It’s late July, 1990. There are 5.2 billion people currently inhabiting our little blue planet, 249.6 million of which reside in the United States of America. You’ve somehow found yourself living in the third largest city in the nation – Chicago, Illinois. Whether you grew up here or moved here at some point in your life, whether you agree with Sinatra that it’s “My kind of town” or not, it doesn’t matter – this town is your here and now reality.
Even if you haven’t lived here that long, you know this from experience – winters in Chicago are cold and snowy with few sunny days, and the normal January high is just below freezing. Or maybe you’re Russian and simply laugh at those who complain about the short, cold days. Regardless, it’s the middle of Summer now – the days are long, warm, and often humid.
There’s little need to fret, however, as there are plenty of recreational venues for escaping the heat. After all, the official motto of Chicago is “Urbs in horto” – Latin for “City in a garden”. An extensive network of parks – including nine lakefront harbors over 39 km of lakefront – render the Chicago Park District the nation’s largest municipal harbor system, along with 31 beaches, 17 historic lagoons, 86 pools, 90 playgrounds, 90 gardens, 66 fitness centers, 9 ice skating rinks, 10 museums, a zoological park, and 2 plant conservatories. Did I mention that the city has parks?
One thing that weighs on everyone’s day heavier than the weather however, is the crime. Last year alone saw 742 homicides with gang warfare and retaliation considered to be the leading cause. But what could one expect from a city with tens of thousands of active gang members? The City by the Lake has the Gangster Disciples, Vice Lords, Bloods, Crips, Black Disciples, Four Corner Hustlers, Black P. Stones, and Latin Kings, just to name the most well-known. Not to mention, this is also a city with a long-standing history of public corruption – bribery, kickbacks, fraud, vote buying, racketeering, drug trafficking, you name it, it’s happening here. But promises have been made that things will change…
Since April last year, Richard M. Daley, son of Richard J. Daley, has been the Mayor of the Windy City. He came with promises to improve the parks, create incentives for sustainable development, and naturally, to decrease the crime rate. Shortly into his term, he also became the first Chicago Mayor to lead Chicago’s Gay and Lesbian Pride Parade, at the 20th annual parade in June, 1989. No small feat considering this happened well before the World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of diseases just last month.
But maybe the politics don’t interest you. It’s just a bunch of rich people making promises that no one plans on keeping, anyway.
These days, heavy rock, punk, and hip hop are what’s popular in music. On the electronic side of things, nightclubs such as the Music Box (formerly known as The Warehouse) and the The Power Plant are the places to be for Chicago house – a genre of electronic dance music, developed over the past decade. But if all of that is too much for you, local orchestras include the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Chicago Sinfonietta.
For those who would rather stalk the quiet halls of museums, there are at least ten venues dedicated to art, including the Art Institute of Chicago – the second largest art museum in the United States. History is immortalised within the walls of at least five history museums, including the Chicago History Museum. Meanwhile, a number of science, archaeology, and natural history museums include the Adler Planetarium, the Field Museum of Natural History, and the Museum of Science and Industry.
Or maybe you prefer the theatre, following the recently established Performink industry newspaper, including show openings and reviews, with connections to 200 small theatre companies. Venues include the Chicago Theatre, the Auditorium, the Apollo, and the Cadillac Palace Theatre, just to name a few.
For those interested in sports, perhaps you enjoy some Major League Baseball, cheering on the Chicago Cubs as they play in Wrigley Field on the North Side, or the Chicago White Sox in the US Cellular Field on the South Side. Perhaps the National Football League is more to your liking, following the Chicago Bears who won the the 1985 Super Bowl XX. Or perhaps the Chicago Bulls of the National Basketball Association or the Chicago Blackhawks of the National Hockey League playing at the United Center have caught your interest.
Whether you shovel down a deep-dish pizza, Chicago-style hot-dog, or an Italian beef sandwich for lunch, there’s something here for you… at least for now.