Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Urbanity


Chicago is a city with suburbs in three states: Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. It cuts a wide swath across the prairie, relentlessly crawling towards the horizon. Last week, I was able to spend time there, taking in the sights, sounds, and smells of the city and its surroundings.

This time around, I traveled through many of these suburban areas, attempting to broaden my definition of what Chicago- and ultimately, urbanity- is and how that relates to what I want to do with my life. After my first visit to the city two years ago, the image of Chicago in my mind has been pretty synonymous with tall buildings and El tracks. Somewhere between then and this most recent trip, tall buildings had been replaced with medium-density neighborhoods; main streets clad in Chicago brick, with small shops, bookstores, restaurants, and fixed gear bicycles. This time, those neighborhoods were replaced by subdivisions and the El Tracks with Metra trains.

Now, my understanding of the city is on one hand, broader and probably more accurate, and on the other, infinitely more confusing. In some ways-that is, for some people-, there is a great permeability and fluidity between life in the suburbs and life (work) in the city. It's easy to hop on the El in one part of the city, take the train to downtown and transfer to a Metra train and end up 50 miles outside the city in a low-density, consumer-driven, suburban utopia. Is that okay?

Upcycle, please

Antonio Pacheco

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