Devil in the White City

The audio book I borrowed from the Chicago Public Library.

I just finished reading this great book about Chicago and the 1893 Columbian Exposition. And when I say reading, I mean “reading” as in I didn’t actually read the book. Rather, I listened to the audio version of it on CDs while I drove. So I’ve been doing a lot more “reading” lately because I’ve been doing a lot more driving (no quotes) lately. And that’s all thanks to these audio books on CD. For some reason, I didn’t like listening to audio books on cassette and I only listened to a few. Cassettes just seemed like to much work. For a while, I wasn’t reading as much because I was always on the go. But now I can do both at the same time! I love audio books on CD!

I had heard about this book years ago and I had always meant to get around to read it, but somehow I never had time. A few weeks ago, I was in my local library and I saw this book prominently displayed on the shelf. I love reading books about Chicago! This book focuses on the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893, which is represented by one of the red stars of the Chicago flag below. (Note to self: Write a blog entry about the symbols of the Chicago flag.) I learned so much about Chicago history through this one book alone. First modern serial killer was H.H. Holmes who got his start during the World’s Fair.

By being awarded the World Fair, Chicago had to top the previous World Fair that was hosted by Paris, France, which had set attendance records for a peaceful event. And they also introduced the world to the tallest man-made structure ever built: The Eiffel Tower! Chicago was undaunted in trying to top Paris. From the ashes of the 1871 Chicago Fire, not only did Chicago rebuild itself, but it also topped the Paris World’s Fair. The engineering marvel that topped the Eiffel Tower was the Ferris Wheel that was then the tallest man-made structure. And people could actually ride it to the top and witness breath-taking views. To this day, most carnivals still have a Ferris Wheel. (In Spanish, it’s call la rueda de fortuna.)

The Chicago World’s Fair, or the World’s Columbian Exposition as it was also known, helped shape Chicago as a modern city and introduced the world to many modern inventions, including electricity on a wide scale at the White City. The main feature of the fair was the White City that was constructed by Daniel H. Burnham and company. This provided the creative spark for the Emerald City of Frank L. Baum when he wrote The Wizard of Oz. And the White City also influenced Disneyland and other amusement parks. The White City is also mentioned in “America, the Beautiful,” as “alabaster cities.”

Súper Tazón XLII

On the road to Bears Camp.

Okay, as a true Chicagoan and Chicago Bears fan, I cannot contain myself anymore and I must have my say about the outcome of today’s Super Bowl. My sons asked me who I wanted to win the Super Bowl. The New England Patriots, I said without even hesitating. They were amazed because they want the New York Giants to win. But that’s understandable because they don’t know Chicago History. I’ll never forget the horrendous disaster that occurred on December 2, 1985–a disaster in Chicago History that ranks right up there with the 1812 Fort Dearborn Massacre, the 1871 Chicago Fire, and the 1992 Chicago Flood! Yes, I’m talking about the Chicago Bears loss to the Miami Dolphins in what would have been the perfect romp to Super Bowl XX. Yes, the Chicago Bears won the Super Bowl, but their record was slightly diminished. Their nearly perfect season was reduced to a mere 18-1 record by the Dolphins who held the record of 17-0 for the most wins in a season. Okay, so that’s why I want the New England Patriots to win tonight’s Super Bowl and go on to a perfect record of 19-0. Just so they can beat Miami’s perfect season of 1972. Only then will I feel vindicated over that Bears’ loss to Miami, oh, so long ago, even though the wounds are still fresh in my heart! Go, Patriots!

Just a snowstorm?

UIC Parking Lot

Snow was falling as I drove to school today. In all of my Spanish classes today, some students asked me if the exam might be canceled tomorrow because of the snow. Of course, there would be class tomorrow! This is Chicago! This one particular student was sure that if it kept on snowing, I wouldn’t be able to get to campus and give the exam. However, in Chicago, a snowstorm not merely a meteorological event. Every snowstorm, and other major climate changes, are political events of major consequences in Chicago. You can trace this back to the snowstorm of 1979 that was improperly handled by Mayor Michael Bilandic. A few heads did roll after the snowstorm, including Bilandic’s. (I’m sure a few heads also rolled after the Chicago Fire in 1871.) Luckily, I was living in sunny, southern California at the time. I know that even we if get three feet of snow tonight, I will be able to drive from house in Beverly on the south side to UIC near downtown. Chicago will not be slowed down such insigficant snowstorm as that! Everytime meteorologists predict even the remotest possibility of snow, city workers are on standby all over the city and even salting the streets before the first snowflake has even formed. Sometimes, there is more salt on the streets and sidewalks than snow. Yes, my dear students, I will be at UIC on time tomorrow morning to give you your exam. I love Chicago, the city that works (especially at Chicago overtime rates).

Move over! Here comes the snowplow!

Only in Chicago

Chicago chess set.

I love Chicago, that toddling town. The City of Big Shoulders. The City that Works. Chi-Town. The Windy City. Well, you get the idea. Living in Chicago is always an adventure. I love to analyze the little ironies of living in our fair city. Somethime driving directions don’t make any sense. I remember once driving northeast on Southwest Highway, then driving southbound on Western Avenue, then going east on North Avenue, and driving North on Southport Avenue. Only in Chicago. Western Avenue was named Western Avenue because it used to be the western border of Chicago. And North Avenue was named North Avenue because it used to be the northern border of Chicago. Michigan Avenue was named that because it ran along the Lake Michigan shore before it was filled with rubble from the Chicago Fire.

Let’s not forget my favorite Chicago street, Lake Shore Drive. Alliota, Haines, and Jeramiah wrote “Driving on LSD” about that street , but they admit in the song that they were high on LSD. Another favorite street of mine is Wacker Drive with its upper and lower drives. Most Chicago streets run east-west or north-south. However, the almighty Wacker Drive actually runs in all four directions! What other street in the world can use all the compass directions in their addresses and give us such addresses as 200 South Wacker Drive, 20 North Wacker Drive, 5 West Wacker Drive, and 71 East Wacker Drive? Only Wacker Drive in Chicago can make that curious geographical claim!