s excitement, and there’s a certain amount of Midwestern friendliness and charm.

I will always defend Chicago. I always tell anyone who will listen what a beautiful city it is. Many American cities have their problems; Chicago is no different in this regard. But those that decide to call this city the derogatory “Chi-raq” have no idea what they’re talking about.

I am proud to call Chicago home.

History.

One thing I’ll say about 2020, we can never say we didn’t see history in person.

Here are some snaps taken around the neighborhood.

Quiet.

There were peaceful protests over George Floyd’s death last night in our neighborhood. Chicago is still under a nightly curfew and mass transit was shutdown again last night at 9:30 PM Central. As of right now, the ‘L’ and CTA buses are not going into downtown.

As I walked around the neighborhood this morning there were a number of businesses that had taken the initiative to close early and/or board up their windows. It was worth noting that none of the plywood or particle board used to cover up these businesses had been sprayed with graffiti and there were absolutely no signs of unrest.

As word about protests in our neighborhood made its way around the Internet yesterday, my husband and I formulated a plan to keep our home and ourselves safe. Luckily we did not need to implement that plan, as the peaceful protest ended up taking place a couple of blocks from us. We had family at the protest and he reported everything was calm and orderly and most importantly, valid. When asked to disperse, the protestors dispersed.

Most of the protests here in The Second City have had a violent and/or looting element associated with them. Bad actors will always be present at anything of this nature but their actions do not negate the importance and the necessity of exercising free speech.

I hope the right people are hearing the right message. Racism is not OK. Racism is intolerable.

Precautionary.

If I can fly an airplane at 150 knots wearing a mask of sorts to keep me and my instructor safe, you can certainly wear a bandanna or mask while walking around the Walmart.

For the love of god, too many people are not being smart.

The New Normal.

I feel like we are in the midst of a societal ‘reset’. Much like back in 2001 during 9/11, I feel like some of the things we’re doing right now are going to result in permanent changes with the way we do things. Will the in person toll collectors come back to the Illinois Tollway? What restaurants will close permanently? Will bars here in Chicago end up serving to go drinks from now on? What societal changes will result from the measures we are taking to contain the COVID-19 virus?

The streets were quiet today when I went to the an FAA Airman Medical Examiner for my required medical exam today. When it was time to leave with my newly printed medical certificate I bumped elbows with the elderly doctor without a second thought. It’s how we exchange pleasantries tonight. Driving around Chicago is pretty easy at the moment. The idea of getting out to O’Hare without tapping the brakes at least once on the Kennedy Expressway is novel, but it’s the way we’re doing things right now.

With the restaurants closed except for take away of some sort, one restaurant/bar in the neighborhood just gave up the ghost and boarded up shop. Closed forever. To be fair, they were planning on doing so later this year when the building is ripped down for something newer with more residential occupancy, but they sped up their plans and left shop. Done.

People walk a wider berth on the sidewalks .We still smile at one another and exchange pleasantries, this is one of the things I love about living in this part of Chicago, but we do it with a little more space between us. Personal space is now a six foot radius from our vantage point.

Is this the new normal?

I was happy to see the marquee at one of the nearby venues to have a friendly message. It injects hope into the spirit of the neighborhood. This message is not alone; there are many marquees and the like in the area sharing positive vibes.

Positive vibes is what we need.

In some ways I hope we come out of this pandemic with a reduced frenetic pace. Take time to smile. Say hello.

Bump elbows.

Quiet.

There are a few comedy clubs and other venues in the neighborhood. This is the first time I’ve seen this marquee completely empty. The streets are somewhat quiet. Restaurants are getting ready to go into pick-up/delivery only mode. The numerous pubs are getting ready to close up shop for two weeks.

It’s such an odd time.

So Bright.

The city has finished installing new “smart lights” on the streets in our neighborhood. According to literature they passed out earlier this year, the new LED lighting saves a bunch of energy, are smart enough to report when the bulb is at end of life, and will increase safety throughout the neighborhood.

Unfortunately, it seems no one near these new lights will get any sleep. Or, on the bright side, perhaps local merchants will have a run on selling “blackout” drapes and blinds.

The new street lights are very, very bright and the color of the light is very, very white. You can easily discern the notable “blue” light given off by these new bulbs.

I never thought I’d miss the old sodium lights and their orange hue, but now that all the streets have been converted to these very bright, white lights, I know my eyes are going to struggle when I go for walks in the dark, early mornings near the end of the year.

I think there’s a hurried mindset that “brighter is better”, without consideration as to the quality of the light or the type of light that is being emitted from these new LED bulbs. Science is proving these new lights, with a good quantity of the light coming from the blue-end of the color spectrum, are leading to sleep and associated health issues.

There’s a reason computer manufacturers are now changing the color temperature of your monitor as you get closer and closer to nightfall.

I’m going to do some reading up on the public reception of these new smart lights to see if I’m a one off in my reaction or if there’s a lot of folks that find these new lights to be very harsh.

Smart or not, they’re very, very bright. Wow.

Walk.

I really love the fact that it’s a short train ride to the downtown area of the third largest city in the United States. Downtown Chicago has so much to offer, and I really cherish the opportunity to walk the area on a school night.

I love watching the business people leaving their offices. I enjoy the tourists as they navigate the city via map or map app, occasionally confused about things like “Upper Wacker” and “Lower Wacker”. I smile when I see out of town folks enjoy our city for a business meeting or a convention or a family vacation.

It’s nifty living in a city that people want to visit. I grew up in a small tourist village along the shores of Lake Ontario, but spent 25 years in a city that not many people visited. There’s only so many times you can visit a replica of the Liberty Bell or see an overgrown watering can.

Chicago has so much to offer and I find it a wonderful place to live. Many years ago Dublin, Ireland tugged at my heart strings as the definite place for us to live.

I’m happy to say Chicago tugs my heart strings the exact same way. I’m proud to be a resident of The Windy City.